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December 31, 2017

Robots May Be a Threat After They Learn How to Open a Door




(p. A1) Robots may enslave us all someday. In the meantime, if one of them goes berserk, here's a useful tactic: Shut the door behind you.

One after another, robots in a government-sponsored contest were stumped by an unlocked door that blocked their path at an outdoor obstacle course. One bipedal machine managed to wrap a claw around the door handle and open it but was flummoxed by a breeze that kept blowing the door shut before it could pass through.

Robots excel at many tasks, as long as they don't involve too much hand-eye coordination or common sense. Like some gifted children, they can perform impressive feats of mental arithmetic but are profoundly klutzy on the playground.

The machines stumble over tasks requiring even toddler-level balance, like kicking a ball, getting out of a car or (p. A9) climbing stairs. Grasping objects of varying size and weight is also perplexing.



For the full story, see:

Daniela Hernandez. "If the Robot Apocalypse Comes, Try Closing the Door." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Nov. 11, 2017): A1 & A9.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 10, 2017, and has the title "How to Survive a Robot Apocalypse: Just Close the Door.")






December 30, 2017

For Jane Jacobs, "Self-Certainty" Was Better than a Doctorate




(p. 17) Like the critic Pauline Kael and the conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, Jane Jacobs arrived to churn the fertile soil of American cultural ideology in the 1960s, brandishing a disciplined populist intellect and a comfort with courting enmity. All three were middle-aged mothers by the time they would shake things up. That Jacobs, nee Butzner in 1916, would force a reconsideration of the nature and purpose of cities was an outcome her young adulthood would have hardly suggested. An unexceptional student at Central High in Scranton, Pa., she later studied at Columbia before failing to gain formal admission to Barnard and abandoning the pursuit of a degree entirely. These experiences, Robert Kanigel maintains in his biography "Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs," left her with a distaste for the academy that she carried throughout her career.

Where others had doctorates, Jacobs had a self-certainty that was manifest early on. In a chronicling of her childhood so thorough it includes the number of times she was late for homeroom during her first semester of high school (seven), Kanigel recounts an incident in which Jane was expelled from third grade for urging her classmates to dismiss the entreaties of a hygiene instructor, who asked them to pledge to brush their teeth twice a day for the rest of their lives. In Jane's view, the promise would be impossible to keep, making the request absurd.



For the full review, see:

GINIA BELLAFANTE. "Fighting the Power Broker." The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, OCT. 9, 2016): 17.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date OCT. 7, 2016, and has the title "Two New Books About Jane Jacobs, Urban Visionary.")


The book under review, is:

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






December 29, 2017

Yale President Defends Free Speech




(p. A23) In 1963, the Yale Political Union, one of the oldest collegiate debate societies in the United States, invited the defiant segregationist governor of Alabama, George Wallace, to Yale. Just a few weeks before his scheduled visit, Klansmen bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., killing four African-American schoolgirls and wounding 22 others.

Wallace -- the personification of Southern hostility to integration -- had famously stood on the portico of the Alabama State Capitol and declared in his inaugural speech, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" Many blamed Wallace for inciting the violence.

The provost and acting president of Yale, Kingman Brewster Jr., advised the students to withdraw their invitation. Mayor Richard C. Lee said Wallace was "officially unwelcome" in New Haven.

Not everyone agreed. Pauli Murray, a lawyer and civil rights activist pursuing her doctorate of jurisprudence at the law school, wrote to Brewster, urging him to send a clear message that Wallace should be allowed to express his views at Yale.


. . .


In linking the fate of the civil rights movement to Wallace's speech, she reminds us that the Constitution makes for strange bedfellows. It applies to segregationists and integrationists, civil rights activists and self-proclaimed racists. All Americans can lay claim to its protections, but those, like Murray, who seek to change society and extend freedoms to the most marginalized may need it most.



For the full commentary, see:

Peter Salovey. "Free Speech, Personified." The New York Times (Mon., NOV. 27, 2017): A23.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date NOV. 26, 2017. The wording of the online version differs substantially from that in the print version. The passages quoted above, are from the online version.)






December 28, 2017

Union Blocks Firing of Teachers Who Do Not Teach




(p. A1) Francis Blake has not held a permanent position in a New York City public school in at least five years. At his last job, in a Bronx elementary school, records show he was disciplined for incompetence, insubordination and neglect of duties -- he had been caught sleeping in a classroom when he was supposed to be helping with dismissal.

Felicia Alterescu, a special-education teacher, has been without a permanent post since 2010, despite high demand for special education teachers. According to records, in addition to getting a string of unsatisfactory ratings, she was disciplined for calling in sick when she actually went to a family reunion. She also did not tell the Education Department that she had been arrested on harassment charges.

This month, Mr. Blake, Ms. Alterescu and hundreds of other teachers who are part of a pool known as the Absent Teacher Reserve could be permanently back in classrooms, as the city's Education Department places them in jobs at city schools.

The reserve is essentially a parking lot for staff members who have lost their positions, some because of school closings and budget cuts, others because of disciplinary problems, but cannot be fired. It grew significantly as a result of a 2005 deal between the Bloomberg administration, which wanted to give principals control over hiring, and the teachers' un-(p. A17)ion. Since then, the union has fiercely protected the jobs of teachers in the reserve, resisting attempts to put a time limit on how long a teacher can remain there.



For the full story, see:

KATE TAYLOR. "Caught Sleeping or Worse, Idled Teachers Head Back to Class." The New York Times (Sat., OCT. 23, 2017): A1 & A17.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 22, 2017, and has the title "Caught Sleeping or Worse, Troubled Teachers Will Return to New York Classrooms.")






December 27, 2017

High Demand for STEM Workers Is Mainly High for Workers in Info Tech




(p. 10) A working grasp of the principles of science and math should be essential knowledge for all Americans, said Michael S. Teitelbaum, an expert on science education and policy. But he believes that STEM advocates, often executives and lobbyists for technology companies, do a disservice when they raise the alarm that America is facing a worrying shortfall of STEM workers, based on shortages in a relative handful of fast-growing fields like data analytics, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and computer security.

"When it gets generalized to all of STEM, it's misleading," said Mr. Teitelbaum, a senior research associate in the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. "We're misleading a lot of young people."

Unemployment rates for STEM majors may be low, but not all of those with undergraduate degrees end up in their field of study -- only 13 percent in life sciences and 17 percent in physical sciences, according to a 2013 National Science Foundation survey. Computer science is the only STEM field where more than half of graduates are employed in their field.



