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Threats and Hazards The "most transparent administration" is setting new standards for blocking public access to information


Business and Finance Federal Reserve keeps interest rates at practically zero

Computers and the Internet How "liking" things on Facebook can ruin your perception of reality

Iowa Cedar Rapids struggles to justify illegal traffic speed cameras



Business and Finance PBR is being sold to the Russians
Pabst, once an iconic Milwaukee beer, hasn't even been headquartered there since 2010. It's now being sold to Oasis Beverages, out of Russia, in partnership with an investment company. A few observations: First, brands and brand perceptions are always going to matter when it comes to things like food and drink, since people care most about the things they put inside their bodies. Second, hearkening back to the sale of Anheuser-Busch to the Brazilians and Belgians back in 2008, if people don't want to lose control of companies, they have choices available to them -- like buying and retaining control. Choose not to do that? Fine. But control comes via ownership. Third, as long as debt remains cheap and the United States remains the world's most stable free market, we shouldn't be surprised in the least to find that foreign owners take a liking to American assets. They're highly attractive because America is highly attractive. The more uncertain the rest of the world appears, the more certain investments in America will look.

Threats and Hazards Mother of Omaha jewelry-store killer says he was "hanging out with the wrong crowd"
Anything that makes it harder for young people -- especially young men -- to find something productive to do makes it easier for them to fall in with the "wrong crowd." Consider that when people tell you that a $15 minimum wage is some grand solution to all of the world's problems. Everyone remains individually responsible for their own behavior -- but we as a society shouldn't be blind to the conditions we ourselves create and the unintended consequences thereof. Youth unemployment is a deeply serious problem, and we shouldn't knowingly make it worse. And if it becomes a chronic condition, then we may end up paying the costs for decades.

News The Tampa Bay Times is on borrowed time
Reports have it that the paper is a matter of weeks from a possible financial collapse.

News Scotland votes to stay in the UK
But the BBC might've overstated things in saying the 55% to 45% vote was a "decisive rejection" -- that's only a 5-point swing

News An appalling number of Americans don't know how the government works
A third don't even know the name of a single branch of government



News "Free Syrian Army" says it's going to fight Al Qaeda/ISIS/ISIL/QSIL and Assad at the same time

News Teenage boy kills Omaha jewelry shop owner
It wasn't even in a bad part of town. Incidents like this one underscore the social desirability of making sure boys and young men have constructive things to do -- that means good schools with extracurricular programs, organized team sports, and (perhaps most importantly) low barriers to entry-level jobs. If you assume (consistent with the data) that 99% of people are naturally good or at least neutral, then any incidence of violent crime instigated by anything more than 1% of the population is something society probably could have done something more to prevent. That in no way absolves the individual from the responsibility to be good and to do good things -- but it's only wise to take precautions to protect the community from bad outcomes.

Computers and the Internet The Chinese government is a vast and persistent cyberthreat

Threats and Hazards Sinister terrorist plot broken in Australia

Agriculture Why tree-huggers want to kill some maple trees

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News If you leave me now...
The emotional tug-of-war that looms over the Scottish independence vote is pretty significant. From an economic perspective, an independent Scotland is probably going to have a tougher time -- as a smaller and less diverse economy than the UK as a whole, it's going to have wider natural swings between boom and bust, without the benefit of a highly credible central bank like the Bank of England to provide a counterweight. That doesn't mean it's set for failure -- plenty of smaller countries already exist, and Scotland has the benefit of substantial oil wealth at its disposal. That oil-related income helps give Scotland a higher per-capita GDP than the rest of the UK, but those oil riches can be severely deceiving if they're not wisely converted into durable wealth. Many a nation has fallen into the natural-resources trap: Living off a non-renewable natural resource boom without investing heavily in the things that drive growth for a future without it. Could they learn all of the right lessons from the Celtic Tiger without making the same mistakes as Ireland?

Aviation News Boeing and SpaceX will be carrying NASA's astronauts to space in 2017
There's nothing wrong with the government contracting out for services like this -- the only problem is that they waited so very long to actually get an arrangement in place, when everybody knew we were going to retire the Space Shuttle program in 2011. It would have been wise to have had a new program in place to pick up the baton without such a huge gap in between.

Business and Finance How bank capitalization rules could raise your home heating bill
RBC, for instance, sold hedges to buyer groups (including the one that serves Omaha's MUD and the Cedar Falls Utilities), and now it says it needs out to comply with Basel III

Science and Technology Material absorbs 99.96% of incoming light
That makes it the most impossibly black thing humans have made

News Adult autograph hounds ruin it for kids

Business and Finance Marriott's launching a campaign to tip the housekeeping staff
A lot of travelers don't even know it's an expectation

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Computers and the Internet You're being watched
We're all leaving breadcrumb trails all over the Internet -- and in private databases of our interactions with private companies. That's a pretty inevitable result of computing technology. Want to get an idea of just how much is known (and sold) about you? Try Acxiom's AboutTheData.com.

Socialism Doesn't Work American sentenced to six years of hard labor in North Korea
(#1) Why would any right-thinking American go to North Korea? Sure, it looks like a place completely out of sync with the rest of the planet, but that's no reason to visit. (#2) What kind of system is so awful that it responds to stupid tourists and missionaries with sentences of years in prison labor camps? (#3) Do we not have a strategy for peacefully ridding the planet of the North Korean Communist menace?

Agriculture The decline and fall of the Red Delicious apple
Looks mattered more than flavor for a long, long time. And at last, the superficial is giving way to taste.

Weather and Disasters The reconstruction of Pilger
It takes a lot to rebuild a community wiped out by a massive tornado. On one hand, they now have the opportunity to start with a blank slate and develop the community with a deliberate outcome in mind. But it came at a tremendous human cost, and there's no guarantee that the population will ever recover to its pre-storm level -- which just means lots of costs spread out among fewer people.

Business and Finance The world is headed for a beer duopoly

News Apartment rental is a hot market in Omaha

Broadcasting Radio shownotes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - September 14, 2014
The show is on the air live at 9pm Central, 1040 on the AM dial or streamed online.

