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What We Read Today 17 August 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:

  • Gold Was Chemically Destined to Be Money All Along

  • The Lost Lesson of the Financial Crisis

  • On Views of Race and Inequality, Blacks and Whites Are Worlds Apart

  • A Greener Grid for East Asia 

  • False rumors that Gary Cohn is leaving the White House just spooked Wall Street — for good reason

  • Trump Abandons Plan for Council on Infrastructure

  • Trump's attacks could leave him friendless if impeachment comes

  • Key Republican Calls for ‘Radical Changes’ in Trump’s Presidency

  • Germany's Success Could Wreck Martin Schulz's Bid for PowerGermany's Success Could Wreck Martin Schulz's Bid for Power 

  • Van plows through crowd in Barcelona, several killed

  • Iran denies appeal of jailed Princeton student: university

  • Exclusive: China's Belt and Road acquisitions surge despite outbound capital crackdown

  • Ecuador Says It'll Cap Output at Higher Level in Deal With OPEC

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Global

  • A Greener Grid for East Asia (Project Syndicate)  Not long ago, the future of nuclear power was in Asia. In 2015, nine of the ten reactors that opened globally were on the continent. But recent declarations by South Korea and Taiwan that they will “go green” have called into question nuclear power’s long-term viability, at least in East Asia. Indeed, 2017 may mark the end of the region’s nuclear love affair – and the start of a new one with renewables.

Critics contend that green technologies are not mature enough to replace traditional fuels for industrial-scale energy use. But these claims are a few years too late. Significant declines in start-up costs and energy-storage prices, as well as improved battery performance, have made renewables more competitive than ever. As Francesco Starace, Chief Executive of Enel, Europe’s largest energy company by market capitalization, told the Financial Times in June, renewables are becoming the “cheapest and most convenient way of producing electricity.”

U.S.

Some Twitter users spotted a tweet, later deleted, from a breaking-news service called Breaking News Live that said Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs chief operating officer, was leaving the White House. While the tweet was quickly deleted, chatter about Cohn stepping down picked up among market observers.

The S&P 500 began a sharp move down at about 10 a.m. ET, when the rumor first started circulating. Down just 0.1% in early trading, the benchmark index slipped 0.5% in 20 minutes

  • Trump Abandons Plan for Council on Infrastructure (Bloomberg)  President Donald Trump will not move forward with a planned Advisory Council on Infrastructure, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday.  The council, which was still being formed, would have advised Trump on his plan to spend as much as $1 trillion upgrading roads, bridges and other public works.

The action follows Trump announcing on Wednesday that he was disbanding two other business advisory councils. Corporate chief executive officers had started to quit the panels in protest over Trump’s remarks that appeared to confer legitimacy on white supremacists following a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12.

  • Trump's attacks could leave him friendless if impeachment comes (Reuters)  President Donald Trump has stepped up his attacks on Republican senators, an approach he may regret if he is someday impeached and the Senate has to weigh charges against him stemming from an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

More than half of the 11 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would be central to any proceeding to remove Trump from office, have tangled with the Republican president, including on Thursday when he fired off early-morning tweets.

“We’re at a point where there needs to be radical changes take place at the White House itself. It has to happen.  I think the president needs to take stock of the role that he plays in our nation and move beyond himself -- move way beyond himself -- and move to a place where daily he’s waking up thinking about what is best for the nation.”

Germany

  • SPD chancellor candidate’s election focus proving a tough sell

  • Satisfaction with personal finances at two-decade high

Spain

  • Van plows through crowd in Barcelona, several killed (Reuters)  A van mowed through crowds of tourists on Barcelona's most famous avenue on Thursday, killing about a dozen people in an attack that was claimed by Islamic State.  The head of the Spanish region of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, said at least 80 people had been taken to hospital and around 12 had died.  He said two people had been arrested. It was still not clear how many attackers had been involved.

Iran

  • Iran denies appeal of jailed Princeton student: university (Reuters)  Iranian authorities have denied the appeal of a Princeton University student who had been convicted on espionage charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison, the university and his wife said on Thursday.  Xiyue Wang, a history doctoral student and U.S. citizen who was conducting dissertation research in Iran in 2016 when he was detained by Iranian authorities, was accused by Iran of "spying under the cover of research", a claim his family and university deny.

China

  • Exclusive: China's Belt and Road acquisitions surge despite outbound capital crackdown (Reuters)  Mergers and acquisitions by Chinese companies in countries that are part of the Belt and Road initiative are soaring, even as Beijing cracks down on China's acquisitive conglomerates to restrict capital outflows.  Chinese acquisitions in the 68 countries officially linked to President Xi Jinping's signature foreign policy totaled $33 billion as of Monday, surpassing the $31 billion tally for all of 2016, according to Thomson Reuters data.  Unveiled in 2013, the Belt and Road project is aimed at building a modern-day "Silk Road", connecting China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Pakistan and Central Asia, and beyond to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

Ecuador

  • Ecuador Says It'll Cap Output at Higher Level in Deal With OPEC (Bloomberg)  Cracks are showing in the the OPEC production limits agreement.  Ecuador says it will cap output at a more comfortable level than it had initially pledged.  The South American country will limit its production at its current 541,000 barrels a day to avoid undermining the group’s output-curbs deal, Ecuadorian Oil Minister Carlos Perez said Tuesday. While that breaches the 26,000-barrel-a-day cut to 522,000 that Ecuador had committed to, it’s less than the country’s potential at a time the government needs to boost revenues, he said.

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

  • Gold Was Chemically Destined to Be Money All Along (Frank Holmes, Advisor Perspectives)  FH has contributed to GEI.  Econintersect:  We have a difference of opinion about some of FH's conclusions here, although not with his facts.  He has described why gold has value as an ASSET, but his argument that "no one refuses gold as payment to discharge an obligation" is stretching a point.   We would suggest the statement might be true in times of extreme financial distress but in 'ordinary' times many might decline to sell you groceries, or other consumables, prefering instead to have currency which is immediately usable for any other purchase or tax payment.  Also the stability of gold as a currency has fluctuated far more widely and frequently in recent decades than any of the major fiat currencies.  Now we do not quibble with FH's recommendation for gold as an investment asset.  It serves to diversify risks in portfolios which are otherwise denominated in assets priced in a fiat currency (or several currencies).

  • The Lost Lesson of the Financial Crisis (Project Syndicate)  Advanced-economy policy makers have difficullty coming to grips with the extent of the financial system’s latent instability as it accumulates over time. Most policymakers in the advanced world are too dismissive of the idea that they have anything to learn from emerging countries’ experiences.  In fact, the domino-effect of cascading defaults can happen in any leveraged financial system, whether emerging of developed.  This is the lesson of the Great Financial Crisis which Mohamed A. El-Arien says has been forgotten.

Policymakers in the advanced world lagged in internalizing the relevant insights from emerging economies. But they now have the evidence and analytical capability to do so. It is in their power to avert more disappointments, tap into sources of sustainable growth, and tackle today’s alarming levels of inequality. The ball is in the political class’s court.

  • On Views of Race and Inequality, Blacks and Whites Are Worlds Apart (Pew Research Center)  Almost eight years after Barack Obama’s election as the nation’s first black president –an event that engendered a sense of optimism among many Americans about the future of race relations1 – a series of flashpoints around the U.S. has exposed deep racial divides and reignited a national conversation about race.  The data tells a tale of two Americas:


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