[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/04/28/swine.flu/art.swine.flu1.cnn.jpg caption="Concerned residents line up outside a pharmacy Monday in Mexico City, Mexico."]
J. Douglas Bremner, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry and Radiology
Emory University School of Medicine
The number of swine flu cases keeps increasing all the time, with an overnight doubling in the US to 68 confirmed cases in the states of California, New York, Texas, Ohio and Kansas. What’s more concerning is the fact that some of those cases have required hospitalization. That means that the so-called “paradox” related to why the Mexicans are getting sicker than the Americans may have been wishful thinking. Meanwhile, swine flu is spreading around the world from Mexico (now 149 deaths), to Canada, Scotland, Spain, France and Israel, and most recently Asia and the Middle East.
The World Health Organization (WHO) upgraded the disease to Phase #4, which means that human to human transmission is occurring, the first time that type of high ranking has been given for a disease since the first outbreak of bird flu back in 1997.
In addition, the WHO has stated that it has “given up” on trying to prevent the spread of the disease world-wide. That means there is a pretty good chance the WHO will eventually call it a “pandemic”, meaning a disease that has spread around the world. There is a lot of confusion about travel advisories, but no country has (yet) issued any travel bans.
In Mexico City, individuals suspected of infection must be quarantined for 10 days. Most people are staying home and most public places have been closed.
CNN Supreme Court Producer
The Supreme Court's conservative majority expressed varying degrees of concern Wednesday over a civil rights case brought by 20 firefighters, most of them white, who claim reverse discrimination in promotions.
The suit was filed in response to New Haven, Connecticut, officials' decision to throw out results of promotional exams that they said left too few minorities qualified.
At issue is whether the city intentionally discriminated, in violation of both federal law and the Constitution's equal protection clause.
The high court is being asked to decide whether there is a continued need for special treatment for minorities, or whether enough progress has been made to make existing laws obsolete, especially in a political atmosphere where an African-American occupies the White House.
As is true in many hot-button social issues, Wednesday's arguments fell along familiar ideological lines, with most justices expressing clear views on when race considerations are proper to ensure a diverse workplace.
The Courier News
The swine flu has filled the area's hog farmers with fear — not that they will catch a deadly disease from their animals, but that grocery shoppers will become needlessly afraid of buying their product.
At one of the few remaining hog farms in Kane County, just outside Hampshire, co-owner Pat Dumoulin said her family is always intensely conscious about the risk of spreading bacteria and viruses — not so much to protect humans from their pigs as to prevent their pigs from picking up germs that some human tracked in from another hog farm.
"We're not worried about" catching the flu from the herd at all, Dumoulin said. "We treat the operation like a hospital. We don't let outside people go into the (livestock) buildings. If we visit another farm, we put on rubber boots and take the boots off before we come back. We don't even take hogs to the county fair anymore for the same reason, though that disappoints our children."
Program Note: Tune in tonight for a full report on the kidnapping in Mexico on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/28/art.mexico.kidnapped.harrison1.jpg caption="George Norman Harrison in his pizzeria. Harrison was kidnapped and murdered in Mexico."]
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/28/art.mexico.kidnapped.harrison2.jpg caption="A family photo of Harrison with his niece, Andrea."]
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/28/art.mexico.kidnapped.bullring.jpg caption="The bull ring across the street from where Harrison's body was found."]
This week all the attention is on Mexico and how to contain the Swine Flu that has taken so many lives. As the illness pops up in the United States and other parts of the world, people are learning how to avoid the deaths like those in Mexico. People living in Mexico are walking around in surgical masks, encouraged to stay inside and restaurants are only serving food to go. At the San Ysidro border crossing, just south of San Diego, Customs and Border Protection agents are screening people coming back from Mexico, looking for signs of the illness.
But in the news this morning there was a quick reminder of another virus killing so many people in Mexico. Last night after 8pm, 10 Tijuana police officers were shot, leaving five dead and the others in critical condition. The drug war is a virus that no one seems to be able to stop. We have spent much of this year going into Mexico and talking with people who live in this danger zone. People are afraid to take their children out in the streets, many are upset that their country is being hijacked by a cartel members who have no value for human life.
Gary Tuchman and I were in Tijuana, Mexico two weeks ago when we met a man named Guadalupe who dealt with the drug war like no one could ever imagine. He was in contact with kidnappers who were holding a friend ransom. His friend was an American, George Norman Harrison, who was living in Mexico and owned a pizza business. Guadalupe, who wouldn’t give us his last name out of fear, dropped ransom money off and negotiated with the kidnappers. Harrison’s fingers were chopped off and sent to Guadalupe to keep pressure on to find more money. After delivering a second drop, his body was found, headless and without arms.
Mexico’s drug war has crippled their economy which relies so much on tourism. The United States has now issued a travel warning against unnecessary travel to Mexico because of the Swine Flu. The Mexican government is taking steps to try to contain the illness. They have ordered the closing of bars, clubs, movie theaters, pool halls, theaters, gyms, sport centers, and convention halls. It makes you wonder how much more can Mexico take?
