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What We Read Today 19 April 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:

  • Best Undergrad Business Schools of 2016

  • Science and War on Marijuana

  • Theranos Criminal Probe

  • Do Americans 'Owe' the National Debt or 'Own' It?

  • Were Neanderthals Smarter than Modern Man?

  • Why is Obama Keeping 11,000 Bush Documents Sealed?

  • Getting Arrested for Citizens United

  • Lindsey Graham is Blocking His Own Bill

  • Taliban Shows Strength in Afghanistan

  • Syrian Opposition Digs in Its Heels

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • What Neanderthals' healthy teeth tell us about their minds (BBC)   Neanderthals were ancient, compared to us. They lived long before civilization, before even the most prehistoric dentists began experimenting with ways to tackle tooth decay.  So if you were to guess at what kind of teeth they had, you might expect the worst: a mouth full of rotting and missing teeth.  It is becoming clearer that this was far from the case. One recent study actually suggests that Neanderthals lost fewer teeth than humans with equivalent diets. What's more, another new analysis offers a hint that they used toothpicks to keep their teeth clean.  Econintersect:  What if Neanderthals were not overcome by homo sapiens because of lesser intelligence as some have assumed, but some other reason (s)?

  • Oil gains on Kuwait strike; global shares highest since December (Reuters)  Oil prices rose on Tuesday following a workers' strike in Kuwait, while a global stock index hit its highest level since early December as signs of economic stabilization in China lifted demand for riskier assets.  The rise in crude prices drove up the currencies of countries dependent on commodity exports, including Australia and Canada, where the local currency rose to 10-month and 9-month highs against the U.S. dollar, respectively.  Copper prices also jumped, and MSCI's emerging markets index rose 1.32 percent. Copper has been boosted in recent days by economic data showing a surge in new debt has fueled a recovery in industrial production and investment in China.  For more see Gary's Live Market reports.


  • The United States of Insolvency (James Grant, Time)  Econintersect:  Grant perpetuates the fallacy that the  U.S. federal debt is money that we owe.  To the contrary, it is money we own.  There is a big difference for just one letter, "n" instead of "e".  Yes, we have spent some of that money over seas (currently about $6 trillion, or 44% of the debt held by the public) and have received in return goods and services produced overseas, presumably at lower cost than if produced domestically.  But what do we owe those overseas holders of our money (aka treasury securities)?  We "owe" the opportunity for those foreign interests to buy our domestic goods and services denominated in dollars.  For an itemized accounting of the U.S. National debt see  Who Owns the U.S. National Debt?  The Biggest Owner Is You! (  See also next article.

  • Cancel your subscriptions to Time Magazine (Bill Mitchell, billy blog)  Prof. Mitchell wants Time Magazine and James Grant prosecuted for fraud under U.S. law for using the logic of household finance to represent that of a monetarily sovereign government.  For example, he cites the Grant statement "The debt is ultimately a deffered tax."  The correct idea is that the U.S. national debt (and the debt of other monetarily sovereign nations) is essentially the permanent money base of a currency rather than credit issued by banks which creates temporary money (debt which must be repaid, thereby extinguishing the credit money).

  • Why Is the Obama Administration Trying to Keep 11,000 Documents Sealed? (Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone)  It's not quite the Panama papers, but one hell of a big pile of carefully guarded secrets may soon be made public.  For years now, the federal government has been quietly fighting to keep a lid on an 11,000-document cache of government communications relating to financial policy, specifically the circumstances about the seizure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by the federal government because of their insolvency. The sheer breadth of the effort to keep this material secret may not have a precedent in modern presidential times.  (Econintersect: Another effort by Obama to prevent corruption in his administration from coming to light?  Here is what is most curious:  Fannie and Freddie were seized by the Bush administration in September 2008.  We are forced to consider that the corruption is not one of either party or any president, but systemic.)  Here is a section from Matt's article:

The Obama administration invoked executive privilege, attorney-client and deliberative process over these documents and insisted that their release would negatively impact global financial markets. But in finally unsealing some of these materials last week, a federal judge named Margaret Sweeney said the government's sole motivation was avoiding embarrassment.

"Instead of harm to the Nation resulting from disclosure, the only 'harm' presented is the potential for criticism," Sweeney wrote. "The court will not condone the misuse of a protective order as a shield to insulate public officials from criticism in the way they execute their public duties."*

So what's so embarrassing? Mainly, it's a sordid history of the government's seizure of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also known as the government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs.

The papers being fought over concern both past and future controversies, all of them quite complicated. At the root of all of them, however, is a fight over the assets and financial power of the currently zombified GSEs. It's a pitched battle over the future of the American housing market, and the sealed papers likely contain a covert history of the war to date.

  • U.S. Highway Rules May Get Climate Makeover (Scientific American)  In coming years, federal transportation dollars might come with a requirement to reduce global warming pollution.  The Federal Highway Administration is considering measuring the success of state and local transportation projects by their greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Co-founders of Ben & Jerry's arrested at US Capitol (Associated Press, MSN News)   The co-founders of Ben & Jerry's have been arrested at the U.S. Capitol as part of ongoing protests in Washington about the role of money in politics.  Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were among approximately 300 people who were arrested Monday as part of protests by a group called Democracy Awakening.  Police say they've arrested more than 1,200 people since the protests began April 11.



