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August 30, 2015

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - August 30, 2015

August 29, 2015

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - August 29, 2015

August 28, 2015

News The face of refugees arriving right now in Europe
Let's not forget that millions -- literally millions -- of people are on the run in Syria. They're people, not wild animals.

Business and Finance Going to cash right now is a dumb financial move
But people are doing it in droves

Threats and Hazards 11 years in prison for supporting ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh from America
Throw the book at them

Weather and Disasters Earthquakes are inevitable. Disasters are not.
Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, a reminder: Natural disasters are inevitable. But prosperity and the discipline to use some of that surplus in order to prepare for the inevitable are two very good ways to resist suffering.

Science and Technology Consumer Reports is crazy for the Tesla Model S
Tesla got one very important thing right: They went upscale with their electric car, rather than trying to achieve mass appeal but at a cost $15,000 above the comparable non-electric cars.

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August 27, 2015

Computers and the Internet Facebook claims a billion users per day

Computers and the Internet Instagram to permit portrait, landscape modes
Art is in the constraints. This does away with the biggest constraint of all on Instagram: The forced square. This will obviously please some people in the short run, but it really damages the appeal that made Instagram attractive from an artistic standpoint. Now it's just another dull way to share photos, like all the rest.

Humor and Good News Burger King brilliantly proposes "McWhopper" in the name of Peace Day
Burger King: Looks clever and fun in their proposal. Looks engaged. Nothing to lose by tweaking your larger rival. McDonald's, on the other hand, looks sanctimonious in response. But rumor has it you shouldn't try building your own McWhopper.

Business and Finance The Federal Reserve looks at different exchange rates than Wall Street
Because the relative strength of the dollar affects our imports and exports, that affects the size of the economy. So it's not a trivial distinction what the Fed uses to establish how much inflation is occurring.

Computers and the Internet Not everyone named in the Ashley Madison hack was actually trying to cheat
Apparently, the company did nothing to verify addresses -- so people may have used the addresses of others in order to evade detection

August 26, 2015

Business and Finance New orders for durable goods are down a lot from last year
This is a problem, especially because capital investment by businesses has also been lagging for quite a while -- and there's really just no way to escape the fact that you need things in order to make other things

Computers and the Internet Putting computers to work on behalf of education
Computers aren't a substitute for teachers -- they should be used as enhancements. But if there's an area in which we should be almost maniacally eager to improve quality, especially in ways that can reduce costs, then education surely must be it.

Business and Finance Theo Epstein is up for a contract extension in 2016
The Cubs had better show up with a blank check. His value to the franchise is incredible.

News Angela Merkel reminds Germans: Migrants are people, too
Refugees trying to escape troubles south of Europe are really just doing what any rational person would try to do

Humor and Good News Plagiarized national anthems

August 25, 2015

Science and Technology Selfies in the voting booth
On one hand, an expression of free speech. On the other, a risk to the secrecy of the ballot. Who can tell for sure that a photo of a completed ballot wasn't coerced?

Broadcasting Dish won't turn into a major cellphone carrier after all
The FCC has gotten in the way

Health Japan has so many people turning 100, it's busting the government's gift budget

Business and Finance Is the Chinese government really backing off intervention in the stock market?

Business and Finance NYSE Rule 48
How the stock exchange tries to put the brakes on an erratic market

August 24, 2015

Business and Finance Watch as the Chinese stock market enters a meltdown

Threats and Hazards 50 North Korean subs have left their bases

Business and Finance China's government can't prop up the stock market any longer
The market is a natural force much bigger than our power to coerce it effectively in most big cases. Britain's stock market took a big hit, too. Tremendous buying opportunities exist in the stock market when people lose their minds like this.

Science and Technology The tools Hyundai touts behind its convoy of cars driving themselves
The self-driving car isn't going to arrive all at once, like Google has been preparing to offer. It's going to arrive iteratively -- step-by-step. Parking assistance and lane management tools beget still better things and more serious overrides of human behavior. As comfort levels increase with each step, humans will eventually cede control of the car altogether to the car itself, and thank God. We are the weak link in the chain.

News Cop draws gun on man apparently just standing in his own yard
It's not that police officers are inherently bad or eager to power-trip, but some are -- and the consequences when they can't demonstrate adequate self-control are so grave that the rest of us need to be sure that real civilian oversight is taking place. We should also be recording and sharing evidence of misbehavior, because it matters.

August 20, 2015

Threats and Hazards Red-light camera company engaged in corruption
Former CEO pleads guilty to a $2 million deal

Computers and the Internet An argument for Google to buy Twitter

Computers and the Internet Computerized reconstruction of murder victim's face closes cold case
The value of a tool like that is hard to quantify, but psychologically huge

Computers and the Internet How to make the shrugging guy emoticon

News Innumeracy is just as bad as illiteracy
Lots of important things, including in political life, depend on numbers. If a person (like a Presidential candidate) can't even come close to getting the numbers right, then that person is functionally innumerate. And that's a problem.

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August 19, 2015

Computers and the Internet Why you should even back up your cloud-based data
A freak incident wiped out some data stored on Google cloud servers

Health Good advice for showing concern for a hospitalized friend

Threats and Hazards ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh kills scholars. Enough said.
If your worldview is threatened by the advance of knowledge, then you have a problem.

Broadcasting The cost of not asking tough questions
Chuck Todd's interviews with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders on the August 16th episode of "Meet the Press" were about as penetrating as a cover story for the "Weekly Reader".

News One-paragraph book review: "The Liar's Ball"

August 18, 2015

Computers and the Internet An example of anything but transparency
The State Department just "found" thousands of emails it said did not exist

Threats and Hazards Donald Trump as mild fascist
Or, at least, as a dying canary in the coal mine of a healthy civic society. See also "It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis

Computers and the Internet Hackers release huge data dump of user information from AshleyMadison.com
The website catering to those who want to arrange extramarital affairs was targeted by a curiously moralistic kind of criminal

Computers and the Internet A tool for the compulsive over-sharer
A site called "My Social Book" will convert an individual's Facebook feed into a printed bok. Sure, it's appealing in a sense to have a personalized journal. But if you share enough on Facebook to fill an actual book, it's time to pump the brakes. Over-sharing on Facebook can lead to identity theft, among other serious personal hazards.

Broadcasting A bad sign for late-night television
If television stations are rebroadcasting old episodes of the Johnny Carson-era "Tonight Show", then someone really needs to work on talent development for today's broadcasters. Carson was a genius, no doubt -- but why hasn't anyone with comparable talent emerged in the 23 years since the show left the air?

News One-paragraph book review: "America's Richest Families"

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

August 17, 2015

Business and Finance Natural gas prices versus Chinese labor costs
The decline in the price of natural gas is making American electricity extra-cheap. Meanwhile, the cost of labor is rising in China. These factors mean that the overall cost of manufacturing in the United States is now within rounding error of that in China, and is likely to be in an advantageous positin within a couple of years.

Computers and the Internet Android Marshmallow is out for developers
The latest iteration of Google's operating system for mobile devices is ready for the last major step before public use

News "Knowledge wins: Public library books are free"
A terrific war poster just as accurate today as a century ago

Business and Finance NLRB: "Stability" is the prevailing factor in blocking Northwestern football unionization
Of course university officials oppose unionization by their "student-athletes", but until that phrase ceases to be a pretty awful euphemism when applied to major college football programs, someone needs to continue agitating for a change of some sort. It doesn't have to be unionization, but it needs to be something.

Science and Technology The robotic lawn mower is finally coming to America
FCC finally approves an exemption for iRobot (makers of the Roomba) to use low-power radio signals to control the mowers. Honda already sells robotic mowers in the UK, so the technology isn't entirely new. Overall, the less time human beings spend on silly tasks like lawn mowing, the better.

August 16, 2015

Business and Finance One-paragraph book review: "Dangerous Pursuits: Mergers and acquisitions in the age of Wall Street"

Agriculture USDA re-estimates crop sizes for the year
And the upward revision was enough to really shake the markets

Humor and Good News Iowa barber gives haircuts to children in exchange for them reading stories to him

News Knowledge transfer: UK troops help Ukrainian military
...and learn how to face the Russian military in the meantime

Computers and the Internet Apple puts TV service on hold
Negotiating distribution deals is turning out to be harder than expected

News France threatens to open the border at Calais to send migrants to the UK

Aviation News Using business jets to deliver scheduled flight service

Business and Finance Germany in the EU
The EU, founded more or less to keep Germany from getting belligerent again, now faces the problem of having a highly responsibe Germany that subsidizes bad economic behavior by others (who resent it)

Business and Finance A look inside Amazon.com's brutal workplace

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - August 16, 2015

August 14, 2015

Computers and the Internet Motorola Mobility to cut 25% of its Chicago workforce
The smartphone maker, spun off from the parent company, then sold to Google, then sold to Lenovo, is cutting 500 jobs in Chicago out of the about 2,000 it employs now. The rest of Lenovo is cutting back, too, and despite the Chicago cuts, the company supposedly wants Motorola to do more of the parent company's smartphone work.

