“Pretty Cool” Cochlear Implant: “It Helps Me Hear”

CochlearImplant2013-11-15.jpg “The cochlear implant.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ commentary quoted and cited below.

(p. A15) . . . , three pioneering researchers– Graeme Clark, Ingeborg Hochmair and Blake Wilson –shared the prestigious Lasker-DeBakey Award for Clinical Medical Research for their work in developing the [cochlear] implant. . . . The award citation says the devices have “for the first time, substantially restored a human sense with medical intervention” and directly transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands.
I’ve seen this up close. My 10-year-old son, Alex, is one of the 320,000 people with a cochlear implant.
, , ,
“What’s that thing on your head?” I heard a new friend ask Alex recently.
“It helps me hear,” he replied, then added: “I think it’s pretty cool.”
“If you took it off, would you hear me?” she asked.
“Nope,” he said. “I’m deaf.”
“Cool,” she agreed. Then they talked about something else.
Moments like that make me deeply grateful for the technology that allows Alex to have such a conversation, but also for the hard-won aplomb that lets him do it so matter-of-factly.

For the full commentary, see:
Denworth, Lydia. “OPINION; What Cochlear Implants Did for My Son; Researchers who were just awarded the ‘American Nobel’ have opened up the world of sound to the deaf.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., Sept. 20, 2013): A15.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed word, added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date Sept. 19, 2013.)

Early Carnegie Profits “Were Quickly Reinvested in Other Projects”

(p. 78) The tens of thousands of dollars Carnegie earned in the four years he held the Columbia Oil stock were quickly reinvested in other projects.

Source:
Nasaw, David. Andrew Carnegie. New York: Penguin Press, 2006.
(Note: the pagination of the hardback and paperback editions of Nasaw’s book are the same.)

Unpedigreed, Self-Educated, Obese Knox Understood Artillery

SonsOfTheFatherBK2013-12-29.jpg

Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.

(p. A17) In “Sons of the Father: George Washington and His Protégés,” we can see how Washington’s ideas about character evolved over the course of the war and after. This collection of essays, edited by Robert M.S. McDonald, explores Washington’s relationships with a series of younger men.
. . .
Knox came to Washington’s attention in 1775 for his work on the defenses around Boston. His resourcefulness and keen interest in military science proved invaluable. When Washington allowed Knox to head for Fort Ticonderoga in hopes of retrieving some 50 British cannon captured by Ethan Allen, Knox succeeded against long odds. Over nine harrowing weeks, Mark Thompson writes, Knox and his men hauled 60 tons of artillery 300 miles “through the New York backcountry, along waterways and gullied roads, across ice and snow.” Deployed on Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston, the guns helped persuade the British to abandon the city. But Knox was far more than a herculean teamster. Washington put him in charge of all Continental artillery, and the batteries under his direction loomed large at Trenton, Princeton, Monmouth and Yorktown. After the war, Knox became Washington’s secretary of war.
Washington saw merit in the unprepossessing Knox, as he did in others, despite the lack of a “gentlemanly” pedigree. Forced as a child to support his mother when his father abandoned the family, Knox was a mere bookseller before the war, self-educated and obese. But he understood artillery and could see its role in sieges and in the mobile warfare that would characterize the Revolution. More than that, he could discuss its theory and application with Washington. Jefferson and Madison, in their more playful approach to ideas, complicated matters; Knox clarified them.

For the full review, see:
ALAN PELL CRAWFORD. “Bookshelf; A Few Men of Character.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Dec. 10, 2013): A17.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 9, 2013, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; Book Review: ‘George Washington: Gentleman Warrior,’ by Stephen Brumwell and ‘Sons of the Father,’ edited by Robert M.S. McDonald; By 1775, Washington had strong ideas about how to run an army. Officers, he said, should be men of independent financial means.”)

Book under review:
McDonald, Robert M. S., ed. Sons of the Father: George Washington and His Protégés, Jeffersonian America. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2013.

