Sister Jeanne Defended the Freedom of Elian Gonzalez

(p. A25) Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin, who was thrust into national prominence in 2000 during a tumultuous custody battle between the Cuban father of a 6-year-old refugee, Elian Gonzalez, and the boy’s relatives in Miami, died on Tuesday [June 18, 2019] in Adrian, Mich.

. . .

In early 2000 she sought in vain to ensure that Elian could stay temporarily with his Miami relatives instead of being returned to his father, who had remained in Cuba, divorced from his wife, after Elian and his mother fled in a rickety boat on Nov. 21, 1999.

His mother, Elizabeth Brotons Rodriguez, died when the boat capsized in the Atlantic. Elian was found in the water off Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 25 clinging to an inner tube, and his miraculous survival all but elevated him into a religious figure in South Florida’s Cuban-exile community.

. . .

In an Op-Ed article for The New York Times, she compared the “strong bond” that had developed between Elian and the Miami cousin who was caring for him with the absence of his father.

“It troubles me that Elian’s father has not come to the United States,” she wrote. “What, if not fear, could keep a person from making a 30-minute trip to reclaim his son? And what might Elian’s father fear, if not the authoritarian Cuban government itself?”

For the full obituary, see:

Sam Roberts. “Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin, Advocate in Cuban Boy’s Custody Fight, Dies at 90.” The New York Times (Friday, June 21, 2019): A25.

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

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date June 20, 2019, and has the title “Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin, 90, Voice in Cuban Boy’s Custody Fight, Dies.”)

When Labor Market Regulations Increase, Firms Hire Fewer Workers

(p. B5) “It’s serial stagnation,” said Nicola Borri, a finance professor at Luiss, a university in Rome. “The economy doesn’t contract, it doesn’t grow. Italy is a country that is weak, that is old, where there is no investment in new ideas.”

. . .

Thirty-five miles east of Naples, in the town of Avellino, Sabino Basso has halted plans to hire 30 more people at the olive oil bottling plant started by his great-grandfather.

Mr. Basso’s company buys olive oil from growers in Italy, Spain and Greece, exporting 80 percent of its wares to countries around the globe — especially the United States, where Walmart is a major customer. He had planned to increase marketing and online sales.

But then Five Star tightened legal requirements for companies that hire workers on temporary contracts, effectively limiting stints to one year. The change was aimed at forcing businesses to hire permanent workers.

Mr. Basso was aghast. All but five of his 100 workers are permanent, he said. The others are apprentices, a status that has allowed him to hire using temporary contracts.

“In order to understand if I want to keep people their whole lives, I have to test them,” he said. The new rules did not allow him sufficient time. “I just stopped hiring.”

For the full story, see:

Peter S. Goodman. “History, Views and ‘Serial Stagnation’.” The New York Times (Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 9, 2019, and has the title “Italy’s Biggest Economic Problem? It’s Still Italy.”)

Plastic Bags Have Lower Carbon Footprint Than Paper or Cotton Bags

(p. B5) The backlash against single-use plastic has engulfed straws, bags and takeout containers, but the plastics industry is fighting back, arguing alternatives can be worse for the environment and disruptive for businesses.

. . .

Critics of bans say single-use plastic bags are often used several times, and that they can be recycled at many supermarkets.

The American Progressive Bag Alliance, a trade body for plastic-bag manufacturers, is battling proposed bag bans in states including Maine and New Jersey.

. . .

The APBA highlights a U.K. government analysis that found paper bags must be used three times for their carbon footprint to drop below that of single-use plastic bags made from high-density polyethylene—or HDPE—and cotton bags 131 times. The study measured the impact of making paper bags by counting the use of energy and palm oil, and the disposal of ash from production. It said growing cotton and producing yarn depletes natural resources, emits damaging chemicals and depletes oxygen in water bodies.

The trade group, which says bans aren’t successful at reducing overall waste, said a study found thicker, reusable plastic bags wound up in Austin’s waste stream after the Texas city banned single-use plastic bags in 2013.