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


News What to call it: ISIS, ISIL, QSIL?
The clearest, most direct language would be "Al Qaeda-land", even if that's not precise. Neither are a lot of other names, but precision is a luxury in this case. They are executing a long-standing Al Qaeda plan, and the leaders come from within Al Qaeda, so it's hard to think of a reason to call it anything else. Doing so only serves to confuse a global public which ought to be galvanized against allowing a group like this to permanentize and legitimize as a state. Don't think it couldn't happen. It's imperative that we use the simple, recognizable language with which we have all become quite uncomfortably familiar since at least 2001. Renaming the threat to something more complicated or less direct doesn't make it any less serious.

Computers and the Internet LA school district puts brakes on iPads-for-all program
Besides there being something rather fishy about the bidding process, it's never been entirely clear that the program was anything much more than a stunt. When people think that "technology" will somehow be "the solution" to everything, they lose the credibility that comes from having thought through the problem systematically first. Too many organizations get buffaloed into thinking that they just need to spend more on technology of some sort, and that spending will make everything better. There has to be a compelling reason why the technology is going to help, not just a vague hope that it'll be a magic bullet.

Computers and the Internet Stupid behavior on Twitter sinks a professor's teaching job

News Prostitution ring busted at Quad Cities casino
And somehow, none of the hookers look like Julia Roberts, and none of the johns look like Richard Gere.

Science and Technology An interesting perspective on everyone's family tree

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Computers and the Internet Another big password breach
A list of five million addresses and passwords has leaked online

Business and Finance When does the Federal Reserve pull back on the money supply? Good question.

Business and Finance "I think Einstein needed somebody to talk to"
Charlie Munger on his role as right-hand man to Warren Buffett

Humor and Good News The decay of "rich kids" on the Internet
A thoughtfully obscene rant against the flaunters

Humor and Good News Mike Rowe doesn't have time for a mindless socialist critic
The former host of "Dirty Jobs" and advocate for skilled trades has quite the way of responding to people who think he's part of some vast right-wing conspiracy

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Computers and the Internet Football game days are a great argument for self-piloted cars
The idea of self-piloted cars has entered the public consciousness, and there are plenty of people whose knee-jerk reaction is to say, "Why would I want to let a computer drive my car?" Here's a great real-world example why: College football game days. People drive too fast, too close to one another, and drivers are often either tired (having gotten up much too early before a game) or drunk (having had too much alcohol while tailgating). A computer can be neither too tired nor too drunk to drive, and swarms of self-piloted cars can follow one another at greater speeds with smaller following distances at much higher levels of safety than human drivers. And that is just one of many reasons why we should welcome self-piloted cars.



Broadcasting "The idea was to get people interested in politics, not to cater to their interests at the expense of politics."
What made "Meet the Press" work under Tim Russert. Same goes for virtually any program -- be interesting enough that people who wouldn't normally care about the subject become engaged.

News Lots of rhetoric, but not a lot of follow-up

Weather and Disasters Think twice about chasing storms
They may be awe-inspiring, but they're much more dangerous than people seem to realize

Broadcasting Radio shownotes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - September 7, 2014



Socialism Doesn't Work China takes a step back on democracy in Hong Kong
"[O]nly candidates approved by a nominating committee" (composed of mostly loyalists to the mother state) will be allowed to run for the job of Hong Kong Chief Executive. That's not democracy -- it's selection from a restricted menu. And if that's how they're treating Hong Kong, which is supposed to be under a whole other system from mainland China ("one country, two systems"), then they certainly have no intentions of loosening political control over the rest of the nation. It should not escape our attention that China is making bad choices on the political front (by tightening, rather than liberalizing), and on the economic one as well. Just one example: China's been harassing Japanese auto manufacturers (specifically Toyota and Honda) both officially and unofficially, meanwhile buying into control of European automakers like Peugot. Not that Peugot is necessarily a bad automaker, but Toyota and Honda are much better -- and they actually would have something to teach their Chinese partners. The Chinese system as we know it cannot go on forever -- and when it falls apart, it's going to be a global mess.

The United States of America The nation's hardest and easiest places to live
Based on health, income, and education factors, the Upper Midwest looks pretty fantastic overall in a New York Times analysis.

Iowa Hard Rock Casino in Sioux City brought in $7.2 million for its first month
That appears to be their net revenues from gambling, before expenses.

News Latest poll puts pro-independence group a hair ahead in Scotland
September 18th is coming fast -- and then we'll know whether Great Britain is going to remain a union including the Scots. Funny how a sense of disillusionment with centralized government (Washington, London, Brussels...) is universal.

Business and Finance Reviving a cultural mascot
WGN Radio is reviving a cartoon bird named "Chicago" as its station mascot, and bringing it to life all over the place, including with a Twitter account (@wgnbirdchicago). Quite a contrast with companies that spend all kinds of money acquiring others and then eliminating their brands altogether (thus erasing the value of all of the goodwill for which they had paid in the first place).

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Business and Finance On the demand for $15-an-hour fast-food workers
Is the minimum wage too low? In short, it's certainly too low for a comfortable full-time wage -- but that's not the point. Minimum-wage work should be entry-level work for people without many skills. Ideally, it should be a very low barrier to entry for young workers to get their first jobs. Make the minimum wage too high, and we create a system in which there are few if any opportunities for young people to get thir first jobs and start developing a track record for basic job skills, like showing up to work and following instructions. That, by the way, is a terribly unconstructive thing to do; a high unemployment rate for young people (especially young men, in their teens and early 20s) is a terrible thing for a society to have. Nobody wants young men hanging around with nothing to do and no reward system for behaving well and making something better of themselves. If we want to make life better for people who are older or more experienced but still earn minimum or near-minimum wages, we need to ask: "Why are they earning so little?". If the answer is that they are unskilled or under-skilled (which it may be), then we need to find ways of training them for higher-wage work. If it's because they are just filling some of their free time with low-wage work as an alternative to sitting around and watching television, then raising the legal minimum wage might only take away opportunities that some people use to help themselves to a higher standard of living. If it's because the economy is weak, then raising the legal minimum wage may only serve to accelerate investment in automation and other alternatives to human workers, thus ultimately putting people out of work even faster. If it's because the workers are unmotivated or disinterested and aren't delivering high-quality work, then raising the wage isn't going to change the value they create -- it will only accelerate that process of their replacement. Raising the minimum wage dramatically only looks superficially like a solution to a lot of problems...we need to really address what's keeping people at low wages and not putter around the margins.

