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What We Read Today 03 May 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:

  • Facebook is Fading as a Social Network and is Becoming Something Bigger

  • Multigender Bathroom Economics

  • The Economics of Crime and Punishment

  • The Expansion of Life Expectancy over the Last Century

  • Interactive Map Shows Everything about Global Shipping

  • Has Politics become Liars' Poker?

  • How Republicans Would Attack Bernie Sanders if He Were the Nominee

  • Clinton is Losing Her Husband's Core Constituency

  • Apple is a Wealth Destroyer

  • Police Join the Gun Control Crowd

  • America's First Climate Change Refugees

  • Income Growth Comparison:  Europe vs. U.S.

  • China's Bubble Rotation

  • Not Only the U.S. Has an Aging Rust Belt, China Does Too

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • An Awesome Map of World Trade and Shipping (Foundation for Economic Education)  Ever wondered where all the ships at sea are?  Now you can find out.  University College London's Energy Institute has created an mesmerizing time lapse of global shipping, plotting every single commercial cargo ship's position, speed, and route around the globe for one year. You can play around with the map to show individual ships and routes by type of cargo: gas, liquids, raw materials, cars, and container ships.  

Click on map below for animated representation of global shipping.  Animation is interactive.



  • This Is What a Republican Attack on Bernie Sanders Would Look Like (Slate)  This article claims that Bernie Sanders has gotten a free pass to date and that the Republicans would destroy him with a campaign labeling him as a communist, using a variety of details from his past.  Econintersect:  We refer you to the videos above for the likely substance of a campaign against either Hillary or Bernie.  Too bad, there are issues they could be attacked on, as described in the Slate article. 

  • As States Expand Gun Rights, the Police Join the Opposition (The New York Times, MSN News)  In more than a dozen states with long traditions of robust support for gun ownership rights, and where legislatures have moved to relax gun laws during the past year, the local police have become increasingly vocal in denouncing the measures. They say the new laws expose officers to greater danger and prevent them from doing their jobs effectively.

  • Apple has been 'the biggest wealth destroyer' for investors (CNBC)   Investors managed to make it through a volatile April modestly ahead of the game, though individual returns were held back by one principal culprit: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).  The tech giant was "the biggest wealth destroyer" for market participants during the month, according to Openfolio, a social networking platform that compares more than 65,000 shared portfolios within its community.  But Cramer says the Apple you see today is not what Apple will be tomorrow.  Econintersect:  Of course, seeing what Apple will be tomorrow involves predicting the future. Remember what Yogi Berra said?   Watch video below and also the one that follows it.

  • Once a Clinton stronghold, Appalachia now Trump country (Associated Press)  The Clinton name was once held high by working class white voters like those in the coal mining regions of Appalachia.  Today in West Virginia, Hillary is met by few supporters, open hostility and legions of Trump supporters.

  • Resettling the First American ‘Climate Refugees’ (The New York Times, MSN News)   In January, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced grants totaling $1 billion in 13 states to help communities adapt to climate change, by building stronger levees, dams and drainage systems.  One of those grants, $48 million for Isle de Jean Charles, is something new: the first allocation of federal tax dollars to move an entire community struggling with the impacts of climate change. The divisions the effort has exposed and the logistical and moral dilemmas it has presented point up in microcosm the massive problems the world could face in the coming decades as it confronts a new category of displaced people who have become known as climate refugees.  “We’re going to lose all our heritage, all our culture,” lamented Chief Albert Naquin of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, the tribe to which most Isle de Jean Charles residents belong. “It’s all going to be history.”


  • New security at Brussels Airport causes delays, missed flights (Reuters)   New security checks at Brussels Airport, where Islamic State suicide bombers killed 16 people in March, are creating huge queues and causing passengers to miss flights, a situation the airport operator described as "bizarre".  Belgium's main airport reopened part of its departure hall on Monday, bringing capacity up to about 80%  from 20% when operations initially restarted a month ago, after the attack on March 22 gutted parts of the building.  But passengers complain police checks at the entrance to the building are causing delays of several hours and have created a new security risk by forcing people to congregate outside.   Observers are criticizing the situation as creating a new security exposure.  A a senior Belgian security official, who is not involved in the airport plan, said "You couldn't find a better target."

