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Day 137: Flu Solutions Are Far From My Window

I’m still holed up. Thanks for your concern. I appreciate that a gun might feel useful, but I wouldn’t have shot the guys who took my masks. They weren’t threatening my life.

Sneeky and I are back at our windows. I wish he would talk. Or trade views with me. (Mine overlooks the fire escape.) He’s good at spotting things. When his neck extends, I crane mine, hoping it's more than a pigeon. My block has started to smell like Naples. Not far away it sounds like Kabul on a slow night.

The bald man is back to his games. Perhaps he never quit. The woman he lives with plays louder now, or my hearing has sharpened. They inhabit different dimensions of the same space. I’ve never seen them communicate or share. It looks and feels like science fiction … until I recall living that way not long ago.

NOT QUITE THE STUFF OF ROMANCE: SEIZED " VIAGRA" (DHS)Our local correspondent reports that the LES DIY is setting up shop again. She asks when I’ll come around to help. She and some of you inquire about Lisa’s status. I’m not sure. Her boyfriend says she seems weaker but feels better. He is giving her Relenza and hydrating her. He’s way more reliable than any hospital staff would be right now. The problem is that he doesn’t have a ventilator. He’ll call me if Lisa starts gasping. Not that I have a solution.

I watch public service ads on TV, broken up by inane specials like Avian Flu: Are We Flying Blind? Paid commercials are scarce. Locally, they push only stuff that can be consumed at home by history’s biggest captive audience. The Mormons are back with free Bibles. (I ordered one; it’s as good a time as any to catch up on a colorful credo.) And of course there are innumerable quack infomercials about bird flu.

Sold in Britain: Counterfeit Meds

The Web pulsates with spam for Relenza and Tamiflu. The best pitches come from vendors in Britain, a center for informal pharmaceuticals—many of them counterfeit—because taxes, greed, and contempt for the citizenry make Brits pay more for medicine (as with most goods). Not only do the natives comprise a big market for discount meds, they speak English with verve. So they sell lots of them.

Most counterfeit drugs are manufactured in China (which also makes most of the vitamins Americans consume). Much of the rest is made in India and Egypt. Many contain the required chemicals, though not necessarily with the ordained proportions. In normal times, it’s good business to keep bootleg pill-heads alive and clicking.

But Relenza (or Tamiflu) buyers aren’t likely to come back for more. They’ll soon either be immune to H5N1 because they’ve just survived it or they’ll be past needing anything. So the Internet antiviral is frequently 100% bogus. When it’s only partly fake, it’s likely to speed the flu’s resistance to these shaky weapons. Let’s hope it’s not harmful or deadly. (European Union inspectors once nabbed ‘heart attack’ pills composed of brick dust that was painted yellow and glossed with furniture polish.)

At home, startup companies announce research breakthroughs as fast as they can get our hungry media to publicize them. How many different technologies have claimed to vanquish H5N1 since March? Where are they?

Down on Wall Street, trading electronically in fits and starts. Fitch awaits confirmation on a sale he made days ago; the shares vanished from his account but the cash credit never appeared and now he’s getting margin calls. The financial community is a mess. How does a firm ensure regulatory compliance when its entire workforce is telecommuting? Inside information is flowing through private email accounts and calls on unsecured phones. Documents that need to be shipped and papers requiring a signature must be quarantined—even irradiated to kill microbes—before they can be delivered to the telecommuters.

The market is in a grand dive punctuated by euphoric upsurges that seem to flop as soon as the smart money has cleared out. Even when investors are healthy, programs account for most trades. I wonder where their sell triggers are set. It might not take much to flush the market, erase trillions of dollars in an hour.

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