Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The market for human wombs

While the unregulated market for human eggs in Cyprus may be one of the busiest in the world, the more labor intensive market for surrogate wombs seems to be bustling, equally unregulated, in India. But regulation is being considered. Here's an article from Slate: India, the Rent-a-Womb Capital of the World

"You can outsource just about any work to India these days, including making babies. Reproductive tourism in India is now a half-a-billion-dollar-a-year industry, with surrogacy services offered in 350 clinics across the country since it was legalized in 2002. The primary appeal of India is that it is cheap, hardly regulated, and relatively safe. Surrogacy can cost up to $100,000 in the United States, while many Indian clinics charge $22,000 or less. Very few questions are asked. Same-sex couples, single parents and even busy women who just don't have time to give birth are welcomed by doctors. As a bonus, many Indians speak English and Indian surrogate mothers are less likely to use illegal drugs. Plus medical standards in private hospitals are very high (not all good Indian doctors left in the brain drain).

"Some describe this as a win-win situation. The doctors get clients, the childless get children and the surrogates get much-needed money. But some media horror stories have challenged this happy vision. ...
"The most shocking stories, however, concern the surrogate mothers. The surrogates, many of whom are cooped up in "surrogacy homes" away from their families for the duration of the pregnancy, are often in dire financial straits. One woman told a journalist that with a $4,000 debt and an alcoholic husband, she had first considered selling a kidney to get herself out of debt, but decided that the $ 7,000 surrogacy fee was the better option. In another disturbing case, an upper-class Indian woman hired a surrogate to carry her child and invited her to live in her home during the pregnancy. The client accused the surrogate mother of stealing and not only kicked her out of the house but coolly informed her that she didn't want her services anymore and that she should terminate the pregnancy. Surrogates get paid only on delivery of the baby, so this kind of situation is economically devastating for a surrogate. It can also severely compromise the ethical and religious beliefs of surrogates who may not wish to undergo an abortion.

"Last year, the government began looking to regulate the industry. An Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill is up for discussion in the next parliamentary session, causing renewed interest in the ethical issues. "Surrogacy—Exploiting the Poor?" was one theme of a very popular, Oprah Winfrey-esque talk show on India's NDTV channel. One academic, professor Mohan Rao, who teaches at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University, said that the country was witnessing "reproductive trafficking," referring to the fact that most cash-strapped surrogate mothers are from rural India and travel to metropolitan centers to offer their services as a last-ditch effort to get money. This view is fiercely challenged by those who see surrogacy as a means to economic empowerment of women and as a decision women should be free to make for themselves. "

The article also links to this Stanford webpage on Surrogate Motherhood in India.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The market for human eggs

Here's a multifaceted article on the global market for human eggs and fertility treatment, with medical tourists flowing from countries with more restrictive laws to those with few or none: Unpacking The Global Human Egg Trade

"According to a 2010 study by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, nearly 25,000 egg donations are performed in Europe for fertility tourists every year. More than 50% of those surveyed traveled abroad in order to circumvent legal regulations at home. The Cypriot government estimates that, each year, 1 in 50 women on the island between the ages of 18 and 30 sells her eggs. One NGO analyst says that among the island's Eastern European immigrants, the rate may reach 1 in 4, and some women give up their eggs several times in a year. By comparison, only 1 of every 14,000 eligible American women donates.

"Donation is described as an altruistic act, which means no payments," says Savvas Koundouros, a Cypriot embryologist, as he draws heavily on a cigarette. "It sounds strange to all of us that a person would receive so many injections over weeks and then undergo general anesthesia just because they are kind people." Koundouros has impregnated more women than Genghis Khan -- and thanks to a system that does not in any way rely on altruism, he plans to seed many, many more. He recently invested more than 1 million euros in a state-of-the-art IVF clinic in the resort city of Limassol.
"Peter Singer, the Ira V. Decamp professor of bioethics at Princeton, doesn't necessarily have a problem with the sale of eggs. "I don't think that trading replaceable human body parts is in principle worse than trading human labor, which we do all the time, of course. There are similar problems of exploitation when companies go offshore, but the trade-off is that this helps the poor to earn a living," he says. "That's not to say that there are no problems at all -- obviously, there can be -- and that is why doing it openly, in a regulated and supervised manner, would be better than a black market." Note that he says "would be."

"While the clinics of Cyprus sometimes feel like frontier outposts, the ones in Spain can seem like established fortresses. Spain has been the top destination for European fertility tourists since the mid-1980s. At Barcelona's Institut Marquès, a 14th-century carriage house in one of the poshest parts of town, you can understand why....

"In 2007, the U.K. banned payments to egg donors. In 2009, the Institut Marquès opened a satellite office in London, offering full-service, pregnancy-guaranteed packages for as little as $37,000 for three IVF cycles. The stream of foreign customers has become so steady that the clinic no longer waits for patients to sign on before tracking down appropriate donors. Instead, it keeps a bull pen of women on hormones, ready to give up their eggs. "Sometimes we will lose the eggs if we can't find a customer, but it's a trade-off," says embryologist Josep Oliveras. "This way, we can guarantee a steady supply."
"Perhaps more than any other company, Elite IVF has transformed baby-making into a globalized, industrialized process. For Sher, outsourcing is simply the inevitable outcome of the science that allowed procreation to move out of the bedroom and into the lab. Like the Petra Clinic and the Institut Marquès, Elite IVF offers clients cheaper access to eggs and a full suite of fertility treatments; unlike those more-localized operations, Elite operates worldwide, with offices and partner clinics in Britain, Canada, Cyprus, Israel, Mexico, Romania, and the U.S. Sher plans to expand soon to Turkey, taking advantage of new bans on egg donation there.

"Sher sees the regulatory and price differentials in eggs as an opportunity to reduce the cost of raw materials, pass the savings on to his customers, and offer them virtually any fertility service that they can't get at home. Want sex selection, which is illegal in most countries? A Mexican clinic can help you. Too old for IVF in the U.S.? Cyprus is the answer.

"Today, Elite IVF's network of clinics, egg sellers, and surrogate moms produces between 200 and 400 children per year, helping create families like Aron and Shatzky's. And it's just going to get more complicated. "The future is designer babies," says Sher. He describes an offer he once received from an investor interested in partnering with Elite IVF. "Surrogates in Asia would carry the eggs of superdonors from America -- models with high SAT scores and prestigious degrees who would be paid $100,000 for their eggs. Those babies could sell for $1 million each -- first to his friends, then to the rest of the world."

