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.

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.

As Goliath, Facebook Targets the Wrong David

Facebook won an important skirmish in the privacy wars this week. That is one way, at least, to read the news that the social-networking startup successfully forced Pete Warden, a tech entrepreneur and former Apple engineer, to delete a data set culled from Facebook's public profile pages.

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.

On Chatroulette, Even a Great Pianist Doesn't Impress

Last week the nebulae swirled, the interstellar dust motesaccreted, and a Web star was born: Merton, a.k.a. the Chatroulette piano-improvguy. First, for those of you living off the grid (or actually using their computer to, youknow, work), here's a little background: Chatroulette is the latest Webfad, a stripped-down site that randomly connects you and a stranger via Webcam.

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.

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.

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.

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.

This Decade, It's an Apple-Google Slugfest.

Google's new "superphone," the Nexus One, stole all the headlines yesterday, but there was another bit of tech news worth trumpeting: Apple's reported $275 million purchase of Quattro Wireless, a mobile advertising platform.

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.

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.

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.

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. That's one way, at least, of interpreting U.S. economist Paul Romer's new plan for transforming economically backward countries such as Cuba into engines of growth.

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.

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