Gongol.com Archives: 2015 Fourth-Quarter Archives
Flowing water on Mars, you say?
German publishers buy Business Insider
For a company valuation well over $300 million, that sure looks like a triumph for digital-first/digital-only publishing
Founder of Cumulus Radio booted from CEO suite
I-80/I-380 interchange project will cost $270 million
And it will take five years -- if all goes according to plan. But it's a much-needed development.
An unusual door-to-door sales pitch: Library cards
The long road to a more secure credit card
Tesla officially enters the SUV market
Chicago cops break rules to save a young life
A look at one of America's most economically-disadvantaged places
Medicine as a science still has a lot to learn
But at least there's plenty of evidence that they're trying
Investment money is flowing away from emerging markets
And that's the first time that's happened in a quarter of a century
Carl Icahn foresees bad things ahead for the markets
Uncertainty persists, but catastrophe? That's a bit tough to swallow.
Credit scores and your love life
Couples with high credit scores tend to stay together. People tend to get romantically involved with partners of similar scores.
ConAgra is leaving Omaha to save $300 million a year
Or so they estimate. But those estimates, like any promises of savings from "synergy", are almost always well off the mark. And it's going to cost them $345 million to leave.
Iowa State University career fair shows just how much demand exists for engineering majors
45% of Americans don't pay income tax
Wind energy now costs the same as coal or natural gas power
Car buyers aren't willing to pay yet for the tools that will make driving safer
Too bad; the costs of crashes are much too high
AB InBev raises offer to buy SABMiller to more than $100 billion
Who wants to go to a crime-ridden city for the Olympics?
Rio 2016 may be your chance!
The Federal Reserve held off raising rates because of the global economic picture
Threading the needle -- raising rates before inflation takes hold, but after the danger to the US economy is gone -- is a challenge nobody in economic history has ever faced with nearly the same heightened stakes. Janet Yellen may need more luck than anyone has ever needed.
Gannett just can't help itself from going back into debt
What a train wreck
These are our allies?
Whether it's making headlines or not, the refugee crisis continues in Europe
This is the most historically-significant event taking place right now, whether or not it's in the news
Corporate boards are boys' clubs, and that's a problem
Women shouldn't be there as tokens -- they should be there because they're half of the population and are conspicuous by their absence
The time for real, deliberate laws and policies on police body cameras is well overdue
The law is way behind the technology, and that's a problem
Why good people get chased too often out of politics
Tools like Twitter are leading us to behave like rabid pack animals
Google gets more search inquiries from mobile devices than from desktops
Cigarette smoking is going to kill China
The Donald Trump exit strategy
He's not serious about running for President. He's only in it for as long as it appears to inflate his personal "brand".
If ever there were a case for government to try harder to do better
...it's the heartbreaking way in which American Indians have been treated
Where's the PIN in "chip-and-PIN"?
The whole point of making credit cards more secure is being negated by our failure to use the PIN system. Without the PIN, the chip is really too much just for show.
Union pension funds in big trouble
As with too many pension funds, the problems have been apparent for a long, long time
Good social relations at work
Sure, it's good to have friends at work. But we also should make sure that we're doing "work" in a way that respects the need for people to have "off-work" lives, too.
Britain's new left-wing party leader is a small-"R" republican
And he may be wrong about a lot, but he's right about that
Deflation in the UK
Falling prices only sound like a good idea if you don't know what happens in the long run
An identity crisis for today's libraries
Openness to all could mean an unsettling environment for some
Alibaba founder wants China's economy to slow down
FBI takes out a botnet
Cubs to preserve home run ball that landed atop video board
Australia will resettle 12,000 refugees from Syria
To those who fear the influx of refugees from Syria into Western countries, the question really is this: Wouldn't you rather show mercy and compassion in a time of need and give thousands of people the chance to absorb your sense of freedom and individual liberty, rather than condemn them to fear, violence, and potential radicalization in a hostile place?
No doubt remains: Malaysian airliner was shot down by a Russian missile
The Midwest had accelerated deflation in September
There was slight deflation nationwide, but marked deflation in the Midwest
Russia plays cyberwarfare offense against NATO
Federal government starts fighting back against non-payers on student debt
All the more interesting, considering the tone that has been set from the top of the Obama Administration for quite some time -- one that has suggested that college is a right and that other people should pick up the tab
Low interest rates have set large companies on a debt binge
This should surprise nobody. What is surprising, though, is that we're not seeing the money being spent on capital equipment -- durable goods orders are down and in some sectors, significantly so. That's a bad signal for the economy at large -- if you're not seeing spending on stuff that will produce future profits, then you're not seeing a priming of the pump for future growth.
Taking the wrong messages from research literature
A pop-culture analysis in The Atlantic says that determination is a bad thing. Embedded in the story, though, is this clarifying quotation: "[I]t's important to know when to quit and reevaluate rather than blindly push through". That is quite the opposite of saying perseverance is perverse -- it says that we ought to look for the optimal outcome.
One-paragraph book review: "Accidental Empires"
An honest job interview
"I'm dumb as rocks"
Shame on Mike Huckabee
A Presidential candidate who wears his Christianity on his sleeve should be positively ashamed of himself for saying of Syrian refugees, "It matters if they’re really refugees escaping terror, escaping potential death, or are they just looking at this as an opportunity to get out of their country and go find the benefits America will provide." First, it's preposterous to suggest that the overwhelming majority of people trying to escape Syria are anything but refugees trying to escape the twin threats of Assad's brutal and soulless dictatorship and ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh's awful incarnation of a totalitarian regime. Anyone who doesn't know better than that shouldn't be running for so much as dog catcher, much less President. But let's examine the second half of Huckabee's statement: Since when has any voluntary group of immigrants to the United States ever looked for anything other than "an opportunity to get out of their country and go find the benefits America will provide". That's exactly why immigrants have always come here! Huckabee's attitude is toxic and reflects the attitude of a man unfit to be President.
