Thursday, October 06, 2005

Other items

The 1918 influenza virus, the cause of one of history's most deadly epidemics, has been reconstructed and found to be a bird flu that jumped directly to humans, two teams of federal and university scientists announced yesterday.
It was the culmination of work that began a decade ago and involved fishing tiny fragments of the 1918 virus from snippets of lung tissue from two soldiers and an Alaskan woman who died in the 1918 pandemic. The soldiers' tissue had been saved in an Army pathology warehouse, and the woman had been buried in permanently frozen ground.

[. . .]
The research also confirms the legitimacy of worries about the bird flu viruses, called H5N1, that are emerging in Asia. Since 1997, bird flocks in 11 countries have been decimated by flu outbreaks. So far nearly all the people infected - more than 100, including more than 60 who died - contracted the sickness directly from birds. However, there has been little transmission between people.
The 1918 virus, in contrast, was highly infectious, and in recent weeks the fear that a transformation of one of the current bird flus could make it infectious in humans has prompted politicians of both major parties to scramble to demonstrate that they are taking the threat of an avian flu outbreak seriously.

The above is from Gina Kolato's "Experts Unlock Clues to Spread of 1918 Flu Virus" in this morning's New York Times. As Lynda notes in her e-mail, we need to be paying attention to this and taking part in the dialogue because the "answer" being proposed is to turn it over to the military. (Which will no doubt privatize it out to Blackwater or some other similar group. The Pinkerton squad shows up in a national health crisis -- is that what you want?) Anne's addressed this at Peevish...I'm Just Saying and we'll also note Matthew Rothschild later in this entry. This is a serious issue and it's at least worth as much time and attention as Katie Holmes' pregnacy. ("At least" is putting it mildly.)

Brad e-mails to note Eric Lichtblau's "F.B.I. Widens Investigation in New Jersey Espionage Case:"

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Wednesday it had expanded a New Jersey espionage investigation in an effort to determine whether one of its own agents, charged last month with spying for the Philippines, might have also had improper access to classified information while working in Vice President Dick Cheney's office several years ago.
The F.B.I. agent, Leandro Aragoncillo, 46, of Woodbury, N.J., an American citizen who was born in the Philippines, was charged Sept. 12 with passing classified information to government officials in Manila.
The charges filed against Mr. Aragoncillo relate only to classified information that officials say he took from F.B.I. computers after joining the agency in July 2004.
But the investigation is widening, officials said, in light of the fact that he had worked for several years prior to joining the agency as a marine in the vice president's office under both Al Gore and Mr. Cheney. [. . .]

Joan e-mails to note Robert F. Worth and Sabrina Tavernise's "Iraqis Reverse Disputed Rules on Referendum:"

Under strong pressure from the United Nations, the National Assembly voted Wednesday to cancel a last-minute rule change that would have made it almost impossible for Iraq's new constitution to fail in the coming referendum.
The reversal came a day after United Nations officials in Baghdad had warned Shiite and Kurdish leaders that the rule, passed on Sunday, was a violation of international election standards, and could prompt the organization to withdraw from supervising the vote. Sunni Arab leaders who oppose the constitution had also criticized the rule change, saying it amounted to rigging the referendum.

Lyle notes David D. Kirkpatrick's "New Questions From the Right on Court Pick:"

A growing chorus of conservatives from Republican senators to the columnist George F. Will cast skepticism on Wednesday on President Bush's selection of Harriet E. Miers for the Supreme Court, expressing worry not only about unanswered questions on her legal philosophy but also about her legal credentials.

Focus on the Fool's James Dobson claims to have "inside" information from the one responsible for converting her (presumably, either the preacher at her church or Miers' phone chum who's a judge) and has spoken to Karl Rove. He's vouching for Miers. Kirkpatrick notes that Dems are on the sidelines here. Why is that? She's not qualified. If George Will (of all people) can make that point, why can't Democrats?

The attitude seems to be "Oh, let them fight amongst themselves and then we'll step in." That's not how you defeat this nomination. Ed Gillispie and others are being sent out. The "debate" will be shut down at some point. Now is when Democrats need to be speaking up and raising the issue that she's not qualified. This is the highest role for a judge in this country. They failed to make that point (as a party) with regard to Robertson. They appear unable to today as well. Why Republicans are squabbling and questioning the nomination, Democrats should be repeating, "She's not qualified" over and over.

There's a real danger here and it's when the squabble dies down. The nation may look at it, the squabble, as a vetting process in and of itself. And if Dems wait to bring up serious criticism until the "debate" is over, people may take the attitude of "This has already been settled. Why are they bringing it up now?"

