Archive for the 'Science' Category

That’s a nice country you’ve got there

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Wretchard et al, with some minor edits:

No one knows if the administration will manage in the next five weeks to strike what many in the White House consider the most important foreign policy deal of all time: an accord with Iran that would forestall its ability to make a nuclear weapon. But the administration has made one significant decision: If agreement is reached, it will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on it. Sneak it in the back door and declare victory. Nothing warms the cockles of his heart more than “it is so ordered”. But that has been the pattern for the administration. It claimed al-Qaeda decimated, maintained the attack on the Benghazi consulate was caused by a video, swore that the mandates were not taxes, that you could keep your doctor or health plan; it celebrated the fresh wind of an Arab spring that blew through Libya, Egypt and Syria. It claimed the doorman Putin has been put in his place. Which of these is true? But there are many who still believe. Unfortunately they may be surprised one day when all the dreams of grand bargains, resets, pivots, springs and a World Without Nuclear Weapons don’t actually come true. The disappointment may be a bitter one.

That’s a nice country you’ve got there; be a pity if anything happened to it. Also, Roger Kimball is upset for some reason.

Fun with numbers

Friday, November 21st, 2014

SacBee on Cal public pensions:

their “unfunded liabilities” – the gap between assets and liabilities for current and future pensions – exploded from $6.3 billion in 2003 to $198.2 billion in 2013. Moreover, that startling number assumes that pension systems will see asset earnings of about 7.5 percent a year – a number that some are beginning to see as unattainable.

Los Angeles’ city pension system dropped its assumed earnings, called the “discount rate,” last week. The board of California’s second largest pension system, covering teachers, was told last month by a panel of experts that its 7.5 percent assumption is likely to be under 7 percent for the next decade.

If a 7.5 percent discount rate, which is also used by the giant California Public Employees’ Retirement System and many local systems, is too high, the current $198.2 billion debt in Chiang’s report is, in reality, much higher.

If we only stick the people who think thoughts like this with the bill….

2030 is just around the corner?

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Bloomberg:

best argument against regulating carbon emissions from U.S. coal plants has always been this: If China won’t act, what use is it? Why risk harming the U.S. economy if the resulting drop in emissions isn’t enough to slow the worst effects of climate change? The U.S.-China climate agreement announced last night turns that argument on its head. Under the deal, China will aim to begin reducing its carbon emissions by 2030, and the U.S. will reduce its emissions by as much as 28 percent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels — “reductions achievable under existing law.” Translation: The U.S. can only honor its commitment if proposed regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, which aim to reduce power-plant emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, are allowed to proceed. So if some in Congress block those rules, they risk tanking the agreement with China, which in turn gives China a reason to back out of the deal. The EPA rules that previously looked senseless in the absence of Chinese emissions reductions are now, arguably, the single most important thing the U.S. can do

This is a parody, right? Possibly related.

Life then and now

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

HuffPo:

Mia Love made history on Election Night 2014 as she beat out Democratic contender Doug Owens to become the first black (Haitian-American), female Republican to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. This is a stunning triumph in the predominately white and conservative state of Utah, where only 1.3 percent of the population is black. For many Americans unfamiliar with the significance of race, racism and inequality within our nation’s borders, Mia’s victory seemingly sends a clear message that America is truly “post-racial,” particularly if a black woman can get elected to office by a majority-white, conservative and religious constituency. Her white supporters likewise congratulate themselves, proclaiming that Love’s achievement is indicative of a more progressive and democratic society in general where tolerance and inclusion are on the rise, moving beyond the evils of individual bigotry. Starkly exposed since the election of President Obama in 2008, her GOP colleagues and supporters hope that her presence as a newly elected official will demonstrate how far the GOP has come, embracing difference that was so clearly lacking. Some believe her victory will do wonders for the GOP, which struggles to gain a significant share of the coveted “minority vote.” But will her election play a major factor in gaining greater access to black Americans, or is it merely a veil?

