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What We Read Today 22 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.

The rest of this post is available only the GEI Members.  Membership is FREE -  click here

Topics today include:

  • Rydex Bearish Funds Drop Near 20 Year Lows

  • Tesla Has a Big Advantage over Competitors:  1.3 Billion Miles of Highway Data

  • Video of Tesla Auto-Driver in Operation

  • Why Trump's Jobs Pledge is in Trouble

  • Why Robots Won't Kill Jobs

  • Health Insurers Looking Up with Obamacare

  • Health Insurers Hit Bottom in 2015

  • Barclays Sued by U.S. for Mortgage Security Fraud

  • Trump to Expand U.S. Nuclear Arsenal

  • New Trump Communications Team

  • Icahn is New Trump Advisor - Champions Financial Deregulation

  • European Banking Crisis Continues with Focus on Italy

  • Egypt Delays Security Council Vote on Settlements

  • And More

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

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Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Global

  • Commentary: Don’t fear the robots; they won’t kill jobs (Reuters)  #dontfearrobots  The new jobs panic is exaggerated and misplaced. For one thing, political and social caution may block some of the potential uses, such as self-driving cars. For another, many jobs will continue to require a blend of skills, flexibility and judgement that is difficult to automate. David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, argues that such employment requires "tacit" expertise that cannot readily be codified.

U.S.

  • Health insurers will do better with Obamacare results in 2016 — and even better next year, new projection says (CNBC)  There could be a light at the end of a dark tunnel for Obamacare insurers.  Health insurers may finally be seeing improved results on their Obamacare plans just as a newly elected president is poised to follow through on promises to end the controversial coverage program, a new report suggests.  An analysis out Thursday says that health insurers are expected in 2016 "to start reversing" financial losses on their Obamacare business after "hitting bottom" in 2015.  And 2017 "will likely see continued improvement" for those insurers selling individual health plans, "with more insurers getting close to breakeven or better," according to the report by Standard and Poor's Global Ratings.

  • Barclays to Face Off Against U.S. Over Crisis-Era Loans (Bloomberg)  Barclays Plc was sued by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly deceiving investors who bought mortgage-backed securities, according to court papers filed in federal court in Brooklyn.  The lawsuit announced on Thursday is rare for the big banks, which typically negotiate a settlement rather than risk a trial. The breakdown in talks suggests that the bank is willing to take its chances with the incoming enforcement officials in the Trump administration. The bank has lined up a lawyer known for his aggressive defense of clients including Lt. Col. Oliver North.  Barclays is one of a handful of European banks, including Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Holdings Plc, Credit Suisse, UBS Group AG and Royal Bank of Scotland, that have yet to settle the long-running U.S. probe as the Obama administration seeks to resolve the last major investigations from the financial crisis. The U.S. has extracted more than $46 billion from six U.S. financial institutions over their dealings in mortgage-backed securities.

  • Trump calls for expanded U.S. nuclear weapons capability (Reuters)  U.S. President-elect Donald Trump called on Thursday for the country to expand its nuclear weapons capabilities until the world "comes to its senses" - a signal he may support costly efforts to modernize the aging U.S. nuclear arsenal.  It was not clear what prompted his comment. However, earlier on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia needed to "strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces".

  • Trump names Sean Spicer press secretary, announces other senior members of his press team (CNBC)  President-elect Donald Trump has named close adviser Kellyanne Conway as his White House counselor, elevating the woman who led his campaign to victory to a senior West Wing position.  Trump — who also announced his senior White House communications staff, including naming former Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer as press secretary — has a strong rapport with Conway and she was seen as a positive influence on his often chaotic campaign. Conway, who took over as campaign manager in the summer, has been one of Trump's most visible advisers, making frequent television appearances on his behalf.

  • Carl Icahn to Champion Decreased Regulation as Trump Adviser (Bloomberg)  Billionaire investor Carl Icahn said he will be “rallying against overregulation” in his role as a special adviser to President-elect Donald Trump.  The corporate raider-turned activist shareholder said Thursday on CNBC that he’ll continue giving Trump advice on regulatory appointments and overhauls. He dismissed questions about perceived conflicts of interest with his investments, saying he’s “not making any policy” or dictating hires.

EU

  • Bailout of world's oldest bank underscores lingering crisis in Europe (CNBC)   More than eight years after the collapse of the global financial system, Europe's banks are still struggling — and things may get worse.  The latest threat to euro zone banks comes from Italy, where the world's oldest bank, Monte dei Paschi, is running out of cash. On Wednesday, it disclosed that without fresh capital, it will be insolvent within four months. Previously, it was saying it had enough cash to last 11 months. The bank was founded in 1472.  Italian officials are expected to meet Friday to formally approve a €5 billion ($5.2 billion) government rescue of the world's oldest bank, just days after it failed to raise enough private cash to stay afloat.  But with Italy's banks mired in bad loans and the country's economy going nowhere, the move may prove to be too little, too late.

Germany

  • Germany Had Monitored Berlin Truck Attack Suspect for Months (Associated PressBloomberg)  German officials had deemed the Tunisian man being sought in a manhunt across Europe a threat long before a truck plowed into a Christmas market in Berlin — and even kept him under covert surveillance for six months this year before halting the operation.  Now the international manhunt for Anis Amri — considered the prime suspect in Monday's deadly rampage — is raising questions about how closely German authorities are monitoring the hundreds of known Islamic extremists in the country.  The issue puts new pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is running for re-election next year. Critics are lambasting her for allowing hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers to enter the country, allegedly without proper security checks.  Among them was Amri, a convicted criminal in both Tunisia and Italy with little chance of getting asylum who successfully evaded deportation from Germany even as German authorities rejected his asylum application and deemed the 24-year-old a possible jihadi threat.

Israel

  • Egypt delays vote on settlements after Israeli pressure, Trump tweet (Reuters)  #twitterdiplomacy   Egypt postponed a U.N. Security Council vote on Thursday on a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building and diplomats said Cairo had acted under pressure from Israel and to avoid alienating U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.  A vote would have forced U.S. President Barack Obama to decide in his last month in office whether to shield Israel with a veto, or, by abstaining, to register criticism of the building on occupied land that the Palestinians want for a state.

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

rydex.bearish.funds.2016.dec

  • The Tesla Advantage: 1.3 Billion Miles of Data (Bloomberg)   There was, in hindsight, a clear element of risk to Tesla Motors Inc.’s decision to install Autopilot hardware in every car coming off the production line since October 2014. It paid a price, with federal regulators probing the deadly crash of a Model S while in driver-assist mode and critics slamming Tesla for rolling the technology out too soon.  But there was also a reward. The company has collected more than 1.3 billion miles of data from Autopilot-equipped vehicles operating under diverse road and weather conditions around the world. And in the frantic race to roll out the first fully functional autonomous vehicle, that kind of mass, real-world intelligence can be invaluable. In that way, for now, the electric-car maker has a leg up on competitors including Google, General Motors Co. and Uber Technologies Inc.  See next article.

  • Why Trump’s factory job promises won’t pan out—in one chart (Brookings)  The problem for Trump and blue-collar workers is that when manufacturing returns to the states (and several trends favor that), the associated job-creation will not be what it once was.  Nor will the difference be just a minor effect – it’s going to be major.  Manufacturing is becoming increasingly automated.  Since 1980 U.S. manufacturing output has more than doubled while manufacturing employment has fallen by about 40%.

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