06.30.14

Vulnificus season

Posted in Bioterrorism, Culture of Lickspittle at 1:47 pm by George Smith

It’s the season for flesh-eating disease on the Gulf Coast. Warmer water at this time of year results in more of the marine vibrio, V. vulnificus in the water, on the rocks and submerged objects in shallow water, and in shell fish.

The microbe is always present but the summer months give it optimal growth conditions. Coupled with the tourist season, there is a yearly arrival of cases of flesh-eating disease and septicemia caused by the organism I earned my doctorate on.

“V. vulnificus is a rare cause of disease, but it is also underreported,” reads the Centers for Disease Control. “Between 1988 and 2006, CDC received reports of more than 900 V. vulnificus infections from the Gulf Coast states, where most cases occur. Before 2007, there was no national surveillance system for V. vulnificus …”

“An average of 50 culture-confirmed cases, 45 hospitalizations, and 16 deaths are reported each year from the Gulf Coast region (reporting states are Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas). Nationwide, there are as many as 95 cases (half of which are culture confirmed), 85 hospitalizations, and 35 deaths.”

In years to come, the effect of global warming on its incidence will bear watching.

Statistically, V. vulnificus disease carries about a 50 percent rate of mortality if it becomes systemic, infiltrating large portions of the body or in the blood stream. That’s high. And it’s because, while the organism is easy to treat with antibiotics, it must be caught early in the course of an infection. Those who go to the emergency room or doctor immediately upon seeing a festering wound with spreading systemic component, do best.

Excerpts from the Gulf Coast news wires:

A Treasure Coast man is recovering from a flesh-eating bacterial infection that took over his leg in a constellation-like pattern starting with a cut he got on his ankle.

“Diarrhea, fatigued, not to mention everyday waking up everyday with the weight of what is wrong with me and am I going to be okay?” JJ Davidson said of his 4-week progression since contracting Vibrio Vulnificus ..

Vibrio Vulnificus infected 30 people last year and killed 10 in Florida.

It’s invisible and rare, but often deadly.

Davidson says he knows he became infected at the popular Stuart sandbar, where after he cut his foot, he became incredibly sick.

“I was walking through the water about knee deep and I had an anchor cut my ankle,” JJ said days later he noticed a painful sore develop, and fatigue set in, “I noticed my calf started to get a blistery infection that started to pop up on it. My thigh up here broke out in the same blistery rash.”


Florida health officials have already reported six cases this year; four due to the infection of an open wound and two from consuming raw shellfish.


On June 7, 2013, while fishing along the rocks in front of Grand Isle [Louisiana], Rick Garey contracted the flesh-eating bacteria vibrio vulnificus through a minor scrape on his left ankle.

Within 48 hours, he was literally fighting for his life at Lady of the Sea General Hospital in Cut Off and then at Terrebonne General Medical Center in Houma, where he endured seven surgeries and a two-week stay, including three days in critical care …

“I’m real happy I can see 57,” Garey said. “I didn’t know if I’d see 56 for a while.”

“Vibrio is bad news. It’s nasty stuff. When you mention vibrio around doctors, you can almost see the color change in their face,” Garey said. “It happens fast and it’s wickedly efficient, and you don’t even know it.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a macho NFL lineman, it will eat you up just as fast.”

My lasting contribution to science was the determination and partial characterization of an enzyme called a collagenase produced by V. vulnificus.

It was my doctoral thesis. And in formulating the problem, I had looked at the disease, then just emergent and the causative organism with the reasoning that production of a collagenase would be quite likely in such a case.

Collagenase in an enzyme the brings about a fast degradation of collagen which makes up 30 percent of the protein in people. Collagen is found in skin, blood vessels, muscle and liver.

As part of the marine estuarine environment, the microbe produces its collagenase in the digestion of food sources for use.

When large numbers of V. vulnificus proliferate in a wound or in a blood infection, the production of this enzyme, which is always on, contributes to the catastrophic results.

“Clinical characteristics of V. vulnificus suggest that the organism is capable of invading healthy tissue, which to us raises the possibility that the organism produces collagenolytic enzymes,” reads my paper, “Collagenolytic activity of Vibrio vulnficus: Potential Contribution to its Invasiveness,” from 1982.

