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What We Read Today 19 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".).

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Topics today include:

  • Global Antibiotics Revolution Needed

  • Freakish Diamond from the Canadian Arctic

  • Tsunamis on Ancient Mars

  • IBM's New Cheap, Fast Memory

  • Do Trees Sleep at Night?

  • New Asset Allocation Standard

  • Do Central Banks "Murder" Economic Expansions?

  • Puerto Rico Deal in the House

  • Has America Left Congress Behind on LGBT Issues?

  • New Pledge of Allegiance Proposed

  • Is Bernie Beyond the Point of Doing any Good?

  • Merkel Drops to Five Year Polling Low

  • Confusion over Egyptian Downed Plane

  • Maduro Makes Desperate Deflection Move in Venezuela

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Global

  • Global antibiotics 'revolution' needed (BBC News)  A global revolution in the use of antimicrobials is needed, according to a government backed report.  Lord Jim O'Neill, who led the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, said a campaign was needed to stop people treating antibiotics like sweets.  It is the first recommendation in the global plan for preventing medicine "being cast back into the dark ages".  The report has received a mixed response with some concerned that it does not go far enough.  Superbugs, resistant to antimicrobials, are estimated to account for 700,000 deaths each year.  But modeling up to the year 2050, by Rand Europe and auditors KPMG, suggests 10 million people could die each year - equivalent to one every three seconds.

microbial.death.projections

U.S.

  • House Strikes Puerto Rico Debt Deal With Treasury, Democrats (Bloomberg)  House Republicans reached a breakthrough with the Obama administration and top Democrats on the long-stalled effort to address Puerto Rico’s deepening debt crisis. 

  • Liberal media turns on Sanders (The Hill, MSN News)  Bernie Sanders is suddenly facing a barrage of criticism from liberal commentators.  As the fallout from last weekend's Nevada Democratic convention spreads, sharply critical pieces about the White House hopeful and his campaign have appeared in progressive outlets such as Mother Jones, Talking Points Memo and Daily Kos within the past 48 hours.  The Sanders campaign has also taken hits from progressive CNN contributor Sally Kohn, who endorsed the Vermont senator from the stage at a massive rally in New York City just before the Empire State's April primary.

  • Bernie Sanders Is Now Hurting Democrats' Chances (Opposing Views)  While Trump seems to be gaining strength and a fractured Republican Party is on the mend, on the Democratic side, rancor has been on the upswing and may threaten the Democrats' chances of retaining the White House in November. Sanders risks becoming a Ralph Nader-esque candidate if he ultimately does not give a ringing endorsement of Clinton and of the Democratic Party in general.  Otherwise, he will "leave the party itself more open to an ever greater rift between left and center".

  • Stephanie Kelton: National Debt – Washington’s Wall Against Progress (Robert Huebscher, Advisor Perspectives)  Both SK and RH have contributed to GEI.  Kelton, on leave from the economics department at the University of Missouri Kansas City, chief economist for the Senate Budget Committee and currently economic advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign, maintains the economic progress of the U.S. is hindered by policy based on false economic assumptions.  She attributes the growth problems to a preoccupation by both major parties with federal deficit reduction.  Both parties are captive to the false assumption that federal deficits are a use of private savings.  This is taken as an unassailable fact when it is actually an accounting non sequitur:  The unassailable fact is that government deficits are private surpluses (see below what Kelton calls "the most important chart in the world" from Goldman Sachs).    She says that the deficit can be too large or too small and we are in an era presently where it is too small.

gov.private.sector.balances

  • Chaos in House after GOP votes down LGBT measure (The Hill)  The House floor devolved into chaos and shouting on Thursday as a measure to ensure protections for members of the LGBT community narrowly failed to pass after Republican leaders urged their members to change their votes.  Initially, it appeared Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney's (D-N.Y.) amendment had enough votes to pass as "yes" votes piled up to 217 against 206 "no" votes.  But it eventually failed on a 212-213 vote after a number of Republican lawmakers changed their votes from "yes" to "no."  See next article.

