• Frozen

    Apr 16 • The Pulse • 54 Views

    Disney’s ‘Frozen’ becomes the No. 1 animated film of all time and crosses the $1 billion dollar mark in the box office. Hot or not?

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  • increasing marginal utility water drought

    How To Cope With (Water) Stress

    Apr 16 • Demand, Supply, and Markets, Developing Economies, Economic Growth, Environment, Gender gap, Government, Health Care, Households, Innovation, Labor, Lifestyle, Macroeconomic Measurement, Regulation, Tech • 52 Views

    Being water stressed means you are unusually vulnerable to a water shortage. Sort of like a household where one emergency can push it over the edge because it spends all it earns, so too with most water stressed nations. That one drought or technical failure can devastate a water supply.

    After gathering data from 180 countries, the Water Resources Institute listed the world’s most water stressed countries:

    Water stressed countries

    water stressed countries

    From: Water Resources Institute

    Being water stressed, though, does not mean that you have an unsolvable problem. Because Singapore is densely populated, has no fresh water lakes and no aquifers and uses 80% of its available water annually, it is severely water stressed. However, through international water importing agreements with Malaysia, advanced technology that captures rainwater, a desalination program, and gray water reuse, its water management is exemplary. Consequently, though highly stressed, Singapore has a stable water supply.

    Interestingly, most sub-Saharan nations are not in the high water stress group.

    The World's Most Water Stressed Countries

    And yet, UN Millennium Reports cite drinking water as a major problem. Their analysis primarily focuses on an urban/rural divide and a wealth gap:

    Water Supply for Drinking sub-Saharan Africa

    Fron: UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2012, p. 53.


    And the high opportunity cost for women:

    Water Stress and women

    From: UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2012, p. 54.

    Our bottom line: For developed areas of the world, the problem of water stress is solved with technology. In the developing world, in the absence of technology, the human capital cost is high.

    Sources and Resources: Reports on water stress and the availability of drinking water are here and here while volumes have been written about Singapore’s successful solution to its water challenge.



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  • google office new york city

    Should the Word “Glass” Belong to Google?

    Apr 15 • Businesses, Economic Debates, Economic Growth, Fashion, Government, Innovation, Media, Regulation, Tech • 71 Views

    Neither raisin bran nor shredded wheat are names that Kellogg’s can trademark. And yet Apple has trademarked “Apple.” Should Google be able to claim “glass?”

    Several days ago, the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office told Google that “Glass” was “merely descriptive” rather than “distinctive” and could confuse consumers. Consequently, it was not convinced that Google should be able to trademark the word. Disagreeing, Google said that its “Glass” is not descriptive because the glass is really titanium and plastic. Furthermore, it already has a trademark for Google Glass so consumers will not be confused.

    A trademark for a name is all about having an intellectual property monopoly. The problem though is where to draw the line.  And that takes us to a red-soled shoe.

    In a 2012 decision, a federal court of appeals decided that except for a monochromatic red shoe, Louboutin and only Louboutin has the right to a red sole. Saying that, “We hold that the lacquered red outsole, as applied to a shoe with an ‘upper’ of a different color, has ‘come to identify and distinguish’ the Louboutin brand and…qualifies for trademark protection.”

    If you can call the sole your intellectual property, what about the shoe?

    Probably not. Like jackets and pants and shirts, shoes are too utilitarian to be protected by intellectual property laws. We all have the right to copy their design. In fact, for fashion, experts like Johanna Blakley believe a copycat culture is good:

    A debate that we can trace back to Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, the question about innovation and whether and how long we can own what we create has been timeless. While patents, copyrights and trademarks can propel a market economy, sometimes they constrain progress.

    Finally, while Google is looking to trademark the name “glass,” Facebook is interested in “book.”

    Sources and Resources: For more detail about the current status of the trademark request, the Google response and subsequent action, this Georgia news article was the most clear and accurate I read. Here, 99 percent invisible speaks about trademark issues with professional “namers” and here is Apple’s list of its trademarked names.

    Please note that parts of the above discussion were previously expressed in econlife.

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  • kazoo

    Gender Issues: What If We No Longer Said “He” and “She”?

