You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘New York Times’ tag.

Mean Culture, Mean Politics: A New Pandemic

By Shlomo Maital

  A long time ago, I stopped watching Reality shows, because they were actually Unreality shows. To raise ratings and gain viewers, shows like Survival, and Trump’s The Apprentice purposely encouraged betrayal, lying, cheating, conflict and utter cruelty, believing this is what viewers wanted to watch. This is the culture of meanness. It is not what I practice in life, nor those around me. And at the place where I work, if you behaved like the Reality shows, you would be out on your ear in minutes.

   Trump built a career in media by shouting “you’re fired!” – in the cruelest possible manner, to humiliate the candidates, on The Apprentice. Then, as President of the United States, he did the same – to his endless parade of hapless cabinet ministers. And in his recent 70-minute speech to the Republican Convention, he honed the politics of meanness, spewing hatred to the Democrats and to protesters and anyone who in any way opposed him.

   The culture of meanness, born on TV, is now succeeded by the politics of meanness and hatred. Your politics is defined by whom you hate, not whom you support and love. You seek election and re-election by fanning the flames of hatred. The ‘law and order’ mantra is a thinly-disguised slogan for hating people of color, who dare to protest and demand their rights.

   In his recent Op-Ed, New York Times columnist David Brooks paints a terrifying picture of where the politics and culture of being mean will lead us. And I have a dire prediction. Dnald J. Trump’s son Donald Jr. excelled in his Convention speech, in applying the politics of hatred, outdoing even his father (and that is very very hard to do)…and he will be the Crown Prince and successor to his vitriolic dad. So we will have a Trump fanning the flames of hatred for many many years to come (Don Jr. will be 43 in December).

     Here is an excerpt from David Brooks’ column. It is very disturbing… the way back to sanity from meanness is long, winding and difficult. Maybe even not feasible….:

“I’ve been thinking about the two families we’ve encountered over the past two weeks. The Biden family is emotionally open, rendered vulnerable by tragedy and driven by a powerful desire to connect. The Trump family is emotionally closed, isolated by enmity and driven by a powerful desire to dominate.   Occasionally this week one of the female members of the Trump family would struggle to stick her head above the muck of her family’s values and display some humanity. But Donald, Don Jr. and Eric showed no such impulse. Trump family values are mean world values. Mean world syndrome was a concept conceived in the 1970s by the communications professor George Gerbner. His idea was that people who see relentless violence on television begin to perceive the world as being more dangerous than it really is.   By the 1990s it was no longer violent programing that drove mean world culture, but reality television. That’s an entire industry designed to give the impression that human beings are inherently manipulative, selfish and petty. If you grow up watching those programs, or starring in them, naturally you believe that other people are fundamentally untrustworthy.  These days mean world culture is everywhere. It’s a siege mentality. Menace is everywhere. We’re on the brink of the cataclysm. This week’s Republican convention was a four-day cavalcade of the mean world alarmism.   Mean world thrives on fear and perpetuates itself by exaggerating fear. Its rhetorical ploy is catastrophizing and its tone is apocalyptic. The Democrats are not just wrong, many speakers asserted this week, they are “subverting our republic,” abolishing the suburbs, destroying Western civilization and establishing a Castro-style communist dictatorship. The Democrats, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida said, want to “disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door.” ”


How Soap Kills Corona

By Shlomo Maital

       Political leaders, public health officials, doctors, talk show hosts, even Donald J. Trump, they all exhort us to wash our hands. Masks, distance, hygiene.

       But those of us who are curious may wonder: If the novel coronavirus is able to survive inside our hostile bodies, even when the immune system tosses fragmentation grenades at it, and T-cells and antibodies and who knows what —   why does soap kill virus? Simple soap? Really?

         I follow cable news closely, but have not heard anybody, including doctors, explain why soap kills virus. This is just a tiny symptom of the truly awful manner in which we the public are given information, or in fact, NOT given it. We are told what to do, endlessly – but we are not told clearly, carefully, exactly why, based on science. I guess the assumption is, the public is dumb, dumber, dumbest. And that’s just not true.

