MAY 7, 2016 -- BYJIM NEFF








About 95 percent of my research winds up in the circular file. After 597 Neff Zone columns, that's a lot of material gone by the wayside. The plain truth is that there is so much happening every day, I am continually uncovering new things about which to write.


The flood of information means people who think we can go back to a simpler time are destined to swim against the tide and probably get pulled under by the current. “Until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. (Now) on average human knowledge is doubling every 13 months...the build out of the internet of things will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.” So, every day brings new things to consider. I learned a lot this week. (


I learned a new word – kleptocrat. This is the term for thieving dictators and others “who have looted from 150 mostly poor nations and hidden offshore: $12.1 trillion.” This has happened just since 1970 and is why so many people around the globe live in abject poverty. “That huge figure equals a nickel on each dollar of global wealth...Add to that flight wealth from the world’s rich regions, much of it due to tax evasion and criminal activities like drug dealing, and the global figure for hidden offshore wealth totals as much as $36 trillion....In 2014 the net worth of planet Earth was about $240 trillion, which means about 15 percent of global wealth is in hiding, significantly reducing the capital available to spur world economic growth.”



In reading news about Flint, I learned this week that hiding money does not only occur on a global scale. It also happens close to home. “Gov. Rick Snyder has used his nonprofit fund to raise funds for relief efforts related to the Flint water crisis so far this year. But Snyder is not disclosing the names of the individuals and corporations who donated most of the money, despite promises of greater transparency when he shut down his controversial NERD Fund.” Now there are two more funds in the picture, the Moving Michigan Forward fund and the Making Government Accountable fund. “We don't have true transparency, because the money is being run through other nonprofits that don't really disclose their donors," said Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. ...The public has no idea who they are, how much exactly they're giving, and whether there are any potential returns on that giving."



In terms of elected officials, I learned this week that our state legislators also are getting in on the act – sort of. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network calls the trend “hiding in broad daylight.” You see, special interests who seek to influence legislation sponsor fundraisers within a short walk from the State Capitol. In fact, in 2015 of “315 fundraisers, more than half (54 percent) took place in Lansing.” Pretty convenient, eh? “It's important not to ignore the things that are happening right in front of us. People don't run for office with money from the constituents they represent, and our report shows you who is really funding these campaigns.”



All this is serious stuff, but I learned a lot of “odds and ends” this week. For instance, I have bad news for fans of the Cadillac Vikings. You know those horned helmets the Vikings (supposedly) wore? They never existed; those horned helmets are a complete myth. Costume designer Carl Emil Doepler included horned helmets in his gorgeous costume designs for an 1876 German opera. “The opera was so influential that Vikings with horned helmets became a new standard — despite the fact that they were mythical.” Sorry about that. (


Texting while driving is a national problem, but I learned this week that a new tool may aid in the fight to solve the problem – the Textalyzer. This gives police officers “a new device that is the digital equivalent of the Breathalyzer — a roadside test called the Textalyzer...It would work like this: An officer arriving at the scene of a crash could ask for the phones of any drivers involved and use the Textalyzer to tap into the operating system to check for recent activity. The technology could determine whether a driver had used the phone to text, email or do anything else.”



Related to driving, I learned this week about another phone app that is one of those ideas that sounds good but may not be so good in practice. The app is called “Filld” and is basically a mobile gas station. “A Filld customer sets the exact location of his or her car, chooses a delivery window and releases the gas flap.” A driver with a pickup truck loaded with gas is then sent to the location to fill the tank. So, think about this. Scores of Uber-type drivers motoring around with pickups laden with huge quantities of gasoline. In your town. In your neighborhood. Past your local school. No way this could go sideways, right? Right now ISIS is thinking: “Why didn't we think of this? It's genius!”



Finally, I learned this week that the Hershey company is considering phasing out its iconic Hershey Chocolate Bar and replacing it with a dried meat bar called Krave. I don't know about you, but nothing says summer like sitting around a campfire making S'mores from hot marshmallows, crunchy graham crackers, and dried meat bars. (


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and  


Adam Zyglis
The Buffalo News
May 7, 2016