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August 31, 2016

Ministry of Justice Bus Unjustly Cuts Ahead of 99 Vehicles in Nigerian Gas Line




(p. A1) LAGOS, Nigeria -- Young men became entangled in a swirl of flying fists. Gas station workers swatted away boys hoping to fill their plastic cans. A mother with a sleeping baby in her minivan was chased off, rightly accused of jumping the line. A driver eager to get ahead crashed into several cars, the sound of crunching metal barely registering amid the noise.

Nigerians were getting used to days like this.

But then came the ultimate insult to everyone waiting at the Oando mega gas station: A bus marked Ministry of Justice rolled up to a pump, leapfrogging no fewer than 99 vehicles. "Service With Integrity" was painted on its door. A gas station supervisor who calls herself Madame No Nonsense stepped aside to let it fuel up before anyone else. The crowd howled at the injustice.

Plummeting oil prices have set off an economic unraveling in Nigeria, one of the world's top oil producers, and the collective anger of a fed-up nation was pouring out.


. . .


(p. A8) President Muhammadu Buhari is urging patience, noting that when he took office last year he inherited a corruption-plagued mess.


. . .


. . . the government says the supply is getting better. It has finally fired up Nigeria's three rickety oil refineries, and the wait in Lagos improved drastically last week. Eventually, officials say, Nigeria will make all of its own gasoline.



For the full story, see:

DIONNE SEARCEY. "Anger Overflows in Nigeria as Economy Dives." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., MAY 10, 2016): A1 & A8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MAY 9, 2016, and has the title "Anger Overflows in Nigeria as Economy Dives.")






August 30, 2016

Fragmented Health Care Causes Polypharmacy Harms




(p. D5) Dr. Caleb Alexander knows how easily older people can fall into so-called polypharmacy. Perhaps a patient, like most seniors, sees several specialists who write or renew prescriptions.

"A cardiologist puts someone on good, evidence-based medications for his heart," said Dr. Alexander, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness. "An endocrinologist does the same for his bones."


. . .


"Pretty soon, you have an 82-year-old man who's on 14 medications," Dr. Alexander said, barely exaggerating.

Geriatricians and researchers have warned for years about the potential hazards of polypharmacy, usually defined as taking five or more drugs concurrently. Yet it continues to rise in all age groups, reaching disturbingly high levels among older adults.


. . .


Ultimately, the best way to reduce polypharmacy is to overhaul our fragmented approach to health care. "The system is not geared to look at a person as a whole, to see how the patterns fit together," Dr. Steinman said.



For the full commentary, see:

Span, Paula. "THE NEW OLD AGE; An Ever-Mounting Pile of Pills." The New York Times (Tues., APRIL 26, 2016): D5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date APRIL 22, 2016, and has the title "THE NEW OLD AGE; The Dangers of 'Polypharmacy,' the Ever-Mounting Pile of Pills.")






August 29, 2016

"You Call It Procrastination, I Call It Thinking"




(p. 7) A few years ago, . . . , one of my most creative students, Jihae Shin, questioned my expeditious habits. She told me her most original ideas came to her after she procrastinated. I challenged her to prove it. She got access to a couple of companies, surveyed people on how often they procrastinated, and asked their supervisors to rate their creativity. Procrastinators earned significantly higher creativity scores than pre-crastinators like me.

I wasn't convinced. So Jihae, now a professor at the University of Wisconsin, designed some experiments. She asked people to come up with new business ideas. Some were randomly assigned to start right away. Others were given five minutes to first play Minesweeper or Solitaire. Everyone submitted their ideas, and independent raters rated how original they were. The procrastinators' ideas were 28 percent more creative.

Minesweeper is awesome, but it wasn't the driver of the effect. When people played games before being told about the task, there was no increase in creativity. It was only when they first learned about the task and then put it off that they considered more novel ideas. It turned out that procrastination encouraged divergent thinking.

Our first ideas, after all, are usually our most conventional. My senior thesis in college ended up replicating a bunch of existing ideas instead of introducing new ones. When you procrastinate, you're more likely to let your mind wander. That gives you a better chance of stumbling onto the unusual and spotting unexpected patterns. Nearly a century ago, the psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik found that people had a better memory for incomplete tasks than for complete ones. When we finish a project, we file it away. But when it's in limbo, it stays active in our minds.

Begrudgingly, I acknowledged that procrastination might help with everyday creativity. But monumental achievements are a different story, right?

Wrong. Steve Jobs procrastinated constantly, several of his collaborators have told me. Bill Clinton has been described as a "chronic procrastinator" who waits until the last minute to revise his speeches. Frank Lloyd Wright spent almost a year procrastinating on a commission, to the point that his patron drove out and insisted that he produce a drawing on the spot. It became Fallingwater, his masterpiece. Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter behind "Steve Jobs" and "The West Wing," is known to put off writing until the last minute. When Katie Couric asked him about it, he replied, "You call it procrastination, I call it thinking."



For the full commentary, see:

Grant, Adam. "Step 1: Procrastinate." The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., JAN. 17, 2016): 1 & 6-7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JAN. 16, 2016, and has the title "Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate.")


Grant's commentary is related to his book:

Grant, Adam. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. New York: Viking, 2016.






August 28, 2016

Cancer Is Not Due to Modernity




(p. 1A) Scientists' conventional opinion about cancer was that it's a relatively recent phenomenon caused by the stresses of modern life.

Dietary changes, behavioral changes and man-made changes to our environment have subjected humans to toxins that contribute to cancers, they say.

But new findings from researchers at South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand published in the South African Journal of Science challenge that assumption.

Paleontologists found a benign tumor in a 12 or 13-year-old boy specimen that dates back almost 2 million years.

More significantly, they also found a malignant tumor that's 1.7 million years old on the little toe bone of a left foot.

Previously the oldest discovered human cancer was between 780,000 and 120,000 years old.


. . .


(p. 2A) "The evidence is out there that these conditions have been with us a long time and we've been kind of hoodwinked that cancer is a modernity," said Patrick Randolph-Quinney, one of the study's authors. "These things are ancient."

The greatest predictor of cancer, the study argues, even in our ancestors, is longevity. The longer we live, the more chances something in our bodies goes wrong, the more chances that something is a tumor.



