Fewer Jobs Require College Degree Than Prepandemic

(p. A3) The tight labor market is prompting more employers to eliminate one of the biggest requirements for many higher-paying jobs: the need for a college degree.

Companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Delta Air Lines Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. have reduced educational requirements for certain positions and shifted hiring to focus more on skills and experience. Maryland this year cut college-degree requirements for many state jobs—leading to a surge in hiring—and incoming Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro campaigned on a similar initiative.

U.S. job postings requiring at least a bachelor’s degree were 41% in November [2022], down from 46% at the start of 2019 ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to an analysis by the Burning Glass Institute, a think tank that studies the future of work. Degree requirements dropped even more early in the pandemic. They have grown since then but remain below prepandemic levels.

. . .

Lucy Mathis won a scholarship to attend a women in computer science conference. There, she learned about an IT internship at Google and eventually dropped out of her computer science undergraduate program to work at the company full time. The 28-year-old now makes a six-figure sum as a systems specialist.

“I found out I had a knack for IT,” she said. “I’m not good at academics. It’s not for me.”

More than 100,000 people in the U.S. have completed Google’s online college-alternative program that offers training in fast-growing fields such as digital marketing and project management, the company said. It and 150 other companies are now using the program to hire entry-level workers.

For the full story, see:

Austen Hufford. “Employers Rethink Need for a Degree.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Nov. 28, 2022): A3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 26, 2022, and has the title “Employers Rethink Need for College Degrees.” I am grateful to Zhigang Feng for calling my attention to the article quoted above.)

Chinese Communist Party Archives Reveal Contradictions, Confusion, and Corruption in “Reform” Policies

(p. C3) Up until the Covid pandemic, I spent years traversing the country to explore the Chinese Communist Party archives from the reform period. Access was at times surprisingly easy, and my findings were eye-opening.

. . .

The archives suggest that officials were aware of reform’s contradictions from its earliest days. Remnants of the command economy combined with what one economist called “selected, pasteurized, partial, truncated, restricted and disjointed pieces of market and private property policy.” The outcome, said Liu Guoguang, a professor of economics and alternate member of the party’s Central Committee, was “a confused economic system.”

Private ownership of intellectual property had no place in this system, and its theft was actively encouraged throughout the party hierarchy. Two government ministries jointly circulated a directive on counterfeiting in 1983, noting that due to the country’s legal obligations, it was necessary with such goods to “change the name of the product.” As one report noted, “We need a unified approach towards copying” so that “the quality of the copied equipment can be guaranteed.”

The counterfeiting of computer technology assumed particular importance after Zhao Ziyang, the country’s premier from 1980 to 1987, read “The Third Wave,” by the American futurist Alvin Toffler. The book predicted that, in the wake of the agricultural and industrial revolutions, a third revolution would be based on the computer. In October 1983, Zhao proposed skipping the second wave altogether: “Time and tide wait for no one, opportunity knocks but once,” he pronounced. To leap into the digital era, China would need to imitate and reverse engineer foreign products.

But the copying wasn’t limited to computer technology. By 2001, China was awash in fake pharmaceutical products and pirated Hollywood movies on DVD. China’s accession to the WTO that year led to a bonanza of copying, for which few consumers paid more than ordinary Chinese: Electric kettles blew up, brake pads failed. Spices contained paraffin wax, noodles used a red dye that caused cancer, and rice wine was made with cheap industrial-grade alcohol. In 2007, the government estimated that one-fifth of the food and consumer goods it checked were substandard or tainted.

China’s financial system rested on similarly shaky foundations. By the summer of 1988, the pace of growth led to double-digit inflation, and state banks were unable to pay villagers for their contractual deliveries of grain, cotton and other essential products. Protests in 1989, in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere across the country, were as much about economic as political discontent. About a fifth of the files in the party archives deal with debt—lending to solve the debt, further debt due to the lending, more lending to solve an even larger debt.

. . .

The image that emerges from the archives is very different from the impression that many have of today’s China. From a distance, the country’s gleaming cities may resemble an impressively shipshape tanker, with the captain and his lieutenants standing proudly on the bridge, but below deck, sailors are desperately pumping water and plugging holes to keep the vessel afloat.

