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What We Read Today 15 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:

  • Do Medications Do More Harm than Good?

  • President Obama Wrote 2016's Most Talked-about Science Paper

  • It Will Be Many Years Before the Health Benefits of Obamacare Can Be Assessed

  • How Can We Stop an Incoming Comet?

  • The GOP Has 'Daunting' Legislative Deadlines in 2017

  • U.S. Petroleum Distillates Storage is Increasing

  • North Dakota Oil Production Unexpectedly Increases

  • North Carolina Republicans try to strip powers from incoming Democratic governor

  • Can Rick Perry Kill the Energy Department?

  • The Politicization of Climate Science

  • Proposed Labor Secretary Wrote a Deregulation Manifesto Book

  • EU Extends Russian Sanctions

  • UK Banks to Fight EU Fines

  • Antibiotic Tainted Seafood from China and Southeast Asia

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • How to Stop an Incoming Comet (Scientific American)  If your death-from-above musings focus solely on asteroids , you need to broaden your worried mind.  Comets can also deliver a heaping helping of calamity to Earth, and scientists and policymakers alike should start taking measures to combat the threat, according to Joseph Nuth, a researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.  Comets are largely ignored in thinking about protecting earth foe two reasons:  asteroids are much more common and comets are difficult to spot and track.  But a comet impact could do as much or even more damage than an asteroid.  The solution proposed by this author is two build a defense system comprised of two space craft - one with the mission of detecting and tracking approaching spacial bodies and the other with a mission to intercept  and attack such a body.  For what a comet can do, see Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9's Epic Crash with Jupiter in Pictures (  The impacts of six fragments of the comet into the planet were visible by telescope over a period of six days in July, 1994.



  • Debt ceiling limit deal will end on March 16.

  • Congressional deadline for a new budget is April 15.

  • Current budget deal ends April 28.

  • GOP imposed objective of repealing Obamacare.

  • The  Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding ends September 30.

  • The National Flood Insurance Program will expire September 30.

  • Authorization of the nation’s transportation programs ends September 30.

  • The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as Section 702, expires December 31.

  • Brace yourself - U.S. distillate storage increases are coming? (Oil Pro)  This winter's cold weather might help U.S. distillate storage rise by 988,000 barrels in the week ending Dec. 9.  According to Bloomberg data, a consensus predicts that increased refinery output will offset the colder weather. The increase follows the 7.5 million barrels added in the previous two weeks. The report says inventory typically increases at the start of mid-November, which follows the end of seasonal refinery maintenance, and steadily rises through the winter.


  • Surprise increase in North Dakota production (Shale Profile)  Taking many by surprise (the EIA included), oil production in North Dakota rose in October with 70+ kbo/d from the previous month. This was the largest month-on-month increase in the history of North Dakota.  This happened despite that in October 51 new horizontal wells started production, versus 73 in September. These 73 September wells however, had an excellent 2nd month; on par with the 45 wells that started in June, which caused the uptick earlier in July. Besides that, far fewer wells were shut-in: the average downtime of all wells was 3.2 days in September, vs 2.0 days in October (non-confidential wells). So it is not just the Texas-centered Permian Basin that is increasing production now.  The increase was almost entirely from high production level wells:


  • North Carolina Republicans try to strip powers from incoming Democratic governor (Reuters)  North Carolina's Republican-dominated legislature is moving to strip powers from the state's incoming governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, three weeks before he is to succeed a Republican in the executive mansion.  Lawmakers on Thursday began debating a bill to require Senate confirmation for cabinet appointments, reduce by 1,200 the number of state employees the governor can hire and fire at will, and eliminate the governor's power to pick University of North Carolina trustees.  The legislation and related bills came as a surprise, filed late on Wednesday on the heels of a special "lame duck" session of the General Assembly called to consider relief for Hurricane Matthew victims.  Cooper, to be sworn in on Jan. 7 after defeating incumbent Republican Pat McCrory by 10,000 votes last month, said the proposals are aimed at holding him back.

  • Palantir CEO at Trump-tech summit raises red flags (CNBC)  The presence of the realtively small tech start-up raises the question of whether co-founder Peter Theil, a Trump advisor, is using his position to enhance the exposure of that company.  Another red flag from the same meeting is the presence of Trump's three eldest children at the same meeting, according to this article.

