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What We Read Today 26 June 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".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Topics today include:

  • New form of carbon discovered that is harder than diamond but flexible as rubber

  • No, you can’t multitask. To succeed, you need to focus.

  • Airborne Fungal Toxins From Wallpaper Pose Serious Health Risk To Homeowners

  • More Health Problems Reported With Hair And Skin Care Products

  • Gold Plunges After 1.8 Million Ounces Were Traded in One Minute

  • Central banks raise alarm over new crash after steep rise in lending

  • Another Lesson from Japan

  • Senate GOP Health Bill Would Leave 22 Million Uninsured

  • Trump says Obama 'colluded' on Russia, without giving evidence

  • Trump travel ban: US supreme court partially lifts block on order

  • ECB seeks greater power over clearing supervision

  • Brexit In Reverse?

  • Albania's pro-EU prime minister set to win parliamentary majority

  • Erdoğan rejects Saudi demand to pull Turkish troops out of Qatar

  • Exclusive: U.S. warship stayed on deadly collision course despite warning - container ship captain

  • Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo released from Chinese prison with late-stage cancer

  • New Zealand win America's Cup with overwhelming victory over Oracle USA

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Senate GOP Health Bill Would Leave 22 Million Uninsured (Bloomberg)  The Obamacare replacement plan put forward by Senate Republicans would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million while slashing funding for Medicaid, according to an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office.

The Senate bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, would reduce the deficit by $321 billion over a decade, according to the CBO, which provides nonpartisan analysis of legislation for lawmakers. That compares with a bill that passed the House of Representatives in May, which CBO at the time projected would result in 23 million fewer people with insurance and cut the deficit by $119 billion.

The biggest increase in the uninsured would come from the bill’s roll back of Medicaid, the state-federal program that covers the poor. The GOP bill cuts spending on Medicaid by $772 billion over a decade, and would result in 15 million more people uninsured by 2026 than under current law. Another 7 million wouldn’t have coverage in the individual insurance market.

  • Trump says Obama 'colluded' on Russia, without giving evidence (Reuters)  U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday demanded that investigators apologize for looking into Russian interference and possible collusion with his 2016 election campaign, accusing predecessor President Barack Obama of having "colluded or obstructed," but he did not provide evidence.  Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller, along with several congressional committees, are investigating allegations by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia used cyber attacks and fake media stories to help Republican Trump against his Democratic Party opponent, Hillary Clinton.   Trump wrote on Twitter:

"The reason that President Obama did NOTHING about Russia after being notified by the CIA of meddling is that he expected Clinton would win... and did not want to 'rock the boat.' He didn't 'choke,' he colluded or obstructed, and it did the Dems and Crooked Hillary no good."

  • Trump travel ban: US supreme court partially lifts block on order (The Guardian)  The US supreme court handed a partial victory to the Trump administration on Monday as it lifted significant elements of lower court orders blocking the president’s controversial travel ban targeting visa applicants from six Muslim-majority countries.   The nation’s highest court said the 90-day ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, along with a 120-day suspension of the US refugee resettlement program, could be enforced against those who lack a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States”.

The ruling now paves the way for parts of the ban to come into effect over the summer as experts say it could lead to more scenes of chaos at airports around the country amid confusion around what qualifies as a “bona fide relationship” with the US.

The court also agreed to hear arguments on the legality of Trump’s controversial order in the autumn, potentially setting up a major test of Trump’s executive authority later in the year.


  • ECB seeks greater power over clearing supervision (Reuters)  The European Central Bank has requested enhanced powers to supervise clearing activities, it said on Friday, a move to shore up its authority over London-based euro clearing once Britain leaves the European Union.  The ECB estimates that €101 billion ($112 billion) worth of euro-denominated derivatives trading is cleared in the UK each day and open positions total around €33 trillion, or more than 90% of all euro derivatives trade done around the globe.  The ECB is concerned that its authority over the trading may be weakened after Brexit, undercutting the central bank's oversight of a systematically important activity.


  • Brexit In Reverse? (Project Syndicate)  George Soros says that economic reality is beginning to catch up with the false hopes of many Britons. One year ago, when a slim majority voted for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, they believed the promises of the popular press, and of the politicians who backed the Leave campaign, that Brexit would not reduce their living standards. Indeed, in the year since, they have managed to maintain those standards by running up household debt.

This worked for a while, because the increase in household consumption stimulated the economy. But the moment of truth for the UK economy is fast approaching. As the latest figures published by the Bank of England show, wage growth in Britain is not keeping up with inflation, so real incomes have begun to fall.

As this trend continues in the coming months, households will soon realize that their living standards are falling, and they will have to adjust their spending habits. To make matters worse, they will also realize that they have become over-indebted and will have to deleverage, thus further reducing the household consumption that has sustained the economy.


  • Albania's pro-EU prime minister set to win parliamentary majority (The Guardian)  Edi Rama’s Socialist party appears on course to win over 45% of vote after campaign focussed on closer ties with west.  Edi Rama’s Socialist party appears on course to win over 45% of vote after campaign focussed on closer ties with west.  With 40% of the vote counted, preliminary results released by the nation’s central election commission showed the ruling party winning 51.6% of the ballots cast.



Multiple U.S. and Japanese investigations are under way into how the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the much larger ACX Crystal container ship collided in clear weather south of Tokyo Bay in the early hours of June 17.

