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February 29, 2016

Uber Attracts Older Drivers for the Freedom, Flexibility, Adventure and Money




(p. B1) When Carol Sue Johnson, 73, wheels her silver Mazda S.U.V. out of her driveway in suburban Minneapolis, she doesn't know how much money she will make driving for the ride-hailing service Uber, but she's sure she will have an adventure.

Her passengers run the gamut, she said, from three visiting Chinese business executives who were surprised to see a female driver, to teenagers needing a ride to hockey practices or games.

When one group of teenagers "started to get too rowdy," said Ms. Johnson, who goes by Sue, "one of them told the others to stop because 'Grandma's in the car.'"


. . .


(p. B4) For most senior drivers, the biggest advantage is the extra income. Many of those who continue working after 65 do so because they would be too poor otherwise, according to a new report from the labor-backed Economic Policy Institute that found the current retirement system inadequate.

But driving for a ride-booking service, some retirees said, also can offer more than money.

"I love the freedom, the flexibility -- and the cash coming in every week," said Maureen Mahon, 59, who first saw an Uber advertisement on the side of a bus in Manhattan. Ms. Mahon, who lives in Brick Township, N.J., said she had been laid off twice in recent years from Wall Street, and has been driving intermittently since mid-2014.

"I meet businessmen, college kids on their way out for the night, folks going to parties, pretty much the whole range," she said. "You can drive as much or as little as you like. If the weather's bad or you have a doctor's appointment, you just don't turn on the app."

Another attraction, compared to driving a taxi, is safety, since customers are screened and no cash is exchanged. So, too, is the opportunity for drivers to shape the job on their own terms.

Driving for Uber "is like a game," said Stephen B. McPhail, 66, a former charter bus driver who lives in Covington, Wash., south of Seattle. "I like to map out how I spend my time to make the most money."

An early riser, he gets up at 4:30 a.m. to land several airport rides. Typically, he said, "I work five hours to make between $100 and $150 a day, and I can be done as early as 10 a.m."



For the full story, see:

ELIZABETH OLSON. "Retiring; Retired, and Now Hitting the Road for Uber and Lyft." The New York Times (Sat., JAN. 23, 2016): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 22, 2016, and has the title "Retiring; Older Drivers Hit the Road for Uber and Lyft.")






February 28, 2016

Arbitrary Two Degree Climate Threshold Is Not Backed by Research




(p. A1) Many researchers have argued that a rise in the planet's average global air temperature of two degrees or more above preindustrial levels would usher in catastrophic climate change. But many others, while convinced the planet is warming, say two degrees is a somewhat arbitrary threshold based on tenuous research, and therefore an impractical spur to policy action.

"It emerged from a political agenda, not a scientific analysis," said Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at University College London. "It's not a sensible, rational target because the models give you a range of possibilities, not a single answer."

Policy makers tend to assume the two-degree target expresses a solid scientific view, but it doesn't. The exhaustive reports published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are considered to be the most comprehensive analysis of the science of global warming. Yet the two-degree limit isn't mentioned in a single IPCC report.


. . .


(p. A12) William Nordhaus, a professor of economics at Yale University, appears to have been the first to mention the two-degree figure in a paper published in 1977. But rather than making a robust scientific calculation based on the physics of climate change, his paper argued that a rise of two or more degrees would put the earth's climate outside the observable range of temperature over the last several hundred thousand years.


. . .


In October 2014, David Victor, a professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego, and Charles Kennel, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif., wrote a sharp critique of the two-degree benchmark in the journal Nature.

They argued that the yardstick was scientifically weak because it captured only a tiny portion of the planet's climate profile. More than 93% of the extra heat, they noted, ends up in the ocean and not in the atmosphere.



For the full story, see:

GAUTAM NAIK. "Scientists Dispute 2-Degree Model Guiding Climate Talks." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Nov. 30, 2015): A1 & A12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 29, 2015, and has the title "Scientists Dispute 2-Degree Model Guiding Climate Talks.")


The Victor and Kennel critique mentioned above, is:

Victor, David G., and Charles F. Kennel. "Climate Policy: Ditch the 2 °C Warming Goal." Nature 514, no. 7520 (Oct. 2, 2014): 30-31.






February 27, 2016

Bernanke's "Astonishing" Admission that He Tried, and Failed, to Save Lehman




(p. B1) It is astonishing to hear a former Federal Reserve chairman acknowledge that he may have misled the public as part of an agreement with another senior government official about one of the most crucial moments in recent financial history -- and that he now questions whether he should have "been more forthcoming." But that is what Ben S. Bernanke says in his new memoir, "The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath."

That crucial moment? The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. Mr. Bernanke, in perhaps the most candid explanation of Lehman's 2008 collapse, writes that he and Henry M. Paulson, then the treasury secretary, purposely obfuscated when asked about Lehman's demise early on, allowing a narrative to develop that the government had purposely let the firm fail.

"In congressional testimony immediately after Lehman's collapse, Paulson and I were deliberately quite vague when discussing whether we could have saved Lehman," Mr. Bernanke writes. "But we had agreed in advance to be vague because we were intensely concerned that acknowledging our inability to save Lehman would hurt market confidence and increase pressure on other vulnerable firms."


. . .


(p. B4) He writes that it was simply impossible to save Lehman, pointing to the nearly $200 billion of losses that Lehman's creditors have since suffered. No one has come forward on the record, nor has any contemporaneous document been produced in the past seven years that said the government had found a way to save the company and specifically chose not to do so for political reasons, a point Mr. Bernanke alludes to in his book. "I do not want the notion that Lehman's failure could have been avoided, and that its failure was consequently a policy choice, to become the received wisdom, for the simple reason that it is not true," he writes. "We did everything we could think of to avoid it."



For the full commentary, see:

Sorkin, Andrew Ross. "In Bernanke's Memoir, a Candid Look at Lehman." The New York Times (Tues., OCT. 6, 2015): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date OCT. 5, 2015, and has the title "In Ben Bernanke's Memoir, a Candid Look at Lehman Brothers' Collapse.")


The Bernanke memoir is:

Bernanke, Ben S. The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2015.






February 26, 2016

Economists Blame Weather for Missed Forecast




(p. C8) Dozens of economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had correctly predicted a drop, but one that was far less severe - negative 0.2% compared with the actual 0.6% month-over-month decline.

