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September 24, 2018

When Volunteer Bystanders Save More Lives than So-Called First Responders




(p. A1) In the days after the shootings at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas, many stories emerged of bystander courage. Volunteers combed the grounds for survivors and carried out the injured. Strangers used belts as makeshift tourniquets to stanch bleeding, and then others sped the wounded to hospitals in the back seats of cars and the beds of pickup trucks.

These rescue efforts took place before the county's emergency medical crews, waylaid by fleeing concertgoers, reached the grassy field, an estimated half-hour or more after the shooting began. When they did arrive, the local fire chief said in an interview, only the dead remained.

"Everybody was treating patients and trying to get there," Chief Gregory Cassell of the Clark County Fire Department, said of his personnel. "They just couldn't."

The experiences in Las Vegas have implications for the nation. Emergency medical services have changed how they respond to mass attacks, charging into insecure areas and immediately helping the injured rather than standing back. Still, every minute counts, and bystanders can play a critical role in saving lives, as shown in the aftermath to the shooting on Oct. 1 [2017] outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.


. . .


(p. A14) In Las Vegas, several factors impeded the arrival of emergency medical workers at the scene of the shooting itself.

Confusion abounded. One fire crew that happened to be passing by during the first few minutes saw people running from the festival and heard what sounded like gunfire. "You got reports of anything?" a member of the fire crew, Capt. Ken O'Shaughnessy of Engine 11, asked a dispatcher over the radio. "That's a negative, sir," he was told. Three minutes later, the dispatcher confirmed that there was an active call.

Members of that crew remained nearby, and later assisted injured concertgoers.

"From what it sounds like talking to them, they didn't identify the hot zone because they didn't know where it was," said Mr. Cassell, the fire chief. "They just knew they had dozens and dozens of critical patients."

More than 10 minutes after the shooting began, a battalion chief advised firefighters to "stage at a distance" and put on protective vests and helmets as he tried to understand the situation and make contact with a police lieutenant on the scene. The battalion chief radioed in seven minutes later that there were reports of gunfire at both the concert grounds and the Mandalay Bay across the street. "We can't approach it yet," he said.

The injured were already fleeing and being carried out in several directions. "Those crews making their way to the concert venue were met at every turn by patients in the streets," Mr. Cassell said. The fire department helped establish several assembly points, and ultimately, about 160 firefighters and emergency medical workers from departments in the region went to the scene.

Inside the nearly empty concert grounds after the shooting stopped, some volunteers remained, roaming among the fallen near the stage, checking pulses and finding some of them unconscious but still breathing.



For the full story, see:

Sheri Fink. "'First Medics on Scene in Las Vegas: Other Fans." The New York Times (Monday, Oct. 15, 2017): A1 & A14.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 15, 2017, and has the title "'After the Las Vegas Shooting, Concertgoers Became Medics.")


The passages quoted above, provide one more example of one of the main messages of:

Ripley, Amanda. The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why. New York: Crown Publishers, 2008.







September 23, 2018

Jeff Bezos Prefers 'Entrepreneur Jeff Bezos' over 'Richest Person in the World Jeff Bezos'




(p. B3) Mr. Bezos said his primary job each day as a senior executive is to make a small number of high-quality decisions.


. . .


The insight into Mr. Bezos' philosophy on time management came as the Amazon founder Thursday [September 13, 2018] addressed a crowd of roughly 1,400 at an event held by the Economic Club of Washington, D.C.

He reminisced on the early days of Amazon and the lessons he has learned during decades of rapid change as he went from founding the online bookstore in his garage to overseeing a massive company with several business lines and offices around the world.

That explosive growth helped push Amazon last week to briefly become the second U.S. company to reach a $1 trillion market value, after Apple Inc., and has made Mr. Bezos the richest person in the world.

It is a title Mr. Bezos said he has never sought. "I would much rather if they said like, 'inventor Jeff Bezos' or 'entrepreneur Jeff Bezos' or 'father Jeff Bezos.' Those kinds of things are much more meaningful to me," he told the audience.



For the full story, see:

Laura Stevens. "A Few Life Lessons from Bezos." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018): B3.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 14, 2018, and has the title "Leadership and Life Lessons from Amazon's Jeff Bezos.")






September 22, 2018

Genetics Entrepreneur Compares FDA to DMV




(p. 1) MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- In 2007, Anne Wojcicki, then 33, lassoed the moon.

She was getting her new company, 23andMe, a mail-order genetics testing firm, off the ground with her "Party 'til you spit" celebrity get-togethers.

She married Sergey Brin, the cute co-founder of Google, also 33 and already one of the richest men in America, at a top-secret Esther Williams extravaganza in the Bahamas. The bride in a white bathing suit and the groom in a black one, they swam to a sandbar in the Bahamas and got hitched in the middle of the sparkling aquamarine ocean.

Soon after the marriage, as Mr. Brin accumulated more power, a yacht, and a fleet of jets, Ms. Wojcicki became pregnant with the first of their two children and Google invested millions in her start-up, named after the 23 paired chromosomes that consist of our DNA.

