Wednesday, August 26, 2009

School Closings Won't Stop H1N1 Virus From Spreading

Sebelius: School Closings Won't Stop H1N1 Virus From Spreading - Political News -

Kathleen Sebelius seems to be saying learning trumps health concerns. There have been several studies published showing the spread of disease can be curtailed if people would stay home when they fell sick. However, the US Department of Health now this argument does not apply to the H1N1 virus and instead is recommending vaccinations instead. The same protocols could easily be called for in future outbreaks. The only problem is the vaccine for the H1N1 hasn't had enough time to be tested properly. The was first a UK study and now others that show the current H1N1 vaccination isn't ready. On one medical website focused on family practice, most general practitioners indicated they would not take the current vaccination.

There is still too much contradictory information to make an informed decision. I recall the panic concerning the Y2K problem. The H1N1 virus is real, however I do call into question the dire predictions of the US Dept of Health. Even if 90,000 come down with the flu, it is significantly less than the 1918 outbreak. We have better knowledge about health and nutrition today than 90 years ago. For example, we now understand why flu and cold outbreaks are seasonal. Dr. Hope-Simpson ( was the first to research the inverse relationship between flu outbreak and warmer weather. The incidence of flu outbreak was adversely affected by the presence of sunlight which helps the body produce vitamin D. Another study by Dr. Cannell ( indicates maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin D through supplementation can help reduce the effects of the flu or perhaps even prevent people from getting sick in the first place.

The above studies are compelling and make sense. More research should go into this cheap and apparently effective means of preventing flu and colds before we require people to get yet another vaccination.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The Internet is, as many of you have experienced, a study in contrasts. On one hand, the near instantaneous availability of current news and information is almost incomprehensible. On the other hand, there is no guarantee that information is anymore valid then what your crazy neighbor down the street has to say.

The H1N1 virus quickly replaced the H5N1 virus (avian flu) as the most likely strain to create a pandemic. Outbreaks of H1N1 began populating the news and Internet sites. The initial reports were the H1N1 or swine flu was much milder than the avian flu variant. The H1N1 variant persisted and started to show up in Mexico. The next development was the reports of deaths associated with the H1N1 virus. Deaths were expected to be high with H5N1 but for some reason deaths associated to the swine flu were news worthy. I say this because the common flu causes death in the United States every year as well but somehow this new variant became more newsworthy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, the number of deaths related to H1N1 thus far is 477. In comparison, the number of deaths from the annual flu is 36,000 per year in the United States. Health officials are worried that the H1N1 may become even more lethal since initially there weren’t any vaccines available to fight it.

In the next act of this psychodrama is the vaccines would become available in the fall. All children and those with compromised immune systems should get vaccinated. Now reports are that only 120 million doses are available, far short of the estimated 160 million doses needed (source: CNN

Oh and by the way, you should also get your regular flu shot as well. There is an increasing backlash by Americans against getting immunizations. On any given day, there is usually one report about a parent refusing to get their child inoculated. Now on top of the regular regimen of childhood inoculations, parents are being asked to get one more.

The information on this topic is mind numbing and at times contradictory. The H1N1 first appeared to be less severe than the annual flu but now there is a rush to get everyone vaccinated. Normal preventive measures such as hand washing seem to be ineffective at preventing the spread of the virus. Here in Ohio at least one death resulting from the virus could not find that the victim had travelled outside the US nor come into contact with anyone that had.

All of this comes amidst the Obama administration’s health care plans. Tempers run high on both sides of the issue. Supporters of the health care plan think there is another evil conspiracy. Those opposed think the health care plan reeks of socialism. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. However, the emotions from the health care argument are preventing a more rational discussion as to the threat posed by H1N1. How much should the average, health American be concerned about this new strain? How will work and school be affected should there be an outbreak?

If not handled properly, this could lead to a serious panic with people trying to stockpile or steal the vaccines. Chaos and pandemonium could result shutting down businesses and schools even though the virus isn’t present. Hopefully, some clear heads will be able to be heard over the din of what now passes for intellectual discourse.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

US Mexico Winning the Drug War

Secretary Napolitano claims we are winning the drug war. She basis this on the amount of drug seizures. Using drug seizures as a metric for drug investigations is fraught with errors. Yes, you get to brag about how big the seizure is but you don't know how much more got away. If US agents seized 4.2 million pounds, that simply means the drug cartels grew or produced another 8.4 million pounds to replace it. The economies are such that for all of the costs associated with enforcement and conviction, the drug dealers are spending pennies in comparison. Gauging enforcement efforts based on seizures alone is akin to former Sec Def McNamara's fixation on body counts as a way to defining victory during the Vietnam War.

WASHINGTON -- The United States and Mexico are "winning" an often brutal war against drug cartels that operate across the border separating the two countries, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday.

"We are not only fighting this fight, but we are winning it," Napolitano, a former border state governor, said in prepared remarks at a border security conference in the frontier city of El Paso, Texas.

Noting that drug seizures since the beginning of this year had totaled 4.2 million pounds (1000 tonnes), Napolitano said the United States was now presented with a "unique opportunity to break up these cartels" that must be seized.

Her comments came one day after President Barack Obama visited Mexico, throwing his weight behind Mexico's crackdown on violent drug cartels that control much of the flow of illegal narcotics from South America to the United States.

Napolitano highlighted a string of drug and weapons seizures as evidence that the billion-dollar-plus war against the drug cartels was succeeding, despite a violent push back from gangs who have often appeared able to outgun and outspend Mexican federal forces.

The United States has pledged around 1.6 billion dollars to tackle drug trafficking in Mexico and Central America under the Merida Initiative, which also includes funds for training and equipment to boost security on the Mexican side of the border.

