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January 31, 2017

Increasing Minimum Wage Hurts Low Productivity Workers




(p. B1) CHICAGO -- A growing number of economists have found that many cities and states have considerable room to raise the minimum wage before employers meaningfully cut back on hiring.

But that conclusion may gloss over some significant responses to minimum-wage increases by individual employers, according to two new studies. And those reactions may, in turn, raise questions about the effectiveness of the minimum wage in helping certain workers.

The findings, presented over the weekend at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association, the nation's premier gathering of academic economists, come as many cities and states are raising their minimum wages. California and New York last year approved gradual increases to $15 per hour. Proponents argue that raising the minimum is one of the most practical ways of improving living standards for the working poor and reducing inequality.

To test that proposition, John Horton of New York University conducted an experiment on an online platform where employers post discrete jobs -- including customer service support, data entry, and graphic design -- and workers submit a proposed hourly wage for completing them.

Mr. Horton, working with the platform, was able to impose a minimum wage at random on one-quarter of about 160,000 jobs posted over roughly a (p. B4) month and a half in 2013. If a worker proposed an hourly wage that was below the minimum, the platform's software asked him or her to raise the bid until it cleared the threshold. In some cases the minimum wage was $2 per hour, in some cases $3, and in some cases $4.

At first glance, the findings were consistent with the growing body of work on the minimum wage: While the workers saw their wages rise, there was little decline in hiring. But other results suggested that the minimum wage was having large effects. Most important, the hours a given worker spent on a given job fell substantially for jobs that typically pay a low wage -- say, answering customer emails.

Mr. Horton concluded that when forced to pay more in wages, many employers were hiring more productive workers, so that the overall amount they spent on each job changed far less than the minimum-wage increase would have suggested. The more productive workers appeared to finish similar work more quickly.



For the full story, see:

NOAM SCHEIBER. "Studies Find Higher Minimum Wage May Have Losers." The New York Times (Weds., JAN. 11, 2017): B1 & B4.

(Note: the online version of the article has the date JAN. 10, 2017, and has the title "Higher Minimum Wage May Have Losers.")


The paper that Horton presented at the 2017 AEA meetings in Chicago, is:

Horton, John J. "Evidence from a Minimum Wage Experiment." Working Paper, Leonard N. Stern School of Business. New York University, Jan. 10, 2017.







January 30, 2017

Entrepreneur Hires for Perseverance





Max Levchin, who is quoted below, is an entrepreneur who played an important role in the early days of PayPal.



(p. 2) How do you think your parents and grandparents influenced your leadership style today?

My grandmother was exceptionally formative. She basically was willpower personified. If she wanted something to happen, it would happen. She had this walk-through-walls style where you did not ask for permission or forgiveness; you just did what you needed to get it done. I still judge some of my decisions based on: What would Grandma decide? Was I sufficiently tenacious or not enough?

And one thing I have found over the years is that in hiring, the dominant characteristic I select for is this sense of perseverance in really tough situations. It's like the difference between endurance athletes and sprinters. I think it is a really good predictor for how people behave under severe stress.

Working in a start-up means there is a baseline of stress with occasional spikes. There are people who are really good at handling spikes. In fact, most people are really good at handling spikes. But normal isn't normal. There is constant stress. And so I look for endurance athletes, in the business sense.



For the full interview, see:

ADAM BRYANT. "Corner Office; Looking for Signs of Endurance." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., December 11, 2016): 2.

(Note: bold in original.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date DEC. 9, 2016, and has the title "Corner Office; Max Levchin of Affirm: Seeking the Endurance Athletes of Business." The bold words are Adam Bryant's question; the non-bold words are Max Levchin's answer.)






January 29, 2017

"Patients Should Be the Owners of Their Own Medical Data"




(p. A21) THERE'S quite a paradox when it comes to our health data. Most of us still cannot readily look at it, but there's been an epidemic of cybercriminals and thieves hacking and stealing this most personal information.


. . .


. . . , giving consumers control of their own medical data would revolutionize who owns medical data and how it is used. Concerns about researchers losing access to this amassed data are overstated. Patients have shown an overwhelming willingness to share their information for altruistic reasons (which far exceeds the track record of doctors and health systems when it comes to sharing data).


. . .


We need to move on from the days of health systems storing and owning all our health data. Patients should be the owners of their own medical data. It's an entitlement and civil right that should be recognized.



For the full commentary, see:

KATHRYN HAUN and ERIC J. TOPOL. "The Health Data Conundrum." The New York Times (Tues., January 3, 2017): A21.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date January 2, 2017.)






January 28, 2017

British Government Ignored Scurvy Cure




(p. C14) Scurvy, we know today, has a single and simple cause: lack of vitamin C. But between the years 1500 and 1800, when an estimated two million sailors died from the disease, it seemed to defy all logic.


. . .


The conventional medical narrative holds that the mystery was solved by James Lind's announcement, in his "Treatise of the Scurvy" (1753), that it could be cured by drinking lemon juice. But in "Scurvy: The Disease of Discovery," Jonathan Lamb, a professor at Vanderbilt University, shows that the story is nowhere near so simple and that scurvy was a much stranger condition than we imagine, with effects on the mind that neuroscience is only now beginning to elucidate. The result is a book that renders a familiar subject as exotic and uncanny as the tropical shores that confronted sailors in the grip of scurvy's delirium.

James Lind was not the first person to recommend the lemon-juice cure. Contemporaries of Francis Drake had discovered it 150 years before, but the secret was lost and found again many times over the centuries. Some citrus juices were much more effective than others, and their efficacy was reduced considerably when they were preserved by boiling. The British admiralty ignored Lind's researches, . . .



For the full review, see:

MIKE JAY. "The Disease of the Enlightenment." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., December 10, 2016): C14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 9, 2016, and has the title "Scurvy: The Disease of the Enlightenment.")


The book under review, is:

Lamb, Jonathan. Scurvy: The Disease of Discovery. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017.






January 27, 2017

Superagers Engage in "Strenuous Mental Effort"




(p. 10) Why do some older people remain mentally nimble while others decline? "Superagers" (a term coined by the neurologist Marsel Mesulam) are those whose memory and attention isn't merely above average for their age, but is actually on par with healthy, active 25-year-olds.