Buffett’s Returns Not Due to Ability to Pick Good Managers

(p. B7) Investors for years have been searching in vain for a formula to replicate Warren Buffett’s legendary returns over the past 50 years.
The wait could be over.
A new study that claims to have uncovered this formula was published [in November 2013] . . . by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass. Its authors, all of whom have strong academic credentials, work for AQR Capital Management, a firm that manages several hedge funds and other investment offerings and has $90 billion in assets.
The study’s authors analyzed Mr. Buffett’s record since he acquired Berkshire Hathaway in 1964.
. . .
One factor that is conspicuous in its absence from the formula is anything to account for Mr. Buffett’s significant investments in privately owned companies. But that isn’t necessary, according to the researchers, because the public companies in which he has invested have outperformed the private ones.
This is somewhat surprising, given that Mr. Buffett has often trumpeted his abilities to pick good managers. Yet the researchers nevertheless find that his “returns are more due to stock selection than to his effect on management.”

For the full commentary, see:
MARK HULBERT. “Hulbert on Investing; Can the Buffett Investing Formula Really Be Bottled?” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Dec. 14, 2013): B7.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed words, added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 13, 2013, and has the title “WEEKEND INVESTOR; How to Invest Like Warren Buffett; How can investors emulate Warren Buffett’s approach?”)

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) paper that is discussed above:
Frazzini, Andrea, David Kabiller, and Lasse H. Pedersen. “Buffett’s Alpha.” NBER Working Paper # 19681, November 2013.

Ignorance of Economics Makes U.S. Agency Complicit in Elephant Deaths

IvoryCrushedByUS2013-11-27.jpg “Crushed ivory falls out of the crusher as the U.S. crushed its six-ton stock of confiscated ivory at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge . . . .” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

The higher the price of ivory, the greater the incentive for ivory poachers to kill elephants. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could have put their cache of ivory on the market, thereby increasing the supply, and reducing the price. If they had done so, they would have reduced the incentive of the poachers to poach. (This is basic price theory that I teach in each of my micro-economic principles classes.) Instead they crushed the ivory and thereby doomed some elephants to death, who otherwise could have been saved.

(p. A3) COMMERCE CITY, Colo.–The U.S. government spent the past 25 years amassing contraband ivory in a warehouse here, with pieces ranging from tiny statuettes to full elephant tusks tattooed by intricate carvings. Ultimately, the pile grew to six tons–equivalent to ivory from at least 2,000 elephants.

On Thursday, the stash collected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was pulverized by an industrial rock crusher as government officials, conservationists from around the world and celebrities gathered to watch the destruction.
The move, which follows similar events in the Philippines and Gabon in recent years, is part of a global effort to combat elephant poaching, on the rise because of growing demand for ivory trinkets in Asia. Proponents argue that crushing the ivory conveys to illegal traffickers and collectors that it has no value unless it is attached to an elephant.
. . .
But critics of the practice said they worry that destroying the coveted commodity, sometimes referred to as “white gold,” could instead create the perception that the world’s remaining ivory is more valuable–and drive poachers to kill more elephants for their tusks. “This could be self-defeating,” said Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes, an independent conservation economist.
. . .
While praising efforts to preserve elephants, some in conservation circles consider crushing contraband ivory to be an ineffective strategy.
Kirsten Conrad, a wildlife conservation consultant who has studied the Chinese ivory market, said elephants could be better served if sustainably harvested ivory–from elephants that died from natural causes, for example–were regularly offered for sale.
The proceeds would give communities in Africa an incentive to better protect wildlife, and the steady supply would dissuade speculators in China from stockpiling, as she says they are doing now. A kilo of raw ivory can sell for up to $3,000. “We’re losing an elephant every 16 minutes,” she said. “We should look really hard at legal trade.”

For the full story, see:
ANA CAMPOY. “Crushing Illegal Ivory Trade; In Move to Combat Elephant Poaching, U.S. Destroys Six Tons of ‘White Gold’.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., Nov. 15, 2013): A3.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Nov. 14, 2013, and has the title “Crushing Illegal Ivory Trade; In Move to Combat Elephant Poaching, Government Agency Destroys Six Tons of ‘White Gold’.”)

IvoryToBeCrushedInUS2013-11-27.jpg “Ivory on display before the U.S. crushed it in Commerce City, Colo., Thursday. On Thursday the government destroyed nearly six tons of seized contraband ivory tusks and trinkets.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.

