Showing posts with label industry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label industry. Show all posts

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar

Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar. By Christopher T. M Clack, Staffan A. Qvist, Jay Apt,, Morgan Bazilian, Adam R. Brandt, Ken Caldeira, Steven J. Davis, Victor Diakov, Mark A. Handschy, Paul D. H. Hines, Paulina Jaramillo, Daniel M. Kammen, Jane C. S. Long, M. Granger Morgan, Adam Reed, Varun Sivaram, James Sweeney, George R. Tynan, David G. Victor, John P. Weyant, and Jay F. Whitacre. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/06/16/1610381114.full

Significance: Previous analyses have found that the most feasible route to a low-carbon energy future is one that adopts a diverse portfolio of technologies. In contrast, Jacobson et al. (2015) consider whether the future primary energy sources for the United States could be narrowed to almost exclusively wind, solar, and hydroelectric power and suggest that this can be done at “low-cost” in a way that supplies all power with a probability of loss of load “that exceeds electric-utility-industry standards for reliability”. We find that their analysis involves errors, inappropriate methods, and implausible assumptions. Their study does not provide credible evidence for rejecting the conclusions of previous analyses that point to the benefits of considering a broad portfolio of energy system options. A policy prescription that overpromises on the benefits of relying on a narrower portfolio of technologies options could be counterproductive, seriously impeding the move to a cost effective decarbonized energy system.

Abstract: A number of analyses, meta-analyses, and assessments, including those performed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the International Energy Agency, have concluded that deployment of a diverse portfolio of clean energy technologies makes a transition to a low-carbon-emission energy system both more feasible and less costly than other pathways. In contrast, Jacobson et al. [Jacobson MZ, Delucchi MA, Cameron MA, Frew BA (2015) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 112(49):15060–15065] argue that it is feasible to provide “low-cost solutions to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of WWS [wind, water and solar power] across all energy sectors in the continental United States between 2050 and 2055”, with only electricity and hydrogen as energy carriers. In this paper, we evaluate that study and find significant shortcomings in the analysis. In particular, we point out that this work used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions. Policy makers should treat with caution any visions of a rapid, reliable, and low-cost transition to entire energy systems that relies almost exclusively on wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Healthy offspring from freeze-dried mouse spermatozoa held on the International Space Station for 9 months

Healthy offspring from freeze-dried mouse spermatozoa held on the International Space Station for 9 months
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/05/16/1701425114.full

Significance: Radiation on the International Space Station (ISS) is more than 100 times stronger than at the Earth’s surface, and at levels that can cause DNA damage in somatic cell nuclei. The damage to offspring caused by this irradiation in germ cells has not been examined, however. Here we preserved mouse spermatozoa on the ISS for 9 mo. Although sperm DNA was slightly damaged during space preservation, it could be repaired by the oocyte cytoplasm and did not impair the birth rate or normality of the offspring. Our results demonstrate that generating human or domestic animal offspring from space-preserved spermatozoa is a possibility, which should be useful when the “space age” arrives.

Abstract: If humans ever start to live permanently in space, assisted reproductive technology using preserved spermatozoa will be important for producing offspring; however, radiation on the International Space Station (ISS) is more than 100 times stronger than that on Earth, and irradiation causes DNA damage in cells and gametes. Here we examined the effect of space radiation on freeze-dried mouse spermatozoa held on the ISS for 9 mo at –95 °C, with launch and recovery at room temperature. DNA damage to the spermatozoa and male pronuclei was slightly increased, but the fertilization and birth rates were similar to those of controls. Next-generation sequencing showed only minor genomic differences between offspring derived from space-preserved spermatozoa and controls, and all offspring grew to adulthood and had normal fertility. Thus, we demonstrate that although space radiation can damage sperm DNA, it does not affect the production of viable offspring after at least 9 mo of storage on the ISS.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Insurance policy specifically for self-inflicted liver damage

China’s Zhongan sees scope for offbeat insurance.
https://www.ft.com/content/bee51a52-accd-11e6-9cb3-bb8207902122
Financial Times
Medical insurance often becomes invalid if the customer is drunk. But during the football World Cup in 2014, Shanghai-based Zhongan Insurance turned that rule upside down by offering Chinese football fans a policy specifically for self-inflicted liver damage.

It cost less than $1 and covered sports enthusiasts against alcohol poisoning for 30 days — paying out up to Rmb2,000 ($290) for hospital fees. It soon came to be known as “watching-football-drinking-too-much” insurance.

This has not been Zhongan’s only foray into more specialist areas of China’s insurancemarket. Another of its policies, called “high heat”, reimburses customers when the temperature hits 37°C. Another insures against flight delays — and, in many cases, pays out while the customer is still waiting in the departure lounge.

Zhongan has sold 5800m policies to 460m customers. This has quickly translated into profit.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Alemania reinventa la crisis energética. Por Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.


Alemania reinventa la crisis energética. Por Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB100014240527023044482045791857 20802195590
Wall Street Journal, Nov. 8, 2013 6:28 p.m. ET

ObamaCare no es el único tren en camino de descarrilar que tenemos  ahora. Como Mao apremiando a los campesinos para que fundieran sus cacharros, sartenes y útiles de labranza para convertir a China en un coloso  del acero de la noche a la mañana, Alemania repartía alegremente subsidios para alentar a los ciudadanos y granjeros a instalar  paneles solares y molinos de viento para luego vender la energía  resultante a las compañías eléctricas a precios inflados. El éxito  —Alemania obtiene un 25% de su energía de las renovables— ha  resultado ser un desastre.

Mientras los alemanes se apresuran a hacerse con su dinero fácil, la  producción de dióxido de carbono ha aumentado, no disminuido, porque las compañías, privadas de capital, han pasado a quemar carbón  americano barato para proveer de la necesaria energía cuando el  viento y el sol nos fallan.

Debido a que sol y viento son intermitentes y la red eléctrica está  pobremente preparada para acomodar estas fuentes, los apagones y las  reducciones de suministro amenazan en este invierno.

Como las facturas las pagan hogares y empresas, los precios de la  electricidad son el triple que en los EE UU. Un pánico apremiante es el del empleo, ya que industrias de gran aportación se dirigen a EE UU  para aprovechar la energía barata que ha producido la revolución de  las arenas bituminosas y los esquistos. El máximo responsable  energético de Europa habla ya francamente de la  "desindustrialización de Alemania".

En UK, donde la política pública ha sido casi tan generosa con las  renovables, "Está bien ser muy, muy verde, pero no si estás  interesado en la fabricación", según queja de un prominente CEO.

La gran virtud de la democracia es que no sigue con ciertos planes  hasta el precipicio, pero los mecanismos normales de ajuste están  agarrotados por el hecho de que el desastre energético de Europa  implica al entero espectro político.

Ed Miliband, líder del Partido Laborista de UK, ha fijado el tema de  las elecciones del próximo año cuando prometió recientemente  congelar los precios de la energía si se le elegía. Pero los  laboristas no van a abandonar los subsidios solares y eólicos que  crearon ellos mismos. Quieren dejarlos grabados en piedra, pasando  los costes a las empresas. En Alemania, la conservadora Angela  Merkel se adhirió completamente a las posiciones económicas sobre  energía de la oposición tras Fukushima, dejando a los electores  alarmados sobre los precios de la energía sin lugar al que tornar en  las elecciones de septiembre excepto a Angela Merkel, quien de forma  vaga mostró alguna moderación sobre la energiewende (revolución  energética) que lanzó y continúa liderando.

Un infrecuente destello de raciocinio ha partido en realidad del  probable socio de coalición de Angela Merkel, el SPD, autor de la  ley original sobre energías verdes, cuyo portavoz dice ahora:  "Necesitamos asegurar que la energía renovable es asequible. Y  necesitamos terminar con la idea de que podemos salirnos  simultáneamente de nucleares y el carbón. No va a funcionar."

Es tentador asumir que los políticos europeos eran feligreses de la  iglesia del calentamiento global. Pero más importante es su apego a  la ideología del agotamiento de recursos, que les convenció de haber  elegido un ganador en esta idea porque estaba garantizado que los  precios de los combustibles fósiles harían parecer baratos a los de  la energía verde.

"Cuanta más gente consuma petróleo y carbón, más subirá el precio,  pero cuanta más gente consuma energías renovables, más bajará su  precio", explicó el asesor energético de Angela Merkel.

