Stories by Barrett Sheridan

  • wri-the-shallows-061110-tease

    The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing to our Brains

    Is the Internet the greatest technological gift to humankind since the invention of the printing press? Or is it rewiring our brains, turning us into distraction-prone, screen-addicted infovores incapable of deep, imaginative thought?
  • wealth-matters-sc05-tease

    The Risks and Rewards of Crisis Investing

    Investors hate risk. So when one country sinks another’s ship, killing 46 sailors, and threatens “all-out war,” it sounds like a good time to sell, right? Wrong. Political crises sometimes can be a great time to buy. When South Korea released a report on May 19 proving that the North was behind a torpedo attack two months earlier, tensions heightened and stock prices tumbled. But steely-nerved investors swooped in, and those who bought a broad index of South Korean stocks at the low made a 12 percent return in about a week—and it’s still trading roughly 13 percent off this year’s high, making for plenty of upside opportunity.
  • texas-education-tease

    Texas Cooks the Textbooks

    NEWSWEEK’s guide to the 10 silliest changes that will likely be in the new Texas textbook curriculum.
  • wri-rational-optimist-tease

    The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

    Matt Ridley sets out to prove that now is by far the best of times, and it’s only going to keep getting better. Even today’s greatest challenges, such as African poverty and climate change, are surmountable because of a remarkable human insight: that specialization and division of labor allow us to constantly improve our lot.
  • Forget Water Coolers—It's All About Hashtags Now

    O. J. Simpson’s low-speed chase, the blackout in the Northeast in 2003, Kanye “I’ma let you finish” West at the MTV Video Music Awards—these are the “common denominators” of our time, to borrow a phrase from NEWSWEEK’s editor in chief, Jon Meacham. They are the water-cooler moments, the events that everyone talks about the next day at work, the connective tissue keeping American culture from liquefying into isolated pools of niche interest....
  • Monopoly Comes to the App Store (and We're Not Talking About a Board Game)

    Apple’s next “magical” and “revolutionary” product? An iLegalDefenseTeam. According to the New York Post, the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are negotiating over which of the two agencies will launch an antitrust inquiry against the company, now the third-largest in America (by market capitalization). A decision could be made within days, but at this point, it’s just a rumor—neither the government nor Apple is confirming or denying anything. And even if true, an inquiry won’t necessarily result in legal action—it's just a preliminary investigation to determine whether any laws have been broken.Still, it’s bad news for Apple. The reputation of the tight-lipped Cupertino firm has done a 180 in the last couple of years, going from snazzy, innovative upstart to tech bully. Its public badmouthing of Adobe and its Gestapo-like tactics against the finders of a next-generation iPhone are only the latest black marks on the company’s record. App developers, music...
  • Facebook's Play to Take Over the Entire Internet

    Mark Zuckerberg must read NEWSWEEK. For months now, Techtonic Shifts has implored him to open up the social graph—the Facebook data that describe our friendships, tastes, and more—and share it with the world. Back in February, we wrote,"If competition breeds innovation, closed systems kill it . . . Today, there's no war over who can better mine the social graph. That's because Facebook holds the only key, and for now, we're all locked inside." ...
  • Uncle Sam Wants Your Tweets

    How does a tweet die? Quickly and quietly. As any Twitter user can attest, the rolling, unstoppable "tweet stream" has a short shelf life; any message older than a few hours has reached its expiration date. That all changed yesterday, when the Library of Congress announced (through its Twitter account, of course) that it would archive every public tweet ever made. That’s right—every tweet, from the mind-numbing review of your sister-in-law’s breakfast burrito to John Larroquette's 140-character tone poems, will now be preserved for posterity. This is good news for pretty much everyone. It's a win for Twitter, which gains legitimacy at the expense of its rivals. (Don't expect the Library of Congress to target Foursquare checkins any time soon.) It's a PR coup for the Library as well, showing the world that a hidebound government bureaucracy can adapt to the digital era. And, most of all, it's a boon for researchers and historians. Much of Twitter is...
  • Pretending We're Not In a Trade War

