Without Property Rights “No One Is Safe”

(p. 1) BINDURA, Zimbabwe — Dozens of angry young men jumped off a truck in front of Agrippah Mutambara’s gate, shouting obscenities and threatening to seize his 530-acre farm in the name of Zimbabwe’s president. They tried to scale the fence, scattering only when he raised and cocked his gun.
Zimbabwe made international headlines when it started seizing white-owned farms in 2000. But Mr. Mutambara is not a white farmer. Far from it, he is a hero of this country’s war of liberation who served as Zimbabwe’s ambassador to three nations over two decades.
But when he defected from President Robert Mugabe’s party to join the opposition a few months ago, he immediately put his farm at risk.
“When it was happening to the whites, we thought we were redressing colonial wrongs,” said Mr. Mutambara, 64, who got his farm after it had been seized from a white farmer. “But now we realize it’s also coming back to us. It’s also haunting us.”
. . .
(p. 10) “No one is safe,” said Temba Mliswa, 44, who was the chairman of the party’s chapter in Mashonaland West Province before his expulsion from the party in 2014.
Mr. Mliswa got a 2,000-acre farm belonging to a white Zimbabwean in 2005. When he took possession, Mr. Mliswa said, police officers beat the white farmer and his workers.
But last year, Mr. Mliswa said, hundreds of youths sent by the party invaded the farm again, destroying property and beating his workers. They eventually left, but one of Mr. Mugabe’s ministers recently held a rally in which he threatened to take Mr. Mliswa’s farm unless he stopped criticizing the president’s party.
“They use the land to control you,” Mr. Mliswa said.
. . .
Mr. Mliswa said he had received his farm when his uncle headed the lands ministry. Once considered Mr. Mugabe’s right-hand man, the uncle was also expelled from the governing party in 2014 and now risks losing his farm, too, Mr. Mliswa said.
“There was blood spilt on my farm, there was violence, which I really, really, really, really regret,” he said of the seizure of his farm from its white owner in 2005. “I apologize profusely, but it was because of the system I was involved in. I belonged to a party whose culture is violence.”

For the full story, see:
NORIMITSU ONISHI. “‘No One Is Safe’: Zimbabwe Threatens to Seize Farms of Party Defectors.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., AUG. 28, 2016): 1 & 12.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 24, [sic] 2016, and has the title “‘No One Is Safe’: Zimbabwe Threatens to Seize Farms of Party Defectors.”)

Income Redistribution May Hurt Innovation

(p. A13) Edward Conard is on a dual crusade. First, he is out to prove that technological innovation is the major driver of the creation of wealth. Second, that government programs to redistribute income are at best futile and at worst the enemy of the middle class.
. . .
“The late Steve Jobs,” Mr. Conard writes, “may have made huge profits from his innovations, but his wealth was small in comparison with the value of the iPhone and its imitators to their users.”
. . .
“Redistribution–whether achieved through taxation, regulatory restrictions, or social norms–appears,” he asserts, “to have large detrimental effects on risk-taking, innovation, productivity, and growth over the long run, especially in an economy where innovation produced by the entrepreneurial risk-taking of properly trained talent increasingly drives growth.”

For the full review, see:
RICHARD EPSTEIN. “BOOKSHELF; The Necessity of the Rich; Steve Jobs may have earned huge profits from his innovations, but they pale in comparison with the value of the iPhone to its users.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Sept. 15, 2016): A13.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Sept. 14, 2016, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; The Necessity of the Rich; Steve Jobs may have earned huge profits from his innovations, but they pale in comparison with the value of the iPhone to its users.”)

The book under review, is:
Conard, Edward. The Upside of Inequality: How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class. New York: Portfolio, 2016.

Low Interest Rates Cannot Substitute for Needed Deeper Reforms

(p. B3) MUMBAI, India — Three years before the 2008 global financial crisis, an Indian economist named Raghuram G. Rajan presciently warned a skeptical audience of top economic thinkers that excessive risk threatened the entire global financial system.
As Mr. Rajan stepped down on Sunday [Sept. 4, 2016] as India’s top central banker, following intense criticism at home, he offered a new warning: Low interest rates globally could distort markets and would be difficult to abandon.
Countries around the world, including the United States and Europe, have kept interest rates low as a way to encourage growth. But countries could become “trapped” by fear that when they eventually raised rates, they “would see growth slow down,” he said.
Low interest rates should not be a substitute for “other instruments of policy” and “various kinds of reforms” that are needed to encourage growth, Mr. Rajan said in a recent interview with The New York Times. “Often when monetary policy is really easy, it becomes the residual policy of choice,” he said, when deeper reforms are needed.
. . .
In discussing the Indian economy in the interview, Mr. Rajan offered a less-than-ringing endorsement of the government’s emphasis on manufacturing in India — what the prime minister has called his Make in India campaign.
Mr. Rajan said he did not support the view of critics that it was too late in world economic history for India to become a manufacturing hub. But he also said that he would not focus exclusively on manufacturing as the solution to joblessness.
If India improves infrastructure and reduces government regulations, manufacturing might take off in a big way, but it “could also be services. It could be value-added agriculture also.”`

For the full story, see:
GEETA ANAND. “A Departing Central Banker’s Warning.” The New York Times (Mon., SEPT. 5, 2016): B3.
(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date SEPT. 4, 2016, and has the title “Raghuram Rajan, India’s Departing Central Banker, Has a New Warning.” The online version is somewhat longer than the print version, and has minor differences in the last three paragraphs quoted above. The last three paragraphs quoted above, are from the online version.)