He aquí una idea que parece ser impermeable a la experiencia y que  es parte del bagaje de todo político que pudiera ser elegido en  nuestro mundo. "Es absolutamente cierto que la demanda [de energías  fósiles] subirá mucho más rápido que el suministro. Ese es un  hecho", explicó el presidente Obama en 2011. Los EE UU "no pueden  permitirse apostar nuestra prosperidad a largo plazo a un recurso  que con el tiempo se agotará."

El Sr. Obama mencionó los fósiles no convencionales exactamente una  vez en su discurso — y solo para decir que también se agotarían.

Si todo esto fuera cierto, Europa no habría llegado a sus presentes  trabajos. Esta es la realidad: la revolución de los fósiles no  convencionales es menos revolucionaria de lo que parece. Ha sacudido  los errores comunes solo porque ha sucedido en las mismas narices de  los americanos, en áreas pobladas en que se asumía que los  "recursos" se habían extraído y transportado hace mucho.

De hecho, los depósitos de hidrocarburos que hay en el mundo son  verdaderamente vastos, incluyendo entre ellos cantidades inimaginables de hidratos de metano . El desafío es el tecnológico y económico de buscar el acceso a un determinado recurso  a un precio asequible — un desafío desde que se usaban trapos para  empaparlos en petróleo de manantiales naturales. Durante ciento  cincuenta años, el precio del barril de petróleo ha fluctuado entre  $10 y $100 (en dólares de 2011), un rango suficiente para encontrar  nuevas reservas cada vez que se quería requerían con objeto de  mantener a los hidrocarburos como fuente de energía de precio  competitivo.

La crisis energética europea es muy parecida a la nuestra de hace 40  años — autoinfligida. El sueño de Europa dejó de ser sostenible al  minuto de que los precios de la energía empezaran a caer en un  competidor comercial importante como los EE UU. LA gran pregunta ahora es cuán lejos irá la secudida política cuando toda la élite está implicada en un insatisfactorio experimento energético, que inevitablemente se ha visto envuelta en el desencanto del público con otro projecto fracasado de la élite, la Unión Europea.

Va a ser fascinante también la suerte de los shales europeos. En Europa, el gobierno, no los propietarios, controla y se beneficia de los recursos minerales, creando la política de suma zero en lo referente a recusos que han hecho al Oriente Medio un parangón de estabilidad y progreso. ¿Y el calentamiento global? Por suerte la respuesta es fácil. Los votantes europeos se van a acercar al punto en que están los americanos, dándose cuenta de que abjurar de la energía barata no hará nada por los niveles de CO2 (y aun menos por el clima) mientras otros no abjuren de la energía barata también.


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Germany Reinvents the Energy Crisis
A love affair with renewables brings high prices, potential  blackouts and worries about 'deindustrialization.'
By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB100014240527023044482045791857 20802195590
Wall Street Journal, Nov. 8, 2013 6:28 p.m. ET

ObamaCare isn't the only policy train wreck in progress. Like Mao  urging peasants to melt down their pots, pans and farm tools to turn  China into a steel-producing superpower overnight, Germany dished  out subsidies to encourage homeowners and farmers to install solar  panels and windmills and sell energy back to the power company at  inflated prices. Success—Germany now gets 25% of its power from  renewables—has turned out to be a disaster.

As Germans rush to grab this easy money, carbon dioxide output has  risen, not fallen, because money-strapped utilities have switched to  burning cheap American coal to provide the necessary standby power  when wind and sun fail.

Because the sun and wind are intermittent and the power grid is  poorly arranged to accommodate them, brownouts and blackouts  threaten this winter.

Because the bills are paid by households and businesses, electricity  rates are triple those in the United States. An immediate panic is  jobs, as prized industries head to the U.S. for cheaper energy  unleashed by the shale revolution. Europe's top energy official now  speaks frankly of the "deindustrialization in Germany."

In Britain, where policy has been nearly as generous to renewables,  "It's fine being very, very green, but not if you're interested in  manufacturing," complains a prominent CEO.
Enlarge Image

Wind turbines stand behind a solar power park near Werder, Germany.  Getty Images

Democracy's great virtue is that it doesn't follow schemes off a  cliff, but the normal adjustment mechanisms are hampered by the fact  that Europe's energy disaster implicates the entire political  spectrum.

Ed Miliband, leader of Britain's Labour Party, set the theme for  next year's British election when he recently promised to freeze  energy prices if elected. But Labour isn't about to disown the solar  and wind subsidies it created. It wants to soldier on, shifting the  cost to business. In Germany, conservative Angela Merkel embraced  the opposition's energy economics wholesale after Fukushima, leaving  voters who are alarmed about energy prices no place to turn in  September's election except Angela Merkel, who vaguely indicated  some moderation of the energiewende (energy revolution) she launched  and continues to champion.

An unwonted glimmer of reason has actually come from Mrs. Merkel's  likely Social Democrat coalition partner, author of Germany's  original green energy law, whose spokesman now says: "We need to  ensure that renewable energy is affordable. And we need to put an  end to the idea that we can pull out of nuclear and coal  simultaneously. This won't work."

It's tempting to assume Europe's politicians were praying in the  church of global warming. But more important is their subscription  to resource-depletion ideology, which convinced them they'd picked a  political winner because rising fossil fuel prices were guaranteed  to make green energy look cheap in comparison.

"When more people consume oil and coal, the price will go up, but  when more people consume renewable energy, the price of it will go  down," explained Ms. Merkel's top energy adviser.

We have here an idea seemingly impervious to experience and part of  the mental baggage of every politician likely to get elected in our  world. "It is absolutely certain that [fossil energy] demand will go  up a lot faster than supply. It's just a fact," President Obama  explained in 2011. The U.S. "cannot afford to bet our long-term  prosperity on a resource that will eventually run out."

Mr. Obama mentioned shale exactly once in his speech—and only to say  shale would run out too.

If all this were true, Europe wouldn't be in its present fix. Here's  the real truth: The shale revolution is less revolutionary than it  seems. It has shocked settled misconceptions only because it  happened under the noses of Americans, in populated areas where the  casual assumption was that "resources" would long ago have been dug  out and carted away.

In fact, the world's store of fossil hydrocarbons is truly vast,  including almost unimaginable quantities of methane hydrates. The  challenge is the technological and economic one of getting access to  a given resource at an affordable price—a challenge ever since men  used rags to soak up oil from natural seeps. For 150 years, the  price of a barrel of oil has fluctuated between $10 and $100 (in  2011 dollars), a range that has been sufficient to call forth new  reserves and feedstocks whenever needed to maintain hydrocarbons as  a source of competitively priced energy.

Europe's energy crisis is a lot like ours of 40 years ago—self- inflicted. Europe's dream was untenable the minute energy prices  began falling in a major trade competitor like the United States.  The big question now is how far will the political upheaval go when  an entire elite is implicated in an unsatisfactory energy  experiment, which inevitably has become wrapped up in public  disappointment with another failed elite project, the European Union  itself.

Fascinating too will be the fate of Europe's shale. In Europe,  government, not landowners, controls and benefits from mineral  resources, creating the zero-sum resource politics that have made  the Mideast a paragon of stability and civil progress. What about  global warming? At least that answer is easier. European voters are  coming out where Americans have, realizing that foreswearing cheap  energy will do nothing for CO2 levels (and even less for climate) as  long as others aren't foreswearing cheap energy too.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Jonathan Gruber’s ‘Stupid’ Budget Tricks

Jonathan Gruber’s ‘Stupid’ Budget Tricks. WSJ Editorial
His ObamaCare candor shows how Congress routinely cons taxpayers.Wall Street Journal, Nov. 14, 2014 6:51 p.m. ET

As a rule, Americans don’t like to be called “stupid,” as Jonathan Gruber is discovering. Whatever his academic contempt for voters, the ObamaCare architect and Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his candor about the corruption of the federal budget process.

In his now-infamous talk at the University of Pennsylvania last year, Professor Gruber argued that the Affordable Care Act “would not have passed” had Democrats been honest about the income-redistribution policies embedded in its insurance regulations. But the more instructive moment is his admission that “this bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.”

Mr. Gruber means the Congressional Budget Office, the institution responsible for putting “scores” or official price tags on legislation. He’s right that to pass ObamaCare Democrats perpetrated the rawest, most cynical abuse of the CBO since its creation in 1974.

