Having been away for some time – I’ve decided to give MorganRants an early retirement.
Be seeing you soon!
Posted by morganwrites on March 14, 2009
Having been away for some time – I’ve decided to give MorganRants an early retirement.
Be seeing you soon!
Posted by morganwrites on October 7, 2008
The AIDS virus, previously thought to have been transmitted from chimps to humans in the 1930s, may have leapt the species barrier more than a century ago in west-central Africa, scientists said on Wednesday. Analysis of tissues preserved by doctors in the colonial-era Belgian Congo shows that the most pervasive strain of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) began spreading among humans at some point between 1884 and 1924.
“The diversification of HIV-1 in west-central Africa occurred long before the recognised AIDS pandemic,” they announced in the British-based science journal Nature.
AIDS first came to public notice in 1981, when alert US doctors noted an unusual cluster of deaths among young homosexuals in California and New York.
It has since killed at least 25 million people, and 33 million others are living with the disease or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS by destroying immune cells.
Epidemiologists trying to date the history of HIV have until now been limited to only one laboratory source that long precedes the detected start of the outbreak.
This is a now-legendary blood sample called ZR59, which was taken in 1959 from a patient in Leopoldville, now Kinshasa, then capital of the Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
HIV is highly mutating virus, with as much as one percent of its genome diverging per year.
This rate of mutation gives rise to a measurement called a “molecular clock,” a timescale at which the HIV deviates from previous strains and from its animal ancestor, the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV).
By this calculation, HIV began to spread among humans before 1940, according to ZR59’s genes.
Now, though, another precious piece of the jigsaw has emerged.
It is a piece of lymph node tissue that was taken for a biopsy from a woman in Kinshasa in 1960 and preserved in a bed of paraffin wax. It was found in the archives of the Anatomy Department at the University of Kinshasa.
An international team of sleuths pieced together the genetic sequence of the virus — the sub-group M of HIV-1 — and then compared telltale regions between ZR59 and the second sample, DRC60.
They found a significant divergence between the two genetic regions, and calculate that this gap must have taken around 40 years to evolve from a common viral ancestor.
In other words, the ancestral virus began to be transmitted among humans at the start of the century — the estimated range is between 1884 and 1924.
The virus spread only very slowly at first but got a vital foothold thanks to urbanisation during the colonial era, the authors speculate. It was transmitted through sex and then was taken further afield through commerce.
“The founding of and growth of colonial administrative and trading centres such as Kinshasa may have enabled the region to become the epicentre of the HIV/AIDS pandemic,” they suggest.
Kinshasa was founded in 1881, Brazzaville (capital of today’s Republic of Congo) in 1883 and Yaounde (Cameroun) in 1890, while Bangui (Central African Republic) was established in 1899.
All of these towns were founded before or at around the time that HIV-1 is believed to have entered the human population, the investigators note.
The growth of these towns was at first slow. Until 1910, not one of them had a population of more than 10,000 people.
There are several theories that seek to explain how SIV entered humans, the animal primates’ closest relative.
An infected chimpanzee bit a human, or a SIV-infected ape was butchered and sold for bushmeat, and the virus entered the bloodstream through tiny cuts in the hand, according to these hypotheses.
The new research was led by Michael Worobey of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Posted by morganwrites on July 24, 2008
The fact that they are wrong doesn’t discredit many of the solutions they offer to fix the real flaws of the program.
(JS) – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sounded the alarm that the government’s terrorist watch list has reached one million names:
The nation’s terrorist watch list has hit one million names, according to a tally maintained by the American Civil Liberties Union based upon the government’s own reported numbers for the size of the list.
“Members of Congress, nuns, war heroes and other ’suspicious characters,’ with names like Robert Johnson and Gary Smith, have become trapped in the Kafkaesque clutches of this list, with little hope of escape,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Congress needs to fix it, the Terrorist Screening Center needs to fix it, or the next president needs to fix it, but it has to be done soon.”
Painfully, I must agree with this organization. They are correct in pointing out that there are many flaws with this program that need to be fixed. However, I believe there are reasons to be skeptical about many of the claims and exaggerations from this purely partisan organization.
