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May 20, 2018

"A Litigious, Protective Culture Has Gone Too Far"




(p. A1) SHOEBURYNESS, England -- Educators in Britain, after decades spent in a collective effort to minimize risk, are now, cautiously, getting into the business of providing it.


. . .


Limited risks are increasingly cast by experts as an experience essential to childhood development, useful in building resilience and grit.

Outside the Princess Diana Playground in Kensington Gardens in London, which attracts more than a million visitors a year, a placard informs parents that risks have been "intentionally provided, so that your child can develop an appreciation of risk in a controlled play environment rather than taking similar risks in an uncontrolled and unregulated wider world."

This view is tinged with nostalgia for an earlier Britain, in which children were tougher and more self-reliant. It resonates both with right-wing tabloids, which see it as a corrective to the cosseting of a liberal nanny state; and with progressives, drawn to a freer and more natural childhood.


. . .


(p. A12) Britain is one of a number of countries where educators and regulators say a litigious, protective culture has gone too far, leaching healthy risks out of childhood. Guidelines on play from the government agency that oversees health and safety issues in Britain state that "the goal is not to eliminate risk."



For the full story, see:

ELLEN BARRY. "In Britain, Learning to Accept Risk, and the Occasional 'Owie'." The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, March 11, 2018): A1 & A12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 10, 2018, and has the title "In Britain's Playgrounds, 'Bringing in Risk' to Build Resilience.")






May 19, 2018

"Puttin' On the Ritz"




(p. C9) The Savoy, which opened in 1889, was glamorous and cosmopolitan, an antidote to Victorian stuffiness. Its owner, Richard D'Oyly Carte, the backer of Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operas, had a theater next door, and his ambition was to create a modern luxury hotel the likes of which had never been seen. To fulfill his vision, in 1890 he turned to Escoffier and the Swiss hotelier Ritz, a man known for his impeccable taste, and in short order the two men, who'd had a previous success at the Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo, made the Savoy into the most famous and profitable hotel and restaurant in the world.

"Ritz & Escoffier," Luke Barr's entertaining narrative history, reads like a novel (complete with cliff hangers and descriptions of the characters' private thoughts). Both of its subjects had grown up poor, but were opposites temperamentally.


. . .


Neither man had to use the stairs at the Savoy, since the hotel had six elevators, the largest ever seen in Europe, which D'Oyly Carte called "ascending rooms." There were 400 guestrooms and an unheard-of number of bathrooms--67 all told, many en suite and at no extra charge. (The recently opened Hotel Victoria provided just four for 500 guests.) The Savoy also had electric light that you could switch on or off in your room without getting out of bed, also at no extra charge.


. . .


. . ., D'Oyly Carte gave Escoffier and Ritz free rein from the start. The restaurant became enormously popular, a gathering place open to all who could afford it: aristocrats, the nouveau riche, royalty, Jewish bankers and fur traders (Jews weren't freely accepted in society at the time), and stars of the theater and opera. Formal evening dress was de rigueur in the dining room and women were admitted--except those of "doubtful reputation and uncertain revenue," who arrived unaccompanied, wearing makeup and large hats. Mr. Barr writes, "An extravagant hat worn in the evening, Ritz had discovered, was a sign of trouble." But Ritz not only gave ladies' banquets, he also successfully campaigned to change the laws against eating out on Sundays. Soon those formerly grim at-home evenings of "cold joint and gloom" became the most fashionable times of the week to dine at the Savoy.


. . .


Ritz had opened the hotel's doors to anyone with money wearing the right clothes. The old social rules were broken. Mr. Barr comments, "Indeed, there was an element of decadence in the Savoy's brand of luxury--it was this decadence that made it modern, the sense that pleasure was to be celebrated."



For the full review, see:

Moira Hodgson. "'Modern Hospitality." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, March 31, 2018): C9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date March 30, 2018, and has the title "'Ritz & Escoffier' Review: Modern Hospitality.")


The book under review, is:

Barr, Luke. Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, the Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class. New York: Clarkson Potter, 2018.







May 18, 2018

Global Warming Most Affects Coldest Regions




(p. A11) Winters in the United States have gotten warmer in the past 30 years, and some of the coldest parts of the country have warmed up the most.

In Minnesota, winters between 1989 and 2018 were an average of 3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, compared to a 20th century baseline, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration analyzed by The New York Times. Florida's winters were 1.4 degrees warmer, on average, during that time.

