April 29, 2009 archive

Flu Realities

I travel a lot. I see preparations being made to deal with a pandemic at airports and in different ways by different governments. I asked colleagues who work in epidemiology what we were dealing with and how much I should worry. Here’s what they said:

  • This flu, which they call H1N1, not Swine Flu, is what they call a novel virus, in that it is new and have never been recorded or analysed before this outbreak.
  • A novel virus is unpredictable in that there is no built up immunity in populations and, therfore, it can spread quickly.
  • The current H1N1 is sensitive to (can be fought with) Tamaflu and Relenza.  That’s the good news.  It is not sensitive to two other antivirals, which can be a problem if it mutates to become Tamiflu or Relenza resistant.
  • The current working theory about its origin is a Smithfield Foods (American hog factory farm company) affiliate outside Mexico City.  The suspected patient zero was a boy from a nearby village where almost half were stricken earlier this year.  What is significant is that the villagers had been complaining for sometime about open hog waste ponds where ducks were present and biting insects fed.  One possibility (not proven) is that the ducks had bird flu which mingled with swine flu.  The biting insects picked up both and infected people who already had human flu, as February is Mexico’s flu season and very few people are inoculated.  
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is upping their alert level to 5.  This is significant.  6 is a full blown out of control pandemic.  This will release measures to deal with the problem across borders and means they’re concerned about countries that don’t have the measures in place that we do in the developed nations.

What you can do to protect yourself below the fold…

Four at Four

  1. The Guardian reports Only half a trillion tonnes of carbon left to burn before dangerous climate change. “The world has already burned half the fossil fuels necessary to bring about a catastrophic 3.6º F (2º C) rise in average global temperature”. Scientists at Oxford University “say about half a trillion tonnes of carbon have been consumed since the industrial revolution.” At the current rate of carbon burn, the world will a trillion tonnes in 40 years.

    Meanwhile, the MercoPress reports a Massive Antarctic ice shelf is breaking up into icebergs. “Scientists estimate the Wilkins Ice Shelf… had been in place for several hundred years. But satellite images taken over the past week show it has begun collapsing into the ocean”.

    Science Daily adds this is the largest ice shelf retreat to date.

  2. The LA Times reports Justice Department official slams ‘lawless’ Bush terror policies. Todd Hinnen, deputy assistant attorney general for law and policy in the department’s National Security Division, said the Bush administration’s “lawless response to terrorism” helped strengthen al-Qaeda and undermined U.S. moral credibility and international standing. Hinnen was a Bush administration’s counter-terrorism official until 2007.

    The Obama administration is “struggling to deal with the fallout left by its predecessors, both in the U.S. and overseas on issues such as coercive interrogations, ‘extraordinary renditions,’ and the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists”, he noted.

Four at Four continues with shrinking U.S. GDP, America’s most polluted cities, and an update from Pakistan.

‘run ads with fancy graphics to show we care …

… while we’re lobbying politicians to punch the treaty full of loopholes”.

script(pdf) (script below the fold)

AVAAZ.org‘s “Stop Climate Spin” campaign.

AVAAZ has the hat out to raise the money to get the ad on heavy rotation at CNN. Also, if you can donate views, ratings, favorites and comments at Youtube, that’s another way to raise the profile.

(h/t A Siegel at Agent Orange)

Torture: You Can Not Ignore Justice, Attorney General Holder

I don’t know the procedure, and of course the procedures certainly haven’t been followed in this era that is…we hope… beginning to end.

But the head of the House Judiciary Committee and the Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties have  now asked the Head of the Department of Justice to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate.

And that should be good enough, now that…well, if, indeed… the Rule of Law has now been restored.

If the Rule of Law is once again operating, the Chairman of House Judiciary Committee asking the Attorney General to appoint a Special Prosecutor should be good enough.

Abu Ghraib Cremation Ovens Controversy

[Recently posted at the Daily Kos – please see questions about (unwarranted?) banning below]

On the holocaust anniversary yesterday, President Obama spoke eloquently about other holocausts in Rwanda and Somalia.  But he steered clear of discussing the human remains and ashes in US run prisons overseas:

there was something about living in cells at Abu Ghraib that never felt right. “We had some kind of incinerator at the end of our building,” Specialist Megan Ambuhl said. “It was this huge circular thing. We just didn’t know what was incinerated in there. It could have been people, for all we knew—bodies.” Sergeant Davis was not in doubt. “It had bones in it,” he said, and he called it the crematorium.

