Trump’s Judges Constrain the Administrative State

(p. A1) WASHINGTON — It has been practically a given that anyone nominated for a federal judgeship by a Republican president had to pass an unspoken litmus test — usually on abortion but often on any number of divisive social issues.
The Trump administration has a new litmus test: reining in what conservatives call “the administrative state.”
With surprising frankness, the White House has laid out a plan to fill the courts with judges devoted to a legal doctrine that challenges the broad power federal agencies have to interpret laws and enforce regulations, often without being subject to judicial oversight. Those not on board with this agenda, the White House has said, are unlikely to be nominated by President Trump.
. . .
(p. A13) That the concept of “the administrative state” has become so central to politics today shows how successful the Trump administration has been in elevating to the mainstream ideas that once thrived mainly on the edges of conservative and libertarian thought.
A year ago it was a term known mostly among academics to describe the vast array of federal departments and the unelected functionaries who run them. It entered the mainstream political lexicon last year after the president’s former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, pledged a “deconstruction of the administrative state” under Mr. Trump.
. . .
But this thinking has been advanced by many libertarian-minded conservatives who have long doubted whether the founders envisioned the creation of many New Deal and Great Society programs and the abundance of regulations that flowed from them.
“A lot of this, if you unpack it, I think it will get back to fundamental fairness,” said Mark Holden, general counsel for Koch Industries, which is led by Charles G. and David H. Koch, two of the biggest financial backers of the effort to elect office holders committed to deregulation and free-market enterprise.
The Trump judicial selection process, Mr. Holden added, was ultimately focused on “the size and scope of government and scaling it back, to the extent that it’s counterproductive and contrary to due process.”

For the full story, see:
Jeremy W. Peters. “New Litmus Test for Trump’s Court Picks: Taming the Bureaucracy.” The New York Times (Wednesday, March 28, 2018): A1 & A13.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 26, 2018, and has the title “Trump’s New Judicial Litmus Test: Shrinking ‘the Administrative State’.”)

“Infatuation with Deep Learning May Well Breed Myopia . . . Overinvestment . . . and Disillusionment”

(p. B1) For the past five years, the hottest thing in artificial intelligence has been a branch known as deep learning. The grandly named statistical technique, put simply, gives computers a way to learn by processing vast amounts of data.
. . .
But now some scientists are asking whether deep learning is really so deep after all.
In recent conversations, online comments and a few lengthy essays, a growing number of A.I. experts are warning that the infatuation with deep learning may well breed myopia and overinvestment now — and disillusionment later.
“There is no real intelligence there,” said Michael I. Jordan, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of an essay published in April intended to temper the lofty expectations surrounding A.I. “And I think that trusting these brute force algorithms too much is a faith misplaced.”
The danger, some experts warn, is (p. B4) that A.I. will run into a technical wall and eventually face a popular backlash — a familiar pattern in artificial intelligence since that term was coined in the 1950s. With deep learning in particular, researchers said, the concerns are being fueled by the technology’s limits.
Deep learning algorithms train on a batch of related data — like pictures of human faces — and are then fed more and more data, which steadily improve the software’s pattern-matching accuracy. Although the technique has spawned successes, the results are largely confined to fields where those huge data sets are available and the tasks are well defined, like labeling images or translating speech to text.
The technology struggles in the more open terrains of intelligence — that is, meaning, reasoning and common-sense knowledge. While deep learning software can instantly identify millions of words, it has no understanding of a concept like “justice,” “democracy” or “meddling.”
Researchers have shown that deep learning can be easily fooled. Scramble a relative handful of pixels, and the technology can mistake a turtle for a rifle or a parking sign for a refrigerator.
In a widely read article published early this year on arXiv.org, a site for scientific papers, Gary Marcus, a professor at New York University, posed the question: “Is deep learning approaching a wall?” He wrote, “As is so often the case, the patterns extracted by deep learning are more superficial than they initially appear.”

For the full story, see:
Steve Lohr. “Researchers Seek Smarter Paths to A.I.” The New York Times (Thursday, June 21, 2018): B1 & B4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 20, 2018, and has the title “Is There a Smarter Path to Artificial Intelligence? Some Experts Hope So.” The June 21st date is the publication date in my copy of the National Edition.)

The essay by Jordan, mentioned above, is:
Jordan, Michael I. “Artificial Intelligence – the Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet.” Medium.com, April 18, 2018.

The manuscript by Marcus, mentioned above, is:

Marcus, Gary. “Deep Learning: A Critical Appraisal.” Jan. 2, 2018.

