Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Virginia Hospital Center did refuse to admit potential Ebola patient

The story about the woman who was sick at a Pentagon parking lot and suspected of being an Ebola victim has almost disappeared down the memory hole. It was all a mix-up. Forget it, Jake. It's Ebolatown.

I had, and still have, questions. Previously I asked, "Why was she not admitted to the Virginia Hospital Center ... and admitted to Fairfax Inova? Did VHC have no vacancies for potential Ebola patients?"

Today we learn, from a site called ARLnow (the ARL stands for Arlington county, I presume):
Virginia Hospital Center refused to admit the potential Ebola patient from the Pentagon on Friday, according to county officials, despite the hospital saying two weeks earlier that it was ready to handle such patients.

Responding to an inquiry from ARLnow.com today, the Arlington County Fire Department confirmed reports that VHC refused the woman — who at the time was thought to potentially have the deadly Ebola virus — when medics brought her to the hospital. She never left the ambulance.
The explanation was also reported on the news at WMAL, Washington's conservative talk radio station.

If VHC was unable to deal effectively with an Ebola case, and Fairfax Inova was, I can't blame VHC for sending her on -- after all, meeting the patient's needs comes first. According to the ARLnow story, though: "Earlier this month ... VHC told TV station WUSA 9 that it was ready to deal with potential Ebola patients."

You also have to factor in that two weeks ago VHC was following the CDC protocols, which seem to have been inadequate in Dallas. Maybe VHC genuinely thought it was prepared earlier, and now believed it wasn't. On the other hand, it would have been a crushing blow to VHC's "business" to have a patient who turned out to have Ebola virus.

The article added:
Arlington County officials also have confirmed that the patient had not traveled to West Africa, as she allegedly first told authorities. In fact, she had not left the country at all, the county said, and had no contact with other potentially infected people.

“She had stated that she had traveled to Sierra Leone at the scene and did exhibit symptoms consistent with Ebola, so responders took all appropriate steps,” said Diana Sun, Arlington County’s Director of Communications. “There was an investigative process that went beyond Arlington. During the course of this, people close to the patient were interviewed and stated that she had not left the country. The patient herself, later in the afternoon, recanted her story and said that she had not left the country. When that last piece came in, public health officials felt confident in not pursuing” further testing for the Ebola virus.
Who investigated the woman's story? Who determined that the case was closed? Why would she claim to have been in Sierra Leone? She was reported to work at a Washington public relations agency, so while she may have been accustomed to being economical with the truth, probably she was not psychotic.

What disturbs me most is the apparent lack of curiosity on the part of the mainstream media. No one, except this independent ARLnow site, seems to have had any interest in following the story further, despite its puzzling aspects.

I'm not recommending we get hysterical over possible Ebola cases. But that's no reason to take them casually, either. If you think you can handle it, look at the photos of Ebola victims at Google Images. Too much for me; I closed the page as soon as I found the photo of the virus at the head of this posting.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pentagonal virus?

I've probably used up all my tokens for describing events as "surrealistic." Yet I can't come up with a better word for the flap over the Ebola virus.

Most recently, this:
Arlington County Fire Department and Fairfax County HAZMAT Teams are on the scene after a woman - alleged to have recently traveled from Liberia - fell ill and started vomiting in The Pentagon parking lot this morning. Arlington Public Health has activated its Emergency Operations Center to manage the incident. ...
"During the response, the individual allegedly indicated that she had recently visited western Africa. Out of an abundance of caution, all pedestrian and vehicular traffic was suspended around the South Parking lot, while Arlington County responded to the scene," Arlington officials said.

The situation started at around 9:10 a.m. when the woman started vomiting in the Pentagon Parking Lot around lanes 17-19, officials said.

Arlington County Fire Department transported the woman to the Virginia Hospital Center, but she did not exit the ambulance there. She was then taken to Fairfax Inova Hospital, officials said.
Why was she not admitted to the Virginia Hospital Center (where my wife and I have both been treated several times) and admitted to Fairfax Inova (my address for two weeks when I had a heart operation)? Did VHC have no vacancies for potential Ebola patients?

