News Montage

Arbitrary collection of recent events:


  1. Swine flu: Any story that can knock a subject like torture off the front pages has to be huge, and bad. This is both. The current strain is a Flu A subset H1N1 (There are several flu types – A, B & C – only A can cause an epidemic or pandemic. H is the protein hemagglutinin, which gets the virus into a host cell and the N is neuroaminadase another protein that turns the cell into a virus factory). Being an A H1N1 means it is also a descendent of the 1918 flu that killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide. And this was before air travel became. It used World War I to travel through Europe. Its origins are disputed, some scientists believe it began in China while others say the first outbreak was in Kansas (check out, Gina Kolata’s Flu: the story of the great influenza pandemic of 1918 and the search for the virus that caused it or John Barry’s The great influenza. Or Google it. With over 150 deaths in Mexico so far and cases in at least seven US states, this has the potential to be really, really bad. I would hope anyone concerned about this would check out either or to get information as the media loves a crisis.


    In fact when asked about the similarities between this flu and the 1918 version, Sanjay Gupta’s comments only seemed to make a pandemic seem more likely today than it was then. When he responded to viewed questions he talked about the lack of air travel, the ability to be contagious with the flu before symptoms appear and then digressed into how this differs from seasonal flues in that its impact is seen mostly in young, healthy people rather than the very young/old. So what you’re saying, Sanjay, is “Yes, this could very well kill everyone in the prime of their lives.” I am not saying he should sugar coat anything but we are already near panic about everything else – the economy, terrorism, war, pirates – this is not the time to freak out.


  2. Politics and the flu: Because how the two parties view this is the real question du jour. President Obama’s stimulus bill apparently included $850 million for pandemic prevention but was taken out in a compromise with Senator Susan Collins (R-NH). Her vote was crucial to the bill’s passage through the Senate but one has to wonder why this was signaled out. Her office issued a statement that she thought this was a worthy cause but should go through the appropriations process rather than be considered stimulus. The interesting this about the current crisis is that the 1918 flu caused a one to four percent drop in the US GDP. The 2010 budget does contain money, albeit much less, but I wonder if this grows will we look and think that it was just too little, too late?


  1. Red rover, red rover, send Arlen right over: The only Democrat who didn’t look like he was happy about Arlen Specter’s defection to the Democratic party was Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) but that’s only because he wanted to run for the Senate himself (and people say Specter put his ambition before his country). Bah-humbug. I am ecstatic about it. No, this will not give the D side a totally filibuster proof Senate but it shows how the GOP has changed. It’s always fun to watch the Republicans fight, to me anyway.


  2. California; find yourself here (on vacation): Maybe it’s the 11 percent unemployment rate but California recently changed its advertising campaign. The tagline used to be ‘California: find yourself here’ but they added ‘on vacation’ to the end. Interesting times.


New Yorkers miss Eliot Spitzer: It may be the economy but it seems most don’t like the way David Patterson is doing his job and would rather have Spitzer at the helm.

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