Gongol.com Archives: 2013 Third-Quarter Archives
Brian Gongol




Humor and Good News A reporter aggressively shames videobombers
(Video)

Computers and the Internet Firefox launches its OS for smartphones

Humor and Good News How to drink like Christopher Hitchens




News Federal health-care mandate implementation delayed until 2015

News Where does Egypt go from here?

News New Chinese law requires children to visit elderly parents

Health Wales chooses an opt-out system for organ donations
It's presumed consent unless the individual has declared otherwise

News China steps up security presence in Xinjiang
It's a largely Muslim region in China's far west, where riots in 2009 led to about 200 deaths. The anniversary of those riots could be cause for additional violence.




News Egypt returns to military hands
The constitution has been suspended, and the military says that the chief justice of the constitutional court is in charge. Egypt has 85 million people, making it the 15th-most-populated country in the world. It has more people than Germany, France, or the UK.

Health Japanese team builds functioning human liver from adult stem cells

Business and Finance On the future of unpaid internships
It's probably going to become harder to offer them

The United States of America Also from the Supreme Court...
A lot of people paid attention to a few decisions from the Supreme Court of the United States last week, but not many of them read the decision in "Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl". They should. If it's a reflection of how the court operates generally, then we're in good hands. The decision (in a case about an adoption that was derailed by a Federal law) was 5-4, but not along the kinds of ideological lines that people like to draw. Alito wrote the decision, Thomas concurred but argued that the law itself was Constitutionally flawed, and Breyer concurred but added questions he thought were left unanswered. Sotomayor wrote the primary dissent, to which Scalia added his own twist with a question about the language of the law itself. Each of the opinions is thoughtful and interesting, and if they are at all representative of how the SCOTUS goes about its business, then we should be quite pleased with the justice we get in return for their salaries, no matter how we feel about any particular decision.

The United States of America When did the Mid-Atlantic accent die out?




The United States of America Happy Independence Day

The United States of America Who's the worst President of all time?

News China's copycat towns
China isn't just ripping off intellectual property with patent infringement...it's actually building full-scale cities that are intended to mimic the look and feel of other places. Whatever they produce by those means, it'll never be as good as the original. If you don't understand the process of how anything (a book, a machine, or even a city) came into being, you cannot adequately copy it by reverse-engineering. It's impossible. The process determines the result.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft promises a much bigger ecosystem around Bing
They're trying to morph the search engine into an "intelligent fabric" for building applications and services that depend upon searchable information

Iowa Iowa tourism on the side of a truck
The state is wrapping trucks from the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division with tourism-themed graphics. It's a decent idea for making use of the trucks, since they're on the roads already. Now, as to whether it still makes sense for Iowa to retain state control over the sale of alcohol? That's a different story.

Humor and Good News High fashion on school picture day
A Texas teacher retires after 40 years of wearing the same polyester shirt and sweater on picture day. The guy deserves credit for taking the long view on a joke.




Computers and the Internet "Cathedrals to the Internet Age"
Companies that are making their fortunes off the Internet -- like Apple, Google, and Facebook -- are building some of the most radical architecture on the market right now. But one might ask: What happens in the future, when those companies run out of gas? It's impossible for any of them to consistently make all of the good decisions necessary to stay on top indefinitely; their respective rises to prominence have largely to thank weak competitive markets and innovative new ideas at the start of certain Internet industries (e.g., searching, mobile music, and social networking). Staying on top is much harder than getting there when the market is nascent. So will these giant buildings someday look a lot like Ford's River Rouge plant?

News Congratulations, Illinois: Now only one ex-governor is in Federal custody
Former Governor George Ryan was released on Wednesday

Health Some HIV patients may be cured by stem-cell treatment
The stem-cell transplants were used to cure the patients' lymphoma, but it may have had the secondary effect of curing the HIV as well




Science and Technology Jeweler with a 3D printer helps surgeons with models
Iowa City jeweler Mark Ginsberg has a 3D printer that he uses to produce models of hearts and other organs to help University of Iowa surgeons when planning tricky surgeries

Computers and the Internet France, too, has been using digital surveillance on its people
Civilian oversight is essential

Iowa Coralville Independence Day fireworks start off with a bang
Computer glitch causes 70% of the show to take off at the start of the program

Science and Technology Beaming ads directly into your brain
German ad agency figures out how to transmit audio commercials via train windows, and thus by bone conduction, straight into passengers' heads. No word yet on whether it will be used (but mark these words: it will, eventually).

Agriculture Evolution strikes back
Herbicides have been successful for so long that the weeds that weren't susceptible to them are now gaining ground (since their weaker cousins have been killed off by the chemicals). It's going to make life harder in agriculture.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft has big plans for Bing
They're broadening access to the core services of the Bing platform, and trying to turn it into something that program developers can use to build applications and integrate seamlessly into more of the things that people use when connected to the Internet. It's going to start off mainly as a service for the refreshed Windows 8.1 to be released later this year, but it's likely to find wider application later on.

Broadcasting This week in trends, tips, and technology




News 5 people killed by oil-train explosion in Quebec
Early reports suggest the train was parked uphill and that the brakes either failed or weren't properly applied, causing it to run downhill. It was carrying tankers full of oil, and the crash caused an explosion and fire.

Iowa Why would a town decline state funding to repair bridges?
Possibly because the funds usually require matching spending by the locals, and municipal governments aren't necessarily flush with cash right now. It's very difficult to get the right combination of foresight and political motivation to pay for infrastructure maintenance and upkeep. It's not always easy to get the funding together for the initial construction of a capital project -- though anything that invites a big ribbon-cutting is usually good for at least a few votes. The Archway Monument over Interstate 80 at Kearney, Nebraska, has run into hard times just a few years after being opened, and now the parties involved have to figure out whether to spend the money to keep it open, or pay a big bill to tear it down.

Business and Finance Are we regulating ourselves right out of prosperity?
Niall Ferguson suggests so in a recent "Wall Street Journal" column.

News Process matters, including in Egypt
The president has been deposed in a coup, and now the opposition groups that led the protests that brought about the coup are trying to decide who will take over (and it's not a settled process). Meanwhile, some supporters of the ousted president are pledging to put him back in power. Whether Morsi was any good or not, it should make everyone nervous that there's this much instability -- and such a crisis of process -- in a nation of 85 million people. Is the military's intervention good for democracy? That's a tough sell.

Computers and the Internet Pebble "smart-watches" are for sale at Best Buy
The watch synchronizes with Android and Apple smartphones, because now it's too much work to reach into one's pocket to retrieve one's phone

Broadcasting This week in "making money and having fun"




Aviation News One lesson of the Asiana crash: Don't trust eyewitnesses
People form very strong opinions about what they saw, even when they're completely wrong. A BBC News article about the crash quotes a passenger who says "the plane appeared to be coming in too fast", and a witness who says that the plane "looked out of control" as it came in. But the very first conclusion shared by the NTSB is that the plane was "significantly below" standard approach speed. In other words, it wasn't "too fast" at all -- it was way, way too slow. And as for being "out of control", one can see quite clearly from a crash video shown on CNN that there was nothing visibly "out of control" about the approach. And early on, the Associated Press was quoting an eyewitness who said the plane cartwheeled, when it clearly did not. They have since revised the published version of the story to remove the cartwheeling reference, but it was clearly used in the original. The fact we have so many erroneous observations from eyewitnesses that contradict the evidence just goes to show that you cannot accept eyewitness testimony without corroborating evidence. It just isn't reliable.

Aviation News Another lesson of the Asiana crash: Know where your emergency exits are

Threats and Hazards BBC reports that some Morsi supporters have been murdered by the Egyptian army

Computers and the Internet "Glassholes are the new little brother"
People recording everything around them with Google Glass will probably bother everyone sooner or later




Computers and the Internet Smartphones as earthquake detectors
Earthquake shock waves travel quickly, but not so quickly that early detection couldn't help save lives. If a seismic wave travels at 1 kilometer per second, that means a place 20 miles away from an epicenter could have half a minute of warning before the shock arrived. Even just a few seconds could be enough to shut down industrial processes, bring trains to a stop, or close off bridges and tunnels to traffic.

Humor and Good News Credit union makes great use of Facebook
A stuffed animal left behind by a child got some extra attention and a return to its owner

Weather and Disasters Why cold fronts produce thunderstorms
Look to the wedge action caused by the cold air moving in below warm, humid air

Health HPV vaccines prove profoundly effective at preventing cervical cancer
In the HPV vaccine, we have -- literally -- a vaccine against cancer that proves so effective it lowers cancer rates by more than 50%. This is a remarkable breakthrough.

