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What We Read Today 07 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".).


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

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Topics today include:

  • Guess Who is Time's Person of the Year

  • If Your Days Seem Longer There is a Reason, the Earth's Rotation is Slowing Down

  • There are 25 Things that Successful People Don't Do

  • Scientists have Discovered a Critical Function of Proteins

  • Why is a Dating Site Attacking Julian Assange?

  • Income Tax Requires Tax Planning

  • Mosquito Population Growth is Not Caused Primarily by Climate Change

  • Weather Channel Tells Breitbart to Stop Turning Weather Channel Video into Fake News

  • Congress Sends Sweeping New Health Bill to Obama

  • More on Oil Spills and Situation at Standing Rock

  • Trump Names Obama Climate Change Agenda Foe to Head EPA

  • Elon Musk Suggests 'Something Like' Universal Basic Income Will be Necessary

  • 10,000 Snow Geese Poisoned by Toxic Mine Pond Abandoned 34 Years Ago in Montana

  • Donald Trump Suggests New Air Force One is a Boondoggle

  • Paris Battles Worst Air Pollution in Recent Memory

  • Italy Could Ask EU for Bank Bailout

  • Assad Nears Full Control of Aleppo

  • Iran Extended Battle for Mosul Increasing Civilian Casualties but Increasing Losses for ISIS

  • Iran is Irate, Says U.S. Cannot be Trusted

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Ancient Babylonian and Greek records reveal how Earth is slowing down (International Business Times)   Thanks to hundreds of records of lunar and solar eclipses carved in clay tablets and written into dynastic histories, modern scientists have determined that the amount of time it takes for Earth to complete a single rotation on its axis has slowed by 1.8 milliseconds per century, according to a report published Wednesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society A.  It may not sound significant, but over the course of 2½ millenniums, that time discrepancy adds up to about 7 hours. In other words, if humanity had been measuring time with an atomic clock that started running back in 700 BC, today that clock would read 7 p.m. when the sun is directly overhead rather than noon, the Chicago Tribune reported.


  • 2016 Person of the Year:  Donald Trump (Time)  Econintersect:  This could hardly be a surprise.

  • U.S. Senate joins House to pass sweeping new health bill (Reuters)   The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to support sweeping legislation that will reshape the way the Food and Drug Administration approves new medicines.  It will also provide funding for cancer and Alzheimer's research, help fight the opioid epidemic, expand access to mental health treatment and advance research into precision medicine.  Two years in the making, the 21st Century Cures Act was passed last week by the House of Representatives and will now go to President Barack Obama to sign into law. Supporters say it will speed access to new drugs and devices by allowing clinical trials to be designed with fewer patients and cheaper, easier-to-achieve goals.

  • Oil Pipeline Shut Down After Spill, Just 200 Miles From Standing Rock (EcoWatch)  A six-inch crude oil pipeline operated by Belle Fourche Pipeline Company in western North Dakota was shut down following discovery of a leak on Monday. The amount of the spill was not immediately known, but oil has leaked into the Ash Coulee Creek in Billings County.  The site of the spill is about 200 miles from the camp where members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their supporters have been protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Econintersect:  Using Google search we have been unabble to find any other media reports of this event.

  • Standing Rock is Safe, but DAPL Still Needs to Cross a River (Wired)  US Army Corp of Engineers has blocked the Dakota Access Pipeline’s passage through Sioux Standing Rock reservation. This marks a victory for protestors who have been camped out for eight months on the Cannon Ball Native American tribal land—the $3.7 billion dollar pipe was supposed to pump 450,000 barrels of crude oil a day under the Missouri River just north of the reservation. If the pipeline were built, it could burst and threaten the tribe’s water.

This is the third time the Army Corps has rerouted the DAPL. You might not have known that, because those other two times were not preceded by national outcry. They happened, though, for the same essential reasons: because the Army Corps decided that the pipe’s route was environmentally unsafe. Which is probably going to be a problem no matter where the Army Corps gives the DAPL’s owners permission to build. The pipeline has to cross water at some point, and wherever it does, it is—like all oil-moving operations—likely going to put another community’s water at risk.

“You certainly can’t build a pipeline for hundreds of miles across the West without running into rivers,” says Carl Weimer, executive director of Pipeline Safety Trust, an organization that advocates for fuel transportation safety. “River crossings can be problematic because rivers move a lot of dirt, and the Army Corps has to plan those crossings well so the pipeline doesn’t get scoured out by the river.”

Long before the Standing Rock dissent, DAPL was proposed to run past Bismarck, North Dakota’s largest city and capital. But the US Army Corp of Engineers squashed the plan in 2014, because the pipe would have been too close to the city’s municipal water supply: Its contents could seep into the groundwater and contaminate taps. So the pipeline’s operator, Energy Transfer Partners, rerouted the pipeline through the less populated Standing Rock reservation—which, obviously, didn’t really solve the problem. The Army Corp’s decision Sunday will be the start of yet another lengthy review for a new route, which will likely delay pipeline completion.

