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    Daily Digest 4/7 – The NSA Spying Machine, U.S. Corn Belt Glowing with Productivity

    by DailyDigest

    Monday, April 7, 2014, 2:00 PM

Economy

The Polarized Partisan Geography of Inequality (jdargis)

Maloney’s seat topped the AP’s list of wealthiest districts. Per-capita income in the New York 12th comes out to $75,479, or “more than $75,000 a year for every man, woman and child,” as the AP put it. The median household income in Maloney’s district, meanwhile, is a cool $82,823 (21st of all the districts), but it doesn’t compare to the mean household income, which is $142,577 (first of all the districts). In other words, there are a small number of super-rich people in Maloney’s district pulling up the household average. And that’s what the Gini index reports, too: Her district has the third-highest income inequality, which is understandable, since it doesn’t just include the Manhattan’s Upper East Side, but also less tony neighborhoods like Queens’s Long Island City and Brooklyn’s Greenpoint.

Cities Advance Their Fight Against Rising Inequality (jdargis)

“Cities just don’t have the tax and trade policy and tools to rein back inequality in a significant way,” said Alan Berube, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. “They can’t really redistribute income in the way the federal government can, so they are reaching for the levers they have.”

Snowden to Receive Truth-Telling Prize (jdargis)

Mr. Snowden, who fled, ultimately, to Russia, faces prosecution if he returns to the United States. He has appeared via video link at a number of events in America; Ms. Poitras has not been back to the United States since the Snowden revelations. (Ms. Poitras, Mr. Greenwald and the journalist Jeremy Scahill, backed by the Internet billionaire Pierre Omidyar, founded The Intercept, which reports on national security issues.)

Interactive Graphic: The NSA Spying Machine (jdargis)

Retrieving information from hard drives, overseas data centers, or cell phones is more difficult, but it’s often more valuable because stored data is less likely to be encrypted, and spies can zero in on exactly what they want. NSA lawyers can compel U.S. companies to hand over some of it; agency hackers target the most coveted and fortified secrets inside computers of foreign governments.

If President Obama wanted the NSA to quit storing phone metadata, he’d act now (jdargis)

That means Americans have to accept, at face value, a promise from Uncle Sam that the government won’t abuse a database that includes the phone numbers of all calls, the international mobile subscriber identity number of mobile callers, the calling card numbers used in calls, and the time and duration of those calls to and from the United States.

Shale Gas Boom Leaves Wind Companies Seeking More Subsidy (jdargis)

Consider that gas averaged $8.90 a million British thermal units in 2008 and plunged to $3.73 last year, making the fuel a cheaper source of electricity for utilities. Congress allowed the wind Production Tax Credit to expire last year, and wind farm construction plunged 92 percent.

The Lewis Effect (jdargis)

As everybody who remembers the May 2010 “flash crash” knows, high-frequency trading, or HFT, is certainly responsible for its fair share of market turbulence—the phenomenon Virtu claims to have mastered. And Flash Boys presents an ingenious, private-sector solution to the problems caused by HFT. Indeed, the main narrative of his book is a simple story of good guys versus bad guys. On one side is Virtu; on the other side is a shadowy “dark pool”—a stock exchange where no one can see the orders being placed—going by the mysterious name of IEX, which Lewis pretty much singlehandedly uncovered.

NASA Shows U.S. Corn Belt Literally Glowing with Productivity (jdargis)

But in the short term, the study from NASA might be of most interest to scientists studying global climate change. Joiner’s team found the Corn Belt to be 40 to 60 percent more productive than estimated in current climate models. Unlike wild plants, crops have frequent access to nutrients and irrigation, which has made it difficult for scientists to estimate their impact on the global carbon cycle in the past. The pink blotches in NASA’s imagery means U.S. crops are taking more greenhouses gases from the atmosphere than previously thought.

Dow Chemical seeks USDA approval for 2,4-d ready corn (jdargis)

As with Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready lines, the herbicide with which these seeds are engineered to be used (2,4-D) will surge in use. Dow aims to get 2,4-D-resistant corn to market this year, soy next year and cotton in 2015. These three crops dominate U.S. agriculture, blanketing over 100 million acres of mono-cropped countryside and driving the pesticide market. Only this time, the fallout will be even worse.

Gold & Silver

Click to read the PM Daily Market Commentary: 4/4/14

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