September 30, 2007

The Forbes 400: ‘A Lesson in Economics’ Old Media Won’t Learn

When elitist politicians and pundits in Old Media rail against “the rich,” the implicit assumption is that it’s the same people, year after year, who are getting over on the rest of us.

On Friday, using the 1982 and 2007 Forbes 400 lists (2007′s main page is here), John Tamny at Real Clear Politics nuked that perception (HT Instapundit; bolds are mine), and landed a not-so-subtle broadside on the campaign of John Edwards:

….. capitalist economies are far from stationary, and for evidence we need only look to a graph in the latest issue that shows the makeup of the first Forbes 400 in 1982 compared to the latest.

Even though the wealth gap is a positive in most economies for driving the economic creativity of those not-yet-rich, much is made of it in the media and among politicians who worry about individual wealth consolidation even more than they do the corporate kind. A quick look at the Forbes 400 would surely assuage some of their fears.

Indeed, of the charter members of the first Forbes 400, only 32 remain today. Far from a country where only the rich get richer, the wealthy in the US are very much a moving target. While there are 74 Forbes 400 members who inherited their entire fortune, 270 members are entirely self-made. Though many attended Harvard, Yale and Princeton, there are countless stories within of high school and college dropouts, not to mention others who grew up extremely poor. Politicians who regularly engage in class warfare would do well to keep the Forbes 400 out of the hands of their constituents, because it makes a mockery of the kind “Two Americas” rhetoric suggesting the existence of a glass ceiling that keeps hard workers at the bottom of the economic ladder. To read the Forbes 400 is to know with surety that the U.S. is still very much the land of opportunity.

To read many business journalists today, one might assume that the U.S. economy is stratified, offers little room for advancement, and that those at the top are impervious to market forces while enjoying market power that enables them to fleece the less fortunate. Thanks to the lessons offered up yearly in the Forbes 400, we know the opposite is true. Successful people are that way because they make our lives exponentially better, while yearly dropouts from the Forbes list frequently offer evidence showing that consumers punish those who falter. For that, we should be glad that the Forbes 400 goes against the conventional grain and celebrates successful American enterprise.

This previous post at BizzyBlog from September 2005 (“Income Inequality + Economic Mobility = Long-Term Prosperity”), based on income-inequality information from the Census Bureau, and economic mobility data from the Heritage Foundation, goes into more detail.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org and the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s “Wide Open” blog.

SOBer Thoughts (093007)

Filed under: Business Moves,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:22 pm

Boring Made Dull made a good supplemental point last week about the measurement of “corruption”:

It would be interesting to see some additional detail behind these types of reports, just to see what does or does not constitute corruption. After all, I would expect that what one might term “official legislative” corruption, such as Congressional earmarks for bridges to nowhere should count, but they probably don’t.

My guess is that he’s right.

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Ben Keeler and TaxmanBlog wrote up John Edwards’ decision to accept public financing.

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Porkopolis puts some perspective on SCHIP, courtesy of David Brooks, who appears to be one of the few remaining sane guys at the New York Times. Proponents are (shock!) exaggerating the scope of the “problem.”

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Ohio Conservative points to an I-hope-he’s-right post by Jack Wheeler (“Silence in Syria, Panic in Iran”).

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Last week, Nasty, Brutish & Short noted the U.S. Episcopal Church has, in essence, officially and philosophically split with the rest of the world’s Episcopalians.

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Eye Hacker is impressed with Wal-Mart and its generic prescription program.

It seems to be a pretty good idea to always check at WallyWorld (or Target, K-Mart, Meijer, or other similar store of that’s your preference) to see if you can get your prescription filled for less than your health plan’s co-pay. Really now, isn’t that amazing?

This move by Wal-Mart and other retailers who have matched or closely matched what it’s doing (ah, competition!) doesn’t get nearly enough recognition. I would suppose that’s because it gets in the way of arguing that greedy providers, insurers, and drug companies would rather let us suffer or die rather than provide us medications.