"Sher declined the offer, but says it is only a matter of time before someone moves in that direction. At that point, maybe governments will get more involved. McGee, the bioethicist, predicts that "we will soon begin to recognize the danger of an ant-trail model of reproduction whereby strangers without any responsibility to each other and clinicians able to vanish in a puff of smoke meet in a transaction that culminates in humanity's ultimate act: creation."

HT to MR

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Law reviews and the declining cost of submission

Jacqueline Lipton at The Faculty Lounge has a post advising new law profs on Placing a First Law Review Article. Even though I've written about the different academic publishing cultures, and the fact that submissions to law reviews are made simultaneously to multiple reviews, I find the numbers of recommended submissions surprising...

"It appears that a number of people feel that Expresso has changed the game significantly in the sense that more people are sending more articles to more law reviews because of the speed and ease of doing it via Expresso.  Thus, the collective wisdom seems to be that a new professor may have to send an article to more reviews than would have been the case, say, 10 years ago when this was predominantly done through hard copy submissions.  I am interested in how others feel about this.  I guess back in the days of hard copy submissions, many of us were advised not to send an article out to more than maybe 70 or 80 general law reviews tops.  But a lot of junior folks today seem to be advised to send to at least 150.  The sense is that many of the top 100 law reviews now won't even look at a piece unless someone is trying to expedite up from a "lower ranked" journal. "

See my earlier post, Peer review and markets for ideas, in law and science

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Why study social science?

That was the question I was asked to help answer this afternoon, as part of a panel discussing the Social Sciences at Harvard, for incoming freshmen who will formally begin college when Harvard's fall semester starts this week. (We were right after a similar panel in the same room, on the Humanities. I listened to the end of that discussion from the back of the room, and, let me tell you, it sounds like it would be loads of fun to be a Humanities major.)

We were each asked to speak briefly about our own work, and what excites us about it, and about what students could expect to learn if they studied in our department.

Our panel consisted of Eric Beerbohm representing the interdisciplinary Social Studies concentration at Harvard, Dan Carpenter representing the Department of Government,
Theodore Bestor, chair of the Department of AnthropologyMaya Jasanoff representing HistoryNicholas Christakis  representing Sociology (one among many hats he wears),
and me, Al Roth, representing Economics.

As always, I'm amazed and delighted at the interests of my colleagues (and struck by the fact that I too rarely have the time and opportunity to listen to colleagues from the other social science departments).

Eric began by talking briefly about some of his work on polling (including not just assessing what people think, but how strongly they hold their opinions, and how they come to hold them).

Dan spoke about his work on regulatory bureaucracies, which he'll be speaking about at the White House in the coming days.

Ted (I actually don't recall if he's called Ted, or Theodore) announced that he studies sushi (at which point I recalled that I still hadn't read his book on the famous Japanese Tsukiji fish market), and quickly illustrated something about social change by asking students "who eats sushi?" (many hands raised), "who thinks your parents ate sushi?" (most hands remained up), "at your age??" (most hands came down).

Maya spoke about her studies of Revolutionary War loyalists who left the country after their side lost the Revolution. I thought about vacations we've had in the Anglophone Eastern Townships of Quebec, and as it happens she quickly ratified this line of thought by asking "who likes to travel?" and saying "then history is your ticket," and described her own far flung travels "and also Canada".

Nicholas introduced his work on networks (e.g. his well known work on how your friends influence your body mass index, and whether you smoke) with an analogy from chemistry: he pointed out that you couldn't hope to learn about how graphite is different from diamond just by studying carbon atoms, the differences result from how those atoms are connected to each other.

I spoke last, about my work in market design, and how economists thought about a much broader collection of marketplaces than freshmen might realize, such as the college admissions process they had just experienced. I pointed out that Harvard abolished its early admissions program only a few years ago and asked "how many of you applied to at least one other college?" (virtually all hands raised); how many applied to another college early admission (many hands, maybe a majority still raised); and "how many of you applied to another college with binding early decision? (one brave young man kept his hand up, and I told him some other college's loss was Harvard's gain). Then I explained that Harvard's decision to abolish its early admission program had prompted Princeton to abolish its binding early decision program, precisely because of the kind of strategic behavior that students could be expected to exhibit, as they had, and that this was the vantage point through which game theory entered economics. (I then briefly described how my colleagues and I got to help design school choice systems, and kidney exchange, and when I got back to my seat, Nicholas leaned over and told me that when I spoke about kidney exchange in the future, I might want to tell people about the movie Strangers on a Train, whose plot revolves around a proposed exchange of murders, so neither murderer could be connected to the crime by a motive...)

I confessed that I like Economics for some of the same reasons I sometimes like to hear gossip, because it gives me a picture of how other people go about getting what they want, and what choices they face that I might also face, or might have faced if my life had taken a different path.

Economics is often the biggest academic concentration for Harvard undergrads, so I don't doubt that many of the freshmen will soon be enjoying Greg Mankiw's introductory class Ec. 10 (often the class with highest enrollment at Harvard), where they'll be introduced to many of the more usual things that economists study, not only in class, but also on his popular blog.

It's clear that any of the social science departments offer a fantastic intellectual experience, and a window through which to understand those (big) parts of the world that human beings make when we interact with each other. I actually don't wish I was a freshman again, but I feel at least a tinge of envy at the range of exciting choices that freshmen face.

A marriage market in Iraq

Wanted: Jihadists to Marry Widows
"BAQUBA, Iraq — A snippet of news from a shadowy corner of Iraq: Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia recently issued a fatwa telling its fighters to marry the widows of those who have fallen."
"In Diyala Province east of Baghdad, the fatwa has produced about 70 marriages in a little more than three weeks, according to members of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and their relatives and associates. They spoke to an Iraqi reporter conducting interviews for The New York Times.
While Diyala is one of the group’s last remaining strongholds, the mere fact that so many people would rush headlong into marriages to strangers seemed to reflect how far the American military and the Iraqi government remain from their goal of eliminating the organization.
Some members say they are taking third or fourth wives, but many new husbands are from among the group’s most dedicated fighters — confirmed bachelors previously wedded only to the work of killing invaders and their Iraqi allies."

Related posts: China’s Arranged Remarriages; Polygamous marriage in Gaza

Friday, August 27, 2010

The market for attention: recommender engines for Twitter

How to decide what to pay attention to? A paper discusses several possible models for recommender engines for tweets: Short and Tweet: Experiments on Recommending Content from Information Streams by Jilin Chen, Rowan Nairn, Les Nelson, Michael Bernstein, and Ed H. Chi

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The regulated market for cemeteries

The NY Times reports, City Cemeteries Face Gridlock.

"More than 50 years have passed since a major cemetery was established within the city, and no new burial grounds are planned. But New Yorkers continue to die, some 60,000 a year.

