quotepost

Immigrants to the rescue?

Dr. Sahin, 55, was born in Iskenderun, Turkey. When he was 4, his family moved to Cologne, Germany, where his parents worked at a Ford factory. He grew up wanting to be a doctor, and became a physician at the University of Cologne. In 1993, he earned a doctorate from the university for his work on immunotherapy in tumor cells.
Early in his career, he met Dr. Türeci. She had early hopes to become a nun and ultimately wound up studying medicine. Dr. Türeci, now 53 and the chief medical officer of BioNTech, was born in Germany, the daughter of a Turkish physician who immigrated from Istanbul. On the day they were married, Dr. Sahin and Dr. Türeci returned to the lab after the ceremony.

From a short profile of the founders of BioNTech, which partnered with Pfizer on their COVID vaccine.

One reason the polls were wrong?

A lot of people think that the reason why polls were wrong was because of “shy Trump voters.” You talk to someone, they say they’re undecided, or they say they’re gonna vote for Biden, but it wasn’t real. Then, maybe if you had a focus group, they’d say, “I’m voting for Biden, but I don’t know.” And then your ethnographer could read the uncertainty and decide, “Okay, this isn’t really a firm Biden voter.” That kind of thing is very trendy as an explanation.
But it’s not why the polls were wrong. It just isn’t. People tell the truth when you ask them who they’re voting for. They really do, on average. The reason why the polls are wrong is because the people who were answering these surveys were the wrong people. If you do your ethnographic research, if you try to recruit these focus groups, you’re going to have the same biases. They recruit focus groups by calling people! Survey takers are weird. People in focus groups are even weirder. Qualitative research doesn’t solve the problem of one group of people being really, really excited to share their opinions, while another group isn’t. As long as that bias exists, it’ll percolate down to whatever you do.

Fascinating interview at Vox.

Bring on sortition already

With all the angst about the electoral college in America, here's an interesting tidbit on how medieval Venice chose its doge. Not sortition but I'm loving how convoluted and random it is:

First, thirty members of the Great Council were chosen at random. Then nine of those thirty were chosen, again randomly. Those nine members picked the next set: forty people from the Great Council. And those forty? Twelve, randomly picked from their number, moved on to the next step. Those twelve chose twenty-five; those twenty-five were randomly pared down to just nine. Having fun yet?
This set of nine members chose forty-five more; eleven were picked – again at random – from those forty-five. The eleven chose forty-one members. Those forty-one (finally!) voted for the doge.

There’s too much cash

Warren Buffett has gone from a stock-buyback skeptic to one of the world’s biggest repurchasers as his own firm becomes his favorite investment in the pandemic.
The famed investor’s  Berkshire Hathaway Inc.  spent the third  quarter  buying back about $9 billion of its own stock, more than it had repurchased in any full year in its history. The buying spree takes the total repurchases in the first nine months of 2020 to $16 billion, and the most recent pace would be the biggest of any U.S. company except  Apple Inc. , which happens to be Buffett’s largest investment.

This is from Bloomberg.  These companies are sitting on so much cash there’s nothing they can do with it. Makes you wonder at all the people who criticise big Australian firms for going along with demands for dividends.