Holiday greetings from President Kennedy: Don’t worry about the Russians bombing the North Pole and Santa Claus

December 19, 2014

In 1961 a little girl named Michelle wrote to President John F. Kennedy, expressing her fears that in a nuclear exchange, the Russians might bomb the North Pole, and Santa Claus might be lost.

President Kennedy’s response was human, and fatherly.

We should work to spread that spirit this season, and all seasons.

Tip of the old scrub brush, with pine-scented bubbles for the season, to the John F. Kennedy Library.


Stay back from this truck

December 19, 2014

You know those mudflaps with Yosemite Sam holding two six-shooters, and the caption “Back Off!?”

Shouldn’t this truck have those mudflaps?  Or would that be redundant?

Photo of a California-based

Photo of a California-based “honey wagon.” Via Dave Taylor and George Takei.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Dave Taylor and George Takei.


Yeah, if you put it that way, Obama is a very successful president

December 18, 2014

Got this chart from the national Democrats, The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC):

Obama's presidency is a success, by the GOP's favorite numbers.

Obama’s presidency is a success, by the GOP’s favorite numbers.

An old friend on Facebook told me he wants verification of the numbers, because he doesn’t feel it. Few of us below the very, very rich feel it — which is what Obama’s been saying, and what Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Paul Krugman and Robert Reich have been saying in various ways daily.  That’s what the struggle on income inequality is all about.

But the numbers check out.  Go see for yourself (some of the sites I list below update monthly, or daily, so if you’re not looking at this in December 2014, they may vary; look for the link to historic numbers).

I wrote:

Numbers are dated in Consumer Confidence (but much higher than I thought! See below).

But the other numbers are well published.

Dow Jones Index plugged at least nightly on NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS — hourly at least on CNN and MSNBC (I don’t get the latter two).

http://stockcharts.com/freecharts/historical/djia1900.html

Unemployment is updated monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics — and again, plugged on national news when it happens.

http://www.bls.gov/bls/unemployment.htm

GDP growth:

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG
and
http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/glance.htm

US deficits as % of GDP:

Bloomberg press report:
http://www.bloomberg.com/…/u-s-deficit-decline-to-2-8…

St. Louis Branch, Federal Reserve:
http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/FYFSGDA188S

Consumer Confidence is tracked by the anti-Obama Conference Board:

http://www.conference-board.org/data/consumerdata.cfm

Reuters report on October Consumer Confidence report:

http://www.reuters.com/…/us-usa-economy-confidence…

As a socialist anti-free market guy, Obama is the worst in history.

Now will you listen to Obama when he tells you that we need to do something OTHER than what the GOP says, to make the growth something YOU feel? Please?

So tomorrow, and every day until January 21, 2017, when your very conservative and otherwise not stupid friends tell you we must “cut government” because “America can’t afford to be great any longer,” instead of flipping them the bird like you usually do, send them here to get the links to look at the numbers for themselves.

Don’t take my word for it, nor the DCCC’s word for it. Look for yourself, using the sites I’ve listed above.

Now ask: Why can’t Congress figure this out, and give Obama some support?


Is December the flag-flyingest month?

December 16, 2014

November offers several flag flying days, especially in years when there is an election.

But December may be the month with the most flag-flying dates, if we include statehood days.

December 7 is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.  It’s not in the Flag Code, but it is in a public law (P.L. 103-308) that the president should issue a proclamation asking Americans to fly flags.

December 25 is Christmas Day, a federal holiday, and one of the score of dates designated in the Flag Code.

Other dates?

Several states attained statehood in December, so people in those states should fly their flags (and you may join them):

  • Illinois, December 3 (1818, 21st state)
  • Delaware, December 7 (1787, 1st state)
  • Mississippi, December 10 (1817, 20th state)
  • Indiana, December 11 (1816, 19th state)
  • Pennsylvania, December 12 (1787, 2nd state)
  • Alabama, December 14 (1819, 22nd state)
  • New Jersey, December 18 (1787, 3rd state)
  • Iowa, December 28 (1846, 29th state)
  • Texas, December 29 (1845, 28th state)

December 15 is Bill of Rights Day, marking the day in 1791 when the Bill of Rights was declared ratified; but though this event generally gets a presidential proclamation, there is no law or executive action that requires flags to fly on that date, for that occasion.

