Saturday, May 2, 2009

Prayer Study- Part 2

Last week we started the study of Richard Foster's book, "Prayer-Finding the Hearts True Home." I posted the notes I took on the first Chapter and Intro here.

The book examines a number of different types pf prayer. Last week we looked at "Simple Prayer." This week we look at "Prayer of the Forsaken ."

Chapter 2

Prayer of the Forsaken

To come to the pleasure you have not you must go by a way in which you enjoy not. –St John of the Cross

My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matt 27:46b)

Times of seeming desertion and absence and abandonment appear to be universal among those who have walked this path of faith before us.
Sooner or later we will know what it is like to feel forsaken by God.

Sometimes it seems that God is hidden from us, like “we are beating on Heaven’s door with bruised knuckles in the dark.” (George Buttrick)

When we speak of the absence of God we do not speak of actual absence but rather a sense of absence. God is with us always but at times he withdraws from our consciousness of his presence.

We question, we doubt, we struggle. We feel abandoned by friends, spouse and God. We pray and the words echo in a hollow shell, we turn to the bible and the words swim before us. Music fails to inspire and we find Christian fellowship is filled with egoism, backbiting and selfishness.

The biblical metaphor is the desert; dry, barren parched. “I call all day, my God and you never answer.” Ps 22:2)

What good can we find in these times?

Encouragement –
Many have come this way before us: Moses, Psalmist, Elijah, Jeremiah lowered into the well, Mary alone on Golgotha. “My God, why…why…why?”
Saint John of the Cross- named it the dark night of the soul. An anonymous
English writer described it as “the cloud of unknowing”. Jean-Pierre de Caussade
“the dark night of faith.” George Fox, “When it was day I wished for night and
when it was night I wished for day.” (P.18-19)

We are in good company.

It does not mean that God is displeased with you or that you have committed some offense against God or there is something wrong with you. (note:unconfessed sin can indeed block us off from God)
Darkness is a definite experience of prayer. It should be expected, even embraced.

Every experience is unique to the individual. It does not occur on any timetable but God’s. We may enter these dark canyons and barren places at any number of points on our journey. We do not move from set stage to set stage . If we did we would not be in a living relationship but rather in a mechanical one.

In prayer we are entering into a living relationship that begins and develops in mutual freedom. God gives us freedom because he seeks creatures who freely seek his love and relationship. We must learn to give God the same freedom. Though unlike us He will never abandon.

a. If we could make God appear at our beck and call we would not be worshipping the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. We would be worshipping an object, an idol.

Like Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, God is wild and free and comes at will. By refusing to be a puppet on our string or a genie in our bottle God is freeing us from our false idolatrous images.

b. Besides we might not be able to endure such a command performance. e.g. Exod 20:39 “Do not let God speak to us or we will die.”


Have you been there? The death of a spouse or child, a crisis in marriage or vocation or a failure in business. Or just a simple slipping away from the warm glow of intimate communion.

St John of the Cross says two purifications occur during the dark night of the soul.

1. Stripping us of dependence on external results.
a. Less impressed with the religion of the “big deal”- buildings, productions, budgets, miracles. Neither praise or adulation (kind and gracious remarks) Though nothing is wrong with them THEY are no longer what impresses. Or moves us.
b. Likewise liturgical practices, sacramental symbols, prayer aids, books on self fulfillment, private devotional exercises. Though nothing is wrong with them THEY are no longer what fascinate us.
c. We become less in control of our destiny e.g. Peter in John 21:18-19. The realization that I can not conquer God , but God will conquer me.

2. Stripping us of dependence on internal results.
a. Most disturbing and painful for we we begin to wonder, not if we believe in God but what kind of God we believe in. Faith hope and love become subject to doubt. Our own motivations become suspect. P 22 (e.g. is prayer a psychological trick, does the universe have meaning, does God really love me)
b. God is producing detachment, humility, patience, perseverance.

Our thirst can lead to the habit of prayer. It can also lead us to give up


What to do during the desert times

Prayer of Complaint- Praying the Lament Psalms. They teach us to pray our inner conflicts and contradictions. They give us permission to shake our fist at God in one moment and praise him the next.

Short Darts of Longing Prayer bet upon the cloud of unknowing “with a short dart of longing love.
We may not see the end from the beginning, but we can keep on doing what we know to do: pray, listen, worship, carry out the duty of the moment.

What we learned to do in the light we do in the dark. Constant, longing, love produces a firmness of life orientation. We love God more than the gifts God brings. Like Job, we serve God even if he slays us. (see also Mary Luke 1:38)

How to Wait

Trust precedes faith.
Trust in the character of God.
“I do not understand what God is doing or even where God is, but I know that he is out there to do me good.” That is trust. That is how to wait.

“O my god, deep calls unto deep (Ps 42:7). The deep of my profound misery calls to the deep of your infinite mercy.”- Bernard of Clairvaux

Prayer-
God, Where re You!? What have I done to make you hide from me? Are you playing cat and mouse with me, or are your purposes larger than my perceptions? I feel alone, lost, forsaken.

Your are not the God who majors in revealing yourself. You showed yourself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When Moses asked to know what you looked liked you obliged him. Why them and not me?

I am tired of praying. I am tired of asking. I am tired of waiting. But I will keep on praying and asking and waiting because I have nowhere else to go.

Jesus, you too, knew the loneliness of the desert and the isolation of the cross. And it is through your forsaken prayer that I speak these words- amen



An Eyeful and Self-Control

Chewy, Chewy, Chewy. You've been spending too much time away from home.

My fellow poster at this blog has posted an attention grabbing article (see below). At first I thought someone had hacked the site and was posting unapproved. And I did consider deleting the picture itself but I figured in the name of scientific inquiry....

But seriously it started me thinking on a couple of thoughts that had begun churning about since the post "Naked Celebrities and the The Porn Myth."