It's not quite full autopilot, but...
Tesla says the Model S can just about drive itself, and will be fully capable of so doing in three years
With the consumer computer business in turmoil, how long can AMD hold out?
Warning signs: Factories are slowing production
It's not a huge contraction...yet. But two months in a row of decreased output from American factories is a bad sign.
"Key and Peele" end the run of one of the smartest shows on television
It's good to know that they're going to continue working together -- but the show was just so perfectly executed and so brilliantly written that its departure will leave a void
Meet Chinese democracy
The impossible position of a big metropolitan daily newspaper
Too long protected by monopoly powers, they haven't had a really good time making the transition to a much more competitive market
NBC is going to launch an all-comedy online programming service
If only it could bring back Phil Hartman and put him back with Dana Carvey, the world would be a better place
What in the world do inmates have against bacon?
Disney wants a counter-cyberwarfare intern
Show notes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - October 18, 2015
One-paragraph book review: "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis
Larry David is brilliant as Bernie Sanders
But Kate McKinnon is positively inspired as Hillary Clinton in the latest "Saturday Night Live" cold open
One-paragraph book review: "101 Things I Learned in Architecture School"
Japanese automakers want to introduce self-driving cars around the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Jim Webb is dropping out of the Democratic Presidential race
Good for Rep. Paul Ryan: Putting family ahead of political ambitions
And he may still end up as Speaker of the House
Price tag for SanDisk: $19 billion
Canadian politics take a left turn
A wheelchair that can climb stairs
Lifesaving aid workers in Syria are on the brink of collapse
Racist radicals may be working in German refugee camps
China may be easing controls on capital investment
Here's a terribly misleading list
A purported list of the "25 jobs with the best work-life balance" really only reflects that there are certain jobs that early entrants manage to exploit (temporarily)
Negative interest rates in Denmark make property enter a bubble
It's getting really hard to differentiate in the car market
And it's only a problem because cars have generally gotten much better
China's economy keeps showing signs of slowing
Building the next bomber
Omaha reacts to losing the ConAgra headquarters operation
One-paragraph book review: "Honda: The man and his machines"
Google is betting on "machine learning"/artificial intelligence
Even a company that is "native digital" -- computer-based from its very founding -- is looking for new ways to have machines do the work so that they don't have to hire people to do it
US Navy to China: Those aren't real islands. Your territorial claims are denied.
Turning reefs into artificial islands is just a naked ploy to claim large amounts of open sea. This isn't building up contiguous ground via landfill (like Manhattan) or draining low-lying areas (like Holland). It's really not that far from sinking an oil-drilling platform somewhere and claiming that it's sovereign territory with rights to a surrounding nautical boundary.
Why Omaha didn't stand a chance at salvaging ConAgra
Perhaps illustrative of the need for communities to focus on always leveling the playing field for the little firms that may organically grow into the big shots -- instead of trying desperately to kowtow to the big guns
The worst thing in America? Donald Trump, say Latinas.
Big earthquake hits Afghanistan
Yahoo turns back to Google for search help
Honda hits brakes on plant expansion in China
An $822 million plant will go on hold because the company is worried about a decline in demand growth
Out-of-control orchestra dads
The CBC's very funny satirical program "This is That" spins a tale of a parent who brings varsity-sport-parent intensity to his kid's orchestra rehearsals
What happens to people who die alone in New York City
It's a big city with a lot of isolated people
China's ways of manipulating the currency
Michael Bloomberg editorial: Bad schools are a bigger long-term threat than terrorism
While dramatic, it's probably true. We badly need to find ways to improve career and technical training opportunities -- one of the worst things a country can develop is a persistent, low-skill, low-income underclass. It just doesn't work out in the end.
Cash flow is becoming a problem for Midwestern farmers
As go the farmers, so goes a lot of the small-town economy. This is not a good sign.
Casey's finds credit-card skimmers mounted to gas pumps
The incident shows that not even the Midwest is safe from crooks
Phil Collins is going back to the recording studio
Tough times for Norway's sovereign-wealth fund
Getting things right with a natural-resources bounty is very, very hard. Norway has done better than average -- maybe better than most -- but they're still not bulletproof.
One-paragraph book review: "The Herbert Hoover Story"
Rep. Paul Ryan is elected Speaker of the House
Ryan and Chief Justice John Roberts get a lot of flak from elements of the "conservative" movement -- but they are two of the sharpest center-right minds in America, and we're lucky to have them both in high office
Malaysia's slow drift away from English has hurt its economy
The latest slang, interpreted
Linguist says Australian accent comes from early settlers being drunk
Google and Tag Heuer roll out a $1,500 smartwatch
Get a smartwatch, but get a cheap one, then beat the crap out of it as most people do to their regular watches. Then replace it in a couple of years with one from the next generation. Unless there's something you simply cannot live without in the smartwatch you've been craving, everyone should start with the Pebble. For $100 (less when on sale, as they frequently are), you can test whether you get any real utility out of a smartwatch without committing hundreds and hundreds of dollars to a piece of vanity jewelry.
