Thursday, March 31, 2011

Running out of money is no fun

As the British are trying to cut back on their deficit,  quarter of a million people peacefully protested. Five-hunderd people protested in an unpeaceful way.

Masked anarchists clash with London police

The black-clad anarchists were a breakaway group from a quarter of a million people who marched to protest against the British government's austerity measures.

About 4,500 police officers struggled to control escalating violence as demonstrators went on the rampage.
Police were pelted with ammonia-filled lightbulbs, paint and firebombs as they struggled to control the growing crowds.

Clothes store Topshop and bank HSBC had their windows smashed, while some protesters hurled missiles at London's landmark Ritz Hotel.

Others lit a bonfire in the shape of a Trojan horse at Oxford Circus, in the heart of the shopping district.
Thirteen people were arrested for criminal damage and public order offences.

Five police officers were injured, with one being taken to hospital, Scotland Yard said.

Meanwhile the Cleveland Fed says we are paying more for stuff.  Particulalry for fuel.  Note that these are monthly numbers so in annual terms the increases really add up.  Energy is up 7.3% in year over year terms.

Economic Trends

Daniel Carroll

It should not come as a surprise that people are particularly concerned about increases in food and energy prices, whether the increases are large or small. Not only do energy prices pass through to other prices, but household expenditures on food and energy make up a significant fraction of total household expenditures. Data from the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey show that on average from 1999 to 2009, energy (including motor fuel) and food at home accounted for more than 15 percent of total expenditures and 13 percent of after-tax income.

The importance of food and energy prices to households’ bottom lines is not evenly distributed across the income distribution either. For the median household, food and energy are roughly 17 percent of both expenditures and after-tax income. Households in the top 20 percent of the income distribution spend 11.6 percent of total expenditures on food and energy, which adds up to 7.9 percent of disposable income. For the bottom 20 percent these shares rise to 20.4 percent of expenditures and a whopping 44.1 percent of after-tax income!

For those astutely wondering why food and energy expenditures are a larger fraction of total expenditures than of total income for the bottom 20 percent, there is a much higher fraction of households in this quintile which may be using savings and credit markets to consume above their annual income. Likely categories are the unemployed, business owners with temporary losses, students living on loans, and retirees drawing down their nest eggs.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Good News: the review.

Edward Abbey was a radical environmentalist.  He has been referred to as the Thoreaux of the American West.  He has also been accused, through his book The Monkey Wrench Gang of inspiring the eco-terrorist movement.

I have only read one of his books.  A novel going by the title Good News: A Novel written in 1980.

Within the genre of post apocalyptic fiction  it is literary work.  Although not Theroux, the author has clearly spent time outdoors doing at least some of the things that the characters within the book are doing.

It is a true post-collapse novel.  The Causis Collisio (the causes of the crash/collision) causis a prelude that explains that the a mid-east war sparked a conflagration of small wars that eventually collapsed industrial society.  The book is set in an Arizona were there are still some survivors in the cities, but they are not doing well.   The feel of the book is an odd combination of a western cowboy meets road warrior meets Conrad's Heart of Darkness, meets magical realism.

A cowboy heads into town looking for his son,  he runs into a mad military officer setting out to reconquer America.  Some of the characters display limited magical abilities.  They don't through fireballs and lightning bolts, but the rarity of what they can do gives it a huge surprise factor.

The cowboy is symbol of courage, freedom, and liberty.  The officer would be technology, repression, industry, forced conformity.  The officer is very well read in the great philosophers, but may not survive the simple philosophy of rugged independence expressed by the cowboy.

The book is not always particularly realistic, but does have a certain element of truth to it.  Various small groups with variously limited means fight over what limited future they have.  Without really trying to make a point of it, it illustrated the vulnerability of small scattered ranches to even relatively small gangs.  The very small number of people involved leads to a lot of trickery and randomness when people get into a fight.  It also shows that some people will fight obsession, others will be more than happy to go along with it, and others will due what ever it takes to make it to the next day.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chinese seek safe haven

It never seems to end.  The Canadians are doing a repeat of what we did a few years ago.  There lending has been more cautious than ours was (doesn’t take much), so it has taken them a little longer to get to the breaking point.

One odd story is the sub-story noted below about Chinese, obviously the wealthy Chinese, seeing Canada as a safe haven.

