Posted at 12:08 PM on April 29, 2009
by Ken Paulman
What you knew yesterday about the swine flu might not be true today. Are you keeping up with the information fast enough? Have you passed on information that's incorrect?
Mexico's death toll appeared to be rapidly accelerating, some reports yesterday had put the total at more than 150. But...
Only 26 cases, including seven deaths, have been definitively confirmed to be swine flu, [Mexico Health Secretary Jose] Cordova said.
The virus is suspected in 159 deaths, and other reports suggest that some of these might be caused by unrelated respiratory ailments.
And then there's the big number, you know, of people who die from the flu every year.
U.S. officials stressed there is no need for panic, noting that flu outbreaks are quite common every year. The CDC estimates about 36,000 people in the U.S. alone died of flu-related causes each year, on average, in the 1990s.
Do the math, that's just shy of 100 a day.
We were also told yesterday to call it "H1N1" and not "swine flu," because "this really isn't swine flu," as Agriculture Secretary (and former Iowa governor) Tom Vilsack said. The name change was ostensibly because the virus had genetic components from humans, birds and swine, and not to assure the weary consumer that pork is safe. But...
The deadly H1N1 influenza virus that's fueling fears of a global pandemic is a hybrid of two common pig flu strains, scientists who have studied the disease told Wired.com Tuesday. Earlier reports called it a combination of pig, human and avian influenza strains.
"This is what we call a reassortment between two currently circulating pig flu viruses," said Andrew Rambaut, a University of Edinburgh viral geneticist. "Why it's emerged in humans is anyone's guess. It hasn't been seen before in pigs as far as I know."
Sorry, pork producers, you're probably just going to have to tough this one out. "Swine flu" is easier to say and understand than "H1N1."
So, to some it all up: Take caution, but don't panic. But you haven't been watching 24-hour news channels, right?
OK, I'll start this off with the disclaimer:..
This is a precision party trick -- rigorous mapping of ridiculous data.
...but it's interesting, nonetheless. A couple of geographers from Kansas State University wrangled up a host of national statistical databases, massaged the numbers and used them to quantify lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride on a county-by-county basis across the U.S.
Sure, the sins tend to be value judgments — i.e., "Greed was calculated by comparing average incomes with the total number of inhabitants living beneath the poverty line" — though it's not meant to be a serious scientific study.
Although I would like to know why the folks in Pine and Kanabec Counties are so envious.(2 Comments)
Adweek says Golden Valley-based General Mills has rounded up an impressive network of more than 900 bloggers — with 4 out of 5 of them being mothers — to, well, blog about the company's products.
The MyBlogSpark network (©2009 General Mills, by the way) says its members will get coupons, product samples and other incentives.
General Mills plans to use the network to promote its wide portfolio of products in the food and beverage, beauty, home, electronics, health and automotive categories.
So, what's the catch?
General Mills can be confident the program will fill blogs with positive reviews. One of the requirements for participation reads: "If you feel you cannot write a positive post regarding the product or service, please contact the MyBlogSpark team before posting any content."
To be fair, the responsible PR folks say that does not constitute a requirement to write good things, just that they notify the company for feedback purposes.
Say what you want about the thin grey line between blogging and journalism, but having to contact the company before writing anything negative constitutes a chilling effect in my book.
Granted, bloggers are free to purchase and review the products on their own dime and General Mills is free to help manage its message as it sees fit, but this is certainly something to ponder as huge corporations work to extend their influence.(3 Comments)