Wednesday, November 12, 2014

As I predicted, Ebola was in Mali, but health care officials just didn't know about it

    On Oct. 29 I wrote that the Ebola virus was certain to spread to Mali due to the fact that people were being allowed to travel freely into that country from infected areas with only a temperature check.
    The Ebola virus usually has an incubation period of from 4-21 days, so a temperature check is as useless as teats on a boar hog in preventing infected people from entering an uninfected area. A temperature check only catches those who are actually sick, not everyone who is infected.
    Well, no sooner than Mali had been declared "Ebola free" following the death some weeks ago of a young girl who traveled into the country and died from Ebola, we've learned that there is a more serious outbreak caused by a religious figure -- a grand iman -- from Guinea who traveled to Mali for better medical care. Neither he nor the clinic which treated him understood that he was suffering from an Ebola infection. The iman died and his body was washed at the local mosque before being returned to Guinea. A number of the iman's relatives in Guinea have died, as has one nurse in Mali who treated him. The total number of people infected in unknown, but it is potentially a substantial number.
    All of this happened almost a month ago, and authorities are just now figuring out that the string of deaths that have followed in the iman's wake meant that he was suffering from Ebola. I suspect there are a number of other outbreaks throughout Mali that haven't grown to the point that they've been identified as Ebola.
    On Oct. 29 I wrote the following:
    My guess is that Mali may already have an Ebola outbreak, authorities just don't know it yet. The nature of Ebola is that there is one death from an unexplained cause, often thought to be malaria or some other malady; three weeks later two or three additional people die; in three more weeks that total might jump to six. It can take two or three months for authorities to even become aware of an outbreak.
    Even when villages might suspect Ebola they might be afraid to alert authorities for fear of being quarantined with no food or having their loved ones carted away. So an initial, isolated outbreak often goes undetected by authorities until a village is completely decimated, perhaps even abandoned.
    Most people have all been indoctrinated with the notion that people should have the right to go wherever they want whenever they want. But no one should be allowed to leave an area with an uncontrolled Ebola outbreak without a mandatory quarantine. Nobody has a right to infect the world.
    The world needs to create a cordon sanitaire around those areas with uncontrolled Ebola outbreaks; nobody leaves without a quarantine. If it requires massive numbers of troops standing shoulder-to-shoulder to enforce, then troops we should send. If the only way to stop people from leaving is to shoot them, then shoot.
    The real risk of Ebola isn't that we might get a few cases or even a few hundred cases here in the United States. The risk is that it will continue to slowly creep into poverty-stricken areas with poor communication, poor education, and poor medical facilities, where it will successfully take root before anyone even knows it's there.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I hope the voters send the race-baiters of 2014 a message from the ballot box

    This has been the season of the race-baiting advertisement, with candidates or their supporters running some pretty reprehensible ads equating conservatism with racism. Some candidates are so extreme that they even aligned some themselves with attempted-cop-killer Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo.
    Among the worst race-baiters of 2014 (or those who declined to denounce race-baiting on their behalf) are Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Michelle Nunn of Georgia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Thad Cochran of Mississippi. These types of racialist campaigns harm our democratic system, and I hope voters will send these candidates a message today.

Democrats who had Obama amnesia ended up looking silly, hurting their campaigns

    Now that the election is almost over, here's a note to really stupid Democrats: Don't deny voting for your party's president, particularly when he was at one time the blank slate upon which almost every American projected their hopes and dreams.
    As a Democrat, you darn well better have voted for the man unless you can articulate a good reason not to have. Most Democrats voted for Barack Obama. Most independents did, too. That's why he won.
    When a Democratic candidate was asked whether or not he (or she) voted for Obama the answer should have been "Yes!" This should be followed by whatever statement the candidate wished to make explaining reservations and disappointment about the president. In other words, "Yes, I voted for him, but like many of you, I've been disappointed."
    Instead we've had these debates where Democratic candidates have looked like absolute fools as they've tried not to answer questions about whether or not they voted for Obama. Of course they voted for him. And I have far more respect for the candidate who would say, "Of course I did."
    I disagree with much of what Barack Obama has done, as do most Americans, both Republicans and Democrats. But the fact is that he has advanced what is supposed to be the Democratic agenda. That doesn't mean he should be immune from criticism, because he deserves a lot.
    I'm not suggesting that Democrats should have embraced Obama this election. But those who refused to even admit they voted for him looked like idiots. If they can't be honest about whether or not they voted for a man who was awarded a Nobel Prize just for being elected, can they be honest about anything?

Friday, October 31, 2014

If no Mississippi university offers your major, you can go elsewhere at in-state tuition rates

    Between Ole Miss and Mississippi State a prospective college student has his choice of just about any major out there. Almost any major, but not every major.
    Some majors just aren't available in Mississippi. For example, no Mississippi university offers majors in either petroleum or nuclear engineering.
    But that doesn't mean students wanting to major in some of these more esoteric fields have to pay expensive out-of-state tuition. A consortium of Southeastern state universities known as the Academic Common Market allows students from most Southeastern states to attend out-of-state universities at in-state rates if they major in a program not offered by a university in their home state.
    The course I've heard mention of in the past is the PGA Golf Management course at Mississippi State. Other State courses which attract Common Market participants from out of state include Broadcast Meteorology, Aerospace Engineering, Veterinary Medicine, Agricultural Information Science, and Poultry Science.
    At Ole Miss popular courses include Geological Engineering and Forensic Chemistry.
    Taking advantage of this program isn't as simple as simply showing up at one's desired out-of-state university and demanding a tuition break. One must fill out an application and be certified by one's state as eligible to participate. But I suspect it's a fairly painless process. However, things do take time, so don't wait until June if you are wanting to start school in September!
    North Carolina doesn't participate in the Common Market. Florida and Texas participate only at the graduate level.
    This PDF report on Mississippi activity in the Academic Common Market does a really good job of showing where both Mississippi and out-of-state students are going as a result of the Common Market. It's worth looking at, even though it hasn't been updated since 2011.
    One big question that comes to mind is what happens if a student changes his mind mid-way through his coursework? From the FAQ:
"Most ACM institutions will not require you to pay back tuition for the years that you received ACM benefits if you change your major or program to one that is not approved for the ACM or is available in your home state. However, if you change your major during a semester, the institution may charge you the out-of-state tuition rate for that semester. If you change your major to a different program that is included in the Academic Common Market, you must be recertified by your state coordinator."
    Notwithstanding the above, I would resist the temptation to abuse the program. I suspect they reserve the right to demand reimbursement in cases where they believe a person declared and later changed a major simply to evade tuition.
    So if Mississippi doesn't have your major, don't worry about having to pay out-of-state tuition. With a little advance planning, you won't have to.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Unreported by media, 2013 study found estrogen blockers highly effective against Ebola virus