Humor and Good News Prankster goes after people angry about Target's gender-neutrality policy in the toy aisle

Science and Technology Samsung introduces new jumbo smartphones
The Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge Plus are both really big -- "phablet"-sized -- and carry huge price tags: $700 and $800, respectively. Especially as cell-phone service providers move away from the long-term-contract model, consumers may start to get more price-sensitive, and $700 is a really big ticket.

Computers and the Internet Verizon tests 10 Gbps Internet service
Their current FiOS network offerings hit 500 Mbps, which is really fast -- but this is 20 times faster, and the company thinks they could get up to 80 Gbps. Fiber optics make all the difference...now, it just has to become economically feasible for utilities to install that expensive fiber all the way to homes. Densely-populated places will have a huge advantage in getting it first.

Broadcasting Comcast plans a new streaming-video service
Tentatively called "Watchable", it's expected to carry a lot of content from online-only providers and deliver it straight to cable TV subscribers' homes. It reflects the surging demand for content to suit ever-more-specific audiences, and how threatening that is to cable television providers.

August 13, 2015

Computers and the Internet UK government claims 83% of the country has "super-fast" broadband access
By "super-fast", they mean 24 Mbps. The big challenge in the UK, as it is elsewhere, is delivering high speeds in rural areas.

News FCC invites phone companies to workshop on figuring out how to stop telemarketing robocalls

Science and Technology An ambulance drone may be coming
Designed to get things like defibrilators to the scene faster than an ambulance on four wheels

Computers and the Internet Samsung plans to build the world's biggest hard drive
In the standard 2.5" package, it's supposed to hold 16 terabytes

Broadcasting "Sesame Street" isn't leaving PBS...but it'll air first on HBO

August 12, 2015

Computers and the Internet International hacking ring stole info from press-release websites to trade on insider information

Computers and the Internet Hillary Clinton to turn over the infamous server hard drive
Plus a thumb drive containing backups of those disputed emails. A reminder to all of us: If you do serious business by email, you should make sure to deliberately keep a backup someplace safe. Have a strategy for security and backups; don't pull a Clinton.

Science and Technology Smartphones as the "Swiss Army knife" of the Millennial generation
Phones are used to do so many things that they are hard to do without

Computers and the Internet Kim Kardashian busted for endorsing pharmaceuticals on Instagram

Computers and the Internet Google's rearrangement as "Alphabet" doesn't make it a real conglomerate
But they are trying to be a digital conglomerate

August 9, 2015

Aviation News Delta is testing super-upgrades for frequent flyers
Not just an upgrade to first class, but to a private jet. They're trying to make better use of deadheading flights to reposition aircraft for full-price private passengers.

August 8, 2015

Computers and the Internet Hotel group opposes Orbitz/Expedia merger

Broadcasting Chicago delays imposing "cloud tax"

Threats and Hazards Anti-corruption broadcaster shot in Brazil
A reminder of just how fragile self-government can be

Computers and the Internet Proliferation of new generic top level domains rolls on

Computers and the Internet Verizon and other phone providers phase out two-year contracts

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

August 7, 2015

Threats and Hazards Russia hacks the Pentagon

Threats and Hazards Blogger killed in Bangladesh -- probably for advocating secularism

Computers and the Internet Firefox requires an urgent update

Computers and the Internet Officials in Illinois used personal e-mail addresses to avoid public scrutiny

Business and Finance Robots and interest rates

July 31, 2015

Computers and the Internet Tit-for-tat hack-for-hack
The United States is clearly in a cyberwar with China. The question is whether it's predominantly one-sided (from an offensive perspective, that appears to be the case), and what kind of defense and/or retaliation are justified. What achieves the objective? What really is the objective? The longer the government delays in framing the rules of the game (which, astonishingly, it has failed to do already), the longer the United States suffers both national-security and economic harm.

Threats and Hazards Iowa DCI says crooks are trying to extort people by phone in their name
It's good to live in a culture where we can generally assume that police authorities aren't going to call and demand a bribe

Science and Technology The New York City subway system can't find parts anymore
Many of the components that keep the trains running are so far obsolete that they have to keep open a shop just to fabricate their own replacements

Threats and Hazards NHTSA wants to know if Fiat Chrysler was the only manufacturer making hacking-vulnerable cars
Considering the supply chains involved, it's likely to be a broader issue than just a few Jeeps

Aviation News A Facebook drone the width of a 737
They're going to launch the drones to hover at 90,000 feet and deliver Internet access to places that are generally off the broadband grid right now. That's because Facebook needs user growth, and they view the world's 1/3 or so who aren't already Internet-connected as a leading source of opportunity

July 30, 2015

Computers and the Internet Archiving those old emails for posterity
Stanford teams are coming up with software to try to reconstruct the contexts and relationships that make e-mail make sense so that digital archivists can have something to use in the future when they get big dumps of inbox records

Computers and the Internet An early review of Windows 10

Humor and Good News Consumer reporter busts his own identity thief
(Video) Dallas TV reporter shows up when the cops move in to arrest woman using his stolen credit-card number

Business and Finance Social Security trustee report is out
Trust fund reserves start drawing down in 2019. Depletion happens in 2034. The disability insurance trust fund goes broke next year. Overhead is 0.7%, or not that different from many mutual funds.

News Man ends up dead after trying to rob another
The woeful part? He had spent 17 years in prison, wrongly accused of murder, and was freed in 2012. This may serve to illustrate the importance of a rehabilitation-first approach to incarceration. Imagine spending 17 years in prison for something you didn't do, and then trying to assemble a life on the outside. We're doing something wrong.

July 29, 2015

Computers and the Internet Some helpful insight on getting real computer security
Though be cautious about password managers

Computers and the Internet Apple promises OS X "El Capitan" update
They hint it's coming this fall

News The border crisis
...for England. Refugees are piling up at Calais and trying to rush the Chunnel.

Computers and the Internet Twitter stock tanks after CEO downplays performance
They need a mass audience, and their audience isn't mass enough yet

Computers and the Internet Windows 10 is here

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

July 26, 2015

News One-paragraph book review: "The ITT Wars"

News How Taylor Swift could cause a diplomatic incident
It's not because she's never, ever, ever getting back together with a diplomat

Threats and Hazards Set off the alarms: ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh continues to evolve into a permanent nation-state

Science and Technology NASA found another planet much like Earth

Broadcasting Show notes - The Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - July 26, 2015

July 24, 2015

Business and Finance $800 billion in investments have left China in the last year
The government may be propping up the stock market, but that's a huge amount of capital outflow from the private sector. Gargantuan, really.

Business and Finance Amazon.com earned a profit in the second quarter
Remarkable because the company doesn't usually earn a profit. It was only $92 million on $23 billion in sales (or a 0.4% profit margin), but it's in the black nonetheless. The thing is, it's really hard for anyone to compete with an outsized market dominator that doesn't turn a consistent profit.

Science and Technology Fiat Chrysler recalls 1.4 million US vehicles
They were left vulnerable to hacking because a communications port was left open. A USB device is supposed to fix the error.

Computers and the Internet YouTube still working on a subscription model
They say content creators responsible for 90% of time spent watching have signed up to permit their videos on the subscription service, but they want 100% parity between the two versions of YouTube (ad-supported and subscription), so they might end up dropping some videos if the creators hold out.

Computers and the Internet "Time-lapse mining" from photos shared online
Researchers at the University of Washington and Google cooperated to "mine" social media for thousands of photos of well-known locations to create time-lapse videos using "geometric stabilization" (since the photos are aggregated from different perspectives). The paper concludes, "Our system discovered 10,728 time-lapses that show how the world's most popular landmarks are changing over time" and suggests how more could be done in the future as the number of online photos available for "mining" will grow. The system seems to especially like buildings under construction and waterfalls.

July 23, 2015

Threats and Hazards Chicago Tribune editorial gets the Sandra Bland case exactly right
Calling for the arresting officer to be fired, they note, "Bland didn't die at the side of the road. She died three days later, in jail. She shouldn't have been there in the first place." In any conflict, it is the solemn responsibility of the party with more power to de-escalate the situation.

Science and Technology Can you record the police?
If you're not interfering with their work, yes. And they can't take your phone or erase its contents without a warrant. And if you look at the suspicion surrounding the glitches in the dashcam video of the Sandra Bland incident, you should see why independent recordings and third-party custody of police dashcam and bodycam videos are important.

News Judge says the State Department shouldn't have taken four years to respond to FOIA requests over Sec. Hillary Clinton
Taking four years to respond isn't anything close to "transparency"

Humor and Good News Sen. Lindsey Graham stars in "How to destroy your cell phone"
A very clever response to Donald Trump acting like a clown and giving out Graham's personal telephone number. (Most of the methods shown are not in fact recommended for destroying an old phone.)

Threats and Hazards FBI director worries more about ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh than Al Qaeda
James Comey thinks that Al Qaeda's more methodical approach keeps it from conducting as many attacks as its offshoot will ultimately initiate, because the latter has taken to massive levels of publicity and has the potential to give ideas and some forms of training to "lone wolf" attackers

July 22, 2015

Threats and Hazards Texas state trooper radically escalates traffic stop
(Video) The result was that a woman named Sandra Bland went to jail over failure to signal a lane change. And was found dead in her cell three days later.

