Sunday, June 30, 2019

Organ donation by opt-out versus opt-in deceased donor registration (no significant effect on transplants)

In the June issue of Kidney International, there's a meta-study of organ transplantation rates in opt out versus opt in countries, that finds "no significant difference in deceased donation or solid organ transplantation activity between opt-out versus opt-in countries.":

Comparison of organ donation and transplantation rates between opt-out and opt-in systems
Adam Arshad,  Benjamin Anderson, and Adnan Sharif
Kidney International (2019) 95, 1453–1460

Studies comparing opt-out and opt-in approaches to organ donation have generally suggested higher donation and transplantation rates in countries with an opt-out strategy. We compared organ donation and transplantation rates between countries with opt-out versus opt-in systems to investigate possible differences in the contemporary era. Data were analysed for 35 countries registered with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (17 countries classified as opt-out, 18 classified as opt-in) and obtained organ donation and transplantation rates for 2016 from the Global Observatory for Donation and Transplantation. Compared to opt-in countries, opt-out countries had fewer living donors per million population (4.8 versus 15.7, respectively) with no significant difference in deceased donors (20.3 versus 15.4, respectively). Overall, no significant difference was observed in rates of kidney (35.2 versus 42.3 respectively), non-renal (28.7 versus 20.9, respectively), or total solid organ transplantation (63.6 versus 61.7, respectively). In a multivariate linear regression model, an opt-out system was independently predictive of fewer living donors but was not associated with the number of deceased donors or with transplantation rates. Apart from the observed difference in the rates of living donation, our data demonstrate no significant difference in deceased donation or solid organ transplantation activity between opt-out versus opt-in countries. This suggests that other barriers to organ donation must be addressed, even in settings where consent for donation is presumed.

Large image of Figure 1. 

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Sex related businesses in Japan

Japan is complicated. Here's a story from the Guardian that seems not to involve prostitution, but is nevertheless sex related (and child related).

Schoolgirls for sale: why Tokyo struggles to stop the 'JK business'
The persistent practice of paying underage girls for sex-related services, known in Japan as the ‘JK’ business, has seen charities step in where police have come up short

"Tokyo is famous for its fairly wild red light scene. You can find anything from a handsome man to make you cry and wipe away your tears to a maid to pour your drinks and giggle at your jokes and an encounter in one of the notorious “soapland” brothels.

"You can also pay to spend time with a schoolgirl. Services might include a chat over a cup of tea, a walk in the park or perhaps a photograph – with some places offering rather more intimate options.
"The fetishisation of Japanese schoolgirls in Japanese culture has been linked by some academics to a 1985 song called Please Don’t Take Off My School Uniform, released by the female idol group O-nyanko Club, and re-released by no less mainstream a group than AKB48, one of the highest-earning musical performers in Japan and whose single Teacher Teacher sold more than 3m copies in 2018.

"The term “JK business” has become a catch-all for cafes, shops and online agencies which provide a range of “activities”, many of which are not overtly sexual. Young women in school uniforms can be offered for reflexology and massage treatments, photography sessions and “workshops” in which girls reveal glimpses of their underwear as they sit folding origami or creating jewellery.
"Japan’s anti-prostitution laws broadly prohibit the sale and purchase of sex, but there are significant loopholes, of which establishments such as soaplands take full advantage. Crucially, in the case of JK businesses, Japan has no specific anti-trafficking laws in place. Ordinarily, a child under 18 involved in sex work is automatically considered trafficked, with harsh penalties for those responsible.

"Pornography laws relating to children are also limited – they do not, for example, cover manga, anime, or virtually created content, allowing games such as 2006’s controversial (and now no longer available) RapeLay, in which the player stalks and attempts to rape a single mother and her two school-age daughters."

Friday, June 28, 2019

Legal brothels and sex trafficking in Germany

Apparently it's hard to staff a really high volume brothel entirely with voluntary sex workers.  The Guardian has the story:

Trouble in Paradise: the rise and fall of Germany's 'brothel king'
Jürgen Rudloff’s chain of ‘wellness spas’ sold sex as a health service for men. But his business model was fatally flawed – as his trial for aiding and abetting trafficking revealed

"Until his dramatic fall from grace, Jürgen Rudloff was the self-proclaimed “brothel king” of Germany. Owner of a chain of clubs he boasted was the “the largest marketplace for sex in Europe”, he was every inch the well-dressed entrepreneur, a regular face on reality TV and chat shows.

"Rudloff is now serving a five-year sentence for aiding and abetting trafficking. His trial laid bare the misery and abuse of women working as prostitutes at his club who, according to court documents, were treated like animals and beaten if they didn’t make enough money. His imprisonment has dismantled the idea of Germany’s “clean prostitution” industry and raised troubling questions about what lies behind the legalised, booming sex trade.

