Thursday, October 29, 2009

Canada’s Swine Flu Fiasco

What’s wrong with healthcare these days?

The news media – seriously!

No wonder American’s against U.S. President Barack Obama’s creation of a publicly accessible, universal, government-run healthcare system point to Canada when they make their outrageous claims.

With all the hype in the Canadian news media (and probably the American and other international news outfits), people are rushing free H1N1 Swine Flu shot clinics, as well as the regular flu clinics. At some clinics in Ontario, which just opened yesterday, the line-ups are estimated to

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 06: Doses of H1N1 influenza ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

be over four-hours long! Some people even camped out hours before the healthcare workers arrived to open the clinic.

Americans see these long line-ups, and hear the horror stories about the goofballs turned away from the flu shot clinic – the free flu shot clinic was for high-risk senior citizens only, and the man turned away on the news clearly wasn’t over 65 – judging from his behavior he may have a long way to go before hitting puberty!

No wonder Americans think the Canadian healthcare system is worse than their system – even though America is the only industrialized nation on the

NARITA, JAPAN - APRIL 29:  Passengers come out...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

planet that does NOT have some form of universal healthcare for its citizens.

Although the Canadian healthcare system is far from perfect – it is far better than most. The biggest problem with our Canadian healthcare system isn’t the nurses, doctors and other practitioners working long hours – some as long as 12-hour shifts – the problem is government mismanagement from the earliest stages of a project.

The reason the line-ups for the H1N1 Swine Flu are so long and why they have limited the regular flu shot to just those in high risk groups is because they were slow to get off their over-paid butts and plan ahead.

Canada is one of the last of the industrialized nations to begin a vaccination program for the H1N1 Swine Flu, and the regular flu shot.

Ever since I can remember – at least the past decade – I’ve always got my free flu shot in late September, usually the last week of September to be exact.

This year, the regular flu vaccine wasn’t available until this week and we’re almost into November. Rumors were circulating about the H1N1 Swine Flu vaccine not being available here until November 2 – they opened up some clinics ahead of schedule.

The H1N1 Swine Flu vaccine has been available for almost a month in most of Europe – so how come Canada took so long?

Even in the only country on the planet without a government-run universal healthcare system – The States, the H1N1 Vaccine has been out well ahead of Canada’s inoculation campaign.

The federal government in Canada dropped the ball big time on this one. Yes, they did their due diligence to make sure it was safe for public consumption, but they jeopardized that public’s health and well being, by not having planned for the implementation of these vaccines.

Because of these delays, people are becoming infected with H1N1 Swine Flu, and in some instances ending up in the hospital for severe illness.

School boards in Ontario are reporting as many as 10 percent of their pupils absent due to the flu – which flu that is, and whether or not they are legitimately sick hasn’t been verified.

Though the media hype is focusing on the few teenagers who have died from the illness, which is understandable, as it is rare for healthy kids to die from the flu.
Last week, a 15-year-old passed away from complications from H1N1 Swine Flu, and this week a 13-year-old has died from the virus.

As the news media focuses on these deaths, and interview teary-eyed parents mourning the passing of their kids, parents scramble with their kids in tow. The country’s largest children’s hospital, The Hospital for Sick Children in To

ronto had to call nurses in from other floors and some who were not scheduled to work, just to handle the flood of parents and children storming their hospital, hoping to get their kids vaccinated. The children’s hospital in the nation’s capital, Ottawa, also reportedly had to call in reinforcements to deal with an onslaught of parents and their kids.

The problem medical experts are telling us, is that children haven’t fought off as many flu attacks as older people, so they don’t have as strong anti-bodies as those of us who have gone through the flu several times.

This is also a case to encourage parents to stop giving into antibiotics for every cold their kids get – sure they get better faster, but they don’t have the opportunity to develop their own resistance and their immune systems do not develop their full potential.

When the media isn’t focusing on young people dying from the H1N1 Swine Flu, they swamp us with stories about gigantic crowds of people, waiting hours for their free H1N1 Swine Flu shot, making those of us who haven’t yet had time to take off work to go and get the shot, wonder if we will even be able to get it?
Who can take off four-hours from work?

At one H1N1 Swine Flu vaccination clinic, people were lined up around the outside of the building and for several blocks, some claiming to have been in line for over four-hours.

There are always line-ups at flu shot clinics – but these excessively long ones need not have happened in the first place.