The problem(s) with a record harvest
Iowa farmers are bringing in so much corn there's no place to put it all. And that's not going to put any upward pressure on low prices.
Samsung's $600 "Galaxy View" tablet has an 18.4" screen
Russia "sabotaged" London 2012 Olympics with doped athletes
"Uber angst": The fear of getting "disrupted" right out of business
Why people are so desperate to get into Europe
Oh dear: Large companies have over-extended their borrowing again
The duration of near-zero interest rates should have been a signal it would come to this. The real peculiarity, though, is that all this borrowing seems not to have driven real investment in tangible things that will improve long-term business prospects. So where in the blazes has all the cheap money gone?
The right is "peaceably to assemble", not to call in "some muscle" to bounce journalists from a public space
Fortunately, faculty members at the University of Missouri seem eager to punish the titular faculty member who demonstrated some serious misunderstanding of the First Amendment.
Saul Bass and the importance of a company logo that matches its image
Why Dave from "Alvin and the Chipmunks" always sounded a little unhinged
The shocking human tragedy in northern Africa
People are risking everything -- and often losing their lives -- trying to escape war, terrorism, deprivation, and other horrors. And the heartlessness with which people like Mike Huckabee try to say "That's not my problem; they're too far from home" is revolting. No sensible person thinks we should grant entry to every refugee without the slightest effort at screening out the inevitable bad apples, but it is pure hackery to malign the refugees by mockingly asking, "[A]re they really just coming because we've got cable TV?"
AB Inbev lands the SABMiller purchase
Sale price: $107 billion
Negative interest rates, long thought imaginary, are now very real
It's one way to try to get people to spend money
Mitsubishi officially enters the regional-jet market
Test flights are underway
Chicago Cubs broadcast moves again: From WBBM to WSCR
WSCR was formerly the renowned WMAQ
Russia is using "hybrid warfare" in Syria
Memorial Sloan Kettering says women shouldn't change their mammography schedules
Despite new recommendations from the American Cancer Society, MSKCC says women at normal risk should stick with a target age of 40 to start screenings
Puerto Rico is edging towards full-blown fiscal crisis
This is going to test our understanding of bailouts
Female economists don't get the respect they deserve
Tacit demotions of their contributions seem to be a problem in the (already minimal) coverage their work receives in the mass media
Apple's new iPad Pro is 12.9" in diameter
...blurring the lines altogether between "tablet" and "laptop" sizes
China's dependence on captive government enterprises
That dependence will keep Chinese industry from developing the kind of quality improvements that Japan and Korea have used to their respective advantages. Honda, Toyota, and Samsung are all examples of companies that learned to get better at their industries because the pressures of the marketplace forced them to do so in one way or another. Toyota developed kaizen methods because they didn't have enough cash to purchase lots of raw materials inventory. Honda overcame strong government objection in Japan to even enter the auto market, and crushed the major automakers at meeting new emissions regulations using new technology in the 1970s, when its cars were entirely unknown in the US. Samsung has fought pitched battles in semiconductors, smartphones, and all manner of consumer electronics. To build a company for long-term success, it's crazy to try to insulate the company from competition with a captive market. Success is forged in the heat of competition.
Email goes back to the future
US military networks are going to strip incoming messages of HTML and turn them into plain text, just to thwart cyberattacks
Dubai is (supposedly) buying jetpacks for high-rise firefighters
Canada and Denmark are engaged in the most polite border dispute in history
Their respective militaries keep leaving bottles of liquor for one another
Des Moines got a tornado and then snow the other day
An exceptionally rare phenomenon
Facebook never intended to get into fights it cannot now avoid
Some British parents are fighting to get the service to remove a photo of juveniles from the page of a far-right-wing group -- so far, to no avail
Google launches "YouTube Music" app for phones
People already use YouTube heavily for listening to music (whether or not they watch the videos), so this is hardly a groundbreaking step -- other than admitting that's what people use YouTube for
Microsoft starts major updates to Windows 10
It always takes Microsoft a little while to dial it in after launching a new operating system
Twitter's stock price is below IPO price
The service has certainly found its place, but growth remains elusive and so do profits. Who would want to compete with them if even from a position of dominance they still don't bring in buckets of cash?
Google self-piloted car pulled over for driving too slowly
Microsoft locates some data centers to avoid US legal authority
Probably a sensible thing to do if you have customers who want to avoid certain regulatory oversight
Amazon will start distributing NEXRAD data
The government collects the data via the National Weather Service, but until now has found the distribution of that data to be beyond its capacity.
Russia wants to build a nuclear doomsday machine
No, really. A doomsday machine, like in "Dr. Strangelove".
Mitsubishi claims starting from scratch helps it build a super-efficient regional jet
Google is getting into the manufacture of computer chips
Not content to make the software, they're venturing into the deepest heart of hardware
Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - November 14, 2015
Keeping perspective after the Paris attacks
China wants to buy Syngenta
China has lots of available capital to invest, and lots of American companies are prospectively for sale. If you don't want to lose control, don't sell out.
Japan's GDP fell in Q2 and Q3
That officially makes for a recession. Business investment is slipping, and that most likely has a contributing effect.
Tough times for the South Korean chaebol
It may be necessary for government to protect certain firms or industries for countries without a lot of natural resources to develop rapidly. South Korea, Japan, Singapore, and others have gone the route of high intervention in exchage for quick development. But eventually the protections have to go away, and that transition isn't easy.
"[T]his is a war about a vision of history"
"State-sponsored slavery seemed like a thing of the past, but now ISIS is an unapologetic slave state."
