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What We Read Today 24 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:

  • How Did a Nation Crippled by Wall Street Billionaires End Up With Them Running the Country?

  • The Flurry of Settlements May Save Banks Billions

  • Where Does all the Mortgage Settlement Money Go?

  • Are You in the American Middle Class?

  • The Trump Stock Market Rally is Not all that Unusual

  • Greens are Ready for War with Trump

  • How Jill Stein Elected Donald Trump

  • Trump's Frightening Call for Nuclear Arms Race

  • Five Republicans Who Could Buck Trump

  • North Carolina No Longer Classified as a Democracy

  • The Electoral Integrity in all 50 U.S. States, Ranked

  • Russia Taps the Fringe to Unsettle the EU

  • World's First Solar Roadway

  • Israel's History of U.S. Support and UN Conflict

  • Alibaba has a Counterfeit Goods Problem

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world



  • Greens ready for Trump war (The Hill)  Trump’s victory in November’s presidential election was a shock to the green movement, which is now consolidating opposition to a GOP-controlled government bent on undoing President Obama’s environmental agenda.  Econintersect:  What's their beef?  If the Greens who voted for Jill Stein had voted for Hillary Clinton she would have won 278 electoral votes and Donald Trump 260.  (Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would have flipped.)  The Greens got what they voted for.  Now they complain?

  • Trump's Call for a New Nuclear Arms Race: 'Absolutely Frightening' (EcoWatch)  President-elect Donald Trump raised the prospect of a new global arms race on Thursday, after he suggested on Twitter he would increase the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.  President-elect Donald Trump raised the prospect of a new global arms race on Thursday, after he suggested on Twitter he would increase the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.  Trump's tweet came on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country needed to "strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces". MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski said Trump told her:

"Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all." 


  • Five Republicans who could buck Trump in 2017 (The Hill)  With a narrow 52-seat majority in the Senate, the president-elect will need to keep Republicans unified if he wants to clear nominations and legislation through the upper chamber in the face of likely Democratic opposition.  Here are five Republicans who could buck Trump in 2017:

  • Sen. Susan Collins (Maine)

  • Sen. John McCain (Arizona)

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (Kentucky)

  • Sen. Rand Paul (Kentucky)

  • Sen. Ben Sasse (Nebraska)

  • North Carolina is no longer classified as a democracy (News&Observer)  Andrew Reynolds has consulted in over 25 nations on issues of democratic design since 1991. His most recent book is The Arab Spring: Pathways of Repression and Reform (Oxford). He is a Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He designed the first comprehensive method for evaluating the quality of elections around the world. Our system measured 50 moving parts of an election process and covered everything from the legal framework to the polling day and counting of ballots.  See also next article (North Carolina is ranked better than 9 other states for election integrity).



  • Intent on Unsettling E.U., Russia Taps Foot Soldiers From the Fringe (The New York Times)  At a time when Russia’s relations with the West, or at least with established parties there, have soured dramatically over Syria, Ukraine and accusations of interference on all sides, Mr. Putin has enjoyed an extraordinary run of apparent good luck, as exemplified by the surprise election victory of Donald J. Trump, who has repeatedly voiced admiration for the Russian leader. Pro-Russia candidates won presidential elections recently in Bulgaria and Moldova, and France’s National Front, which received bank loans worth nearly $12 million from Russian banks, is now a serious contender for the French presidency next year.  This article reviews a number of fringe political efforts supported by Russia that propose to weaken or disband the EU.


  • World's First Solar Road Opens in France (EcoWatch)  A small village in France is now home to the world's first solar road, aka Wattway. French Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal officially inaugurated the 1 kilometer-long road covered with 2,800-square-meters of resin-encased panels in Tourouvre-au-Perche in Normandy on Thursday.  The French Ministry of the Environment invested €5 million ($5.2 million) to build the project engineered by French road construction company Colas.  According to The Guardian, about 2,000 motorists will drive on the roadway during a test period of two years to see if the project can generate enough energy to power street lights for the 3,400-resident village. The panels consists of extremely thin yet durable panels of polycrystalline silicon that can transform solar energy into electricity.  The panels are designed to withstand all types of traffic, including heavy-duty vehicles and in terms of efficiency, Wattway claims its panels have a 15% yield, compared to 18-19% for conventional photovoltaic panels.




  • Alibaba Faces Growing Pressure Over Counterfeit Goods (The New York Times)  On Wednesday, American trade officials said they had added Taobao, the Alibaba Group’s sprawling online shopping bazaar in China, to their list of the world’s most notorious markets for counterfeit goods. The addition — an embarrassing setback four years after Alibaba successfully lobbied American officials to drop the platform from the list — comes as the owners of brands increasingly complain about the proliferation of fakes on the company’s sales platforms.  It also comes as Alibaba moves to satisfy increasingly sophisticated Chinese consumers who want higher-quality goods — a shift that has also drawn intensifying competition from Alibaba’s rivals.

Alibaba says it has increased efforts to find and eliminate counterfeit goods. In its report on Wednesday, the Office of the United States Trade Representative acknowledged those efforts — but said they were not enough.

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

Trump’s billionaire-buddy administration couldn’t come at a worse time for an America still feeling the aftermath of the greatest economic upheaval since the Great Depression – produced by the same brand of crony-corruption and devious schemes on Wall Street that crashed the economy in the 1930s.

  • Flurry of Settlements Over Toxic Mortgages May Save Banks Billions (The New York Times)   See also next article.  With the clock ticking before President-elect Donald J. Trump takes over, there appears to be an eagerness in Washington to conclude cases before a new, potentially more sympathetic, administration begins. As a result, these banks may have benefited from paying billions less than once proposed.  The $7.2 billion settlement with Deutsche Bank was a relief on Friday to its investors, who were rattled when it emerged in September that prosecutors were seeking a penalty of as much as $14 billion. Shares of Deutsche Bank rose as much as 5% in Frankfurt, before settling up 0.8%.  But not all banks are lining up:

A smaller player in the mortgage-backed securities market, the British bank Barclays, appears to be willing to take its chances under the administration of Mr. Trump.

Barclays said on Thursday that it would “vigorously defend” itself in court against a complaint brought by the Justice Department after settlement talks collapsed. Its shares fell 0.9 percent in London trading as investors weighed the legal risk.

The government says that Barclays, which like Deutsche Bank has significant operations in New York, sold more than $31 billion in mortgage securities that turned out to be “catastrophic failures.”

  • Where Does the Mortgage Settlement Money Go? (The New York Times)  Since the 2008 housing crisis, federal regulators have touted billion-dollar settlements, which, by giving certainty to investors, are often accompanied by a jump in the bank’s stock price.  Financial companies have paid at least $164 billion in more than 100 mortgage-related settlements since 2009, according to an analysis by the law firm of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. This article examines the eight banks that have paid the most and explain how the largest payments were divided up.

  • Are you in the American middle class? (Pew Research Center)

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