"Prostitution – legalised in Germany in 2002 – is worth an annual €15bn (£13.4bn), and more than a million men visit prostitutes every day. The change in the law led to a rise in “super brothels”, attracting tourists from countries where such establishments are illegal.
"The Paradise business model is the same as the hundreds of other “sauna clubs” across Germany – brothel owners provide the premises, and the women are self-employed. Yet Rudloff’s high-volume, low-cost model only works if the supply of women is enough to satisfy demand and bring enough customers through the doors.

"According to court documents, this became a problem for Paradise almost immediately. There weren’t enough women to fill the clubs. So Rudloff’s friends in the industry offered to help him out.

"In 2008, as Rudloff was growing his business, investigators in Augsburg, Bavaria – a hundred miles from Stuttgart – received a tip-off that gangs from the city were trafficking women from eastern Europe, and sending them to work in Paradise. (While prostitution is legal in Germany, pimping and sex trafficking are not.)
"Peter Holzwarth, the chief prosecutor at the trial, argued that the owner and management at the clubs were guilty of Organisationsdelikt – aiding and abetting an organisation involved in criminality. “He knew – in the cases brought to court – that the women working at his club were being exploited by pimps,” says Holzwarth. “And he knew the women were trafficked, or rather, he thought that they might be and [still let them work], and that is sufficient for a conviction.”

"The court agreed. Sentencing Rudloff in late February this year, the judge remarked: “A clean brothel of this size is hard to imagine.” He said he hoped the convictions would serve as a warning to the sex industry.
"For prosecutors like Holzwarth, Rudloff’s conviction is a warning to those cashing in on Germany’s insatiable demand for commercial sex. “Rudloff’s case was not an isolated incident,” he says. “In my opinion, cooperation between brothel owners and pimps is risky but profitable for both sides. A win-win situation … but the case has had an impact already. I think brothel owners will be more careful about dealing with pimps.”

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Abortions, when abortion was illegal

The Washington Post reprints a concise version of some of its stories from 1966, with stories of successful and unsuccessful illegal abortions:

When abortion was illegal: A 1966 Post series revealed how women got them anyway
Before Roe v. Wade, women died trying to end their pregnancies

"By Elisabeth Stevens

In January 1966, The Washington Post ran a four-part series on how women in the Washington area obtained abortions. At the time, abortion was illegal with few exceptions in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. Now, nearly a half-century after Roe v. Wade, new abortion restrictions are being imposed in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Utah and other states. Below is an abridged version of The Post’s four-part series, edited to highlight personal experiences. The original headlines of the series are now subheads for each section.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Early admissions update at University of Virginia

Forbes has an article, by a college admissions counselor:

The Debate Over Early Decision In College Admission: Who Is It Good For?
by Brennan Barnard

"The University of Virginia (UVA) recently announced that they are adding a binding Early Decision (ED) application option with an October 15 deadline, under which students agree to attend if admitted. This news has once again struck the beehive of debate within the admission profession.

"A School Counselor’s Take

"October 15th is simply too early for many seventeen-year-olds to decide where they want to go to college. I feel the same way about this as back to school sales at the end of June, snow blowers for sale in August, or Halloween decorations in stores before Labor Day. Everybody is eager to move product, but let’s face it, early deadlines for college admission really are designed to benefit colleges, not students. Sure, it is nice for some kids to know early in their senior year that they have a college acceptance locked in. But that nicety is far outweighed by the myriad reasons why the creep of early applications is detrimental. Binding Early Decision policies are the worst of these evils, raising issues of both access and anxiety.
"If we absolutely want to keep the binding nature of ED and the ability for a student to send a strong message of commitment, perhaps we should have a universal deadline of January 1 and create a simultaneous Binding Decision (BD) option. Like many aspects of admission, we are faced with the increasing tension of doing what is best for the institution versus what is best for the student. There has to be a better system that can protect students and serve schools.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Are Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) up to snuff? A NY Times video op-ed

Here's a link to the NY Times video, featuring patients in need of organs:

I couldn't figure out how to embed the video, but here's the accompanying text:

In the video Op-Ed above, people on the organ wait list argue that it’s time for the government to step in, provide oversight and require transparency in the organ recovery system. Research shows that organ procurement organizations (O.P.O.s), responsible for recovering organs, are inefficient and lack accountability. While a record number of organs have been transplanted in the past five years, that is not evidence of a well-working system: These numbers are bloated by a recent increase in opioid-related deaths.
In May, the White House released its unified agenda to set priorities for the Department of Health and Human Services. A rule was proposed to address and make changes to the standards used to evaluate O.P.O. performance. It’s now up to H.H.S. to determine what kind of change to make. To add your support for standardized O.P.O. metrics, sign this petition.
Tonya Ingram (@TonyaSIngram) is a 27-year-old waiting for a kidney in Los Angeles. Angelo Reid is waiting for a kidney in Brooklyn, N.Y. Melissa Bein is a former clinical director at an organ procurement organization. Maddi Bertrand, 19, is waiting for new lungs in Glen Ellyn, Ill.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Kidnapping insurance

Preston McAfee points me to the following interesting article:

The weird world of kidnapping insurance, by Jeff Spross

"A private market for insuring and dealing with kidnappings might sound, at first blush, like a terrible idea. A kidnapping is already a fraught situation; a mix of fear, greed, violence, and coercion that occurs outside the bounds of the law. And private insurers often have a reputation for being cold-blooded and predatory themselves. The average person could be forgiven for balking at the idea of combining the two.

