Monthly archives: April, 2009

Notre Dame Student HAD Swine Flu

Throw another pork chop on the grill; the swine flu frenzy is just heating up.

The Sun-Times reports in a headline today: “Notre Dame student has swine flu.”

Indiana health officials reported the state’s first confirmed case of swine flu Tuesday in a student at the University of Notre Dame.

Although there have been no confirmed cases in Illinois, the University of Chicago Medical Center is “investigating a small number of potential swine flu cases,” spokesman John Easton said late Tuesday. “None of these people is severely ill.”

Easton wouldn’t say how many people had been tested.

Read just a bit further down in the story, and you have to wonder what the squealing is all about:

The unidentified Notre Dame student “has fully recovered and is in good health” after seeking treatment for flu-like symptoms at the university’s health center on April 22, the school said in a statement.

The student has fully recovered and is in good health.

Oh.  So the student HAD swine flu, and is fine now.

Forget that.  Time to start screaming in the streets.  Light candles at the Grotto!  Maybe it’s time for ND students to “T-P” the Dome in panic.  What is the administration doing?  Call in the National Guard!  Put Notre Dame on lock down!

Or, make sure you cough into the back of your arm if you have a cough, don’t touch your face, and wash your hands as necessary.

GOP Sen. Arlen Specter to Switch Parties, Run as a Dem. in ’10

Talk about your seismic shifts!

From WTAE in Pittsburgh:

Veteran Republican Sen. Arlen Specter disclosed plans Tuesday to switch parties, a move intended to boost his chances of winning re-election next year that will also push Democrats closer to a 60-vote filibuster-resistant majority.

“I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans,” Specter said in a statement posted on a Web site devoted to Pennsylvania politics and confirmed by his office.  Several Senate officials said a formal announcement could come later in the day or Wednesday.

Specter, 79 and in his fifth term, is one of a handful of Republican moderates remaining in Congress in a party now dominated by conservatives.  Several officials said the White House as well as leaders in both parties had been involved in discussions leading to his move.

With Specter, Democrats would have 59 Senate seats. Al Franken is ahead in a marathon recount in Minnesota, and if he ultimately wins his race against Republican Norm Coleman, he would become the party’s 60th vote. That is the number needed to overcome a filibuster.

I have always liked Sen. Specter, even if I’ve disagreed with him in the past.  If I still lived in Pennsylvania, I would have supported him many times over.

Welcome to the Democratic Party, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter!

Sanctimony Incarnate: Glendon Declines Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal

The University of Notre Dame’s Observer has the news:

Mary Ann Glendon declined acceptance of the University’s Laetare Medal in a letter to University President Fr. John Jenkins Monday, saying she was “dismayed” upon hearing Notre Dame is conferring an honorary degree upon President Barack Obama.

Her decision marks the first time the award has been accepted and then declined, according to Julie Flory, a University spokesperson.

In the letter, which was printed on “First Things,” an online journal about religion, culture and public life, Glendon said she was “profoundly moved” when she was selected to receive the Laetare Medal.

This is sanctimony incarnate.  Where were all of these pious Catholics when Torturer-in-Chief George W. Bush was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame,  George W. Bush who started a war for oil, George W. Bush who is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis?

I’ll tell you where they were: these “Drill-Baby-Drill” Catholics were cheering when Bush came to Notre Dame.

As a Catholic and an alumnus of the University of Notre Dame, I offer three cheers again for Fr. Dan Jenky.  The Faculty Senate at Notre Dame supports Jenkins. The Notre Dame faculty has traditionally stood on the side of common sense, long ago expressing support for ND’s gay and lesbian students.

The Observer editors also blew it in the lead headline for this story: “Former U.S. Ambassador to Vatican ‘dismayed’ that Notre Dame will honor pro-abortion Obama.”

Nowhere does the story reference Glendon referring to President Obama as “pro-abortion.”  She may have said so in her letter to Jenky, but this is not a part of the story.

Here’s a wake-up call to the right wing: President Obama is not pro-abortion.  He’s pro-choice, a political position many believe is the best avenue to bring down the abortion numbers.  I have yet to meet the politician, pro-life, pro-choice, or moderate, who is pro-abortion.  No one wants to see more abortions.  No one wants to see a woman in the position where she even considers abortion, or feels compelled to get an abortion.

I’ll pray for Ms. Glendon, but make no mistake: this is pure, old-fashioned political grandstanding, a ploy of movement conservatives.