This stems from Canada’s policy when the British lease on Hong Kong ran out, and they had to return it to the Chinese.  A number of citizens of Hong Kong wanted to leave, or at least get a back up if things went sour.  The Canadians obliged anyone who was willing to pay their high fees.  Thus reaping the most well off and industries group of immigrants you could care for.

It is similar to wealthy Americans moving to Costa Rica, but a little better thought out.  The Chinese are not trying to find the cheapest nice place to live.  They are trying to find the nicest safe place.
Some Economists See Canada’s Market Ripe for a Correction, With Debt Rising to Worrisome Levels. Monica Gutschi and Don Curren, The Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2011.

The debt-to-disposable-income ratio for Canadian households rose to 148.9% last fall, according to Canadian government statistics, surpassing American borrowing for the first time since 1998. At the same time, the Bank of Canada has recently pointed out that the amount of home-equity loans has risen as much as 170% in the past decade and now represents about 10% of overall household debt.

A recent survey by the Bank of Montreal found that 18% of Canadians would struggle to meet their mortgages if their payments went up, though the bank didn't give specifics about how much the payments would need to rise.

One of the things buoying Canada's market is a global trend that has seen Asian—particularly Chinese–buyers snap up homes in places from Europe to Australia and to Canada, particularly on the West Coast. Chinese buyers have stampeded in to Vancouver and to Toronto, two of Canada's hottest markets.

Cam Good, a real-estate marketer in Vancouver, said he has sold 700 homes in the Vancouver area so far this year, 60% of them to Chinese immigrants. "That's probably consistent for the whole market," he said. "They're the biggest group for everybody."

Mr. Good has seen so much business out of China that his company, The Key, opened an office in Beijing last month and is planning another. One of his strategies is to arrange chartered jets to bring potential buyers from China.
"Canada is seen by Chinese people as a safe haven," he said.

China gets Bellicose

BEIJING: Terming US attempts to woo India and other neighbors of China as "unbearable," an article in a Communist party magazine has said that Beijing must send a "clear signal" to these countries that it is ready to go to war to safeguard its national interests.
The article published in the Qiushi Journal, the official publication of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) said China must adhere to a basic strategic principle of not initiating war but being ready to counterattack.

"We must send a clear signal to our neighboring countries that we don't fear war, and we are prepared at any time to go to war to safeguard our national interests," the article said, suggesting an aggressive strategy to counter emerging US alliances in the region.

"Throughout the history of the new China (since 1949), peace in China has never been gained by giving in, only through war. Safeguarding national interests is never achieved by mere negotiations, but by war," it said.
Anyone who has read much about the rise of Germany during the late 19th and early twentieth century will see the parallels to the nationalistic language that comes out of China.  The Chinese military buildup also has parallels to Germany’s naval race with Great Britain:  bound to fail, but bound to antagonize at the same time.  Diplomatically, the German’s bellicose stance was often unsuccessful; China likewise today.

The Chinese News Report is alarming for a couple of reasons:
  1. With a press that has limits placed on what it says, new reports out of China can be viewed as policy statements or at least trial balloons of policy statements. 
  2. The parallel German aggressive stance was a major contributor to World War 1 and the crash of the first global economy.  World War 1 was certainly and “End of the world as we know it” event. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Disability Blues

Disability (with a capital “D”) payouts within the United States have been on the rise.
Now Disability for many people is just that.  There is something about them that makes their employment possibilities very close to zero.
Of course there have also been a number of employable folks who simply would rather not work.  It does work very well if you can have one person in the family on Disability for the steady stream of income, while the other adult works.  It is one way to boost the income of lower income families in the steady reliable way that minimum wage jobs don’t provide for:  call it “paying the rent” insurance. So most people I knew who were on disability tend to be on the lower end of the pay scale:  either of necessity or choice.
However, as the wages of lesser educated workers, service workers, tradesman, etc., decline, and positions become difficult to obtain, the Disability option becomes much more attractive.
Disability is not particularly easy to get.  And generally you do have to have some sort of disability to get Disability.  But many people can and will find work who have disabilities.  But with very limited means of advancement for the non-college educated, and lowered pay scales, the work would need to pay more than the Disability payments to make it worth their while.
Men Not Working, and Not Wanting Just Any Job, Loius Uchitelle, and David Leonhardt, New York Times, July 31, 2006.
The fastest growing source of help is a patchwork system of government support, the main one being federal disability insurance, which is financed by Social Security payroll taxes. The disability stipends range up to $1,000 a month and, after the first two years, Medicare kicks in, giving access to health insurance that for many missing men no longer comes with the low-wage jobs available to them.
No federal entitlement program is growing as quickly, with more than 6.5 million men and women now receiving monthly disability payments, up from 3 million in 1990. About 25 percent of the missing men are collecting this insurance.

