Nebraska Interest Cap Regulation Reduced Consumer Payday Loan Options

(p. A1) Nebraska’s payday lenders have all shut down in the two years since voters capped the interest rate they could charge.

The last handful gave up their delayed-deposit services business licenses in December [2021], according to records kept by the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance.

Just six months earlier, there had been 19 such businesses.

. . .

. . ., Ed D’Alessio, executive director of INFiN, a national trade association representing delayed-deposit businesses, said the closures were predictable, based on the experience of other states that have imposed similar rate caps.

“Nebraska’s 36% rate cap on delayed-deposit loans was never about consumer protection,” he said. “It was about activists’ thinly veiled desire to eliminate a regulated service valued by many.

“But Nebraskans’ need for credit did not go away. Instead, they have been left with fewer options for managing their financial obligations,” D’Alessio said.  . . .

Payday loans, also known as cash advances, check advances or delayed-deposit loans, are a type of short-term, high-cost borrowing that people use to get small amounts of immediate cash.

For the full story, see:

Martha Stoddard. “Payday Lenders Disappear From State After Rate Cap.” Omaha World-Herald (Tuesday, Sept 13, 2022): A1-A2.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Oct. 18, 2023 [sic], and has the title “Payday lenders disappeared from Nebraska after interest rate capped at 36%.”)

Stigler’s Account of Friedman’s “Exhilarating” Conversion of 20 Chicago Economists to Coase’s Theorem

(p. C8) Although he never reached the renown of his lifelong friend Milton Friedman, George Stigler was a founding member of the Chicago school of economics. His charming and readable memoir—really a linked series of vignettes—recounts his time at Chicago, from graduate school to professor.

. . .

Riveting accounts of notable moments in the history of economic thought include the “Coase conversion evening”—a long argument that ended with Friedman convincing 20 economists to embrace a founding theorem of the law and economics movement. “What an exhilarating event,” Stigler recalls. “I lamented afterward that we had not had the clairvoyance to tape it.”

For the full review, see:

Jennifer Burns. “Five Best on Biographies of Economists.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, November 4, 2023): C8.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date November 3, 2023, and has the title “Five Best: Lives of Economists.”)

The book under review is:

Stigler, George J. Memoirs of an Unregulated Economist. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1988.

Cancer “Vaccines Are Probably the Next Big Thing”

(p. A5) “Vaccines are probably the next big thing” in the quest to reduce cancer deaths, said Dr. Steve Lipkin, a medical geneticist at New York’s Weill Cornell Medicine, who is leading one effort funded by the National Cancer Institute. “We’re dedicating our lives to that.”

For the full story, see:

ARLA K. JOHNSON, Associated Press. “Vaccine Against Cancer Could Be Closer Than Ever.” Omaha World-Herald (Sunday, July 9, 2023): A11.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov 2, 2023, and has the title “The next big advance in cancer treatment could be a vaccine.”)

For Quick Spread of EVs, U.S. Regulators Need to Quickly Approve More Domestic Mines for Critical Minerals

(p. A6) For decades, a group of the world’s biggest oil producers has held huge sway over the American economy and the popularity of U.S. presidents through its control of the global oil supply, with decisions by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries determining what U.S. consumers pay at the pump.

As the world shifts to cleaner sources of energy, control over the materials needed to power that transition is still up for grabs.

China currently dominates global processing of the critical minerals that are now in high demand to make batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage. In an attempt to gain more power over that supply chain, U.S. officials have begun negotiating a series of agreements with other countries to expand America’s access to important minerals like lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite.

But it remains unclear which of these partnerships will succeed, or if they will be able to generate anything close to the supply of minerals the United States is projected to need for a wide array of products, including electric cars and batteries for storing solar power.

Leaders of Japan, Europe and other advanced nations, who are meeting in Hiroshima, agree that the world’s reliance on China for more than 80 percent of processing of minerals leaves their nations vulnerable to political pressure from Beijing, which has a history of weaponizing supply chains in times of conflict.

. . .

. . ., some U.S. officials argue that the supply of critical minerals in wealthy countries with high labor and environmental standards will be insufficient to meet demand, . . .

. . .

Jennifer Harris, a former Biden White House official who worked on critical mineral strategy, argued that the country should move more quickly to develop and permit domestic mines, . . .

. . .

“There’s so much that needs doing that this is very much a ‘both/and’ world,” she said. “The challenge is that we need to responsibly pull up a whole lot more rocks out of the ground yesterday.”

For the full story, see:

Ana Swanson. “The U.S. Needs Minerals for Electric Cars. So Does Everyone Else.” The New York Times (Monday, May 22, 2023): A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated May 23, 2023, and has the title “The U.S. Needs Minerals for Electric Cars. Everyone Else Wants Them Too.”)

