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Douglas Engelbart, Computer Mouse Creator, Visionary, Dies at 88

July 3, 2013

Computer Visionary Who Invented the Mouse

By JOHN MARKOFF

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Douglas C. Engelbart with an early computer mouse in 1968, the year it was unveiled

Douglas C. Engelbart was 25, just engaged to be married and thinking about his future when he had an epiphany in 1950 that would change the world.

He had a good job working at a government aerospace laboratory in California, but he wanted to do something more with his life, something of value that might last, even outlive him. Then it came to him. In a single stroke he had what might be safely called a complete vision of the information age.

The epiphany spoke to him of technology’s potential to expand human intelligence, and from it he spun out a career that indeed had lasting impact. It led to a host of inventions that became the basis for the Internet and the modern personal computer. Read more of this post

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How ‘God Bless America’ Became America’s Anthem

How ‘God Bless America’ Became America’s Anthem

The “God Bless America” that we know today was forged from collaboration between its composer, Irving Berlin, and Kate Smith, the performer who first made it famous. Behind the scenes, though, the two of them battled for control of the song. The story begins in 1918, when Berlin was drafted as an Army private, a few months after he officially became a U.S. citizen. While stationed at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York, Berlin was asked to write a soldier show to raise money for a community house to be built at the camp. The revue, called “Yip, Yip, Yaphank,” staged at New York City’s Century Theatre, included a blackface number, satirical spoofs of Army life (including “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning”) and Ziegfeld Follies-style dance numbers featuring soldiers in drag that one reviewer characterized as “one long laugh.”

Berlin wrote “God Bless America” as the show’s finale, but decided to end instead with the upbeat “We’re on Our Way to France.” Berlin later said he changed his mind because “God Bless America” was “too obviously patriotic for soldiers to sing.” People in the military already amply demonstrate their patriotism through service, he believed. Patriotic songs were for civilians. Read more of this post

‘Africa’s Oprah’ launches pioneering TV network

‘Africa’s Oprah’ launches pioneering TV network

AP JUL 3, 2013

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Historic: Mosunmola ‘Mo’ Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife TV, attends the launch of the entertainment network on Sunday in Lagos. | AP

LAGOS – A woman who could be considered Africa’s Oprah Winfrey is launching an entertainment network that will be beamed into nearly every country on the continent with programs showcasing its burgeoning middle class. Mosunmola “Mo” Abudu, 48, wants EbonyLife TV to inspire Africans and the rest of the world, and to change how viewers perceive the continent. The network’s programming tackles women’s daily-life subjects — everything from sex tips to skin bleaching. “Not every African woman has a pile of wood on her head and a baby strapped to her back!” Abudu said. “We watch Hollywood as if all of America is Hollywood. In that same vein, we need to start selling the good bits of Africa.” Read more of this post

The Writing of a Great Address: Lincoln began forming his thoughts just after the Battle of Gettysburg.

July 3, 2013, 7:19 p.m. ET

The Writing of a Great Address

Lincoln began forming his thoughts just after the Battle of Gettysburg.

PEGGY NOONAN

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The air is full of the Battle of Gettysburg, whose 150th anniversary this week marked. Those who love history are thinking about Little Round Top and Devil’s Den, Culp’s Hill and the Peach Orchard, and all the valor and mistakes of men at war. The mystery of them, too. How did Joshua Chamberlain, a bookish young professor of rhetoric from Maine, turn into a steely-eyed warrior of the most extraordinary grit and guts at the exact moment those qualities were most needed? He was a living hinge of history. Why did Robert E. Lee, that military master who always knew when not to push it too far, push it too far and order Pickett to charge that open field? Read more of this post

Fourth of July a Day of Bloody Protest in U.S. History

Fourth of July a Day of Bloody Protest in U.S. History

On July 4, 1934, the U.S. was in the fourth year of an economic crisis. On the West Coast, longshoremen had taken advantage of their newly acquired unionization rights and were on strike. In San Francisco, there was an uneasy calm on the waterfront after a vicious battle between police and strikers the day before.

The peace lasted only for a few hours. San Francisco’s police were planning another attempt to open the port. On the morning of July 5, they fired tear gas and charged the picket lines. The struggle lasted for hours. “It was a Gettysburg in the miniature,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported. By evening, two strikers were dead and the National Guard had set up machine-gun nests to guard the port. Read more of this post

The Economics of Mad Geniuses: Is it possible that mental illness could, in some cases, be good for worker productivity?

JULY 3, 2013, 12:56 PM

The Economics of Mad Geniuses

By CATHERINE RAMPELL

In a magazine column this week, I talked about how expanding access to mental health care could be a cost-effective way to help the economy, given the economic costs of untreated or inadequately treated illness (like worker absenteeism and subsidized housing). Now to play devil’s advocate: Is it possible that untreated mental illness is not entirely bad for the economy, that mental illness could in some cases improve worker productivity? After all, history is littered with examples of “mad geniuses” whose creativity and innovativeness have sometimes been attributed to alleged mental illness (e.g., Thomas EdisonErnest HemingwayVincent Van GoghJohn Nash). There are likewise entrepreneurs of our own time who have been publicly characterized as having some sort of mental or at least neurological disorder. Former executives of JetBlue and Kinkos, for example, famously credited their A.D.H.D. with helping them think more creatively. Stories about 48-hour-straight coding sessions in Silicon Valley can sound a bit like manic behavior, too. Read more of this post

Clash! 8 Cultural Conflicts That Make Us Who We Are; Novel thinking about conflict and co-operation

uly 3, 2013 5:15 pm

Novel thinking about conflict and co-operation

Review by Trisha Andres

Clash! 8 Cultural Conflicts That Make Us Who We Are

By Hazel Markus and Alana Conner (Hudson Street Press, $25.95)

Clash

Should Mark Zuckerberg lose the trademark hooded sweatshirt when he goes to meet investors in Wall Street? According to the authors of Clash! – a manual for navigating cultural divisions in the modern world – the answer is a resounding yes. They write: “In Silicon Valley, his attire isn’t a problem; Steve Jobs broke the CEO dress code a generation before when he adopted a black turtleneck and jeans as his power suit. But on button-down Wall Street Zuck’s hoodie causes an uproar. The Northeast establishment sees the young entrepreneur’s refusal to don at least a jacket when he is in New York as a sign of disrespect.” The book splits people ac­cording to two modes of operating: independent and interdependent – with the former better at adapting to and mimicking those across various cultural divides. “Independent selves view themselves as individual, unique, influencing others and their environments, free from constraints and equal,” the writers explain. Read more of this post

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