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What We Read Today 28 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".).

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Topics today include:

  • 4 big tax breaks you may lose under GOP tax plan

  • What’s Behind the Anti-Fiduciary Mindset?

  • Addressing claims that global financial markets are all powerful

  • 10 job skills worth six-figure salaries

  • Was Bolivia-Peru the Sunset Land of the Sumerians?

  • Senators close to bipartisan deal on health exchanges: Schumer

  • Dark days for Senate Leader McConnell as losses cast doubt

  • U.S. plans to cap refugees at 45,000 in coming fiscal year, according to StateDepartment report

  • Dems see 2018 gains in repeated Obamacare repeal tries

  • Price to reimburse taxpayers for cost of charter jets

  • Beyond the daily drama and Twitter battles, Trump begins to alter American life

  • Now even money is running out in storm-hit Puerto Rico 

  • PHOTOS: Scenes of devastation in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria

  • David Davis claims 'decisive steps forward' in Brexit talks

  • 'New Baghdadi tape' posted by Islamic State group

  • China to shut down North Korean companies

  • DNA Study Finds Aboriginal Australians are Oldest Civilization in the World

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

U.S.

  • Senators close to bipartisan deal on health exchanges: Schumer (Reuters)  Two U.S. senators from both parties are close to finalizing a bipartisan deal to shore up the health insurance exchanges created under Obamacare, the chamber's top Democrat said on Thursday.  The move, which Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said was "on the verge" of completion, would stabilize the market for individuals who buy their own insurance plans on the federal or state-based exchanges.

The potential agreement comes after Republicans have repeatedly failed to carry out their years-long pledge to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Act, former Democratic President Barack Obama's signature healthcare overhaul.

Schumer said Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, a Republican, and ranking Democrat Patty Murray had resurrected a bipartisan approach, which had been cast aside amid the latest near-vote on a repeal bill.

  • Dark days for Senate Leader McConnell as losses cast doubt (Associated Press)  Senate Republicans reckoned Wednesday with an insurgent’s win in Alabama that poses clear threats to their own grip on power and the leadership of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  Nearly $10 million spent by a McConnell-backed super PAC couldn’t save incumbent GOP Sen. Luther Strange, who had been endorsed by President Donald Trump as well. It came the same day that McConnell, short of votes, pulled the plug on the latest and possibly final GOP effort to repeal and replace “Obamacare”.

Coming together, the events raised questions about McConnell’s leadership within the Senate and without, casting doubt on his reputation both as a seasoned political operator and a nearly unbeatable vote-counter on Capitol Hill.

  • U.S. plans to cap refugees at 45,000 in coming fiscal year, according to StateDepartment report (The Washington Post)  The United States plans to accept a maximum of 45,000 refugees in the coming fiscal year, according to a report obtained by The Washington Post, a figure that represents the lowest cap in decades and one that human rights groups quickly condemned.  The State Department and Department of Homeland Security briefed members of Congress on the plan Wednesday. The cap, previously reported by the The Wall Street Journal and others, is the lowest since a 1980 law created an organized refu­gee program.

  • Dems see 2018 gains in repeated Obamacare repeal tries (Politico)  While Senate Republicans abandoned their last-gasp attempt to topple Obamacare before a Saturday deadline, they’re already suggesting they might try again next year. That timing — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Congress would take up repeal again in the first quarter of next year — could keep the threat of upending the health care system front of mind in the thick of the 2018 campaign season.  And as much as they want to keep Obamacare intact, Democrats believe that political dynamic only boosts their chances of taking back the House and putting Republicans on defense in Senate races.

  • Price to reimburse taxpayers for cost of charter jets (The Hill)   Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price vowed Thursday to reimburse taxpayers for his use of private charter jets for official government business.  Price noted that all the travel has been "approved by legal and HHS officials" but said he will stop using private charter flights.   Price said in a statement:

"Today, I will write a personal check to the U.S. Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes.  The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes."

  • Beyond the daily drama and Twitter battles, Trump begins to alter American life (Reuters)  Even without delivering on his biggest campaign promises, President Donald Trump has begun to reshape American life in ways big and small.  Over his first nine months, Trump has used an aggressive series of regulatory rollbacks, executive orders and changes in enforcement guidelines to rewrite the rules for industries from energy to airlines, and on issues from campus sexual assault to anti-discrimination protections for transgender students.

While his administration has been chaotic, and his decision-making impulsive and sometimes whimsical, Trump has made changes that could have far-reaching and lingering consequences for society and the economy. Some have grabbed headlines but many, no less consequential, have gone largely unnoticed amid the daily controversies and Twitter insults that have marked Trump's early months in office.

Under Trump, oil is flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline. Arrests of immigrants living illegally in the United States are up. More federal lands are open for coal mining.

The administration has left its mark in smaller ways, as well. Trump has rolled back or delayed Obama-era rules and regulations that protected retirement savings from unscrupulous financial advisers, made it harder for companies that violated labor laws to land federal contracts and restricted what internet service providers could do with their customers' personal data.