Business and Finance Kroger buys Harris Teeter
One big supermarket chain will absorb another. It's worth asking of any merger: Is this the most effective way the company could deploy its cash and other resources in order to bring its owners more money? Sometimes the answer is yes...but with many mergers, the answer is no.

Computers and the Internet Grand Theft Auto 5 game trailer released
(Video) The level of programming detail involved in creating this role-playing game devoted entirely to behaving like a sociopath is...well...a little disturbing. Impressive, but disturbing.

Computers and the Internet Patch Tuesday for July 2013
Microsoft is out to fix a half-dozen critical vulnerabilities in its products. The company is also introducing a new policy to require app developers for its Windows Store and other app sources to fix vulnerabilities in 180 days (or less, if it's actively being exploited).

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Weather and Disasters Is money more wisely spent adapting to climate change than fighting it?

News Interesting demographics on architects in America

News Dustin Hoffman reflects on playing "Tootsie"
(Video) Very interesting reflections

Business and Finance Hedge funds will now be allowed to advertise

Business and Finance Tribune Company will split itself in two
And with that division, "WGN" and the World's Greatest Newspaper will no longer be under the same roof

Business and Finance When interest rates tick upward, our Federal debt will hurt more
And it will hurt more at an accelerating rate, since additional interest owed will just turn around to compound the total debt. But that may take a while; Ben Bernanke says rates will stay low for a long time.




Business and Finance Why bond markets have been goofy lately
There's a dynamic tension between rational economics and animal-spirits trading, and it ain't pretty.

Computers and the Internet Google will push a brand-new Motorola phone
It's rumored to be called the Moto X, and Google's putting a whole lot of money (possibly $500 million) into marketing it for sale with all four major national carriers this fall.

Computers and the Internet Nokia unveils smartphone with 41-megapixel camera
The Lumia 1020 is a Windows-based phone, and with photographic resolution like that, users can actually make use of digital zoom.

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Threats and Hazards "We choose to negotiate in the trenches, not in hotels."
So says a group linked to Al Qaeda in response to the ouster of Egypt's president

Aviation News Boeing 787 catches fire at Heathrow
Fortunately, the Ethiopian Airways jet had no passengers aboard at the time

Business and Finance Plan for the next 100 years
A small handful of companies have 100-year business plans. Most should.

News The US Postal Service photographs every envelope
How long are the records kept, and on whom? It should also be noted that much of what is done online is also being tracked.

Aviation News Every system is perfectly designed to deliver the results that come from it
So, with that in mind, it should be no surprise that the Air Force pays a lot more attention to manned aircraft than unmanned. The system is designed to promote pilots. That doesn't make it right or wrong; it just makes the outcome predictable.



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News Do not fall for the story that "psychic powers" found a murdered boy in California
A woman claims she had "visions" that told her where to find the body of a missing boy. But let's examine the evidence: The body was found on the property of his family's home, which was a highly likely place to search. And the body was actually located when her kids (10 and 12 years old, mind you) smelled the body and saw a mound in the dirt. None of this -- not one thing -- suggests anything other than a hunch (backed by a little use of Google Maps) that is convenient to back-fill with a good storyline about "visions" and a little dramatic license. ■ What reasonable person, legitimately believing him- or herself to discover a dead body, would bring along two pre-teen children for the search, undoubtedly leaving them with terrible memories for life? But, no...this story will be used to legitimize the role of self-appointed "psychics", who waste the precious resources of law enforcement and give worried families false hopes and fake reasons to grieve. ■ Everyone has intuition -- that's just the result of the subconscious mind assembling conclusions while the conscious mind isn't paying attention. And some people may be better than others at assembling those intuitions -- but there is still no evidence to prove that anyone has psychic powers of the type widely claimed in these cases. Purely by coincidence (and practice), "psychics" will occasionally get a call right, just like some people will win lotteries by choosing their children's birthdays. There is no magical power behind it -- and anyone who claims that there is must show the evidence to be believed. ■ A great way to lose an argument is to overstate your case. "Psychics" overstate their case, when they could be saying "I have a hunch, and I think my intuition is better than yours."

News Those fake pilot names reported in the Asiana crash? The NTSB blames an intern.

Health Always wash your fruits and vegetables
The parasite cyclospora (which causes the illness cyclosporasis) has been found on vegetables being sold in Iowa and Nebraska, and it's making people sick. According to the CDC, "This most commonly occurs when food or water contaminated with feces is consumed." And now you know why safe, reliable public systems for sewage disposal and clean drinking water are essential.

Business and Finance Casey's is the nation's #5 pizza chain
The convenience-store chain ranks nationally as a pizza franchise, thanks to the in-store pizza sales. Now Valentino's, a Nebraska-based pizza chain, wants to mimic the success by working its way into convenience stores.

Business and Finance You are about 0.5 to 0.75 percentage points more risky than the Federal government
That is, from a credit perspective. The baseline US home mortgage rate tracks very closely with the 30-year Treasury rate. So closely, in fact, that it explains almost precisely why mortgage rates have jumped so much in the last month -- Treasury rates have jumped, too.

Computers and the Internet Lawsuit alleges over-broad Florida law makes computers and smartphones illegal
The law was intended to crack down on slot machines, but it's pretty hard to distinguish electronic slot machines from other computers, particularly when the legal definitions are imprecise.

Broadcasting This week in trends, tips, and technology
Show notes for the WHO Radio Wise Guys, airing at 1:00 pm CT on WHO Radio.





Iowa Iowa's incredibly equal voter-registration figures
36.31% of voters are independents, 31.86% are Democrats, and 31.83% are Republicans. The Democrat/Republican split is so small, the difference wouldn't even fill a quarter of the Civic Center in Des Moines.




Business and Finance CEO pay: A matter of fairness or a matter of efficiency?
It's widely argued that when the average CEO of a top-200 US corporation gets 200 times the yearly compensation of an average employee, there's a problem of fairness involved. That may or may not be true; fairness is a difficult thing to measure correctly (even if something does smell a little rotten about it). But from a capitalist perspective, it's well worth asking whether that kind of pay imbalance is efficient -- that is, whether it's likely to deliver the right set of results to the shareholders of the company. Since shareholders are the owners of the business, they should be acutely interested in how compensation is doled out. And if the CEO is getting 200 times the pay of an average employee, it's worth asking: Is that CEO delivering better ideas than a cadre of 200 smart employees would? There's a very, very good chance that the answer to that is a resounding "No" -- which tells us that many executives are more skilled at extracting really high salaries and bonuses than they are at making their shareholders wealthier.

News From phone-company office to apartment building
Recycling of a different sort

News "PC World" is done with publishing a print edition
It will remain a digital publication, but the market no longer sustains a printed edition

Computers and the Internet Pro tip: If your life's mantra is "Chive On", don't expect to get hired by a sensible employer
A lot of people bristle at the thought of sanitizing their Facebook and other social-media profiles in pursuit of employment. But there are a lot of people who also see fit to advertise that their objective is to skirt by with as little effort as possible in the workplace -- and if they're advertising that by wearing shirts and repeating slogans that mock actual labor and enthuse about wasting time on an entertainment site, then their potential (and actual) employers would be stupid to ignore that.




Computers and the Internet More Big-Brother behavior


Computers and the Internet Microsoft cuts the price of Surface tablets


Broadcasting Tribune Co. goes on a TV buying spree
And seeks to sell the newspapers

Threats and Hazards A hunch is all that DHS needs
And the policy has been that way for years.

Threats and Hazards Contaminated lunches killed 25 kids in India
The world needs to get its house in order




Broadcasting Netflix earns Emmy nomination for original shows


Threats and Hazards Deer Trail (Colorado) issues drone-hunting licenses


Humor and Good News Someone on the NYPD is using Darth Vader's entrance theme


Humor and Good News Someone was over-served


Computers and the Internet The Pope and his Twitter account


Computers and the Internet Verizon is spinning up a no-contract cellphone plan


News More shrinkage at the Chicago Sun-Times


Health 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 Detroit declares bankruptcy
And pension promises won't be held sacred. Every retirement-savings system comes caveat emptor -- even pensions.

Business and Finance DC's labor laws turn good intentions into very bad economics


Business and Finance Survey says unethical behavior is widely found on Wall Street


Science and Technology New dinosaur discovery finally gets a name





Weather and Disasters National Weather Service offers user-defined forecasts

Computers and the Internet Bill Gates on using computing power to improve the world
(Video) It's part of the Microsoft Virtual Faculty Summit

Computers and the Internet Google changes Gmail again
This time, adding tabs to categorize different types of inbound messages

Science and Technology 40% of US electrical generation added in 2012 was wind power
Coal-powered plants are being retired and nobody seems to want to build much nuclear. So expect to see a lot of wind generation and natural-gas power plants in the future. What we really need are energy-storage breakthroughs so that the inconsistency of wind and other renewable power sources can be wrangled under control to meet demand at the time it's needed.