News You may be better-off taking notes by hand
The rise of laptops and other computers in the classroom may cause people to lose something of their education in the translation. Students may also be finding themselves distracted by their devices during boring lectures. But at the same time, we have such marvelous tools available and at our easy disposal that any teacher, lecturer, or professor should be ashamed to give a lecture that bores their students. If you're in front of a room full of people, you should consider it a privilege to share your enthusiasm for a topic with the people in the room -- and be eager to put everything we know about teaching (and in the era of TED Talks, Edward Tufte, Pecha Kucha, the Khan Academy, and the Gates Foundation's work on education, we know a whole lot about good teaching) to use producing lectures that engage students. There's really no excuse for giving a bad lecture anymore.

News A foreign policy so incompetent it actually enlists Iran as an ally?
What's called ISIS/ISIL/QSIL (but what should be called "Al-Qaeda Land", which is what it really is) is now such a meaningful threat to Iran that they're willing to coordinate with the United States on military force to try to push it back. That's Iran -- the country with whom we haven't had diplomatic relations in 34 years. The Al-Qaeda problem has gotten so large (at least in part because the Obama Administration has failed to come up with a solution) that it's actually driving long-divided national interests together under an enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend foreign policy. That's not the same as detente.

News NATO will organize a "rapid reaction" force
It's supposed to be capable of getting reinforcements to an ally country in 48 hours. While this is apparently an improvement, it doesn't sound fast enough. The Baltic states surely would like to know that the cavalry would come in a matter of hours, not two days.

Iowa One of the last real farms inside West Des Moines is about to turn into a housing development
No need for over-worry about urban sprawl, though...the whole metro area has basically expanded about four miles westward in the last 20 years. That's hardly enough to cause real, legitimate alarm.



Business and Finance Fair news on the productivity front
The second estimate says that US productivity went up by an annualized 2.3% in the second quarter. More would be better, but at least it's something.

Humor and Good News "Seinfeld"-themed hockey jerseys to hit the ice for one night

Business and Finance Who cares that Oklahoma Joe's isn't in Oklahoma?
Changing the name of the renowned barbecue joint just because it isn't in Oklahoma anymore seems like a really stupid idea.

Humor and Good News Rules for eating sushi
(Video)

Humor and Good News "Mission Statement" by Weird Al Yankovic
(Video) If it sounds a little too close to reality, that's a sign your organization's leadership is just fiddling around



Broadcasting Radio show notes - In for Jan Mickelson on WHO Radio - September 3, 2014
Listen again to the first-hour interview with the author of "Driving Honda" or to the second-hour discussion about making sure the celebrity nude-photo leak doesn't happen to you.

Computers and the Internet Be on the lookout for scams hitchhiking on the celebrity nude-photo leak

News Lots of layoffs at USA Today
Something like 10% of the workforce is gone

Health Google gets smart -- teaming up with a pharmaceutical maker
They're going to focus on drugs related to diseases that hit the elderly. Google has an inherent skillset at anything involving lots of computation, and drug-making is one of those subjects. They won't be the world's dominant search engine forever, so finding ways to apply their core skillset in other areas is a very wise decision.

The United States of America How seriously will we take NATO obligations to protect the Baltic states?



Computers and the Internet Public figures, private pictures, and a big security mess
Were the private pictures of people like Jennifer Lawrence and Rihanna stolen from a cloud-backup service, or directly from their computers? However it happened, it's a big breach of their privacy and a warning to people to take thoughtful precautions in the interest of good technology hygiene.

Threats and Hazards Russia is re-posturing against NATO

Computers and the Internet Use two-step verification on your critical Internet accounts
Services like e-mail should require more than just your password to get in. It's not hard to do, and it could save you a world of distress.

Computers and the Internet Self-driving cars are on the streets of Washington, DC

Computers and the Internet Germany bans Uber



Threats and Hazards The nonchalant beligerence of Vladimir Putin
He's reportedly boasted that he could "take Kiev in two weeks" and is knocking around threats of the use of nuclear weapons. The United States is doing very little to overtly confront the situation, which might be a deliberate and thoughtful strategy -- or it might be a colossal error of dallying at a time when a full-throated defense of a nation we've been courting as a potential ally may be necessary.

News Lawsuit threatened over letting the "Redskins" use the University of Minnesota football stadium
The Vikings are using TCF Bank Stadium this season, and one of those games will be against Washington. Some parties say they'll sue if the ethnic slur naming the team is actually used on the campus.

Business and Finance Membership in labor unions, by the numbers, in Iowa and Nebraska
You're far more likely to encounter a union member in the public sector than in the private

Business and Finance Think twice before taking the Ice Bucket Challenge -- or donating

Business and Finance How far a dollar goes in the cheap seats
Lower housing costs go a long way in the Midwest and elsewhere



News European Council's new president is the prime minister of Poland
No doubt this carries some added significance considering Russia's behavior right now and the long-standing friction between Poland and Russia

News Nebraska regulators are going to charge Lyft and Uber drivers with misdemeanors
The regulations on the books favor the incumbent taxi services. It's definitely time for the legal authorities to review whether that's really in the best interests of passengers.

Business and Finance Stock in Fiat Chrysler should hit a New York market by October
Fiat has bet the farm over and over on its pursuit of Chrysler; now, they have to find a way to make it worth the expense as some of the bills come due

Broadcasting Departing CNN reporter thinks nobody's paying enough attention in Washington
Lisa Desjardins: "Members of Congress could put the entire text of '50 Shades of Gray' into a bill, and no one...would ever notice"

Weather and Disasters Getting to know the shelf cloud



Threats and Hazards UK goes to "severe" terrorism threat level
Blame those who are trying to get into the Middle East to fight on behalf of ISIS/QSIS (or, as it ought to be called, "al-Qaeda Land"). The longer they have to establish themselves to develop terrible plans against the rest of the world, the worse the outcomes for the rest of us.