  • Real per capita income.. US v EA since crisis. (Twitter)  Hat tip to Steve Keen.  Econintersect:  The U.S. is stagnating?  Well, then the EU is contracting.




  • Islamic State kills U.S. Navy SEAL in northern Iraq (Reuters)  Islamic State militants killed a U.S. Navy SEAL in northern Iraq on Tuesday after blasting through Kurdish defenses and overrunning a town in the biggest offensive in the area for months, officials said.  The elite serviceman was the third American to be killed in direct combat since a U.S.-led coalition launched a campaign in 2014 to "degrade and destroy" Islamic State and is a measure of its deepening involvement in the conflict.  U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters during a trip to Germany:

"It is a combat death, of course, and a very sad loss." 


  • US accuses Russia of nuclear sabre-rattling, amid Nato tensions (BBC News)  US Defence Secretary Ash Carter has accused Russia of "nuclear saber-rattling" and of being intent on eroding international order.  He said he regretted strained relations with Moscow but said the US had to "prioritise deterrence" on NATO's eastern flank.  US-Russian ties have been strained by the Ukraine crisis and recent military encounters in the Baltic Sea.  Russia has accused NATO of threatening its national security.



  • Can Beijing revive China’s ailing rust belt? (South China Morning Post)  Analysts question whether plan by the authorities can restructure the economy in the northeast and help the unemployed find jobs as millions face layoffs in heavy industry.  The government tried but failed to rejuvenate the region in 2003 after it was hit by massive protests by workers at state-owned factories when the authorities introduced plans to shut down unprofitable firms.  Now, the region has again become a major source of concern over fears of social instability as the government prepares to shut down ailing “zombie” state firms, amid slower growth.

  • The $571 Billion Debt Wall That Points to More Defaults in China (Bloomberg)  Chinese debt investors are turning bearish at just the wrong time for the nation’s corporate borrowers, which face a record 3.7 trillion yuan ($571 billion) of local bond maturities through year-end.  With this year’s biggest note payments concentrated in some of the country’s most-cash strapped industries, China needs buoyant bond markets to help its companies refinance. Instead, yields in April rose at the fastest pace in more than a year and issuance tumbled 43% as borrowers canceled 143 billion yuan of planned debt sales.


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

  • Facebook Isn’t the Social Network Anymore (Slate)  Facebook is no longer about "real friends" as much as it is about "virtual friends"; no longer is the site growing because of personal message sharing, but because of news sharing.  According to confidential company data obtained by the tech blog the Information, Facebook has seen a decline in “original sharing”—posts by people about themselves and their personal lives, as opposed to articles they’re sharing from elsewhere on the web. Bloomberg’s sources corroborated the trend and added that the company is internally blaming it on “context collapse,” an academic term popularized by Danah Boyd to describe how social media tend to blur the boundaries between interpersonal and mass communication.

"Facebook may have peaked as social network, but it is reinventing itself as something bigger."

  • Multi-Gender Bathroom Economics (North Dakota State University Spectrum)  This analysis finds that from, an economics point of view, having unisex public bathrooms is much more efficient (less costly) than separation by sex. 

  • The economics of crime and punishment (Bruegel)  This is a great collection of references (with links) for a wide collection of articles and papers on effectiveness of crime and punishment approaches.  Some general conclusions:  (1) Deterrence is much more effective in reducing crime than is punishment; (2) Threat of arrest (high probability) is a much better deterrent for crime than threat of long imprisonment (lower probability);  (3) Quick, repetitive punishment for wrongdoing is far more effective  in preventing recidivism than delayed, more severe punishment. 

  • The Projected Improvement in Life Expectancy (Bill McBride, Calculated RiskAlternative Economics)  More than 2% of babies born in 2010 have a life expectancy greater than 100 years.  (Restated, less than 98% of babies born in 2010 will have died by age 100.)  Those born 100 years ago had a life expectancy less than 88 years for 98%, and that had only improved to 93 years by 1950.

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