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What We Read Today 20 July 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:

  • Ten Best U.S. Cities for Millennials

  • The Fuel that May Halt the Electric Car Revolution

  • A New Area of Negative Interest Rates May Introduce the Main Street Helicopter

  • The ECB Has a Monetary Tool that No One Else Uses - But Japan May Be Next

  • Starbucks Moves Employee Healthcare to Insurance Exchange

  • Organic Molecules May Be Next Revolution in Energy Storage

  • Does Chinese Currency Devaluation Affect U.S. Stocks?

  • Tracking Fraud Around the World Leads to Movies, Actors and Other Unexpected Places

  • No Social Security COLA Expected for 2017

  • Conservatives Organize Against Climate Change Deniers

  • Presidential Polls are Bouncing Around, But They Really Don't Matter at the Point

  • Iraqi Forces Eye Mosul

  • Why Iran Stood with Erdogan

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


More than $3.5 billion traveled a trail of fraud from Malaysia through a web of shell companies, fueling a spending binge on Monet paintings and luxury real estate in the U.S. and Britain, with at least $700 million flowing back into accounts controlled by Malaysia’s prime minister.

Along the way, some of the money was handled by international banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Standard Chartered Plc and Deutsche Bank AG. Some of the money funded a Hollywood blockbuster, “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The stepson of Malaysia’s prime minister and associates sent more than $13 million to a Las Vegas casino for three days of gambling for a group that included an unidentified film actor whose description matches that of the film’s star, Leonardo DiCaprio.


  • No bump likely in Social Security checks next year (CNBC)  Retirees, beware: Your Social Security retirement check might not grow at all next year.  The Board of Trustees of the Social Security Trust Funds estimates that the 2017 cost-of-living-adjustment likely will be very small to flat: between 0.7% and zero. The adjustments are based on increases in the consumer price index.  This is tough on seniors depending on Social Security for a significant part of their income because they spend relatively little on things that are falling in price, like transportation and technology and relatively more on things that are rising like healthcare.

  • Melania Trump's speechwriter takes blame for plagiarism (The Hill)  Staff writer Meredith McIver said in a statement that she had offered to resign, but Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, refused to accept her resignation.  McIver said that while writing the speech, Melania Trump told her that she was inspired by Obama and some of the passages from her 2008 speech.  McIver said in the statement:

“Over the phone she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples.  I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech. I did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches. This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos that have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant.”  

This page lists nationwide public opinion polls that were conducted relating to the 2012 United States presidential election between  Democratic Incumbent President Barack ObamaRepublicanMitt RomneyLibertarian Gary JohnsonGreen Jill SteinConstitutionalist Virgil GoodeJusticianRocky Anderson as well as other third-party  and independent  challengers.

  • Trump delegate: Clinton should be 'shot for treason' over Benghazi (The Hill)  A Donald Trump adviser and delegate has called for Hillary Clinton to be "shot for treason".   Al Baldasaro, an adviser to the Republican presidential nominee on veterans issues, called Clinton a "disgrace" for her handling of the Benghazi attacks.  Baldasaro said in an interview with "The Jeff Kuhner Show," first reported by BuzzFeed:

"The whole thing disgusts me. Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason." 

  • 10 best cities for millennials (LifeHealthPro)  Rankings were determined considering a range of factors, including the number of young professionals who live there — after all, being among a group of your peers makes for great networking and socializing opportunities — job opportunities; access to bars, coffee shops, and restaurants; affordable housing; and cost of living.  Other considerations were the crime rate, level of education of residents, population diversity, unemployment rate, and the percentage of change in the number of employees from 2010 to 2013.  Each factor was assigned a weight in the overall score, and Niche graded a total of 227 cities that met required qualifications to pick their top ten.  But no city was deemed close to perfect:  Even the top city, Cambridge, MA, had a major flaw:  the high cost of housing.


