The Economist offers its subscribers the option of downloading a podcast version of the entire magazine (non-subscribers can purchase copies). This is a fine thing, since who has time to read the whole thing? Listening to it while doing other things, on the other hand, is an economic use of time, if you'll pardon the pun. I haven't yet figured out how to use my iPod while swimming, but I do a lot of walking (and almost no sitting in traffic jams, which was probably the original idea at the Economist).
So here's a roundup of some interesting stuff they offered this week.
Two very disturbing articles about the chaos that is Somalia, here and here. Somalia's an important place. Not because it's the world's worst basket case, even more than the Congo, Sudan, North Korea and of course Gaza - basket cases often don't bother the rest of the world. Somalia's important because it's a strategically situated basket case, which is being taken over by the Islamists; and the Islamist have already proven they know how to use far off countires we've never heard about to launch mischief in the ones we live in. Disturbingly, it's not only the Guardian that doesn't care about Somalia. Look at the list of special envoys appointed by the new Obama administration who are to deal with problematic parts of the world, and tell me which one has the Horn of Africa brief.
The UK has yet to figure out how to deal with its Muslim minority. There's no small amount of irony in this story, or Schadenfreude if you prefer.
There's a long Special Report on rubbish (that's really what it's about). This chapter of it explains how Mumbai is better at recycling than San Francisco, if you can believe it. Heh.
The Autonomy software company is doing just fine, in spite of the recession, thank you. They're doing fascinating things, too, or maybe I think it's so interesting because of my professional occupation and the rest of you will tell me it's b-o-r-i-n-g. Over here's a story about some folks who are giving Google a run for their money.
Ayn Rand is selling far better than stocks, these days. There may even be a connection. A bit of a pity, all those sales, because she's dead and can't appreciate her popularity, while lot's of deserving live authors don't have it (the popularity) but could enjoy it if they did.
Talking about books, we've all read the ones that tell how crowds and masses are bad, unthinking, stupid and so on. Apparently not, says this report. Crowds actually often police themselves and calm potential violent clashes. Apropos crowds, it turns out Facebook doesn't make for more friends, because our brain is wired to be able to deal with a limited number of human relationships, and technology can't change that. There's a profound moral to this tale, but I'm not going to get into it today.
Ronald Reagan, it seems, had very fine intuition - but ultimately it didn't make much difference.
Finally, an obituary for Christopher Nolan, a very brave man.