Business and Finance China's economy is still growing, but at a slower rate
And whether that turns into something significant depends upon whether the drop (from an average of 9% to the recent 7.5% annual rate of growth) stabilizes, turns around, or falls even more. It's impossible for China to grow at 9% forever, but it's such a large economy already that major changes will have ripple effects throughout the world. One writer argues that China's been using inefficient investments by state-owned enterprises for a while to prop up the economy when things slow down -- and that they'll have to stop doing that (investing inefficiently) if they want to have any hope of growing in the long run. It's been noted that China's state-owned companies are the worst performers in the country, and that companies in China are having trouble locating workers at the right price. Considering that China has been using its low-cost labor as a competitive advantage in world trade, worker shortages will mean higher wages and thus an erosion of the advantage.

News Statistician Nate Silver is leaving the New York Times for ESPN
He applied solid research on data to the 2012 elections and had a good grasp on the outcome well before Election Day. Now, he's apparently going back to crunching numbers for sports. Having revealed (or created) significant demand for statistical analysis of election data, one wonders whether Silver will have successors at the Times and elsewhere.

Iowa Four Iowa cities have much-coveted AAA credit ratings
West Des Moines, Ames, Iowa City, and Cedar Rapids. It is well worth noting that West Des Moines, Ames, and Iowa City are very similar in size (59,000, 60,000, and 70,000 people, respectively), and Cedar Rapids is slightly larger at 128,000. There's a good chance that if one were to really drill down into the data, they'd find that the 50,000 to 75,000 population range is a sweet spot for municipal success and stability -- large enough to develop a good, sustainable commercial tax base, but not so large that government agencies are too big to manage.

Broadcasting 2013 Emmy nominations includes lots of appearances for Netflix
This is probably the very best signal that the era of conventional television programming dominance by networks, cable, and satellite systems is at the beginning of the end

Iowa Who has chemical stockpiles in Iowa?
That may be a harder question to answer than one might expect

Humor and Good News Television news banter gone wrong
(Video)

Broadcasting This week in making money and having fun
Notes on the "Brian Gongol Show", airing on WHO Radio Sunday night at 9:00 CT

Broadcasting This week in sports
Notes for "Two Guys Named Jim", airing on WHO Radio Sunday night at 6:00 CT

Telephone or text: 918-2-GONGOL (+1-918-246-6465)



Computers and the Internet Is Snapchat a tool for facilitating insider trading?
Rest assured that if Jim Cramer has thought of using it, so have other people like him who are still involved in high-stakes stock swapping

News I-80 to be a hotbed of police presence from July 24 to 31
State-patrol departments from 11 states will be increasing traffic enforcement along America's most important highway

Iowa Red-light cameras in Clive get shut down
At least for the time being. They're not a satisfactory solution to traffic safety; it makes much more sense to take a design-engineering approach, which usually calls for longer yellow lights and longer delays between red lights and green lights in intersecting directions of travel, or traffic circles instead of intersections when appropriate.

News All over the rich world, serious crime is declining
There's no simple answer as to why -- but it's certainly a welcome development. And on a semi-related note, Omaha has a new mayor whose chief of staff is doubling as a security detail.

News Without legal changes, some Commonwealth countries might recognize the wrong British monarch
In other news, it's 2013, and people still recognize heads of state on the basis of heredity.

Health Preventing child abuse
It's a massively worthy effort

News Municipal golf courses hit hard times
Fewer people are playing the game, which makes it harder to make ends meet. This should highlight the risk in public financing of facilities for any popular leisure activity -- including big sports stadiums. If golf can fall from grace, so can football (for instance).

Broadcasting A "Growing Pains" theme for 2013
It is terribly catchy, but that may just be an acute case of 80s nostalgia doing the talking

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News For the sake of the monarchs, end the monarchies


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Threats and Hazards 100,000 people have died in Syria's civil war


News It's "predominant", not "predominate"


Agriculture Former anti-GMO campaigner changes his tune


Humor and Good News Just think...we probably have a good three or four decades of Bill Clinton to come
(Video)

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Threats and Hazards Dozens -- maybe scores -- killed in Egyptian protests


Computers and the Internet 5 men charged in $300 million credit-card heist


Computers and the Internet CNet says Federal government "has demanded that major Internet companies divulge users' stored passwords"


Broadcasting A little less conversation, a little more action please
The Obama administration dedicates lots of talk to lots of subjects, but seems not to know what actions would really help the economy

News Speaker Boehner to Rep. Steve King: Please stop





Iowa Economic mobility is especially strong in Iowa
At least, according to the "Equality of Opportunity Project" study by researchers from Harvard and UC-Berkeley

Iowa Iowa's adult illiteracy rate: 7%


Business and Finance A better donation than cash
Toyota engineers made New York charity more efficient. That's better than throwing more money at the problem. Teach someone to fish, rather than feeding them for a day.

News Mapping Chicago neighborhoods is tougher than just drawing a line

Threats and Hazards New York Times calls White House promises on privacy "laughable"


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Business and Finance Why it's better to endow prizes than foundations






Business and Finance What President Obama doesn't "get" about the economy


Computers and the Internet British spy agencies won't use Lenovo computers


Computers and the Internet Someone clicked on one of those annoying "One weird trick" ads so you don't have to

Humor and Good News Some good advice for naming children

News "20 things 20-year-olds don't get"





The United States of America US homeownership at 18-year-low

Humor and Good News Strangers together in strangely intimate poses

Computers and the Internet Microsoft writes down more in lost value of Surface tablets than it sold in the last year
Microsoft still can afford to make a lot more mistakes than any other major tech company

News Egyptian government orders police crackdown on protests

Iowa Hotel Pattee closes in Perry

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Business and Finance An economy growing at 1.7% a year isn't growing fast enough
It's growth, yes. But if we're not getting substantially better per-person at what we're doing, then we're doing something wrong.

Iowa Iowa makes Amber Alerts just a little easier to issue

Computers and the Internet Video-game compulsion isn't "family time"


News The speech they would have heard in Britain in case World War III had brokenout
It's hard to conceive of just how close we pushed ourselves towards extinction back in the Cold War

Threats and Hazards The photos from Syria are depressing




Computers and the Internet "Project Oasis" rumors suggest a $200-million data center is looking at Iowa and Nebraska sites


Computers and the Internet Google wants into the local-news business
Some people are taking hints from Google that the company is shifting focus. News aggregation on an ultra-local basis wouldn't exactly be a change of focus -- but it would certainly be different from organizing the information locked inside the world's printed libraries, for instance.

Computers and the Internet Idiots turn to Twitter with threats against journalists
There have always been stupid people. What's new is that stupid people have access to worldwide platforms to share their stupidity. We trade-off this exposure to stupidity for access to the world's great ideas, which are now available faster and more broadly than at any point in human history. For instance: Guacamole deviled eggs, which apparently have existed for at least six months. That is altogether too long for such a great idea not to have been brought to one's attention.

Computers and the Internet Searching the wrong things could get you visited by police
It was initially reported that a Long Island couple got a visit from police because of what they'd been searching on the Internet from home. It was later clarified that suspicion was aroused because of what one of them had searched about from work, at a job from which he had been released. Either way, it has a dreary overtone to it. Is merely searching for a topic from a work computer enough to give the police probable cause for a visit to one's home? Can one be curious how, for instance, a nuclear weapon might be built, without arousing suspicion that one is thinking of building said weapon?

Business and Finance One employee, 80 years at Goldman Sachs


Science and Technology Europe's largest construction project
They're digging a tunnel from west to east across London. It's huge.

Humor and Good News "Blurred Lines" on classroom instruments
(Video) The Jimmy Fallon/Roots stunt remains funny, even after several iterations

News Did Chinese election observers really ensure the fairness of Zimbabwean elections?
That's a tough sell

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Computers and the Internet Google's Motorola division releases "Moto X" smartphone
Notable: It has a 10-megapixel camera

Business and Finance Personal savings rate: 4.4%
Which means that many Americans pay more in sales taxes than they save for the future

Business and Finance Does raising the minimum wage really solve problems of poverty?
What's likely needed for many people is a better shot at climbing the economic ladder. That requires good educational and training opportunities (which is a community problem) and personal motivation (which is an individual one). Pandering on the minimum wage may be funny, but it eludes the sober reflection required to make sense of the issue.

Computers and the Internet Research report claims 80% of smartphones shipped last quarter ran Android
Apple's iOS is still #2, with little falling to any otehr systems. That means there's still a decent place for a #3 competitor, if commonplace patterns hold true.

