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What We Read Today 11 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:

  • Why You Need More Dirt in Your Life

  • We Are Wired To Be Outside

  • US Glacier national park losing its glaciers with just 26 of 150 left

  • Student Loans Just Got More Expensive

  • The Problems With the FBI’s Email Investigation Went Well Beyond Comey

  • President Trump just decimated the White House’s entire Comey narrative

  • Trump Interview With Lester Holt: President Asked Comey If He Was Under Investigation

  • FBI refuses to disclose documents on Trump’s call to Russia to hack Clinton

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders Blames Press For Making FBI Director Firing “So Complicated”

  • U.S. Census director resigns amid turmoil over funding of 2020 count

  • A sneaky way to hurt social justice: cut US Census Bureau funding

  • Brexit’s Biggest Loser May Actually Be Poland

  • U.K. Wheat Crop to Get Little Rain Relief in Key Growing Period

  • Why Emmanuel Macron is bad news for Britain’s finance industry

  • Saudis Boost U.S. Ties With $40 Billion Investment

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • The Problems With the FBI’s Email Investigation Went Well Beyond Comey (ProPublica)  This article summarizes the appearances surrounding the firing od FBI Director James Comey.  But then it goes into details about "[p]reviously unreported judgments and misjudgments by FBI agents played a crucial role in the FBI director’s fateful decisions".  The story of inappropriate handling of information and a series of poor judgments by FBI staff is quite astounding.

  • Analysis | President Trump just decimated the White House’s entire Comey narrative (The Washington Post)  In one fell swoop, Trump totally contradicted his three top spokespeople and offered a polar-opposite version of events than they have this week.  After they had spent the past 45 hours emphasizing that this was a decision Trump arrived at after receiving a memo and recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, Trump just blurted out that he was going to fire Comey all along. Basically, he admitted the memo was a ruse and a political ploy.  Here's what Trump told NBC News's Lester Holt which directly contradicted what White Hpuse staff had been saying (emphasis by The WaPo):

HOLT: Did you ask for a recommendation?

TRUMP: What I did is, I was going to fire Comey. My decision. It was not …

HOLT: You had made the decision before they came in the room.

TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. There's no good time to do it, by the way.

HOLT: Because in your letter, you said, 'I accepted their recommendation.' So you had already made the decision.

TRUMP: Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.

  • Trump Interview With Lester Holt: President Asked Comey If He Was Under Investigation (NBC News)  President Donald Trump, in an exclusive interview Thursday with NBC News' Lester Holt, called ousted FBI chief James Comey a "showboat" and revealed he asked Comey whether he was under investigation for alleged ties to Russia.  "I actually asked him" if I was under investigation, Trump said, noting that he spoke with Comey once over dinner and twice by phone.

"I said, if it's possible would you let me know, 'Am I under investigation?'

He said, 'You are not under investigation.'"

"I know I'm not under investigation," Trump told Holt during the White House interview.

  • FBI refuses to disclose documents on Trump’s call to Russia to hack Clinton (The Guardian)  The US justice department is refusing to disclose FBI documents relating to Donald Trump’s highly contentious election year call on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.   The FBI decision to withhold records suggests Trump’s provocative election-year comments are being seen as relevant to its own ongoing investigation.

Senior DoJ officials have declined to release the documents on grounds that such disclosure could “interfere with enforcement proceedings”. In a filing to a federal court in Washington DC, the DoJ states that “because of the existence of an active, ongoing investigation, the FBI anticipates that it will … withhold all records”.

John H. Thompson, who has served as director since 2013 and worked for the bureau for 27 years before that, will leave June 30, the Commerce Department announced Tuesday.

The news, which surprised census experts, follows an April congressional budget allocation for the census that critics say is woefully inadequate. And it comes less than a week after a prickly hearing at which Thompson told lawmakers that cost estimates for a new electronic data collection system had ballooned by nearly 50 percent.

Here’s a free bit of advice to power-hungry leaders who are concerned about bad PR: don’t publicly take away people’s rights, just stop counting the abuses. After the US Census Bureau was given a painfully tight budget this April, the Director decided yesterday he would not be the one to implement it. He resigned, ending a 27-year career at the Census Bureau.

If you’re not particularly riled up by the words “Census Bureau resignation”, that’s understandable. Normally, this bit of the federal government quietly plods along measuring things like poverty, racial inequality ... oh, and determining congressional representation. That last one’s a biggie.


