Felix Salmon

Improving America’s healthcare cost consciousness

If you haven’t read Sharon Begley’s wonderful Newsweek cover story on how less healthcare can mean better health, I’d urge you to do so now — it’s one of those articles where I just want to quote pretty much the entire thing. All manner of medicine, it turns out, from CT and MRI scans to antidepressants, have a habit of making people not better but worse.

Warren Buffett’s magical fairy dust lands on BofA

Behold the power of Buffett! With a $5 billion investment which will pay him $300 million per year in perpetuity, Warren Buffett has managed to boost the share value of Berkshire Hathaway by something north of $12 billion. Oh, and Buffett also gets a massive free option on BofA stock — the right to buy 700 million shares at $7.14 apiece, at any point over the next decade. If exercised, that would give him 7% of the company.


It turns out that Facebook’s “Places” application won’t be killing Foursquare after all.

Thanks, Steve

It’s a sad day: only this morning I was reminiscing about my days exploring the Apple Macintosh in Palo Alto in 1984. Like much of the world right now, I’m reliving Steve Jobs’s greatest hits on YouTube, I’ve got a bit of a tear in my eye, and yet I can’t imagine how Jobs could possibly go out on a higher note than this.

Haiti: Dalberg vs Rolling Stone

Dalberg, the self-styled “Global Development Advisors”, are unhappy at the way they were portrayed in Janet Reitman’s Rolling Stone article on what’s happened to Haiti — and vast amounts of development aid — since the earthquake. They’ve just put out a press release on the subject, three weeks after the article appeared; they also sent me a document written by Dalberg’s Dan Altman and sent to Rolling Stone, in which they ask for corrections to the article. (Both are in PDF form, sorry.)

How the money-market rescue operation worked

Bloomberg has got its hands on new data from the Fed, and it’s looking a bit desperate in its attempt to squeeze news out of that data. Its latest scoop, under the headline “Fed Made State Street Profitable as Middleman”, starts like this:

Steve Brill’s blinkered view of education

If you don’t have the time or inclination to read Steve Brill’s book on education reform, then his bombastic op-ed on the subject is a pretty good alternative. And similarly, if you didn’t read Diane Ravitch’s 4,400-word review of “Waiting for Superman” in the NYRB, then her 1,000-word response to Brill captures the heart of her argument. Reading them side by side, the conclusion I come to is that Brill protests far too much.

How to regulate payments

If you go to the Finovate conference in New York next month, or any similar event, you’ll be surrounded by exciting and aggressive young payments companies. They have names like Dwolla and Jwaala and Modo and Square, and most of them are going to fail. That’s as it should be: it’s the Silicon Valley way. There are lots of bright ideas floating around, and eventually one or two of them will really gain traction; at that point they’ll be bought or otherwise co-opted by the broader banking industry and will make their way into the mainstream. Meanwhile, the big banks and card companies are slowly rolling out their own products, and of course PayPal continues to do extremely well, with revenues of more than $1 billion per quarter on payment volume of more than $3,500 per second.

Adventures with paywalls, FT edition

Every so often, I get puzzled looks from FT types when I complain about their paywall, and say that it’s not only user-unfriendly for non-subscribers, it’s particularly user-unfriendly for subscribers, too.