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What We Read Today 19 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.

To become a GEI Member simply subscribe to our FREE daily newsletter.

The rest of this post is available only the GEI Members.  Membership is FREE -  click here.

Topics today include:

  • Neoliberalism is the Deep Story Lying Behind Donald Trump's Victory

  • A Tale of Two California Dams

  • Oroville Dam:  What Made the Spillway Collapse?

  • Growth of Human Population Through Time

  • America's Deportation Record

  • Senior NSC Official Fired

  • Democratic Member of Federal Elections Commission Resigns to Clear Way for Trump Nomination

  • Blacks for Trump - A New Con?

  • Europeans Worry that Trump May Not Act on Pence's Reassurances

  • European Leaders are Worried About a Big Climate Risk:  War

  • Once Officially Triggered, Brexit is Irreversible:  Minister

  • Germany Steps Up Deportation of Rejected Asylum Seekers

  • Sweden Wants U.S. to Explain What's Going On in Sweden 

  • Syrian Government and Opposition Monitoring Group Blast Turkey Over Civilian Deaths

  • Is Merkel's Effort to Get Trump to Take Harder Line on Russia Paying Off?

  • China is Abandoning Coal Fired Power Plants and Taking Other Environmental Moves

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Criminals deported back to Americas (Salil Mehta, Statistical Ideas)  SM has contributed to GEI.  In 2016, 240,000 undocumented persons were deported from the U.S., culminating a total of 3 million deportations during the 8 Obama years.  Referring to 2016 deportations:

... citizens from the top most removed countries account for 233k of the 240k aliens, or put differently the other 175 countries could be removed in two weeks during the year while the other 50 weeks could be devoted to aliens from just 10 countries only.  And 175k of these removals were from border or entry port apprehensions, and >1/3 have criminal records.

Click for large image.

  • Senior Trump appointee fired after critical comments (Associated Press)  A senior Trump administration official was fired following criticism in a private speech of President Donald Trump's policies and his inner circle of advisers.  Craig Deare, whom Trump appointed a month ago to head the National Security Council's Western Hemisphere division, was on Friday escorted out of the Executive Office Building, where he worked in Washington.

A senior White House official confirmed that Deare is no longer working at the NSC and has returned to the position he previously held at the National Defense University. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an incident not otherwise made public, and provided no further details.

But current and former administration officials say Deare's termination was linked to remarks he made Thursday at a private talk at the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

According to one person who attended the discussion, Deare slammed the Trump administration for its policies on Latin America, specifically its rocky start to relations with Mexico.

  • Democrat Member of U.S. Federal Election Commission to Make Early Exit (Fortune)  A Democrat who sits on the U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC) is planning to resign before her term expires amid frustrations about partisan gridlock, the New York Times reported on Sunday.  FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel told the Times in an interview she intended to submit her letter of resignation this week, a move that would open the door for President Donald Trump to make his own appointment to the panel.  

Ravel said she was particularly frustrated about split votes among the FEC's three Democrats and three Republicans. The lack of consensus among the FEC's members has made it impossible to rein in campaign abuses, she said.

Ravel told the New York Times she planned to return to California, where she previously worked as a state regulator identifying dark money that flowed into state elections.

  • ‘Blacks for Trump’: Meet the serial criminal and conspiracy theorist Trump uses to manufacture racial diversity at rallies (  Donald Trump’s decision to place African American supporters behind him with “BLACKS FOR TRUMP” signs is backfiring in a big way.  During his 2020 campaign rally on Saturday afternoon in Melbourne, Florida, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump both spoke to a crowd of cheering supporters, while black supporters behind the first couple waved signs that read “BLACKS FOR TRUMP”.  Trump supporters on Twitter were giddy at the imagery, as the sign-wavers seemed to be visual evidence that Donald Trump was totally not a racist.  See also Blacks for Trump 2020—Trump’s Latest Con? (Huffington Post).  Econintersect:  We can find no websites with addresses including the words "Blacks for Trump".


  • Europeans wonder if Trump will act on Pence's reassurances (Associated Press)  U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was the latest in a trio of high-ranking Trump emissaries to tell European allies in person that the United States will steadfastly support NATO and demand that Russia honor its commitments to end fighting in Ukraine.  Some European leaders, however, remain skeptical of whether Pence and the U.S. secretaries of state and defense actually speak for President Donald Trump. And they worry those declarations might easily be swept away at the whim of the mercurial American president.

  • War Is the Climate Risk That Europe's Leaders Are Talking About (Bloomberg)  Among the 21st-century threats posed by climate change -- rising seas, melting permafrost and superstorms -- European leaders are warning of a last-century risk they know all too well: War.  Focusing too narrowly on the environmental consequences of global warming underestimates the military threats, top European and United Nations officials said at a global security conference in Munich this weekend. Their warnings follow the conclusions of defense and intelligence agencies that climate change could trigger resources and border conflicts.


  • Britain's exit from EU irrevocable once triggered: minister (Reuters)  The process of Britain leaving the European Union is irrevocable once it has been triggered, a government minister said on Sunday.  Prime Minister Theresa May says she will invoke Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty by the end of March, beginning two years of formal divorce talks.  Lawyers for the government have said that, once started, the process is irrevocable, but some EU leaders say Britain can change its mind and a legal challenge to determine whether it can be reversed has been filed with an Irish court.


  • Germany Aims to Deport Record Number of Rejected Asylum Seekers in 2017 (Fortune)  Germany deported a record 80,000 migrants denied asylum last year and that figure will rise again in 2017, a top official said, as Chancellor Angela Merkel seeks to win back conservative voters before elections in September.  Peter Altmaier, Merkel's chief of staff, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper that nearly half of 700,000 asylum requests made in 2016 had been rejected, spelling another record high in deportations this year.

