"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
Hi, this is Greg Powell. I hope you'll enjoy one or more of these interesting topics from the world of business and beyond. Dan Powell, my son and collaborator, has researched the articles and written the summaries, so this is not a boilerplate message. We'd like to give you a weekly break to learn about something cool or, better yet, 5 Cool Things.

Cinquefrondi: The 'Covid-Free' Italian Town Selling $1 Houses (CNN)

Good news! Your future Italian villa awaits in the picturesque town of Cinquefrondi, where a resettlement campaign is offering houses for just one Euro each. "We rise between the refreshing hills and two warm seas, a pristine river runs nearby and the beaches are just 15 minutes away by car. But a whole district of my town lies abandoned, with empty houses that are also unstable and risky." As younger people headed off to look for jobs, Cinquefrondi’s population has declined and many houses are empty and crumbling. That leaves a lot of cheap real estate —  but what’s the catch? According to city officials, failing to renovate your new house within three years will result in a 20,000 Euro fine. But for adventurous souls, that might be an easy bargain to agree to, considering the obvious beauty of this town located on the southern end of Italy’s “boot,” surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. Read more…  

The Most Important Scientist You’ve Never Heard Of (Mental Floss)

It’s hard to comprehend today, but for many decades the sale of gasoline containing toxic lead additives was completely legal. While, undoubtedly, nearly every citizen was getting at least a mild level of poisoning from the practice, the problem became very apparent after workers in tetraethyl lead plants began to exhibit some very strange behavior, including feeling insect-like sensations on their skin and even hallucinations that led one to spontaneously jump from a window. Predictably, industry downplayed the problem, with a Standard Oil executive saying, “These men probably went insane because they worked too hard.” But it took a scientist named Clair Patterson to lead research that would help save us from “…what is arguably the largest mass poisoning in human history.” Patterson’s interest in lead stemmed from Ph.D work which aimed to estimate the age of the Earth by measuring radioactive decay. Read more… 

Facebook Creates Fact-Checking Exemption for Climate Deniers (Popular Information)

In recent weeks, numerous corporate and private interests have pulled advertising campaigns from Facebook, taking issue with its rather laissez-faire policy regarding fact-checking and hate speech. Social media can be a great tool for spreading information and keeping people connected, but misuse has the potential to elevate opinion and hearsay into perceived fact. As an example, take climate research: last year, an article rated “false” by third-party fact-checker Science Feedback should have been overlaid with a misinformation warning — until fossil fuel-linked CO2 Coalition successfully lobbied Facebook to reverse its stance. “According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook found that the misinformation about climate models was an ‘opinion’ and, therefore, not eligible for fact-checking.” Unfortunately for Facebook and industry lobbying groups, the detrimental effects of climate change are real and the consequences for inaction will be dire. Does that mean that social networks like Facebook that allow misinformation to propogate should share liability? (Please note: a popup appears when this page is loaded. Click “Let me read it first” to bypass.) Read more…

Boredom, Sound Waves, Police? The US Fireworks Mystery and its Many Theories (The Guardian)

If you’re having trouble getting to sleep this summer, you aren’t the only one. Across the country, impromptu fireworks displays are enraging communities — in New York alone, complaints this year number more than 12,000, compared to just 17 during the same time last year. Who or what is responsible for this drastic increase? Theories range from the mundane (boredom, mass unemployment, quieter cities in the wake of social distancing measures) to the financial (sold-off fireworks from canceled shows) to the extreme (a massive police conspiracy meant to justify police presence in the wake of “defund the police” protests). Whatever the cause, we can all hope that, post-Independence Day, these fireworks enthusiasts will lay off and let us get back to bed. Read more…

The Money Train (Narratively)

In the 1995 film “Money Train”, characters are involved in the robbery of a yellow-and-black striped train in the NYC subway carrying bags of cash. It’s not a Hollywood fantasy — these trains really existed, and were an enticing target for thieves from their introduction among the first subway cars at the turn of the century until their retirement in 2006, more than a hundred years later. The trains were necessary due to the large amount of cash transactions conducted at each station, and rolled on multiple lines to secret locations where the money was counted and sent to the Federal Reserve Bank.  Security agents on board belonged to a tight-knit group, heavily armed and armored and sworn to secrecy. Today, visitors to the New York Transit Museum can step inside a real, preserved money train, and imagine how a movie scene might unfold behind barred windows and lockers that once held countless bags of cash. Read more…

Check out my Blog: "Minding Your Business"
See you next week!
            - Greg
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