For each 30-year period above, the maps show how much warmer or cooler winters were across the contiguous United States, compared to an average winter for that location during the 20th century. Though it might not always feel like it, warmer winters have become more common across most of the country. The most significant temperature increases can be seen in the Northern Great Plains, a region stretching from Montana to Michigan.

The Northern Great Plains have warmed up particularly quickly in part because of the dry winter conditions typical there, said Kenneth Blumenfeld, a senior climatologist at the Minnesota State Climate Office. Cold air moving into the area from Canada and the Arctic is also not as cold as it used to be, he said.

"In Minnesota, we used to get to negative 30 or negative 40 degrees with certain frequency. But no longer. Maybe we'll now hit negative 30 with the frequency we used to hit negative 40," Dr. Blumenfeld said. But, he added, this difference in cold extremes can be difficult for people to perceive. When it's that cold out, after all, people tend to stay inside.

The pattern of warming shown here is largely consistent with global trends, said Jake Crouch, a scientist at NOAA's climate monitoring branch. "In general, northern latitudes are warming faster than southern latitudes. Interior locations are warming faster than coastal locations."



For the full story, see:

NADJA POPOVICH and BLACKI MIGLIOZZI. "Where Are America's Winters Warming the Most? In Cold Places." The New York Times (Saturday, MARCH 17, 2018): A11.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 16, 2018.)






May 17, 2018

Ode to Physical Film Premieres on Digital Netflix




(p. C6) "Kodachrome" is based on an article that A.G. Sulzberger, who became the publisher of The New York Times this January, wrote in 2010. It concerned the international rush on Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kan., which became the world's last processor of the discontinued color film Kodachrome.

But in a twist that may make camera buffs' heads explode, the feature, directed by Mark Raso, arrives courtesy of Netflix, which bought the movie after it was made. Despite a credit noting that the movie was shot (to little effect) on 35-millimeter Kodak film, "Kodachrome" will mostly be seen on the streaming platform, whose current business model hastens the destruction of physical media.



For the full review, see:


BEN KENIGSBERG. "An Ode to Color Film, Now Streaming Near You." The New York Times (Friday, April 20, 2018): C6.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date APRIL 19, 2018, and has the title "Review: 'Kodachrome,' an Ode to Color Film, Now Streaming Near You.")






May 16, 2018

Silicon Valley Warms to Trumps Lower Taxes and Deregulation




(p. B1) SAN FRANCISCO -- Two days after Donald J. Trump won the 2016 election, executives at Google consoled their employees in an all-staff meeting broadcast around the world.

"There is a lot of fear within Google," said Sundar Pichai, the company's chief executive, according to a video of the meeting viewed by The New York Times. When asked by an employee if there was any silver lining to Mr. Trump's election, the Google co-founder Sergey Brin said, "Boy, that's a really tough one right now." Ruth Porat, the finance chief, said Mr. Trump's victory felt "like a ton of bricks dropped on my chest." Then she instructed members of the audience to hug the person next to them.

Sixteen months later, Google's parent company, Alphabet, has most likely saved billions of dollars in taxes on its overseas cash under a new tax law signed by Mr. Trump. Alphabet also stands to benefit from the Trump administration's looser regulations for self-driving cars and delivery drones, as well as from proposed changes to the trade pact with Mexico and Canada that would limit Google's liability for user content on its sites.

Once one of Mr. Trump's most vocal opponents, Silicon Valley's technology industry has increasingly found common ground with the White House. When Mr. Trump was elected, tech executives were largely up in arms over a leader who espoused policies on immigration and other issues that were antithetical to their companies' values. Now, many of the industry's executives are growing more comfortable with the president and how his (p. B5) economic agenda furthers their business interests, even as many of their employees continue to disagree with Mr. Trump on social issues.


. . .


. . . quietly, the tech industry has warmed to the White House, especially as companies including Alphabet, Apple and Intel have benefited from the Trump administration's policies.

Those include lowering corporate taxes, encouraging development of new wireless technology like 5G and, so far, ignoring calls to break up the tech giants. Mr. Trump's tougher stance on China may also help ward off industry rivals, with the president squashing a hostile bid to acquire the chip maker Qualcomm this month. And Mr. Trump let die an Obama-era rule that required many tech start-ups to give some workers more overtime pay.

Mr. Trump "has been great for business and really, really good for tech," said Gary Shapiro, who leads the Consumer Technology Association, the largest American tech trade group, with more than 2,200 members including Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook.

