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What We Read Today 18 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".).


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

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Topics today include:

  • Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective

  • What Wellesley Students and Critics Got Wrong About Free Speech

  • First U.S. sugar tax sees soft drink sales fall by almost 10%

  • Early Job Approval Ratings for Last 6 Presidents

  • Insurers meet with Trump official to press for ObamaCare payments

  • Goldman Sachs licks wounds in equities trading as peers grab share

  • Report: First protected ‘Dreamer’ deported under Trump

  • California Tries to Refill Its Biggest Reservoir

  • Theresa May seeks a snap election 

  • Turkey referendum: Trump congratulates Erdogan

  • Turkey referendum: EU urges Ankara to probe illegal vote claims 

  • RIP Turkey, 1921 – 2017

  • Turkey is sliding into dictatorship

  • Why India and Bangladesh have the world's craziest border

  • Japan banks opening wallets for drug startups

  • Trump salvo threatens Japan's currency strategy

  • BOJ Is Considering Slight Cut to Its Inflation Estimate

  • Chinese Stocks Are Unnerving Investors Again as Losses Steepen

  • Nutrient-Poor Farms Get a Vitamin Boost From Zinc Mines

  • Asylum applications in Mexico surge after Trump election win

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Insurers meet with Trump official to press for ObamaCare payments (The Hill)  Health insurance executives met with a top Trump administration health official on Tuesday to press for the continuation of key ObamaCare payments.  In the meeting with insurers, Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, did not make any commitments on continuing the payments, sources said. She added that the insurers should also speak to Congress about the issue.  Insurers have been pounding the drum for a firm promise on the ObamaCare payments, known as cost-sharing reductions (CSRs). President Trump has threatened to cancel the payments, potentially causing chaos in the insurance market, as a way to bring Democrats to the negotiating table. 

  • Goldman Sachs licks wounds in equities trading as peers grab share (Reuters)   Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) on Tuesday became the first Wall Street bank this earnings season to report lower equities trading revenue, signaling it was unlikely to reclaim the top market share ranking from Morgan Stanley (MS.N) any time soon.  People familiar with the business said a combination of outdated trading technology, a late effort to court quantitative funds and overall fee pressure on the bank's key clients has blunted Goldman's edge. It now ranks No. 2 behind its biggest rival.  Last year, the once-dominant bank fell more than $1 billion behind Morgan Stanley (MS.N) in equities revenue, marking the widest-ever such gap between the firms. That gap, which has been growing for years, has raised pressure from investors looking for answers and prompted Goldman to rethink its strategy.

  • Report: First protected ‘Dreamer’ deported under Trump (The Hill)  Federal agents have deported the first “Dreamer” of President Trump’s tenure so far, according to an examination of his administration’s immigration policies.  Juan Manuel Montes, who first arrived in the U.S. at age 9, is now in his native Mexico despite having active protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, USA Today reported Tuesday.

  • California Tries to Refill Its Biggest Reservoir (Bloomberg)  The snowpack in the state's mountains, while it hasn't quite broken records across the board, currently holds even more water than the reservoirs -- about 29 million acre-feet.  That's all great, and it means that the drought that has been tormenting the state since the winter of 2011-2012 is definitively over. But this is California, where precipitation varies so wildly from winter to winter that the state is never more than a year or two from a water shortage.  The biggest reservoir of all, the Central Valley aquifers, are not so rapidly refilled and the state is discharging excess water into basins that will provide seepage into the aquifers.  For more see California farmers use floodwater to replenish aquifers (Salon).


  • Theresa May seeks a snap election (The Economist)   Polls suggest that her Conservative Party will win comfortably.  See graphic below.  But Britain’s negotiations with the European Union will make the election a more complicated contest than Britain has seen in many years.  Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011, Mrs May needs the backing of two-thirds of the House of Commons to call an election.   But this will be a formality: the leaders of the main opposition parties have already said they are in favour.  They could hardly be seen to turn down a chance to eject the government. But the truth is that for many in the Labour Party, the official opposition, the election is uncomfortably timed.