But six years later, the Silicon Valley fairy tale was shattered by two public humiliations: Mr. Brin got involved with a beautiful young Englishwoman named Amanda Ro-(p. 12)senberg, who provided a public face for Google Glass -- an attachment that broke up his marriage. And the Food and Drug Administration shut down the primary function of Ms. Wojcicki's business, calling her D.N.A. spit vial "an unapproved medical device" and imposing stricter rules for consumer genetic testing. Her business, once so ripe with promise to tackle health issues, was curtailed to its ancestry testing division.


. . .


"In some ways, when you have that many bad things happen, it's a sense of disbelief," she says. "This was one of those situations where there's two aspects. A divorce and the F.D.A. There was no workaround in either. So it was one of the first times in my life where you have to accept, you have to actually change. Like, I need to come up with a different way of approaching both of these relationships."


. . .


(p. 13) She's focused for now on her children, her new Bengal cats and her company, which has more than three million customers and its own drug-development program. It started selling kits in CVS and Target, got the F.D.A.'s permission to resume giving consumers health reports on 10 conditions, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and the $99 ancestry kit won a spot as one of "Oprah's favorite things" this year, with Oprah calling it "The Ultimate Selfie." Fast Company portrayed Ms. Wojcicki as the Comeback Kid of tech.

She realized that she had a treasure trove of DNA data and began teaming with Genentech and Procter & Gamble, which started mining it to make breakthroughs in Parkinson's, depression and skin care.

In many ways, her struggle with the F.D.A. was a microcosm of the increasingly tense battle between hidebound regulatory agencies and freewheeling tech companies.

Although some people thought Ms. Wojcicki would have to sell her company, she healed the breach with the F.D.A. the same way she healed the breach with Mr. Brin. She did not huff away and seethe and backbite. She "put one foot ahead of the other," as her mother advises, hired the best regulatory experts and found a respectful new configuration for the relationship.

"We were not communicating in the right way," she says of the period the F.D.A. felt it was being ignored. "We were not showing Silicon Valley arrogance. We just were running around with our shoes on in a Japanese house. We were not a cultural fit and we weren't expressing what we were trying to do in the right way.

"Some companies are trying to circumvent the regulators. We weren't. We just got caught in the cross hairs. We clearly pissed them off. It took us a long time to generate a lot of data to prove that our intentions actually were right. But I feel like we're doing the right thing in terms of proving that the customer is capable of getting this information on their own.

"I see it from the F.D.A. perspective. It's a new product. It's genetics. It's direct to consumer. It caused anxiety. So, you know, the onus was on us."

She had to explain to her team: "Listen, when you go to the D.M.V., you don't argue about the vision test. You don't say, 'Oh, I just had a vision test. I don't need to do the vision test.' Like, you just do it. The F.D.A. is in charge of public safety, and I have a respect for the job that they have to do. And we're just going to do the job that they're asking us to do."



For the full story, see:

Maureen Dowd. "'Adapt and Evolve." The New York Times, SundayStyles Section (Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017): 1 & 12-13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 18, 2017, and has the title "'The Doyenne of DNA Says: Just Chillax With Your Ex.")






September 21, 2018

Long Lines at California DMV's Fumbling Bureacracy




(p. 12) LOS ANGELES -- They were lined up by the dozens clear down the street on a recent afternoon -- hot and frustrated in the sun, trying to attend to the most routine (and unavoidable) encounters with local government: renewing a driver's license.

Inside the Hollywood office of the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the wait was close to two hours. Folding chairs, all filled, were set up three-deep against three walls.

"There's a six-week wait just to get an appointment," said Alfred Kendrick, a fitness trainer from West Hollywood who, like many people here, showed up without one. "Come on. This is 2018. I can order a bowl from China in less time than it takes to get a driver's license in California."

Few states have embraced the idea of an expansive government as fervently as California, with its vast public university system, $100 billion high-speed rail project and even, the other day, the passage of legislation outlawing plastic straws. California's leaders are on the forefront of global efforts to combat climate change and the Democratic challenge to President Trump.

But these days, to the embarrassment of Democrats who control the state government, California is fumbling one of its most basic tasks. Waiting times at motor vehicle offices have increased as much as 46 percent from a year ago, spotlighting a departmental bureaucracy marked by green computer screens and computers that still run on DOS.

California is by no means the only state where motorists have had to endure long lines. Complaints could be heard this summer from Texas to North Carolina to Connecticut. But the breakdown is particularly striking here in a state whose identity is defined in no small part by the automobile and by a sprawling view of government.



For the full story, see:

Adam Nagourney. "'To Get on Road, California Drivers Spend Hours on Sidewalk." The New York Times (Monday, Sept. 10, 2018): A12.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 9, 2018, and has the title "'A Scourge for California Drivers: Hours on a Sidewalk to Renew a License.")






September 20, 2018

"Machines Are Not Capable of Creativity"




(p. A11) New York

"I rarely have an urge to whisper," says George Gilder--loudly--as he settles onto a divan by the window of his Times Square hotel room. I'd asked him to speak as audibly as possible into my recording device, and his response, while literal, could also serve as a metaphor: Nothing Mr. Gilder says or writes is ever delivered at anything less than the fullest philosophical decibel.


. . .


Citing Claude Shannon, the American mathematician acknowledged as the father of information theory, Mr. Gilder says that "information is surprise. Creativity always comes as a surprise to us. If it wasn't surprising, we wouldn't need it." However useful they may be, "machines are not capable of creativity." Human minds can generate counterfactuals, imaginative flights, dreams. By contrast, "a surprise in a machine is a breakdown. You don't want your machines to have surprising outcomes!"

