Friday, August 29, 2014

Teacher behavior on their own social media accounts still attracts controversy, sometimes resulting in their firings

A California school district reprimanded a teacher for making tweets, in her personal account, that, while hyperbolic, might have been interpreted by some students or parents as threats.  But according to an ABC News story, many students in the Newark, CA school rallied to support Mrs. Hodges, link to the story here.  
Any quick check of Google shows that a number of teachers have been fired for inappropriate (often sexual) posts on their own Twitter or Facebook accounts in the past few years, all over the country.   One or two have been fired for having worked in the sex industry (as was a hospital nurse in Arizona as far back as 1999).  Rarely, incidents have involved unlicensed subs as well. 
All of this still percolates post to my own experience as a substitute teacher, which came to a head in October 2005, regarding a fictitious screenplay for a short film that I had posted on a flat site (not social media as we know it today), in which a teacher “like me” is “tempted” a precocious teen student.   The best source of details are on my Wordpress blog here.  See Nov. 14, 2010 here also.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

More feedback (to me) on whether a college education is "worth it"

Although I’m not necessarily trying to sell one company’s services, I did get an email from Webucator (Web Educator) with a reference to a blog entry by Dave Dunn, “To college or not to college: the Million Dollar Question”, link here. Indeed, what happens when you have several kids?

There is an article by Phyllis Wise, from the University of Illinois (which eventually awarded a math PhD to a female graduate school classmate of mine in the 1960s), on what a college education is for, in “The Chronicle of Higher Education”, here. I remember a similar lecture from the female professor in the WB TV series “Jack and Bobby” a few years ago.  It is the start of adult life.  That point comes across well in the opening scenes of the movie ‘The Social Network”.  My own experience, because of what happened in dorm life at William and Mary in the fall of 1961 to me would be compromised.

My parents, however, made it right and paid for the tuition at George Washington University while I lived “at home”.  I missed out on the socializing experience until graduate school (and even the the Army).  But the total tuition then for four years probably added up to about $6000.  I didn’t face adult life with the horrible debt problem of today’s college grads. 
It’s better, of course, if you have brilliant kids.   The press has covered the Andraka family near Baltimore, MD (both brothers are high achievers, in sciences, both medicine and engineering, see the Forbes article).   It’s wonderful if you have a kid with a musical gift, but you have to make a lot of room for it.  


The video  (TY University, from Iadarola) above gives info on “whether college is worth it” from the Federal Reserve. You’ll make “a little bit of extra money over the course of a lifetime”. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

ISIS forces Homeland Security to review small radioactivity dispersion, or conventional EMP flux devices as attractive to some terrorists

OK, here we go again, talking about existential homeland security threats, as an anniversary of 9-11 approaches. 
It is very hard to tell from the media, Pentagon, and right-wing Congressional rhetoric if ISIS (or ISIL) represents a new level of threat that we have not seen, even given the dire predictions after 9-11.  The same was said about Saddam Hussein at one time.  Most likely, the number of ISIS-trained US or western citizens actually in the United States right now is very small.  Britain, that’s another matter.

The actions of individuals in small groups or families, like the Tsarnaev brothers, are very hard to predict.  Indeed, a full trial of “Ja-har” might help us understand what really made them tick.

Furthermore, it seems extremely unlikely that a sleeper cell could actually manufacture a nuclear weapon, or could launch a high-altitude missile from off the coast (which NORAD should detect anyway).
But it is possible for terror cells (or even loan wolves) to mess with the lives of ordinary Americans, on the theory that individual people should be held “criminally” responsible if they benefit from the policies of their government.   I used to hear that theory in the early 1970s, from far left wing groups like the Peoples Party of New Jersey.  Ideological theories justifying an urge to punish ordinary people without warning range from religious (indeed, radical Islam as we see it, or sometimes extreme Christian fundamentalism, or even cultism), to fascistic (the “survival of the fittest”), to far-Leftist or even Maoist (everyone should experience poverty and peasantry, which is the theory that I have personally encountered the most often). They’re common in totalitarian systems. 

The two most dangerous ways huge disruptions could be attempted, possibly even within a near term time frame (as a 9-11 date approaches) would seem to be radiological dispersion devices (or” dirty bombs”), and smaller non-nuclear EMP devices.