The ailments that qualify them are usually real, like back pain, heart trouble or mental illness. But in some cases, the illnesses are not so serious that they would prevent people from working if a well-paying job with benefits were an option.

The disability program, in turn, is an obstacle to working again. Taking a job holds the risk of demonstrating that one can earn a living and is thus no longer entitled to the monthly payments. But staying out of work has consequences. Skills deteriorate, along with the desire for a paying job and the habits that it requires.

The number of awards has spiked in the downturn, rising 28% since 2007. This surge follows decades of growth. DI accounted for about 10% of Social Security spending in 1989 but 18% by 2009…DI gave $110 billion to disabled workers, up almost 420% [since 1990]… A solution is needed, and soon. The DI trust fund is expected to dry up in 2018, 22 years before the trust fund for Social Security retirees does.

Ageing would seem another obvious explanation, as those aged 50-64 account for almost 60% of DI awards. But the rolls grew quickly even when the share of 50- to 64-year-olds was steady…

It should come as little surprise that enrolment jumps during recessions. Till von Wachter of Columbia University offers three explanations. First, impaired workers may be among the first to be sacked. After they are laid off, they may find that they qualify for DI, as is the case for many of Mr Scully’s clients. Second, DI’s criteria explicitly include economic factors, such as the ability to retrain. Third, those desperate for cash may use more subjective criteria, such as mental illness and “bad back”, to try to win benefits. Many will fail, but they can appeal.

And then this one most recently:
Insolvency Looms as States Drain U.S. Disability Fund , Damian Palletta, Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2011.

The SSDI is set to soon become the first big federal benefit program to run out of cash—and one of the main reasons is U.S. states and territories have a large say in who qualifies for the federally funded program. Without changes, the Social Security retirement fund can survive intact through about 2040 and Medicare through 2029. The disability fund, however, will run dry in four to seven years without federal intervention, government auditors say.

In addition to the uneven selection process, SSDI has been pushed to the brink of insolvency by the sour economy. A huge wave of applicants joined the program over the past decade, boosting it from 6.6 million beneficiaries in 2000 to 10.2 million in 2010. New recipients have come from across the country, with an 85% increase in Texas over 10 years and a 69% increase in New Hampshire.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jakarta Pandemic: e-book review

Steven Konkoly has written a new Apocalypse in Progress book called The Jakarta Pandemic.
[Note: this book has received a clean up since the early e-version.  Although weighing in at 389 pages some of the rough edges have been smoothed out.]

The blurb from the book website:
In the late fall of [2013], a lethal pandemic virus emerges from the Islamic Republic of Indonesia (IRI) and rages unchecked across every continent.  When the Jakarta Flu threatens his picture perfect Maine neighborhood, Alex Fletcher, Iraq War veteran, is ready to do whatever it takes to keep his family safe.

With his family and home prepared for an extended period of seclusion, Alex has few real concerns about the growing pandemic.  But as the deadliest pandemic in human history ravages northern New England, and starts to unravel the fabric of their Maine neighborhood, he starts to realize that the flu itself is the least of his problems.  A mounting scarcity of food and critical supplies turns most of the neighbors against him, and Alex is forced to confront their unexpected hostility before it goes too far. 

Just when he thinks it can’t get any worse, the very face of human evil arrives on Durham Rd, forcing Alex and his few remaining friends to defend themselves from a threat far deadlier than the flu.
The blurb is a little on the breathless side.  The book is a little more even in tone.  In fact, where it is even in tone is often where it is scariest.  The run up to the pandemic is fairly frightening.  The do I go into work and keep my job versus do I stay home safe is fairly well thought out.

Alex Fletcher is a what some people call  a Yuppie Prepper.  In his case he is an NPR liberal type prepper who also happens to be an ex-marine officer who served in Iraq.  It is an odd combination.  He lives in an upscale neighborhood in Maine with one entrance from the main road that circles back around itself: a loop cul de sac if you will. He works as a pharmaceuticals salesman, and his wife is an accountant.  With his company selling a Tammy Flu-like product , he is on the front line of the early stages of the pandemic.