Will terrorists try to exploit the refugee crisis? Of course.
That should not make us treat the refugees badly. They are victims, too.
Good for Shepard Smith
Fox News Channel host editorializes against the knee-jerk reaction against refugees
Germany orders its flags to half-mast in honor of Paris
A lot can change in the course of a few decades. It matters whether our civic and political leaders have a vision for the future.
Going public made Cabela's vulnerable
If you don't want to lose control, don't give up ownership
Chicago restauranteur thinks tipping is about go extinct
Instead? A flat 20% service charge added to every bill.
What's the root cause of radicalization in Europe? Look at youth unemployment.
The most dangerous thing in the world may very well be lots of young people (especially young men) with lots of free time and nothing to do. It can be especially dangerous when they don't think they have any prospects for improvement to their own material well-being. Always beware the well-intended steps that are supposed to make things better for the poor but that present new barriers to entry into the workforce for those with no experience and no skills.
Asus introduces the Chromebit
An $85 computer running the Google Chrome operating system. Attach to a monitor, add a keyboard, and you have computer functionality.
Pandora buys out Rdio
Consolidation in the broadcasting industry continues, even when there's no actual broadcasting taking place.
The price of steel is in freefall
Really bad news for extraction economies. This needs to be on the radar of the people who look after foreign affairs and geopolitics: The extractive economies are generally the lesser-developed ones. If they suddenly have less income, they're going to become less stable.
Unintended consequences of a larger air war over Syria: More refugees
We can't just look at the millions of displaced people as simple "collateral damage". There needs to be a vision for what is to be done for and about them. The air war may very well be necessary -- but it cannot be conducted as though in isolation from any other circumstances or consequences.
China won't save the world's economy
President Xi Jinping: "China's economy is still coping with the complicated internal and external environment, considerable downward pressure, and the temporary pain of deep reforms". Don't imagine them to be quite so temporary. The political environment is going to put a permanent damper on the economic environment. It's too bad we ceased to call it "political economy" as a branch of study a long time ago -- the two are intertwined.
First the boom, now the purge
China's government is arresting and prosecuting people inside financial firms. It's a very modern form of purge.
Skilled workers tend to retire at 65: Beware the consequential workforce shortage
North America could soon be short by almost a million skilled industrial workers
Digital exhibitionism puts us at risk
It's hard to resist the lure to share too much personal information and leave behind a big digital footprint. These are uncharted waters.
Cumulus Broadcasting is moving into the prettiest building in Chicago
The Art Deco-inspired but 1989-built NBC Tower is really quite gorgeous
Where Syrian children sleep
A powerful documentation of the refugee condition
ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh keeps a round-the-clock computer help desk
It does not do us any good to caricature them as some kind of medieval enemy. They are very much a product of the modern world and are not afraid to exploit modern tools. It is a modern machine of monstrosity.
US ranks second in index of global charitability
Seven of the top ten are among the world's most advanced economies. Two (Sri Lanka and Myanmar/Burma) are very much developing. One (Malaysia) is middle-class. It's certainly an endorsement for promoting prosperity.
What's new in the Windows 10 update?
It's a large update -- perhaps on a scale near that of the big service packs that came with Windows XP.
Proposed Canadian Pacific-Norfolk Southern merger would be huge
CP thinks it can cut operating costs at Norfolk Southern by 10 percentage points
Jobs aren't the only thing
"Job creation" is a popular theme for politicians, but jobs alone aren't the only thing that matters. The national unemployment rate is estimated around 5.0%, which is generally thought to be in the neighborhood of the natural rate of unemployment. Yet lots of reasonable people would say the economy is substantially underperforming its potential. Jobs matter, but they're not the only thing that matters. And politicians need to show some humility about what they're capable of doing.
Why we shouldn't laugh at the (admittedly preposterous) North Korean dictatorship
It's now in its third generation of unimaginable absurdity, but it's no less murderous
What's going on inside the minds of Trump supporters
Chinese government goes after $64 billion in "underground" money movement
It's no surprise that people inside China are looking for ways to get their money outside the country, for reasons of both returns and security
"Branded content" looks like a new thing -- but it's as old as broadcasting itself
Companies like Marriott are spending money on original content (like 15-minute YouTube movies) that are intended to promote their brands. It's actually quite a back-to-the-future thing, considering that many commercial radio stations started as in-house "branded content" vehicles: WLS stood for "World's Largest Store" (Sears). WHO started out as a tool for Bankers Life (now Principal Financial). KMA was a department of the Earl May seed company.
Is software programming really "engineering"?
On one hand, engineers of the civil/structural/environmental variety shouldn't let other people cheapen the title since certain types of engineering are (literally) a profession. On the other hand, engineering has long been much broader than what is defined strictly by those professions -- and we could use a lot more engineering-think from people outside the engineering professions (as strictly defined).
Rural bankers in the Midwest aren't very optimistic
Steve Jobs and the drowned toddler can't be the only images of the Syrian refugee crisis
They both belong in the discussion, but our understanding of the situation must go deeper
Japan asks Australia to stand up to "self-righteous assertions" by China
China says it's going to continue expanding its man-made island chain (in a transparent attempt to create maritime claims where none ought to exist). Now the question is whether anyone else can counterclaim or present a rejection of the claims that will stand up. China clearly doesn't want to lose face after putting in this investment.
