Gongol.com Archives: October 2010
Brian Gongol


October 2010
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October 3, 2010

The American Way Modern innovation might be quite the enemy of low-skill job seekers
A Washington Post columnist notes that "Robots are much better at assembling cars than they are at coming up with a marketing plan for those cars." But in fact, the truth is that robotics (and all forms of automation) are rather directly opposed to low-skill jobs, specifically because those jobs don't require much skill. The easier the task, the more likely it is to be a good candidate for automation. We have automatic dishwashers and clothes washers because they are supremely easy tasks -- we don't yet have nanny androids, because changing a baby's diaper is a far more complex operation. Higher-level skills are no longer a luxury for those who want comfortable incomes, they're rapidly becoming necessary. Once cars can drive themselves safely (don't think it's far off -- they can already parallel-park themselves), semi-skilled jobs like truck driving will shift from the column of "something for which there will always be job demand" to the one marked "jobs that won't be around forever." We as a society will be vastly better-off as these jobs migrate from frail and fallible humans -- just like we're already seeing enormous benefits from GPS-driven systems for tractors and combines, which produce straighter rows and use fuel, seed, and fertilizer far more efficiently than even the smartest humans. But the benefits will accrue to those who have higher levels of skill and thus will still be able to market their work while reaping the benefits of investment in the equipment. Those who fail to upgrade their skills will find themselves in a downward spiral of relative wealth. This is exactly the reason why politicians must stop yapping about "creating jobs." Jobs aren't the objective -- wealth is. A wealthy society full of machines that do our hard labor for us would be vastly preferable to one in which lots of people earned high incomes but wasted their time and health doing things that machines could do better.

News Newspapers not as revealers of truth, but as obfuscators of it
Layoffs may be necessary in many traditional newspaper organizations, but they shouldn't conduct the same nauseating public-relations spin that they tell their journalists to try to strip away when telling a story

Threats and Hazards Hugo Chavez wants to arm local militias
(Article in Spanish) Venezuela has every reason to be a wealthy and economically-growing nation, but it's just not going to get anywhere with a belligerent and temperamental president like Chavez in control of things

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October 4, 2010

Business and Finance Farewell to four departed automotive brands
Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn, and Mercury...it was good knowing you. Now you get to join Packard and all the others in the dusty annals of history.

Science and Technology Why the Moon recently appeared unusually huge

Water News Who says American manufacturing is dead?

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October 5, 2010

Computers and the Internet The only rule to know in the tech business: When offered an opportunity to do so, sell out
Twitter is reshuffling its executive office, in what observers appear to think is an effort to set the company up to make a lot more money. But if Twitter is still the "go-to" site for microblogging in 2012, one ought to be surprised. The company still faces at least four major hurdles to permanent profitability that it faced 12 months ago. And because they're systemic problems that prohibit the firm from obtaining durable monopoly pricing power, the situation isn't likely to change. The moment Twitter becomes sustainably profitable is the moment someone else gets serious about ripping off all of the good elements without any of the same startup costs.

Science and Technology Traffic in dinosaur skeletons as a piece of home decor
Really: Who actually needs a fossil in the living room?

Water News Nebraska dams are being inspected for earthquake damage -- for real

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October 6, 2010

Science and Technology Why popular science journalism generally doesn't do much good
It's often too formulaic, and rarely strays from "Wow! This is new!" and into "Here's where this fits a context"

Socialism Doesn't Work A look at North Korea from a Chinese border city
The massive economic and social success of South Korea is all the evidence that anyone should need to condemn the way the government of North Korea oppresses its people. There's no reason for 24 million people to suffer in poverty when their (literal) cousins just across the border are industrious and prosperous. Even without explicit human-rights violations, North Korea's economic system is a crime against humanity.

Business and Finance Economic conditions are hurting municipal finances
It's unfortunate, but lots of communities are struggling to pay their basic bills due to declining tax revenues. Perhaps it's time to re-think just how much we need to set aside for our true basic services.

