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What We Read Today 02 September 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".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Topics today include:

  • Who pays the price if Congress cuts mortgage deduction

  • Compassionate Systems

  • Learning Isn't Just Getting the Right Information

  • AT Crushed: ‘Stringbean’ Sets Fastest Speed Record

  • Global Stocks Reach New Record

  • Trump greeted warmly by storm victims at Houston relief center

  • Trump nominates Oklahoma congressman as next NASA administrator

  • Utah police put on leave for arresting nurse Wubbels

  • DACA has shielded nearly 790,000 young unauthorized immigrants from deportation

  • DOJ confirms no evidence supporting Trump claim Obama wiretapped him

  • West Point’s top cadet is a Black woman

  • With Harvey's toll adding up, here's why people are 'really concerned' about Irma

  • Kenya's Supreme Court declares presidential election result null, orders do-over

  • Floods in India: Most parts of the country are under water, death toll and water still on the rise

  • Trump preparing withdrawal from South Korea trade deal, a move opposed by top aides

  • China drone maker DJI: Alone atop the unmanned skies

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


Click for larger image.


  • Trump greeted warmly by storm victims at Houston relief center (CNBC)  President Donald Trump visited a relief center in Houston on Saturday to meet with victims of Harvey, the catastrophic storm that triggered severe flooding in Texas and presented his young administration with its most challenging domestic crisis.  After meeting with flood survivors and volunteers who assisted in relief efforts in Houston, Trump will move on to Lake Charles, Louisiana, an area hammered by the storm later in the week, the White House said.

  • Trump nominates Oklahoma congressman as next NASA administrator (USA Today)  Jim Bridenstine, the Oklahoma Republican congressman President Trump tapped late Friday as NASA’s next administrator, is someone who champions commercial access to space, thinks a return to the moon is vital to U.S. strategic interests, and has dismissed the science behind climate change.  If the Senate confirms the 42-year-old former Navy flier, he would be the first elected politician to hold a job that’s been the purview of scientists, engineers and astronauts.

  • Utah police put on leave for arresting nurse Wubbels (Al Jazeera)   A Salt Lake City police officer has been put on paid leave after he was filmed arresting and roughing up a nurse at a hospital for refusing to allow blood to be drawn from an unconscious patient, citing recent change in law.  Nurse Alex Wubbels said she was frightened when the police officer handcuffed and dragged her screaming from the hospital in July.  After Wubbels and her lawyers released the dramatic footage of the arrest in the state of Utah, prosecutors called for a criminal investigation and Salt Lake City police put Detective Jeff Payne on paid leave on Friday.  In a tweet, the police department said another "employee" who was involved was also on administrative leave pending investigation.

It gives unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. before age 16 – a group sometimes called “Dreamers” – a chance to stay in the U.S. to study or work, provided they meet certain conditions such as being enrolled in high school or having a high school degree or GED equivalent, and not having a serious criminal conviction. Those approved for the program are given a work permit and protection from deportation for two years, and these benefits can be renewed.

A "Motion for Summary Judgment" filed Friday evening in D.C. district court says neither the FBI nor the Justice Department's National Security Division have records confirming wiretaps that Trump accused the Obama administration of ordering. 

The document was submitted in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by American Oversight, a government watchdog group. While the FBI had denied any such surveillance, it's the first time the Justice Department has issued a denial. It was done the Friday night before Labor Day.

  • West Point’s top cadet is a Black woman (the grio)  Cadet Simone Askew is the first Blackwoman in the 215-year history of West Point to be the top cadet at the military college.  As the First Captain, the highest position in the cadets chain of command, Askew is aware of the fact that she is making history, but she says that her challenges come in the form of personal problems, not professional ones, and that’s where her focus is.

"It's actually a Category 3 storm right now. If that happens to get in the Gulf of Mexico, it's unlikely, but if it does we'll be looking at some really significant problems next week and beyond." 

Click for large image.

Click for large image.


  • Kenya's Supreme Court declares presidential election result null, orders do-over (USA Today)   Kenya’s Supreme Court on Friday overturned last month's presidential election, citing voting irregularities, and ordered a new election within 60 days. It declared President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election null and void.  It is the first time a presidential election in East Africa's economic hub has been nullified. Supporters of opposition candidate Raila Odinga, 72, danced and cheered in the streets, and said they felt vindicated because he had contended that he lost because the electronic tally had been hacked. 


  • Floods in India: Most parts of the country are under water, death toll and water still on the rise (India Today)  According to the United Nations, at least 41 million people in Bangladesh, India and Nepal have been directly affected by flooding and landslides resulting from the monsoon rains, which usually begin in June and last until September.  Heavy rains and floods have once again brought many parts of the country to a standstill.  More than 1,000 people have died in the floods across India this monsoon, and as sheets of incessant rain pummeled the vast region, worries grew that the death toll would rise along with the floodwaters.