For the full story, see:

The Washington Post. "Ancient tumor upends notion of cancer as modern affliction; 1.7-million-year-old malignant growth is causing scientists to rethink diseases and human history." Omaha World-Herald (Sat., JUNE 20, 2016): 1A & 2A.

(Note: ellipsis added.)


The scientific article mentioned above, is:

Patrick, S. Randolph-Quinney, A. Williams Scott, Steyn Maryna, R. Meyer Marc, S. Smilg Jacqueline, E. Churchill Steven, J. Odes Edward, Augustine Tanya, Tafforeau Paul, and R. Berger Lee. "Osteogenic Tumour in Australopithecus Sediba: Earliest Hominin Evidence for Neoplastic Disease." South African Journal of Science (July/Aug. 2016), DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2016/20150470.






August 27, 2016

"To Understand Zoning, You Have to Have a Law Degree"




(p. 27) Not all buildings are worth keeping. In Midtown East, many nonconforming structures have low ceilings and columns that make them unappealing to new businesses. Some developers have gone so far as to demolish all but the bottom quarter of their buildings, and then build up from there, allowing them to retain the old zoning for their plots so as not to sacrifice a single square foot. The city is currently reconsidering a proposal that would allow these buildings to be rebuilt to their original size and possibly even larger.

It does not have to be this complicated. In honor of the code's 100th anniversary, the Municipal Art Society of New York has called on City Hall to consider overhauling the code in a way that would make it intelligible to all.

"To understand zoning, you have to have a law degree, it's so convoluted and so dense," Mike Ernst, director of planning at the civic group, said. "The whole process of how buildings get built these days is so confusing and opaque to people. There really should be more transparency, so people can have an understanding of what the future holds for their city."



For the full story, see:

"Reviled, Revered, and Still Challenging Russia to Evolve." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., MAY 22, 2016): 27.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MAY 20, 2016, and has the title "40 Percent of the Buildings in Manhattan Could Not Be Built Today." It is substantially longer than the print version and includes three authors, while no authors were listed for the print version. The authors listed for the online version were: QUOCTRUNG BUI, MATT A.V. CHABAN and JEREMY WHITE.)






August 26, 2016

VCRs Let "You Create Your Own Prime Time"




(p. B1) Many new technologies are born with a bang: Virtual reality headsets! Renewable rockets! And old ones often die with a whimper. So it is for the videocassette recorder, or VCR.

The last-known company still manufacturing the technology, the Funai Corporation of Japan, said in a statement Thursday [July 21, 2016] that it would stop making VCRs at the end of this month, mainly because of "difficulty acquiring parts."


. . .


In 1956, Ampex Electric and Manufacturing Company introduced what its website calls "the first practical videotape recorder." Fred Pfost, an Ampex engineer, described demonstrating the technology to CBS executives for the first time. Unbeknown to them, he had recorded a keynote speech delivered by a vice president at the network.

"After I rewound the tape and pushed the play button for this group of executives, they saw the instantaneous replay of the speech. There were about 10 seconds of total silence until they suddenly realized just what they were seeing on the 20 video monitors located around the room. Pandemonium broke out with wild clapping and cheering for five full minutes. This was the first time in history that a large group (outside of Ampex) had ever seen a high-quality, instantaneous replay of any event."

At the time, the machines cost $50,000 apiece. But that did not stop orders from being placed for 100 of them in the week they debuted, according to Mr. Pfost.


. . .


A consumer guide published in The Times in 1981 -- when the machines ranged in price from $600 to $1,200 -- explained the appeal:

"In effect, a VCR makes you independent of television schedules. It lets you create your own prime time. You set the timer and let the machine automatically record the programs you want to watch but can't. Later, you can play the tape at your convenience. Or you can tape one show while watching another, thus missing neither."



For the full story, see:

JONAH ENGEL BROMWICH. "Once $50,000. Now VCR, Collects Dust." The New York Times (Mon., JULY 21, 2016): B1 & B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JUNE 19, 2016, and has the title "The Long, Final Goodbye of the VCR.")






August 25, 2016

"Doctors Often Do Not 'Know' What They Are Doing"




(p. A11) Into the "swift currents and roiling waters of modern medicine" plunges Dr. Steven Hatch, whose informative "Snowball in a Blizzard" adds an important perspective. Dr. Hatch believes that our health-care system can "champion patient autonomy" and facilitate "more humane treatment, less anxiety, and better care" by revealing to patients the "great unspoken secret of medicine." What's the secret? Simply stated, "doctors often do not 'know' what they are doing." In Dr. Hatch's view, despite spectacular advances in biomedical science, modern "doctors simply cannot provide the kind of confident predictions that are often expected of them."


. . .


He begins where Donald Rumsfeld ended: There will always be "known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns" in medicine. Dr. Hatch illustrates this spectrum of uncertainty with engaging exposés of popular screening tests like mammograms (attempting to detect breast cancer is like "finding a snowball in a blizzard"); common drug treatments, like those used to lower serum cholesterol or blood-pressure levels (about which expert national guidelines seem to change almost yearly); and health-care coverage in the lay media (whose "breaking news" too often ignores the uncertainty of the news being broken). Throughout his book, Dr. Hatch's message is "caveat emptor," warning his readers to beware not only the pseudoscientists, flim-flammers, anti-vacciners and celebrity doctors but also the all-too-certain pronouncements of the medical establishment.



For the full review, see:

BRENDAN REILLY. "BOOKSHELF; Give It To Me Straight, Doc; Doctors can't really be certain if any treatment will help a particular person. But patients are looking for prescriptions, not probabilities." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., March 15, 2016): A11.

(Note: the ellipsis between paragraphs, and the first two in the final quoted paragraph, are added; the third ellipsis in the final paragraph is in the original.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date March 14, 2016.)


The book under review, is:

Hatch, Steven. Snowball in a Blizzard: A Physician's Notes on Uncertainty in Medicine. New York: Basic Books, 2016.






August 24, 2016

Monopolist Ede & Ravenscroft Had 98% of Legal Wigs Market




(p. A1) British barristers and judges have worn wigs since Charles II Imported the idea from France in the 1670s. A London company, Ede & Ravenscroft Ltd., today claims 98% of the market for legal wigs in the United Kingdom. The wigs distinguish barristers from solicitors, lawyers who ordinarily don't appear In court.

