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What We Read Today 22 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:

  • U.S. Mega Banks Are This Close to Breaking Their Profit Record

  • How much is sea level rising?

  • How Americans Are Still Reeling from the Great Recession

  • Trump Struggles to Regain Footing After Staff Defections

  • Trump launches all-out assault on Mueller probe

  • Trump Says He Has ‘Complete Power’ to Pardon

  • The Pentagon’s Blank Check

  • Senate Democrats Demand Info From HHS About Its Anti-Ocare PR Campaign

  • Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State

  • A Witch-Hunt in Turkey

  • A Kurdish Problem

  • Putin's No Good, But Where's the Alternative?

  • Japan Pictures Likely Show Melted Fukushima Fuel for First Time

  • From Political Star to ‘a Sacrificial Object’ in China

  • Hottest day ever in Shanghai as heat wave bakes China

  • Mexican Drug Smugglers High on Ford

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

U.S.

  • Trump Struggles to Regain Footing After Staff Defections (Bloomberg)  President Donald Trump sought to impose order in his White House in the face of a widening Russia probe on Friday, ending a tumultuous week by appointing a new lead lawyer, sidelining his old one and hiring a new communications director as two top spokesmen quit in protest.  The changes leave Trump with new leaders on his legal and communications teams heading into a week when the highest-ranking White House official so far will appear before a congressional committee. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner will be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday.

  • Trump launches all-out assault on Mueller probe (The Hill)  President Trump has launched an all-out assault on the federal investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia, reflecting an intensifying obsession with the probe within the West Wing.  As reports emerged this week that special counsel Robert Mueller has widened his investigation to include the president’s business transactions, Trump issued a public warning that such inquiries were a “violation” of the scope of the probe.  In a bombshell interview with The New York Times published Wednesday night, he stopped short of saying that he would fire Mueller if he crossed that line “because I don’t think it’s going to happen”.

But he threatened to expose “many other conflicts” that he believes make Mueller’s position at the head of the investigation unethical — a claim that comes on the heels of a round of Sunday show appearances by the president’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, suggesting that Mueller’s appointment to the post was illegitimate.

Multiple outlets have also reported that Trump’s legal team is digging into Mueller’s team, looking for alleged conflicts of interest — and discussing the limits of the president’s authority to issue pardons.

pardon.tweet

  • The Pentagon’s Blank Check (Boston Review)  The $54 billion defense spending boost that the Trump administration wants for next year is strategically misguided and legislatively doomed, though not for the same reason.

It is misguided because none of the standard rationales for increasing the Pentagon’s budget—the grind of ongoing wars, the threats from rival states and terrorists, a “crisis” in military readiness—can justify the more than $600 billion that Americans already spend on defense, let alone a 10 percent increase.

  • Senate Democrats Demand Info From HHS About Its Anti-Ocare PR Campaign (Daily Beast)   A trio of Democratic Senators has written the Department of Health and Human Services demanding more information on the money it has spent on a public relations campaign to effectively undermine Obamacare.  In their letter, Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) request specific expenditures the department has made on a series of anti-Obamacare testimonial videos posted to HHS’ website. They also suggest that the department's Secretary, Tom Price, may have violated the Anti-Lobbying Act in encouraging repeal-and-replace efforts on Twitter and elsewhere.

  • Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State (CounterPunch)  This article attacks the movement within the left and environmental activists specofocally for joining what has been an alt-right purview, radical conspiracy theory promotion.

Turkey

  • A Witch-Hunt in Turkey (Boston Review)  Turkey is a nation where the military has stepped in to remove democratically elected governments four times: 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997. But July 15, 2016, was different, marking the first time a counter-coup had come not from within the military, but from the masses.

In the intervening year, Erdoğan and his government have gone to great lengths to ensure that no one forgets what happened that night. The “July 15 Saga,” as the government now calls it, is heralded as an epic battle, the start of a new era for Turkey—but to half the country, a half that now despises Erdoğan, it was the beginning of one of the darkest years in their republic’s history.

