Gongol.com Archives: February 2009
Brian Gongol

February 18, 2009

Weather and Disasters FEMA seems to think a volcano in Alaska might soon erupt
Which all the more reminds one of the ever-present danger of catastrophic eruptions that can disrupt weather patterns and cause crop failures. It happened in 1815, which is long enough ago that nobody really acknowledges the threat today. The world needs a better strategy for storing food in good years so that we have something to eat in case of disaster.

Health Today is self-exam day
Take a minute or two and conduct some basic self-screenings for cancer. Early detection saves lives. There's lots of misinformation about cancer that finds its way around the Internet, largely because we've been trained to wait expectantly for some sort of magic-bullet solution to cancer. But cancer risks can be significantly reduced through a balanced diet, exercise, and early detection and treatment. Meanwhile, science is making great progress towards improving genetic detection, which holds great promise for some types of cancer. Instead of forwarding hoax-ridden e-mails about "cancer cures" and false threats, people should instead remind their friends and family to assess their health once a month.

Business and Finance The President needs to change his public attitude on the economic situation
Yes, there are serious problems to be handled. But scowling and talking about how dire the situation is only grinds down public confidence, which is the opposite of what's needed right now. It may be politically convenient for members of Congress to vent their frustrations at bank executives on television, but the fact is that the economic situation overall is the result of titanic forces, not the least of which has been the complete imbalance between American spending and rest-of-world saving. The new plan for $275 billion in housing assistance may sound like a solution in the short term, but what does it tell those people who took out mortgages they could afford, and who still make their payments -- even if those decisions have required short-term sacrifice? How are they to feel when their nearly-foreclosed neighbors get government aid and they don't? Punishing thrift and prudential decision-making is a bad way for the government to set the stage for future prosperity. And while the government's new "economic recovery" website makes significant use of the word "relief", it glosses over the fact that the $432 billion in combined tax "relief" and state/local "fiscal relief" will have to be paid back someday, with interest. That's not "relief" so much as a bridge loan or a cash advance.

Computers and the Internet A standard mobile-phone charger is coming soon
Motorola, Nokia, LG, Samsung and Sony Ericsson have finally agreed to standardize on the mini-USB

Broadcasting It's been 20 years since WNBC went off the air
It was one of America's most historic radio stations. The relationships people have with their media outlets have changed dramatically over the last two decades. The public editor at the New York Times, for instance, ruminates on the differences between print reports and Internet reports, concluding that there's a less-formal relationship online. And he notes that resources like Twitter have become new sources of information on breaking news -- which is a remarkable but highly unintended consequence of its creation. The future of print-news organizations is going to be a challenging one, but then again, the arrival of the automobile created challenges for carriage drivers, too.

Computers and the Internet Facebook backs off on bad privacy move

News Armed robber hits bank branch at the EU parliament building

Humor and Good News Beer-bottle dominoes

News Russian schoolgirl asks Medvedev for a guinea pig, gets police harassment instead

Broadcasting Podcast: TV commentators give terrible investing advice
(Audio link)

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