Brit Hume To Swine Flu: 'Whatever!'

When major news stories break, there's a sudden genesis of interest in something new, the media descend, blog posts are written, crowds gather at the water cooler, and the 24 hour coverage becomes relentless. Then a few break off from the herd and take an opposing tack. Others soon follow and before long, debates are raging along ideological divides. Regarding the international concern over the swine flu pandemic (as it is now being called by the World Health Organization), Britt Hume is perhaps the first national figure to publicly poo poo the media attention over something that has the potential to kill tens of thousands of people. On Fox News Channel's "The Live Desk", Hume complains:
“I realize it’s been a slow weekend in terms of news,” Hume said. “The president went out and played golf on Sunday. The White House reporters don’t have much to work with today, so they’re trying to get a piece of this swine flu story, which you know, all the cable news channels are agog about, bug-eyed about. But so far, it doesn’t amount to much in the United States of America.”
"What this is, is much ado about – I’m afraid to say this – not very much.”

So Hume is saying that the media is really giving too much attention to this. Of course, since his comments, WHO raised their influence phase from 4 to 5, officially declaring this strain of flu a pandemic. Thus far, we've yet to see the tens of thousands of people dying around the world which might fit our ordinary definition of a pandemic, and Hume does make the point that these actions are intended to release funds to limit the spread of the virus, yet his very act of minimizing the importance of the flu acts to undermine the efforts of WHO which asks people to take this little virus seriously.

What could Hume's motives be? General disgust with the media? To score bragging points by being the first to break from the herd? Or is he just too cool to take this seriously?

To put this in a little more context, let's journey back in time to 2005 when flu was raging across the globe and hundreds, if not thousands, were dropping like flies - or in this case, birds. In an interview with then Health and Human Services Secretary, Mike Leavitt, Hume seemed to show a little more concern than he has today:
HUME: Now, the great worry, of course, is that it becomes communicable human-to-human, which it so far has not, correct?

LEAVITT: That’s correct.

HUME: How likely is it that that mutation of the virus will occur?

LEAVITT: I wish I knew that answer. It is maddeningly uncertain. We have had three pandemics in this century, 1918, 1957 and 1968, and they all followed the similar pattern where viruses that were either in birds, or animals, or people did what scientists call re-assort and create a new virus that no one has immunity for.

And that’s when — when that virus has the capacity to go from person to person to person, it’s when it sets off this geometric expansion of disease. And it’s a very dangerous situation. It’s something that’s been with us for centuries. And it will likely continue.

HUME: No known vaccine for this?

LEAVITT: The good news is we do have a vaccine. The bad news is, we don’t have capacity to manufacture it in enough quantity.

HUME: You said we have a vaccine. Do we have a vaccine that can prevent one getting it or simply a vaccine in which it can be treated, or what?

Here, at least, Hume seemed to understand the importance of a potential pandemic, and asked the pointed questions. So, it was not beneath him back then to have concern, despite ending the interview with:
HUME: Let me just come at you as journalists get to do, from an entirely different perspective now. You’re talking about a disease that no one in America has, that infects chickens but not in this hemisphere, certainly not in the northern part of this hemisphere at this stage, which cannot be transmitted yet from human to human. And we’re talking about $7 billion and dragooning the drug industry into going along with all of this.

Couldn’t you argue that that’s an overreaction?

LEAVITT: Perhaps some will. But let me give you some sobering facts. The last time we had a pandemic on this genetic strain of a virus was in 1918. It killed over 40 million people around the world. It killed the equivalent of two million people here in the United States.

HUME: Wow. Secretary Leavitt, good to have you. Thank you very much for coming. Hope you’ll come back.

Wow, indeed. And the bird flu strain hadn't even jumped to humans.

Where is Hume's "Wow" today?


Swine Flu Pandemic Imminent

The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised its Influenza Pandemic Phase from 4 to 5. That's DEFCON 2 going on 1 for those who speak militarese. According to the WHO website:
Phase 5 is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region. While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.

Serious stuff. How serious? Remember how the martians died in The War of the Worlds? It's that serious.


Camel Swallowing

Nice skeptical blog I just discovered: Swallowing the Camel. Not quite sure about the name, but it sounds kitschy-chic in a secular sort of way.


Hillary's Brilliant Response

Rep. Pence (R-IN) poses a question about President Obama pal'n around with socialist dictators because, you know, Obama's a fascist socialist communistic Nazi who's going to take away our guns, make slaves of us all, and send our children to reeducation camps. Hillary has an answer for him.