    Even in the darkest days of the recession, as job reports registered stomach-flipping descents, politicians around the globe swore not to give in to protectionism. Now, as the economy starts to stabilize, the World Trade Organization has offered them a muted congratulations. Its analysis of anti-free trade actions in 2009 reveals some minor slippage, but in general "paints a reassuring picture."...
  • Europe Should Not Curtail Credit Default Swaps

    Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou claims to have discovered the culprit behind his country's economic misery, and last week he laid out his indictment. In a speech in D.C., he blamed hedge funds and other speculators for driving up the borrowing costs of his cash-strapped nation. In particular, credit default swaps--financial derivatives that act like insurance for bondholders--are a "scourge that haunts Greece and all of us," he said. By mid-week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy took up the baton and published a letter urging the European Commission to consider a ban on CDS speculation.But if Europe curtails the use of these and other derivatives, it will hurt, not help, the continent's sickly economies. To start, there is simply no evidence that swaps were really to blame for the Greek crisis. The German financial regulator, BaFin, said as much when it released a report on Greek credit default swaps last week. It turns...
  • LastHistory Mashes Up Your Music and Photo Timelines

    You would hate my iPod. But not because my taste in music is bad. It's actually quite good. (Don't take my word for it, though. Judge for yourself.) But rather than rely on recognizable groupings like "Indie Electronica" or "Party Mix!!!," my iPod is chronologically ordered, like an audio diary. The playlists on it are primarily for the benefit of my nostalgia. The songs on "2006-03-March," for example, instantly evoke early spring, redwood forests, and a road trip down the California coastline. For a list-obsessed, memory-challenged individual like myself, a temporal playlist is the perfect way to travel back in time....
  • I Am Not Sgt. Sperm Donor: Why Facebook Should Open the Social Graph

    At this point, Facebook owns your social life. The site, which just overtook Yahoo to become the second most visited Web destination in the U.S., has had six years to record all the photo tags, friend requests, and pokes made by its 400 million users. The result is a well-developed social graph—a tangled ball of twine that describes how we connect to one another and what we care about....
  • Battling For Good Health in Congo

    War may indeed be hell, but hell, apparently, isn't all that bad for your health. According to a new study, during most armed conflicts since the 1970s mortality rates have actually declined. That's not to say that war, in and of itself, leads to longer life spans. Instead, a major reason for the drop is that conflict has become an impetus for international humanitarian groups to ramp up their efforts in a poor country, and they've learned to work public-health miracles in a short amount of time. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for instance, just 20 percent of children were vaccinated for measles in 1997, at the start of a decade-long civil war. But by 2007 that figure was 80 percent. The metrics on other health initiatives, from treating malnutrition to distributing bed nets, tell a similar story. "It's never any fun living in a refugee camp," says Andrew Mack, a professor at Simon Fraser University and the study's lead author. "But...
  • Why Haiti Is Without Parallel

    If death toll is the sole metric used, the world has known worse disasters than Haiti's earthquake--China's 1976 Tangshan quake left more than 200,000 dead, as did the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. But few catastrophes have decapitated a city as essential to a nation as Port-au-Prince is to Haiti. It is the country's commercial, political, and cultural heart, and home to one third of its 9 million residents. Disaster historians have to grope for a proper parallel....
  • 2010 Prediction: The Year of the Paid Subscription

    This year the Web turns 21. So it's somewhat ironic that 2010 will also be the year the place finally sobers up.Many of the startups and media sites that define the e-commerce ecosystem are, at long last, making serious plans to make serious money.  Hulu, the slick portal that picked up where TiVo left off in killing the idea of "appointment television," is the free site likeliest to begin charging in 2010. Chase Carey, a top executive of News Corp., which owns 27 percent of Hulu, announced in October that "it's time to start getting paid for broadcast content online" and "Hulu concurs with that." Comcast's recent purchase of NBC Universal, Hulu's other founding network, makes a pay-model future only more likely. Hulu hasn't made any official announcements yet, and it may continue to offer ad-supported versions of some programming, but expect to start using your credit card when you need your Arrested Development fix.Music is...
  • Why Markets Aren't Efficient

