April 25, 2008

Bush Fails at Something Else

The Right in this country long ago hitched their wagon to the Christian Religious movement, from Ronald Regan all the way to Dubya Bush. This ideological merger generated, and continues to generate, a great deal of votes for the GOP due to the absolutist viewpoint and divine motivation faith tends to lend to politics when the two are mixed. Yet the party was sullied in the process, defining the Republican platform in terms of Christian theology to this day. Conservatives, in general, tend to oppose the biological rights of women, equal rights for gays and lesbians, and adequate, age-appropriate sex education for children.

Bush, the Great Intellectual, followed in the pandering proud footsteps of science-denying fanatics of all creeds and exclusively supported abstinence-only programs during his presidency, to the detriment of public health. $170 million a year on abstinence-only programs, and that was for 2005, and not a penny for any programs which include offensive language and ideas, such as "condoms" or "birth control."

Then here comes reality.
Lawmakers cited government statistics showing that one in four U.S. teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease and 30 percent of U.S. girls become pregnant before the age of 20.
Hmm, doesn't sound like those programs are working. Maybe we should look into funding comprehensive sex education, right? Wrong.
Rep. John Duncan, a Tennessee Republican, said that it seems "rather elitist" that people with academic degrees in health think they know better than parents what type of sex education is appropriate. "I don't think it's something we should abandon," he said of abstinence-only funding.
How dare those "educated" people, the ones who dedicate their lives to the study of public health and issues of sexual health, attempt to advise the government about sex ed! Of course, we should listen only to the "value-voter" population segment, the ones who think the Earth is 6,000 years old and that evolution is all a hoax. I think Waxman (D-CA) said it best.
"We are showering funds on abstinence-only programs that don't appear to work, while ignoring proven comprehensive sex education programs that can delay sex, protect teens from disease, and result in fewer teen pregnancies."

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Economic Stagnancy Package

Monday marks the first day that the government will waste up to $300B to give everyone a little cash in their pockets. The stated goal was to give average Americans a little cash they could spend to help "stimulate" the economy. Here's how I think it'll shakedown.

Most middle class citizens will either a) pay off debt or b) stash the money in savings. Now obviously there is a third option, they could go buy something in the stores, unfortunately everything we have in our stores is made in China so guess who's getting that money back.

Really the only real way that the economy will get a boost is if everyone goes to the store and gets $600 worth of American made beer, so I encourage everyone to go out and meet your civil responsibilities and get hammered after you get your check.

I forgot about the 4th option for the checks. Think how much of that cash is going to be spent by people who just need the extra cash for drugs. And according to the government, drugs are a large contributor to terrorist operations, so whoo-hoo government sponsored terror!

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April 24, 2008

Virus Sharing: a Puzzle of Consequences

A scare of pandemic bird flu has been circulating through the news for a few years now, but recently a new flu crisis has sprung up that threatens the readiness of all countries for next year's flu season. Indonesia, the world's hot spot for flu viruses, has refused to provide the World Health Organization (WHO) with this years collected virus samples. The Indonesian government is demanding compensation for providing such crucial information in the fight against seasonal flu, a prospect that the United States has condemned.

US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Michael Leavitt, is currently in Indonesia to discuss the matters of mutual interest with the Indonesian government. The main topic was the Indonesian government's opt out of the international influenza surveillance system which has been in place for almost 60 years and provides vital information on what flu strains to include in the next year's seasonal flu shots. But non-seasonal flu viruses are also part of global surveillance, including the all-famous H5N1 avian influenza virus (bird flu) and Indonesia's decision to opt out means that the biological and genetic character of viruses from the world's hot spot for bird flu disappeared from the view of the world scientific community.

In my view, Siti Supari, the Indonesian Health Minister, has acted irrationally and shown bad judgment but the uncomfortable truth is that there is merit to her concerns.

Last year a virus isolate from the bird flu virus was used by Australia to create a vaccine for emergency workers should a pandemic occur. They then followed up with an announcement that only Australians would have access to the vaccine. This pushed Supari over the limit and as of January 2007 she suspended sharing of viruses isolates. It has always been a dirty secret that the countries who provide the most valuable genetic information for vaccines rarely gain access to the high-cost, low-supply vaccines, but this time was too much.

Supari has long been an outspoken critic of the current surveillance system as the truth is an incredibly small amount of vaccine is made available in Indonesia, and even that small amount is too expensive to be useful to the populace. Hence, a small country sharing the bulk of the important health information we need is also shouldering a large burden from the disease while industrialized nations produce and quickly price out any weaker competition. Supari suggests being able to auction off the virus for money that would be used toward the purchase of the vaccine. This sounds like a logical answer as countries recognize the intellectual property of the vaccine developed from the virus, but do not recognize the value of possessing the genetic information to produce the vaccine.

Selling viruses though is a rather slippery slope because you open the option that one country could purchase a virus to hoard or produce biological weapons (in fact, this was one of Supari's concerns, that the samples she was sending the WHO were being shared with Los Alamos Laboratories, and they were).

When considering Indonesia's situation it is easy to see how dire economic stability and public funding is. The country was devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and now are suffering through a vicious food crisis (as is the rest of the world), and their virus information is a valuable commodity which could hold substantial value.

Its been said that the governments have failed to reach an agreement during a United States visit to Indonesia this month and that outside help will have to be employed. It just so happens that Bill Gates will be representing the Bill Gates foundation in Indonesia in two weeks and I feel that his organization may try to bring the stalemate to an end.