Biden’s Centrally Planned Cancer “Moonshot” Funds Surgery as Key to a Cure

(p. A5) WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s administration on Thursday [July 27, 2023] announced the first cancer-focused initiative under its advanced health research agency, aiming to help doctors more easily distinguish between cancerous cells and healthy tissue during surgery and improve outcomes for patients.

The administration’s Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, is launching a Precision Surgical Interventions program, seeking ideas from the public and private sectors to explore how to dramatically improve cancer outcomes in the coming decades by developing better surgical interventions to treat the disease.

. . .

The initiative could markedly improve cancer treatments and make scientific breakthroughs that have as yet unknown applications, said Arati Prabhakar, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology.

“What’s true is that many cancer treatments still start with surgery,” she told The Associated Press in an interview. “So being really smart and attacking and developing new technology to make that first step better could really revolutionize how we are able to treat cancer for so many Americans.”

For the full story, see:

ZEKE MILLER Associated Press. “Cancer Research Initiative Part of Biden ‘Moonshot’.” Omaha World-Herald (Friday, July 28, 2023): A5.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 2, 2023, and has the title “Biden announces an advanced cancer research initiative as part of his ‘moonshot’ effort.”)

FTX Fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried Gave “More Than $5 Million” to Biden’s Winning 2020 Presidential Campaign

Bankman-Fried was convicted of fraud on November 2, 2023.

(p. B4) On the same day that Sam Bankman-Fried’s trial on federal fraud charges begins, the best-selling author Michael Lewis is set to publish a widely anticipated book on Tuesday [Oct. 3, 2023] about Mr. Bankman-Fried’s failed cryptocurrency exchange, FTX.

Mr. Lewis, the author of “The Blind Side,” “The Big Short” and “Moneyball,” spent months interviewing Mr. Bankman-Fried and other top FTX executives, and had access to the company’s headquarters in the Bahamas for the book, “Going Infinite.”

The book features previously unreported details about Mr. Bankman-Fried’s empire, from its founding in the Bay Area to its epic collapse in the Bahamas last year. Here are some takeaways.

. . .

Mr. Bankman-Fried started his first company, the hedge fund Alameda Research, alongside Tara Mac Aulay, an Australian mathematician who moved in the same philanthropic circles.  . . .

According to the book, Ms. Mac Aulay grew to consider Mr. Bankman-Fried “dishonest and manipulative,” and other senior figures at Alameda accused him of mismanagement.

. . .

When FTX was thriving, Mr. Bankman-Fried became a prolific political donor, contributing more than $5 million to Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s 2020 presidential election effort.

For the full story, see:

David Yaffe-Bellany. “Takeaways From a New Book on Sam Bankman-Fried.” The New York Times (Tuesday, October 3, 2023): B4.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 2, 2023, and has the same title as the print version. Where the online version has more detailed wording, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

The book reporting new details on the FTX debacle is:

Lewis, Michael. Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2023.

Highly-Taxpayer-Subsidized Lincoln Airline Collapses After Three Months

The “American Rescue Plan Act” was also called the “Covid-19 Stimulus Package” or the “American Rescue Plan.” (To paraphrase Shakespeare on a rose: a “boondoggle” by any other name smells just as foul.)

(p. B2) LINCOLN — Red Way, the startup airline that had been providing service from Lincoln to destinations such as Las Vegas and Orlando, is ceasing operations at the end of the month.

. . .

The Lancaster County Board issued a written statement Wednesday [Aug. 23, 2023], saying it “is deeply disappointed and troubled at this unexpected and sudden turn of events.”

The board said there are “many unanswered questions regarding the Red Way project, (and it) looks forward to receiving a full accounting of this situation as the Lincoln Airport Authority charts a new path forward to serve our community.”

Board member Matt Schulte lamented the $3 million in lost American Rescue Plan Act funds — $1.5 million each from Lancaster County and the City of Lincoln — but called the air travel experiment a chance worth taking.

“I personally voted for this project believing that the air service would develop long term service,” he said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work. I hope this failed experiment does not have a negative impact on the ability to expand service to the city of Lincoln.”

. . .

Airport officials had seemed optimistic about the airline’s prospects, noting that it had sold 10,000 tickets in just its first two weeks of operation.

In fact, Red Way flew just over 13,000 total passengers in June and July.

But cracks had started to show recently.

Red Way announced in July that it was dropping seasonal flights to Atlanta, Austin and Minneapolis in early August, months earlier than planned, because of poor ticket sales. That news came just two days after the airline had announced new flights to Tampa and Phoenix over the winter months.

