From Beijing to Berlin – the BBC looks at the impact of the ideological shift in the White House.- Advertisement –
Doug Emhoff, Vice President Elect Kamala Harris, President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden on November 7, 2020. JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/ShutterstockIt looks like we have another inspirational, trendsetting woman on her way to the White House — and we aren’t event talking about Kamala Harris, who also happens to have killer style.Dr. Jill Biden stunned in a midnight blue Oscar de la Renta dress as she joined President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Harris on stage in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday, November 7. Just a few hours following the appearance, the $5,690 frock sold out.- Advertisement – The former second lady of the United States wasn’t the only one to bring her style A-game. Harris also made a splash in an all-white pantsuit reportedly created by American fashion designer Wes Gordon for Carolina Herrera. According to CNN, this was a “very deliberate choice of outfit was a gesture of solidarity with the long line of women who have defied expectations in American politics.” After all, this monochrome coloring has long been linked to the suffragette movement and was notably also worn by Hillary Clinton when accepting the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.Listen on Spotify to Get Tressed With Us to get the details of every hair love affair in Hollywood, from the hits and misses on the red carpet to your favorite celebrities’ street style ‘dos (and don’ts!)- Advertisement – – Advertisement – The 69-year-old educator paired the asymmetrical, floral print dress with pink heels and a black protective face mask. Though the piece was a pricey pick, The Outnet sold the design for a reduced price of $1,707 before selling out.The design house shared a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the number in a tweet on Monday, November 9. “Hope springs eternal. A look at incoming First Lady Dr. Jill Biden’s dress, which features house-signature asymmetric drapery and spirited floral vine embroidery.” In the image, co-creative director Fernando J Garcia and “in-house modiste” Luis are seen prepping the fit on a mannequin.This choice in designer has a long history in the White House. Not only did de la Renta dress first ladies like Jackie Kennedy, Michelle Obama and Laura Bush, but according to Vanity Fair, he was also the designer of choice for Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton.- Advertisement –
The singer is “afraid” of her father, and won’t perform as long as he controls her affairs, her lawyer says.- Advertisement –
The parallels between Donald Trump’s despicable claims of election fraud and the Dolchstoßlegende are real, but there is one important difference: Whenever one talks about 20th century German history and the rise of the Nazis, of course anti-Semitism must be front and center. I want to make clear Trump’s war on the truth of his defeat—unlike the German phenomenon under discussion here—has not included anti-Semitic language or targeted Jews as a group in any direct way. Nevertheless, it is clear that Trump is blowing racist dogwhistles when he talks about illegal voting and other “bad things” relating to election integrity that “happen in Philadelphia.” We know that when he brings up Philadelphia, he means “Black people.”Now let’s explore the parallels. The most basic one—as well as the most dangerous—is that both phenomena represent a denial of reality aimed at destabilizing a democracy. Rather than rehash the manifold examples of Trump’s despicable post-election deeds—widely derided as echoing those of strongmen for whom he has—for years—expressed a downright creepy level of admiration—I’ll instead cite the damning assessment of their long-term impact leveled by Michael J. Abramowitz, the president of Freedom House—“an organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world.” Abramowitz states: “by convincing a large part of the population that there was widespread fraud, [Trump] is seeding a myth that could endure for years and contribute to an erosion of public confidence in our electoral system.”- Advertisement – Even after the votes had been cast, that belief was still out there. According to an Axios poll done over the two days following Election Day, 37% of people who voted for Trump thought he had defeated Biden. Politico found that 70% of Republican respondents polled after the race was called for Biden didn’t think the election was “free and fair.” Another YouGov poll found that 86% of Trump voters rejected the notion that Biden had won the election fairly. As Charles Blow pointed out, that represents over 62 million voters.- Advertisement – Just as Trump refuses to accept his defeat in the recent election, in the years after World War I, many on the right refused to accept their country’s defeat on the battlefield. In the case of Germany, that refusal helped to fatally weaken the democracy that emerged after 1918. Fourteen years after World War I ended, Adolf Hitler became Germany’s Fuhrer. But where did the “stab in the back” myth come from in the first place?By the fall of 1918, thanks in large part to the arrival of hundreds of thousands of fresh, well-equipped American troops, the military position of the German empire and its allies began to collapse. After the German army’s Hindenburg Line along the Western Front was broken in late September and early October, Berlin requested negotiations for an armistice, which was signed and famously went into effect at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. (Absurdly, 3,000 soldiers were killed in the six hours after the agreement to end hostilities was signed but before it took effect, including Henry Gunther, the last American.) The war came to an end, and Germany lost. Sounds fairly straightforward. But there was one problem: Some Germans didn’t want to believe it.One of