A Rooftop Farm Is “a Foolish Endeavor” Due to High Costs and Government Regulations

(p. B1) BrightFarms Inc. last year pulled the plug on a planned greenhouse in Washington, D.C., 10 months into the process of getting permits, and earlier exited an effort to develop a rooftop farm in Brooklyn, New York. FarmedHere LLC, which operates a farm in a former box factory outside Chicago, shut down for six months last August to revamp its strategy.
Building farms on city rooftops is “a foolish endeavor” because of the higher costs and the additional time for permitting, said Paul Lightfoot, chief executive of BrightFarms.

For the full story, see:
Ruth Simon. “Farming Startups Have Tough Row to Hoe.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., April 14, 2016): B1 & B6.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 13, 2016, and has the title “Farming Gets High Tech in Bid to Offer Locally Grown Produce.”)

Steady-State Stagnation Is Not an Option

Some environmentalists advocate an end to economic growth. Inside economics, and in the broader world, a heated debate has considered whether an economy can long stagnate in a steady-state. The idea that it can, is captured in the circular flow diagram that has been a fixture of many introductory economics textbooks for many decades. I argue that without the dynamism that is achieved by innovative entrepreneurs, long-term stagnation is not an option. Exogenous events, such as earthquakes, will always come along to disturb the steady-state. And when they do, only entrepreneurs can restore the steady-state. If there are no entrepreneurs, there will be decline. If there are entrepreneurs, they will not stop at the steady-state; they will seek progress. The choice is forward or backward. Long-term steady-state stagnation is not an option.

(p. 10) SANKHU, Nepal — As the anniversary of Nepal’s devastating earthquake came and went last week, Tilakmananda Bajracharya peered up at the mountainside temple his family has tended for 13 generations, wondering how long it would remain upright.

. . .
Many people here pin their hopes on promises of foreign aid: After the disaster, images of collapsed temples and stoic villagers in a sea of rubble were beamed around the world, and donors came forward with pledges of $4.1 billion in foreign grants and soft loans.
But those promises, so far, have not done much to speed the progress of Nepal’s reconstruction effort. Outside Kathmandu, the capital, many towns and villages remain choked with rubble, as if the earthquake had happened yesterday. The government, hampered by red tape and political turmoil, has only begun to approve projects. Nearly all of the pledged funds remain in the hands of the donors, unused.
The delay is misery for the 770,000 households awaiting a promised subsidy to rebuild their homes. Because a yearly stretch of bad weather begins in June, large-scale rebuilding is unlikely to begin before early 2017, consigning families to a second monsoon season and a second winter in leaky shelters made of zinc sheeting.
. . .
. . . , some visitors who came here to assess the reconstruction expressed shock at how little had been done.
. . .
“It has been a horrible year,” said Anju Shrestha, 36, whose shed stands on a site that once held a three-story brick house.
A neighbor, Kanchhi Shrestha, guessed her age at about 75, based on a major earthquake that occurred two years before she was born. She pulled her skirt up to show feet splotchy with raw sores.
“I will die in this shelter if they do not give me money,” she said. “I have nothing to eat.”
However, she added, it would be inappropriate for a person like her to demand assistance from Nepal’s government.
“We cannot scold the government,” she said. “If the government provides, we will fold our hands and tell them, ‘You are God.’ “

For the full story, see:
ELLEN BARRY. “A Year Later, Nepal Is Trapped in the Shambles of a Devastating Quake.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., May 1, 2016): 10.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date APRIL 30, 2016, and has the title “A Year After Earthquake, Nepal’s Recovery Is Just Beginning.”)

Plastic Buttons Replaced Seashell Buttons, but Technology Can Be Restored

In What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly has made the point that most obsolete technologies remain available to satisfy nostalgia, or for more practical uses, if the need arises. Below is another example.

(p. C27) In a tan outbuilding overlooking a pond in northeastern Connecticut, equipment for turning seashells into buttons has lain fallow for nearly eight decades. The building’s owner, Mark Masinda, a retired university administrator, is working to transform the site into a tourist attraction.

In the early 1900s, his grandfather William Masinda, a Czech immigrant, supervised a dozen button makers in the building, which is on a rural road in Willington. They cut, drilled and polished bits of shells imported from Africa and Australia to make “ocean pearl buttons” with two or four holes. The area’s half-dozen button factories supplemented the incomes of families struggling to farm on rocky terrain.
The Masinda operation closed in 1938, as plastic flooded the market. “The equipment he had just couldn’t make the transition,” Mr. Masinda said.
. . .
Mr. Masinda is planning to reactivate the equipment and open the site for tours by . . . spring [2016].

For the full story, see:
EVE M. KAHN. “Antiques; Restoring a Button Factory.” The New York Times (Thurs., DEC. 3, 2015): C27.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 3, 2015, and has the title “Antiques; Yale Buys Collection of Scattered Medieval Pages; Restoring a Button Factory.”)

The Kelly book mentioned above, is:
Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: Viking Adult, 2010.

