Super E. Coli

A food-poisoning epidemic in Europe is reportedly caused by a super-toxic strain of the E. coli bacteria:

Scientists on Thursday blamed Europe’s worst recorded food-poisoning outbreak on a “super-toxic” strain of E. coli bacteria that may be brand new.

But while suspicion has fallen on raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce as the source of the germ, researchers have been unable to pinpoint the food responsible for the frightening illness, which has killed at least 18 people, sickened more than 1,600 and spread to least 10 European countries.

An alarmingly large number of victims — about 500 — have developed kidney complications that can be deadly.

Chinese and German scientists analyzed the DNA of the E. coli bacteria and determined that the outbreak was caused by “an entirely new, super-toxic” strain that contains several antibiotic-resistant genes, according to a statement from the Shenzhen, China-based laboratory BGI. It said the strain appeared to be a combination of two types of E. coli.

“This is a unique strain that has never been isolated from patients before,” Hilde Kruse, a food safety expert at the World Health Organization, told The Associated Press. The new strain has “various characteristics that make it more virulent and toxin-producing” than the many E. coli strains people naturally carry in their intestines.

via Outbreak in Europe blamed on ‘super-toxic’ strain – Yahoo! News.

The specific source of the outbreak has not yet been pinpointed.  In the meantime, stay away from European vegetables.  Let’s hope the super bacteria can be isolated and dealt with before it spreads throughout the world.

Those Lutheran satire clips

You know those computer-animated-and-voiced clips on YouTube that have been going around in the genre of Lutheran satire?  On subjects such as what pastors hate?  “Not that kind of Lutheran”?  “Messing with Dispensationalists”?  They are from Pastor Fiene.  He posts them and sometimes talks about them on his blog:   The High Mid Life.

HT:  Pastor Douthwaite

The new age of fossil fuels

Michael Lind, at Salon, no less, explodes the conventional wisdom:

Are we living at the beginning of the Age of Fossil Fuels, not its final decades? The very thought goes against everything that politicians and the educated public have been taught to believe in the past generation. According to the conventional wisdom, the U.S. and other industrial nations must undertake a rapid and expensive transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy for three reasons: The imminent depletion of fossil fuels, national security and the danger of global warming.

What if the conventional wisdom about the energy future of America and the world has been completely wrong?

As everyone who follows news about energy knows by now, in the last decade the technique of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” long used in the oil industry, has evolved to permit energy companies to access reserves of previously-unrecoverable “shale gas” or unconventional natural gas. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, these advances mean there is at least six times as much recoverable natural gas today as there was a decade ago.

Natural gas, which emits less carbon dioxide than coal, can be used in both electricity generation and as a fuel for automobiles.

The implications for energy security are startling. Natural gas may be only the beginning. Fracking also permits the extraction of previously-unrecoverable “tight oil,” thereby postponing the day when the world runs out of petroleum. There is enough coal to produce energy for centuries. And governments, universities and corporations in the U.S., Canada, Japan and other countries are studying ways to obtain energy from gas hydrates, which mix methane with ice in high-density formations under the seafloor. The potential energy in gas hydrates may equal that of all other fossils, including other forms of natural gas, combined.

If gas hydrates as well as shale gas, tight oil, oil sands and other unconventional sources can be tapped at reasonable cost, then the global energy picture looks radically different than it did only a few years ago. Suddenly it appears that there may be enough accessible hydrocarbons to power industrial civilization for centuries, if not millennia, to come.

So much for the specter of depletion, as a reason to adopt renewable energy technologies like solar power and wind power. Whatever may be the case with Peak Oil in particular, the date of Peak Fossil Fuels has been pushed indefinitely into the future. What about national security as a reason to switch to renewable energy?

The U.S., Canada and Mexico, it turns out, are sitting on oceans of recoverable natural gas. Shale gas is combined with recoverable oil in the Bakken “play” along the U.S.-Canadian border and the Eagle Ford play in Texas. The shale gas reserves of China turn out to be enormous, too. Other countries with now-accessible natural gas reserves, according to the U.S. government, include Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, France, Poland and India.

via Everything you’ve heard about fossil fuels may be wrong – War Room – Salon.com.

The author goes on to deal discuss global warming concerns and how environmentalists are trying to shut down these new abundant sources of energy. But his conclusion is that the age of fossil fuels is just beginning.

Medicare reform?

