Sort of a random thoughts piece here. I'm going a bit astray of strictly local issues, but as these items have been in play in the local news so much, perhaps I can be forgiven.
The Standard-Times has run several articles on the "bird flu threat", I guess the tipping point was an ad for a made-for-TV movie that appears to try to scare the socks off viewers. I have a bit of insight here, my Father was Head Virologist, later State Veterinarian for North Carolina. My high school science fair project, breeding E Coli to be resistant to antibiotics would probably be considered biological warfare by the Homeland Security people, might today land me in a basement of Gitmo.
We are several iterations of mutation from seeing this flu become easily transmissible human to human. There are less than 220 deaths wordwide attributable to it, and its lethality could very well be inflated by the fact that in the third world many people do not go to a doctor until they are at death's doorstep. No one knows or can know how many cases came and went as more or less normal and unreported influenza.
In that America has more people die in a typical month from slipping in the shower than have died worldwide from H1N5 since it first appeared, this disease is not high on my list of things to worry about, BUT, just in case, I am totally prepared for it. Have enough canned goods on hand to live without personal contact with others for, say a month. If you do not get within sneezing distance of a possibly infected vector, you will not catch the dread bird flu in the unlikely event it does mutate. The Spanish influenza of WWI fame arose out of a perfect storm scenario where tens of thousands of wounded soldiers were cheek to jowl in less than sanitary field hospitals, then once the flu started in that incubator, the infected soldiers were sent packing to the far corners of the world, putting infectious vectors all over the landscape. A better launch point for a pandemic could not have been designed by our worst enemies, and the Spanish flu ended up killing more people than the war had.
Seriously folks, this is way overblown as a threat. I'm sure it sells newspapers and it assures nobody asks too many questions when CDC asks for a supplemental approriation of a billion or so bucks, but if you want a realistic worry, worry about whether Stephen King will have a new novel ready for beach reading season.
Gas wars: Get REAL! If you are as old as I am, you remember 30 cent and less gasoline. I remember filling up the parents' LTD and getting change from a five dollar bill. I also remember minimum wage then was $1.10. Adjust for inflation, and that 30 cent gas would be $2.75 in today's money. WOW!, it's 20 cents higher than that, or, again adjusting for inflation, the equivalent of 32 cent gas in '68. We are spoiled rotten energy hogs. My caution here; the last time the government "helped" us through a gas crunch, we ended up with gas lines and alternate buying days, if one could find any. You may recall, all that went away almost overnight as soon as the government quit "helping" us. Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
By the way, I have zero personal interest here, I only buy gas for lawnmowers. My vehicle runs on propane and the highest I've paid is $1.85.