Mr. Shapiro said that he had voted for Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump's opponent, in 2016, but that he and many tech executives had come around on Mr. Trump. While they disagree with him on immigration and the environment, they have found areas where their interests align, like deregulation and investment in internet infrastructure.

"This isn't Hitler or Mussolini here," Mr. Shapiro said. And even though the president's new tariffs on steel and aluminum could hurt American businesses and consumers, "disagreement in one area does not mean we cannot work together in others," Mr. Shapiro said. "Everyone who is married knows that."



For the full story, see:


JACK NICAS. "Silicon Valley, Wary of Trump, Warms to Him." The New York Times (Saturday, March 31, 2018): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 30, 2018, and has the title "Silicon Valley Warms to Trump After a Chilly Start.")






May 15, 2018

Brain as Computer "Is a Bad Metaphor"




(p. A13) In "The Biological Mind: How Brain, Body, and Environment Collaborate to Make Us Who We Are," Mr. Jasanoff, the director of the MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering, presents a lucid primer on current brain science that takes the form of a passionate warning about its limitations. He argues that the age of popular neurohype has persuaded many of us to identify completely with our brains and to misunderstand the true nature of these marvelous organs.

We hear constantly, for example, that the brain is a computer. This is a bad metaphor, Mr. Jasanoff insists. Computers run on electricity, so we concentrate on the electrical activity within the brain; yet there is also chemical and hormonal signaling, for which there are no good computing analogies.



For the full review, see:

Steven Poole. ""BOOKSHELF; Identify Your Self." The Wall Street Journal (Friday, April 6, 2018): A13.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date April 5, 2018, and has the title "BOOKSHELF; 'The Biological Mind' Review: Identify Your Self.")


The book under review, is:

Jasanoff, Alan. The Biological Mind: How Brain, Body, and Environment Collaborate to Make Us Who We Are. New York: Basic Books, 2018.






May 14, 2018

Finding Workers Is Top Restaurant Challenge




(p. D1) WASHINGTON -- The owner of Taco Bamba Taqueria peered out from the kitchen at the line of customers snaking around the corner at his latest spot in a suburban Virginia strip mall, and felt terror. Who was going to cook, serve and clean up for all these people?

"The cooks had left," overwhelmed by the crowds, said Victor Albisu, who owns four Taco Bambas in the region, with a new upscale Mexican place on the horizon. "The wait staff had left. The chef and sous-chef had walked out because of the amount of business. It doesn't stop."

A tight labor market and an explosion of new restaurants have made finding and keeping help ever more difficult across the country.

(p. D5) In 2017, the National Restaurant Association reports, 37 percent of its members said labor recruitment was their top challenge, up from 15 percent two years ago. With low profit margins leaving little room to do what most businesses do in tight labor markets -- increase wages -- restaurant owners are having to find other ways to attract and hold onto workers.



For the full story, see:

JENNIFER STEINHAUER. "Tight Labor Market Squeezes Restaurants." The New York Times (Wednesday, April 11, 2018): D1 & D5.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date APRIL 5 [sic], 2018, and has the title "A Worker Shortage Is Forcing Restaurants to Get Creative.")






May 13, 2018

Labor-Intensive Tinkering Can Advance Science




(p. A24) When John E. Sulston was 5 years old and growing up in Britain, the son of an Anglican priest, his parents sent him to a private school. There, he discovered, sports were his nemesis.

"I absolutely loathed games," he said. "I was hopeless."

When it came to schoolwork, he said, he was "not a books person."

He had only one consuming interest: science. He liked to tinker, to figure out how things were put together.


. . .


The Nobel he received, shared with two other scientists, recognized the good data he amassed in his work on the tiny transparent roundworm C. elegans in an effort to better understand how organisms develop.


. . .


At the time, it was widely believed that the 558 cells the worm had when it hatched were all it would ever have. But Dr. Sulston noticed that, in fact, the worm kept gaining cells as it developed. And by tracing the patterns of divisions that gave rise to those new cells, he found, surprisingly, that the worm also lost cells in a predictable way. Certain cells were destined to die at a specific time, digesting their own DNA.

Dr. Sulston's next major project was to trace the fate of every single cell in a worm. It was a task so demanding and labor-intensive that other scientists still shake their heads in amazement that he got it done.

Each day, bending over his microscope for eight or more hours, he would start with a worm embryo and choose one of its cells. He would then watch the cell as it divided and follow each of its progeny cells as, together, they grew and formed the organism. This went on for a total of 18 months.

