Technology

Located halfway between the state capital of Columbia and the port city of Charleston, Orangeburg County, South Carolina is among the more geographically blessed areas of the country. It’s also one of its poorest. Over a quarter of its population lives below the poverty line, with a per capita income of $17,579. And this is poverty of a particularly stubborn sort.

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Who Really Rules?

Rebecca MacKinnon's new book offers a persuasive history of recent global protest movements, and serves as a primer on the role that Internet technolo

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Cats may not be man’s best friend, but they’re arguably something even better: man’s key to instant Internet pageviews. It’s a long-established fact that Internet content—whether it’s a cutesy video, a photoshopped inside joke, or a longform public health article—has a better chance of achieving coveted “viral” status if it somehow evokes the sound of purring. But if we’ve come to accept that cats play an outsized role on the World Wide Web, our understanding of why that’s the case still lags.

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Form and Fortune

Steve Jobs By Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, 627 pp., $35) I. In 2010, Der Spiegel published a glowing profile of Steve Jobs, then at the helm of Apple. Jobs’s products are venerated in Germany, especially by young bohemian types. Recently, the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Hamburg presented an exhibition of Apple’s products, with the grandiloquent subtitle “On Electro-Design that Makes History”—a good indication of the country’s infatuation with the company.

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This is one of those Mondays with too much news to cover. South Carolina and the Republican primaries. The State of the Union. Ryan Lizza’s fascinating look inside the Obama administration. And two incredible football games. But I want to talk about a feature story from Sunday’s New York Times, which isn’t about any of those things except that, in a sense, it’s about all of those things. Well, all of them except football. The article is about the iPhone and why Apple, which once upon a time built its computers in the U.S., decided to manufacture the devices elsewhere.

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Editor's note: As I was thinking about Sunday's New York Times article about iPhone manufacturing, I e-mailed a few economists to see what lessons they drew from it. One was Andrew Samwick, of Dartmouth, who pointed me to a post at his new blog. There, he stresses, among other things, the importance of "agglomeration": Manufacturers like to build new plans in close proximity to suppliers.

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When the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) were put on hold late this week, many had cause to celebrate, including Internet companies, free speech advocates, and the millions who signed petitions against the bills.

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The Web protests that led to a collapse of support in the House and Senate for two ill-designed antipiracy bills are a cause for celebration. In their current forms, both the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate are heavy-handed and indefensible, attempts to shut down a handful of rogue pirate sites by changing the open structure of the Internet.

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For some of us at TNR, the most surprising aspect of yesterday’s Great Internet Blackout wasn’t the crushing recognition of just how often we head to Wikipedia—it was noticing the strange political bedfellows forged by SOPA, the House's Stop Internet Piracy Act, and its Senate analogue PIPA. In this hyper-partisan political climate, seeing Michele Bachmann on the same page as Nancy Pelosi, and Rupert Murdoch agree with avowed-liberal Patrick Leahy was unusual (and somewhat refreshing).

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Silicon Valley generally leans left of center in its politics, and Facebook, the web’s leading social utility valued at an estimated $85 billion, hasn't often seemed inclined to be an exception. After all, Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s CEO, has himself gone out of his way to make supportive appearances with President Obama.

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