  • Brexit’s Biggest Loser May Actually Be Poland (Bloomberg)  With the clock now ticking on two years of Brexit negotiations, Poland looks more vulnerable to a painful divorce between the U.K. and European Union than anywhere else. Poland is the biggest net recipient of EU aid and also the continent’s largest provider of cross-border labor.


  • U.K. Wheat Crop to Get Little Rain Relief in Key Growing Period (Bloomberg)  U.K. wheat farmers aren’t getting much respite from dryness threatening crops in parts of the European Union’s third-largest producer.  Coming off the back of the driest April in a decade, a lack of rain this week will put stress on crop development, according to MDA Weather Services. The U.K.’s Met Office expects southeast England -- the nation’s main growing region -- to remain dry through early June, and AccuWeather sees a potential drought across the south by late summer hurting crops and restricting water usage.

  • Why Emmanuel Macron is bad news for Britain’s finance industry (The Conversation)  The election of the globalist and EU-champion, Emmanuel Macron, to the French presidency poses a threat to the UK’s financial sector and its economy more broadly. A potted history of the sector shows how important its outward-looking nature has been to its success. This could just as easily be undone, if the British government embarks on a hard Brexit that turns its back on its biggest market, and if a rival emerges to take its place.

The UK financial sector has always been open to the world. Before World War I, British investors invested more savings abroad in foreign and colonial securities than any other country. In 1914, the London Stock Exchange was the largest stock market in the world. Banks, insurance companies and investment management firms had a similarly global outlook.

Knocked back by two world wars, the City began to recover in the 1970s and 80s, leading the way in Europe for mergers and acquisitions, privatisations, fast-growing investment institutions – especially pension funds – and foreign currency trading.

Saudi Arabia

  • Saudis Boost U.S. Ties With $40 Billion Investment (Bloomberg)  Saudi Arabia is preparing to cement ties with President Donald Trump by committing to unprecedented investments in the U.S.  The kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund is set to announce plans to deploy as much as $40 billion into U.S. infrastructure, according to people familiar with the matter. The investment may be unveiled as early as next week to coincide with Trump’s visit to the kingdom, said the people, asking not to be identified as the information is private. No final decisions have been made and the announcement may still be delayed, they said.

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

  • Why You Need More Dirt in Your Life (National Geographic)  Kids need to be exposed to the microbes in the soil to build up their defenses against diseases that may attack them later.  The EPA estimates that the average American adult now spends 93 percent of their life indoors. As we retreat indoors, more and more of the earth is disappearing, with an estimated quarter of a million acres paved or repaved in the United States each year.  Adults need exposure to dirt, as well.  Soil helps build up our defenses against disease and imparts a sense of the sacred—and we are killing it.  See also next article.

  • We Are Wired To Be Outside (National Geographic)  The nature pyramid is the idea that nature is something we have every day. One of the things we’re recognizing is that, like other medicines, nature follows a dose curve. A little bit of nature is helpful; a little more nature is even more helpful. If we think about how to access a little bit of nature in our daily lives, that’s a great start: house plants, going for walks on streets with trees and, as you move further up the pyramid, making an effort maybe once a month to go to a nature preserve or park outside the city. We are so fortunate in America. We have these incredible wilderness spaces and national parks, and science is showing that when we spend time in those spaces, it can be tremendously helpful for our sense of self, for problem solving, social bonding, and rites of passage.  So, immerse yourself in nature as the young man is below, in Glacier National Park.


New undergraduate loans from the Department of Education are due to carry an interest rate of 4.45 percent, up from 3.76 percent for the academic year ending in June. Rates on some graduate loans are set to rise from 5.31 percent to 6 percent, while rates on loans to parents and guardians are due to experience a jump from 6.31 percent to 7 percent.

Warming temperatures have rapidly reduced the size of 39 named glaciers in Montana since 1966, according to comparisons released by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and Portland State University. Some have lost as much as 85% of their expanse over the past 50 years, with Glacier national park, site of 37 of the surveyed glaciers, set to lose all of its eponymous ice formations within the next few decades. Of the 150 glaciers that existed in the park in the late 19th century, only 26 remain.

The disappearance of glaciers in Montana is part of a broader loss that will see all glaciers, defined as moving bodies of snow and ice larger than 25 acres, largely vanish from the lower 48 states of America by the mid point of the century, according to Dr Daniel Farge, lead USGS scientist.


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