Eleven flag-flying dates in December.  Does any other month have as many flag flying opportunities?

Have I missed any December flag-flying dates?

Flags at the Washington Monument, looking down the Capital Mall towards the U.S. Capitol.

Flags at the Washington Monument, looking down the Capital Mall towards the U.S. Capitol.


Signs of life and humor: Private sign

December 12, 2014

Where is this sign? Who took the photo? Todd Wilbur posted it on Facebook.

Where is this sign? Who took the photo? Todd Wilbur posted it on Facebook.

Posting this on Facebook, a fellow named Todd Wilbur said it’s a “private post.”

Not sure if this rises to a sign of intelligent life in the universe.

(If you’ve got details, put ‘em in comments.  Thank you.)

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Dallas in the fog

December 10, 2014

Enough of the jokes about how nature makes Dallas beautiful by covering everything up.

There were some nice views of Dallas today, with the fog, though.

From WFAA-TV’s tower camera, just before sunrise:

Dallas in the fog, December 9, 2014; photo from WFAA-TV's tower camera.

Dallas in the fog, December 9, 2014; photo from WFAA-TV’s tower camera.

This photo produced the most stir, I think.  Terry Maxon posted it at his Aviation Blog with the Dallas Morning News:

Maxon wrote:

Maxon wrote: “Mike Alvstad was flying into Dallas/Fort Worth on Tuesday morning and took a photo as his flight from Tampa, Fla., passed south and west of downtown Dallas. He shared it with Lee Evans, who shared it with us, and we liked it a lot.”

Looking for landmarks?  Maxon explained:

In the sea of clouds, you can see the top of Reunion Tower a bit lower to the right. There’s the wedge-topped Fountain Place in the lower center of the downtown cluster. Off to the left by itself is Cityplace, we believe.

Note that even though we could barely see a block ahead of us at ground level, the skyscrapers are casting shadows on the top of the fog clouds.

You want to see what it looked like from the upper floors of those buildings?  Kathryn’s office is below the clouds.  When I worked in the high floors of the old Ling/Temco/Vought Building (now Trammell Crow Tower, I think) we didn’t have cell phones with cameras, and electronic imaging was in its commercialized infancy.  I never had the old 35mm film cameras with me on those few occasions when we rode the elevators up out of the fog, and could almost wave to someone in the tower across the way.  Justin Turveen got off a few shots today, but is being stingy with the photos at his flickr site. Check it out if you wish.

It was foggy across the area starting last night, including Denton, which is home to the University of North Texas and Texas Women’s University:

Photo by Samantha Irene Balderas, at the campus of the University of North Texas (UNT), December 8, 2014

Photo by Samantha Irene Balderas, at the campus of the University of North Texas (UNT), December 8, 2014

Jeff Rogers got a sunrise in McKinney, through the fog:

Sunrise through fog in McKinney, Texas. Photo by Jeff Rogers

Sunrise through fog in McKinney, Texas. Photo by Jeff Rogers

Angelica Villalobos Yates took her camera with her walking the dog; quintessential Texas fog shot:

Angelica Villalobos Yates surprised a tree in the Texas fog.

Angelica Villalobos Yates surprised a tree in the Texas fog.

Toni Wolff Margolis caught birds on a wire in the fog.

Toni Wolff Margolis caught birds on a wire in the fog.

From the tall buildings in downtown Dallas, a shot by Cindy Ackerson Bivins:

Photo from the Bank of America Tower of other Dallas buildings in the fog, December 9, 2014.  Photo by Cindy Ackerson Bivins

Photo from the Bank of America Tower of other Dallas buildings in the fog, December 9, 2014. Photo by Cindy Ackerson Bivins

Mike Prendergrast at Aerial DFW.com sent his DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus Drone to work, rising above the clouds, with good results, I think. He had me when I read that he included some time-lapse in there . . .

(Yes, Prendergrast is a great guy, and a good photographer, and he followed the rules and stayed low and out of the way of aircraft.)

Do you have a nice shot of Dallas in the fog to share?  Send it to me, or post it in comments.

