Thursday, August 31, 2023

The underbelly of the global art market (NYT)

 Art is not just art, it's also an investment opportunity, and one that evades many of the regulations that apply to investments recognized as securities.

The NY Times has the story, which is long and interesting throughout.  It follows an investigation begun by the lawyer Claude Dumont Beghi .

The Inheritance Case That Could Unravel an Art Dynasty/How a widow’s legal fight against the Wildenstein family of France has threatened their storied collection — and revealed the underbelly of the global art market.  By Rachel Corbett

"First, she drew up a list of known assets, which soon zigzagged into a chart of far-flung bank accounts, trusts and shell corporations. Over the course of several years, she would fly around the world to tax havens and free ports, prying open the armored vaults and anonymous accounts that mask many of the high-end transactions in the $68 billion global art market. Multimillion-dollar paintings can anonymously trade hands without, for example, any of the requisite titles or deeds of real estate transactions or the public disclosures required on Wall Street. She would learn that the inscrutability of the trade has made it a leading conduit for sanction-evading oligarchs and other billionaires looking to launder excess capital. 


"Independent of any national jurisdiction, free ports allow traders to ship and store property without paying taxes or customs duties. If a dealer buys a painting in one country, he can ship it to a free port without paying import taxes; then, when he is offered the right price, he can sell it there too, without paying capital gains. It has been estimated that $100 billion worth of art and collectibles are held in the Geneva free port alone, to say nothing of those in Zurich, Luxembourg, Singapore, Monaco, Delaware or Beijing.


"many of their practices are commonplace in high levels of the art trade, which a 2020 U.S. Senate subcommittee called the “largest legal, unregulated market.” Unlike financial institutions, art businesses are not expressly subject to the Bank Secrecy Act, which requires firms to verify customers’ identities, report large cash transactions and flag suspicious activity. A study from the U.S. Department of the Treasury last year cited a figure estimating that money laundering and other financial crimes in the art market may amount to about $3 billion a year. (Britain and the European Union, however, have implemented anti-money-laundering regulations that require stricter due diligence in art transactions there.)

"According to a report by Art Basel and UBS, auction houses did about $31 billion in sales last year. They say that they know who their clients are, but those may just be the names of art advisers or other intermediaries. And collectors’ insistence on anonymity, long framed as genteel discretion, hasn’t budged. The buyer of the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction, Leonardo da Vinci’s $450.3 million “Salvator Mundi,” registered at Christie’s a day before bidding with a $100 million down payment, identifying himself as one of 5,000 princes in Saudi Arabia. A few weeks later, it was revealed that the true buyer was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — who was reportedly displaying the painting on his superyacht — and that a little-known cousin of his bought it as a proxy." 

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Minimal envy mechanisms, by Julien Combe

 Here's an article I missed when it came out online:

Reallocation with priorities and minimal envy mechanisms, by Julien Combe, Economic Theory volume 76, 551–584 (2023)

"Abstract: We investigate the problem of reallocation with priorities where one has to assign objects or positions to individuals. Agents can have an initial ownership over an object. Each object has a priority ordering over the agents. In this framework, there is no mechanism that is both individually rational (IR) and stable, i.e. has no blocking pairs. Given this impossibility, an alternative approach is to compare mechanisms based on the blocking pairs they generate. A mechanism has minimal envy within a set of mechanisms if there is no other mechanism in the set that always leads to a set of blocking pairs included in the one of the former mechanism. Our main result shows that the modified Deferred Acceptance mechanism (Guillen and Kesten in Int Econ Rev 53(3):1027–1046, 2012), is a minimal envy mechanism in the set of IR and strategy-proof mechanisms. We also show that an extension of the Top Trading Cycle (Karakaya et al. in J Econ Theory 184:104948, 2019) mechanism is a minimal envy mechanism in the set of IR, strategy-proof and Pareto-efficient mechanisms. These two results extend the existing ones in school choice."

