1/20/2008 New York Times Digest

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1. “Broken Hearts, Sore Thumbs: Japan’s Best Sellers Go Cellular”

“Until recently, cellphone novels — composed on phone keypads by young women wielding dexterous thumbs and read by fans on their tiny screens — had been dismissed in Japan as a subgenre unworthy of the country that gave the world its first novel, ‘The Tale of Genji,’ a millennium ago. Then last month, the year-end best-seller tally showed that cellphone novels, republished in book form, have not only infiltrated the mainstream but have come to dominate it.”

2. “Jimmy Breslin’s Perpetual Deadline”

“Much as he has done throughout that career, Mr. Breslin rises early each day, at 6 a.m., first to swim at the Reebok gym near his apartment, then to read the city’s daily papers, then finally to write. It is a modus vivendi much helped by the fact that, in the early 1980s, he gave up his Olympic bouts of drinking, following, he claims, an epic bender with Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan resulting in a hangover of such destructive force that he was still crippled after three days.”

3. “What Would Obama Say?”

“Mr. Favreau, or Favs, as everyone calls him, looks every bit his age, with a baby face and closely shorn stubble. And he leads a team of two other young speechwriters: 26-year-old Adam Frankel, who worked with John F. Kennedy’s adviser and speechwriter Theodore C. Sorensen on his memoirs, and Ben Rhodes, who, at 30, calls himself the ‘elder statesman’ of the group and who helped write the Iraq Study Group report as an assistant to Lee H. Hamilton.

“Together they are working for a politician who not only is known for his speaking ability but also wrote two best-selling books and gave the much-lauded keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.”

4. “Anonymity Breach”

“Our university requires us students to write anonymous evaluations of our professors. On one evaluation, a student made derogatory comments about a professor’s sexual orientation. The university hired a handwriting expert to confirm the identity of the culprit so punishment could be administered. The university claims the student broke the code of conduct, but if anonymity was promised, is this investigation ethical?”

5. “Unscrambling the Alphabet of Fund Fees”

“Fund prospectuses, nobody’s idea of easy reading, don’t help investors understand what they are paying in expenses, either. Many prospectuses show total return figures that do not factor in sales charges, for example. Even expense ratios, the numbers that most investors look to as a proxy for costs, do not give shareholders what they probably want: an estimate of their account’s value after deducting fees and sales charges.”

6. “Ronald Reagan Is Still Dead”

“The G.O.P. presidential field’s lack of demographic diversity by age, gender, ethnicity or even wardrobe, let alone race, is simply the leading indicator of how out of touch its brand has become.”

7. “The Risk of Innovation: Will Anyone Embrace It? “

“Resistance to technology is an omnipresent risk for every innovator. Even a device as fabulously freeing as the personal computer struck some people as an abomination. In 1990, the poet Wendell Berry famously declared his perpetual allegiance to the typewriter in his essay, ‘Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer.’

“Few people joined him, however, a reminder that rejection isn’t the real specter facing new gear. Adaptable humans usually trade one technology for another, rather than reject any and all. To be accepted, innovations must deliver benefits — enough benefits to make change worthwhile.”

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