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What We Read Today 18 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:

  • Maryland to Ban Pesticides that Harm Bees

  • CalPers Returns Fall Below Required Levels Over All Performance Periods

  • This is Why Pharma is Fighting Legalized Marijuana

  • Germany Using AI to Move Toward 80% Renewable Electricity

  • Turkey Detains 6,000 and Fires 9,000 More

  • Deadly Police Station Attack in Kazakhistan

  • Perpetual Government Bonds for Japan?

  • Venezuela Middle Class Liquidating Savings to But Groceries in Colombia

  • Business Schools Remove Cultural and Social Consciousness

  • More on Racial Bias in Police Actions

  • Miracles Being Revealed with Electron Microscopy

  • And More 

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Maryland to be first U.S. state to ban neonicotinoid-containing pesticides to help bees (Healthy and Natural Habits)  In 2015, honey bee populations in the state of Maryland declined by 61%, according to the USDA. That startling statistic is two times higher than the national average, which is why beekeepers are celebrating the state’s recent decision to ban neonicotinoids, pesticides which have been linked with Colony Collapse Disorder.

  • What CEOs can teach the next US president (McKinsey)  While not all lessons from the private sector are transferable to the public sector, and many successful business leaders find their skills challenged in the unique government environment, there are nevertheless lessons for this transition period that CEOs can offer the next president and other new senior leaders entering the government.  Here are a dozen such lessons, drawn from McKinsey’s work with public- and private-sector leaders globally and discussions with current and former CEOs of iconic companies who have undergone similar transitions. These lessons are broadly applicable to leaders transitioning into senior roles in the government, regardless of professional background.

  • Calpers Earned 0.6% as Long-Term Returns Fall Below Target (Bloomberg)  The giant pension fund CalPers (California Public Employees’ Retirement System), the largest U.S. public pension fund is in trouble.  It earned a return of 0.6% on its investments last fiscal year, trailing its long-term target as the pension’s public equity portfolio lost 3.4% in the year through June 30 and forestland assets declined 9.6%, Chief Investment Officer Ted Eliopoulos said Monday. Fixed-income holdings rose 9.3% and infrastructure investments gained 9%.  Chief Investment Officer Ted Eliopoulos said Monday:

“The longer-term returns of the fund -- the three-, five-, 10-, 15- and 20-year total returns of the fund -- are now below the assumed rate of 7.5 percent for the fund.  That’s a significant policy issue for us.”


  • A.I. to Strengthen Germany’s Renewable-Energy Grids (R&D)   The European country leading the charge on incorporating renewable energy into its power grid, is testing a specialized algorithm that could help with the unpredictable nature of solar and wind power.  The machine-learning program, named EWeLiNE, could work as an early-warning system for grid-operators to assist them in calculating renewable-energy output over the next 48 hours.  Renewable energy provides an estimated one-third of domestic electricity to Germany, according to Nature. The country’s wind-power capacity comes in at third in the word—at 45,000 megawatts— behind China and the U.S. The government has promised that by 2050, at least 80% of the country’s electricity will come from renewables.


  • Turkish Interior Ministry fires 9,000, detains others (Associated Press)  Turkey's Interior Ministry has fired nearly 9,000 police officers, bureaucrats and others and detained thousands of suspected plotters following a foiled coup against the government, Turkey's state-run news agency reported Monday.  News of the firings and detentions came as the U.S. and European Union urged the government to uphold democracy and human rights as it pursues the military officers and anyone else involved in the coup attempt.  The state-run Anadolu news agency said a total of 8,777 employees attached to the ministry were dismissed, including 30 governors, 52 civil service inspectors and 16 legal advisers.


  • Russia state-sponsored doping across majority of Olympic sports, claims report (BBC News)  An investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) says Russia's sports ministry "directed, controlled and oversaw" manipulation of urine samples provided by its athletes.  It says Russian athletes benefited from what the report called the "Disappearing Positive Methodology", whereby positive doping samples would go missing.  The program was "planned and operated" from late 2011 - including the build-up to London 2012 - and continued through the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics until August 2015, according to the report.


  • 2 Gunmen Stage Deadly Attack on Police Station in Kazakhstan (The New York Times)  Two gunmen stormed a police station on Monday in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, and killed three officers and a civilian, in an attack described as blending criminal and radical Islamist motivations.  The attack elevated concerns about the spread of terrorism in former Soviet Central Asia as an oil bust ripples through regional economies and as the Islamic State’s footprint expands.


  • Are Perpetual Bonds Helicopter Money? The New Japanese Plan (Talk Markets)  The BoJ wants to talk the Yen down. But it won't increase the money supply through adding base money. How perpetual bonds are fashioned will determine if they are a form of helicopter money or not. And there is no guarantee that they will even be created.  As long as central banks see unsterilized action as being dirty, it will be difficult to stop the relentless decline in interest rates and will be difficult to stop the increasing gap between finance and the real economy as to prosperity.


  • Middle class Venezuelans liquidate savings to buy food (Associated Press)  With a temporary opening of the border with Colombia,  more than 100,000 Venezuelans are trudging across what Colombian officials are calling a "humanitarian corridor" to buy as many basic goods as possible with whatever savings they can scape together.

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

Since the mid-1970’s neoclassical economic theory has dominated business school thinking and teaching in dealing with business ethics. Neoclassical economic theory employs an incorrect model of human behavior that treats managers as selfish maximizers of personal wealth and power. This model, often referred to as Homo economicus, implies that a firm’s board of directors can best further stockholders’ interests by (a) selecting managerial personnel who are focused virtually exclusively on personal financial gain, and (b) inducing them to act as agents of the stockholders by devising incentives that minimize the difference between the financial returns to stockholders and the firm’s leading managers. Moreover this theory, in the strong form of the efficient markets hypothesis, asserts that a firm’s stock price is the best overall measure of the firm’s long-term value. This suggests that managerial incentives should be tied to stock market performance, since this will best align the interests of managers and stockholders. However, this implication is invalid when managers can manipulate information flows that influence short term stock price movements.

Neoclassical economic theory thus fosters a corporate culture that ignores the personal rewards and social responsibilities associated with managing a modern enterprise, and encourages an ethic of greedy materialism in which managers are expected to care only about personal financial reward, and in which such human character virtues as honesty and decency are completely ignored.

This analysis is useful, as far as it goes. But does this really imply that the video evidence that has animated the black lives matter movement is highly selective and deeply misleading, as initial reports on the paper suggested? 

Not at all. The protests are about the killing of innocents, not about the treatment of those whose actions would legitimately plant them in the serious arrest pool. What Fryer's paper suggests (if one takes the incident categorization by police at face value) is that at least in Houston, those who would assault or attempt to kill a public safety officer are treated in much the same way, regardless of race. 


  • Tiny Works of Art with Great Potential (R&D)  Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have now presented a methodology that allows the production of two-dimensional quasicrystals from metal-organic networks, opening the door to the development of promising new materials.  (Unlike classical crystals, quasicrystals do not comprise periodic units, even though they do have a superordinate structure.)  First discovered in 1982 by Daniel Shechtman, quasicrystal structures were not considered to be real by many physicists and chemists for many years.  But Shechtman continued his research and eventually had his work reproduced by many others.  He received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2011.  Below is a scanning tunneling microscopic image of the quasicrystalline network built up with europium atoms (bright yellow dots) linked with para-quaterphenyl-dicarbonitrile.  Econintersect:  The bright orange-yellow lines are the carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen atoms and the electrons in their connecting chemical bonds within the substrate para-quaterphenyl-dicarbonitrile molecular metwork. 


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