Scientists Are “a Political Interest Group Like Any Other”

(p. B15) Mr. Greenberg, who spent most of his professional life in Washington, became a science journalist at a time when many practitioners seemed to view their job as advancing the cause of research — a consideration that many researchers expected.

As an author, newspaper reporter and magazine editor, and as the founding editor and publisher of Science & Government Report, a newsletter he ran for almost 30 years, Mr. Greenberg took a different view.

From his vantage point in the capital, he tracked scientific rivalries and battles over the government’s science priorities, describing research not as a uniquely worthy activity but rather as one of many enterprises competing for federal largess.

“He recognized that science, and the scientific endeavor broadly, was a political interest group like any other, and they behaved like any other, and he covered them like any other,” said Daniel Sarewitz, a congressional staffer in the science policy arena in the early 1990s and now director of the Washington-based Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University.

“He was not a toady or an advocate for the science community,” Dr. Sarewitz said. “He was a journalist covering science.”

Writing in The New York Times Book Review in 1968, Robert K. Merton, the eminent 20th-century sociologist of science, said Mr. Greenberg’s “perceptive” first book, “The Politics of Pure Science,” was one that “should be read by the President, legislators, scientists and the rest of us ordinary folk.”

For the full obituary, see:

Cornelia Dean. “Daniel S. Greenberg, 88, Science Journalist.” The New York Times (Thursday, March 26, 2020): B15.

(Note: the online version of the obituary was last updated March 26, 2020, and has the title “Daniel S. Greenberg, Science Journalist and Iconoclast, Dies at 88.” Williams’s question is in bold; Achorn’s answer is not in bold.)

The second edition of the book by Greenberg, mentioned in the passage quoted above, is:

Greenberg, Daniel S. The Politics of Pure Science. Second ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Stop Shaming Those Who Slow Spread of Covid-19 by Wearing Face Masks

The government has been saying that we shouldn’t wear face masks because they won’t do us any good AND we shouldn’t wear face masks because they WILL do good for health professionals. Tucker Carlson slam-dunked this issue at the end of his show on Monday, March 30th. Maybe the widespread voluntary wearing of masks is part of the reason Japan and South Korea have been less affected by covid-19 than the experts expected. It is in our interest to protect our health professionals by sending scarce masks their way. But at the same time, we should allow the incentives (surge-pricing) that will produce a lot more masks for our health professionals and for us too. And we should not shame those in the general population who choose to wear masks.

French Jobs Rise as Labor Regulations Fall

(p. A1) PARIS — One after another, the speakers in Parliament have denounced President Emmanuel Macron and his revolutionary plans, calling them “cynicism” and a “flagrant crime.” Outside, hundreds of protesters shout their fury. Other demonstrators, invoking a long French tradition, have called for his head.

. . .

(p. A6) Mr. Macron has upset the French, and he is deeply unpopular for it. So it has become the defining paradox of his rule that he remains much despised, even as his changes begin to bear fruit.

The intractable unemployment rate, slayer of his predecessors, appears finally to be bending to a French president’s touch, recently reaching its lowest rate in 12 years at 8.1 percent.

Working-age employment rates are up, worker-training programs are showing big gains, quality long-term job contracts are outpacing precarious, short-term ones.

All of those are advances plausibly attributed to Mr. Macron’s landmark loosening of the rigid French labor market.

For the full story, see:

Adam Nossiter. “As the French Call for His Head, Macron Is Reshaping the Nation.” The New York Times (Wednesday, February 26, 2020): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 25, 2020, and has the same title “As Emmanuel Macron’s Impact Grows, So Does French Disdain.”)

“Dirty Little Secret” That Crashes Increase When Intersections Are Converted to Roundabouts

(p. A3) Converting an intersection with a traffic signal to a roundabout results in a 78% decrease in fatalities and injuries, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The downside has been more crashes, mostly fender-benders, at many two-lane roundabouts.

The crash problem has been a “dirty little secret” in the traffic field, said Letty Schamp, deputy engineer for the city of Hilliard, Ohio. “Now people are talking about it.”

Ms. Schamp considers one roundabout her baby because she has worked on the project since it began more than a decade ago, when the area had few roundabouts. The two-lane circular intersection has had more than 660 crashes since it opened in 2012, averaging 82 a year. That is compared with eight a year at the intersection that existed previously, city figures show.