For the full essay, see:

Frank Dikötter. “China’s Economic Miracle That Wasn’t.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, November 19, 2022): C3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date November 17, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

The essay quoted above is adapted from Dikötter’s book:

Dikötter, Frank. China after Mao: The Rise of a Superpower. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2022.

Chinese Protestors Seek “Freedom” and “Rule of Law”

(p. A1) BEIJING—Protests are erupting in major cities in China over President Xi Jinping’s zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19, an unusual show of defiance in the country as the economic and social costs from snap lockdowns and other strict restrictions escalate.

. . .

(p. A8) The protests followed demonstrations on Friday [Nov. 25, 2022] in Urumqi, capital of the remote region of Xinjiang, where a deadly fire enraged residents who had struggled with lockdowns of more than 100 days. Residents flooded social media with comments suggesting that Covid restrictions contributed to a delay in putting out the fire, in which officials said 10 people died.

In Beijing, hundreds of protesters marched on Sunday night. A large police presence pinned protesters near the Liangmahe river, a popular spot for family picnics by day that is close to many foreign embassies. “Freedom,” the protesters shouted in unison.

. . .

Signs that unrest after the deadly fire in Urumqi was spreading beyond Xinjiang became apparent on Saturday [Nov. 26, 2022], when videos circulating on social media showed crowds gathering on a street in central Shanghai calling for a lifting of lockdowns. The videos were verified by Storyful, a social-media research company owned by News Corp, parent company of The Wall Street Journal.

. . .

One middle-aged Shanghai resident said he stopped by on his way home and joined the crowd in singing “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from the musical “Les Misérables” and the Chinese national anthem. A friend who grew up in Xinjiang began to cry, he said.

“[We in] Shanghai can relate to that, because we had gone through such a long lockdown,” he said, referring to more than two months of iron-fisted Covid controls imposed on the city earlier this year.

The mood intensified. Using expletives and call-and-response chanting, some protesters began to denounce both Mr. Xi and his Covid-control strategy. Another clip from the scene showed demonstrators standing across from lines of police.

The clip showed one man chanting, “The Communist Party.” Others responded, “Step down.”

“Xi Jinping,” the man shouted. “Step down,” others responded.

. . .

On Chinese social-media, users raced against censors to spread images and news of the protests, along with expressions of solidarity. “Long live the people, may the dead rest in peace,” said a message that spread widely. Others posted an image of a blank white sheet of paper—a nod to censorship—with the words “I love you, China. I love you, young people.”

The protests continued Sunday [Nov. 27, 2022], with students gathering around noon on the campus of Tsinghua University, another elite school in Beijing. Some in the crowd carried sheets of paper that were either blank or had an exclamation mark inside a red circle—the symbol that indicates an online post has been deleted—according to witness video footage shared with the Journal. The students sang songs and chanted “Democracy and rule of law!”

For the full story, see:

Lingling Wei, Brian Spegele and Wenxin Fan. “Protests Spread in Challenge To Xi’s Regime.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Nov. 28, 2022): A1 & A8.

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

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 28, 2022, and has the title “Chinese Protests Spread Over Government’s Covid Restrictions.” Where the versions differ, the quotes above follow the more detailed online version.)

To End Inflation, Fed Should Commit “To Good Policy Rules,” and Not Stray to Increase Jobs

(p. A9) Growing up in Glens Falls, N.Y., Edward C. Prescott got an insider’s view of business from chats with his father, an engineer and later comptroller for a global supplier of pigments. Those insights made the economics courses he took in college seem less theoretical and more relevant than they might have seemed to other students.

. . .

With Dr. Kydland, he published an influential 1977 paper called “Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans,” concluding that policy makers could err by straying from long-term goals to address short-run problems. For instance, central bankers might be tempted to ease up on their commitments to contain inflation in the short run as a way to boost employment. If so, the professors argued, people might start assuming that prices were out of control, creating a psychology that led to faster inflation for long periods.

Sticking to a sound policy was far more effective than jolting the economy with frequent adjustments, they argued. “You should not think in terms of controlling the economy,” Dr. Prescott said. “That leads to bad outcomes. You should think in terms of committing to good policy rules.”

