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What We Read Today 02 June 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:

  • World's Unfriendliest Cities

  • U.S.:  20 Perfect Summer Getaways

  • Wolves Were Domesticated in at Least Two Different Locations

  • Ecology and Economics

  • Shifting Economics of Organic Foods

  • Another OPEC Meeting Fail

  • Economists Give Very Poor Grades to All Three Presidential Candidates

  • Ryan Endorses Trump

  • Some Officials Fear Both Trump and Clinton Risk With Secrets

  • Wal-Mart Evaluating Use of Drones

  • Lawsuit Against DOL Fiduciary Rule is 'Weak'

  • Chile Has Surplus Solar Energy - Is Giving It Away

  • Venezuelans Demonstrate for Food - Get Teargas

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • OPEC fails to agree policy but Saudis pledge no shocks (Reuters)   OPEC failed to agree a clear oil-output strategy on Thursday as Iran insisted on steeply raising its own production, though Tehran's arch-rival Saudi Arabia promised not to flood the market and sought to mend fences within the organization.  Tensions between the Sunni-led kingdom and the Shi'ite Islamic Republic had blighted several previous OPEC meetings, including in December 2015 when the group fell short of agreeing a formal output target for the first time in years.  Strains were less acute on Thursday, however, as new Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih showed Riyadh wanted to be more conciliatory and his Iranian peer Bijan Zanganeh kept his criticism of Riyadh to an unusual minimum.  In a rare compromise, OPEC also decided unanimously to appoint Nigeria's Mohammed Barkindo as its new secretary-general after years of friction over the issue.  Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies had tried to propose OPEC set a new collective ceiling in an attempt to repair the group's waning importance. But Thursday's meeting ended with no new policy or ceiling amid resistance from Iran.


  • Economists give presidential candidates a big 'F' (CNBC)  The 2016 presidential election is giving new meaning to the political maxim "It's the economy, stupid."  That's because most economists believe that when it comes to formulating growth plans and talking intelligently about the challenges ahead, the candidates primarily have been, well, stupid.  Collectively, the field of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump received a thrashing from a field of economists surveyed by Fully half of the 24 experts gave the candidates an "F," with most of the others assigning the group a "D."   Econintersect:  We question whether these assessments are necessarily a detriment to the candidates' qualifications to be president and actually even be positive.

  • Republican Ryan delivers long-awaited endorsement to Trump (Reuters)  Paul Ryan, the top elected Republican, endorsed Donald Trump on Thursday in the Nov. 8 presidential election, a step toward unifying party loyalists behind the presumptive Republican nominee despite concerns about him.

  • How the Democratic Race Will Probably End (The New York Times, MSN News)  Barring something truly extraordinary, Hillary Clinton will be declared the presumptive nominee for president by the news media, probably on Tuesday after the results in New Jersey. It will happen even if she loses every remaining contest, and it will probably happen before the polls even close in California (no doubt igniting the fury of some Bernie Sanders supporters).

  • Some officials worry about briefing Trump, fearing spilled secrets (Reuters)  Some U.S. intelligence officials are concerned that Donald Trump's "shoot from the hip" style could pose national security risks as they prepare to give him a routine pre-election briefing once he is formally anointed as the Republican presidential nominee.  Current and former officials said that the scandal over Hillary Clinton's use of emails also raises concerns about her handling of sensitive information. The likely Democratic nominee is facing an FBI probe into whether security was compromised and laws were broken by her use of a private email server for government business while she was Secretary of State.

  • How Wal-Mart will keep slashing its prices: Drones (CNBC)  Wal-Mart is testing the use of proprietary drone technology in its 1.2 million-square-foot distribution center in Bentonville, Arkansas. The drones, which can operate on autopilot, fly through the aisles snapping 30 images a second, and delivering real-time data to employees about whether the correct product is shelved in the proper place. 

  • Lawsuit against DOL fiduciary rule seen as 'weak' by some observers (Investment News)  Opponents have finally filed an anticipated lawsuit challenging the Labor Department's rule to raise investment advice standards for retirement accounts, but some observers say arguments levied against the regulation are flimsy and exaggerated.  Among the complaints in the filing are the allegation the DOL exceeded its statutory authority in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, the Internal Revenue Code and the Administrative Procedure Act, saying the DOL's regulatory authority doesn't extend to individual retirement accounts. Further, the rule is irreconcilable with the language of ERISA and the Code, plaintiffs said.  According to Jamie Hopkins, an attorney and a professor at The American College of Financial Services: 

“There are still some serious questions about the Department of Labor's authority to regulate to the extent they did with the new Conflict of Interest Rule, but many of the arguments in the complaint filed by the Chamber of Commerce look weak at best.” 


