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May 31, 2016

Number of Monarch Butterflies Triples




(p. 11) MEXICO CITY -- After years of being ravaged by severe weather and shrinking habitats, the monarch butterflies hibernating in the Mexican mountains rebounded last year, kindling cautious hope that one of the insect world's most captivating migrations may yet survive.

The World Wildlife Fund said at a news conference here on Friday [February 26, 2016] that the orange-and-black butterflies, which fly more than 2,500 miles each year from Canada and the United States to a cluster of mountain forests in Mexico, covered about 10 acres this winter, an area more than three times as large as the space they covered last year.



For the full story, see:

VICTORIA BURNETT. "Monarch Migration Rebounds, Easing Some Fears." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., FEB. 28, 2016): 11.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date FEB. 27, 2016, and has the title "Monarch Butterfly Migration Rebounds, Easing Some Fears.")






May 30, 2016

Contrary to Earlier White House Denials, Obama Admits to Banishing Bust of Winston Churchill




(p. A7) HANOVER, Germany -- It has been, perhaps, one of the most enduring mysteries of President Obama's tenure: What really happened to the bust of Winston Churchill that was once displayed in the Oval Office?


. . .


The conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, the onetime Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a current Republican presidential candidate, are among those who have chastised Mr. Obama over the years for returning the bust to the British.


. . .


Dan Pfeiffer, the president's communications director at the time, blasted Mr. Krauthammer, calling his charge about the disappearing bust "100 percent false" and saying that "news outlets have debunked this claim time and again."


. . .


But late last week, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, renewed the charge, writing in a British tabloid that the Oval Office bust had been "banished" . . .

Countering such charges is typically left to a president's aides. But asked at a news conference Friday about the mayor's comments, Mr. Obama seemed to relish the chance to set everyone straight, once and for all, about the fate of the Churchill bust.


. . .


. . . Mr. Obama went on to explain what had happened to the bust lent by Mr. Blair, the one that critics had accused him of summarily sending back to the British. It was, Mr. Obama said, his decision to return that Churchill to his native land, because he wanted to replace it with a bust of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


. . .


That appears to contradict the longstanding denials by White House officials, including Mr. Pfeiffer, that neither Mr. Obama nor anyone else in his administration had chosen to dispatch Churchill's likeness in favor of someone else's. By Mr. Obama's admission, he made the decision to replace the Churchill bust with one of Dr. King.



For the full story, see:

MICHAEL D. SHEAR. "White House Letter; No Need for Holmes; Obama Sheds Light on a Churchill Mystery." The New York Times (Mon., April 25, 2016): A7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 24, 2016, and has the title "White House Letter; No Need for Holmes; Obama Sheds Light on a Winston Churchill Mystery.")






May 29, 2016

Scientific Knowledge Matters More than Myth Because of Its Practical Effectiveness




(p. C6) Stories matter; knowledge matters more.

"When we talk about the big bang or the fabric of space," . . . [Carlo Rovelli] writes, "what we are doing is not a continuation of the free and fantastic stories that humans have told nightly around campfires for hundreds of thousands of years." You might tell a great campfire story about an antelope, he comments. Knowing how to track and kill one is more relevant to survival.

"Myths nourish science, and science nourishes myth," Mr. Rovelli says. "But the value of knowledge remains. If we can find the antelope, we can eat."



For the full review, see:

DWIGHT GARNER. "Books of The Times; A Vast Cosmos, Made Bite-Size and Delectable." The New York Times (Weds., MARCH 23, 2016): C1 & C6.

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

(Note: the online version of the review has the date MARCH 22, 2016, and has the title "Books of The Times; Review: 'Seven Brief Lessons on Physics' Is Long on Knowledge.")


The book under review, is:

Rovelli, Carlo. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. New York: Riverhead Books, 2016.






May 28, 2016

Feds Encourage Costly, Intrusive, Confusing Title IX Bureaucracies




(p. A1) CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- In a brightly lit classroom here at Harvard, Mia Karvonides was trying to explain to a group of bemused student leaders the difference between a romantic encounter and "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," as the university's relatively new code of sexual misconduct defines it.

She tried to leaven the legalistic atmosphere at the town-hall-style meeting with realistic-sounding examples, defying gender stereotypes. Jose and Lisa, chemistry students, are working late at night in the lab, she began, when Lisa comes up from behind and kisses Jose on the neck.

Such a surprise move, she suggested, could be the beginning of a sexual misconduct complaint.


. . .


Ms. Karvonides is Harvard's first Title IX officer, leading a new bureaucracy that oversees how the institution responds to complaints of sexual violence under Title IX, the federal law that governs gender equity in education. She is one of a rapidly growing number of Title IX employees on campuses nationwide, as colleges spend millions to hire law-(p. A3)yers, investigators, case workers, survivor advocates, peer counselors, workshop leaders and other officials to deal with increasing numbers of these complaints.


. . .


The expansion of Title IX bureaucracies -- often at great expense -- is driven in part by pressure from the federal government, which recently put out a series of policy directives on sexual misconduct on campus. More than 200 colleges and universities are under federal investigation for the way they have handled complaints of sexual misconduct, up from 55 two years ago.


. . .


. . . in a report last week, a national association of professors said that the Title IX bureaucracy had started to infringe on academic freedom, by beginning investigations into faculty members' lectures and essays.


. . .


At a minimum, federal rules require colleges to designate one Title IX coordinator, at least part time.

Many colleges have gone far beyond that, at a cost ranging from thousands to millions of dollars.


. . .


At the University of California, Berkeley, officials said, Title IX spending has risen by at least $2 million since 2013, though they declined to give the total.

"Certainly, colleges are spending more related to Title IX than ever in history, both preventatively and responsively," Mr. Sokolow said. He estimated that dealing with an inquiry could cost "six figures," and that responding to a lawsuit "can run into the high six or even seven figures, not counting a settlement or verdict."


. . .


Some campuses have adopted "affirmative consent" rules, in effect a written or unwritten contract, requiring a yes before the first kiss and at every step along the way. Harvard has opted instead for what Ms. Karvonides called a more nuanced standard of "unwelcome conduct."

This has led to criticism by some that the policy is not strong enough, and by others that it could punish behavior as mild as flirting.