Computers and the Internet A flame war with shooting-war implications

News The NWS Hurricane Katrina warning
A great example of using plain English to make a vital argument

Humor and Good News Customer service delivered with personality
Most people are up for a good round of fun, even (and perhaps especially) when contacting tech support

Iowa Cedar Rapids tells Iowa DOT it won't give up speed cameras on I-380

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Weather and Disasters More of the region around Yellowstone is at risk of a big earthquake than previously thought
And with more people living there and visiting than the last time there was a big earthquake, the impact could be magnified a lot

The United States of America 65 possible contenders for President in 2016

Business and Finance Uber hires President Obama's former campaign manager as SVP of "policy and strategy"
It doesn't say good things about the state of the economy that companies feel the need to bring in marquee political names in order to get the kind of political favor they need to survive. That signals an economy that's subject to the whims of politicians, not one in which markets are free to reward good ideas and punish poor performers.

Iowa Sioux City loses Frontier Airlines service once again
They're hoping it isn't a permanent discontinuation

Broadcasting Radio show notes: WHO Radio Wise Guys - August 23, 2014



Threats and Hazards ISIL threatens Chicago and DC via Twitter
The longer it takes to recognize that we're on borrowed time before ISIL becomes a permanent nation-state, the harder it's going to be to fight back

Health When it's OK to skip a vaccination
Spoiler alert: It's the exception, not the rule

Computers and the Internet Facebook adds a "satire" notice to some items in the news feed
Because sometimes The Onion's parallel universe to reality is just a little too much like reality itself for some people to get the joke

Iowa John Deere plant in Waterloo will lay off 460 indefinitely
That's a huge blow to the Waterloo metro area

Aviation News China is playing unsafe games with fighter jets
Flying too close to American aircraft while over international waters isn't a bright idea



News Badly-mixed messages from a former cop
While absolutely correct that we should probably start putting body cameras on most patrol officers, LAPD officer Sunil Dutta wanders into dangerous territory when he writes that citizens should be plainly submissive when encountering the police. That's not how the law is supposed to work. Polite? Yes. Respectful? Inasmuch as we should be of any other person, certainly. Submissive? Now that's a step in the wrong direction, particularly when there are some (not all or even many, but some) law-enforcement officers who overstep their own bounds. It's troubling to see serious escalation taking place on the streets of an American city, with police officers pointing loaded weapons at people. We need de-escalation, not further escalation.

Computers and the Internet Reasons to hold back from sharing too much about your kids online
There are a whole lot of unresolved questions and potential pitfalls from over-sharing. At the very least, people need to think carefully about sharing their kids' pictures on Facebook and elsewhere.

News Scotland votes in less than a month on whether to leave the UK
And the British government is campaigning to keep them in

Threats and Hazards Retired general says ISIL "is not a flash in the pan"
The group, which is carrying out forced conversions in the territory it occupies, is in fact carrying out a plan that was clearly documented and reported in 2005. The current state of affairs is exactly what Al Qaeda said it wanted a decade ago -- and on precisely the current schedule.

Iowa Sioux City considers banning plastic bags



Business and Finance A look at Gross State Product
The BEA launches reports on GDP by state for 2005 to the near-present

News A thoughtful editorial on Ferguson, Missouri

Aviation News The DC-3: A truly beautiful piece of machinery

Humor and Good News The Margaret Thatcher diet
Any diet that includes whiskey can't be all bad

News Chris Kluwe settles with the Minnesota Vikings
Was he dumped from the team for coming out in favor of gay rights? Maybe, or maybe not. But some team money is now going to support his cause.



The United States of America The Onion's satirical-but-not-really look at police militarization

Business and Finance 84% of Chicagoans support a $13-an-hour minimum wage
There's no problem, really, with indexing the minimum wage to a fair measure of inflation. But if we only go about doing the economic equivalent of slapping a coat of paint on the problem of low-value employment, then we're not really resolving the issues of poverty. What's really the most important thing to do is build the value of prospective workers through education and job-training programs, and to get them connected to the kinds of support and social services that can alleviate the anxieties that come with barely making ends meet, for long enough to allow them to climb up the economic ladder on their own.

Computers and the Internet Civil liberties are seriously lagging financial freedoms in China
The government seems to be tightening the screws harder and harder on Internet-based means of sharing news and opinions. That's not going to end well...the unanswered question is, when will it boil over? Economic freedoms almost invariably beget civil liberties sooner or later -- you can't go very long telling people that they own the rights to the fruits of their labors, but that the state owns what they think.

Science and Technology How car shows brought about colorful vehicles

Broadcasting Some incredibly stupid and tone-deaf things are being said about Ferguson, Missouri



The United States of America From El Salvador to Nebraska
Once one hears the narratives that cause people to try to enter the United States (legally or not), it's hard not to have sympathy for the immigrants. Many are facing life-or-death choices if they don't get here.

Computers and the Internet Chinese hackers have stolen 4.5 million American health-care records
Why? Good question...and that's the problem. What's the motive, exactly? Also important: They're successfully attacking databases using phishing emails. People can't assume that their antivirus programs provide comprehensive protection. We require good technology hygiene habits, too.

The United States of America Valuable thoughts on the nature of civilian oversight of police departments and agencies
You can certainly get worked up like John Oliver [video with strong language], but it's more important that we start fixing the systems that keep us from checking our own behavior and that of our guardians of the public safety. If we don't start with critical, capable, and meaningful civilian oversight, we're really not going to end up where we belong. Any system that tends towards intimidation and other strong-arm tactics (even and especially when no laws are being broken) is one that needs to call the adults back in for supervision.

News Water as a weapon of war
The Mosul Dam appears to be back under Kurdish control

Threats and Hazards Bring back the old twitchy eye
British Prime Minister David Cameron promises that the UK won't return to war in Iraq. But the threat we face there isn't to be taken lightly, and shouldn't be reassured by having any options removed from the table. Unpredictability is a huge strategic advantage in warfare, and a reputation for trigger-happiness (whether justified or not) doesn't hurt when you're up against a murderous band of opponents.