the most important reasons for this disbelief is that the defeat directly contradicted the information most Germans had been fed throughout the war about their prospects for victory. Alan Kramer, professor of history at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, explains why the news of defeat engendered such a broad rejection of what really happened.Knowledge of the perilous condition of the front had been kept secret from the German people. Strict censorship and the army’s daily false news bulletins meant that news of the armistice came as a shock.This too was important to bear in mind. With minor exceptions in 1914, the war had not been fought on German territory. Unlike the devastation visited on its enemies, the German population was spared direct violence and destruction, and had the benefit of the exploitation of the resources of occupied northern France, Belgium, Poland, Serbia, Romania, northern Italy and the Ukraine, though most of that was enjoyed by the army. The German people had no “ocular proof” of defeat.This cognitive dissonance produced the “repressed defeat”: the denial of the fact of the military debacle.- Advertisement – Here we see another striking parallel between the Dolchstoßlegende and Trump’s current campaign of lies: deceptive propaganda. Throughout the 2020 presidential campaign, the current occupant of the White House and his sycophants in the right-wing media kept saying Trump was winning, that the real polls were showing him in the lead, and that other polls were “fake news.” He incredulously—to anyone seeing things objectively at least—claimed that polls showing Joe Biden in the lead were the real voter “suppression”—as opposed to the actions his Republican Party were taking before the election all over America to actually suppress votes.On the eve of the election, a YouGov poll found that half of all Republican voters believed Trump would “definitely win,” and another quarter of them believed he would “probably win.” Right-wing media are still—over a week after Election Day—declaring that Trump is in the lead. For example, on Monday, the Gateway Pundit’s Joe Hoft hyperventilated the following: “Overall right now President Trump is leading in the Presidential race. The fact that the media will not report this and will call the race for senile Joe Biden tells you all you need to know about today’s really evil media. Have faith, trust your eyes not their lies.” Hoft added: “This race is not close to being over and the media’s coordinated effort to steal this election and their collusion in calling the election for Joe Biden is a lie.” Then there’s the Orange Julius Caesar himself:xI am pleased to announce that I have given my full support and endorsement to Ronna McDaniel to continue heading the Republican National Committee (RNC). With 72 MILLION votes, we received more votes than any sitting President in U.S. history – and we will win!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2020If the only information providers these people trust promise that Trump is going to win, and then insist that he really did win, then why would they believe any different? Large swaths of Trump supporters exist within what amounts to a self-reinforcing media echo chamber. The same goes for the German people and what they were told about who was winning World War I prior to its conclusion.Not long after the war, an “alternative fact” emerged out of hard-line right-wing circles. The army was actually never defeated—and in fact when combat ended, no foreign troops stood on German soil. Of course, this was because the German high command had recognized that continued resistance to the Allied offensive would be unsuccessful, so better to ask for peace right away without any more bloodshed. Nevertheless, those looking to peddle a lie took advantage, claiming that the valiant forces who had fought so well for so long had been sold out by those who wanted to turn Germany into a democracy.In the very last days before the war ended, a revolution broke out in Germany. It started in late October, when sailors refused to carry out orders from the Imperial Navy’s High Command to prepare for a final, clearly futile attack on the British Navy. This mutiny quickly spread outside the bounds of the armed forces, and by Nov. 9—two days before the war officially ended—the German empire became the German Republic. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated his throne and the leader of the Social Democratic Party, the largest party in the parliament, became the head of the government. It was this civilian government, headed by representatives of left-leaning, socialist, and/or democratic parties, that ultimately signed the armistice and, later on, the treaties of surrender as well as the Versailles Treaty, so hated by Germans for its supposedly harsh terms—which were not that harsh in reality. Even though it was military personnel who started the revolution, those leftist politicians who took power two days before the war ended—and who founded the democracy known as Weimar Germany—somehow became the ones to blame for losing the war. Never mind that Germany had been led for the first 1,568 days of the war by a monarchy that had, by the end, become almost a military dictatorship. Those unelected leaders managed to escape blame.That military dictatorship was effectively run by General Erich Ludendorff. If any one individual should bear responsibility for Germany losing World War I, it’s him. Ironically, he is perhaps most responsible for spreading the key phrase at the heart of the Dolchstoßlegende. A few months after the war ended, while eating with a British general, Ludendorff was going off on one of his well-practiced rants about how the army had been undercut by a political revolution on the “home front.” His counterpart cut in, asking, “Do you mean, General, that you were stabbed in the back?” As one historian put it: “Ludendorff’s eyes lit up and he leapt upon the phrase like a dog on a bone. ‘Stabbed in the back?’ he repeated. ‘Yes, that’s it, exactly, we were stabbed in the back.’ And thus was born a legend.” This bald-faced calumny essentially became the official right-wing history of the war, particularly among reactionary conservatives like Ludendorff, who never accepted the legitimacy of Weimar democracy and sought to use the “stab in the back” myth to justify its overthrow. The former Kaiser published his memoirs just a few years later, and wrote of how the army had been “forced to collapse by the stab-in-the-back.” Nazi propaganda used the phrase repeatedly in official statements and publications, and argued that Weimar German democracy only came into being because of the supposed betrayal committed in November 1918. Lies became the truth, and tens of millions died.Now think about Donald Trump. No matter what actually happens in the remaining weeks of his term, or how nonexistent the evidence is to support his claims of election theft, think about how many millions of Americans are going to believe that the Biden presidency is illegitimate—a belief that could well lead to violence, as Daily Kos’ own Hunter pointed out. Some of them may feel that way just as strongly as did the millions of Germans who rejected the post-1918 democratic system. No responsible leader would act as Ludendorff did, or as Trump is doing. That’s no surprise when it comes to the latter, given his refusal to take responsibility for, well, anything.Think about how Trump, some members of his family, and anyone else looking to remain in his favor will fuel those feelings even after he leaves office. Think about how right-wing media will monetize those feelings, pouring gasoline on the fire. Breitbart, OAN, Fox News opinion hosts, Newsmax, Rush Limbaugh, and other media figures will keep on repeating Trump’s lies about Democrats and socialists stealing what was rightfully his. Think about what that could do to our country. You might be asking how things could have turned out differently in post-WWI Germany and, by extension, how we can combat the destabilizing impact on our democracy of what Trump is doing. In Germany, the “stab in the back” myth on its own might not have been enough to topple the Weimar democratic system. But once the Great Depression was ravaging the country, the questions the myth had already raised about that system’s legitimacy had prepared the ground for the Nazi overthrow of Weimar Germany. In our country, I hope that the truth, combined with the far stronger roots of our constitutional democracy and our tradition of press freedoms, will be enough to counteract any potential impact of Trumpian lies. What it comes down to is this: Once we get through the next few weeks, will one of the two major political parties continue to prioritize riling up its base over the good of the country? Will Republicans continue to shred democratic norms in a single-minded pursuit of power—something they’ve been doing so much under Trump that they now look much more like the parties led by autocratic leaders in Turkey and Hungary than they do parties in functioning democracies? If the answer is yes, then America is in for a difficult future. I would nonetheless remain cautiously optimistic regarding the survival of our democracy in such a scenario, although if another Great Depression befell us as well, then all bets would truly be off.Since Election Day, President-Elect Joe Biden has handled this situation beautifully. He has been measured in his reaction to Trump’s words and actions, but rightly called them an “embarrassment.” They are more than that: They present a clear and present threat to our democracy. The day before the election, Paul Krugman warned that large numbers might well buy into “an American version” of the Dolchstoßlegende. Krugman didn’t know for sure exactly how things would play out, whether Trump would truly go all-in on the lies if he lost. But for anyone who has watched the impeached president with open eyes, was there really ever any doubt?Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas) – Advertisement –
Sep 1, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Because of continuing uncertainty about the supply of influenza vaccine this winter, federal health officials said today that inactivated flu vaccine should be reserved for high-risk groups until late October.”Beginning October 24, all persons will be eligible for vaccination,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.The groups recommended to get first use of inactivated vaccine include people aged 65 and older, those with chronic illness, nursing home residents, children aged 6 to 23 months, pregnant women, healthcare workers who provide direct patient care, and household contacts and caregivers of children younger than 6 months.However, people need not wait until Oct 24 to receive MedImmune’s live nasal-spray vaccine, FluMist, the CDC said. FluMist is licensed for healthy people between the ages of 5 and 49, except for pregnant women.The recommendation comes a day after the flu vaccine supply picture improved with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) approval of a GlaxoSmithKline vaccine and a positive report on Chiron’s progress in addressing problems at its flu vaccine production plant in England. The CDC said the recommendation was necessary because the overall vaccine supply and the timing of distribution remain uncertain.In today’s article, the CDC gives estimates of flu vaccine supplies for the United States that add up to a range of 89 million to 97 million doses. That includes 60 million doses from Sanofi Aventis, 18 million to 26 million from Chiron, 8 million from GlaxoSmithKline, and 3 million from MedImmune. (Yesterday, as reported here, a CDC spokesman had listed Sanofi Aventis’s expected production at 50 million doses instead of 60 million, yielding a total production estimate of 79 million to 87 million doses.)Last fall and winter, the loss of 48 million doses of vaccine expected from Chiron prompted