"This is ubiquitously on the mind of everyone at Harvard," said Daniel Banks, the undergraduate council vice president, who helped organize the recent town-hall-style meeting on the subject. Many students have concluded that the best solution is not so much compliance as avoidance.

"You either don't date at all," said Daniel Levine, another student leader, "or you're like a married couple."



For the full story, see:

ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS. "In Battling Sexual Misconduct, Colleges Build a Bureaucracy." The New York Times (Weds., MARCH 30, 2016): A1 & A3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 29, 2016, and has the title "Colleges Spending Millions to Deal With Sexual Misconduct Complaints.")


The AAUP report expressing concerns about how Title IX bureaucracies violate academic freedom and due process, is:

American Association of University Professors (AAUP). "The History, Uses, and Abuses of Title IX." Draft Report, March 24, 2016.






May 27, 2016

Basic Goods Unavailable in Socialist Venezuela




(p. 5) I used to laugh when I heard that reporters were headed to Caracas with their own deodorant. I thought they were just being fussy.

Then came my turn.

I brought Old Spice. For detergent, I brought a ton of Tide. That's one of my bags above, and all the other essentials that came along: two nasal spray bottles, three tubes of toothpaste, one package of floss, a bottle of body wash, shaving cream, contact lens solution, AA batteries, sponges, detergent, toilet paper and a big bottle of ibuprofen. Two bottles of Scotch.

If a selfie in the airport is a rite of passage for those leaving Venezuela, a preflight run to the supermarket to fill a suitcase with basic goods is the ritual for those arriving here.

Since the economy fell into deep collapse in 2015, some things just aren't sold here. Other items -- like toilet paper -- are on the black market but can be tricky to find.

My friend Girish has been making these trips for the last five years. I asked him before moving here what to pack, besides toilet paper.

He responded, via text: "Medicine. First Aid stuff. Spices/other food you like. Kindle (as books aren't so easy to get here), shampoos/toiletries etc if you like something specific..."

Like some people here, Girish brings enough to get him through a month or so. Then he makes a pit stop in Colombia to fill up the cabinet again.

But most people in Venezuela can't leave and have to make do with whatever they can find.



For the full story, see:

NICHOLAS CASEY. "Settling Into Venezuela, a Land in Turmoil." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., Jan. 24, 2016): 5 & 9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date January 5 [sic], 2016, and has the title "Moving to Venezuela, a Land in Turmoil.")






May 26, 2016

Tesla Direct Sales Thwarted by Laws that Protect Dealers Instead of Consumers




(p. B3) Tesla Motors Inc. hopes to capture mainstream auto buyers with its Model 3, an electric car it plans to unveil this week at a price about the same as the average gasoline-powered vehicle, but it may need a federal court ruling to succeed.

The Palo Alto, Calif., auto maker's direct-to-consumer sales are prohibited by law in six states that represent about 18% of the U.S. new-car market. Barring a change of heart by those states, Tesla is preparing to make a federal case out of the direct-sales bans.

The auto maker's legal staff has been studying a 2013 federal appeals court ruling in New Orleans that determined St. Joseph Abbey could sell monk-made coffins to customers without having a funeral director's license. The case emerged amid a casket shortage after Hurricane Katrina. The abbey had tried to sell coffins, only to find state laws restricted such sales to those licensed by the Louisiana Board of Funeral Directors.

For now, Tesla is banking on a combination of new legislation, pending dealer applications and other factors to open doors to selling directly in Arizona, Michigan, Texas, Connecticut, Utah and West Virginia. But the company said it is ready to argue in federal court using the coffin case if necessary.

"It is widely accepted that laws that have a protectionist motivation or effect are not proper," Todd Maron, the auto maker's chief counsel, said in an interview. "Tesla is committed to not being foreclosed from operating in the states it desires to operate in, and all options are on the table."


. . .


"There is no legitimate competitive interest in having consumers purchase cars through an independent dealership," Greg Reed, an attorney with Washington D.C.-based Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning law firm, said. He calls Michigan's laws "anti-competitive protectionism."



For the full story, see:

MIKE RAMSEY. "Tesla Weighs Legal Fight." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., March 29, 2016): B3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 28, 2016, and has the title "Tesla Weighs New Challenge to State Direct-Sales Bans.")






May 25, 2016

Government: "One Vast Honey Pot with Thousands of Ants Lined Up Around the Rim"




(p. A21) Ms. Tolchin hit on the subject of patronage when Mr. Tolchin, then a reporter in the metropolitan news department of The New York Times, wrote a series of articles on the topic that several publishers urged him to turn into a book. Daunted, he turned to his wife for help.

"The political-science literature had an enormous hole on the subject," she told The Washingtonian in 2011. "It's such a critical part of the political process -- it was wonderful virgin territory."

Their combined efforts -- he provided the reporting, she provided the scholarship -- resulted in "To the Victor...: Political Patronage From the Clubhouse to the White House," published in 1971.

In lively fashion, the book surveyed the history and examined the mechanisms of a system the authors described as "one of the occupational hazards of democracy." They traced its influence, for good and ill, in city halls, statehouses, courthouses and, onward and upward, Congress and the White House.

The picture it painted was often bleak, presenting government at all levels as "one vast honey pot with thousands of ants lined up around the rim to get at the sweetener inside," according to a review in The Times.

It was a rich subject to which the authors returned in "Pinstripe Patronage: Political Favoritism From the Clubhouse to the White House ... and Beyond," published in 2011. Patronage is "the major reason people go into politics," Ms. Tolchin told The Washingtonian."



For the full obituary, see:

WILLIAM GRIMES. "Susan Tolchin, Scholar and Author, Is Dead at 75." The New York Times (Fri., May 20, 2016): A21.

(Note: ellipses in original.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date May 19, 2016, and has the title "Susan Tolchin, Political Scientist Who Foresaw Voter Anger, Dies at 75.")


The two books on government patronage that are mentioned above, are:

Tolchin, Martin, and Susan Tolchin. To the Victor: Political Patronage from the Clubhouse to the White House. New York: Random House, 1971.

Tolchin, Martin, and Susan Tolchin. Pinstripe Patronage: Political Favoritism from the Clubhouse to the White House and Beyond. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2011.






May 24, 2016

Trump Threatens Antitrust Action Against Innovative Amazon Entrepreneur Bezos




(p. A11) Donald Trump, an innovator in all things, is now in the process of changing the rules in America with his threat to bring legal action against Amazon on antitrust grounds and, if we hear him correctly, on tax grounds as well.

