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What We Read Today 24 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:

  • Is the Time Right to Set Up an International Terrorism Court?

  • Trump Vows One of the Greatest Military Build-ups

  • White House Blocks NY Times and CNN, Admits Breitbart and Washington Times

  • Exxon CEO Proposes National U.S. Carbon tax

  • Details Emerge about Republican Plans to Replace Obamacare

  • Muhammad Ali's Son Detained Illegally at Airport

  • Trump Places Regulation Monitors in U.S. Agencies

  • Spring is Running 20 Days Early in the South

  • Jay Peak Vermont May be Headed for Record Season Snowfall

  • Matteo Renzi May Have Killed the Italian Center Left

  • ISIS Car Bomb Kills 50 in Rebel Held Syrian Town

  • Iraqi Forces Push into Western Mosul, Bomb IS in Syria

  • Two Engineers from India Shot in Kansas Bar, One Died

  • The Economist Thinks Taxing Robots is Not a Good idea (Econintersect is Not so Sure)

  • How Antitrust Enforcement Can Spur Innovation

  • How Not to Address Liberal Bias in Academia

  • How Global Financialization Creates Domestic Busts

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Why the time is right to set up an international terrorism court (The Conversation)  Eight decades after it was first suggested, the world needs a mechanism to prosecute cross-border terrorists in peacetime.  The global toll of terrorism is rising at an alarming rate. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, terrorist incidents claimed 3,329 lives in 2000 but 32,685 in 2014, and the economic costs of terrorism skyrocketed at least tenfold during the same period. As a result, certain governments are proposing that the UN establish a new court with a specific remit to prosecute international terrorist crimes.


  • Trump vows one of the 'greatest military build-ups' (Reuters)  "Nobody is going to mess with us. Nobody," President Trump said in remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), vowing to make a massive budget request for one of the "greatest military build-ups in American history."

  • White House blocks news organizations from press briefing (CNN)  CNN and other news outlets were blocked Friday from an off-camera White House press briefing, raising alarm among media organizations and First Amendment watchdogs.  The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Politico and BuzzFeed were also excluded from the meeting, which is known as a gaggle and is less formal than the televised Q-and-A session in the White House briefing room. The gaggle was held by White House press secretary Sean Spicer.  In a brief statement defending the move, administration spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the White House "had the pool there so everyone would be represented and get an update from us today."  The pool usually includes a representative from one television network and one print outlet. In this case, four of the five major television networks -- NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News -- were invited and attended the meeting, while only CNN was blocked.  And while The New York Times was kept out, conservative media organizations Breitbart News, The Washington Times and One America News Network were also allowed in.

  • The future of energy – opportunities and challenges (Energy Factor)  New Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods has proposed a nationwide carbon tax:

Governments can help advance the search for energy technologies by funding basic research and by enacting forward-looking policies. A uniform price of carbon applied consistently across the economy is a sensible approach to emissions reduction. One option being discussed by policymakers is a national revenue-neutral carbon tax. This would promote greater energy efficiency and the use of today’s lower-carbon options, avoid further burdening the economy, and also provide incentives for markets to develop additional low-carbon energy solutions for the future.

  • Details emerge of Republicans' plans to replace Obamacare (Reuters)   Details of potential Obamacare replacements by U.S. House Republicans emerged in news reports on Friday, as Republican lawmakers have vowed to introduce new legislation in the coming weeks.  Republicans have yet to agree on a single detailed policy proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the signature domestic policy of former Democratic President Barack Obama.  Still to be worked out are details including the future of Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor that was expanded in more than 30 states under Obamacare, and how a new healthcare law would be funded.  One emerging scenario among Republicans is that the millions of people who received health coverage through the expansion of Medicaid would be "grandfathered in," according to the Washington Post. States that did not expand Medicaid could receive more money through increased federal "disproportionate share" payments used to help hospitals that serve a large number of uninsured patients.  And a draft Republican replacement plan for Obamacare, which news outlet Politico uploaded to its website, would cap the amount of money given to states for Medicaid and end tax subsidies based on income for the purchase of individual plans in 2020.

