Swine Flu Pandemic A “Dud?”

 vaccination

                   photo: cdc  

I keep waiting for the American public to be devastated by the horrendous swine flu pandemic we were promised.   Sure, people have come down with the flu or diseases exhibiting “flu like symptoms” but nothing that comes even close to measuring up to the degree of fear generated by the CDC, the WHO and others.   It’s starting to feel more like the old bird flu threat.  Another disaster that never happened.

There is of course a fear on the part of any number of reporters and editors  that the swine flu might eventually turn out to be just as bad as they told us it might be back when government officials were spending billions on vaccine.  I guess that’s still possible?  That’s probably the only reason most of the major media outlets aren’t screaming about the whole thing being overstated and overspent.

The CDC says 36,000 Americans die of the regular seasonal flu each year.   Well, we’re approaching the end of 2009 and I’d like to know how many Americans have died of seasonal flu vs. the swine flu, but I can’t find the numbers.  There may in fact, be no valid numbers because the CDC told health officials to stop counting the number of cases.

Not everyone is holding their silence.

A Canadian health official, Dr. Richard Schabas, the former Chief Medial Officer for Ontario, is calling the pandemic a “dud.”   Dr. Schabas tells the CBC News,  “It’s really not causing — and is not going to cause and nowhere has caused — significant levels of illness or death,” said Dr. Richard Schabas, Ontario’s former chief medical officer of health.  But governments moved ahead regardless. They ramped up their response, spent a huge amount of money on vaccines and other things. I’m not sure the $1.5 billion includes the cost of new ventilators, the cost of Tamiflu stockpiles … the huge investment that’s been put into planning for what has ultimately turned out to be, from a pandemic perspective, a dud.”

Dr. Schabas is currently the chief medical officer of health for Hastings and Prince Edward counties in eastern Ontario.

Amanda Knox – Victim Of Italian Injustice?

22 year old American college student Amanda Knox and her boyfriend have been found guilty of murdering Knox’s British roommate, 21 year old Meredith Kercher.   The murder, according to the prosecution, took place during a sex and drug binge involving Kercher, Knox, Knox’s boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede of the Ivory Coast.

According to the prosecution, the two men, Sollecito and Guede, came under the siren spell of Knox, who somehow convinced them to torture and sexually assault Meredith Kercher.

The guilty verdict against Knox and Sollecito was reached in the small town of Perugia, Italy, in spite of the fact that  Rudy Guede had already been convicted of killing Kercher and had admitted that Knox and her boyfriend weren’t there and played no part in the murder.  Later, Guede said he was at the murder scene but did not kill Kercher.  He is appealing his conviction.

The unsequestered jury reached a guilty verdict even though there appears to have been no firm evidence connecting Knox to the crime while Guede’s DNA was found at the murder scene.   The prosecution though went after Amanda and her boyfriend first..    Later, they located and charged Guede who was then convicted.  But the public feeding frenzy fueled by a media onslaught was underway.   Sex, drugs and murder.  It was a tabloid’s dream.   And so, while the young woman reporters had dubbed “Foxy Knoxy” sat in jail for two years, the popular media ran wild with all the sleaze they could lay their hands on as the prosecution moved forward to seek convictions against Knox and Sollecito, even with only scant evidence.

One piece of that “evidence” was security camera video of Knox and her boyfriend shopping for women’s underwear shortly after the murder.  In court the prosecution used the tape to impugn Knox’s character.    Before that, they began building their case by releasing the video to the media.   Video of a good looking young woman and her boyfriend out buying thong underwear.   Bizarre behavior so shortly after the crime had been committed?  Maybe, but according to Knox’s aunt, Amanda had no access to her clothing  because the police had sealed off her apartment as a crime scene, leaving her with no choice but to go shopping.

