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What We Read Today 01 April 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".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Topics today include:

  • New Viking Discoveries in North America

  • Orders Pour in for Tesla Model 3

  • Saudi Arabia's Grand Financial Plan for the Future

  • Turkey Illegally Deporting Syrians?

  • How Simple is Economics, Really?

  • Feds to Look at Massive California Gas Leak

  • $15 Minimum Wage is Spreading

  • Russia's Big Government Finance Problem

  • India Rate Cut Coming

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Nuclear terrorist attack would 'change our world', says Obama (BBC News)  The threat from terrorists trying to launch a nuclear attack that would "change our world" is real, President Barack Obama has said.  He told the 50-nation Nuclear Security Summit in Washington that the world has taken "concrete" steps to prevent nuclear terrorism but the so-called Islamic State (IS) obtaining a nuclear weapon is "one of the greatest threats to global security". 


  • U.S. task force to look at massive California natural gas leak (Reuters)  A new U.S. government task force will look into the country's biggest ever accidental release of methane, which occurred over several months in Los Angeles, California, hoping to prevent future leaks of the potent greenhouse gas from storage wells.  The Interagency Task Force on Natural Gas Storage Safety to look at the leak at the Aliso Canyon leak will be chaired by officials from the Department of Energy and the Department of Transportation's pipeline safety office.  A months-long leak at the Aliso Canyon storage field made scores of people ill and forced more the temporary relocation of more than 6,600 households from the northern Los Angeles community of Porter Ranch.  Scientists said the global warming potential of the release, which began last October and was not plugged until February, was equal to the annual carbon emissions of nearly 600,000 cars. 

  • Orders for lower-priced Tesla hit 198,000 (Associated Press)  Demand for Tesla Motors' new lower-priced electric car surprised even the company's CEO Friday as 198,000 people plunked down $1,000 deposits to reserve their vehicles.  Musk unveiled the car Thursday night at a design studio near Los Angeles. It starts at $35,000 and has a range of 215 miles per charge, which is far more than most people drive each day. The orders came from across the globe even though the car isn't scheduled for sale until late in 2017. But they could jeopardize a $7,500 U.S. electric car tax credit that many buyers are counting on to reduce the price. The tax credits gradually phase out after a company hits 200,000 in U.S. sales.

  • $15 minimum-wage movement sets sights on more states (Associated Press) California and New York —where almost 1 in 5 Americans live — are on their way to raising their minimum wage to $15 an hour, and the activists who spearheaded those efforts are now setting their sights on other similarly liberal, Democratic-led states.  Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington are among the states with active "Fight for $15" efforts, and even economic experts who oppose the increased rate see it gaining momentum.


  • Turkey 'illegally returning Syrian refugees' - Amnesty (BBC News)   Turkey has illegally forced thousands of refugees to return to Syria, a report by Amnesty International says.  The group says about 100 Syrians have been sent back to their war-torn country every day since mid-January in breach of international law.  Amnesty says its report exposes the flaws in a recent deal between the EU and Turkey aimed at stemming the flow of refugees arriving in Greece.  Turkey has denied sending back any refugees against their will.


Egypt on Friday invited archaeologists from all over the world to examine new, more extensive scanning conducted on King Tutankhamun's tomb to discover whether chambers have been hidden for millennia behind two walls in the boy king's burial place and determine what could be inside.

The open invitation, issued by Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anani at a news conference just outside the tomb in the Valley of the Kings, holds a double purpose. First, it would bring broader scientific review to the new exploration of the tomb, which was prompted by a theory advanced by British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves.

Also, the mystery is a golden opportunity for Egypt to boost its deeply damaged tourism industry by drawing world attention to its wealth of pharaonic antiquities. Adding to the allure: Reeves believes secret chambers behind a false wall may be the tomb of Queen Nefertiti, one of the most famous symbols of ancient Egypt and classical beauty.

Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia Plans $2 Trillion Megafund for Post-Oil Era: Deputy Crown Prince (Bloomberg)  Saudi Arabia is getting ready for the twilight of the oil age by creating the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund for the kingdom’s most prized assets.  Econintersect:  Saudi Arabia is not only the "king of oil" but its future could also revolve around energy because it is also the "king of sunshine".


