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What We Read Today 09 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".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Topics today include:

  • Pollution Kills 1.7 Million Children a Year

  • Your Bones Can Suppress Your Appetite

  • Why the Freedom of Information Act is Important

  • Will the GOP Finally Crush Class Actions?

  • Oil Drops Below $50 for First Time Since December on Supply Glut

  • Oil Glut:  It's the Demand, Stupid!

  • Two House Panels Approve New Health Plan

  • Why the New Health Bill Misses a Fundamental Mark

  • Asked About Millions Losing Care, Ryan Says ‘Lowering Costs’ Is What Matters

  • GOP Rebels Stir Up Trouble in Washington

  • Fact Check on Spicer's Criticism of the CBO

  • U.S. is Sending More Troops to Syria

  • Iran Tests Another Missile

  • India Casts Out U.S. Christian Charity after 48 Years

  • Japanese Millenials May Save Mountain Towns

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Oil Drops Below $50 for First Time Since December on Supply Glut (Bloomberg) OPEC and its partners have seen the post-agreement oil rally evaporate as the U.S. inventory glut becomes impossible to ignore.  West Texas Intermediate closed at the lowest since Nov. 29, the day before OPEC approved the first supply cuts in eight years. Crude supplies rose 8.2 million to the highest level in weekly government data since 1982. Harold Hamm, the U.S. shale oil billionaire, warned on Wednesday that the industry could “kill” the market if it embarks on another spending binge. The market swoon stoked the second-highest WTI options trading volume ever.  See this weeks Opinon blog post:  Oil Glut: It's The Demand, Stupid!



  • GOP health-care plan: Two House panels approve legislation as Trump tweets reassurance (The Washington Post)  Two key House committees have approved a Republican proposal to revise the Affordable Care Act, giving the bill its first victories amid a backlash that both Republican leaders and President Trump are trying to tamp down.  The House Ways and Means Committee voted 23 to 16 to advance the American Health Care Act shortly before 4:30 a.m. Thursday after about 18 hours of debate. The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 31 to 23 to advance the bill at 1:45 p.m. after about 27 hours of debate.  Amid a barrage of attacks from Democrats and criticism from health-care industry groups, President Trump sought to calm fears about the process.

  • Why the ACA replacement bill is missing the mark for employers, employees (Employee Benefit News)  A key, and often overlooked, aspect of the healthcare debate is one of the most telling signs of why the United States has such poor health relative to peer countries: the continued focus on healthcare rather than health. 

Although it sounds intuitive that healthy people are attracted to products that facilitate and reward healthy behaviors, it is mostly absent from proposals on how to create sustainable healthcare systems. In South Africa, a market where community rating — a rule that prevents health insurers from varying premiums within a geographic area based on age, gender, health status or other factors — is much stricter than the United States, we’ve played a critical role in sustaining the risk pool for our members over the last 20 years.  

It requires significant incentives for healthy behaviors and we hope to see similar incentives incorporated for the United States. This will help make health a priority and create more sustainable healthcare financing.

  • Obamacare Creators Tell GOP: We Told You So (NBC News)   President Donald Trump said last week that "nobody knew that health care could be so complicated".  But the aides and advisers who worked on health care for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — they knew.  Democratic operatives and elected officials who saw their party devastated in part by Obamacare find themselves in a strange place. And some can't help but feel a bit of cosmic justice as they watch Republicans, who passed their plan Friday in the House Ways and Means Committee, stuck in a policy quagmire they know all too well. Neera Tanden, who was a top health official in the Obama administration said:

"Maybe I should just say karma is a serious thing.  Health care is hard. Governing is hard. And Republicans are now living with the fruits of never putting forward a plan and making promises they can't keep." 

  • Asked About Millions Losing Care, Ryan Says ‘Lowering Costs’ Is What Matters (MSN News)  House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Tuesday called estimates that millions of people could lose health care coverage under an Obamacare replacement a “bogus” metric, and said lowering costs for everyone was more important.  Ryan also said he could “guarantee” that a finalized proposal would have enough votes to pass the House of Representatives.  “By some estimates, 10 million people could lose coverage. Is that acceptable?” one reporter asked Ryan at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. Though the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has not released its analysis of the House GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan, Standard & Poors released such an analysis Tuesday.  S&P found that 2 to 4 million people enrolled in Obamacare’s individual marketplaces could lose coverage under the American Health Care Act, in addition to 4 to 6 million people currently covered by Medicaid.  Ryan responded:

“What matters is that we're the lowering costs of health care and giving people access to affordable health care plans.  The government will always win the war on government-run plans, saying, if we mandate everybody buys what we say they have to buy, then the government will always estimate that they’ll buy it.  I just think that’s bogus, that entire premise of that comparison doesn't work.  The fact is, we're not going to have the government tell you what you must do, tell you what you must buy.”

