Animals Can Benefit from Humane Animal Research

(p. A17) Dog owners may soon be able to add years to their pets’ lives, thanks to an experimental antiaging pill. In tests on mice the medication, rapamycin, has been shown to lengthen lifespans up to 60%. Now scientists at the University of Washington’s Dog Aging Project are studying whether it works in canines.
Initial reports indicate the drug improves heart health. Researchers speculate that if larger trials are successful, rapamycin could extend a dog’s life by five years. Animal lovers the world over must be jumping up and down in excitement, right?
Wrong. In fact, many animal-rights groups strongly oppose the studies–as they do almost any studies involving animals.
. . .
If these groups truly advocate for animals, their logic is backward. Nearly 70% of American households have pets. Those animals’ food and vaccines all have been developed through humane research and testing with lab animals.
. . .
Animals are living longer, healthier lives because of these scientists. Discouraging studies condemns animals to unnecessary suffering and death from preventable illnesses. Real animal lovers should be proud to support animal research.

For the full commentary, see:
Matthew R. Bailey. “Love Your Dog, Support Animal Research; Endangered species as well as pets benefit from humane testing.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Sept. 18, 2017): A17.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 17, 2017.)

Rise of Civilization Made Possible by Fish

(p. C7) The subtitle of “Fishing” rather misleads: Mr. Fagan, an archaeological writer and emeritus professor at U.C. Santa Barbara, devotes nearly half this book to the way fishing was practiced for hundreds of thousands of years in subsistence cultures around the world, beginning with pre-Neanderthal hominids trapping catfish in shallow pools or shrinking rivers. He goes on to survey ancient fishing practices in the East and the West, the Old World and the New, and then the rise and fall of civilizations, the ascendancy of commerce, and such contemporary tools as lines 60 miles long bearing 30,000 baited hooks.
Along the way we find that fishing not only sustained ancient empires and modern nations to a degree we may not have grasped before–the pyramids of Giza, Mr. Fagan notes, could not have been built without hundreds of workers processing thousands of Nile fish each day, both fresh and dried, for laborers–but nurtured them as well.
The cooperative nature of fishing, wherever catches were rich and stable, fostered complex and hierarchical communities long before cities arose. The technologies of boat-building and seamanship seeded exploration. Shells, beads and dried or salted fish sustained long-distance trade networks, and even today, Mr. Fagan writes, fish are “the most traded commodity in the world.” And of course preserved fish–nutritious, lightweight, long-lasting–were the primary fuel of merchant fleets, navies and conquering armies.
No coincidence, then, that civilizations flourished along seacoasts or river systems, and yet we conceive of civilization as primarily an agricultural phenomenon, and we celebrate the farmer as its founder and culture hero. By contrast, fishermen, writes Mr. Fagan, “lived at the obscure margins of society, anonymous, hard-working, and laconic, and largely outside the dramas that interest historians.”

For the full review, see:

Richard Adams Carey. “What the Land Owes to the Sea.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Sept. 23, 2017): C7.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Sept. 22, 2017.)

The book under review, is:
Fagan, Brian. Fishing: How the Sea Fed Civilization. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017.

No Increase in Number and Intensity of Hurricanes in Recent Decades

Hurricane researcher Ryan Maue, summarizes his own research:

(p. A19) My own research, cited in a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, found that during the past half-century tropical storms and hurricanes have not shown an upward trend in frequency or accumulated energy. Instead they remain naturally variable from year-to-year. The global prevalence of the most intense storms (Category 4 and 5) has not shown a significant upward trend either. Historical observations of extreme cyclones in the 1980s, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, are in sore need of reanalysis.

By focusing on whether climate change caused a hurricane, journalists fail to appreciate the complexity of extreme weather events. While most details are still hazy with the best climate modeling tools, the bigger issue than global warming is that more people are choosing to live in coastal areas, where hurricanes certainly will be most destructive.

For the full commentary, see:
Ryan Maue. “Climate Change Hype Doesn’t Help; The bigger issue than global warming is that more people are choosing to live in coastal areas.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Sept. 17, 2017): A19.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 18, 2017.)

Maue’s research, that he mentions above, is reported in:

Maue, Ryan N. “Recent Historically Low Global Tropical Cyclone Activity.” Geophysical Research Letters 38, no. 14 (2011): 1-6.