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

OB-GYN doctors will use a new application system to apply to residency programs (but will continue to go through the NRMP resident match)

 Before new doctors can participate in the resident match (by engaging with the NRMP), they first have to apply to residency programs, and arrange interviews.  This process has been experiencing congestion, and the specialty of Obstetrics and Gynecology has now decided to switch application services. 

However, participation in the NRMP will not change: the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics (APGO) FAQ states "Obstetrics and gynecology applicants will use the National Residency Match Program (NRMP) for the Match. This new application does not change how the applicant or programs interact with the NRMP Match system."

Medpage Today has the story:

Ob/Gyn Switching to Independent System for Residency Applications— This is the last year ob/gyn will use ERAS, despite helping to pilot the program  by Rachael Robertson, Enterprise & Investigative Writer, MedPage Today August 25, 2023

"Beginning next year, ob/gyn programs will start using an independent system for processing residency applications, rather than the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS).

"The joint decision to switch to the new system was made by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics (APGO), and the Council on Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology (CREOG). The new system will be managed by Liaison International, which uses "Centralized Application Service (CAS) technology," according to the company's website.


"A joint statement on the APGO website opens in a new tab or window

said that the new system "will be user friendly and efficient, less expensive for applicants, and will directly decrease the burdens faced by program directors, program managers, and applicants alike," and "will incorporate the entirety of interview season functions, from application submission, review, interview offers and interviews, to rank list submission."

ACOG explained that the decision to pull the ERAS stemmed from the Right Resident, Right Program, Ready Day One initiativeopens in a new tab or window, noting that the new system is mobile-friendly and "will include immediate fee reduction," as detailed on their FAQ pageopens in a new tab or window.

In response, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which runs ERAS, issued a statementopens in a new tab or window attributed to President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, and Alison J. Whelan, MD, the chief academic officer, saying they were "surprised and dismayed" by the decision. 


"Bryan Carmody, MD, of Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, shared information  opens in a new tab or window

about the change on social media, writing on his blogopens in a new tab or window that ob/gyn program directors helped to pilot ERAS when it was first rolled out in the mid-90s.

Carmody told MedPage Today that he anticipates the biggest downsides will fall on applicants, such as those who want to apply to another specialty in addition to ob/gyn.

"Those applicants will have to use one system to apply to ob/gyn and another to their other specialty," he explained. "The same thing applies to applicants who fail to match. They'll have to use ERAS to apply to another specialty during SOAP [Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program] since few, if any, ob/gyn positions are typically available."


OB-GYN will continue to employ signaling  (very loosely modeled on the signaling used in the Econ PhD job market, but asking applicants to submit 3 "gold" signals and 15 "silver" signals): 

Program Signaling for OBGYN Residency Application Background and FAQs



Friday, April 21, 2023

Monday, August 28, 2023

Unclaimed bodies and medical school anatomy classes.

 There's a long history of unclaimed bodies being used in medical school anatomy classes. (I think the historical availability of such cadavers is one of the reasons that the Harvard Medical School is in Boston rather than Cambridge.*)  Here's an update on the practice, in Texas.

Unclaimed Bodies and Medical Education in Texas, by Eli Shupe, PhD1; Serena Karim2; Daniel Sledge, PhD, JAMA.  online August 24, 2023

"The use of unclaimed bodies (bodies not claimed by next of kin for burial or cremation) in gross anatomy education in the US has declined substantially since the middle of the 20th century owing to increases in voluntary donations and escalating ethical concerns.1-3 Nonetheless, in most US jurisdictions, counties can donate unclaimed bodies to science without consent from the deceased or their next of kin, with some medical schools still accepting such donations. The current scope and magnitude of the use of unclaimed bodies in the US is underresearched, although one 2019 study found that anatomy course leaders at 12.4% of surveyed US medical schools indicated possible use of unclaimed bodies at their institutions.4 The objective of this study was to examine the trends in use of unclaimed bodies in medical education in Texas.


