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What We Read Today 13 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:

  • Cybersecurity's Next Phase

  • Will OPEC's Gambit Work to Raise Oil Prices?

  • U.S. Oil Production Set to Ramp Back Up

  • Bitcoin Nears All-Time High

  • Is Trump Against the American Worker?

  • Obama Signs Bill Easing FDA Approval Process

  • Senate Fight Looms over Trump's Secretary of State Nominee

  • Will Trump Purge the Department of Energy?

  • Will the U.S. Congress Investigate WikiLeaks?

  • Why Would Trump Isolate Himself from Intelligence Community with CIA Attack?

  • High UK Property Taxes Bringing Down Some Real Estate Prices

  • U.S. to Limit Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

  • Aleppo Has Fallen

  • Iran Restarts Nuclear Program to Work on Nuclear Powered Ships

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Global

  • Cybersecurity's Next Phase: Cyber Deterrence (Scientific American)  For decades, deterrence has effectively countered the threat of nuclear weapons. Can we achieve similar results against cyber weapons?  Econintersect:  GEI will be reposting this article in its entirety within a few days.

  • Why OPEC’s gambit to raise oil prices might not work (The Conversation)  The planned OPEC cuts have already provided some respite for oil producers, in terms of higher prices, thanks to the eagerness of financial traders. But once the excitement of the news passes, these and other demand-supply fundamentals will once again govern the oil price.  Although these higher prices will enhance producer revenues and slow the buildup of oil inventories, they can also dampen demand growth and encourage too much production too soon.  Econintersect:  The "law" of supply and demand is still in play - there is considerable slack in the supply potential (excess capacity for oil production globally and quickly developable shale production in the U.S., and probably elsewhere) combined with some demand elasticity if oil prices rise significantly.  See also next article.

  • From oil glut to oil deficit in 2017? (Oil Pro)  In a new release, the IEA (International Energy Agency) says the oil markets are going to flip from a surplus to a deficit in the first half of 2017 as the production cuts from OPEC begin to kick in.  According to the agency, stockpiles will fall by about 600,000 barrels a day in the next six months. This comes after the IEA previously assumed inventories wouldn’t drop until the end of 2017, according to Bloomberg. In its monthly report, the IEA said that before the agreement among producers, the agency’s demand and supply numbers “suggested that the market would re-balance by the end of 2017”.  Bloomberg notes that there are signs the market is starting to tighten, as inventories dropped for a third month of Ocotober, marking the longest run of declines since 2011. Inventories of crude and refined oil in industrialized nations still remain 300 barrels above their five-year average, per the EIA.  But, countering this trend, U.S.shale production will start to increase again next month.

  • The price of bitcoin has hit highs not seen since 2014 (City A.M.)  The price of bitcoin has hit a near three year high as global and political uncertainty continue to make the cryptocurrency an increasingly attractive safe haven for investors.  The price of bitcoin versus the dollar surpassed its 2016 high of $781.31, reaching highs not seen since its all-time high in early 2014 and creeping closer toward the $800 mark.  It hit a high of $787.50 in the early hours of Tuesday morning, according to CoinDesk's bitcoin price index (BPI), however, those gains have been tempered, returning under the $780 mark by mid-afternoon.

U.S.

  • Trump Against the American Worker (The New Yorker)  Alhough not often in the headlines, the Department of Labor enforces hundreds of laws and thousands of regulations affecting some ten million businesses and a hundred and twenty-five million American workers, and it has a distinguished history. It celebrated its centennial in 2013. Its headquarters is in the Frances Perkins Building, which is named after its longest-serving secretary. Frances Perkins was the first female Cabinet member in American history. As the Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945, she is widely credited with advancing the abolition of child labor, the establishment of the forty-hour work week, a minimum wage, Social Security, worker’s compensation, and unemployment insurance. She was a powerful advocate for public-works programs.  This article contrasts the profile of  Andy Puzder, Trump's nominee for Labor Secretary.  He is a prominent opponent of raising the minimum wage, of paid sick leave, of efforts to raise the salary threshold for overtime pay, and of Obamacare. Puzder is even critical of the federal relief programs, such as food stamps, that subsidize the poverty wages that he pays his employees. The current federal minimum wage is just $7.25 per hour.  The author quotes from the mission statement of the U.S. Department of Labor:

"...to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.” 

  • Obama signs medical cures bill into law (The Hill)  President Obama on Tuesday signed a sweeping medical cures bill into law, capping more than a year of bipartisan negotiations.  The 21st Century Cures Act seeks to speed up the approval of new drugs and invests new money in medical research.  The measure grew to include a slew of bipartisan priorities, including $1 billion over two years to fight the epidemic of opioid addiction and $1.8 billion for Vice President Biden’s cancer “moonshot.” A long-awaited mental health bill was also included in the package.  The bill passed both houses of Congress on overwhelming bipartisan votes, an unusual development on healthcare as lawmakers gear up for a partisan fight over ObamaCare in the new year. 