The ACLU makes many good points on this issue that we can not ignore. The sheer size of this list is something that should concern us. A list this large would be a bureaucratic nightmare to manage, and many mistaken identities are reported to happen with this program. I also agree with the ACLU that many innocent people are greatly inconvenienced by this well-intentioned but mistake-prone system. There is no doubt this program needs to be fixed.
On September 16, 2003, Homeland Security Presidential Directive-6 ordered that the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) combine all existing government terrorist watch lists to screen individuals trying to enter the U.S. This combined list became known as the consolidated watch list, and is the single list used to protect our airlines and port-of-entries.
Many people were shocked when artist Yusuf Islam, formerly known as pop singer Cat Stevens, was deported after appearing on the watch list. Others pointed out several logical reasons why the U.S. had him on the list, such as his donating thousands of dollars to the terrorist organization Hamas. Other high profile characters and ordinary citizens have found their names on the list, and many have been delayed or even denied their flights.
I have given the ACLU credit on this issue; now I will give reasons to be skeptical. The claim that there are one million individuals on the terror watch list is a myth created through the exaggerated “estimations” of the ACLU. The truth is there are less than 400,000 individuals on the consolidated terrorist watch list, and less than 50,000 on the no-fly and selectee lists.
Assumptions by the ACLU were probably based on a 2007 report claiming the estimate of 700,000 possible records on the watch list and growing by an average of 20,000 per month. Apparently, they didn’t take into account that the numbers do not necessarily represent actual individuals. A new “record” is created for every alias, date-of-birth, passport, spelling variations, and other identifying information for watch listed suspects. Furthermore, they did not take into account the name-by-name scrub that took place in 2007. Notably, 95 percent of those on the consolidated watch list are not American citizens and the majority are not even in the U.S. The shocking numbers the ACLU is broadcasting are simply inflated and dishonest figures.
The ACLU’s most valid point against this program is the misidentification of travelers’ names with those similar on the watch list. Their claims that individuals such as Senator Edward Kennedy are on the watch list are untrue, however there are common and shared names on it. TSA is implementing a program to reduce this problem by taking the matching responsibilities away from the airlines and putting them in-house, where additional data elements can help curtail inconveniences for these individuals.
Additionally, the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) provides a single point of contact for individuals having inquiries, seeking resolution regarding difficulties, or correcting erroneous information. I also admit some of the suggestions the ACLU offer are reasonable. Ensuring initial accuracy on the list through tight criteria and rigorous procedures should be taken seriously.
The watch list is not a perfected tool against terrorism. It is very valuable and it keeps real threats off the airplanes everyday. I’d rather be personally misidentified as someone on the list and suffer the delays and interrogations than to miss one real terrorist. This is a necessary tool needing a little tweaking.
The ACLU’s dishonesty and tendency to exaggerate only hurt their credibility, especially when they have legitimate concerns and reasonable suggestions towards solutions. Truthfully, the picture has been distorted; one million people are not barred from flying. Why can’t the ACLU just tell the truth? In this worrisome time, the American people need to be given the facts — not a line of bull.
Posted by morganwrites on July 23, 2008
PITTSBURGH — A woman suspected of cutting open a pregnant woman’s uterus and stealing the baby has been charged with homicide, unlawful restraint and kidnapping, police said Sunday.
Andrea Curry-Demus, 38, of Wilkinsburg, is charged in the death of Kia Johnson, 18, of McKeesport. Curry-Demus is accused of taking the baby boy to a Pittsburgh hospital and claiming it was her own.
Johnson’s body was found Friday in Curry-Demus’s apartment. The body was positively identified through dental records, Allegheny County Medical Examiner Karl Williams said Sunday.
In the criminal complaint, police said that video surveillance at the Allegheny County Jail from Tuesday afternoon shows Curry-Demus talking with Johnson for several minutes. The women were at the jail visiting different inmates, police said.
The clothing Johnson is seen wearing on the surveillance tape was consistent with the garments found on her body, police said.
Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said the jail was the last time Johnson was seen alive.
Curry-Demus was being held in county jail on Sunday and it was not immediately clear whether she had an attorney. A lawyer who had represented her previously did not immediately return a phone message left Sunday.
No one was home at the McKeesport home of Johnson’s father on Sunday.
In the criminal complaint, police said Johnson’s body was found bound at the wrists and ankles with duct tape, and there were layers of duct tape and plastic covering much of her head. Her body was wrapped in a comforter and garbage bags and placed under the headboard of the bed in the master bedroom.