    Apr 14 • Behavioral Economics, Economic Debates, Economic History, Education, Gender gap, Innovation, Labor, Lifestyle, Media • 68 Views

    Our Monday Gender Issue:

    In the February 10th issue of the New Yorker, I read “Pronoun Envy” by Anne Carson.

    Here is the beginning:

    Pronoun Envy

    “is a phrase
    coined by Cal Watkins
    of the Harvard Linguistics Department
    in November 1971

    to disparage
    certain concerns
    of the female students
    of Harvard Divinity School.

    In a world
    where God is ‘He’
    and everyone else

    what chance
    do we have for
    a bit of attention?
    seemed to be their question.

    Cal Watkins–
    how patient a man–
    did not say you carry-tale mumble-
    news mar-plot find-fault spoil-


    but rather that
    pronouns themselves were
    not to blame. It’s the Indo-
    European system of markedness.

    A binary system.
    Which regards masculine as the
    unmarked gender…”

    The poem refers to a 1971 Harvard Divinity School class. Two women, a tiny minority in a sea of men, suggested that their class be given kazoos. And that any time a patriarchal reference was expressed during class, anyone could respond with a toot. That mean if the Diety were referred to as a “He” or someone mentioned mankind, the noisemakers would resound.

    Responding in 1971, Cal Watkins from the Harvard Linguistics Department said,

    “The fact that the masculine is the unmarked gender in English (or that the feminine is unmarked in the language of the Tunica Indians) is simply a feature of grammar. It is unlikely to be an impediment to any change in the patterns of the sexual division of labor toward which our society may wish to evolve. There is really no cause for anxiety or pronoun-envy on the part of those seeking changes”

    I have a tough time with gender specific pronouns. Writing, I always have to make a choice. Should I say, “She?” “He?” Most of the time I try to work out a plural so I can say “they.”  Using “he” everywhere creates the image of men dominating the workplace. But “she” could be artificial. Should I accept “they” as a singular pronoun in my students’ essays?

    What to do?

    Gender neutral pronouns have been proposed by Kate Swift (1923-2011) and Casey Miller (1919-1997), authors of Words and Women.

    Gender Neutral Pronouns Ms Magazine Insert

    However, Swift’s and Miller’s proposals have never stuck. Similarly, no one has begun using s/he or he/she or hesh (he plus she). The New Republic says ze has been proposed by LGBT people to avoid gender identity or maybe thon (from that one) is a possibility.

    My bottom line? Every time someone says a “manned” space vehicle, I would like to blow my kazoo.

    Sources and Resources: I recommend going to Slate for the full story of that 1971 Harvard Divinity School class, p. 49 of the February 10, 2014 New Yorker (gated) for the entire poem, a 2014 New Republic article and the 1971 Swift/Miller New York Magazine Ms insert for the pronoun discussion.

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  • throwin papers quit job

    One Reason That Quitting is Good

    Apr 13 • Demand, Supply, and Markets, Economic Growth, Economic History, Government, Households, Labor, Macroeconomic Measurement, Money and Monetary Policy, Regulation • 63 Views

    I have read that Fed Chair Janet Yellen is particularly interested in JOLTS. Representing Job Openings and Labor market Turnover Survey, JOLTS data tell an interesting story.

    You can see how the trend in job openings parallels the Great Recession almost exactly:

    Employment Report JOLTS job openings

    From: St. Louis Fed

    So too does hiring:

    Employment Report JOLTS Hires

    From: St. Louis Fed

    And the layoff and discharge numbers:

    Employment Report JOLTS layoffs and discharges

    From: St. Louis Fed


    But I wonder if the “quit” numbers particularly provide insight. Think for a moment about jobs that people dislike. In healthy economic conditions, we are more willing to leave a distasteful job because an alternative is probably available. However, during a contraction and especially the Great Recession, our optimism evaporates. If you were working, you stayed there.

    Employment JOLTS quit numbers

    From: St. Louis Fed

    If the quit rate trend is up, is that good economic news?

    Sources and Resources: H/T to marketplace.org for an interesting JOLTS report. For the numbers, the St. Louis Fed’s graph are a wonderful resources here, here, here and here.

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