The first of these two threats was widely discussed in the media in the months following 9-11, but discussion has dropped off since about 2004.  The obvious idea is that a device could make a large swath of urban real estate property worthless, particularly in a densely populated large city.  Most substances that might be used probably would not result in much or even any injury to people in practice;  residences could probably be lived in safely if authorities allowed it.  The biggest problem would be economic and perceptual.   In the suburbs, a home could become financially worthless if affected, but still be livable.  In some cases, homeowners might be expected to shelter other families. Obviously securities markets would be tremendously affected.

There aren’t that many high-profile articles on the problem. Here is an April 2011 “The Hill” blog entry by Carl Robichaud, link.  Security Magazine has an article by Bill Zalud from November 2012, here.  An article by Walter Griffin in the Bangor Daily News reported on an arrest in early 2009 in Maine of a “lone wolf’ (apparently a right-wing white supremacist) with dirty bomb components in his home, so there is precedence for law enforcement encountering this issue.  In 2008, there was a prediction in one Congressional paper that the US would encounter a dirty bomb attack by 2013, but that didn’t happen.
PBS News Hour had an 11-minute documentary, narrated by Miles O’Brien, three years ago, which speculates on the possibility of someone accumulating enough raw material from small places, and the possibility that Times Square could be closed down for months or years by a direct attack. A hobbyist’s project in Utah was shut down by authorities in 1995 when they found out he was accumulating a large quantity of small radioactive devices (like smoke detectors) for a rural “proof of concept’.  The short film shows the constant monitoring of harbor and public areas for radiation by the NYPD and interviews Mike Kelly, NYPD Chief.  
The other big danger could be smaller electromagnetic pulse flux devices, which usually will require a small conventional explosion.   The US Army already uses these to disable IED’s overseas.   In the Aug 7 posting here, I mentioned a 2001 “New Scientist” article that was curiously disseminated shortly before 9/11.  They have been known for a long time.  Future Sciene has a page on the issue here.  Michael Maloof (“A Nation Forsaken”, Books, April 13, 2013) has an article about a cruise missile weapon that can produce an EMP attack over a city (link).  The Washington Times ran a story about a device like this at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in 2009.   It’s dubious or doubtful that a sleeper group could really acquire or launch such a device, but off-shore ships might be vulnerable.

One other thing:  over Labor Day weekend in 2001, a bizarre email was circulated that suggested a possible incident to occur on 9-11.  Most people who saw it in their inbox probably dismissed it as spam or circulated by a virus or malware.  That is possible again, but if security companies or individuals see such messages, they should notify authorities.   The NSA is not the enemy this time.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Opposition to natural gas pipeline mounts in central Virginia

During my visit to the Monroe Institute and surrounding towns and attractions Sunday, I noticed many blue and white “NO PIPELINE” signs on county roads everywhere, including on the Monroe Institute grounds.
There is a proposal (the Southeast ReliabilityProject under Dominion Power) to build a natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina that could cross Nelson County.

The Nelson County Times has been covering the debate, as in this article
Some comments concern the diameter of the pipeline, some concern safety, and at least one regretted the loss of jobs of coal miners, but strip mining and mountaintop removal a hundred miles to the west of this area makes a lot of difference to jobs.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Field trip to Monroe Institute (remote viewing) and Yogaville; more intentional communities

Today, I did a rather ambitious, strategic field trip. 

I visited the grounds of the Monroe Institute, on Roberts Mountain, south of Charlottesville VA and west of US-29.  I had thought is on Faber Road to the East of US29 but that manor is actually 5 miles to the north.  The whole area is unincoporated and rather obscure.

I was supposed to do the one-day, six hour free program (offered every two months on a Saturday), but I arrived too late.  The doors in the retreat center were locked and the area was very quiet, even though there were many cars.  It is understandable that you have to get there on time, because of the nature of the exercises any interruption would disturb other participants from concentration.

