Month: March 2022

Peginterferon Lambda is looking good

Eiger BioPharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq:EIGR), a commercial-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of innovative therapies to treat and cure Hepatitis Delta Virus (HDV) and other serious diseases, today announced that Peginterferon Lambda (Lambda) significantly reduced the risk of COVID-19-related hospitalizations or emergency room visits greater than six hours by 50% (primary endpoint) and death by 60% in the Phase 3 TOGETHER study, a multi-center, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of non-hospitalized adult patients with COVID-19, who are at high risk of progressing to severe illness.

The Phase 3 TOGETHER study of Lambda is the second largest study to date of a COVID-19 therapeutic. Final analyses evaluated data from 1,936 patients, with 84% of patients having received at least a single dose of any COVID-19 vaccine.

Here is the full press release, with original support from Fast Grants.

Letters of Marque and Reprisal

Brooking, Charles; Commodore Walker’s Action: The Privateer ‘Boscawen’ Engaging a Fleet of French Ships, 23 May 1745; National Maritime Museum;

Representative Lance Gooden (R, TX) introduced a bill to authorize the President of the United States to issue letters of marque and reprisal against certain Russians.

*The Restless Republic*

The author is Anna Keay and the subtitle is Britain Without a Crown, of course covering the 17th century British interregnum without a king.  Here is one relevant bit:

The rise of the newspapers was itself an aspect of the explosion in publishing which took place in the mid-seventeenth century.  In the year 1500 just over fifty books were printed in England, in 1600 the number was 300, come 1648 more than 2,300 titles poured off the presses in a single year.  Perhaps 30 percent of all men and 10 per cent of all women could read, and over double those percentages in the capital, a readership now offered an addictive weekly news fix that involved them as never before in the turbulent goings on of their kingdom.

One of my ongoing projects is to brush up on my seventeenth century European history, out of fear that it may be an especially relevant era right now.  The Keay book I found excellent throughout, especially her treatment of the Levellers, Sir William Petty, and more generally how the Irish and English histories of that time intersect.

Sentences to ponder

EZRA KLEIN: Something you’ve said in different venues is that Putin’s essays, speeches about Ukraine are less revealing about the nature of Ukraine than they are about the nature of Russia. You wrote, “what is most striking about Putin’s essay is the underlying uncertainty about Russian identity. When you claim that your neighbors are your brothers, you are having an identity crisis.” Can you talk a bit about what’s being revealed, or for that matter, confused here about Russian identity?

TIM SNYDER: I think Russian national identity is extremely confused and you can understand the need for Ukraine as a kind of shortcut, as a kind of way of resolving all these problems. Because you can say, well, I mean, this is a kind of dumb analogy, but you can say, well, the only problem with my life is I don’t have somebody else, you know? But anybody who says that is probably incorrect. And what Putin is saying — if we kind of reduce all the philosophical stuff down to a very simple proposition, he’s saying, Russia is not itself without Ukraine.

But if you’re not capable of being yourself without attacking and absorbing, violently, someone else, some other country, the real question might be about you, the real question might be about how you see the world, how you’re living in the world. So I think there’s a serious problem with Russian national identity.

Here is the full NYT dialogue.

Why isn’t crypto an effective hedge?

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

The last few months of chaos show what Bitcoin and other crypto assets are good for: They are advanced tools of globalization, luxury goods for complex, well-functioning markets — not protections against the depredations of hostile governments.

One common story, especially popular in libertarian circles, has been that when inflation runs rampant and governments confiscate private wealth, crypto will be a vital refuge. It increasingly appears that this story is wrong.

The world has been in turmoil, with a major war, wealth confiscations, and much higher inflation rates.  Yet mostly crypto prices have fallen.  More theoretically:

Think of some of the possible legitimate use cases for crypto. Perhaps entrepreneurs will build a significant online metaverse, spanning national boundaries and allowing for fruitful interactions, including commercial ones. For many transactions, especially micropayments, crypto transfers might make more sense than trying to process all the trades through current dollar networks. There is at least the promise that crypto will be faster, more reliable and more secure.

In this scenario, crypto is worth the most when global trading networks, and internet connections, are stable. Right now they are moving in the opposite direction, and as a result the price of crypto is falling. The reality is that the crypto world has been a globalized product from the very beginning.


Wednesday assorted links

1. “Our findings suggest that fiscal stimulus boosted the consumption of goods without any noticeable impact on production, widening the gap between demand and supply in the goods market.

2. Why agent-based modeling never took off in economics.

3. The problems with seizing Russian property.

4. Claims about Taiwan.  Speculative.

5. Vannevar Bush a public sector entrepreneur.

6. PW review of the forthcoming Cowen-Gross book Talent.

Writing Matters

We estimate the causal effect of writing quality by comparing how experts judge the quality of 30 papers originally written by PhD students in economics. We had two versions of each paper: one original and one that had been languageedited. The language editing was done by two professional editors, who aimed to make the papers easier to read and understand. We then asked 18 writing experts and 30 economists to judge some of the original and edited papers. Each of these experts judged five papers in their original versions and five papers in their edited version, spending around 5 minutes per paper. None of the experts saw both versions of the same paper. None of the experts knew that some of the papers were edited. The writing experts judged the writing quality and the economists judged the academic quality of the papers. All economists in our sample have PhDs in economics and their academic positions range from postdoc to full professor; four of them are editors of academic journals; and all of them are regularly involved in judging the quality of academic papers as referees or members of conference committees. We estimate the effect of language editing on perceived writing quality and perceived academic paper quality by comparing the average judgement of original and edited papers.

