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What We Read Today 25 August 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:

  • Biggest Money Scams of All Time

  • Are U.S. National Parks Going to Ruin?

  • Cancer is Catching Up to Heart Disease as U.S. #1 Killer

  • What Would Happen if All Animals were as Smart as Us?

  • Some States Have a Much Bigger Opioid Problem than Others

  • Extraordinary Facts about Antarctica

  • Could Clinton Fix ObamaCare?

  • Low Unemployment Increases Traffic Deaths More than Expected

  • U.S. Paid Another $1.3 Billion to Iran - And Why That Was a Bargain

  • Is a Fiscal Union Not What is Needed to Save the EU?

  • Britain's Disgraceful Trains

  • An American's View of UK NHS ("Socialized Medicine")

  • Italy Death Toll Still Rising

  • Turkey Flexes Muscles against Kurds in Syria

  • U.S. Warships Fire on Iranian Vessels

  • Russian Convicted of Running Massive Online Theft Ring

  • India's Central Bank - Steady as She Goes with New Governor

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • 20 extraordinary facts about Antarctica (Easyvoyage, MSN Weather)  Great slide show.  One fact of the 20:  Antarctica is the most extreme desert of earth; some parts have not seen any precipitation, rain or snow for 2 million years.  Another fact: Antarctica is the continent with the highest average altitude in the world.   Click on title for the other 18 facts.


  • Clinton says Trump leading 'hate movement'; he calls her a 'bigot' (CNN)  The already-biting personal attacks between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump escalated Wednesday, with the Democratic nominee accusing her rival of leading a "hate movement" and Trump labeling Clinton a "bigot".  Econintersect:  Didn't presidential races used to be about policy issues?

  • Clinton win could pressure GOP to heal, not repeal, Affordable Care Act (LifeHealthPro)  Some Republicans say changing the ACA could work better than dreaming about replacing it.  Most Republicans still insist Obamacare must go, and a Trump presidency would all but guarantee much bigger change because he too has called for its repeal.  But a Clinton presidency could create a wedge issue within the GOP, especially if Republican dominance of the congress is weakened.

  • When Unemployment Falls, Thousands of Americans Die (Bloomberg)  Clifford Winston, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution, and Vikram Maheshri, an economist at the University of Houston, in a forthcoming study in the Journal of Risk and Uncertainty have found that high unemployment has a larger than expected impact on traffic fatalities.  Previous research had shown that people generally drive less during economic contractions, which naturally contributes to a reduction in fatalities. The innovation by Winston and Maheshri was to show that the biggest decline is in driving by the worst drivers.

  • U.S. paid $1.3 billion to Iran two days after cash delivery (CBS News)  The Obama administration said Wednesday it paid $1.3 billion in interest to Iran in January to resolve a decades-old dispute over an undelivered military sale, two days after allowing $400 million in cash to fly to Tehran.  State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau says the U.S. couldn’t say more about the Jan. 19 payments because of diplomatic sensitivities. They involved 13 separate payments of $99,999,999.99 and final payment of about $10 million. There was no explanation for the Treasury Department keeping the individual transactions under $100 million.  The money settles a dispute over a $400 million payment made in the 1970s by the U.S.-backed shah’s government for military equipment. The equipment was never delivered because of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew the shah and ended diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Iran. Econintersect: Using 36 years as the period covered, we calculate the compound interest rate as 4.1%.  Using data from the Federal Reserve, we calculate the average 30-year U.S. Treasury interest rate paid over these 36 years was 5.9%.



  • From the floor to first class, Britain’s railways are a disgrace (The Guardian)  This column says that the rail industry is an embarrassment because it can demonstrate just how atrocious services run for profit can be. The desire for the railways to return to public ownership – a wish felt by millions of Conservative voters – is not born of mass false consciousness, of a failure to understand that privatization has been a glorious success. It is a product of the lived experience of Britain’s frustrated, ripped-off commuters. Richard Branson may have succeeded in causing Jeremy Corbyn embarrassment. But if Branson believes that the British public has any affection or trust in his rail services, he will be disappointed.  (Econintersect:  On the other hand you have the UK National Health Service run as a public utility by the government - "socialized medicine" - see the next article.)  And the author blasts the media:

If you are among the 58% of the population who want to renationalize the railways and other utilities, you are going to struggle – to put it mildly – to find your views reflected in the media.

  • Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review (Independent)  When Jen Gunter, a doctor who works in the U.S., had to take her son to a British hospital while on holiday, she expected the worst – and was amazed by what she actually found.  Econintersect:  For a U.S. resident who has spent an average of 4-6 hours sitting and waiting for each of about 10 emergency room visits in the U.S. over the past 18-20 years, this story is amazing.


  • The Serious Purpose Behind France's Silly Burkini Ban (Bloomberg)  In truth, the importance of the burkini debate, like the banning of veils and other face coverings -- enacted for schools in 2004 and then in all public spaces in 2010 -- isn't about stopping what are in fact very infrequent practices (only an estimated 2,000 women covered their faces before that ban). Rather, it is a reflection of France's stumbling efforts to assimilate the vast Muslim population it inherited from its former colonies.