  • Rick Perry Tapped to Run the Energy Agency He Once Vowed to Kill (Scientific American)  Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a climate science denier who once said that he wanted to shut down the U.S. Department of Energy, is President-elect Donald Trump's nominee to run that very agency.  In Perry’s famous “oops!” moment in 2011 that helped derail his candidacy for president, he forgot the name of the Energy Department during a Republican debate when asked which federal agencies he would eliminate.  Perry is an ardent critic of Obama administration climate policies and denies that humans are causing climate change. He has falsely said that human-caused global warming is not “settled science by any sense of the imagination”.  See also Climate Scientists Hatch Plans to Deal with Trump's Climate Skeptics.  Econintersect:  It is a sad day when science becomes politicized.  Politics tries to deal with certainties, while science is continually addressing uncertainties.  See Is Donald Trump Pushing More Scientists Toward Political Activism?

  • Trump’s Pick for Labor Secretary Wrote a Deregulatory Manifesto (ProPublica)  Since President-elect Donald Trump’s announcement that he has picked fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder to be labor secretary, there’s been lots of speculation that the administration could undo worker protections.  The single best window into Puzder’s thinking may be an obscure book he wrote six years ago. It’s a blistering attack on business regulations, unions, and the Obama administration’s stimulus and health-care policies.  The 160-page book — “Job Creation: How It Really Works and Why Government Doesn’t Understand It.” — centers on a concept Puzder and Newton dub “The Certainty Factor,” which they argue is key to business expansion and job creation.  From the description at Amazon:

Government's misguided attempts to orchestrate labor markets and the economy through higher taxes, increased regulatory requirements, and wealth redistribution are antithetical to both job creation and American free enterprise. Centralized government planning and federal intrusion into the private sector have long track records of consistent failure, as runaway deficit-spending, endless borrowing, and higher taxes do nothing except create more economic uncertainty that discourages venture investment, profit incentives, and job creation. The authors provide a framework for instilling strong optimism among U.S. businesses to renew domestic investments in profit-making opportunities that will create millions of new jobs in the coming years.


  • EU agrees to extend Russia sanctions until mid-2017 (Reuters)  European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to extend the bloc's main economic sanctions against Russia over the turmoil in Ukraine for six months until mid-2017, diplomats said.  The decision was expected and the formal process to extend the sanctions on Russia's defense, energy and financial sectors will take place early next week, they said.


  • Trio of banks hit back at €485 million rate rigging fine (CityWire)  Last week, European regulators fined three banks a total of €485 million (£408 million, $510 million) over their collusion in manipulating the benchmark Euribor.  The fine came after a five year investigation. Previously, RBS, Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale agreed to an €820 million settlement with the regulator in 2013.  EU competitions commissioner Margrethe Vestager had said that they found evidence of traders exchanging information to set rates at levels that enabled them to turn a profit on house positions.  The three banks, HSCB, JP Morgan, and Credit Agricole, have hit back at the European regulator’s decision to fine the banks for rate rigging, according to the Financial Times, saying that they did nothing wrong with Credit Agricole declaring that it would appeal the decision while the other two are still considering an appeal.  HSBC said it is considering legal options.


  • Turkey's Erdogan says discussed Syria, Iraq with Obama (Reuters)  Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he discussed the situation in Syria and Iraq with U.S. President Barack in a call on Thursday, adding Obama asked how he could help when he was told about difficulties evacuating people from the city of Aleppo.  Erdogan, who was speaking at a joint news conference in Ankara with the president of Slovenia, said 1,150 civilians and wounded had been evacuated from Aleppo so far.  Erdogan said he had voiced concern to Obama about Iraq, where Turkey fears Iranian-backed groups could take over the town of Tal Afar and Kurdish militants the town of Sinjar.  The recapture of Aleppo by Syrian government forces has dealt a humiliating blow to years of Turkish policy in Syria, and handing a major victory to main regional rival Iran.



  • The election result was not decided in the Kremlin (The Economist)  The Kremlin may be congratulating itself on a great victory but The Economist does not think that Russia was the deciding factor in the U.S. presidential election.  Much more effective for Russia is the discord sewn within the GOP and between the Republicans and Democrats as a result of the hacking activities.


  • How Antibiotic-Tainted Seafood From China Ends Up on Your Table (Bloomberg)  In China and Southeast Asia, antibiotics fed to animals is transported into the water in which fish and other seafood are raised.  The origin of fish and seafood is not carefully monitored so people in the rest of the world do not know if they are eating fish from the Far East or other locations.  Dr. Martin Blaser, a professor of microbiology and an infectious diseases physician at New York University Langone Medical Center who chairs President Barack Obama’s advisory panel for combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria says:

 “People eating their shrimp cocktails and paella may be getting more than they bargained for.  The penetration of antibiotics through the food chain is a big problem.”

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

Antidepressants were the most common type of psychiatric drug in the survey, with 12 percent of adults reporting that they filled prescriptions for these drugs… In addition, 8.3 percent of adults were prescribed drugs from a group that included sedatives, hypnotics and anti-anxiety drugs, and 1.6 percent of adults were given antipsychotics.”






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