Monday, January 16, 2017

Invitation to celebrate Bob Wilson in Chicago: CME Group-MSRI Prize

Here's an invitation to a Wilson celebration in Chicago early next month...

Join us for the 11th annual CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovation Quantitative Applications honoring Stanford University Professor Robert Wilson

CME Group Center for Innovation and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) cordially invite you to the 11th annual CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications seminar and award reception honoring:

Adams Distinguished Professor of Management, Emeritus
Stanford Graduate School of Business

February 2, 2017
9:00 AM: Seminar
12:00 PM: Luncheon & Award Presentation 

CME Group Headquarters
20 South Wacker Dr. 
Chicago, IL 60606

Seminar: Frontiers of Game-Theoretic Applications in Economics
Featured Speakers:


Drew Fudenberg
Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Srihari Govindan
Professor, Department of Economics, University of Rochester


Bengt Holmström
Paul A. Samuelson Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2016 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences Recipient
2013 Recipient of the CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications


Paul Milgrom
Shirley R. and Leonard W. Ely Jr. Professor of Humanities and Sciences, Economics Department, Stanford University


Roger Myerson
Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago
2007 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences Recipient


Philip Reny
The Hugo F. Sonnenschein Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the College, University of Chicago


Alvin Roth
Craig and Susan McCaw Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, Stanford University
2012 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences Recipient

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Egypt arrests 'organ trafficking ring'

The BBC has the story: Egypt arrests 'organ trafficking ring'
Egyptian authorities have arrested doctors, nurses and professors suspected of being involved in an international organ trafficking ring.


"The arrests of at least 25 people on Tuesday also included organ buyers and middlemen, the country's Administrative Control Authority said.
Authorities also found "millions of dollars and gold bullion".
It is illegal to purchase organs in Egypt, but poverty drives some to sell their body parts.
The Administrative Control Authority, a powerful anti-corruption body, claimed the network targeted on Tuesday was "made up of Egyptians and Arabs taking advantage of some of the citizens' difficult economic conditions so that they buy their human organs and sell [them] for large sums of money".
The statement on the government website added that the group was "the largest international network for trading human organs".
"The arrests follow years of concern over the illegal organ trade in Egypt.
In 2010, it was named as one of the top five countries for illegal organ trade by the World Health Organization's co-ordinator at the time, Luc Noel.
Egypt passed laws to try to curb the trade, but according to the United Nations, hundreds of poor Egyptians still sell kidneys and livers each year to be able to buy food or pay off debts.
There have also been concerns over the fate of migrants who come into contact with the traffickers.
In 2012, then UN refugee agency chief, Antonio Guterres, said some migrants in Egypt's Sinai peninsula were being "killed for the traffic of organs", while earlier this year a people smuggler told Italian prosecutors that those who could not pay their debt were sold to the organ traffickers.
The allegations have not been proven, however."

Here is a related story from the Daily Mail:
45 doctors, nurses and 'middlemen' are arrested for HUMAN ORGAN trade in Egypt as migrants sell body parts to reach Europe 
The harvesting of human organs is being described as the biggest ever in Egypt
Reports those involved were targeting African migrants trying to get to Europe
As well as the arrests, health ministry recovered millions of dollars in a raid
Some arrested worked at medical faculties of Cairo and Ain Shams Universities

Black markets for kidney transplants--arrests in Israel

A late December story of black markets and law enforcement from the Times of Israel:
2 charged with running international organ traffic ring. Patients allegedly paid $180,000 for a kidney; illegal transplants carried out in Turkey, Bulgaria, Thailand, Philippines

"Roini Shimshilashvili and Albert Murdakhayev were charged with multiple counts of trafficking in organs, brokering organ trafficking and conspiracy, according to a court statement. A third man, identified as a doctor, Zachi Shapira, was charged with multiple counts of assisting in organ trafficking.
"The two men allegedly found prospective donors from the former Soviet Union who matched sick Israelis. The donors would be paid to donate their kidneys to the Israelis, “who paid sums of up to $180,000 in most cases,” the court heard. It was not clear how much the donors were paid.


"In the last two years, the ring reportedly arranged for 14 transplants in four countries; Turkey, Bulgaria, Thailand and Philippines"

HT: Robert Gutman

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2016 Baby Markets 10th Anniversary International Congress in April

Here's the call for papers:

2016 Baby Markets 10th Anniversary International Congress

April 1-3, 2016 • University of California, Irvine School of Law
The Baby Markets International Congress celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the Baby Markets Roundtable series founded by the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy's Director, Chancellor’s Professor Michele Goodwin.

