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What We Read Today 15 September 2016

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.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Topics today include:

  • Americans Blame Washington Gridlock for Slow Economy

  • Americans Blame Both Parties for Gridlock

  • 'Magic' with Electro-Optics Wins Major Award

  • Teddy Roosevelt's Fateful Adirondack Climb

  • U.S. Prosecutors Investigate Wells Fargo's Sales Practices

  • Gallup:  Death Knell for News Media

  • Now Pokemon Go Has Virus App

  • Hillary has a 'Deplorable' Problem

  • Trump Promises 25 Million More Jobs in Next Decade

  • Why Trump's Job Promise Contradicts His Other Policies

  • Dems Grasp at Household Income Straw - Why It Will Not Hold

  • Ben Bernanke Wants Negative Interest Rates to Remain on the Table

  • Bernanke Not So Keen on Higher Inflation Targets

  • The Insulin Outrage

  • Dental Care is Not Available in Parts of America

  • Bayer Clinches Monsanto Deal

  • Unprecedented U.S. Aid for Israel

  • Philippines' Duarte Directed Hitmen

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • A fake Pokémon Go app that infects phones with malware has been downloaded half a million times (Business Insider)  Fake Pokemon Go downloads have pretty much been squashed, but now security researchers have found a new problem: hacker-designed apps linked to the game.  Available until recently on the Google Play store, the free app, as its name suggests, explains the augmented-reality game to newcomers and offers tips and tricks on how to become a skilled trainer. But it also contains malware that enables a hacker to take control of the phone.  Econintersect:  Is it time for Pokemon Bye?


  • Hillary Clinton faces dilemma following ‘deplorables’ remark (The Hill)  Hillary Clinton faces a major dilemma in the wake of her controversial “basket of deplorables” comment: keep hammering Donald Trump on race or pivot to other issues.  Democrats are divided on the best course of action following her remark last week that “half” of Trump’s supporters are “irredeemable” and fit into a “basket of deplorables” that includes racists, sexists, xenophobes, homophobes and Islamophobes. The former secretary of State subsequently said she shouldn’t have spoken in such sweeping generalizations but stopped short of apologizing and vowed to call out Trump’s “bigotry.”  But doing so could keep the deplorables comment in the news, and some Democrats feel like she should move on.

  • Trump Lays Out Economic Vision for an ‘Unbridled’ Decade of Job Growth (Bloomberg)  Donald Trump plans to overhaul tax, trade, energy and regulatory policies to spur an era of “unbridled” American growth, promising to create more jobs than the world’s largest economy has added in any 10-year period.  Speaking at the Economic Club of New York, the Republican presidential candidate laid out a blueprint to create 25 million new jobs in a decade, which would be more than three times as many as created since 2006. The most jobs ever created over such a period were the 24.4 million added in the 10 years ended in March 2001, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The worst stretch was the decade through March 2010, when about 2 million jobs were lost.  See next article.  Econintersect:  Trump has expressed a non sequitur:  high growth with a fiscal surplus.  Cannot happen without a U.S. trade surplus.  A trade surplus cannot happen for the world's reserve currency without creating wide spread global recession - which would kill the trade surplus.

  • Trump’s 25 Million Job Promise Is a Demographic Challenge: Chart (Bloomberg)  Donald Trump is making a big promise. The Republican presidential candidate says he’ll create an average of 2.5 million jobs per year over a decade, which would be a challenge given the total number of unemployed is now at 7.8 million. With the baby boom generation retiring, the only way for Trump to reach his jobs target is if he "more than doubles immigration," according to Mark Zandi from Moody’s Analytics. That would be a reversal of his current plan to crack down on foreigners, which would actually shrink the pool of available workers.

  • Dems grasp for election lifeline (The Hill)  Hillary Clinton and Democrats have a new opening to tout the party’s record on the economy as they seek to regain their footing for the fall campaign.  A new report out Tuesday from the Census Bureau showed that incomes grew in 2015 for the first time since 2007, rebutting one of the biggest criticisms of the economic recovery under President Obama — namely, that pay has remained stagnant.  Econintersect:  There is a problem with this strategy:  hourly wage data does not agree with household income increase.  Median hourly wages are up about 30% (men) and 50% (women) of the 5.2% increase for median household income.  The household income increase is "structural", not "systemic".  People are working more for not much pay increase or more people are working per household (or both). 

