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What We Read Today 05 March 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".).

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Topics today include:

  • More Than You May Want to Know About Wiretapping Trump Tower

  • Oklahoma lawmaker asks Muslims: 'Do you beat your wife?'

  • Regulations Removed from Wall Street, Gun Sellers, Polluters and More

  • Law Suit Claims Thousands of Private Prison Inmates used as Slave Labor

  • Deutsche Bank to raise 8 billion euros, plans major reorganization to get more capital

  • More U.S. Troops Going to Syria for Assault on Raqqa

  • Refugee Counts Keep Rising in Mosul

  • How a Russian Steel Oligarch, Putin Allyn and Trump Family Friend Is Profiting from the Keystone XL Pipeline 

  • Catholic Church Confronts Duterte in Philippines

  • After decades in America, the newly deported return to a Mexico they barely recognize

  • Robots are Wealth Creators and Taxing Them is Illogical (and Why GEI Disagrees)

  • Is Wall Street Responsible for Our Economic Problems?

  • Accounting Mirror Hide Corporate Profits and Huge Personal Incomes

  • Do Taxes Encourage Extractive Economies vs. Constructive Economies?

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

U.S.

'This is the difference between being correct and being right, I think the president was not correct certainly in staying that President Obama ordered a tap on a server in Trump Tower.  However, I think he's right in that there was surveillance and that it was conducted at the behest of the attorney general – of the Justice Department through the FISA court.' 

  • White House asks Congress to probe Trump's accusation of Obama wiretap (Reuters)  The White House asked the U.S. Congress on Sunday to examine whether the Obama administration abused its investigative authority during the 2016 campaign, as part of an ongoing congressional probe into Russia's influence on the election.  The request came a day after President Donald Trump alleged, without supporting evidence, that then-President Obama ordered a wiretap of the phones at Trump's campaign headquarters in Trump Tower in New York.  White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump and administration officials would have no further comment on the issue until Congress has completed its probe, potentially heading off attempts to get Trump to explain his accusations.

  • Ex-spy chief denies Trump wire-tap claim (BBC News)   The director of national intelligence at the time of the US election has denied there was any wire-tapping of Donald Trump or his campaign.  James Clapper also told NBC that he knew of no court order to allow monitoring of Trump Tower in New York.  Mr Trump had accused President Barack Obama of ordering the wire-tap, but offered no evidence.  Mr Trump says an inquiry into alleged Russian interference should also probe potential abuse of executive power.  See also Did Obama really wiretap Trump Towers?

  • Oklahoma lawmaker asks Muslims: 'Do you beat your wife?' (Associated Press)   An Oklahoma lawmaker who once likened Islam to cancer required Muslims to answer several written questions,  including, "Do you beat your wife?" ,  before agreeing to meet with them.  Republican state Rep. John Bennett's office distributed the questionnaire on Thursday as the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations organized its annual Muslim Day at the Capitol. The lawmaker's office gave the list of questions to three Islamic school students who came to his office and asked to speak with him.  The questions asked Muslims whether they would denounce terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah and whether they believed former Muslims should be punished for leaving Islam. One question asked Muslims if they agreed that Islamic law, known as Sharia, should rule over non-Muslims.  The questionnaire drew a swift rebuke from civil rights groups and Oklahoma's CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) chapter, which represents about 40,000 Oklahoma residents who are Muslims.  One of the 18 questions on the form read:

"(The prophet) Mohammed was a killer of pagans, Christians and Jews that did not agree with him.  Do you agree with his example?"

Telecommunications giants like Verizon and AT&T will not have to take “reasonable measures” to ensure that their customers’ Social Security numbers, web browsing history and other personal information are not stolen or accidentally released.

Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase will not be punished, at least for now, for not collecting extra money from customers to cover potential losses from certain kinds of high-risk trades that helped unleash the 2008 financial crisis.

And Social Security Administration data will no longer be used to try to block individuals with disabling mental health issues from buying handguns, nor will hunters be banned from using lead-based bullets, which can accidentally poison wildlife, on 150 million acres of federal lands.

These are just a few of the more than 90 regulations that federal agencies and the Republican-controlled Congress have delayed, suspended or reversed in the month and a half since President Trump took office, according to a tally by The New York Times.

  • Thousands of ICE detainees claim they were forced into labor, a violation of anti-slavery laws (The Washington Post)   Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were forced to work for $1 day, or for nothing at all — a violation of federal anti-slavery laws — a lawsuit claims.  The lawsuit, filed in 2014 against one of the largest private prison companies in the country, reached class-action status this week after a federal judge’s ruling. That means the case could involve as many as 60,000 immigrants who have been detained.  It’s the first time a class-action lawsuit accusing a private U.S. prison company of forced labor has been allowed to move forward.

Germany

  • Deutsche Bank to raise 8 billion euros, plans major reorganization (Reuters)   Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE)  (NYSE:DB) plans to raise capital with an €8 billion ($8.5 billion) rights offering (at 39% discount to Friday's stock price), list a minority stake in its asset management business, and sell off other assets to raise a further €2 billion which, with the rights issue, should take its capital ratio above 13%.  The strategic revamp, decided at a supervisory board meeting on Sunday, follows a net loss of €1.4 billion last year and is part of the lender's push to draw a line under a string of scandals that have hammered its balance sheet since 2012.  The decision marks a retreat from a strategy announced less than two years ago when the bank separated its investment banking and markets business, and heralds its fourth capital infusion since 2010.

