Said and Done | In the Media | Summer 2017


A section of Said and Done
Full Summer 2017 edition




Election experts see flaws in Trump's voting commission plan
MIT political scientist Charles Stewart III explains the complications and dangers of the Trump administration’s voting commission effort.
Story at CNBC

Many states praised for defying voter data request aren’t doing that | Charles Stewart
MIT political scientist Charles Stewart offers insight into the conflict between some states and the Trump administration’s voting integrity committee. “There are legitimate questions about how best to assess how well the states do run their list maintenance operations,” Stewart says.
Story at Huffington Post

Right and left react to executive orders and acts | Charles Stewart
MIT political scientist Charles Stewart weighs in with a handful of other political analysts — on both the left and the right — to comment on recent investigations of Trump and investigations ordered by Trump.
Story at The New York Times

Greg Gianforte’s fight with a reporter | Adam Berinsky
Political scientist Adam Berinsky addresses why repudiation of rumors matters and whether a credible rebuttal of a persistent rumor can have any effect on changing beliefs. According to Berinsky, “[T]he political identity of the person debunking a rumor is just as important as how they do so.”
Story at Washington Post

FBI’s Refusal to disclose documents | Ryan Shapiro
Graduate student Ryan Shapiro of MIT’s HASTS program, and journalist Jason Leopold have filed a lawsuit requesting the FBI disclose “any and all records” pertaining to “Donald Trump’s statement on 27, July 2016.”
Story at The Guardian

How science cuts could hurt Trump states | William Bonvillian
Many of the states that voted for Trump have benefited from science and tech programs he aims to cut — programs affecting rural or struggling areas. William Bonvillian, a lecturer in the Program in Science Technology and Society points to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership as one such program.
Story at Nature

Student suing CIA for social media info | Amy Johnson
Amy Johnson, a PhD candidate in the Program for Science, Technology, and Society has sued the CIA for failing to comply with her public records request seeking, among other things, training materials for social media posting. The CIA started its twitter feed in 2014, using sarcasm in its first post.
Story at The Boston Globe | Story at Associated Press




Electric sheep | Sherry Turkle
Professor Sherry Turkle, a sociologist, who has studied the impacts of screen time extensively, has identified a trend in children — as a result of smartphone use — toward an inability to tolerate boredom. “The capacity for boredom is the single most important development in childhood,” Turkle says.
Video and story at CNN: Mostly Human

An app for moms | Sherry Turkle
Psychologist and professor Sherry Turkle comments on a new app that matches moms with other moms. After decades of studying technology’s effect on relationships, Turkle has concerns. She points out “[R]ight now the pendulum has swung away from finding companionship with your child.”
Story at The New York Times

“Last Night in Arkansas” | Ibby Caputo
Knight Science Journalism fellow from 2014–2015, Ibby Caputo, describes a vividly detailed account of accompanying one of the men on death row in Arkansas as he prepared for and underwent execution with some of the world’s last un-expired lethal injection drugs.
Story at Slate




The GOP Health Care Bill Is A Historically Unpopular Piece Of Legislation
Research by MIT political scientist Chris Warshaw finds that “the American Health Care Act’s average approval numbers lagged significantly behind polling on everything from Bill Clinton’s failed 1993 attempt at health care reform to the 2008 bank bailout.”
The Huffington Post

Not one state supports the Republican health care bill
MIT political scientist Christopher Warshaw co-authors an article at The New York Times blog “The Upshot,” writing that “Republicans have produced a rare unity among red and blue states: opposition to the A.H.C.A.”
Story at The New York Times

Republicans say Medicaid doesn't work, so it should be cut. Here are all the ways they're wrong
The LA Times cites research by MIT economists Amy Finkelstein ad Jonathan Gruber into the effects of Medicaid expansion in Oregon. They found a reduction in depression, improvements in diagnosis and treatments, as well as the near elimination of economically catastrophic incidents.
Story at the LA Times

He’s the one who broke it” | Jonathan Gruber
Ford Professor of economics, and healthcare policy architect, Jonathan Gruber, analyzes Trump’s claim that the Affordable Care Act is “broken.”
Op-Ed at The Washington Post

Senate Republicans quietly agree to agree on the AHCA
MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, whose work had a significant impact on the Affordable Care Act, notes that “Medicaid is the main way that we pay for our moms and people who are disabled to use the nursing home.”
Story at WGBH

