Digest: 11 November 2014




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In The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare, Matt Tabibi (for Rolling Stone) discusses a major cover-up surrounding the settlement between JPMorgan Chase and the Justice Department. Tabibi talks to Alayne Fleischmann, a securities lawyer who used to work as a transactions manager at JPMorgan Chase. While there she witnesses and reported to management on widespread fraud that was taking place on mortgage deals. She was laid off. Tabibi describes what took place after, including the SEC not bothering to follow up on her offer to provide information about systemic fraud at the bank, and the Justice Department referring to her as a key witness with the sole intention of using her as a bargaining chip. When it came down to preparing an actual case there was no interest, instead it seemed that the government had no interest in bringing the bank to court. Instead the government settled the case in such a way that Chase actually came out better than when it went in.


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In Big Food’s Weird War Over the Meaning of Mayonnaise, America’s Top Condiment, Drew Harwell (for The Washington Post) discusses the lawsuit that food giant Unilever has brought against the San Francisco start-up behind Just Mayo, a mayo-like spread that is made without eggs. Unilever owns Hellman’s Mayonnaise and feels, Harwell suggests, threatened by the fast rise of Just Mayo as a healthy alternative in the market. Unilever sued Hampton Creek, the owners of Just Mayo, arguing that they shouldn’t be allowed to call their product “mayo” as it does not include eggs, which must be included in mayonnaise according to FDA requirements.


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In How the Pentagon Is Adapting to Globalization, William J. Lynn III (for Foreign Affairs) discusses the relationship between the Department of Defense and the private research sector. Lynn describes three distinct eras in the development of the US defense industry leading into the end of the Cold War. Lynn argues that, now in a fourth era, and with defense companies falling further and further behind in research and development investment, the US Defense Department must build stronger relationships with cutting-edge commercial technology companies like Google.

In Palestinians Remind World of Their Own Wall, Basma Atassi (for Al Jazeera) discusses the efforts of Palestinian youth to bring attention to what they call the “apartheid wall”. Israel built the wall to separate the West Bank and thus protect Israel from attack. The result has been condemned by the International Court of Justice and the International Committee of the Red Cross for violating international law and human rights. In a symbolic gesture marking the 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall the Palestinian youth have dug a hole through the wall. 

In Obama Is Doubling Down on an ISIS War with No End In Sight. Why Does He Get a Free Pass?, Trevor Timm (for The Guardian) discusses the public’s failure to question the US’s entrance into another war without end in the Middle East. Timm points out that there has been no declaration of war, and the rebels we are arming are being defeated resulting in the arms we are providing ending up in hostile hands. The media has not held Obama sufficiently to account, he argues, despite full knowledge at the White House and intelligence agencies that ISIS does not pose an imminent threat to the US.


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In Operation Sigmund Freud, Michael D. Matthews (for Foreign Affairs) discusses the need for the military to develop applied psychological understanding in confronting modern warfare. Modern warfare often involves asymmetric forces in protracted situations in which the utility of powerful weapons systems is diminished. Matthews argues the military must develop its ability to understand and counteract the irregular forces it is up against so as to make best use of intelligence in the field.  In addition, a better understanding of psychology is necessary to both treat and avoid the trauma of battle.

In The U.S. Military Is Good, But Nobody Is That Good, Neal Gabler (for Reuters) discusses how we overestimate our ability to be efficient as a result of watching films that provide an image of greater human capability than exists in reality. Films and television programs that portray characters who constantly and brilliantly solve problems have distorted our sense of reality resulting in inflated expectations. On balance human life is inefficient, not efficient. We need to remember this, he argues, when we attribute fault for failures.

In Scientists Achieve Direct Brain-To-Brain Communication Between Humans, Carolyn Gregoire (for The World Post) discusses how scientists have managed to control a person’s hand movement using a brain signal sent over the internet from someone else. Scientists at the University of Washington have now replicated their methods, moving them one step closer to having deliverable technology. There are potential therapeutic applications, such as in the treatment of brain damage or disorders.