The Risks of Doing Business in China

For months the residents of Hong Kong have been protesting Chinese involvement in their politics. These protests began in March 2019 when Chief Executive Carrie Lam proposed a bill which would allow local authorities to detain and extradite people to jurisdictions that Hong Kong does not have extradition agreements with, including mainland China and Taiwan. I believe this type of unrest is an inevitable result of the UK relinquishing Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China in 1997 and China’s one country, two systems policy. Ultimately, I think Chinese leaders want one country, one system. The proposed extradition bill, which has since been withdrawn, proved to be the flashpoint.

China hasn’t sent in the tanks, but they have been staging military vehicles just across the Taiwan Strait in Shenzhen. They have also been applying pressure in other ways. Cathay Pacific is the national airline of Hong Kong. Chinese Communist Party authorities told the Cathay Pacific CEO, Rupert Hogg, to hand over the names of Cathay Pacific employees who were participating in the protests:

Instead of betraying his employees and endangering their safety, he only provided a list of one name — his own.

Indicating the intimate involvement of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the investigation of the airline, Hogg’s resignation was first made public by Chinese state-run media outlet CCTV at 4:50 pm on Aug. 16. It was not until 5:14 pm that Cathay Pacific itself officially announced that Hogg was stepping down as CEO, leading to speculation that his resignation was the result of pressure from Beijing authorities.

Benedict Evans sums up the larger problem:

China’s ability to fire the CEO of Cathay Pacific shows how irrelevant it is to ask who technically owns Huawei. What matters is whether the state has effective control, not legal control, and we know the answer to that for any company in or even near China.

American Patients and Surgeons in Cancun

Phil Galewitz writing in Kaiser Health News: To Save Money, American Patients and Surgeons Meet In Cancun

Donna Furguson lives in Mississippi. She receives health care insurance coverage through her husband’s employer, Ashley Furniture. Donna needs a knee replacement.

The hospital costs of the American medical system are so high that it made financial sense for both a highly trained orthopedist from Milwaukee and a patient from Mississippi to leave the country and meet at an upscale private Mexican hospital for the surgery.

Here’s what Donna gets:

  • A Mayo trained, US-based physician
  • All travel costs included
  • No out-of pocket copayments or deductibles
  • A $5,000 cash payment
  • The same implanted device from Johnson and Johnson that she would get state side
  • The assurance that if something goes wrong she can bring a malpractice claim against the doctor in a United States court
  • Care provided by Joint Commission accredited hospital (the Joint Commission is the gold standard of hospital accreditation for safety and quality in the US)

The doctor gets paid three times as much as if he did the procedure in the US.

In the US, knee replacements are expensive and the cost varies dramatically. In Dallas, it could cost $16,772 or $61,585. The average is about $30,000.

Ashley Furniture spent $12,000 for Donna’s procedure in Cancun.

This is a damning indictment of hospitals in United States.

The We Company Is A Dumpster Fire

Elizabeth Lopatto at The Verge digs into the S-1 filed by The We Company.

I don’t know, friends. I just don’t know. I have never seen anything like this, and I cannot wait to see what the SEC has to say about loaning your founder, CEO, and controlling shareholder money while also paying him rent. This is to say nothing of who got paid by the name change or any of the rest of it. “As an investor, why would you be willing to put your confidence in this structure?” Charles Elson, a corporate governance professor at the University of Delaware, told Bloomberg.

I wouldn’t give them the wrapper my sandwich came in.

Wesley Pruden Will Be Missed

Wesley Pruden, one of my favorite writers, dies at 83

Mr. Pruden was born to be a newspaperman and he relished the various roles he had at The Times, especially the outsize part he played in defining what The Times should be and remains,” Mr. Dolan said in a memo to staff. “For Mr. Pruden, the mission of a newspaper was simple, cover the news without slant or bias and do it without ever belittling a reader’s freedom, mocking his faith or ridiculing his family.

I will miss his twice-weekly Pruden on Politics.

