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July 31, 2010

Apple Fired Mike Scott for Firing the Laggards




Wozniak writes of pre-1983 management troubles at Apple, in the passage quoted below. The passage highlights that large companies usually lose flexibility in hiring and firing. Good managers who have tacit (or just insufficiently documented) judgment about who the best employees are, have limited ability to act on that knowledge.

I wonder if this is a necessary disadvantage of size, or a disadvantage that is due to our laws, customs and institutions?


(p. 231) By this time, I should point out, Mike Scott--our president who took us public and the guy who took us through the phenomenally successful IPO--was gone. During the time the Apple III was being developed, he thought we'd grown a bit too large. There were good engineers, sure, but there were also a lot of lousy engineers floating around. That happens in any big company.

It's not necessarily the lousy engineer's fault, by the way. There's always going to be some mismatch between an engineer's interests and the job he's doing.

Anyway, Scotty had told Tom Whitney, our engineering manager, to take a vacation for a week. And meanwhile he did some research. He went around and talked to every engineer in the company and found out who was doing what and who was working and who wasn't doing much of anything.

Then he fired a whole bunch of people. That was called Bloody Monday. Or, at least, that's what it ended up being called in the Apple history books. I thought that, pretty much, he fired all the right ones. The laggards, I mean.

And then Mike Scott himself was fired. The board was just very pissed that he'd done this without a lot of backing and enough due process, the kind of procedure you're supposed to follow at a big company.

Also, Mike Markulla told me Mike Scott had been making a lot of rash decisions and decisions that just weren't right. Mike thought Scotty wasn't really capable of handling the company given the point and size it had gotten to.

I did not like this one bit. I liked Scotty very, very much as a person. I liked his way of thinking. I liked his way of being able to joke and be serious. With Scotty, I didn't see many things fall (p. 232) through the cracks. And I felt that he respected the good work that I did--the engineering work. He came from engineering.

And as I said, Scotty had been our president, our leader from day one of incorporation until we'd gone public in one of the biggest IPOs in U.S. history. And now, all of a sudden, he was just pushed aside and forgotten.

I think it's sad that none of the books today even seem to recall him. Nobody knows his name. Yet Mike Scott was the president that took us through the earliest days.



Source:

Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.





July 30, 2010

Capitalism is Not a Zero-Sum Game




WielLosesIniestaWins2010-07-12.jpg



















The Wall Street Journal on 7/12/2010 ran the above photo on the top of its front page and referred to articles inside on the final game of the 2010 World Cup. Their caption was: "120 minutes, a record 13 yellow cards and a single goal: Andrés Iniesta, right, celebrates scoring to beat the Netherlands in the World Cup; Dutch player Gergory van der Wiel, left, buries his face." Source of photo: http://www.zumapress.com/images/SIGMA/IMAGES312/20100711_zaf_d20_347.pre (sic)



What a beautiful picture for illustrating a zero-sum game. Football (or soccer) is a zero-sum game---Spain can only win, if the Netherlands lose.

Capitalism is sometimes compared to sports, because both involve competition. In the short-run competition of capitalism, sometimes one "team" wins and another "team" loses. But in the longer run, the essential fact about capitalism is not competition, but innovation. And in the longer run triumph of innovation, all can win.

When Ghiberti and Brunelleschi competed to build the Gates of Paradise, Ghiberti ended up building the doors. But it would be a mistake to see him as the winner and Brunelleschi as the loser. Brunelleschi moved on to build the Duomo, and everyone won.





July 29, 2010

Finland Approves Two New Nuclear Power Plants




(p. B5) The Finnish Parliament approved the construction of two nuclear power plants on Thursday, the latest victory for proponents of atomic energy in Europe.

Just two weeks ago, the Swedish Parliament narrowly voted to allow the reactors at 10 nuclear power plants to be replaced when the old ones are shut down -- a reversal from a 1980 referendum that called for them to be phased out entirely.

Nuclear power fell out of favor in much of Europe after the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl, Ukraine.

But in an era of concern about dependence on foreign supplies of fossil fuels and increases in atmospheric carbon, there is renewed interest in electricity generated by nuclear fission.

"Over all, opinions are firming and more positive," Ian Hore-Lacy, a spokesman for the World Nuclear Association, said of the European mood. "People are less concerned about waste because they've seen it's not a drama, and it's been well managed."



For the full story, see:

AVID JOLLY. "Why Is the Gulf Cleanup So Slow? There are obvious actions to speed things up, but the government oddly resists taking them.." The New York Times (Fri., July 2, 2010): B5.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 1, 2010.)





July 28, 2010

"A Rare Phenomenon in Europe -- A Genuine Business Celebrity"




HayekNicolas2010-07-08.jpg












"Nicolas Hayek was asked to help shut the troubled Swiss watch industry, but instead he revived it by introducing the Swatch." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



Richard Langlois has used the story of Nicolas Hayek to illustrate why Schumpeter was wrong when he worried that the entrepreneur might become obsolete.


(p. A23) Nicolas Hayek, a Lebanese-born business consultant who is widely credited with having saved the Swiss watch industry with the introduction of the Swatch, the inexpensive, plastic -- and, as it transpired, highly collectible -- wristwatch that made its debut in 1983, died Monday in Biel, Switzerland. He was 82.

Mr. Hayek, a founder and the chairman of the Swatch Group, died of heart failure while working at the company's headquarters, according to an announcement on the company Web site.

The formation of the Swatch Group, which in addition to Swatch today comprises high-end watch brands like Breguet, Omega, Longines, Tissot, Calvin Klein and Mido, made Mr. Hayek one of Switzerland's wealthiest men. The exquisite irony is that the company came about after Mr. Hayek was brought in to help shut the foundering Swiss watch industry altogether.

A flamboyant figure with a roguish sense of humor, Mr. Hayek was "a rare phenomenon in Europe -- a genuine business celebrity," as The Harvard Business Review described him in 1993.



For the full story, see:

MARGALIT FOX. "Nicolas Hayek Dies at 82; His Swatch Saved an Industry." The New York Times (Tues., June 29, 2010): A23.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated June 28, 2010.)


