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Good Reads: From Putin's economic woes, to billionaire trusts, to gender equality

This week's round-up of Good Reads includes President Putin's energy challenges, the man at the center of the NSA eavesdropping controversy, a narrative of a Taliban sneak attack, 'Jackie O. trusts' for wealthy estates, and a gender experiment at Harvard Business School.

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A number of factors were behind the loss of American lives and aircraft, Mr. Aikins found. Marine leaders cut the number of troops patrolling outside the fence around the base as the US prepared to turn over combat operations to the Afghans. A key section of base perimeter was controlled by the British, who had, in turn, delegated guard-tower duty to a handful of soldiers from the small nation of Tonga who lacked night-vision gear and had sometimes been found sleeping on duty.

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How to protect your billions

Zachary Mider, writing for Bloomberg, a news organization founded by a billionaire, recently took an intriguing look at how America’s richest family – the heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton – have arranged their affairs to dramatically minimize the effect of the estate tax on their $100 billion fortune. 

“The Waltons’ example highlights how billionaires deftly bypass a tax intended to make sure that the nation’s wealthiest contribute their share to government rather than perpetuate dynastic wealth,” Mr. Mider notes.

One tactic the Waltons use is a “Jackie O. trust,” named for former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, whose will called for one. Jackie O. trusts “can theoretically save so much tax that it leaves a family richer than if it hadn’t given a dime to charity,” Mider writes. Of course, you have to have enough money so you don’t need to touch the trust for 20 years or more.

Fostering gender equity at Harvard

Harvard Business School’s effort to revamp its treatment of female students and faculty gets in-depth treatment in a New York Times Magazine piece. The stereotype is that all the students accepted at HBS are among the fortunate few destined for well-paid jobs in the executive suite. The reality, reporter Jodi Kantor found, was widely differing experiences based on a student’s gender and economic background.

“Harvard was worse than any trading floor,” according to students with a Wall Street background, with aggressive male students with strong finance backgrounds hazing both female students and teachers. Harvard set out to change that, spurred by the university’s female president, Drew Gilpin Faust. How did it turn out? “We made progress on the first-level things, but what it’s permitting us to do is see, holy cow, how deep-seated the rest of this is,” says Francis Frei, an HBS administrator.


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Doing Good


What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

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