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Laura Kahn

Laura H. Kahn

Articles by Laura H. Kahn

9 May 2011

The Biological Weapons Convention: Proceeding without a verification protocol

Laura H. Kahn

The Seventh Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) will be held this December in Geneva, with member states convening to assess the bioweapons nonproliferation regime and discuss ways to improve it. But is it worth trying to strengthen the BWC? Since its inception, the treaty has been plagued with well-recognized deficiencies: It lacks an implementing body, a verification protocol, an ability to investigate alleged violations, universality (it has only 163 member states), and industry support.

7 April 2011

Is the United States prepared for a nuclear reactor accident?

Laura H. Kahn

Although a catastrophic failure of emergency backup systems at a US nuclear reactor may be unlikely, solid planning and preparations are in order -- and should begin with determining whether an emergency zone extends 10 or 20 miles from a nuclear power plant. 

7 April 2011

Is the United States prepared for a nuclear reactor accident?

Laura H. Kahn

As Japan struggles to contain the crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, government officials in other nations are nervously assessing their own emergency-response policies and procedures for a nuclear reactor accident. If any country is prepared to handle the worst that nature can present, it's Japan, where strict building codes and evacuation drills saved many lives from the March 11 disaster. But even Japan was not ready for a colossal 9.0 earthquake followed by a devastating tsunami.

23 March 2011

The unsolved anthrax murder mystery

Laura H. Kahn

The US public health system has serious vulnerabilities, and one major problem is identifying and responding to public health crimes.

15 February 2011

Deforestation and emerging diseases

Laura H. Kahn

In the late 1990s a deadly new disease emerged from the tropical forests of Malaysia, spread by fruit bats whose natural habitat had been destroyed by deforestation. The Malaysian government was unprepared for this new disease and subsequently bore high costs from the outbreak, including more than 100 human lives lost as well as an economically devastating collapse of its pig-farming industry. Eventually, the new scourge was identified and named: the Nipah virus.

10 January 2011

Lessons from the Netherlands

Laura H. Kahn

With more than 4,000 people falling ill since 2007, the Netherlands is experiencing one of the world's worst outbreaks of Q fever. A zoonotic disease (meaning it can be transmitted from animals to people), Q fever can cause sickness and even death in humans. The Dutch struggle to address the ongoing outbreak can be instructive in terms of how to improve the handling of public health crises, and the rest of the world would do well to learn from their experience.

23 November 2010

Making sense of the Haitian cholera disaster

Laura H. Kahn

On January 12, 2010, Haiti, one of the world's poorest nations, suffered a 7.0 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people, flattened the government (literally), and destroyed the relief headquarters of the United Nations. Consequently, over a million people were left homeless and live in squalor without access to adequate hygiene, clean water, or food. And earlier this November, Hurricane Tomas only added to the devastation with widespread flooding. This setting was ripe for cholera, a deadly diarrheal disease, to rear its ugly head. And sadly, that's what happened.

11 November 2009

When the H1N1 flu hits home

Laura H. Kahn

On Saturday, October 24, President Barack Obama declared the H1N1 flu a national emergency. To date, more than 20,000 people have been hospitalized and more than 1,000 have died.

27 October 2009

When science is lacking, good leadership is critical

Laura H. Kahn

Since the middle of the twentieth century, more than 330 novel infectious diseases have emerged in human populations. The majority of these new diseases spread from animals to humans--take, for example, HIV/AIDS, SARS, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (commonly known as "mad cow disease," or BSE). Some political leaders chose to respond to these dangerous diseases by ignoring or downplaying the problem. Others consulted scientific and medical experts in order to make informed decisions to combat the threats.

13 October 2009

The need for political leadership during a crisis

Laura H. Kahn

The concept of "meta leaders"--individuals who make decisions beyond their official lines of authority in order to facilitate collaborations across jurisdictions and agencies--was proposed in an effort to overcome the silo thinking that characterizes how traditional government leaders carry out their roles. Since then, meetings and summits have promoted the concept of "meta leadership" among business, government, and nonprofit sectors.

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