Fire in Chicago's Hancock Building on the 50th floor
It happened in a residential part of the building
Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - November 22, 2015
"We lose the war against ISIS if we don't get serious about our presidential candidates"
Oil below $40 a barrel -- a real possibility
Mixed with good and bad, of course. Cheap gas feels good, to be sure. But it also undermines efforts to find more sustainable energy sources. We should use a portion of the energy bonanza to make a serious investment in the future.
Financial literacy is an essential form of literacy
Along with basic technological literacy and basic numeracy, these are just as important as being able to simply read in the conventional sense
Surprise! Apps for viewing porn are also data thieves.
DC police chief: If you can, shoot an active shooter
A candidate who threatens to sue a rival for damaging his brand name isn't a serious candidate
That's the behavior of a self-promoter
Terrorists aren't really going to mosques
Look into the eyes of displaced children
Wealthy Russians are planning to leave -- in huge numbers
What will the US labor force look like in 25 years?
"Why you should have a messy desk"
Like many similar clickbait articles on the Internet, this one is profoundly silly and reductionist. It could be counterweighted easily by articles about "Why you should always start with a blank sheet of paper" or "Always go to a blank drawing board". What matters is figuring out quickly what works most effectively for your own method of thinking and then sticking to whatever enhances it.
When China's currency reconciles with reality, the results are going to hurt
A deep-down security issue has been found in Dell computers
When the company president goes AWOL
It comes as no surprise that prominent business managers are vanishing without explanation -- totalitarian regimes can be threatened by economic power as well as political power
It comes as no surprise that prominent business managers are vanishing without explanation -- totalitarian regimes can be threatened by economic power as well as political power
New chipped credit cards are going to slow down holiday shopping
Candidates should be asked about their plans for cyberwarfare
It could be an enormously powerful tool for "asymmetric" warfare by groups much too small to threaten our national security with tanks and airplanes. We sorely need a national cyberdefense strategy with a clear identity.
"Suddenly, all Syrian refugees are viewed as potential terrorists -- just as IS had hoped."
The terrorists behind ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh are looking several steps ahead, and terrorist attacks serve to further their agenda. Dismissing them as the "JV squad" or thinking that they will collapse without a deliberate strategy on our part is just wishfulness.
Forecasting where the stock market will end 2017 is a lavishly silly exercise
Team backed by Jeff Bezos lands a reusable rocket
Is owning the tapes to some long-lost Beatles recordings the same as owning the intellectual property?
IBM says smartphones dominated online shopping this Thanksgiving
Their analysis says smartphones were used for 46.7% of online shopping on Thanksgiving day
China's big industrial companies are making less money than a year ago
Total profits have fallen by almost 5% from last October -- and have decreased for five consecutive months
Domain registrar increases the price of a .uk domain
It's not by much, and the resulting cost still isn't high (about $6 a year), but it's rare to see prices like this increase rather than decrease
Punching through the Great Firewall of China
The browser plugin, called CacheBrowser, uses the "content delivery networks" so widely employed by many major websites to reconstruct the pages of sites whose URLs are blocked by Chinese censorship
Seth Meyers gives Donald Trump the skewering he deserves
Of course Donald Trump has no scruples about running as a third-party candidate
But he's really just "campaigning" as a vanity publicity stunt. It has to be viewed as a commercial endeavor, not a political one: He's getting endless free media coverage, which only serves to advance his interests as a marketer who vomits his name atop lots of gaudy real estate. He stands to lose very, very little, even by saying profoundly offensive things.
Our enemies are playing the long game on the Internet
ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh has a long view of its presence online as a tool of both recruitment and terror. Meanwhile, the United States seems to perpetually cutting back, mismanage, and under-fund its own tools of international public diplomacy, especially those under the Broadcasting Board of Governors. It's penny-wise pound-foolishness. International broadcasting costs us next to nothing, but unfortunately there's been a lot of displacement of conventional broadcasting methods (like shortwave radio) in favor of Internet services -- when they represent two different products for very different audience purposes and should have been treated as additive, not substitutional.
Bioengineering is starting to venture past some remarkable (and possibly irreversible) lines
Science proves Americans' smiles have grown over the last century
Sophisticated point-of-sale malware could exploit holiday shopping
Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - November 29, 2015
How to play the long game, Toyota-in-Nascar edition
By getting a foot in the door in a highly "American" sport and persisting in showing that their products are just as American as their Detroit competitors, Toyota made an investment in its brand equity with a real payoff
Southwest is turning St. Louis Lambert Field into something of a hub
With 39 destinations, it's not quite how things used to be when TWA served St. Louis as a hub (back then it had more than 100 destination cities), but it certainly serves to fill some of the excess capacity built up before TWA was acquired by American. TWA had 76% of the airport's travelers back before it was swallowed up.
Microsoft fixes big Dell security bug
JetBlue wants to train some pilots from scratch
Microsoft halts Windows 10 updates for a moment
Piketty is close but wrong
He says inequality is the prime driver of trouble in the Middle East. It's not inequality per se, but rather the failure to take advantage of extraction resources and turn them into productive economies that hurts. If you want a peaceful world, you need people to have something productive to do with their time.
Only 11% of Apple Watch buyers think they're getting enough value for the money
Yahoo may be thinking of selling its Internet properties
The new look for Amazon Prime drone delivery
A small increase in productivity (2.2%, annualized) in the third quarter
Better than nothing, but watch this space: We really need to get it rising a lot faster to sustain durable economic growth
Federal Reserve votes to stop itself from future emergency lending
Meet the Syrian refugees
"Please mess with our DNA"
Venezuelan government threatens Kraft management
How is Cyber Monday even still a thing?