    I'm aware that my blog has become Ebloa-central for the past few weeks. It's a subject of national interest, and each time I research one thing I stumble onto something else.
    I recently found a study published in the June 19, 2013 edition of Science Translational Medicine which strongly suggests that currently approved Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (estrogen blockers, for short) would be effective in inhibiting the Ebola virus. Presumably these drugs would be effective if taken either prophylactically before and during exposure or as a treatment after the onset of symptoms.
    I did a Google search, and I can find no news story containing either the words "ebola" and "clomiphene" or "ebola" and "toremifene. I find this pretty amazing, especially in light of the mouse study, which I describe below.
    The drugs which were tested in vitro and in a mouse study are clomiphene (Clomid) and toremifene, both of which are estrogen blockers. Some other estrogen blockers were also considered, but these two were apparently considered the ones with the most promise. The drugs appear to interfere with the Ebola virus in a method not related to the traditional estrogen pathways. From the study: "Although we initially identified the ER antagonist compounds on the basis of their collective known mechanism of action, our results indicate that these compounds are mediating their antiviral effects through cell-based mechanisms unrelated to the classical estrogen signaling pathway."
Click to enlarge
    I am not smart enough or educated enough to understand much of the scientific language in this study. What I could understand was the chart showing the mortality rates of mice treated with each of these drugs. Mice were intentionally infected with the Ebola virus through injection. A control group received no treatment and had a 100 percent mortality rate.
    Mice treated with toremifene had a 50 percent survival rate. For clomiphene, 90 percent of the treated animals survived. This is nothing short of amazing. The drugs were equally effective in both male and female mice.
    Mice aren't humans, but it would seem to me that a drug designed for humans that inhibits virus reproduction in mice would do the same in humans. In light of this study, I know that if I were to be exposed or infected with the Ebola virus I would definitely want to be placed on clomiphene. (Sadly, clomiphene requires the CYP2d6 enzyme to be fully effective, so I'm probably out of luck, as is about five percent of the population).
    Some people say we should never take a drug without endless double-blind studies. I say that I don't want to be the mouse that's left in the "control" group with a 100 percent fatality rate. If any of you want to be the dead mouse, feel free to volunteer.
    We don't know whether these drugs are being used for recent Ebola patients or not. In fact, we've only been given sketchy details about what treatments various Ebola patients have received, some of which have been "experimental." Surely these doctors are just as good at surfing the Internet as I am.
    On the downside, widespread prophylactic use of estrogen blockers is likely to result in a viral mutation that will manage to overcome the interference caused by the drugs. This is the story of all antivirals or antibiotics -- the public health footrace we can never win but hope not to lose.
    But whatever treatments are being used, no media outlets have reported the fact that these estrogen blocking drugs have demonstrated a high degree of effectiveness in stopping reproduction of the Ebola virus. So tell your friends, ColRebSez had it first.

    ADDENDUM, 10/29, 8:57 P.M.: Given that the mortality rate of Ebola infections is as much as 80 percent in West Africa, I'm surprised that massive quantities of clomiphene or other estrogen blockers haven't been shipped over. No, it's not tried and true, but how much worse can the outcomes be? There is really nothing to lose.
    As I mentioned, even if effective there may be a limited window in which these drugs will be effective before the Ebola virus mutates and develops resistance to it. Amantadine, for example, used to be effective against the flu; all flu strains are now resistant. Tamiflu remains mostly effective against the flu, although resistant strains have appeared.
    In any event, it would seem to me to be helpful to try to use any weapons we might have against the virus. Better to stop it now and worry about antiviral resistance later.

If residents of Ebola-infected areas are allowed to leave with only a fever check, the virus will spread

A woman traveling from Guinea into Mali has her temperature
checked at the border in an effort to screen for Ebola.
(Edited 9-9-2017 to update link to photo)
    I read with some concern recently about the young girl who was carried into Mali while infected with the Ebola virus. One hundred eleven Malians who had exposure to the girl are now being tracked by the World Health Organization.
    As a practical matter the actual number of people actually at risk from developing Ebola from contact with the girl is probably fewer than 30 and perhaps only a dozen. But that's still a lot of people.
    The two-year-old girl apparently never had her temperature checked when entering Mali as she was being carried in a sling on her grandmother's back. She was already ill with Ebola symptoms at the time, and a screening would have detected it.
    What concerns me is that Mali is letting in streams of people from Guinea with only a temperature check to screen for Ebola. The virus has a typical incubation period of 4-21 days (and up to 45 days), so a temperature check is of little use in keeping out those infected with the disease but still asymptomatic.
    My guess is that Mali may already have an Ebola outbreak, authorities just don't know it yet. The nature of Ebola is that there is one death from an unexplained cause, often thought to be malaria or some other malady; three weeks later two or three additional people die; in three more weeks that total might jump to six. It can take two or three months for authorities to even become aware of an outbreak.
    Even when villages might suspect Ebola they might be afraid to alert authorities for fear of being quarantined with no food or having their loved ones carted away. So an initial, isolated outbreak often goes undetected by authorities until a village is completely decimated, perhaps even abandoned.
    Most people have all been indoctrinated with the notion that people should have the right to go wherever they want whenever they want. But no one should be allowed to leave an area with an uncontrolled Ebola outbreak without a mandatory quarantine. Nobody has a right to infect the world.
    The world needs to create a cordon sanitaire around those areas with uncontrolled Ebola outbreaks; nobody leaves without a quarantine. If it requires massive numbers of troops standing shoulder-to-shoulder to enforce, then troops we should send. If the only way to stop people from leaving is to shoot them, then shoot.
    Make no mistake, the developed world should send far more aid to areas affected by the Ebola outbreak. We should send medical help. We should immediately step up and start paying all of the health care workers a risk bonus. We should do far more than we are doing. But we should not allow any potentially infected person to leave the area without a quarantine, period.
    Sadly, the world isn't willing to commit the resources or make the hard choices necessary to control contagion, so Ebola will, in all likelihood, continue to slowly spread. At some point it is likely to spread into rebel-controlled areas of Mali or Nigeria where even Doctors Without Borders has been able to operate with only the greatest of difficulty. Eventually Ebola is likely transform from an epidemic to a pandemic affecting all of the undeveloped world.
    I should note, as I always do, that my views are perhaps overly gloomy. There is evidence that new cases are dropping in Liberia, although some say they are merely going into hiding to avoid cremation. As I have pointed out many times, viruses often burn out of their own accord. Many Africans have developed antibodies to Ebola despite never having been infected, perhaps through exposure to bat saliva on gathered fruit. And the virus tends to spread so slowly that there may still be time to implement a mass-vaccination program.
    I have high hopes for both vaccination and medicines that will be effective against Ebola. As for containment, I fear the battle is either already lost or being lost. Should Ebola become a true worldwide scourge, it won't be from a lack of resources, but rather a lack of will.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death -- Ebola's story is that of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

--Revelation 6:1-8
    As the Ebola crisis continues to unfold in West Africa we would do well to remember the prophecy of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And no, I'm not foretelling the end of the world; these horsemen have appeared many times throughout history.
    The meaning of the white horse has been debated, but in recent years it has commonly been called Pestilence, or disease. The red horse is clearly war.
    The black horse is said to symbolize famine and want; but the instruction to spare the oil and wine is a suggestion that the famine's hardship will fall primarily on the poor.
    The pale horse is Death, always a traveling companion to Pestilence, War, and Famine.
    War and Death had already destroyed the infrastructure of West Africa. The reason there are so few doctors and health care workers in Liberia is because they all left or were killed during that country's brutal civil war. And so following in the footsteps of War has been Pestilence -- the Ebola virus. Ebola is also preventing almost all other diseases from being treated, so the death rate is magnified.
    Soon we will have Famine. In Sierra Leone, as many as 40 percent of farmers have abandoned their fields. Presumably a large number have done likewise throughout the region. Trade has come to a standstill and food is already in short supply. These supplies will get shorter still as untended farms produce no crops.
    I've made it clear that I'm more than irritated with the fact that our government has repeatedly given the public false information that the Ebola virus poses virtually no risk to any American and is incredibly hard to catch. This isn't true. But with that said I believe the chances of a major Ebola outbreak in the United States are quite low. It may sound like a quibble, but I object to the government claiming "absolutely no risk" in cases when there is "an overwhelming likelihood that there is no risk." There is a difference.
    But the real Ebola story is in Africa. Unfortunately, I've concluded that based on current efforts the Ebola virus will not be contained; it eventually will spread throughout the undeveloped world. I don't know what the eventual death toll will be, but unless a vaccine is developed I can't imagine that it will be less than 10 million people and could easily top 100 million or more.
    That's a lot of dead people, and even if not a single American dies it will have some major effects on our lives. A recent blog post by Jody Lanard and Peter M. Sandman entitled Ebola: Failure of Imagination sums up my view of the situation quite well. Essentially the authors say that the worst-case scenarios for the Ebola virus are so awful that we are refusing to even contemplate them, and yet by our very refusal to do so are failing to make rational choices that might stave of potential disaster.
    The United States has sent 4,000 troops and various countries are expected to send $1 billion in aid to the region. Certainly this is noble, but it's not going to be enough to stop this epidemic. Perhaps 40,000 troops and medics and $20 billion might do the trick, but there is no national or international will to do this.
    And so Pestilence will very, very slowly continue its march around the globe, often following the Horseman of War. Soon after will come Famine for the poor amid plenty for the rich. And always with them Death.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Government liberals lie repeatedly about Ebola; their actions show they don't believe what they say

