Another Reason Why Newspapers Will Fade Away


This morning for the 2nd time in 2 weeks my NZ Herald wasn’t delivered. This happened a couple of times previously with the Sunday Herald which was actually the one I used to enjoy the most. After the 2nd time I cancelled it. Two weeks ago when my Saturday Herald didn’t turn up, I tried to call them and got a voice message saying that I had called outside of working hours. I thought to myself that perhaps reading hours might disappear as well and this morning I told them that 3 strikes and they could say goodbye to my subscription.

This is one of the reasons why newspapers are on the way out. Not only are they reliant on people who really don’t want to go out on wet cold dark winter mornings, but a printed newspaper is becoming so inefficient.

I get headline tweets from the NZ Herald along with 1,648 other people, with links to the stories I want to read. Online I can see the headlines and major stories on their homepage and then I can see the headlines for each section and go straight to the stories that interest me. The Herald is only one publication I subscribe to on Twitter, there are several news services that flick past me on the side of my browser using Twitbin which is a Firefox plugin.

I also use iGoogle for my RSS feed. This gives me the latest news on all the topics I want to keep up to date on. That includes lots of streams around topics such as GPS, LBS, Psychology, Music and much more. It updates itself automatically all day and I can see which stories I have read in case my memory fails me.

Twitter of course is also a great vehicle for getting the latest news about anything. It told me that there was an earthquake in LA just as I boarded a plane there, although it turned out to be inconsequential. It told me what was going on in Iran and even if you can’t spell swine flu you’ll find out what’s happening to real people like Izzy who just found out her brother has it.  If you could spell it correctly you’ll find out what is happening, which famous people have just caught it and more than you’ll ever want to know.

I started off saying that newspapers are closing and you probably thought I was exaggerating didn’t you. Well think again. Here are a few examples.

Of course there are also stories around the world talking about job cuts in the newspaper industry like this one in the Guardian.

This doesn’t mean, of course that we don’t want news. Of course we do, but we have new vehicles that are far more efficient, we now have a choice, in fact we’re spoiled for it. Did you wait for news about Michael Jackson’s death to appear in the newspaper? Of course not, it was on every TV news channel and you got it up to date. By the time the newspapers came out, the stories that were in it, such as him not being dead, but only in a coma, had long since been refuted.

The big problem for the print media companies, is that they don’t know how, or if they can monetise the online media. There are of course ways that they can do this, but they have to switch their thinking, which is so enrenched in ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ that many of them won’t be doing it at all in the future. Sounds a lot like the recording industry doesn’t it?

Coming to a School Near You: Swine Flu


This morning I was reading a column in the Sunday Herald by radio talkshow host Kerre Woodham saying that SwineFlu is a load of hogwash. Half an hour ago I was at the checkout at my local Foodtown and overheard a girl saying that she was told not to go to school next week at Westlake College (On Auckland’s North Shore) as there had been a confirmed case of SwineFlu at the school.  She said that initially only year 12 girls were told to stay away, but that she since been told that the whole school is to be closed for a week. The fact that she was working at a checkout at the supermarket suggests that as well as spreading the news, she could also of course be spreading the virus.

I have said all along that, the people who are saying that because bird flu turned out to be a non event, this one will too, are going to get a rude awakening. This thing is spreading quickly, with a rise of 65% in the last 24 hours to 71 confirmed cases, while many more are expected to be confirmed in coming days as the NZ Police College has closed for a week and 41 tourists in the South Island town of Hokitika have also been confirmed.

One question being asked is whether employers should pay their staff if the company closes its doors during a quarantine. The answer appears to be no, other than normal holiday pay conditions. If it turns out to be as serious as is suggested, this could be a major concern. The biggest concern though is people who are sick but go to work anyway, because they can’t financially afford to miss work.