Sen. Lindsey Graham has some much-needed perspective on the GOP
Unemployment rate sticks at 5.0%
There's a difference between quantity and quality in jobs
All US military combat jobs are now open to women
Washington Post gives up, authorizes "they" in the singular
It probably was a losing fight anyway
How "USA Today" is going to swallow up your local Gannett newspaper
Kiss the old guard goodbye
The US still imports a lot more than it exports
A strong force behind the great asset sell-off. For instance, that's why lots of Chinese buyers are picking up American real estate.
When does a front-page editorial make sense?
Keeping the family in the family business can be tough
It's a global phenomenon -- heirs everywhere find interests outside the company
Virgin Galactic will use Boeing 747 as a launch platform
Getting off the ground is half the battle to getting into space
What future casts may look like
Better designs for healing broken bones quickly
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder: "[C]yberattacks are quickly becoming the greatest threat"
Attention is obviously focused on real-world attacks like the one in San Bernardino. But while those kinds of events are scary, they are exceedingly rare. The plain fact is that cyberattacks are taking place constantly, relentlessly, and ever more brazenly. There is a significant amount of financial damage being done, but there could also be profound real-world damage done by the right attack in the right place.
Civilian oversight of police and the military is critical to a civil society
A Chicago police officer has been acquitted of charges he shoved a gun into a suspect's mouth and pressed a stun gun to the man's groin. It may have been a perfectly reasonable and sound decision -- but it's also worrisome that we can entertain the thought that such a thing could have happened, and believe actively that the allegations might be true. We do these things because there are sufficient examples of brutality and excessive force that they do not seem categorically impossible. That's a problem, and it suggests a failure of civilian oversight.
Alibaba buys the South China Morning Post
An interesting parallel to Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post
Is the end of emojis coming?
Surge in students from China at the University of Iowa
But the boom has created some cultural stumbles for some of the foreign students
The President needs a communications coach
The world "has not grown harder: just more foolish and selfish"
How we treat refugees says a lot about our humanity
Why government needs to evolve with the pace of technology
We don't necessarily need more democracy -- people are inclined to make stupid decisions, especially when decision-making isn't their particular strength -- but we do need to make sure that laws and regulations keep pace with the real world.
Ford will put Gorilla Glass in the new GT
Northrup Grumman touts its 2030s-era fighter jet of the future
Probably jumping the gun a little bit...maybe we should get the F-22 working flawlessly first.
The Midwest continues to experience deflation
Fun in the very short term, maybe. But a real hazard in the long term, since it tends to discourage people from spending money, which is more or less that upon which the entire economy relies.
New battleship breaks down after 20 days of service
If it were a car, we'd call that a lemon
Could Thursday-night NFL move to a streaming-only model?
Nobody should dismiss the idea prematurely
Dow and DuPont want a "marriage of equals"
A rarity when each of the partners is worth around $50 billion
Microsoft really, really wants you to update to Windows 10
Still free to computers with Windows 7 or 8, at least for the time being. No guarantee that it will last beyond the start of next year.
Federal Reserve decides to raise interest rates to 0.25%
It's non-zero, but barely distinguishable from it
California is working on rules for self-driving cars
The faster they get something on the books, the better. The technology is moving quickly, and the lack of a legal framework is a serious problem. There is a very urgent public-health case to be made for getting humans as far away from the driver's seat as possible. We are the cause of almost all crashes.
If you think governments can or should control the Internet, you have a friend in the Communist Party
Seven years of 0% interest rates
Even at just slightly over 0%, we still live in remarkable times that will look totally incredible from the perspective of future history
Canadians are selling "bottled air" to China
The smog is so bad in China that people are actually buying it. One thing is for certain: People with political rights and a little bit of prosperity tend to agitate very quickly for changes to environmental conditions that endanger them. Killer fogs in London led to clean-air legislation, and river fires in the Rust Belt led to clean-water legislation well before the Federal government stepped in. But if people either lack the political influence to agitate for a solution or the material well-being to afford the resources necessary to do the cleanup, then no obvious solution exists.
You can try to fight economic laws, but they act like gravity
The Teamsters Union Central States Pension Fund is running out of money and is asking the government to allow it to reduce benefits. One's heart breaks for the pain that cuts would impose on the pensioners who expected to get their full benefits -- but the pension system was inadequately designed: Too many Baby Boomers joined and are now retiring, the workforce taking their place is less interested in joining unions, and the pension fund apparently over-promised what its actual investment returns can do. Perhaps it's a reminder that (a) everyone has to get educated about finances and look out for themselves, regardless of the promises made by employers, unions, or the government; and (b) that it's best to see that labor and capital are mutualistic and that nobody wins when they turn antagonistic with one another. That second part might be a worthy reminder for the short-sighted buffoons who have nothing but bad things to say about "corporate America" without realizing that -- just for instance -- sometimes a union pension fund itself owns a big slice of "corporate America".
US Air Force to offer $125,000 "critical skills retention bonuses" to drone pilots
They have to promise to stick around for five additional years. Warfare has changed dramatically.
The FAA will require drones to be registered next year
It should never have taken this long for the agency to impose the registration requirement. If they'd implemented a registry back when these things were brand-new, then everyone would see registration as the status quo and there wouldn't be a fight. But trying to implement registration now -- long after drones have hit the mainstream -- is comically incompetent.