Another report indicates the court refused to let the defense present DNA evidence that might have strengthened the American student’s case.   This, even though in Italy there is an automatic presumption of guilt which places the burden of proof on the defense and not on the prosecution.   In other words, you must prove you are innocent while the prosecution has no need to prove that you are guilty.   Guilt is assumed.

My former colleague from the O.J Simpson Trials,  the late Dominick Dunne, nearly always sided with the prosecution.  It wasn’t something he tried to hide.  He openly admitted to believing that people who were charged with murder were usually guilty.  The murder of his daughter Dominique undoubtedly played a significant role in his bias against the defense.   It would be fascinating to hear his take on the Amanda Knox case.  I have a feeling that this might be one of those rare instances when even Dominick Dunne would come down on the side of the defense.

Sadly, we no longer have the advantage of Dunne’s insights from the pages of Vanity Fair.   We do though have six pages from Judy Bachrach, who speaks Italian and spent more than four years living in Italy.   Among other things,  she points out that Knox made contradictory statements.  It also appears she may have been beaten by the police which could have prompted her to tell them whatever they wanted to hear.  As for the murder, she writes-

“Exactly what happened when she returned to the house on Via Pergola later that night is not clear. Rudy Guede’s DNA would be found all over her dead body the next day. His presence at the murder scene is one of the few firmly established facts of the case. There are others, but the Italian authorities have been led down an entirely different trail by the odd behavior of Amanda and Raffaele, whose actions have been too bizarre and callous to ignore, even if both are innocent.” 

The following, again from Bachrach’s piece, provides some insight into Italian jurisprudence.  ‘The Italian legal system, ecclesiastical judge Count Neri Capponi informs me, will not work in Amanda’s favor. “Our system stems from the Inquisition and also from medieval law,” he explains. What this means, in effect, he says, is that justice in Italy “is based on the supremacy of the prosecution. This nullifies the fact—written in our constitution by the way—that you’re innocent until proven guilty.”’ -Vanity Fair

Italy has no death penalty.  Amanda Knox has been sentenced to 26 years in an Italian prison.  Raffaele Sollecito has been sentenced to 25 years.  Knox is filing an appeal.  It can reportedly  take up to two years before an appeal is heard by an Italian court.

Could Gates Block Withdrawal From Afghanistan?

 Robert Gates

Photo: Robert Gates accepts nomination as Defense Secretary-11/08/06 

So the troops are coming home from Afghanistan?   That’s what Mr. Obama said.  I heard it.  Starting 18 months from now he will begin bringing our people home.  He gave no date for the withdrawal to be completed, but at least it’s a  beginning to the end of a military operation George W. started but failed to stop.   Or is it?  What’s really going on here?  Is there an exit strategy or is it nothing more than wishful thinking?

Mr. Obama, made it sound like his plans were laid but less than 24 hours later his Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, told a Senate committee that the situation would be re-assessed in December of 2010.  The implication being that the whole thing could be changed from that point on.

Then there was Secretary of State Clinton telling Brian Williams on NBC, that the decision will be “conditions based.”

Beyond that, consider the words of National Security Advisor Jim Jones, during an interview with Major Garrett on Fox News:  “This isn’t a cliff where everybody all of a sudden says ‘That’s it, it’s over.’ What is at stake here, in terms of the conditions, is how quickly we can do it. If things are going very well, we can do it more rapidly, if things need a little bit more attention, we can do it more slowly. But it is the point at which there will be a beginning to a different phase in our involvement in Afghanistan. And it’s not to say to your viewers, but more importantly to the people of the region, the United States is leaving. We are not leaving the region. We have enormous strategic interest in Afghanistan, east of Afghanistan in Pakistan and we intend to be supportive and helpful partners with them for many years to come.”

“We are not leaving the region?”  “Many years to come?”  And that means what, exactly?  It means we will begin drawing down our troop levels in 2011, unless we don’t.     Has a hint of the old Karl Rovian magic to it, doesn’t it?  Mr.Obama might as well have announced that the withdrawal date is a goal,  but that we might have to stay right where we are “for many years to come” based upon an updated assessment of the conditions.   That, of course, wouldn’t have had the same impact as his announcement that he will start bringing the troops home in 18 months.