an effort to reserve vaccine for high-risk groups until late in the flu season. Ultimately, 57 million Americans were vaccinated and about 3 million doses went unused. In the 2003-04 season, which also saw some shortages, about 87 million doses were available in the US market. The US supply in 2002-03 totaled about 95 million doses, according to the CDC.Yesterday the FDA said Chiron had made “significant progress” in addressing the contamination problems that had forced the company to cancel delivery of doses to the United States. But the agency said more work is needed to determine how many doses the company will be able to supply this year.CDC. Update: influenza vaccine supply and recommendations for prioritization during the 2005-06 influenza season. MMWR 2005 Sep 2;54(34):850 [Full text]See also:CDC’s Aug 6, 2005, recommendations on tiered use of flu vaccine in the event of a shortagehttp://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5430a4.htm
Feb 28, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – A recent study has raised expectations that simple surgical masks might offer a reasonably good substitute for N-95 respirators for healthcare workers seeking protection from airborne viruses, but others say the study is seriously flawed.In the study, Y. Li and associates, from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, measured how much of a potassium chloride spray penetrated masks and respirators worn by people walking on a treadmill. They found that the surgical masks filtered out at least 95% of the material, while the N-95 respirators filtered out 97%.This suggested that “surgical masks and N-95 respirators can provide effective protection in a relatively low viral loading environment,” says the report, published in the December 2006 issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Such a finding, if true, could be a blessing for healthcare facilities during an influenza pandemic, since masks are less costly than respirators and likely to be in better (though still limited) supply.The Li study drew more attention when it was described in a Feb. 15 report by the Clinicians’ Biosecurity Network, part of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). In that report, Erick Toner, MD, of UPMC wrote, “The current study, supported by the clinical observations from the SARS epidemic, provides evidence that a surgical mask may provide significant protection from aerosols as well as droplets.”While affirming that N-95s should be used in high-risk settings, Toner wrote that if N-95s are not available, “use of a surgical mask along with other routine barriers (gown, gloves, and goggles) may afford significant protection from infection, especially in low risk settings.”However, experts at 3M Co. in St. Paul, which makes both surgical masks and N-95 filtering facepiece respirators, told CIDRAP News the Li study has serious methodologic defects that undermine its conclusions. The researchers did not assess the size of the particles used or employ an accepted method for counting the particles sprayed onto the mask and the particles that penetrated it, among other problems, the 3M experts said.Questions also were raised by Raymond Tellier, MD, a University of Toronto microbiologist who says he is not an expert on aerosols but who has monitored and written about research on the risk of airborne transmission of flu viruses. Tellier said the Hong Kong researchers did not appear to use methods consistent with those recommended by the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).Surgical masks are designed mainly to protect other people from respiratory droplets or particles expelled by those wearing the masks, whereas N-95 respirators are designed to reduce the wearer’s exposure to potentially harmful particles in the surrounding air. N-95 filtering facepiece respirators are designed to be sealed against the face to limit exposure to airborne particles, and manufacturers recommend testing the fit. Surgical masks, in contrast, typically allow significant air leakage around the edges.Whether healthcare workers should use masks or respirators to protect themselves from flu viruses has been increasingly debated in the face of the threat of a pandemic. Scientific evidence is unclear on how long flu viruses can remain in the air after being expelled in a cough or sneeze, though the traditional view has been that they usually come in relatively large droplets that quickly fall to the ground. Surgical masks are not designed to protect wearers from airborne particles.Until last fall, the US Department of Health and Human Services’s (HHS’s) pandemic flu plan recommended that healthcare workers wear surgical masks during routine care of pandemic flu patients. But in view of the uncertainty about airborne transmission of flu, in October HHS issued new guidelines saying that N-95 respirator use is “prudent” for medical workers caring for pandemic flu patients.Meanwhile, a committee of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences is currently examining evidence about masks, respirators, and other personal protective equipment for medical workers. The committee is expected to issue a report next September, an IOM official told CIDRAP News last week.Hong Kong study protocolThe Hong Kong researchers used 10 volunteers to test the filtration effectiveness of an N-95 respirator made by 3M and a surgical mask made by Winner Medical Group of Hong Kong. In a series of tests, each volunteer wore a mask or a respirator while a solution containing potassium chloride and a fluorescent stain (Fluorescein) was sprayed at them from an atomizer 1 meter away. The tests were conducted with the volunteers at rest and walking on a treadmill at three different speeds.The amount of material that penetrated the masks was measured in two ways. The researchers separated the used masks and respirators into layers, placed the layers in water, filtered out the fibers, and determined the weight of the potassium