Healthcare fight advances | Jonathan Gruber
Economics professor, Jonathan Gruber joins the hosts of Boston Public to comment on the recent advance of the Republicans’ healthcare bill..
Story and video on WGBHTranscript at CNN

The challenges in setting up a California single-payer system are not insurmountable
“No matter what you do,” says Jonathan Gruber, the MIT expert who was involved in developing a healthcare reform system in Massachusetts and consulted on the development of the Affordable Care Act, “they're going to fight you.” That's why one of the key compromises in getting the Affordable Care Act passed was to leave them at the center of the healthcare delivery system.
Story at the Los Angeles Times 

Leaving the Paris Climate Accord Could Lead to a Public Health Disaster
Under the Paris accord, ratified thus far by 147 parties or nations, the U.S. pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Clean energy policies decrease not only carbon pollution linked to climate change but also other types of pollution that harm human health, such as sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and fine particles that can damage the airways of humans and other organisms.
Undark magazine | Scientific American Online


Affordable Care Act’s C.B.O. score and discrimination | Jonathan Gruber
MIT economist and architect of the original Affordable Care Act (ACA) , Jonathan Gruber weighs in with his questions and answers regarding the latest GOP healthcare proposal, the American Health Care Act (AHCA).
Story at The New York Times | Story at Bloomberg | Story and audio at WGBH

Photo: Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Fossil-fuel combustion is linked to increases in a wide range of health problems, including asthma
and other respiratory disorders.



Rising Inequality May Be the Real Risk of Automation | David Autor
Bloomberg reports on new research co-authored by MIT economist David Autor: “Although the raw count of jobs available in industrialized countries is roughly keeping pace with population growth, many of the new jobs generated by an increasingly automated economy do not offer a stable, sustainable standard of living.”
Story at Bloomberg

Robocalypse Now? Central Bankers Argue Whether Automation Will Kill Jobs | David Autor
"Mr. Autor, co-author of the Robocalypse paper, concluded that it was too early to say that robots are coming for people’s jobs. But it could still happen in the future.”
Story at The New York Times

Will the robots steal our jobs? Maybe.
The Washington Post discusses new research co-authored by MIT economist David Author, who finds, “Jobs have been lost before to new technologies, but these same technologies also create productivity increases — efficiency gains — that usually generate more jobs than were initially lost.”
Washington Post  |  What to do about robots

The Looming Retail Bailout | Amy Glasmeier
Recently, the retail industry has shown downward trends with predicted store and business closures. A look at the economic consequences of retail collapse uses the model developed by economist Amy Glasmeier for determining the earnings needed by families to cover essential costs without government help.
Story at Forbes

The Robot Takeover Is Greatly Exaggerated | Daron Acemoglu
At Bloomberg, columnist Noah Smith offers a new interpretation of research by MIT economist Daron Acemoglu into the relationship between automation and the employment market.
Story at Blooomberg

Is automation helping or hurting the economy? | Daron Acemoglu
Despite the increase in automation and robotics, productivity is at an all time low. In addition, the use of robots in manufacturing is having long-term negative effects on jobs and wages, according to research by MIT economist Daron Acemoglu.
Podcast at WBUR

The backlash against globalization | David Autor
A 2016 study authored by MIT economist David Autor, gives credence to the 1930s work of two Swedish economists, adding new evidence that points to longer lasting inequality as a result of large changes in trade
Story at Huffington Post

Why aren’t robots boosting economic productivity? | Daron Acemoglu
A recent paper, co-authored by Professor of Economics Daron Acemoglu, suggests that for every new robot in the workplace, 3 to 6 jobs are lost and local wages tend to fall.
Story at The Boston Globe

Earth 2.0: What would our economy look like? | Abhijit Banerjee
Ford International Professor of Economics, Abhijit Banerjee offers his expert advice for avoiding economic disasters. “Having an underclass that’s resentful and excluded is a disaster.” Banerjee says. “The salient issue of today is income distribution.”
Video and transcript at Freakonomics WGBH

Making the machines that replace humans | Daron Acemoglu and David Autor
With robots on the rise in manufacturing, MIT economists Daron Acemoglu and David Autor have studied the impacts—positive and negative—of industrial robots on a range of indicators, from increased productivity to decreased employment.
Story at the Atlantic

U.S. Unemployment is falling, so why isn’t pay rising? | Peter Temin
Economist Peter Temin, author of the recent book The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, offers one explanation for why wages have not risen as unemployment has tapered off. Union memberships have sharply decreased, Temin finds, and bargaining power has thereby weakened.
Story at Bloomberg

