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January 2007 Archives
Human avian flu cases at lowest level since outbreak began
By Michael Fumento
Yes, I'm the guy who has written that it's not so much the number of humans infected by birds that counts in determining the likelihood of a human avian flu pandemic but rather whether the disease changes so as to become more transmissible between humans. As I observed in my December 15 Weekly Standard article, "The Chicken Littles Were Wrong:"
The latest "scary news," promulgated in the November 23  issue of the New England Journal of Medicine by uber-alarmist Robert Webster of St. Jude Memorial Children's Hospital, is that human cases of H5N1 contracted from birds are continuing to increase. Indeed, confirmed cases for 2006 are running ahead of those for last year. But the difference is slight; 97 worldwide for all of last year versus 111 through the end of November 2006. This difference could be entirely explained by better surveillance. Moreover, the real concern is not sporadic bird-to-human transmission, but human-to-human transmission.
The Chicken Littles, conversely, have cited bird-to-human cases for no other reason than that those cases have been rising yearly since the latest outbreak began in 2003 and that generally speaking there's really nothing new with which to spook people. To that, I've pointed out the rise has actually been slowing. But now, while it's a bit early to say, it looks like they're now actually falling. Specifically, human avian cases flu spikes at around this time each year as this bar graph shows clearly. Cases for the last season were 12 in November, six in December, and 25 in January 2006. For this season it's 2, 5, and 7 respectively.
Mind you, in 2004 the peak month wasn't until March so we won't know until the WHO releases its March data to see how mild the season may turn out. But at this point, the lack of cases is looking to be quite tragic for the doomsayers. Stay tuned.
Joe Katzman's greed and dishonesty on "Winds of Change"
By Michael Fumento
When Joe Katzman invited me to blog on his site, "Winds of Change," I happily accepted. Mine is a hybrid site that emphasizes articles over my blog so I thought it would be a chance for good additional exposure. Alas, it turns out that Katzman cares naught for truthfulness but only for exposure and money. He and his buddy "Armed Liberal" gave me grief for not responding to comments. My response in part:
The two top bloggers, Michelle Malkin and Instapundit, make no room for comments - any more than I do on my website. John Hawkins allows for comments but does not respond, nor does he allow guest bloggers to respond. Why? Because most comments are inane, saying readily falsifiable things and often are simply insulting. That includes the specific comment [from "Andy X"] you insisted I respond to, which you can see from the response I did reply to at your urging, that was incredibly stupid and (Who knew?) implicated homosexuality on my part. How edifying! But you felt it deserved a response; nay, that not responding to it made your site look bad. I've got news for you; giving people like that the time of day is what puts egg on your face.
(Incidentally, Timothy Trollbert at "Deltoid" used this to claim I had been "booted off" the site.)
Part of Katzman's original response was to claim that his site does not make a profit, that all those ads that litter it merely pay for its upkeep. Anybody who operates a website can take one look at all that litter and know Katzman is full of it. I count ten, including a rotating Flash one that sometimes features ESPN. Meanwhile, he has the simplest type of blogsite there is - nothing but text and images. ESPN alone must pay his costs more than ten times over. Katzman's bloggers do the work and he reaps the profits. It is indeed his advertising - his trolling for hits to support it - that makes him insist his bloggers respond to even the most idiotic and insulting comments.
In a later post, our greedy friend tried to defend "Andy X." Andy X's comment (aside from implicating my sexuality) was that I criticized Newsweek for saying, "Many scientists are quick to emphasize that comprehensive human trials [on amniotic/placenta cells such as those discussed in a new paper by Anthony Atala] are still many years away." I had pointed out that in fact one for multiple sclerosis was already underway. That hardly constitutes "many years away."
But the brilliant Andy X, whom Katzman insisted I must respond to, said Newsweek used the plural, whereas I had cited only one trial. That's pure sophistry. It stands to reason that if there is one there could be more, and indeed I supplied another which was reported in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine way back in 1996. And that should have been the end of Andy X. (I since easily located another in the same journal.)
But Katzman was cornered and desperate to malign me so he claimed I misrepresented the original paper in question, that in January's Nature Biotechnology. He said my claim that the paper showed that Atala's stem cells could be converted to mature cells from all three germ layers that make up all the cells in the body was false.