News Donald Trump (a/k/a The Orange Menace) gives out Sen. Lindsey Graham's personal phone number at campaign stop
It's an utterly classless move by a world-class clown

Computers and the Internet Matchmaking website for cheaters gets hacked
AshleyMadison, which was just about to go for an IPO, now has to deal with a group that says it's going to release "all customer records, profiles with all the customers' secret sexual fantasies, nude pictures, and conversations" online. This is a case where even if you like the outcome (shutting down a website for adulterers), you have to be displeased with the process.

Broadcasting HDTV is too good
It's driving people crazy on movie and TV sets -- they have to attend to details that have never mattered before, and that means they have to create an unreal reality in order not to offend what viewers expect to see

News Army chief of staff views ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh on a decadal timeline
General Ray Odierno: "ISIS is a ten to twenty year problem, itís not a two years problem"

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July 21, 2015

Science and Technology Robot passes test of self-awareness

Aviation News United Airlines rewards hackers for telling them about security error on website
Millions of miles -- probably cheaper than the consequences of leaving the security error in place

Science and Technology How police cars have gotten better -- a subtle quality-of-life improvement

Humor and Good News You, too, can claim to be worth $10 billion

News North Korea claims a 99.97% electoral turnout
A good example of how numbers can sometimes be a little too perfect. See also: Bernie Madoff.

July 18, 2015

Iowa Cedar Rapids joins lawsuit with Des Moines and Muscatine to get rights to re-activate traffic-ticket cameras

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - July 18, 2015

July 17, 2015

Business and Finance Business travelers are now taking more trips on Uber than via taxi
That's an analysis from an expense-management software company, so it's third-party data that may not be completely accurate for the universe at large, but it does signal the threat that ride-sharing poses to conventional taxicab services. There's no doubt they've failed to capture the opportunities that the Internet placed right in front of them.

Business and Finance Chinese company buys abandoned Spanish airport for $11,000
Bloomberg reports that the company "plans to turn the so-called ghost airport into a European hub for Chinese companies". China is literally buying beachheads in Europe. This will not be the last -- certainly not if China's economy is really slowing down as dramatically as it appears. A whole bunch of important signals say they're running out of places to invest internally -- and fast. And a reminder to Europe and others: Ownership matters. Once you give up ownership, you give up control. This is an immutable law of economic nature, and the consequences in the intermediate-term future are going to be huge.

Computers and the Internet Google may be starting to watch its spending a bit
The stock price took off by 16% after the company reported a nearly $4 billion profit in the second quarter of this year. They're still trying to break out of the confines of Internet search-related advertising, but the impression seems to be that the new CFO won't tolerate quite so much frivolous spending as took place in the past -- and that she's going to keep a closer eye on some of the company's "moon shot" investments.

Computers and the Internet What's said on the Internet still has consequences
Gawker took down a post under pressure this past week. The original story alleged that a media executive had texted an escort, and they took down the story because the public pressure "reflects a growing recognition that we all have secrets, and they are not all equally worthy of exposure", according to Gawker's founder, Nick Denton. This is the same Gawker that tastelessly manipulated a Coca-Cola promotion earlier this year. It's odd watching Internet wunderkinds realize they have to grow up.

Business and Finance Samsung manages to hold off US activist investor group
More control for the founding family over the large and eye-poppingly complex conglomerate

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

July 16, 2015

Science and Technology Audi plant takes wind power and turns it into synthetic methane
They use surplus electricity from wind to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. Then they take the hydrogen (H2) and extra carbon dioxide (CO2) and combine them to produce synthetic methane (CH4) -- which also makes the produced methane carbon-neutral. Finding ways to capture the excess energy captured by wind systems and making it available when demand requires is a huge step forward for the energy budget (since the wind blows at night but most energy is used during the day). And because gas-powered turbines are really good for load-balancing with wind energy in the electrical supply, it's a great way to use technology. Most new electrical generation in the US is coming from wind and natural gas.

Business and Finance What caused the October 2014 "flash crash"?
Automated trading was part of the problem, but not the whole thing

News IRS "taxpayer advocate" worries that migration to online services will put low-income users at higher risk of tax errors
Apparently, the IRS also has trouble answering the phone: Only 37% of the taxpayers who called the toll-free line actually got through. So there's a problem here: The online services obviously don't do enough since they're leaving people with questions that they feel the need to phone in, but then the IRS isn't answering the phone.

Business and Finance Copper prices are plunging
Production is still on the rise, but China -- which is consuming about half of the world's copper -- is slowing down, economically. And that slowdown is being reflected in demand for the metal.

Iowa Mediacom promotes "Xtream" Internet service in the Des Moines area
Download speeds for residential users up to 50 Mbps are promised, with "speed boost" options for up to 150 Mbps

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

July 15, 2015

Humor and Good News Kansas City Royals bench coach uses calligraphy to create beautiful lineup cards
He does it so players have nice keepsakes from big games. And he also does it to illustrate that getting the details right can matter. And there's no reason not to bring a little beauty to the world.

Aviation News NASA "New Horizons" spacecraft sends back photos of Pluto

More lab-grown organs are being produced
A set of cells were turned into a beating heart

Computers and the Internet Amazon still acts like profits don't matter
It's not a non-profit by definition, but it doesn't actively produce a lot of profits -- even after 20 years. That makes it hard for anyone to compete with them, and that may be the point. Amazon lost money in 2012, profited in 2013, and lost again in 2014.

Broadcasting Being a radio personality today is half about being Internet-savvy

July 14, 2015

Business and Finance Chicago imposes 9% "cloud tax"
If you pay to stream music or videos (in other words, if you subscribe to Netflix or pay for Pandora), you'll have to pay for it -- starting in September. If it sticks, get worried about a national Internet sales tax regime.

Computers and the Internet PayPal changes terms to permit autodialing to bug people with debts

Weather and Disasters The quake that will devastate Seattle

Humor and Good News Berkeley Breathed brings back "Bloom County"
The wonders of the Internet. Why worry about distribution when you can self-distribute and then sell collateral like books and plush dolls?

Agriculture Too much rain has messed with some farms in the Midwest
Lots of acres got too much rain and flooded -- and it's getting to be much too late to re-plant successfully to beat the freeze in winter before harvest

July 10, 2015

Computers and the Internet Scott Walker team accidentally tweets premature announcement of Presidential run

Computers and the Internet Facebook permits a little more customization of the news feed
For now, just for iOS users. Others may come later.

Computers and the Internet Wedding planning via text message
Suppply meets demand

Science and Technology Truck drivers are in short supply
And that's just one more reason why trucking companies are going to be heavily behind the shift to self-piloted vehicles

Computers and the Internet Reddit riot gets CEO ousted

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

July 9, 2015

Threats and Hazards More than 25 million people's Federal identity records have been hacked
This isn't a piddling case of credit-card fraud -- it's cyberwar

Computers and the Internet Beacons at campaign events
Another way to reach out to people at campaign events

Computers and the Internet DARPA wants to save the Internet
Considering DARPA started it, one can see why they'd want to preserve it. The DARPA Security Challenge appears to be a reasonably smart way for the agency to get what it wants at minimal public expense.

Socialism Doesn't Work China tries to rescue tumbling stock market with astonishing restrictions
If you're a major shareholder, you can't sell anything for the next six months

Threats and Hazards The security consequences of Greece's economic troubles
They aren't trivial

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July 8, 2015

Computers and the Internet State attorneys general want to take the lead on data breaches

Business and Finance Stock market (computer) crash freezes NYSE

Aviation News United Airlines flights grounded nationwide over computer issues

Business and Finance China's stock market enters meltdown mode

Iowa Unexplained fire alarm outbreak in Cedar Rapids

July 6, 2015

Broadcasting Michael Eisner holds some rather depressing views of women
The former Disney chief thinks that "the number of beautiful, really beautiful women...that are funny, is impossible to find". Supposing he really believed that to be true, and that he really wished to find some, then why wouldn't he have invested in developing that kind of talent?

Business and Finance The most "American-made" car is the Toyota Camry
It's even more domestic-made than the Ford F-150

Science and Technology If a police body camera never blinks, then we need to know who gets to see the video
They have great potential for deterring abuse, but there are lots of things that police officers see that may not be good for the public to see

Business and Finance Speaking of all-out panic...
China is entering panic mode: "The central government, securities regulator and financial institutions have launched a joint effort to support the country's plummetingstock market amid fears that a market crash could threaten the country's entire financial system," says the state-run media.

Business and Finance Greek banks may be literally out of cash within the week

Threats and Hazards UN estimate: There are 60 million refugees worldwide
And half of them are children. If we are to have any hope of peace in the coming years, we're going to have to wrap our brains around this issue. In those places that are bound to be destinations for refugees, a sensible and humane approach must prevail. In those places producing refugees, changes are due. The number of refugees is thought to be almost 10 million larger than just the year before. That means the odds of being a refugee are now 1 in 122 worldwide.