  • Public opinion on same-sex marriage (Pew Research Center)  Based on polling in 2016, a majority of Americans (55%) support same-sex marriage, compared with 37% who oppose it. See the latest data on same-sex marriage.  In Pew Research Center polling in 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a margin of 57% to 35%.  The trends in this century are shown in the first graph below.  The reason for the trends?  Old people die - see second graph below.

same.sex.opinion

same.sex.opinion.by.generation

  • The Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag (Wikipedia); Proposed New Pledge of Allegiance (Econintersect)  The pledge, as stated in Wikipedia, has been modified below, by replacement of the word "all" (with emphasis for change):

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all those who agree with me.”

Germany

  • Support for Merkel's party drops to lowest since Oct. 2011: poll (Reuters)  Support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party fell to its lowest level in four and a half years, a poll showed on Thursday, in a sign voters are still upset despite a recent drop in new migrant arrivals.  The Deutschlandtrend poll for public broadcaster ARD/WDR showed support for Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) fell 1 percentage point to 32 percent, the lowest level since Oct 2011 in the survey.  The initial welcome Germans showed waves of arriving migrants last summer turned sour by the autumn and has weighed down since then on support in the polls for Merkel and her party, despite their success in slowing the flow.

Syria

  • Jihadists mobilize in Syria as peacemaking unravels (Reuters)  Jihadi militants in Syria including al Qaeda are mobilizing again for all-out war against President Bashar al-Assad, taking advantage of the collapse of peace talks to eclipse nationalist rival insurgents that signed on to a faltering truce.  Al Qaeda's Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, was excluded from a ceasefire put in place in February and from peace talks that followed. The talks broke up last month, with Assad's government and foes blaming each other for military escalation.

Egypt

  • EgyptAir Says Wreckage Found After Plane Went Missing Over Sea (Bloomberg)  Authorities found debris from an EgyptAir Airbus A320 jetliner that vanished on an overnight flight from Paris to Cairo with 66 people on board, the airline said.  Egyptian Minister of Aviation Sherif Fathy said the possibility of a terrorist attack is higher than a technical failure.  See also next article.

  • EgyptAir crash: Confusion over discovery of 'jet debris' (BBC News)  Greek and Egyptian officials have given conflicting accounts of debris found in the Mediterranean Sea following the disappearance of an EgyptAir flight.  Greece's lead air accident investigator Athanasios Binis said the wreckage found near the Greek island of Karpathos was not from the Airbus A320.  But earlier, Egyptian officials said debris from the jet had been found.  Flight MS804 was en route from Paris to Cairo with 66 passengers and crew when it vanished overnight.  Officials say the plane is more likely to have been brought down by a terrorist act than a technical fault.  It made two sharp turns and dropped more than 25,000ft (7,620m) before plunging into the sea, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos told reporters.

Venezuela

  • Venezuela Prepares for Biggest Military Exercise in History (Bloomberg)  President Nicolas Maduro is making a classic deflection of attention move.  Venezuela is preparing for the biggest military exercises in its history this Saturday after the South American country’s government said it’s on high alert as the opposition pushes for a recall referendum on President Maduro.  Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said on state television Thursday:

“Venezuela is threatened.  This is the first time we are carrying out an exercise of this nature in the country. In terms of national reach, it’s going to be in every strategic region.”

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

  • Freakish Diamond Pulled From Sub-Arctic Ice Is About to Go on Sale (Bloomberg)  The 187.7 carat rare stone was buried in a pit beneath a lake where big gem-quality diamonds aren't supposed to exist, 130 miles (210 kilometers) south of the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories in Canada.  But diamonds are not rare in this pit: since 2003, it has produced more than 90 million carats of diamonds.  The size is what was unexpected.

