Explainer: Trump’s emergency threat on wall risks dual legal challenge | Reuters


President Donald Trump would almost certainly face a legal challenge if he carries out his threat to get funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall by declaring a national emergency and circumventing Congress’s purse-strings power.

Legal scholars said it was unclear exactly how such a step would play out, but they agreed that a court test would likely focus on whether an emergency actually exists on the southern border and on the limits of presidential power over taxpayer funds.

Source: Explainer: Trump’s emergency threat on wall risks dual legal challenge | Reuters

Will China go to war over Taiwan?


Taking Taiwan militarily would not be a simple operation. Chinese forces would face sophisticated Taiwanese missile, mine, submarine and air attack if they tried to cross the 110-mile (180 km) Taiwan Strait. The island’s highly populated cities and densely forested mountains would prove a guerrilla fighter’s paradise.

A botched Taiwan invasion, potentially with tens of thousands of casualties, could prove an international humiliation as well as kickstarting a domestic political crisis for Xi.

Taiwan, for its part, clearly wishes to persuade China that it is not an easy target. Taipei intends to spend $11 billion on defense this year, a six percent increase from 2018.

Source: Commentary: Will China go to war over Taiwan?

More U.S. regions see job openings outnumbering jobless | Reuters


Job openings are outnumbering unemployed workers across increasingly wide swaths of the United States, forcing businesses to rethink how they find workers, which could keep pressure on the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates despite a global economic slowdown.

It is possible that the imbalance between job openings and unemployed workers owes partly to the ease with which online job advertisements can be posted. Additionally, it may overstate labor market tightness because people not actively looking for work are not counted in the ranks of the unemployed.

Source: More U.S. regions see job openings outnumbering jobless | Reuters

Sears to ask bankruptcy judge for approval to liquidate | Reuters


Should Sears liquidate its assets, it would become one of the most high-profile victim in the wave of bankruptcies that has swept the retail sector in the last few years, as the popularity of online shopping exacerbates the fierce price competition facing brick-and-mortar stores.

Sears, which filed for bankruptcy protection last October, may have to close hundreds of stores it is still operating, potentially putting up to 68,000 people out of work, the sources said.

Its vast inventories of tools, appliances and store fixtures will be sold in fire sales, the sources added.

Source: Exclusive: Sears to ask bankruptcy judge for approval to liquidate – sources | Reuters

Pelosi cranks up shutdown pressure on Trump, GOP | TheHill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats are ramping up pressure on President Trump and Republicans to open the government amid a prolonged impasse over border wall funding that shows no signs of abating.

Sensing a winning hand, Democrats this week will repackage a handful of uncontroversial bills funding a number of shuttered agencies — excluding Homeland Security, which covers the proposed wall — and send them off to the Senate one by one, forcing GOP leaders to explain their promised inaction on measures they supported just weeks ago.

Source: Pelosi cranks up shutdown pressure on Trump, GOP | TheHill

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What Can a President Do During a State of Emergency? | The Atlantic


It would be nice to think that America is protected from the worst excesses of Trump’s impulses by its democratic laws and institutions. After all, Trump can do only so much without bumping up against the limits set by the Constitution and Congress and enforced by the courts.

Those who see Trump as a threat to democracy comfort themselves with the belief that these limits will hold him in check.

But will they?

Unknown to most Americans, a parallel legal regime allows the president to sidestep many of the constraints that normally apply.

The moment the president declares a “national emergency”—a decision that is entirely within his discretion—more than 100 special provisions become available to him.

While many of these tee up reasonable responses to genuine emergencies, some appear dangerously suited to a leader bent on amassing or retaining power.

For instance, the president can, with the flick of his pen, activate laws allowing him to shut down many kinds of electronic communications inside the United States or freeze Americans’ bank accounts. Other powers are available even without a declaration of emergency, including laws that allow the president to deploy troops inside the country to subdue domestic unrest.

Source: What Can a President Do During a State of Emergency? – The Atlantic

Ancient Curse of Akkad: World’s First Empire Collapsed Because of Climate Change


Akkadia was the world’s first empire. It was established in Mesopotamia around 4,300 years ago after its ruler, Sargon of Akkad, united a series of independent city states.

Akkadian influence spanned along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers from what is now southern Iraq, through to Syria and Turkey. The north-south extent of the empire meant that it covered regions with different climates, ranging from fertile lands in the north which were highly dependent on rainfall (one of Asia’s “bread baskets”), to the irrigation-fed alluvial plains to the south.

It appears that the empire became increasingly dependent on the productivity of the northern lands and used the grains sourced from this region to feed the army and redistribute the food supplies to key supporters.

Then, about a century after its formation, the Akkadian Empire suddenly collapsed, followed by mass migration and conflicts.

Source: Ancient Curse of Akkad: World’s First Empire Collapsed Because of Climate Change

Mastercard’s new logo suggests a future where payment is digital | Vox


Mastercard’s new, wordless logo isn’t just an attempt to convey that the company has become so ubiquitous that consumers recognize its branding even when its name is missing — it also suggests that the company is increasingly shifting its branding strategy in preparation for a post-credit card world where other forms of digital payment will reign supreme.

Source: Mastercard’s new logo suggests a future where payment is digital – Vox

The “skills gap” was a lie | Vox


Five or six years ago, everyone from the US Chamber of Commerce to the Obama White House was talking about a “skills gap.”

The theory here was that high unemployment reflected a structural shift in the labor market such that jobs were available, but workers simply didn’t have the right education or training for them. Harvard Business Review ran articles about this — including articles rebutting people who said the “skills gap” didn’t exist — and big companies like Siemens ran paid sponsor content in the Atlantic explaining how to fix the skills gap.

But nothing was really done to transform the American education system, and no enormous investment was made in retraining unemployed workers.

Source: The “skills gap” was a lie – Vox

Government shutdown: people on food stamps, or SNAP, could be hit hard | Vox


Come February, the Department of Agriculture, among the nine federal agencies that shut down in December, is warning that it may have to severely cut the nation’s largest food aid program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — commonly referred to as food stamps, the Washington Post reported.

Congress has appropriated funding for SNAP through January, according to the USDA.

After that, the department has to tap into a $3 billion emergency fund, which won’t be able to cover even two-thirds of the program in February.

In September 2018 — the most recent month with data available — states disbursed $4.7 billion in food aid through SNAP, which serves more than 38 million people.

Source: Government shutdown: people on food stamps, or SNAP, could be hit hard – Vox