  • Standing Rock activists stay in place, fearing pipeline victory was a 'trick' (The Guardian)  Hat tip to Roni Murray.  Native American activists at the Standing Rock “water protector” camps vowed to remain in place the morning after the US Army Corps of Engineers denied a key permit for the Dakota Access pipeline, with many expressing concerns that the incoming Trump administration and potential legal action from the pipeline company could reverse their victory.  The Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday that it would not grant the permit for the Dakota Access pipeline to drill under the Missouri river, handing a major victory to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe after a months-long campaign against the pipeline.  However, the companies behind the pipeline, who have the backing of the incoming Trump administration, have insisted the project would still go ahead. 

  • Trump to pick foe of Obama climate agenda to run EPA: source (Reuters)   U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump will pick an ardent opponent of President Barack Obama's measures to stem climate change to head the Environmental Protection Agency, a Trump transition team source said on Wednesday.  Trump's choice, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has enraged environmental activists, but he fits with the Republican president-elect's promise to cut the agency back and eliminate regulation that he says is stifling oil and gas drilling.  Pruitt became the top prosecutor for Oklahoma, which has extensive oil reserves, in 2011, and has challenged the EPA multiple times since, including in a pending lawsuit to throw out the EPA's Clean Power Plan. The plan is the centerpiece of Obama's climate change strategy and requires states to curb carbon output.

  • US: Elon Musk predicts a “pretty good chance” for UBI (BIEN)  In an interview with CNBC on Friday, November 4, famed Silicon Valley entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity, stated that a universal basic income will likely become necessary due to automation.  Musk says:

“There’s a pretty good chance we’ll end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation. I’m not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen.”

  • 10,000 Snow Geese Die After Landing on Toxic Mining Waters in Montana (EcoWatch)  The 700-acre Berkeley Pit closed in 1982, leaving behind a trove of toxic heavy metals. As the pit filled with rainwater, arsenic, cadmium, copper, cobalt, iron, zinc and other inorganic compunds leached into the water. It soon became a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site.  Snow geese summer in colonies on the Canadian and Alaskan tundra, migrating south in the fall to wintering grounds along the American coasts and inland wetland areas. For those in the central part of the continent, their migration route takes them across Montana.  On the evening of Nov. 28, wildlife spotters hired by Montana Resources, which jointly manages the abandoned mine with Atlantic Richfield, saw an incoming flock about 25 miles away that they estimated at 25,000 geese.  Crews have been trying to rescue as many birds as possible, bringing the geese to animal shelters and veterinarians as they find them. But a similar, although much smaller, die-off in 1995 showed how dangerous the toxic waters can be.  Approximately 10,000 of the birds have died so far in this event.

  • Mr. Trump: Here’s Why You Really Want to Spend $4 Billion on Air Force One (Wired)  Donald Trump thinks that Air Force One is too expensive to build.  See tweet below.  This article explains why the plane is so expensive and why "out-of-control" may not have been well considered words.  Econintersect:  Any hip-bruises yet from all those spontaneous "tweets from the hip" yet Mr. President?



  • Paris bans cars for second day running as pollution chokes city (The Guardian)   Paris  authorities restricted traffic in the city for a second day after a “lid of pollution” sealed the capital, causing concern over public health.  Photographs showed a grey veil of dirty air trapped over the city, masking the horizon and, at times, landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower. Experts said it was the longest most intense spike in pollution for at least 10 years and was expected to continue for at least another day if not longer.  Following a ban on vehicles with odd-number licence plates on Tuesday, it was the turn of those with even numbers to be told to leave the car at home on Wednesday. To encourage them, public transport in the city and suburbs was free.




  • How Iran closed the Mosul 'horseshoe' and changed Iraq war (Reuters)   In the early days of the assault on Islamic State in Mosul, Iran successfully pressed Iraq to change its battle plan and seal off the city, an intervention which has since shaped the tortuous course of the conflict, sources briefed on the plan say.  The original campaign strategy called for Iraqi forces to close in around Mosul in a horseshoe formation, blocking three fronts but leaving open the fourth - to the west of the city leading to Islamic State territory in neighboring Syria.  That model, used to recapture several Iraqi cities from the ultra-hardline militants in the last two years, would have left fighters and civilians a clear route of escape and could have made the Mosul battle quicker and simpler.  But Tehran, anxious that retreating fighters would sweep back into Syria just as Iran's ally President Bashar al-Assad was gaining the upper hand in his country's five-year civil war, wanted Islamic State crushed and eliminated in Mosul.