Government Run Healthcare Is Not A Good Idea

Paul Kafasis complains about US Postal Service delivery tracking:

What I can’t understand, however, is how Google is beating USPS at their own tracking game using data USPS is giving them. It says right there, “Data provided by USPS”.

If you think healthcare in the US is a mess now (hint: it is), you should be very concerned about the various proposals from presidential candidates for a government run Medicare for All.

The Science is Never Settled

Craig Pirrong:

Anyone who says that “the science is settled” is a fool or a charlatan.

That’s the first sentence of the post; he’s certainly not burying the lede. The professor then walks us through a piece by David Gelertner who credibly argues there is essentially no evidence of evolution creating new species. Gelertner also cites our current understanding of molecular biology and the very large numbers of possible protein combinations: for a protein containing 150 amino acids (the average protein has 250), the odds of creating new useful protein by random mutation is approximately 1 in 10^77. We currently estimate the universe contains 10^80 atoms. When you consider the thousands, or maybe millions, of protein changes that would be required to evolve a new species, and the requirement to do it every time you want to evolve the millions of species on earth, the odds are overwhelming.

I’m not smart enough to propose a theory of how the diversity of living creatures on our planet came to be. But I’m pretty sure Darwinism isn’t the answer, and I’m equally sure that seven-thousand-years-ago-god-created-the-earth-and-everything-in-it isn’t the answer either. The science is far from settled.

The science is far from settled in many other scientific domains: we had to invent dark matter and dark energy to make our observations of the universe fit with Einstein’s theory of general relativity. We don’t really know what dark matter and dark energy are, but we need these “weird things” to explain how fast stars orbit around galaxies and why the universe is expanding faster than Einstein’s model predicts.

As statistician George Box said, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” Darwinian evolution and general relativity have proven enormously useful. I think our current climate models are wrong, but also useful. I’m wary of anyone who thinks our climate models are good enough to remake entire economies at the cost of trillions of dollars. And I think anyone who says climate science is settled is a fool.

Sunscreen Might Kill You

When I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. An outpatient surgical procedure saved my life. The dermatologist put the fear of the sun in us, and everyone in our family started wearing sunscreen all the time.

Rowan Jacobsen writes Is Sunscreen the New Margarine? for Outside Magazine about emerging research which seems to indicate that avoiding sun exposure increases your risk of death:

Some of the best came from Pelle Lindqvist, a senior research fellow in obstetrics and gynecology at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, home of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Lindqvist tracked the sunbathing habits of nearly 30,000 women in Sweden over 20 years. Originally, he was studying blood clots, which he found occurred less frequently in women who spent more time in the sun—and less frequently during the summer. Lindqvist looked at diabetes next. Sure enough, the sun worshippers had much lower rates. Melanoma? True, the sun worshippers had a higher incidence of it—but they were eight times less likely to die from it.

So Lindqvist decided to look at overall mortality rates, and the results were shocking. Over the 20 years of the study, sun avoiders were twice as likely to die as sun worshippers.

There are not many daily lifestyle choices that double your risk of dying. In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, Lindqvist’s team put it in perspective: “Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor of a similar magnitude as smoking, in terms of life expectancy.”

Most dermatologists recommend their patients follow the American Academy of Dermatology’s zero-tolerance stance on sun exposure. Every one of my dermatologists has given me the same advice. I have also repeatedly tested as Vitamin D deficient.

I like the sun, and I like the way I feel when I’m outside. I’m going to use less sunscreen.

How Banksy Authenticates His Work

How does a famous anonymous artist authenticate her work? Banksy created a company called Pest Control, which issues Certificates of Authenticity with a paper based public key crypto system. The paper stapled to the certificate is a fake Tenner with Lady Diana’s picture on it, torn in half.

RCS Chat Is A Mess

RCS, the next generation replacement for SMS, has been around since 2008. It went exactly nowhere until the summer of 2018, when Google announced a big push to get it adopted by Android manufacturers and carriers. There was a bit of press saying how this would be great for everyone. Turns out, the RCS Chat rollout is a big mess. Hard to see this turning around and being successful.

And who sponsors a new chat infrastucture that doesn’t support end-to-end encryption?