"Yet not only does a private market for insuring kidnappings and advising the negotiations exist — by all accounts it's quite effective. If you're the victim of a kidnapping where professional insurers and negotiators are involved, the chances that you'll come back alive are roughly 97.5 percent.

"The K&R market consists of 20 or so firms, all operating out of Lloyd's of London, an international marketplace based in Britain, where insurance providers, clients, brokers and underwriters can all find one another. The K&R firms compete for business, and provide their clients with both insurance to backstop potential ransom payouts and consultants who help guide and strategize the actual negotiations with the kidnappers. While some wealthy individual families do occasionally buy the services of K&R providers, the vast majority of customers are companies insuring their employees who work in risky areas. Roughly three-fourths of Fortune 500 companies have some sort of policy, with total premiums reaching $250 to $300 million a year.
""The only way that kidnapping can work as well as it does is that the kidnappers understand that they're in a repeated business," Anja Shortland, an economist at King's College London, who's written a book on the K&R insurance market, explained to The Week. "They keep their promises this time and they treat the hostages well this time because they know that if they don't then their business will decline in the future."

That's where the private firms who provide the consulting and the insurance coverage come in: "It's a one-off transaction between the family and the kidnapper, but it's a repeated interaction for the insurance market," Shortland said."

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Luohan Academy 2019 Digital Economy Conference

I'm travelling towards Hangzhou today, to go to the conference of the still new Luohan Academy.
Here's the agenda:

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Richard Branson on Kidney Exchange

Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, has a blog post about kidney exchange:

A new hope for those in need of a transplant

"Unfortunately, living donation isn’t always straightforward. Depending on the country, 40% or more of recipients are incompatible with their intended donors. In some places, that means potential donors are simply turned away, forcing those in desperate need of a transplant to wait until another compatible donor turns up.
"You don’t have to know much about the organ donation system to realise that doesn’t make much sense. That’s why I was interested to learn about Kidney Exchange Programs (KEPs). KEPs increase the number of transplants by pooling and matching pairs of donors and recipients.
"The matching process allows one previously incompatible donor-recipient pair, say a kidney patient and a family member willing to donate, to be matched with another pair. Under a KEP, donors are then swapped, resulting in two new compatible pairs. It can sound a little complicated but this video provides a clear explanation.
"I was pleased to learn that the UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme (UKLKSS) has become the largest operating KEP in Europe, allowing pairs to match in two and three-way swaps.
"The unfortunate news is that most countries don’t have schemes like this. The UK is one of only three countries in Europe running an advanced KEP program, with other countries that do have schemes limiting them by only allowing two-way exchanges or by prohibiting altruistic donors.
It’s barriers like these that mean countries are missing out on saving thousands of lives. I urge policy makers in countries without KEPs to learn more about the programmes and consider the difference they could make.
"If more countries developed KEPs, just imagine what this could mean in the future. Through greater international cooperation, kidneys could be exchanged between countries meaning the lives of even the hardest-to-match patients could be saved.Fortunately, it is thanks to the fantastic work of organisations like the European Network for Collaboration on Kidney Exchange Programmes (ENCKEP), that some of this research is already being done.
ENCKEP brings together clinicians, economists, and policy makers to explore the legislative, medical, financial and ethical issues that surround greater collaboration on KEPs. Their latest report provides an overview of their work to date."

Friday, June 21, 2019

Surrogacy in NY...remains complicated

Surrogacy is a subject that brings out both sides of arguments about repugnant transactions. Vivian Wang does a great job of covering the story in the NY Times:

Surrogate Pregnancy Battle Pits Progressives Against Feminists
A bill to legalize paid surrogacy in New York passed the State Senate, but has found opposition from prominent feminists, including Gloria Steinem.

"The proposal to legalize surrogacy in New York was presented as an unequivocal progressive ideal, a remedy to a ban that burdens gay and infertile couples and stigmatizes women who cannot have children on their own.

"And yet, as the State Legislature hurtles toward the end of its first Democrat-led session in nearly a decade, the bill’s success is anything but certain.

"Long-serving female lawmakers have spoken out against it. Prominent feminists, including Gloria Steinem, have denounced it. Women’s rights scholars have argued that paid surrogacy turns women’s bodies into commodities and is coercive to poor women given the sizable payments it can bring.
"Surrogacy arrangements in the United States can cost anywhere from $20,000 to more than $200,000, according to a report from Columbia Law School.

