Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Victory: National Sovereignty Day

Army Capt. Rich Turvey, commander of 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment, signs over Joint Security Station Salaam to Iraqi army 1st Lt. Jassim Abbas at a transfer ceremony near Numaniyah, Iraq, June 20, 2009. In accordance with the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, Iraqi security forces took full ownership of security in their cities, towns and villages on June 30, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Joe Thompson

DoD:

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq, June 30, 2009 – In accordance with Article 5 of the security agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments, Iraqi security forces now have full ownership of security in their cities, towns and villages.


“As of today, U.S. combat forces will turn over the security of cities to Iraqi security forces, and begin a period where our primary security role is one of training, mentoring and advising the ISF,” said Army Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, Multinational Division South commander. “Today’s ISF is capable, ready and dedicated to keeping the people of Iraq safe.”

Nash praised the dedication of the Iraqi security forces as well as the proficiency of U.S. and coalition forces, and attributed the successful implementation of the security agreement to their actions.

“Iraq’s successes and significantly improved security are a testament of the ISF’s progress and its dedication to Iraq’s sovereignty,” Nash said. “The Iraqis have made strides in their ability to protect their citizens, and our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are doing a great job in helping them build both their security forces and their civil capacity.”

Though U.S. and coalition forces no longer will inhabit Iraqi cities, they will continue to support the Iraqi security forces within the parameters of the security agreement, Nash said.

“Leaving the cities does not mean that we are backing off,” he said. “Instead, it indicates our confidence in the Iraqis to safeguard their own citizens. Likewise, the security agreement is a tangible, positive sign of a mature relationship between two sovereign nations.”

In accordance with agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from all Iraqi territory by Dec. 31, 2011. Today will be remembered as a significant step toward the realization of that objective, Nash noted.

“So, on this important day of transition in Iraq, our two nations move forward together as friends, with the shared goal of the safety and security of the Iraqi people,” he said. “I am very encouraged about the future success of Iraq.”



Iraqi security forces celebrate during the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Baghdad June 30, 2009.
REUTERS/Ahmed Malik


Also, read my post on 6 wounded warriors who returned to Iraq last week to achieve closure.

And another post on the topic matter.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Funnies





-Flopping Aces experienced a hack-job over the weekend, so Sunday funnies were published today.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

alk

When I was growing up, a child through the 70's, I had some vague recollection of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. I believe when I was very young- maybe age 3, my parents took me to see it at a drive-in. When we lived in South Carolina, I remember being at home in the afternoon, and it was on tv. I must have been in pre-school or Kindergarten.

During this time, I vividly recalled the 2001 segments on Electric Company and Sesame Street. The Thus Spake Zarathustra music is just memorable and awe-filling. The cartoons might not be scary to an adult; but I remember these little skits evoked a sense of awe, wonder, fear, and the mysterious. I really can't tell you if they taught me what they were trying to teach. I just remember: 1. The pounding music 2. the crumbling monolith 3. Astronauts trembling in awe and terror.


video

By high school, 2001 was the ultimate sci-fi movie for me. It's perfect, in every way, including and especially the sparse dialogue and austere boredom of space travel....and of course the religious wonderment of the meaning of life, the secret to life, where we came from, where we're going, is there life out there, is there God? The image of the monolith is the perfect alien- a black impenetrable slab, a total enigma; and the Star Child at the end evokes that sense of wonder of new life in the womb...

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The Way We Get By



Limited engagement showings in some cities now....and you can request a showing in your town here.


Paul Couturier writes on Flopping Aces:

Whoever put the trailer for this AWESOME film on the front page…THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I had the honor of seeing this film at the Independent Film Festival in Cambridge, MA, on Sunday, 4/26. And I had the honor of meeting the 3 subjects of the film, AND the Producer and Director, Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet!

Here’s my review of the film!

Many of you know I served in Iraq in 2003-2004. And although I didn’t fly through Bangor on my way home from Iraq (I flew into Baltimore when I came home for my 2 weeks R&R Leave), I DID have the experience of being welcomed home by the members of a local VFW Post (at 0730 on a Sunday morning!), so I know EXACTLY what the Soldiers in the film were feeling and experiencing as they were coming off the plane and into the terminal! As a result, EVERY scene in the film that showed Soldiers getting off the plane and being welcomed home by the Troop Greeters just choked me up! A Marine Vet sitting diagonally behind me commented afterward that he was getting ready to hand me a tissue during those scenes!