. . .

Though revered by many of his students and colleagues, Dr. Prescott sometimes baffled them. The problem, he once explained, was that he thought much faster than he could talk. He sometimes jumped from one topic to another with no transition.

“His brain did not work like other people’s,” said Timothy Kehoe, an economics professor at the University of Minnesota who worked with Dr. Prescott for four decades, “and in some ways that was a tremendous advantage.”

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “Economist’s Policy Advice: Stick to Long-Term Plan.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, November 12, 2022): A9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated Nov. 8, 2022, and has the title “Nobel-Winning Economist Edward C. Prescott Dies at 81.”)

Future Disney Fashion Designer Was “Fascinated” by “Snow White” Movie as a Child

(p. A20) Alice Davis, a Disney Company costume designer who created the outfits worn by the animatronic figures in two of the company’s most enduring and popular rides, It’s a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean, died on Nov. 3 [2022] at her home in Los Angeles.

. . .

Ms. Davis had been designing lingerie and other garments for several years when Walt Disney himself asked her in 1963 if she wanted to work on the costumes for It’s a Small World.

. . .

She had been fascinated with animation since seeing “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” when she was 8 (“I just about vibrated out of my seat,” she said), and she hoped to pursue the form as a career.

. . .

She was steered to costume design, although Ms. Chouinard suggested that she also take an animation drawing class with a new instructor at the school: Marc Davis, who was by then one of a core group of animators Mr. Disney referred to as his “nine old men.”

She graduated in 1950 and married Mr. Davis in 1956; he died in 2000. She leaves no immediate survivors.

Ms. Davis’s other Disney work included establishing costuming and quality-control procedures for the company and creating standards for three-dimensional characters in other rides and shows.

In 2012, Disney recognized Ms. Davis as its most famous costume designer with a tribute that is among the company’s highest honors: a commemorative window installed on a storefront on Disneyland’s Main Street. It sits next to a similar pane honoring her husband.

For the full obituary, see:

Ed Shanahan. “Alice Davis, 93, Who Designed Outfits For Two of Disney’s Most Popular Rides.” The New York Times (Saturday, November 19, 2022): A20.

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

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Nov. 18, 2022, and has the title “Alice Davis, Costume Designer for Disney Rides, Dies at 93.”)

“Advances in Gene Sequencing” Have Not “Unlocked the Key to Cures for Cancer”

(p. 10) In his new book, “The Song of the Cell,” Siddhartha Mukherjee has taken on a subject that is enormous and minuscule at once. Even though cells are typically so tiny that you need a microscope to see them, they also happen to be implicated in almost anything to do with medicine — and therefore almost anything to do with life.

. . .

If Mukherjee were another kind of storyteller — tidier, if less honest — he could have showcased a more linear narrative, emphasizing how developments in cell research have yielded some truly amazing possibilities. He himself has been collaborating on a project to engineer certain cells in the immune system so that they eat tumors without stirring up an indiscriminate inflammatory response.

But as a practicing physician, he has seen too much suffering and death to succumb to an easy triumphalism. He recalls the “exuberance” of the mid-2000s, when spectacular advances in gene sequencing had made it appear as if “we had unlocked the key to cures for cancer.” Such exuberance turned out to be fleeting; the data from clinical trials were “sobering.”

Many medical mysteries remain unsolved. If the book’s protagonist — our understanding of cell biology — seemed to be riding high again on new advances in immunology, such “self-assuredness” was laid low by the Covid-19 pandemic. Mukherjee presents a string of questions that are still unsettled. “The monotony of answers is humbling, maddening,” he writes. “We don’t know. We don’t know. We don’t know.”

For the full review, see:

Jennifer Szalai. “Building Blocks.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, November 13, 2022): 10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review was updated Nov. 2, 2022, and has the title “Siddhartha Mukherjee Finds Medical Mystery — and Metaphor — in the Tiny Cell.”)

The book under review is:

Mukherjee, Siddhartha. The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human. New York: Scribner, 2022.

Toyota Pressured to “Dial Back” Its Defense of Hybrids as a Practical Bridge to EVs

(p. B2) Mr. Toyoda, Toyota’s chief, has been one of the industry’s most prominent voices of caution about EVs. He has questioned whether the vehicles are as environmentally friendly as advertised and expressed doubt that consumers want them.