Humor and Good News Satirical logos

News Sale price for the Boston Globe: $70 million in cash
The principal owner of the Red Sox is buying the paper and its associated properties for a tiny fraction of what the New York Times Co. paid for it in 1993. Note that people paying high prices for Facebook stock need to take notice: Major media properties can plummet in value over time.

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Broadcasting This week in trends, tips, and technology

Broadcasting This week in making money and having fun




Agriculture Lab-grown hamburger served for the first time
The idea of lab-grown meat is going to take a while for most people to digest (psychologically), but in the long run, it's an idea that we should do our best to get right. The more we can do to satisfy the world's food needs, the safer human civilization itself will be...and if that requires some novel, innovative, and mind-bending experiments along the way, then so be it.

Humor and Good News Dinosaurs playing Scrabble
Better than dogs playing poker

Business and Finance The New York Yankees get a terrible return on their player-salary investments
They aren't getting the kind of hits per dollar that the market returns for most every other team

Aviation News The future of regional jets
If your home airport isn't a major hub, here are the airplanes that are coming soon to a terminal near you

News Why more choice isn't always a good thing
Chuck Klosterman's 2005 column still resonates -- even though we don't want anyone to take away our choices, sometimes it's satisfying not to have to decide

News The situation in Detroit didn't have to come to bankruptcy
But the choices that would have prevented it needed to have been made long ago and weren't. George Will argues that those calling for a Federal bailout of the city claim to bow to forces as great as a hurricane -- but that those forces are nothing more than the result of irresponsible popular choice. It's very difficult to see a durable solution to the city's problems when many adults aren't even literate to an 8th-grade level. That's a problem so deep that no quick fix is going to work. The state of decay in the physical infrastructure of the city is haunting.

Computers and the Internet Google goes public with "Project Loon"
That's the plan to provide WiFi Internet access over huge geographical areas with the help of high-altitude balloons. Great for consumers, but Google investors will probably come to regret some of the company's (literally and figuratively) lofty ambitions someday.

Business and Finance To get a bead on the economy, check with the machine shops
The people who make the pieces behind the scenes that become the products that other companies assemble can give a decent reading of the tea leaves as to the health of the real economy

News How do you define "fair"?
Alex Rodriguez is going to challenge his suspension from Major League Baseball, and that challenge means an appeal before an independent arbitrator. Consider the number of individual things that weigh on whether the outcome of the process is "fair": The independence and conscientiousness of the arbitrator, the process for revealing and reviewing evidence, the weighing of the rules applied, the circumstances -- including the law -- under which the rules were instituted, the length of the suspension, the cost of the suspension (to the suspended and to his team), the potential deterrent effect of the judgment, the benefits to be gained by breaking the rules, the implicit costs of not breaking the rules, the toll of a rules violation on the integrity of the sport, and the impact on fans of the sport...among many other factors. How does one measure "fairness" in terms of the damage done to the careers of pitchers, for instance, who played by the rules when certain batters did not? (It certainly could have conferred an advantage to pitchers had the roles been reversed.) Can anything be done to compensate them now? What about the potential deterrent effect of a punishment? Does that "make whole" the damage done to players who may already have retired from the game? The point is that "fairness" is an enormously difficult ideal to achieve.

Computers and the Internet At long last, Netflix will allow multiple profiles on the same account
Parents don't want their recommendations contaminated with kids' choices, and vice-versa, and the quality of the Netflix recommendation engine is best used on an individual basis. Letting people share the cost of an account while still getting individualized recommendations is a wonderful feature.




Business and Finance Sen. Tom Harkin calls for higher payouts from Social Security

Science and Technology A look at "America's most dangerous bridges"
Bridges are just physical manifestations of human knowledge

News Americans are driving older cars than ever

Business and Finance A novel form of campaign contribution
Senate candidate Cory Booker got equity in a startup firm

Telephone or text: 918-2-GONGOL (+1-918-246-6465)



Iowa Forbes names Des Moines best place for business and careers in America
No boom, no bust

Business and Finance The UK struggles with a strange form of intergenerational transfer
In order to buy things (like houses) from their seniors, younger people in the UK have to borrow. They're borrowing the cash...in essence...from the people selling the homes. That makes for a glut of cash available for supposedly low-risk investments (like houses), and thus low returns for the savers.

Business and Finance Quitting with fanfare just makes you an attention hound
A LinkedIn columnist praises big, brassy, over-the-top ways to quit one's job. Talk about a pointless exercise in self-absorption. What is the point of making a scene, filming it, and then posting it for the world to see? It's just a tantrum.

Iowa Iowa City Press-Citizen guts its sports staff





Business and Finance Speculation runs rampant about Jeff Bezos's plans for the Washington Post
One thing is clear: If the newspaper (and its small group of affiliates) is losing $100 million a year with no clear end to the freefall in sight, then paying $250 million in cash to buy it signals that Bezos thinks the cachet associated with the name itself is worth at least $1.5 billion to $2 billion. A handsome sum for a trophy, but he can certainly afford it and may very well have brilliant plans for turning the tide.

Humor and Good News Motorcyclists traveling side-by-side: What could possibly go wrong?
The Onion lampoons, but the point is thoroughly true

Business and Finance Who knew an SEC filing could be hilarious?
Berkshire Hathaway -- the conglomerate controlled by Warren Buffett -- is going to issue bonds priced so that the buyers will be lending the company $600 million at an interest rate of 0.95% for three years. That rate is so low that inflation will undoubtedly exceed the cost of the interest itself -- meaning that the lenders, in real terms, will actually be paying Berkshire for the privilege of lending the money. Truly an extraordinary set of circumstances.

Humor and Good News What did the merger of two advertising giants create?

News Designer of glass buildings fought her own glass ceilings
Interesting obituary profile of a woman who broke into architecture before many others

Health Small-scale US test of malaria vaccine has great results
People who got five doses of the vaccine appear to have developed immunity. But it was a small trial, and it's hard to get anyone to want to suffer through five doses of a vaccine requiring injection into a vein, so it's some distance between this and a practical vaccine. But it's a good sign.




Threats and Hazards Sen. Ron Wyden says secret NSA rules allow for warrant-free searches of phone calls and e-mails
The Senator was responding to The Guardian and its request for information based upon documents leaked to it by Edward Snowden. President Obama seems to be reacting to some of the public outcry on these issues with some limited steps towards greater civilian oversight.

Computers and the Internet "When was the last time that Patch was relevant to your local life?"
TechCrunch asks a good question, particularly in light of AOL's plans to cut staffing at the online local-news source. The route ahead for local news is for established institutions (small community newspapers) to learn how to use the Internet effectively. Trying to start up a network with a national footprint and a national template (as Patch has done) really doesn't quite do the trick. But, unfortunately, many newspapers don't understand how to make the leap to digital.

Science and Technology Checklists matter: Spanish-skyscraper-without-an-adequate-working-elevator edition

Computers and the Internet Child commits suicide after photos of her sexual assault hit the Internet
Truly heartbreaking. Parents absolutely must help their kids navigate the hazards of the Internet age, even if much of what's happening and changing seems fuzzy.

Computers and the Internet How much will Google Glass cost on the open market?
They've been charging beta testers $1,500 -- but there's published speculation that the retail price will be more like $300 -- or 80% off. If true, that would make the gadget much more likely to attract a widespread following, though there's still a great deal to be done to reconcile both law and cultural norms with the possibility of always-on video recording. The difference between the beta-tester price and the supposed retail price also suggests that this may have been the most cunningly-funded R&D project ever.

Computers and the Internet Is Facebook becoming more deliberate about its changes?
Wired Magazine calls it "an end to the Hacker Way". But given the number of times Facebook has changed things without much notice to its users (and the frustration users have felt as a result), an end to the perpetual change might be of merit.




Broadcasting This week in trends, tips, and technology





Broadcasting This week in making money and having fun

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Business and Finance The Federal Reserve is trying to get back to 2% inflation
Important to know if you invest. Or earn a paycheck. Or draw a pension. Or take in Social Security. Or buy things. Or borrow money.

Computers and the Internet Facebook's new algorithm will create an echo chamber
Their approach to sorting your news feed includes a change to the algorithm, which gives higher priority to news from people with whom you've recently interacted. Which means the more you hear from certain people, the more you will hear from and about them -- and the less from others. Not necessarily a good thing.

Business and Finance More education means less unemployment

Computers and the Internet Twitter's usefulness as an election-prediction tool

Threats and Hazards Idiots vandalize the Iowa State Fair Butter Cow




Agriculture USDA predicts Iowa will harvest 17% more corn than in 2012

Iowa Iowa City picks a strange time to close Dubuque Street
Dubuque Street is one of the very few thoroughfares from I-80 to the university campus. Work needs to be done on the interchange with the Interstate, but couldn't they have scheduled that work for some time other than the start of the fall semester?