Nicolas Hayek's entrepreneurship is nicely summarized and analyzed on pp. 59-65 of:

Langlois, Richard N. The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism: Schumpeter, Chandler and the New Economy. London: Routledge, 2006.





July 27, 2010

The Problems of Design by a Marketing Committee




(p. 226) So why did the Apple Ill have so many problems, despite the fact that all of our other products had worked so great? I can answer that. It's because the Apple III was not developed by a single engineer or a couple of engineers working together. It was developed by committee, by the marketing department. These (p. 227) were executives in the company who could take a lot of their power and decide to put all their money and resources in the direction of their own ideas. Their own ideas as to what a computer should be.

Marketing saw that the business community would be the bigger market. They saw that the typical small businessman went into a computer store, bought an Apple II, a printer, the VisiCalc spreadsheet program, and two plug-in cards. One was a memory card, which allowed them to run larger spreadsheets. And the other was an eighty-column card, which allowed them to present eighty columns of characters across the video display, instead of the normal forty. Forty columns was the limit of American TVs.

So they came up with the idea that this should all be built into a single machine: the Apple III. And it was built.

Initially there was virtually no software designed for the Apple III. Yet there were hundreds of software programs you could buy for the Apple II. So to have a lot of software right away, Apple built the Apple III as a dual computer--there was a switch that let you select whether the computer started up as an Apple II or as an Apple III. (The Apple III hardware was designed to be extremely compatible with the Apple II, which was hard to improve on.) It couldn't be both at. once.

And it was here they did something very wrong. They wanted to set the public perception of the Apple III as a business computer and position the Apple II as the so-called home hobby machine. The little brother of the family. But get this. Marketing had us add chips--and therefore expense and complexity--to the Apple III in order to disable the extra memory and eighty column triodes if you booted it up as an Apple II.

This is what killed the Apple Ill's chances from the get-go. Here's why. A businessman buying an Apple II for his work could easily say, "I'll buy an Apple III, and use it in the Apple II mode since I'm used to it, but I'll still have the more modern machine." (p. 228) But Apple killed the product that businessman would want by disabling the very Apple II features (extra memory and eighty- column mode) he was buying the computer for.

Out of the chute, the Apple Ill got a lot of publicity, but there was almost nothing you could run on it. As I said, it wasn't reliable. And in Apple II mode, it was crippled.

To this day, it boggles my mind. It's just not the way an engineer--or any rational person, for that matter--would think. It disillusioned me that big companies could work this way.



Source:

Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.





July 26, 2010

The British Museum Collaborating with Wikipedia




WikipediaVisitsBritishMuseum2010-07-05.jpg"Two visitors from Wikipedia, Liam Wyatt, left, and Joseph Seddon, at the British Museum." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. C1) The British Museum has begun an unusual collaboration with Wikipedia, the online, volunteer-written encyclopedia, to help ensure that the museum's expertise and notable artifacts are reflected in that digital reference's pages.

About 40 Wikipedia contributors in the London area spent Friday with a "backstage pass" to the museum, meeting with curators and taking photographs of the collection. And in a curious reversal in status, curators were invited to review Wikipedia's treatment of the museum's collection and make a case that important pieces were missing or given short shrift.

Among those wandering the galleries was the museum's first Wikipedian in residence, Liam Wyatt, who will spend five weeks in the museum's offices to build a relationship between the two organizations, one founded in 1753, the other in 2001.

"I looked at how many Rosetta Stone page views there were at Wikipedia," said Matthew Cock, who is in charge of the museum's Web site and is supervising the collaboration with Wikipedia. "That is perhaps our iconic object, and five times as many people go to the Wikipedia article as to ours."

In other words, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Once criticized as amateurism run amok, Wikipedia has become ingrained in the online world: it is consulted by millions of users when there is breaking news; its articles are frequently the first result when a search engine is used.


. . .


(p. C6) Getting permission to work with Wikipedia was not as hard a sell as he expected, Mr. Cock said. "Everyone assumed everyone else hated it and that I shouldn't recommend it to the directorate," he said. "I laid it out, put a paper together. I won't say I was surprised, but I was very pleased it was very well received."

He said he had enthusiastic support from four departments, including Greek and Roman antiquity and prints and drawings. "I don't think it is just the young curators," he added.



For the full story, see:

NOAM COHEN. "Venerable British Museum Enlists in the Wikipedia Revolution." The New York Times (Sat., June 5, 2010): C1 & C6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated June 4, 2010.)





July 25, 2010

More on How Federal Regulations Delay Oil Cleanup




(p. A15) First, the Environmental Protection Agency can relax restrictions on the amount of oil in discharged water, currently limited to 15 parts per million. In normal times, this rule sensibly controls the amount of pollution that can be added to relatively clean ocean water. But this is not a normal time.

Various skimmers and tankers (some of them very large) are available that could eliminate most of the oil from seawater, discharging the mostly clean water while storing the oil onboard. While this would clean vast amounts of water efficiently, the EPA is unwilling to grant a temporary waiver of its regulations.

Next, the Obama administration can waive the Jones Act, which restricts foreign ships from operating in U.S. coastal waters. Many foreign countries (such as the Netherlands and Belgium) have ships and technologies that would greatly advance the cleanup. So far, the U.S. has refused to waive the restrictions of this law and allow these ships to participate in the effort.

The combination of these two regulations is delaying and may even prevent the world's largest skimmer, the Taiwanese owned "A Whale," from deploying. This 10-story high ship can remove almost as much oil in a day as has been removed in total--roughly 500,000 barrels of oily water per day. The tanker is steaming towards the Gulf, hoping it will receive Coast Guard and EPA approval before it arrives.



For the full story, see:

PAUL H. RUBIN. "Why Is the Gulf Cleanup So Slow? There are obvious actions to speed things up, but the government oddly resists taking them.." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 2, 2010): A15.






July 24, 2010

Android App Phones Play "One Seriously Crazy Game of Leapfrog"




DroidXphone2010-07-05.jpg












"The Droid X is the latest "best Android phone on the market."" Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. B1) You think technology moves too fast now? You think your camera, camcorder and computer become obsolete quickly?

