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What We Read Today 12 April 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:

  • Employees overcome initial fear of healthcare exchanges after usage

  • Q1 Saw U.S. Auto Industry’s Red Flags Still Waving

  • Number of employers offering family leave surpasses post-recession levels

  • When Gluten Is The Villain, Could A Common Virus Be The Trigger?

  • Old economics is based on false ‘laws of physics’ – new economics can save us

  • Trump says dollar 'getting too strong'

  • Immigrants and Housing Demand

  • Trump blames administration vacancies on 'obstructionists'

  • Prosecutor: Jeff Sessions’s New Immigration Plan Is ‘F*cking Horrifying’

  • Budget chief: Trump's promise to eliminate debt was 'hyperbole'

  • Turkey is sliding into dictatorship

  • US-Russia relations at a low, says Tillerson at Moscow press conference

  • Tillerson meets with Putin during Russia visit

  • India’s biometric identity scheme should not be compulsory

  • Japanese warships to join US fleet near North Korea as tensions rise 

  • Trump on North Korea: 'We Are Sending an Armada'

  • China's Xi tells Trump he wants peaceful solution to North Korea

  • The Surprisingly Early Settlement of the Tibetan Plateau

  • 14,000-year-old village discovered in Canada could reveal how civilization began in North America

  • And More


NOTE:  Due to unexpected travel there will be no 'What We Read Today' Thursday 13 April or Friday 14 April. 


Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

U.S.

  • Trump says dollar 'getting too strong' - Wall Street Journal (Reuters)  President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that the dollar was "getting too strong" and would eventually hurt the U.S. economy, even as he said he would like to see interest rates stay low, the Wall Street Journal reported.  In an interview, Trump also said he would not label China a currency manipulator in a U.S. Treasury report due later this week, the Journal said. He also said he respected Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, saying she was "not toast" when her current term ends in 2018.

  • Immigrants and Housing Demand (Urban Land Institute)  Immigration has been an important source of population growth and housing demand in a diverse set of metropolitan areas.

Without growth of the foreign-born population, regions with strong housing markets, such as San Francisco, would not have recovered so quickly after the recent recession, and regions that are still struggling in the aftermath of the downturn, such as Buffalo, would have seen even weaker growth. Overall, recent immigration to those and other metropolitan areas has had a positive effect on local housing markets.

  • Trump blames administration vacancies on 'obstructionists' (The Hill)  President Trump said the reason the government's executive branch is understaffed is because of "obstructionists".  Trump again reiterated that he has "hundreds of people that we're trying to get through".  From this article:

The White House has put forth as of April 7 only 24 nominations in the quest to fill the 533 positions that need Senate approval, Politico reported, and 22 of those nominations have been confirmed.

“It’s fucking horrifying,” the prosecutor said. “It’s totally horrifying and we’re all terrified about it, and we don’t know what to do.

“The things they want us to do are so horrifying—they want to do harboring cases of three or more people,” the prosecutor continued. “So if you’re illegal and you bring your family over, then you’re harboring your kid and your wife, and you can go to jail.”

Immigration-related crimes are already a massive portion of federal prosecutors’ caseloads; Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Clearinghouse found that immigration violations—including illegal entry and illegal re-entry—made up 52 percent of federal prosecutions from September 2015 to September 2016. In the Trump era, though, immigration offenses will be an even larger part of prosecutors’ work. It’s a move that delights immigration hawks.

  • Budget chief: Trump's promise to eliminate debt was 'hyperbole' (The Hill)  The White House's budget chief says President Trump’s campaign promise to eliminate the national debt was “hyperbole”.  Asked Wednesday by CNBC’s John Harwood asked about Trump’s “goal of eliminating the debt” by the end of his second term, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said it was likely impossible.  Econintersect:  This statement displays either a gross amount of ignorance about the monetary system or abject hypocracy playing on the lack of understanding by the American public.

Turkey

  • Turkey is sliding into dictatorship (The Economist)  Recep Tayyip Erdogan is carrying out the harshest crackdown in decades. The Economist says that the West must not abandon Turkey.

Turkey is especially ill-suited to winner-takes-all government. It is divided between secular, religious and nationalist citizens, as well as Turks, Kurds, Alevis and a few remaining Greeks, Armenians and Jews. If the religious-conservative near-majority try to shut out everyone else, just as they were once shut out, Turkey will never be stable.

Russia

  • US-Russia relations at a low, says Tillerson at Moscow press conference (The Guardian)  US-Russia relations are at a low and marked by distrust, America’s top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, has said, after a day of talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.  Tillerson had flown to Russia in an attempt to push Moscow towards the US position on Syria, but Lavrov said the two sides still “diverged” over their evaluation of last week’s chemical attack on a rebel-held town.  See also next article.

