Monday, October 31, 2005

Safety Last

I am as pessismistic as they come, but somehow I failed to get on the "Bird Flu is coming! The Bird Flu is coming!" bandwagon.

It's come to Canada. According to, the H5 flu virus (aka Bird Flu, Avian Flu, Asian Bird Flu) has shown up in Quebec and Manitoba. Quebec immediately notified the H5 virus that if they don't speak French they can hit the bricks.

But, you exclaim, H5 is not the lethal H5N1 subtype! Aha, WHO officials reply, there there are 15 known subtypes to infect birds. To date, outbreaks of the pathogenic form have been caused by influenza A virus subtypes H5 and H7.

WHO officials can fill in some answers here, too. Type A influenza viruses are genetically labile. They also lack mechanisms for the "proofreading" and repair of errors that occur during replication - as a result of these uncorrected errors, the viruses' genetic composition changes as they replicate. These constant permanent (usually small) changes are known as "antigenic drift."

The WHO officials add another caveat: influenza A viruses, and this includes subtypes from different species, can swap genetic materials and merge. This is known as "antigenic shift." Rather poetic naming conventions. What this means to us is that a new subtype is created, different from the parent parent viruses, and the host populations (that would be us) will not have immunity and there would be no vaccines for protection. And that's why antigenic shift is responsible for lethal pandemics.

On the other hand, the infected birds are still alive. Hmm.

The same CTV article reports that 121 people have been infected in Asia and caused more than 60 deaths in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Cambodia. We've been getting warned (run for your lives!) about the imminence of a pandemic bird flu for months, but that fatality number is stubbornly hanging on at 60. What a terrible showing for a pandemic.

As I have noted in an earlier blog, we have more to fear from ATVs (particularly if you're in Kentucky).

When that big bad flu comes raging through, I think we will have very little warning. And our medical system will be unable to handle the crushing load of infected patients and those who think they may be infected. We should focus on staying healthy and keeping the immune systems in tip-top shape. Don't see much of that advice in those scare articles.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Here's one with an O. Henry Twist

That Japan Today, they have all the best stories.

From the Saturday, 29 October 2005 edition:
21 diners sickened by gas attack
The fire department said said about a dozen others at Denny's Minami-Okazaki restaurant felt sick and complained of eye irritation.

No, can't blame Denny's this time. Turns out some of the diners had a quarrel and one of them sprayed an unindentified substance and fled.

C2H5OH, on the rocks, with a twist

Do you ever see a headline and think "why is that a big deal?" And then you really read the headline and think "Holy smoke!"

From Japan Today:
Two Russian sailors die after downing alcohol for industrial use
The two surviving crew members said they and the two fellow crew members were having drinks believing the substance was drinkable alcohol, according to the coast guard.

Here's the part that caught me by surprise: they thought it was regular alcohol. Apparently I held the belief that Russian sailors will knowingly drink anything. Whoops.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Terrorists cut off from bingo - in Kentucky

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:
FRANKFORT - State officials have won a $36,300 federal homeland security grant to keep terrorists out of Kentucky bingo halls, although not everyone agrees that's much of a threat.

Off-the-record sources say that if terrorists want to buy the permits for charitable gaming, then Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee are open for business.
[Ed. note: Does "charitable gaming" sound as weird to you as it does to me?]

But for all you terrorists out there with your hearts set on knocking off some Kentuckians, try ATVs.

The Lexington Herald-Leader also reports that
Kentucky and West Virginia were No. 1 and No. 2 for ATV deaths from 2002 to 2004. The numbers are even more troubling for the Mountain State when you consider its relatively small population.

But you'll have to hurry - Kentucky is taking care of its own with great dispatch.

But state politicans wouldn't be worth their gratis UK basketball tickets if they couldn't come up with some lame excuse.
Some say it's thousands of ATV tourists who flock to the state's rocky, mountainous terrain every year.

Maybe, except most of those perishing are natives.

We have an alternate hypothesis:
Most safety experts, health care officials and ATV dealers and riders, however, say it centers on poor-decision making by the user.

White Sox Sweep Astros in World Series!

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Have you heard the news - White Sox Win!