For the full story, see:

STEVE LOHR. "Where the STEM Jobs Are/Aren't." The New York Times, Education Life Section (Sun., NOV. 5, 2017): 10.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date NOV. 1, 2017, and has the title "Where the STEM Jobs Are (and Where They Aren't).")






December 26, 2017

Sapolsky Wrong to Dismiss Hunter-Gatherer Violence




(p. 15) Sapolsky proposes 10 strategies for reducing violence, all reasonable but none that justify the notion that science is the basis for societal advances toward less violence and higher morality.


. . .


In this section Sapolsky becomes a partisan critic, including presenting a skeptical view about the supposed long-term decline of human violence claimed by Steven Pinker in "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined." Sapolsky asserts that Pinker's calculations include elementary errors, and that low rates of violence among contemporary hunter-gatherers mean that warfare did not predate agriculture. His arguments here are unbalanced. He fails to note that data on hunter-gatherer violence is relevant only where they are neighbored by other hunter-gatherers, rather than by militarily superior farmers.



For the full review, see:

RICHARD WRANGHAM. "Brain Teasers." The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, JULY 9, 2017): 15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date JULY 5, 2017, and has the title "Insights Into the Brain, in a Book You'll Wish You Had in College.")


The book under review, is:

Sapolsky, Robert M. Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. New York: Penguin Press 2017.






December 25, 2017

"Please Do Not Forget the Poor"




(p. A1) Last week, Peter Mattaliano, 66, an acting coach and screenwriter, put up Christmas decorations in his Hell's Kitchen apartment and laid out presents for the children: Mary and Alfred.

These are not Mr. Mattaliano's children, and they are no longer living. But a century ago they lived in what is now Mr. Mattaliano's home.

He has honored Mary and Alfred every December for the past 15 years, ever since he learned of their existence when he renovated his fireplace. It had been sealed with brick for more than 60 years.

"My brother does construction, and I had him open up the fireplace," he said. "We were joking that we might find Al Capone's money. Then my brother yelled to me and said, 'You're not going to believe this.' "

In the rubble and dust, Mr. Mattaliano's brother found a delicate piece of paper with faint children's scrawl bearing a request to Santa from a century earlier.

"I want a drum and a hook and ladder," read the letter, adding that the fire truck should be one with an "extentionisting" ladder. (p. A22) It was dated 1905 and signed "Alfred McGann," who included the building's address.

There was another item in the rubble: a small envelope addressed to Santa in "Raindeerland." Inside was a second letter, this one dated 1907 and written by Alfred's older sister, Mary, who had drawn a reindeer stamp as postage.

"The letters were written in this room, and for 100 years, they were just sitting there, waiting," said Mr. Mattaliano.

He learned through online genealogical research that the siblings were the children of Patrick and Esther McGann, Irish immigrants who married in 1896. Mary was born in 1897 and Alfred in 1900.


. . .


Patrick McGann died in 1904, so by the time the children wrote the letters left in the chimney, they were being raised by Ms. McGann, a dressmaker.

Mary's letter is as poignant as Alfred's is endearing.

"Dear Santa Claus: I am very glad that you are coming around tonight," it reads, the paper partly charred. "My little brother would like you to bring him a wagon which I know you cannot afford. I will ask you to bring him whatever you think best. Please bring me something nice what you think best."

She signed it Mary McGann and added, "P.S. Please do not forget the poor."

Mr. Mattaliano, who has read the letter countless times, still shakes his head at the implied poverty, the stoicism and the selflessness of the last line, all from a girl who requests a wagon for her brother first and nothing specific for herself.

"This is a family that couldn't afford a wagon, and she's writing, 'Don't forget the poor,' " he said. "That just shot an arrow through me. What did she think poor was?"



For the full story, see:

COREY KILGANNON. "Poignant Notes to Santa, Lost for a Century." The New York Times (Tues., DEC. 22, 2015): A1 & A22.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date DEC. 21, 2015, and has the title "A Chimney's Poignant Surprise: Letters Santa Missed, Long Ago.")






December 24, 2017

Steel Mills Repurposed as Online Warehouses




(p. A1) BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Ellen Gaugler remembers driving her father to the Bethlehem Steel mill, where he spent his working years hauling beams off the assembly line and onto rail cars.

When the Pennsylvania plant shut down about two decades ago, Ms. Gaugler thought it was the last time she or anyone in Bethlehem would come to its gates to find a job that paid a decent wage for a physical day of work.

But she saw an ad in the paper last year for a position at a local warehouse that changed her mind. She'd never heard of Zulily, the online retailer doing the hiring, but she knew the address: It was on the old mill site, steps from where her father worked.

"When I came for the interviews I looked up and said, 'Oh, my God, I feel like I am at home,'" Ms. Gaugler said. She got the job.

As shopping has shifted from conventional stores to online marketplaces, many retail workers have been left in the cold, but Ms. Gaugler is coming out ahead. Sellers like Zulily, Amazon and Walmart are competing to get goods to the buyer's doorstep as quickly as possible, giving rise to a constellation of vast warehouses that have fueled a boom for workers without college degrees and breathed new life into pockets of the country that had fallen economically behind.



For the full story, see:

NATALIE KITROEFF. " Idle Steel Mills Rumble to Life As Online Sellers' Warehouses." The New York Times (Mon., OCT. 23, 2017): A1 & A13.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 22, 2017, and has the title "Where Internet Orders Mean Real Jobs, and New Life for Communities.")






December 23, 2017

Global Warming Could Be Reduced by Sequestering Carbon in Soil




(p. 7) . . . scientists are documenting how sequestering carbon in soil can produce a double dividend: It reduces climate change by extracting carbon from the atmosphere, and it restores the health of degraded soil and increases agricultural yields.


. . .


Among the advocates of so-called regenerative agriculture is the climate scientist and activist James Hansen, lead author of a paper published in July that calls for the adoption of "steps to improve soil fertility and increase its carbon content" to ward off "deleterious climate impacts."

Rattan Lal, the director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State, estimates that soil has the potential to sequester carbon at a rate of between 0.9 and 2.6 gigatons per year. That's a small part of the 10 gigatons a year of current carbon emissions, but it's still significant. Somewhat reassuringly, some scientists believe the estimate is low.
"Putting the carbon back in soil is not only mitigating climate change, but also improving human health, productivity, food security, nutrition security, water quality, air quality -- everything," Mr. Lal told me over the phone. "It's a win-win-win option."