Ede & Ravenscroft, 300 years old, pursues its monopoly from a narrow London shop whose carved mahogany paneling, brass rails and chest-high counters hark back to the Victorian era.


. . .


(p. A7) In a stuffy loft two floors above, six women fabricate about 1,000 wigs a year on pockmarked wooden blocks resembling shrunken skulls. The wigmakers attach rows
of tightly rolled curls and a pair of ponytails with painful hand stitching, using 12-yard lengths of bleached curls made from horses' tails and manes.

They strictly follow a pattern conceived by Humphrey Ravenscroft in 1822 when he invented the "modern" horsehair wig with fixed curls. It replaced ones made of goat hair, which had to be powdered and dressed with scented ointment every day to conceal the filth.



For the full story, see:

Lublin, Joann S. "Who Has Means and Motive to Steal in Halls of Justice?; British Barristers, It Seems, Can't Resist Purloining Each Other's Ratty Wigs." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Oct. 4, 1989): A1 & A7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)






August 23, 2016

The Most Popular Kremlin Line




(p. A4) In an interview, Mr. Gorbachev shrugged off the fact that 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he remains among the most reviled men in Russia. "It is freedom of expression," he said.


. . .


Some adore him for introducing perestroika, or restructuring, combined with glasnost, or openness, which together helped to jettison the worst repressions of the Communist system. Mr. Gorbachev led the way, albeit haltingly, toward free speech, free enterprise and open borders.

"Some love him for bringing freedom, and others loathe him for bringing freedom," said Dmitri Muratov, the editor of Novaya Gazeta, one of the few remaining independent newspapers and one in which Mr. Gorbachev holds a 10 percent stake.


. . .


Mr. Muratov said they often recounted the same joke, based on Mr. Gorbachev's infamous campaign to lower alcohol consumption:

Two men are standing in a long, long vodka line prompted by the limited supply. One asks the other to keep his place in line, because he wants to go over the Kremlin to punch Gorbachev in the face for his anti-alcohol policy. He comes back many hours later and his friend asks him if he had indeed punched Gorbachev. "No," the man answered despondently. "The line at the Kremlin was even longer."



For the full story, see:

NEIL MacFARQUHAR. "Reviled, Revered, and Still Challenging Russia to Evolve." The New York Times (Thurs., JUNE 2, 2016): A4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JUNE 1, 2016, and has the title "Reviled by Many Russians, Mikhail Gorbachev Still Has Lots to Say.")






August 22, 2016

Economist Removed from Plane for Scribbling Math





The seatmate was wrong to think the scribbling was Arabic, but was right to be alarmed.


(p. A13) In May [2016], an Italian economist from the University of Pennsylvania was removed from an American Airlines flight in Philadelphia after his seatmate became alarmed, thinking that the math he was scribbling on a piece of paper was Arabic, The Washington Post reported.


For the full story, see:

CHRISTINE HAUSER. "American Airlines Orders 2 Muslim American Women Off a Long-Delayed Flight." The New York Times (Sat., AUG. 5, 2016): A13.

(Note: bracketed year added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 5, 2016, and has the title "2 Muslim American Women Ordered Off American Airlines Flight.")






August 21, 2016

Brazilians See Government as a Father Who Should Hand Out Subsidies to His Favorites




(p. 9) . . . "Brazillionaires" offers more than a flat collection of billionaire tales. Cuadros shrewdly presents his collage of immense wealth against an underlying background of corruption. There are kickbacks for government contracts. There are gigantic taxpayer subsidies: In 2009 alone, the state-run development bank, BNDES, lent out $76 billion, "more than the World Bank lent out in the entire world." And of course there are lavish campaign contributions, attached to the inevitable quid pro quos. JBS, which leveraged government loans to become the largest meatpacking company in the world, spent $180 million on the 2014 elections alone. "If every politician who had received JBS money formed a party," Cuadros writes, "it would be the largest in Congress."

In his telling, Brazilians seem to embrace the cozy relationship between business and government as a source of pride rather than a risk for conflicts of interest. In one passage, Cuadros underscores the contrast between Adam Smith and the 19th-century Brazilian thinker José da Silva Lisboa, viscount of Cairu. Lisboa's "Principios de Economía Politica" was meant to be an adaptation of Smith's "Wealth of Nations." But rather than present a paean to the invisible hand of the market, the viscount offered a rather paternalistic view of economic progress.

"The sovereign of each nation must be considered the chief or head of a vast family," he wrote, "and thus care for all those therein like his children, cooperating for the greater good." Swap "government" for "sovereign" and the passage still serves as an accurate guide to the Brazilian development strategy. It's just that some children -- the Marinhos, the Camargos -- are cared for better than ­others.


. . .


It would be wrong, . . . , to understand Brazil's plutocracy as the product of some unique outcrop of corruption. The hold on political power by the rich is hardly an exclusive feature of Brazil. ­Latin America has suffered for generations from the collusion between government and business. Where I grew up, in Mexico, it is the norm.



For the full review, see:

EDUARDO PORTER. "Real Rich." The New York Times Book Review (Sun., JULY 24, 2016): 9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date JULY 22, 2016, and has the title "Watching Brazil's Rich: A Full-Time Job.")


The book under review, is:

Cuadros, Alex. Brazillionaires: Wealth, Power, Decadence, and Hope in an American Country. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2016.






August 20, 2016

Iowa State Students Go Bananas to Save (or Harm?) African Children




(p. A11) Student activists at Iowa State University are up in arms after researchers offered to pay them almost a thousand bucks to eat some genetically modified banana. The bananas, created by an Australian scientist, contain high levels of beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A when eaten.


. . .


"Those students are acting out of ignorance," Jerome Kubiriba, the head of the National Banana Research Program in Uganda, tells me. "It's one thing to read about malnutrition; it's another to have a child who is constantly falling sick yet, due to limited resources, the child cannot get immediate and constant medical care. If they knew the truth about the need for vitamin A and other nutrients for children in Uganda and Africa, they'd get a change of heart."