Try buying an app phone. In this business, the state of the art changes as often as Lady Gaga changes outfits.

Suppose, for example, that you want one of the increasingly popular phones that run Google's Android software.

Last November, you might have been tempted by the Motorola Droid, "the best Android phone on the market." A month later, the HTC Hero was "the best Android phone on the market." By January, "the best Android phone yet" was the Nexus One. In April, "the best Android device that you can purchase" was the HTC Incredible. In May, "the best Android phone on the market" was the Sprint Evo.

Either "the best Android phone on the market" is a tech critic's tic, or we're witnessing one seriously crazy game of leapfrog.

The latest buzz is about the Motorola Droid X, which Verizon will offer in mid-July for $200.


. . .


(p. B8) . . . , it's thrilling to see the array of excellent app phones that the original iPhone begat. If you who crave power, speed, flexibility, dropless calls an almost-Imax screen and Verizon's network (as opposed to Sprint and its similar Evo), the Droid X is a big, beautiful contender for the "best Android phone on the market" crown.

This month's crown, anyway.





For the full story, see:

DAVID POGUE. "State of the Art; Big Phone, Big Screen, Big Pleasure." The New York Times (Thurs., July 1, 2010): B1 & B8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated June 30, 2010.)





July 23, 2010

Commodore, Atari, and Some Venture Capitalists, Refused to Fund Jobs and Wozniak




(p. 196) After Commodore turned us down, we went over to Al Alcorn's house. He was one of the founders of Atari with Nolan Bushnell, and he was the one who'd hired Steve to do video games there two years before.

Now, I knew Al knew me. He knew I had designed Breakout, the one-player version of Pong. I remember that when we went to his house I was so impressed because he had one of the earliest color projection TVs. Man, in 1976, he would have been among the first people to have one. That was cool.

But he told us later that Atari was too busy with the video game market to do a computer project.

A few days after that, venture capitalists Steve had contacted started to come by. One of them was Don Valentine at Sequoia. He kind of pooh-poohed the way we talked about it.

He said, "What's the market?"

"About a million," I told him.

"How do you know?"

I told him the ham radio market had one million users, and this could be at least that big.

Well, he turned us down, but he did get us in touch with a guy named Mike Markkula. He was only thirty, he told us, but already retired from Intel. He was into gadgets, he told us. Maybe Mike would know what to do with us.



Source:

Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.





July 22, 2010

"We're Spending at a Rate that's Just Unsustainable"




ShultzGeorgeVertical2010-07-5.jpg
George Shultz, former Dean of the University of Chicago Business School, former Secretary of the Treasury, and former Secretary of State. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. 12) What do you make of the direction the Republican Party has taken since you served in Washington? Isn't the Tea Party a corruption of the values you stood for?
From what I understand of it, it is a reaction, which I share, to the fact that our government seems to have gotten out of control. We're spending at a rate that's just unsustainable.

That's a legacy of the Bush era, I guess.
Everybody is conveniently blaming everything on Bush, but he's not responsible for what's happened in the last year.

You'll be 90 in December. How are you?
I'm terrific. Feeling great. I'm vertical, not horizontal. That's a big thing.



For the full interview, see:

DEBORAH SOLOMON. "Questions for George Shultz; The Statesman." The New York Times Magazine (Sun., July 4, 2010): 12.

(Note: bolding of interviewer questions was in original.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated June 28, 2010.)





July 21, 2010

Defenders of Climategate Benefit from Global Warming Fears




(p. A15) Last November there was a world-wide outcry when a trove of emails were released suggesting some of the world's leading climate scientists engaged in professional misconduct, data manipulation and jiggering of both the scientific literature and climatic data to paint what scientist Keith Briffa called "a nice, tidy story" of climate history. The scandal became known as Climategate.

Now a supposedly independent review of the evidence says, in effect, "nothing to see here."


. . .


One of the panel's four members, Prof. Geoffrey Boulton, was on the faculty of East Anglia's School of Environmental Sciences for 18 years. At the beginning of his tenure, the Climatic Research Unit (CRU)--the source of the Climategate emails--was established in Mr. Boulton's school at East Anglia. Last December, Mr. Boulton signed a petition declaring that the scientists who established the global climate records at East Anglia "adhere to the highest levels of professional integrity."

This purportedly independent review comes on the heels of two others--one by the University of East Anglia itself and the other by Penn State University, both completed in the spring, concerning its own employee, Prof. Michael Mann. Mr. Mann was one of the Climategate principals who proposed a plan, which was clearly laid out in emails whose veracity Mr. Mann has not challenged, to destroy a scientific journal that dared to publish three papers with which he and his East Anglia friends disagreed. These two reviews also saw no evil. For example, Penn State "determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community."

Readers of both earlier reports need to know that both institutions receive tens of millions in federal global warming research funding (which can be confirmed by perusing the grant histories of Messrs. Jones or Mann, compiled from public sources, that are available online at freerepublic.com). Any admission of substantial scientific misbehavior would likely result in a significant loss of funding.

It's impossible to find anything wrong if you really aren't looking.



For the full commentary, see

PATRICK J. MICHAELS. "The Climategate Whitewash Continues; Global warming alarmists claim vindication after last year's data manipulation scandal. Don't believe the 'independent' reviews.." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., JULY 12, 2010): A15.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated JULY 10, 2010.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)





July 20, 2010

Why We Should Drill in Our Backyards




(p. A15) As oil continues to gush from BP's Macondo well and politicians posture, it is time for us to ask why we are drilling in such risky places when there is oil available elsewhere. The answer lies in the mantra NIMBY--"not in my back yard."


. . .


In early June there was a blowout in western Pennsylvania. Did you see it on the nightly news? No, because it was capped in 16 hours.


. . .


Drilling can be done with greater environmental sensitivity onshore. For many years the Audubon Society actually allowed oil companies to pump oil for its privately owned sanctuaries in Louisiana and Michigan, but did so with strict requirements on the oil companies so that they would not disturb the bird habitat.


. . .


