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What We Read Today 22 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".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Topics Today include:

  • Nothing on U.S. Presidential Politics (Taking a Breather)

  • How Much Do Taxes Distribute Income in the U.S.?

  • How the Brain Connects Memories

  • 401(k) Investors Getting Ripped Off by Index Fund Fees

  • Medicare Mistakes to Avoid

  • Lagarde on Trial for Negligence, Likely to Avoid Prison and to Retain IMF Post

  • U.S. Apartment Market Tightens

  • UK Chancellor to 'Reset' Fiscal Policy

  • Mass Shootings in German Mall

  • Spain Loses Tax Revenue

  • EU Demands More Austerity in Spain

  • Syrian Rebels Use Pictures of Children Holding Pokemon Pictures Appealing to be Found

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Lagarde Seen Likely to Avoid Jail Time, Keep IMF Job Amid Trial (Bloomberg)  Christine Lagarde is likely to avoid jail time and keep her job as head of the International Monetary Fund after she was ordered to stand trial in France on charges that carry a potential prison term.  Lagarde, 60, on Friday lost a bid to challenge a December decision to be tried for alleged negligence during her time as French finance minister that paved the way for a massive government payout to tycoon Bernard Tapie. The specialized panel that will hear Lagarde’s case has previously found ministers guilty without having them actually serve time in prison.  Lagarde has received strong support from IMF member nations amid the long-running case mean there’s little chance that it will amount to more than a distraction from her role leading the world’s lender of last resort. No date has been set yet for the trial, which is expected to last about a week.


Apartment markets continued to show mixed conditions in the July 2016 National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) Quarterly Survey of Apartment Market Conditions. For the third quarter in a row, the Market Tightness (43) and Equity Financing (44) Indexes remained below the breakeven level of 50. Conversely, the Debt Financing Index came in at 62 and the Sales Volume Index landed right at 50.

Apartment markets remain strong, but the surge of new apartment construction is starting to shift the supply-demand balance, particularly in the market for upscale apartments,” said Mark Obrinsky, NMHC’s Senior Vice President of Research and Chief Economist. “Given that most new supply is class A, we’re not seeing the same shift in class B and C apartments. In addition, some weakness in the Market Tightness Index may be just seasonality.”

  • Second Case of Zika in Florida May Have Come from Local Mosquitoes (Scientific American)  Health officials in Florida announced Thursday that they’re investigating a second case of Zika infection that may have been locally acquired.  The patient is in Broward County, which is adjacent to Miami-Dade County. The first patient, whose case was announced Tuesday and is still under investigation, is a woman living in Miami-Dade.  The Florida Department of Health called the new case “a possible non-travel related case”. The statement did not indicate whether the department believes the two cases may be linked, nor did it give any indication about how far away the two people live from one another.


  • EU demands more austerity after Spain and Portugal fail to cut deficits (World Socialist Website)   For the first time in its history, the European Union (EU) is threatening fines and other sanctions on Spain and Portugal for failing to keep their budget deficits below the 3% of GDP target. Last year, Spain’s deficit was 5.1% and Portugal’s was 4.4%. This year, they are forecast to remain above the target.  The European Council of EU heads of state said the two countries, whose economies have been devastated by years of EU austerity, have until July 22 to come up with new proposed cuts.  See corporate tax article under Spain.


  • U.K. Chancellor Ready to ‘Reset’ Fiscal Policy on Brexit (Bloomberg)   Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said he’s ready to “reset” Britain’s fiscal policy if needed to respond to turbulence caused by the decision to vote to leave the European Union.  Hammond spoke in Beijing on Friday ahead of a meeting with fellow Group of 20 finance ministers in Chengdu, China: 

“In the short term, our colleagues at the Bank of England will be using the monetary tools at their disposal.  Over the medium term, we will have the opportunity with our Autumn Statement, our regular late-year fiscal event, to reset fiscal policy if we deem it necessary to do so.”