But they weren't bothered by the discrepancy, blaming it on the weather. While that sounds like executives on a conference call throwing up excuses for a "miss" following quarterly earnings, the weather really did play a role. November was unusually mild and utility output was 7.6% lower than a year earlier. Manufacturing, by contrast, rose nearly 1%.

The surprising thing is that this wasn't anticipated. Since few of the economists surveyed live in balmy places like Florida, they somehow failed to notice that they didn't have to put on a heavy coat or sweater last month when heading into their offices to crank out forecasts.



For the full story, see:

SPENCER JAKAB. "OVERHEARD." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Dec 17, 2015): C8.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec 16, 2015, and has the title "OVERHEARD; Economists Need to Get Out More." The print version does not list an author. The wording of the two versions differs. The version quoted above is the online version.)






February 25, 2016

China "on a Treadmill to Hell"




(p. B1) DAVOS, Switzerland -- At the World Economic Forum here, chief executives and investors are blaming China for a slump in global markets.

Fears about the country's downshift, as its official growth slowed to a quarter-century low, have dominated high-level discussions, both during public debates and in smaller, private meetings.

The financier George Soros said at a dinner on Wednesday night [January 20, 2016] that a "hard landing is practically unavoidable," adding that China is the root of the current financial crisis.


. . .


(p. B6) Kenneth Rogoff, a Harvard economist who has long warned of a potential financial crisis in China, remained skeptical [that the Chinese government will reform its policies]. "There is a big propaganda push to say everything is good, everything is fine."

Earlier in the week he told attendees at the forum that China's large accumulation of government debt would one day be a shock to a financial system that "amplifies shocks."

Others with bearish views on China have kept their claws out. Jim S. Chanos, who once said China was "on a treadmill to hell," said he remained deeply concerned. His hedge fund, Kynikos Associates, estimated that China's nominal gross domestic growth in 2015 was 5 percent compared with 15 percent just five years earlier.

"China's debt problems still lie ahead of it," Mr. Chanos said on Thursday, referring to concerns about the extent to which China's seeming economic growth is actually fueled by borrowing.

As for Mr. Soros, he told an audience at the Panorama Restaurant in the Seehof Hotel in Davos this year that the Chinese had waited too long to properly address the transition of its growth model. Asked by a Bloomberg reporter if there was a risk of repeating 2008, Mr. Soros said the market was in a similar time of financial crisis.

"But the source of the disequilibrium is different," Mr. Soros said, adding that in 2008, the main cause was the United States subprime crisis. "Now," he said, "the root cause is basically China."



For the full story, see:

ALEXANDRA STEVENSON. "Fears About China's Economy Fester at Davos." The New York Times (Sat., JAN. 23, 2016): B1 & B6.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date and phrase, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 22, 2016.)






February 24, 2016

Harry Reid Supported Huge Tax Loophole for Wall Street and Casinos




(p. A1) WASHINGTON -- In the span of a mere 11 days this month, $1 billion in future federal tax payments vanished.

As congressional leaders were hastily braiding together a tax and spending bill of more than 2,000 pages, lobbyists swooped in to add 54 words that temporarily preserved a loophole sought by the hotel, restaurant and gambling industries, along with billionaire Wall Street investors, that allowed them to put real estate in trusts and avoid taxes.

They won support from the top Senate Democrat, Harry Reid of Nevada, who responded to appeals from executives of casino companies, politically powerful players and huge employers in his state. And the lobbyists even helped draft the crucial language.

The small changes, and the enormous windfall they generated, show the power of connected corporate lobbyists to alter a huge bill that is being put together with little time for lawmakers to consider. Throughout the legislation, there were thousands of other add-ons and hard to decipher tax changes.

Some executives at companies with the most at stake are also big campaign donors. For example, the family of David Bonderman, a co-founder of TPG Capital, has donated $1.2 million since 2014 to the Senate Majority PAC, a campaign fund with close ties to Mr. Reid and other Senate Democrats. TPG Capital has large holdings in Caesars Entertainment and helps run a Texas-based energy company, both of which stand to benefit from the (p. A17) last-minute change.



For the full story, see:

ERIC LIPTON and LIZ MOYER. "Lobbyists Shield a Tax Loophole Worth $1 Billion." The New York Times (Mon., DEC. 20, 2015): A1 & A17.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 20, 2015, and has the title "Hospitality and Gambling Interests Delay Closing of Billion-Dollar Tax Loophole." )






February 23, 2016

"Minds Feel More Crimped, Fear More Pervasive, Possibility More Limited"




Maybe to lead happy or satisfying lives, we need more adventure, or more projects (hard and important ones) to commit ourselves to?



(p. 19) Freedom is still out there. We all have our idea of it, the deferred dream. Your psyche builds layers of protection around your most vulnerable traits, which may be closely linked to that precious essence in which freedom resides. Freedom is inseparable from risk.


. . .


I don't know if the world is freer than a half-century ago. On paper, it is. The totalitarian Soviet Imperium is gone. The generals who bossed Latin America are gone, generally. Asia has unshackled itself and claims this century as its own. Media has opened out, gone social.

Yet minds feel more crimped, fear more pervasive, possibility more limited, adventure more choreographed, politics more stale, economics more skewed, pressure more crushing, escape more elusive.


. . .


Which brings me to Finnegan's wonderful book, a kind of hymn to freedom and passion. Freedom is inside you. It's the thing that cannot be denied. For Finnegan, that's surfing and writing. "How could you know your limits unless you tested them?" he asks -- a question as true before the ferocious energy of the wave as before the infinite possibilities of the written form.



For the full commentary, see:

Cohen, Roger. "Ways to Be Free." The New York Times (Sat., JAN. 23, 2016): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JAN. 21, 2016.)


The Finnegan book praised in the passage quoted above, is:

Finnegan, William. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life. New York: Penguin Press, 2015.







February 22, 2016

Gladwell Gladly Blurbs Good Books




(p. D10) When Malcolm Gladwell was asked to write a blurb for the 2005 book "Freakonomics, " he did not explain that it explored the dynamics of the Ku Klux Klan or the impact of naming a child "Loser." Instead, the New Yorker writer and best-selling author of "The Tipping Point" and "Blink" simply wrote, "Prepare to be dazzled."

"Freakonomics" became a best seller.


. . .


According to Mr. Gladwell, his sausage is simple: He writes blurbs because people ask him to, and he does not overthink what to say. "People will show you a book and you think, 'It's cool,'" he said. "You want people to read it. I feel like we have to promote ourselves."

