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What We Read Today 10 January 2018

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 Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published Monday through Friday in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


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

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Topics today include:

  • ​Scientists Expect Chocolate to Go Extinct by 2050

  • Smoking Is Way Down in the U.S., but Not for People with Mental Illness

  • Credit Card Debt Hits All Time High As Consumers Unleash Historic Shopping Spree

  • Pension plan funding levels rose in 2017

  • The Most Important Chart on Investing You’ll Ever See

  • Weird “Tubes” on Mars Are Probably Not Signs of Life

  • Trump Administration Says New Drilling Won’t Be Allowed Off Florida Coast

  • Florida decision puts Trump drilling plan on shaky ground

  • Trump: ‘Sneaky’ Feinstein must be primaried for releasing Fusion GPS transcript

  • Trump Lawyer Files Defamation Suit Against Buzzfeed, Fusion GPS Over Dossier

  • I’m Proud We Published the Trump-Russia Dossier

  • Top 10 Revelations From Leaked Fusion GPS Testimony

  • Trump says DACA ruling reflects 'broken' court system

  • Wolff’s Trump Book Highlights White House Press Corps’ Access Trap

  • "Fire and Fury": A Book Review

  • The Future of Welfare:  Basic Income?

  • Ahed Tamimi Offers Israelis a Lesson Worthy of Gandhi

  • Ahed Tamimi case is about child exploitation by anti-Israel activists

  • Ahed Tamimi - Living Resistance Tour

  • Fabricating a War on Iran

  • The Bomb That Went Off Twice

  • Canadian Research Adds to Worry Over an Environmental Threat the Pentagon Has Downplayed for Decades

  • A Conceptual Model of Fate and Transport Processes for RDX Deposited to Surface Soils of North American Active Demolition Sites

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world




The Trump administration told Florida’s governor it won’t consider new oil and gas drilling off the state’s coast, backtracking on plans to expand offshore drilling all around the U.S. and bowing to pressure from fellow Republicans in the state.

The move is a crack in a five-year drilling plan the Interior Department announced just last week, one already under fire from leaders of both political parties from most coastal states.

  • Trump: ‘Sneaky’ Feinstein must be primaried for releasing Fusion GPS transcript (The Hill)  President Trump lashed out at Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Wednesday for unilaterally releasing the full transcript an interview between congressional investigators and the founder of the opposition research firm that commissioned a controversial dossier on the president during the 2016 presidential race.  In a tweet, Trump described the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee as “sneaky” and said her release of the more than 300-pages of interview transcripts between Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson and Senate Judiciary Committee lawmakers and lawyers might be “illegal.”  The president also called for Feinstein to face a primary challenge in her reelection campaign in 2018.

Exactly one year ago BuzzFeed published what’s now known simply as “the dossier”: a set of reports put together by a former British intelligence officer named Christopher Steele during the 2016 presidential campaign. The 35-page dossier suggested that the Russian government had both compromised and colluded with President-elect Donald Trump.

Our choice to publish the dossier was greeted by outrage from two sources. Journalistic traditionalists didn’t like the idea of sharing an unfiltered, unverified document with the public, whatever the caveats and context. NBC’s Chuck Todd told me on air, “You just published fake news.” Mr. Trump agreed. He described CNN’s reporting on the dossier as “fake news” and called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage.”

But a year of government inquiries and blockbuster journalism has made clear that the dossier is unquestionably real news. That’s a fact that has been tacitly acknowledged even by those who opposed our decision to publish. It has helped journalists explain to their audience the investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election. And Mr. Trump and his allies have seized on the dossier in their efforts to discredit the special counsel leading the investigation, Robert Mueller.

Without the dossier, Americans would have found it difficult to understand the actions of their elected representatives and government officials. Their posture toward Mr. Trump was, we now know even more comprehensively than we did in January 2017, shaped by Mr. Steele’s report. The Russia investigation, meanwhile, didn’t turn out to be some minor side story but instead the central challenge to Mr. Trump’s presidency.

  • Top 10 Revelations From Leaked Fusion GPS Testimony (Zero Hedge)  After Senator Dianne Feinstein leaked the transcripts of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson's Congressional testimony - tainting every single witness from here on out who can now corroborate their testimony, some interesting findings have come to light after parsing through the 312-page document. Among these revelations are apparent infiltrations of the Trump campaign by the FBI as early as the beginning of 2016.

  • Trump says DACA ruling reflects 'broken' court system (The Hill)  President Trump blasted a federal court decision preventing the administration from winding down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, his latest attack on the U.S. legal system.  Trump tweeted:

“It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA) always runs to the 9th Circuit and almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts.” 

  • Wolff’s Trump Book Highlights White House Press Corps’ Access Trap (FAIR)  Hat tip to Surly1, Doomstead Diner Daily.  See also next article. There’s an old adage in journalism: The most interesting stories aren’t told in the newsroom, they’re the ones that reporters tell each other privately at the bar after work. Shrinking this gap—between what reporters know and what they are allowed to tell the public—amounted to Nick Denton’s founding ethos for his former website Gawker. And it increasingly looks like media gadfly Michael Wolff followed the very same strategy for Fire and Fury, his new, behind-the-scenes account of the chaos, incompetence and dishonesty of the Trump White House.  See also "Fire and Fury": A Book Review.

