Bird Flu Redux

Saturday, 16 May 2009

I can’t resist writing about this: Human noses too cold for bird flu.

All of that panic in 2005, 2006, and 2007, and it turns out that we can’t even incubate the virus properly because human noses are generally not the same temperature as bird guts.  Or something like that.

Long-time readers (if there are still any around) may remember that this Max never bought into the panic.

My first bird flu post in November 2005 decried the $7.1 billion that then “President” Bush had pledged to fight bird flu.  It also pointed out that War Secretary Rumsfeld had declined to sell his shares in Gilead Sciences, owners of the patent for the antiviral drug Tamiflu.  Instead Rumsfeld announced that he would not participate in government when it was dealing with bird flu related issues.  What a guy.

My post in December 2005 shared information from MedPage Today of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, which basically told people not to panic and not to take Tamiflu unless they actually had a normal human flu.  That page is still there, with the title Avian Flu Deaths Linked to Tamiflu Resistance.

I then left bird flu alone until February 2007 when the H5N1 virus hit a turkey farm in England.  The authorities there announced that they were going to kill 159,000 turkeys to prevent the spread of the virus.  And I wrote that by February 2007, only 165 people worldwide had died of avian influenza and the virus had not mutated to pass from human to human.

And now we know why.

Of course we also now have a new flu to instil panic, which may or may not turn out to be worthy of that panic.  Here are my 2 favourite things about that virus:

“They said we would have a black president when pigs fly.  One hundred days in… swine flu.”

and today this:

Swine flu fears could delay Hajj.  Oh, the delicious irony.


Blow it out your arse, Arianna

Monday, 23 April 2007

don't tread on me


Why do so many people think that guns are bad? People seem to jump to conclusions without doing any research, without looking at the statistics, and without talking to people who might know better.

Yes, I guess I am obsessed. Today’s post is inspired by several things, the last of which was just now looking at the Huffington Post (which annoys me more and more every time I look at it) and reading Arianna Huffington’s bash of Tom DeLay. Tom DeLay, you see, suggested that if Virginia Tech had not been a gun free zone, someone might have stopped Cho Seung-Hui before he was able to murder so many people.

Sarcastic Arianna refers to “Mutually Assured Destruction Goes to College. Animal House meets Death Wish. Shootout at the O.K. Dorm. Ha ha ha – but actually, not at all funny. It makes me wonder if Arianna has ever looked at any of the research on guns and gun control, or if she just likes vilifying people who take the 2nd Amendment seriously.

I found some very interesting research last week – an article on the relationship between gun control and genocide, a University of Chicago study on gun control, and a survey of the police in San Diego.

Gun control and genocide – an article by Jay Simkin

I had never known, for example, that Turkey had a gun control law in effect when over 1 million Armenians were massacred between 1915 and 1917. The Soviet Union enacted a gun control law in 1929, and over the next 20 years, Stalin’s purges killed 20 million people. Other genocides noted in the article as all having occurred whilst gun control laws were in effect: Jews, gypsies and other victims of Nazi Germany, anti-communists in China, Mayans in Guatemala, Christians in Uganda, and the educated class in Cambodia.

I really don’t know if there is a direct relationship, but it certainly bears looking into or at least thinking about. Anyway, I put that article first because it is the weakest of my three arguments.

The abstract from the University of Chicago Gun Control Study

“Using cross-sectional time-series data for U.S. counties from 1977 to 1992, we find that allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes and it appears to produce no increase in accidental deaths. If those states which did not have right-to-carry concealed gun provisions had adopted them in 1992, approximately 1,570 murders; 4,177 rapes; and over 60,000 aggravate assaults would have been avoided yearly. On the other hand, consistent with the notion of criminals responding to incentives, we find criminals substituting into property crimes involving stealth and where the probabilities of contact between the criminal and the victim are minimal. The largest population counties where the deterrence effect on violent crimes is greatest are where the substitution effect into property crimes is highest. Concealed handguns also have their greatest deterrent effect in the highest crime counties. Higher arrest and conviction rates consistently and dramatically reduce the crime rate. Consistent with other recent work (Lott, 1992b), the results imply that increasing the arrest rate, independent of the probability of eventual conviction, imposes a significant penalty on criminals. The estimated annual gain from allowing concealed handguns is at least $6.214 billion.”