Ms. Glick added, “It is pregnancy for a fee, and I find that commodification of women troubling.”

"But Senator Brad Hoylman, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the legislation showed “the importance of the L.G.B.T.Q. community to the State of New York.

I think that’s a mark of progress for our community and a mark of progress for human rights in general,” said Mr. Hoylman, who is the state’s only openly gay senator and has two daughters who were born through surrogacy in California.
"Washington State and New Jersey legalized paid surrogacy last year, joining about a dozen other states. Many other states allow it under certain circumstances or have no laws on the topic, effectively permitting it.

"Between 1999 and 2014 in the United States, more than 18,400 infants were born through gestational surrogacy, where the carrier is not related to the fetus. Of those, 10,000 were born after 2010, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Yet the opposite has happened internationally. Surrogacy is illegal in most of Europe. And India — where so-called fertility tourism brought in $400 million each year — outlawed commercial surrogacy last year, over worries about exploitation."

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Seminar at Bocconi

I'll speak today, about Controversial Markets, at IGIER at Bocconi...

IGIER Seminar Series

June 20, 2019 - 12:30 to 13:45
room N02 - Velodromo
Alvin Roth (Stanford University)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

ISEO summer school

 I'll speak today at the 2019 I.S.E.O summer school.

The general theme this year is Global Economy & Financial Markets: What Lies Ahead?  I'll try to address this from the point of view of repugnant transactions and forbidden markets, and how these may evolve...



The I.S.E.O. Institute is extremely honoured to feature three Nobel Laureate in Economics – Alvin RothWilliam Sharpe and Michael Spence  – as lecturers for the 16th edition of the I.S.E.O Summer School. The panel will be further enriched by the presence of additional international economists, whose names will be announced later.
The I.S.E.O Summer School is an international summer course focused on the most topical economic discussion.  The 16th edition will be centred on “Global economy and financial markets: what lies ahead” : this macro theme will be analyzed by each lecturer using his particular approach and studies.
As from the very first edition in 2004, the course will gather a large number of graduate students in Economics (phd, master, young assistants) coming from the most important faculties in the world to participate to this multicultural debate.
The I.S.E.O. Summer School will be based on a fair combination of lectures (morning and afternoon sessions), debates and discussion on one hand, and trips and excursion into the most beautiful corners of Northern Italy on the other.
The course takes place in Iseo, a peaceful village facing the homonymous lake (Iseo lake) in Northern Italy,  not too far from Milan. Both classes and accommodation are going to be hosted at the Iseolago hotel, a charming four star hotel by the lake."

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Surrogacy law in Italy (moderated by subsequent court decisions)

The Italian law governing reproductive technology and surrogacy dates from 2004, but (although I don't think the law has been amended), some of the things it forbids have been modified by subsequent court decisions.

"This law prohibits research and reproductive cloning, the manipulation of embryos, the use of donated eggs or sperm for ART, and the cryopreservation of embryos (with the exception of severe injury/illness preventing embryo transfer). A maximum of three eggs can be fertilized and transferred per reproductive cycle. Sex-selection is only permitted through sperm sorting for sex-lined genetic diseases. All forms of surrogacy are prohibited. The use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis for the selection of embryos is generally prohibited, but has been allowed through the courts on a case-by case basis. Genetic testing for non-medical purposes is prohibited. The use of ART is restricted to stable heterosexual couples who live together, are of reproductive age, are over the age of 18, have documented infertility, and have been first provided the opportunity for adoption.”
(From G12 Country Regulations of Assisted Reproductive Technologies)

Monday, June 17, 2019

Matching markets and market design at the University of Campania, Luigi Vanvitelli

I'll be speaking today on matching markets and market design at the
Università degli studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli

Here's the announcement: Premio Nobel alla Vanvitelli, in cattedra c'è Alvin Roth,
and here's another.

"Alvin Roth - Premio Nobel per l'economia 2012 - all'Università Vanvitelli con una conferenza dal titolo "Matching markets and market design".

"L'evento, organizzato dal Dipartimento di Scienze politiche dell'Ateneo, si terrà il 17 giugno presso l'Aula Magna del Centro residenziale e studi della SNA, Corso Trieste a Caserta alle ore 10.30. Economista statunitense già noto per i suoi fondamentali contributi nella teoria dei giochi e dell'economia sperimentale, attualmente è Professore di Economia, presso il Dipartimento di Economia della Stanford University ed è Professore Emerito di Economia e Business Administration presso la Harvard University.

