eggIn light of the New York Times report, ‘No Time to Be in the Chicken Business‘, which describes a drop in customers at European restaurants that serve chicken (featured restaurants include Kentucky Fried Chicken and Chicken Corner) since the emergence H5N1 infections in several European countries, I did a bit of fact checking on the method of virus transmission through food products. To date, there have been no documented cases of human avian influenza transmission through cooked poultry according to the World Health Organization. Here is a snip of their current report:

On-going outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in poultry in Asia and, more recently, in Europe have raised concerns about the source of infection and the risk to humans from various exposures. On present evidence, the vast majority of human cases have acquired their infection following direct contact with infected live or dead poultry. WHO is aware of recent concerns that the virus could also spread to humans through contact with contaminated poultry products. To date, no epidemiological data suggest that the disease can be transmitted to humans through properly cooked food (even if contaminated with the virus prior to cooking). However, in a few instances, cases have been linked to consumption of dishes made of raw contaminated poultry blood.


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fastfoodThe rates of childhood obesity are expected to rise over the next five years to staggering numbers.

In North and South America, it is estimated that just under half of the region’s children will be overweight by 2010, up from about 28 percent. In EU countries, about 38 percent of all children will be overweight should present trends continue _ up from about 25 percent in recent surveys, according to a report published by the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity.

“We have truly a global epidemic which appears to be affecting most countries in the world,” said Dr. Philip James, the chairman of the International Obesity Task Force and the author of an editorial in the journal warning of the trend.

The study lays the blame for this trend on greater access to junk foods and sedentary lifestyles (read as gamers, bloggers, etc.). Public health authorities are concerned that obese kids will, in turn, become obese adults who will suffer from increased rates of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.


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News of the product behind the much hyped Microsoft Origami project was released today. The product is a small keyboardless computer, dubbed the Ultra-Mobile PC, that runs Windows. The machine will have WiFi capabilities (with the option of connecting to a Bluetooth enabled wireless phone so that the internet will never be out of reach) and will offer extensive multimedia support. Evidently, it is intended to be an all-in-one work/entertainment machine.

Will this be the next big gadget? I’m looking forward to getting my hands on one to try it out.


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Individuals with a mutation of the liver enzyme that metabolizes caffeine appear to be at greater risk for heart attacks when they drink over four cups of coffee percoffee day compared with those who drink less than one cup according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The team’s results showed that only carriers of the gene mutation for slow caffeine metabolism were at increased risk of heart attack associated with drinking coffee.

For these patients, the increased risk was 64 percent for four or more cups per day over the previous year compared with patients who drank less than one cup per day. The corresponding risk was less than 1 percent for subjects who had two copies of the rapid metabolizing gene.


syringeAccording to a Sunday Times article, Holland is in the process of establishing regulatory committees to regulate the practice of euthanasia in children who are suffering with incurable diseases. The process is intended to avoid the painful terminal stages of some forms of congenital disease. Physicians embroiled in the controversy over this issue argue that the intent is to provide a humane alternative to suffering for these children. Detractors argue that it is an unethical practice because the children do not have the ability to express their will in the decision. An argument for the practice by Eduard Verhagen, a pediatrician in Groningen who has been at the heart of the controversy, follows:

“If a child is untreatably ill,? Verhagen explained, “there can be horrendous suffering that makes the last few days or weeks of this child’s life unbearable. Now the question is: are you going to leave the child like that or are you going to prevent that suffering?? He went on: “Does the child have to sit it out until the end? We think that the answer is no. There can be circumstances where, under very strict conditions, if all the requirements are fulfilled, active ending of life can be an option — but only in cases of untreatable disease and unbearable suffering.?

It’s not a situation that you would ever like to picture yourself in. But if it were so, could you do it? Could you make the decision to end your young child’s life?


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george_washingtonIn yet another sad commentary on the American public, a recent study has found that we know more about the “Simpsons” than the freedoms granted us by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Americans apparently know more about “The Simpsons” than they do about the First Amendment.

Only one in four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But more than half can name at least two members of the cartoon family, according to a survey.