In the end, he had a complete map of every one of the worm's 959 cells (not counting sperm and egg cells).



For the full obituary, see:

GINA KOLATA. "John Sulston, 75; Tiny Worm Guided Him to Nobel." The New York Times (Friday, March 16, 2018): A24.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date MARCH 15, 2018, and has the title "John E. Sulston, 75, Dies; Found Clues to Genes in a Worm.")






May 12, 2018

Amazon Hires Thousands of Low-Tech Workers




(p. B1) TROMEOVILLE, Ill. -- Brandon Williams arrived at an Amazon fulfillment center here, about an hour outside of Chicago, around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday [August 2, 2017], one of thousands across the country who turned up for the company's first Jobs Day. While he appeared to wilt slightly during the five hours he waited before an M.C. summoned him for a tour, his enthusiasm did not wane.

"What's not great about a company that keeps building?" he said, seated in a huge tent the company erected in the parking lot as a kind of makeshift waiting room.

The event was a vivid illustration of the ascendance of Amazon, the online retail company that, to a far greater extent than others in the tech industry, has a seemingly insatiable need for human labor to fuel its explosive growth.

Like other tech giants, Amazon is recruiting thousands of people with engineering and business degrees for high-paying jobs. But the vast majority of Amazon's hiring is for what the company calls its "fulfillment network" -- the armies of people who pick and pack orders in warehouses and unload and drive delivery trucks, and who take home considerably smaller incomes.

The event on Wednesday, held at a dozen locations including Romeoville, Ill., was intended to help fill 50,000 of those lower-paying positions, 40,000 of them full-time jobs.

Those high-low distinctions did not seem to bother the attendees of the jobs fair, many of them united in the conviction that Amazon represented untapped opportunity -- that a foot in the door could lead to a career of better-compensated, more satisfying work, whether in fulfillment, I.T., marketing or even fashion.

Mr. Williams, a military veteran studying computer network security at a nearby community college, said he hoped to eventually work his way up to an I.T. job with Amazon. But even those whose ambitions were more in line (p. B7) with the vast majority of available jobs could not hide their excitement.


. . .


Arun Sundararajan, a professor of information, operations and management sciences at New York University's Stern School of Business, said Amazon's employment needs are unique among tech companies.


. . .


"While the digital disruption is destroying the traditional retail business model," Dr. Sundararajan said, "the Amazon model that replaces it will continue to live in the physical world and require human labor for the foreseeable future."



For the full story, see:

NOAM SCHEIBER and NICK WINGFIELD. "Amazon's Clear Message: Hiring." The New York Times (Thursday, August 3, 2017): B1 & B7.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 2, 2017, and has the title "Amazon's Jobs Fair Sends Clear Message: Now Hiring Thousands.")






May 11, 2018

"Science Didn't Lie"




(p. 22) In the words of The Saturday Evening Post: "If America doesn't keep out the queer, alien, mongrelized people of Southern and Eastern Europe, her crop of citizens will eventually be dwarfed and mongrelized in turn."

According to Thomas C. Leonard, who teaches at Princeton, the driving force behind this and other such laws came from progressives in the halls of academia -- people who combined "extravagant faith in science and the state with an outsized confidence in their own expertise." "Illiberal Reformers" is the perfect title for this slim but vital account of the perils of intellectual arrogance in dealing with explosive social issues. Put simply, Leonard says, elite progressives gave respectable cover to the worst prejudices of the era -- not to rabble-rouse, but because they believed them to be true. Science didn't lie.

But barring undesirables was only half the battle; the herd also had to be culled from within. In 1907, Indiana became the first state to legalize forced sterilization, starting a landslide endorsed by progressive icons like Theodore Roosevelt and the birth control champion Margaret Sanger.



For the full review, see:

DAVID OSHINSKY. "No Justice for the Weak." The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, March 20, 2018): 1 & 22-23.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date March 14, 2018, and has the title "'Imbeciles' and 'Illiberal Reformers'.")


The book under review, is:

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






May 10, 2018

Blockchain Could Give People "Ownership of Their Own Data"




(p. B1) The first blockchain was created in 2009 as a new kind of database for the virtual currency Bitcoin, where all transactions could be stored without any banks or governments involved.

Now, countless entrepreneurs, companies and governments are looking to use similar databases -- often independent of Bitcoin -- to solve some of the most intractable issues facing society.

"People feel the need to move away from something like Facebook and toward something that allows them to have ownership of their own data," said Ryan Shea, a co-founder of Blockstack, a New York company working with blockchain technology.

The creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, has said the blockchain could help reduce the big internet companies' influence and return the web to his original vision.


. . .


(p. B4) Blockstack has built a way to record the basic details about your identity on a blockchain database and then use that identity to set up accounts with other online projects that are built on top of it.

The animating force behind the project is that users -- rather than Blockstack or any other company -- would end up in control of all the data they generate with any online service.

Blockstack is one of several blockchain-based projects hoping to create a new generation of online services that don't rely on having unfettered access to our personal information.

The idea has gained enough steam that in the days after news of Facebook's relationship with Cambridge Analytica broke, Twitter was filled with people calling for blockchain-based alternatives.



For the full story, see:


NATHANIEL POPPER. "Tech's Answer For Security: Blockchain." The New York Times (Monday, April 2, 2018): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date APRIL 1, 2018, and has the title "Tech Thinks It Has a Fix for the Problems It Created: Blockchain.")






May 9, 2018

On Strokes, Doctors Decide for Patients, Even When Patient's Family Knows More




(p. D1) It was one of those findings that would change medicine, Dr. Christopher Lewandowski thought.

For years, doctors had tried -- and failed -- to find a treatment that would preserve the brains of stroke patients. The task was beginning to seem hopeless: Once a clot blocked a blood vessel supplying the brain, its cells quickly began to die. Patients and their families could only pray that the damage would not be too extensive.

But then a large federal clinical trial proved that a so-called clot-buster drug, tissue plasminogen activator (T.P.A.), could prevent brain injury after a stroke by opening up the blocked vessel. Dr. Lewandowski, an emergency medicine physician at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and the trial's principal investigator, was ecstatic.

"We felt the data was so strong we didn't have to explain it" in the published report, he said.

He was wrong. That groundbreaking clinical trial concluded 22 years ago, yet Dr. Lewandowski and others are still trying to explain the data to a powerful contingent of doubters.

The skeptics teach medical students that T.P.A.is dangerous, causing brain hemorrhages, and that the studies that found a benefit were deeply flawed. Better to just let a stroke run its course, they say.

It's a perspective with real-world consequences. Close to 700,000 patients have strokes caused by blood clots each year and could be helped by T.P.A. Yet up to 30 percent of stroke victims who arrive at hospitals on time and are perfect candidates for the clot-buster do not receive it.

The result: paralysis and muscle weakness; impaired cognition, speech or vision; emotional and behavioral dysfunction; and many other permanent neurological injuries.

Stroke treatment guidelines issued by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association strongly endorse T.P.A. for patients after they've been properly evaluated. But treatment must start within three hours (in some cases, four(p. D4)-and-a-half hours) of the stroke's onset, and the sooner, the better.

A number of medical societies also endorse the treatment as highly effective in reducing disability. The drug can cause or exacerbate cerebral hemorrhage, or bleeding in the brain -- a real risk. But in most stroke patients it prevents brain injury, and in any event, rates of cerebral hemorrhage have declined as doctors have gained experience over the years.


. . .


About a decade ago, Dr. Lewandowski was at work when he got a call that his father had had a stroke -- his right side was paralyzed. But his father had gotten to the hospital within 45 minutes, well inside the window to receive T.P.A.

Dr. Lewandowski told his mother to make the family's wishes very clear. They wanted the emergency room doctor to give the clot-buster to his dad. The doctor refused.

"He told my mom that he doesn't believe in the drug and he is not giving it. He doesn't care who I am," Dr. Lewandowski said.

"I got in my car and drove 400 miles to the hospital," he recalled. But by the time he got there, it was too late. The treatment window had closed.

His father had a facial droop and slurred speech. His right arm and right leg flopped about uselessly. His stroke scale was 7, moderately disabling, but he survived for a few more years.

"It was very difficult for me personally," Dr. Lewandowski recalled. "I had spent so much of my professional life working on this treatment. It actually worked."

"I felt like I had let my dad down."



For the full story, see:


GINA KOLATA. "A Stroke Treatment Mired in Controversy." The New York Times (Tuesday, March 27, 2018): D1 & D4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 26, 2018, and has the title "For Many Strokes, There's an Effective Treatment. Why Aren't Some Doctors Offering It?")