For the paperback version of "Stumbling on Happiness," a book about imagination and happiness written by his professional acquaintance, the Harvard University psychologist Daniel Gilbert, Mr. Gladwell raved, imploring readers: "Trust me." He also wrote a guest review on Amazon.

And he tweets recommendations freely to his 336,000 followers, as he did for the release of Fareed Zakaria's new book, "In Defense of a Liberal Education" in April. "Fareed Zakaria's new book is brilliant!" he wrote, adding a handy link to Amazon.


. . .


He is nothing if not loyal. Last July [2015], the authors of "Freakonomics" released the paperback edition of their latest book, "Think Like A Freak." Malcolm Gladwell was on the cover again, this time saying, "Utterly captivating."



For the full story, see:

LAURA M. HOLSON. "Master of the Compelling, Captivating, Dazzling Blurb." The New York Times (Thurs., DEC. 17, 2015): D10.

(Note: elipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 16, 2015, and has the title "Malcolm Gladwell Hands Out Book Blurbs Like Santa Does Presents.")






February 21, 2016

Chinese Communists Spend Taxpayer Money on Luxury Public Toilets




(p. 9) BEIJING -- Li Wen had heard about the turbo-strength flush power and the lily-scented soap. He knew about the stalls equipped with personal television screens and wireless Internet access, the soothing cello soundtrack and the windows lined with aloe vera plants.

But Mr. Li, 39, a salesman, was skeptical when he set foot in the new public toilet at the corner of Fuqian Square in Fangshan, a district in southwest Beijing.

"What was wrong with the old one?" he said. "The government has too much money and doesn't know how to spend it."


. . .


"It's just a toilet," said Lei Junying, 74, a retired farmer who lives in Fangshan. "Why do they have to make it such a nice one?"

She added: "The government puts out its hands and asks people to pay taxes. Why don't they donate that money to poor neighborhoods instead?"


. . .


Some residents worry that the popularity of the new toilet and the presence of television screens and Wi-Fi will encourage guests to linger too long.

On a recent day, Li Peiling, 39, a dental assistant, grew restless after waiting five minutes for a stall. She began to shout at the row of closed doors.

"Time's up!" she said. "Some of us need to get to work!"



For the full story, see:

JAVIER C. HERNÁNDEZ. "High-Tech Toilet Facilities Earn Praise and Questions in China." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., DEC. 27, 2015): 9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 16, 2015, and has the title "Wi-Fi, A.T.M.s and Turbo-Flush Toilets Highlight China's New Public Restrooms.")






February 20, 2016

Mast Brothers Started Their Chocolate Business in Their Apartment




The Masts provide another example showing the possibility of entry into the candy business. The issue is relevant to the claim of those who support sugar quotas, that a decline in sugar prices would not be passed on to consumers in the form of lower candy prices. If there is easy entry into the candy business, then the business is traditionally competitive, and lower costs of production will be passed on to consumers.



(p. A20) In an interview on Sunday [Dec. 20, 2015], Rick Mast, who with his brother began making chocolate in a Brooklyn apartment in 2006, said the allegations were untrue -- for the most part. But on the claim that the Masts were "remelters" at the start, Mr. Mast confirmed the brothers did use industrial chocolate, what is known as couverture, in some of their early creations, before settling on the bean-to-bar process for which they are now known.

"It was such a fun experimental year," Mr. Mast said, adding that the brothers were transparent "to anyone that asked."



For the full story, see:

SARAH MASLIN NIR. "Unwrapping a Chocolatier's Mythos." The New York Times (Mon., DEC. 21, 2015): A20 & A22.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 20, 2015, and has the title "Unwrapping the Mythos of Mast Brothers Chocolate in Brooklyn.")






February 19, 2016

Federal Government "Deputized" the Ku Klux Klan to Enforce Prohibition Against "Immigrants, Catholics and African-Americans"




(p. C4) . . . in her new book, "The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State" (W. W. Norton), the historian Lisa McGirr tells anything but a nostalgic story. The 18th Amendment, she argues, didn't just give rise to vibrant night life and colorful, Hollywood-ready characters, like Isidor Einstein, New York's celebrated "Prohibition Agent No. 1." More enduringly, and tragically, it also radically expanded the federal government's role in law enforcement, with consequences that can be seen in the crowded prisons of today.

In The New York Times Book Review, James A. Morone writes that the book "could have a major impact on how we read American political history." In a recent email interview, Ms. McGirr, a professor at Harvard, discussed Prohibition's political legacy, the surprising enforcement role of the Ku Klux Klan and the character from her story she'd most like to have a drink with. Below are excerpts from the conversation.


. . .


Q. You argue that Prohibition gave rise to today's "penal state." How did that happen?

A. By birthing a new national obsession with crime, Prohibition -- and the violence that came with it -- pushed the federal government in the direction of policing and surveillance. This was the moment that saw the first national crime commission, the birth of the Uniform Crime Reports, an expanded prison system and the establishment of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The F.B.I. also won expanded authority.


. . .


Q. You describe how the Ku Klux Klan helped enforce Prohibition in places like Williamson County, Ill., where federal authorities deputized its members to conduct sometimes deadly raids on distilleries, bars and private homes -- taking particular aim at Italian immigrants. What made the Klan such an ally in the war on alcohol?

A. The Klan sold itself to white Protestant evangelicals as a law enforcement organization, winning droves of recruits with its promise to clamp down on bootlegging. There were plenty of Klansmen who imbibed, but that did not stop them from leveraging the law to target the drinking of the presumed enemies of white Protestant nationalism: immigrants, Catholics and African-Americans.



For the full interview, see:

JENNIFER SCHUESSLER, interviewer. "A Word with Lisa McGirr; Throwing a Cold Splash on Prohibition Nostalgia." The New York Times (Thurs., DEC. 31, 2015): C4.

(Note: ellipses added; bold in original.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date DEC. 30, 2015, and has the title "Lisa McGirr Discusses 'The War on Alcohol' and the Legacy of Prohibition.")



The book under discussion, is:

McGirr, Lisa. The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 2015.






February 18, 2016

"The Circus Is Gone, But the Clowns Stayed"




(p. A1) SHCHYOLKINO, Crimea -- When residents in this typical Soviet factory town voted enthusiastically to secede from Ukraine and to become Russians, they thought the chaos and corruption that made daily life a struggle were a thing of the past.

Now that many of them are being forced to cook and boil drinking water on open fires, however, they are beginning to reconsider.