News Tennessee state representative wants refund over new state logo
They paid $46,000 for a logo, and he wants all but $10,000 of it returned in part because the US PTO rejected the application for a trademark

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol filling in for Simon Conway on WHO Radio - July 6, 2015
Streamed live at WHORadio.com

July 3, 2015

Computers and the Internet Google artificial intelligence bot says the purpose of living is "to live forever"
Chatbots are going to get more and more interesting over time. What will be most interesting is to program them to respond to questions in the mode of a particular individual. There are only certain individuals who have been prolific enough as speaker and writers that their thoughts could be used to populate an AI "brain", but those would be some of the most interesting people to imitate artificially today: Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Isaac Asimov all come to mind.

Computers and the Internet St. Louis Cardinals fire scouting director, apparently over hacking
The former scouting director, Chris Correa, "has admitted hacking into a Houston database but only to determine whether the Astros had stolen proprietary data", according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. ESPN notes that "in-house algorithms and analytic models" now represent a real source of competitive advantage in baseball.

News Mercy comes from strength

Broadcasting "NBC dumps orange loudmouth"

Weather and Disasters June was unusually wet for most of the Upper Mississippi Valley

July 2, 2015

Computers and the Internet Twitter is preparing "Project Lighting" for public consumption in a couple of months
They're making the site more welcoming to the drive-by visitor

Threats and Hazards Groups even harder-line than ISIS/ISIL/QSIL emerge in Syria
Extremism often turns on itself when questions of purity and dedication to a cause take over. But this is still frightening news.

Threats and Hazards USA Today reviews 50,000 complaints about TSA and finds 15,000 resulted in claims
We should be nowhere close to this rate of criminal activity inside an organization that is supposed to be protecting the people. We also ought to get them to reel in their enthusiasm for showing off -- like the pictures shared of a cash stash confiscated from a passenger. Novelty isn't illegality, and it's not really a permission slip to make a big deal out of things.

Science and Technology Visitors can now take pictures inside the White House
But those abominable "selfie sticks" are still prohibited, as they rightly ought to be.

Computers and the Internet A social network for public-policy addicts
Brigade, which is currently in invitation-only mode, is out to solicit personal opinions on public issues and to build some kind of network around "supporters". It's attractive initial clickbait, but it may be hard to get enough people really addicted to the site sufficiently to make it work.

July 1, 2015

News Teen birthrates are alarmingly higher in small towns

Humor and Good News "What your email address says about your computer skills"

Aviation News Department of Justice investigating allegations of collusion among airlines
Any market with a very small number of suppliers is likely to look like it's engaging in cartel-like behavior, whether or not it's intentional. It can get pretty hard to distinguish PR bravado from signals deliberately telegraphed to others. If there really is illegal collusion, throw the book at them. But there's a real possibility that ordinary behavior is going to look like illegal coordination in a market like the airlines.

Business and Finance Is a Chelsea Clinton speech really worth more than an average American's annual salary?

Threats and Hazards NYC worries about terrorism over Independence Day holiday weekend

June 30, 2015

News Is there a rash of fires at black churches?

Business and Finance Greece defaults on loan payments to IMF

Iowa Kum and Go reveals design for new downtown Des Moines headquarters

Threats and Hazards Lots and lots of bad things led to a prison riot in Nebraska

Science and Technology A leap second to keep our atomic clocks on time

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June 29, 2015

Computers and the Internet App developers settle with FTC over crooked program to mine virtual currencies
The app, "Prized", apparently hijacked phones to turn them into bots to mine cryptocurrencies

Computers and the Internet Using positive feedback via text messages and the Internet to encourage blood donors

News Gov. Bobby Jindal has some pretty outlandish ideas for the courts

News Longer Omaha commutes in the forecast

News New Jersey jury rules "conversion therapy" a consumer fraud

June 28, 2015

Business and Finance First-quarter GDP growth estimate revised up, but it's still negative
From a +0.2% estimate to -0.7% and now to -0.2%. These aren't trivial swings in estimation.

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June 27, 2015

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - June 27, 2015

June 26, 2015

The United States of America Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage rights nationwide
One of the great beauties of our judicial system is that the majority and the dissenters are accountable for putting their decisions in writing. This is vastly to the credit of the nation. In fact, how about a Constitutional amendment requiring every elected official to write 200 words a day for public review (with no assistance permitted)? There may be no faster way to expose idiots, demagogues, and empty suits.

Computers and the Internet China and Russia aren't just cyber-attacking the United States
"[C]yber espionage is combined with human espionage to research targets and work out whom to approach and how"

Threats and Hazards 5,000 child refugees from North Africa have gone missing in Europe
This is an enormous human disaster -- these are children, and some of the will undoubtedly become victims of exploitation

Science and Technology Bill Gates thinks Uber will get to self-driving cars first
The people who will push hardest for innovation are the ones who have the most to gain. In the case of self-driving cars, Uber has a lot of potential upside to gain. But trucking companies have an enormous amount to gain, as do suppliers who want to reach the very large potential consumer markets including groups like outside salespeople and the elderly.

Threats and Hazards European tourists killed in Tunisian terrorist attack

June 25, 2015

Threats and Hazards The problem of baseline error
The New York Times notes: "Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims". It is depressing and it is sad. And it's important to public policy that we recognize the baseline error that creeps into our thinking on the subject. "Lone-wolf" extremism of the type described fades in the public's attention because it has become familiar. It's not common, really, but it's been around for a long time -- since at least the 1960s, when white male killers murdered President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and 15 people on the University of Texas campus. It is sad but true that we have established a baseline expectation for those kinds of killers in our collective attention. Consequently, when a new type of killer emerges (like the kinds who attacked America on 9/11), they get a disproportionate share of attention because they are new and novel. Our baseline expectation for those killings starts at zero, so we pay attention when something causes the number to rise above zero. This baseline error has serious consequences for public policy-making; we shouldn't address problems in proportion to how novel they are, but in proportion to their consequences and what we can do to prevent them.

Business and Finance Cartels like to protect their advantages
French taxi drivers protest the rise of ride-sharing services like Uber by blockading the streets

Computers and the Internet Samsung, you're not helping
Samsung appears to be disabling automatic Windows updates on some new laptops

Computers and the Internet Yahoo aims for answers-first search results
On mobile search, Yahoo says "rather than delivering endless links for you to sift through on a small screen, we beautifully assemble the most relevant information in a way that allows you to take action right away". Since its earliest days as a web index (rather than a search engine), Yahoo has always taken a different approach to delivering information. Whether they can use computer-generated results to deliver a curated-style experience that can beat out Google Now and Siri is theirs to prove.

Computers and the Internet Amazon "Echo" drops in about three weeks
Coming July 16th: A product that is combination stereo speaker, Siri, and cloud-computing device. But will people really embrace a product that's always listening?

June 24, 2015

Computers and the Internet OPM breach probably affects 18 million Federal employees
It's a huge breach of security, and nobody wants the hot potato to fix it

Computers and the Internet Google puts an "unsend" button on Gmail
Some may find it useful, but it won't stop every regret

Iowa "Connect Every Acre" legislation becomes law
Iowa's effort to get broadband everywhere

Threats and Hazards ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh begins minting coinage
Another trapping of statehood

Computers and the Internet Emojis are the hot thing of the moment
But that's only going to continue for a while -- they aren't clear enough to remain durable

June 23, 2015

Business and Finance Retailers drop the Confederate flag
In many ways, the retail-level decision-making is actually much more important culturally than anything done at the legal level. If Amazon.com and Walmart decide that something is too toxic to sell, then they're literally putting their money at risk in making the decision.

Business and Finance Durable goods orders have dropped in three of the last four months
That paints a highly worrying picture of the economy

The United States of America Ben Bernanke agrees: Kick Jackson off the twenty
Leave Alexander Hamilton in his place on the $10 bill

Science and Technology Google's health-tracking wristband
Big deal? Maybe. Too much privacy encroachment for some? For sure.

Computers and the Internet IBM's "Chef Watson" goes to a more public stage
As of today, it moves to a public Facebook group and more open access

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June 22, 2015

Business and Finance American business should prepare itself for a congestion crisis
Supply chains that break down can spell death to businesses

The United States of America Take down the Confederate flag from South Carolina state grounds

Computers and the Internet Don't let your domain names expire
They're cheap. Once you reserve a name, you'd better be committed to holding on.

Business and Finance Supreme Court decides in favor of the small farmer who wants out from the raisin cartel

Science and Technology Pebble Time now open for pre-orders

The United States of America On the malappropriation of Native American identity
While many are guilty of adopting the superficial trappings without any deeper understanding (fetishizing things like feathered headdress without any real engagement with American Indian culture), there's also the complex and curious case of those who are descended from First Nations but who were culturally cut off from their heritage by aggressive tactics of assimilation.

June 19, 2015

Computers and the Internet Microsoft's upcoming Edge browser should be much improved
Standards have won at last

Computers and the Internet China had a year of unfettered access to OPM database
Everyone seems to have an excuse -- antiquated computers, slow procurement policies, and the like. The time for decisive action is long overdue.

