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What We Read Today 12 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.

To become a GEI Member simply subscribe to our FREE daily newsletter.

Topics today include:

  • ​Invest and Profit With the POTUS Indexes

  • A reboot for chronic fatigue syndrome research

  • Biological underpinnings of chronic fatigue syndrome begin to emerge

  • Vital Signs: how likely is another financial crisis? It comes down to what we believe

  • The quantum computing apocalypse is imminent

  • Basic Income Fixes a Measuring Problem

  • Ed Easterling:  Volatility in Perspective

  • Trump Calls Haiti, African Nations ‘Shithole’ Countries

  • Bitcoin Set for Worst Weekly Slide Since 2015 as Scrutiny Rises

  • Hype Meets Reality as Electric Car Dreams Run Into Metal Crunch

  • The Cobalt Cliff, Two Dire Warnings And A Musk Soliloquy

  • ‘Taxpayer Friendly’ IRS Guidance Could Ease Offshore Worries

  • U.S. Supreme Court to Review Bid to Collect Internet Sales Tax

  • Amazon May Have Dropped a Clue About a Likely HQ2 Location

  • Demoralized Trump aides grapple with ‘shithole’-gate

  • Trump responds to s---hole reports: ‘This was not the language used’

  • Retired FBI Agent: The Real Reason Trump’s Lawyers Don’t Want a Mueller Interview

  • Germany edges closer to new coalition

  • Trump Keeps U.S. in Iran Nuclear Deal But Adds New Sanctions

  • Trump Won't Say Whether He Spoke With North Korea's Kim Jong Un

  • China Neck and Neck With Silicon Valley In Showcasing Auto Tech at CES

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Trump Calls Haiti, African Nations ‘Shithole’ Countries (Bloomberg)  President Donald Trump questioned senators in an Oval Office meeting Thursday on why the U.S. accepts immigrants from “shithole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador and African nations rather than places like Norway, according to three people briefed on the conversation.  The White House didn’t dispute the quotations. Asked about the account, White House spokesman Raj Shah said:

“certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.”

  • Bitcoin Set for Worst Weekly Slide Since 2015 as Scrutiny Rises (Bloomberg)  Bitcoin slumped again on Friday, leaving the largest cryptocurrency heading for its worst weekly performance in three years as regulators around the world step up scrutiny out of concerns ranging from investor losses to strains on power systems.  Bitcoin was trading at $13,019 as of 8:24 a.m. Hong Kong time, putting it on track for a 22% slide this week, the deepest since January 2015, according to Bloomberg composite pricing. The token is down about 33% from its mid-December peak, which came just after the introduction of futures trading on regulated exchanges in Chicago.

Click for large image.

  • Hype Meets Reality as Electric Car Dreams Run Into Metal Crunch (Bloomberg)  When BMW AG revealed it was designing electric versions of its X3 SUV and Mini, the going rate for 21 kilograms of cobalt—the amount of the metal needed to power typical car batteries—was under $600.  Only 16 months later, the price tag is approaching $1,700 and climbing by the day.  For carmakers vying to fill their fleets with electric vehicles, the spike has been a rude awakening as to how much their success is riding on the scarce silvery-blue mineral found predominantly in one of the world’s most corrupt and underdeveloped countries.  John Petersen has been posting his discussions of the coming cobalt shortage at LinkedIn (GEI Discussion Group) since March of 2016.  Here is his most recent post: The Cobalt Cliff, Two Dire Warnings And A Musk Soliloquy.



  • ‘Taxpayer Friendly’ IRS Guidance Could Ease Offshore Worries (Wealth Advisor)  Barely a week after President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law, the U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS issued a guidance that could ease the confusion CFOs might have had about how corporations should calculate the act’s “transition tax” on offshore earnings.

  • U.S. Supreme Court to Review Bid to Collect Internet Sales Tax (Bloomberg)  The U.S. Supreme Court will consider freeing state and local governments to collect billions of dollars in sales taxes from online retailers, agreeing to revisit a 26-year-old ruling that has made much of the internet a tax-free zone.  Heeding calls from traditional retailers and dozens of states, the justices said they’ll hear South Dakota’s contention that the 1992 ruling is obsolete in the e-commerce era and should be overturned.

State and local governments could have collected up to $13 billion more in 2017 if they’d been allowed to require sales tax payments from online merchants and other remote sellers, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s non-partisan audit and research agency. Other estimates are even higher. All but five states impose sales taxes.

  • Amazon May Have Dropped a Clue About a Likely HQ2 Location (Fortune)  Amazon is in talks to lease 500,000 square feet of offices in Boston’s Fort Point Channel neighborhood, a hot destination for tech companies, with an option to double the amount of space also being discussed, the Boston Globe reported on Thursday. The search started before Amazon publicly disclosed its HQ2 search, the paper said.

