Visualization of the frequency of White House press briefings

Hat tip: Tom Wood (@thomasjwood)

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How Facebook killed off Vine

Are you still searching for evidence of Facebook’s anti-competitive behavior? Then do I have news for you! A British parliamentary committee conducting an inquiry into Facebook’s anti-competitive business practices recently released a treasure trove of secret Facebook documents, including internal communications from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg. According to this report by Brian Feldman, “There is not anything particularly outrageous or damning in the emails, but collectively they point to a company whose priorities were self-preservation, revenue generation, and fear of being exposed for dubious privacy practices. It is a far cry from the benevolent, touchy-feely, global-community messaging that Facebook has pushed over the years.” One example of Facebook’s hypocrisy is its treatment of Vine, a once popular video-sharing app that allowed users to share six-second-long looping video clips. According to Feldman’s report, Mark Zuckerberg himself signed off on a measure to destroy Vine: “On the app’s launch day, Justin Osofsky, a Facebook vice president, proposed shutting down Vine’s ability to access Facebook’s friends API [application program interface]. This [tactic] made it difficult for users to find their Facebook friends within Vine, kneecapping the app’s ability to grow–and compete with Facebook. Zuckerberg’s response: ‘Yup, go for it.'”

Image result for facebook destroyed vine
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An innocent (almost felon) abroad

That is the title of this short paper by Christopher Balding (@BaldingsWorld) describing a recent low-level but illuminating encounter he had with the Chinese legal system. (Check out Professor Balding’s fascinating Twitter feed here.) Below the fold is one excerpt from Balding’s paper that we found especially poignant: Continue reading

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The Economics of Christmas

We’ve blogged about this Yuletide topic on a previous occasion, but now check out the enormously entertaining and enlightening video below in which our friends and colleagues Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, both of whom teach economics at George Mason University, debate the economics of gift giving:

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The Crimes of Michael Cohen

As you may already have heard by now, a federal judge in Manhattan sentenced Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former ad hoc attorney and personal confidante, to three years in “Club Fed.” Mr Cohen had previously pled guilty to four separate criminal charges:

  1. Tax evasion during tax years 2012 to 2016;
  2. Making false statements to a bank in 2015;
  3. Making illegal campaign contributions in support of Mr Trump’s campaign for president in 2016; and
  4. Making false statements to Congress in 2017.

Bonus Questions: (a) What about the way more serious lies John Clapper told to Congress and to the North American public on 12 March 2013? Why isn’t the former Director of the U.S. National Security Agency being charged with the same crime? More bonus questions below the fold: Continue reading

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Visualization of USA immigration patterns, 1830-2015

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Wales-Sanger Law?

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, was launched on 15 January 2001, and according to this history of Wikipedia (via, where else, Wikipedia, of course!), the English version of this wonderful website ( now contains almost six million articles. (See table below.) If these six million articles were published in book form, they would comprise over 2,500 print volumes of the old-school Encyclopædia Britannica, an imaginary tome of Borgesian proportions! By comparison, the print edition of the actual Encyclopædia Britannica contains only 64,900 articles in 32 volumes, a mere drop in Wikipedia’s proverbial bucket. Also, notice how the number of Wikipedia articles has grown at a fairly constant rate since 2005. When will this growth rate slow down or level off? In the meantime, should we call this constant growth rate “Wales-Sanger Law” in honor of Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, the co-founders of Wikipedia?

Source: Wikipedia

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