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Warren Buffett, cheerleader for the American economy

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, watches Bill Gates use an oversize paddle. (Nati Harnik/AP)

Here are five ideas worthy of your consideration.

1. Why Warren Buffett believes in America. There’s constant debate over the future of the United States. Are we innovating enough? Shouldn’t test scores be higher? Will China pass us by? In his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, famed investor Warren Buffett struck an optimistic chord:

Who has ever benefited during the past 237 years by betting against America? If you compare our country’s present condition to that existing in 1776, you have to rub your eyes in wonder. And the dynamism embedded in our market economy will continue to work its magic. America’s best days lie ahead.

2. Videoconference with your doctor. Via Steven Overly:

The Kaiser Permanente doctors are responsible for the creation and implementation of a new program called HouseCalls, in which patients can schedule 20-minute appointments with physicians via video. The foray into mobile health saves the patients a visit to urgent care centers and saves those centers money, the doctors said. It’s just one new initiative underway at the national health provider aimed at improving care while lowering costs.

3. What we should learn from bitcoin. The wise Robert J. Shiller writes in The New York Times:

I believe that electronic forms of money could give us better pricing, contracting and risk management. … For example, since 1967 in Chile, an inflation-indexed unit of account called the unidad de fomento (U.F.), meaning unit of development, has been widely used. … Consider rents. Increases may seem unfair to tenants, yet they may be needed to offset inflation. In Chile, a landlord can easily set the monthly rent for the tenant in U.F.s and then never have to change it, reducing the potential for errors, delays and misunderstandings.

4. How a paper company stays relevant in a green age. Via Thomas Heath:

At first blush, the paper-saving, one-at-a-time towel or napkin dispenser that has taken hold in the past decade looks like a revenue killer for Acme. “To a distributor like us, I don’t want to show that to a customer, because they will use less,” said Scott Attman, Acme’s director of business development. But Acme offset the decline by making use of electronic dispensers to round up new customers.

Here’s a really interesting example:

When Washington’s Matchbox Food Group wanted to expand its carryout business, Acme designed a Matchbox-branded “sleeve” to slide over containers, adding some marketing pizazz for the chain. The sleeve had a built-in pop-up handle, eliminating the need for a bag and the 5-cent tax that goes with it.

5. Kickstarter’s remarkable popularity. The crowd funding platform launched April 28, 2009, with 40 people pledging $1,084 to seven projects. Monday morning it passed $1 billion in total pledges, with 5.7 million people from 224 countries backing projects. There are lots more interesting stats here. For example, Wednesday is the most popular day for pledges.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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