  • Tillerson meets with Putin during Russia visit (The Hill)  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a visit to Moscow on Wednesday amid heightened tensions over a U.S. airstrike last week on a Syrian air base.  The surprise sit-down comes one day after Kremlin officials said the top American diplomat would not meet with the Russian leader during his first official trip to Moscow.

The meeting is an opportunity for the leaders to confront one another over President Trump’s decision to launch a missile strike against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in retaliation for what the White House said was a chemical weapons attack he carried out on his own citizens. 

Top U.S. officials, including Tillerson, have pressured Putin to drop his support for Assad in the aftermath of the chemical attack.

Putin has publicly raised doubts about whether Assad was responsible for the strike, which killed dozens, and even suggested the U.S. might fake a subsequent gas attack and blame it on the Syrian leader.

India

  • India’s biometric identity scheme should not be compulsory (The Economist)  WHAT would Gandhi have made of Aadhaar, the ambitious scheme to provide each of India’s 1.3 billion residents with a unique, biometrically verifiable identification? There is much that might have impressed the great pacifist. Before Aadhaar’s launch in 2010, many Indians had no proof of identity that could be recognised across the sprawling, multilingual country; now 99% of adults do. A cheap, simple and accurate way to know who is who, it helps the state channel services, such as subsidies, to those who really need them, thwarting corruption and saving billions. Linked to bank accounts and mobile phones, the unique 12-digit numbers can be used for swift, easy transfers of money. In time, they should help hundreds of millions of Indians enter the formal, modern economy.

Yet Gandhi might also have been alarmed. After all, he cut his political teeth resisting a scheme to impose identity passes on unwilling Indians. That was over a century ago, in South Africa. Aadhaar could scarcely be further removed in intent from colonial racism: it is designed to include and unite, not exclude. Still, many Indians worry that a programme billed as voluntary is increasingly, with little public debate, being made mandatory. This puts the whole project, and all its benefits, at risk of being struck down by the courts. And the government’s high-handed dismissal of concerns about its methods is stoking fears that it might misuse the data it has collected.

Japan

  • Japanese warships to join US fleet near North Korea as tensions rise (The Guardian)  Japan is preparing to send several warships to join a US aircraft carrier strike group heading for the Korean peninsula, in a show of force designed to deter North Korea from conducting further missile and nuclear tests.  Citing two well-placed sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, Reuters and the Kyodo news agency said several destroyers from Japan’s maritime self-defence forces would join the USS Carl Vinson and its battle group as it enters the East China Sea.

North Korea 

  • Trump on North Korea: 'We Are Sending an Armada' (Fox News)  President Trump warned in a pair of tweets Tuesday that North Korea “is looking for trouble” with its nuclear weapons program, and he doubled down on that tough talk in a Fox Business Network interview with Maria Bartiromo.

trump.tweets.2017.apr.11

China

  • China's Xi tells Trump he wants peaceful solution to North Korea (Fox News)  Chinese President Xi Jinping told President Trump in a phone call Wednesday that Beijing is willing to work with Washington on ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but wants to do so through peaceful means.

  • The Surprisingly Early Settlement of the Tibetan Plateau (Scientific American)  Scientists thought people first set foot on the frozen Tibetan Plateau 15,000 years ago. New genomic analyses suggest multiplying that figure as much as fourfold, witth inhabiation of this very hostile environment starting at the height of the last ice age.

Canada

  • 14,000-year-old village discovered in Canada could reveal how civilization began in North America (Fox News)  The village on a remote island in British Columbia is estimated to be 14,000 years old – three times older than the Egyptian pyramids.  And incredible finds beneath the mud on tiny Triquet Island include spears, fishing hooks and fire-lighting tools.  Archaeologists are now trying to piece together clues about life in the village – the oldest ever found in North America.

Click for large image.

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

  • Employees overcome initial fear of healthcare exchanges after usage (Employee Benefit Adviser)  Employees who pick their own health plan through an online exchange report being better healthcare consumers and having higher satisfaction with their choice of plans, according to the “Liazon 2017 Employee Survey Report: Health Care Consumerism in Marketplace Environments” that was conducted by online marketplace operator Liazon.  When signing up for a new health plan on the Liazon marketplace, the firm asked employees to take a test of their healthcare knowledge before and after the enrollment process. The survey found that 85% of employees feel more engaged in their health care decisions, up from 83% in 2015.

  • Q1 Saw U.S. Auto Industry’s Red Flags Still Waving (Wards Auto)  Signs began to surface last year that the market was plateauing, with loan terms rising, incentives at record levels and inventories beginning to bulge, and none of those negative factors were reversed in Q1, says an analyst for J.D. Power.  Summary:

  • Production remains out of whack, with capacity still skewed too much toward cars when buyers are turning to CUVs in big numbers. Six of 10 models lost volume in the first quarter, as did half of all automotive brands. “I’m pretty sure half of all brands weren’t planning on taking a step back,” he says.

