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What We Read Today 30 October 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:

  • How Liars Create the Illusion of Truth

  • Death of the Invisible Hand:  Pursuit of Self-Interest Fails

  • Bad Growth and Good Growth

  • Bank Foxes are Guarding the SEC Chicken Coop

  • Why are White Death Rates Rising in the U.S.?

  • Intellectual Property Linked to Trade Inhibits Innovation

  • FBI Has an Internal Feud over E-Mails

  • E-Mails May Affect Senate Races

  • What if Loser Won't Concede Election?

  • Huge Herd of Wild Buffalo Appears at Standing Rock Protest

  • Earthquake Destroys up to 1,600 Years of Italian History

  • Another Big Purge in Turkey - This Time Kurdish Media the Focus

  • Syria is Another Pipeline War

  • Syrian Troops and Rebels Battle in Aleppo

  • Putin Refuses to renew Syrian Bombing

  • Is Abenomics Proving GDP a Poor Measure of Economic Activity?

  • China's Factories Mull Price Hikes

  • Trump is Right:  Mexico is Eating America's Lunch - Just Not the Way He Imagined

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • TRIPS: The Story of How Intellectual Property Became Linked to Trade (Naked Capitalism)  Intellectual property rights are a form of private taxation on innovation which is why they should be minimized. When you globalize I intellectual property rights you essentially put in the hands of the owners of intellectual property rights a global private form of taxing power.  The Real News Network video discusses this.  Transcript is available at Naked Capitalism (click on title, above).


  • FBI in Internal Feud Over Hillary Clinton Probe (The Wall Street Journal)  Federal agents are preparing to scour roughly 650,000 emails contained on the laptop of former Rep. Anthony Weiner to see how many relate to a prior probe of Hillary Clinton’s email use, as metadata on the device suggests there may be thousands sent to or from the private server that the Democratic nominee used while she was secretary of state, according to people familiar with the matter.  The review will take weeks at a minimum to determine whether those messages are work-related emails between Huma Abedin, a close Clinton aide and the estranged wife of Mr. Weiner, and State Department officials; how many are duplicates of emails already reviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and whether they include either classified information or important new evidence in the Clinton email probe, which FBI officials call “Midyear”.  The FBI has had to await a court order to begin reviewing the emails, because they were uncovered in an unrelated probe of Mr. Weiner, and that order was delayed for reasons that remain unclear.

  • FBI throws curveball into race for Senate (The Hill)  The high probability of Democrats winning control of the Senate is now coming into question with the latest e-mail information from the FBI.

  • FBI agents knew of emails weeks before Comey did: report (The Hill)  FBI agents reportedly knew early this month about the new emails that the agency now says are "pertinent" to the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private server — but did not brief FBI Director James Comey until late last week.  Comey was reportedly told about the new messages on Thursday, The Washington Post reported.  On Friday, less than two weeks from Election Day, Comey sent a letter to lawmakers saying emails "pertinent" to the investigation of the former secretary of State had been discovered and the FBI would be reviewing them.

  • Newspapers may be Playing a big Role in this election — but what does that mean for the sector’s survival? (Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture, The Washington Post)  This is a thorough discussion of the future of traditional newsprint journalism.

  • If Hillary Clinton wins the election and Donald Trump does not accept the results, what can happen? (Quora)  There is no requirement that a candidate concedes an election.  If there is a very close result in one or more states a recount (recounts) can be requested.  If the recounts are indeterminate (essentially a tie), the courts, ultimately the Supreme Court, decide the result.  There is no recourse for any loser who declines to concede. 

  • Thousands of Wild Buffalo Appear Out of Nowhere at Standing Rock (Uncut)  In the midst of mass arrests, mace attacks, and beatings from batons, a stampede of bison suddenly appeared near the Standing Rock protest camp. A cry of joy reportedly erupted from the Standing Rock Sioux, as they had been praying for assistance from the Tatanka Oyate during their standoff with riot police and national guardsmen.


  • Latest Italian earthquake devastates medieval churches and other sites (The Washington Post)  A strong earthquake that shook Italy on Sunday morning took a heavy toll on historic churches and other landmark buildings, some dating back to the Middle Ages.  No deaths were reported, and only “tens” of injuries, but the physical damage was extensive.  In Preci, the walls of a hillside cemetery came crashing down on top of the Abbey of Saint Euticius, founded in the 5th century by a group of Syrian monks and hermits and now crushed under the weight of its own burial ground.  The old town of Arquata del Tronto, in the central region of Le Marches, was virtually destroyed, along with its 13th century church dedicated to Saint Francis. Only the castle remains, still standing guard over the ruins below.



  • Gaius Publius: Syria Is Another Pipeline War (Naked Capitalism)  Proposed pipeline routes through the Middle East to gas markets in Europe. The purple line is the Western-supported Qatar-Turkey pipeline. All of the nations it passes through — Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey (all highlighted in red) — have agreed to it … except Syria. The red line is the “Islamic Pipeline” from Iran through Iraq into Syria.  Summary: We have been at war in Syria over pipelines since 1949. This is just the next mad phase.

