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What We Read Today 24 January 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:

  • Laws Proposed in Eight States to Criminalize Peaceful Protests

  • The U.S. Auto Industry Would Be Hard Hit by NAFTA Withdrawal

  • Models Used for Business and Infrastructure Funding Exacerbate Inequality

  • More Data on the Growth of U.S. Wage Inequality

  • American Carnage is Real - But It is Not Murder

  • Births Outside of Marriage for Select Countries

  • Eight Ways President Trump is Making History

  • Trump Bans Government Agencies from Talking to Congress and the Public

  • Trump Executive Orders Back Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines

  • Paul Ryan Says There is No Evidence of Mass Voter Fraud Claimed by Trump

  • Some States Depend on Mexico and Canada for 5-8% of GDP

  • Trump's ‘Buy American and Hire American’ May Hit Indian Stock and Weaken Rupee 

  • Massive Bond Rally in Brazil in 2016

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Global

U.S.

  • Eight ways President Donald Trump will make history (BBC New)  Donald Trump is guaranteed to make history as the 45th president of the United States.  And whether you love or loathe him, it's a fact that the Republican will set a range of records as soon as he occupies the Oval Office:

  1. Oldest incoming president

  2. First billionaire president

  3. Richest cabinet

  4. Least experienced politically

  5. Most powerful children

  6. Fewest White House pets

  7. Most adamantly anti free-trade

  8. Many First Lady firsts

For every American president, the challenge of foreign policy boils down to a single word: intervention.

Where, when and how should the United States intervene in the affairs of other countries? Do we more effectively shape the world by setting out to redeem and pacify it, or by tending to our own affairs and allowing other countries to work out their own destinies?

Past presidents had to face these questions as they decided whether to intervene in countries from Cuba to Vietnam to Iraq. President Trump must decide how aggressively he will intervene to shape events in the Middle East, Central Europe and East Asia.

Members of Congress will try to push him in various directions. But although these debates will be intense, no argument on either side will be new. For more than a century, every debate over foreign intervention has been repetition. All are pale shadows of the first one.

  • Trump bans EPA employees from giving social media updates (The Hill)  Government agencies are being cut off from the public.  President Trump has banned employees of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from giving social media updates and speaking with reporters, according to The Associated Press. The EPA ban comes amid other reports of agency staff being restricted from interacting the members of the Congress or the general public.  BuzzFeed reported Tuesday that the Department of Agriculture instituted a similar ban, telling its employees not to distribute information about research papers or to post on Twitter under the agency's name. A Tuesday report in The Huffington Post said agency employees under the Department of Health and Human Services were told not to speak to public officials.  White House spokesman Sean Spicer declined to comment on the reports, saying that he wasn't familiar yet with the specific reported bans. But Spicer said it was natural for a new administration to reconsider agency operations. 

  • 2016 Marked Best Year for Sales in a Decade (Realtor Mag)   Existing-home sales finished out 2016 as the best year since the housing boom days, the National Association of REALTORS® reported Tuesday. Total existing-home sales – which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops – closed 2016 at 5.45 million sales, surpassing 2015 (5.25 million). It was the highest total for existing-home sales since 2006 (6.48 million), NAR reported. 

By Region

Here’s a closer look at how existing-home sales performed in December across the country:  

  • Northeast: existing-home sales decreased 6.2 percent to an annual rate of 760,000, but remain 2.7 percent above a year ago. Median price: $245,900, which is 3.8 percent below December 2015. 

  • Midwest: existing-home sales fell 3.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.28 million in December, but remain 2.4 percent above a year ago. Median price: $178,400, up 4.6 percent from a year ago.


  • South: existing-home sales were unchanged from November, remaining at an annual rate of 2.25 million. Sales are now 0.4 percent above a year ago. Median price: $207,600, up 6.5 percent from a year ago.
       

  • West: existing-home sales dropped 4.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.20 million in December, and are now 1.6 percent below a year ago. Median price: $341,000, up 6 percent from December 2015.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

  • Trump backs Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines (BBC News)   US President Donald Trump has infuriated environmentalists by signing executive orders that support two controversial oil pipelines.  The new Republican president backed the Keystone XL and Dakota Access projects, provided American steel is used.  The Obama administration in late 2015 halted Keystone, which would carry crude from Canada to Texas.  The Army decided last year to explore other routes for the Dakota pipeline amid huge protests by Native Americans.

  • Ryan: ‘No evidence’ of mass voter fraud as Trump claimed (The Hill)   House Speaker Paul Ryan reiterated Tuesday that he’s seen “no evidence” of rampant voter fraud during the 2016 election.  The Wisconsin Republican’s remarks came one day after President Donald Trump told Ryan and other congressional leaders during a private White House meeting that he lost the popular vote only because 3 million to 5 million “illegals” voted. Ryan told reporters at the Capitol, reiterating his position on Trump’s claim of mass voter fraud:

  “I’ve seen no evidence to that effect. I’ve made that very, very clear.” 

