Gongol.com Archives: April 2010
Brian Gongol

April 1, 2010

Health Study of 80,000 women says it's still worthwhile to do breast-cancer screenings
There's been some discussion in the United States about whether mammograms cause more harm than good (the harm being undue worry and over-exposure to surgery). But a British study says five lives are saved for every two that are over-diagnosed. That's probably enough to shift the balance well back into the favor of conducting the screenings. And as screening quality improves (as it should, with improved technology and improved knowledge), the ratio should tilt farther in favor of screening. Improvements are to be expected, and just because a technology or a technique is imperfect doesn't mean it isn't worth trying; the instructions for CPR have evolved dramatically over the last 15 years, moving now into a recommendation for "Hands-Only CPR" which looks completely different from the old rules of two breaths for every five or ten chest compressions. The technique has evolved -- but that it was imperfect before was no reason not to do it.

News India is undertaking a census of 1.2 billion people
Of course, they might just find that there are more or fewer people around as a result of the census itself. But the scale is huge -- four times the size of America's census, which is a huge undertaking unto itself. India is apparently trying to photograph and fingerprint everyone in the census, in an effort to produce a national identity card for everyone over the age of 15.

Iowa Iowa imposes a special ban on texting while driving
And kids under the age of 18 aren't allowed to use the phone while driving at all. While it's probably a bad idea to text while driving, is it really the kind of threat that requires a specific law? 21 states now prohibit texting while driving, but there are probably people who are safer texting while driving (for instance, those who don't have to look at the screen or the keyboard to compose an SMS message) than lots of people who drive while eating, shaving, applying makeup, or shouting at kids in the back seat. Isn't it the consequence (motor vehicle crashes) that we wish to discourage, not a certain class of causes?

Business and Finance New health-insurance law will have a serious effect on balance sheets this year
Boeing, Caterpillar, Prudential, and Deere are all taking one-time accounting charges on the $100-million scale. Then again, many large firms have been willing to overlook the huge costs of overpaying their managers for a long time, and that's similarly deleterious to the business as well. A new book about the fall of Lehman Brothers suggests that a corrosive keeping-up-with-the-Joneses culture infected the upper echelons of that company before it blew up with $613 billion in debts. So perhaps as companies are making public their extraordinary costs associated with the new health-care law, they should be cleaning house of overpayment to their managers at the same time. Shareholders deserve it.

Broadcasting How a culture focused on meetings could be damaging a great institution like the BBC
Meetings are often a great tool for obstructing progress. Great ideas come from individuals, and those individuals should be rewarded for their innovations. Related: One of the best things to come out of the BBC has been Charlie Brooker's "Newswipe", a brilliant, hilarious, and often scathing review of the news media.

Broadcasting Podcast: The Whigs are back, but will they get anywhere?

Broadcasting Podcast: Should you live in fear of your wireless mouse?

Water News Iowa is under an unusual risk of fires today -- even with ongoing flooding

@briangongol on Twitter