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What We Read Today 27 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".).


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Topics today include:

  • What is money?

  • Lyme Doctors Battle Bureaucracy

  • Ice Free Everest?

  • Renewables Continue Rapid Growth in Electricity Generation

  • Urban Farming

  • Clinton Foundation Fails Transparency Tests

  • Trump 'hears' that NSA has Clinton's Emails

  • No Word on Shawn Lucas Cause of Death

  • Unofficial Problem Bank List Continues to Shrink

  • Reign of Terror in the Philippines

  • Thaw Between South Korea and Japan

  • Massive Layoffs in China

  • Colombia peace Plebiscite is Losing Support

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Urban Farming Is Revolutionizing Our Cities (Eco Watch)  Humans are fast becoming city dwellers. According to the United Nations, "The urban population of the world has grown rapidly from 746 million in 1950 to 3.9 billion in 2014."  Sixty-six percent of us will likely live in urban environments by 2050. The number of mega-cities (more than 10 million inhabitants) is also skyrocketing, from 10 in 1990 to 28 in 2014—home to more than 453 million people—and is expected to grow to 41 by 2030.  This article says:

Urban agriculture won't resolve all food production and distribution problems, but it could help take pressure off rural land while providing other advantages. From balcony, backyard, rooftop, indoor and community gardens to city beehives and chicken coops to larger urban farms and farmers markets, growing and distributing local food in or near cities is a healthy way to help the environment.


  • Obama to Create World’s Largest Marine Reserve in Hawaii (Eco Watch)  President Obama has expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, originally established at 140,000 by George W. Bush a decade ago.  The new monument will establish the largest marine reserve in the world today, protecting nearly 600,000 square miles off the coast of Hawaii.  Commercial fishing, mining and extraction are prohibited in the expanded , though subsistence fishing and scientific research will be allowed.

  • Seven ways the Clinton Foundation failed to meet its transparency promises (The Hill)  The seven ways include failure to disclose donors annually, foreign donations were not submitted to State Department for ethical review, failure to disclose at least one foreign government donation and not disclosing a $2.3 million donation from a family foundation linked to a company with business before Clinton's State Department.

  • Trump thinks NSA has Clinton's deleted emails (The Hill)  Donald Trump speculated Friday that the National Security Agency has the ability access to Hillary Clinton's deleted emails but won't do so to protect her.  Trump said in a phone interview on Fox News:

 "I hear the NSA maybe has the emails.  A lot of people say the NSA would have the emails if they really wanted to get them." 


According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for Washington, D.C., it has still not determined a cause of death for Shawn Lucas, the 38-year old process server who delivered the class action lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee and its then Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to the DNC headquarters on July 1. One month later, the girlfriend of Lucas came home to find him dead on the bathroom floor.

It has now been more than three weeks since Lucas died with no cause of death announced. We asked the Chief Medical Examiner’s office if the delay was a result of toxicology tests being conducted. We were told it can make no comment beyond the fact that the cause of death is “pending.”


Nationwide, since the on-set of the Great Recession, 533 institutions with assets of nearly $4 trillion have failed or received open-bank assistance. To put this in context, there were 8,544 institutions with assets of $13.1 trillion open in the U.S. at year-end 2007. Thus, 6.2 percent of institutions that held 30.3 percent of assets have failed or received open-bank assistance. In comparison, from 1980 through 1994, a period most consider as the most severe banking crisis since the Great Depression, 9.1% of institutions holding nearly 9.0% of assets failed or received open-bank assistance. So while the failure rate is lower in this episode, the share of assets is significantly greater. In the 1990s, the FDIC produced comprehensive research (“History of the Eighties”) to understand the causes of that crisis and identify ways to limit a future crisis. In response, FDIC Chairman Ricki Helfer spearheaded the formation of a new division to identify emerging systemic risks in the industry. In a 1996 speech, FDIC Chairman Helfer said “Neither we nor the industry we supervise can afford being so wrong again. The speed of technology and the rapid innovations in the marketplace mean that trouble could come quickly and in large numbers. We need to avoid being that wrong again by monitoring trends more broadly and taking specific action on the information we receive.” But somehow the FDIC’s division designed specifically to identify a widespread banking crisis got it way wrong. The lack of a major research effort by the FDIC to understand what went wrong in this current episode should be concerning to all industry observers.