South Korea

  • Trump preparing withdrawal from South Korea trade deal, a move opposed by top aides (The Washington Post)  President Trump has instructed advisers to prepare a withdrawal from the United States’ free-trade agreement with South Korea, several people close to the process said, a move that would stoke economic tensions with the U.S. ally at a time both countries confront a crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

While it is still possible Trump could decide to stay in the agreement in order to renegotiate its terms, the internal preparations for terminating the deal are far along and the formal withdrawal process could begin as soon as this coming week, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A number of senior White House officials are trying to prevent Trump from withdrawing from the agreement, including national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, these people said.



  • China drone maker DJI: Alone atop the unmanned skies (CNBC)  In the past year, the West has suffered heavy losses in a new form of global air conflict.  Berkeley-based 3DR has downsized and ceased manufacturing dronesGoPro's Karma drones lost power mid-air and had to be recalled, though they are now back on the market. Paris-based Parrot slashed 35% of its drone team. San Francisco-headquartered Lily Robotics shuttered its doors.  But with Western drone manufacturers floundering and shifting business models, one company's fortunes are soaring: China's DJI Technology. Today the Shenzhen-based company dominates the global drone hardware market, which is forecast to surpass $11 billion by 2020.

  • Drone competitors concede that 'no one' can compete with DJI Technology in manufacturing drones.

  • The Chinese drone maker has been rewarded with a reported $10 billion valuation.

  • US-based drone start-ups are still attracting hundreds of millions in venture capital, but for business models focused on software and services.


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

  • Who pays the price if Congress cuts mortgage deduction (CNBC)  The tax break for mortgage interest has remained unchanged since the Tax Reform Act of 1986, when it survived the legislative ax to deductions for other forms of consumer interest (such as on credit card debt). The provision generally lets taxpayers deduct the interest on mortgage debt up to $1 million, along with interest on home-equity debt up to $100,000.

  • One in 5 tax filers claims the mortgage deduction.

  • The benefits mainly accrue to higher-income taxpayers.

  • Homeowners in high-cost housing areas rely more on the tax break.

  • Compassionate Systems (  Hat tip to Sanjeev Kulkarni.  Daniel Goleman writes that these days he is reflecting a lot on what a compassionate system would be. People generally know too little about systems, let alone about science. That’s one reason the current government may get away with enormous cuts to science.  An excerpt:

I was talking to the dean of science at Columbia, who also runs a program at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia, which is in our backyard. He said research there—it’s a world leader in climate science—may get cut by 80 to 85 percent, which is astounding. It’s a huge crisis. Someone else I was talking to who runs a neuroscience lab says he's expecting a 20 percent cut. Twenty percent itself is crippling.

Why is it that a government can get away with this? Why isn’t there uproar beyond a narrow circle of scientists? Why is it that so few people understand science, per se? Part of it has to do with a general lack of awareness of the systems in which we’re enmeshed. The systems of energy and of technology, the systems of economics and of culture; the systems that would make more clear why science itself is so essential to the betterment of our own lives and of society, and what a researcher in a lab has to do with any of us.

There’s a huge disconnect. One point of intervention could be education: We can be better at explaining to kids when they’re in school what systems are, why they matter, and how one thing over here relates to something over there. Then, as they go through life with this background understanding, this basic scaffolding of knowledge, they would be making connections that just are not made today.

  • Learning Isn't Just Getting the Right Information (YouTube)  Tania Lombrozo, an associate professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, spoke at MoMiCon 2016.  Her thesis:  Learning occurs in two ways:  (1) by gaining new information; and (2) by thinking without gaining any new information.

  • AT Crushed: ‘Stringbean’ Sets Fastest Speed Record (  Joe ‘Stringbean’ McConaughy, a well-known speed hiker, set a new record on the Appalachian Trail today (31 August 2017).  He hiked the 2,190-mile route in an unofficial fastest known time (FKT) of 45 days, 12 hours, 15 minutes.  Since he carried a GPS monitor which tracked his position for the entire time, it is likely this new record will be recognized as legitimate.  (He also ran the 2,660-mile Pacific Crest Trail in 2014, dedicated to his cousin Colin McConaughy, who passed away on January 12, 2012, at the age of two after a short battle with Neuroblastoma.  The PCT hike was accompanied by a support team.  The AT hike this year was entirely self-supported.  See video below about the PCT hike for Colin.) On the AT he averaged a distance per 24-hour day of 48 miles.  Assuming an arbitrary 16 hours per day actually moving (8 hours reserved for eating, sleeping, etc.) the average speed for 45.5 days is 3 mph. Many of the days exceeded 2 marathons per day.  Unable to run much (some days not at all) due to leg injuries, this accomplishment is remarkable.  One day from his diary reports:

Day 16: Daleville, VA (727.1) to Harrison Ground Springs Campground (771.8). 14:40/44.7 miles. INJURY UPDATE 🚨: so, my knee is now swollen and not letting me run. So I took the day of (sic) running - and hiked instead!


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