The Center welcomes abstracts engaging adoption, assisted reproduction, surrogacy trafficking, custodial parenting, care-giving, foster care, legal implications, and more through historical and contemporary lenses. View the full list of Congress themes »
Congress attendees will have the opportunity to submit papers to the Organizing Committee for publication in UC Irvine Law Review. The Organizing Committee will choose a select number of proceedings from the Congress for publication. Papers may also be accepted for the Second Edition of Professor Michele Goodwin’s Baby Markets volume.
All abstracts must be submitted by January 31, 2016. Abstracts should not exceed 250 words.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Genetic testing for heritable diseases

JScreen is a genetic testing service associated with Emory University that allows individuals and couples to learn what heritable diseases they may carry.  It also offers advising on Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), Use of donor sperm or egg, Adoption, Prenatal Diagnosis, and Preparation and Early Treatment (when expecting a child who may have a congenital disease).

A well established service of this kind, with a focus on Tay Sachs disease, is Dor Yeshorim (which translates roughly as "straight generation") about which I blogged last year with particular attention to the privacy protecting part of their protocol:

A privacy-preserving market design intervention to avoid Tay Sachs disease

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Evolution of kidney exchange markets, and other short videos from the AEA Poster session

Below is the video interview that goes with my poster presentation at the just concluded American Economic Association/ASSA meetings in Chicago:


Al Roth on the evolution of kidney exchange markets

Subtitle: Al Roth is the current president of the American Economic Association and the Craig and Susan McCaw Professor of Economics at Stanford University. He sat down with the AEA to talk about the market for a product (human kidneys) that can't legally be bought or sold, and the potential for huge savings in the U.S. health care system if we do a better job facilitating kidney exchanges across international borders.

You can also find the video here, on vimeo.

Al Roth on the evolution of kidney exchange markets from American Economic Association on Vimeo.

You can videos related to other posters at the 2017 Annual Meeting Videos , and here you can see the whole poster session.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Backpage closes it's marketplace for sex

Yesterday I posted about the legal battle brewing over whether is in violation of the laws against pimping and prostitution, and today comes the news that it is shutting down those ads. Here's the Washington Post story: shuts down adult services ads after relentless pressure from authorities
"Fighting accusations from members of Congress that it facilitated child sex trafficking, the classified advertising site abruptly closed its adult advertising section in the United States on Monday, saying years of government pressure left it no choice but to shutter its most popular and lucrative feature.

"The decision came shortly after a Senate panel released a report alleging Backpage concealed criminal activity by removing words from ads that would have exposed child sex trafficking and prostitution. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is scheduled to hold a hearing on the report Tuesday morning. Backpage’s founders and executives will appear in the hearing but do not plan to testify, according to their attorneys.
"The federal Communications Decency Act provides immunity to website operators that publish third-party content online, but multiple lawsuits have argued that the 1996 law does not protect Backpage because the site contributes to illegal activity — claims Backpage has vigorously denied.

"The Senate subcommittee raised similar concerns Monday. Its report alleged that Backpage knowingly hid child sex trafficking and prostitution by deleting incriminating terms from its ads before publication. The report found that the company used a feature that automatically scrubbed words such as “teenage,” “rape” and “young” from some ads, while manually removing terms from others."

European Network for Collaboration on Kidney Exchange Programmes

The European Network for Collaboration on Kidney Exchange Programmes will have its first meeting in January in Estonia, January 12 and 13 at the Estonian Business School (EBS). The aim of the network is to share information and coordinate practices among planned and existing kidney exchange programs throughout Europe.


