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posted on 11 February 2017

Early Headlines: OPEC Cuts Largely Made, Cohn Tax Plan, Senator Asks FBI Probe Of Flynn, Wall Cost $21.6 Bn, Take 3.5 Years, Activists At Town Hall, Greek Migrant Crisis And More

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Early Bird Headlines 11 February 2017

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.

early-bird-301-180

Global

  • Exclusive: OPEC figures show over 90 pct compliance with supply cut - sources (Reuters, Investing.com) OPEC has delivered more than 90% of pledged oil output curbs in January, according to figures the exporter group uses to monitor its supply, making a strong start to implementation of its first production cut in eight years. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is cutting its crude output by about 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) from Jan. 1 to prop up oil prices (LCOc1) and reduce a supply glut. Russia and 10 other non-OPEC countries agreed to cut half as much. Supply from the 11 OPEC members with production targets under the deal has fallen to 29.921 million bpd, according to the average assessments of the six secondary sources OPEC uses to monitor its output and which were seen by Reuters. This amounts to 92% compliance, according to an OPEC calculation -- more than many analysts expected.

U.S.

  • Trump’s Truth Bomb: “You Think We’re So Innocent?" (CounterPunch) “Putin’s a killer." This was the claim made by Fox News ‘journalist’ Bill O’Reilly during his recent interview with Donald Trump. Trump’s reply came in the form of a simple question. “What, you think our country’s so innocent?" It was a reply that succeeded in puncturing the bubble of exceptionalism in which Mr O’Reilly and those like him have long chosen to cocoon themselves from reality.

  • White House: Cohn-Led Tax Plan Is Real and It’s Phenomenal (Bloomberg) Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. president Gary Cohn is leading the effort to craft President Donald Trump’s plan to overhaul taxes that will be released within weeks, a White House official said. Unnamed congressional leaders have been consulted on the blueprint, the official said. It’s separate from Trump’s proposed budget, the official said, requesting anonymity because the plan is still under development. During a meeting at the White House with U.S. airline executives Thursday, Trump said he had a “phenomenal" plan to revamp business taxes that would be revealed within the next two or three weeks, without offering details. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters later that day that specifics would emerge only in the coming weeks. Still, he said the White House is at work on an outline of the most comprehensive business and individual tax overhaul since 1986.

  • McCaskill calls for FBI briefing on Flynn (The Hill) Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is calling for an FBI briefing "as soon as possible" on communications between President Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. In a letter to FBI Director James Comey on Friday, McCaskill - the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee - voiced concern over reports that Flynn discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Moscow's ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in the month before Trump's inauguration.

  • US investigators corroborate some aspects of the Russia dossier (CNN) For the first time, US investigators say they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent, multiple current and former US law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN. As CNN first reported, then-President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of the dossier prior to Trump's inauguration. None of the newly learned information relates to the salacious allegations in the dossier. Rather it relates to conversations between foreign nationals. The dossier details about a dozen conversations between senior Russian officials and other Russian individuals. Sources would not confirm which specific conversations were intercepted or the content of those discussions due to the classified nature of US intelligence collection programs. But the intercepts do confirm that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier, according to the officials. CNN has not confirmed whether any content relates to then-candidate Trump.

  • Exclusive - Trump border 'wall' to cost $21.6 billion, take 3.5 years to build: internal report (Reuters) President Donald Trump’s “wall" along the U.S.-Mexico border would be a series of fences and walls that would cost as much as $21.6 billion, and take more than three years to construct, based on a U.S. Department of Homeland Security internal report seen by Reuters on Thursday. The report’s estimated price-tag is much higher than a $12-billion figure cited by Trump in his campaign and estimates as high as $15 billion from Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

  • Cringley: How Silicon Valley Can Sidestep Trump H-1B Visa Restrictions (Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism) YS has contributed to GEI. There is another visa program (L-1B) that does the same thing that the H-1B does. But that is not the most important part of this story. She writes it’s false that H-1B visa holders are providing needed and scarce skills. The press has been full of stories of employees being required to train H-1B visa replacements. Disney was challenged by worked who were forced to train H-1B replacements; they lost their challenge on what most people would see as technical grounds, that the H-1B visa holders who took their jobs were employed by contractors, not Disney. That followed ComputerWorld exposing a similar program abuse at Southern California Edison. Other abuses cause much damage:

H-1B visas overwhelmingly fill lower-level jobs that would normally serve as yeoman positions for young computer sciences graduates. The US is thus throwing away what it touts as a strategic asset by failing to train its next generation of computer professionals. And that’s before getting to the significant level of H-1B visa fraud. One type is where tech workers are brought to the US with no work lined up. Those workers are treated as near slaves, held hostage in “guest houses" until they find work. And the clients aren’t marginal players; major tech firms use these illegal operators. A second type of fraud is wage theft.