Demagoguing Medicare reform proposals.  From the Washington Post fact checker:

“The Republicans have a plan to end Medicare as we know it. What they would do is they would take the people who are younger than 55 years old today and tell them, ‘You know what? You’re on your own. Go and find private health insurance in the health-care insurance market. We’re going to throw you to the wolves and allow insurance companies to deny you coverage and drop you for pre-existing conditions. We’re going to give you X amount of dollars and you figure it out.’ ”

— Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), chair of the Democratic National Committee, May 29, 2011

Something about the debate over Medicare prompts eye-popping rhetoric. A few weeks ago, it was Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying the Republican plan for Medicare would let cancer patients “die sooner.” This weekend, on CBS’s “Face The Nation,” Wasserman Schultz said Republicans would “throw you to the wolves.”

We’ve previously taken Republicans to task for claiming their plan is “a system just like members of Congress and federal employees have.” Not so. We also criticized Sebelius for her assertion. So where does the DNC leader stand in this collection of conflicting claims?

The Facts

The current Medicare system, in place since the mid-1960s, is essentially a government-run health care program, with hospital and doctors fees paid by the government, though beneficiaries also pay premiums for some services as well as deductibles and coinsurance. The new system envisioned by House Republicans would transform Medicare into a competitive market for people who are now younger than 55.

Retirees would get from the government what Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, calls “premium support” — a set payment adjusted to inflation; they would use that money to pick from a range of plans offered by insurance companies through what is termed a Medicare exchange. Democrats tend to refer to this payment by the more ominous-sounding word “voucher.”

Wasserman Schultz did not say voucher, but her statement suggests that people would be handed a check (“X number of dollars”) and then have to go out and find a plan that they can afford. She also said the plan would “allow insurance companies to deny you coverage and drop you for pre-existing conditions.”

Neither of those claims are true. The system as envisioned by Republicans would operate much like the Medicare prescription drug plan currently does. The government would not give people a check or anything like that; the government would handle the funds, just as they do under the drug plan. As the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said when it examined the plan, “The premium support payments would go directly from the government to the plans that people selected.”

Meanwhile, different plans approved by Medicare would compete for business, as under the drug plan. Moreover, the GOP proposal specifically says that to participate in the Medicare exchange, insurance companies would have to accept all retirees.

via Wasserman Schultz’s bogus claim that the GOP Medicare plan will ‘throw you to the wolves’ – The Fact Checker – The Washington Post.

Actually, the proposal sounds like the Democrats’ health care program that everyone will be on! If that is so, why are (1) Republicans for it, and (2) why are Democrats against it?

Putting humanity on trial

In Sweden, all of humanity has been put on trial with a jury of Nobel Laureates.

On Tuesday 17 May, humanity will be on trial as the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium brings together almost 20 Nobel Laureates, a number of leading policy makers and some of the world’s most renowned thinkers and experts on global sustainability.

With Planet Earth as plaintiff and Nobel Laureates as jury members, compelling evidence will be presented showing how humanity may now be capable of radically altering the remarkable conditions for life on Earth. Nobel Laureates will hear how our vast imprint on the planet’s environment has shifted the Earth into a new geological period labelled the “Anthropocene” – the Age of Man.

“This court case is a bold step to take, especially in the context of this Nobel Laureate Symposium. It is, however, a necessary step towards recognising that our generation is the first to know that human pressure is so large that the possibility of irreversible changes to the Earth System can no longer be excluded. The prosecution will therefore maintain that humanity must work towards global stewardship around the planet’s intrinsic boundaries, a scientifically defined space within which we can continue to develop,” says Professor Will Steffen, prosecutor and Director at Climate Change Institute, Australian National University.

One of the most recent and most significant attempts to provide scientific guidelines for such improved stewardship was published in Nature in 2009. The Planetary Boundaries approach was developed by 28 scientists, who estimated that three of the boundaries, climate change, the nitrogen cycle and biodiversity loss, have already been transgressed and that several other are already in the danger zone.

“We know the earth’s resilience and resource base cannot be stretched infinitely. Moreover we are now uncomfortably aware that “business as usual” is not an option anymore. Our societies and economies are integral parts of the biosphere and it is time for the leaders of the world to act as stewards of nature’s invaluable and inescapable contribution to human livelihoods, health, security and culture,” says Professor Johan Rockström, Symposium Chair and Director of Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, and Stockholm Environment Institute.

The court verdict will contribute to the Stockholm Memorandum to be signed by Nobel Laureates on 18 May. The Memorandum will be handed over in person to the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability appointed by the UN Secretary General in preparation for the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio +20) and for the ongoing climate negotiations.

via Humanity on trial in Nobel Laureate Court Case | Global Symposium 2011.

First of all, this report was made before the event and it sounds like humanity was not considered innocent before being proven guilty.  Also, I don’t know about you, but I was not read my rights and did not have legal counsel.  The jury did not consist of my peers, since the Nobel Prize winners are smarter than me, and, anyway, aren’t they human beings too and thus part of the indictment?  I assume that the verdict was “guilty.”  So are they going to throw all of humanity into the slammer?  And if they do, who is going to run the prison?