Thank your federal government Canada, for mismanaging the seasonal and H1N1 flu clinics to the point of disarray.

There is no reason why one of the most prosperous industrialized nations, with one of the best healthcare systems on Earth has people lining the streets for hours, waiting for a flu shot.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Texting While Driving -- Unbelievable

Canada’s largest province, Ontario, has officially banned talking and texting while driving. Effective this past Monday, the new law allows police to charge drivers fines up to $500 for yacking, texting, or surfing the net any mobile device. Justify Full

Headsets are allowed provided they are truly hands-free, and you can still use your hands for dialing the emergency number 9-1-1 while driving.

It still amazes me that anyone would try typing out a text message while driving.
Talking on the phone – although distracting – isn’t nearly as dangerous as trying to text someone while behind the wheel.

I couldn’t imagine anyone actually taking their hands, eyes, and mind off the road long enough to type out a text message.

Traffic lights can have several additional lig...Image via Wikipedia

Until I saw someone actually doing it, that is.

Ironic, the weekend before the new law prohibiting drivers from texting while driving, I see some young kid weaving in and out of traffic, all while texting.

Not to stereotype – though if the lead foot fits – it was a young Asian kid in a supped-up purple and black sports car. It even had those funky purple lights underneath the car – why anyone needs those is beyond me – maybe they hope it will distract other drivers from their poor driving abilities?

This kid – probably in his early twenties, if that – was weaving in and out of lanes, passing cars like he were in the Indy 500. He stopped at a traffic light, and I looked over at him, he was talking on one cell phone, while typing something on the keypad of another.

It’s bad enough to be on one phone, but to be using two, and driving like a maniac too boot – I hope the cops caught up with this racer, and took away his purple and black car with the purple lights underneath.

Since then, I’ve seen others texting while driving – perhaps I was more aware of these people since my run-in with the purple speed demon earlier. Saw another young person, texting while driving. She wasn’t racing in and out of traffic, but she wasn’t watching where she was going. She almost ran a red light, stopping very suddenly, all because she was too busy sending text messages on her phone.

This driver is using two phones at onceImage via Wikipedia

I know the laws in Ontario are new, but I don’t think the fines are large enough to punish those that text and talk on their mobile devices while driving.

Talking, texting, or surfing the net while on a mobile device while driving – is only different from drinking and driving in that one is chemical reaction on our biological systems, the other is just plain stupidity. Well, come to think about it, both are stupid things to do.

Far worse, you are in your right frame of mind for the most part, while using a mobile device – so you should be able to think first about the consequences of using that mobile device while driving. You should be well aware of the dangers involved. Or those dangers should become all the more evident as you attempt to talk, text or surf while driving, causing you to stop using the mobile device, or the car, or both.

Those caught using a mobile device without a hands-free set while driving shouldn’t be fined – they should be removed from the road right away.

Just as in many jurisdictions, if you have a high quantity of alcohol in your system, the police can legally confiscate your vehicle, they should do the same for those found talking, typing, or surfing on their mobile devices while behind the wheel.

If we took away a person’s license, and impounded their vehicles for this dangerous driving, then fewer people would do it, and those that did, won’t ever do it again.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Flying May Not Be As Safe As You Think

They say flying is the safest form of travel – but is it?

Almost anyone can get a driver’s license these days, which makes traveling by car all the more dangerous. It amazes me how some people got their driver’s license when you walk down any major street in a big North American city – bad drivers seem to outnumber the good ones.

Northwest AirlinesImage via Wikipedia

But those very same bad drivers could just as easily be your next flight crew, commanding a multi-billion dollar seven-story airliner, with hundreds of people on-board.

Just last week, a passenger flight from San Diego, California, USA to Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA lost contact with Air Traffic Control (ATC) for over an hour.
Initially, ATC thought Northwest Airlines flight 188 had been commandee

Northwest Airlines A320 upon takeoff.Image via Wikipedia

red by hijackers, but after the pilots re-established communications, it is feared that they had fallen asleep.

The massive Airbus A320, with 147 passengers, flying at a standard cruising altitude of 37,000 feet, overflew its destination airport by about 150 miles, all while the radio communication between

Airbus A320-200 of the  national carrier - Swi...Image via Wikipedia

the ATC and the pilots was mysteriously quiet.

ATC watched flight 188 on radar, continued to try to raise the plane on the flight radios, and by in-plane text messages (similar to a facsimile transmission between the cockpit and the tower), but according to an ongoing investigation, the pilots were “non-responsive.”