  • A Reign of Terro in the Philippines (The New Yorker)  Rodrigo Duterte, the new President of the Philippines, is a liberal’s worst nightmare. In his campaign, Duterte, a former mayor and prosecutor, promised to cleanse the country of drug users and dealers by extrajudicial means. Since his inauguration, on June 30th, he has been following through with a vengeance. In that time, more than eighteen hundred people have been killed—drug dealers, drug users, and in several cases people who happened to be nearby. The youngest was five years old.  This article says:

The particulars are harrowing. At hearings, relatives of the victims, wearing sunglasses and scarves to disguise their identities, testified about low-level drug users being dragged out of their homes and shot at close range. The two-year-old daughter of one suspected user was stripped and subjected to an anal exam to see if she was being used to conceal drugs.

Since Monday, the casualties have mounted. On Tuesday, a five-year-old named Danica Garcia was killed while eating lunch when gunmen fired into her family’s house. They were targeting her grandfather. On Wednesday, Rogelio Bato, a lawyer representing a suspected drug trafficker, was shot in his car, along with a teen-age girl who was in the passenger seat.

South Korea

  • Thaw in Japan-South Korea ties spreads to economy (Nikkei Asian Review)  Eight months after signing a landmark deal on a long-standing political dispute, Japan and South Korea on Saturday paved the way for increased economic and financial cooperation.  During their so-called finance dialogue in Seoul, the two countries agreed to launch talks to revive a currency swap agreement that expired in February 2015.  The agreement comes after South Korea stopped trying to save face and sounded out Japan on reviving the currency swap agreement, aimed at coping with financial emergencies.  South Korea had previously taken the position that it would not consider reviving the swap agreement unless Japan requested it to do so.


  • Massive layoffs hit China as heavy industries step up restructuring (Nikkei Asian Review)  China's state-run industrial giants are firing tens of thousands of employees nationwide, as a determined government pursues a campaign to slash the supply glut in materials such as steel and coal.  State-run steelmaker Shougang Group is letting go of 16,000 employees, about 20% of groupwide workers, by the end of 2016. It has begun offering early retirement packages at key plants in Hebei and other provinces. The company slashed crude steel production by 10% in 2015 and plans another major decrease this year. Shougang last saw such a dramatic job cut in the late 1990s, when it was hit by a global economic downturn triggered by the Asian currency crisis.


"are too atrocious to merit amnesty, annoyance at the possibility that FARC representatives may be given congressional seats, fear that state capacity to effectively implement the accords is too weak in previously contested regions of the country, opposition to land restitution programs, and resentment at the possibility that government forces may be judged by the same tribunal that judges FARC members."

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

  • But Is It Money? (Origin of Specious)  Very interesting analysis that eliminates 2 of the 3 common definitions of money by giving ubiquitous examples of money functioning in the real world.  The only function that survives this logic is money "functions as a medium of exchange".  The alternative definitions ("store of value" and "unit of account") are obviously false by numerous counterexamples. (Econintersect:  We suggest these latter two common definitions can be classified as 'desires' of those who proclaim them for an 'ideal world' which does not exist.)  Without mentioning the anthropological work of David Graeber (Debt - Updated and Expanded: The First 5,000 Years) The author of this post bluntly criticizes the use of thinking about money as a simplification of barter.  The anthropological record clearly shows that credit replaced barter on the historical timeline and after that the concept of money as universal credit to simplify exchange came into being.  See What is Money? An Alternative to Searle's Institutional Facts (J. P. Smit, Filip Buekens and Stan du Plessis, Economics and Philosophy, Volume 27 / Issue 01 / March 2011, pp 1-22)

  • ILADS Statement on CMS Proposed Rule Concerning Antibiotic Stewardship (International Lyme and Associate Diseases Society)  The battle continues between doctors faced with treating the wide variety of presentations for Lyme disease and bureaucrats without treatment experience who issue regulations limiting what government health programs (Medicare and Medicaid) and private insurance carriers will pay for.

  • Mount Everest Climbers May One Day Climb Ice-Free (Eco Watch)  The Himalayan Mountains and Tibetan Plateau, dubbed the "Third Pole" for having the largest ice mass on Earth after the polar regions, are rapidly losing their glaciers. Eighteen percent of China's glaciers have vanished in the past 50 years according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Air pollution and rising air temperatures are combining to increase glacial melt, threatening water supplies for one billion people.

  • Renewable Energy Generation Breaks Records Every Month in 2016 (Eco Watch)  Electricity generation from wind, solar and other renewable energy technologies have set monthly records every month so far in 2016, based on data through June released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) Wednesday. (See next article.) The EIA said:

"Both hydroelectric and nonhydroelectric renewables have contributed to this trend, but in different ways. After a lengthy West Coast drought, hydro generation has increased and is now closer to historical levels. Nonhydro renewable generation continues to increase year-over-year and has exceeded hydro generation in each month since February 2016."

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