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What We Read Today 11 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".).

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Topics today include:

  • White Women are Dying Early in Rural America

  • Higher Fuel Economy Cars Kill More People

  • U.S. is a Top Tax Haven

  • New Monetary Conditions Pose Global Risk

  • Interview with the Editor Who Coordinated Global Panama Papers Investigation

  • The More We Learn the Worse Zika Gets

  • U.S. Office Vacancy Slow Decline Paused in First Quarter

  • Early Impacts of Obamacare

  • David Cameron Defends His Financial Affairs

  • Syrian Army Reinforces Aleppo

  • Oliver Blanchard Can't Understand How Japan is Still Solvent

  • Rousseff Support Strengthens in Brazil

  • Canada First Nation Suicide Attempt Epidemic

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Global

  • The Structure of the International Monetary System (NBER)  This paper finds the world in a new monetary condition.  A body of empirical evidence suggests that environments with low interest rates may fuel leverage boom and bust cycles. The vulnerability of emerging and advanced economies alike to these crises has been amply demonstrated in the past. At the country level, the empirical evidence suggests that self-insurance via official reserve (safe asset) accumulation is an effective line of defense against leveraged booms.  But what is optimal at the level of an individual country may be inefficient at a global level if it fuels further safe-asset scarcity and depresses global interest rates. This question is central to current discussions on global safety nets.

  • The Top 10 Tax Havens in the World (Wealth Management)  The Tax Justice Network (TJN), a UK-based advocacy group, recently published the 2015 edition of its biannual Financial Secrecy Index, wherein it ranks the top 10 most financially secretive jurisdictions worldwide.  The list is topped by (1 through 5):  Switzerland, Hong Kong, USA, Singapore and The Cayman Islands.  According to the TJN,

“This unique index combines a secrecy score with a weighting to create a ranking of the secrecy jurisdictions and countries that most actively promote secrecy in global finance.”

  • Meet the Panama Papers Editor Who Handled 376 Reporters in 80 Countries (ProPublica)  This is an interview with Marina Walker Guevara, who helped shepherd the Panama Papers investigative project. Walker is deputy director of the International of the Consortium of Investigative Journalism, which has a long history of collaborating with many, many far-flung partners. In early 2015, Walker and ICIJ were finishing up work on another big leak. “We’re never going to do this again,” Marina recalled thinking. “It’s great. But we’re exhausted and we need a vacation.”  Then ICIJ got a phone call from the German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung about a way bigger file they wanted to share…

U.S.

  • US officials: The more we learn about Zika, scarier it is (Associated Press)  The more researchers learn about the Zika virus, the scarier it appears, federal health officials said Monday as they urged more money for mosquito control and to develop vaccines and treatments.  Scientists increasingly believe the Zika virus sweeping through Latin America and the Caribbean causes devastating defects in fetal brains if women become infected during pregnancy.  Zika was long considered a nuisance virus, causing only mild symptoms, if any, in most people. But starting with reports from Brazil, over the last year infections in pregnant women have been strongly linked to babies born with unusually small heads, a birth defect called microcephaly that can signal underlying brain damage.  See also Zika mystery deepens with evidence of nerve cell infections (Reuters, CNBC).

  • Panama Papers Reveal U.S. Mastery of the Shell Game (Wealth Management)  The recent “Panama Papers” leaks from international law firm Mossack Fonseca have cast public light on a murky corner of the international financial community, revealing the secret financial lives (and occasionally crimes) of some of the world’s richest and most influential people. The news cycle has been dominated by stories about the clandestine maneuverings of Vladimir Putin, Petro Poroshenko and disgraced Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson to such an extent that an important detail of the scandal is in danger of being swept under the rug—the active (and continuing) role played by the U.S as a tax haven.  It’s often not recognized that the U.S. is also one of the world’s leading tax havens. A recent study by the Tax Justice Network, a U.K.-based advocacy group, ranked the U.S. as the No. 3 tax haven worldwide.  See article in Global section, above.

  • Report: U.S. Office Vacancy Increased Slightly in Q1 2016 (Calculated Risk)  CR says the office rate vacancy rate has been declining slowly and will probably decline further this year, but in the first quarter is ticked up ever-so-slightly.  For details see Most Markets See Declining Vacancy Despite National Increase (CBRE).

  • Early Impacts of the Affordable Care Act (NBER)  The effect of the law on young adults' insurance coverage was quite dramatic. Almost immediately, this provision increased parental employer coverage of young adults by more than 40 percent—slightly more than 2 million young adults. This expansion also altered health care utilization, increasing young adults' use of inpatient health care and slightly reducing emergency room use. So far, the young-adult expansion does not appear to have substantially affected labor market outcomes.  But. so far no increase in job mobility for young people has been measured.