  • Senate fight looms after Trump taps Exxon CEO as top U.S. diplomat (Reuters)   President-elect Donald Trump named the head of Exxon Mobil Corp, Rex Tillerson, as his choice for U.S. secretary of state on Tuesday and won backing from some Republican foreign policy figures ahead of a possible Senate fight over the oilman and his ties to Russia.  The Exxon chief executive potentially faces difficulties getting confirmed in the Republican-controlled Senate. Some lawmakers worry about his links to Moscow and opposition to U.S. sanctions on Russia, which awarded him a friendship medal in 2013.  But several Republican establishment figures, including former secretaries of state James Baker and Condoleezza Rice, and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates vouched for Tillerson, 64, who has spent more than 40 years at the oil company.  Rice and Gates, who have worked for Exxon as consultants, both issued statements of support on Tuesday.

  • Energy Department balks at Trump request for names (Reuters)  The U.S. Energy Department will not comply with a request from Donald Trump's transition team for the names of people who have worked on climate change.  Econintersect:  Will the Energy Department experience an "air controllers" moment after the inauguration?

  • WikiLeaks claims Obama hacking probe is investigating WikiLeaks (The Hill)  Anti-secrecy platform WikiLeaks on Friday claimed President Obama’s probe into Russian interference in the U.S. election was an investigation into WikiLeaks itself.  Some researchers immediately took to Twitter to speculate that the tweet suggests WikiLeaks is exposing its connection to the Russian government.  WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has repeatedly denied that the publication of the DNC and Podesta emails were part of a Russian influence operation.

  • Trump Isolates Himself with CIA Attack (The New Yorker)  This author wonders what logic could prompt Donald Trump to deliberately make an enemy of the intelligence community. Many intelligence professionals had already been suspicious of him—because of his disregard for facts, and because of his embrace of the retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the National Security Adviser designate, whom some people in Washington regard as a conspiracy theorist. But this latest episode was something far more direct and personal. Never before has a President or President-elect spoken so dismissively of the C.I.A.

UK

  • London has paid £15.1bn in property taxes (City A.M.)  London has paid a massive £15.1bn in property taxes according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  New figures from the OECD show that the UK has the highest property taxes in the world, and London pays a fifth of the total collected.   In 2014, the last year for which OECD figures are available, property taxes were 12.7% of the total tax collected in the UK, increasing by £4.44 billion ($5.5 billion) from the year before.  These property taxes included council tax, business rates, stamp duty land tax, and, in Scotland, land and building transaction tax.  Last year former chancellor George Osborne increased the tax rates on high-end homes, which has caused prices on prime properties in central London to plummet. Some asking prices have been slashed by more than 30 per cent.

Saudi Arabia

  • U.S. to halt some arms sales to Saudi, citing civilian deaths in Yemen campaign (Reuters)   The United States has decided to limit military support to Saudi Arabia's campaign in Yemen because of concerns over widespread civilian casualties and will halt a planned arms sale to the kingdom, U.S. officials told Reuters.  The United States will also revamp future training of the kingdom's air force to focus on improving Saudi targeting practices, a persistent source of concern for Washington.  The decision reflects deep frustration within President Barack Obama's government over Saudi Arabia's practices in Yemen's 20-month-old war, which has killed more than 10,000 people and sparked humanitarian crises, including chronic food shortages, in the poorest country in the Middle East.

Syria

Iran

  • Iran to work on nuclear-powered vessels after U.S. 'violation' of deal (Reuters)  Iran ordered its scientists on Tuesday to start developing systems for nuclear-powered marine vessels in response to what it calls a U.S. violation of its landmark 2015 atomic deal with world powers.  Nuclear experts said that President Hassan Rouhani's move, if carried out, would probably require Iran to enrich uranium to a fissile purity above the maximum level set in the nuclear deal to allay fears of Tehran building an atomic bomb.  Rouhani's announcement marked Tehran's first concrete reaction to a decision by the U.S. Congress last month to extend some sanctions on Tehran that would also make it easier to reimpose others lifted under the nuclear pact.

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

Click for larger image.

From Wikipedia

  • New Technique Saves More Lives by Vaccinating Fewer People (R&D)  It is necessary only to vaccinate highly mobile people to prevent epidemics.  Diseases can still wreak havoc on local communities but pandemics do not occur.  Scientists at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, who developed this new method, call it “explosive immunization”, as, they say, it’s the fastest and most efficient way to prevent the spread of disease.  The method uses complex datasets to identify so-called “superblockers,” typically well-connected people who move between different communities and whose patterns of activity make them more likely to pass on an infection.  For more details, see  Immunization and Targeted Destruction of Networks using Explosive Percolation (Physical Review Letters).

trump.trials.of.enemies


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