"We found that during 2017-2021, 6 of the 14 medical schools in our sample (42.9%) either engaged in the direct procurement and use of unclaimed bodies (2 schools, 14.3%) or received transferred cadavers from schools that did (4 schools, 28.6%). The remaining 8 schools (57.1%) had no possible use of unclaimed bodies."


*Here's a related story from the Harvard Crimson:

Harvard's Habeas Corpus: Grave Robbing at Harvard Medical School, BY NURIYA SAIFULINA, September 28, 2017

"Harvard’s corpse legacy began in late 18th century, when the newly opened Medical School began hiring grave diggers—not to bury bodies, but to exhume them. According to a 2015 history of the so-called “resurrection men” in Synthesis, an undergraduate history of science journal, the diggers snuck into Boston’s burial grounds in search of new graves, stealthily dug up some of the most “fresh” residents, and refilled the graves to avoid arousing suspicion.


"Around 1770, Joseph Warren founded an illicit secret society called the “Spunker Club,” also known as the “Anatomical Club.” His older brother, John Warren—the founder of Harvard Medical School—was also a member. Some of the club’s most notable members included a William Eustis, the future governor of Massachusetts, and Samuel Adams’ son.


"As “resurrection men” and body-snatching enthusiasts continued to ransack Boston graveyards, civil indignation incited the Act to Protect the Sepulchers of the Dead in 1815, making disturbance of buried bodies illegal and prompting a citywide patrol of graveyards and burial grounds.

"This legislature forced Harvard Medical School to “import” the cadavers from New York instead, where body snatchers were “emptying at least six hundred or seven hundred graves annually,” according to an article in the Boston Gazette.

"After the Massachusetts Medical Society published a plea in 1829 claiming that medical students had no other choice but to pursue their studies “in defiance of the law of the land,” the school’s need for illegally-obtained cadavers waned. Massachusetts passed the Anatomy Act of 1831, which allowed for dissection of the unclaimed bodies of the indigent, insane and imprisoned."

Sunday, August 27, 2023


Tonight, Sunday, at 5:30pm California time, I'll be opening the Monday morning session in Hong Kong of the THE 18TH CONGRESS OF ASIAN SOCIETY OF TRANSPLANTATION 25 -28 August 2023.

Keynote Lecture
28 Aug 0815-0915 Theatre 1 Keynote Lecture III
Chairs : Albert CY CHAN, Hong Kong, China
Hai-Bo WANG, Mainland China
Topic 1. Transplant economics Alvin ROTH USA
Topic 2. Organ transplantation reform in China: The synergy of Chinese cultural traditions and WHO guiding principle  Jie-Fu HUANG Mainland China

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Challenge trials for a Hepatitis C vaccine

 The Journal Clinical Infectious Diseases has a special supplement on challenge trials (human infection trials) of a Hep C vaccine (now that Hep C is a curable disease):

Volume 77, Issue Supplement_3, 15 August 2023


T Jake Liang and others
Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 77, Issue Supplement_3, 15 August 2023, Page S215,
Annette Rid and others
Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 77, Issue Supplement_3, 15 August 2023, Pages S216–S223,
Jake D Eberts and others
Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 77, Issue Supplement_3, 15 August 2023, Pages S224–S230,

The perspectives of former challenge study participants and a survey of other potential volunteers can inform the design of hepatitis C virus controlled human infection models, including on topics such as transparency, volunteer safety and risk, and compensation.

Alyssa Bilinski and others
Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 77, Issue Supplement_3, 15 August 2023, Pages S231–S237,

Friday, August 25, 2023

Twenty Years of Marginal Revolution--econ blog pioneers

Economics in the 21st Century has blossomed, including new ways for economists to earn our livings.  Together with and alongside of that have come new ways for economists to communicate, among ourselves and with the wider public.  One of those ways is via blogs, and perhaps the most significant and most general interest economics blog has been Marginal Revolution, by Alex Tabarrok and Tyler Cowen. Yesterday MR marked its 20th anniversary.