More:

Tip of the old scrub brush to Suzy Bangs, who I hope is joining us again this week to take a hot Christmas meal and cheer to the good people at the Pleasant Grove Senior Recreation Center (that’s Pleasant Grove, Texas). Thanks, too, for the splash from Dubious Quality (who is this Gilbert fellow?).


World Malaria Report 2014: Dramatic progress (no call for DDT)

December 9, 2014

World Malaria Report 2014 dropped this week.  It’s the annual report from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the fight against malaria, the problems, critical needs — and this year, wonderful news of progress.

Cover of WHO's World Malaria Report 2014, a child, and the red blood cells the malaria parasites attack.

Cover of WHO’s World Malaria Report 2014, a child, and the red blood cells the malaria parasites attack.

Copies of the report in .pdf format come in English, French and Spanish.  A host of supplemental materials and statistical compilations accompany the report every year.

The World Malaria Report 2014 summarizes information received from malaria-endemic countries and other sources, and updates the analyses presented in the 2013 report.

It assesses global and regional malaria trends, highlights progress towards global targets, and describes opportunities and challenges in controlling and eliminating the disease. The report was launched in the United Kingdom Houses of Parliament on 9 December 2014.

The press release on the report, from WHO:

Scale-up in effective malaria control dramatically reduces deaths

News release

The number of people dying from malaria has fallen dramatically since 2000 and malaria cases are also steadily declining, according to the World malaria report 2014. Between 2000 and 2013, the malaria mortality rate decreased by 47% worldwide and by 54% in the WHO African Region – where about 90% of malaria deaths occur.

New analysis across sub-Saharan Africa reveals that despite a 43% population increase, fewer people are infected or carry asymptomatic malaria infections every year: the number of people infected fell from 173 million in 2000 to 128 million in 2013.

“We can win the fight against malaria,” says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO. “We have the right tools and our defences are working. But we still need to get those tools to a lot more people if we are to make these gains sustainable.”

Between 2000 and 2013, access to insecticide-treated bed nets increased substantially. In 2013, almost half of all people at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa had access to an insecticide-treated net, a marked increase from just 3% in 2004. And this trend is set to continue, with a record 214 million bed nets scheduled for delivery to endemic countries in Africa by year-end.

Access to accurate malaria diagnostic testing and effective treatment has significantly improved worldwide. In 2013, the number of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) procured globally increased to 319 million, up from 46 million in 2008. Meanwhile, in 2013, 392 million courses of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), a key intervention to treat malaria, were procured, up from 11 million in 2005.

Moving towards elimination

Globally, an increasing number of countries are moving towards malaria elimination, and many regional groups are setting ambitious elimination targets, the most recent being a declaration at the East Asia Summit to eliminate malaria from the Asia-Pacific region by 2030.

In 2013, 2 countries reported zero indigenous cases for the first time (Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka), and 11 countries succeeded in maintaining zero cases (Argentina, Armenia, Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan). Another 4 countries reported fewer than 10 local cases annually (Algeria, Cabo Verde, Costa Rica and El Salvador).

Fragile gains

But significant challenges remain: “The next few years are going to be critical to show that we can maintain momentum and build on the gains,” notes Dr Pedro L Alonso, Director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme.

In 2013, one third of households in areas with malaria transmission in sub-Saharan Africa did not have a single insecticide treated net. Indoor residual spraying, another key vector control intervention, has decreased in recent years, and insecticide resistance has been reported in 49 countries around the world.

Even though diagnostic testing and treatment have been strengthened, millions of people continue to lack access to these interventions. Progress has also been slow in scaling up preventive therapies for pregnant women, and in adopting recommended preventive therapies for children under 5 years of age and infants.

In addition, resistance to artemisinin has been detected in 5 countries of the Greater Mekong subregion and insufficient data on malaria transmission continues to hamper efforts to reduce the disease burden.

Dr Alonso believes, however, that with sufficient funding and commitment huge strides forward can still be made. “There are biological and technical challenges, but we are working with partners to be proactive in developing the right responses to these. There is a strong pipeline of innovative new products that will soon transform malaria control and elimination. We can go a lot further,” he says.

While funding to combat malaria has increased threefold since 2005, it is still only around half of the US$ 5.1 billion that is needed if global targets are to be achieved.

