March 28, 2017

Ukrainian Deal with E.U. Annoyed Russia and Blocked Ukrainian Egg Sales to Europe



(p. B1) SADKI-STROYEVKA, Ukraine -- A cold wind whips through the streets. Vehicles that enter must drive through a foot-deep, moatlike bath of disinfectant, lest their tires track in disease. Computers raise and lower the levels of light to match circadian rhythms.

The scene is one of emptiness. One in four buildings is deserted. Fewer delivery trucks arrive than in years past.

As in much of Ukraine, hard times have befallen the Slovyany farm and its million or so inhabitants -- all of them chickens.

"We could be a player, and not a small one," said a forlorn Oleg Bakhmatyuk, the owner of Avangard, Ukraine's biggest egg producer. "We could be a major supplier."

The plight of his company, and the broader agricultural sector, has come to encapsulate a wider disenchantment in Ukraine with a trade agreement signed two years ago with the European Union. The deal, which went into force in January, included protections for farmers in the European bloc, and, as a result, one of Ukraine's most successful industries has been effectively shut out of the new opportunities.


. . .


(p. B5) The deal itself was not particularly favorable to the agriculture sector, but there were other consequences as well. When the agreement was signed in March 2014, it almost immediately triggered conflict with Russia, Ukraine's powerful neighbor. Moscow annexed Crimea, and Russian-backed separatists took control of parts of eastern Ukraine.

Avangard lost seven farms and 7.5 million chickens. It now keeps just 10.7 million hens, barely a third of its prewar capacity.

In effect, the deal provided a double blow to the agriculture sector: It went far enough to enrage Russia, but stopped short of immediately opening a lucrative new market.



For the full story, see:

ANDREW E. KRAMER. "Stunted Growth; Ukrainian Farmers, Poised to Broaden Their Markets, Stumble Under an E.U. Deal." The New York Times (Sat., DEC. 24, 2016): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 23, 2016, and has the title "Ukrainian Farmers, Poised for Growth, Stumble After E.U. Deal.")






March 27, 2017

Judgment Overrode Algorithm to Save First Moon Landing



(p. 29) On July 20, 1969, moments after mission control in Houston had given the Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle, the O.K. to begin its descent to the moon, a yellow warning light flashed on the cockpit instrument panel.

"Program alarm," the commander, Neil Armstrong, radioed. "It's a 1202."

The alarm appeared to indicate a computer systems overload, raising the specter of a breakdown. With only a few minutes left before touchdown on the moon, Steve Bales, the guidance officer in mission control, had to make a decision: Let the module continue to descend, or abort the mission and send the module rocketing back to the command ship, Columbia.

By intercom, Mr. Bales quickly consulted Jack Garman, a 24-year-old engineer who was overseeing the software support group from a back-room console.

Mr. Garman had painstakingly prepared himself for just this contingency -- the possibility of a false alarm.

"So I said," he remembered, "on this backup room voice loop that no one can hear, 'As long as it doesn't reoccur, it's fine.'"

At 4:18 p.m., with only 30 seconds of fuel remaining for the descent, Mr. Armstrong radioed: "Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed."

Mr. Garman, whose self-assurance and honed judgment effectively saved mankind's first lunar landing, died on Tuesday outside Houston.



For the full obituary, see:

SAM ROBERTS. "Jack Garman, Who Saved Moon Landing, Dies at 72." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., SEPT. 25, 2016): 29.

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date SEPT. 24, 2016, and has the title "Jack Garman, Whose Judgment Call Saved Moon Landing, Dies at 72.")






March 26, 2017

Musk Unveils Bold Private Enterprise Plan to Colonize Mars



(p. B3) Entrepreneur Elon Musk unveiled his contrarian vision for sending humans to Mars in roughly the next decade, and ultimately setting up colonies there, relying on bold moves by private enterprise, instead of more-gradual steps previously proposed by Washington.

Mr. Musk--who in 14 years transformed his closely held rocket company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., into a global presence--envisions hosts of giant, reusable rockets standing more than 300 feet tall eventually launching fleets of carbon-fiber spacecraft into orbit.

The boosters would return to Earth, blast off again into the heavens with "tanker" spaceships capable of refueling the initial vehicles, and then send those serviced spacecraft on their way to the Red Planet. The rockets would be twice as powerful as the Saturn 5 boosters that sent U.S. astronauts to the Moon. Each fully developed spacecraft likely would carry between 100 and 200 passengers, Mr. Musk said.



