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What We Read Today 24 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:

  • Trump offers support to Paul Ryan

  • GOP Fails to Get the Votes for New Health Care Bill

  • Ryan Says ACA is Here to Stay

  • Obamacare Repeal Would Have Cost the Poor a Third of their Income

  • Comparing the ACA with What the GOP Plan Would Have Done

  • Ryan Says Tax Reform is Now in Danger

  • The Swamp Drains Trump

  • Manafort volunteers for questionings at House intel committee

  • AP FACT CHECK: Cabinet members go rogue on science, history

  • UK police give details of London attacker, make more arrests

  • London attack inquiry focuses on radicalization of perpetrator

  • Putin meets French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen at Kremlin

  • Election fever and the downward spiral between Turkey and Europe: Could reviving the migration deal be a way out?

  • Egypt's Mubarak free, acquitted after years-long detention

  • India's 'Criminalized Government' is 'Rotten to the Core'

  • Shifting Global History of Internet Browser Popularity

  • America's Retail Apocalypse in Pictures

  • ‘Deaths of despair’ surge among US white working class

  • A Nobel Laureate's Work:  Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

U.S.

  • President Donald Trump says, "we'll see what happens," in response to a question about what happens if the vote on the Republican-backed health care bill fails in the House.

  • Asked if Ryan should remain as speaker if the bill fails, Trump says, "Yes."

  • President Donald Trump is telling lawmakers who oppose abortion that a vote against the health care bill would favor Planned Parenthood.

  • White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney says he has "a lot of confidence" in President Donald Trump's ability to salvage a congressional Republican health care plan, but warns that Trump "also wants to move on" if the deal collapses.

  • A lack of women in a photo of negotiations over the GOP health care bill that was tweeted out by Vice President Mike Pence is drawing criticism from Democrats.

  • Obamacare replacement yanked in House as GOP fails to win support (CNBC)  The embattled bill seeking to replace major parts of Obamacare was yanked Friday from the floor of the House after it became clear that the measure would be defeated, in large part because of opposition from a relative handful of conservative and moderate Republicans.  And President Donald Trump said that the overall Republican effort in Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare could be suspended for some time.

  • Ryan pulls H.R. 1628, says ACA is here to stay (LifeHealthPro)   Ryan said that he does not believe the ACA system will survive, but that Tom Price, the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, might be able to find ways to stabilize it.  He said:

"Obamacare is the law of the land.  We're going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future."

“This does make tax reform more difficult, but it does not in any way to make it impossible.  Obamacare taxes stay with Obamacare.  We’re going to fix the rest of the tax code.”

  • The Swamp Drains Trump (James Howard Kunstler)  Hat tip to Lee Adler (Wall Street Examiner).   The inimitable Kunstler, writing another 'Clusterfuck Nation' column, shares his latest delicately phrased commentary, which starts with this:

The Washington political scene is looking less like The Apprentice and more and more like the old Marlon Perkins Wild Kingdom show, with giant crocodiles slithering down the muddy banks to encircle Donald Trump paddling fecklessly in his leaky dugout while a chorus of angry birds shrieks in the surrounding treetops. Yes, it really looks that bad all of a sudden for Ole Number 45, the Golden Golem.

RussiaGate is flaring to a toxic shock level event. Everything that spun out of Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing made all parties look bad. The spooks are everywhere and nowhere. The spooks are leaking to the press. The president is tweeting instead of governing. The two parties are literally at war in congress, and the news media is playing it all like a Stockhausen cantata for kazoo and trashcan lid.

One can’t help marveling at the way the “Russian interference” motif has shifted the spotlight off the substance of what Wikileaks revealed about Clinton Foundation and DNC misdeeds onto Trump campaign officials “colluding” with Russians, supposedly to support their interference in the election. It’s true that the election is way over and the public is no longer concerned with Hillary or her foundation (which is closing shop anyway). But the switcheroo is impressive, and quite confusing, considering recently retired NSA James Clapper just two weeks ago said on NBC’s Meet the Press that there was “no evidence” of collusion Between Trump and Russia. Okay… uh, say what?

On Monday, FBI Director James Comey revealed that his agency had been investigating the Trump Campaign since at least last August. Is that so…? Investigating how? Some sort of electronic surveillance? Well, what else would they do nowadays? Send a gumshoe to a hotel room where he could press his ear on a drinking glass against the wall to eavesdrop on Paul Manafort? I don’t think so. Of course they were sifting through emails, phone calls, and every other sort of electronic communication.

  • Manafort volunteers for questionings at House intel committee (CNN)  President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has offered to testify before the House Intelligence Committee in its investigation of Russian meddling in the US election, committee chairman Devin Nunes announced Friday.  Nunes said House investigators are still negotiating when Manafort will testify and whether he will testify in an open hearing or in a closed briefing.

  • AP FACT CHECK: Cabinet members go rogue on science, history (Associated Press)  Alt-facts is not just a White House phenomenon - they permiate the cabine.  This article reviews item-by-item some of the "contested facts".

  • Obamacare repeal could cost the poor a third of their income (CNN Money)  The poorest American families could lose federal benefits worth a third of their income, on average, if the House Republican health care bill becomes law, according to a new report.  At the same time, the richest households would receive a tax break of $5,640 a year, according to the study conducted by the Urban Institute and the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, which looks at the impact on families with different incomes in 2022.  See next article.

The legislation, which is expected to be voted on Friday, would hit those making less than $10,000 a year so hard because these folks receive hefty amounts of government assistance from Obamacare. Many benefit from the expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults, while those who earn just a bit more receive generous subsidies that lower their premiums, deductibles and co-pays.

