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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

CINCO DE MAYO AND THE SWINE FLU


Today is May 5, or Cinco de Mayo in Spanish. The day now is sort of a Mexican holiday celebrating an unexpected victory on May 5, 1862 over a superior French army that had not experience defeat in almost half a century.
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While relatively insignificant in Mexico, possibly because France prevailed anyway a few years later, and only bowed out of the country on American pressure, the date is observed around the world as a celebration of Mexican pride and heritage. The U.S. is particularly indulgent about international festivities of this nature, and, like St. Patrick’s Day and Oktoberfest, there might be a parade, and, almost surely, considerable partying, featuring tequila, usually in the form of margheritas, plus any form of Mexican beer.
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This day takes special importance this year because the swine flu has devastated Mexican tourism. But there will be no recovery because even in the U.S., several cities, such as Dallas and Chicago, cancelled the celebration in fear of this non-existent epidemic.
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All this, as I’ve long been saying, is overblown because the total number of swine flu cases worldwide is around 1500 (with, maybe, 30 deaths), and each day, at least 1000 die of flu complications, anyway. The World Health Organization pandemic alert level is almost meaningless, as 6, the highest, only means that the virus spreads from human-to-human in at least one other country in another WHO region. We appear to be today at 5, which means human-to-human spread of the virus in two or more countries in one WHO region. Anyway, at least the Center for Disease Control finally gained their senses and today declared that schools should not anymore be closed.
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The Dow Jones Industrials slipped 16 to 8411 and world markets were mixed. Gold dropped $6/toz to $897. Crude continues to increase (see right).

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Typhoon Kujira at 115 MPH is now south of Japan, but should move northeast in parallel with the country and weaken. There should be no threat, but, some waves. But Tropical Storm Chan-Hom, at 65 MPH, is located about 550 miles west of Manila and moving east northeast, projected to make landfall as a typhoon on Saturday.
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Is there a country with a higher life expectancy than Japan? Yes, and tomorrow, it is featured here.

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