  • Aleppo: Putin rejects army request to resume air raids (Al Jazeera)  Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected a request by his military to resume air raids over Syria's rebel-held eastern Aleppo.  The Russian army said on Friday that it had asked the president for authorisation to resume its bombing campaign, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin "considers it inappropriate at the current moment", adding the president thought it necessary to "continue the humanitarian pause" in the war-battered city.  The request was made after Syrian opposition fighters launched an assault against the government-held western part of the city, firing rockets and detonating car bombs in a counter assault.

  • Dozens dead as rebels and Syrian troops clash in Aleppo (Al Jazeera)  UN "appalled" with at least 17 children among those killed while some 1,500 rebels mass along Aleppo's western edges.


  • The Secret Success of Abenomics (Project Syndicate)  Hat tip to Mike Stover.  Japan has almost no GDP growth yet tax revenues are growing significantly.  Since people don't inflate the taxes they pay one must questions whether GDP is an accurate measure of economic activity.  Here is the start of this article by Koichi Hamada, who is Special Economic Adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Yale University and at the University of Tokyo:

Tokyo is in the midst of a construction boom, with old high-rise office and apartment buildings being rebuilt in more modern and elegant forms, all while maintaining stringent environmental standards. So bright is Tokyo’s gleam – which is sure to impress visitors at the 2020 Olympic Games – that the city might seem like an anomaly, given gloomy reports that, after decades of stagnation, Japan’s GDP growth remains anemic.

In fact, even the small cities of Kushiro and Nemuro in Hokkaido, located near the disputed islands between Russia and Japan, are being rebuilt and modernized at a brisk pace, as is apparent to any tourist (as I was this summer). What explains this divergence between disappointing national economic data and visible progress in Japanese cities?

It may be a problem of calculation. According to official data, Japan’s economic growth slowed by one percentage point, in real terms, in the 2014 fiscal year. Yet, according to Bank of Japan researchers, tax data suggest that growth was more than three percentage points higher than the official figure, implying that GDP was some ¥30 trillion (about $300 billion dollars) larger than officially reported.



  • Trump's Right:  Mexico is Eating America's Lunch (Bloomberg)  An American browsing the aisles of a Selecto supermarket such as this one just outside Mexico City would find much that is familiar. Mexicans at this upscale grocery in Naucalpan are scooping Cap’n Crunch cereal for breakfast, eating U.S. beef for lunch, and snacking on Oreo cookies after dinner, all brought across Mexico's northern border.  Selecto imports up to 15% of its inventory, and most of those imports come from the U.S. The chain, owned by a domestic competitor to Wal-Mart known as Grupo Comercial Chedraui, is one of a growing number of stores that have cropped up in the past five years that cater to Mexico's expanding middle class by offering more variety.

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

The invisible hand metaphor originates with Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations(1776). Bernard Mandeville made a similar point with his Fable of the Bees (1705), which fancifully describes human society as a wondrously productive bee hive, even though each bee is as selfish as can be.

Smith was critical of Mandeville and presented a more nuanced view of human nature in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), but modern economic and political discourse is not about nuance. Rational choice theory takes the invisible hand metaphor literally by trying to explain the length and breadth of human behavior on the basis of individual utility maximization, which is fancy talk for the narrow pursuit of self-interest. For the general public, unfettered competition has been turned into a moral virtue and “regulation” has become a sin.

Every private company has powerful reasons to grow, not least the attainment of economies of scale, and every publicly traded corporation must grow or it will die or be acquired. Growth is in the DNA of businesses—even state-owned businesses and many non-profits—as well as of the market itself. Take it away and the whole economic engine stalls.

So we can’t and shouldn’t try to eliminate growth per se. But that doesn’t mean we must let capitalism destroy our planet—we can’t do that either. Our challenge is to curb bad growth and encourage the good kind, a daunting challenge but one that is at least imaginable.

 ”In the years since the crisis, the absence of any significant convictions has come to show the worrying extent of corporate impunity on Wall Street…. Individuals at the highest echelons of “Corporate America” have been largely unaffected by their own financial gambling.”

  • There might be a bubble brewing in bourbon (Business Insider)  RBC Capital Markets analysts shared a chart showing that an influx of new producers could be setting up a slump in bourbon prices, as well as providing sometimes subpar versions of the American whiskey.  A recent study that included American Craft Spirits Association showed that the number of distillers has compounded at a 42% annual growth rate since 2010.  See also next article.


  • Why Are White Death Rates Rising? (The New York Times)  Death rates are rising for white, less-educated Americans. The economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton reported in December that rates have been climbing since 1999 for non-Hispanic whites age 45 to 54, with the largest increase occurring among the least educated. An analysis of death certificates by The New York Times found similar trends and showed that the rise may extend to white women.  This may be related in some small part to the increase in bourbon production noted in the preceding article.  The higher death rates among whites are attributed to increases in poisonings and chronic liver disease, which mainly reflect drug overdoses and alcohol abuse, and to suicides. In contrast, death rates fell overall for blacks and Hispanics.


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