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What We Read Today 30 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:

  • Oil has Biggest Year since 2009

  • Obama Tries to Protect Health Law

  • Trump Says Putin is Smart

  • Americans have "Amnesia" about Racial History

  • What Could Go Wrong with Wall Street Expectations for Another Up Year in 2017?

  • Theresa May Criticizes John Kerry's Israel/Palestine Speech

  • Syria Truce is Getting Shaky

  • Russia Will Not Retaliate for U.S. Expulsions, Waiting for Trump

  • Taiwan President Plans Transits Through U.S. Airports, China Protests

  • Large Fish Kill in Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia

  • First Intersex Birth Certificate Issued in U.S. - What about NC Bathrrom Law?

  • Facebook Bans Journalist for 'nasty fascistic lot'

  • Treasuries Suffer Worst Decline for at Least 5 Years in Second Half

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Oil down, but ends year with biggest gain since 2009 (Reuters)  Oil prices settled slightly lower on Friday, the year's last trading day, but attained their biggest annual gain since 2009, after OPEC and partners agreed to cut output to reduce a supply overhang that has depressed prices for two years.  A two-rig rise in the oil rig count in the United States, the ninth weekly increase in a row, as reported by oilfield services provider Baker Hughes Inc (BHI.N), added to bearish sentiments.  But the total count of 525 for the week, the last for the year, was still below last year's level by 11 rigs.  U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) CLc1 crude futures were down 5 cents, or 0.1%, at $53.72 a barrel, while Brent LCOc1 fell 3 cents, or 0.1%, to $56.82.


  • Obama to meet lawmakers in attempt to protect health law (Reuters)  President Barack Obama plans to meet Democratic lawmakers in Congress next week to discuss how to protect his signature healthcare law from Republican efforts to dismantle it, a White House official said on Friday.  Obama, who is leaving office on Jan. 20, will attend a meeting with Democrats from the House of Representatives and the Senate on Wednesday, the official said.  During the session, Obama will warn Democrats that allowing Republican lawmakers to scrap the Affordable Care Act before proposing a replacement would create "chaos" in the U.S. healthcare system, according to the official.

  • Judge blocks North Carolina law limiting power of Democratic governor (The Guardian)  A North Carolina judge has temporarily blocked a Republican-backed law that strips the incoming Democratic governor of his control over election boards just before he takes office.  Wake County superior court judge Don Stephens ruled on Friday that the risk to free and fair elections justified stopping the law from taking effect this weekend until it could be reviewed more closely. Stephens plans to review the law on Thursday.  Governor-elect Roy Cooper sued on Friday to block the law, passed two weeks ago, which would end the control governors exert over statewide and county election boards.

  • Trump Says Putin 'Smart' for Not Retaliating Against U.S. Sanctions (NBC News)  President-elect Donald Trump gave Vladimir Putin two thumbs up Friday for not immediately retaliating after the U.S. expelled 35 Russian diplomats and imposed other sanctions for allegedly interfering with the presidential election.  See also article under Russia, later below.  Trump tweeted his approval after Putin rejected his foreign minister's proposal to give American diplomats the boot as payback.

After President-elect Donald Trump's recent victory, some of his supporters celebrated by flying Confederate battle flags from pickup trucks and waving them at rallies.  But Trump's victory may mark the resurgence of the Old South in another more sinister way: The return of "racial amnesia".  

That's what some historians are saying as they watch a familiar storyline emerge. Trump's triumph is now being roundly described as a revolt by white working-class voters; racism, sexism and religious bigotry had little, if anything, to do with it.

People making this argument are following a script first honed by another group of Americans who made history disappear. After the Civil War, "Lost Cause" propagandists from the Confederacy argued the war wasn't fought over slavery -- it was a constitutional clash over state's rights, they said; hatred toward blacks had nothing to do with it.  

It was an audacious historical cover-up -- to convince millions of Americans that what they'd just seen and heard hadn't really happened. It worked then, and some historians say it could work again with Trump.

  • Wall St. thinks stocks will rise in 2017 - What could go wrong? (Reuters)  Wall Street's rally could be derailed by renewed worries about President-elect Donald Trump's policies, a resurgent dollar or potential wild-card events like cyber attacks or a trade war, investors say as they look to 2017.  Stocks are at record highs on optimism Trump will boost the economy, and strategists in a recent Reuters poll expect more gains next year.  But they also worry about what could derail the market as a surprising 2016 wraps up and an uncertain 2017 awaits.