  • Oil, taxes — and big problems for Russia's economy (CNBC)  Things are getting bad in Russia — so bad that the country is weighing sacrificing its future in order to survive its present.  A conflict is simmering in Russia as the country's Finance Ministry pushes for increased taxation of the country's oil industry in order to support its budget. A contracting economy and a persistently low oil price have severely hurt the country's budget, so officials are seeking to draw more revenue from domestic energy companies — instead of severely cutting costs, which Moscow fears could bring dire political consequences.  This plan likely makes short-term sense to the Kremlin, but it could cripple the oil industry — and by extension Russia's long-term growth prospects — for years to come


  • A 25 bps rate cut likely next week: Shilan Shah, Capital Economics (The Economic Times)  Indian economist Shilan Shah thinks a quarter of a percent rate cut next week is quite likely.  He thinks that the RBI's decision can be treated independently of what we have seen happening with the US Fed and also some of the other major central banks such as the ECB and BOJ.  India is very much driven,he suggests, by domestic factors. Now there have been a number of developments over the past six weeks or so that has opened up space for another rate cut. One of the reasons is the tighter than expected fiscal stance that was taken in the latest budget which was unveiled by Finance Minister Jaitley at the end of February.  This is seen as a prerequisite for further monetary loosening. In addition to this, we have also seen inflation dropping back slightly last month and perhaps in March as well on account of easing of food inflation pressures.

2016’s Most & Least Financially Literate States (WalletHub)

The issue of widespread financial illiteracy — not just in the U.S. but around the world — rightfully garnered significant attention in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The housing-market collapse and ensuing global financial crisis served as a stark reminder of our societal obsession with debt as well as the dangers of fingertip financial access in the hands of consumers who are marked by a hope-for-the-best, figure-it-out-later attitude and an obvious lack of financial aptitude.

But how much did we really learn, and what are we doing to help future generations avoid repeating our mistakes?

Not enough, it would seem. Since the beginning of 2012, we’ve collectively racked up roughly $153 billion in new credit-card debt, unsurprising given that only two in five adults actually have a budget. Ultimately, there’s really no shortage of statistics that one can quote to illustrate our money-management shortcomings — from the 20 percent of Americans who spend more than they make to the 54 percent of folks who don’t have a rainy-day fund. But where are the problems most pronounced, and which areas are taking the necessary measures to foster a financially prosperous future?

That’s what WalletHub sought to discover by analyzing financial education programs and consumer habits — combined with the results of WalletHub’s proprietary WalletLiteracy Survey — in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Our data set consists of 12 key metrics, ranging from Champlain University’s High School Financial Literacy Grades to the percentage of residents with a rainy-day fund. More information about our methodology as well a complete breakdown of our findings and expert commentary can be found below.


Source: WalletHub

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

  • Economics: It’s Simpler Than You Think (ValueWalk)  This is a review of John Tamny's new book, Popular Economics.  (Econintersect:  Unfortunately it is only simpler than you think if you accept the unstated assumptions that underlie the simple explanations.)  Here is the start of the review which makes clear the ideological bent of the reviewer and of the book.  We cannot criticize anything in detail because we have not read the book.  But we are not impressed with what the reviewer has presented.)  Here is a sample:

In the view of John Tamny — an editor at Forbes and RealClearMarkets — economics as it is usually studied and taught in universities is unnecessarily complicated. The basic truths of economics are simple and require no difficult mathematics to understand. Readers will be reminded of Hazlitt’s greatEconomics in One Lesson.

Popular Economics – Entrepreneurs vs. Bureaucrats

The book is animated by a controlling vision. A successful economy depends on innovative entrepreneurs who are willing to take large risks in return for the chance at great profits. It is essential to prosperity not to hamper the efforts of these entrepreneurs through governmental efforts to tax and regulate the economy. Tamny illustrates his thesis with many stories about famous persons, as the subtitle of the book suggests.

The government, Tamny emphasizes, produces nothing on its own. It operates by taking resources away from the productive. To the objection that the government may itself use money it takes in taxes for purposes beneficial to the economy, Tamny answers that people successful in business are highly likely to be better judges of what is beneficial than bureaucrats in the government.

  • 10 must-read economics stories of the week (World Economic Forum)  Here is a valuable list with links to the articles.

  • View From Space Hints at a New Viking Site in North America (The New York Times, MSN News)   A thousand years after the Vikings braved the icy seas from Greenland to the New World in search of timber and plunder, satellite technology has found intriguing evidence of a long-elusive prize in archaeology — a second Norse settlement in North America, further south than ever known.  The new Canadian site, with telltale signs of iron-working, was discovered last summer after infrared images from 400 miles in space showed possible man-made shapes under discolored vegetation. The site is on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, about 300 miles south of L’Anse aux Meadows, the first and so far only confirmed Viking settlement in North America, discovered in 1960.  PBS will have a two-hour documentary on this research next week (NOVA, "“Vikings Unearthed").  See also next article.

  • New evidence of Viking life in America? (BBC News)


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