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What We Read Today 14 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:

  • Finance for Normal People

  • How Investors and Markets Behave

  • What Investors Really Want

  • Rock-Star Appeal of Modern Monetary Theory

  • Why the U.S. Government Doesn't 'Tax and Spend', But Actually Does the Reverse

  • Medical Error is the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

  • Using Homes as ATMs was the Dominant Cause of the 2008 Housing Crisis

  • Monday Could Bring More Disruptions From Global Cyber-Attack

  • Wilkerson: Trump 'Needs a Good War' and Pence is Waiting in the Wings to Lead It

  • Isolated In White House, Trump Seethes Over Leaks In Wake Of Comey Firing

  • Judge: EPA's Approval of Bee-Killing Pesticides Violated Federal Law

  • American attitudes on President Trump’s early policies

  • France's Macron takes power, vows to heal division, restore global status

  • There May Be an Upset on Favor of Merkel

  • Worst Defeat in History for Merkel Opponent

  • Syrian army retakes most of rebel-held district on capital's edge

  • Russian Election Meddling ‘Well Documented,’ Tillerson Says

  • Mass Rally in Moscow Against Home Demolition Challenges Putin

  • Russian Millennials Speak Openly About America

  • North Korea fires missile that lands in sea near Russia

  • China pledges $124 billion for new Silk Road, says open to everyone

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Monday Could Bring More Disruptions From Global Cyber-Attack (Bloomberg)  An unrivaled global cyber-attack is poised to continue claiming victims, even as U.K. health facilities whose systems were crippled early in the assault are returning to normal operation.  Additional disruptions are possible as people return to work Monday and turn on their desktop systems, Europol Executive Director Rob Wainwright said on ITV’s “Peston on Sunday” broadcast. More than 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries have so far been infected, according to the European Union’s law enforcement agency.


  • Flynn subpoena sets up battle between White House, Congress (The Hill)  The Senate Intelligence Committee’s subpoena of Michael Flynn’s private documents sets up a potential battle between the legislative and executive branches over whether the Justice Department will enforce Congress’s will.  The Justice Department is charged with enforcing congressional subpoenas. But it is led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the Flynn subpoenas are related to investigations of Russia’s involvement in last year’s election, a sore spot for President Trump.  Democrats are already making their fears known.  Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D, IL), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Justice Department,  said:

“I worried about that from the start, the fact that we don’t have cooperation between the executive branch and the legislative branch raises questions about how far we can go.” 

Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired United States Army soldier and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson is an adjunct professor at the College of William & Mary where he teaches courses on US national security. He also instructs a senior seminar in the Honors Department at the George Washington University entitled "National Security Decision Making." 

  • Isolated In White House, Trump Seethes Over Leaks In Wake Of Comey Firing (Talking Points Memo)  After four months in office, President Donald Trump has become distrustful of some of his White House staff, heavily reliant on a handful of family members and longtime aides, and furious that the White House’s attempts to quell the firestorm over the FBI and congressional Russia investigations only seem to add more fuel.

Trump’s frustrations came to a head this week with the firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing the probe into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia’s election meddling. Fearful that his own team would leak the decision, Trump kept key staff in the dark as he pondered the dramatic move.

Chief strategist Steve Bannon learned on television. The communications staff charged with explaining the decision to the American people had an hour’s notice.

When the White House’s defense of the move failed to meet his ever-changing expectations, Trump tried to take over himself. But he wound up creating new headaches for the White House, including with an apparent threat to Comey.

  • Judge: EPA's Approval of Bee-Killing Pesticides Violated Federal Law (EcoWatch)  A federal court has ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) systematically violated the Endangered Species Act (a key wildlife protection law) when it approved bee-killing insecticides known as neonicotinoids.  In a case ongoing for the last four years, brought by beekeepers, wildlife conservation groups and food safety and consumer advocates, Judge Maxine Chesney of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held that EPA had unlawfully issued 59 pesticide registrations between 2007 and 2012 for a wide variety of agricultural, landscaping and ornamental uses.  George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety legal director, said:

"This is a vital victory.  Science shows these toxic pesticides harm beesendangered species and the broader environment. More than fifty years ago, Rachel Carson warned us to avoid such toxic chemicals, and the court's ruling may bring us one step closer to preventing another Silent Spring."

  • Trump’s Expected Pick For Top USDA Scientist Is Not A Scientist (Talking Points Memo)  The USDA’s research section studies everything from climate change to nutrition. Under the 2008 Farm Bill, its leader is supposed to serve as the agency’s “chief scientist” and be chosen “from among distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”  But Sam Clovis — who, according to sources with knowledge of the appointment and members of the agriculture trade press, is President Trump’s pick to oversee the section — appears to have no such credentials:

Clovis has never taken a graduate course in science and is openly skeptical of climate change. While he has a doctorate in public administration and was a tenured professor of business and public policy at Morningside College for 10 years, he has published almost no academic work.