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From Australia - White Sox Win World Series!

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Look who fell off the wagon

Just when you think the Roman Catholic Church has hitched their wagon to the gibbering fundamentalists, they inhale some common sense and fall off the wagon.

The Catholic News reminds us that Dei Verbum (aka Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation) from the Second Vatican Council makes a deliberate distinction between intrepreting the Bible in the literal and spiritual senses.

Straight from the Vatican's copy:
But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, (8) has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, (9) whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.

[Ed. note: The key part here is authentically interpreting the word of God. . . has been entrusted EXCLUSIVELY to the . . . Church.]

All you Baptists out there who have been giving us a hard time about the Bible - wow, did you bet on a bad pony.

Bishops in England, Wales & Scotland (Catholic bishops in Wales - really?) condemn fundamentalism for its "intransigent intolerance." Take that, you raving pentacostals!

And if you drooling glossolaliaics had thought about it for 5 seconds, you would have realized that you can't out-Bible the Catholics. We're the ones who assembled it, for chrissakes. Stop being a glossalgia and get with the program.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Check Is In The Mail

The Washington Post recounts Mier's responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, 18 October 2005:
11. Bar and Court Admission:

a. List the date(s) you took the examination and date you passed for all states where you sat for a bar examination. List any state in which you applied for reciprocal admission without taking the bar examination and the date of such admission or refusal of such admission.

State Bar of Texas Examination administered in July 1970. Admitted to the State Bar of Texas on September 18, 1970. Reciprocal Admission to the District of Columbia Bar on April 4, 1997.

Earlier this year, I received notice that my dues for the District of Columbia Bar were delinquent and as a result my ability to practice law in D.C. had been suspended. I immediately sent the dues in to remedy the delinquency. The non-payment was not intentioned, and I corrected the situation upon receiving the letter.
[Emphasis mine]

How perfect - the President's counsel was not allowed to practice law in Washington D.C.

Battlefields, apartment pools - very dangerous places

Straight from Centcom:
Sunset Blvd pool scene
ARIFJAN, Kuwait – A U.S. soldier was pronounced dead after being discovered in an apartment pool in the Salwa district, south of Kuwait City, at approximately 11:00 p.m. Monday.

Paging Gloria Swanson!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Calling unsportsmanlike conduct on Iraq

NFL Unsportsmanlike signal

This is a real newspaper article, reprinted by the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), from the Boston Globe:

Cars stolen in US used in suicide attacks

By Bryan Bender in Washington
October 4, 2005

The inquiry began after coalition troops raided a Falluja bomb factory last November and found a Texas-registered four-wheel-drive being prepared for a bombing mission.

Investigators believed the cars were stolen by local car thieves in US cities, then smuggled to waiting ships at ports in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Houston, among other cities. Terrorism specialists said they believed Iraqi insurgents preferred American stolen cars because they tended to be larger, blended in more easily with US convoys, and were harder to identify as stolen.

Yes, that must be it. From the "it's so crazy, the dumbass American public just might buy it" school of thought.

Maybe we're using the Army all wrong

Maybe we're right, but Ireland's Army (oh yes, they've got one) has an Equitation School. Their goal is to promote Ireland and the Irish horse.
to promote Ireland the Irish Horse
Do we have this whole Army function wrong?

According to the Irish Army's web site:

Army riders have represented Ireland at Olympic, World and European Championship level in Show jumping and Three-Day Eventing.

But it hasn't been all Guinness and Harp. In 1927: "at the tough Nations Cup meeting, at Olympia, London. 'Our horses and riders could not cope with the tight confines of the Indoor Arena,' Captain O' Dwyer recalled of their chastening experience, when they placed last of six teams in the Prince of Wales Cup. "

Naturally, this meant war. At the Great Colic Battle in the fall of 1927 the Irish Army did a lot of lip curls but after they were moved to different pastures tensions ebbed.

If the British Army worked more on their cavalry (and we're talking about you, Queen's Royal Hussars), maybe they wouldn't have these problems to deal with:
From the UK Mirror:

17 October 2005
Captain's body is found at barracks
By Chris Hughes Security Correspondent

Now, me - I'd come to radically different conclusions than the Army/Mirror.

