Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Second Amendment, the connection between the militia and conscription, and "privileged white males"


There’s more material flowing in about the latest rampage that re-ignites the gun control debate.
  
On Saturday, Kimberly Kindy and Alice R. Crites report in the Washington Post that the California police or sheriff’s offices did not check the gun database after checking on Eliiot Rodger. Had they done so, they would have found he had been “stockpiling” ammo, a sign that he was planning an event, even premeditating it. The link for the story is here. Indeed, the tone of the video is shocking in its self-indulgence, and shows great pre-meditation, not simply an impulse control issue.
  
CNN is looking at the pattern of rampages by “privileged white males” (although this list doesn’t include Va. Tech).  James Garbarino has a book called “Lost Boys”, and argues that mental illness is mixed with an inflated ego (a “high opinion of himself” to quote a co-worker from the distant past).  They are supported longer, spoiled.  The pattern of crime varies from the ghetto, where it is aimed spontaneously at individuals on the street, not at abstractions (although there is definitely a class component and an “us v. them” component to street crime, as discussed in the previous posting).
    
  
Also, CNN featured an interview with Michael Walman, author of “The Second Amendment: A Biography”, who disagrees with conservatives on the Supreme Court and who thinks thy have actually ignored original intent.  In many of the colonies, men (often just white landowners) were required by the colonial governments to keep guns in their homes or estates to be ready for militia duty.  The concept was analogous to the military draft.

CNN also reported on a man (Iraq veteran) living in Georgia who says he now thinks twice before confronting anyone in public because of the “stand your ground” laws.    

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The gratuitous violence associated with street robberies seems to be a matter of "reputation", not just class warfare


Since about 2007 I’ve noticed an increase of brazenness of street crime that the media reports as occurring in the Washington DC area (especially in some areas like around Capitol Hill).  Maybe it’s always been like this and happens in most large cities with poor urban populations (like Atlanta, Los Angeles, and of course Detroit).  But the reports (especially on local television stations like WJLA and NBC4 with Pat Collins)  about gratuitous violence in addition to “mere” robberies suggest that something more than just money and getting quick cash (like for drug fixes) is going on.

I checked on this and found an older paper from the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan, dating from 2003, by Dan Silverman, “Street Crime and Street Culture”, link) . This may come from a “conservative” research group, but the point about reputation in street gangs is well taken.  In urban street culture (including but not limited to gangs) physical self-preservation implores having a reputation of being physically tough and combative.  A person who beats up a victim in a street gang may be demonstration his physical “toughness” to other urban thugs or gang members, in order not to be turned on himself.  I had not thought about this before.  Street criminals live in a different world from ours, don’t see ours as legitimate to them but see us as enemies, and think about “street reputation” the way organized crime does, not the way we think about “online reputation” (at least, an analogy).

Some, such as Noam Chomsky, have suggested that gratuitous violence is part of “class war”; people are attacked because, in the view of the ghetto, they did not “earn” the advantages they have.  I certainly heard this viewpoint vocalized earlier in my life, from the extreme Left (like the Peoples Party of New Jersey, back around 1972), and when in Army Basic. 

Street criminals believe or “know” that they have control of the “reality” of the “victim” when committing their acts.  Often, they do not grasp the likelihood that they will indeed be apprehended and go to prison for years or decades. 

None of this is quite the same thing as psychopathy.  This morning I did watch about six minutes of Elliot Rodger’s “retribution” on Vimeo (no, I won’t embed it or even give the link, which will probably get taken down anyway).  One aspect of the rant was particularly striking.  He referred to apparently uncouth (from a visual appearance) men as “undeserving”, as if he were a god or dictator (like Hitler) and thought he could set up a world that decided who could live (again, like Adolf Hitler and then the entire Nazi establishment).  If this weren’t real, I might have thought this was a parody of fascism. I do recall, from my days in dorms in college and even in graduate school back in the 1960s, hearing the phrase uttered by a couple young men when drunk, “No girl does that to me.”  Yes, that sense of entitlement  (to heterosexual “male power”) rings some old rusty bells. I did wonder, when I was coming of age, why others made so much of my physical "iuadequacies" when these same others often had stable marital relationships while not being especially commanding or attractive physically.  

