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What We Read Today 11 June 2017

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:

  • 2017 Credit Card Debt Study: Trends & Insights

  • The OECD says universal basic income could make poverty worse

  • Basic income as a policy option:  Can it add up?

  • Uptrend Over, Or A Correction?

  • Snake Juice! S&P 500 Volatility Index Hits 24 Year Low (Euro Stoxx Vol Is Also Near 24 Year Low)

  • Are Investors Compensated For Risks They Undertake?

  • Ex-U.S. Attorney Bharara tells of 'unusual' calls he received from Trump

  • The Incompetence Defense

  • Public Trust in Government Remains Near Historic Lows as Partisan Attitudes Shift

  • America's Futurue is Losing Confidence in ... Anerica's Future

  • Jeremy Corbyn's Achievement

  • Crippled Conservative Party forced to send a mayday for DUP after general election

  • Theresa May signals soft Brexit by naming Damien Green as deputy prime minister in post-election reshuffle

  • Qatar willing to listen to Gulf concerns, Kuwait says

  • Moscow Relocation Notices

  • Plan to relocate 1.6 million Muscovites turns middle-class Russians into protesters

  • The World's Oceans are Headed for More Pounds of Plastic than Fish

  • Deciphering Cuneiform: Helping Scholars to Get a Handle on Life in Ancient Mesopotamia

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world



  • Deciphering Cuneiform: Helping Scholars to Get a Handle on Life in Ancient Mesopotamia (Ancient Origins)  Cuneiform is a system of writing that was invented by the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia. Believed to have been created sometime during the 4th millennium BC (between 3500 and 3000 BC), this script is regarded as the earliest known form of writing. Cuneiform became an unreadable script as its use came to an end.  Over the last two centuries scholars have decifered and translated many ancient clay tablets giving insight into life in the ancient Near East. Some of these, for example, deal with the belief system of the ancient Mesopotamians. Such texts include tales dealing with their gods or heroes, for instance, the Enuma Elish (the Babylonian creation myth), and the Epic of Gilgamesh.  Others have contributed to our understanding of economics in the ancient world. Yet other tablets shed light on the politics and interactions between different polities of the ancient Near East. Other topics found written in cuneiform include recipes, laws, and medicine.


Speaking on ABC News' "This Week" in his first televised interview since Trump fired him in March as the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, Bharara said he believed Trump's calls to him violated the usual boundaries between the executive branch and independent criminal investigators.


The prime minister triggered opposition from Ruth Davidson, the gay Conservative leader in Scotland, who tweeted a link to a lecture on the importance of same sex marriage, something the DUP opposes in the province.

MPs from the DUP have called for a return of the death penalty and been criticised for their remarks about gay relationships while the party faces questions about its stance on climate change.

  • Jeremy Corbyn's Achievement (The New Yorker)  Corbyn succeeded in shooting an arrow through the heart of the austerity mantra that has, until now, seemingly enthralled the UK:

Ever since the 2010 election, when the Conservatives and Fleet Street successfully portrayed Labour as spendthrift and economically irresponsible, many of Corbyn’s colleagues in the Labour Party had been scared of advocating a sharp break with Tory austerity policies. Corbyn took on this task and didn’t suffer the electoral consequences that many of his internal critics had feared. “You can argue that public resources should be in public ownership,” Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, who has had his differences with Corbyn, said as Labour’s gains came in. “You can argue that we should spend more on public service. You can argue that we should spend more on giving people a start in life.”

In a country where, in the past decade, political debate has been denuded of some of its substance, this was an important achievement on Corbyn’s part. While he didn’t do well enough to form a government, he defied the political, media, and economic establishments to breathe fresh life into a politics that had become stale, formulaic, and moribund. Whatever happens over the next hours and days, this achievement will hopefully be one of the more lasting consequences of the 2017 election.

Damien Green was appointed as the effective deputy prime minister this evening as Theresa May reshuffled her cabinet under a weakened mandate.

In a further sign that the government’s loss of 13 seats in the election was forcing a softer approach to Brexit Mr Green, a remain campaigner, was moved from the Department of Work and Pensions to first secretary of state and minister for the Cabinet Office.


  • Qatar willing to listen to Gulf concerns, Kuwait says (Reuters)  Qatar is ready to listen to the concerns of Gulf Arab states that have cut diplomatic and economic ties, Kuwait said on Sunday, as it tried to mediate a solution to the worst regional crisis in years.

Saudi Arabia and allies Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) severed ties with Qatar last week, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and arch-foe Iran - charges Doha denies.

The rift has disrupted travel, separated families, severed commercial links and sown confusion among banks and businesses while deepening divisions between their respective allies fighting in wars and political struggles from Libya to Yemen.



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

  • 2017 Credit Card Debt Study: Trends & Insights (WalletHub)  Americans repaid $31.5 billion credit card debt during the first quarter of 2017.  First-quarter debt reduction is customary because people generally receive annual salary bonuses (and make New Year’s resolutions) early in the year. And while this year’s Q1 payment was 14% higher than the previous year’s, that is still nearly 9% shy of our effort in 2015.  In all of 2016 there was an increase in total credit card debt of $89.4 billion as the first quarter paydown was more than offset by $117 billion net increase for the rest of the year, a record for the last 10 years.



  • The OECD says universal basic income could make poverty worse (Quartz)  Hat tip to Laurentiu Nicolae.  The conclusion is based on analyzing the effects of a scenario in which all existing cash and tax benefits for those under 65 would be converted into a UBI in 35 OECD member countries.  This study has been criticized because most proponents of UBI see it with some level of income redistribution which reduces poverty levels. For details see Basic income as a policy option:  Can it add up? (OECD pdf)

  • Uptrend Over, Or A Correction? (Seeking Alpha)  This author is getting defnesive in gold and silver. The iShares Silver Trust (NYSEARCA:SLV) finished the week below all key exponential and simple major moving averages.  Mid-week, he saw a few signals that precious metals were over-bought (at least in the short run).


  • The compensation one gets from investing in longer term bonds, the term premium, is now negative.

  • Credit spreads are the tightest in years, meaning less compensation from investing in high yield.

  • Meanwhile, stocks are richly valued compared to history.

  • Can bonds be a buffer to stocks if markets take a tumble or, instead, could possibly rising bond yields cause a market selloff?

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