  • Protesters swarm Chaffetz town hall (The Hill) Shades of Tea Party Town Hall meetings of years past, except some other beverage would be associated with the latest events. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) on Thursday faced a flood of protesters during a town hall in his home state. Demonstrators repeatedly disrupted the House Oversight Committee chairman, challenging him over his treatment of President Trump. “If you want to continue to look into [2016 Democratic presidential nominee] Hillary Clinton, I don’t care," an attendee named Noor Ul-Hasan asked Chaffetz, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. "But why aren’t you checking out your own president?" Chaffetz responded: “You’re really not going to like this part. The president, under the law, is exempt from conflict of interest laws." Chaffetz was a key player in the Benghazi and email investigations that plagued Clinton, a former secretary of State under President Obama. Shortly before Election Day, Chaffetz said he believed the committee had two years' worth of material on her. Now he's facing added pressure to apply the same level of scrutiny to Trump.

UK

  • Local government finances at 'breaking point' according to survey of councils (International Business Times) Local government's finances have reached 'breaking point' with 94% of town halls planning to hike council tax by up to 5% as well as raise charges for services like parking, leisure services and green waste collection. Councils facing major shortfalls in funding for social care are also set to charge higher fees for funerals in cemeteries or crematoria, a survey by the Local Government Information Unit has revealed.

  • Parliament is likely to be virtually powerless as Brexit remakes Britain (City A.M.) Disentangling the UK’s laws from those of the EU, dual-bodies of law which have effectively co-mingled, developed and operated in tandem since 1973, is likely to prove one of the most complex and contentious legislative tasks ever embarked upon by Parliament. That it may have only two years within which to complete the task should raise questions over the robustness of the democratic process.

Greece

  • Greece’s Migrant Crisis: Life in an Abandoned Pool (International Business Times) Refugees are stranded in Greece while the country experiences its coldest winter in more than a decade. They live in filthy conditions without heat and are abused by Greek police.

Syria

  • Kurdish-led forces only 5km from the ISIS capital of Raqqa after rapid offensive (almasdarnews.com) Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has captured a host of sites that now bring them only 5km (3 miles) from the ISIS capital of Raqqa. The SDF, consisting primarily of the Kurdish YPG and some Arab fighters, captured Shanina Grain Silos, Jisr Shanina, Shanina, Tall Mahlas and Mahran from ISIS in a lightening offensive. Meanwhile, ISIS suicide bomber detonated himself in front of Kurdish fighters (video below) during intense close combat near Raqqa. ISIS took control of Raqqa on 13 January 2014 from other jihadist forces including the Al-Nusra Front. The city was then purged of its Alawite and Christian minorities.

Japan

  • Trump and Abe Agree to Start New Trade and Investment Talks (Bloomberg) Japan and the U.S. will begin new talks on trade and investment following President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the two governments said in a statement after their leaders met in Washington on Friday. The announcement came after Trump criticized Japan for what he said were "unfair" trade practices hampering U.S. auto exports to the country. Japan had the second-largest trade surplus with the U.S. last year, with the bulk of the difference due to trade in vehicles. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has rejected the charge and underscored the fact that Japanese automakers in the U.S. provide jobs for U.S. citizens.

China

  • China Widens Wind Power Lead Over U.S., World With Another 23 GW (Bloomberg) China installed almost three times more wind power than the U.S. last year, continuing its clean-energy investment blitz to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase air quality. China led new global wind-power installations with 23.3 gigawatts, compared with 8.2 gigawatts in second-place U.S., according to a report published Friday by the Global Wind Energy Council. About 54.6 gigawatts of new turbines were installed globally, raising total capacity to about 487 gigawatts worldwide. China's total wind power capacity doubles that of the U.S. However, China's installation pf wind turbine generation capacity is underutilized because their prower distribution infrastructure is lagging. China saw the amount of idled wind power increase 47% in 2016 from a year earlier, according to the data from the NEA. About 17% of installed wind turbines in China weren’t even generating any electricity last year. With China's declining demand for electricity, the displacement of coal power, which is giving the country an air pollution crisis, will increase significantly as new distribution infrastructure is built.

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