"Roth è leader mondiale nelle aree di ricerca della teoria dei giochi, economia sperimentale e market design, in particolare del disegno dei matching markets.
Il problema del combinare diversi giocatori (agenti) nel miglior modo possibile, è un problema economico molto rilevante. Lloyd Shapley (che ha condiviso il Nobel con Alvin Roth) ha studiato i diversi metodi di matching teoricamente e, a partire dagli anni ’80, Alvin Roth ha usato i risultati teorici di Shapley per spiegare come funziona una certa tipologia di mercati (i matching markets). Attraverso studi empirici ed esperimenti economici, Alvin Roth ha dimostrato che la stabilità è una caratteristica essenziale per ottenere un metodo di matching di successo. Roth ha sviluppato algoritmi per combinare medici con ospedali, studenti con scuole, donatori di organi con pazienti. Nel 2000, nell’ospedale di Rhode Island avvenne il primo scambio di reni negli Stati Uniti e la teoria sviluppata da Alvin Roth sui cicli di scambio sembrò avere un ottimo potenziale per questo tipo di applicazione. Roth e i suoi collaboratori hanno disegnato un algoritmo per lo scambio di reni sia tra pazienti e donatori diretti, sia per integrare questo tipo di scambio con donatori non diretti (come donatori deceduti o altri donatori non diretti ancora in vita). "

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Repugnant statistical analyses

Joshua Gans points us to an unusual case of repugnance. Here's the beginning of Joshua's blog post:

The unintended consequences of France’s ban on statistical analysis of Judges

"If someone had said that I would be writing a blog post to consider a law that might imprison people for conducting statistical analysis on publicly available data, I would have thought that was unlikely because who would ever propose, let alone enact, such a law?

"The other day we got our answer: France! The very country that produced Laplace, Pascal and Guerry!

"The law in question is Article 33 of the Justice Reform Act which was amended to read as follows:

"The identity data of magistrates and members of the judiciary cannot be reused with the purpose or effect of evaluating, analysing, comparing or predicting their actual or alleged professional practices.

"That maximum sentence (yes, criminal sentence) for violating this is 5 years. This puts ‘statistics’ in the category of a crime. Notice that it is actually using the data for a specific purpose and not something else like publishing outcomes that violate privacy.

What this means is that you cannot do statistical analyses that compare judges. "

Here's a news article from a site called Artificial Lawyer, devoted to legal tech:

France Bans Judge Analytics, 5 Years In Prison For Rule Breakers

"In a startling intervention that seeks to limit the emerging litigation analytics and prediction sector, the French Government has banned the publication of statistical information about judges’ decisions – with a five year prison sentence set as the maximum punishment for anyone who breaks the new law.

"Owners of legal tech companies focused on litigation analytics are the most likely to suffer from this new measure.

"The new law, encoded in Article 33 of the Justice Reform Act, is aimed at preventing anyone – but especially legal tech companies focused on litigation prediction and analytics – from publicly revealing the pattern of judges’ behaviour in relation to court decisions.

"A key passage of the new law states:

The identity data of magistrates and members of the judiciary cannot be reused with the purpose or effect of evaluating, analysing, comparing or predicting their actual or alleged professional practices.’ "

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Kidney exchange is an intercommunal activity

From the Times of India:
A kidney swap involving Hindu, Muslim families that resurrected faith in humanity 
"CHANDIGARH: At a time when communal disharmony has become the norm in many parts of the world, a hospital in Mohali just resurrectected faith in humanity..."

And from the New Indian Express:

Friday, June 14, 2019

Will satellite companies sell C-Band spectrum by auction?

Auctionomics, the auction design company founded by my colleague Paul Milgrom, has been working with satellite broadcasters Intelsat (NYSE: I), SES (Euronext Paris: SESG), Eutelsat (Euronext Paris: ETL) and Telesat (the C- Band Alliance) to auction some of the rights to their C-Band spectrum.  Here's a press release

C-Band Alliance Filing on Proposed Commercial Auction Process

and here's a Bloomberg story:
Intelsat, SES Unveil Design for Private Sale of 5G Airwaves

It appears that the proposed auction is modeled on the FCC's incentive auction that repurposed some television broadcast spectrum licenses.  See my last year's post

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Update: the white paper, FUEL for 5G: Flexible Use and Efficient Licensing can be found here, preceded by a cover letter to the FCC.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Maine yesterday became 8th state to legalize assisted suicide

The AP has the story:

Maine becomes 8th state to legalize assisted suicide

"Maine legalized medically assisted suicide on Wednesday, becoming the eighth state to allow terminally ill people to end their lives with prescribed medication.

"Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, who had previously said she was unsure about the bill, signed it in her office.

“It is my hope that this law, while respecting the right to personal liberty, will be used sparingly,” said Mills.

"Oregon was the first state to legalize such assistance, in 1997, and it took over a decade for the next state, Washington, to follow suit. While still controversial, assisted suicide legislation is winning increasing acceptance in the United States, and this year at least 18 states considered such measures.