We Underestimate How Entrepreneurial the Americans Were in the 1800s

(p. C6) Jim DeFelice’s “West Like Lightning,” a history of the Pony Express, begins with an anxious young rider waiting to take the news to California that Abraham Lincoln had been elected president. The delivery service lasted only about 18 months, but its revolutionary speed left an indelible mark on the country. Many, including Mark Twain, marveled at riders’ courage and the spectacle of their switching horses every 10 miles or so for a fresh burst of speed.
. . .
In what way is the book you wrote different from the book you set out to write?
Historians, God bless them, they do a lot of debunking of legends. They can sometimes come off as schoolmarms. The reality is, those legends are fun. They’re the exciting part. I separate fact and fiction, but I love those stories — and underneath them, there’s a much deeper truth. There’s a reason we value these 19- and 20-year-old kids pushing themselves against the elements.
I knew there would be some debunking involved. What I didn’t know was how true a lot of those stories turned out to be. If I were a Pony Express rider, I’d be bragging about how fast I made it. These guys didn’t brag about that — they bragged about how far they went. They were bragging about endurance and dealing with the elements. That impressed me, the resilience.
I also think sometimes we underestimate — and I’m guilty of this — just how entrepreneurial and into technology people were in the past. We think we’re cool because we can fly somewhere and be there tomorrow. But for these guys, 10 days was huge. If you gave them something in downtown New York, it would be in San Francisco two weeks later. At the time, that would be like going from dial-up to the fastest speeds we have today.

For the full interview, see:
John Williams, interviewer, ” Making Good Time and Even Better Tales.” The New York Times (Monday, May 21, 2018): C6.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the interview has the date May 20, 2018, and has the title “Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book: Making Good Time With the Pony Express.” The first paragraph and the bold question are John Williams. The paragraphs following the bold question, are Jim DeFelice’s answer.)

The book discussed in the interview quoted above, is:
DeFelice, Jim. West Like Lightning: The Brief, Legendary Ride of the Pony Express. New York: William Morrow, 2018.

Fewer Summer Jobs Filled by Teenagers

(p. D8) You can still find high school and college students boiling hot dogs and cleaning the fryer at the clam shacks, country clubs and state fairs that spring to life when the weather turns hot. But the food that fuels a summer vacation is now more likely being prepared by temporary workers from other countries or local adults trying to make the gig economy work for them.
. . .
Although youth employment in the United States still spikes in the warmer months, the number of teenagers in the summer labor force fell to 43 percent in 2016, from almost 72 percent at its peak in 1978, according to the most recent figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Pressure has come from several directions. School started stretching into summer. Employment laws became more restrictive. Scooping cones or running a dough-filled Hobart were no longer considered worthy résumé builders.
At the same time, demand for summer workers rose.

For the full story, see:
Kim Severson. “Where Have All the Teenagers Gone?” The New York Times (Wednesday, May 23, 2018): D8.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 22, 2018, and has the title “That Summer Food-Stand Job Is No Longer Just for Teenagers.”)

Firms Transship to Avoid Tariffs

(p. B1) SHANGHAI — Want to avoid American tariffs? In China, a company called Settle Logistics says it knows a way.
Specifically, that way goes through Malaysia — a 4,600-mile diversion compared with sending a shipping container from China straight across the Pacific to the United States. But when those Chinese products arrive at an American port, they will look as if they had come from Malaysia, according to the company, and will be spared tariffs aimed at Chinese goods.
“For those unfair trade barriers targeting our industries from certain countries,” Settle Logistics says on its website, “we can adopt other approaches to bypass those trade tariffs in order to expand markets.”
Such zigzagging routes are called transshipments, and President Trump has used them to justify the trade fight he has picked with a number of countries. They could also take on new relevance should the United States and China carry out their threats to levy a total of more than $200 billion in tariffs against each other.
. . .
(p. B6) Stamping out such transshipments could prove difficult. The United States made a big effort in the late 1990s to address the relabeling in Hong Kong of garments that had been made in mainland China, said Patrick Conway, a textiles trade specialist.
But after American officials gathered enough evidence to put companies on a watch list, the companies quickly disappeared, said Mr. Conway, who is the chairman of the economics department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Some of the same people involved emerged later, but at other companies.
“We can anticipate a game of Whac-a-Mole,” Mr. Conway said.