EU

migrant.route.germany.2016.apr

UK

  • David Cameron defends tax affairs and says his investments were "entirely standard practice"

  • PM adds: "We should defend the right of every British citizen to make money lawfully"

  • Jeremy Corbyn says Cameron's statement is 'a masterclass in the art of distraction

  • He adds: 'There's one rule for the super-rich and another for everyone else'

Syria

  • Syrian army sends reinforcements to Aleppo (Reuters)  The Syrian army was on Monday reported to be sending reinforcements to Aleppo, where renewed fighting is threatening a fragile truce in the run-up to the next round of peace talks.  Underlining the conflict's regional dimensions, Iranian media announced the first deaths of members of its regular army in Syria, a week after Tehran said army commandos had been deployed in support of Damascus. Iran's military support has so far mostly been provided by the elite Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Japan

Brazil

  • Support for Rousseff's impeachment ebbs in Brazil poll (Reuters)  A smaller majority of Brazilians favor the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff compared to last month, while more than half want her immediate successor to be impeached too, according to a survey released on Saturday by polling firm Datafolha.  The poll also showed growing support for former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in a potential 2018 presidential bid, another boost for the ruling Workers Party as it fights opposition leaders' efforts to impeach Rousseff.

Canada

  • Canada First Nation community in crisis amid 'almost nightly' suicide attempts (The Guardian)  After suicide attempts began to be a daily reality in the small Canadian community of Attawapiskat First Nation, leaders said they had little choice but to declare a state of emergency.  The remote northern Ontario community of some 2,000 people has seen more than 100 suicide attempts in the past seven months; one person has died. The youngest person to attempt suicide was 11 years old, while the oldest was 71.  The primary driving force is abject poverty.


‘We don’t know why it came to this’ (The Washington Post)  White women in America are dying at an increasing rate while other demographics are seeing reduced mortality.  The death rates are highest in the heartland and in rural areas, with the worst for lower middle class women.  Among the causes:  Drug and alcohol overdose rates for working-age white women have quadrupled; Suicides are up by as much as 50%.  Rather than disease, per se, difficulty in coping may be an important factor.  See also next article.


A new divide in American death (The Washington Post)  An urban-rural mortality gap emerges among whites as risky behaviors work to defy modern trends.  And women are suffering more than men.  But the biggest divide is between rural and urban white women.  In addition to the graphics shown below the article has more, some of them interactive.  Larger versions of the graphs shown here are available with the WaPo article.

death.rate.race.1990.2015

death.rate.white.sex.1990.2014

death.rate.white.women.rural.urban.1990.2014

death.rate.white.women.map.1990.2014

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

  • This Fear Gauge Just Hit an All-Time High (Bloomberg)  While the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX) has continued moving lower following its February surge, suggesting that some calm has returned to the markets, Credit Suisse Group AG's Fear Barometer (CSFB) just hit a new high.  See the blue line in the graph below.  Note:  The CSFB has only a three-year history.

volatility.measures.2016.apr.11

  • The EPA's New Fuel Standard Will Kill People (Foundation for Economic Education)  This article considers the impact of raising the fleet averages fro U.S. cars from the current 34.5 mpg tp 54.5 mpg by 2025.  The author argues that "CAFE standards mean that cars and light trucks will carry much bigger price tags and offer their occupants less protection in crashes than the gas guzzlers of a bygone era."  Econintersect:  We can find no basis for the estimate that future cars will cost more than they would have otherwise.  There is validity to the increased risk of traffic accident fatalities for people in lightweight vehicles.  But there is also a countering factor:  Fatalities are lowered when the average vehicle weight declines.  This article does not consider that in their assessment.  The following two articles discuss the factors relating average vehicle mass (weight) to traffic death rates.

  • Vehicle Weight and Automotive Fatalities (NBER)  The probability of a fatality, conditional on a collision, is 0.19 percent -- or about one in five hundred. The authors find that being hit by a 1,000-pound heavier vehicle results in a 47 percent increase in the baseline probability of being killed in the accident -- roughly a one in one thousand increase in fatality risk, conditional on a collision. The fatality risk is even higher if the striking vehicle is a light truck (SUV, pickup truck, or minivan). These researchers estimate that the total external costs of vehicle weight that arise from fatalities alone are $93 billion per year. They estimate that the value of the external risk that is generated by the gain in fleet weight since 1989 is approximately 27 cents per gallon of gasoline and that the total fatality externality of heavier vehicles is roughly $1.08 per gallon.  Econintersect:  While is is true that risk of death in an auto accident is greater for persons in a light vehicle (see next article), the probability of death will decrease as the average weight per vehicle on the road declines.

  • Improved vehicle designs bring down death rates (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)  The chances of dying in a crash in a late-model vehicle have fallen by more than a third in three years, the latest IIHS calculations of driver death rates show. Among 2011 models, a record nine vehicles have driver death rates of zero. However, the gap between the safest and riskiest models remains wide, and three cars have death rates exceeding 100 per million registered vehicle years.  The vehicle with the highest death rate among the 2011 models is the Kia Rio, a minicar, with 149 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years. It's one of only three vehicles with death rates above 100.  Minicars and small cars dominate the worst list. That's not surprising, since these vehicles can't protect as well as larger ones. Death rates by vehicle type and size show that the smallest vehicles typically have the highest death rates, and, with some exceptions, death rates tend to go down as size goes up.

auto.death.rates.1985.2012


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