residue in the water. The results showed that 0.56 mg of potassium reached the innermost layer of the respirators, versus 0.79 mg of potassium for the surgical masks.In the second measurement, the volunteers’ faces were photographed, and the photos were used to assess the amount of Fluorescein stain on their faces, using a 7-point scale. The researchers said this qualitative test confirmed that the respirators were more efficient filters.”The in-vivo filtration tests show that both N-95 respirators and surgical masks have 95% or greater filtration efficiency, and N-95 respirators have about 2% filtration efficiency higher than surgical masks,” indicating that both can provide protection in “a relatively low viral-loading environment,” the investigators wrote.But they added, “It is important to note that 3-5% of the solution can still penetrate both types of masks, which may become critical when the viral loading is high.” They also cautioned that they tested only one brand of respirator and one brand of mask, and the findings are limited to those types.Methodologic weaknesses citedSpecialists at 3M evaluated the Hong Kong study at CIDRAP’s request. “Overall, what was done by Li et al is not considered filtration efficiency testing and should not be used to evaluate filtration efficiency or compare media. They also did not use accepted methods for evaluating the fit to the face which is a very important component in reducing exposure to airborne particles,” said Robert Weber, lab manager for technical service and regulatory affairs in 3M’s Occupational Health and Environmental Safety division.A key problem with the study is that the researchers didn’t determine the size of particles that were generated by the atomizer they used, said Craig Colton, a 3M senior technical service specialist. “Filtration is very dependent on particle size, so if you’re talking about efficiencies you need to know about particle size,” Colton said in an interview. “Without that critical piece of information, it’s hard to know what you’re comparing.””We know they used a nebulizer, but we don’t know what particle size that nebulizer was designed to produce,” he added. “Oftentimes they produce different particle sizes depending on the conditions under which they operate. Changing concentrations of different salts can change the particle size formed. They assumed they were testing in the most penetrating particle size range. This is not a safe assumption to make.”The Li study says that potassium chloride was used instead of sodium chloride as the test aerosol because NIOSH has said that potassium chloride content in human sweat is very low, which implies a reduced chance of confounding the results. But Colton said the standard NIOSH approach calls for sodium chloride.He said the study also should have included a control group of volunteers wearing the masks and doing the same exercises but not being sprayed with the test solution. That would have made it possible to exclude the chance that potassium chloride from other sources, such as the volunteers’ sweat or the masks themselves, would affect the results.The use of a fluorescent stain to test the mask and respirator was also questioned by 3M. Weber commented via e-mail, “The use of scanning subjects with fluorescent light to determine the effectiveness of filtration is not a proven method to determine either filtration efficiency or fit. This method is not quantitative and does not take into account particles that do not settle onto the face (those that are deposited in the lung and those that remain airborne). This method only demonstrates that particles are entering the mask, most likely due to significant faceseal leaks.”Colton said the fluorescent stain method has never been calibrated to determine what degree of particle penetration is associated with what degree of staining.The report by Li and colleagues says that the volunteers “followed the manufacturer’s instructions including the pressure tightness test” when donning the N-95 respirator. However, Weber of 3M said in his e-mail, “Fit testing was not done prior to the testing to determine if the wearers had a good fit and would be qualified to wear the N-95 respirator.”A 2006 study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection exemplified a more accepted method of testing the effectiveness of respiratory protection, according to Colton. In that study, investigators from the Chinese University of Hong Kong used commercially available instruments to count the particles inside and outside three different types of protective equipment worn by volunteers: surgical masks, “laser masks” (special masks used during laser surgery), and a respirator called an FFP2, similar to an N-95. A particle generator was used to produce sodium chloride particles of a known size range. The researchers found that the respirator provided significantly better protection than either type of surgical mask, though the laser mask was marginally better than the other mask.Toronto microbiologist raises questionsTellier, a microbiologist at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and associate professor at the University of Toronto, also raised questions about the methods of Li and colleagues, though he took pains to point out that he is not an expert on filter testing. Tellier wrote an article in Emerging Infectious Diseases last year urging US and Canadian health agencies to strengthen their recommendations on respiratory protection for medical workers in a flu pandemic.Commenting by e-mail, Tellier said the NIOSH test method for respiratory protection calls for using sodium chloride particles in a particular size range and an airflow rate of 85 liters per minute, because the difference between respirators and surgical masks diminishes at lower airflow rates. It’s not clear whether Li and colleagues used that prescribed flow rate, he said.Tellier also suggested that the masks in the Li study were hit by droplets, not solid particles, which would