Advocating for the WHO

Somewhere in my years of study and work experience I realized that there are today problems and tomorrow problems. At the outset let me say yes, the WHO can use reforms. For example, it is too much under the control of the donor countries, and big donor politics can sway it sometimes to suit their purposes. As a result it cannot always do what is best to fulfill its own agenda. But that is a tomorrow problem.

The WHO created in 1948 has 192 member countries and works to serve them all. Its agenda is global and it has been instrumental in eradicating smallpox and just about eradicating polio, which a century ago devastated many young lives and families when it was an epidemic.  Here’s the today problem. The idea proposed by the current administration to withdraw its funding will hurt the organization and its work. In an era where pandemics are likely that is far from wise, because germs and viruses don’t recognize borders, and in future we may need the organization and its resources more than we may presently anticipate. To be fair WHO warned the administration in January of the coming pandemic, and while some say it could have done it sooner, had it been tougher on the country of origin, China, fact is its warnings were ignored. Yes the US is the biggest donor, and China the second biggest. At the same time that the US has threatened to cut off all funds, China has pledged $2 billion. So if the US leaves, the organization will continue and will continue  with China having an even bigger voice. If the administration carries out its threat China will be better off, the US worse off, and a needed global organization weakened and made that much more in need of reform.

Robots and the Pandemic

For those wanting to know how the pandemic will change the world, faster use of automation looks to be one way it will. Robots are looking particularly attractive to businesses, manufacturers and investors. That’s not new because robots don’t have to be paid, demand benefits or take sick leave. The virus is increasing interest because robots don’t require protective gear and can’t sneeze on their co workers, Many believe the pandemic is accelerating automation, but it has implications. It won’t happen all at once, and each sector and each company will have to review their needs because some jobs lend themselves better to automation better than others. While it is believed that automation will create some jobs, because that is the pattern of former new innovations, experts also think that in developed countries automation is likely to exacerbate economic inequality. That is because the jobs created will be digital age jobs for a digital age economy, while the large part of the economy is  likely to be based on service economy jobs which do not pay as well as they used to and include as well all those who will be left out.

Of course it’s not all smooth sailing for those who will use robots. Robots get their own kind of viruses and can be hacked, so manufacturers and businesses will have to invest in security. Nevertheless the projection points to a rocky road for too many.

Undergoing Losses

Once in a while the health condition of a celebrity goes beyond their PR and can inspire the rest of us. It happened when Julie Andrews could no longer sing following a surgery and now I read that Val Kilmer following throat cancer cannot speak, or speak so he can be readily understood. He had a tracheostomy and now has a tube which is hidden by a scarf. We all undergo losses, it’s part of life on this planet, and we all have to handle them. Some losses are more drastic than others, and losing your voice when you are an actor is very drastic. According to the NYT profile Kilmer, who is a Christian Scientist, uses the tenets of his faith and shows no self-pity. He’s involved in a foundation he created, has a quirky gallery on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, and still believes he can find roles to suit his present condition.

Here we are living through a pandemic, undergoing some form of loss, having to make adjustments to our lifestyle, adjustments which are both large and small, and which will probably linger in some form for a long time. Some at the moment have no income, and for them the experience of someone like Val Kilmer can perhaps offer some iota of comfort that it may ultimately be easier for them to receive an income than it will ever be for him to get his voice back. For the rest of us it’s a reminder of how fortunate we are.

Billionaire’s Chain Reaction to Get PPEs

The chancellor of the University of California San Francisco was concerned about getting masks and supplies for the university’s hospital, all his sources had dried up. So he called Mark Benioff, the billionaire founder of Salesforce who had previously donated $100 million to the hospital. Marc Benioff, then called upon the people he knew, and the NYT story details how what he did created a chain reaction of other wealthy people willing to contribute. He called someone  at Alibaba in China, and as he continued in his search for masks, PPEs and the like he ended up enlisting the help of people at Fed-Ex, Walmart, Apple, other Silicon Valley  moguls like Jack Dorsey of  Twitter, who pledged $1 billion and even Bono. Along the way they met obstacles and solved them so that they ended up with all the masks and protective equipment needed for the hospital. In fact, they ended up with more than they needed and New York benefited and now other hospitals are benefiting too.

 It’s a great story in many ways and yet it does seem it is something federal agencies and/or members of the coronavirus taskforce could have done and done on an even larger scale. But more than that, Mr. Benioff for all his largesse did not take the initiative, he responded when called, which granted is commendable. Then there are the other billionaires, whose behavior in responding to Mr. Benioff is also commendable, but still who did not act on their own. And while the story makes us feel good, I am nevertheless left thinking of all the billionaires who not only did not personally initiate a response to this crisis, but who still have  to participate—despite the fact that many of them have increased their wealth as a result of the pandemic.