    We have another Ebola case in the United States, intentionally imported by Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress. A New York doctor who knew he might have been exposed in Guinea to the virus has taken ill after spending a night on the town, where he may have infected numerous people.
    I say intentionally imported because Obama and the Democrats have refused to put into place reasonable travel restrictions to prevent a slow trickle of infected Ebola victims from entering the country and spreading it around. While I don't support a total travel ban, a ban on tourist travel combined with a mandatory quarantine period would eliminate virtually all Ebola cases in this country. Instead we are stuck with the possibility -- hopefully a small one -- of an Ebola outbreak in New York City.
    In response to a public outcry for travel restrictions the Obama administration recently adopted a policy of requiring people from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea who are infected with the Ebola virus to enter the country in one of five airports. I'm not sure how this is helpful in any way. Reducing it to one won't help either. As long as Obama and the Democrats continue to allow people who are infected but not showing symptoms into the country the entire nation is at risk.
    With the federal government failing to take action the states are stepping in. New York, New Jersey, and Illinois have all announced quarantine policies. New York is going to allow citizens to serve their quarantines in their homes and compensate them for lost wages, which makes good sense. New Jersey has just forced a nurse returning from Sierra Leone into a quarantine tent with no shower. Not cool! This woman is a hero for her efforts, and while I believe she should be placed in quarantine, she should be given every comfort. Personally, I don't believe a full 21-day quarantine period is necessary; I think 10-12 days of quarantine followed by 15 days of self-monitoring and avoiding crowds and public areas would be highly effective.
    For some reason our national response to  the Ebola virus has become a liberal versus conservative issue. Liberals take the view that we really shouldn't worry at all about the Ebola virus, and besides, if things get out of hand our government will take care of and protect us. Conservatives take the view that worries over Ebola may indeed by overblown, but that it does pose a real risk; our government has proven itself to be truly inept in dealing with it, and in a true global catastrophe no government is big enough or strong enough to take care of us or protect us.
    In other words, we ought to be careful. We ought to protect ourselves. Liberals are so worried about some family from Sierra Leone not getting to see DisneyWorld that they aren't even willing to suspend tourist travel from countries with out-of-control Ebola epidemics. They would rather be politically correct, even if it means hundreds or even thousands of Americans might needlessly die.
    If Obama and the Democrats were ever to admit that infected but asymptomatic people ought not be allowed to enter the country through our airports, then it would also have to admit that infected people ought not be allowed to enter through our border with Mexico as well. For them this would be too much. Obama and the Democrats simply cannot accept the fact that our nation should protects its borders and put the interests of our own citizens ahead of those of foreigners.
    To accomplish its goals Obama and the Democrats have turned the CDC into a left-wing mouthpiece and miss no chance to ridicule Republicans who express fears that come directly from guidelines written by the CDC. CDC spokesmen often deny risks that are stated in their own written policies.
    The CDC and other liberal shills tells us things that are obviously false. Examples:
    ❑ CDC Director Tom Friedan claims the disease is incredibly hard to catch. Yet health care professionals who take every precaution are contracting the disease. It's probably not very contagious in its early stages. But it's worth noting that the government isn't sure of that, because it is carefully tracking and even quarantining people exposed to Ebola patients with early symptoms or even no symptoms. I'm glad the government is being careful; I just wish it would be truthful. Ebola is highly contagious, and we don't know at what point it becomes highly contagious.
    ❑ The government tells us that it is impossible to catch Ebola from riding a bus, but that anyone who might have been exposed to the Ebola virus should not take the bus. Huh? When a woman vomited on a bus and then lied about having just come from West Africa, everyone on the bus was placed under quarantine. Why? According to the government they couldn't have possibly have caught it!
    ❑ Shepard Smith made a big production of telling the world that there is absolutely nothing to fear from Ebola. In that newscast he claimed that nurse Amber Joy Vinson had absolutely no symptoms when she flew from Cleveland to Dallas. This was just false. In fact, she said she had felt draggy for a couple of days and was running a fever of 99.5; the CDC told her to fly anyway. These are symptoms. And the CDC is tracking passengers on both her flight to Cleveland, when she was completely asymptomatic, and her flight home. I'm glad, but clearly the government doesn't believe there is zero risk or it wouldn't be tracking these people.
    ❑ The most recent Ebola victim, Dr. Craig Spencer of New York, returned from Guinea about 10 days ago, where he had been treating Ebola patients as a Doctors Without Borders volunteer. He apparently reported feeling "sluggish" starting Tuesday of this week. For whatever reason he spent the night on the town Wednesday, taking subways and going to a bowling alley. On Thursday morning he developed a fever and diarrhea and reported it to health authorities. The government insists that he was not infectious prior to developing a fever on Thursday, but his fiancee has been quarantined and two friends who were in contact with him on Wednesday have been placed under mandatory quarantine.  Why? The government says the doctor was not infectious on Wednesday. Why do these friends need to be quarantined? And wouldn't it have been easier on all concerned to just have had a national policy that would have quarantined or placed mandatory restrictions on the doctor on his return from West Africa?
    ❑ Rand Paul recently stated that the Ebola virus could be transmitted through the air through a cough or sneeze. He was immediately ridiculed by the left. Dr. Paul was merely stating facts that were on the CDC website. Note, by the way, that a virus that can travel a short distance through the air by way of aerosol created with a cough or sneeze is not airborne. An airborne virus is one that can attach itself to a dust mote and travel a relatively long distance.
    ❑ Far-left mag Mother Jones takes Dr. Paul to task for stating that Ebola is more contagious than AIDS. These leftists just find that notion hilarious. The average Ebola victim currently infects two more victims while the average AIDS patient supposedly infects four, although that number has varied greatly over the years. Therefore, according to liberals, AIDS is more contagious. Have these people not stopped to think that an AIDS victim might take 10 years to infect four people while an Ebola victim does it in three weeks? That you can't catch AIDS from merely touching someone? Ebola is far more contagious than AIDS. Why do liberals want to hide this fact?
    ❑ I frequently see posts where people claim that Ebola isn't very contagious; after all, measles is far more contagious. Indeed it is -- nine times more contagious, to be exact, and perhaps more. But measles has a fairly low mortality rate. Ebola in Africa has a mortality rate of about 700 cases out of 1,000. Why muddy the waters with talk of measles or other diseases? What matters is that the number of Ebola cases in West Africa continues to double every three weeks to one month, and 70 percent of those who contract the disease will die.
    I don't think we as a nation should panic over a few domestic cases of Ebola; but the threat to the undeveloped world is ominous, and if the disaster is large enough if will affect us all. But it's not an act of "panic" or "hysteria" to take reasonable, prudent precautions to prevent Ebola cases from being introduced into the domestic population.
    For some reason Obama and the Democrats aren't willing to take any precautions against an unwanted Ebola outbreak. Rather than admit to any uncertainty, Obama and the Democrats just lie and ignore the dangers. It's almost recreational for them.
    But it's not a game for the rest of us. It's dangerous and it puts our nation and our world at risk. As a general rule things will always turn out just fine, but in every instance we should always think about and plan for a worst-case scenario.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

When five supposedly good kids said to sodomize, injure a schoolmate, what lessons can we learn?