Mr. Trump couldn't have been clearer about his motivation. He complained about Washington Post reporters calling up and "asking ridiculous questions," "all false stuff," apparently related to Mr. Trump's tax returns, which in defiance of all tradition he has refused to release, as well as Mr. Trump's real-estate dealings.

Mr. Trump says the Post was purchased as "a toy" by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (who bought the paper with his personal funds in 2013). Mr. Trump says the paper now is being used to attack Mr. Trump in order to protect Amazon's alleged tax-dodging practices even though Amazon, after long resistance, has begun in recent years to collect state sales tax.

All this seems to arise because the Post, the dominant newspaper in the nation's capital, has assigned reporters to investigate the business career of the candidate who champions his credibility to be president by referring to his business career.



For the full commentary, see:

HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR. "BUSINESS WORLD; Donald Trump's Amazon Adventure; Does he really want to be president--or is his attack on entrepreneur Jeff Bezos a cry for help?" The Wall Street Journal (Sat., May 14, 2016): A11.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 13, 2016.)







May 23, 2016

Bacteria Can Break Down Plastic




(p. A11) Bacteria can gobble up oil spills, radioactive waste and, now, plastic. Researchers in Japan said they have discovered a species of microbe that eats PET, the polymer widely used in food containers, bottles and synthetic fibers.

Some scientists have said the bacteria could help break down otherwise non-biodegradable debris in landfills or recycling plants.

"We now have a chance to biologically degrade the widespread plastic PET," said Uwe Bornscheuer, a biochemist at Greifswald University in Germany. "That is, of course, a major achievement."


. . .


At a recycling plant, Dr. Yoshida and his team collected 250 samples of PET debris and discovered a host of different microbes living among the trash.

The researchers screened the microbes to identify those that appeared to dine on PET, and subsequent biochemical testing showed that a single, new species, Ideonella sakaiensis, was responsible for decomposing the polymer.

Adhered to a low-grade PET film, the bacteria used two enzymes to break down the plastic into two environmentally benign substances, which served as their main source of food.



For the full story, see:

KAT LONG. "Japan Researchers Discover Plastic-Eating Bacteria." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., March 11, 2016): A11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 10, 2016, and has the title "New Species of Bacteria Eats Plastic.")






May 22, 2016

More Evidence that Once-Dynamic Florence Is Now Stagnant




(p. C1) New research from a pair of Italian economists documents an extraordinary fact: The wealthiest families in Florence today are descended from the wealthiest families of Florence nearly 600 years ago.

The two economists -- Guglielmo Barone and Sauro Mocetti of the Bank of Italy -- compared data on Florentine taxpayers in 1427 against tax data in 2011. Because Italian surnames are highly regional and distinctive, they could compare the income of families with a certain surname today, to those with the same surname in 1427. They found that the occupations, income and wealth of those distant ancestors with the same surname can help predict the occupation, income and wealth of their descendants today.



For the full story, see:

JOSH ZUMBRUN. "Florence's Rich Stay Rich--for 600 Years." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., May 20, 2016): C1-C2.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 19, 2016, and has the title "The Wealthy in Florence Today Are the Same Families as 600 Years Ago." Where there are minor differences in the two versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)


The Barone and Mocetti working paper, is:

Barone, Guglielmo, and Sauro Mocetti "Intergenerational Mobility in the Very Long Run: Florence 1427-2011." Bank of Italy Working Paper #1060, April 2016.






May 21, 2016

"Liberated People Are Ingenious"




(p. C1) Nothing like the Great Enrichment of the past two centuries had ever happened before. Doublings of income--mere 100% betterments in the human condition--had happened often, during the glory of Greece and the grandeur of Rome, in Song China and Mughal India. But people soon fell back to the miserable routine of Afghanistan's income nowadays, $3 or worse. A revolutionary betterment of 10,000%, taking into account everything from canned goods to antidepressants, was out of the question. Until it happened.


. . .


(p. C2) Why did it all start at first in Holland about 1600 and then England about 1700 and then the North American colonies and England's impoverished neighbor, Scotland, and then Belgium and northern France and the Rhineland?

The answer, in a word, is "liberty." Liberated people, it turns out, are ingenious. Slaves, serfs, subordinated women, people frozen in a hierarchy of lords or bureaucrats are not. By certain accidents of European politics, having nothing to do with deep European virtue, more and more Europeans were liberated. From Luther's reformation through the Dutch revolt against Spain after 1568 and England's turmoil in the Civil War of the 1640s, down to the American and French revolutions, Europeans came to believe that common people should be liberated to have a go. You might call it: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

To use another big concept, what came--slowly, imperfectly--was equality. It was not an equality of outcome, which might be labeled "French" in honor of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Piketty. It was, so to speak, "Scottish," in honor of David Hume and Adam Smith: equality before the law and equality of social dignity. It made people bold to pursue betterments on their own account. It was, as Smith put it, "allowing every man to pursue his own interest his own way, upon the liberal plan of equality, liberty and justice."



For the full commentary, see:


DEIRDRE N. MCCLOSKEY. "How the West (and the Rest) Got Rich; The Great Enrichment of the past two centuries has one primary source: the liberation of ordinary people to pursue their dreams of economic betterment." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., May 21, 2016): C1-C2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 20, 2016.)


McCloskey's commentary is based on her "bourgeois" trilogy, the final volume of which is:

McCloskey, Deirdre N. Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital, Transformed the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.






May 20, 2016

Long-Term Goals, Rather than Friends, Most Stimulate the Intelligent




(p. D1) A study published in February [2016] in the British Journal of Psychology looked at 15,000 respondents and found that people who had more social interactions with close friends reported being happier--unless they were highly intelligent. People with higher I.Q.s were less content when they spent more time with friends. Psychologists theorize that these folks keep themselves intellectually stimulated without a lot of social interaction, and often have a long-term goal they are pursuing.


For the full story, see:


ELIZABETH BERNSTEIN. "Why Making New Friends Is Harder for Grown-Ups." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., April 19, 2016): D1 & D4.

(Note: the bracketed year was added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 18, 2016, and has the title "The Science of Making Friends.")