Twenty Years of Marginal Revolution! by  Alex Tabarrok, August 23, 2023

"Who would have guessed that after twenty years Tyler and I would still be writing Marginal Revolution! Thanks especially to Tyler, we have had multiple new posts every single day for twenty years!"

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Before pig kidneys can be transplanted into human patients...

 Here's a paper in the Lancet suggesting some of the work that remains before pig kidneys can be transplanted into human patients:

Immune response after pig-to-human kidney xenotransplantation: a multimodal phenotyping study, by Prof Alexandre Loupy, MD PhD, Valentin Goutaudier, MD MSc, Alessia Giarraputo, PhD, Fariza Mezine, MSc, Erwan Morgand, PhD, Blaise Robin, MSc, Karen Khalil, PharmD, Sapna Mehta, MD, Brendan Keating, PhD, Amy Dandro, MSc, Anaïs Certain, MSc, Pierre-Louis Tharaux, MD PhD, Prof Navneet Narula, MD, Prof Renaud Tissier, DVM PhD, Sébastien Giraud, PhD, Prof Thierry Hauet, MD PhD, Prof Harvey I Pass, MD, Aurélie Sannier, MD PhD, Ming Wu, MD, Adam Griesemer, MD, David Ayares, PhD, Vasishta Tatapudi, MD, Jeffrey Stern, MD, Prof Carmen Lefaucheur, MD PhD, Prof Patrick Bruneval, MD, Massimo Mangiola, PhD, Prof Robert A Montgomery, MD PhD, August 17, 2023 DOI:

"Background: Cross-species immunological incompatibilities have hampered pig-to-human xenotransplantation, but porcine genome engineering recently enabled the first successful experiments. However, little is known about the immune response after the transplantation of pig kidneys to human recipients. We aimed to precisely characterise the early immune responses to the xenotransplantation using a multimodal deep phenotyping approach.


"Interpretation: Despite favourable short-term outcomes and absence of hyperacute injuries, our findings suggest that antibody-mediated rejection in pig-to-human kidney xenografts might be occurring. Our results suggest specific therapeutic targets towards the humoral arm of rejection to improve xenotransplantation results."



Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Transplanted pig kidney functions for a week in brain dead patient

 Here's a report on a kidney from a genetically engineered pig, that was transplanted into a brain dead patient maintained on a ventilator, and which functioned successfully for seven days.  I'm beginning to think it's possible that xenotransplants of pig kidneys may be available for living patients in my lifetime.

Locke JE, Kumar V, Anderson D, Porrett PM. Normal Graft Function After Pig-to-Human Kidney Xenotransplant. JAMA Surg. Published online August 16, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2023.2774

"Thirty-seven million adults in the US have chronic kidney disease (CKD), many of whom will ultimately progress to end-stage kidney disease (ESKD). Kidney transplant is the gold-standard therapy for patients with ESKD, yet annually, only 25 000 individuals receive a kidney. The gap between supply and demand is so vast that 40% of listed patients die within 5 years while waiting for a kidney transplant. Although xenotransplant represents 1 potential solution for the kidney shortage, previous reports of pig-to-human kidney xenotransplant using a preclinical human brain death model have shown xenograft urine production but not creatinine clearance, a necessary function to sustain life.1,2 Thus, no study to date has shown the ability of a xenograft to provide life-sustaining kidney function in a human.


"Discussion | The findings from this case series show that pigto-human xenotransplant provided life-sustaining kidney function in a deceased human with CKD. Future research in living human recipients is necessary to determine long-term xenograft kidney function and whether xenografts could serve as a bridge or destination therapy for ESKD. Because our study represents a single case, generalizability of the findings is limited. This study showcases xenotransplant as a viable potential solution to an organ shortage crisis responsible for thousands of preventable deaths annually."