  • The Austerity Beatings of Greece Will Continue Until Its Morale Improves (William K. Black, New Economic Perspectives)  WKB contributes to GEI.  Econintersect:  When this era is reviewed in history, a hundred years or more from now, it will likely be compared as the period in which economic policies were pursued comparably to how medicine was practiced when blood letting was in vogue in the 19th century and earlier.

Saudi Arabia

  • Lindsey Graham blocks Saudi 9/11 bill (The Hill)  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, SC) has placed a hold on legislation that would open the door for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to sue Saudi Arabia.  The concern is that passage would expose the U.S. to be sued by foreign nationals in a similar manner.  What's crazy about this?  Sen. Graham is co-sponsor of the bill.


  • Fighting in Syria intensifies as opposition digs in heels (Associated Press)  Syria's top opposition leader vowed to fight "even with stones" to depose President Bashar Assad, shifting sharply to a tone of conflict over conciliation as peace talks in Geneva teetered near collapse Tuesday amid a new surge in fighting — including government airstrikes that left dozens dead.  Angry and defiant, Riad Hijab of the Western-backed Syrian High Negotiations Committee thundered home the opposition coalition's decision to walk back — if not entirely away — from U.N.-brokered peace talks in Geneva. He demanded more Security Council oversight of an increasingly wobbly cease-fire as Assad's troops battled rebel fighters in various parts of the country.


  • Deadly attacks in Afghan capital show Taliban's strength  (Associated Press)  A week after proclaiming their spring offensive, Taliban militants stormed an Afghan government security agency with a suicide car bomb and gunfire Tuesday, killing 28 people and wounding hundreds in a sign of the insurgency's continued strength — even in the capital.  The coordinated attack in central Kabul appeared to have targeted an agency that provides an elite security force for high-ranking government officials, similar to the U.S. Secret Service.

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

  • 9 stocks with rip-roaring growth potential (Investor Place)  These are nine stocks being touted "for the long haul" provided "you've got the patience".  Click on title to go to slide show for reasons why these stocks are recommeded:  3M (NYSE:MMM), Capital One Financial (NYSE:COF), General Mills (NYSE:GIS), Southern Company (NYSE:SO),  Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL and NASDAQ:GOOG), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), AT&T (NYSE:T) and Waste Management (NYSE:WM).

  • Theranos is subject of U.S. criminal probe (MarketWatch, MSN Money)  People familiar with the matter said the subpoenas seek broad information about how Theranos described its technologies and the progress it was making developing those technologies.  Investigators are also examining whether Theranos misled government officials, which can be a crime under federal law, some of the people said.  Such subpoenas don’t necessarily mean prosecutors are actively seeking an indictment. People familiar with the matter said the investigation is at an early stage.  Elizabeth Holmes, founder (in 2003) and CEO of Theranos, has claimed she has invented "'breakthrough advancements' that made it possible to run “the full range” of lab tests on a few drops of blood pricked from a finger".  But whistleblower employees have made charges that there were irregularities at the company.  In March 2014, a Theranos employee alleged to a New York state agency in an email that Theranos was manipulating its proficiency-testing program by reporting back results obtained from traditional lab machines for some tests, instead of the Edison (codename for the invention) devices with which it was running those tests on live patient samples.  For more details see Theranos Is Subject of Criminal Probe by U.S. (The Wall Street Journal).

  • Market Fundamentalism on ObamaCare at the New York Times (Lambert Strether, Naked Capitalism)  LS has contributed to GEI.  Lambert dissects an article at The New York Times as "about as bad a case of market fundamentalism" as he has ever seen.  Go here for the NYT article:  News About Obamacare Has Been Bad Lately. How Bad?

  • The Science behind the DEA's Long War on Marijuana (Scientific American)  Experts say listing cannabis among the world’s deadliest drugs ignores decades of scientific and medical data. But attempts to delist it have met with decades of bureaucratic inertia and political distortion.  Since 1972 marijuana has been classified in the same category as heroin among the worlkd's most dangerous drugs.  From this article:

“As of today, marijuana has never been determined to be medicine,” says Russ Baer, staff coordinator in the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at the DEA. “There’s no safe, effective medical use, and a high abuse potential, and it can’t be used in medical settings.” This determination has come to be insulated by a byzantine, Kafkaesque bureaucratic process now impervious to the opinion of the majority of U.S. doctors—and to a vast body of scientific knowledge—many experts say.

“Of course cannabis has medical uses,” says University of California, San Francisco integrative oncologist Donald Abrams, one of the few researchers who have been able to obtain extremely limited, government-approved supplies of research cannabis for human trials. “It’s pretty clear from anthropological and archaeological evidence that cannabis has been used as a medicine for thousands of years—and it was a medicine in the U.S. until 1942,” Abrams adds. “I’m an oncologist and I say all the time, not a day goes by when I’m not recommending cannabis to patients for nausea, loss of appetite, pains, insomnia and depression—it works.”

  • Bill Black: Adam Davidson, the 1%’s Lord Haw-Haw, Mangles Economic Theory to Attack Sanders  (Naked Capitalism)  Bill Black contributes to GEI.  This article has little to do with Bernie Sanders - it is a worthwhile analysis of a very confused presentation of economics by Adam Davidson, a journalist who writes (and appears) regularly on National Public Radio and The New York Times.  This article includes an introduction by Yves Smith (who also has contributed to GEI) with a list of other articles she has written about the confusion produced by Adam Davidson.

  • Best Undergraduate Business Schools of 2016 (Bloomberg)  Below are top 12 of the 114 undergraduate business programs according to the 2016 survey by Bloomberg Businessweek.  Full list with data available by clicking on title link.

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