In another clip from Mr. Gruber’s seemingly infinite video library, he discusses how he and Democrats wrote the law to game the CBO’s fiscal conventions and achieve goals that would otherwise be “politically impossible.” In still another, he explains that these ruses are “a sad statement about budget politics in the U.S., but there you have it.”

Yes you do. Such admissions aren’t revelations, since the truth has long been obvious to anyone curious enough to look. We and other critics wrote about ObamaCare’s budget gimmicks during the debate, and Rep. Paul Ryan exposed them at the 2010 “health summit.” President Obama changed the subject.

But rarely are liberal intellectuals as full frontal as Mr. Gruber about the accounting fraud ingrained in ObamaCare. Also notable are his do-what-you-gotta-do apologetics: “I’d rather have this law than not,” he says.

Recall five years ago. The White House wanted to pretend that the open-ended new entitlement would spend less than $1 trillion over 10 years and reduce the deficit too. Congress requires the budget gnomes to score bills as written, no matter how unrealistic the assumption or fake the promise. Democrats with the help of Mr. Gruber carefully designed the bill to exploit this built-in gullibility.

So they used a decade of taxes to fund merely six years of insurance subsidies. They made-believe that Medicare payments to hospitals will some day fall below Medicaid rates. A since-repealed program for long-term care front-loaded taxes but back-loaded spending, meant to gradually go broke by design. Remember the spectacle of Democrats waiting for the white smoke to come up from CBO and deliver the holy scripture verdict?

On the tape, Mr. Gruber also identifies a special liberal manipulation: CBO’s policy reversal to not count the individual mandate to buy insurance as an explicit component of the federal budget. In 1994, then CBO chief Robert Reischauer reasonably determined that if the government forces people to buy a product by law, then those transactions no longer belong to the private economy but to the U.S. balance sheet. The CBO’s face-melting cost estimate helped to kill HillaryCare.

The CBO director responsible for this switcheroo that moved much of ObamaCare’s real spending off the books was Peter Orszag, who went on to become Mr. Obama’s budget director. Mr. Orszag nonetheless assailed CBO during the debate for not giving him enough credit for the law’s phantom “savings.”

Then again, Mr. Gruber told a Holy Cross audience in 2010 that although ObamaCare “is 90% health insurance coverage and 10% about cost control, all you ever hear people talk about is cost control. How it’s going to lower the cost of health care, that’s all they talk about. Why? Because that’s what people want to hear about because a majority of Americans care about health-care costs.”

***

Both political parties for some reason treat the CBO with the same reverence the ancient Greeks reserved for the Delphic oracle, but Mr. Gruber’s honesty is another warning that the budget rules are rigged to expand government and hide the true cost of entitlements. CBO scores aren’t unambiguous facts but are guesses about the future, biased by the Keynesian assumptions and models its political masters in Congress instruct it to use.

Republicans who now run Congress can help taxpayers by appointing a new CBO director, as is their right as the majority. Current head Doug Elmendorf is a respected economist, and he often has a dry wit as he reminds Congressfolk that if they feed him garbage, he must give them garbage back. But if the GOP won’t abolish the institution, then they can find a replacement who is as candid as Mr. Gruber about the flaws and limitations of the CBO status quo. The Tax Foundation’s Steve Entin would be an inspired pick.

Democrats are now pretending they’ve never heard of Mr. Gruber, though they used to appeal to his authority when he still had some. His commentaries are no less valuable because he is now a political liability for Democrats.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

More War for Oil? President Obama dispatches troops to Iraq—and has to listen to the old canards all over again

More War for Oil? By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
President Obama dispatches troops to Iraq—and has to listen to the old canards all over again.Wall Street Journal, Aug 12, 2014 7:00 p.m. ET
http://online.wsj.com/articles/holman-jenkins-more-war-for-oil-1407884431

The "no blood for oil" crowd has piped up with surprising speed and noisiness in the short hours since President Obama recommitted U.S. forces to the fight in Iraq.

Steve Coll, a writer for the New Yorker, suggests in a piece posted on the magazine's website that "Kurdish oil greed," whose partner Mr. Obama now becomes, has been a primary factor in making Iraq a failed state. That's apparently because of the Kurds' unwillingness to reach a revenue-sharing deal with Baghdad. For good measure, he refers readers to a Rachel Maddow video, featuring Steve Coll, that argues that the U.S. invaded Iraq to gets its oil in the first place.

John B. Judis, a veteran editor of the New Republic, in contrast is relatively sane under the headline "The U.S. Airstrikes in Northern Iraq Are All About Oil." While nodding toward Mr. Obama's stated humanitarian justifications, he insists oil "lies near the center of American motives for intervention."
There are a few problems with this argument. Oil exists in the hinterland of Erbil, all right, the capital of a stable, prosperous and relatively free Kurdistan that President Obama now is trying to protect from the Islamic murderers of ISIS.

But oil also exists in northwestern Iraq—in fact, vast amounts of oil around Mosul, whose fall did not trigger Obama intervention. Oil is in Libya, where the U.S. quickly took a hike after the fall of Gadhafi. Oil is in Canada, where Mr. Obama, who just fatally risked his legacy with his core admirers by dispatching forces to the Mideast, can't bring himself to choose between his labor and greenie constituents by deciding to approve or veto the Keystone pipeline.

Oil apparently explains nothing except when it explains everything.
Another problem is that Americans are both consumers and producers of oil. So does the U.S. want high or low prices? A bigger producer in recent years, America presumably has seen its interest shifting steadily in the direction of higher prices. Yet acting to protect Kurdish production would have the opposite effect.

But then Mr. Coll especially is ritualizing, not thinking—and what he's ritualizing is a certain leftist hymn about the origins of the 2003 Iraq war. Never mind that if the U.S. had wanted Iraq's oil, it would have been vastly cheaper to buy it— Saddam was certainly eager to sell. Never mind that the Bush administration, after overthrowing Saddam, stood idly by while Baghdad awarded the biggest contracts to India, China and Angola.

It was not a Bushie but Madeleine Albright, in her maiden speech as Bill Clinton's secretary of state, who first laid out the case for regime change in Iraq.

In the same 1997 speech, she explained, "Last August, Iraqi forces took advantage of intra-Kurdish tensions and attacked the city of Irbil, in northern Iraq. President Clinton responded by expanding the no-fly zone to the southern suburbs of Baghdad. . . . Contrary to some expectations, the attack on Irbil has not restored Saddam Hussein's authority in the north. We are firmly engaged alongside Turkey and the United Kingdom in helping the inhabitants of the region find stability and work towards a unified and pluralistic Iraq."

Madame Secretary did not mention oil any more than President Obama did last week. Of course, the catechism holds that, when politicians aren't freely voicing their obsession with oil as Bush and Cheney supposedly did while cooking up the Iraq War, politicians are concealing their obsession with oil. In fact, oil was not yet produced in significant quantities in Erbil at the time. It was the peace and stability that Presidents Bush, Clinton and Bush provided, and that President Obama is trying to restore, that allowed the flowering of Iraqi Kurdistan, including its oil industry.

By now, America has invested 23 years in shielding northern Iraq from the suppurating chaos that seems to flow endlessly from Baghdad and its Sunni-dominated Western suburbs. It's one of our few conspicuous successes in Iraq. Politics, in the best and worst senses of the word, drives every political decision. Despite his palpable lack of enthusiasm, President Obama knows surrender in northern Iraq would be an intolerable disgrace for his administration and U.S. policy. So he sends in the troops.

We come to an irony. The liberal habit of assuming everyone else's motives are corrupt is, of course, an oldie-moldie, if a tad free-floating in this case. But the critics in question don't actually oppose Mr. Obama's intervention, the latest in our costly and thankless efforts in Iraq. They don't exactly endorse it either. The New Yorker's Mr. Coll especially seems out to avoid committing himself while striking a knowing, superior tone about the alleged centrality of oil, which is perhaps the most ignoble reason to pick up a pen on this subject right now.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

China moves to free-market pricing for pharmaceuticals, after price controls led to quality problems & shortages

China Scraps Price Caps on Low-Cost Drugs. By Laurie Burkitt
Move Comes After Some Manufacturers Cut Corners on Production
Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2014 1:15 a.m.
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304655304579548933340544044

Beijing

China will scrap caps on retail prices for low-cost medicine and is moving toward free-market pricing for pharmaceuticals, after price controls led to drug quality problems and shortages in the country.

