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What We Read Today 13 June 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:

  • Sessions: Suggestion of collusion with Russians an 'appalling and detestable lie'

  • Russian Cyber Hacks on U.S. Electoral System Far Wider Than Previously Known

  • Reporters protest new restrictions on TV interviews in Capitol

  • Life Support for Coal Will Make the U.S. an Energy Backwater

  • Senate GOP reins in expectations for killing Obamacare

  • The tiny health insurance company holding Obamacare together

  • This map shows how much of the US could see zero Obamacare insurers next year

  • China's Skyscraper Age Is Over

  • Why Buffett-Style Value Investing Is Failing

  • A New Theory of How the Moon Formed

  • How the Sun might change the climate

  • Are we heading into a new Ice Age?

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

U.S.

  • Sessions: Suggestion of collusion with Russians an 'appalling and detestable lie' (The Hill)  Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday afternoon emphatically denied any knowledge of or involvement in collusion with the Russian government to help swing the 2016 election.  In a fiery opening statement given to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sessions also denied rumors that he had a third, previously unreported private meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign.  Press reports had suggested that the meeting might have occurred at a Russia-friendly foreign policy speech given by then-candidate Donald Trump at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington in 2016.  See also next article.

  • Russian Cyber Hacks on U.S. Electoral System Far Wider Than Previously Known (Bloomberg)  Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.  

In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.

  • Reporters protest new restrictions on TV interviews in Capitol (Politico)   Senate Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby sought to tamp down a media firestorm after television reporters were told by the director of the Senate Radio and Television Gallery that they could no longer film impromptu interviews with senators in Capitol hallways.  On Tuesday morning, Mike Mastrian, the director of the Senate Radio and Television Gallery, which reports to the Rules Committee, told reporters that in order to get approval for a hallway interview with a senator, a reporter must now call the committee’s chief counsel and obtain prior permission from the senator being interviewed.

Such conditions would mean that hallway “stakeouts” of committee meetings or hearings would be significantly curtailed because they are often impromptu and thus there would be no time to obtain prior approval.

Reporters reacted furiously, saying the new restrictions seem designed to prevent senators from answering uncomfortable questions.

  • Life Support for Coal Will Make the U.S. an Energy Backwater (Bloomberg)  The coal industry is dying. The number of coal-mining jobs in the U.S. plummeted in the 1980s and 1990s, paused for a while, then plunged again in recent years.  The market made natural gas more appealing, and the future is in renewables anyway.

coal.mining.employment.1985.2017

  • Senate GOP reins in expectations for killing Obamacare (Politico)  Senate Republicans are aggressively trying to rein in expectations for their Obamacare repeal effort, wary of blowing a deadline or falling short of 50 votes on a promise that has driven the GOP's political strategy for much of the past decade.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still aiming for an Obamacare repeal vote in June, though his lieutenants acknowledge that deadline could slip into July. And while GOP leaders want to hold the vote as soon as possible, Republicans continue to avoid hard deadlines and say factors outside their control could strike.

  • The tiny health insurance company holding Obamacare together (Vox)   Medica is not a household name. The non-profit corporation provides health insurance to 700,000 people scattered across Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wisconsin. The plan’s enrollment is dwarfed by that of big health plans like UnitedHealth (47 million patients) and Aetna (20 million).  Medica stuck around the Obamacare marketplaces as big for-profit plans fled, scared away by dismal financial returns and uncertainty wrought by the Trump administration.  But it is not currently discussing commitiments for 2018 because of the uncertainty of direction from the Trump administration:

It is suddenly the case that if Medica were to quit Obamacare, the impact would be huge. The company’s exit would leave 187 counties without any Obamacare insurers. This would be in addition to 47 counties in Missouri, Ohio, and Washington that are already down to zero Obamacare plans.

An estimated 137,000 Obamacare enrollees live in the areas where Medica is currently the only Obamacare provider.

  • 47 counties are projected as of now to have no Obamacare insurers in 2018.

  • As many as 1,200 counties are projected to have just one such insurer next year.

  • More counties could be left "bare," or with just one insurer in coming weeks as insurers announce their intentions.

Click for large image.

China

  • China's Skyscraper Age Is Over (Bloomberg)  At more than 2,000 feet, Shanghai Tower is the world's second-tallest building. It looms over its neighbors -- the world's ninth and 19th tallest buildings -- in a supercluster of supertall structures unlike any other in the world. The only problem? Finding people to work there: Only 60% of Shanghai Tower is rented out, and only a third of current tenants have actually occupied their leased space.  In this sense, Shanghai Tower signifies the end of an era. Its plight suggests some major changes are afoot in the real-estate market -- and, more significantly, in how the professional class lives and works in China.

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

  • A New Theory of How the Moon Formed (Scientific America)  A new theory now competes with the earlier established pne that the moon was formed from earth under action of a galncing impact by another planet.  The new theory includes the possibility of a direct impact by another body.

Pursuing a value investing approach has resulted in a cumulative loss of 15 percent over the past decade while the S&P 500 Index (SPX) has nearly doubled over roughly the same period, according to a report from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., ... as summarized by Bloomberg. Specifically, Goldman looked at value-factor investing, a strategy in which stocks with the lowest valuations are bought and those with the highest are sold short. Devised by finance professors Eugene Fama of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Kenneth French of the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth College, Warren Buffett is among its proponents, Bloomberg notes.

Click for large image.

  • Are we heading into a new Ice Age? (Skeptical Science)  This article dismisses the magnitude of effect of sunspot activity on global climate when compared to that of the current rapid build-up of green house gases.  The thesis of the preceding article is disputed:

Let's say for the sake of argument that the sun does enter another Maunder Minimum over the 21st century. What effect would this have on Earth's climate? Simulations of the climate response if the sun did fall to Maunder Minimum levels find that the decrease in temperature from the sun is minimal compared to the warming from man-made greenhouse gases (Feulner 2010). Cooling from the lowered solar output is estimated at around 0.1°C (with a maximum possible value of 0.3°C) while the greenhouse gaswarming will be around 3.7°C to 4.5°C, depending on how much CO2 we emit throughout the 21st century (more on this study...). 


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