8:30-9:00 registrations
9:00-9:45 Introduction by Joris vd Klundert:
-    Welcome Introduction of the participants
-    Aim and structure of the project
9.45-10.00 Aim of the first meeting by Peter Biro
Session 1 (moderated by Lisa Burnapp/ Bernadette Haase)
10.00-10.20  Aline Hemke: updates on the Dutch KEP
10.20 -10.40 Rachel Johnson: updates on the UK KEP
10.40-11.00  Discussion and key points
11.00:-11:30 coffee break
Session 2 (moderated Lisa Burnapp/Bernadette Haase)
11:30-11:50 Maria Valentin: KEP in Spain
11:50-12:10 Catarina Bolotinha: KEP in Portugal
12:10-12:30 Marie-Alice Macher: KEP in France
12:30-12:50  Paola Di Ciaccio and Vito Sparacino: KEP in Italy
12.50-13.30  Discussion and key points
13:30-14:30 lunch break
Session 3 (moderated Peter Biro)
14:30-14:50 Jiri Fronek: KEP in Czech Republic
14:50-15:10 Gregor Bond: KEP in Austria
15:10-15:30 Rafal Kieszek: KEP in Poland
15:30-15:45 Katarina Cechlarova: plans in Slovakia
15:45-16:00 Karine Hadaya: plans in Switzerland
16.00 – 16.30 coffee break
Session 4  (moderated by Lisa Burnapp/Bernadette Haase)
16:30-18:00 Interactive discussion on key themes from the morning session

Day 2

Session 5 (moderated by Joris vd Klundert)
9:00-9.15   Discussing the issues identified at the meeting in relation with the COST Action plans
9.15-10.30  Identify the specialised areas (organisational, legal ,financial, mathematical etc) which need further investigations and concrete actions. Division of work among participants.
10.30-11:00 coffee break
Session 6 (open discussion, moderated by Peter Biro)
11:00-11:45 Handbook: structure, details of data collection
11:45-12:30 Organisation of further activities of WG1

Racial discrimination in Uber and Lyft

Here's an NBER paper that investigates, in connection with Uber and Lyft, some of the issues that crop up in other distributed decision making marketplaces:

Racial and Gender Discrimination in Transportation Network Companies 
Yanbo Ge, Christopher R. Knittel, Don MacKenzie, and Stephen Zoepf
NBER Working Paper No. 22776 October 2016

ABSTRACT Passengers have faced a history of discrimination in transportation systems. Peer transportation companies such as Uber and Lyft present the opportunity to rectify long-standing discrimination or worsen it. We sent passengers in Seattle, WA and Boston, MA to hail nearly 1,500 rides on controlled routes and recorded key performance metrics. Results indicated a pattern of discrimination, which we observed in Seattle through longer waiting times for African American passengers—as much as a 35 percent increase. In Boston, we observed discrimination by Uber drivers via more frequent cancellations against passengers when they used African Americansounding names. Across all trips, the cancellation rate for African American sounding names was more than twice as frequent compared to white sounding names. Male passengers requesting a ride in low-density areas were more than three times as likely to have their trip canceled when they used a African American-sounding name than when they used a white-sounding name. We also find evidence that drivers took female passengers for longer, more expensive, rides in Boston. We observe that removing names from trip booking may alleviate the immediate problem but could introduce other pathways for unequal treatment of passengers.

Yanbo Ge University of Washington Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Christopher R. Knittel MIT Sloan School of Management 100 Main Street, E62-513 Cambridge, MA 02142 and NBER
Don MacKenzie University of Washington Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Stephen Zoepf Stanford University Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS)

See these posts for a related problem of peer to peer discrimination faced by Airbnb:

Airbnb consider market design changes to reduce discrimination

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Classified ads as a marketplace for sex

Here's a story about a classified ad sex site whose publishers were recently arrested, in a case that pits freedom of the press against accusations of making a market for illegal prostitution, and very illegal trafficking in children. The case may extend the criminal definition of illegal pimping to the owners of a newspaper that no one seems to dispute is used to advertise prostitution, among consenting adults and possibly also by nonconsenting adults and children.

Digital Pimps or Fearless Publishers?
The owners of Village Voice Media gamed the online classified business with and made millions. But when it became a breeding ground for child rape, the publishers became something else: defendants.  by Kate Knibbs

