Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Indonesia may start using provisional H5N1 vaccine


The CPM Group (Contingency Planning Management Group) reports “Indonesia to Begin H5N1 Vaccination despite WHO Recommendations. The story is here (requires registration to see text).

This refers to avian influenza (so called “bird flu”), and according to the story the number of fatalities in Indonesia has risen recently from 82 to 103. So far the worldwide death toll is 192, out of 319 documented infections.

The World Health Organization wants to keep the vaccine stockpiled should a pandemic occur. The vaccine is relatively new and it is not clear how effective it could be, or if could be manufactured in response to a demand.

The Centers for Disease Control link on the current status of avian influenza is here.

As a general matter, much more progress needs to be made in reducing potential vaccine manufacturer liability and in improving vaccine technology to give the United States sufficient protection from the possibility, somewhat remote, of a full scale "Spanish flu" type epidemic, as demonstrated in the 2006 ABC film "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Blogger throws curve at global warming debate; but look at the real evidence


“Quarter-Degree Fix Fuels Climate Fight” Andrew C. Rivkin, in The New York Times online, Sunday Aug. 26, 2007, here (I could not find it in the print version), discusses a blog by retired Canadian scientist Steve McIntyre “Climate Audit” ; also look at this. http://dev.edgcm.columbia.edu/wiki/GISTEMP . The blogger apparently uncovered a slight error by NASA in reporting global average temperature since 2000 (some missing data), very slightly nudging it downward to the point that 1934 might be the warmest year ever. Yet Mr. McIntyre does not doubt that efforts need to be made to limit greenhouse gases. Conservative pundits have jumped on this blogosphere event to claim that global warming is a “manmade” reporting artifact (not a real man-made phenomenon) but that would be hard to justify when we look at melting of glaciers and polar icecaps. It is not immediately clear how this could affect the graphs in Al Gore’s “college lecture” in his film and book “An Inconvenient Truth.”

The New York Times today also has another important story, “As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes”, by Joseph Kahn and Jim Yardley, which is part of a series “Choking on Growth.” The link is this: There are plenty of multi-media materials in report.

This series should be studied in regard to the dependence of American consumers on products made a low wages in China, with apparently inadequate safety controls (as with the recent toy scandal) and the likely political effect that Chinese growth will make on energy demands and global warming, assuming Al Gore and Leonardo Di Caprio are right (I think they are).

Greece, the whole country, has, according to multiple media reports, been under a state of emergency because of raging brush fires, exacerbated by the hotter dry summer, but some of the fires appear to have been set.

Update: Sept. 13, 2007

Dr. Timothy Ball (National Resources Stewardship Project) and Tom Harris have an ambiguous Commentary on p 21 of the DC Examiner, "New doubts on global warming in revised NASA temperature data," with questioning of the reliance on computer models forecasting global warming. The article discusses NASA GISS director James Hansen's response to McIntyre's post.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Russia has Day of Conception Celebration in attempt to increase birthrate


Liza Kuzetsova has an AP story on page 1 of The Washington Times, Thursday, Aug. 16, “Conception Day rallies patriots to action: Motherland needs mothers” on p A1, print. Sept. 12 will be the “Day of Conception” for the third straight year.

Many media stories, particularly from conservative sources, have reported recently that Russia is having serious problems remaining a reasonable population. Other European countries, such as France, have recently added supports for new mothers, in anticipation of a demographic crisis where there are two few workers (without Muslim immigrants) to support an aging population.

Philip Longman had predicted this crisis in his book “The Empty Cradle,” reviewed here.

The United Nations had produced a story in 2002, here: “Experts Concur: Fertility in Developing Countries May Fall Below Two-Child Family Norm: UN To Incorporate Below Replacement Fertility in 2002 Revision of Official UN Population Estimates, Projections.

Generally, it takes slightly over 2 children per family to maintain population, and many countries have fallen before that. China has tried to control population growth with a punitive one-child per family for years. Developed countries are having trouble maintaining populations because the responsibility for raising children has been perceived as largely owned by the choices of the parents, although that is somewhat debatable.

On Wed. Aug 29, NBC "Nightly News" had a story about nationalism among youth in Russia, with a resurgence of summer camps run by Putin's supporters (chess world champion Gary Kasparov is the liberal opposition), building up to an authoritarian society and the possibility of a new Cold War.

ABC "World News Tonight" on Sept. 12, 2007 ran a story about a Russian Province that celebrated Conception Day by ordering civil servants to stay home from work and try to have babies, and offering prizes or money for babies.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

UK foot-and-mouth disease: deja vu from early 2001


CNN has a story about a possible resurgence of foot-and-mouth disease (or hoof-and-mouth) in the UK today, at this link.

This may sound like small potatoes now compared to other problems, not so much mad cow as the concern over avian influenza, which in recent weeks hasn't been reported as much as it probably should be.

I went to Europe in late April 2001 for 12 days. I recall stories of people putting their shoes into disinfectants at airports (even fears of disruption of air travel), and the predictions of disaster for livestock if the virus got into the United States. And, as I recall, it all started with a careless mistake at a restaurant in Scotland.

Also, during the spring of 2001 there was some kind of spate between China and Taiwan that could have sparked a Cold War nuclear standoff.

How quickly things would change, on 9/11, and with all of the other possible scenarios since that seem so much worse (SARS, and then avian influenza). Just last week I had a bizarre bronchitis for about a week, and I find it strange to catch something like that in July. I wonder if a viral culture would find anything unusual. Some of the Asian URI's don't seem to be seasonally dependent, as they starts in warm climate conditions anyway.