It is also difficult to get there on time with the first visit.  It was farther way than I thought, traffic through Charlottesville was heavy with the rain. Actually, there are two campuses.  The main campus has the headquarters and some dorm buildings, but there were signs telling the participants to drive up to the top of Roberts Mountain to the Retreat Center, which is a full separate campus.  I miss understood them, and drove two other dirt roads, passing interesting stuff.  I saw a pottery artisan, then what looked like a small intentional community farm, before the road became impassable.  Along another road (Rainbow), there were some interesting homes just on solar power, off the grid, as the road became impassable;  at the end, there seemed to be a Buddhist Center, which at first I thought might be the retreat center, because there were cars and some kind of convocation there, too.

I did get to see the complete grounds of both campuses.   The Wikipedia article has some detailed description of the programs here as does the Washington Post in in Feb. 2012 article by Theresa Vargas, here.  The US military and CIA has reportedly sent students to the Institute.

The whole experience of astral projection and out-of-body experiences (that do not have to be “near death”) is supposed to be induced by meditation with certain kinds of aural stimulation (a trademarked process called Hemi-Sync).  When you project to a different location, you can see what happens at the location.  So this could be a form of spying, although I don’t think the NSA depends on it much.   
It may be possible to “remote view” other worlds, but it isn’t clear if the speed-of-light barrier applies. 

I think that dreams can provide OBE’s.  I find that jotting down quick summaries of dreams in a diary (which stays private, even from the NSA) helps with the recollection of future dreams.  An intense dream is more likely if one retires early and did not consumer alcohol or caffeine or drugs.  A dream might be intimate, and it raises the question as to whether the partner might have a reciprocal dream, as if telepathy was a kind of biological social media (like in the movie “Avatar”).  I think I have remote viewed another planet, maybe 25 light years away.  People from Earth (abducted?) seemed to be living there.  In one dream, we stayed in a stacked dormitory building, living in bays, in clean, Spartan, almost military quarters.  We could take a train and subway to the city but could not have cars.  In another dream, I saw the City, which seemed under a dome.  A high rise apartment always had two rooms in parallel, connecting at the window (yes, that’s how some apartments in the Country Club Towers in Arlington VA, where I have lived, are set up), near which there were several computer terminals with access to different systems, including Earth’s (how Facebook got past the speed of light, I don’t know.)  Access was allowed only at certain times.  There were no cell phones.   There were storage areas and entertainment rooms, and many passageways crisscrossing the city like the Minneapolis Skyway.  In still another dream, I saw a water area rather like Dubai’s Palms.  It seemed that only families could have detache houses.  The social structure was more like that of Singapore.  The climate outdoors was mild, with considerable mist and rain, and a lot of perpetual twilight (like in a tidally locked planet).  Plants were darker in hue than on Earth.

I’ll also mention that at 1:30 AM on 9-11-2001 when I was living in Minneapolis (2:30 AM EDT) in the Churchill Apartments,  I woke up having dreamed about a nuclear attack on Washington DC with a dark cloud over Mother’s house in Arlington.  I felt relieved that this had been only a dream.   I turned off the TV a minute before the first plane hit and started the 10-minute Skyway walk to work.

With the rest of the day, I went to the Blue Moon Antique and Book Mall in Lovingston, VA (the proprietor knew the Monroe Institute well) – more about that later.  Then I drove to Yogaville, Satchidanada Ashram, a Yoga Teacher Training and Retreat Center, including the Interfaith Shrine.

Inside the Shrine, you have to remove your shoes.  There are panels at two levels of all twelve major religious groups, with Christianity and Islam adjacent, but Judaism on the other side.   

Friday, August 22, 2014

An insurance group reports that electric utilities are making progress in hardening the grid

Business Insurance, an industry newsletter for which I have a print subscription, has an important cover story in the Aug. 18, 2014 issue, “Protecting grid from terrorists gains priority”, by Judy Greenwald, link here

The key point in the story seems to be the adoption of a new mandatory reliability standard designed and administered by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, under the supervision of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, with standards document here

The physical attack on the substation near Sam Jose, CA in April 2013 still has not been solved, and no group has issued a statement indicating any specific political motive.  Several other smaller substation attacks have occurred around the country in the past year.

Utilities do have insurance against property damage, not against business interruption (outages) themselves.   It sometimes can matter if an attack was politically motivated.