It’s being reported that the President had to agree to making the withdrawal “conditions based” to get Bush Administration holdover and Defense Secretary Robert Gates on board.   According to his defense department bio:  “Dr. Gates is the only Secretary of Defense in U.S. history to be asked to remain in that office by a newly elected President.”   Wonder if there’s a reason for that?  Maybe it’s time to ask Mr. Gates to leave the ship?

NATO Sending Additional 7000 Troops

NATO has pledged to send an additional 7000 troops to Afghanistan with “more to come.”   The pledge came from NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.  It’s 3000 less than the U.S. requested.

‘At a news conference, Mr. Rasmussen said the injection of a total of 37,000 American and allied forces into the fight against the Taliban next year would have a “powerful effect” and he pledged that Afghanistan would not be allowed to “fall back into the hands” of what he called terrorists and extremists. “That is not going to happen,” he said.’  –NY Times

Vike’s Running Back Running A Little Too Fast

 Adrian Peterson

            Peterson at 2008 Pro Bowl  

Viking’s running back Adrian Peterson was nailed by police for allegedly doing 109 mph on a suburban Minneapolis highway.  The AP reports that Peterson was pulled over just before 8:30 PM on Saturday on “crosstown” State Highway 62, which connects Minneapolis with suburbs to the south and west.   According to the Edina Police Department,  it was a “very routine” traffic stop.   Peterson was given a citation and allowed to drive away.  Peterson, who was driving his BMW in a 55mph zone, says he wasn’t going that fast.  The next night he sprinted out an 85 yard touchdown in the Viking’s win over Chicago.  No BMW necessary.

Obama Locked In “Feud” With The CBC

congressional black caucus

  photo: u.s. house 

Glenn Thrush reports in “Politico” that the White House and the Congressional Black Caucus are locked in a “family feud.”  The report says that Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) went nose to nose in a contentious meeting with Rahm Emanuel.

“Waters suggested the CBC’s 43 members could vote with the GOP to scuttle a variety of Democratic bills if Obama and Emanuel don’t address what she thinks is a lack of understanding of the CBC’s wide-ranging goals of reducing urban unemployment, home foreclosures and bank failures.” -Politico

Tiger And Wife Renegotiate Prenup?

 Tiger Woods

photo: wiki commons

Gerald Posner in the Daily Beast reports that Tiger Woods “is negotiating an immediate $5 million payout to his wife—and revising her prenup to give her as much as $55 million more to stay with him two more years.” 

Posner reports that Woods’ wife,  Elin Nordegren,  signed a prenup when the couple married in 2004  thought to be worth $20 million after ten years of marriage.   Tiger Woods is expected to become a billionaire sometime over the next year or two.

A report in the New York Daily News suggests that Woods has three “alleged mistresses.”  The paper reports that;  “So far he has been linked to three women: Kalika Moquin, a Las Vegas nightclub executive; Los Angeles cocktail waitress Jaimee Grubbs, 23; and club promoter Rachel Uchitel, 34.”

Obama’s Date For Troop Withdrawl Not Firm

Less than 24 hours after the President’s speech and already his people are backpedaling.   Defense Secretary Robert Gates just told a Senate Committee that the date Mr. Obama announced to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan could change.  The Administration, Gates testified, will examine the situation in  December of 2010 and decide then whether the withdrawal should begin as scheduled in July of 2011.

So Mr. Obama is sending in another 30,000 troops on the advice of the Pentagon, but says he has a plan to begin withdrawing troops in 18 months.  Now his defense secretary is saying the scheduled withdrawal may not happen at that time, or, who knows?  Maybe it won’t happen at all?    This is sounding more and more like the Bush Administration.