. . .


Of course, the big question is: How do you become a superager? Which activities, if any, will increase your chances of remaining mentally sharp into old age? We're still studying this question, but our best answer at the moment is: work hard at something. Many labs have observed that these critical brain regions increase in activity when people perform difficult tasks, whether the effort is physical or mental. You can therefore help keep these regions thick and healthy through vigorous exercise and bouts of strenuous mental effort. My father-in-law, for example, swims every day and plays tournament bridge.

The road to superaging is difficult, though, because these brain regions have another intriguing property: When they increase in activity, you tend to feel pretty bad -- tired, stymied, frustrated. Think about the last time you grappled with a math problem or pushed yourself to your physical limits. Hard work makes you feel bad in the moment. The Marine Corps has a motto that embodies this principle: "Pain is weakness leaving the body." That is, the discomfort of exertion means you're building muscle and discipline. Superagers are like Marines: They excel at pushing past the temporary unpleasantness of intense effort. Studies suggest that the result is a more youthful brain that helps maintain a sharper memory and a greater ability to pay attention.



For the full commentary, see:

LISA FELDMAN BARRETT. "Gray Matter; How to Become a 'Superager'." The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., January 1, 2017): 10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date DEC. 31, 2016.)


The passages quoted above are related to Barrett's academic paper:

Sun, Felicia W., Michael R. Stepanovic, Joseph Andreano, Lisa Feldman Barrett, Alexandra Touroutoglou, and Bradford C. Dickerson. "Youthful Brains in Older Adults: Preserved Neuroanatomy in the Default Mode and Salience Networks Contributes to Youthful Memory in Superaging." The Journal of Neuroscience 36, no. 37 (Sept. 14, 2016): 9659-9668.






January 26, 2017

Uber Fights Regulations by Asking Forgiveness, Not Permission




(p. B3) For seven years, Uber's stance on complying with regulations has been consistent: Ask forgiveness, not permission.

On Friday [December 16, 2016], the ride-hailing company stuck to that position. It said it had no intention of ending a new test of its self-driving vehicles in San Francisco, even though California regulators had said the service was illegal because Uber had not obtained the necessary permits. Uber said its self-driving cars were still on the road and picking up passengers.

The dispute is rooted in Uber's refusal to seek a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which would allow it to test autonomous vehicles under certain conditions. Companies like Google, Tesla Motors and Mercedes-Benz have all gotten such permits.

Uber officials contend that under the letter of California law, the company does not need a permit because the motor vehicles department defines autonomous vehicles as those that drive "without the active physical control or monitoring of a natural person." Uber said its modified, self-driving Volvo XC90s require human oversight, and therefore do not fit California's definition of an autonomous vehicle.


. . .


The episode serves the latest volley in Uber's war with local and state regulators -- not only in the United States, but in many of the more than 70 countries in which the company operates. Uber has previously grappled with the authorities in California over safety concerns. And Otto, the self-driving trucking start-up founded by Mr. Levandowski and acquired by Uber in August, has flouted state laws in Nevada in the past.



For the full story, see:

MIKE ISAAC. "Uber Defies California Officials Over Self-Driving Cars." The New York Times (Sat., December 17, 2016): B3.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 16, 2016, and has the title "Uber Defies California Regulators With Self-Driving Car Service.")






January 25, 2017

Everybody Is Seeking "a Life that Provides Them with Dignity"




(p. A11) I want to end this dramatic year writing of a man whose great and constructive work I discovered in 2016. He is the photojournalist Chris Arnade.


. . .


In his work you see an America that is battered but standing, a society that is atomized--there are lonely people in his pictures--but holding on.


. . .


Mr. Arnade didn't intend to discover virtue in a mighty corporation, but McDonald's "has great value to community." He sees an ethos of patience and respect. "McDonald's is nonjudgmental." If you have nowhere to go all day they'll let you stay, nurse your coffee, read your paper. "The bulk of the franchises leave people alone. There's a friendship that develops between the people who work there and the people who go." "In Natchitoches, La., there's a twice-weekly Bible study group," that meets at McDonald's. "They also have bingo games." There's the Old Man table, or the Romeo Club, for Retired Old Men Eating Out.

I've written of the great divide in America as between the protected and the unprotected--those who more or less govern versus the governed, the facts of whose lives the protected are almost wholly unaware. Mr. Arnade sees the divide as between the front-row kids at school waving their hands to be called on, and the back-row kids, quiet and less advantaged. The front row, he says, needs to learn two things. "One is how much the rest of the country is hurting. It's not just economic pain, it's a deep feeling of meaninglessness, of humiliation, of not being wanted." Their fears and anxieties are justified. "They have been excluded from participating in the great wealth of this country economically, socially and culturally." Second, "The front-row kids need humility. They need to look in the mirror, 'We messed this up, we've been in charge 30 years and haven't delivered much.' " "They need to take stock of what has happened."

Of those falling behind: "They're not lazy and weak, they're dealing with bad stuff. Both conservative and progressive intellectuals say Trump voters are racist, dumb. When a conservative looks at a minority community and says, 'They're lazy,' the left answers, 'Wait a minute, let's look at the larger context, the availability of jobs, structural injustice.' But the left looks at white working-class poverty and feels free to judge and dismiss."


. . .


I asked how he describes his work. I see it as an effort to help America better understand itself. He said he was trying to show that "Everybody is kind of working in the same direction, trying to get by, get a life that provides them with dignity." In this, he suggests, we are more united than we know.



For the full commentary, see:

PEGGY NOONAN. "Shining a Light on 'Back Row' America; Chris Arnade's photos reveal an America that is battered but standing, atomized but holding on." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Dec. 31, 2016): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 29, 2016.)






January 24, 2017

Reticent George Lucas Has Single-Minded Work Ethic




(p. C12) Although sometimes mocked by his contemporaries for his laborious approach to screenwriting (the script for "Star Wars" would evolve painfully over two years, as Mr. Jones describes in detail), Mr. Lucas developed for "Star Wars" a prodigious range of characters and settings. He had always loved make-believe, he recalled, "but it was the kind of make-believe that used all the technological toys I could come by, like model airplanes and cars." Mr. Lucas earned respect as a shrewd and unsentimental negotiator. "I don't borrow money," he would say flatly, and his work ethic was second to none. From the outset, he foresaw the potential of merchandising, and by the late 1970s virtually every child in America and around the world would cherish his or her "Star Wars" figurines. In 1975, he established Industrial Light & Magic, a company that has produced the special effects not just for Mr. Lucas's films but also for many Oscar-winning titles of the next 20 years, including "Jurassic Park." He believed in the potential of computer games and perhaps regretted having sold his brainchild Pixar to Steve Jobs in 1986, far too early. He embraced the digital era, even predicting the advent of pay-per-view and online streaming.