Water News Vortexing: It's not just for weather geeks anymore

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October 7, 2010

Computers and the Internet Computer password lands British man in jail
He has a 50-character password that he's refused to turn over to police, who want to investigate him for child sexual exploitation

Computers and the Internet Tight competition in the smartphone market
Three operating systems -- Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone -- are engaged in pretty close combat for dominance in the market. Android has the smallest share of the three for now, but it's selling the fastest. This diversity of operating systems is good for consumers, since it encourages each of the three to innovate as aggressively as possible.

The United States of America Why don't we have sunset provisions on more laws?
In fact, they ought to apply to virtually all laws. Some laws deserve longer sunset horizons than others, but every law ought to be deliberately reviewed once in a while, to ensure that it's not outlived its usefulness and begun to impede human well-being.

News Chinese crackdown on immigrants from Africa

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October 8, 2010

Business and Finance Website makes a bid for Newsweek
The website, the Daily Beast, is a sort of quirky pop-culture news source for the Internet age, and buying Newsweek would probably lend it a degree of credibility that a name like "Beast" doesn't. But it's telling that Newsweek is in such distress that it's being auctioned off so unceremoniously.

Computers and the Internet Bringing public-health techniques to computer security
Computer viruses, true to their names, spread a lot like biological viruses. A Microsoft vice president has issued a declaration of sorts that computers infected with viruses ought to be treated rather like sick people, and quarantined and otherwise treated just like people with infectious diseases might be. It's the kind of argument that's probably the right course of action, but it's so easily spun as a nefarious-sounding plot that it probably won't gain the traction it needs -- if the popular commentators catch wind of it. But people have a responsibility to use their Internet access safely. Google offers a decent checklist for e-mail security that offers a good starting point for this kind of responsible computing.

Business and Finance Two hours of Q&A with Charlie Munger
(Video) He's no doubt a curmudgeon, but he's a curmudgeon worth listening to

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October 9, 2010

The United States of America The kind of person a community needs to run well
Randy Bracken was the fire chief in West Des Moines for many years, and from all accounts, he was legitimately devoted to doing his job well, and to doing it with innovation and foresight. It's unfortunate that the phrase "Close enough for government work" gets applied so often when there are exceptional public-sector workers who not only defy that phrase, but also deserve to be surrounded by co-workers who defy that phrase.

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October 10, 2010

The American Way Google's been testing a self-piloted car
This is exactly the kind of thing that Google should be doing -- developing non-Internet technologies instead of trying to beat in the brains of Microsoft and Apple in crowded market spaces like computer software and hardware. Smart move on Google's part. The company has three phenomenal resources at its disposal: Cash, computers, and programming talent. There are many ways in which those resources can and should be deployed that could offer Google durable competitive market advantages that it will never have in offering online services.

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October 11, 2010

Humor and Good News Nostalgia meets the Internet with a side of parody
(Video) Someone at the Sesame Street team has a good sense of humor, turning one of the ridiculous Old Spice commercials into a Grover sketch, brilliantly capitalizing on the nostalgia so many Americans naturally have for Sesame Street

News Not a lot of choices to make in Omaha
Nineteen county offices in the Omaha metro will be elected unopposed this November

Humor and Good News Graffiti knitters on the loose in London

Humor and Good News Cigar Guy
A sports photographer captured a remarkable shot of a Tiger Woods-hit ball flying directly for his camera. But even better is the fact that there's a guy in a goofy costume making a hilarious face in the background.

The United States of America Lots of advisers are punching out of the Obama administration
What might be oddest is that they're leaving before the midterm elections, and all more or less at once

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October 12, 2010

News The family business, eh?
The eldest son of Kim Jong-Il says he's not all that pleased with plans to make his younger brother into the next leader of North Korea. Funny thing about family businesses: They can be great for developing a long-term focus and encouraging a sort of apprenticeship that can't be matched elsewhere. But when they're unearned (like the passing on of a dictatorship), they're really just depressing.

