Offering asides, recommended links, blogworthy quotations, and more, In Brief is the Northwest Progressive Institute's microblog of world, national, and local politics.

Tag Archives: Global Health


The consequences of denying reality

With the slaughter of rats and mosquitoes, bubonic plague and yellow fever have been vanquished.

Now Oswaldo Cruz declares war on smallpox. By the thousands Brazilians die of the disease, while doctors bleed the moribund and healers scare off the smoke of smoldering cowshit. Oswaldo Cruz, in charge of public health, makes vaccination obligatory.

Senator Rui Barbosa, pigeon-chested and smooth-tongued orator, attacks vaccination using judicial weapons flowery with adjectives. In the name of liberty Rui Barbosa defends the right of every individual to be contaminated if he so desires. Torrential applause, thunderous ovations interrupt him from phrase to phrase.

“1904: Rio de Janerio: Vaccine”

Memory of Fire (Volume 3 of the Century of the Wind Trilogy)

Eduardo Galeano

This actually happened.

People, again, as then, have been told stories with no basis in fact.

They all came from the mind of one man.

One man, determined to bend reality to, ultimately, two points.

It’s not his fault.

Here is another interpretation of reality.

We hope, in an odd way, that Donald Trump will have it read to him when he’s receptive.

We hope he has it read to him before it’s assumptions and numbers are out of date.

We hope he listens.

Because we don’t have to have this many people die.

And maybe, just maybe, he’ll finally realize that the future of the few people he really cares about will depend on this possible, hard reality not coming into being.


A global pandemic of this scale was inevitable. In recent years, hundreds of health experts have written books, white papers, and op-eds warning of the possibility. Bill Gates has been telling anyone who would listen, including the 18 million viewers of his TED Talk. In 2018, I wrote a story for The Atlantic arguing that America was not ready for the pandemic that would eventually come. In October, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security war-gamed what might happen if a new coronavirus swept the globe. And then one did. Hypotheticals became reality.

— Ed Yong: How the coronavirus pandemic will end

Recommended Link

The world’s fastest supercomputer identified chemicals that could stop COVID-19 from spreading, a crucial step toward a treatment

“The novel coronavirus presents an unprecedented challenge for scientists: The speed at which the virus spreads means they must accelerate their research. But this is what the world’s fastest supercomputer was built for.” CNN explains.

Recommended Link

Rethinking and reframing: Let’s aim for physical rather than social distancing

“Isolation can be toxic. Let’s increase physical distance, but stay connected,: writes Dr. Kenneth E. Miller.

Recommended Link

Trump’s incompetence results in federal agencies waiting for orders as pandemic rapidly worsens

Unlike several years ago, when President Barack Obama ordered the Department of Defense to mobilize to respond to the ebola outbreak, Donald Trump has failed to involve the military in the United States’ response to the rapidly worsening coronavirus pandemic.


Even if they lacked any moral compass beyond their own political survival, one might imagine that Republican politicians and conservative media figures would want to tell their voters and audiences the truth just to make sure they survive to vote in November and buy into reverse mortgage scams advertised on Fox News. But the Pavlovian urge to win the short-term news cycle, own the libs and defend the economic interests of corporate America and Trump’s re-election are combining with the predilection for conspiracy-minded thinking on the right.

— David Atkins, writing for The Washington Monthly: Republican America isn’t prepared for the coronavirus crisis

Recommended Link

“It will go away”: A timeline of Trump playing down the coronavirus threat

“Trump gambled very early and very often on the idea that the coronavirus wouldn’t turn out to be nearly as severe as some health officials have warned it could get,” Aaron Blake writes.

Video Clip

Via the Catholic News Agency:

“I want to acknowledge the best science that is out there, that basically says despite our best efforts, this epidemic is going to continue to spread, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be doing everything we possibly can to restrict the spread of this virus and of this epidemic,” Archbishop Paul Etienne said in a video released Wednesday afternoon.

“So I am going to ask that all of our parishes in western Washington, in the Archdiocese of Seattle, effective today, suspend the celebration publicly of the Eucharist.”

