I Don’t Believe in Bitcoins

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I’d just managed to complete my first-ever PayPal purchase when I started hearing about Bitcoins everywhere I turned. I don’t know if it’s the whole Magic: The Gathering thing or what, but I picture Bitcoins like the pile of gold Smaug sleeps on in The Hobbit. Imaginary world, imaginary currency.

But I do try to keep up, so I kept reading up on Bitcoins: on the Vinklevoss twins’ plans for a Bitcoin investment fund, on the surprisingly sober Senate hearings on the cryptocurrency last November, on the Mt. Gox mess, allegations of corruption, and on some old Japanese guy living in California who is either the mastermind behind Bitcoins or a befuddled dopplegänger. It would be a lie to say I understand Bitcoins better now. In fact, the more I read, the more confused I become.

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Good Riddance, Radio Shack

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On Tuesday, Radio Shack announced that it would be closing 1,100 of its stores — nearly 20 percent of the company’s locations. During the last quarter, which included the normally busy Christmas-shopping season, Radio Shack sales fell 19 percent while net losses reportedly tripled. There are 20 Radio Shack stores in the Philadelphia area, but it remains unclear which of them will be affected.

This is a big business story, especially because Radio Shack has more stores in this country than almost any retailer (Walmart has 3,700 and Radio Shack competitor BestBuy has 1,400), and no doubt some pundits and prognosticators are going to chalk this up to a sluggish economy. But the real cause for Radio Shack closing 1,110 stores is none other than Radio Shack, which is quite simply and without hyperbole the worst retail shopping experience that exists on planet Earth. Read more »

Is it Time to Free George Martorano?

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George Martorano has been in federal prison for a very long time. The son of late Philadelphia mobster Raymond Martorano was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after his 1982 arrest. His crime? George Martorano was a drug dealer. Read more »

Walt Keller, Leukemia Survivor, Has Passed

Walter Robert Keller, 1953-2014

In late 2011, I saw a story in the New York Times. A clinical trial of a new kind of cancer therapy at the University of Pennsylvania had jolted two elderly leukemia patients into apparent remission. The therapy had never been tried before in humans, only in mice. Developed over 25 years by a team of Penn doctors, it used genetic techniques to give new powers to a patient’s own cells, transforming them into “serial killers” able to attack and eliminate tumor.

It seemed to be one of those rare moments in cancer science when an experimental treatment actually worked. I wanted to know more, so I asked Penn if they’d connect me with a patient. They pointed me to Walter Keller, a cabinet refinisher in Southern California, the seventh adult to ever receive the therapy.

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Jersey Congessman Rush Holt Won’t Seek Re-Election

Princeton-environs U.S. Rep Rush Holt, who ran against Cory Booker for Senate last year, will step down at the end of his term. Most famous for being a five-time Jeopardy! champion and an actual rocket scientists, he was not only championed scientific research funding, but was also among the more progressive members of the Democratic caucus.

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Shirley Temple Was a Celebrity. George Zimmerman Is Not.

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Following the passing of film icon Shirley Temple on Monday, a common refrain in the pieces that commemorated her life and work was that she she didn’t make an embarrassment of herself once the bright lights of the Fox studio lot no longer cared to capture her image.

It is noteworthy that someone of Temple’s stature could fade into a polished second act so seamlessly. Especially someone as iconic and profitable as she. She was Lindsay Lohan… Mary-Kate and Ashley… Miley… Britney… all rolled into one and beyond, peaking somewhere around her 16th birthday. She left celebrity behind. She served others. She lived her life. A rare feat in today’s Coming Attractions celebrity atmosphere. We should all be so fortunate.

Already, too much has been said about this “celebrity boxing match” between child killer George Zimmerman and nostalgically beloved, albeit deeply troubled rapper DMX.

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In Triple Package, Do Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld Actually Believe What They’re Saying?

amy-chua-facebook-940x540Amy Chua is the self-proclaimed “Tiger Mom” who came into the collective consciousness in 2011 when the Wall Street Journal published an excerpt of her book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother under the headline “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.”

As you read her work, Chua blasts holes into her own arguments, one minute decrying stereotyping and the next relying heavily on them to make her points. Within the first line of the piece Chua concedes (although I don’t think this was her intention) that the image of “successful kids” of Chinese parents is rooted in stereotype. She goes on to clean up the mess she’s created in using broad terms with the following:

“I’m using the term ‘Chinese mother’ loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I’m also using the term ‘Western parents’ loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.”

She then goes on to retract her concession, and pivots again to acknowledge that we are “squeamish” about cultural stereotyping.

Recently, in a piece for the New York Times titled “What Defines Success?” Chua and her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, pen an essay in advance of their new book, The Triple Package, that is beyond nauseating.

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