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What We Read Today 17 July 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".).

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Topics today include:

  • Three Police Officers Dead in Baton Rouge Ambush

  • Cleveland Police Ask for Suspension of Open Carry for GOP Convention

  • U. S. Housing Market Red Flag

  • U.S. Curtails Federal Election Observers

  • Turkey Coup Follow-up

  • U.S. and Russia Still in Talks about Syria

  • Russian Documentary Claims Athletes Victims of Smear

  • Russian Athlete 'Proven Clean' and Competing in Olympics Branded a Traitor

  • Economics Driven by Society and Social Networks

  • Black Police are More Violent

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

U.S.

  • Three police officers shot dead in Baton Rouge, gunman killed (Reuters)   Three police officers were shot to death and three others wounded in Baton Rouge on Sunday, less than two weeks after a black man was killed by police in the Louisiana city, sparking nationwide protests.  The officers in Baton Rouge were responding to a call of shots fired when they were attacked by at least one gunman, Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden said. He said three officers had died in what he described as "an ambush-style deal".  One suspect is dead and police were checking the shooting scene with a robot to make sure there are no explosives, Baton Rouge Police spokesman L'Jean Mckneely said.  Police said they are seeking more than one suspect and that the public should be on the lookout for people dressed in black and carrying long guns.  It was not immediately clear whether there was a link between the shootings and the recent unrest over the police killings of black men in Baton Rouge and Minnesota. Police told CNN that Sunday's shootings did not appear to be race-related.

  • Cleveland police union urges governor to suspend open-carry gun law (The Guardian)  The head of the Cleveland police union called on the governor of Ohio to declare a state of emergency and to suspend open-carry gun rights during the Republican national convention, following the killing of three officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Sunday.  See preceding article.

  • The Housing Market Is Waving a Red Flag (Bloomberg)  Almost nine years after the housing-market bust helped trigger the most recent recession, RealtyTrac senior vice president Daren Blomquist sees the industry waving a red flag.  The same fervent speculation that abetted the housing bubble is showing up in the bloated share of foreclosures snapped up by third-party investors at auction — a record 31% in June, according to RealtyTrac data that starts in 2000.  Many of those third-party buyers are "mom and pop" investors with less experience, said Blomquist. At the same time, institutional investors, a subset of the third-party investors who purchase at least 10 properties a year, are ducking out of the market.

  • Exclusive: U.S. curtails federal election observers (Reuters)  Federal election observers can only be sent to five states in this year’s U.S. presidential election, among the smallest deployments since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to end racial discrimination at the ballot box.  The plan, confirmed in a U.S. Department of Justice fact sheet seen by Reuters, reflects changes brought about by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down parts of the Act, a signature legislative achievement of the 1960s civil rights movement.

Voting rights advocates told Reuters they were concerned that the scaling-back of observers would make it harder to detect and counter efforts to intimidate or hinder voters, especially in southern states with a history of racial discrimination at the ballot box.

The Supreme Court ruling undercut a key section of the Act that requires such states to obtain U.S. approval before changing election laws. The court struck down the formula used to determine which states were affected.

By doing so, it ended the Justice Department’s ability to select voting areas it deemed at risk of racial discrimination and deploy observers there, the fact sheet said.

Eleven mostly Southern states had been certified as needing federal observers by the department.

Federal observers can still be sent to monitor elections but only when authorized by federal court rulings. Currently, courts have done so in five states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Louisiana, and New York, according to the Justice Department.

Turkey

  • Turkey Moves to Calm Investors After Coup Attempt Quashed (Bloomberg)  The Turkish government moved swiftly to calm investors before financial markets reopen Monday after a failed coup, with the central bank promising unlimited liquidity to lenders and the deputy prime minister posting on Twitter that there’s “no need to worry”.  Turkey’s lira plunged the most against the dollar in eight years on Friday as tanks rolled through the streets of Ankara and Istanbul, and warplanes and helicopters circled overhead. While President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s forces rounded up thousands of judges and military officers allegedly involved in the coup attempt, officials sought to prevent a sell-off when stocks and bond traders have their first chance to react on Monday.

  • Turkey’s Baffling Coup (Dani Rodrik, Project Syndicate)  Rodrik says the coup attempt is bad news for the economy as well the future of due process in Turkey. He says that Erdoğan’s recent, somewhat skin-deep reconciliation with Russia and Israel was likely motivated by a desire to restore flows of foreign capital and tourists. Such hopes are now unlikely to be realized. The failed coup reveals that the country’s political divisions run deeper than even the most pessimistic observers believed. This hardly makes for an attractive environment for investors or visitors.

But, politically, the failed coup is a boon for Erdoğan. As he put it while it was still unclear if he was going to emerge on top, “this uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army.” Now that the coup has failed, he will have the political tailwind to make the constitutional changes he has long sought to strengthen the presidency and concentrate power in his own hands.

The coup’s failure will thus bolster Erdoğan’s authoritarianism and do little good for Turkish democracy. Had the coup succeeded, however, the blow to democratic prospects surely would have been more severe, with longer-term effects. That provides at least some reason to cheer. 