A 64-bit version of Firefox has arrived
DNC goes to war with the Bernie Sanders campaign
The two are fighting over access to voter data belonging to the Hillary Clinton campaign that the DNC says the Sanders team took, "like if you walked into someone's home when the door was unlocked and took things that don't belong to you".
Battles, both economic and military
Ukraine says it can't or won't repay $3 billion in bonds owned by Russia. Russia lent the money to prop up the former government, and now Ukraine says it can't pay back in part because it's so expensive to fight with the separatists in the eastern part of the country (who are, of course, backed by Russia).
Grand jury says the jailers didn't commit a felony against Sandra Bland
Another grand jury will consider next month whether to charge the arresting officer. It is extremely hard to believe that no crime was committed at some point in her handling and treatment. The video of her arrest is outrageous, and the thought that she spent days in jail before dying -- over a trumped-up traffic stop -- suggests that something is very, very wrong with the system.
Sen. Lindsey Graham drops out of the 2016 Presidential race
Graham wasn't right about everything (nobody is), but he brought a lot of sense to the discussion amid a lot of quackery from some of the other candidates. He may not have been destined for the Oval Office, but we do need voices like his in the public debate.
SpaceX launched and landed a reusable rocket
After three failures, this is a great success. And it looks pretty awesome, too. As the company said back in June, "airlines don't junk a plane after a one-way trip from LA to New York".
Adele stayed off social media to concentrate on her latest album
Putting the important before the immediate -- that takes discipline.
More legal marijuana means more electricity demand
It's not so green after all. The law of unintended consequences strikes again. But let's get one thing straight: Finding sources of non-polluting, ultra-low-cost power would be about the best thing that technology could do for humanity. Not for growing pot, necessarily, but for growing nutritious foods and preparing and distributing safe drinking water. Clean, cheap energy is in fact the single most valuable thing we could get from science and technology right now.
Iowa Department of Education to push for a task force on computer classes
They want a group to review the possibility of requiring all Iowa high schools to offer a "high-quality computer science course", even if it's not required for graduation. In principle, one should be both offered and (probably) required. But in practice, lots of schools would likely have trouble finding the human resources to offer such a course. The need for such education is great, and in theory a course requirement should be as obvious as requiring courses in foreign languages or the arts. In addition to the conventional reading, writing, and arithmetic, today's graduates need to be financially, scientifically, and digitally literate -- not because those things are wants, but because they are needs.
Dual US/Afghan citizen killed in Kabul
An American passport ought to feel like a metaphorical bulletproof vest, and that sense simply doesn't seem as strong as it used to. The principle that our power to protect our own interest extends far beyond our coastlines traces all the way back to the start of the 19th Century.
China suspends human-rights lawyer for microblogging
Found guilty of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble", he's been given a suspended sentence of three years in prison
Iowa to develop a state-level cybersecurity strategy
On a national level, we ought to be strategizing, too. But it makes lots of sense for states to engage in cybersecurity defense, too. A multi-layered approach is inherently more secure than a one-size-fits-all, top-down arrangement. That argument notwithstanding, we probably also need a national cyber-defense corps on a level similar to one of the conventional branches of the Defense Department. There is approximately zero chance that cyberwarfare is going away, and it's an urgent national concern.
German court: Once a relationship ends, consent to hold naked pictures goes away
Perhaps a difficult legal principle to enforce, but the interpretation may leave a door open for the law to prevent "revenge porn"
The private sector is slowing its purchases of durable goods
From the Department of Commerce: "Nondefense new orders for capital goods in November decreased $5.2 billion or 6.3 percent". With interest rates still at basically zero, companies should be buying every bit of productivity-enhancing equipment they can possibly find. A drop of more than 6% is alarming.
Low inflation? Love it. Negative inflation? Not so much.
The hazards of deflation are large, so the economic consensus is around low, predictable inflation
Rdio goes bankrupt and signs off
Not every "disruptor" survives
Oracle ordered to push harder to get you to update Java
While you're at it, update all of your programs
Pebble issues software update to make Classics act like the new models
Pebble still offers the most reasonably-priced, hard-working smartwatches in the market right now
Apple still wants you to get Apple TV -- but restrain expectations of a revolution
Content providers still aren't feeling an urgent push to deliver their content via an on-demand model via Apple, so the big incentive simply doesn't exist
They just wanted tacos
Las Vegas restaurant owner turns security-camera footage of a break-in into a YouTube ad, complete with mocking captions
Ukraine could be in really bad shape
Political turbulence is causing economic misbehavior that could destabilize the long-term future of the country
Police departments lose their "asset forfeiture" winnings to the Federal government
It's all a highly suspicious practice anyway, but it's alarming to hear that cities are depending on the funding
Billions of dollars are leaving US mutual funds
Maybe people are just doing some year-end tax management, but it's not a great symbol
Hyatt payment-processing system hit by malware
Whether anything was actually stolen is unclear, but it's also hard to believe that an infection that gets past what ought to be a well-guarded system wasn't doing at least some damage
First openly gay American servicewoman killed in action
Honor and duty are in no way diminished by a person's sexual orientation
Maps of the world
One of these is a map of public debts compared to GDP. Public debt itself is not a killer, if the debt is used for sound reasons. It needs to buy permanent gains, like highways -- just like a home mortgage can be a "good" household debt if it pays for shelter at a rate less than comparable rent. But if debt is putting current consumption on a credit card, it's death to the future of a country.
Social networking causes lots of things to look more common than they really are
The things that well-connected people think, believe, and share will disproportionately influence the rest of the network into thinking that those things are commonplace, even if they aren't.