There has been no steady electricity supply in this hard-hit town since Nov. 22, when protesters in Ukraine blew up the lines still feeding Crimea with most of its electric power. The bigger towns and cities are only marginally better off.

Yet, people here are not sure whom to blame more for their predicament: the Crimean Tatar activists and Ukrainian nationalists who cut off Crimea's link to the Ukrainian power grid or the local government officials who claimed to have enough power generators stored away to handle such an emergency.

"The circus is gone, but the clowns stayed," said Leonid Zakharov, 45, leaning on a wooden cane. Moscow may have purged Ukrainian authority, he said, but many of the same corrupt and incompetent officials remained in office and life was only slightly less chaotic than before.


. . .


As often happens in Russia, some blame Washington rather than Moscow or Kiev.

"If it wasn't for the Americans none of it could have happened. The Tatars, who are supported by the United States, would not do a thing," said Tatyana Bragina, 57, an energetic woman who also once worked construction at a nearby, unfinished nuclear plant.

"Please write that we are not desperate. On the contrary, we are full of joy," Ms. Bragina said, standing near a black iron kettle boiling away in the courtyard of her apartment block.



For the full story, see:

IVAN NECHEPURENKO. "Months After Russian Annexation, Hopes Start to Dim in Crimea." The New York Times (Weds., DEC. 2, 2015): A4 & A12.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 1, 2015, and has the title "Months After Russian Annexation, Hopes Start to Dim in Crimea.")






February 17, 2016

Irony that Kafka Statue Faces Prague City Government Building




(p. 10) Prague is sprinkled with provocative pieces by Mr. Cerny -- a sculpture of a urinating man (directly in front of the Franz Kafka Museum), a statue of the Czech patron saint King Wenceslas sitting on an upside down dead horse.

His most recent installation in Prague is a sculpture of Kafka's head, set behind the Tesco department store in the center of town. The 36-foot-high head is made up of 42 moving chrome-plated layers, which move both in synchronicity and in opposing directions.

Mr. Cerny's original idea was a fountain featuring three figures: a robot, referencing the Czech-language writer Karel Capek, who coined the term; a Golem, representing the Yiddish language; and Kafka's beetle, referring to the German language. "I wanted to remind people that Prague was once a city of three languages," Mr. Cerny said.

Unfortunately, city water regulations prevented him from placing a fountain there, so instead he came up with the huge reflecting Kafka head, which is based on similar work of his on display in Charlotte, N.C., called "Metalmorphosis."

"I loved the irony that this sculpture faces a city government building in Prague," he said. "Imagine you're angry because the clerks are doing nothing, only saying for you to go to another office and then another office and another until finally you hear, 'This office is closed.' And then you walk out of the building, and there's the huge head of Kafka looking at you, reminding you of the irony."



For the full story, see:

DAVID FARLEY. "Footsteps; Prague; On the Trail of Kafka's Legacy." The New York Times, Travel Section (Sun., DEC. 27, 2015): 10.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed dates, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 22, 2015, and has the title "Footsteps; On the Trail of Kafka in Prague.")






February 16, 2016

Trophy Hunting Preserves Endangered Species




(p. A1) Despite intensifying calls to ban or restrict trophy hunting in Africa after the killing of a lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe, most conservation groups, wildlife (p. A8) management experts and African governments support the practice as a way to maintain wildlife. Hunting, they contend, is part of a complex economy that has so far proven to be the most effective method of conservation, not only in Africa but around the world as well.

While hunting is banned in government parks here in South Africa, animals inside their boundaries are routinely sold to game ranches when their populations are considered excessive, generating money to maintain habitats and fight poachers.

And because trophy hunting is legal in private game reserves, the animals end up fetching higher prices than they would in being killed for food or other reasons, conservationists contend. Lion hunts, one of the most lucrative forms of trophy hunting, bring in between $24,000 and $71,000 per outing on average across Africa, according to a 2012 study. In southern Africa, the emergence of a regulated trophy hunting industry on private game ranches in the 1960s helped restore vast stretches of degraded habitats and revive certain species, like the southern white rhinoceros, which had been hunted almost to extinction, conservationists say.

A similar shift occurred in the United States decades earlier when the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 allocated the proceeds from hunting to bring back lands and animals, they argue.

"There's only two places on the earth where wildlife at a large scale has actually increased in the 20th century, and those are North America and southern Africa," said Rosie Cooney, a zoologist who is the chairwoman of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group. "Both of those models of conservation were built around hunting."



For the full story, see:

NORIMITSU ONISHI. "Outcry for Cecil the Lion Could Undercut Conservation Efforts." The New York Times (Tues., AUG. 11, 2015): A1 & A8.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 10, 2015.)






February 15, 2016

"Gleefully" Using Climate Change "as an Opportunity to Put an End to Capitalism"




(p. B9) . . . , Peter Victor of York University in Canada published a study titled "Growth, degrowth and climate change: A scenario analysis," in which he compared Canadian carbon emissions under three economic paths to the year 2035.

Limiting growth to zero, he found, had a modest impact on carbon spewed into the air. Only the "de-growth" situation -- in which Canadians' income per person shrank to its level in 1976 and the average working hours of employed Canadians declined by 75 percent -- managed to slash emissions in a big way.


. . .


Let's examine what our fossil-fueled growth has provided us. It has delivered gains in living standards in even the poorest regions of the world.

But that's only the beginning. Economic development was indispensable to end slavery. It was a critical precondition for the empowerment of women.

Indeed, democracy would not have survived without it. As Martin Wolf, the Financial Times commentator has noted, the option for everybody to become better off -- where one person's gain needn't require another's loss -- was critical for the development and spread of the consensual politics that underpin democratic rule.

Zero growth gave us Genghis Khan and the Middle Ages, conquest and subjugation. It fostered an order in which the only mechanism to get ahead was to plunder one's neighbor. Economic growth opened up a much better alternative: trade.

The Oxford economist Max Roser has some revealing charts that show the deadliness of war across the ages. It was a real killer in the era of no growth. Up to half of all deaths among hunter-gatherers, horticulturalists and other ancient cultures were caused by conflict.


. . .


Naomi Klein, a champion of the leftward fringe newly converted to the environmental cause, gleefully proposes climate change as an opportunity to put an end to capitalism. Were she right, I doubt it would bring about the workers' utopia she appears to yearn for. In a world economy that does not grow, the powerless and vulnerable are the most likely to lose. Imagine "Blade Runner," "Mad Max" and "The Hunger Games" brought to real life.



