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What We Read Today 09 April 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:

  • At least 1 top Republican in Congress really likes IRS chief

  • The Fed's balance sheet new frontier: What happens, why it matters and what could go wrong

  • Inflation Has Started Eating Up American Workers’ Raises

  • California Governor Declares End to Drought Emergency

  • Administration is "partially to blame" for Syria chemical attack, McCain says 

  • McFarland to Exit White House as McMaster Consolidates Power

  • Battle over sanctuary cities escalating

  • Top Trump officials turn up heat on Russia

  • These Chinese-backed start-ups are gearing up to challenge Tesla

  • US Department of Labor accuses Google of underpaying women

  • Message from Australia:  Low Interest Rates Cause Housing Bubbles

  • The Three Things Humanity Will Need To Settle Mars

  • How Dangerous is a Trip to Mars?

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

U.S.

  • McFarland to Exit White House as McMaster Consolidates Power (BloombergMSNBC News)  White House staff shake uops continue.  K. T. McFarland has been asked to step down as deputy National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump after less than three months and is expected to be nominated as ambassador to Singapore, according to a person familiar with White House personnel moves.  The departure of the 65-year-old former Fox News commentator comes as Trump’s second National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, puts his own stamp on the National Security Council after taking over in February from retired General Michael Flynn.

  • Administration is "partially to blame" for Syria chemical attack, McCain says (CBS NewsMSNBC News)  Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said comments made by people in President Donald Trump’s administration are “partially to blame” for encouraging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s apparent use of chemical weapons on his people last week.  McCain responded to remarks that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made at the end of March, before the attack, including comments that the Syrian people would determine Assad’s fate, and that removing him from power isn’t a top priority.

  • Battle over sanctuary cities escalating (The Hill)  Immigration hardliners are threatening to hold potentially billions of dollars in state grants hostage as they seek to compel so-called sanctuary cities to cooperate with federal law enforcement officials.

Legislators in 33 states have introduced measures to limit or prevent cities from acting as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. Only one state this year, Mississippi, has enacted a ban on sanctuary jurisdictions, but several others, including Texas, Indiana, Iowa, Florida and Georgia, are advancing their own bills.

Sanctuary cities and counties often defy requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to hold undocumented immigrants so they can be picked up later for deportation. While there is no technical legal definition of a sanctuary city, many of the bills under consideration would require cities to swear under penalty of perjury that they comply with federal detainer requests.

  • At least 1 top Republican in Congress really likes IRS chief (The Washington Post)  At least one powerful Republican in Congress really likes IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Utah’s Orrin Hatch might be the only one.  Hatch gave Koskinen a warm welcome at a Senate hearing Thursday, a day after House Republicans asked President Donald Trump to fire him:

On Wednesday, 15 GOP members of the House Ways and Means Committee said trust in the IRS has hit rock bottom. They said that under Koskinen, the IRS destroyed evidence when Congress was investigating the tax agency for inappropriately singling out conservative groups for extra scrutiny.

“He also misled Congress in the process, intentionally degraded customer service at the agency, and has since lost the trust of the American people,” the committee members wrote.

bomb.vs.pipes

  • California Governor Declares End to Drought Emergency (NBC News)  One of the worst droughts in California history has officially ended, Governor Jerry Brown declared on Friday, but not before it strained the state's farm economy and threatened water supplies for millions of residents.

Months of drenching storms and melting snowpack have replenished reservoirs, which began drying up in late 2011. That allowed Brown to lift most stipulations of an emergency order he implemented in January 2014, about two years after the conditions crossed the line into drought.

Brown also said the need for conservation continued. Officials will still require some long-term water-use limits imposed last year and are developing water preservation standards for urban agencies. 

Russia

  • Top Trump officials turn up heat on Russia (The Hill)  Top Trump officials on Sunday turned up the heat on Russia following the deadly chemical attack last week in Syria.  Members of Trump's administration questioned Russia's commitment to past chemical weapons agreements and stressed that the U.S. will not let Russia cover for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.  The U.S. launched a missile strike on a Syrian air base last week in retaliation for a chemical attack that killed civilians in northern Syria, which the U.S. has blamed on Assad’s forces.  On Sunday, members of Trump’s administration trained their fire on Moscow, which has been an ally to Assad in the country’s brutal civil war.

China

  • Tillerson: China agrees on 'action' on North Korea as navy strike group sails (The Guardian)  As the US navy deployed a strike group towards the western Pacific Ocean, to provide a presence near the Korean peninsula, the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said China agreed with the Trump administration that “action has to be taken” regarding North Korea.  Tillerson told CBS’s Face the Nation, in an interview broadcast on Sunday, that when Donald Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping met at the Mar-a-Lago resort this week, they “had extensive discussions around the dangerous situation in North Korea”.