“As we all know, this is out of an extreme measure of caution,” he added. “Out of an extreme caution, we want to do our part to prevent the spread of this virus.”​

Recommended Link

For Trump, coronavirus proves to be an enemy he can’t tweet away

“A president who is at his strongest politically when he has a human target to attack has found it harder to confront a growing outbreak that has rattled the country,” The New York Times assesses.

Chat Transcript

Governor Jay Inslee appears on CBS’ Face the Nation to talk about coronavirus response with Margaret Brennan

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about–


MARGARET BRENNAN: — the Vice President’s visit because he praised your action. You were very complimentary just now to him. But then the President of the United States had this to say on Friday.


DONALD TRUMP: So I told Mike not to be complimentary of the governor because that governor is a snake. Okay, Inslee. Let me just tell you, we have a lot of problems with the governor.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Are politics complicating any part of this?

GOVERNOR INSLEE: Well, we’re… I really don’t care too much what Donald Trump thinks of me. And we just kind of ignore that. It’s background noise, because we really need to work together, Republicans and Democrats. This is a national crisis. We are doing that effectively, as I’ve indicated. I’ve had good meetings with the agency directors.


GOVERNOR INSLEE: I think that the Vice President has been helpful in this regard. So, look, we’re focusing on people’s health, not on political gamesmanship right now. And that’s what we need to do.


GOVERNOR INSLEE: And I feel good about those efforts.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Governor Inslee, good luck to you.

GOVERNOR INSLEE: You bet. Thank you.

— Excerpt from the full transcript of Jay Inslee on “Face the Nation,” March 8, 2020 (CBS News).

Recommended Link

Looking at how diseases spread, canceling SXSW was the right call

“No doubt canceling SXSW was a tough call for the city,” data scientist Spencer Fox writes. “Austin’s flagship international event has huge name recognition and delivers significant economic impact — more than $355 million last year alone. Hundreds of Austinites work throughout the year to make it successful, and thousands more depend on the influx of money it brings. But public health concerns must take priority.”

Recommended Link

Inside China’s all-out war on the novel coronavirus

Via The New York Times: “Dr. Bruce Aylward, of the World Health Organization got a rare glimpse into Beijing’s campaign to stop the epidemic. Here’s what he saw.”

Video Clip

As coronavirus spreads to the United States, John Oliver discusses what’s being done to fight the illness, what’s gone wrong, and how to stay safe.

Recommended Link

U.S. military to provide equipment, resources to battle Ebola epidemic in Africa

It’s about time! President Barack Obama has announced that the United States military will intervene to help relief organizations combat the deadliest ebola outbreak in history, which is threatening to engulf communities in West Africa.

Chat Transcript

Chuck Todd scores interview with Barack Obama for his debut as host of Meet the Press

CHUCK TODD: Ebola. There’s some anxiety in the country about it. Obviously, it’s something that Africa’s trying to get its hands around.

But there’s obviously anxiety in the United States. How concerned are you and how concerned should Americans be?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Americans shouldn’t be concerned about the prospects of contagion here in the United States short term.

Because this is not an airborne disease.

CHUCK TODD: I noticed you said “short term” though.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I’m going to get to that. It’s not an airborne disease like the flu. You can only catch it through the transmission of bodily fluids. The problem that we’ve got is in right now a limited portion of Western Africa.

So what I said, and I said this two months ago to our national security team is, we have to make this a natural security priority.

CHUCK TODD: It’s going to be a U.S.-led effort.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: As usual. And we’re going to have to get U.S. military assets just to set up, for example, isolation units and equipment there to provide security for public health workers surging from around the world.

If we do that, then it’s still going to be months before this problem is controllable in Africa. But it shouldn’t reach our shores.

Now here’s the last point I’m going to make. If we don’t make that effort now, and this spreads not just through Africa, but other parts of the world, there’s the prospect then that the virus mutates, it becomes more easily transmittable, and then it could be a serious danger to the United States.

Excerpt courtesy of NBC News (read the full transcript).

Recommended Link

Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes

The BBC reports on one of Finland’s most cherished (and cool) public services: “For seventy-five years, Finland’s expectant mothers have been given a box by the state. It’s like a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys that can even be used as a bed. And some say it helped Finland achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.”