    Remember when everybody thought that markets were all-knowing? Before the financial crisis struck in late 2008, the reigning dogma in economics was the "efficient-markets hypothesis," an idea popularized by Eugene Fama that enjoyed exalted status for more than three decades. EMH, as economists call it, posits that markets reflect all available information, that investors are rational, and that prices are stable. While anyone without a Ph.D. or an M.B.A. probably immediately recognized the flaws in such rigid thinking, these notions once seemed self-evident to academics and investors. The economists still vigorously defending them today sound like alcoholics denying they have a problem."The economics profession went astray," Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman proclaimed this year, and EMH helps explain why: it was the sharpest example of the way economists sacrificed truth in favor of beautiful, quantifiable theories that helped Wall Street whiz kids build computer programs to "predict"...
  • The True Cost of Fixing the Climate

    Despite the brouhaha over stolen e-mails from the University of East Anglia, the science of climate change is well enough established by now that we can move on to the essential question: what's the damage going to be?The total bill, if emissions are left unchecked, could reach 20 percent of annual per capita income, says Nicholas Stern, the British economist who led an influential Whitehall-sponsored study. That's ruinous—the world hasn't seen a drop in living standards like that since, well, never. But don't start stockpiling flour and batteries just yet. William Nordhaus, a Yale economist, puts his "best guess" at 2.5 percent of yearly global GDP. That's significant, but not apocalyptic. And according to Dutch economist Richard Tol, the economic impact of a century's worth of climate change is "relatively small" and "comparable to the impact of one or two years of economic growth."These estimates aren't just different—they're different by an order of magnitude. And while some...
  • Australian PM Rudd on Climate Change, Copenhagen

    Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has bulletproof green credentials—his first act as P.M. was to sign the Kyoto Protocol, forcing his country to slash carbon emissions. In December he'll play a key role in negotiating Kyoto's successor at the Copenhagen climate-change conference. He spoke with Newsweek's Barrett Sheridan about the global talks. Excerpts: ...
  • I Switched From Firefox to Internet Explorer─And Lived to Tell!

    I am a loyal Firefox user. I love the tabs, the extensions, the customization. It’s fast and free and, because it’s an open-source project organized by a nonprofit in Silicon Valley, it gives me a warm, fuzzy, volunteering-at-the-soup-kitchen kind of feeling. I love watching its market share grow, from 15 percent in 2007 to 23 percent today. Each uptick in the chart is like a poke in the red, gleaming, robotic eye of our technological overlord, Microsoft, and its crusty workhorse, Internet Explorer....
  • The Waning Power of the Bully Pulpit

    President Barack Obama didn't reveal any sweeping new policies in his speech on financial reform at Federal Hall today. In fact, most of it was a rehash of the wonkish proposals already put forward by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and others. Most notably, the Administration will work with Congress to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency that will -- in theory, at least -- keep banks from pushing exploding mortgages to uninformed consumers. They'll make the Federal Reserve responsible for the keeping the whole system humming along, and create a new bankruptcy process for too-big-to-fail institutions that, well, fail....
  • Paul Romer's Charter Cities

    The secret to turning a poor nation into a rich one can't be found in a World Bank report. Rather, it comes from the British Empire. ...
  • Somalia Illustrates the High Cost of Failed States

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Africa visit earlier this month disappointed experts who’d hoped for groundbreaking new policies. But it certainly made one man happy: Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, president of Somalia’s transitional government, who won promises of more money, equipment, and training for his beleaguered country....
  • Elections Don't Curb Violence in Developing World

    The pictures are certainly gripping: a purple index finger in Iraq, a line of burqa-clad women in Afghanistan. International officials who oversee rebuilding countries often try to nudge them toward democracy as soon as possible. But political scientists now think that's getting it backward. Paul Collier, a professor at Oxford and author of The Bottom Billion, has run exhaustive studies of post-conflict societies, to learn what factors lead to peace. His conclusion? Elections don't help. Although the risk of violence decreases during an election year, in the following year it more than doubles, from 5.2 to 10.6 percent. Overall, an election slightly raises the odds that a country will relapse into civil war. "What an election produces is a winner and a loser," says Collier. "And the loser is unreconciled." Ballots only temporarily replace rockets and AK-47s.

Pages