For the full commentary, see:

JULIE KELLY. "Anti-GMO Students Bruise a Superbanana." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., March 15, 2016): A11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 14, 2016.)






August 19, 2016

"Draconian" Regulations Reduce Consumer Choice




(p. B1) The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the watchdog agency set up after the last financial crisis, is poised to adopt strict new national rules that will curtail payday lending.


. . .


(p. B6) A sweeping study of bans on payday lending, scheduled to be published soon in The Journal of Law and Economics, found similar patterns in other states. When short-term loans disappear, the need that drives demand for them does not; many customers simply shift to other expensive forms of credit like pawn shops, or pay late fees on overdue bills, the study's authors concluded.

Mr. Munn, who works as a site geologist on oil wells, first borrowed from Advance America eight months ago when his car broke down. He had some money saved, but he needed a few hundred more to pay the $1,200 repair bill. Then his employer, reacting to falling oil prices, cut wages 30 percent. Mr. Munn became a regular at the loan shop.

He likes the store's neighborhood vibe and friendly staff, and he views payday loans as a way to avoid debt traps he considers more insidious.

"I don't like credit cards," said Mr. Munn, who is wary of the high balances that they make it too easy to run up. "I could borrow from my I.R.A., but the penalties are huge."

At Advance America, he said, "I come in here, pay back what I've taken, and get a little bit more for rent and bills. I keep the funds to an extent that I can pay back with the next check. I don't want to get into more trouble or debt."


. . .


The rules would radically reshape, and in some places eliminate, payday borrowing in the 36 states where lenders still operate, according to Richard P. Hackett, a former assistant director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.


. . .


"It's a draconian scenario," said Jamie Fulmer, an Advance America spokesman.



For the full story, see:

STACY COWLEY. "To Curb Abuse, Loan Rules May Cut a Lifeline." The New York Times (Sat., JULY 23, 2016): B1 & B6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JULY 22, 2016, and has the title "Payday Loan Limits May Cut Abuse but Leave Some Borrowers Looking.")






August 18, 2016

Androgen Lengthens Telomeres




(p. A3) Androgens, a kind of sex hormone, have been used to treat certain genetic blood disorders for decades. But doctors haven't been able to pinpoint exactly why they seem to help some patients. A small study puts forth a theory behind androgens' disease-fighting mechanism: They help stabilize and even rebuild telomeres, which increasingly diminish in certain conditions and aging.


. . .


The authors of the study, published Wednesday [May 18, 2016] in the New England Journal of Medicine, treated telomere-disease patients who had a variety of conditions with a high dose of a synthetic androgen called danazol. The goal was to test whether the treatment would help keep telomeres intact longer. Instead, they saw them lengthen.


. . .


Experts, including the study's authors, . . . warned against concluding danazol is a fountain of youth for the healthy, based on research that suggests that shrinking telomeres may be involved in aging.

"That," said Dr. Agarwal, "would be purely in the realm of speculation."



For the full story, see:

DANIELA HERNANDEZ. "How Sex Hormones Might Treat Some Diseases." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., May 19, 2016): A3.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 18, 2016, and has the title "How Sex Hormones Might Treat Certain Diseases." The print version starts with a one-sentence summary paragraph that is absent in the online version. The second paragraph in the print version differs slightly from the first paragraph in the online version. The version quoted as the first paragraph above, is the first paragraph of the online version.)


The academic article mentioned above (though the date given by the NYT above appears to be a day too early), is:

Townsley, Danielle M., Bogdan Dumitriu, Delong Liu, Angélique Biancotto, Barbara Weinstein, Christina Chen, Nathan Hardy, Andrew D. Mihalek, Shilpa Lingala, Yun Ju Kim, Jianhua Yao, Elizabeth Jones, Bernadette R. Gochuico, Theo Heller, Colin O. Wu, Rodrigo T. Calado, Phillip Scheinberg, and Neal S. Young. "Danazol Treatment for Telomere Diseases." New England Journal of Medicine 374, no. 20 (May 19, 2016): 1922-31.






August 17, 2016

Creativity Is Correlated with "Openness to Experience"




(p. D3) "Insightful problem solving can't be boiled down to any single way of thinking," the authors say. Creative people have messy processes, and often messy minds, full of contradictions.

Contrary to the well-worn notion that creativity resides in the right side of the brain, research shows that creativity is a product of the whole brain, relying especially on what the authors call the "imagination network" -- circuits devoted to tasks like making personal meaning, creating mental simulations and taking perspective.

While creative people run the gamut of personalities, Dr. Kaufman's research has shown that openness to experience is more highly correlated to creative output than I.Q., divergent thinking or any other personality trait. This openness often yields a drive for exploration, which "may be the single most important personal factor predicting creative achievement," the authors write.

These are people energized and motivated by the possibility of discovering new information: "It's the thrill of the knowledge chase that most excites them."

Once the idea is found, alas, the creative process begins to resemble something more like grinding execution. It's still creative, but it requires more focus and less daydreaming -- one reason highly creative people tend to exhibit mindfulness and mental wandering.

"Creativity is a process that reflects our fundamentally chaotic and multifaceted nature," the authors write. "It is both deliberate and uncontrollable, mindful and mindless, work and play."



For the full review, see:

CHRISTIE ASCHWANDEN. "Books; The Blessed Mess of Creativity." The New York Times (Tues., FEB. 9, 2016): D3.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date FEB. 8, 2016, and has the title "Books; Review: 'Wired to Create' Shows the Science of a Messy Process.")


The book under review, is:

Kaufman, Scott Barry, and Carolyn Gregoire. Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind. New York: TarcherPerigee, 2015.






August 16, 2016

Certificate-of-Need Regulations Protect Incumbents and Hurt Consumers




(p. A11) An important but overlooked debate is unfolding in several states: When governments restrict market forces in health care, who benefits? Legislative majorities in 36 states believe that consumers benefit, because restrictions help control health-care costs. But new research confirms what should be common sense: Preventing qualified health-care providers from freely plying their trade results in less access to care.

Most states enforce market restrictions through certificate-of-need programs, which mandate a lengthy, expensive application process before a health-care provider can open or expand a facility. The story goes: If hospitals or physicians could choose what services to provide, competition for patients would force providers to overinvest in equipment such as MRI machines--and the cost could be passed on to patients through higher medical bills.


