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What We Read Today 27 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".).


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

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Topics today include:

  • 21% of Plants in the World are Threatened with Extinction

  • With the Rise of Trump, Is It Game Over for the Climate Fight?

  • After Scientist Tyrone Hayes Published Research Showing a Chemical was Harmful, Its Maker Pursued Him 

  • Will 'Frog in the Wetland' Replace 'Canary in the Coal Mine'?

  • Real Hourly Compensation Has Risen 12% since 1972; Productivity has Risen 143%

  • Has Donald Trump Blown Up the U.S. Mexican Relationship?

  • Trump and Pena Nieto Have 1 Hour Phone Call

  • Mexican Peso Rises 1.6% vs U.S. Dollar

  • Journalists Covering Violent Protests Charged with Felonies

  • First Sanctuary City Caves In to Trump

  • Sanctuary Cities See Legal Holes in Trump's Orders

  • Trump Budget Pick Seeks to Urgent Action to Cut 'Entitlements'

  • Orwell's "1984" and Trump's America 

  • Trump's Issue:  China and Trade

  • U.S. Women Falling Behind in Global Employment

  • Russian Parliament Votes to Decriminalize Domestic Violence

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


This depressing episode confirms several of the worst fears about Trump. The first is that he is not a good negotiator. Rather than waiting a week before he issued his executive orders on immigration, Trump signed them at a moment that maximally embarrassed Videgaray, the Mexican official who is the most sympathetic to him. The moves left the unpopular Peña Nieto with no choice but to cancel next week’s visit, and poisoned the relationship with one of America’s closest allies and our third-largest trading partner.

  • Journalists at Inaugural protests charged with felonies (USA Today)   Six journalists await their legal fates after they were among the 230 people charged with rioting during the Inauguration Day events in downtown Washington.  The felony charge of "Rioting or inciting to riot", carries the potential for 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. The six were released the following day, each with preliminary hearings scheduled within the next two months.  All were near the #DisruptJ20 protests on the streets not far from where — and at about the same time as — President Trump was being inaugurated Jan. 20 at the U.S. Capitol. News outlets showed smashed windows in businesses and in vehicles in the area. Police charged those arrested with felony rioting, which is used when there's property damage of $5,000 or more, or serious bodily damage.

  • First 'sanctuary city' caves to Trump demands (USA Today)  Donald Trump is hailing the first victory in his fight against "sanctuary cities" after a South Florida mayor ordered his employees on Thursday to begin working more closely with federal immigration authorities.  For years, Miami-Dade County has refused to hold some undocumented immigrants in its jails for federal immigration agents. But after Trump signed an executive order threatening to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez changed his mind.  Gimenez signed an executive order Thursday ordering the director of his corrections department to begin honoring all requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE) to hold immigration suspects in Miami-Dade County jails.  See also Sanctuary cities see legal holes in Trump's immigration orders (Reuters).

  • Trump budget pick seeks entitlement cuts as urgent step on debt (LifeHealthPro)  President Donald Trump’s pick for budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said Tuesday the nearly $20 trillion national debt needs to be “addressed sooner rather than later” and that he would push Trump to break his campaign promises and cut Social Security and Medicare.  Econintersect:  We would ask Mr. Mulvaney whether he thinks the elastcity of money is a problem.  If he does not understand the question, we would suggest he read Ellen Brown's latest article:  How To Cut Infrastructure Costs In Half.

  • Orwell's "1984" and Trump's America (The New Yorker)  To say the author is not a Trump fan is a ridiculous understaement.  An excerpt:

There is nothing subtle about Trump’s behavior. He lies, he repeats the lie, and his listeners either cower in fear, stammer in disbelief, or try to see how they can turn the lie to their own benefit. Every continental wiseguy, from Žižek to Baudrillard, insisted that when they pulled the full totalitarian wool over our eyes next time, we wouldn’t even know it was happening. Not a bit of it. Trump’s lies, and his urge to tell them, are pure Big Brother crude, however oafish their articulation. They are not postmodern traps and temptations; they are primitive schoolyard taunts and threats.

Donald Trump faces a rising regional power increasingly willing to challenge U.S. military and economic power in the Pacific region. Trump talked tough on China during his presidential run, blaming the country for the loss of American jobs and lobbing accusations of unfair currency manipulation or hostile trade practices. But it was still a shock when Trump broke with decades of precedent by speaking directly with the leader of Taiwan, which China considers a province.

