Observations on the News: November 14, 2005

Today’s perusal of the headlines has some interesting tidbits:

  • From the Your Mother Was Right Department: CNN is reporting that your mother was right when she said you could catch a cold from being chilled. Researchers in Cardiff, Wales say they can prove drops in temperature to the body really can cause a cold to develop. They discovered that when colds are circulating in the community many people are mildly infected but show no symptoms. When a person become chilled, there is pronounced constriction of the blood vessels in the nose, which shuts off the warm blood that supplies the white cells that fight infection. These defenses allow the virus to get stronger and common cold symptoms develop. Scientists have previously discovered that chicken soup really does help when you have a cold.
  • From the I Yam What I Yam Department: According to CNN, identity theft is being over hyped. Statistics floating around in the ether note that 10 million people fall victim every year. But is it really so bad? CNN thinks it isn’t, and that the overhype is resulting in overzealous anti-fraud activities, and consumers being overly concerned about internet commerce. The article notes that much “identity theft” is savvy “synthetic” fraud schemes that frequently don’t directly victimize individual consumers; instead, criminals invent fictitious identities and use them to ring up phony charges. This is estimated to account for three-quarters of the money stolen by identity crooks. What this really shows is that the average public doesn’t understand risk assessment. I always like to point out when folks are scared of using the internet that their position is odd, given they have no difficulty in giving their credit card to a restaurant where a server takes it to an unknown location for five minutes.

    More interesting is something else noted in the article: “Some 38 percent of identity theft victims said they hadn’t bothered to notify anyone — not the police, not their credit card company, not a credit bureau. Even when fraud losses purportedly exceeded $5,000, the kept-it-to-myself rate was 19 percent.” In other words: just like many people don’t bother to balance their checking accounts, folks don’t audit their credit card statements, and dispute mischarges. That’s really scary. I’ll note that I know many folks who are completely knowledgable and smart who simply just trust the statements they receive.

  • From the Uncle. I call Uncle Department: According to CNN, Sony has recently announced that they will temporarily suspend making music CDs with antipiracy technology that can leave computers vulnerable to hackers. Of course, this came after the major computer security companies indicated they considered Sony music to be spyware. I am worried, however, about the “temporarily suspend”. This implies that in the future they want to leave computers vulnerable to hackers.
  • From the Easy Rider Department: Yesterday, driving back from our dim sum run along the I-5, we were surrounded by [Carl Sagan Voice]billyons and billyons[/Carl Sagan Voice] of motorcycles. We were unsure. Now we know: we were in the middle of the Annual Love Ride for charity. This was a run of over 22,000 motorcycle buffs between Glendale and Castaic Lake, where they were entertained by B.B. King. The ride raised nearly $1.5 million, with the money going towards Hurricane Katrina relief, a literacy program for children, groups that help victims of muscular dystrophy, autism and Down syndrome, and other charities. Riders included Jay Leno and Peter Fonda.

    Still, it is an odd feeling to be in your car, suddenly surrounded by lots and lots of motorcycles.