  • Theresa May's criticism of John Kerry Israel speech sparks blunt US reply (The Guardian)  Theresa May has distanced the UK from Washington over John Kerry’s condemnation of Israel, in comments that appear to be designed to build bridges with the incoming Trump administration.  Kerry, the outgoing secretary of state, delivered a robust speech this week that criticised Benjamin Netanyahu’s government as the “most rightwing coalition in Israeli history” and warned that the rapid expansion of settlements in the occupied territories meant that “the status quo is leading toward one state and perpetual occupation”.  The prime minister’s spokesman said May thought it was not appropriate to make such strongly worded attacks on the makeup of a government or to focus solely on the issue of Israeli settlements.


  • Clashes, air raids tarnish Russia and Turkey's Syria truce (Reuters)  Clashes, shelling and air raids in western Syria marred a Russian- and Turkish-backed ceasefire that aims to end nearly six years of war and lead to peace talks between rebels and a government emboldened by recent battlefield success.  Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, announced the ceasefire on Thursday after forging the agreement with Turkey, a longtime backer of the opposition.  The truce went into force at midnight but monitors and rebels reported almost immediate clashes, and violence appeared to escalate later on Friday as warplanes bombed areas in the country's northwest, they said.



  • Putin: Russia won't expel US diplomats (CNN)  Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Moscow will not expel American diplomats in response to US sanctions against Russia.  Putin said he would not pursue "irresponsible diplomacy" and would instead attempt to rebuild relations with Washington after the inauguration of US President-elect Donald Trump.  However, Putin said that Russia reserved the right to respond to the new US sanctions, which included the expulsion of 35 diplomats from the US. The Obama administration said the measures were in response to allegations that Russia had meddled in the 2016 US presidential election.  Putin's "extraordinary" move essentially sidelines the Obama administration while it is still in office, said CNN's former Moscow bureau chief and Russia analyst Jill Dougherty.  See also Putin waits for Trump (Reuters).


  • Taiwan announces U.S. itinerary for president, upsetting China (Reuters)  Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will transit through Houston and San Francisco during a January visit to allies in Latin America, her office said Friday, prompting China to repeat a call for the United States to block any such stopover.


  • Up to 20,000 dead fish, other animals wash up on Nova Scotia coast (CNN)  The carcasses of thousands of sea creatures have mysteriously washed up on the western coast of Nova Scotia.  As many as 20,000 fish, lobsters, starfish, scallops, crabs and other animals have turned up dead at Savory Park, Canadian authorities said. And they have no idea why.


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

  • Nation's First Known Intersex Birth Certificate Issued in NYC (NBC News)  Sara Kelly Keenan was born 55 years ago intersex, with male genes, female genitalia and mixed internal reproductive organs. Now, Keenan, who uses female pronouns, is making history. Hers is believed to be the first birth certificate ever issued in the United States that reads "intersex" in the gender field, instead of "male" or "female."  She has finally received an official accurate birth cerficate.  Econintersect:  Does this create the legal obligation for all public facilities in North Carolina to have three restrooms?

  • Facebook temporarily bans author after he calls Trump fans 'nasty fascistic lot' (The Guardian)  Temporary ban of Kevin Sessums, well known for celebrity profiles and memoirs, is latest example of social media platform’s censorship of journalists.  Facebookreviewed and restored” the post by Kevin Sessums after being contacted by The Guardian and dropped the posting ban.  Econintersect:  Social media censoring could get ugly.

  • Treasuries Rally on Month-End Buying, Paring December Losses (Bloomberg)  Treasuries rallied on the final trading day of 2016 on demand tied to month-end index changes, paring their December losses.  The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Treasury index fell 0.33% through Dec. 29 after four straight monthly declines. It lost 2.67% in November, the most since January 2009, as Donald Trump’s win in the U.S. presidential election fueled bets that inflation and economic growth would accelerate. The index hasn’t fallen for five straight months since October 2010-March 2011.

  • Where. Are. This. Girl’s. Legs. (New York)  The photo below was originally posted to Reddit and has gone viral.  Five girls sitting on a couch appear to have only four sets of legs.

The woman is sitting with her legs over the couch like everybody else in the picture, you just can’t see them. Look closer at the one bare kneecap on the left. That’s actually the knee of the “legless” woman blending in perfectly with the all-black legs of the woman on her right. If you need more proof, note that the bare ankle on that “leg” stops halfway across because it’s actually two legs and not one. 


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