    In the Disturbing Beyond Belief department, five Hopkinsville, Ky., young adults and teens have been arrested and charged with sodomy and other crimes in relation to an attack on a passed-out 15-year-old boy at a party. The boy may or may not have been drugged.
    The boy was seriously injured. His intestines were punctured and he nearly died; he currently has a colostomy bag; I don't know if this is permanent. The sexual attack, committed with various objects -- one kicked into the boy's rectum -- was filmed and perhaps placed on social media.
    An attack of this kind is troubling in every case, but this boy was a family friend to two of his alleged attackers and a cousin to one. These kids knew each other well. They were supposedly friends, or at least associated with the same friends.
    And by the way, before you start thinking about Kentucky jokes, Hopkinsville is in Western Kentucky, between Nashville and Paducah. Demographically it's a bit like Tate County with slightly lower income and more college degrees.
    The five who were arrested weren't rough thugs -- just the opposite. They were mostly middle-class, college-track kids. One of the oldest, Dayton Ross Jones, was on the Arkansas State University golf team. Another has a Facebook page that says he attends or attended the University of Kentucky.
    The Facebook page for one of the juveniles, a high school senior, displays photos of a tall, athletic teen posing with lots of attractive girls and other attractive high school kids. In fact all of the kids had Facebook pages that made them appear to be well-liked, successful, decent guys. It's sad to look at these photos: a first deer, first turkey, first car, first prom date, and then realize the next photo in the series needs to be the first felony mug shot.
    These five guys didn't intend to seriously injure this boy; they wanted to humiliate him. What started off as fairly mild humiliation escalated as the attackers tried to outdo the others in viciousness. Oddly enough, many people apparently don't believe that it is a sexual assault if one's purpose is merely to humiliate someone they know.
    Whenever I read a story like this I bring it to the attention of my children, because there are so many life lessons to be learned from the mistakes and tragedies of others. Among them:
    ❑ Good people sometimes do terrible things. Try not to be one of them. Learn from the mistakes of others.
    ❑ If you get drunk or otherwise pass out there are people who will take advantage of you or try to humiliate you, often for no reason. Sometimes they will harm you. Sometimes these people will be those who are supposed to be your friends. Avoid drinking to the point of passing out. Be aware that there are those who get their jollies out of drugging drinks.
    ❑ When a group of guys get drunk enough they will do inexplicably stupid things, often urged on by a single instigator. Guys will often attempt to outdo each other in viciousness. Avoid associating with instigators; avoid associating with those who often do stupid things; avoid associating with those who act in a vicious manner; avoid drinking to the point of seriously impaired judgment.
    ❑ Recognize that it's not always easy to do what's right. If just one of these five boys had somehow found the courage to stand up to his friends he would have saved an entire community a world of sorrow. Doing the right thing often seems impossibly difficult at the moment, but if kids could just imagine themselves 24 hours in the future looking backward it would be easy.
    Under the right circumstances every child or young adult has the potential to be a victim or a victimizer. As a parent I hope I can educate my children to these dangers without sounding like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Reasonable West Africa travel restrictions not the same things as a travel ban

    In the debate over travel bans to West Africa, one fact seems to be missing. Travel restrictions are not travel bans.
    It is highly desirable that aid workers, health care workers, government officials, and business people be able to travel back and forth between West Africa and the rest of the world. That doesn't mean additional steps can't be taken to prevent the importation of the disease into the United States.
    For starters, we don't need to allow people with West African passports into the United States on tourist visas if there is any chance their travel has originated from West Africa. No American needs to travel to West Africa merely to see the sights. They can wait to see Disneyworld and we can wait to tour Monroevia.
    Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian who brought Ebola to the United States, arrived on a tourist visa. He had told his friends that his intention was to illegally overstay his visa and work in the U.S. He was willing to take this chance because Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress refuse to protect our nation's borders or enforce our immigration laws. A restriction on tourist travel or a reputation for enforcement of immigration laws would have kept Duncan -- and Ebola -- out of the country.
    Most Ebola cases will manifest themselves within 21 days of exposure, although the World Health Organization and other researchers say the virus can have a longer incubation period. Obviously a quarantine period either before or after a flight greatly reduces the risk of exposing the general public to Ebola.
    For example, if Thomas Duncan had been required to undergo a five-day quarantine in Liberia prior to boarding his flight to the United States he wouldn't have been allowed to do so, as by the fifth day he would have been showing symptoms of the virus. Any quarantine period is better than none at all.
    West Africans could be quarantined in their home countries prior to boarding their flights; their governments are very cooperative. Americans could be allowed to return home and serve their quarantine in the United States. The quarantine period should be based on the likelihood of exposure, with everyone having a minimum quarantine period of four or five days; those with likely exposure would have a full 21-day quarantine.
    A few days in a hotel sipping Mai Tais by a hotel swimming pool doesn't seem too much of a burden on those wishing to travel from West Africa to the United States. It won't hamper relief efforts.
    Travel restrictions and travel bans will not eliminate the risk of ebola cases arising in the heartland. If the contagion continues to grow at its current pace we will have cases which crop up here at home. Obama and the Democrats in Congress take the view that since travel restrictions won't stop all cases of Ebola we should just throw open the borders and take no precautions whatsoever. This is insanity! The fewer domestic cases we have to deal with, the better.
    Reasonable travel restrictions harm no one. A ban on tourist travel is a ban on those up to no good in the first place. A reasonable quarantine policy won't eliminate risk, but it will greatly reduce it, and that should be our goal.
    We don't need to ban West Africa travel. We do need to restrict and regulate it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Shepard Smith says we have nothing to fear from Ebola virus, and that scares me a lot

