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What We Read Today 03 May 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:

  • Why the top 1% think they're in the bottom 99%

  • Is the solution to extreme wealth inequality really — Alaska?

  • Basic Income in a Just Society

  • How Universal Basic Income Could Rescue The Freelance Economy

  • In 2017, We Will Find Out If a Basic Income Makes Sense

  • Free Cash in Finland. Must Be Jobless.

  • Apple Can’t Ignore Microsoft’s Slick New Laptop

  • Britain and Japan have a unique chance to reshape the world – they should seize it 

  • Lawmakers plot to oust Tuesday Group leader over health bill 

  • House Passes Spending Bill That Omits Most Trump Priorities

  • Warren: Trump Army secretary pick 'made hateful & ignorant comments'

  • GOP Struggles to Find Last Few Votes to Pass Obamacare Repeal

  • Rice refuses Senate request to testify on Russian hacking 

  • Theresa May accuses EU of trying to undermine UK election

  • Germany 'interfering in General Election in attempt to undermine Theresa May' 

  • Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron both go on the attack in final French presidential debate

  • Nazis lost WW II through 'spectacular inefficiency', new account claims 

  • Spain plans to end Gibraltar’s 'privileged' existence as a 'tax haven' in Brexit negotiations

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


When Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, sits down with Theresa May on Friday, he has the opportunity to form the most significant Anglo-Japanese partnership since the alliance of the early 20th century. Mr Abe not only sees great affinity between his island nation and the United Kingdom, in particular as democratic standard bearers in their respective regions, but he knows that he and Mrs May are perhaps the two closest allies of President Trump. If the two premiers are bold, they may even be able to forge a trilateral tie with Washington that reshapes global trade and politics.


  • Lawmakers plot to oust Tuesday Group leader over health bill (The Hill)   Some members of the Tuesday Group of House Republican moderates are plotting to oust Co-Chairman Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) from his post amid frustration that he negotiated a deal on the ObamaCare replacement bill with the conservative Freedom Caucus, two Tuesday Group members told The Hill on Wednesday.  The matter could come up at a Tuesday Group meeting Wednesday afternoon, sources said.   One Tuesday Group member who backs MacArthur's ouster said:

"There is dissension in the ranks.  The Tuesday Group, to me, is a group of concerned, like-minded representatives who discuss issues, not negotiate positions on behalf of the group, but have meetings on Tuesday and have lunch and discuss the pending issues of the day."

  • House Passes Spending Bill That Omits Most Trump Priorities (Bloomberg)  The House passed a shutdown-avoiding $1.17 trillion spending bill that President Donald Trump plans to sign even though Democrats were able to defeat most of his wish list, including money for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.  The 309-118 vote Wednesday sends the measure to the Senate, which plans to act before current funding expires after Friday. While the measure buys peace for five months, Trump on Tuesday threatened a "good shutdown" in September or a Senate rule change to keep the minority party from wielding similar power on the next spending plan.

  • Warren: Trump Army secretary pick 'made hateful & ignorant comments' (The Hill)  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Wednesday slammed President Trump's Army secretary nominee Mark Green for his past comments about Muslims and the LGBT community, saying he should be disqualified from consideration.  She said:

"Our military force's diversity is its greatest strength. The Army Secretary must show genuine support for ALL of our men & women in uniform.  There is no place for bigotry in the US Army. Dr Mark Green’s comments disqualify him from leadership."

  • GOP Struggles to Find Last Few Votes to Pass Obamacare Repeal (Bloomberg)  Republican leaders are tantalizingly close to having the votes to pass their long-stalled health-care bill, but they still aren’t sure they have enough support, despite a dramatic reversal by two former holdouts.  Representative Fred Upton, who announced his opposition to the bill Tuesday, told reporters after a meeting with President Donald Trump Wednesday that he’s ready to vote for the measure once a new amendment he helped devise is added. The change would boost funding for people with pre-existing conditions.

