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What We Read Today 21 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:

  • Trump Dials Back Islam Critique as He Basks in Saudi Deals

  • 'Drive out' extremists, Trump tells Middle East

  • Trump's FBI comments to Russians were aimed at cooperation: aides

  • The Memo: Trump base shows signs of cracking

  • Bill Maher Blames Hollywood for Ruining America and Giving Us President Trump

  • Divergent Middle Class Fortunes in Western Europe

  • Conservative lead over Labour falls by six points in a month

  • U.K. Threatens to Quit Brexit Talks If It Faces Massive Bill

  • Erdogan Fans In Turkey Approved Of DC Brawl

  • Saudi Arabia Welcomes Trump With Billions of Dollars of Deals

  • Iranians Re-Elect a Fake Reformer in a Fake Election

  • Iran foreign minister scorns Trump after speech, arms deal

  • Saudi King, Trump Take Turns Attacking Iran as Terror Backer

  • Mount Everest's Hillary Step has collapsed, mountaineer confirms

  • American climber dies and Indian man goes missing on Mount Everest

  • Pressure Mounts on Temer as Brazil Lawyers Vote for Impeachment

  • Mom-and-Pop Joints Are Trouncing America's Big Restaurant Chains

  • America’s Cars Are Suddenly Getting Faster and More Efficient

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Global

  • Trump Dials Back Islam Critique as He Basks in Saudi Deals (Bloomberg)  President Donald Trump said the war on terrorism isn’t a battle between different faiths, toning down rhetoric that had fueled concerns America was at war with Islam.  On the second day of his inaugural foreign trip, where he’s been hailed by Arab leaders as a “dear brother” and a man with “unique personality,” Trump told Muslim allies on Sunday not to wait for U.S. help to crush terror groups. Countries must ensure that terrorists find “no sanctuary,” he said in a speech to more than 50 leaders who gathered in Riyadh.

  • 'Drive out' extremists, Trump tells Middle East (Reuters)  Amid political tumult at home, President Trump urged Arab and Islamic leaders to unite and do their share to defeat Islamist extremists, while toning down his own harsh rhetoric about Muslims. The president also singled out Iran as a key source of support for militant groups.

U.S.

  • Trump's FBI comments to Russians were aimed at cooperation: aides (Reuters)  U.S. President Donald Trump raised the firing of the FBI director in a meeting with Russia's foreign minister to explain why he had been unable to find areas of cooperation with Moscow, two top administration officials who were present at the president's meeting with Russian officials.

"The gist of the conversation was that the president feels as if he is hamstrung in his ability to work with Russia to find areas of cooperation because this has been obviously so much in the news," National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" program.

On the "Fox News Sunday" show Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump was also trying to convey to the Russians that he was "not going to be distracted by all these issues at home that affect us domestically."

  • The Memo: Trump base shows signs of cracking (The Hill)   President Trump’s previously resilient base is showing signs of cracking.  A new Reuters/IPSOS tracking poll, released Friday afternoon, showed the president with a job approval rating of 75% among Republicans.  Political professionals generally view it as worrying for any commander-in-chief if his approval ratings with his own party dip below 85% - and downright alarming if they go below 80%.  GOP pollster David Winston, whose resumé includes work for former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said:

“Seventy-five [percent] is certainly a new number and I would want to see something that would either back that up or refute it.  Certainly, if it were true, that is not where you would want to be.”

EU

  • Middle Class Fortunes in Western Europe (Pew Research Center)  The fortunes of the middle classes in Western Europe’s largest economies are moving in opposite directions. From 1991 to 2010, the shares of adults living in middle-income households increased in France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, but shrank in Germany, Italy and Spain.

UK

  • Conservative lead over Labour falls by six points in a month (The Guardian)  The Conservative lead over Labour has fallen by six points in the last month, but the party retains a commanding advantage in the latest Opinium poll for the Observer.  Theresa May’s party has a 13-point lead over Labour, with a 46% share of the vote. The party is down one point on last week’s poll.  However, Labour has increased its poll share to 33%, up a point on a week ago and up seven points on a month earlier. The Lib Dems remain in third place on 8% of the vote, with Ukip on 5%. Both are unchanged since last week.

  • U.K. Threatens to Quit Brexit Talks If It Faces Massive Bill (Bloomberg)  The U.K. will quit talks on leaving the European Union unless the bloc drops its demands for a divorce payment as high as €100 billion ($112 billion), Brexit Secretary David Davis said.  Britain’s negotiations would otherwise be plunged into “chaos,” and even a 1 billion-pound settlement would be “a lot of money,” Davis said in an interview published in the Sunday Times.