“I Could Lose My Ability to Control My Business”

(p. B4) Small-business owners say they are shouldering higher costs and scaling back expansion plans because of a revised federal rule that gives employees more leverage in settling workplace grievances.
The new policy, intended to hold businesses accountable for labor-law violations against people whose working conditions they control but don’t claim as employees, was put in place last year through a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board, . . .
. . .
Businesses say they are in a regulatory limbo because the new standard is vague about what constitutes control.
The previous test measured the direct control one business had over working conditions of people employed by another business. Now, even indirect control can count.
So far the impact seems to be largely on the franchisees. A home health-care business in Wisconsin is taking on $10,000 in annual recruiting costs because its franchiser stopped providing assistance to steer clear of regulators, and a small hotelier in Florida is abandoning expansion plans in small markets because one of its franchisers scaled back worker training it provides. A printing business owner in Washington state said he canceled plans to open an eighth store because he doesn’t want to risk the investment until it is clear his franchiser wouldn’t be considered a joint-employer.
“I could lose my ability to control my business,” said Chuck Stempler, an owner of the seven printing stores that operate under the AlphaGraphics brand in Washington and California.
. . .
Employers say the NLRB is confusing control with contractual relationships that help businesses and workers thrive.
“The NLRB is applying a new legal standard that would undermine a successful American business model that has enabled thousands of families to operate their own small businesses and help support millions of American jobs,” McDonald’s said in a statement, referring to the franchising business.

For the full story, see:
MELANIE TROTTMAN. “New Labor Law Curbs Small Firms’ Plans.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Aug. 6, 2016): B4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 5, 2016, and has the title “Some Small-Business Owners Trim Expansion Plans, Cite New Labor Law.”)

Cancer 1.7 Million Years Ago in Human Ancestor

(p. D3) Carcinogens abounded 1.7 million years ago in Early Pleistocene times when a nameless protohuman wandered the South African countryside in what came to be known as the Cradle of Humankind.
Then, as now, ultraviolet radiation poured from the sun, and radon seeped from granite in the ground. Viruses like ones circulating today scrambled DNA. And there were the body’s own carcinogens, hormones that switch on at certain times of life, accelerating the multiplication of cells and increasing the likelihood of mutations.
That, rather than some external poison, was probably the cause of a bone tumor diagnosed as an osteosarcoma found fossilized in Swartkrans Cave, a paleoanthropological trove northwest of Johannesburg. A paper in the current South African Journal of Science describes the discovery, concluding that it is the oldest known case of cancer in an early human ancestor.
. . .
The seemingly small number of malignant tumors reported by anthropologists is probably an illusion. The only cancers that can be found in long-decomposed remains are those that originated in the skeleton or somehow left a mark there. They include cancers that spread from other organs or, like myeloma, could scar the skeleton in other ways. For most ancient cancers, the evidence rots away. Mummified bodies are rare, but here, too, an occasional cancer has been found.

For the full story, see:
Johnson, George. “RAW DATA; After 1.7 Million Years, a Bone Cancer Diagnosis.” The New York Times (Tues., AUG. 23, 2016): D3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date AUG. 22, 2016, and has the title “RAW DATA; The Known: Cancer Is Really, Really Old. The Unknown: How Common It Was.”)

The academic article mentioned in the passage quoted above, is:
Edward, J. Odes, S. Randolph-Quinney Patrick, Steyn Maryna, Throckmorton Zach, S. Smilg Jacqueline, Zipfel Bernhard, Augustine Tanya, Beer Frikkie De, W. Hoffman Jakobus, D. Franklin Ryan, and R. Berger Lee. “Earliest Hominin Cancer: 1.7-Million-Year-Old Osteosarcoma from Swartkrans Cave, South Africa.” South African Journal of Science 112, no. 7/8 (July/Aug. 2016): 1-5.