Clovis is better known for hosting a conservative talk radio show in his native Iowa and, after mounting an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2014, becoming a fiery pro-Trump advocate on television.

Clovis advised Trump on agricultural issues during his presidential campaign and is currently the senior White House advisor within the USDA, a position described by The Washington Post as “Trump’s eyes and ears” at the agency.

Clovis was also responsible for recruiting Carter Page, whose ties to Russia have become the subject of intense speculation and scrutiny, as a Trump foreign policy advisor.

Click for large image.


The 39-year-old former investment banker, unknown to the wider public three years ago and whose May 7 election marked a meteoric rise to power, was inaugurated leader of the world's fifth-largest economy in a solemn Elysee Palace ceremony.

In his first words after taking office, he pledged to restore France's standing on the world stage, strengthen national self-confidence and heal divisions that the bitterly-fought campaign had opened up.





  • Syrian army retakes most of rebel-held district on capital's edge (Reuters)  The Syrian army and its allies are on the verge of completely seizing the rebel-held district of Qaboun on the edge of the capital following over two months of relentless aerial strikes and artillery shelling, rebels and state media said on Sunday.


  • Russian Election Meddling ‘Well Documented,’ Tillerson Says (Bloomberg)  Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election has been “well documented,” but it’s still in the interests of the U.S. to attempt to improve relations with Moscow, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.  “I don’t think there’s any question that the Russians were playing around in our electoral processes,” Tillerson said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press with Chuck Todd” on Sunday. He added that the impact of that meddling was “inconclusive.”

  • Mass Rally in Moscow Against Home Demolition Challenges Putin (Bloomberg)  Thousands of people jammed the Russian capital to protest a plan to demolish decades-old apartment blocks housing more than a million people, delivering a new challenge for President Vladimir Putin as he gears up for re-election in less than a year.  About 20,000 people rallied Sunday in Sakharov Prospect in Moscow’s downtown, according to an activist group that monitors attendance at demonstrations. Police, who stopped Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny from joining the protest, said 8,000 took part.

  • Russian Millennials Speak Openly About America (Natasha Lance Rogoff, YouTube)  Donald Trump plans to hit the re-set button on US-Russian relations. Will Putin and Trump be new Brothers in Arms or Future Foes? Can the US find common ground with Putin and the Russian People? WATCH VIDEO about what Russian Millennials Are saying About America.

North Korea

  • North Korea fires missile that lands in sea near Russia (Reuters)  North Korea, defying calls to rein in its weapons program, fired a ballistic missile that landed in the sea near Russia on Sunday, days after a new leader came to power in South Korea pledging to engage Pyongyang in dialogue.  The U.S. military's Pacific Command said it was assessing the type of missile that was fired but it was "not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile". The U.S. threat assessment has not changed from a national security standpoint, a U.S. official said.  Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said the missile could be a new type. It flew for 30 minutes before dropping into the sea between North Korea's east coast and Japan. North Korea has consistently test-fired missiles in that direction.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the missile landed 97 km (60 miles) south of Russia's Vladivostok region.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called the launch a message by Pyongyang to South Korea after the election of President Moon Jae-in, who took office on Wednesday.


  • China pledges $124 billion for new Silk Road, says open to everyone (Reuters)  Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $124 billion on Sunday for his ambitious new Silk Road plan, saying everyone was welcome to join what he envisioned would be a path for peace and prosperity for the world.  China has touted what it formally calls the Belt and Road initiative as a new way to boost development since Xi unveiled the plan in 2013, aiming to expand links between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond underpinned by billions of dollars in infrastructure investment.  Xi told the opening of a summit on the new Silk Road:

"We should build an open platform of cooperation and uphold and grow an open world economy." 

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

Click to order book and/or to read reviews.

  • The Rock-Star Appeal of Modern Monetary Theory (The Nation)  This is an interesting read which gets into the details which explain why the article subtitle (" The Sanders generation and a new economic idea.") is completely inappropriate.  The article does, though, explain why the concept of "tax and spend" is wrong - the actual mechanics are "spend and tax".  If that doesn't make sense to you, then this is an article you must read.

  • Medical error—the third leading cause of death in the US (BMJ)  Hat tip to Roger Erickson.  Medical error is not included on death certificates or in rankings of cause of death. Martin Makary and Michael Daniel assess its contribution to mortality and call for better reporting. 


  • Using homes as ATMs, not homebuying fervor, was more to blame for the housing crisis (Urban Institute)  Hat tip to Keith Jurow who has been writing for years about the dominant role of cash-out refinance mortgages and home equity lines of credit in causing the housing crisis of 2008-2010.  New data backs him up.  Just released GSE (government sponsored enterprises like Fannie, Freddie, etc) data reveal that for GSE 30-year, full documentation loans, defaults were more common and the losses were higher on refinance mortgages than on purchase mortgages. Although there is a lot of blame to go around for the poor quality of loans before the housing crisis, these data reaffirm that purchase borrowers were not the primary culprits. 



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