Mexican Swine Flu Epidemic Has “Pandemic Potential”

Update 4/29/09
Stay informed through reliable sources:
Center for Disease Control – This is the swine flu website from the Centers for Disease Control. It gives the latest on the situation along with the above tips and other prevention information.
This is the website of the Greensboro Emergency Management Department.  Using information from the Centers for Disease Control and other sources, it will keep you up-to-date on the outbreak. 
Guilford County Department of Public Health

World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) officials are expressing worry over a new flu strain which has already sickened more than 1,000 people across Mexico and spread into California and Texas at an alarming pace.  It is believed as many as 68 people have thus far died.

Margaret Chan, head of the WHO, says the virus — a previously unknown combination of human, pig, and bird strains — has “pandemic potential.”   In Mexico City, schools are closed and hundreds of events have been cancelled.

World health officials are of course acutely aware of past flu pandemics, such as those of 1918, 1957, and 1968.  The 1918/1919 event, which came in the aftermath of World War I, is believed to have killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide and infected approximately 1/3 of the world’s population. 

If you would like to read more about influenza and flu pandemics of the past, the Greensboro Public Library has the following:  Bird Flu:  Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic by Marc Siegel; Killer Flu (DVD); Plagues & Poxes:  The Impact of Human History on Epidemic Disease by Alfred Jay Bollet; Secret Agents:  The Menace of Emerging Infections by Madeline Drexler; Flu:  The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It by Gina Kolata; The Great Influenza:  The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John M. Barry; Purple Death:  The Mysterious Flu of 1918 by David Getz (juvenile); Influenza 1918 (DVD); Bird Flu:  How Safe Are We? (DVD); China Syndrome:  The True Story of the 21st Century’s First Great Epidemic by Karl Taro Greenfeld; The Monster at Our Door:  The Global Threat of Avian Flu by Mike Davis; The Germ Freak’s Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu:  Guerilla Tactics to Keep Yourself Healthy at Home, at Work, and in the World by Allison Janse with Charles Gerba; and Influenza:  The Next Pandemic? by Connie Goldsmith (juvenile).

Missing Library Book Returned . . . After 145 Years

I suppose libraries have just about always had trouble with overdue and missing books. 

Medieval monasteries came up with my favorite solution:  chaining the books to the shelves (or desks) where they were housed.  I doubt we’ll ever do that here at Greensboro Public Library, but I did see an old book case in an antique shop in Asheville once that had a place for a metal bar which ran the length of each shelf; I’m pretty sure the bar was for attaching chains — always have regretted not buying that bookcase!

Anyway, ponder the curious story of the Washington & Lee University volume that went astray during the Civil War and only just found its way back home — after 145 years!  A Yankee soldier nabbed it during a raid in 1864; it had remained with his family and descendants all this time.  An antiquarian book seller in Tryon, North Carolina, named Harry Goodheart (and also a Washington & Lee alumnus) learned of the book and facilitated its return.  It was volume one of a four volume set called History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France by W.F.P. Napier.  Amazingly, the university library still owned volume two.  What a happy reunion it must have been! 

By the way, Washington & Lee library staff estimate the late fees (if charged) would be in excess of $52,000!  Now, if you’re holding some overdue Greensboro Public Library books, let this be a cautionary tale. . . .

Benjamin Franklin Letters Found

Check out this neat article from MSNBC on the recent discovery of a lost cache of Benjamin Franklin letters, turned up by a researcher in England.

Franklin (1706-1790), of course, was one of America’s founding fathers, a politician, scientist, inventor, statesman and more.  

The letters (47 in all) are actually copies that were made by an Englishman named Thomas Birch, and were probably part of what Franklin called his “quire book,” which described assistance he provided British General Edward Braddock in 1755 and Franklin later carried with him to England.  A political scientist and Franklin scholar named Alan Houston discovered them at the British Library in London in 2007.  

The story reminds me of the wonderful manuscript collections we have in the archives at the Greensboro Historical Museum and the treasures that await researchers using these collections.

If you’d like to learn more about Benjamin Franklin, I’m sure Greensboro Public Library has some books for you.  Try some of these recent titles:  The Life of Benjamin Franklin by J. A. Leo Lemay; Benjamin Franklin’s Numbers: An Unsung Mathematical Odyssey by Paul C. Pasles; Ben Franklin:  America’s Original Entrepreneur:  Franklin’s Autobiography Adapted for Modern Business by Blaine McCormick; The First Scientific American:  Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius by Joyce E. Chaplin; The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin by Gordon S. Wood; Benjamin Franklin:  An American Life by Walter Isaacson; Franklin:  The Essential Founding Father by James Srodes; Benjamin Franklin by  Edmund S. Morgan;  and Franklin on Franklin, edited by Paul M. Zall.