Those kinds of low-profile policy shifts are far from the dramatic change promised by the headline-loving Trump, who won the White House with a vow to fundamentally reshape Washington. But the effects can be just as real.

  • Now even money is running out in storm-hit Puerto Rico (Associated Press)  There are long lines at the banks that are open with reduced hours or the scattered ATMs that are operational amid an islandwide power outage and near total loss of telecommunications. Many people are unable to work or run their businesses because diesel to run generators is in short supply or they can’t spend all day waiting for gas to fill their car.  First, Hurricane Maria knocked out power and water to Puerto Rico. Then diesel fuel, gas and water became scarce. Now, it’s money.

  • PHOTOS: Scenes of devastation in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria (Associated Press)

UK

"Decisive steps forward" have been made in the latest round of UK-EU talks, Brexit Secretary David Davis has said.  Mr Davis was speaking at the end of the first talks since Theresa May's speech in Italy last week, in which she said the UK wanted a two-year transition.

But EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there were still "big gaps" between the sides on some of the withdrawal issues.

He said it could be "weeks or months" before they agreed to move to the next stage of talks about future relations.

Syria

A speaker who sounds like the IS leader seems to refer to recent North Korean threats against Japan and the US.

He also talks of battles for IS strongholds like Mosul, which was regained by Iraqi forces in July.

Baghdadi, who has a $25m (£19m) US bounty on his head, has not been seen in public since July 2014, leading to much speculation about his fate.

China

  • China to shut down North Korean companies (BBC News)  China has told North Korean companies operating in its territory to close down as it implements United Nations sanctions against the reclusive state.  The companies will be shut by early January. Joint Chinese and North Korean ventures will also be forced to close.

China, Pyongyang's only major ally, has already banned textile trade and limited oil exports.

The move is part of an international response to North Korea's sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

Australia

Australia has one of the longest histories of continuous human occupation outside Africa. But who exactly were the first people to settle there? Such a question has obvious political implications and has been hotly debated for decades. The first comprehensive genomic study of Aboriginal Australians reveals that they are indeed the direct descendants of Australia's earliest settlers and diverged from their Papuan neighbors about 37,000 years ago. The study also uncovers several other major findings on early human populations.

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

  • 4 big tax breaks you may lose under GOP tax plan (CNBC)   Only deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations are explicitly protected under the Republican tax plan.  Doubling the standard deduction may help soften the sting of disappearing tax breaks.  Four big tax breaks at risk:

  1. Tax exemption to employee of employer paid health insurance premiums

  2. Health care expenses

  3. Real Estate Taxes

  4. State and Local Taxes

  • What’s Behind the Anti-Fiduciary Mindset? (Advisor Perspectives)  In a recent debate between fiduciary advocate Knut Rostad and fiduciary skeptic Tom Hegna (see a replay of the webinar here and view the post-webinar discussion here), Henga highlighted three points:

  1. In a marketplace with no shortage of fiduciary advisors,consumers are still choosing to take their business to brokers and insurance agents. Who is the government to prevent them from making this choice in the future?

  2. Hegna asserted (without providing any evidence) that fiduciaries are uninterested in serving less wealthy Americans. He told the audience that 45% of Americans have no savings and 80% have less than one year’s income in their portfolio. Without a broker or agent to sell them a product, he said, these unfortunate citizens would get no advice at all.

  3. Hegna rejected the argument that only fiduciaries do what’s best for their clients. 

The United Nations Trade and Development Report 2017 was published last week and carried the sub-title “Beyond Austerity: Towards a Global New Deal”. It is amazing that 9 years after the crisis emerged we are still discussing austerity and its on-going damaging consequences. Effectively the crisis interrupted the neoliberal agenda to increase the incomes shares of the elites at the expense of the workers, with growth being a secondary consideration if at all. Austerity was the means by which the elites could resume this push and used all sorts of depoliticised arguments to make it look as though there was really no choice. They have been spectacularly successful in their quest.

  1. Accountant

  2. Information Technology

  3. Gastroenterologist

  4. Sales Engineer

  5. Technical Writer

  6. Air Traffic Controller

  7. Human Resources Manager

  8. Insurance Sales Agent

  9. Construction Manager

  10. Database Administrator

  • Was Bolivia-Peru the Sunset Land of the Sumerians? (Ancient Origins)  The ancient Sumerians of the southern Tigris-Eu[hrates valley were arguably the first civilization in the world along with Ancient Egypt and the Indus Valley.  They were prodigious navigators and traders from the Mediterranian (to the west) to Mozambique (to the south) and the Indus Valley (to the east).  Archaeological discoveries in the Andes show evidence of Sumarian writing.  This article explores the question that this region of South America might be  Kuga-Ki "the Tin-land country which lies beyond the Upper Sea (or Mediterranean)".  The Sumerians could have reached this region by following the westerly Atlantic currents from Africa to Brazil and then sailed uop the Amazon river to the eastern slopes of the Andes.


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