News More violence in Egypt
And the President is having his dog airlifted in for vacation. Whatever the reality is, this imagery doesn't look like the administration is attending to a serious situation. Oh, but they definitely have time to try to block the US Airways/American Airlines merger.

Science and Technology It's tough to get good STEM teachers into rural schools

Iowa Where more wind turbines will be built across Iowa

Computers and the Internet "Package file invalid"
A warning many have been seeing on their Android smartphones recently; Google seems to think the problem has been cured

Business and Finance Europe creeps out of recession with tiny growth rate




Health The accelerating evolution of pathogens

Computers and the Internet Are power companies prepared for cyber-attacks on the grid?

Business and Finance Texas tries to be not quite so gullible with this boom
The bust after the last oil boom really tweaked the state

Science and Technology Bill Gates on the connection between standardization and his charitable work
He notes similarities between the contribution that shipping containers have made to the modern world and the missing components he think would make the biggest contributions to fixing problems like malaria in poor countries and low educational standards in the US.

Iowa "[W]hen do we hold the parents responsible?"
A police officer in Cedar Rapids asks

Iowa A day at the Iowa State Fair with Chuck Grassley




Threats and Hazards More chaos in Egypt
The world's 15th-largest country is in a state of emergency. That puts 85 million people under martial law. Oh, and 8% of world trade, including 3% of the world's oil supply, passes through Egypt's Suez Canal. That seems to demand something more than waffling by the State Department.

Business and Finance Process matters
A Facebook posting laments, "If the USA can't afford to provide basic medical care, feed the poor, protect the environment, maintain our infrastructure, or teach our children anymore, then what exactly is our bloated [sic] military budget defending?" Putting aside the implication that the military budget is "bloated" (which it may be or not), the sentiment in theory is fine -- but the implicit assumption behind the post (and its admonition to "Go left") ignores the process. We can wish for many good things to happen, but environmental protection and infrastructure investments don't just happen because someone in government authority wills them. They can only be funded by a healthy and free economy. The poor are fed by high-yielding crops (brought to you by research and development by seed and fertilizer companies). The public infrastructure must be maintained by a great deal of tax money, but it's generally built by private contractors -- and the investment in plant and equipment by private companies (like Toyota's $2 billion in plant expansions and MidAmerican Energy's $1.9 billion in wind-power generation and the plans by BNSF to spend $4.1 billion on railroads and equipment) can't be overlooked, either. And don't even bring up the environmental records of socialist economies: Market economics are the best thing to happen to environmental quality. The lazy and ill-informed assumption that what we need is a leftward tilt -- away from market forces and towards greater government control over the economy -- assumes too much about the desirable goals and thinks too little about the process of achieving them.

Science and Technology 3D scanners plus 3D printers equals a nightmare for intellectual property

Health New record-holder for the world's oldest person?
Maybe he's really 123 years old; maybe he's not. But it's still astonishing that there isn't a more deliberate push by us -- as a species -- to push the boundaries of what we think our lifespans should be. Two root causes are likely at play: First, people confuse growing old with a decline in their quality of life. That's absolutely unnecessary; George Burns and Norman Borlaug were happy, engaged, and active well into their 90s, so we need to separate the notion of "aging" from the notion of "feebleness". Second, we culturally resist acknowleding that death even exists, which in turn makes it hard to take seriously the idea of prolonging a viable, healthy life. Death really is Public Enemy #1, and we should treat it as such. Other living organisms routinely live into multiple hundreds of years, and we are rapidly developing the technology to replace our own failed organs with new ones from our own cells. That means we should, in theory, be approaching a stage in which we can do an end-run around nature and perpetuate ourselves well beyond what might have been our otherwise natural expiration dates. And if we truly think that age can beget wisdom, and that wisdom is a good thing to be used and applied, then we should quite reasonably think of prolonging healthy lives as a means of increasing the world's human potential (an economist would say "human capital") at an exponentially-increasing rate. Had people like Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin lived to be 150 or 200 years old, wouldn't we all be better off? Capitalism in liberal democracies works because it nudges us all to work hard and (more importantly) helps reward and encourage the occasional genius who can truly leverage big improvements in the quality of life for us all. Anything we can do to perpetuate some of our real geniuses would be a good thing.

Business and Finance 0.9% productivity growth: That's not good enough
America's economy only got more productive at a sub-1% annualized rate over the last few months. That's just not good enough.

Aviation News Area 51 exists. So what?
That the government has acknowledged the existence of Area 51 as a test area for aircraft isn't quite the step towards more transparent government that we should all be demanding. Area 51 conspiracy theories are for the tin-foil-hat crowd. Meanwhile, we're really not doing enough about government surveillance.

Broadcasting This week in trends, tips, and technology
Program notes for the WHO Radio Wise Guys, airing Saturday at 1:00





Broadcasting This week in making money and having fun


Health 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.





Iowa Des Moines Register promotes editor to publisher
The Register's own story on the promotion includes this unusual line: "[T]he Register has accelerated its transformation from a traditional newspaper operation to a multimedia company, reaching readers and serving customers in print and the digital space". One would think that a copy editor (were there any left) would be aghast at the use of language like "the digital space".

News What parents should say to their kids about sports

Broadcasting WGN Radio finds its identity again
The reign of the crazy people seems to be dead and buried at an important heritage station

News Rural couple taken hostage by prison escapee kills the captor
An inmate escaped from the Clarinda Correctional Facility, shot a sheriff's deputy, and took a couple hostage in the middle of the night at their farm house. After a few hours, the homeowner got his shotgun and killed the escapee. This kind of story is exactly why debates over guns in America sound totally different to people living in urban areas than they do to people living in sparsely-populated areas. There are places in America where there simply isn't going to be a police officer patrolling nearby for many hours, or even days. In those places, gun ownership is a lot less about "clinging" to something out of some kind of romantic notion of the Second Amendment than it is simply a matter of having a tool. That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of gun nuts in rural and urban places alike -- just that the rules, expectations, and needs are very different in rural America than they are in big cities.

Humor and Good News Sears stores as inspiration for a series of paintings

Computers and the Internet FCC says about a third of robberies in the US involve smartphones
Lock your phone using a pass code, and use a smartphone antivirus program that allows you to wipe the phone by remote if necessary

News "Indian Country Today" moves from print to all-digital

Computers and the Internet China has 591 million Internet users
That's nearly twice the entire population of the United States. And none of them get to use Yahoo anymore.

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Business and Finance Bill Ackman calls out Herbalife
He's quite right about his analysis of the company, but he's taking a serious risk by shorting the stock. Markets can remain irrational much longer than you can remain solvent. Timing the moment when people wake up to reality is incredibly tough to do.

News Des Moines just got 15 minutes closer to Chicago
Illinois is getting a 70-mph speed limit on rural Interstates

Business and Finance Essential reading for investors
Warren Buffett's 1975 letter to Katharine Graham (of the Washington Post) about pension investments is brilliant stuff

The United States of America When an American comes home
The British "suspect that our surface friendly optimism might possibly be fake"

Business and Finance Immigrants who come to the US to attend college tend to do very well economically
A 2009 study by a Canadian author concludes that the immigrants who come to the US at college age tend to be the ones who do the best by immigrating. Coming over at a younger age appears to make them very comparable to native-born Americans, and those who come later tend to have to play more catch-up in the job market.

Humor and Good News A different "duck" dynasty




Threats and Hazards "[T]he government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program"
So writes a judge on the FISA court, which is assigned to watch the NSA

News That might ruin your day at the beach
(Video) A giant Russian hovercraft landed rather unexpectedly on a packed beach

Science and Technology Where the nukes were
(Video) An exceptionally simple but powerful visualization of where the world's nuclear weapons have been used and tested

Computers and the Internet One (non-recommended) way to get a point across to Facebook
While you can do as one hacker did and break into Mark Zuckerberg's own Facebook wall, the company seems to prefer that people follow their pre-approved method for demonstrating security exploits.

Computers and the Internet Trucking efficiency
Watch how closely the trucking industry responds to changes in fuel prices, and how much they're willing to invest in order to manage that cost. Expect to see the same kind of intense interest when it becomes possible to use vehicle navigation and control systems -- that is, semi- or fully-autonomous trucks -- to cut down on the cost of paying drivers. It'll probably start with systems that allow a driver to go longer without actively managing the vehicle (thus potentially reducing the requirements for crew rest) -- but don't be surprised if it quickly leads to small convoys with one or two human drivers and one or two "drone" trucks.