For the full story, see:

ANDY PASZTOR. "Musk Offers Vision of Mars Flights." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Sept. 28, 2016): B3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 27, 2016, and has the title "Elon Musk Outlines Plans for Missions to Mars.")






March 25, 2017

In 1596 Luis de Carvajal Was Burned at the Stake for "Observing Jewish Practices"



(p. C1) It is perhaps the most significant artifact documenting the arrival of Jews in the New World: a small, tattered 16th-century manuscript written in an almost microscopic hand by Luis de Carvajal the Younger, the man whose life and pain it chronicled.

Until 1932, the 180-page booklet by de Carvajal, a secret Jew who was burned at the stake by the Inquisition in Spain's colony of Mexico, resided in that country's National Archives.


. . .


(p. C6) De Carvajal was a Jew who posed as Catholic in New Spain, now Mexico, during a period when the Inquisition ruthlessly persecuted heretics and false converts with deportation, imprisonment, torture and grisly public executions.


. . .


In 1596, after having been found guilty again of observing Jewish practices, he was burned at the stake. He was 30.



For the full story, see:

JOSEPH BERGER. "A Jewish Treasure in Fine Print." The New York Times (Weds., JAN. 4, 2017): C1 & C6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 1, 2017, and has the title "A Secret Jew, the New World, a Lost Book: Mystery Solved.")


Carvajal's writings were translated into English and published in:

Carvajal, Luis de. The Enlightened; the Writings of Luis De Carvajal, El Mozo. Translated by Seymour B. Liebman. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1967.






March 24, 2017

"You Never Know for Sure Where Good Ideas Will Come From"



(p. B1) The best-performing U.S. stock over the past 30 years isn't a household name like Costco Wholesale Corp. or Johnson & Johnson. It's Balchem, up 107,099% since the end of 1985, according to FactSet Research Systems.

You'd never heard of Balchem? Me either; stocks don't come much more obscure than this. Based in Wawayanda, N.Y. (population 7,266), about 70 miles northwest of New York City, Balchem makes flavorings, fumigating gases and nutritional additives for animal feed. Its total stock market value is about $1.7 billion.

Since the end of 1985, Balchem has gained an average of 26.2% annually, compared with 10.3% for the S&P 500 and 15.7% for Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc.


. . .


(p. B7) But you can learn from Balchem and its peers for free. Over the past 30 years, 44 U.S. stocks generated cumulative total returns of 10,000% or more, according to FactSet. The 10 behind Balchem are Home Depot Inc., Amgen Inc., Nike Inc., UnitedHealth Group Inc., Danaher Corp., Altair Corp., Kansas City Southern, Jack Henry & Associates Inc., Apple Inc. and Altria Group Inc. All grew by at least twice the rate of the S&P 500. Investment manager William Bernstein of Efficient Frontier Advisors in Eastford, Conn., has christened such companies "superstocks."

Perhaps the most notable thing they share, says David Salem, chief investment officer at Windhorse Capital Management in Boston, is that "they have all undergone at least one near-death experience."


. . .


Balchem shows the patience, grit and good luck it takes for a company to turn into a superstock.

The firm began in 1967 as a specialty-chemicals company that made ingredients for hairspray and ink, among other things, says Raymond Reber, who stepped down as chief executive in 1997.

In 1996, Balchem was losing so much on a new technology to coat nutrients that "it was crazy," says Mr. Reber. "We couldn't operate that way." So, he recalls, he told the company's factory workers, "'You have to figure out a way to double our production without raising our costs.' And they did it."

But the transition was rough. Balchem's shares dropped 57% in 13 months between late 1997 and the end of 1998.

Dino Rossi, who was Balchem's chief executive between 1998 and last year, remembers a staff engineer pointing out long ago that its nutritional choline salts might have a nonfood purpose: to help stabilize clay deposits. Years went by before fracking for oil and gas created a bonanza for that use. The end result: tens of millions of dollars in revenue for Balchem.

"You never know for sure where good ideas will come from," says Mr. Rossi, "and it doesn't happen overnight."

It took years for Balchem to perfect microcapsules that could survive the harsh acids of a cow's first stomach and then release nutrients farther along in the animal's digestive system. "You have to be constantly working the technology harder," says Mr. Rossi.



