Meanwhile…

The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert has a recurring segment he calls “Meanwhile.” It follows his monologue, which is usually devoted to the latest Trump insanity, and consists of lesser items he deems newsworthy, weird or amusing.

“Meanwhile” is a particularly apt word right now, because–meanwhile, as Americans are glued to the unfolding impeachment drama and the President’s increasingly unhinged responses to it–Trump’s corrupt and dangerous administration is busy destroying the agencies of our federal government.

Scientists are fired, and environmental protections eviscerated. Students are preyed upon by dishonest private “institutes” and “colleges” that the Department of Education encourages to operate with impunity. Public lands are handed over to private companies to despoil. Anti-discrimination rules meant to protect vulnerable Americans needing housing are weakened or eliminated. Refugees and immigrants continue to be abused. The head of the Department of Justice dishonors the Constitution and makes a mockery of the rule of law.

And every day, there is something like this: A crucial federal program tracking dangerous diseases is shutting down. As Vox reports,

Most of the deadliest diseases to affect humanity leap to human hosts from other animals. The 1918 flu pandemic likely came from birds. HIV likely jumped from a similar virus in chimpanzees and other monkeys. Recent Ebola outbreaks have come from bats, rats, and gorillas.

Ever since the 2005 H5N1 bird flu scare, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has run a project to track and research these diseases, called Predict. At a cost of $207 million during its existence, the program has collected more than 100,000 samples and found nearly 1,000 novel viruses, including a new Ebola virus.

But on Friday, the New York Times reported that the US government is shutting down the program. According to its former director Dennis Carroll, the program enjoyed enthusiastic support under Bush and Obama, but “things got complicated” in the last few years until the program “essentially collapsed.”

“Things got complicated” is evidently bureaucrat-speak for Trump Administration ignorance and incompetence. As the article points out, pandemics seldom make the news until they happen, and that is too late–what is needed is to understand and prevent them.

As researchers warn that a flu like the 1918 influenza outbreak could kill as many as 50 million to 80 million people — and as new technologies alter the landscape of biology research, making it possible to study diseases in new ways but also making dangerous research easier than ever — it’s important for the US government to treat pandemic risks as a serious priority..

The end of Predict is a symptom of a bigger problem: The US government isn’t taking the risk of pandemics as seriously as it should be, and it isn’t investing enough in spreading the expertise and best practices that might be needed in the case of a global pandemic.

“It is the prospect of another such pandemic — not a nuclear war or a terrorist attack or a natural disaster — that poses the greatest risk of a massive casualty event in the United States,” Ron Klain, the former White House Ebola response coordinator, wrote for Vox last year. And yet pandemic preparedness gets very little attention.

The day-to-day task of governing gets very little attention. (It is a concept clearly foreign to our ignoramus-in-chief.)

We’re all fixated on the antics and tweets of the head buffoon. Meanwhile….

 

 

13 thoughts on “Meanwhile…

  1. Meanwhile, the corporations and their billionaire/multi-millionaire owners are already donating massive sums of money to 45’s campaign and the Rs in Congress who will support him to save their own necks.

    For those corporations every day of 45’s presidency has been like opening another huge gift from him that was on their Christmas list.

  2. One problem with all of this Trumpy stuff…..
    People are so exhausted that they do not want to hear ANY of it.
    I fear they will NOT pay attention in the weeks/months ahead when their attention is MOST needed. Recent conversations with my friends at work confirms this for me. They want NO talk of politics, NO talk of Trump, NO talk of any of it.
    That scares the hell out of me.
    HOW do we reach these people.
    They are not stupid, just exhausted.

  3. My brother-in-law, the late Sam Wilson, was a medical bio-chemist at the Texas Medical Center in Houston. Part of his weekends involved running special laboratory tests on specimens collected from ship crew members on shore leave in the port authority. Crews came from all around the world. He detected strains of sexually transmitted contagious disease for which we had no known effective treatment for. The mission was to research counter measures before it became a broader public health pandemic for our nation. I accepted an invitation to see what he was doing. The evidence was scary. Folks. This is a constant threat to our public health and well being and an issue we cannot dismiss so politically convenient in order to safeguard recent tax cuts for high end wealth. Everyone is vulnerable … however, some more than others.