The United States of America If the government can abridge the First Amendment, there is no functional First Amendment
The whole point of the amendment is to ensure that the sovereign public can keep their government in check. Once that power is thrown into question, the nation is in serious trouble. Not irreversible trouble, but serious trouble nonetheless.

Threats and Hazards Syria's government almost certainly used chemical weapons last week
Here's one way to look at the question of "What's next?": Is the situation such that, if given the choice, you would make a financial contribution to a mercenary armed force in order to intervene and attempt to halt the warfare there? ■ If yes, then what would distinguish that act from funneling money to the rebel groups in Syria (no matter what their motivations might be)? How would one morally distinguish that act from funneling money to what the rest of the world may see as a terrorist group? ■ If no, then is there a financial, moral, or other difference between that act and sending in armed forces under the UN banner or some other alliance? Are costs and choices like that somehow subject to a different kind of scrutiny when public funding is involved, rather than private spending?

Business and Finance Where to live frugally
Kiplinger's analysis (and the Omaha World-Herald's story on the report, which named Omaha #1) called it a list of "Best cities for cheapskates". The Register (of #3-ranked Des Moines) took the more tactful route: "Iowa and Midwest dominate Kiplinger list of affordable cities".

Business and Finance People who grew up poor tend to have adult impulses that (perversely) may keep them poor
A University of Minnesota study indicates that people who grew up poor, when exposed to stressful economic conditions as adults, tend to make shorter-term, higher-risk choices than people who grew up with more financial security. That impulsivity and risk-affinity, perversely, puts them at higher risk of ending up poor as adults, too.

Computers and the Internet Should Interstate highway message boards be used for adult kidnappings?
Present rules seem to generally limit their use to Amber Alerts for child-endangerment cases. But what about abductions of adults? It would seem that the failure to use them for cases in which a person is known to be at serious risk of bodily harm would be a missed opportunity to do good.

Health Introverted, or just narcissistic?

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Business and Finance It's hard to do business without the rule of law and a functioning infrastructure
It's way too easy to think that people in poor countries are poor because they lack skills or motivation. The truth is that the only real difference between many of them and many of the people in wealthy countries is that some people happened to grow up in places with the right environment (free markets under the rule of law, with a well-developed infrastructure) for their skills to prosper. Warren Buffett, for instance, acknowledges that he was lucky to have been born in the right place at the right time for his natural talents to be useful. Want to see the world prosper? Get the right processes and systems in place for as many people as possible.

Computers and the Internet Samsung will introduce "Gear" smartwatch on September 4th
Smartwatches will really mark phase 1 in the era of wearable computing

Computers and the Internet Facebook settles with privacy organizations
They'll have to pay some users whose names were used in ads without those users' direct consent

Computers and the Internet Yahoo thinks original comedy will be a traffic booster

Iowa August 15 marks approximate start of fall allergies in Iowa

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Threats and Hazards Syria ominously promises a "surprising" defense if attacked

Health Fun fact: Multi-tasking doesn't work
One doesn't have to go to the kinds of extremes that AJ Jacobs does, but focusing on a single task is a much more efficient way to get things done than trying to do too many things at once

Broadcasting Six hours of morning news
WGN-TV is going for a six-hour morning news show. And to think that the "Today" show was just two hours long as recently as the turn of the century.

Business and Finance Comes now another debt-ceiling deadline

Business and Finance Are "created" jobs a good enough reason for tax credits for film production?
Under the "jobs" excuse, virtually any kind of productive (or non-productive) behavior, subsidized heavily enough, can pass political muster. Instead of paying film crews, one could pay people to walk around with bullhorns screaming the name of the city, or smashing streetlights, or turning over garbage cans, and say that "jobs" were "created". Is that good enough reason to do it?




Business and Finance How could we return to high rates of economic growth?


Business and Finance What happens when you have an effective price floor?
A surplus, that's what. A lesson in basic economics for those who are striking for a $15 wage at fast-food restaurants. Most specifically, we would likely see a surplus of youth workers (in other words, high youth unemployment) if we raised the minimum wage dramatically.




Computers and the Internet Police to public: Please don't report crimes on Facebook. Pick up the phone and call us.
It seems like a ridiculous request to have to place, but it may simply be necessary in the future for police and other emergency agencies to acknowledge that people are going to use whatever tools they want in order to reach them. For now, it's certainly reasonable to expect people to pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1...but in the not-so-distant future, they're going to have to become more like private-sector businesses that have to take customer inquiries in whatever form they're submitted -- phone, fax, e-mail, text message, tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn requests, and so on. There was a time when the police had to adapt to using phones in the first place; we need to act quickly to make sure our public agencies are properly equipped to take reports in whatever form they are submitted tomorrow. (Meantime, the public needs to learn which systems are considered "five-nines" reliable for submitting emergency information, and which are not. Hint: Only the phone makes it to five nines.)

Threats and Hazards UN says a million Syrian children are now refugees
That's greater than the entire population of South Dakota.

Humor and Good News Children around the world with their most-prized possessions
An interesting dip in the sociological pool

Computers and the Internet Gov. Branstad rejects two bids from INS to buy the ICN
The ICN (Iowa Communications Network) is a statewide fiber-optic network, and the state wants to sell it -- but not at the prices offered.

Business and Finance Verizon Communications may pay $130 billion for 45% of Verizon Wireless
That 45% is currently owned by Vodafone

Socialism Doesn't Work Extraordinary means of repression in North Korea
Being an ex-lover of the dictator apparently earns one the death penalty

Computers and the Internet Syrian groups claim responsibility for crashing parts of New York Times and Twitter

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News What to do about Syria
A dictator has used poison gas to kill well over a thousand people. From a moral standpoint, the world has to view this as an unequivocal case for intervention. As the President said, there's no purpose to having international agreements prohibiting the use of chemical weapons if there's no enforcement. But as The Onion nailed in its inimitable fashion, the morals may be clear but the execution is a Gordian knot. The decision to go to Congress for approval to act looks like a political punt (since the thought of any more military action appears to be deeply unpopular inside the US), but even if it's a punt, it's also about time that Presidents get back to getting authorization from Congress before going to war. And on that note, if someone someday figures out the secret of time travel, they'll want to visit John Kerry in 2004 and see the look on his face when they tell him that as Secretary of State, in less than a decade, he'll advocate military action against a Ba'athist dictator who uses WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) against his own people. Nothing about this is pretty or pleasant, but there's no case to be made for standing aside with massive atrocities taking place.

Health Being poor places stress on the brain

Business and Finance American companies are flush with cash
So what are they going to do to return that money to the business owners?

Science and Technology Will adding a blue light make traffic intersections safer?

Broadcasting What makes child stars go crazy





Business and Finance Competition in global markets flows both ways
Americans spend a lot of time talking about global competition as a threat. But competition flows in both directions -- witness the massive flow of investment money into the United States as the US Treasury rate has risen; that flow of investment has been negative for many emerging-market economies. Is that fair to them? Tough to say. But the net impact of the (slow) rebound in the US economy and the resulting withdrawal of government and Federal Reserve stimulus to the US economy will likely mean painful effects in smaller countries. Just as water tends to seek its own level, investment dollars tend to seek the market rate of return, no matter where that rate can be obtained. During the slowdown, emerging markets looked opportune; with the US economy doing better, the risks involved with those other economies no longer look quite rewarding enough...at least, not to people with short-term time horizons. (It is worth noting that Federal Reserve research disputes the widely-held belief in a connection between "quantitative easing" in the US and the flow of new dollars into small-nation economies. But lots of other practicians seem to disagree.)

The American Way "[G]overnment should only remove power and wealth from individuals when it has an excellent reason to do so"
The Economist defines its political stance. And it's an excellent one.

Business and Finance The rise of part-time jobs
And also apprenticeships. Both are reactions to disparities between what the labor market demands and what is being supplied. In the case of apprenticeships, we most certainly should expect to see further developments that seek to make the skilled trades easier to join. A very substantial shortage of skilled workers to do hands-on trade work has been hitting the Midwest hard for quite some time. Our expectations of work will continue to be challenged for a while as technology and rising living standards play tug-of-war with people's working lives.

Aviation News The things pilots won't tell you but should

News "If this weren't a campaign, you wouldn't have spoken that way"
The Economist reports on the debate between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her challenger, and notes Merkel's means of putting the challenger in his place.

Computers and the Internet Google retires its "Latitude" location-sharing service
Routinely and frequently sharing your location on the Internet isn't a very good idea, anyway, so this shouldn't affect a lot of lives. But this is just another example of a Google service that's been cancelled. Many others have met the same end. They really want you to use Google Plus instead.