For the full commentary, see:

JACQUES LESLIE. "OPINION; Soil Power! The Dirty Way to a Green Planet." The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., DEC. 3, 2017): 7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date DEC. 2, 2017, and has the title "Wind and Solar Power Advance, but Carbon Refuses to Retreat.")


The Hansen paper, mentioned above, is:

Hansen, James, Makiko Sato, Pushker Kharecha, Karina von Schuckmann, David J. Beerling, Junji Cao, Shaun Marcott, Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Michael J. Prather, Eelco J. Rohling, Jeremy Shakun, Pete Smith, Andrew Lacis, Gary Russell, and Reto Ruedy. "Young People's Burden: Requirement of Negative Co2 Emissions." Earth System Dynamics 8 (2017): 577-616.






December 22, 2017

The System Is "Rigged" by the "Unelected Permanent Governing Class"




(p. 10) With its broad historical scope, Eisinger's book lacks the juicy, infuriating details of "Chain of Title," David Dayen's chronicle of foreclosure fraud -- another instance of white-collar crime that went largely unpunished. With its emphasis on institutions and incentives, it doesn't serve up the red meat of Matt Taibbi's "The Divide," a stinging indictment of the justice system's unequal treatment of corporate executives and street-level drug offenders. But for someone familiar with the political landscape of the contemporary United States, Eisinger's account has the ring of truth.

After decades in which Wall Street masters of the universe were lionized in the media and popular culture, star investment bankers -- rich, usually white men in nice suits -- just don't match the popular image of criminals. Democrats as well as Republicans cozied up to big business, outsourcing the Treasury Department to Wall Street and the Justice Department to corporate law firms. Even after the financial system collapsed, the Obama administration's priority was to bail out the megabanks -- to "foam the runway," in Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's words. The Justice Department became increasingly staffed by intelligent, status-seeking, conformist graduates of the nation's top law schools -- all of whom had friends on Wall Street and in the defense bar. In that environment, the easy choice was to play along, strike a deal with an impressive-sounding fine (to be absorbed by shareholders) that held no one responsible, and avoid risking an acquittal or a hung jury. (The book's title comes from then-U.S. Attorney James Comey's name for prosecutors who had never lost a trial.) Corruption can take many forms -- not just bags of cash under the table, but a creeping rot that saps our collective motivation to pursue the cause of justice. As Upton Sinclair might have written were he alive today: It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his résumé depends upon his not understanding it.

There's just one problem. While the "unelected permanent governing class" may have been willing to look the other way when highly paid bankers wrecked the economy, many of the workers who lost their jobs and families who lost their homes were not. Outside the Beltway, the fact that the Wall Street titans who blew up the financial system suffered little more than slight reductions in their bonuses only reinforced the perception that the "system" is "rigged" -- with the consequences we know only too well. Many people simply want to live in a world that is fair. As Eisinger shows, this one isn't.



For the full review, see:

JAMES KWAK. "Getting Away With It." The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, JULY 9, 2017): 10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date JULY 5, 2017, and has the title "America's Top Prosecutors Used to Go After Top Executives. What Changed?")


The book under review, is:

Eisinger, Jesse. The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017.






December 21, 2017

"Renewables Are Not the Answer"




(p.B1) . . . : Global carbon-dioxide emissions have stopped rising. Coal use in China may have peaked. The price of wind turbines and solar panels is plummeting, putting renewable energy within the reach of meager budgets in the developing world.

And yet as climate diplomats gather this week in Bonn, Germany, for the 23rd Conference of the Parties under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, I would like to point their attention to a different, perhaps gloomier statistic: the world's carbon intensity of energy.

(p. B2) The term refers to a measure of the amount of CO2 spewed into the air for each unit of energy consumed. It offers some bad news: It has not budged since that chilly autumn day in Kyoto 20 years ago. Even among the highly industrialized nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the carbon intensity of energy has declined by a paltry 4 percent since then, according to the International Energy Agency.

This statistic, alone, puts a big question mark over the strategies deployed around the world to replace fossil energy. In a nutshell:


. . .


The most worrisome aspect about the all-out push for a future powered by renewables has to do with cost: The price of turbines and solar panels may be falling, but the cost of integrating these intermittent sources of energy -- on when the wind blows and the sun shines; off when they don't -- is not. This alone will sharply curtail the climate benefits of renewable power.

Integrating renewable sources requires vast investments in electricity transmission -- to move power from intermittently windy and sunny places to places where power is consumed. It requires maintaining a backstop of idle plants that burn fossil fuel, for the times when there is no wind or sun to be had. It requires investing in power-storage systems at a large scale.



For the full commentary, see:

EDUARDO PORTER. "Why Slashing Nuclear Power May Backfire." The New York Times (Weds., NOV. 8, 2017): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date NOV. 7, 2017, and has the title "Wind and Solar Power Advance, but Carbon Refuses to Retreat.")






December 20, 2017

Lobstermen Retooling as Oyster Farmers




(p. A10) COREA, Me. -- The boats start up around 3:30 in the morning, stirring the village with the babble of engines before they motor out to sea. They will return hours later, loaded with lobster.

Joe Young's boat has not gone out lately. Instead, he puts on waders and sloshes into the salt pond behind his house, an inlet where water rushes in and out with the tides. After a lifetime with most of his income tied to what he finds in the sea, this lobsterman -- and sixth-generation fisherman -- is trying his hand at something new. He is farming oysters.

"Said I would never have a garden," Mr. Young, 64, says, as he tends to his briny nursery. Tens of thousands of oysters the size of peanuts are growing inside porous boxes, stacked up like underwater file drawers, in a contraption called an "oyster condo." He gives one of the boxes a shake, hoping to dislodge a slimy orange growth that has taken up residence, and flings away a green crab. Nearby, kelp he is growing sways lazily from a long underwater rope.

Reaching into the glassy water, Mr. Young plucks larger oysters from among the smooth stones, popping the mottled mollusks into a big white bucket.

"It's different from lobstering," Mr. Young said, "because I'm in the whole process."


. . .


"Lobstermen are saying, 'Boy, not (p. A11) only personally, but community level, we're all invested in lobsters,' " Jon Lewis, the director of the state's aquaculture division, said. " 'Natural resources tend to come and go. If this happens, what do I do?' "


. . .


