9 Cases of Brain-Wasting Disease in Idaho

Suspected Cluster of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) cases. This sporadic prion disease is similar to vCJD, variant CJD, which is contracted by eating beef infected with the agent of ‘mad cow disease’ (BSE; bovine spongiform encephalopathy), but the etiology is unknown. It is not clear if this is really a ‘cluster’; while the diagnosis can only be definitively established via autopsy, only five of the nine suspect cases were autopsied because of a reluctance to handle affected brain tissue, and the final verdict is not in from tests of the tissue of those who did have the autopsies. It is not clear to me how geographically close the cases were and it would certainly be interesting to see what epidemiological features they shared, if any. Could it be a statistical anomaly?

“Normally, sporadic CJD only strikes about one person in a million each year, with an average of just 300 cases per year in the United States, or just over one case a year in Idaho. Over the past two decades, the most cases reported in Idaho in a single year has been three.” (Yahoo! News)

"Terrorism Strikes the Heartland"…

…says “former liberal turned conservative” “columnist” (I think I’ll put that one in quotation marks) Cinnamon Stillwell, writing about a suicide bombing by a 21 year-old engineering student outside the packed football stadium of the University of Oklahoma on October 1. The powerful explosion killed only the bomber himself, and no one else was injured, although the power of the blast was considerable, according to onlookers.

Thanks to Seth for pointing me to this story; he shares Stillwell’s sense that officials’ rapid dismissals of the act as that of a ‘lone gunman’ with a history of mental instability smelled funny. But Stillwell draws heavily — almost exclusively — on wingnut sites who were the sole sources of conspiratorial conclusions drawn from the claims: that the bomber had a roommate of (gasp!) Pakistani descent; that he may have visited the campus Islamic Society center; that the explosive used in the bombing was the same substance so-called “shoe bomber” Richard Reid and the London Underground bombers used; and that the bomber’s apartment reportedly contained “a significant amount” of Jihadist literature (a claim which investigators have debunked… probably part of the coverup in progress, if you ask me).

Now we turn from the sublime to the ridiculous. The fact that he was a Westerner “would have come in handy for avoiding official scrutiny” — thus he must have been a terrorist — and the fact that he did not live at his fraternity house and that members of his frat did not know him as an Islamic convert somehow further suggest covert activity on his part. Similarly, the fact that these events did not attract serious mainstream press coverage suggests that there is a coverup going on. (BTW, search for ‘Joel Henry Hinrichs’ on Google News if you doubt that the issue is attracting any press coverage.) Believe it or not, he had a beard “too similar to those worn by newly observant Muslim men to be a mere coincidence”! And the fact that this occurred in the same state as the 1995 bombing of the Murragh Federal Building, by this perverse logic, suggests that both were Islamic plots.

This shrill, hysterical absurdity reminds me of nothing so much as the incident sometime last year (about which I wrote in FmH, although I cannot find the reference just now) by an alarmist and somewhat reactionary “writer” who believed she saw a group of Islamic men on her airline flight conspiring together but nobody would do anything about it! Then, as now, that was probably because there was nothing more to such fears than proof that people can see what they want to see. One of the most reprehensible aspects of reactions to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was the rush to assume that the Muslims were responsible. Incredibly, some are still holding on to that bigoted and ignorant sentiment. Stillwell’s concluding plaint is that “… if a terrorist attack in America’s heartland doesn’t jolt the country out of this fantasyland, what will?” Unfortunately, the only ‘fantasyland’ I see around here is the one she and others of similar ilk call their homeland.

Here you will find the more levelheaded Wikipedia entry on the incident.