    I grew up with Shepard Smith, although he's a few years younger than me. His father grew up with my father and is a good friend. I don't think I've seen Shepard since we were at Ole Miss together, but I've enjoyed the chance to observe his great success at Fox News over the years.
    Shepard was somewhat far to the left during his Ole Miss days and he's liberal today, which is fine. Without liberals we can't have conservatives, can we? So it doesn't surprise me that Shepard decided to serve as a shill for the Obama administration with a rant against media "hysteria" over Ebola.
    Feel free to listen to Shepard's rant. He's got some blatant factual errors, which I picked up right away. For example, he said the nurse did not show symptoms when she few from Cleveland to Dallas. This is just simply false. She had a fever of 99.5 and was instructed to fly on a commercial airliner by the CDC anyway. She almost certainly was not highly contagious at this point, but she was potentially contagious -- or at least the general consensus is that she was. So Shepard is just passing out false information, and I'm not sure why, since it is so clearly wrong.
    I suspect that Ebola probably isn't very contagious until the victim reaches the vomiting, diarrhea, and heavy sweating stage, at which point it becomes contagious beyond belief. With that said, I see no need for the government to encourage unnecessary risks, which it is currently doing. Ebola is considered contagious at the onset of symptoms.
    Here is the one fact I know for certain about the Ebola virus: Nothing is certain. And should we get to know anything for certain we won't know it for long, because the virus is constantly mutating. For that reason an abundance of caution is in order.
    I would argue that a certain amount of hysteria is both warranted and good. I think a fair definition of "hysteria" is an exaggerated fear or excitement. When it comes to Ebola, I think it is better that our society be too afraid than not afraid enough.
    Shepard says we have nothing to fear from Ebola. Nothing. This scares me almost much as Ebola does.
    Shepard says it's all politics. You know, when somebody like me, who is about as right-wing and conservative as one can get, starts screaming about the need to send massive amounts of medical aid to Africa, perhaps people ought to take notice. It's not politics. One recent article points out that liberals seem to be refusing to adopt sensible policies to fight Ebola simply because conservatives support them. Now that's politics.
    I'm not afraid that somehow I will catch Ebola because some nurse took a Frontier airline flight when she shouldn't have, even though the very long incubation period of this virus makes it especially dangerous. That's not the fear, and Shepard is right to say we shouldn't worry about this particular issue.
    The CDC has shown an extreme level of incompetence in battling the Ebola virus here in the United States. It failed to send a team of experts to Dallas for several days after Thomas Duncan was admitted. Apparently 78 health care workers were potentially exposed to the Ebola virus and two have now contracted the disease. The CDC told one of these nurses with Ebola to fly on a commercial jet after developing a fever. This level of incompetence is cause for some level of hysteria.
    Democrats dedicated to open borders insist on allowing people from countries with massive, uncontrolled Ebola outbreaks into the country without proper screening. The virus has up to a 21-day incubation period, but any infected person from West Africa who doesn't have a fever is permitted to enter the country, where they may then develop symptoms and infect others, as Thomas Duncan did. When the Obama administration essentially invites people infected with the Ebola virus to come spread it amongst the general population it is cause for some level of hysteria.
    Americans seem unwilling to establish or obey any safety guidelines concerning the Ebola virus. The second Dallas nurse violated CDC protocol by flying to Cleveland within 21 days of possible exposure to the Ebola virus. She wasn't supposed to fly; she did it anyway. NBC's chief medical correspondent Nancy Snyderman agreed to a voluntary 21-day quarantine after a member of her camera crew contracted Ebola. She broke the curfew in order to buy fast food. When Americans who are most knowledgeable about the need to follow safety precautions refuse to do so, how can we expect ordinary citizens to use good judgment. Yes, I'm afraid.
    There are two bits of good news concerning the Ebola virus in West Africa. First, a mathematical model which has been highly accurate in predicting the number of Ebola cases suggests the virus will begin to burn itself out in December. Of course, plenty will die before then, and I confess I have more hope than faith in the model. Second, the West has finally realized that the crisis in West Africa potentially threatens the entire world, and has been committing resources to stopping it (it doesn't help for Shepard to claim we have nothing to fear).
    Shepard says we have absolute nothing to fear from Ebola. Let me ask a question. We know that one of the 78 health care workers exposed to Ebola decided to breach protocol and take a plane to Cleveland -- and then was told by the CDC to fly back with a fever. There are 76 more exposed people. Is it not reasonable to fear some of the others may have breached protocol in a similar fashion?
    The CDC is considering placing the remaining 76 health care workers on the TSA no-fly list. These people are free to travel by car, but not by bus or plane. I presume that all of these 76 people are on paid leave.
    Does anyone consider it possible -- just possible -- that one of these 76 people might have family down in Mexico or even Central America that they've already decided drive down and see? After all, they've got a paid vacation, why not visit the family? Are poverty-stricken areas of Mexico and Central America well equipped to deal with an Ebola outbreak? Is this possibility not a cause for at least some fear?
    Most potential disasters will not happen. We can ignore or pay minimal attention to the Ebola virus and the chances are that it will burn itself out. When Herculean efforts are used to avert a crisis, no one knows if they are effective or not; if nothing bad happens perhaps the disaster never would have happened anyway. And so people like me are viewed as fear-mongerers or crackpots.
    I only offer my view as an alternative to Shepard's. He says Americans should have no fear of Ebola. I say we should all be very afraid. He says we shouldn't be hysterical. I say until the government demonstrates some level of competence in battling the disease, and adopts of policies to prevent new foreign cases from being introduced into the general population a certain amount of hysteria is in order.
    Do not remain calm. All is not well.

    UPDATE, 10/17/2014: One of the remaining 76 exposed workers did indeed go to Central America,  ON A CRUISE SHIP! She is reportedly asymptomatic and has voluntarily quarantined herself in her stateroom, but the insanity of her being on a cruise ship in the first place in mind-boggling. The nation of Belize would not allow her to come ashore to be flown back to the United States.
    I am very confident that my children, who are in ninth and tenth grade, could do a far better job of managing the Ebola crisis than is currently being done by the Obama administration.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

If Liberian nurses want hazard pay in ebola fight, the West should just pay their salaries directly

    Liberian nurses on the front lines in the fight against the ebola virus threatened to strike over low pay, or often no pay, since the government is months behind in payment of their salaries.
    For now they've remained working.
    There aren't very many health care workers in West Africa to begin with, and an alarming number have died in the fight against ebola. Their demand of $500 per month in hazard pay is not unreasonable; it would take their monthly pay to $700. As national expenditures go, this amounts to almost nothing.
    In fact, I'd love to know what has been spent on the few ebola cases that have been treated in the United States. My guess is that when we tally it up, enough health care dollars will have been spent on Liberian Thomas Duncan and his nurse Nina Pham to pay every Liberian health care worker their desired salary for a month.
    So let's just do it. The United States and other Western nations should simply take it upon themselves to pay the salaries of all of the health care workers in West Africa for the duration of this outbreak. The health care workers would need to be paid directly, to keep their governments from stealing the money.
    This isn't foreign aid or charity; it is money well spent for our nation's self-preservation.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ebola virus may have evolutionary effect of dampening altruism, promoting self-preservation

    I've had several posts about the Ebola virus. That's because it's important. With that said, the virus may die down and go away. Or it may just explode and completely destroy the undeveloped world.
    Whether or not the Ebola virus explodes, in the few areas where it has ravaged the population we can see how a worldwide pandemic of a deadly disease can literally cause the entire human species to evolve as those with certain traits survive while others die.
    For example, Nicholas Wade argues in A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History that for hundreds of years Britain existed in a Malthusian Wringer that eventually made the entire population less violent, less impulsive, more willing to delay gratification and so on. Essentially over several hundred years those with genes which encouraged traits necessary for the Industrial Revolution slowly populated all of British society.
    We humans are genetically programmed to be selfish. We're also genetically programmed for altruism. These conflicting impulses work a bit like the angel and devil in the movie Animal House. There is in all of us a genetically programmed urge to help people in need. This tendency for altruism came about because at some point societies whose members had some level of altruism had  a competitive advantage to those who had none.
    But with the Ebola virus, altruism often results in almost certain death. Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian who arrived in Dallas with the disease, contracted it by trying to help a sick neighbor get to a hospital. He was unsuccessful. When the neighbor collapsed in the street bleeding from the mouth he carried her into her home and laid her on her bed. Certainly he must have known of the danger involved. A number of people tried to help the woman that day; all of them contracted Ebola. If Duncan had simply stayed within his home and ignored the woman he would probably still be alive today.
    To date there have only been 4,000 Ebola deaths, but the possibility exists that this number will balloon into the hundreds of thousands or millions or even hundreds of millions. A disproportionate number of these victims will be those who tried to care for others. More than ten percent of those who have contracted the virus have been health care workers.
    Those who are the most altruistic will be more likely to die; those who are the most self-protective will be more likely to live. The most altruistic people will never pass on their genes to the next generation; those with a greater proclivity for self-preservation will. In areas where 20 percent or more of the population dies from the Ebola virus, the very genetic fabric of society will be changed.
    Altruism will still survive, of course. And kindness and selfishness aren't entirely genetically determined or perhaps even mostly genetically determined. But genetics plays a roll, and if most of the altruistic people are killed off by disease the remaining gene pool will be dramatically changed.
    What we may be witnessing is evolution in action. It's a reminder that evolution doesn't take millions of years. Sometimes it only takes a few days or months.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Ebola growing like the penny in the old childhood allowance puzzle