The academic psychology paper mentioned above (with title ellipsis in original), is:

Li, Norman, and Satoshi Kanazawa. "Country Roads, Take Me Home... to My Friends: How Intelligence, Population Density, and Friendship Affect Modern Happiness." British Journal of Psychology (epublished on Feb. 1, 2016) DOI: 10.1111/bjop.12181.






May 19, 2016

Bold, Intelligent, Freedom-Loving Octopus "Inky" Escapes to the Sea




OctopusInkyEyesCaptors2016-05-16.jpgInky eyes captors. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. A8) It was an audacious nighttime escape.

After busting through an enclosure, the nimble contortionist appears to have quietly crossed the floor, slithered through a narrow drain hole about six inches in diameter and jumped into the sea. Then he disappeared.

This was no Houdini, but rather a common New Zealand octopus called Inky, about the size of a soccer ball.

The breakout at the National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier, which has captured the imagination of New Zealanders and made headlines around the world, apparently began when Inky slipped through a small gap at the top of his tank.

Octopus tracks suggest he then scampered eight feet across the floor and slid down a 164-foot-long drainpipe that dropped him into Hawke's Bay, on the east coast of North Island, according to reports in New Zealand's news media.


. . .


Alix Harvey, an aquarist at the Marine Biological Association in England, noted that octopuses, members of a class of marine animals including squid and cuttlefish called Cephalopoda, have shown themselves to be adept at escaping through spaces as small as a coin, constrained only by their beaks, the only inflexible part of their bodies.

Ms. Harvey said that octopuses had also been documented opening jars and sneaking through tiny holes on boats, and that they could deflect predators by spraying an ink that lingers in the water and acts as a decoy. Some have been seen hauling coconut shells to build underwater shelters.


. . .


She continued, "They have a complex brain, have excellent eyesight, and research suggests they have an ability to learn and form mental maps."


. . .


Octopuses' intelligence, she said, was partly an evolutionary response to their habitation in complex environments such as coral reefs, in which the animals need to hide from predators and sneak up on their prey.



For the full story, see:

DAN BILEFSKY. "Octopus Escapes From an Aquarium in New Zealand." The New York Times (Thurs., APRIL 14, 2016): A8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date APRIL 13, 2016, and has the title "Inky the Octopus Escapes From a New Zealand Aquarium.")






May 18, 2016

Coastlines Have Always Been Changing Features of Geography




(p. 4) The coastlines might seem like permanent features of geography. But over the past few million years, massive ice sheets expanded and receded, and seas rose and fell by hundreds of feet. Then, around 12,000 years ago, the most recent of many glacial ages ended, and seas eventually rose by 400 feet.

This is roughly where we are today.



For the full commentary, see:

PETER BRANNEN. "OPINION; Lessons From Underwater Miami." The New York Times (Sun., APRIL 24, 2016): 4.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date APRIL 23, 2016.)






May 17, 2016

Black Conservative Disinvited to Speak at Virginia Tech





Jason Riley, who is quoted below, has published Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.



(p. A13) Last month I was invited by a professor to speak at Virginia Tech in the fall. Last week, the same professor reluctantly rescinded the invitation, citing concerns from his department head and other faculty members that my writings on race in The Wall Street Journal would spark protests. Profiles in campus courage.


. . .


I've lost count of the times I've been approached by conservative students after a lecture to a mostly liberal audience and thanked, almost surreptitiously, for coming to speak. They often offer an explanation for their relative silence during question periods when liberal students and faculty are firing away. "Being too outspoken would just make it more difficult," a Wellesley student once told me. "You get to leave when you're done. We have to live with these people until we graduate."

In April [2016], I spoke at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where the college Republicans who invited me took the precaution of clearing my name with liberal student groups "to make sure they wouldn't be upset."

We've reached a point where conservatives must have their campus speakers preapproved by left-wing pressure groups. If progressives aren't already in absolute control of academia, they're pretty close.



For the full commentary, see:


JASON L. RILEY. "I Was Disinvited on Campus; The anti-free speech takeover is so complete that now the fear of stirring a protest can determine what ideas students will hear." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., May 4, 2016): A13.

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

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 3, 2016.)


The Riley book that I mentioned at the top, is:

Riley, Jason L. Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed. New York: Encounter Books, 2014.







May 16, 2016

Global Warming Is Producing More Pleasant Weather in United States




(p. 9) CHRISTMAS in New York was lovely this year -- especially for those who prefer to spend the day working on their tans. It was the city's warmest ever, with temperatures peaking at 66 degrees.

Record-breaking temperatures are occurring with alarming frequency in the United States, but Americans are reacting with a collective shrug. In a poll taken in January, after the country's warmest December on record, the Pew Research Center found that climate change ranked close to last on a list of the public's policy priorities. Why?

In a paper published on Wednesday [April 20, 2016] in the journal Nature, we provide one possible explanation: For a vast majority of Americans, the weather is simply becoming more pleasant. Over the past four decades, winter temperatures have risen substantially throughout the United States, but summers have not become markedly more uncomfortable.

Of course, people's preferences about weather vary widely. Some want a snowfall every winter, while others would rather wear sandals year-round. So we sought to develop a measure of the average American's weather preferences. To do this, we made use of research by economists who study local population growth in the United States. They have found that Americans have been moving to places with warm winters and cool, less humid summers. We made the inference (not true in every case, but reasonable to assume in general) that Americans prefer such conditions.

Then we evaluated the changes in weather conditions that Americans have experienced over the past four decades (i.e., roughly since climate change emerged as an issue in the public sphere). Climatologists customarily report weather changes averaged over the land surface -- an approach that counts changes in sparse Montana just as heavily as shifts in populous California. But because we were interested in the typical American's exposure to weather, we took a different tack, calculating changes over time on a county-by-county basis, weighted by population.

Our findings are striking: 80 percent of Americans now find themselves living in counties where the weather is more pleasant than it was four decades ago.



For the full commentary, see:

PATRICK J. EGAN and MEGAN MULLIN. "Gray Matter; Global Warming Feels Quite Pleasant." The New York Times (Sun., APRIL 24, 2016): 9.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

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


The Nature article mentioned above, is:

Egan, Patrick J., and Megan Mullin. "Recent Improvement and Projected Worsening of Weather in the United States." Nature 532, no. 7599 (April 21, 2016): 357-60.