Now the Washington Post has awoken and found it was all a dream:
A woman who caused concern near the Pentagon and a four-hour quarantine on a bus in the District does not have Ebola, Arlington and Fairfax County officials confirmed on Friday. ...

At about 5 p.m., the two counties’ health departments said in a statement that she did not have the virus. The hospital said in a statement that she did not meet the criteria to be tested for Ebola.

Two officials with knowledge of the incident said they do not believe the woman has recently traveled out of the United States. Mary Curtis, an Arlington County spokeswoman, said that she does not know why county officials initially believed the patient had been in west Africa, but that the county’s health department no longer believes that to be the case.

Steve Gordon, the woman’s boss at the public relations firm Total Spectrum, said the woman was suffering a severe illness and he does not think she has ever left the country. 
While it may have been a false alarm, the story doesn't quite add up.

According to another news report (I just clicked the link and the story has disappeared): "The Pentagon said in a statement: " 'During the response, the individual indicated that she had recently visited Africa.' " What kind of illness makes one hallucinate having been to Africa? What was the source of the Pentagon's information?

Why did the Arlington County spokeswoman say she had no idea where the idea of the patient's having been in Africa came from? Could she have been unaware of the Pentagon statement? I wouldn't necessarily believe either the Pentagon or a county PR person, but this is an odd case of he-said, she-said. How would Arlington County so quickly determine the patient's recent whereabouts?

This incident came a day or two after the CDC director told a Congressman that "the administration fears a travel ban from affected countries would hurt fragile West African economies." Americans' health and well-being? Eh. President Obola knows his priorities.

If the woman who fell ill at the Pentagon was not a virus carrier, well, we'll just have to import them.
While the bipartisan voice grows to ban Ebola victims from entering the United States, a new report claims that President Obama is considering a plan to bring the world’s Ebola patients to the United States to be treated.

Judicial Watch, the conservative public watchdog group, says in a shocking report that the president is “actively formulating plans” to admit Ebola-infected non-citizens just to be treated. 
“Specifically, the goal of the administration is to bring Ebola patients into the United States for treatment within the first days of diagnosis,” said the group.
Maybe you can chalk this up to another tactic in "our" president's plan for population replacement. Of course, the infectees might fail to cooperate, dying before they can vote Democrat. But surely their spouses, children, aunts, uncles, and grandparents will be welcome. It's only fair.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Metaphysically challenged

The Guardian, the U.K.'s guardian of leftist ideology, ran a story headlined "Do ghosts exist? Four theories on our fascination with apparitions."

The interviewees -- a priest, an Oxford lecturer, a Guardian writer, and a university psychologist -- say no, no, no, and no. Perish the thought that a genuine psychical researcher or two might have been consulted to liven up the discussion. The Left is gung-ho on diversity in everything except opinion.

Samples from each person quoted:
 ... In all cultures and times there is something here that won't go away; some fear that is legitimately being expressed – the continual return of the repressed. And the simple point that ghosts don't exist (obviously they don't, by the way) doesn't cut it. 

While they may be linked to the past, ghosts endure in and are renovated by the cultural imagination of the present.

Who knows what accounts for these apparitions; are they an emanation of longing, love, hope, need?  ... Perhaps we see ghosts because they help us to adjust, a hand reaching out to administer to the sudden, appalling wrench.

Not surprisingly perhaps, fantasy-prone personalities are much more likely to report having encountered a ghost. Our fear of our own mortality plays an important role in belief in ghosts. Most of us desperately want to believe in life after death – and the idea of ghosts, however scary, seems to offer support for such a notion.
It is obvious that these deep thinkers are unfamiliar with the scientific -- scientific -- literature of more than a century of research on the subject. They may be distinguished in their respective fields (what is the field of a Guardian writer? Queer theory?), but this story is equivalent to asking football coaches their views on nuclear power generation.