To Mr. Young, aquaculture does not look so different from catching lobsters. "Fishermen are farmers," he said. "There's one crop, and it's lobster."



For the full story, see:

JESS BIDGOOD. "A Lobsterman Tries a New Line: Oyster Farmer." The New York Times (Mon., OCT. 23, 2017): A10-A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 10, 2017, and has the title "A FISHERMAN TRIES FARMING.")






December 19, 2017

Innovation Benefits from Constructive Arguments




(p. 7) When Wilbur and Orville Wright finished their flight at Kitty Hawk, Americans celebrated the brotherly bond. The brothers had grown up playing together, they had been in the newspaper business together, they had built an airplane together. They even said they "thought together."

These are our images of creativity: filled with harmony. Innovation, we think, is something magical that happens when people find synchrony together. The melodies of Rodgers blend with the lyrics of Hammerstein. It's why one of the cardinal rules of brainstorming is "withhold criticism." You want people to build on one another's ideas, not shoot them down. But that's not how creativity really happens.

When the Wright brothers said they thought together, what they really meant is that they argued together. One of their pivotal decisions was the design of a propeller for their plane. They squabbled for weeks, often shouting back and forth for hours. "After long arguments we often found ourselves in the ludicrous position of each having been converted to the other's side," Orville reflected, "with no more agreement than when the discussion began." Only after thoroughly decimating each other's arguments did it dawn on them that they were both wrong. They needed not one but two propellers, which could be spun in opposite directions to create a kind of rotating wing. "I don't think they really got mad," their mechanic marveled, "but they sure got awfully hot."

. . .


Wilbur and Orville Wright came from a wobbly family. Their father, a preacher, never met a moral fight he wasn't willing to pick. They watched him clash with school authorities who weren't fond of his decision to let his kids miss a half-day of school from time to time to learn on their own. Their father believed so much in embracing arguments that despite being a bishop in the local church, he had multiple books by atheists in his library -- and encouraged his children to read them.


. . .


The Wright brothers weren't alone. The Beatles fought over instruments and lyrics and melodies. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony clashed over the right way to win the right to vote. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak argued incessantly while designing the first Apple computer. None of these people succeeded in spite of the drama -- they flourished because of it. Brainstorming groups generate 16 percent more ideas when the members are encouraged to criticize one another. The most creative ideas in Chinese technology companies and the best decisions in American hospitals come from teams that have real disagreements early on. Breakthrough labs in microbiology aren't full of enthusiastic collaborators cheering one another on but of skeptical scientists challenging one another's interpretations.

If no one ever argues, you're not likely to give up on old ways of doing things, let alone try new ones. Disagreement is the antidote to groupthink. We're at our most imaginative when we're out of sync. There's no better time than childhood to learn how to dish it out -- and to take it.



For the full commentary, see:

Grant, Adam. "Kids, Would You Please Start Fighting?" The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., NOV. 5, 2017): 7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date NOV. 4, 2017.)






December 18, 2017

For an Autistic Boy, Siri's Patience Is "the Gift of Common Courtesy"




(p. C6) Late in the book, as a girl in Gus's school takes him under her affectionate wing, the reader watches it all through Newman's trepidation, followed by the dawning recognition that her son is someone "who may never be able to be responsible for another life, but who is nevertheless capable of deep affection, caring and considering. Sure, those emotions started with machinery and electronics -- trains, buses, iPods, computers -- and, particularly with Siri, a loving friend who never would hurt him."

Hence, the title - drawn directly from a New York Times article Newman wrote in 2014, about Gus's bond with Siri, Apple's "intelligent personal assistant," who could endlessly answer his questions, keep her son company and express -- in that flat, sweet Siri voice -- the gift of common courtesy. It went viral and led to this book. Why? Because the autistic boy displayed the dream/nightmare of this era: humans bonding with machines to get what they're not getting from flesh-and-blood interactions. In this chapter, late in the book, Newman gallops through all the continuing experiments that use technology to lift and unleash the autistic (including my own effort to build augmentative technologies).

This is fertile terrain, born of the gradual recognition that technology's great promise may in fact be to summon, capture and display our most human qualities, both the darkness and the light, to pave avenues of deepened connection with others. Here's where the autistic, with their search for alternatives to traditional human connection, are actually innovators.

Does it dehumanize us if tenderness is tried out first with a machine? While his hyper-aware twin is showing standard bright-future achievements, Gus tentatively feels his way through life. But make no mistake. Gus's deft fingers -- rendered with unsentimental affection by his mom -- are feeling things others will miss.

At one point, Gus says, "Good night, Siri, will you sleep well tonight?" Siri replies: "I don't need much sleep, but it's nice of you to ask."

Newman's response could speak for the entire book: "Very nice."



For the full review, see:

RON SUSKIND. "A Character Among Characters." The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017): 13.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 16, 2017, and has the title "A Family Memoir Makes the Case That Autism Is Different, Not Less.")


The book under review, is:

Newman, Judith. To Siri with Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of Machines. New York: HarperCollins, 2017.






December 17, 2017

Can Incremental Oil Innovations Preserve Combustion Engines?




(p. A10) Big oil companies and giant auto makers are teaming up to preserve the internal combustion engine, as tough regulation and electric vehicles put the car industry's century-old technology at risk. Their secret weapon: high-tech engine oil.

Exxon Mobil Corp., BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and other oil companies are spending millions of dollars a year in concert with auto makers such as Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV to create the next generation of super-slick engine lubricants. They are betting that the new, thinner oils will help them squeeze even more efficiency out of traditional car engines, allowing them to comply with stricter environmental rules and remain relevant as new technologies such as zero-emission electric vehicles gain traction.



For the full story, see:

Sarah Kent and Chester Dawson. "Combustion Engines Catch New Spark." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., NOV. 20, 2017): A10.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date NOV. 18, 2017, and has the title "Big Oil and Auto Makers Throw a Lifeline to the Combustion Engine.")






December 16, 2017

Google Did Evil in Firing Damore




(p. C2) I was fired by Google this past Monday [Aug. 7, 2017] for a document that I wrote and circulated internally raising questions about cultural taboos and how they cloud our thinking about gender diversity at the company and in the wider tech sector. I suggested that at least some of the male-female disparity in tech could be attributed to biological differences (and, yes, I said that bias against women was a factor too). Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai declared that portions of my statement violated the company's code of conduct and "cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace."


