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      One of the great crimes and tragedies of our world is how we treat the animals we eat (or whose milk or eggs or other products we eat and use.) Factory farming keeps them in tiny enclosures, feeds them monotonous foods, and then when they’re slaughtered it’s a terrible experience: they’re terrified and die in […]
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Flu Update: What I know (and it ain’t much)

Let me say right up front that initially, I thought the media was overreacting to the whole flu scenario.  Well, they are.  But that’s the nature of the media these days.  The more morbidity in the story, the better.  Nevertheless, this could potentially be a serious problem.  That doesn’t mean we need to get hysterical.  It *does* mean we should be prepared.

To recap on the H1N1 influenza, it is a mixed flu with swine, avian and human components. The virus has jumped species and is now transmissable from human to human. It is off season and as far as I know, the 2008 vaccine did not cover this strain.  The H1N1 strain was responsible for the 1918 Spanish Flu but that doesn’t mean that this year’s strain necessarily possesses the mutations for the same degree of lethality.  However, this strain is new to our immune systems so we don’t have much natural protection from it.  While the vaccine makers ramp up production for this strain, we will have to use common sense, anti-viral medications and prompt medical treatment.

The World Health Organization has an alert system and protocol to follow in the event of a pandemic flu.  As of yesterday, we are at level 5a.

Medical personnel and other responders have been notified and this has triggered them to hold meetings with their staffs and employees to discuss their plans in the event of a pandemic.  This afternoon, my colleagues and I got our instructions.  My group isn’t involved in vaccine production so things will probably proceed normally for us, although we have been told to cancel all nonessential travel and vacationers to Mexico will be asked to stay home for 7 days, the latency period of infection, before they can come back to work.  They also explained the procedures we are to follow in the event that the site is closed down for an extended period of time.  We were instructed to take our laptops home every evening in case events changed overnight and we had to work from home.

I like the fact that our HR reps explained the compensation details in advance.  If your employer hasn’t had this talk with you yet, you might want to ask them if they have any plans in place in case there is a public health emergency.  If we are lucky and very proactive, we may be able to minimize the effect of this strain and never get to alert stage 6.  But it never hurts to make your plans, figure out what you’re going to do with the kids in case their classes are canceled and buy some portable hand sanitizer.  Breathe defensively!

For more information, check out the following sites:

WHO Influenza A(H1N1)

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) H1N1 Flu

FluTrackers (for the serious influenza geek)


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“It’s what we might expect in Afghanistan, not in the United States.”

DNA under microscope

DNA under microscope

That is how Nicholas Kristof ended his column yesterday about the low priority law enforcment has been putting on testing for DNA in open rape cases. Kristof writes:

When a woman reports a rape, her body is a crime scene. She is typically asked to undress over a large sheet of white paper to collect hairs or fibers, and then her body is examined with an ultraviolet light, photographed and thoroughly swabbed for the rapist’s DNA.

It’s a grueling and invasive process that can last four to six hours and produces a “rape kit” — which, it turns out, often sits around for months or years, unopened and untested.

Stunningly often, the rape kit isn’t tested at all because it’s not deemed a priority. If it is tested, this happens at such a lackadaisical pace that it may be a year or more before there are results (if expedited, results are technically possible in a week).

I was shocked to read that rape kits are not routinely and promptly processed so that perpetrators’ DNA can be checked against DNA databases, although I probably shouldn’t have been. This is just another sign of the low value put on women’s lives in American culture. But thanks to a March 31, 2009 report from Human Rights Watch on the backlog of unprocessed rape kids in Los Angeles County (linked in the Kristof op-ed), this outrageous situation is getting some much needed attention in the media. Perhaps some other police departments can be shamed into changing their attitudes toward investigating rapes and tracking down the perpetrators. Continue reading

It’s May Day!

spa-spaglobelogo

All good socialists should be celebrating “International Workers Day” so I’m guessing TOTUS is honoring the holiday by trying to figure out how to shove a maypole up the collective ass of the American workers (possibly by finding a pro-business/anti-labor SCOTUS justice to appoint)

Back in 1886 the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions called for a general strike on May 1st in support of the eight-hour work-day.  Up to half a million workers went on strike, approximately 90,000 of them in Chicago alone.  The Chicago strike led to the Haymarket Riot on May 4th.

Thanks to the efforts of our free press, labor unions and socialism were associated with immigrant bomb-throwing anarchists.  Even today “socialist” is synonymous with “unamerican” to many people.

The eight-hour day didn’t become standard in the U.S. until 1938, when passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S. Code Chapter 8 ) under the New Deal made it a legal day’s work throughout the nation.

Friday: Who’s a Souterble replacement?

Drawing by Kerry Waghorn

Drawing by Kerry Waghorn

Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Nine, recounts that David Souter found Diet Coke a newfangled idea when he came to DC.   He eats the same damn lunch every day.  The man lives in his head and finds the world a fascinating place- from a distance.  Souter would have made an excellent Prior of some remote monastery.