The move could be a welcome one for global pharmaceutical companies, which have been under scrutiny in China since last year for their sales and marketing practices.

The world's most populous country is the third-largest pharmaceutical market, behind the U.S. and Japan, according to data from consulting firm McKinsey & Co., but Beijing has used price caps and other measures to keep medical care affordable.

Price caps will be lifted for 280 medicines made by Western drug companies and 250 Chinese patent drugs, the National Development and Reform Commission, China's economic planning body, said Thursday. The move will affect prices on drugs such as antibiotics, painkillers and vitamins, it said.

The statement said local governments will have until July 1 to unveil details of the plan. In China, local authorities have broad oversight over how drugs are distributed to local hospitals.

Aiming to keep prices low, some manufacturers cut corners on production, exposing consumers to safety risks, said Helen Chen, a Shanghai-based partner and director of L.E.K. Consulting. Many also closed production, creating shortages of low-cost drugs such as thyroid medication.

"It means the [commission] recognizes that forcing prices down and focusing purely on price does sacrifice drug safety, quality and availability," said Ms. Chen.

Several drug makers, including GlaxoSmithKline PLC, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. Spokeswomen for Sanofi and Pfizer Inc. said that because implementation of the new policy is unclear, it is too early to understand how it will affect their business in China.

The industry was dealt a blow last summer when Chinese authorities accused Glaxo of bribing doctors, hospitals and local officials to increase sales of their drugs. The U.K. company has said some of its employees may have violated Chinese law.

The central government, which began overhauling the country's health-care system in 2009, has until now largely favored pricing caps and has encouraged provincial governments to cut health-care costs and prices. Regulators phased out five years ago premium pricing for a list of "essential drugs" to be available in hospitals.

Chinese leaders want health care to be more accessible and affordable, but there have been unintended consequences in attempting to ensure the lowest prices on drugs. For instance, many pharmaceutical companies registered to sell the thyroid medication Tapazole have halted production in recent years after pricing restrictions squeezed out profits, experts say, creating a shortage. Chinese patients with hyperthyroidism struggled to find the drug and many suffered with increased anxiety, muscle weakness and sleep disorder, according to local media reports.

In 2012, some drug-capsule manufacturers were found to be using industrial gelatin to cut production costs. The industrial gelatin contained the chemical chromium, which can be carcinogenic with frequent exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Manufacturers have attempted to save costs, and doing that has meant using lower-quality ingredients," said Ms. Chen.

The pricing reversal won't necessarily alleviate pricing pressure for these drugs, experts say. To get drugs into hospitals, companies must compete in a tendering process at the provincial level, said Justin Wang, also a partner at L.E.K. "It's still unclear how the provinces will react to this new national list," Mr. Wang said.

If provinces don't change their current system, price will remain a key competitive factor for drug makers, said Franck Le Deu, a partner at McKinsey's China division.

"The bottom line is that there may be more safety and more pricing transparency, but the focus intensifies on creating more innovative drugs," Mr. Le Deu said.

  —Liyan Qi contributed to this article.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Number of new antibacterial-drug approvals in the US


Source: Drug Makers Tiptoe Back Into Antibiotic R&D. By Hester Plumridge
As Superbugs Spread, Regulators Begin to Remove Roadblocks for New Treatments
WSJ, Jan 23, 2014
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303465004579322601579895822

Saturday, December 28, 2013

MRSA Infections, swine effluent lagoons, and farm consolidations

Answering to some comments in a book review, 'In Meat We Trust,' by Maureen Ogle (http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303482504579177742158078278), WSJ, Dec. 17, 2013 6:36 p.m. ET:

A recent paper* in a FAO publication summarizes advances in hog manure management. Obviously, the cases mentioned are small in comparison with the great consolidated farms, but even so, there are multiple ways to manage better the effluents and some useful ways to profit from the lagoons/catchments are shown here.

@Mr Evangelista: I got access to the paper** you mentioned. If interested you may ask for it. I'd like, though, to calm down things. As it says other paper*** published at the same time, which it is likely it is the one Mr Blumenthal mentioned:
"In 2011,we estimated the overall number of invasive MRSA infections was 80 461; 31% lower than when estimates were first available in 2005"

The reasons are not well understood (several explanations are offered), but that is not relevant now. The important idea is that despite increasing consolidation of farm operations and an increasing population (from approx 295 million in 2005 to approx 311 million in 2011), there are 31% less MRSA infections.


References

* Intensive and Integrated Farm Systems using Fermentation of Swine Effluent in Brazil. By I. Bergier, E. Soriano, G. Wiedman and A. Kososki. In Biotechnologies at Work for Smallholders: Case Studies from Developing Countries in Crops, Livestock and Fish. Edited by J. Ruane, J.D. Dargie, C. Mba, P. Boettcher, H.P.S. Makkar, D.M. Bartley and A. Sonnino. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2013. http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3403e/i3403e00.htm

** High-Density Livestock Operations, Crop Field Application of Manure, and Risk of Community-Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infection in Pennsylvania. By Joan A. Casey, MA; Frank C. Curriero, PhD, MA; Sara E. Cosgrove,MD, MS; Keeve E. Nachman, PhD, MHS; Brian S. Schwartz, MD,MS. JAMA Intern Med. Vol 173, No. 21, doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.10408

*** National Burden of InvasiveMethicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infections, United States, 2011. By Raymund Dantes, MD, MPH; Yi Mu, PhD; Ruth Belflower, RN, MPH; Deborah Aragon, MSPH; Ghinwa Dumyati, MD; Lee H. Harrison, MD; Fernanda C. Lessa, MD; Ruth Lynfield, MD; Joelle Nadle, MPH; Susan Petit, MPH; Susan M. Ray, MD; William Schaffner, MD; John Townes, MD; Scott Fridkin, MD; for the Emerging Infections Program–Active Bacterial Core Surveillance MRSA Surveillance Investigators. JAMA Intern Med. Vol 173, No. 21, doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.10423

Friday, December 6, 2013

New meat regulations could spark a trade war with Canada and Mexico and will raise costs

This Label Will Raise the Cost of Your Steak. By Scott George and Randy Spronk
New meat regulations could spark a trade war with Canada and Mexico.
Wall Street Journal, Dec. 5, 2013 6:42 p.m. ET
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303670804579234642364948248

Right before Thanksgiving, while Congress was on break, federal meat labeling regulations took effect that could result in Americans paying higher prices on everything from beef and pork to apples and maple syrup. While legislators, as part of the continuing farm bill negotiations, are considering a fix to the Country of Origin Labeling (Cool) statute, the regulations implementing it went into effect Nov. 23.

The new Cool rules require more detailed labels on meat derived from animals born outside the United States. Labels must now list the country in which livestock were born, raised and slaughtered. For example, a package of rib-eye steak might be labeled: "Born in Canada, Raised and Slaughtered in the United States."

The previous Cool rules required less detailed labeling, such as "Product of Canada and the United States." Ironically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the new rules in May in an effort to improve the previous Cool rules, which the World Trade Organization last year ruled discriminated against Canada, Mexico and other U.S. trading partners.

Not surprisingly, Canada and Mexico are also fighting the new, more stringent rules at the WTO. Should the trade organization rule in their favor, our North American neighbors will likely retaliate against U.S. products through tariffs that will limit U.S. exports and kill American jobs. Canada, the second-largest export market for U.S. agricultural products, valued in 2012 at $20.6 billion, already has a preliminary retaliation list that includes fresh pork and beef, bakery goods, rice, apples, wine, maple syrup and furniture.

U.S. cattle ranchers and hog farmers who purchase livestock from Canada or Mexico will be affected by those retaliatory tariffs in a number of ways. Most crucially to those of us in the industry, the duties will prompt U.S. beef and pork exports to fall while American farmers and ranchers who import animals will see significant cost increases.

Alpha 3 Cattle Company in Amarillo, Texas, for example, imports roughly 38,000 feeder cattle a year from Mexico. When the original Cool law took effect in 2009, meat packers, fearing consumers would be less inclined to buy meat labeled "Product of Mexico and the United States" and incurring added costs to label mixed-origin meat, discounted Alpha 3's Mexican-origin animals by $35 a head. That alone cost Alpha 3 more than $1 million.

