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What We Read Today 10 December 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:

  • Is the Laffer Curve a "Laugher"?

  • Does Migration Bring Beneficial or Detrimental Change?

  • Crony Capitalism in the Trump Era

  • More Mass Deportations Would be Bad for the U.S. Housing Market

  • Statement from Ranking Member of Intel Committee on Russian Hacking

  • Wells Fargo Frauds Included Fake Insurance Policies

  • Democrats Unnerved by All Trump's Generals

  • Is Russia Trying to Break the Backs of Democracies?

  • Why is the Speed of Light So Slow?

  • Some Things Do Go Faster than the Speed of Light

  • How Fast are Quantum Computers?

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


Stakeholders dispute whether cultural diversity creates economic costs or benefits. On one hand, a richer pool of expertise and experiences can create organisational synergies, leading to better outcomes for all. At a macro level, diverse societal norms, customs, and ethics can nurture technological innovation, the diffusion of new ideas, and so the production of a greater variety of goods and services (Ager and Brückner 2013, Ottaviano and Peri 2006). On the other hand, heterogeneous environments may produce coordination problems – for instance, when many languages are spoken – increasing transaction costs (Gören 2014, Easterly and Levine 1997). Racial fragmentation can also adversely affect social cohesion and interpersonal trust, and create irreconcilable divisions (Alesina and La Ferrara 2005, Montalvo and Reynal-Querol 2005, Esteban and Ray 2011).

Our evidence suggests that immigration-fuelled diversity is good for economic growth. We recommend more openness to immigration so as to reap the large unrealised benefits from an increased range of skills and ideas in the destination country. Cultural diversity is a phenomenon that is continually changing, and difficult to define. Individuals have many observable characteristics – race, language, religion, nationality, wealth, education – but only some categories have economic salience. Because we don’t yet know which markers of identity are economically important, this subject will be a fertile area of study for the foreseeable future.

Click for larger image.


The federal government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, in partnership with local law enforcement, was increasing deportations of undocumented immigrants: more than three million in all between 2005 and 2013. About 85 percent of them were working Latin American men.

New research now suggests that the deportations helped exacerbate foreclosures. Counties that collaborated with ICE in what became a large-scale deportation sweep experienced a surge in foreclosures of homes owned by Hispanics, according to a study by Jacob Rugh and Matthew Hall published Thursday in the journal Sociological Science. They argue that the roundups help explain why Hispanics faced the highest foreclosure rates during the housing crash — even among households with legal residents and American citizens.


When Wells Fargo admitted a few months ago that thousands of its employees had created as many as two million unauthorized accounts for its customers, alarm bells went off at Prudential, one of the nation’s biggest insurance firms.

Wells Fargo has a partnership with Prudential to sell a low-cost life insurance policy to the bank’s retail customers. After news of the Wells Fargo settlement in September, Prudential ordered an internal review of its dealings with the bank, to make sure nothing was amiss with the joint endeavor.

A lot was amiss. According to three former managers in Prudential’s corporate investigation division, Wells Fargo employees appeared to have signed up bank customers for Prudential insurance without the customers’ knowledge or permission. In some cases, they even arranged for monthly premium fees to be withdrawn from their customers’ accounts.

  • Democrats unnerved by Trump's reliance on generals (The Hill)  Donald Trump has so far named three generals to top positions: retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn for national security advisor, retired Gen. James Mattis for Defense secretary and retired Gen. John Kelly for secretary of Homeland Security.  There’s the potential for more. Retired Gen. David Petraeus and retired Adm. James Stavridis have been under consideration for secretary of State, and Adm. Michael Rogers, current head of the National Security Agency, is being considered for director of national intelligence.  Democrats are growing uneasy with the number of generals.


  • Islamic State militants enter Palmyra after heavy fighting: monitor (Reuters)  Islamic State militants on Saturday captured most of Palmyra after breaking through Syrian army defenses and securing the heights around the ancient city in eastern Syria following a surprise assault, a monitoring group and rebels said.  The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights expressed concern over the safety of civilians inside the city because many of them are pro-government supporters.  The war monitor and rebels familiar with military operations in the area said that with the exception of southern areas most of the city was now in the hands of the militants who had waged an attack on several fronts.



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

  • Why is the speed of light so slow? (Quora)  This may seem an incongruous question since the speed of light is so much faster than anything to which we are accustomed in the observable physical world.  But with the advent of modern computers, the dimensions of time are changed.  A digital operation in a modern desk top computer takes place in the amount of time it takes light to move only a couple of inches.  See also following articles.

  • Top 10 Fastest Computers in the World 2016 - How much faster is a supercomuter than a PC or iPad Pro (YouTube)  The fastest super computer in the world (China's Tianhe-2) is 33,800 times faster than a typical desk top computer.  Referring to the preceding article, a digital operation here occurs in the amount of time that light takes to travel about 6 micrometers.  For reference, the width of a human hair is about 100 micrometers (0.1 mm).

  • Google's quantum computer is 100 million times faster than your laptop (Science Alert)  Google has been sharing more details about its quantum computing project, which it runs in partnership with NASA. The tech company says its mammoth D-Wave 2X quantum computing machine has been figuring out algorithms at 100,000,000 times the speed that a traditional computer chip can, and that could make a huge difference in the processing power at our disposal in the future.  While some are debating the accuracy of this estimate, we will use it to compare the speed of a quantum computer with the speed of light.  The quantum computer speed is estimated to be about 30X that of the world's fastest supercomputer (see preceding article).  So here the distance traveled by light during the time of a single calculation would be about 200 nanometers (0.2 micrometers or 0.0002 mm) - this is just 1/500 the width of a human hair.

  • These 4 cosmic phenomena travel faster than the speed of light (Science Alert)  Einstein's Theory of Relativity is widely quoted to indicate the "nothing can move faster than the speed of light".  But, a more accurate statement is the "nothing with mass can move faster than the speed of light".  As a result, some observations made by physicists involving observable effects from things with no mass are not violations of Einstein's theory.

  • Replicating the WSJ's "Laffer curve" graph (Brendan Nyhan, Dartmouth College)  Back on July 13, 2007 The Wall Street Journal editorial page published an editorial (sub. req.) claiming that "Lower corporate tax rates with fewer loopholes can lead to more, not less, tax revenue from business," a claim that it attempted to support with the first graphic, drawing the curve directly through an outlier point.  The author did two regression fits with the same data, shown in the second graph.

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