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Tyler Cowen is an economist at George Mason University, but here at The Indicator we like to think of him as a speed-reading, hyper-prolific, polymath blogger — who does economics on the side.

We sometimes play a game with Tyler, a game he actually invented for his own podcast. It's called Overrated/Underrated. We ask him about a book, an idea, a movie, or really anything, and then he tells us whether he thinks it's overrated or underrated.

Today we discuss inflation as an economic threat, the influence of lobbyists, infrastructure, and Chinese food.

When McDonald's recently announced the introduction of a vegan burger in Sweden and Finland, Twitter responded with a mix of earnest enthusiasm (@themodvegan: "So exciting- I hope we're next"), a little disgust (@JenaRoberta: "why would a vegan ever...support a company that sells millions of dead cow burgers a day?), and a touch of guilty hand-wringing from aging ideologues (@siniauer: "Feels like I'm cheating the 90's me").

Critics tend to judge Olympics coverage by a few key metrics: How many mistakes did the commentators make, and how many people are actually watching the games in prime time?

When it comes to NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics, the first category has a couple of doozies, such as the network declaring a winner of the women's super-G Alpine skiing event before all the competitors had skied, including the actual winner.

A satirical movie that envisions dictator Benito Mussolini staging a comeback opened in Italy just as the campaign for March 4 general elections was getting underway. It has received rave reviews.

The mockumentary I'm Back is an Italian version of the 2015 German film, Look Who's Back, which envisioned the return of Adolf Hitler.

If the Trump administration starts a trade war, Kentucky bourbon may get caught in the crossfire.

The administration is weighing strict new limits on imported steel and aluminum in hopes of shoring up homegrown metal industries. But European allies are warning of possible retaliation, including tariffs aimed at politically sensitive products such as bourbon and orange juice.

"That's what a lot of countries will look to do," said Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council. "Something that will get the Trump administration's attention."

An outside legal review of NPR's handling of allegations against its former top news executive, Michael Oreskes, found that questions were raised about his behavior toward women even before he was hired. And concerns about misconduct were reportedly flagged throughout Oreskes' 2 1/2-year tenure at the network right up to the day he was fired.

Project Lakhta was the Russian campaign to spend a million dollars a month to destabilize American democracy.

But that money didn't pay for sophisticated hackers or deadly assassins. Instead, it bought Facebook ads and Twitter accounts.

Today on the show: Russia's plan to mess with our election was crude, expensive ... and surprisingly effective.

Like a lot of science fiction fans, I read William Gibson's visionary novel Neuromancer not long after it came out in 1984. It painted a dystopian world where people spent most of their time on computers communicating across networks in "cyberspace."

When I read it, I thought it was an engaging fantasy. Now, over 30 years later, the prescience of Gibson's novel is unquestionable. In the intervening years, I've wondered how he and other artists were able to imagine the future when the technologies they wrote about had barely been invented.

For a company that's all about the future of communication, Facebook is looking to the past to solve at least some of its problems.

After months of intense scrutiny over the role the company played in the 2016 presidential election, the social network giant announced it wants to use postcards to verify the identity of advertising buyers to prevent future foreign meddling.

The Trump administration wants to allow insurance companies to offer more policies that have limited health benefits and that can reject customers if they have pre-existing medical conditions.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the plans, which don't meet the legal requirements for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, will allow consumers who can't afford insurance now to find cheaper plans.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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In 1984, two men were thinking a lot about the Internet. One of them invented it. The other is an artist who would see its impact on society with uncanny prescience.

First is the man often called "the father of the Internet," Vint Cerf. Between the early 1970s and early '80s, he led a team of scientists supported by research from the Defense Department.

Initially, Cerf was trying to create an Internet through which scientists and academics from all over the world could share data and research.

MLB Sets New Rules To Speed Up The Game

Feb 20, 2018

The average nine-inning baseball game took 3 hours and 8 minutes to play last season. That's up from 2 hours and 46 minutes in 2005.

Major League Baseball has long had the goal of moving things along, and on Monday, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced new rules aimed at shortening how long it takes to get a game played.

Why The AR-15?

Feb 19, 2018

After nearly every mass shooting, a few words are repeated over and over: Thoughts. Prayers. AR-15.

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The Trump administration is proposing to dramatically cut funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a move critics say is an ongoing assault on the 7-year-old agency.

The bureau was championed by Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats and created in the wake of the financial crisis to protect Americans from getting ripped off by financial firms.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Hops are the cones of the hop plant. They're used in making beer. Craft beer lovers love hops. (Just ask them; they'll tell you.)

As the market for craft beer exploded over the hops business boomed. Until it didn't.

Today on the show: The craft beer explosion, and the hops boom and bust that went with it.

The Commerce Department on Friday recommended setting strict new limits on imported steel and aluminum, saying action is needed to shore up U.S. industries vital to national security.

The recommendations, made after a 10-month investigation, are based on a seldom-used statute that aims to protect critical defense-related businesses.

Friday News Roundup - Domestic

Feb 16, 2018

One hour — or even 24 hours — might not be enough to wrap up this week’s news.

We’ll get the latest from Florida after a deadly school shooting. There have been the usual calls for thoughts and prayers, but at least one survivor has asked for something more.

Next month, several chain supermarkets in the U.K. will stop selling energy drinks to customers under 16. Anyone looking to buy a soft drink with more than 150 mg of caffeine per liter — a limit targeting drinks like Monster and Red Bull — will need to present an ID.

In her late 20s and attending college in Texas, Elizabeth Moreno suffered from debilitating back pain caused by a spinal abnormality. "I just could not live with the pain," she says. "I couldn't get dressed by myself, I couldn't walk across my house, let alone to class, and nothing, no drug that had been prescribed to me, even dulled the pain."

We're trying a new thing (for us): We ask guests to tell us about something they read that changed how they see the world.

Today, Diane Coyle — an economist who writes a blog about economics books — tells us about Micromotives and Macrobehavior by Thomas Schelling.

Coyle says it's helped her understand everything from why it's so hard to get the water temperature in the shower just right to why ABBA wore such ostentatious costumes on stage.

It's barely been two weeks since Idaho regulators said they would allow the sale of health insurance that doesn't meet all of the Affordable Care Act's requirements — a controversial step some experts said would likely draw legal scrutiny and, potentially, federal fines for any insurer that jumped in.

And on Wednesday, Blue Cross of Idaho unveiled a menu of new health plans that break with federal health law rules in several ways, including setting premiums based on applicants' health.

Tired of annoying online ads? There could be some relief starting Thursday, if you're one of the vast majority of people who use Google Chrome as your default browser.

Google is launching a built-in blocker in Chrome that is designed to filter out ads it says repeatedly violate standards put out by the Coalition of Better Ads. Pop-up ads? Check. Auto-playing video ads? Yep. Large sticky ads? You know, the ones that stay on your screen even as you try to scroll past them. Those are on the blacklist, too.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Burgers and chicken nuggets are still the mainstay of the Happy Meal. But on Thursday McDonald's announced its goal to market more balanced kids meals around the globe.

The company says by the end of 2022, at least 50 percent or more of the kids meal options listed on menus will meet new global Happy Meal nutrition criteria: Meals will have 600 calories or less; no more than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat; no more than 650 mg sodium; and no more than 10 percent of calories from added sugar.

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