Eventually, ATC contacted two other Northwest Airlines planes, and one of those managed to contact the pilots of flight 188, and they re-established contact with the ATC.

But because of the lengthy silence, ATC ordered the pilots to make a few unnecessary maneuvers to ensure the plane was under their control, and not a hijacker.

Another instance of pilot error in the States last week narrowly avoided a major disaster.

Last Monday, Delta Flight 60 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Hartsfield, Atlanta, USA, landed on a taxiway instead of the parallel runway.

The Boeing 767, with 194 passengers and crew, was cleared for landing on Runway 27R, but instead landed on Taxiway M.

The taxiway and runways are clearly differentiated by the color of lights used.
The runway has white lights running down the sides and middle of the runway, while the taxiway has blue lights running down the sides, and green lights running down the center of the taxiway. This lighting pattern is an international standard which all pilots from all countries know and use all the time. Not all airports have the lights running down the center of the runway or taxiway (smaller landing strips may just have lights down the sides of the runway) but the colors used are all standardized.

Luckily, no other aircraft were on the taxiway or connecting runway because a collision with a plane preparing to take-off with a full load of jet fuel and hundreds of passengers on each plane would be catastrophic, according to airport officials.

The passengers and crew of flight 60 are also lucky that both the taxiway and the runway are the same length – 11,890 feet long. If the taxiway was much shorter, the plane would have slid off the pavement, into a field, a ditch, a vehicle, a building or some other structure, which could also end a catastrophic event, seeing as the average landing speed at most airports is between 150 to 200 miles per hour.

The American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are both investigating both incidents.

But both these incidents raise the warning flags that despite all the technological advances in air travel, there will always remain one possible form of error which can never be fully eliminated – human error.

Just as when you step out onto a busy street to cross an intersection, or hop into a car or truck, you put your life in the hands of complete strangers around you in their vehicles.

Scary thought.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

MySpace VS Facebook War Over – MySpace Concedes Defeat

The battle to be the largest online social networking site is over with a clear winner and loser. This past Thursday (October 22), the recently anointed chief executive officer of MySpace told the Financial Times that the company is no longer competing with Facebook.

Former Facebook executive Owen Van Natta, who became MySpace’s executive officer a mere six-months ago told the newspaper “Facebook is not our competition, we’re very focused on a different space.”

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase

This announcement comes as MySpace (owned by Rupert Mudoch’s NewsCorp) has taken a severe – and now fatal – beating. Just this past September, Facebook had over 58 percent of the American social network traffic, while the older, and once larger MySpace’s share crashed to a low of just 30 percent – a substantial drop from their 66 percent score a year ago, according to online research firm Hitwise.

Looking at the unique number of people using each site, again MySpace has taken its lumps. Although MySpace is still one of the most popular websites on the Internet, it averaged about 100 million unique members worldwide, the new king of social networking, Facebook has about 300 million unique users worldwide.

In the six-months since Van Natta took the helm at MySpace, the comp

Facebook, Inc.Image via Wikipedia

any has slashed costs and jobs, eliminating 30 percent of their workforce. They’ve also removed the least used features, which include the weather and classified jobs sections.

MySpace has also been known to have unusual – some may say downright odd – methods for determining membership. When Jordan’s Daily – Almost! signed up for a MySpace account, and had spent over two-hours customizing and designing the page for our reader’s engagement and interaction, within a handful of hours later MySpace deleted the account, without giving any reason whatsoever.

Although this international current affairs blog wasn’t deemed worthy enough to hold membership by the MySpace administrators, one can easily find profiles on MySpace geared towards get-rich quick scams from third-world countries (such as those your junk email filter usually catches), mail order brides from Russia, prostitutes peddling sex for cash, and even one profile which appeared to be someone selling babies from China to couples who couldn’t conceive, and were turned down by adoption agencies.

MySpace executive Van Natta told the Financial Times “the engagement with our users wasn't there.”

Perhaps that’s because those running MySpace did not have a clue as

Apple Inc.Image via Wikipedia

to who exactly their users were?

Congratulations to Facebook – a company that takes the time to explore and understand their members and their needs – and a place where Jordan’s Daily – Almost! was welcome from day one. You can check us out on the new champion of the social networking world here.