The narrative of human obsolescence, Mr. Gilder says, is giving rise to a belief that the only way forward is to provide redundant citizens with some sort of "guaranteed annual income," which would mean the end of the market economy: . . .


. . .


For all the gloom about Silicon Valley that appears to suffuse his new book, Mr. Gilder insists that he's not a tech-pessimist. "I think technology has fabulous promise," he says, as he describes blockchain and cryptocurrency as "a new technological revolution that is rising up as we speak." He says it has generated "a huge efflorescence of peer-to-peer technology and creativity, and new companies." The decline of initial public offerings in the U.S., he adds, has been "redressed already by the rise of the ICO, the 'initial coin offering,' which has raised some $12 billion for several thousand companies in the last year."

It is clear that Mr. Gilder is smitten with what he calls "this cryptographic revolution," and believes that it will heal some of the damage to humanity that has been inflicted by the "machine obsessed" denizens of Silicon Valley. Blockchain "endows individuals with control of their data, their identity, the truths that they want to assert, their transactions, their visions, their content and their security." Here Mr. Gilder sounds less like a tech guru than a poet, and his words tumble out in a romantic cascade.



For the full interview, see:

Tunku Varadarajan, interviewer. "Sage Against the Machine; A leading Google critic on why he thinks the era of 'big data' is done, why he opposes Trump's talk of regulation, and the promise of blockchain." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date Aug. 31, 2018.)


The "new book" by Gilder, mentioned above, is:

Gilder, George. Life after Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 2018.






September 19, 2018

E-Commerce Creates "More and Better Jobs than It Destroys"




(p. A17) . . . , the men and women who go to work each day in e-commerce fulfillment centers are much better-equipped with information technology--and therefore more productive and better-paid. Our research shows that fulfillment center weekly wages are 31% higher on average than brick-and-mortar retail in the same area.


. . .


But does e-commerce destroy more jobs than it creates? So far the answer seems to be no. From the third quarter of 2015 to the third quarter of 2017, brick-and-mortar retail full-time-equivalent jobs fell by roughly 123,000, or about 1%, according to my think tank's analysis of the latest Labor Department data.

Over the same two-year stretch, the e-commerce industry has added some 178,000 jobs in fulfillment centers and electronic shopping firms. In addition, express delivery companies and other local couriers boosted their full-time-equivalent workers by another 58,000.


. . .


The Internet of Goods--our term for the fast-growing digitization of the production, sorting and movement of physical products--will be the next major step in the internet's evolution.

If e-commerce is any guide, the jobs created for the Internet of Goods will require workers who have a good mix of physical and cognitive skills, just like the industrial jobs of the early-20th century. Moreover, they will be more evenly spread around the country, boosting growth in America's heartland as well as the coasts.



For the full commentary, see:

Michael Mandel. "Get Ready for the Internet of Goods; Already, e-commerce has been creating more and better jobs than it destroys." The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Oct. 15, 2017): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 15, 2017.)






September 18, 2018

Drones Reduce Worker Danger of Many Tasks




(p. B3) Small, swift and agile, drones have all but replaced the more costly and less nimble helicopter for tasks that involve inspections, measurements and marketing images.


. . .


On building sites, drones are saving money and time by providing digital images, maps and other files that can be shared in a matter of minutes, said Mike Winn, the chief executive of DroneDeploy, a company founded five years ago in San Francisco that creates software for, among other uses, operating drones with mobile apps.

Drones are reducing the travel time for busy executives, Mr. Winn said. "The head office can see what's going on, and the safety team, the costing team, the designers -- all of them can contribute to the project, share data and comment on it, without actually going to the job."

They could also improve safety. In the days before drones, Mr. Winn said, measuring the roof of a house for solar panels would require "a guy with a tape measure to climb up there," which often produced inaccurate results and, like anything involving heights, was dangerous.

Such peril is magnified in the construction of skyscrapers, said John Murphy Jr., a contractor on the Paramount Miami Worldcenter, a 58-story condominium tower being built in downtown Miami. Before drones, Mr. Murphy said, workers seeking access to the exterior of a high-rise were "dropped over the side" in so-called swing stages, small platforms that hang from cables. Often used by window cleaners, swing stages are precarious in high winds.

"No one wants to go out there," he said. "It's scary."



For the full story, see:

Nick Madigan. "'It Can Leap Tall Buildings and Save Money and Lives." The New York Times (Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018): B3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 14, 2018, and has the title "'Need a Quick Inspection of a 58-Story Tower? Send a Drone.")






September 17, 2018

N.Y.C. Regulation of Uber and Lyft Hurts Poor Blacks and Hispanics




(p. A1) Jenine James no longer worries about getting stranded when the subways and buses are unreliable -- a constant frustration these days -- or cannot take her to where she needs to go. Her Plan B: Uber.

So Ms. James, 20, a barista in Brooklyn, sees New York's move to restrict ride-hail services as not just a threat to her own convenience and comfort but also to the alternative transportation system that has sprung up to fill in the gaps left by the city's failing subways and buses. She does not even want to think about going back to a time when a train was her only option, as unlikely as that might be.

"It was bad, so imagining going back, it's terrible," she said.

