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What We Read Today 26 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:

  • Spread of Zika Virus

  • Zika in the U.S.

  • Viral Warfare in Ukraine?

  • Top 30 401(k) Plans

  • Calif. Plan to Kill Driverless Cars

  • Russia Wants 'Proof' of Putin Corruption

  • Another New Planet

  • Tide Turning in Syria?

  • Global Warming and Massive Snowstorms

  • Apple is Killing the Market

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world



  • Apple of Market Discord (Bloomberg)  Since the peak last May Apple has been responsible for far more of the decline in the S&P 500 than any other stock. 

And so we come to the nub of the problem. There are 50 state Democratic Parties, 50 state Republican Parties, 50 state legislatures, a Republican National Committee and a Democratic National Committee and Congress. All in all, 153 independent political organizations. The probability of all of them coming to consensus on a more rational plan for nominating the presidential candidates? Very low. The probability that the system will continue to evolve as it has for the past century or more? Very high.


  • Commission mismanaged bailouts: EU auditors (Politico)  The EU’s accounting watchdog blasted the European Commission for its “weak management” of the financial crisis in a report issued Tuesday into five of the eight bailouts in the European debt crisis, including Ireland and Portugal.  The report by the European Court of Auditors into the bailouts of non-eurozone states Hungary, Romania and Latvia (which has since joined the single currency), and eurozone members Ireland and Portugal, found the Commission had overestimated the strength of public budgets and failed to warn EU leaders of growing fiscal imbalances prior to the crisis.  It also criticized the management of early bailout funds, saying the Commission did not apply similar conditions to countries in comparable economic situations.  Econintersect:  Using more concise words we might well say that the European Commission was arbitrary and capricious.  (And possibly even ignorant of economic complexities they faced.)

  • 5 things Europe must know about Bernie Sanders (Politico)  Two of the five things in this article:  (1) He is not a socialist as Europeans define the term; and (2) he is unlikely to be elected president.



Any regular reader of comments on the internet soon realizes that Americans are often grossly misinformed (but confidently so), although the internet puts the accumulated knowledge of humanity at our fingerprints. Exploring this is a favorite subject of public opinion polls. Why do we know so much that is not so?


  • Russia BBC Panorama: Kremlin demands 'Putin corruption' proof (BBC News)  Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the allegation was an "official accusation" and a "total fabrication".  Adam Szubin, who oversees US Treasury sanctions, told BBC Panorama that the US government had known Mr Putin was corrupt for "many, many years".  It is thought to be the first time the US has made such a direct accusation.  Washington has already imposed sanctions on Mr Putin's aides, but has stopped short of leveling corruption allegations at the president himself.  US restrictions were placed on a number of Kremlin insiders in 2014, after President Putin ordered the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine. The EU imposed similar measures against Russian companies and individuals, focusing on sectors of the Russian economy that were close to the elite.

  • Alexei Navalny: 'Putin is the Tsar of corruption' - BBC Newsnight (YouTube)  Russian opposition activist and blogger Alexei Navalny has several short spells in prison under his belt. His brother, Oleg, is in jail now, on, critics say, trumped-up charges. Mr Navalny spoke to BBC Newsnight's John Sweeney about Alexander Litvinenko's murder, and his fight to free Russia from corruption.

The spread of Zika virus (The Economist)  ZIKA, a mosquito-borne virus that arrived in Brazil last May, is an avid traveller—and an increasingly feared guest. It has since found its way into 17 other countries in the Americas. Until October, Zika was not thought much of a threat: only a fifth of infected people fall ill, usually with just mild fever, rash, joint aches and red eyes. Since then, though, evidence has been piling up that it may cause birth defects in children and neurological problems in adults.  The virus was first identified in 1947. Since then it has caused small and sporadic outbreaks in parts of Africa and South-East Asia. In Brazil, for reasons yet unclear, it quickly flared into an epidemic after its arrival—by official estimates infecting as many as 1.5 million people.

Zika Virus Threatens U.S. from Abroad (Scientific American)  Exclusive: An interactive map, based on data from 50 state health departments, details how the mosquito-borne disease made its way to America in travelers’ bloodstreams.  Click to see large interactive version of map.