For god’s sake, turn off your television and click this link to learn the First Amendment.


A bit of commentary from Salon’s Tim Grieve:
“But it’s not like Americans are ignorami or anything: While only 28 percent of those polled could name two or more rights protected by the First Amendment, 41 percent could name two out of three “American Idol” judges, and 52 percent could name two or more characters from “The Simpsons.”

Aside from the end-of-the-world aspect of it all, we’re not sure what it all means — except that maybe Democrats who hope to win back the White House ought to spend a little less time on the separation of powers and the unitary executive and a little more on power ballads and fart jokes.”

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cellphoneAs it turns out, the use of electronic equipment while in flight may actually disrupt components critical to in-flight navigation and landing. A group at Carnegie Melon University studied emissions from electronic equipment while on board commercial aircraft.

Researchers noted that there is no definitive instance of an electronic device used by a passenger causing an accident. However, they said their data support the conclusion that use of devices like cell phones “will, in all likelihood, someday cause an accident by interfering with critical cockpit instruments such as GPS receivers.”

And here’s an interesting statistic:

… despite the ban on cell phone use during flights, the researchers discovered that on average one to four cell phone calls are made from every commercial flight in the northeast United States

And those laptops and portable gaming systems?

In the past, the FAA has found nothing to indicate that the use of passive devices like laptops or game-playing electronics poses a threat to the aircraft.

However, the CMU study concluded otherwise. While the researchers looked primarily at cell phone use, they also discovered that emissions from other portable devices proved “problematic.”

“We found that the risk posed by these portable devices is higher than previously believed,” researcher Bill Strauss said in a release announcing the findings.


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birdThe deadly bird flu virus, H5N1, was found in a German housecat near an area where over 100 infected wild birds were recently discovered. It is believed that the transmission occurred through ingestion of one of the infected birds. While officials caution that it is too early to determine the implications for human transmission, there is increasing concern that the wide range of mammalian species that have been infected may portend future genetic changes that would allow transmission between mammals. The consequences of human to human transmission of the virus could be of pandemic proportions.

In related news, US military physicians issued a call for a surveillance network of rapid-response laboratories in developing countries in order to identify human to human transmission of the virus at the earliest possible point in time to head off further spread. A similar approach was used to protect U.S. service personnel from infectious diseases while serving overseas following World War II.

Link – German Housecat story (Yahoo News)
Link – Flu Network story (BBC)

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squidA rare 28-foot giant squid was caught by a trawler off of the Falkland Islands. The creature, which is one of the sea beasts of mariner lore, is due to be displayed in the London Natural History museum. Link to a photo of the massive creature in its display case.

Related Links:

  • Slate article on the first sighting of a live giant squid by Japanese scientists (Sept. 28th, 2005)
  • National Geographic article on the first sighting of a live giant squid by Japanese investigators (Sept. 27th, 2005)

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The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten republished a manifesto on Tuesday entitled, ‘Together Facing the New Totalitarianism’, with 12 signatories that include the likes of Salman Rushdie. Likening ‘Islamism’ to the major totalitarian movements of the 20th century, the manifesto points to “fears and frustrations” within the populace that embraces this ideology as the source of the movement, a source that is capitalized upon by “hate preachers” who intend to “impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world”. The manifesto ends with a plea for freedom lovers around the world to join the resistance against such totalitarian ideologies that oppress and divide. The full text of the manifesto is republished below.

Links of Interest:
Zombietimes’ Mohammed Image Archive which shows depictions of Mohammed throughout history. The site includes the original cartoons that were published by Jyllands-Posten which incited the recent events that led to this publication.

The full text of the manifesto follows:

Manifesto: Together Facing the New Totalitarianism

“After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man’s domination of woman, the Islamists’ domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.

We reject « cultural relativism », which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of “Islamophobia”, an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.

We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.

12 signatures

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Chahla Chafiq
Caroline Fourest
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Irshad Manji
Mehdi Mozaffari
Maryam Namazie
Taslima Nasreen
Salman Rushdie
Antoine Sfeir
Philippe Val
Ibn Warraq”


Hat tip: Michelle Malkin / Agora

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