Technology Can Restore Hand Control to Quadriplegic

(p. A1) Five years ago, a college freshman named Ian Burkhart dived into a wave at a beach off the Outer Banks in North Carolina and, in a freakish accident, broke his neck on the sandy floor, permanently losing the feeling in his hands and legs.
On Wednesday [April 13, 2016], doctors reported that Mr. Burkhart, 24, had regained control over his right hand and fingers, using technology that transmits his thoughts directly to his hand muscles and bypasses his spinal injury. The doctors’ study, published by the journal Nature, is the first account of limb reanimation, as it is known, in a person with quadriplegia.
Doctors implanted a chip in Mr. Burkhart’s brain two years ago. Seated in a lab with the implant connected through a computer to a sleeve on his arm, he was able to learn by repetition and arduous practice to focus his thoughts to make his hand pour from a bottle, and to pick up a straw and stir. He was even able to play a guitar video game.
. . .
“Watching him close his hand for the first time — I mean, it was a surreal moment,” Dr. Rezai said. “We all just looked at each other and thought, ‘O.K., the work is just starting.'”
After a year of training, Mr. Burkhart was able to pick up a bottle and pour the contents into a jar, and to pick up a straw and stir. The doctors, though delighted, said that more advances would be necessary to make the bypass system practical, affordable and less invasive, most likely through wireless technology. But the improvement was significant enough, at least in the lab, that rehabilitation specialists could reclassify Mr. Burkhart’s disability from a severe C5 function to a less severe C7 designation.
For now, the funding for the project, which includes money from Ohio State, Battelle and private donors, is set to run out this year — and with it, Mr. Burkhart’s experience of restored movement.
“That’s going to be difficult, because I’ve enjoyed it so much,” Mr. Burkhart said. “If I could take the thing home, it would give me so much more independence. Now, I’ve got to rely on someone else for so many things, like getting dressed, brushing my teeth — all that. I just want other people to hear about this and know that there’s hope. Something will come around that makes living with this injury better.”

For the full story, see:
BENEDICT CAREY. “Quadriplegic Gets Use of Hand from Chip Placed in His Brain.” The New York Times (Thurs., APRIL 14, 2016): A1 & A16.
(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date APRIL 13, 2016, and has the title “Chip, Implanted in Brain, Helps Paralyzed Man Regain Control of Hand.”)

The scientific article in Nature reporting the advance, is:
Bouton, Chad E., Ammar Shaikhouni, Nicholas V. Annetta, Marcia A. Bockbrader, David A. Friedenberg, Dylan M. Nielson, Gaurav Sharma, Per B. Sederberg, Bradley C. Glenn, W. Jerry Mysiw, Austin G. Morgan, Milind Deogaonkar, and Ali R. Rezai. “Restoring Cortical Control of Functional Movement in a Human with Quadriplegia.” Nature 533, no. 7602 (May 12, 2016): 247-50.

Abstract Art Belongs in “the Trash Heap of Art History”

(p. A20) . . . , Mr. Safer sometimes raised hackles, as when he questioned the basic premise of abstract art in a 1993 report, calling much of it “worthless junk” destined for “the trash heap of art history” and saying it was overvalued by the “hype” of critics, art dealers and auction houses. The art world recoiled, but Mr. Safer, who described himself as a “Sunday painter,” stood his ground.

For the full obituary, see:

ROBERT D. McFADDEN. “Morley Safer, Chronicler of Vietnam and Mainstay of ’60 Minutes,’ Dies at 84.” The New York Times (Fri., May 20, 2016): A20.

(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date May 19, 2016, and has the title “Morley Safer, Mainstay of ’60 Minutes,’ Is Dead at 84.”)

New Fuel Cell Efficiently Both Sequesters Carbon Dioxide and Produces Energy

(p. B1) For years, FuelCell Energy has been considered a company to watch. Its technology promised to help economically reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, which could help combat climate change. The Danbury, Conn., company might be able to make a difference, experts said, if only it had a partner with really deep pockets.
Now it has one.
In an agreement announced on Thursday [May 5, 2016], Exxon Mobil said it had tightened an existing relationship with FuelCell in hopes of taking the technology from the lab to the market.
. . .
The company’s fuel cells are already used to provide clean energy in about 50 locations around the world but without a connection to fossil-fuel power plants, as envisioned in the new agreement.
The fuel cells use a high-temperature molten carbonate salt mixture. Carbon dioxide flows into the fuel cell and emerges in a concentrated form that is ready for storage.
It is this idea of matching up power plants, which produce carbon dioxide, with fuel cells that are hungry for it that led to a collaboration between Exxon Mobil and FuelCell that started more than four years ago.
The result, at least so far in the laboratory, is that the fuel cells effectively isolate and compress the carbon dioxide while producing enough power to more than make up for the energy cost of capturing the carbon.

For the full story, see:
JOHN SCHWARTZ. “Exxon in Deal with Company to Advance Carbon Capture Technology.” The New York Times (Fri., MAY 6, 2016): B2.
(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date MAY 3, 2016, and has the title “Exxon Mobil Backs FuelCell Effort to Advance Carbon Capture Technology.”)