“Against a backdrop of continued insufficient funding the fight against malaria needs a renewed focus to ensure maximum value for money,” says Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. “We must work together to strengthen country ownership, empower communities, increase efficiencies, and engage multiple sectors outside health. We need to explore ways to do things better at all levels.”

Ray Chambers, who has served as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria since 2007, highlights the remarkable progress made in recent years. “While staying focused on the work ahead, we should note that the number of children dying from malaria today is markedly less than 8 years ago. The world can expect even greater reductions in malaria cases and mortality by the end of 2015, but any death from malaria remains simply unacceptable,” he says.

Gains at risk in Ebola-affected countries

At particular risk is progress on malaria in countries affected by the Ebola virus. The outbreak in West Africa has had a devastating impact on malaria treatment and the roll-out of malaria interventions. In Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the 3 countries most severely affected by the epidemic, the majority of inpatient health facilities remain closed, while attendance at outpatient facilities is down to a small fraction of rates seen prior to the outbreak.

Given the intense malaria transmission in these 3 countries, which together saw an estimated 6.6 million malaria cases and 20 000 malaria deaths in 2013, WHO has issued new guidance on temporary measures to control the disease during the Ebola outbreak: to provide ACTs to all fever patients, even when they have not been tested for malaria, and to carry out mass anti-malaria drug administration with ACTs in areas that are heavily affected by the Ebola virus and where malaria transmission is high. In addition, international donor financing is being stepped up to meet the further recommendation that bednets be distributed to all affected areas.

Note to editors

Globally, 3.2 billion people in 97 countries and territories are at risk of being infected with malaria. In 2013, there were an estimated 198 million malaria cases worldwide (range 124-283 million), 82% of which were in the WHO African region. Malaria was responsible for an estimated 584 000 deaths worldwide in 2013 (range: 367 000 – 755 000), killing an estimated 453 000 children under five years of age.

Based on an assessment of trends in reported malaria cases, a total of 64 countries are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal target of reversing the incidence of malaria. Of these, 55 are on track to meet Roll Back Malaria and World Health Assembly targets of reducing malaria case incidence rates by 75% by 2015.

The World malaria report 2014 will be launched on 9 December 2014 in the United Kingdom Houses of Parliament. The event will be co-hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (APPMG) and Malaria No More UK.

Contacts for press queries will be found at the link above.

Canadian-educated, Dr. Margaret Chan of the Peoples Republic of China heads the World Health Organization.

Canadian-educated, Dr. Margaret Chan of the Peoples Republic of China heads the World Health Organization, the world’s leading anti-malaria organization.

You may note that the press release says nothing about DDT, the pesticide most famous in the malaria fight after World War II.  WHO abandoned its ambitious campaign to eradicate malaria from the Earth, in the mid-1960s, when it was discovered that mosquitoes in central Africa and other malaria-endemic regions near the tropics were already resistant or immune to the pesticide.  DDT had been used by super-mosquito fighter Fred Soper, in campaigns by the Rockefeller Foundation and WHO, to knock down mosquito populations temporarily, to get breathing room to beat malaria.  While the populations were temporarily reduced, health workers would frantically work to diagnose and completely treat to a cure, malaria infections in humans. Then, when the mosquito populations came roaring back, the bugs would have no well of disease from which to draw parasites for new infections.

Soper’s methods used DDT sprayed on walls of homes, to specifically get those mosquitoes that bite humans. Anopheles spp. mosquitoes carry malaria parasites through a critical part of the parasites’ life cycle; those mosquitoes typically bite from about dusk to just after midnight.  After a blood meal, mosquitoes pause to rest on nearby vertical structures — walls in this case — to squeeze out excess water from the blood they’ve ingested, so they’re light enough to fly.  When the mosquito encounters DDT on the walls, the hope is that the DDT kills the mosquito, ending the transmission cycle.

A brutal public relations campaign in Africa, the U.S. and Europe through the late 1990s to now, has vilified science writer Rachel Carson for her indictment of DDT in Silent Spring, her brilliant book on the dangers of indiscriminate use of untested new chemicals.

So it’s important to note that the world’s leading organization that fights malaria makes no call for more DDT.  Professional health care workers worldwide have not been hornswoggled by pro-DDT, anti-environment, anti-science, anti-WHO propaganda.  That’s good news, too.

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