One side-effect influenza as "End of the World as We Know it" (EOTWAWKI) is that it makes cooperation amongst the survivors difficult.  Although the die off ratio is a realistic 20%, the number of people susceptible to the sickness, and greatly weakened by its effects is much higher.  The die off rate is set at a realistic 20%, presumably being somewhat in line with the 1918 flue (see here).  The Bird Fly (H1N5) has had at times a death rate of closer to 50%; its just not that easy to contract. Twenty-percent, Fifty-percent, needless to say after a while people start getting nervous.

At times it is almost as if he was channeling the neighborhood in  Lights Out; but in this case we have its evil twin.  If the cul de sac neighborhood in Lights out bands to together, and everyone loves the ever helpful hero, they do the opposite in Jakarta Pandemic.  Where the main character is helpful, he is resented for being better off (for having prepared), and becomes a figure of hatred to some.
Given the rather cantankerous temperament often displayed by online preppers, one can only assume that Jakarta Pandemics outcome might be the more likely outcome over the ubber-cooperation of Lights Out.  Alex does have a tendency to come of as a bit truculent at times.

The unprepared are really really unprepared.  Almost from the start they  try to angle their way into other people's preps.  Since their is no magical EMP strike, to knock everything out at the very start of the novel, most of the neighbors are more interested in making baby sitting arrangements than a cohesive defense.  They want to pool resources.  When Alex makes the offer to help with any defensive duties, they (correctly) view him as making threats.  His offers of Tammy Flu-like products is backfires because he does not have enough for everyone.  The logic for why he does not have more is very unclear. 

Alex makes so many mistakes it is amazing.  It is a little unclear if all the mistakes are intended as such, but clearly most of them are.  A partial list of mistakes:

  1. The family continues to go into town way longer than needed.  Their last few meals before they button up are eaten at restaurants (?). 
  2. Well into the crisis the hero is jogging around the neighborhood unarmed, and is unwilling through much of the novel to openly carry a loaded gun.
  3. He does not get a night sight that will work with his AR-15.  He is a marine, he should know better.
  4. He try to do absolutely everything by himself.  He allows nobody else in the house to use any of the real weapons (rifle-shotgun) even though his injury or death would leave them very unprepared.
  5. What is good as that he does have a few neighbors who have made some preparations.  And while he only interacts with them to  limited extent, their team work is crucial.
And some odd items:
  1. Nobody seems to put any fences in their backyards.
  2. Why Alex, with his connections to Doctors has so few doses of Tammy Flu or his companies products is unclear.  What he has he swiped as free samples at Doctors offices so it cannot be an unwillingness to go outside the usual channels.
  3. Given the previous closeness of the neighbors, they actually know each other by name, it is unclear why he does not stock beyond the families immediate needs.  He has spend a lot of money on expensive items, but is relatively short on the relatively inexpensive.
The bad guys are not that impressive.  If Alex did not insist on taking them on with very limited help they would be much easier to deal with.  Of course pissing off most of your neighbors does limit your options for allies.
The early part of the novel is taken up with unpleasant interactions with his employer.  This is interesting enough, but is drawn out too long.  It might have been more interesting if the protagonists had a few more money problems.

The novel does a very good job of highlighting the problems with partial law enforcement.  Partial law enforcement won't even slow up the bad guys, but will tend to limit effective vigilantism.

All and all, Jakarta Pandemic is an exciting book.  The tension, while uneven, is still very real.

Steven Konkoly

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Flue Pandemic History

I wish I had found this earlier. Most of the medical links on influenza are available only as abstracts with the body behind a wall.

