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November 30, 2011

Venezuelans Flee Chávez's Socialism




VenezuelanHomicide2011-11-10.jpg"Street crime, such as a man's killing in Caracas last year, is high." Note the big-brother-sized image of Chávez surveying what his socialism has wrought. Source of quoted part of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



Those who favor socialism should observe Venezuela carefully and ponder whether they like what they see.



(p. A13) Gerardo Urdaneta moved to Houston from Venezuela for a job in 1998, the same year Hugo Chávez was first elected president. Mr. Urdaneta, an energy-shipping specialist, planned for a temporary stop and wouldn't even buy a house.

Thirteen years later, Mr. Chávez is still in power, Mr. Urdaneta is still here. He has been joined by thousands of other Venezuelans, and Houston shops now stock native delicacies like Pampero aged rum and guayanés cheese.

"There are Venezuelans everywhere," Mr. Urdaneta, 50 years old, said. "Before we were passing through. That's not the case anymore."

Waves of white-collar Venezuelans have fled the country's high crime rates, soaring inflation and expanding statist controls, for destinations ranging from Canada to Qatar. The top U.S. destinations are Miami, a traditional shopping mecca for Venezuelans, and Houston, which has long-standing energy ties to Venezuela, a major oil exporter.

There were some 215,000 Venezuelans in the U.S. in 2010, up from about 91,500 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of Venezuelans living in Spain has quintupled in the same period to more than 40,000, and the number of Venezuelan-born Spaniards has more than doubled to 90,000.



For the full story, see:

ÁNGEL GONZÁLEZ and EZEQUIEL MINAYA. "Venezuelan Diaspora Booms Under Chávez." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., October 17, 2011): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the following phrase, at the end of the quoted portion above, is in the online, but not the print, version of the article: "and the number of Venezuelan-born Spaniards has more than doubled to 90,000."



ZulianStafanoHoustonChocolateShop2011-11-10.jpg "Venezuelan exile Stefano Zullian owns a Houston chocolate shop." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.



VenezuelanHomicideEmigrationGraph2011-11-10.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.






November 29, 2011

Global Warming Reduces Bubonic Plague in U.S.




(p. D6) Global warming may have one minor but previously unknown benefit, scientists said this month: it may be cutting down cases of bubonic plague in the United States.


. . .


A study in this month's issue of The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene tracked climatic conditions in 195 counties in 13 Western states, from Washington to Texas, that reported even one plague case since 1950.

Cases have dropped over time, and the study concluded that rising nighttime temperatures since 1990 had helped. Warmer nights melt winter snowpacks earlier, leading to drier soil in rodent burrows. When the soil gets too dry, fleas die.



For the full story, see:

DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. "GLOBAL UPDATE; United States: Decrease in Bubonic Plague Cases May Be an Effect of Climate Change." The New York Times (Tues., September 21, 2010): D6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated September 20, 2010.)





November 28, 2011

Animals Thrive at Chernobyl




WolvesRadioactive2011-11-09.jpg"PBS's "Radioactive Wolves" returns to a contaminated site." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. C6) In the months since the Japanese tsunami, we've heard a lot about Chernobyl as a worst-case example: here's how bad Fukushima could have been. Now PBS's "Nature" offers another vision: Chernobyl as a best-case demonstration that life abides . . .


. . .


. . . the prognosis, coyly withheld until the end of the hour, is positive. . . . While the rate of slight birth abnormalities is twice as high as normal among the zone's growing animal population (but still in the single digits), overall health appears to be fine. It wouldn't be an acceptable situation for humans, but the dormice and eagles and gray wolves don't appear to be bothered.


. . .


The concrete high-rises of the city of Pripyat sit like islands in a green sea of towering trees; plants force their way up through the floors of empty schoolrooms.

Within this strangely pastoral setting the animals go about their business, sometimes finding uses for what we've left behind. The wolves rise up on their hind legs to peer through the windows of houses, looking for routes to the rooftops, which they use as observation posts for hunting. Eagles build nests in fire towers.

And beavers, forced out decades ago when the landscape was engineered for collective agriculture, have already undone much of man's work and restored one of central Europe's great marshlands. Just think what they could do if they had the whole planet.



For the full commentary, see:

MIKE HALE. "In Dead Zone of Chernobyl, Animal Kingdom Thrives." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., October 19, 2011): C6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date October 18, 2011.)





November 27, 2011

Karl Marx "Had Engels Embezzle Money for Him from His Father's Firm"




(p. 419) One of the few figures who actively sympathized with the plight of the poor was also one of the most interestingly improbable. Friedrich Engels came to England at the age of just twenty-one in 1842 to help run his father's textile factory in Manchester. The firm, Ermen & Engels, manufac-(p. 420)tured sewing thread. Although young Engels was a faithful son and a reasonably conscientious businessman - eventually
he became a partner - he also spent a good deal of his time modestly but persistently embezzling funds to support his friend and collaborator Karl Marx in London.

