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What We Read Today 11 December 2014

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.

Congressional leaders hammer out deal to allow pension plans to cut retiree benefits (Michael A. Fletcher, The Washington Post)  The bipartisan agreement in the House will likely be attached as an amendment to the $1.1 trillion budget deal that funds government operations through next September and must be passed and signed by the president before midnight Thursday to avoid a government shutdown.

The law will affect "multi-employer pensions, where a group of businesses in the same industry join forces with unions to provide pension coverage for employees".  About 10 million U.S. workers are covered by such plans and some are in serious trouble.  People already retired could see pension reductions.

As many as 200 multiemployer (sic) plans covering 1.5 million workers are in danger of running out of money over the next two decades. Half of those are thought to be in such bad shape that they could seek pension reductions for retirees in the near future.

Too bad for those retirees their pension plans are not mega-banks.  We know how TBTF banks would be treated in this situation.

Today we have an unusually long public section for WWRT (What We Read Today).

The following are selected articles for discussion regarding the just released Senate report on "Torture".  Additional articles are listed in the reading list following these discussions.

Senate report on CIA program details brutality, dishonesty (Greg Miller, Adam Goldman and Julie Tate, The Washington Post)  A comprehensive, five-year Senate investigation of the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects has issued its report.  It describes “levels of brutality, dishonesty and seemingly arbitrary violence that at times brought even agency employees to moments of anguish”.  Many cases are documented in which lower level officials “allegedly deceived their superiors at the White House, members of Congress and even sometimes their own peers about how the interrogation program was being run and what it had achieved”.  Other factors reported:  (1) more than 20% of the 119 individuals detained by the CIA (26) should never have been in custody.  They were circumstantial victims of mistaken identity or bad intelligence;  (2) The report dismisses claims that the extraordinary techniques (aka torture)  ever produced useful information – such claims being “exaggerated if not utterly false “; and (3) The CIA and former operatives deny the damning assertions of the Senate report.  The article has the following:

The agency is expected to release its own detailed rebuttal Tuesday, and Director John Brennan plans to speak to the CIA work force.

In a statement, the agency said the committee’s report had “too many flaws for it to stand as the official record of the program.”

Many of the Study’s charges that CIA misrepresented are based on the authors’ flawed analysis of the value of the intelligence obtained from detainees,” the statement said. “But whether Congress accepts their assessment or ours, we still must question a report that impugns the integrity of so many CIA officers when it implies — as it does clearly through the conclusions — that the Agency’s assessments were willfully misrepresented in a calculated effort to manipulate.”


Senate Releases Historic CIA Torture Report Condemning Bush-Era Detainee Treatment (Dustin Volz, National Journal).  Also, what has been released is only a heavily redacted executive summary.  Efforts are underway to get all 6,125 pages of the Senate report released.  See also Lawyers for Detainees Press for More Details on CIA Interrogations (Jess Bravin, The Wall Street Journal).


Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program:  Minority Views (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence)  See also following articles. The executive summary includes:

Contrary to the Terms of Reference, the Study does not offer any recommendations for improving intelligence interrogation practices, intelligence activities, or covert actions. Instead, it offers 20 conclusions, many of which attack the CfA's integrity and credibility in developing and implementing the Program. Absent the support of the documentary record, and on the basis of a flawed analytical methodology, these problematic claims and conclusions create the false impression that the CIA was actively misleading policy makers and impeding the counterterrorism efforts of other federal government agencies during the Program's operation.


Political Divide About C.I.A. Torture Remains After Senate Report’s Release (Scott Shane, The New York Times)  CIA representatives and many Republican Senators maintain the Senate report is filled with “significant analytical and factual errors”.  The NYT says what is now going on is a fight over history.


CIS Saved Lives (New Website)  The Senate committee has been criticized for not calling as witnesses the CIA officials involved in the "Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program".  This is one of the themes of a new website which, according to The NYT (previous article), was set up by Bill Harlow, the C.I.A.’s director of public affairs from 1997 to 2004, who still acts as a spokesman for George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director when the interrogation program began.  The landing page contains the following statement at the bottom:

This website was created by a group of former CIA officials with hundreds of years of combined service. They all have first-hand knowledge that the CIA's interrogation program was authorized, legal and effective. They also have in common that during its 5+ year investigation, the SSCI did not bother to contact them and seek their views.