The ride-hail cars that critics say are choking New York City's streets have also brought much-needed relief to far corners of the city where just getting to work is a daily chore requiring long rides and multiple transfers, often squeezed into packed trains and buses. The black cars that crisscross transit deserts in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island have become staples in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods where residents complain that yellow taxis often refuse to pick them up. They come to the rescue in the rain, and during taxi shift changes, when rides are notoriously hard to find even (p. A19) in the heart of Manhattan.

New York became the first major American city on Wednesday [Aug. 8, 2018] to put a halt on issuing new vehicle licenses for Uber, Lyft and other ride-hail services amid growing concerns around the world about the impact they are having on cities.

The legislation calls for a one-year moratorium while the city studies the booming industry and also establishes pay rules for drivers. It was passed overwhelmingly by the City Council and is expected to be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, who attempted to adopt a similar cap in 2015 but abandoned the effort after Uber waged a fierce campaign against him.



For the full story, see:

Winnie Hu and Mariana Alfaro. "'At End of Line, A Cap on Uber Causes Distress." The New York Times (Friday, Aug. 10, 2018): A1 & A19.

(Note: bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 9, 2018, and has the title "'Riders Wonder: With Uber as New York's Plan B, Is There a Plan C?")






September 16, 2018

Alibaba's Jack Ma Retires Early as Chinese Communists Intervene in Ventures




(p. B1) HONG KONG -- Alibaba's co-founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma, said he planned to step down from the Chinese e-commerce giant on Monday to pursue philanthropy in education, a changing of the guard for the $420 billion internet company.

A former English teacher, Mr. Ma started Alibaba in 1999 and built it into one of the world's most consequential e-commerce and digital payments companies, transforming how Chinese people shop and pay for things. That fueled his net worth to more than $40 billion, making him China's richest man. He is revered by many Chinese, some of whom have put his portrait in their homes to worship in the same way that they worship the God of Wealth.

Mr. Ma is retiring as China's business environment has soured, with Beijing and state-owned enterprises increasingly playing more interventionist roles with companies. Under President Xi Jinping, China's internet industry has grown and become more important, prompting the government to tighten its leash. The Chinese economy is also facing slowing growth and increasing debt, and the country is embroiled in an escalating trade war with the United States.

"He's a symbol of the health of China's private sector and how high they can fly whether he likes it or not," Duncan Clark, author of the book "Alibaba: The House Jack Ma Built," said of Mr. Ma. "His retirement will be interpreted as frustration or concern whether he likes it or not."

In an interview, Mr. Ma said his retirement is not the end of an era but "the beginning of an era." He said he would be spending more of his time and fortune focused on education. "I love education," he said.

Mr. Ma will remain on Alibaba's board of directors and continue to mentor the company's management. Mr. Ma turns 54 on Monday, which is also a holiday in China known as Teacher's Day.

The retirement makes Mr. Ma one of the first founders among a generation of prominent Chinese internet entrepreneurs to step down from their companies. Firms including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and JD.com have flourished in recent years, growing to nearly rival American internet behemoths like Amazon and Google in their size, scope and ambition. For Chinese tycoons to step aside in their 50s is rare; they usually remain at the top of their organizations for many years.



For the full story, see:


Li Yuan. "Founder Sees A 'Beginning' As He Retires From Alibaba." The New York Times (Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018): B1 & B3.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 7, 2018, and has the title "Alibaba's Jack Ma, China's Richest Man, to Retire From Company He Co-Founded.")


The book by Duncan Clark, that is mentioned above, is:

Clark, Duncan. Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 2016.






September 15, 2018

Dog Research on Muscular Dystrophy Can Lead to Cures for Both Dogs and Humans




(p. A13) Researchers used a gene-editing tool to repair a gene mutation in dogs with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an important step in efforts to someday use the tool to edit DNA in people with the same fatal disease.

In a study published Thursday [Aug. 30, 2018] in the journal Science, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and the Royal Veterinary College in London reported that they used the Crispr gene-editing system in four dogs to restore production of dystrophin, a protein crucial for healthy muscle function.


. . .


"It's like putting a good spare tire on a car. It's not as good as the original, but it gets you where you want to go," said Eric Olson, director of UT Southwestern's Hamon Center for Regenerative Science and Medicine and senior author of the paper.

Dr. Olson, who is also founder and chief scientific adviser of Exonics Therapeutics Inc., which licensed the technology from UT Southwestern and helped fund the dog studies, said next steps involve testing Crispr in more dogs and observing them for a year or more. If the approach works in the dogs, he said researchers hope to try Crispr in a clinical trial with people with Duchenne.



For the full commentary, see:

Amy Dockser Marcus. "Gene Editing Shows Promise for Muscular Dystrophy." The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Aug. 31, 2018): A13.

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

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Aug. 30, 2018, and has the title "Crispr Used to Repair Gene Mutation in Dogs With Muscular Dystrophy.")