For the full story, see:

Scott Calvert. “Roundabout Wrecks Have Engineers Going in Circles.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, March 16, 2020): A3.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 14, 2020, and has the title “Car-Crash Mystery: Why Can’t Drivers Figure Out Roundabouts?”)

Lincoln Was “Always Full of This Loneliness and Sadness”

(p. C6) What’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing it?

I’ve read all these books about how Lincoln was hated, but I was still surprised by how disdained and disliked he was by so many of his contemporaries. Liberal Republicans thought he was too calculating, too quick to weigh public opinion. Democrats thought he was a tyrant, a rube, and was destroying the Constitution. I think a lot of this was airbrushed out of history after he was assassinated, when he became a martyr. But when you go back to that day and look at what people were saying, you get a stunning sense of what Lincoln was up against. There’s a lot of hostility from all sides. I’m not sure how he withstood it. I guess he was defeated so many times in his life, had been down so many times, that he was able to take almost anything.

And Lincoln is always surprising to me for his extremely peculiar qualities. He’s got this immense intelligence, and he’s always full of this loneliness and sadness. He goes up to the inauguration alone. He’s a strange guy. He has an ability to step outside himself and to view issues dispassionately. All of those qualities are seen in the book.

For the full interview, see:

John Williams, interviewer. “5 THINGS ABOUT YOUR BOOK; Edward Achorn; For Lincoln, a Beginning Near the End.” The New York Times (Monday, February 24, 2020): C6.

(Note: bold in original.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date February 24, 2020, and has the title “5 THINGS ABOUT YOUR BOOK; 24 Tense Hours in Abraham Lincoln’s Life.” Williams’s question is in bold; Achorn’s answer is not in bold.)

Achorn’s book, that he discussed in the passages of the interview quoted above, is:

Achorn, Edward. Every Drop of Blood: The Momentous Second Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2020.

Those in Their 80s, Ceteris Paribus, Less Likely to Be Offered Bypass Surgery

(p. B6) A U.S. study out Wednesday finds that heart attack patients who turned 80 within the previous two weeks were less likely to get bypass surgery than those who were two weeks shy of that birthday, even though the age difference is less than a month.

Guidelines do not limit the operation after a certain age, but doctors may be mentally classifying people as being “in their 80s” and suddenly much riskier than those “in their 70s,” said the study leader, Dr. Anupam Jena of Harvard Medical School.

. . .

Death rates during the first two months after the heart attack were higher among those over 80, suggesting they might have been harmed by not being offered surgery, Jena said.

For the full story, see:

Marilynn Marchione / The Associated Press. “80 Is Not the New 70: Study Finds That Your Age May Bias Heart Care.” The Omaha World-Herald (Wednesday, February 20, 2020): 3A.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “80 Is Not the New 70: Age May Bias Heart Care, Study Finds.” Where there are slight differences in the wording of the online and print versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

Floating Buildings Are Resilient If Global Warming Rises

(p. B6) More developers are building waterborne structures. Floating buildings can alleviate housing shortages in major cities at a time when land is scarce and restrictive zoning makes it hard to build up, said Koen Olthuis, whose Netherlands-based architecture firm Waterstudio specializes in floating structures.

For flood-prone cities like Miami, structures that rise and sink with the sea offer an alternative to waterfront construction that looks increasingly vulnerable to rising sea levels. “Climate change has definitely helped us spread our designs and ideas,” Mr. Olthuis said.

. . .

In Rotterdam’s harbor, developer RED Company is building a 54,000-square-foot, three-story, wooden, floating office building. The project, which will serve as the new headquarters of the Global Center on Adaptation, will be energy-neutral and feature solar panels and a floating swimming pool, according to the company.

GCA helps countries, companies and organizations to adapt to climate change. The center’s CEO Patrick Verkooijen said that Rotterdam is threatened by rising sea levels and that the “completely self sufficient floating office is one of many examples of how we must adapt to the realities of climate change to ensure our infrastructure is not only resilient but future proof.”

. . .

Some hope the trend will ultimately lead to floating cities. The Seasteading Institute advocates for communities in international waters as “startup societies” that can make up their own rules. It was founded by investor Peter Thiel and Patri Friedman, the grandson of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman.

For the full story, see:

Konrad Putzier. “Developers Float Answer to Floods.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, February 19, 2020): B6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 18, 2020, and has the title “Are Floating Hotels, Office Buildings the Answer to Rising Sea Levels?”)