For the full story, see:
Keith Bradsher. “Dodging Tariffs With a Handy Detour.” The New York Times (Monday, April 23, 2018): B1 & B6.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 22, 2018, and has the title “Tariff Dodgers Stand to Profit Off U.S.-China Trade Dispute.”)

For Homicides, School Is Safer Than Home or Neighborhood

(p. A13) While homicide is among the leading causes of death for young people, school is a relative haven compared with the home or the neighborhood. According to the most recent federal data, between 1992 and 2015, less than 3 percent of homicides of children 5 to 18 years old occurred at school, and less than 1 percent of suicides.
“Especially in the younger grades, school is the safest place they can be,” said Melissa Sickmund, director of the National Center for Juvenile Justice.
. . .
Chris Dorn, a senior analyst at Safe Havens International, said that after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, his organization saw an uptick in demand for its services, completing 1,000 school security assessments in one year. Interest is even greater now. By this fall, Safe Havens expects to have done 1,000 assessments just since the Parkland, Fla., shooting in February.
The group tells schools that the biggest safety risks have not changed, and are less likely to be mass shootings than “petty theft, assault, child abduction due to custody issues or sexual predators,” Mr. Dorn said.

For the full story, see:

Dana Goldstein. “Grim Tally Obscures Statistical Reality: Schools Are ‘Safest Place’ for Children.” The New York Times (Wednesday, May 23, 2018): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 22, 2018, and has the title “Why Campus Shootings Are So Shocking: School Is the ‘Safest Place’ for a Child.”)

Joe Biden Identified Theranos as “the Laboratory of the Future”

(p. C1) Theranos Inc.’s 15-year quest to revolutionize the blood-testing industry met with the latest in a series of crippling blows in March when the Securities and Exchange Commission charged the Silicon Valley diagnostics firm with conducting an “elaborate, years-long fraud.” The SEC accused the firm of deceiving investors into believing that its portable device could perform a broad range of laboratory tests on drops of blood pricked from a finger, when in fact it was doing most of its tests on commercial analyzers made by others.
Much of the attention has focused on Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. But another character played a central role behind the scenes in the alleged fraud: Ms. Holmes’s boyfriend, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, according to more than three dozen former Theranos employees who interacted with Mr. Balwani extensively over a number of years. Mr. Balwani, who met Ms. Holmes when she was a teenager, jointly ran the company with her for seven years as president and chief operating officer and enforced a corporate culture of secrecy and fear until his departure in the spring of 2016, the former employees say.
. . .
(p. C2) By the summer of 2013, the Theranos machine had gone through three iterations. The first, a microfluidic device, had been abandoned in 2007. The second, a converted glue-dispensing robot called the Edison, had been shelved in 2010. The third, which Ms. Holmes had christened the miniLab, was supposed to be the one that finally turned her vision into reality. But while she and Mr. Balwani were telling Theranos’s retail partner, Walgreens, that the miniLab could perform the full range of lab tests on tiny finger-stick samples, the truth was that it remained a work in progress, according to the SEC. The list of its problems was lengthy.
. . .
Though the miniLab remained a malfunctioning prototype, Ms. Holmes was intent on launching Theranos’s fingerstick tests in Walgreens stores by September 2013. So she and Mr. Balwani dusted off the Edison and launched with that, the SEC says. But the Edison could handle just one class of blood tests; to perform the dozens of others they had promised Walgreens their technology could handle, they needed a workaround. The solution was to secretly modify third-party commercial machines to adapt them to small blood samples.
. . .
In July 2015, Ms. Holmes invited Vice President Joe Biden to come visit Theranos’s facility in Newark, Calif. It was an audacious move given that the company’s lab had been operating without a real director since the previous December.
. . .
Ms. Holmes and Mr. Balwani wanted to impress Vice President Biden with a vision of a cutting-edge, automated laboratory. Instead of showing him the actual lab with its commercial analyzers, they created a fake one, according to former employees who worked in Newark. They made the microbiology team vacate a room it occupied, had it repainted, and lined its walls with rows of miniLabs stacked up on metal shelves.
Ms. Holmes took Mr. Biden on a tour of the facility and showed him the fake automated lab. In a discussion with a half-dozen industry executives right afterward, Mr. Biden called what he had just seen “the laboratory of the future.” Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Biden declined to comment.

For the full essay, see:
John Carreyrou, “Partners in Blood.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, May 19, 2018): C1-C2.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the essay has the date May 18, 2018, and has the title “Theranos Inc.’s Partners in Blood.”)

Carreyrou’s essay is derived from his book:
Carreyrou, John. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018.