In the first detailed account from one of those directly involved, the cargo ship's captain said the ACX Crystal had signaled with flashing lights after the Fitzgerald "suddenly" steamed on to a course to cross its path.


Liu Xiaobo, has been released on medical parole after he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer.

Liu, 61, is in the late stages of the disease, said Mo Shaoping, his lawyer, who has been in contact with Liu’s family. Liu is being treated at a hospital in the north-eastern city of Shenyang, near where he was being held. Another of Liu’s lawyers, Shang Baojun, said he was diagnosed in May.

New Zealand

Emirates Team New Zealand completed the upset over holders Oracle Team USA with a 7-1 dismantling and put to bed the demons of a heartbreaking 2013 defeat in San Francisco that saw them turn an 8-1 lead to a 9-8 defeat at the hands of the Americans.

Burling and his underrated crew etched New Zealand’s name into the oldest trophy in world sport – the Auld Mug – for a third time, spoiling Team USA’s hopes of a third straight America’s Cup triumph.

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

  • New form of carbon discovered that is harder than diamond but flexible as rubber (The Conversation)  Carbon is a special element because of the way its atoms can form different types of bonds with each other and so form different structures. For example, carbon atoms joined entirely by “sp³” bonds produce diamond, and those joined entirely by “sp²” bonds produce graphite, which can also be separated into single layers of atoms known as graphene. Another form of carbon, known as glassy carbon, is also made from sp² and has properties of both graphite and ceramics.

But the new compressed glassy carbon has a mix of sp³ and sp² bonds, which is what gives it its unusual properties. To make atomic bonds you need some additional energy. When the researchers squeezed several sheets of graphene together at high temperatures, they found certain carbon atoms were exactly in the right position to form sp³ bonds between the layers.

By studying the new material in detail, they found that just over one in five of all its bonds were sp³. This means that most of the atoms are still arranged in a graphene-like structure, but the new bonds make it look more like a large, interconnected network and give it greater strength. Over the small scale of individual graphene sheets, the atoms are arranged in an orderly, hexagonal pattern. But on a larger scale, the sheets are arranged in a disorderly fashion. This is probably what gives it the combined properties of hardness and flexibility.

  • No, you can’t multitask. To succeed, you need to focus. (Learn Liberty)  Hat tip to Tyler Cowen.  Multitasking ia bad for your brain and diminishes your accomplishments.  That’s one of the big ideas from Georgetown University computer science professor Cal Newport. He urges us to be aware that “there are different types of work and some types have way bigger returns than others”.

In his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Newport explains the difference between deep work and shallow work. You are doing deep work when your professional activities are “performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push[es] your cognitive capacities to the limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

In contrast, “shallow work describes activities that are more logistical in nature, that don’t require intense concentration.” Shallow work efforts, explains Newport, “tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.” In other words, they’re the type of work efforts that make it easy for your employer to replace you.

The international body that represents central banks said a recovery in global trade this year and improving levels of GDP in most countries could create complacency and convince policymakers to ignore warning signs of excessive lending coming from the financial sector.

With only two weeks until the G20 summit of world leaders in Hamburg, the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) said politicians and central banks needed to keep financial markets in check to prevent another crash.

  • Another Lesson from Japan (Project Syndicate)  Yet another in a long string of negative inflation surprises is at hand. In the United States, the so-called core CPI (consumer price index) – which excludes food and energy – has headed down just when it was supposed to be going up. Over the three months ending in May, the core CPI was basically unchanged, holding, at just 1.7% above its year-earlier level. For a US economy that is widely presumed to be nearing the hallowed ground of full employment, this comes as a rude awakening – particularly for the Federal Reserve, which has pulled out all the stops to get inflation back to its 2% target.  Halfway around the world, a similar story continues to play out in Japan. But, for the deflation-prone Japanese economy, it’s a much tougher story.  Stephen Roach says the problem is the same throughout the developed world:

In a world of hyper-globalization – barring a protectionist relapse led by the America Firsters – treatment needs to be focused on the demand side of the equation. The most important lesson from the 1930s, as well as from the modern-day Japanese experience, is that monetary policy provides no answer for a chronic deficiency of aggregate demand. Addressing it is a task primarily for fiscal authorities. The idea that central banks should consider making a new promise to raise their inflation targets is hardly credible.

  • Airborne Fungal Toxins From Wallpaper Pose Serious Health Risk To Homeowners (Tech Times)  Hat tip to Roger Erickson.  In a study featured in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, French researchers discovered how exposure to molds and fungi found on the walls of homes can make people sick. They traced the culprit to various chemicals known as mycotoxins, which are often released into the air by these organisms.  Humans or animals who inhale these airborne mycotoxins can suffer severe allergic reactions that could become life-threatening if not treated immediately.  According to the research team, as much as 20% to 40% of buildings in Northern Europe and North America show visible signs of fungal growth.  See also More Health Problems Reported With Hair And Skin Care Products (NPR)

  • Gold Plunges After 1.8 Million Ounces Were Traded in One Minute (Bloomberg)  Gold sank like a stone at 9 a.m. in London after a huge spike in volume in New York futures that traders said was probably the result of a "fat finger," or erroneous order.  Trade shot up to 1.8 million ounces of gold in just a minute, a level not reached even with the surprise election of U.S. President Donald Trump or Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.  But the price has not changed as the day progressed.

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