Maybe Glendon just wants to run for office.

Swine Flu: Welcome to the Latest Media Fear Frenzy

Remember, the most important thing to fear is what we don’t know.  There are things we don’t know about Swine Flu, so you should be very, very afraid.

That’s what I learned this morning watching NBC channel 5 in Chicago.

What else did I learn?  This strain of flu is no more dangerous than any other.  There are approximately 20,000 deaths worldwide from all strains of the flue annually.

What can you do to protect yourself from the swine flue?  Everything you’ve been told to do in order to avoid any other type of flue.

Is there special treatment for this strain of flu?  No.  It’s a virus, like any other flu.

So stop the fear frenzy.

Here’s what the CDC knows:

Human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection have been identified in the U.S. in San Diego County and Imperial County, California as well as in San Antonio, Texas. Internationally, human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection have been identified in Mexico.

U.S. Human Cases of Swine Flu Infection
State # of laboratory
confirmed cases
California 7 cases
Texas 2 cases
Kansas 2 cases
TOTAL COUNT 11 cases
International Human Cases of Swine Flu Infection
See: World Health OrganizationExternal Web Site Policy.
As of April 25th, 2009 7:30 p.m. EDT

Investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the infection and whether additional people have been infected with similar swine influenza viruses.

CDC is working very closely with state and local officials in California, Texas, as well as with health officials in Mexico, Canada and the World Health Organization. On April 24th, CDC deployed 7 epidemiologists to San Diego County, California and Imperial County, California and 1 senior medical officer to Texas to provide guidance and technical support for the ongoing epidemiologic field investigations. CDC has also deployed to Mexico 1 medical officer and 1 senior expert who are part of a global team that is responding to the outbreak of respiratory illnesses in Mexico.

Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people. There are many things you can to do preventing getting and spreading influenza:

There are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

  • Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
  • If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

So stop the panic.  It’s a flu virus.  Relax.


Rod Blagojevich’s Flying Circus

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This time, Blago is really flying. 

When I first saw the video above, I thought I was watching an actor playing Blago. Turns out it was Himself, suspended in front of a green screen, arms and legs out of control.

Rachel Maddow had a blast with the footage of Blago flying:

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

The Illinois Legislature must be laughing hysterically. (If you’re accessing this post from one of our affiliates, click here to watch the videos.)

I have to admit, I was starting to feel sorry for Rod Blagojevich.  Then I remembered his intransigence as governor, how he ignored the legislature, governed by press conference, laughed when I told him we need school funding reform.  And then there’s that senate seat and the indictment.

And then I saw this video: Blago, trying to fly, in a suit.

In a suit, Rod? Really?

Look: Rod Blagojevich wants to make a lot of money, fast.

Strike that.

Rod Blagojevich needs to make a lot of money, fast.  Also, Rod Blagojevich lives for the camera.  In a way, he reminds me of Estelle from Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit.  Estelle, recently deceased, shares with her new acquaintences in Hell — or wherever they are — that when she was alive, she made sure to always position herself in front of a mirror.  Why?  Estelle needed to see herself in a mirror… so she knew she existed.

Blago reminds me of Estelle.  All cameras, all the time, or he fades in real life.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

On Friday, Illinois’ ex-governor was filmed suspended in midair, flying before a giant green screen.

Blagojevich was in Los Angeles Friday promoting “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here,” an NBC reality TV show that a judge said he couldn’t join. That’s because the series will be filmed in Costa Rica and the charged ex-governor cannot leave the country due to bond restrictions. But on Friday, Blagojevich’s PR agent released a statement saying that actor Stephen Baldwin was willing to fly to Chicago and ask a judge to “Leggo my Blago.” (Or, ask U.S. District Judge James Zagel’s permission to go to Costa Rica.)

“I would love for Blagojevich to be on the show,” Baldwin said in a statement. “He would add intensity and spice.”

Welcome to the party, Rod.  We all need a lot of money, fast, right now. Let Stephen Baldwin find another Spice Guy.

Penguins Rally, Send Philly Packing

Sid “The Kid” Crosby and Sergei Gonchar played an incredible game to rally the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-3 victory over Philadelphia Saturday.

From WTAE in Pittsburgh:

Gonchar scored 2:19 into the third period and the Penguins eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers with a 5-3 victory Saturday in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.

The Penguins, who beat the Flyers in the conference finals last year, have to wait to find out who they’ll play next.