. . .

Some companies feel caught in the middle. McDonald’s Corp. scrapped plastic straws in the U.K. last year but now faces a backlash. Over 44,000 people recently signed a petition calling for the chain to bring back plastic straws, complaining that paper replacements go soggy and make it hard to drink milk shakes.

Others point to their use of plastics as a sustainability selling point.

Garçon Wines—a London-based firm that makes flat plastic wine bottles that fit through a mail slot—said its recycled bottles are 87% lighter than glass and shaped to allow more wine to be shipped in the same space, reducing emissions.

For the full story, see:

Saabira Chaudhuri. “In Plastics War, the Industry Fights Back.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, May 21, 2019): B5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 20, 2019, and the title “In Plastic-Bag Wars, the Industry Fights Back.” Where there are minor differences in wording, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

Environmentalist Regulations Inspire Vigilantes to Destroy Fairy Houses

(p. A10) Monhegan and a growing number of other environmentally conscious locales are fighting the scourge of fairy gardens, miniature habitats built by children and young-at-heart adults to attract tiny mythical creatures.

Typically they include a pint-size house with a path leading to its entrance and surrounded with small plants. The houses can range from rustic lean-tos handmade from twigs, bark and pebbles to store-bought plastic castles accompanied by LED lights, artificial plants, colorful glass beads and a family of fairy figurines.

On Monhegan, it is easy to run afoul of the regulations, which forbid picking living plants or using anything brought from the shore. No items are to be used “from your pockets,” including coins, food and anything plastic.

It is also easy to run afoul of Ms. Durst, a retired computer consultant who, like several other like-minded vigilantes, calls herself a “stomper” and has crushed many a fairy house over the years.

. . .

Julie Cole, . . . , is something of a scofflaw. She oversees a 5,564-member fairy-garden discussion group on Facebook, sells fairy furniture online and teaches fairy-gardening classes near her home in Jefferson, Ohio. “It’s a true taste of serendipity to be along a trail and see a little fairy door on a tree,” says Ms. Cole. “I can’t imagine anyone not liking that, but there’s always someone.”

For the full story, see:

Ellen Byron. “‘Fairy Houses’ Are Violating Building Codes.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, July 18, 2018): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 17, 2018, and the title “Hey Tinkerbell, Get Your Fairy House Up to Code or It’s Coming Down.”)

Thai Royal Navy Seizes Tiny Floating Galt’s Gulch

(p. A1) American software engineer Chad Elwartowski thought he had found the perfect refuge from the long arm of meddlesome, overbearing governments. It was a home floating in the turquoise waters far off the coasts of Thailand and Indonesia.

Last year, he joined a project that built an octagonal fiberglass pod and mounted it atop a floating steel spar that reached 65 feet down into the ocean, like a giant keel.

It was to be a place for people to gather and live by their own rules, he said, beyond the jurisdiction of any government. “I was free for a moment,” he wrote on his Facebook page after settling in with his girlfriend in March. “Probably the freest person in the world.”

Not anymore. He and his (p. A8) girlfriend, Supranee Thepdet, are in hiding on dry land after the Royal Thai Navy said their nautical haven was within Thai jurisdiction and accused them of trying to set up their own micro-nation. Last Monday, a utility ship towed the abandoned seastead to shore as evidence. Police say they are figuring out whether to request an arrest warrant for endangering Thai sovereignty—which potentially carries the death penalty.

The concept of a seastead—a homestead at sea—is a popular one in libertarian and cryptocurrency circles. Mr. Elwartowski, 46 years old, described it in a YouTube video as the closest he could get to the secret enclave cut off from the rest of society depicted in Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

For the full story, see:

James Hookway. “Libertarian Nirvana at Sea Runs Into an Opponent: the Thai Navy.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, April 29, 2019): A1 & A8.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 28, 2019, and the title “A Libertarian Nirvana at Sea Runs Into a Stubborn Opponent: the Thai Navy.”)