For the full commentary, see:

Porter, Eduardo. "Economic Scene; No Growth, No World? Think About It." The New York Times (Weds., DEC. 2, 2015): B1 & B9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date DEC. 1, 2015, and has the title "Economic Scene; Imagining a World Without Growth.")



The Victor paper mentioned above, is:

Victor, Peter A. "Growth, Degrowth and Climate Change: A Scenario Analysis." Ecological Economics 84, no. 1 (Dec. 2012): 206-12.


The Roser charts, mentioned above, can be found at:

Roser, Max. Ethnographic and Archaeological Evidence on Violent Deaths 2015 [accessed Fri., Jan. 22, 2016]. Available from http://ourworldindata.org/data/violence-rights/ethnographic-and-archaeological-evidence-on-violent-deaths/.


The Klein book seeking to end capitalism, is:

Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The (sic) Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.






February 14, 2016

Textile Production Moving from China Back to United States




(p. A1) INDIAN LAND, S.C. -- Twenty-five years ago, Ni Meijuan earned $19 a month working the spinning machines at a vast textile factory in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.

Now at the Keer Group's cotton mill in South Carolina, which opened in March, Ms. Ni is training American workers to do the job she used to do.

"They're quick learners," Ms. Ni said after showing two fresh recruits how to tease errant wisps of cotton from the machines' grinding gears. "But they have to learn to be quicker."

Once the epitome of cheap mass manufacturing, textile producers from formerly low-cost nations are starting to set up shop in America. It is part of a blurring of once seemingly clear-cut boundaries between high- and low-cost manufacturing nations that few would have predicted a decade ago.

Textile production in China is becoming increasingly unprofitable after years of rising wages, higher energy bills and mounting logistical costs, as well as new government quotas on the import of cotton.

At the same time, manufacturing costs in the United States are becoming more competitive.


. . .


(p. A3) Ms. Ni, one of 15 Chinese trainers at Keer's Indian Land plant, complained softly of American workers' occasional tardiness. In China, she said, managers can dock the pay of workers who show up late. But here, she said, she felt frustrated that she could not discipline tardy staff.



For the full story, see:

HIROKO TABUCHI. "Chinese Textile Mills Are Now Hiring in Places Where Cotton Was King." The New York Times (Mon., AUG. 3, 2015): A1 & A3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 2, 2015, and has the title "Chinese Textile Mills Are Now Hiring in Places Where Cotton Was King.")






February 13, 2016

Ten Quit, or Were Fired, "to Honor the Other 290"




(p. 1) A hellbent quest for authenticity produced some indelible on-set moments for Alejandro G. Iñárritu as he directed "The Revenant," his two-and-a-half-hour opus of death, love and improvised surgery in the American West of the 1820s.


. . .


(p. 20) There were enough grumblings from the crew about delays, safety and overall misery that The Hollywood Reporter published an article in July in which one source described the experience as "a living hell." Ten people either quit or were fired during filming, Mr. Iñárritu said, and he will not apologize for that.

"I have nothing to hide," he said. "Of the 300 we started with, I had to ask some to step away, to honor the other 290. If one piece in the group is not perfect, it can screw the whole thing up."


. . .


"Standing in a freezing river and eating a fish, or climbing a mountain with a wet bear fur on my back -- those were some of the most difficult sequences for me," said Mr. DiCaprio, who is considered a strong contender for an Oscar nomination for his performance. "This entire movie was something on an entirely different level. But I don't want this to sound like a complaint. We all knew what we were signing up for. It was going to be in the elements, and it was going to be a rough ride."


. . .


In person, . . . , Mr. Iñárritu has the chilled-out affect of a man who meditates every day and loves long walks. The only hint of intensity, and just a tinge of anger, comes when he discusses other movies. Too many of them today are like the products of fast-food chains, he said, ordered up by corporations that prize predictability and sameness over all else.

"What about going to a restaurant to be surprised?" he all but shouted. "That's the risk that everybody avoids! In the context of cinema now, this movie is a bet."

Raised in Mexico City, Mr. Iñárritu, 52, is the son of a banker who would eventually file for bankruptcy and end up selling fruit and vegetables to hotels and restaurants. The younger Iñárritu started off as a radio host, playing music and writing provocative, comical sketches with a political bent. He studied theater and learned to direct by shooting brand-identity commercials for a television station. By the time he landed his first feature, "Amores Perros," released in 2000, he had spent hundreds of hours behind a camera. Then came "21 Grams" (2003), "Babel" (2006) and "Biutiful" (2010).



For the full story, see:

DAVID SEGAL. "That Bear and Other Threats." The New York Times, Arts&Leisure Section (Sun., DEC. 27, 2015): 1 & 20.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 22, 2015, and has the title "About That Bear: Alejandro G. Iñárritu Discusses Making 'The Revenant'.")






February 12, 2016

Innovators Need Time for Tedious Tasks




(p. 3) Innovation isn't all about eureka moments. In fact, the road to creative breakthroughs is paved with mundane, workaday tasks. That's the message of a recent study that might as well be titled "In Praise of Tedium."

In the study, researchers sought to examine how extended periods of free time affect innovation. To do this, they analyzed activity on Kickstarter, the crowdfunding website, in nearly 6,000 American cities.


. . .


Over a period of about nine months, the researchers found a sharp increase in the number of new projects posted during the first few days of school break periods. The spike, they suggest, is tied to people having more time to perform the administrative aspects of Kickstarter projects -- working on a manufacturing plan, say, or setting up a rewards schedule. While people may be using some stretches of free time to nurture those much lauded light bulb moments, the process of innovation also appears to require time to carry out execution-oriented tasks that are not particularly creative but still necessary to transform an idea into a product, the study indicates.



For the full story, see:

PHYLLIS KORKKI. "Applied Science; Good Ideas Need Time for Tedious Legwork." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., AUG. 16, 2015): 3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 15, 2015, and has the title "Applied Science; Looking for a Breakthrough? Study Says to Make Time for Tedium.")


The academic paper summarized in the passages quoted above, is:

Agrawal, Ajay, Christian Catalini, and Avi Goldfarb. "Slack Time and Innovation." Rotman School of Management Working Paper #2599004, April 25, 2015.






February 11, 2016

Those on the Scene Matter for Outcome of Crisis




Amanda Ripley has argued that in many disasters, it is not the well-trained "first responders" who matter most for the outcome, but those who happen to be close to the scene. The problem is that often the "first responders" do not arrive soon enough to save lives or head off the crisis. The story sketched in the passages quoted below, seems to be another example for her thesis.