The Porn Myth- by Naomi Wolf is a really good article about one of the many dangers of porn, namely that it turns men off the real thing. One of the many other dangers is that it creates an unnatural appetite or rather exaggerates the already high sex drive of most men to unnatural proportions. Both of which would make excellent posts but not ones which I'll focus on now.

The Porn Myth article rightly points out how the hper sexualization of society has caused a whole generation of women to feel they have to compete with porn.

Here is what young women tell me on college campuses when the subject comes up: They can’t compete, and they know it. For how can a real woman—with pores and her own breasts and even sexual needs of her own ...!”)—possibly compete with a cybervision of perfection, downloadable and extinguishable at will, who comes, so to speak, utterly submissive and tailored to the consumer’s least specification? (The Porn Myth)

Look at the picture (in the interest of health and science of course) posted by Chewy as a (relatively speaking) mild example.

But the article also raises the question, at least indirectly, of how radical feminism has created part of the problem. Namely, in the rush for equality of pay, we have gone to a point of equality-period. Meaning, the wrong headed idea that men and women are the same. They are not, of course and the differences go far beyond biology. But one of the results of this philosophy is that women have become more like men. They drink more, smoke more, consume more pornography, fight more and are ending up in prison in greater numbers than ever before.

The study quoted by Chewy (though a 200 hundred sample study hardly qualifies as a study- hmm-could this be something else?) brings up another issue. Namely, self-control. A lost concept that has gone the way of the Cornish language, nearly extinct. If a study such as the one quoted is accurate (or real) does it make it a proper course of action for a Christian?

The "manly-action of self-control"--teach that as a concept today, somewhere, anywhere. That is, teach young boys who are growing into manhood that becoming a man means learning to control oneself and the passions, that that is a manly thing to learn. Our society teaches the opposite: express your passions and indulge your lusts, just as soon as you can feel them.

When self-control isn't nurtured by the sort of parental discipline that it takes to help little boys behave, then self-control is killed in infancy, so to speak, and the child, despite growing biologically, will remain an adolescent, children in adult male bodies, able to "have sex" but unable to truly father and raise children. (merecomments)

And it creates a vicious circle as men raised without such discipline then raise young men who have no idea what ideals to aspire to. Education used to be a place where such virtues were evidenced in literature and the like, but not today.

In his notes and exposition on Proverbs 5 in Daily Reflections (February 24) Patrick Henry Reardon says this:

...the godly and productive life of a man normally requires the proper governance of his home. It is the teaching of Holy Scripture, however, that a man cannot govern his home unless he can govern himself. Self-control and discipline, therefore, are among the primary requisites of a good husband and father, and these are qualities to be developed from an early age. Consequently the Book of Proverbs is emphatic on the prohibition of sexual activity outside of marriage. Sex outside of marriage is also outside of God’s will.
A man’s marriage, in fact, can be damaged long before the marriage takes place. Sex before marriage often involves exploitation and disrespect, and it always involves irresponsibility, selfishness, and rebellion. These are bad habits to learn, not qualities in a man that will make him a good husband and father.


Amen

An eyeful a day keeps the doctor away


Duh...they just figure this out. I have a family history of high blood pressure and cholesterol, yet my heart rate is low, my blood pressure is low, cholesterol low (drives my mother-in-law crazy because of my atrocious diet). Now I have the reason why!


Staring at a women's breast is good for men's health and makes them live longer, a new survey reveals.


Researchers have discovered that a 10-minute ogle at a women's breast is as healthy as a half-an-hour in the gym.


A five-year study of 200 men found that those who enjoyed a longer look at busty beauties had lower blood pressure, less heart disease and slower pulse rates compared to those who did not get their daily eyeful.


Dr Karen Weatherby, who carried out the German study, wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine: "Just 10 miutes of staring at the charms of a well endowed female is roughly equivalent to a 30-miute aerobics workout.


So men, get out of the gym and out on the street, forget about those workouts!! Just remember to be cautious when bird watching....

Friday, May 1, 2009

To Demonize and Criminalize Thought

Fair warning from Townhall:

...Lovers of free speech and free exercise of religion should awaken to the relentless effort of radical homosexual activists to validate their lifestyle by demonizing, criminalizing and silencing those who disagree with them. ...


... the House Judiciary Committee has already approved Barney Frank's bill, H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The full House is expected to vote on the bill April 29, and various liberal groups, from gay activists to liberal religious organizations, are engaged in a full-court press to get this bill passed. ...

...I think the main purpose of this bill is to demonize and criminalize thought, especially the politically incorrect belief that homosexual behavior is either abnormal or sinful. It is to make an emphatic societal statement that this belief constitutes "hate" and possibly to lay the groundwork for outlawing speech expressing this belief, including from the pulpit.

I hardly think I'm being hysterical here. The practice of criminalizing peaceful expression of this belief has already occurred in other nations -- including Sweden, Canada and Great Britain -- and even in our own Philadelphia.

New York City authorities ordered the removal of billboards -- citing an anti-harassment ordinance -- that displayed various biblical versions of Leviticus 18:22, such as the New International Version's rendering, "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari reportedly publicly condemned the language in the displayed verse as "mean-spirited" and "hate speech."

Irrespective of your opinion on homosexual behavior, it is a distortion of the English language to say that it is hateful to believe it is somehow abnormal or even sinful. One can disapprove of behavior without hating those engaging in it; indeed, the Bible exhorts Christians to love, not hate. One can oppose hate crime legislation or same-sex marriage without being a homophobe -- another distortion of the language to paint the opposition as irrationally and immorally fearful of homosexuals. ... (more)

"A Bit of A Surprise"- That tax refund may not be yours after all

Pretty sly. Obama gives and then has the IRS take it back...

From the AP

Millions of Americans enjoying their small windfall from President Barack Obama's "Making Work Pay" tax credit are in for an unpleasant surprise next spring.
The government is going to want some of that money back.