change the results. Spraying a potassium chloride solution from 1 meter away produces droplets of liquid “in the aerosol [size] range,” but “if they remain liquid until they hit the mask, what we are measuring . . . is the penetration of the mask by an aqueous solution, which can be repelled in part by waterproofing and the remaining liquid would adsorb into the fabric; the latter would not occur with ‘solid’ particles.”My understanding is that testing with solid particles is more in keeping with aerosol protection and this is what NIOSH recommends,” Tellier stated.See also:Li Y, Wong T, Chung J, et al. In vivo protective performance of N-95 respirator and surgical facemask. Am J Ind Med 2006 Dec;49(12):1056-65 [Abstract]Derrick JL, Li PTY, Tang SPY, et al. Protecting staff against airborne viral particles: in vivo efficiency of laser masks. J Hos Infect 2006 Nov;64(3):278-81Oct 18, 2006, CIDRAP News story “HHS backs respirator use in caring for pandemic flu patients”Sep 29, 2006, story “Airborne flu viruses threaten health workers, expert says”
Mar 14, 2007 (CIDRAP News) –Indonesia vowed today not to share H5N1 avian influenza virus samples with the World Health Organization (WHO) until it has a “legally binding” guarantee that the samples won’t be used to develop vaccines that the country can’t afford, according to news services.Indonesian Health Minister Siti Failah Supari told reporters in Jakarta today,”We will not share our virus sample, without a change in the rules,” the Associated press (AP) reported. The statement signaled the continuation of a standoff that has lasted several weeks.Indonesia has not supplied any H5N1 samples to the WHO since the end of 2006, the WHO has said. Steps toward resolution of the problem have been reported twice in the past month, but no final agreement has been reached.Researchers need current H5N1 samples to trace changes in the virus, map its spread, and develop vaccines in preparation for the threat of a human flu pandemic.Supari complained that WHO regulations give countries no control over how their viral samples are used, according to a Bloomberg News report. “Vaccine makers will try to produce and sell them [vaccines] to us at high price,” she said. “Poorer countries shouldn’t become a commercial target.”The WHO announced early in February that Indonesia had stopped sharing H5N1 isolates. After a Feb 16 meeting, officials said they had agreed in principle that Indonesia would resume sharing samples while the WHO would work to ensure that developing countries have access to vaccines based on their samples.In a Feb 28 letter, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan promised Indonesia that its viral specimens would be used “for public health risk assessment purposes only,” the AP reported. She also promised that, pending a formal agreement, the WHO would obtain Indonesia’s permission before sending any samples to a vaccine producer.But Supari said the letter was not enough, according to the AP. “That’s just an agreement in principle,” she said. “We need one that is legally binding.”Supari said Asia-Pacific health ministers will meet in Jakarta Mar 27 and 28 to propose changes in the WHO’s virus-sharing system, the story said.According to a Reuters report today, Supari said the proposed changes also would need to be discussed at a WHO advisory board meeting in May. She suggested that would be the earliest that the country would resume providing samples.The WHO’s Southeast Asia director, Samlee Plianbangchang, voiced confidence that the meeting later this month in Jakarta would do much to resolve the problem, the AP reported.See also:Feb 16 CIDRAP News story “Indonesia to resume sharing H5N1 samples with WHO”
(CIDRAP Source Weekly Briefing) – Business continuity planners say they’re talking to their employees and other stakeholders about pandemic preparedness. Is it really happening?At the start of CIDRAP’s February 2007 Business Preparedness for Pandemic Influenza: Second National Summit in Orlando, 45% of attendees said communication was the most important preparedness priority for their company “beyond health and safety.” That ranked it No. 1. By the end of the conference, communication was No.1 by an even wider margin—67%.I asked participants which of two kinds of communication took precedence. One priority is a standby crisis communication plan—developed now so you’re ready to roll if and when a pandemic materializes. The other priority is a pandemic precaution advocacy rollout—actual communications, now, aimed at alerting employees and others to the risk, telling them what the company is doing, and urging them to get ready. The pandemic precaution advocacy rollout eked out a narrow victory, 32% to 30%, with 38% saying the two were equally important. These are the answers I wanted to hear, but I don’t trust that they reflect what’s really happening.Just about every time I’m invited to give a speech or run a workshop on pandemic communication, I ask my client whether I should focus mostly on crisis communication (“when the virus hits the fan”) or precaution advocacy (“getting ready together”). The usual choice is crisis communication. I have to argue hard for some attention to the prepandemic communication task of sounding the alarm.When I have a chance to run a workshop that covers both, I have learned the hard way to start with crisis communication. If the group works on precaution advocacy first, the messages it comes up with tend to be awfully mild—largely because participants haven’t imagined their way into a serious pandemic yet. Working first on crisis communication gives people a sense of the horrific messages they would have to deliver in the middle of a catastrophic pandemic. That sets a very different context for the second half of the program: “What can we say to people beforehand to help prepare for the exercise we just went through?”Good pandemic precaution advocacy now, in other words, can make pandemic crisis communication later a less impossible