The article indicates that utilities have made considerable improvements to grid hardness since the northeastern power blackout in August, 2003.  These improvements sound significant in view of some editorials in conservative newspapers indicating that the grid is not prepared, and with international tensions (and the possibility that ISIS could replace Al  Qaeda as a source of sleeper cells) flaring this year.  In 2013, remember, Congress introduced HR 2417, which did not pass, to begin to address electric grid vulnerability to large events like big solar storms or possibly high altitude nuclear EMP blasts, which Oak Ridge National Laboratory and National Academies of Sciences and even NASA have written papers on in the part few years, and about which there are a few fiction novels.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wireless sensors and seeing eyes could become standard required equipment on new cars

Driver safety may improve with new technology that lets properly equipped cars be warned of hazards by nearby cars, even those out of direct sign, by wireless receivers, somewhat similar to GPS.  The New York Times has a story by Aaron M. Kessler in Business Day Thursday, “Cars conversing with cars: New era in safety when autos talk to one another and on the road”, link here.  The wireless technology adds to other technology that can provide more vision in blind spots, such as for backing or to the right of the car.  Some of this technology can stop the car automatically when backing. 
Without this technology, it is notoriously difficult to judge distances, especially when backing, from some cars, where objects or back walls or other lines of cars are closer than they look.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Two sides emerge in Ferguson shooting and riots; outside agitators echoes the "pitchfork" theory of Hanauer

The saga over the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO continued Monday night, with violence escalating toward midnight Central Time.  With CNN’s Don Lemon and Jake Tapper present, another person was shot in his presence Monday night  He does not appear to have been seriously wounded.
Police claim that “outside elements” are responsible for the extra unrest, not thee ordinary demonstrators who are behaving within their constitutional rights.
Police have said that demonstrators have to “keep moving” and are arrested if they stay in one place.

A photographer got hit by tear gas.

CNN also reports that a caller has details about police officer Darren Wilson’s side of the story.   
Apparently, he felt he was “rushed” by Brown (6 feet 4), although so many other accounts say that Brown’s hands were up.

Does the presence of the media aggravate the protests, who want to be seen?  This sounds like relativity: the presence of an observer changes what is observed.  Call it the "staring" or "kibitzing" effect. 
The presence of outside agitation goes along with the predictions of “revolution by pitchforks” if more is not done about inequality, Nick Hanauer’s comments reported here Aug. 13. 
The president has been promoting a Whitehouse initiative "My Brother's Keeper" during the crisis. 
Wikipedia attribution link for St. Louis Gateway arch picture. My last visit was in November 1998.  

Update: Later Tuesday

Police shot and killed a man in St, Louis wielding a knife.  There are reports that the man dared police to shoot him, after a theft in a convenience store, 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Private charities in the US do have some capability to house unaccompanied minors

I did a little field trip this Sunday afternoon on the issue of unaccompanied minors from Central America.  I drove out to the little unincorporated town of Bristow (also spelled Bristoe) southwest of Manassas VA, and found the campus of “Youth for Tomorrow.  The entire campus is private property, so it isn’t possible to drive through it, but it looks like there are classroom buildings, dorms and homes.  It looks as though it would have been possible for a number of minors to live there.  There was a story on local station WUSA in July, here. It hasn’t been reported recently if the students are still here and how they are being paid for.

Again, it does sound as if there would eventually be a push to find foster parents for most children still in the US, and that the administration does not want to make public policy based on the presumption of “radical hospitality” of American citizens to minors who enter illegally (or to encourage them to make a dangerous journey north).  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Plutocrat" Nick Hanauer warns that unchecked inequality will lead to revolution and implosion; the pitchforks and mobs will come "for us"

Plutocrat Nick Hanauer (wiki) gives a lecture on Ted about inequality.

Hanauer says he doesn’t work that hard, and that he benefits from “spectacular luck” as well as high tolerance for risk.

Inequality is at historic highs today.

If you live in a gated bubble world, “Wake up” he says.  The mobs and pitchforks will come for us, and a police state will result.  Insularity and aloofness won’t cut it forever.