My 10-page document set out what I considered a reasoned, well-researched, good-faith argument, but as I wrote, the viewpoint I was putting forward is generally suppressed at Google because of the company's "ideological echo chamber." My firing neatly confirms that point. How did Google, the company that hires the smartest people in the world, become so ideologically driven and intolerant of scientific debate and reasoned argument?


. . .


For many, including myself, working at Google is a major part of their identity, almost like a cult with its own leaders and saints, all believed to righteously uphold the sacred motto of "Don't be evil."



For the full story, see:


James Damore. "Why I Was Fired by Google." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Aug. 12, 2017): C2.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 11, 2017.)






December 15, 2017

Knowledge Transforms a Weed into a Resource




(p. A10) ZADAR, Croatia -- For generations, residents of Zadar, an idyllic town on the Adriatic coast of Croatia, used the dry, stringy stems and yellow blossoms of a common variety of a wild daisy as kindling, mostly to singe the hair off pigs destined for the spit.

But about five years ago, cosmetics manufacturers and the essential oils industry started using a rare extract from the flower -- known as the curry plant for its spicy aroma -- as a critical ingredient in high-end creams, ointments and tinctures, sold for their purported rejuvenating powers.

So let the pigs shave themselves, local residents decided, turning their attention to gathering bushels of the once widely ignored weed, in hopes of creating a new local industry to add to an economy based on construction, fruit farming, olive oil and a touch of tourism.



For the full story, see:

JOSEPH OROVIC. "ZADAR JOURNAL; Croatian Farmers' Hopes of New Life Rest on a Weed Called Immortelle." The New York Times (Fri., NOV. 24, 2017): A10.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date NOV. 23, 2017, and has the title "ZADAR; JOURNAL; Can a Wild Daisy Rejuvenate Croatia's Farming Economy?")






December 14, 2017

Record High Temperatures in London




(p. C6) During London's long summer of 1858, the sweltering temperatures spawned squalor. With a population of more than 2 million, London had outgrown its medieval waste-removal systems, turning Spenser's "sweet Thames" into an open sewer. Epidemics such as cholera and diphtheria ravaged the poor and rich alike. The stench, as we now know, was a symptom of a bacterial problem. But at the time it was believed to be, in itself, the cause of disease. The dominant medical notion of miasmas held that "noxious and morbific" contagion was carried through the air.

The heat of 1858 made the problem of London's effluvia unignorable. At the end of May, Rosemary Ashton notes in "One Hot Summer," the temperature was 84 degrees in the shade; there followed three months of hot days, with record highs in the 90s for the shade and well over 110 degrees in the sun.


. . .


The Great Stink, as the noisome ordeal came to be called, is a terrific subject for Ms. Ashton, the noted scholar of George Eliot, George Henry Lewes and literary London. She excels at unearthing and explaining the daily distractions of the nose-holding populace over the course of the summer: horse races, art shows, murder and divorce trials, even the breezes that, as Darwin noted, wafted thistle seeds across the English Channel from France. Ms. Ashton also convincingly uses the Great Stink as a backdrop to crisis points in the lives of three great figures of the day whose biographies rarely overlap: Darwin, Disraeli and Charles Dickens.



For the full review, see:


Alexandra Mullen. "The Stink That Sank London; As highs climbed toward 100 degrees, raw sewage roasting on the Thames created the 'Great Stink'." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Aug. 20, 2017): C6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 11, 2017.)


The book under review, is:

Ashton, Rosemary. One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli, and the Great Stink of 1858. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017.






December 13, 2017

Immunotherapy Cocktails, Like Chemotherapy Cocktails, May Benefit from Trial-and-Error Experiments




(p. A16) A new way of genetically altering a patient's cells to fight cancer has helped desperately ill people with leukemia when every other treatment had failed, researchers reported on Monday [Nov. 20, 2017] in the journal Nature Medicine.

The new approach, still experimental, could eventually be given by itself or, more likely, be used in combination treatments -- analogous to antiviral "cocktails" for H.I.V. or multidrug regimens of chemotherapy for cancer -- to increase the odds of shutting down the disease.

Researchers say the treatment may be more promising as part of a combination than when given alone because, although some patients in the small study have had long-lasting remissions, many others had relapses.

The research, conducted at the National Cancer Institute, is the latest advance in the fast-growing field of immunotherapy, which fires up the immune system to attack cancer. The new findings build on two similar treatments that were approved by the Food and Drug Administration this year: Kymriah, made by Novartis for leukemia; and Yescarta, by Kite Pharma for lymphoma.

In some cases, those two treatments have brought long and seemingly miraculous remissions to people who were expected to die.

Kymriah and Yescarta require removing millions of each patient's T-cells -- disease-fighting white blood cells -- and genetically engineering them to seek and destroy cancer cells. The T-cells are then dripped back into the patient, where they home in on protein molecules called CD19 found on malignant cells in most types of leukemia and lymphoma.

The new treatment differs in a major way: the T-cells are programmed to attack a different target on malignant cells, CD22.



For the full story, see:

DENISE GRADY. "Experimental Gene Treatment Shows Promise in Combating Leukemia." The New York Times (Tues., NOV. 21, 2017): A16.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date NOV. 20, 2017, and has the title "New Gene Treatment Effective for Some Leukemia Patients.")


The Nature Medicine article, mentioned above, is:

Fry, Terry J., Nirali N. Shah, Rimas J. Orentas, Maryalice Stetler-Stevenson, Constance M. Yuan, Sneha Ramakrishna, Pamela Wolters, Staci Martin, Cindy Delbrook, Bonnie Yates, Haneen Shalabi, Thomas J. Fountaine, Jack F. Shern, Robbie G. Majzner, David F. Stroncek, Marianna Sabatino, Yang Feng, Dimiter S. Dimitrov, Ling Zhang, Sang Nguyen, Haiying Qin, Boro Dropulic, Daniel W. Lee, and Crystal L. Mackall. "CD22-Targeted CAR T Cells Induce Remission in B-ALL That Is Naive or Resistant to CD19-Targeted CAR Immunotherapy." Nature Medicine (published online on Nov. 20, 2017).






December 12, 2017

Startups 'Push the Flywheel' Longer than They Admit




(p. A8) Some startups that spend years developing their product say the clock doesn't start with those years. They count time from the day they came upon a solution that worked--never mind time spent looking for ideas or toiling at approaches that failed.

