Patt Morrison for August 12, 2011

Mercer 20178
Today is the Friday ending the first week ever, in history, that the Dow vacillated by more than 400 points for four days in a row. After the Standard & Poor’s downgrading of the U.S. credit rating on Friday, investors began panicked selling globally. And yet, on Tuesday and Thursday, when the Dow went back up significantly, it appears some investors saw an opportunity to buy while markets were cheap. This alternation of backing off and jumping in has resulted in the Dow changing directions each day for the past seven trading sessions. With this kind of volatility, what is the best way for the small investor to respond? How long is this extreme back-and-forth likely to continue? We’ll be talking to a financial advisor and taking your money questions.
Mercer 20199

Forget WebMD: Should the FDA regulate medical smartphone apps?

It’s estimated that 75% of American medical doctors carry smartphones. Odds are good that one of them is yours and that he or she is using an app to treat you. Whether it’s one that tracks a patient’s data or a glucose meter that attaches to an iPhone, these “devices” are probably on a doctor’s phone near you. They’re also available at the iTunes App Store to those without medical degrees, which has some worried that people will use them to self-diagnose in place of a necessary visit to the doctor. That perked up the ears of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which this summer announced their intentions to begin regulating the new field, which technically “meets the definition of a [medical]’device’.” The medical-app territory highlights the difficulty of platform crossover and the mismatch of consumer-driven app developers with the medical practice. In one ill-conceived example, the App Store rated “MD on Call” 12+ for “infrequent/mild alcohol, tobacco, or drug use references.” Developers also argue that calculators that compute the right prescription dosage have been available since the days of the PalmPilot and they question why the FDA should treat a smartphone app any differently. If those calculators on smartphones are regulated, what differentiates them from websites that do that same thing?
Mercer 20190
After countless science fiction films and novels, we’ve come to assume that if alien life exists, it exists in outer space. Well now, it could be the case that the first place we encounter alien life is right here on Earth. Chemists and biologists are closer than ever to producing artificial life right here from chemicals in a petri dish. While scientists do not always agree on the definition of life, most agree that something is alive if it is able to evolve and adapt. And in fact, researchers have created an RNA, or ribonucleic acid, molecule in a test tube that can replicate and evolve, with a little nudging from researchers. The goal is to get the molecule to evolve all on its own, without human assistance. If this RNA molecule can’t do it, several other alternatives are being tried out such as reconstructing the genome of an E. Coli bacterium and a bacterial goat parasite so that it can reproduce itself. Why create life? Scientists say that once they’ve done so, they will better understand how life began and how to recognize life if it does in fact exist in outer space. Is there and will there be resistance to creating artificial life? If we create life, what will we do with it? Is there more to gain or more to loose from venturing into this unknown world?
Mercer 20201
Here’s a switch: there are good jobs out there that employers just can’t fill, from entry-level service positions to high-end engineers. The president and chief executive officer of ManpowerGroup, one of the world’s largest providers of temporary workers, says in an interview with Bloomberg, “It’s a very much across-the-board phenomena… Companies are all feeling the pressure of not finding the level of talent their businesses require.” In any given month, there are about four million people separating from their jobs and four million people hired into new positions. Even in the thick of the recession, there were millions leaving and millions being hired. And in any given month, an employer could have trouble finding an employee for a specific job they have available. But with so many applicants applying for every vacancy, what’s the problem? It could just be that many job seekers are so frustrated with the difficulties of finding a position that they send out resumes for jobs that aren’t right for them, on the slim chance that someone will respond. Lack of mobility plays a part, too, with the unemployed often stuck with mortgages they can’t pay and homes they can’t sell, keeping them from moving to an area where jobs are more readily available. Do you agree that there are jobs out there just begging for the right person to fill them? Have you been pounding the pavement looking for a good wage for good work, to no avail?
Mercer 20203
A conservative federal appeals panel struck down President Barack Obama's health care overhaul Friday. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) warned on KPCC's Patt Morrison's program that the conservative federal appeals panel that struck down the health care overhaul is "part of the ongoing effort to make sure that health care reform does not get implemented in this country."
Mercer 20217
Picture this, you’re an eleven year old girl and an extremely intoxicated professional skier begins urinating on you while you sleep quietly on a plane. That’s what happened aboard a recent JetBlue flight that prompted a landing - all so that Robert “Sandy” Vietze, the urinate-er in question, could be evacuated. Plane travel is an already unpleasant experience for many and can only be exacerbated when mixed with strange situations (and people) like this one. What’s your airplane horror story? Tune in for catharsis, but we’re warning you now – this might be a bumpy ride.
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