India

  • Trump’s ‘Buy American and Hire American’ may hit stock markets, weaken rupee (The Economic Times)  US President Donald Trump's 'Buy American and Hire American' slogan may rock the markets and weaken the rupee as his relentlessly protectionist rhetoric shows no signs of being muted by ascent to office. The rupee could plumb new lows of 70 against the dollar in the next few months, experts estimated. Trump's quest for a strong dollar and relative declines in the Chinese yuan could undermine the rupee, sending it down by as much as 3% to the greenback as the 45th president vows to push the sluggish US economy to grow faster. Domestic events such as the February 1 budget and the state elections are being keenly watched and could fuel the uncertainty, depending on how they're received. 

Japan

  • Female Labor Force Participation (The Daily Shot)  The rise in female labor force participation has helped ease some (though not all) of the labor shortages. With a labor force participation rate near 80% a further increase will be difficult to achieve.

  • Brazil 10-Year Bond Rally (The Daily Shot)  Brazil’s 10yr government bond yield fell below 11% for the first time since 2014.

Mexico

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

... in states home to dozens of Saturday’s demonstrations, Republican lawmakers are moving to criminalize and increase penalties on peaceful protesting.

Last week, I reported that such efforts were afoot in five states: In Minnesota, Washington state, Michigan, and Iowa, Republican lawmakers have proposed an array of anti-protesting laws that center on stiffening penalties for demonstrators who block traffic; in North Dakota, conservatives are even pushing a bill that would allow motorists to run over and kill protesters so long as the collision was accidental. Similarly, Republicans in Indiana last week prompted uproar over a proposed law that would instruct police to use “any means necessary” to clear protesters off a roadway.

Over the weekend, readers alerted me to two additional anti-protesting bills, both introduced by Republicans, that are pending in Virginia and Colorado. This brings the number of states that have in recent weeks floated such proposals to at least eight.

  • Dealing With the NAFTA Math (Wards Auto)  President Trump has said he will try to renegotiate NAFTA, perhaps even pulling the U.S. out of the three-nation trade agreement. Such a development would cause some very problematic issues for automotive companies with plants and suppliers in Canada and Mexico.  Automakers with vehicles being made in Mexico that need to be delivered back to the U.S. would be especially hard hit. Trump also is taking the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade agreement signed last year that helps keep Detroit Three products made in the U.S. competitive in overseas markets.

  • How can we stop our economic models from exacerbating inequality?  (betterworkingworld.ey.com)

Firstly, it’s acknowledged that inequality is bad for countries and their economies. When wealth is concentrated, it narrows the number of parties actively involved in decision-making and investment, so reducing overall economic activity. Inequality skews political process and societal decision-making, and increases the likelihood that more people will be dependent on government services.

Secondly, and more simply, it reduces the opportunity for people to play a part in the world around them. When people feel that their voice and their right to play a part in improving their situation is taken away, they will tend to look for opportunities to find it another way, either through active involvement in the political process, or, in extreme cases, via direct action – as Louis XVI discovered to his great misfortune. 

Today’s standardized business models and infrastructure funding mechanisms can often unwittingly entrench the very inequality they seek to alleviate. While new infrastructure projects should increase the pace of development and narrow the widening inequality gap, they’re often not funded fairly, which can place an unfair burden on the poorest of society.

  • American Carnage' Is Real (Bloomberg)  This Op Ed compares the number of deaths from "carnage" in the U.S. and the historical trends.  Excerpt:

You've heard about the "American carnage." But how bad is it out there, really?

Pretty horrible, actually.

I am referring of course to what was probably the most memorable phrase in President Donald Trump's inaugural address.

murder.us.1950.2016

american.carnage.1999.2016

  • Income Inequality (inequality.org)  Income includes the revenue streams from wages, salaries, interest on a savings account, dividends from shares of stock, rent, and profits from selling something for more than you paid for it. Income inequality refers to the extent to which income is distributed in an uneven manner among a population. In the United States, income inequality, or the gap between the rich and everyone else, has been growing markedly, by every major statistical measure, for some 30 years.  Since the early 1980s the nature of income distribution in the American economy has drastically changed:

Wages in the United States, after taking inflation into account, have been stagnating for more than three decades. Typical American workers and the nation’s lowest-wage workers have seen little or no growth in their real weekly wages.

 
Source: A look at pay at the top, the bottom, and in between, Spotlight on Statistics, Page 2, U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015.


Source: Economic Policy Institute analysis of Kopczuk, Saez and Song (2010) and Social Security Administration wage statistics, November 2015.


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