Milpitas, Calif.-based View Inc., which makes window glass that changes tint electronically, incorporated as Echromics and was in development as early as 2007. When its first technical approach failed, almost the entire staff turned over, said CEO Rao Mulpuri. He took over in December 2008.

A spokeswoman says the company considers 2009--the year it made breakthroughs that made its product possible--as the year it "really started its journey." The company changed its name to View in 2012.

When it comes to the question of founding a company, Mr. Mulpuri says, "there's a technical answer, which is the official answer. When was the company founded in the state of Delaware? But as a team, it's not as simple as that."

Silicon Valley investors are used to the idea that a "pivot" or new name takes off the years like a shot of Botox--though not all are thrilled.

David Gurle, chief executive of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Symphony Communication Services LLC, isn't amused by startups that play the age game.

He founded private-messaging startup Perzo in 2012. After Symphony, another startup, acquired it in 2014, it began targeting financial-services clients. He proudly cites 2012 as Symphony's founding year, despite its permutations.

"If you told me that a flower only started growing when it was out of the earth, then I would say, 'No, it's already been growing,'" Mr. Gurle said.



For the full story, see:

Patience Haggin. "Forever Young: Tech Startups, Like Hollywood Celebrities, Fudge Their Age; To look like overnight successes, new companies are playing around with their origin stories." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Aug. 12, 2017): A1 & A8.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 11, 2017, and has the title "The Secret to Startup Success? Fudge Your Age; To look like overnight successes, new companies are playing around with their origin stories." The passages quoted from the online version, above, are about a sentence and a half longer than the similar passages in the print version.)






December 11, 2017

Price "Gouging" Encourages Demanders to Conserve and Suppliers to Supply




(p. A17) . . . price hikes are a response to scarcity, and signals that reveal the true severity of scarcity are critical during storms and other crises. Price hikes let consumers know that fuel is scarcer than it was. Price hikes prompt consumers to use fuel more judiciously, buying less gasoline than they would at a lower price. They take fewer unnecessary trips, diminishing pressure on supplies. Price hikes also create a financial incentive for suppliers from outside the area to move their product into high-demand zones. As supplies return to normal, so do prices.


. . .


Year's revelers in New York City welcomed 2015, Uber's surge-pricing algorithm stopped working for nearly 30 minutes. Without the guarantee of extra pay, drivers had little incentive to brave New Year's traffic. Requests spiked 300%, wait times doubled, and the rate of completed trips fell 80%. People who really needed Ubers--and would have been willing to pay surge pricing--couldn't get a ride.


. . .


Price increases are an important means of encouraging as many people as possible to cope as well and as creatively as possible with natural disasters. True, the rising price of goods like gasoline can create problems for consumers, particularly the poor. But these drawbacks are negligible compared to the life-threatening shortages that can result when ill-informed public outrage keeps prices artificially low. Even a poor person is better off being able to buy a bottle of water for $10 when the alternative is to have $10 and go thirsty.



For the full commentary, see:

Donald J. Boudreaux. "'Price Gouging' After a Disaster Is Good for the Public; If government prohibits suppliers from charging more, consumers hoard, exacerbating shortages." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., OCT. 4, 2017): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date OCT. 3, 2017.)






December 10, 2017

Socialized Medicine "Mummifies Its Doctors in Spools of Red Tape"




(p. A17) One of the reasons patients find condescension from doctors especially loathsome is that it diminishes them -- if you're gravely ill, the last thing you need is further diminishment. But the desires of patients, Marsh notes, are often paradoxical. They also pine for supreme confidence in their physicians, surgeons especially, because they've left their futures -- the very possibility of one at all, in some cases -- in their doctors' custody. "So we quickly learn to deceive," Marsh writes, "to pretend to a greater level of competence and knowledge than we know to be the case, and try to shield our patients a little from the frightening reality they often face."

Over time, Marsh writes, many doctors start to internalize the stories they tell themselves about their superior judgment and skill. But the best, he adds, unlearn their self-deceptions, and come to accept their fallibility and learn from their mistakes. "We always learn more from failure than from success," he writes. "Success teaches us nothing."

This was a prominent theme in Marsh's last book, and readers may have a sense of déjà vu while reading this one. Like "Do No Harm," "Admissions" is wandering and ruminative, an overland trek through the doctor's anxieties and private shames. Once again, he recounts his miscalculations and surgical catastrophes, citing the French doctor René Leriche's observation that all surgeons carry cemeteries within themselves of the patients whose lives they've lost. Once again, he rails against the constraints of an increasingly depersonalized British health care system, which mummifies its doctors in spools of red tape. Once again, he describes his operating theater in all of its Grand Guignol splendor, with brains swelling beyond their skulls and suction devices "slurping obscenely" as tumors evade his reach.



For the full review, see:

JENNIFER SENIOR. "Books of The Times; Surgical Catastrophes, Private Shames." The New York Times (Sat., Oct. 7, 2017): A17.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Oct. 5, 2017, and has the title "Books of The Times; A Surgeon Not Afraid to Face His Mistakes, In and Out of the Operating Room.)


The book under review, is:

Marsh, Henry. Admissions: Life as a Brain Surgeon. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2017.






December 9, 2017

NIH and FDA Should Allow Gene Editors to Cure Diseases




(p. A15) Should Americans be allowed to edit their DNA to prevent genetic diseases in their children? That question, which once might have sounded like science fiction, is stirring debate as breakthroughs bring the idea closer to reality. Bioethicists and activists, worried about falling down the slippery slope to genetically modified Olympic athletes, are calling for more regulation.

The bigger concern is exactly the opposite--that this kind of excessive introspection will cause patients to suffer and even die needlessly. Anachronistic restrictions at the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health effectively ban gene-editing research in human embryos that would lead to implantation and births. These prohibitions are inhibiting critical clinical research and should be lifted immediately.


. . .


What's holding researchers back, at least in America, is outmoded regulations. The FDA is blocked by law from accepting applications for research involving gene editing of the human germ line--meaning eggs, sperm and embryos. The NIH, whose approval also would be needed, is similarly barred from even considering applications to conduct such experiments in humans. These rules date as far back as the 1970s, when the technology was in its infancy. It's easy to invoke hypothetical fears when actual lifesaving interventions are decades away.