"Accordingly, per square foot, burial plots in centrally located cemeteries rival the most expensive real estate in the city. A private mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx can easily cost more than $1,000 per square foot.

"“We have people who would like to disinter Mom and Dad and sell the graves back to make some money,” said Richard Fishman, the director of the New York State Division of Cemeteries.

"There are state laws limiting the profits on resold graves, but the fact that people would be willing to go to such lengths, Mr. Fishman said, illustrates just how valuable burial plots have become."
"Other major urban areas have taken measures to alleviate similar space crunches. London allows people to be buried upright, while cemeteries in Singapore and Sydney, among others, offer “limited tenure,” cemetery-speak for digging up bodies after a certain amount of time so that the plot can be reused."
"It might seem that an enterprising developer could find a way to make a lucrative business out of providing burial space.

"But that has not happened.

"First, by law, cemeteries in New York State must be nonprofit institutions. There are 35 privately owned cemeteries in the city and several dozen with religious affiliations. The closer to Manhattan and major transportation, the more crowded and expensive a burial ground will be. Farther away, particularly in Staten Island and parts of the Bronx, space is available. The indigent of New York City are buried on Hart Island in Long Island Sound.

"Woodlawn, which was part of Westchester County when it was founded in 1863 but was later incorporated into the Bronx, still has burial room. It hopes to be able to offer graves for another 40 to 50 years, but that relative abundance hasn’t kept its prices down.

“We want to have enough saved so that the income from the trust, once we are closed and have nothing left to sell, is enough to maintain the cemetery,” said John P. Toale Jr., the president of Woodlawn.

"While there is a space crunch in the city, there is more space in the suburbs, and cemeteries in upstate New York can barely give away plots, state officials said. Many New Yorkers who struggled and saved to live in the city end up buried elsewhere.

"Even as the broader real estate market languished in the recession, prices for graves in the city continued skyward. The state regulates the fees a cemetery can charge for services like excavation, but graves sell at market price. So burial plots are a cemetery’s revenue-generator.
"Now that an end to plot sales is in sight, Green-Wood is seeking to transform its image, according to Richard J. Moylan, its president. The graveyard charges admission for guided tours, giving people a chance to saunter through time among the tombstones of the notable and the notorious. The hope is that it will become much like Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, a magnet for tourists."

See also this earlier post.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Intellectual property as trade secrets

How are English muffins baked?  It's a trade secret, and one surrounded with hints of espionage: A Man With Muffin Secrets, but No Job With Them.

"The company that owns the Thomas’ brand says that only seven people know how the muffins get their trademark tracery of air pockets — marketed as nooks and crannies — and it has gone to court to keep a tight lid on the secret.
That leaves one of the seven, Chris Botticella, out of a job — and at the center of a corporate spectacle involving top-secret recipe files, allegations of clandestine computer downloads and an extreme claim of culinary disloyalty: dumping English muffins for Twinkies and Ho Hos.
Mr. Botticella, 56, delved into the mystery of Thomas’ muffinhood (hint: it has nothing to do with the fork), after Bimbo Bakeries USA bought the brand early last year. At the time, Mr. Botticella was a Bimbo vice president in charge of bakery operations in California.
But he left the company in January, apparently allowing co-workers to believe he was retiring. But he had accepted a job with the rival baker Hostess Brands, which years ago had tried to crack the muffin code.
Bimbo obtained a federal court order barring the move, and late last month an appeals panel in Pennsylvania upheld the order."
"Neither Mr. Botticella nor a Bimbo spokesman would comment for this article, but the legal papers in the case suggest a muffin culture more reminiscent of Langley than Drury Lane. Recipe manuals are called code books. Valuable information is compartmentalized to keep it from leaking out. Corporate officials speak of sharing information on a “need-to-know basis.”
According to Bimbo’s filings, the secret of the nooks and crannies was split into several pieces to make it more secure, and to protect the approximately $500 million in yearly muffin sales. They included the basic recipe, the moisture level of the muffin mixture, the equipment used and the way the product was baked. While many Bimbo employees may have known one or more pieces of the puzzle, only seven knew every step.
“Most employees possess information only directly relevant to their assigned task,” Daniel P. Babin, a Bimbo senior vice president, said in a written court declaration, “and very few employees, such as Botticella, possess all of the knowledge necessary to produce a finished product.” "

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Medical resident training regulations

Dr. Pauline Chen, writing in the NY Times, describes the new regulations about the training of medical residents: Someone to Watch Over Me
She worries that, with the new emphasis on making sure resident physicians aren't awake too many consecutive hours, something valuable might be lost.

And here's a description in the NEJM of The New Recommendations on Duty Hours from the ACGME Task Force

Monday, August 23, 2010

Some politicians love their spouses

Bettina Klaus points me to the following cheerful story: Germany's opposition leader breaks from politics to donate kidney to wife: Frank-Walter Steinmeier prepares for operation to save life of his partner of 20 years

Interdisciplinary research

Practical market design is almost by definition an interdisciplinary activity, and fortunately Economics as an academic discipline revels in its interactions with other disciplines such as psychology, computer science, and neuroscience. Debate also breaks out periodically about the value of such work, and how to conduct it, or to assess it, or incorporate it.

So I find it very interesting (both as a market designer and an experimental economist) to follow the debate going on among philosophers about their field's so far tentative foray into "experimental philosophy." This debate recently surfaced in several short pieces in the New York Times "Room for Debate" blog.

Joshua Knobe, one of the young X-Phi pioneers, writes that experimental philosophy is A Return to Tradition:
"Traditionally, no one worried very much about the distinction between philosophy and psychology. Philosophers were just supposed to think, at a very broad and fundamental level, about the nature of the human condition. And, as a matter of course, they were supposed to make use of all the intellectual resources available to them, including psychology, history, literature, and much else besides. ...
"I find it puzzling that people sometimes regard these recent developments as somehow taking things in a radical new direction. A more natural response would be to say that they are taking things back to their old direction, back to the direction of David Hume’s immortal Treatise of Human Nature (1739), with its subtitle, "Being An Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning Into Moral Subjects."

A contrary view is given by Timothy Williamson: Is It Imitation Psychology?

"The real issue concerns the most effective way for each side to learn from the other. There are philosophy-hating philosophers who would like to replace the traditional methodology of philosophy, with their stress on a combination of abstract reasoning and particular examples, by something more like imitation psychology. Without even properly defining what it is they are attacking, they use experimental results in a selective and unscientific spirit to try to discredit the traditional methodology.