May 15, 2016

Amazon Experiments with Brick-and-Mortar




(p. A11) This week, Amazon revealed the location of its second brick-and-mortar bookstore, which will open in a few months in Southern California, at a mall near the University of California, San Diego. The online retailer seems to have big ambitions for its physical stores.

On Wednesday [March 9, 2016], Nick Wingfield, who covers Amazon for The New York Times, visited the only Amazon bookstore in existence, in the University Village mall in Seattle. From inside the store, he had an online chat with Alexandra Alter, who writes about publishing for The Times. They discussed Amazon's strategy and how the retailer's stores differ from other bookstores. Here's what they had to say:

ALEXANDRA ALTER: Hi Nick! You're reporting live from the mother ship! What's it like?

NICK WINGFIELD: The best part is, I just tested the free Wi-Fi and it's 114 Mbps, easily the fastest I've ever gotten. Thank you, Jeff Bezos!

ALEXANDRA: Great, so you can just buy stuff from the Amazon website while you're sitting in the store. Unlike Barnes & Noble, I bet Amazon doesn't mind if people browse in its store then go buy it online.

NICK: Exactly. Here's the deal: At first glance, it looks like an ordinary but nice Barnes & Noble store. It's clean and well-lit and corporate. It doesn't have the charm of a funky used-bookstore. Once you start poking around the shelves, you notice the differences.

ALEXANDRA: How is the selection different? How are the sections organized?

NICK: They have 5,000 to 6,000 book titles, fewer than what you would find at a big Barnes & Noble. All of the books are arranged cover out, rather than spine out, in the belief that it makes browsing more friendly. I am so buying that "Boho Crochet" book.


. . .


ALEXANDRA: . . .

So, some Amazon skeptics have suggested that books are just going to be window-dressing and what Amazon really wants is a place to showcase its digital devices. Is there a prominent area for Amazon devices?

NICK: Electronics, most of them made by Amazon, like Echo and Fire TV, are the nucleus of the store. They're spread out on tables and stands so you can fiddle with them just like you can fiddle with iPads at the Apple Store a short hop from here.

Knowledgeable people tell me that Amazon views its physical stores as an important way to introduce the public to new, unfamiliar devices. Techies might be comfortable buying a device like the Echo online -- a speaker and virtual assistant for the home -- but a lot of people will want to see it in the flesh first. That said, I don't think Amazon stores would have saved the Fire Phone, the Amazon smartphone that belly-flopped. I should also say that books are not necessarily going to be the focus of all of the stores it opens in the future. Amazon intends to experiment.



For the full dialogue, see:

ALEXANDRA ALTER and NICK WINGFIELD. "Amazon, in the Material World." The New York Times (Sat., MARCH 12, 2016): B1 & B5.

(Note: bold and italics in original print version; ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the dialogue has the date MARCH 10, 2016, and has the title "A Trip Through Amazon's First Physical Store.")






May 14, 2016

Arctic Sea Ice Rebuilds "a Significant Amount"




(p. A9) Using new satellite data, researchers at University College London reported in Nature Geoscience on Monday [July 20, 2015] that the total volume of sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere was well above average in the autumn of 2013, traditionally the end of the annual melt season, after an unusually cool summer when temperatures dropped to levels not seen since the 1990s.

"We now know it can recover by a significant amount if the melting season is cut short," said the study's lead author Rachel Tilling, a researcher who studies satellite observations of the Arctic. "The sea ice might be a little more resilient than we thought."



For the full story, see:

ROBERT LEE HOTZ. "Arctic Ice Is Able to Rebuild, Study Says." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., July 21, 2015): A9.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 20, 2015, and has the title "Sea Ice Might Be More Resilient Than Thought.")






May 13, 2016

Which Moment of Flux Do the Environmentalists Want to Preserve?





At the APEE meetings in early April, I heard a lecture by Shawn Regan in which he praised a book by Daniel Botkin. The point that Regan was making was that a key difficult issue in environmentalism is to decide, when you want to preserve and protect the environment, which moment of the environment's constantly changing flux, do you want to preserve? With, or without, us, the natural state of the environment is constant change, not stasis.



A recent book by Botkin that makes this point, is:

Botkin, Daniel B. The Moon in the Nautilus Shell: Discordant Harmonies Reconsidered. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.






May 12, 2016

Some Entrepreneurs Support Big Government, Except When They Are the Ones Regulated




(p. A11) In October [2015], author Steven Hill will publish a book called "Raw Deal: How the 'Uber Economy' and Naked Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers." At the political conventions next summer, which party's attendees will be most likely to have read that book?

The ironies run deep. The Uber driver who ferried Jeb Bush around San Francisco said the former Florida governor was a nice chap but added that he still planned to vote for Mrs. Clinton--the candidate who regards the innovations that has led to the creation of his job as a problem that government needs to solve.

But is Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick any different? Even as he struggles with regulators taking aim at his business model, Mr. Kalanick has spoken up in favor of ObamaCare. During a visit to New York last November, he enthused that ObamaCare was "huge" for companies like his, on the grounds that the individual market has democratized benefits such as health care.

That's true insofar as it means he doesn't have to provide it for his drivers. But the reality is that ObamaCare is to health what taxi commissions are to transportation. And if Uber's co-founder can't see the difference, maybe he deserves the Bill de Blasios and Hillary Clintons coming after him.



For the full commentary, see:

WILLIAM MCGURN. "MAIN STREET; Uber Crashes the Democratic Party; The ride-share app is bringing out the inner Elizabeth Warren." The New York Times (Tues., July 21, 2015): A11.

(Note: bracketed year added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 20, 2015.)






May 11, 2016

Were Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson Copyright Trolls?





Sometimes all those who own patents as investments are derisively chastised as "patent trolls." I have argued that some of those so-labelled are productively increasing the funding for invention. If Nathan Myhrvold is a patent troll then we should similarly view Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson as copyright trolls. Why do McCartney and Jackson get a pass, while Myhrvold is chastised?



(p. B3) It is one of the twice-told tales of the music business: Decades ago, Michael Jackson received some sound investment advice from Paul McCartney.

Back in the early 1980s, Mr. McCartney showed his friend a notebook full of songs he owned, by artists like Buddy Holly. The real money, Mr. McCartney suggested, was in music publishing, the side of the business that deals with the songwriting rights for big catalogs of songs. As Mr. McCartney himself has told it, Jackson perked up and said, "I'm gonna buy your songs."