Nick Cusick, who resigned from the Airport Authority Board in July after serving more than 10 years, confirmed to the Lincoln Journal Star on Wednesday that Red Way had already burned through most of a $3 million incentive fund provided through ARPA dollars.

It used more than $900,000 in the first month and it withdrew even more in the second month, Cusick said.

For the full story, see:

MATT OLBERDING, Lincoln Journal Star. “Red Way Airline Ceasing Operations.” Omaha World-Herald (Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023): B2.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Sept. 30, 2023, and has the title “Lincoln’s Red Way ceasing operations less than 3 months after inaugural flight.”)

Environmentalist President Banned Chemical Fertilizers “to Turn Sri Lanka Into ‘the Organic Garden of the World’”

(p. A6) COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The president was cornered, his back to the sea.

Inside the dimly lit colonial mansion he had found lonely, Gotabaya Rajapaksa watched from a hastily arranged operations room as the monthslong protests demanding his ouster as Sri Lanka’s leader reached his very doorstep.

. . .

Three years after winning the election handsomely, and just two years after his family’s party had secured a whopping two-thirds majority in Parliament, Mr. Rajapaksa had become deeply resented. And the bill for his family’s years of entitlement, corruption and mismanagement, made worse by a global economic order plunged into chaos by Covid and war, had at last come due.

. . .

Even as the economic crisis deepened, the president’s focus was often elsewhere. In April 2021, he suddenly declared a ban on chemical fertilizers. His hope, his advisers said, was to turn Sri Lanka into “the organic garden of the world.”

Farmers, lacking organic fertilizer, saw their yields plummet. And a rift in the family grew: Gotabaya resisted attempts by his brother Mahinda, who was now prime minister, to change his mind on the fertilizer ban.  . . .

By the spring of 2022, long lines were forming for fuel, supermarkets were running low on imported foods, and the nation’s supply of cooking gas was almost exhausted as the government’s foreign reserves dwindled almost to zero.

The country was in free fall. And the one person who could do something about it was adrift. In meetings, the president was often distracted, scrolling through intelligence reports on his phone, according to officials who were in (p. A7) the room with him.

. . .

Gotabaya Rajapaksa eventually fled the country on a military plane, first to the Maldives and then to Singapore, before arriving in Thailand on Thursday [August 11, 2022].

For the full story, see:

Mujib Mashal, Emily Schmall and Atul Loke. “How the Middle Class In Sri Lanka Pushed A President Into Exile.” The New York Times (Saturday, August 13, 2022): A6-A7.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 12, 2022, and has the title “Showdown at the Mansion Gates: How Sri Lankans Rose Up to Dethrone a Dynasty.”)

Philosopher MacAskill’s “Effective Altruism” Was Neither Effective Nor Altruistic

(p. B1) In short order, the extraordinary collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX has vaporized billions of dollars of customer deposits, prompted investigations by law enforcement and destroyed the fortune and reputation of the company’s founder and chief executive, Sam Bankman-Fried.

It has also dealt a significant blow to the corner of philanthropy known as effective altruism, a philosophy that advocates applying data and evidence to doing the most good for the many and that is deeply tied to Mr. Bankman-Fried, one of its leading proponents and donors. Now nonprofits are scrambling to replace millions in grant commitments from Mr. Bankman-Fried’s charitable vehicles, and members of the effective altruism community are asking themselves whether they might have helped burnish his reputation.

“Sam and FTX had a lot of good will — and some of that good will was the result of association with ideas I have spent my career promoting,” the philosopher William MacAskill, a founder of the effective altruism movement who has known Mr. Bankman-Fried since the FTX founder was an undergraduate at M.I.T., wrote on Twitter on Friday (Nov. 11, 2022). “If that good will laundered fraud, I am ashamed.”

Mr. MacAskill was one of five people from the charitable vehicle known as the FTX Future Fund who jointly announced their resignation on Thursday (Nov. 10, 2022).

. . .

(p. B5) Benjamin Soskis, senior research associate in the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, said that the issues raised by Mr. Bankman-Fried’s reversal of fortune acted as a “distorted fun-house mirror of a lot of the problems with contemporary philanthropy,” in which very young donors control increasingly enormous fortunes.

. . .

Mr. Bankman-Fried’s fall from grace may have cost effective-altruist causes billions of dollars in future donations.  . . .

His connection to the movement in fact predates the vast fortune he won and lost in the cryptocurrency field. Over lunch a decade ago while he was still in college, Mr. Bankman-Fried told Mr. MacAskill, the philosopher, that he wanted to work on animal-welfare issues. Mr. MacAskill suggested the young man could do more good earning large sums of money and donating the bulk of it to good causes instead.

. . .