Health Take two minutes for a self-exam today
Take a minute or two and conduct some basic self-screenings for cancer. Early detection saves lives. There's lots of misinformation about cancer that finds its way around the Internet, largely because we've been trained to wait expectantly for some sort of magic-bullet solution to cancer. But cancer risks can be significantly reduced through a balanced diet, exercise, and early detection and treatment. Meanwhile, science is making great progress towards improving genetic detection, which holds great promise for some types of cancer. Instead of forwarding hoax-ridden e-mails about "cancer cures" and false threats, people should instead remind their friends and family to assess their health once a month.
Telephone or text: 918-2-GONGOL (+1-918-246-6465)


News How Tokyo seeks to dispose of tens of millions of gallons of water
Stormwater collection, retention, and disposal is one of the public-works challenges that many cities have under-examined for far too long because it isn't very sexy

News More signs around Wrigley Field?
Neighboring rooftop owners are suing to stop them. This is a classic case of the need for well-defined property rights -- feeding what economists call the Coase Theorem.

News (Probably) unconscious racism in news headlines

Threats and Hazards How ISIL is even worse than Al Qaeda

News 30 people try getting into the UK via shipping containers
Imagine how awful life must be for a high-risk illegal immigration via shipping container to be the better alternative to staying

Broadcasting Radio show notes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - August 17, 2014



Business and Finance 47% of American workers are at high risk of computerization
The more routine your work, the more likely you are to find yourself automated out of a gig. To an extent, automation can be a highly productive change (allowing people to spend time on valuable work, instead of rote chores). And for consumers it can be a win, too -- if you don't mind self-service check-out lanes, for instance, it's a way to get in and out of a store much faster. But automation isn't a panacea: As Honda has demonstrated, automation doesn't always improve manufacturing as much as the smart application of the right tools in the hands of workers who know and understand their jobs. A robot programmed once can't improve, but a conscientious and engaged human worker might.

Computers and the Internet Google offers "video quality report"
A graph without a label on the Y-axis isn't much good, really, but that's the best Google offers with its chart for comparing the video quality delivered by Internet service providers in any given area.

Broadcasting CBS initiates hardball with TV affiliates
They're dropping their Indianapolis affiliate for another station starting January 1st. CBS is trying to extract more money from affiliate stations, it appears, and this is a signal that they won't stick with the ones who won't pay up.

Computers and the Internet Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad proposes "connecting every acre" with wireless broadband
High-speed Internet access certainly can be a high-value tool for farming, and agriculture is a high-value segment of Iowa's economy

Humor and Good News A cat, wearing a shark costume, riding a Roomba
(Video)

Agriculture John Deere is laying off a lot of workers
It's bad news for Iowa, where the Ankeny and Ottumwa plants are being heavily affected. The price of corn has tanked over the last year, and that's bad news for anyone selling equipment to farmers.

Computers and the Internet Super-quality satellite photos are soon coming to the market


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Iowa Americans know when to blow up the old and replace with the new
An old home may look nice, but if it's outlived its usefulness, then the time has come for it to be demolished. There's nothing wrong with a little nostalgia, but people shouldn't use that nostalgia as a justification to confiscate the freedom of others via "historic preservation" tools.

Broadcasting BMW leaves AM radios out of new electric cars
They claim there's signal interference from the motor

Threats and Hazards Leaflets heralding a caliphate in the Middle East get distributed in London
The more ISIS/ISIL takes on the trappings of a state, the worse this situation is going to look

Business and Finance Chinese savers are putting trillions of dollars into trusts and "wealth-management" products


News The Pope in a Soul
Pope Francis, visiting South Korea, picks a Kia Soul for his temporary Popemobile. The jokes about the Pope having a Soul are almost too obvious, but symbolic gestures like this communicate a valuable message from a person like the Pontiff.

Threats and Hazards Canadian woman stabbed with a needle in the middle of a street
One worries for the woman individually, and for the possibility that this kind of thing might be related to some kind of dry run for a bigger threat

Computers and the Internet Windows 9 could look a lot like Windows 8, but with familiar trappings revived from Windows 7
The computing market seems to be stabilizing, with laptop and desktop sales coming out of a steep decline precipitated by the arrival of tablets. Rumor has it test editions of Windows 9 could be available by October.

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Computers and the Internet How the US military leadership uses social media
Generals and their peers are a lot like high priests -- they preside over a highly-structured culture with a lot of in-group language, symbols, and rituals that outsiders don't understand. How they choose to reach out to the outside when those tools become available comes without much of a textbook for guidance.

Business and Finance Federal Reserve faces trickiest economic stunt of all time
The amount of money pumped into the economy as a stabilizing force? Huge. The consequences for pulling that money out too quickly? Extremely painful. The damage that could be done if the money stays in too long and creates inflation? Just as awful, but drawn out in slow-motion.

Business and Finance Mini-bonds sell out quickly in Denver
People wanted to buy low-priced local bonds, and they sold out in a hurry. This model should be considered for lots of economic-development projects in other places -- especially those projects that are purely speculative in nature, which public officials too often get in the business of funding with other people's money.

Aviation News Could the A-10 be saved by cutting the F-35?

News Local police are being pulled out of Ferguson, Missouri
After the reprehensible behavior of some officers documented by a Washington Post reporter, something serious has to change.



News Death of Robin Williams brings spotlight to America's crisis of suicides

Business and Finance Giant slide sells at Iowa State Fair for half a million dollars
But the prior owner says he was making that in profits about every two years. For the record: If you have a business that pays for itself in two years, don't sell it to the Iowa State Fair -- operators are standing by and waiting for your call.

News Red-light camera corruption now faces real justice in Chicago

News PR people get paid more than journalists, on average, and the gap is growing
And there are a lot more of them

Computers and the Internet Microsoft offers a much better first-person time-lapse algorithm
Enough people are running around with Go Pro cameras and other first-person video recorders that they're becoming quite the genre. But the videos can be jerky and hard to watch -- so they've figured out how to smooth the flow of the video so that it moves from perfect first-person into more of a synthesized, stabilized follower.



Humor and Good News How the Chicago Cubs are building a winning system -- for real this time
A dream without a plan is just a wish. What's new for the Cubs system is that there's finally a plan (after a century of loveable losing). It has the best chance of working of anything the Cubs have ever tried, and if (or, Ernie Banks willing, when) it works, it will actually be a case study for business schools.

