Progress Made in Polio Eradication; Health Concerns Raised Concerns Over Vaccination Efforts

As part of efforts to rid the world of polio, the World Health Organization recently declared 37 Pacific Rim nations free of the crippling disease. Meanwhile a new report about a small risk from the live virus vaccine is likely to stir some controversy in the developed world.

There are two types of polio vaccine produced today. One, the oldest, uses a weakened form of the live polio virus. Children are exposed to the weakened virus and develop an immune response so when they are exposed to the full strength virus later on in life their bodies can take care of it.

Because the live virus vaccine can occasionally cause polio itself, a dead virus vaccine version is also available and now frequently given to children in nations where there are no active cases of polio reported. The drawbacks of the dead virus vaccine are that it tends to be more expensive and somewhat less effective than the live virus version.

The study published in the Lancet reports that not only can the polio virus end up living inside the gut of children who receive the live virus vaccine, but that it can be found in small amounts in the sewage system Researchers in Japan were able to find detectable levels of polio virus in the sewage system due to the live virus vaccine.

While the researchers concluded that “there is an environmental risk of vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis as long as live oral poliovirus vaccine is not replaced with inactivated polio vaccine,” spokespersons for the World Health Organization pointed out that there has never been a single recorded case of polio being transmitted in this way and the polio virus transmitted to water or sewage this way seems to have an extremely short life span.

“In Cuba,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, who heads up the Western Pacific polio eradication effort, told the BBC, “they found a similar thing was happening, but that the presence of the virus died away naturally shortly afterwards. We have never seen an outbreak caused by this in 30 years.”

A much bigger concern than some extremely small risk of polio transmission from infested sewage is the very real fear that people in developed countries might seize upon this result as a reason to stop having their children vaccinated for polio. In Great Britain and other parts of Europe, anti-vaccination fears are relatively widespread. In some parts of Europe parents are foregoing vaccination in favor of relatively unsafe subclinical exposures (i.e. exposing healthy, uninfected children to other children who have contracted a disease such as the measles).

Unfortunately as long as the disease is present anywhere in the world, children who forego polio vaccinations will face a serious risk of severe health problems should they ever come in contact with the virus.

Sources:

Polio milestone passed. The BBC, October 29, 2000.

Taxing Internet Purchases

The other day I ordered some books from Amazon.Com — mainly because the local stores take forever to order books from some small publishers through their distributors, while Amazon.Com usually ships them out to me in less than 48 hours.

For the most part, I find the discount Amazon offers is usually offset by the shipping and handling charge so mainly I just get the books I want faster. But that could change since Michigan is one of several states trying to find ways to collect sales tax on such purchases.

According to this PostNet story, Kansas, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin, are trying to voluntarily persuade online merchants to add a sales tax to the credit cards of consumers from those states.

The new software would be given to Internet retailers who ask the state for it. The software calculates the tax due and charges consumers’ credit cards when they make an online purchase. The retailer turns the tax over to the vendor, who would remit it to the proper state.

Ugh. The first time I see a sales text on my Amazon order is the first time I switch to an alternative retailer that doesn’t go around asking state governments how best it can raise the cost to consumers of buying books.

And Michigan has a relatively liberal sales tax policy. I was flabbergasted when I visited Illinois to be charged a sales tax on grocery items I bought there. Are Illinois legislators really that insane? Could there be anything more stupid than a tax on food?

I hope most Internet retailers will just say not to becoming tax agents for states.

Renting Microsoft Office? No Thanks

Yikes. The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft will begin an experiment next month renting Microsoft Office at Internet cafes in New York City’s Times Square. According to the report they’re going to charge $2 per session for using Microsoft Office.

That ridiculously high fee looks even worse when you consider that’s on top of the hourly fees at the Internet cafe,

The Microsoft software rental program will debut in easyEverythingÂ’ s New York facility and later be available in its existing cafes in Europe. The charge for using the software comes on top of easyEverythingÂ’s time-based usage fees, which currently range from 17 pence (27 cents) an hour in the middle of the night to 3 British pounds ($4.31) an hour during peak periods. Currently, easyEverything customers can use MicrosoftÂ’s scaled-down Works suite of software without paying an extra fee.

I don’t think consumers will stand for this. One of the places i occasionally use while traveling is Kinko’s which usually has pretty nice Windows boxes complete with the latest software such as Photoshop, Office, etc., at pretty decent prices (they are often more expensive than the cyber cafes, to be sure). If I have to pay an additional per-session fee for using an Office application or any other application, the price would be far too high and I’d either avoid using such places or ask for the machine with Star Office installed, thank you very much.

Contrary to the U.S. courts I don’t think Microsoft has anything close to a software monopoly and if it tries to charge monopoly-like prices, Microsoft will quickly find out that it needs Office users far more than Officer users need it.

Letting Me Down Easy

About a year ago I signed up several of my smaller sites to carry ad banners served up by Teknosurf which later became Advertising.Com. I was kind of surprised they were even interested since the page views for the three sites couldn’t have been over 1,500 per day combined, even on very good days.

Finally they came to their senses and earlier this month sent me a polite e-mail saying that these three sites didn’t generate enough page views and if they weren’t over a certain level by the end of October they would be dropped (and there’s now way I was going to get where they wanted by then end of October — next October probably, but not this year).

So after Tuesday, no more of their ads on those three sites. What impressed me, however, was they’re going to pay me for any revenue on any of the sites that was over $5 cumulative. Believe me when you’re dealing with ad companies who specialize in placing banner ads on smaller sites, that sort of commitment is pretty rare. I’ve run across quite a few people who never got paid a single dime for running hundreds of thousands of banner ads (and the company never had any intent on paying up).

In fact at every point along the way the Advertising.Com people have been nothing but professional and I wouldn’t hestitate to recommend them to anyone (since my page view level on those sites were so low, however, I have no idea how good they are at selling targeted ads as opposed to low paying run of network fare).

Finally, I’m Not Sick

It seems like it took forever, but I finally managed to kick the bronchitis that’s plagued me since the end of September. Basically for the last 6 weeks my life has been get up, go to work, come home, collapse on couch, repeat. This weekened I got home Friday around 6 p.m. and didn’t leave the couch until this morning at 6 a.m. (did get to watch most of the AMC horror movie festival, though — excellent).

Still got a few cobwebs in my head but I can actually use my lungs again. Take a deep breath! Exhale. Ahhhh!

Now I can get around to doing some neat things I had planned on doing with the site back in September.

Should Radiohead Thank Napster?

Writing for MP3Newswire, Richard Menta claims that Radiohead’s recent debut at #1 is due in large part to the album being available on Napster 3 months before it was scheduled to be released. According to Menta this sort of music never shows up on Billboard charts usually.

Sure, that’s why Nirvana had such success with their first major label release — because it was on Napster first (oops–no Napster? How did they ever sell CDs in the old days). In fact Radiohead’s debut is due to the immense publicist surrounding the album. I’ve never heard a Radiohead song or care about the group’s music, but even I’ve run across publicity for their latest album.

Besides the real argument against Napster is its long-term effects. Of course you have to out and by the CD now. Why? Because portable MP3 players are still too expensive and/or lack important features. Unless you’ve got a lot of money and/or patience, it’s not very easy to play MP3s outside of the computer environment.

MP3 devices are getting better, however, and it won’t be long before relatively cheap, easy to use portable devices arrive — possibly as soon as Christmas 2001. Once that happens, why buy CDs if the songs are available on Napster and can be taken anywhere with the same versatility as the compact disc?