The tax credit is supposed to provide up to $400 to individuals and $800 to married couples as part of the massive economic recovery package enacted in February. Most workers started receiving the credit through small increases in their paychecks in the past month.
But new tax withholding tables issued by the IRS could cause millions of taxpayers to get hundreds of dollars more than they are entitled to under the credit, money that will have to be repaid at tax time.


At-risk taxpayers include a broad swath of the public: married couples in which both spouses work; workers with more than one job; retirees who have federal income taxes withheld from their pension payments and Social Security recipients with jobs that provide taxable income.

The Internal Revenue Service acknowledges problems with the withholding tables but has done little to warn average taxpayers.

"They need to get the Goodyear blimp out there on this," said Tom Ochsenschlager, vice president of taxation for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

For many, the new tax tables will simply mean smaller-than-expected tax refunds next year, IRS spokesman Terry Lemons said. The average refund was nearly $2,700 this year.

But taxpayers who calculate their withholding so they get only small refunds could face an unwelcome tax bill next April, said Jackie Perlman, an analyst with the Tax Institute at H&R Block.

"They are going to get a surprise," she said. (more)

Christian teacher suspended after complaint about training time to promote homosexuality as normative

Let the indoctrination camps begin.

From Secular Heretic:

Kwabena Peat, 54, was one of several teachers that walked out of his school's compulsory training day in January, at which Sue Sanders, a prominent UK homosexualist activist, suggested that those who do not accept homosexuality as normal have 'issues' that need to be addressed.During the presentation Sanders started promoting homosexual lifestyles and suggested that those who had objections should sort out their prejudices.Mr. Peat wrote to the three staff members who organized the session at Park View Academy complaining about Sanders' "aggressive" presentation. Peat was suspended with pay pending outcome of disciplinary investigations after the staff members complained that, although they were senior to him, they felt "harassed and intimidated" by his complaint. (more)

Contact your representative now re H.R. 1913

H/T Bioethike
From Dr. Robert Gagnon:

Dear friends who live in the United States,
(Please feel free to circulate this correspondence widely and rapidly)
This is a matter of great urgency. Please take a moment to contact your representative in the U.S. House of Representatives and express your opposition to the homosexual “hate crimes” bill (H.R. 1913) that will likely be voted on sometime tomorrow (Wednesday). Call 202-225-3121 or 202-224-3121 or contact your representatives through http://www.congress.org/.

Support for a “hate” bill that enshrines “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” into federal law (note that it is not yet so enshrined) does not mean merely that you oppose hateful, violent acts against persons who self-identify as homosexuals, transsexuals, and cross-dressers. Laws are already in place protecting persons who identify as homosexual or transgendered. They are the same laws that protect all of us from violent physical or verbal attacks.

Support for such a bill means, in effect, that you are in favor of the federal government taking an official, legal stance that opposition to homosexual practice and transgenderism of any sort is hatred and bigotry akin to virulent racism and liable to state prosecution. Any statement against such homosexual practice or transgenderism could be prosecuted as an “incitement” or “inducement” of others to violence, no matter how loving and rationale that expression of opposition may be.

A “sexual orientation hate” crime bill does virtually all its damage in establishing “sexual orientation” as a category of being that is worth the federal government’s vigorous special protection. A person who has a problem with the behavior arising from homosexual “orientation” will be legally established as a “bigot,” even if he or she does not commit a violent crime. That status becomes codified in law. Your opposition to homosexual practice, no matter how loving and rationale, puts you in the category of a virulent racist who regards African Americans as morally inferior beings.

In establishing an official “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” protection category, “sexual orientation” hate laws make inevitable, so-called “employment nondiscrimination acts” for “sexual orientation” that turn out to be “employment discrimination acts” against people in the workplace who do not want to support a homosexualist agenda. Together they make inevitable the passage of legislation that mandates acceptance of “gay marriage.” It is not possible to be for a “sexual orientation thought-crime” bill and not also be for the enforcement of “gay marriage” because the former leads inevitably to the latter. That is how the courts in Massachusetts and, recently Iowa, operated. They moved from “sexual orientation” laws in “hate crime” and “employment” to treating as intrinsically discriminatory any opposition to “gay marriage.”

Look at how far things have already gone in Canada. Among those recently fined thousands of dollars are: Father Alphonse de Valk and Catholic Insight Magazine for speaking against homosexual behavior; Bill Whatcott, a Catholic activist, for producing pamphlets that called homosexual practice immoral (Whatcott was also “banned for life” from criticizing homosexuality); Stephen Boisson, a pastor, for a letter to a newspaper denouncing homosexual practice as immoral (also ordered to desist from expressing his views on homosexual practice in any public forum).

Can’t happen in the United States? Even though some high court justices have already made appeals to precedents in foreign law to support the homosexualist agenda here? Tell that to the freelance female photographer who on the grounds that it violated her Christian belief declined to photograph a lesbian wedding and, as a result, was ordered by the New Mexico Human Rights Commission to pay over $6000 to the lesbian couple.

This past year an African-American woman Crystal Dixon was removed from her position as associate vice president for human resources at the University of Toledo simply because she wrote an editorial in a newspaper saying that homosexual behavior should not be compared to being black.

Rolf Szabo, Richard Peterson, Kenneth Gee, Annie Coffey-Montes, and Albert Buonanno were all fired from their corporate or government jobs in the United States for not wanting to “celebrate” at their work station “sexual orientation” diversity.

A Christian ministry in New Jersey has been subject to state investigation for refusing to allow a lesbian civil union ceremony to be conducted on its property.

In California affirmation of homosexual practice is now mandatory for public schools from the earliest grades on up; teachers who refuse to go along are subject to termination.

Need more examples of this juggernaut of intolerance? Go to my online postings at http://www.robgagnon.net/AlleghenyCountyHomosexualBill.htm or http://www.robgagnon.net/ObamaWarOnChristians.htm.

