Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Easy access to water causes baby boom/Better water supplies are linked to rise in hungry children in Ethiopia.

Improving access to clean water can cause unexpected health problems, suggests a study in Ethiopia.

Cutting down a woman's long trek to get water can boost her fertility. But bumping up birth rates worsens childhood malnutrition overall.

It is widely accepted that a cleaner water supply will enhance the health of those in developing countries. But few studies have tested how such installations affect a village as a whole.

Two UK researchers examined what happened after water taps were plumbed into several rural villages in southern Ethiopia between 1996 and 2000. They gathered information on children's births and deaths before and after the water supply arrived, and compared the data to that collected from settlements without a new tap.

I'm sorry but maybe this is not so bad, that women have more time and energy to help the family out.
Weighed down

As they expected, the taps slashed the death rate among children by half, at least partly because they cut infectious diseases spread in dirty water. More surprisingly, the pair found that women were, each month, three times more likely to give birth in the years after the tap was introduced. Mhairi Gibson of the University of Bristol and Ruth Mace of University College London, both in the UK, report their findings in Public Library of Science Medicine1.

The increase in birth rate did not seem to be explained by factors such as changes in the women's age, overall health or prosperity. The researchers suggest that the women's fertility may have soared because they had stopped burning up energy trekking to and from distant water supplies. The women had previously spent up to six hours per day fetching water in extremely heavy clay pots. "I could barely lift an empty one," Gibson says.

The women's fertility may have been partly dampened by this strenuous exercise, says Gibson, much as athletes often experience a drop in fertility from excessive training. When the women had to walk only 15 minutes to a village tap, their fertility shot up.

So maybe live births will increase but does this report mean we should not give water to these villages?
More mouths to feed

This boost in birth rate takes a toll on children's health. The investigators found that kids were more likely to be malnourished, based on their height and weight, in villages with taps than in those without.

This could be simply because families are sharing their scarce food between more children. Or perhaps low birth-weight babies, who previously would not have survived the trauma of birth, are now surviving but not thriving.

The higher birth rate might help explain why rural Africa's population continues to spiral upwards despite slowly improving living and health conditions, Gibson says. It contrasts with the rapid drop in birth rates seen in developed countries as economic conditions improve and family planning becomes more widely used.

Gibson says that aid agencies and other organizations that promote access to clean water may overlook the effects on birth rate.

She argues that new taps, or other development schemes, should ideally occur in parallel with increased access to contraception and child healthcare. "It's something these organizations haven't really looked at," Gibson says.

Yes we may expect a growing population in Africa, but is this so bad? And it will be expected to fall off if there is a sustained level of economic growth. The problems are not related to economic growth also. Africa has a whole host of problems that limit economic growth, ie Aides, Malaria, authoritarian regimes, war, and democide. It is no wonder that given a chance families plan to have more children.
And yes it would be nice to have the whole package together with contraception and a healthcare system, but only so much resources are available at any one time. It would be a shame if some organizations use this information to only help one group instead of trying to help a larger group. The cost of the wells are probably low compared to those other costs that need to be put into the package.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Why two Blogs? & "Deferment Dick Goes Quail Hunter"

I’ve never been quail hunting – but it cannot be as chaotic as the fire zones during the Vietnam War. If Cheney is this careless with a rifle, would you have wanted to serve next to him?

The above quote is from Angry Bear that is a group of 3 PhDs in Economics, and as their tag line says they are left of center, but not slightly IMHO. The above is a perfect example why I want to have this blog as an economics blog and my other on more of the politics at RDRutherford is for politics.

So the first jab is "Deferment Dick", what? And like Clinton ran down to the local recruiter and joined up? And if PGL does not have any knowledge of hunting then why is he commenting? While I may have not done this type of hunting, is it possible for a VietCong to fly over or run around your post in 1 to 2 seconds? Since shotgun pellets have little range it is possible that he aimed up and his victim merely got rained on.

Be sure to check out the comments. No economics discussion and just left sided criticism. You would think a fairly intelligent blog on economics would not resort to political mudslinging. Not to say they are balanced anyway.