To many African Americans and other individuals engaged in politics who followed Mia Love’s House candidacy up to her historic victory, she is a paradox. As a black, female Mormon, her conservative ideals are deemed peculiar as she begins her office in the House of Representatives while balancing a triad of oppressive social constructs that are leveled against her. Not only have blacks historically and continually had to battle for their right to coexist as equals in U.S. society, but women have similarly pushed against a glass ceiling. Even today, women still struggle for equal pay, equal rights and equal protection under the law in the workplace. Mia, as a black female, represents one of the most discriminated-against racial groups in the country. To a degree, the same can be said for her Mormon identity, as the LDS faithful endured bitter hatred and state-sanctioned domestic terrorism in Missouri and Illinois in the 1800s. Mormons remains grossly misunderstood and often unfairly judged with respect to their religious views, while mainline evangelical traditions continue to wield Christian privilege at the expense of “fringe” religions like Mormonism. How does a black, female conservative and Latter-day Saint manage to negotiate so many foreboding white contexts?

Love’s political convictions show a strong support for values that do not necessarily represent her interests as a member in any of these oppressed groups.

We were somehow reminded of this from a decade ago:

Here is the signal fact of our progress in the last century. If you were born in 1900, your life expectancy was in the forties, and GNP per capita was about $4000. If you are born today, your life expectancy in about eighty, and statistically, as an average American, you are ten times richer. In reality you are a hundred or a thousand times richer, if you factor in your ability to be in Paris tomorrow for $500, your ability to watch events from fifty years ago as they actually happened, etc. – not to mention that your toddler’s severe pneumonia can be reliably cured in 48 hours or so. Only a little of this has to do with government.

Mostly it is because far more than 50% of everything ever invented in the history of humanity was invented in the last 130 years, and perhaps 50% of that was invented by Americans. Milton Hershey invented the candy bar, Carrier invented the air conditioner for a tire plant, Sears invented catalogue distribution, Henry Ford invented cheap cars, some guys from Texas Instruments commercialized the transistor. It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of the invention and wide use of brand names, which communicate the quality and dependability of every product we buy. This alone deserves the Nobel Prize. And it was a large and growing market, the availability of risk capital, the development of standardized accounting principles, and protection of intellectual and personal property by the courts that made this possible

Moreover, in the years since we first wrote the paragraphs above, the following inventions and innovations have appeared on the scene: the iPhone, the iPad, YouTube, the World of Google, ubiquitous wireless, texting, twitter, tumblr, the cloud, and the entire universe of real-time, mostly inane interconnectedness

That HuffPo guy sure seems unhappy in 2014. Again we’re reminded that no one in America remembers what life was like without telephones, running water, indoor plumbing, cars, airplanes, central heating, or electric lights. A quote from Henry Adams is apt: “The American boy of 1854 stood closer to the year 1 than to the year 1900.” Vanishingly small numbers of Americans have a visceral understanding of what 1854 was like, and what the heck Adams was talking about.

A program — offered seriously — for 2014-2016

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

The Nation has an agenda for 2014-2016:

immigration reform. Announce a serious executive action. Go to the South Valley of Texas and/or the Arizona border, and make appearances with some of the little girls and boys who are trying to come to the United States to avoid their dangerous, hard-scrabble lives in Honduras and Guatemala…

Cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. Then elevate climate change as an issue…Meet with China and India on climate issues, before the next round of global climate meetings. Set aside big chunks of public land and ocean, and hold photo ops in spectacular natural settings as you do so…Host a national teach-in with real climate scientists, on C-Span, and use it to drive a nail in the coffin of the fake, corporate-funded, “climate denial” science. Pull together a meeting of coastal mayors to talk about what “resilience” steps to take to prepare for the next Superstorm Sandy — this is not only necessary, it’s a good way to raise the issue of needed infrastructure spending. Take the climate disruption issue head-on, and make it part of the legacy. No previous leaders have met the challenge of global warming, a threat that affects both national and world security…

Go up to the edge of normalizing relations with Cuba. Send the Attorney General down to Havana to work out the details. I understand that current law prevents fully normalizing relations with Cuba, but there are a series of executive actions that would weaken the embargo, increase American prestige in this hemisphere, and help stabilize working relationships with Cuba on a series of bilateral issues. Even better, take these executive actions just before the entire hemisphere meets at the Summit of the Americas in Panama in May, actions that will enhance America’s reputation across Latin America.