It would be hard to imagine two more improbable founders for a movement as ascetic as Communism. While earnestly desiring the downfall of capitalism, Engels made himself rich and comfortable from all its benefits. He kept a stable of fine horses, rode to hounds at weekends, enjoyed the best wines, maintained a mistress, hobnobbed with the elite of Manchester at the fashionable Albert Club - in short, did everything one would expect of a successful member of the gentry. Marx, meanwhile, constantly denounced the bourgeoisie but lived as bourgeois a life as he could manage, sending his daughters to private schools and boasting at every opportunity of his wife's aristocratic background.

Engels's patient support for Marx was little short of wondrous. In that milestone year of 1851, Marx accepted a job as a foreign correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune, but with no intention of actually writing any articles. His English wasn't good enough, for one thing. His idea was that Engels would write them for him and he would collect the fee, and that is precisely what happened. Even then, the income wasn't enough to support his carelessly extravagant lifestyle, so he had Engels embezzle money for him from his father's firm. Engels did so for years, at considerable risk to himself.



Source:

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.





November 26, 2011

Crows Use Tools Too




NewCaledonianCrowStickTool2011-11-09.jpg










"A captive New Caledonian crow forages for food using a stick tool." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.




(p. D3) New Caledonian crows, found in the South Pacific, are among nature's most robust nonhuman tool users. They are well known for using twigs to dislodge beetle larvae from tree trunks.

And there's a good reason. By foraging for just a few larvae, a crow can satisfy its daily nutritional needs, which explains the evolutionary advantage of learning how to use tools, researchers report in the journal Science.



For the full story, see:

SINDYA N. BHANOO. "OBSERVATORY; Crows Put Tools to Use to Access a Nutritious Diet." The New York Times (Tues., September 21, 2010): D3.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated September 20, 2010.)






November 25, 2011

Chocolate Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Disorder by 37%




(p. D6) An analysis of studies including more than 100,000 subjects has found that high levels of chocolate consumption are associated with a significant reduction in the risk of certain cardiovascular disorders.


. . .


Over all, the report, published Monday in the British medical journal BMJ, showed that those in the group that consumed the most chocolate had decreases of 37 percent in the risk of any cardiovascular disorder and 29 percent in the risk for stroke.



For the full story, see:

NICHOLAS BAKALAR. "VITAL SIGNS; Prevention: Evidence of Heart Benefits From Chocolate." The New York Times (Tues., August 30, 2011): D6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated August 29, 2011.)





November 24, 2011

"What Happens in America Is Defined by Tort Lawyers"




JungleGymRelic2011-11-09.jpg "CHILDHOOD RELIC; Jungle gyms, like this one in Riverside Park in Manhattan, have disappeared from most American playgrounds in recent decades." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. D3) "There is no clear evidence that playground safety measures have lowered the average risk on playgrounds," said David Ball, a professor of risk management at Middlesex University in London. He noted that the risk of some injuries, like long fractures of the arm, actually increased after the introduction of softer surfaces on playgrounds in Britain and Australia.

"This sounds counterintuitive, but it shouldn't, because it is a common phenomenon," Dr. Ball said. "If children and parents believe they are in an environment which is safer than it actually is, they will take more risks. An argument against softer surfacing is that children think it is safe, but because they don't understand its properties, they overrate its performance."

Reducing the height of playground equipment may help toddlers, but it can produce unintended consequences among bigger children. "Older children are discouraged from taking healthy exercise on playgrounds because they have been designed with the safety of the very young in mind," Dr. Ball said. "Therefore, they may play in more dangerous places, or not at all."

Fear of litigation led New York City officials to remove seesaws, merry-go-rounds and the ropes that young Tarzans used to swing from one platform to another. Letting children swing on tires became taboo because of fears that the heavy swings could bang into a child.

"What happens in America is defined by tort lawyers, and unfortunately that limits some of the adventure playgrounds," said Adrian Benepe, the current parks commissioner.



For the full story, see:

JOHN TIERNEY. "FINDINGS; Grasping Risk in Life's Classroom." The New York Times (Tues., July 19, 2011): D1 & D3.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 18, 2011, and has the title "FINDINGS; Can a Playground Be Too Safe?.")





November 23, 2011

No Evidence that Parents Were Ever Indifferent to the Well-Being of Their Children




(p. 404) No one expressed parental loss better (as no one expressed most things better) than William Shakespeare. These lines are from King John, written soon after his son Hamnet died at the age of eleven in 1596:

Grief fills the room up of my absent child
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form.

(p. 405) These are not the words of someone for whom children are a product, and there is no reason to suppose - no evidence anywhere, including that of common sense - that parents were ever, at any point in the past, commonly indifferent to the happiness and well-being of their children. One clue lies in the name of the room in which we are now. 'Nursery' is first recorded in English in 1330 and has been in continuous use ever since. A room exclusively dedicated to the needs and comforts of children would hardly seem consistent with the belief that children were of no consequence within the household. No less significant is the word 'childhood' itself. It has existed in English for over a thousand years (the first recorded use is in the Lindisfarne Gospels circa AD 950), so whatever it may have meant emotionally to people, as a state of being, a condition of separate existence, it is indubitably ancient. To suggest that children were objects of indifference or barely existed as separate beings would appear to be a simplification at best.



Source:

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.

(Note: italics in original.)