“Vibrio vulnficus produces two disease states, a rapidly progressive cellulitis from wound infection and a bacteremia which, in some cases, produces secondary lesions which allow the organism to infiltrate the dermis and, in one extreme example, the cerebrospinal fluid. Production of collagenase in vivo could contribute to the invasive property in these cases.”

The data collected showed that the collagenase did digest collagen, ours extracted from the skins of freshly-slaughtered calfs, quite efficiently.

Over the years, the paper was well-received.

The disease is still rare. That is, most people who come in contact with the organism never know it. But it is a recognized hazard, one that has gradually increased since my work on it decades ago.

Consequences of disease caused by V. vulnificus are well documented in pictures at images.google.com. Be advised: They’re unsettling.

06.28.14

A precocious ten-year-old tells us how the world would have changed had Franz Ferdinand and Gavrilo Princip been friends. You’ll weep for humanity.

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 9:15 am by George Smith

In the rush for clickbait and eye-ball grabbing, the Culture of Lickspittle reduces everything to imbecility. The United States did not enter World War I until 1917, about two and a half years after the assassination. And, relatively speaking, its military played only a minor role in the fighting that characterized the war. There is nothing in the American experience, for instance, that comes close to the Somme and Verdun.

But today, for the sake of web hits, its Franz Ferdinand (or Gavrilo Princip) Day. Far easier to digest than Barbara Tuchman, who is dead, anyway, and would have been lousy at web SEO.

Voila, ABC News:

Assassination That Started World War I like ‘Game of Thrones’ Script

The shot that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand 100 years ago today – which started a bloodletting that didn’t stop until 10 million people died and four empires were ruined in World War I – had all the elements of an exaggerated “Game of Thrones” script.

Yep, 10 million people dead sure is kinda easy to picture after watching some popular tv show with a dwarf who shoots his dad in the toilet with a crossbow for the season finale.

06.27.14

Your Daily Masturbait

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 3:48 pm by George Smith

You can probably count the news agencies on the fingers of one hand that don’t publish daily clickbait in the Culture of Lickspittle.

Everyone else is fully engaged in the rush to the bottom of brainlessness, greased by social media and the environment of Google search.

Today’s best, I think, at PBS (!):


8 Things You Didn’t Know About Franz Ferdinand

1. He had bad lungs

2. He hunted nearly 300,000 animals

3. His wife was deemed totally unsuitable for the dynasty

Presumably written for nothing or almost that by someone named Talia Mindich, probably an intern or free-lancer, emphasis on the first part of the word.

And your daily Upworthy immunization:

Are You Sick Of Ass-Backward Hillbillies? Check Out Some Ass-Forward Ones.

The lead-in: “Growing up in West Virginia, I got a lot of comments about whether I wear shoes or have all my teeth. When I went to school out of state, I actually had a professor ask me if ‘folks back home’ felt like I had ‘outgrown [my] raisin’ [sic] by going to college.”


Giant Chickens Were A Really Good Idea In Theory But Turned Out Bad In Practice

The lead-in: “Not only is food a pleasant part of the human experience, it’s also a necessity for us to, well, live.”

06.25.14

Cyber Guardian to the Banksters gives a speech to the flock

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 10:26 am by George Smith


Keith Alexander: “Freedom is not free.” No, advice on the matter costs a million bucks a month for some, maybe.

Briefly retired ex-NSA director Keith Alexander has been busy. “He’s already out pushing hard,” as someone pointed out earlier this week.

And he just pushed hard as the keynote speaker at the Gartner Security and Risk Management Summit, an national security megaplex affair where it is assured that a percentage of the attendees are directors or employers of businesses and agencies writing software for spying and generally making things more untrustworthy on the net.

An excerpt on Alexander’s opinions, from the web:

Without mentioning former Snowden or any specific news organization, Alexander said the revelations about the tools and processes the NSA uses to conduct mass surveillance have had a “devastating” impact on national security. “It’s devastating not only for our country but for Europe,” he said, adding he thinks that Islamic militant terrorist organizations seem “to be learning from these leaks” and evading some detections.

He said the freedom enjoyed in the U.S. arises from the security provided by the military and law enforcement. “Freedom is not free,” he said to the Gartner audience of security professionals.

Got that? Freedom in the US only comes from the money spent on the national security megaplex.

While it’s quite a twisting of the concept of democracy, which we no long have a function example of, anyway, there is a nugget of truth deep within.