  • Muhammad Ali's Son Illegally Detained at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Attorney Says (Miami New Times)   The Muslim son of America's most famous boxer says he was stopped at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, questioned twice about his religion, and then held for about two hours this past February 7.  Muhammad Ali Jr., the son of Muhammad Ali, was on his way back from Montego Bay, Jamaica, with his mother and Ali's first wife, Khalilah, when immigration officers detained him. Khalilah showed officers a picture of herself with her ex-husband, who died last June 3, so she was not detained. Ali Jr. had no such photo.  Ali Jr., age 44, had no criminal record and carries a United States passport, Mancini says. He recently moved to Deerfield Beach to live with his mother. Last year, Ali Jr. received a large share of his father's multimillion-dollar fortune.  Chris Mancini, a former federal prosecutor and friend of the family, said:

"This is an outrage.  I don't know what is going on with Mr. Trump's claim that his ban is not religion-based. We do not discriminate in this country based on religion."

  • In sweeping move, Trump puts regulation monitors in U.S. agencies (Reuters)  President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday to place "regulatory reform" task forces and officers within federal agencies in what may be the most far reaching effort to pare back U.S. red tape in recent decades.  Econintersect:  There is no mention of how any benfits of regulation will be assessed, only "burdens to the U.S. economy".

Trump signed the directive in the Oval Office with chief executives of major U.S. corporations standing behind him including Dow Chemical Co (DOW.N), Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and U.S. Steel Corp (X.N).

The sweeping order directs every federal agency to establish a task force to ensure each has a team to research all regulations and take aim at those deemed burdensome to the U.S. economy and designate regulatory reform officers within 60 days and must report on the progress within 90 days.

  • See where spring is running 20 days early (Courrier-Journal)  Pauxatawney Phil was right, at least for the South.  The National Phenology Network, which tracks nature's calendar, uses spring leaf-out and to track the arrival of spring. It posted a map on Friday that shows just how early spring conditions have arrived across so much of the southern half of the United States.  See also next article.

  • Snowfall Charts Jay Peak, Vermont (  While spring is started in the southern U.S. (see preceding article), and Mammoth Mountain California is benefitting from massive Sierra snowstorms, the perennial eastern U.S. snowfall king appears headed for a new record, at least for the most recent 10 years.  (We don't have the records but believe the all-time record for Jay Peak is a little over 500 inches.  That too could be surpassed with about 30 feet of snow already fallen as of 23 February.  Some years up to a half of the season's snowfall occurs in New England in March.)



  • Matteo Renzi just killed off Italy’s centre left (The Conversation)  Former prime minister Matteo Renzi has resigned as leader of the Italian Democratic Party (PD) in a move that leaves the country’s centre left in ruins. His party is now split, which gives the far right an opportunity to seize government after the next election.  Renzi's strategy had been to get re-elected as leader of the party before going on to win a general election as the prime-ministerial candidate of the PD. It has been widely recognized since the appointment of his former foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, that the situation was merely a stop-gap PM.  But now the left wing has left the PD and Renzi's plan appears defunct.



  • Iraqi forces punch into western Mosul, launch air strikes in Syria (Reuters)  U.S.-backed Iraqi forces pushed into western Mosul on Friday after retaking the city's airport from Islamic State, as aid agencies warned the most dangerous phase of the offensive was about to begin for hundreds of thousands of civilians.  Troops disarmed booby traps planted by retreating militant fighters in the airport, which the army plans to use as a base from which to drive Islamic State from Mosul's western districts and deal a decisive blow to the group.  As they did, Iraqi fighter jets dropped bombs on Islamic State positions inside Syria on Friday. It was the first time the Iraqi government publicly acknowledged striking militant targets inside Syria.


