Flu vaccine linked to cases of narcolepsy

Every year, my Mom calls and asks me if I got the flu vaccine yet, and every year, I roll my eyes and tell her that unless I’m an immuno-compromised infant or geriatric, I’m not going to be rushing to the nearest clinic. Even amidst last year’s swine flu scare, I never considered giving into fear. (For the record, I haven’t gotten seriously flu-level sick since around 2005.) Turns out I may have dodged a bullet, or rather, a sleeping pill.

Vaccinated for swine flu? This could be you.

Breitbart reported yesterday that the World Heath Organization is investigating claims made by twelve different countries that the Pandemrix vaccine, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline (wow, get a new name please), has been linked to cases of narcolepsy in children.

Though the evidence is far from conclusive, the mere possibility of a connections highlights the risk we pose to ourselves as we attempt to combat a threat like the flu. As the speed of the virus’ mutation increases, so will the rate at which we must develop vaccines to combat it. It seems inevitable then that corners will be cut and risks to our safety may be ignored or missed entirely. I’m not advocating that people avoid vaccinations on baseless fear (like Jenny McCarthy’s absurd claim that vaccines cause autism in children), history has proven their value time and time again (polio, meningitis, rubella, mumps, measles, hepatitis… to name just a few), I’m merely urging close scrutiny of their development and distribution. Vaccines like Pandemrix are made by corporations after all, and what’s the first rule of conspiracy? That’s right kids: Corporations are evil!

10 things scientist might find in Lake Vostok

Russian scientists in Antarctica are close to breaching Lake Vostok, a body of water buried 12,000 feet below the polar ice cap that has been sealed for an estimated 15 million years. Vostok, the largest in a network of sub-glacial lakes, may contain fantastic new life forms and offer new theories on how life might have developed on earth, as well as other planets with deep water reserves like Jupiter’s moons.

After 15 million years of isolation, the Ruskies are bound to find some wild stuff. Here’s our best guesses:

The secret inhabitants of Lake Vostok

10. The Lindberg Baby.

9. A race of intelligent sub-arctic Mer-men.

8. Crab People.

7. The remote.

6. A civilization-ending super virus.

5. The Phantom of the Opera.

4. Your dog that ran away.

3. True love.

2. Enough change for the bus.

1. My goddamn car keys.

The results of our office betting pool will be posted next week.

Secret “national security payload” launched into Space

Keep an eye on the sky.

A rocket was launched yesterday from Vandenburg Air Force base carrying a highly secretive “national security payload.”

National Reconnaissance Office director Bruce Carlson denies his own existence.

The Minotaur 1 rocket, which can lift up to 1,278 pounds into orbit, is the 20th Minotaur rocket mission launched since 2000 and is supposedly carrying a “research and development” craft. Officials from the National Reconnaissance Office, whose sole vision statement is the suitably creepy motto, “Vigilance from above,” refused to give any further details as to the project’s purpose. Sounds like your creepy uncle installing a camera in your bedroom and telling you that he just wants to keep an eye on your doll collection.

Other than a giant ray gun, what could the government want sent into space to protect our national security? Here are some of the most popular theories:

  • Transcripts of former President Bush’s drunk texts to an individual, Codename: “Condi Cane.”
  • All existing copies of James Cameron’s straight-to-DVD release, Titanic 2: Rose’s Revenge.
  • A director’s cut of the Zapruder film.
  • Einstein’s unpublished theories on the relationship between time, women, and money.
  • The Clinton (Hilary) sex tape(s).
  • Just giving Fox McCloud a ride home.

More on this as it developed.

Finally, stem cell research that DOESN’T kill babies

Well here’s an interesting piece of news that isn’t getting nearly enough attention.

The next step.

Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California experimenting on mice have successfully created functioning brain cells from mature skin cells. How cool is that?! Super cool. What’s even better is that this could potentially remove the need for embryonic stems cells, whose controversial nature has been the biggest hurdle for scientists in this field. Need a new cerebellum? Scrape a few cells off your big toe and use those! No need to go hacking up an embryo/potential serial killer. And while we’re at it, why stop at just fixing the brain? Let’s pimp out the damn things. Expand out capacities for math and language, or maybe just give everyone a goddamn sense of humor. Lord knows we need that more than anything.