Use changing national attitudes on marijuana to weaken the wasteful and ineffective war on drugs. Better yet, use executive power to weaken our harsh and racist criminal injustice system. Reclassify marijuana as a less-dangerous drug. Commute sentences of nonviolent pot prisoners (a disproportionate number of them young African-Americans!). Appoint a blue-ribbon presidential commission on drug reform and criminal justice reform, with a mandate to report back quickly on issues from marijuana legalization to curbing police brutality to eliminating three-strikes-and-you’re-out policies to reforming harsh sentencing to ending the militarization and weaponization of local and state police departments to stop and frisk to racial profiling.

Nominate Tom Harkin to the Federal Reserve Board…

issue a Good Jobs Executive Order that would reward companies that pay their workers a living wage, allow them a voice at the workplace without having to go on strike, adhere to federal workplace safety and fair labor standards and limit the pay of their chief executives to some reasonable ratio to that of their average workers.

Nominate a diverse set of progressives to fill every judicial vacancy at every level, and then make this a huge national throwdown fight when they are not approved. Given the poor public view of the runaway, activist, Citizens United–tainted Supreme Court, judges could become one of the big issues of the 2016 campaign. Be the change you want to see. Sí, se puede.

That’s a winning platform alright! Perhaps there’s a reason for all the drug talk. And this from Patterico. Hinge, hinge, unhinge.

Bonus fun: compare George Will’s recommendations with the Nation’s. Questions? Anyone?

What’s up (or down) with oil?

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

BI:

advances in hydraulic fracturing have fueled what some call the Great American Shale Boom. Oil and natural gas extracted from shale basins have left the US flush with energy. It’s been a boon for US energy-related jobs and equipment suppliers. But it’s not cheap to tap these so-called unconventional plays. In other words, crashing oil prices will soon make many of these energy sources money-losing projects. Morgan Stanley estimates the average breakeven oil price for these US plays to be about $76 to $77 per barrel. Goldman Sachs puts that number at closer to $75. If the price of oil can’t cover production expenses and these companies are forced to idle their operations, then you could expect spending to drop, jobs to get cut, and delinquencies and defaults to rise. To make matters more complicated, many of these energy companies are financing their operations by borrowing in the junk-bond market

Oil closed at below $79 today. We certainly remember the bad old days when oil was twice that price. It’s hard to believe that the recent plunge in oil prices is an considered attack on US fracking, but these are strange times and the strangest things have become unsurprising.

Fairy Tales, Alchemy, Superstition continue…

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Reuters:

“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in the message. Leaders must act, time is not on our side,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in presenting the report in Copenhagen that is meant to guide global climate policy-making. With fast action, climate change could be kept in check at manageable costs, he said, referring to a U.N. goal of limiting average temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times. Temperatures are already up 0.85 C (1.4F). The study by the Intergovernmenal Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), approved by more than 120 governments, will be the main handbook for negotiators of a U.N. deal to combat global warming due at a summit in Paris in December 2015. To get a good chance of staying below 2C, the report’s scenarios show that world emissions would have to fall by between 40 and 70 percent by 2050 from current levels and to “near zero or below in 2100″. Below zero would require extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

Not much to extract, considering it’s 1 part out of 2500 in the atmosphere. Religion and monarchy, now and forever, one and inseparable.

