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      From the useful Elija Mangnier, 1 – Adherence to Iran’s right to nuclear enrichment and everything related to this science at all costs. Nuclear enrichment is a sword Iran can hold in the face of the West, which wants to take it from Tehran. It is Iran’s card to obstruct any US intention of “obliterating” […]
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Friday Morning News and Views

morning_paper

Good Morning, Conflucians. The big story of the day is the massacre at Fort Hood in Texas. Last night it was reported that the shooter, Major Malik Nadal Hasan, was dead. But he is still alive and in stable condition even though he was shot several times. It still isn’t clear what motivated Hasan, who was a both a devout Muslim and a psychiatrist and was going to be deployed to Iraq at the end of November. A short time ago, the 13th shooting victim died. Reports say that 31 victims were injured.

From The New York Times: Suspect Was ‘Mortified’ About Deployment to War

Born and reared in Virginia, the son of immigrant parents from a small Palestinian town near Jerusalem, he joined the Army right out of high school, against his parents’ wishes. The Army, in turn, put him through college and then medical school, where he trained to be a psychiatrist.

But Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the 39-year-old man accused of Thursday’s mass shooting at Fort Hood, Tex., began having second thoughts about a military career a few years ago after other soldiers harassed him for being a Muslim, he told relatives in Virginia.

He had also more recently expressed deep concerns about being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. Having counseled scores of returning soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, first at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and more recently at Fort Hood, he knew all too well the terrifying Da

Hasan may have posted sympathetic writings about suicide bombers on the internet. Someone with the same name did so, according to this and other stories. Hasan had not told his family he was scheduled to be deployed to Iraq.

More Stories on the Shooting and Aftermath:

Army post shooting rampage leaves 13 dead, 30 hurt

NYT:
Army Doctor Held in Fort Hood Rampage

NYT: Shooting Victims Flood Local Hospitals

Raw Story: Muslims fear backlash in wake of Fort Hood massacre

Other stories on Hasan:

SF Examiner: Troubling portrait emerges of Army psychiatrist suspected in rampage at Fort Hood, Texas

Roanoke Times: Suspected Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan: Social awkwardness kept with him into adulthood

Analysis of the Fort Hood Story

There is an excellent discussion of the significance of the story by Dahr Jamail at Truthout: Mass Shooting Indicates Breakdown of Military

Jamail interviewed a soldier at Fort Hood who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The soldier says that the mood on the base is “very grim,” and that even before this incident, troop morale has been very low.

“I’d say it’s at an all-time low – mostly because of Afghanistan now,” he explained. “Nobody knows why we are at either place, and I believe the troops need to know why they are there, or we should pull out, and this is a unanimous feeling, even for folks who are pro-war.”

After a similar incident in May, in which

a US soldier gunned down five fellow soldiers at a stress-counseling center at a US base in Baghdad. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a news conference at the Pentagon that the shootings occurred in a place where “individuals were seeking help.”

“It does speak to me, though, about the need for us to redouble our efforts, the concern in terms of dealing with the stress,” Admiral Mullen said. “It also speaks to the issue of multiple deployments.”

Commenting on the incident in nearly parallel terms, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the Pentagon needs to redouble its efforts to relieve stress caused by repeated deployments in war zones; stress that is further exacerbated by limited time at home in between deployments.

The condition described by Mullen and Gates is what veteran health experts often refer to as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How much longer will our government continue sending people back to Iraq and Afghanistan even though they are suffering from serious psychological disorders?

We need to end both of these wars, but will President Obama have the courage to do it when it might mean he’ll be a one-term President? That is what Gary Wills claims in a recent blog post at The New York Review of Books blog. Wills foolishly believes that Obama has the will and the guts to do what Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon didn’t do when we were in Vietnam. Poor Gary. He’ll wake up to reality eventually, no doubt.


OTHER NEWS


Wall Street Firms getting H1N1 Vaccine ‘ahead of hospitals’

Pelosi scrambles for health care votes

Details on Health Care Bills in House, Senate

Pentagon pursuing new investigation into Bush propaganda program

Deal Over Honduran Crisis ‘Dead’

Families in Cleveland Wait for ID’s of Victims

Texas polygamist sect member found guilty of sexual assault


After all that horrible news, here’s an interesting story from developmental psychology and specifically my own field–language development.


Babies ‘cry in mother’s tongue’

Babies Cry With an Accent, Study Finds
Newborns Cry With the Melody of Their Parent’s Language

I hope today will be a better day than yesterday.