(p. B1) "We had a one-minute warning," recalled Dr. Lax, a mathematician who was the director of the university's computer center at the time. "The son of a friend ran in" and shouted that the demonstrators were coming for the computer, he said. "It was too late to call the police and fortify."


. . .


Jürgen Moser, a mathematician who was the director of the Courant Institute, the university's prestigious math research center, tried to stop the demonstrators when they swarmed into Warren Weaver Hall. According to a chapter in a biography of Dr. Lax by Reuben Hersh, Dr. Moser, who died in 1999, said he was "pushed and shoved around, and was unable to deter them."


. . .


After a two-day occupation, the protesters decided to end the takeover. But they did not carry out everything they had taken in, as two assistant professors, Frederick P. Greenleaf and Emile C. Chi, discovered when they ran in.

"We thought, 'Let's go take a look before the place gets locked down,' " Dr. Greenleaf recalled last week. "They had knocked the doorknobs off the door so you couldn't open it."

But there was a small window, high up in the door, and they peered in. "We could see there was an improvised toilet paper fuse," he said. "It was slowly burning its way to a bunch of containers, bigger than gallon jugs. They were sitting on the top of the computer."


. . .


Already, he said, smoke was curling under the door.

He and Professor Chi grabbed a fire extinguisher in the stairwell.

The only way to douse the fuse was to aim the fire extinguisher under the door. The only way to know where to aim it was to look through the window in the door, which was too high for whoever was operating the fire extinguisher to look through and aim at the same time.

So one functioned as the eyes for the pair, sighting through the window and directing the other to point the fire extinguisher up or down or left or right. "In a minute, we had managed to spritz the fuse," Dr. Greenleaf said.



For the full story, see:

JAMES BARRON. "Grace Notes; The Mathematicians Who Saved a Kidnapped N.Y.U. Computer." The New York Times (Mon., DEC. 7, 2015): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 6, 2015, and has the title "Grace Notes; The Mathematicians Who Ended the Kidnapping of an N.Y.U. Computer.")


The Ripley book mentioned above, is:

Ripley, Amanda. The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why. New York: Crown Publishers, 2008.






February 10, 2016

Serendipitous Fix for Colorblindness




(p. 3) The eyeglass lenses that Don McPherson invented were meant for surgeons. But through serendipity he found an entirely different use for them: as a possible treatment for colorblindness.

Mr. McPherson is a glass scientist and an avid Ultimate Frisbee player. He discovered that the lenses he had invented, which protect surgeons' eyes from lasers and help them differentiate human tissue, caused the world at large to look candy-colored -- including the Frisbee field.

At a tournament in Santa Cruz, Calif., in 2002, while standing on a grassy field dotted with orange goal-line cones, he lent a pair of glasses with the lenses to a friend who happened to be colorblind. "He said something to the effect of, 'Dude, these are amazing,' " Mr. McPherson says. "He's like, 'I see orange cones. I've never seen them before.' "

Mr. McPherson was intrigued. He said he did not know the first thing about colorblindness, but felt compelled to figure out why the lenses were having this effect. Mr. McPherson had been inserting the lenses into glasses that he bought at stores, then selling them through Bay Glass Research, his company at the time.

Mr. McPherson went on to study colorblindness, fine-tune the lens technology and start a company called EnChroma that now sells glasses for people who are colorblind. His is among a range of companies that have brought inadvertent or accidental inventions to market. Such inventions have included products as varied as Play-Doh, which started as a wallpaper cleaner, and the pacemaker, discovered through a study of hypothermia.


. . .


EnChroma was still struggling to solve its marketing conundrum when another serendipitous event occurred: A paint company wanted to finance an ad campaign featuring the glasses. The idea was to introduce color to the colorblind. To that end, videos were made of EnChroma users wearing the glasses for the first time while looking at things like sunsets, colorful artwork and, of course, paint samples.

The ad campaign increased EnChroma's sales and spurred a trend: New EnChroma customers began filming and sharing their experiences online. The company placed inserts in its eyeglass boxes encouraging customers to participate.

Prompted by the insert, Bob Balcom, a 60-year-old retired high school science teacher and labor relations specialist in Chatham, N.Y., uploaded his first YouTube video in March. Shot by his wife, it shows Mr. Balcom putting the glasses over his own eyeglasses and staring up at the sky quietly for several seconds. "The blue sky is deeper than I've ever seen," he says. "It reminds me of Colorado. And the pine trees, they're just so green." Tears stream down his cheeks and into his gray beard.



For the full story, see:

CLAIRE MARTIN. "Finding a Niche for the Accidental Spectacles." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., AUG. 16, 2015): 3.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed dates, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 15, 2015, and has the title "EnChroma's Accidental Spectacles Find Niche Among the Colorblind." )






February 9, 2016

Canadian Cartel Seizes 20,400 Pounds of Robert Hodge's Maple Syrup




Video interviews related to the New York Times article quoted below.



(p. B1) The scenic and narrow lane that leads to Robert Hodge's sugar camp is surrounded by a cat's cradle of plastic piping that draws sap from 12,000 trees. At the end of the lane, a ramshackle hut contains reverse osmosis pumps to concentrate the harvest. A stainless steel evaporator, about the size of a truck, finishes the conversion into maple syrup.

Just one thing is missing: the maple syrup.

For weeks, security guards, hired by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, kept watch over Mr. Hodge's farm. Then one day, the federation seized 20,400 pounds of maple syrup, his entire annual production, worth about 60,000 Canadian dollars, or nearly $46,000.

The incident was part of the escalating battle with farmers like Mr. Hodge who break the law by not participating in the federation's tightly controlled production and sales system.

"It's a good thing that I'm not 35, 40 years old because I'd pack up all my sugar equipment that's movable, and I'd go to the United States -- oh yes, in a minute, in a minute," said Mr. Hodge, 68.

While many Americans associate Vermont with maple syrup, Quebec is its center. The province's trees produce more than 70 (p. 4) percent of the world's supply and fill the majority of the United States' needs. The federation, in turn, has used that dominance to restrict supply and control prices of the pancake topping.


. . .


Mr. Hodge is similarly intransigent. At this point in the season, Mr. Hodge would normally have sold his syrup, turning his attention to his cattle and other crops. But this year he had nothing to sell. He contends that farmers should be allowed to set their own level of production and sell directly to large buyers, regardless of what the law says.