Inventor’s Semiconductor Background Was Source of New, Safer Lithium Battery

(p. B1) SAN FRANCISCO — Mike Zimmerman likes to shock his guests by using a hammer to drive a nail through a solid polymer lithium metal battery.
Nothing happens — and that’s a good thing.
Mr. Zimmerman’s battery is a new spin on lithium-ion batteries, which are widely used in products from smartphones to cars. Today’s lithium-ion batteries, as anyone who has followed Samsung’s recent problems with flammable smartphones may know, can be ticking time bombs. The liquids in them can burst into flames if there is a short circuit of some sort. And driving a nail into one of them is definitely not recommended.
With that in mind, Mr. Zimmerman’s demonstration commands attention.
His Woburn, Mass., start-up, Ionic Materials, is at the cutting edge of an effort to design safer batteries. The company is working on “solid” lithium polymer batteries that greatly reduce their combustible nature.
A solid lithium polymer metal battery — when it arrives commercially — will also allow electronics designers to be more creative, because they will be able to use a plasticlike material (the polymer) that allows smaller and more flexible packaging and requires fewer complex safety mechanisms.
“My dream is to create the holy grail of solid batteries,” Mr. Zimmerman said.
After four years of development, he believes he is nearly there and hopes to begin manufacturing within the next two years. Ionic Materials is one of a new wave of academic and commercial research ef-(p. B4)forts in the United States, Europe and Asia to find safer battery technologies as consumers demand more performance from phones and cars.
. . .
Mr. Zimmerman’s background is in the world of semiconductors; he worked at Bell Labs and then a company called Quantum Leap Packaging. Several university researchers who have worked with the company believe that has lead him to a technology that will be more manufacturable than competing polymer and ceramic battery technologies now being explored.
“What is so intriguing about Mike and his folks is they are using known production techniques borrowed from the semiconductor packaging industry,” said Jay Whitacre, a Carnegie Mellon University physicist who was involved with Ionic Materials when it first started and who now is chief scientist at Aquion Energy, a maker of home storage and industrial batteries based in Mt. Pleasant, Pa.
The new progress has led a number of technologists in the field to believe that batteries may finally be getting out of their rut.
“We’re in a golden age of new chemistry development which probably hasn’t been seen in thirty or 40 years, since the last energy crisis,” said Paul Albertus, a program manager at the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. “It’s a pretty exciting time to be developing energy storage technology.

For the full story, see:
JOHN MARKOFF. “Creating a Safer Phone Battery (This One Won’t Catch Fire).” The New York Times (Mon., DEC. 12, 2016): B1 & B4.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 11, 2016, and has the title “Designing a Safer Battery for Smartphones (That Won’t Catch Fire).”)

Costs Rise in Single-Payer Health Countries

(p. A25) As Democrats and other policy makers debate the merits of Senator Sanders’s proposal, here are a few important observations about international systems that they ought to consider.
First, a vanishingly small number of countries actually have single-payer systems. . . .
. . .
Some of the highest-rated international systems rely on private health insurers for most health care coverage — Germany’s, for example, is something like Obamacare exchanges for everyone, but significantly simpler and truly universal. The Netherlands and Switzerland have both moved recently to add more competition and flexibility to systems that were already built on the use of private insurers.
Second, single-payer countries have also failed to control rising health care costs. This is important, given that Mr. Sanders’s proposal was released without a cost estimate or financing plan. For historical reasons, many other countries started with lower levels of health care spending than we did. Several analyses have shown that this has almost nothing to do with higher administrative costs or corporate profits in the United States and almost everything to do with the higher cost of health care services and the higher salaries of providers here.
Although they started at a lower base — with, for example, doctors and nurses receiving lower salaries — countries around the world have all struggled with rising costs. From 1990 to 2012, the United States’ rate of health care cost growth was below that of many countries, including Japan and Britain. In 2015, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that rising health care costs across all countries were unsustainable.behavior, more hotel rooms are available to individuals and families who need them most.”
Third, it is simply untrue that single-payer systems produce a better quality of care across the board.

For the full commentary, see:
LANHEE J. CHEN and MICAH WEINBERG. “‘Medicare for All’ Is No Miracle Cure.” The New York Times (Tues., Sept. 19, 2017): A25.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the title “The Sanders Single-Payer Plan Is No Miracle Cure.”)

Regulations Reduce Health Care Quality and Increase Health Care Cost

(p. A15) There are two million home health aides in the U.S. They spend more time with the elderly and disabled than anyone else, and their skills are essential to their clients’ quality of life. Yet these aides are poorly trained, and their national median wage is only a smidgen more than $10 an hour.
The reason? State regulations–in particular, Nurse Practice Acts–require registered nurses to perform even routine home-care tasks like administering eyedrops. That duty might not require a nursing degree, but defenders of the current system say aides lack the proper training. “What if they put in the cat’s eyedrops instead?” a health-care consultant asked me. In another conversation, the CEO of a managed-care insurance company wrote off home-care aides as “minimum wage people.”
But aides could do more. With less regulation and better training, they could become as integral to health-care teams as doctors and nurses. That could improve the quality of care while saving buckets of money for everyone involved.
. . .
. . . the potential cost savings are considerable. There are 2.3 million Medicaid patients receiving long-term care at home. Imagine if even half of them replaced one hourlong nurse’s visit a month with a stop by a trained aide. Assuming the nurse makes $35 an hour and the aide $15, that’s an immediate savings of roughly $275 million a year.

