Thursday, May 27, 2010


David Brooks has a good column today about technological complexity; similarly fatalistic is Grist, which asks, “What if we can’t shut off the leak?”

More on congestion pricing.

The fight to bring electricity to Nigeria.

Does the popularity of the iPad and iPhone in Japan indicate a problem in Japan’s electronics sector?:
In Japan, detail-oriented consumers prefer to buy Japanese products packed with features and read thick instruction manuals from cover to cover. Most buyers outside of Japan expect new products to be simple and intuitive, and they are less concerned about a product's point of origin.

"The consumer in Japan thinks very differently than the global consumer," said Atul Goyal, an analyst at brokerage firm CLSA. "Once Japanese companies try to sell things to a global market, they need to understand how a global consumer reacts."

Greece will still have to restructure its debt.

Depressing facts:
Nearly 60% of English language learners in California's high schools have failed to become proficient in the language despite more than six years of a U.S. education, according to a study released Thursday.

On the demolition of Beijing’s historical districts:
In January, the Dongcheng District government announced plans to turn the alleys, or hutongs, surrounding the Drum and Bell Towers into a "Beijing Cultural City." Residents say they've received notice that demolition will begin in June, but representatives of the project have only confirmed that building will start before the end of the year. Plans include an underground shopping mall, parking and a museum. Most of the 625,000 residents, including Liu's family, will have to move.

To many people, including locals such as Liu, the Drum and Bell neighborhood is a slum, not a convenient place to live and nothing for Beijing to be proud of in 2010. But preservationists, many of them foreigners or Chinese who have lived overseas, say this is China's cultural heritage — not just the narrow alleys and the buildings but the people living here and their traditional lifestyle.

Residents are divided over the project. They have posted almost 2,000 comments under the thread "The Drum and Bell Tower area to be demolished" on Baidu Tieba, a popular Chinese Internet forum. Many are practical, worrying that even with compensation they can't afford an apartment in the city's sky-high real estate market. Others are attached to their homes.

Also, in China news: why are Filipina nannies in high demand by Chinese families?:
But if the market is anything to judge by, parents think the Filipinas are worth it: Beijing parents pay Rmb3,000-4,000 per month for Filipina nannies, and only half that for Chinese-only speaking staff.

Nobody wants to talk about it much, for obvious reasons. Shanghai nanny agencies that advertise Filipina nannies online suddenly clam up when contacted by the FT, and Mums with Filipina maids definitely do not want to be quoted.

But the message is clear: middle-class Chinese want Filipinas to make sure that their children have English drummed into them not only at school, but also at home.

Why, asks Frederic Filloux, does digital advertising suck? (But I encourage you to click the many wonderful ads served on this here blog by Google AdSense!!!1! Or, indeed, one of the helpful links to through Amazon Associates!)

What happens when you put three insane people together who all believe they are Jesus Christ?

Behind the production of Toy Story 3.

The flight to quality, or, why low prices of Treasuries mean the government should be spending more.

The health insurance rate hikes for small businesses:
Five major insurers in California's small-business market are raising rates 12% to 23% for firms with fewer than 50 employees, according to a survey by The Times.

Similar increases are being felt by many small businesses across the nation, including those in Texas, Ohio and Florida — mainly the result of escalating costs for medical care and pharmaceuticals, insurers say.

Will Miami go bankrupt? (Sounds overly alarmist...but, on the other hand, this is a city councilman asking the question.)

Designing better stop signs.

Should American health care imitate (some aspects of) Indian health care?

A new doctor specialty, the hospitalist:
Because hospitalists are on top of everything that happens to a patient — from entry through treatment and discharge — they are largely credited with reducing the length of hospital stays by anywhere from 17 to 30 percent, and reducing costs by 13 to 20 percent, according to studies in The Journal of the American Medical Association. As their numbers have grown, from 800 in the 1990s to 30,000 today, medical experts have come to see hospitalists as potential leaders in the transition to the Obama administration’s health care reforms, to be phased in by 2014.
Sounds in many ways similar to the “care coordinator” idea proposed by Kent Conrad for Medicare.

The history and philosophy of putting political leaders on trial.

Joe Posnanski on Paul Pierce.

S.L. Price profiles Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona, and Argentina itself:
The easy conclusion, of course, is that the country is mad. Yes, anyplace can seem bizarre to a stranger, but let's agree that Argentina's lunacy is more obvious than, say, Denmark's. Argentina is, after all, the nation with the most psychoanalysts per capita; the country whose still-feverish devotion to a long-dead First Lady resulted in a town, Ciudad Evita, built in the shape of her head; the land where citizens fearlessly consume beef for breakfast or with afternoon coffee and erupt in street protests for any reason at all. On an April afternoon, for example, picketers halted rush-hour traffic on the highway into Buenos Aires, expressing outrage over the damage caused by a recent hailstorm. "Protesting the hail," said a lifelong resident with a shrug. "Of course."

Still, it's another thing for a country to indulge its own lunacy where its most prized possession is concerned. When in October 2008 longtime Argentina Football Association (AFA) president Julio Grondona named Maradona the national team coach, he made a choice that few could imagine his counterparts in England or Brazil or Germany making. It smacked of desperation and arrogance. It was confounding, exhilarating and, for a constituency accustomed to political and economic tumult, wholly appropriate.

"Argentina is used to living from crisis to crisis to crisis, and life always goes on," says Ezequiel Fernández Moores, a columnist for the Buenos Aires newspaper La Nación. "Maybe it's crazy to put [Maradona] in that position, but maybe not. Sometimes it seems we love the crisis. We can't live without the crisis. Maradona is an icon of that."
Would it be possible to somehow create a The Real World type reality show in which Maradona, Ron Artest, M.I.A. and Dexter Pittman were forced to live together? I would be prepared to pay large sums of money to see that (and I am open to slotting in other candidates, but Maraodona and Artest must be members.)

Did payday lenders win the battle but lose the financial regulation war?

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