           So here, from a back-page article in the New York Times, printed in March, is the explanation. It is by Ferris Jabr, March 13, 2020.:

“People typically think of soap as gentle and soothing, but from the perspective of microorganisms, it is often extremely destructive. A drop of ordinary soap diluted in water is sufficient to rupture and kill many types of bacteria and viruses, including the new coronavirus that is currently circling the globe. The secret to soap’s impressive might is its hybrid structure.   Soap is made of pin-shaped molecules, each of which has a hydrophilic head — it readily bonds with water — and a hydrophobic tail, which shuns water and prefers to link up with oils and fats. These molecules, when suspended in water, alternately float about as solitary units, interact with other molecules in the solution and assemble themselves into little bubbles called micelles, with heads pointing outward and tails tucked inside.  

   “Some bacteria and viruses have lipid membranes that resemble double-layered micelles with two bands of hydrophobic tails sandwiched between two rings of hydrophilic heads. These membranes are studded with important proteins that allow viruses to infect cells and perform vital tasks that keep bacteria alive. Pathogens wrapped in lipid membranes include coronaviruses, H.I.V., the viruses that cause hepatitis B and C, herpes, Ebola, Zika, dengue, and numerous bacteria that attack the intestines and respiratory tract. When you wash your hands with soap and water, you surround any microorganisms on your skin with soap molecules. The hydrophobic tails of the free-floating soap molecules attempt to evade water; in the process, they wedge themselves into the lipid envelopes of certain microbes and viruses, prying them apart.

   “ “They act like crowbars and destabilize the whole system,” said Prof. Pall Thordarson, acting head of chemistry at the University of New South Wales. Essential proteins spill from the ruptured membranes into the surrounding water, killing the bacteria and rendering the viruses useless.”

Mankind has used soap for 4,000 years.   Now we know why it works. If only we could find a therapeutic drug that works as well INSIDE our bodies, as soap does on our hands.


How Trump and America Screwed Up and Killed Thousands:

The Blow by Blow Account of Criminal Folly

By Shlomo Maital

This is the shocking story of how President Trump and America screwed up in confronting the pandemic. The result: Thousands and thousands of needless deaths. And today – a new record number of newly infected persons in the US. The account below is by the New York Times’ brilliant team of reporters.

Here is the awful story, blow by blow, almost too painful to put into words. If you can, read these 806 words about criminal folly and blind incompetence by political leaders.

 ¨ It started small. A man near Seattle had a persistent cough. A woman in Chicago had a fever and shortness of breath. By mid-February, there were only 15 known coronavirus cases in the United States, all with direct links to China. “The 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero,” President Trump said. The patients were isolated. Their contacts were monitored. Travel from China was restricted.

¨ None of that worked. Only a small part of the picture was visible. Some 2,000 hidden infections were already spreading through major cities. We traced the hidden spread of the epidemic to explain why the United States failed to stop it.At every crucial moment, American officials were weeks or months behind the reality of the outbreak. Those delays likely cost tens of thousands of lives.

 ¨   HOW THE VIRUS GOT IN: The China travel ban was a partial success: Only a handful of infected travelers from China are estimated to have made it into the country undetected before restrictions were imposed on Feb. 2.But it wasn’t enough. A vast wave of infected travelers — roughly 1,000, one model suggests — came from other countries in Asia, Europe and the rest of the world in February, each a dangerous spark that could set off a wider outbreak. Many of those infections died out. But by mid-February, a few caught fire and became outbreaks, spreading invisibly.  

¨ The country was unaware of its own epidemic. Many tests released by the C.D.C. didn’t work, leaving only enough to test people who had visited China or had contact with a handful of known cases.Over the next two weeks, the invisible outbreaks doubled in size, then doubled three more times.