Picture: near the meteor crater at Wetumpka, AL (NE of Montgomery, recent trip). 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tupelo MS still has a lot of major residential damage a month after EF3 tornado


About four weeks after an EF3 tornado tore through Tupelo, MS, enormous piles of tree debris lie around residential streets, and many houses have roof tarps and are still being repaired.  In one small area, near a main street with many motels, houses and businesses were obliterated for two or three blocks.  On the other hand, a quarter mile East of that area there is little obvious damage.  The area with widespread tree debris and roof damage seems to be about a 10 block square area.  The homes are mostly one-story, typical moderate income structures. The most affected community appears to be substantially African-American.


Local people say that many homeowners did have insurance.  But housing them in hotels was difficult for a week without power, so some stayed in shelters.  Some stayed with other family if they had them. Apparently, however, there was no general call for “strangelet” homeowners to take them in.


Fox reported that many without incomes because local businesses were destroyed by the storm.   It is difficult to find enough contractors to get the work done quickly.  Homeowners need to go through insurance companies for estimates whenever possible to prevent gouging and overcharging (as I found out after the 2012 derecho), but it can be difficult to get the work estimated and started quickly.  It doesn't seem that volunteer construction work is as common after tornadoes after major hurricanes (Katrina and Sandy).
   
Can communities be much better prepared to prevent loss to storms like this, with building codes (tornado resistance with steel construction is possible), shelters, and digital storage of personal records and work? 



Storms of this size are much less common in the mid-Atlantic north of the Carolinas, but have happened, and could become more frequent with climate change, although that is still uncertain.  Climate change could make cold fronts from the poles less intense and actually reduce wind shear in many storms, while increasing precipitation and flooding. 
Even some major businesses and hotel chains will take some time to recover. 
The Comfort Inn Suites (on Gloster) appears heavily damaged (with no apparent repairs yet started to reopen), but the Comfort Inn, where I stayed, missed the tornado by about 500 feet.  

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Local Alabama paper describes heavy use of volunteers after tornado, and with homeless


The Tuscaloosa News (Alabama) Friday carried two stories about volunteerism that are both quite telling.

One of these stories  (by Lydia Seabol Avant) concerned the use of volunteers to build a homeless shelter , called the Jesus Way Shelter, organized by a group Project Blessings.  The religious beliefs (evangelical Christianity) aside, the use of volunteers in this “grab a hammer” effort to build a shelter is quite telling. The people who then live there are supervised and monitored, and this could of course seem controversial. The news story has good (copyrighted) indoor pictures of the shelter.


The bigger story (by Bayne Hughes)  concerned the use of volunteers to man a tornado relief center  (the more recent storm in April 2014, not the huge 2011 long tracking tornado) in Coxey, AL, run by the Clements Baptist Church. Apparently some volunteers traveled from other counties and lived there to help run the center. This is quite remarkable, and different from the effort to use volunteers to rebuild homes, as was done by Habitat for Humanity, the LDS church, and many other church groups after Hurricane Katrina. In that effort, many travelers were not allowed to work effectively because of safety, security, and mold problems.  Likewise, some protestant church groups organize volunteer efforts in Central America, especially for young people, with a lot of interpersonal contact which is a good thing, but risky and tricky to pull off. A church needs to know what it is doing to make it happen safely.  I wrote about this before in relation to an Anderson Cooper report about volunteerism in New Orleans after Katrina and attracted a most energetic and challenging comment, the "grab a hammer" posting on Aug. 29, 2007 on the TV Blog. 

In more well-off communities, people (often not socialized as much beyond their own families and immediate peers)  expect property insurance to take care of them.  In theory, one could take one's electronics and personal papers to a storm cellar, go to a hotel afterwards while insurance rebuilds.  Can this work with a massive disaster?  Most people in these areas were not well off.  What would happen after a massive disaster in an area that usually doesn't have them, more likely in the future with global warming?
  