Legal charges have been brought against 169,013 people for having a purported role in the coup attempt; 50,510 remain under arrest, among them 13 opposition lawmakers, 150 journalists, 169 generals, 8,815 police officers, 24 governors, and 2,413 judges and prosecutors. More than 165,000 public sector workers have been subjected to a kind of civil death: their passports cancelled, they are officially barred from ever holding government jobs, the allegation of being terrorists likely forever stigmatizing them from any private sector employment.

  • A Kurdish Problem (Boston Review)  The PKK—designated a terrorist organization by NATO, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union—has been fighting Turkey for Kurdish autonomy since 1984.  See Kurdish-inhabited area by CIA (1992) (Wikipedia).  One of the major errors of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, which finalized the settlement of the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, was the failure to recognize the autonomy of the Kurdish people.

Click for larger image.

Russia

  • Putin's No Good, But Where's the Alternative? (Bloomberg)  No Russian political leader is offering a vision ambitious and inspiring enough to compete with Putin. Perhaps that's why he finds it so easy to suppress dissent and hold on to power.

Japan

Click for larger image.

China

  • From Political Star to ‘a Sacrificial Object’ in China (The New York Times)  All the political stars seemed aligned for Sun Zhengcai to be promoted to a top national post in China at the Communist Party’s congress this fall.  His most recent high-profile post was party secretary for Chongqing, a vast city of 30 million where he was sent to clean up a government in the aftermath of a corruption and murder scandal. Last year, President Xi Jinping publicly shook his hand and praised his city.  Then, on July 15, he abruptly vanished.

Within five days of publicly vowing absolute loyalty to Mr. Xi and extolling his “superlative political wisdom,” Mr. Sun was dismissed and put under investigation and has since disappeared, his career terminated by the man he had praised.

The sudden fall from grace was taken as a warning that Mr. Xi will play succession politics by his own ruthless rules.

  • Hottest day ever in Shanghai as heat wave bakes China (Channel News Asia)  Shanghai sweltered under a new record high of 40.9°C (105°F) on Friday (Jul 21), authorities said as they issued a weather "red alert" over a stubborn heat wave that has plagued much of the country.  China's most populous city has baked under soaring summer temperatures for more than two weeks and Friday afternoon reached the hottest point since the establishment of its benchmark weather station in 1872, the municipal weather bureau said.  In the last 5 years, the city has recorded 8 of its 12 highest temperatures of all time

Mexico

  • Mexican Drug Smugglers High on Ford (Daily Beast)  Fresh evidence indicating just how totalmente loco is President Donald Trump’s scheme to build “The Wall” turned up this month at the Ford dealership in Youngstown, Ohio.

That’s where the bales of marijuana were discovered, hidden in a batch of Ford Fusions shipped by rail from the company’s plant in Mexico. A subsequent investigation turned up 17 other loaded Fusions in three other Ohio counties and nearby Pennsylvania. In total, police found 400 pounds of weed between July 7 and 11. That’s more than $1 million which should have gone toward lining cartel pockets, instead of making headlines.

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

  • How Americans Are Still Reeling from the Great Recession (The Atlantic)  For many, the recession is fading in the rearview. Wage growth has climbed steadily since 2012, possibly giving investors more financial freedom:[11] As of 2015, nonresidential private investment per capita thrives well above pre-recession levels.[12] The strongest GDP increase in the U.S. since the recession was aided by growing investment.[13] But experts say that the trauma of the recession runs deeper than most people think, and it means that they’re less willing to spend or invest, whether or not they’re aware of it. 

  • How much is sea level rising? (Skeptical Science)  A skeptic looks at what is known about sea-level rise:
    Gavin Schmidt investigated the claim that tide gauges on islands in the Pacific Ocean show no sea level rise and found that the data show a rising sea level trend at every single station.  But what about global sea level rise?Sea level rises as ice on land melts and as warming ocean waters expand. As well as being a threat to coastal habitation and environments, sea level rise corroborates other evidence of global warming The blue line in the graph below clearly shows sea level as rising, while the upward curve suggests sea level is rising faster as time goes on. The upward curve agrees with global temperature trends and with the accelerating melting of ice in Greenland and other places.​​
  •  

     

  • U.S. Mega Banks Are This Close to Breaking Their Profit Record (Bloomberg)

  • Quarterly net income at top 10 firms now barely shy of record

  • Barney Frank calls it proof rules ‘in no way’ held back profit


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