Click for large image.


  • Turkey referendum: Trump congratulates Erdogan (BBC News)  Donald Trump has congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his victory in Sunday's referendum that gave him sweeping new powers.  The US president's phone call contrasts with European concern that the result - 51.4% in favour of the changes - has exposed deep splits in Turkish society.

  • Turkey referendum: EU urges Ankara to probe illegal vote claims (BBC News)   The European Commission has called on Turkey to launch a "transparent investigation" into allegations of irregularities during the referendum giving the president sweeping powers. Turkey should "consider the next steps very carefully", an EU spokesman said.

European leaders have expressed concern that the result - 51.4% in favour of the changes - has split Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected criticism by international election observers.

The main opposition party has launched an appeal to invalidate the result.  

The changes - due to be introduced before presidential and parliamentary elections in November 2019 - will turn Turkey into a presidential republic similar to the US and France. This could enable President Erdogan to stay in power until 2029.

  • RIP Turkey, 1921 – 2017 (Foreign Policy)  Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t just win his constitutional referendum — he permanently closed a chapter of his country’s modern history.  The referendum ended the 96-year history of the democratic republic that has been modern Turkey:

On Jan. 20, 1921, the Turkish Grand National Assembly passed the Teşkilât-ı Esasîye Kanunu, or the Law on Fundamental Organization. It would be almost three years until Mustafa Kemal — known more commonly as Ataturk, or “Father Turk” — proclaimed the Republic of Turkey, but the legislation was a critical marker of the new order taking shape in Anatolia.

The new country called Turkey, quite unlike the Ottoman Empire, was structured along modern lines. It was to be administered by executive and legislative branches, as well as a Council of Ministers composed of elected representatives of the parliament. What had once been the authority of the sultan, who ruled alone with political and ecclesiastic legitimacy, was placed in the hands of legislators who represented the sovereignty of the people.

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.

But the most important argument against majoritarian politics is Mr Erdogan himself. Since the failed coup, he has been governing under a state of emergency that demonstrates how cruelly power can be abused


  • Why India and Bangladesh have the world's craziest border (The Economist)  The wildly erratic and discontinuous border between India and Bangladesh is the legacy of feudal enclaves from hundreds of years ago.  On July 31st India and Bangladesh will exchange 162 parcels of land, each of which happens to lie on the wrong side of the Indo-Bangladesh border, eliminating many of the inconguities.


  • Japan banks opening wallets for drug startups (Nikkei Asian Review)  Major Japanese financial institutions are starting to provide funds to pharmaceutical ventures via investment units as ultralow interest rates make it difficult to generate good returns from safe lending and investing.  Shinsei Bank has set up through a subsidiary its first fund dedicated to secondary investment in drug development. With equal contributions from Shinsei Corporate Investment and consultancy Hibiki Partners, the fund will start out at 300 million yen ($2.77 million) and likely grow to about 1 billion yen.  Drug development often takes more than a decade -- longer than typical startup investors are willing to wait. So secondary funds often buy out the initial investors and keep the startup going toward its eventual listing.

  • Trump salvo threatens Japan's currency strategy (Nikkei Asian Review)  Many at Japan's Ministry of Finance have been left perplexed by U.S. President Donald Trump's recent verbal intervention in the currency market.  "It's annoying," said a senior ministry official in change of currency affairs on April 13, just after Trump touched off a slide in the dollar by complaining that the greenback was too strong.  The comments strengthened the yean vs. the dollar at a time when Japan is trying to stabilize the currency at a lower level.