None of them appears to have the faintest idea that "apparitions" represent more than one type of phenomenon.

Hauntings are not the same as spirit return. The former, which generally consist of continual appearances of a figure at the same place, seem as best we can determine non-physical evidence left in a certain environment, often as the result of a traumatic incident there. These "ghosts" are not conscious (in our normal sense) persons or spirits.

Actual spirits do represent conscious entities on the Other Side who can sometimes communicate, directly or via noncorporeal beings called "controls," with psychically sensitive living individuals (mediums). No medium I have ever heard of calls them or thinks or them as "ghosts."

The reader comments are even more revealing of the current state of life in neo-Marxist cultures like Britain. Item:
What you have to realise is that ghosts are actually feminists fundamentally opposed to the rigid patriarchical boundaries created by men. Only in death do they see the light, and only in women do they seek solace and an escape from their past.

Either that, or all ghosts are the spirits of male university students still trying to inappropriately grope unavailable women, before returning to their spectral frat-house to chug ghost beer and sing ghost songs.
Of course ghosts exist. The Easter Bunny told me so himself.
And that's not all. Many of the comments take their erasers not only to "ghosts," but to God.
The evidence for the existence of ghosts is slim, however, the evidence of the existence of god is even slimmer.

The psychological explanation for why people believe in ghosts is no different from religion: some people are not prepared to accept that this life is all there is. That warrants compassion but not congratulations on their "wisdom".
The exciting news is that wilfully embracing a life free from the oppressive shadow of God the Father is wonderfully liberating.
My impression is that the U.K., living under CultMarx, is only the most obvious example of European countries where the majority of people have no spiritual beliefs. Centuries-old churches are converted into dance clubs or mosques. I still find it a little shocking. There has been nothing like this before in all history that I know of.

Sure, you can point to batty "religions" among primitive tribes (although I'll concede that shamans and such have sometimes been in touch with higher realms). The first two great Western civilizations, Greece and Rome, had a cast of Gods that may seem to us today like a cross between creative fantasy and soap opera. (Individual skeptics like Lucretius, Seneca, and Cicero were outliers). Christianity has been perverted at times into persecution of dissenters and sickening religious wars.

But a whole culture based purely on materialism and things that can be measured in the physical world?

That cannot prevail, leaving out as it does the dimensions of Truth that lie behind our limited and relative truths. What it will do to people's minds in the meantime, though, sends a chill wind through this world.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Hear, hear

I don't at the moment have anything interesting to say about Ebola, Obama the Failed Messiah, the Islamic State, Boko Haram, or Mexican drug gangs.  Those sorts of things tend to bring me down. On to pleasanter matters.

We speak now of sacred mysteries: namely, the magic of cost-effective treatments that make recorded sound more lifelike. Some are a royal road to sonic improvement.

Audiophiles, God bless 'em, will spend astonishing amounts of money on equipment upgrades. No criticism. If I had the kind of dough to buy $30,000 speaker sets, $10,000 preamps, $15,000 power amps, $8,000 DACs, etc., I might. Still, as the poet said, "I, being poor, have only my dreams."

Fortunately, we plebs can still magnify our listening pleasure with relatively inexpensive tweaks.

To get to the point, it is a product called Ultrabit Platinum-Plus (UBP-P). Its slogan is, "Hear the music, not just notes." For once, truth in advertising.

The photo shows what you get: a bottle of fluid, two microfiber pads and two microfiber cloths, and a handle that grips the pads. The lime green color of the pads and cloths shown here must be a previous model or Photoshopped; those that I received are yellow. This is not a step forward. Yellow should be, if not outright banned from the world, at least subject to strict licensing. Green, blue, almost anything except brown would be aesthetically far more pleasing.

