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What We Read Today 20 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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The rest of this post is available only the GEI Members.  Membership is FREE -  click here

Topics today include:

  • Finance is Not the Economy (A MUST READ!)

  • Finance is Not Capitalism

  • The 50 Best Colleges in America

  • The 50 Smartest Colleges in America

  • The Reason Why Trump Won - A Trend Hidden in Plain Sight

  • Rand Paul Has Concerns about CIA Director Nominee Pompeo

  • Can the Trumps Not Live in the White House?

  • NBC Caught Tweeting Fake News

  • Specific Conflict of Interest Charges about the Clinton Foundation

  • Pentagon and Intelligence Chiefs Have Wanted Head of NSA Removed

  • More Fake News from Facebook - Crime and Voting Patterns

  • Sarkozy May Be Knocked Out of Upcoming French Election

  • Merkel to Run for Fourth Term

  • Turkish President Disillusioned With U.S. Policy on Syria

  • Obama and Putin Meet - For Four Minutes

  • India Train Death Toll Well Over 100 and Rising

  • Mexico's President Hits New Popularity Low

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Rand Paul raises concerns about Pompeo (The Hill)   Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Sunday expressed some concerns with Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Donald Trump's pick to serve as CIA director.  The libertarian senator said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that it concerns him that Pompeo supported the Patriot Act.  Rand does not support torture and thinks that the NSA has gone far beyond what the sponsors of the Patriot Act intended.  Pompeo has supported expanding the powers of the NSA.

  • Melania and Barron Trump won’t be moving to the White House (New York Post)   Future First Lady Melania Trump and son Barron will not be moving to the White House after Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, The Post has learned.  The president-elect’s 46-year-old wife and their 10-year-old son are staying put at the family’s glitzy Trump Tower penthouse so that Barron can continue attending his Upper West Side private school, sources told The Post.  Another source said Melania Trump will travel to the White House as needed, but that her primary focus is on Barron.  Econintersect:  This may not be the end of this story.  Security issues may still overcome Melania's preferences here.  Presidential security at a location like Trump Tower may not be manageable.

  • NBC News under fire for misleading tweets about Trump chief of staff's answer on Muslim registry (Business Insider)  NBC News came under fire Sunday morning for a pair of tweets that removed context from an answer Reince Priebus, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for White House chief of staff, offered on the idea of a Muslim registry.  Econintersect:  The tweets were quotes of a partial sentence, for which the complete sentence stated exactly the opposite that could be inferred from the tweet.  Another case of "false news", this time perpetrated by a major media outlet.  In the case of Twitter, though, numerousTweet replies immediately pointed out the NBC error (as opposed to what happens on some other prominent social media formats). 

  • Swedish company Tetrapak linked to Clinton Foundation Haiti Operations. More on Ericsson (The Indicter)  Hat tip to Roger Erickson.  The inference is that favors to Sweden by the U.S. State Department are related to donations made by a Swedish company, Tetrapak, to the Clinton Foundation.  This article also discusses a document from the U.S. State Department which provided conflict-of-interest clearance for Bill Clinton to be hosted for five days and paid for a speech by the Swedish company Ericsson in 2009. 

  • Pentagon and intelligence community chiefs have urged Obama to remove the head of the NSA (The Washington Post)   The heads of the Pentagon and the nation’s intelligence community have recommended to President Obama that the director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, be removed.  The recommendation, delivered to the White House last month, was made by Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., according to several U.S. officials familiar with the matter.  Action has been delayed, some administration officials said, because relieving Rogers of his duties is tied to another controversial recommendation: to create separate chains of command at the NSA and the military’s cyberwarfare unit, a recommendation by Clapper and Carter that has been stalled because of other issues.  The news comes as Rogers is being considered by President-elect Donald Trump to be his nominee for director of national intelligence to replace Clapper as the official who oversees all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. In a move apparently unprecedented for a military officer, Rogers, without notifying superiors, traveled to New York to meet with Trump on Thursday at Trump Tower. That caused consternation at senior levels of the administration, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal personnel matters.  The current Pentagon and national intelligence communities have wanted to separate military cyber warfare and civilian security commands; and, of course,  Adm. Rogers would be a military officer at the head of a civilian agency should that separation occur.  