Truth and Consequences

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

VDH:

Do bothersome facts matter anymore? Not really. This is an age when Americans were assured that the Affordable Care Act lowered our premiums. It…allowed us to keep our doctors and health plans, and lowered the deficit. Those fantasies were both demonstrably untrue and did not matter, given the supposedly noble aims of health care reform. The Islamic State is at times dubbed jayvee, a manageable problem, and a dangerous enemy — or anything the administration wishes it to be, depending on the political climate of any given week.

Some days Americans are told there is no reason to restrict connecting flights from Ebola-ravaged countries. Then, suddenly, entry from those countries is curtailed to five designated U.S. airports. Quarantines are both necessary and not so critical, as the administration weighs public concern versus politically correct worries over isolating a Third World African country. Ebola is so hard to catch that there is no reason to worry about causal exposures to those without clear symptoms. But then why do health authorities still try to hunt down anyone who had even a brief encounter with supposedly asymptomatic carriers?

The deaths of four Americans in Benghazi were caused by a video that sparked a riot, and then apparently not. Various narratives about corruption and incompetence at the VA, IRS, NSA, GSA and Secret Service are raised and then dropped. The larger truth is that these scandals must be quarantined from infecting the president’s progressive agenda…The Tawana Brawley case, the Duke men’s lacrosse team accusations, and the O. J. Simpson verdict were constructed fantasies. No one cared much about the inconvenient facts or the lies that destroyed people’s lives — given that myths were deemed useful facts for achieving larger racial justice.

It no longer really matters much what the grand jury will find in the Michael Brown fatal-shooting case. Whether he had just robbed a store, was high on drugs, was walking down the middle of the road and prompted a violent confrontation with a police officer, or whether the officer was the aggressor in the confrontation, these have become mere competing narratives. The facts pale in comparison with the higher truth that Brown was black and unarmed, while Officer Darren Wilson white and armed. The latter scenario is all that matters.

Language is useful for inventing new realities. “Illegal alien” is a time-tested noun denoting foreign citizens who crossed a national border contrary to law. “Undocumented immigrant” is now used to diminish the bothersome fact that millions have broken and continue to break the law. To play down the dangers of radical Islam, an entire array of circumlocutions — “workplace violence” (in the case of the Fort Hood shooting) “overseas contingency operations” and “man-caused disasters” — were the euphemisms evoked by members of the Obama administration to construct an alternate reality in which radical jihadists are no more dangerous than disgruntled office workers or gale-force winds.

Many of the current campus poster icons are abject myths. Che Guevara, for all his hipster appearance, was no revolutionary hero, but a murderer who enjoyed personally executing his political opponents. Communist leader Angela Davis was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the totalitarian Soviet Union.

We keep wondering how much energy it takes to live in this fantasy world where made-up things are real enough as long as they are politically useful. Can it be that these people believe the things they say at the moment they say them, or they just don’t care?

Bonus fun: let’s ban argon! What a world, what a government…

What could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

WSJ:

The administration and Iran, engaged in direct nuclear negotiations and facing a common threat from Islamic State militants, have moved into an effective state of détente over the past year, according to senior U.S. and Arab officials.

The shift could drastically alter the balance of power in the region, and risks alienating key U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates who are central to the coalition fighting Islamic State. Sunni Arab leaders view the threat posed by Shiite Iran as equal to or greater than that posed by the Sunni radical group Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Israel contends the U.S. has weakened the terms of its negotiations with Iran and played down Tehran’s destabilizing role in the region.

Over the past decade, Washington and Tehran have engaged in fierce battles for influence and power in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Afghanistan…But recent months have ushered in a change as the two countries have grown into alignment on a spectrum of causes, chief among them promoting peaceful political transitions in Baghdad and Kabul and pursuing military operations against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, according to these officials.

The administration also has markedly softened its confrontational stance toward Iran’s most important nonstate allies, the Palestinian militant group Hamas and the Lebanese militant and political organization, Hezbollah. American diplomats, including Secretary of State John Kerry , negotiated with Hamas leaders through Turkish and Qatari intermediaries during cease-fire talks in July that were aimed at ending the Palestinian group’s rocket attacks on Israel, according to senior U.S. officials. U.S. intelligence agencies have repeatedly tipped off Lebanese law-enforcement bodies close to Hezbollah about threats

Progress in getting close to the Supreme Leader! What could possibly go wrong?