Nevertheless, David Souter turned out to have been a man of fierce integrity who took his office very seriously, in contrast to Anthony Kennedy, who turns out to be a pompous gasbag, loving the power of his swing vote.  I will be sorry to see Souter go.  Finding a replacement for him should be fairly easy.  It’s been 15 years since a Democratic president has had a chance to appoint a Supreme Court justice.  And if we had a Democratic president, I wouldn’t be worried at all.  I think we can anticipate a filibuster from the Republicans if the selection isn’t as hard right as Bill Kristol. However, Hillary Clinton has paved the way for a pro-choice justice with her fierce defense of abortion rights when she faced down Chris Smith (R-NJ) last week.  It should be easy for Obama to say, “Republicans have had a lock on this position for the last 8 years.  It’s time for us to have our say.”

Raise your hands if you think Obama would actually say this.  Go on, don’t be shy.

But abortion rights has always been the Maguffin in Supreme Court nominations.  We make a big deal over stare decisis and precedent and whether Roe v. Wade was decided correctly (I think it’s an equal rights issue, not necessarily a privacy one).  Abortion has never been the real issue for Republicans.  For them, every justice they nominate comes with a gene that not only expresses pro-life credentials but also pro-business ones.   The Lily Ledbetter case is a perfect example.  The bar is set so high for the plaintiff going up against the powerhouse of the business entity that fairness is next to impossible.  It’s there only in theory, like the proverbial French law that forbids both rich and poor alike from sleeping under the bridges of the river Seine.

So, I will be watching closely who Obama nominates.  I will be looking at their decisions in the area of consumer law, employment law, civil rights.  Abortion will probably get all of the attention but it is important to remember that the economy is still a mess and there are a lot of potential cases coming out of the banking debacle that will be heard by the newest justice.  Will Elena Kagan or Sonia Sotomayor measure up?  Well, Sotomayor was proffered to the Republicans back in the Bushie days as a pick for the USSC.  There’s got to be a reason why they thought the GOP might bite.  (of course, they didn’t because she was only a “moderate” or “neutral”)

Let’s keep an eye on it.

Your Breakfast Read, Served By The Confluence

Newspaper reading

  • Forget the 100 Days nonsense. Here comes the first test for Obama.
    Justice Souter to Retire From Court

    Justice Souter, 69, has been a reliable member of the court’s liberal wing, and President Obama is unlikely to appoint a successor who would significantly alter the court’s ideological makeup. He is likely to select a candidate young enough to serve for decades, bolstering the court’s aging liberal faction. Most observers expect he will nominate a woman to join the seven other men and one woman remaining on the court.

    White House Cheat Sheet: Souter Retirement (Further) Roils Political Landscape

  • Nobody is safe from the “swine” flu
    Obama guard on Mexico trip ‘has swine flu’

    A US security aide involved in Barack Obama’s recent visit to Mexico became the latest probable victim of swine flu yesterday, though the White House was quick to point out that the president was in no danger of contracting the virus.

    “The Gaffetastic One” makes life miserable for “The One”
    Biden’s Remarks Derail President’s Temperate Message

    On Thursday, Mr. Biden upended the Obama message machine on NBC’s “Today Show,” saying he would advise his own family not to ride a plane, take the subway or put themselves in any confined spaces. The appearance infuriated airline and public-transit industries and highlighted how difficult it is for the administration to find the right message about the new flu — and how different the careful president is from his free-speaking second.

  • Charles Krauthammer endorses torture uses the nonsensical “ticking bomb” scenario from 24
    Torture? No. Except . . .

    Here’s a must-read for all torture fanatics
    When Israel Confronted and Rejected Torture

    Reading about the Bush administration’s convoluted attempts to justify torture takes me back to reporting I did 12 years ago on the anguished debate in Israel over its secret service’s use of violence in interrogations. That was two years before the Israeli Supreme Court banned the practice. “This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it,” wrote the president of the court, Aharon Barak.

  • I have listened to many interviews from William Cohan about his latest book House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street. The book has been languishing in my shopping cart for a while but that’s about to change. How did I miss this diatribe from Jimmy Caine (former Bear Stearns CEO) about Timmy: (via NY Magazine, h/t Brad Delong) (I tried to fill in the blanks)
    Bear Stearns’ Jimmy Cayne’s Profane Tirade Against Treasury’s Geithner

    “The audacity of that p(ric)k in front of the American people announcing he was deciding whether or not a firm of this stature and this whatever was good enough to get a loan,” he said. “Like he was the determining factor, and it’s like a flea on his back, floating down underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, getting a h(ar)d-on, saying, ‘Raise the bridge.’ This guy thinks he’s got a big d(ic)k. He’s got nothing, except maybe a boyfriend. I’m not a good enemy. I’m a very bad enemy. But certain things really—that bothered me plenty. It’s just that for some clerk to make a decision based on what, your own personal feeling about whether or not they’re a good credit? Who the f(uc)k asked you? You’re not an elected officer. You’re a clerk. Believe me, you’re a clerk. I want to open up on this f(ucke)r, that’s all I can tell you.”

  • Thank Goodness thehere are some sane people in the midst of totally insane creeps
    Marriage of Saudi Arabian girl, eight, annulled

    An eight-year old Saudi Arabian girl who was married off by her father to a man in his 50s has had the union annulled, it was reported yesterday. The case, which had generated local and international outrage, ended with an out-of-court settlement.