"They call us rebels, say we're in a sugar war or something. I've heard rumors of that," said Mr. Hodge, at his farm in Bury, Quebec.

"Yeah, I guess you could call it that."

Across the table, Whitney, his 20-year-old daughter, who also farms, looked up from her smartphone and interjected.

"A war over maple syrup, like how pathetic can you get?"


. . .


Prices are set by the federation, in negotiation with a buyers' group. The federation holds most of the power, given that it controls a majority of the world's production.

Such domestic systems are facing scrutiny in a global marketplace. One major hurdle in the talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major trade deal with 12 countries, has been Canada's refusal to dismantle a similar quota system for dairy and poultry farmers.

Maple syrup buyers, including some American companies, have bristled at the federation's tactics. They appreciate the steady supply. But some have taken issue with the aggressive enforcement efforts, including large fines for companies buying from Quebec producers outside the system, and the rising prices.

The situation, critics contend, could prompt buyers and producers to shift to the neighboring province of New Brunswick, and Vermont in the United States. Or consumers might simply pour artificial syrup instead.

"People will always eat chicken," said Antoine Aylwin, a Montreal lawyer who has represented several buyers in disputes with the federation, including some American companies. "But they will not always eat maple syrup if they think that they can't afford it."

Defying the Law

Mr. Hodge was shocked in 2009 when the federation demanded 278,000 Canadian dollars for not joining the system and for selling directly to a buyer in Ontario.

Most years, Mr. Hodge's sugar bush grosses about 50,000 Canadian dollars. About half the money goes to cover electricity for the vacuum pumps and oil for the evaporator.

"I'd have to give them 100 percent of what I gross for five years, and I would have nothing for production cost," he said. "That just ain't possible."

Mr. Hodge openly acknowledges that he is defying the law. When the quota and centralized selling system were introduced, he continued to sell directly to a buyer in Ontario.


. . .


Like others who have invoked the federation's wrath, Mr. Hodge's battle seems as much about principle as avoiding a potentially crippling fine.

In Mr. Hodge's view, the system's restrictions are stunting the growth of Quebec's industry. It is less bureaucratic and less expensive, he explains, for buyers to go to Vermont or New Brunswick. He said that he had no problem with paying the federation its 12 cents a pound tax for various services, like promoting maple syrup in new markets, particularly in Asia. But he will not adhere to the quotas.

"Well, I don't accept the system because I don't believe in not being able to sell our product," he said. "We just think that that product is ours. We bought the land. We've done all the work. Why should we not be able to sell our product the way we want as long as we legitimately put it on our income tax?"

That's a question that exasperates Mr. Trépanier of the federation. While Mr. Trépanier studiously avoids calling the organization a cartel, he has described it as the OPEC of maple syrup in the past, referring to the group of oil-producing countries. The system, he said, is doomed to collapse without production discipline.



For the full story, see:

IAN AUSTEN. "The Maple Syrup Mavericks." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., AUG. 23, 2015): 1 & 4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 20, 2015, and has the title "Canadian Maple Syrup 'Rebels' Clash With Law.")






February 8, 2016

Only a Founder Has the Moral Authority to Shake Up a Company




(p. B1) SAN FRANCISCO -- Shortly after Twitter's board of directors began its search for a new chief executive in June [2015], it said it would only accept someone willing to commit to the job full time. It was a not-so-subtle message to Twitter's co-founder and interim boss, Jack Dorsey, that he would have to give up his job running Square, a mobile payments start-up, if he wanted to run Twitter on a permanent basis.

On Monday [Oct. 5, 2015], the eight-member board reversed itself, announcing that it had decided to allow Mr. Dorsey, its chairman, to head both companies after all.


. . .


(p. B8) This is Mr. Dorsey's second go-round as Twitter's chief executive.

Evan Williams, a board member and co-founder of Twitter who was instrumental in firing him in 2008, noted that the board considered many candidates before settling on Mr. Dorsey.

"I honestly didn't think we'd land on Jack when we started unless he could step away from Square," Mr. Williams wrote in a post on Medium, the social media site he now runs. "But ultimately, we decided it was worth it."

In the end, Mr. Dorsey made a compelling case that he had matured and grown as a leader and that only a founder would have the moral authority to truly shake up a company that has been struggling to attract new users and compete for advertising dollars.



For the full story, see:

VINDU GOEL and MIKE ISAAC. "Delegating, Dorsey Will Lead Twitter and Square." The New York Times (Tues., OCT. 6, 2015): B1 & B8.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed dates, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 5, 2015, and has the title "Delegating, Jack Dorsey Will Lead Twitter and Square.")






February 7, 2016

Communist Chinese One Child Laws Violated Basic Human Rights




On Sat., Jan. 17, 2016 I caught the re-broadcast of an interview with Mei Fong that C-SPAN's web site suggests was first broadcast on Jan. 11, 2016. The interview focused on Fong's book on the history, causes and effects of China's one child laws. Fong is understated in her style, but it is clear that the Chinese communist government violated the rights of many Chinese citizens by forcing them to have unwanted abortions, and to undergo unwanted sterilizations. In many cases, when their "one child" died in a disaster, or of natural causes, parents desperately rushed to try to have the forced sterilization reversed.

Fong's book, that she discussed on C-SPAN, is:

Fong, Mei. One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.






February 6, 2016

French Union Activists Rip Shirts Off Backs of Executives and Force Them to Escape Over Fence




(p. B3) PARIS -- Angry workers stormed Air France headquarters on Monday [October 5, 2016] as top managers were meeting to discuss plans to shed more than 2,900 jobs, forcing two executives to flee over a fence and in the process ripping the shirts from their backs.

The violence at the Air France offices near Charles de Gaulle Airport broke out shortly after 9:30 a.m. Officials, including the chief executive officer, Frédéric Gagey, had informed the company's workers council that 900 flight attendants, 1,700 ground crew members and 300 pilots could be laid off as the airline strives to return to profitability.

The talks at the company, which is facing headwinds from an economic downturn and competition from low-cost carriers, had been tense for more than a year. While violence had not marred previous negotiations, the protests Monday were the latest in a series of incidents in France in which workers have held company bosses hostage or damaged property to make their point.

As the Air France executives detailed the latest restructuring plan, union activists swarmed into the room, waving flags and chanting protests, prompting Mr. Gagey to make a hasty exit.