November 22, 2011

The Costs of Altruism




PathologicalAltruismBK.jpg

















Source of book image: http://www.barbaraoakley.com/_font_face__book_antiqua___font_size__3___i__b_pathological_altruism__i___b__106998.htm



(p. D1) On entering the patient's room with spinal tap tray portentously agleam, Dr. Burton encountered the patient's family members. They begged him not to proceed. The frail, bedridden patient begged him not to proceed. Dr. Burton conveyed their pleas to the oncologist, but the oncologist continued to lobby for a spinal tap, and the exhausted family finally gave in.


. . .


(p. D2) . . . , Dr. Burton is a contributor to a scholarly yet surprisingly sprightly volume called "Pathological Altruism," to be published this fall by Oxford University Press. . . .

As the new book makes clear, pathological altruism is not limited to showcase acts of self-sacrifice, like donating a kidney or a part of one's liver to a total stranger. The book is the first comprehensive treatment of the idea that when ostensibly generous "how can I help you?" behavior is taken to extremes, misapplied or stridently rhapsodized, it can become unhelpful, unproductive and even destructive.


. . .


David Brin, a physicist and science fiction writer, argues in one chapter that sanctimony can be as physically addictive as any recreational drug, and as destabilizing. "A relentless addiction to indignation may be one of the chief drivers of obstinate dogmatism," he writes. . . .

Barbara Oakley, an associate professor of engineering at Oakland University in Michigan and an editor of the new volume, said in an interview that when she first began talking about its theme at medical or social science conferences, "people looked at me as though I'd just grown goat horns. They said, 'But altruism by definition can never be pathological.' "

To Dr. Oakley, the resistance was telling. "It epitomized the idea 'I know how to do the right thing, and when I decide to do the right thing it can never be called pathological,' " she said.


. . .


Yet given her professional background, Dr. Oakley couldn't help doubting altruism's exalted reputation. "I'm not looking at altruism as a sacred thing from on high," she said. "I'm looking at it as an engineer."



For the full story, see:

NATALIE ANGIER. "BASICS; The Pathological Altruist Gives Till Someone Hurts." The New York Times (Tues.,October 4, 2011): D1 & D2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated October 3, 2011.)





November 21, 2011

Increase in Cholera Not Caused by Global Warming




(p. D6) Cholera outbreaks seem to be on the increase, but a new study has found they cannot be explained by global warming.

A bigger factor may be the cycle of droughts and floods along big rivers, according to Tufts University scientists who published a study in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene this month.



For the full story, see:

DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. "GLOBAL UPDATE; Cholera: Climate Change Isn't a Culprit in Increasing Outbreaks, Study Finds." The New York Times (Tues., August 30, 2011): D6.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated August 29, 2011.)





November 20, 2011

For-Profit Entrepreneur Brings Good Things to Bangladesh




PolakPaulEntrepreneur2011-11-09.jpg"INVENTOR Paul Polak creates cheap and effective devices to help the poor." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. D4) If necessity is the mother of invention, Paul Polak is one of its fathers.

For 30 years Dr. Polak, a 78-year-old former psychiatrist, has focused on creating devices that will improve the lives of 2.6 billion people living on less than $2 a day. But, he insists, they must be so cheap and effective that the poor will actually buy them, since charity disappears when donors find new causes.

Inventing a new device is only the beginning, he says; the harder part is finding dependable manufacturers and creating profitable distributorships. The "appropriate technology" field, he argues, is "dominated by tinkerers and short of entrepreneurs."

His greatest success has been a treadle pump that lets farmers raise groundwater in the dry season, when crops fetch more money. He has sold more than two million, he said.


. . .


Q. What got you interested in poverty?


. . .


Q. And in third-world poverty?

A. My wife's a Mennonite, and they had programs in Bangladesh. It had hit me between the eyes that homeless people in Denver were living on $500 a month, but there were people overseas living on $30 a month. So I took a trip to Bangladesh.

Some farmers were using hand pumps, but biomechanically, that's a lousy way to raise water. A Mennonite guy had invented a rower pump that would pull up enough to water a half-acre of vegetables. They had installed 2,000 over five years, and those farmers seemed to be making a lot of money, so I said, "Why don't we do a project, with an objective of selling 25,000 a year?"

We hit that pretty quickly. One or two Mennonites objected -- they considered the idea of selling something to poor people immoral. But we kept at it, and then we found the treadle pump. It was brilliantly simple, it could be manufactured by local workshops, and a local driller could dig a 40-foot well and install it for $25. Studies showed that farmers made $100 in one season on that investment.

We talked to 75 little welding shops where they make things like bedsprings, and jawboned them into making treadle pumps. We went to people who sold things like toilet bowls, and cut a deal with them to be dealers. We trained 3,000 tinkerers to be well-drillers. We hired troubadours to write songs about treadle pumps, and we'd pass out leaflets when they performed. We even produced a 90-minute Bollywood movie.


. . .


Q. What's the biggest mistake aid agencies make?

A. As we were developing our pump, the World Bank was subsidizing deep-well diesel pumps that could cover 40 acres. The theory was that you'd get a macroeconomic benefit, but it was also very destructive to social justice. The big pumps were handed out by government agents; the government agent was bribeable. The pump would go to the biggest landholder, and he'd become a waterlord.

