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What We Read Today 04 April 2017

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:

  • Questions Raised about Susan Rice Unmasking Trump Associates

  • Rice denies Obama administration inappropriately unmasked Trump team

  • Lacker Abruptly Quits Fed Over Role in Leak of Policy Plans

  • Trump Kleptocracy Watch:  An Update 

  • There was an Ancient Brexit When the English Channel was Cut After the Last Ice Age

  • Debates About When Trade Negotiations Might Occur During and After Brexit

  • Turkey ends military operation in Syria

  • More than 50 killed in feared chemical attack in Syria

  • China's Stock Market Is Becoming a World-Beating Dividend Play

  • Australian Housing Bubble

  • Wisconsin's War on Foreign Butter

  • All About Tucker Carlson

  • Did Paleoamericans Reach South America First Before the Last Ice Age Peaked? 

  • Bones of a Teenage Mother Who Died 12,000 Years Ago Tell Researchers a Dark Story of Carnivores and Malnutrition

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

U.S.

  • Lacker Abruptly Quits Fed Over Role in Leak of Policy Plans (Bloomberg)  Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Jeffrey Lacker resigned abruptly on Tuesday as he disclosed his role in the leak of confidential information about policy options that the central bank was considering in 2012.

Lacker said during a phone conversation with an analyst from Medley Global Advisors in October 2012 that she brought up an “important non-public detail” about Fed policy makers’ discussions before a meeting, according to a statement emailed by law firm McGuireWoods in Richmond, Virginia, on Tuesday. Due to the confidential and sensitive nature of the information, Lacker said he should have declined to comment or immediately ended the call.

  • Paul calls on Rice to testify after reports of unmasking, asks if she was ordered by Obama (Fox News)  Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Monday that President Obama’s former national security adviser Susan Rice should testify on new reports that she sought to “unmask” the names of President Trump's transition officials caught up in surveillance.  Paul, on Twitter, called the reports on Rice a "smoking gun." The Hill reported on his calls for her to testify. 

  • Rice denies Obama administration inappropriately unmasked Trump team (The Hill)  Former national security adviser Susan Rice on Tuesday categorically denied that the Obama administration inappropriately spied on President Trump or members of his transition team.  “The allegation is that somehow, Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes,” Rice told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “That’s absolutely false.”

Rice had requested that at least one Trump transition team member be “unmasked,” Bloomberg View reported Monday, leading to claims that the Obama White House had intended to use that intelligence to damage Trump’s transition.

While Rice did not deny making any such requests — declining to comment on specific reports — she denied that her actions went outside the scope of her job.

  • Trump Kleptocracy Watch:  An Update (The New Yorker)  New revelations confirm how flimsy the divide between Trump and his businesses are.  The latest brouhaha over the Trump trust wording (that he can request income from the trust at any time) is misplaced, in Econintersect's opinion.  The real issue is whether the trust provides any effective separation of the president from his businesses.  A trust run by a person's children does not pass the faintest smell test regarding "blindness".

UK

Scientists have found evidence of how ancient Britain separated from Europe in what they are dubbing "Brexit 1.0" - a flooding event that happened in two stages thousands of years ago.

In research published in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday, the scientists said they now have proof that the opening of the Dover Strait in the English Channel, severing the land between Britain and France, occurred in two episodes - an initial lake spill over, followed by catastrophic flooding.

"The breaching of this land bridge between Dover and Calais was undeniably one of the most important events in British history, helping to shape our island nation's identity," said Sanjeev Gupta, a professor at Imperial College London who co-led the work.

"When the ice age ended and sea levels rose, flooding the valley floor for good, Britain lost its physical connection to the mainland," he said. "This is Brexit 1.0 – the Brexit nobody voted for."

  • EU offers pre-Brexit trade talks, tough on transition (Reuters)  The European Union is ready to talk to Britain on a future free trade deal before the two sides agree final terms on Brexit, draft EU negotiating guidelines issued on Friday show.  As part of a "phased approach", Britain would just have to show "sufficient progress" on its divorce settlement in a first phase of negotiations and EU states could release a lock and agree to launch trade talks in a second phase.

But that concession to Theresa May two days after she triggered a two-year countdown to withdrawal was accompanied by elements in the draft circulated by EU summit chair Donald Tusk that the British prime minister may find less palatable.

They include an insistence that during a transition period likely to follow Britain's departure in 2019 and before a free trade pact can be finalised, the British must accept EU rules, including budget contributions and judicial oversight, that are some of the main reasons a majority voted for Brexit last June.

  • May suggests UK will not finalise EU trade talks before Brexit  (Financial Times)  Theresa May has suggested that Britain will not finalise a new trade deal with the EU until after Brexit is complete in 2019, appearing to concede that a deal can be struck only after the UK leaves. Her comments, made during a trip to Jordan, were the closest the prime minister has come to admitting that detailed trade talks and the subsequent ratification of a deal would extend after Britain has formally left the EU.

Downing Street insisted Mrs May’s position had not changed, but her language has shifted to bring her more closely in line with the EU’s Brexit negotiating draft, which says the two-year talks might include only a “framework for the future relationship”.

That would suggest that transitional arrangements would be needed while the details of a trade deal were hammered out and while ratification by 27 EU parliaments, and some regional parliaments, was secured.

