Daily Digest

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Daily Digest 7/13 - The Surveillance State, Genetically Modified Apples Worry Growers

Friday, July 13, 2012, 10:43 AM

Economy

Five things I’ve learned on the ground in Portugal (Thomas C.)

For the last several years, national government spending has contributed nearly 40% of Portugal’s GDP. In Europe, this has only been bested by (you guessed it) Greece and Ireland.

Including local and provincial governments, in fact, total government expenditure here surpasses 50% of GDP. It’s insane.

The Market Has Spoken, and It Is Rigged (Thomas C.)

In the aftermath of the Barclays rate-fixing scandal, the most surprising reaction has been from people in the financial sector who fully understand the awfulness of what has happened. Rather than seeing this as an issue of law and order, some well-informed people have been drawn toward arguments that excuse or justify the behavior of the Barclays employees.

This is a big mistake, in terms of the economics at stake and the likely political impact.

Glenn Greenwald: The Surveillance State (Jaime)

The enormous and growing interception of domestic American communication: Every single administration has systematically abused eavesdropping powers. The agency at the heart of that abuse was the National Security Agency. Every day collection systems at the NSA intercept and store 1.7 billion emails, telephone calls, and other forms of telephonic communications. Former high-level NSA employee William Binney has stated that an estimated 20 trillion transactions of US citizens with other US citizens have been recorded and stored. That consists of only emails and telephone conversations. That does not include financial transactions, for example.

Market Savior? Stocks Might Be 50% Lower Without Fed (Dana T.)

The FOMC has released eight announcements a year at 2:15 ET since 1994. The study took the gains in the S&P 500 from 2 pm the day before the announcement to 2 pm the day of the statement and subtracted that market move from the S&P 500’s total return over that time span.

Without the gains in anticipation of a positive Fed action, the S&P 500 would stand at just 600 today, rather than above 1300.

Wells Fargo Will Settle Mortgage Bias Charges (jdargis)

Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for the civil rights division, said the practices amounted to a “racial surtax,” adding: “All too frequently, Wells Fargo’s African-American and Latino borrowers had no idea they could have gotten a better deal — no idea that white borrowers with similar credit would pay less.”

Wells Fargo admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement. In a statement, the bank also announced that it would no longer finance mortgages through independent brok

Energy

Oil Tanker Full of Crude Stranded Off Coast of Singapore for 150 Days (OPA)

The latest victim to find itself caught in this feud is a black-and-red hulled tanker, the ETC Isis, which has been stranded 15 miles off the coast of Singapore for 150 days, carrying in its hold almost $60 million dollars’ worth of crude. South Sudan say the cargo was stolen, but Sudan still remain adamant that they have every right to seize and sell the oil.

Environment

Avalanche Kills at Least 9 Climbers in France’s Mont Blanc Mountain Range (jdargis)

Manuel Valls, the French interior minister, described “a particularly spectacular block of ice,” The Associated Press reported. Mr. Valls said he would arrive in Chamonix on Thursday and expressed his deep sadness, saying that the authorities would investigate.

That Fresh Look, Genetically Buffed (jdargis)

But the U.S. Apple Association, which represents the American apple industry, opposes introduction of the product, as do some other industry organizations. They say that, while they do not believe that the genetic engineering is dangerous, it could undermine the fruit’s image as a healthy and natural food, the one that keeps the doctor away and is as American as, well, apple pie.

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