Q. There have been some well-known failures in this field, like One Laptop Per Child and the Playpump. Can you say why?

A. The laptop was a middle-class device that doesn't communicate with people who don't read and write. It cost $100, plus it used the charity model -- buy two, give one away. The Playpump, which was a children's merry-go-round that pumps water, cost $11,000. Women in Africa walk for hours to a well, and then jiggle the pump handle for 60 seconds. This replaces the jiggling. How important is that? And they break. For $11,000, you could dig five wells and eliminate the walk.

Q. What are your principles for success?

A. In 1981, I said, "I'm going to interview 100 $1-a-day families every year, come rain or shine, and learn from them first."

Over 28 years, I've interviewed over 3,000 families. I spend about six hours with each one -- walking with them through their fields, asking what they had for breakfast, how far their kids walk to school, what they feed their dog, what all their sources of income are. This is not rocket science. Any businessman knows this: You've got to talk to your customers.



For the full story, see:

DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. "A CONVERSATION WITH PAUL R. POLAK; An Entrepreneur Creating Chances at a Better Life." The New York Times (Tues.,September 27, 2011): D4.

(Note: ellipses added; bold in original.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated September 26, 2011.)





November 19, 2011

"The World Before the Modern Era Was Overwhelmingly a Place of Tiny Coffins"




(p. 404) There is no doubt that children once died in great numbers and that parents had to adjust their expectations accordingly. The world before the modern era was overwhelmingly a place of tiny coffins. The figures usually cited are that one-third of children died in their first year of life and half failed to reach their fifth birthdays. Even in the best homes death was a regular visitor. Stephen Inwood notes that the future historian Edward Gibbon, growing up rich in healthy Putney, lost all six of his siblings in early childhood. But that isn't to say that parents were any less devastated by a loss than we would be today. The diarist John Evelyn and his wife had eight children and lost six of them in childhood, and were clearly heartbroken each time. 'Here ends the joy of my life,' Evelyn wrote simply after his oldest child died three days after his fifth birthday in 1658. The writer William Brownlow lost a child each year for four years, a chain of misfortune that 'hast broken me asunder and shaken me to pieces', he wrote, but in fact he and his wife had still more to endure: the tragic pattern of annual deaths continued for three years more until they had no children left to yield.


Source:

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.





November 18, 2011

Black Death Microbe Same as in Middle Ages But Now Does Much Less Harm




LondonMedievalMap2011-11-07.jpg







Source of map: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.






If the Black Death microbe is the same today as in the Middle Ages, maybe the difference in effects is partly due to our better nutrition, health, hygiene, and housing?



(p. D4) The agent of the Black Death is assumed to be Yersinia pestis, the microbe that causes bubonic plague today. But the epidemiology was strikingly different from that of modern outbreaks. Modern plague is carried by fleas and spreads no faster than the rats that carry them can travel. The Black Death seems to have spread directly from one person to another.

Victims sometimes emitted a deathly stench, which is not true of plague victims today. And the Black Death felled at least 30 percent of those it inflicted, whereas a modern plague in India that struck Bombay in 1904, before the advent of antibiotics, killed only 3 percent of its victims.


. . .


If Yersinia pestis was indeed the cause of the Black Death, why were the microbe's effects so different in medieval times? Its DNA sequence may hold the answer. Dr. Poinar's team has managed to reconstruct a part of the microbe's genetic endowment. Yersinia pestis has a single chromosome, containing the bulk of its genes, and three small circles of DNA known as plasmids.

The team has determined the full DNA sequence of the plasmid known as pPCP1 from the East Smithfield cemetery. But, disappointingly, it turns out to be identical to the modern-day plasmid, so it explains none of the differences in the microbe's effects.



For the full story, see:

NICHOLAS WADE. "Hunting for a Mass Killer in Medieval Graveyards." The New York Times (Tues., August 30, 2011): D4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated August 29, 2011.)





November 17, 2011

Huge Variance in Estimates of Number of Species




(p. D3) Scientists have named and cataloged 1.3 million species. How many more species there are left to discover is a question that has hovered like a cloud over the heads of taxonomists for two centuries.

"It's astounding that we don't know the most basic thing about life," said Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

On Tuesday, Dr. Worm, Dr. Mora and their colleagues presented the latest estimate of how many species there are, based on a new method they have developed. They estimate there are 8.7 million species on the planet, plus or minus 1.3 million.


. . .


In recent decades, scientists have looked for better ways to determine how many species are left to find. In 1988, Robert May, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford, observed that the diversity of land animals increases as they get smaller. He reasoned that we probably have found most of the species of big animals, like mammals and birds, so he used their diversity to calculate the diversity of smaller animals. He ended up with an estimate 10 to 50 million species of land animals.

Other estimates have ranged from as few as 3 million to as many as 100 million. Dr. Mora and his colleagues believed that all of these estimates were flawed in one way or another. Most seriously, there was no way to validate the methods used, to be sure they were reliable.



