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What We Read Today 19 January 2016

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".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Topics today include:

  • Major northeast U.S. snow forecast

  • Palin Endorses Trump

  • Clinton Server Had Top Secret Documents

  • Davos Elite are Jittery

  • Jihad John is Dead

  • Iran-backed Militia Kidnaps Americans

  • History's Biggest Fraud

  • Economics as Ideology

  • Apple and Child Labor

  • China GDP - Good News and Bad News

  • Supreme Court to Review Obama on Immigration

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Apple, Samsung and Sony face child labour claims (BBC News)   Human rights organisation Amnesty has accused Apple, Samsung and Sony, among others, of failing to do basic checks to ensure minerals used in their products are not mined by children.  In a report into cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it found children as young as seven working in dangerous conditions.  Cobalt is a a vital component of lithium-ion batteries.  The firms said that they had a zero tolerance policy towards child labour.

  • ISIS Confirms Jihadi John Is Dead (The Daily Beast)  The notorious ISIS executioner was killed by a drone strike Friday 15 January.

  • Davos Gets Jittery as Trump Rises, Oil Falls and China Slows (Bloomberg)  As the chattering chieftains of the global economy gather this week in Davos, Switzerland, they’re facing the darkest outlook since the financial crisis tipped the world into recession seven years ago.


  • Former VP candidate Palin endorses Trump in 2016 race (Reuters)  Donald Trump, the reality television star-turned-politician, was endorsed by Sarah Palin, the politician-turned-reality TV star, in his front-running bid to be the next Republican U.S. president, his campaign said on Tuesday.

  • IG: Hillary Home Server Had Secret Intel (The Daily Beast)   An intelligence community inspector general told senior congressional officials that emails on Hillary Clinton’s unsecured home computer server contained information from some of the U.S. government’s most secretive and classified programs.

  • Supreme Court to review Obama’s power on deportation policy (The Washington Post)  The Supreme Court will decide whether the president has the authority to declare that millions of illegal immigrants be allowed to remain and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation.



  • The good and bad news behind China's 6.9 percent growth (MarketPlace)  Bad news from Arthur Kroeber, managing director of GaveKal Dragonomics in Beijing:

    "The risk is that if the government doesn’t do enough structural reform, you wind up with lower and lower growth and higher and higher debt, and pretty soon you wind up looking like Japan in the early 1990s."

    Good news from JFP holdings manager Jack Perkowski:

    "The reason I’m positive longer-term on china is you basically have a higher savings rate;  you do have the capital in the country.  The challenge is to distribute that money to the private sector through the capital market. But if the first part of 2016 is any indication, letting the market do its job has been difficult for China’s leadership."  


  • Where 80% of people live underground (BBC News)   The opal mining town of Coober Pedy takes living down under to a new level, escaping dangerous 50C temperatures by burrowing underground.  Econintersect:  The future of a warmed planet?

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

  • A Big Short of Another Sort:  Economics Education in the U.S. (Institutional Investor)  The author laments the "tarted up" discussion of economics and finance in the film "The Big Short".  She attributes the need for that in order for a popular film to be successful to the lack of education on the subjects, both in high school and college.  Econintersect:  A problem in changing this situation is there is so much of academic economics devoted to selling ideology that it would be difficult to keep the "education" from turning into "indoctrination".  See next article.

  • Economics as ideology: challenging expert political power (  Economics often appears boring, but this narrow, mostly male dominated profession decides on matters intimately bound up with questions of power, democracy and vital matters of health, education, social welfare and the environment. Meaningful democracy requires the participation of ordinary people in economic debates, so that they can shape their own lives in solidarity with others.  But many economic matters are removed from meaningful, wide-ranging democratic debate and become the special domain of a few, consensual experts. Indeed, economists sometimes compare themselves to physicians with specialized technical knowledge, their expertise no more subject to lay debates than medical diagnoses and treatment.  The field of economics operates via a culturally isolated group of ideologues who "tend to be educated at the same universities and to operate within a shared, narrow paradigm".  Econintersect: This rather long article is worth reading to the very end.

  • Japan economics min frets oil producer countries will sell assets (Reuters)   Japan's economics minister on Tuesday expressed concern that oil producer countries could start selling assets to offset declining revenue from crude exports and this could dent Japanese stocks further.  Akira Amari's comments come amid growing worries that a free fall in oil prices is a sign that excess supply is chasing dwindling global demand as China's economy slows.  Some economists say the collapse in oil prices and China's economic woes could cause major shifts in portfolio flows on a global scale, and policymakers could struggle to contain the impact on already fragile financial markets.  Amari said on Tuesday:

"Japanese stocks probably make up a good portion of financial assets that oil producing countries would try to sell." 

  • America’s national parks, a century of nature and economics (MarketPlace)  This year marks 100 years of the National Park Service.  Aside from introducing generations to the nation’s iconic outdoor spots, U.S. national parks have also grown into a significant economic driver and jobs engine, particularly in rural communities.  The National Park Service says visitors spend more than $15 billion a year in communities near the parks. That adds up to nearly 300,000 jobs and billions more in economic impact. Big firms benefit too. Disney, Subaru and other large brands partner with the parks. So does the outdoor retailer REI.

  • The invention of farming (  This is a discussion derived from an interesting and provocative book called Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.  Harari calls the advent of agriculture "history's biggest fraud".  Before homo sapiens began moving from a pure hunter-gatherer existence to settled agricultural habitation, mankind was truly free.  But that freedom was lost when land became "occupied" enabling the rise of an elite "landed aristocracy".  Econintersect:  Mankind left the garden of Eden and entered an existential Monopoly Game. 

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