Computers and the Internet EU plans to hold websites responsible for what users post

News FCC says carriers can block robocalls
Just wait -- this only means more awful calls from spoofed numbers

Computers and the Internet FCC wants to fine AT&T $100 million for lack of transparency on "unlimited" data plans
The carrier says it has to throttle back customers who are responsible for the heaviest use; the FCC says the problem is that can't really be called "unlimited"

June 18, 2015

Computers and the Internet The OPM data breach was a full-blown catastrophy

Computers and the Internet What makes a place attractive to data centers

Business and Finance Strip Andrew Jackson from the $20 and leave Alexander Hamilton prominent on the $10
The plan to put a female figure on the $10 bill (in addition to Hamilton) would be much better-executed by stripping Jackson from the $20. The $20 is a more widely-used bill, so it would put the female figure in wider circulation, and Jackson is a poor representative of the virtues we espouse today (among other things, he was a slave owner and authorized the Indian Removal Act of 1830). Jackson deserves no exalted place in history or on our currency.

The United States of America The nation is fortunate to have Paul Ryan in Congress

Computers and the Internet Ello gets an iOS app

June 17, 2015

Computers and the Internet Samsung Galaxy phones can be hijacked
600 million phones are at risk

News Clean up after yourselves
Protest and free speech are one thing; leaving behind a mess for other people to clean up is quite another

Agriculture North Korea says it's having the worst drought in a century
A nation that lives without creating surplus won't do well in times of shortage

Business and Finance California wants Uber drivers to count as employees, not contractors
That's a direct hit to the company's central business model

Computers and the Internet Former Nokia CEO is leaving Microsoft
He led the sale of the company to Microsoft, and about a year later, he's out

June 16, 2015

Threats and Hazards Why we should assume Russia and China both have the Snowden documents
It might not even require that they have the documents Snowden himself captured -- they may very well have been inside the systems already

Threats and Hazards More nuclear saber-rattling
This nonsense should have ended with the Cold War

Science and Technology Automation to enable fresh groceries in underserved neighborhoods
Automation reduces the cost of delivery and might ultimately make fresh groceries economical (and profitable) to sell in low-income neighborhoods. A robogrocery looks like a very smart application of technology to solve a human problem.

Business and Finance OPEC has no apparent plans to cut back on oil production
When a cartel can't enforce enough production discipline to create an effective price control, nobody should be surprised when everyone instead goes all-out to produce like mad

The United States of America Reagan was packing heat
He carried a gun in a briefcase as President. Maybe he knew they were going to make "Air Force One" and was practicing for his own role.

June 15, 2015

Health UI Hospitals takes small steps toward protecting patients
Too many have taken their own lives simply by jumping off the parking ramps. A sad illustration of our woefully inadequate care for mental wellness.

News Cold War v2.0
Heavy weapons are headed to Europe, and who could blame us for sending them?

Aviation News United leaves passengers in Canadian barracks when plane breaks down
A real disaster for customer serice; a real credit to Canadian hospitality

Health Chicago hockey legend won't enjoy the Blackhawks victory
Whether his dementia is the result of game-related traumatic brain injury or not, it's sad to see people like Stan Mikita lose the capacity to use their minds as in their youth. More research is decidedly needed.

Science and Technology SpaceX opens competition to college students to design Hyperloop pods
They're building a test track and eventually want to see the technology commercialized for 700 mph transportation in a tube

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June 14, 2015

Business and Finance "Why I defaulted on my student loans"
A writer who is at least in his mid-50s and who has published five books thinks it isn't his job to pay his student loans. And he "is writing a memoir about money", according to his New York Times biography. This is not an individual who has anything constructive to add to the discussion about student loans. He's simply taking pride in his own irresponsibility.

Business and Finance Fiat Chrysler really, really wants another merger

Threats and Hazards A good example of the needless waste of human potential in American corrections

Business and Finance Marriott will launch Netflix access in 100 hotels by year-end
Hotel guests' tastes have changed; one wonders why this has taken so long

Business and Finance A collection of productivity tools

Socialism Doesn't Work Finland's economic situation -- not so grand
Those who have fallen all over themselves for a long time to praise the Nordic social economies might want to reconsider. There are certain specific circumstances under which a strongly socialized economy can be sustained, but when important elements go missing, the system falls apart.

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - June 14, 2015

June 13, 2015

Business and Finance Some interesting insights on US household net worth

Socialism Doesn't Work Under authoritarianism, everyone's time runs out sooner or later
A former security chief is going to prison for the rest of his life. Never be surprised when there's a purge under an authoritarian regime.

News Are skyscraper architects just getting high together?
The silly-looking proposal for Two World Trade Center really begs the question whether skyscraper architects are even serious anymore

Computers and the Internet Twitter is eliminating its character limit on direct messages
They're going from 140 characters to 10,000 (which is effectively unlimited, for all intents and purposes). This positions them to potentially provide a sort of trusted alternative to email.

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - June 13, 2015

June 12, 2015

Business and Finance Generation X gets the worst of things when it comes to money
Bad luck hasn't done much to help them

Threats and Hazards Someone needs to start thinking hard about what happens if ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh manages to permanentize as a state
No sensible person wants it to happen, but what's the roadmap to keep it from happening? Nobody seems to know, and that's a big problem. And what happens if they manage to make it permanent?

Agriculture A commercial-scale hydroponic garden is working in Omaha
Right in the middle of the Midwest, someone is working on a precursor to vertical farming. That might suggest that the future of vertical farming is much more likely than it may at first appear.

News China's military is growing
We don't have to be allies and we don't have to be rivals, but we shouldn't ignore where they're investing heavily

Business and Finance NBA and Nike: A $1 billion, 8-year deal
Adidas is walking away from its relationship with the league in 2017

June 11, 2015

News 100,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to escape Libya

Business and Finance Has the US really lost a decade's worth of economic growth?

Business and Finance Snoop Dogg sues Pabst
He claims breach of contract over the sale of the Colt 45 line

News Whatever happened to rotating restaurants on big hotels?

Weather and Disasters Satellite imagery showed the NWS that the Lake City tornado track was different from initial impressions

June 9, 2015

Weather and Disasters The oddities of May weather
It was the wettest May on record for a not-unsubstantial portion of the US

Business and Finance GE is speed-racing out of the financial-services market
Getting back to manufacturing, in part because of the pain caused to the company back in 2008/2009. But de-conglomeratizing isn't always a great idea. If your company is run by people who are really good at allocating capital, then it's highly efficient to be in lots of different businesses that have different economic cycles, so the capital-allocators can take advantage of good opportunities when they arise.

Computers and the Internet Is Apple Music the main "big deal" out of Apple's latest conference?
$10 a month to stream. Supposedly they'll have some channels that will be "curated" by people, rather than picked by algorithm.

June 8, 2015

Business and Finance Why it's unpleasant to be the most competent person in the office
Or, as the title of an Atlantic Monthly article puts it, "Being a go-getter is no fun".

The United States of America Free-trade agreements as a tool of American strength
Condoleezza Rice: "Free trade is no substitute for military strength or for giving voice to those who still seek liberty", but "trade is an essential element" of peace

Computers and the Internet Apple's announcements at developers conference

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol on WHO Radio - June 8, 2015

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June 6, 2015

Threats and Hazards Russian President Putin blames Ukranian crisis squarely on US and Europe

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - June 6, 2015

June 5, 2015

Computers and the Internet 4 million Federal employees -- past and present -- now victims of cyberattack
The Federal government is pointing fingers at China, and that's not something that's done lightly. This is war, just without the gunfire.

Computers and the Internet What's Google's future, anyway?
Eric Schmidt thinks the company's moon shots might be the key

Computers and the Internet A major Twitter shareholder posits his thoughts on breaking out
The service is too daunting to those who aren't regular users -- the author says a billion people have signed up and then quit

Threats and Hazards Social engineering attacks target Iowans
People are being bullied into thinking their utilities are going to be cut off, and the criminals are extorting payments via credit or prepaid cards. It's not necessarily all that high-tech an attack, and it exploits the weak link in a lot of technological systems: People. One would think the payments should be traceable, but perhaps there are enough steps through gray areas to give cover to the crooks. MidAmerican Energy says the evildoers are even spoofing the company's Caller ID.

News A positive and spontaneous human response
A man was rescued from beneath a bus because bystanders took action and signalled to others that aid was needed. We are herd animals, and it should come as no surprise that most people follow the crowd -- we'd never have survived anthropologically if everyone always went off on their own. But we also need a certain proportion -- perhaps one in fifteen or twenty -- who are capable of walking straight into the headwinds of social pressure and doing whatever they judge best, regardless of the consequences. We need just enough of us to be excessively confident and resistant to social pressure -- but still with a strong moral compass -- that when things start to go wrong, there's someone around for others to follow. To an extent, perhaps the difference between a sociopath and a great leader is empathy: Both carry on regardless of social pressures, but the leader does so out of empathy for others. It's been suggested that ego resilience is a particular trait of those who do heroic things.

June 4, 2015

Business and Finance Stop talking about "new rules of work"
Every time someone writes a list of "the new rules of work", the soul is trampled just a little. Certain circumstances of work always have evolved and always will, but for the most part, the fundamentals of work really aren't any different than they have ever been. The "new rules" are mainly just trivial details.

Business and Finance Privatization isn't dead
The UK government plans to sell off its remaining shares in the Royal Mail. 70% has already been privatized; the remaining 30% is about to go on sale.