This was reported by award winning journalists in The New Yorker just over a year ago.  But for obvious reasons I've never heard any politician mention it.

Now that it's suddenly appropriate to discuss illegal US torture policy – and in honor of the holocaust anniversary – is it possible we can investigate why our soldiers report that Iraqi detainees were evidently burned in ovens?

Yesterday Obama said, “part of the responsibility for the Holocaust rests with people who accepted the assigned role of bystander.”

I think he means it.  So maybe he was too busy to read The New Yorker during the primaries.  

Rather than be bystanders, let's make sure he sees the article today.


Thomas Friedman Is A Yutz – Here Is Why.

This will come as no surprise but Thomas Friedman is a yutz. There are many reasons why folks might agree with the Dog on this (his unquestioning and revenge based support of the Iraq War being a huge one) but today is the first time the Dog has felt the need to call out the New York Time columnist in any blog posting. Why is today different? The Dog is so very glad you asked gentle reader! Today Mr. Friedman crossed the line, today he makes a completely spurious argument against torture prosecutions. You can find Mr. Friedman’s column here.  

The Stars Hollow Gazette


HarlequinSome people are using Arlen Specter as an example of what happens to a party that demands “purity”.  Instead it’s a perfect example of “beltway think”.

You see Arlen feels his 29 years as a Washington Weasel entitles him to another six regardless of his constituents.

He is a valuable unique man.  A Galtian architect of policy.  A super hero of moderate conservatism and upholder of the two party system.

A thoroughgoing Villager with no connection to the voting public he supposedly Represents.

He actually represents only those interests who promote and provide his lifestyle of privilege and uses his power only to protect them from the righteous wrath of the shafted 99%.

What an aristocrat.

What a vain pompous ass.

How typical.

Wednesday Morning Science Supplement

From Yahoo News Science

1 Envoys more optimistic for climate treaty

by Shaun Tandon, AFP

Tue Apr 28, 10:52 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Top climate envoys said they were more optimistic about sealing a global warming deal this year after a US-led meeting of major economies, but they sparred on the level of their commitments.

US President Barack Obama, who champions aggressive action against global warming, invited negotiators from 17 other major economies including developing powers such as China and India to meet in Washington.

The talks came as the clock ticks to a December meeting in Copenhagen that is meant to approve a new global treaty to slow down the planet’s rising temperatures.

Muse in the Morning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Muse in the Morning

An Opened Mind XXVI

Art Link


I grieve for us

One more life


this time in


on our dime

in our time

in our name.

Who is to blame?

We all pulled

the plug.

This candle

was snuffed out

Now don’t we

feel better?

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–December 13, 2005

Late Night Karaoke

Better Late Than Never

Geithner; Gold on the Hill


copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Today, Timothy Geithner garners much attention.  Initially, when introduced on the national scene, people pondered; “Who is he?” The former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has an impeccable résumé.  Some said his record speaks for itself.  Average Americans might have admired his ascendancy. Taxpayers could have appreciated that a man of his age would wish to manage the complexity of the United States coffers.   Countless may have considered the enormous challenge he accepted; yet, not comprehend, for Secretary Geithner, this may have been the plan.

Early on, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner had his sights set high.  As a child, born to an affluent, and influential family, he learned that all he desired could be his.  He saw the potential for power in political prospects.  The practicality of a profitable purpose also was apparent to Tim.  When a lad, there was no reason for Timothy to reflect on the concrete pavements beneath his feet.  Geithner would not have supposed he would work as a laborer.  Nor had he likely seen himself as one among the swarms of ordinary citizens.   His personal history may have helped him to know, he would not have to pound the streets to seek pennies for his pocket.  Unconventional as his life had been, Timothy Geithner might have imagined as others did; he was destined for greatness.

Suicide Prevention

(Cross-posted at The Free Speech Zone)

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are reporting a significant rise in the number of suicide attempts and threats compared to this time last year, and mental health advocates say effects of the economy are to blame.

In just the first 18 days of April, CMPD answered 81 reports of a suicide attempt or threat, that’s up 55 percent from the 52 reports in that time last year.


Mental health advocates say they’ve seen the same spike in patients with suicidal thoughts. With most of the calls recently to counselors with the Mecklenburg County Mobile Crisis Team, the feelings of hopelessness and the effects of the economy go hand-in-hand.

“(They tell us that) that they’ve lost their health care, their unemployment benefits are about to run out,” said Bill Cook, of the mobile crisis team.


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