Health Just sending a "get well" card can be enough to help the mentally ill
A little signal of support can be enough to help people who are feeling isolated

Computers and the Internet What happened to the Google mobile icon
Google used to show an icon illustrating when a site is mobile-friendly. But that icon doesn't seem to show up much anymore. What happened?

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October 13, 2010

Business and Finance "Firms that do not adequately compensate risk losing their top bankers"
Revenues at lots of investment banks are relatively flat -- an they're even declining at some firms. But those firms are giving raises to their employees regardless, using the argument that they can't unilaterally disarm in the face of rising pay among their competitors. Cute excuse, but the real owners of the firms (their shareholders) deserve better. The nauseating argument that pay has to rise at outlandish rates just to keep employees from going elsewhere -- even for poor performance -- is a tired refrain used not only by investment banks, but also within collegiate and professional sports, and among high-level business executives. That argument would be a lot easier to swallow if it didn't sound quite so much like extortion -- or if it were only backed by performance that improved just as fast as the pay increases.

Computers and the Internet Google puts $5 billion into wind energy
The company is starting to get smart about diversifying away from its core business in search engines and online ad revenues. Electricity is one of the main input costs for Google, since it has to run massive computing centers worldwide 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Simultaneously, it's reaping windfall profits right now from its online businesses -- windfall profits that won't last forever. In fact, they probably won't even last for ten more years. So now is the time for them to wisely sink excess profits into other lines of business -- and in this case, alternative sources of electricity would be a wise place for that money to go, since it's both a market that's likely to grow over the long term, and a way for Google to vertically integrate its business model.

Aviation News Ignorance is bliss
(Video) An old recording of an airshow (supposedly from 1959) illustrates just how much fun it's possible to have when you don't know very much. The demonstration is compelling and thrilling, to be sure, but it includes several displays that are so ridiculously dangerous by our current standards that it's hard to believe they were ever performed.

Health So, are we really done with H1N1?
The brutal strain of influenza caused some serious panic last year, but it looks like it's pretty well-repressed for now. What have we done to prepare in case it, or something like it, comes back? Because something will.

WHO Radio Wise Guys on Facebook


October 14, 2010

News Former senior officials in China's Communist Party say it's time for free speech
There's really only just so long that speech can be repressed in the age of the Internet. And it's definitely not forever.

Iowa Cop shoots at KCCI-TV camera operator
People inside the studios heard what sounded like gunshots -- but they were just rocks being thrown through windows. But when police showed up and the cameraman tried to point them to the intruder, one of the officers got a little trigger-happy and opened fire.

Weather and Disasters Floods set back progress in Pakistan by years
These are the kinds of events that make people's whining about a recession so tiresome. A recession is unpleasant, and no doubt causes some degree of human suffering. But when a recession is over, bridges and buildings are still standing, and even an awful recession only puts an economy back by one or two years, compared to normal growth. But economic cycles are inevitable, and thus so are occasional downturns. We know this, so we can't be excused for not preparing for those cycles. Massive, calamitous natural disasters like the flooding in Pakistan, on the other hand, can truly set things back by many years.

Science and Technology Mice may be able to regenerate cells just like salamanders and newts
And if they can do it, most likely so can we

Science and Technology There is no convincing evidence that cell phones can cause brain cancer
Really large studies are showing no apparent signs of risk for most cell-phone users

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October 15, 2010

Humor and Good News If you liked "Arrested Development"...
...then you might be obligated to watch "Running Wilde". It isn't quite as good as "Arrested Development", but that show set an impossible bar, and "Running Wilde" does at least contain Will Arnett in a starring role, David Cross as a supporting actor, and Mitchell Hurwitz as a director/producer. It gets better with each episode, so start from #1; don't go backwards. And Keri Russell is quite pleasant to look at, too. For other videographic hilarity, see the animated Taiwanese coverage of the Brett Favre controversy.