He did. And it was the smartest deal Jackson ever made.

In 1985, Jackson bought the ATV catalog, which included 251 Beatles songs, along with a few thousand others, for $47.5 million. It proved to be Jackson's most valuable asset, helping to finance a lavish lifestyle even as Jackson's own musical career reached a low point in the years before his death in 2009.



For the full story, see:

BEN SISARIO. "McCartney's Tip Pays Off for Jackson's Legacy." The New York Times (Weds., MARCH 16, 2016): B3.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 15, 2016, and has the title "Paul McCartney's Tip to Michael Jackson Pays Off.")


My paper on patents, is:

Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. "Seeking the Patent Truth: Patents Can Provide Justice and Funding for Inventors." The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy 19, no. 3 (2015): 325-55.






May 10, 2016

Sanders's Economics Agenda: "Magic Flying Puppies with Winning Lotto Tickets Tied to Their Collars"




(p. A9) WASHINGTON -- With his expansive plans to increase the size and role of government, Senator Bernie Sanders has provoked a debate not only with his Democratic rival for president, Hillary Clinton, but also with liberal-leaning economists who share his goals but question his numbers and political realism.


. . .


By the reckoning of the left-of-center economists, none of whom are working for Mrs. Clinton, the proposals would add $2 trillion to $3 trillion a year on average to federal spending; by comparison, total federal spending is projected to be above $4 trillion in the next president's first year. "The numbers don't remotely add up," said Austan Goolsbee, formerly chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, now at the University of Chicago.

Alluding to one progressive analyst's criticism of the Sanders agenda as "puppies and rainbows," Mr. Goolsbee said that after his and others' further study, "they've evolved into magic flying puppies with winning Lotto tickets tied to their collars."



For the full story, see:

JACKIE CALMES. "Left-Leaning Economists Question Sanders's Plans." The New York Times (Tues., FEB. 16, 2016): A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date FEB. 15, 2016, and has the title "Left-Leaning Economists Question Cost of Bernie Sanders's Plans.")






May 9, 2016

"Progressive" Eugenicists Attacked Free Enterprise





At the APEE meetings in early April, I heard a lecture by Jayme Lemke in which she praised a promising-sounding book by Thomas Leonard. I looked the book up on Amazon and found that it describes how many of the "progressives" who advocated increasing government control of the economy, were also among the advocates of the now-discredited eugenics movement.

The book is now on my "to-read" list and I will report more when it hits the top of the list (say, in about 2020 ;).



The book praised by Jayme, is:

Leonard, Thomas C. Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.






May 8, 2016

Many Empirical Research Results Are False




(p. B7) Research on 100 studies in psychology found in 2015 that more than 60% couldn't be replicated. Similar results have been found in medicine and economics. Campbell Harvey, a professor at Duke University and president of the American Finance Association, estimates that at least half of all "discoveries" in investment research, and financial products based on them, are false.


. . .


Brian Nosek, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia and executive director of the Center for Open Science, a nonprofit seeking to improve research practices, has spent much of the last decade analyzing why so many studies don't stand up over time.

Because researchers have an incentive to come up with results that are "positive and clean and novel," he says, they often test a plethora of ideas, throwing out those that don't appear to work and pursuing those that confirm their own hunches.

If the researchers test enough possibilities, they may find positive results by chance alone -- and may fool themselves into believing that luck didn't determine the outcomes.



For the full commentary, see:

JASON ZWEIG. "Chasing Hot Returns in 'Smart-Beta' Can Be Dumb." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Feb 13, 2016): B1 & B7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Feb 12, 2016, and has the title "Chasing Hot Returns in 'Smart-Beta' Funds Can Be a Dumb Idea.")






May 7, 2016

Environmentally Insensitive Explorers Club Mammoth Meal Was a Joke




(p. A11) The story of the 1951 annual Explorers Club dinner is famous, at least among explorers, paleontologists and connoisseurs of exotic cuisine. In brief, mammoth was served.

A club member and journalist reported on the menu shortly afterward in The Christian Science Monitor, and club members have been talking about it ever since.

"At my first dinner, when I was a new member, they told me about it," said Jack Horner, a dinosaur paleontologist at Montana State University and an inspiration for the character of the paleontologist in the original "Jurassic Park" book. "And they were talking about having another."

Sadly, as with so many great stories, this one was too good to be true, as a group of Yale researchers reported Wednesday in the journal PLOS One.


. . .


They assumed the flesh was thousands of years old, which meant that testing for DNA was more complicated than testing a more recent bit of flesh. "Also," she said, "the meat was cooked."


. . .


In the end, after multiple tests, the team determined that the meat was neither mammoth nor sloth, nor ancient, nor even a mammal. Turtle soup had also been on the menu that night, before sea turtles were in such trouble, and the bit of flesh that the scientists tested turned out to be green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas.

It seems that Mr. Dodge had been having a bit of fun, and that he was the only one in on the joke.



For the full story, see:

JAMES GORMAN. "The Explorers Club Once Served Mammoth at a Meal. Or Did It?" The New York Times (Tues., FEB. 4, 2016): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date FEB. 3, 2016.)


The academic article that documents what the Explorers ate, is:

Glass, Jessica R., Matt Davis, Timothy J. Walsh, Eric J. Sargis, and Adalgisa Caccone. "Was Frozen Mammoth or Giant Ground Sloth Served for Dinner at the Explorers Club?" PLoS ONE 11, no. 2 (2016): e0146825.






May 6, 2016

Indian Government Scientists Fight Global Warming by Reducing Cow Belches




(p. A10) Let no one say that India isn't doing its bit to fight global climate change: Government scientists are working hard to reduce carbon emissions by making cows less flatulent.

Consider the numbers: India is home to more than 280 million cows, and 200 million more ruminant animals like sheep, goats, yaks and buffalo. According to an analysis of satellite data from the country's space program, all those digestive tracts send 13 million tons of methane into the atmosphere every year -- and pound for pound, methane traps 25 times as much heat as carbon dioxide does.


. . .


Scientists at the Cow Research Institute in Mathura, around 100 miles south of New Delhi, are tinkering with cattle feed, seeking a formula that will create less gas for the cows to belch out. (That is how most of it is released, by the way; scientists say much less comes from farting.)

