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What We Read Today 28 May 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:

  • Getting the Most Out of Natural Gas by Not Burning It

  • IMF Economists Challenge Neoliberal Orthodoxy

  • New Addiction Control Method with Drug-Oozing Implants

  • Bond Traders Looking Toward June Hike

  • Donald Trump and Global Fascism

  • Clinton E-Mail Situation Deteriorating

  • Can Trump Capitalize on Whitewater?

  • Toyota Prius Sets New Record:  52 MPG

  • More About London's Empty Towers and Corruption

  • Saudi Arabia Plan B to Stop Iran

  • World Health Organization Says Brazil Olympics Should Proceed

  • Venezuala:  Land of Hunger, Blackouts and Government Shutdown

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Rise of Donald Trump Tracks Growing Debate Over Global Fascism (The New York Times)  Mr. Trump’s campaign has engendered impassioned debate about the nature of his appeal and warnings from critics on the left and the right about the potential rise of fascism in the United States. More strident opponents have likened Mr. Trump to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.  To supporters, such comparisons are deeply unfair smear tactics used to tar conservatives and scare voters. For a bipartisan establishment whose foundation has been shaken by Mr. Trump’s ascendance, these backers say, it is easier to delegitimize his support than to acknowledge widespread popular anger at the failure of both parties to confront the nation’s challenges.  But Trumps success is a reflection of what is going on in much of the world.  See below street art in Vilnius, Lithuania depicting Trump and Russian President Putin (from The New York Times):


  • Clinton email headache is about to get worse (The Hill)  A scathing inspector general’s report this week was just the first in what is likely to be a series of official actions related to her private server stemming from the FBI, a federal courthouse and Capitol Hill.  Clinton’s presidential campaign has failed to quiet the furor over the issue, which has dogged her for more than a year.  In the next few weeks — just as the likely Democratic presidential nominee hopes to pivot towards a general election — it will face its toughest scrutiny yet.  The State Department’s watchdog report was especially damaging, given the official nature of its source. The report claimed that Clinton never sought approval for her “homebrew” email setup, that her use of the system violated the department’s record-keeping rules and that it would have been rejected had she brought it up to department officials.  Grant Reeher, a political science professor at Syracuse University said:

“All of that feeds into this overarching problem of public distrust of her.  To put it in slang terms, she’s got a pretty deeply held street rep at this point. This fits the street rep,”

  • Can Trump Whitewater-Raft His Way to the White House? (The Atlantic)  In an ironic twist, the Republican nominee—the author of many a failed real-estate deal—is trying to use the Clintons’ bad 1978 land purchase against Hillary Clinton.  Also, on Monday, Trump released a short video highlightingaccusations of rape lodged against Bill Clinton by Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick. Attacks on Bill Clinton’s scandals are certainly fair game, but will they matter?  And as far as the Clinton's losing $40,000 on a bad land deal, is Trump opening himself up for criticism of his four corporate bankruptcies?

  • In House GOP, Ryan endorsement of Trump seen as inevitable (The Hill)  GOP lawmakers, strategists and aides are convinced the House Speaker will endorse Trump before he’s officially nominated at the GOP convention in Cleveland in mid-July.  But they say it will be on his own timeline, and his own terms.  By holding out, Ryan is buying time for House Republicans to roll out their election-year agenda in hopes it will help shape the GOP presidential nominee’s own general-election platform.

  • Toyota Prius Gets 52 MPG in Consumer Reports' Tests (Consumer Reports, MSN News)  The 2016 Prius goes farther on a gallon of gasoline than any vehicle Consumer Reports has ever tested. By our measurements, it chalked up 52 mpg overall, topping the original Honda Insight’s 51 mpg from way back in 2000.  Econintersect:  Remember 60 years ago when the VW Beatle was a fuel economy leader with 20 mpg?


Yves here. I lived for a few months in London in 1984, and spent a fair bit of time in Chelsea near Sloane Square. The last time I visited, a few years ago, it was stunning to see how depopulated it had become. Everything was all tarted up and pristine, with a lack of services that normal people need, like dry cleaners and pharmacies. It felt as if a neutron bomb had cleared out all the residents.

wrote yesterday how the new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had spoken-out about foreign investors using homes in London as “gold bricks for investment” following an investigation which found that the UK’s tallest residential skyscraper is now more than 60% foreign-owned and is under-occupied.

Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia Has a Plan B to Try to Stop Iran’s Economic Rise (Bloomberg)  Saudi Arabia couldn’t stop the Iran nuclear deal from being signed. Plan B is to limit Iran’s ability to reap its benefits.  The kingdom is mobilizing its Gulf allies to make sure that, more than four months after the lifting of sanctions on the Islamic Republic, Iran’s opening-up to the global economy doesn’t go smoothly. Last month the Saudis scuttled a bid to stabilize crude prices because it would have allowed their bitter foe to grab a larger share of oil markets. And in Dubai, once their main gateway to the world, Iranian businessmen privately complain of increasing restrictions.