A History of Influenza [pdf], C.W. Potter, Journal of Applied Microbiology 2001.
 or extra link.
  1. He sets a very high bar for what counts as an influenza pandemic.  It requires a completely new strain, and it most be global in nature.
  2. These pandemics occur every 10 to 50 years.
  3. The increased travel and globalized economy do not appear to affect the time span between pandemics.
What the author counts as pandemics (Records too sparse for pre-16th century):
  1. 1510: Probable: Africa to Europe
  2. 1557: Possible
  3. 1580: First Clear Pandemic
  4. Skips 17th Century (?)
  5. 1729
  6. 1781-2
  7. 1830-3:  Ranks in severity with 1918
  8. 1898-1900
  9. 1918-20
  10. 1957-8
  11. 1968
  12. 1977: Very mild in Russia.
  13. 2009: H1N1- Since it occurs after the paper is published, it is not clear if the author would count this one.  H1N1 is very similar to the 1918 influenza 
His section on the 1918-1920 Influenza:

Pandemic of 1918-20: The influenza pandemic of 1918-20 is one of the most dramatic events of medical history: statements include: “the greatest medical holocaust in history”; “the pandemic ranks with the plague of Justinian and the Black Death as one of the three most destructive human epidemics” and “deaths in the hospital exceeded 25% per night during the peak”….

The origin of the pandemic is not known. Reviewers have commentated on a possible origin in China; however, the first outbreaks occurred at approximately the same time in North America at Detroit, South Carolina and San Quentin Prison in March 1918, and reviewers accept that this evidence supports a theory for the origin of the pandemic in the USA.  From here the pandemic can be traced in place and time, and this is shown in Fig. 3.

From the above focal points, infection spread outwards and then eastwards as young Americans were drawn to the army and naval training establishments of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), and to the war in Europe. Although large numbers of cases were recorded, the infection appeared to be no more virulent than had been seen in the past. All authors agree that infection was transmitted by ship by the AEF personnel to military depots at Bordeaux, France in April 1918. From here, infection spread to the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other forces involved in the war in April/May 1918, and in the same months reached Italy and Spain. This period also saw outbreaks in Germany, and the pandemic was clearly influencing the course of the war. In June, the disease arrived in Britain, and from there was transmitted by the BEF to Murmansk and Russia, where it spread with great rapidity (Fig. 3). Infection reached North Africa in May 1918 and circled Africa to affect Bombay and Calcutta and then China, New Zealand and the Philippines in June 1918. In each country infection spread quickly for a few weeks, and then sharply declined. The events of March-July 1918 outlined above were not viewed as exceptional; pandemics of influenza had occurred before, and the number of deaths recorded was comparable with past experience: in contrast, the events which were to follow remain unique to the history of influenza.

First, in August 1918, influenza broke out on a boat travelling from England to Freetown, Sierra Leone; on landing, the affected crew was taken to a local hospital and as a result influenza broke out amongst dock workers and later in other parts of the town. Within a few cycles of infection, it was apparent that the disease had become more virulent, with a 10-fold increase in the death rate amongst cases. Secondly, the influenza epidemic in Europe saw the emergence from Brest, one of the main ports of France serving the needs of the war, of a markedly more virulent form of influenza which rapidly spread to all of Europe. Finally, a ship arriving at Boston, USA from Europe unleashed on that city, and subsequently the whole country, the more lethal form of influenza (Fig. 3); however, with hindsight, it has been suggested that this may have arisen from earlier seeding infection The pandemic reached Australia in January 1919; it spread through Africa from Freetown to other ports, and from there by lines of communication to cause in a few weeks 1.5 to 2.0 million deaths. India was infected in October 1918 where the epidemic resulted in seven million deaths. The epidemic in North America caused approximately 600 000 deaths; in England and Wales the official deaths numbered 200,000 and a similar percentage of the populations of other European countries and Australia died, again within a few weeks. The death rate in Samoa and Alaska was 25% of the population Unique to this pandemic, deaths occurred principally in the group of age 20-40 years. Many countries experienced second (1918-19) and third waves (1919-20) of the more virulent form of infection. No figures exist for many parts of the world, but the pandemic is estimated to have infected 50% of the world's population, 25% suffered a clinical infection and the total mortality was 40-50 million: the often quoted figure of 20 million deaths is palpably too low.

RNA fragments have been recovered from preserved lung tissue of victims of the influenza of AD 1918-20: when transcribed to DNA and sequenced, these showed close similarity to the influenza virus isolated by Shope. Thus, the antibody studies of sera from persons who lived through the pandemic and the sequence data from the pandemic virus indicate that the 1918-20 pandemic was caused by an influenza A (H1) virus which is closely related to the virus later found in pigs and which remains an infection of this species to the present time.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Personalized Flu Pandemic

We have been discussing (link, link2) the pandemic flu/influenza.