Making the machines that replace humans
The number of industrial robots, which are automatically controlled, multipurpose, reprogrammable machines, increased fourfold between 1993 and 2007, according to a recent study by MIT economists Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo. The authors found that one such industrial robot in a metropolitan area reduced employment by about six workers, costing the U.S. economy 670,000 jobs between 1990 and 2007. But there are positives too. The MIT economist David Autor has emphasized that automation also complements labor, making workers more productive. There are certain tasks that robots can't do, he writes, and humans will always be needed for those.
Story in The Atlantic

Photo: Reuters, in The Atlantic


The Amazon-Walmart showdown that explains the modern economy
“David Autor of MIT and four colleagues found in a recent paper that the rise of these ‘superstar firms’ — the big winners in the kind of face-off that Walmart and Amazon are now engaged in — is a likely explanation for the decrease in the share of the overall economic pie that is going to workers.”
Story at The New York Times

The world’s workers have bigger problems than a robot apocalypse
Boomberg economics editor Peter Coy cites analysis by MIT economist David Autor that “people tend to overestimate how quickly and completely machines will take over.”
Story at Bloomberg

Agbots | David Autor
MIT economist, David Autor comments on the dramatic shift over the last century in away from agricultural jobs in the U.S.—from 41% of all jobs in 1900, down to just 2% in 200.
Story at The Guardian

Robots Are Eating Money Managers’ Lunch
MIT economist David Autor weighs in on the future of money management. "“The distribution of rewards in finance will become even more skewed,” he says, “with a small number of ‘superstars’ making huge sums, and much of the routine work done by machines.”
Story at Bloomberg

Amazon’s Move Signals End of Line for Many Cashiers
The New York Times blog “The Upshot” cites analysis by MIT economist David Autor into the poor job prospects for retail workers in light of the purchase of Whole Foods grocery stores by Amazon.
Story at The New York Times

MIT's Acemoglu Sees a Skills Gap in the U.S.
Daron Acemoglu, MIT economics professor, talks with Bloomberg's Mike McKee about what he sees as a job skills gap in the U.S.
Story at Bloomberg



Learn French (film) at the Coolidge | Mary Harrod
The Coolidge offers “French Connections: The New Wave,” Tuesdays at 6:45 p.m. through June 27, a five-session class on a historic movement in cinema, taught by Mary Harrod, visiting comparative media studies scholar and professor of French Studies at University of Warwick, UK.
Story at The Boston Globe




For former gang members, making education pay
In an effort to prevent gun-related crime, new program called “Boston Uncornered” will offer gang members and ex-cons grants to attend community college. The program will partner with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) to help evaluate and improve its effectiveness.
Story at The Boston Globe | Story at The Boston Herald

Where Not to Use Your Phone
MIT faculty Sherry Turke sas that "students are trying to hide their vulnerabilities and imperfections behind screens", and they have a “fantasy that at 2 in the morning I’m going to write them the perfect answer to the perfect question.”
Story at The Atlantic

Some of the top political science journals are biased against women. Here's the evidence.
Study co-written by MIT political science professor Kathleen Thelen collects information on all articles published by 10 top journals over the past 15 years. The data shows that they publish a lower proportion of articles written by women than there are women in the discipline as a whole. Women make up 31 percent of the membership of the American Political Science Association and 40 percent of newly minted doctorates. Within the 20 largest political science PhD programs in the United States, women make up 39 percent of assistant professors and 27 percent of tenure track faculty.
Story at The Washington Post

Grad Students as Peer Reviewers: the Pros and Cons
As Kai von Fintel, a linguistics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-founding editor of the journal Semantics & Pragmatics, wrote on Daily Nous: "If I need a second reviewer on, say, embedded imperatives in Slovenian, and it turns out that one of the world's foremost experts on that is an advanced graduate student … it would be a disservice to the field not to call on that expertise."
Chronicle of Higher Education

Do charter schools serve special needs kids? | Elizabeth Setren
Researchers have uncovered conflicting information about charter schools’ ability to serve students with disabilities. A graduate student in economics, Elizabeth Setren found that Boston’s charter schools were far more likely than traditional schools to remove a student’s “special needs” designation and move students into a regular classroom.
Story at Associated Press




North Korea’s reasons for showing off its missiles | Vipin Narang
Vipin Narang, an MIT professor and expert in nuclear policies recognizes a familiar pattern in North Korea’s recent development of nuclear weapons. “I don’t think the strategy is unsophisticated,” said Narang. He explains how other countries have built up arsenals in order to “repel and deter,” to try to repel local attacks and deter larger scale one.
Story at Washington Post

