AAA study on gas price trendStock market dip (worst ever start to a New Year) is a concern to PR and all Americans. PR’s role is to double-down on relations with customers and other publics using direct to market communications and social media.

Stocks rallied in today's morning trading with the Dow up 100+ points, according to CNN's market watch. The Dow was up 27.94 at day's end to 16,016.

Cheap oil and the problems with the China economy and stock market are the main causes of the slide, says CNN Money and other financial sources. Dow-Jones fell 1,437 points in the first two weeks.

The price for a barrel of oil, which hit $145-$147 in 2008, has fallen just below $30 a barrel due to an oversupply. This is reflected in the price of a gallon of gas which averaged $3.90 a gallon last August and now is below $2 in many places.

Economists say the price-per-gallon is something Americans see perhaps a dozen or more times a day as they drive around and this leads them to conclude there is something wrong with the economy. Actually the economy, including employment, is pretty strong, economists say.

Cheap Gas Is Opportunity

Cheap gas, as low as $1.82 a gallon at one New Jersey gas station, is an opportunity to raise the national gas tax from the 18.4 cents a gallon where it has been stuck since 1993 to -perhaps 30 or 40 cents.

The problem is that few political leaders will support such a move. One who did is Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) who in 2014 proposed a 12-cent jump spread over two years. She said this would replenish the Highway Trust Fund which faces bankruptcy.

The Obama Administration opposed any increase in the gas tax.

ConnecticutHistory.orgHike Needed for Roads and Dropping Tolls

An increase in the national tax gas was backed in an editorial in the Jan. 16 New York Times. But it said lawmakers are “fearful” of such a move “ahead of an election.” States levy their own gas taxes—42 cents in New York, 50 cents in Pennsylvania, and 14 cents in New Jersey, as examples.

NYT talks only about the need for “investment to improve roads.” But a modest increase in the gas task would eliminate the need for toll roads throughout the U.S.

The toll road lobby is among the most powerful in D.C. Collecting taxes via per-gallon charges is 22 times as efficient as collecting them by any other means including manually or electronically, said opponents of toll roads.

The Alliance for Toll Free Interstates, formed in 2014, says collection of taxes at the pump costs less than one percent of the revenues.

ATFI’s mission is to “educate the public about the negative impact that tolling existing interstates has on our communities and businesses. ATFI exists to provide detailed information to the media, policymakers and individuals on why tolling existing interstates will not solve our transportation needs. Our goal is to develop a growing alliance of individuals, businesses and organizations that will advocate for solving our growing transportation needs without tolling existing interstates.”

ATFIAmong supporters of toll-free roads is Senator Christopher Murphy, D-Conn. Connecticut does not have any toll roads. The last toll was collected in 1989. Tolls were condemned as wasting gas, causing congestion and loss of time, causing pollution and noise, and serving as an unfair barrier to commuters.

Cellphone, Computer Radiation Is a Danger

PR people, who are major users of computers and cellphones, and parents who hopefully can control of the use of such devices by their children, should explore the extensive literature and research pointing to the health dangers presented by them.

Little is said in major media about such dangers possibly because it might annoy advertisers such as the cellphone carriers and manufacturers, Apple and other computer companies. Critics say health hazards of smoking were documented as early as1939 but it was not until 1963 that the U.S. Surgeon General declared them unhealthy.

NY Times article on cellphone riskA major cave-in to pressure from the industry was reported in the Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016 New York Times (Saturday being a “burial ground” for stories for which a low profile is sought). Centers for Disease Control redacted its advice to use “caution” with cellphones and changed it back to the previous advice which was that any risks “likely are comparable to other lifestyle choices we make every day.”

Specifically deleted was a passage addressing potential risks to children.

Websites such as Electric Sense and the site of Dr. Joseph Mercola are emphatic about the dangers to children and fetuses.

“Children and fetuses absorb more microwave radiation because their bodies are relatively smaller, their skulls are thinner, and their brain tissue is more absorbent,” said Robert Szcerba in the Jan. 13, 2015 Forbes.

Advice of the websites is that anyone under the age of 13 should only be allowed cellphones in emergencies.

Precautionary Steps Described

Other advice is not to carry a cellphone in a pocket (this is advice of Apple itself—in small type at the end of instructions); hold a cellphone at least an inch from the ear; unplug the base at night because it radiates 24/7; don’t bring a cellphone into the bedroom; put it on “airplane mode” most of the time; don’t use a cellphone in a car and especially a moving car or other moving vehicle because it has to radiate extra hard to pull in a signal, and only use a cellphone when the connection is very strong for the same reason.

Websites such as urge adult cellphone users to be considerate of others by not using them in public places like a doctor’s office, public transportation, courtroom, etc. Office workers should also be considerate and be mindful of whether their work station is close to someone else’s computer.

Radiation-aware websites urge computer users to have a wired Ethernet connection, a wired keyboard and a wired mouse. Apple stores do not sell a wired mouse. This writer went to a Staples and found about 20 wireless devices and only one wired mouse.

The danger of cellphones and computers is a topic that should be taken up by the Westhampton, New York, Library board. Attempts to reach either director Danielle Waskiewicz or the four trustees have been unsuccessful so far. The library’s second floor is devoted to activities for children and there is also a teen center.

Residents could send a message to the board by rejecting the new library budget May 17. The old budget would remain in place but this would be another strong public statement of disapproval of the management of the library. Protests by 60 residents at the Oct. 30, 2015 meeting of the board resulted in the eventual resignation of four of the five trustees.