A further review of the film can be heard on my BlogTalkRadio show of April 26th, http://www.blogtalkradio.com/icradio Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet were to be my guests, but something came up at the last minute and weren’t able to be on the show, but they have been RESCHEDULED to appear on my show THIS SUNDAY, May 3rd, 8:00 PM EST, http://www.blogtalkradio.com/icradio Please listen and call in if you have any questions for Gita and Aron!

If you haven’t checked out their web site yet, PLEASE DO! http://www.thewaywegetbymovie.com/

Gita and Aron are hoping to show the film at military bases this year, and they’re shooting for the DVD to be out in time for Veterans Day!

Once again, Whoever put the trailer for this AWESOME film on the front page…THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Also reviewed by A Soldier's Perspective's CJ.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Drafting a new EO that supports Dubbya's Claims?

U.S. President Barack Obama while signing executive orders about the closing of the military prison at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo, Cuba, in the Oval Office on second official day at White House in Washington, January 22, 2009.
REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)




Well, this can't make the Code Pink crowd and ACLU militants very happy:



The Obama administration, fearing a battle with Congress that could stall plans to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, is drafting an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely, according to three senior government officials with knowledge of White House deliberations.

Such an order would embrace claims by former president George W. Bush that certain people can be detained without trial for long periods under the laws of war. Obama advisers are concerned that bypassing Congress could place the president on weaker footing before the courts and anger key supporters, the officials said.

After months of internal debate over how to close the facility in Cuba, White House officials are increasingly worried that reaching quick agreement with Congress on a new detention system may be impossible. Several officials said there is concern in the White House that the administration may not be able to close the facility by the president's January deadline.


President Obama should swallow his pride and just abandon his campaign promise, a position based upon partisan politics more than upon informed knowledge. It's ok to admit a mistake; it's ok to say "I was wrong before..." then go on to explain to the American public and his political constituents how his position has evolved and why Gitmo should remain open; or at the very least, why the January deadline just isn't realistic. Not if it means compromising the safety of the United States.
Read more »

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Absent"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ed McMahon, March 6, 1923- June 22, 2009


No matter what he did after "The Tonight Show," however, Mr. McMahon will likely always be remembered as America's favorite second banana, perhaps the most famous sidekick in television history.

“For 40 years Johnny and I were as close as two nonmarried people can be,” he wrote in "Here's Johnny! My Memories of Johnny Carson, the Tonight Show, and 46 Years of Friendship," a best seller in 2005. “And if he heard me say that, he might say, ‘Ed, I always felt you were my insignificant other.’”
Photo: NBc

6 years, 2 wars, and 85 combat missions serving in the Marine Corp. That was part of Ed McMahon's 86 year history, as well.

It's the passing of a generation, folks.

Full post at Flopping Aces

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rafsanjani Seeking to End Role of “Supreme Leader”?

AP:

TEHRAN, Iran – A backstage struggle among Iran's ruling clerics burst into the open Sunday when the government said it had arrested the daughter and other relatives of an ayatollah who is one of the country's most powerful men.


Threats Watch:
Folks, this is huge. Huge. A report from Saudi Arabia's al-Arabiya, Iranian clerics seek supreme leader alternative, indicates that Rafsanjani is seeking to eliminate the Supreme Leader. Not just the man, but the position and role presiding over Iranian politics and the Iranian society.
Religious leaders are considering an alternative to the supreme leader structure after at least 13 people were killed in the latest unrest to shake Tehran and family members of Ayatollah Rafsanjani were arrested amid calls by former President Mohammad Khatami for the release of all protesters. Iran's religious clerks in Qom and members of the Assembly of Experts, headed by former President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, are mulling the formation of an alternative collective leadership to replace that of the supreme leader, sources in Qom told Al Arabiya on condition of anonymity.
Skipping down a bit, here's what they seem to have in mind, obviously a bit sketchy at this point.
Members of the assembly are reportedly considering forming a collective ruling body and scrapping the model of Ayatollah Khomeini as a way out of the civil crisis that has engulfed Tehran in a series of protests, The discussions have taken place in a series of secret meetings convened in the holy city of Qom and included Jawad al-Shahristani, the supreme representative of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is the foremost Shiite leader in Iraq. An option being considered is the resignation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's president following condemnation by the United States and other European nations for violence and human rights violations against unarmed protestors.
This is a huge development. One of the biggest questions I and others have had since the Iranian protests/revolt/revolution began was whether Mousavi would be any different in tangible effect (Hizballah & Hamas support, etc.) than Ahmadinejad and whether Rafsanjani was seeking to sack 'Supreme' Leader Khamenei simply to acquire the powerful position for himself. That question perhaps may have been answered today. My ears first perked up when word made it through the grapevines over the weekend that Rafsanjani had been meeting with other Ayatollahs and clerics in Qom, and had among them a representative of Iraq's Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Why? Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in 2007 made two very critical statements: that "I am a servant of all Iraqis, there is no difference between a Sunni, a Shiite or a Kurd or a Christian," and that Islam can exist within a democracy without theological conflict. You will never hear such words slip past the lips of Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei. Ever. Sistani's presence at the Rafsanjani talks in Qom, Iran, through a representative brings therefore added significance. And the al-Arabiya report above seems to suggest that Rafsanjani is not seeking Sistani's support for superficial reasons.
Read the rest.