Smile, you’re on Candid Camera

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Well, Sharyl Attkisson, whom we mentioned the other day, certainly is not smiling for Candid Camera, though Candid Camera might be less fitting a description than some other instruments. In case you’re still in a good mood, we bring you Ralph Peters and Robert Lopez. What a world!

A poor climateer, barely kept his family dead

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

A PJ review of Steyn’s book led to this humorous bit about a Mann fighting an Amazon, and then to this. Puh-leeze!!!

Mission creep

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Richard Preston on Patient Zero and beyond:

After Ebola infected the boy, it went from him to his mother, who died, to his three-year-old sister, who died, and to their grandmother, who died, and then it left the village and began moving through the human population of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Since there is no vaccine against or cure for the disease caused by Ebola virus, the only way to stop it is to break the chains of infection. Health workers must identify people who are infected and isolate them, then monitor everybody with whom those people have come in contact, to make sure the virus doesn’t jump to somebody else and start a new chain. Doctors and other health workers in West Africa have lost track of the chains. Too many people are sick, and more than two hundred medical workers have died. Health authorities in Europe and the United States seem equipped to prevent Ebola from starting uncontrolled chains of infection in those regions, but they worry about what could happen if Ebola got into a city like Lagos, in Nigeria, or Kolkata, in India. The number of people who are currently sick with Ebola is unknown, but almost nine thousand cases, including forty-five hundred deaths, have been reported so far, with the number of cases doubling about every three weeks. The virus seems to have gone far beyond the threshold of outbreak and ignited an epidemic.

The virus is extremely infectious. Experiments suggest that if one particle of Ebola enters a person’s bloodstream it can cause a fatal infection. This may explain why many of the medical workers who came down with Ebola couldn’t remember making any mistakes that might have exposed them. One common route of entry is thought to be the wet membrane on the inner surface of the eyelid, which a person might touch with a contaminated fingertip. The virus is believed to be transmitted, in particular, through contact with sweat and blood, which contain high concentrations of Ebola particles. People with Ebola sweat profusely, and in some instances they have internal hemorrhages, along with effusions of vomit and diarrhea containing blood.

Despite its ferocity in humans, Ebola is a life-form of mysterious simplicity. A particle of Ebola is made of only six structural proteins, locked together to become an object that resembles a strand of cooked spaghetti. An Ebola particle is only around eighty nanometres wide and a thousand nanometres long. If it were the size of a piece of spaghetti, then a human hair would be about twelve feet in diameter and would resemble the trunk of a giant redwood tree.

Once an Ebola particle enters the bloodstream, it drifts until it sticks to a cell. The particle is pulled inside the cell, where it takes control of the cell’s machinery and causes the cell to start making copies of it. Most viruses use the cells of specific tissues to copy themselves. For example, many cold viruses replicate in the sinuses and the throat. Ebola attacks many of the tissues of the body at once, except for the skeletal muscles and the bones. It has a special affinity for the cells lining the blood vessels, particularly in the liver. After about eighteen hours, the infected cell is releasing thousands of new Ebola particles, which sprout from the cell in threads, until the cell has the appearance of a ball of tangled yarn. The particles detach and are carried through the bloodstream, and begin attaching themselves to more cells, everywhere in the body. The infected cells begin spewing out vast numbers of Ebola particles, which infect more cells, until the virus reaches a crescendo of amplification. The infected cells die, which leads to the destruction of tissues throughout the body. This may account for the extreme pain that Ebola victims experience. Multiple organs fail, and the patient goes into a sudden, steep decline that ends in death. In a fatal case, a droplet of blood the size of the “o” in this text could easily contain a hundred million particles of Ebola virus.