 Russia

  • U.S., Russia Extend Talks in Search for Syria Cooperation Deal (Bloomberg)  Russia and the U.S. extended talks to try to reach agreement on military cooperation against terrorists in Syria after Secretary of State John Kerry delayed his departure from Moscow in a bid to resolve their differences.  Negotiations between Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, which were scheduled to run for one hour, broke up after seven hours on Friday. The two delegations are continuing to work separately and Kerry and Lavrov may resume discussions in the evening, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

  • Banned Russian athletes victims of smear campaign, claims documentary (The Guardian)  A film portraying banned Russian athletes as victims of a political smear campaign will be shown on state television on Monday, the same day on which an international report on Russian doping is published.  The 25-minute film on the state-owned sport channel Match TV, which the Guardian was allowed to view in advance, profiles Russian athletes banned from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics next month. It disputes the findings of widespread performance-enhancing drug use made by the World Anti-Doping Agency and western media.

  • Russian athlete branded a 'traitor' over plans to compete under neutral flag in Rio (The Guardian)  Russian athlete Darya Klishina has been widely criticised after she agreed to compete under a neutral flag at next month’s Olympics, a move which could make her one of Russia’s only track-and-field athletes not banned due to a national doping scandal.  Social media denounced the long jumper as a “traitor” after she thanked her sponsors and coaches for their support and expressed gratitude to the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) for allowing her to compete.  The IAAF reportedly rejected bids from 67 Russian athletes who applied for individual dispensation to bypass the blanket ban imposed on Russia’s athletics team for massive “state-sponsored” doping, but found that the US-based Klishina could demonstrate she was clean.

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

  • Humpback whale 'asks' for help from kayakers in Queensland (AOL Travel, MSN News)  © Provided by AOL Travel UK Humpback whale 'asks' for help from kayakers in Queensland A video has captured the moment a tour guide jumped into the sea to rescue a whale tangled up in rope in Queensland.  The beautiful gentle giant appeared to ask for help after rolling on its side and showing off the rope.  Tyron van Santen, who runs Epic Ocean Adventures, was leading a group of 18 tourists on a dolphin and whale spotting tour off Rainbow Beach when they came across the beautiful juvenile whale.  He said the whale kept coming over to the group, and they tried to give it space but it kept coming.

Paleontologists tell us that numerous Homo species once roamed the earth, although only Homo sapiens remains. Several Homo species still inhabit economic world, however — the world as described by traditional economics. The most common is Homo economicus, whose preferences and abilities were described by neoclassical economists a long time ago. More recently, behavioral economists described a new species called Homo anomalous, because it departs from H. economicus in so many ways. Now a brand new species has been discovered by a multi-disciplinary team of scientists. I’ll call it Homo bioculturus and it might well become the one that inherits the world of economics.

Modern economic theory was first set out on a formal basis in the late 19th century. While there have been many developments since then, at heart the view in economics of how the world operates remains the same. Mainstream economic theory is essentially concerned with how decisions are made by individuals, what information is gathered and how it is used by decision-makers. The intellectual basis of most social and economic policy in the western world is provided by this conventional economic theory. A whole range of activities in state bureaucracies, such as forecasts, policy evaluation, cost–benefit analysis and the design of regulation, stem directly from mainstream economics.

All scientific theories, even quantum physics, are approximations to reality. Developing theories involves making assumptions and simplifications to enable us to better understand problems. A key feature of a good theory, therefore, is that its assumptions are a reasonable description of the real world.

In the early 21st century, just as in the late 19th, economics in general makes the assumption that individuals operate autonomously, isolated from the direct influences of others. A person has a fixed set of tastes and preferences; when choosing from a set of alternatives, he or she compares the attributes of those alternatives and selects the one which most closely corresponds to his or her preferences. At first sight, this may seem quite reasonable, or even ‘rational’, as economists describe this theory of behavior. If I am interested in buying a product which many people want, I may have to pay a high price. So the choices other people make affect me indirectly through the workings of the market. My preferences, however, remain unaltered, according to this conventional view of economics.

To summarize, we have a tapestry of racial homicide information that demonstrates that within the U.S., Black lives are committing crimes at an awfully-high disproportionate rate (again we can isolate the Blacks-on-Blacks homicide numbers above).  Additionally, Black civilians account for 4/5 of all murders of police who care about Black lives and are trying to reduce violent crimes in Black neighborhoods.  And while police kill fewer Blacks than Whites, Black police are >3x likelier to shoot versus White police.  Whites tend to murder anyone at a lower late, and this is despite the glorification in the media of a small fraction of incidences the don't represent the righteous struggle for many.

It is clear where the threat is where it comes to violent crimes, and so too why the recent movement against Whites is an awkward paradox.  Whites certainly have their flaws and discriminations and certainly struggling to make ends meet just like everyone else, but we also see that Black lives do matter to Whites.  And all innocent lives should matter.  The question is, why do Black lives (or any innocent lives) not matter to Blacks who are disproportionately murder?  This makes the appeal that Whites don’t care about anything, hard to absorb.  

Let’s put this all a little differently.  If we were in a situation in America, where we had an equal population of Blacks as Whites, in this hypothetical the number of butchered Americans in the hands of Blacks would burgeon uncontrollably and our entire society would be left unbalanced.  That would not be a stellar result.

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