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/04/24/swine.flu/art.pigs.gi.jpg]Melissa Westphal
Hog farmers are stressing that pork is safe to eat and that their pigs are not to blame for what they call the “unfortunately named” swine flu that’s dominating headlines.
Hog prices dipped today while national health officials worked overtime to disseminate information on the new flu strain. Forty cases have been confirmed in the U.S. as of Monday, and people have died in Mexico from the disease.
Cases of swine flu are documented each year in the U.S., but this strain is different. While officials are still unsure how this strain started, all of the U.S. cases have been spread between humans, not from pigs to humans or humans to pigs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the illness can not be caught by eating pork products.
The World Organization for Animal Health on Monday said there is no justification for naming the disease "swine flu" and suggested calling the disease “North-American influenza,” based on similarly named outbreaks like the Spanish flu and the Asian flu.
Brian Duncan, a hog farmer in Polo, Ill., was on the phone early this morning to the Ogle County Farm Bureau discussing what local farmers can do to help the situation.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/28/watkins-craig-dallas-da.jpg caption="Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins is reviewing DNA cases."]
Jami Floyd | Bio
For more than a decade, innocent people behind bars have been fighting for DNA testing. And at every turn, it seems, prosecutors were there to stop them — denying access to the DNA material, denying the very possibility of a wrongful conviction.
But we know now, hundreds of exonerations later, that mistakes are made; and slowly the tide is changing. Prosecutors, across the country, are beginning to question the strength of their convictions. They should. As the pace of DNA exonerations has increased in recent years, we have been faced with the disturbing truth: Our criminal justice system is broken; and it needs to be fixed.
Program Note: Tune in tonight to for full coverage of the day's events on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
AC360° Senior Producer
Is Sen. Arlen Specter finding himself philosophically under the Democratic tent, or at least outside the GOP tent, as he says in his announcement today about his decision to switch parties? Or, after representing the people of Pennsylvania as a Republican senator for 29 years, is he sticking it to the GOP for allowing another tough primary challenge from within the party.. Or, as he trails in a primary race, is he trying to save his Senate career? Or all of that and more...
If Al Franken finally takes the Senate seat in Minnesota, free of court challenges, he and Specter could give the Democrats a filibuster-proof 60 seats in the Senate. That would mark a major political shift for this country... and, perhaps, a 3a.m.-style wake-up call for the no-to-stimulus-leaning GOP.
Then there's that swine flu, now infecting at least 79 people in six countries, including five U.S. states. Different story, right? Yes, but there's a common thread.
The economic stimulus bill had included $780 to fund preparations to fund a pandemic, but moderate GOP senators, including Specter, criticized the provision, mainly saying it wouldn't be the job generator that the stimulus bill was designed to be.
Program Note: For more on Sen. Arlen Spector's party switch, tune in to AC360° tonight at 10 p.m. ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/28/art.obamaspecter.wh.jpg caption="Obama speaks to Specter in a photo released by the White House Tuesday."]
Senior White House Correspondent
The first President Obama heard of Arlen Specter's party switch was at 10:25 am Tuesday in the Oval Office when he was handed a note by a staffer, according to a senior administration official.
The official told CNN Obama was in the middle of his daily economic briefing and was given a note that said simply, "Specter is announcing he's switching parties."
A few minutes later after his meeting wrapped up, the official said, Obama called Specter and said, "You have my full support, and we're thrilled to have you" in the Democratic Party.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/27/art.obamapresser.gi.jpg caption="As CNN prepares to mark President Obama’s first 100 days in office, we'll also have a detailed look at his wide-ranging initiatives intended to stem the economic downturn and financial crisis."]
CNN Financial News Producer
Government regulators have reportedly told Bank of America and Citigroup that both banks need to increase their capital reserves based on preliminary "stress test" results.
The capital shortfall at Bank of America could amount to billions of dollars, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the situation.
Executives at both banks are said to be objecting to the preliminary findings, which emerged from the government's scrutiny of 19 large financial institutions. The two banks are reportedly planning to respond with detailed rebuttals, with Bank of America's appeal expected some time today.
The government conducted the so-called “stress tests” on 19 of the nation's biggest banks to determine which banks are healthy enough to survive another financial shock and which will need additional government support.
Veteran Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, intends to switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party on Tuesday, multiple sources said.
A Specter party switch would give Democrats a filibuster-proof Senate majority of 60 seats if Al Franken holds his current lead in the disputed Minnesota Senate race.
Specter, a five-term Senate veteran, was expected to face a very tough primary challenge in 2010 from former Rep. Pat Toomey, who nearly defeated Specter in the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary in 2004.
Numerous Republicans are angry with Specter over his recent vote in support of President Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan.
Specter was one of only three GOP senators who voted for the measure.