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What We Read Today 29 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 Does the Economy Trump Inherits Compare to History?

  • Golden Era for Hedge Funds Faces Client Revolt

  • Snowiest Places in America

  • Econ Duel Debate:  Fiat Money vs. Gold Standard

  • Fire Year High in Police Officers Killed on Duty

  • Obamacare is Actually Getting Stronger

  • Debate:  Is the Affordable Care Act Beyond Repair?

  • Tillotson Deposition on Exxon-Mobile Actions on Climate Change Scheduled for January 19

  • Exxon Email from 1981 Show its Early Awareness of Climate Change

  • Dollar Retreats

  • Germany Prepares for Trade Conflict with Trump

  • Russia-Turkey Cease-fire Deal with Syrian Government and Rebels

  • U.S. Military Says Airstrike May Have Killed Civilians at Hospital in Mosul

  • U.S. Retaliates with Sanctions Against Russia

  • Russian Ruble and Default Risk Continue to Improve

  • Chile's Technology Incubator

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • More US police officers killed in 2016 – but number still below 10-year average (The Guardian)  The number of police officers killed in the line of duty in the US increased in 2016 compared with the previous year following multiple attacks on police, including ambushes in Dallas and Baton Rouge.  A new analysis released on Thursday morning by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund showed that 135 officers died on the job in 2016, the highest in five years but still well within the recent yearly average.  For the past 10 years, a yearly average of 151 officers have died on the job, according to the memorial fund. Of the total, 64 officers were shot and killed, 21 by ambush.  At least 1,058 people have been killed by law enforcement officers this year, according to The Counted, the Guardian’s project to track killings by police.


  • Before Trump Tries to Kill It, Obamacare Actually Just Got a Lot Stronger (New York)  A month ago, there seemed to be at least some possibility that the doomsaying predictions that Obamacare opponents have made since the law passed might finally come true. Premiums on the individual-exchange markets, which initially came in well below projected levels when the exchanges opened in 2014, spiked this fall by some 25%. While the price hike only brought premium levels back up to their initially projected levels, it seemed at least conceivable that the spike would set off a death spiral. If the higher premiums drove customers out of the exchanges, a shrinking pool could lead to higher rates, more customers leaving, and ultimately trigger a wholesale collapse.  But in the wake of the election and the holidays, when few people have paid attention, we have important news that makes the death-spiral scenario look extremely remote. First, sign-ups in the exchanges did not shrink. They actually set a new record, with 6.4 million sign-ups, exceeding the previous year’s total by 400,000. Second, a new S&P report concludes that the 2016 premium increases were, indeed, a “one-time pricing correction”.  Insurers presented with a brand-new market initially set their rates far too low, and now they have found a sustainable price point that consumers are willing to pay. Going forward, the report projects that insurers “will likely see continued improvement … with more insurers getting close to breakeven or better”.  The author says that opponents of ACA are simply ignoring these facts.  See also next article.

  • Debate: Is The Affordable Care Act Beyond Repair? (NPR)  Dr. Scott Gottlieb and Megan McArdle faced off against Jonathan Chait and Dr. Douglas Kamerow over the Affordable Care Act in a debate moderated by John Donvan in January, 2014.  The title is the question debated.  Before the debate, the audience voted 16% in favor and 53% against (31% undecided).  After the debate 32% voted in favor and 59% against (9% undecided).  The position that "The Affordable Care Act is beyond repair" won the debate (influenced 16% vs. only 6%) although only about 1 out of 3 attendees agreed with the statement after the debate was finished.

  • Tillerson Climate-Change Testimony Set Before Trump Sworn In (Bloomberg)  Lawyers for teenagers claiming the U.S. government failed to protect the environment from global warming plan to question under oath President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state on his knowledge of climate change.  Exxon Mobil Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson’s testimony, set for the day before the Jan. 20 inauguration, is being sought by lawyers representing 21 children and teenagers seeking to prove that oil and gas industry groups “have known about the dangers of climate change since the 1960s and have successfully worked to prevent the government” from taking action. The groups, whose members include Exxon, joined the lawsuit on the side of the government to oppose the teens.  The youths from across the country claim that by perpetuating the use of fossil fuels, the government has trampled their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. They won a shot at pursuing their claims in November when an Oregon federal judge rejected the government’s request to throw out their lawsuit.  See also next article.

  • Exxon knew of climate change in 1981, email says – but it funded deniers for 27 more years (The Guardian)   An email from Exxon’s in-house climate expert provides evidence the company was aware of the connection between fossil fuels and climate change, and the potential for carbon-cutting regulations that could hurt its bottom line, over a generation ago – factoring that knowledge into its decision about an enormous gas field in south-east Asia. The field, off the coast of Indonesia, would have been the single largest source of global warming pollution at the time.