May 8, 2018

Dockless Scooter Startups Follow Uber in Asking Regulators for Forgiveness Instead of Permission




(p. B1) Electric scooters have arrived en masse in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, with companies competing to offer the dockless and rechargeable vehicles. Leading the pack is Mr. VanderZanden's Bird, with rivals including Spin and LimeBike. The start-ups are buoyed with more than $250 million in venture capital and a firm belief that electric scooters are the future of transportation, at least for a few speedy blocks.

The premise of the start-ups is simple: People can rent the electric scooters for about a $1, plus 10 cents to 15 cents a minute to use, for so-called last-mile transportation. To recharge the scooters, (p. B5) the companies have "chargers," or people who roam the streets looking to plug in the scooters at night, for which they get paid $5 to $20 per scooter.

The problem is that cities have been shocked to discover that thousands of electric scooters have been dropped onto their sidewalks seemingly overnight. Often, the companies ignored all the usual avenues of getting city approval to set up shop. And since the scooters are dockless, riders can just grab one, go a few blocks and leave it wherever they want, causing a commotion on sidewalks and scenes of scooters strewn across wheelchair ramps and in doorways.

So officials in cities like San Francisco and Santa Monica, Calif., have been sending cease-and-desist notices and holding emergency meetings. Some even filed charges against the scooter companies.

"They just appeared," said Mohammed Nuru, director of the San Francisco Public Works, which has been confiscating the scooters. "I don't know who comes up with these ideas or where these people come from."

Dennis Herrera, the San Francisco city attorney who sent cease-and-desist letters to Bird and others, described the chaos as "a free for all."

Mr. VanderZanden said given how enormous a social shift he believes his scooters are, he was not surprised it ruffled some feathers. But people would eventually adjust, he said.

"Go back to the early 1900s, and people would have a similar reaction to cars because they were used to horses," he said. "They had to figure out where to park all the dockless cars."

If there is something familiar about these scooter companies' strategy of just showing up in cities without permission, that's because that has now become a tried-and-true playbook for many start-ups. In its early days, Uber, the ride-hailing giant, also barreled into towns overnight to launch its service and only asked for forgiveness later.

"Cities don't know what it is," Caen Contee, the head of marketing for LimeBike, said of the arrival of electric scooters. "They don't know how to permit it until they've seen it."


. . .


"My brother and sister legislators from Santa Monica warned me that that phenomenon has hit their cities," said Aaron Peskin, who is on San Francisco's board of supervisors, the city's legislative branch. Referring to the scooter start-ups, he added, "These people are out of their minds."



For the full story, see:

Nellie Bowles and David Streitfeld. "Charged Up Over Scooters Despite Uproar." The New York Times (Sat., April 21, 2018): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 20, 2018, and has the title "Electric Scooters Are Causing Havoc. This Man Is Shrugging It Off.")






May 7, 2018

The Role of Progressives in the Forced Sterilization of Thousands




(p. 22) Progressivism was always more than a single cause, however. Attracting reformers of all stripes, it aimed to fix the ills of society through increased government action -- the "administrative state." Progressives pushed measures ranging from immigration restriction to eugenics in a grotesque attempt to protect the nation's gene pool by keeping the "lesser classes" from reproducing. If one part of progressivism emphasized fairness and compassion, the other reeked of bigotry and coercion.

"Imbeciles," by Adam Cohen, the author of "Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America," examines one of the darkest chapters of progressive reform: the case of Buck v. Bell. It's the story of an assault upon thousands of defenseless people seen through the lens of a young woman, Carrie Buck, locked away in a Virginia state asylum. In meticulously tracing her ordeal, Cohen provides a superb history of eugenics in America, from its beginnings as an offshoot of social Darwinism -- ­human survival of the fittest -- to its rise as a popular movement, advocating the state-sponsored sterilization of "feeble­minded, insane, epileptic, inebriate, criminalistic and other degenerate persons."



For the full review, see:

DAVID OSHINSKY. "No Justice for the Weak." The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, March 20, 2018): 1 & 22-23.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date March 14, 2018, and has the title "'Imbeciles' and 'Illiberal Reformers'.")


The book under review, is:

Cohen, Adam. Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck. New York: Penguin Press, 2016.






May 6, 2018

Dockless Bikes Flood Dallas as Officials Scramble to Regulate




(p. B4) . . . in recent months, Dallas has become ground zero for a nascent national bike-share war, as five startups armed with hundreds of millions of venture capital dollars have blanketed the city with at least 18,000 bikes.   . . .    . . . , the bikes flooding Dallas are "dockless." In other words, these bikes--popular in many Chinese cities--can be left almost anywhere when the rider is done.


. . .