Rising economic inequality is stupid, he warned. This is an argument about ultimate self-interest, not ideological morality.
We could wind up like 18th Central feudal France.  That’s after an EMP attack?

He does talk about the “virtuous circle”, and facing “middle-out economics”.  Like Perot, he warns that “trickle down didn’t trickle”.   The genius of capitalism is that it rewards people for solving other people’s problems.  “Economic growth” is “the rate at which we solve problems.” 

“I earn 1000 times the median wage.  But I don’t buy 1000 times as many trousers.”

He closes by warning us that he could just has easily been a poor person in Africa selling from a fruit stand to support a family.  

Update: August 14

Harold Meyerson has an op-ed on p. A17 of the Washington Post, Thursday, August 14, 2014, "A case for attacking economic inequality", link here. Online, the title is "Economic inequality, not just wages at the bottom, needs to be addressed".  Meyerson asks, "Why go after the 1 percent?"  He says that the tendency in business toward shareholder capitalism, to allow shareholders to demand their profits immediately and in the short term, rather than invest further in productivity and raising livings standards for everyone, especially in older legacy industries, is the problem.  This sounds like the "capital v. wages" argument of Thomas Piketty's book "Capital" (July 22, 2014 in Book reviews).  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teachers in Maryland county protest "sacrifice", won't give out homework without more pay

Teachers in St. Mary’s County, MD, SE of Washington DC, will not even give out homework, as a result of a pay dispute.  Teachers are using the phrase “back to basics” as part of the protest, as this story on ABC affiliate WJLA  But imagine school without homework, especially high school.  How can students become competitive?  What about term papers, like the one I wrote in 11th Grade on James Fenimore Cooper (the role of women in his novels).  Most teachers didn’t count routine problem sets at home in the grade (since most of it was about tests), but in Trigonometry in 12th grade, our teacher (an old single woman and a rabid fan of the “new Senators” in 1961) graded our homework and it counted ¾ of the grade. 

Teachers also complained they were spending money out of pocket on supplies.  They were expected to sacrifice. They were tired of it.

By the way, St. Mary's City is one of the oldest colonial settlements, rivaling Jamestown.  It was the earliest settlement recognizing both Catholic and Protestant faiths.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Is a hard-life a matter of inherited luck?

The Sunday Review section of the New York Times has an interesting op-ed by Nicholas Kristof, “Is a hard life inherited?  This Oregon man represents the crisis facing working-class men”, link here. The story is set in Yamhill, Oregon, a farming community.

Kristof is critical of the “mean-spiritedness” in the political world, and a general lack of empathy for those who don’t grow up with their cognitive skills nurtured by doting parents.  He mentions the hollowing out of middle class blue-collar jobs, that provided incentives for some kind of stability, which is often gone.  Lower income people have less reason to believe that they have any real “chance” in a system they never learned to play, and tend to view the wealth of those “above them” as unearned and acquired by luck, without a real moral claim. He puts this in political terms somewhat – right wing opposition to Medicaid expansion, especially in the context of Obamacare, but it also has a personal dimension, a lack of empathy (his word) or a willingness to relate or include in some meaningful way.  How does this play out with libertarian hyperindividualism?  Maybe it doesn’t, but social and religious conservatives have to deal with the idea that “taking care of one’s own first” can leave and increasing number of people out in the cold.  That’s a bit of a moral paradox.

Wikipedia attribution link for map area of story. 

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Model railroad of proposed Arlington County streetcar line shown at fair

Two weeks ago, the Metro opened a major new line in northern VA (Fairfax County). Today, at the Arlington County Fair, I saw a little “Z Scale” model railroad of the proposed streetcar line to run on Columbia Pike in south Arlington, site here.  I won’t get into the local politics of funding right now.  The railroad was superimposed right on a street map.