Computers and the Internet Google tries to do with Android what Microsoft did with Windows years ago
The more your platform becomes the universal conduit for commercial activity, the better your prospects

Threats and Hazards Ukraine fears a full-scale Russian invasion in the near future
And here's the nightmare scenario: Russia goes ahead and invades, the West responds to repel the invasion, and it gets spun in Russia as though the West is invading Russia. And yet, for what purpose is there even such a thing as NATO if it doesn't stand up against the threat of invasion?

Business and Finance IMF wants the Federal Reserve to wait on raising interest rates
On the macro scale, the IMF is worried about what dominoes might fall if the US economy isn't propped up even longer

June 3, 2015

The United States of America A perspective on being the world's sole superpower
Some intriguing insight from Ian Bremmer

Broadcasting ABC's "World News Tonight" is doing well in the ratings by emphasizing the visual
The future belongs to whomever can tell the important stories in a compelling manner. When we make the important stories boring and elevate the trivial (as it's being not-so-subtly suggested that ABC is doing), we move in the wrong direction. What is visually compelling isn't necessarily good journalism. Moreover, it's up to good storytellers to find the novel and original in the world and bring them to people in a serendipitous fashion. When we lose serendipity, we lose a great deal. Synthesis is really the foundation for understanding great things.

Computers and the Internet "Best" is a terrible way to close an email

Threats and Hazards The FBI is flying creepy surveillance planes over American cities
How are people supposed to recognize and report real threatening behavior when the government does exactly the kinds of things that people are supposed to report?

Computers and the Internet Facebook will build a third data center in Altoona, Iowa
Cheap, reliable power; a low cost of land; a central location away from most natural disasters; a high-quality workforce. All contribute to making Central Iowa an attractive place to build a data center.

June 2, 2015

Threats and Hazards Absolutely miserable failure rate by the TSA
Good security comes from having many low-friction layers that aggregate to a high level of security, rather than a single and highly obtrusive system in which we vest all of our hopes

Business and Finance On real professionalism
People abuse the word "professional" -- applying it to suggest a higher level of quality. In reality, professionalism is about following a certain code of ethics. In return for being compensated well, you agree to put the client's needs first. The story of a 99-year-old financial adviser is a good example.

News Russia plans a new $5 billion aircraft carrier

Computers and the Internet Google, Apple, and now Facebook trend toward higher levels of encryption for regular users

Broadcasting "Altruism pornography"
A good way to describe some of the exploitations of poor people for the amusement of television

June 1, 2015

Computers and the Internet $537 million fundraising round at Snapchat concludes
Based upon the proportional ownership involved, that means someone thinks the company is worth $16 billion

Science and Technology A near-perfect recharge of a battery?
Research at the University of Waterloo may have found a way to make lithium-oxygen and sodium-oxygen batteries work, which would make energy storage cheaper and more portable than now

Computers and the Internet Teach yourself programming

Computers and the Internet One person's trash is another person's $200,000 antique computer

News Neverland Ranch is up for a $100 million sale
That gets the lucky buyer a 12,000-square-foot home, 21 other buildings, and 2,700 acres. Or you could buy 12,590 acres of Iowa farmland at last year's average per-acre price of $7,943 (that's about 20 square miles of productive land).

May 31, 2015

Threats and Hazards They say, "If you see something, say something" -- but what about when it's the government being creepy?
The ordinary person, behaving legally, should have no expectation -- none -- of being pulled over by an unmarked police vehicle or of being surveilled by airborne cameras or other detection equipment. Those activities lend themselves to abuse (like the police imposter reported in the Des Moines area recently), intimidation, and a lack of attention to real threats which cannot be distinguished from their secret government counterparts (like the suspicious unmarked aircraft recently doing circles over the Twin Cities). "If you see something, say something" is totally meaningless if the most suspicious behavior of all is associated with the activities of government itself. Police conducting ordinary patrols should be in uniform and in marked vehicles, be they cars, motorcycles, trucks, or aircraft, and the only exceptions should be for defined and limited purposes, like raids or investigative work against a specific target. We should expect that Sky Marshals go undercover because the element of surprise is essential to their mission. But on the roads or in the general public, we should know exactly who's enforcing the law.

News There are a lot more Republicans now, thanks to the French
The UMP just re-named itself

Aviation News Trouble in the skies: Green lasers and drones both creating problems in the last few days
To a large extent, we're going to have to evaluate whether it's going to be better to try to prevent people from misusing those tools or to find ways to mitigate the trouble they cause. Since terrorists aren't likely to be deterred by laws, we probably have to focus on hazard-mitigation adaptations for the aircraft already in the skies.

News Harvard surveys its seniors
The Crimson published results of its senior survey, and at least two lines are worrisome. First, a third of males in the elite social crowd are going into finance. Second, of the 14% of seniors going into engineering, half hope to be out of the sector in ten years.

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May 30, 2015

Business and Finance Who's setting up new businesses?
Wunderkinds get all the good press, but entrepreneurs are pretty evenly distributed across age groups -- and workers over age 50 are better-represented than in the past. But women are much harder to find among the ranks.

Business and Finance Look to the revealed preferences for the news before the news
Demand for supertankers has gotten suddenly hot again, and that's a pretty good sign that the oil producers aren't looking to cut back

The United States of America The value of Latino voters to the Republican Party

Business and Finance One graph that illustrates two sea-change economic factors
The big, big decline in the number of people in the American workforce and the sustained zeroing-out of the Federal funds rate over the last ten years are a pair of massive forces bearing on the US economy. One signals a generation leaving the workforce, and the other heralds an unprecedented era of effectively free money for the borrowing.

Business and Finance Art forgery: The only crime where it might actually pay to report yourself

Business and Finance The state of Subway
The Washington Post calls a 3% decline in sales "the fall of Subway". That's an exaggeration. The real takeaways: Average sales per store are under $450,000 and a franchise can be started for under $125,000. And Subway's main challenge seems to be that American consumers' tastes have migrated upscale, even if we still seem to want things healthy and cheap. ■ On a related note: The Post has also heat-mapped the nation's fast-food sandwich chains.

May 29, 2015

Computers and the Internet Google promotes its latest new technologies
The company's work is fantastic for consumers, not so much for investors

Business and Finance First-quarter GDP shrank by 0.7%
That's the second contraction in five quarters. They're not consecutive, so it doesn't count as a recession...but contractions aren't good.

Science and Technology Roads? Where we're going, we don't need...drivers.
Iowa City, North Liberty, and Coralville area could get a road exclusively for autonomous vehicles

Threats and Hazards "Enemy plots thwarted almost everyday"
The news inside Iran paints a picture of paranoia...and the US and Israel are the supposed culprits. Of course, it's actually Saudi Arabia causing the most immediate and direct pain to Iran right now by taking the air out of oil prices.

Humor and Good News If Albert Einstein had gotten a performance review

May 28, 2015

Computers and the Internet Google's new "Now On Tap" brings a new layer to smartphone applications
Google wants it to reside more or less between the user and the applications the user employs, and for it to link the different applications together in ways that they aren't permitted to do on their own. Adoption may largely depend upon how users perceive the cost-benefit equation between more of Google's intrusion into their worlds and the potential benefits the seamless integration could bring.

News The state of the print media summarized in one story
The Tribune Publishing Co. just bought the San Diego Union Tribune...and promptly laid off 178 employees, mostly at the printing plant. Newspapers may involve the word "paper" in name alone more often than not in the coming years, particularly as many of them move to a digital-first or digital-only model.

Computers and the Internet The White House says @potus will be a legacy Twitter account
They also say that the account is to be nothing but "Tweets exclusively from" the President. Which is kind of funny, considering there's already an @barackobama account that doesn't really belong to him. Guess he'll have to be something like @barackobama44 after he leaves office.

Business and Finance CEOs in the media sector are disproportionately represented among the highest-paid

News A summary of personality types
Using the popular Myers-Briggs format

May 27, 2015

Threats and Hazards Russian cyberthieves file for $50 million in fake tax refunds
They used available information to steal 200,000 identities and apparently got away with it about 50% of the time. The IRS suggests the criminals got SSNs, birthdates, street addresses, and filing statuses from outside sources before conducting the attempted thefts. All the more reason to watch carefully what you share and with whom on social media and everywhere else online.

Aviation News Electric airplanes exist and could have a future
Their biggest advantage may be in reducing maintenance costs (and, potentially, both noise and air pollution). It's possible to imagine a future in which autonomously-piloted electric aircraft ferry passengers in small numbers like a skybus service. Not soon, but it could make sense and make air travel cheaper, more accessible, and more convenient for those who don't live near major hubs

Aviation News SpaceX gets approval to launch satellites for the military
That puts them into competition with a Lockheed/Boeing joint venture

News Birth certificates as an anti-human-trafficking device

Computers and the Internet Some thoughts on the Internet trends of 2015

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May 26, 2015

Business and Finance Six European countries have youth unemployment rates of at least 30%
Put them on a watchlist now for short-term future volatility and long-term stagnant growth. Unemployed young people with nothing to lose tend to do more than their fair share of stupid things, including crime and riots. And if they don't get a start on their job histories now, they're going to pay a penalty later on.