HT: James Kirschner

Losing the rule of law?

More fundamental than government, more important than politics, is the rule of law.   Not only the citizens but the rulers must follow their own laws.  Otherwise, no matter who is in power, you have rule by decree, which is nothing more than the arbitrary exercise of power; that is to say, tyranny.  Victor Davis Hanson is worried that we are losing the rule of law:

The new lawlessness at the federal level. . . is predicated on “social justice”: those deemed “in need” shall be exempt from the law; those “not in need” shall not.

The War Powers Resolution, like it or not, is the law of the land. It requires the president to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action. Without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war, the military cannot remain in combat abroad. That’s why George W. Bush went to Congress to authorize the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. During the heated rhetoric over the Iranian missile controversy, presidential and vice-presidential candidates Obama and Biden both expressed support for the resolution — apparently outraged that Bush might unilaterally bomb Iran without notifying a Senator like themselves.

So when we recently passed the 60-day limit after the initial and continual use of armed forces in Libya, why did not Obama seek permission from Congress?

Here the question is not the usual Obama hypocrisy that has seen him demagogue and damn Guantanamo, preventative detention, tribunals, renditions, the Patriot Act (just signed by a former critic via computerized autopen from the UK no less), and Predators — only to expand or embrace them all. Rather, the problem is a question of legality itself.

Is the War Powers Resolution the law of the land or not? Or are we to assume a progressive president is complying with both UN resolutions and an Arab League mandate, and therefore, as the good internationalist and Nobel laureate, sees no reason to consult, as American law requires, his own elected U.S. Congress — the latter a more suspect and reactionary body that does not enjoy the moral stature of the UN or the Arab League? . . .

In that regard, an administration is sworn to uphold the established law; why, then, was the Defense of Marriage Act arbitrarily rendered null and void without legislative appeal, simply because it was considered illiberal by those now with executive power? Can President Obama and Attorney General Holder de facto declare a law unconstitutional and then not enforce it? Could a renegade conservative counterpart likewise declare Roe vs. Wade unconstitutional, and go after abortionists because it deemed them too liberal?

Or perhaps a better example is the bailout to Chrysler that was contingent upon reversing the contractual order of creditors, putting union members and retirees, contrary to law, to the front of the line, and those who held Chrysler debt to the rear. Was the logic something like the following spread-the-wealth notion: Bondholders are wealthier anyway and so have enough money already; union members — and Democratic stalwarts — actually do the work, and so have a moral claim to the money that trumps the superfluous legal right of the wealthy and powerful?

Or we might ponder the administrative decision by bureaucratic decree to stop a company like Boeing from opening a new airline production line in South Carolina, purportedly because it is a red, right-to-work state. Again, the logic is that companies cannot open factories where they wish, since they have moral obligations that must stand above a mere legal notion of freedom of commerce and association.

Do we remember the voter intimidation case dropped against the Black Panthers — on the supposition that, given the history of the poll tax and Jim Crow voter discrimination, a little minor pushback is small potatoes?

Then we come to federal immigration law, or rather the deliberate effort to undermine it — in a fashion that goes well beyond the neglect of the law shown by previous administrations. The Obama administration is going to court, along with Mexico, to sue the state of Arizona that is trying to find ways to bolster a federal law that the administration will not enforce.

But it gets worse: the Obama administration tries to subvert states that wish to follow its own laws, but ignores cities that deliberately flaunt them by declaring themselves “sanctuary cities.” And consider entire states like California, whose Assembly just passed its own version of the “Dream Act” to provide millions in state funds to support illegal aliens at the state-run colleges and universities (at a time when the state is $15 billion short in balancing its annual budget, and, due to such a shortage of funds, must release 40,000 prisoners because of an inability to comply with a court order addressing overcrowding). . . .

Where does this end, this effort by Ivy League lawyers and civil libertarians to substitute supposedly enlightened progressivism for purported reactionary law? We easily and rightly condemn the crime when the Right tries to overthrow legality in the cases of a Franco, Hitler, Greek colonels, or Pinochet, who are easily identified as autocrats and dictators openly subverting constitutional government. But the assault from the Left is more insidious, given that the miscreants do it in self-declared high-minded fashion for “us.” I think here of the frightening trial of Socrates in ancient Athens, the ascendency of the Jacobins during the French Revolution, or Hugo Chavez’s thuggery in Venezuela — not coups as much as overdue punishment of “them.”

Without the law, there is nothing.

Via Works and Days » Land of the Lawless.


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