 ¨   Top federal health experts concluded by late February that the virus was likely to spread widely within the United States and that government officials would soon need to urge the public to embrace social distancing measures, such as avoiding crowds and staying home.   But Mr. Trump wanted to avoid disrupting the economy. So some of his health advisers, at Mr. Trump’s urging, told Americans at the end of February to continue to travel domestically and go on with their normal lives. And they did. Millions moved across the country, cellphone data shows. Some unknowingly carried the virus with them.

¨ Researchers with the Seattle Flu Study ignored C.D.C. testing restrictions and uncovered a single case with no travel history in late February. This was the first sign that the outbreak had spun badly out of control.

¨ Over the two weeks that followed, people made about 4.3 million trips from the Seattle area. Thousands were contagious. Genetic samples linked to the Seattle outbreak appeared in at least 14 states, said Trevor Bedford, a professor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a leader of the flu study.

¨ Seattle was just the beginning. In New York City, where officials had found only a single case by March 1, roughly 10,000 infections had spread undetected. New Yorkers and visitors continued to travel out of the city. More than 5,000 contagious travelers left in the first two weeks of March, estimates suggest.

¨ “I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives and get out on the town,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on March 2. People leaving New York City made about 2.8 million trips to the Hudson Valley. Some carried the virus with them, and outbreaks there accelerated in mid-March, the likely result of travel from New York, a Times analysis found.

¨ People also made more than 25,000 trips to New Orleans, where genetic data suggests that a large early outbreak stemmed from infections from New York, according to Karthik Gangavarapu, a computational scientist at Scripps Research, and Dr. Bedford.

¨ Tracking signature genetic mutations of the virus allows researchers to estimate the influence of early outbreaks. Early on, variants prominent in Seattle’s outbreak were found more frequently. But later samples showed that a variant found often in New York City’s outbreak had become much more widespread. A new analysis of thousands of mutations also points directly back to New York, Dr. Bedford said. Travel from the city helped to spread that variant across the country.

¨  “New York has acted as a Grand Central Station for this virus,” said David Engelthaler of the Translational Genomics Research Institute. By the time President Trump blocked travel from Europe on March 13, the restrictions were essentially pointless. The outbreak had already been spreading widely in most states for weeks.


Does the Novel Coronavirus Mutate?

By Shlomo Maital

     Writing in today’s New York Times, Nathaniel Lash and Tala Schlossberg try to answer the key question, does the novel coronavirus mutate? If so, how and when?

   Here is why it is important for us to know this.   The pandemic crisis will end only when we have a vaccine, produced in billions of doses. The vaccine will work by stimulating the body to produce antibodies that neutralize the virus by binding to it in a very specific way. If the virus can mutate to defeat the vaccine, then the vaccine will not stop working. The key is the “spike protein” – the protein the virus makes that penetrates the cell walls and lets the virus invade (and kill) it. Those are the spikes you see in the graphic illustrations of corona. Vaccines can defeat the spike.

   Here is what the authors of the article have found:

   “Among the thousands of samples of the long strand of RNA that makes up the coronavirus, 11 mutations have become fairly common. But as far as we know, it’s the same virus infecting people all over the world, meaning that only one “strain” of the virus exists, said Peter Thielen, a molecular biologist with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.   Only one of those common mutations affects the “spike protein,” which enables the virus to infect cells in the throat and lungs. Efforts to produce antibodies that block the spike protein are central to many efforts to develop a vaccine. Since the spike protein has changed little so far, some scientists believe that’s a sign that it can’t alter itself very much and remain infectious.”

   So – we have a small piece of good news. The measles vaccine, for instance, was developed in 1950. And it is still effective. Measles hasn’t mutated in a manner that neutralizes the vaccine. Evolution is powerful – but apparently it cannot surmount EVERY obstacle. So hopefully the same will apply to the COVID-19 vaccine – and we will bid this insidious deadly enemy good-bye, with an effective vaccine… until the next one.

 COVID-19: The Economists’ Perspective

By Shlomo Maital

As readers know, I am an economist and have been super-critical of my fellow economists; I believe our prescriptions have done massive damage to the world, including the free-market greed-is-good credo that led to 2007/8.   But in the current pandemic, I am hearing words of wisdom from brilliant economists like Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, a New York Times columnist.