Inside each Ebola particle is a tube made of coiled proteins, which runs the length of the particle, like an inner sleeve. Viewed with an electron microscope, the sleeve has a knurled look. Like the rest of the particle, the sleeve has been shaped by the forces of natural selection working over long stretches of time. Ebola is a filovirus, and filoviruses appear to have been around in some form for millions of years. Within the inner sleeve of an Ebola particle, invisible even to a powerful microscope, is a strand of RNA, the molecule that contains the virus’s genetic code, or genome. The code is contained in nucleotide bases, or letters, of the RNA. These letters, ordered in their proper sequence, make up the complete set of instructions that enables the virus to make copies of itself. A sample of the Ebola now raging in West Africa has, by recent count, 18,959 letters of code in its genome; this is a small genome, by the measure of living things. Viruses like Ebola, which use RNA for their genetic code, are prone to making errors in the code as they multiply; these are called mutations. Right now, the virus’s code is changing. As Ebola enters a deepening relationship with the human species, the question of how it is mutating has significance for every person on earth.

Roger Simon on the latest fun. (Hey, how about getting serious? Answer: yawn)

Both the watchers and the watchees know nothing

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

NYT:

Amid Assurances on Ebola, He Is Said to Seethe…Beneath the calming reassurance that he has repeatedly offered during the Ebola crisis, there is a deepening frustration, even anger, with how the government has handled key elements of the response. Those frustrations spilled over when he convened his top aides in the Cabinet room after canceling his schedule on Wednesday. Medical officials were providing information that later turned out to be wrong. Guidance to local health teams was not adequate. It was unclear which Ebola patients belonged in which threat categories.

“It’s not tight,” a visibly angry man said of the response, according to people briefed on the meeting. He told aides they needed to get ahead of events and demanded a more hands-on approach, particularly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “He was not satisfied with the response,” a senior official said.

The difference between the public and private messages illustrates the dilemma he faces on Ebola — and a range of other national security issues — as he tries to galvanize the response to a public health scare while not adding to the sense of panic fueled by 24-hour cable TV and the nonstop Twitter chatter.

On Friday, he took a step to both fix that response and reassure the public, naming Ron Klain, a former aide, to coordinate the government’s efforts on Ebola. The appointment followed his statement Thursday that the job was necessary “just to make sure that we are crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s going forward.”

“Part of the challenge is to be assertive, to be in command, and yet not feed a kind of panic that could easily evolve here,” said David, a close adviser in his first term. “It’s not enough to doggedly and persistently push for answers in meetings. You have to be seen doggedly and persistently pushing for answers.”

For two turbulent weeks, officials have sought to balance those imperatives: insisting the dangers to the American public were being overstated in the news media, while also moving quickly to increase the president’s demonstration of action.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and its arrival in the United States, is the latest in a cascade of crises that have stretched his national security staff thin. As the people scrambled to stop the spread of Ebola beyond a handful of cases, officials were also grappling with an escalating military campaign against the Islamic State, the specter of a new Cold War with Russia over Ukraine, and the virtual disintegration of Yemen, which has been a seedbed for Al Qaeda.

Senior officials said they pushed him to name an Ebola coordinator as a way of easing pressure on the staff at the National Security Council.

At the meeting on Wednesday, officials said, he placed much of the blame on the C.D.C., which provided shifting information about which threat category patients were in, and did not adequately train doctors and nurses at hospitals with Ebola cases on the proper protective procedures.

On Thursday night, in televised remarks, he sought to reassure the public about the dangers from Ebola. But the sense of crisis that emanated from headquarters was in sharp contrast to Sept. 30, when Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian who had traveled to Dallas, tested positive for Ebola. He received a telephone briefing from Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the C.D.C., after which they issued a sanguine statement that concluded: “We have the infrastructure in place to respond safely and effectively.”

In the days that followed, he carried on as usual while his aides gamely added Ebola to their bulging portfolios. On Oct. 1, he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and later had dinner with friends at the RPM Steakhouse in Chicago, where he had traveled for fund-raisers and to deliver an economic speech.