  • BOJ Is Considering Slight Cut to Its Inflation Estimate (Bloomberg)  The Bank of Japan (BOJ) is said be mulling a small reduction in its inflation forecast when the board provides a quarterly outlook report at its policy meeting next week, according to people familiar with discussions at the central bank.  The board may lower its price projection from 1.5% for the current fiscal year through March 2018, said the people, who asked not to be named because talks are private. The BOJ’s current prediction is almost twice the 0.8% estimated by private economists in a Bloomberg survey.  Still, the officials don’t see the need for additional stimulus at this point because a small revision to the projection for CPI won’t alter the BOJ’s broader view that inflation will eventually begin heading toward the 2% target, the people said.


  • Chinese Stocks Are Unnerving Investors Again as Losses Steepen (Bloomberg)  The Shanghai Composite is falling at the fastest pace in four months and volatility is climbing after dropping to multi-year lows.  The stability in China’s stock market this year is showing signs of cracking.  The critical 3200 support level of the past three months has been breached.


  • Nutrient-Poor Farms Get a Vitamin Boost From Zinc Mines (Bloomberg)  Injecting an industrial metal back into the ground could prove a boon for farmers and miners alike.  The metal is zinc. Used mostly to reduce corrosion in iron and steel, zinc also is needed in trace amounts to keep humans and plants healthy. Without it in their diets, people are prone to diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria, and crops are stunted. The trouble is that farmland in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America is increasingly zinc deficient, leading to more than 450,000 deaths annually of children under age five, a 2008 study in The Lancet showed.  While use in agriculture remains small, sales of zinc-infused fertilizers from companies including Mosaic Co. are growing. Farmers are trying to boost yields by reviving soils deprived of nutrients by overuse and a changing climate. Canada’s Teck Resources Ltd.has a test project in China. Another company is developing a mine in Nevada that may process ore just for crops. Expanding the market for zinc beyond steel and chemical producers would eventually bolster demand for the metal at a time of low stockpiles and surging prices.


  • Exclusive: Asylum applications in Mexico surge after Trump election win (Reuters)   The number of people applying for asylum in Mexico has soared by more than 150% since Donald Trump was elected U.S. president, according to Mexican data, as more Central American migrants seek to stay rather than take their chances in the United States.  Between November 2016 and March, Mexico's refugee agency, COMAR, received 5,421 asylum applications, up from 2,148 over the same period in 2015 and 2016.  The number of detentions along the southwestern U.S. border has fallen about 4 percent over the same five-month period, as Trump's tough immigration proposals sent a chill through migrant communities. Just like the vast majority of Mexico's asylum applicants, many of those detained on the U.S. border come from the violent countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

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

  • Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective (IMF)  Hat tip to Laurentiu Nicolae.  LN observes that this "39 pages IMF document about 'income inequality'  contains only 1 (one) reference to the word 'property', and no reference to 'estate'."  He says that it seems to be obvious to everyone but the IMF that "property inequality generates the income inequality".

  • What Wellesley Students and Critics Got Wrong About Free Speech (Bloomberg)  The brouhaha unleashed in academic and media circles over a free speech editorial published last week by the Wellesley College student newspaper is both justified and overstated. It’s justified in that college campuses matter for setting the intellectual conditions for free inquiry and debate. It’s perfectly appropriate to criticize the editorial for its poor history, hostility to open campus discussion and misstatement of free-speech doctrine in current law.  The discussion misses the distinction between the First Amendment right of a private college to regulate student speech and the First Amendment right of the individual to be free from government speech regulation.  This Op Ed says that speech codes by private institutions aren’t prohibited by the First Amendment -- they’re protected by it.  Econintersect:  This discussion could be extended (it wasn't) to the questions about discrimination by businesses, such as the bakery which refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple based on the owners' prejudices.

  • First US sugar tax sees soft drink sales fall by almost 10%, study shows (The Guardian)  A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in Berkeley, California has brought soft drink consumption down - and may have increased water sales.  At the rate of 10% or one penny per fluid ounce, whichever is greater, it adds 12 cents to a 12 ounce can of soda priced at $1, or 68 cents to a two litre bottle costing just over $2 before the tax.

  • Views of Trump (Pew Research Center)

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