Williams said Johnson appeared to have been dead for about two days. She “had a wound to the abdomen consistent with the removal of a baby,” Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said.
“A very sharp instrument” was used to cut open Johnson’s belly, he said.
Authorities said Johnson was 36 weeks pregnant, and they were trying to determine whether she was alive when the baby was removed. They also are awaiting toxicology tests to find out whether she was drugged. Test results are not expected for several weeks.
Police said in the complaint that Curry-Demus denied meeting Johnson but that she told investigators that her fingerprints would be on the duct tape and plastic used to wrap the body.
Curry-Demus showed up at the hospital Thursday with a newborn that still had the umbilical cord attached, police said. Tests later proved that she was not the mother.
Police said Curry-Demus initially told investigators she bought the baby for $1,000 from the its mother. She later said two people brought a pregnant woman to her apartment Tuesday evening, removed the baby the next day and gave it to her. She said she then took the newborn to her sister’s apartment and told her she had just given birth, police said.
Curry-Demus’ sister told investigators she didn’t see anyone else in Curry-Demus’ apartment when she visited twice Wednesday morning, police said. On the first occasion, Curry-Demus repeatedly went into the bedroom alone, closed the door and stayed there for several minutes. On the second occasion, Curry-Demus showed her sister the baby and claimed to have just given birth, police said.
Wilkinsburg Police Chief Ophelia Coleman said Sunday the child was “under observation.” Williams earlier said the baby was “apparently doing well.” The hospital has declined to release any information about the child.
In 1990, Curry-Demus, then known as Andrea Curry, was accused of stabbing a woman in an alleged plot to steal the woman’s infant. A day after that stabbing, Curry-Demus snatched a 3-week-old baby girl from a hospital after the child’s 16-year-old mother had gone home for the night. The baby was found unharmed with Curry-Demus at her home the next day.
Curry-Demus pleaded guilty in 1991 to various charges from both incidents and got three to 10 years in prison, according to court records. She was paroled in August 1998.
Sometimes I wonder why I even read the news.
Posted by morganwrites on May 16, 2008
Posted by morganwrites on April 4, 2008
Antibiotics Don’t Relieve Most Infections, Says Study
(WP) – If you’re one of the 20 million Americans who get a sinus infection each year, experts agree: You’re being prescribed antibiotics too often. Now some are saying you shouldn’t get them at all.
Antibiotics should never be prescribed for otherwise healthy adults with sinusitis, an analysis of a collection of studies concludes in The Lancet. Belgian and Swiss researchers who reviewed data from nine clinical trials involving more than 2,500 people with sinus infections found that the vast majority who received antibiotics didn’t need them. That’s because while 80 percent of patients diagnosed with an acute sinus infection are prescribed antibiotics, only 5 to 10 percent of such infections are bacterial and respond to the drugs. But doctors often have a hard time distinguishing between viral and bacterial strains.
Over-prescription of antibiotics for a host of medical conditions has led to widespread antibiotic resistance — meaning doctors have fewer drugs effective against many bacterial infections.
But the Lancet study’s conclusions conflict with sinus infection guidelines published last fall by the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. Those guidelines recommend antibiotics (usually amoxicillin) if symptoms last more than 10 days. And some experts are calling the study’s advice too extreme.
“There’s no question that antibiotic resistance is a huge issue when it comes to treating sinusitis,” said Richard Rosenfeld, chairman of otolaryngology at Long Island College Hospital in New York and the head of the task force that issued the guidelines. “After all, about 20 percent of all antibiotics prescribed for adults are given to treat sinus infections, and at least some of that is unnecessary.”
But Rosenfeld and others said the Lancet analysis was not a sufficient basis for changing clinical practice because it was a meta-analysis, not a randomized trial comparing patients treated with and without antibiotics. What’s more, said Rosenfeld, the analysis did not include patients diagnosed on the basis of CT scans, nasal cultures or other sophisticated tests.
“That means that patients most likely to have a bacterial sinus infection would have been excluded from the study,” said Rosenfeld.
A 2007 study in the Archives of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery by researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center was also critical of what it called over-prescription of antibiotics for sinus infections.