The poverty in this area of the country, almost a half century after Selma, is remarkable.  Companies do not seem to like the area as much as they are drawn to other, now more socially progressive parts of the deep South.  The glitter of cities like Atlanta, Charlotte, and the high tech Research Triangle seem far away.  Local businesses are often not in good condition.  For people who don't work on farms and can't afford anything but processed food, obesity is more common than in more prosperous areas.  The Civil Rights and voting rights acts were a beginning but it takes a lot more.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

CNN reports on modern-day slavery in America; the issue of how "real men" should behave


CNN has reported on modern day slavery in the United States, especially in central Florida.  I could not find the most recent story, but there is an earlier story about a woman who was brought  from Indonesia to Los Angeles and who worked as a domestic without pay or days off for months, link here.  CNN has a video about sex slavery of young girls even in America, which recalls Ashton Kutcher’s campaign, “real men don’t buy girls.”  The behavior of those with demand is considered part of the problem.

  

The story follows recent reports about child labor on tobacco farms (May 17) of which immigrant migrant families often approve for family income.  In their culture, older children are expected to help support younger siblings.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Elderly drivers may soon face more frequent renewal scrutiny


Virginia has passed a law lowering the age at which seniors must show up in person to renew drivers license from 80 to 75.  Maryland will require road tests and cognitive tests when seniors have been reported by doctors or family (link with video  here). .

There is a push in Virginia to lower the length of the renewal cycle form 8 to 5 years.  The NBC Washington report was motivated by an accident in Bristol VA where an 85 year old man made a wrong left turn and killed a motorcyclist and almost left the scene.
  
Overseas there are maximum ages for car rental as well as minimum.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Small town California mayor creates controversy with comments on bullying


Mayor Cameron Hamilton, of Potterville CA, created controversy Tuesday by saying that bullied kids and teens should “grow a pair” and learn to stand up for themselves.  CNN has a link and video of the speech here.  The Washington Times has an account by Jessica Chasmar here

Some people thought the remarks were directed against the idea of safe zones for gay students, but the mayor denied that his comments had anything to do with sexual orientation issues.  But the town had supported Proposition 8 in the past.  The Mayor also said he was “against bullying” and that action should be taken when there is violence or repeated and obvious verbal abuse.  He repeated that to Cuomo.


Chris Cuomo interviewed and grilled the mayor of the conservative California town this morning, and wanted to come to some common ground.

I was teased, although aggressively hit and punched, when I was growing up grade school and middle school.  A couple of times, especially in seventh grade, it caused real issues.  In ninth grade, I verbally abused a boy who had an epileptic seizure and was called in by the school nurse.  Had that happened today, I might have wound up in an alternative school for a year.  That incident is in Chapter 1 of my first DADT book.  

I perceived the teasing from the perspective that a “weaker person” would not carry his weight in sharing the burdens of protecting the group.  This is from a “tribal” mindset where people have to face enemies and perils together.  This used to be viewed in terms of gender norms.    

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Child labor on tobacco farms in Southeast exposed in shocking CNN report


CNN has released a shocking report about children working on tobacco farms, mostly in North Carolina, but also Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, link here.The kids are getting nicotine poisoning through their skin, even resulting in vomiting and other symptoms, according to the news story.

The wages the kids earn are turned over the parents.  According to the article, US labor law does not regulate agricultural employment the way  it does industrial work, and very young minors can work with parents’ consent.  Most of the child laborers are Hispanic or black immigrants from the Caribbean or Mexico. It’s clear that illegal immigration could be exploited easily.   


Update: May 19, 2014

The Washington Post has weighed in on this problem with an editorial, here. (And, no, there are no tobacco plants in the pictures here.) 

Student loan debt is a big problem, but "the good kids are all right"


The New York Times offers a “beginners guide to repaying student loans” which may be numerous and on different schedules, link here.   You’d think banks would go into the business of consolidating them and making payment simpler.
  