Science and Technology A future of work with many more robots

Agriculture USDA expects Iowa to have a record-setting corn crop this year
185 bushels an acre, beating last year's 165 bushels per acre by a wide margin

Aviation News Reviving a dead satellite

Computers and the Internet Buzzfeed thinks $50 million will help it move beyond stupid lists
They're good at distribution, but now they're going to try throwing a lot of ideas at a wall to see what sticks.



News Washington should probably re-name its NFL team, but American Indians have much bigger problems to solve
One worries that the obsession over the "Washington Redskins" name distracts people from the terrible problems affecting American Indian communities in many parts of the country, including enormous physical and mental health crises and desperate poverty.

Science and Technology The Moon looks extra-bright right now

The United States of America Who's in the Cabinet?
Here's a challenge, even for the well-informed and politically-engaged: Name the members of the Obama Cabinet. You might get half. There isn't enough delegation happening at the White House.

Humor and Good News London's top cop interrupts TV interview to make arrest

Computers and the Internet "The ultimate tech guy you love to hate"

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Broadcasting Radio show notes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - August 10, 2014

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Threats and Hazards Water is literally being used as a weapon of war in Iraq
Iraq's largest dam has been captured by ISIS, and the United States is promising only very limited intervention via airstrikes. Memo to the State Department and the White House: Do not discount the possibility that this becomes a semi-permanent state of affairs, with ISIS/ISIL establishing the functions of a state. And if that takes root, then on our hands we have an enormous problem indeed. Hamas provided social services to help cement its standing with the people of the Palestinian Territories. As ISIS/ISIL starts doing the same kinds of things, then it may not matter at all how much we reject them politicially as a terrorist group -- they may end up as de facto a state as many others. And that's a grave risk. Put another way, it doesn't matter that we hate the thought that the soft-power trappings of a legitimate government are being performed by a terrorist group; if they are being performed and accepted/tolerated/endured by the people, then we are witnessing the creation of a de facto state. What's happening is an invasion and occupation, even if we don't recognize the invaders as a sovereign nation. That should set off alarms all over the place.



Business and Finance A third of US households are "just getting by" or "struggling" in their own self-characterization
There will always, always, always be work to do to make people better off. The most valuable thing we can do as a nation is make sure that we're setting the right systems and conditions in place to make sure that we're using market forces to make most people's lives better most of the time. One especially scary takeaway from the latest Federal Reserve research on the subject: "Almost half of adults were not actively thinking about financial planning for retirement." And by whom are they expecting to be taken care?

News You don't have to be a gun advocate to appreciate that there are places where someone should be armed
And that may reasonably include hospitals, if certain kinds of people are likely to show up there. The recent experience of a totally justified self-defense shooting at a Pennsylvania hospital is a good illustration.

Business and Finance US labor productivity rose by 2.5% (annualized) in the second quarter
At least, that's the initial projection, though the government's figures have been subject to a lot of revision lately. Ultimately, labor productivity has to grow faster than the population if we are to experience real improvements in quality of life.

Humor and Good News Drunk woman attempts to steal a car -- with two cops inside

Humor and Good News Miami radio host takes a parting shot at LeBron James
And got suspended for ordering the snarky billboards in Ohio

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Computers and the Internet The computer you could have gotten for $600 in 1978
4k of RAM and a cassette-tape recorder for data storage. In 2014, you could get two Asus Transformer tablets each with 1 Gb of RAM for that much, store 16 Gb, and still have $100 left over. Or you could get a Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone with 2 Gb of RAM and 16 Gb of storage. Put another way: The smartphone, for the same price, offers 500,000 times as much RAM.

The United States of America Interesting questions on the matter of military professionalism
We hope to recruit an officer corps full of bright, motivated people. Do we then want to hear what they think about political issues?

Humor and Good News On getting older
Reality checks for Generation X

Broadcasting Netflix teases another season of "Arrested Development" in the indeterminate future
Please, please, please

Humor and Good News Most people really are naturally good
(Video) Witness the effort by a group of people to rescue a man trapped by a train car



Health Babies should not sleep in beds with adults

Computers and the Internet Maybe we would still care about the missing Nigerian girls...if we focused on just one missing Nigerian girl
It's too easy to retweet a picture or use a hashtag and then forget about an issue. It's time for some of what we know about practical psychology to be brought to bear upon the issue of sustaining public attention on important issues long enough to achieve actual results.

Computers and the Internet EU class-action lawsuit against Facebook
It's over privacy concerns; what else is new?

News What might save the new Gannett is that it'll be debt-free
Isolating all of the print-publishing assets of the company in a new spinoff isn't really a great way to ensure the health of that spinoff, but at least they aren't going to burden it with a debt load. Newspapers can do well enough -- even in times of declining advertising revenues -- as long as they aren't saddled with a big debt burden.

Humor and Good News Who owns the copyright when a monkey takes a selfie with your camera?

Humor and Good News Keep them! You can keep them!
Vintage (1976) newspaper ad from the Chicago Tribune: "You get Nick and Warren Lattof with every car at Lattof Chevrolet!" Worth the click to see why buyers of the time should have caveat emptor.



Threats and Hazards The White House needs more delegation on national-security tasks
They're trying too hard to centralize decision-making, and that's causing big decisions to go un-made

Computers and the Internet Omaha is getting 1-gigabit Internet service city-wide

Iowa Iowa's Regents universities are paying as much as $450 an hour for work under an "efficiency review"
A whale of a consulting gig if you can get it

Health "What we've seen is a five- to sevenfold increase in injury rates in youth sports"
A surgeon who has made a career of repairing professional athletes wants parents to bring it down a notch on their kids -- most aren't ever going pro, anyway

Weather and Disasters Two hurricanes are headed for Hawaii
They might not be at hurricane strength by the time they arrive

Broadcasting No more Fox chase for Time Warner
Rupert Murdoch is calling off the pursuit. Meanwhile, Gannett is spinning off its print-publishing assets.