For the full story, see:

CARL ZIMMER. "How Many Species? A Study Says 8.7 Million, but It's Tricky." The New York Times (Tues., August 30, 2011): D3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated August 23 (sic), 2011.)





November 16, 2011

Fossil Shows Placental Mammals 35 Million Years Earlier




PlacentalMammalFossilEarliest2011-11-07.jpg
















"The earliest known eutherian from the Jurassic of China." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.






(p. D3) The split between placental mammals and marsupials may have occurred 35 million years earlier than previously thought, according to a new study.


. . .


The newly identified mammal was small, weighing less than a chipmunk. Based on its claws, it appears to have been an active climber. "This was a skinny little animal, eating insects," said Dr. Luo. "We imagine it was active in the night and capable of going up and down trees."

Its discovery helps reconcile fossil evidence and molecular analysis. Modern molecular studies, which use DNA to estimate dates of evolution, also put the emergence of placentals at about 160 million years ago.



For the full story, see:

SINDYA N. BHANOO. "OBSERVATORY; A Small Mammal Fossil Tells a Jurassic Tale." The New York Times (Tues., August 30, 2011): D3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated August 24 (sic), 2011.)





November 15, 2011

Patent on Cotton Gin Not Enough for Whitney to Get Rich





(p. 395) Whitney patented his 'gin' (a shortened form of 'engine') and prepared to become stupendously wealthy.


. . .


(p. 396) . . . , the gin truly was a marvel. Whitney and Miller formed a partnership with every expectation of getting rich, but they were disastrous businessmen. For the use of their machine, they demanded a one-third share of any harvest - a proportion that plantation owners and southern legislators alike saw as frankly rapacious. That Whitney and Miller were both Yankees didn't help sentiment either. Stubbornly they refused to modify their demands, convinced that southern growers could not hold out in the face of such a transforming piece of technology. They were right about the irresistibility, but failed to note that the gin was also easily pirated. Any halfway decent carpenter could knock one out in a couple of hours. Soon plantation owners across the south were harvesting cotton with home-made gins. Whitney and Miller filed sixty suits in Georgia and many others elsewhere, but found little sympathy in southern courts. By 1800 - just seven years after the gin's invention - Miller and Catharine Greene were in such desperate straits that they had to sell the plantation.




Source:

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.

(Note: ellipses added.)





November 14, 2011

More Winners than Losers from Columbian Exchange




1493BK.jpg
















Source of book image:
http://portland.readinglocal.com/files/2011/09/mann-1493.jpg


(p. D2) The foods we consider local are results of a globalization process that has been in full swing for more than five centuries, ever since Columbus landed in the New World. Suddenly all the continents were linked, mixing plants and animals that had evolved separately since the breakup of the ancient supercontinent Pangaea.

What resulted, Mr. Mann argues in his fascinating new book, "1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created," was a new epoch in human life, the Homogenocene. This age of homogeneity was brought on by the creation of a world-spanning economic system as crops, worms, parasites and people traveled among Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia -- the Columbian Exchange, as it was dubbed by the geographer Alfred W. Crosby.


. . .


"There's no way the Industrial Revolution could have so occurred so quickly and so widely if the world had depended solely on Brazilians tapping rubber trees," Mr. Mann said. Indeed, the Asian plantations proved crucial when Brazilian trees were struck by blight.

"On the whole, there are lots more winners than losers from the Columbian Exchange," Mr. Mann said. "I don't want to tell Italians they can't have tomatoes, or people in Sichuan they can't have peppers. People have a way of taking things and making them their own. I know nothing in my garden is native, but I still have this idiotic feeling that it's my home."

How does he reconcile this feeling with this book? What's a locavore to do? Mr. Mann doesn't presume to dictate anyone's food preferences, but he does offer one piece of advice for locavores: go easy on the preaching.

"I'm willing to pay more to get fresh vegetables grown by nice people farming nearby," he said. "It's incredible to eat lettuce an hour after it was picked.

"But if your concern is to produce the maximum amount of food possible for the lowest cost, which is a serious concern around the world for people who aren't middle-class foodies like me, this seems like a crazy luxury. It doesn't make sense for my aesthetic preference to be elevated to a moral imperative."



For the full review, see:

JOHN TIERNEY. "FINDINGS; Fresh and Direct From the Garden an Ocean Away." The New York Times (Tues., August 30, 2011): D2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated August 29, 2011.)





November 13, 2011

Haiku Economist Ziliak Praises and Analyzes Jobs Haiku





On 11/8/11 I received a gracious and interesting email from Steve Ziliak praising and analyzing my recent Jobs haiku. Economist Ziliak has written haiku and written about haiku.

He gave me his permission to share his email:


Dear Art,

Congratulations on your prize-winning haiku about the economy! I read all of the haiku selected by the Kauffman Foundation and posted by The Economist. Meaning no disrespect for the hard-working others, Steve Ziliak aka The Haiku Economist agrees that your haiku was the best of the bunch. Pairing jobs-with-Jobs is potentially hazardous to poetry to the point of being country-newspaper corny. But you've pulled it off well in a "senryu" thanks to the dead-serious yet softly spoken third line, "innovate to grow". Thus "jobs" and "Jobs" serve as "cut words" (kiru or kireji), taking us from the literal to the figurative and back again (that is, to innovation, output, and employment). Well done.