For the full commentary, see:

JASON ZWEIG. "No. 1 Over 30 Years? You Will Never Guess." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Jan 30, 2016): B1 & B7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date Jan 29, 2016, and has the title The Best Stock Over the Last 30 Years? You've Never Heard of It.")






March 23, 2017

"A Corporate Jargon of Uplift That Turns Sensitive Souls Suicidal"



(p. C1) Though Dante cataloged many forms of diabolical torture in his "Inferno," a guided tour of hell, he somehow missed out on what could well be the most excruciating eternal punishment of all. I mean (ominous organ chords, please) the staff meeting that never, ever ends.

You've surely been a part of such sessions. They're those gatherings in which people waste time by talking about how to be more productive, with algebraic visual aids and a corporate jargon of uplift that turns sensitive souls suicidal.



For the full review, see:

BEN BRANTLEY. "A Circle of Hell: The Staff Meeting." The New York Times (Mon., OCT. 10, 2016): C1 & C4.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date OCT. 9, 2016, and has the title "Review: 'Miles for Mary,' a Sendup of the Interminable Meeting From Hell.")






March 22, 2017

Blockchain Is a Process Innovation That Will Make Financial Records More Reliable and Easier to Access



(p. A13) Until the mid-1990s, the internet was little more than an arcane set of technical standards used by academics. Few predicted the profound effect it would have on society. Today, blockchain--the technology behind the digital currency bitcoin--might seem like a trinket for computer geeks. But once widely adopted, it will transform the world.

Blockchain offers a way to track items or transactions using a shared digital "ledger." Blocks of new transactions are added at the end of the chain, and encryption ensures that it remains unbroken--tamper-proof and error-free. This is significantly more efficient than the current methods for logging and sharing such information.

Consider the process of buying a house, a complex transaction involving banks, attorneys, title companies, insurers, regulators, tax agencies and inspectors. They all maintain separate records, and it's costly to verify and record each step. That's why the average closing takes roughly 50 days. Blockchain offers a solution: a trusted, immutable digital ledger, visible to all participants, that shows every element of the transaction.



For the full commentary, see:

GINNI ROMETTY. "How Blockchain Will Change Your Life." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Nov. 8, 2016): A13.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Nov. 7, 2016, and has the title "KEYWORDS; Is Engine of Innovation in Danger of Stalling?")






March 21, 2017

Robert Conquest Documented the Millions Killed by Stalin



(p. A7) Mr. Conquest's master work, "The Great Terror," was the first detailed account of the Stalinist purges from 1937 to 1939. He estimated that under Stalin, 20 million people perished from famines, Soviet labor camps and executions--a toll that eclipsed that of the Holocaust. Writing at the height of the Cold War in 1968, when sources about the Soviet Union were scarce, Mr. Conquest was vilified by leftists who said he exaggerated the number of victims. When the Cold War ended and archives in Moscow were thrown open, his estimates proved high but more accurate than those of his critics.


. . .


Though Mr. Conquest's body count was on the high end of estimates, he remained unwavering at the publication of "The Great Terror: A Reassessment," a 1990 revision of his masterwork. When Mr. Conquest was asked for a new title for the updated book, his friend, the writer Kingsley Amis, proposed, "I Told You So, You F--ing Fools."


. . .


He was also an enthusiastic crafter of limericks, a form in which his irreverence and flair for language flourished. One version of an often-quoted one reads:

There was a great Marxist named Lenin

Who did two or three million men in.

--That's a lot to have done in,

But where he did one in

That grand Marxist Stalin did ten in.



For the full obituary, see:

BRENDA CRONIN and ALAN CULLISON. "Historian Exposed Stalin's Reign of Terror." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Aug. 5, 2015): A7.

(Note: ellipses added; italics in original.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Aug. 4, 2015, and has the title "Robert Conquest, Seminal Historian of Soviet Misrule, Dies at 98.")


The revised edition of Conquest's master work, is:

Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror: A Reassessment. 40th Anniversary ed. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2007.






March 20, 2017

Spreadsheets and Committees Are Enemies of Innovation



(p. B4) "As we became more sophisticated in quantifying things we became less and less willing to take risks," says Horace Dediu, a technology analyst and fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a think tank. "The spreadsheet is the weapon of mass destruction against creative power."