Toyota has said it believes hybrids can reduce carbon emissions while the battery supply chains and charging networks necessary to support big fleets of EVs are built globally over the coming decades. Hybrid cars—which made up nearly 30% of Toyota and Lexus global shipments for the most recent quarter—are helping the auto maker meet tightening emissions rules in markets like Europe.

Demand for hybrids also helped Toyota reach a record operating profit of ¥3 trillion, equivalent to $21 billion, for the fiscal year ended in March. Its stock price on the Tokyo Stock Exchange has held up reasonably well, down 9% this year, while other auto makers have suffered steeper declines.

Mr. Toyoda has been trying to understand why some investors and environmental groups remain unconvinced about the company’s electrification strategy.

. . .

People at Toyota said company executives have been advised by public-relations specialists and others in the company to dial back negative comments about EVs and instead highlight their benefits as well as Toyota’s extensive investments in the technology.

Sage Advisory Services, an investment management firm in Austin, Texas, that holds Toyota bonds, said it has sensed a shift in rhetoric.

Sage Advisory had approached the car maker last year with concerns about its EV stance, to which Toyota responded with its usual arguments, including about hybrid cars, said Sage Vice President Emma Harper. She said the points made sense to her but were hard for the general public to grasp.

More recently, she said, Toyota has “flipped over and they’ve felt the change in the tide and how consumers and politicians and other stakeholders are feeling about the transition away from fossil-fuel cars.”

For the full story, see:

River Davis. “Toyota Aims to Face Critics of Its EV Policies.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Sept. 26, 2022): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date September 25, 2022, and has the title “Toyota Softens Toward Critics of Its EV Push.” Where the versions differ, the quotes above follow the more detailed online version.)

Forest Service Banned Private Logging to Thin Forests; Then Started an Uncontrolled “Controlled” Fire to Thin Same Forests

(p. A11) SEATTLE — In a high-altitude landscape parched by drought, U.S. Forest Service crews took advantage of some stable weather in eastern Oregon this month and prepared to burn off some thick underbrush and shrubbery at the edge of the Blue Mountains, part of an expanding strategy to remove forest fuel that can turn fires into conflagrations.

The target was a 300-acre tract of woodlands in the Malheur National Forest, adjacent to a private cattle ranch. But the controlled fire that the crew set on the afternoon of Oct. 19 [2022] jumped a containment line and charred through a portion of the nearby ranch. Two sisters from the family-owned Windy Point Cattle Company made their way through the smoke-filled landscape for a furious confrontation with the Forest Service’s “burn boss,” Ricky Snodgrass, and then dialed 911.

What happened next, federal officials say, was highly unusual in the modern history of the Forest Service and its programs for managing federal lands across the country. The Grant County sheriff arrived on scene, placed Mr. Snodgrass in handcuffs and sent him to jail.

. . .

With climate change driving an increase in the size, frequency and ferocity of wildfires, the Forest Service adopted a plan this year to step up those prescribed burns, and also more aggressively thin forest stands with strategic logging programs.

. . .

The Forest Service’s operations in this part of Oregon have long been the subject of contention in Grant County, where the U.S. government manages some 60 percent of the land.

Locals have long stewed over federal land management policies, including logging restrictions that have contributed to declines in timber production and the shuttering of the region’s sawmills.

For the full story, see:

Mike Baker. “A Strategy to Protect Forests Reopens Old Wounds in Oregon.” The New York Times (Saturday, October 29, 2022): A11.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 28, 2022, and has the title “Prescribed Burns Are Encouraged. Why Was a Federal Employee Arrested for One?”)

“If Pro Is the Opposite of Con, Is Progress the Opposite of Congress?”

(p. B12) Gallagher, who became one of the most recognizable comedians of the 1980s for an outrageous act that always concluded with him smashing a watermelon with a sledgehammer, died on Friday [Nov. 11, 2022] at his home in Palm Springs, Calif.

. . .