From the article:
THE Army officer in charge of investigating abuse of civilians by British forces in Iraq has been found dead, it was revealed yesterday.

Nothing suspicious there.

There's more:
Royal Military Police Captain Ken Masters, 40, is believed to have killed himself. . . . Ministry of Defence sources said last night it is not believed Capt Masters had left a suicide note and it is not yet known how he died.

That crazy, suicidal bastard. Always trying to keep things secret.

More incriminating press:
The married father-of-two is not believed to have been suffering from depression, mental illness or physical injury and had not been due to appear as a witness in any cases relating to mistreatment. . . . A military source said: "This has come as a total surprise to Ken's forces colleagues."

It came as a surprise to Ken too.

One last thing:
The Ministry of Defence confirmed the captain was "responsible for investigating all in-theatre serious incidents".

Definitely a suicide.

The WS in the WS!

From the Chicago Tribune: "Party Like It's 1959!"
White Sox Pennant Winners!
From the Sun-Times: Sox are go-go-going to Series!

Sox win the pennant!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Misreading the Acts of the Apostles: Thou Shall Coverest Thy Butt

From the Los Angeles Times:


Study Reveals Vast Scope of Priest Abuse

  • Clerics accused of molestation worked in three-fourths of the 288 parishes in the L.A. Archdiocese, a Times analysis finds.

  • I'm at a loss here. In Luke's groundbreaking history, "The Acts of the Apostles," he recounts the Ananias and Sapphira episode where they told the church they were going to sell a property and donate the proceeds. But they reconsider and keep the lion's share for themselves and give a fraction to the church. And claim to give the entire proceeds.

    Apparently God was a lot more hands-on back then, and this hypocrisy really hocked him off. He had the Holy Spirit tattle on them to Peter. Peter asked Ananias why he welshed on his promise and Ananias dropped dead.

    Peter sat back and waited for Sapphira to show up. It took her about 3 hours (Acts 5:7) and when she finally swung by, Peter asked, "So, you sold the land. How much did thou getteth for it?"
    And Sapphira said, "I did thou get a niceth chunketh for it."
    Peter replied, "The Holy Spirit telleth me something different."
    Sapphira exclaimed "Holy smoke!" And dropped dead.

    Now that's what I call a religion.
    *By the way, nice bit of detail on Luke's part to mention that Peter had to wait 3 hours on Sapphira. Women and their shopping.

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    Run, AJ, run!

    Jon Garland, who hadn't pitched since 1 October 2005 in Cleveland, hit the mound tonight and went the distance, allowing 4 hits and 2 runs. Unfortunately for the Angels, the White Sox scored 5 runs (and this reporter had 3 in the strip card, so I'm out $5).
    Pierzynski congrats Garland in ALCS 3

    Tripping through the headlnes, as the White Sox lead 2-1 in the ALCS:

    No Doubt This Time: ChiSox Beat Angels 5-2, ABC News.
    Univ of North Dakota Fighting Sioux
    White Sox pull up Angels, take lead in ALCS, USA Today

    The Chicago Sun-Times makes an attempt to cover the other sports in Chicago:
    In Heisman Watch, All Eyes On USC-ND

    And for anyone who still cares, the Blackhawks beat the Colorado Avalanche tonight. 3-2.

    And in breaking news, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees finally made a decision, of sorts, on Chief Illiniwek: they are challenging the NCAA policy that labels Chief Illiniwek, Fighting Illini, and plain old Illini as "hostile and abusive." And we're sure that if any Illini had survived the genocide campaign conducted against them by the U.S. government at the turn of the 19th century, they wouldn't be too keen on it either.
    From the Chicago Tribune:
    A six-page letter of appeal from Trustees Chairman Lawrence Eppley was sent to the NCAA, arguing that the governing body of major college athletics acted "incorrectly and unfairly" in August when it cited Illinois as one of 18 schools to be in violation of its policy on Native American imagery and nicknames that will take effect on Feb. 1.

    It really hurt our feelings, and just for that, we're not going to any of your reindeer (bowl) games.
    [Ed. note: The FIghting Illini are taking gas this season, and just lost the Big Ten Pillow FIght at Indiana last weekend.]