Humor and Good News A first-person view of parachuting onto a football field
(Video) Really quite impressive

News Cynicism without real criticism is a recipe for bad politics
A columnist remarking on the recent Australian federal elections makes the excellent point that just because we're bombarded all the time with what's branded as political "news" doesn't mean that we're actually aware of the policies being debated, nor that we're really becoming better critics of those policies. We're just becoming cynical.

Computers and the Internet It's not clear why the UAE reversed its plan to ban the BlackBerry, but it's a good thing they did

Science and Technology Triceratops and torosaurus: Not different species, just different ages
But who doesn't have a softer spot in the heart for triceratops than for the mostly-unknown torosaurus? Let's stick with triceratops as the species name, OK?

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October 16, 2010

Business and Finance RIP Benoit Mandelbrot
One of the most novel mathematicians of the modern era has died. His book "The (Mis)Behavior of Markets is a work of genius, explaining exactly why financial markets behave erratically, even though thousands (if not millions) of people think they're smart enough to predict those same markets. Mandelbrot's work explains exactly why someone like Bernard Madoff can't honestly produce impeccable, smooth results year after year. (That crooked scheme netted Madoff some high-on-the-hog living, though. Too bad he was living high on the backs of the ill-informed.)

Computers and the Internet China is using malware attacks to spy on South Korea
Infected attachments sent with spoofed e-mails are poking holes in South Korea's security

Threats and Hazards The state of America's budget: Worse than critical
The Concord Coalition thinks we could be suffering trillion-dollar deficits every year from now through 2020

News A brilliant scholarship offer
The University of Nebraska offers a free-tuition scholarship to seventh-graders who obtain a perfect score on any section of the ACT or SAT. It's a brilliant offer: First of all, these are the kinds of kids to whom the university would likely offer a scholarship later, so why not make the offer early? Colleges are offering athletic scholarships at ridiculously early ages, so why not do the same for actual scholars? Second, it establishes credibility that old "State U." is serious about academics (even if the selection method is a little arbitrary). Third, it makes for good publicity: Who can say anything bad about an offer made to a bookish junior-high student? Well done, Nebraska.

Science and Technology You can't multitask, nor can anybody else
We're only capable of switching our attention quickly from one task to another. But every time you switch, your brain has to re-set -- so too much switching only results in lots of lost productivity.

Humor and Good News "How to wallow in unbridled hedonism"
Panel three of the comic is artistic genius

Humor and Good News How Grandma sees the television remote control

Science and Technology Snails moving at something faster than a snail's pace
Truly spectacular time-lapse video. Impressive even for those who don't like nature shows.

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October 17, 2010

Humor and Good News How to make some awesome Pac-Man costumes
With ghosts, too

News Mrs. Cleaver has died
Barbara Billingsley was best-known as the mother in "Leave It to Beaver", but her funniest appearance ever was in "Airplane!" when she offered to translate jive.

News Palestinian Authority may try to get the UN to establish a state

Broadcasting Podcast: Why should investment bankers be paid more when they're producing less?
Also: Why monarchies stink, why we shouldn't be bothered by changes in labor patterns, and why immigration requires some cooler heads to prevail.

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October 18, 2010

Agriculture Agricultural exchanges could do a lot of good for Afghanistan and Pakistan
Some helpful knowledge transfer could make a lot of economic difference for two countries that rely on agriculture for 31% and 43%, respectively, of their national economies. It's just too bad that CNN's report on their visit told next to nothing about what they were actually here to learn, and quotes a farmer as saying, "Soybeans are up $3. Corn is $3.25 up. And I get that information three times a day." They made that mistake because they didn't know enough to realize that when the farmer said "Soybeans are up three", he meant three cents a bushel. "Corn is 325 up" means $0.0325, not $3.25. A $3 rise in the per-bushel price for corn or soybeans in a single day would be an impossible spike. Disappointing work by CNN on an important story. Reducing poverty around the world will require a lot of innovative thinking -- and in some cases, some surprisingly simple steps, like providing bed nets to stop malaria.