I commend to you also an analysis by law professor Shawn Akers posted at http://americansfortruth.com/news/analysis-of-2009-hate-crimes-bill-hr-1913.html.

As Akers notes,
“This bill will certainly be construed in light of existing federal law including specifically United States Code Title 18, Section 2, that says that : “Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.” (emphasis added). This is the feared immediate nexus between the speech of a pastor or radio commentator and the actions of a deranged parishioner or listener. Proponents of the bill argue that it clearly, under its own language, applies only to acts of violence. This argument is misleading and na├»ve in that it implies that criminal liability would be available only for the person physically committing the violent act, while ignoring completely the likelihood that courts, especially ideologically driven, activist courts, will impose criminal liability on those deemed complicit in the violent act whether or not they physically contributed to the act….

“In other words, because penalties already exist for those who commit criminal acts, HR 1913 serves only to punish individuals for the beliefs, opinions, or convictions held at the time an act is committed. As such, HR 1913 does not punish criminal intent, but criminalizes thought….

“Tellingly, in the April 23, 2009 Judiciary Committee hearings on HR 1913, Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) said unequivocally that “We need to protect victims against hateful words, hateful acts and even violent acts.”

Please contact your representative in Congress now.
Thank you,
Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D.Author of : The Bible and Homosexual Practice : Texts and Hermeneutics (Abingdon Press).

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The 100-Day Assault on America

From Townhall:

...Did the President, after campaigning against pork and earmarks, really sign bills that include both? Yes. Will the President's new budget really triple and quadruple the annual deficit? Yes. Will the President's budget really double the national debt within a few years and then increase still more beyond that? Yes. Do the President and members of Congress, many of whom never operated so much as a T-shirt concession booth, really believe that they can "modernize" health care, thus "saving" taxpayers buckets of money? Yes.
America traditionally represents the greatest possibility of someone's going from nothing to something. Why? In theory, if not practice, the government stays out of the way and lets individuals take risks and reap rewards or accept the consequences of failure. We call this capitalism -- or, at least, we used to. ...(full article here)

Fairness Doctrine 'unconstitutional'

From WND some possible good news on attempts to stifle free speech:

For the first time, a U.S. Supreme Court justice is offering some legal insight about the so-called Fairness Doctrine, suggesting the off-the-books policy could be declared unconstitutional if it's revived and brought before the bench. (more)

A social cytokine storm?

Catchy headline, eh? I've posted my opinion on the flu in earlier posts. And I still feel that way, namely, its not time for panic but we should stay informed on the matter and be aware of any change in lethality or if it reappears in wore way in the Fall. And this article talks a bit about the overreacting part:

A cytokine storm is a gross overreaction by the immune system to a perceived infection...something like dropping an H-bomb on a suspected burglar in your back yard. The result is to kill, or needlessly harm, the patient.

We may be inflicting something like that on ourselves. Via the New York Times: Fort Worth Closes Schools as Number of Swine Flu Cases Rises in U.S.
Taking extreme precautions to stop the fast-spreading swine flu, Fort Worth became the nation’s first major city school district to close on Thursday, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 114 cases in 12 states, up from 91 cases in 10 states on Wednesday. ...

... About 80,000 students are expected to be kept out of their classrooms through May 11 in that city, adding to the 53,000 pupils already out of school in Texas, where 26 people have been confirmed with cases of the swine flu. (more)

And in related news from UK Reuters:

White House issues advisory after Obama Mexico trip
(Politico) -- The White House is issuing a health advisory outlining "protective measures" for anyone who traveled on President Barack Obama's trip to Mexico, after a member of the U.S. delegation came down with flu-like symptoms - and tests on his family showed they're probably infected with the swine flu.
The individual - an advance security staffer for Energy Secretary Steven Chu -appears to have spread the flu to his wife, son and nephew. All three have tested probable for swine flu, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said
.(more)

Unless You Become As Little Children

Yesterday you may have read the quote I included on abortion from from German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer which said in part:

Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question of whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of its life. And that is nothing but murder."
Shared Manhattans explained how they handle this in South Carolina Wednesday Sunday School. I love it!:
...OK, who has seen the sea turtle nests with the fences around them and the signs? Bunch of hands go up again. ...
...Easy question: if I were to catch and eat fish or crabs at the beach, is that OK? That's OK, we go crabbing, it's ok to eat them. And we eat the fish that we catch.
How about if I caught a sea turtle, could I eat it? NO! That's against the law!
Yes, because sea turtles are protected. There aren't many of them, so to kill even one would be bad.

But here's tonight's trick question: I know it's illegal to kill a sea turtle, but why are the nests protected? (I am playing stupid here) Because we have to protect the turtles!

(More stupid) Yes, but there are no turtles in the nest. But there are eggs in the nest!
C'mon, turtle eggs aren't turtles.....don't y'all know that? It's pretty obvious to me. Yes but there's a baby turtle in the egg, Stratopops! (How dense can I be?)

Well, maybe when they're about to hatch, but at first the eggs are just full of goop, like chicken eggs. Could I make myself some scrambled turtle eggs if I made sure they had just been laid, and I couldn't see even a tiny turtle in them? If the cops came, I'd just say, well, there weren't any turtles in the eggs yet. No, it's still going to be a turtle, you can't ever eat it.

Yeah, but look: not all the eggs hatch, and not all the hatchlings get into the sea, not all of those that do live very long, sometimes just a few minutes. Considering how few eggs actually become independent turtles in the sea, can't we say the eggs are just potential turtles, and can I eat them? No, it's still the same as killing a turtle, even if all the eggs wouldn't make turtles anyway. (read the rest here)
You see where this is going. It's common sense. Why, even a child knows it.

Time to Stand Up

Excellent post over at Bedlam and Parnassus:

If same-sex "marriage" takes hold of Rhode Island, it will be because of the "abysmal apathy" of Catholics who did not stand up for true marriage, says Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence.