Oh wait — somebody’s doing that already, but it’s not any of those guys.

Positivity: From fighter pilot to courageous mother: the story of Caroline Aigle

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:58 am

From Paris:

Sep 26, 2007 / 01:17 pm (CNA)

Caroline Aigle would have turned 33 on September 12. The first female fighter pilot of the French military and future astronaut died of cancer on August 21. The country is still mourning her death and continues to be moved by her sacrifice: she was five months pregnant when she learned she had cancer and she chose to postpone her treatment so her baby could be born.

In mid-July Caroline received the devastating news. Rather than despairing, she faced the adversity and ignored doctors who advised her to have an abortion.

Together with her husband Christophe Deketelaere, who is also a pilot, she decided to give this new member of her family a chance to live. Her second son was born three and a half months premature at the beginning of August and doctors say he is progressing well.

In an interview Christophe said, “She could not stop the life she had carried for five months. She told me: ‘He has the right to have the same chances I had’.” Her husband said that her pregnancy was “her final battle and she won.” Before dying, she was able to see her son several times and hold him in her arms. “She was heroic to the end,” he said.

Caroline Aigle (which means “eagle”) was born in Montauban in 1974. At the age of 14 she entered the military school of Saint-Cyr. In May of 1999 she became a fighter pilot and flew a Mirage 2000-5.

Her funeral was celebrated by Father Pierre Demoures, a former fighter pilot himself. In his homily, he remembered Caroline as someone who led people to Christ with “her qualities, kindness, willingness, passion,” and he praised her for choosing to give life to her son, for whom she “postponed a treatment that was urgent.”

Father Demoures recalled that when Carolina and Christophe sought him out for marriage preparation, they asked him for a book that spoke not about the love of one for the other, “but rather about the love that opens us to love others.”

“The great lesson that Carolina gives us is the urgency to love. Not the urgency to fear, but the vital urgency to know that only love gives life. Man is made for life. This urgency can make love stronger and give life to a treasure amidst the most tragic events,” Father Demoures said.

September 29, 2007

Today’s ‘Wide Open’ Post (092907)

Filed under: Wide Open — Tom @ 11:26 pm

Positivity: Ashley Qualls

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:45 am

From Southgate, Michigan (HT Debbie Schlussel):

$8 grows to a million on teen’s Web site
Designing friends’ MySpace pages now a big business
September 25, 2007

Like a scene out of a reality show or a Disney movie, Southgate teenager Ashley Qualls’ moment has arrived.

The 17-year-old entrepreneur, designer and self-professed computer geek is in New York City this week, pitching her wildly successful Web site, Whateverlife.com, to ad-buying agencies for the country’s biggest companies. And today, Qualls will get to talk to the women of “The View,” taping a show that is due to air on Friday.

“This is in some ways her coming-out party,” said Robb Lippitt, Qualls’ 38-year-old business consultant.

On the cusp of national fame, Qualls is planning to expand Whateverlife.com, which gets more visitors than Oprah.com. She wants to start a social network for the millions of teenage girls who flock to her Web site for free designs to decorate their MySpace pages.

Whateverlife.com generated a million dollars in revenue last year and is on track to do the same this year. Already, Qualls has turned down outside funding for her site and a verbal offer from someone willing to pay $5 million to buy her company.

“I’m stubborn, and I’m independent,” she said from her pink office in the basement of her house. “I like the feeling that it’s my company, and I want to have the say-so in everything.”

But don’t mistake Qualls for another smart but spoiled teenager. She is growing up fast but possesses instincts for life and business that elude many girls her age.

For now, she has turned down the idea of starring in a reality show because she fears the loss of privacy.

Early this month, she won her petition to be declared an adult, so she legally could sign business contracts and manage her own money. And she sounds like a 30-year-old when she talks about the struggle to balance work and personal time.

Qualls is not your typical teenager.

She hired her mother to be her business manager and pays three of her friends, all high school seniors, to work for her after school and on weekends. She said she is more interested in working on her Web site than in learning how to drive. And a year ago, Qualls bought a house in a new subdivision in Southgate, where she keeps three Himalayan cats and a Rottweiler named Thor.