THANK GOODNESS IT’S FRIDAY

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PSA on H1N1: I am going to be harsh

This morning’s New York Times has a disturbing report about the spread of the H1N1 virus.  This strain of flu is proving to be especially dangerous for pregnant women:

Dr. Schuchat expressed particular worry about pregnant women. As of late August, 100 had been hospitalized in intensive care, and 28 had died since the beginning of the outbreak in April.

“These are really upsetting numbers,” she said, urging obstetricians and midwives to advise patients to get swine flu shots as soon as they become available.

Doctors are also reporting that some parents are not planning to have their little human vectors vaccinated because these parents stupidly want their children to develop “natural immunity” and because they are afraid of the vaccination:

Confirming the centers’ anxiety that many Americans are reluctant to get swine flu shots, Consumer Reports released a poll late Wednesday showing that half of all parents surveyed said they were worried about the flu, but only 35 percent would definitely have their children vaccinated. About half were undecided, and of those, many said they feared that the vaccine was new and untested.

One worrying aspect, said Dr. John Santa, the director of health ratings at Consumer Reports, was that 69 percent of parents who were undecided or opposed to shots said they “wanted their children to build up their natural immunity.”

“Your body produces exactly the same antibodies, whether it’s from a ‘natural’ infection or from a vaccine,” Dr. Santa said. “If your child is the one that dies, you’ve paid a very high price for ‘natural’ immunity.”

Ok, this s%^& really pisses me off.   I get the most ridiculous, hysterical emails every frickin’ day from former PUMAs who really should know better, claiming that the H1N1 “pandemic” is really a global conspiracy to panic people and keep them in their place.  I will admit that when I first heard of this virus, from Obama no less, I too was skeptical.  It seemed a little too Code Orange for my taste, especially since he was getting his first taste of media pushback at the time.  But a little investigation convinced me that this is no faux terrorism alert.  The only global conspiracy that is going on is being perpetrated by the H1N1 virus itself to infect as many hosts as it can get its grubby genetic material into.

And human beings are the perfect baby virus incubators.  Little influenzas just love our warm, moist respiratory systems.  H1N1 likes our gastrointestinal tract too.  What joy!  Because once it gets into an unprotected body, where the local antibody cleanup crew has never seen them before, they get down to business and multiply like crazy and then have an orgy of genetic material swapping with each other.  Yes, YOU parents who refuse to vaccinate your precious vectors may be allowing the virus to mutate into something even more deadly.

Anyway, I can’t spend a lot of time on this because I have to get to work but here are the salient points that you should know if you can’t tell if the H1N1 virus is really serious:

1.) The H1N1 virus is serious because it is the result of antigenic shift instead of antigenic drift. Imagine the seasonal flu genetic material looks like the typical English qwerty keyboard to your body.  The seasonal flu virus can rearrange the letters and your body will adapt because it is somewhat familiar with the typography.  Now, imagine one day a new flu comes in lugging a keyboard in Cyrillic.  The body has to get used to making antibodies with a new alphabet.  This is what we’re dealing with.  The new genetic material is unlike anything your immune system has seen before.  Before your antibodies can get the hang of typing in Russian, the virus will have a perfect opportunity to overwhelm your system.  That is what happened during the 1918 flu outbreak.

2.) Pandemics mean there is more likelihood of a deadly mutation.  A global pandemic means that the virus is hanging around barnyards in third world countries like Afghanistan, mixing sheep and pig and fowl and human genetic material altogether.  And that genetic material spreads all over the world much more quickly via planes, trains and automobiles than it did in 1918.  Add to the mix the well known fact that the influenza virus is promiscuous.  It swaps its genetic material and mutates at a higher frequency than many other viruses.  It uses your body as a petrie dish.

3.) Vaccine makers aren’t going to be able to make huge profits from this bug. Nope.  They signed contracts with the government years ago during the Bush administration to provide the government with vaccine.  During pandemic flu outbreaks, it is very difficult to provide sufficient flu vaccine for everyone.  So, targetted groups get the vaccine.  For example, school children are likely targetted groups because anyone who has one in their possession knows that they are unclean and careless little beasts that cough and sneeze all over each other.  Health care workers will get it.  People with vulnerable immune systems will get it.  You and I will probably NOT get it.  I already asked when I went for my seasonal flu shot.  The companies that make the vaccines turn it over to state and federal government agencies and they decide whether you make the targetted groups list.