Today they aren't--and desperate patients deserve access to whatever cures this technology may be able to provide. The public thinks so, too. A survey this summer found that nearly two-thirds of Americans support therapeutic gene editing--in somatic and germ-line cells alike. Popular opinion is in tune with scientific reality. Legislators and regulators need to catch up.



For the full commentary, see:

Henry I. Miller. "Gene Editing Is Here, and Desperate Patients Want It; Two-thirds of Americans support therapeutic use, but regulators are still stuck in the 1970s." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., OCT. 13, 2017): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date OCT. 12, 2017.)






December 8, 2017

After 30 Years, Medical Entrepreneur Rosenberg's Slow Hunch Pays Off




(p. B3) In the another significant development, the cancer institute's prominent cancer researcher and chief of surgery, Steven A. Rosenberg, detailed for the first time an immunotherapy success against metastatic breast cancer, in a talk earlier this month.

In the lecture at a Boston meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research, Dr. Rosenberg reported on the first patient with metastatic breast cancer who is disease-free nearly two years after her first immunotherapy treatment. In the therapy, a person's own cells are multiplied billions of times and reinfused into the patient. Dr. Rosenberg's lab has already reported successes in treatment of melanoma, lymphoma, colorectal cancer and bile-duct cancer.

That patient is Judy Perkins, a 51-year-old structural engineer from Port St. Lucie, Fla. She was diagnosed with metastatic cancer--cancer that spread beyond the original location--in 2013.


. . .


Ms. Perkins is only one case. But the fact that she had metastatic breast cancer that is no longer detectable makes it very consequential. It follows reports from the Rosenberg lab about other internal-organ cancers, specifically colorectal and bile-duct.


. . .


Dr. Rosenberg's interest in immunotherapy was piqued three decades ago, when he was struck by a chance encounter with a stomach-cancer patient who improbably recovered despite no treatment. This became a lifelong quest to discover how that patient had in effect cured himself. Scores of recoveries at the cancer institute of melanoma and lymphoma patients followed after immunotherapy treatment from his lab.

Now, his lab is exploring the promise of treating and accomplishing tumor regressions in far-more-common solid-tumor cancers of internal organs, including the breast, colon and bile-duct.



For the full story, see:

Thomas M. Burton. "Immunotherapy Treatments for Cancer Gain Momentum." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., Oct. 13, 2017): B3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 12, 2017.)






December 7, 2017

University of Chicago Seeks Discourse, Not Deference




(p. A21) Several years ago Robert Zimmer was asked by an audience in China why the University of Chicago was associated with so many winners of the Nobel Prize -- 90 in all, counting this month's win by the behavioral economist Richard Thaler. Zimmer, the university's president since 2006, answered that the key was a campus culture committed to "discourse, argument and lack of deference."


. . .


The University of Chicago has always been usefully out of step with its peers in higher education -- it dropped out of the Big Ten Conference and takes perverse pride in its reputation as the place where fun goes to die. It was out of step again last year when Jay Ellison, the dean of students, sent a letter to incoming freshmen to let them know where the college stood in respect to the campus culture wars.

"Our commitment to academic freedom," he wrote, "means that we do not support so-called 'trigger warnings,' we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual 'safe spaces' where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."

The letter attracted national attention, with cheering from the right and caviling on the left. But its intellectual foundation had been laid earlier, with a 2015 report from a faculty committee, convened by Zimmer, on free expression. Central to the committee's findings: the aim of education is to make people think, not spare them from discomfort.



For the full commentary, see:

Stephens, Bret. "Our Best University President." The New York Times (Sat., OCT. 21, 2017): A21.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date OCT. 20, 2017, and has the title "America's Best University President.")






December 6, 2017

Reinvesting Profits Enables the Scaling Up of Success




(p. A17) Muhammad Yunus has big goals: zero world poverty, zero unemployment and zero net carbon emissions.


. . .


Mr. Yunus has long been a hero of mine for his innovative faith in the resourcefulness of low-income people.


. . .


If you want to motivate support for social enterprise, a utopian promise of "A World of Three Zeros" makes for a better book title than "Helping 60 Albanian Farmers Grow Herbs." And Mr. Yunus's paean to entrepreneurship does indeed deliver inspiration about the power of human creativity. But problematic arguments remain, especially his imprecise criticisms of the current economic system and the implausibility of replacing the whole system with social entrepreneurship.

A major problem is one of scale. Mr. Yunus's many social-enterprise examples are all on the same micro level as the 60 Albanian herb farmers. And while there's nothing wrong with making a large number of small-scale efforts to help a great many people, it doesn't qualify as a whole new system for the $76 trillion global economy. Mr. Yunus doesn't confront the scaling problem. He could have noted, for instance, that successful social entrepreneurs, unlike successful private entrepreneurs, by definition don't get the high profits to reinvest in scaling up successes.



For the full review, see:

William Easterly. "BOOKSHELF; How to Solve Global Poverty." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Oct. 3, 2017): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Oct. 2, 2017.)


The book under review, is:

Yunus, Muhammad. A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions. New York: PublicAffairs, 2017.






December 5, 2017

Firms Compete in Product Market and Cooperate in Parts Market




(p. B1) When the iPhone X goes on sale next month, Apple Inc.'s rival, Samsung Electronics Co., has good reason to hope it is a roaring success.

The South Korean company's giant components division stands to make $110 from for each top-of-the-line, $1,000 iPhone X that Apple sells.

The fact reflects a love-hate dynamic between the phone makers that is one of the more unusual relationships in business. While each company vies to get consumers to buy its gadgets, Samsung's parts operation stands to make billions of dollars supplying screens and memory chips for the new iPhone--parts that Apple relies on for its most important product.



For the full story, see:

Timothy W. Martin and Tripp Mickle. "Samsung To Benefit If iPhone X Is a Success." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Oct. 3, 2017): B1 & B5.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 2, 2017, and has the title "Why Apple Rival Samsung Also Wins If iPhone X Is a Hit.")






December 4, 2017

"Not Prepared to Compromise, in Ill-Considered Conversation, the Greater Truths"




(p. B15) Mr. Pomerance was a somewhat out-of-the-mainstream playwright living in London in 1977 when Foco Novo, a theater company he had founded with Roland Rees and David Aukin, began thinking about staging "The Elephant Man," based on the true story of Joseph Merrick, a man with severe physical deformities who became a celebrity in Victorian England in the 1880s.


. . .


