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Daily Digest 7/20 - Flint MI Bankruptcy Imminent, Soda Bottles Become Low-Cost Lights

Sunday, July 20, 2014, 11:07 AM

Economy

First Detroit, Now Flint Warns Bankruptcy "Train Is Headed For The Cliff" (pinecarr)

Flint may be Michigan’s second city to plunge into bankruptcy unless retirees accept cuts in health benefits that threaten to unravel a balanced budget. As Crain's Detroit reports, Emergency Manager Darnell Earley (Flint’s third emergency leader since it was placed under state control in 2011) warned "If we have no ability to mitigate the cost of retiree health care, that’s going to make it very difficult for the city to remain financially stable over the next few years." As Eric Scorsone notes, "Flint's at the forefront, but a lot of cities are on the same train, and that train is headed for the cliff."

Flint manager warns of bankruptcy over retiree costs (pinecarr)

Michigan emergency managers have sweeping authority over their municipalities’ finances and structure, with power to reorganize, hire and to change union contracts. If Earley determined the city couldn’t pay for its liabilities and sustain services, he could recommend to Gov. Rick Snyder that the city file for court protection.

“Bankruptcy is a point in the law, and it’s my duty to explore that if it appears we’re not going to be able to make it any other way,” he said. “Whether it’s the absolute next step or not, I can’t say. It would have to be explored. It’s in the law for a reason.”

In a Subprime Bubble for Used Cars, Borrowers Pay Sky-High Rates (jdargis)

This is the face of the new subprime boom. Mr. Durham is one of millions of Americans with shoddy credit who are easily obtaining auto loans from used-car dealers, including some who fabricate or ignore borrowers’ abilities to repay. The loans often come with terms that take advantage of the most desperate, least financially sophisticated customers. The surge in lending and the lack of caution resemble the frenzied subprime mortgage market before its implosion set off the 2008 financial crisis.

Former Soda Bottles Become Low-Cost Solar Lights (jdargis)

Since plastic bottles are ubiquitous everywhere, the devices can easily be assembled locally, while only the small solar panels and other pieces of the kit have to be shipped. The designers claim that because they're reusing the bottles for the main part of the lantern, it also has a smaller carbon footprint than similar solar lamps. "We wanted to emphasize the importance of waste materials as a growing resource," say the designers.

Giant Global “Chimney” Could Alter Climate Change (jdargis)

Better understanding the chemical composition and transport within the chimney, however, could greatly advance our knowledge of the atmosphere and how it may respond to a changing climate. The researchers hope an added bonus could be understanding how pollutants are transported and transformed as air is pushed along the tropics, which could have a direct effect on people living downwind of major air pollution sources. “There are a lot of consequences from this type of air motion,” says Elliot Atlas, professor of marine and atmospheric chemistry at the University of Miami and a principal investigator for the project. “There is a link between the chemistry that goes on in this type of air motion and the subsequent effects on the trace gases and aerosols in the atmosphere that ultimately impact climate.”

Latest State of the Climate: Yup, Still Getting Hotter (jdargis)

Four independent datasets show that for surface ocean temperatures, last year was among the 10 warmest years on record. The North Pacific set a new record.

Return On Investment (Eric G.)

While monetary and energy ROI ratios can be useful metrics, I’ve come to believe that the ROI framework is much more broadly useful. I’m currently teaching a course on voluntary simplicity, and a recent homework assignment invited students to keep track of every penny they spend over the course of a week and to explore the many types of non-monetary benefits they get from that spending. Does the money spent on dinner with a friend have the added benefit of strengthening that relationship? Does the money spent buying food at a farmers’ market have the added benefit of providing access to higher quality food than one can get at a local supermarket? Does supporting farmers’ markets pay added dividends by creating a space for people to come together, have conversations they might not otherwise have and support the building of community more generally?

Frack Quietly, Please: Sage Grouse Is Nesting (jdargis)

Now, federal officials are weighing putting it on the endangered species list — setting off a mad scramble among the unlikeliest of allies to save the bird and avoid disrupting the nation’s enormous growth in energy production. With a range stretching over more than 165 million resource-rich acres across 11 states, the grouse is at the center of one of the country’s most important struggles: to balance the demand for energy against the needs of nature. And in the process, it has put two environmental priorities — preserving species and fostering renewable energy — on a collision course.

Gold & Silver

Click to read the PM Daily Market Commentary: 7/18/14

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