In his latest Op-Ed, in the New York Times (April 1) Krugman brings some serious wisdom. Let me summarize what he says.

To simplify things, think of the economy as consisting of two sectors, nonessential services (N) that we can shut down to limit human interactions and hence the spread of the disease, and essential services (E) that we can’t (or perhaps don’t need to, because they don’t involve personal interaction.) We can and should close down the N sector until some combination of growing immunity, widespread testing to quickly find and isolate cases, and, if we’re very lucky, a vaccine let us return to normal life.

“For those (like me) still receiving their regular paychecks, this period of shutdown — call it the coronacoma — will be annoying but not serious. I miss coffee shops and concerts, but can live without them for however long it takes.

“Things will, however, be very different and dire for those who are deprived of their regular income while the coronacoma lasts. This group includes many workers and small businesses; it also includes state and local governments, which are required to balance their budgets but are seeing revenues collapse and expenses soar.

   “How big is the N sector? Miguel Faria-e-Castro of the St. Louis Fed summarizes estimates that are as good as any: 27 to 67 million people, [for the United States], which he averages to 47 million. That’s a lot; we could be looking at a temporary decline in real GDP of 30 percent or more. But that GDP decline isn’t the problem, since it’s a necessary counterpart of the social distancing we need to be doing. The problem instead is how to limit the hardships facing those whose normal income has been cut off.

“What can be done to help those cut off from their normal incomes during this period of national lockdown? They don’t need jobs — we don’t want them working at a time when normal work routines can spread a deadly disease. What they need, instead, is money. That is, what’s needed now is disaster relief, not economic stimulus.”

So many ‘experts’ who tell us what should be done, are sitting pretty with large bank accounts and salaries that continue to flow. Krugman’s empathy for those without income – many many millions – is exemplary. THEY are the ones we need to worry about most.

So, as I’ve written elsewhere: Save Lives, yes…and save jobs, too,  by writing checks. If needed, pay the salaries and wages of workers for businesses, to keep them afloat.   Disaster relief…as Krugman says.

Testing holds the key. Why?   Using Krugman’s terminology: Suppose we had sufficient tests, deployed rapidly, with quick results, to know if EVERY working person had COVID-19. Divide the populace into N (non-essential, or infected) and E (essential and clean). If you shut down N+E together, everyone, you lose output and jobs – you lose E times (average output or income of E), which is huge and unnecessary.   If you shut down only N, you get all the jobs and output of E, and income. And you can use it to help pay survival incomes to the N.

This makes sense, right?   And we CAN get those quick automated tests out the door if they are given priority.


Find Meaning in Plague

By Shlomo Maital


   New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks reminds us, today, that there is “moral meaning to plague”.   He quotes Victor Frankl, whose book Man’s Search for Meaning has influenced millions; in it Frankl describes how he survived the Holocaust death camps. He found meaning.

   How can each of us find meaning, in this plague epidemic?

   “Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person) and in courage during difficult times. Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.” (Wiki)

     Work. Love. Courage. Pretty straightforward.

     Work – we do what we normally do, only at home and online.   Amazing how adaptable many people are, in their work. Special kudos to moms (and dads), who also care for young children.

     Love. Care for others. Let’s follow a formula I find useful, that I have borrowed: When you wake, ask 2 questions: What shall I do for myself today? (If you are not happy, strong, healthy, fit, effective, it’s hard to help others). What shall I do for others today? And, when you fall asleep, ask, What did I do for myself today? And – what did I do for others today?

   Courage. This may involve facing danger, opposition, humiliation. What is going wrong, that you can see, understand, and try to fix, or at least bring attention to it?

   There IS meaning in this epidemic. I see it everywhere, everyone, every day. Let’s all work hard to find it and leverage it.