The Market Incentive to Conserve

(p. 78) Carnegie, having satisfied himself that there was oil in the ground and a way to ship it to Pittsburgh, agreed to invest in Coleman’s oil company. While other prospectors fantasized only about the liquid gold that lay deep in the ground, Coleman and Carnegie believed that in the not too distant future the wells would run dry. To prepare for that day and turn it to their advantage, Coleman proposed–and Carnegie agreed–to construct a man-made lake, pump the oil from their wells into it, and leave it there until the supply dwindled and prices rose. Coleman and Carnegie waited for the region to run out of oil while their lake leaked thousands of barrels daily. Unable to find any efficient way to store the oil, they had to sell it on the open market.

Source:
Nasaw, David. Andrew Carnegie. New York: Penguin Press, 2006.
(Note: the pagination of the hardback and paperback editions of Nasaw’s book are the same.)

Ending U.S. Sugar Import Quotas Would Create 20,000 U.S. Jobs in Food Manufacturing

CalvoBacciOwnerCandyShop2013-12-j07.jpg “Erin Calvo-Bacci, the owner of a candy shop, the Chocolate Truffle, in Reading, Mass., lamented the cost of American sugar.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A14) READING, Mass. — Inside the Chocolate Truffle candy shop in this Boston suburb are chocolate pizzas, chocolate buffalo wings, even a chocolate wingtip shoe. The owner, Erin Calvo-Bacci, would like to expand her business close to home, but is instead thinking of moving her operations to Canada, where the sugar essential for her products costs far less.

“We are committed to offering locally made affordable products, but the cost of sugar is driving manufacturers out of the country,” Ms. Calvo-Bacci said, echoing other American candy producers, like the maker of Dum Dum lollipops, that are moving jobs to Mexico to take advantage of the lower sugar prices there.
Candy makers say the culprit is the federal sugar program, a combination of import restrictions, production quotas and loan programs dating to the 1930s, all designed to keep the price of American sugar well above that of the world market. Now the program is at the center of an intensifying battle as the House and Senate open formal negotiations this week on a long-delayed farm bill.
The price for one type of sugar, wholesale refined beet sugar, averaged 43.4 cents per pound at Midwest markets last year, the Agriculture Department reported, compared with 26.5 cents per pound for the world refined sugar price.
. . .
. . . sugar producers, bolstered by lawmakers from sugar-beet-producing states like Minnesota and sugarcane states like Florida, have spent an estimated $20 million since 2011 to block efforts to change the program. . . . Small candy makers, bakers and others who have lobbied Congress for lower prices say that taking on the sugar lobby is like taking on Goliath.
“We were no match for the sugar people,” said Judy Hilliard McCarthy, an owner of Hilliard’s House of Candy, a candy maker just outside Boston. Ms. McCarthy said she had made several trips to Washington to lobby on behalf of the industry.
Government and academic studies support claims by candy makers that the sugar program has had an impact on the industry. A widely cited 2006 study by the Commerce Department and a 2011 Iowa State University study found that the price supports had led to job losses among candy makers.
In particular, the Commerce Department study found that three candy-making jobs were lost for each job growing or processing sugar that was saved by higher prices. The Iowa State study found that eliminating price supports and quotas for sugar would create about 20,000 jobs for American food processors, bakeries and candy makers.

For the full story, see:
RON NIXON. “Candy Makers, Pinched by Inflated Sugar Prices in the U.S., Look Abroad.” The New York Times (Thurs., October 31, 2013): A14.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date October 30, 2013, and has the title “American Candy Makers, Pinched by Inflated Sugar Prices, Look Abroad.”)

The latest version of the John Beghin Iowa State report, mentioned above, is:
Beghin, John C., and Amani Elobeid. “The Impact of the U.S. Sugar Program Redux.” Working Paper No. 13010. Iowa State University, Department of Economics, Staff General Research Papers, May 2013.

SugarPouredForConfection2013-12-07.jpg “Sugar was poured to make a confection for Hilliard’s House of Candy, just outside Boston, whose owner has lobbied officials.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.