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Last Jew in Afghanistan

Zabulon Simintov, the last known Jew in Afghanistan, told Reuters that he soon may leave the country if the security situation worsens. He runs a small kebab cafe in Kabul that used to rely on hotel catering, but the business has “dried up as foreign troops prepare to leave at the end of next year, further weakening security and investment. … Deteriorating security [also] has made people frightened to eat out or visit the city.”

Mr. Simintov, Reuters reports, also maintains the synagogue where the cafe is located as well as a nearby cemetery. He had been hoping to rent the space and use the money to renovate the building, but that’s not likely to happen now.

Robots drive better

The lead paragraph in Burkhard Bilger’s piece in The New Yorker on Google’s self-driving car, which is tantalizingly close to being capable of handling every situation that human drivers encounter, and why it’s needed:

“Human beings make terrible drivers. They talk on the phone and run red lights, signal to the left and turn to the right. They drink too much beer and plow into trees or veer into traffic as they swat at their kids. They have blind spots, leg cramps, seizures, and heart attacks. They rubberneck, hotdog, and take pity on turtles, cause fender benders, pileups, and head-on collisions. They nod off at the wheel, wrestle with maps, fiddle with knobs, have marital spats, take the curve too late, take the curve too hard, spill coffee in their laps, and flip over their cars. Of the 10 million accidents that Americans are in every year, nine and a half million are their own damn fault.”

Missing in action?

Found on the Pitt Girl blog was this missing-kitty picture of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl:

Social Security: solved!

Daniel Hamermesh, a University of Texas economist, at Freakonomics: “During the Social Security lecture to my class of 500 freshman, most expressed disbelief that the program would exist when they retire. ... They were sure they would never collect.

"Wrong! I can’t see the program being abolished. It is very popular, and its potential bankruptcy is one of the most easily dealt with policy problems we face: Just raise the age for regular benefits by one year in each of the next four quinquennia, raise the taxable base for FICA, and voila — problem solved.

"But perhaps my students’ pessimism is a good thing. If they believe this, and act on their beliefs, they will set aside more for their private pensions — saving more. Given the low American saving rates over the last few decades, maybe I should encourage their pessimism!"

To wash or not to wash?

At io9, Robert T. Gonzalez contrasts U.S. vs. European methods of egg hygiene:

“In an elaborate automated process involving in-line conveyor belts, massive egg-scrubbing machinery, high-volume air-filtration systems and – last but not least – chlorine misters, American eggs are washed, rinsed, dried, and sanitized in an effort to remove as much dirt, poop and bacteria as possible, all while leaving the shells intact.

“Or rather, almost intact. When a hen lays an egg, she coats it in a layer of liquid called the cuticle. It dries in just a few minutes, and is incredibly effective at protecting the egg from contamination, providing what European egg marketing regulations describe as ‘an effective barrier to bacterial ingress with an array of antimicrobial properties.’ America’s egg-washing systems strip eggs of this natural protection. ‘Such damage,’ the EU guidelines note, ‘may favor trans-shell contamination with bacteria and moisture loss and thereby increase the risk to consumers, particularly if subsequent drying and storage conditions are not optimal.’ Washing eggs is therefore illegal throughout much of Europe.”


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