As the swine flu crisis worsens, effective disease control will require political and public health leadership at the federal, state, and local levels. Like the deadly influenza virus of 1918 that took more lives than World War I, this latest virus is an H1N1 strain and has the potential to develop into a major pandemic. Already, the virus has infected more than 150 people in Mexico and has spread to New York City and other parts of the United States.
Month: April 2009
In its first 100 days, the Obama administration has had to confront a series of pressing foreign policy and national security issues–North Korean missile launches, a revamping of the war strategy in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s continued rise in Pakistan, and, of course, the Iranian nuclear program. As with all new administrations, the issues have come faster than the Obama administration can cope with them. Thus, improvisation has been a major feature of the administration’s response–especially with only part of the team in place.
Tom Friedman’s brain is flat. That is the only conclusion I can reach after reading his New York Times piece on Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF). A flat brain cannot tolerate complexity. It turns things–such as globalization and laser facilities–into cartoon versions of themselves.
One of the many arms-control challenges facing the Obama administration is to revitalize the sagging effort to destroy the vast U.S. stockpile of chemical weapons left over from the Cold War. A new U.S. Army report, to be released in May along with the Pentagon’s 2010 budget request, will likely conclude that without additional funding, the elimination of these obsolete and dangerous weapons could drag on for another 15 years.
Since last fall, Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, has been stumping for the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) Program, which would develop new nuclear warheads to swap into the U.S. arsenal. In a sit-down with Wall Street Journal editors last November, Chilton held aloft a prop to make his case: “I remember what these things were for. I bet you don’t. It’s a vacuum tube.
As International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei prepares to step down at the end of November, the task of finding his replacement is heating up. Two candidates, Yukiya Amano of Japan and Abdul Samad Minty of South Africa, both IAEA ambassadors from their respective countries, failed to garner the necessary two-thirds majority in successive rounds of secret balloting by the IAEA’s 35-member Board of Governors in March.
Well-informed scientists disagree about whether classic dual-use experiments, such as the genetic manipulation of mouse pox and the sequencing and synthesis of 1918 Spanish Influenza, should have been carried out and/or published. Given this acrimony, an ethical analysis might help as the revolution in the life sciences continues apace. Bioethicists, who have not yet engaged much with the dual-use problem in the life science community, are beginning to apply their expertise to these questions, and the early results suggest that easy answers are still lacking.
Today, no accepted definition of a space weapon exists. Case in point: Recently, Space.com quoted a senior Pentagon official as saying, “There are no space weapons programs being funded by the U.S. Air Force.” This statement was immediately criticized by many within the space arms control community as hypocritical and false.
On April 5, speaking in Prague, President Barack Obama delivered his first public commitment to seek the Senate’s advice and consent for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. He told his audience: “To achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT].” He added, “After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned.”
Editor’s note: The following article is drawn from a long-form analysis of the dynamics of river deltas in the Bulletin’s March/April 2009 edition. That analysis can be found here.