Here are a few articles on the theory, Art, and history of haiku economics, which I first developed ten years ago (in 2001) when I was teaching at Georgia Tech:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/article/240970

http://stephentziliak.com/doc/IJPEE0101-0209%20ZILIAK.pdf

http://stephentziliak.com/doc/Ziliak%20Verses%20of%20Economy%201.pdf

http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2011/01/poetry_and_economics

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08935690500241501#preview
(In 2002 I published "Haiku Economics" in Rethinking Marxism;
this link here is to "Haiku Economics, No. 2", published in 2005).

And here is a link to my students' achievements with haiku economics:

http://sites.roosevelt.edu/sziliak/haiku-economics-by-roosevelt-students/


Congrats again, Art, and keep writing!

Things beyond number
all somehow brought to mind by
blossoming cherries.

- Basho


All the best,

Steve aka The Haiku Economist

Stephen T. Ziliak
Trustee and Professor of Economics
Roosevelt University
430 S. Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60605
http://sites.roosevelt.edu/sziliak
http://stephentziliak.com





November 12, 2011

Wozniak Waits 20 Hours to Be First in Line for iPhone 4S; They Say "4S" Means "For Steve"




WozniakIphone4S2011-11-04.jpg"Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak uses the voice feature on his new Apple iPhone 4S at the Apple Store in Los Gatos, Calif., on Friday. Wozniak, who created Apple with Steve Jobs in a Silicon Valley garage in 1976, waited 20 hours in line to be the first customer at the store to buy the new iPhone." Source of caption and photo: online version of the Omaha World-Herald article cited below.



What a classy and wonderfully symbolic way to pay tribute to his friend and the values they shared.



Source of photo and caption:

AP. "Even Wozniak stood in line for new iPhone." Omaha World-Herald (Saturday October 15, 2011): 9A.






November 11, 2011

Unable to Compete with Cotton "European Textile Workers Bayed for Protection"




(p. 390) Cotton is such a commonplace material now that we forget that it was once extremely precious - more valuable than silk. But then in the seventeenth century, the East India Company began importing calicoes from India (from the city of Calicut, from which they take their name), and suddenly cotton became affordable. Calico was then essentially a collective term for chintzes, muslins, percales and other colourful fabrics, which caused unimaginable delight among western consumers because they were light and washable and the colours didn't run. Although some cotton was grown in Egypt, India dominated the cotton trade, as we are reminded by the endless numbers of words that came into English by way of that trade: khaki, dungarees, gingham, muslin, pyjamas, shawl, seersucker, and so on.

The sudden surge of Indian cotton pleased consumers, but not (p. 391) manufacturers. Unable to compete with this wonder fabric, European textile workers bayed for protection almost everywhere, and almost everywhere they received it. The importation of finished cotton fabrics was banned in much of Europe throughout the eighteenth century.



Source:

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.

(Note: italics in original.)





November 10, 2011

Global Warming Benefits Commerce by Opening Northeast Passage




NortheastPassageMapB2011-11-04.jpg "The Northeast Passage Opens Up. The Arctic ice cap has been shrinking, opening up new shipping lanes. This has given access to oil and gas fields, as well as fishing in international waters that were not accessible before." Source of caption and map: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. B1) ARKHANGELSK, Russia -- Rounding the northernmost tip of Russia in his oceangoing tugboat this summer, Capt. Vladimir V. Bozanov saw plenty of walruses, some pods of beluga whales and in the distance a few icebergs.

One thing Captain Bozanov did not encounter while towing an industrial barge 2,300 miles across the Arctic Ocean was solid ice blocking his path anywhere along the route. Ten years ago, he said, an ice-free passage, even at the peak of summer, was exceptionally rare.

But environmental scientists say there is now no doubt that global warming is shrinking the Arctic ice pack, opening new sea lanes and making the few previously navigable routes near shore accessible more months of the year. And whatever the grim environmental repercussions of greenhouse gas, companies in Russia and other countries around the Arctic Ocean are mining that dark cloud's silver lining by finding new opportunities for commerce and trade.

Oil companies might be the most likely beneficiaries, as the receding polar ice cap opens more of the sea floor to exploration. The oil giant Exxon Mobil recently signed a sweeping deal to drill in the Russian sector of the Arctic Ocean. But shipping, mining and fishing ventures are also looking farther north than ever before.

"It is paradoxical that new opportunities are opening for our nations at the same time we understand that the threat of (p. B13) carbon emissions have become imminent," Iceland's president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, said at a recent conference on Arctic Ocean shipping held in this Russian port city not far south of the Arctic Circle.

At the same forum, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia offered a full-throated endorsement of the new business prospects in the thawing north.

"The Arctic is the shortcut between the largest markets of Europe and the Asia-Pacific region," he said. "It is an excellent opportunity to optimize costs."




For the full story, see:

ANDREW E. KRAMER. "Amid the Peril, a Dream Fulfilled." The New York Times (Tues., October 18, 2011): B1 & B13.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated October 17, 2011 and has the title "Warming Revives Dream of Sea Route in Russian Arctic.")