Syria

Iraq

  • Over 40,000 displaced from Mosul in a week as Iraqi forces near old city (Reuters)  (Econintersect:  The estimates keep rising - last night we reported an estimate of 28,000 refugess in 2 weeks.)   More than 40,000 people have been displaced in the last week from the Iraqi city of Mosul, where U.S.-backed forces launched a fresh push towards the Islamic State-held old city center on Sunday and closed in on the main government complex. The pace of displacement has accelerated in recent days as fighting approaches the most densely populated parts of western Mosul, and aid agencies have expressed concern that camps to accommodate people fleeing the city are almost full.  The International Organization for Migration's Mosul Displacement Tracking Matrix showed the number of people uprooted since the start of the offensive in October exceeded 206,000 on Sunday, up from 164,000 on Feb. 26.  That number may still rise sharply. The United Nations last month warned that more than 400,000 people, more than half the remaining population in western Mosul, could be displaced.

Russia

Critics, such as John Kemp of Reuters, pounced on the caveat language in Trump’s steel order and noted that it appears “designed to preserve lots of wiggle-room.” In fact, a DeSmog investigation reveals that much of the steel for Keystone XL has already been manufactured and is sitting in a field in rural North Dakota.

DeSmog has uncovered that 40 percent of the steel created so far was manufactured in Canada by a subsidiary of Evraz, a company 31-percent owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who is a close ally of Putin and a Trump family friend.   Evraz has also actively lobbied against provisions which would mandate that Keystone XL's steel be made in the U.S.

Philippines

  • ‘False prophet’: Duterte, the Catholic Church and the fight for the soul of the Philippines (The Washington Post)  Since coming to power last summer, President Rodrigo Duterte has used biblical language to build a case for mass killings, vowing to sacrifice himself, even his son, to cleanse the nation of crime.  Conjuring a world in which evil stalks the innocent, Duterte launched a wave of violence that has claimed at least 7,000 lives. With his critics cursed and shamed, and with public support for the president running high, the establishment, including the Roman Catholic Church, has for the most part stayed quiet.  But now, more than seven months into Duterte’s tenure, with the death toll climbing night by night, the country’s Catholic hierarchy is finding its voice. In a pastoral letter published in February, church leaders denounced Duterte’s campaign as a “reign of terror” against the poor.

Mexico

  • After decades in America, the newly deported return to a Mexico they barely recognize (The Washington Post) The deportees stepped off their flight from El Paso looking bewildered: 135 men who had left families and jobs behind after being swept up in the Trump administration’s mounting effort to send millions of undocumented immigrants back to their economically fraught homeland.  The men, who had spent as many as 20 years in the United States before being caught and held in detention for several weeks, walked out into a Mexico many of them barely remember, where job opportunities are scarce and worries about the worst inflation in a decade await them.  In the wake of new enforcement policies announced by the Trump administration recently that dramatically expand the pool of undocumented immigrants targeted for deportation, Mexico is bracing for an influx of men and women like them. Their arrival,  along with a surge of undocumented immigrants leaving the United States voluntarily,  promises to transform Mexican society in the same way their departure did.

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

  • Don't Count on Relapsing Fever to Diagnose Borrelia Miyamotoi (All Things Lyme Blog)  This is written by Dr. Daniel Cameron, a nationally recognized leader for his expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.  The expression of symptoms from spiochetes, such as the Borellia genus among which is the bacterium causing Lyme disease and many other bacteria associated with tick-born diseases, can be variable and inconsistent.  This article recounts such a situation with a particular spirochete:

You might assume a patient infected with Borrelia miyamotoi, a relapsing fever spirochete, to present with a relapsing fever. However, your assumption would be wrong 48 out of 50 times, according to a case series published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. [1] The authors found that only 2 out of 50 patients infected with the relapsing spirochete B. miyamotoi actually presented with a relapsing fever. [1]

Larry Summers:

Robots are wealth creators and taxing them is illogical: I usually agree with Bill Gates on matters of public policy and admire his emphasis on the combined power of markets and technology. But I think he went seriously astray in a recent interview when he proposed, without apparent irony, a tax on robots to cushion worker dislocation and limit inequality. ....

At the core of Sachs’s argument is the idea that the United States has been locked in a self-destructive tax-cutting mindset since January 20, 1981, the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the nation’s fortieth President. From that point forward, he argues, the country stopped funnelling sufficient resources into areas of society that are now in decline: the construction and maintenance of highways and airports; an education system that adequately serves people from all economic backgrounds; public health, technology, and communal spaces. Against a backdrop of the dramatic shifts in the global economy, the predictable result has been the gradual weakening of the middle class, the same group of people who finally rose up and reacted in anger and frustration, contributing to Donald Trump’s election to the Presidency. “Long-term economic improvement occurs when societies invest adequately in their future,” Sachs writes. “The harsh fact is that the United States has stopped investing adequately in the future; slow U.S. economic growth is the predictable and regrettable result.”

  • How Accounting Smoke and Mirrors Makes Corporate Profits — and Rich People’s Income — Invisible (Evonomics)  People build tremendous fortunes by building businesses that do not produce a profit (or, at least very little).  Why is that?  Profits are taxed so the greatest wealth is produced by pouring all revenue back into the business, keeping profits (and taxes) very low.  Amazon is used as an example in this discussion.  (Econintersect:  This is how all successful business were run in the years following World War 2 when corporate and personal top brackets were much higher than today.  High tax rates encourage a constructive society; low tax rates encourage an extractive society.)


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