  • There are two types of negative interest rates (Eric Lonergan, Philosophy of Money)  Lonergan says that one is the well recognized one (official policy rate) and has little stimulative effect - and might even be contractionary near, at and below the zero "bound".  The other is not well understood and gets slight attention - and can have great stimulative effect.  The ECB is the only central bank using this second tool, which they call targeted longer-term refinancing operations (TLTROs).  These are loans to banks for specific nonfinancial concern purposes (like mortgage financing, auto purchase loans, consumer credit, small business loans, etc. - any non-financial entity)  They can be made by the ECB at any chosen interest, even low enough (like -5%) that banks can make interest-free loans and make a handsome profit with reasonable underwriting.  Lonergan points out that this process becomes helicopter money if any TLTRO is issued as a perpetual loan at zero interest.  Of course the interest "charged" to the issuing bank would have to be negative (very slightly would do, like 0.01% in perpetuity) to serve as a service fee for the bank to "distribute" the money.  Econintersect:  The world is getting stranger and stranger.  


  • Iraqi forces in Ninevah eye the ultimate prize: Mosul (Al Monitor)  Almost four months into the launch of the Ninevah Liberation Operation, Iraqi forces managed to secure a major gain July 9 by capturing the strategic Qayyarah air base in the southern countryside of Ninevah province. The victory is expected to invigorate the Iraqi offensive in this key northern province, the location of Mosul, the largest city controlled by the Islamic State (IS).  The Ninevah offensive, which began in late March, has been largely characterized by slow progress and has at times appeared stalled, such as when the Iraqi forces struggled to capture al-Nasr, a village near Makhmur, during the first couple of months of the operation. The victory in Qayyarah will bring strategic benefit to the several layers of the Iraqi security forces and their local Sunni tribal allies by helping facilitate the delivery of military and logistical supplies via the air base.  See also Mapping the road to the liberation of Mosul.


  • Why Iran stood with Erdogan (Al Monitor)  Iranian government officials were in immediate contact with Turkish officials as the coup was unfloding Friday evening (15 July).  An Iranian official anonymously told Al Monitor:

"The whole [Iranian government] establishment was too concerned. Turkey is a neighboring state. President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and his government are strong partners of Iran. Our nations enjoy strong brotherly ties, so it’s the least we can do to show solidarity and try to offer any help they might need in such critical times.”

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

  • The Fuel That May Halt The Electric Car Revolution (Financial Sense)  Electric cars are often touted as the nail in the coffin for gasoline-powered vehicles. However, there’s another fuel revolution in the developing world, which is changing the economics of electric cars. Whether it’s CNG, LNG, autogas, or propane, gaseous hydrocarbon fuels turn conventional cars into dual-fuel vehicles and limit the uptake of electric cars in these economies.  There are already 18 million natural gas powered vehicles in just 6 emerging market countries:  China, Iran, Pakistan, India, Argentina and Brazil.  China and Iran alone have over 8 million CNG/LPG vehicles, approximately 4 million in each county. The graphic below shows the significant cost advantage for gas vs. gasoline around the world, with the largest savings in many developing countries.  (Note:  This article also says that electric vehicles are much more polluting than other forms of power, including gasoline.  This estimate uses 2009 data and does not reflect the decline in fossil fuel usage for electricity production on the grid, and the various emerging technologies for off-grid electric car recharging.) 

Click for larger image.

  • Starbucks expands health care benefits for U.S. employees (USA Today)  Starbucks has announced the transfer on employee healthcare to an exchange based service that will allow U.S. employees to choose from up to six different medical insurance providers instead of one.  The company estimates the new options could save individual employees up to $800 a year by being able to choose a more customized plan. Employees with family coverage could save up to $2,600 a year. Employees who work 20 hours a week or more are eligible for health care coverage, and the changes apply to both store and corporate employees.  The changes come a week after the coffee company announced several workplace upgrades, including higher wages for store workers.  See Starbucks U.S. employees to get at least 5% raise.

  • Organic Molecule Discovery Yields New Energy-Storage System (R&D)  Energy storage will be the limiting technology for implementation of ubiquitous green energy sources like photovoltaic (PV) solar and wind turbines.  Harvard researchers are working on a promising concept that involves use of easily manufactured in bulk organics like riboflavin (a vitamin B molecule associated with transforming carbohydrates into fuel for our bodies) and quinonones for use in inexpensive flow battery storage systems. 

  • Look Out Below (5 Min. Forecast)  Note:  This is from a paid subscription service.  This post points out that Chinese currency devaluations have, in the past, been associated with U.S. stock market corrections.  This post suggests that the turmoil surrounding Brexit has merely postponed another market correction by a few weeks.



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