VladimirTikhonovTankerBeringStrait2011-11-04.jpg"The tanker Vladimir Tikhonov in the Bering Strait." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.





November 9, 2011

Schumpeter's Simile for Capitalist Mobility




(p. 156) In fact, the upper strata of society are like hotels which are indeed always full of people, but people who are forever changing.



Source:

Schumpeter, Joseph A. The Theory of Economic Development: An Inquiry into Profits, Capital, Credit, Interest, and the Business Cycle. Translated by Redvers Opie. translation of 2nd German edition that appeared in 1926; translation first published by Harvard in 1934 ed. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1983.





November 8, 2011

Modern Humans and Neanderthals Coexisted in Europe for at Least 10,000 Years




FossillBabyTooth2011-11-04.jpg"One of the infant teeth (a deciduous left upper first molar) whose age had been underestimated. The white bar is 1 centimeter in length." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A4) The fossils seemed hardly worth a second look. The one from England was only a piece of jawbone with three teeth, and the other, from southern Italy, was nothing more than two infant teeth. But scientists went ahead, re-examining them with refined techniques, and found that one specimen's age had previously been significantly underestimated and that the other's dating and identity had been misinterpreted.

They had in fact discovered the oldest known skeletal remains of anatomically modern humans in the whole of Europe, two international research teams reported Wednesday.

The scientists who made the discovery and others who study human origins say they expect the findings to reignite debate over the relative capabilities of the immigrant modern humans and the indigenous Neanderthals, their closest hominid relatives; the extent of their interactions; and perhaps the reasons behind the Neanderthal extinction. The findings have already prompted speculation that the Homo sapiens migrations into Europe may have come in at least two separate waves, rather than just one.

In tests conducted at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit in England, the baby teeth from Italy were dated at 43,000 to 45,000 years old. Other analysis showed the teeth to be those of a modern human, not a Neanderthal, as previously thought when the fossil was unearthed in 1964 from the Grotta del Cavallo.



For the full story, see:

JOHN NOBLE WILFORD. "Fossil Teeth Put Humans in Europe Earlier Than Thought." The New York Times (Thur., November 3, 2011): A4.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated November 2, 2011.)





November 7, 2011

The Penalty for Insulting the Future King




(p. 390) Brummell's fall from grace was abrupt and irreversible. He and the Prince of Wales had a falling out and ceased speaking. At a social occasion, the prince pointedly ignored Brummell and instead spoke to his companion. As the prince withdrew, Brummell turned to the companion and made one of the most famously ill-advised remarks in social history. 'Who's your fat friend?' he asked. Such an insult was social suicide. Shortly afterwards Brummell's debts caught up with him and he fled to France. He spent the last two and a half decades of his life living in poverty, mostly in Calais, growing slowly demented but always looking, in his restrained and careful way, sensational.


Source:

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.





November 6, 2011

Of Mice and Men and Health and Longevity




MiceSenescentCells2011-11-04.jpg"Two 9-month-old mice from the study. The one on the right received the drug to eliminate senescent cells." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1) In a potentially fundamental advance, researchers have opened up a novel approach to combating the effects of aging with the discovery that a special category of cells, known as senescent cells, are bad actors that promote the aging of the tissues. Cleansing the body of the cells, they hope, could postpone many of the diseases of aging.

The findings raise the prospect that any therapy that rids the body of senescent cells would protect it from the ravages of aging. But many more tests will be needed before scientists know if drugs can be developed to help people live longer.

Senescent cells accumulate in aging tissues, like arthritic knees, cataracts and the plaque that may line elderly arteries. The cells secrete agents that stimulate the immune system and cause low-level inflammation. Until now, there has been no way to tell if the presence of the cells is good, bad or indifferent.

The answer turns out to be that (p. A4) the cells hasten aging in the tissues in which they accumulate. In a delicate feat of genetic engineering, a research team led by Darren J. Baker and Jan M. van Deursen at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., has generated a strain of mouse in which all the senescent cells can be purged by giving the mice a drug that forces the cells to self-destruct.

Rid of the senescent cells, the Mayo Clinic researchers reported online Wednesday in the journal Nature, the mice's tissues showed a major improvement in the usual burden of age-related disorders. They did not develop cataracts, avoided the usual wasting of muscle with age, and could exercise much longer on a mouse treadmill. They retained the fat layers in the skin that usually thin out with age and, in people, cause wrinkling.



For the full story, see:

NICHOLAS WADE. "Prospect of Delaying Aging Ills Is Raised in Cell Study of Mice.To Challenges For Obama, Add Another." The New York Times (Thur., November 3, 2011): A1-A4.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated November 2, 2011 and has the title "Purging Cells in Mice Is Found to Combat Aging Ills.")

(Note: thanks to Luis Locay for sending me the link to this.)


Another worthwhile article summarizing the same research, is:

SHIRLEY S. WANG. "Cell Study Finds a Way to Slow Ravages of Age." The Wall Street Journal (Thur., November 3, 2011): A2.





