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What We Read Today 09 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".).

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Topics today include:

  • The UN Could Help 80 Million People Each Year With Blockchain

  • Researchers have answered a big question about the decline of the middle class

  • Breakout Or Fakeout

  • Markets Are Doing Nothing, and Investors Have Nowhere to Hide

  • GOP town halls go viral 

  • Illegal immigration across southwest border down 70 percent under Trump

  • EPA dismisses half of key board’s scientific advisers; Interior suspends more than 200 advisory panels

  • EPA, Interior pink slip moment a jolt of sanity

  • Republicans are now poised to take some dramatic steps to reel in the regulatory powers of these agencies, starting with the basic means they use to regulate: the science they cite as fact - The Washington Times

  • Jimmy Kimmel Unloads on Detractors

  • Trump to Arm Syrian Kurds, Even as Turkey Strongly Objects

  • Brazil on edge as ex-president Lula squares off with judge Moro

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

U.S.

  • GOP town halls go viral (The Hill)  House Republicans, on guard after passing an unpopular healthcare bill that would replace parts of ObamaCare, are seeing their town hall meetings go viral.  In Lewiston, Idaho, conservative Rep. Raúl Labrador told a rowdy crowd that “nobody dies because they don’t have access to healthcare”,  setting off a frenzy in the room and on social media. Fact-checker Politifact promptly ruled that Labrador’s statement was a “pants on fire” lie.  Vulnerable two-term Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) went viral even before setting foot in his town hall. At a Dubuque youth center, he ripped off his microphone and stormed out of a local TV interview after a reporter asked why he was pre-screening nonconstituents for his town hall if he’s willing to take donations from those people.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided to replace half of the members on one of its key scientific review boards, while Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is “reviewing the charter and charge” of more than 200 advisory boards, committees and other entities both within and outside his department. EPA and Interior officials began informing current members of the move Friday, and notifications continued over the weekend.

Pruitt’s move could significantly change the makeup of the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC), which advises EPA’s prime scientific arm on whether the research it does has sufficient rigor and integrity, and addresses important scientific questions. All of the people being dismissed were at the end of serving at least one three-year term, although these terms are often renewed instead of terminated.

And note to left, which has been trying to stir a pot over the reviews and job vacancies: This is a normal part of executive business. The pink slips are mostly being handed to those whose terms are up — whose appointed services have come to a natural end.

In other words: Barack Obama would’ve done the same in his White House administration.

Regardless, this is a real returning-to-sanity moment in American history. Republicans are now poised to take some dramatic steps to reel in the regulatory powers of these agencies, starting with the basic means they use to regulate: the science they cite as fact.

Jimmy.Kimmel.unloads

Syria

trump.syria.kurds.nyt

Brazil

  • Brazil on edge as ex-president Lula squares off with judge Moro (Reuters)  When Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Judge Sergio Moro meet for the first time in a courtroom on Wednesday, the contrasts - and the stakes - could hardly be greater.  One is the country's most popular president ever and the front-runner in next year's election - a former union leader who still whips up crowds with his fiery and folksy oratory. The other, a soft-spoken law professor who represents Lula's main obstacle to power.

The legacy and political future of Brazil's first working-class president are on the line as Lula faces one of the five criminal cases against him, part of the biggest corruption probe in the country's history.

While denying any wrongdoing, Lula and his lawyers have turned his defense into an attack on Moro himself, arguing the judge's track record in overseeing the graft probe has undermined his impartiality. Lula's supporters are traveling from across Brazil to the southern city of Curitiba to protest outside the court.

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

  • The UN will be using the blockchain Ethereum to distribute funds from the World Food Program to more than 10,000 people in Jordan this summer.

  • The computer network is making humanitarian giving simpler and more secure than ever.

  • Researchers have answered a big question about the decline of the middle class (The Washington Post)  America is getting richer every year. The American worker is not.  Far from it: On average, workers born in 1942 earned as much or more over their careers than workers born in any year since, according to new research — and workers on the job today shouldn’t expect to catch up with their predecessors in their remaining years of employment.  Stagnant or falling earnings have put a squeeze on working- and middle-class households. The trend has also widened the gap between the rich and everyone else as, overall, the economy has continued to grow overall but the bulk of those gains have ended up in the pockets of the affluent.  While wage growth over a career have remained similar over time for workers around median income, over time starting wages have gotten lower and lower.

    These are some of the conclusions from a new working paper by a group of economists investigating the reasons for the decline of the American middle class. While economists have been concerned about recent data on earnings, the new paper suggests that ordinary Americans have been dealing with serious economic problems for much longer than may be widely recognized.

  • Technically Speaking: Breakout Or Fakeout (Lance Roberts, Real Investment Advice)  LR contributes to GEI.  The recent advance to new highs has been "weak".  LR says that market internals indicatre the weakness of the latest advance.

Click for larger image.

As U.S. stocks trade at fresh highs and volatility across assets is so subdued it’s touching near-record lows, hedging seems like a luxury. It’s getting harder to justify coughing up money for cheap protection that ends up seeming overpriced in the face of rare, and quickly reversing, selloffs.

With the French election out of the way, investors have stopped paying what had been a five-month high in the cost of insuring against declines in the S&P 500 Index. The price of hedging against a 5 percent drop in the gauge over the next month is 36 percent below it’s five-year average. Meanwhile the Bank of America Corp.’s Skew Index, which measures demand for hedging against large swings in global equities and currencies, is it’s lowest since 2013.

The front end of the VIX futures curve keeps sinking lower as the VIX Index trades below 10, it’s lowest level since 1993. For traders, going long volatility has been punishing, as the falling VIX spot drags down short-term futures.

However, moving further out on the VIX curve there’s still a bid for September futures. And it’s one that Macro Risk Advisors’ Pravit Chintawongvanich likes. On the long-end, investors can buy contracts that are less exposed to decay from time and more exposed to volatility risks, he said.


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