Monday by the Magazine Rack



Good afternoon and welcome to our beginning of the working week idle chit chat thread.

We’re all doomed.

I’ve summarily reached this conclusion after following recent news stories. North Korea is hellbent on flexing its nuclear muscle, Kevin Rudd is about to spend billions on defence (which makes me wonder whether he knows something we don’t – like an imminent world war), we’re all going broke in record numbers due to the financial crisis, collapse of the economy and escalating unemployment.

Furthermore, global poverty is expected to increase dramatically as a direct consequence of the GFC. Desperate people resort to desperate measures. Perhaps we may see increasing violence locally and globally. Today I was sickened to read about a father who attempted to rape and murder his own 2 year old son. The boy is in critical condition in hospital. What sort of society have we created that drives people to commit such horrific acts?

Meanwhile, as the world teeters on the blink of oblivion, scientists have come up with a very useful invention – a robot penguin. Just what we need right now. Makes me wonder how we ever got by without them really.

Oh, and I would like to personally thank Kevin for sending me my $900. Although it will be going straight into the mortgage along with 70% of all the other recipients of the dosh.

Swine Flu – the next Global Pandemic?

Remember the hysteria over bird flu a few years ago?

While the Australian Government quietly stocked up on the country’s supplies of Tamiflu, the threat never really eventuated in Australia. Apparently bird flu still exists in places like Indonesia however the risk of contracting and dying from it are relatively low.

Compare this to the emerging prevalence of swine flu. It appears that the stark contrast between bird flu, is that swine flu can be easily transmitted from person to person.

Surprisingly, the media has been relatively staid in its reporting of swine flu, so far at least, however the risks are considerably higher than the potential threat of bird flu a few years ago. reports that swine flu will more than likely strike Australia if it isn’t here already.

At least 81 people in Mexico are now thought to have died after contracting swine flu, with 20 cases also reported in the US and six in Canada.

There are also suspected cases in New Zealand, France, Spain, and Israel.

The World Health Organization rates the UK and France as the two countries best prepared for an outbreak.

One of Australia’s top influenza experts, virologist Alan Hampson, said the disease could already be in Australia.

“It’s very hard to screen for influenza coming into the country because what we do know is that people can be infected and not show the signs of disease in the early stages, but can be spreading the disease now,” he said.

He said while swine flu didn’t appear to be as unpredictable as avian flu, it was quite different to regular human influenza viruses.

“It is sufficiently different to be able to readily infect people and probably overcome existing immunity to existing H1 viruses,” he said.

The United States has declared a public health emergency after 20 people were diagnosed with the flu – the same strain suspected of killing 81 people in Mexico.

“At this point, a top priority is to ensure that communication is robust and that medical surveillance efforts are fully activated,” said John Brennan, assistant to the president for Homeland Security.

Health and Homeland Security officials announced steps to release some of the country’s stockpiles of anti-flu drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza.

They recommended that local authorities plan for possible school closures and called for people with flu-like symptoms to stay at home to reduce the possibility of transmission.

New Zealand health authorities said they had quarantined a school group of 25 from Auckland after they returned from Mexico on Saturday with flu-like symptoms.

Ten of the students have tested positive for influenza A and are believed “likely” to have contracted swine flu, New Zealand Health Minister Tony Ryall said late yesterday.

France also reports travellers returning from Mexico have reported symptons.

Australia’s chief medical officer, Jim Bishop, last night urged people to be vigilant but not alarmed as authorities around the world rushed to put in place measures to curb the spread of the outbreak.

Mexico assumed new quarantine powers, shut down schools and cancelled Sunday masses, while the US embassy suspended visa-processing services for travel from its neighbour.

On Saturday, the World Health Authority declared the outbreaks a “public health emergency of international concern”, amid fears the disease had spread to 16 Mexican states as well as California, Texas, Kansas and New York City.

The strain is suspected to have infected 1324 and killed up to 81 people in Mexico alone since April 13.

The US has reported 16 confirmed or suspected cases, but no deaths.

The outbreaks do not constitute a pandemic by WHO definitions, but have the potential to evolve into one, leaving airports across the world on alert. In Australia, no cases have been reported.

But Melbourne’s World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre on Influenza – one of four across the globe – is readying itself to receive a sample of the virus, with New Zealand announcing it would send its test results to the group.

Other reports suggest SWINE flu has the potential to become the worst pandemic since the Spanish Influenza – and a vaccine may not be available for 12 months, according to a leading Australian virologist.

According to Professor Greg Tannock, “It’s got all the hallmarks of a big pandemic, and many people have predicted for some time now that a big pandemic was on the way.”

“It was thought that that pandemic would be bird flu.”

“If (swine flu) is going to reach that worst case scenario, there won’t be a vaccine available for it for about 12 months.”

The worst case scenario for Australia would be thousands of healthy young people contracting the virus, killing many.

There are also fears that the current strain of swine flu could evolve to make it much more susceptible to humans.

“It may have already happened,” Professor Tannock said.

But he also said it was possible that the pandemic that so many people feared might not come about.

“It may go nowhere… no one knows. Watch this space.”

While the Australian Government may have ready stockpiles of Tamiflu, it’s worth remembering that during the Bird Flu scare, the Government annoounced that its stocks of the medicine would be primarily used to treat health professionals, military and police personnel as a first priority to ensure law and order could be maintained.

How very reassuring…

Gimme, gimme, gimme a payrise for pollies.

Nice look in a time of financial hardship for real people.

FEDERAL politicians have won a $4700 increase to their electorate allowances in what amounts to a hefty de facto pay rise.

As Australians face the toughest Budget in decades, the Remuneration Tribunal has increased the allowance to $32,000.

That equates to $90 a week – vastly overshadowing the expected $30-a-week top-up for pensioners expected in next month’s Budget.