City officials are scrambling to write regulations. "You drive down a street, you see bikes everywhere, all scattered out," said Dallas City Council member Tennell Atkins. "We've got to think it through. It's a mess."

Other U.S. cities are having a similar experience, if on a smaller scale. The startups, which include China's two leading bike-share companies, are in the early stages of a plan to blanket U.S. cities with hundreds of thousands of dockless bikes in the coming year.

Typically acting with cooperation and encouragement from city governments, companies seed a city with bikes placed on sidewalks, by bus stops and throughout downtowns. Users pay $1 per half-hour or hour for a bike they locate and unlock with an app on their smartphones, eliminating the need for a bike rack.



For the full story, see:

Eliot Brown. "It's the Wild West for Bike Sharing." The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, March 27, 2018): B4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 26, 2018, and has the title "Dockless Bike Share Floods into U.S. Cities, With Rides and Clutter.")






May 5, 2018

Environmentalists Raising a Stink




(p. A11) The deodorants, perfumes and soaps that keep us smelling good are fouling the air with a harmful type of pollution -- at levels as high as emissions from today's cars and trucks.

That's the surprising finding of a study published Thursday [Feb. 15, 2018] in the journal Science. Researchers found that petroleum-based chemicals used in perfumes, paints and other consumer products can, taken together, emit as much air pollution in the form of volatile organic compounds, or V.O.C.s, as motor vehicles do.

The V.O.C.s interact with other particles in the air to create the building blocks of smog, namely ozone, which can trigger asthma and permanently scar the lungs, and another type of pollution known as PM2.5, fine particles that are linked to heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer.


. . .


Concerned consumers may be tempted to turn to "natural" products, though the researchers say that isn't a cure-all. For example, one class of compounds called terpenes gives many cleaning products a pine or citrus smell. These terpenes can be produced synthetically, or naturally from oranges.

"But whether it's synthetic or natural, once it gets into the atmosphere it's incredibly reactive," Dr. Gilman said. Similar natural compounds give the Blue Ridge Mountains in Appalachia their name, from the blue haze formed by terpenes emitted from the trees there, Dr. Gilman added.

Galina Churkina, a research fellow at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies who was not involved in the study, noted that the study did not consider emissions related to biological sources like trees and animals. But the authors said their study was not the end of this line of research.


. . .


For consumers looking for a greener solution, Dr. McDonald offered some advice. "Use as little of the product as you can to get the job done," he said.



For the full story, see:


Kendra Pierre-Louis and Hiroko Tabuchi. "Want to Save the Planet? Try Using Less Deodorant." The New York Times (Saturday, February 17, 2018): A11.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date February 16, 2018, and has the title "Want Cleaner Air? Try Using Less Deodorant.")


The Science study summarized above, is:

McDonald, Brian C., Joost A. de Gouw, Jessica B. Gilman, Shantanu H. Jathar, Ali Akherati, Christopher D. Cappa, Jose L. Jimenez, Julia Lee-Taylor, Patrick L. Hayes, Stuart A. McKeen, Yu Yan Cui, Si-Wan Kim, Drew R. Gentner, Gabriel Isaacman-VanWertz, Allen H. Goldstein, Robert A. Harley, Gregory J. Frost, James M. Roberts, Thomas B. Ryerson, and Michael Trainer. "Volatile Chemical Products Emerging as Largest Petrochemical Source of Urban Organic Emissions." Science 359, no. 6377 (Feb. 16, 2018): 760-64.






May 4, 2018

Workers Rejecting Big-Rig Trucking Jobs




(p. B1) Trucking companies eager to hire more drivers but facing a slim pipeline of new recruits aren't finding much to encourage them at the James Rumsey Technical Institute in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Enrollment in commercial-driving courses at the school dropped to its lowest point in about 15 years this winter, a signal that the industry's efforts to sell workers on truck driving haven't gained much traction. "Recruiters said all the schools were down this winter," said instructor Michael Timmer, although he added that more students are trickling in as the weather warms.

Freight volumes in the U.S. are surging on the back of strong economic growth, as retailers and manufacturers hire more trucks to haul imports from seaports to distribution centers and raw materials to factories. But the flow of new truck drivers is lagging far behind the roaring freight market.

With unemployment at a nearly two-decade low, the downsides of life behind the wheel are making recruitment tough. Many workers are opting for construction or energy jobs that offer more time at home or better pay.



