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What We Read Today 13 September 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".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Topics today include:

  • The Role of Finance in Our Structural-Demographic Crisis ‚Äč

  • Days of Rage

  • The Impending Crisis

  • A $150 Billion Misfire: How Disaster Models Got Irma Wrong 

  • Sanders enjoys big moment with single-payer unveiling 

  • Get ready for socialized medicine, if Republicans don’t fix ObamaCare

  • US agencies ordered to stop using Russian company’s software

  • White House: ESPN’s Jemele Hill should be fired for calling Trump a ‘white supremacist’

  • 8 die at Florida nursing home in Irma’s sweltering aftermath

  • Indians set AL record with 21st straight victory

  • Is the Military Prepared for Climate Crisis?

  • Saudis Prepare for Possible Aramco IPO Delay to 2019

  • Trump Blocks China-Backed Bid for Lattice Over Security Risk

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • A $150 Billion Misfire: How Disaster Models Got Irma Wrong (Bloomberg)  Twenty miles may have made a $150 billion difference.  Estimates for the damage Hurricane Irma would inflict on Florida kept mounting as it made its devastating sweep across the Caribbean. It was poised to be the costliest U.S. storm on record. Then something called the Bermuda High intervened and tripped it up.

“We got very lucky,” said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan. If Irma had passed 20 miles west of Marco Island instead of striking it on Sunday, “the damage would have been astronomical.” A track like that would have placed the powerful, eastern eye wall of Irma on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

By one estimate, the total cost dropped to about $50 billion Monday from $200 billion over the weekend. The state escaped the worst because Irma’s eye shifted away from the biggest population center of Miami-Dade County.

  • Sanders enjoys big moment with single-payer unveiling (The Hill)  Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled his single-payer healthcare plan in a jam-packed Senate hearing room on Wednesday and to millions more watching online and on cable television, highlighting his newfound status as a Capitol Hill power player.  See also Get ready for socialized medicine, if Republicans don’t fix ObamaCare.

  • US agencies ordered to stop using Russian company’s software (Associated Press)  The U.S. on Wednesday banned federal agencies from using computer software supplied by Kaspersky Lab because of concerns about the company’s ties to the Kremlin and Russian spy operations.  The directive issued by acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke comes as various U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies and several congressional committees are investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.  Kaspersky said in a statement that it was disappointed by the directive and insisted “it does not have unethical ties or affiliations with any government, including Russia”.

  • White House: ESPN’s Jemele Hill should be fired for calling Trump a ‘white supremacist’  (The Washington Post)  White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday struck back at ESPN host Jemele Hill for referring to President Trump a “white supremacist, calling the comment “outrageous” and saying she should lose her job.  Asked about Hill's series of tweets Monday evening, in which the sportscaster also said Trump's rise was “the direct result of white supremacy,” Sanders responded: “That's one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN.”  ESPN scolded Hill, who is African American, in a public statement distancing the network from her remarks, but it has not suspended her from her co-hosting gig on “SportsCenter”.

  • 6 dead at Florida nursing home after Irma knocks out power (CBS News)  Note:  Late news from AP8 die at Florida nursing home in Irma’s sweltering aftermath.   Six people are dead at a Florida nursing home that was evacuated early Wednesday after several days without power following Hurricane Irma.  Officials said 115 patients were evacuated from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills early Wednesday are in the process of evacuating another 18 patients from a nearby behavioral facility next door. The patients were transported to nearby hospitals.  Three people were found dead at the nursing home and two others died after arriving at the hospital, Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said during a press conference Wednesday. A sixth patient died later Wednesday morning, city officials said.  Hollywood police chief Tomas Sanchez said:

"We're conducting a criminal investigation into the deaths that occurred here." 

  • Indians set AL record with 21st straight victory (Associated Press)  Making history almost every time they take the field, the Indians won their 21st straight game on Wednesday, 5-3 over the Detroit Tigers, to set an American League winning-streak record and join only two other teams in the past 101 years to win that many consecutive games.  The Indians matched the 1935 Chicago Cubs for the second-longest streak since 1900. The run has put Cleveland within five wins of catching the 1916 New York Giants, who won 26 straight without a loss but whose century-old mark includes a tie.

