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What We Read Today 02 July 2016

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:

  • Burgerbot Could Replace Tens of Thousands of Minimum Wage Workers

  • Anti-Aging Pill

  • Fountain of Youth in Our DNA?

  • China's Huge Robotic Warehouse

  • Tesla Crash Raises Lot's of Questions

  • U.S. Highway Fatality Increase for 2015 was Largest Jump in 50 Years

  • FBI Questions Hillary (She Volunteered)

  • Europe's Populist Backlash

  • New North Sea Energy Boom:  Wind

  • Pound is Headed Lower:  Experts

  • Austria's Election Declared Invalid - Will Do Over

  • Elie Wiesel Dies

  • 20 Dead, 13 Rescued in Bangladesh

  • Why Don't the Japanese Sleep 'When They're Supposed To"?

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Tesla Crash Will Shape the Future of Automated Cars (MIT Technology Review)  Tesla’s Autopilot is available for versions of the Model S equipped with the necessary hardware, which includes cameras, radar, and ultrasound sensors. Autopilot can effectively keep a car driving on a highway, following bends, slowing for other vehicles, and even overtaking them.  One such vehicle crashed into semi trailer this week, killing it's passenger.  Tesla released a statement saying that when the accident occurred, Autopilot didn’t notice the white tractor-trailer against the bright sky.  This may have a significant bearing on the future of automated driving.  It also raises questions about the possible limits for robotic performance of service functions for humans.  Econintersect:  Robots do not have to be perfect to outperform humans.  See highway fatality article under U.S.


  • 2015 Brought Biggest Persent Increase in U.S. Traffic Deaths in 50 Years (Newsweek)  Last year, the U.S. had the highest one-year percentage increase in traffic deaths in half a century, according to 2015 data released Wednesday by the National Safety Council (NSC). Initial estimates, which may be revised when more information becomes available, indicate that 38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads in 2015, and roughly 4.4 million sustained injuries that resulted in medical consultations. The number of deaths rose 8% from 2014, compared with a less than 0.5% increase between 2013 and 2014 and a 3% drop the previous year.  Econintersect:  Autonomous cars have a very low bar to surmount with respect to human safety.

  • Hillary Clinton questioned by FBI on emails (BBC News)  U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been questioned by the FBI over her use of emails while she was secretary of state, her campaign says.  A spokesperson said it was a voluntary interview.  The FBI is investigating Mrs Clinton and her aides over whether they mishandled classified information on a private email server she used while serving as secretary of state.  Mrs Clinton denies handling classified information in her private emails.  She said she set up the email address for reasons of convenience, because it was easier to do everything from her Blackberry than to have several phones or tablets.  However, a state department inquiry accused her and other former US secretaries of state of poorly managing email security.  The justice department is now seeking to establish whether this constitutes a criminal offense.


  • Beyond Brexit: Europe’s Populist Backlash Intensifies (Newsweek)  Britain’s Brexit vote was a victory of the old over the young, of the less educated over the educated, of nationalism over internationalism. No wonder the presumed U.S. Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump—who happened to be visiting one of his golf courses in Scotland when the result was announced on June 24—was delighted. Polls show that both Brexit voters and Trump’s grassroots supporters are motivated by a similar mix of fear and fantasy: a yearning to control immigration, reverse globalization and restore national greatness by disengaging from the wide, threatening world.

  • Can Europe Save Itself? (Newsweek)  Brexit shows the European Union needs to reject ‘ever closer union’ and become more democratic to save the grand European project.  On multiple levels, Europe today appears to be a disaster. Most of its economies are seeing slow or no growth; unemployment rates in what Europeans call “the periphery”—Spain, Portugal and Greece—are scandalously high; youth unemployment in Greece and Spain is more than 40%; and, in the eurozone overall, more than 10% of the working-age population is out of work. The European Central Bank is running a negative interest rate policy in a desperate effort to ward off a debilitating bout of deflation. And Europe’s immigration policy—arguably the major reason for the stunning Brexit vote—remains calamitous. Just ask outgoing U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. On June 29, at a farewell meeting with fellow heads of state in Brussels, he publicly blamed the Brexit outcome on the EU’s unwillingness to give him “an emergency brake” with which to control migration.

  • Wind Fuels the North Sea’s Next Energy Boom (MIT Technology Review)  Even if crude rebounds to $85 a barrel, oil companies are likely to abandon 140 North Sea fields over the next five years.  That contrasts sharply with the building boom in offshore wind turbines. Europe added a record three gigawatts of new offshore wind capacity in 2015, most of that in the North Sea. About 3,000 offshore turbines, totaling about 10 gigawatts of installed capacity, are operating there already. Annual additions are expected to average four gigawatts through 2030, bringing wind power to more than 60 gigawatts of capacity. In terms of output, offshore wind power accounts for about 1.5% of Europe’s total electricity generation today. That figure will rise to 7% by 2030, according to WindEurope, a Brussels-based industry association.


  • Almost Everyone Thinks the Pound's Days Are Numbered (Bloomberg)  The pound will fall even further than its three-decade low reached in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, according to almost all the analysts who’ve changed their forecasts since the referendum.  Of the 36 new predictions in a Bloomberg survey, 32 are for sterling to end the year at or below $1.30, with only two forecasting a rally from current levels. The median estimate is even more bearish at $1.25.