The same could be said of university research, says Dr. Prabhakar. Research priorities are often decided by peer review, that is, a committee.

"It drives research to more incrementalism," she says. "Committees are a great way to reduce risk, but not to take risk."



For the full commentary, see:

CHRISTOPHER MIMS. "KEYWORDS; Engine of Innovation Loses Some Spark." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Nov. 21, 2016): B1 & B4.

(Note: the online version of the article has the date Nov. 20, 2016, and has the title "KEYWORDS; Is Engine of Innovation in Danger of Stalling?")






March 19, 2017

Studying Cancer in Dogs Can Help Humans and Dogs



(p. D4) Dogs are a better natural model for some human diseases than mice or even primates because they live with people, Dr. Karlsson says. "Compared to lab mice, with dogs they're getting diseases within their natural life span, they're exposed to the same pollutants in the environment" as humans, she says.

Previous canine studies conducted by other scientists have shed light on human diseases like osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, as well as the sleep disorder narcolepsy and a neurological condition, epilepsy.

With osteosarcoma, the most common type of bone cancer in children and one that frequently strikes certain dog breeds, researchers have discovered that tumors in dogs and children are virtually indistinguishable. The tumors share similarities in their location, development of chemotherapy-resistant growths and altered functioning of certain proteins, making dogs a good animal model of the disease. Collecting more specimens from dogs could lead to progress in identifying tumor targets and new cancer drugs in dogs as well as in children, some scientists say.



For the full story, see:

SHIRLEY S. WANG. "IN THE LAB; How Dogs' Genes Can Help Humans." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Dec. 3, 2015): D4.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 2, 2015, and has the title "IN THE LAB; Why Dogs Are Some Scientists' New Best Friends.")


A paper showing how cancer research on dogs can help humans, is:

Fenger, Joelle M., Cheryl A. London, and William C. Kisseberth. "Canine Osteosarcoma: A Naturally Occurring Disease to Inform Pediatric Oncology." ILAR Journal 55, no. 1 (2014): 69-85.









Eight Most Recent Comments:



rjs said:

actually, if every adult spent the $10,000 that was given to them, it would add about 13% to GDP (less any inflation adjustment) furthermore, as the US is the creator of its own currency, there would be no need to "pay for" such a citizen bonus...we certainly managed to conjure up trillions of dollars to bail out the banks a few years back without "paying for it"; we could just as easily do the same for this case..



Aaron said:

An appropriately sweet topic this Valentine's day, though this may make you this holiday's Scrooge.



Ed Rector said:

There are more than 2000 colleges in the USA offering tens of thousands of degrees/majors. Oh yes, there are also a few thousand JC's, trade schools and apprentice programs that train welders. Who should decide what any individual student wants to study?? Senator Rubio, the Mercatus Center or the individual student?? And you call yourselves 'freedom-loving Libertarians' !!



Aaron said:

You need a "like" button. Here's to enjoying bacon and eggs on an unusually warm fall day and doing so guilt free.



Aaron said:

I'd also suggest that work is just part of who some people are and a reason they got rich. A friend's dad comes to mind; he's a millionaire and in his 60s and a couple years ago I saw him cleaning one of his rental houses and wondered why he didn't pay someone to do it, but he's just one of those guys who'd rather work than golf or relax.



Jim Rose said:

It is often forgotten that the Minister for International trade and industry in the late 1960s up until 1971 was Tanaka – the most corrupt man in postwar Japanese politics. He had previously been Minister for Public Works, but to generate the necessary bribe income to pay an entire generation of Japanese politicians to step aside to allow him to become Prime Minister in the early 1970s at a young age, he thought the Ministry of International trade and industry was a better position to garner influence and donations. My professors in Japan worked in the Ministry of International trade and industry and the Ministry of Finance in the 1970s and 1960s. None of them seemed to carry over their picking winners skills into their private portfolios when they retired. see http://utopiayouarestandinginit.com/2014/03/14/if-you-are-so-smart-why-arent-you-rich/



Aaron said:

Interested to see how not only did Hamilton gain a vote, but also how Jefferson lost one.



Dave Megan said:

Merging of companies is always better when they have a better goal. It will give better service for the public.





HP3D5006CropSmall.jpg






Archives















The StatCounter number above reports the number of "page loads" since the counter was installed late on 2/26/08. Page loads are defined on the site as "The number of times your page has been visited."


View My Stats