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What We Read Today 12 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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Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Topics today include:

  • Is the Worst Over for Oil?

  • International Oil Rig Count Still Has a Way to Fall

  • Near-Term Future for Oil Depends on Outcome of Doha Meeting

  • Send Probes to the Nearest Star for Only $100 Million?

  • How to Track Global Central Bank Policies

  • Flint Water Still Has Too Much Lead

  • All-Time High in Concern About Race Relations in the U.S.

  • The American Spring

  • More About the Red Sea Bridge

  • Is China's Economic Growth "Incredible" or "Non-credible"?

  • Is the American Choice Between Laissez-Faire and Democratic Socialism?

  • Collapse of Gender Roles

  • Wealthy Lives Matter

  • And More

Global

  • Doha Or Don'ta: Oil Prices This Week Hinge On Critical Doha Freeze Talks (Oil Pro)  Oil prices Monday moved from an early loss to a 2% gain as traders debated the potential price impact from an oil meeting scheduled for this coming Sunday in Doha, the Qatari capital.  Brent oil prices hit a four-month high on speculation the meeting might provide some visibility on a production response.

  • World's Top Traders Say the Worst Is Over for Oil (Bloomberg)  Top executives at the world’s largest oil-trading houses said the worst of the market’s woes are probably over, with some predicting prices will climb to $50 a barrel by next year.

  • The International Rig Count Will Fall Slower For Longer Than The US (Oil Pro)  Last week, Baker Hughes updated monthly international drilling statistics for March.  The international rig count fell by 33 units to 985, which is the lowest level since the rig count approached the bottom of the 2008/2009 crash.  In August 2009, the international rig count reached the bottom for that downcycle, 947 active units. The US market had bottomed 4 months earlier and already started to increase.  The 2015/2016 downcycle, while different than 2008/2009 in duration and magnitude, is similar in that the international response is lagging the US on the way down. The US rig count blew through the 2009 bottom almost one year ago, while the international rig count is just now approaching the 2009 bottom.

  • $100-Million Plan Will Send Probes to the Nearest Star (Scientific American)  Forget mucho billion dollar NASA programs.  Funded by Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner and with the blessing of Stephen Hawking, Breakthrough Starshot aims to send probes to Alpha Centauri in a generation.  The effort intends to squeeze all the key components of a robotic probe—cameras, sensors, maneuvering thrusters and communications equipment—into tiny gram-scale “nanocrafts.” These would be small enough to boost to enormous speeds using other technology the program plans to help develop, including a ground-based kilometer-scale laser array capable of beaming 100-gigawatt laser pulses through the atmosphere for a few minutes at a time, and atoms-thin, meter-wide “light sails” to ride those beams to other stars. Each pinging photon of light would impart a slight momentum to the sail and its cargo; in the microgravity vacuum of space, the torrent of photons unleashed by a gigawatt-class laser would rapidly push a nanocraft to relativistic speeds.

  • Swiss banker whistleblower: CIA behind Panama Papers (CNBC)  Bradley Birkenfeld is the most significant financial whistleblower of all time, so you might think he'd be cheering on the disclosures in the new Panama Papers leaks. But today, Birkenfeld is raising questions about the source of the information that is shaking political regimes around the world.  Birkenfeld, an American citizen, was a banker working at UBS in Switzerland when he approached the U.S. government with information on massive amounts of tax evasion by Americans with secret accounts in Switzerland. By the end of his whistleblowing career, Birkenfeld had served more than two years in a U.S. federal prison, been awarded $104 million by the IRS for his information and shattered the foundations of more than a century of Swiss banking secrecy.

  • Global Monetary Policy Tracker (Council on Foreign Relations)  This was developed y by CFR Senior Fellow and Director of International Economics Benn Steil (who has contributed to GEI) and CFR Analyst Emma Smith, allows users to explore the policies of thirty-six central banks in fifty-four countries over the last ten years. Users can also find countries’ interest, inflation, and growth rates, as well as additional information on their monetary stances. Steil and Smith's innovative "Index of Global Tightening or Easing" also reveals the monetary policy stance of the world as a whole.

Click for interactive infographic version of map at Council on Foreign Relations.
http://econintersect.com/images/2016/04/6795764global.monetary.policy.map.JPG

U.S.

  • Flint’s Water Still Has Too Much Lead (The Huffington Post)  Six months after the government told people in Flint, Michigan, to use bottled water for drinking and cooking, new research shows that what’s coming out of their taps remains unfit for human consumption.  A recent round of sampling shows lower levels of poisonous lead contaminating Flint’s water, but the amount of lead is still above what the Environmental Protection Agency considers acceptable for a public water system.  It will take an as yet unknown amount of time for the contamination to flush from the system.