MySpace may have lost the war, but they are not gone for good. The company is changing direction and trying to reinvent itself to bec

iTunesImage via Wikipedia

ome an online music distribution site. It has recently signed agreements with Apple Computer Corp. to run its own iTunes-type of online store, using the computer company’s iLike application.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

H1N1 Swine Flu Infections Rising in North America

It just had to happen – or at least that’s what medical experts have been predicting for some time. Another round of H1N1 Swine Flu is going around North America – and possibly the world.

Just yesterday, about 140 students in a Milwaukee, USA school were sent home and the school was closed, because most of the students, and some of the staff were suffering with symptoms of the dreaded bug. Several schools in the area have closed down, some with confirmed cases of the H1N1 Swine Flu, and in some of those instances, some children have been hospitalized with the H1N1 Swine Flu virus.

Local medical officers of health have publicly said that they believe all the infections are H1N1 Swine Flu, as they haven’t seen any outbreaks of other less severe flues in the area. They have collected samples and are running lab tests prior to confirming each infected site, but are leaning towards the H1N1 strain of flu.

Also yesterday, American Congressman Greg Walden (Republican) confirmed earlier reports that he has been diagnosed with the H1N1 Swine Flu. Walden sent a one-line message (commonly called a “tweet”) on the

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 06:  Isiah Harris receives a...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

online micro blogging site this past Monday saying he had just arrived home from the doctor’s office with the diagnoses, and that he was going into “seclusion for a while.”

Hitting closer to home, here in Ontario Canada, a turkey farm was quarantined after it became clear the turkeys were infected with the H1N1 Swine Flu.

This is of particular concern, as the virus can further mutate inside a turkey, and then re-infect a person, creating a monster combination Swine/Turkey variant of the virus, which may be even harder for human beings to overcome.

Medical experts across the globe have been predicting a rise in the H1N1 Swine Flu – many suggesting the winter holiday season around Christmas and New Year’s as the timeframe. But it appears Christmas has come early for the virus, as it is making a comeback now.

Some are even going so bold as to not shake another person’s hands, for fear of catching the virus. Although proper hand washing techniques can shave off most colds and flu, it’ll take a lot more than avoiding a handshake to prevent catching the virus.

When a pandemic strikes, everything and everyone is a potential threat – even from the most innocuous everyday things.

Forgot to bring lunch to the office? Not an uncommon occurrence, so you figure you’ll do what many (including myself) do in times of hunger – go out for lunch.
Problem is, no matter how well you wash your hands, if the people prep

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 06:  Doses of H1N1 influenza...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

aring or serving you your food are infected with the H1N1 Swine Flu, then you stand a greater chance of coming down with the virus too. And in low paying (often minimum wage) jobs such as in food services industries, people will often work regardless of how sick they are, because they need the money.

The same is true for another part of our food supply chain – grocery stores. Those apples may look perfect shining under the grocery store lights, but if the store employee who put them on the shelf in the first place was sick with the H1N1 Swine Flu, guess what? Yes, you too can catch the flu.

That’s the whole nature of a pandemic – it is when a disease spreads so easily from person to person, no matter how many precautions are taken, the odds are greater that most will eventually contract the illness.

You can minimize the impact of the illness if and when you do catch it. That’s what the flu shot is for, and it doesn’t hurt to take multivitamins to strengthen your immune system, and help you fight off colds and flu faster.

So the lesson here is simple – wash your hands, lock your doors and windows – or wait that’s advice for something else.

Wash your hands often, sneeze and cough into your sleeve (not your hands) to avoid spreading germs and get your flu and H1N1 Swine Flu shots when they become available in your area.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Canada’s Internet Service Providers Can Legally Limit Your Bandwidth

The Canadian government has ruled that it is okay for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to restrict the speed, quality and signal strength to high-use customers.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) which regulates ISPs in the country announced its long awaited decision earlier this week, taking a typically Canadian approach – right down the middle of the road.

When an ISP’s customer – someone like you – downloads large multimedia files (such as movies, playing online graphic intensive games, or streaming audio or video) you take up a lot of lanes on the information superhighway. These packets of data travel on the Internet’s network of roads and highways – commonl

Internet Explorer 4.Image via Wikipedia

y called bandwidth.

The more bandwidth you use, the less is available for other people using that same ISP for their Internet. To control this, and provide enough bandwidth for all users, ISPs have been known to limit the amount of bandwidth available to those taking up the most – this is called “throttling.”

