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What We Read Today 11 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:

  • A 400-Year Program of Modernist Thinking is Exploding

  • Are We Witnessing The Weirdest Moment In Economic History?

  • What is the "Deep State"?

  • U.S. Subprime Auto Loan Losses Reach Highest Level Since the Financial Crisis

  • Non-Voters Give President Trump Much Lower Approval Ratings

  • Should Approval Ratings from Non-voters Carry Much Weight?

  • UN Says World Faces Largest Humanitarian Crisis Since 1945

  • Arctic winter temperatures getting out of hand since 2005

  • Democrats threaten to pull support if Russia probe not 'legitimate'

  • Opening Arctic for Drilling Is Trump Priority 

  • Trump Should Avoid a Bad Zika Deal

  • Ex-CIA deputy director: Leak 'has to be an inside job'

  • Trump Fires Wall Street Enforcer Bharara Who Refused to Quit

  • GOP ObamaCare bill energizes town hall groups

  • Huge Modi Election Victory in India's Uttar Pradesh State Election

  • Labor Ousts Liberals in Western Australia Election

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • UN Says World Faces Largest Humanitarian Crisis Since 1945 (Bloomberg)  The world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since the United Nations was founded in 1945 with more than 20 million people in four countries facing starvation and famine, the U.N. humanitarian chief said Friday.  Stephen O'Brien told the U.N. Security Council that "without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death" and "many more will suffer and die from disease".  He urged an immediate injection of funds for Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeast Nigeria plus safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid "to avert a catastrophe".  O'Brien said:

 "To be precise, we need $4.4 billion by July."

Click for large image.


  • Dems threaten to pull support if Russia probe not 'legitimate' (The Hill)  Some Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are threatening to pull support from the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election if it is not conducted in a "legitimate" manner.  The Democrats are reportedly fearful that the committee probe could become heavily entangled in party politics, preventing any substantive investigation from taking place.  The chairman of the committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), has often been publicly critical of the allegations that President Trump's associates were in contact with Russian government officials.  The Democrats, however, maintain that Nunes has not yet given them a reason to abandon the probe.

  • Opening Arctic for Drilling Is Trump Priority, Key Senator Says (Bloomberg)  Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) said President Donald Trump is interested in opening up new coastal waters for oil and gas drilling and reversing Obama-era policies that restrict energy development in Alaska.  Both Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are weighing ways to expand opportunities to drill in Arctic waters though the changes could take years to accomplish administratively, Murkowski said in an interview on the sidelines of the CERAWeek conference in Houston. 

Donald J. Trump told the American people during his presidential campaign, “This country is being drained of its jobs and its money because we have stupid people making bad deals.” He promised to make better deals, ones in which we would win so much we “may even get tired of winning.”

Now his administration, through the Army, is on the brink of making a bad deal, giving a French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi, the exclusive license to patents and thus a monopoly to sell a vaccine against the Zika virus. If Mr. Trump allows this deal, Sanofi will be able to charge whatever astronomical price it wants for its vaccine. Millions of people in the United States and around the world will not be able to afford it even though American taxpayers have already spent more than $1 billion on Zika research and prevention efforts, including millions to develop this vaccine.

The Department of Health and Human Services gave Sanofi $43 million to develop the Zika vaccine with the United States Army. And the company is expected to receive at least $130 million more in federal funding.

  • Ex-CIA deputy director: Leak 'has to be an inside job' (The Hill)  Former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell believes the leak of CIA documents published this week by WikiLeaks "has to be an inside job".  He argued that the data is on CIA's "secret network" that is not connected to other networks.

  • Trump Fires Wall Street Enforcer Bharara Who Refused to Quit (Bloomberg)  Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s refusal to step down after a call for his resignation set up a public battle with President Donald Trump, who abruptly fired Wall Street’s top enforcer on Saturday, months after asking him to remain in the post.  Bharara’s firing came a day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked for the resignations of 46 U.S. attorneys who were appointed by President Barack Obama.  In November, Bharara said shortly after meeting with Sessions and Trump that he was asked to stay on in the new administration and had agreed to do so. The move raises questions about whether the relationship changed, and is likely to call attention to the cases that Bharara’s office is handling.  What role, if any, Bharara’s team is playing in the multiple investigations of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential campaign, Russian contacts by Trump aides, and Michael Flynn’s actions leading up to and while serving as national security adviser is unclear. Many of the principals were working in or based in New York.

  • GOP ObamaCare bill energizes town hall groups (The Hill)  Progressive groups gearing up for another recess of combative town halls for Republican lawmakers say they’re getting new energy from the newly released House GOP ObamaCare replacement plan.  Ahead of the April recess, groups like and Indivisible are already protesting the legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare.


  • Modi Surges to Power in India's Most Crucial State Election (Bloomberg)  Prime Minister Narendra Modi has swept to victory in a key state election with a resounding win that will allow his Bharatiya Janata Party to push forward with its economic reform agenda and enter the national polls in 2019 as favorites.  Modi’s BJP has won 227 seats in Uttar Pradesh’s 403-member assembly, according to the Election Commission of India, beating the incumbent Samajwadi Party and its coalition ally, the Congress Party, in the most politically important of five elections being called today. It is also leading in 82 other seats.