So what would a great influenza pandemic be like?  There are reports from the 1918 Spanish Influenza, but truthfully its death rate is not high enough in most places to give a true sense to the panic caused by a contagious disease for which there is no resistance [I was incorrect in this statement].  I also wanted something different.  It is a little like discussing societal collapse.  Everyone knows about the big ones like Rome, or the Mayas, but they generally have no idea about how many other societies collapsed over short periods of time.  I wanted an influenza pandemic that was different, but detailed enough to bring home the impact.

Unfortunately there is one group that can be used as an example, and while accounts are hard to find they do exist.

The Native Americans were susceptible to a number of European Diseases.  Many of these diseases have vaccines, are eradicated (small box) or rare in the United States (cholera).  One of the diseases that they are still susceptible to is influenza:  the flu.  During the last H1N1 outbreak in 2009, various native indigenous peoples from Australia to Canada to the United States had a 3 to 8 times higher rate of hospitalization and death.  Deaths Related to 2009 Pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) Among American Indian/Alaska Natives --- 12 States, 2009, MMWR, December 11, 2009. 

During the great Native American die-off, influenza is one of the major killers.  But accounts of its effects are often buried in with the many other diseases that they died from.  However, I did find one clear account where influenza was the isolated culprit, and it is actually from modern times.

We will go back to the last outbreak amongst the Denendeh Indians of Canada’s Northwest.  From:  June Helm, The People of Denendeh: Ethnohistory of the Indians of Canada’s Northwest, 2000,

The Distributor at Resolution: the ship which the flu came on.
To the right are schooners with mast and sails, directly in front is a
modern canoe with kicker, and beached is an old style  
birch bark canoe.

The Influenza Epidemic of 1928

In the summer of 1928, the Hudson’s Bay paddle wheeler Distributor carried influenza from Forth Smith to Fort Resolution and thence the length of the Mackenzie River.  Fumoleau has assembled white observers’ harrowing accounts of the suffering and deaths endured by the Dene as the flu swept fort after fort.  One estimate puts the death toll at almost six hundred.  I first learned of the 1928 epidemic from Louis Norwegian of Jean Marie River (“Lynx Point”).  “That time, all the old people die,” Louis told me, among them the leader and founder, Old Sanguez, of the Jean Marie River community.

Vital Thomas and I had touched on the flu epidemic of 1928 among the Dogribs in a conversation on July 4, 1969.   By his recall, about seventy-four Dogribs trading into Rae died. (The Rae mission books record sixty-eight deaths in 1928 up to November 12.  Between July 17 and August 24 there were forty-three deaths entered, many noted to be in the bush.)  The next day, Vital and I continued in more detail.

Vital Thomas:

Mostly, it was all of the old-timers who died. Like medicine guys.  Not many young persons.  The first person to die was Old Lamouelle, Susie’s father. [Q: Who took care of the dead?] In those days, the Mounties were [already] here.  They hired Antoine Liske and Pierre Quitte and me, there were three of us for digging about two days.  The first day altogether nine died old people:  The second day, five or six.  A coffin comes and while we were burying one, another comes, and another. The poor relatives, they all cried.

The flu came in August, after Treaty payment, just before when the Indians leave to go back to the bush. [Were all the families in town as well as the men?] Like the people at Marten Lake [Wha Ti], some men had brought their families, some didn’t.  [After leaving the fort] some people died before they could get to the end of the lake [Marian Lake, heading for Lac la Martre].  There are graves all along the shore.  And when they came to Marian River Village [at the end of Marian Lake], about half a dozen died there, they said.  And going to Marten Lake, about half a dozen or so died before they got to the portage [probably the long portage at the Falls Nainliin].  At the same time, they didn’t have much to eat so they kept on going.  The sick caught cold traveling. If they had stayed in one place they might not have died.  As soon as they got sick they wanted to move, to get away from the others.

From here at Rae to Trout Rock [down the North Arm] and right to Yellowknife, quite a number died.  Because some of them had come from Indian Village [near the later site of the town of Yellowknife] to Rae, to the [Rae] traders to get supplies. And some went to Resolution. Those that had big boats [in which to cross Great Slave Lake] went to Resolution.  Those with only small canoes came here.