But I really wanted to point out a blog post from Globalization Institute about Delivering shareholder value and improving the environment.
The article talks about how Jared Diamond is praising business for being environmentally friendly. Although I think Dr. Diamond has no understanding of economics and comes to conclusions without proof, he does have a point. But this point is what environmental economicists have been saying for a long time.

Free markets can protect the environment as well as government regulation or in most times better. But I still see that Diamond wants government regulation:
More and more, businesses have been drawn into collaboration with governments and the green movement on key environmental issues, whereas before they were the subject of attacks.

Two things markets need to come out with optimal decisions:
1. Well defined property rights and a framework that can allow parties to negotiate.
2. Information. Lack of information on a country wide, business wide or even environmentalist movement creates distortions in the markets.

Let me use one small example. In Santa Barbara, a local company was dumping their wastes in a holding pit as the cheapest way to dispose of the waste. Environmentalist tresspassed and threatened and protested and even sued. In the end the company changed techniques and is recycling the waste slowly, thus lowering the possible damages to the environment.

Sounds good, but what if environmentalist had done the job of gathering the information and showing the company on how their prior decisions did not make sense in today's economy. And showed how money can be saved in the production process or recovered waste costs. And thus sat down and negotiated compromisesif needed. Lack of information nearly always creates less than optimal decisions.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Immigrants as the Tool to Step Up to the Brave New Economy.

This topic may be bigger than one post, so it is likely to be a continueing process of finding information. But the basic concept is that immigration is good for the USA to allow us to raise to a higher level of society. Even this should be better defined as the transition that happened when the US became an industrialiazed country from an agricultural one.

Each wave of immigrants to the USA have found a nitch that was filled. One example was the major transition from an agricultural society to an industrialized country. My perceptions come from the book "The Jungle" written around 1905. It talked about each immigrant group coming to the US and starting their jobs in the larger cities on the east coast, especially in New York City. This allowed the current population to either stay at the same jobs that was handed down or to become the mid level managers. Which tended to raise the level of income and well being.

But another example was the bringing in the smartest and brightest from the Jews and others prosecuted by Fascism in Germany and the Axis powers. Many of the developers of the nuclear bomb came from Germany in particular.

One way to look at the situation is that native born citizens create a picture of the economy and as immigrants come in they fill in the open spaces of the picture that has not been filled in yet.

In addition to fleeing totalitarian regimes people also came to the US to get an education and then stayed to become very productive members of our society. Right now H1 visas are a great tool for getting quality workers from all over the world. The regulations allow employees to pick the best while still maintaining no loss of native jobs. The employer has to state that they need that person and is willing to speak out for him or her. The US gets a very productive worker, the employer also has access to a greater pool of quality applicants, but the one person that may lose out is the employee. The last is due to the fact that the employee is tied to that employer and has less leeway to have job turnover. But of course his/her situation has to be better than the alternative or thats what they would do. That something better could be going back to their country or apply in different way.

William Polley talks about How has the employment/population ratio changed in the last few months? He shows that while adults (male and female) level of Employment to Population (Labor Participation Rates) has recovered nicely after the recession of 2001, young adults have not recovered. Their Labor Participation Rates have stayed low, which Williams asks why. I commented that is was due to immigration. My post there:

Most of the lower paid jobs (manufacturing, retail, services, agriculture...) are being filled by immigration. Thus native born children are waiting to enter the work force hopefully with better skills to compete internationally.

I believe that immigration has always allowed the US to raise up and create a stepping stone to higher levels. Just as the influx of immigrants led to a strong industrial base, the new ones will allow us to expand into new areas.

More later...



Google Censorship


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Peak Copper/Fiber Optic

The history of fiber optics is very interesting from above link.
Development of hardware for the first transatlantic fiber cable showed that single-mode systems were feasible, so when deregulation opened the long-distance phone market in the early 1980s, the carriers built national backbone systems of single-mode fiber with 1300-nm sources. That technology has spread into other telecommunication applications, and remains the standard for most fiber systems.

So the corresponding buildout of the fiber optic network was when copper prices was highest...

