Coulda Woulda Shouda
April 22, 2020
I love the news and I still receive the print newspaper. One of my favorite things to do is to grab a newspaper, magazine, or book and sit entirely by myself in the park. I’m very grateful for Augusto, the Portuguese man who delivers the newspaper to me everyday. He wakes up earlier than a first sergeant, is always reliable, is an immigrant, has a wonderful smile, and I’m thankful for his service.
Here’s a joke we saw in the San Francisco Chronicle a few weeks ago: “Before coronavirus I used to cough to cover up a fart. Now I fart to cover up a cough.”
“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” ― John F. Kennedy
“The speed of communications is wondrous to behold. It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.” ― Edward R. Murrow
Coulda Woulda Shoulda: The Curse of Knowledge
“The problem isn’t that prevention was impossible,” Peter Daszak said, speaking of Covid-19. “It was very possible. But we didn’t do it. Governments thought it was too expensive. Pharmaceutical companies operate for profit.”
Daszak directs the pandemic-prevention group EcoHealth Alliance, and chairs the Forum on Microbial Threats. In February 2018, he was one of 30 microbiologists, zoologists and public health experts who met at the World Health Organization’s headquarters in Geneva. The WHO established the group in 2015 to create a priority list of dangerous viruses — specifically those for which no vaccines or drugs were already in development.
At the meeting Daszak presented on SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), a lethal coronavirus that killed some 800 people after it emerged in 2002. “We’d done a lot of research on coronaviruses, so we knew they were a clear and present danger. High mortality, no drugs or vaccines in the pipeline, with new variants that could still be emerging,” he said.
The group agreed that as populations and global travel continued to grow, and development increasingly pushed into wild areas, it was inevitable that once-containable local outbreaks, like SARS or Ebola, could become global disasters. The researchers felt certain they could preemptively create vaccines and drugs to fight a wide range of viral threats — if only they had sufficient funding.
“It’s definitely possible to make a drug that would work across a good range of coronaviruses,” said immunologist Vincent Racaniello. “We honestly should have had one long ago, since SARS in 2003. It would have taken care of this outbreak in China before it got out….[There just] wasn’t enough financial backing.” The Covid-19 pandemic could change that, provided the political and financial will to do so can be maintained.
Kevin Frayer via Getty Images
Every Pandemic Has Its Thorn
- Flowers are intrinsic to many celebrations with gatherings of people. Royal FloraHolland runs four auction sites that handle the bulk of the global flower trade. The average day would see more than 100,000 transactions — well over 20 million cut flowers. Before the pandemic, 42 of the cargo flights arriving each week at the Aalsmeer location came from Kenya, whose climate allows roses to grow year-round. The East African nation is Europe’s biggest supplier, shipping about $1 billion worth of flowers a year.
- In the early days of March, even as the Netherlands was reporting its first coronavirus infections, the auctions went off as usual. But after Italy imposed a national lockdown, France ordered nonessential stores to close, and Germany called for the cancellation of most events, the $8.5 billion global flower trade collapsed. All those beautiful roses, in greenhouses from the highlands of Ecuador and Colombia to the shores of Kenya’s Lake Naivasha, were thrown into compost piles.
- The crash of the flower trade shows how quickly and distinctively Covid-19 is disrupting supply chains, even in places where it isn’t yet pervasive. (Bloomberg)
- Additional paintings: Jimson Weed by Georgia O’Keeffe and The Artist’s Garden at Giverny by Claude Monet.
Houston, We Have Even Bigger Problems
- New research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, reveals that the Arctic will likely lose all its summer sea ice before 2050, even if the carbon emissions driving the climate crisis are rapidly cut.
- Scientists were alarmed, but said slashing greenhouse gases remained vital, as this would determine whether Arctic summer ice vanished permanently or could recover over time. If emissions remain very high, there’s a risk the Arctic could be ice-free even in the dark, cold winter months, a possibility described as “catastrophic.”
- Ice loss exposes the dark ocean, which absorbs more of the sun’s heat and further ramps up temperatures. These changes are increasingly linked to more extreme weather, including severe winters, deadly summer heat waves and torrential floods at lower latitudes, as in Europe and the US. (Guardian)
- Australia’s Fire Season Ends, and Researchers Look to the Next One (NYT, $)
- Coronavirus: World risks ‘biblical’ famines due to pandemic – UN (BBC)
- Beijing city shuts down gyms again as fears rise over a second wave of coronavirus (CNBC)
- CDC chief warns of ‘even more difficult’ wave of coronavirus next winter (Guardian)
- Coronavirus: Why some racial groups are more vulnerable (BBC)
- PHOTOS: Lockdown In The World’s Most Unequal Country (NPR)
- Dissident artist Ai Weiwei says virus has only strengthened China’s ‘police state’ (CNN) additional song: Dissident by Pearl Jam
- Sewer systems are a window into the coronavirus pandemic (The Verge)
- For Southern Italy, the Coronavirus Becomes a War on 2 Fronts (NYT)
- Duterte uses Covid-19 response to broaden reign of fear and repression (CNN)
- Migrant Nurses Fight the Coronavirus Half a World From Home (NYT)
- A watchdog out of Trump’s grasp unleashes wave of coronavirus audits (Politico)
- Istanbul Death Toll Hints Turkey Is Hiding a Wider Coronavirus Calamity (NYT)
- Frustrated by Lack of Coronavirus Tests, Maryland Got 500,000 From South Korea (NYT)
- 70 Died at a Nursing Home as Body Bags Piled Up. This Is What Went Wrong. (NYT)
Covid-19 & Money
- Senate passes $484 billion coronavirus bill for small business and hospital relief, testing (CNBC)
- We think unfortunately this is about right: Global CEOs see U-shaped recession due to coronavirus: survey (Reuters)
- The Death of the Department Store: ‘Very Few Are Likely to Survive’ (NYT)
- Can Colleges Survive Coronavirus If They Stay Closed In The Fall? (NPR)
- So much for entitled millennials – it’s billionaires such as Richard Branson who are begging for loans (Guardian)
- Millennials are getting screwed by the economy. Again. (Vox)
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