4.) The vaccine is as safe as a seasonal flu vaccine. Seriously.  The vaccine has undergone clinical trials for saftey and efficacy and has been approved by the FDA.  I know that back in the 70’s, there was another Swine Flu vaccine that triggered Guillaume-Barre syndrome in some participants.  And that is still a risk for people who have had Guillaume-Barre in the past.  (I’ll have to check to see if this is true for seasonal flu vaccine as well) But even with that caveat, the risk of an adverse side effect is tiny compared to the risk of getting seriously ill from H1N1 and passing that on to some other person.  People with a history of Guillaume Barre syndrome should consult their doctors to see if the risk is serious enough to be excluded.  The flu vaccine should be available to you at the end of the month.  It takes 21 days to build up full immunity to the virus.

Now, to those of you who are still convinced that this is some kind of global conspiracy to numb people into a sense of terror and passivity, I have only one thing to say: GET A GRIP!  I will be very relieved if after all of the precautionary measures we have taken that this virus turns out to be wildly overblown.  If I look like I have egg on my face next year for being such a Chicken Little, I can live with that.   (There’s still no reason to panic but you should follow the instructions of your local public health officials even if they sound restrictive.)   But it it turns out that some of you out there didn’t vaccinate your kids because you listened to the ignorant nutcases who sent you email and as a result, a lot more people got sicker than they should have, I will be very angry.

And I have your email addresses.

For more information:

The Centers for Disease Control

The World Health Organization

She’s a supergeek, supergeek, she’s supergeeky (Check this for podcasts and youtube videos describing the 1918 Influenza and how the flu virus behaves in general.  Choose your comfort level of science.)

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News you can use: swine flu and face masks

Have you had the experience when hiking of shifting your way-too-heavy pack a bit and it feels better for a while? I feel like doing that just now. Enough with the hopelessness of getting real health care reform during our one opportunity in a generation. Enough with so-called Democrats, whether they’re warming chairs in the Oval Office or on Capitol Hill. Let’s talk about swine flu, and, specifically, face masks. Should you or should you not stock up on face masks?
an N95 face mask
The CDC–. Wait, I’ll start over. Even if you feel the government is not your friend, the CDC really does know about face masks. Honest. The CDC starts the discussion at what are known as N95 masks. These are rated to stop 95% of airborne particles and droplets that are larger than 0.3 microns in size. As you can see in the picture, these are reasonably formidable, thick, stuffy-to-breathe-through face masks.

The good news is that aerosolized droplets exhaled or sneezed out are mostly larger than 0.5 microns. The bad news is that if the particle floats long enough to evaporate the associated water, a “naked” flu virus is on the order of 100 nanometers. That’s 0.1 microns. Now, a bare virus doesn’t survive, but if it retains, say, half its water droplet, it might well be smaller than 0.3 microns. In other words, it’ll pass through the mask as easily as you can pass through a doorway.

Note that I’m not even addressing the issue of the space between the mask and your face. This is all assuming you have a perfect fit with no gaps which are, say a tenth of a millimeter big. A tenth of a millimeter is 100 microns. Picture how big that looks to a 0.5 micron droplet.
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Friday: Here comes the sun, doo-n-doo-doooo!

The sun!  The Sun!  I think it’s out this morning.  I must get my camera and take a picture so I can remember this day.  Hallelujah!  My pasty white skin rejoices for the return of vitamin D production.  I think I shall weep with joy. Let’s have breakfast on the beach at the New Jersey Shore.

Ruh-Roh.  It looks like the foul weather may be contributing to the spread of the H1N1 virus.  Too many school children are cooped up inside and they are being the hardest hit.  Remember that this flu is the result of antigenic shift, which means that most of us have no immunity to it.  The more people infected, even with a mild to moderate flu, the more chances the virus has to mutate into something a lot more virulent.  If you’re sick, please don’t go to work.  It’s still early in the pandemic.  It’s not too late to pester your workplace about their plans in the event that you come down with it.  Your employer would be doing a public service. Vaccine makers are getting busy.  When the vaccine arrives and you have a chance to get it, get it.

Speaking of health, Congress is planning to do a number on those of us who have high salaries in states where high salaries don’t mean diddly.  What exactly are we going to get in return for a tax on our employer based health benefits?  I don’t have a “cadillac plan”, whatever that means.  I have to stay in network to keep a low co-pay and my choices of doctors is limited.  But now I have to cough up more money to fund a plan that reforms nothing?  Like I don’t have college to pay for?  Sigh.  It’s not the tax that bothers me so much as the fact that we won’t be bringing down the costs of health care until every one of us is covered.  And we can’t get to that point if our elected officials are too fricking cowardly to take on the insurance industry.  Screw bipartisanship.