The Ayn Rand novel mentioned above, is:

Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House, 1957.

“If You Lower the Hurdles to Innovation . . . , You’ll Get More of It”

(p. A2) You’d think from the debate raging in Washington that taxes are the key to economic growth. They aren’t. In the long run, innovation matters way more, and that depends on inspiration, experimentation and luck, not tax-law changes.

Yet presidents matter for promoting innovation even if it’s less glamorous than taxes. Their support often takes the form of directing money toward basic research or favored industries such as defense or renewable energy.

Under President Donald Trump the place to look is the regulators. Two of his appointees in particular, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, have prioritized reducing regulatory hurdles to private investment as a way of boosting innovation. It’s too early to gauge their success, but the efforts merit more attention at a time when the growth debate is focused on steep, deficit-financed tax cuts.

. . .

At the FCC, Mr. Pai has targeted the “digital divide,” the gap in broadband access between some communities, especially in rural areas, and others. The share of U.S. households with a fixed broadband connection has stalled at roughly a third in recent years. Mr. Pai thinks the solution is “setting rules that maximize private investment in high-speed networks.”

Controversially, that includes a proposed rollback of his predecessor’s imposition of utility-like regulation so that internet service providers (ISPs) adhere to “net neutrality”—charging all content providers the same to access their networks. Without those limitations, he reckons ISPs will have more incentive to expand capacity and thus access; critics worry this will favor rich, established content providers over innovative newcomers.

. . .

. . . , Mr. Gottlieb’s and Mr. Pai’s theory is that if you lower the hurdles to innovation in specific sectors, you’ll get more of it. It offers a potentially more tangible payoff than fiddling with the tax code.

For the full commentary, see:

Greg Ip. “CAPITAL ACCOUNT; Why Innovation Tops Tax Cuts.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, October 26, 2017): A2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 25, 2017, and the title “CAPITAL ACCOUNT; Trump’s Regulators Aim to Boost Growth by Lowering Hurdles to Innovation.”)

“Freakin’ Ridiculous” Regulation

(p. A1) REHOBOTH BEACH, Del.—Capt. Kent Buckson’s radio crackled with word of a situation on the beach. A lifeguard had spotted a large canopy amid the sea of umbrellas. That meant one thing. Time for a takedown.

“We’ve got to get to that one,” said Mr. Buckson, the soft-spoken beach patrol boss. He and his deputy, Aaron Tartal, jumped into an all-terrain vehicle and headed over. Mr. Tartal, shirtless and in red swim trunks, strode over to the canopy owner.

“Good morning, sir. I’ve got bad news,” Mr. Tartal told the man. Then he laid out the new law on the two-mile beach. No tents or canopies allowed, except baby tents up to 3 feet high, wide or deep.

“Freakin’ ridiculous,” groused the man, who declined to give his name, as he dismantled the black 8-by-10-foot canopy he had just erected.

“New city ordinance, it’s a little bit of a learning curve,” Mr. Tartal gamely replied, pointing out the nearby shacks that rent umbrellas for $12 a day.

. . .

(p. A14) . . . , the 25-year-old Mr. Tartal, who is a lifeguard in addition to Capt. Buckson’s beach patrol deputy, told Marjorie Danko, a receptionist from Hershey, Pa., that the $40 three-sided tent she bought for her grandchildren didn’t pass muster, either.

“I don’t understand this,” she said. “I think umbrellas are much more dangerous. What kind of ordinance is that? I mean, really dumb.”

Mr. Tartal apologized but didn’t debate her. “We don’t write the ordinances,” he said, “we just enforce them.”

Clutching some cash, Ms. Danko marched off to go rent an umbrella.

For the full story, see:

Scott Calvert. “Beach Patrol Draws a Line In the Sand: No More Tents.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, July 5, 2017): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 4, 2017, and the title “Beach Patrol Confronts a New Menace: Oversize Tents.”)