Here's a quote from Atala from PBS's Online Newshour:
"And, therefore, we have been able to drive the cell to what we call all three germ layers, which basically means all three major classes of tissues available in the body, from which all cells come from."
We therefore have Joe Katzman saying that Atala (and by derivation, Fumento) is lying about Atala's paper. Personally - and call me crazy - I'm going to go ahead and side with Atala.
And by the way, it took me less than 10 seconds to Google that quote. Mr. Katzman either needs to learn how to use a search engine or at least to realize that others have that capability and hence the capability to show him to be the fool he is.
In short, Katzman is a dishonest person. If you blog on his site, he's just using you. If you patronize his site, keep in mind he'll print anything he thinks will increase his hits.He puts money first and veracity last with nothing in between.
Yet more on the attack on OP Hotel ("The Ramadi Inn")
By Michael Fumento
I've updated this blog so many times, including just now, that I'm reposting it with the latest material. You haven't seen the material at the end (assuming you've even seen the material at the beginning) and - what the heck - you might as well watch the blast video again.
In an earlier blog post, I presented part of a video I got off a laptop in Ramadi showing the 2005 suicide vehicle attack on OP Hotel in the city's Industrial Area. Noting that it was taken from a jihadist propaganda production, I wondered aloud at their depicting it as a great victory over the infidels even though the objective remained intact and only jihadists were killed. None of which deterred a large number of jihadist websites from not just using the link to the video but rather linking to the blog entry as a whole, in which I'm basically calling them buffoons. In fact, it was so popular among terrorists that my host company was forced to take the clip down from its server. So I just gave it a new URL and reposted it, figuring the terrorists were too dumb to see if the link was broken. They were.
I also wondered about its source. Terrorism expert Adam Badder wrote in saying to the best of his knowledge the video had not previously been broadcast on jihadist websites. "Sometimes al Qaeda in Iraq sells VCD/DVDs of some attack videos in the markets of al Anbar and never puts them onto the net so the discs they are selling are exclusive," he said. "This is possibly the case with this video, but after watching it I believe it must have been captured at an al Qaeda media 'studio' by American forces. The reason I say this is even though the music is done and the al Qaeda in Iraq bug is in the top corner there are no opening credits and no ending as the last 2:32 minutes are just black screen."
Then I heard from a Capt. Chas Cannon. "I noticed you have the OP Hotel car bomb attack on your site. That attack was against our Able Company, 2-69 Armor. The initial explosion knocked the entire platoon out cold." He went on: "It was interesting the way we received the video, however. An informant of ours, whom we knew to be playing both sides, was given a copy as part of a recruiting drive by the insurgents. One night on our regularly scheduled meetings, he passed it on over to us. I don't think the insurgents knew that it failed....they just knew it was one helluva explosion." That it was!
Finally (I think finally), I heard from Spc. Scott Ray, who says he was in 3rd Platoon, A Co., 2/69 when the attack hit. "We never shot the driver or the dump truck. He ran into a Jersey barrier. There was another VBIED [vehicle-borne IED] that was suppose to exploit the breach the dump truck left but we guess the driver split. When we were exfiling [departing] after being relieved by our other two platoons we found the driver's body and the cab of the truck on the east side of the hotel, by where we would park the Humvees. We did have one critical wounded, Spc. David Morrow. He had major shrapnel wounds in his left thigh and was unconscious for seven hours. We continued to receive fire for about 20 minutes after the explosion until the first quick relief force showed up. it was a long twenty minutes.
January 23, 2007 12:44 PM · Permalink ·
Newsweek blows the Atala stem cell paper, too
By Michael Fumento
Newsweek International in its 22 January edition says of the Atala amniocentesis stem cell paper in Nature Biotechnology, "What's more, the stem cells are also found in the placenta, which is thrown away after birth - so doctors may obtain them from all infants, not just those subject to amniocentesis." It proceeds to tell us, however, that "Many scientists are quick to emphasize that comprehensive human trials are still many years away." Really? Then "many scientists" are unaware that if you go to the government's clinical trials.gov website you'll find that there's already a trial underway using placental and umbilical cord cells against multiple sclerosis. They're also unaware that America's most prestigious medical journal, the New England Journal of Medicine, carried a paper on a placenta stem cell trial back in 1996, "Placental Blood as a Source of Hematopoietic Stem Cells for Transplantation into Unrelated Recipients." It reported on another placenta blood trial two years later. Of course, technically speaking, those were many years away - away in the past.
