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What We Read Today 07 February 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".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Topics today include:

  • US firms file legal brief opposing Trump’s immigration ban

  • DeVos Confirmed with Pence Historic Tie-Breaker Vote

  • Trump Approval Sinks to -12 (Gallup)

  • Trump administration to approve Dakota Access oil pipeline

  • Washington State Federal Judge Included Error of Fact in Travel Ban Decision

  • Obamacare Repeal Protests Prompt GOP to Consider Security Measures

  • How Queen Elizabeth's Picture has Changed on UK Currency

  • Do the Iranian People Support a Tougher U.S. Policy Toward Tehran?

  • Should we really be so afraid of a nuclear North Korea?

  • Is Trump Starting a Global Regulatory Race to the Bottom?

  • Hidden Costs and Risks of Year-round Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

  • How Board Political Ideology Affects CEO Pay

  • Placebos have a Place in Modern Medicine

  • Is Growth Stock Performance Pointing to Lower Bond Yields?

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Trump escalates era of regulatory competition (euromoney)  There’s plenty wrong with post-crisis US bank regulation, but as the new US administration looks to roll back Dodd-Frank, its protectionist instincts might start a global race to the regulatory bottom.  Econintersect:  Could 'free market' ideology lead to a 'no market' outcome (collapse)?

  • A Picture Says a Thousand Words (Forwarded by Roger Erickson)


  • US firms file ​legal brief opposing Trump’s immigration ban (Asia Times)  Nearly 100 U.S. based companies have banded together to appeal in court arguing that President Trump's temporary bar on migrants from seven mostly Muslim countries "inflicts significant harm on American business".  Included in the brief:

“Immigrants or their children founded more than 200 of the companies on the Fortune 500 list.”

  • DeVos ekes out confirmation win as Pence casts historic vote (Associated Press)  Charter school advocate Betsy DeVos won confirmation as U.S. Education secretary Tuesday by the slimmest of margins, pushed to approval only by the historic tie-breaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence.

  • Gallup Daily: Trump Job Approval (Gallup)  Gallup tracks daily the percentage of Americans who approve or disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president. Daily results are based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,500 national adults; Margin of error is ±3 percentage points.  So far in 2017 the president is showing a pretty solid 42% of the population core support level.  But he's been moving lower in the number who are neutral in their opinion and now has a net rating of -12.

  • Trump administration to approve Dakota Access oil pipeline (The Hill)  The Army Corps of Engineers will grant the final approval needed to complete the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline within a day, it told lawmakers Tuesday.  The news from the Army Corps, in letters to Congress and to a federal judge in Washington, D.C. came two weeks after President Trump issued a memo asking the agency to approve the pipeline as soon as possible.  The Army Corps also told the court that will no longer complete an intensive environmental impact statement on the pipeline, an action the Obama administration decided to do in December that would have delayed the project for potentially a year or more.  The decision is a major victory for pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners and the oil industry, and a defeat for environmentalists and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

  • AP FACT CHECK: No arrests from 7 nations in travel ban? Nope (Associated Press)  The state of Washington federal judge made his finding on the Trump travel ban citing an error in fact:

The federal judge who halted President Donald Trump's travel ban was wrong in stating that no one from the seven countries targeted in Trump's order has been arrested for extremism in the United States since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Just last October, an Iraqi refugee living in Texas pleaded guilty to attempting to provide support to the Islamic State group, accused of taking tactical training and wanting to blow himself up in an act of martyrdom. In November, a Somali refugee injured 11 in a car-and-knife attack at Ohio State University, and he surely would have been arrested had he not been killed by an officer.

The judge, James Robart, was correct in his larger point that the deadliest and most high-profile terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11 — like the Boston Marathon bombings and the shootings in Orlando, Florida, and San Bernardino, California — were committed either by U.S. citizens or by people from countries other than the seven majority-Muslim nations named in Trump's order.

But he went a step too far at a hearing in Seattle on Friday.



Although we Iranian Americans reject a foreign military intervention in Iran, many of my fellow Iranian expatriates are enthusiastic about the prospect of Tehran being subjected to renewed pressure.  Such weight on Iran’s religious dictators will promote regional stability and impact the lives of the people both inside and outside of Iran who today live in fear at their whims. Here is why:

Iranian people have been understandably worried about the expansion of mullahs’ sphere of influence.  Chaotic situation of Syria and Iraq notwithstanding, the most tangible representation of this ominous effect is manifest in newer groups like the Yemeni Houthi and the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces. These seemingly small IRGC have the potential of turning into local versions of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, which has for decades carried out attacks throughout the world on Tehran’s behalf.