Sen. Richard Burr says he will not hold hearings on torture report (Renee Schoof and David Lightman, McClatchy Washington Bureau, Raleigh News & Observer)  Richard Burr will be the new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee when the new Congress is sworn in in January.  He says the report and further consideration of U.S. torture practices would add to damage already done because the report released was not put through "a thorough, thoughtful redaction process".  Here is the context:

“Rather than go through a thorough, thoughtful redaction process that would ensure the protection of our intelligence professionals and international allies, the committee Democrats chose instead to pressure the White House and our intelligence community to release more information for political reasons that only they understand..

“I fear the ramifications for our national security and global partnerships, and I stand by my assertion that this report is flawed, biased, and political in nature. What was released today by the committee Democrats is largely already known by the vast majority of Americans – what was new in the report was the dangerous inclusion of information about countries and other partners who aided the United States’ intelligence community.

“The committee Democrats’ pressure to request inclusion of these additional details, and the administration’s acquiescence, will likely cause long-lasting damage to our international relationships and threaten intelligence professionals and American citizens around the world. It is regrettable that the committee’s Democrats decided to put their own political agenda before the safety and security of our nation and our allies.”

Other reports have indicated the report was heavily redacted, such as the two articles in the second discussion item in this section.  See also next article.  Would the good Senator feel better if "redacted" appeared more than the subject of the report "CIA"?  Perhaps a complete redaction is what he would really prefer.


A (redacted) poem for the torture report (Brian Turner, The Guardian)  We think the poem is quite unremarkable but the word frequency diagram is quite revealing:  Redacted appears with a frequency only exceeded by CIA and CIA's which refer to the subject of the report.  So if the title of the report would be "CIA", the subtitle would be "Redacted".  A  challenge to our readers:  Can you find the word "torture" in the word frequency map?

redacted-cia-the-guardian

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Ferguson and Related News

Poll: Americans back charges in Eric Garner death (USA Today) 3-1 margin in Pew poll.

Ferguson Protesters, The Activists:  Person of the Year Nominee (Time) One of 8.

Darren Wilson switched homes, preferred dark movie theaters to avoid detection (CNN)

SEE IT: Eric Garner protester clocks NYPD officer at Staten Island Ferry terminal (New York Daily News)

NSA

7 Key Points From the C.I.A. Torture Report (The New York Times)

10 Things to Know About the Black Budget (The Fiscal Times)

Report Portrays a Broken C.I.A. Devoted to a Failed Approach (The New York Times) Hat tip to Rob Carter.

Two Docs Got $80 Million to Develop Torture Tactics (MSN Money)

Fox News had a complete meltdown over the CIA 'torture' report (i100, The Independent)

CIA’s Spying on Senate Staff Complicates Torture Report  (The Fiscal Times)

Ebola

Sierra Leone Area to Hold 2-Week Ebola 'Lockdown' (abc News)

Ebola caregivers win Time Person of the Year 2014, but these names were forgotten (The Independent)

Turkey

I'd welcome Turkey into the EU, says PM: Cameron says it remains 'long-standing goal' for country to join despite his drive to reduce net migration (Daily Mail)

Egypt imposes travel restrictions for Turkey, Libya (AFP, Yahoo News!)

Syria

The Cable

State Dept: Rebels Are Never Going to Defeat Assad Militarily  (Foreign Policy)

Syria's Assad backs Russia peace bid, Moscow in touch with US (AFP, Yahoo News!)

Iraq

Attacks Kill 15 in Iraq as Country Battles IS (Associated Press, abc News)

Iran

Iran: Fall in oil prices is 'treachery' (Associated Press, my foxny.com)

Israel may owe Iran $100 m. for breached Eilat oil pipeline (The Jerusalem Post)

Ukraine

Russia says small military mission in east Ukraine at Kiev's request: RIA (Reuters)

Russia

Russian spy chiefs ordered Anna Chapman to seduce whistleblower Edward Snowden, claims defector (Daily Mail)

House Chooses New Cold War With Russia (Ron Paul)

Greece

Greek stocks crash, yields spike on political strife (CNBC) Hat tip to Marvin Clark.  Stocks down 11% in one day.