Business and Finance More capital spending, less hiring
How can businesses be blamed or criticized for making that choice, when the future costs of hiring more employees remains terribly uncertain (What will health care cost? What about changes to tax rates for entitlement programs?) and when the cost of capital (like computers and robotics) keeps falling? People who are failing to prepare themselves for these trends to continue are going to regret that failure in the not-so-distant future.

Computers and the Internet A comprehensive look at the near future of self-piloted cars
Embrace them as soon as they become available; taking human drivers out of the control spot means vastly more safety, more options for people who can't (or shouldn't) drive today, and greater efficiency (of fuel, road use, and our time). It's going to be a huge win for society when these things become a commercial reality.

Business and Finance "Gen X's moment to shine in leadership may prove all-too-brief"
Squeezed between the Boomers and the Millennials, the much-smaller Generation X cohort may have a harder time keeping a grip on management roles

Computers and the Internet Facebook reports 38,000 user-information requests by governments worldwide in first six months of 2013
More than 20,000 individuals were the subjects of inquiries from government agencies inside the US. The company complied 79% of the time with domestic requests.

Computers and the Internet Anecdotal evidence: College freshmen like Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube
A lot more than they like Facebook and Tumblr...and don't even ask about LinkedIn

Iowa Iowa Gov. Branstad appoints committee to recommend plan for broadband to the entire state
The state doesn't rank well for broadband Internet access, and there's no doubt that economic development will be difficult in places that don't have it.

Business and Finance Analyst floats the idea that China's manufacturing boom may be ending

Computers and the Internet Mark Zuckerberg floats a plan for broadening Internet access worldwide
The white paper casts the issue in terms of connectivity as a human right. But then there's also that funny little issue for Facebook that it really could use some new users, and they've pretty well saturated the market in Internet-developed countries.

Computers and the Internet Companies using Windows XP as of April 8, 2014 could face serious liability risks

Computers and the Internet University of Iowa student spends a weekend in the spolight for all the wrong reasons
Getting really drunk, then getting arrested, then telling the world about it -- not a recipe for long-term life success

Broadcasting Know your demographics
Univision beat Fox in overall viewers last night, and beat both Fox and ABC for viewers ages 18 to 49.





News Why copy someone else's words for your resignation letter?

Computers and the Internet Police in Iowa City get body cameras
On the positive side, they can certainly create a better environment for police accountability, and provide valuable evidence to corroborate (or correct) what people think they saw. On the negative, body-mounted cameras could make it more difficult for police to obtain confidential insights from informants.

Broadcasting ABC News has closed its West Coast bureau in Sacramento








News Something's wrong with a system that can't keep a sociopath off the streets

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Business and Finance Companies hiring new CEOs should look to internal candidates
They stay longer and have more success than external candidates

Computers and the Internet How the Amazon Mechanical Turk is improving psychological research
It turns out that when you conduct experiments with Western college students, you tend to get different results in some cases than when you sample the broader world

Iowa Almost half of Aviva employees in West Des Moines are being let go

Computers and the Internet Der Spiegel: NSA can hack into Android, iOS, and BlackBerry

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Science and Technology "We're being outsmarted by an organism that doesn't even have a brain"
Commentary on the evolution of weed resistance to herbicides actually echoes for many things that we humans do in life. We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that because we're sentient, we're smart. Not necessarily true. While we are aware of our ability to think, we can only think in relatively linear ways. (Algebra, for example, is approached by executing multiplication, then division, then addition, then subtraction.) The advantage that Nature has over us isn't self-awareness...it's the ability to try many things at once, and in massive quantities. Thus, in a field full of crops that have been treated with herbicides, it may take only one tiny mutation inside one weed -- among thousands and thousands -- for resistance to those chemicals to appear. But once that single mutation occurs, the plant bearing those genes can reproduce and may ultimately become predominant. The same thing goes for our use of antibiotic drugs and soaps -- which we use because we are smart, but which can fail when even a tiny window opens for a mutation to thrive, leading to antibiotic resistance. These things happen not because Nature is "thinking" about it, but because the systems that define nature involve consequences and rewards that don't necessarily require thinking. There is an important lesson for us (as humans) to extract from this: There are other systems that work in the world around us as well...true forces of nature. These include systems like the laws of supply and demand. We can tell ourselves that we're smarter than those systems -- saying, for instance, that it's all the fault of economists and "corporations" that degrees in petroleum engineering pay three times what fine-arts degrees do. But the nature of the system behind those inequities is, well, natural. It isn't the result of deliberate oppression by The Man, or by a cabal of sinister people trying to manipulate the world. It's the result of supplies for some things (usually hard things, or things that aren't very emotionally fulfilling) falling short of demand at one price, and less so at a higher price. And, on the other side of the coin, it's the result of some things feeling so good that many people will do them for free or nearly for free. Nature is really the party to blame, and if we think we can overcome these natural forces by brute-force human thinking, then we're prone to making serious mistakes like the errors that riddled Soviet medicine with corruption and bad practices.

Computers and the Internet An IPO for Twitter
The company is going to go public, likely sometime soon. What should you take away from that news? That the people who own the shares now think they're at the peak convergence of profits and future expectations. You don't sell something when you think the market is ready to under-pay for something. Outsiders will struggle to put a price tag on the company ($10 billion, says one), but even after the full financial details are revealed, there will still be a great deal of speculation involved. (We do know that they're bringing in less than $1 billion a year in revenues.) And meanwhile, you should note that Hilton Hotels is about to have an IPO, too.

Business and Finance Debt kept things growing in China during the West's slowdown
Can they continue to afford that debt burden for long?

Business and Finance "If you're comfortable with what you can get this year, lock it in"
Mortgages will cost more next year, and the Federal government is likely to back off some of the steps it's taken to prop up the housing market

Weather and Disasters Shocking floods hit Denver/Boulder area
A 30-foot wall of water and debris is supposedly coming down a creek towards the city

Business and Finance What good are management consultants?
(Video)

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Socialism Doesn't Work When the quest for manufacturing jobs goes wacky
France is headed for a more state-interventionist economy, if the government gets its way. State-interventionism tends to contaminate any market economy, but its effects are more subdued in emerging economies (like in Singapore or South Korea, 50 years ago). But in a mature economy like France? Sounds like a recipe for boondoggles, waste, and corruption. It's quite lovely that the political class there wants to dream of creating a "third industrial revolution", but the people who actually create industrial revolutions aren't working for the state. ■ The best thing a country can do if the political leadership wants certain technological innovations (like the 34 projects they'll pursue in France) is to establish inducement prizes (or, perhaps they could better be called "innovation prizes") that concentrate the rewards for actually delivering on those innovations. Governments ought to be largely agnostic about the exact steps involved in getting expensive things with public funding. Trying to micromanage a macro-economy is a really good way to demonstrate foolishness. Instead, define carefully what you want and decide precisely what it's worth to you, then publicize the prize and stay out of the way. That's how the X Prizes work. (And they really do work.) ■ Understand that for government to concentrate benefits around any particular result distorts the market -- but if there are enough benefits to the result, say, in the form of public goods, then that distortion may be worthwhile. But distorting through micromanagement and rough-edged "industrial policy" is a great way to waste the taxes taken from hard-working people. ■ France's problem is a really high unemployment rate. That, quite often, is a symptom of an economy with too little labor mobility and too many regulations on employment. (For an American counterpart to this problem, compare the experiences of the heavily-unionized automakers with the non-unionized ones. Sure, the unionized ones promised lots of benefits to the workers, but the companies' promises exceeded their capacities, and two of them went broke. The non-unionized ones had more flexibility to shrink when needed and to grow when needed, making them more nimble and thus more capable of taking advantage of shifts in the market. And thus Toyota is hiring and expanding in a big way inside the US, while the US and Canadian governments are only now getting around to backing out of owning (that is, propping up) GM. ■ It's far more defensible for small, developing countries to try a coordinated industrial policy, but to do so requires that the politicians have the wisdom and self-restraint to pull away the "punch bowl" of government protection once the party starts to heat up. South Korea used the government protection of the chaebol to spur industrialization. But the protections outlasted their usefulness, and caused the chaebol to become sclerotic and hazardous to the health of the nation's economy as a whole. The last decade or more has been spent trying to rein in the chaebol so the rest of the economy can flourish. Any government considering an interventionist industrial policy needs to think twice.

Business and Finance Does pent-up demand beat rising interest rates?
Mortgage interest rates have risen and will probably continue to rise -- but they're still at incomprehensible lows, from a historical standpoint. So will rising rates be offset by demand that's been pent-up as people left homeownership? Seems like the demand-side issue will probably be market-specific, while the interest rates will have a more universal impact.