Too bad many editors don't realize they have science writers who don't understand - or worse, misrepresent - science.
January 20, 2007 06:39 PM · Permalink ·
The NY Times stem cell coverup
By Michael Fumento
A reader wrote in to the "Public Editor," an online ombudsman at the The New York Times, asking why a study of the potential of amniotic stem cells (and their potential to make embryonic stem cell research obsolete) didn't appear in the newspaper, notwithstanding write-ups on the front pages of The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times.
In fact, virtually everybody who was anybody wrote about it. The Times responded that its "genetics reporter, Nicholas Wade,
. . . looked at the Atala paper last week and deemed it a minor development. Nicholas noted: "It reports finding 'multipotent' stem cells in amniotic fluid. Multipotent means they can't do as much as bona fide embryonic stem cells (which are called 'pluripotent'). So the cells really belong in the adult stem cell category, even though the authors claim an 'intermediate' status for them." Nicholas further noted that there had been previous reports of multipotent stem cells, which were much heralded at the time but then seemed to go nowhere."
I posted the following response:
Wade is flat-out wrong. Although I have read the full paper, you need go no further than the online abstract at PubMed to read that the amniotic stem cells were differentiated "into cell types representing each embryonic germ layer, including cells of adipogenic, osteogenic, myogenic, endothelial, neuronal and hepatic lineages."
I could also have added that this was the same newspaper that in 2004, in a Gina Kolata article, declared of adult stem cells "The problem is in putting them to work to treat diseases. So far, no one has succeeded." In fact there were about 70 ASC cures or treatments at the time, dating back to the late 1950s. The bottom line is the Grey Lady supports increased federal funding for ESC research - research that has yet to even be tested on a human being - to the point of outright lying over advances in alternative stem cell therapy. They don't call it "The Slimes" for nothing, folks.
Fido is fat (and so are we)
By Michael Fumento
It's enough to make you arf. The obesity epidemic has now gone to the dogs. We've got chubby Chihuahuas; fat foxhounds, pot-bellied poodles, butterball beagles, porcine pit bulls, and rotund Rottweilers. Labradors need liposuction. Read why in my latest article in the American Spectator.
Erin Brockovich on warpath against the environment
By Michael Fumento
As I write in my new article, "Erin Brockovich is full of, um, it," few things are as environmentally sensible as composting sewage, yet the alleged environmental crusader opposes it - or at least if it's being done eight miles away from the town that gave her fame and over $2 million in fortune, Hinkley. Never mind that the compost will have been heavily treated in a four-stage process before it reaches the facility, whereas Hinkley itself hosts a dairy farm that produces fresh batches of smelly, fly-drawing, germ-laden manure. It seems the only industrial process Erin likes is that which produces medical-grade silicone.
What's ailing Castro?
By Michael Fumento
According to new reports Fidel Castro may be dying from the same disease that almost killed me in April, 2005 in Fallujah. Called diverticulitis, it occurs when pouches (diverticula) in the large intestine (which in and of themselves are relatively common in adults) become perforated and flood the peritoneal cavity with germs. Prior to any such perforation, areas of colon with such pouches can be cut out and the colon reattached. But if perforated, this technique virtually guarantees continued infection and so standard procedure is to run the colon out the side through a colostomy. (Temporary in my case.) Castro's Spanish doctor assuredly knew this but was probably ordered by El Jefe to skip the colostomy. For his troubles, he ended up with one anyway. Between the disease and the surgery all of this is horribly painful - which is why I'm glad Fidel has it, notwithstanding that it gives us something in common besides smoking cigars and having ugly beards.
FluWiki editor displays dishonest of his site and himself
By Michael Fumento
FluWiki pretends to be an encyclopedia of that which we should know about avian flu and the possibility of it becoming a human pandemic. It is not. It is a propaganda site, dedicated to spreading alarmism. I pointed out in a previous blog that it even
Apparently, you are going around the internets [sic] spreading false information about Flu Wiki. On your blog, you state:
(There are actually a number of such dedicated sites, primarily FluWiki, which refuses to post my material but has no problem posting opinion pieces like A Severe Pandemic Is Likely and running ads from pharmaceutical companies that make flu drugs.) Similar claim [sic] is made on Crawford Kilian's blog, H5N1.