task. Not much of it seems to be happening yet from companies.What’s happening, what’s notIn fairness, some pandemic precaution advocacy is happening for some stakeholders. In particular, many companies are talking to their suppliers about pandemic preparedness—mostly in search of promises (unenforceable though they may be) to keep the supply chain filled no matter what. I hope the dialogue will move to a more realistic level, something like this: “We can manage without X and Y if we have to. What can we do together to make you likelier to be able to keep us supplied with Z?” But at least a dialogue is happening.Companies are less interested in initiating pandemic conversations with customers. I assume this is because companies don’t have good news for customers and are in no hurry to offer up bad news. “Don’t expect us to be able to meet your needs” isn’t a fun message to deliver. But in many cases, these crucial conversations are happening anyway, initiated by the customers.So far I have seen virtually no pandemic communication between companies and their shareholders. But the investor community may finally have pandemic risk on its radar screen. For a while, articles speculating on the likely economic impact of a severe pandemic became commonplace. As the lead sidebar article in this issue points out, the business press has lost interest in the pandemic story, at least for the moment. We can only hope that investors got the message already, and will start asking companies how prepared they are. The sooner the better.At the Orlando conference, Michael Evangelides, principal of Deloitte Consulting, LLP, presented data showing that CFOs were a lot less interested in pandemic preparedness than were continuity managers. That would change fast if huge pension funds started asking hard questions. Imagine how companies might respond, for example, if they got a letter from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) indicating that CalPERS was planning to screen its investments for pandemic preparedness.Corporate pandemic communication aimed at neighbors or the general public still seems to be extremely rare. In fact, business leaders have been shockingly silent in the general-interest media about pandemic risk. Thanks to Google News, I am able to read a lot of media stories (local as well as national and international) about pandemic risk. The main sources are usually health officials, politicians, or academics, not companies. The companies that manufacture antivirals are an obvious exception, and I’ve seen other exceptions—articles on the preparedness efforts of the grocery, telecommunications, and banking industries, among others. But finding examples of corporate CEOs speaking out on pandemic preparedness is hard.In late 2006, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University sponsored a 3-day conference on pandemic news coverage. I asked a lot of participants what they were writing about business preparedness. “Not much,” reporter after reporter told me. “It’s hard to find a company willing to say anything on the record about its pandemic planning.”Are you talking to employees yet?The single most important audience for corporate pandemic precaution advocacy is, of course, employees. Are companies actually talking to their employees about pandemic preparedness?I don’t mean vague assurances that employees should “rest assured that your company is doing everything possible to be fully prepared in the unlikely event of a bird flu pandemic.” I’ve seen some of those. I mean detailed, vivid communications that aim at three key goals:Briefing employees on company preparedness effortsInvolving employees in those effortsPersuading employees to launch their own preparedness efforts at home and in the communityI haven’t seen many corporate efforts to achieve these three goals.Judging from my clients, getting top management’s okay to talk frankly with employees about pandemics is an uphill battle. I hear two basic reasons for not doing so:”We’re not ready yet”—As if it made sense to wait till your corporate pandemic planning were nearly done before asking employees to get involved, and before urging them to do some planning of their own.”We don’t want to unduly frighten people”—As if the looming possibility of a severe pandemic weren’t “duly” frightening . . . and as if it were more important to keep employees unconcerned than to get them prepared.There’s a better rationale for not communicating right now: “Employees aren’t interested in pandemics. Until they are, there’s not much point in trying to talk to them.” This is, of course, the exact opposite of the we-don’t-want-to-frighten-them rationale; it suggests waiting for a teachable moment when frightening your employees will be more feasible. If your company already has its pandemic employee precaution advocacy messaging done and you’re just waiting till employees are in a mood to listen, okay. Don’t wait too long.But I’d bet my mortgage that’s not what’s happening. If anything, companies will be even less willing to talk candidly and frighteningly about pandemics when their employees are already buzzing with pandemic anxiety.Go ahead, get startedSo what are companies really waiting for? I’m afraid they’re waiting for a pandemic. The votes at CIDRAP’s Orlando conference notwithstanding, it seems to me that most companies have not yet made communication a priority in their pandemic preparedness work. In particular, they have not yet done much employee pandemic precaution advocacy.It’s time to get started.An internationally renowned expert in risk communication and crisis communication, Peter Sandman speaks and consults widely on communication aspects of pandemic preparedness. Dr. Sandman, Deputy Editor, contributes an original column to CIDRAP Source Weekly Briefing every other week. Most of his risk communication writing is available without charge at the Peter Sandman Risk Communication Web Site, which includes an index of pandemic-related writing on the site.