Neurosurgical Establishment Waited Decade to Adopt Jannetta’s Cure

(p. C6) Dr. Peter J. Jannetta, a neurosurgeon who as a medical resident half a century ago developed an innovative procedure to relieve an especially devastating type of facial pain, died on Monday [April 1?, 2016] in Pittsburgh.
. . .
“This was a condition that had been documented for a thousand years: There are references in the ancient literature to what was originally called ‘tic douloureux,’ ” Mark L. Shelton, the author of “Working in a Very Small Place: The Making of a Neurosurgeon,” a 1989 book about Dr. Jannetta, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “People knew of this unexplained, very intense, episodic facial pain but didn’t know the cause of it.”
. . .
In the mid-1960s, Dr. Jannetta made a striking discovery while he was a neurosurgical resident at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dissecting a set of cranial nerves for a class presentation, he noticed something amiss: a tiny blood vessel pressing on the trigeminal nerve.
“It came to him as something of a flash of insight,” Mr. Shelton said. “He saw this blood vessel literally impinging on the nerve so that there was actually a groove in the nerve where the vessel pressed.”
What if, Dr. Jannetta wondered, this were the source of the nerve damage? Though his insight is universally accepted today, it was novel to the point of subversion in the 1960s.
“The idea that a very small blood vessel, the diameter of a mechanical pencil lead, could cause such outsize pain didn’t resonate with people at the time,” Mr. Shelton said.
. . .
If the vessel was a vein, it could simply be cauterized and excised. If it was an artery, however — a more essential structure — it would, Dr. Jannetta realized, have to be gently nudged out of the way.
He created a means of doing so that involved slipping a tiny pad of soft Teflon, about the size of a pencil eraser, between the artery and the nerve.
Dr. Jannetta performed the first microvascular decompression operation in 1966. The patient, a 41-year-old man, was relieved of his pain.
It took about a decade for the procedure to win acceptance from the neurosurgical establishment, owing partly to Dr. Jannetta’s youth and partly to the novelty of his idea.
“He convinced many, many skeptics — and there were a lot of skeptics in the early years — because it seemed so counterintuitive as to what caused neurological disease,” Mr. Shelton said.
. . .
His many laurels include the medal of honor from the World Federation of Neurological Societies; the Olivecrona Award, presented by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden; and the Horatio Alger Award, which honors perseverance in the face of adversity or opposition.

For the full obituary, see:
MARGALIT FOX. “Dr. Peter J. Jannetta, Neurosurgeon and Pioneer on Facial Pain, Dies at 84.” The New York Times (Fri., APRIL 15, 2016): A22.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date APRIL 14, 2016, and has the title “Dr. Peter J. Jannetta, Pioneering Neurosurgeon on Facial Pain, Dies at 84.”)

The book about Jannetta, mentioned above, is:
Shelton, Mark. Working in a Very Small Place: The Making of a Neurosurgeon. New York: Vintage Books, 1990.

Mao’s Cultural Revolution Murdered a Million Chinese

(p. A5) A fur coat that kept a family’s three children warm at night, seized and still in the home of their tormentors. A 5-year-old’s finger, broken while fleeing from the scene of a terrifying beating. A stone memorial in a village to a “good” family that was largely wiped out.
These are some of the things readers recalled when asked how their families were affected by the Cultural Revolution, a decade of political upheaval unleashed by Mao Zedong half a century ago that left a million or more in China dead and many more traumatized. In dozens of responses, the message was clear: People remember. Families talk. The imprint of old fears remains. Those who suffered teach their grandchildren that it is safer to work hard and keep quiet. “The Cultural Revolution is over,” wrote Huang Xin, a reader from Hohhot, Inner Mongolia. “But the Cultural Revolution is never far away.”
Here is a selection of the responses. Some have been condensed and edited for clarity, or translated from Chinese.
. . .
Jonathan Yang, 32, New York
As a first-generation Chinese American, I heard at great length about my mother’s struggles to survive her “bad upbringing” (wealthy) and how her family was decimated when she was 8 years old. Growing up in work camps, her adolescence was robbed and although she was lucky enough to escape China under political asylum under Nixon’s open-door policy, the trauma of the revolution lingers in her to this day.
Her stories captivated me. However, they did not seem real because we were never taught how horrendous China’s history was in school. We were taught relentlessly about atrocities such as slavery and the Holocaust, but somehow China’s dark past never seemed to be part of our education. To say this is a disservice is an understatement. Americans for the most part have no idea how heinous Mao’s regime really was. The sheer numbers as compared to slavery and the Holocaust are at least tenfold. Yet there is no memorial, no education. It is almost as if this history does not matter.

For the full story, see:
“After Half a Century, the Imprint of China’s Cultural Revolution Is Still Deep.” The New York Times (Tues., MAY 17, 2016): A5.
(Note: ellipsis added; bold and italics in original online version.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date MAY 16, 2016, and has the title “Readers Respond: The Cultural Revolution’s Lasting Imprint.” Where there are differences in the versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)