To placate conservatives put off by Merkel's decision in 2015 to open German borders to refugees, leaders of her Christian Democrat party (CDU) have been pushing to deport more migrants whose applications have failed or foreigners who have committed crimes.

Altmaier said it was important to send these people home promptly in order to maintain a high level of public support for the asylum system.

Germany has taken in more than a million migrants in the last 18 months, often fleeing war and turmoil in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.


  • Sweden asks the U.S. to explain Trump comment on Sweden (Reuters)  The Swedish embassy in Washington has asked the U.S. State Department for an explanation of a comment made by President Donald Trump that suggested there had been some sort of security incident in Sweden on Friday.  The U.S. President was speaking at at a political rally in Florida on Saturday when, in connection with the mention of a need to keep the United States safe, he said:

"You look at what's happening in Germany. You look at what's happening last night in Sweden.  Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible."


  • Syria and monitoring group blast Turkey over civilian deaths (Associated Press)  The Syrian government and an opposition monitoring group condemned Friday what they called Turkey's "crimes" against the Syrian people in the northern town of al-Bab that is controlled by the Islamic State group. Meanwhile, a top Turkish military official said most of the town is under control of allied Syrian opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied opposition fighters have been on the offensive in al-Bab for weeks trying to take it from IS, a grueling battle that has killed hundreds of people so far. On Feb. 7, the Turkish offensive on the town intensified in an attempt to capture it from the extremists but the push has been slow because of fierce resistance from IS fighters.

The battle has been difficult for Turkish troops who have lost some 65 soldiers since they entered Syria in August, most of them in al-Bab, which has been under attack since mid-November.

Turkish forces have been deployed in Syria since August with the aim of clearing a border patch of IS militants and Syrian Kurdish fighters that Ankara considers related to its own Kurdish insurgency.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkish shelling and airstrikes have killed 45 people in al-Bab since Wednesday. It said the dead include 14 women and 18 children.


  • Merkel's Efforts to Get Trump to Take a Harder Line on Russia May Be Paying Off (Bloomberg)  To be sure, the conflict in Ukraaine is no closer to resolution. A meeting of the the so-called Normandy format comprising the French, German, Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers took place in Munich without any sign of a breakthrough in the stalled peace process.  But President Trump has backed off earlier statements that seemed to support the transfer of Crimea to Russia.

Poroshenko, who was also in Munich, still praised the signs of renewed U.S. commitment to the peace process. He listed calls in the last two weeks with Trump and Tillerson and “a very effective meeting” with Pence that showed him the U.S. “is our strong supporter”. The Trump administration agrees with Ukraine’s government on “the de-occupation of the east of my country” and Crimea, he said.


  • China has abandoned 103 coal power plants. Here's what else is changing (World Economic Forum)  Not only is China making monumental strides in addressing its pollution problems resulting from use of fossil fuels by moving to other energy sources; the country is also trying to move away from a linear model of build, use, and throw away to a circular model which designs systems that reuse materials at end of life.

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

It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone.

This, at any rate, is how it was originally conceived. But by the time Hayek came to write The Constitution of Liberty, the network of lobbyists and thinkers he had founded was being lavishly funded by multimillionaires who saw the doctrine as a means of defending themselves against democracy. Not every aspect of the neoliberal programme advanced their interests. Hayek, it seems, set out to close the gap.

He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands.

Democracy, by contrast, “is not an ultimate or absolute value”.  In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exercising choice over the direction that politics and society might take.

  • 2 dams illustrate challenge of maintaining older designs (Associated Press)  Twelve years ago, widespread destruction from Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast helped compel federal engineers 2,000 miles away in California to remake a 1950s-era dam by constructing a massive steel-and-concrete gutter that would manage surging waters in times of torrential storms.  Construction on the new spillway at the federal Folsom Dam in 2010 is pictured below.

The nearly $1 billion auxiliary spillway at Folsom Dam, scheduled to be completed later this year, stands in contrast to the troubles 75 miles away at the state-run Oroville Dam, where thousands of people fled last week after an eroded spillway threatened to collapse — a catastrophe that could have sent a 30-foot wall of floodwater gushing into three counties.

Together, the two dams illustrate widely diverging conditions at the more than 1,000 dams across California, most of them decades old. The structures also underscore the challenge of maintaining older dams with outdated designs.

  • Oroville Dam: What made the spillway collapse? (The Mercury News)  How did a giant, gaping hole tear through the massive Oroville Dam’s main concrete spillway last week, setting in motion the chain of events that could have led to one of America’s deadliest dam failures? And still could if futher torrential rains come.

Dam experts around the country are focusing on a leading suspect: Tiny bubbles.

The prospect is simple, yet terrifying and has been the culprit in a number of near disasters at dams across the globe since engineers discovered it about 50 years ago. In a process called “cavitation,” water flowing fast and in large volumes can rumble over small cracks, bumps or other imperfections in concrete dam spillways as they release water during wet years. The billions of gallons of water bumping off the surface at 50 miles an hour create enormous turbulence that can form tiny water vapor bubbles that collapse with powerful force, and like jackhammers, chisel apart concrete.

It took 200,000 years for our human population to reach 1 billion—and only 200 years to reach 7 billion. But growth has begun slowing, as women have fewer babies on average. When will our global population peak? And how can we minimize our impact on Earth’s resources, even as we approach 11 billion?


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