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What We Read Today 31 March 2016

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


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Topics today include:

  • Texas Fracking Viewed from Space

  • Giant overpass collapse in Kolkata Kills at Least 22

  • One Saudi is Worth 12 Yemenis

  • U.S. Coal Production is Declining

  • U.S. Oil Imports Increasing

  • End of War on Drugs

  • What Happens When Cars Leave American Cities?

  • Pfizer-Allergan Merger Arbs are Building

  • Cougar on Video in Upstate New York

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Paris Climate Treaty: 'Significant step' as US and China agree to sign (BBC News)  The world's two biggest polluters are moving forward.  The U.S. and China have issued a joint statement confirming that both countries will sign the Paris Climate Agreement next month.  Both say they will take all the "domestic steps" necessary to join the agreement as soon as possible.  They are encouraging other countries to sign the document at UN headquarters in April.



"For too long, we have viewed the problem of drug abuse generally in our society through the lens of the criminal-justice system.  The only way that we reduce demand is if we are providing treatment and thinking about this as a public-health problem and not just a criminal problem."

  • The Coal Industry Is On The Brink Of Collapse (Seeking Alpha)  See also next article.  The US coal industry continues to face a growing number of obstacles in the market and policy arenas.  The bankruptcy talk surrounding Peabody Energy should serve as a reminder of the industry's fragile state.  The coal business is unsustainable in the long run given the rise of increasingly cost-effective alternative energies.   Coal may not die from the efforts of environmentalists - simple economics may do it.

  • Quarterly Coal Report (Abbreviated) (U.S. Energy Information Administration)  U.S.coal production is down about 10% since 2009. 

  • A Cougar In Crown Point? You Be The Judge (Adirondack Almanack)  A trail camera recently captured video of an animal that may be a cougar sauntering through a backyard in Crown Point, NY near the eastern boundary of the Adirondack Park and close to Lake Champlain.  Wildlife experts say it looks and moves like a cougar but there is no way to judge size - a cougar would be up to 6 feet long and weigh up to 200 pounds.  The eastern Cougar (outside of Florida) has long been considered extinct (since 1938) but the fact that western mountain lions can migrate vast distances was proved in 2010 when one was struck and killed by a car in Connecticut.  The picture below is from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The video is from the trail camera with motion detector activation in Crown Point.

Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia says 109 Yemenis traded for 9 Saudis amid war  (Associated Press)  In the early U.S. constitution in the first half of the 19th century one slave was counted as 3/5 of a free person.  On the Arabian Peninsula in the second decade of the 21st century, one Yemeni equals 0.00825 Saudi (about 1/12).  Yemenis are that much lower than slaves? 


  • 22 dead after overpass collapses in Kolkata, India (CNN)  A highway overpass collapsed Thursday in Kolkata, India, crushing vehicles below, killing at least 22 people and leaving dozens more missing, authorities said.  Maj. Gen. Anurag Gupta of India's National Disaster Management Authority told CNN on Thursday night that authorities still didn't know how many people were driving across that section of highway, called the Vivekananda Overpass, when it fell.

Oil and gas: Eagle Ford fracking, as seen from space (CNBC)  NASA's Earth Observatory recently published three photos showing how developed a once sleepy part of the state has become. A nighttime photo taken from high above the Eagle Ford shale formation shows the bright lights from the wells and equipment competing with lights from nearby Austin and San Antonio.  Eagle Ford produces both oil and natural gas; the oil wells are on the northern end of the site, and the natural gas wells are to the south. Oil prices have plunged from highs seen in 2014, and U.S. shale gas production has pushed natural gas prices to their cheapest points in nearly two decades.



Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

A third of urban real estate is devoted to parking garages that could become parks; there are eight U.S. parking spaces for every car in operation, for as many as two billion U.S. spaces overall. Thirteen percent of every lot for a typical single-family home is now dedicated to a garage that could be converted into an office or a mother-in-law apartment; with the income provided by AirBnB and other property-rental sites, single-family homes could thus become 13% more affordable. Perhaps a decade from now, architects and contractors may offer fixed-fee garage-conversion services, in much the same way that old houses were once converted en masse to use modern furnaces and plumbing.  Self-driving cars will also change homebuyers’ location preferences. Data from Lyft and Uber already show that when private transit becomes significantly cheaper, public-transit use also increases: many carless households replace the car with a mix of private and public transit. As cars become a service rather than an asset, proximity to bus lines may become less important, but subways and trains that can bypass car traffic altogether will only grow in popularity.

  • Pfizer-Allergan Merger Arbs Have Arrived (Seeking Alpha)  Back in November, the $160B "Pfallergan" mega-deal was announced. Allergan's (NYSE:AGN) shareholders were slated to get 11.3 shares of the combined company (Pfizer plc, located in Ireland), and Pfizer's (NYSE:PFE) shareholders were going to get one share.  But - being that this is a high-profile tax-inversion (at a critical part of the U.S. political cycle) - there were perceived deal risks. Those risks have kept the merger arbitrage spread pretty wide. At the moment, AGN trades at $274.63 when a value of ~$340 is implied.  That's a pretty darn substantial 24% spread on a deal that's supposed to close within a few months.  That this high-profile, high-earning trade would be an appealing gamble for hedge fund managers everywhere. Strangely, it hasn't appeared that way - that is, until a few days ago.  The chart shows us, in red, whenever dark pool short selling occurs. As you can see, a fairly substantial amount of shorting took place in the days surrounding the deal announcement. These are probably owners of AGN who want to hedge out their newfound price correlation with PFE - quite understandable. Now, 4 months later, massive shorting has occurred again, presumably hedge traders' arbitrage this time.


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