The study in Science, that is mentioned above, is:

Amoasii, Leonela, John C. W. Hildyard, Hui Li, Efrain Sanchez-Ortiz, Alex Mireault, Daniel Caballero, Rachel Harron, Thaleia-Rengina Stathopoulou, Claire Massey, John M. Shelton, Rhonda Bassel-Duby, Richard J. Piercy, and Eric N. Olson. "Gene Editing Restores Dystrophin Expression in a Canine Model of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy." Science (Aug. 30, 2018), DOI: 10.1126/science.aau1549. [Epub ahead of print]






September 14, 2018

Billions of Public Dollars "Siphoned Off" by A.N.C. Leaders in South Africa




(p. A1) VREDE, South Africa -- With loudspeakers blaring, city officials drove across the black township's dirt roads in a pickup truck, summoning residents to the town hall. The main guest was a local figure who had soared up the ranks of the governing African National Congress and come back with an enticing offer.

Over the next few hours, the visiting political boss, Mosebenzi Joseph Zwane, sold them on his latest deal: a government-backed dairy farm that they, as landless black farmers, would control. They would get an ownership stake in the business, just by signing up. They would go to India for training, all expenses paid. To hear him tell it, the dairy would bring jobs to the impoverished, help build a clinic and fix the roads.

"He said he wanted to change our lives," said Ephraim Dhlamini, who, despite suspicions that the offer was too good to be true, signed up to become a "beneficiary" of the project. "This thing is coming from the government, free of charge. You can't say you don't like this thing. You must take it."

But, sure enough, his instincts were right.

The dairy farm turned out to be a classic South African fraud, prosecutors say: Millions of dollars from state coffers, meant to uplift the poor, vanished in a web of bank accounts controlled by politically connected companies and individuals.

The money from an array of state contracts like this one helped pay for a lavish wedding that a top executive at KPMG, the international accounting firm, described as "an event of the millennium," according to leaked emails. And Mr. Zwane, continuing his meteoric rise, soon leaped to the national stage to become South Africa's minister of mineral resources.

Almost nothing trickled down to the township or the scores of would-be beneficiaries after that first meeting in 2012. The only local residents to get a free trip to India were members of a church choir headed by Mr. Zwane.

In the generation since apartheid ended in 1994, tens of billions of dollars in public funds -- intended to develop the economy and improve the lives of black South Africans -- have been siphoned off by leaders of the A.N.C., the very organization that had promised them a new, equal and just nation.



For the full story, see:

NORIMITSU ONISHI and SELAM GEBREKIDAN. "'They Eat Money': How Graft Enriches Mandela's Political Heirs." The New York Times (Monday, APRIL 16, 2018): A1 & A8-A9.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date APRIL 16 [sic], 2018, and has the title "'They Eat Money': How Mandela's Political Heirs Grow Rich Off Corruption.")






September 13, 2018

Affordable Methods for Countering CO2 in Atmosphere




(p. A13) A new study partly funded by Bill Gates has dramatically cut the estimated cost of removing CO2 directly from the air to as little as $100 a ton. According to the study, much of this expense could be recaptured by converting the CO2 into low-carbon motor fuel.

Assume California recovered 80% of its costs. For $500 billion a year, or 20% of state gross domestic product, California could solve the alleged problem for the whole world, reducing global emissions by half and meeting the widely touted goal of holding warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius according to prevailing climate models.

Too speculative? Too expensive? Many classic studies suggest that, at a cost as low as $2 billion a year, any highly motivated actor, even one with pockets less deep than California's, could offset the entire warming effect of excess CO2 by distributing enough high-altitude sulfates or other aerosol particles to limit by 1% the amount of sunlight reaching the planet's surface. Indeed, experts quietly acknowledge that, by reducing such particulates, our clean-air efforts have actually made our climate problem worse.



For the full commentary, see:

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. "If California Was Serious About Climate; Its pockets are deep enough to cool the planet if politicians believe their doom-mongering." The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Sept. 1, 2018): A13.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Aug. 31, 2018.)


The study, partly funded by Bill Gates, that is mentioned above, is:


Keith, David W., Geoffrey Holmes, David St. Angelo, and Kenton Heidel. "A Process for Capturing CO2 from the Atmosphere." Joule 2, no. 8 (Aug. 15, 2018): 1573-94.








September 12, 2018

Cancer Cure Progress Has Been "Painfully Incremental"




(p. A15) Hopes were high in 1971 when President Richard M. Nixon called for a War on Cancer. The disease was as pernicious as it was mysterious, claiming more American lives each year in the 1960s than had perished in combat during all of World War II. Still, it wasn't hard to imagine medical experts coming up with a cure. After all, hadn't the country just put a man on the moon?

Almost 50 years later, the war rages on. Decades of hard work and grand promises have yielded more disappointments than breakthroughs. Reliable treatments remain elusive, and researchers still aren't sure why some people get the disease and others don't, why some die while others survive. In "Cancerland: A Medical Memoir," David Scadden offers a personal account of the inspiring but often exasperating hunt for solutions to the profound problem of cancer.


. . .


. . . moving science forward "to create better clinical approaches," Dr. Scadden writes, "is an almost painfully incremental affair." This puts physicians in the awkward position of having to explain the slow pace of research to dying patients, many of whom hope that a miraculous new drug or therapy awaits them if they can just hold on for another year or two. This is not a crazy idea. Dr. Scadden's own mother, who died of colon cancer in 1985, might have survived if certain studies were completed five years sooner. But most clinical trials come to nothing, particularly in cancer. Many patients are stuck with the same interventions that have been around for decades: surgery, radiation and toxic chemotherapy. The miserable side effects can sometimes make life only marginally better than death.



