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What We Read Today 23 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:

  • Crime Rates and Voting Patterns - Fake News

  • Our Broken Criminal Justice System

  • Heroin Kills More People than Guns

  • Unemployment at the North Pole

  • Cost of Carbon is Going Up

  • U.S. Drillers Come Back to Life (and in Canada Too)

  • Trump's Doctor Breaks His Silence but Doesn't Say Much

  • DOJ Subpoenas Wells Fargo Whistleblower

  • Berlin Suspect Killed in Shootout with Italian Police

  • UN Security Council Demands Israel End Settlements

  • Putin Shrugs Off Trump's Nuclear Comments

  • Chinese SAT Cheating

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Ignoring Climate Change Just Got More Expensive (Bloomberg)  A leading economist looks at what the world is doing to slow global warming. His conclusion: not much.  If President-elect Donald Trump stops taking climate change into account when making federal energy policy, he’ll do so just as a leading projection of climate-related costs bolts upward.  William Nordhaus of Yale University is a central figure in the study of climate change and economics. In the early 1990s he developed what became the leading computer model for studying the effects of warming on the global economy. The Dynamic Integrated model of Climate & the Economy (DICE) has long given resource economists, students, and policymakers an opportunity to test how different scenarios might lead to quite different future climates.  Nordhaus recently updated DICE. He published results of an early test-drive of it this week in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, titled “Projections and Uncertainties About Climate Change in an Era of Minimal Climate Policies'.


  • Drillers Extend Revival as Oil Trades Near 17-Month High (Bloomberg)  Oil explorers added rigs for the eighth straight week, extending a ramp-up of activity in the U.S. shale patch as prices hover near $53 a barrel.  Rigs targeting crude in the U.S. rose by 13 to 523 this week, Baker Hughes Inc. said Friday. Drillers have added 207 rigs since the count hit a seven-year low on May 27.  Most of the recovery in drilling has been in the prolific Permian Basin, which has been a hotbed for acquisitions this year. Rig gains will continue to be primarily in that region until oil prices are "substantially higher," said Robert Christensen, an analyst at Drexel Hamilton LLC in New York. But don’t expect a surge.  Graph below from North American Rotary Rig Counts (


  • U.S. Justice Dept. orders whistleblower to testify in Wells Fargo probe (Reuters)  The U.S. Department of Justice has subpoenaed a high-profile whistleblower in its criminal investigation into Wells Fargo & Co's (WFC.N) opening of accounts without customer permission.  U.S. prosecutors in San Francisco have asked Wells Fargo banker Yesenia Guitron, who lost a private lawsuit against the fourth-largest lender, to testify before a grand jury in San Francisco on Tuesday, according to a subpoena dated Dec. 12, which was seen by Reuters.  Guitron is among at least five Wells Fargo employees who sued the bank or filed complaints with regulators alleging that they were fired after reporting the opening of customer accounts without their permission, according to a Reuters review of lawsuits and complaints to the U.S. Labor Department.  The suits and complaints, filed between 2010 and 2014, raise questions about how early Wells Fargo knew about such allegations and how it handled them.  San Francisco-based Wells Fargo reached a settlement with U.S. regulators and the Los Angeles city attorney in September.

  • Donald Trump’s doctor breaks his silence (PBS)  On a frigid December afternoon, Dr. Harold Bornstein was talking about his most famous patient, President-elect Donald Trump.  He hadn’t spoken with Trump since the election, and had no idea whether he would be asked to move his medical practice to Washington. But he also didn’t seem particularly worried about what the stress of the job might mean for the nation’s oldest president — a distinction he hadn’t considered until this reporter pointed it out.  “It never occurred to me that he was the oldest president, not for a second,” Bornstein, 69, said in his Upper East Side office of the 70-year-old Trump. He said that “there’s nothing to share” on a regular basis about a president’s health:

“Ronald Reagan had pre-senile dementia. I mean, seriously, did they share that one with you, or did Nancy just cover it up?  If something happens to him, then it happens to him.  It’s like all the rest of us, no? That’s why we have a vice president and a speaker of the House and a whole line of people. They can just keep dying.”