By early October, as questions about the Dallas hospital’s treatment of Mr. Duncan mounted, federal officials began reassessing their response, even as they continued to express confidence.

C.D.C. officials publicly dismissed the effectiveness of screening for Ebola at airports in the United States. But the secretary of Homeland Security, found a way to make it work over the weekend of Oct. 4. He announced the screening protocol the following Monday.

Even after Mr. Duncan’s death on Oct. 8, officials betrayed little sense of a change in approach. He traveled to California for campaign fund-raising and on his return to Washington, received a briefing from his secretary of health and human services about the announcement that a nurse who treated Mr. Duncan had contracted Ebola.

The business-as-usual sentiment at headquarters changed abruptly, officials said, when it got word early Wednesday that a second nurse in Dallas contracted the disease. The fact that she had traveled on a Frontier Airlines flight despite having a fever added to the concern, officials said.

“This Frontier thing took it out of the abstract thing and to this level where people could identify with and made them scared,” a senior official said. Within hours, aides canceled a planned trip by him to Connecticut and New Jersey. Hours later, Thursday’s trip to Rhode Island and New York City was also scrubbed.

This piece definitively demonstrates that both the watchers and the watchees know nothing. The senior of the 2 NYT reporters has been to a lot of countries but he and his colleague have never done anything in their lives other than observing people who do things. We’re reminded of Hilton Kramer’s critique.

As for the watchees, that’s really scary. Putting ideology aside, we have idiots running things. Any executive would begin analysis of Ebola with (a) lethality; (b) incubation period; (c) ease of transmission; (d) mutability of virus; (d) current track record of containment. From there he’d get to implementing action items at Warp Speed: (1) making drugs that cure it; (2) making vaccines that prevent it; (3) emulating containment strategies that have proven successful.

In the NYT piece above the executives apparently are not consumed with the blindingly obvious action items we outlined, indeed they don’t seem to be thinking about them at all. And the reporters covering all this don’t even know enough to ask relevant questions. Recipe for disaster.

The appearance of action versus action

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

This is the appearance of action, something for the cameras that has no intrinsic merit, indeed many risks for nothing. This would be real action, but it apparently cuts so deeply against the administration’s culture of micro-control of actions and narratives that it’s literally unthinkable to them. BTW, we know we may be overreacting to the Ebola problem, but so what? There’s little cost to that versus the opposite.

Overreactions versus Underreactions to Ebola

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Underreaction has come from the political side and its timid colleagues at CDC and NIH. The young JV team at work no doubt. Arguably some overreaction has come from the army and the marines. You know which side we’re firmly on. However, we’re puzzled with the underreactors, since it’s such a horrible PR strategy to always have to issue corrections every few days. Very puzzling indeed.

It turns out there is a public sector CEO of sorts

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Several sources:

Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)…“I have responsibility for getting the nation prepared for public health emergencies—whether naturally occurring disasters or man-made, as well as for helping it respond and recover,” Lurie said…

“Lurie’s job is to plan for the unthinkable. A global flu pandemic? She has a plan. A bioterror attack? She’s on it. Massive earthquake? Yep. Her responsibilities as assistant secretary span public health, global health, and homeland security.”

So where is she? MH answers. BTW, WHO is backing away from happy talk.

If all this doesn’t pick up your mood, there’s Steyn, Lasky, and VDH. Will the last adult to leave please turn out the lights — oops, too late!!

For want of a nail

Monday, October 13th, 2014

NIH:

much of the focus has been on an experimental cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies known as ZMapp. But the current stockpile is not nearly great enough. Collins, a touch exasperated, said it would be all but impossible to have significant doses available by the end of the calendar year — with a lack of funding once again playing a disruptive role. “Had it not been for other shortages, we might very well by now know that it works and have a large stock of it,” he said.

