Alvaro Uribe has THE FLU!

Even as it has become clear that the swine flu pandemic (at least in its current mutation) isn't much more serious or deadly than normal flu, stories of prominent people getting infected with it continue to be covered as if they had contracted bubonic plague.

Probably the best way to put swine flu stories in perspective is to just remove the words "swine" or "H1N1" from before the words "flu" and "virus." For instance:

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has contracted the [...] flu virus and is being treated by doctors while continuing to work from his residence, government spokesman Cesar Velasquez said on Sunday. 

That doesn't sound so bad, now does it?

I'm sorry for sounding flip. H1N1 is a legitimate public health concern that continues to claim lives around the globe. But still, when I see headlines like "Bangladesh reports first H1N1 flu death," I have to wonder how many how many people in that country have died of normal flu (or any number of other diseases) this year without it warranting international media attention.

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Iraq recovers missing air force

One of the stranger stories of the weekend was Iraq's announcement that it was negotiating the return of 19 Mig fighter jets that had been sent to Serbia for maintenance in the late 1980s and never returned:

Sanctions slapped on Iraq because of Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 would have made it impossible to bring the MiG-21 and MiG-23 jet fighters back while he was in power.

Two of the jets were ready for "immediate use", the statement said, and a preliminary agreement had been reached with the Serbian government to repair the others and send them back.

The statement did not say when the existence of the fighters had come to light

During his visit to Iraq earlier this month, Serbia's Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac told Iraqi officials about the existence of the jets, said a senior Serbian Defense official who did not want to be quoted by name.

"None are in flyable condition, they are dismantled and in crates. Only one MiG 23 that was displayed in (Belgrade's) air force museum is whole," he said. 

This is welcome news for Iraq, which has been looking to build up its air defences, but something seems very off about this. Slobodan Milosevic has been out of power since 2000 and Saddam Hussein since 2003, yet only now has anyone mentioned these planes?

I'm no expert, but given that (according to Wikipedia, at least) Serbia only has about 40 MiGs of its own, it seems like the 19 they were keeping in storage would be kind of hard to miss. 

Also, since when was Milosevic that concerned about violating international sanctions?

Photo: Dmitry A. Mmottl under a creative commons license.