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What We Read Today 18 July 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:

  • Astronomers have detected 'strange signals' that may come from a star 11 light-years away

  • The stock market hasn't been this confident in 24 years

  • The Financial Instability Hypothesis

  • Free Markets are Revolutionary, Liberating, and Democratic

  • How economics became a religion

  • Is Silver Ready To Start Climbing?

  • Just one nuclear detonation could plunge Earth into "nuclear autumn" 

  • GOP's repeal-only plan quickly collapses in Senate

  • Trump pivots from Obamacare repeal to ordering Republicans to 'let it fail'

  • How its failure to replace Obamacare threatens the rest of the GOP agenda

  • Paul Ryan's Approval Suffers as Republican Agenda Stalls

  • Trump's steel push hits heavy opposition

  • The 8th person who was at Trump Jr.'s Russia meeting has been identified

  • Bondholders seek receiver for Puerto Rico utility PREPA

  • Obama’s AWOL Anti-War Protesters

  • U.S. puts new sanctions on Iran over ballistic missile program

  • CNN: “Russia is an Adversary, Ukraine is Not.”

  • Russian "lighthouse" satellite enters orbit

  • U.S. Readies Sanctions Against Top Venezuelans

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Global

U.S.

  • GOP's repeal-only plan quickly collapses in Senate (The Hill)  Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) says she will not support moving forward with a plan to repeal ObamaCare with a delayed replacement, effectively killing the latest legislative gambit from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).  Murkowski, who had balked at the last version of the ObamaCare bill, said she is a no on the motion to proceed to a repeal-only plan. She is the third Republican senator to take that position.  With Murkowski's defection, GOP leaders do not have the votes to move forward to an ObamaCare repeal bill that passed the Senate in 2015, but was vetoed by then-President Obama.  Earlier Tuesday, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) also said they will not support moving to the repeal-only bill. Republicans can only afford two defections if Vice President Pence breaks a tie.

Moderates were widely expected to decide the fate of this bill, but no. In the end, it was brought down by two of the more reliably conservative voices in the Senate chamber — and just days after Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell accepted demands to move the bill dramatically right-ward.

This failure raises an ominous question for the whole Republican agenda. Looking beyond health care, will they ever be able to satisfy conservative purists and still assemble a coalition of 50 votes?

  • Paul Ryan's Approval Suffers as Republican Agenda Stalls (Bloomberg)  It would be hard to find a Republican who has suffered more than House Speaker Paul Ryan as Congress and President Donald Trump have struggled to turn GOP promises into reality.  More people now view the House speaker in a negative light rather than a positive one, 48% to 34%, according to a Bloomberg National Poll, conducted July 8-12. In December, 31% held a negative view, while 47% looked at him favorably.

It’s a dramatic turn for one of the Republican Party’s biggest stars and its 2012 vice presidential nominee. The approval rating decline for Ryan is the largest among GOP leaders measured by the Bloomberg survey -- and exceeds the drop in approval for the party, Congress and Trump.

  • Trump's steel push hits heavy opposition (The Hill)  President Trump is considering a crackdown on imported steel that opponents warn would damage the U.S. economy, imperil major policy initiatives and threaten global trading relationships.  Economists, agriculture groups and members of Trump’s own administration are urging the president to think twice before slapping tariffs and quotas on countries in the name of national security to protect domestic steel producers.  They say the steel tariffs would lead to a host of problems, including job losses, a fight at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and possible trade wars with U.S. allies.

  • The 8th person who was at Trump Jr.'s Russia meeting has been identified (Business Insider)   Irakly "Ike" Kaveladze was the eighth person at Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer, Scott Balber, an attorney representing Kaveladze, confirmed to CNN on Tuesday.  Kaveladze was at the meeting as a representative of Aras and Emin Agalarov, the wealthy Russians who first requested the meeting be arranged. He works for the Agalarovs' real-estate company, and Aras Agalarov asked Kaveladze to attend the meeting on his behalf, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

  • Bondholders seek receiver for Puerto Rico utility PREPA (Reuters)  After three years of futile efforts to restructure some $9 billion of debt at Puerto Rico's PREPA, creditors of the now-bankrupt power utility are asking a U.S. federal judge to appoint a receiver to manage PREPA's assets.  In papers filed on Tuesday in U.S. bankruptcy court in San Juan, PREPA creditors said a receiver was needed to ensure the utility sets electricity rates high enough to service debt. Political appointees of Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello, they argued, cannot be trusted to do so.

  • Obama’s AWOL Anti-War Protesters (CounterPunch)  The article concludes:

There have been plenty of stout critics of U.S. warring in recent years — including Antiwar.com, The Future of Freedom Foundation, Ron Paul, the Mises Institute, and some principled liberals and leftists such as CounterPunch and Glenn Greenwald and The Intercept. But overall, the media spotlight rarely shone on U.S. carnage abroad, as it did in earlier times. Perhaps the anti-war movement will revive if Donald Trump commences bombing new foreign nations. But it is clear that too many Americans have not yet learned the folly of “kill foreigners first, ask questions later.”