  • Alternative Economics (Mike Shedlock, Alternative Economics)  MS has contributed to GEI.  There have been more refunds than payments for corporate taxes in Spain so far this year.  The budget calls for a 20% increase.  The latest data from the Treasury shows that the corporation tax collection is negative €539 million compared to €1.814 billion in positive revenue in 2015.  This is the first time this has happened in 21 years since corporate income taxes were instituted.  Econintersect:  Austerity has a way of begetting austere conditions.  Who would have guessed?  The failure of austerity to produce positive results has elicited calls for more austerity from theEU.  See article under EU.


  • Turkish court documents reveal new details about IS operations (Al Monitor)  Details of instructions and training given to militants have been obtained from documents captured in Turkish government raids on IS safe houses in the Kurdish dominated regions of  Diyarbakir, Bingol, Gaziantep and Adiyaman is southeastern Turkey.


  • American fighting with Kurds against Islamic State killed in Syria (Reuters)  An American man who died fighting alongside Syrian Kurdish fighters to oust Islamic State from the northern Syrian city of Manbij has been named as Levi Jonathan Shirley.  Shirley, who adopted the Kurdish name of Agir Servan, was killed on July 14, the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) said in a statement posted on its website on Thursday.  The YPG is part of a U.S.-backed alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters called the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), which launched an offensive in May to seize the last territory held by Islamic State insurgents on Syria's frontier with Turkey.

  • Syrian opposition turns to Pokemon to win support (Reuters)  Photographs of children in besieged Syrian towns holding pictures of Pokemon characters and appealing for help were published by the Syrian National Coalition, an alliance of Western-backed activist and rebel groups.  Their release is an attempt to capitalize on the success of "Pokemon GO", which challenges players on smartphones to go to real-world locations to capture the cuddly monsters using the phone's camera.


  • IRGC head calls House of Saud 'clear enemy' of Iran (Al Monitor)  Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari spoke 21 July about the threats to Iran in the Persian Gulf region and the importance of maintaining security. Jafari said that some of Iran’s neighbors are actively trying to spread unrest inside Iran, adding that some regional countries and particularly the House of Saud have become “clear enemies and today spend a lot of money to spread instability to Iran”.

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

  • How the Brain Builds Memory Chains (Scientific American)  Memories beget memories, and as soon as you think of one, you think of more. Now neuroscientists are starting to figure out why.  When two events happen in short succession, they feel somehow linked to each other. It turns out that apparent link has a physical manifestation in our brains.  Memories are linked by several connectors, occurring with both physical similarities and temporal proximity.  For more details see Competition between engrams influences fear memory formation and recall (Science)

  • Investors Are Getting Ripped Off on Index Fund Fees, Lawsuits Say (Bloomberg)  Index funds often benefit from a low-cost halo. They don't all deserve to bask in that glow.  ome of the high-cost index funds have been hidden within 401(k) plans.  Allegations of excessive index fund fees in retirement plans are at the heart of a new proposed class action lawsuit brought by New York Life Insurance Co. employees against the company. The case, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges breach of fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.  The lawsuit is part of a new wave of 401(k) suits against smaller plans. One of the New York Life plans has $600 million in assets, while the other has $2.5 billion. Earlier this month, Minneapolis-based law firm Nichols Kaster filed suits against American Century's $600 million plan and the $1.3 billion plan at Fujitsu Technology and Business of America, Inc.

  • Jobseekers, employers differ on importance of benefits (Employee Benefit News)  It is all about the money.

The survey asked more than 200,000 jobseekers to rank the attributes they value the most in employers and found that salary and employee benefits, long-term job stability and a pleasant work atmosphere topped the list. These attributes were then ranked on how well employers provided them, coming in fifth, sixth and eighth respectively.

Meanwhile, the attributes that employers scored highest on were financial health, strong management and good training, ones that jobseekers didn’t really value. But it’s often cheaper for employers to provide these than the increased salaries and benefits jobseekers have indicated they want. 

  • 11 Medicare mistakes to avoid (LifeHealthPro)  The 11 costly mistakes have a number of annual review items missed, enrollment deadlines not honored, mishandling of health savings accounts and ignorance of how to switch supplement or advantage plans.

  • How much do federal taxes redistribute income? (Catherine Mulbrandon, Vizualizing Economics)  CM has contributed to GEI.  She specializes in graphics that are standalone, not needing accompanying explanation.



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