Jesus Is Watching

In case you're wondering what he's watching...

More excellent items at the Landover Baptist Church store.


Gays From The Sky!

The gaythering storm...

George Takei, no less!

(visit Giant Gay Repellent Umbrella)

Stephen Hawking Hospitalized

From WebMD,

April 20, 2009 -- Physicist Stephen Hawking, the author of books including A Brief History of Time, is said to be seriously ill and hospitalized in Cambridge, England.

Hawking, who is 67 years old and has ALS ( amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), is "very ill" with a chest infection that he's had for several weeks and is undergoing tests at Addenbrooke's Hospital, according to a Cambridge University spokesperson quoted in media reports.
This sounds serious.


Real Moms Talk Vaccinations

Real moms talking about vaccinating their children:

Momversation has been nominated for a Webby - if you like, give 'em your vote.

(one among millions of great posts at Bad Astronomy)

American Sadism

From emptywheel,
The CIA used the waterboard "at least 83 times during August 2002" in the interrogation of Zubaydah. IG Report at 90, and 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91.
That's not "aggressive interrogation". Hell, that's not even torture. That's pure sadism.

John Cole relates this to the ticking time-bomb scenario (pdf warn):
There Better Be a Helluva Lot of Ticks Left In That Bomb


Butt Funny

Oh China...the things you won't do to make the world happy. First it was the melamine spices in baby formula, then the ancient Chinese secrets hidden in drywall, and now...

Sound Activated Old-Chap-Butt Funny Pen Holder
Funny Poop Face Stress Relieving Hammer with Sound Effects
Funny Spring Head Shaking Crying Black Kid Coin Bank

What else is there to say other than HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY YOU BUY NOW LOL!



Ummm...I hope you haven't eaten yet.

Indonesian maid puts menstrual blood in Hong Kong employer's meal

An Indonesian maid was in a Hong Kong jail Thursday awaiting trial for mixing her menstrual blood in a pot of vegetables she was cooking for her employer. Indra Ningsih, 26, allegedly told police afterwards she mixed the blood into the meal in a superstitious effort to make her Chinese employer "more amiable and less picky" towards her.
Ningsih was arrested after her employer peered through the kitchen door and saw her acting suspiciously as she cooked vegetables for lunch.

When the employer checked, she found a blood clot-like substance mixed with the vegetables and a used sanitary napkin in the kitchen bin, according to a report in the Hong Kong Standard newspaper.

So...are you really gonna put ketchup on them fries now?

The Atheist Bus Rolls Into Indiana

You too can be good without God. Start by donating to the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign.

And if you're interested what other atheist/freethought ads are being run, check out Atheist Ad Tracker.

(via Atheist Media & Friendly Atheist)

Thanks, Tea Baggers

Now I know what tea bagging means. Thanks, tea baggers, for planting that image in my mind. Now I've got to change brains. Good thing I keep a spare in the basement.


Some Things You Just Can't Predict

TV psychic's State Theatre show postponed
Because of a death in her family, TV medium and clairvoyant Lisa Williams has rescheduled her show on Wednesday night at Easton's State Theatre to 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Lisa Williams appears on Lifetime's show "Living With The Dead". This is what we call ironic. Lisa's dilemma - was the death unexpected? If so, what does that say about her psychic powers? If not, why did she schedule that show?


The State of Medicine in India

Headline in the Times of India reads:

Homeopathy emerging as most reliable treatment method

Medical professionals in India must cringe at the incredible uphill battle they have before them to fight these kinds of pseudo science.
Another doctor present during the occasion added that homeopathy is the only medical science in world in which medicines are tested on human bodies and it is now even used for animals and birds also.
Really? No other medicines in the world are tested on 'human bodies'? And are birds no longer classified as animals in India? It's like reading a comic book. They shamelessly make this crap up and feed it to the ignorant masses.


Psychic Breeze

Houston psychic Kim O'Neill in an interview with HoustonPress:
O'Neill: One day I had a woman sitting in front of me in a private session. She said she thought she was infertile and wanted me to ask the guardian angels what it was. Her unborn baby was the one who gave me the information, and he told her that the thing derailing his conception was that Dad's sperm count was low, and it was because he was hot around his testicles. So the baby recommended that his future mother get a small plastic fan from Wal-Mart and have Dad sit under it and read a book or watch TV and let the air blow on his testicles for about 20 minutes or so -- it raises his sperm count. They were to have sex right afterwards. And she got pregnant.
I can think of a million places to put rapidly spinning blades. Next to the scrotum isn't one of them. How about telling Dad that evolution didn't plan on tighty whiteys?