Ayatollah Khamenei tried to guilt protesting Iranians into rejecting the “media belonging to Zionists, evil media”.  Does he mean Twitter?  Twitter sounds so cute.  Ahamadinejad is back in Iran and trying to backtrack his comments of a few days ago when he called the protesters “dust” and compared them to the fans of the losing team at a soccer game.  I think that is the equivalent of the Obot scream, “Get over it!  We won, you stupid, uneducated, working class, sino-peruvian lesbians!”  Or, what was it Markos called us?  Ah, yes, a “shrieking band of paranoid holdouts”.  That’s what Iranian protestors are.  Well, Ahamadinejad is trying to walk it back:

“I only addressed those who made riot, set fires and attacked people. Every single Iranian is valuable. The government is at everyone’s service. We like everyone.”

Ahuh.  Alright then.  Now, we wait to see if the protestors are convinced to put down their deadly two fingered victory salute and go home.  Given then number of protests in cities all around Iran and the growing crowds, I have my doubts, but I’ve been wrong before.

Iranian PUMAs at a protest in Tehran

Iranian PUMAs at a protest somewhere in Europe

Update: Since I started this post, Ayatollah Khameini has declared the election results “fair” and has told everyone to get off his lawn and go home.  Yeah, that ought to go over well.

Juan Cole has more good links and analysis at his blog Informed Comment.  According to Twitter, a new protest is scheduled for tomorrow.  Protestors are asked to bring their Qurans and sit down if they are attacked.  A perfect weekend event for the whole family!

Paul Krugman says Obama’s proposals for reining in bad banks is only half-assed. Ok, Paul didn’t say that.  But that’s what he meant.

Obama is vetting candidates for his old seat while claiming to not endorsing anyone.  Meanwhile, Larry Sabato recaps the off-off-year elections, including the gubenatorial race here in New Jersey.  It turns out that Corzine really is disliked here.  It isn’t just me.  Sabato doesn’t get the tax issue with Corzine though.  It’s not that Corzine raised any taxes.  There were a few minor ones here and there, like the iTunes tax.  No one much cares about those.  It’s that Corzine did *nothing* about the ridiculous property tax system.  Municipalities are still raising them  We’re hostages to our houses.  What the state needed was a bold visionary for major tax reform with new funding mechanisms that would stop dumping the entire burden for funding the state on the backs of homeowners.  Corzine wasn’t it.  Oh, and he nullified my primary vote for Hillary.  WHERE’S MY VOTE, JON??

The Washington Post fired Dan Froomkin yesterday.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  With David Broder and Crazy Krauthammer, WaPo is becoming the print version of Fox News, a conservative propaganda unit.  This is not your Watergate newspaper anymore.

A crowd in New York City chased Robert Pattison, the blood sucking star of Twilight, into the path of a taxi.  What was left out of this report was that the cabdriver got out and started screaming at him.  (just kidding)  Come on, people, repeat after me, “He’s not a real vampire.”

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Swine flu: here we go again

update below

The news is spreading everywhere: Mexico flu ‘a potential pandemic’. In the next few days we’ll probably have a replay of the bad old bird flu days. Tamiflu! Hide in your house! Shoot the postman! Or whatever level of idiocy we achieve this time.

I did one of my POPs (Pissed Off Posts) on that occasion, and I think it’s time for a rerun. electron micrograph of a flu virus in cross section

First, this newest flu strain, H1N1 (CDC info), sounds vicious. It’s communicable between people (in the US, as of this morning, there were 11 cases with no fatalities) but it’s already killed dozens of people in Mexico. This makes it a far more serious threat than bird flu, which was almost never caught from another person. So being worried about this new flu is not a mark of loopiness in the same way as setting your hair on fire over bird flu. But panic is still an intensely foolish reaction, and the points I’ll run through below are still valid.

Fiction 1: We’re all going to die. It makes for a good movie script, but this is not the way flu works. Even SARS, which had an exceptionally high rate, had about 15% fatalities. Obviously, the only good rate is zero. The point I’m trying to make is that exaggerating risk does not help anyone to deal with it.

Fiction 2. Quarantine will stop the disease. Imagine two different scenarios. You feel the first twinges of something that could be flu. In the first scenario, you go to the hospital, get tested, receive free medication, your whole family and all your contacts are tested and also receive any necessary medication. People who see how you were treated are also alert to any sign of flu and go to get treatment as fast as possible. In the second scenario, you go to the hospital, and get tested. Then you’re quarantined for an unspecified length of time, your family is quarantined and unable to go to work, pay the rent, go to school, or do anything they have to do. The money spent on finding and quarantining you and yours is not available to provide an adequate supply of drugs. Obviously, in the second case you’ll rush to the hospital at the first sign of flu. Not. Continue reading