Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bring Out Yer Dead!

If there's any doubt that we're headed toward a return of the Dark Ages, this may change your mind. The bubonic plague is apparently making a recrudescence in the United States:
Although the plague is typically considered a remnant of the Middle Ages, when unsanitary conditions and rodent infestations prevailed amid the squalor of poverty, this rare but deadly disease appears to be spreading through wealthier communities in New Mexico, researchers report.

Why the plague is popping up in affluent neighborhoods isn't completely clear, the experts added.

"Where human plague cases occur is linked to where people live and how people interact with their environment," noted lead researcher Anna Schotthoefer, from the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation in Wisconsin. "These factors may change over time, necessitating periodic reassessments of the factors that put people at risk."

This latest study confirms previous reports that living within or close to the natural environments that support plague is a risk factor for human plague, Schotthoefer said.

Plague is caused by a fast-moving bacteria, known as Yersinia pestis, that is spread through flea bites (bubonic plague) or through the air (pneumonic plague).

The new report comes on the heels of the hospitalization on June 8 of an Oregon man in his 50s with what experts suspect is plague. According to The Oregonian, the man got sick a few days after being bitten as he tried to get a mouse away from a stray cat. The cat died days later, the paper said, and the man remains in critical condition.

"The shift from poorer to more affluent regions of New Mexico was a surprise, and suggests that homeowners in these newly developed areas should be educated about the risks of plague," Schotthoefer said.

Schotthoefer noted that these more affluent areas where plague occurred were regions where new housing developments had been built in habitats that support the wild reservoirs of plague, which include ground squirrels and woodrats.

In the 14th century, a plague called the Black Death killed an estimated 30 percent to 60 percent of the European population. Victims died quickly, within days after being infected.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said he doesn't expect to see that kind of outbreak ever again.

"This is not a disease of the past, but you are never going to see a massive outbreak of plague in this country," he said.

"We don't have the public health problems we used to have and people would be quickly confined if there were ever a large number of cases," Siegel explained.
Plague Rare in U.S., Surfacing in More Affluent Areas (Yahoo!)

People would be confined, eh? What about when government has suitably been drowned in a bathtub, counties have gone broke, and public health measures have been dismantled due to "austerity?" What then?

I'm beginning to think we're doing an exact repeat of the Fall of Rome. We build massive new stadiums for bread and circuses even as our roads and bridges fall down. Our great monuments spall masonry and crumble in the elements. Massive amounts of formerly productive workers are on state support. The countryside has been thoroughly depopulated. I thought at least we could avoid the Roman habit of having gladiators bugger tender young slave boys before combat, but I was even proved wrong on that score by the Jerry Sandusky trial.

How bad is it? Schools in Michigan are cutting down 200 year old forests to sell the wood for money:
The superintendent of a cash-strapped Michigan school district is defending a proposal to cut down giant trees on its grounds to help fill an $800,000 budget deficit, a move that is rankling some residents.

Some community members have called for the protection of the trees, some of which may be 200 years old, saying the trees in the DeWitt Nature Center should not be cut down for money.

But Dewitt, Mich., Superintendent John Deiter said the proposal, which would net a profit of $43,000, is not just about money, saying some of the trees that may be cut are dead or dying, though the money would assist the drowning school district.

"Nobody called me last year when we were cutting positions," Deiter said of the public's attention to the trees.

He said the school district is hoping not to cut any more jobs after continuous budget cuts from the state. The school district, which is located nine miles north of Lansing in the Upper Peninsula, laid off 12 teachers last year.
Michigan School District, After Budget Cuts, Plans to Cut 200-Year-Old Trees for Timber (Yahoo!)

And already we're seeing Americans' wealth steadily erode:
Americans are used to recessions, but they are also used to relatively fast recoveries.

Now, however, is the first time in more than half a century that the average American is both earning less and worth less than four years earlier, at least after inflation is factored in.

In the first quarter of this year, per capita disposable personal income was up just 4.7 percent from four years ago. That is the smallest such gain since the late 1940s, when the number was influenced by the fall in government spending after World War II. Adjusted for inflation, the average American now has income that is 2.1 percent lower than four years ago.

Barring a new economic downturn, both per capita net worth and disposable income will be higher when President Obama’s term ends than they were when it began. The election may turn on whether to focus on that fact instead of the declines during much of his term.
Income and Wealth Are Down in U.S. (New York Times)

In fact, twenty years of income gains have all been wiped out, and we're just getting started. But of course president Mitt will fix all of this right?  If you believe that you might to stop reading.

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