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Ice Cream, While Iran Screams


"The reality is that these times bring not only dangers but also opportunities."
- VP Dick Cheney, August 27, 2002, VFW speech







Father's Day arrived early for the Obamas:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — The first family was in the mood for something sweet _ something like vanilla custard, fudge and sprinkles.

On a muggy Saturday just before Father's Day, President Barack Obama took Sasha, 8, and Malia, 10, to The Dairy Godmother, a frozen custard shop just outside Washington.

The president snacked on vanilla custard with hot fudge and toasted almonds in a cup, said the shop's owner, Liz Davis.


Remember the criticism leveled at President Bush while New Orleans "burned"? Petty partisan politics is a bitch, ain't it?

I actually don't begrudge President Obama his vanilla custard with hot fudge.

But certainly the time for voting "present" and golden mean fence-straddling is over. Is he hearing “The Voice of Iran“? The world is looking to leadership. Take a firm stand, Mr. President; and Happy Father's Day!



Cross-posted at Flopping Aces

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Sunday Funnies


More Sunday Funnies at Flopping Aces

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Do you hear the people?

A protester shows a victory sign and white rose as people protest in front of the Iranian embassy in Brussels, Saturday, June 20, 2009. People gather to express their solidarity with opposition supporters in Iran who risk confrontation with police if they take to the streets in their country.
AP Photo