Perhaps the answer is obvious, but what should you do if one of your family members with whom  you live is ill and could have Swine Flu?Does the whole family have to stay home, or do they only stay home if the person is confirmed to have the virus, which takes 72 hours after the swab.

It’s Official Swine Flu is a Pandemic


In the last hour or so, WHO has announced that we now have a Pandemic, the first in 41 years as infections have climbed over 30,000 people. As I said in my previous blog, many people still have their heads in the sand, thinking it won’t happen to them, but pretty much everyone I know is aware of people close to them who either have N1H1, or have been asked to quarantine themselves just in case.

WHO Chief Margaret Chan made the announcement a short while ago saying that “Swine Flu is unstoppable.” She also went on to say that it has progressed so far that it is no longer possible to follow the track of the virus and htat the statistics only reflect the data from countries who have good tracking measures in place.

This takes me back to my prvious blog where I asked if you were prepared. It is now quite likely that you may have to be quarantined and if this is the case, your whole family may find itself in this situation. I meet and shake hands with a lot of people every day, my wife works in a retirement village and my daughter is a school teacher. Between us, the chances of getting exposed become much higher.

Just to put this into perspective, the last time WHO declared a pandemic, the Hong Kong Flu, 41 years ago, around 1 million people died.

Now I’m not trying to say the sky is falling, but I am saying you need to consider what it means to be prepared. If you have a little more food in the cupboards  and don’t need it, cool, have a non swine flu party when its all over. Make sure you wash your hands regularly after contact with other people, you can buy handy little bottles of hand cleaner that doesn’t require water. 

A final reminder for you, who are thinking, I’m young and healthy, it’s the elderly people who get killed with these viruses. Think again, the majority of deaths with Swine Flu have been aged 30-50 years old.

New Powers for Medical Health Officers over Swine Flu


I should have seen this one coming from a mile away. While a lot of people still have their heads in the sand, the New Zealand Government have made Swine Flu a notifiable disease. In itself, that just makes sense, but in fact according to a NZ Herald story this morning, this means that they have authority to demand that people isolate themselves at home, or face fines or mandatory isolation in hospital or worse. 

There are many things to start thinking now, even if you still think it won’t happen to you. If you are isolated at home, do you have everything you need for at least a week? Will this mean that your family that lives with you or your flatmates will also have to stay home too? After all they will be at a higher risk of also getting infected. So if your whole house is quarantined, how do you get your basic supplies like bread and milk?

If pundits are right and it effects up to 60% of the population, or even only 10% are isolated, what happens to business? Grocery stores and other retailers who are in spittle distance of their customers will be at high risk because they are dealing with large volumes of people all day.

The schools represent a high risk, they have always helped spread illnesses, if one child has the measles, flu or any other contagious disease, it is a given that several others will also get it.

If people disobey the isolation requirements, then there are even greater risks, because this group will very likely carry the virus, so I have no problem with the mandate. However, the risk of people not obeying the rules is also high. In today’s economy, people don’t want to risk losing their jobs and many will continue to work because they need the money. In my office for example, staff get 5 days of sick leave a year, which is pretty easy to bite into if you have a flu or cold. There are people who will therefore have no sick leave, or not enough available and don’t want to use their holidays, but can’t afford to be sick without leave, so for as long as they can, they will continue to work.

Schools have been given detailed instructions on what to do in the case of an outbreak, including hygiene instructions, but in my opinion, most businesses are thinking that Bird Flu went nowhere and Swine Flu will do the same, so they aren’t taking precautions and they don’t have contingency plans should a large group of staff fall ill. The air conditioning systems will do a good job of spreading the virus, and some businesses may have to cease trading for several weeks, because while the illness might be gone in 7 days or so, people won’t be considerate enough to all catch the Swine Flu at the same time. 

Of course they could go to a Swine Flu Party. What sort of idiots would do something like that? Well it appears they are, using the same rationale that moms use when their friends children have chicken pox, “Let’s get it over with now”. The problem with Swine Flu is that unlike traditional flu, the virus has no respect for age or health and is capable of killing people of all ages and of course the domino effect would hasten the spread of this nasty illness. 