For the full story, see:

LIZ ALDERMAN. "Workers Storm Air France Offices as Job Cuts Are Discussed." The New York Times (Tues., OCT. 6, 2015): B3.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 5, 2015, and has the title "Angry Workers Storm Air France Meeting on Job Cuts.")






February 5, 2016

Health Spending Rises Faster




HealthCostGrowthGraphs2016-01-21.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A3) WASHINGTON--Growth in U.S. health-care spending is accelerating after reaching historic lows, a pickup largely attributed to the millions of Americans who have gotten health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Spending on all health care increased 5.3% in 2014, according to a report Wednesday [Dec. 2, 2015] from actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That compares with the 2.9% growth in 2013, which marked the lowest rate since the government began tracking the gains 55 years ago.

The return to more robust growth after a slowdown in spending had been anticipated by economists. Still, it is likely to add to criticism that the 2010 health law isn't doing enough to rein in costs. The report, based on 2014 government numbers and published in the journal Health Affairs, follows five consecutive years where average spending growth was less than 4% annually.



For the full story, see:

STEPHANIE ARMOUR. "Health Spending Picks Up." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Dec. 3, 2015): A3.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date Dec. 2, 2015, and has the title "Growth in U.S. Health-Care Spending Picks Up.")






February 4, 2016

Medical Establishment Relies on "Accepted Dogma"




(p. A3) The Food and Drug Administration and leading cardiologists are warning that aortic heart valves from animal tissue--implanted surgically in thousands of patients world-wide--can develop tiny blood clots, causing the valves to function improperly.

The findings hit the field of cardiology as something of a shock, as these valves from pig and cow tissue have been used for three decades in patients with malfunctioning valves. In addition, the tissue valves have been regarded as less likely to produce blood clots than mechanical valves made of synthetic materials.


. . .


Cardiologist Eric Topol, chief academic officer at Scripps Health in San Diego, called it "remarkable" that such a finding could emerge after three decades of use of the animal-tissue valves. The idea that they lead to less clotting, he said, was "accepted dogma that wasn't looked at."



For the full story, see:

THOMAS M. BURTON. "Clot Risk Is Seen in Some Heart Valves." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Oct. 6, 2015): A3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date Oct. 5, 2015, and has the title "Clot Risk Is Seen in Some Heart Valves." Where there were minor differences between the print and online versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)


Eric Topol, quoted above, has written persuasively for more medical innovation, in his:

Topol, Eric. The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care. New York: Basic Books, 2012.






February 3, 2016

Unusual Array of Groups Strongly Push Breast-Feeding




C-SPAN on Sat., Jan. 17, 2016 broadcast a thought-provoking presentation by Courtney Jung on her book Lactivism. Jung argues that an unusual array of groups strongly advocate breast-feeding for reasons that are independent of the fairly modest health benefits, for baby and mother, that result from breast-feeding.

Jung's book, that she discussed on C-SPAN, is:

Jung, Courtney. Lactivism: How Feminists and Fundamentalists, Hippies and Yuppies, and Physicians and Politicians Made Breastfeeding Big Business and Bad Policy. New York: Basic Books, 2015.






February 2, 2016

Gene Therapy Again Showing Promise




(p. B2) Biotechnology startup Spark Therapeutics Inc. said its experimental gene therapy improved vision among patients with hereditary vision impairment in a clinical trial, without the serious safety problems that have dogged the emerging field of gene therapy in the past.


. . .


Spark said it plans to seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to market its treatment next year, which could make it the first gene therapy to reach the U.S. market if regulators approve it for sale. . . .

Gene therapy involves the injection of genetic material into a person's cells to treat or prevent a disease. The research stalled after some study participants died or developed cancer after receiving gene therapies in the late 1990s and 2000s.

But gene therapy is gaining ground again. In 2012, the European Commission approved the Western world's first gene therapy, UniQure NV's Glybera, for the treatment of patients with a rare enzyme deficiency. The therapy hasn't been approved for sale in the U.S.



For the full story, see:

PETER LOFTUS. "Eye Gene Therapy Shows Promise." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Oct. 6, 2015): B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date Oct. 5, 2015, and has the title "Gene Therapy for Visually Impaired Shows Promise." Where there were minor differences between the print and online versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)






February 1, 2016

"America Represents Wilderness and Freedom, and Also a Big House"




(p. A1) JACKSON HOLE, China -- Yearning to breathe untainted air, the band of harried urbanites flocked to this parched, wild land, bringing along their dreams of a free and uncomplicated life.

But unlike the bedraggled pioneers who settled the American West, the first inhabitants of Jackson Hole, a resort community on the outskirts of the Chinese capital, arrived by Audi and Land Rover, their trunks filled with French wine and their bank accounts flush with cash.

Over the past decade, more than a thousand families have settled into timber-frame houses with generous backyards, on streets with names like Aspen, Moose and Route 66. On Sundays, some worship at a clapboard church that anchors the genteel town square, outfitted with bronze cowboys and a giant Victrola that sprays water.

"America represents wilderness and freedom, and also a big house," said Qin You, 42, who works in private equity and owns a six-bedroom home that features a koi pond, a year-round (p. A8) Christmas tree and what he proudly described as "American-style" electric baseboard heating. His parents live in the house and he goes there on weekends. "The United States is cool," he says.


. . .


. . . , Communist Party edicts and conservative commentators have sought to demonize so-called Western values like human rights and democracy as existential threats. Even if the menace is seldom identified by name, the purveyor of such threats is widely understood to be the United States.


. . .


Gao Zi, 60, a retired military employee who organizes an oil painting club for Jackson Hole residents, said that "we accepted the propaganda" back in the 1950s, when China was a closed society. "But now people have the opportunity to travel abroad and see the truth for ourselves."

Like Ms. Gao, Mr. Qin, the investment executive, has never been to the United States but he has long admired American ideals like personal liberty and blind justice. Five years ago, after his wife gave birth to their second child, Mr. Qin says the government fined him nearly $30,000 for violating the country's population-control policies. "This is not freedom," he said, before continuing a tour of his expansive back patio.



For the full story, see:

ANDREW JACOBS. "JACKSON HOLE JOURNAL; Living a Frontier Dream on Beijing's Outskirts." The New York Times (Fri., DEC. 11, 2015): A1 & A8.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 8, 2015, and has the title "JACKSON HOLE JOURNAL; Living a Frontier Dream on the Outskirts of China's Capital.")






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