  • Mischief in the Capitol as GOP rebels stir up trouble (Associated Press)  The Capitol is suddenly awash with troublemakers and rebels - and that's just the Republicans.  Whatever GOP unity was produced by Donald Trump's victory in November has all but disappeared, and Republican leaders are confronting open rebellion in their ranks as they try to finalize health care legislation. Trump's speech to a joint session of Congress this week was well-received, but did little to repair divisions.   In the Senate, a trio of conservatives that's been a thorn in the side of leadership is back at it again. And in the House, recalcitrant conservatives are banding together and threatening to foil House Speaker Paul Ryan's plans for swift passage of the legislation to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's health law.

  • Fact Check: Spicer’s Pre-emptive Attack on the Nonpartisan C.B.O. (The New York Times)  President Trump’s spokesman on Wednesday deflected concerns that a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act had yet to be scored by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office by questioning the agency’s track record.

The agency, created in 1974, released its analysis of the completed version of the health care law in March 2010. It estimated 21 million people would be enrolled in public marketplaces by 2016. The year ended with 11.5 million enrollees.

But according to a 2015 report from the Commonwealth Fund, a health care research group, the C.B.O.’s projections for the Affordable Care Act were more in line with what actually happened than four other prominent analyses from 2010.


  • U.S. Is Sending 400 More Troops to Syria (The New York Times)  The additional forces, including Army Rangers and a Marine artillery unit, were to be deployed to help prepare for the battle to take Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate, American officials said on Thursday.  The increase, which includes a team of Army Rangers and a Marine artillery unit that have already arrived in the country, appears to represent a near-doubling of the number of American troops in Syria.


  • News agency: Iran successfully tests ballistic missile (Associated Press)  Iran's Revolutionary Guard has successfully tested a ballistic missile, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported Thursday.  The report quotes Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, chief of the Guard's aerospace division, as saying the missile destroyed a target from a distance of 250 kilometers (155 miles). It said the sea-launched ballistic missile dubbed Hormuz 2 was tested last week.  The Hormuz 2 is capable of hitting floating targets with high accuracy within a range of 300 kilometers (186 miles), Fars said. It provided no additional details.  Earlier this month, U.S. President Donald Trump imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran's ballistic missile program.  Last month, Iranian media reported the Revolutionary Guard launched several sophisticated rockets during military exercises in the country's central desert.


  • U.S. to Question India About Ban on Christian Charity (The New York Times)  Compassion International, a Colorado-based group, was forced to shut its Indian operations after 48 years over accusations it converted Indians to Christianity.  Leaders of the charity complained this week that they were being forced out of India without an opportunity to review the evidence or respond to the accusations.


  • Millennial Movers Breathe New Life Into Japanese Mountain Towns (Bloomberg)  A declining population is an extreme problem for the Japanese economy, nowhere more than in the country's rural areas.  But there is new life in the mountains of Tokushima prefecture, in the neighboring towns of Kamiyama and Kamikatsu, even as depopulation afflicts most of rural Japan with rot. In Kamiyama, young people work remotely for tech companies or as artists in cooperative spaces. In Kamikatsu, the elderly test drones as part of their work harvesting leaves and flowers for use as garnishes in restaurants as far away as Europe.  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stressed the need to revitalize rural areas as the country struggles with demographic decline. The stakes are high. Depopulation may wipe out nearly half of its towns in coming decades.

Click for large image.

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

  • The cost of a polluted environment: 1.7 million child deaths a year, says WHO (World Health Organization)   More than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years of age are attributable to unhealthy environments. Every year, environmental risks – such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene – take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years, say two new WHO reports.  The first report, Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children’s Health and the Environment reveals that a large portion of the most common causes of death among children aged 1 month to 5 years – diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia – are preventable by interventions known to reduce environmental risks, such as access to safe water and clean cooking fuels.  According to Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General:

"A polluted environment is a deadly one – particularly for young children.  Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water."

Click to view infographic.

The Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA as it is commonly known, became the law of the land in 1966 in order to make it easier for the American people to get access to documents, notes and other relevant information about how the federal government wields its considerable power.

  • Will the GOP Finally Crush Class Actions? (Bloomberg)  Republicans and their business allies perennially push tort-reform bills aimed at restricting what’s sometimes called the litigation industry. They haven’t had much luck of late. It’s been 12 years since one of those measures succeeded. But with Donald Trump in the White House, pro-business groups see an opening for a series of bills moving through the House that would discourage class actions and generally make it harder to sue businesses.

It’s an issue the president has some experience with. Only days after his election, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle claims that his defunct Trump University cheated more than 6,000 students with false promises of teaching them his real estate secrets. On the other hand, Trump has frequently initiated suits against business adversaries, so it’s tricky to predict what position he’ll take. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

  • Fun at the farm (YouTube)  Here is something that should make you smile.

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