"In other cases experimentalists draw lessons for morality from the results of brain scans in comically naive ways, without realizing how many philosophical assumptions they are uncritically relying on in their inferences -- precisely because they neglect traditional philosophical skills in making distinctions and assessing arguments. The danger is that the publicity such crude work attracts will give a bad name to constructive developments in which experimental results really do cast light on philosophical questions.
"Philosophy has most to contribute to the pursuit of truth by refining its own distinctive methods, not by imitating other disciplines. Philosophers are not needed as amateur experimentalists or writers of pop science. We do more to help through our skill in logic, in imagining new possibilities and questions, in organizing systematic abstract theories, making distinctions and the like. "

Following either of the above links will also connect you to the contributions by Kwame Anthony Appiah, Ernest Sosa, Brian Leiter, and Tim Maudlin.

Those of you who follow the debates about neuroeconomics will recognize the general terrain.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Easing into a national kidney paired donation program

UNOS has a press release on the progress being made towards setting up a national kidney exchange program, headlined Getting it Right: Kidney committee easing into KPD with two-step pilot project

"Some transplant centers throughout the country have been using this method, known as kidney paired donation (KPD), for several years. UNOS has now embarked on a pilot project designed to assess the feasibility of a national kidney paired donation program in which all centers could participate.

"Members of the OPTN/UNOS kidney transplantation committee began discussing the idea of kidney paired donation in 2004. They went as far as proposing a concept they distributed for public comment.

"After receiving positive feedback, the committee distributed a more fully developed proposal in August 2006. Although fleshed out, the proposal was still not ready to go to the OPTN/UNOS board of directors because of concerns about transplant law. As we know, the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) prohibits the sale of organs.

"In 2007, Congress definitively clarified that NOTA’s definition of “valuable consideration” did not apply to the organs in a KPD exchange. The law was later titled the Charlie W. Norwood Living Organ Donation Act in honor of the long-time Georgia representative, a lung recipient and sponsor of the bill, who died in February 2007 before the bill became law.

"Around that time, the OPTN/UNOS kidney transplantation committee had issued a request for information from experts in the field. Committee members wanted to know what centers performing KPD were doing, and how they were doing it. The
community responded generously.

"Then, in February 2008, representatives from multiple transplant centers, OPOs, universities and private organizations across the country came to UNOS to share not only their knowledge but also the software they were using for the complex
matching that KPD required.

"Members of the kidney committee wanted to proceed cautiously before taking on the considerable challenge of coordinating a national KPD system. After much deliberation, they determined that the best strategy was a two-phased pilot project" ...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

In Egypt, marrying an Israeli is a repugnant transaction

Egyptians Married to Israelis to Lose Citizenship
"CAIRO (AP) -- An Egyptian appeals court on Saturday upheld a ruling that orders the country's Interior Ministry to strip the citizenship from Egyptians married to Israeli women.
"The case underlines the deep animosity many Egyptians still hold toward Israelis, despite a peace treaty signed between the two countries 31 years ago.
"The Supreme Administrative Court's decision also scores a point for Egyptian hard-liners who have long resisted any improvement in ties with Israel since the signing of the 1979 peace treaty.
..."Saturday's decision, which cannot be appealed, comes more than year after a lower court ruled that the Interior Ministry, which deals with citizenship documents, must implement the 1976 article of the citizenship law. That bill revokes citizenship of Egyptians who married Israelis who have served in the army or embrace Zionism as an ideology. The Interior Ministry appealed that ruling.
..."In 2005, former Grand Mufti Nasr Farid Wasel issued a religious edict, or fatwa, saying Muslim Egyptians may not marry Israeli nationals, ''whether Arab, Muslim, or Christian.'' The possibility of a Jewish spouse was not mentioned.
"Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, the late Grand Sheik of Cairo's Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's premier institution and oldest university, has said that while marriage between an Egyptian man and an Israeli woman is not religiously forbidden, the government has the right to strip the man of his citizenship for marrying a woman from ''an enemy state.''"

Friday, August 20, 2010

Online real estate markets: Yahoo and Zillow

Yahoo Pairs with Zillow on Real Estate Listings

"The deal also helps Yahoo and Zillow challenge Move Inc. (MOVE), owner of Realtor.com, the most-used real estate site."
"Until now, Yahoo has focused mainly on selling ads from large marketers, such as mortgage companies and credit agencies, not the local real estate agents that are Zillow's mainstay, Schultz said. In May, Yahoo was No. 3 in the online real estate market with 6.14 million users, while Zillow.com was second with 7.05 million, according to ComScore (SCOR) of Reston, Va. The market was led by Move Inc., with more than 12 million."

A four-way exchange in basketball

A regular reader alerts me to a four-way exchange in basketball (for all of you who thought those were just for kidney exchange:)
"Wednesday's four-team trade between Houston, Indiana, New Jersey and New Orleans featured the Hornets' young point guard, Darren Collison, going to Indiana, and the Rockets sending forward Trevor Ariza to New Orleans. The Rockets also got guard Courtney Lee from the Nets, while the Nets acquired forward Troy Murphy from Indiana. Indiana took on veteran forward James Posey from New Orleans to complete the deal."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Roommate matching and the social internet

Roommate matching continues to evolve, with Facebook playing a key role: Students Turn to Online Roommate Matching Services to Avoid Getting Paired With a Stranger (HT: Mike Ruberry)

The Chronicle gives a good description: Colleges Use Facebook to Let Freshmen Find Their Own Roommates
"This summer, incoming freshmen at five universities can use a Facebook application to find their roommates. Students can use the application, RoomBug, to fill out forms about their preferences for living and qualities they'd like to see in a roommate. Students can then request a match, which the other incoming freshman must confirm.
RoomBug is hardly the first service to let students match themselves: Tulane University announced a partnership with online service RoommateClick two years ago.
But RoomBug, which the company U-Match LLC just rolled out at Emory University, the University of Florida, Temple University, Wichita State University, and William Paterson University of New Jersey, tries to go where the students are.
"Everyone is on Facebook," says Robert Castellucci, the service's co-founder and sales director.
Over a quarter of the University of Florida's incoming freshmen have added the Facebook application, he says, but numbers on how many matches the service helped make are not yet available."

Maureen Dowd regrets the trend, writing in her NY Times column
"The serendipity of ending up with roommates that you like, despite your differences, or can’t stand, despite your similarities, or grow to like, despite your reservations, is an experience that toughens you up and broadens you out for the rest of life.

"So I was dubious when I read in The Wall Street Journal last week that students are relying more on online roommate matching services to avoid getting paired with strangers or peers with different political views, study habits and messiness quotients."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pet food

Luke Stein at Stanford points me to Brian Palmer's column in Slate about where it is illegal to eat pets: Is it legal to eat your cat?