  • Colleges, agencies offer guidance for former ITT students (WGVU)  Seven area colleges (central Michigan) come together to meet with former ITT Tech students impacted by the school’s campus-wide closures.  Representatives from the seven colleges and universities will be at The Kroc Center in Grand Rapids on Thursday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. to provide information and answer questions.  ITT Tech announced the closures earlier this month following sanctions from the U.S. Department of Education.  There were five ITT campuses in Michigan.

  • Modifying the Fed’s policy framework: Does a higher inflation target beat negative interest rates? (Ben Bernanke, Brookings)

... negative rates and higher inflation targets can be viewed as alternative methods for pushing the real interest rate further below zero. In that context, I am puzzled by the apparently strong preference for a higher inflation target over negative rates, at least based on what we know now. Yes, negative interest rates raise a variety of practical problems, as well as political and communications issues, but so does a higher inflation target. In this post, I argue that it’s premature for policymakers to emphasize the option of raising the inflation target over the use of negative rates. Pending further study about the costs and benefits of both approaches, we should remain agnostic about whether either or both should be part of the Fed’s policy framework.

  • A 93-year-old drug that some children can't live without tells us everything that's wrong with American healthcare (Business Insider)  Insulin has been around since 1923, so it came as a surprise in July 2015 when Cole LePere's doctor told his mother, Janine, to prepare to pay a lot at the pharmacy for it.  Cole, who was 10, had just been found to have Type 1 diabetes, which typically strikes in childhood.  The cost per month for insulin was $1,550 - and that was after a $350 coupon.  This example explains what is wrong with the U.S. healthcare system:

    Drug companies have a history of marginally improving drugs and then charging higher prices for the new versions. And doctors, who have little info about how patients pay for drugs, often prescribe what is seen as the latest and greatest, even if the extra benefit is small.

    Econintersect: Our restatement of the problem is that drug companies are not in the business of providing healthcare solutions; they are making as much money as possible protected by a government sponsored monopoly position.

  • A Good Dentist Is Hard To Find In Rural America (NPR)  A study by the Federal Reserve found that a quarter of Americans went without dental care they needed in 2014 because they couldn't afford it.  For those in rural areas, the problem is far worse. A 2015 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that people in rural areas are poorer and less likely to have dental insurance than their urban counterparts. They're also less likely to have fluoridated water, and more likely to live in an area where dentists are in short supply. Those dentists that are there probably don't take Medicaid, government health insurance for the poor.


  • Bayer clinches Monsanto with improved $66 billion bid (Reuters)  German drug and crop chemical maker Bayer clinched a $66 billion takeover of U.S. seeds company Monsanto on Wednesday, ending months of wrangling with a third sweetened offer that marks the largest all-cash deal on record.  The $128-a-share deal, up from Bayer's previous offer of $127.50 a share, has emerged as the signature deal in a consolidation race that has roiled the agribusiness sector in recent years, due to shifting weather patterns, intense competition in grain exports and a souring global farm economy.  The proposed merger will likely face an intense and lengthy regulatory process in the United States, Canada, Brazil, the European Union and elsewhere. Hugh Grant, Monsanto's chief executive, said Wednesday the companies will need to file in about 30 jurisdictions for the merger.  Competition authorities are likely to scrutinize the tie-up closely, and some of Bayer's own shareholders have been highly critical of a takeover that they say risks overpaying and neglecting the company's pharmaceutical business.


  • Washington has just agreed to give Israel unprecedented aid. What do Americans think? (Brookings)  The United States has just signed an unprecedented military aid deal with Israel totaling $38 billion. What’s remarkable about the agreement is that the United States is committing to significant levels of aid to Israel over a period of 10 years.  Israel is making no major strategic decision to attract this level of aid—and certainly not one over the Palestinian-Israeli or the broader Arab-Israeli conflicts. There has been significant and continuing U.S.-Israeli cooperation on a host of military and intelligence issues pertaining to common interests. But it’s not obvious to the public if there is any new element to the relationship—other than codifying the current strategic relations, over the period of a decade, with an increased price tag (although media reports also suggest that the memorandum of understanding precludes Israel seeking supplemental aid which it had often sought from Congress, and which sometimes accounted for inflation and unexpected expenses).  Here is a May poll on the subject:


  • Philippine hitman says he heard Duterte order killings (Reuters)  A self-confessed hitman testified on Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte personally issued assassination orders while mayor of a city where activists say hundreds of summary executions took place.  The president made no comment on the allegations on Thursday but his political allies dismissed them as lies.  Speaking during a senate hearing investigating the Philippine president's anti-crime crackdown, Edgar Matobato said he heard Duterte, as mayor of Davao city in the early 1990s, give instructions to carry out extrajudicial killings.

Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

Americans blame political gridlock in Washington for the country's declining economic competitiveness and hold both Democrats and Republicans responsible, a Harvard Business School study released on Wednesday found.

The study noted that U.S. gross domestic product grew at a rate of about 2 percent since 2000, well below the 3 to 4 percent average in the prior half-century. It said a range of factors including a complicated corporate tax code, tangled immigration system and aging roads contribute to the slow growth.

The study contends that factors including a growing wealth gap, declines in productivity growth and a rise in the number of working-age people neither employed nor seeking jobs show that the U.S. economy is becoming less competitive.

  • Ramesh Raskar awarded $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize (MIT News)  Hat tip to Sanjeev Kulkarni.  Ramesh Raskar, founder of the Camera Culture research group at the MIT Media Lab and associate professor of media arts and sciences at MIT, is the recipient of the 2016 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. Raskar is the co-inventor of radical imaging solutions including femtophotography, an ultra-fast imaging system that can see around corners; low-cost eye-care solutions for the developing world; and a camera that allows users to read pages of a book without opening the cover. Raskar seeks to catalyze change on a massive scale by launching platforms that empower inventors to create solutions to improve lives globally.  Here is an excerpt forwarded by Sanjeev:

Raskar is the co-founder of EyeNetra, an inexpensive, disruptive eye-care platform that spun out of Media Lab research. EyeNetra enables on-demand eye testing in remote locations via a hand-held technology that snaps onto a mobile device. When looking into the binocular the user is provided with interactive cues to rapidly calculate a prescription for eyeglasses. The technology was created to eliminate the need for expensive diagnostic tools in the developing world; the young company has performed eye-tests for hundreds of thousands of subjects and is currently active in the U.S., Brazil, and India.

Raskar’s team has also worked on many areas of preventable blindness, low vision, and diagnostics at MIT. In 2013, he and his colleagues launched LVP-MITRA in Hyderabad, India, a center where hundreds of young inventors have been co-inventing next generation screening, diagnostic, and therapeutic tools for eye-care.

  • Newcomb’s TR Weekend Celebrating Teddy Roosevelt, National Parks (Adirondack Almanack)  What does a small town in the middle of the 4 million acre Adirondack State Park (New York) have to do with Teddy Roodevelt?  He was staying at the remote Tahawus Club (on the site of a former mining enterprise) near Newcomb, N.Y. with his wife Edith and children, when, on a September 12, 1901 hike up Mount Marcy, the tallest mountain in New York State, he was informed that President McKinley, who had been shot days earlier in Buffalo, NY, and had been expected to recover, suffered a turn for the worse.  The vice president received the news from a breathless messenger withn a telegram on the shore of Lake Tear-of-the-Clouds, the designated source of the Hudson River about 1,000 vertical feet below the summit of the 5,300 Mt. Marcy (picture below).  Roosevelt rushed back down the 7+ miles of mountain trail to Tahawas.  (Adirondack hikers know how treacherous that descent would be in a hurry, over steep rock (and sometimes unstable stones), through frequent mud and over/around interminable tree roots.)  He waited at the club with his family for further news.  About midnight, when another telegram arrived informing him that the president was dying, The vp rode on horsedrawn buckboard wagons (a relay of 3 teams of horses and wagons was used) for 35 miles through Newcomb and Minerva to North Creek (today the home of the Gore Mountain ski complex) and then got on a special train waiting for him to head back to Buffalo, where he had been for several days after the shooting but left when McKinley's recovery had seemed assured.  He was informed at the train station that McKinley had died at 2:15 am (13 September, 1901) and that he had become president during his middle-of-the-night jarring journey down the slippery mountain roads.  For more, read Adirondack Journal - An Adirondack Presidential History (Adirondack Museum)


  • U.S. prosecutors investigate Wells Fargo's sales practices - source (Reuters)  U.S. prosecutors have begun an investigation related to sales practices at Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) that led the bank to agree to a $190 million settlement with regulators, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.  The U.S. Attorneys' Offices in Manhattan and San Francisco are investigating Wells Fargo, the person said, following a settlement announced on Sept. 8 over claims that some customers were pushed into fee-generating accounts they never requested.  Wells Fargo declined to comment on Wednesday. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan also declined to comment.

  • Gallup sounds the death knell for the news media. Disruption coming! (Fabius Maximus)  FM has contributed to GEI.  The latest Gallup poll about the public’s trust in the media has bad news about this key industry — and for America, which relies on this to make the Republic run. It’s another industry ripe for disruption. We can only guess if for the better or worse.  See Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low (Gallup).

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