Far and Away From the Coronavirus Madness
March 16, 2020
“Though a good deal is too strange to be believed, nothing is too strange to have happened.”
“We learn that it is not the rays which bodies absorb, but those which they reject, that give them the colours they are known by; and in the same way people are specialized by their dislikes and antagonisms, whilst their goodwill is looked upon as no attribute at all.”
― Thomas Hardy
Speak Loudly And Carry A Sanitized Stick
It’s not often that one country writes an open letter to the international scientific community, urging their leaders to take a global pandemic seriously. But Italy wants the world to know that coronavirus isn’t like the flu; it spreads exponentially, and each day’s delay of aggressive action makes the result more disastrous.
Authoritarian governments are all about secrecy and control of public information — like China at the beginning of the epidemic. The disease first appeared in early December, but authorities muzzled doctors to keep them raising red flags.
Officials continued playing down dangers to the public through the first weeks in January, leaving Wuhan’s 11 million residents unaware they should protect themselves. Chinese scientists identified the new coronavirus by January 7; still, political leaders didn’t act. Hundreds of officials gathered for public meetings in January; Wuhan hosted a massive potluck banquet for 40,000 families. Meanwhile health commissioners were denying any new coronavirus cases.
Finally Chinese officials galvanized into action, locking down the entire Hubei province, with over 50 million people, by January 23. To date the massive quarantine has acted to curb new cases, but as infections in China were subsiding, they were surging elsewhere in the world.
Italy’s first case occurred January 31. A week later, the number infected had risen to almost 6,000, with more than 230 deaths. By March 10 almost 10,000 had been infected, over 400 had died, and the entire country was locked down. So Italy has an urgent message for other countries: quicker acknowledgment and action saves lives, and lessens economic impact.
- Chinese Tycoon Who Criticized Xi’s Response to Coronavirus Has Vanished (NYT, $)
- In the coronavirus crisis, our leaders are failing us | Gordon Brown (Guardian)
- Coronavirus: global deaths and infections overtake those inside China (Guardian)
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should I see a doctor? (Guardian)
- The Difference Between 70% Isopropyl Alcohol and 91% (Apartment Therapy)
- Bleach Kills the Coronavirus, Too (Lifehacker)
- Your Phone is Filthy. Here’s How to Clean it (NYT, $)
- Staying in due to the coronavirus? Here’s what to stock in your fridge and pantry (NBC)
- 12 Museums From Around the World That You Can Visit Virtually | Travel + Leisure (Travel and Leisure)
- Social distancing doesn’t have to doom your weekends. We have ideas (CNN)
- New Coronavirus Test 10 Times Faster Is FDA Approved (Bloomberg, $)
- Tim Cook’s trick for making iPhones is now at risk from the pandemic (The Verge)
- “This feels much worse than 2008”: Obama’s chief economist on coronavirus’s economic threat (Vox)
- Fed Cuts Interest Rates To Near Zero, Citing Coronavirus Economic Impact (NPR)
Excellent or Fascinating Reads
- Anatomy of a Pandemic (The Walrus)
- Coronavirus Will Change How We Shop, Travel and Work for Years (Bloomberg, $)
- Coronavirus Is a Preview of Our Self-Isolating Future (One Zero)
- Will life go back to normal after the coronavirus? (Slate)
- China Spins Tale That the U.S. Army Started the Coronavirus Epidemic (NYT, $)
- Young, Confident and Flying, Virus Be Damned (NYT, $)
- Opinion | Pandemics Kill Compassion, Too (NYT, $) & Fighting the Coronavirus, and Individualism (Atlantic)
Poison Apples And Poison Oranges
- On Monday March 9 President Trump tweeted: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”
- Comparing the novel coronavirus to the flu is dangerously inaccurate, says longtime health reporter Charles Ornstein. No public health expert he trusts has called that comparison valid, yet he still hears top elected officials comparing Covid-19 to the fu. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said COVID-19 is deadlier than the flu. Fauci told Congressmen last Wednesday: “The flu has a mortality of 0.1 percent. This has a mortality rate of 10 times that. That’s the reason I want to emphasize we have to stay ahead of the game in preventing this.”
- Recent data reveals that overall, hospitals in the US have fewer beds than in other developed countries. Even if we had the capacity, National Geographic and other media have reported that the nation’s emergency stockpile “has less than 15 percent” of the 300 million ventilators and N95 face masks necessary to adequately handle a large influx of cases.
- Add to that, health care workers exposed to the virus are now quarantining themselves, further reducing available hospital staff. People in rural areas may not even have a hospital nearby. 126 rural hospitals have closed in the past decade, including six just this year.
- On Friday Trump finally declared coronavirus a national emergency, freeing up resources and removing hurdles for a faster response. (ProPublica)
Far and Away From the Madding and Oligarchy Crowd
- Four years ago President Vladimir Putin began a program to hand out plots of land situated thousands of miles from Moscow in remote eastern areas of Russia near the Chinese border. The Far Eastern Hectare program offers its ‘pioneers’ 2.5 acres of land, much like the American government did with the 1862 Homestead Act’s promise of 160 acres in far western parts of the US. 41 percent of Russia’s total territory is in the Far East, but only 6.2 million people, some 5 percent of its population.
- So far more than 78,000 Russians have availed themselves of the free land, but that includes many local officials who just want to build a second home.