For the full review, see:

Emily Bobrow. "BOOKSHELF; Reason to Hope." The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 1, 2018, and has the title "BOOKSHELF; 'Cancerland' Review: Reason to Hope.")


The book under review, is:

Scadden, David, and Michael D'Antonio. Cancerland: A Medical Memoir. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2018.






September 11, 2018

Carl Reiner Says Having a Project Motivates Vibrant Longevity




(p. 6B) LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Ask 12-time Emmy Award winner Carl Reiner how it feels to be nominated again, and he fires back a wisecrack.


. . .


Reiner is nominated as host-narrator of "If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast," a documentary about how perennial high achievers, including Mel Brooks and Tony Bennett, both 92, stay vibrant.


. . .


Reiner, the oldest-ever Emmy nominee, is willing to look in the rearview mirror, but only to fuel new work.

"When I finish anything, I have to start a new project or I have no reason to get up. Most people are that way -- if they have something to do, they hang around," said Reiner.



For the full story, see:

LYNN ELBER for the Associated Press. "Comedy Legend Carl Reiner Turns His Emmy Shot into a Punchline." Omaha World-Herald (Monday, Aug. 27, 201): 6B.

(Note: ellipses added.)






September 10, 2018

Self-Driving Cars Would Give Amazing Autonomy to the Blind




Self-driving car YouTube video mentioned in the article quoted below.



(p. 1A) In 2012, Steve Mahan, who is blind, climbed into the driver's seat of a self-driving car and rolled up to the drive-thru of a Taco Bell in a video that's been viewed more than 8 million times online.

The piece, produced by Google, captured the potential of autonomous-car technology to change the lives of the visually impaired.

"It was my first time behind the steering wheel in seven years and was absolutely amazing," Mahan said.

Self-driving-car advocates say that in addition to helping the disabled, the vehicles will allow people to do other tasks while driving and make roadways safer by removing human error.



For the full story, see:

JASON DEAREN for the Associated Press. "Driverless Cars Give Hope to Blind, but Are Automakers Onboard Yet?" Omaha World-Herald (Monday, Apr. 16, 2018): 8A.







September 9, 2018

"I'd Rather Be Optimistic and Wrong than Pessimistic and Right"




(p. A17) There is no question that Tesla's culture is different from that of conventional automakers or even other Silicon Valley companies -- . . . . That is largely by Mr. Musk's design, and certainly reflects his outsize presence. His web appearance late Thursday [Sept. 6, 2018] was the latest evidence.

He was the guest of the comedian Joe Rogan, an advocate for legalizing marijuana, and the repartee included an exchange over what Mr. Musk was smoking.

"Is that a joint, or is it a cigar?" Mr. Musk asked after his host took out a large joint and lit it up.

"It's marijuana inside of tobacco," Mr. Rogan replied, and he asked if Mr. Musk had ever had it.

"Yeah, I think I tried one once," he replied, laughing.

The comedian then asked if smoking on air would cause issues with stockholders, to which Mr. Musk responded, "It's legal, right?" He then proceeded to take a puff. Marijuana is legal for medical and recreational use in California, where the interview was recorded.

After Mr. Musk announced on Aug. 7 that he intended to take Tesla private at $420 a share, there was speculation that the figure was chosen because "420" is a code for marijuana in the drug subculture.

In an interview with The New York Times while the gambit was still in play, Mr. Musk didn't deny a connection. But he did try to clarify his state of mind in hatching the plan -- and the shortcomings of mind-altering.

"It seemed like better karma at $420 than at $419," he said. "But I was not on weed, to be clear. Weed is not helpful for productivity. There's a reason for the word 'stoned.' You just sit there like a stone on weed."


. . .


If he is feeling any insecurity, it was not reflected in his webcast with Mr. Rogan. He appeared at ease, sipping whiskey, and spoke, at one point, about artificial intelligence and how it could not be controlled.

"You kind of have to be optimistic about the future," Mr. Musk said. "There's no point in being pessimistic. I'd rather be optimistic and wrong than pessimistic and right."



For the full story, see:

Neal E. Boudette. "'Tesla Stock Dips As Musk Puffs On ... What?" The New York Times (Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018): A1 & A17.

(Note: ellipses in quotes, and bracketed date, added; ellipsis in title, in original.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 7, 2018, and has the title "'Tesla Shaken by a Departure and What Elon Musk Was Smoking.")






September 8, 2018

Uncredentialed Entrepreneur Innovated to Save Babies




(p. 1A) He showed up in Omaha 120 summers ago, another unknown showman hoping to make a name for himself at this city's biggest-ever event, its world's fair.

He gave his name as Martin Couney, or sometimes Martin Coney. It wasn't, at least not yet.

He said he was a doctor, a European doctor, a protégé of the world's finest doctors. He was none of these things.

And yet in Omaha, Dr. Couney set up shop in a little white building on the east midway, not far from the Wild West Show, the Middle Eastern dancers, the roaming fortune tellers and the Indian Congress starring a Native American chief named Geronimo.

The fair, officially known as the Trans-Mississippi and International (p. 2A) Exposition, showcased all manner of things seen as strange, exotic and otherworldly to the 2 million Nebraskans and visitors paying the 50-cent admission to have their minds blown in the summer of 1898.