Democrats need to take (and show) some leadership here. Harry Reid won't do it. He doesn't know how to be a leader. But the way you defeat the nomination is by raising questions while Republicans are as well. Not waiting to see what stuck because the reality is that its highly unlikely that they won't stifle their own disagreements (Republicans) and come together around Miers. When that happens, it's too damn late for Dems to try to raise issues and concerns.

You do it now. While people are seeing Republicans question Miers' capabilities. Let's use an example. Rebecca, Mike, Seth, Dona, Cedric and Betty are going to lunch. Rebecca and Mike argue over where to go. They finally agree on one place. At which point, after they've agreed, Seth says, "I don't want to go there, I want to go ___." Betty, Cedric and Dona may look at Seth and think, "Why did you wait to bring this up? We've already decided."

That's what will happen if Democrats don't start getting vocal. This could even be smart strategy on the part of Republicans. Before they come together, they air the appearance of a debate (from their own party) and it then appears that all issues were raised and addressed. So when Dems finally find their voices, the public may be weary and think, "Let's just go eat already!"

Lyle e-mails to note Matthew Rothschild's "Low Lights from Bush’s Press Conference" (This Just In, The Progressive):

At his press conference Tuesday, Bush strung together a series of low lights.
On Iraq, for instance, he said, "We're making good progress in Iraq," despite all the evidence to the contrary.
And he said, "I have pledged to the American people--and, more importantly, the troops and their families--we’ll make sure they have what it takes to succeed." This, after woefully underequipping the troops for more than two years now.
On the subject of Harriet Miers, he claimed she was the most qualified person in the country to sit on the Supreme Court.
That echoed his father's assertion about the lamentable Clarence Thomas, who reflexively votes along with Antonin Scalia. (The old New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis once said that Bush the First could have saved the taxpayers money by not paying Thomas a salary and simply giving Scalia two votes. Now Scalia would have three.)
George W. all but winked and tugged at his earlobe to signal that Miers is pro-life now and will remain pro-life forever. He went out of his way to say that he's "a pro-life President" and to stress, several times, that Miers shares his philosophy.
"Twenty years from now she'll be the same person with the same philosophy that she is today," Bush said. No need to worry about a Souter or an O'Connor or a Kennedy here, he signaled to his base.
Another alarmingly noteworthy comment came when Bush said he believes the Pentagon should take over part of the country if there is an avian flu outbreak there, repeating a suggestion he made after Katrina. This is a man who is desperate to overturn the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act and to have the military patrol our streets.

Hilary Rosen raises the privacy issue as Marcia notes in her e-mail to highlight Rosen's "
Harriet Miers - Whose Friend?" (The Huffington Post):

In a questionnaire she filled out during her run for the Dallas City Council, Miers expressed some support for gay civil rights but opposition to repeal of sodomy laws. In other words, you can be gay, but if you have sex you should still be arrested. It seems as though she wanted to be nice but didn't want a political commitment. It presupposes that gay and lesbian lives can be divorced from politics or the law when the truth is that we have been nothing but a political and legal football for the religious right wing for so many years.
Nonetheless, I guess she just didn't come across as anti-gay enough in the
questionnaire. Why else would be we subjected to an overwhelming amount of news stories today and quotes from her old Texas friends about what a good true believing evangelical she really is and how any anti-gay advocates can rest assured that she is going to vote the "right" way on the court.
The issue isn't whether Harriet Miers likes gay people or believes that life begins at conception (as her friends are working hard to assure the wingers). The issue is whether the Constitution allows for a fundamental right to privacy for all citizens to act in these and other areas according to their own beliefs. Successive Supreme Court decisions have found that to be so. When did this discussion of ideology for a new Supreme Court appointment leave the grounds of fundamanetal American Constitutional principles?

She needs to be asked about her opinion on Lawrence. That's a privacy issue case. Does she respect and recognize the right to privacy? Not ""Yes, the Court decided that." Do you agree with the decision. Why or why not?

Rod e-mails to note today's schedule for Democracy Now!:

Thursday, October 6:* Former Guantanamo chaplain James Yee joins us in our firehouse studio to talk about his new book "For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire." In addition to witnessing abuse of detainees at Guanatamo, Yee was falsely accused of espionage by the U.S. military and imprisoned for several months.

As Ruth noted yesterday, the comedy program the Christmas Coup Players air their latest monthly program on WBAI today -- airs eleven to noon EST, ten to eleven central and eight a.m. pacific.

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