When kids play baseball, there is a risk that windows will get broken. Playing on baseball fields rather than in sand lots, however, lowers the risk considerably. Putting so much onshore land off limits to oil and gas development is like closing baseball parks. More windows will be broken and more blowouts result where they are difficult to prevent and stop.



For the full commentary, see:

TERRY ANDERSON. "Why It's Safer to Drill in the 'Backyard'; Texas has had 102 oil and gas well blowouts since the start of 2006, without catastrophic consequences." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., June 25, 2010): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)





July 19, 2010

HP Turns Down Wozniak Again




(p. 193) But I went to talk to the project manager, Kent Stockwell. Although I had done all these computer things with the Apple I and Apple II, I wanted to work on a computer at HP so bad I would have done anything. I would even be a measely printer interface engineer. Something tiny.

I told him, "My whole interest in life has been computers. Not calculators."

(p. 194) After a few days, I was turned down again.

I still believe HP made a huge mistake by not letting me go to its computer project. I was so loyal to HP. I wanted to work there for life. When you have an employee who says he's tired of calculators and is really productive in computers, you should put him where he's productive. Where he's happy. The only thing I can figure is there were managers and submanagers on this computer project who felt threatened. I had already done a whole computer. Maybe they bypassed me because I had done this single-handedly. I don't know what they were thinking.

But they should've said to themselves, "How do we get Steve Wozniak on board? Just make him a little printer interface engineer." I would've been so happy, but they didn't bother to put me where I would've been happiest.



Source:

Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.





July 18, 2010

Federal Regulations Slow Oil Cleanup Innovation




CostnerKevinOilWaterSeparator2010-07-04.jpg"One promising device is an oil-water separator backed by the actor Kevin Costner, right." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1) Two decades after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, cleanup technology has progressed so little that the biggest advancement in the Gulf of Mexico disaster -- at least in the public's mind -- is an oil-water separator based on a 17-year-old patent and promoted by the movie star Kevin Costner.


. . .


(p. A20) Ms. Kinner [co-director of the Coastal Response Research Center at the University of New Hampshire] and others cite many . . . reasons why cleanup technologies lag.

In testimony this month before Congress, Mr. Costner told of years of woe trying to market his separator, a centrifuge originally developed and patented in 1993 by the Idaho National Laboratory, for use in oil spills. One obstacle, he said, was that although his machines are effective, the water they discharge is still more contaminated than environmental regulations allow. He could not get spill-response companies interested in his machines, he said, without a federal stamp of approval.




For the full story, see:

HENRY FOUNTAIN. "Since Exxon Valdez, Little Has Changed in Cleaning Oil Spills." The New York Times (Fri., June 25, 2010): A1 & A20.

(Note: ellipses added; and bracketed words added from previous paragraph of article.)

(Note: the date of the online version of the article was June 24, 2010 and had the title "Advances in Oil Spill Cleanup Lag Since Valdez.")





July 17, 2010

Big Government Slows Economic Growth




(p. A15) Americans are debating whether to substantially expand the size of their government. As Swedish economists who live in the developed world's largest welfare state, we urge our friends in the New World to look carefully before they leap.

Fifty years ago, Sweden and America spent about the same on their government, a bit under 30% of GDP. This is no longer true. In the years leading up to Sweden's financial crisis in the early 1990s, government spending went as high as 60% of GDP. In America it barely budged, increasing only to about 33%.

While America was maintaining its standing as one of the world's wealthiest nations, Sweden's standing fell. In 1970, Sweden was the fourth richest country in the world on a per capita basis. By 1993, it had fallen to 17th.

This led us to ask whether Sweden's dramatic increase in the size of government contributed to its sluggish growth. Our research shows that it did.

We surveyed the existing literature looking at the trade-offs between government size and economic growth throughout the world. While results vary, the most recent research, by Diego Romero-Avila in the European Journal of Political Economy (2008) and by Andreas Bergh and Martin Karlsson in Public Choice (2010) find a negative correlation between government size and economic growth in rich countries.

The weight of the evidence demonstrates that when government spending increases by 10 percentage points of GDP, the annual growth rate drops by 0.5 to 1 percentage point. This may not sound like much, but over 30 years this would result in the loss of trillions of dollars each year in an economy as large as America's.



For the full commentary, see

ANDREAS BERGH AND MAGNUS HENREKSON. "Lessons From the Swedish Welfare State; New research shows bigger government means slower growth. Our country is a prime example." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., JULY 12, 2010): A15.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated JULY 10, 2010.)





July 16, 2010

Statue of Mass Murderer Finally Removed from Gori's Central Square




StalinStatueRemoved2010-06-29.jpg "Georgian authorities, seeking to purge their country of Soviet monuments, on Friday removed a statue of Stalin from the central square of Gori, Stalin's birthplace. It had stood there for 48 years." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. A4) GORI, Georgia -- In the predawn darkness on Friday, Georgian authorities carried out a clandestine operation in Gori's central square. Wrapping thick cables around Stalin's neck and under one of his armpits, they hoisted him off the pedestal where he has stood for 48 years and set him nose-first on the back of a flatbed truck.


. . .


On Friday, the culture minister, Nikolos Rurua, dismissed reports that the removal was intentionally kept quiet, pointing out that several camera crews were present. He said the vast majority of Georgians shared his view of Stalin as "a mass murderer and a political criminal."


. . .


Last summer vandals painted the statue's base with the phrases "Get off your pedestal!" and "Your place is in the museum!"

Mikheil Jeriashvili, a 19-year-old medical student, said that he was delighted at the news and that he would be happier if the authorities "removed this statue completely, or burned it or something."

"I would prefer if he had been born in another town altogether," he said.




For the full story, see:

SARAH MARCUS and ELLEN BARRY. "Georgia Knocks Stalin Off His Pedestal." The New York Times (Sat., June 26, 2010): A4.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated June 25, 2010.)

(Note: ellipses added.)





July 15, 2010

"Fun" and "Profits" as Motives for Entrepreneurship




(p. 184) After we started selling the boards to Paul Terrell--working day and night to get them to him on time--we had profits like I never imagined. Suddenly our little business was making more than I was making at HP. That wasn't very much, admittedly. But still, it was a lot. We were building the boxes for $220 and selling them wholesale to Paul Terrell for $500.