It’s about five miles from Ballston (where the Orange and now Silver lines run) to Crystal City, where the Blue and Yellow lines run (Yellow crosses the 14th Street Bridge above ground) after stopping at the Pentagon.  Logically, a line would belong along I-395, or perhaps Columbia Pike.  There’s a major bus line from the Pentagon along Columbia Pike now out to Annandale, but no rail.
The H Street streetcar line in NE Washington DC is near testing (website).  The line anticipates real estate development in NE Washington like that has occurred near Nationals Park (and hopefully a stadium next door for DC United soccer).  An Olympics bid would mean renovating RFK Stadium.  Northeast Washington is obviously the next target of gentrification, which of course drives low-income people out, enlarging the wealth gap in the City, which has come back in spectacular fashion since the 1968 riots.  Union Market, in NE, near Gallaudet, is also attracting attention, as Angelika Theaers has moved there, but right now it isn’t close enough to either the streetcar like or to the red line to be convenient.  

Thursday, August 07, 2014

John Kappenman explains mitigation techniques against power grid damage from solar storms, EMP (2012 meeting at Carnegie); libertarians -- wake up!

The New York Times, on Aug. 7, has a feature story on Rand Paul, and asks, “Has the libertarian movement finally arrived”, by Robert Draper, link here.  Yes, legalization of medical and even recreational marijuana and of same-sex marriage, and of general public acceptance of these changes, sounds libertarian. 
But another side to debating libertarianism is the idea of self-sufficiency.  This idea has certainly driven the Second Amendment crowd, in the face of tragic rampages, and sometimes fed into survivalism.  The fact is, we are very dependent on one piece of critical infrastructure – the power grid (however owned privately in US most areas), which also feeds the Internet and information infrastructure, which has made new modes of self-expression and self-broadcast possible.  These could all go away in an instant, if you believe the dire warnings about the damage that could be wrought by really big solar storms and by enemies or terrorists with EMP devices. (And, as for survivalism, some devices could shut down home generators, too.)

These threats seem legitimate, and have been discussed by credible sources, including NASA, which admitted we dodged a big solar storm in July 2012 – but didn’t admit it until April 2014 at a meeting at the University of Colorado.
On top of all of this, there have been news reports of physical attacks on power stations (the biggest, near San Jose CA in April 2013) (NPR story) and even of the presence of North Korean missiles snuck into Panama, creating a mini “Cuban Missile Crisis II”. 

It’s hard to get your arms around all of this.  The major media and federal government do talk about nuclear weapons, raw materials (HEU), domestic jihadists, and even the possibility of dirty bombs (although that idea was more commonly mentioned right after 9/11).  These may sound easier to pull off than a high or moderate altitude EMP blast, which, however, can be lower (like from a balloon) or from non-nuclear sources.  The major media have not covered this idea very well, so it is hard to assess how credible it is. The recent belligerence of Vladimir Putin suddenly fits in to the picture.  This is not an easy time for libertarianism.
Yesterday, I found an hour long Fox News video about the threat to the power grid from EMP and solar storms (coronal mass ejections), by Judge Jeanine, and placed my “review” on my “cf” (or “Films on Major Threats to Freedom”) blog, which is rather small compared to the others.

Here is an important video with relatively little publicized information on both the solar storm (coronal mass ejection) threat and the EMP terror threat:
John Kappenman: Latest Advances in Solar Storm Grid Impact Modeling and Mitigation”, put up by Policy Studies Organization Feb. 7, 2013, held at the Carnegie Center for Science on 16th Street in NW Washington DC  (a half mile from the White House), some time in late 2012. (Note: it’s interesting that the Carnegie Center hosts many screenings for the DC Environmental Film Festival.)  The meeting was the "Dupont Summit 2012" with the "InfraGard National EMP SIG". 

Kappenman represents a technology company AFS (Advanced Fusion Systems), and started out the talk with dire words about the threat to the continuity of the United States were there to be a colossal catastrophe.  One important fact is a growing awareness that big solar storms are more frequent than we had thought;  they can be ten times as powerful as the 1989 Quebec storm.  He showed a graphic of how the 1989 pulse reached into mid latitudes of the US.   He also explained that the EMP threat has two components, the E3, or slow pulse threat (the main threat posed by solar storms) and a stronger more geographically focused E1 component, which can be larger with non-nuclear Radio Frequency flux devices which the US military has and which terrorists could make  (New Scientist had explained this in 2001 with this article reproduced in Popular Science just before 9/11).
Kappenman showed some photographs of a typical substation and explained some technical mitigation measures that are possible now, especially against the E1 portion.  One concept is “GIC blocking”.  There are also issues with shielding and grounding components, and how to construct housing for them.
Kappenman suggests that the government should develop regulations forcing utilities to adhere to these standards.  
Note that a bill, HR 2417 (link)Secure High Voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage Act” did not get through the Senate in 2013.  The bill would set up standards of resilience to be implemented in six months (related to geomagnetic storms) and one year (regarding EMP from enemies), and requires utilities to become available to manufacture transformers within the US.  I don’t know how that would really happen.  This sounds like a good industry for the Shenandoah Valley, for Virginia to court. 
I wonder, with the NSA and CIA having so much info, how can we really miss this? 

