Friday, February 27, 2015

Adultery is no longer illegal in S. Korea--and share price of condom maker soars

The Guardian has the story just before the court decision...: South Korean court to rule on making adultery legal

"South Korea’s Constitutional Court is set to rule on a motion to strike down a controversial law that outlaws adultery and threatens violators with jail time.

It marks the fifth time in 25 years that the apex court has considered the constitutional legality of a 1953 statute which makes South Korea one of the few non-Muslim countries to regard marital infidelity a criminal act.

And the statute isn’t a historical quirk that simply gathers legislative dust.

In the past six years, close to 5,500 people have been formerly arraigned on adultery charges - including nearly 900 in 2014."

...and just after:
Condom maker's shares surge after South Korea legalises adultery
Unidus, the country’s largest contraceptive manufacturer, saw a 15% spike in the value of its stock on same day law banning extramarital sex was repealed

"In South Korea, extramarital sex just got a whole lot safer, after the country’s highest court overturned a law banning adultery.

The abolition of the 62-year-old law on Thursday saw the share price of the country’s biggest condom maker, Unidus, surge 15% – the daily limit on the country’s Kosdaq market. "

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Kuznets' Nobel Prize medal auction

The auction of the medal that Simon Kuznets received with his Nobel Prize in Economics in 1971 ended this evening.

The auction had a minimum bid of $150,000, and a soft close, i.e. the closing time was extended for 30 minutes (I think) beyond the last bid. All the bids were made on the last day, and the auction was extended for several bids before reaching the final price of $385,848.

Doctor-assisted dying in Canada

The Globe and Mail has the story:

Supreme Court rules Canadians have right to doctor-assisted suicide

"Canadian adults in grievous, unending pain have a right to end their life with a doctor’s help, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

The unanimous ruling, by establishing that the “sanctity of life” also includes the “passage into death,” extends constitutional rights into a new realm. The courts have used the 1982 Charter of Rights to establish gay marriage and to strike down a federal abortion law. The new ruling will change the way some Canadians are permitted to die.
In a brief, powerful opening paragraph, the court explained why it was creating a new constitutional right to autonomy over one’s death in some circumstances: Those who are severely and irremediably suffering, whether physically or psychologically, “may be condemned to a life of severe and intolerable suffering” by the government’s absolute ban on assisted dying. “A person facing this prospect has two options: she can take her own life prematurely, often by violent or dangerous means, or she can suffer until she dies from natural causes. The choice is cruel.”
The decision was signed by The Court, which happens occasionally when the justices wish to lend their decisions extra weight. The nine judges, who range in age from mid-50s to 74, dismissed the notion that competent adults cannot consent to their death. “We do not agree that the existential formulation of the right to life requiresan absolute prohibition on assistance in dying, or that individuals cannot ‘waive’ their right to life. This would create a ‘duty to live,’” the ruling says.
The court decision puts Canada in the company of a small group of countries such as Belgium – and U.S. states Washington and Oregon – that permit doctor-assisted death. And it gives the Conservative government difficult choices as it heads toward an election expected in the fall. The court suspended its ruling for 12 months to allow for new rules and laws to be drafted, but Ottawa could choose to do nothing, and allow provinces and medical regulatory bodies to create the ground rules for assisted death. Or it could do what it did when the Supreme Court struck down prostitution laws 14 months ago: study international models and then create a uniquely Canadian version that may or may not respect the principles established by the court."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Is it (always) repugnant for professors to date students?

Some recent policy decisions at Harvard and Arizona State clarify their position on romantic relationships between professors and students.

At Arizona State they've rejected a measure that would condemn all relationships between any professor and any student, and confined the ban to professors and students who they "teach, supervise, or evaluate."

The Chronicle of Higher Education has the story:


Faculty members at Arizona State University voted on Monday to broaden the institution’s prohibition on dating between professors and students, reports The Arizona Republic.
The University Senate voted, 76 to 11, to ban professors from dating students over whom the professors can “reasonably be expected” to have authority. The current policy forbids relationships between professors and the students they teach, supervise, or evaluate.
Last fall the faculty body rejected a measure that would have banned all relationships between professors and students, save exemptions granted by the provost. The new policy still requires approval from the administration to take effect."  

The Harvard policy forbids all relationships between professors and undergraduates, but forbids relationships with graduate students only if the professor is teaching or supervising them.

"FAS Policy on Relationships between People of Different University Status:
•     The FAS policy prohibits romantic or sexual relationships between its faculty and any undergraduate student at Harvard College, regardless of whether the instructor is currently supervising or teaching that student. The FAS Policy also prohibits romantic or sexual relationships between faculty and graduate students or Division of Continuing Education students whom the faculty member is teaching or supervising.
•     The FAS policy does not expressly forbid other kinds of romantic or sexual relationships, but it does describe the expectations for relationships between people of different university status."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tomas Sjostrom on the Nobel Economics Prize committee

The Daily Targum, the student newspaper of Rutgers university, talks to Tomas Sjostrom about his work as a member of the committee that selects the recipients for the Nobel Economics Prize.
Professor details dual role as Nobel Prize Committee member

"in February, Sjostrom and his colleague on the committee will start to go through the extensive list of promising candidates.
“After reducing the list to reasonable nominations, we discuss the candidates [for] meetings after meetings as the spring goes on,” Sjostrom said. "

Monday, February 23, 2015

"three parent babies" to cure mitochondrial disease

The BBC has the story: MPs say yes to three-person babies (not without controversy):

"MPs have voted in favour of the creation of babies with DNA from two women and one man, in an historic move.