And, of course, we didn't need a ton of money to operate. I had a day job, so I looked at it as, Hey, cool. Extra money for pizza! As for Steve, he was living at home. I was twenty-five and he was only twenty-one at the time, so what expenses could we have, really? Apple didn't have to make that much to sustain itself and be ongoing. We weren't paying ourselves salaries or paying rent, after all. We didn't have any patents to pay for. Or lawyers. It was a small-time business, and we weren't worried that much about anything.

My dad, watching this, pointed out that we weren't actually making money because we weren't paying ourselves anything. But we didn't care, we were having too much fun.




But note, only several pages later:

(p. 194) Like I said before, we needed money. Steve knew it and I knew it.

So by that summer of 1976, we started talking to potential money people about Apple, showing them the Apple II working in color in Steve's garage.



Source:

Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.





July 14, 2010

India Government Spends Billions to Subsidize Fuel Use




IndiaGasDrumOnBike2010-06-29.jpg"An employee filled an oil drum in New Delhi on Friday. India's government has decided to reduce popular fuel subsidies." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


I smiled when I saw the ironic photo that appears above. It seems to imply that with government subsidies, even bicycle riders will buy motor fuel.


(p. B3) MUMBAI, India -- The Indian government on Friday reduced popular fuel subsidies, a long-delayed change that will help policy makers reduce a big budget deficit but one that will also worsen already high inflation.

Policy makers said the government would stop subsidizing gasoline. Diesel, kerosene and natural gas would continue to receive support at a slightly lower level. India spent about $5.6 billion to subsidize fuel in the last fiscal year, which ended in March. State-owned energy companies added the equivalent of an additional $4.4 billion by selling fuel below its cost.

India and other big countries committed to eliminating energy subsidies at a Group of 20 meeting last year, but policy makers here had repeatedly put off the politically difficult change.



For the full story, see:

VIKAS BAJAJ. "India Cuts Subsidies for Fuels." The New York Times (Sat., June 26, 2010): B3.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated June 25, 2010.)





July 13, 2010

More New Jobs Created Are Higher Skill Jobs




(p. A1) As unlikely as it would seem against this backdrop, manufacturers who want to expand find that hiring is not always easy. During the recession, domestic manufacturers appear to have accelerated the long-term move (p. A3) toward greater automation, laying off more of their lowest-skilled workers and replacing them with cheaper labor abroad.

Now they are looking to hire people who can operate sophisticated computerized machinery, follow complex blueprints and demonstrate higher math proficiency than was previously required of the typical assembly line worker.

Makers of innovative products like advanced medical devices and wind turbines are among those growing quickly and looking to hire, and they too need higher skills.


. . .


Manufacturers who profess to being shorthanded say they have retooled the way they make products, calling for higher-skilled employees. "It's not just what is being made," said David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "but to the degree that you make it at all, you make it differently."

In a survey last year of 779 industrial companies by the National Association of Manufacturers, the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, the accounting and consulting firm, 32 percent of companies reported "moderate to serious" skills shortages. Sixty-three percent of life science companies, and 45 percent of energy firms cited such shortages.




For the full story, see:

MOTOKO RICH. "Jobs Go Begging as Gap is Exposed in Worker Skills." The New York Times (Fri., July 1, 2010): A1 & A3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 1, 2010 and has the title "Factory Jobs Return, but Employers Find Skills Shortage.")





July 12, 2010

Chicago's South Side Welcomes Wal-Mart: "The Audience Stood and Cheered"




WalmartChicagoSupporters2010-06-29.jpg"Supporters of a proposed Wal-Mart store in Chicago demonstrated at a City Coumcil zoning panel hearing Thursday." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. B4) "We need jobs for our neighborhood, and Wal-Mart is willing to come, and they're willing to provide the jobs," said the Rev. Dr. D. Darrell Griffin, the pastor at Oakdale Covenant Church.

Politicians who supported the Wal-Mart store said they did so in part because of employment and revenue for the city.

"There are major corporations willing to invest significant money within our communities, which has not been done, really, since the '60s, when a lot of the corporations left the communities after the riots," said Howard B. Brookins Jr., a member of the council. "This is huge for us."


. . .


On Thursday, the zoning committee meeting was filled with about 200 onlookers wearing T-shirts with the Wal-Mart logo and slogans like, "Our neighborhood. Our jobs. Our decision."

Before he asked for a simple yes or no vote, Daniel Solis, chairman of the zoning committee, told the crowd, "We are now the model in this country."

After the unanimous vote -- which sends the proposal to the full City Council, where it is expected to pass next week -- the audience stood and cheered.

"It's going to bring jobs and help the community," Shawn Polk, 20, a college student who lives near the proposed store, said afterward.



For the full story, see:

STEPHANIE CLIFFORD. "Wal-Mart Gains in Its Wooing of Chicago." The New York Times (Fri., June 25, 2010): B1 & B4.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated June 24, 2010.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)





July 11, 2010

How HP Turned Down the Apple PC




Wozniak tells the story of how he offered to develop the PC within HP, but HP turned him down. The story seems highly compatible with the account of disruptive innovations given by Clayton Christensen.

Another aspect of the story is worth highlighting. Sometimes it is alleged, as e.g., with the Tucker auto story, that large incumbent corporations suppress innovations. But in this case, although HP did not want to develop the PC themselves, they did not try to keep Wozniak and Jobs from developing it on their own.


(p. 175) Before the partnership agreement was even inked, I realized something and told Steve. Because I worked at HP, I told him, everything I'd designed during the term of my employment contract belonged to HP.

Whether that upset Steve or not, I couldn't tell. But it didn't matter to me if he was upset about it. I believed it was my duty to tell HP about what I had designed while working for them. That was the right thing and the ethical thing. Plus, I really loved that company and I really did believe this was a product they should do. I knew that a guy named Miles Judd, three levels above me in the company structure, had managed an engineering group at an HP division in Colorado Springs that had developed a desktop computer.

