HARD NUMBERS

87: At the 500-day mark, President Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is 87 percent, the second highest “own party” rating for any president at this point in their term since World War II. Only George W. Bush, whose first term was defined by the events of 9/11, bests him.


20: Cable news outlets in the US devoted more than 20 times as much time to the scandal surrounding TV star Roseanne Barr’s tweets as they did reporting on a new report that suggests as many as 5,000 Puerto Rican citizens of the US may have died as a result of last year’s Hurricane Maria. Critics wondered, with good reason, whether such a large death toll on the mainland would have gotten similarly short shrift. Signal thinks not.

14: Last week, finance officials from 14 African countries discussed adopting the Chinese yuan as one of the currencies that their central banks hold. As China’s global investments grow, while misgivings about US dollar dominance mount, Beijing is keen to make its own currency an eventual rival to the dollar in international trade and finance.

6: North Korea’s vast mineral resources, including what might be the world’s largest rare earth deposit, are valued around $6 trillion, according to a South Korean think tank. That’s around 176 times the size of the country’s economy.

1: By the end of the year, China will rank first in the world in terms of investment in scientific research. While the Trump administration has movedto restricts foreign visas, China has an ambitious program to attract talent from abroad.

When Donald Trump first started talking about buying Greenland last week, we figured it was a weird story with less legs than a Harp seal.

Signal readers, we were wrong. President Trump was so serious about purchasing the autonomous Danish territory that this week he abruptly cancelled a trip to Denmark after the country's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, labelled the idea "absurd."

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The Amazon in flames – More than 70,000 forest fires are burning in Brazil right now, most of them in the Amazon. That's up 84% over the same period last year, and it's the highest number on record. This is the dry season when farmers burn certain amounts of forest legally to clear farmland. But critics say Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro's efforts to loosen conservation rules have encouraged farmers, loggers, and miners to set more fires, many of them illegally. Bolsonaro – a science skeptic who recently fired the head of the agency that tracks deforestation – says, without proof, that NGOs are setting the fires to embarrass his government. Meanwhile, the EU is holding up a major trade deal with Brazil unless Bolsonaro commits to higher environmental protection standards, including those that affect the Amazon.

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Over the past fifty years, the Amazon rainforest has shrunk by an area equal to the size of Turkey. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Brazilian government supported settlement of the sparsely populated region for security reasons. Since then, huge swaths of the forest -- which is crucial for limiting the world's greenhouse gasses -- have been cleared for farmland used to feed Brazil's population and support its massive agricultural exports. Greater awareness of the environmental impacts in the 1990s produced tighter conservation regulations, though plenty of illegal clearing continues. In recent years, the annual deforestation rate has begun to rise again, and Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro has pledged to weaken regulations further in order to support businesses.

3: The US has recruited Australia to join its nascent mission of protecting ships in the critical Strait of Hormuz. Along with Britain and Bahrain, Australia is now the third country to join the US-led maritime mission, as high seas brinksmanship with the Iranians continues.

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