I think it speaks for itself.

San Diego Police survey

The survey was done in 1997 and these are the actual questions that were asked. There is a statement on the page where I saw this survey that these results are similar to those in other police surveys all over the US for over 20 years.

1. Do you support an assault weapons ban? NO – 82.1%

2. Do you support a limitation on magazine capacity? NO – 82.2%

3. Do you support a law-abiding private citizen’s right to carry a concealed weapon? YES – 84.9%

4. Do you believe that armed, law-abiding citizens are a threat to you as a police officer? NO – 92.1%

5. Have recent gun laws (weapons bans, magazine capacity limits, and increased waiting periods) reduced violent crime in your area? NO – 94.2%

6. Would you support a point of sale background check (instant check) for the purchase of a firearm? YES – 92.1%

7. Does gun ownership by private citizens increase public safety? YES – 87.1%

8. Do you believe the criminal justice system needs streamlining and reform? YES – 99.2%

9. Do you believe in the death penalty? YES – 99.2%

10. Do you believe that restrictive gun laws will reduce violent crime? NO – 92.1%

11. Do you believe that gun buy-back or turn-in programs take guns out of the hands of criminals? NO – 98.5%

12. Do you believe that misuse of a firearm in a crime should result in stiff, mandatory sentences with no plea bargaining? YES – 95.6%

And now I have to ask myself whether I would like to believe a whining (and annoying) columnist on the one side, or the police – who might know a bit more about the topic, and a statistically sound study from a top-notch university on the other side. To be honest, the genocide study comes from Guns & Ammo magazine, so I am willing to leave that one out of the argument.

But again, the bottom line is who I am going to trust to protect me when I need protection. Hmm, let me think – that would be me.

I am not even sure that there is an argument for background checks. It didn’t stop Cho Seung-Hui and he was a certified nutter. I believe that criminals will always be able to get guns. They don’t abide by the law, which is what makes them criminals. Which means that I need to be able to get guns too. And legally – because I am not a criminal.

The article, study and survey discussed above are all here. You will also find some other nice Second Amendment links.


Buy this book

Sunday, 18 February 2007

higher power lucky


winner of the 2007 Newbery Medal

– But it’s not about censorship, it’s about protecting the children! –

From what, exactly? From the word ‘scrotum’?! From expanding their vocabulary and learning the proper names for things? …for parts of their own bodies (at least for some of them).

There is an uproar in The New Backwards Amerika over a children’s book. In The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron, a little girl overhears someone saying that a rattlesnake bit his dog on the scrotum. That’s right. Shocking, isn’t it. “…on the scrotum.”

scrotum noun (pl. scrota or scrotums) a pouch of skin containing the testicles.
– ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from Latin.

Oxford Dictionary of English

So my puritanical compatriots are racing to remove the book from schools and library shelves. Hallelujah! The little children will be saved!

I have not read The Higher Power of Lucky, but I would imagine that it is a good book because it won this year’s Newbery Medal, which is the highest award in children’s literature in The Amerika. I don’t have children, but if I did, I would want them to learn the correct names for parts of their own bodies. And I certainly would not deprive my children of a high quality book because there is one word in it that I might find a little bit harder to explain to them.

The parents that are objecting to the book must be the same parents who will insist that their children sign those no sex before marriage pledges, which just means the kids will be taking it up the buttocks for years before they ever get married.

The NY Times story is here.

Here we go again

Sunday, 4 February 2007

bird flu



So here’s the deal. Some turkeys on a farm in Suffolk got sick and died. The authorities tested the turkeys and found they had H5N1. So they have quarantined the farm, cancelled bird shows and they are going to kill about 159,000 more turkeys.

The thing is that the bird flu is still just that – bird flu. Not one single limey human has died of bird flu, limeys don’t normally live with their poultry. And please keep in mind that still, worldwide, only 165 people have died of avian influenza and the virus has not mutated so that it can be passed from human to human.

Pas de panique, svp.