  • Austria presidential poll result overturned (BBC News)  Austria's highest court has annulled the result of the presidential election narrowly lost by the candidate of the far-right Freedom Party.  The party had challenged the result, saying that postal votes had been illegally and improperly handled.  The Freedom Party candidate, Norbert Hofer, lost the election to the former leader of the Greens, Alexander Van der Bellen, by just 30,863 votes or less than one percentage point.  The election will now be re-run.


  • Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor And Nobel Laureate, Dead At 87 (Huffington Post)  Elie Wiesel, who survived the Holocaust and went on to become an influential author and Nobel Peace Prize winner, has died, Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem said on Saturday.  Born in 1928, Wiesel wrote extensively of his imprisonment in Nazi camps and in 1986 won the Nobel Prize for peace.


  • U.S. accuses Russian warship of aggressive maneuvers near U.S. navy ship (BBC News)   A Russian warship carried out aggressive and erratic maneuvers close to a U.S. Navy ship in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the second such Cold War-style incident there in a matter of weeks, the U.S. military said on Saturday.  The U.S. European Command said the Russian frigate, Yaroslav Mudry, came unnecessarily close to the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto on June 30 and maneuvered in its wake.  In a statement, EUCOM said the U.S. ship had not been threatened and it maintained course and speed.

"But the closing distance by Yaroslav Mudry before the ship turned away from San Jacinto is considered a high risk maneuver, highly unprofessional, and contrary to international maritime regulations."


  • Gunmen kill 20 in Bangladesh cafe siege (BBC News)  Islamist militants killed 20 people, including at least nine Italians, seven Japanese and an American, inside an upmarket restaurant in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, before security forces stormed the building and ended a 12-hour standoff.  Three U.S. students, one a U.S. citizen were killed in the attacks.  Three Italians were among the dead, as well.  Thirteen hostages were rescued.


  • The Japanese art of (not) sleeping (BBC News)   Japan projects a positive image of the worker bee, who cuts back on sleep at night and frowns on sleeping late in the morning.  But that is accompanied by an extensive tolerance of so-called ‘inemuri’ – napping on public transportation and during work meetings, classes and lectures. Women, men and children apparently have little inhibition about falling asleep when and wherever they felt like doing so.  This article delves into the historical and cultural factors at play.

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

  • This robot-powered burger joint could put fast food workers out of a job (Tech Insider)  Hat tip to Sig Silber, who suggests the $15 an hour minimum wage could enable faster penetration of this technology.  In 2012, secretive robotics startup Momentum Machines debuted a machine that could crank out 400 made-to-order hamburgers in an hour. It's fully autonomous, meaning the robot can slice toppings, grill a patty, and assemble and bag the burger without any help from humans. Here is an excerpt from an employment ad on Craigslist for the first "burgerbot" restaurant to be opened in San Fransisco:

    We are the team who will open and operate Momentum Machines' first restaurant. This location will feature the world-premiere of our proprietary and remarkable new advances in technology that enable the automatic creation of impossibly delicious burgers at prices everyone can afford. 

    Econintersect:  This is false advertising.  The burgers will not be affordable for the 10 (+/-) people no longer employed preparing burgers for each machine implemented.

  • The Anti-Aging Pill (MIT Technology Review)   An anti-aging startup hopes to elude the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and death at the same time.  The company, Elysium Health, says it will be turning chemicals that lengthen the lives of mice and worms in the laboratory into over-the-counter vitamin pills that people can take to combat aging.  The problem is that it’s nearly impossible to prove, in any reasonable time frame, that drugs that extend the lifespan of animals can do the same in people; such an experiment could take decades. That’s why Leonard Guarente, an MIT biologist who is 62 (“unfortunately,” he says) says he decided to take the unconventional route of packaging cutting-edge lab research as so-called nutraceuticals, which don’t require clinical trials or approval by the FDA.  See next article.

  • Is There a Fountain of Youth in Our DNA? (MIT Technology Review)  Eric Topol, San Diego’s Scripps Translational Science Institute, a well-known cardiologist and digital-health proponent, launched the so-called “Wellderly” project in 2008, after becoming convinced that healthy old age, not just longevity, was its own distinct, identifiable, trackable trait, just like having schizophrenia or being very tall.  After analyzing the genomes of 600 exceptionally healthy old people, Topol believes that some people may have a constellation of genes that create resistance to Alzheimer’s and coronary artery disease. But so far there’s no smoking gun (one or several specific genes). He and coauthors from Cypher Genomics, a bioinformatics company, called their findings “preliminary” and said they would make the genomes available to other scientists.  For research report, see Whole-Genome Sequencing of a Healthy Aging Cohort (Cell).

  • The huge Chinese warehouse run by robots (BBC News)  A warehouse in China barely needs any human workers to function.  Machines have replaced 500 workers with automation and just one employee.  The warehouse processes 3 million orders each year.  That's one order every 5.7 minutes 24/7 with no breaks or holidays.  Next up - drone deliveries anywhere, already in prototype operation.

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