If one person died they wouldn’t spend a day at the place of the death.  As soon as they buried him, they moved on to the next island.  It didn’t matter if they were sick or not.  Then another one dies, so we keep moving.  That is why there are all kinds of graves between here and Yellowknife. [Why do they keep moving?]  Moving is the Indians’ way. In the olden days, when there is a death they were not supposed to camp there.  They had to move to the next island or point.

During the flu, some people had really bad luck.  Like Francis Blackduck.  He was married to his first wife that summer, Madeline Nitli. His mother-in-law was a widow. He’d just married and in there or four days the flu came. And as soon as some died here, he wanted to move to the west channel, where the bridge is now.  His mother-law and his father and mother and brothers and sisters were there.  He moved there, and in about two days later his father died. So he paddled here, he had no kicker then. He came to get boards for the coffin and he went to see my mother and asked if I would take some lumber back with my kicker.  My mother said all right.  The mission handled the lumber. Francis tells them that his mother and mother-in-law and brothers are sick and he don’t know if they will all live, so he thinks he should need lots of lumber. The priest gave him enough lumber for two or three coffins. So we go back there and his father is dying. While we are working on the coffin for his father, his mother died.  So we build another and by the time we finish his brother Alexis is pretty low. There are three dead now.  We made three coffins.  Two or three guys went to dig the graves.  We take the coffins to the graves and when we get back his mother-in-law has died.  So we got to make another coffin. We got to bury her but we have no more lumber. His brother-in-law, they called him Wew’aule, “He Doesn’t Speak Much”- is dying. We can’t stay at that place, so we move amongst the islands toward Old Fort. We went as far as the mouth of Stagg River, and there his brother-in-law died.

The bunch at Gros Cap, that was the worse. Some guys had just landed, coming from Resolution [their point-of-trade, across Great Slave Lake]. It was a big camp; there were maybe twelve or fifteen families at Gros Cap.  Charles Goulet was like a donek’awi [trading leader] for the Gros Cap people, so lots of people followed him, he’s got a big camp.  Most of the people had long houses. They said that they found out about the sickness while at Resolution.  But some bugger made a story about how home brew was the only medicine for the sickness. The Gros Cap people had it in the canoes, and they landed at home and started to drink, singing all night.  The next day they all dropped dead, caught cold. They sent for the police [from Resolution], and an old priest came with him. There were guys lying on the floor and in between the housed, drunk, dead.  When the priest saw all of that, he was crying. That cleans the whole village, in one group, the lake people, like. [According to a traders’ wife, twenty-six persons died at Gros Cap, ‘the seven survivors having fled in panic]. The police shot all the dead peoples dogs.

Apocalyptic Swine Flu Pandemic Poems

Swine Flu Limerick

There once was a deadly flu
Nothing anyone could do
So they all tried to behave,
and to the church they gave
Hopefully to heaven they flew.

by J.K. Phillips

There once was a virus called swine
and this pig of a flu could fly
it travelled by plane
by ship and by train
making some afraid they would die.

There was soon a party called swine
and this pig of a feast they thought
would spread the disease
by a cough or a sneeze
so a worse one would not be caught.

to be continued.....but not if isolation works

Jennifer K. Phillips

Swine flu, simply came out of the blue.
Just like a sudden rain or a big surprise
Now a lot of people are sick and the numbers rise
Now we have to wash our hands millions of times
and using hand sanitizer is also worth a try
Don't sneeze or cough and stay home if you're sick
Just stay in bed and watch cartoons like when you were a kid.
This time will pass, it's all about protection and safety
positiveness is the key, and so is safety!

Queen E -though possibly not the one that is our author in discussion.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Waiting for the Bird Flu to take flight

Bird Flu is one of those stories that just does not go away.  The fear is that a mutant no-resistance virus will make the jump to the human population.  People can currently get the virus and have a very low resistance. , but it is not as contagious as various extant versions of the flue that we frequently get.
I thought I would start here as a prelude to a book review of Jakarta Pandemic, an e-book by Steven Konkoly, that deals with a contagious outbreak of the flue.
In Bed with Bird Flu, David Wilson, Ninemsn Travel, Date?.