On top of the possibilities this holds for advancements in the treatment of brain conditions like Alzheimer and Parkinson’s, we can finally create a real life, functioning version Krang from Ninja Turtles.

U.S. Government weighs Internet “Kill-Switch”

Imagine a world without World of Warcraft. It’s scary right? If you think Internet shut-downs, like the one Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak pulled last week to stem dissent in Cairo, are reserved for the underlings of despotic third-world tyrants, guess again.

Legislation that would grant President Obama similar powers was re-introduced to a U.S. Senate committee, oddly enough, on the same day that Egypt’s residents were cut off from each other and the rest of the world.

The next great terror threat.

Sen. Susan Collins told Wired.com on Friday that the bill wouldn’t grant the same power as Mubarak, but rather would “provide a mechanism for the government to work with the private sector in the event of a true cyber emergency.” This sounds benign but the mere possibility of an Internet “kill-switch” in the United States has already spurred strong objections from organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who claim that the bill doesn’t adequately define the limits of the government’s power in the event of a cyber threat.

Let’s assume for a minute that this bill is in some way well meaning and won’t eventually become a tool for an all-powerful shadow dictator to quash mental dissent. Publicly announcing that there exists the means to shut down or disable our communication infrastructure will probably just invite more attempts to break that system and use it for ill. It’s like paving the bad guys a nice, scenic road and putting a big neon sign over it that says “BRING IT ON CYBER TERRORISTS!” And bring it they will. Terrorists love a challenge.

Defense Department to use plant life in War on Terror

A few weeks ago, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano travelled to Israel to get the hot scoop on the tiny nation’s seemingly impenetrable airport security. As a former resident and still frequent visitor, I can tell you that what she probably found, was racial profiling. If you even look like you might know a terrorist, let alone look like one, they’re going to do everything they can to keep you off that plane. Is it ethical? No. But does it work? Well, the numbers certainly suggest that it might. Israel has had a perfect score on airport security since 1972.

Die, terrorists!

Unfortunately for Janet “Big Sista” Napolitano, racial profiling is somewhat frowned upon here in the land of the free, so the government is turning to a new ally in the war against terror. No, it’s not Swamp Thing (like I’m sure we were all hoping). It’s flowers. This week the Department of Defense gave Colorado State University $8 million to develop strains of plants that will supposedly be able to detect all manner of explosive elements passing through their vicinity and alert authorities by changing color.

If this sounds like a long way to go to avoid offending people at airport security checkpoints, you may be right. As film and television have so clearly demonstrated, intelligent plants are to be greatly feared (Little Shop of Horrors, THE HAPPENING?!?! Need I go on?). No doubt they have beef with mankind, and once they get the taste for blood…. Well, there’s just no stopping them. Let’s just stick to picking out heavy beards for now.

Malaysia to fight dengue fever with mutant insects

Does anyone remember Mimic, the 1997 sci-fi horror film starring Mira Sorvino? No? Really? Wow.

Well, let me explain it briefly. A disease is spreading rapidly through the children of New York City, killing indiscriminately. A doctor (Sorvino) discovers that cockroaches are spreading the disease. Her solution is to engineer a new breed of insect that will supposedly wipe out the disease vector. It works…dun dun dunnnn….wait for it…TOO WELL! And through a series of events you need not concern yourself with, she and a few other unlucky props are trapped deep in the subways of New York surrounded by carnivorous jumbo cockroaches.

Genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue fever in Malaysia.

I guess not enough people saw this dire warning because the Malaysian government is about to try the same thing. In order to combat dengue fever in the region, a government-run medical research facility has engineered 6,000 mutant mosquitoes for release into the wild. If all goes according to plan, the mutant breed will successfully mingle (if they’re lucky *nudge*) with the regular Aedes aegypti mosquito population to produce a new, shorter-lived breed that hopefully won’t be as effective as a disease carrier.

Of course, because nothing conceived by a ruling government has ever gone according to plan, we should soon be seeing plagues of giant mosquitoes attacking cities and sucking pedestrians dry like juice boxes. Yes, there’s a small chance that the plan could work and usher in a new era in the science of safe and useful environmental manipulation, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ready to hide and smear your body with insect guts to mask your scent.