“She’s really creative,” said best friend Bre Newby, a senior at Allen Park High, pointing out that Qualls was voted most likely to succeed in the eighth grade.

Despite a 3.9 grade point average, she dropped out of Lincoln Park High School after her sophomore year to work full-time on Whateverlife.com, a decision that she said shocked her family, friends and teachers. She now is studying to get her associate’s degree in graphic design and a GED from Henry Ford Community College.

With her blonde highlights and vivacious personality, Qualls doesn’t fit the stereotype of a computer geek. But she spent seven hours on her living room floor building a computer that she uses today.

And while other teenagers were playing sports and watching television, Qualls was teaching herself how to write HTML coding so she could build Web sites.

“I love it,” she said. “You can create so many things. The possibilities are endless.”

In December 2004, Qualls borrowed $8 from her mother to buy the Whateverlife.com domain name. She started the Web site as her personal graphics portfolio, intending to use it as a way to share her designs for MySpace pages with her friends.

But in the uncontrollable, fast-moving world of cyberspace, others began noticing Qualls’ site even though she never has spent a dime on advertising. At the beginning of last year, Qualls received e-mails from people informing her that Carson Daly had mentioned the site on his radio show.

When it comes to Web traffic, Whateverlife.com currently ranks No. 825 out of 20.3 million Web sites, drawing 2.4 million visitors worldwide during the last 30 days, according to Quantcast, an Internet ratings service. Oprah.com is No. 997. Qualls said that on average, 72% of her site’s audience makes a return visit.

In March, Qualls hired Lippitt, a former chief operating officer of ePrize, to help her grow her business. The biggest challenge facing Qualls, he said, is keeping her finger on the pulse of her audience as she gets older and her company expands.

“Ashley is a natural entrepreneur,” he said. “I expected her to need a lot more direction and guidance than she actually needs. You only have to tell her anything once.” …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

September 28, 2007

Today’s ‘Wide Open’ Posts (092807)

Filed under: Economy,OH-02 US House,Taxes & Government,Wide Open — Tom @ 6:17 pm

Mu̱oz РHeimlich

Filed under: OH-02 US House — Tom @ 1:33 pm

Gee, I saw it in Republican State Central Committeeman John Becker’s report on Tuesday, and didn’t think it was a big deal.

Bill Sloat was the first blogger on the news, followed by Matt at Weapons of Mass Discussion and Dave at Wide Open.

First, to dispel the inevitable: I haven’t endorsed any Republican in the Second Congressional District. At this point I don’t intend to, but I reserve the right to change my mind. I will only say that anyone who wants to take the seat away from incumbent Jean Schmidt should have to tell us why their performance will be better than hers, not just that he or she happens not to be her. None of this should surprise anyone.

Now to the Anthony Muñoz situation. Matt, Dave, and, in his follow-up post, Bill Sloat, are all calling the Pro Football Hall of Famer’s October 16 appearance as a guest speaker at “the fundraiser at the home of Bob and Marilyn Rhein” (from Becker’s post) an “endorsement.”

It is not. Obviously, it’s a show of support. Muñoz may endorse Heimlich, but he hasn’t yet, and based on past history, there’s at least some reason to believe he won’t.

“Showing support” vs. “endorsing” is more than a distinction without a difference. In January and February of 2006, during Bob McEwen’s second attempt to defeat Schmidt, Muñoz’s endorsement of McEwen from the Spring 2005 Special Election primary stayed on McEwen’s campaign web site for several weeks after he announced his candidacy. Muñoz’s name was at some point taken down, along with the names of several others who had endorsed McEwen in 2005, but were not doing so in 2006. One of those other names was that of right-to-life legend John Willkie, who endorsed Schmidt.

