World View: H1N1 Swine Flu Cases in Michigan, Texas Revive Fears of Pandemic
by John J. Xenakis 3 Jan 2014
H1N1 swine flu spread in Michigan and Texas revives fears of pandemic
The number of people hospitalized with cases of H1N1 swine flu is climbing in the area of Ann Arbor, Mich., area, following a series of H1N1 deaths in eastern Texas, raising fears of a repeat of the 2009-2010 H1N1 pandemic, this time with a mutated virus that's more deadly. The last H1N1 pandemic ran from April, 2009 to May 2010, and killed at least 18,000 people, though though some estimates run into the hundreds of thousands. Mexico City was particularly hard hit, and the city was all but shut down for several months.
The fear in 2009, and again today, is a repeat of the huge Spanish flu pandemic that took tens of millions of lives in 1918-19, decimating entire communities. (See "Rapid worldwide H1N1 swine flu spread is raising big concerns for the Fall" from 2009.) The 2009 pandemic fizzled without causing massive numbers of death, but the world is overdue for a massive pandemic, and the possibility cannot be excluded now. Michigan Live and Recombinomics
According to Doctors Without Borders, "fighting, lynchings and violent attacks remain a daily occurrence in Bangui," the capital of Central African Republic (CAR), "where the situation appears to be out of control." The number of people driven from their homes in Bangui alone was around 700,000 a week ago, and is now close to one million. These are people who have fled their homes in the sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians in Bangui alone. There do not seem to be figures for the rest of the country. France has deployed 1,600 peacekeeping troops to Bangui, supplemented by about 6,000 African Union peacekeeping troops. C.A.R. is deep into a generational Crisis era, so it's quite possible that these peacekeeping troops will be unable to keep the peace, and that C.A.R. will repeat the genocidal bloodletting of Rwanda in 1994. Doctors Without Borders and AFP
Mainstream economists are generally becoming increasingly alarmed by the imbalances in the global economy, whether from a stock market bubble or from historically high public debt, and are expressing increasing concern about a major financial crisis. In an IMF working paper, economists Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff particularly criticize national governments' wishful thinking that debt can be ignored because it will be eliminated automatically by a spurt of economic growth. According to the report:
Even after one of the most severe crises on record (in its fifth year as of 2012) in the advanced world, the received wisdom in policy circles clings to the notion that advanced, wealthy economies are completely different animals from their emerging market counterparts. Until 2007–08, the presumption was that they were not nearly as vulnerable to financial crises.2 When events disabused the world of that notion, the idea still persisted that if a financial crisis does occur, advanced countries are much better at managing the aftermath, thanks to their ability to vigorously apply countercyclical policy. Even as the recovery consistently proved to be far weaker than most forecasters were expecting, policymakers continued to underestimate the depth and duration of the downturn...
It is certainly true that policymakers need to manage public expectations. However, by consistently choosing instruments and calibrating responses based on overly optimistic medium-term scenarios, they risk ultimately losing credibility and destabilizing expectations rather than the reverse. Nowhere is the denial problem more acute than in the collective amnesia about advanced country deleveraging experiences (especially, but not exclusively, before World War II) that involved a variety of sovereign and private restructurings, defaults, debt conversions, and financial repression. This denial has led to policies that in some cases risk exacerbating the final costs of deleveraging.
The paper points out that, "In fact, going back to 1800, the current level of central government debt in advanced economies is approaching a two-century high-water mark." With debt higher than it's been in 200 years, a major financial crisis will not be far off.
The paper warns that savers will face "haircuts" in the form of negative interest rates and cancellation of government debt. IMF (PDF) and Telegraph (London)
Was North Korea's Kim Jong-un's uncle eaten by ravenous dogs?
Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of North Korea's child dictator Kim Jong-un was executed in a particularly gruesome manner, according to a report in Hong Kong's strong pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po. According to the report, Jang and his five closest aides were stripped naked and thrown live into a cage with 120 hunting hounds that had been starved for five days. According to the newspaper, Jang and his aides were "completely eaten up." The story is unconfirmed, but because the paper is a Beijing mouthpiece, the story may indicate the contempt that Chinese officials are expressing for the current North Korean government. NBC News