"Maine’s measure will allow doctors to prescribe a fatal dose of medication to terminally ill people. It declares that obtaining or administering life-ending medication is not suicide under state law, thereby legalizing the practice often called medically assisted suicide.

"The proposal had failed once in a statewide referendum and at least seven previous times in the Legislature. The current measure passed by just one vote in the House and a slim margin in the Senate.
"Maine joins seven other states and Washington, D.C., that have similar laws, according to the Death With Dignity National Center and the Death With Dignity Political Fund. The states are: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and New Jersey, whose governor signed the legislation earlier this year.

"Montana doesn’t have a specific law on the books, but the state Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that doctors could use a patient’s request for life-ending medication as a defense against criminal charges."

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Kidney trafficking in Egypt with Yemeni brokers and donors (video from Al Jazeera)

Al Jazeera reports that there is an active market for kidneys in Egypt, fueled by brokers in Yemen and abetted by the Yemeni embassy in Egypt, and a famous hospital there.

HT: Erling Skancke 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Adoption is complex even when it doesn't include State and Tribal rights...

Foster care and adoption are always complex, and never more so when not only families and children are involved, but also States and Native American tribes.  Here's a NY Times story on a complex case, involving a little boy and his sister, the family who adopted the boy and would like to adopt his sister, the biological mother who would like to see the adoption go through, the tribe that opposes it, and the courts.

"Zachary, or A.L.M. as he is called in legal papers, has a Navajo birth mother, a Cherokee birth father and adoptive parents, Jennifer and Chad Brackeen, neither of whom is Native American. The Brackeens are challenging a federal law governing Native American children in state foster care: It requires that priority to adopt them be given to Native families, to reinforce the children’s tribal identity.

"Last fall, a federal judge ruled in the Brackeens’ favor, declaring that the law, the Indian Child Welfare Act, was unconstitutional — in part, he said, because it was based on race.

"The case is now before a federal appeals court. Whoever loses is almost certain to ask the Supreme Court to hear it."

Monday, June 10, 2019

Fighting trafficking by decriminalizing sex work in Mexico City

The Guardian has the story:

Mexico City will decriminalize sex work in move against trafficking

"Mexico City lawmakers have given the green light to decriminalize sex work in the capital, hoping it will be a first step to a crackdown on sex trafficking that traps thousands of Mexican women and children.

"Lawmakers in Mexico City’s congress on Friday voted 38-0, with eight abstentions, in favor of a bill to remove a line in the civic culture law which said prostitutes and their clients can be fined or arrested if neighbors complained.

"Temistocles Villanueva, a local representative with the ruling center-left Morena party, said the new law recognized that people had the right to engage in sex work.

“It’s a first step that has to lead to regulation of sex work, to fight human trafficking and strengthen the rights of sex workers,” he said. “Exercising sexuality in our country is still a taboo topic that few of us dare to talk about.“

"Sex work is allowed in much of Mexico but states have different and sometimes unclear rules, meaning workers frequently operate in legal vacuums which can leave them vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking by crime gangs.

"Mexico is a source, transit and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, with Mexican women and children the most at risk from sex trafficking, according to the US state department."

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The politics of prostitution in the U.S.

The NY Times has the story:
Could Prostitution Be the Next Vice to Be Decriminalized?  By Jesse McKinley

"Marijuana has gone mainstream, casino gambling is everywhere and sports wagering is spreading. Could prostitution be next?
Lawmakers across the country are beginning to reconsider how to handle prostitution, as calls for decriminalization are slowly gaining momentum.
"Decriminalization bills have been introduced in Maineand Massachusetts; a similar bill is expected to be introduced to the City Council in Washington D.C. in June; and lawmakers in Rhode Island held hearings last month on a proposal to study the impact of decriminalizing prostitution.
"New York may be next: Some Democratic lawmakers are about to propose a comprehensive decriminalization bill that would eliminate penalties for both women and men engaged in prostitution, as well as the johns whom they service.
"The debate is unquestionably polarizing in many circles, even among advocates for sex-trafficked and abused women who fear that creating a legal path for prostitution will not eliminate, but rather actually encourage, underground sex trafficking.
"Still, the issue has crept into the Democratic Party’s nascent presidential campaign: In late February, Senator Kamala Harris of California became the first candidate to endorse some manner of decriminalization, an idea also floated by another contender, the former Colorado governor, John Hickenlooper.
"Supporters of decriminalization see their efforts as part of a larger, decades-long liberalization of American mores, like lifting Sunday bans on selling alcohol and legalizing marijuana. They also frame the issue as an act of harm-reduction for prostitutes and a tacit admission that modern law enforcement and age-old moral indignation has done little to stem the practice.

“We’ve learned this lesson many times with the prohibition of alcohol, or criminalization of abortion, or even the criminalization of marijuana: The black market creates dark circumstances and provides cover for a lot of violence and exploitation,” said Kaytlin Bailey, a comedian and former prostitute who serves as the spokeswoman for Decriminalize Sex Work, which was founded last year."