In March, during preparation for an unsuccessful election law complaint against McEwen relating to endorsements and other matters, I spoke with Muñoz’s personal secretary, who, apparently after speaking with Muñoz, specifically told me that he would not be endorsing anyone in the primary. Muñoz did indeed “show support” for McEwen by appearing at a campaign fundraiser that also featured jack Kemp. But he never formally endorsed McEwen, and his name never reappeared on McEwen’s Endorsements page, which still exists, during the 2006 campaign.

Given what came out about Mr. McEwen during the final few weeks of the 2006 primary campaign, I suspect that Mr. Muñoz is more than a little relieved that he did not formally endorse him. That lack of a formal endorsement saved Muñoz, who is heavily involved in the community with character-building and other noble programs, quite a bit of embarrassment and backtracking.

Now, to Heimlich. His web site does not have an endorsements page. It does have an announcement of the October 16 event, which begins as follows:

NFL Hall-of-Famer Anthony Munoz will be the featured speaker at a fundraiser to support Phil Heimlich’s campaign for Congress on October 16.

The fundraiser is to support Heimlich; the speaker, as of this moment, hasn’t endorsed him.

That said, there are solid reasons, including Heimlich’s involvement in some of the same character-related programs as Muñoz, and Heimlich’s probable lack of McEwenesque overstuffed baggage, to believe that a formal endorsement by Muñoz is coming. If it does, it will shake up the race. Until then, I remain true to my patron saint’s nickname.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (092807)

How now Dow 14 thou? The Dow is up over 1000 points since August 16, and is one very good day away from hitting 14000. The NASDAQ and S&P 500 are also very close to their mid-July levels.

Part of the seeming disconnect between the markets and the supposedly “mediocre” economy is that while home sales are declining, home prices are not.

I said, “Home prices are not.” This is the best avaliable evidence of that. The changing regional mix of home sales towards the less-expensive South, noted here a few months ago, remains the reason why the fall in the nationwide median sale price figure released monthly by the Commerce Department is misleading. The markets know that, even if the press can’t or won’t figure it out. I think the current upbeat situation in the markets has little to do with hopes for another Fed rate cut, which I don’t see happening. I believe another rate cut should not take place, because it might stoke inflation.

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Was this ever overdue:

The Bush administration took the gloves off Monday in its fight over immigration enforcement, suing the state of Illinois for banning use of a federal system that checks whether workers are in the United States legally.

The same people who are always screaming that “it’s a federal matter” when it comes to enforcing immigration laws told employers they can’t use the federal employment-verification system. Whether this is a look-good stunt by the administration or the beginning of a consistent effort remains to be seen.

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Like Mike Gallagher said — “What a jerk”:

Filling in for Tucker Carlson, the bow-tied conservative, Shuster’s invited guest was a Republican Congresswoman from Tennessee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn. The announced topic was the ongoing outrage over the Moveon.Org ad in the New York Times that referred to General Petraeus as a traitor.

Shuster, a political reporter (not a talk show host) was evidently agitated by Rep. Blackburn’s measured and responsible condemnation of the vicious ad. In the middle of the interview, he suddenly decided to go for the jugular and attack her by using a brave, dead soldier as his weapon. “You represent a district in western Tennessee”, Shuster snarled. “What was the name of the last soldier from your district who was killed in Iraq?”

….. Shuster knew the congresswoman likely wouldn’t know that name when he triumphantly crowed, “Ok, his name was Jeremy Bohannon. He was killed August the ninth, 2007. How come you didn’t know the name?” he demanded.

The only problem is that David Shuster didn’t know the name, either. It turns out he was flat wrong. Army Private Bohannon didn’t live in Rep. Blackburn’s district, he lived in a neighboring district represented by John Tanner, a Democrat.

….. It must be have been pretty painful for Shuster when he sheepishly appeared on a subsequent MSNBC show to make a public apology for his asinine behavior.

….. I was told that prior to his public apology, Shuster went on a liberal talk radio show and he and the host were chortling and guffawing together over the “gotcha” interview he conducted with Rep. Blackburn. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

I’ll bet David Shuster isn’t giggling now.