Parents are deep in their kids' college debt
Education most certainly does have its own intrinsic benefits, but when we're running up big bills for it, we ought to have a decent idea of the return that's coming from the investment
In memory of Cheryl Pannier
Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - December 26, 2015
Cheap money has skewed the market for IPOs
It's really never been cheaper to borrow money, so that's been fuel for private-equity firms to buy up or invest in companies that would otherwise have turned to equity markets (via IPOs). That's choking off the flow of businesses that might have gone to the public stock markets.
Cat-and-mouse game between consumers and advertisers continues
Ad blocking is on the rise, and that's going to push advertisers to stuff more advertising into unexpected places than before -- particularly in pictures. First there were banner ads, then there were pop-up ads, then there were pop-under ads, then there were autoplay commercials. Then there was "content advertising", embedded links, and advertising-supported apps. Funny thing: When radio was new, it was often supported solely by individual companies (like WHO-AM in Des Moines, which was a tool of the Bankers Life Company, or WLS-AM, which was an arm of Sears -- the "World's Largest Store"). In other times, individual companies have supported entire publications (as the Bell System did back in the day, or as Shell does today with "Impact" and Chevron does with "Next"). Aside from tricks like stuffing ads into visual media, there's been a modern revival of the house publication -- the content website, like AT&T's "Thread". Of course, the content has to be useful, interesting, and also somehow profitable for the company producing it.
Why not direct democracy all the time?
Among other reasons, because "Arrested Development" only lasted three seasons on television, but "Big Brother" has made it to 17, totaling 585 episodes of complete, mindless junk. But seriously: Direct democracy is fine on a tiny scale with limited scope, but once any real complexity becomes involved, people are unwilling to invest the time and effort required to come up with good decisions. That's why a democratic republic is the only way to go.
Local news: How about less hype and more analysis?
What we package as "news" is really a combination of news, events, and information, along with elements of entertainment, opinion, and analysis. News is anything that materially changes our understanding of the status quo. If it doesn't do that, it's probably an event or information. Those things can be valuable, but they're not news.
Brazen crooks ask makers of Raspberry Pi to install malware for pay
The Raspberry Pi is an ultra-cheap computer, and the thought that crooks would so openly seek to corrupt any system they could ought to make us all a little uneasy
Huge landslide discovered months later thanks to satellite photos
Mozilla to kill Firefox OS, spin off Thunderbird, and focus on the browser
The potential orphaning of Thunderbird is sad
Chinese government uses anti-terrorism cover for anti-liberty lawmaking
Never give power to yourself that you wouldn't want your opponents to have available to use against you
The most popular baby name in Israel? Muhammad.
Cheap oil is causing the shale-oil business to collapse
Very bad news for Canada and for North Dakota, indeed.
What 50 states of equal population might look like
Nothing more than an artistic experiment, but interesting nonetheless
MasterCard says online sales rose 20% this holiday season
Who knew there was still upside to be gained?
"Wave of regulation looms in 2016"
Alternate title: "America about to give itself yet another graduate course in the Law of Unintended Consequences".
A new generation of Google Glass is coming
The FCC leaked pictures
Saudi Arabia tightens budget in anticipation of continued low oil prices
A resource bonanza is a lot of fun while it lasts, but it takes serious discretion and foresight to reinvest bonanza profits in long-term growth
Priest rides "hoverboard" during Christmas Eve Mass
At least he wasn't wearing Heelys?
Mature savings bonds aren't much fun to keep around
Once they stop earning interest, they need to be converted to something productive
Spider silk plus carbon nanotubes equals incredible strength
Facebook's "Free Basics" app: Game-changing public utility or violation of net neutrality?
Or maybe both?
House Speaker Paul Ryan has exactly the right vision for government
"Then the people will know that we stand for a more prosperous, a more secure, a more confident America. And the rest? Well, the rest will be up to the people -- as it should be."
Truck driver crosses 6-ton bridge with 30-ton load -- bridge collapses
The driver was pretty dumb here, saying she didn't know how many pounds were in a ton (If you don't know how much a ton is, Google it.). But what's the point of letting nostalgia get in the way of modern infrastructure needs? A "historic bridge" is usually just another way of saying "something we should have replaced a long time ago, but now have 'the feels' about and refuse to pay for the proper maintenance thereof." The pictures show a rusty old pile of iron.
Collapse of oil prices crushes the Alaskan state budget
Lifeguards from Spain try to save refugee lives in Greece
Don't click "Like" on Facebook pictures
Doing so only encourages "like farming"
ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh issues rules for treatment of slaves
Slaves! In 2015! The word "outrage" isn't close to being enough. We also need to clean up our own domestic problem with sex trafficking, which really ought to be known as enslavement rape.
2015: The year investors didn't make any money
Bill Cosby charged with assault
The case is from 2004
George Pataki drops out of 2016 race
Russia views SpaceX as a competitor
Twitter imposes new rules to cut off hate speech, intimidation, and harassment
There's simply no perfect solution for companies like Twitter. The new language codifies a philosophy that intimidation is as rivalrous to free speech as explicit censorship. And yet there's the ironic condition that letting hateful people use platforms like Twitter for speech makes them easier to find, call out, and counteract. Sometimes, it's even useful to let terrorists tweet (it can help identify where to drop bombs, just for example). The problem is that services like Twitter and Facebook land on a nebulous boundary between "open" and "closed" societies and ways of thinking. The evildoers who wants closedness also want to take advantage of the tools of openness.
El Nino to really screw up our weather in 2016
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