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The winners and the losers

Published: Saturday, Sept. 7 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

This 2012 publicity photo provided by The SARTRE Project shows a road train using technology developed by Ricardo together with Volvo and other partners in the ground-breaking SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) European research project. Drivers can multi-task behind the wheels of their own cars. Each vehicle driver can join or exit with their car from a road train and maintain the flexibility of individual transportation for onward travel during a road trip.

Copyright The SARTRE Project, Associated Press

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Winner: At least, we think the concept of a self-driving automobile is a winner. Nissan announced this week that it plans to manufacture such vehicles by 2020, followed quickly by a similar promise from GM. Experts say humans would still want to sit behind the wheel just in case, and no one seems to know yet how insurance companies would attempt to assign blame if two or more of these vehicles were to collide. If your home computer can be hacked or fall prey to a damaging virus, could the same thing happen to your automatic car? Yet, despite these concerns, the idea of having a car navigate a traffic jam while you read a book or automatically take you to an address that is difficult to find sounds enticing — even if it takes some of the fun out of revving the engine yourself.

Loser: Dennis Rodman is on another trip to North Korea, this time to ... well, no one really seems to know. There was some thought he might negotiate the release of Kenneth Bae, and American being held in prison, But that's uncertain, and Rodman is in no way authorized to negotiate anything on behalf of the U.S. government, so other diplomatic breakthroughs are out of the question. Unless we see evidence otherwise soon, this trip will appear to be just another lame and misguided publicity stunt that plays into the hands of one of the world's oddest personalities, and Kim Jong-un, too.

Loser: The latest disturbing news about the National Security Agency is that it, along with the British government, has worked hard to find ways past just about any software you or anyone else may have in place to protect sensitive data. Government documents show the NSA has spent billions of dollars learning how to get past encryption programs. If only that kind of energy could be used to find ways to balance the federal budget.

Winner: Let's hear it for the entrepreneurial spirit. No one so far has been able to build a smartwatch that the public wants to buy, but that hasn't stopped Samsung from trying. This week the company introduced a digital watch it believes will change all that. It will connect with a smartphone and allow users to check email and make calls. Other companies have been working on the same thing. We wish them luck, but paying hundreds of extra dollars just for the privilege of not having to remove a phone from a pocket still doesn't sound like such a great deal.

Loser: We've heard this before. The Labor Department on Friday said the unemployment rate ticked downward a tenth of a percent. But it was hardly reason to celebrate. The movement was due primarily to the fact that many job-seekers have given up and taken themselves off the market. Only 169,000 jobs were added to the economy last month, meaning the nation's post-recession blues continue.

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