Flu Wiki has no ads whatsoever, and never has had ads. It's a non-commercial site and always has been. It does not endorse products. Simple inspection will verify that. Perhaps you have us confused with another site.
Please correct this in the various places you are posting, including your blog.
You can stop squawking. I didn't say you blatantly posted ads. But you have them nonetheless. Under "Authoritative sources of background information" there is:
"Bird Flu is a Real Pandemic Threat to Humans," described as "An essay by Leonard Crane, author of Ninth day of Creation (2006)" It's hardly relevant to avian flu that he wrote this novel about biological terrorism (published in 2000, by the way) but it is relevant that you see fit to plug it. More importantly, in clicking on the link you provide we find it's nothing more than an advertisement for a book called "How To Protect Yourself And Your Loved Ones from BIRD FLU." In it we're warned in super-sized type: Right Now, Bird Flu Is Killing Entire Families in Indonesia -- Infecting a 2 Year Old Girl in Djibouti Africa and Forcing Quarantines in Romania!"
Authoritative, huh? No. The question is, why run something this insipid if it doesn't pay a kickback?
Under "Other sources of background information," you have "Joel Fuhrman M.D.'s Six Steps to Protect Your Family from Avian Flu." But click on the link and the reader finds it's actually an advertisement for his line of vitamins disguised as a blog.
Yet somehow you have no room to mention sources of background information such as my two articles that bird flu is not a real pandemic threat to humans and your family doesn't need protection from avian flu.
At the same time FluWiki disguises ads for nutty books and vitamins under legitimate-looking links, it censors articles that inform readers that avian flu H5N1 was actually discovered way back in 1959 and therefore has had far more time to become pandemic than most people believe, that recent CDC tests on ferrets show that fears of H5N1 reassorting with human flu are probably grossly overblown, or that your "expert" Laurie Garrett rose to fame and fortune by prediction a pandemic of Ebola - one of the hardest human viruses to transmit.
You're a dishonest person who runs a dishonest site. And by the way, my offer of 10 to one odds of no human pandemic in the next ten years is also open to you.
His incredible response:
Spam is spam. When you run a wiki, anyone can post links. There are literally thousands of pages and tens of thousands of links there. If you see any other commercial links, feel free to write and I'll remove them. These were commercial sites and they have been removed.
How stupid do you think I am? You posted those links. [Or, I should have added, allowed them to stay up. Certainly when I posted a link to one of my avian flu articles he pulled it down.] YOU. Spam is unsolicited bulk email. As I said, you are a dishonest person with a dishonest website. And your refusal to take me up on my bet also shows you don't have the courage of your convictions. You know as well as I do there's no H5N1 pandemic coming, but you've got a business to run.
Everybody chickened out of my avian flu challenge
By Michael Fumento
It's now been a week since I threw down the gauntlet on my blog site and at Right Wing News to five avian flu alarmist bloggers who had attacked my Weekly Standard article, "The Chicken Littles Were Wrong: The Bird Flu Threat Flew the Coop." Since one had predicted a "50%/50%" [sic] chance of a bird flu pandemic among humans within the next year I gave him 10 to 1 odds there wouldn't be, noting that 2 to 1 odds would be even so that anything above that should be tempting. I then offered the same odds to the other four. As I expected, none of them took me up on it. Daily Kos simply ignored it; but after all they're Daily Kos so they can do whatever they like, right? A blogger who goes by "Revere" and posted "Fumento's Bird Flu Follies" at Effect Measure also ignored it. But then, his blog actually had little to do with avian flu; rather it was mostly one long ad hominem attack on me. He even referred to my article as "sleaze," a rather strange term to describe a science article. Three bloggers outright refused the bet.
