Winner: If Utah firefighter and paramedic Peter Thorpe has his way, no one will ever suffer a house fire again for the mistake of leaving food on the stove or in the oven. Together with engineer Michael Sanders and MBA student Rhett Weller, he developed "Active Alarm," which people can plug into their stove's power cord. If the home's smoke detector is triggered, the device automatically shuts off power to the stove, greatly reducing the chances that smoking food will break out into flames. The invention earned a $40,000 prize in the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge this year. Now, if we can just do something about curling irons and home improvement projects that include a blow torch.
Loser: The only thing Europe's leaders and experts seemed to agree on at meetings this week is that the United States faces a grave economic crisis because its two major parties won't compromise. Well, duh, but that doesn't do much to help what experts correctly described as a "perfect storm" of economic trouble brewing in Europe. The annual Ambrosetti Forum at Lake Como in Italy produced a lot of familiar arguments about the strong helping the weak in the European Union and the possible need for a central finance minister who could veto nations' budgets. Those produce disagreements that can rival anything Congress might produce. A crisis spurred by excess personal debt led to excess public spending that now has many nations so far in the red investors are fleeing. Because they are tied together, EU countries can't deal with their own problems on their own. Throw a nuclear Iran into the mix and you just might want to stay in bed with the covers over your head.
Winner: Utah's liquor laws work. That was the message a professor from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School for Public Health bought to state lawmakers this week, and it was backed by research. Utah has, over the years, changed some of its alcohol-related laws, but it still controls sales through limited government-controlled retail outlets, it still limits the days and hours of liquor sales and it still control marketing and advertising. All of these have been the butt of jokes or complaints about excessive state control, but data shows this approach allows for responsible consumption while keeping the societal consequences of abuse at a minimum.
Loser: Mammograms are supposed to detect breast cancer, but now we learn they may actually cause breast cancer in some young women. At least, that's what a new study out of Europe suggests. As a result, pre-disposed young women are instead advised to use MRIs to detect cancer, that is, until someone finds a problem with that procedure, too.
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