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What We Read Today 06 June 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:

  • Why are analysts crowing about our crummy job market?

  • The Curious Puzzle Of Low Inflation Amid Falling Unemployment

  • 10 best states for job seekers

  • The Giant Footprint of Pingyan: Giant Made or Man Made?

  • Smithsonian Admits to Destruction of Thousands of Giant Human Skeletons in Early 1900’s?

  • Limiting the employer tax exclusion for healthcare Is the wrong idea

  • Potential Lives Saved by Replacing Coal with Solar Photovoltaic Electricity Production in the U.S

  • Bitcoin Hits $2,900

  • Trump's Approval Tops Clinton's 1993 Rating

  • Trump on Comey: 'I wish him luck'

  • Comey Said to Stop Short of Saying Whether Trump Obstructed Justice

  • Climate change progress at Trump's EPA is grinding to a halt, workers reveal

  • Trump's Tweets are 'Official Satements,' Sean Spicer Says, Completely Contradicting White House Aides

  • Cancel Donald Trump state visit, says Sadiq Khan, after London attack tweets

  • US hits Assad-backed fighters near training base in Syria

  • Foreign Relations chairman stunned by Trump's Qatar tweets

  • Trump takes credit for Qatar split

  • Rex Tillerson gets frosty welcome in New Zealand – complete with single finger salutes

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Global

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U.S.

  • Trump's Approval Tops Clinton's 1993 Rating  (NewsWeek)  Different polling firms peg Trump at varying levels of approval, but the RealClearPolitics average had him at 39.8 percent Tuesday while the weighted average from FiveThirtyEight had him at exactly 39 percent. Not great numbers, but still better than Clinton. On day 138 of his presidency, just 37.8 percent of Americans approved of the job he was doing, according to FiveThirtyEight. Clinton is, of course, the husband of Trump's Democratic opponent in the 2016 president election, Hillary Clinton.

If you compare where each president stood at this point in the Gallup tracking poll, however, the two are deadlocked. The most recent Gallup survey pegged Trump's approval at 37 percent, the exact same figure the polling firm found for Clinton in early June of 1993. Trump's disapproval rating in the survey was far higher, however, outpacing Clinton—57 percent to 49 percent—in the undesirable measurement. 

  • Trump on Comey: 'I wish him luck' (The Hill)  President Trump on Tuesday offered a cryptic message for fired FBI Director James Comey ahead of his highly anticipated testimony before Congress.  “I wish him luck,” Trump told reporters at the White House before a meeting with GOP congressional leaders.  The comments were Trump’s first public reaction to Comey’s decision to testify publicly about his interactions with the president.  During a Thursday hearing held by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the former director is expected to dispute the president’s claim that he personally assured him he was not under investigation. 

  • Comey Said to Stop Short of Saying Whether Trump Obstructed Justice (Bloomberg)   Fired FBI Director James Comey will publicly describe conversations with Donald Trump but stop short of saying if he thinks the president sought to obstruct a federal probe of Russia’s role in the 2016 election, according to a person familiar with Comey’s thinking.  Comey will describe in detail many of his interactions with Trump during a closely watched Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday, according to the person. He has already coordinated his testimony with Robert Mueller, another former FBI chief who’s now special counsel in charge of the Russian investigations, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity in advance of the hearing.

  • Climate change progress at Trump's EPA is grinding to a halt, workers reveal (The Guardian)  Current and former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees have described how work on climate change is grinding to a halt at the agency, with programs being scrapped and fears that staff may be reassigned away from climate-related tasks.  The Trump administration is tearing up key planks of Barack Obama’s emissions-lowering agenda, with the president withdrawing the US from the Paris climate agreement last week and tasking the EPA with rewriting the clean power plan, which aims to curb greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants.

Climate work at the EPA is being systematically targeted for elimination, according to Alyssa Hall, who was the climate change adaption coordinator for EPA’s region one, which encompasses New England, until last month.

“I felt like we were being attacked on a daily basis from headquarters. A lot of my projects were being cancelled or postponed indefinitely, so I was left with nothing to do,” Hall told the Guardian.