- Kremlin critics call the program a misguided failure, but for anyone with divergent views, an antipathy toward the ruling oligarchy in Moscow, or just craving a solitary sanctuary, Putin has a deal for you. (NYT)
Additional World News
- Cambodia’s Prized Kampot Pepper, Nearly Wiped Out By Khmer Rouge, Makes A Comeback (NPR)
- In the rubble of Taiz, all roads to a normal life are blocked (Guardian)
- Australia’s Fire-Ravaged Forests Are Recovering. Ecologists Hope It Lasts (NPR)
- Pakistan Builds Border Fence, Limiting Militants and Families Alike (NYT, $)
- They Ordered Her to Be a Suicide Bomber. She Had Another Idea. (NYT, $)
- Spy stories: The friendly Mr Wu | 1843 (1843 Magazine) & Germany’s Most Important Informant Tells His Story (Spiegel)
Christopher Jue via Getty Images
No Amount Of Tiny Bags Of Pretzels Will Make This Okay
- The Trump administration’s hastily arranged “enhanced entry screenings,” announced Friday to slow the spread of the coronavirus, threw airports into chaos nationwide as tens of thousands of travelers returned from Europe. Flights from more than two dozen countries were routed through 13 of the busiest travel hubs in the US, causing agonizing delays as airport workers asked passengers about their health and if they’d been to any countries with travel restrictions. Instructions to self-quarantine seemed ludicrous since throngs of people had stood shoulder to shoulder, in many cases for hours.
- On Sunday Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot criticized the Trump administration during a news conference at O’Hare International Airport. She said passengers’ safety was “seriously compromised” and warned of “more disasters” if communication doesn’t improve. Some travelers expressed surprise that the health checks weren’t more stringent and generally didn’t include temperature checks. (WaPo)
David Dee Delgado via Getty Images
Schooooools Out For Corona (But Hopefully Not Forever)
- Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday night that he was ordering all New York City schools, bars and restaurants to close. Restaurants would be limited to takeout and food delivery. NYC was one of the few remaining large districts left open in the country, after Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco schools closed last week.
- There are now over 700 coronavirus cases in the state, and Governor Cuomo has asked President Trump for military help to fight the pandemic. New York’s primary election could be delayed, and courts may be postponing many cases.
- Cornell University in Ithaca, NY has told students to return home, as all in-person classes have been cancelled for the rest of the semester. Cornell was one of the first universities in the country to suspend classes on campus; students have been given a three-week break to make the journey home before online courses begin. The trip home won’t be easy, particularly for students from overseas. Some have refused to leave, vowing to remain near campus even after dorms shut down later this month. (NYT, NBCNews)
Additional USA News
- Who won the Biden-Sanders Democratic debate? 4 winners and 2 losers (Vox)
- Joe Biden says he will pick a woman for vice president (Vox)
- A Conservative Agenda Unleashed on the Federal Courts (NYT, $)
- The Mystery of the Missing Bus Riders (NYT, $)
- Frustrated By Congress, ‘Absolutist’ Gun Rights Groups Focus Efforts On States (NPR)
- The acid test of Trump’s maverick leadership has come – can he save himself? (Guardian)
- Bernie or Bust: the Sanders fans who will never vote for Biden (Guardian)
- ‘I can’t get above water’: how America’s chicken giant Perdue controls farmers (Guardian)
- Arizona Boom Draws Californians and Changes Political Hue (NYT, $)
Trump & Coronavirus
- Reporter: White House Knew Of Coronavirus’ ‘Major Threat,’ But Response Fell Short (NPR)
- Infighting, missteps and a son-in-law hungry for results: Inside the Trump administration’s troubled coronavirus response (WaPo, $)
- Trump Voters Wanted to Blow up the System. Well, Here We Go. (GQ)
- Coronavirus Will Get Worse in America (NY Mag)
- Pelosi and Trump Reach Deal on a Relief Package (NYT, $) & Opinion | There’s a Giant Hole in Pelosi’s Coronavirus Bill (NYT, $)
- America Is Acting Like a Failed State (Atlantic, $)
Lucky to Be Alive, and Even Luckier to Be Wealthy
- Dr. Chengwei Liu is a multi-award-winning Associate Professor of Strategy and Behavioral Science and Director of Executive MBA (London Shard) at Warwick Business School. His work is published in leading academic journals and featured in media worldwide.
- Chengwei is an expert on behavioral strategy and executive decision making. His latest research is about the role luck plays in business. Rather than there being a set formula for winning in business, as many best selling business books have promised to teach the reader, Chengwei says his research shows that exceptional successes in business are largely based on…wait for it… luck.
- Achieving exceptional performance usually requires innovation — doing something new and different — and no recipe exists for that. In fact, Chengwei says the most successful companies are also the luckiest, and he can provide systematic evidence that luck plays a critical role in performance in business, as well as in music, movies, science, and professional sports.
- His latest book, “The Unconventional Wisdom of Luck”, explains how leaders can maximize the return on luck, by avoiding being fooled by randomness, and taking advantage of the ways others mistake luck for skill. (BBC)
- Billionaire Confessional: David Rubenstein on Wealth and Privilege (NYT, $), maybe Mr. Rubenstein should just say one word: sheer luck.
- Sex, porn and toxic masculinity: the struggle to bring up better boys (Guardian)
- Sugar is a toxic agent that creates conditions for disease (Aeon)
- Procrastinate Much? Manage Your Emotions, Not Your Time. (NYT, $) & Stop Feeling Guilty About Your To-Do List (HBR)
- New cats: ‘Cat Tracker’ study shows where pet cats go when they’re outside (National Geographic) and old cats: They Knew Saber-toothed Tigers Were Big. Then They Found This Skull. (NYT, $)
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