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What We Read Today 25 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:

  • Why Do We Have the Electoral College Select the President?

  • There is a Running Conversation in Your Head

  • We Write Because We Don't Know What We Actually Think Until We Read What We Write

  • Small-Caps Surge Under Trump

  • Crude Oil Traders Braced and Uncertain

  • OPEC Meeting Outcome Next Wednesday Very Uncertain

  • Trump Would Raise Income Taxes for 8 Million Middle-Class Households

  • Trump Would Lower Average Middle-Class Income Taxes by 2%, Top 1% by 13.5%

  • Are Trump's Global Business Conflicts Resolvable?

  • Trump is Showing Some Flexibility

  • GOP has Romney-Giuliani Split

  • Did Russian Propaganda Contribute to "Fake News"?

  • GDP Hopes for 4Q Suffer Setback

  • Those Liberated in Mosul Still Suffer New Attacks from ISIS

  • Will Abandoning the TPP 'Make China Great Again'?

  • Chinese Spammers Create 'Fake Deals' for Black Friday

  • Will Trump Cancel the 'Opening' of Cuba?

  • Wave of Violence, Mass graves and Severed Heads in Mexico

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Crude Oil Traders Brace for November 30 OPEC Meeting (Orbex)  Oil traders are on the sidelines as the markets edge closer to the November 30th OPEC meeting. Oil ministers of the OPEC member nations will meet in Vienna next Wednesday, November 30, 2016, where a deal to cut oil production is high on the agenda in a bid to stabilize oil prices. It would also formalize the informal agreement to limit production to 32.5 million bpd – 33 million bpd in late September this year.  Still, it is not a done deal as traders are reminded of the OPEC meeting in November two years ago where the cartel failed to secure a production cut eventually leading to a supply glut that continues to this day.  The chart below shows how oil has traded since 14 November:

Click for larger image.


  • For Some in Middle Class, Trump Plan Would Mean Tax Increase (Associated Press)  President-elect Donald Trump's proposals would modestly cut income taxes for most middle-class Americans. But for nearly 8 million families - including a majority of single-parent households - the opposite would occur: They'd pay more.  Most married couples with three or more children would also pay higher taxes, an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found. And while middle-class families as a whole would receive tax cuts of about 2%, they'd be dwarfed by the windfalls averaging 13.5% for America's richest 1%.

  • Green Party's Jill Stein files for recount in Wisconsin (The Hill)   Green Party candidate Jill Stein officially requested a recount of Wisconsin’s presidential vote tally.  Stein filed her request just before the deadline Friday afternoon, the Wisconsin Election Commission announced.  Her campaign has been fundraising this week to fund recount efforts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — states in which Donald Trump won or is leading.  Stein said in a statement this week that the reliability of voting machines needs to be “investigated” after suspicions have been raised for months that Russian hackers were seeking to infiltrate voting systems.

  • A scramble to assess the dangers of President-elect Donald Trump’s global business empire ( The Washington Post)  Hat tip to Richard Baldwin. The Trump empire has active business activities ongoing around the world, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and China.  See also Trump's potential for conflict of interest is 'almost infinite' (CNBC)  From this (WaPo) article:

... ethics experts eyeing Trump’s empire are now warning of many others, found among a vast assortment of foreign business interests never before seen in past presidencies. At least 111 Trump companies have done business in 18 countries and territories across South America, Asia and the Middle East, a Washington Post analysis of Trump financial filings shows.

  • Five issues where Trump shows flexibility (The Hill)  Donald Trump is signaling a willingness to bend some of the hard-line campaign promises that helped him upend the presidential election.  And as the president-elect builds his Cabinet, old and new allies may reshape some of his domestic and foreign policy ideas.  Here are five issues where Trump may be flexible:

  • International allegiances

  • Interrogation and torture

  • Climate change

  • Charges for Clinton

  • Severing business ties 

  • Republicans Divided Between Romney and Giuliani for Secretary of State (The New York Times)  Rival factions of Republicans are locked in an increasingly caustic and public battle to influence President-elect Donald J. Trump’s choice for secretary of state, leaving a prominent hole in an otherwise quickly formed national security team that is unlikely to be filled until next week at the earliest.  The debate inside Mr. Trump’s wide circle of formal and informal advisers — pitting supporters of one leading contender, Mitt Romney, against those of another, Rudolph W. Giuliani — has led to the kind of dramatic airing of differences that characterized Mr. Trump’s unconventional and often squabbling campaign team.

  • Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say (The Washington Post)  Here is the intro:

The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.


  • In retaken areas of Mosul, Islamic State still inflicts pain (Reuters)   As Iraqi forces edge forward in Mosul's eastern districts, taking pains to avoid harming civilians, Islamic State mortar and sniper fire is hitting the people it ruled harshly for more than two years.  With more than 100,000 men backed by an international coalition arrayed against an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 insurgents inside the city, there is little doubt Iraqi forces will eventually prevail. The question is at what cost.  An average of 100 casualties are arriving each day at the hospital in the Kurdish regional capital Erbil, where those with wounds too serious to be treated at field clinics on Mosul's outskirts are rushed, a hospital administrator said.  Despite the growing number of casualties, the wounded praised the conduct of the Iraqi security forces and said it was a price worth paying to be free again from Islamic State.


  • Trump will pursue 'regional hegemony' in South China Sea: Chinese academics (Reuters)  A Donald Trump presidency does not mean the United States will withdraw from the South China Sea, but rather will continue pursuing "regional hegemony", Chinese academics who drafted a report for an influential government think tank said on Friday.  Ensuring "absolute control" over the South China Sea was the crux of U.S. military strategy in the Asia-Pacific, according to what the authors said was China’s first ever public report on the U.S. military presence in the region, released on Friday in Beijing.  "There will be no overturning change to U.S. policy in the South China Sea," said Wu Shicun, head of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, an influential Hainan-based think tank that wrote the report.

A toxic political war over money, jobs and globalization killed the vast and complex trade deal that was supposed to be a signature legacy of President Obama. But the deal, between the United States and 11 Asian and Pacific nations, was never just about trade.

The agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was conceived as a vital move in the increasingly tense chess match between China and the United States for economic and military influence in the fastest-growing and most strategically uncertain part of the world. The deal, which excluded China, was intended to give those 11 nations more leverage in that strained match by providing them with a viable economic alternative. And its defeat is an unalloyed triumph for China, the country that President-elect Donald J. Trump castigated repeatedly over trade.



  • Trump cloud hangs over Cuba (The Hill)   A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the fate of U.S. flights to Cuba.  President-elect Donald Trump has threatened to reverse President Obama’s efforts to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, but it's unclear whether the businessman wants to halt commercial flights to the island nation.  Cuba hard-liners in Congress expect Trump to ground flights along with rolling back other regulatory changes.  Some experts, however, say it won't be easy for him to undo some of the changes that have garnered popular and corporate support at home.


Soldiers and police fanned out Friday across the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, chasing a wounded gang leader and trying to quell a wave of violence that included the discovery of hidden graves holding dozens of bodies and a camp where gunmen stored the severed heads of nine rivals in a cooler.

The clashes between drug gangs were complicated by the fact that townspeople fed up with the violence had formed "community police" vigilante squads in many places. The squads often prevent police and soldiers from moving freely and sometimes act on behalf of the gangs.

Gov. Hector Astudillo announced that federal authorities would return to patrol areas where dozens of often-dismembered bodies have been dumped on roadsides in recent weeks.

The state has been riven, not just by the killings, but by the kidnapping of about a dozen people in the town of Ajuchitlan. Residents there announced they would create a vigilante force to look for the kidnap victims, an idea that threatened to create yet another armed group.

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

  • Thucydides Roundtable, Book IV: History is Written by the Losers (  Siam Qian is sometimes called the “Herodotus of the East”.  It’s a fair title. Herodotus is one of two men who can claim to have invented history. Sima Qian is the other.  Sima Quan suffered ignominious personal defeat in order to complete his historical documentation.  Here is part of the introduction to this article:

Herodotus did it in Greece; Sima Qian did it in China. Of the other great civilizations—the Mesoamericans, the Egyptians, Sumerians, and their descendants, the Andean kingdoms, the early rulers of the Eurasian steppe, the great empires that sprouted up along the Indus and Ganges rivers, along with their cultural satellites across South and Southeast Asia—history is nowhere to be found. I remember my shock when I discovered our knowledge of ancient India relies more on ancient Greek historians than ancient Indian historians. Traditional Indic civilization simply did not have any. In ancient India, playwrights, poets, lyricists, grammarians, philosophers, story-tellers, mathematicians, military strategists, religious authorities, and religious upstarts all put pen to palm frond, leaving a treasury of Sanskrit literature for the future. This literature is sophisticated. It is meaningful. Even in translation, much of it is beautiful. But search as you may, nowhere in this vast treasury will you ever find a work of history. That a great thinker could profitably spend his time sorting through evidence, trying to tie together cause and effect, distinguishing truth from legend, then present what is found in a written historical narrative—it is an idea that seems to have never occurred to anyone on the entire subcontinent. Only in Greece and in China did this notion catch hold. The work of every historian who ever lived finds its genesis in one of these two places—and with one of these two people.

  • The Running Conversation in Your Head ( The Atlantic)  Inner speech isn’t bound by many of the conventions of verbal speech. For one, we can produce it much faster when we don’t have to go at the pace required to use tongues and lips and voice boxes. One researcher the book (The Voices Within, Charles Fernyhough) cites clocks inner speech at an average pace of 4,000 words per minute—10 times faster than verbal speech. And it’s often more condensed—we don’t have to use full sentences to talk to ourselves, because we know what we mean.  This review discusses the fragmented nature of this "inner speech" and how it can create confusion.  Econintersect:  The key here is "we don’t have to use full sentences to talk to ourselves, because we know what we mean".  When we "know what we mean" we are including all the nonrational elements (emotions, biases, "fake news". etc.) that are embedded in our consciousness and subconscious being.  That is why we have always thought "we write because we don't know what we actually think until we read what we write".  This is similar to statements attributed to Flannery O’Connor, E.M. Forster, and others.  Until thoughts are written, they are not expressed in a form which can be parsed, criticized and subjected to the fire of analysis which forges them into the essence of their logic.  That is the beauty of mathematics - precise statements that expose deficiencies of logic and the revelation of assumptions. 

  • Small-Cap Investors See Big League Growth Under Trump (Frank Holmes, Seeking Alpha)  FH has contributed to GEI.  Hat tip to Marvin Clark.  Two significant observations here.  First the stock market accurately predicted Trump's win - "Historically, when the S&P 500 has turned negative between July 31 and October 31, it's spelled doom for the incumbent party candidate. This year, the market fell more than 2 percent, setting the stage for a Donald Trump victory."  The second observation is the big bet investors are now making on small business.



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