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Matching in Practice Workshop in October, in Gothenburg, with Parag Pathak. Call for papers.

The 16th Matching in Practice Workshop will be in Gothenburg. The workshop will begin with lunch (12pm) on the 4th of October finishing early afternoon 5th of October (around 4pm), 2019.
The workshop will bring together researchers working on the various aspects of assignment and matching in education, labour and related markets, with a view to actively foster interactions between the various approaches used in this area of research (theory, experiments, analysis of field data, policy/market design) and to share expertise on the actual functioning of these markets in Europe.

The workshop will include presentations from presenters of selected papers, a keynote delivered by Parag Pathak (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and a policy roundtable on “School choice in practice”, which will bring together policy makers and practitioners.
Interested participants should submit their papers to before 15 August 2019. The programme will be announced shortly afterwards.

Keynote speakers

Parag Pathak, Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Researchers working on the various aspects of assignment and matching, primarily in (but not limited to) education and related labour markets are invited to attend the workshop. There is no participation fee. Travel and accommodation expenses can only be covered for presenters of selected papers. PhD students or early stage researchers who would like to participate the workshop can contact us for possible financial support for travel and accommodation.


The conference will take place at the School of Business, Economics and Law (Handelshögskolan), Vasagatan 1, Gothenburg.

Scientific Committee

Thilo Klein (ZEW Mannheim), Alex Westkamp (University of Cologne), Li Chen (University of Gothenburg), Joseph Vecci (University of Gothenburg).

Important dates

15 August: Deadline for submission
1 September: Notification about acceptance
3 September: Registration deadline

Friday, June 7, 2019

Who gets what at UC Irvine

I'll be speaking today at UC Irvine, here's the announcement:

“Who Gets What? The New Economics of Matching and Market Design”
Date: Friday, June 7, 2019 at 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Location: UCI’s Calit2 Auditorium
Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis
Lunch Reception & Book Signing: 12-1:30 p.m.

Market design is an ancient human activity but a relatively new part of economics. It seeks to understand how the design of markets and marketplaces influences their performance, to use this growing understanding to fix markets when they’re broken, and to help to establish markets where they are missing.

Many markets are matching markets, in which you can’t just choose what you want, even if you can afford it: you also have to be chosen. In these markets, prices don’t do all the work. For example, UCI doesn’t choose its new students by raising the tuition until just enough applications remain to fill the entering class; instead they set the price low enough so that lots of people apply, and then they choose from a big pool. (And UCI can’t just choose its students; it has to woo them in competition with other schools...) Other examples of matching markets are labor markets (workers can’t just choose where to work, nor can employers just choose who will work for them), school choice, and kidney exchange. I’ll illustrate with examples from these.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Someone is impersonating me on LinkedIn

An alert MIT grad student received a LinkedIn request that appeared to be from me, except not quite, and was kind enough to let me know. (In fact I don't have a LinkedIn account...)

There is someone on LinkedIn, it turns out, pretending to be me--same name, same jobs at Harvard and Stanford, same 2012 Nobel prize. Here's his profile:

If you have a LinkedIn account, you can go to that profile, click on the three dot link, and get to a link called Report, one of whose options is to 'report an impersonator'.  (You can't send any explanatory text, so maybe getting many such reports will prompt LinkedIn to do something, where one or two haven't yet done the trick...)


p.s. Here's the LinkedIn help page for reporting fake profiles (if you have a LinkedIn account).
Update: LinkedIn followed up pretty quickly, and apparently nuked the fake account:

Response (06/06/2019 23:02 CST)

Hi Alvin,

I hope this email finds you well and that you are having a fantastic day, I'm Heisenberg from the Safety Operations Team and I'll be happy to assist you!

Thanks for informing us of this situation.

It is against the terms of LinkedIn's User Agreement and Professional Community Policies to impersonate another person on the website. We'll take the appropriate action based on the results of our investigation.

Thanks for your assistance in making LinkedIn a professional and trustworthy site.


LinkedIn Safety Operations Support Specialist 

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Stanford GSB interviews Ashutosh Thakur PhD ’20, about market design, and coffee

GSB interviews Ashutosh Thakur, PhD ’20, who speaks about market design, his work on political allocation systems in India and the U.S., and coffee. (He'll be on the market next year...)

"Ashutosh Thakur is using matching and game theory to study institutional design in some unusual places.

"Thakur, a doctoral candidate in political economics at Stanford GSB, is trying to determine if systems designed for matching, say, medical students with residency posts can also be used to improve the effectiveness of public administration. He is specifically interested in the allocation of civil servants to diverse regions across India and in the party-specific procedures used in the U.S. Senate to assign politicians to committees.

