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What We Read Today 26 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:

  • Mexican President Cancels Trip to Washington

  • There are at Least 391,000 Known Plants in the World and more than 31,000 Have Documented Uses

  • More than 2,000 New Plants have been Discovered Each Year in Past Decade

  • Bullish Arguments for Silver 2017

  • Rise in Income Share for Top 10% Coincides with Decline in Union Membership

  • Which Photo has More People - A Foolish Question

  • How the World Passed a Carbon Threshold and Why It Matters

  • Trump is Violating Anti-Trust Regulation Norms

  • How Much Will trump's Wall Really Cost?

  • Can the U.S. Use a 20% Tariff on Goods from Mexico to Pay for the Wall?

  • California's Drought is Almost Over

  • Trump Foreign Policy Challenge:  Ukraine Conflict

  • Canada’s Trudeau is Under Fire For His Record on Green Issues

  • Mexican Peso Tumbles to New Low

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Global

  • How the World Passed a Carbon Threshold and Why It Matters (Yale Environment 360)  Last year marked the first time in several million years that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 passed 400 parts per million. By looking at what Earth’s climate was like in previous eras of high CO2 levels, scientists are getting a sobering picture of where we are headed.

U.S.

When the CEOs of Monsanto and Bayer met now-President Donald Trump earlier this month, eager for a nod of assent for their controversial merger into an agrochemical and seed giant, they promised jobs and investment.

Sure enough, a week later, the companies and a Trump spokesman announced that the combined company would create several thousand new U.S. jobs. Trump himself Twitter-touted the companies’ pledge.

But as Trump talked with the CEOs from his perch on Fifth Avenue, antitrust experts shook their heads.

By meeting with the CEOs of Monsanto and Bayer as well as the head of AT&T, which is trying to merge with Time Warner, Trump has violated decades of White House practice by injecting himself directly into mergers awaiting Justice Department review.

  •  How Much Will Trump's Wall Really Cost? (Investopedia)  On Jan. 25, President Trump issued an executive order establishing plans for the construction of this wall, which he maintains will be paid for "100%" by Mexico. The following day, on Jan. 26, Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer announced that Trump intended to propose funding the wall by imposing a 20% tax on all imports to Mexico.  A 2000-mile wall will require financial backing, and aside from all of the potential political fallout which may occur between the United States and its southern neighbor over such an undertaking, many people on both sides of the political aisle are wondering exactly how much such a project will cost.  Other estimates are much higher than Trump's.  On Jan. 26, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he put the estimate at $12-$25 billion.

  • California's drought is almost over (CNN)   A series of potent winter storms that lashed Northern, and more recently Southern California, has erased the worst of the long-term drought that plagued the Golden State for three years.  For the first time in 36 months, the US Drought Monitor report issued Thursday does not show any part of California in deep red, which denotes its highest designation, "Exceptional Drought."  In addition to bringing abundant rainfall to flow into area lakes and reservoirs, these storms have dumped historical amounts of snow in the Sierra Nevadas, a boon to local ski resorts, which have suffered for several years with below-average snowfall.

  • Which Photo has More People? (Twitter)  Has anyone determined how many Trump voters think a silly question deserves a silly answer?  15?

which.photo.more.people

With the Russian-backed separatist conflict still simmering in eastern Ukraine, the pro-West government in Kiev fears that a Donald Trump administration will use it as a bargaining tool to achieve the improvement of relations with Moscow the president-elect has said he seeks. While his campaign and post-election comments have been unclear, Trump has also indicated he is less concerned with forcing Russia to give up the Ukranian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which it invaded and annexed in 2014, than the Obama administration and U.S. allies in Europe.

Trump has questioned sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine as harmful to U.S. businesses.  While U.S. and European sanctions have been reauthorized, at least through the first half of 2017, a weakening of European resolve is likely if the new administration indicates a reluctance to keep them in force. Trump’s first fight over Ukraine, however, is more likely to come in the U.S. Congress, where there is strong bilateral opposition to Russia’s actions there.

conflict.in.ukraine.map

Canada

  • Canada’s Trudeau is Under Fire For His Record on Green Issues (Yale Environment 360)  After 10 years of a fossil-fuel friendly Conservative government, many Canadians welcomed the election of Justin Trudeau as prime minister. But Trudeau’s decisions to approve two oil pipelines and a major gas facility have left some questioning just how green the new leader really is.

Mexico

  • Mexican president cancels meeting with Trump (CNN)  Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Thursday canceled a meeting with US President Donald Trump that had been set for next week after renewed tensions erupted over Trump's plan to build a wall on the border.  "This morning we have informed the White House that I will not attend the meeting scheduled for next Tuesday with the POTUS," Peña Nieto tweeted.  Earlier Thursday morning, Trump had tweeted that it would be better to skip the meeting if Peña Nieto continued to insist Mexico would not pay for the wall -- something the Mexican leader had said as recently as Wednesday evening.

  • The peso is tumbling after Mexico's president said he wouldn't meet with Trump (Business Insider)

dollar.peso.2016.2017.jan.26

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

  • State of the World's Plants 2016 (Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew)  There are an estimated 391,000 vascular plants known to science and 369,000 are flowering.  There have been more than 2,000 new plants added to the total every year for the last decade, approximately 1/4 coming from the three countries Australia, Brazil, and China.  At least 31,128 plants have been documented with a use.  Common usages are shown in the graphic below (some plants have more than one use):

plant.uses.documented

  • Silver appears undervalued particularly relative to gold.

  • The price of silver should rise in conjunction with gold as the fundamentals for precious metals improve as the Trump trade fades.

  • These fundamentals include growing economic and geopolitical uncertainty globally.

  • Conversely because of its dual use as an industrial metal, demand will grow if Trump’s fiscal policies spark greater economic growth.

  • Silver is expected to record another supply deficit in 2017, causing prices to rise as demand grows.

  • 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:

Productivity has increased at a relatively consistent rate since 1948. But the wages of American workers have not, since the 1970s, kept up with this rising productivity. Worker hourly compensation has flat-lined since the mid-1970s, increasing just 15.5 percent from 1979 to 2013, while worker productivity has increased 132.8 percent over the same time period.  Coincidentally, labor union membership has dropped from about 26% of of the labor force to 11% over the same interval.

Source: Economic Policy Institute analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bureau of Economic Analysis data, January 2015.


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