For the full commentary, see:
Paul Osterman. “Why Home Care Costs Too Much; Regulations often require that nurses do simple tasks like administer eyedrops.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Sept. 13, 2017): A15.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 12, 2017.)

The commentary, quoted above, is related to the author’s book:
Osterman, Paul. Who Will Care for Us? Long-Term Care and the Long-Term Workforce. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2017.

“We Need an Economy That Is Much More Flexible, Much Faster Moving”

(p. A9) France has stagnated for years under chronically elevated unemployment and slow growth. The country’s strong worker protections and expensive benefits have been blamed by some for being at least partly at the root of the problem.
. . .
Mr. Macron’s chan ges make it easier to hire and fire workers and allow some workplace issues to be negotiated directly at the company level, rather than through industrywide agreements, in hopes of stimulating both growth and job creation. The government focused especially on smaller businesses with fewer than 50 employees — the majority of French businesses — which have complained bitterly about excessive red tape and regulations.
. . .
“We are entering into an economy built on innovation, skills, digitalization,” said Mr. Macron in an interview Thursday with the weekly newsmagazine Le Point.
“To succeed in this world we need an economy that is much more flexible, much faster moving.”
Employees will no longer have jobs that last for a lifetime, but periods of unemployment are more likely to be temporary and go in hand-in-hand with more frequent job changes and retraining, he said.
Among the changes in the decrees published Thursday is license for employers to directly negotiate with their workers over certain workplace issues rather than having to follow industrywide agreements. That will allow a car parts factory in one region to have a different agreement with its workers than a similar company elsewhere.
Small companies especially are being given more leeway to bargain directly with workers or their representatives, without the mediation of unions.

For the full story, see:
ALISSA J. RUBIN. “Economy Idle, France Relaxes Its Labor Law.” The New York Times (Fri., SEPT. 1, 2017): A1 & A9.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 31, 2017, and has the title “France Unveils Contentious Labor Overhaul in Big Test for Macron.”)

Tinkerer Won Nobel for Gene Targeting

(p. B15) Oliver Smithies, a British-born biochemist and inveterate tinkerer who shared a Nobel Prize for discovering a powerful tool for identifying the roles of individual genes in health and disease, died on Tuesday [January 10, 2017] in Chapel Hill, N.C. He was 91.
. . .
Dr. Smithies’s discovery, known as gene targeting, allows scientists to disable individual genes in mice to understand what the genes do. The loss of a gene typically brings about changes in the appearance or the behavior of the mice, providing important clues about the gene’s function.
. . .
In addition to gene targeting, Dr. Smithies invented a method of separating proteins with a jelly made from ordinary potato starch, a major advance that was cheaper, easier and more precise than existing technologies. His invention, called gel electrophoresis, is in wide use today.
Behind Dr. Smithies’s breakthroughs were ingenious homemade contraptions cobbled from everyday objects and junk. He thought of himself as an inventor and toolmaker and acknowledged that he could not pass a rubbish bin without pausing to inspect the contents — a trait he said he shared with his paternal grandfather, who used to pick up nails and straighten them for later use.
His tinkering did not go unnoticed. Colleagues at Oxford University, where Dr. Smithies pursued his graduate studies, set aside their discarded equipment for him, labeling it, “NBGBOKFO,” or “No bloody good but O.K. for Oliver.”
. . .
To Dr. Smithies, the process of invention was straightforward. “You use whatever is lying around, and you see something that needs to be done, and you try to do it,” he said. “I think it is making things work, you know, somehow.”

For the full obituary, see:
DENISE GELLENE. “Oliver Smithies, Tinkerer Who Transformed Genetics and Won a Nobel, Dies at 91.” The New York Times (Thurs., JAN. 12, 2017): B15.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date JAN. 11, 2017.)