Guilford County Unemployment Rate Drops to 10.7%

This is just a brief post acknowledging release of the State’s county data on unemployment today.  There was good news for a change, as Guilford’s rate dropped to 10.7% last month, down from 11.0% in February.  The News and Record noted that county rates were down in 84 of 100 North Carolina counties.  Could this indicate that the recession is really bottoming out?

If you’re looking for a job, Greensboro Public Library would like to help.  To learn about what we have to offer, try these links to previous posts — here and here.  And here’s an additional link to a post on summer employment for youth.

Library Packages Job Skills Offerings and Networking Opportunities

The increase in Guilford County’s unemployment rate in recent months has been dramatic.  In February it stood at 11%, more than double what it was a year ago (5.1%).  Now more than ever, job seekers are coming to Greensboro Public Library for help.

To raise awareness of its many programs and services available to job seekers, Greensboro Public Library has created a new job skills coaching program.  Called JobSkills @ Your Library, the program will offer computer classes, job skills workshops, counseling, networking, and support.

JobTalk & Java is a new weekly support and networking group which will soon begin meeting on Wednesdays from 10-11:30 AM.  In addition to networking opportunities, facilitators will lead informal sessions presenting topics relevant to job seekers — and the coffee is free!  The May 6th kick-off meeting will include panelists who offer advice on how job seekers can set themselves apart and land the job they really want. 

Our computer classes offer basic instruction in Microsoft Word, the Internet, e-mail, and the use of personal computers.  In addition, we provide how-to classes on online tools useful to job seekers such as Monster Job Board and Resumemaker.

And our JobSearch Skills Workshops offer ideas for coping during these difficult economic times, as well as practical tools for the job search process. 

We have also added a new JobSearch Helpdesk, located in the career resources section on the second floor at Central Library.

Last but not least, individual career counseling is available at Central Library for folks trying to discover their ideal career path.  To make an appointment for individual counseling, please contact Doris Jessup at 373-3764.

Media are invited to cover our May 6th networking event.  And please feel free to call Ms. Jessup at 373-3764 about all our JobSkills offerings. 

For more information about Greensboro Public Library programs and services, please visit our website.

Library Book Sale Coming Up May 2nd!!!!!!!!!

If you’re a big book collector like me, I’m sure you’ll be glad hear that Greensboro Public Library’s semi-annual used book sale is coming up on Saturday, May 2nd.  I always find great stuff at their book sale!

The sale will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Central Library at 219 N. Church St. (map).

Readers will find books, books on tape and CD, music CDs, and DVDs. 

Books will include fiction, mysteries, non-fiction, history, religion, children’s books, and lots, lots more — just all kinds of stuff!  You may even find some rare and collectible items!

Most hardbacks are $2 and most paperbacks are 50 cents.

All items for sale are community donations.  Proceeds from the sale go to the Friends of the Greensboro Public Library, a diverse nonprofit organization whose purpose is to support the community’s cultural and literary needs.  If you’re interested in more information on the Friends, please click the link above or call 373-3777.

Thomas M. Hoenig of the Kansas City FED on Financial Institutions: “Too Big Has Failed”

Another economist who joined Simon Johnson and Joseph Stiglitz in presenting testimony before Congress’ Joint Economic Committee earlier this week was Thomas M. Hoenig, currently President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

In a recent paper, Hoenig evaluates actions thus far taken to ease the financial crisis and suggests some “alternative solutions,” based on his familiarity with similar past crises, such as those experienced by Japan and Sweden. 

Generally, Hoenig observes that market confidence and credit has not been restored by reductions in the Federal Funds Rate, bailouts, TARP (the Troubled Assets Relief Program), etc., because large institutions (those described as “too big to fail”) seem unwilling to fully acknowledge their losses.  But these losses, he argues, can not be avoided; and the ad hoc solutions thus far employed are really “every bit a process that results in a protracted nationalization of ‘too big to fail’ institutions.”  

In order to restore confidence and credit as soon as possible and thus limit the ill effects suffered by the broader economy, a framework for a resolution process should be developed whereby these large, insolvent institutions are taken over by the government and existing obligations addressed; in addition, much like Simon Johnson, Hoenig believes over-large institutions should be sold off “in more manageable pieces.”       

Once again, this previous post includes links to some recent works on the financial crisis owned by Greensboro Public Library.

Joblink Summer Job Program Web Site

Are you a teen or young adult looking for a summer job?  Is your business or organization in need of help this summer?