Under the new Cool regulations, the company expects the discount to be even higher, or for packing plants to stop processing Mexican-born cattle altogether. Why? Because under the new regulations those animals—and the meat from them—now need to be tracked, verified and segregated from U.S.-born cattle. (The 2009 law allowed co-mingling of animals.)

A Michigan hog farmer who gets most of his feeder pigs from Canada, and who took a financial hit when the labeling law took effect in 2009, has been told by the packing plant to which he sends his animals that he'll have a 10-hour window each week to get his Canadian-born hogs to market. That will be nearly impossible to accomplish—it's 32 truckloads—and it will be extremely costly.

That's because the new regulations will force the packing plant to shut down the lines processing U.S.-born hogs and switch to processing Canadian-born ones—which spend five of their six months in the U.S.—so that pork cuts can be tracked, labeled and kept separate. That's a logistical headache and a huge expense for the plant, which will likely pay the hog farmer less for his Canadian-born hogs and charge consumers more for the meat from those animals.

So why is the U.S. risking trade retaliation and prohibitive cost increases on American producers and consumers of meat? Groups that support Cool, such as the U.S. Cattlemen's Association and the Consumer Federation of America, think U.S. consumers will buy American if they see a "Product of the United States" label. But since the 2009 law went into effect, the USDA says there's been little effect on demand for U.S. meat, and that consumers buy primarily based on taste and price. Most Americans know, even if their legislators don't, that all meat products, regardless of their country of origin, must pass the same USDA safety regulations.

When the Cool proposal was first debated in Congress, the U.S. meat industry said it would be a costly program with little if any benefit to consumers. The USDA estimated it would cost $2.5 billion to implement and nearly $212 million annually over 10 years to maintain.

With our North American neighbors set to impose tariffs on dozens of U.S. products, livestock producers and meat packers facing greater costs and American consumers ultimately bearing higher prices, it appears that assessment was an understatement.

Mr. George is a cattleman from Cody, Wyo., and president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Mr. Spronk is a hog farmer from Edgerton, Minn., and president of the National Pork Producers Council.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Tesla Meets the Auto Regulators - Remember Toyota's invisible defect and drivers that are inordinately prone to "pedal misapplication"

Tesla Meets the Auto Regulators. By Holman W Jenkins 
The feds have opened a safety investigation into the Model S fires. Elon Musk should be worried.
WSJ, Nov 27, 2013
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304465604579222051067101342

Look out, Elon Musk. Expecting rational results from regulatory agencies is often a recipe for disappointment.

Two of Mr. Musk's Tesla Model S cars burned up when road debris punctured the battery, a vulnerability not seen in other electric cars. Mr. Musk says his cars are no more fire-prone than gasoline cars. He claims to welcome a National Highway Safety Administration investigation into whether the cars are defective and warrant a recall.

Good luck with that. Mr. Musk is embroiled in a process that, he may soon discover, can quickly become more about politics than engineering. GM pickups with side-mounted gas tanks in the 1980s were necessarily more fire-prone in side collisions. Yet the truck's overall safety record was exemplary and the vehicle fully complied with federal fuel-system safety standards. That didn't stop the feds from eventually ruling the trucks defective, in response to over-the-top media and interest-group allegations against the company.


Those nearing ecstasy over the driverless car ought to sober up too. Tesla is not the only example of how unwelcoming our system of auto regulation is to new ideas. At a congressional hearing on the robotic car last week, a GM executive pleaded for "protection for auto makers and dealers from frivolous litigation for systems that meet and surpass whatever performance standards are established by the government." NHTSA's David Strickland was also present and seemed a lot more interested in extending his agency's remit to "things like, you know, navigation on an iPhone. . . . That is a piece of motor vehicle equipment and I think we have a very strong precedent."

And recall NHTSA's performance during the furor almost four years ago over alleged runaway Toyotas. Its then-overseer, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, happily participated in congressional hearings designed to flog for the benefit of trial lawyers the idea of a hidden bug in Toyota's electronic throttle control.

When the agency much more quietly came out with a report a year later debunking the idea of an electronic defect, notice how little good it did Toyota. The car maker still found it necessary to cough up $1.2 billion to satisfy owners who claimed their cars lost value in the media frenzy over a non-defect. Toyota has also seen the tide turning against it lately as it resists a deluge of accident claims.

At first, opposing lawyers were hesitant to emphasize an invisible defect that government research suggested didn't exist. That was a tactical error on their part. In an Oklahoma trial last month involving an 82-year-old woman driver, jurors awarded $3 million in compensatory damages and were ready to assign punitive damages in a complaint focused on a hypothetical bug when Toyota abruptly settled on undisclosed terms.

In another closely-watched trial set to begin in California in March, an 83-year-old female driver (who has since died from unrelated causes) testified in a deposition that she stepped on the brake instead of the gas. The judge has already ruled that if the jury decides to believe her testimony, it is entitled to infer the existence of a defect that nobody can find.

These cases, out of some 300 pending, were chosen for a reason. Study after study, including one last year by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, finds that elderly female drivers are inordinately prone to "pedal misapplication." If Toyota can't prevail in these cases, the company might be wise to run up the white flag and seek a global settlement that some estimate at upwards of $5 billion—quite a sum for a non-defect.

Why do we mention this? These episodes describe the regulatory-cum-political thicket that Tesla wandered into when it started making cars. This thicket has served as a near-perfect barrier to entry to startup car makers for the better part of a century.

Even more so because Tesla's troubles come at a time when much bigger companies, with vast lobbying and political resources, are entering the market for high-end electric cars—including Cadillac, Porsche, BMW and Audi. Maybe this explains a note of hyperbole that has begun to creep into Mr. Musk's frequent blog postings. "If a false perception about the safety of electric cars is allowed to linger," he wrote last week, "it will delay the advent of sustainable transport and increase the risk of global climate change, with potentially disastrous consequences worldwide."

Federal regulators have been warned. They can always be denounced as climate criminals if they find the Tesla Model S defective. Maybe Mr. Musk is ready to play the political game after all.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Alzheimer's Disease - The Puzzles, The Partners, The Path Forward

Alzheimer's Disease - The Puzzles, The Partners, The Path Forward
PhRMA, November 26, 2013
http://www.innovation.org/index.cfm/NewsCenter/Newsletters?NID=218

Alzheimer's is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease that currently afflicts more than 5 million people in the U.S. If no new medicines are found to prevent, delay or stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease, the number of affected people in America will jump to 15 million by 2050 and related healthcare costs could increase five-fold to $1.2 trillion, according to the Alzheimer's Association. In contrast, a medicine that delays onset of Alzheimer's disease by five years would lower the number of Americans suffering from the disease by nearly half and save $447 billion in related costs, in 2050.

America's biopharmaceutical companies are currently developing 73 potential new treatments and diagnostics for Alzheimer's, according to a recent report released by PhRMA. At a recent all day-forum, "Alzheimer's: The Puzzle, The Partners, The Path Forward," the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation, and PhRMA convened key stakeholders from the Alzheimer's community to discuss these therapies presently in development to treat the disease, as well as the current state of innovation and R&D for Alzheimer's disease treatments and diagnostics.

Among the key areas of discussion were pre-competitive partnerships, including potential areas for collaboration and public-private partnerships, as well as pre-symptomatic clinical trials, which may help researchers understand the clinical heterogeneity of the disease and subsequent challenges in the use and adoption of clinical and functional endpoints in new clinical trial design.

Panelists included top industry and academic scientists, policymakers, patients, payers, and many others. Executives from the Alzheimer's Association and Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation also discussed the path forward for Alzheimer's disease in relation to science and policy.

Continue the conversation online using the event hashtag #ALZpov

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Nearly 450 Innovative Medicines in Development for Neurological Disorders

Neurological Disorders
innovation.org
July 30, 2013
www.innovation.org/index.cfm/FutureofInnovation/NewMedicinesinDevelopment/Neurological_Disorders


Nearly 450 Innovative Medicines in Development for Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders—such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease—inflict great pain and suffering on patients and their families, and every year cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars. However, a growing understanding of how neurological disorders work at a genetic and molecular level has spurred improvements in treatment for many of these diseases.