The size of Britain’s exit bill, and which types of negotiations can begin before it has been agreed, has been a source of debatefor weeks.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said the U.K. will have to pay about 50 billion pounds, while Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has signaled a figure between 40 billion euros and 60 billion euros. The Financial Times estimated the cost could balloon to 100 billion euros, while a study by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales put the cost at as low as 5 billion pounds ($6.5 billion).

Turkey

  • Erdogan Fans In Turkey Approved Of DC Brawl (Vocative)   For the second year in a row, people demonstrating against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his time in Washington DC were roughed up by his security detail. And yet again, his supporters back home in Turkey applauded.  Images of protesters bloodied by Erdogan’s bodyguards horrified people in the U.S. on Wednesday, but back in Turkey they gave many a great deal of satisfaction.  Erdogan was in the U.S. capital to meet with President Donald Trump, and stopped by the Turkish ambassador’s home where protesters carrying anti-Turkey and pro-Kurdish signs were waiting for him. Eyewitnesses filmed as members of Erdogan’s security detail charged and beat up several of the protesters while local police attempted to separate the two groups.  Turkey has been fighting a Kurdish insurgency in the south of the country for years considers the Kurdish separatist groups to be terrorist organizations.

Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia Welcomes Trump With Billions of Dollars of Deals (Bloomberg)  Saudi Arabia greeted U.S. President Donald Trump with agreements for deals worth hundreds of billions of dollars on Saturday as he embarked on his first state visit to the kingdom, which is undertaking unprecedented economic reforms.

The Public Investment Fund, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, agreed to commit $20 billion to an infrastructure investment fund with Blackstone Group LP. The fund will eventually double in size with money raised “from other investors.” Saudi Aramco said it signed 16 accords with 11 companies valued at about $50 billion. One initial deal -- worth $15 billion -- was signed with General Electric Co. The U.S. and Saudi Defense Ministry also negotiated a package of about $110 billion, according to a White House transcript on Friday.

Iran

Rouhani was the lesser of two evils, but Westerners vastly overestimate what an Iranian president can do.

  • Iran foreign minister scorns Trump after speech, arms deal (Reuters)   Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for sealing an arms deal and other investments worth hundreds of billions of dollars with Saudi Arabia, Tehran's arch-rival in the Middle East.  Zarif's comments came hours after Trump, who is visiting Saudi Arabia, urged Arab and Islamic leaders to unite and defeat Islamist extremists. Trump singled out Iran as a key sponsor of militant groups, sending a tough message to Tehran the day after Hassan Rouhani won a second term as Iran's president.  Zarif wrote in a Twitter post, referring to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:

"Iran - fresh from real elections - attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy & moderation. Foreign Policy or simply milking KSA of $480B?" 

  • Saudi King, Trump Take Turns Attacking Iran as Terror Backer (Bloomberg)  Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and U.S. President Donald Trump took turns launching scathing attacks on Iran, which the Sunni monarch called the “spearhead of global terrorism”,  underscoring a common goal in undercutting the Islamic Republic’s regional influence.  The king said on Sunday Saudi Arabia had not witnessed terrorism until the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.   The king said that, instead of accepting good-faith initiatives, Iran has

“pursued expansionary ambitions, and criminal practices and the meddling of other countries’ internal affairs. The kingdom, however, respects the Iranian people and won’t judge them “by the crimes of their regime."

Nepal

Brazil

  • Pressure Mounts on Temer as Brazil Lawyers Vote for Impeachment (Bloomberg)  Brazil President Michel Temer suffered a setback in trying to fend off allegations of corruption and cover-up after the country’s influential bar association voted in favor of his impeachment.  The council of Brazil’s Order of Lawyers, or OAB by its Brazilian acronym, voted 25 to 1 in favor of an impeachment hearing for Temer, and will file its request in the lower house of Congress in coming days, it said early on Sunday. The OAB says Temer failed to denounce criminal activities, broke with presidential decorum, and promised undue favors to individuals.

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

  • Mom-and-Pop Joints Are Trouncing America's Big Restaurant Chains (Bloomberg)  Americans are rejecting the consistency of national restaurant chains after decades of dominance in favor of the authenticity of locally owned eateries, with their daily specials and Mom’s watercolors decorating the walls.  It’s a turning point in the history of American restaurants, according to Darren Tristano, chief insights officer at Chicago-based restaurant research firm Technomic.

  • America’s Cars Are Suddenly Getting Faster and More Efficient (Bloomberg)  Sometime in the next couple of months, the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon and its 808 horsepower will show up in dealership windows like some kind of tiny, red, tire-melting factory.  Today's cars have more muscle that 40 years ago but they also burn much less fuel.


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