. . .


These restrictions have largely failed to reduce costs, but they certainly reduce services. A 2011 study in the Journal of Health Care Finance found that certificate-of-need laws resulted in 48% fewer hospitals and 12% fewer hospital beds.



For the full commentary, see:

THOMAS STRATMANN and MATTHEW BAKER. "Certifiably Needless Health-Care Meddling." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Jan. 12, 2016): A11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 11, 2016.)


The "new research" mentioned by Stratman in the passage quoted above, is:

Stratmann, Thomas, and Matthew C. Baker. "Are Certificate-of-Need Laws Barriers to Entry?: How They Affect Access to MRI, CT, and Pet Scans." Mercatus Working Paper, Jan. 2016.






August 15, 2016

"Hong Kongers Will Not Bow Down to Brute Force"




(p. A1) HONG KONG -- Blindfolded and handcuffed, the bookseller was abducted from Hong Kong's border with mainland China and taken to a cell, where he would spend five months in solitary confinement, watched 24 hours a day by a battery of Chinese guards.

Even the simple act of brushing his teeth was monitored by minders, who tied a string to his toothbrush for fear he might try to use it to harm himself. They wanted him to identify anonymous authors and turn over data on customers.

"I couldn't call my family," the man, Lam Wing-kee, said on Thursday. "I could only look up to the sky, all alone."

Months after he and four other booksellers disappeared from Hong Kong and Thailand, prompting international concern over what critics called a brazen act of extralegal abduction, Mr. Lam stood before a bank of television cameras in Hong Kong and revealed the harrowing details of his time in detention.

"It can happen to you, too," said Mr. Lam, 61, who was the manager of Causeway Bay Books, a store that sold juicy potboilers about the mainland's Communist Party leadership. "I want to tell the whole world: Hong Kongers will not bow down to brute force."


. . .


(p. A14) In the months since Mr. Lam and his colleagues disappeared, the industry has fallen on hard times. Causeway Bay Books has closed, and many Hong Kong bookstores have pulled titles about Chinese politics from their shelves.

The disappearances shocked people in Hong Kong and reverberated internationally. Many saw the episode as an expansion of China's authoritarian legal system beyond its borders, in clear violation of the "one country, two systems" framework that allows Hong Kong to maintain a high degree of autonomy from Beijing.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong to demand the booksellers' release. Diplomats from Britain, the European Union and the United States also registered concern.



For the full story, see:

ALAN WONG, MICHAEL FORSYTHE and ANDREW JACOBS. "Defying China, Hong Kong Bookseller Describes Detention." The New York Times (Fri., JUNE 17, 2016): A1 & A14.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JUNE 16, 2016, and has the title "Defying China, Hong Kong Bookseller Describes Detention.")






August 14, 2016

How to Avoid Bureaucratic Time-Wasting Lines




(p. 9) London -- ITALIAN bureaucracy is legendary for a reason. Italians spend so much of their lives waiting in line -- an estimated 400 hours a year per person -- that some are now willing to pay freelancers to wait on their behalf. The rich can pay a "codista," a neologism for a trained line sitter, to maunder at the post office or bank while they get on with something more important.


. . .


Brazil has its "despachantes," meaning dispatchers. Venezuela has its "coleros," which, oddly, can translate to "top hats"; and Spain its "gestores" or agents. Meanwhile, in South Africa there is a company called Q4U that takes care specifically of the irksome business of applying for a British passport.

In New York City, the cash-rich and time-poor use the service Same Ole Line Dudes, which describes itself as "New York's only professional line sitting team." The Dudes will charge you $25 for the first hour, plus $10 for each additional 30 minutes, to put in the necessary time to obtain coveted concert tickets or rare new sneakers. Their slogan is, "We wait for your wants." I am told that they will even wait at the Department of Motor Vehicles for you.



For the full commentary, see:

TOM HODGKINSON. "How to Get Paid to Do Nothing." The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., July 10, 2016): 9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 9, 2016.)






August 13, 2016

Technology Platforms Will Create Decades of Gales of Creative Destruction




(p. A11) For traditional businesses, economies of scale are the key to competitive advantage: Larger firms have lower average costs. In the digital economy, network effects matter most. In "Matchmakers" (Harvard Business Review, 260 pages, $35), David S. Evans (a consultant) and Richard Schmalensee (a professor of management) highlight two particular forms.

Direct network effects occur when additional users make a service more valuable for everyone. If one's colleagues are all on, say, LinkedIn, it will be hard for another professional network to exert a strong appeal. Without the critical mass of LinkedIn, the alternative will have less utility even if its features are better. Indirect network effects arise from positive feedback loops between opposing sides of a market. The value of Rightmove, for instance, the leading online real-estate site in Britain, comes from a matching function: Since each home is unique, buyers prefer the site with the most properties, and real-estate agents favor the site with the most buyers. This virtuous cycle magnifies Rightmove's advantage even though participants on each side of the market compete with one another: More buyers increase competition for the same homes, and agents compete for buyers.


. . .


"Matchmakers" is . . . measured and analytical . . . . The authors fairly conclude that, while the telegraph was "a far more important multisided platform" than anything produced so far by the Internet, platforms are "behind the gales of creative destruction that . . . will sweep industries for decades to come."



For the full review, see:


JEREMY G. PHILIPS. "Why Facebook's Imitators Failed; If one's coworkers are all on the same platform, any alternative will have less utility--even if its features are better." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., May 19, 2016): A11.

(Note: the ellipsis between paragraphs, and the first two in the final quoted paragraph, are added; the third ellipsis in the final paragraph is in the original.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date May 18, 2016.)


The book under review, is:

Evans, David S., and Richard Schmalensee. Matchmakers: The New Economics of Multisided Platforms. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2016.






August 12, 2016

Taylor Swift Defends Intellectual Property Rights




(p. A11) In battles against tech titans, Chinese e-commerce swindlers and others, Ms. Swift has repeatedly insisted on being paid for her music and brand--and in the process has taught some valuable lessons in basic economics.


. . .