But a team of researchers in the southern state of Kerala is working on a long-term answer.


. . .


. . . dwarf animals, which are about one-quarter the weight of crossbred cows, produce only one-seventh as much manure and one-tenth as much methane.



For the full story, see:

ELLEN BARRY. "What in the World; Cows: India's Reply to Global Warming." The New York Times (Thurs., MAY 5, 2016): A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MAY 3, 2016, and has the title "What in the World; India's Answer to Global Warming; Cows That Belch Less.")






May 5, 2016

Forrest McDonald Defended Founders and Entrepreneurs





Forrest McDonald wrote one of the first detailed accounts of the life of Samuel Insull, an entrepreneur who helped to develop electric utility systems in the United States, and who was persecuted by the FDR administration.



(p. 20) Forrest McDonald, a presidential and constitutional scholar who challenged liberal shibboleths about early American history and lionized the founding fathers as uniquely intellectual, died on Tuesday [January 19, 2016] in Tuscaloosa, Ala.


. . .


As a Pulitzer Prize finalist in history and a professor at the University of Alabama, Dr. McDonald declared himself an ideological conservative and an opponent of intrusive government. ("I'd move the winter capital to North Dakota and outlaw air-conditioning in the District of Columbia," he once said.) But he refused to be pigeonholed either as a libertarian or, despite his Southern agrarian roots, as a Jeffersonian.


. . .


In "Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution" (1985), which was one of three finalists for the 1986 Pulitzer Prize in history, he pronounced the founding fathers as singularly qualified to draft the framework of federalism. He reiterated that point when he delivered the National Endowment for the Humanities' Jefferson Lecture in Washington in 1987.

"To put it bluntly," Dr. McDonald said then, "it would be impossible in America today to assemble a group of people with anything near the combined experience, learning and wisdom that the 55 authors of the Constitution took with them to Philadelphia in the summer of 1787."


. . .


Dr. McDonald wrote more than a dozen books, including biographies of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Interviewed by Brian Lamb on C-Span's "Booknotes" in 1994, Dr. McDonald revealed that he typically wrote in longhand on a yellow legal pad and in the nude. ("We've got wonderful isolation," he said, "and it's warm most of the year in Alabama, and why wear clothes?")



For the full obituary, see:

SAM ROBERTS. "Forrest McDonald, 89, Critic of Liberal Views of History." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., Jan. 24, 2016): 20.

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

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date JAN. 22, 2016, and has the title "Forrest McDonald, Historian Who Punctured Liberal Notions, Dies at 89.")


The McDonald book mentioned by me way above, is:

McDonald, Forrest. Insull. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962.






May 4, 2016

Retail Clinics Provide Convenient Care




(p. A3) My wife and I both work. When one of our children wakes up complaining of a sore throat, we could begin a ritual stare-down to determine which of us is going to have to wait for the doctor's office to open, make the phone call, wait on hold, schedule an appointment (which will inevitably be in the middle of the day), take off work, pick up the child from school, sit in the waiting room (surrounded by other sick children), get the rapid strep test, find out if the child is infected and then go to the pharmacy or back to school, before returning to work.

Or, one of us could just take the child to a retail clinic on the way to work and be done in 30 minutes. Strep throat is incredibly easy to treat (Penicillin still works great!). There's a simple and very fast test for it. Moreover, physicians are really bad at diagnosing some of these common illnesses clinically; a study found that a doctor's guess as to whether a respiratory infection is bacterial or viral is right about 50 percent of the time -- no better than flipping a coin. The point is, you need to get the rapid strep test every time regardless, whether at your doctor's office or at a clinic.

Aimee and I choose the retail clinic every time.

Why? Convenience is the biggest reason. Many doctors' offices are open only on weekdays and during business hours. This also happens to be when most adults work and when children attend school. A 2010 survey of 11 countries found that Americans seek out after-hours care or care in a hospital's emergency room more often than citizens of almost any other industrialized nation. More than two-thirds of Americans with a below-average income did so. But this isn't just a problem for the poor. About 55 percent of those with an above-average income did so as well.

We complain all the time that people use the emergency room for primary care. But that's not always about lack of insurance. It's about access. The emergency room is open when people can actually go. Emergency room use has gone up, not down, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. More people have insurance, and now can afford care when they need it.

That care is also coming from retail clinics, usually found either in stand-alone storefronts or inside pharmacies. Between 2007 and 2009, retail clinic use increased 10-fold. It turns out that my wife and I represent America pretty well. About 35 percent of retail visits for children are for pharyngitis -- sore throats. Add in ear infections and upper respiratory infections, and you've accounted for more than three-quarters of visits for children. Parents bring their children to retail clinics to take care of quick, acute problems. Swap ear infections for immunizations, and you've got the main reasons adults use retail clinics, too.

Researchers for a study published in the American Journal of Medical Quality talked to patients who sought out care at retail clinics. Patients who had a primary care physician, but still went to a retail clinic, did so because their primary care doctors were not available in a timely manner. A quarter of them said that if the retail clinic weren't available, they'd go to the emergency room.



For the full commentary, see:

Aaron E. Carroll. "The Hidden Cost of Retail Health Clinics." The New York Times (Thurs., APRIL 14, 2016): A3.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date APRIL 12, 2016, and has the title "The Undeniable Convenience and Reliability of Retail Health Clinics." Where the two versions differ, the quoted passages above follow the online version.)


The research on patient motivation for using retail clinics, is:

Wang, Margaret C., Gery Ryan, Elizabeth A. McGlynn, and Ateev Mehrotra. "Why Do Patients Seek Care at Retail Clinics, and What Alternatives Did They Consider?" American Journal of Medical Quality 25, no. 2 (March/April 2010): 128-34.







May 3, 2016

Info Tech Boomed Because It Was Least Regulated Sector




(p. A9) "The regulatory environment has become so onerous in America that it is now easier to start a business in England than in the U.S.," Mr. Hill says--and he would know.


. . .


In 1973 and only 27 years old, Mr. Hill founded Commerce Bank with one branch in Marlton, N.J. The fledgling company focused on customer service and called itself "America's most convenient bank." By the time Mr. Hill left Commerce Bancorp 34 years later, only months before the company announced it would be bought by TD Bank for $8.5 billion, he had grown the business to some 460 branches, with 14,000 employees and combined deposits of about $40 billion.