The real danger in this situation is a rise in a highly contagious and deadly strain of flu which escapes surveillance and hits the world unprepared. Honestly the world isn't ready to deal with a pandemic outbreak of the bird flu, which is scary since we have a vaccine for it. The US doesn't have enough vaccines to ensure the safety of the nation and I can guarantee you that many Asian, African, and South American countries won't be ready either, and that could create an incubating population that can't escape the grasp of the illness. And why do I think this is really getting serious now?

The countries surrounding Indonesia have been gearing up on the defensive lately which makes me believe the situation inside of Indonesia is worse than they are letting on. They have confirmed more cases (113) and more deaths (91) than any other country, are the fourth most populous country and have a vast reservoir of infected poultry (and who knows what else). Who knows what the actual numbers are now or if people are able to be quarantined and effectively stop the transmission or incubation of a highly potent killer.

Japan will shortly begin pre-pandemic vaccination -- based on older H5N1 strains from China, Indonesia, and Vietnam -- of up to 10 million citizens involved in maintaining crucial social infrastructure and as mentioned earlier, Australia is gearing up to provide essential citizens with a vaccine. The proverbial "pandemic ballgame" has moved to a defacto higher level.

5 years ago when calls for planning for a pandemic were raised nations looked internally, forgetting that infection and disease can't see boundaries on a map. The poor countries where these problems will arise need a plan, this action by Supari is desperate and her people will die in droves as the government crumbles if this is allowed to continue.

But even given time and money I don't know that the world can trust governments like Indonesia; after the tsunami they got the bulk of a billion dollars and they stole it. What they didn't steal they didn't use for bird flu prevention either, which is why we're in this mess in the first place.

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April 23, 2008

Clintons "BIG" Win

The aftermath of last nights primary in PA is still being discussed obviously. Joe Scar, on Morning Joe this morning, was still acting like a drunken frat boy at a lingerie show. He just obviously can't contain his Pat Buchanan-like joy at the thought of the Dem race continuing for a few more months. Hey, I understand, I would be grinning too if the Rethugs were ripping each other apart. But lets discuss this victory in the proper context.

Hillary won by 10 percentage points, perhaps less, gaining somewhere between 6-10 delegates, depending on who's math you look at. Now, after last night, Obama as 1484 pledged delegates to Clinton's 1330, which still has Obama ahead by 154 pledged delegates, which does not take into account the slow bleed of supers who have been joining Barack, and in some cases, leaving Hillary. An 154 delegate lead is pretty substantial, especially when you consider that there are only 242 delegates left to be won from Indiana, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico. So while Clinton did win PA, and should be congratulated for the victory, I feel like I need to tell some of the talking heads that a 10 delegate pickup is a pretty small battle in this war for the nomination. Clinton did not deliver a crushing blow last night, she narrowly dodged the blow that would have ended her campaign.

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April 22, 2008

LiveBlog of the PA Primary

So its already been called for Hillary, but that really not a surprise. The question has always really been the margin. How much will Clinton win BY? If its a nail biter, down to the last few hours, the argument for her to stay in the race becomes more of a stretch. Lets see where this goes.

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Pre LiveBlog Numbers

Olbermann on MSNBC just mentioned that the early reports of voter turnout in Pennsylvania are pretty encouraging. In 2004, 26% of registered Dems voted in the primary, and it looks like that number may have doubled this year. This number will probably change, but the early count is 52% of registered Dems showed up today.

Stay tuned for the Dean & Tye Show, LiveBlogging the primary.

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CSI Helps Hospitals Solve Infection Mystery

Hospital acquired infections are becoming an abundant problem in hospitals across the US (the whole globe to be fair). It is estimated that the health care industry takes on an added expenditure in excess of $4.5B due to these infections of a nosocomial origin.

But researchers at Deventer Hospital (The Netherlands) came up with the brilliantly simple plan of using Luminol, a chemical used by crime scene investigators, to detect traces of blood in their hemodialysis unit. Luminol is the stuff you see the CSI guys spray on a crime scene that reacts with microscopic amounts of blood to produce bright blue luminescence, which allows investigators to track invisible blood splashes in the environment.

This is a great idea but it kind of is a big mystery how a lot of these patients (and staff) end up with infections. With as much care that goes into creating a sterile environment there is still a relatively high incidence rate of infection picked up in the hospital. Specialists in sterile technique are brought in to review protocols and procedures to determine points of weakness in the chain of operation. But using Luminol is an easy and immensely effective tool in evaluating where blood exposures could occur. So what did the researchers find on the hemodyalisis unit?

The apparently clean unit had blood on many surfaces including cupboard handles, telephones, computer keyboards, side tables and the floor, even though some of these surfaces had been cleaned. The results can be reproduced in any hospital or doctor's office around the world and should probably become part of the infection prevention plans of most urban area hospitals.

Don't forget we're liveblogging the Pennsylvania Primary tonight so be sure to join us around 7pm Central

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Video Games and Crack...

I thought this was pretty interesting. From someone who has been, ahem, interested in video games for years now, I do believe that a game, in much the same fashion as a substance, can be "Addictive." Yet my evidence is purely anecdotal, I will easily admit. I know I've stayed up too late before playing some damn game, maybe more than once. But I do know that stories have emerged of people playing games "to death," some myths, some backed by evidence. I'm surprised it took this long for an affliction such as this to generate any media coverage.

Remember, tune in for the LiveBlog of the Penn Primary tonight. There. Plug accomplished.

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April 21, 2008

StifledMind's First LiveBlog

Dean and Tye will be hosting a liveblog of the Pennsylvania Primary tomorrow, from about 7-8 until we decide its over, or until we are too drunk to type. Should be fun and uninformative. So come cheer our man Barack on to victory!

Hopefully we'll find some space for a dash of that "objectivity" I've heard of as well.

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