Computers and the Internet The Office of Dissent Management is at it again
"Critics worry that governance by social media will cheapen the power of the presidency by substituting hashtag activism for serious policymaking." Moreover, there is a serious risk that "engagement" by the White House via tools like Twitter only serves to encourage the cranks and wackos of the opposition and the Hallelujah Chorus among the President's supporters. In reality, the executive branch must engage with the public and should do so thoughtfully and with dignity. It's not entirely clear that appearing on "Between Two Ferns" achieves that. The Presidency is an office and an institution, not a consumer brand.

Computers and the Internet Smartphones are a massive security vulnerability

Weather and Disasters How the ozone hole got plugged

News Corruption in the world's most popular sport? You don't say.

May 25, 2015

Health "[T]he best way to automate a new habit is to set the bar incredibly low"
And the best way to be happier in general is, apparently, to build lots of good habits since life is so heavily governed by them.

The United States of America For perspective...
How much US land area would it take to equal the same population as that of the entire UK?

Humor and Good News Australian police issue tongue-in-cheek "most-wanted" for Nickelback
The charge? Musical crimes.

Weather and Disasters Why do thunderstorms pop up at night without daytime heating?
NOAA's looking into it

Computers and the Internet The appearance of genius
Thanks to a new font, you can borrow Albert Einstein's handwriting for your computer, but that won't make your thoughts as deep as his. Ironically, what makes Einstein endure in pop culture is that he was a decent writer of words that communicated with the general public -- not that he was a great calligrapher.

May 22, 2015

Threats and Hazards The cities likeliest to be hit by terrorist attacks
Almost none of them are in Europe or North America -- perhaps a reminder that "safety" is a relative concept, and that perceptions are not always reality

Computers and the Internet Facebook encourages people to "check-in" as "safe" after a disaster, but...
...there are probably better ways of communicating your status to those who need to know it after an event like a major earthquake or something similar. A simple Facebook status click may give the wrong impression about what's really "safe".

Business and Finance Buffett: A better EITC beats a higher minimum wage

Threats and Hazards Industrial espionage is serious and goes deep
The chair of the Temple University physics department is charged with trying to steal industrial secrets for China

Computers and the Internet Apple might want to deliver local TV programming

May 21, 2015

Business and Finance Are people finally putting collegiate compensation in perspective?
Legislators in Illinois are figuring out that their college presidents are getting perks that are out of touch with reality. ESPN has noticed that Charlie Weiss is being paid more money to not coach the Notre Dame football team than the current coach is being paid. And the Omaha World-Herald has done the math and calculates that Bo Pelini has a $737-an-hour job as the fired football coach at the University of Nebraska.

Business and Finance What real-estate bubble?
Towers being built all around Central Park in New York City are going ever-higher at ever-higher prices. Money is cheap and markets outside the United States aren't wildly attractive -- that's making speculation a little too attractive.

Business and Finance World incomes are getting a lot better on the low end

News Ricketts family buys three more Wrigleyville rooftops

News Your name in a different generation
A clever use of Social Security name data

May 20, 2015

Computers and the Internet Some signals point to Apple building its own search engine

Business and Finance Why do estimates of Social Security's solvency keep getting worse?
Blame systemic bias in the way the agency has been conducting its forecasts. Underestimating costs, overestimating income. It's a serious problem.

Threats and Hazards China's building islands in the South China Sea
600 miles from the actual China itself, they're nothing more than naked territorial grabs

Broadcasting "[T]hat you can laugh at yourself or point to your own ignorance...almost gives you a license to be glib"
The meaner cultural effects of David Letterman

Business and Finance Minimum wage in LA goes to $15 an hour by 2020
Pegging the minimum wage to inflation is one thing. Dramatic increases in minimum wage rates are likely to have long-term effects that stunt the future earnings of those starting from the low end of the skill level.

May 19, 2015

Computers and the Internet Uber hires talent away from Google
But not technical talent -- political talent.

Business and Finance $50 million in incentives and no jobs to show for it
There may be no alternative but for Congress to step in and stop states from fighting one another with economic-development incentives. Building infrastructure and keeping a healthy environment for regulations and taxation? That's good competition. Unaccountable, no-recourse subsidies and tax breaks for the politically-connected? That's another.

Humor and Good News A worthy review of "Hyperbole and a Half"

Health When markets fail, government can play a role
Making antibiotics doesn't really pay very well, and they tend to lose effictiveness over time. States may be able to step in and do something to solve the market failure by offering prizes for those who develop new antibiotics and buying the rights to their use to ensure a profit to the makers.

Threats and Hazards That pesky Monroe Doctrine
The US hasn't spent enough time winning enough friends in Latin America, and China's been interested in filling that void

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May 18, 2015

Computers and the Internet Technology and the law don't always travel in tandem
And the State Department's situation with a certain former Secretary and her e-mails is a pretty good example

Iowa Half of Iowa and ISU grads leave Iowa
And 85% of UNI grads stay. Lots of the grads from the other schools boomerang later, and residency after graduation isn't the only thing that matters. But it should be noted and considered when it's budget time.

Computers and the Internet CenturyLink says some Des Moines business customers will get gigabit Internet access
Cedar Falls, Omaha, and Kansas City are all getting broader options for gigabit service

Weather and Disasters The National Weather Service is cleaning up its forecast icons

Humor and Good News "That'll show the government."

May 17, 2015

Threats and Hazards Forecast: Russia will get more territorially aggressive this summer
Putin's hands may be tied in a vicious cycle

News The Clintons have made $25 million giving speeches since the start of last year
Nice work, if you can find it

Science and Technology Google says its self-driving cars have been in crashes, but none of their own fault
The sooner we can get humans out of the driver's seat, the better. We are what cause accidents.

Computers and the Internet Discover is rolling out "chip" cards
Intriguingly, they avoid calling it by the "EMV" name -- for Europay/Mastercard/Visa. These cards are a step towards (but not a silver bullet for) better transactional security.

Broadcasting Corporate universities
Companies that have a serious commitment to and method of developing human capital are going to have a durable competitive advantage in the marketplace. What's interesting is that many of them are turning away from the conventional academy in order to get there.

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May 16, 2015

Business and Finance Every boom is followed by a bust
A ton of money is flowing into skyscraper real estate in New York City right now. It's fueled by a combination of low interest rates, low returns on alternative investments (like bonds), a strong stock market (creating a wealth effect with concentrated effects near Wall Street), and a poor economic environment around the world (which makes foreign investors over-eager to put money into projects in the US). It cannot and will not last forever.

Science and Technology Automatic speed control wasn't working just before Amtrak crash
The more use we can make of computer augmentation of human control in transportation (cars, trains, and aircraft alike), the better. It's expensive and difficult to implement, but we have to think through the cost-benefit analysis with a bias towards implementation.

Iowa How does a community-college newspaper get into a dispute that escalates to serious First Amendment issues?

News Not the way to protest your innocence
A company founded and run by a family now standing accused of trying to smuggle weapons to the Middle East is protesting that their e-mails contain "privileged" attorney-client communications. While potentially true, that surely doesn't make them look innocent.

Humor and Good News "Junk playgrounds"
Seems like a strong antidote to helicopter-style parenting

Business and Finance President Obama earned $130,000 in book royalties last year
Former President Clinton seems to be doing better giving speeches, but the residuals off a couple of books sure aren't hurting

News A few tips for better presentations
Nothing especially ground-breaking, but given the culturally inculcated phobia of public speaking, perhaps these tips will help

The United States of America The 2016 Presidential cattle call begins in earnest
Eleven announced or prospective candidates showed up to give speeches in Des Moines

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - May 16, 2015

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May 15, 2015

Threats and Hazards A third of Russians fear a US invasion

Threats and Hazards Penn State's engineering school targeted by Chinese state-backed hackers

Science and Technology "The principle of transparency is the same regardless of what technology officials choose to use"
Omaha World-Herald gets backing from the office of the Nebraska attorney general, saying that the paper should get to see work-related text messages sent to the personal cell phone of the mayor of Omaha

The United States of America How we got to a 162-game baseball season

Humor and Good News Someone at The Onion loves Photoshop a little too much
The Supreme Court didn't need to heed the catcalls to "take it off"

May 14, 2015

Computers and the Internet Google's self-driving cars -- some accidents, but the company says not their fault
Ultimately, the totally self-driving car is still too far-out for many people to accept. We'll get there, though, as long as there is a transition during which computers take over more and more of the driving in the interest of enhancing driver and passenger safety. We should do our best to reach a goal of taking humans out of the driving equation entirely as soon as possible (since human error and fallibility is the leading cause of accidents), but it's going to take a little time.

Aviation News Drone group formally activated at Des Moines Air National Guard wing

Business and Finance Wall Street traders think the Federal Reserve is bluffing about raising interest rates
At least, any time this year. And with the Producer Price Index down for the month of April, one almost has to wonder whether the traders are right.