Since coming to office the Obama administration has acknowledged the US role in the violence, pledging to stem the flow of weapons into Mexico and curb demand for drugs in the United States.

"So far this year, we have seized 2.4 million pounds (one million kilograms) of drugs, more than 95,000 rounds of ammunition, and more than 500 assault rifles and handguns," Napolitano said.

Warning that further violence was likely, she offered support for the government of Mexican President Felipe Calderon despite allegations of military human rights abuses.

"We have a strong partner in President Calderon," Napolitano said. "We are fighting this fight together with the government of Mexico."

Napolitano said that defeating the cartels would take several years, and compared it to the US fight against the Mafia.

"The fighting has resulted in more than 12,000 deaths in Mexico, and there will, no doubt be more," Napolitano warned.

© 2009 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Cincinnati is waiting to see how many police officers will be laid off, the reason for which is being laid at the feet of the $28 million deficit city manager Dohoney announced a few weeks ago.

Accusations of playing one union against the other are rampant, as the fire department is not laying any personnel off. The fire department was able to absorb the cuts by closing 4 companies and moving the firefighters from those companies around.

The local news is now saturated by coverage of emergency press conferences from the city manager or police chief. At a town hall meeting the other night, a woman challenged that if the city were safe enough to lay off 138 police officers than why did the mayor still need a body guard?

What no one seems to be discussing how a $28 million deficit appears to have caught the city unawares. The city’s budget manager and city manager are paid to keep on eye on expenditures. Their forecasts should have predicted this shortfall so did they take any preventive measures?

The tendency in the public sector (federal, state or local) is to reduce spending by cancelling training. Both the fire and police departments have cancelled academy classes this year. The fire department may not conduct another academy until 2011. I’m not certain when the police department plans to conduct another academy.

Cutting training classes is a quick fix that causes little political risk. However, appearances are deceiving. Academies (including boot camp in the military) produce new entry level personnel, the importance of which gets diminished during austere budget cycles.

The life cycle of the typical firefighter, police officer, or military recruit is 20-25 years. However, many won’t make it to retirement due to injuries, lifestyle changes, disciplinary actions, or transfers to other agencies.

To keep enough personnel on board for promotions and backfill losses, the academies are the lifeblood for their respective agency. Ideally, academies should produce enough graduates to offset annual losses. Agencies tend to see anywhere from 5-10 percent of their employees leave so an academy class that produces 30-50 graduates per class is about right for a mid sized city such as Cincinnati.

The problem for Cincinnati is just starting. The Drop Program has kept hundreds of both police and firefighters on the job. Starting in 2011, these same people will have to retire. The impact of those leaving under the Drop Program means a glut of mid-level and upper level positions will be rapidly filled with younger personnel. The lower positions may not have enough new personnel to backfill.

The personnel shortfall becomes even bleaker should the city be unable to balance it future budgets. The officers laid off this time may not be able to be hired back or may get hired by other departments.

If the city wants economic revitalization, then it needs to focus more on it public services. A safe community is more attractive to new business. A community that isn’t viewed as safe will have a much harder time attracting new business to help stimulate economic recovery.

Monday, August 3, 2009

To your health

According to a Reuter’s article, use of anti-depressants by Americans doubled from 13 million to 27 million. However, a corresponding increase use amongst blacks was not seen. The article went on to point out that more Americans may accept the diagnosis of depression. The population of the United States today is something like 300 million and change, which translates to about 8 percent of the population are on ant-depressants.

I’m neither a physician nor a medical professional of any kind. Despite my lack of qualifications, I don’t find the above news all that surprising. We live in a time when everything can be treated with a pill. There was an ad on the other night for a pill to grow eyelashes!

What are all of these people going to do if their meds aren’t available?

The media is whipping up a frenzy about the H1N1 virus and some people will fight, steal and claw their way to the vaccine. Others won’t get the vaccination for fear of side effects. The government claims the vaccine has no side effects. I believe that so long as the individual’s biochemistry isn’t a toxic waste dump of prescription medications.

To be prepared for an emergency or disaster, all of the pre-packaged kits in the world won’t mean anything if you aren’t in good health. There is a reason why soldiers the world over run as part of the physical training (PT). You have to train your body to be able to go even when tired or sick. There is a reason why the military has height and weight standards. You may have to hike for miles or lug around heavy gear for many miles. Keeping your weight down makes it easier.

Okay, so those reading this may never have been a soldier or Marine. You may never have run other than in gym class. Or perhaps like yours truly, knee injuries have ended your running career. Regardless, you still need to maintain your body at the highest level of fitness possible. If your body fails, your mind fails. If your mind fails, your spirit fails.

Maintaining the requisite level of fitness is easy. Walk. A half hour a day is ideal. If you can do more, walk with a backpack filled with 25-50 lbs (sandbags work nicely). Eat a proper diet. There is too much processed sugars and starches in our food. Eat more fruits and vegetables. You want to keep nutrients in your body at the highest levels. In the event of an emergency or disaster, you may not get the chance to eat a balanced meal for a long time.

Today there was a story about children being vitamin D deficient. The human body manufactures vitamin D in the presence of sunlight. However, skin cancer scares has skyrocketed the use of sunscreen that prevents the necessary absorption of sunlight to manufacture vitamin D. I suspect the other problem is the lack of exposure by children addicted to their computers and video games. Their bodies don’t get enough sunlight to manufacture vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements are cheap and easily available although most of the medical experts on the news stirred clear of recommending supplements.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is for sedentary people. If you workout or play sports, your requirements are even higher. Preparing for an emergency means proper supplementation. There are many articles available on supplements for maintaining good health. I recommend doing your own research.

You need to get your body as healthy as possible and depend on prescription medication to the smallest degree possible. In the event of a disaster or emergency, you may have to do without for an extended period of time. A healthy body will allow you to survive with as little stress as possible.