That sounds a lot like the first stage of the plan Amazon laid out for HQ2. Though the second headquarters is ultimately projected to house 50,000 workers in a $5 billion, 8-million square foot campus by 2027, Amazon said the first phase of the project would be to open about 500,000 square feet of space in 2019 in the new city.



  • Germany edges closer to new coalition (Politico)  Germany inched toward installing a new government as Angela Merkel’s conservatives and leaders of the Social Democrats (SPD) reached agreement on the outline of a legislative agenda after marathon talks.  After negotiating non-stop for 24 hours to conclude exploratory talks, the parties agreed on a 28-page position paper, laying out their policy priorities for the coming years.


  • Trump Keeps U.S. in Iran Nuclear Deal But Adds New Sanctions (Bloomberg)  President Donald Trump decided Friday to continue to waive economic sanctions related to the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, leaving the deal intact for now, but issued new sanctions against 14 people and entities involved with the country’s ballistic missile programs and a crackdown on government protesters.

Trump has repeatedly denounced the nuclear agreement negotiated by his predecessor and in October declined to certify that it’s in the interests of the U.S. But he has so far stopped short of pulling the U.S. out of it altogether. Trump said this would be the last time he issues a waiver to maintain the accord, and he bluntly put the onus on European nations to agree to changes.

North Korea


  • China Neck and Neck With Silicon Valley In Showcasing Auto Tech at CES (Bloomberg)  After years of predictions that Chinese technology companies were coming to America, the lineup at this year’s CES (Computer Electronics Show) showed that they’re finally here.  Of the 4,500 exhibitors at the annual event -- a global stage to showcase the latest developments in consumer electronics -- more than a third are from China, according to statistics provided by the organizer. That’s more than any other nation except the U.S., home to the annual gathering in Las Vegas, and even Americans only outnumbered China’s 1,551 exhibitors by about 50 companies.

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

  • Invest and Profit With the POTUS Indexes (Bloomberg)  Barry Ritholtz presents a light-hearted but not entirely silly way to think about stocks in the Trump era, authored one year ago before the Trump innauguration.  Ritholtx created two indexes based on Donald Trump's tweets and other pre-presidential utterances, one group of companies that Trump has expressed approval of in one way or another (Oligarch portfolio).  The second group are companies that Trump has criticized (Drain the Swamp portfolio).  The first graphic below shows the performance of the two portfolios before the innauguration.  The second shows what has happened since.  Click on either graphic for large image.


In five years’ time, researchers should be able to pinpoint specific aberrations in the immune, metabolic, endocrine or nervous systems of people with ME/CFS, and perhaps find genetic predispositions to the condition. These indicators might yield diagnostic tests — and, further down the road, treatments. 

We still don’t know what caused the global financial crisis

  • The quantum computing apocalypse is imminent (Tech Crunch)  According to experts, quantum computers will be able to create breakthroughs in many of the most complicated data processing problems, leading to the development of new medicines, building molecular structures and doing analysis going far beyond the capabilities of today’s binary computers.  They will also greatly enhance the capabilities of hackers.

  • Basic Income Fixes a Measuring Problem (Medium)  Excerpts:

There are some really simple examples of where our system doesn’t work. For example, if I mow my lawn, and you mow your lawn, according to current models, no value has been created. But if I pay you $10 to mow my lawn, and you pay me $10 to mow yours, now we’ve “created $20 worth of economic activity” — according to the models we use to govern almost every aspect of human existence. This is insane. And that’s not even the worst of it.

I think the current economic system — which does not have a basic income — dramatically undervalues all kinds of things humans do. The reason is that our current model says human beings aren’t doing anything valuable unless they are paid.

This is a recipe for a sick society.

Would people do wasteful things with their time, and still get paid? Yes, they would. They are doing that now. The difference is that, with a basic income, we’d stop our economy from saying that the worthless things people have done which get them paid (Donald Trump’s Real Estate School comes to mind) are infinitely more valuable than the many, many valuable things people do for free. 

  • Ed Easterling:  Volatility in Perspective (Crestmont Research)  Ed Easterling has contributed to GEI.  Is the current level of volatility “normal”? If so, it’s a new normal! The purpose of this presentation is to graphically put volatility into historical perspective.  The first look at volatility uses the common measure of standard deviation. For this analysis, the monthly percentage changes in the S&P 500 Index are used and then the result is annualized to reflect a measure of the amount of variability in the market.  See first graph below.  The second graph below is for the VIX Index:

The VIX Index is a forward-looking measure of market volatility. VIX reflects the relative level of option premiums (or prices); it’s a measure of expected future volatility in the market. The index was created in 1990. Prior to 2017 (almost 7,000 trading days), VIX closed below the ultra-low level of 10 on just nine days. During 2017, VIX anchored below 10 on 52 days. That’s 85% of all days below 10 since inception. Further, as shown in Figure 5, VIX struck a new low in 2017 at 9.14. VIX represents another measure of volatility, and it’s a confirmation of the current extreme low level of market volatility.



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