  • No, the viral image of 2016 election results and 2013 crime rates is not real (The Washington Post)  The fake news epidemic on Facebook continues.  This one involves the representation that the maps of areas voting Democratic overlay the maps of areas with the highest crime rates.  The image from Facebook is shown below.  The map represented as the high/low crime rate map is actually a map of 2012 election results by county, published by Mark Newman of the University of Michigan’s Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems.  Shown below the bogus Facebook graphic is an actual crime rate map by county for the U.S. compiled by The WaPo using 2014 data.  Click on either graphic for larger image.


  • France's Sarkozy seen knocked out of conservative primary: partial results (Reuters)  Former prime ministers Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe were seen qualifying for a second round runoff of France's conservative primaries on Sunday, first partial results of the vote showed, in what would be a major upset for ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy.  According to results based on 2,912 polling stations out of a total 10,228, Fillon was seen gathering 42.8% of the votes, Juppe 26% and Sarkozy 24.4%.  However, organizers of the contest for the Les Republicains party and its center-right allies had warned ahead of the vote that partial results may not be representative of final results, with votes in rural areas being counted first.


  • Merkel says she will seek fourth term as German chancellor (Reuters)  Angela Merkel announced on Sunday she wants to run for a fourth term as German chancellor in next year's election, a sign of stability after Britain's vote to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president.  The 62-year old conservative, facing a voter backlash over her open-door migrant policy, said she had thought long and hard before eventually deciding to stand again in the September election, ending months of speculation over her decision.


  • Turkish president 'disillusioned' with U.S. on Syria (The Hill)  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized President Obama for not taking the war in Syria seriously in a "60 Minutes" interview airing this evening (Sunday), saying U.S. policies have interfered with Turkey's ability to defend itself.  Erdoğan blamed Obama for influx of 3 million Syrian refugees in to Turkey and said the U.S. president's policies have lead to a security threat on the country's southern border.


  • Obama and Putin Meet Briefly at APEC Summit (Bloomberg)   A four-minute meeting between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Lima may stand as the final dialogue between two leaders amid deep tensions over Ukraine, Syria, human rights, and the U.S. presidential election.  The brief encounter, conducted with the help of a translator, came as Asia-Pacific leaders gathered for a Sunday morning session. There are no plans for second meeting, said Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.  Obama, who leaves office in two months, could be seen uttering the word, “OK,” and Putin was observed reacting with facial expressions, as journalists were permitted into the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit for a few minutes to take photographs. Obama also made his way around the room to greet other leaders.  It was the first meeting between the pair since Donald Trump’s win in the Nov. 8 presidential election. During the campaign, Democrats accused Russia of interfering in a way that helped Trump, the Republican nominee. U.S. intelligence officials have tied the Russian government to the hacking and subsequent leaking of Democrats’ e-mails that harmed Hillary Clinton’s campaign.


  • India train derails, at least 119 killed, more than 150 injured (Reuters)  The death toll keeps rising from an Indian express train derailment in northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday.  Current reports are that at least 119 people were killed and more than 150 injured.  Police officials said people were still missing as authorities tried to determine what caused 14 carriages of the train traveling between the northeastern city of Patna and the central city of Indore to suddenly roll off the tracks in Pukhrayan, 65 km (40 miles) south of Kanpur city.


  • Mexico president's rating hits new low after Trump victory (Reuters)  Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's approval rating has slumped to a new low since Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency last week, in part due to his invitation of the real estate tycoon to Mexico during the campaign, a poll showed on Sunday.  The survey by polling firm Buendia & Laredo for newspaper El Universal said approval of Pena Nieto's performance had fallen to 25% from 29% percent in July, hurt by discontent about the economy, rising violence and failure to battle corruption.  Pena Nieto's six-year term concludes at the end of November 2018, and opinion polls show his centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) faces an uphill battle to retain power after the next presidential election, scheduled for July 2018.  Mexican law bars the president from seeking re-election.

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

  • Finance Is Not the Economy (Dirk Bezemer and Michael Hudson, Evonomics)  THIS IS A MUST READ!!!  Two economists who have contributed to GEI explain why an economy based increasingly on rent extraction by the few and debt buildup by the many is a feudal model .  The authors show how an economy dominated by finance, which builds wealth by playing with money rather than investing it for the production of goods and services, is not only unsustainable but doesn't even satisfy the basic definitions of capitalism.  (Econintersect:  See Merriam-Webster - "an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market. "  When nearly a third of the earnings in the S&P 500 are derived by the financial sector, this represents wealth extraction from the 'real economy' represented by consumer goods and services.  When 2/3 of GDP is defined by consumption but the earnings of major corporations go disproportionately to those who 'play with money' rather than using it for investment in the 'real economy', we suggest there is a socially unsustainable situation.  From Thompson-Reuters:  Earnings growth across 11 sectors of the economy shows technology narrowly edging finance for top spot.  From Standard & Poor's (Yardeni, Fig.17): Finance has averaged 33% of the earnings for the 10 S&P sectors over the last three years, nearly double the second place sector, Information Technology.   The authors could well have entitled this essay Finance is Not Capitalism.)  The authors see the resolution of the excessive private debt overhang as a battle between creditors and debtors.  They are very clear that they think the only economically healthy resolutions will favor the debtors, with creditors writing down uncollectable debts.  From their conclusion:

In light of the fact that “debts that can’t be paid, won’t be paid,” the policy question concerns how they “won’t be paid.” Will resolving the debt overhang favor creditors or debtors? Will it take the form of wage garnishments and foreclosure, and privatization selloffs by distressed governments? Or will it take the form of debt write- downs to bring mortgage debts and student loan debts in line with the ability to pay? This policy choice will determine whether “real” economic growth will recover or succumb to post-bubble depression, negative equity, emigration of young skilled labor, and a “lost decade.” According to our analysis, the present choice of financial and fiscal austerity in much of Europe threatens to subject debt-ridden economies to needless tragedy.

  • The 50 best colleges in America (Business Insider)  BI used data available from the government, weighting early-career earnings and graduation rate the highest as the highest qualities to come up with this ranking.  Some of the not-so-famous names on the list include Washington University St. Louis (17); Colgate (18); Bowdoin (21); Washington and Lee (22);  Emory (26); Tufts (27); Claremont McKenna College (30); Pomona College (32); Davidson (35); Middlebury (42); Hamilton (49); and Babson (50).  The top ten:

  1. Princeton

  2. Harvard

  3. Yale

  4. Stanford

  5. Vanderbilt

  6. MIT

  7. University of Pennsylvania

  8. Rice

  9. University of Virginia

  10. Columbia

  • The 50 smartest colleges in America (Business Insider, MSN News)  Jonathan Wai, a Duke University Talent Identification Program research scientist, created a ranking exclusively for Business Insider of the smartest US colleges and universities based on the schools' average standardized test scores.  While these tests are often criticized, research shows that both the SAT and ACT are good measures of general cognitive ability, since they rely on a person's ability to reason. Therefore, these scores give a reasonable snapshot of a school's overall smarts.  For the ranking report: 1,339 U.S. Colleges Ranked By Average Student Brainpower (pdf).  Colleges on this "smartest" list that are not on the list of 50 best from the preceding article:  Harvey Mudd College (8); Swarthmore (20); Carnegie-Mellon (22); Carlton (26); Wellesley (29); Haverford (32, tie); Wesleyan University (32, tie); Vassar (35), Northeastern (36); RPI (37); Georgia Tech (38); Case-Western Reserve (42, tie); Reed College (42, tie); Bard College (42, tie); Scrips College (46); William & Mary (47); and Oberlin College (49).  The top ten:

1. Cal Tech

2. University of Chicago

3. (Tie) Princeton

3. (Tie) Harvard

3. (Tie) Yale

6.  MIT

7. Columbia

8. Harvey Mudd College

9. Stanford

10. Northwestern

  • The Numbers Crunched: Donald Trump Didn’t Win, Hillary Clinton Lost (New Matilda)  Hat tip to Roger Erickson and Chuck Spinney.  This reporter from Australia shows how a trend from 2008 to 2012 continued into 2016 and cost Hillary Clinton the presidency.  The path to her demise was hidden in plain sight and none of the Democratic campaign wizards could see it, apparently.  But, it seems that the trump campaign did and he zeroed in on the key to his victory in the last two weeks of the campaign with repeated trips to the three key states.  From the article:

Clinton won 232 electoral votes. She only needed 38 more.

Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin have 46 electoral votes between them. The Democrats have won all three for over 20 years. Obama easily won them, usually by over 10 per cent. They cast over 13 million votes this year, and Trump scraped a win, with a total margin of a little over 100,000 votes. If less than 1 per cent of votes had gone the other way, Clinton would have won.

So why did they vote Trump?

In the last two elections, the Republicans made modest but steady gains in those states. The bigger factor was the significant decline in Democratic support. In Michigan, Obama lost 11 per cent of his voters in 2012. Clinton lost another 12 per cent this year. If she had just lost fewer of Obama’s voters, she would have won comfortably.

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