Unpacking the COVID-19 Stats:  Four Measures

By Shlomo Maital


 The COVID-19 statistics can be very confusing, and the press has not been great at dispelling the fog. Here is how the New York Times explains the four key measures:    

  • By Nate CohnJosh KatzMargot Sanger-Katz and Kevin Quealy March 27, 2020
  •  1. Cases per 1,000 people. This is a measure of the prevalence of coronavirus in the community. Confirmed Cases per 1,000 residents.   An imperfect measure, because of spotty testing – are there few cases because of limited testing, or few cases because testing has shown this to be true? Hard to know.


  • Confirmed cases per 1,000 by metro area
  •    New York City, at 2.15, is just below #1, Wuhan, China, 4.59, and Lombardy Region, Italy, 3.48, but Albany Ga. And New Orleans are surprisingly high, too, as ‘hot spots’, at 1.35, and 1.32, respectively.


  • Each measure answers a different question.
Wuhan, China 11.1 mil. 50,821 4.59
Lombardy region, Italy 10 mil. 34,889 3.48
New York 20 mil. 43,016 2.15



  1. Deaths per 1,000 people. This measure is likely to be more accurate, alas, than other measures. But this measure lags the number of infections by several weeks…

Deaths per capita are currently higher in the New York City area than in most other places.

Lombardy region, Italy 10 mil. 4,861 0.48
Wuhan, China 11.1 mil. 2,535 0.23
Albany, Ga. 153,000 10 0.07
New Orleans 1.3 mil. 65 0.05
Seattle 3.9 mil. 133 0.03
Burlington, Vt. 221,000 6 0.03
New York 20 mil. 500 0.03



  1. Growth Rates Over Time.

Measure: the rate of cumulative cases over time, averaged over the previous week. This helps us learn, is the epidemic getting better or worse? Are we at the ‘apex’ (worst is behind us) or before it?

A growth rate of 40 percent on this chart means the cumulative number of cases is growing by 40 percent every day. A rate of 100 percent would mean that the number of cases was doubling daily.

March 1         March 8                         March 22



  1. Growth Rates by Case Count.

This measure is the rate of growth of the number of cases in a given place – it measures whether a community has slowed the rate of growth, before there is many cases. I.e., is the community flattening the curve?

   Seattle and San Francisco succeeded in flattening the curve. How come? These measures help us ask the right questions



= = = = = =

We need to be cautious when interpreting coronavirus statistics. And a wide variety of stats are being tossed at us, often by those who do not fully understand them.


COVID-19: Calibrate Your Risk Perception

 By Shlomo Maital  

   How risky is COVID-19 to me, personally? How do I process the news, numbers, fake news, and hysteria, to evaluate the seriousness of the threat to me, personally?

   Behavioral economics knows a lot about risk perception. Many years ago, Kahneman and Tversky showed, with simple this-or-that choice experiments, that we humans overwhelmingly overestimate small probabilities.

   This seems to be the case with COVID-19. Writing in the New York Times, medical doctor and psychiatrist Richard Friedman observes: *

  Throughout the country, people are stockpiling food in anticipation of a shortage or a quarantine. Supplies of Purell hand sanitizer flew off the shelves in local pharmacies and are now hard to find or even unavailable online. I understand the impulse to secure one’s safety in the face of a threat. But the fact is that if I increase the supply of medication for my patients, I could well deprive other patients of needed medication, so I reluctantly declined those requests. As a psychiatrist, I frequently tell my patients that their anxieties and fears are out of proportion to reality, something that is often true and comforting for them to realize. But when the object of fear is a looming pandemic, all bets are off.

   Friedman continues:

   In this case, there is reason for alarm. The coronavirus is an uncertain and unpredictable danger. This really grabs our attention, because we have been hard-wired by evolution to respond aggressively to new threats. After all, it’s safer to overact to the unknown than to do too little. Unfortunately, that means we tend to overestimate the risk of novel dangers. I can cite you statistics until I am blue in the face demonstrating that your risk of dying from the coronavirus is minuscule compared with your risk of dying from everyday threats, but I doubt you’ll be reassured. For example, 169,000 Americans died by accident and 648,000 died of heart disease in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Sunday morning 19 Americans had died from the coronavirus.

OK – so what SHOULD we be doing, then, in the face of panic that the objective risk does not justify?