Giving Billions of Dollars to Countries in Need? | Rachel Glennerster
Many researchers are split on the question of whether foreign aid benefits those it is intended to help. Principal Researcher at the Poverty Action Lab, Rachel Glennerster, tests and improves programs for the poor worldwide. She says, “If you can break [the question] down, you can start answering it.”
Story at NPR: Goats and Soda

Trump’s Trade Choice: Follow the Postwar Order or Blow It Up
If U.S. politics stops the benefits of free trade from being distributed widely, is that a case against free trade? “It would be decreasing the size of the pie to increase the size of some slices,” says MIT economist David Autor.
Story at The New York Times

Taiwan: An Island history | Emma Teng
Professor of Asian Civilizations, Emma Tang, discusses Taiwan’s “rich and surprising” history with Forum host Bridget Kendall.
Video and story at BBC: The Forum

Expectations of North Korea Threat| Jim Walsh
Senior Research Associate Jim Walsh, of the Security Studies Program, explains how the current U.S. presence in South Korea and Japan may mean that conflict with North Korea is at hand.
Transcript at CNN
Story at CNN


Halting Intelligence
Jim Walsh from MIT's Security Studies Program is a guest on Greater Boston discussing the effects that intelligence changes from Britain and Israel could have on the country – and politicians who take the term “beat the press” literally.
Story at WGBH-TV


On sharing info with Russian diplomats | Carol Saivetz
A senior advisor in the Security Studies Program, Carol Saivetz specializes in Russia and the former Soviet Union. In an on-air interview about Trump’s interactions with Russian diplomats, Staivetz runs down possible scenarios. “He himself claims it was for humanitarian reasons,” she says. “The president can declassify anything — any president can, at any moment.”
Transcript at NECN: The Take

Why we need NATO | Thomas Levenson
Professor of science writing, Thomas Levenson, puts NATO in the context of history and US security—past and present. As he explains, “[W]hen humans succeed in striving toward a common goal, much more than mere common gear is involved: practices, processes, and a shared vision of risk and reward.”
Op-Ed at The Boston Globe


Turkish referendum rallies | Tugba Bozcaga, Fotini Christia
PhD candidate in Political Science, Bozcaga, and Associate Professor of Political Science Christia offer their analysis of what influence pre-election rallies had on the outcomes of the recent referendum election in Turkey.
Op-Ed at the Washington Post
Story at The Washington Post


Former NSA Inspector General On Talks Of U.S.-Russian Cybersecurity Unit
“We have decades of experience with Russian versions of what it means to cooperate,” CIS senior research fellow Joel Brenner tells NPR’s Morning Edition. “We know what they do. They'd learn what they can about our tactics, our strategy and our tools. And they'd give us nothing we don't already know in return.”
Story at NPR

Kim Jong Un's 'game of chicken'
Jim Walsh, a senior research associate at MIT's Security Studies Program who has previously traveled to North Korea for nuclear talks, told the Herald the Pentagon is likely to sugarcoat the results of the test, particularly if it winds up a failure. A missile defense system is far from a reliable solution and shouldn't take the place of the prospect of nuclear talks, he added. “We've spent billions and billions of dollars on this,” said Walsh. “It's a really, really, really hard thing to do. But the main thing is that, obviously, prudent policy makers should explore their options, and this is an option, but it's an option more hurtful than helpful if it becomes a crutch and people falsely believe this will solve our problems.”
Story at The Boston Herald

North Korea Defiant After Latest Missile Test
Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd talks to MIT security analyst Jim Walsh about this latest round of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Story at WBUR

North Korea's missile test gives Trump his biggest challenge
Reacting to North Korea’s recent ICBM test, MIT’s Jim Walsh senior says, "There is an argument to be made that everything has changed and nothing has changed," adding that the test had demonstrated new North Korean capabilities and taken the US across a psychological and political threshold.
Story at CNN

European Nuclear Weapons Program Would Be Legal, German Review Finds
“The fact that they’re asking the question in itself is pretty important,” said Vipin Narang, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology political scientist who studies nuclear states.
Story at The New York Times




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Said and Done is published by the Office of the Dean
MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Editor and Designer: Emily Hiestand, Director, SHASS Communications
Publication Associate: Daniel Evans Pritchard
Published July 20, 2017