“These projects take the theoretical tools and apply them to real-world problems and systems in practice,” says the Princeton graduate. “I’m hoping to improve government administration and development, trying to not just write academic papers but also use the findings to inform policymaking.”

"Thakur is also an expert chess player and an accomplished musician — pastimes that connect in their own way to his work."

Read about his work at the link. Here's the final question and answer:

"Have you had any memorable Stanford GSB experiences or encounters?
"One of the primary reasons the Stanford market design group is so tightly knit is due to Alvin Roth’s efforts in bringing the group together. He institutionalized this 45-minute coffee every Wednesday morning. It’s an informal, interdisciplinary gathering of faculty and students from the economics department, business school, engineering, and computer science, along with occasional guests and practitioners who might be visiting the area. It’s just a bunch of people getting together to talk about things they find interesting and what they’re working on. It’s been great at helping to build a community across all these different disciplines and getting exposure to a broad range of topics and applications."

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


Here's the program for the MARKETPLACE INNOVATION WORKSHOP at Stanford GSB:

JUNE 4, 2019

June 5

Monday, June 3, 2019

Steps towards reimbursing kidney donors--update from Frank McCormick

 I've written before about NLDAC, the federally funded National Living Donor Assistance Center, which operates under many regulatory constraints. (I'm on their advisory board.)

Frank McCormick brings us up to date on recent steps to relax some of those constraints.  Below I quote from his recent email:

"Since 2007, the federal government has had a program to reimburse low income organ donors for their travel and lodging expenses.  This program is currently administered by National Living Donor Assistance Center (NLDAC) at the University of Arizona.   The Secretary of Health and Human services (HHS) has the legal authority to administratively expand the mandate of this program.  Toward that end, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has just scheduled a new rule change:

Title: Removing Financial Disincentives to Living Organ Donation 

Abstract: This proposed rule would amend the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) final rule to further remove financial barriers to living organ donation by expanding allowable costs that can be reimbursed.  The changes would apply to specified incidental nonmedical expenses incurred toward living organ donation. 

2. The second front is centered on the Advisory Committee on Organ Transplant (ACOT), a non-government committee that advises the Secretary of HHS on organ transplant matters.  At its meeting on May 20, the committee heard a very informative presentation by Robert Merion of NLDAC

A key part of the presentation was NLDAC’s Vision for Expansion:
1. Expand eligibility for reimbursement to donors with incomes up to 500% of the federal poverty guidelines (it is currently 300%)
2. Waive income verification for donors needing less than $500
3. Approve applications from non-directed donors (i.e., living donors who do not have a specific intended recipient)
4. Reimburse wages lost due to organ donation
5. Reimburse child care/elder care expenses due to organ donation
6. Require NLDAC information to be given to all recipients and donors

ACOT endorsed the first five recommendations and forwarded them to the Secretary of HHS. "

Sunday, June 2, 2019

A third life for a transplanted liver in Hong Kong

The South China Morning Post has the story, of a transplanted liver that survived its recipient and was successfully transplanted into a second recipient following the death of the first recipient (11 years after receiving the transplant):

World first as Hong Kong surgeons transplant single liver into second patient
World-first procedure sees organ transplanted 11 years ago successfully given to another patient

"Hong Kong surgeons have performed a double world first with a transplant from one Hepatitis B sufferer to another of a liver that had already been transplanted once 11 years ago.
Bodybuilder Wong Wan-shing, 37, received the graft at Queen Mary Hospital from a 60-year-old donor identified only as Mr So, who died of a stroke on October 1."

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Will NYC ban fur sales?

The NY Times has the story:

Proposed Fur Ban in New York Pits Animal Rights Advocates Against Black Ministers

"As Corey Johnson, the speaker of the New York City Council, urged his colleagues on Wednesday to ban the sale of fur in the city, he argued that it was the “moral thing to do.”

"But the proposed ban, backed by animal rights advocates, has met an unexpected challenge from a diverse set of opponents, including black pastors and Hasidic leaders. They say a prohibition would fly in the face of centuries of religious and cultural tradition.

"Black ministers have staged protests, saying that for many African-Americans, wearing furs is a treasured hallmark of achievement. Hasidic rabbis point to the many men who wear fur hats on the Sabbath. And fur shop owners and garment manufacturers have raised alarms over the potential loss of jobs and an attack on an industry with a deep history in New York
"The bill being considered by the Council would ban the sale of fur garments and accessories, but it would allow the sale of used fur garments and new apparel using fur from older garments. Violators would be subject to fines of $500 to $1,500, and any money made from selling banned fur would be subject to forfeiture. The bill would not ban wearing fur.

"Los Angeles is the largest city in the country to have banned the sale of fur; other cities include San Francisco and West Hollywood. But New York City is the largest fur retail market in the United States, according to FurNYC, a trade group representing 130 fur retailers in the city. The 150 fur businesses in the city create 1,100 jobs and produce $400 million in revenue per year, according to the group."