   Find ways to help and reassure others, notes the wise Dr. Friedman.

      Researchers found that when subjects made selfish decisions, the brain’s reward center was activated, whereas when they made generous decisions, a region of the brain implicated in empathy lit up. This suggests that people are more likely to be altruistic if they are primed to think of others and to imagine how their behavior might benefit them.

     The good news is that even in the face of fear, we do have the capacity to act in ways that would help limit contagion during an epidemic. Specifically, we can behave altruistically, which benefits everyone. For example, research shows that when people are told that it is possible — but not certain — that going to work while sick would infect a co-worker, people are less willing to stay home than when they are reminded of the certainty that going to work sick would expose vulnerable co-workers to a serious chance of illness. Stressing the certainty of risk, in other words, more effectively motivates altruism than stressing the possibility of harm   The lesson for the real world is that health officials should be explicit in telling the public that selfish responses to an epidemic, such as going to work while sick or failing to wash your hands, threaten the health of the community.

And what should our great leaders do?

     Specifically, public figures need to convey loudly and clearly that we should not go to work or travel when we’re sick and that we should not hoard food and medical supplies beyond our current need — not just give us health statistics or advise about how to wash our hands.

Let us all try to recalibrate our risk perceptions. COVID-19 will spread, it will afflict a lot of people, it IS NOT possible to put it back in Pandora’s box. But there are a lot of other scary things going on in this world that threaten each of us. Because we have known them for a long time (ordinary flu, traffic deaths, etc.), we are habituated. COVID-19 is new, scary and rather unknown. We will in time come to know it. We will overcome it. And in the meantime, help and reassure your family and your friends. Take it from Dr. Friedman.  

   * “The Best Response to the Coronavirus? Altruism, Not Panic. The impulse to secure your safety is understandable but counterproductive.” by Dr. Richard A. Friedman, NYT March 8/2020

Six Facts About the Wuhan Coronavirus

 By Shlomo Maital


Wuhan coronavirus

   Here are six things you should know about the Wuhan coronavirus, now sowing panic worldwide. (Based in part on Dr. Dan Werb’s New York Times article.) [1]

  1. China is an integral part of the global economy, and its factories supply parts for other countries’ supply chain ecosystems. China’s economy itself is 20% of the world economy – so any negative impact on China’s economy impacts the world directly, at once, and indirectly, over time. I know Israeli hi-tech firms whose products are made in China that have already been hard hit.   The Wuhan virus is teaching the world that ‘globalization’ is a fact and that when the virus bell tolls, it tolls for everyone everywhere.
  2. A key data point is so-called R0 – how many additional people are infected, on average, when one person falls ill with the coronavirus? The answer is, apparently, 1.4 to 2.5.   Is this good or bad? Both. It is higher than SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), whose R0 is only 0.5. It is far lower than measles or polio. And it is just a bit higher than seasonal flu. But the point is, it does spread easily and rapidly.  
  3. Another key data point: How deadly is it? Not very.   About 2% of those who fall ill die from it, mainly from pneumonia and after-effects. Those who die are mostly those whose immune system and general health are poor. And in any event, a lot more people die of seasonal flu than from coronavirus. But don’t forget, that 2% does not really matter. If you can die from it, then the coronavirus sows panic —   we humans are poor at perceiving accurately probabilities, and if something bad CAN happen, then we (rightly) worry that it WILL.
  4. Why did it start in China? Ducks and pigs. Chinese farms raise both. Ducks eat parasites in rice paddies, so they do good. But their “unique biology” makes them repositories for “a vast number of viruses”, while with pigs, various strains of viruses mix together and evolve and mutate into new strains able to infect humans (e.g. swine flu).   Having said that, it appears that the Wuhan coronavirus may have come from bats or other animals, sold in a Wuhan market.
  5. What is coronavirus? Why is it called that? According to Dr. Werb, “The family of coronaviruses (so-called because they resemble glowing crowns) that includes the new Wuhan strain are exceptionally challenging to control. It gets its name from the shape of the virus, like a kind of crown, (corona is ‘crown’ in Latin) or like the circular corona of the sun. Coronaviruses are responsible for the common cold, pneumonia and bronchitis, but the coronavirus family is sprawling and includes deadlier outliers like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which have fatality rates of up to 15 percent and 35 percent, respectively.”  
  6. Why can’t we just take a pill or a vaccine shot and solve the problem? Why doesn’t the body’s own system of antibodies defeat them?   Viruses in general, and coronaviruses in particular, are really ‘smart’. Here is what I learned about how they foil the immune system.