The resulting play invited theatergoers to contemplate, among many other themes, what is normal and what isn't.


. . .


Mr. Pomerance was not a talkative sort. "The final impression he gives," a Times reporter wrote in 1979, "is of a man of considerable intellectual integrity who is not prepared to compromise, in ill-considered conversation, the greater truths he seeks to express on stage."



For the full obituary, see:

NEIL GENZLINGER. "Bernard Pomerance, 76; Wrote 'Elephant Man'." The New York Times (Weds., AUG. 30, 2017): B15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date AUG. 29, 2017, and has the title "Bernard Pomerance, Who Wrote 'The Elephant Man,' Dies at 76.")






December 3, 2017

Some Bacteria May Promote Cancer




(p. A15) A mysterious bacterium found in up to half of all colon tumors also travels with the cancer as it spreads, researchers reported on Thursday [Nov. 23, 2017].

Whether the bacterium, called Fusobacterium nucleatum, actually plays a role in causing or spurring the growth of cancer is not known. But the new study, published in the journal Science, also shows that an antibiotic that squelches this organism slows the growth of cancer cells in mice.

Scientists are increasingly suspicious that there may be a link: another type of bacteria has been discovered in pancreatic cancer cells. In both types of cancer, most tumors host bacteria; however, only a small proportion of the cells in any single tumor are infected.

"The whole idea of bacteria in tumors is fascinating and unexpected," said Dr. Bert Vogelstein, a colon cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins.

The colon cancer story began in 2011, when Dr. Matthew Meyerson of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Dr. Robert A. Holt of Simon Fraser University in British Columbia independently reported finding Fusobacteria, which normally inhabit the mouth, in human colon cancers.

That instigated a rush to confirm. Researchers around the world reported finding Fusobacteria in colon cancers, but their work only raised more questions. The new paper, by Dr. Meyerson and his colleagues, provides some answers.


. . .


Dr. Vogelstein suggests that instead of directly causing cancer, Fusobacteria might be altering patients' immune response -- and perhaps their response to treatments that use the immune system to destroy cancers.

Alternately, perhaps the bacteria are acting more directly by secreting chemicals that spur growth in nearby cancer cells, Dr. Relman said.

"It is not unreasonable to say Fusobacterium is promoting or contributing to colon cancer," he said.

Are Fusobacteria guilty of causing cancer? If this were a criminal case, where the jury had to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, Dr. Meyerson said he would have to acquit.

But if it were a civil case, judged on the preponderance of the evidence, his vote would be different: Fusobacteria are guilty.



For the full story, see:

GINA KOLATA. "Study Suggests Bacteria Have Key Role in Cancer." The New York Times (Sat., NOV. 25, 2017): A15.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date NOV. 23, 2017, and has the title "Why Is This Bacterium Hiding in Human Tumors?")


The Science article, discussed in the passages quoted above, is:

Bullman, Susan, Chandra S. Pedamallu, Ewa Sicinska, Thomas E. Clancy, Xiaoyang Zhang, Diana Cai, Donna Neuberg, Katherine Huang, Fatima Guevara, Timothy Nelson, Otari Chipashvili, Timothy Hagan, Mark Walker, Aruna Ramachandran, Begoña Diosdado, Garazi Serna, Nuria Mulet, Stefania Landolfi, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, Roberta Fasani, Andrew J. Aguirre, Kimmie Ng, Elena Élez, Shuji Ogino, Josep Tabernero, Charles S. Fuchs, William C. Hahn, Paolo Nuciforo, and Matthew Meyerson. "Analysis of Fusobacterium Persistence and Antibiotic Response in Colorectal Cancer." Science (posted online (ahead of publication) on Nov. 23, 2017).






December 2, 2017

FCC Spectrum Regulations Drive Innovators to Bankruptcy




(p. A17) In 2004 the FCC moved to relax L-Band rules, permitting deployment of a terrestrial mobile network. Satellite calls would continue, but few were being made, and sharing frequencies with cellular devices made eminent sense. By 2010, L-Band licensee LightSquared was ready to build a state-of-the-art 4G network, and the FCC announced that the 40 MHz bandwidth would become available. LightSquared quickly spent about $4 billion of its planned $14 billion infrastructure rollout. Americans would soon enjoy a fifth nationwide wireless choice.

But in 2012 the FCC yanked LightSquared's licenses. Various interests, from commercial airlines to the Pentagon, complained that freeing up the L Band could cause interference with Global Positioning System devices, since they are tuned to adjacent frequencies. Yet cheap remedies--such as a gradual roll-out of new services while existing networks improved reception with better radio chips--were available. In reality, the costliest spectrum conflicts emanate from overprotecting old services at the expense of the new. With its licenses snatched away, LightSquared instantly plunged into bankruptcy.


. . .


. . . regulatory impediments continue to block progress. Years after the L-Band spectrum was slated for productive use in 4G, it lies fallow--now delaying upgrades to 5G.



For the full commentary, see:

Thomas W. Hazlett. "How Politics Stalls Wireless Innovation; The FCC unveiled its National Broadband Plan in 2010--but couldn't stick to it." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Oct. 2, 2017): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 1, 2017.)


The commentary, quoted above, is related to the author's book:

Hazlett, Thomas W. The Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Wireless Technology, from Herbert Hoover to the Smartphone. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017.






December 1, 2017

Musk Fires Under-Performing Workers to Speed Output of Mass-Market Electric Sedans




(p. B4) DETROIT -- The electric-car maker Tesla fired hundreds of workers this week after a series of performance reviews conducted during the biggest expansion in the company's history.

Tesla said Friday [Oct. 13, 2017] that the dismissals were not out of the ordinary, even though they came as the automaker tries to increase the production of its first mass-market vehicle, the Model 3 sedan.

The company has been criticized for the slow pace of its early production of the new model, which has generated hundreds of thousands of deposits from prospective buyers.

Tesla built about 25,000 vehicles in the three months that ended Sept. 30, but only 260 of those were Model 3s -- considerably fewer than the 1,500 it had projected. The automaker has attributed the low production rate of the new car to unexpected bottlenecks in its manufacturing system.



For the full story, see:

BILL VLASIC. "Tesla Fires Hundreds of Workers." The New York Times (Sat., OCT. 14, 2017): B4.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 13, 2017, and has the title "Tesla Fires Hundreds as It Tries to Speed Production of an Electric Sedan.")






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