Thursday, April 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: The Associated Press: Does Souter’s silence on hiring mean he’s leaving?

I dunno, what with two wars, an economic crisis, bankrupt automakers, Somali pirates, the torture debate and swine flu, can we handle a SCOTUS replacement as well?

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the LAT: vScientists see this flu strain as relatively mild

As the World Health Organization raised its infectious disease alert level Wednesday and health officials confirmed the first death linked to swine flu inside U.S. borders, scientists studying the virus are coming to the consensus that this hybrid strain of influenza — at least in its current form — isn’t shaping up to be as fatal as the strains that caused some previous pandemics.

In fact, the current outbreak of the H1N1 virus, which emerged in San Diego and southern Mexico late last month, may not even do as much damage as the run-of-the-mill flu outbreaks that occur each winter without much fanfare.

May it be so.

Also, an additional reminder:

“Let’s not lose track of the fact that the normal seasonal influenza is a huge public health problem that kills tens of thousands of people in the U.S. alone and hundreds of thousands around the world,” said Dr. Christopher Olsen, a molecular virologist who studies swine flu at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine in Madison.

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By Steven L. Taylor

So reports WSFA: Swine Flu now in Montgomery.

The only details are that it is a “young adult.”

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Politico: Biden would avoid subways, planes after swine flu outbreak

Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not recommend taking any commercial flight or riding in a subway car “at this point” because swine flu virus can spread “in confined places.” A little more than one hour later, Biden rushed out a statement backing off.

“I would tell members of my family — and I have — I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now,” Biden said on NBC’s “Today” show.. “It’s not that it’s going to Mexico. It’s [that] you’re in a confined aircraft. When one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft. That’s me. …

“So, from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation. If you’re out in the middle of a field when someone sneezes, that’s one thing. If you’re in a closed aircraft or closed container or closed car or closed classroom, it’s a different thing.”

I understand being cautious and not wanting to get sick. However, I continue to wonder as to why we are reacting to this disease the way that we are.

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By Steven L. Taylor

How would you interpret the following statement?

”It is a piece of idle sentimentality that truth, merely as truth, has any inherent power denied to error, of prevailing against the dungeon and the stake’

I am honestly curious.

Bonus points if you can name the source (without resorting to looking it up, that is).

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Wednesday, April 29, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Nolan McCarthy ponders the The Specter of a Filibuster-proof Majority and notes:

Keith, Howard, and I once published a paper that among other things estimated how much party switchers shifted on the liberal-conservative continuum. We found that on average party switchers moved 28 percentile ranks on a liberalism scale. Thus, a Democrat at the 40th percentile on liberalism would move to the 68th percentile.In the 110th Congress, Specter was the 55th most liberal member of the Senate.With the addition of new Democratic senators, he is probably the 62nd most liberal. Consequently, if he shifts the average amount, he’ll be the 34th most liberal. Such a move would put him solidly within the Democratic fold near Herb Kohl and Diane Feinstein.He would probably rank more liberal than his fellow Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey (even on issues other than abortion).

Along similar line, Nate Silver looks at the DW-NOMINATE scores for recent party switchers and notes:

What does this mean for Specter? If we take his rating of +.091 from the 110th Congress and subtract .394 points from it, we come up with a -.303. That would make him similar to Tim Johnson (-.282), Blanche Lincoln (-.297), Kent Conrad (.315) or Joe Liberman (-.333). Bob Casey Jr,, by contrast, Specter’s colleague from Pennsylvania, rates as a -.401, whereas the average Democratic senator in the 110th Congress was a -.441.

Nate’s work is more back-of-an-envelope analysis that is McCarthy, et al’s. Still, interesting stuff.

h/t on the McCarthy post Chris Lawrence‘s shared items on Google Reader.

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By Steven L. Taylor

The AP reports: Colombian woman arraigned on terror charges. I initially assumed that she was facing drug charges, but the story notes she was charged with “supporting leftist rebels in her native country” which stuck me as vague. The El Tiempo write-up (Cargos contra colombiana por apoyar a las Farc presentó un tribunal federal de Washington) wasn’t all that more informative.