Then Alexandra Petri talks about whether today’s kids are, well, kind of spoiled (I’m thinking of “Shane” from the hit gay film “Judas Kiss”). It's on p A17 of this morning's pirnt, but not on Post online yet. 
  
Let me put this all together.  This may be a great time to be a “kid”, or a young adult just out of college, if you’re good at things, and get along with people, particularly in a diverse society where “times have changed”.   Hopefully, “you” have gotten some real skills, gotten very good at something, while a teenager.  That’s easier in some fields – ranging from technology and computer programming, to music and film – today than it was when I was growing up – in fact, much easier.  The best time to get really good (at say programming) is when you’re young and your brain hasn’t done all its “pruning”.  That’s why we see prodigies in music, programming, chess, and sometimes even some performance arts, like theater.  Sports is a little different;  technology has certainly entered all of college and big league sports, but the opportunity level is more like it was when I was growing up.  (A few of the Nationals know me, I think, from social media;  I’ll think they’ll agree with this perspective.)
  
So if you were good at things – real activities, not just blogging and social media “likeonomics” – you’ll be wanted in the workplace.  You may have to share livings space, but you’ll get along. 
   
I seem to remember this lesson from the WB show “Everwood”.  The most important thing is to have been able to really get the maximum out of your childhood.   

Friday, May 16, 2014

CA wildfires underscore how disasters can make hundreds or thousands homeless suddenly


One of the leftover issues from the “emergency preparedness” meeting Tuesday night by the Arlington Civic Association would be the idea that it is possible for hundreds or thousands of families or people to become homeless suddenly.  This is unlikely in most of the DC area, except for an act of terrorism.  It happened with Katrina and Sandy, with very large, long-tracking tornadoes, large earthquakes, and with some of the wildfires.  But, anyone can have to deal with homelessness, with enormous practical problems regardless of financial condition and insurance if an area is affected badly enough.

Many of the wildfires in the past seemed to have been concentrated in more remote areas, affecting mainly people who had “chosen” to live in more fire-prone natural areas.  However, the news reports from the areas north of San Diego leave the impression that the fires have destroyed homes in much more concentrated, “normal suburban” areas.  I was last in the area in May, 2012, but not in the exact neighborhoods, so I don’t know how exposed most of them are to brush.  In February 2002 (ten years before) I had driven through the low mountains west of San Diego and definitely noticed the dry conditions and exposure for people who live there.  Likewise, I’ve driven the “Rim of the World” (in 1979) somewhere around San Bernadino or Riverside. Some friends or at least associates have owned property in Oakland, Malibu, and various areas around the high desert areas (like Morongo Valley), and Palm Springs;  but no one that I know of has had a major loss.  (LA Times story is here. )

It would seem that new suburban neighborhoods should be built with “moats”, brush-free areas of a few hundred feet before the houses and businesses start.  

In the DC and Baltimore areas, there have been long term displacement of homeowners after soil collapse or mudslides in a few neighborhoods after two recent heavy rain events.  Homes are not necessarily damaged yet, but homeowners are not allowed back into evacuated areas to recover possessions (like personal computers) so they can continue working.  It’s unclear how insurance works in these cases. WJLA story is here

Will there be more emphasis on “radical hospitality” in the future, in asking people with home space to house strangers from hundreds of miles away?  I wonder. 
  
The idea of sharing as barter (Katherine Rampell, “Paying your fair share”, Washington Post, May 16, p A21, 2014) seems “off base” here


Do we expect people to “take care of themselves” or not? 

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of San Marcos. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dominion Power, Emergency Preparedness meets with Arlington neighborhood residents to talk about readiness


This evening (Tuesday, May 13, 2014) I attended a community briefing of the Waycroft-Woodlawn Civic Association in Arlington VA, on emergency preparedness.


