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What We Read Today 21 February 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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The rest of this post is available only the GEI Members.  Membership is FREE -  click here

Topics today include:

  • Zika Epidemic and Global Warming

  • New Mediocre World

  • More Trouble for the Yuan

  • Taliban Beating Afghan Army

  • How to Get Banks to Put Their Money to Work

  • Pathological Economics

  • Gold Bugs Index Breakout

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


The global public health emergency involving deformed babies emerged in 2015, the hottest year in the historical record, with an outbreak in Brazil of a disease transmitted by heat-loving mosquitoes. Can that be a coincidence?

Scientists say it will take them years to figure that out, and pointed to other factors that may have played a larger role in starting the crisis. But these same experts added that the Zika epidemic, as well as the related spread of a disease called dengue that is sickening as many as 100 million people a year and killing thousands, should be interpreted as warnings.

Over the coming decades, global warming is likely to increase the range and speed of the life cycle of the particular mosquitoes carrying these viruses, encouraging their spread deeper into temperate countries like the United States.

  • Lagarde Repeatedly Warns Of 'New Mediocre' for World (Bloomberg)  Christine Lagarde, 60, was reappointed “by consensus” Friday to a second five-year term as managing director of the International Monetary Fund, the IMF said in a statement. Bloomberg's Tom Keene reports on "Bloomberg Markets".


  • In WVa, fortunes of black minority fall along with coal (Al Jazeera)  For many African Americans, mining once promised a path to the middle class. Its collapse leaves workers without options.

  • Wall Street Banks Gorge on Treasuries and That’s a Warning Sign (Bloomberg)  The figures suggest investors are unloading securities on to the Wall Street banks, which are having trouble reselling the bonds, according to Nomura Holdings Inc., one of the dealers. Treasuries were little changed this week, failing to extend a rally from earlier in the month, as a selloff in stocks eased and investor demand for the relative safety of government securities ebbed.  So this interpretation is that the investor market is bearish on Treasuries.



  • Russia's Future Lies With Europe and the West (The Huffington Post)  Retired Admiral Jim Stavridis, former  Supreme Commander of NATO, says that the split between Russia and the U.S. at the center of the disassociation of Russia from its natural allies.


  • China's Yuan Bears Predict More Trouble Ahead (Bloomberg)  Yuan bears are predicting the devaluation of the yuan will continue to 2019 and cause further bear markets for emerging market stocks.  Many are predicting the downturn will also indice a recession in the U.S.  Econintersect:  In interpretting the chart below, note that the two vertical scales are different - while the MSCI Index has declined about 20%, the yuan has devalued only by 5%.



  • Afghan Troops Retreat Under Pressure From Taliban (The New York Times)   The last of the Afghan forces have pulled out of the strategic district of Musa Qala in southern Helmand Province, officials said on Saturday, months after the Taliban overran most of the district and kept them holed up in desert outposts.  The retreat, which had many politicians here mystified, was the latest blow to a province that had been teetering for months. Now, the resurgent Taliban insurgents either control or are contesting 10 of its 14 districts, extending the fighting to Babaji, a suburb so close to the provincial capital of Lashkar Gar that residents of the city could hear the clashes at night.  According to Wikipedia, Helmand produces 80% of the world's opium.

  • Russia Pulls Back From Cooperating With U.S. on Afghanistan (The New York Times)  For all the conflicts in the world in which Washington is at odds with Moscow, the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan has been one area where the Obama administration’s interests and Russia’s concerns coincide.  But Russia has announced it would sit out any talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Kabul, backed by the United States, Pakistan and China.

Once Upon a Time, There Came a Negative Rate (Bloomberg)


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Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

  • Krugman and the Gang of 4 Need to Apologize for Smearing Gerald Friedman (William K. Black, New Economic Perspectives)  WKB contributes to GEI.  We had discussions yesterday and the day before (19 Feb) about the furor over opinions regarding Bernie Sanders' economic plan, the analysis of that plan by a Hillary Clinton supporter, Prof. Gerald Friedman, UMass - Amherst, and extended the discussion to criticism of economic modelling procedures in general.  Here Prof. Black points out that the discussion of possible shortcomoings in analysis of the Sanders' plan do not involve discussion of the models used (the models are those used by both Friedman and the critics); the criticism is nothing more than an "authoritarian attack" by well-known economists against Prof Friedman amounting to a "personalized dismissal of his competence and integrity".  This article is a scathing review of critics of Friedman, accusing them of lack of knowledge of what they criticized and "despicable to abuse authority and status".  After a long discussion of the logical problems with the attacks on Friedman, he concludes with:

But you will learn none of these things in the New York Times, where the Upshot column, without any analysis, treats the smears of Friedman as revealed truth.  Upshot does not mention Jamie Galbraith’s destruction of the Gang of 4 and Krugman.  The stories inaccurately portray Friedman as a Bernie rather than a Hillary supporter.  The column inaccurately claims that Friedman has made extreme assumptions.  The results do not flow from idiosyncratic assumptions by Friedman.  The “huge beneficial impacts” flow from the standard models and the far larger magnitude of Bernie’s plans to revive the economy.  Yes, the Davos Democrats that Krugman once routinely reviled in Washington, D.C. do often roll their eyes at Bernie.  The Davos Democrats, as Krugman once aptly pointed out, have been wrong about a vast range of economic issues.  They are not “rigorous,” they are arrogant, errant, and represent the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party.  A considerable number of Americans have figured that out.  Read Tom Frank’s new book (Listen, Liberal) if you want the revolting details. 

  • Pathological economics:  A socioeconomic malady (Independent Australia)  The broader nature of humans has been corrupted, according to this author.  Economists call the real (natural) world an externality (not included in economics) - see the video below.  The author writes:

The primary driving force behind this western style economic juggernaut is the pursuit of personal and collective wealth. The desire for personal wealth is not an intrinsically evil thing: it is the economic mechanisms we have built to generate wealth that have become a problem.

This may seem illogical, unless we understand what modern day wealth really is. People, by nature, are makers: we imagine, conceive and construct the world around us. This is our genius, our raison d’être as a species but somehow, during our socioeconomic evolution, the process we call wealth creation – the accumulation of value measured in currency – that is financial wealth, has corrupted this singular human trait.


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