Couney thought he had just the thing to blow their minds.

"Infant Incubators with Living Infants" read the sign above the entrance.

"A Wonderful Invention ... Live Babies" said another.


. . .


Usually the experts are right. That's why they are experts," says Dawn Raffel, author of the "The Strange Case of Dr. Couney," a new biography seeking to save this once-famed faux doctor from history's trash bin. "But occasionally you get an outlier like this. Someone who is extraordinarily inventive. Who brings us something incredible."

What Dr. Couney gave us, through decades of work and tireless promotion, was an understanding that we could save babies that since the beginning of time had died before they crawled. We could save them using a piece of equipment designed by a French engineer who realized that if an egg could be nurtured in an incubator, then so could a newborn.


. . .


Newspapers, including The World-Herald, largely ignored the exhibit, Raffel says. The public didn't seem particularly bothered that a "doctor" had decided to house anonymous newborns on the fairgrounds and put them on public display.

They also didn't seem particularly interested, either.


. . .


Raffel estimates that Couney and his doctors and nurses saved between 6,500 and 7,000 premature babies all on their own during decades of midway work. But they saved countless thousands more by raising the profile of premature babies. By raising the hope that they could grow into healthy, happy adults.


. . .


"I find him fascinating because he was such a complicated man," Raffel says. "He deserves more credit."



For the full story, see:

Hansen, Matthew. "Tech Costs Force Honda To Let Go of Engineering Legacy." Omaha World-Herald (Friday, Aug. 3, 2018): 1A-2A.

(Note: ellipses between paragraphs, added; ellipsis internal to sentence, in original.)


The Raffel book on which the passages quoted are partially based, is:

Raffel, Dawn. The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies. New York: Blue Rider Press, 2018.






September 7, 2018

Women, the Elderly, and Poor Blacks Benefit Most from Carrying Guns




(p. A17) A new report from the Crime Prevention Research Center shows that there are now more than 16.3 million concealed handgun permits in the U.S., up 1.83 million since last July. Far more people carry guns today than in 2007, when there were only 4.6 million permits.


. . .


Women are largely fueling the increase. Among the eight states that had data from 2012-16, permits for men grew by 22% and permits for women soared by 93%.


. . .


My research has demonstrated that the two groups that benefit the most from carrying guns are the likeliest victims of crime (poor blacks in high-crime urban areas) and people who are physically weaker (women and the elderly). Dozens of published peer-reviewed studies find similar results.



For the full commentary, see:

John R. Lott Jr. "Women and Minorities Bear Arms." The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, July 20, 2017): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 19, 2017.)






September 6, 2018

Soichiro Honda Rushed Prototype Car "in Defiance of a Planned Japanese Law"




(p. A10) For many Japanese, Honda reflected the originality and self-confidence that turned the country into an industrial powerhouse after World War II.


. . .


The company was founded in 1946 by Soichiro Honda, a tinkerer who loved to battle the giants with his own innovations. He and a dozen workers took engines intended for small electric generators and attached them to bicycles, the first Honda product. Within 15 years, a Honda motorcycle was beating European rivals at the Isle of Man motorcycle race.

Around that time, Mr. Honda rushed out a prototype automobile despite having almost no experience in building them, in defiance of a planned Japanese law that would have restricted entry in the market.



For the full story, see:

Sean McLain. "Tech Costs Force Honda To Let Go of Engineering Legacy." The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Aug. 6, 2018): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 5, 2018, and has the title "Honda Took Pride in Doing Everything Itself. The Cost of Technology Made That Impossible.")






September 5, 2018

Africans Vote with Their Feet for Spanish Tolerance and Prosperity




(p. A1) CEUTA, Spain -- For most migrants from Africa, the last stage of their trip to Europe involves some sort of perilous sea crossing. At the border in Ceuta, there is just a fence.

Ceuta (pronounced say-YOU-tah) is one of the two Spanish communities on the north coast of what otherwise would be Morocco, the only places where Europe has land borders with Africa. The other enclave is Melilla, farther east along the same coast.

Here, all that separates Europe from migrants is a double fence, 20 feet high and topped with barbed wire, stretching the four miles across the peninsula and dividing tiny Ceuta from Morocco -- plus 1,100 Spanish federal police and Guardia Civil officers, a paramilitary police force.

They patrol a crossing point that has come under growing pressure.


. . .


(p. A6) On any given day, young migrant men can be seen prowling on the Moroccan side, looking for an opportunity.

Some swim around the fences where they go down into the sea. Others take short, illicit boat trips to Ceuta from Morocco. But mostly they run and climb the fence, or use bolt-cutters to cut holes in it, and they are quickly spotted by motion detectors and guards in observation towers and usually beaten back by policemen using sticks and fists.

Salif, 20, from Cameroon, said he tried 10 times to cross the fence in the past year, until he finally made it over on his 11th effort.


. . .


Morocco has long demanded custody of Ceuta and Melilla, but Spain has refused, saying they were part of Spain for centuries before Morocco was even a state.

"We are in Europe, not in Africa," said Jacob Hachuel, the spokesman for the city. "But we have a border that has the biggest socio-economic differences between the two sides of any border in the world."

