Thursday, March 12, 2009

NPR blitz

I heard quite a few interesting stories on NPR yesterday so I'll post them all here.

On Fresh Air, Uwe Reinhardt made the observation that Americans display a lot of cognitive dissonance when it comes to healthcare. Basically, we don't want the government to force us to buy health insurance, but we expect to get medical treatment if we're hurt in an accident but are uninsured. We resist the idea as a society, we're all in this together. And we want every pill and every test and we want them now, but we want them to cost less.

On All Things Considered, Gillian Tett, an assistant editor for the Financial Times, used a great metaphor for all of the toxic mortgage assets that have hobbled our banking system. She talked about how mortgages were cut up like various meats (of varying quality) and stuffed into nice pretty sausages. The problem is, no one knows what's in each sausage, and because no one knows, everyone is afraid to buy them. Banks are stuck with all of these mortgage-backed assets, and no one knows what they are really worth because everyone is cared to take a bite.

ATC also reported on smog--specifically, the ozone in smog--and how chronic exposure appears to increase your chances of dying of respiratory disease by 30%. You can also see a map showing the worst U.S. cities for smog here. Las Vegas is in that category, unfortunately.

And finally, ATC had a segment on the fungus that has been killing bats in upstate New York. The disease has now spread to a number of other states. Like bees, bats are responsible for pollinating a lot of plants, including some crops. To me it's more evidence that the natural world around us is under a great deal of stress, and this ecosystem is the only one we've got.

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