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What We Read Today 20 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:

  • Treasury Snapshot: 10-Year Yield at 2.19%

  • Americans Name the 10 Most Significant Historic Events of Their Lifetimes

  • What the World Would Look Like if All the Ice Melted

  • The coming earthquake

  • The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google

  • Why top White House officials won't quit Trump

  • Breitbart goes after McMaster

  • H.R. McMaster Endorsed Book that Advocates Quran-Kissing Apology Ceremonies

  • Powerful GOP Donor Sheldon Adelson Supports Campaign to Oust McMaster

  • Are Nazis as American as Apple Pie?

  • Trump increasingly unpopular in the states that made him president

  • The Guardian of the Liberal World Order

  • 23 dead, over 400 injured as Utkal Express derails

  • War games set to begin in South Korea

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • The coming earthquake (Axios)  One feature of our time is the disruption du jour — the whiplash of yet another big surprise that promises to upset everything and everyone for years and perhaps decades to come:

  • Brexit, the Trump election, and the broader anti-establishment global uprising, springing from lost jobs, income, stature and community, and making many people ambivalent about the post-war system of collective diplomacy and open borders.

  • Robotization — the shift to hyper-automation and the potential that many of our jobs will be swallowed up by machines.

  • And now the new monopolists, a creeping change in how we view a few tech monoliths that have amassed colossal power — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

Connecting the dots: These three narratives are melding into a gigantic, compound earthquake. When we speak of the race to artificial intelligence and robotization, we mean research dominated by American big tech, along with its Chinese cousins — Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent. When the workplace is filled with intelligent machines some time in the future, their brains are likely to come from one or more of these companies.

Big tech's big success is "dangerous for society, and it shows no sign of slowing down. It hollows out the middle class, which leads to bankrupt towns, feeds the angry politics of those who feel cheated, and underpins the rise of demagogues."

Big money, small work force: Google employs 17,000 people, Galloway notes, fewer than a tenth of the 185,000 who work for Disney, which has a quarter of Google's $650 billion market cap.

  • As for the whole of big tech, when you include Microsoft, it employs about 660,000 people.

  • By comparison, with 3% of big tech's $3 trillion market cap, the three big American carmakers employ 940,000 workers.

In other words, says Galloway, the spoils of America's old corporate oligarchy was carved out more fairly among many more workers. "Investors and executives got rich, though not billionaires; and workers, many of them unionized, could buy homes and motorboats and send their kids to college," he writes.

  • "That's the America that millions of angry voters want back. They tend to blame global trade and immigrants; however, the tech economy, and its fetishization, is as much to blame."

  • And time will catch up with the companies: "Until now, it's been only sycophancy," Galloway told me. "Everyone wants to hang around the hot girl. They all want to seem young and hip and hold these companies to a different standard. I predict there is going to be a populist uprising. A politician is going to find that the fastest way up is to go after one or more of the companies."

  • He said, "We are already seeing it."


  • "You have no idea how much crazy stuff we kill": The most common response centers on the urgent importance of having smart, sane people around Trump to fight his worst impulses. If they weren't there, they say, we would have a trade war with China, massive deportations, and a government shutdown to force construction of a Southern wall.

  • "General Mattis needs us": Many talk about their reluctance to bolt on their friends and colleagues who are fighting the good fight to force better Trump behavior/decisions. They rightly point out that together, they have learned how to ignore Trump's rhetoric and, at times, collectively steer him to more conventional policy responses.

  • "Trump's not as evil as portrayed": All of them talk up the president as more reasonable off Twitter and TV than on it. This gives them hope (though almost all increasingly say it's fleeting hope) he will listen to his better angels, or at least the pleas of Ivanka.

  • "We like the power": Well, no one comes out and say it this blatantly. But working in the White House, even this one, is intoxicating and ego-stroking. They have enormous say over regulations and rules, invites and implementation, government jobs and access to the Oval. They also know they are one step away from an even bigger

  • Breitbart goes after McMaster (The Hill)  Breitbart News, the media outlet helmed by President Trump's former chief strategist Stephen Bannon, published an article on Sunday casting national security adviser H.R. McMaster as soft on Islamist extremism and terrorism.  The article came just two days after Bannon's departure from the White House. He returned to Breitbart later on Friday.  See next article.

  • H.R. McMaster Endorsed Book that Advocates Quran-Kissing Apology Ceremonies (Breitbart News)  A book on terrorism endorsed and touted by H.R. McMaster, the embattled White House National Security Adviser, calls on the U.S. military to respond to any “desecrations” of the Quran by service members with an apology ceremony, and advocates kissing a new copy of the Quran before presenting the Islamic text to the local Muslim public.  The book’s author further demanded that any American soldier who “desecrates” the Quran be ejected from the foreign country of deployment, relieved of duty and turned over to a military judge for “punishment.”