Mr. Jones returns time and again to Mr. Lucas's single-minded personality, in which work almost always took precedence. Fiercely independent, he was quite simply "the boss," refusing to compromise with studio demands. Mr. Jones notes that Mr. Lucas has had "an inherent ability to hire the right people, and a preternatural knack for asking the right questions." Diagnosed early on as a diabetic, Mr. Lucas has eschewed drugs and liquor. Reticent but not quite a recluse, devoted to his children, he hovers tantalizingly beyond the reach of the gossip columnists.



For the full review, see:

PETER COWIE. "A Death Star Is Born." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., December 10, 2016): C12.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 9, 2016, and has the title "George Lucas: The Edison of the Movie Industry.")


The book under review, is:

Jones, Brian Jay. George Lucas: A Life. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2016.






January 23, 2017

Governments Encourage Drink that Consumers Are Rejecting




(p. A9) From coast to coast, urban planners are increasingly looking to craft breweries as the magic elixir to renew struggling urban cores.

Two years ago, Richmond, Va., put up $33 million in public money and incentives to entice Stone Brewing to build a retail store, tasting room and East Coast distribution center. Shortly thereafter the state of Virginia extended $1 million in grants and $1 million in matching tax credits to help Hardywood Park Craft Brewery expand into an office park in Goochland County. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported at the time that Virginia had specifically "targeted craft beverages as part of the state's economic development strategy."


. . .


Small towns are getting in on the action, too. At a meeting in November, the city council of Florence, S.C., population 38,000, approved an incentive package totaling $180,000 to encourage a craft brewery to set up shop beside town hall. The month before that, the city council of Reidsville, N.C., population 14,000, voted to sell a city-owned building for $1 to a startup brewing co-op. In tiny Perry, N.Y., population 4,000, a public development corporation matched bank financing this year to help a microbrewery build in its downtown.


. . .


But here's the rub: Demand for beer overall has been sliding in the U.S. for years. Twenty years ago, nearly three-quarters of young people said it was their favorite alcoholic drink, according to surveys by Gallup and Goldman Sachs Investor Research. Less than half feel that way now. The market is shrinking, and craft beer has grown at the expense of national brands like Budweiser, Miller and Coors.



For the full commentary, see:

JEREMY BAGOTT. "What Craft Brewers Want to Tap Next: the Taxpayer; Trendy suds are seen as a way to save city centers, never mind that beer sales have been sliding for years." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Dec. 31, 2016): A9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 30, 2016.)






January 22, 2017

Complex Labor Rules Reduce Work Choices for Older Workers




(p. B4) CALL them boomerang retirees: people who exit gracefully after their career at a company, then return shortly afterward to work there part time.

More and more companies are establishing formal programs to facilitate this, for reasons that benefit both the employer and the retiree. Leaving a satisfying job cold-turkey for a life of leisure can be an abrupt jolt to people accustomed to feeling purposeful, earning money and enjoying their colleagues. From the corporate perspective, it is useful to have experienced hands who can train younger people, pass along institutional wisdom and work with fewer strings attached.

"People in the U.S. define themselves by their work, and they like their co-workers," said Roselyn Feinsod, senior partner in the retirement practice at the human resources firm Aon Hewitt, the human resources consultancy. Thus, unlike many retirees from past generations, people from both the blue-collar and white-collar sectors are more eager to retain ties to the familiar working world that they enjoyed (and sometimes loathed).


. . .


. . . , Atlantic Health Systems of Morristown, N.J., is among the growing ranks of employers that sponsor a formal program to invite retirees back into the work force, for no more than 1,000 hours a year. The company's Alumni Club -- formerly known as the 1,000 Hour Club -- was established in 2006, and about 300 Atlantic Health retirees are currently on the company's payroll in various capacities. "They're engaged employees; they're productive," said Lesley Meyer, Atlantic Systems' manager of corporate human resources. "They're a stable talent pool."


. . .


Most boomerang retirees return to work after an informal negotiation with a former boss. Programs like the one at Atlantic Systems are still relatively rare -- for instance, about 8 percent of the 463 companies surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2015 had one -- but they are on the rise.

They are also tricky to run: Establishing a boomerang retiree program involves a substantial commitment of resources, including systems for navigating complex labor market rules and pension law. Most returning retirees must wait several months before they can come back, and are often limited to that 1,000 hours a year. Companies are increasingly turning to outside staffing firms to manage the nuts and bolts.


. . .


It was a phone call from her former manager that lured Pat Waller, who spent 39 years as an intensive care nurse for Atlantic Health before retiring in 2005 at age 66, back to the work force part time. She joined the Alumni Club in 2007 after the hospital where she had worked, Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, N.J., applied to qualify as a federal center of excellence in knee and hip surgery; her former boss wondered if she would help gather data. Absolutely, she answered.

Since then, Ms. Waller has worked on several projects for Atlantic Health, gigs that easily give her the time to travel with her husband and see her six grandchildren.

Now that she is 77, Ms. Waller works mostly from home, sometimes three to four days a week and other times one to two, depending on the project, "I always said when I was at work I learned something every day," she said. "Since I've come back, I feel the same way."



For the full story, see:

CHRISTOPHER FARRELL. "Boomerang Boom: Firms Tapping Skills of the Recently Retired." The New York Times (Sat., December 17, 2016): B4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 16, 2016, and has the title "Retiring; Boomerang Boom: More Firms Tapping the Skills of the Recently Retired.")






January 21, 2017

Cloud-Computing Firms Run Key Services on Private Servers




(p. B8) For nearly a decade, Amazon Web Services, the giant retailer's cloud computing division, has told prospective customers: Ditch your data center and trust us to run your applications, store your data and host your internal software development.