Our results show that writing matters. Writing experts judged the edited papers as 0.6 standard deviations (SD) better written overall (1.22 points on an 11point scale). They further judged the languageedited papers as allowing the reader to find the key message more easily (0.58 SD), having fewer mistakes (0.67 SD), being easier to read (0.53 SD), and being more concise (0.50 SD). These large improvements in writing quality translated into still substantial effects on economists’ evaluations. Economists evaluated the edited versions as being 0.2 SD better overall (0.4 points on an 11point scale). They were also 8.4 percentage points more likely to accept the paper for a conference, and were 4.1 percentage points more likely to believe that the paper would get published in a good economics journal. Our heterogeneity
analysis shows that the effects of language editing on writing quality and perceived academic quality are particularly large if the original versions were poorly written.

From a very well written paper by Jan Feld, Corinna Lines and Libby Ross.

Did Turkish Islamization make people more religious?


This paper first evaluates the impact of a two-decade-long Islamization policy carried out by a pro-Islamist party, which came to power in 2002 in Turkey, on the attitudes of Turkish people toward religious values, religious practices, and clergy. In this regard, how the importance of religion, frequency of going to mosques, and trust in the clergy have changed among Turkish Muslims between 2002 and 2018 were examined by using World Values Survey data and employing logistic regression analysis. Estimation results indicated a reduction in belief in God, attendance to mosques, and trust in clergy, which imply the failure of the Islamization policy. Second, we explored what caused the failure by using the same data set and methodology. Our estimations suggested that the symbiotic relationship between the pro-Islamist government and religious clergy and institutions may explain the failure. As the government is identified with religion in the eye of the public, dissatisfaction with the government turned to dissatisfaction with religious values.

Here is the paper by Murat Çokgezen, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

Clash of Civilizations?


Samuel Huntington, the ‘Clash of Civilizations’ theorist, had this to say in a 1993 issue of ‘Foreign Affairs’: “If (the concept of) civilization is the key, then the probability of violence between Russians and Ukrainians should be low.” The moral of the story, for me, is that with this military intervention by Russia in Ukraine, we have definitive proof (because we have many others) that the ‘Clash of Civilizations’ theory does not work, even though it inspires many thinkers in geostrategy. The idea that the collapse of the Soviet Union was irreversible and that we were now heading for a ‘Christianity versus Islam’ confrontation is collapsing and we can see that it has never played a role in Putin’s vision. Since Catherine II, Russia has always integrated Muslims into the Empire. And Putin has an imperial vision, he is definitely not having a religion based geostrategy, as some of the European right and extreme right believed.

The facts were quite clear. Among Putin’s four military interventions in the former Soviet space, three targeted Christian and Orthodox countries.

That is from an interview with Olivier Roy, via Alexander Le Roy.

New nuclear security grants

Here is the link with more information, via Stefan Schubert.

Ukraine Take Shelter

On March 3 — three days and only five hours of sleep later — they launched Ukraine Take Shelter, a site in 12 languages where Ukrainian refugees fleeing war can immediately find hosts with spare rooms, unused resort condos, mother-in-law apartments and school dormitories…

“What we’ve done is put out a super fast, stripped-down version of Airbnb,” he said.

That is a project by Avi Schiffman and Marco Burstein of Harvard, still both teenagers.  We are very happy to have Avi as a former EV winner for his Covid work and now to be supporting this project.  Here is the full storyAs of yesterday, there were over 100 million reads of the database.

How to find good TV shows

Chris asks:

You’ve written a lot about your reading habits in the past, but I’m curious to know more about how you find and watch TV shows. You’ve mentioned before that you watch very little TV (in explaining your productivity), and yet you speak highly of the shows you do watch. Do you have any strategies to find good TV, how to watch television “well”,  how to avoid getting sucked in to mediocre TV, etc.? And, I’d be curious to know what specific shows you think are worth the time sink to watch.

All of this comes from my somewhat-conflicting desires 1.) To not waste time and 2.) To enjoy the best art there is, in all of its forms.

Here are my rather brutal answers, noting they probably are not helpful for most people:

1. Most TV shows are not good.  The key problems are that too much quality scripting is required, and that the incentives are to try to get the show extended for another season.  Plus too much of the audience “just wants something to watch.”

2. Most TV shows that your smart friends tell you to watch also are not good.  See #1.

3. You should almost always watch a movie rather than a TV show.  If you have to, watch the movie in hour or half-hour segments.  Movies are better and smarter, at least if you can figure out which are the quality films.  But that is not so hard, as standard critical opinion does OK there.

4. “The Golden Age of TV” doesn’t change any of this, though Hollywood movies have become worse, due to tent pole franchises and pressures for serialization, which give them some of the problems of television shows.  At the margin, almost everyone should be watching more foreign films.  Do you really know them all?  How well do you know the best of African cinema?  Iranian cinema?  And so on.

5. I will try a TV show if two people I know, in the very top tier of smarts, recommend it.  Even then I usually don’t like it.  I thus infer there is at least a single dimension where I differ strongly from just about all my friends.

6. Could I name twenty TV shows that I think are worth watching, relative to the best movies you haven’t seen and the best books you haven’t read?  Not sure.  Attention is that which is scarce.  But it shouldn’t be.  Just pay better attention and read that book or watch that movie.  There is also plenty on YouTube that beats TV shows, and if you are old you may not consume much YouTube content at all.

7. For sure, there are fifteen TV shows worth watching, but you really need to have very very strong filters.  Whatever your filters may be, make them stronger.  Don’t trust those friends of yours!

8. By this point, you are probably not very interested in knowing which are those fifteen shows.