Exasperated? Exasperated? The NIH director seems like a nice enough fellow, but the ZMapp Manhattan Project needs a CEO, not an academic.

Bonus fun: the CDC and NIH seem to have money for other critical priorities.

E-BOLO

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

CBS:

The CDC confirms the patient with the newest case of Ebola was not among the 48 individuals being monitored by the CDC twice daily because she came into contact with Duncan after he was admitted to the hospital and placed in isolation. The patient was considered to be low-risk

CDC: remain calm. All is well. Our guess is that they don’t believe this for a moment; rather, it’s the only thing they can say in the absence of an actual game plan to kill the bug dead.

Comparing Ebola with Smallpox and Bubonic Plague — the US needs ASAP to appoint a global CEO and team whose sole mission is to kill this bug dead

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Six or seven billion people on the planet is evidence enough that diseases and infections that are both highly lethal and highly contagious are extremely rare. But they do happen.

Smallpox kills a third of the people who get it, but fortunately is most contagious only after the onset of the rash, so it’s potentially somewhat avoidable. The incubation period is 12 days or so. The last naturally occurring case was almost 40 years ago. For safety’s sake, the US keeps enough vaccine around to inoculate the entire population at $3 a pop.

Plague killed about 2/3 of the people who got it, and wiped out about half the population of Europe in the 14th century. It is transmitted by infected fleas and kills most of its victims within 4 days. It is treatable by that old standby Streptomycin and many other prescription drugs that are plentiful and broadly available.

Ebola kills as many as 88% of people who get it, and has an incredibly long incubation period, up to 3 weeks. Its combination of lethality and time-to-severe-symptoms make it potentially deadlier than smallpox and bubonic plague. And yet the US government is fooling around with airport interviews and drug development programs that might generate 100 treatments a month, even though the CDC itself estimates 1.4 million cases in just 2 countries by next year.

The need for private sector leadership on this is obvious, with funding by the government. The potential threat is unprecedented. Put Ben Carson or Bill Gates or ourselves in charge and get out of the way. Yet there is little to no US leadership on this. The really odd thing is that the crew in Washington is obsessed with creating good PR by any means necessary, yet is MIA on this, and in an election season to boot! Announcing and implementing the Ebola Manhattan Project could be just what the doctor ordered for November 4. Yet all we hear is the chirping of crickets.

We need a ZMapp Manhattan Project at Warp Speed

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Bloomberg discusses ZMapp, which, along with related treatments, needs to be produced in the millions of doses, not 100:

Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., which has nine employees, released its experimental ZMapp drug, until now only tested on infected animals, for the two health workers…The two scientists behind Mapp, President Larry Zeitlin and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Whaley, “are both brilliant,” said Charles Arntzen, a plant biotechnology expert at Arizona State University who collaborated with the two researchers years ago. “They are very, very bright guys and free spirits”…

Mapp’s drug is being developed with Toronto-based Defyrus Inc., which has six employees, according to Defyrus CEO Jeff Turner. ZMapp is a “cocktail” of monoclonal antibodies that help the immune system attack the virus…Kentucky BioProcessing LLC, a subsidiary of tobacco giant Reynolds American Inc. (RAI), manufactures the treatment for Mapp from tobacco plants…

The tobacco plant production system was developed because it was a method that could produce antibodies rapidly in the event of an emergency, he said. To produce therapeutic proteins inside a tobacco plant, genes for the desired antibodies are fused to genes for a natural tobacco virus, said Arntzen. The tobacco plants are then infected with this new artificial virus, he said. “The infection results in the production of antibodies inside the plant,” Arntzen said. The plant is eventually ground up and the antibody is extracted, he said. The whole process takes a matter of weeks.

We have no idea if ZMapp is the best treatment for ebola, but we know it worked in several cases. We also know that the San Diego and Toronto companies total 15 employees between them. This is real and real-time, not silly fantasies like Solyndra. We need a ZMapp Manhattan Project at Warp Speed to avoid a potential disaster by relying on containment luck.