The call last month threatened to reopen a largely dormant ideological fight over self-determination and democracy in the Communist regime. Some in the Chinese leadership who had been confident that they understood Trump’s business-minded approach questioned whether they were dealing with an old-school Republican ideologue. He has hired a stable of trade hawks, suggesting he may be itching for a trade fight. But Trump’s pick for ambassador to Beijing, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, was seen as an olive branch.

  • Prime Age U.S. Women in the Work Force (Economic Policy Institute)  Over the 20 years 1994-2014 the U.S. went from a world-leading 72% of women age 25-54 working to 70% in 2014, trailing the participation rates for Canada, Germany and Japan which have all risen significantly (12%-18%) over the time span

Source: Adapted from Figure F in Josh Bivens et al., It’s time for an ambitious national investment in America’s children, Economic Policy Institute Report, April 6, 2016


  • Trump's hopes for Syria safe zones may force decision on Assad (Reuters)   President Donald Trump's push to create safe zones in Syria could force him to make some risky decisions about how far to go to protect refugees, including shooting down Syrian or Russian aircraft or committing thousands of U.S. troops, experts said.  Trump said on Wednesday he "will absolutely do safe zones in Syria" for refugees fleeing violence. According to a document seen by Reuters, he is expected in the coming days to order the Pentagon and the State Department to draft a plan to create such zones in Syria and nearby nations.

The document did not spell out what would make a safe zone "safe" and whether it would protect refugees only from threats on the ground - such as jihadist fighters - or whether Trump envisions a no-fly zone policed by America and its allies.

If it is a no-fly zone, without negotiating some agreement with Russia Trump would have to decide whether to give the U.S. military the authority to shoot down Syrian or Russian aircraft if they posed a threat to people in that zone, which his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, refused to do.


  • Russia parliament votes 380-3 to decriminalize domestic violence (USA Today)  Russia's parliament voted 380-3 on Friday to decriminalize domestic violence in cases where it does not cause "substantial bodily harm" and does not occur more than once a year.  The move, which eliminates  criminal liability in such cases, makes a violation punishable by a fine of roughly $500, or a 15-day arrest, provided there is no repeat within 12 months.


  • Trump speaks by phone with Mexican president after meeting canceled (USA Today)  President Donald Trump vowed new trade talks with Mexico after a phone conversation Friday with Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto, a day following a dispute over Trump's proposed border wall that caused a rift between their two nations and cancellation of a scheduled meeting between the two leaders.  "We are going to be working on a fair relationship and a new relationship," said Trump, who is pushing for new trade rules with Mexico and insisting that it help finance a wall along the U.S. border, despite the Mexican government's insistence that it would never help finance such a structure.  The two countries issued nearly identical written statements on the call, with one notable exception: The Mexican statement said the two presidents agreed not to discuss the wall financing issue publicly, but the Trump statement did not have such a sentence.  See also Trump has 'friendly' call with Mexican leader but demands change (Reuters).

  • The peso is surging after Trump speaks with Mexico's president (Business Insider)  The Mexican peso is higher by 1.4%, at 20.9218 per dollar, as of 1:37 p.m. ET after The Washington Post reported that US President Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto had an hour-long phone conversation.  The peso was already rising Friday and gained further after news of the phone conversation was released.

Click for larger image.

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.  But about 82,000 of the known plants species are endangered (first graphic below).  A contributor to endangered status is deforestation (second graphic below) and ground cover alterations by man (third graphic below).



  • With the Rise of Trump, Is It Game Over for the Climate Fight?  (Yale Environment 360)  Bill McKibbon, a leading environmental activist, says Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency is a stunning blow to hopes for avoiding the worst impacts of global warming. But a broad-based, grassroots movement committed to cutting emissions and promoting clean energy must continue and intensify – the stakes are simply too high to give up.   Scientists, it turns out, have been much too conservative, and so “ahead of schedule” became the watchword for everything from polar melt to ocean acidification. Already, only 17 years into the millennium, the planet is profoundly changed: half the ice missing from the polar north, for instance, which in turn is shifting weather patterns around the globe. 

  • After scientist Tyrone Hayes said that a chemical was harmful, its maker pursued him (The New Yorker)  Will someday the expression 'Canary in the coal nmine' be replaced with 'Frog in the wetland'?

  • Income Inequality (  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:

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

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