“Giving Peas a Chance”

(p. C1) Thank heavens Gregor Mendel was a lousy priest. Had he shown even the faintest aptitude for oratory or ministering to the poor, he might never have determined the basic laws of heredity. But bumbling he was, and he made a rotten university student to boot; his failures drove him straight to his room, where he bred mice in secret. The experiment scandalized his superiors.
“A monk coaxing mice to (p. C4) mate to understand heredity was a little too risqué, even for the Augustinians,” writes Siddhartha Mukherjee in “The Gene: An Intimate History.” So Mendel switched — auspiciously, historically — to pea plants. The abbot in charge, writes the author, acquiesced this time, “giving peas a chance.”
Love Dr. Mukherjee, love his puns. They’re everywhere. I warn you now.
. . .
Many of the same qualities that made “The Emperor of All Maladies” so pleasurable are in full bloom in “The Gene.” The book is compassionate, tautly synthesized, packed with unfamiliar details about familiar people.
. . .
But there are also crucial differences. Cancer is the troll that scratches and thumps beneath the floorboards of our consciousness, if it hasn’t already beaten its way into the room. The subject immediately commands our attention; it’s almost impossible to deny, and not to hear, the emotional clang of its appeal. In Dr. Mukherjee’s skilled hands, the story of this frightening disease became a page-turner. He explained its history, politics and cunning biological underpinnings; he traced the evolving and often gruesome logic underlying cancer treatment.
And in the middle of it all, agonizing over treatment protocols and watching his patients struggle with tremendous existential and physical pain, was the author himself.
There are far fewer psychological stakes in reading about the history of genetics. “The Gene” is more pedagogical than dramatic; as often as not, the stars of this story are molecules, not humans.
. . .
But any book about the history of something as elemental and miraculous as the gene is bound, at least indirectly, to tell the story of innovation itself. “The Gene” is filled with scientists who dreamed in breathtakingly lateral leaps.
Erwin Schrödinger in particular was one visionary cat: In 1944, he hazarded a guess about the molecular nature of the gene and decided it had to be a strand of code scribbled along the chromosome — which pretty much sums up the essence of DNA.

For the full review, see:
JENNIFER SENIOR. “Books of The Times; In Molecular Pursuit of the Genetic Code.” The New York Times (Mon., MAY 9, 2016): C1 & C4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date MAY 8, 2016, and has the title “Books of The Times; Review: Siddhartha Mukherjee’s ‘The Gene,’ a Molecular Pursuit of the Self.”)

The book under review, is:
Mukherjee, Siddhartha. The Gene: An Intimate History. New York: Scribner, 2016.

Private Nav Canada More Innovative than Government FAA

(p. D1) Ottawa
Flying over the U.S.-Canadian border is like time travel for pilots. Going north to south, you leave a modern air-traffic control system run by a company and enter one run by the government struggling to catch up.
Airlines, the air-traffic controllers’ union and key congressional leaders all support turning over U.S. air-traffic control services to a newly created nonprofit company and leaving the Federal Aviation Administration as a safety regulator. It’s an idea that still faces strong opposition in Congress, but has gained traction this year.
The model is Nav Canada, the world’s second-largest air-traffic control agency, after the U.S.
. . .
The key, Nav Canada says, is its nongovernmental structure. Technology, critical to efficient airspace use these days, gets developed faster than if a government agency were trying to do it, officials say. Critics say slow technology development has been the FAA’s Achilles’ heel.
“We can fly optimal routes because of the technology they have. It makes a big difference,” American Airlines vice president Lorne Cass says. “These are things customers don’t see except they shave off minutes.”
Mr. Cass, who has worked for several airlines and the FAA, first visited Nav Canada in 2004 to see new technology. “They’ve always been pretty good at continuous modernization,” he says. “They just have more flexibility than the FAA has.”
. . .
(p. D2) In government, you often need giant programs with huge promises to get funding. But Nav Canada opted for small projects, often with no idea what the outcome should look like. The company hired a corps of techies that the federal agency had never had and involved controllers in development.
“We’re convinced you’re better off doing things incrementally than a big bang approach,” Mr. Koslow says.
Data linkage between cockpits and control centers is one example. Text messages with cockpits have been in use across oceans, in parts of Europe and across all of Canada for several years. Controllers in Montreal who handle planes to and from North America and both Europe and Asia say the texting system virtually eliminates problems of mishearing instructions and readbacks over the radio because of foreign accents.
Another innovation adopted around the world is electronic flight strips–critical information about each flight that gets changed on touch screens and passed from one controller to another electronically. Nav Canada has used them for more than 13 years. Many U.S. air controllers still use paper printouts placed in plastic carriers about the size of a 6-inch ruler that controllers scribble on.
. . .
Jerome Gagnon, a shift manager in Montreal’s control tower, says the electronic system has reduced workload, errors and noise. “We don’t want controllers to just be heads down. There’s a lot of stuff that happens out the window,” he says.
Rarely do controllers have to call each other to coordinate flights anymore, but making changes with the FAA on cross-border flights can’t be done electronically.
As he explains the process in the Montreal tower, other controllers start laughing. One blurts out incredulously: “You still have to call the FAA by phone!””

For the full story, see:
SCOTT MCCARTNEY. “THE MIDDLE SEAT; The Air-Traffic System U.S. Airlines Wish They Had.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., April 28, 2016): D1-D2.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 27, 2016. The online version has a couple of extra sentences that are included in the passages quoted above.)