Each Christian must stand up each time he sees an instance of that which is a lie or a proclamation of evil. For this reason, I note the following lies and evil statements from an article on soon-to-be-compulsory sodomite education in England. Fortunately, for the moment, Christian schools and families will have the choice to opt out of such teaching.

Terry Sanderson, head of the National Secular Society, called it "unfortunate" that the government is not forcing faith schools to teach the normalisation of homosexuality.

Unfortunate that the government is not forcing its citizens to do something? How heavy-handed would Mr. Sanderson like his government? (more)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Mexican Flu and the Weather

Many of you know that I am a weather forecaster in the Air Force. I do this primarily for the Army as part of a Combat Weather Team. The Army doesn't have its own weather forecasters, the Air Force does it for them. Where our Army customer goes, we go. Thus the "combat" prefix. We carry weapons and temperature gauges but I've always said that if the weather guy is firing his weapon at the enemy then its really not a question of whether you're going to win or lose that battle but rather just how bad the loss will be. But I digress...

So what does this have to do with the Mexican Flu? Well, nothing. But there are a number of occasions where an analogy might be made, the latest being Hurricane Ike, which hit Texas this year.

Ever since Katrina the State of Texas begins to get spun up whenever a tropical system approaches the Gulf. Usually, long before. It is somewhat a source of amusement for us in the weather business as many things can happen that far out. But after Katrina/Rita (aka "Katrita") the State takes no chances and begins preparations far in advance.

On one hand this makes good sense. On the other many people point to the false alarms and begin to not take the words of warning seriously.

As Ike approached the Texas coast the models seemed to indicate that the trajectory might affect Austin (a couple of hundred miles inland). You may laugh but there is historical precedence for hurricane effects to be felt in Austin and they included tornadoes, high winds, and flooding.

When warnings are given there are typically three types of response. First, there are those who, without filtering the hysterical TV headlines (designed not so much for information as for ratings) rush out a week in advance (a lifetime in weather terms since so much can change) and start stocking supplies, generators and boarding up the windows. The second response is from those who say, we've heard this before and nothing has come from it and this will be the same. (when this group is on the coast, they make up the large portion of 9-1-1 calls in the midst of the storm seeking a rescue that cannot be made) The third group, hears the warnings and begins to pay closer attention to news and weather and makes prudent preparations as the storm gets closer.

It occurs to me that much the same thing is happening with the Mexican Flu outbreak. There are those who rightfully point to the the shrill TV anchors and the "All Flu, All the Time" mentality and say its vastly overblown. The virus is so far mild in the US and no fatalities have been reported except for the toddler who came from Mexico. They point to the African diseases that kill many more and the alcohol related deaths and even the thousands that die from "regular" flu every year in this country. And they have a point.

But while I will agree that there is a danger in over reacting and blowing the situation out of proportion, the opposite error is perhaps even more dangerous.

Because the danger here is not necessarily a short term threat. It may be. It may fizzle out in a few weeks and never be heard from again. but it also may not. Or it may fizzle out and then reappear in the Fall in an even more virulent form.

The concern (among others) is that the public begins to think that the whole thing is being hyped:

With the H1N1 swine flu virus, the world appears — at least for now — to face a much less fearsome foe. That fact leads to some relief and some concern. The concern is that people may not be taking the threat of a pandemic seriously enough.

“I think that people misunderstand the word pandemic,” Thompson said from Geneva. “Pandemic speaks to the geographical distribution of disease. That it’s widespread, that it’s global.”

“Then there’s the question of severity. How severe is that disease? And we can have very mild pandemics. But we can also have pandemics that can come in waves.”

“And a first wave might be mild. And that might lull people into complacency thinking — `we’ve seen this, it’s not so difficult to deal with, it’s not so scary.’ And then another wave comes along. That has been a pattern. And that’s something we have to keep thinking about.”
Officials have started to point to the example of the 1918 Spanish Flu, the worst infectious disease outbreak in known history. It’s estimated upwards of 50 million people around the globe succumbed in that pandemic, which was caused by an H1N1 virus believed to be of avian origin.



The professionals over at Effect Measure are a great place to go for info. The Editors of Effect Measure are senior public health scientists and practitioners.

If there is normally so much respiratory disease around, why is this an outbreak or even an epidemic? It's a more difficult question than it appears, and it relates to "what did you expect?" An epidemic is an increase in the number of new cases beyond what you would expect. Four or five cases of human rabies in an area in the US would be an outbreak or even an epidemic. Hundreds of colds or even serious pneumonias in an urban area is normal. It's not an epidemic. What makes the swine flu an outbreak is that it is an infection with a virus we haven't seen before and which we believe may be new. Hence these cases are not what we expect and it is an outbreak.

The thing is there is much we do not know:

Another thing that most people and probably most clinicians expect is that we know a lot about influenza. Perhaps because of the increased scientific interest since bird flu (an increased interest which will pay off handsomely in this outbreak, by the way) we do know quite a bit, but we also now know many of the things we thought we knew about flu, like the main ways it is transmitted from person to person, we don't really know. For example, how likely is it that you can get flu by touching a door knob or arm rest that someone with the flu just touched? Or that you can get the flu by sitting in the same emergency department waiting room (but not next to) other flu cases? These are open questions (see some of our many posts on this here, here, here, here). Why is flu seasonal? We don't know. ...

...the influenza virus is highly unpredictable and our certain knowledge of it very scant. If you've seen one flu pandemic, you've seen one flu pandemic.
If this outbreak becomes a sustained worldwide one -- the definition of a pandemic -- you should not expect it to be the same as any other pandemic. It might be like 1918, 1957, 1968 or just a bad flu season. Or not. (Effect Measure)


Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze/cough, stay home if you're sick and stay informed.