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Monoclonal antibody serum appears to work miracles on two physicians with Ebola

Washington Post has a detailed story by Brady Dennis and Lenny Berstein here.  A company in San Diego used the tobacco plant (from farms in Kentucky) to create the matrix for the product, so it’s a good thing that tobacco has a medicinal use.  (I wondered, what if marijuana somehow worked?)  Dr. Brantly had deteriorated rapidly over a few hours while waiting for the serum to thaw naturally to room temperature, and says he thought he would die.  His clinical improvement in just an hour after receiving the serum seems unprecedented.  Since the serum worked also (although it took two doses) on the older female doctor Writebol, it seems very unlikely that the recoveries were spontaneous and coincidental. 
Brantly is reported as walking with appetite returning.  There would be a question as to how long his isolation continues if all symptoms resolve.  They might resolve rather quickly. 
There is also a question of public health policy, to develop a vaccine when it is not obviously profitable for pharmaceutical companies to do so.  This, like it or not, calls for Congressional leadership (something the GOP doesn’t like).  A vaccine for those who work in Africa or for people living there might be available by 2015.

There is one person from West Africa with possible symptoms being treated in isolation at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.   Would the CDC provide the serum for every such patient who tests positive in the US, if others develop the disease?
And it’s obvious that arguments about Obamacare got out the window.  The federal government seems to be picking up the tab, as if it were Britain’s National Health Service.  A default to single payer?
Vox Media has a story on what needs to be done to contain Ebola worldwide today, and it’s quite detailed, link here

Back in the 1990s, two books created a sensation about Ebola.  They were Robert Preston’s “The Hot Zone”, which I bought at a book fair in the workplace cafeteria around 1994, and Laurie Garrett’s “The Coming Plague”.  Particularly Preston’s book (which also speculated than an airborne animal virus called Ebola Reston might have started a human epidemic in 1989) stimulated public controversy.  There were “jokes” at work about it, and they even called me “Ebola Bill” for buying the book.  

I believe I have seen flyers for Samaritan’s Purse at local churches, including First Baptist in Washington DC.  

Friday, August 01, 2014

AC360 interviews Gupta on bringing two doctors back to Atlanta for state-of-the-art supportive care for Ebola, should improve survival chances greatly

Anderson Cooper AC360 talked to Sanjay Gupta about bringing two American doctors from Samarian’s Purse to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, each one on a separate plane for a 5000 mile flight.
The patients could get supportive care, including continuous fluids and blood transfusions to replace those lost, while the body tries to heal the infection.  The CDC and NIH are looking into the possibility of giving a non-FDA approved serum based on antibodies from patients who have recovered.
The CDC does not yet have full medical information on the two patients.
I hope this is correct, that both Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol. The question is whether aggressive supportive treatment more available in the West will greatly improve survival rate.
Infection control measures do work.  The virus is easily destroyed by disinfectants.  But in another story Gupta questioned a doctor on safety of those near doctors at Emory in the US in this story by Jacque Wilson, here

Back in the 1990s, Laurie Garret discussed Ebola in her book “The Coming Plague” and described doctors who survived it in Africa, including one who became completely hairless.   Robert Preston’s “The Hot Zone” was quite graphic.
It’s interesting that Delta offers non-stop flights from Atlanta to Lagos, Nigeria.  
Pictures: At Atlanta airport;  second picture is a mural at the airport 

Update: Aug. 2

NBC News has a piece answering concerns of those who believe Ebola patients, even humanitarian volunteers, should not be brought to the United States, link.