I’ll bet the only thing he’s really sorry about is that he picked the wrong soldier.

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The idea that the New York Times may be in Sarbanes Oxley trouble because of the MoveOn ad fiasco is not far-fetched. The ability of a “favored” customer to get a discount that should not have been available is an indication that internal control systems aren’t working properly, and could indicate that there is a “material weakness” as SarBox defines it that should have been reported to shareholders. MoveOn’s subsequent sheepish reimbursement of the difference, only after the Times’s public editor showed that the discount was, according to an employee who should know, “contrary to our policies,” does nothing to change that. Thomas Lifson at American Thinker has much more. The company’s auditors are surely taking notes.

All of this makes the Times’s ongoing and avid editorial support of keeping SarBox as it is, including here last year, all the more ironic. It also makes NYT’s free-falling share price (Thursday’s close: $19.25, down over 12% since shortly before it placed MoveOn’s Petraeus/Betray Us ad) more understandable, even beyond the company’s already-lousy business fundamentals.

Positivity: Snake bite victim thanks nurses who saved his life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Tampa, Florida (video is at link):

September 21, 2007

14-year-old Michael Evans gets a chance to meet the nurses who helped save his life. Last year, he and a friend were running away from some neighborhood bullies. As they hid behind a palmetto bush, Michael realized they ran into something even more dangerous, four rattlesnakes similar to this one, “I didn’t feel them bite me but I felt my mouth starting to jump. And I had to spit and I told Dustin to get on my back because I was afraid he was going to get bit.”

There are photos of when Michael was first taken to the hospital. His blisters looked like balloons. But yet he couldn’t feel a thing, “I kept asking will I die, will I die over and over again.” …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

September 27, 2007

She Flipped Before She Flopped Before She Flipped Before She …..

Filed under: Taxes & Government,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 1:45 pm

From the New York Daily News, reporting on last night’s Dem debate:

Sen. Hillary Clinton scored with a Democratic audience last night by contradicting her husband’s belief that a terrorist could be tortured to foil an imminent plot – but what observers didn’t know is she was contradicting herself, too.

“It cannot be American policy, period,” Clinton (D-N.Y.) told debate moderator Tim Russert, who asked if there should be a presidential exemption to allow the torture of a terror chieftain if authorities knew a bomb was about to go off, but didn’t know where it was.

When Russert revealed ex-President Bill Clinton advocated such a policy on a recent NBC “Meet the Press” appearance, Hillary Clinton won huge applause from the Dartmouth College audience with a deadpan comeback:

“Well, I’ll talk to him later.”

She may have to give herself that talk, too.

Last October, Clinton told the Daily News: “If we’re going to be preparing for the kind of improbable but possible eventuality, then it has to be done within the rule of law.”

She said then the “ticking time bomb” scenario represents a narrow exception to her opposition to torture as morally wrong, ineffective and dangerous to American soldiers.

“In the event we were ever confronted with having to interrogate a detainee with knowledge of an imminent threat to millions of Americans, then the decision to depart from standard international practices must be made by the President, and the President must be held accountable,” she said.

Clinton’s campaign did not immediately respond to numerous requests for comment on the eye-popping contradiction.

And we thought flipping through John Kerry’s statements was fun.

Today’s ‘Wide Open’ Posts (092707)

  • Two Thousand What? (Top-Tier Dems won’t guarantee withdrawal from Iraq by 2013)
  • Ohio Data-Theft Drip Continues; Call in the Feds? (Yet more affected people and entities were identified this past week, including many from outside the state)

O’Reilly and Tammy Bruce Call Out Radicals at MoveOn and Media Matters

It’s about time (HT Hot Air).

Radicalism can be as much about tactics used as it is philosophical positioning. In tactics, MoveOn and Media Matters are indisputably radical. Old Media’s occasional willingness to serve as accomplices indicates that some of its players have radical sympathies, or perhaps are in the process of being radicalized themselves.