  • Ancient Tsunami Evidence on Mars Reveals Life Potential (R&D)  The geologic shape of what were once shorelines through Mars' northern plains convinces scientists that two large meteorites - hitting the planet millions of years apart - triggered a pair of mega-tsunamis. These gigantic waves forever scarred the Martian landscape and yielded evidence of cold, salty oceans conducive to sustaining life.  According to Alberto Fairén, Cornell University visiting scientist in astronomy and principal investigator at the Center of Astrobiology, Madrid:

"About 3.4 billion years ago, a big meteorite impact triggered the first tsunami wave. This wave was composed of liquid water. It formed widespread backwash channels to carry the water back to the ocean."

  • IBM's phase-change memory may have cracked the code on a cheap DRAM alternative (PC World)  For the first time, scientists at IBM Research have demonstrated reliably storing 3 bits of data per cell using a relatively new memory technology known as phase-change memory (PCM).  The current memory landscape spans from traditional DRAM (dynamic randon access memeory) to hard disk drives to ubiquitous flash. But in the last several years PCM has attracted the industry's attention as a potential universal memory technology based on its combination of read/write speed, endurance, non-volatility and density. For example, PCM doesn't lose data when powered off, unlike DRAM, and the technology can endure at least 10 million write cycles, compared to an average flash USB stick, which tops out at 3,000 write cycles.  Because of its extremely high density, PCM is expected to be much cheaper than DRAM.

  • Scientists Observe ‘Sleeping’ Trees (R&D)  A study focused on two trees, one in Finland and the other in Austria. Overnight, the researchers used terrestrial laser scanning to observe changes in the branches and foliage. The tree in Finland was scanned 14 times, once about every hour, while the tree in Austria was scanned 77 times, about every 10 minutes.  The researchers witnessed the trees vertically drooping their branches by as much as 10 cm. The movement patterns between the trees were similar, with the biggest movements occurring right around sunrise.  According to New Scientist, the effects are likely caused by turgor pressure, which is driven by internal plant water balance. Study author András Zlinsky told New Scientist the process is influenced by photosynthesis, which stops once the sun sets.

  • The New Asset Allocation Standard? (Roger Nusbaum, Seeking Alpha)  Invesco recently ran a commercial on CNBC for liquid alternative funds with the tag line "goodbye 60/40, hello 50/30/20," the implication being 50% to equities, 30% to fixed income and 20% to alternative strategies.  Where alternatives used to be more about reducing volatility, the conversation is shifting to include bond market substitutes due to what seems like an increased likelihood of lower for longer for interest rates.  The author, a leading expert on retiremen investing and planning, says it is a positive that the conversation is expanding and presumably more market participants are taking the time to learn about alternatives. But he is pretty skeptical that a 20% allocation is the answer.

  • Murder most foul (The Economist)  When periods of economic growth come to an end, old age is rarely to blame.  In June America’s economic expansion will be seven years old. That is practically geriatric: only three previous ones lasted longer. The record boom of the 1990s survived only ten years.  It is tempting to look at that ten-year mark as something like the maximum lifespan of an expansion in America, and to worry, correspondingly, that the current expansion’s days are running short. But are they? At a press conference in December Janet Yellen, chairman of America’s Federal Reserve, declared: “I think it’s a myth that expansions die of old age”.  Yet die they do.  Either Ms Yellen is wrong, or someone is bumping off otherwise healthy expansions before their time.  Supply shocks occasionally prompt recessions: soaring oil prices in 1973 hit consumers in rich economies like an enormous tax rise, for instance, diminishing their purchasing power and thus prompting GDP to fall. More often, weak demand is to blame. Financial-market wobbles or rising interest rates cause people to cling tighter to their cash. Fear proves contagious, leading to a spiral of self-fulfilling pessimism.  But not all expansions are as short-lived as America’s (see graphic below). The Netherlands holds the record: its longest, which ended in 2008, lasted nearly 26 years. Australia may surpass that early next year: its continuing expansion dates back to 1991. If expansions have a natural lifespan, it is longer than a decade.  Since WWII increasing age of an expansion has not correlated with higher probability of recession with a year.  This column suggests that expansions are often "murdered" by central banks.


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