"The UK is now set to become the first country to introduce laws to allow the creation of babies from three people.

"In a free vote in the Commons, 382 MPs were in favour and 128 against the technique that stops genetic diseases being passed from mother to child.

"During the debate, ministers said the technique was "light at the end of a dark tunnel" for families.

"A further vote is required in the House of Lords. It everything goes ahead then the first such baby could be born next year.

"Proponents said the backing was "good news for progressive medicine" but critics say they will continue to fight against the technique that they say raises too many ethical and safety concerns.

"Estimates suggest 150 three-person babies could be born each year.

"Prime Minister David Cameron said: "We're not playing god here, we're just making sure that two parents who want a healthy baby can have one."
"Mitochondria are the tiny compartments inside nearly every cell of the body that convert food into useable energy. They have their own DNA, which does not affect characteristics such as appearance.

"Defective mitochondria are passed down only from the mother. They can lead to brain damage, muscle wasting, heart failure and blindness.

"The technique uses a modified version of IVF to combine the DNA of the two parents with the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman.

"It results in babies with 0.1% of their DNA from the second woman and is a permanent change that would be passed down through the generations.
"Last week the Catholic and Anglican Churches in England said the idea was not safe or ethical, not least because it involved the destruction of embryos.

"Other groups, including Human Genetics Alert, say the move would open the door to further genetic modification of children in the future - so-called designer babies, genetically modified for beauty, intelligence or to be free of disease."

Sunday, February 22, 2015

2014 CME Group - MSRI Prize to Jose Sheinkman

Congratulations (a bit belated) to Jose Sheinkman

The 9th annual CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications will be awarded to JOSÉ A. SCHEINKMANthe Edwin W. Rickert Professor of Economics at Columbia University, Theodore A. Wells ‘29 Professor of Economics (emeritus) at Princeton University and a Research Associate at the NBER at a luncheon in Chicago on February 9.  By invitation only.

Prior to the lunch and award presentation, a panel discussion on "Bubbles in the market: Why do they form, when do they pop?" will be held with Gadi Barlevy (Senior Economist and Research Advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago), Lars Hansen (David Rockefeller Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, Statistics & the College, University of Chicago), Harrison Hong (John Scully 1966 Professor of Economics and Finance, Department of Economics, Princeton University), Leonid Kogan (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management), Pietro Veronesi (Roman Family Professor of Finance, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago), and Wei Xiong (Hugh Leander and Mary Trumbull Adams Professor in Finance and Professor of Economics, Department of Economics and Bendheim Center for Finance, Princeton University).  The panel will be moderated by David Eisenbud (Director, MSRI and Professor of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley)
The annual CME Group-MSRI Prize is awarded to an individual or a group, to recognize originality and innovation in the use of mathematical, statistical or computational methods for the study of the behavior of markets, and more broadly of economics.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Comments on the FCC incentive auction

Peter Cramton writes:

Dear Al,

Yesterday, I filed at the FCC some research that my team has been working on for some time. It is a good example of market design in action, combining economics, computer science, and operations research to design better markets. I am sending this to you because I thought that you may be interested and the market design community more broadly. I paste below the link and the abstract.

All the best,

“Design of the Reverse Auction in the FCC Incentive Auction” (with Hector Lopez, David Malec and Pacharasut Sujarittanonta), Working Paper, University of Maryland, 19 February 2015. [See also FCC Comment Public NoticeEOBC CommentKagan Comment]

We consider important design issues of the reverse auction, a key and innovative part of the FCC’s Incentive Auction. In the reverse auction, broadcasters compete to repurpose television broadcast spectrum for mobile broadband use. The Comment Public Notice (FCC 14-191) outlined the basic structure of the reverse auction. We take that basic structure as given and then examine critical elements of the design to maximize the FCC’s objectives of efficiency, simplicity, transparency, and fairness. Based on extensive simulation analysis of the FCC’s basic design, we identify important enhancements to the design that maintain its basic structure, yet improve the chance of a successful auction. This is accomplished by strengthening incentives for broadcaster participation and relying on competitive forces to determine auction clearing prices. Our analysis is based on a carefully-crafted reservation price model for broadcasters together with inevitable uncertainties of these reservation prices. In our simulations, we are able to clear 126 MHz of spectrum at a cost that is well within plausible revenues from the forward auction. This is accomplished with an improved scoring rule and replacing Dynamic Reserve Prices (DRP) with a much simpler Round Zero Reserve (RZR, pronounced “razor”) to promote objectives of transparency and simplicity. We also propose a much simplified method of setting the clearing target and an information policy that allows for important outcome discovery. Relative to the FCC’s proposal outlined in the Comment PN, our enhanced proposal is more robust, more efficient, simpler, more transparent, and fairer.

Here is the FCC's request for comments

Comment Sought on Competitive Bidding Procedures for Broadcast Incentive Auction 1000, Including 1001 and 1002