A spokesperson from Dominion Power described the priorities in the process of restoring electricity after a disruption.  There is authorization from the state to begin some undergrounding work, but extensive work would require SEC approval.  To put all of Arlington’s lines underground would cost $30000 per consumer. 


The spokesperson noted that it was getting difficult to hire repair linemen in this area.  Increasingly, more line repair technicians are women.  Dominion also showed charts showing a sharp increase in power disruptions related to weather or climate since about 2004.   Winds over 60 mph will usually cause some outages (the derecho led to winds over 80 mph).


A representative of Arlington Emergency Preparedness spoke frankly.  Mass evacuations are usually impractical and never happen after sudden catastrophes (hurricanes are the one major reason in coastal areas).  But she urged that everyone be able to survive 3-5 days not only without power in a small area like one’ s home, but in a whole metro areas, so far a very rare occurrence.  Having some cash was suggested.   

One possibility mentioned was that the 2011 earthquake could have been much worse, resulting in collapses and search and rescues.  But other real disasters are possible.  Nuclear weapons and dirty bombs were mentioned.  I asked about concerns from not just the right wing but from Oak Ridge Laboratories and the National Academy of Sciences about the possibility of solar super storms (like Carrington) or of an EMP terror attack (which could be localized and non-nuclear with flux devises in use by the military today in combat areas).  All of this was acknowledged as at least possible.  Dominion Power says that, in view of the reports about the incident in California in April 2013, it has steadily increased substation security.  And attention was being given to harden major transformers and switching equipment to electromagnetic disruption as well as cyber and physical attacks.  Large tornadoes have occurred in the area (Frostburg and La Plata) but don’t seem to be increasing in frequency with climate change.   

Cyclists should obey the same traffic rules as cars


I disagree with my friends at Vox Media over the idea that bicyclists should be allowed to run red lights after stopping (story by Joseph Stromberg here.).
  
My main concern as a driver is having to pass the same cyclist multiple times, unless there is a clearly separate bicycle lane.  I also believe cyclists should be allowed to ride only in the same direction as traffic, unless there is a separate bicycle lane with proper signals. 

The other day, a cyclist going the wrong way almost collided with me as I tried to make a right turn.  It is very difficult for drivers to see them in time. 
  
Likewise, pedestrians need to stay within crosswalks.  I once almost hit pedestrians walking way outside of the crosswalk in Minneapolis because it was difficult to see them before starting the turn.  Drivers should realize it can be hard to see someone about to step into the traffic if the car is already very close to the curb.



Update: May 17, 2014

Update: Here is some more feedback on the issue in the Washington Post.  Some cyclists say that drivers don't obey traffic laws either, so why should they, and then "get a life".  


Friday, May 09, 2014

In southern CA, some communities do water rationing by family size


Water rationing is common in many communities in southern California, and rapidly getting stricter, according to an article (Felicity Barringer) Friday on p. A16 of the New York Times, “In California, spigots start draining pockets”, link here.  This all goes with climate change.

Some communities Irvine Ranch, and San Juan Capistrano (“Vertigo”) ration according to family size (including the presence or absence of children) and local microclimate.  I don’t think I’ve come across this practice being explicitly described before, although in the 1970s we could have wondered about it with the possibility of gasoline rationing (which had been proposed for LA even before the Arab oil embargo of 1973). 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Wealth inequality is attracting more attention, even as a personal moral issue


The talk about wealth taxes is back, quickly, as Vox Media publishes a meditation, “The power that comes from being born really wealthy is dangerous for America”, animated video link here.  Ezra Klein does the narration and Joe Posner directs. 
  

The video mentions the mammoth book “Capital” by Thomas Piketty, which I will get to later.  Piketty is apparently even more energetic on progressive taxes, including wealth taxes, than even Elizabeth Warren (“A Fighting Chance”, but I will have to see for myself.
  
Klein has written about the perception of the aristocracy in the past, and how world wars affected it.  Unearned wealth can be lost to force. 

Income inequality (as examined by Robert Reich in a film last year) is more defendable, as higher pay is a reward for hard work and innovation.  You can't have innovation without inequality, and this inevitably leads to social tension. 
       