Price Gouging Rewards Conservation and Increases Supply

(p. B1) On its face, the very idea of price gouging, especially during a natural disaster, feels outrageous. Indeed, 34 states have anti-gouging laws meant to protect consumers.
However, in a small slice of the world of economists and businesses, there is a fascinating debate about the topic — with many arguing that price gouging is actually a good thing.
. .
(p. B6) “Price caps discourage extraordinary supply efforts that would help bring goods in high demand into the affected area,” Michael Giberson, an instructor with the Center for Energy Commerce in the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University, wrote in an opinion piece from several years ago that was widely circulated around parts of Wall Street this weekend. Meanwhile, he suggested, “You discourage conservation of needed goods at exactly the time they are in high demand.”
He added, “In a classic case of unintended consequences, the law harms the very people whom lawmakers intend to help.”
Consider this scenario, as described by Matt Zwolinski, the director of the Center for Ethics, Economics, and Public Policy at the University of San Diego: If a hotel that normally charges $50 per room were allowed to double the price to $100 a night during an emergency, “a family that might have chosen to rent separate rooms for parents and children at $50 per night will be more likely to rent only one room at the higher price, and a family whose home was damaged but in livable condition might choose to tough it out if the cost of a hotel room is $100 rather than $50.”
The result, he contended in a paper titled “The Ethics of Price Gouging,” is that allowing higher prices “increases the available supply — as a result of consumers’ economizing behavior, more hotel rooms are available to individuals and families who need them most.”

For the full commentary, see:
Sorkin, Andrew Ross. “DEALBOOK; Price Gouging Can Aid Victims? Why Some Economists Say Yes.” The New York Times (Tues., Sept. 12, 2017): B1 & B6.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 11, 2017, and has the title “Hurricane Price Gouging Is Despicable, Right? Not to Some Economists.”)

The article by Zwolinski, mentioned above, is:
Zwolinski, Matt. “The Ethics of Price Gouging.” Business Ethics Quarterly 18, no. 3 (July 2008): 347-78.

“Hurricane Superstar” Had No Use For Global Warming

(p. 24) William M. Gray, whose pioneering research helped him make hurricane predictions for three decades and allowed the East Coast and the Caribbean to gird for their fury, died on Saturday [April 23, 2016] in Fort Collins, Colo. He was 86.
. . .
Dr. Gray issued his first data-driven seasonal forecast in 1984. He eventually aggregated measures of atmospheric conditions, water current and water temperature to predict the number and intensity of tropical storms, rather than their paths or potential landfalls.
. . .
Dr. Gray was skeptical about the causes of climate change, prompting vitriolic exchanges with other scientists. Judith A. Curry, who was chairwoman of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, accused him of “brain fossilization.”
Dr. Gray was less alarmed than many of his colleagues at the rate of climate change and attributed it to natural causes, like the circulation of heat-bearing ocean currents, rather than to the human-made greenhouse effect of heat-trapping gasses from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil.
“After unveiling the first Atlantic seasonal hurricane forecasting system in 1984, he became a hurricane superstar and darling of the media,” Chris Mooney wrote in 2007 in “Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming.” “But he had absolutely no use for the notion of global warming, much less the idea that it might seriously affect the storms he’d spent a lifetime studying. And he had no problem saying so — loudly and often.”
In an interview with Westword, a Denver online newsletter, in 2006, Dr. Gray said, “When I am pushing up daisies, I am very sure that we will find that humans have warmed the globe slightly, but that it’s nothing like what they’re saying.”

For the full obituary, see:
SAM ROBERTS. “William M. Gray, 86, a Predictor of Hurricanes’ Fury.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., APRIL 24, 2016): 24.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date APRIL 20 [sic], 2016, and has the title “William M. Gray, Hurricane Predictor and Climate Change Skeptic, Dies at 86.”)

The book by Mooney, mentioned above, is:
Mooney, Chris. Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming. Orlando, FL: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007.

For Kiva Funding, Entrepreneurs Must First Convince Friends or Family

(p. B6) Lending platform is scrapping its traditional approach to microfinance in the U.S. and instead is turning to something it calls social underwriting.
Before businesses can gain access to a no-interest crowdfunded loan of up to $10,000, Kiva is asking them to get 10 to 20 friends, family members or others to put up at least $25 each.
Kiva, a non-profit organization better known for providing financing in some of the world’s poorest countries, has found that this new approach improves repayment rates and believes it will provide a much-needed boost to its U.S. operation, where growth has been challenging.
. . .
Kiva said about 30% of entrepreneurs who start the private fundraising process can’t get enough people to vouch for them, while 92% of those who overcome that hurdle raise the money they seek. If the program in the U.S. succeeds, Kiva said it may export the private-fundraising model worldwide.

For the full story, see:
Ruth Simon. “Microfinancing Model With a Personal Twist.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Dec. 17, 2015): B6.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 16, 2015, and has the title “Kiva Sets New Rules for U.S. Borrowers to Get Crowdfunded Loans.”)