    I remember as a child reading the Allowance Puzzle, where one was asked to pick whether it would be better to receive an allowance of a dime in January that would increase by a dime every month for a year or an allowance of a penny that would double every month for a year.
    Most children would quickly choose the dime, seeing that $1.20 was quite a lot of money compared to a penny. And they would be wrong. The child who chose to receive a penny for his January allowance would receive $20.48 in December to do his Christmas shopping. That is the power of exponential versus arithmetic growth.
    It is also the story of the Ebola virus, which has been growing in true exponential form for several weeks now: for every person who dies, two new ones are catching the disease. Most of them will die. The Washington Post has a story entitled "The Ominous Math of the Ebola Epidemic," that is scary reading.
    For some reason the "remain calm" crowd keeps telling us that Ebola isn't very contagious. Yet the Spanish nurse who became the first European case believes she contracted the disease when she accidentally or negligently touched her face while taking off her haz-mat suit. This is a description of a disease that is contagious beyond belief. A single touch can result in death.
    I don't know what's going to happen. Perhaps some unknown someone from some unknown someplace will do some unknown something to get this thing under control. Eventually (I hope) we are going to have some restrictions on movement to prevent those who know they might have the disease from just hopping a plane to Dallas. Things in the developed world may grind to a halt for a while.
    Ebola has an incubation rate of a four to 21 days and often comes on quite mildly; figure a fortnight. So what is the effect of doubling a penny 26 times (in other words a year's theoretical growth of Ebola)? I could figure it out but I'm too lazy, but Dr. Math tells us the result for doubling a penny 30 times. If you double a penny 30 times you'll end up with $10,737,418.23. Multiply that by 100 to get the number of pennies and you get 1,073,741,823, or roughly the population of Africa.
    Of course, the growth rate has to slow at some point; everyone isn't going to die. There is sometimes a tendency for a virus such as this one to act like a young fire consuming tinder in a blaze and then dying down. I think there is a better than even chance the virus will be contained with only a few flare ups that need to be tamped down.
    There is also the chance that Africa could see 500 million dead with 500 million addition corpses spread around the rest of the world. And it could be worse. The fact is that nobody can really forecast just how nasty this thing might be, because at its worst it could kill a third of the planet. I don't think it will, but it could. Nobody is going to come out and mention that, except for me. I do think the incredibly slow incubation period of this virus has lulled the public into a false sense of security.
    It is in our national interest to devote substantial resources to fighting this disease. As a nation we need to be prepared for disaster, both collectively and individually. I fear that we are not.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wars, disease, natural disaster all disrupt the food supply; plan ahead or eat dirty turnips

     Shown above for your viewing pleasure is Scarlett O'Hara declaring that she will "never be hungry again." It's provided as a reminder that there have been times in our history when food has been in short supply.
    If the O'Hara family had purchased 50 cans of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup at Thanksgiving for 50 cents a can, 50 pounds of pasta for 50 cents a pound, 50 pounds of rice for $18, 50 pounds of sugar at 25 cents per pound, and so on and kept it all in an emergency supply closet they might have weathered the early days of Reconstruction with plenty to eat. And since such stockpiling inevitably reduces one's grocery bill, Mr. O'Hara would have had extra money to invest in something besides Confederate war bonds. Perhaps he would have been able to pay the taxes on Tara.
    But they didn't, and so were reduced to eating raw turnips and wearing curtains.
    Each of us has the same choices that the O'Hara family had. We can choose to pay too much for groceries, and should disaster strike be reduced to eating dirty turnips just pulled from the ground. Or we can buy large quantities of heavily discounted, non-perishable groceries when they go on deep discount. In the event of a disaster causing empty grocery shelves we can eat out of the pantry for a couple of months.
    These are perilous times. An extremist Muslim group has now established itself in a territory and declared itself a nation. These terrorists are absolutely ruthless, and if they can find a way to harm the United States, they will.
    The world is at war with Muslim extremists and the extremists are winning. Ruthlessness can be an effective weapon of war; just watch Apocalypse Now. Those who enjoy filming themselves slitting the throats of innocent people and killing Christian children will do anything they can to harm those they hate -- and that means us.
    In other news, the Ebola virus appears to be highly contagious in its current form and is spreading around the world. A Spanish nurse who treated an Ebola victim has come down with the disease despite taking every precaution. And though the disease is not believed to be airborne, many scientists now believe that it can be spread through a direct or close proximity cough or sneeze. The Ebola virus has an extremely long incubation period of up to 21 days and symptoms often come on slowly, allowing those infected with the disease to easily spread it. The checking of temperature of those boarding airplanes is absolutely ineffective as a means of screening for the disease.
    War zones are the greatest incubators for infectious diseases known to man. Look at a map and count the places where no government is truly in control. Tremble in fear, for our world has become a giant Petri dish.
    The icing on the cake is the fact that Barack Obama has refused to police our nation's borders, allowing those carrying deadly diseases and terrorists to enter the country at will. The terrorists who will launch the next attack are likely already in this country, and now there is nothing we can do to stop them.
    One final worry: there is about a one-half to one percent chance per year of a major natural disaster that will be so severe that it will completely disrupt our food distribution network. Scientists say it is a matter not of if, but when we will suffer a Carrington Event that will likely cripple our entire electrical grid, and perhaps disable virtually all motor vehicles.
    And let's not forget the possibility of a major earthquake in the central United States. One of the largest earthquakes in continental U.S. history was the New Madrid earthquake of 1811. There has been a dramatic increase in earthquake activity along this fault line and Wal-Mart has started to prepare for a New Madrid disaster.
    Enough gloom and doom for now. The fact is that everything is probably going to be just fine.
    Of course, if one were to be forced to play Russian Roulette one is "probably" going to live. That doesn't make it a good idea. "Probably" simply isn't good enough. We need to hope for the best but spend a small amount of time and effort preparing for the worst.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

This may be Oxford's biggest home game ever, so let's make sure we win the hospitality contest

    I do believe the biggest football game in Ole Miss history is about to take place.
    The match-up between No. 11 Ole Miss and No. 3 Alabama may be the most-watched game in the nation Saturday. The 2:30 p.m. game will be broadcast on CBS, but for the first time ever ESPN Game Day will be broadcast live from the stage at the Grove.
    Thank goodness for our big-screen television back in our tent, because to date I haven't been able to afford a ticket. My experience is that sometimes it's possible to get tickets at reasonable prices just outside the gate; and if not, I'll cheer from the Grove.
    I do hope everyone will pass the word that we need to be on our best behavior. The Alabama fans are our guests and we need to treat them as such. Fans that visit the Ole Miss campus return home marveling over how gracious we all are. Let's make sure Alabama gets a warm welcome even though we hope it will be a close game.
    Make no mistake, the oddsmakers expect Ole Miss to lose this game, but not by much. The line at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas currently has Alabama favored by 5½ points. As hard as it may be, if we lose we need to be gracious in defeat.
    But we're playing to win, and we have one of the best chances of beating Alabama in quite a while. The Alabama team isn't quite up to snuff this year and the Rebels are the best they've been in decades. A lot will depend on effort; and luck; and on the 13th man in the stadium.
    If we should win, I hope everyone will endeavor not to act like fools.
    A couple of years ago Jinny and I had the pleasure of hosting an out-of-state high school student who was thinking about coming to Ole Miss. He was a great student and being recruited by the honors college. After visiting the Grove, his mind was made up. He said then he was coming to Ole Miss, and he did.
    What attracted him wasn't that we won or lost the game that day. What attracted him was the graciousness and hospitality that he witnessed in the Grove. It is one of Ole Miss' greatest recruiting assets, so let's make sure we as fans don't muck it up through obnoxious winning or sore losing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Now is a good time to buy lots of deeply discounted groceries -- just in case