Mystery killer illness

Health officials are investigating the deaths of 22 people from an unidentified illness characterized by high fever over a two-month period in the capital Jakarta. Samples from the patients have been sent to the US Naval Medical Research Unit 2 in Jakarta, but the cause of death remained a mystery, said Nyoman Kandun, a senior health ministry official. "We have not been able to conclude if this is or is not a new emerging disease," Kandun told reporters on Wednesday. "But after experiencing both bird flu and SARS we do not want to take any chances," he said. Taipei Times Feb 29, 2006.
Tangerang hospital treats possible avian flu patient

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 11/02/2010 6:14 PM | Jakarta
An 8-year-old boy from Cipadu Jaya in Tangerang who was suspected of having contracted the avian flu virus was being treated at Tangerang General Hospital, on Tuesday.

“His condition is getting worse, but we are still waiting for test results,” Tangerang General Hospital disease control chief Dr. Ati Pramudji said Tuesday, as reported by

Ati said the boy had been given Tamiflu, and had been ill for a week.

“The patient had no reported contact with fowl and there were no dead fowl near his residence,” Ati said.

There have been two suspected avian flu patients in Tangerang this year.
The Jakarta Post, November 2, 2010.

Five things you didn't know about bird flu
1.      Bird flu occurs naturally among birds. Wild birds worldwide carry the virus in their intestines — usually without experiencing symptoms. Still, bird flu is highly contagious among birds and can make some domesticated kinds, including chickens, ducks, and turkeys, sicken or drop dead.
2.      The first reported bird flu case surfaced in May 1997. It infected 18 and killed six patients in Hong Kong. The victims had been in close contact with infected poultry. To stop further spread, the authorities slaughtered Hong Kong poultry.
3.      The epidemic's epicentre appears to be Asia. More than 60 percent of reported cases there have been fatal.
4.      The virus is spread through contact with infected birds or contaminated surfaces. Risk of infection from humans is low.
5.      Research suggests that human flu drugs can be effective in treating H5N1, if given quickly. You have to get onto it fast.

World tour
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), beyond Asia — the bird flu hot spot — cases have been detected in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Bird flu apparently afflicts 16 countries.
You can bet that, among them and beyond many cases go unreported. After all, any hospital so bold as to tell the world that it has a H5N1 outbreak might spark a regional panic.
No cure
Alarm is understandable. The reason: although a bird flu vaccine is under development, none has materialised yet. Whether a vaccine will ever emerge any more than a cure for cancer or AIDS is anyone's guess.
Palpably, H5N1 symptoms are hellish: worthy of a medieval black death-style plague. They range from violent vomiting to blurred vision, ringing ears, giddiness and pounding headaches.
Game over
But the bug's most unnerving aspect must be its ruthless streak. Across the board, the death rate is higher than 50 percent.
Of the 170 cases confirmed in Indonesia, no less than 141 have been fatal. In Vietnam, the picture is little better. There, of a confirmed total of 117 cases, 59 have resulted in death. Awful odds, if you catch the disease.
Three weeks from the onset of sickness, the bird flu victim struck down in the Thai valley village is on a cocktail of drugs with sci-fi names: the antiviral oseltamivir, the cough reliever ropect and the bacteria-buster cefaclor. Abetted by impromptu paracetamol doses, the prescribed medication may be helping.
That said, the patient still cannot eat without later vomiting in agonised wrenching spasms. She is reduced to living on fluids — fruit juice, mostly. Bird flu may still pose a threat to her future.

The Asian plague that never went away
The story begins with a romantic weekend trip to the Thai valley village of Pai. A month ago, this reporter took his normally resilient significant other there, only for her to be pole-axed by sickness.
She descended into a spiral of vomiting and was later clinically diagnosed with H5N1. That is, bird flu: the deadly virus that triggered a wave of fear several years back before fizzling out with a half-hearted squawk. Or did it?
Spasmodically, reports of H5N1-caused deaths still surface.
Indonesia's Ministry of Health recently announced two new cases. In the first, a 35-year-old man from West Jakarta, who developed symptoms on August 16 was spirited to hospital four days later and died on August 27. Investigations into the source of his infection suggested a number of sudden chicken deaths happened around the victim's house a week before onset.
In the second case, a 40-year-old female from West Java Province developed symptoms on September 9, was hospitalised on September 12 and died even faster than the Jakarta victim — on September 17.
Some reports suggest that, to catch bird flu, you need to be knee-deep in bird crap. Not so. Researchers have found that the virus persists on cold surfaces. Think glass, wood, galvanised metal, even topsoil.
Although not all that catchy among people, the virus clearly gets around.