Last year she picked a fight with Apple after the company announced plans to launch its Apple Music streaming service with a three-month trial period during which users wouldn't pay subscription fees and Apple wouldn't pay royalties for the songs streamed.


. . .


Ms. Swift had less luck trying to get the Spotify streaming service to restrict her songs to paying customers, so in 2014 she pulled her catalog from the platform entirely. Her manager said Spotify's royalty payments are miserly compared with regular album revenues: "Don't forget this is for the most successful artist in music today. What about the rest of the artists out there struggling to make a career?"

Ms. Swift's most ambitious crusade may be in China, where she has launched branded clothing lines with special antipiracy mechanisms to combat rampant counterfeiting on e-commerce sites like Alibaba's Taobao. Said one of the branding executives leading the effort: "It's time for Chinese companies to say, 'We don't want to be known for piracy anymore.' " Good luck with that.



For the full commentary, see:


DAVID FEITH. "In Support of Taylor Swift, Economist." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., July 21, 2016): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

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






August 11, 2016

Denmark Drones Saving Lives




(p. B1) Mr. McLinden is a member of a group of middle-aged emergency workers taking part in a trial to jump-start the use of unmanned aircraft by Europe's emergency services. The goal is to give the region a head start over the United States and elsewhere in using drones to tackle real-world emergencies.

The "drone school" builds on Europe's worldwide lead in giving public groups and companies relatively free rein to experiment with unmanned aircraft. If everything goes as planned, the project's backers hope government agencies in Europe and farther afield can piggyback on the experiences, helping to transform drones from recreational toys to lifesaving tools.

"For us, this technology is a game-changer," said Mr. McLinden, who traveled to Copenhagen (p. B4) for a three-day training course with two colleagues from the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service. They will start offering 24/7 drone support -- allowing colleagues, for example, to monitor accidents from 300 feet above -- across central Wales later this month.

"Drones aren't going to replace what we do," Mr. McLinden added. "But anything that we can do to give our crews an advantage, that's great."


. . .


In a somewhat stuffy classroom at a disused fire station in Copenhagen, Thomas Sylvest gave advice to Mr. McLinden and others from his two years of flying. As Denmark's first, and so far only, emergency service drone pilot, Mr. Sylvest has responded to things as varied as missing person cases and fires, often receiving calls late at night.

Mr. Sylvest, a fast-talking 50-year-old, offered tips on how best to share videos streamed directly from drones to commanders on the ground. During a recent fire in downtown Copenhagen, Mr. Sylvest said, he was able to beam high-definition images from high above, allowing his bosses to judge if a building's walls would collapse (they did not). And when the police called him out last year after a man was reported missing, he flew his drone along a stretch of train tracks to guide colleagues on where best to look. (The man was found.)



For the full story, see:

MARK SCOTT. "Emergency Workers Turn to Drones to Save Lives." The New York Times (Mon., JUNE 20, 2016): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JUNE 19, 2016, and has the title "Europe's Emergency Workers Turn to Drones to Save Lives.")






August 10, 2016

Crony Credentialism Is Regulatory Barrier to Telemedicine




(p. A11) Telemedicine has made exciting advances in recent years. Remote access to experts lets patients in stroke, neonatal and intensive-care units get better treatment at a lower cost than ever before. In rural communities, the technology improves timely access to care and reduces expensive medevac trips. Remote-monitoring technology lets patients with chronic conditions live at home rather than in an assisted-living facility.

Yet while telemedicine can connect a patient in rural Idaho with top specialists in New York, it often runs into a brick wall at state lines. Instead of welcoming the benefits of telemedicine, state governments and entrenched interests use licensing laws to make it difficult for out-of-state experts to offer remote care.


. . .


Using its power under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, Congress could pass legislation to define where a physician practices medicine to be the location of the physician, rather than the location of the patient, as states currently do. Physicians would need only one license, that of their home state, and would work under its particular rules and regulations.

This would allow licensed physicians to treat patients in all 50 states. It would greatly expand access to quality medical care by freeing millions of patients to seek services from specialists around the country without the immense travel costs involved.



For the full commentary, see:


SHIRLEY SVORNY. "Telemedicine Runs Into Crony Doctoring; State medical-licensing barriers protect local MDs and deny patients access to remote-care physicians." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., July 23, 2016): A11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JUNE 22, 2016.)






August 9, 2016

In Cultural Revolution, Chinese "Tried to Turn Their Homes into Fragile Islands of Freedom"




(p. C8) Mr. Dikötter's greatest contribution with "The Cultural Revolution," which is the third in a trilogy on China during the Mao era, is his undermining of the conventional view of the period following Mao's death in 1976. The prevailing narrative, much encouraged by the Communist Party, is that the Chinese state began "lifting" hundreds of millions of people out of poverty through its sage adoption of capitalist-style policies officially called "reform and opening," beginning with an end to systemwide economic planning and the restoration of markets.

Drawing on a growing body of existing research, Mr. Dikötter argues that China's markets were not born of the official reforms of the late-1970s and early 1980s but rather got their start before the Cultural Revolution had ended in 1976. He writes of peasants and city dwellers who had completely lost faith in the system and began improvised acts of survival and resistance, like the private trading of goods and labor, which was banned, and even small-scale industrial output.

"Senseless and unpredictable purges were designed to cow the population and rip apart entire communities, producing docile, atomized individuals loyal to no one but the Chairman," Mr. Dikötter writes. The outcome, as with so many extreme, top-down uses of power, was almost the exact opposite. As surreptitious markets began to flourish in response to scarcity, "people from all walks of life tried to turn their homes into fragile islands of freedom."​



For the full review, see:

HOWARD W. FRENCH. "'Bombard the Headquarters'; The twin pillars of Mao's campaign were uprooting supposed reactionaries and the promotion of sycophancy." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., May 28, 2016): C8.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date May 27, 2016.)


The book under review, is:

Dikötter, Frank. The Cultural Revolution: A People's History, 1962-1976. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2016.






August 8, 2016

Many Discoveries Take a Long Time Because "No One Really Looked"




Periods are a strange phenomenon. We don't know why humans have them, or, to look at it another way, why most other animals don't. Scientists say only 1.5 percent of mammal species have periods, and most of those are primates like us. The ranks of the menstrually afflicted grew a little bit recently, as researchers learned that female spiny mice have periods, too. They shared their findings on the bioRxiv preprint server.