The “freedom” the country enjoys, mostly the freedom to shop and collectively spend more money on national security, is kinda preserved by the beliefs put into action by our Keith Alexanders.

Continuing a regular arguing point, Alexander told the security flock that terrorism is increasing.

“Alexander referenced the growing violence around the world, specifically citing more than 1,700 executions at the hands of the Islamic State Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” reads one report from yesterday.

And who set the stage for that?

General Keith Alexander doesn’t live in the same world that I, or anyone I know, does. And the biggest example of it has been Edward Snowden and Alexander’s continuing speeches on the affair and value of the latter’s security work to everyone’s well-being.

Which will all go to hell if he and his successors are not enabled to be ever more on guard.

“[Alexander said] if attackers launch major denial of service attacks or destroy data held in financial systems, for example, the consequences are severe for all,” reads a report on the Gartner summit.


In usage of the cliche of patriots, “freedom is not free,” Alexander puts himself in the company of, wait for it, Ted Nugent.

Go ahead, click that link.


And do enjoy, one more time, the reprint of another PARIAH, one of my favorites in the bunch. Sha–a-a-a-a-a-a-r-e.


Finally, if someone reading comes along with some experience in the matter, do enlighten me.

Why do people at these things sit and listen to speeches like Keith Alexander’s? What’s the motivation?

Douglas MacArthur he’s not.

06.24.14

Uber Screwus Alles

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 12:25 pm by George Smith

Ah, good old PARIAH magazine, a perfect series of send-ups for our time. Coulda been great but nobody would share it. Not enough clickability in the Culture of Lickspittle.

Anyway, economist Dean Baker has been thrashing Uber recently, two pieces — one at the Guardian and one at TruthOut — strongly criticizing the disruptive and innovative ride-sharing/amateur taxi cab operation in the last ten days or so.

What’s packaged as disruptive innovation isn’t really that. Uber is just the use of iOS application, the convenience of smartphone and free-lance drivers to evade regulations or costs that others who do the same thing have had to pay.

Baker:

If we go the route of ending the requirement that taxies need medallions, there is also the question of what we do about the sunk costs for people like my cab driver, who is currently out $250,000 from buying a medallion. On the current path, these medallion owners will just be out of luck. Their life savings will be made worthless by young kids who are better at evading regulations than immigrant cab drivers; so much for the American Dream.

It is worth considering this issue in light of the larger issue of the growing inequality we have seen over the last three decades. Uber, like Amazon, has allowed a small number of people to become extremely rich by evading regulations and/or taxes that apply to their middle class competitors …

This is a pretty simple story. In a country where rules are enforced or not enforced to benefit the rich and screw the middle class, you will have increasing inequality and a middle class that is seeing few of the benefits of economic growth.

The unfairness is stark. They key word is evasion,, tech-enabled.

You have the traditional cab driver who has had to take out a quarter-million dollar loan, an expensive mortgage — if you will, to be able to operate a yellow cab in the center of our big cities. This, in addition to the payment of additional regulatory costs put in place by civil society.

It’s a considerable investment in money and middle class livelihoods. And if regulating agencies make a choice which enables technology to throw that away for a poorer service that merely brings the convenience of a smartphone, it is economically maiming the lives of people in the traditional infrastructural regulated service.

Which is what makes Uber odious.

It’s smartphone-driven swarm of amateurs delivering rides in in a generally poorer fashion. (If you click the Uber reviews on Yelp for Los Angeles, you will also see the company isn’t above putting in astro-turf.)

Uber’s innovation, if you want to call it that is little more than a semantic trick. The company passes off the fancy that it’s not a transportation business like cab companies. It doesn’t own cars and is just an app that puts drivers together with rides.

A government, or regulating agency, can choose to ignore such tricks.

Baker adds that if people had all this explained to them, then maybe we’d see more real drive for “rules that treat people equally.”

Instead, he notes, as this blog has sometime in the past, we have a propaganda fog generated by economist cheerleaders and tech columnists for such things, one delivering the message that any badness is just a trivial consequence on the road to the future. Then, he continues, “millions of professional types” get to bemoan inequality without ever explaining or doing something about the big rig job driving it.


