Google is using its GrandCentral service to offer free voice mail to San Francisco’s homeless population. Signing up for the service will give them a local telephone number that they can forward to any number they choose (if one is available) and that is associated with a voice mail box that they can check from any phone line. This service is already freely available to anyone who can sign up online, but it’s great to see Google specifically going out and offering it to the homeless. They stand to benefit more from the service than people who already have phone lines, and there’s probably very little chance they would even find out about it otherwise.
On donating to Japan
Felix Salmon makes a logical argument that you shouldn’t donate to Japan. He argues that earmarking funds for specific disasters prevents them from being used most efficiently, and that Japan is better equipped to deal with this disaster than most countries that suffer a major disaster. Tyler Cowen disagrees, arguing that donating to Japan affirms our friendship with that country, and that you probably won’t make a donation to someone else instead, anyway, and that donating to Japan is better than the non-donation you’ll probably make. I’d argue that the best compromise is to donate to a charity that provides disaster relief, like the Red Cross, Red Cross, but not restrict the donation to disaster relief for Japan. (That’s what Felix Salmon recommends as well.) So if you are moved to donate by this disaster, please do so, but donate wisely.