The new powers aren’t just a NZ initiative however, the same is occuring around the world, in Australia, Mexico of course and most other countries are now drafting legislation that will help them try to fight this problem.

So, are you ready? Do you still think it won’t happen to you, your friends or family, or perhaps your work mates? How prepared are you?

Japan closes 4,000 schools to protect them from Swine Flu


Japan has always been very sensitive to protecting people from viruses. In the western world we have been looking at masks from the perspective of keeping ourselves safe from others. When I visited Tokyo for the first time I asked about the people I saw wearing face masks and found that this is normal practice for people who have a respiratory illness such as a cold or flu, so that they could continue to work and go out while protecting other people from their germs. In NZ we don’t look at it that way, if we share our germs, its just tough luck for the recipient. 

Of course one of the problems in Japan is shear numbers of people, not dissimilar to Mexico City. I used to stay in Shinjuku and would regularly catch local trains to get around Tokyo City. Shinjuku station serves over 1 million people a day, the first time I visited Tokyo they still had men with white gloves, pushing people onto the trains to make way for more.

Today I read an announcement that Japan had closed over 4,000 schools and kindergartens as around 170 confirmed cases of Swine Flu had been found around Kobe and Osaka. It seems that there are as yet no confirmed cases in Tokyo and of course authorities are hoping that they can contain it, although chances are it has already been rushed in by bullet train.

In the meantime, downunder, it is as if it’s all over, and people are starting to think that it was all overhyped and just another case of bird flu, where there was a brief panic followed by nothing. 

It seems that there is so much confusion about Swine Flu that it makes it very difficult for the average Joe Citizen to know what to think. On one hand we hear stories that it may be more infectious than we thought, while on the other hand scientists are postulating that it is quite weak.   

Traditionally the influenza virus targets babies and elederly people, both groups having weakened immunity and comparisons with the 1918-19 flu epidemic stop here, because the Swine Flu is killing people of all ages and seems to particularly attack people in the 25-40 age group. Noone knows why that is at this stage, but it is certainly another reason why people should be more vigilent, especially given that this is probably the age group that does the most international travelling and therefore more likely to either catch the virus, or to be carriers.

As a footnote, some people are thinking that because WHO hasn’t raised the alert to Phase 6, it can’t be too serious yet. The official move to Phase 6, which is specified as a pandemic is only based on the number of countries that it has been found in, not the severity of the illness. Officially a pandemic is when the disease is global, but given that it has now been found in 40 countries, many countries are asking WHO to announce it as a pandemic now.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Could Swine Flu Be Man Made?


I have to start by saying I don’t think it was, but it is a ligitimate question, given that bioviolence is something that many countries around the world will be considering and it is an obvious threat from terrorists. We don’t hear anything about the neutron bomb these days, but the concept of killing off people but leaving the environment intact, is not new.

Several years ago I was helping a water authority with mobile data communications around the same time as a meeting of world leaders . Even though bioterrorism has not been seen in this country, there were was hightened vigilence of the city’s water reservoirs, to ensure that they were not deliberately contaminated as a protest against the international meeting.

You would have to have your head in the sand to not consider the act of unleashing a virus as a possible act of warfare and in order to run tests to assess the viability of such an exercise, it would seem that the best way to test whether this is possible, would be to try it on humans.

Swine Flu has so far only been highly contagious in one city of the world. Most of the deaths occured in Mexico or a small number of people who had been to Mexico City. If you were running tests, you would of course not want your tests to accidentaly kill off a large percentage of the human race, you would want it to be in  controlled environment, particularly one where your countries citizens were a vast minority.