    The Ebola epidemic has now reached the United States. Given that our Jackass-in-Chief has refused to secure our nation's borders, more cases are no doubt on the way.
    I have no doubt we will be better able to contain or slow the spread of the disease than the impoverished countries in Africa where people are dropping like flies. But the fact is none of us know how bad things will get.
   I don't stockpile food in the way that survivalists do. But I do buy large quantities of regular food items when they are on sale: Ragu for 99 cents, pasta for 50 cents a pound, cheese for $3.00 per pound, sugar at 25 cents per pound, and so forth. The photo above shows items that I've purchased at very deep discount -- half to two-thirds off. For example, I've got about 60 bottles of Ragu, 50 pounds of pasta, 80 pounds of sugar, and so on. If disaster strikes I'll have a little something to eat. If not, I'll save on our grocery bill.
    Ash wanted to know why I had the Hefty storage bags in the photo. "You can't eat Hefty bags," he declared. And indeed you can't. But they are great for food storage, which is part of ensuring enough to eat. Several years ago, while still living in Kentucky, I was able to find Hefty storage bags on sale for $1.50 with 50-cent coupons attached to the boxes. The coupons were doubled, bringing the per-box price down to 50 cents. I bought 50 or 60 boxes, and in fact just this year found myself running out of some sizes.
    We probably won't have a massive ebola epidemic; neither the sun nor a nuclear bomb is likely to cause an electro-magnitic pulse; we aren't likely to have a massive earthquake. But in a world where bad things might happen it's better to have food and not need it than to need food and not have it.
    I make a point of not spending "extra" on survival food; I just buy lots of stuff on sale. But given that ebola has now made landfall I'm likely to buy a little powdered or shelf-stable milk, a little extra cooking oil, and so on.
    Beat the rush -- stock up on non-perishable groceries now; because if disaster strikes food will not be available. As they warn at the dog track, "Don't be shut out."

Friday, September 26, 2014

I bet they would raise more money if they offered people a chance to have dinner with Chris McDaniel

Click to enlarge
    If you don't think a lot of people are still mad about the race-baiting and possible election fraud that occurred in the Republican runoff election between Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel, just look at the response that a recent sponsored Facebook post offering dinner with Haley Barbour got. As always, you can click on the photo to enlarge it.
    Offering conservatives the chance to have dinner with Haley is like throwing gasoline on a fire. They just need to let this man keep a low profile and do his race-baiting behind the scenes. Are these people not aware of just how unpopular Barbour is right now, even among some Cochran supporters?
    Even worse, since it is a paid advertisement it keeps showing up again and again. And the response is uniformly negative. These ads are being targeted at conservatives, and conservatives are clearly not fond of Barbour.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Like a dollar, Dad's wisdom grew with time

    My dad put this on his office door about 30 years ago and it's still there. I can't help but think about Mark Twain's Quote: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
    It may have taken me a little longer.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Somebody thought this promotional email seemed like a good idea at the time

    I received an absolutely groveling apology Monday from over a tounge-in-cheek email they had sent me earlier in the day.
    "There is no excuse for the topic of the recent email sent to our customers, and we can only extend our deepest apologies to those disrespected by it," the email read in part. Well, of course I had to go back and see what all the hoo-ha was all about. Apparently they forgot that a real person died amid all the chuckles.
    I will say the reservation service often offers good deals on hotel rooms for those wanting to leave a car at the hotel for no charge for a week or two. I used them once and the hotel was heavily discounted and the parking was free.
    They should blame this one on the intern.
Click to enlarge

Bright eighth- through tenth-graders need to take the PSAT on October 15; call your school today!

    The PSAT or National Merit test is going to be given at virtually every high school in the nation on October 15.
    Juniors who score in the top one percent of their state and qualify as Finalists get full-ride scholarships to about half the schools in the SEC, plus many more. These schools have outstanding honors colleges. A student who was in roughly the 97.8th percentile of last year's test-takers was in the top one percent of Mississippians and thus earned Semifinalist honors. Usually a score in the 97.5th percentile is sufficient for Mississippians.
    The test isn't just for juniors. In fact, the College Board reports that 54 percent of those taking the test are in 10th grade or below. Why? Practice!
    How should a parent know whether their children have a chance to make National Merit Semifinalist? Simple. If they have scored well on other nationally normed tests then they should, with practice, score well on the PSAT.
    My view is that any Duke TIP participant who scored a 21 or higher on the ACT in seventh grade ought to be a National Merit Semifinalist in Mississippi, provided they work at it. Part of that "work" is taking the PSAT as an eighth, ninth- and tenth-grader to get a snapshot of where they stand.
    Don't expect the eighth- and ninth-grade scores to be anywhere near the cutoff level, either. The college board hasn't released the percentiles for these groups, but I'd guess that a score of 160 in eighth grade, 175 in ninth, and 190 in tenth will put students within striking range of the 203-210 that they will need to be Mississippi Semifinalists.
    As I've said before, the PSAT is the most important test that really bright students will take in their entire lifetime. Yet it's not even on most people's radar.
    If your 8-10th grade child has past test scores placing him in the top decile, call your school's guidance counselor today and make sure he is signed up to take the PSAT on October 15. A free-ride is a financial miracle; the honor of being a National Merit Finalist is priceless.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

It's good to know you have seating for disabled, but I'm not happy about disabled feature on website

    I clearly need lessons in expressing myself more clearly. Here is an email I wrote today to today to the Memphis Symphony Orchestra after visiting their website and finding that I couldn't select which section I'd like to buy tickets in.
    The only option was to take the "Best Available" tickets, which are $79. I can't afford this, and from my prior visit to the Cannon Center in Memphis I found that every seat is a good one.

Subject: Have you disabled seat section selection?
I know the orchestra is trying to raise more money, but I can't afford to buy the most expensive tickets. That is the only option I am given when I try to buy tickets online. In the end I think you will sell fewer tickets this way. Or perhaps this is just a problem with the website?

Oxford, Mississippi

    And their response:

I apologize for the inconvenience of purchasing tickets online.  We do have disabled access seating in most price ranges of the Cannon Center for our First Tennessee Masterworks and Pops concerts.  Accessible seating is also available at Germantown Performing Arts Center for the Sunday Masterworks, but all seats there are the same price of $45.  For our Paul & Linnea Bert Classic Accent series, again the seating is all the same price, $39, at LIndenwood Christian Church and it does offer accessible seating.
If you would like any assistance in reserving your seats, please feel free to call the Memphis Symphony Box Office during our business hours, Monday thru Friday from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm. 
    I don't want wheelchair seating. I just want to pick my section! I'm sure I will manage to get orchestra tickets before it's over.
    The Memphis Symphony Orchestra has a slightly less ambitious schedule this year, but they still have some very interesting performances. I'd like to see Ride of the Valkyries on Nov. 15 -- thankfully Ole Miss isn't playing that weekend -- and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on May 2.
    Click here to see their calendar of events.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Oxford Grillhouse has great steaks, but next time I'm going to try the Mr. Phat's Chinese menu

    I visited the Oxford Grillhouse the other night with my daughter Lucy. It was the first time I've visited since it opened on the Square.
    I give them a solid B, and the steak a solid A-plus. Others might not grade the steak so high, for reasons I'll explain in a moment. But I thought the steak was outstanding.
    I didn't order from the Chinese menu that the Grillhouse has on Thursday nights. They have arranged for Mr. Phat -- formerly of Two Stick and before that Ruby's Chinese Restaurant -- to prepare a few of his specialties on Thursday nights. Ruby's was one of my favorite Chinese restaurnts ever -- the other was in Cayce, South Carolina -- and I can't wait to make a Chinese night of it.
    Now for a couple of negatives, some of which can be cured with wiser ordering.
    First quibble: the Grillhouse has joined Boure' in using stemless wine glasses. These are nothing more than water tumblers, and I don't care for them. Fortunately I was able to get a stemmed glass for my second order. So if you prefer a stemmed wine glass, ask for it.
    Second quibble: I ordered the wedge salad, and was surprised that it had what appeared to be a good bit of French salad dressing. I pulled the menu up after I came home and found that the wedge salad comes with "a touch of sweet balsamic drizzle." I didn't get a touch; it was a slathering, and pretty much ruined the salad. In the end it was my partially my fault for not studying the menu more carefully. A wedge salad should have nothing but blue cheese (or preferably, Roquefort) dressing.
    My steak was outstanding and cooked a nice medium-rare. It was well seasoned, and might be a little too seasoned for some, but perfect for me. I always get a little Worcestershire Sauce for my steak, but mine really didn't need anything else. It had a good bit of coarse salt, which for me is a bonus; I love salt. But if something is salty enough for me that means it is too salty for most people. So salt-haters might request that they use an easy hand with the salt.
    Lucy ordered the Redfish Stuffed with Crawfish & Asparagus, served over risotto. The fish was outstanding, but Lucy hated the risotto. I took a taste and hated it, too. I realize some may say "hate" is a strong word, but the risotto remained uneaten.
    For dessert Lucy and I shared a molten lava cake with ice cream. We enjoyed it.
    Although I've mentioned a few things I didn't like, I'm looking forward to going back. Oxford Grillhouse does an amazing job with steaks, but next time I'm going to try the Chinese menu.