Application of UBP-P is easy-peasy. One squirt onto the disc playing surface. A few swipes of the pad or cloth and the fluid seems to evaporate -- it's fun to watch it disappear -- but leaves a residue that somehow enhances the sound of the recording. The manufacturer says it works equally well on CDs or analog vinyl records. I'm a CD loyalist, unfollowing the fad, er, excuse me, the current taste among the cool heads for black discs, so I can only testify about UBP-P's canonization of silver discs.

I sympathize with the equipment reviewers for audiophile magazines who must continually struggle to find new ways of describing the sonic qualities of high-end components that cost a kidney. They fall into esoteric language that I often fail to understand: "The hue, attack, and extension of each note must be allowed to develop completely but not excessively," etc. Perhaps my listening ability has not developed completely. Or maybe it's excessive.

Anyway, trying to explain what treatment with UBP-P does is something of an exercise in frustration. The word I use constantly for the quality of an exceptionally good recording (whether tweaked or not) is simply, "presence." The music is in your listening space, lifelike. No doubt there are more sophisticated, scientific, or literary ways of putting it, but for me that's basically what it comes down to.

I've dosed about a hundred CDs with this product, and in about 90 cases I noticed more presence, often a lot more. Subjective? Sure, you can do all sorts of analytical lab work on a recording, but listening is nothing but subjective. Placebo effect? Maybe with a handful of discs, but I just can't write off the increased realism I perceive again and again.

Mind you, this tweak -- like equipment upgrades -- can't make bad recordings sound good. But for any CD recorded with decent microphone placement and mixing, the reward is palpable. And I don't think you have to have a state-of-the-art sound system to appreciate it (mine is satisfying, but hardly high-end). I am sometimes surprised at how striking a CD sounds in my car, which has a player and speakers courtesy of the original equipment manufacturer, and then I remember I gave that disc a squirt and wipe of UBP-P.

UBP-P appears to be the invention of George S. Lewis, who markets the stuff. For you suspicious minds, I do not know Mr. Lewis from Adam and vice versa, and I paid for the kit. Anyway, I take my hat off to him, or would if I liked wearing hats.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Your trash is Seattle's cash

What's that rotten smell in the police evidence room?

Parents used to encourage their kids to eat all the food on their plate by guilt-tripping: "Dear, think of all the starving people in China who'd be glad to have that food you're wasting." That was then. This is now: "Hey, guy, suck it up. You want to get me fined?"

Seattle's city council has passed, by a 9 to 0 vote, a new law/regulation/threat/whatever the bloody hell that establishes monetary penalties for anyone who bins "food waste and compostable paper."
After receiving two warnings, residents and businesses will be fined $50 for dumpsters and a more modest $1 for waste at single-family homes. Previously, the utilities commission left residents and businesses a note that asked them to compost. If they did not comply, the city refused to collect the garbage.
And, no doubt, after refusing to collect the garbage the citizen had paid taxes for, they charged the malefactor with creating a public nuisance. 

How will the city enforce this bid to Save the Planet? I have a mental picture of two uniforms in a police cruiser. "At your nine o'clock, that mook next to the wheelie bin! Light him up, sergeant!"

Squeal of tires. Sound of doors opening and slamming. The cops stand in the approved position for dealing with perps, one in front of him and one behind.

"Hands on your head, mister, move away from the trash container slowly. Now down on your knees."

The sergeant takes photographs of the crime scene, then reaches into the cruiser's trunk for a 32-gallon plastic evidence bag.

I'm something of a recycling denier, because I think it's mainly just a feel-good gesture that bypasses having to deal with the basic cause of environmental tooth decay, namely, population growth. But for the purpose of discussion, let's say that the Green Giant to whom we now pray smiles benignly on the noble effort to stamp out surplus waste.

Earlier generations who appealed to their children's consciences in aid of convincing them to clean their plates may have sounded like prigs, but at least their kids might have learned something about being thinking, feeling beings. Doing right was supposed to be internalized, a matter of free will and choice.

Elected officials and the legions of bureaucrats nourished on the public fisc can't be bothered with appeals to individual goodwill these days. You got a problem? Pass a law.