  4. Patrice is right. Even I, who thought I had an inexhaustible store of outrage, am exhausted by it all. He is awful. Given. And I am old and tired and worry that any new person I meet may be a Trumper. I’d so much rather worry about these more important things, but I am using up my worry capacity, too. All I can hope is that people like Sheila will keep at it.

  5. Norris; transmitting STDs is an increasing problem in areas where Planned Parrenthood Clinics have been defunded and closed. Southern Indiana is an excellent example; these clinics provided testing and treatment for low income men and women; their closure resulted in epidemic levels of HIV and other STDs and increased the opioid addition problem due to nowhere to go for treatment. Meanwhile…people – men and women – are ill and dying due to Trump and Pence shutting down the PP Clinics. There are also men and women with cancers going undiagnosed and untreated for many health issues due the loss of these clinics.

    “Everyone is vulnerable … however, some more than others.” As you are aware; this is not a political issue, this is life and death.

  6. One of my greatest fears since November 8, 2016, is that Americans would fall prey to outrage fatigue long before November 3, 2020. I would urge those of you who are feeling it now to take a break from social media and cable news. Campaigns used to really get started on Labor Day of election year. Vote in your primaries, but set that as your tune in day. That will give you a full two months to rebuild your outrage.

  7. Yes, all these “meanwhile” actions from the Republicans and the Trump administration constitutes the end-game for a democratic republic. These actions have been part of the Republican operating philosophy since the day Lincoln was shot. Milton Friedman’s and Ayn Rand’s cultists, aka, Reagan Republicans, have embraced these self-immolating processes of deconstruction of civilization fully. They care not a whit for working people – or anyone else not donating to their campaigns.

    Yes, there may be outrage fatigue, but until voters realize that Republicans are either actively intending to destroy the Constitution and the nation for money, or are unwittingly dong it, our path to collapse will remain downhill and steep. Greed is the fuel of Republican politics. It’s what their donors bought them for. Republicans serve no-one but the 1%, and the rest of us can simply starve. You can see it coming.

  8. I post these items several times a week on Facebook, calling them “Behind the Tweets”. They are in every Cabinet area…all the foxes brought in for all the hen houses.

    Just hoping to change a few folks’ focus to the slow, steady, quiet unraveling of our democracy. Have given up on the media doing that (PBS in one of the worst). They highlight the latest chapter of “Tweets” the reality show….The NY Times did the ultimate today, a special section on Tweets alone….SHAME

  9. This is actually a continuation of yesterday’s discussion – When it is unpopular with the Ayn Rand class, or just “inconvenient”, they close their eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist (not just global warming) – they gag scientists and fire them – they close agencies

    As Vernon points out, this isn’t new – I have been thumbing through old issues of the journal Science before delegating them to the recycling bin – News articles from the Reagan era and the Bush II era were precursors for today’s censorship of scientific reports – Reagan eliminated all in-house government research at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) – Trump is just escalating this a million-fold

    Cutting good government agencies for tax cuts is another Republican preoccupation – cut taxes, cry deficit, cut social and scientific programs

    I love to see Christine Todd Whitman popping up on TV these days – long forgotten is her initial claim to fame as governor of New Jersey – she cut taxes, balanced the budget — and paid ZERO into the State’s pension fund – she wasn’t around when the pension crisis hit – she was at EPA when they said the air in New York after 9/11 was just fine – to be fair to her, on the whole, she was fairly OK at EPA – if you accept the fact that she believed Bush when he told her the air in New York was fine

    A year and a few months – can the nation survive that long – I sure hope the anger lasts one more year – then we need a new President that won’t say “OK, it is back to normal, no need for any drastic changes” – this nation has slid to the extreme right by having an exceptionally strong Republican push to the right followed by a Caspar Milquetoast Democrat making incremental moves back to the left – 50 feet to the right followed by 6 inches to the left – no wonder we are in trouble