Some other key links for Zika:

Five things you need to know about Zika (CNN)

Zika Virus:  Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment (Center for Disease Control)

Brazil is 'badly losing' the battle against Zika virus, says health minister (The Guardian)

El Salvador Advises Women to Avoid Pregnancy for 2 Years Due to Zika Virus Outbreak (ABC News)

Zika virus: Outbreak 'likely to spread across Americas' says WHO (BBC News)

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

Instead of seeing driverless cars as a cheaper, safer, and more efficient mechanism to move people and goods, government bureaucrats are salivating at the possibility of inventing new and exciting ways to stifle innovation long before driverless cars even hit the market. As is so often the case, California leads the way.  

What does California propose? First, prospective “drivers” will need a special state-issued certificate to operate a driverless car. To get it, they will need to complete a training regimen offered and paid for by the company that produced the car.  

And these companies will not even be allowed to sell the product. Driverless cars will only be available for lease in the Golden State. Making matters worse, California has already mandated that all driverless cars have a driver, thereby missing the point of the new technology entirely. Companies producing driverless cars have had to retrofit their vehicles with pedals and steering wheels, neither of which was initially included, for obvious reasons. This situation is oddly reminiscent of early automobiles that came with fake horse heads hanging off their hoods.

  • ‘Life Coaches’ Ran $20M Ponzi Scheme (The Daily Beast)  A married couple who ran a successful life-coaching business is alleged to have engaged in fraud, theft, and racketeering.  The company, called The Secret to Life Coaching (TSTLC), is also now under government investigation. Founded in 2008 by Coral Rose Grant, TSTLC’s stated mission is to help people “live their best lives” and, ultimately, make a career out of teaching others the same.  The company is the target of a major class-action lawsuit led by two former clients, Cheri Lucas and April Fisher—the latter of whom taught classes for TSTLC. Together, the two allege that the company was part of a ponzi scheme devised by Coral and her husband Mac in which they pocketed investor money totaling anywhere from $8 to $20 million, using it to “live like royalty”.

  • Astronomers Find Gargantuan Planet with Widest Orbit (R&D)  Astronomers from the U.S., U.K., and Australia have discovered a gargantuan planet that boasts the widest orbit of any planet found around a star.  Dubbed 2MASS J2126, the gaseous planet orbits about 1 trillion km from its star, or about 7,000 times the distance between the Earth and the sun.  Unlike the new research regarding our solar system's "planet nine" which is inferred from physical data, this giant is physically observable.  (For a good detailed discussion of planet nine and the history solar system planetary discovery, both real and those that turned out to be false, see A New Planet or a Red Herring? in The Atlantic.)  For details on 2MASSJ2126, see A nearby young M dwarf with a wide, possibly planetary-mass companion (Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society).

  • Top 30 401(k) plans (Employee Benefit News)  The top rated plan is the NFL Player Second Career Savings Plan.  Slide show moves you quickly through all 30.

  • The Truth as I See It (Michael Clark, Seeking Alpha)  MC has contributed to GEI.  Michael invokes the idea of a "New Religion" which is related to an amalgamation of social and material human action.  Here is an excerpt:

Every Dark-Age is a religious age. 1929-1947; 1965-1983; 2001-2019. Every Dark Age the world passes into the Right Brain. Once we grasp this we need to understand just how closely God is to us still. Many of you will resist this, argue against it. That is fine. To be complete human beings we need to be both rational, scientific, logical (LEFT BRAIN) AND RIGHT BRAIN, Masters of both sides.

What is happening to us is NOT temporary. The world the LEFT BRAIN CREATES in the Day-Cycles (1911-1929; 1947-1965; 1983-2001...) THE RIGHT BRAIN DESTROYS AS THE NIGHT TAKES OVER. THE NIGHT TAKES OVER EVERY 18 YEARS.

GOD IS ANGRY at the selfishness of the LEFT BRAIN. The Zica Plague is only the latest plague of this Dark Age (2001-2019). What happens in 2019 is that the Sun comes back, creativity returns, our ability to solve problems increases, growth comes back. But it is not the end of the Darkness.

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