  • Is the Military Prepared for Climate Crisis? (The Real News Network)  The effects of climate change will increase inequality and create conflicts across borders, while the U.S. military will to have to spend more money and resources on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, says Col. Larry Wilkerson.

Saudi Arabia

  • Saudis Prepare for Possible Aramco IPO Delay to 2019 (Bloomberg)  Saudi Arabia is preparing contingency plans for a possible delay to the initial public offering of its state-owned oil company by a few months into 2019, according to people familiar with the matter.  While the government is still aiming for a Saudi Aramco IPO in the second half of next year, that timetable is increasingly tight for what’s likely to be the biggest share sale in history, the people said, asking not to be named discussing internal deliberations.


It was just the fourth time in a quarter century that a U.S. president has ordered a foreign takeover of an American firm stopped because of national-security risks. Trump acted on the recommendation of a multi-agency panel, the White House and the Treasury Department said Wednesday. The spurned buyer, Canyon Bridge Capital Partners LLC, is a private-equity firm backed by a Chinese state-owned asset manager.

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

  • The Role of Finance in Our Structural-Demographic Crisis (Clopdynamica)  Hat tip to Roger Erickson.  See also next two articles by the same author, Peter Turchin, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut; Research Associate in the School of Anthropology, University of Oxford; and Vice-President of the Evolution Institute.   Turchin sees the coming 8-10 years likely to repeat the social unrest and upheaval like that seen in the 1970s.  Only the early 2020s may be worse.  Turchin writes:

It is strange to actually live in a society experiencing a structural-demographic crisis, after studying many examples of such crises in the past. Unfortunately the crisis is developing largely according to the classical pattern. The degree of political polarization is at its highest levels since the (First) American Civil War. Intraelite infighting is tearing the Republic apart. There has already been at least one sacrificial victim (see my post Days of Rage). In general, things are falling apart faster than I expected. But this is the nature of political violence outbreaks: they are like earthquakes in that pressures for them build slowly and fairly predictably, but the actual timing of the quake is very difficult (probably impossible) to predict with any accuracy (see my explanation here).

My prediction for a violence spike peaking in the early 2020s, which I made a decade ago, was based on structural, slowly developing drivers. The most fundamental structural-demographic force is labor oversupply which drives popular immiseration and (after a lag) elite overproduction. Both of these trends are already at levels that they previously reached during our first Age of Discord (see graphs here). But these trends require decades to build and subside, so what helped me to pinpoint the time frame of the crisis to the early 2020s?

One of these faster moving drivers is demographic: the numbers of people aged between 20 and 29 years old. This is the age group that typically supply the shock troops to each of the warring sides in revolutions and civil wars. We are currently in the middle of this “youth bulge” (it will start subsiding after 2020).

Another important factor is economics. The dynamics of economic growth in capitalist societies is very complex. There are a suite of cycles or, rather, boom-bust sequences, as these “cycles” don’t have fixed periods. Instead, they tend to operate on “characteristic” time scales, ranging from years (the business cycle) to decades. One of the most important longer cycles is known as the Kondratiev Wave, because it was first described by a Russian economist Nikolay Kondratiev. Most economists don’t believe in the reality of these “K-waves” that recur every 40-60 years. However, Kondratiev recognized the cyclic pattern in the 1930s, and since then we’ve had two more K-waves, happening pretty much as he hypothesized. It’s actually one of rare economic predictions that have been supported by the subsequent history.

  • Days of Rage (Clopdynamica)  See preceding article and next article.  From this article:

The wave of political violence in America of the 1970s followed a fairly typical course, familiar to me from reading the histories of disintegrative periods in past societies. In my research I have used models of epidemics and forest fires to understand these dynamics (for readers with a mathematical bend, the details are in Chapter 2 of Ages of Discord, but I also talk about this in War and Peace and War using non-technical language).

Here’s how an epidemic of political violence typically develops—and then dies out. I will use the Weather Underground, the best known and most influential American terrorist group of the 1970s, to illustrate the key transitions. But it’s worth emphasizing that the overall dynamic is quite general. It thus provides us with a kind of a road map as to what to expect in the next few years.

  • The Impending Crisis (  This article presents and discusses data regarding the cyclic nature of political economic features of society.  Here are some of the graphics:

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