Friday, September 19, 2014

California national merit surnames: Chen, 62; Kim, 41; Zhang, 34; Brown, 4; Jones, 3; Smith, 1

    A member of the College Confidential forum has one of the most interesting posts I've read in a long time. It's a list of the most common surnames of California National Semifinalists for the Class of 2015.
    He also has a link to a list of every California National Merit Semifinalist.
    The first thing I wondered after seeing the California list was whether there were any Smiths. There was one; and three Joneses, and three Williamses.

    For those of you unwilling to follow the links above, here is the list of the most common surnames among California National Merit Semifinalists.
Most represented last names:
(1/3 of CA semifinalists had one of these last names)
68 Lee or Li
62 Chen
44 Wang
41 Kim
34 Zhang
30 Liu
25 Huang
24 Wu
19 Lin, Lu, Park
18 Xu
17 Chang, Yang
14 Wong
12 Zhu
11 Nguyen
10 Cheng, Hu, Zhou,
9 Cho, Chung, Ho, Patel(or Patil)
8 Gao, Kuo, Shen, Sun
7 Tran, Yu
6 Agrawal(var. spellings), Cai, Chiang, Chu, Deng, Feng, Guo, Gupta, He, Liao, Lim, Luo, Ma, Peng, Su, Wei, Yuan, Zhao
694 SUBTOTAL 33% 

Jane's Law Blog one of the best for reading about Mississippi court news; I've added it to my blog list

    Jane Tucker of Jackson has a new and one of the best blogs in the state covering the courts and the legal system. You can find her blog on the list on the left side of this page, or by clicking here.
    I was in law school with Jane. She has an acid wit and keen intellect. She's posted a few impressive wins of late in the Supreme Court.
    I confess that I haven't visited her blog much in the past few weeks. Now that I've got it on my blog sidebar I will be able to see each time she posts something new. And you, dear reader, may as well.

    In other housekeeping matters, I've fixed the links to "All Mississippi Dailies" and "All Mississippi Non-dailies," which can be found in the upper right-hand corner of this blog page.
    Several years ago when I created this blog template most of these newspapers could be accessed for free. Today most have a pay wall. But the link is there, anyway.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

For a prospective med students National Merit Finalist status worth a quarter-million dollars

    I've repeatedly blogged about how National Merit Finalists will qualify for automatic full-ride scholarships at many schools.
    Of 16,000 Semifinalists named last week, 15,000 will go on to become Finalists. Those who don't make the cut will have poor essays, fail to validate their PSAT with a 1960 or higher on the SAT, have low grades, or receive a negative recommendation from their high school. In Mississippi there are 135 Semifinalists this year; most will become Finalists.
.   Let's take a look at two schools offering automatic National Merit scholarships: Ole Miss and Alabama.
    I've selected Ole Miss because -- well, just look at the blog name. I've selected Alabama because it has one of the most generous Finalist packages in the nation, and as a result is pulling in lots of Finalists.
    Ole Miss offers Finalists a combination of three different undergraduate scholarships; as best I can figure it, eligible students automatically receive two; the third is automatically awarded to students who don't get a scholarship from the National Merit Corporation.
    The National Merit Academic Excellence Award is valued at $46,084 ($11,521 per year – includes a full-tuition scholarship, currently valued at $6,996 per year and the standard cost of double-occupancy room in a campus residence hall currently valued at $4,525 per year). Non-Resident students will also receive a full non-resident scholarship currently valued at $12,084 per year. Finalists may receive additional awards. This scholarship is awarded in lieu of the Academic Excellence Scholarship.
    Stacked on top of this are the Barnard Scholarship, worth $12,000 and the National Merit Finalist Award, which is worth $4,000 but limited to those students who don't receive a National Merit Corporate award.
    So the total value of the Ole Miss package is $62,084 over four years for state residents; it's considered a "full-ride," covering room, board, tuition, and some books. For non-residents the package is worth $82,436. Students receiving this scholarship are eligible for additional awards.
    Alabama's award is a little richer, although technically it's not a full-ride. Oklahoma and Alabama are in somewhat of a bidding war in an effort to attract the highest number of Finalists. The winners of this battle are the National Merit Finalists.
    Alabama offers housing for only the first year. Students also receive $3,500 per undergraduate year, offset by any National Merit Corporate Award. Add to this a one-time $2,000 award for international study and a free iPad on arrival, plus free tuition, and you have a pretty good package. The real beauty of the Alabama award is that it isn't an undergraduate award; it's a university award, good for 10 tuition-free semesters of both undergraduate and graduate school.
    Given that most Finalists will arrive at college with almost two-year's worth of credits through AP and dual enrollment, the inclusion of graduate school is big. Really big.
    Alabama doesn't give the dollar amount of its scholarship, so I've tried to ferret it out as best I could. In valuing the Alabama scholarship I based my numbers on two years of undergraduate school and three years of graduate, law, or medical school.
    Tuition and fees at Alabama are $4,975 per semester for residents and $11,850 for non residents. Annual tuition for the law school is $10,660 per semester for residents and $18,000 for non-residents. For medical school it's $12,745 residents; $30,466.80 for non-residents.
    So let's assume we have a typical National Merit Finalists who arrives at Alabama with two-year's worth of credits, and that he then wants to go to law school. For that student the Alabama scholarship package is $7,000 NM Award, plus $82,360 in undergraduate and law tuition, ($155,400 non-residents), plus $8,800 in housing, plus a one-time $2,000 award, plus an iPad worth say $300, for a grand total of $100,460 for Alabama residents and $173,500 for non-residents.
    Oh, and just for fun, let's go ahead and calculate the value of the Alabama scholarship for someone going to medical school. Just subtract the non-resident law school tuition of $108,000 and add in the cost of non-resident medical school tuition of $182,800 and you pretty much max out the scholarship at $248,300.
    I haven't detailed the University of Oklahoma Finalist package, but it is similar to that of Alabama; the two schools are competing ferociously for Finalists. Oklahoma provides a special office just to assist Finalists with any problems they might have and also offers Finalist-only housing. In my opinion such benefits are quite valuable, but I don't know how to put a price-tag on them.
    In recent years the honors college concept has taken firm hold at public universities. These elite colleges within a college offer an outstanding education value.
    Values are relative and in the eye of the beholder. An out-of-state tuition waiver is worthless to a student not wishing to attend school out of state. The same goes for graduate school if one doesn't wish to attend (but how many Finalists don't?). But these scholarships are automatic and clearly valuable; under the right circumstances they can be worth a quarter of a million dollars.
    Sadly, many very bright high school students are completely unaware of the value of National Merit Finalist status and as a result won't put any real effort into winning the free quarter-million dollars. That's sad indeed!