  • First on CNN: Rice refuses Senate request to testify on Russian hacking (CNN)   Susan Rice, President Barack Obama's former national security adviser, on Wednesday declined Sen. Lindsey Graham's request to participate in a judiciary subcommittee hearing next week on Russian interference in the US election, CNN has learned.  A letter obtained exclusively by CNN from Rice's lawyer, Kathryn Ruemmler, outlines the grounds for her decision not to appear. It was addressed to Graham, the Republican chairman of the judiciary subcommittee on crime and terrorism, which is holding the hearing, and senior Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.  Ruemmler wrote:

"Senator Whitehouse has informed us by letter that he did not agree to Chairman Graham's invitation to Ambassador Rice, a significant departure from the bipartisan invitations extended to other witnesses.  Under these circumstances, Ambassador Rice respectfully declines Senator Graham's invitation to testify."


  • Theresa May accuses EU of trying to undermine UK election (Financial Times)  UK Prime Minister Theresa May has lashed out at European politicians and officials who she said had issued threats “deliberately timed to affect the result” of the UK’s upcoming election. Speaking outside 10 Downing Street after a meeting with the Queen to mark the dissolution of parliament ahead of the vote in June, Mrs May said some EU counterparties “do not want Britain to prosper” from the Brexit talks. She denounced “threats” from the European side of Brexit negotiations, in a plea for support from UK voters at the June 8 general election.  See also Germany 'interfering in General Election in attempt to undermine Theresa May' (The Telegraph). 


  • Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron both go on the attack in final French presidential debate (The Telegraph)  Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron launched stinging attacks on each other on Wednesday night in a highly aggressive TV debate ahead of Sunday's presidential election runoff.  railing her centrist rival by around 19 percentage points in voter intentions, Ms Le Pen, the far-Right candidate, went into full attack mode in a bid to sway several million viewers to switch to her.  "Your cynical choices and the shameful use of campaign arguments have revealed the coldness of the investment banker that you have probably never stopped being," she said.  Mr Macron hit back instantly, saying: "You have shown you are not the candidate of finesse."


  • Nazis lost the war through 'spectacular inefficiency', new account claims (The Telegraph)  Germany lost the Second World War because it was “spectacularly inefficient” and its tanks kept breaking down, according to a new history.  Britain and America, by contrast, were able to manufacture tanks and warplanes at a far quicker rate, and the equipment was more reliable when used in action.  The controversial new thesis, which seeks to challenge the “myth” of an  efficient and well equipped Nazi war machine versus the make-do-and-mend British, is propounded in a new book by historian James Holland.


  • Spain plans to end Gibraltar’s 'privileged' existence as a 'tax haven' in Brexit negotiations (The Telegraph)  Spain will target what it considers to be Gibraltar's "unjustifiable privileges" on tax in Brexit negotiations.  A leaked Spanish government report has revealed Madrid will use its veto over the future of Gibraltar in post-Brexit Europe to target "unfair competition" in the British overseas territory.  Gibraltar describes itself as a “low-tax regime”, but denies being a tax haven. Corporate tax on the Rock is 10%, while in Spain companies pay 25%.  Just days after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that his government did not have “red lines or lines of any colour” on the post-Brexit future of Gibraltar, an internal government document leaked by the newspaper El País has revealed that Madrid is actively planning to alter the Rock’s status.

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

  • Why the top 1% think they're in the bottom 99% (Business Insider Australia)  Many people estimate their relative income standing lower than it actually is.  This is especially true at higher income levels.