One was Mr. "50%/50%," an anonymous fellow who runs "Avian Flu Diary." Obviously if your blog is about nothing but avian flu, you have an interest in promoting panic. (There are actually a number of such dedicated sites, primarily FluWiki, which refuses to post my material but has no problem posting opinion pieces like A Severe Pandemic Is Likely and running ads from pharmaceutical companies that make flu drugs.) But our diarist friend had no interest in the bet. "Possible Interstate [sic] gambling law violations aside, this is far too serious a subject to debase by making side bets on whether millions of people will die," he whimpered. Personal bets violate no gambling laws, nor do serious subjects prevent bets. Translation: "Bawk! Bawk! Bawk!" He does not have the courage of his convictions, beyond the conviction to keep his blog alive.
Another was "Mad Mike the Biologist," who posts over at "Science Blogs." From other posters and posts I've seen there it should be called "Superstition Blogs." In the event, despite the written record on his own blog site he denied having even challenged the basis of my article. Never mind that the blog post in question, which in the title called me a "disingenuous ideologue," began: "Revere, over at Effect Measure, has a solid critique of Michael Fumento's opinion piece about avian flu. What the piece shows is just how ignorant of public health Fumento really is." That's not a challenge? Translation: "Bawk! Bawk! Bawk!"
Finally we have Tim Lambert, whose original post criticizing my article is here. Lambert is one of the most obnoxious trolls on the Internet. He produces nothing; he exists to tear down other people to make up for some perceived deficiency on his part. Perhaps it's a deficiency that can be measured with a three-inch ruler; I don't know. Some people buy a flashy sports car in his case, but Troll Lambert uses all his spare time to write fraudulent Wikipedia biographies about people who get more attention than he does (approximately 6.3 billion) and to try to poke fun of them on his blog. In his desperation he often makes an utter fool of himself and this was no exception. Aside from refusing the bet, Troll Lambert claimed that my giving 10 to 1 odds meant I believed there was a ten percent chance of pandemic flu over the next ten years. Right, Troll. And my saying "The sky is sunny" means that I believe Al Qaeda will set off a dirty bomb in Wichita, Kansas. I picked the 10 to 1 figure for the rather obvious reason that people like round numbers and we have a base 10 system. Now, Lambert is an Aussie and maybe Australia doesn't use the decimal system - but I'm pretty sure it does. I know they have chickens over there; Troll Lambert is proof.
And they're we have it; five flu alarmists offered the chance to make a chunk of change and all five refused it. What does this tell us? They'll spew and spew and spew, but they know that what they say just isn't true.
Patriquin Police Station to Open in Ramadi
By Michael Fumento
Multi-National Corps -- Iraq has announced a Patriquin Iraqi Police Station will soon open in Ramadi. Before his death in an IED explosion on Dec. 6 of last year, Army Cpt. Travis Patriquin, a hero of Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, played a vital role in getting Ramadi sheiks to send their young tribesmen into the police to provide Iraqi firepower and intelligence-gathering in the fight against insurgents and terrorists. (He was also very helpful to me in understanding the current situation in Ramadi, and I quoted him at great length.)
Patriquin left behind three small children. Donations to help his family may be made to:
Travis Patriquin Family Memorial Fund
If you have a PayPal account, you may email a donation to his father at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wonkette, call Google tech support!
By Michael Fumento
The blog site Wonkette displays my photo of Michelle Malkin wearing my body armor with the parenthetical, "(We don't have any idea why a blogger in Northern Virginia owns body armor, either.)" A Google search using the terms "Fumento" and "embed" and "Iraq" comes up with over 20,000 hits. You might think that would be a little hint -- or would be as soon as Wonkette figures out the intricacies of using a search engine.
GI Malkin to report for duty in Iraq
By Michael Fumento
Michelle Malkin has announced she's heading for Iraq. I've known of this for a little while and have had mixed feelings. On the one hand, she's an old friend dating back about 13 years. She can seem hard-edged in her blogs and columns, but some of her worst enemies would take a liking to her if they knew her in person. Put another way, I don't want to see her butt zapped. Conversely, I have repeatedly exhorted that nobody can understand Iraq or the war who hasn't been there. The vast majority of self-styled Iraqi experts at the think tanks and in the media have not in fact been there. Some have called them chicken hawks and "Chairborne Rangers;" I will simply say they are ignorant. Michelle has blogged constantly on Iraq, but mentally I gave her a pass because she's not exactly natural embed material. She has no military background, she has two small children at home, and she's so small both in height and frame that she may constitute the lightest embed ever to go over. When I gave her my body armor and helmet on Christmas Day I honestly thought she might tip over. I wear an X-Large while she's a Super-Tiny. Hopefully once she arrives at her duty station she can swap it for something smaller and more protective (I have no side ceramic plates).