  • Labor's McGowan Set to Take Over After West Australian Victory (Bloomberg)  Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett, who saw a once-in-a-century mining boom turn to a bust under his watch, conceded defeat to Labor’s Mark McGowan in Saturday’s state election.  McGowan will replace the 66-year-old, with the 49-year-old’s party projected to win 37 of the 59 available seats in the lower house and Barnett’s Liberal party taking 11, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Barnett led the Liberal-National coalition government for eight years.  Labor has pledged to create 50,000 new jobs, improve public transport and boost schools and hospitals in the state, whose economic fortunes have flagged with the end of the mining-investment boom. Efforts to rein in record debt and reclaim the state’s AAA credit rating will be complicated, as Labor has also vowed to block the planned sale of a 51% stake in energy provider Western Power.  While state elections are fought predominantly on local issues, the ousting of Barnett is a blow for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose Liberal-National government is trailing in national opinion polls as he struggles to instigate economic reform.  Econintersect:  "Economic reform" is a euphamism for "austerity".

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

  • Kanth: A 400-Year Program of Modernist Thinking is Exploding (Lynne Parramore, Institute for New Economic Thinking)  Across the globe, a collective freak-out spanning the whole political system is picking up steam with every new “surprise” election, rush of tormented souls across borders, and tweet from the star of America’s great unreality show, Donald Trump.  But what exactly is the force that seems to be pushing us towards Armageddon? Is it capitalism gone wild? Globalization? Political corruption? Techno-nightmares?  Parramore discusses the new book by Rajani Kanth:  Farewell to Modernism: On Human Devolution in the Twenty-First Century.   Here is a kernel (Econintersect has added emphasis):

He first caught the scent that something was off as an economics student in India, wondering why, despite his mastery of the mathematics and technology of the discipline, the logic always escaped him. Then one day he had an epiphany: the whole thing was “cockeyed from start to finish.” To his amazement, his best teachers agreed. “Then why are we studying economics?” demanded the pupil. “To protect ourselves from the lies of economists,” replied the great economist Joan Robinson.

As I have always said, economic collapse is a process, not a singular moment in time. This process lulls the masses into complacency. You can show them warning sign after warning sign, but most of them have no concept of what a collapse is. They are waiting for a cinematic moment of revelation, a financial explosion, when really, the whole disaster is happening in slow motion right under their noses. Economies do not explode, they drown as the water rises one inch at a time.

  • What is the “deep state”? (The Economist)  "Deep state" and "shadow government" are wsswntially interchangable terms.  But then things get complicated, because neither term has a universally accepted definition.  Here's an excerpt from this article:

American pundits have often used “deep state” interchangeably with the bureaucracies of the military and spy agencies, especially those bits that leak against the government. Mr Trump’s relations with his spies have been tense since the intelligence community determined that Russia had tried to influence the election in his favour. He has publicly challenged their assessments of his team’s ties with Russia, chastised them for past intelligence failures and compared leaks against him to practices in Nazi Germany. His supporters cite “deep-state” leaks embarrassing to Mr Trump’s administration as evidence of a shadowy network of unelected government officials undermining the president. (The president has not publicly used the term.) 

But the deep state started life as something else entirely. Citizens in Turkey, where the term originated, have long worried about the derin devlet (“deep state”), which refers to a network of individuals in different branches of government, with links to retired generals and organised crime, that existed without the knowledge of high-ranking military officers and politicians. Its goal was purportedly to preserve secularism and destroy communism by any means necessary, outside the regular chain of command. Starting in the 1950s Turkey’s deep state sponsored killings, engineered riots, colluded with drug traffickers, staged “false flag” attacks and organised massacres of trade unionists. Thousands died in the chaos it fomented.

  • U.S. Subprime Auto Loan Losses Reach Highest Level Since the Financial Crisis (Bloomberg)  U.S. subprime auto lenders are losing money on car loans at the highest rate since the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis as more borrowers fall behind on payments, according to S&P Global Ratings.  Losses for the loans, annualized, were 9.1 percent in January from 8.5 percent in December and 7.9%  in the first month of last year, S&P data released on Thursday show, based on car loans bundled into bonds. The rate is the worst since January 2010 and is largely driven by worsening recoveries after borrowers default, S&P said.  Those losses are rising in part because when lenders repossess cars from defaulted borrowers and sell them, they are getting back less money. A flood of used cars has hit the market after manufacturers offered generous lease terms. Recoveries on subprime loans fell to 34.8% in January, the worst since early 2010, S&P data show.

Longer-term loans to finance the purchase of new and used-cars, sometimes stretchedto as many as 84 months, have also hurt lender recoveries by putting borrowers underwater faster, and leaving lenders with an asset worth far less after repossession.

In January, 5.09 percent of subprime car loans were at least 60 days delinquent, up from 5.06 percent in December, S&P said. In January 2016, the figure was 4.66 percent.

  • A basic question when reading a poll: Does it include or exclude nonvoters? (Pew Research Center)  Econintersect:  Should opinion polls for rating the president give much weight to those who do not vote?  Should we expect this to be a "put up or shut up situation"?  The poll results below indicate that President Trump has a much lower approval rating among non-voters.  From Pew:

In non-election years like this one, most pollsters survey all adults, but not all follow this convention. A number of pollsters continue to do surveys of registered or even likely voters. Why does this matter for Trump’s approval ratings? It’s about demographics. Voters as a group skew older and whiter than the general public. And older Americans, as well as white Americans, tilt more Republican than other groups. So, voter-only polls tend to get somewhat more favorable views of a Republican president or candidate and less favorable views of Democrats. This pattern was evident during Barack Obama’s presidency, with his overall ratings tending to be somewhat higher among the general public than among registered or likely voters. 


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