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What We Read Today 31 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:

  • Mysterious craters blowing out of Russia could mean trouble for the whole planet

  • Koch Brothers Launch Attack to Kill Electric Cars

  • It’s Not Your Imagination.  Summers Are Getting Hotter.

  • Why most health plans strive to make healthcare cost more

  • How many people might lose health insurance

  • Seniors Live Best In These Countries

  • Top Ten Companies Globally

  • Scaramucci out as WH communications director

  • Official DOE account tweets praise for Rick Perry’s ‘fight’ against climate scientists

  • Business Loves Government Hand-Holding

  • Bernie Sanders's Campaogn Isn't Over

  • Bible Studies at the White House: Who's Inside This Spiritual Awakening?

  • How state Democrats protect Americans from Trump's policies

  • Home Sales Poised to Reverse Downward Trend

  • June 2017 Pending Home Sales Seasonally Adjusted Index Improves

  • One Way Russia Can Retaliate Against US Sanctions

  • The Message that Putin's Expulsion of U.S. Diplomats Sends to Trump

  • China's Yuan Renminbi Strengthens

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Seniors Live Best In These Countries (Financial Advisor)  Which countries provide the best environment for retirees? Natixis Global Asset Management tracks developed countries to see which produce the best retirement scenarios in its 2017 Global Retirement Index.  Natixis uses four categories to determine the state of retirement health across the globe: the material means to live comfortably in retirement; access to quality financial services to help preserve savings value and maximize income; access to quality health services; and a clean and safe environment.  See also U.S. Declines To No. 17 In Global Retirement Security Ranking.  Here are the top 12 for the "living best" list:

  1. Norway

  2. Switzerland

  3. Iceland

  4. Sweden

  5. New Zealand

  6. Australia

  7. Germany

  8. Denmark

  9. Netherlands

  10. Luxembourg

  11. Canada

  12. Finland


17. United States


  • Scaramucci out as WH communications director (The Hill)  Well that was quick!  The "Mooch" hadn't even officially started the job and he is gone.  Scaramucci succeeded in getting outgoing Chief of Staff Reince Prebus fired.  Was it incoming Chief of Staff Ret. General John Kelly who accepted the job with a condition that Scaramucci leave?  From this article:

CNN reported that Scaramucci had told Kelly he would leave his position to allow the new chief of staff to put his own team together. 

That would send the signal that Kelly, who was sworn in on Monday, could have more power than Priebus ever had in the role. 


  • Business Loves Government Hand-Holding (Bloomberg)  Barry Ritholtz unloads on socialized capitalism.  He syas that everyone from high-tech manufacturers to sports-team owners wring subsidies out of local politicians:

Last week, was a case in point: Wisconsin, a state controlled by that patron of free markets otherwise known as the Republican Party, announced a deal with FoxconnTechnology Co. to give $3 billion in incentives for the Taiwanese manufacturer of iPhones to build a flat-panel TV factory within its borders. In exchange, Wisconsin got ... well, some nice words.

  • Bernie Sanders's Campaogn Isn't Over (The New Yorker)  Bernie Sanders’s Presidential race ended a year ago, but his campaign never did. Since the election, he has staged events in Michigan, Mississippi, Maine, West Virginia, Arizona, Nevada, Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Montana, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, and Illinois. At every one, he speaks about the suffering of small-town Americans, and his belief that the Democrats can help them.   Two excerpts:

Sanders is not a natural storyteller; his great political gift is his relentlessness.

Sanders is an old man who often finds himself speaking to young audiences. They are not necessarily looking for encouragement. “My wife tells me my speeches are so bleak that they have to pass out tranquillizers at the door,” he said at an event that evening at Brixton Academy, a music venue in South London. Sanders does not ask his supporters to place their trust in meritocracy, or capitalism, or even their own country, and this is part of what gives his movement its special intensity. Sanders’s optimism about politics is not complicated by an optimism about much of anything else.


