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What We Read Today 20 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:

  • Poll:  Credibility of Major News Sources

  • Why You Shouldn't Talk to Cops

  • How Renewables Will Disrupt the Energy Industry

  • Trump Team Fosters Fears He'll Adopt Alternative Economic Facts

  • White House says H. R. McMaster will become new National Security Adviser

  • GOP loses top Senate contenders

  • Going on vacation has done wonders for Trump’s Gallup numbers

  • White House Defends Removing NSC Official Who Criticized Trump

  • Is Wolfgang Schäuble As Dangerous To The EU As Donald Trump?

  • Le Pen Gains in French Polls as Security Concerns Win Voters

  • Germany's Merkel says there is a problem with the value of the euro

  • There's More Upside in the Australian Dollar Yet, Deutsche Bank Says

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Trump Team Fosters Fears He'll Adopt Alternative Economic Facts (Bloomberg)  President Donald Trump complains regularly about what he calls “fake news.” What’s got some statisticians worried, though, is the risk of doctored economic data coming from the administration itself.  While there are government directives in place to prevent that from happening, the number crunchers worry that the president’s occasionally cavalier comments on the economy and economic statistics, and his apparent disdain for economists in general, could mean trouble ahead.  One month into his presidency, Trump has yet to nominate anyone to the Council of Economic Advisers, established in 1946 to provide presidents with objective economic analysis and advice. Indeed, staffers at the council complain that the White House seems to be giving short shrift to the regular reports they produce on the economy, a person familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

  • White House says H. R. McMaster will become new National Security Adviser (CNBC)   The White House announced Monday that Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster will become new National Security Adviser, replacing Michael Flynn, who was dismissed last week.  President Trump announced the pick at his Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago, saying McMaster is "a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience".  The White House also said retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who had been his acting adviser, will now serve as the National Security Council chief of staff.  The New York Times reported that President Trump interviewed four candidates on Sunday, McMaster being one of them.

  • GOP loses top Senate contenders (The Hill)  The 2018 Senate cycle presents Republicans with a host of opportunities, but the party has already lost several top-tier candidates to fill the seats.  GOP Reps. Sean Duffy (Wis.) and Pat Meehan (Pa.) both recently announced that they’ll run for reelection instead of mounting Senate runs in blue-leaning states where President Trump pulled off upset victories.  Republicans are losing out on potential challengers in safely GOP states, too. Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks ruled out a run. Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke will likely be confirmed to lead the Interior Department, taking a top competitor out of the mix in that deep red state.

  • Going on vacation has done wonders for Trump’s Gallup numbers. (Twitter)

Click for large image.

  • White House Defends Removing NSC Official Who Criticized Trump (Bloomberg)   A White House spokeswoman defended the removal of a high-ranking National Security Council official for criticizing President Donald Trump and his aides, saying it would be “pretty silly” to have staffers who don’t support the chief executive’s goals.  Sanders was asked about Craig Deare, who was recently appointed the U.S. National Security Council’s senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs and then removed days after criticizing Trump and senior White House officials during a private event, according to a person familiar with the decision.


  • Is Wolfgang Schäuble As Dangerous To The EU As Donald Trump? (Social Europe)   Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister and the Ayatollah of current EU austerity doctrine, may seem an unlikely candidate for comparison to Trump. He has a distinguished record in German politics over decades for his advocacy of greater economic and political European integration.  He is also a man who has shown impressive courage and resilience in recovering from a terrorist life-threatening assassination attempt. But his long, unchallenged hegemony over government economic strategy in the EU’s German economic powerhouse now risks igniting another, potentially lethal, phase of instability in the Euro area single currency system.  It remains to be seen whether reports of another looming crisis in relations between Greece and its Euro area creditors will prove quite as terminal as some suggest. It may be that the reported “showdown” will – once again – be deferred to another day. Greece may continue to be drip fed financial loans to prevent outright collapse – but without tackling the crisis at root.

The German finance minister refuses to bend to pressure, even from the IMF, for a drastically needed reduction in the level of debt burdening the Greek economy. It is debt incurred both as a result of irresponsible borrowing by previous Greek governments and equally if not more irresponsible lending by profit-hungry German and other European banks. He openly warns Greece if it does not toe the line it may have to leave the Euro-area whatever the consequences for Greece or the EU.

Schäuble protests that the most important priority for Greece is not the size of debt burden but its low-level of economic competitiveness. But he fails to explain how the massive economic burdens imposed on Greece over recent have done anything or can do anything for a revival of competitiveness.

The Berlin government should recognise how its own contribution to the plainly asymmetrical character of Euro area economic development have made matters worse. German export competitiveness has been artificially buoyed over the past decade by an overly low exchange rate for the Euro – itself a product of the chronic weakness of the southern Euro area economies.


  • Le Pen Gains in French Polls as Security Concerns Win Voters (Bloomberg)   Marine Le Pen gained ground on her rivals for the French election as she benefits from concerns about security while other candidates trained their fire on independent front-runner Emmanuel Macron.  Monday’s daily OpinionWay poll showed that first-round support for anti-euro candidate Le Pen rose 1 percentage point to 27%, with Macron and Republican Francois Fillon unchanged at 20% each. While no surveys so far have shown Le Pen even close to a victory in May’s run-off, she’s quickly narrowing the gap to her rivals. OpinionWay showed Macron would defeat Le Pen by 58% to 42% in the second round. His advantage has halved in less than two weeks.


"We have at the moment in the eurozone of course a problem with the value of the euro.  The ECB has a monetary policy that is not geared to Germany, rather it is tailored (to countries) from Portugal to Slovenia or Slovakia. If we still had the (German) D-Mark it would surely have a different value than the euro does at the moment. But this is an independent monetary policy over which I have no influence as German chancellor."


  • There's More Upside in the Australian Dollar Yet, Deutsche Bank Says (Bloomberg)  Australia's resurgent exports could push its currency to 80 U.S. cents and even beyond, Deutsche Bank's Chief Economist Adam Boyton reckons.  The nation's shrinking current-account deficit, which has been driven by a surge in commodity prices, means Australia now only needs about a third of the capital it required a year ago to cover the shortfall, says Boyton. The relative appeal of the nation's bonds -- seen in the difference between Australian and U.S. yields -- suggests that capital will keep coming in. Any inflows surplus to the current-account's smaller requirements will put upward pressure on the currency, which has surged 6.5% this year. 


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

  • Poll: Credibility of Major News Sources (Graphiq)  Econintersect:  Credibility of this poll is pretty dismal.  The spoofing, satirical The Onion was rated as credible for news by 20% of respondents.



  • Why Renewables Will Disrupt the Energy Industry (Triple Impact Solutions)  The planet is experiencing an historic transition:  the shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy to power our planet. This transition will (hopefully) share the same fundamental characteristic as the previous disruptions; we won’t have to run out of fossil fuels to switch over to renewables. Renewable energy technologies are more than ready to take over the way we supply our electricity needs, in fact, they already are.  The cost of solar has fallen to the point where it is now cheaper than fossil fuels in many places around the world. Its cost has fallen 99% since 1977 and 80% since 2008, and is expected to fall another 40% in the next two years.  In the U.S. solar cost is now less than the retail cost of electricity and falling rapidly.  From Twitter:

Click for larger image.

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