"Few states have specific laws barring the use of pets for food. The ones that do typically ban the slaughter or sale of dog and cat meat. The state of New York expressly prohibits "any person to slaughter or butcher domesticated dog (canis familiaris) or domesticated cat (felis catus or domesticus) to create food, meat or meat products for human or animal consumption." It's not clear whether the eating itself is outlawed or only the butchery. If you managed to buy dog or cat flesh from someone else who broke the anti-slaughter law, you might be OK. The law also doesn't cover ferrets, gerbils, parakeets, or other less familiar pet species. (Although the general anti-cruelty law might protect exotics.)

"California's anti-pet-eating law has a broader reach. It bars possession of the carcass, so having bought your cat steaks from someone else wouldn't be a useful alibi. The California law also protects "any animal traditionally or commonly kept as a pet or companion," rather than just Fido and Fluffy. The statute is somewhat untested, though, so no one really knows which animals are included. Pigs are not, even though they are commonly kept as pets, because they are farm animals. Horses are specifically covered by a different section of the code. There's no precedent on iguanas, goldfish, or boa constrictors.

"In most of the country, the legality of pet-eating would come down to the specific language of the general animal cruelty statute and how a judge interpreted it. Some states, such as Virginia, bar the unnecessary killing of an animal, with a specific exemption for "farming activities." In those places, it's very likely that killing a cat for dinner would get you in trouble, because the killing wouldn't be necessary, and cats aren't commonly associated with farming.
"Worldwide, cat and dog meat seem to be at a crossroads. China pulled dog meat off the market for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and is considering a law barring it permanently. South Korea, on the other hand, has inched toward explicitly legalizing the widespread and officially tolerated dog-meat trade."

Back in February, Roger Cohen described eating dog in China: Dog Days in China
"Now, we are appalled in the West at the notion of eating dog while considering it natural to have a dog as a pet — I own a Beagle myself (“Ned”) and I’m very fond of him. This is the inverse of the preponderant Western view of pigs: fine to eat (religious objections aside) but not to pet."

On a related matter, Abe Othman  writes about Horseflesh and Hypocrisy

"Remember, if they can come after the horse slaughterers, they can come after the hedge funds. So if you really believe in free markets, have some horse today!"

And see my earlier post: Why can't you eat horse meat in the U.S.?

This raises the question of why some people are disgusted by the idea of eating horse meat.
Michael Webster points me to the Boston Globe article "Ewwwwwwwww! The surprising moral force of disgust," which reports on a recent conference of psychologists.

"Psychologists like Haidt are leading a wave of research into the so-called moral emotions — not just disgust, but others like anger and compassion — and the role those feelings play in how we form moral codes and apply them in our daily lives. A few, like Haidt, go so far as to claim that all the world’s moral systems can best be characterized not by what their adherents believe, but what emotions they rely on.

"There is deep skepticism in parts of the psychology world about claims like these. And even within the movement there is a lively debate over how much power moral reasoning has — whether our behavior is driven by thinking and reasoning, or whether thinking and reasoning are nothing more than ornate rationalizations of what our emotions ineluctably drive us to do."

See my earlier post on this, Repugnance and/or disgust.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Unraveling of law internships in Israel

I recently wrote about the Unraveling of law firm interviews of 2nd year students in the U.S.  It turns out that something similar is facing Israeli law students.

Assaf Romm, who just moved from Israel to Boston to study for a Ph.D. at Harvard writes:
"The Israeli market for law interns suffers from congestion. Recent ruling (first published today, see below) is that preliminary interviews could only be scheduled on third year of studies. I have many friends who were law students, and most of them signed a contract around their second year, where the interviews are scheduled around first year. Most of the interviews are conducted around the same period, and the firms are invited to the universities on certain date.

"Another interesting feature which isn't mentioned in the article is that there is also a very deep problem with the coordination between the interviews to public sector internships and private sector internships. Some (but only a very small number) of positions in the public sector are much more prestigious than any in the private section (specifically, the supreme court internships and the "Bagaz" department are considered best). Because of that, firms always make exploding offers before the public sector interviews even begin. A future-intern who decides to reject the firms' offers is usually making a high-stakes bet, because even the best cannot be sure they will get the good public internships, and if they don't get it they have to wait another year to start their internship in the private sector."

"The Hebrew article: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3938299,00.html

"I couldn't find English translation. Here is Google translate (not a very good one, but understandable): http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=1&eotf=1&u=http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3938299,00.html&sl=auto&tl=en "

Update: apparently this is an issue of long standing, Itai Ashlagi sends this story from Haaretz in 2008. Law students to apply for internships only from third year :
Israel Bar Association's council approved the rules governing job offers for internships, though they still require the justice minister's approval.

"In recent years, law students have started arranging a place for doing their articles as soon as they start their studies, said attorney Orrin Persky, the head of the Bar Association's committee on internships. He explained that this pressure emanated from both the students and the law firms and has created a market failure for finding such posts.

"In addition, there are a large number of complaints about students canceling their internship positions, which they had agreed to a year or two earlier.

"The new rules would require firms and all other bodies providing internships, such as the State Attorney's Office, to start interviewing no earlier than March 15 of the student's third year for the internship that will start in the following calendar year. "

"Social" science

A novel kind of crowd-sourcing is described in: In a Video Game, Tackling the Complexities of Protein Folding

"Proteins are essentially biological nanomachines that carry out myriad functions in the body, and biologists have long sought to understand how the long chains of amino acids that make up each protein fold into their specific configurations.

"In May 2008, researchers at the University of Washington made a protein-folding video game called Foldit freely available via the Internet. The game, which was competitive and offered the puzzle-solving qualities of a game like Rubik’s Cube, quickly attracted a dedicated following of thousands of players.

"The success of the Foldit players, the researchers report in the current issue of Nature, shows that nonscientists can collaborate to develop new strategies and algorithms that are distinct from traditional software solutions to the challenge of protein folding.

"The researchers took pains to credit the volunteers who competed at Foldit in the last two years, listing “Foldit players” at the end of the report’s author list and noting that more than 57,000 players “contributed extensively through their feedback and gameplay.” "

Monday, August 16, 2010

The (changing) market for law professors

The New Realities of the Legal Academy by Lawrence B. Solum

 "Abstract: This short paper is the Foreword to Brannon P. Denning, Marcia L. McCormick, and Jeffrey M. Lipshaw, Becoming a Law Professor: A Candidate's Guide, American Bar Association, Forthcoming.