Iran

  • U.S. puts new sanctions on Iran over ballistic missile program (Reuters)  The United States unveiled new economic sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile program on Tuesday and said it was deeply concerned about Tehran's "malign activities" in the Middle East.  The measures signaled that the administration of President Donald Trump was seeking to put more pressure on Iran while keeping in place for now a 2015 agreement between Tehran and six world powers to curb its nuclear program in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions.  The U.S. government said it was targeting 18 entities and people for supporting what is said was "illicit Iranian actors or transnational criminal activity".

Russia

  • CNN: “Russia is an Adversary, Ukraine is Not.” (CounterPunch)  The author recounts how he believes U.S. neocons worked tirelessly to turn an ally Russia into an adversary.

  • Russian "lighthouse" satellite enters orbit (New Atlas)  Look upwards tonight and you might just see a new "star" streaking across the sky. A Russian CubeSat called Mayak (meaning "lighthouse") was successfully launched on Friday, and is set to be one of the brightest objects in the night sky.  At 9:36 am local time on July 14, Mayak was launched from Baikonur spaceport aboard a Soyuz 2.1a rocket. The satellite entered orbit a few hours later, at 12:10 pm, and shortly after that the sun reflector was unfolded.

This reflector, in the shape of a 3 m (9.8 ft) tall pyramid, is there to achieve two of Mayak's main scientific goals. Made of a thin reflective metallized membrane, the pyramid is designed to catch the sun's rays and reflect the light back to Earth, which the team says makes it the second brightest object in the night sky behind the Moon. That allows Mayak to be used as a reference object to help measure the apparent magnitude, or brightness, of satellites.

The second goal is to increase drag on the satellite. That sounds like something you'd normally want to avoid, but in this case the team is testing a new space-brakes system designed to help Mayak deorbit faster and burn up as it reenters Earth's atmosphere. If the system works, it could be applied as a disposal method for other satellites to help declutter low-Earth orbit, which is currently full of old space junk that poses an increasing hazard.

Venezuela

  • U.S. Readies Sanctions Against Top Venezuelans (Bloomberg)  The U.S. is poised to impose sanctions on Venezuela’s defense minister and several other top officials for human-rights violations, according to people with knowledge of the plan, who added that the action was one of several under consideration by the Trump administration against President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

The U.S. Treasury could announce the sanctions, which would freeze the officials out of the U.S. financial system, as soon as Tuesday, the people said. Among those named would be Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, 54, and Diosdado Cabello, 54, a longtime ally of late President Hugo Chavez and power broker within the ruling Socialist party, they said. The officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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

The radio signals appear to be coming from Ross 128, a red dwarf star that's not yet known to have any planets and is about 2,800 times dimmer than the sun. Abel Méndez, an astrobiologist at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, said the star was observed for 10 minutes, during which time the signal was picked up and observed to be "almost periodic".

Méndez said it's extremely unlikely that intelligent extraterrestrial life is responsible, but noted that the possibility can't yet be ruled out.

  • Free Markets are Revolutionary, Liberating, and Democratic (Foundation for Economic Education) See also next article.   Econintersect:  This article suffers from a faulty assumption:  Free markets exist.  Even worse, is a corallary assumption that free markets could ever exist without massive regulation.  It is the very nature of human kind that there are asymmetries of information, influence and power.  Thus, in a laissez-faire environment, there are almost immediately winners and losers having little to do with merit and determined by circumstances of existence.  That said, here are some statements of the author's "gospel":

Markets and innovation are the creative-destructive forces that undermine, challenge and reshape corporations and public bureaucracies on behalf of consumers.

Maybe society does not need to be told what to do. [Econintersect:  Often society needs to be told what NOT to do.]

True communism, true collectivism, is created by the market, not the state.

Free markets reject, demolish even, the cult of selfish individualism.

Commerce is greener than statism too.

  • How economics became a religion (The Guardian)  Its moral code promises salvation, its high priests uphold their orthodoxy. But perhaps too many of its doctrines are taken on faith.

Economics offers a comprehensive doctrine with a moral code promising adherents salvation in this world; an ideology so compelling that the faithful remake whole societies to conform to its demands. It has its gnostics, mystics and magicians who conjure money out of thin air, using spells such as “derivative” or “structured investment vehicle”. And, like the old religions it has displaced, it has its prophets, reformists, moralists and above all, its high priests who uphold orthodoxy in the face of heresy.

  • SLV received two upgrades in our decision matrix, and the silver COT report continued to confirm bullish activity.

  • SLV has mountains to climb in order to reestablish a daily uptrend.

  • Since the COMEX bullion banks are now net long silver (including their vaulted silver), we believe that the downward momentum should dissipate.

 


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