Computers and the Internet Facebook picks nine publishers for quick-loading news articles
Stories from the New York Times, BBC, NBC, The Atlantic, and others will load about ten times faster than those from other sites because they'll be pre-loaded on the mobile app (starting with the iOS, then showing up on Android later). Of course, that may only make the publishers involved more dependent upon Facebook than before, and that ought to make them nervous. But maybe not any more nervous than those publishers who had special deals with AOL and CompuServe back in the day...perhaps?

Broadcasting The subtle politics of B-roll
The State Department and the Pentagon are asking reporters not to use B-roll footage of ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh that shows the terrorists at strength. And, if they value the classical liberal values that the terrorists are fighting against, the journalists probably shouldn't use that footage anyway. But journalists should also be perpetually resistant to any kind of pressure from the government to frame things in a manner the government desires. It's a tough case: The wrong people are asking for the right thing.

May 13, 2015

News Estonia practices largest war games ever
The tiny NATO member has reason to be alarmed about Russia

Threats and Hazards Why everyone should know self-defense: Case study #19
Someone fired a gun inside a Megabus from Chicago to Minneapolis and other passengers had to subdue him. You simply don't always have time to call the police. Related: A student at the University of Iowa photographed women with the tools they carry to protect themselves.

News Secretary Clinton's hostile relationship with the press

Science and Technology Consumer Reports names ten cars likely to last for 200,000 miles
Every one of them is a Toyota or a Honda

Threats and Hazards The little tyrant
North Korea's defense chief has been murdered by the state. Speculation abounds that a coup had been plotted.

May 12, 2015

Business and Finance Moody's declares Chicago's credit rating is junk
Public-sector pensions are an enormous liability nationwide -- they just happen to show up in certain hot spots

Threats and Hazards Downward pressure on oil prices might trigger confiscation by the Russian government
When kleptocracy takes over, it's hard to see a peaceful way out

News Cedar Rapids family busted for trying to ship arms to the Middle East
More than 150 guns were seized

Business and Finance Bo Pelini is getting $737 an hour not to coach Nebraska football
Heads he wins, tails Nebraska loses

Computers and the Internet Why Verizon wants to buy AOL
It's a matter of online video ad revenues. The deal is for $4.4 billion.

May 11, 2015

Business and Finance The economy as we know it, May 2015 edition

Computers and the Internet Omaha residential customers to get 1-gigabit Internet service by next year
At $99 a month, it's more costly than most Internet service. But it's also orders of magnitude faster. Cox Communications is trying the same in Phoenix and Las Vegas, so Omahans are privileged.

Business and Finance Some producers are willing to take big chances that oil prices are coming back
If persistent and widespread, that makes for a pretty short bust

Weather and Disasters Aerial photos of the Lake City tornado damage

Threats and Hazards Man faces 15 years in prison for hurting 7-week-old baby
There has to be something better we can do to protect the defenseless innocent.

May 9, 2015

Health Two roles for supercomputing in health care
First, they can be used to accelerate the pace of DNA sequencing, for patients and (when applicable) their illnesses. Second, they can be used to analyze the available information on a patient's condition and cross-reference it against the state of the art in medical research to recommend a course of treatment. ■ Computer-augmented decision-making is the way of the future, if we're smart about it. But "augmented" or "enhanced" is the key here: Computers shouldn't be put in charge of making all of the decisions, particularly because it is at the margin where big errors are made, and computers aren't yet prepared to handle that on their own. Take, for instance, the apparent labeling of an Al Jazeera journalist as a terrorist by the NSA. He met certain trigger criteria for labeling...probably because he was interviewing figures in terrorist groups for the news. The behavior of a journalist interviewing terrorists might easily look like the behavior of a terrorist, but they're two wildly different things.

Business and Finance McDonald's as a wildly successful educational institution
People learn "soft skills" from entry-level jobs like the ones most commonly associated with McDonald's. And if we make it too hard for people to get those jobs (as by raising the minimum wage too aggressively), we price people out of that "school" and make it harder for them to get into the workforce successfully. ■ Related: Notes from the 2015 Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting

Science and Technology Swatch is getting into smartwatches
The CEO says they're going to introduce a battery next year that could power a smartwatch for months at a time

Computers and the Internet There won't be a Windows 11
"Windows will be delivered as a service", starting with Windows 10, and will be updated on a rolling basis

Humor and Good News Honest interpretations of job titles

Humor and Good News A poem for the republicans of the world on the arrival of a royal baby

May 8, 2015

Agriculture The avian influenza outbreak is huge
The USDA says we're at 30 million affected birds (almost entirely chickens and turkeys). That's meant a kill total so large that it's getting hard to figure out where to put all of the carcasses. The good news, if there is any, may be that the authorities don't see a big risk to humans from the outbreak. But a state of emergency has been declared in Iowa anyway.

Computers and the Internet Do big personalities survive without big media brand names?
Bill Simmons of "Grantland" fame is leaving ESPN. Will he decide to put up his own shingle or go with another big brand in sports?

Computers and the Internet Yes, there are more than just white guys in technology
A conference called "Big Omaha" appears to have successfully broadened its appeal and its roster of presenters beyond the class of people most widely represented in tech. Sounds like it took some deliberate effort, but it also sounds like it was worth doing.

Business and Finance The skills employers really want
Everyone's familiar with the idea of a skills gap -- the difference between what employers want and what prospective employees are bringing to the table. Here are some of the skills that the business world is desperately seeking.

News UK elects 20-year-old to Parliament
She's the youngest since 1667

May 7, 2015

Science and Technology Self-driving semi trucks are a reality
But it could take another ten years for them to hit the highways. Nevada has favorable rules for self-piloted cars, so this demonstration probably won't be the last. In the long run, self-driving trucks make utter sense: The trucking companies have a huge financial incentive to gain efficiency, reduce risks, and reduce costs. Other groups that will be key to the adoption of autonomous vehicles: Outside sales forces with large territories to cover, and the elderly and physically disabled. ■ One important caveat: The acceptance and adoption of self-piloted vehicles depends upon them being seen as iterative improvements in the safety of human driving, rather than as a replacement for it (even if that's the logical ultimate goal). We humans have established a very high baseline for the number of casualties we accept due to road travel when a human is behind the wheel. Americans tolerate more than 32,000 road deaths a year, or about 90 a day. That number has declined a lot since the 1990s (probably because the vehicles themselves are increasingly safe for the people inside), since the number of crashes hasn't really changed much in that time. But if 90 people were to die every day due to plane crashes, the public would lose its mind -- because our baseline expectations for air-travel deaths is near zero. It follows that with our baseline expectation for deaths involving autonomous vehicles on the roadways also at or near zero, the public will lose its mind if it sees people dying in self-driving cars, no matter the logic for their implementation. A frightened public is primed to do a lot of stupid things, like banning self-piloted cars. Acceptance hinges on autonomous technology being perceived as a tool that reduces the number of crashes by making human driving safer, not as a separate category of travel altogether. Of course, that may require acknowledging that human drivers are pretty unsafe for a lot of reasons. ■ Flashback: "The first mass audiences for self-piloted vehicles will probably be the trucking industry..." (2012) ■ Also: Savings from self-driving cars (2010)

Business and Finance Mountain View city council rejects Google's crazy campus plan
LinkedIn gets the bulk of the property in question instead. Google isn't happy about the decision, which the city council tried to spin as an attempt at ensuring economic diversity (Google already owns a lot of Mountain View). At first glance, it sounds like the city has a heavy-handed role in planning, which is generally undesirable. But, assuming the power is adequately restrained from abuse, they're probably right to be skeptical of depending too heavily upon a single employer. Google's plans went beyond ambitious and tripped over into silliness.

Broadcasting David Letterman thinks viral videos signal it's time for him to go

Computers and the Internet IBM's Watson: First it won Jeopardy, and now it invents recipes
Natural-language processing of thousands of recipes from Bon Appetit gives Watson a starting point to invent new recipes altogether

News The Brown Institute is closing its Twin Cities campus
The college for broadcasters is moving to online-only instruction

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May 6, 2015

Business and Finance Federal Reserve chair thinks stocks are overpriced
Price is what you pay, and value is what you get

The United States of America Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder won't run for President in 2016
But it would be good for @onetoughnerd to stay close to the national spotlight

Health Better greeting cards for cancer patients

Health Chinese researchers may be prepared to create genetically-modified people

News A whole lot of lost Mark Twain writing has been discovered
What's going to happen centuries from today when historians discover all of the things that missed digitization?

May 5, 2015

Business and Finance Comparisons of international costs of labor
For obvious reasons, the manufacturing sector is interested in the cost of labor, particularly across borders. It turns out that Norway and Luxembourg get more bang for their buck (in terms of GDP per hour worked) than the United States. Everyone else trails behind (though Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden all hold their own.

Computers and the Internet Do emojis really improve communication?
Like sign language, they can convey a lot of emotion effectively in a way that's hard to do with words. But they're also easily misunderstood, and that's the shortcoming of communication that deliberately avoids words.

Weather and Disasters Tornado warning, party of 6
The National Weather Service now publishes impact statistics along with their polygonal warning areas for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. One warning today affects an estimated population of 6.

Science and Technology Tesla moves into power packs

Business and Finance A fascinating study of Henry Singleton at Teledyne

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