      “When a virus enters the body, a race begins between responding immune cells and the infecting pathogen. The pathogen replicates and finds a target cell or organ that will allow it to thrive.   So, the effectiveness of a response depends on the immune system winning the race to clear the pathogen before it causes irreversible damage to the body.   Immune cells called “B cells” make antibodies. A pathogen such as a virus is a large molecule with different components, called antigens. When a B cell recognizes an antigen, it is activated and interacts with other immune cells to receive directions. When an “invader” cell attacks, the body’s immune system checks its ‘memory’ to see if it has seen it before. Because memory cells have already undergone quality improvement, they can respond quickly after reinfection to produce a large number of plasma cells secreting high-quality antibody.   Therefore, memory cells can clear the infection much more rapidly than the initial infection. This means the pathogen doesn’t have time to damage the body. However viruses change, mutate and evolve. Flu is highly variable and changes each season, or evolves in ducks and pigs; variations are why we require yearly vaccinations. And with Wuhan coronavirus, which ‘surprised’ the world, no vaccine exists yet, nor will we have one for many months.”         


   So, what is my prediction? Will coronavirus become a global pandemic, like the 1918-19 infuenza epidemic that killed between 20 million and 40 million people, more than in World War I (including my grandfather Israel)? Or will we manage to control it?

   No, it will not become a pandemic. It will slash a few points of global growth. We should learn the main lesson that Wuhan coronavirus comes to teach us. We have created a superb global ecosystem, where nations become wealthy by doing what they do best and selling the result to others, buying from others what THEY do best. This creates an enormous interdependent ecosystem, with major advantages but one big disadvantage – any bad virus that starts in one place spreads rapidly all over, because of millions who travel regularly. Shutting down travel, and trade, is devastating, but at times necessary. And there will be lots of those viruses, because they are very clever, they change, mutate and adapt, and continually surprise us, making off-the-shelf solutions irrelevant and fooling our immune systems regularly.

   We will need a new, efficient, clever and rapid global cooperative mechanism to deal with this new threat. But the current political poison against global cooperation may make this really difficult to attain.  

[1] Dr. Dan Werb, New York Times, Jan. 30/2020, To Understand the Wuhan Coronavirus, Look to the Epidemic Triangle.

Generation Z – There Is Hope!
By   Shlomo Maital  
   Generation Y is the generation of those born between 1981 and 1995.  They are also known as Millenials. They have been slandered as selfish, egoistic, live-for-the-present, and worse.  Today they are between 23 and 37.
    Generation Z is the generation of those born 1996 and later.  A New York Times column by Dan Levin, “Even young Republicans are drifting left on social issues”,  Jan. 25/2019,  reports on a Pew Research Center survey of American  Gen Z, some 12,000 of them.  Here are the main findings:
• Only 30% approved of Trump’s performance.  This is well below the average (Trump is deeply underwater in his approval ratings).
• 70% said they wanted government to do more to solve the nation’s problems.  [Levin says, those attitudes mirror those of Gen Y, which may mean that these two younger generations can powerfully combine to change the current bleak reality in the US].
• There are more than 68 million Americans who belong to GenZ.  This is 22% of the American population.  So more than one American in every five is GenZ.  This makes this group politically decisive, in the long run.  
• 2/3 of GenZ believe blacks are treated less fairly than whites in the US.
• GenZ believe government should play a more active role.

    This is not good news for Republicans; GenZ is more progressive than older generations.  But it is good news for those who seek a less conservative America.


Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital