Civil-Military Confrontation and Crisis
June 4, 2020
We are at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history when it comes to civil-military relations. We applaud Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s thorough denunciation of Trump’s decision to use troops for a photo-op.
- Former Defense Secretary Mattis Issues Stunning Rebuke Of Trump. From Mattis: “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us.” (NPR)
- Military leaders condemn Trump over protest response: “President Donald Trump is facing an unprecedented revolt from the elite corps of ex-military leaders and presidents over his brazen response to mass protests and inflaming of racial divides.” (CNN)
- Multiple former flag officers are calling out Trump for his dangerous use of the military
- Admiral Mullen: “Our fellow citizens are not the enemy, and must never become so.”
- Gen. John Allen: ”We may be witnessing the beginning of the end of American democracy, but there is still a way to stop the descent.”
- Defense Secretary Esper reverses decision to withdraw active-duty troops from DC area (CNBC)
- Handling of Street Protests Creates Crisis for Pentagon Boss (AP News)
- The president is a danger to the US military (Vox) That headline is a shocking statement but shows where we are in 2020. A Trump re-election in 2020 would be a disaster for the country and our democratic institutions.
“If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you.”
“I’ll tell you what leadership is,” he said. “It’s persuasion and conciliation and education and patience. It’s long, slow, tough work. That’s the only kind of leadership I know.”
― Jim Mattis
The “Doctor” Is “In”
A prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, published a study on May 22 coauthored by Dr. Sapan Desai, founder and CEO of an obscure US healthcare analytics company named Surgisphere Corporation. The study was founded on a database — provided by and only accessible to Surgisphere — which included 96,032 patients from 671 hospitals across six continents.
The study revealed harmful effects tied to the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine among patients with COVID-19. It led to changes in Covid-19 treatment policies in Latin American countries, and the halting of clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine by the WHO and other research institutes.
Concerns about the dataset soon began swirling on social media and in newspapers. Over 180 signatories at research institutions worldwide laid out multiple problems with the study data and analyses. Meanwhile, journalistic investigation was uncovering disturbing information about the company behind the study, and its founder.
Desai established Surgisphere Corporation in 2008 while a medical resident at Duke University training in vascular surgery. His company produced textbooks marketed to other medical students. A decade ago positive reviews of Desai’s publications that seemed to impersonate actual physicians appeared on Amazon. They were removed after the real doctors convinced Amazon the reviews were fake.
Desai was practicing at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Illinois when he was named in three medical malpractice lawsuits in 2019. Now he runs Surgisphere, headquartered in Palatine, Illinois. His handful of employees have little or no data or scientific background. And despite claiming to run one of the largest and fastest hospital databases in the world, Surgisphere has almost no online presence. Before Monday the “get in touch” link on the company’s homepage redirected to a WordPress template for a cryptocurrency website.
On Wednesday, the WHO announced it was resuming its hydroxychloroquine trials.
- How You Should Read Coronavirus Studies, or Any Science Paper (NYT)
- Confused by the science behind Covid-19? You’re not alone (CNN)
- Why we turn to scientists in times of crisis (Weforum)
America’s Allies Are In Shock
Leon Neal via Getty Images
- On Tuesday, when a reporter asked Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau what he thought about President Trump’s call for military action against American protesters and the tear gassing of peaceful demonstrators to make way for a photo-op in front of a church, the sound of crickets could literally be heard — for almost the entire 21 awkward, uncomfortable, televised seconds it took Trudeau to mutter anything.
- The bearded prime minister stared into the camera like a deer in the headlights, opened his mouth, then shut it, then opened and shut it again. He finally spoke, softly saying “We all watch in horror and consternation what’s going on in the United States.” Canadians have been looking on in shock as the country they’ve long considered their closest friend and protector comes unraveled, appearing more like a crazed erratic and dangerous stranger.
- Even the country’s conservative newspapers are filled with columns like the one by Gary Mason stating: “There couldn’t be a scarier person [than Donald Trump] inhabiting the White House at this very moment.” (NYT)
- Embattled at Home, Trump Finds Himself Isolated Abroad, Too: After years of snubs and American unilateralism, European allies have stopped looking to the president for leadership, and are turning their backs on him. (NYT, $)
- CIA veterans who monitored crackdowns abroad see troubling parallels in Trump’s handling of protests (WaPo, $)
We Still Need Some Education
Carl Court via Getty Images
- Some 1.5 billion school children around the globe were sent home during the pandemic. Authorities are now deeply concerned that hundreds of thousands of them in the US and Europe, who lacked the support to continue distance learning, might never return. In Spain and Italy, which were ravaged by Covid-19 early on, schools have been closed the longest, and the crisis feels particularly acute.
- In Italy some 6 percent of the country’s 8.3 million children haven’t participated in remote learning. In Spain the estimates range from 10 to 20 percent of children and teenagers who haven’t participated; others have engaged only occasionally.
- When schools closed in March, the Italian and Spanish governments, and some charities, tried providing tablets and purchasing internet connections for families in need. But the demand was high and supplies didn’t come fast enough. “The existing digital divide is aggravating the educational gap. Unless action is taken quickly, everything points to a significant increase of the dropout rate at the end of the school year,” said a Spanish educator.