Prior to this week’s announcement by the CRTC, different ISPs had very different views on whether throttling was an ethical and even a legal practice – after all, you pay for a certain amount of bandwidth usually when you sign a contract with an ISP. The last thing you’d expect is to have your ISP limit just how much of that bandwidth you’ve paid for.

Some ISPs in Canada were against the whole practice of throttling, saying it was up to them to increase their networks, to constantly grow with their customer demand.

Other ISPs claimed although they constantly expand their networks, it isn’t fair for a handful of users to use up most of the bandwidth, taking it away from other paying customers of the network.

Others were awkwardly silent on the issue, with claims from their users that they were being “throttled” but when questioned, these ISPs would neither confirm nor deny these allegations.

The CRTC has ruled in favor of ISPs, giving them the legal right to throttle their high-bandwidth customers – but they must provide at least 30-days notice to retail customers, and 60-days notice to re-sellers of their services.

This provides a sense of comfort to all – but it could be just a false sense. You as a retail customer – someone who buys Internet service directly from an ISP – will get at least a month’s notice if your ISP will limit your bandwidth.

However, the ruling by Canada’s ISP regulator fails to provide any means for consumers to take any real action. The CRTC did allow for a complaints process, so that you can make a formal complaint to them about your ISPs throttling, which will be investigated on a case-by-case basis.

But that would take time – all the while, your ISP could be throttling your access to the Internet. And even if your complaint is judged worthy and investigated by the CRTC, there is no guarantee that they will rule in your favor.

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunicatio...Image via Wikipedia

That said, they could easily rule on the side of consumers, just as easily as they can rule on the side of the ISP – all this is new ground, so it remains to be seen just how everything will play out.

The good points from this ruling – now ISPs have to provide notice to their customers if they intend to limit their bandwidth. And the complaints process allows for some sort of dispute mechanism, for consumers and re-sellers who feel unfairly limited in bandwidth.

The bad news from all of this, in these tough economic times, it could slow down the expansion of our country’s Internet, because it is cheaper – and now legal – to limit individual use, rather than spending more on building the technological infrastructure necessary to increase the capabilities of the networks.

Again, as all of this is new – Canada is now the first and only country with laws regulating the limiting of bandwidth – only time will tell.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

American Vice Presidential Candidate LinkedIn to Rescue Career

Only in America could a person striving for one of the highest positions in the country end up looking for work online.

Sarah Palin has posted her resume on LinkedIn – a social networking site with over 50 million people for professional networking and to look for jobs.

The former Alaskan governor’s profile says she is interested in: “Job inquiries, expertise requests, business deals, reference requests and getting back in touch.”

Maybe the last item on that list will prove the most challenging for the Am

WASILLA, ALASKA - NOVEMBER 4:  Republican vice...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

erican politician, whose old fashioned values conflicted with her own real world.

When Palin was Alaska’s state governor, she was very outspoken about teen pregnancy – she banned condom vending machines in public high schools, claiming that it gave teenagers the wrong message. The only way, according to Palin at the time, to avoid teenage pregnancies, was to convince kids to abstain from sex.

Though that obviously didn’t work in Palin’s own family, her young 16-year-old daughter’s impending pregnancy, and what appeared to be a hastily put together shot-gun wedding for the poor young man who got the kid pregnant, stole the spotlight from Palin’s vice presidential campaign.

So “getting back in touch” for the former governor and American vice presidential candidate may be quite the challenge – who wants to associate with someone who publicly expresses one set of values, but lives another?

Granted, it isn’t Palin’s fault her daughter got knocked up, but it does show just how out of touch her own values and beliefs are with those of society.

Ironically, Palin’s running mate during the same American federal election, John McCain, joined LinkedIn during the campaign, to participate in a section of the site called “LinkedIn Answers.” This section allows participants to ask and get responses from professionals. McCain was answering questions about the campaign, politics, and other topics to promote his presidential footprint.

However, Palin hasn’t joined the social networking site to just provide advice – she’s looking for her next gig.

This raises an interesting issue for social networking sites – what happens when celebrities join the site to network with us regular folk?

Many celebrities are already on most of the popular Internet-based social networking sites – just do a search on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or even Myspace for your favorite singer, actor, politician, or sports hero and you are bound to find them.

For the most part, these online celebrity sightings are an arms-length kind of deal. The celebrity – or more likely someone who works for the celebrity – posts short, brief, updates promoting whatever that person is working on or appearing in. They very rarely – if ever – respond to people who message them. It is usually a one-way form of communications, where you get a quick summary of their latest news.

