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What We Read Today 04 December 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:

  • How to Pay for Universal Basic Income

  • Facebook is Now a Media Company and Will be Valued as One

  • Facebook Will Have to "Curate" Content to Survive

  • In Medieval Times People Worked Less

  • Seattle Minimum Wage is Over - Employment Has Improved

  • You Can Bet that OPEC Will Cheat

  • Army Corps of Engineers has Halted the Dakota Access Pipeline

  • Pence Says Trump-Taiwan Phone Episode was a 'Courtesy Call'

  • Austrians Reject Far Right

  • Italians Appear to be Voting 'No' and the Euro May Pay the Ultimate Price

  • Netanyahu will Discuss 'Bad Iran Deal' with Trump

  • More of Aleppo Falls to Government

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


"If you can bet on one thing in this world, bet on a mother's love, and bet on the fact that OPEC cheats.  But it will be a month or two before we see that happening."


  • Feds deny permit for Dakota Access pipeline (The Hill)  Federal officials have denied the final permits required for the Dakota Access Pipeline project in North Dakota.  The Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday it would instead conduct an environmental impact review of the 1,170-mile pipeline project and determine if there are other ways to route the pipeline to avoid a crossing on the Missouri River.  Interior Secretary Sally Jewell released a statement in support of the decision, saying it is in line with federal laws designed to assess environmental impacts of infrastructure projects.   Army Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a statement:

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do.  The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.” 

  • Pence downplays significance of Trump's call with Taiwan president (Reuters)  U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Sunday downplayed the significance of a phone conversation between Donald Trump and Taiwan's president, describing it as a "courtesy call" that was not intended to show a shift in U.S. foreign policy.  Trump's call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday was the first by a U.S. president-elect or president with a Taiwanese leader since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, acknowledging Taiwan as part of "one China."  China blamed Taiwan for the call, but also lodged a diplomatic protest with the United States on Saturday, saying that the "one China" policy was the bedrock of relations between China and the United States.


  • Austrians reject far right in presidential election (Reuters)  Austria's far-right presidential candidate was soundly defeated on Sunday, confounding forecasts of a tight election in which he would ride a wave of populism sweeping the West.  Norbert Hofer lost to former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen, who had put the June Brexit referendum at the center of his campaign, saying the far right would lead Austria down the same road and warning voters not to "play with this fire".  "From the beginning I fought and argued for a pro-European Austria," said Van der Bellen.  A projection by pollster SORA for broadcaster ORF, which included a count of 99% of ballots cast in polling stations, showed Van der Bellen on 53.3% and Hofer on 46.7% with a margin of error of 0.4 percentage points.  The election was a re-run of a May vote that was overturned due to counting irregularities, which was a far tighter affair with Hofer winning 49.65% of the vote. 


  • Italian exit polls show Renzi losing constitutional reform referendum: Reports (CNBC)  What was originally a rather dry referendum on constitutional change has turned into a high-stakes game with the political and economic stability of Italy—and ultimately the euro zone—at risk.  Sunday's vote was on whether the country's second chamber should be stripped of some of its powers. The country's government is hamstrung by procedure and delays to legislation. A "Yes" vote in the referendum would mean that laws would only need approval of the lower house to be passed.  Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has pinned his political future on the vote, saying he would resign if a "Yes" vote is rejected.  Populist parties such as the 5-Star Movement, however, have campaigned for a "No" vote, saying the change to the constitution would lead to a concentration of power.  As well as throwing the political future of Italy into doubt, a "No" could hit the country's already-fragile economy hard.


  • Netanyahu says will discuss with Trump 'bad' Iran nuclear deal (Reuters)  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he will discuss with Donald Trump the West's "bad" nuclear deal with Iran after the U.S. president-elect enters the White House.  Netanyahu has been a harsh critic of the nuclear deal, a legacy foreign policy achievement for President Barack Obama. But he had largely refrained from attacking the pact in recent months as Israeli and U.S. negotiators finalised a 10-year, $38 billion military aid package for Israel. During the U.S. election campaign, Trump, a Republican, called last year's nuclear pact a "disaster" and "the worst deal ever negotiated". But the businessman-turned-politician has also said it would be hard to overturn an agreement enshrined in a United Nations resolution.  Netanyahu told the Saban Forum, a conference on the Middle East, in Washington, via satellite from Jerusalem:

"Israel is committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That has not changed and will not change. As far as President-elect Trump, I look forward to speaking to him about what to do about this bad deal." 