Even in Seattle, many, perhaps most of the planet saving hive dwellers will ignore the diktat. They come home from the Boeing factory at 9 p.m., pour themselves a beer, and relax by filling in a compost heap? So it's a law that common sense tells you will be unequally applied: some will get away with it, some will be lighter by a dollar or $50 per offense. One more sign that our municipal overseers look on their constituents as no more than chickens to be plucked.

It would be hard to find a better example of what the late Sam Francis called "anarcho-tyranny." Meaning, the more the protected classes (sacred races, immigrants, sexual specialists, etc.) are free to act out, the more the authorities turn to clamping down on people who respect the law.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The funny side of invasion

This post has nothing to do with current world turmoil, except perhaps it says something about human nature. It takes us back to 1940.

Peter Fleming tells the story of the anticipated invasion of Britain with solid research, style and, where appropriate, wit in Operation Sea Lion, first published in 1957 and still available in various editions. Fleming (1907-1971), a widely traveled adventurer and writer, saw the war from the sharp end in Norway, Greece, and Burma. He was the brother of James Bond's creator Ian Fleming and was married to the actress Celia Johnson, best remembered for her role in Brief Encounter.

As Fleming tells it, Adolf Hitler dithered over whether to order an invasion of the U.K. With the German army having rolled up all northern Europe, including recently France, Hitler couldn't understand why the British government didn't just accept German victory as a fait accompli and acknowledge it in return for signing a peace treaty. (This was before the German military forces smashing through the Russian frontier showed what Hitler's peace treaties were worth.)

The invasion plans were originally drawn up in a document called Directive no. 16. Much of it was ill-considered. Fleming says:
Paragraph 1 postulated "a surprise crossing on a broad front extending approximately from Ramsgate to a point west of the Isle of Wight." Long before the Sea Lion plans reached their final version all hopes of surprise (save in the pettiest sense of the word) had been abandoned, and a narrow front had perforce been substituted for a broad one.

This paragraph also required each of the fighting services to "consider the advantages ... of preliminary operations such as the occupation of the Isle of Wight or the Duchy of Cornwall before the full-scale invasion". No more was heard of this project which, if adopted, would hardly have improved the prospects for a "surprise crossing".
The OKW (German General Staff) estimated the invasion plan would require 15 to 40 divisions.
In the event, ... this figure was reduced to 13. Obligatory though it was, this huge reduction lends an air of whimsy to the whole project; you cannot decide on the size of an army by the empirical methods with which you guess the weight of a cheese at a fair. During August and September the Germans over-estimated the strength of British forces in the United Kingdom by roughly 8 divisions, and they realised that their equipment and training were improving every day. It is impossible to see realism, logic or even common sense in the two incompatible theses that (a) 40 divisions were needed to conquer the island in mid-August and (b) 13 would suffice to do the trick a month later. This is strategy only in the sense that Procrustes was a surgeon.
Across the Channel, Britain had its own oddball preparations for the invasion. Most of the population, while following orders that would supposedly supplement the country's defense, had a hard time taking the idea aboard. The island had not been successfully invaded militarily since 1066, and there was a sort of unconscious expectation that 30 miles of water would see off anyone foolish enough to try.

But of course the technology of war, especially air power, had developed vastly in recent years -- a fact that was widely recognized in a nightmare of Germans dropping in for tea via parachutes. Paratroopers had been used earlier in the war in Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France. But they are effective only as advance units closely followed by land forces. Unless an actual coastal attack was under way, it would have made no sense for the Germans to undertake an air drop of soldiers.

That did not stop the idea from turning into a near-panic in the U.K. about things that go bump in the night.
The Times had published a selection from "a large number" of letters to the Editor urging the nation-wide enrolment and arming of volunteers to deal with airborne incursions; and that evening (14 May) the mustering of the Local Defence Volunteers was announced in a War Office statement and a broadcast by Anthony Eden. On 16 May a general warning against parachutists was included in the BBC's news bulletins, and on the following day guards were posted outside Broadcasting House and most of the Ministries in Whitehall.
The Air Ministry sent an urgent message to the Admiralty, War Office and Ministry of Home Security: "Information from Norway shows that German parachute troops, when descending, hold their arms above their heads as if surrendering. The parachutist, however, holds a grenade in each hand. These are thrown at anyone attempting to obstruct the landing."