  • WHO rejects call for Olympics to be moved due to Zika (Reuters)  The World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday rejected a call for the Rio Olympic Games to be moved or postponed due to the threat posed by a large outbreak of Zika virus in Brazil.  Responding to a call from more than 100 leading scientists, who said it would be unethical for the Games to go ahead as scheduled, the United Nations health agency said having the Games in Rio as planned would "not significantly alter" the spread of Zika, which is linked to serious birth defects.


  • Venezuela Drifts Into New Territory: Hunger, Blackouts and Government Shutdown (The New York Times)   Step by step, Venezuela has been shutting down.  This country has long been accustomed to painful shortages, even of basic foods. But Venezuela keeps drifting further into uncharted territory.  In recent weeks, the government has taken what may be one of the most desperate measures ever by a country to save electricity: A shutdown of many of its offices for all but two half-days each week.  But that is only the start of the country’s woes. Electricity and water are being rationed, and huge areas of the country have spent months with little of either.  Many people cannot make international calls from their phones because of a dispute between the government and phone companies over currency regulations and rates.

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

  • Getting the Most Out of Natural Gas (R&D)  The use of natural gas as a raw material for chemicals production is a goal pursued intensively in chemical research.  Many starting compounds for creating chemical synthesis reactions are readily obtained from natural gas which is high in methane content.  End products that can result from these synthesis processes include polymers and pharmaceuticals.  Econintersect:  The value of natural gas as a chemical process starting material may far exceed its value as a fuel, especially as alternative energy sources become ever cheaper with technology development and economies of scale.  The same is also true for other fossil fuel sources (coal and oil).

  • New IMF Paper Challenges Neoliberal Orthodoxy (Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism)  YS has contributed to GEI.  While the IMF’s research team has for many years chipped away at mainstream economic thinking, a short, accessible paper makes an even more frontal challenge.  The article cheekily flags the infamous case of the Chicago Boys, Milton Friedman’s followers in Pinochet’s Chile, as having been falsely touted as a success. If anything, the authors are too polite in describing what a train wreck resulted. A plutocratic land grab and speculation-fueled bubble led quickly to a depression, forcing Pinochet to implement Keynesian policies, as well as rolling back labor “reforms”, to get the economy back on its feet.  The papers describes three ways in which neoliberal reforms do more harm than good.  See next two articles.

  • IMF economists put ‘neoliberalism’ under the spotlight (Financial Times)  First it questioned capital controls, then inequality and fiscal austerity. Is the International Monetary Fund now throwing darts at an even broader area of economic orthodoxy?  In a piece published on Thursday in its flagship magazine, three of the IMF’s top economists take on the “neoliberal agenda” of which critics have long accused the IMF of being a leading practitioner.  See next article.

  • Neoliberalism: Oversold? (International Monetary Fund)  While there is not much debate that the liberalization of capital mobility has had positive economic benefits on a broad scale, other aspects of the neoliberal agenda that have not delivered as expected. The author's assessment of the agenda is confined to the effects of two policies: removing restrictions on the movement of capital across a country’s borders (so-called capital account liberalization); and fiscal consolidation, sometimes called “austerity,” which is shorthand for policies to reduce fiscal deficits and debt levels. An assessment of these specific policies (rather than the broad neoliberal agenda) reaches three disquieting conclusions:

•The benefits in terms of increased growth seem fairly difficult to establish when looking at a broad group of countries.­

•The costs in terms of increased inequality are prominent. Such costs epitomize the trade-off between the growth and equity effects of some aspects of the neoliberal agenda.­

•Increased inequality in turn hurts the level and sustainability of growth. Even if growth is the sole or main purpose of the neoliberal agenda, advocates of that agenda still need to pay attention to the distributional effects.­

  • FDA Approves First Drug-Oozing Implant to Control Addiction (R&D)  Federal health officials have approved an innovative new option for Americans addicted to heroin and painkillers: a drug-oozing implant that curbs craving and withdrawal symptoms for six months at a time.  The first-of-a-kind device, Probuphine, arrives as communities across the U.S. grapple with a wave of addiction tied to opioids, highly-addictive drugs that include legal medications like OxyContin and illegal narcotics like heroin.  The implant is essentially a new delivery system for the drug buprenorphine, which has long been used to treat opioid addiction. But its implantable form could help patients avoid relapses that can occur if they miss a dose of medication.

  • Bond Traders Say Don’t Count Out June Hike After Yellen Remarks (Bloomberg)  Treasuries traders who delayed holiday getaway plans on Friday took away a clear message from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen -- a mid-year interest-rate hike may be on the way.  Futures markets signal greater probability of move in June and the two-year note extended the longest losing streak in two months.


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