It is common public knowledge that the US military does research into infectus diseases and according to The Frederick News, Fort Meade is investigating the possibility of missing virus samples fromthe U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. It doesn’t take any stretch of the imagination to consider wht the Army would have such an Institute. You could ligitimately suggest that they need this in case other countries or terrorist groups decide to engage in bio-warfare and of course in order to understand how to defend against such attacks you would of course have to know how to create the viruses.

The web is littered with sites like Freedom Watch saying that since 9/11 the US has been preparing for further terrorist attacks and that biological warfare would make a lot of sense. Many of these sites appear to be from civil liberty organisations and while many of them are based on reasonable foundations, there are obviously many that appear on the redneck fringe.

Nevertheless, this type of warfare of sorts has been documented for thousands of years, with the first known use of biotics was from 1500 – 1200 BC where Hittite texts suggested the use of ergot being used to deliberately contaminate water wells. Ergot was the same hallucinatory that is said to have been the foundation of the Salem witch trials, where the rye was contaminated causing LSD like hallucinations. So the concept is nothing new.

I spent quite a lot of time looking for any credible authority that suggests that there is any credibility to this possibility, but they all seem to quote Freedom Watch and similar sites as their source.

So was Swine Flu N1H1 man made? I doubt it. Is it possible, of course. Could a virus like this be mutated and used by terrorists or foreign governments as a military weapon, absolutely.

So back to the future. According to NZ Herald, the current list is now over 6,600 people in 33 countries, including over 70 deaths. The media in the US keeps saying they aren’t seriously concerned at the moment because summer is coming and the bacteria doesn’t survive for long in warm temperatures. Of course in New Zealand we are now heading into the flu season and there are currently around 400 people in isolation as I write this blog. A bit different to the bird flu we were worried about.

In one of my next blogs I will see what I can find out about the 2nd wave. Traditionally these sorts of viruses come back again in waves with the waves often having mutated and being far more virulent than the first and this is one of the problems for the makers of Tamiflu, because the antivirus they make now in massive quantities, might be powerless against the next wave of the bug. Will the 2nd wave start down under, or will it come in 4-5 months on the Amercian continent. Will we be ready for it?

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

For the last word, lets look inside a Mexican Swine Flu Isolation Ward.

Should we be so quick to dispense Tamiflu?


As the Swine Flu progresses to Level 5 on the 6 point WHO Pandemic scale, in New Zealand they have decided to sell Tamiflu from Pharmacies to anyone that goes in and shows symptoms, without having to see a doctor. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not, because it is likely that the majority of people who buy and use it won’t have the virus.

The biggest concern being expressed about this is that mass use of vaccines can encourage viruses to mutate and evolve into strains which resist vaccines and antibiotics. It seems to me that as it travels around the world it will evolve anyway, but why give it a helping hand. I just hope that there isn’t a rush on it so that people who do need it can’t get it. Tonight’s TV News did say that there was only a small increase in demand for Tamiflu. 

It’s funny watching the news on CNN and other international (read American) TV channels, who seem to almost forget about New Zealand, because early on we were one of the countries that had early exposure in fairly large numbers. Even in the last couple of days, more people have gone into quarantine, now around 500, and we are now in a situation where we actually know people who are in quarantine. It’s no longer 6 points removed.

Mexico is obviously the place that is mostly in the news, and lets hope that their plans for a 5 day national shut down will help contain things until people are no longer contagious.

According to the Google Swine Flu map, the density of infection in the countries where they have confirmed cases, is growing fast. Spain is one of the biggest outside of the US and Mexico for obvious reasons. Switzerland and The Netherlands are the latest countries to get hit.

I was watching the news last night and they were saying that they were lucky that it is spring because viruses don’t spread as much when it is warm, but of course down here in New Zealand it is cooling down and we are heading into the flu season, so it could be potentially worse here. 

Please participate in my poll. Do you know anyone who has been quarantined? It would be really interesting to see how this progresses. The feeling of it won’t happen to me may dissapear as we get to a point where we either know someone or are only 1 place removed. 

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)