- The same is true in the US. Professionals warn that students falling behind will struggle when schools finally reopen, potentially making a permanent difference to their lives and careers. (WSJ)
- How Covid-19 is changing the world’s children (BBC)
- The rise of the pandemic-era ‘gap year’ (BBC)
Additional World News
- U.K. Willing To Admit Nearly 3 Million From Hong Kong If China Adopts Security Law (NPR)
- US bars passenger flights from China (BBC)
- Putin orders state of emergency after huge fuel spill inside Arctic Circle (Guardian)
- Prosecutors seek arrest warrant against Samsung heir Jay Lee (Techcrunch)
- Yemen Aid Falls Short, Threatening Food and Health Programs (NYT, $)
- Rape and murder of student in church sparks outrage across Nigeria (Guardian)
- ‘Stigmatized, segregated, forgotten’: Colombia’s poor being evicted despite lockdowns (Guardian)
- China-India border: Why tensions are rising between the neighbours (BBC) & China, India unlikely to turn to the U.S. for mediation over border tensions (CNBC)
- After 6 Months, Important Mysteries About Coronavirus Endure (NYT)
- Could nearly half of those with Covid-19 have no idea they are infected? (Guardian)
- Surveillance Technology Will Only Get More Intense After Covid (Bloomberg)
- What George Floyd Protests Mean for the Coronavirus Pandemic (Atlantic)
- ‘Really scary’: experts fear protests and police risk accelerating Covid-19 spread (Guardian)
- Monster or Machine? A Profile of the Coronavirus at 6 Months (NYT)
- Medical Workers Should Use Respirator Masks, Not Surgical Masks (NYT)
- Opinion | Stop the Coronavirus Superspreaders (NYT)
- U.S. and Chinese Scientists Trace Evolution of Coronaviruses in Bats (NYT)
Take Off The Tinfoil Hat And Let Me Take Your Temperature
- Public health workers, particularly those in smaller or rural areas, are encountering resistance, online harassment and even violent threats for conducting contact tracing and other containment strategies in their local communities.
- State and local health officials say it’s a worrisome development as businesses reopen, and they try to build community trust for strategies that will help keep viral transmission in check.
- Lauri Jones has run Okanogan County’s small public health department in eastern Washington for 17 years. She’s never encountered such controversy as has developed during the pandemic; she’s finding it difficult to get the word out about the public health tools now being used more widely: coronavirus testing, contact tracing, and isolation and quarantine.
- Jones’ county is rural and relatively isolated, with no local daily newspaper, and the pandemic has only meant fewer opportunities for communication and interaction. Given these obstacles, “a lot of people rely on social media for their information — and misinformation.” She believes the pandemic has brought forward a more radical strain in the community — people unwilling to listen to facts, who have become convinced the pandemic hides a more nefarious purpose.
- Often a little misunderstanding can escalate to online threats. In May, a small town spat about contact tracing and isolation escalated online, and became so heated that Jones became afraid for her life. (NPR)
Black Lives Matter
- The History Behind ‘When The Looting Starts, The Shooting Starts’ (NPR)
- De-escalation Keeps Protesters And Police Safer. Departments Respond With Force Anyway. (Five Thirty-Eight)
- The anger behind the protests, explained in 4 charts (Vox)
- George Floyd: Anonymous hackers re-emerge amid US unrest (BBC)
- Officer who stood by as George Floyd died highlights complex Asian American, black relations (NBC)
- The George Floyd Killing Exposes Failures of Police Reform (The Intercept)
- How to reform American police, according to experts (Vox)
- Black Workers, Already Lagging, Face Big Economic Risks (NYT, $)
- ‘Your lives matter’: Obama offers words of hope in contrast to Trump’s division (Guardian)
- Early Facebook Employees Disavow Zuckerberg’s Stance on Trump Posts (NYT, $)
Additional USA News
- ‘Disastrous at a time like this’: US Postal Service is on the brink of crisis (Guardian)
- The C.D.C. Waited ‘Its Entire Existence for This Moment.’ What Went Wrong? (NYT)
- SF, Silicon Valley rents plunge amid downturn: ‘Never seen anything like it’ (SF Chronicle)
- Opinion | America, We Break It, It’s Gone (NYT, $)
- This is the greatest 50-day rally in the history of the S&P 500 (CNBC)
I Am Human, Hear Me Snore
- Before the pandemic, the health warnings we got were urging us to do things most of us don’t really have a great urge to do: exercise more, eat five or eight or even 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Then came the official advice to do stuff that sounded easy: loaf on the sofa, binge-watch box sets, stay at home. That appeals to our lazier sides anyway, right? Turns out it isn’t that easy, as we found out after a few weeks of lockdown.
- Actually, humans aren’t biologically programmed to do as little as possible — we thrive on activity. Or at least, a good balance between being busy and resting. In reality we sometimes take the easy route and do as little as we can get away with. But at other times we value situations more if we have to expend considerable effort, even experience a little pain. It’s why people climb tall mountains in freezing weather, or try sailing around the world in a small boat, or run marathons.
- A famous study at the University of Virginia a few years back tested how people would react being left alone for 15 minutes in a room with absolutely no distractions. The only thing in the room other than the participant was a computer key wired to a machine. When the key was pressed it delivered an electric shock. Rather than just sit and chill for 15 minutes, 71 percent of men and 25 percent of women chose to shock themselves.
- One man shocked himself 190 times. Apparently having nothing to do was so excruciating that many of the participants preferred torturing themselves to putting up with no distractions whatsoever — even for 15 minutes. (BBC)
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