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What We Read Today 15 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:

  • The Story of the 1799 Logan Act

  • Massachusetts May Commit to 100% Renewables

  • America's Unspeakable African-American Crime Rates

  • Labor Secretary Nominee Pudzer Withdraws

  • Why Trump hasn't moved on health care, tax cuts, infrastructure

  • Company Behind Dakota Access Pipeline has a 'Dirty' Spill History

  • U.S. Solar Installations Nearly Doubled in 2016

  • Solar Became the Largest Source of New Energy in 2016

  • What Marine Le Pen’s 144-point presidential plan for France actually says

  • CIA chief met Palestinian leader Abbas ahead of Netanyahu visit

  • India Launches Record 104 Satellites in One Shot

  • China's Holdings of U.S. Treasuries Dropped by Record Amount in 2016

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Trump's Labor secretary pick Andy Puzder is expected to withdraw, official tells NBC News (CNBC)  Andy Puzder is expected to withdraw from consideration for Labor secretary as Republican Senate opposition to President Donald Trump's choice mounts, a senior administration official told NBC News.  The confirmation of the chief executive of CKE Restaurants looked increasingly in peril in recent days amid concerns about his business record and personal issues. Puzder needed a majority of Senate votes to become Labor secretary, but reports in recent days indicated that at least four of the 52 GOP senators could vote against him.  See later story Puzder withdraws nomination for Labor secretary (The Hill).

  • Why Trump hasn't moved on health care, tax cuts, infrastructure (CNBC)  During his first four weeks in office, President Donald Trump has signed executive orders, met foreign leaders, prodded business chieftains and battled storms of controversy.  Among things he hasn't done: given congressional Republicans his plans for infrastructure improvements, health care or tax cuts.  That matters because presidential leadership is indispensable for achieving those objectives, each of which holds major significance for the American economy. Without it, even a Congress controlled by Trump's party will have immense trouble overcoming its own internal divisions.

  • US solar installations nearly doubled in 2016, and broke some records (CNBC)  Solar power installations doubled in 2016 over 2015, as more and more areas of the United States began pulling their power from the sun.  For the first time, solar power installations formed the largest group of electricity generating capacity additions of any energy source, according to a new report from Greentech Media.  See also next item.  Nearly 40% of new power generation projects added last year were solar, in terms of electrical production capacity. A record 22 states each added more than 100 megawatts, the report said.  It was also the first time since 2011 that the growth of nonresidential installations surpassed residential solar growth, and that was driven mostly by utility-scale projects.

Part of this resulted from a pipeline of projects builders were trying to complete in case the federal Investment Tax Credit for solar was not extended beyond the end of 2016. Tax credits and policies, like net metering, do play a big role in the solar market, but in an increasing number of cases, it comes down to simple economics.

Click for large image.


  • What Marine Le Pen’s 144-point presidential plan for France actually says (The Conversation)  Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s has issued a 144-point manifesto on her ambitions for government, pledging to make France “free, safe, prosperous, fair, proud, powerful, and sustainable”.  Not many people will have the inclination to read the lot, but I did. And what I discovered was a candidate who plans not so much to take France out of Europe as cut it free of the whole continent:

The key themes of the weighty manifesto are for France to leave both the eurozone and the EU and to prioritise national interests over global forces. Le Pen wants to lead a strong, interventionist and muscular state and to reduce immigration to virtually zero. Along the way, she wants to combat multiculturalism and reinforce secularism, to the point of banning outwards signs of religious belief in all public spaces, as one of the antidotes to fundamentalist Islam.


  • CIA chief met Palestinian leader Abbas ahead of Netanyahu visit: report (The Hill)   CIA Director Mike Pompeo held secret talks with Palestinian officials in the West Bank Tuesday evening, ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first summit with President Trump, according to reports.  Palestinian sources told Haaretz that Pompeo and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Syria.  They were the first top-level talks between a Trump administration official and the Palestinians.  A Palestinian source told Haaretz:

"The Americans needed to understand that the collapse of the PA – in such a manner that there will be no way to implement the two-state solution, as quite a few elements in the Netanyahu government are striving for – will lead to the entry of extremist elements, perhaps associated with Iran." 