In 1987, United Press International reported that researchers at Loma Linda University in Southern California studying laughter took blood samples from 10 medical students while they watched Mr. Gallagher in action. Not only did they laugh uproariously; their white blood cells increased. The comedian, the scientists said, appeared to have boosted the subjects’ immune systems.

. . .

Much of Mr. Gallagher’s humor was based on wordplay. (“I don’t know why they say you have a baby. The baby has you.” “If pro is the opposite of con, is progress the opposite of Congress?”) But he also prided himself on being outrageous and even offensive, defying political correctness. (Deaf people, he said, should be required to live near airports.) Many people, especially in his later years, felt his jokes about racial groups, gay people and women crossed a line.

“Look around — see any Mexicans?” he said during one 2010 show. “They’ll be here later for the cleanup.”

In 2011, Mr. Gallagher was a guest on his fellow comedian Marc Maron’s podcast but walked out when Mr. Maron asked him about this and similar jokes. Some critics agreed that his act had gone too far. But he never toned it down.

For the full obituary, see:

Douglas Martin. “Gallagher, 76, Who Smashed Watermelons With a Sledgehammer, Dies.” The New York Times (Saturday, November 12, 2022): B12.

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

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated Nov. 14, 2022, and has the title “Gallagher, Watermelon-Smashing Comedian, Is Dead at 76.”)

The Sassoon Family’s Rags-to-Riches-to-Rags Story

(p. 8) The rise and fall of the Sassoon family, who, at their height, traded in opium, tea, silk and jewels, is charted in delectable detail in “The Sassoons: The Great Global Merchants and the Making of an Empire,” by the historian Joseph Sassoon, a distant relative who seems just as pleased as anyone unrelated might be to uncover the grit and gains of a tribe of fascinating figures.

. . .

Rags-to-riches stories may all be the same, but it’s the way in which a fortune is lost that’s truly compelling. Sassoon’s detailed account of the decentralization of family power and the proliferation of descendants interested in spending but not making money is well paced and supremely satisfying. An observer of the clan notes that “nothing suppresses an appetite for commerce more than a diet of gentlemanly pursuits,” and readers are treated through the second half of the book to a slow-motion sputtering out of David Sassoon’s great machine. You find yourself feeling for them: While masters of the universe inspire little sympathy, knowing from the first page that this empire has crumbled allows you to mourn the sunset of a particular kind of existence, even as a part of you revels in it.

For the full review, see:

Adam Rathe. “BOOKSHELF; Dynasty.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, November 6, 2022): 8.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review was updated Oct. 25, 2022, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; The Rise and Fall of a Great Dynasty.”)

The book under review is:

Sassoon, Joseph. The Sassoons: The Great Global Merchants and the Making of an Empire. New York: Pantheon, 2022.

Environmentalists Throw Mashed Potatoes on Monet Landscape

(p. A7) Two climate activists threw mashed potatoes on a glass-covered painting by the celebrated French Impressionist Claude Monet on Sunday [Oct. 23, 2022] inside a German museum, the latest art attack intended to draw attention to climate change.

Videos show the activists dousing one of the artist’s works, “Grainstacks,” with a thick yellow substance that covered the painting’s warm red hues. The oil on canvas is one of 25 paintings the artist made around 1890 of stacks of hay in the fields near his house in Giverny, France.

The activists, a man and a woman, each glued a hand to the wall by the painting. Then, the woman shouted in German that the world was in “a climate catastrophe, and all you are afraid of is tomato soup or mashed potatoes in a painting,” referring to a similar attack this month in London by activists who threw cans of tomato soup on a painting by Vincent van Gogh.

. . .

Across Europe, climate protesters have sought to capture headlines in recent months by engaging in similar stunts tied to beloved pieces in the art world. In Britain, activists glued themselves to about a half-dozen masterpieces, including a 16th-century copy of “The Last Supper” at the Royal Academy, a major art museum in London. And in Italy, activists glued themselves to a sculpture held in the Vatican and to works in the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence.

For the full story, see:

Eduardo Medina. “Monet Painting Is Splashed In Latest Stunt Over Climate.” The New York Times (Tuesday, October 25, 2022): A7.

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

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 8, 2022, and has the title “Climate Activists Throw Mashed Potatoes on Monet Painting.”)