“Desecration” of the Quran, according to the McMaster-endorsed book, includes such acts as “letting the Quran fall to the ground during a search, or more blatant instances.”

The book, reviewed in full by this reporter, was authored by U.S. military officer Youssef H. Aboul-Enein and is titled Militant Islamist Ideology: Understanding the Global Threat.

McMaster provided a glowing blurb for the book jacket, referring to Aboul-Enein’s book as “an excellent starting point” for understanding terrorist ideology.

  • Report:  Powerful GOP Donor Sheldon Adelson Supports Campaign to Oust McMaster (Breitbart News)  Powerful Republican “megadonor” Sheldon Adelson has privately told an ally that he supports a campaign against National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster that depicts him as anti-Israel and seeks to remove him from the White House, according to a new report.  See Sheldon Adelson privately supports anti-McMaster campaign (Axios)

  • Are Nazis as American as Apple Pie? (Project Syndicate)  The author says that any sober observer can see that the US is still a long way from the nightmarish atmosphere of Germany in 1933. American democratic institutions are holding up, just as they did in the crisis years of the 1930s. Opposition parties have not been banned, and the courts have not lost their independent authority.  But America has a sordid history of "race law" (Jim Crow laws reversing the equality gains of the reconstriction a prominent example) which did serve as a model for Nazi laws in Germany during the 1930s.  Two excerpts:

Moreover, Trump is not the supreme leader of a political party with a paramilitary arm. There are no facilities such as Dachau, Auschwitz, or Treblinka under construction. Even Trump’s planned border wall with Mexico remains stuck in the planning stage, with no funding from the US Congress. And Congress is not about to pass an Enabling Act conferring dictatorial powers on the president, as the Reichstag did for Hitler in March 1933. Last but not least, the American press is more tenacious and energized than it has been in years.

Trump’s yearning for authoritarian rule is clear for all to see. But he will not achieve it. There will be no Nazi dictatorship in America.

So today, instead of asking whether American institutions will survive the Trump presidency, we must ask how American institutions can be put in the service of wrongful ends. After all, while America’s early-twentieth-century race laws are gone, it still has the same overheated democratic order and common-law flexibility that it had back then. These institutions might no longer produce Jim Crow laws; but the American criminal-justice system, for example, remains a poster child for institutionalized racism.

Americans should be ashamed that their country’s institutions laid the groundwork for Nazi race law. But they should not be worrying about the threat of renascent Nazism, despite Trump’s clear ambivalence in condemning white supremacists. Rather, Americans should worry about the potential of their institutions to facilitate evils that are, as loath as we are to admit it, as American as apple pie.



  • The Guardian of the Liberal World Order (Project Syndicate)  America has abandoned its global leadership role.  This article discusses what comes next.  A China-led transaction-based world order would have clear winners and losers – and the latter would far outnumber the former. Europe must do what it can to prevent that outcome, balancing ambition with realism, and courage with caution. Leadership may be a bridge too far for Europe today. But stewardship is within its grasp.


  • 23 dead, over 400 injured as Utkal Express derails (The Hindu)  At least 23 persons were killed and around 400 injured when 14 coaches of the Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express derailed on Saturday evening at Khatauli, near Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh police officials said.

It was 5.46 p.m. on Saturday when the Haridwar- bound train derailed immediately after it crossed the Khatauli station.

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel told The Hindu that the number of dead could rise as several passengers were still trapped in the wreckage. Officials said 100 persons were seriously injured. Rescue operations have slowed down after darkness.

South Korea

  • War games set to begin in South Korea (The Hill)  The U.S. and South Korean militaries are forging ahead with annual summer war games next week, potentially dialing up tensions with North Korea after a week of relative calm.  Pyongyang considers the exercises a rehearsal for invasion and typically lashes out with fiery rhetoric and occasionally provocative acts such as missile launches.  In a month in which President Trump and the North Korean regime have already traded nuclear threats, analysts predict the routine war games could be tenser than ever. 

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

  • Treasury Snapshot: 10-Year Yield at 2.19% (Jill Mislinski, Advisor Perspectives  JM contributes to GEI.  Two great charts give perspective to Treasuries' yield history - we are not in a bond bear market yet (click on either for large image):

  • Americans Name the 10 Most Significant Historic Events of Their Lifetimes (Pew Research Center)  Shared experiences define what it means to be an American. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were such a unifying event for modern Americans. Nothing else has come close to being as important or as memorable, according to a new survey conducted by Pew Research Center in association with A+E Networks’ HISTORY.  But, while some experiences are shared across generations, others are not with older generations having experienced grave events occurring before younger generations were born. 

  • What the World Would Look Like if All the Ice Melted (National Geographic)  If we keep burning fossil fuels indefinitely, global warming will eventually melt all the ice at the poles and on mountaintops, raising sea level by 216 feet.  Follow the title link to the National Geographic for descriptive text which accompanies these graphics.

Click on any graphic below for large image.

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