Business and Finance How the self-made wealthy got on the Forbes 400 list
Investments, technology, and real estate are the top three routes

Iowa Iowa now has two successive years of near-freedom from tornadoes
Very strange indeed, but no guarantee of future security

The United States of America Is all of President Obama's political capital used-up?

Broadcasting "Mad Men" will split final season across two years
If you air one part in spring 2014 and the next in spring 2015, isn't that really just the same as having two ultra-short seasons?

Iowa Nobody takes the bait (cars) in Des Moines
Police put out two bait cars (with keys in the vehicles) in April to see if anyone would steal them from high-crime areas. Nobody's tried yet. That doesn't mean Iowa lacks for idiot thieves; one stole an iPod and uploaded selfies to the victim's Facebook page.

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Business and Finance How to get rich: Reinvest 90% of your earnings
The Koch brothers get a lot of heat for their political spending. But from a business perspective, they are admirable -- reinvesting 90% of their profits back into the business. It's a model worth examining by all businesses -- and by individuals and families, as well. We can't always reinvest everything, but almost all of us could be reinvesting more than we do.

Computers and the Internet Broadband-use limits are an archaic response to Internet use
As Internet service providers impose usage caps, people are finding ever more ways to use the Internet. Any firm imposing caps instead of putting new fiber-optic cable in the ground is probably one that needs a dose of competition.




Threats and Hazards Chicago lost more lives to murder than any other US city in 2012
Five hundred in one year -- more than New York City, by far, even though New York is much larger. Chicago needs its own Rudy Giuliani. Or maybe it just needs Giuliani. What also helps: A better economic climate.

Science and Technology "[W]ind power is now cheaper than coal and gas"
Even when unsubsidized (at least in Australia), according to a Bloomberg analysis

Business and Finance Warren Buffett has no "second choice" for Fed chair
He wants Ben Bernanke to come back. Related: There was very little net change in unemployment last month.

News "[M]inisters of the Church must be ministers of mercy above all"
Pope Francis comes across as a much-needed revolutionary

News One "Darwin Award" story that really happened
It's being circulated as though it's a recent story, but a man really did try to rob a gun store occupied by a uniformed police officer back in 1990. He did not survive to go to trial.

Computers and the Internet Apple's new iPhones launch today
But whose idea was it to come out with a higher-powered phone and a lower-tech model at the same time, and distinguish their model names only by calling one the "5c" and one the "5s"? Apple just made things too complicated for the very casual user -- and that's the market Apple should be trying to win over. The company endless ballyhoo over being user-friendly, and now that smartphones outsell regular phones, the remaining market to be conquered is the set of users who have thus far been afraid to buy smartphones for fear of their complexity. Many will go into stores and want "the new iPhone", and then get lost in the details of a "5c" versus a "5s". Oh, and there's also that complication that "5" and "S" look a lot alike. Poor branding choice for Apple, if they want to catch up with Android (or just hold their own) in the smartphone market. Don't make customers learn your codes; just give them model names that are simple and catchy to ask for. The iPhone series is turning into jargon soup.

Computers and the Internet AllThingsD to split off from Dow Jones
That's too bad; the brand alliance gave AllThingsD a certain level of credibility that its all-too-casual name did not

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Computers and the Internet Comedy bordering on the profound
Louis CK's thoughts on smartphones ring all too true

News Innovation comes to hockey
Players can't take off their own helmets to fight. But players found the loophole: They can take off the other guy's helmet instead. The takeaway: People in charge of rulemaking usually think they're the smartest people in the room. But, quite often, the organic response to the rules is that just one or two people will figure out a desirable loophole, and soon everyone else jumps on board. That's the way of nature -- we spray for weeds or take antibiotics, but when corners get cut, nature finds a way to poke through, and we end up with herbicide-resistant weeds and MRSA. That's why we should always be skeptical when politicians and policymakers think they have all of the answers to the world's problems. Often, they'll just impose more costs on the public generally, while the worst offenders find the loopholes. Our best defense against the worst abuses in many sectors is often to mandate transparency and educate people to deal with the information they get. The bizarro world of investment banking wouldn't be nearly so profitable as it is if people took the time to understand money as well as they understand fantasy football, and then withheld their money from those who charge fees disproportionate to the value they create.

Science and Technology Solar power may finally have fallen to competitive prices

Computers and the Internet Microsoft frames Surface tablet as a necessary (but expensive) learning experience
Fortunately for the company, there's such a franchise built around Windows with so much ongoing earnings power behind it that they can afford to make big mistakes while finding other income streams.

Business and Finance Tech startups get funding through connections
Silicon Valley isn't quite an open meritocracy. More often than not, people went to the "right" school or already know the "right" people. Which in turn suggests that there's some real opportunity to be had funding projects by people with good ideas who are outside those existing networks. But startups are speculative by nature, anyway, so which of those risks are worth taking?




Threats and Hazards Dozens killed in terrorist attack in Kenya

News Old nuclear weapons are going to cost us money
Their electronics are on borrowed time, and nobody wants an accident to happen. Fixing them will cost about $10 billion, which (with a population of 316 million) is about $32 a person.

Iowa Whatever came of "Generation Iowa"?
Not a great deal, at least not structurally. Iowa and other "brain-drained" states need to stop obsessing so much over where recent graduates choose to live and think more about making sure the tax and regulatory environment is friendly to business in general (and thus, by extension, to small and startup businesses). The friendlier the climate for business, the more opportunities for those who want to work for themselves, and the greater the choice for those who prefer to work for others.

Business and Finance The life of a hotel housekeeper

Business and Finance Nielsen (the TV ratings company) buys Arbitron (the radio ratings company)

Broadcasting This week in making money and having fun
Show notes for the Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio, airing at 9 pm Central Time





News Where's Waldo?: The Lincoln edition

Business and Finance Will China lead a return to the studio system?
The Chinese company that owns AMC movie theaters, among other companies, wants to get into movie production in a big way, and points to its vertical integration as a competitive advantage. The studio system in that sense fell apart many decades ago.

Agriculture 35% of Iowa's corn is frost-safe
Usually the number is almost double that by this stage of the year. Both Iowa and Nebraska remain really dry.

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News Dams in China: Politically inevitable
The country needs sources of cheap electricity with little or no air pollution, giving a lot of impetus to those who have a vested interest in building hydroelectric dams

Broadcasting Pandora bought a radio station in June
Not because they were trying to get into terrestrial broadcasting for its own sake, but because it gives them access to cheaper music-licensing fees

Business and Finance When advertising really works
A group of British ad agencies set up a group of awards for advertising that can be shown (econometrically) to have actually worked





Business and Finance "The age of the unskilled job is gone"
A Chicago Federal Reserve summit on economic competitiveness included comments from Paul Jones of the AO Smith Corporation. AO Smith is a manufacturer of water heaters -- not what most people would categorize as a high-tech industry. But Jones's comments are right in line with what many Americans need to hear. As others noted in the same conference, manufacturing jobs are important -- but the high-value jobs are high-skill jobs. The notion that people are going to get paid well to do jobs that aren't challenging in some way is pure fiction. But we have a choice available to us: The challenges can be that particular jobs are unpleasant in some way (and thus must be endured through their unpleasantness), or they can be challenging because they require the worker to know how to do things that are hard. Over the long term, we'll find ways to get machines to do ever more of our dirty work -- nobody pushes carts through towns to pick up horse manure anymore, like had to be done in the Dark Ages. But there are plenty of jobs within manufacturing that call for thinking and acquired skills of which people can be proud. Those are the manufacturing jobs of the 21st Century, and they're not for dummies.

Computers and the Internet Google turns 15 and overhauls 90% of search results
The code-named "Hummingbird" algorithm is supposed to make Google's searches more contextual and less constrained than the Boolean searches of the past

Computers and the Internet Popular Science shuts down comments
People survived for hundreds of years with an editor or publisher standing between them and the full power of the printing press. The ultra-democratization of Internet commentary did not, on balance, make us wiser than we would have been with at least a little editorial review of what people had to say in response to others' published work. An echo chamber of stupidity (like any hotly-debated set of comments on a YouTube video) is quite enough to make us all worse off.

News French government minister seriously proposes lowering voting age to 16

Humor and Good News The best of Franklin Sherman
(Video) A highlight reel from "The Critic", featuring the daffiest character of them all





Agriculture Nobody has more hogs than Iowa
21 million of the 68 million hogs in the United States are in Iowa

Agriculture Some forecast a soft landing as ag exits a boom cycle
There seems to be a lot of belief that the agricultural economy won't go bust -- but instead will just endure in a low-returns cycle for a while. Farming income accounts for 7% of the state's GDP.