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What We Read Today 25 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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The rest of this post is available only the GEI Members.  Membership is FREE -  click here

Topics today include:

  • The Complex Human History and What We Owe to Whom (a full section)

  • Hillary Clinton's Blind Spot on Economics

  • Economics Can Explain the Game of Thrones

  • Secular Stagnation May Be Becoming Less Stagnant

  • Trump Says Kruz and Kasich are Desperate

  • Charter Merger With Time Warner Clears Antitrust Hurdle

  • New Earnings Season Reveals New Trend - Disinvestment

  • Is Turkey's Housing Market about to Blow?

  • China Could Slam the Door on Apple

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world



  • US election: Cruz-Kasich pact 'desperate' says Trump (BBC News)  Donald Trump says a pact formed by his two rivals for the Republican presidential crown is a desperate act.  He lambasted Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich over the alliance they announced late on Sunday.  Under their plan, Mr Cruz and Mr Kasich will give each other a free run in state primary votes next month.  Before then, five US states go to the polls on Tuesday, when Mr Trump is expected to tighten his grip on the nomination.  He has a clear lead in party delegates but may still fall short of the 1,237 needed to win outright.

  • Charter Bid for Time Warner Cable Wins Antitrust Approval (Bloomberg)   Charter Communications Inc. won U.S. antitrust approval for its $55 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc. after agreeing not to thwart online video competitors.  Charter can’t strike agreements with programmers that would make it more difficult for streaming services like Netflix Inc. to obtain content, the Justice Department said in a statement Monday. Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, also said he supports approval of the merger.

  • This quarter's earnings season trend—layoffs (CNBC)  The biggest news in this earning season is not investment but disinvestment.  Layoffs and restructuring are starting to look like the trends of the season.



  • Obama boosts Islamic State fight, asks Europe to do the same  (Associated Press)   Evoking history and appealing for solidarity, President Barack Obama on Monday cast his decision to send 250 more troops to Syria as a bid to keep up "momentum" in the campaign to dislodge Islamic State extremists. He pressed European allies to match the U.S. with new contributions of their own.


  • Danger Signs in the World's Top Housing Market (Bloomberg)  Debt levels and rising defaults among builders is the warning sign that a housing bubble may be about to pop in Turkey.  At first glance, the world’s best-performing housing market bears few of the usual hallmarks of a bubble about to pop.  Reliance on mortgages is low, and Turkish homeowners reliably repay their loans, helped by house prices that rose faster than in any other country last year. The risk, at a time when construction has grown to make up a bigger share of the country’s investments than in China, is with the builders rather than the buyers.  The share of Turkey’s borrowing represented by developers is higher than at any time in the last decade, and represents almost a fifth of all corporate loans, according to the nation’s banking association. An increasing portion of those debts is going bad, with the industry’s portion of non-performing loans nearly doubling in the past five years.


  • Bangladesh LGBT editor hacked to death (BBC News)   Bangladesh police say a top gay rights activist and editor at the country's only LGBT magazine is one of two people who have been hacked to death.  The US ambassador to Bangladesh condemned the killing of Xulhaz Mannan, who also worked at the US embassy.  Another person was also injured when the attackers entered a Dhaka flat.  Since February last year suspected militants have killed several secular or atheist writers and members of religious minority groups.


  • China could slam door on Apple, says top global risk expert (CNBC)  Apple may find itself eventually shut out of China, a leading expert on global political risk to corporations said Monday.  Ian Bremmer, founder and president of the Eurasia Group,  foresees a scenario with Apple having "the kind of issues Facebook presently has in China".   Facebook is banned there.

New Scientist has a fascinating collection of articles on human anthropology out 20 April.  To read the complete articles requires a subscription,  Below we list the articles with brief abstracts or summaries:

Until about five years ago, one feature united the ancient human species that once walked the Earth: all were well and truly extinct. The Denisovans vanished from Eurasia around 50,000 years ago and the Neanderthals some 10,000 years later, leaving only Homo sapiens. Others went the same way much earlier, leaving just a few fossils – if that – to tell their story. But we now know these species are not entirely gone. Traces of them are buried within my cells and yours.

By having sex with our direct ancestors, ancient human species made sure they left a genetic legacy that survives to this day, one with a greater significance than previously suspected. People of non-African descent inherit between 2 and 4 per cent of their DNA from Neanderthals; indigenous Melanesians get 3 to 4 per cent of theirs from Denisovans; and some hunter-gatherer groups in central Africa get a small proportion from species we haven’t even identified yet – we just know they existed. Crucially, recent studies have revealed that if you combine all the ancient DNA in living humans, you could recover a sizeable chunk of the original genomes. A study published this year suggests about 10 per cent of the Denisovan genome is still “alive”, mainly in people from Papua New Guinea. It also suggests that about 40 per cent of the Neanderthal genome can be put together from the bits living people carry. Joshua Akey of the University of Washington in Seattle thinks that figure may creep up with more research.