It wasn't like ours at all--it was aimed at scientists and engineers and it was really expensive--but it was programmable in BASIC.

I told my boss, Pete Dickinson, that I had designed an inexpensive desktop computer that could sell for under $800 and could run BASIC. He agreed to set up a meeting so I could talk Miles.

(p. 176) I remember going into the big conference room to meet Pete, his boss, Ed Heinsen, and Ed's boss, Miles. I made my presentation and showed them my design.

"Okay," Miles said after thinking about it for a couple of minutes. "There's a problem you'll have when you say you have output to a TV. What happens if it doesn't look right on every TV? I mean, is it an RCA TV a Sears TV or an HP product that's at fault?"

HP keeps a close eye on quality control, he told me. If HP couldn't control what TV the customer was using, how could it make sure the customer had a good experience? More to the point, the division didn't have the people or money to do a project like mine. So he turned it down.

I was disappointed, but I left it at that. Now I was free to enter into the Apple partnership with Steve and Ron. I kept my job, but after that I was officially moonlighting. Everybody I worked with knew about the computer board we were going to sell.

Over the next few months, Miles would keep coming up to me. He knew about BASIC-programmable computers because of his division out in Colorado, and even though they didn't want my design, he said he was intrigued by the idea of having a machine so cheap that anyone could own one and program it. He kept telling me he'd been losing sleep ever since he heard the idea.

But looking back, I see he was right. How could HP do it? It couldn't. This was nowhere near a complete and finished scientific engineer's product. Everybody saw that smaller, cheaper computers were going to be a coming thing, but HP couldn't justify it as a product. Not yet. Even if they had agreed, I see now that HP would've done it wrong anyway. I mean, when they finally did it in 1979, they did it wrong. That machine went nowhere.



Source:

Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.


The main Christensen book is:

Christensen, Clayton M., and Michael E. Raynor. The Innovator's Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2003.





July 10, 2010

Former French Student Protest Leader: "We've Decided that We Can't Expect Everything from the State"




DynamismEuropeAndUnitedStatesGraph.gif
















Source of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.




(p. A16) "The euro was supposed to achieve higher productivity and growth by bringing about a deeper integration between economies," says Simon Tilford, chief economist at the Centre for European Reform, a London think tank. "Instead, integration is slowing. The lack of flexibility in labor and product markets raises serious questions about the likelihood of the euro delivering on its potential."

Structural changes are the last great hope in part because euro zone members have few other levers for lifting their economies. Individual members can't tweak interest rates to encourage lending, because those policies are set by the zone's central bank. The shared euro means countries don't have a sovereign currency to devalue, a move that would make exports cheaper and boost receipts abroad.

The remaining prescription, many economists say: chip away at the cherished "social model." That means limiting pensions and benefits to those who really need them, ensuring the able-bodied are working rather than living off the state, and eliminating business and labor laws that deter entrepreneurship and job creation.

That path suits Carlos Bock. The business-studies graduate from Bavaria spent months navigating Germany's dense bureaucracy in order to open a computer store and Internet café in 2004. Before he could offer a Web-surfing customer a mug of filter coffee, he said, he had to obtain a license to run a "gastronomic enterprise." One of its 38 requirements compelled Mr. Bock to attend a course on the hygienic handling of mincemeat.

Mr. Bock closed his store in 2008. Germany's strict regulations and social protections favor established businesses and workers over young ones, he said. He also struggled against German consumers' reluctance to spend, a problem economists blame in part on steep payroll taxes that cut into workers' takehome pay, and on high savings rates among Germans who are worried the country's pension system is unsustainable.

"If markets were freer, there might be chaos to begin with," Mr. Bock said. "But over time we'd reach a better economic level."

Even in France, some erstwhile opponents of reforms are changing their tune. Julie Coudry became a French household name four years ago when she helped organize huge student protests against a law introducing short-term contracts for young workers, a move the government believed would put unemployed youths to work.

With her blonde locks and signature beret, Ms. Coudry gave fiery speeches on television, arguing that young people deserved the cradle-to-grave contracts that older employees enjoy at most French companies. Critics in France and abroad saw the protests as a shocking sign that twentysomethings were among the strongest opponents of efforts to modernize the European economy. The measure was eventually repealed.

Today, the now 31-year-old Ms. Coudry runs a nonprofit organization that encourages French corporations to hire more university graduates. Ms. Coudry, while not repudiating her activism, says she realizes that past job protections are untenable.

"The state has huge debt, 25% of young people are jobless, and so I am part of a new generation that has decided to take matters into our own hands," she says. "We've decided that we can't expect everything from the state."




For the full story, see:

MARCUS WALKER And ALESSANDRA GALLONI. "Europe's Choice: Growth or Safety Net." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., MARCH 25, 2010): A1 & A16.





July 9, 2010

Smarter Info Technology Frees Workers from Routine and Creates Jobs




(p. A22) Smarter computing technology, experts say, ought to make the most skilled workers -- in science, the arts and business -- even more productive and prosperous by freeing them from routine tasks. Their prosperity translates to spending that creates jobs in stores, schools, gyms, construction and elsewhere.

Artificial intelligence, experts say, should also generate new jobs even as it displaces others. The smart machines of the future will need programming, servicing and upgrading -- work done, perhaps, by a new class of digital technicians. The intelligent machines, experts add, will be specialists in a field, like the medical assistant project at Microsoft. They must be tailored with specialized software, perhaps igniting a new industry for artificial intelligence applications.

Of course, no one really knows just what artificial intelligence will mean for jobs and the economy, but the technology is marching ahead. "Its potential is far greater than simply substituting technology for human labor," said Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist at the M.I.T Sloan School of Management.




For the full story, see:

STEVE LOHR. "Jobs Created and Displaced." The New York Times (Fri., June 25, 2010): A22.

(Note: the date of the online version of the article was June 24, 2010.)





July 8, 2010

Low End Tech Upstart Moves Up-Market to Compete with Incumbents




MediaTekRevenueGraph2010-05-20.gif













Source of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



The MediaTek example briefly mentioned below, seems a promising fit with Christensen's theory of disruptive innovators.