Yet Amazon.com Inc. itself doesn't fully run in the cloud.

Amazon isn't alone. The other top cloud providers-- Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and International Business Machines Corp.--use their own cloud services for some purposes, but they continue to keep certain functions on private servers. Their struggles are a microcosm of the issues that dog their customers: Worries about reliability, security and risks inherent with change that have made it hard to move critical computing tasks to the public cloud.

"The vast majority of Amazon.com runs on AWS," a company spokesperson said, and it intends to run everything there eventually.

The fact that Amazon still uses private servers is "ironic," said Ed Anderson, an analyst with Gartner, which advises customers on both cloud services and data center servers. "That's exactly why we tell people evaluating cloud services, 'Do not buy into the hype. Do not buy into the myths. You have to be pragmatic, just like these vendors are,'" he said.



For the full story, see:

ROBERT MCMILLAN. "Companies Touting Cloud-Computing Don't Always Use It." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Aug. 5, 2015): B8.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 4, 2015, and has the title "Cloud-Computing Kingpins Slow to Adapt to Own Movement.")






January 20, 2017

When Winston Churchill Met Mark Twain




(p. C13) . . . [a] pleasant immersion in America's political history is Mark Zwonitzer's "The Statesman and the Storyteller: John Hay, Mark Twain, and the Rise of American Imperialism." It is a story of a friendship that flourished in spite of differences about momentous issues of war, peace and national identity. All of Mr. Zwonitzer's pages are informative and entertaining, but none are more so than those recounting the meeting between the 65-year-old Twain and a 26-year-old British parliamentarian at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan in 1900. Suffice it to say that Twain and Winston Churchill differed vigorously about the Boer War.


For Will's full book recommendations, see:

George F. Will. "12 Months of Reading." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., December 10, 2016): C13.

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

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 7, 2016, and has the title "George F. Will on Stalin's last spy.")


The book recommended, is:

Tombs, Robert. The English and Their History. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.






January 19, 2017

"Information in the Penumbra of Our Awareness" May Be Accessible




(p. C2) Here today, gone in a millisecond. At least that's how we used to think about short-term, or working, memory. But a study just published in the journal Science tells a different story. A recent idea or word that you're trying to recall has not, in fact, gone AWOL, as we previously thought. According to new brain-decoding techniques, it's just sleeping.

"Earlier experiments show that a neural representation of a word disappeared," said the study's lead author, Brad Postle, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But by using a trio of cutting-edge techniques, Dr. Postle and his team have revealed just where the neural trace of that word is held until it can be cued up again.


. . .


To confirm that the memory still existed even while a person was not thinking about it, the scientists used another recent technique, transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS. They positioned a wand over a participant's scalp and delivered a harmless magnetic pulse to the brain areas that held the images. The pulse made the distinctive neural signature of those fleeting memories visible to the scientists and triggered their recall in the students.

Dr. Postle compared working memory to paper inscribed with invisible ink. Words written in lemon juice are initially imperceptible, but by passing a hot cup of coffee over the paper, "you can see the part of the message that was heated up.... Our TMS is like the coffee cup." In this way the team activated a memory that was not only temporary but below the student's level of consciousness.

Using Dr. Postle's new trifecta of brain-imaging and brain-stimulation techniques to reactivate forgotten memories has enticing--though still remote--therapeutic possibilities. It is neuroscience's most faithful reading yet of the real-time content of our thoughts--about as close as we have ever come to mind-reading.

"Our study suggests that there's information in the penumbra of our awareness. We are not aware that it's there, but it's potentially accessible," said Dr. Postle.



For the full commentary, see:

SUSAN PINKER. "What You Just Forgot May Only Be 'Sleeping'." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Jan. 7, 2017): C2.

(Note: ellipsis between paragraphs added; ellipsis internal to paragraph in original.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 5, 2017, and has the title "What You Just Forgot May Be 'Sleeping'.")


The Postle paper, discussed above, is:

Rose, Nathan S., Joshua J. LaRocque, Adam C. Riggall, Olivia Gosseries, Michael J. Starrett, Emma E. Meyering, and Bradley R. Postle. "Reactivation of Latent Working Memories with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation." Science 354, no. 6316 (Dec. 2, 2016): 1136-39.






January 18, 2017

Deer Dies from Stress Caused by Bickering Governments




(p. A1) A white-tailed deer that went from being a minor celebrity in Harlem to a cause célèbre after its capture, died in captivity on Friday [December 16, 2016], moments before it was to be driven upstate and released.

The preliminary causes of death, according to a New York City parks spokesman, were stress and the day and a half that the deer spent at a city animal shelter in East Harlem. But that did not begin to tell the absurd tale of how the buck, known as J.R., for Jackie Robinson, and Lefty, because of his crumpled left antler, came to die.

The deer had become the latest and most unlikely casualty of the feud between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, an animosity that has manifested itself mostly on big issues like education, safety at homeless shelters and funding mass transit.

But the tussle over the deer was extraordinary even by the standards set by Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio. All day Thursday and into Friday, the city and state issued competing and sometimes self-contradicting updates on the deer and what should be done with him.

The buck had spent two weeks attracting adoring, snack-proffering crowds at Jackie Robinson Park, where he often was seen near a chain-link fence across the street from a bodega. How he traveled to a park in the middle of a crowded Manhattan neighborhood remains unclear.


. . .


After it looked like the deer might live, allies of the mayor and governor took the opportunity to throw a few jabs.

"Bureaucracy lost," Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor, wrote on Twitter.

"Andrew Cuomo is an idiot," posted Bill Hyers, who managed Mr. de Blasio's 2013 mayoral campaign.


. . .


. . . the Harlem deer was no ordinary deer. He was beloved, a holiday-season gift to a beleaguered city, a surrogate reindeer camped out just a block from St. Nicholas Avenue.


. . .


The deer was condemned to die, then he was not, then he was, then he was not.

For a few surreal minutes Thursday night, the deer, like Schrödinger's cat, was both alive and dead, with a city official insisting he had already been euthanized and the state insisting he had not.

Then, just before 2 p.m. with workers from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the federal Department of Agriculture gathering at the Animal Care Centers of NYC shelter on East 110th Street, a city parks spokesman announced that the deer had died.

