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What We Read Today 17 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".).


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

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Topics today include:

  • Funding and Promotion Issues Produce Bad Science

  • 40% of Published Psychology Studies Could Not Be Reproduced

  • Plants are Helping Counter Human Carbon Emissions

  • Political Myths that Cost the Democrats

  • Fake News is Rampant

  • Trump Meets with Romney

  • Can Republicans Spend Like Crazy without Running Up the Debt?

  • Nonvoters are Very Upset About the Election Result

  • Obama and Merkel Have Last Date

  • Iraqi Forces Can't Tell Who is Enemy in Mosul

  • Did Russia Install Trump as U.S. President?

  • Bank of Japan's Bond Strategy Passes First Test

  • Vietnam Challenges China with South China Sea Island Runway Expansion

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


But models and even official scores don’t have any constitutional meaning. They serve only to chasten. It’s not clear what will happen when they encounter a president who can’t be chastened. 

  • Donald Trump, The Next Keynesian President?  Don't Count On It (Yanis Varoufakis, Newsweek)  YV has contributed to GEI.  YV frames his discussion in terms of the idea of long-term fiscal balance:  deficit spend in recessions, run surpluses in periods of economic strength.  This is how he defines Keynesian economics.  Econintersect:  While there may be some merit in such a view for a commodity-based monetary system, we think it has little validity in a fiat system as we have today.  

  • Meet the Candidate For Attorney General Who’s Hunted Quail with Corporate Donors (ProPublica)  Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, who is reportedly on the short list to become Trump’s attorney general Kobach was, last month, among a group of Republican secretaries of state who spent the weekend hunting pheasant and quail and shooting clay pigeons with corporate donors at a Kansas lodge, a getaway funded by industry groups.

  • A lot of nonvoters are mad at the election results. If only there were something they could have done! (The Washington Post)  Of America’s 320 million-odd residents, only about three-quarters are eligible to vote (mostly because they’re over the age of 18). Of the group that could vote in the presidential election, the U.S. Election Project’s Michael McDonald estimates that about 58.1% did — meaning that 41.9% of eligible Americans didn’t vote last week.  Using the most recent national splits from the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman, that means that Donald Trump was elected president with the support of fewer than 1 in 5 Americans (see first graphic below).  Now here is the kicker:  Nearly 1.7x as many people who did not vote are unhappy (feeling upset, terrible, scared or shocked) as are either happy or hopeful.  See second graphic below.  Econintersect:  Gimme a break - shut up already.  You had a chance to vote but didn't.




  • Obama, With Angela Merkel in Berlin, Assails Spread of Fake News (The New York Times) In his strongest public comments since the election, President Obama on Thursday sharply criticized the spread of fake news online and said that President-elect Donald J. Trump would not remain in office for long if he failed to take the job seriously.  President Obama, at a news conference in Berlin on Thursday, referred to himself and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, as “veterans” of the international political stage.



  • Did Russia Install Donald Trump as the Next U.S. President? (Newsweek)   From Iran to Chile, covert CIA-backed operations were responsible for installing leaders friendly to the U.S. in countries around the world in an attempt to gain supremacy over the then-Soviet Union during the Cold War. Russia seems to have taken a page from the U.S. playbook and one upped it, as it may have significantly contributed to the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States.  The U.S. intelligence community has publicly accused the Russian government of being behind the hacking and leaking of emails involving Hillary Clinton’s election campaign by cyber espionage groups Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear on WikiLeaks and other sites this summer. James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, issued a joint statement with Department of Homeland Security on October 7 declaring that they were

“confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails” [and that “these thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”


  • BOJ First Unlimited Bond Buys Get No Bids After Yields Retreated (Bloomberg)  The Bank of Japan said no bids were placed at its first operations when it offered to buy bonds at a fixed rate, a tool it introduced when deciding in September it would seek to control the yield curve.  Japanese government bonds advanced on Thursday as the central bank said it would carry out two operations, one to buy securities maturing in one to three years, and another for debt of three to five years maturity. Each received zero bids, according to statements from the BOJ.  A selloff in Japanese bonds had threatened to test Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s determination to keep yields stable with unlimited debt purchases (yields rose above 0% meaning the BoJ was offering prices above the market) -- a weapon he had so far kept in reserve. He had said in September that the bank would hold unlimited purchases as needed, setting a fixed rate, in order to control yields.  Jun Fukashiro, a senior fund manager in Tokyo at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management, said earlier:

“The market is testing the BOJ’s tolerance for higher yields, but the BOJ may actually challenge the market back by letting yields rise.  The reason the BOJ can allow a rise in yields above zero is that, when it needs to, it has the weapons to stop it.”


  • Vietnam expanding South China Sea runway: U.S. think tank (Reuters)  Vietnam is extending a runway on an island it claims in the South China Sea in apparent response to China's building of military facilities on artificial islands in the region, a U.S. think tank reported on Thursday.

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

  • Criteria for funding and promotion lead to bad science (phys org)  Hat tip to Roger Erickson.  There is growing concern that too many research findings may in fact be false. New research publishing 10 November in open-access journal PLOS Biology by psychologists at the universities of Bristol and Exeter suggests that this may happen because of the criteria used in funding science and promoting scientists which, they say, place too much weight on novel, eye-catching findings.  Some scientists are becoming concerned that published results are inaccurate—a recent attempt by 270 scientists to reproduce the findings reported in 100 psychology studies the Reproducibility Project: Psychology found that only about 40% could be reproduced.

  • CO2-loving plants can counter human emissions (Science News)  Under right conditions, photosynthesis-respiration cycle stems accelerating rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide gas.  From 2002 through 2014, CO2 levels measured over the oceans climbed from around 372 parts per million to 397 parts per million. But the average rate of that rise remained steady despite increasing carbon emissions from human activities, researchers report online November 8 in Nature Communications. After pouring over climate measurements and simulations, the researchers attribute this steadying to changes in the relative amount of CO2 absorbed and released by plants.  The work is the first to clearly demonstrate that plants can affect the growth rate of atmospheric CO2 over long time periods, says study coauthor Trevor Keenan, an earth systems scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Still, human emissions remain the dominant driver of CO2 levels, he says:  

“If we keep emitting as much as we are, and what we emit keeps going up, then it won’t matter very much what the plants do.”

  • The Myths Democrats Swallowed that Cost Them the Presidential Election (Newsweek)  If you want to understand a view that the "myths" recounted by Bernie Sanders and his supporters about a rigged Democratic primary system are unfounded, and that Bernie would have done better than Hillary in the general election, then you should read this.

  • Cute Stuff Twitter Highlighted for Me


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