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What We Read Today 01 November 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".).


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Topics today include:

  • Internet of Things Lacks Adequate Cyber Defenses

  • Open Data Systems Need Better Protection

  • Soy May Harm Your Health

  • No Sick Leave Raises Both Employer and Employee Costs

  • Population Aging and Slowing Economic Growth has been Measured

  • Polls are Swinging, but is the Race Changing?

  • Both Clinton and Trump Camps Prepare for Post-Election Litigation

  • Judge Orders GOP to Turn Over Poll-Watching Information

  • New Summary of Clinton E-mails Case

  • Is There Credible Evidence Connecting Trump to Russia?

  • European Bonds Continue in Global Rout

  • Should There be a Minimum Wage for the 'Gig Economy'?

  • Russia Says Syrian Talks Off Indefinitely - Because Rebels Attack Civilians

  • Iraq Troops Enter Mosul

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world



  • Get Ready for Another Swing in the Polls, but Not Necessarily a Shift in the Race (The New York Times)  There is no way to predict how the polls will react to the news that the F.B.I. found an email cache that has prompted another look into Hillary Clinton’s email practices. We won’t know for a few days.  But as we wait for more data, it’s worth remembering all of the big news events this year, and what came of them: Many moved the polls, but none fundamentally reshaped the race.

  • Clinton, Trump Prepare for Possibility of Election Overtime (Bloomberg)  Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are arming up for a possible post-Election Day battle.  Clinton is assembling a voter protection program that has drawn thousands of lawyers agreeing to lend their time and expertise in battleground states, though the campaign isn’t saying exactly how many or where. It is readying election observers in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and Arizona to assess any concerns -- including the potential for voter intimidation -- and to verify normal procedures.  The Republican National Lawyers Association, which trains attorneys in battleground states and in local jurisdictions where races are expected to be close, aims to assemble 1,000 lawyers ready to monitor polls and possibly challenge election results across the country. Hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, one of Trump’s biggest backers, has sunk $500,000 into the group, its biggest donation in at least four presidential elections, Internal Revenue Service filings show. 

  • GOP Told by Judge to Turn Over Trump Poll-Watching Deals (Bloomberg)  The Republican National Committee, accused last week of scheming to suppress minority turnout on Election Day, was ordered to turn over to Democratic leaders any evidence of deals struck with Donald Trump’s campaign to have citizens observe polling places.  That includes any written or verbal agreements relating to voter fraud, ballot security, poll watching and poll monitoring, U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez said in a ruling on Monday. The Republican leadership was given until Wednesday to comply with the order.

  • The Hillary Clinton email controversy explained: what we know so far (The Guardian)  What is in the emails?  We don’t know. Comey himself admitted: “The FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant.” Those emails with a connection to Clinton’s server could merely be duplicates of emails already analyzed. Or they could contain a smoking gun that compromises Clinton even after the election. On Sunday, the FBI obtained a warrant to begin reviewing the newly discovered emails. The process will not be finished before election day.  Econintersect:  This will be an interesting detail in history.  The FBI has known of these e-mails for several weeks.  The FBI director was not told until last Thursday evening.  We envision three possibilities:

  • Persons at the FBI have no clue about what is in those e-mails.  An announcement by Comey in such a case seems especially ill-advised.

  • Persons at the FBI have preliminary information about these e-mails do not show anything significant.  The Comey announcement would then appear partisan.

  • Persons at the FBI have preliminary information about these e-mails showing damaging new information about Clinton.  Comey's announcement then becomes a CYA move to defend against charges of negligence for the FBI not acting for weeks after discovery.

Last month, Yahoo News reported that US intelligence officials were probing the links between Page and senior Russian officials. (Page has called accusations against him "garbage.") On Monday, NBC News reported that the FBI has mounted a preliminary inquiry into the foreign business ties of Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chief. But Reid's recent note hinted at more than the Page or Manafort affairs. And a former senior intelligence officer for a Western country who specialized in Russian counterintelligence tells Mother Jones that in recent months he provided the bureau with memos, based on his recent interactions with Russian sources, contending the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump—and that the FBI requested more information from him.

  • Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia? (Slate )  This spring, a group of academic computer scientists set out to determine whether hackers were interfering with the Trump campaign. They found something they weren’t expecting.  Instead of hacking by Russians they discovered one (apparently dedicated) server communicating between the Trump organization and two servers in Alfy Bank in Moscow. See also The New York Times article, second item below. From this (Slate) article:

The researchers quickly dismissed their initial fear that the logs represented a malware attack. The communication wasn’t the work of bots. The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.

Click for large image.

The FBI has been conducting a preliminary inquiry into Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort's foreign business connections, law enforcement and intelligence sources told NBC News Monday.

Word of the inquiry, which has not blossomed into a full-blown criminal investigation, comes just days after FBI Director James Comey's disclosure that his agency is examining a new batch of emails connected to an aide to Hillary Clinton.

And it comes a day after Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid criticized Comey's revelation and asserted that Comey possesses "explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government." 

For much of the summer, the F.B.I. pursued a widening investigation into a Russian role in the American presidential campaign. Agents scrutinized advisers close to Donald J. Trump, looked for financial connections with Russian financial figures, searched for those involved in hacking the computers of Democrats, and even chased a lead — which they ultimately came to doubt — about a possible secret channel of email communication from the Trump Organization to a Russian bank.

Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.


  • European Bonds Fall as Central-Bank Hiatus Adds to Global Rout (Bloomberg)  European government bonds declined as a global selloff in fixed-income securities deepened.  While bonds around the world declined as an unexpected pick-up in manufacturing in China fueled optimism about the outlook for the global economy, inactivity from Europe’s two major central banks gave investors a glimpse of a post-stimulus world. The Bank of England’s current schedule for purchases has run its course, with a new calendar due to be released at this week’s meeting, while public holidays on Tuesday mean the European Central Bank is likely to reduce its own purchases, according to DZ Bank AG.


  • Ed Vaizey calls for minimum wage for 'gig economy' self-employed (The Guardian)  The senior Tory urges ministers to define new status for ‘on demand’ workers, halfway between employed and self-employed.  Ed Vaizey has called for self-employed workers in the “gig economy” to be guaranteed the legal minimum wage.

  • This Investment Bank Sold All U.K. Assets Before Brexit Vote (Bloomberg)  Carnegie Investment Bank AB, which manages $17.2 billion for clients, sold all of its U.K. holdings as opinion polls narrowed ahead of the June vote to exit from the European Union.  Chief strategist Henrik Drusebjerg said in a telephone interview on Monday (but wouldn't reveal the value of assets sold):

“We had equities and corporate bonds in Britain before the vote.  We started selling off our U.K. holdings to absolute zero maybe a month before the vote,” he said. He wouldn’t give the value of the assets sold.


  • Russia says Syria peace talks halted indefinitely (The Guardian)  Peace talks over the fate of Aleppo are on hold indefinitely because rebels backed by western governments have been attacking civilians in the west of the Syrian city, the Russian defense minister has said.  Sergei Shoigu’s remarks came as he confirmed that Russia’s naval convoy, led by its aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, had reached the eastern Mediterranean to strengthen Moscow’s attack capabilities, despite the refusal of NATO countries to help with refueling and supplies.


  • Iraqi troops enter Mosul for first time since 2014 (The Guardian)  Iraqi forces have entered Mosul for the first time since 2014, a milestone in the effort to reclaim the city that heralds a fierce urban battle in the weeks ahead.  Baghdad said its elite troops had breached the eastern suburbs of Islamic State’s last major urban stronghold in Iraq, creating a toe-hold in the Jdeidet al-Mufti neighborhood after two weeks of combat.  Special forces units also entered the neighborhood of Gogjali inside the city’s limits and took control of the local state television building. 

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

  • IoT Growing Faster Than the Ability to Defend It (Scientific American)  Last month’s use of connected gadgets to attack the Web is a wake-up call for the Internet of Things, which will get a whole lot bigger this holiday season.  Christmas and Hanukkah wish lists are sure to be filled with smartwatches, fitness trackers, home-monitoring cameras and other wi-fi–connected gadgets that connect to the internet to upload photos, videos and workout details to the cloud. Unfortunately these devices are also vulnerable to viruses and other malicious software (malware) that can be used to turn them into virtual weapons without their owners’ consent or knowledge.

  • 40 Ways Soy Harms Your Health (Zero Belly, MSN Health)  Soy may not be the highly beneficial health food that it has long been described to be.  In recent years, researchers have come to discover that soy might not be the magic bullet for weight loss and better health. Even worse, it could be causing serious health complications, from hormonal imbalances to increased cancer risk, among regular consumers.

  • The High Costs of Not Offering Paid Sick Leave (The New York Times)  Each week about 1.5 million Americans without paid sick leave go to work despite feeling ill. At least half of employees of restaurants and hospitals — two settings where disease is easily spread — go to work when they have a cold or the flu, according to a recent poll.  To address that issue, Chipotle began offering paid sick leave to all its employees in the United States this year. The restaurant chain is hoping to reduce the spread of infectious disease — like the norovirus outbreaks traced to its restaurants last year and earlier this year. Though many other industrialized countries already require employers to offer paid sick leave to all employees, the United States does not.  Paid sick leave is not free, of course. Economic theory suggests that its cost would be passed from employers to their employees in the form of lower wages or reductions in other benefits like vacation time. Yet employees and their co-workers may be better off with an incentive to take time off when sick.  See also the following article.

  • The Pros and Cons of Sick Pay Schemes: Testing for Contagious Presenteeism and Noncontagious Absenteeism Behavior (National Bureau of Economic Research)  This paper provides an analytical framework and uses data from the US and Germany to test for the existence of contagious presenteeism and negative externalities in sickness insurance schemes. The results indicate that paid sick leave produces better attendance records and healthier employees.  The inference is that paid sick leave improves company profitability.

  • Population Aging and Economic Growth (National Bureau of Economic Research)  Population aging has been underway for some time in the U.S., but the rate of aging has varied substantially across states.  Researchers have leveraged data across the states, correcting for young worker migrations, to determine the drag on economic growth produced by aging demographics.  For the full research paper, see The Effect of Population Aging on Economic Growth, the Labor Force and Productivity (National Bureau of Economic Research).

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