Iowa Life for auto dealers after the automakers canceled the franchises
A surprising number of Iowa dealers seem to have survived losing their franchises with the Big Three Detroit automakers

Business and Finance How a business picks an exit strategy
One choice: Find a company that's looking for businesses to buy.

Health Do yourself a favor: Take two minutes for a self-exam today
Take a minute or two and conduct some basic self-screenings for cancer. Early detection saves lives. There's lots of misinformation about cancer that finds its way around the Internet, largely because we've been trained to wait expectantly for some sort of magic-bullet solution to cancer. But cancer risks can be significantly reduced through a balanced diet, exercise, and early detection and treatment. Meanwhile, science is making great progress towards improving genetic detection, which holds great promise for some types of cancer. Instead of forwarding hoax-ridden e-mails about "cancer cures" and false threats, people should instead remind their friends and family to assess their health once a month.

News The man likely to become China's next president

News Labor strikes leave France without gas

Water News The EPA wants to know what happened to containers swept away in flooding

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October 20, 2010

The United States of America A classic American political movement
(Video) New York has a political group called the "Rent is Too Damn High" party. They can't really be taken seriously as a political movement, but one has to admire the moxie.

Humor and Good News Dispatches from the Sesame Islands
Re-imagining the Sesame Street characters as the first animals encountered on a weird, remote island

Humor and Good News Seven things you don't need to photograph

Computers and the Internet Firefox 3.6.11 is out
It's mainly a security update over prior editions, but that makes it important to download and install

Iowa Who can't love a judge who threatens lawyers with a 2x4?
An Iowa judge claims to carry an "ABMT" -- Attorney Behavior Modification Tool

Humor and Good News Who taught this chimp to flip the bird at police officers?

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October 21, 2010

The United States of America A civics exam for Americans
These days, a lot of people are getting a lot of things wrong about what it means to be an American -- like making the mistake of thinking that this is was established as a "Christian" nation. It wasn't. The US was founded during the height of the Enlightenment era, which was specifically a time when reason independent of religious influence was ascendant. It's a nation in which all are free to be Christians (or anything else, including non-religious) -- not a "Christian nation".

Socialism Doesn't Work Why so many giveaways?
When did it become standard practice for states to subsidize large companies that come asking for forgivable loans in the name of "job creation"? It's a direct subsidy, and no matter how happy some employees may be to get those subsidized jobs, there are competitors and innocent bystanders who end up getting taxed to pay for them.

Computers and the Internet A reverse-search engine for image matching
Upload a picture and see what other graphics on the Internet match it

Humor and Good News A Pandora station for those who like alternative rock and electronica
Oh, wait: That's an audience of one? Good thing it doesn't matter.

Business and Finance The never-ending stream of bad business logos

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October 22, 2010

Socialism Doesn't Work Don't "friend" the Communist Party on Facebook
In Vietnam, the government is using social-networking tools to spy on its people -- which highlights the risk to Americans and others that "friending" anyone on Facebook (or any other site) may reveal more information to the other party than one might intend to. Everyone needs a litmus test by which to decide whom to "friend" and whom not -- whether that's "people I know from school" or "people I've been drinking with" or "people whom I'd trust with my wallet", and then that litmus test needs to be applied consistently. Lots of groups and organizations use the back-door method of creating individual profiles on Facebook instead of creating group profiles, and that method means that their "friends" aren't even protected by Facebook's rather weak privacy protections against abuse by groups, since the same protections don't apply to individual user accounts. God help anyone who would "friend" the Communist Party anywhere -- or one's own government. Your government is never your friend; it is only a tool to be used for your own protection against anarchy and oppression.