North Korea

  • Should we really be so afraid of a nuclear North Korea? (The Conversation)  This is a very interesting essay, backed by comparisons of the North Korean situation to the recent history of other countries.  The conclusions are that a fully nuclear-armed country might further its incorporation into the global community and lead to rapprochement with South Korea.


Mr McCowan, a lifelong Norfolk resident who ran the island's hospital for 13 years, is one of a number of islanders at loggerheads with the DHS since the Australian government's controversial takeover last June.  

Greg Magri, 47, has received a Norfolk Island DSP for nearly 15 years due to a brain injury caused by a stroke. He said his application for an Australian disability support pension (DSP) was rejected because he is not registered with a disability employment service but, up until last July, no such organisation existed on the island.

In the meantime, he has been transferred to the Newstart Allowance which leaves him $150 a week worse off.

Mr McCowan applied for a DSP last June, the same month he suffered a heart attack which left him clinically dead, requiring resuscitation and recovery in the intensive care unit of Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney. 

The application was rejected in August with Mr McCowan saying he was told to lodge a request under freedom of information laws to find out why. 

He appealed the decision in October but was informed in December that the appeal was unsuccessful.

The DHS wrote to him with a list of suggested job options including taxi driver, bus/tram driver, mobile security patrol, telephone nursing, gaming attendant or sales representative. 

"It's clear they don't read the medical reports," he said.

"The cardiologist said I will never be able to hold a commercial driver's licence because of my heart condition and yet the DHS have suggested I become a taxi driver or a tram driver, notwithstanding the fact there are no trams on the island.

"When they suggested mobile security patrol, I thought they were joking. But they were completely serious."

Mr McGowan, whose leg was amputated after an accident in 2005, intends to continue his appeals while surviving off his savings.

"[The DHS] has not taken into consideration the types of jobs available on the island," he said.

"They have taken the one-size-fits-all approach, tick all the boxes and move on. They simply don't care."

Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen said DSP applications were assessed according to legislated criteria.

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

  • Lettuce in February: the hidden cost of buying fresh vegetables all year round  (The Conversation)  An accounting professor looks at the razor thin operating margins, the very low wages paid, and the supply change issues of weather and transportation to conclude the processes and systems that provide fresh produce to supermarkets 24/7/365 are very fragile.  Econintersect:  Consider how the actions of Trump-the-disruptor could fracture some of the supply chains that provide the widely-accustomed, always-there fresh produce for U.S. shoppers.

  • Mosler lays down tablets on the economy, stupid (Sydney Morning Herald)  Hat tip to Stephen Hail.  This article is almost 4 years old.  It explains how lack of understanding of money caused Ben Bernanke to fumble response to the Great Financial Crisis for a critical 6 months.  Stephen Hail says he somehow missed this when it was written.  Most of the world is still "missing it".

  • The Elephant (or Donkey) in the Boardroom: How Board Political Ideology Affects CEO Pay (  This academic study covers a lot of ground, but we will present a brief list of highlights comparing compensation of executives at companies with politically conservative boards vs politically liberal boards:

  • Executives with conservative boards make more money than with liberal boards at all accounting performance levels.

  • Poor stock performance is rewarded (penalized) similarly by both liberal and conservative boards.

  • Accounting performance of companies has a weak effect on executive compensation.

  • Stock price performance has a strong effect on executive compensation.

  • Liberal boards give a much smaller increase in compensation with rising stock prices.

  • Not just smoke and mirrors: placebo’s place in modern medicine ( The Conversation)  Belief is a powerful medicine but the term “placebo” has negative connotations. In modern evidence-based medicine, treatments considered worthless are described as no better than placebos. But this description belies the real picture.  Placebos are characterized as inert, in contrast to active drugs or other treatments. Yet some argue that there’s a role for placebo interventions in mainstream medicine.  Econintersect:  The idea is that some maladies are aggravated by mental factors beyond the basic neurological system responses and the expectation of relief makes the placebo effect useful in treatment. 

  • ‘Growth’ Stocks Are Outperforming in 2017…Are Lower Bond Yields Next? (GaveKal Capital,  Advisor Perspectives)  After underperforming in 2016, growth stocks have once again started to outperform value stocks in 2017. As the first chart below illustrates, the S&P 500 Value Index consistently outperformed the S&P 500 Growth Index from 2002-2006. Since 2007, however, growth stocks have outperformed value stocks with value outperforming growth in just two calendar years (2012 and 2016) .  While it is too early to know if the trend so far in 2017 will continue, it is important to know that in this century there has been a fairly good correlation between growth stocks outperforming and bond rising (interest rates falling).  See second graphic below.

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