Happy Friday! Here are 8 fascinating things I read this week.
America's Internet speeds and price are a joke:
Downloading a high-definition movie takes about seven seconds in Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Zurich, Bucharest, and Paris, and people pay as little as $30 a month for that connection. In Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, downloading the same movie takes 1.4 minutes for people with the fastest Internet available, and they pay $300 a month for the privilege, according to The Cost of Connectivity, a report published Thursday by the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute ...
The reason the United States lags many countries in both speed and affordability, according to people who study the issue, has nothing to do with technology. Instead, it is an economic policy problem — the lack of competition in the broadband industry.
China has a demographic problem, so it decided to relax its one-child policy. That isn't working as planned:
The world's most populous country has restricted most families to a single child since the late 1970s, but the Communist party said in November that couples would be allowed to have two offspring so long as one of the parents was an only child, rather than both.
Authorities had expected the change to result in more than 2 million extra births a year, but out of more than 11 million couples eligible, only 700,000 had applied for permission by the end of August, the China Daily newspaper said, citing the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
Of those, 620,000 had been authorized, it added.
Denmark is in no better shape:
Sex education in Denmark is about to shift focus after fertility rates dropped to the lowest in almost three decades.
After years of teaching kids how to use contraceptives, Sex and Society, the Nordic country's biggest provider of sex education materials for schools, has changed its curriculum to encourage having babies under the rubric: "This is how you have children!"
Infertility is considered "an epidemic" in Denmark, said Bjarne Christensen, secretary general of the Copenhagen-based organization. "We see more and more couples needing to get assisted fertility treatment. We see a lot of people who don't succeed in having children."
Solar is really taking off:
After years of struggling against cheap natural gas prices and variable subsidies, solar electricity is on track to be as cheap or cheaper than average electricity-bill prices in 47 U.S. states -- in 2016, according to a Deutsche Bank report published this week. That's assuming the U.S. maintains its 30 percent tax credit on system costs, which is set to expire that same year.
Even if the tax credit drops to 10 percent, solar will soon reach price parity with conventional electricity in well over half the nation: 36 states. Gone are the days when solar panels were an exotic plaything of Earth-loving rich people. Solar is becoming mainstream, and prices will continue to drop as the technology improves and financing becomes more affordable, according to the report.
An Orbital Sciences rocket exploded this week. Here's what Elon Musk had to say about the company two years ago:
The IRS can seize your money for pretty much no reason:
The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.
"How can this happen?" Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. "Who takes your money before they prove that you've done anything wrong with it?"
The federal government does.
We are living through one of the most peaceful times in world history:
Steve Ballmer made $2 billion for the Clippers. Well, sort of:
Steve Ballmer stands to gain as much as $1bn in tax benefits as a result of his $2bn purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, helping to explain why the Microsoft billionaire paid a record price for the club ...
An FT analysis of US tax laws shows that Mr Ballmer could claim about half of the purchase price in current terms over the next 15 years against his taxable income. The deduction can be claimed under a little-known feature of the tax code covering so-called active owners of sports franchises.
Enjoy your weekend.
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