WHO Moves Pandemic Alert to 5- Mexican Flu is not Swine Flu

RadioNetherlands is reporting that the World Health Organization says the virus is not caused by pigs and has moved the pandemic alert phase up a level. H/T H5N1

WHOs call new strain of H1N1 "Mexican flu"
Published: Wednesday 29 April 2009 17:32 UTC Last updated: Wednesday 29 April 2009 18:04 UTC The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the most recent research on swine flu has shown that the virus is not caused by pigs. The disease is now being referred to as Mexican flu or "2009 H1N1 flu". The WHO has moved the pandemic alert from four to five, the second highest. The first case of what was called swine flu was reported in Mexico and its first fatality was confirmed there two weeks ago. The 23-month-old infant who died in the US state of Texas, in the first fatal case from the swine flu outbreak in the United States, was also Mexican. The child came from Mexico to Houston for medical treatment, officials said.(more)


According to the WHO website:
Phase 5 is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region. While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.

Prayer for the Day

H/T STR from a new book, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Save me entirely from sin.
I know I am righteous through the righteousness of another,
But I pant and pine for likeness to Thyself;

I am Thy child and should bear Thy image,
Enable me to recognize my death unto sin;
When it tempts me may I be deaf unto its voice.
Deliver me from the invasion as well as the dominion of sin.
Grant me to walk as Christ walked,
To live in the newness of His life,The life of love, the life of faith, the life of holiness.

I abhor my body of death,
Its indolence, envy, meanness, pride.
Forgive, and kill these vices,
Have mercy on my unbelief, on my corrupt and wandering heart.

When Thy blessings come I begin to idolize them,
And set my affection on some beloved object –
Children, friend, wealth, honour;
Clean this spiritual adultery and give me chastity;
Close my heart to all but Thee.

Sin is my greatest curse;
Let Thy victory be apparent to my consciousness,
And displayed in my life.
Help me to be always devoted, confident, obedient,
Resigned, childlike in my trust of Thee,
To love Thee with soul, body, mind, strength,
To love my fellow-man as I love myself,
To be saved from unregenerate temper, hard thoughts,
Slanderous words, meanness, unkind manner,
To master my tongue and keep the door of my lips.

Fill me with grace daily,
That my life be a fountain of sweet water.

100 Days of Death

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran theologian in Nazi Germany. He was hanged because of his part in an attempt to assassinate Hitler. Interesting in itself because Bonhoeffer was a pacifist. In his unfinished work Ethics wrote:

Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question of whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of its life. And that is nothing but murder.

A great many motives may lead to an action of this kind; indeed in cases where it is an act of despair, performed in circumstances of extreme human or economic destitution and misery, the guilt may often lie rather with the community than with the individual. Precisely in this connection money may conceal many a wanton deed, while the poor man’s more reluctant lapse may far more easily be disclosed. All these considerations must no doubt have a quite decisive influence on our personal and pastoral attitude towards the person concerned, but they cannot in any way alter the fact of murder.


Today marks Obama's 100th day in office. This list substantiates Obama's personnel and policies accomplishments at becoming the most pro-death president to date.

From WND:

He actually started way before Day 1:

Day -75: Names pro-abortion Rahm Emmanuel as chief of staff, who earned a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL while congressman.

Day -59: Appoints executive director of EMILY's List, Ellen Moran, as White House communications director.

Day -56: Names Melody Barnes, who previously served on the boards of EMILY's List and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, as his director of the Domestic Policy Council.

Day -51: Nominates pro-abortion Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

Day -41: Nominates pro-abortion and pro-universal health (abortion) care Sen. Tom Daschle as secretary of health and human services.

Day -41: Appoints pro-abortion Jeanne Lambrew as deputy director of newly created Office of Health Care Reform under Daschle, which Planned Parenthood heralded as "exciting" in a statement.

Day -41: White House transition team publishes 55-page list of demands from pro-abortion groups.

Day -16: Chooses pro-abortion Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine as Democratic Party chairman.

Day -16: Nominates pro-abortion, pro-porn David Ogden as deputy attorney general.

Day -16: Nominates "pregnancy is slavery" and former ACLU and NARAL counsel Dawn Johnsen as assistant attorney general.

Day -16: Nominates Thomas Perrelli, former pro-euthanasia attorney for Terri Shindler Schiavo's husband Michael, as associate attorney general.

Day -16: Nominates pro-abortion former Harvard Law School dean Elena Kagan as solicitor general, with the buzz she is on short list as next Supreme Court nominee; she supports taxpayer funding of abortion.

Day 1: At 12:01 p.m. EST, the White House website is instantly and completely transformed from pro-life to pro-abortion. Scrubbed is President Bush's Sanctity of Human Life proclamation issued the week before in commemoration of Jan. 22, the anniversary Roe v. Wade, and all else heralding preborn life. In its place:

President Obama … has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women's rights under Roe v. Wade a priority in his administration. … He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case.
Day 1: Obama signals his intention to fund human embryo experimentation by stating in his inaugural address, "We will restore science to its rightful place."

Day 4: Reverses Mexico City Policy, releasing taxpayer money to international organizations that promote or commit abortions (for which Obama received 35 percent approval in a Gallup Poll, making this his least popular decision to date).

Day 4: Releases statement expressing desire for Congress to restore funding to the United Nations Population Fund, which has previously been found to aid in China's coercive abortion and sterilization program.

Day 17: Directly after attending National Day of Prayer breakfast, signs executive order redirecting the Office of Faith Based Initiatives to include a "focus on family planning," according to NPR.

Day 24: Nominates former House co-sponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act, Leon Panetta, as CIA director.

Day 38: Signals commitment to comprehensive sex ed by including it in his 2010 budget.

Day 39: Announces plan to repeal Bush regulations enforcing protection of health care entities and workers not to participate in morally abhorrent practices.

Day 40: After Daschle withdraws as HHS secretary nominee, chooses radically pro-abortion Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who has financial ties to late-term abortionist George Tiller.

Day 45: Holds "health care summit" at White House, inviting only pro-abortion groups.

Day 46: March 6, 2009: Creates new post of ambassador for global women's issues and appointments Melanne Verveer, abortion activist and former chief of staff to first lady Hillary Clinton; according to the Associated Press, she "pledged … 'deep commitment' … [to] slowing the world's population explosion and empowering women … through … the right to choose if and when to become pregnant."

But wait, there's more...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Phase 4 - What Does it Mean

The World Health Organization moved to phase 4 today. So what does that mean?

Well, in addition to what has already been posted here and here this article from the Canadian Chronicle Herald does a fine job of describing the situation. Once again, no need to panic but worth keeping an eye on and taking basic precautions that include washing hands. Of course we should do this anyway with all illnesses (but usually don't). H/T AFluDiary

...``A pandemic is not considered inevitable at this time,'' Fukuda said in a late evening press conference in Geneva.

The committee concluded there is definitely person-to-person spread of the virus, but felt it wanted more information about how capable the virus is at continuing to spread through generations of human hosts.

If the WHO saw a widespread community outbreak, he said, the committee would be reconvened and a decision likely made to go to Phase 5. Phase 6 is a pandemic.

``It's fair to say that the move from Phase 3 to Phase 4 signifies that we have taken a significant step closer but ... we are not there yet,'' said Fukuda, a leading influenza expert.

Influenza viruses are notoriously unpredictable. When asked about how the outbreak might evolve, Fukuda painted a picture containing a surprisingly wide range of options, given how quickly this outbreak has unfolded.

The world first learned of the existence of this unusual virus and that it had infected a human on April 17. Less than two weeks later infections have been found in Mexico, the United States, Canada, Spain and Scotland and experts expect it to be found elsewhere soon.
Mexico has linked upwards of 100 deaths to swine flu infection. The U.S. has diagnosed 40 cases, Canada six, Spain one and Scotland two. No country outside of Mexico has yet seen severe disease caused by the virus.


``It is possible that we could stay in Phase 4 for quite a long time. It is possible that as the situation evolves over the next few days, it could evolve to the point where it appears that we have moved into Phase 5. And it is also possible that the disease situation could be quieter and we could move backwards to Phase 3.'' ...(more)

UPDATE 8 Swine Flu- The current WHO phase of pandemic alert is 4- What It Means

***UPDATE 8*** The current WHO phase of pandemic alert is 4

Phase 4 is characterized by verified human-to-human transmission of an animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus able to cause “community-level outbreaks.” The ability to cause sustained disease outbreaks in a community marks a significant upwards shift in the risk for a pandemic. Any country that suspects or has verified such an event should urgently consult with WHO so that the situation can be jointly assessed and a decision made by the affected country if implementation of a rapid pandemic containment operation is warranted. Phase 4 indicates a significant increase in risk of a pandemic but does not necessarily mean that a pandemic is a forgone conclusion.


Original Post
OK- Don't panic. That's the main thing to remember in all of this but its good to be informed. As usual, the biggest weapon against this is simply washing your hands. And doing it right. It also appears that the cases reported in the US are milder than those reported in Mexico.

Also as the WSJ reports, the fact that more and more are being reported doesn't neccessarily mean its spreading faster:

The fact that five more cases have now been confirmed isn’t an indication of the rate at which the flu is spreading; rather, it’s the result of intensive surveillance by the CDC and state health officials to try to figure out exactly what’s going on. And that surveillance is likely to lead to more confirmed cases in the coming days, Anne Schuchat, a CDC respiratory diseases expert, said on a press call this afternoon.
Indeed, the very fact that this strain was identified in the first place is likely the result of the way flu surveillance has increased in the past few years. The first two cases were both detected by special programs — one at a Navy facility that was studying a new kind of flu testing, and another at a project set up to do intensive surveillance around the U.S.-Mexico border.


“We haven’t seen this strain before, but we haven’t been looking as intensively as we are these days,” Schuchat said. (more)


Previous post

Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health said they expected to find more cases in the coming days and weeks.
Little can be done to prevent an outbreak of flu from spreading, health experts caution, but they say common sense measures can help individuals protect themselves.
Number one is hand-washing, they say -- a surprisingly effective way to prevent all sorts of diseases, including ordinary influenza and the new and mysterious swine flu virus.
(more)

The first place one should go for information is to government sources such as the Center for Disease Control but it appears that much of the information on the site is on the incidence of Swine Flu up till February 2009 and does not yet address the latest mutant strain of bird/pig/human which has people concerned. The report on the new strain can also be found on the CDC website with some digging or you can go here.

Special guidance has been provided for Texas and California residents. Once again much of this is common sense but very important to prevent spreading the infection:

Residents of California and Texas

CDC has identified human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection in people in these areas. CDC is working with local and state health agencies to investigate these cases. We have determined that this virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, we have not determined how easily the virus spreads between people. As with any infectious disease, we are recommending precautionary measures for people residing in these areas.

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

There is no vaccine available at this time, so it is important for people living in these areas to take steps to prevent spreading the virus to others. If people are ill, they should attempt to stay at home and limit contact with others. Healthy residents living in these areas should take everyday preventive actions.

People who live in these areas who develop an illness with fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose, and possibly other symptoms, such as body aches, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, should contact their health care provider. Their health care provider will determine whether influenza testing is needed.

Even as our responsible journalists lead with calm inducing headlines such as:

Swine Flu Case Count Rising , Swine flu has 'pandemic potential and Mexico Swine Flu Epidemic Worries World

it is important to remember that all seven of the people in the U.S. with confirmed swine flu recovered. Only one patient was ill enough to require hospitalization. The swine flu disease was similar to human flu, except that nausea and diarrhea were more common. But as all forms of flu it would pose special danger to the elderly, the young and those with chronic illness such as diabetes and asthma.