One of the first small family hotels in Hrvatsko Zagorje, which has been named the best small continental hotel in Croatia for three years in a row, has made a unique step forward in the offer of continental tourism.The investment worth two million euros opens Villa Magdalena to the business tourism sector as well. Villa Magdalena is unique in that each accommodation unit is equipped with a jacuzzi with thermal water in the living room. Two conference halls are also a novelty, which has positioned this hotel as a desirable choice for various business arrangements. “We are aware that investments are the key to survival in an increasingly demanding market and a response to the needs of guests, which is where the idea of expanding the hotel’s capacity came from. Zagorje has a huge tourist potential and I am sure that our example will encourage other investors to pay more attention and look for investment opportunities in our area.”, Said the owner of the Villa Magdalena hotel, Ivan Petrović, and added that the investment was financed with its own funds.Hotel Villa Magdalena is the first four-star hotel in Hrvatsko Zagorje and Krapinske Toplice opened in 2009. Last year, the hotel achieved an occupancy rate of 81 percent throughout the year and a total of 5.741 overnight stays in only nine accommodation units. For three years in a row (2012, 2013 and 2014) it was named the best small continental hotel in Croatia according to the choice of Tourist Flower – Quality for Croatia. “Investments are key to further strengthening the competitiveness of tourism in the Republic of Croatia, with investments in the hotel industry being of particular importance because this is a segment that characterizes year-round operations. According to the Tourism Development Strategy of the Republic of Croatia until 2020, the plan is to increase the share of hotels in the total accommodation structure, but also to strengthen the additional tourist offer throughout the year throughout the country, especially on the continent with great tourist potential. Therefore, hotels that offer additional facilities to tourists in addition to their classic offer, for example in the health tourism segment, are a strong element for the development of the quality of the overall tourist offer of Croatia, but also the destination in which they operate. Also, with its renovation, the hotel Villa Magdalena has the opportunity to position itself as a place for business meetings and conferences, which will contribute to the year-round offer of Zagorje and the continental part of Croatia in general.Said Tourism Minister Gary Cappelli.
As many as 22 Croatian wineries presented themselves to American distributors and wine experts with a joint performance in New York organized by the Wine Association of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce.The presentation entitled Vina Croatia – mosaic wines gathered about 300 potential distributors and wine experts with the aim of a stronger penetration of the US market, which is in the top five markets of Croatian winemakers outside the EU. For domestic winemakers, a presence in the American market means entering the world wine list. “If we are not present on the New York scene, then it is difficult for us to exist on the international stage as well. The support of institutions is important to us because each of us is too small to be able to do things like this on our own. We can come alone once, but that’s a little bit. If we come two or three times together, it’s a big deal for us, ”Said Ivica Matošević from the Wine Association of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce.Malvasia is one of the varieties that is very well received on the American market, so you can find Kozlović, Matošević, Bibich and Trapan wines in restaurants in New York. Delmonico’s first American restaurant, located in the economic center of the USA, Wall Street, also offers several Croatian wines. “We serve 500 meals a day and have several Croatian wines. In order to interest Americans to drink more Croatian wines, stronger marketing is needed”Said the owner of the Delmonico’s restaurant group Dennis Turčinović and added that it is important for Croatian producers to produce good wines, which they already do, and to acquaint consumers with varieties and history.Guided wine tastings (Masterclass) in New York were led by American sommelier Cliff Rames and Matthew Horkey and Charine Tan, American wine experts who recently published a wine guide for Croatia – Cracking Croatian Wine: Visitor-Friendly Guide). As many as 15 of the 22 wineries that presented themselves already have their distributors on the American market. In the last few years, Croatian wines and olive oils have found their way to US customers more often, especially after visits by American distributors to Croatian wineries in Istria and Dalmatia, which were also supported by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce.The potential of such presentations is well seen in the example of the company Badel 1862, which last year, with its presentation in the USA, managed to place its wines on Norwegian cruisers as well. Slaven Sabolić from Badel welcomes this type of promotion and emphasizes the need for even greater investment in marketing and promotion of land, wine and all indigenous varieties. Badel has been present in the American market for about twenty years, in New York, Florida, Chicago, etc.”The project for the promotion of Croatian wines in the USA is funded by the EAGF Wine Envelope Fund – National Wine Sector Assistance Program 2014-2018, measure Promotion on Third Country MarketsSaid the director of the Sector for Agriculture, Food Industry and Forestry of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, Božica Marković, and added that the potential for stronger export growth is visible in the interest in this event, which is only one part of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to promote our winemakers abroad. .”Croatian wines meet the world quality standard. Exports to the United States have been on the rise in recent years, but a stronger step requires stronger branding of our country. Croatia must be recognized not only as a tourist destination, but also as a wine destination. That is exactly why the Croatian Chamber of Commerce is here, ”Said the President of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce Luka Burilović on that occasion.At the presentation in New York, their products were presented by: Agrolaguna, Badel 1852, Dingač Skaramuča, Erdutski vinogradi, Fakin obrt, B&M, Grgić vina, Iločki podrumi, Jako vino, Kabula, Katunar estate winery, Korta Katarina, Kozlović, Matošević, Miloš- obrt Vinifera, OPG Jasna Antunović Turk, Osilovac, Rizman, Veralda obrt, Vina Bibich, ZO Vina Cattunar obrt, Zlatan Otok and Bartolović.