Sunday, July 21, 2019

Celebrating Christos Papadimitriou at 70 at Columbia: September 6-8, 2019.

Christos Papadimitriou, the computer scientist who intersects with market design trhough his big contributions to algorithmic game theory, is being celebrated at Columbia in September:
70 Years Papadimitriou. 
A beautiful journey to the Theory of Computation.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Whiskey production is a warehouse business

When we think of whiskey we think of distillers. But aging requires barrels, and barrels take up space for a long time.  A recent fire brings this to mind.  The Washington Post has the story:

A Jim Beam warehouse caught fire, destroying 45,000 barrels of bourbon

"A standard barrel contains about 53 gallons of bourbon, which is aged for years to achieve its desired color and flavor. The bourbon gives the flames ample material to burn, Chandler said. Generally, any alcohol that’s at least 80 proof — like most bourbon — is flammable.
"The company operates 126 barrel warehouses, which collectively hold 3.3 million barrels, in the state. The warehouse that was destroyed contained relatively young whiskey, Beam Suntory said, the loss of which will not impact availability.
"In the past year, bourbon distillers have also had to contend with the economic consequences of President Trump’s trade war. U.S. whiskey exports slowed during the second half of 2018, after trading partners including the European Union enacted retaliatory tariffs of up to 25 percent, raising the cost of American-made whiskey and bourbon. Sales fell by 11 percent from July to December last year, compared with the same period in 2017, according to data compiled by the Distilled Spirits Council."

Friday, July 19, 2019

Privacy and dating apps

As internet and app-driven dating becomes increasingly common, so has the tension between dating and privacy, i.e. between indicating to potential partners who you are and what you want, and keeping some privacy about these things in the rest of your life.  The NY Times has an article by NY Law School prof Ari Ezra Waldman that focuses on the design of dating apps with respect to privacy:

 Queer Dating Apps Are Unsafe by Design
Privacy is particularly important for L.G.B.T.Q. people. By Ari Ezra Waldman.

"Pete Buttigieg met his husband on a dating app called Hinge. And although that’s unique among presidential candidates, it’s not unique for Mr. Buttigieg’s generation — he’s 37 — or other members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community.
In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that use of online dating apps among young adults had tripled in three years, and nearly six in 10 adults of all ages thought apps were a good way to meet someone. The rates are higher among queer people, many of whom turn to digital spaces when stigma, discrimination and long distances make face-to-face interaction difficult. One study reported that in 2013 more than one million gay and bisexual men logged in to a dating app every day and sent more than seven million messages and two million photos over all.
"But for queer people, privacy is uniquely important. Because employers in 29 states can fire workers simply for being gay or transgender, privacy with respect to our sexual orientations and gender identities protects our livelihoods. 
"All digital dating platforms require significant disclosure. Selfies and other personal information are the currencies on which someone decides whether to swipe right or left, or click a heart, or send a message. 
Hinge made a commitment to privacy by designing in automatic deletion of all communications the moment users delete their accounts. Scruff, another gay-oriented app, makes it easy to flag offending accounts within the app and claims to respond to all complaints within 24 hours. Grindr, on the other hand, ignored 100 complaints from Mr. Herrick about his harassment. If, as scholars have argued, Section 230 had a good-faith threshold, broad immunity would be granted only to those digital platforms that deserve it.
Privacy isn’t anathematic to online dating. Users want it, and they try hard to maintain it. The problem isn’t sharing intimate selfies, no matter what victim-blamers would have us believe. The problem is the law permits the development of apps that are unsafe by design."

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Laws about gay sex in Africa

While many countries have legalized same sex marriages, including South Africa, in the rest of Africa the question is whether engaging in same-sex sex will be legalized.  The Guardian has the story of one step forward and maybe back again in Botswana:

Botswana government to appeal against law legalising gay sex
Attorney general says high court was mistaken in its ruling decriminalising homosexuality

"Botswana’s government will appeal against a high court ruling that decriminalised homosexuality, potentially resuscitating a law that punished gay sex by up to seven years in prison.

"The court’s ruling in June, which was praised by international organisations and activists, meant Botswana joined a handful of African countries that have legalised same-sex relationships.
"Same-sex relationships are illegal in more than 70 countries worldwide; almost half of them in Africa, where homosexuality is broadly taboo and persecution is rife.

"Botswana’s ruling came after Kenya’s high court upheld its law banning gay sex, keeping same-sex relations punishable by 14 years in jail, drawing strong criticism from the United Nations and rights activists.

Botswana is the latest country in Africa to decriminalise same-sex relations, with Amnesty saying it follows Angola in January, the Seychelles in June 2016, Mozambique in June 2015, and São Tomé and Principe, and Lesotho, in 2012.

South Africa is the only African nation to have legalised gay marriage."

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Transplantation in China: update

I returned Sunday from a busy and potentially productive trip to China.

Since 2015 it has been illegal in China to use organs from executed prisoners for transplants. The passage of that law was the result of a long struggle between an opaque, often black market system of transplantation, and an emerging transparent system based on voluntary donation.  The transparent system has made, and is continuing to make, enormous strides.

In Shenzhen I visited the China Organ and Transplant Response System (COTRS), run by Dr. Haibo Wang, which organizes and records the data of transplant patients and donors. 

It also collects large amounts of data on all hospital stays at China’s largest hospitals. Together with the National Institute of Health Data Science at Peking University, run by Dr. Luxian Zhang, they are assembling a vast data resource that will have many uses.

In Beijing I also visited the China Organ Transplant Development Foundation, run by Dr. Jeifu Huang, which plays a role in guiding the emerging body of legislation through which transplants are being organized in China with increased transparency.

I also spoke at the Beijing Summit on Health Data Science.

It was a busy week that left me optimistic that we'll see continued big progress in healthcare delivery in China, including but not limited to transplantation.

Some photos were taken...

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

President Trump's Executive Order on kidney care

On July 10, while I was in China, President Trump issued an executive order touching on all aspects of care for kidney patients, including dialysis and transplantation from both deceased and living donors.

Here's the text of that executive order:
Executive Order on Advancing American Kidney Health
 Issued on: July 10, 2019

Because I anticipated being potentially incommunicado when the executive order was announced, I had filed an op-ed article (giving my proxy to my coauthor Greg Segal for any necessary last-minute edits) to be published on CNN's web site, applauding the order:
The Trump administration's organ donation efforts will save lives
By Alvin E. Roth and Greg Segal
Updated 1:20 PM ET, Wed July 10, 2019

As it happens, a reporter for PBS news hour reached me by phone in China, and so I got to chime in in person:
Trump’s plan to combat kidney disease aims to save money and lives. Can it?
Health Jul 10, 2019 4:39 PM EDT

The part of the executive order that touches most closely on my work on kidney exchange is Section 8:

"Sec8.  Supporting Living Organ Donors.  Within 90 days of the date of this order, the Secretary shall propose a regulation to remove financial barriers to living organ donation.  The regulation should expand the definition of allowable costs that can be reimbursed under the Reimbursement of Travel and Subsistence Expenses Incurred Toward Living Organ Donation program, raise the limit on the income of donors eligible for reimbursement under the program, allow reimbursement for lost-wage expenses, and provide for reimbursement of child-care and elder-care expenses."

Regarding deceased donor transplants, Section 7 says

"Sec. 7.  Increasing Utilization of Available Organs.  (a)  Within 90 days of the date of this order, the Secretary shall propose a regulation to enhance the procurement and utilization of organs available through deceased donation by revising Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) rules and evaluation metrics to establish more transparent, reliable, and enforceable objective metrics for evaluating an OPO’s performance.
(b)  Within 180 days of the date of this order, the Secretary shall streamline and expedite the process of kidney matching and delivery to reduce the discard rate.  Removing process inefficiencies in matching and delivery that result in delayed acceptance by transplant centers will reduce the detrimental effects on organ quality of prolonged time with reduced or cut-off blood supply."
Here is some of the news coverage:
Trump signs executive order revamping kidney care, organ transplantation By Lenny Bernstein July 10 (Washington Post);
Trump signs executive order to transform kidney care, increase transplants 
By Jen Christensen and Betsy Klein, CNN Updated 4:21 PM ET, Wed July 10, 2019
This executive order is well worth supporting, and it will need support to achieve the goals it outlines.  The Secretary of Health and Human Services has been directed to do things in fairly broad terms, and we'll have to watch carefully to see the results, which will be interpreted, contested, and implemented through multiple political/regulatory processess
Regarding removing financial disincentives for kidney (and liver) donors, I'm on the advisory board of the federally funded National Living Donor Assistance Center (NLDAC), which has been able, under very tight constraints, to reimburse some donors for some travel expenses (see related posts here).  A minimalist interpretation/implementation of the Executive Order would be to relax some of the constraints on whose expenses and which expenses can be reimbursed, and to increase NLDAC's budget accordingly.  A more expansive interpretation would be to remove some of those constraints so that no donor would have to pay to rescue someone with kidney failure by donating a kidney.

Monday, July 15, 2019


This long-running game theory conference is now in its 30th year--and some of the old veterans have passed on, but there are lots of young people to keep the field vibrant.

Here's the announcement and (partial) list of participants:

Stony Brook University (July 15 - July 19, 2019)

The full program is here.

I'll be speaking Tuesday at 5:00, on Market Design and Game Theory in a Large World