Still the World Health Organization (WHO) is set to name this outbreak an Event of International Concern

While this is a rapidly changing situation the world is presently in phase 3, meaning a new influenza virus subtype is causing disease in humans, but is not yet spreading efficiently and sustainably among humans.

*** UPDATE 7*** CDC reported at their news conference today (26 April) that all of the seven confirmed cases here in the US have recovered and reminded people of basic precautions e.g. handwashing and staying home from work if you are sick) to minimize the spread.

***UPDATE 6*** U.S. officials say the public health emergency is a precaution. Americans are told to prepare for outbreaks but not to panic.

Federal officials today declared a public health emergency involving human swine flu, warning Americans to prepare for widespread outbreaks now or in the future, yet urging them not to panic.


Update to #3 the British Airways pilot DID NOT have the swine Flu

UPDATE 5- Bloomberg:

Obama’s Visit
The first case was seen in Mexico on April 13. The outbreak coincided with the President Barack Obama’s trip to Mexico City on April 16. Obama was received at Mexico’s anthropology museum in Mexico City by Felipe Solis, a distinguished archeologist who died the following day from symptoms similar to flu, Reforma newspaper reported. The newspaper didn’t confirm if Solis had swine flu or not.
(more)


8:09PM ***UPDATE 3*** Reports of Swine Flu experiences in Mexico,
Texas state health authorities on Saturday ordered a high school near San Antonio closed indefinitely after a third student showed symptoms of swine flu
British airways pilot being treated in isolation after flight from Mexico
If this thing spreads overseas you can be sure the WHO will elevate its phase level. (see below

4:16 PM***UPDATE 2*** The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has confirmed at least two cases of swine flu in their state, while the New York City Department of Public Health is reporting that at least eight out of an estimated 100 students at a Queens prepatory school who displayed flu-like symptoms likely have the infection. Meanwhile, Imperial County health officials reported that San Diego has yet another case of the swine flu strain that has killed up to 68 people in Mexico.
5:29 PMTotals are now 11 cases confirmed and another 8 possible in NY

1235 CDT ***UPDATE*** The WHO flu experts have met and other than asking countries to keep an eye on things, taken no action.

"Castration Celebration"

It's the name of a book. Random House. CHILDREN's Book!

From NY Post:

HOLD on to your laps, Amer ica. And lock up the kids until they're 42.
The latest addition to the well-stocked smut canon is aimed not at adults, but at impressionable teens and pre-adolescents. It's called "Castration Celebration" -- a kind of "High School Musical" meets "Saw." Gross.


The novel is about what you think, but worse. This twisted, comic romp does little more than cheerfully promote underage sex, drug-taking, binge-drinking and, most painfully of all, male dismemberment by a high-school-age female, the heroine.

The theme is captured on the very first page, which reads: "Did you know that in imperial China, eunuchs had their testicles, penis [sic] and scrotum [sic] removed?"
Aside from the egregious grammatical sins, the nastiest thing about this book is that it's not offered for sale in a brown paper bag by some oily character. This tome is the giddy, proud publication of prestigious Random House.

Random House Children's Books, that is.

Swine Flu Info

Over at Effect Measure some good info on the current Swine Flu situation. I would recommend the whole article.

...If there is normally so much respiratory disease around, why is this an outbreak or even an epidemic? It's a more difficult question than it appears, and it relates to "what did you expect?" An epidemic is an increase in the number of new cases beyond what you would expect. Four or five cases of human rabies in an area in the US would be an outbreak or even an epidemic. Hundreds of colds or even serious pneumonias in an urban area is normal. It's not an epidemic. What makes the swine flu an outbreak is that it is an infection with a virus we haven't seen before and which we believe may be new. Hence these cases are not what we expect and it is an outbreak. If it turned out that there had been the same number of cases in Mexico but from many different known viruses we might look for another explanation, for example, a change in insurance that changed care seeking behavior so cases were counted that weren't counted before.

Another thing that most people and probably most clinicians expect is that we know a lot about influenza. Perhaps because of the increased scientific interest since bird flu (an increased interest which will pay off handsomely in this outbreak, by the way) we do know quite a bit, but we also now know many of the things we thought we knew about flu, like the main ways it is transmitted from person to person, we don't really know. For example, how likely is it that you can get flu by touching a door knob or arm rest that someone with the flu just touched? Or that you can get the flu by sitting in the same emergency department waiting room (but not next to) other flu cases? These are open questions (see some of our many posts on this here, here, here, here). Why is flu seasonal? We don't know. We'll try to get to some more of these questions in the days ahead, since we have many new readers, but one big thing to know was emphasized by Acting CDC Director Richard Besser at the White House briefing yesterday: the influenza virus is highly unpredictable and our certain knowledge of it very scant. If you've seen one flu pandemic, you've seen one flu pandemic.

If this outbreak becomes a sustained worldwide one -- the definition of a pandemic -- you should not expect it to be the same as any other pandemic. It might be like 1918, 1957, 1968 or just a bad flu season. Or not. (more)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

CNN Vs Bloggers

No doubt you remember this shameful bit of reporting by CNN.

Well it turns out that CNN was so impressed by it that they had YouTube pull it, ostensibly because of "copyright" violations.

Well the BS meter went off over at Founding Bloggers and they are fighting the action.

The folks over at Copyrights and Campaigns have a nice summary:

Founding Bloggers, the conservative web site that had its video critical of CNN's reporting on a Chicago "tea party" removed by YouTube after the cable network sent a DMCA takedown notice, is not backing down. On Thursday, Founding Bloggers submitted a DMCA counternotice to YouTube, starting the clock ticking toward a possible re-posting by YouTube -- or a lawsuit that could establish important legal precedent regarding the contours of copyright law's fair use doctrine, especially as it applies to use of news video by political bloggers. "We're not going to let this just go away," Andrew Marcus of Founding Bloggers told C&C in an interview earlier today.

Good for Founding Bloggers