The DOJ press release on the arraignment is a more detailed:#09-399: Colombian National Arraigned on Charges of Providing Material Support to the FARC (2009-04-27)

A 32-year-old Colombian citizen, Luz Mery Gutierrez Vergara, who was extradited from the Republic of Colombia on Thursday, made her initial appearance today in federal court in Washington, D.C., to face charges for allegedly participating in a conspiracy to provide material support to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, commonly known as the “FARC,”


In September of 2024, a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia indicted Gutierrez Vergara, along with a number of her co-conspirators, on two counts: conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization and providing material support or resources to a terrorist organization. The indictment alleges that Gutierrez Vergara was involved in a conspiracy to assist the FARC by establishing and personally serving in a logistical support and supply network designed to procure weapons, ammunition, high technology devices, money, and other materials and supplies, and to transport and deliver these and other commodities, including hostages, to and among the FARC.

Now, I can understand the legal and policy justification of the US government’s interest in Gutiérrez if she was involved in the drug trade or if she had been involved in the kidnapping of the three Americans contractors who were freed with Ingrid Betancur or somehow involved with direct harm to other Americans. However, it strikes me as odd that the US government appears to have sought the extradition of this woman for the general crime of being in a foreign terrorist organization, since it would appear that the crimes in question were directed at the Colombian state, not the United States in any direct way (or really, any indirect way). There is also an interesting discussion here to be had about why the Colombian government would want to extradite her (my, but times have changed since the 1990s).

The DOJ and the US prison system is going to be extremely busy if they are going to get into the business of collecting citizens of other countries and trying them for crimes committed in those other countries. It adds a whole new meaning to the notion of “the world’s policeman.” Is it now the case that all terrorists around the globe are currently in violation of US law? (I simply am not familiar with the statutes in question).

I would note, it is entirely likely that this is more common than I am aware, but it sounds very much like a post-9/11 manifestation of US policy. Further, in the case of Colombia I have tended to pay a great deal of attention to the extradition issue for going on two decades, and I can’t recall another case in which the charges weren’t a more straight-forward issue of direct harm to the US. Indeed, I am pretty sure that they have always been drug related.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Strib (Raids disrupt cocaine pipeline into Minnesota) we get the following number:

selling each kilo [of uncut cocaine] for between $25,000 and $35,000, according to authorities

For those of us who think in imperial measurements, recall: 1 kilo = 2.20462262 lbs.

In the story, it was noted that each of the couriers in the pipeline were carrying between 5 to 15 kilos of the stuff, or a dollar value of $125,000 to $375,000 on the low end to $175,000 to $525,000 on the high end for an amount that would fit into a duffle bag (with room to spare). Indeed, the cash to make the purchases would take up far more space than the drugs.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via CNN: Regular flu has killed thousands since January

Since January, more than 13,000 people have died of complications from seasonal flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly report on the causes of death in the nation.

No fewer than 800 flu-related deaths were reported in any week between January 1 and April 18, the most recent week for which figures were available.

The report looks at deaths in the 122 largest cities in the United States.

Worldwide, the annual death toll from the flu is estimated to be between 250,000 and 500,000.

So while it is understandable that we would want to get a grip on the swine flu situation, let’s try not to lose out heads.

h/t: OTB.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: U.S. officials want ‘swine’ out of flu name

What’s in a name? U.S. pork producers are finding that the name of the virus spreading from Mexico is affecting their business, prompting U.S. officials to argue for changing the name from swine flu.

At a news briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took pains to repeatedly refer to the flu as the “H1N1 virus.”

“This is not a food-borne illness, virus. It is not correct to refer to it as swine flu because really that’s not what this is about,” Vilsack said.

Israel has already rejected the name swine flu, and opted to call it “Mexico flu.” Jewish dietary laws forbid eating pork.

I am guessing that the swine is out of the bag, and we’ll have to live with the name. Heck, some people’s vocabularies are so poor, they may not know what “swine” means anyway. 1

Let’s just call it by its Spanish name “gripa porcina” and be done with it.

  1. Or do I just feel that way because it is grading season? I kid; I Kid. []
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