Now he's replicating that model in the United Kingdom with Metro Bank, which he founded in 2010. And Mr. Hill says there's an ocean of difference between doing business in the overregulated U.S. and in the U.K. "When I went to Britain I thought the regulatory environment would be much worse," he says. "It's infinitely better there."

The problem in the U.S. starts with towering federal regulations, such as the voluminous reporting and compliance rules in Dodd-Frank, the financial reform act that recently celebrated its fifth birthday. "Regulators are making it impossible for the medium and small banks to comply with the rules," he says. "The burdens get so intense that it is destroying the small and medium-size banks in America."

The result is that Dodd-Frank, a law intended to take on the systemic risk of "too-big-to-fail" banks, is multiplying the problem. "The big banks that are too big to fail are bigger now than ever, but the regulations have trickled down to the smaller banks that didn't cause the financial crisis" Mr. Hill says. As a result, community banks are disappearing. "When I started my first bank in the 1970s there were 24,000 banks in America," he says. "There are now 7,000 banks. It may soon be 500 or even fewer."

But it's more than Dodd-Frank that leaves him frustrated. "The feds have taken anti-money-laundering rules to the extreme," Mr. Hill says. "We have to monitor every deposit account every 24 hours. Somebody's monitoring your account every day." That's invasive and expensive.

He laments that the Community Reinvestment Act, a catalyst of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, still hasn't been repealed. "We are literally required to make loans that we know are going to fail," he says.

Then there's the tangle of local regulations that every American small business must cut through. "You don't need a building permit in Britain. Here [the U.S.] you have to get permits and you have to get inspections," he says. All that can eat up months and months. "I can build 100 branch banks in Britain before I can get one built in the U.S., thanks to regulators."

Policy makers and economists in Washington fret about what's slowing the rate of business startups and entrepreneurial ventures. But Mr. Hill says it's no wonder, with all this red tape, and it's no accident that the industry that is really booming, technology, is the one least regulated by government--though the assault against Uber suggests that Silicon Valley might not be immune for long.


. . .


And how much should we be worried about overregulation--or competition from abroad? "Here's my story in a nutshell and I hope Washington is paying close attention," Mr. Hill says. "A very successful American business model has been transferred to Britain, where it's even more successful because it doesn't have to deal with the same burdens of government."

He continues: "The politicians keep talking about fairness and helping the little guy. But it's the little startup businesses that get hurt the most from the heavy hand of excessive government regulation. How is that fair?"



For the full interview, see:

STEPHEN MOORE. "THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW; The Demise of the Small American Bank; The man who put the customer first in retail banking says Dodd-Frank is crushing community banks and Britain is now a better bet." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Aug. 1, 2015): A9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date July 31, 2015.)






May 2, 2016

"Lifespan Research Really Should Be the Future of Medicine"




(p. D1) A research lab at a University of California campus has a big ambition--to extend the number of years people live disease-free. The animal model it uses for its experiments is decidedly smaller: the tiny fruit fly.

The Jafari Lab, located at UC Irvine, has run tests on substances as diverse as green tea, cinnamon and an Arctic plant called Rhodiola rosea, looking for an elixir of life. To pass muster, each experimental compound must help the fruit flies live longer and not have adverse effects.

The researchers are currently investigating the effects of cinnamon on lifespan. The spice passed the first test: A dose of 25 milligrams of cinnamon per milliliter of food resulted in fruit flies living up to 37% longer. But to be declared a success, the lab is putting cinnamon through three additional tests--does it harm reproductive ability and locomotion and what impact does it have on cognitive capacities such as memory.

"When you look at how we think about aging, we don't really consider it a disease--it's just considered a 'natural' thing. But I think aging and lifespan research really should be the future of medicine," says Mahtab Jafari, an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at UC Irvine for whom the lab is named.



For the full story, see:

ANGELA CHEN. "HEALTH & WELLNESS; In Search of Elixir of Life, Scientist Studies Fruit Flies." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., MARCH 8, 2016): D3.

(Note: italics in original.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 7, 2016, and has the title "HEALTH & WELLNESS; Seeking Elixir of Life, a Scientist Studies Fruit Flies.")


A relevant academic article discussing possible metabolic pathways to increased lifespan, is:

Barzilai, Nir, Derek M. Huffman, Radhika H. Muzumdar, and Andrzej Bartke. "The Critical Role of Metabolic Pathways in Aging." Diabetes 61, no. 6 (June 2012): 1315-22.






May 1, 2016

Those Who Suffer from a Problem, Can Invent to Solve It




(p. 1) Is it possible to extract blood from people without causing pain? For decades, this problem has stumped the medical industry. In an effort to replace the old-fashioned needle, companies are trying to deploy laser beams and tiny vacuums to draw blood.

In 2014, an engineer at Harvard named Ridhi Tariyal hit on a far simpler workaround. "I was trying to develop a way for women to monitor their own fertility at home," she told me, and "those kinds of diagnostic tests require a lot of blood. So I was thinking about women and blood. When you put those words together, it becomes obvious. We have an opportunity every single month to collect blood from women, without needles."

Together with her business partner, Stephen Gire, she has patented a method for capturing menstrual flow and transforming it into medical samples. "There's lots of information in there," Ms. Tariyal said, "but right now, it's all going in the trash."

Why did Ms. Tariyal see a possibility that had eluded so many engineers before her? You might say she has an unfair advantage: her gender.


. . .


(p. 4) Eric von Hippel, a scholar of innovation at M.I.T., has spent decades studying what seems like a truism: People who suffer from a problem are uniquely equipped to solve it. "What we find is that functionally novel innovations -- those for which a market is not yet defined -- tend to come from users," he said. He pointed out that young Californians pioneered skateboards so that they could "surf" the streets. And surgeons built the first heart-and-lung machines to keep patients alive during long operations. "The reason users are so inventive is twofold. One is that they know the needs firsthand," he said. The other is that they have skin in the game.



For the full commentary, see:

PAGAN KENNEDY. "The Tampon of the Future." The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., APRIL 3, 2016): 1 & 4-5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date APRIL 1, 2016.)


Pagan Kennedy's book, that is related to her commentary quoted above, is:

Kennedy, Pagan. Inventology: How We Dream up Things That Change the World. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., 2016.






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