Well, Joblink has opened their summer job program application web site this week.  This is for teens/adults ages 15-24 to gain employment over the summer.  Due to the impact of federal stimulus money and the Governor’s Crime Commission funds, Joblink should be able to hire over 500 youth this summer.

Joblink needs jobs/companies/organizations that could use FREE help.  Joblink will train, pay, and insure these youth as well as co-supervise them.  Please determine whether you will have positions these youth could fill, and visit the website and register.

Joseph E. Stiglitz on the Causes of Our Financial Discontent

The other day, the Washington Post launched a new financial crisis blog called The Hearing:  Decoding the Economic Policy Debate with Simon Johnson and James Kwak.  It seems their main focus will be on the debate over Congressional efforts to reform the financial system, and the first post concerned a Joint Economic Committee hearing in which Johnson participated, along with Columbia University economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz.      

Stiglitz recently penned an article for Vanity Fair in which he identified key mistakes leading to the current financial crisis.  Toping his list was Reagan’s appointment of free market proponent Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve Board chairman in 1987, which, according to Stiglitz, effectively led to the abrogation of the FED’s role as a regulative body, creating an environment conducive to the development of the “housing bubble” and risky financial instruments such as credit default swaps

Greenspan’s spirit of deregulation eventually manifested itself in changes such as:  1) the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, which indirectly led to commercial banks taking on risks which had more typically been the domain of the investment banks; and 2) a Securities and Exchange Commission decision in 2004 to permit large investment banks to raise their dept-to-capital ratios from 12:1 to 30:1. 

If you’re interested in Greenspan, we may have some books for you.  Try some of these recent titles:  The Age of Turbulence:  Adventures in a New World by Alan Greenspan; Bernanke’s Test:  Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, and the Drama of the Central Banker by Johan van Overtveldt; Bubble Man: Alan Greenspan and the Missing 7 Trillion Dollars by Peter Hartcher; Greenspan’s  Fraud:  How Two Decades of His Policies Have Undermined the Global Economy by Ravi Batra; and Panderer to Power:  The Untold Story of How Alan Greenspan Enriched Wall Street and Left a Legacy of Recession by Frederick J. Sheehan (this last title currently on order).

Greensboro Public Library also has a few books by Joseph Stiglitz, including:  The Economists’ Voice:  Top Economists Take on Today’s Problems, edited by Stiglitz and others (2008); Making Globalization Work (2006); and The Roaring Nineties:  A New History of the World’s Most Prosperous Decade (2003).

And this previous post includes a list of our recent titles pertinent to the financial crisis.

UPDATE:  Here’s an article from CNBC (including a video clip) in which Stiglitz argues that big banks should be allowed to fail.  This is much the same perspective as Simon Johnson — see this post from last week.

More on the Economic Front: Greensboro College Pay Cuts; Dell Layoffs; Stimulus Money Confusion

Late last month, we posted on the tough times private colleges were having during the downturn.  News 14 reported Friday that Greensboro College laid off eight staff and temporarily cut pay for salaried staff by 20%, effective May 1st.   In addition, benefits such as sabbaticals and dental insurance were suspended or reduced.  Hourly employees were spared.  The college’s President, Dr. Craven Williams, explained the cuts were necessary owing to steep declines in endowment earnings, gifts, and enrollment for next year.

Also, a couple of weeks ago, Dell’s Forsyth plant — which has benefited from many millions in incentives at taxpayer expense — announced another round of layoffs.  Though the company has been mum on the total number jobs lost so far, a displaced Dell worker brushing up her resume here in the library last week told me it’s about 200.  If you’ve recently been laid off and you’re looking for help, you can follow this link to a previous post on Greensboro Public Library’s many job search resources.

Finally, today’s News and Record is reporting that local officials are having a tough time getting their share of all that much-heralded stimulus money.  The City of Greensboro has recently reported one success — $600,000 for work on the Bicentennial Greenway between here and High Point — but smaller towns like Reidsville are said “to have fallen off the radar.”  Here’s our latest post on Stimulus Package links, courtesy of our government docs librarian, Mr. Frank Barefoot.

UPDATE on Greensboro College:  According to the News and Record, Greensboro College students grilled President Williams today (4/23/09) over the college’s draconian cuts in a meeting at Finch Chapel.  Many are angry about the President’s salary, which the N&R indicated in 2007 was in excess of $400,000; salary figures on a blog called Gate City indicate that’s better than $150,000 more than the presidents of Guilford College and High Point University make.  And, according to one of my colleagues whose wife is on Guilford College’s budget committee, Williams’ total compensation package is actually closer to $500,000; the total package for Guilford College’s President, Kent Chabotar, is around $300,000.