  • Dollar Retreats With U.S. Stocks as Gold Gains: Markets Wrap (Bloomberg)  The dollar dropped the most in two weeks while oil retreated from its highest close in 17 months as investors prepared to close out a volatile year for financial markets. U.S. stocks slipped to a three-week low in light holiday volume.  The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index declined for the first time in four days after reaching the highest level in a decade.  For market details see Market Close.


  • Germany Prepares for Trade Conflict with Trump (Spiegel Online)  Germany's current account surplus is higher than ever before and the country is concerned that it could become a target of US president-elect Donald Trump's ire as a result. Berlin is already making preparations for the possible conflict.  But Germany argues that most of the surplus is not the result of German policies but comes from free market processes.


  • Is the Russia-Turkey cease-fire deal a breakthrough? (PBS News Hour)  The cease-fire agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey and approved by the Syrian government and some of its most powerful rebel opponents is a potential turning point in the Syrian civil war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and laid waste to huge parts of the country over the past six years.  Thursday’s announcement comes days after government forces recaptured the northern city of Aleppo, scoring its most symbolic and strategic victory in the conflict.  If it sticks, the cease-fire will lead to the convening of talks between the Syrian government and the opposition to be held in mid-January in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, the first such talks since U.N.-sponsored peace talks collapsed in April this year.


  • US military says Mosul airstrike may have killed civilians at hospital (The Guardian)  An airstrike by the US-led coalition operating against Islamic State militants near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul hit a van in a hospital compound parking lot and may have killed civilians, the US military said on Thursday.  A van carrying Isis fighters was targeted and hit in the airstrike, the Combined Joint Strike Force said in a statement.  After the strike it was determined that the location of the van was in the hospital compound.


  • U.S. Retaliates Against Russian Interference With Election (Bloomberg)  President Barack Obama retaliated Thursday against Russia for cyberattacks aimed at interfering with the 2016 presidential campaign, imposing sanctions on top Russian intelligence officials and agencies and expelling 35 Russian operatives from the U.S.  As part of the administration’s response, the FBI and Homeland Security Department also released a report with technical evidence intended to prove Russia’s military and civilian intelligence services were behind the hacking and to expose some of their most sensitive hacking infrastructure. The report dubs the Russian operation “Grizzly Steppe.”  Obama said in a statement:

“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions.  These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government.”

Click for large image.


  • Inside Chile’s Magical Startup Scene (Bloomberg)  Santiago would not be the first city that pops to mind as a rival to Silicon Valley, and with good reason: The wealth flowing through Chile’s capital city comes from the copper and mineral mines rather than high tech. But a collection of passionate engineers operating out of a technology incubator called the Idea Factory could change that.  The video below describes one of the efforts.

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

  • What History Has to Say About the Economy Trump Will Inherit (Bloomberg)   Research suggests factors beyond the control of any U.S. president, not their actual policies, set the course of the economy. Yet with voters, President-Elect Donald Trump will secure much of the praise or blame when it comes to the impact of his agenda over the next four years.  This article presents six charts that illustrate the economy that Trump — who wants to focus on "jobs, jobs, jobs" — will inherit from President Barack Obama and how it compares with historical standards.  Here are two of the six graphics in the article.

  • The Golden Era of Hedge Funds Draws to a Close With Clients in Revolt (Bloomberg)  This year marked the beginning of the end of hedge funds as we’ve known them. Their investors are joining a growing revolt, spurred by years in which fund managers grew rich while producing little in the way of returns. In 2016, big money clients finally decided to bail. One New York City official said in a nod to the populist wave that swept Trump into the presidency:

“Let them sell their summer homes and jets and return those fees to investors.” 

  • The snowiest places in America (MSN News)  Using data from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, this compilation is interesting but limited in accuracy because of limited official data collection locations.  For example, Duluth, Minnesota is 21st on the list with 62.7 inches average annual snowfall, but Old Forge, NY (177.3 inches) and Highmarket, NY (214.5 inches) are not.  Mt. Washington, NH is 8th on the list with with 261 inches average annual snowfall but the ski area which gets the most snow of any east of the Rockies, Jay Peak, Vermont (355 inches), would be 6th on the list, ahead of Valdez, Alaska..  Picture below is Ranier Paradise Ranger Station, Mt. Ranier, Washington, number 1 on the list (671 inches a year).  Your Econintersect editor has been there at the end of June a number of years ago and there were still areas where the snow was several feet deep.


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