The New Yorker blog has just published a bit on Uber. An excerpt:

Startups like Uber argue that technology can transform the casual driver into a professional. With G.P.S., anyone can navigate efficiently. Real-time passenger feedback means that drivers who consistently receive low ratings can be dropped from the service. “Tech tools have changed the whole environment,” Josh Mohrer, the general manager of Uber’s New York office, told me. The upstarts can provide a range of ride options at different price points, improve driver efficiency by matching drivers with rides more quickly, and weed out bad drivers.

This graph, based on the say-so of an Uber worker, is easily exposed as bullshit. That is, if you read these Yelp reviews on the service in the Long Island/NYC area, linked above.

The rest of the New Yorker piece, brief, is worth a quick scan.

Summarizing, like all the innovation in the sharing economy, the basic application is the use of technology to flood a service with under-priced amateurs and part-timers trying to earn some extra money in a crippled economy.

In other words, it’s the mobilization of an underpaid workforce of temps and free-lancers in an austere economy in the liquidation of service employees in the middle class who earn more, with the pie then appropriated by the owners of the app.

06.23.14

For Hire: Cyber Guardian for Banksters

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 1:24 pm by George Smith

Continuing with the issue of retired NSA director Keith Alexander almost immediately going to work as a million dollar security consultant to the 1 percent, a bit from today’s International Business Times:

“He’s already out pushing hard,” an anonymous industry source told Politico. “He’s cleared. If something does pop, he can get in the door and get a briefing. That’s part of his stock and trade.”

For all of Alexander’s expertise, though, there are still questions over whether his fee ($1 million per month) is simply too much, even for firms that have so much to lose.

Now notorious for building the US cyber-war machine, Alexander also developed offensive operations to weaken security on the global networks while creating a growing market for malware and unreported vulnerabilities. He takes all his taxpayer-paid for expertise and pull as an information/reputation commodity to be sold to Wall Street and the 1 percent.

An expensive commodity, at that.

How does anyone but Keith Alexander’s consulting firms and the 1 percent in US and global banking who may take his services benefit from any of it? They don’t.

But there’s no money or will in doing anything for anyone or anything below that level, anyway. Cynically, if you protect the financial system and its titans you’re protecting only the stuff and people worth protecting.

Alexander was always going to go where a story he has been developing for years, that catastrophic cyberattacks were coming to the US financial sector, to those too big to fail, has fallen on the most willing and able to pay corporate ears.

Continued from the IBT:

Others have been less welcoming to Alexander’s foray into the private sector. To Bea Edwards, the executive and international director of the Government Accountability Project, Alexander seems to be saying that his decades’ worth of knowledge from the world of classified information is available to the highest bidder.

“In the person of Keith Alexander, we’re seeing the de facto merger of corporate financial power and government outreach … “Some subset of corporations is paid to develop the cyber-attack and defense capability of the U.S. government, and another subset pays the graduations of the contracting agencies (the NSA and USCYBERCOM) for an inside route to the technology.

Edwards refers to the synergy in which cyber-defense contractors like the firms that hired Edward Snowden, Booz Allen, or the Lockheed Martins, provided leased workers, at no deal for the taxpayer, to staff Alexander’s cyber-war machine-building operation. And then, in turn, once retired from government work, he leases himself to the top in corporate America.

That’s a helluva retirement.

06.22.14

Statehood for the titans of ‘Silicon Valley’

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 10:22 am by George Smith

The City News Service informs of Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper’s drive to get a voter referendum on splitting California into six new states on the ballot in November 2106. This involves a signature push throughout the state this weekend, usually at grocery stores, one to secure the names of a little over 800,000 voters.

“We need to reboot and the Six Californias initiative would bring government much closer to the people,” Draper told the CNS.

If you go the link and the map, you’ll note that state “Silicon Valley” is the only one to keep a catchy world-trademark name.

In LA County, we would be in West California. And, of course, there is Jefferson.

From CNS:

Venture capitalist Tim Draper said he wrote the initiative because he “wanted people to have a choice, to be local to their state government and to be able to get a refresh so that schools, streets and waterways could improve, poverty would decrease and businesses would want to keep jobs here.”

Yes, all the tech titants could be free of everyone else in Silicon Valley.

Computer Security for the 1 Percent

Posted in Cyberterrorism at 9:50 am by George Smith

Pointed out by Bill Blunden, author of Behold a Pale Farce, a much recommended here book on cyberwar and the national cybersecurity industrial complex, retired NSA director Keith Alexander is cashing in his chips. Most profitably, too, if his consulting price for a month of services at $1 million gets a lot of takers.