November 5, 2011

Art Diamond Defended Air Conditioning in WPR Debate with Stan Cox





From archive of the Joy Cardin show:


Wednesday 6/8/2011 7:00 AM

Joy Cardin - 110608B After seven, Joy Cardin asks her guests a weather-related Big Question: "Do we rely too much on air-conditioning?"

Guests:
- Stan Cox, Senior Scientist, The Land Institute. Author, "Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air Conditioned World" Author's blog: http://losingourcool.wordpress.com
- Arthur Diamond, Professor of Economics, University of Nebraska at Omaha. Author, conference paper, "Keeping Our Cool: In Defense of Air Conditioning" (http://artdiamond.com/)




Link to streaming version of debate between Art Diamond and Stan Cox (author Losing Our Cool) on whether air conditioning is good (Diamond) or bad (Cox). Broadcast on Joy Cardin Show on the Wisconsin Public Radio network on Weds., June 8, 2011, from about 7:00 - 7:50 AM: http://wpr.org/webcasting/play-wma.cfm?FileName=jca110608b.wma&pagename=/webcasting/audioarchives_display.cfm






November 4, 2011

"Whatsoever a Man Soweth, That Shall He Also Reap"




PlantThiefSign2011-08-07.jpg "A gardener's recipe for vengeance at the Sixth Street and Avenue B Community Garden in Manhattan." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. 20) At the 700 community gardens sprinkled through the city like little Edens, the first commandment should be obvious: Thou shalt not covet, much less steal, thy neighbor's tomatoes, cucumbers or peppers. But people do.

"This was an inside job," Holland Haiis-Aguirre, a key-holder at the West Side Community Garden, said after she arrived at her plot on July 24 to pick a "big, beautiful, full-sized cucumber" that she and her husband had tended from infancy. Instead, she found a denuded vine; her prize cuke apparently was in someone else's salad. "So frustrating," she wailed.


. . .


Sally Young shrouds her 18 heirloom tomato plants in bird netting, but it is not birds she is trying to outwit. Claude Bastide, who grows aromatic herbs, had his spearmint and rosemary plants stolen early in the season. He responded with a sign: "Dear Plant Thief: If I catch you stealing my plants, I will boil you alive in a cauldron filled with poison ivy and stinging nettles until your flesh falls off your bones!"



For the full story, see:

ROBIN FINN. "Peck of Pilfered Peppers in City Gardens; Tomatoes, Too." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., August 7, 2011): 20.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was dated August 5, 2011, and had the title "Pilfered Peppers in City Gardens; Tomatoes, Too.")



Source of the title of this blog entry: The Bible, Galatians 6:7-9 (King James Version).







November 3, 2011

Wigmakers Petitioned King "to Make Wig-Wearing by Males Compulsory"




(p. 384) . . . , pretty abruptly, wigs went out of fashion. Wigmakers, in desperation, petitioned George III to make wig-wearing by males compulsory, but the king declined. By the early 1800s nobody wanted them and old wigs were commonly used as dust mops. Today they survive only in certain courtrooms in Britain and the Commonwealth. Judicial wigs these days are made of horsehair and cost about £600,

I'm told. To avoid a look of newness - which many lawyers fear might suggest inexperience - new wigs are customarily soaked in tea to give them a suitable air of age.




Source:

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





November 2, 2011

Reagan Fought "Tyranny" of Big Government




London-statue-of-Reagan-2011-08-10.jpg


















Former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and London statue of Ronald Reagan. Source of photo: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2011/7/4/1309780763409/London-statue-of-Reagan-u-001.jpg



The McCarthy mentioned in the passage quoted below is a California representative who also serves as majority whip.


(p. A9) The statue of a smiling Reagan, dressed in a crisp suit, was paid for by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation as part of a worldwide effort to promote his legacy, according to the organization's executive director.


. . .


Though Mrs. Thatcher is in poor health and did not attend, she provided a statement that was read by Mr. Hague. "Through his strength and conviction," she wrote, "he brought millions of people to freedom as the Iron Curtain finally came down."

In a speech, Mr. McCarthy described Mr. Reagan's fight not only against the forces of Communism, but against the "tyranny" of debt and big government. He and Mrs. Thatcher, he said, "did not move to the center to gather votes, they moved the center to them."



For the full story, see:

RAVI SOMAIYA. "Finding a New Perch, Americana Takes a Stand in London." The New York Times (Tues., July 5, 2011): A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 4, 2011 and has the title "Statue of Reagan Is Unveiled in London.")





November 1, 2011

My Jobs Haiku "Most Popular"




Yesterday (10/31/11) the Kauffman Foundation issued a press release reporting the results of their fourth-quarter survey of "top economics bloggers." The URL for the press release is:

http://www.kauffman.org/newsroom/only-half-of-economics-bloggers-expect-employment-growth-in-the-next-three-years.aspx


The last few lines of the press release are summarized below:

In their fourth-quarter survey of "top economics bloggers" the Kauffman Foundation asked the panel of bloggers "to describe the U.S. economy in haiku. Nearly 20 haiku were submitted and subsequently voted on by more than 500 public readers. The most popular was by Professor Art Diamond (http://artdiamondblog.com):"

jobs and Jobs are gone
need more Jobs to get more jobs
innovate to grow






HP3D5006CropSmall.jpg






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