Econintersect: Here are some of the headlines we found to help you start your day. For more headlines see our afternoon feature for GEI members, What We Read Today, which has many more headlines and a number of article discussions to keep you abreast of what we have found interesting.
GOP governors defend Medicaid expansion (The Hill) Several Republican governors are defending ObamaCare's expansion of Medicaid in their states, highlighting a thorny issue for the party as lawmakers navigate repeal of the healthcare reform law. Full repeal would mean eliminating the law’s expansion of eligibility for Medicaid coverage, which has provided insurance for about 11 million new people in 31 states. Many of those states have Republican governors who are wary of their constituents losing coverage and of their state budgets losing the infusion of federal money that came with the expansion of the program, which affects low-income citizens.
Trump team prepares dramatic cuts (The Hill) is ready to take an ax to government spending. Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned. The changes they propose are dramatic. The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely. Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years. The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition.
How a hoax website about paid protesters came crumbling down live on TV (The Washington Post) The website for an organization calling itself Demand Protest made its mission pretty clear: “When your strategy demands paid protest, we organize and bring it to life." Billing itself as a group that generated the “appearance of outrage" on behalf of left-wing causes, the existence of Demand Protest became an attractive story for many right-wing media outlets. The group, it appeared, was proof that dissent against Trump was manufactured by shady leftist organizations, and could be lucrative: one Backpage.com ad placed in Demand Protest’s name promised a full-time job that paid a $2,500 retainer, plus $50/hr., and benefits.
Here’s an incomplete look at how we got here: a few days ago, the Gateway Pundit wrote a piece titled “BREAKING: Far Left Group Is Paying Activists a Monthly Salary to Stop TRUMP," and cited 4Chan in mentioning a possible link between Demand Protest and George Soros. InfoWars was a bit more skeptical, hedging their story on Demand Protest as a “report" and writing that “it’s unclear if the DemandProtest.com website is actually legitimate." The Washington Times also credulously reported on the Backpage ads. Breitbart, meanwhile, used the ads as evidence in an article that suggested that fears of pro-Trump inauguration violence was “fake news."
“The facts tell a different story," the Breitbart article says. “The left is gearing up for war, and hiring mercenaries."
These 10 states are the worst when it comes to Medicare waste (Business Insider) Despite stepped up efforts to crack down on Medicare fraud and wasteful spending, the federal government lost at least $43 billion in fiscal 2015 to health care providers who filed improper or bogus claims to the program, according to a new study. Nine states and the District of Columbia were responsible for the lion’s share of the total improper payments, according to a new study by the Council for Medicare Integrity, a non-profit government watchdog.
Iraqi sheep, locals, environment suffer Islamic State oil fires (Reuters) Shepherds herd blackened flocks through the Iraqi desert. Locals cough and wheeze under vast clouds of smoke, and NASA images show oil threatening to encroach on the Tigris River, a major water source. Lit by Islamic State as they fled Iraqi forces in August, huge oil fires are still raging across northern Iraq, bringing a litany of problems in their wake. A toxic cloud has hung for months over the town of Qayyara, just 60 km (40 miles) from Mosul where Iraqi forces are battling to defeat the militant Sunni group. It is an eerie reminder of the group's rule of the area as traumatized residents begin to rebuild. More than 250 square km (155 square miles) were covered in smoke for more than 21 days, according to satellite images published in November. Follow-up photos this month show oil "very close" to a tributary of the Tigris though a little less smoke as some fires have been extinguished. Oil fires release deadly substances into the air, soil and water sources.
Why do Indians vote for 'criminal' politicians? (BBC News) Political scientist Milan Vaishnav has been studying links between crime and democracy in India for many years now. His upcoming book When Crime Pays offers some intriguing insights into what is a disturbing feature of India's electoral democracy. The good news is that the general election is a thriving, gargantuan exercise: 554 million voters queued up at more than 900,000 stations to cast their ballots in the last edition in 2014. The fortunes of 8,250 candidates representing 464 political parties were at stake. The bad news is that a third (34%) of 543 MPs who were elected faced criminal charges, up from 30% in 2009 and 24% in 2004. Here's why:
Almost all parties in India, led by the ruling BJP and the main opposition Congress, field tainted candidates. Why do they do so?
For one, says Dr Vaishnav, "a key factor motivating parties to select candidates with serious criminal records comes down to cold, hard cash".
The rising cost of elections and a shadowy election financing system where parties and candidates under-report collections and expenses means that parties prefer "self-financing candidates who do not represent a drain on the finite party coffers but instead contribute 'rents' to the party". Many of these candidates have criminal records.
Duterte-Trump - a futurescape (The Volatilian) The big question is, what shape will Philippine-US relations take after Friday, when Donald Trump is inaugurated as America’s 45th president? Which way will the roller coaster go: up or down? It ascended under the coincidental leaderships of Benigno “Noynoy" Aquino and Barack Obama; then plunged under Aquino’s successor, Rodrigo Duterte, in the closing months of the Obama administration as US foreign policy took on more water - significantly in East Asia, the region in which it was hoping to set up a more permanent home. The personal element will be a big factor in determining Manila-Washington ties going forward; Duterte-Trump relations clearly hold the key for much of what’s in store. And so it’s to the individual characters of these two men - more particularly, what they have in common - that we should look to view the prospects for the future.
Japan should push back if Trump takes 'wrong' economic policies: PM Abe adviser (Reuters) Japan should push back if President-elect Donald Trump bases trade and other economic policy on "wrong economics", an adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Reuters in an unusually direct expression of concern about potential protectionism. Koichi Hamada, emeritus professor of economics at Yale University and cabinet adviser, also said Abe could relax his timetable for balancing the budget in the next four years and should be ready to further delay a planned sales-tax hike to ensure economic growth. Threats by Trump, who takes office on Friday, to impose a "border tax" on imports and take other protectionist measures have raised uncertainties about global trade.
China economy grows 6.7% in 2016 (BBC News) Quelle surprise! China's economy grew by 6.7% in 2016, compared with 6.9% a year earlier, marking its slowest growth in more than a quarter of a century. The figure is in line with Beijing's official growth target of between 6.5% and 7%.
Brazil judge dies in crash ahead of corruption probe ruling (Associated Press) Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki's died in a small-plane crash just weeks before he was to rule on a major corruption case that could implicate high-ranking politicians in several Latin American countries. While the cause of the Thursday's crash off a popular Brazilian coastal town had not been determined, Zavascki held such an important role in the sprawling "Car Wash" investigation into a multibillion-dollar bribe scheme at the state oil company Petrobras that many Brazilians and even international groups like Transparency International immediately voiced fears of possible foul play and demanded a full investigation.
Drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman extradited from Mexico to US (BBC News) Notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman has been extradited to the US, the Mexican governments announced on Thursday. He arrived in New York on a flight from Cuidad Juarez. Mr Guzman, who could face life in a US prison, is wanted on charges of drug trafficking and smuggling vast amounts of drugs into the country. The leader of the Sinaloa cartel was facing two extradition requests - one from California and another from Texas.
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