I inherited an estate, but an hardly even close to the “1%”.  But the far Left would see me as an offender.  “Intentional communities” try to address inequality on a moral level with income sharing, and essentially a moneyless system where work units themselves are traded (which can become politicized).




Wednesday, May 07, 2014

National Climate Assessment: weather extremes seem to happen more often because of overall warming


The National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee has released its Third National Climate Assessment, all available here. The New York Times shows the map at the top of its front pages story by Justin Gillis, here.
  
The media has republished its findings, including maps of the US showing rising temperatures in the coastal northeast and mid-Atlantic, northern plains, and extreme southwest.  While temperatures rise as a whole, extreme cold snaps in winter are possible and temperature swings rapid and extreme.  And incidents with torrential rains become more common.

Just last week, parts of the Florida Panhandle were inundated with twenty inches of rain.  A road collapsed near railroad tracks in Baltimore, and in an area in southern Prince Georges County, MD a hillside collapsed, threatening over twenty homes.

A few days ago I dreamed that my home had been obliterated by an EF4 tornado while I was away.  There was an F4 tornado in Frostburg MD, in mountains, in 1998, and another in La Plata, MD, in flat country near water, in 2002.  But the danger is that a warmer world could stir long tracking tornados to form in areas where they normally do not, even east of the Appalachians.    
  
One practical danger is to arrive home and find one is not allowed in the home because of local government condemnation or neighborhood closures, even to pick up laptop computers and go to a hotel and continue working.  While property insurance companies normally pay hotel expenses for displacement, there is a practical risk of experiencing life in a shelter and “homelessness” for anyone.
  
John Holdran, President Obama’s science advisor, discusses the report here.
  
  

Climate change is also a generational problem.  Younger generations will have to fix or live with the problems caused by their ancestors.  It is also international.  The US was the biggest “abuser” in the past as it built its standard of living without regard to the environment sometimes, and now China and other developing countries want the same “privilege”.  There's a lot one can talk about in how family structure affects consumption patterns in a way to impact climate change, and it goes both ways.  I do most of my own exploration alone, often by car.  I do think about it.  

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

A brief self-tour of our own domestic transformer manufacturing and electric grid recovery capability


Yesterday (Monday, May 5) I spent part of the day in Lynchburg, VA, and drove past a few provocative places.

For one thing, I saw the grounds of the company Delta Star, discussed here March 5, with regard to the difficulty of making and transporting the really large electrical transformers that would be needed if the US or North America lost a large part of the power grid to a big solar storm (with coronal mass ejections) or a terrorist EMP attack (most likely from a high altitude nuclear blast, but possibly for localized flux weapons in use by the military). 

Companies like this tend to live in obscure industrial areas of medium sized cities in the South and Midwest.   They are hard to find and tend to keep a low profile, for understandable reasons. At the time, the street was one-way and held-up by workmen for paving. 


The campus looked much larger than that of Virginia Transformer (July 17, 2013) in Roanoke (about 80 miles from this site). 

Lynchburg is known as the former home of Jerry Falwell, and businesses and streets (the main expressway bypass of US 29) are named after him.  Many homes have Christian or evangelistic yard signs (like “He Lives”).  Liberty University (associated with Falwell and Thomas Road Baptist Church) is there, as are a number of Christian private schools that have sometimes provoked controversy.  I passed one church with a book sale – I don’t think it would want to carry mine!

Lynchburg also had a CSX rail accident and oil spill recently (“cf” blog, May 1).

Still, it’s a lot healthier for us to make our transformers in a place like Lynchburg than in China or India.  I have the distinct impression that the physical security of the actual hardware components of the power grid is a more pressing issue even than cybersecurity, although I agree that Heartbleed shows that we shouldn't have control of the grid connected directly to the public Internet.    


Video above (mine): CSX coal train running in Lynchburg, site of derailment and oil spill last week. 