I have to admit I’m superstitious sometimes.  I don’t write about my teams in the middle of the playoffs.  I know that’s silly.

Congrats to the Penguins, and hats off the the Philly Flyers for playing inspired hockey.

Hines Ward and the Pittsburgh Steelers Foreva

Hines Ward wants to retire a Pittsburgh Steeler, and speaking for Steeler Nation — if I may — we couldn’t be happier.

From WTAE in Pittsburgh:

Ward, about to enter the final season of his contract, agreed Saturday to a contract extension that will pay him a lower salary than the $5.8 million he was to make this season but will make up the money in a signing bonus.

The deal was being finalized Saturday between the Steelers and Ward’s agent, Eugene Parker, but is expected to be worth about $22 million over four seasons, although only a portion of that would be guaranteed.The Steelers were only about $2 million under the salary cap last week, not enough money to sign their draft picks, and they have been working to create cap room since signing All-Pro linebacker James Harrison to a $51.75 million, six-year contract.

Ward is the leading receiver in franchise history with 800 receptions for 9,780 yards and 72 touchdowns.

Besides the stats, however, he’s just an incredibly awesome person.

I’ll make a point of writing more about Hines Ward over the next few days.  Author Jim O’Brien has a number of incredible anecdotes about the man, and I’ll enjoy passing them along to you.

Hines Ward the the Steelers… Foreva!

If You Go to Crestwood, Don’t Drink the Water

Residents of Crestwood have reason to be concerned.  For over two decades, Crestwood supplied residents with tainted drinking water.  Mayor Robert Stranczek repeats his assertions that “the public’s health was never at risk,” and there was no evidence the village was ever informed by environmental regulators that the water was unsafe.

There is evidence to the contrary, however.

From the Southtown Star:

But doubt has been thrown on that statement, as it has been reported that the U.S. EPA has said there is no safe exposure to one of the chemicals found in the water, vinyl chloride.

Moreover, the state EPA ordered Crestwood to shut down the well that was the source of the tainted water in 2007, when the agency discovered to its surprise that the well was still in use.

And then there is the question of why Crestwood did not publicly disclose for decades that residents were drinking well water mixed in with safe, treated water from Lake Michigan.

Stranczek emphasized that on average each year only 10 percent of the water the village supplied was from the well and that the water was always mixed with lake water.

Vinyl chloride, CH2:CHCl, is toxic.

From the CDC:

Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas. It burns easily and it is not stable at high temperatures. It has a mild, sweet odor. It is a manufactured substance that does not occur naturally. It can be formed when other substances such as trichloroethane, trichloroethylene, and tetrachloroethylene are broken down. Vinyl chloride is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is used to make a variety of plastic products, including pipes, wire and cable coatings, and packaging materials.

And then there’s this, also from the CDC:

How can vinyl chloride affect my health?

Breathing high levels of vinyl chloride can cause you to feel dizzy or sleepy. Breathing very high levels can cause you to pass out, and breathing extremely high levels can cause death.

Some people who have breathed vinyl chloride for several years have changes in the structure of their livers. People are more likely to develop these changes if they breathe high levels of vinyl chloride. Some people who work with vinyl chloride have nerve damage and develop immune reactions. The lowest levels that produce liver changes, nerve damage, and immune reaction in people are not known. Some workers exposed to very high levels of vinyl chloride have problems with the blood flow in their hands. Their fingers turn white and hurt when they go into the cold.

The effects of drinking high levels of vinyl chloride are unknown. If you spill vinyl chloride on your skin, it will cause numbness, redness, and blisters.

Animal studies have shown that long-term exposure to vinyl chloride can damage the sperm and testes.

How likely is vinyl chloride to cause cancer?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has determined that vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen. Studies in workers who have breathed vinyl chloride over many years showed an increased risk of liver, brain, lung cancer, and some cancers of the blood have also been observed in workers.

How can vinyl chloride affect children?

It has not been proven that vinyl chloride causes birth defects in humans, but studies in animals suggest that vinyl chloride might affect growth and development. Animal studies also suggest that infants and young children might be more susceptible than adults to vinyl chloride-induced cancer.

It is unconscionable, unthinkable, and unbelievable that this has not been detected in more than two decades.

Calling Erin Brockovich…

What Does the ‘Baby Shaker’ iPhone App Say About Apple?

Sometimes, you just have to shake your head in bufuddlement.