It Hurts...My Eyes!

Mark Marano, long time aide to chief global warming denier Sen. Inhofe, has left the care of his patron and gone out into the wide world to develop his own denialist website, ClimateDepot.com. As discussed in TPM,
The site is being financed by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, an extremist anti-environmental group that is funded in part by the Exxon Mobil Foundation.

One environmentalist says of Morano: "He is relentless pushing out misinformation. In denying the urgency of the problem, he definitely slows things down on the regulatory front. Eventually, he will be held accountable, but it may be too late."
I'm skeptical of most things but thought how bad can it be compared to all the other tripe out there? I decided to stop by his website...and my eyes melted:

Click to view a larger image...or just visit the site itself to experience the agony. Nevermind the claptrap he's posted...the whole damned thing is taken straight from the pages of "How Not To Build A Website"! Uggh. Looks like someone threw up typeface. There's a great line from the movie To Live and Die in L.A. which I think is appropriate for Morano: "Your taste is in your ass!"

I can see he's motivated by the Drudge Report design, but this is something else entirely (not that my own blog is any great shakes - but at least there's some consistency of design here).

But one thing's important...the site doesn't drag you down with lots of science and equations and charts. Such ornaments would only overload brains already taxed with important functions, like breathing - or sitting - or smacking wives around. The target audience is obviously those who can easily be convinced that increasing the military budge is the same as gutting the defense department.

Or perhaps I'm too harsh. After all, it is true that the global temperature today is lower than the record high of 1998. So, we must be entering a period of global cooling, right? Crumbling glaciers, rising sea levels - all evidence that the theory of global warming is being gutted, so long as you subscribe to their peculiar brand of logic (any George Will readers here?)

Just one more thing to contend with...


Devil Sheep

Funny...I get the same reaction walking through church, or at a Rockettes meet 'n greet.


'Psychic' Judi Hoffman to Capitalize on her Own Death

Self-proclaimed psychic Judi Hoffman is near death. She was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2008 and, at the end of seven weeks of treatment, was told her condition was improving and that she would return to a normal life in early 2009. Seems that Judi is not only psychic, she's also a cancer whisperer:
Her intuitve [sic] mind told her otherwise. She was insistent that she was not getting better and that the tumor was continuing its ravenous growth. Tragically, she was correct.
Nevertheless, Judi did return to a normal life which, for her, consists of ripping off the gullible via her imaginary psychic powers. Now she promises, via her unique talents, that if she should pass she will attempt to contact all the members of her "inner circle of the enlightened" from beyond the grave.
With all of her years of fine tuning and strengthening her psychic abilities, she is perhaps the most uniquely qualified individual to attempt such a feat.
Apparently, all it takes to become enlightened in Judi's eyes is a mere $95.
Become a Member of “The Inner Circle of the Enlightened”

In order to become a member, you must first agree to the terms and conditions (click the button “I agree to these terms”, then create a username and password (you will NOT be able to change your username later, so please be careful), then log in with this username and password. At this time you will be asked to make your payment (via PayPal) of 95.00 for a 5 year membership. This will give you complete access to the message boards.
So, she will either appear to you in a dream...or send a message to you via the forum? Whatever. Her forums generate little interest while she's living - do users really expect she'll attend them in death? After all, there are so many new people to meet on the other side...and finally get there names right (Oooo...I knew your name started with a 'D'!)

Let's not forget how sad this is. After living a lie, she also plans to continue the lie in death as well. You could almost pity her for the sadness of her existence, until you remember that she's taking money from the weak minded. I suspect her tombstone will come with a deposit slot.

The New York Observer weighs in, from which I unabashedly cherry-picked this quote:
She was admittedly wrong about the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl in 2008, however, humbly estimating her accuracy in an interview with The Baltimore Sun at around “65 to 85 percent.” (“Hey, if I could do it 100 percent of the time, I’d be living on Fifth Avenue, not Third,” she mused.)
With a 65 - 85% batting average, she should have been living on Fiftieth Avenue, not Fifth.


Hamster Science at its Best

In memory of our Teddy Bear Hamster who died a couple weeks ago, here's an offering from Cooks Den showing science at its hamstery best:

and the outtakes are typical hamster-cute.

(first seen & laughed at on The Dread Tomato Addiction)


God Designed Woman for Man's Pleasure

This guy's a comedy genius! You either find this funny on many levels, or it gives you new food for thought. And I hope you're not hungry for an orange!

(via The Friendly Atheist)