Her name was Neda. It means the 'voice' or the 'call' in Farsi.

~~~


Neda is now the Voice of Iran.


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Friday, June 19, 2009

A Sycophant Press and a Thin-Skin President


President Barack Obama closes his pen after he signs a Presidential Memorandum regarding federal benefits and non-discrimination while in the Oval Office of the White House, June 17, 2009. Standing L-R are: Vice President Joseph Biden, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (Mass), U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn), U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (Wisc), and gay rights activist Frank Kameny.
REUTERS/Larry Downing


I just -- I want to end by saying a few words about the men and women in this room whose job it is to inform the public and pursue the truth. You know, we meet tonight at a moment of extraordinary challenge for this nation and for the world, but it's also a time of real hardship for the field of journalism. And like so many other businesses in this global age, you've seen sweeping changes and technology and communications that lead to a sense of uncertainty and anxiety about what the future will hold.
Across the country, there are extraordinary, hardworking journalists who have lost their jobs in recent days, recent weeks, recent months. And I know that each newspaper and media outlet is wrestling with how to respond to these changes, and some are struggling simply to stay open. And it won't be easy. Not every ending will be a happy one.

But it's also true that your ultimate success as an industry is essential to the success of our democracy. It's what makes this thing work. You know, Thomas Jefferson once said that if he had the choice between a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, he would not hesitate to choose the latter.

Clearly, Thomas Jefferson never had cable news to contend with -- (laughter) -- but his central point remains: A government without newspapers, a government without a tough and vibrant media of all sorts, is not an option for the United States of America. (Applause.)

So I may not -- I may not agree with everything you write or report. I may even complain, or more likely Gibbs will complain, from time to time about how you do your jobs, but I do so with the knowledge that when you are at your best, then you help me be at my best. You help all of us who serve at the pleasure of the American people do our jobs better by holding us accountable, by demanding honesty, by preventing us from taking shortcuts and falling into easy political games that people are so desperately weary of.

And that kind of reporting is worth preserving -- not just for your sake, but for the public's. We count on you to help us make sense of a complex world and tell the stories of our lives the way they happen, and we look for you for truth, even if it's always an approximation,
-REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION DINNER, May 9, 2009, Washington Hilton, Washington D.C.

So then, why is President Obama so afraid of FOX News? Remember this by the Pew Research Center before the '08 Election:
On the Fox News Channel, the coverage was both more negative toward Obama and more positive toward both McCain and Palin than we found in the press generally. That said, coverage of McCain was still more negative than positive on Fox News by a factor of roughly 2 to 1.

When it came to McCain, 40% of stories studied on Fox about the Republican nominee were clearly negative (compared with 57% in the press generally). Meanwhile, 22% of stories were positive, compared with 14% in the press generally.

For Obama, Fox was both less positive and more negative than the press generally or than any cable rival.

In all, 25% of Obama stories studied were positive on Fox, compared with 36% in the press overall. And 40% of stories were negative, compared with 29% in the press generally. Fox looked much more like other outlets in the percentage of stories that were mixed or neutral, 35% on Fox and the press overall both.


And will ABC be doing its job if it acts as advocates for President Obama's healthcare plan? Is this transparency we can believe in?:

White House Health Reform Communications Director is Former ABC News Correspondent

A couple follow ups on ABC’s health care reform special at the White House next week.

• It turns out the Director of Communications for the White House Office of Health Reform, since last month, is former ABC News correspondent Linda Douglass, who left journalism last year to join the Obama campaign. This is leading some to wonder whether ABC News had the upper hand in landing the president for the primetime special as well as an interview on GMA and allowing two ABC News broadcasts to originate from the White House next week. An ABC News spokesperson, however, says there’s no connection between Douglass and ABC’s access. The network approached the administration days after the inauguration and pitched the idea of a White House town hall meeting, says the spokesperson.



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Sunday, June 14, 2009

CBS Headline: Meet Iran's George W. Bush


By way of Gateway Pundit:

CBS compares Iran's Holocaust denier, womens right's abuser, America-hating radical to George W. Bush.

CBS republishes vile New Republic article--
Meet Iran's George W. Bush


Read more »

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Flag Day

Kevin Keyfauver, 2, runs through an installation of 1,000 American flags planted on the National Mall by the American Legion.

Bill O'Leary - The Washington Post

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Sunday Funnies


More at Flopping Aces

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Regime Change Begins Here

A woman supporter of Iran's moderate presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi shows stones used for throwing during clashes with police in Tehran June 13, 2009. Thousands of people clashed with police on Saturday after the disputed election victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sparked the biggest protests in Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Reuters



A supporter of Iran's moderate presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi holds a piece of paper that reads "We write Mousavi, they read Ahmadinejad" during post-election unrest in Tehran June 13, 2009. Thousands of people clashed with police on Saturday after the disputed election victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sparked the biggest protests in Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Reuters


