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What We Read Today 03 January 2017

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".).

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Topics today include:

  • Why the U.S. IPO Market is in the Dumps

  • Opiate and Meth Use was Endemic in Hitler's Government and Military, Including Massive Doses for Hitler Himself

  • Obama's Numbers

  • Obama's Failures

  • Is the Trump Rally Trend Pausing?

  • Just One Region in Africa has More Refugees than All of Europe

  • How Climate Change is Destroying Life in Borno state, Nigeria

  • Ford Cancels $1.6 Billion Plant in Mexico

  • Trump's Pick for Trade Negotiator Favors Tariffs

  • Trump's Infrastructure Plan will Hammer Clean Water

  • GOP Backs Down on Gutting Ethics Watchdog

  • Why Ethics Watchdog has Achilles Heel

  • What U.S. City had Biggest Home Price Increase in 2016?

  • UK Ambassador to EU Resigns, Critical Brexit Expertise Lost

  • Finland Starts Basic Income Experiment

  • Greek Finance Minister Proposes Fiscal Contingency Agreement to Reduce Austerity's Bite

  • Deep Islamic Fanaticism has Taken Hold in Turkey

  • Istanbul Gunman May Have Trained in Syria

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Global

  • The small African region with more refugees than all of Europe (The Guardian)  Hunger follows displaced people around northeast Nigeria, as Boko Haram and climate change drive millions from their homes.  In just one town, Monguno, Borno state (original population 60,000), 140,000 refugees arrived in 2016.  Throughout the entirety of Borno state 1.4 million have been displaced in 2016, more than all the refugees arriving in Europe (1.0 million).  The largest factor in this mass displacement is climate change, with the 90% reduction of Lake Chad the most visible artifact.

lake.chad.1963.2013

U.S.

  • Ford cancels plan for $1.6 billion Mexico plant, to add 700 jobs in Detroit (Market Watch)  Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it is scrapping plans for a new $1.6 billion assembly plant in Mexico, instead choosing to build small cars in an existing Mexican factory, and invest $700 million in a Michigan facility that will build electric vehicles.

  • Trump’s Pick for Trade Representative Signals Focus on Curbing Imports (The Wall Street Journal)  Robert Lighthizer is a veteran lawyer who spent three decades fighting for punitive tariffs on U.S. companies’ overseas rivals.  The shift on trade is part of a bet that a tougher approach to China, Mexico and other trading partners—including by imposing import duties—could boost American firms without kicking off a trade war or raising the price of imported goods.  Econintersect:  This sounds like a military strategy that says we can fire missiles at them but they won't fire back.

  • Trump's infrastructure plans will hamper access to clean water (The Hill)  Since Donald Trump  unveiled his infrastructure plan, many have written that it should be called a privatization plan, and rightly so.   The New York Times’ Paul Krugman termed it a “privatization scam” and former Obama assistant Ronald A. Klain called it a “massive corporate welfare plan”.  What has received less attention, however, is the devastating impact Trump’s plan could have on our nation’s water systems. As members of Congress concerned with the infrastructure crisis prepare to work with (and stand up to) Trump, there are a set of facts they should know when it comes to our water.  First, Trump’s plan could deepen the private industry’s reach, prioritizing corporate profit over people’s access to water. The plan essentially amounts to a $136 billion corporate tax credit that stands to make corporations richer without addressing much-needed infrastructure improvement.

  • House Republicans drop rule change gutting ethics watchdog (The Guardian)  House Republicans were forced into a humiliating climbdown on Tuesday after Donald Trump tweeted criticism of their move to gut an independent congressional ethics watchdog.  Members ditched their plan to severely weaken the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) at an emergency meeting just before the start of a new legislative session on Capitol Hill in Washington.  The original rule change, carried out without warning and behind closed doors, had provoked a fierce backlash from Democrats and transparency activists when first announced on Monday night.

  • Why Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog (The Hill)  The failed attempt by Republicans to rein in an independent ethics office was the culmination of years of mounting frustration on Capitol Hill.  While House Republicans backed down Tuesday from their effort to tighten oversight of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), the complaints about the office are unlikely to subside in the new Congress.  Lawmakers in both parties have griped about the OCE since its creation in 2008, saying the office’s powers are overly broad and can be used for partisan purposes.  Some of the Republicans behind the failed effort to bring the OCE under congressional oversight had been investigated by the office in the past, according to Politico, including Reps. Blake Farenthold (Texas), Peter Roskam (Ill.) and Sam Graves (Mo.). Farenthold’s investigation was ultimately dropped by the ethics office.  And while Democrats gleefully attacked Republicans Tuesday for seeking to change the OCE, they too have chafed at its approach to investigations.