Monday, May 05, 2014

CDC watches new respiratory virus (MERS) from Middle East carefully; man in Indiana seems to be recovering


A case of Middle Eastern Respiratory Virus (MERS, a coronavirus) has been reported in a man in Indiana, after he appeared at a community hospital in Munster, essentially a distant Chicago suburb.  The man had been in Saudi Arabia.
  
USA Today reports that he is improving, here. The CDC reports here. The patient is in quarantine. However the infection is thought to live in camels and to have jumped to humans.  It seems less contagions person-to-person than was SARS.  But there seems to be no vaccine and no progress toward one.  In the Middle East MERS had a high fatality rate, as did SARS.
   
    
Very aggressive social distancing policies in China and then in the US when there was a case in 2003 did control SARS.  But it seems that if an infection like this that was transmissible person-to-person “got out” it could shut down most non-essential business in a city quickly through “social distancing” policies.  That sort of scenario was sometimes discussed with smallpox after 9/11. 

Update: May 13

There is a second case in Orlando FL, and the TSA is beginning to alert travelers.  A few health care workers in Orlando are in precautionary isolation (at least two, who have tested negative)/  There is another case in the Netherlands.



Update: May 16

Vox Media has a balanced perspective on MERS here.  The possibility of mutation is worth noting. But it's also likely there are many (even a large majority of) mild or even asymptomatic cases that go undetected, and that the actual death rate would be orders of magnitude lower.  If that;s true, exposure of the general population, to build up resistance, might be a good thing.

Update: May 17 

A person in Illinois has tested positive for MERS.  The person was in a business meeting with one of the index cases from Saudi Arabia and shook hands, a meeting that lasted 40 minutes.  The person met briefly the next day.  The person does not now have live virus and had exhibited only mild cold-like symptoms.  It is beginning to look like many natural infections, maybe most, are mild.  The CNN story (and another video) are here.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

An accidental Metro detour and attendance at a demonstration; more on inequality


A funny thing happened to me on the way to the “Opera in the Outfield” event at Nationals Park in Washington tonight.  At L’Enfant Plaza, I took the wrong train, wound up crossing the Potomac and winding up at the Pentagon.


While at the Pentagon, I met a couple carrying signs from a demonstration about animal and pet abuse, at least about dogs.  The sings read “END BAD OWNERS”. 



So that’s a good topic for today.  When I got pack to L’Enfant, I made a mad dash downstairs and upstairs to the other side, and got the right Green Line train to Nats Park. As I got out at Navy Yard, I saw a homeless man sleeping halfway up a stopped elevator.  I took a distant photo, so the person isn’t identifiable. But it shows how bad the problem of homelessness has gotten.  And there was “legal panhandling” in the line to go through security to get into the Park.  I gave someone $1, but I was surprised it was allowed. Ten years ago, when the Velvet Nation operated in SE Washington near where Nats Park is now, and slums were still around, panhandlers would approach you and ask them for money to “protect” your car.  Police say that’s “aggressive panhandling” and is a misdemeanor.  Once I even saw a weapon pulled, got away quickly and called police when reaching the bar.   The neighborhood looks great now with glitzy offices and condos, but the poor people have no place to go (but PG county, probably).  
Note how construction goes on;


And here's the real Navy Yard (where I worked in the early 1970s). 

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Tiger mosquito moves north with climate change, provoking new concerns about arboviruses


Public health authorities are concerned that the Asian tiger mosquito could bring the chikungunya virus from tropical regions up north as it moves north with global warming and longer growing seasons.  The mosquito is already reported in New York, according to the story.  The CNN story by Durland Fish, Mark Pagani and Anthony Leiserwitz is here. The virus is in the Dominican Republic and other areas of the Caribbean.  It generally causes what amounts to a “viral rheumatic fever”.
   
Fortunately, most arboviruses are specific as to what insects can carry them, and conversely, most insects carry only very specific viruses.  But the idea that climate change could cause new kinds of pandemics or cause existing viruses to behave differently cannot be easily dismissed.