Despite the violence used to prevent efforts to cross the border, once inside Ceuta migrants find an easygoing climate. Some 40 to 50 percent of the 84,000 residents are Muslims of Moroccan origin; most of the rest are Spanish Christians. There are also minorities of Jews and Hindus in the seven-square-mile area.

The Jewish community is the oldest one in Spain, having escaped the 1492 expulsion of Jews from the rest of the country. "It's a mix of cultures, and we are used to having the other in our midst," said Mr. Hachuel, who is Jewish.

Anna Villaban, a government employee, said Ceuta's residents were proud of their city, which recently was host to three festivals, commemorating Ramadan for Muslims, Holi for Hindus and a local saint, San Antonio, for Christians.

"Where else would you see that?" she asked.



For the full story, see:

Rod Nordland. "'All of Africa Is Here': Hopes of Climbing to Spain." The New York Times (Monday, Aug. 20, 2018): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 19, 2018, and has the title "'All of Africa Is Here': Where Europe's Southern Border Is Just a Fence.")






September 4, 2018

Americans Today "Are Far Less Likely" to Trust the Government than 40 Years Ago




(p. A16) . . . Suzanne Mettler, a political scientist at Cornell University [was] perplexed by the trends that Americans have come to dislike government more and more, even as they have increasingly relied on its assistance through programs other than welfare. Americans are far less likely today than 40 years ago to say in surveys that they trust the government to do what is right or to look out for people like them.


. . .


People who strongly dislike welfare were significantly less likely to feel government had provided them with opportunities, or to feel government officials cared what they thought, . . .

"Their attitudes about welfare end up being a microcosm for them of government," Ms. Mettler said. "They look at how they think welfare operates, and if they see that as unfair, they think: 'This is basically what government is. Government does favors for undeserving people, and it doesn't help people like me who are working hard and playing by the rules.' "



For the full commentary, see:

Emily Badger. "The Outsize Hold Of the Word 'Welfare' On the Public's Mind." The New York Times (Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018): A16.

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

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Aug. 6, 2018, and has the title "The Outsize Hold of the Word 'Welfare' on the Public Imagination." The page of my National Edition was A16; the online edition says the page of the New York Edition was A14.)


Mettler's research is more fully described in:

Mettler, Suzanne. The Government-Citizen Disconnect. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2018.






September 3, 2018

Swedish Welfare Paid for by "the Highest Personal Income Tax Rate in the World"




(p. A17) American liberals sometimes hold up Sweden as a model of social order, equality of the sexes, and respect for parental responsibilities. Its welfare state offers excellent free or subsidized prenatal care, 480 days of paid leave for both natural and adoptive parents, and additional leave for moms who work in physically strenuous jobs. Swedish parents have the option to reduce their normal hours (and pay) up to 25% until a child turns 8.

But all this assistance comes at a steep cost. At 61.85%, Sweden has the highest personal income tax rate in the world. That money pays for the kind of support many American women would welcome, but it comes with pressure on women to return to the workforce on the government's schedule, not their own. The Swedish government also supports and subsidizes institutionalized day care (they call it preschool), promoting the belief that professional care-givers are better for children than their own mothers.

If a mother decides she wants to stay at home with her child beyond the state-sanctioned maternity leave, she receives no additional allowance. That creates an extreme financial burden on those families, and the pressure is social as well. A 32-year-old friend told me that she was in the park with her 2-year-old son, when she was surrounded by a group of women who berated her for not having the boy in day care.



For the full commentary, see:

Erica Komisar. "The Human Cost of Sweden's Welfare State; A group of women berated my friend in a public park because her 2-year-old son wasn't in day care." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, July 12, 2018): A17.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 11, 2018.)






September 2, 2018

AMD Chips Leapfrog Intel Chips




(p. B2) A.M.D.'s shares are easily the best performing among the chip makers in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index.

That is quite a reversal.

. . .


For years, A.M.D. produced processors whose main attraction was price. When Lisa Su took over as chief executive of the company in 2014, she sought to change that. But in the semiconductor industry, new products take years to develop, and so the efforts have only recently borne fruit.

The company's Ryzen chips, used in high-performance enterprise and gaming computers, outperform Intel's flagship processors. Many computer makers, including Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Huawei, Lenovo and Samsung, have begun using them in their devices.



For the full story, see:


Jamie Condliffe. "Chip Maker, Once Lagging, Outpaces Its Competitors." The New York Times (Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018): B2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 24, 2018, and has the title "Why A.M.D.'s Stock Is Outperforming Intel's.")






September 1, 2018

Strong Job Market Increases Opportunities for the Uncredentialed




(p. A1) Americans looking to land a first job or break into a dream career face their best odds of success in years.

Employers say they are abandoning preferences for college degrees and specific skill sets to speed up hiring and broaden the pool of job candidates. Many companies added requirements to job postings after the recession, when millions were out of work and human-resources departments were stacked with résumés.

Across incomes and industries, the lower bar to getting hired is helping self-taught programmers attain software engineering roles at Intel Corp. and GitHub Inc., the coding platform, and improving the odds for high-school graduates who aspire to be branch managers at Bank of America Corp. and Terminix pest control.



For the full story, see:


Kelsey Gee. "Help Wanted, Degree Not Needed." The Wall Street Journal (Monday, July 30, 2018): A1 & A6.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 29, 2018, and has the title "Employers Eager to Hire Try a New Policy: 'No Experience Necessary'.")






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