. . .


Why did it take scientists so long to notice that these curious creatures were part of the period posse? "The answer, as with many discoveries in science, is that no one really looked," said Hayley Dickinson, a reproductive physiologist and long-time spiny rat researcher at the University of Monash. "Everyone knew that rodents didn't menstruate."



For the full story, see:

Nowogrodzki, Anna. "First Rodent Found with a Humanlike Menstrual Cycle." Nature (Fri., June 10, 2016).

(Note: ellipsis added.)


The preprint of the research mentioned above is:

Bellofiore, Nadia, Stacey J. Ellery, Jared Mamrot, David W. Walker, Peter Temple-Smith, and Hayley Dickinson. "First Evidence of a Menstruating Rodent: The Spiny Mouse (Acomys Cahirinus)." bioRxiv (June 3, 2016).






August 7, 2016

Scientists Reviving Extinct Tortoise Species




(p. D1) . . . the story of extinct Galápagos tortoises has taken a strange, (p. D5) and hopeful, twist.

More than a century ago, it turns out, sailors dumped saddlebacked tortoises they did not need into Banks Bay, near Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island. Luckily, tortoises can extend their necks above water and float on their backs. Many of them made it to shore, lumbered across the lava fields and interbred with Isabela's native domed tortoises.

In 2008, scientists tagged and collected blood samples from more than 1,600 tortoises living on the flanks of the volcano. Back in the laboratory, there was a genetic eureka: Eighty-nine of the animals were part Floreana, whose full genetic profile DNA had been obtained from museum samples.

Some had genes indicating their parents were living purebred Floreana tortoises, hinting that the species may not be extinct after all.

Seventeen tortoises were shown to have high levels of Pinta DNA. Tortoises can live for more than 150 years, so some of them may well be George's immediate next of kin.

Last month, scientists went back to find them. Their plan was to capture and separate tortoises with high levels of Pinta and Floreana DNA, and then breed animals that are genetically closest to the original species.

In just a few generations, it should be possible to obtain tortoises with 95 percent of their "lost" ancestral genes, the scientists said.



For the full story, see:

SANDRA BLAKESLEE. "A Lost Species Crawls Back to Life." The New York Times (Tues., DEC. 15, 2015): D1 & D5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date DEC. 14, 2015, and has the title "Scientists Hope to Bring a Galápagos Tortoise Species Back to Life.")






August 6, 2016

All Land in China Owned by Communist Government




(p. B1) WENZHOU, China -- Chen Furong and his wife bought their home 23 years ago for its proximity to the city center and for the tree-lined canal just outside. Their dream was to pass it on to their children and grandchildren, a piece of wealth giving their family a share of China's economic miracle.

Then their neighbor tried to sell her place -- and it was all thrown into doubt.

Like every other homeowner in China, Mr. Chen and his neighbor own their homes but not the land underneath them. All land in China is owned by the government, which parcels it out to developers and homeowners through 20- to 70-year leases.

When the neighbor -- whose surname is Wang -- tried to sell her apartment, local officials told her that her lease on the land had expired. To sell her apartment, they told her, she would have to pay them one-third of the sales value.

Ms. Wang protested in a move that drew national attention. Suddenly millions of Chinese who had socked away billions -- and possibly trillions -- of dollars were worried as well. If the local authorities in other parts of China did the same thing, they thought, a big chunk of their own wealth could end up with the government as well.

"What will happen after our land lease expires?" (p. B4) asked Mr. Chen, 69, who with his wife holds a 70-year lease. "I will be dead when the lease expires, but will I be able to give it to my son?"



For the full story, see:

STUART LEAVENWORTH and KIKI ZHAO. "Built on Shaky Ground." The New York Times (Weds., June 1, 2016): B1 & B4.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MAY 31, 2016, and has the title "In China, Homeowners Find Themselves in a Land of Doubt.")






August 5, 2016

Creative Destruction of Polaroid by Digital Photography




(p. A17) There aren't many 3-year-olds who can take credit for inspiring a revolution in the way millions of people view the world. According to a legend that begins Peter Buse's welcome history of the Polaroid company, "The Camera Does the Rest," it was engineer Edwin Land's daughter, Jennifer, who asked one evening in 1943 why it took so long to view the photographs that the family had shot while on vacation in Santa Fe, N.M. Land set out on a walk to ponder that question and, so the story goes, returned six hours later with an answer that would transform the hidebound practice of photography: the instant snapshot.


. . .


"In 1974 alone there were about 1 billion Polaroid images made, and by 1976 . . . 15 billion in total," the author writes, "and this before the real explosion in Polaroid photography in the late 1970s and early 1980s." The party might have gone on forever had it not been for the same type of creative destruction that Polaroid itself had stirred up in the 1940s--this time brought about by the digital revolution.

By the time the company joined that revolution in the 1990s, it was too late. Their digital products were inferior to those being turned out by competing companies. Polaroid had always done well selling cameras, but the real money was in the film, the demand for which was falling precipitately. In July 1997, the company's stock price was $60.51. Four years later, as the company spiraled toward bankruptcy, it was $0.49. The author writes that Polaroid joined the "analog scrap heap" that included "vinyl turntables and the Sony Walkman."​



For the full review, see:

PATRICK COOKE. "BOOKSHELF; The Original Instagram; Purists grumbled that Polaroids were ephemeral, but Ansel Adams created some of his most enduring photographs using the camera." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., May 17, 2016): A17.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date May 16, 2016.)


The book under review, is:

Buse, Peter. The Camera Does the Rest: How Polaroid Changed Photography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.






August 4, 2016

Based on Cost and Fairness, 76.9% of Swiss Voters Say "No" to Taxpayer-Paid Minimum Income for All




(p. C6) ZURICH--Swiss voters on Sunday overwhelmingly rejected a controversial initiative that would have guaranteed all Swiss residents a minimum income on which to live.

The Basic Income Initiative received just 23.1% of the vote in Sunday's referendum, compared with 76.9% against. . . .

Rather, the significance of Sunday's vote--which the plan's backers ensured by collecting the necessary 100,000 signatures--was that it gave a high-profile airing to an idea that has gained traction among economists in Europe and the U.S. in recent years.