Photos Hat tip: Rotten Gods

Adventures of Mr. Behi
ddmmyyyy
Tehran Post
View from Iran

If you know of any other interesting Iranian blogs, link 'em!


From View from Iran, "Why We Were (Not) Naive":
We woke up to two messages: one from a friend who is 100% against participating in Iran's elections, and one from someone who is an Ahmadinejad supporter. You can imagine the glee they felt telling us "I told you so."

They did not tell us anything.

The fact is, there are vote counters out there who know very well exactly how we and millions of other Iranians voted. They know, and it terrifies them. If we had not participated, we would not have been able to send that message at all.

If you voted please do not kick yourself for being "naive." (BTW, Now readers know why I posted "Thanks for Voting" before the elections.)



From the "Thanks for Voting" post:

My Iranian Facebook friends have all turned green. I don’t know if they are recycling or conserving energy, what I do know is that they have put a green overlay on their profile images in response to Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s green campaign for president of Iran.

Do you think we should vote? An old friend texted me this morning.

Are you kidding me? I texted back. In the election four years ago, this same old friend tried to encourage friends, family, and strangers to vote for the Reformist candidate Moein despite calls for a boycott. “Do you think America or some other superpower is going to save us? No. We have to vote. It’s the only thing we can do.” In the end, he influenced a couple of people, but could not even get his own family to the polls.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Change We Should Believe In?


High hopes: Since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005, his country's economy has fallen into shambles and international ire against Iran has risen to the boiling point. Although the president has his supporters, many Iranians have become frustrated and hope for change, including the young woman above. She and other supporters of rival presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi gather during a campaign rally at Haydarniya Stadium on June 9 in Tehran. Depending on the outcome of June 12's vote, Ahmadinejad's days as president could be numbered.
Photo: MAJID/Getty Images/font>


Michael Singh writing at Shadow Government:



If one of Ahmadinejad’s challengers is victorious, he should be given a blank slate, but the Iranian regime should not. The United States and its allies can ill afford any delay or slackening of pressure with the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran looming ever closer.

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This Instills Confidence in Our Government...

I missed this last month: Alan Grayson grilling the Federal Reserve Inspector General:


Hat tip: Brutally Honest and the Anchoress

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

"Save and Create"

WSJ:

something's wrong when the president invokes a formula that makes it impossible for him to be wrong and it goes largely unchallenged.


Simply amazing! Read the whole thing.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

The President's Charm Offensive

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sunday Funnies

More Sunday Funnies at Flopping Aces

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

"This embattled shore, portal of freedom, is forever hallowed by the ideals, the valor and the sacrifices of our fellow countrymen."

Credit: Photos by Kitty Bean Yancey; produced by Andrew Otey; design by Gwen Saunders, USA TODAY



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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Obama's Second Charm Offensive in the Middle East

Title comes from a Freedom Eden post.

Read my post on President Obama's Cairo "New Beginnings" speech at FA.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

When pigs grew wings and flu into media-driven hysteria

This is old news that I never got around to blogging about. But Michael Fumento speaks for me:

The Price Of A Porcine Panic

By Michael Fumento

Forbes Online, May 1, 2009
Copyright 2009 Forbes

There's panic in the streets over a flu outbreak. "Projections are that this virus will kill 1 million Americans," the nation's top health official has warned.

The virus is swine flu. But the date is 1976. And the projection, it turns out, is off by 999,999 deaths. Direct ones, that is. The hastily developed vaccine killed or crippled hundreds. Sadly, the current hysteria outbreak threatens devastation on a worldwide scale.

A calm perspective of the current outbreak of the virus now known as influenza A (H1N1) would compare it to seasonal flu. According to the CDC, the seasonal flu infects between 15 to 60 million Americans each year (5% to 20%), hospitalizes about 200,000 and kills about 36,000. That comes out to over 800 hospitalizations and over 250 deaths each day during flu season.

Worldwide deaths are 250,000 to 500,000, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), or about 700 to 1,400 per day spread out over the year.

No matter that few bothered to make this comparison during the 2003 SARS hysteria, which caused only 8,096 cases and 774 deaths worldwide with no U.S. deaths.

There's no hint that influenza A (H1N1) is either easier to transmit than seasonal flu or more lethal. The symptoms are the same, and swine flu cases so far have generally been quite mild.

As of this writing, there are 160 confirmed cases in 10 countries, plus 97 more in Mexico. Yet all eight deaths have been of Mexicans. (Yes, you've read of thousands of Mexican cases and 159 deaths, but the WHO's latest update says otherwise, and they've expressly disavowed the death figure.)

Still, why the Mexican fatalities? All infectious diseases strike much harder in underdeveloped countries, primarily because the people are less healthy to begin with. Only 322 of those 8,096 SARS cases were in developed nations.

The moniker "swine flu" clearly spooks many. But pigs, with the help of birds, routinely transmit seasonal flu to humans. "Swine flu" simply means it has genetic material from pig influenza mixed in. If that inherently made it more dangerous than a pure human flu, the 1976 strain wouldn't have caused merely 500 infections with a 0.2% death rate.