Humor and Good News Sometimes, the engineers are the real heroes
An engineer from Boeing noticed another driver swerving erratically and realized the driver had passed out at the wheel -- so he pulled a stunt move to bring the other car to a halt before it crashed through an intersection and killed somebody. This is the kind of story teachers ought to use in physics classes to show that acceleration isn't just an academic subject. On a related popular-science note, some researchers have figured out how quickly a dog of a given size must shake to get rid of the maximum amount of water on its fur. The video is absolutely worth viewing, if only for the point at which a graph appears on screen comparing the rotational speed of a golden retriever to a salad spinner.

The United States of America Why Nebraskans were long prohibited from buying stuff sold on TV
Because the Strategic Air Command was located in Omaha, the state was served by a lot more phone lines than it ordinarily needed during the Cold War. Between a surplus of phone lines and a lack of a regional accent, the state was ideal for handling the call centers needed to serve the (800) lines people would call to place those orders. But the peculiarities of the Bell System during that era meant that people living in Nebraska couldn't call the same (800) number as the rest of the country, so to prevent confusion, the ads just said they couldn't call at all. Nebraska remains a major call-center state, even though the Cold War has been over for 20 years, which only goes to show that we continue doing a lot of things well after the initial reason for having done so has gone away.

Broadcasting Tribune Company dumps Randy Michaels
Just because a person is CEO doesn't mean they no longer have to behave like an adult

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October 23, 2010

Aviation News World's first passenger spaceport opens
It's in New Mexico, and the first runway has opened. Commercial passenger space travel is just around the corner. And in related aviation technology news, an Australian company is planning to develop heavy-lifting balloons to carry freight. It could be a remarkably useful tool for getting relief supplies quickly and cheaply to places hit by disasters.

The United States of America The standard American accent today was probably the one used by the British in 1776
In other words, "General American" is the original version of English; British accents today are the ones that have evolved away from the original

Computers and the Internet China's government is going into competition with Google Earth

Humor and Good News Haven't we called Barbara Boxer "Senator" long enough?
(Video) Hilarious political satire based upon a real moment of self-absorption by a California Senator

Computers and the Internet The evolution of media continues
Prominent journalists who established themselves in "legacy" media like newspapers are migrating to the Internet without fear of losing their credibility or their followings. That's because the medium itself is less important than the quality and content of what a person has to say.

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October 26, 2010

Computers and the Internet The world's active Internet population: 2 billion
So, roughly speaking, about a quarter to a third of the world's population actively uses the Internet. Of course, that means the majority don't...at least not yet.

WHO Radio Wise Guys on Facebook


October 27, 2010

Science and Technology First photograph of a human being may have been found
The picture is from 1838, and the subject is only incidental to the picture, but it could be the earliest photographic record of human life. It also turns out that early methods of photography recorded at a sufficient resolution that lots of surprising things can be seen by zooming in using modern methods.

Weather and Disasters Lowest non-hurricane atmospheric pressure record set
A huge windstorm sweeping the lower 48 states was caused by the passage of a record-setting low-pressure system that cruised through Minnesota

The United States of America Using the barbershop to improve public health
By studying people's habits and patterns, public-health officials have figured out that a lot of black men in America aren't getting the kind of health screenings that they need -- but by working with barber shops, they can improve the reach of efforts designed to improve mortality rates and improve people's quality and quantity of life.

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October 28, 2010

Science and Technology Necessity is the mother of the invention of the flying car
A missionary to Latin America has built (and gotten FAA certification for) a flying car, which he says is needed for those places with roads that aren't connected to the rest of the world. It's a powered parachute, rather than a winged vehicle, but if it does the trick, it doesn't have to look like a Jetsons hovercraft.