  10. Thank you Sheila, as always,

    I could easily key that this is totally outrageous but that description is losing nearly all its meaning given what happens every day at the hands of this maniac that is festooned in the White House of all places. Given how the globe is completely interconnected by air travel between the continents and the various sub regions of the planet, for us not to be on guard against possible pandemics is stupid as hell. I realize it goes with all the anti-science thinking emanating from this administration and those that support it but this is akin to cutting our own throats and endangering this country in a way that is not been seen since the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 where millions of people around the world died from it because they lacked immunity.

    This is but one example of the total charade that we have as the Trump Administration and the equally dimwitted, apparently, senatorial and congressional sycophants that some of us have allowed to infest our government at the national and state levels by tuning things out to do the lack of any civics education and ability to do critical thinking. Gaffs like this one however could conceivably put a huge portion of our population at risk and it must be remembered that the President’s all-encompassing and overriding responsibility is to not only protect and defend our Constitution but also the people of this country. This anti science position that this Administration as well as the Trump party has taken defies any semblance of common sense and logical thinking and their current curtailing of funding for scientific research at the governmental level.

    When I worked at Riley Hospital for Children as a researcher and family resource center manager charged with supporting to support our patients and families in regard to the medical conditions that they faced I relied heavily on the National Institutes of Health, the Human Genome Project, the National Library of Medicine, among other governmental-based sources for accurate and peer reviewed information in whichever form it was conveyed, either through scholarly medical journals or consumer medical information available online that was all based on peer reviewed research. To endanger that process puts the whole population at risk and undermines the whole idea of providing credible and affective medical care throughout the country on a routine everyday basis or during a national emergency.

    As a former researcher on environmental issues I relied heavily on the USEPA at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina for up to date information and guidance documents that were the basis for proposals to clean up environmental catastrophes, i.e., Federal Superfund sites all over the Midwest and particularly here in Indiana.

    While my earliest bone of contention regarding this current president was and still is his efforts to wreak havoc on and destabilize the current world order to allow both Russia and China to gain ascendancy I also have to breathe air and drink water that this fool and those around him seem to be bent on jeopardizing in regard to quality. To help those that want to cut corners on safety and the public health in order to head their pockets with the even more money is just plainly unconscionable in yet it goes with this administration trying to do even more of it.

    To cut to the chase this freak show has to come to an end and soon. The longer it takes to affect this ending of this criminal administration and criminal chief executive them more we will all have to work to reestablish any semblance of an equilibrium that vertex this country and all of us and once again puts us in a position where we can be trusted by friends around the world as we have been since the end of the Second World War. There’s very little time to waste and this one man wrecking crew needs to be put out to pasture as soon as possible.

  11. Though not yet on the scene, I lost two uncles (twins) to the Spanish flu, so I have a personal bone to pick with those who cut back on epidemic research. As this idiot masquerading as president continues to “deconstruct the administrative state,” what’s next to gain our shores, the Black Plague? Whether birds, mosquitoes or humans are the Typhoid Marys, it is plain that the best way to fight any disease is to prevent it in the first place. Apparently that hasn’t occurred to Herr Trump, nor has the lead time necessary to come up with remedies for such unwelcome germs and/or viruses. Millions may be dead of such a new disease before we can come up with medicinal remedies – if we can. Thus JoAnn today notes today that this is not a political matter but one of life and death, to which i here suggest the contrary since Trump has even politicized life and death with his bull in the china shop antics. He doesn’t care who lives and dies (See Kurds, children in cages et al).

    To say Trump has to go is putting it mildly, but there may be hope in re the topic for today. Perhaps Canada will not have abandoned its epidemic watch and if one occurs will let us know. We can only hope that if so Trump will not veto an appropriation designed to counter the epidemic’s effect – which wouldn’t surprise me. What an ogre!

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