    There's more:
    Four other schools have appealed and three of them have been removed from the list—Florida State (Seminoles), Central Michigan (Chippewas) and Utah (Utes)—because they have the support of the respective tribes for use of the nicknames and accompanying imagery. North Dakota's appeal to continue using the nickname Fighting Sioux was denied because of opposition of some Sioux.

    How can you NOT like the Fighting Sioux? I mean, come on!

    Univ of North Dakota Fighting Sioux

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    ALCS 1 goes to Angels

    Chicago White Sox lose to the Angels, 3-2, in Game 1 of the ALCS.
    Chicago White Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi of Japan tosses his bat after popping out softly to shortstop Orlando Cabrera in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2005. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

    In other news, Judith Miller goes under Fitzpatrick's microscope Wednesday, 12 October 2005.

    Raw Story reports that DeLay's attorney subpoenas Texas District Attorney Ronnie Earle. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

    Raw Story is also reporting that Cheney was visibly absent from a high profile dinner last Thursday (7 October 2005) for the 50th anniversary of National Review magazine.

    And Bloomberg and WSJ are both working on stories that Fitzpgerald's investigation is heading towards Cheney.

    Friday, October 07, 2005

    Just waiting on the Yankees-Angels outcome now

    White Sox sweep Boston.

    First post-season series victory since 1917.

    By the way, tickets for the ALCS went on sale yesterday (Thursday, 6 October 2005) at noon. By 12:17pm CT they were sold out.

    If only the Red Sox had paid attention to their horoscope in The Onion:
    You won't be hit by a bus this week, exactly. Circumstances will unfold so that you're traveling at almost 100 miles an hour when you strike a stationary bus.

    Tuesday, October 04, 2005

    Say buddy, can you spare a White Sox post-season schedule?

    Image hosted by Photobucket.comSometimes you have to stop and smell the roses. Or tiptoe through the headlines.

    Today's poll on the White Sox web site:
    Who poses the biggest Divison Series challenge for the White Sox?
    Angels 51%
    Red Sox 30%
    Yankees 19%
    It's a beautiful day when the White Sox faithful can disparage the Yankees and Red Sox.

    From our very own Chicago Sun-Times:
    Crazy like a Sox
    Okay, that one is about manager Ozzie Guillen.

    From the NY Times:
    Early Swagger Belongs to White Sox
    At the end of the first inning, they were down by five runs. At the end of the sixth, they were down by 10. At the end of the game, they were down 1-0 in this best-of-five series, having suffered the most lopsided loss in their postseason history

    From the Indianapolis Star:
    Last year Red Sox, this year White?
    Headlining the Reuters sports page:
    White Sox trounces Red Sox in series opener
    That's the headliner! On Reuters! The White Sox! Alright, let's go across the other ocean and see what they're saying.

    From the Asahi Shimbun:
    MLB/American League Division Series White Sox chase first title since 1917
    As always, the restrained Japanese sum up history in a pithy headline.

    From the Los Angeles Times:
    Chicago Socks It to Boston Early, Often

    "I have no excuses," Clement said. "I was bad. They took advantage of a guy who was struggling."
    "We wanted to get him [Clement] further in the game," Francona said, adding later, "It fell apart in a hurry."
    Seattle Times:
    Bet on it: White Sox will win it all

    Maybe you shouldn't read too far into this one. Seattle Times reporter Larry Stone goes on to predict that San Diego will topple St. Louis. However, he does recover himself nicely at the end:
    When it ends, the White Sox will be dancing down Michigan Avenue. Next year, the Cubs. Nah. White Sox in 7.

    Santa and Danish Air Force collide

    Santa and Rudolf

    Danish Air Force Kills Reindeer

    Danish Air Force pilots, trying out their spanking new F-16s, screamed over the farm of Olavi Nikkanoff at an altitude low enough to induce heart failure in Nikkanoff's reindeer, Rudolf.

    After checking flight data and vet reports, the Air Force concluded that they did indeed cause Rudolf's death. They paid Olavi $5000 in compensation.

    Alas, poor Rudolf, we hardly knew ye.