  • Poll:  Concern about Race Relations at a New All-Time High (Breitbart News)  The percentage of Americans who say they worry about race relations has reached its highest level in at least15 years, according to a Gallup survey released Monday.  Democrats (37%), liberals (42%) and blacks (53%), according to the poll, were generally more likely than Republicans (26%,) conservatives (28%), and whites (27%) to say they worry “a great deal” about U.S. race relations. However, the percentage of race worriers has increased across all demographic categories in the past decade and a half.  Gallup has been asking this polling question since 2001.  For full report see Gallup report.

race.relations.gallup.2016.apr

  • Civil Disobedience Against Corrupt Campaign Finance Shows Protest Movement Is Growing (The Huffington Post)  It is being called "The American Spring".   After a 140-mile march from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., police arrested more than 400 protesters on the steps of the Capitol building. Monday’s demonstration was part of a civil disobedience action in support of reducing the influence of money in politics and strengthening the right to vote.  The protest and march, billed as Democracy Spring, brought together a wide coalition of groups from various political perspectives in support of campaign finance reform and voting rights. 

Egypt

  • Saudi Arabia to build Red Sea bridge to Egypt (Gulf News)  Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi Friday said that a current visit to his country by Saudi King Salman Abdul Aziz heralds a “strategic partnership” between the two Arab allied countries.  Satellite image showing the location of the planned bridge across the Strait of Tiran is seen below.

red.sea.bridge

China

  • China's GDP Data Shows a Very Predictable Pattern (Bloomberg)  China’s economic data has long been questioned by investors dubious of its elevated official growth rates, year-in, year-out. Now, as the nation’s expansion moderates, it’s the uncanny consistency of the slowdown that has some analysts skeptical.  Take the last six quarters of gross domestic product growth, which went like this: 7.1%, 7.2%, 7.0%, 7.0%, 6.9%t and 6.8%.  On average, the GDP growth rate has changed 0.2% points each quarter since 2011, less than half of the mean for the rest of the world’s top 10 economies.  Econintersect:  Some say this economic performance is "incredible".  We wonder if it is "non-credible"? 

gdp.control

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

  • Laissez-Faire vs. Democratic Socialism (Laissez-Faire)  As you read this you should try to identify that which is pragmatic and separate it from that which is utopian.  Econintersect recommends that this essay be read with the same critical examination as one would use in reading the Communist Manifesto.   We find that presenting the world in terms of choices between philosphies as different as black is from white offers little chance of improvement.  The better future will be achieved, in our opinion, by recognizing that regulating everything is a terrible choice and regulating nothing is as well.  And perfection is unattainable:  any choice will always produce winners and losers - and the losers will usually be the most vocal.  (See cartoon end of this section, below.)  We suggest that choices are poorly made by society if they are based on a narrow philosophical base (be that laissez-faire or communal control) with all future actions selected by whether they conform to the philosophy or not.  Such a process is intellectually lazy, in our opinion.  Which brings us to a final challenging question:  Is humankind, in aggregate, intellectually lazy?

  • Unnatural Selection (The New Yorker)  What will it take to save the world’s reefs and forests?  Researchers are hoping to “assist” evolution in order to produce hardier corals and tougher trees.  Researchers have noticed that some isolated reefs that had been given up for dead have bounced back.  The search for why may lead to answers that can save the others.

  • Are Women the Silent Sex? (Boston Review)  When women assert authority over men, they cross the fundamental gender boundary.  Throughout history "a woman's place is in the home" has been a commonly held social standard and that still dominates many societies today.  But that may be changing - see next article.

  • The collapse of gender roles: an unseen revolution with unimaginable consequences (Fabius Maximus)  FM has contributed to GEI.  This essay discusses one of the revolutions of our time that are reshaping our world. This article looks at gender roles, changes that will take generations to work out and with implications probably beyond imagining.  Longstanding social traditions are being fundamentally challenged and the world may never be the same.  See also the preceding article.

  • This Causes the Most Damage to a Home (Realtor Mag)  According to data released by the insurance company Travelers, wind damage nudged ahead of hail, water, theft, fire, and others to be the top homeowner’s insurance claim. But it’s the one thing that home owners are least likely to protect their homes against.  Wind can cause tree branches to detach and hit the home, lift up roof shingles, or damage windows and doors.  Prevent property maintenance can prevent much of this damage before the wind blows.

  • Vocal Losers (The New Yorker)


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