Sinuses are hollow spaces behind the nose, cheeks, forehead and eyes that are lined with mucous membranes. These membranes can become infected when a virus in the nose travels to the sinuses. Nose secretions caused by allergies, colds, cigarette smoke and environmental irritants can also travel to the sinuses and become trapped, causing a bacterial infection. In either case, said Stanley Chia, a staff otolaryngologist at the Washington Hospital Center, symptoms may include low-grade fever, pain and pressure behind the nose, headaches and a runny nose, sometimes with a colored discharge.
An infection that lasts up to four weeks is defined as an acute infection; one that lasts more than 12 weeks is considered chronic.
According to a press release that accompanied the Academy guidelines, sinus infections are among the most common and costly ailments of U.S. adults. Rodney Taylor , an associate professor of otolaryngology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, says doctors often prescribe antibiotics under pressure from patients anxious to stop the pain that often accompanies infections. Plus, he said, prescribing the drugs often takes less time for rushed doctors than explaining to a patient why drugs won’t help.
Better treatment choices, according to the Academy, are cleansing with a saline solution or using a nonprescription decongestant. Many physicians also recommend nonprescription painkillers, as needed, to relieve headaches and fever.
An antibiotic prescription is warranted for sinusitis patients with chronic health problems such as heart disease or diabetes, which could be exacerbated by a bacterial infection, said Taylor. Antibiotics can also curtail rare spreads of the infection to the eyes and even to the brain, said Chia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of bacteria resistant to antibiotics has increased in the past decade, and many major bacterial infections — including tuberculosis, some pneumonias and a growing number of hospital-acquired illnesses — are becoming resistant to common antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, and even last-resort ones such as methicillin and vancomycin.
But a patient with a pounding headache from sinusitis typically is more focused on relief than the state of world microbials, say experts. The challenge, particularly for primary care doctors who treat the bulk of sinus infections, is to figure out when an infection is bacterial and when not.
While otolaryngologists can rely on sophisticated tools such as endoscopes — lighted tubes that can see inside nasal passages and detect pus in sinuses, a sign that an antibiotic may be needed — primary care doctors usually rely on nose secretions and a patient’s report, said Taylor. And while yellow or green mucus was once regarded as a sure sign of bacterial infection, doctors now know that this is not necessarily the case, leaving generalists without a clear sign of when to prescribe drugs. ^ and when not.
The Academy guidelines suggest that doctors consider prescribing antibiotics (usually amoxicillin) if symptoms – including colored nasal discharge – persist beyond 10 days, or improve within a 10-day period and then worsen.
Well, can’t believe that doctors are acting like doctors should. How odd.
Posted by morganwrites on March 29, 2008
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Aviation officials said the main passenger door fell off a twin-jet business plane as it was taking off from Grand Junction Regional Airport, but no one was hurt.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus said the front left side door tumbled from the Bombardier Challenger CL-60 shortly before 4 p.m. on Monday, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing.
Fergus said the plane was “climbing” when the door fell out. It landed in a desert area west of the airport property, he said.
No one on the plane or on the ground was hurt. There were two pilots on board the aircraft but no passengers.
As emergency crews waited, the jet circled back to the airport and landed safely. It was flying from Grand Junction to Rifle.
Fergus said investigators will look into why the door detached from the jet. FAA investigators are expected at the airport Tuesday.
The plane’s registered owner is WFP Investments of Snowmass Village. No one answered the company’s phone after business hours Monday.
Airport officials said the plane was towed to Westar Aviation for inspection.
Posted by morganwrites on January 27, 2008
St. PETERSBURG, FLA. (AP) – Florida Gov. Charlie Crist endorsed a beaming Sen. John McCain on Saturday night, delivering a boost three days before the state’s pivotal primary.
Crist said he would campaign for McCain in the coming days. “I just feel in my heart he’s the right man for the job at the right time,” he told reporters afterward.
The winner of next week’s primary will capture all 57 delegates at stake, a large prize that will set the stage for a virtual nationwide primary on Feb. 5.
Crist’s endorsement was sought by all the GOP presidential rivals, including Romney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
McCain said the nod “means a lot in this race.”