  • These Chinese-backed start-ups are gearing up to challenge Tesla (CNBC)  The electric vehicle market is currently dominated by Tesla Motors, which reached a market cap this week of $48 billion. But as EV sales grow (Tesla pulled in more than $7 billion in revenue last year and just had its best quarter) there are several EV start-ups aiming to catch Elon Musk's EV company, and they share a common source of support: Chinese investors.  Chinese venture capital investors have poured more than $1.4 billion into electric vehicle and battery start-ups in the past three years, according to PitchBook, compared to $2.1 billion in total global venture capital funding for the sector. Jeff Schuster, senior vice president at LMC Automotive, an automotive production and sales forecasting company, said:

"Tesla has a target on its back, not only from traditional automakers but also these start-ups.  But it'll be a challenge. Tesla now has critical mass and funding."

Australia

australian.interest.rates.2017.apr.07

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

The Fed's balance sheet new frontier: What happens, why it matters and what could go wrong (CNBC)  One of the things that could go wrong when the Fed starts selling treasuries and MBS (mortgage backed securities) to reduce the assets on its balance sheet:  Interest rates could rise a lot faster than everyone is expecting.  As the reduction of securities held by the Fed occurs, the result will be less mosney in the privare sector economy than would have otherwise been there.  If something becomes scarcer, in this case money, the price goes up (hogher interest rates). Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, puts it this way:

"I have a bridge to sell you if you think a rate hike cycle combined with a shrinking balance sheet will go smoothly.  If the exit process ends up turning messy — defined as a recession and bear market in stocks — was all this easing worth it? Be bullish if you think both news stories will turn out just fine. Be very worried if they don't."

US Department of Labor accuses Google of underpaying women (PC World)  The U.S. Department of Labor says Google discriminates against female employees in pay at a level that's even worse than the tech industry as a whole.  The department has found "systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce," Labor Department Regional Director Janette Wipper testified in a court in San Francisco on Friday. Janet Herold, the department's regional solicitor, told The Guardian that pay discrimination against women was extreme.  For more, see Google accused of 'extreme' gender pay discrimination by US labor department (The Guardian).

The Three Things Humanity Will Need To Settle Mars (Vocativ)  Just sending a few humans to visit Mars is a multi-billion-dollar endeavor, and the task of establishing full-blown settlements on Mars would make such missions look like nothing. As NASA planetary scientist Philip Metzger explained at a recent conference, setting up shop on other worlds require building the infrastructure to support it, and there are three particular technologies he said humanity would need to master first.  Of the three Metzger named, only the first — mining asteroids —actually involves venturing much beyond Earth. The ideas are about building a space-based economy that would create the supply chain to support mass migration to Mars. Space travel is expensive, impossibly so at the kind of levels a Martian settlement demands. He argued it needs new technologies to make it viable, just as developments like email and later Facebook did for the internet.  See also These three "killer apps" could help humans colonize Mars (CBS News)

  1. Mining asteroids for propellant

  2. 3D-printed space antennas

  3. Beaming clean power to Earth

How Dangerous is Deep Space Travel to Mars and Beyond? (Curous DroidYouTube)  

NASA has a mission protocol which says that if a Low Earth Orbit mission increases the lifetime risk of the crew getting cancer by more than 3% they won’t go ahead with it but the upcoming mars missions may expose the crews to levels that would be beyond that limit and other hazards, so how dangerous is deep space travel to Mars and beyond.  

With Elon Musk pushing to get men on Mars by the mid 2020’s and NASA looking to do the same for the 2030’s, just how much have we learned since Apollo and from the space stations.
50 years on from the beginning of the Apollo missions and we have yet to send any man back to the moon let alone on the much more arduous journey to our nearest viable planet Mars.

Inflation Has Started Eating Up American Workers’ Raises (Slate)  Over the past year, average hourly wages for American workers have risen by roughly 2.7%, according to the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pay has been rising pretty steadily at this pace since roughly last July—which would seem like a definite improvement from the days of 2013 and 2014 when wage growth hovered around 2%.  See first graph below.  But, adjusted for inflation, February data shows wages basically didn't rise at all.  For a long while, pay edged up slowly, but rock-bottom inflation meant workers were still seeing their compensation increase in real terms. Now, rising prices seem to be eating up raises entirely.  See second graph below.


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