  • Is the solution to extreme wealth inequality really — Alaska? (Medium)  Alaska is the only place in the world where everyone, rich or poor, young or old, is seen as having equal ownership of land. As equal co-owners, everyone receives an annual cash dividend that represents their share of the revenue derived from their land, through the oil reserves buried under it.
    This is not a tax. It is a voluntary contract between the owners of land and the companies who wish to drill into it. The oil companies agree to pay money to Alaska up front as a cost of doing business. As a result, they see less profit than they otherwise would if they were given free access, but they still profit handsomely. Most of this revenue goes to the government of Alaska to spend on government services so as to avoid a state income tax, but a quarter of it bypasses government coffers entirely, and is instead added to the Alaska Permanent Fund. This fund, which is now over $50 billion in size, is invested and pays out dividends which are equally shared by all Alaskans once a year. This is predistribution as opposed to redistribution, because the funds are diverted past state coffers and directly into the hands of people, and as a result Alaska is consistently among the most equal of all US states, with the lowest rates of poverty, and the highest Well-Being Index scores.

  • Basic Income in a Just Society (Boston Review)   Many of today’s basic income proponents are libertarians and view the policy as a means of compensating losers, or as an excuse to repeal wage per hour or collective bargaining laws. Few are concerned about public goods, workers’ and capital owners’ entitlements within the firm, the power of various social groups, the ability of workers to organize collectively, and the question of what constitutes good work, not just jobs.

An alternative case for basic income draws from classic commitments to social democracy, or an economic system in which the state limits corporate power, ensures a decent standard of living for all, and encourages decent work. In the social democratic view, however, a basic income would be only part of the solution to economic and social inequalities—we also need a revamped public sector and a new and different collective bargaining system. Indeed, without such broader reforms, a basic income could do more harm than good.

  • How Universal Basic Income Could Rescue The Freelance Economy (Fast Company)  UBI could help compensate freelancers for the parts of their work they don’t bill clients for–or that clients refuse to pay for. Those types of work include chasing down leads or interviewing for freelance writers, wandering around town for inspiration to find the best look for a freelance interior designer’s client, or a freelance developer taking the time to master that obscure coding language a client of hers insists on using on their system.

It’s the time-consuming tasks like these, which are almost always never billed for, that separate the average freelancer from the incredible one. If freelancers the country over–a country in which freelancers make up 35% of the workforce–felt UBI enabled them to take more time to perfect their work for client, the entire business sector, and ultimately, economy, benefits.

  • In 2017, We Will Find Out If a Basic Income Makes Sense (MIT Technology Review)  The concept is simple enough: Governments pay people for doing nothing. In place of state benefits, people would receive income regardless of their situation. Proponents say that such a system could alleviate poverty, and help provide people who are just about managing with a little freedom to escape low quality jobs and access education. As more jobs are lost to automation, the argument goes, a universal income will become even more important.  Problem is, we don’t yet know whether free money makes people happy, healthy, creative, and productive, or encourages them to watch TV and drink beer. But answers are on the way.  This article reviews a number of experiments underway around the world.  See next article.

  • Free Cash in Finland. Must Be Jobless. (The New York Times)  Finland will soon hand out cash to 2,000 jobless people, free of bureaucracy or limits on side earnings. The idea, universal basic income, is gaining traction worldwide.  The current unemployment compensation program in Finland stops payments if the individual does anything to earn income.  Thus, the unemploeyed do nothing productive for pay to avoid losing the benefit.  The 2,000 people receiving the trial income payments will be tracked to see if they are more productive and return to the workforce any sooner than under the current unemployment compensation system.

  • Apple Can’t Ignore Microsoft’s Slick New Laptop (Bloomberg)   Microsoft has already cracked the professional and creative markets with inventive tablets and a desktop that turns into a virtual drafting table. Now it's chasing another category many believe is Apple’s to lose: the $1,000 laptop for everyone. 

Microsoft Corp., a company once derided for buggy software, unstable hardware and indifferent design, debuted the Surface Laptop on Tuesday.  The machine boots up in seconds, has a touch screen and gets a claimed 14 hours of battery life (two better than Apple’s MacBook Air). Weighing in at 2.76 pounds, about a quarter-pound less than the Air, the Surface Laptop boasts a 13.5-inch screen and is one of the thinnest and lightest products in its class.

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