The Trouble With a Premature Vaccine

Hope is beginning to fade that the world will have a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine before the predicted “second wave” arrives that will further suppress economic activity and recovery. Despite an unprecedented global effort, a deliverable vaccine might still be months away. Almost certainly it won’t be ready by October as many hoped. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said November or December would be more realistic. Read the rest at Geopolitical Futures.

Book Review: Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World

Modern society is far removed from the reality of death. That was not the case for the vast majority of human history, when parents would produce multiple offspring in the hope that a few might survive to adulthood. Well into the 20th century, infectious diseases cut lives tragically short, often in gruesome ways, radically transforming the course of human history in ways that are underappreciated in textbooks.

This is the focus of a book written by emeritus biology professor Irwin Sherman called “Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World,” which was originally published in 2007 but has taken on renewed relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sherman masterfully interweaves explanations of the biology and epidemiology of the diseases with accounts, taken from historians or eyewitnesses, that are nauseatingly descriptive. Read the rest at Geopolitical Futures.

The Geopolitical Importance of the WHO

In 1958, the Soviet Union proposed a global effort to eradicate smallpox, a disease that kills roughly a third of those it infects, including 300 million in the 20th century alone. On Dec. 9, 1979, it was completely eradicated. This public health triumph – perhaps the greatest in the history of mankind – would not have been possible without the efforts of the U.N.’s World Health Organization, which coordinated the immunization campaign. The magnitude of this achievement – removing a microbe from existence – cannot be overstated. Read the rest at Geopolitical Futures.

Will the Coronavirus Forge a Brave New World?

Of all the major geopolitical players on the planet, Mother Nature may be the toughest adversary. Nature has neither imperatives nor constraints to guide its behavior. Rather, it operates off general patterns that occur under various conditions. While the patterns provide broad strokes of expected behavior, it strikes mostly randomly. Even predictable phenomena, such as the Atlantic hurricane season, tell us nothing about the magnitude and target of, or potential for, economic damage. A catastrophic Category 5 hurricane that misses major population centers is quickly forgotten; a milder Category 3 hurricane that decimates New Orleans has long-lasting consequences. Read the rest at Geopolitical Futures.

Mother Nature as a Geopolitical Force

History is biased, and not just because the victors tend to write it. The study of history is largely the study of humankind – specifically, the geopolitical events that have shaped human actions (and vice versa) over millennia. It’s true that to learn from the past, we must study ourselves. But what if we’re missing a large part of the story? What if Mother Nature plays just as large a role in shaping the course of human events as mankind? After all, any force that compels specific actions by nation-states is necessarily geopolitical. Read the rest at Geopolitical Futures.

Four Coronavirus Lessons That We Will (or Won’t) Learn

When a patient dies in a hospital, it’s not uncommon for doctors to convene what is known as a morbidity and mortality conference, the goal of which is to determine what went wrong and why. In the months and years following a national crisis, we engage in a somewhat similar process. Over time, official investigations are carried out, and political leaders, the media and the public initiate ad hoc debates meant to arrive at a general understanding of the primary cause of the crisis and what steps need to be taken to prevent something like it from ever happening again. Read the rest at Geopolitical Futures.

China’s Poorly Regulated Food and Drugs Threaten U.S. Consumers

When the coronavirus pandemic slows and allows us to catch a breath — both literally and figuratively — there will be an international reckoning that likely will end with China bearing the brunt of the blame. In order to force China to implement adequate safety standards, we should stop importing essential items, especially food, medicine and medical equipment, until the country proves that it can be a responsible member of the global community. Read the rest at USA Today.

COVID-19 Mutates from a Viral Pandemic to an Economic Apocalypse

The world is gripped with fear and fascination. If anyone predicted that politics and economics in 2020 would be upended by a tiny sack of chemicals known as a virus, I tip my hat to you. Few of us — perhaps with the exception of survivalists and flu scientists — saw this coming. Read the rest at Puget Sound Business Journal.

Coronavirus and the Peril of Politicizing Medicine

All human institutions are political. This follows naturally from Aristotle’s observation that “man is by nature a political animal.” If one wishes to rise to the very top of one’s field, it is not sufficient to be competent. Instead, one must also be diplomatic, savvy and – when the time calls for it – brutal. Even the Pope had to step on a few miters on his way to the Vatican. Read the rest at Geopolitical Futures.