"Backpage is the most prominent online destination for on-demand paid sex in the United States, and according to the arrest warrant for Ferrer and others, it made nearly 99 percent of its over $50 million revenue in California from January 2013 to March 2015 from charging for erotic classified ads. It is, in essence, an escort advertising network nestled in a Craigslist knockoff.
"“Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world’s top online brothel,” California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement in October. Her office had brought the charges against the men in the middle of what would turn out to be her successful campaign for U.S. Senate.
"Backpage general counsel Liz McDougall called the arrests an “election year stunt.”
"Whether or not it was designed to be a brothel, and whether its owners are neutral web hosts attacked for political gain or nefarious pimps adept at skating the law, is what the court must decide.
"The executives at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) were also gratified.
The nonprofit views Backpage as so tightly tied to the sale of children for rape that the website is now the first place it searches for children reported missing. In a 2016 amicus brief, the organization outlined the ways in which it believes that Backpage has been deliberately optimized to keep the child trafficking industry going, including having relaxed posting rules for escort ads while requiring other sellers to provide valid telephone numbers. It also describes a case in which one child was “sold for sex more than 50 times on beginning when she was 12 years old.” The organization has worked on more than 420 cases in which children were trafficked through Backpage.
“I don’t know that anyone really believes that there’s a way, with a website offering those services, to completely eliminate [the sex trade],” Staca Shehan, the executive director of the NCMEC’s Case Analysis Division, told me. “But there’s a lot to be done to reduce the likelihood, to reduce this website as a target to buy and sell children for sex.”
The relationship between Backpage and NCMEC was originally cooperative, but Shehan says it soured in 2013, when the center decided the site’s crackdown attempts were theater. She said that Backpage would voluntarily report that it took down one advertisement for a minor, but that her researchers would discover the same image of the child in many other posts that remained online and untouched. This infuriates Shehan. “Why would you report one, and not all the other ones that your website is hosting? Why wouldn’t you remove that ad if you suspect that a child is being sold for sex and block the individual user?” she said.
In March, the Senate voted unanimously to hold Ferrer in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena for a separate investigation into Backpage’s activities — the first contempt authorization in more than 20 years. This investigation paints Backpage as a deliberately sinister operation, claiming that the company edits advertisements to make them look less like sex trafficking. “Our investigation showed that Backpage ‘edits’ advertisements before posting them, by removing certain words, phrases, or images. For instance, they might remove a word or image that makes clear that sexual services are being offered for money. And then they would post this ‘sanitized’ version of the ad,” Senator Rob Portman said in a statement. “In other words, Backpage’s editing procedures, far from being an effective anti-trafficking measure, only served to sanitize the ads of illegal content to an outside viewer.”
While lawmakers like Portman see Backpage as a demonic helpmate for rapists and abusive pimps, the website has a reputation as a valuable safety tool within some sex worker communities.
Consenting, adult sex workers often praise Backpage for helping minimize the risks of their job. Sex worker advocacy groups have condemned the prosecution of Ferrer, Lacey, and Larkin. In San Francisco, sex workers and supporters gathered to protest the Backpage arrests. “This culmination of a three-year investigation by the California government is a shocking waste of resources for a political stunt that leaves sex workers and trafficking victims stigmatized, isolated, and more vulnerable to violence,” the Urban Justice Center’s Sex Workers Project said in a statement condemning Ferrer’s arrest.
The phantoms of other shuttered and beleaguered sex ad sites worry sex workers who view digital classifieds as instrumental to their safety. RedBook, a long-running Bay Area hub for sex work ads, was shut down after an investigation by the IRS and FBI in 2014. “Authorities say the San Francisco–based website, which primarily served California and Nevada, facilitated prostitution and had to fall. Sex workers say the site provided a meager safeguard against predators, pimps, and cops,” the Sacramento News & Review wrote. “When it disappeared, the most at-risk workers — those of limited means and greatest need — were displaced to the streets.”
"While lurid and sad, the arrest report for Ferrer, Lacey, and Larkin has another striking feature: None of the incidents recounted involved the men arranging for or paying for sex, nor did they involve the participation of the men authorities describe as “pimps.” There is no mention of “pimping” in the traditional sense, the act of controlling sex workers, or arranging meet-ups, or taking a cut of their income. The men were arrested as pimps simply by dint of owning and operating a website where other people pimped, even though Backpage’s disclaimer instructs users to report underage trafficking and illegal activity.
The arrest warrant describes how a California Department of Justice agent personally called Ferrer to alert him of an illegal ad. Upending expectations, the warrant notes that the CEO promised to promptly remove this ad — and then kept his word and promptly removed it. So it isn’t that the website lacks moderation; the allegation is that Backpage’s moderation isn’t sufficient enough, and that insufficiency is tantamount to the act of pimping.
It is an unusual stretch of the definition of a very old crime. By arresting Backpage’s current and former executives, Harris was sending a message: If the definition of pimping hadn’t yet changed, she was trying to change it."

HT: Scott Cunningham