The spokesman, Sam Biederman, blamed the state.

"Unfortunately because of the time we had to wait for D.E.C. to come and transport the deer, the deer has perished," he told reporters, adding that the city had wanted to euthanize the deer all along. "This was an animal that was under a great deal of stress for the past 24 hours and had been tranquilized for much of that time."

The state, naturally, blamed the delay on the city.



For the full story, see:

ANDY NEWMAN. "Condemned, Reprieved, Then a Sudden Ending." The New York Times (Sat., DEC. 17, 2016): A1 & A18.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 16, 2016, and has the title "Harlem Deer Caught in City-State Tussle Has Died.")






January 17, 2017

Students Learn Less, and Score Worse, When Hot




(p. 11) A clever new working paper by Jisung Park, a Ph.D. student in economics at Harvard, compared the performances of New York City students on 4.6 million exams with the day's temperature. He found that students taking a New York State Regents exam on a 90-degree day have a 12 percent greater chance of failing than when the temperature is 72 degrees.

The Regents exams help determine whether a student graduates and goes to college, and Park finds that when a student has the bad luck to have Regents exams fall on very hot days, he or she is slightly less likely to graduate on time.

Likewise, Park finds that when a school year has an unusual number of hot days, students do worse at the end of the year on their Regents exams, presumably because they've learned less. A school year with five extra days above 80 degrees leads students to perform significantly worse on Regents exams.

The New York City students in Park's study do poorly on hot days even though the majority of city schools are air-conditioned (perhaps in part because the air-conditioning often barely works).



For the full commentary, see:

Kristof, Nicholas. "Temperatures Rise, and We're Cooked." The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., SEPT. 11, 2016): 11.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date SEPT. 10, 2016.)


The working paper by Jisung Park on the effects of heat, is:

Park, Jisung. "Heat Stress and Human Capital Production." Harvard University, 2016.






January 16, 2017

How Englishness Developed




(p. C12) . . . , "The English and Their History" by Robert Tombs, takes the reader through the entirety of English history--from the Angles and Saxons to the present day. Remarkably, Mr. Tombs limns over a millennia of history without putting you to sleep. And lurking throughout is a fascinating and timely concept: how Englishness as an identity developed through the centuries.


For Vance's full book recommendations, see:

J.D. Vance. "12 Months of Reading." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., December 10, 2016): C12.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 7, 2016, and has the title "J.D. Vance on an epic history of England.")


The book recommended, is:

Tombs, Robert. The English and Their History. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.






January 15, 2017

Better Policies Can Turn Stagnation into Growth




(p. A19) . . . , now ought to be the time that policy makers in Washington come together to tackle America's greatest economic problem: sclerotic growth. The recession ended more than seven years ago. Unemployment has returned to normal levels. Yet gross domestic product is rising at half its postwar average rate. Achieving better growth is possible, but it will require deep structural reforms.

The policy worthies have said for eight years: stimulus today, structural reform tomorrow. Now it's tomorrow, but novel excuses for stimulus keep coming. "Secular stagnation" or "hysteresis" account for slow growth. Prosperity demands more borrowing and spending--even on bridges to nowhere--or deliberate inflation or negative interest rates. Others advocate surrender. More growth is impossible. Accept and manage mediocrity.

But for those willing to recognize the simple lessons of history, slow growth is not hard to diagnose or to cure. The U.S. economy suffers from complex, arbitrary and politicized regulation. The ridiculous tax system and badly structured social programs discourage work and investment. Even internet giants are now running to Washington for regulatory favors.


. . .


So why is there so little talk of serious growth-oriented policy? Regulated and protected industries and unions, and the politicians who extract support from them in return for favors, will lose enormously. The global policy elite, steeped in Keynesian demand management for the economy as a whole, and microregulation of individual businesses, are intellectually unprepared for the hard project of "structural reform"--fixing the entire economy by cleaning up the thousands of little messes. Even economists fight to protect outdated skills.



For the full commentary, see:

JOHN H. COCHRANE. "Don't Believe the Economic Pessimists; Memo to Clinton and Trump: The U.S. economy can and will grow faster with the right policies." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Nov. 7, 2016): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)






January 14, 2017

E.U. Regulations Protect Paris Rats




(p. A4) PARIS -- On chilly winter mornings, most Parisians hurry by the now-locked square that is home to the beautiful medieval Tour St. Jacques. Only occasionally do they pause, perhaps hearing a light rustle on the fallen leaves or glimpsing something scampering among the dark green foliage.

A bird? A cat? A puppy?

No. A rat.

No. Three rats.

No. Look closer: Ten or 12 rats with lustrous gray-brown coats are shuffling among the dried autumn leaves.

Paris is facing its worst rat crisis in decades. Nine parks and green spaces have been closed either partly or entirely


. . .


In the 19th century, rats terrified and disgusted Parisians who knew that five centuries earlier, the creatures had brought the bubonic plague across the Mediterranean.

The plague ravaged the city, as it did much of Europe, killing an estimated 100,000 Parisians, between a third and half the population at the time. It recurred periodically for four more centuries. Not surprisingly, the experience left Paris with a millennium-long aversion to rodents.


. . .


. . . why are they proliferating? Could it be everybody's favorite scapegoat -- the European Union and its faceless, unaccountable bureaucrats?

Yes, it could.

New regulations from Brussels, the European Union's headquarters, have forced countries to change how they use rat poison, said Dr. Jean-Michel Michaux, a veterinarian and head of the Urban Animals Scientific and (p. A14) Technical Institute in Paris.


. . .


While the poison could be a risk to human beings, so are the rats -- potentially, although no one is suggesting that the bubonic plague is likely to return.



For the full story, see:


ALISSA J. RUBIN. "PARIS JOURNAL; The Rats Came Back. Blame the E,U." The New York Times (Fri., DEC. 16, 2016): A4 & A14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 15, 2016, and has the title "PARIS JOURNAL; Rodents Run Wild in Paris. Blame the European Union.")






January 13, 2017

Government Permission to Build Takes Longer than It Takes to Build




(p. A21) America used to be the envy of the world in building great projects responsibly, efficiently and on time. The Pentagon was built in 16 months. The 1,500-mile Alaska-Canadian Highway, which passes through some of the world's most rugged terrain, took about eight months. Today, infrastructure projects across America often require several years simply to get through the federal government's pre-build permitting process. Consider a few examples.

New U.S. highway construction projects usually take between nine and 19 years from initial planning and permitting to completion of construction, according to a 2002 Government Accountability Office study. It will have taken 14 years to permit an expansion of Gross Reservoir in Colorado, and it took almost 20 years to permit the Kensington gold mine in Alaska.

It took four years to construct a new runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, but it took 15 years to get the permits. Todd Hauptli of the American Association of Airport Executives bitterly joked to the Senate Commerce Committee last year, "It took longer to build that runway than the Great Pyramids of Egypt."

These problems have been building for decades as the U.S. regulatory state has grown.



For the full commentary, see:

DAN SULLIVAN. "How to Put Building Permits on a Fast Track; It can take 15 years to win approval for a new airport runway. No wonder U.S. infrastructure needs a lift." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Dec. 5, 2016): A21.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 4, 2016.)






January 12, 2017

Greenspan "Implemented a Successful Rule-Based Monetary Policy"




(p. C12) Effective public policy requires getting good ideas and putting them into practice. There is no better account of the world where economic ideas emerge as economic policy than Sebastian Mallaby's thoroughly researched (there are 1,625 endnotes) "The Man Who Knew," which takes up Alan Greenspan's long career. Mr. Greenspan knew the ideas, Mr. Mallaby first argues, and then tells story after story of how the economist worked them into policy in Washington. Mr. Greenspan approved President Ford's questionable stimulus package in order to implement ideas on spending control; he skillfully drove reform ideas as chair of the Social Security commission; he implemented a successful rule-based monetary policy at the Fed with careful data analysis for many years, but ran into difficulties when the data gave mixed messages toward the end of his term.


For Taylor's full book recommendations, see:

John Taylor. "12 Months of Reading." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., December 10, 2016): C12.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 7, 2016, and has the title "John Taylor on Alan Greenspan.")


The book recommended, is:

Mallaby, Sebastian. The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan. New York: Penguin Press, 2016.






January 11, 2017

$19 Billion in Farm Subsidies Mostly Go to Big Farms




(p. A17) President-elect Donald Trump's vow to "drain the swamp" in Washington could begin with the Agriculture Department. Federal aid to farmers is forecast by the Congressional Budget Office to soar to $19 billion in 2017. Farmers will receive twice as much of their income from handouts (25%) this year as they did in 2013, according to the USDA. Whoever Mr. Trump names as his agriculture secretary should target wasteful farm programs for spending cuts.


. . .


While generous government subsidies are defended by invoking the "family farmer," big farmers snare the vast majority of federal handouts. According to a report released this year by the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based nonprofit research organization, "the top 1 percent of farm subsidy recipients received 26 percent of subsidy payments between 1995 and 2014." The group's analysis of government farm-subsidy data also found that the "top 20 percent of subsidy recipients received 91 percent of all subsidy payments." Fifty members of the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans have received farm subsidies, according to the group, including David Rockefeller Sr. and Charles Schwab.



For the full commentary, see:

JAMES BOVARD. "Living Off the Fat of Washington; If Trump is going to 'drain the swamp,' he might start with wasteful ag subsidies." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Dec. 12, 2016): A17.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

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






January 10, 2017

Business Cycles Can Be Moderated




LongEconomicExpansionsGraph2016-12-05.pngSource of graph: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. B2) It's tempting to think of an economic expansion as being like a life span. The older you get, the closer you are to death; a 95-year-old probably has fewer years left to live than a 60-year-old. But this year Glenn D. Rudebusch, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, looked at the evidence from post-World War II United States economic expansions, and did not find that pattern held up at all.

"A long recovery appears no more likely to end than a short one," Mr. Rudebusch wrote. "Like Peter Pan, recoveries appear to never grow old."

Expansions don't die of old age. They die because something specific killed them. It can be a wrong-footed central bank, the popping of a financial bubble or a shock from overseas. But age itself isn't the problem.

A look around the world also shows plenty of examples of expansions that have lasted a lot longer than either the seven years the current United States expansion has been underway or the longest expansion in American history, from 1991 to 2001.

Britain had a nearly 17-year expansion from the early 1990s until the 2008 global financial crisis. France had a slightly longer expansion that ended in 1992. And the record-holders among advanced economies in modern times, according to the research firm Longview Economics, are the Netherlands, which experienced a nearly 26-year "Dutch miracle" that ended in 2008, and Australia, which has an expansion that began in 1991 and is on track to overtake the Dutch soon for the longest on record.



For the full story, see:

NEIL IRWIN. "Expansion Is Old, Not at Death's Door." The New York Times (Fri., OCT. 28, 2016): B1 & B2.

(Note: the online version of the article has the date Oct. 27, 2016, and has the title "Will the Next President Face a Recession? Don't Assume So.")


Rudebusch's research, mentioned above, appeared in:

Rudebusch, Glenn D. "Will the Economic Recovery Die of Old Age?" FRBSF Economic Letter # 2016-03 (Feb. 8, 2016): 1-4.







January 9, 2017

Unbinding Entrepreneurs Can Create Jobs and Speed Growth




(p. A21) This week more than 160 countries are celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week. The Kauffman Foundation, which I once led, created this event eight years ago to encourage other nations to follow the American tradition of bottom-up economic success. Yet this example has been less powerful in recent years, as American entrepreneurship has waned. Fortunately, President-elect Donald Trump has plenty of options if he wants to resurrect America's startup economy.

Consider the economic situation that the president-elect is inheriting. Despite the addition of 161,000 jobs in October, the labor-force participation rate fell to its second lowest level in nearly 40 years, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve. More people have joined the ranks of the chronically unemployed, slipping into poverty at alarming rates as their skills decay and dependency on public assistance grows. Considering population growth, America needs at least 325,000 new jobs every month to stanch the growing numbers of discouraged workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Merely bringing back factories from overseas will not solve this problem. Technology has made every factory more productive. Fewer workers make more goods no matter where they're located. At the same time, fewer U.S. businesses are being started. New firms are the country's principal generator of new jobs. Data from the Kauffman Foundation suggest companies less than five years old create more than 80% of new jobs every year. While the nation seems more enthusiastic than ever about the promise of entrepreneurship, fewer than 500,000 new businesses were started in 2015. That is a disastrous 30% decline from 2008.