  • Berlin attack suspect killed in shootout with Italian police (PBS)  Anis Amri, a Tunisian man who was suspected of crashing a truck into a Christmas market full of shoppers in Berlin, was shot and killed by Italian police in Milan early Friday.  Police say Amri pulled a gun when two officers stopped him in a routine check and asked him for his ID. One of the officers was shot, while a second officer, in response, fatally shot the 24-year-old suspect. Italian police said Amri left Germany after the attack and traveled through France to get to Italy, the Associated Press reported.


  • U.N. Security Council demands end to Israeli settlements, U.S. abstains (Reuters)  The United States on Friday allowed the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements, defying pressure from U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, Israel and some U.S. lawmakers who urged Washington to wield its veto.  An abstention by the United States paved the way for the 15-member council to approve the resolution, with 14 votes in favor, to a round of applause.  The Obama administration's action broke with the long-standing American approach of shielding Israel, Washington's long-time ally that receives more than $3 billion in annual U.S. military aid, from such action. The United States, along with Russia, France, Britain and China, has veto power on the council.  The resolution, put forward by New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal a day after Egypt withdrew it under pressure from the Israel and Trump, was the first adopted by the council on Israel and the Palestinians in nearly eight years.


  • Putin shrugs off Trump's nuclear plans, says Democrats sore losers (Reuters)   Russia's Vladimir Putin said on Friday he was unfazed by President-elect Donald Trump's plans to boost the U.S. nuclear arsenal, praising Trump for being in touch with U.S. public opinion while branding the Democrats sore election losers.  Speaking at his annual news conference in Moscow, the Russian president said earlier comments he had made about his country's own military modernization had been misunderstood in the United States and that he accepted that the U.S. military, not Russia's, was the most powerful in the world.  Putin said on Thursday Russia's military was "stronger than any potential aggressor". Trump later tweeted that the United States "must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes".


  • Exclusive: Chinese education giant helps its students game the SAT (Reuters)  Are Chinese students really smarter, or just better cheaters?   When the new SAT was given for the first time in March, the owner of the test took unprecedented steps to stop “bad actors” from collecting and circulating material from the all-important college entrance exam.  But in the months since, China’s largest private education company has been subverting efforts to prevent cheating, Reuters found.  The company, New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc, has regularly provided items from the tests to clients shortly after the exams are administered. Because material from past SATs is typically reused on later exams, the items New Oriental is distributing could provide test-takers with an unfair advantage.


Canadian rig activity was up 4 at 234 for the week of December 16, 2016 and is up 72 (44.4%) from last year. The number of rigs drilling for oil was down 1 at 116 and is 25 (27.5%) higher than last year. Gas directed rig count at 112 was up 4 and is 25 rigs (27.5%) higher than last year.


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

The bottom map in the Facebook image is not of the 2013 crime rate. Instead, it is a map of 2012 election results by county, published by Mark Newman of the University of Michigan’s Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems:

  • Commutations Are Not Enough to Fix Our Broken Criminal Justice System (Foundation for Economic Education)  The thousands of clemency grants by President Obama have served the individuals involved justly and well.  But that doesn't address the fundamantal problems of the U.S. criminal justice system.  First, clemency still leaves the affected individuals branded as felons, not cleared as would be the case with pardons.  Secondly, millions are incarcerated, on probation, or on parole who likely should never have been convicted tin th first place.  Yes, they were convicted under the law.  The system is broken because the laws are wrong.  See for example 5 Laws That Could Send Santa to Federal Prison.

  • Heroin deaths exceeded gun homicides in 2015 (PBS News Hour)  Hat tip to Roger Erickson.  America’s opioid epidemic now claims 33,000 lives a year. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Thursday shows that opioids, including heroin and prescription painkillers, cause almost two-thirds of all drug- related overdoses in the United States. In the past year, heroin deaths went up 20%, and now exceed gun homicides. And since 2000, 300,000 Americans have died from an opioid overdose.

  • Revolution in the Labor Force (Cartoon forwarded by Roger Erickson)  Roger says that the elves have also disappeared.


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