John McCainImage via Wikipedia

Sarah Palin didn’t join LinkedIn just to share advice or information with us non-famous types, she joined to network and connect with us normal types to forward her own career.

It’s like Johnny Depp, Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise, or even President Barack Obama posting their profiles online, with the hopes of actually connecting with non-famous faces to get a job.

Now Palin isn’t the most famous person out there – she’s not wh

Photograph of the head of Johnny DeppImage via Wikipedia

at is often referred to as the so-called “A-List.” She’s not in the same category as Johnny Depp, Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise or even President Barack Obama.

But she’s still a famous person, so how does she know that those who connect with her online are on the up and up? How does she know that out of all the nuts on the Internet – of which there are many – that the people attempting to connect with her online are who they claim to be, and that they have no intention of causing her harm?

Palin is risking more than her pride by taking out a virtual job-hunting profile online. She’s risking her life, and that of her family and friends.

One of the great things about the Internet is its ability to bring people closer together, from all walks of life and from anywhere around the world.

But when a person becomes famous – or maybe that’s infamous as in Palin’s case – you give up some of those freedoms, just to protect your well being and those close to you.

The Pope Mobile – a vehicle with a giant bullet-proof clear glass enclosure -- wasn’t created to encourage and allow everyone to reach out and talk to the highest of world religious leaders. It was created because of the few crazy nuts in society that could cause the Pope – and other famous people like him – harm.

American President Barack Obama doesn’t ride around in an armored vehicle (nicknamed “The Beast”) surrounded by an army of body guards just because it’s cool. He travels this way because his fame makes him a target.

Although you can’t shoot someone over the Internet – at least not yet – you can still inflict quite a bit of damage over the net. It is easy to steal someone’s identity, destroy a person’s reputation by posing as them, or even just use the information they are foolish enough to put online to track them down in the real-world and then kidnap, rape, or kill that person or someone close to that person.

There aren’t any Pope Mobiles or armored vehicles with complimentary armies of body guards for members of LinkedIn or any of the other online social networking sites.

Love her or loathe her, Sarah Palin is taking a big risk by posting her profile on LinkedIn.

She has the right to use these sites just as everybody else. Hell after her fall from grace during the last American federal election, she can use all the help she can get. But whether or not a famous person can achieve the same benefits from these online social networking sites safely, remains to be seen.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Canada Mangles H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccinations – Threatens World Order

How are you battling the spread of the common flu and the ever feared H1N1 Swine flu?

Chances are, you’ll be able to get an H1N1 Swine Flu shot and (in most cases) a regular flu shot if you live in an industrialized country such as Canada or the United States of America.

For most in these industrialized countries, they have already received their flu vaccinations – not so if you live here in Canada.

The Canadian government mis-managed testing and distribution of the

Child receiving an oral polio vaccine.Image via Wikipedia

H1N1 Swine Flu vaccine – so much so, it has delayed it well beyond what most medical experts consider the safe window of opportunity.

Usually here in Canada, provincial governments freely vaccinate residents starting in early October for the common flu virus. Thanks to Canada’s federal health agency taking its time with the testing of the H1N1 Swine Flu vaccine, the common flu vaccine may not be available until well into the flu season – which could create a major national outbreak of the nasty bug.

Or far worse, the killer H1N1 Swine Flu could spread across Canada faster than ants to honey, creating a very devastating and possibly dangerous pandemic. Just last week, a 15-year-old boy in northern Ontario, Canada died from the H1N1 Swine Flu.

There have been numerous infections of the H1N1 Swine Flu in Canada, though for the most part, they haven’t been fatal.

Though scientists are predicting the now quiet pandemic in North America will see a rocket-like rise in cases late in December and January, partly due to the increased amount of travel caused by the seasonal holidays.

But will Canadians be ready to fight both flu bugs when they hit their peak? Will we see people wearing surgical masks, and covering their face with tissues (which doesn’t work) to prevent catching these bugs, as they did in some major city centers during the Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak years ago?

Will people be civil despite the monster line-ups expected for the free flu vaccination clinics? In the past, you could go to your doctor to get your free flu shot, and you still can. But to get the new H1N1 Swine Flu shot, you have to go to a government-run clinic – these are only available from the government.


That’s another part of the constantly compounding problem – all three l

A chest x-ray showing increased opacity in bot...Image via Wikipedia

evels of government have managed to work together to bring us our flu shots, but they haven’t done a very good job of communicating these combined efforts to the public.