Though the monthly amount wasn't spelled out, it was expected to have been around 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,560) per adult, with a smaller subsidy for children, without regard to employment, education, disability, age or even wealth.


. . .


Opponents, . . . , latched on to two critiques: cost and fairness.



For the full story, see:

BRIAN BLACKSTONE. "Switzerland Votes to Reject Basic Income Initiative." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., June 6, 2016): C6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 5, 2016.)






August 3, 2016

Obama and Koch Brothers Agree Occupational Licensing Restricts Opportunity




GranatelliGraceCanineMassageTherapist2016-07-11.jpg"Grace Granatelli, a certified canine massage therapist. In 2013, Arizona's Veterinary Medical Examining Board demanded that she close up shop for medically treating animals without a veterinary degree." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. B1) SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- "I usually start behind the neck," Grace Granatelli said from her plump brown sofa. "There's two pressure points back behind the ears that help relax them a little bit." In her lap, she held the head of Sketch, her mixed beagle rat terrier, as her fingers traced small circles through his fur.

Ms. Granatelli, whose passion for dogs can be glimpsed in the oil portrait of her deceased pets and the bronzed casts of their paws, started an animal massage business during the recession after taking several courses and workshops. Her primary form of advertising was her car, with its "K9 RUBS" license plate and her website, Pawsitive Touch, stenciled onto her rear window.

But in 2013, Arizona's Veterinary Medical Examining Board sent her a cease-and-desist order, demanding that she close up shop for medically treating animals without a veterinary degree. If not, the board warned, every Swedish doggy massage she completed could cost her a $1,000 fine.

To comply with the ruling and obtain a license, Ms. Granatelli would have to spend about $250,000 over four years at an accredited veterinary school. None require courses in massage technique; many don't even offer one.


. . .


(p. B5) The Obama administration and the conservative political network financed by the Koch brothers don't agree on much, but the belief that the zeal among states for licensing all sorts of occupations has spiraled out of control is one of them. In recent months, they have collaborated with an array of like-minded organizations and political leaders in a bid to roll back licensing rules.


. . .


. . . the current mishmash of requirements is too often "inconsistent, inefficient, and arbitrary," a White House report concluded last year. Many of them, the report said, have little purpose other than to protect those already in the field from further competition.


. . .


Only rarely are licensing requirements removed. Last month, though, Arizona agreed to curb them for yoga teachers, geologists, citrus fruit packers and cremationists.

But dozens more professions escaped the ax. "Arizona is perceived as a low-regulatory state, but this was the most difficult bill we worked on this session," said Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for the Republican governor, Douglas Ducey.

Licensing boards are generally dominated by members of the regulated profession. And in Arizona, more than two dozen of the boards are allowed to keep 90 percent of their fees, turning over a mere 10 percent of the revenue to the state.

"They use that money to hire contract lobbyists and P.R. people," Mr. Scarpinato said. "This is really a dark corner of state government."

They are often joined in their campaign by lobbyists from industry trade associations and for-profit colleges, which sell the required training courses.



For the full story, see:

PATRICIA COHEN. "Horse Rub? Where's Your License?" The New York Times (Sat., JUNE 18, 2016): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JUNE 17, 2016, and has the title "Moving to Arizona Soon? You Might Need a License.")


The White House report mentioned above, is:

The White House. "Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policy Makers." July 2015.






August 2, 2016

$10,000 Universal Income Would Reduce Work and Cost Taxpayers Trillions




(p. B4) This month [June 2016], Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute will publish an updated version of his plan to replace welfare as we know it with a dollop of $10,000 in after-tax income for every American above the age of 21.


. . .


Its first hurdle is arithmetic. As Robert Greenstein of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put it, a check of $10,000 to each of 300 million Americans would cost more than $3 trillion a year.

Where would that money come from? It amounts to nearly all the tax revenue collected by the federal government. Nothing in the history of this country suggests Americans are ready to add that kind of burden to their current taxes. Cut it by half to $5,000?


. . .


As Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary and onetime top economic adviser to President Obama, told me, paying a $5,000 universal basic income to the 250 million nonpoor Americans would cost about $1.25 trillion a year. . . .

The popularity of the universal basic income stems from a fanciful diagnosis born in Silicon Valley of the challenges faced by the working class across industrialized nations: one that sees declining employment rates and stagnant wages and concludes that robots are about to take over all the jobs in the world.


. . .


Work, as Lawrence Katz of Harvard once pointed out, is not just what people do for a living. It is a source of status. It organizes people's lives. It offers an opportunity for progress. None of this can be replaced by a check.

A universal basic income has many undesirable features, starting with its non-negligible disincentive to work. Almost a quarter of American households make less than $25,000. It would be hardly surprising if a $10,000 check each for mom and dad sapped their desire to work.


. . .


As Mr. Summers told a gathering last week at the Brookings Institution, "a universal basic income is one of those ideas that the longer you look at it, the less enthusiastic you become."



For the full commentary, see:

Porter, Eduardo. "ECONOMIC SCENE; Plan to End Poverty Is Wide of the Target." The New York Times (Weds., June 1, 2016): B1 & B4.

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

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date MAY 31, 2016, and has the title "ECONOMIC SCENE; A Universal Basic Income Is a Poor Tool to Fight Poverty.")






August 1, 2016

The Role of Steve Jobs in the Creation of Pixar




(p. B4) . . . [a] book that isn't out yet (until November [2016]): "To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History" by Lawrence Levy, the former chief financial officer of Pixar. What a delightful book about the creation of Pixar from the inside. I learned more about Mr. Jobs, Pixar and business in Silicon Valley than I have in quite some time. And like a good Pixar film, it'll put a smile on your face.


For the full commentary, see:

Sorkin, Andrew Ross. "DEALBOOK; Tell-Alls, Strategic Plans and Cautionary Tales." The New York Times (Tues., JULY 5, 2016): B1 & B4.

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

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JULY 4, 2016, and has the title "DEALBOOK; A Reading List of Tell-Alls, Strategic Plans and Cautionary Tales in Finance.")


The book praised by Sorkin in the passage quoted above, is:

Levy, Lawrence. To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.






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