As to that duty station, those with Malkin Derangement Syndrome (her hate mail makes mine look positively quaint) are already blogging that this will be just another celebrity tour. They couldn't be more wrong. The Celebrity Tour, as exemplified recently by Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and others who aren't of Irish extraction comprises flying into Baghdad International and bedding down in comfy-cozy celebrity quarters in one of the three huge bases right next to the airport. These bases receive virtually no shelling and are literally safer than most American cities. Once there they schmooze with troops, the overwhelming majority of which have never seen combat. The result is that these people get all the celebrities; the guys doing the fighting and dying in the real Iraq just get grunt reporters like Mike Fumento.
Michelle is not taking that route. OPSEC forbids revealing her destination, but suffice to say it's a camp that's actually smaller than my Forward Operating Base of Camp Corregidor in Ramadi. That makes it likely to be shelled. It has perhaps no more than half a dozen women and she'll probably sleep in a crackerbox -- hopefully sans rats. It's not like the Anbar, but outside the wire IEDs await, and quite possibly snipers. Ambushes are possible. Yes, Michelle will be a celebrity and I've urged her to bring as many photos as she can to sign for the troops; the men will never forget her visit. But she's going as a true embedded reporter. She's got a lot of guts in that tiny frame of hers. We should all wish her Godspeed.
Bloomberg News's Attempted Backlash on Avian Flu
By Michael Fumento
"Bird flu infected fewer humans in the second half of the year, prompting experts to point to a new enemy in the fight against a possible pandemic: complacency." So begins an end-of-year Bloomberg News article by By Jason Gale and John Lauerman. But most of the article shows why there is, indeed, no great cause for worry. ["Complacency," of course, has a negative connotation suggesting there is a real threat.] Indeed, the very next line explains, "The lethal H5N1 strain of avian influenza was reported in people every two days in the first half [of the year]. Since July, the number of cases has slowed to about one a week and scientists say the virus hasn't yet found a way to easily infect humans."
Actually, I have never read an article or quote by anyone saying this is a reason to worry less. Indeed, the article provides a good quote from my December 25 Weekly Standard piece about the lack of mutation being a good sign and it provides another good quote from Peter Palese, chair of Mount Sinai School of Medicine's department of microbiology in New York. "The virus hasn't really gone in a major way into humans. That is a very important fact, which makes it doubtful that H5N1 is really the next pandemic strain," he states.
I specifically wrote that the number of infected humans has gone up slightly from 2005 to 2006, but that's probably the result of better surveillance and in any case irrelevant. What really matters is whether it becomes readily transmissible between humans, not how many humans catch it from birds.
Indeed, it's that very increase (both cases and deaths) that pandemic panic-mongering websites have used against me, indicating that they didn't actually read the article, didn't have the intelligence to understand the article, or didn't have the honesty to relay to readers what was in the article. For example, Daily Kos reprinted a World Health Organization (WHO) graph showing human avian flu cases by month since 2003 shown on both a cumulative line chart and a bar graph with each bar representing one month. All the bars show is that avian flu cases, like human flu cases, are seasonal. But the line graph may look scary because it shows more human cases this past year than the previous year and the previous year before that. In fact, as I pointed out, it's only a slight increase from last year to this and - once again - it's not bird-to-human cases that we should worry about.
But if you are worried about them, here are some interesting statistics from the WHO year-end statistics. Cases from 2003 to 2004 increased about 1100 percent; from 2004 to 2005 they increased about 100 percent; but from 2005 to 2006 they increased less than 18 percent. In other words, by the alarmists' own fake standards the increase in cases among humans would appear to be reassuring based on the limited number of years of data available. Further, as I pointed out in my article, "Far more people die of tuberculosis in an hour than all those known to have died from H5N1."
Ultimately, no matter how you look at it, the pandemic panic-mongers don't have a chicken leg to stand on.