  • This city had the biggest increase in house prices in 2016 (Market Watch)  The total value of the U.S. housing stock grew to a $29.6 trillion in 2016, an increase of nearly 6% and $1.6 trillion over the previous year and a new record, according to an analysis of the 35 largest metro areas by real-estate website Zillow. Portland, Ore. had the biggest increase in value among the largest housing markets, growing more than 13% in 2016, followed by Seattle (up 12.7%) and Dallas (up 11%). Los Angeles is the most valuable metro, worth a cumulative $2.5 trillion.  According to Zillow:

“The U.S. housing market has regained all the value lost during the housing crisis.  The cumulative value of all homes in the U.S. declined by $6.4 trillion between 2006 and 2012.”

UK

  • UK ambassador's exit is 'wilful destruction of EU expertise' (The Guardian)  Sir Ivan Rogers is latest in string of experts on European Union to be frozen out of government, says former top civil servant.  The sudden resignation of Britain’s ambassador to the EU has prompted angry accusations from remain supporters that officials who express caution about the Brexit process risk being pressured out of their jobs.

Finland

  • Finland trials basic income for unemployed (The Guardian)  Finland has become the first country in Europe to pay its unemployed citizens an unconditional monthly sum, in a social experiment that will be watched around the world amid gathering interest in the idea of a universal basic income.  Under the two-year, nationwide pilot scheme, which began on 1 January, 2,000 unemployed Finns aged 25 to 58 will receive a guaranteed sum of €560 (£475, $594). The income will replace their existing social benefits and will be paid even if they find work.  Kela, Finland’s social security body, said the trial aimed to cut red tape, poverty and above all unemployment, which stands in the Nordic country at 8.1%. The present system can discourage jobless people from working since even low earnings trigger a big cut in benefits. 

Greece

  • Greek finance minister - extending fiscal contingency steps may break EU/IMF stalemate (Reuters)   Greece is open to extending a contingency mechanism to ensure it will meet fiscal targets beyond 2018 to break a stalemate in talks with its euro zone lenders and the IMF over its second bailout review, its finance minister said on Saturday.  Greece's official creditors are assessing its performance against reforms and fiscal targets set in its bailout programme of up to €86 billion (£73 billion, $90 billion) agreed last summer, its third since its debt crisis exploded in 2010.  A rift between the European Union (which insists on more severe austerity) and the International Monetary Fund (which wants debt relief) over Greece's medium-term primary surplus targets has clouded Greek hopes for a swift conclusion of the review.

Turkey

The country is at a critical juncture – or perhaps beyond it. Because of the sad loss of democracy within its borders and the repeated mistakes of its AKP government in Syria, because of the turbulence of the Middle East and the changing world scene, our big cities have become a new front for terrorists.

Once we thought Turkey would be a shining role model for the Muslim world; now we are worried that our country may in fact be following some of its worst examples.

  • Gunman in Istanbul nightclub attack may have trained in Syria (Reuters)  The gunman who killed 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Day in an attack claimed by Islamic State appears to have been well versed in guerrilla warfare and may have trained in Syria, a newspaper report and a security source said on Tuesday.  The attacker, who remains at large, shot dead a police officer and a civilian at the entrance to the exclusive Reina nightclub on Sunday. He then opened fire with an automatic rifle inside, reloading his weapon half a dozen times and shooting the wounded as they lay on the ground.  In a statement claiming the attack on Monday, Islamic State described the club as a gathering point for Christians celebrating their "apostate holiday" and said the shooting was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria.

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

  • Opinion: The IPO market is in the dumps, and all the tax cuts in the world won’t help (Market Watch)  Two sources of this phenomenon:  Investors are too addicted to stocks they think are safer bets, and Corporate America is too wedded to stock buybacks and other quick fixes.  Tax cuts won't help, according to this author, because  corporate America will get the money from whatever tax cut emerges and largely waste it.  Econintersect:  With the financialization of the economy there is no longer much emphasis on building and producing; the focus is monetary extraction.

  • High Hitler: how Nazi drug abuse steered the course of history (The Guardian)  A book published last year, Blitzed, by Norman Ohler, recounts how meth and opiates were widely used in the highest levels of the Nazi party and government, including massively by Hitler himself, and were prescribed by the millions for the military. 

  • Obama’s Numbers October 2016 Update (FactCheck.org)  

  • Barack Obama's Failed Presidency (Hoover Institution)  Unfortunately there is no infographic accompanying this article so you'll have to read it to get the author's assessment of Obama's failures in foreign policy, interference in economic affairs, failure to improve race relations and other social problems and "a president who lacks the skills of a leader".

  • Bull trend pauses: Charting the S&P 500’s early-2017 holding pattern (Market Watch)  Technically speaking, the major U.S. benchmarks have pulled in from record highs, thus far modestly, digesting the massive late-2016 breakout.  Still, while a near-term consolidation phase has been long overdue, and remains underway, the U.S. benchmarks’ more important longer-term backdrop continues to support a firmly-bullish bias.


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