. . .


What can President Trump do to encourage more entrepreneurship?


. . .


Government must . . . widen the scope of innovation by stepping back and letting the market find the future. By promoting trendy ideas and subsidizing politically favored companies, government dampens diversity in creative business ideas.


. . .


Mr. Trump can also reverse regulatory sprawl and cut government-imposed requirements that add to every entrepreneurs' costs and risks. Anti-growth policies like ObamaCare and minimum-wage increases make hiring workers prohibitively expensive.


. . .


With these policies in mind, President Trump should set another goal: that his administration will create an environment that enables one million Americans to start companies every year. Such an outcome would assure his target of 4% GDP growth, as well as full employment.



For the full commentary, see:

CARL J. SCHRAMM. "The Entrepreneurial Way to 4% Growth; Trump should set a goal: fix the business climate so a million Americans a year can start companies." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Nov. 16, 2016): A21.






January 8, 2017

Jane Jacobs Studied the "Mess of Everyday Life"




(p. C6) The decidedly unpredictable and unscientific mess of everyday life was the passion of the urban theorist Jane Jacobs. For her, studying the street and the city was the key to understanding how things work. Robert Kanigel's "Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs" has taken a place on my bookshelf right next to Robert Caro's landmark biography of her nemesis, Robert Moses.


For Bierut's full book recommendations, see:

Michael Bierut. "12 Months of Reading." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., December 10, 2016): C6.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 7, 2016, and has the title "Michael Bierut on Jane Jacobs.")


The book recommended, is:

Kanigel, Robert. Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.






January 7, 2017

Not All Secure Jobs Are Good Jobs




(p. C8) The village idiot of the shtetl of Frampol was given the job of waiting at the village gates for the arrival of the Messiah. The pay wasn't great, he was told, but the work was steady.


For Epstein's book recommendations, see:

Joseph Epstein. "12 Months of Reading." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., December 10, 2016): C8.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 7, 2016, and has the title "Books of The Times; Review: 'A Truck Full of Money' and a Thirst to Put It to Good Use.")







January 6, 2017

Estonia Encourages Citizens to Own Guns to Defend Freedom




(p. A4) Since the Ukraine war, Estonia has stepped up training for members of the Estonian Defense League, teaching them how to become insurgents, right down to the making of improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.s, the weapons that plagued the American military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another response to tensions with Russia is the expansion of a program encouraging Estonians to keep firearms in their homes.


. . .


(p. A10) Encouraging citizens to stash warm clothes, canned goods, boots and a rifle may seem a cartoonish defense strategy against a military colossus like Russia. Yet the Estonians say they need look no further than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to see the effectiveness today, as ever, of an insurgency to even the odds against a powerful army.

Estonia is hardly alone in striking upon the idea of dispersing guns among the populace to advertise the potential for widespread resistance, as a deterrent.

Of the top four nations in the world for private gun ownership -- the United States, Yemen, Switzerland and Finland -- the No. 3 and 4 spots belong to small nations with a minutemen-style civilian call-up as a defense strategy or with a history of partisan war.

"The best deterrent is not only armed soldiers, but armed citizens, too," Brig. Gen. Meelis Kiili, the commander of the Estonian Defense League, said in an interview in Tallinn, the capital.

The number of firearms, mostly Swedish-made AK-4 automatic rifles, that Estonia has dispersed among its populace is classified. But the league said it had stepped up the pace of the program since the Ukraine crisis began. Under the program, members must hide the weapons and ammunition, perhaps in a safe built into a wall or buried in the backyard.



For the full story, see:

ANDREW E. KRAMER. "TURI JOURNAL; Wary of Russia's Ambitions, Estonia Prepares a Nation of Insurgents." The New York Times (Tues., NOV. 1, 2016): A4 & A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 31, 2016, and has the title "TURI JOURNAL; Spooked by Russia, Tiny Estonia Trains a Nation of Insurgents.")






January 5, 2017

Invention Requires More than Just Necessity





If necessity is the mother of invention, why did it take 2,000 years for necessity to give birth?



(p. D2) Archaeological evidence suggests that after setting sail from the Solomon Islands, people crossed more than 2,000 miles of open ocean to colonize islands like Tonga and Samoa. But after 300 years of island hopping, they halted their expansion for 2,000 years more before continuing -- a period known as the Long Pause that represents an intriguing puzzle for researchers of the cultures of the South Pacific.

"Why is it that the people stopped for 2,000 years?" said Dr. Montenegro. "Clearly they were interested and capable. Why did they stop after having great success for a great time?"

To answer these questions, Dr. Montenegro and his colleagues ran numerous voyage simulations and concluded that the Long Pause that delayed humans from reaching Hawaii, Tahiti and New Zealand occurred because the early explorers were unable to sail through the strong winds that surround Tonga and Samoa. They reported their results last week in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Our paper supports the idea that what people needed was boating technology or navigation technology that would allow them to move efficiently against the wind," Dr. Montenegro said.



For the full story, see:

NICHOLAS ST. FLEUR. "Long Layovers: A 2,000-Year Pause in Exploring Oceania." The New York Times (Sat., November 8, 2016): D2.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date NOV. 1 [sic], 2016, and has the title "How Ancient Humans Reached Remote South Pacific Islands." The passages quoted above are from the much-longer online version of the article.)


Montenegro's academic article, mentioned above, is:

Montenegro, Álvaro, Richard T. Callaghan, and Scott M. Fitzpatrick. "Using Seafaring Simulations and Shortest-Hop Trajectories to Model the Prehistoric Colonization of Remote Oceania." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113, no. 45 (Nov. 8, 2016): 12685-90.







January 4, 2017

Best Entrepreneurs, and Managers, Help Workers Lead Meaningful Lives




(p. C6) In "Payoff," Dan Ariely makes the strong case that the best way to motivate people, including ourselves, is not through persuasive tactics, however subtle, but by providing the groundwork for meaning in people's lives.


For Altucher's full book recommendations, see:

James Altucher. "12 Months of Reading." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., December 10, 2016): C6.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 7, 2016, and has the title "James Altucher on con artists.")


