From CNN.com this morning:

Why Michelle Obama inspires women around the globe

Heather Ferreira works in the slums of Mumbai, India, where she has watched thousands of women live under a “curse.”

The women she meets in the squalid streets where “Slumdog Millionaire” was filmed are often treated with contempt, she says. They’re considered ugly if their skin and hair are too dark. They are deemed “cursed” if they only have daughters. Many would-be mothers even abort their children if they learn they’re female.

Yet lately she says Indian women are getting another message from the emergence of another woman thousands of miles away. This woman has dark skin and hair. She walks next to her husband in public, not behind. And she has two daughters. But no one calls her cursed. They call her Michelle Obama, the first lady.

I have nothing against the first lady — in fact, I think she’s an admirable woman indeed. But with swine flu poised to wipe out millions of people and an economy still in crisis, does CNN really need to spend valuable bandwidth sucking up to Michelle? All this really does is provide ammunition for right-wing blowhards to start up their “left-wing wackos in the media” and “we surround them” chants again. And that doesn’t do anyone any good.

UPDATE: I realized I’d forgotten to hyperlink the “wipe out millions of people” phrase above (I don’t believe that’s what’s going to happen; I just wanted to point out a little hysteria for comic effect), so while looking for an appropriate page, I stumbled upon this big box o’ crazy.

I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP: This dude claims A) that swine flu was created in a lab and that Mexico City was deliberately targeted, and B) that the only way to stop the outbreak from happening is to have the U.S. states declare sovereignty or demand that Pres. Obama prove his citizenship.

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Okay, so this swine flu situation is now a “public health emergency.”

Officials said they had confirmed eight cases in New York, seven in California, two in Kansas, two in Texas and one in Ohio, and that the cases looked to be similar to the deadly strain of swine flu that has killed more than 80 people in Mexico and infected 1,300 more.

I hasten to point out that the standard version of the flu kills around 30,000 each year. Anyway, the CDC is simultaneously urging people “not to panic” and telling us that we’re experiencing an “emergency.”

So far, Mexican officials have counted 68 dead from “swine flu.”

Naturally, everyone’s in a panic… the same way they got scared when the big threat was “bird flu” … and SARS … and ebola … and “Africanized bees.”

One might be forgiven for feeling a little underwhelmed by this year’s incarnation of the “let’s scare everyone with the latest deadly outbreak” story. We just did “bird flu” a couple years ago, so it would have been natural to hope for something a little fresher than “swine flu” — say, pachyderm dengue fever, or maybe marmot pox. Can’t we get a “reptile herpes” or something?

Anyway, when avian influenza was the Big Story, I did a little research and discovered that even considering the most alarmist of death counts, the virus managed only to kill a tiny fraction of the number of people killed every year by the “regular” flu.

UPDATE: I dealt with the bird flu hysteria here and here, on my old site.