Thursday, January 30, 2014

Urgent - get your flu shot if you haven't already

My college sent out a message today urging everyone to get the flu vaccine, because there's been a serious increase in the number of flu cases on campus.
Influenza Alert 
Contributed by Laura Keefe 
The Hammond Health Center has seen a sudden increase in visits from students suffering from symptoms of the flu (influenza). On Monday and Tuesday of this week, we have had 25 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza. The CDC has reported that H1N1 (swine flu) influenza virus is circulating this season and that it may disproportionately affect young and middle-aged adults. 
We strongly encourage all students, faculty and staff who have not yet received the influenza vaccine this season to get vaccinated.  

Mother Jones published an article today about the danger of one of the flu strains circulating this year, H1N1 - http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/01/is-it-too-late-to-get-a-flu-shot
However, CDC spokesperson Jason McDonald notes that more people between the ages of 18 and 64 have been hospitalized for flulike symptoms this year than in previous years. This season's predominant virus strain is H1N1—which, when it originated in 2009, also sent an unusually high number people in the 18-to-64 age range to the hospital. Epidemiologists don't know why H1N1 hits younger people hard, but one theory, says McDonald, is that older adults have built up more immunity to it. H1N1 is similar to the virus that caused the Spanish Flu of 1918, and also to strains that circulated in the '60s and '70s. Another possible factor: Only about 30 percent of younger adults get flu shots, compared to about 40 percent of older adults.

Orac of Respectful Insolence also posted about the flu and how "natural" remedies don't cure it - Surviving the flu using "natural" remedies.
Until a universal flu vaccine that doesn’t depend on the highly variable epitopes that are targeted by today’s flu vaccine is developed, the effectiveness of the flu vaccine will vary from year to year for the foreseeable future. This makes the flu vaccine an easier target for the antivaccine movement, which targets because they can use the flu vaccine as an “example” of a vaccine that they can mislabel as “overhyped,” “useless,” and even “dangerous,” the last of which they try to achieve by massively exaggerating the risks of the flu vaccine and appealing to a flu vaccination campaign from nearly 40 years ago, the “swine flu” campaign. 
Key to this campaign is the need to portray the flu as not being a serious illness, as a normal part of life, as a disease that doesn’t need to be vaccinated against. This portrayal of the flu is completely disconnected with reality, of course. The flu can kill, and, when it does kill, the people it kills are often young and perfectly healthy.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A wonderful article from Daily Kos about what Martin Luther King did

Daily Kos: Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did

The first paragraph:
What most people who reference Dr. King seem not to know is how Dr. King actually changed the subjective experience of life in the United States for African Americans. And yeah, I said for African Americans, not for Americans, because his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general. His main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer. That's why some of us who are African Americans get a bit possessive about his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy, despite what our civil religion tells us, is not color blind.....
So yes, Dr. King had many other goals, many other more transcendent, non-racial, policy goals, goals that apply to white people too, like ending poverty, reducing the war-like aspects of our foreign policy, promoting the New Deal goal of universal employment, and so on. But his main accomplishment was ending 200 years of racial terrorism, by getting black people to confront their fears. So please don't tell me that Martin Luther King's dream has not been achieved, unless you knew what racial terrorism was like back then and can make a convincing case you still feel it today. If you did not go through that transition, you're not qualified to say that the dream was not accomplished. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Death

Death is ever present.

Death is next door. Death is in the next room.

As I walk down the street, stepping over the puddles, on a raw winter day when the snow is melting, death is beside me.

When I sit down, I can look to my right, and death is there.

The cat comes and sits in my lap and purrs. Does he feel death next to him?

In a house nearby, someone is dying.

I remember my grandmother - she wanted death, she asked for Dr. Kevorkian to come. I told her - I can't kill my Grandma. It's illegal.

The cat kills his prey. One day I looked out the window, and he was running across the grass, holding a mouse in his mouth. One night I heard a strange sound downstairs. The cat ran in, carrying a bat in his mouth.

I'm alive, of course. I'm breathing in and out, I can feel my heart pumping. Sometimes death seems so distant. Death banished by the movements of life.

But in a house nearby, someone I love is dying.

Influenza still kills - get vaccinated against it

Influenza still kills

Good article by Orac (of Respectful Insolence) on how the flu still kills people, and how necessary it is to get vaccinated against it.
When you read the latest screed by the latest antivaccinationist telling you that you shouldn’t get the flu vaccine, consider this. It is true that the flu vaccine could be better. It’s true that it doesn’t provide you anywhere near 100% protection against the flu (although in years when the vaccine matches the flu strains well it is quite good). It’s even true that flu vaccines (for adults, anyway) may contain mercury in the form of the thimerosal preservative that is still in some flu vaccines. You should get it anyway. The risk is minuscule, and the flu can still kill. You might think, as Bill Maher does, that just because you’re perfectly healthy you can prevent the flu with healthy living and, if you’re unlucky and get it anyway, weather its effects with little difficulty.

Friday, January 10, 2014

President of Ithaca College rejects ASA's academic boycott of Israel

Thomas Rochon, the president of Ithaca College, came out with a statement today rejecting the academic boycott of Israel as passed by the American Studies Association:
In mid-December, the American Studies Association voted to boycott Israel’s higher-education institutions to protest the country’s treatment of Palestinians. I have subsequently been asked by some members of the Ithaca College community to articulate my position on the boycott. 
Ithaca College has a history of standing for academic freedom. We also have a history of supporting the underlying practices that make academic freedom effective: freedom of scholars to conduct their research, to associate with each other to share and refine their ideas, and to publish the findings and conclusions of their scholarly work. Academic boycotts, whatever their motivation may be, infringe on these central tenets of higher learning. Several scholarly associations, including the American Studies Association, have recently resolved to boycott Israeli universities. Although Ithaca College has no institutional relationship with those scholarly associations and therefore no venue for communication directly with them, the principles for which we stand lead us to conclude that such boycotts are antithetical to the constructive exchange of ideas in the global communities of scholarship.

Friday, January 03, 2014

115 colleges and universities denounce academic boycott of Israel

When the American Studies Association voted to support the academic boycott of Israel in December, I felt very discouraged. Was this anti-Israel and antisemitic scourge going to impose itself on American academia as it has on British academia (the main British academic union, the University and College Union, endorsed the academic boycott several years ago)?  And when I heard that a couple of smaller academic societies - the Native American Studies Association and the Association for Asian American Studies had also endorsed the boycott, I felt even more anxious about the possibility that American academia would turn against Israel.

The very quick response, however, to oppose the academic boycott, by a wide and growing range of college and university associations and individual colleges and universities has been very heartening. The blog Legal Insurrection has an updated list of institutions that have announced their opposition to the boycott, including my alma mater, Harvard. The blog has also posted letters from various institutions and discussions of the reactions of the boycotters to opposition.

New Year, 2014 from the Ithaca College towers

Photo taken shortly before midnight, on December 31, from a friend's house, looking up South Hill at Ithaca College's two tower dormitories.
Photo taken night of January 2, from West Hill, looking over to South Hill, where Ithaca College is located.