$DJIA – Dow Industrial Average (Last:17533) (Rick Ackerman, Rick's Picks)  Rick Ackerman contributes to GEI.  Ackerman thinks there could be a tradeable short-term bounce in the Dow.  He thinks entry points to go long might be at 17,478 and 17,450.  He recommends tight stops (as tight as 4%).  If the lower of the two possible entries "is easily exceeded, however, it would imply that more selling impends".  He doesn't define "easily" but certainly 4% below 17,450) would exceed any reasonable "easily".  That would be 16,752.  The arrow and "?" are positioned around 17,380, about 0.4% below 17,450.

Click for large image at Rick's Picks.
dow-ricks-picks-2014-dec-10-600x400

Instagram Beats Twitter With 300 Million Active Users (ValueWalk, Seeking Alpha)  This is an update to the discussion (behind the wall) yesterday where Instragram was not included among the Facebook subsidiaries.  So the total MAUs for Facebook's major components is now us to 2.25 billion before correcting for overlaps (one user on more than one Facebook app).  See WWRT 10 December 2014.

Japan:  Debt Monetization? (Walter Kurtz, The Daily Shot email, no url)  As the Bank of japan balance sheet growth keeps accelrating will the day come when all the government debt owned by the Bank of Japan will be declared holdings to be rolled over in perpetuity?  Econintersect:  And could the government debt held by the BoJ be declared "Class 2 debt" with low nominal interest (or no interest at all) in perpetuity?  ("Class 2 debt" is an arbitrary name we suggest.)  After all, isn't the current 10-year yield basically at zero already - see second graphic below.  And finally, the big question:  Would this be a bad thing?  Anybody who thinks so please write an explanation and we will publish it.

boj-balance-sheet

japan-10-year-2014-dec-10

And could Germany follow closely behind?

germany-10-year-2014-dec-10

LNG boom over as China looks to sell out of long-term deals (Oleg Vukmanovic, Henning Gloystein, Chen Aizhu, Sarah MacFarlane, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Keith Wallis, Reuters) Sinopec, the government owned Chinese energy giant is planning to sell off (Reuters says "unload") liquid natural gas contracts with suppliers in Papua New Guinea and Australia.  Sinopec says that foreign imports are no longer profitable because of competition from hydro, coal and domestic gas production combined with a slowing economy.  And the glut rolls on.

A slowdown in Texas economy looms – what will be the impact on the US? (Walter Kurtz, The Daily Shot email, no url)  The drop in oil prices will hit the economy of the largest oil producing state and the employment "gravy train" will chug to a stop.

employment-texas-and-the-rest

One Chart Shows How The Oil Slump Could Plunge Europe Into Deflation (Mike Bird, Business Insider)  The cost of goods and services should come down as the energy component is reduced by lower oil prices.  This could be a good kind of deflation except for those with debts to repay, which is just about everybody in Europe.  Lower oil is deflationary in the U.S. as well but not so in Canada and the Asia-Pacific region.  Note:  Why is Denmark affected differently than the rest of Europe?  Their energy costs don't come down the same way as everybody else - Denmark produces most of their electricity from wind.

europe-inflation-and-oil-price

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

Economics, Data and Conspiracy Theories (Barry Ritholtz, Bloomberg)

Part-time employment adds leg to traditional retirement stool (Employee Benfit News)

How Facebook Lost Generation Y (Seeking Alpha)

Reese Witherspoon Talks 'Wild' New Role (MSN EntertainmentEconintersect:  The wilderness is therapeutic - we know from our own experiences.

18 Percent of Us Fears We’ll Never Be Out of Debt  (The Fiscal Times)

U.S. Economic Growth Could Get Boost From Services Spending  (The Wall Street Journal)

Health spending slows on heels of ACA implementation (Modern Medicine Network)

Every Ship That Has Carried Humans Into Space, In One Chart (Gizmodo)

OECD Presses Case for Sales-Tax Hike  (The Wall Street Journal) Hikes for restaurants and hotels.


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