314 (25 April 2018)

Welcome to week 314!  The articles below caught my attention this week.  What are intended to be relatively objective “briefs” are preceded by dashes (——–), whereas additional material or relatively subjective comments are preceded by asterisks (********).  Article titles preceded by [SR] require a subscription to be read in their entirety, although complete articles may be found by an Internet title search.

A reader last week indicated that the “invisible links” now used were preferred to “visible links” but that it would be beneficial to include the name of the source of the article, e.g., The Washington Post.  This is a nice middle ground between the visible and the invisible.  The name of the source now follows the title of the article, much like scholarly citation practices.

Please feel free to share this information with others.  If you have questions or comments, please send them my way.

(19 April 2018):Science hinted that cancer patients could take less of a $148,000-a-year drug.  Its maker tripled the price of a pillThe Washington Post

——–“A group of cancer doctors focused on bringing down the cost of treatments by testing whether lower—and cheaper—doses are effective thought they had found a prime candidate in a blood cancer drug called Imbruvica that typically costs $148,000 a year.”  But before they could develop a study and secure funding they learned “of a new pricing strategy by Janssen and Pharmacyclics, the companies that sell Imbruvica through a partnership.  Within the next three months, the companies will stop making the original 140-milligram capsule . . . [and] will instead offer tablets in four strengths—each of which has the same flat price of about $400, or triple the original cost of the pill.”  The pricing scheme “ensures dose reductions won’t save patients money or erode companies’ revenue from selling the drug.”

********The article goes on to discuss some of the complexities involved with the management of patients using Imbruvica and how the new pricing scheme will reduce the ability of physicians to respond to drug interactions in a timely way.  This situation simply calls out for a more rigorous and systematic analysis.

(19 April 2018):Why a Cashmere Sweater Can Cost $2,000 . . . or $30Bloomberg.com

——–“A plain, yet meticulously crafted, sweater made of the world’s finest cashmere can cost $2,000 or more from premier fashion labels such as Loro Piana.  You can also grab a simple sweater of 100 percent cashmere off a discount rack at Uniqlo for as little as $29.90. . . . So what makes one sweater better than another?  The price depends on the quality of the yarn, where the garment was manufactured, the number of units purchased by the brand, and the markup.  The quality of the raw material often matters the most.”

********The article provides a nice description of some of the things that producers look for in terms of fiber characteristics and what consumers look for in terms of the finished sweater.  Evidently American consumers value garment softness “above all else.”  Reminiscent of the sparkling wine called Champagne, which must come from a specific region of France, “only the product of the Kashmir goat is true cashmere.”

(20 April 2018): [SR] “Climate Fears Reshape Miami’s Housing MarketThe Wall Street Journal

——–“Concerns over climate change are beginning to reshape one of the country’s largest housing markets, with properties closer to sea level now trading at discounts to those at higher elevations.  Research published Friday in the Journal of Environmental Research Letters shows that single-family homes in Miami-Dade County are rising in value more slowly near sea level than at higher elevations, as buyers weigh the possibilities of more-frequent minor flooding in the short term and the challenge of reselling properties that decades from now could be permanently submerged.”  The Miami area is “a testing ground for the vulnerability of housing markets in other coastal cities, such as New York and Boston, because its elevation is as little as one foot above sea level and its porous limestone makes it especially vulnerable to rising sea levels.”

********The foundation publication of this article is “Climate gentrification: from theory to empiricism in Miami-Dade County, Florida,” which is downloadable in its entirety.  Its Abstract gives a clear statement of the hypotheses under consideration and the results found.  In short, climate risk as measured by elevation is clearly being reflected in the price of single-family homes in Miami-Dade County.  If you have had some exposure to multiple regression models in an economics or statistics course, you can study the results for yourself.

********Climate change is not restricted to coastal areas, as is pointed out in “Climate Lawsuits, Once Limited to the Coasts, Jump InlandThe New York Times.  Boulder and San Miguel Counties in Colorado, along with the city of Boulder, Colorado, have filed lawsuits against ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy arguing that “fossil fuels sold by the companies contribute to climate change, which in turn has exacerbated wildfires, droughts, sever storms and other symptoms of a warming planet that have far-ranging effects on agriculture and tourism.”  The article discusses some of the legal issues involved in such cases, including property rights, nuisance doctrines, state vs federal jurisdiction, and the role of the EPA.

(25 April 2018):The Fighting Has Begun Over Who Owns Land Drowned by Climate ChangeBloomberg.com

——–“A decade after the global financial crisis popularized the term ‘underwater real estate,’ parts of the U.S. are grappling with a new, more literal version of the problem.”  Holly Doremus, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, notes: “There’s no question it will be a huge fight . . . We don’t exactly know the boundaries of what the state can do.”  Although the “public trust doctrine” has long stipulated that “when it comes to coastal property, anything below the average high-tide line is owned by the government for the use and benefit of the public . . . [those] rules also cover what happens when the high-tide line moves.  If the movement happens suddenly—for example, if a portion of beach is washed away by a storm—the land owner retains title to the property provided he or she restores it to dry land.”  However, “if the high-tide line moves slowly, state ownership moves with it.  And because it’s Mother Nature taking the land, not the government, there’s no legal requirement for the government to compensate property owners.”  According to one legal scholar, due to climate change some of these rules, “don’t really make as much sense anymore.”

********This article is filled with interesting twists and turns.  Clearly our legal system has not sufficiently evolved to the point where ready answers can be provided for a long list of issues and actions related to climate change.  For example, if I am a landowner and my land is submerged, do I still have to pay taxes on the land?  Is it still my land?  If it isn’t my land, whose is it?  Will the ownership status of the land change if a state or federal agency reclaims the land and returns it to “dry” status?  Those who are going into environmental law will have much work to do in the decades to come.  Perhaps there are other areas, too, that are at issue but simply aren’t as dramatic, i.e., visible, as those related to inundated lands.

May you have a good week!  Bruce

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