  • One Way Russia Can Retaliate Against US Sanctions (Mauldin Economics)  See also article under Russia, below.  Stratfor pionts out that the latest sanctions against Russian energy companies could drive a wedge between the U.S. and its European NATO allies and move them closer to Russia:

The US Congress has passed new sanctions targeting Russia’s energy companies. Among the other notable aspects of the sanctions is that they take some authority away from the US president (who used to be able to implement some measures but not others at his discretion) and give it to Congress.

Recognizing that a vital sector in its economy has even less chance of relief than it once had, Russia has retaliated. It has reduced the number of diplomats it has in the US and has seized property used in Russia by US diplomats.

Energy sales are an important source of revenue, of course, but for Russia they are more than that: They are an instrument of geopolitical power. They give Moscow considerable influence over the countries whose energy needs are met by Russian exports. If Russia intends to retaliate further against the US, its energy supplies, especially those it sends to Europe, may be its best option to do so.

Click for large image.


  • The Message that Putin's Expulsion of U.S. Diplomats Sends to Trump (The New Yorker)  Vladimir Putin’s announcement on Sunday that he would require a dramatic reduction in the U.S. diplomatic mission to Russia is a personal message to Donald Trump - at once a last-ditch effort to gain some conciliations from a U.S. President who had promised them and an indication of how, despite early hopes in Moscow, Putin and those around him are gearing up for a more familiar, confrontational pose with Washington. The Kremlin’s thinking appears to be that if the United States is so intent on demonizing it, then, fine, let it have its Cold War—and anyway, mutual antagonism has come to be a comfortable, even habitual mode for the Putin state.  See also article under EU, above.


  • China's Yuan Renminbi Strengthens (The Daily Shot)  After significant weakening second half of 2016, the Chinese currency has been rallying vs. the dollar in 2017:


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

  • Rising temperatures are causing Siberia's long-frozen ground, called permafrost, to thaw

  • The permafrost last melted 130,000 years ago, but the rate of melting this time is unprecedented, a scientist says

  • The thawing could worsen global climate change

  • Koch Brothers Launch Attack to Kill Electric Cars (EcoWatch)  Fueling U.S. Forward, the Koch-funded campaign to "rebrand" fossil fuels as "positive" and "sustainable," has released a new video attacking the Dirty Secrets of Electric Cars, signaling a possible strategic pivot from straightforward fossil fuel cheerleading to electric vehicle (EV) and clean energy bashing.

The video and accompanying Dirty Secrets of Electric Cars web page feature blatant factual errors, misleading statements and glaring omissions (all of which will be debunked thoroughly below), while essentially attacking electric cars for using the same materials needed to manufacture cell phones, laptops, defense equipment and gas-powered cars, and which are even a critical component of the very oil refining processes that form the foundation of the Koch fortunes.

When Fueling U.S. Forward launched last August, the organization's president Charles Drevna described the campaign as an effort to rebrand fossil fuels by focusing on the "positive" aspects of coal, oil and gas. This newly released video seems to further confirm investigative journalist Peter Stone's reporting from last spring that the Kochs were "plotting a multimillion dollar assault on electric vehicles."

To create the bell curves, Dr. Hansen and two colleagues compared actual summer temperatures for each decade since the 1980s to a fixed baseline average. During the base period, 1951 to 1980, about a third of local summer temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere were in what they called a “near average” or normal range. A third were considered cold; a third were hot.

Since then, summer temperatures have shifted drastically, the researchers found. Between 2005 and 2015, two-thirds of values were in the hot category, and nearly 15 percent were in a new category: extremely hot.

The truth is that group health plans typically earn a percentage of total expenditures, and it is in their interest for healthcare to cost as much as possible. Employer or union group health plans are frequently associated with a variety of services — e.g., health IT, pharmacy benefit management, case management, reinsurance — each with its own revenue stream. By choosing and incentivizing vendors, plan administrators directly influence their systems’ capabilities to manage risk. Intentionally meek approaches to healthcare risk management result in excessive care and cost, in turn fueling higher expenditures, greater net revenues and elevated stock prices.

This structure has been spectacularly successful for the health insurance industry.

Click for larger image.

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