(p. B7) TAIPEI--A little-known Taiwanese chip-design company is making waves in the cellphone business, grabbing market share from larger U.S. rivals and helping drive down phone prices for consumers.


. . .


While MediaTek isn't known for cutting-edge innovation, it has been able to apply the nimble, cost-cutting approach of Taiwan's contract manufacturers to the business of designing semiconductors, in which engineers use advanced software to lay out the microscopic circuits that make gadgets like cellphones function.

"MediaTek has brought down the cost significantly," says Jessica Chang, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG, who says mobile-phone makers are increasingly drawn to MediaTek's products because of their functionality and low cost.



For the full story, see

TING-I TSAI. "Taiwan Chip Firm Shakes Up Cellphone Business." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., APRIL 19, 2010): B7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)


On Christensen's theories, see:

Christensen, Clayton M., and Michael E. Raynor. The Innovator's Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2003.





July 7, 2010

Apple Was Founded Without Clear Path to Profit




(p. 172) Frankly, I couldn't see how we would earn our money back. I figured we'd have to invest about. $1,000 to get a computer company to print the boards. To get. that money back, we'd have to sell the board for $40 to fifty people. And I didn't think there were fifty people at Homebrew who'd buy the board. After all, there were only about five hundred members at this point, and most of them were Altair enthusiasts.

But Steve had a good argument. We were in his car and he said--and I can remember him saying this like it was yesterday: "Well, even if we lose our money, we'll have a company. For once in our lives, we'll have a company."

For once in our lives, we'd have a company. That convinced me. And I was excited to think about us like that. To be two best friends starting a company. Wow. I knew right then that I'd do it. How could I not?



Source:

Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.





July 6, 2010

Porter Airlines Beats Incumbents in Serving High End Customers




DeluceRobertOfPorterAirlines2010-05-20.jpg"Robert Deluce set up Porter Airlines at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport in October 2006." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


Clayton Christensen explains why upstart entrepreneurs who move up-market to serve under-served customers, will almost always lose to motivated incumbents.

Apparently Robert Deluce has not read Christensen.


(p. B8) TORONTO--As a teenager, Robert Deluce learned to fly at this city's small airport just outside the downtown on a Lake Ontario island.

Lately, the 59-year-old airline entrepreneur has been giving his own brand of flying lessons there in a dogfight with larger competitors over a lucrative flying niche: the high-margin business traveler.

n 2005, Mr. Deluce bought the airport's ramshackle terminal and later kicked out an Air Canada regional partner named Jazz Air. Then, he set up Porter Airlines, which has become a hit with business fliers for its top-notch service and convenient location, a one-minute ferry ride from the downtown waterfront. Earlier this month, closely held Porter opened the first phase of a gleaming, 150,000-square-foot terminal that eventually will house two passenger lounges and 10 aircraft gates.


. . .


The new carrier's mascot is a raccoon. "He's mischievous and determined and pretty much always achieves his desired goal," said Mr. Deluce, chuckling over breakfast at a Toronto hotel. "Air Canada and Jazz probably think he's over-mischievous."


. . .


In recent years, Toronto's waterfront has been revitalized, with high-rise condos and parks replacing grain elevators and industrial warehouses. Air Canada's partner Jazz and a predecessor, which had been flying to and from the downtown airport for years, reduced service even as the redevelopment was progressing. The airport's traffic waned to 25,000 fliers in 2005 from 400,000 a year in the late 1980s.

Smelling opportunity, Mr. Deluce pounced, acquiring the old terminal and evicting Jazz. He raised C$126 million in start-up capital and placed a US$500 million order for 20 Canadian-built turboprop aircraft. With 70 seats, they are perfectly sized for the airport's short, 4,000-foot runway. Porter took wing in October 2006.

His aggressive tactics as CEO have earned him both criticism and grudging respect. Brian Iler, chairman of CommunityAir, a Toronto citizens advocacy group that wants the airport shut because of noise issues and other concerns, gives Mr. Deluce his due. "Everything he has done, he's managed to turn things his way," Mr. Iler says. "It's an amazing run of luck."


. . .


Porter now flies to four U.S. destinations and seven other cities in Eastern Canada, with an eighth coming this month. It had its first month of profitability in June 2007 and paid out to its employee profit-sharing plan that year and in 2008, Mr. Deluce says. He won't say whether Porter was profitable in 2009.

The new airline has attracted a following for its downtown location, competitive fares, leather seats with generous legroom and complimentary beer, wine and snacks. Female flight attendants wear retro pillbox hats and peplum jackets.

Christopher Sears, vice president of research for Montreal-based brokerage firm MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier Inc., said he has flown Porter 30 to 40 times between Montreal and Toronto. Once he arrives in Toronto, he grabs a free shuttle to a hotel two blocks from his firm's Toronto office.

"Porter has built up a lot of goodwill with me," he says, vowing to stick with the company even if rivals break into the downtown airport.




For the full story, see

SUSAN CAREY. "Tiny Airline Flies Circles Around Its Rivals; Top-Notch Service, Proximity to Downtown Toronto Make Porter a Hit With High-Margin Business Travelers." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., MARCH 17, 2010): B8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the slightly different title "Tiny Airline Flies Circles Around Rivals; Top-Notch Service, Proximity to Downtown Toronto Makes Porter a Hit With High-Margin Business Travelers.")


On Christensen's theories, see:

Christensen, Clayton M., and Michael E. Raynor. The Innovator's Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2003.


BillyBishopAirportTrafficGraph2010-05-20.gif














Source of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.





July 5, 2010

Life is Too Short to Waste on Hypercomplex Music and Literature




(p. W14) Are certain kinds of modern art too complex for anybody to understand? Fred Lerdahl thinks so, at least as far as his chosen art form is concerned. In 1988 Mr. Lerdahl, who teaches musical composition at Columbia University, published a paper called "Cognitive Constraints on Compositional Systems," in which he argued that the hypercomplex music of atonal composers like Messrs. Boulez and Carter betrays "a huge gap between compositional system and cognized result." He distinguishes between pieces of modern music that are "complex" but intelligible and others that are excessively "complicated"--containing too many "non-redundant events per unit [of] time" for the brain to process. "Much contemporary music," he says, "pursues complicatedness as compensation for a lack of complexity." (To read his paper online, go to: http://www.bussigel.com/lerdahl/pdf/Cognitive%20Constraints%20on%20Compositional%20Systems.pdf)


. . .