  • The three ancestral tribes that founded Western civilisation First came the hunters. Then the farmers. Ancient DNA is now revealing how a very different group joined them from the east to lay Europe's foundations.  The ancient Neaderthals of Europe was one tribe, Homo sapiens from Africa the second and now DNA is indicating a third archeaic species joined them from Asia to complete the melting pot.  Finding out just what is this previously not recognized component of modern Europe is the next "origin of the species" puzzle for science.

  • How to speak Neanderthal: Perhaps we do already 

If you find yourself stuttering your way through tourist French, spare a thought for the first modern humans. Travelling from Africa to Asia and Europe about 70,000 years ago, they would have encountered their evolutionary cousins, the Neanderthals, for the first time.

What did they say? In the past, many would have answered “not a lot” since Neanderthals weren’t thought to have complex speech. But recent evidence suggests they probably had languages very similar to our own. Surprisingly, we may now have the means to glimpse those utterances in the words we speak today, with huge consequences for our understanding of language evolution.

The argument that Neanderthals spoke like us comes from many discoveries. Archaeological remains show that they had a sophisticated lifestyle, with human traits like caring for the infirm and the sick, and an advanced toolkit, including bone tools and body paint – complex behaviour that should only be possible if they had language. We also have some more direct anatomical evidence: traces of nerve pathways through bones in the skull suggest Neanderthals could control their vocalisations, for instance – an adaptation necessary for language that other apes lack. It also looks as if Neanderthals had many gene variants associated with processing language.

They lived on the planet with us for most of our history, yet until six years ago we didn’t know they existed. Meet the species rewriting human evolution.

There was very little to go on – just the tiniest fragment of a finger bone. What’s more, it was clear that whoever it had once belonged to was long dead. This was the coldest of cold cases. Yet, there was also a suspicion that the remains, discovered in a cave high up in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia, had a story to tell. So Michael Shunkov from the Russian Academy of Science bagged and labelled the shard, and sent it off for analysis.

At his lab in the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, Svante Pääbo was just about to finish the first sequencing of a Neanderthal genome when the package arrived. He was perfectly placed to confirm Shunkov’s suspicion. By comparing ancient DNA from the bone fragment with his sequence, Pääbo would surely show that it belonged to a Neanderthal. But they were all in for a surprise. The Siberian genome was quite unlike the Neanderthal’s. And it didn’t match that of any modern human. It was something completely new. Here was evidence that a previously unimagined species of humans had existed some 50,000 to 30,000 years ago – around the time when our own ancestors were painting their masterpieces in the Chauvet cave in France. “It was really amazing,” says Pääbo.

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

Stuck between the left's "everything is economic" and the right's "everything is cultural," Clinton just ends up bastardizing both.

The problem is that conservatives are probably correct to believe that government has no role in providing meaning and purpose to life; those ideals are just too mysterious for technocratic policymaking. (Would that conservatives remembered this when it comes to "marriage promotion.") But if Clinton really wanted to create a moral society, she would be better off just embracing the left.

The Warren-Sanders contingent believes that while the government can't directly provide meaning or purpose, it can provide the structural circumstances to encourage them: employment for everyone, economic security and social insurance, and freedom from want.

  • An economist explains what's really going on in 'Game of Thrones' (Tech Insider)  According to Matthew McCaffrey, an economist at the University of Manchester, the Game of Thrones is fascinating to economists because it depicts a huge range of economic systems existing at the same time. There are hunter-gatherer tribes, renaissance city-states, and countless feudal societies.  McCaffrey points out that all those groups have different economic philosophies that clash with one another, sparking violence. Often those economic philosophies are evident in the "words," or mottos, of the different families.  McCaffrey says"

"Its not a surprise that in a system like this there wouldn't be much growth or change, you know, for centuries at a time."

  • Is ‘Secular Stagnation’ Too Pessimistic? (The Wall Street Journal)  The U.S. economic equation has been marked by cheap labor, high saving rates, paltry investment and slow growth since the recession. Is that dynamic shifting, perhaps slowly?  Economists have argued for years over the root causes of weak, uneven economic gains.   One theory: secular stagnation. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers is one of the theory’s leading proponents. He  worries about chronic low growth, low inflation and low interest rates amid weak demand, excess savings and insufficient investment. Others are more concerned about the supply side, focusing on an aging population and a slowdown in technological progress.  The author quotes Brian Coulton of Fitch Ratings who thinks the secular stagnation model is not quite accurate, because the historically extreme gap between savings and investment is now narrowing rapidly.

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