Fleming comments:
That this message was, not to put too fine a point on it, nonsense would have been instantly apparent to anybody with a rudimentary knowledge of airborne operations. While in the air parachutists always "hold their hands above their heads as if surrendering", since they have to cling to the cords of their parachute in order to preserve equilibrium and a measure of control. When they land, they hit the ground with considerable violence and normally roll over several times before coming to rest. Even the most fanatical Fallschirmjäger would hardly carry in one, let alone in both of his hands a live grenade on the chance that he might find somebody waiting to "obstruct" his landing; if he did there would be no point in obstructing it.
A second Great Fear was of a so-called Fifth Column, a kind of invisible army of traitors masquerading as ordinary Britons. As one Labour politician put it, "There are [today] tendencies, conspiracies and movements totally unknown in the case of previous encounters between countries."
On 22 May a measure known as the Treachery Bill was rushed through Parliament. It superseded the Treason Acts, which since the fourteenth century had been found adequate to deal with this danger to the community. Besides blocking a legal loophole affecting non-resident aliens, the new Act curtailed and simplified the elaborate and ceremonious procedure prescribed for the trial of a suspected traitor. ...

The phrase "the Fifth Column" sanction a new and more pervasive concept of the dangers to be feared from the traitor or the secret agent. It directed vigilance not to suspicious characters, but to those not outwardly suspicious.
It was true, Fleming says, that many thousands of refugees from Nazi-conquered countries had been arriving in Britain and given asylum, and it was not impossible that some represented a German Trojan Horse. But there was no way to check their bona fides in most cases.

The mind-set the situation created led to a peculiar state of conflicting values. The British traditionally had a high regard for privacy and considerable tolerance for eccentricity. So to be on guard against a Fifth Column went against the grain. Fleming says, "When they start looking at their neighbours with curious or suspicious eyes they are apt to find much that is unaccountable in their habits and behaviour. A chance remark, an unexplained absence, a visitor arriving after dark, an unusual hobby, the wearing of dark glasses or a beard -- for a brief period clues such as these led many well-intentioned folk down many blind alleys."

While it seems nuts for an enemy secret agent to arouse suspicion by, for instance, wearing dark glasses in Britain's gray and rainy climate or a beard, the notion of disguise both by troops and Fifth Columnists spread.
A completely baseless legend that in Holland German parachute troops had descended from the skies tricked out as nuns had caught the world's fancy and in Britain was proving a godsend to humorists and comedians; it was supplemented by stories of Germans dressed as French staff officers misdirecting British troops. ...

"Most of you", an official pamphlet told the populace in mid-June, "know your policemen and your ARP [Air Raid Precautions] wardens by sight. If you keep your heads you can also tell whether a military officer is really British or is only pretending to be so." Wisely, though perhaps not deliberately, the pamphlet ignored the presence in the United Kingdom of considerable numbers of Polish, French, Norwegian, Dutch, Belgian, Danish and Czechoslovakian officers, all by this time wearing British uniforms; there were enough of these, as someone mildly pointed out in a letter to The Times, "to confuse people considerably". 

To make it hard for parachutist invaders to figure out where they were, street name and direction signs were removed. This often also left true British subjects lost when out of their familiar surroundings. 
What should a citizen do if a motorist asked him the way? The short answer was that the motorist should be requested to produce his identity card. But since everyone had been warned never, in any circumstances, to show his identity card to persons not authorised to see it, this solution got neither the benighted traveller nor the would-be Good Samaritan out of their dilemma.
War is hell and no laughing matter, but sometimes offers glimpses of the human comedy.