Mr. Lerdahl is on to something, and it is applicable to the other arts, too. Can there be any doubt that "Finnegans Wake" is "complicated" in precisely the same way that Mr. Lerdahl has in mind when he says that a piece of hypercomplex music like Mr. Boulez's "Le marteau sans maître" suffers from a "lack of redundancy" that "overwhelms the listener's processing capacities"?


. . .


"You have turned your back on common men, on their elementary needs and their restricted time and intelligence," H.G. Wells complained to Joyce after reading "Finnegans Wake." That didn't faze him. "The demand that I make of my reader," Joyce said, "is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works." To which the obvious retort is: Life's too short.



For the full commentary, see:

TERRY TEACHOUT. "Too Complicated for Words; Are our brains big enough to untangle modern art?." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., June 26, 2010): W14.

(Note: ellipses added.)


The research discussed above is:

Lerdahl, Fred. "Cognitive Constraints on Compositional Systems." Contemporary Music Review 6, no. 2 (1992): 97-121.





July 4, 2010

"Our Own Peaceful Deity Keeping Watch Before the Open Gates of America"




EnlighteningTheWorldBK2010-05-18.jpg












Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.





I believe that a case can be made that Grover Cleveland is an under-appreciated President. (I like his comment on the Statue of Liberty quoted below.)


(p. W9) The cold rains of Oct. 28, 1886, did little to dampen the ardor of the tens of thousands of giddy New Yorkers who crowded onto the southern tip of Manhattan that afternoon to watch the festivities on Bedloe's Island, a patch of land in New York Harbor. On cue, an enormous veil dropped, and the spectators gazed for the first time at the face of the massive statue that, until then, had been the subject not only of curiosity but also of skepticism.

Whatever doubts Americans might have had about this unsolicited, and rather costly, gift from the French seemed at once to vanish. A "thunderous cacophony of salutes from steamer whistles, brass bands, and booming guns, together with clouds of smoke from the cannonade, engulfed the statue for the next half hour," Yasmin Sabina Khan writes in "Enlightening the World," her account of how the Statue of Liberty came to be.

The crowd roared, then various speakers held forth, welcoming the 225-ton, 151-foot-tall Lady Liberty, as she would soon be known. President Grover Cleveland, in his remarks, tried to distinguish this colossus from others of its kind throughout human history. Where the statue-symbols of other nations might depict "a fierce and warlike god, filled with wrath and vengeance," this one exhibited only "our own peaceful deity keeping watch before the open gates of America."

President Cleveland's interpretation of the statue turned out to be but one of many over the years. To Ms. Khan the Statue of Liberty's symbolic significance is not a complicated matter and never was. The statue celebrates the "friendship" of the people of France and those of the U.S.; it represents "liberty" and "liberty" alone.




For the full review, see:

ALAN PELL CRAWFORD. "BOOKS; Lady Liberty's Path to America." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., MAY 8, 2010): W9.






July 3, 2010

Wozniak Spent a Lot of Time Collecting Information Before Building a Project




(p. 160) My style with projects has always been to spend a lot of time getting ready to build it. Now that I saw my own computer could be a reality, I started collecting information on all the components and chips that might apply to a computer design.

I would drive to work in the morning--sometimes as early as 6:30 a.m.--and there, alone in the early morning, I would quickly read over engineering magazines and chip manuals. I'd study the specifications and timing diagrams of the chips I was interested in, like the $40 Motorola 6800 Myron had told me about. All the while, I'd be preparing the design in my head.



Source:

Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.





July 2, 2010

Cellphones in North Korea Promote Free Speech




NorthKoreanDefectorCellphone2010-05-20.jpg"Mun Seong-hwi, a North Korean defector, speaking to someone in North Korea to gather information at his office in Seoul." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


I have long believed, but cannot prove, that on balance technology improves human freedom more than it endangers it.

The case of cellphones in North Korea supports my belief.


(p. A1) SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea, one of the world's most impenetrable nations, is facing a new threat: networks of its own citizens feeding information about life there to South Korea and its Western allies.

The networks are the creation of a handful of North Korean defectors and South Korean human rights activists using cellphones to pierce North Korea's near-total news blackout. To build the networks, recruiters slip into China to woo the few North Koreans allowed to travel there, provide cellphones to smuggle across the border, then post informers' phoned and texted reports on Web sites.

The work is risky. Recruiters spend months identifying and coaxing potential informants, all the while evading agents from the North and the Chinese police bent on stopping their work. The North Koreans face even greater danger; exposure could lead to imprisonment -- or death.



For the full story, see

CHOE SANG-HUN. "North Koreans Use Cellphones to Bare Secrets." The New York Times (Mon., March 29, 2010): A1 & A10.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated March 28, 2010.)





July 1, 2010

Fed Scientist Says Oil Spill Did Not Kill Most of Dead Turtles




(p. A9) A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist says he believes most of the dead turtles that have been examined since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill died not from the oil or the chemical dispersants put into the water after the disaster, but from being caught in shrimping nets, though further testing may show otherwise.

Dr. Brian Stacy, a veterinary pathologist who specializes in reptiles, said that more than half the turtles dissected so far, most of which were found shortly after the spill, had sediment in their lungs or airways, which indicated they might have been caught in nets and drowned.

"The only plausible scenario where you would have high numbers of animals forcibly submerged would be fishery interaction," he said. "That is the primary consideration for this event."

Many times the usual number of turtles have been found stranded this year, but NOAA has cautioned from the beginning that the oil spill is not necessarily to blame.



For the full story, see:

SHAILA DEWAN. "Turtle Deaths Called Result of Shrimping, Not Oil Spill." The New York Times (Sat., June 26, 2010): A9.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated June 25, 2010.)





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