269 (15 June 2016)

Welcome to week 268!  The articles below caught my attention this week.  Please note that what are intended to be relatively objective “briefs” are preceded by dashes (——–), whereas additional material or relatively subjective comments are preceded by asterisks (********).  The links to articles preceded by [SR] require a subscription to be read in their entirety, although complete articles may frequently be found by an Internet title search.

(10 June 2016): “Finches threatened by rising rewards of trafficking trap” (http://www.pressreader.com/uk/the-guardian-weekly/20160610/282316794304202)

——–“With its red face and yellow-barred black wings, the European goldfinch . . . has distinctive good looks. . . . It has been a protected species in the wild in Europe since April 1979.”  But that has not stopped their capture and trade.  In Europe “unscrupulous breeders are keen to extend their breeding pool by purchasing wild finch stock, despite this being illegal.  Crossing a goldfinch with a canary produces a hybrid ‘mule’, wish is also a great singer.”  The Internet has contributed to the goldfinch trade, as “organized crime has realised the potential rewards are considerable.  On average a goldfinch will fetch €150, equivalent to €10 a gram, the same price as cannabis.  But the punishment, if caught, is far less severe: a one-year prison sentence in France at worst for trapping and holding a protected species.  A small-time drug-dealer risks up to five years behind bars.”

********I thought the comment about monetary yield per gram and sentencing was interesting.  For someone operating on a very small scale that might be a consideration but it is hard to see that organized crime would be that interested.  I’m currently reading Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy (https://www.amazon.com/Illicit-Smugglers-Traffickers-Copycats-Hijacking/dp/1400078849/), by Moises Naim, who was formerly the Editor of Foreign Policy (http://foreignpolicy.com/).  No doubt it will provide some additional insight into activities such as goldfinch poaching.  It definitely promises to provide detailed knowledge on money laundering, which is the flip side of the coin of illegal trade.  I.e., wherever there is illegal trade, there is money laundering.  No doubt the digital economy has made laundering easier.  It is just now that I realized the pun employed in the television series Breaking Bad, where meth producer Walter White used a car wash to launder money.

(13 June 2016): “Detroit Battles for the Soul of Self-Driving Machines” (http://www.wsj.com/articles/detroit-battles-for-the-soul-of-self-driving-machines-1465782698)

——–Detroit’s Ford Motor Company “is at the center of a ferocious hiring battle now pitting traditional car makers against startups out to force a shift to electric and autonomous-driving vehicles.  As they view for skilled workers, the demand for people who know how to design or build a car has swelled, putting auto makers behind the eight ball.”  Employee poaching is common, with car makers responding by “building deeper ties with universities, opening offices in Silicon Valley and buying startups.”  General Motors, for example, “recently paid more than $1 billion for autonomous-driving company Cruise Automation, and acquired Sidecar Technologies 20-person team that was working on ride-hailing services.”

********A great example of what is likely to occur in a labor market when the demand for a particular skill increasing dramatically and it takes significant time to develop those skills, so supply adjusts slowly.  I was struck by the fact that companies, like General Motors and Toyota, seem to be focused on acquiring existing teams (workgroups) in order to speed up the development process.

(15 June 2016): “Broccoli Rabe Is Trying to Be the Next Kale” [SR](http://www.wsj.com/articles/broccoli-rabe-is-trying-to-be-the-next-kale-1465927540)

——–“Broccoli rage—leafy, pungent and beloved by fans of old-school Italian-American cuisine—is emerging as a star of food blogs, Instagram feeds and the daytime television circuit, thanks to a concerted campaign to position the vegetable as the next nutritional powerhouse.”  Its day in the Sun began with a question posed by Claudia Pizarro-Villalobos, the marketing and culinary manager for Salina, California-based D’Arrigo Bros., Co.: “So many other cruciferous vegetables are popular . . . Why can’t ours be more popular, too?”  To draw attention to broccoli rabe, especially among coveted millennials, “the family-owned grower signed on with a small New York ad agency, Jugular, and a PR firm, LaForce, with clients mostly in fashion, lifestyle brands and spirits.  It also partnered with Candice Kumai, a celebrity chef, healthy-eating cookbook author and digital influencer with a fit image, to develop recipes and talk up broccoli rabe on social media and in TV appearances.”

********Another article focusing on the demand side of the market.  The production of broccoli rabe, however, can presumably increase much more quickly than the production of engineers for autonomous and electric cars.  The article provides a closer look behind the emergence of a new food trend, more generally, any trend.

(15 June 2016): “Job-Seeking Ph.D. Holders Look to Life Outside School” [SR](http://www.wsj.com/articles/job-seeking-ph-d-holders-look-to-life-outside-school-1465924943)

——–“Jake Simson, a biomedical engineer turned financial analyst, stood before a group of doctoral candidates in a University of Chicago lecture hall this past semester explaining how to find a job.  First step?  Don’t be hung up on staying in academia.”  Simson’s message “is part of a conversation taking place across dozens of research universities that is aimed at preparing doctoral candidates entering the job market for a jarring reality: Their Ph.D. doesn’t deliver the bang for the buck it once did.”  According to a survey of the National Science Foundation released in April, “The percentage of new doctorate recipients without jobs or plans for further study climbed to 39% in 2014 from 31% in 2009.”  Furthermore, median salaries “for midcareer Ph.D. working full time declined 6% between 2010 and 2013.”  A changing market for Ph.D.s has contributed to these developments.  The “academic job market—the largest employer of Ph.D.s—continues to wither as many schools move away from the model of only employing tenured professors and toward using larger numbers of relatively lowly paid adjuncts.”  In the private sector, too, jobs have become more scarce.  “The pharmaceutical industry—the largest employer of chemists in the country—has moved much of its research overseas, shedding 300,000 jobs in the U.S. in recent years.”  Kelly Brown, who is assistant director at the University of California Humanities Research Institute, notes that in the humanities, only “Ph.D.s graduating from top-tier universities stand a real chance of landing a tenure-track position.”

********The message is pretty clear, those pursuing the Ph.D. should be open to and investigate a wide variety of employment opportunities, not solely those in academia.  Evidently graduate schools are aware of the situation and are working to respond to it.  For example, “At Stanford University, a program is in its second year to help Ph.D. graduates find jobs as high-school teachers. . . . at Columbia University, Ph.D.s are taking classes in using Twitter to better communicate their work to nonacademic audiences.”  I suspect that options like these are not what led students to earn a Ph.D.

********In the event that a newly-minted Ph.D. ends up in a high-school class or even in a university classroom, it would be good to know that “the best teachers are made, not born.”  There is a useful Briefing in The Economist “Teaching the teachers” on this topic: http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21700385-great-teaching-has-long-been-seen-innate-skill-reformers-are-showing-best.

May you have a good week!


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