NEWS DAY | H1N1 update: cats, vaccine, peak? / Laptop pilots want to fly again / Extending unemployment comp / more


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H1N1 update: Cats, vaccine, peak? “Viruses are not transmitted between species,” was the common vet school and medical school wisdom not too long ago, according to our veterinarian, but common wisdom cracked again this week with a Washington Post report that a cat now has been diagnosed with H1N1. The 13-year-old kitty caught H1N1 from her human family, and humans and feline all have recovered. The Post notes that the virus has also been found in birds and ferrets, as well as humans and pigs.

Meanwhile, on the vaccine front, MPR reports that a large shipment of vaccine is expected in the state around November 16, which will mean opening up vaccination to children between 6 months and 9 years of age, though there probably will not yet be enough vaccine to cover all of those in this age group. Some counties will set up public immunization clinics, but all are encouraging parents to first check with their primary health care providers to see whether they have vaccine available. Children in this age group will need a second vaccination one month after the first.

Overall, the Minnesota Department of Health says that H1N1 may have peaked in Minnesota, with reports from schools going down this week, according to the Star Tribune. In the same article, the Strib reports the first H1N1 outbreaks in long-term care facilities in MN, and four more flu-related deaths. Only three of the four deaths were confirmed as H1N1, and these three bring the state total to 15. Health department officials say that one week’s numbers are not enough to confirm that H1N1 has peaked in MN, and even if the next few weeks show a decline in infections, that’s not the end of the story:

In the past, flu pandemics have typically hit in waves that last several months, disappear and return for a second or third round. So even if the flu is abating now, it could come back again, Lynfield warned. That’s one reason that officials are pushing ahead with plans to vaccinate as many Minnesotans as possible.

Laptop pilots want to fly again The FAA yanked the licenses of two NWA/Delta pilots who lost track of time and place and radio communications while using their laptops on NWA flight 188 to Minneapolis/St. Paul last month. Now, reports AP, the two have appealed, saying they want their pilots’ license back. Yeah, and I want world peace tomorrow and a pony for Christmas.
Another AP story quoted FAA administrator Randy Babbitt, a former pilot and pilots union president:

“I think that this is a sign of a much bigger problem,” Babbott said. “I can’t regulate professionalism. With everything we know about human factors, there are still those who just ignore the common sense rules of safety.”

Geothermal heating, cooling
Minnesota stands to receive $7 million in stimulus grants for geothermal pilot projects, reports MinnPost, with projects ranging from an ice sheet in Eagan to carbon sequestration research at the University of Minnesota. If you’re among those asking “geo-what?” —

Geothermal energy is generated in the Earth’s core. In its common conception, this energy can be recovered as steam or hot water and used to heat buildings or generate electricity. …

Extending unemployment comp
Both the Senate and the House have now passed bills extending unemployment compensation benefits As the New York Times points out, a lot of people see their action as too little and too late, since 600,000+ workers had run out of benefits at the end of October. Why did it take so long to pass a bill that ultimately had 98-0 support in the Senate?

The Senate’s 98-to-0 vote disguised the partisan divisiveness of past weeks. After Democrats settled their internal differences a month ago, Republicans objected to acting until Democrats allowed votes on amendments opposing illegal immigration, the liberal organization Acorn and the financial rescue program.

The House bill would limit the extension to states with high unemployment, but the Senate bill would extend benefits by 14 weeks for all states, and up to 20 weeks in states where the unemployment rate is over 8.5 percent. (That’s 26 states right now, and Minnesota is not among them.)

The Department of Labor statistics released today show initial claims down to 512,000 last week. Tomorrow the DOL will release unemployment stats for October, which are expected to show an increase overall.

World News

Iranian protests On the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iranian security forces clashed with demonstrators, reports NPR. While the government traditionally uses the celebration to stir up anti-U.S. sentiment, this year’s protests were aimed at the Iranian government, and some even called for U.S. support. The nuclear issue also surfaced:

And some in the crowds picked up on the ongoing tension over Iran’s nuclear activities by chanting: “A green and blooming Iran does not need an atom bomb.” Green is the symbolic color of the opposition movement.

Pro-government speakers denounced the U.S., but:

Still, it seems that even some of the hostage takers of 1979 are now against the government. Mansour Farhang, who was a diplomat and initially a supporter of the Islamic Revolution, said many of the hostage takers now count themselves among the political opposition in Iran.

CIA agents convicted in Italy An Italian court found 23 CIA agents and two Italian security officers guilty in the 2003 abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan. The cleric was subsequently shipped to Egypt in the “extraordinary rendition” program, which has been criticized as outsourcing torture. According to NPR, “Abu Omar says he was snatched from the streets of Milan, taken to Egypt, where he says he was tortured repeatedly.”

Both the Italian and U.S. governments opposed the trial:

The U.S. government is refusing to cooperate with this trial. In fact, today, American officials expressed disappointment with the verdict, and we should explain the Americans were not in court and it sounds like it’s unlikely that they’ll fulfill their prison sentences.


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