Friday, December 17, 2004

A young brain behind the web browser

Well, what do you know? After I bragged around the shop for days about the new Firefox browser, a colleague discovers that someone in Our Town helped write the code. That's at least two software geniuses to come out of our local schools. (Jeff Bezos of Amazon was the other.) Maybe one of them can think of a way to diversify our tourist-dependent Florida economy. Key Biscayne teen is brain behind web browser

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Beat the IE blahs

I've been looking for years for an alternative to Microsoft's browser, and the more I learned about IE's vulnerabilities to malice the more inclined I was to try something new. Three versions of Netscape disappointed me, despite attractive features. Opera runs nicely but I never much liked the interface. And now there's Firefox, from the Mozilla open-source project. What a great experience!

After less than a week I'm ready to recommend Firefox without reservation. It loads all kinds of sites with delightful speed, has tweaked the bookmark folders to a more usable format, and it has vanquished those popups that annoyed me at popular sites like CBS Marketwatch. I can't comment yet on the oft-praised tabbed browsing, but I'll try it soon. Meanwhile, if you want to download, buy a CD or just read more, here's where to go:

Firefox - Rediscover the web

Monday, December 13, 2004

Moyers bowing out with last big story

Bill Moyers has one show left in his PBS series, Now, and in that show he'll present what he calls "the biggest story of our time: how the right-wing media [have] become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee." You might want to set your Tivo, VCR or alarm clock to catch this swan song.

It airs most places on Dec. 17. You can find the schedule in your town from NOW with Bill Moyers | PBS -- a site rich with discussions, reading lists and video archives.

Here's more of what Moyers told the AP's Frazier Moore about his topic: "We have an ideological press that's interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that's interested in the bottom line. Therefore, we don't have a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people."

The show, by the way, will survive its founder's departure. Co-host David Brancaccio will be taking over.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Pentagon panel finds American message to the Muslims off-track

U.S. Fails to Explain Policies to Muslim World, Panel Says:
Here's a key line from the New York Times: "The report says that 'Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather they hate our policies,' adding that 'when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.'"

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A Western view in the East

A former colleague makes a persuasive case for free speech. No thunder, just sweet reason. Here he's warming up:

Part of the "Miracle on the Han" has shown up in the enormous sums of money South Koreans now plow into education. If anything, people here could be considered overeducated, ranking as they do among the world's leaders in spending on learning. By this time, they should be able to think for themselves.

Freedom is the best defense

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Day the Enlightenment Went Out

You may need to register to read this Garry Wills piece in the New York Times, but it's worth your time.
The Day the Enlightenment Went Out: "President Bush promised in 2000 that he would lead a humble country, be a uniter not a divider, that he would make conservatism compassionate. He did not need to make such false promises this time. He was re-elected precisely by being a divider, pitting the reddest aspects of the red states against the blue nearly half of the nation. "

Changing Technique May Extend Flu Vaccine

Making the flu vaccine go further

Should a journalist vote?

A student in Maryland asks whether news reporters (and presumably editors, photographers or other newsfolk) show bias when they vote.

While I do know of a few prominent journalists who deliberately don't vote -- the executive editor at my own paper, for instance -- I think they are going to needless extremes. For one thing, while it's possible for someone to find out which party primary I registered in, the chance of that fact influencing anyone is virtually zero. I think that what the ballot abstainers are attempting is a kind of mental purity. If I don't take sides at the polls, they are reasoning, then my choices as writer or editor will be more fair.

I see two, maybe three, flaws in that reasoning. One is that the journalist should be smart enough to separate necessary professional judgment from the choices that are our right and duty to make as citizens. And if we shun civic choice at the personal level we may even risk coming to believe that the choices are of no consequence -- that it doesn't matter who is elected or what kind of budget they adopt or whether taxes come from this or that realm of the economy. Public affairs, to such a believer, would become simply a game for our amusement.

Probably the greatest flaw in the reasoning of the ballot abstainer, though, has to do with the nature of bias. It is natural and, I believe, inevitable for people to exercse value judgment in all they do. If a journalist's goal is to be fair to the people and the ideas that he writes about, he'll have an easier time doing so if he recognizes what his own values are. If we are not aware of our values, we may never pose essential questions in our reporting, may miss significant images in our choice of photos, may use loaded language in our headlines -- and eventually will wonder why some of our readers or listeners say that we haven't been open to the view that seems perfectly obvious to them.

So Lauren, for your information, I vote at every election. I did miss one or two, as a younger man, and it made me feel like I'd betrayed someone.

What I don't do is put signs on my car or flags in my lapel. While I remain a journalist, it's nobody's business how I vote.


Saturday, October 09, 2004

Signs of the Times - An Educated Dream

I'll have something to say about this before long. Meanwhile, this is too good not to share today.Signs of the Times - An Educated Dream

Chiron's Bad Case of the Flu

Here's a business perspective on the vaccine business discussed below in "Health system sneezes". One thing that struck me here was that vaccines are a significant profit center for Chiron -- and yet, what I have heard or read often in this discussion in recent days, that vaccine "profits are unattractive." I wonder how both can be so. Got a clue, anyone?
Chiron's Bad Case of the Flu

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Health system sneezes

Flu season is just around the corner in the United States, and we've just learned that nearly half the country's supply of flu vaccine is likely to be destroyed. The stuff may be contaminated, say regulators in Great Britain, where 48 million doses were manufactured by an American company named Chiron. The whole 48 million are off the market at the moment, while decisions are made about whether any of it can be safely used.

It seems that only two companies manufacture the U.S. supply of flu vaccine, which has to be reformulated every year to keep up with the latest viral strains. We're looking at a serious shortage, especially if people remember last year's flu outbreaks. The government's news release

Health authorities in America usually encourage widespread vaccination at this time of year. Instead, they are urging now that healthy people hang back and let the sick, the elderly, and those with chronic diseases or wide exposure have the first shots available. That's a reasonable response for the short run.

For the long run, though, we have to ask if it's smart to leave the supply of an important medicine so narrowly concentrated. If the profit motive hasn't succeeded in making the vaccine market attractive to enterprise, then maybe this ought to be a public business. Is there a medical school that could do the job? Could the National Institutes of Health, or the Centers for Disease Control?

Your thoughts? If you click the "comments" line you can see others' reactions and add your own.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

First draft

I'm dipping my toes into blogland. With luck I'll have something interesting here before long for friends and pals to read. Comments will be welcome.