UK

  • Cancel Donald Trump state visit, says Sadiq Khan, after London attack tweets (The Guardian)  The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, has called on the British government to cancel a planned state visit by Donald Trump after being criticised in two tweets by the US president.  Trump initially criticised Khan for his response to the London Bridge terrorist attack; though, in doing so, he misquoted London’s mayor. Khan’s office pointed out Trump’s error later but the president responded by accusing London’s mayor of making a “pathetic excuse”.  Appearing on Channel 4 News on Monday evening, Khan said Trump was wrong about “many things” and that his state visit should not go ahead.

Syria

  • US hits Assad-backed fighters near training base in Syria (The Hill)  The U.S.-back coalition on Tuesday destroyed equipment belonging to pro-Syrian government fighters after they moved into a de-confliction zone that holds a U.S. training base in southern Syria.  U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement:

“Despite previous warnings, pro-regime forces entered the agreed-upon de-confliction zone with a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons, armed technical vehicles and more than 60 soldiers posing a threat to Coalition and partner forces based at the At Tanf Garrison.” 

Qatar

  • Foreign Relations chairman stunned by Trump's Qatar tweets (The Hill)  See next article.  Told by a reporter that Trump accused Qatar of being a state sponsor of terrorism, Sen. Bob Corker (R, TN) responded, in a notably lower register, “The president?”  Reporters responded yes, and five seconds of silence later, Corker followed up: “When did that occur?”  Corker finally said:

“I, um, I want to go back and see specifically what he has said.  Our position generally as a nation has been that these things ebb and flow and they come up from time to time, but we work with all of the countries.”

  • Trump takes credit for Qatar split (The Hill)  President Trump on Tuesday took credit for four Arab countries’ decision to cut ties with Qatar, suggesting his recent trip to the region was the impetus for their decision:

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New Zealand

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

  • Why are analysts crowing about our crummy job market? (The Week)  Hat tip to Roger Erickson.  Jeff Spross explaons why there is much more slack in the labor force than the statistics indicate.  For a related article see The Curious Puzzle Of Low Inflation Amid Falling Unemployment.

  • 10 best states for job seekers (Employee Benefits Advisor)  A competitive job market often means a higher employee turnover rate, which costs companies time and money. A recent study from WalletHub shows which states have the best job opportunities — insight benefit managers might want to use to beef up offerings to help deter current employees from leaving.  In order to determine the most attractive states for employment, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 24 key indicators of job-market strength, opportunity and economic vitality.  Article has slide show for top ten states for job seekers.  Here are the top three:

  1. Washington

  2. Colorado

  3. New Hampshire

  • The Giant Footprint of Pingyan: Giant Made or Man Made? (Ancient Origins)  Stories and tales about gigantic beings inhabiting the Earth occur in almost all ancient cultures and civilizations. From the Indo-Europeans, to the Greeks, to the Christian Bible, tales of giants have been passed down from generation to generation and these stories still exist in modern day. There has never been any concrete evidence to prove the existence of giants, that is unless you believe the giant footprints that have been found across the globe. Multiple giant footprints have been discovered and are thought to be millions if not billions of years old. To the locals where these footprints can be found they are known as “the footprints of god”. Could the history books and what we know of evolution be wrong?

In August 2016, a giant human-shaped footprint was discovered by a group of photographers in Pingyan village in Guizhou, the southwestern province of China. By the following month numerous websites has published similar stories that contributed to the believability of the account of the giant footprint. The footprint was said to be 57 cm long, 20 cm wide, and 3 cm deep. Found fossilized in rock, the footprint was dated back to the prehistoric era. Considering that the average foot size of a man is 18 cm, and the average for a woman is 16.5 cm, this discovery would be monumental and leave historians and scientists alike questioning what we know of human history and evolution.

Now, some prominent Republicans are looking to limit the employee health insurance tax exclusion or its counterpart, the employer deduction, to fund healthcare for the uninsured. I am hopeful that they take the time to look closely at the potential impact of this decision.

Peeling back the onion, altering the tax-favored status of employer-provided benefits will have the same effect as the Cadillac tax — employers are going to plan around it. More than 175 million Americans get healthcare through their employer, and this is not a progressive benefit. If the employer exclusion is eliminated there would be little incentive for employers to continue to provide benefits — and if they do, the pressure to reduce costs, and thus benefits, will be intense. The impact on lower-paid workers would be far greater than the more highly-compensated group.

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