Business and Finance Planned merger of Sprint and T-Mobile falls through




Business and Finance Radio show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - August 3, 2014
Five ways to tell if you're in an organization that's prepared for the future



Computers and the Internet USB firmware can be made to carry malware
And it's incredibly hard to detect. May be time to stop sharing flash drives, with or without a good virus scan.

Agriculture Corn crops look great, demand is flat, and prices are in the toilet


Threats and Hazards Chicago's automatic red-light enforcement finally gets serious scrutiny
The Chicago Tribune found that the system had a bunch of apparent flaws, and now the city is hiring an outside auditor to review the anomalies. But the bottom line is that nobody should be surprised that there were problems with a system that gave a private company the financial incentive to ticket people on behalf of the city, which itself is in dire financial straits itself and could use any possible source of new revenues it can find.

Computers and the Internet Indianola gives a laptop to every high school student
The district calls it a "1:1 digital learning environment"

Computers and the Internet FCC criticizes Verizon for throttling wireless users with unlimited data




Aviation News What to do (or not) about the F-35

Business and Finance The brutally-honest cover letter

Science and Technology Self-piloted cars are coming to the UK



Business and Finance What became of the top companies in the first Fortune 500
Success is never perpetually assured

Computers and the Internet Apple is laying off employees at newly-acquired Beats

Computers and the Internet Facebook is kicking all of its users onto Messenger
They want people to use a standalone app for chatting, rather than the built-in service previously used inside Facebook

Iowa When the police are called in to dispatch a penguin
That this story even makes the news is a good sign that troubles aren't nearly what they could be in the Quad Cities

Humor and Good News DMX rides a slingshot
(Video - language not appropriate for some audiences)



Computers and the Internet Amazon wants to sweeten deal on new Fire phone with a free year of Prime

Health NCAA makes a token effort to track students who may have been concussed

Humor and Good News Frank Caliendo...in Morgan Freeman's voice...reading LeBron James's words
(Video)

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Broadcasting Show notes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - July 27, 2014



Computers and the Internet Plagiarism on Buzzfeed? The shock!
And here we all used to trust Buzzfeed for its penetrating analysis and copious footnotes. The site has always been fluff posted as clickbait, and that's fine enough -- but it's never really been an authoritative source on anything, so we shouldn't be surprised when it falls short of high standards.

News Good intentions, complicated execution
Chicago tries not to stack poor people in awful public-housing tenements like they used to, so they've turned to voucher programs. And, in an acknowledgement of reality, they've also seen that it's important to get people away from crime and low opportunity if they are to break out of cycles of poverty. But it's hard not to be taken aback a bit when hearing that some vouchers are being used for rents as high as $3,000 a month. Each individual step in the decision process appears to make sense, but the result sounds crazy.

News Does it matter how much a politician gives to charity?
If so, why? And how much is enough?

News With Iraq in disarray, who owns the oil?

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Business and Finance President Obama calls businesses "corporate deserters" for using international mergers of convenience
A number of American companies have used (or considered) mergers with foreign companies as a strategy for reducing their tax burdens. The President finds this an appealing subject on which to score political points by talking vaguely about things like "economic patriotism" instead of actually fixing the problem, which is that America has the highest official corporate tax rate in the world. This official rate isn't the one that gets paid -- the effective rate is lower because so many companies chase loopholes, credits, tax breaks, and other exceptions in order to reduce the actual amount paid. The international mergers of which the President speaks are just an especially visible method of tax avoidance. ■ It's not really a matter of patriotism (or un-patriotism) -- it's that the companies are behaving rationally (trying to reduce their tax rates) within the boundaries of a tax system that is completely irrational. But actually fixing the problem rather than grandstanding would require the President to stop capitalizing on anti-capital rhetoric, and he's not about to do that. He's not a Communist, but he and his team are terribly anti-capital. ■ The payoff (in political terms) is quick and easy -- it whips up voter enthusiasm against "fat cats" and "big corporations" -- while the consequences are hard to see. But the consequences are real: Every corporation is owned, in the end, by individual people. If the profits of the corporation are taxed directly at the corporate level, and again at the individual level when paid out as dividends -- both times at high rates -- then people are going to make other decisions. ■ Anything short of a 100% tax rate won't halt investment completely, but high rates have at least some effect that discourages investment at the margins. Investment, in turn, is what keeps businesses afloat, and that keeps people employed. Nevermind, though, because the explanation is far less viscerally satisfying to some members of the left wing than villifying those who have accumulated capital and blaming them for what goes wrong.

Threats and Hazards "Now Americans and Europeans have definitive proof of what motivates a Soviet-style post-Soviet dictator"
A very compelling argument on the nature of our relationship with Putin's Russia -- less Cold War 2, more Mafia-versus-Feds

Science and Technology Johnson County (Iowa) deliberately legalizes driverless cars
The home of Iowa City and the University of Iowa wants to become a test site

News But how will they agree on the temperature?
Dubai plans to build an entirely climate-controlled city

Science and Technology Three cheers for innovation prizes
A group including Google and others is offering a million dollars for someone to build a better power inverter. Prizes for defined outcomes are probably the most efficient way to get really interesting public (and sometimes non-public) goods developed.



The United States of America "Since October, more than 57,000 children have arrived by themselves"
That's the population of a fair-sized American city like West Des Moines. It is significant but it also shouldn't overwhelm our capacity to respond in a humane manner. Bloomberg reports that they'll have to wait an average of 587 days for a court hearing -- which is anything but swift justice. ■ We really have to think through this situation: The level of desperation that parents would have to feel to send their minor children on a trip from Central America through Mexico and through a heavily-guarded border, entirely in the "care" of human traffickers suggests that the situation in their homelands is terrible. Americans don't even send their kids unsupervised to the park without facing charges of neglect. The disparity is troubling -- we're talking about thousands of children under the age of 12, as well as teenagers (and we shouldn't forget that America doesn't even recognize its own teenagers as being mature enough to do thousands of things that fall far short of traveling across an entire country to try to cross a border illegally.) ■ It's worth bearing in mind that "America", in the minds of the parents who try to send their children here, must be so much better than home that it's worth the enormous risk and the inconceivable heartbreak of those children leaving home. That should give us some pause to consider just how fortunate we are to be here. ■ We clearly need to revise our immigration strategy. That people would want so badly to be here -- and that we don't have a system that welcomes more of them through planned, deliberate, and legal means -- tells us that it has to be fixed. There's plenty of room in America (ever been to one of our many places home to only one person per square mile?) -- we just need to put the right system in place for accepting more immigrants in a humane and sustainable manner.

