Monthly Archives: April 2009
The tendency of old(er) media to lash out at new(er) media apparently involves passing the buck on the worst of old(er) media’s excesses. Happy to push the canard that bloggers and Twitterers are merely unrestrained and unsubstantiated gossipers, CNN has either not been reading its own headlines or has an uncanny ability to swallow irony.
Some observers say Twitter — a micro-blogging site where users post 140-character messages — has become a hotbed of unnecessary hype and misinformation about the outbreak, which is thought to have claimed more than 100 lives in Mexico.
“Swine flu” is currently first on CNN’s list of “hot topics.” This is fair enough, because it’s a major topic and a cause for concern, and therefore worthy of media attention. But CNN takes it decidedly over the top. Perhaps following the Time magazine model of cool and rational stories on potential nuclear annihilation, the CNN page devoted to the entirely necessary and carefully measured information about swine flu includes sober headlines like the following:
- Mexico City at epicenter of growing swine flu fears
- Stricken teen describes illness, recovery
- Pandemic: What would happen next?
- Gupta: Swine flu affecting people in prime
- Deadliest pandemics of the 20th century
- Officials plan for worst case
Naturally, and without a trace of irony, CNN urges you to follow Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Twitter.
UPDATE: CNN also tweets — what medium could be better? — as breaking news that “The federal government declares a public health emergency, as the number of cases of swine flu in the U.S. rises to 20.”
cross-posted on Boondoggle
(image from flickr user merfam under a Creative Commons license)
I was checking out Ban Ki-moon’s Wikipedia entry this morning (like I do every morning) and BAM! It’s been hijacked by some pretty desparate Tamils. Click here or the picture on the left for the full view (presumably it’s going to be corrected shortly).
At this weekend’s IMF and World Bank spring meetings, Global ministers warned that the economic crisis risks derailing the MDGs and, in the closing communiqué, “urged donors to accelerate delivery of commitments to increase aid, and for us all to consider going beyond existing commitments.” But, in the end, they did very little to provide immediate relief to the world’s poorest.
Apropos to Boonstra’s post below, Faculty chair of the University of Chicago Center for Health Administration Studies Harold Pollack writes in to say an episode like Swine Flu underscores the necessity of the WHO and other international public health forums. Says Pollack:
The United States and Mexico (and many other countries as well) share common agricultural ecosystems and have tremendous human migration and commercial flows that provide conduits for diseases to spread. By providing a reservoir of information and expertise, along with the structures to provide a coordinated response, WHO allows a vastly more effective response than could be mounted by any single country, certainly including the U.S. Even when judged by the exclusive metric of American population health, these organizations are a bargain at twice the price.
Anne Applebaum’s column is not all friendly toward the World Health Organization (WHO), but she very much gets that, facing something like the threat of swine flu, it is exactly what we need.
The Geneva-based WHO is the organization we all turn to at times like this, and rightly so: With more than 60 years’ experience, and real achievements under its belt — it led the successful campaign to eliminate smallpox in the 1970s — the WHO may well be the only international organization that we cannot live without. When infectious diseases are spread rapidly across borders, WHO is expected to coordinate the scientific response of national public health officials, from France to Malaysia, as well as the global information campaign needed to explain it. No national government can do the same. [emphasis mine]
Most of Applebaum’s complaints about WHO have to do with what she calls particular UN culture and politics. Some of her critiques are legitimate, and aspects of the WHO, as with other UN agencies and the global body itself, should be reformed and improved. But the best way to do so is not to cut off UN appendages; rather, member states need to work together to improve, fund, and support them. In her last paragraph, it’s good to see that Applebaum gets that, too.
The truth is that we tend to treat the really important U.N. institutions the way we treat the local water utility: Most of the time we don’t care who runs it or how well — but in an emergency, we expect a superhuman response. Now, just as we might really be on the brink of an emergency, it is worth reminding ourselves that if we want the WHO to be there when we need it, the organization must be constantly monitored and fully funded. U.N. member governments should make absolutely sure it stays focused: after all, only the WHO is equipped to carry out the international monitoring of the spread of a new infectious disease. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that this time, they haven’t been distracted by something else. [emphasis mine]
Mashup master Henry Niman has created a Google map tagged with all reports of swine flu. Siberia, it looks like you’re safe for now.
- Pink markers are suspect
- Purple markers are confirmed
- Deaths lack a dot in marker
- Yellow markers are negative
View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.