  • France floods: Louvre to close as Seine rises further (BBC News)  The world's most visited museum, the Louvre in Paris, is to close on Friday amid worsening flooding caused by days of torrential rain. The move will allow staff to move works at risk of damage to higher parts of the gallery, a statement said.  The Seine, which runs through Paris past the Louvre, has risen five meters (more than 16 feet) above normal levels.  Heavy rains across Europe have left at least 10 people dead, most of them in Germany.  More downpours are forecast right through the weekend across a band of central Europe from France to Ukraine, with as much as 50mm (2in) of rain falling in some parts in just a few hours.


  • German MPs recognise Armenian 'genocide' amid Turkish fury (BBC News)   The German parliament has approved a resolution declaring that the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War One was a "genocide".   Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their people died in the atrocities of 1915. Turkey says the toll was much lower and rejects the term "genocide".  The vote heightened German-Turkish tensions at a time when Turkey's help is needed to stem the flow of migrants.  Turkey has recalled its ambassador and its leader threatened further action.  President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the recall was a first step and that the government would consider further action it might take in response to the vote.


  • Chile Has So Much Solar Energy It’s Giving It Away for Free (Bloomberg)   Chile’s solar industry has expanded so quickly that it’s giving electricity away for free.  Spot prices reached zero in parts of the country on 113 days through April, a number that’s on track to beat last year’s total of 192 days, according to Chile’s central grid operator. While that may be good for consumers, it’s bad news for companies that own power plants struggling to generate revenue and developers seeking financing for new facilities.  Chile’s increasing energy demand, pushed by booming mining production and economic growth, has helped spur development of 29 solar farms supplying the central grid, with another 15 planned. Further north, in the heart of the mining district, even more have been built. Now, economic growth is slowing as copper output stagnates amid a global glut, energy prices are slumping and those power plants are oversupplying regions that lack transmission lines to distribute the electricity elsewhere.  Econintersect:  Besides grid systems upgrades, high production levels for solar cannot be effectively utilized without advanced energy storage systems.  In Chile's case, hydrogen production from sea water, which could be sold as pressurized gas regionally or globally, is an obvious option.  But, if most solar facilities are inland, a grid system to the coast would also be needed.


  • 'We want food!', Venezuelans cry at protest near presidency (Reuters)   Venezuelan security forces fired teargas at protesters chanting "We want food!" near Caracas' presidential palace on Thursday, the latest street violence in the crisis-hit OPEC nation.  Hundreds of angry Venezuelans heading for Miraflores palace in downtown Caracas were met by National Guard and police who blocked a major road.  President Nicolas Maduro, under intense pressure over a worsening economic crisis in the South American nation of 30 million, had been scheduled to address a rally nearby.  The protest spilled out of long lines at shops in the area, witnesses said, after some people tried to hijack a food truck.

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

  • World's Unfriendliest Cities (Travel and Leisure)  Of the 30 cities on this list, 19 are in the U.S.  Most of the rest are in Europe and China.  To look for more pleasant surroundings in the U.S., see next article.

  • 20 Perfect Summer Getaways (Travel and Leisure)  For Americans (and foreign visitors) who want to avoid 19 of the 30 most unfriendly cities in the world (see previous article) here is a great slide show of places to visit.

  • Study suggests dogs first appeared in 2 places in Eurasia (Associated Press)  Dogs arose from the domestication of wolves, and the new work suggests this happened twice, once in Asia and also in either Europe or the Near East.  "We were slightly surprised," since domestic animals usually have a single origin, said lead study author Laurent Frantz of Oxford University.  In a paper released Thursday by the journal Science, he and co-authors stressed that their conclusion is only a hypothesis, and that more work is needed to assess it.  See Dogs may have been domesticated more than once (Science).

  • Editorial: Good ecology is good economics (Times Colonist)  What’s good for the environment is good for the economy. That’s a concept most British Columbians embrace and it’s what the B.C. Chamber of Commerce appears to have decided in seeking protection for some old-growth forests. The chamber voted this week to ask the province to expand protection of old-growth forests in areas where they have, or likely would have, greater economic value if left standing. The resolution also called on the province to enact new regulations — incorporating such strategies as an old-growth management area, wildlife-habitat area or land-use order — with an eye on eventually legislating permanent protection through provincial-park or conservancy status.

  • The shifting economics of organic food (Vox)  Anyone who's set foot in a supermarket or farmers market in, oh, the past decade has noticed that organic food is considerably pricier than conventional food. But this "organic premium" — the difference between the two — can vary widely from product to product. And in some cases, the gap is actually shrinking quite dramatically.

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