  • Iran says extension of sanctions act shows U.S. unreliable (Reuters)  A U.S. Senate vote to extend the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for 10 years shows the world that Washington cannot be relied upon to act on its commitments, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday.  Iran has vowed to retaliate against the ISA extension, passed unanimously on Thursday, saying it violated last year's agreement with six major powers to curb its nuclear program in return for lifting of international financial sanctions.  U.S. officials said the ISA renewal would not infringe the nuclear agreement. U.S. lawmakers have also said the ISA extension would make it easier for sanctions to be quickly reimposed if Iran contravened the nuclear deal..

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

  • 25 things successful people refuse to do (LifeHealthPro)  Successful people have several things in common — things they do that help them become successful and things they don't do. Following is a list of 25 things successful people refuse to do:

  1.  Successful people refuse to make excuses for their own mistakes. They learn and grow and improve obsessively.

  2.  Successful people refuse to whine when things don’t go their way. They figure out a way to win in spite of setbacks.

  3.  Successful people refuse to copy what other people have done to be successful. They ignore the crowd and do their own thing.

  4.  ....

  • Scientists Discover Critical Function of Proteins (R&D)  Scientists have discovered a grouping of 75 paralogs that they say can hold the key to understanding more about human diseases and support better drug discovery.  Led by the Earlham Institute (EI) in Norwich, England, scientists from the U.K. and Hungary have discovered 75 critical paralog groups containing proteins with close evolutionary relationships to each other where one or two members in these groups can be critically important for a specific function and also their mutations can cause cancer or other inherited diseases.  Paralogs are genes related by duplication within a genome that are able to form and evolve new functions, which have similar functions in relations to cellular signaling. This means that there are several duplicated genes within the genome that might be redundant or less prominent when it comes to key cellular signaling pathways.  The discovery of these proteins identifies what their indispensable role in human cellular signaling pathways, as well as how to potentially guide drug targets and find biomarkers for disease diagnosis in the future.

  • The strange tale of a dating site’s attacks on WikiLeaks founder Assange (McLatchy News Service)  Hat tip to Roger Erickson.  This article recounts the strange tale of a dating site’s attacks on WikiLeaks founder Assange, accusing him of  "pedophile crimes" and writing complaints in very legalistic language.  Wikileaks says that the dating site is “a highly suspicious and likely fabricated” company, while the company has lashed out at Assange  describing “his despicable activities against American national security,” and warned journalists to “check with your libel lawyers first before printing anything that could impact or endanger innocent people’s lives.” 

  • Advanced tax time planning: 15 life insurance considerations (LifeHealthPro)  Life insurance can be a superb savings asset, but it does carry distinct tax issues.  All conventional saving vehicles serve the same purpose, but the unique feature of life insurance is that it assures a desired accumulation at a specific, but uncertain time; namely at the time of the insured’s death. No other savings or investment tool makes such a guarantee.  This article is an excerpt from the book The Tools & Techniques of Life Insurance Planning, 6th edition (Leimberg, Doyle and Buck).

  • Study: Mosquito Population Growth Not Caused by Climate Change (R&D)   According to long-term datasets from mosquito monitoring programs, mosquito populations have increased as much as ten-fold and the number of mosquito species has increased two-to-four fold over the past five decades in New York, New Jersey and California.  The rapidly growing mosquito population may be less because of climate change and more because of urbanization and the slow decay of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane).  Marm Kilpatrick, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California Santa Cruz and corresponding author of a new study on mosquito population growth, explained what the growth is due to:

“At first glance, recent increases in mosquito populations appear to be linked to rising temperatures from climate change, but careful analyses of data over the past century show that it's actually recovery from the effects of DDT."

  • Note to Breitbart: Earth Is Not Cooling, Climate Change Is Real and Please Stop Using Our Video to Mislead Americans (The Weather Channel)  Global warming is not expected to end anytime soon, despite what wrote in an article published last week.  Though we would prefer to focus on our usual coverage of weather and climate science, in this case we felt it important to add our two cents — especially because a video clip from (La Niña in Pacific Affects Weather in New England) was prominently featured at the top of the Breitbart article. Breitbart had the legal right to use this clip as part of a content-sharing agreement with another company, but there should be no assumption that The Weather Company endorses the article associated with it.  The Breitbart article – a prime example of cherry picking, or pulling a single item out of context to build a misleading case – includes this statement: "The last three years may eventually come to be seen as the final death rattle of the global warming scare."  In fact, thousands of researchers and scientific societies are in agreement that greenhouse gases produced by human activity are warming the planet’s climate and will keep doing so.  Econintersect:  In fact there is debate about whether there is a La Nina underway, discussed every week in Sig Siber's detailed global climate and weather review.

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