America’s biopharmaceutical research companies are developing 444 medicines to prevent and treat neurological disorders, according to a new report released by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). 

The report demonstrates the wide range of medicines in development for the more than 600 neurological disorders that affect millions of Americans each year. These medicines are all currently in clinical trials or awaiting Food & Drug Administration (FDA) review. They include 82 for Alzheimer’s disease, 82 for pain, 62 for brain tumors, 38 for multiple sclerosis, 28 for epilepsy and seizures, 27 for Parkinson’s disease, and 25 for headache.

Many of the potential medicines use cutting-edge technologies and new scientific approaches. For example:

  • A medicine that prompts the immune system to protect neurons affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease
  • A gene therapy for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
  • A gene therapy to reverse the effects of Parkinson’s disease
These new medicines promise to continue the already remarkable progress against neurological disorders and to raise the quality of life for patients suffering from these diseases and their families. Read more about selected medicines in development for neurological disorders.

Alzheimer's Disease

Every 68 seconds someone in America develops Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and by 2050 it could be every 33 seconds, or nearly a million new cases per year. Disease-modifying treatments currently in development could delay the onset of the disease by five years, and result in 50 percent fewer patients by 2050.

There are also potential cost savings offered by innovative disease-modifying treatments. As the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and one of the most common neurological disorders, Alzheimer’s disease currently costs society approximately $203 billion. This number could increase to $1.2 trillion by 2050; however, delaying the onset of the disease by five years could reduce the cost of care of Alzheimer’s patients in 2050 by nearly $450 billion.

Additional Resources

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Trevor Butterworth's Fad Food Nation

Fad Food Nation. By Trevor Butterworth
A skeptical survey of the claims being made about food, health and the environment.
The Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2013, on page A13
online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323823004578593943760620664.html  

Excerpts:

Not so long ago, I spoke to a chef who ministers to children attending some of the most elite and expensive schools in America. Why, I asked him, was his company's website larded with almost comical warnings about the lethality of eating genetically modified (GM) food? Did he actually believe this as scientific fact or was he catering to his clientele's spiritual fears? It was simply for the mothers, he said, candidly. They ate it up—or, rather, they had swallowed so many apocalyptic warnings about genetically modified food that he had no choice but to echo their terror. How could they entrust their children to him otherwise? The downside of such dogma, he explained, was cost. Many of the mothers wouldn't agree to their children eating anything less than 100% organic, even if organic food required flying in, as he put it, "apples from Cuba."

Mr. Butterworth is a contributor at Newsweek and editor at large for STATS.org.

Friday, July 5, 2013

On Mr Lafe Solomon's, National Labor Relations Board's acting general counsel, letter to Cablevision

The Lord of U.S. Labor Policy. By Kimberley Strassel
Lafe Solomon, acting general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, defies Congress and the courts on behalf of Big Labor.The Wall Street Journal, July 4, 2013, on page A9
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323899704578583671862397166.html

For a true expression of the imperious and extralegal tendencies of the Obama administration, there is little that compares with the Wisdom of Solomon. Lafe Solomon, that is, the acting general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board.

Mr. Solomon's wisdom was on revealing display this week, in the form of a newly disclosed letter that the Obama appointee sent to Cablevision in May. The letter was tucked into Cablevison's petition asking the Supreme Court this week to grant an emergency stay of NLRB proceedings against it. The Supremes unfortunately denied that request, though the exercise may prove valuable for shining new light on the labor board's conceit.

A half-year has passed since the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Noel Canning that President Obama's appointments to the NLRB were unconstitutional, and thus that the board lacks a legal quorum. In May, the Third Circuit affirmed this ruling. Yet the NLRB—determined to keep churning out a union agenda—has openly defied both appeals courts by continuing to issue rulings and complaints.

Regional directors in April filed two such unfair-labor-practice complaints against Cablevision. The company requested that Mr. Solomon halt the proceedings, given the NLRB's invalid status. It is Mr. Solomon's refusal, dated May 28, that provides the fullest expression of the NLRB's insolence.

The acting general counsel begins his letter by explaining that the legitimacy of the board is really neither here nor there. Why? Because Mr. Solomon was himself "appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate"—and therefore, apparently, is now sole and unchecked arbiter of all national labor policy.

This is astonishing on many levels, the least of which is that it is untrue. Mr. Solomon is the acting general counsel precisely because the Senate has refused to confirm him since he was first nominated in June 2011. Nor will it, ever, given his Boeing BA +1.38% escapades.

Then there is the National Labor Relations Act, which created the NLRB. The law clearly says that the general counsel acts "on behalf of the Board"—a board that is today void, illegitimate, null, illegal. Mr. Solomon admits the "behalf" problem in his letter, though he says he's certain Congress nonetheless meant for him to be "independent" of the board. He says.

The acting general counsel naturally rushes to explain that—his omnipotence aside—the NLRB still has every right to ignore the courts. His argument runs thus: Because a decade ago the 11th Circuit issued an opinion that upholds recess appointments (though it didn't deal with Mr. Obama's breathtaking reading of that power), there exists a "split" in the circuit courts. The NLRB is therefore justified in ignoring any courts with which it disagrees until the Supreme Court has "resolved" the question.

What Mr. Solomon fails to note is the extremes the NLRB has gone to in order to suggest court confusion. The agency has deviated from past procedures, and it refused to ask either the D.C. Circuit or the Third Circuit to "stay" their opinions. Why? Because to do so—and to be rebuffed—would put the NLRB under enormous pressure to acknowledge that those courts have authority over its actions.

The board has likewise ignored the fact that the D.C. Circuit hears more NLRB decisions than any other, and is also the pre-eminent court for reviewing federal agency decisions. This ought to entitle that court, and its Noel Canning ruling, respectful deference from the labor board.

The most revealing part of Mr. Solomon's letter is the section cynically outlining why the NLRB continues to operate at a feverish pace. Mr. Solomon notes that this isn't the first time the board has operated without a quorum.

The NLRB issued 550 decisions with just two board members before the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in New Process Steel that the NLRB must have a three-person board quorum to operate. Mr. Solomon brags that of these 550, only about 100 were "impacted" by the Supreme Court's ruling—which, he writes, proves that the NLRB is justified in continuing to operate even at times when its "authority" has been challenged.

Mr. Solomon is in fact celebrating that of the 550 outfits harassed by an illegal, two-member board, only about 100 later decided they had the money, time and wherewithal to spend years relitigating in front of the labor goon squad. The NLRB is counting on the same outcome in Cablevision and other recent actions.

The board will push through as many rulings and complaints against companies as it can before the Supreme Court rules on its legitimacy. And it will trust that the firms it has attacked and drained will be too weary to then try for reversals. This is why the Obama administration waited so long to petition the Supreme Court to reverse Noel Canning. The longer this process takes, the more damage the NLRB can inflict on behalf of its union taskmasters.

Right now, the NLRB is the only weapon the administration can wield on behalf of Big Labor. The need to placate that most powerful special interest was behind Mr. Obama's decision to install his illegal recess appointments in the first place, and it explains the NLRB's continuing defiance of courts and Congress. Mr. Solomon's wisdom is the Obama philosophy of raw power, in all its twisted glory.

Credit and growth after financial crises, by Elod Takats and Christian Upper

Credit and growth after financial crises, by Előd Takáts and Christian Upper
BIS Working Papers No 416
July 2013
http://www.bis.org/publ/work416.htm

We find that declining bank credit to the private sector will not necessarily constrain the economic recovery after output has bottomed out following a financial crisis. To obtain this result, we examine data from 39 financial crises, which - as the current one - were preceded by credit booms. In these crises the change in bank credit, either in real terms or relative to GDP, consistently did not correlate with growth during the first two years of the recovery. In the third and fourth year, the correlation becomes statistically significant but remains small in economic terms. The lack of association between deleveraging and the speed of recovery does not seem to arise due to limited data. In fact, our data shows that increasing competitiveness, via exchange rate depreciations, is statistically and economically significantly associated with faster recoveries. Our results contradict the current consensus that private sector deleveraging is necessarily harmful for growth.

Keywords: creditless recovery, financial crises, deleveraging, household debt, corporate debt

JEL classification: G01, E32


Conclusion
We find that bank lending to the private sector and economic growth are essentially uncorrelated after those financial crises that were preceded by credit booms. This result is relevant for the major advanced economies recovering from the financial crisis, since the current crisis was also preceded by a credit boom. Our results suggest that the ongoing deleveraging in advanced economies might not be as harmful for the recovery as many fear.

We also find that depreciating real exchange rates are statistically and economically significantly associated with substantially stronger economic growth.  This finding on real exchange rates shows that the price channel for external adjustment can contribute to stronger economic activities. Consequently, if crisis hit countries can generate substantial real effective exchange rate depreciation, either via nominal exchange rate depreciation or internal cost adjustments, this could hasten their recovery. However, given the global nature of the current crisis this solution might not be available for all countries at the same time.

Furthermore, we find some weak negative association between public debt ratios and recoveries: increasing public debt seems to lead to somewhat weaker recoveries. This might cast doubt on the claims that fiscal stimulus is the appropriate answer to fasten the recovery now.

While we are aware that these results come with caveats, we believe that our results provide a useful contribution to the creditless recovery literature. We hope that these finding would elicit debates and further research to understand debt dynamics, financial crises and how recoveries work.

Friday, May 31, 2013

241 Medicines in Development for Leukemia, Lymphoma and Other Blood Cancers

241 Medicines in Development for Leukemia, Lymphoma and Other Blood Cancers
PhRMA, May 2013
www.innovation.org/index.cfm/FutureofInnovation/NewMedicinesinDevelopment/Leukemia_and_Lymphoma

Biopharmaceutical research companies are developing 241 medicines for blood cancers—leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. This report lists medicines in human clinical trials or under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The medicines in development include:

• 98 for lymphoma, including Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which affect nearly 80,000 Americans each year.
• 97 for leukemia, including the four major types, which affect nearly 50,000 people in the United States each year.
• 52 for myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells, which impacts more than 22,000 people each year in the United States.
• 24 medicines are targeting hematological malignancies, which affect bone marrow, blood and lymph nodes.
• 15 each for myeloproliferative neoplasms, such as myelofibrosis, polycythemia vera and essential thrombocythemia; and for myelodysplastic syndromes, which are diseases affecting the blood and bone marrow.

These medicines in development offer hope for greater survival for the thousands of Americans who are affected by these cancers of the blood.

Definitions for the cancers listed in this report and other terms can be found on page 27. Links to sponsor company web sites provide more information on the potential products. See full report: http://t.co/JSbXhBVG7t

Friday, March 29, 2013

America's Voluntary Standards System: A 'Best Practice' Model for Asian Innovation Policies? By Dieter Ernst

America's Voluntary Standards System: A 'Best Practice' Model for Asian Innovation Policies? By Dieter Ernst
East-West Center, Policy Studies, No. 66, March 2013
ISBN: 978-0-309-26204-5 (print); 978-0-86638-205-2 (electronic)
Pages: xvi, 66
http://www.eastwestcenter.org/publications/americas-voluntary-standards-system-best-practice-model-asian-innovation-policies


Summary

Across Asia there is a keen interest in the potential advantages of America's market-led system of voluntary standards and its contribution to US innovation leadership in complex technologies.

For its proponents, the US tradition of bottom-up, decentralized, informal, market-led standardization is a "best practice" model for innovation policy. Observers in Asia are, however, concerned about possible drawbacks of a standards system largely driven by the private sector.

This study reviews the historical roots of the American system, examines its defining characteristics, and highlights its strengths and weaknesses. A tradition of decentralized local self-government has given voice to diverse stakeholders in innovation. However, a lack of effective coordination of multiple stakeholder strategies constrains effective and open standardization processes.

Asian countries seeking to improve their standards systems should study the strengths and weaknesses of the American system. Attempts to replicate the US standards system will face clear limitations--persistent differences in Asia's economic institutions, levels of development, and growth models are bound to limit convergence to a US-style market-led voluntary standards system.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Real Women's Issue: Time. By Jody Greenstone Miller

The Real Women's Issue: Time. By Jody Greenstone Miller
Never mind 'leaning in.' To get more working women into senior roles, companies need to rethink the clock
The Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2013, on page C3
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324678604578342641640982224.html


Why aren't more women running things in America? It isn't for lack of ambition or life skills or credentials. The real barrier to getting more women to the top is the unsexy but immensely difficult issue of time commitment: Today's top jobs in major organizations demand 60-plus hours of work a week.

In her much-discussed new book, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg tells women with high aspirations that they need to "lean in" at work—that is, assert themselves more. It's fine advice, but it misdiagnoses the problem. It isn't any shortage of drive that leads those phalanxes of female Harvard Business School grads to opt out. It's the assumption that senior roles have to consume their every waking moment. More great women don't "lean in" because they don't like the world they're being asked to lean into.

It doesn't have to be this way. A little organizational imagination bolstered by a commitment from the C-suite can point the path to a saner, more satisfying blend of the things that ambitious women want from work and life. It's time that we put the clock at the heart of this debate.

I know this is doable because I run a growing startup company in which more than half the professionals work fewer than 40 hours a week by choice. They are alumnae of top schools and firms like General Electric GE +0.38% and McKinsey, and they are mostly women. The key is that we design jobs to enable people to contribute at varying levels of time commitment while still meeting our overall goals for the company.

This isn't advanced physics, but it does mean thinking through the math of how work in a company adds up. It's also an iterative process; we hardly get it right every time. But for businesses and reformers serious about cracking the real glass ceiling for women—and making their firms magnets for the huge swath of American talent now sitting on the sidelines—here are four ways to start going about it.

Rethink time. Break away from the arbitrary notion that high-level work can be done only by people who work 10 or more hours a day, five or more days a week, 12 months a year. Why not just three days a week, or six hours a day, or 10 months a year?

It sounds simple, but the only thing that matters is quantifying the work that needs to get done and having the right set of resources in place to do it. Senior roles should actually be easier to reimagine in this way because highly paid people have the ability and, often, the desire to give up some income in order to work less. Flexibility and working from home can soften the blow, of course, but they don't solve the overall time problem.


Break work into projects. Once work is quantified, it must be broken up into discrete parts to allow for varying time commitments. Instead of thinking in terms of broad functions like the head of marketing, finance, corporate development or sales, a firm needs to define key roles in terms of specific, measurable tasks.

Once you think of work as a series of projects, it's easy to see how people can tailor how much to take on. The growth of consulting and outsourcing came precisely when firms realized they could carve work into projects that could be done more effectively outside. The next step is to design internal roles in smaller bites, too. An experienced marketer for a pharma company could lead one major drug launch, for example, without having to oversee all drug launches. Instead of managing a portfolio with 10 products, a senior person could manage five. If a client-service executive working five days a week has a quota of 10 deals a month, then one who chooses to work three days a week has a quota of only six. Lower the quota but not the quality of the work or the executive's seniority.

One reason this doesn't happen more is managerial laziness: It's easier to find a "superwoman" to lead marketing (someone who will work as long as humanly possible) than it is to design work around discrete projects. But even superwoman has a limit, and when she hits it, organizations adjust by breaking up jobs and adding staff. Why not do this before people hit the wall?

Availability matters. It's important to differentiate between availability and absolute time commitments. Many professional women would happily agree to check email even seven days a week and jump in, if necessary, for intense project stints—so long as over the course of a year, the time devoted to work is more limited. Managers need to be clear about what's needed: 24/7 availability is not the same thing as a 24/7 workload.


Quality is the goal, not quantity. Leaders need to create a culture in which talented people are judged not by the quantity of their work, but by the quality of their contributions. This can't be hollow blather. Someone who works 20 hours a week and who delivers exceptional results on a pro rata basis should be eligible for promotions and viewed as a top performer. American corporations need to get rid of the notion that wanting to work less makes someone a "B player."

Promoting this kind of innovation, where companies start to look more like puzzles than pyramids, has to become part of feminism's new agenda. It's the only way to give millions of capable women the ability to recalibrate the time that they devote to work at different stages of their lives.

We have been putting smart women on the couch for 40 years, since psychologist Matina Horner published her famous studies on "fear of success." But the portion of top jobs that go to women is still shockingly low. That's the irony of Ms. Sandberg's cheerleading for women to stay ambitious: She fails to see that her own agenda isn't nearly ambitious enough.

"Leaning in" may help the relative handful of talented women who can live with the way that top jobs are structured today—and if that's their choice, more power to them. But only a small percentage of women will choose this route. Until the rest of us get serious about altering the way work gets done in American corporations, we're destined to howl at the moon over the injustice of it all while changing almost nothing.

—Ms. Greenstone Miller is co-founder and chief executive officer of Business Talent Group.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Tyranny of the Queen Bee. By Peggy Drexler

The Tyranny of the Queen Bee. By Peggy Drexler
The Wall Street Journal, March 2, 2013, on page C1
Women who reached positions of power were supposed to be mentors to those who followed—but something is amiss in the professional sisterhood.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323884304578328271526080496.html

Kelly was a bright woman in her early 30s: whip-smart, well qualified, ambitious—and confused. Even a little frightened.

She worked for a female partner in a big consulting firm. Her boss was so solicitous that Kelly hoped the woman—one of just a few top female partners—might become her mentor. But she began to feel that something was wrong. In meetings, her boss would dismiss her ideas without discussion and even cut her off in mid-sentence. Kelly started to hear about meetings to which she wasn't invited but felt she should be. She was excluded from her boss's small circle of confidants.

What confused Kelly was that she was otherwise doing well at the firm. She felt respected and supported by the other senior partners. She had just one problem, but it was a big one. One of the male partners pulled her aside and confirmed Kelly's suspicions: Her boss had been suggesting to others that Kelly might be happier in a different job, one "more in line with her skills."

I met Kelly while I was conducting research on women in the workplace. She was trying to puzzle through what she had done wrong and what to do about it. (To protect the privacy of Kelly and others in the study, I refer to them here by first names only.) I wasn't sure Kelly had done anything wrong, and I said so. As I told her, "You might have met a queen bee."

Having spent decades working in psychology, a field heavily populated by highly competitive women, I had certainly seen the queen bee before: The female boss who not only has zero interest in fostering the careers of women who aim to follow in her footsteps, but who might even actively attempt to cut them off at the pass.

The term "queen bee syndrome" was coined in the 1970s, following a study led by researchers at the University of Michigan—Graham Staines, Toby Epstein Jayaratne and Carol Tavris—who examined promotion rates and the impact of the women's movement on the workplace. In a 1974 article in Psychology Today, they presented their findings, based on more than 20,000 responses to reader surveys in that magazine and Redbook. They found that women who achieved success in male-dominated environments were at times likely to oppose the rise of other women. This occurred, they argued, largely because the patriarchal culture of work encouraged the few women who rose to the top to become obsessed with maintaining their authority.

Four decades later, the syndrome still thrives, given new life by the mass ascent of women to management positions. This generation of queen bees is no less determined to secure their hard-won places as alpha females. Far from nurturing the growth of younger female talent, they push aside possible competitors by chipping away at their self-confidence or undermining their professional standing. It is a trend thick with irony: The very women who have complained for decades about unequal treatment now perpetuate many of the same problems by turning on their own.

A 2007 survey of 1,000 American workers released by the San Francisco-based Employment Law Alliance found that 45% of respondents had been bullied at the office—verbal abuse, job sabotage, misuse of authority, deliberate destruction of relationships—and that 40% of the reported bullies were women. In 2010, the Workplace Bullying Institute, a national education and advocacy group, reported that female bullies directed their hostilities toward other women 80% of the time—up 9% since 2007. Male bullies, by contrast, were generally equal-opportunity tormentors.

A 2011 survey of 1,000 working women by the American Management Association found that 95% of them believed they were undermined by another woman at some point in their careers. According to a 2008 University of Toronto study of nearly 1,800 U.S. employees, women working under female supervisors reported more symptoms of physical and psychological stress than did those working under male supervisors.

Something is clearly amiss in the professional sisterhood.

Erin, another participant in my own study, was a food writer at a glossy magazine. Her supervisor, Jane, seemed out to get her from day one—though never quite to her face. Jane liked playing hot and cold: One day she would pull Erin close to gossip about another colleague; the next she would scream at her for not following through on a task Erin hadn't known she was expected to perform.

Erin eventually found out that Jane was bad-mouthing her to mutual contacts in the food and restaurant industry. Jane would casually slip barbs into business conversations, telling others, for example, that Erin had engaged in an affair with a married man (she hadn't) or was giving more favorable reviews to restaurant owners who were her friends (she wasn't).

Jane's campaign against Erin wasn't much more than mean-spirited gossiping, but Erin felt that it caused her peers to think of her differently and certainly made her professional life more difficult. But how could she lodge an official complaint? "What would it say?" Erin asked me. "Jane is talking about me behind my back?" At various points, Erin thought the only way to fight back was to play along and start trash-talking Jane. But was that really the solution?

As the old male-dominated workplace has been transformed, many have hoped that the rise of female leaders would create a softer, gentler kind of office, based on communication, team building and personal development. But instead, some women are finding their professional lives dominated by high school "mean girls" all grown up: women with something to prove and a precarious sense of security.

What makes these queen bees so effective and aggravating is that they are able to exploit female vulnerabilities that men may not see, using tactics that their male counterparts might never even notice. Like Jane's gossiping about Erin's personal life. Or when Kelly's boss would comment on her outfit: "Who are you trying to impress today?" Or not-so-gently condescend: "Did you take your smart pill today, sweetie?" Their assaults harm careers and leave no fingerprints.

That is one reason many victims never see such attacks coming—and are powerless to prevent them. In Kelly's case, she had assumed her female boss might want to help foster her growth out of some sense of female solidarity. Erin had specifically sought out working at the magazine because she admired Jane's writing and wanted to learn from her. Why wouldn't Jane be eager to teach? It is women, after all, who are hastening the table-pounding male bullies toward obsolescence.

But both Kelly and Erin's superiors seem to have viewed the women under them not as comrades in arms but as threats to be countered. In a world where there are still relatively few women in positions of power—just 2% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 16% of boards of directors, as noted in Deborah Rhode and Barbara Kellerman's book "Women and Leadership"—it is an understandable assumption that the rise of one would mean the ouster of another. One for one, instead of one plus one.

Though it is getting easier to be a professional woman, it is by no means easy. Some women—especially in industries that remain male-dominated—assume that their perches may be pulled from beneath them at any given moment (and many times, they are indeed encouraged to feel this way). Made to second-guess themselves, they try to ensure their own dominance by keeping others, especially women, down.

The result is a distinctive strain of negative leadership traits—less overtly confrontational than their domineering male counterparts but bullying just the same. Comments on appearance or dress are part of their repertoire—something that would be seen more obviously as harassment when coming from a man—as are higher, sometimes even unreasonable, expectations for performance. Women who have risen in male-dominated fields may want to tell themselves that their struggle and success were unique. As a result they sometimes treat the performance of females who follow as never quite good enough.

It cuts both ways, though: Women aren't always the best employees to other women either. Female subordinates can show less respect and deference to female bosses than to their male bosses.

A 2007 Syracuse University study published in the Journal of Operational and Organizational Psychology found that women are critical of female bosses who are not empathetic. They also tend to resent female bosses who adopt a brusque and assertive management style, even as they find it perfectly acceptable for male bosses. And so they question and push back, answering authority with attitude.

One woman I encountered in my research, Amanda, faced this problem when she began a new job as a vice president at a Manhattan ad agency. The role was her first in management and included overseeing three women who were her age or younger. She knew she was qualified for the position, but from the very first day, Amanda had a difficult time feeling that she had their respect, or even their attention. Though deferential and solicitous to her male colleagues, they openly questioned Amanda's decisions. They went above her head, made comments about her wardrobe and even refused to say good morning and  good night. She felt like she was back in high school, trying to break into an elite clique.

Amanda tried various tactics: being overly authoritative, being their "friend." Eventually she stopped trying to get them to respond or encouraging them to do their jobs as directed. Instead, she fired all three.

Queen bees are creatures of circumstance, encircling potential rivals in much the same way as the immune system attacks a foreign body. Female bosses are expected to be "softer" and "gentler" simply because they are women, even though such qualities are not likely the ones that got them to where they are. In the more cutthroat precincts of American achievement, women don't reach the top by bringing in doughnuts in the morning.

Men use fear as a tool of advancement. Why shouldn't women do the same? Until top leadership positions are as routinely available to women as they are to men, freezing out the competition will remain a viable survival strategy.

—Dr. Drexler is an assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and the author, most recently, of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers and the Changing American Family."