News Mikhail Gorbachev isn't a fan of Vladimir Putin
Russia's experiment in democracy is a truly fascinating thing to see happening before our very eyes. It's one of the landmark ongoing events in history. Is Gorbachev the "father" of Russian democracy? Perhaps not quite in the exact sense of the "Founding Fathers" in the United States, but there's probably no other Russian more worthy of the title. So his disappointment with the path of Russia's politics today should carry some weight with insidea and outside observers.

News Palestinian Authority plans to declare independence in August 2011
Regardless of the Palestinians' nation-state status, peace will not endure there until economic growth brings them a lot closer to the material well-being of their neighbors in Israel, and that's only going to happen if the rule of law can be established and entrenched in support of a market economy. In other words, the world will need to start buying goods marked "Made in Palestine" in order for peace to come to the Middle East. It may not be a sufficient condition in and of itself, but it's definitely necessary.

Iowa Why Iowans ought to have earthquake insurance

Humor and Good News You think you know Elmo?
(Video) In his regular voice, the puppeteer behind Elmo (from "Sesame Street") doesn't sound one tiny bit like he can hit a falsetto giggle

Humor and Good News Was all that worth it? Totally.
(Video) Eric Cartman goes wild at Casa Bonita for one of the funniest "South Park" scenes ever

Water News Water quality is Iowans' most serious concern about agriculture

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October 29, 2010

Iowa Recession has reversed Midwestern "brain drain"
Well-educated people are migrating into states like Iowa and Nebraska, even as the broader economy hits a rough patch. The anecdotal evidence has it that the migrants either discovered or re-evaluated the value of quality of life, and find the benefits of the Midwest attractive. Moreover, the Midwest hasn't participated vigorously in many booms, so thus it doesn't tend to be hit very hard by the busts, either.

Computers and the Internet China has built the world's fastest supercomputer
It's believed to hit 2.507 petaflops in calculation speed. Japanese scientists thought back in 2007 that we'd have a 10-petaflop computer by next year, but if we're only at 2.5 by now, that sounds like it might be a stretch. Regardless, the fact that China now possesses the fastest supercomputer in the world serves as a reminder that the level of competition is always rising, and we're going to have to work hard to keep up, whether we like it or not.

Aviation News Carbon fiber and the new Boeing 787
New materials make lighter, safer, more efficient planes possible

News Opposition says this weekend's elections in the Ukraine have been corrupted
They're specifically calling out illegitimate ballots being printed where they shouldn't. It would be enormously disappointing to see the Ukraine lose more of the democratic free ground it appeared to gain in the Orange Revolution.

News Hundreds killed in new Indonesian tsunami
Once again, as in the 2004 tsunami, lives were lost because early-warning systems didn't work. We (as a species) have to keep getting better at this. Nature often wants us dead, and we can't drop the ball on fighting back.

Humor and Good News Great bloopers from the vault at KCCI-TV
(Video)

News The true size of Africa
A creative visual depiction of the continent's true geographic size

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October 30, 2010

Health Massive door-to-door vaccination drive to end polio in Africa
300,000 people will try to vaccinate 72 million children in 15 countries across Africa in an effort to eradicate polio. That's like vaccinating more than the entire population of France, or twice the population of California.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft will try to re-enter the smartphone market with Windows Phone 7
At least one reviewer thinks it's enough of a leap forward to put the phone in competition with the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android. Great news for consumers.

Computers and the Internet Twitter rules are "making Facebook seem like an open alternative"
The company behind the microblogging service is trying to put its foot down now in order to keep their trademark from going the way of Kleenex. But whether or not they succeed, the service is bound to be overtaken by nimbler competitors within 18 months. Not a lot of new people are discovering Twitter at this stage. Most people have likely heard of it by now and decided whether or not to use it. Thus the service is likely at the peak of its profitability, since from this point forward, it's going to be sharing the microblogging market with competitors offering better alternatives. There's nothing particularly unique about the structure of Twitter's service that grants it any real monopoly power, and that's where profits come from over the long term.

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