No, influenza A (H1N1) doesn't threaten to become "another Spanish Flu of 1918-19," as pig flu panic purveyors claim. Nothing does. Check your calendar; that was 90 years ago. We're not hobbled by a world war, and since then, we've developed things called "antibiotics," as well as antivirals, pneumonia vaccines and other medical tools. In all flu outbreaks, including the Spanish one, secondary bacterial infections cause the vast majority of deaths.

Not incidentally, one of the "worrisome" similarities between Spanish flu and swine flu is that both strains are of the H1N1 subtype. But — ahem! — So is one of the major subtypes of the latest seasonal flu.

Another panic prompter is that so far influenza A (H1N1) appears to disproportionately affect younger people. Assuming this holds up, one explanation would be that older persons have received some immunity from previous exposure to a similar strain. Cause for alarm? In any case, the stronger immune systems of younger people could explain the apparent mildness of symptoms outside of Mexico.

It's indeed true we have no vaccine for this flu. But two years ago, it turned out that the seasonal flu shot was ineffective against the primary strain and one of the two secondary strains. There was no appreciable increase in cases or deaths. That said, it would be insurance to make swine flu one of the three strains in this fall's seasonal flu vaccine.

It's also truly reassuring to see self-important health officials grasping for straws to make the outbreak appear more serious. Keiji Fukuda, a top WHO official, invoked the dreaded "M" word (mutation). "It's quite possible for this virus to evolve," he said, whereupon it "can become more dangerous to people." Actually, evolution favors mutations that make a virus less harmful; better to adapt to a host than to kill it.

The last time a flu mutation perceptibly increased the U.S. death rate was the Hong Kong flu of 1968-69 (34,000 in a smaller population) and before that the Asian flu 1957-58 (70,000). They were bad, but hardly apocalyptic. Both occurred long before the advent of antivirals or pneumonia vaccines.

But influenza A (H1N1) hysteria is even now delivering a gut punch to a global economy, posing a serious risk of a recession within the recession.

It was SARS hysteria, and not the relatively tiny number of cases, that cost the economies of East and Southeast Asia 0.6 percentage points of 2003 GDP, according to the Asian Development Bank. And a World Bank report last year estimated that just the costs of avoiding infection during a flu pandemic — not the illness itself — would shave off 1.9% off world GDP. Some poorer parts of the world — including that containing Mexico — would lose 2.9% of GDP.

Ironically, because as we've seen in Mexico, wealth translates into health, poorer nations could well lose far more lives to the hysteria than the virus. Such are the wages of our swine flu fright fest.






A Pandemic Over A Piglet

By Michael Fumento

Forbes Online, May 15, 2009
Copyright 2009 Forbes


Although the "worried well" are still swamping emergency rooms, our pig flu is appearing to be a piglet. But now comes a study in Science magazine claiming the outbreak portends a pandemic. The media have gone hog wild over it. "Swine Flu Is as Severe as 1957 Pandemic," blared a typical headline, about the outbreak that killed 1 to 3 million people worldwide and 70,000 Americans.

But actually reading the study and its accompanying citations — rather than just the summary and press release, as most reporters do — shows that despite its spin, it actually supports alternate data showing both that swine flu is less contagious and far less severe than ordinary seasonal flu.

The paper has three citations in support of its "comparable" claim, again with one by the lead author. Of the remainder, one states that estimates "for pandemic influenza vary widely, ranging from 1.68 to 20." It is most definitely the low end.

Another powerful indicator of swine flu's lesser contagiousness is that the Mexican epidemic has peaked. Officials there on May 12 said they hadn't confirmed a new case in four days.

Swine flu is also proving far milder than the seasonal variety, which daily kills 700 to 1,400 people worldwide.

The widely used estimate for the U.S. seasonal flu death rate is one per one thousand infections (0.1%). For swine flu, there are currently three Americans dead — all of whom had previously been chronically ill — out of 4,714 confirmed and probable cases. (The fourth "U.S. case" was a Mexican toddler who sickened there but died here under treatment.)

But with any flu, each confirmed case represents many milder or even asymptomatic hidden infections. Indeed, the Science paper said Mexico apparently has had hundreds for each. Thus to peek below the tip of the swine flu iceberg would be to find a death rate dramatically lower than that for seasonal flu.

Could something happen to change what we're seeing?

Evolution could make swine flu "more dangerous to people," WHO official Keiji Fukuda has warned. Not likely.

Evolution favors mutations that make a virus less harmful; better to adapt to a host than to kill it. Further, swine flu is no more likely to undergo such an evolution than the numerous seasonal flu strains that go around each year.

What of warnings of a winter "second wave?" That's "when influenza viruses usually thrive," the WHO's Fukuda says. But "thrive" refers only to contagiousness; cold has no impact on severity. We certainly could see many more infections down the road, but they'll be just as mild as current ones.

It's understandable that the WHO would be feeling a bit embarrassed over its squawking since 2003 over avian flu. That virus, which the group's "flu czar" David Nabarro once said threatened to kill as many as 150 million people, has steadfastly refused to go pandemic. According to a 2007 amino acid sequencing study, it's light years away in evolutionary terms from the ability to do so.

So perhaps the organization figures that with enough bottles of Wite-Out it can just reuse all those pandemic documents by replacing "avian" with "swine."

Or perhaps sensing the public has had enough, the media will finally say "show me the beef!" Er, uh, make that "bacon."

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New survey finds most Americans want Club Gitmo open for business

For whatever these stupid polls are worth...

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