The book recommended, is:

Ariely, Dan. Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations, Ted Books. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2016.






January 3, 2017

Micro-Entrepreneur Worked Hard, Saved, and Has No Regrets




(p. 1) PORT HEDLAND, Australia -- A lanky, dark-haired surfer, Lee Meadowcroft modeled on the runways of London, Milan and Singapore, then followed his dream of going home to Australia to sell herbal medicines. His store failed -- he had chosen the wrong street, he says -- and he lost almost all his savings. By then, the fashion world had found fresher faces.

So like tens of thousands of other Australians, Mr. Meadowcroft went to the mines.

It was late 2004. He plowed his last $4,000 into a two-week course on how to operate a crane. He found companies so desperate for workers that they would send chauffeured cars to pick up prospective welders, electricians and crane operators and deliver them to the nearest airport for their flights to mining country, here on Australia's remote northwestern coast.

China back then was growing at a breathtaking pace and needed all the Australian rocks it could get. Mine workers like Mr. Meadowcroft kept a punishing schedule: 13 consecutive days of 12-hour shifts, a day off, then another 13 consecutive days of 12-hour (p. 4) shifts. Mining fueled Australia's surging exports to China, which at their peak reached nearly $100 billion a year -- a figure representing $4,300 for every man, woman and child in the country.

Resource-rich places around the world prospered thanks to China, and Mr. Meadowcroft and his fellow Port Hedland equipment jockeys were no exception. By 2011 he was earning $250,000 a year.


. . .


The bust came just as hard and just as fast. China's economic slowdown left too many mines to feed too many dormant Chinese steel mills. Construction of new mines stopped. Port Hedland's economy slumped. Mr. Meadowcroft lost his job, then lost a second job. Like thousands of others, he went back home.

Mr. Meadowcroft's tale could serve as yet another boom-and-bust cautionary tale of the limits of China's rise. From Russia to Brazil, and Nigeria to Venezuela, resource-rich countries that boomed during China's surge found their economies shaken when Chinese demand slowed.

Except something unexpected has happened to Australia: It has withstood the global rout. Most mines -- lower-cost compared with mines elsewhere -- have stayed open. But Australia has also kept thriving, against all expectations, with a different kind of money flowing in from China.

Attracted by clean air, a strong education system and worries about China's future, more Chinese are spending their money in Australia. Thousands of Chinese families have sent their children to study at costly Australian universities, and Australian food exports to China have boomed. Chinese investment in Australian real estate has increased at least tenfold since 2010; Chinese investors have purchased up to half the new apartments in downtown Melbourne and Sydney.


. . .


. . . for people like Mr. Meadowcroft and others in Western Australia who were cut loose by the mining slump, Chinese money is a blessing. He now lives in the Western Australia capital city of Perth and works as an apprentice plumber in new housing developments aimed at Chinese buyers. He earns just $21,000 a year, but that could double or triple when he finishes his apprenticeship.


. . .


(p. 5) . . . for now, Chinese money is still flowing. Many miners who squandered their earnings during the iron ore boom are now trying to catch up in construction jobs. But many others socked away their money from the boom and have used those savings to buy homes or start small businesses.

"They were micro-entrepreneurs," said Tom Barratt, a University of Western Australia doctoral student who is doing his thesis on labor markets in the Pilbara hills.

Mr. Meadowcroft is among those savers. He bought a house and soon paid off most of the mortgage. He also married his longtime girlfriend after years of commuting to far-flung mines and ports, and is now raising two children as he learns to be a plumber.

Although his savings account is much smaller now, he has no regrets about the boom years. "That was 12 years of really hard work," he said, "to achieve what a lot of people don't achieve in their whole lives."



For the full story, see:

KEITH BRADSHER. "Money From the Dust." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., SEPT. 25, 2016): 1 & 4-5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date SEPT. 24, 2016, and has the title "In Australia, China's Appetite Shifts From Rocks to Real Estate.")






January 2, 2017

"Celebration of Big Data" Becomes "Funeral"




(p. B8) DENVER -- At the governor's mansion here on Friday [November 11, 2016], past the columned entryway and the French chandeliers, Emmy Ruiz placed a hand on the shoulder of a fellow Hillary Clinton operative. "It's like we're at a funeral," said Ms. Ruiz, dressed -- perhaps coincidentally -- in black.

Just days after Donald J. Trump's surprise presidential victory, the nation's professional political forecasters and persuaders -- the pollsters, the ad creators, the campaign strategists -- gathered in Denver for their annual convention. It was supposed to be a celebration of big data and strategic wizardry for a multibillion-dollar industry that has spent nearly a century packaging political candidates.

Instead, the conference of the International Association of Political Consultants felt like a therapy session for a business in psychological free fall.



For the full story, see:

JULIE TURKEWITZ. "At Conference, Political Consultants Wonder Where They Went Wrong." The New York Times (Tues., NOV. 15, 2016): B8.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date NOV. 14, 2016.)






January 1, 2017

Air-Conditioning Is "a Critical Adaptation" that Saves Lives




(p. A3) Air-conditioning is not just a luxury. It's a critical adaptation tool in a warming world, with the ability to save lives.


. . .


In our continuing research, my colleagues and I have found that hot days in India have a strikingly big impact on mortality. Specifically, the mortality effects of each additional day in which the average temperature exceeds 95 degrees Fahrenheit are 25 times greater in India than in the United States.


. . .


The effect of very hot days on mortality in the United States is so low in part because of the widespread use of air-conditioning. A recent study I did with colleagues showed that deaths as a result of these very hot days in the United States declined by more than 80 percent from 1960 to 2004 -- and it was the adoption of air-conditioning that accounted for nearly the entire decline.



For the full story, see:

Michael Greenstone. "'India's Air-Conditioning and Climate Change Quandary." The New York Times (Thurs., OCT. 27, 2016): A3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 26, 2016.)


The Greenstone study mentioned above on heat mortality in the U.S., is:

Barreca, Alan, Karen Clay, Olivier Deschenes, Michael Greenstone, and Joseph S. Shapiro. "Adapting to Climate Change: The Remarkable Decline in the Us Temperature-Mortality Relationship over the Twentieth Century." Journal of Political Economy 124, no. 1 (Feb. 2016): 105-59.







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