  • ISRO launches record 104 satellites at Sriharikota: 10 facts to know about the mission (Financial Express)  Hat tip to Sanjeev Kulkarni.  ISRO (India Space Research Organization) today successfully launched a record 104 satellites, including India’s earth observation satellite, on a single rocket from the spaceport in Sriharikota. This is the highest number of satellites ever launched in a single mission.  Of the 101 co-passenger satellites, 96 belong to USA, five from international customers of ISRO including Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and United Arab Emirates. The nano-satellites belonging to international customers are being launched as part of the arrangement between international customers and Antrix Corporation Ltd (ANTRIX) the commercial arm of ISRO.  See also next article.

  • The Cheapest Trip to Mars Leaves From This Tiny Indian Island (Bloomberg)  Hat tip to Sanjeev Kulkarni.  The cheapest flight to Mars may leave from a tiny barrier island in southeastern India.  Sriharikota, the nation’s Cape Canaveral, is the launchpad for an ambitious space program that has shot more than 120 satellites into orbit -- including for the U.S., Israel and Germany. Spacefaring rivals can’t beat the prices charged by India, which sent its own probe to the Red Planet for less money than Hollywood spent making a movie about an astronaut stranded there.

Click for larger image.


  • China's Holdings of Treasuries Dropped in 2016 by Most on Record (Bloomberg)  China’s holdings of U.S. Treasuries declined by the most on record last year, as the world’s second-largest economy dipped into its foreign-exchange reserves to buttress the yuan. Japan, America’s largest foreign creditor, trimmed its holdings for a second straight year.  A monthly Treasury Department report released in Washington on Wednesday showed China held $1.06 trillion in U.S. government bonds, notes and bills in December, up $9.1 billion from November but down $188 billion from a year earlier. It was the first monthly increase since May.  The People’s Bank of China, owner of the world’s biggest foreign-exchange reserves, has burned through a quarter of its war chest since 2014 in an effort to underpin the yuan and deter capital from fleeing the country. Chinese sales have made borrowing more costly for the U.S. government: 10-year yields rose to 2.6% last year, from as low as 1.3%.

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

  • Conducting Foreign Relations Without Authority: The Logan Act (Congressional Research Service)  Attempts have been made to repeal the Logan Act of 1799 but it remains law and at least a potential sanction which could be used against anyone who, without authority, interferes in the foreign relations of the United States.  No ona has ever been convicted under this stautute, but there has been one indictment and a number of judicial references in other decisions.  This paper is a very readable but professional summary of the Logan Act and its history.  The legislation, introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Sean Garballey and Marjorie Decker and in the Senate by Sen. Jamie Eldridge, establishes targets for Massachusetts to meet its electricity needs from renewable energy by 2035 and all of its energy needs, including heating and transportation, from renewable sources by 2050.  Econintersect:  Looking at the cost trends for power, Massachusetts could have the lowest energy costs of any state with comparable climate if they are the only one to go completely renewable.

  • Massachusetts Might Become America's First State to Commit to 100% Renewables (EcoWatch)  Clean energy supporters in Massachusetts announced legislation Monday, backed by more than a quarter of the state legislature, committing Massachusetts to get 100 percent of its energy needs from clean and renewable sources by mid-century.

  • America’s unspeakable problem: African-American’s crime rates (Fabius Maximus)  FM has contributed to GEI.  This essay asserts that "decades of progress after WWII is being washing away, as the tide of racism rises again".  The problem centers on the high crime rates of African American men.  FM says:

I have no ideas about ways to stop this complex ball of problems. I have not seen any ideas that look promising. It is a rot that should be near the top of America’s list of priorities, but I doubt a majority of Americans agree with that.

My guess — emphasis on guess — is that addressing urban crime levels is the most promising first step. The rest of America can help, but the initiative must start in the communities of our inner cities.


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