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What We Read Today 24 June 2014

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 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.

"The very future of Iraq depends on choices that will be made in the next days and weeks. Not next week, not next month, but now."

  • A Mysterious Sound Is Driving People Insane And Nobody Knows What's Causing It (Jared Keller, Policy Mic) Hat tip to Tom Hickey. A low-level frequency is producing an audible hum many places around the world. But only a few are hearing it. It causes pain, irritation, depression and anguish. In some cases suicides have resulted. Nobody has identified the exact source(s) but the sound(s) does(do) appear to be real and measurable.
  • Apple's Smartwatch Will Probably Fail (Rocco Pendola, TheStreet) Pendola says that this field of dreams should have been left planted with corn. He calls wearable technology a "phantom sector".
  • A Measurement Study of Google Play (Nicolas Viennot, Edward Garcia and Jason Nieh, Columbia University) A recent Columbia University study has shown that Android applications contain thousands of leaked secret authentication keys which can be used by malicious users to gain unauthorized access to server resources through Amazon Web Services and compromise user accounts on Facebook. The study concludes that Google's Play Store has inadequate security, and was able to crawl their site using a hack crawler called PlayDrone.


  • Iran rejects U.S. action in Iraq, ISIL tightens Syria border grip (Kamal Namaa, Reuters) There is an outstanding characteristic of this story and it should be a great embarrassment to Reuters: The six military photos. Obviously they are stiffly posed propaganda shots like the one below which is suitable to accompany a caption like: Members of the Iraqi security forces demonstrate how to present a maximal target to the enemy.


Today there are 11 articles discussed 'behind the wall'.

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  • Do Alternatives Really Boost Portfolio Performance? (Ed McCarthy, ThinkAdvisor) A study by Morningstar using ETF investments indicates that alternative investments (like real estate, commodities, long/short positions, carry trades, etc.) do not offer improved performance. In fact the extra fees and expenses can bring down performance below that of simpler portfolios. There are some strategies that reduce volatility but improved performance is not the norm.
  • Neil Barofsky, Old Foe of Bank Bailouts, a Monitor for Credit Suisse (Ben Protess and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, DealBook, The New York Times) Credit Suisse is the first bank of its size and significance to strike a plea deal with federal prosecutors in more than two decades. In that deal it agreed to hire a monitor as part of a related settlement with the New York regulator, the Department of Financial Services. That regulator will likely be Neil Barofsky, the former U.S. Attorney who was the Inspector General for TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) who was criticized by Timothy Geithner for being too confrontational and challenging in his oversight role. Econintersect: A rare white hat may be re-entering the wild west financial stage set. Now let's get some more similarly minded people in there such as Bill Black and Larry Doyle.

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  • China needs sustainable growth: IMF Secretary (Xinhua) Lin Jianhai, Secretary of the IMF, is confidant the China can attain steady and sustainable economic growth in the medium term. Lin's bland pablum included a suggestion that there need be a "balance between growth quality and speed". Econintersect: What did this add to the understanding of China's problems?
  • US Industry is Booming Again (Sam Ro, Business Insider) The Markit Flash (preliminary) Manufacturing PMI jumped to the highest level in more than four years this month, with a reading of 57.5. Note: This is based on different data than the ISM (Institute for Supply Management) PMI surveys which are followed by Econintersect.


  • Clayton Christensen Responds to New Yorker Takedown of 'Disruptive Innovation' (Drake Bennett, Bloomberg Businessweek) One Harvard professor (Jill Lapore, history) wrote what amounted to a critical review of another professor's seminal book, The Innovator's Dilemma (Clayton Christensen, business administration), published in 1997. This article recounts an interview in which Christensen criticizes Lepore for apparently reading the 1997 book and not all the work that has followed. That work modified and reversed important parts of the 1997 work. Christensen says Lepore wrote her critique as if the subsequent work did not exist. Christensen says Lepore is guilty of "a criminal act of dishonesty". Lepore is not Christensen's only critic. See this criticism of his 2006 prediction of the failure of the iPod: What Clayton Christensen Got Wrong (Stratechery).
  • The Military Now Has X-Ray Guns (Patrick Tucker, Defense One) Do the operators of these scanning devices wear lead or do they just not plan on having children and living a full-length life?

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