A significant share of the grants went to groups focused on building the effective altruist movement rather than organizations working directly on its causes. Many of those groups had ties to Mr. Bankman-Fried’s own team of advisers. The largest single grant listed on the Future Fund website was $15 million to a group called Longview, which according to its website counts the philosopher Mr. MacAskill and the chief executive of the FTX Foundation, Nick Beckstead, among its own advisers.

The second-largest grant, in the amount of $13.9 million, went to the Center for Effective Altruism. Mr. MacAskill was a founder of the center. Both Mr. Beckstead and Mr. MacAskill are on the group’s board of trustees, with Mr. MacAskill serving as the chair of the United Kingdom board and Mr. Beckstead as the chair of the U.S. subsidiary.

For the full story, see:

Nicholas Kulish. “Collapse of FTX Strikes a Philanthropy Movement.” The New York Times (Monday, November 14, 2022): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed dates, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 14, 2022, and has the title “FTX’s Collapse Casts a Pall on a Philanthropy Movement.”)

P&G CEO Defended Using Harsh Criticism of Workers

Deirdre McCloskey frequently says we should use more “sweet talk.” Edwin Artzt defended using harsh talk. Is there room for both?

(p. A8) Edwin Artzt, who expanded Procter & Gamble Co.’s global reach in the 1980s and then, as chief executive officer in the early 1990s, rattled the company’s managers with cost-cutting drives and harsh criticism of their work, died at the age of 92, the Cincinnati-based company said.

As CEO from 1990 until 1995, Mr. Artzt was known for berating managers and using words including “stupid” and “imbecilic” to describe some of their proposals, as recounted in “Soap Opera: The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble,” a 1993 book by Alecia Swasy, a former Wall Street Journal reporter. He didn’t sugarcoat his desire to eliminate weak brands and underperforming employees.

Mr. Artzt, who died on April 6, was sometimes called “The Prince of Darkness.” Some colleagues said the nickname reflected a hot temper. He said it came from his habit of working late.

“I certainly don’t want to have a short trigger with people and not give them a chance,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 1991. “But sure I’ve cleared out deadwood. Probably some of it was still breathing when it was cleared out.”

Two years later, he said: “Terrifying people is not my intention…People come to me years later and say, ‘Remember that meeting 10 years ago? You laid it on me, but I sure remember that lesson.’”

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “P&G CEO’s Harsh Talk Rattled a Bureaucracy.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 15, 2023): A10.

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated April 12, 2023, and has the title “Edwin L. Artzt, P&G CEO Known for His Tough Talk, Dies at 92.”)

The book on Proctor & Gamble mentioned above is:

Swasy, Alecia. Soap Opera: The Inside Story of Proctor & Gamble. New York: Crown Publishing, 1993.

Bridge Man’s Courageous Protest Against Xi Kept Hope Alive

(p. B1) A protester unfurled two banners on a highway overpass in central Beijing on Oct. 13, [2022] denouncing Xi Jinping as a “despotic traitor.” China’s censors went to great lengths to scrub the internet of any reference to the act of dissent, prohibiting all discussion and shutting down many offending social media accounts.

The slogans didn’t go away. Instead, they caught on inside and outside China, online and offline.

Encouraged by the Beijing protester’s extremely rare display of courage, young Chinese are using creative ways to spread the banners’ anti-Xi messages. They graffitied the slogans in public toilets in China. They used Apple’s AirDrop feature to send photos of the messages to fellow passengers’ iPhones in subway cars. They posted the slogans on university campuses all over the world. They organized chat groups to bond and shouted “Remove Xi Jinping” in front of Chinese embassies. This all happened while the Communist Party was convening an all-important congress in Beijing and putting forth an image of a country singularly united behind a great leader.

The aftermath of the Beijing protest “made me feel, for the first time, hopeful,” said an organizer of an Instagram account known as Citizens Daily CN, which posts photo submissions of sightings of anti-Xi messages.

. . .

(p. B4) For Kathy, a Chinese student in London, political apathy . . . is what upsets her the most.

. . .

When she saw photos of the protest in Beijing, she was awed by the “Bridge Man’s” courage, too. Then she started seeing people posting sightings of anti-Xi slogans in many parts of the world.

She started to cry and couldn’t stop for hours, she said.

As the photos of the protest posters kept coming in, she felt she saw a little light in the darkness. She’s not alone anymore.

“I thought to myself that there are many Chinese who also want freedom and democracy,” she said. “But where are you? Where can I find you? If we meet on the street, how can we recognize each other?”

For the full commentary, see:

Li Yuan. “A Brash, Lonely Protest in Beijing Surfaces an Undercurrent of Dissent.” The New York Times (Tuesday, October 25, 2022): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 24, 2022, and has the title “A Lonely Protest in Beijing Inspires Young Chinese to Find Their Voice.”)