The GOP bill, titled the American Health Care Act, would eliminate the enhanced federal funding for Medicaid expansion and cap federal support of the entire program. It would also replace Obamacare's subsidies with less generous tax credits based mainly on age, rather than income. (Individuals who earn more than $215,000 and couples making more than $290,000 don't qualify for tax credits, under the GOP bill.)

On average, families who earn less than $50,000 a year would be worse off under the bill, researchers concluded.

Click for large image.
aca.vs.ahca.coverage

The measure would repeal major parts of Obama's health law, capping future funding for Medicaid and cutting tax increases for high-income families, health insurance companies and drugmakers.

The bill would repeal tax credits that people can use to purchase health insurance and replace them with a new tax credit that is less generous for most.

UK

In a briefing outside Scotland Yard, London's top counterterror officer, Mark Rowley, said two more "significant" arrests had been made, bringing to nine the number of people in custody over Wednesday's attack.

Detectives have searched 21 properties in London, the central English city of Birmingham and Wales.

"We've seized 2,700 items from these searches, including massive amounts of computer data for us to work through," Rowley said, adding that contact had been made with 3,500 witnesses.

France

  • Putin meets French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen at Kremlin (CNN)  Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed the "great importance" of ties between his country and France as he met French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin on Friday, Russian state-run news agency Tass reported.  Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that Russia was not seeking to influence the upcoming French election but had the right to communicate with French politicians.

Turkey

Many in Turkey are now concerned that the antagonistic climate will help the adoption of the constitutional changes, thereby further undermining an already damaged and fragile democracy. As one pro-EU Turkish commentator put it: “Taking anti-democratic measures against the leader of a Muslim-majority country is not the right way to combat populist politicians exploiting anti-immigrant feelings.”

Turkish leaders’ reactions haven’t helped. Leveling accusations of Nazism and fascism—especially against two countries with strong freedom of expression and media reputations—together with predicting imminent religious wars between the “crescent and the cross” test the limits of reason.

Egypt

  • Egypt's Mubarak free, acquitted after years-long detention (Associated Press)   Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was freed from custody Friday morning after six years of legal proceedings and wrangling that frustrated activists who had hoped he would face justice for the deaths of hundreds defying his rule.

The ailing, 88-year-old Mubarak left the Armed Forces Hospital in Cairo's southern suburb of Maadi and went to his home in the upscale Heliopolis district under heavy security, according to an Egyptian security official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.  

His release marked a new chapter for the former autocrat whose people rose up against him in 2011 and demanded an end to his 30 years in power marked by corruption, economic inequity and reliance on a much-feared security apparatus.

India

Although the author focuses on high-level corruption in the government, it is important to understand that it is the politician-bureaucrat-businessman nexus that is at the heart of the rot in the system. Also, at a time when 82% of the MPs of the lower house are multi-millionaires and 34% of the newly elected members have criminal cases against them (as of 2014), the roots of the malaise are buried in the composition of the legislature.

Does the book forebode a looming disaster that will befall our democracy? Well, the author makes mixed predictions. He hopes that in the long term, we will be working towards building a nation that works for its people. With many public-spirited souls having picked up the tools of change, such as the Right to Information to strengthen the foundations of democracy and make it work for the last man in the queue, not all hope is lost.

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

  • These haunting photos of the retail apocalypse reveal a new normal in America (Business Insider)  The retail apocalypse has descended on America. More than 3,500 stores are expected to close across the U.S. in the next couple of months.  Department stores like Macy's, Sears and J.C. Penney, and retailers including BCBG, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Bebe have all been forced to close up dozens of stores. Walking through a mall in 2017 is like walking through a graveyard.  This article has a 32-slide exhibit.  Here are two of them:

mall.1

mall.2

  • ‘Deaths of despair’ surge among US white working class (Financial Times)    See also next article.  An epidemic of overdoses, suicides and alcohol-related illness is causing a surge in deaths among white Americans with a high-school education or less that now makes them more likely to die early than those who are black or Hispanic, according to research that illustrates the country’s stark social divide.

The acceleration in what economists Anne Case and Sir Angus Deaton call “deaths of despair” among middle-aged white Americans was first documented in their 2015 paper that was held up as one explanation for the popularity with white working-class voters of the then-candidate Donald Trump.

In a paper being presented to a Brookings conference on Friday, Ms Case and Sir Angus, 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, detail a widening educational divide that is expected to cast a shadow over the US economy for years to come. 

  • Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century (Brookings)  See also Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century (pnas.org)  This paper documents a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013. This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround. The midlife mortality reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics; black non-Hispanics and Hispanics at midlife, and those aged 65 and above in every racial and ethnic group, continued to see mortality rates fall. This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis. Although all education groups saw increases in mortality from suicide and poisonings, and an overall increase in external cause mortality, those with less education saw the most marked increases.

Midlife increases in suicides and drug poisonings have been previously noted. However, that these upward trends were persistent and large enough to drive up all-cause midlife mortality has, to our knowledge, been overlooked. If the white mortality rate for ages 45−54 had held at their 1998 value, 96,000 deaths would have been avoided from 1999–2013, 7,000 in 2013 alone. If it had continued to decline at its previous (1979‒1998) rate, half a million deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013, comparable to lives lost in the US AIDS epidemic through mid-2015. Concurrent declines in self-reported health, mental health, and ability to work, increased reports of pain, and deteriorating measures of liver function all point to increasing midlife distress.

 Fig. 1.

All-cause mortality, ages 45–54 for US White non-Hispanics (USW), US Hispanics (USH), and six comparison countries: France (FRA), Germany (GER), the United Kingdom (UK), Canada (CAN), Australia (AUS), and Sweden (SWE).

Fig. 4.

Mortality by poisoning, suicide, chronic liver disease, and cirrhosis, white non-Hispanics by 5-y age group.


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