Somehow, someone at Apple thought it would be acceptable to release a “Baby Shaker” game for the iPhone.  The game is simple and simple-minded: an image of an infant is presented on the screen, and when you shake the iPhone hard enough, two red “Xs” appear over the infants eyes.

Mission accomplished: the baby is dead.  You are scored on how quickly you can kill the infant.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Here’s a lesson in the obvious: Making fun of shaken baby syndrome — or any other type of traumatic brain injury — doesn’t make for uproarious comedy or light entertainment. It’s also not great for public relations.

Apple just learned that lesson the hard way. The company apologized Thursday for selling a 99-cent iPhone application called “Baby Shaker” in its online store. The application allowed iPhone users to silence a virtual crying infant by shaking the device. After enough shakes, the baby on the screen stopped screaming and a large red “X” appeared over each eye. Apple first posted the application Monday, the start of Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Week.

“Anybody with any decency would be appalled by this,” said Jennipher Dickens, the mother of a child with the syndrome and a spokeswoman for the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation. “An application that simulates killing a baby, because it’s crying? What sick person would come up with that?”

I don’t care for the iPhone for a number of reasons (See: Why iDon’t Like the iPhone At All).  But an application to simulate the death of an infant?

Apple can have their iPhone.

Conservative Blogger Matt Drudge Near Top of Out Mag’s Power List

Out Magazine has released their Power 50 list, featuring the leading figures in the gay community.  Much to the chagrin of the far right, I’m sure, Matt Drudge makes his debut on the list in 6th place.

Right-wingers know Drudge is gay, right?

From the lead-in to the list:

Power and Money have always been close companions, and the global economic crisis has only made them more so. But the Out Power 50 list has never been only about person wealth: congressman Barney Frank rose to the top this year because of his power over national financial policy. On the other hand, since just about everyone from Warren Buffet (not on our list — he’s not gay) to Dolce & Gabanna (also not on the list — they don’t live and work primarily in North America) has taken a personal financial hit, changes in person wealth generally didn’t affect rankings.

Any surprises?  Rosie O’Donnell dropped from 31st to 42nd.  The editors are sorry to not hear from Rosie any more, “We’ll admit it: The world is quieter, and maybe even a bit more boring, without daily updates from the mouth of Rosie. (She’s even abandoned her blog, at least for the time being.)”

Jodie Foster dropped from 13th to 36, “There’s not much doing in the life of Jodie Foster these days. But as the highest-paid openly lesbian actor in Hollywood — she got $15 million for her role in The Brave One — she’s got a lot of sway.”

Facebook creator Chris Hughes makes his debut on the list at number 32, “Not only is the 25-year old Harvard grad a cocreator of one of the most triumphant starups in recent history — a little marvel called Facebook — he also helped Obama land in the White House. Hughes left Facebook in February 2007 to serve as director of online organizing for Obama and launch (orMyBO), allowing supporters to form groups, raise funds, and plan events online. ”

Neil Patrick Harris debuts at number 28, the editors saying, “Named one of last year’s Entertainers of the Year by Entertainment Weekly, Out cover guy Harris could do no wrong wherever he showed up.”

Suze Orman moved from 24th to 22, “Personal finance guru Orman came out publicly in The New York Times two years ago, but with the economy now on life support we need her more than ever. ”

Making his debut to the list at number 7 is Anglican Bishop Gene Robinson, “Baptized Vicky Gene (his parents had been hoping for a girl), Bishop V. Gene Robinson has been a lightning rod in the debate over the church and homosexuality ever since his consecration in 2003. But while the 77 million — member Anglican church of which Robinson is a member remains deeply conflicted over the issue, his series of meetings with Barack Obama in the run-up to last year’s election was a powerful signal of the new administration’s inclusiveness. ”

In what may be the biggest surprise, or disappointment, to the right wing and conservative America in general, Matt Drudge debuts on the list at number 6:

Matt Drudge — the archly conservative 42-year-old owner of the right wing news–aggregating site Drudge Report—also happens to love Chaka Khan, The Young and the Restless, and sex with men. Though he often plays coy about his homosexuality — “I go to straight bars. I go to gay bars,” he once said — he had a long-term relationship with a male landscaper. The power of Drudge is formidable; he reports that his site averages 20 million page views a day. Unfortunately, his agenda is often antigay, anti-choice, and anti-tolerance. No one said power was always used for good.

The weird right is taking being led over the cliff by a gay man.  I suppose there’s poetic justice there somewhere.