“I’m honored and privileged,” McCain told reporters. “And I intend to work very closely with him on the issues. We’ve got to provide home insurance for every person who lives in the path of a hurricane. We are going to have to work together to save the Everglades and other great environmental treasures of this state.”
He quipped: “We will continue to compete for both baseball spring training and for tourism.”
McCain does not support a national catastrophic insurance fund for Florida and other hurricane-prone states, instead saying he could bring industry and government together to protect homeowners. Crist does support a national fund.
It’s unclear what effect the two endorsements will have on McCain’s candidacy.
At the very least, the nods of Florida’s two top Republican elected officials could serve to validate McCain’s candidacy with the GOP establishment and counteract the fears among some that he would not be a loyal Republican while in the Oval Office.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in an e-mail to the Associated Press, said: “I respect the governor’s decision but Republican voters will determine who they want among very fine candidates. I look forward to working for our party’s nominee in the general election.”
Bush has not endorsed a candidate but many of his allies and aides have backed Romney.
Crist, a popular first-term governor, had suggested he would stay out of the multi-candidate GOP primary, and played coy about his preferences for a year. He met with all the serious contenders, and appeared with some at events.
McCain campaigned for Crist during his 2006 campaign for governor, endorsing him before the primary and appearing with him the day before the election, when Crist opted not to appear with President Bush at a Pensacola rally.
Giuliani also campaigned with Crist, and Romney delivered a $1 million check as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
While Crist has met with other Republican candidates in his office, he took an extra step last spring by introducing McCain at a fundraiser held a few blocks from the Capitol. During a debate last fall, when Crist introduced the Republican candidates, he warmly embraced McCain while shaking the hands of his rivals.
Crist has been seen as a moderate Republican. He has championed efforts to curb climate change, and was praised by former President Clinton for his efforts to restore voting rights of felons who have completed their sentences.
He also pushed for a law that requires a paper trail in state elections, a measure that bans the electronic voting machines his predecessor, Gov. Jeb Bush, sought after the 2000 presidential election. That election ended in a hotly contested recount, which President Bush won by 537 votes.
Say it isn’t so. John McCain as president? OMG.
Posted by morganwrites on October 9, 2007
Goodsprings, Ala. (AP) – Human waste from New York is creating a stink in rural north Alabama. A Texas company has opened a plant that treats sewer sludge from New York and turns it into fertilizer that is spread on Alabama farmland. It’s a great deal for farmers, who get the fertilizer for free, but some in northwest Limestone County say they can’t stomach the stench.
“When the wind is right, we can’t even breathe,” said Lori Muse of Goodsprings. “People out here are really upset about it. It smells 10 times worst than a pig barn.”
Bill Daws, a county commissioner, called the odor, “the worst smell that I’ve ever smelled.”
“But we checked everything out and it all appears to be legit,” he told The News Courier of Athens, which first reported the flap.
Synagro Technologies Inc. of Houston, Texas, has a contract to dispose of human wastes from New York. The company treats sludge from wastewater plants in New York and ships it to Alabama by rail car by the ton.
The sludge is treated again at a plant in Leighton before it is spread on fields for farmers who sign up for the program, said Rodney Jackson, who investigated the arrangement for the Limestone County Commission after complaints started coming in.
People don’t like the idea of New York poop being shipped to Alabama for disposal, he said, and they were worried about the possibility that the fertilizer contained e-coli bacteria.
“According to the EPA it is not a health hazard, it is just a nuisance because of the smell,” he said.
And what a smell it is, according to some. “I’ve described it as chicken litter and a little more,” said Jackson, an enforcement office with the county revenue department.
Synagro spokeswoman Lorrie Loder said as many as 40 farmers in the area have signed up to receive the shipments and another 15 are on a waiting list.
“It is a safe product and it does produce an odor like most good fertilizers do,” said Loder.
Farmer Gary Peek said the free fertilizer is saving him a lot of money and enriching pasture land.
“I want to be a good neighbor,” he said. “I’m not looking to harm anyone. I’m just trying to make a living.”
Let’s have Lorrie’s back yard filled with ‘good fertilizer’ and have her children go out and play for a while. Also, can we really trust the EPA to give us a straight answer? More on the EPA in days to come. Maybe Synagro could ship the waste to China disguised as toys with lead paint.
Lyrics in header from Lynard Skynard, Street Survivors, That Smell, 1977.