H
S
C
>
Potpourri

Ernest Cassara


An Earlier Flu Pandemic

We get periodic reports of the outbreak of Avian Influenza, that is, "bird flu," in various places across the world.  I have the impression that U.S. health officials are not as worried as they were earlier.  Let's hope they are right.

Years ago, visiting friends in their new home in Melrose, Massachusetts, I decided to stroll around, to see what the neighborhood was like.  Unknowingly, I crossed the city line into Malden.  I came to a small, unkempt Jewish cemetery.  A historian to the bone, I could not resist strolling into the high grass and reading the stones.  I was struck at how many young people - ages 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 - had been cut down by the Grim Reaper in 1918.  Very sad.  Then, of a sudden, it struck me.  Of course, that was the year of a flu pandemic.
The other day, I decided to Google the subject.  One of the first sites listed was from Stanford University.  There I read:

The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today
as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited
as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza
in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351.
Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe" the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster.
. . . . .
In the two years that this scourge ravaged the earth, a fifth of the world's population was
infected. The flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40. This pattern of morbidity was
unusual for influenza which is usually a killer of the elderly and young children. It infected
28% of all Americans . . . . An estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the
pandemic, ten times as many as in the world war.

I better understand what I observed in that little Jewish cemetery.  By the way, since my first visit, I have gone back several times.  I am happy to say that it is mowed more often these days.  Those stones memorializing the lives of those so young, still make me very sad.

The Stanford website, which you will find fascinating  -  http://virus.stanford.edu/uda/

~      ~     ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~ 

The Unpatriotic Patriot Act

It was too much to hope that Congress would have the guts to say "no" to President Bush and refuse to renew the so-called Patriot Act.  Except for a mere handful of stalwarts, such as Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, the Representatives and the Senators folded.  So, we are stuck with the sixteen provisions of the original, including the most objectionable features, such as those that allow federal agents to seize business records, and records of libraries and bookstores.

~      ~     ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~

Secretary Rumsfeld News Conference

Well, life is just not cooperating with Secretary of War - oops meant of "Defense."  He was yelling (no other word for it) at a press conference at the reporters that it is their compatriots in Iraq who are the source of the problem.  All they do is report negative stories, he claimed, when conditions are so much better.  Then, what did we see reported on TV?  The assassination of an Iraqi general, the discovery of eighteen young men, blindfolded, who had been strangled.  All of the signs of civil war between the Shi'ites and the Sunnis.  Ah, yes, things are so much better in Iraq than reported by the media.

~      ~     ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~

State Department Annual Human Rights Report

I would have thought that this was the year for our State Department to desist from publishing its annual report that holds up so many of the countries of our little planet to shame for their abuses of human rights.

But, those criticized have asked the logical question. Where in the report is there a depiction of the abuses by the U.S.A.: Torture in Guantánamo, torture in Abu Ghraib, secret CIA prisons, secret renditions.  Surely, a mere oversight by the Department of State, but, for some reason, other countries are just not buying it!

~      ~     ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~

The Loch Ness Monster Rears Its Head Again!

The BBC television news reported on the 6th of March that a Briton has come up with a fascinating theory as to how the sightings of the Loch Ness Monster occurred.  He speculates that some circus animals were allowed to bathe in the loch, and the upper part of an elephant, especially its trunk, is what witnesses saw, mistaking it for the legendary monster.

Some years ago, as My Better Half and I were driving along  Loch Ness, we stopped at what we Americans would call a "convenience store," and, among other things, picked up a few picture postcards.  One had the solution to the story of the Monster. It had a sketch of three Scots in a boat, imbibing the country's famous beverage.  The caption read: "How to see the Loch Ness Monster."

~      ~     ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~

If You Thought the Cheney Jokes Had Subsided!

Thanks to Larry Hamby for the following:

"WASHINGTON, D.C. - A white house source stated that Congress is considering awarding Vice-President Dick Cheney the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian commendation, for his act of bravery in shooting an attorney. The source was quoted to say, "All Americans have wanted to shoot a lawyer at one time or another and Cheney actually had the guts to do it."

"In a related story, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which issues hunting licenses, said that it will start requiring hunters, wishing to bag a lawyer, to have the new 'lawyer's stamp' on their hunting license. Currently Texas hunters are required to carry stamps for hunting birds, deer, and bear, at a cost of $7 annually. The new 'lawyers stamp' will cost $100, but attorney season will be all year long. The department further stated that although the 'lawyers stamp' comes at hefty price, sales have been brisk and it is believed it will generate annual revenues in excess of $3 billion dollars the first year. Other states are considering similar hunting stamps."



Return to the Table of Contents




Articles may be quoted or republished in full with attribution
to the author and harvardsquarecommentary.org.



This site is designed and managed by Neil Turner at Neil Turner Concepts