This is hard to see but the dates are from January 97. The next article is a little old but it was nice to see a backward look at what they felt back then. In the good old days of 3/26/01 of Will fiber optics overtake copper in backbone?
In every sense, fiber optics is a remarkable technology. One day it will replace copper cable. Fiber advocates, including Senior Analyst P.J. Connolly, can't understand why all companies aren't already reworking their infrastructure to bring fiber to every desk. On the flip side, copper supporters, such as East Coast Technical Director Tom Yager, think those dollars and that effort would be better invested in solving other network problems.

This has not happened yet, but we can see with copper costing more and more that the incentive now becomes when replacing or building a backbone that these decisions will become easier with lower relative costs than copper.

For one, I'm surprised that I have to mention lightning to a Texan. Also, although it sounds like something from James Bond, copper networks are a source of radio frequency emissions. If someone is motivated enough, they can capture your traffic without ever touching your physical infrastructure.

This might be off the topic but yes this I have heard from the fact of stealing cable with a simple loop antenna around a cable wire.

Frankly, I think your adaptability speech would read better if spoken to a mirror. Wake up, Tom, and realize that the endgame for copper has started. No, the transition to fiber won't happen overnight; I expect it will take at least five years, and probably ten, for fiber to overtake copper in the total number of corporate connections.

You're right after all when you talk about the momentum behind copper. It's cheap, and it's the lowest common denominator. I'd recommend it if you planned to throw everything away in three to five years anyway. But if you expect to be around for a while, invest in fiber. You'll be glad you did.

Well copper may be cheap relative to other stuff but much more than most substances.

But now the question becomes: is Silicon (or more specifically silica used for fiber optics and glass) readily available? Is the new substance just as likely to reach peak production as copper?
Silicon (Latin: silicium) is the chemical element in the periodic table that has the symbol Si and atomic number 14. A tetravalent metalloid, silicon is less reactive than its chemical analog carbon. It is the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust, making up 25.7% of it by weight. It occurs in clay, feldspar, granite, quartz and sand, mainly in the form of silicon dioxide (also known as silica) and as silicates, (various compounds containing silicon, oxygen and one or another metal). Silicon is the principal component of most semiconductor devices and, in the form of siliica and silicates, in glass, cement, ceramics. It is also a component of silicones, a name for various plastic substances often confused with silicon itself. Silicon is widely used in semiconductors because it has a lower reverse leakage current than the semiconductor Germanium, and because its native oxide is easily grown in a furnace and forms a better semiconductor/dielectric interface than almost all other material combinations.

Sounds good to me!

I remember ads in the early 80's that talked about building out the fiber optic system and how they said the fiber optics was made from one of the most abundant substances on earth-sand.

So free markets again expected the demand in the future and made adjustments in a timely fashion. Just as the early development of fiber optics was slow, as soon as prices started telling to use less expensive and potentially better results then the market shifted.

And lastly, if Carbon nanotube takes off as a substance for manufacturing and building this could be some of our carbon sinks we are looking for. Only food for thought...

P.S.: At EconLog, Arnold Kling thinks that Fiber Optic to the home will not happen but local transmitters will transmit the information to the house for the last mile of transmission. Either way copper is less likely to be used for data transmission in the long term basis. But for rural areas wi-fi and other wireless communication systems the distances are too short. So fiber still might be used in many locations.

P.P.S: De-Monetisation of Copper
Never mind the supposed ‘re-monetisation’ of gold, what about the de-monetisation of copper. The price of copper is now so high that the copper content of small denomination coins may now exceed their face value. Larry White points to the case of Korea, which is suffering from reverse seignorage:

The production cost of a W10 coin is about W40, W14 of that for copper and zinc alone.

Australian coins are 75-92% copper, although we wisely took smaller denomination coins out of circulation years ago.

Yes, we are going to transfer from good money to bad money. Seigniorage is the "Revenue or a profit taken from the minting of coins, usually the difference between the value of the bullion used and the face value of the coin." So this is true a reverse, but I was introduced to it as more of benefit derived from creating "new money" and not just the process of printing currencies. Because printing a currency in essence is making a product. If the product sells for less than its costs then it is not profitable.