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November 20, 2006

OT: Ahh, Markets Solving Our Problems [8:35 am]

China admits taking executed prisoners’ organs - pdf

After years of denial, China has acknowledged that most of the human organs used in transplants here are taken from executed prisoners and that many of the recipients are foreigners who pay hefty sums to avoid a long wait.

Speaking at a conference of surgeons in the southern city of Guangzhou, Deputy Health Minister Huang Jiefu called for a strict code of conduct and better record-keeping to stem China’s thriving illegal organ trade, state media reported.

“Apart from a small portion of traffic victims, most of the organs from cadavers are from executed prisoners,” Huang said Tuesday, according to a report Thursday in the English-language China Daily newspaper.

“The current big shortfall of organ donations can’t meet demand,” Huang said.

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Collaborative Recommendations [8:26 am]

No Substitute for Getting Personal, if You Want the Perfect Fit

A new online business, Zafu.com, believes that it has made progress on that front. Unlike, say, Amazon — which analyzes a visitor’s browsing and buying behavior and recommends merchandise bought by others with similar behavior — Zafu’s approach relies on users to do a little of the work.

On the site, which is basically a search engine for clothes, visitors click through a questionnaire of about a dozen items, after which Zafu determines the visitor’s body type and displays what it believes are the best-fitting jeans to suit that visitor (it offers only female styles for now). Each pair is modeled from several angles, along with a link to the product page of retailers selling the item.

The company, which introduced its Web site in August, can already point to a rapidly growing base of customers and merchant partners as evidence of popularity. The company’s early success underscores the industry’s slow but steady progress in personalization — finding ways to match customers with their stated or implied product preferences, and thereby satisfy what analysts say is a central consumer need.

“Online shoppers are control freaks, and the tools they like the best give them the ability to customize something and do product comparisons,” said Lauren Freedman, president of the E-Tailing Group, an Internet consulting firm. “So I definitely see consumer appeal in what Zafu is doing.”

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Working Through Movie Distribution — Like the Hatfields and McCoys [8:21 am]

Target, Disney in DVD truce - pdf

With the holidays and the DVD release of the blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” approaching, Target Corp. and Walt Disney Co. appear to have reached an uneasy truce in their standoff over terms in the rapidly changing home-video business.

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Google? Yahoo!? Better Pick At Least One, It Seems [8:00 am]

176 Newspapers to Form a Partnership With Yahoo

A consortium of seven newspaper chains representing 176 daily papers across the country is announcing a broad partnership with Yahoo to share content, advertising and technology, another sign that the wary newspaper business is increasingly willing to shake hands with the technology companies they once saw as a threat.

In the first phase of the deal, the newspaper companies will begin posting their employment classified ads on Yahoo’s classified jobs site, HotJobs, and start using HotJobs technology to run their own online career ads.

But the long-term goal of the alliance with Yahoo, according to one senior executive at a participating newspaper company, is to be able to have the content of these newspapers tagged and optimized for searching and indexing by Yahoo.

In that way, local news — one of the pillars of the newspaper business — would become part of a large information network that would increase usefulness for readers and value to advertisers.

[...] The deal could also help position [Yahoo!] as a willing partner for traditional media companies, an effective counterpunch to a deal its archrival, Google, signed with 50 papers a few weeks ago, and could help it capture a larger portion of the fragmented local advertising market.

For the newspapers, which have struggled in recent years as readers and advertisers have flocked to the Internet, the deal represents an effort to earn a greater share of the fast-growing amount spent online on all types of ads.

Later, this related article on the expanding scope of Google’s interests into offline advertising: Google Mapping an Offline Course

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I Hate These Kinds of Write Ups [7:48 am]

This profile of a freshman Congressman makes way too much of his technical education, but at least the article does suggest that there’s more to him than just nerdiness — after all, he won! And, if I stand for nothing else it’s the notion that a few more technically-competent folks in seats of power can only be a good thing for a lot of important issues! Unlikely new lawmaker rode winds of change - pdf

Jerry McNerney always thought he would win his race for Congress. It’s just that nobody else did.

Why would anyone? He’s a 55-year-old math wonk and wind energy expert who never even ran for class president. He likes to climb wind turbines. He named his daughter Windy. The idea of speaking in front of a crowd makes him nervous.

But there he was last week, standing on the Capitol steps with the other freshmen, eating hors d’oeuvres at the White House, a symbol of voter fury so extreme that even eggheads prevailed in this month’s midterm election.

A soft-spoken scientist with a doctorate in math, McNerney is one of a handful of underdogs and gadflies swept into Washington on an anti-Republican wave that washed in not only handpicked establishment Democrats, but a few who didn’t appear to have a prayer.

[...] The learning curve is steep and the details of setting up offices and life on two coasts daunting.

But McNerney has already formed a freshman task force on energy and global warming.

Not intimidated by authority, he shook Bush’s hand at the White House soiree and thanked the president and the first lady for visiting his district, which he believes helped him more than it helped Pombo.

McNerney takes his place as one of the few PhDs ever elected to Congress and perhaps the only one who can prove that an imaginary number to an imaginary exponent is a real number. Which is sure to wow them in the cloakroom.

Maybe not, but at least he’s *in* the cloakroom!

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