From Bloomberg:

As the four-star general in charge of U.S. digital defenses, Keith Alexander warned repeatedly that the financial industry was among the likely targets of a major attack. Now he’s selling the message directly to the banks.

Because that’s where the money is.

Continues Bloomberg:

Alexander, 62, said in the interview he was invited to give a talk to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, known as Sifma, shortly after leaving the NSA and starting his firm, IronNet Cybersecurity Inc. He has met with other finance groups including the Consumer Bankers Association, the Financial Services Roundtable and The Clearing House.


The ex-NSA chief is leasing office space from Promontory Financial Group LLC, a Washington consultancy that focuses on the banking industry. Eugene Ludwig, Promontory’s founder and chief executive officer, joined Alexander at a meeting with Sifma, Wall Street’s largest lobby group.

Alexander offered to provide advice to Sifma for $1 million a month, according to two people briefed on the talks. The asking price later dropped to $600,000 …

“What I’m concerned about is we’re going to have a 9/11 in cyberspace,” Alexander told Bloomberg.


Keith Alexander — from the archives.

06.19.14

The song about Martin Luther King by WhiteManistan’s most popular bigot. First you’ll be amazed, then you’ll retch!

Posted in Ted Nugent, WhiteManistan at 12:21 pm by George Smith

Billboard magazine and other music outlets have started promoting Ted Nugent’s new album, ShutUp&Jam!

The features news includes embeds to two new Nugent songs, one of which is entitled “Never Stop Believing.” The articles do not mention a word about the most interesting part of Nugent’s new music.

In the second verse of “Never Stop Believing,” WhiteManistan’s most popular bigot, the man who called the president a “subhuman mongrel,” sings:

And I got a dream
Like Martin Luther King
In my heart, I hear that man sing
So I climb up his mountain
And I shout it out loud
Because I got a dream and I thank God

There’s really nothing more to say about with regards to Nugent’s crazy world. Last year, you’ll recall, Nugent called his summer series of shows the Black Power tour.

No link, it’s easy enough to find.


Ted Nugent, in his own words, at WND. A routine sample.

And, the web.

Disruptive innovation (continued)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 8:36 am by George Smith

What if Pablo Picasso had been advised by Upworthy?


Comment rescue from yesterday:

Today’s example, from Vox, cited at the New Yorker as being (admiringly) mentioned in an (internal) NYT report on disrupters “10 times.”

Headline: “The world is on the brink of a mass extinction. Here’s how to avoid that.”

One of the answers: Use smartphones to take pictures of animals in your travels and upload them to iNaturalist where people will identify them and it will help us understand the scope of biodiversity.

It’s a mediocre interview for clicktainment by Vox and writer Brad Plumer who has twisted out of shape, for eyeballs, a science paper because he is “[on] the apocalypse beat, more or less.”

It was done on the 11th, a short expose on a paper published in Science magazine, one with the much less baiting title: “The biodiversity of species and their rates of extinction, distribution, and protection”

It is here.

Read the abstract. It doesn’t come to at all what the Vox writer and “editors” make it out to be. It is a careful multi-scientist global paper on species extinction and as much as they can conclude about change in biodiversity.


And today, on the menu at Upworthy:

If The Skeptics Won’t Listen To Thousands Of Scientists, Maybe They Should Try A Stand-Up Economist

Lead: “Sometimes it’s all about delivery. You know, like when Comedy Central is your go to source for national politics. So if you’ve sort of had it with graphs and numbers about climate change, you’ll enjoy this irreverent new take on the future of our planet.”

The “curator:” “A writer and an independent scholar, I’m dedicated to an empowered environmental citizenry! I celebrate art, science, and stories about animals, plants, soil, and even microbes.”

It’s true. Scientists generally don’t have the delivery of clickbait and Upworthy’s sincerity trolls.

And “trending” at Medium, the place to share your stories by the guy who invented Twitter:

It’s No Longer A Smartphone, It’s A Smartcamera
The truly disruptive feature of Amazon’s Fire Phone

The author: Partner @GoogleVentures. Columnist @TechCrunch. A man of few words. Except when writing. (With a picture of Hemingway.)

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