For the full story, see:

Jennifer Smith. "Trucking's Big-Rig Life Stays a Tough Sell." The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, April 4, 2018): B1-B2.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 3, 2018, and has the title "Trucking Companies Are Struggling to Attract Drivers to the Big-Rig Life.")






May 3, 2018

"Searing Portrait" of Uber Entrepreneur Travis Kalanick




(p. B3) Mr. Lashinsky's book gives readers an inside view of the ride-hailing giant's creation and what created the broken corporate culture that yielded so many negative news stories this year.

"Wild Ride" offers a searing portrait of Uber's former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, whom Mr. Lashinsky shows to be both a genius and wildly headstrong (and not in a good way). Because of when it was published, the book does not include many of the episodes that consumed Uber in 2017, including Susan Fowler's viral blog post about the company's misogynistic culture and the ouster of Mr. Kalanick. But until that book is written -- and it surely will be -- "Wild Ride" is a good primer.



For the full commentary, see:

Sorkin, Andrew Ross. "DEALBOOK For a Year Filled With News, A List of Books Worth a Look." The New York Times (Tuesday, DEC. 26, 2017): B1 & B3.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date DEC. 25, 2017, and has the title "DEALBOOK; In a Year of Nonstop News, a Batch of Business Books Worth Reading.")


The Lashinsky book mentioned above, is:

Lashinsky, Adam. Wild Ride: Inside Uber's Quest for World Domination. New York: Portfolio, 2017.






May 2, 2018

Debt-Free, Focused Year of Tech Ed Yields Good Jobs for High School Grads




(p. A3) As a high-school senior in Hampton, Va., Aidan Cary applied last year to prestigious universities like Dartmouth, Vanderbilt and the University of Virginia.

Then he clicked on the website for a one-year-old school called MissionU and quickly decided that's where he wanted to go.

Mr. Cary, 19 years old, is enrolled in a one-year, data-science program. He studies between 40 and 50 hours a week, visits high-tech, Bay Area companies as part of his education, and will pay the San Francisco-based school a percentage of his income for three years after he graduates.

This new type of postsecondary education is proving a hit: The school says it has received more than 10,000 applications for 50 spots.

"I think people feel backed into a corner by the cost of college," Mr. Cary said. "They've been waiting for something like this so when it finally came around they could instantly see the value proposition."

MissionU, which enrolled its first class in September [2017], is part of new breed of institutions that bill themselves as college alternatives for the digital age. The schools--whose admission rates hover in the single digits--comparable to the Ivy League, according to the schools--offer a debt-free way to attain skills in hot areas and guaranteed apprenticeships with high-tech companies. Together those create a pipeline to well-paying high-tech jobs.



For the full story, see:

Douglas Belkin. "One-Year Alternatives to College Pop Up." The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, April 10, 2018): A3.

(Note: bracketed year added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 9, 2018, and has the title "One Year of 'College' With No Degree, But No Debt And a Job at the End." In the penultimate paragraph quoted above, the print version has "value" where the online version has "value proposition." I use the online version.)






May 1, 2018

Individualistic Cultures Foster Innovation




IndividualismProductivityGraph2018-04-20.pngSource of graph: online version of the WSJ commentary quoted and cited below.



(p. B1) Luther matters to investors not because of the religion he founded, but because of the cultural impact of challenging the Catholic Church's grip on society. By ushering in what Edmund Phelps, the Nobel-winning director of Columbia University's Center on Capitalism and Society, calls the "the age of the individual," Luther laid the groundwork for capitalism.


. . .


(p. B10) Mr. Phelps and collaborators Saifedean Ammous, Raicho Bojilov and Gylfi Zoega show that even in recent years, countries with more individualistic cultures have more innovative economies. They demonstrate a strong link between countries that surveys show to be more individualistic, and total factor productivity, a proxy for innovation that measures growth due to more efficient use of labor and capital. Less individualistic cultures, such as France, Spain and Japan, showed little innovation while the individualistic U.S. led.

As Mr. Bojilov points out, correlation doesn't prove causation, so they looked at the effects of country of origin on the success of second, third and fourth-generation Americans as entrepreneurs. The effects turn out to be significant but leave room for debate about how important individualistic attitudes are to financial and economic success.



For the full commentary, see:

James Mackintosh. "STREETWISE; What Martin Luther Says About Capitalism." The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Nov. 3, 2017): B1 & B10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Nov. 2, 2017, and has the title "STREETWISE; What 500 Years of Protestantism Teaches Us About Capitalism's Future." Where there are minor differences in wording in the two versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)






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