News Well, that's embarrassing: US Senator from Montana plagiarized his master's thesis
And not when he was a kid, either

Iowa Yet another high rating for Des Moines
Forbes says it's the #2 city for business and careers in America. Lincoln (Neb.) is 6th, and Omaha is in the top 25.

Broadcasting Radio shownotes: Wise Guys - July 19, 2014

Broadcasting Radio shownotes: Brian Gongol Show - July 20, 2014
Cultural and political issues notwithstanding, the Mideast isn't going to be a peaceful place if the economics aren't fixed. There's always instability wherever lots of young men are unemployed.



Business and Finance Big tax breaks lure Sealed Air Corp. to North Carolina
New Jersey will lose a bunch of white-collar jobs over the deal. And did the nation gain anything as a whole? Nope. It's a net loss to the public when states battle each other like this.

News Chicago drivers could get refunds for unwarranted tickets from red-light cameras

News One-paragraph book review: "Influence" by Robert Cialdini

Weather and Disasters Pilger (Neb.) tornado hit cattle feedlots, too
An estimated 300 cattle were killed, and lots of buildings and equipment were destroyed, too. The damage to grain bins is visible from the nearby highway.

Humor and Good News Helen Mirren uses the Royal Canadian Air Force fitness plan (circa 1950-something)



Health Ebola is back
Almost 1,000 people have gotten it (in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone), and the majority are now dead. This is a very serious problem.

Threats and Hazards "No wonder the government can't find needles in the haystack -- it keeps storing irrelevant hay"
The same government that can lose all kinds of e-mails from high-level IRS officials somehow manages to keep incredible amounts of data on airline passengers

Computers and the Internet Cisco wireless routers need updates to prevent crooks from breaking in

Health Beating cancer is going to take a lot of genetic research
Salk Institute scientists think they've found a gene that signals a cell to stop moving...and when that gene is turned off, it permits the cell to move freely -- which is what causes cancer metastasis.



Computers and the Internet Even computer companies aren't immune to layoffs
Microsoft is laying off 18,000 people over the next year. Some think the company's internal announcement could have used a little more direct language.

Broadcasting "South Park" cuts a deal with Hulu
There's no better draw than great content. But great content is hard to create.

Weather and Disasters Wait -- is the Weather Channel getting back to science?
Their new show "Weather Geeks" is being spun as a show for the real science fiends out there. It's to be hosted by a university professor.

Science and Technology Self-driving cars are coming, and it's time to consider the implications
One writer came up with a list of 17 things that could change. There are undoubtedly many, many more.



Humor and Good News Weird Al Yankovic: "Word Crimes"
(Video) One of his best pieces of work, and that's saying something

News Chicago Tribune puts most of its archives online
Everything from 1847 to 1991 is now available.



Computers and the Internet How the Obama Administration tracks sentiment on Twitter
A staffer is assigned to carefully track what press corps reporters are saying in addition to their conventionally published reports

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Computers and the Internet Iowa data centers play a central role in Microsoft's cloud-computing strategy
They're big investments in equipment with a small impact on the labor market, which is exactly the kind of thing a company like Microsoft is wise to invest in.

Business and Finance The continued saga of the Midwest's skilled-worker shortage
A dispatch from Omaha



Aviation News Amazon to try dragging FAA into the drone era



Computers and the Internet Smartphone memories don't really get fully wiped


Weather and Disasters Yellowstone is an active seismic area
And a hot spot is melting an asphalt road. We ignore the hazards beneath the magnificent national park at our own peril.

Humor and Good News New neighbors don't like Iowa City drum circle
Someone call Eric Cartman, hippie exterminator



Business and Finance More machines means fewer low-skill jobs
It's an ongoing development (one that's been underway for generations), but we only tend to notice it when there are periodic down-cycles in the economy...and we've recently been through one of those. The challenge is to think and act upon ways to accommodate the inevitable during the up-cycle, when we have the available surplus resources to invest.

News Wrigley Field slated for half-billion-dollar renovation
New bullpens, more signs

Business and Finance Interesting: UPS uses a lot more rail freight than you might expect


Humor and Good News New "Homestar Runner" material is on the way


Computers and the Internet Your relationship with Facebook is not one of equals




Science and Technology Neil DeGrasse Tyson: I'm not worried about the kids
(Video) In an unscripted moment, the public face of astronomy points out that it's adults who have the stupid beliefs, not kids

Business and Finance The Federal Reserve is cutting off its bond-buying program in October
At least, that's the current plan. That may be a rather abrupt stop for a lot of people who aren't expecting it.

News 2014 reading list -- a mid-year progress update

Weather and Disasters Tornado warnings mean take cover immediately
Some people in Grundy County barely escaped serious injury because they didn't have time to fully react. Related: Public tornado shelters may be on the verge of becoming a widespread thing.

News Minneapolis Star-Tribune to lose a lot of staff veterans in ownership change
Meanwhile, speculation has it that News Corp. is looking at buying the Tribune newspapers.

Iowa The legend of the "tavern" sandwich




Business and Finance How many direct subordinates is too many?


Threats and Hazards Chicago needs to get its act together
An absurdly violent holiday weekend should have people saying that enough is enough

Business and Finance Uber's effect on the market for New York City taxi medallions


News The Panama Canal may just get a competitor in Nicaragua


The United States of America Ideology divides the House from the Senate
Of course, the practice of catering to interest groups is neither new nor avoidable, but its results may cause us to need to push the "reset" button

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Business and Finance Target Field rolls out self-service beer stations
Just one more amony many small signs that the era of low-skill jobs for humans is over

Computers and the Internet Google's take on artificial intelligence


Weather and Disasters Video of the tornado in Newton


Aviation News Train derailment lands 737 fuselages in a river


News A Kickstarter campaign for a bowl of potato salad



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