  • Syrian army nears Aleppo's Old City, rebels tell U.S. they won't leave (Reuters)  The Syrian army and allied militia advanced towards rebel-held areas of Aleppo's Old City on Sunday, thrusting deeper into opposition parts of the city in a relentless attack which a military source said would be over in a matter of weeks.  A senior rebel official told Reuters that rebel groups in Aleppo had told the United States they will not leave their besieged, shrinking enclave, responding to Russian call for talks with Washington over their withdrawal.  But facing relentless bombardment and ground assaults, the rebels may eventually have no choice but to negotiate a withdrawal from eastern Aleppo, where tens of thousands of civilians are thought to be sheltering.


  • Putin says Trump clever, will understand new responsibilities (Reuters)   U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is a clever man and will quickly understand his new responsibilities, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with NTV TV.  Putin has spoken previously of his hope that Trump will help restore U.S.-Russia relations, and analysts said he was unlikely to want to dial up anti-Western rhetoric before Trump's inauguration in January.


  • Afghan president says Taliban wouldn't last a month without Pakistan support (Reuters)  Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday that the Taliban insurgency would not survive a month if it lost its sanctuary in neighboring Pakistan, urging its neighbor to take on militant groups on its soil instead of giving Kabul financial aid.  Ghani's remarks, made at an international conference in the northern Indian city of Amritsar not far from the border with Pakistan, suggested tensions were rising with Pakistan after Ghani attempted to improve relations with Islamabad when he took office in 2014.  Pakistan said while violence had increased in Afghanistan , blaming another country for it didn't help.

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

  • How to Pay for Universal Basic Income (Evonomics)  This article argues that it is a mistake to allow profit to flow only to a few from use of the global commons:  air, water, and other resources.  Here is an excerpt:

But universal income is expensive and quickly runs into the stumbling block of how to pay for it. Its wide appeal is checked by an equally wide­spread aver­sion to taxes, especially for the purpose of redistributing income. Fortu­nate­ly there’s another way to pay for it: universal income can come from universal assets, a.k.a. our common wealth.

The wealth we inherit and create together is worth trillions of dollars, yet we presently derive almost no income from it. Our joint inheritance includes invaluable gifts of nature such as our atmosphere, minerals and fresh water, and socially created assets such as our legal and financial infrastructure, without which private corporations couldn’t exist, much less thrive. If our common assets were better managed, they could pay every American, including children, several hundred dollars a month.

  • Facebook Won The Election, But May Lose The War (Seeking Alpha)  Facebook is turning into a media company and will begin to be valued as such, leaving the ranks of technology.  And, although Facebook has matured into this new role with the 2016 election news cycle, it has also become one of the "owners" of the "fake news" genre.  The author suggests that it is a "victim to fake news and will be forced to "curate" going forward".  This reality is shown in the share price performance since the election (shown below).  Here is an excerpt:

The Company has taken a lot of heat for fake news and otherwise manipulating (even if unintentionally) the election results. The New York Times had a prominent article titled, Facebook, in Cross Hairs After Election, Is Said to Question Its Influence." Going forward, FB, and other online media companies are going to have to spend a lot more time, money and resources in curating news to avoid fake news and otherwise manipulating the public. In short, FB is going to be more like a media company, subject to media scrutiny and media valuations. I think the last part is going to be a bit of a surprise to many investors.

Click for larger image.

  • Before Capitalism, Medieval Peasants Got More Vacation Time Than You. Here’s Why. (Reuters)  Lynne Paramore says that if you go back 200, 300 or 400 years and you find that most people did not work very long hours.  In the modern world, she points out, long working hours and large number of working days per year does not correlate with high productivity.  Here is an excerpt which discusses the "good old days":

Plowing and harvesting were backbreaking toil, but the peasant enjoyed anywhere from eight weeks to half the year off. The Church, mindful of how to keep a population from rebelling, enforced frequent mandatory holidays. Weddings, wakes and births might mean a week off quaffing ale to celebrate, and when wandering jugglers or sporting events came to town, the peasant expected time off for entertainment. There were labor-free Sundays, and when the plowing and harvesting seasons were over, the peasant got time to rest, too. In fact, economist Juliet Shor found that during periods of particularly high wages, such as 14th-century England, peasants might put in no more than 150 days a year.

  • Seattle Minimum Wage Experiment is Over (The Big Picture)  The disaster predicted by some after raising the minimum wage 20 months ago in Seattle has somehow not happened.  Employment is up and unemployment is down.

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