  • Overall inventory ended the quarter at 4.1 million units, up from 3.8 million in like-2016 and a half-million units higher than in Q1 2015, when retail demand was at an identical level. That’s a snapshot of the market King calls scary.

  • Incentives averaged $3,900 per unit in Q1 industrywide, up from $3,400 year ago. Last year finished with incentives at $4,000 per vehicle, “higher than anything in the deepest, darkest days of the recession.”

  • Used-vehicle prices have fallen dramatically in the past year, and that’s making leasing a more difficult proposition for automakers. Leasing ran at 30.7% of sales in Q1, down slightly from year-ago but still a high number, King says. If automakers miss on their residual calculations by just $100 per unit, it will cost the industry $500 million, he says. “If you have a bigger miss, the industry could easily have a multibillion-dollar profit issue.”

  • Loans of 72 months accounted for 33.9% of new-vehicle sales contracts, up from 32.3% year-ago. “Short-term that’s great, it helps people buy new cars,” King says. “But headaches will come several years hence.”

  • Number of employers offering family leave surpasses post-recession levels (Employee Benefit Adviser)   While companies like Amazon, Ernst & Young, Microsoft, Netflix and others have announced plans to expand their parental leave policies for employees, the overall rate of parental caregiving and family leave provided by U.S. employers had remained unchanged since 2012 until 2016.

The highest rates for parental caregiving were recorded in 2005 and dipped during the years of the recession, 2008–10. According to the annual survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management and The Families and Work Institute, The National Study of Employers found that the amount of parental leave has started to surpass 2012 levels but stays well under 85% utilization.

For example, the survey found that the percentage of employers allowing employees to return to work gradually after the birth of a child or adoption grew from 73% in 2012 to 81% in 2016. The percentage of employers allowing employees to receive special consideration after a career break for personal or family responsibilities rose from 2% in 2012 to 28% in 2016.

  • When Gluten Is The Villain, Could A Common Virus Be The Trigger? (The Salt)  A new study raises a novel idea about what might trigger celiac disease, a condition that makes patients unable to tolerate foods containing gluten.  The study suggests that a common virus may be to blame.  For people with celiac disease, gluten can wreak havoc on their digestive systems. Their immune systems mistake gluten as a dangerous substance.

Scientists have known for a while that genetics predisposes some people to celiac. About 30 percent of Americans carry the genes that make them more susceptible to the disease. And yet, only about one percent of Americans have celiac.

Researchers wondered why not everyone with the risk genes gets the disease.

  • Old economics is based on false ‘laws of physics’ – new economics can save us (The Guardian)  The emerging but still unestablished reformation of economics from a "science" with analogy to physics to one based more on biological disciplines and social "sciences" is gaining traction in the popular press.  This indicates the evolution of the economcis discipline is taking hold.  From The Guardian

    In the 1870s, a handful of aspiring economists hoped to make economics a science as reputable as physics. Awed by Newton’s insights on the physical laws of motion – laws that so elegantly describe the trajectory of falling apples and orbiting moons – they sought to create an economic theory that matched his legacy. And so pioneering economists such as William Stanley Jevons and Léon Walras drew their diagrams in clear imitation of Newton’s style and, inspired by the way that gravity pulls a falling object to rest, wrote enthusiastically of the role played by market forces and mechanisms in pulling an economy into equilibrium.

    Their mechanical metaphor sounds authoritative, but it was ill-chosen from the start – a fact that has been widely acknowledged since the astonishing fragility and contagion of global financial markets was exposed by the 2008 crash.

    The most pernicious legacy of this fake physics has been to entice generations of economists into a misguided search for economic laws of motion that dictate the path of development. People and money are not as obedient as gravity, so no such laws exist. Yet their false discoveries have been used to justify growth-first policymaking.

    This "fake physics" has led to such failed mainstream economic concepts as:

    • Supply-side economics

    • Stability (equilbrium) in economic systems

    • Aggregate demand driving the economy

    • Justification of inequality using “the Kuznets Curve

    • Economic models not including money, credit and debt

    Econintersect:  What is not developed in The Guardian is the area of financial economics which can measure and analyze monetary, credit and debt stocks and flows.  These items can be (and are) analyzed by established accounting procedures.  Accounting is "looked down upon" by many economists.  This is unfortunate because it is one of the few areas where economic factors can be measured quantitatively.  Economists working in this area (like Marc Lavoie, Steve Keen and members of the MMT "school", among others, who follow in the footsteps of Wynne Godley and Hyman Minsky) are largely ignored by the "mainstream".


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