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Minneapolis Fed shakeup raising academic eyebrows

Serious churn at The Fed. Adam Belz of the Strib writes: “A shakeup at the Minneapolis Fed has included the departure of two high-profile research economists who were shown the door and the replacement of the bank’s research director. The changes at the generally staid institution have raised eyebrows in the small, interconnected world of academic economics, with some raising questions about President Narayana Kocherlakota’s commitment to retaining top-flight economists. ‘It sends a bad message,’ said Ed Prescott, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who teaches at Arizona State University and spends part of each year at the Minneapolis Fed. ‘Something very good is breaking down rapidly. Will something new rise out of the ashes? I think that’s what Narayana hopes, but I’m not optimistic.’ ”

Incremental demise? MPR’s Tim Nelson says: “The Pioneer Press will stop printing its 163-year-old newspaper and pay the rival Star Tribune to print the paper instead. Digital First Media, the parent of the Pioneer Press, announced today that it will sell the newspaper's printing facility on St. Paul's riverfront and have the paper printed in Minneapolis starting early next year.” Sacrifices must be made to insure shareholder value. Joe Kimball has MinnPost coverage here.

Andy Warhol would have done something with this … WCCO-TV says: “One Minnesota man isn’t spending the holidays shopping. Instead, he’s setting his sights on a world record. Jim Brickson, captain of the Albert Lea Salvation Army, plans to be bell-ringing for no less than 80 consecutive hours. During the world record attempt, Brickson will not be allowed to sit, eat or drink. … The entire attempt will be streamed live.” Now THAT’S entertainment.

The latest on the — few remaining — Isle Royale wolves … Matt Sepic of MPR says: “Managers of Isle Royale National Park are in Minnesota this week to hear public opinion on what, if anything, should be done to help stabilize the island's dying wolf population. Just eight adults and possibly a few pups remain in the protected wilderness area. That's down from a peak of 50 in 1980, and the animals are showing signs of inbreeding. … Park managers are choosing among three options. They can let nature run its course and do nothing. They can let nature run its course and then introduce new wolves if the existing ones die off. Or they can try something called genetic rescue — freshening up the gene pool by bringing in new wolves to join the others.” Ron Meador has MinnPost coverage here.

The family of the doctor murdered in his Orono home says they had never heard of his likely killer. Tom Meersman writes in the Strib: “In an interview, [Dr. Stephen] Larson’s eldest son, Christopher, 48, said the killing happened while Larson’s wife and children were scattered in five different states, and that the family had never heard of Hoffstrom. ‘It’s a complete surprise and obviously a shock to us,’ he said. ‘None of us had ever heard his name or are aware of any prior contact whatsoever.’ ”

A leading gun control advocate will not be running for re-election. MPR’s Tim Pugmire says: “State Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, said today that he will not seek a 10th term in the Minnesota House in 2014. Paymar, the chair of the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee, has been a leading advocate for gun control. He pushed unsuccessfully during the 2013 session for an expanded background check bill that was opposed by many gun owners. More recently, Paymar expressed frustration over the resistance to enact tighter security measures within the State Capitol.” Doug Grow has a MinnPost interview with him here.

The GleanThe Capri … revitalized. Also at MPR, Cody Nelson reports: “The last of what used to be 13 movie houses in north Minneapolis may soon undergo a multi-million dollar expansion and renovation project. The Capri Theater, now a jazz venue and community gathering space, is set to expand onto three neighboring properties if Minneapolis City Council approves selling city land for $161,650 to the Plymouth Christian Youth Center, the theater's owner and operator.”

And in the same vein, Kaitlin Lokowich at The Current writes about the return of Duluth’s grand dame: “Duluth Mayor Don Ness can still remember the marquee lights of the NorShor Theater shining bright on East Superior Street in the 1990s. … Ness’s vision is to provide a space that doesn’t exist in the Duluth community today: a mid-sized venue (seating 750 to 800) that will hopefully attract more regionally touring bands and acts to the city. The City of Duluth has recently partnered with the Duluth Playhouse and George Sherman (of Sherman and Associates) to bring new life to this historic theater. … The city estimates the project will cost around $23 million, and includes renovations like an updated mezzanine and stadium seating. … If all goes as planned, renovations will  be complete by late 2015 and the NorShor will spread its warm marquee lights over East Superior Street once again.”

At MIT Technology Review, Michael Fitzgerald explains Best Buy’s turnaround to his readers: “Best Buy has since made more than 200 changes to its online store, says [VP Scott] Durchslag. The number of clicks to make a purchase has been cut to three, and now Best Buy takes into account where people live, feeding up, say, air-conditioner specials to New Yorkers who log on during a heat wave. Another problem to fix was that Best Buy was operating its online division and stores separately. Durchslag says that previously, if Best Buy’s online distribution center was out of an item, the customer would simply get an out-of-stock notice. They were losing those customers even though Best Buy stocked similar inventory at 1,400 stores, one of which is no more than a 15-minute drive from 70 percent of the U.S. population. Best Buy has since begun testing whether it can increase its inventory by turning stores into distribution centers. After starting with 50 stores, it is adding inventories from 150 more stores to its website for the 2013 holidays.”

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Comments (1)

Quite a complicated story that would make a good CP Snow novel

Some fairly high on the totem pole economists have declared Kocherlakota a hero for having realized his past mistakes and embraced Quantitative Easing enthusiastically.

Others criticize him for frog-marching some disagreeable researchers out of the Fed.

The day before this hit the Strib, the St. Louis economist Steven Williamson had a piece on his blog entitled:

Problems in the Great White North
link: ow.ly/r1EVj

Williamson is quoted extensively in the Strib piece, but there is additional information in the blog post.

What really caught my eye were the comments on this post, e.g.

"Yes, in the old days there were tremendous rapport between the bank and the University. But the bank has taken over the University since then. Graduate students, who survive with teaching assisantship, have to teach for the professors while the latter can hide themselves at the bank."

"While I am an admirer of both Narayana and the people at the bank, I do think that the Fed has turned into a net negative for the University. If you walk down the halls of the economics department, you seldom see the macro faculty who are being paid hundreds of thousands per year to teach at the U. The teaching of undergraduates is a disgrace to the institution. The faculty seem to think they are above the normal university duties of teaching e.g. a many hundred person undergraduate course is typically staffed by a graduate student. The typical undergraduate never sees a faculty member in a course. Also, faculty are seldom available for graduate students that are not at the Fed. While it may be a loss to the Fed and the research community, one can only hope that the most prominent senior faculty at Minnesota will begin to take their university jobs seriously. It really can't get much worse than the current state of affairs."

"Agree completely."

"Can't agree more.
I was just wondering will there be a problem if the Dean or even the State Congressman visit the department without notice during the semester and find out almost all macro faculty is not there."

Oouuccchhh!!

Bill Gleason, U of M faculty and alum