Gongol.com Archives: August 2008
Brian Gongol

August 28, 2008

Water News Post-flood tests for toxic wastes to continue through end of year

Health Stem cells from wisdom teeth
Science finds a way to get around the ethical trouble of dealing with embryonic stem cells by going for the wisdom teeth. It was less than a year ago that skin cells were made to act like stem cells, too. It's hard not to get excited about the resulting prospects for things like bio-engineered replacement organs.

Computers and the Internet Apple's Safari Internet browser is probably not the best choice
It's been found vulnerable on a number of occasions, with patches slow to get released. But even more importantly, the widely-held assumption that Apple products (like the Macintosh operating system or the Safari browser) are inherently safer against crooked attacks than their competitors may be causing people to overlook the importance of following basic precautions against social engineering attacks. "Social engineering" is really just a fancy way to say "tricking people, not breaking their computers". Why would a crook go to the trouble of programming a virus to break into your computer when he or she can simply trick you into giving away your credit-card information or Social Security number just by asking for it? The jury duty scam and the fraud-investigation scam are two excellent examples.

News "More law, less justice"
Attributed to Cicero, it's a problem lasting even to this day. A report finds that British authorities are spending too much time (and too many resources) on punishing kids through official channels where it would be more appropriate to handle things with a stern warning and an informal hand. But since they're tying up their policing resources doing things by the book, more-serious matters are going unpunished and unstopped. On a related note, lazy repetition of platitudes like "If you aren't doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to hide" bear some of the blame for letting lazy thinking overtake good policy. Privacy isn't a privilege one earns through good behavior; it's a natural human right which can only be lost by extreme and deliberate choices to threaten the survival of others. Osama bin Laden has lost his right to privacy, but lazy and irresponsible management of customer and client data is eroding the right in a practical sense for many innocent people -- and those who may not be innocent, but who certainly haven't blown up any buildings. It's happened with the loss of a memory stick in Great Britain and the sale of a used computer on eBay. And now there's the loss of six backup tapes containing data on some 12.5 million people by the Bank of New York. The 21st Century is not going to be defined as much by what we know as by how we learn to apply good judgment. With people posting videos of themselves powering merry-go-rounds with motor scooters on the Internet, it's clear that a judgment deficit exists.

Computers and the Internet Fame comes to a Chinese iPhone factory worker

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