  • Trump says he'll take a 'strong look' at libel laws in response to book (The Hill)  President Trump said Wednesday he will take a “strong look” at the nation’s libel laws following the publication of Michael Wolff’s book that paints a chaotic and dysfunctional picture of his presidency.  Speaking from a prepared statement before a Cabinet meeting, Trump blasted the current laws as “a sham and a disgrace.”  He told reporters:

“Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values and American fairness.  We're going to take a very, very strong look at that.”


Click for large image.


Click for large image.


  • Ahed Tamimi Offers Israelis a Lesson Worthy of Gandhi (CounterPunch)  See also next two articles. Sixteen-year-old Ahed Tamimi was charged last week with assault and incitement after she slapped two heavily armed Israeli soldiers as they refused to leave the courtyard of her family home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. Her mother, Nariman, is in detention for filming the incident. The video quickly went viral.  Ahed lashed out shortly after soldiers nearby shot her 15-year-old cousin in the face, seriously injuring him.

Ahed Tamimi may not be what Israelis had in mind when, over many years, they criticised Palestinians for not producing a Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela.

Eventually, colonised peoples bring to the fore a figure best suited to challenge the rotten values at the core of the society oppressing them. Ahed is well qualified for the task.

The children are used to try to provoke Israeli Border Police and soldiers. If the provocation is successful, which it almost never is, they get a photo of an Israeli being brutal towards a child. In almost every case, though, there is no reaction from the soldiers, so the video and photos are spun as reflecting “brave” Palestinian children and the “weak” Israeli soldiers.

The Tamimis are experts at manipulating images and press coverage of these child demonstrators.

  • Ahed Tamimi - Living Resistance Tour (YouTube)  16 year old Ahed Tamimi reveals life under occupation in the village of Nabi Saleh in Palestine. This video was screened as part of the FOSNA Living Resistance Tour when Ahed was effectively denied a travel visa to speak in person.


  • Fabricating a War on Iran (CounterPunch)  This article compares the U.S. actions leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 with the current American posture toward Iran.


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

  • Scientists Expect Chocolate to Go Extinct by 2050 (Food & Wine)  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a dire warning for chocolate lovers:  Cacao plants are likely to go extinct as early as 2050 due to climate change.  Scientists are racing to find genetic modifications that could save the plant:

A new effort the University of California Berkeley, however, is using CRISPR technology to modify the DNA of the cacao plants, according to the Independent. Hopefully, the genetically modified plants will be able to survive rising temperatures and farms won’t have to be relocated to higher elevations.

NOAA’s report states that climate change will affect not the current generation of cacao plants, but the next one, meaning that, “there is time for adaptation.” But the outlook still seems dire: NOAA warns that 89.5% of land currently used to cultivate cacao will no longer be suitable by 2050. The agency recommends focusing on farming specific breeds of cacao seeds that are resistant to drought and supporting more efforts to grow cacao seeds using a traditional Brazilian method called cabruca, in which additional trees are planted in the rainforest to provide cacao trees with shade—a critical element the seeds need to survive.

  • Smoking Is Way Down in the U.S., but Not for People with Mental Illness (Scientific American)  The percentage of American adults who smoke cigarettes dropped from 42% in 1965 to 15% in 2015, according to government statistics. But smoking rates remain high among people with mental illness. Recent surveys have found that over 30% of adults with mental illness smoked cigarettes in the last month.  That’s one reason they tend to suffer from poorer health and die younger

  • Credit Card Debt Hits All Time High As Consumers Unleash Historic Shopping Spree (Zero Hedge)  In the month of November, between revolving, or credit card, and non-revolving debt, largely student and auto loans, according to the latest Fed data, total consumer debt rose by $28 billion, or the most since November 2001, to $3.827 trillion, an annualized increase of 8.8%, or roughly 4 times faster than the pace of overall GDP growth.  First graphic below.  Consumer credit rose by $11.2 billion in revolving credit, or credit card debt, which pushed it a record $1.023 trillion, the highest credit card amount outstanding on record. This was also the second highest monthly increase in credit card debt on record.  See second graphic below.

  • Pension plan funding levels rose in 2017 (Employee Benefit Adviser)  The nation’s largest pension plans showed modest gains in 2017, driven by a roaring stock market and larger employer contributions. The aggregate pension funded status is estimated to be 83% at the end of 2017, compared with 81% at the end of 2016, according to analysis conducted by Willis Towers Watson.

The pension deficit is projected to have decreased to $292 billion at the end of 2017, compared with a $317 billion deficit by the close of 2016. Pension plan assets rose from $1.33 trillion at the end of 2016 to an estimated $1.43 trillion at the end of last year.

  • The Most Important Chart on Investing You’ll Ever See (Edelman Financial Services)  Here is a basic truth: stock prices rise and fall.  But this chart clearly shows that when stock prices are rising, they rise a lot and for a long time.  When prices fall, they fall a little and for a short period.  This explains the real reason why the stock market is able to exist.

Click for larger image.

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