  • Italy quake death toll hits 250 as rescuers search demolished towns (Reuters)  The death toll from a devastating earthquake in central Italy climbed to at least 250 on Thursday and could rise further with rescue teams working for a second day to try to find survivors under the rubble of flattened towns.  The 6.2 magnitude quake struck a cluster of mountain communities 140 km (85 miles) east of Rome early on Wednesday as people slept, destroying hundreds of homes.  An army of emergency workers using sniffer dogs clambered over piles of debris trying to find anyone still buried beneath, while cranes removed huge slabs of fallen masonry and trucks full of rubble left the area every few minutes.



  • Turkey and US unite to oust Isis and curb Kurds (The Guardian)  Turkish tanks have moved rapidly through the Syrian town of Jarablus on Wednesday, ousting Islamic State from one of its last border strongholds – but the most important outcome in Ankara’s eyes was beating the US-backed Kurdish fighters in a race to seize the surrounding area.  U.S. VP Joe Biden reassured Ankara this week, but it is unclear how Washington’s Kurdish proxies will react to his demand that they step back.


  • US warship fires warning shots at Iranian boats (Associated Press)  A U.S. Navy ship fired three warning shots in the direction of an Iranian boat that was approaching another American ship head-on in the North Arabian Gulf on Wednesday, U.S. officials said, in an escalation of encounters in the region this week.  According to a U.S. official, the Iranian boat came within 200 yards of the USS Tempest and ignored several bridge-to-bridge radio calls and warning flares. It finally turned away after the USS Squall, which was with the USS Tempest, fired three warning shots from its .50-caliber gun.  The incident was one of three encounters that U.S. ships had with Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats in the Gulf on Wednesday. And they came a day after four small Iranian boats approached the USS Nitze at high speed in the Strait of Hormuz. The boats veered off after the U.S. fired flares.  The same Iranian boat that harassed the USS Tempest also crossed in front of the USS Stout three times at a high rate of speed on Wednesday in the same region. The U.S. official called it an unsafe intercept, and said the USS Stout, a guided missile destroyer, had to maneuver to avoid a collision.


  • Russian convicted in masterminding global online theft ring (Associated Press)  A federal jury convicted the son of a Russian lawmaker Thursday of hacking into U.S. businesses to steal credit card information and orchestrating an international online theft scheme that netted him millions of dollars.  Jurors deliberated over two days before finding Roman Seleznev guilty of 38 charges, including nine counts of hacking and 10 counts of wire fraud. He could face up to 40 years in prison when he's sentenced Dec. 2, and he still faces similar charges in federal courts in Nevada and Georgia, his attorney said.  Seleznev hacked into businesses, mostly pizza restaurants in Washington state, and stole millions of credit card numbers that he sold on underground internet forums, authorities said. The thefts led to almost $170 million in credit card losses around the world and made him "one of the most prolific credit card traffickers in history," prosecutors said.


  • Broad monetary policy continuity under new RBI governor (The Economist)  On August 20th the government announced that Urjit Patel, deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI, the central bank), would become the next governor. He will succeed Raghuram Rajan, whose term ends on September 4th.  Here a summary of what The Economist had to say:

The decision will solidify improvements to the monetary policy framework made under Mr Rajan and bodes well for macroeconomic stability in the medium term. Mr Patel was a close associate of Mr Rajan, having led the committee tasked with establishing the new inflation-targeting framework. Based on that committee's report issued in 2014, and other statements by Mr Patel, it is possible to infer that he is strongly focused on anchoring inflation expectations. Assuming that he does not veer off from past views, this means that the RBI will accord a high priority to meeting the inflation target, set between 2% and 6%. His promotion means that broad policy continuity should be maintained with little operative disruption.

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

  • Biggest money scams of all time (, MSN News)  The biggest money scams of all time are usually investment scams and Ponzi schemes.  There is a nine-page slide show and video (click below).

  • Are we letting our national parks go to ruin? (CNN)  Many of our national monuments and parks are suffering decay from abject neglect.  See also with this article a great 9-slide presentation of the most popular National Park Service's locations for 2015.

  • No. 1 killer: Cancer is catching up to heart disease (CNN)  More Americans die from heart disease, but cancer is rapidly gaining ground as the No. 1 killer. In 22 states, more people died from cancer during 2014 than from heart disease, new data from the National Vital Statistics System indicated. This is a substantial uptick from 2002, when only two states (Alaska and Minnesota) recorded more cancer deaths than heart disease deaths.

  • What would happen if all animals were as smart as us? (BBC News)  If every species on the planet were suddenly equally intelligent, would we cooperate or fight? Rachel Nuwer explores this hypothetical survival of the fittest scenario. Unfortunately, the hypothetical answer isn’t pretty, according to Innes Cuthill, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Bristol:

“Chaos would be the simple word for what would happen.  We should definitely not assume that intelligence is a good thing.”

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