Gongol.com Archives: December 2008
Brian Gongol

December 5, 2008

Business and Finance Total US job losses in 2008: 1.9 million
That's a lot of jobs, to be certain. But with 157.4 million people in the workforce, the unemployment rate in the US is 6.7%. Compare that to the 2007 unemployment rates of 6.9% in Finland, 7.5% in Belgium, and 7.9% in France. While that's little comparative comfort to any American unemployed right now, it should offer at least a little perspective that we still have lots of room to make sound decisions to keep the current economic recession from turning into something much larger. For instance, it's apparent that a lot of states will have trouble balancing their budgets over the next year or two. We also know that Americans have $971 billion in credit-card debt. Whether it's a state or a household facing a budget deficit, the sooner prudent fiscal precautions are taken, the better. The Detroit automakers' request for billions of dollars in financing and loans looks especially bad because they're on the brink of bankruptcy, but the root causes of their problems have been obvious for decades. It's also worth noting that a time of economic contraction is a magnificent opportunity for innovation -- Google, for instance, is making changes to Google Reader. They're spinning the changes as improvements in speed and responsiveness, but the truth is that the less data they have to push from point "A" to point "B", the lower their bandwidth costs. Will users care? Not likely -- especially because the changes that are good for Google's bottom line are also good for providing faster service. Related: Other innovations and new developments might also have a chance at success, like a new pro football league. No matter what, someone's going to make a lot of money over the next few decades -- even if a lot of people don't.

Science and Technology BBC editors say they're still trying to figure out how to use live Internet accounts in news coverage
At least they're thinking about what policies and procedures to follow, instead of ignoring the role that live commentary (via e-mail, on websites, and through services like Twitter) can play. Those kinds of discussions are obligatory right now -- not just in journalism, but in science and law, too. In a positive sign for civil liberties, a European court has ordered Great Britain to stop storing the DNA records of innocent people.

News Hate elections? Avoid Canada.
The opposition is trying to force the fourth national election in four years. The Prime Minister just bought himself a month of breathing room with a parliamentary maneuver. What's especially interesting is that the Liberal Party is cooperating with the Bloc Quebecois to try to force the new vote -- which means that if they succeed, one of the parties in the governing majority would be specifically dedicated to the breakup of the country. On a related note, the problems in southern Asia today can be pretty directly traced back to decisions made half a century ago, when Britain left.

Threats and Hazards China and the US now have a common glossary for nuclear-weapons terms
While it's very good news, one might ask: Why did this take until 2008 to finish? Of all the things to have a misunderstanding about, one might imagine nuclear security would be atop the list of things to clear up.

Water News Iowa DNR seeks comments on new water-quality rules

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