RELATED: O’Reilly and Bruce Discuss New ‘Gestapo’ in America Smearing Conservatives

UPDATE: It’s about time someone from the left invoked the M-Word, because it’s exactly what’s at work here (HT Taranto at Best of the Web) –

Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, a veteran Democrat, recounted how he left the Republican Party during the era of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., and said that lawmakers have an obligation to criticize their allies as well as their enemies when they go too far.

“I’ve got an obligation to be equally upset when that kind of juvenile debate emanates from the left,” Obey said.

That would put Obey directly at odds with this supposed non-radical. Boy, do I not miss the red-faced, finger-pointing, paranoid arrogance that used to pervade the White House.

Final GDP Growth for Second Quarter: 3.8%

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:42 am

Recap:
- The advance estimate in July was 3.4%.
- The preliminary estimate in August was 4.0%.

Expectations are for a slight pullback to 3.8% (scroll down most of the way) or 3.9%.

Final Result: 3.8%

Most valuable contributor: Nonresidential construction, up 27.7% (annualized)

Biggest drag: Residential construction, down 11.6% (annualized)

Overall: a good quarter, after four mediocre ones.

Looking ahead: Old Media’s preconceived notion that the 3rd quarter has slipped significantly is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (092707)

NPR has turned down an interview with President Bush (HT Instapundit), because they wanted one of their anchors to do the honors instead of Juan Williams, whom the Administration requested. Williams will do the interview on Fox instead. Tee hee.
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Ahmadinejad can speak at Columbia. Jim Gilchrist, whose previous appearance there was broken up before it could begin by disruptive protesters who stormed the stage and were never punished, can’t do the same next month. Two words: Distance Learning.

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It’s official: Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey has betrayed his father’s courageous prolife legacy — and deceived his state’s voters by posing as prolife last year.

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This is part of why a red state is in danger of turning blue.

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From Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, in a subscription-only editorial on the imminent expiration of the Internet tax moratorium:

For Internet users, the scariest night of this year may fall on the evening after Halloween. On November 1, the federal Internet tax moratorium is due to expire, and no committee in Congress has acted to make it permanent.

A permanent ban should be a political lay-up. But the clock is winding down and Congress needs to take a shot.

Permanent is better, but I’d settle for a four- or five-year extension of a 100%, no-exceptions moratorium. One thing states don’t need is more tax revenues. In most states, they have soared way beyond inflation and population growth during the past 5 years.

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The UAW has tentatively settled with GM, and is taking over retiree medical care. As I said back in January when the idea was first floated (“careful what you wish for”), it’s going to be interesting to see how the union contains the growth in costs — as it will have to — and remains on speaking terms with retirees.

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NASA’s James Hansen, globaloney-promoting hero of the globalarmists, is so busted (HT LGF; a related IBD editorial is here):

Certainly Soros has a right to spend his own money. But NASA officials have a responsibility to accurate, unbiased, nonpartisan science. For Hansen to secretly receive a large check from Soros, then begin making unsubstantiated claims about administrative influence on climate science is more than suspicious — it’s a clear conflict of interest.

Note: The Daily Tech excerpt refers to “a large check” for a substantial amount, while the benefit IBD reports that Hansen’s enterprise received was likely either not in that form, or mostly not in that form. The Daily Tech excerpt also names an amount that could be interpreted to imply exactness, while the value of the benefit Mr. Hansen appears to have received is, according to the IBD editorial it referred to, likely not in the exact amount Daily Tech cited. Hansen’s “clear conflict of interest” appears to be supported by the evidence cited at the sources linked.

Oh, but Hansen’s motives are pure, because he’s trying to save the world. (/sarc) Update: More at this NewsBusters entry.

Positivity: The 2007 MacArthur Fellows

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

These were announced Tuesday by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (HT MSNBC’s Wonderful World) –

They include a biomedical scientist, a blues musician, a forensic anthropologist, an inventor, a medieval historian, and a spider silk biologist. All were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future. Each received a phone call from the Foundation with news of $500,000 in “no strings attached” support over the next five years.

The complete list of the 24 winners is here, with links to longer stories about each.