Most don’t know that this year, instead of getting just one flu shot, you need at least two – maybe three depending on your age and overall health.

Generally, Canadians will be eligible for two free flu shots – one for the common flu, the other for the H1N1 Swine flu. For children, the elderly and people with certain medical conditions, you may need a third shot, a booster H1N1 Swine Flu shot.

The common flu shot is still available through most family doctors, but the H1N1 Swine Flu shot is generally only available from government-run H1N1 flu clinics.

In some provinces, the federal government will be running these government-run flu vaccination clinics, in others the provincial health ministry will run the show, while in others it will be the local municipal government’s health department.

This makes the whole ordeal just that – and it doesn’t end there.

Because old habits die hard, and most of us are used to getting our annual flu shot by now, the late start to these vaccination clinics is expected to drive people in great numbers to these government-run clinics. Meaning the line-ups will not only be long, but possibly uncivil.

Imagine being taken to the hospital, because a riot breaks out during a flu vaccination session at one of these clinics?

Well, at least the hospital will be able to give you your shots, while they repair the damage caused at the mis-managed government-run H1N1 Swine Flu vaccination clinic.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Bubble Boy a Hoax – No? Really?

As fast as our world rotates, some things always stay the same. Take the news media last week, when they all rode the wave of “boy accidentally takes off in a hot air balloon” story.

I was at the office and just passing by one of the many lunch rooms which have TVs tuned to a local all news channel. People were gathered around the TV, watching in horror, live coverage of a giant silver hot air balloon, which supposedly was carrying a little boy who had “accidentally” taken off in it.

I know not everyone that is a parent is really cut out to be a parent, but even the worst parents on the planet wouldn’t let their kid go up in a hot air balloon unattended. And even if they did, just how does one accidentally take off in a hot air balloon?

When I was a reporter, I covered a handful of hot air balloon stories – so I know, these things are typically tethered to the ground by two or more thick, long and strong ropes, tied-off to bolted anchors in the ground. One doesn’t accidentally just go up in one of these contraptions – you have to make a very concerted effort to untie all the ropes from the anchors – and not just one of them – all of them.

Something smelled like rotten tuna as I watched the TV coverage. That and later on when I got home, I heard on the news that the little boy was never i

A pair of Hopper balloons.Image via Wikipedia

n the balloon in the first place, he was always safe on the ground.

Sure enough, the next day, rumors started spreading about how the whole thing was a hoax. Just some media stunt to give some trailer-park trash people the attention they crave. I guess they didn’t qualify for the Jerry Springer Show.

Although the family is obviously not playing with a full deck of cards for even conceiving of this stunt, and children’s aid should be called in to look at the parenting skills and quality of life these nutbars provide to their kids, all the blame rests squarely on the media.

Sure, had a little boy really been caught up in a hot air balloon, drifting over the American mid-west out of control, that would be newsworthy.

But there were so many holes in this story that anyone who’s been in a newsroom long enough should have known it couldn’t possibly be legit.

The news media gets so wrapped up in their own fiction sometimes, they forget to do their job. What exactly is the job they forgot to do.

Think, ask, and report.

THINK about the situation. Really think about it – does it make sense that a little boy could have accidentally taken off in a hot air balloon all by himself – no of course not! Whether or not the little boy was really in the hot air balloon, it was not an accident. Either he was placed in there by someone else and set adrift, he untied the ropes with help from friends (it usually takes more than two people to launch one of these massive balloons), or -- hello – he’s not in the hot air balloon to begin with!

ASK – always ask questions, that’s the primary job of all reporters in the news media. And if you’re thinking – as you should be – you’ll ask questions relevant to the situation which should tell you if you’re chasing a hoax, or your next Pulitzer Prize winning story.

My question – why didn’t anyone ask how a little kid could have launched a hot air balloon all by himself? I’ve seen groups of big strong men struggle to launch these things – here we have one little boy and he’s supposed to have done this all by himself?

Report the news, based on your thoughts, questions and observations. This they did – problem is because the media didn’t think, they didn’t ask the questions that needed to be answered, so their reporting of events was misleading, false, pure speculation and hype.

Thanks to that media hype, everyone is kicking themselves around the water cooler, as the truth about this hoax is revealed.

If you are one of those people kicking yourself because you fell for the prank – don’t. It’s not your fault the news media failed to do their job.

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