Friday, March 21, 2003

The military has clear guidelines for just about everything, including their saddest duties of all.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Man, have I even been lax in posting here....

Anyway, some of the mealy-mouthed discussion of post-war Iraq that's taken place has centered on, as example, the reconstruction of Japan and Germany after World War II. Of course, some cite those instances as examples of what we won't do -- "We won't be there for years like we were in Japan, we're gonna win the war and bugger off as soon as the Iraqis can stand up straight" -- at the same time as being cited as examples why we should be just hunky-dorey about an American invasion, since after all, "After WWII we rebuilt Japan and now they're just our best friends!" Curious disconnect, there, and I find it interesting that if a Japanese-style post-war occupation is to be our model, our Administration won't tell us so. Interesting, but hardly surprising -- after all, they're just the most forthcoming Administration in Washington since....2001, anyway.

Oh, yeah -- links and such. I've been thinking about this stuff for a while, and Josh Marshall has written an article and a further commentary on Talking Points Memo about why the Japanese and German occupations might not be very good indicators of future results. (Read the article first, then the blog post.)

Google targets blog text ads

This is a lot smarter than anything Pyra could have done with banner ads. You've probably already noticed that since the takeover, ads for free blogspot sites have been replaced with lightweight Google text ads which appear in a floating frame rather than some clunky GIF. This is a very welcome change for slow loading pages like mine, but there's an additional feature to this, the ads are targetted to readership based on what Google perceives to be the content of that blog.

For example, Laputan Logic is now running ads for biblical archaeology sites. Evidently, it has picked up the theme in my last couple of posts and from the archaeological slant in general. Joshua Legg's site is all about war and peace and Byzantium's Shores today is running ads for freelance jobs and ... swimwear (wtf?).

Some of the ads are targetted to the reader's location (via IP address I imagine). I noticed a number of ads for Australian products which had nothing to do with the content of the blog I was reading. When they can't work out to display, apparently they display ads for charities.

Anyway, as part of the grueling research that I have put into this post, I noticed (finally) that the Collaboratory no longer has a banner ad. How long has it been gone? Please don't tell me its been six months.

Does anyone know who paid for it?

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

The Arrogant Empire

Okay, apologies in advance for yet another post about the current crisis1 although I thought this was a particularly good article.

I think it goes a long way to explaining from an American perspective the nature of the diplomatic mess that the Bush Administration has created for itself. America faces unprecedented opposition to its policies around the world, not just from its traditional enemies but from its allies as well and especially from the populations of those countries. I think this map nicely sums it up.

Before being tempted to reach for tired cliches like "knee-jerk anti-Americanism" to explain this, it's worth reflecting that it hasn't always been this way.

But in its campaign against Iraq, America is virtually alone. Never will it have waged a war in such isolation. Never have so many of its allies been so firmly opposed to its policies. Never has it provoked so much public opposition, resentment and mistrust. And all this before the first shot has been fired.

Watching the tumult around the world, it’s evident that what is happening goes well beyond this particular crisis. Many people, both abroad and in America, fear that we are at some kind of turning point, where well-established mainstays of the global order—the Western Alliance, European unity, the United Nations—seem to be cracking under stress. These strains go well beyond the matter of Iraq, which is not vital enough to wreak such damage. In fact, the debate is not about Saddam anymore. It is about America and its role in the new world.
1 - Though if you'd like to see something else posted on this blog, well, what's stopping you?
This doesn't sound good...

Mysterious illness may be new disease

A mysterious, flulike illness that has stricken scores of hospital workers in Southeast Asia has stumped a battery of tests for known bacteria and viruses and most likely represents a new human disease of unknown origin, federal health authorities said Monday.

At least 14 cases bearing some resemblance to the illness are being evaluated in the United States, including that of an unidentified patient, recently arrived from travel to Asia, who turned up in a Los Angeles County emergency room with a high fever and difficulty breathing.

Patients with the disease come down with a particularly dangerous case of pneumonia -- fluid filling their lungs -- and many of those sickened in Southeast Asia have had to be placed on ventilators.

World Health Organization epidemiologists have already given the disease a name -- SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome -- and have confirmed four deaths and 167 cases worldwide.

Under prodding by the United Nations' health agency, China has disclosed an outbreak of 305 cases from November through February that appear similar to SARS. There were five deaths in China, but none of the cases are included yet in the official WHO count.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Julie Gerberding told reporters that 10 of the 14 suspected cases in the United States were "almost certainly not" SARS, but that "it would not be surprising" to find the illness soon in the United States.

Cases have been confirmed in Canada, where two members of a Toronto family have died after returning from China. One member of that family subsequently visited Atlanta. Cases are also suspected in Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Gerberding said she was confident that laboratories in the United States or in eight other nations testing for the disease would pinpoint its cause. But the disease detectives are now fairly sure it is a bug they haven't encountered before.

"We are not suspicious this is a common microorganism, or we would have found it by now," she said. It was unlikely to be some form of influenza, because Hong Kong hospitals are skilled in identifying even exotic strains of that deadly diseases.

While ruling nothing out -- including bioterrorism -- Gerberding indicated that the epidemic was behaving like that of a viral illness spread by "close contact" with infected patients in the home or hospital. SARS appears to be highly contagious but requires contact with droplets of infected body fluids through cough or sneezing.

Health Organization Stepping Up Efforts to Find Cause of Mysterious Pneumonia

...[T]wo features of the mysterious illness led the World Health Organization to sound an alarm last week.

"One was the high degree of contagion to health care workers," Dr. Gerberding said.

She cited the case of an American businessman who became ill while in Hanoi and who died after he was transferred to a hospital in Hong Kong. He inadvertently spread the illness to many health care workers. The extent of spread was much more "than we typically see with most infectious diseases" in the health care environment.

One factor in the greater degree of spread was that the hospital in Hong Kong where the businessman was treated used different infection control measures from those used in the United States, Dr. Gerberding said.

The second feature was the rapidity and severity with which pneumonia developed in some patients. Even among patients who suffer a system illness with influenza, "it is quite unusual to develop pneumonia," Dr. Gerberding said. "Here we had a very high proportion of individuals developing pneumonia, and that signaled something unusual," requiring a closer look.

I have two very close friends who have just recently returned from Vietnam. One of them is a health worker who, as part of his trip, worked in a hospital in Hanoi. Needless to say I'm watching this one closely.