"One of the great virtues of Denning, McCormick and Lipshaw’s guide is that it reflects the changing nature and new realities of the legal academy. Not so many years ago, entry into the elite legal academy was mostly a function of two things - credentials and connections. The ideal candidate graduated near the top of the class at a top-five law school, held an important editorial position on law review, clerked for a Supreme Court Justice, and practiced for a few years at an elite firm or government agency in New York or Washington. Credentials like these almost guaranteed a job at a very respectable law school, but the very best jobs went to those with connections - the few who were held in high esteem by the elite network of very successful legal academics and their friends in the bar and on the bench. The not-so-elite legal academy operated by a similar set of rules. Regional law schools were populated by a mix of graduates from elite schools and the top graduates of local schools, clerks of respected local judges, and alumni of elite law firms in the neighborhood. In what we now call the "bad old days," it was very difficult indeed for someone to become a law professor without glowing credentials and the right connections.

"But times have changed. When the Association of American Law School’s created the annual Faculty Recruitment Conference (or FRC) and the associated Faculty Appointments Register (or FAR), the landscape of the legal academy was forever changed. The change was slow in coming. For many years, candidates were selected for interviews at the FRC on the basis of the same old credentials and connections, but at some point (many would say the early 1980s), the rules of the game began to change. In baseball, a similar change is associated with Billy Beane, the manager of the Oakland Athletics, who defied conventional wisdom and built winning teams despite severe financial constraints by relying on statistically reliable predictors of success. The corresponding insight in the legal academy (developed by hiring committees at several law schools) was that the best predictor of success as a legal scholar was a record of publication. It turns out that law school grades, law review offices, and clerkships are at best very rough indicators of scholarly success. But those who successfully publish high quality legal scholarship are likely to continue to do so."
The paper itself is only 3 pages, and the abstract is a good summary...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Matching services for friends?

Robin Hanson asks "Why Not Friend Match?" I.e. why are there dating sites but not friend sites?

That isn't to say that there aren't friend matching sites (e.g. here, and here, not to mention  Facebook), but nevertheless his conjecture strikes me as plausible: we (at least initially) draw our friends from the people and places we encounter for other reasons, since friends complement our other activities. Or, as he puts it:

"Since we need friends in substantial part to serve as allies in our social world, supporting us against opposing coalitions, it makes sense to draw our friends from our existing social world. And since we need mates more for their personal quality, e.g., good genes, youth, wealth, smarts, mood, etc., it makes sense to pick them more via such features."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The international market for ironing boards

The Washington Post reports Indiana ironing-board factory faces stiff competition from Chinese companies.
"There is one factory left in the United States that manufactures the basic ironing board, and its survival against Chinese competition demands unrelenting, production-line hustle.
"The 200 people at the plant in this small town make their boards very, very cheaply and as fast as 720 in an hour. In three low-slung buildings without air conditioning, coils of cold-rolled steel are cut, welded, riveted and boxed, then loaded onto the Wal-Mart and Target trucks backed up to the loading dock. Paid with piece-rate incentives, workers emerge weary at shift's end.

"The people on the line are making pretty good money; it can work out to about $15 an hour," said Dave Waskom, 61, a tool and die maker who readied the plant's machinery for 37 years. "But they work like dogs."

"Yet loyalty and hard work are not enough.

The company survives in part because it convinced U.S. trade officials that Chinese firms were unfairly dumping ironing boards into the United States at less than fair-market value; in response, the United States levied anti-dumping taxes of 70 to more than 150 percent on its Chinese rivals."

Friday, August 13, 2010

Another live liver donation tragedy

Live liver donation remains much more dangerous than kidney donation: Donor dies after live liver transplant at CU Hospital

AURORA, Colo. - A man who agreed to donate part of his liver to help save his brother died just four days after the transplant procedure at The University of Colorado Hospital.

"It's the first death of a living liver donor in Colorado and only the fourth in the U.S.

"The death has led to a temporary halt of all live donor liver transplants at The University of Colorado Hospital. The hospital has also launched an investigation into what went wrong.

"It has reported the death to the Colorado Department of Public Health, which is conducting its own investigation.

"Ryan Arnold, 34, of Watertown, South Dakota died on August 2nd, just four days after his brother, Chad, 38, of Castle Rock, received part of his liver. "

There was an earlier death this year.

Suicide and organ donation

Assisted suicide is one of the persistently repugnant transactions, although it is the subject of a good deal of modern debate around the world. Here's a story likely to give you pause to think: Lou Gehrig's victim: Kill me for my organs 

"he ... compares his situation to a soldier in a foxhole throwing himself on a grenade to save his comrades.

"I am not suicidal," he says. "I just know that it is a matter of time before I die and wish to do a good thing for those people who have a good life expectancy"

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The market for celebrity endorsements

The story under this eye-catching headline sheds some light on the endorsement biz: Paris Hilton Sued for $35M for Wearing Wrong Hair

"A company that manufactures hair extensions claimed the 29-year-old socialite breached her contract to wear and promote their product when she sported the fake locks of a competitor in 2008.
Hairtech International Inc. is seeking $35 million in damages -- 10 times what she was apparently paid under the contract. The fraud and breach-of-contract suit cites the heiress' partying as contrary to Hairtech's marketing campaign.
The filing also claims Hilton missed a launch party for the hair extension line because she was serving a stint in jail in 2007. Hilton served 23 days in 2007 after she was caught driving twice on a suspended license while on probation for reckless driving.
The filing states the company's lost $6.6 million on the launch party alone, although a jury or judge will have to decide whether Hilton owes any money if the case goes to trial."

Language exchanges

Learning a Language From an Expert, on the Web reports on various communities of language learners who help each other out.
"Livemocha, a Seattle company with $14 million in venture capital financing, mixes a social network with lessons for more than 38 of the world’s more common languages.

"The initial lessons are free, but unlocking some of the additional features requires a fee to Livemocha (starting at $10 for a set of lessons) or an agreement to correct the work of others..."

"MyLanguageExchange.com just maintains lists of people who know certain languages and want to learn others. Anyone can search the database, but only gold members, who pay $24 a year, can send e-mail easily to others."
"RhinoSpike.com set up a market for recordings spoken by native speakers. Anyone can post a selection of text and anyone can post a recording."
"Companies like RosettaStone.com, GermanPod101.com, ChinesePod.com and a surprisingly large number of other Web sites are competing to offer lessons and tutoring to students throughout the world. I found dozens of others offering what was found only on PC software a few years ago.

"There are even more casual approaches that come with even less infrastructure and fewer of the protections for consumers that it may offer. It is easy to find, for instance, people who want to practice languages with a free phone call through the forums run by Skype. One click and you can talk free with someone who wants to practice another language. The standard protocol is to spend half the time on one language and half the time with the other.

"Some sites, like UsingEnglish.com, englishcafe.com and Englishbaby.com, are devoted to helping people practice English but add the elements of sharing photos and interests like a dating service. "

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Education as a filter--for Supreme Court justices

Yale, Harvard Law Taking Over Supreme Court
"In a new paper, Patrick J. Glen, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, researched the legal educations of Supreme Court justices through time and found a curious pattern."
"However you categorize Justice Ginsburg’s pedigree, one fact would still be guaranteed by Ms. Kagan’s confirmation: For the first time in history, every sitting Supreme Court justice will have graduated from an Ivy League law school.

Mr. Glen writes, “Kagan will take the place not only of the last remaining Protestant on the Court, but also of its last non-Ivy League hold-out—the Chicago educated Justice John Paul Stevens (Northwestern Law School).”
So in some respects, the court has gotten a little more diverse over the years, with Congress confirming more racial minorities and women. But perhaps that just reflects the changing admissions processes at the nation’s top two law schools."

In this story covering her swearing in, the Times' Peter Baker writes
"Arguably, Justice Kagan made a mark from the moment she took the oaths on Saturday. She is the third woman on the current court, joining Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. She is also the fifth justice born after World War II, making that group a majority, and she brings down the average age on the court to 64, from nearly 69. And she is the first person since William H. Rehnquist, 38 years ago, to join the court without experience as a judge.
If her installation added diversity in some ways, though, it reinforced the court’s lack of it in other areas. Her addition means the court now includes neither Protestants nor anyone without an Ivy League background. Justice Kagan joins two other Jewish justices and six Catholics. She is the sixth justice to have studied at Harvard Law School (although Justice Ginsburg later transferred to and graduated from Columbia Law School); the other three graduated from Yale Law School. And she is the fourth justice to have grown up in New York City." 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Marriage, jobs, and immigration

A recent NBER paper relates two things whose interaction has fascinated me for some time (the marriage and job markets) with a third, immigration.

America's settling down: How Better Jobs and Falling Immigration led to a Rise in Marriage, 1880 – 1930 by Tomas Cvrcek, NBER Working Paper No. 16161, July 2010.

Abstract: The growing education and employment of women are usually cited as crucial forces behind the decline of marriage since 1960. However, both trends were already present between 1900 and 1960, during which time marriage became increasingly widespread. This early period differed from the post-1960 decades due to two factors primarily affecting men, one economic and one demographic. First, men’s improving labor market prospects made them more attractive as marriage partners to women. Second, immigration had a dynamic effect on partner search costs. Its short-run effect was to fragment the marriage market, making it harder to find a partner of one’s preferred ethnic and cultural background. The high search costs led to less marriage and later marriage in the 1890s and 1900s. As immigration declined, the long-run effect was for immigrants and their descendants to gradually integrate with American society. This reduced search costs and increased the marriage rate. The immigration primarily affected the whites’ marriage market which is why the changes in marital behavior are much more pronounced among this group than among blacks."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Brokers for pirate ransom

Suppose your ship were hijacked by Somali pirates, and you wanted to ransom it and the crew. How would you go about it?  You would need a middleman, someone who could get the money to the right pirates, and maybe who played a repeated game with them, to help ensure that the release would go as planned. As it happens, you might become the client of a certain kind of British law firm, whose market is now threatened by the imposition of sanctions against those who deal with certain named Somali pirates. The problem is, it may be impossible to pay a ransom without doing business with the embargoed individuals. The Financial Times reports: Somali crackdown threatens City role on ransoms

"International plans for a legal crackdown on the funding of piracy could scupper a burgeoning City industry.
"The United Nations plans for sanctions on two suspected pirates would hit the often lucrative work of the law firms, insurers and private security companies in London that quietly arrange ransoms to free kidnapped ships and crews."
"The government has decided to block the UN plans amid worries they could force shipowners and their advisers to stop paying ransoms or else risk prosecution.

"London’s piracy negotiation business brings together an unusual cast of characters, from hard-bitten security operatives to dapper lawyers making telephone calls to hijacked ships from offices close to the banks of the Thames.

"NYA International, a kidnap response specialist based off Bishopsgate and now part of Aon, the US insurance broker, has advised on more than 20 piracy incidents during the past 18 months or so.

"The leading ship hijack case law firm in terms of numbers of clients is said to be Holman Fenwick Willan, which has offices north-west of the Tower of London.

"James Gosling, partner at HFW, said: “Nobody wants to pay ransoms. But when it’s the only option, what the hell else do you do?” "
"The concern about sanctions is that, while they do not explicitly outlaw the payment of ransoms, they make it impossible in practice because of the uncertainty about where money given to pirates will end up.
“The problem is the due diligence,” Mr Roberts said. “How can you possibly know if the money is going to that [sanctioned] person or not?”
"Maritime lawyers in London say they were encouraged by a High Court ruling this year that paying ransoms wasn’t contrary to British public policy, although they admit the argument over the subject is increasingly becoming political rather than legal.
"That is why the capital’s community of piracy-related businesses is appealing to the government to hold firm in stopping the UN proposal and the sanctions it would introduce.
"As one London-based insurer, who asked not to be named, put it: “We would be very concerned if shipowners were denied a means to free pirated ships.
“There are no navies prepared to go all guns blazing to rescue people – and it wouldn’t work, either.” "

Sunday, August 8, 2010

New Orleans Receivables Exchange

In several earlier posts I've been following the progress of the New Orleans Receivables Exchange.

The State of Louisiana has now passed some legislation that makes it easier for companies to sell their accounts receivable: here's the text of the Louisiana Exchange Sale of Receivables Act.

And here's an article from Inc. Magazine: A New Liquidity Solution

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Korean marriage brokers for foreign brides

After a tragedy involving the death of a young woman, SKorea Cracks Down on Marriage Brokers .

"...Her death in early July has drawn attention to the growing trend of South Korean men looking overseas for brides...
"Over the past decade, a growing number of South Korean men, particularly from farming villages with dwindling populations, have been looking overseas for wives....
"They pay an average of $9,900 to brokers to connect them with young women looking for economic security, mostly from Southeast Asia and China, Heo said.

''International marriages are in a way a practical intersection of interests, bringing together South Korean bachelors and foreign women who suffer from poverty and have a romanticized notion of a prosperous life in an industrialized country like South Korea,'' Heo said.
"In 2009, 180,000 foreigners were married to South Koreans, including more than 35,000 Vietnamese women, the Ministry of Public Administration and Security said.
"Many met their spouses through the estimated 1,250 marriage brokers or matchmakers who arrange an estimated 15,000 marriages each year between South Korean men and foreign women, mostly from Southeast Asia, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said. "

Friday, August 6, 2010

Organ donation registration on income tax forms

"LANSING, Mich. - Michigan's secretary of state wants to make organ donation easier by adding a checkoff box on annual tax forms.
Terri Lynn Land says the box would be similar to the current section of the tax form that asks filers if they want part of their taxes to go to the State Campaign Fund.
Tax filers would have the option of marking the box which allows their names to be added to Michigan's Organ Donor Registry.
Land says the proposal allows for a convenient way for organ donors to sign up and allows every Michigan taxpayer to be reached "at virtually no cost" during current lean fiscal times. Her proposal has to go before the state Legislature."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The market for electricity

As the supply of electricity changes in response to growing numbers of wind turbines, there's more need to be able to store electricity: Wind Drives Growing Use of Batteries

"In New York and California, companies are exploring electrical storage that is big enough to allow for “arbitrage,” or buying power at a low price, such as in the middle of the night, and selling it hours later at a higher price. In the Midwest, a utility is demonstrating storage technology that can go from charge to discharge and back several times a minute, or even within a second, bracing the grid against the vicissitudes of wind and sun and transmission failure. And in Texas, companies are looking at ways of stabilizing voltage through battery storage in places served by just one transmission line."

I also recently heard of attempts to create more flexible demand by fitting households with electrical heat storage units, that heat bricks when electricity is cheap, and power the household heating system off the stored heat.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

School choice in Darebin City, Victoria, Australia

It sounds like at least one school district in Australia has less bureaucracy than my colleagues and I have encountered in helping American cities reorganize their school assignment systems. Kwanghui Lim at CoRE Economics reports: Game Theory in Action: Sven Feldmann on Kindergarten Matching.

More on school choice here, and here. (And here is a video of Muriel Niederle presenting a new school choice algorithm to the San Francisco school board meeting that gave the go ahead for a redesign there.)

WHO: blood donation insufficient in developing countries

The World Health Organization reports
  • "65% of all blood donations are made in developed countries, home to just 25% of the world's population.
  • In 73 countries, donation rates are still less than 1% of the population (the minimum needed to meet basic needs in a country). Of these, 71 are either developing or transitional countries.
  • 42 countries collected less than 25% of their blood supplies from voluntary unpaid blood donors, which is the safest source.
  • 31 countries still reported collecting paid donations in 2007, more than 1 million donations in total.
  • 41 countries were not able to screen all blood donations for one or more of the following transfusion-transmissible infections (TTIs)–HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis."
They recommend programs of voluntary blood donation:
"Safe blood donors are the cornerstone of a safe and adequate supply of blood and blood products. The safest blood donors are voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors from low-risk populations. Despite this, family/replacement and paid donors, which are associated with a significantly higher prevalence of transfusion-transmissible infections (TTIs) including HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and Chagas disease, still provide more than 50% of the blood collected in developing countries. WHO advocates and recommends to its Member States to develop national blood transfusion services based on voluntary non-remunerated regular blood donation in accordance with World Health Assembly resolution 28.72, which was adopted in 1975. "

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kidney Exchange in South Korea

S. Korea was a pioneer in kidney exchange. (In the U.S. population, Asians have the highest frequency of blood type B, almost equal to their frequency of A, and so the simplest exchanges of an A-B patient donor pair with a B-A patient donor pair come up more often among Asians.)
Here's a report of their experience.
J Korean Med Assoc. 2008 Aug;51(8):717-723. Korean.
Exchange Living-donor Kidney Transplantation: The Present and Future. Huh KH, Kim YS, Kim BS. Department of Surgery, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Korea. yukim@yuhs.ac Department of Internal Medicine, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Korea. Abstract The shortage of donor organs is one of the major barriers of transplantation worldwide. After the success of the direct exchange donor (swap) program in Korea since 1991, a swaparound program has been developed. Recently, a web-based (computerized) algorithm to facilitate donor kidney exchange was devised and tested in multi-center settings. An excellent longterm outcome was achieved by using the donor exchange program as an option to reduce the donor organ shortage. Herein, we discussed on the current status of the exchange donor renal transplantation in Korea, a couple of problems we have had, and future directions we have to head and make better to improve organ donation activities.

Monday, August 2, 2010

More market design in Hebrew

Forbes has an Israeli edition, and here is a Hebrew translation of the article that ran in English here.

(Here's a different market design article in Hebrew, featuring Itai Ashlagi, that I posted about earlier.)

Repugnance and/or disgust

I like to distinguish what I've called repugnant transactions from those that elicit disgust. By repugnant transactions I mean transactions that some people want to engage in and that others don't want them to (e.g. same sex marriage, or buying or selling a kidney, or ordering horse meat at a U.S. restaurant). One sign that a transaction is viewed as repugnant by a sufficiently big part of the population is if it is illegal. Disgusting transactions most often don't elicit legislation (except in a consumer protection way), e.g. it's illegal in CA to offer to sell horse meat for human consumption, but not, say, spit: the difference being that some people would like to buy and eat horse meat.

However there's no denying that part of what makes some transactions repugnant to some people is that they find them disgusting (see e.g. Martha Nussbaum on same sex marriage). There have been recent reports in the press and blogosphere on attempts to link physiological indicators of disgust to, among other things, political proclivities.

Nicholas Kristof in the NY Times gives a quick overview of some conclusions of this sort: Our Politics May Be All in Our Head

Mark Liberman at Language Log takes a closer look: Physiological politics, and suggests that at least some of the results could be artifacts of the experiment. (He has a followup here: Icktheology.)

In the context of organ transplantation, I've noted that the repugnance to sales of organs is hard to equate with a visceral disgust reaction, since there isn't repugnance to transplants in general. There may of course be specific exceptions to that, see e.g. this article in the American Journal of Transplantation:

"Specific Unwillingness to Donate Eyes: The Impact of Disfigurement, Knowledge and Procurement on Corneal Donation" (p 657-663)M. Lawlor, I. Kerridge, R. Ankeny, T. A. Dobbins, F. BillsonPublished Online: Jan 29 2010 2:23PM

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The market for once-used wedding dresses

For Sale: One White Dress, Yet to Be Worn
"AS more brides try to sell their used wedding dresses online, some have found a way to stand out from the competition: putting their gowns up for sale before even walking down the aisle.
A growing number of postings for so-called presale dresses have popped up among the listings on sites like oncewed.com, preownedweddingdresses.com and woreitonce.com.
"A used dress generally sells for about 50 percent off retail, whether sold before or after the wedding. But brides see an advantage to selling before the wedding because the styles are still current and other brides often can try on the same dress in stores. That, they say, enhances the likelihood of a quick sale.
"Zofia Gajdamowicz, 27, a bartender in Toronto who hopes to sell her Modern Trousseau dress before her wedding in late October, said she will “have to be a little more careful” if she finds a buyer.
“I already told my friends, ‘Don’t let me drink any red wine,’ ” she said."