Turkey

  • Turkey ends military operation in Syria (Financial Times)  The imminent meeting between president Erdogan and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prompts announcement.  Although hemmed in by Russia and outmanoeuvred by US-backing for a rival Kurdish militia, Turkey has called an end to its eight-month military operation in Syria, declaring Operation Euphrates Shield a success.

Syria

  • More than 50 killed in feared chemical attack in Syria (Financial Times)  UN war crimes investigators said they were probing a suspected poison gas attack that killed more than 50 people in a rebel-held area of northern Syria on Tuesday. The White Helmets, a rescue group that operates in rebel areas, said that about 250 people were suffering from choking symptoms caused by an unknown gas after a government air strike hit the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said that the strike had killed at least 58 people, including 11 children.  The death toll is expected to rise.

China

  • China's Stock Market Is Becoming a World-Beating Dividend Play (Bloomberg)  To get in on the hottest equity trade in China right now, you’ll have to be quick.  Dividends are emerging as a key lure for investors in the world’s second-largest share market, with stocks of companies that consistently hand out the most cash outperforming the Shanghai Composite Index by the most since 2013. The catch? These plays are few and far between with China renowned as one of the stingiest markets globally when it comes to shareholder payouts.  Despite this historic reluctance to embrace dividends, China has emerged as one of the best dividend trades this year, with Chinese payout stocks outperforming the market more than those in the U.S. and Europe, where yield has been popular since the global financial crisis.

Australia

  • RBA's Lowe Lashes Out at Australian Banks for Risky Home Lending (Bloomberg)  Australia’s central bank Governor Philip Lowe rebuked the nation’s banks over lax lending practices and warned regulators are prepared to consider further prudential measures to steps announced last week.  Lowe took issue with the amount of interest-only loan approvals -- they accounted for almost 40% of new loans in the past year.  Lowe said in the text of a speech to a Reserve Bank of Australia board dinner in Melbourne Tuesday.

“Too many loans are still made where the borrower has the skinniest of income buffers.  In some cases, lenders are assuming that people can live more frugally than in practice they can, leaving little buffer if things go wrong.”

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

  • 3 Lessons Learned from Wisconsin's War on Foreign Butter (Mises Institute)  Hat tip to John O'Donnell, Online Trading Academy.  Governments pass some laws that do not protect citizens, but instead favor special business interests.  In February, a number of Irish citizens were surprised to find out that selling Kerrygold butter — a line of butter produced in Ireland — is a criminal offense in Wisconsin. Irish Central reports

Under a 1970 law all butter sold in the state must be subjected to scrutiny by a panel, which recently ruled Kerrygold was not compliant. Their problem with Kerrygold’s products was that the cattle who produce the milk for the cheese and butter are grass fed, something the panel ruled was against state law.

Any shopkeepers who continue to stock the brand face a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail — something that has enraged consumers.

In many ways, Carlson is a throwback, and a contradiction: a fierce critic of the political and cultural establishment who is also, unapologetically, a member of it. He has endless disdain for the Washington élite and its conventional wisdom, including the belief—widespread among political insiders—that Washington stinks. He moved there in 1992 with his wife, Susie, and they have lived there, happily, virtually ever since. “Everyone I love is here,” he says.

In conversation, Carlson often returns to an unusual disclaimer: “I’m not a deeply moral guy.” Maybe this is his way of playing the rogue. Maybe this is a debater’s ploy—a way of insisting that some principles are so clear that even he can see them. But with Carlson it is wise to consider another possibility: Maybe he means it. And maybe he is right.

One of the earliest known people to live in the Americas, a girl dubbed Naia who roamed the Yucatan Peninsula about 12,000 years ago, was slender and short and endured hardship, childbirth, and death all by age 16 or so. Naia’s remains were found in an underwater cave so huge, deep, and dark that researchers named it Hoyo Negro or Black Hole.

Researchers have determined she was aged 15 to 17 when she died, which probably happened when she fell into Hoyo Negro. At that time, the cave was not underwater because sea levels were considerably lower, by as much as 300 feet (91.4 meters).

  • Did Paleoamericans Reach South America First? (Ancient Origins)  There are anthropolical findings indicating that homo sapiens inhabited Sout America long before the peak oif the last ice age covered part of the northern hemisphere.  Evidnece includes the pebble tools at Monte Verde in Chile (c.32,000 Before Present), rock paintings at Pedra Furada in Brazil (c.22,000 BP), and mastodon hunting in Venezuela and Colombia (c.13,000 BP).  See the rock paintings below. 

In “Textbook Story of How Humans Populated America is Biologically Unviable, Study Finds, recently published in Ancient Origins, it was noted that DNA studies indicate that people could not have crossed the Beringia land bridge to enter the Americas 13,000 years ago because the “entry route was biologically unviable”. Although this finding by geneticists is surprising, it adds even more mystery to the archaeological evidence that anatomically modern humans were in South America tens of thousands of years before Ice Age people could have crossed a viable land bridge between Alaska and Siberia.

The earliest dates for habitation of the American continent to occur below Canada in South America are highly suggestive that the earliest settlers on the American continents came from Africa before the Ice melted at the Bering Strait and moved northward as the ice melted. An African origin for these people is a good fit because Ocean Currents would have carried migrants from Africa to the Americas, since there were no Ice Age sheets of ice to block passage across the southern Atlantic.

Click for large image.


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