  • Kansas shooting 'hero' counted the gunman's shots (BBC News)   Police are investigating whether the fatal shooting of a man in the U.S. state of Kansas was racially motivated.  Three men were wounded in the shooting at a crowded bar in Olathe on Wednesday night and one of them later died.  A barman told local media a man used racial slurs before opening fire. Two of the victims, including the deceased, are Indian.  Adam Purinton, 51, has been charged with premeditated first-degree murder and the FBI is investigating a motive.  Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, died while his friend Alok Madasani, 32, remains in hospital in a stable condition.  The two men were engineers at US technology company Garmin and studied in India, according to their social media profiles.  The other injured man, Ian Grillot, 24, had apparently intervened to stop the violence, according to witnesses.

  • Olathe shooting: India shocked after national killed in US (BBC News)  India has expressed shock after the fatal shooting of an Indian national in the US, amid reports that the attack may have been racially motivated.  Srinivas Kuchibhotla died shortly after Wednesday's attack at a bar in Olathe, Kansas. His friend Alok Madasani, also from India, and an American were hurt.  Adam Purinton has been charged with premeditated first-degree murder.  The killing dominated news bulletins in India and social media, where some blamed Donald Trump's presidency.

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

  • Why taxing robots is not a good idea (The Economist)  The Economist says that "Bill Gates’s proposal is revealing about the challenge automation poses".  The author accuses Bill Gates of being a "Luddite".  But this article then falls back on an economic article that capital should not be taxed because it slows the advancement of productivity and raises costs.  That is very 'supply side'.  Why not argue that labor should not be taxed because it reduces demand?  Actually it does reduce demand.  Econintersect:  This article never recognizes the truth:  Taxes reduce both supply and demand and the balance between the two should only be a function of controling inflation by keeping supply and demand within some desirable limits to maintain economic and social stability.

  • Is Fusion Energy in Our Future? (Scientific American)  (Econintersect:  Fusion is the energy of our past, present and future.  It is the engine of the universe.  Locally, our sun operates fusion - primarily hydrogen fusion to helium - to provide the primary energy which exists in every energy source we use.)  In this article, John Holdren, former president Obama's director of the federal Office of Science and Technology Policy, says in an interview that the U.S. is grossly underinvested in energy research - and that includes fusion power.  He says that fusion power is an inexhaustible energy source, and we don't have many of such options.  Econintersect:  Note that we use fusion today - in the hydrogen bomb.  What we don't know how to do is create fusion in a controllable way that economically produces useful power.

  • How antitrust enforcement can spur innovation: Bell Labs and the 1956 Consent Decree (

There is growing concern that dominant companies use patents strategically to keep competitors from entering their market. This column uses the landmark 1956 Consent Decree against Bell Labs to explore whether antitrust enforcement is an effective remedy to the problem. Results show that patents can indeed be used as an entry barrier for start-up firms, and that the compulsory licensing of patents can foster market entry and innovation. However, compulsory licensing is found to be ineffective in markets where dominant firms have other means of market foreclosure.

  • How Not to Address Liberal Bias in Academia (Megan McCardle, Bloomberg)  Econintersect:  This column has one glaring deficit:  it does not define what is "liberal" and what is "conservative".  Is a valid conservative one who choses to ignore climate change data rather than analyze it and the basis of its collection?  Is a valid liberal one who ignores the role of individual initiative in creating a stronger economy and a better society?  We suggest there is a general intellectual deficiency whenever one labels individuals, organizations, or societies as 'conservative' or 'liberal'.  Ideology is dangerous to open societies; empirical facts can be ignored  and potential for advancement degraded.  

  • Foreign booms, domestic busts: The global dimension of banking crises (  Econintersect:  The result of this study of empirical data may seem intuitive but it is important.  It reflects a disproof that markets are efficient, particularly financial markets.  If they were efficient, would they repeatedly blow up?  If there is an 'invisible hand', does it hold an IED?

Banking crises tend to happen in ‘waves’ across countries. In examining why this occurs, this column shows how foreign financial developments in general, and global credit growth in particular, are powerful predictors of domestic banking crises. The channels seem to be financial rather than related to trade, and include transmission of market sentiment, cross-border portfolio flows, and direct crisis contagion. 

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