Returning from Spain, Italy – no screening – Americans only asked if they visited China


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Trump crosses out “corona” in briefing notes – adds “Chinese”

When Pam Mundus and a friend landed in Milan for a weeklong vacation on Feb. 23, uniformed airport workers in face masks, attempting to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, took their temperatures.

But when Ms. Mundus returned home on a direct flight from Rome to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport on March 1, no one questioned her about her time in Italy or whether she might have been exposed to the illness. At that stage, the State Department had already urged Americans to reconsider travel to Italy; there were at least 1,500 cases there and 34 deaths related to the coronavirus by then.

“The only question we were asked was, ‘Have you been to China?’” Ms. Mundus, 62, said in a phone interview from her home on eastern Long Island, where she has been in self-quarantine since her return…

But several experts say the experience of Ms. Mundus shows the limited effectiveness of the administration’s travel restrictions, which followed outbreaks in affected countries by days or weeks. The administration never even imposed restrictions on passengers who had been to South Korea, which also faced a large outbreak.

And the restrictions applied only to foreign citizens, despite the fact that the virus could be transmitted just as easily by the many Americans returning home in droves, who were getting confusing and inconsistent messages on how to protect themselves and their communities — or in many cases, no advice at all…

“The policy makes no sense,” said Danielle Ompad, an epidemiologist at the N.Y.U. School of Public Health. “It was based on nationality, not risk of infectiousness, and the two are not synonymous.”

The Fake President’s policies often make no sense. Some of them, like these creepy incidents, stink of the bigotry and racism that characterizes the leadership of today’s Republican Party.

Heroes on the front line in Italy

Their eyes are tired. Their cheekbones rubbed raw from protective masks. They don’t smile.

The doctors and nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in Italy are almost unrecognizable behind their masks, scrubs, gloves and hairnets — the flimsy battle armor donned at the start of each shift as the only barrier to contagion.

Associated Press photographers fanned out on Friday to photograph them during rare breaks from hospital intensive care units in the Lombardy region cities of Bergamo and Brescia, and in Rome. In each case, doctors, nurses and paramedics posed in front of forest green surgical drapes, the bland backdrop of their sterile wards.

Decades ago, I worked in an historic teaching hospital associated with a world-class university. It was appropriately one of the few U.S. hospitals with a section reserved for treatment of rare, usually-imported, deadly diseases. I don’t recall the official name. The grunts I worked with – charged with maintaining essential infrastructure – called it the “Plague Ward”.

I can still recall the eerie and scary feeling we shared – electricians, structural workers, line mechanics – when we suited up in what passed for hazmat suits back in the day, surgical masks, towels wrapped over our shoes…

That feeling is back.

China donates coronavirus supplies to Italy via China Red Cross


A Chinese team of experts with head of the Italian Red Cross, Francesco Rocca

A planeload of medical supplies, including masks and respirators, has arrived in Italy from China to help the European country deal with its growing coronavirus crisis…

Italy is now the worst-affected nation in the world after China, since the contagion came to light there on February 21…

The outbreak risks overwhelming Italian hospitals, and some key supplies are running low.

In contrast to China, Italy’s partners in the European Union earlier this month refused Rome’s requests for help with medical supplies as they looked to stockpile face masks and other equipment to help their own citizens.

A team of nine Chinese medical staff arrived late on Thursday with some 30 tonnes of equipment on a flight organised by the Red Cross Society of China.

“In this moment of great stress, of great difficulty, we are relieved to have this arrival of supplies. It is true that it will help only temporarily, but it is still important,” said the head of the Italian Red Cross, Francesco Rocca.

In a separate development, Chinese businessman Jack Ma, who is the founder of the Alibaba Group and among the world’s richest people, offered to donate 500,000 coronavirus testing kits and one million masks to the United States, which on Friday declared a national emergency over the outbreak.

…Jack Ma said: “Drawing from my own country’s experience, speedy and accurate testing and adequate protective equipment for medical professionals are most effective in preventing the spread of the virus.”…”We hope that our donation can help Americans fight against the pandemic!”

Over the past weeks, Ma’s organisations have helped provide similar supplies to virus-hit countries such as Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Spain.

I’m not certain if today’s generations know much of the history, of the role often assumed by charities like the Red Cross, globally and in individual nations in time of disaster. Whether war or natural disasters, the Red Cross societies can typically be counted upon to provide aid and comfort to victims regardless of political context. Flags and elections don’t count as much as lives at risk.

BTW, I didn’t learn of this aid to Italy from the mainstream channels on American television. Which is why I rely on more international news sources, anyway.

Italy is now a partner in China’s new Silk Road


Reuters

❝ Italy has become the first developed economy to sign up to China’s global investment programme which has raised concerns among Italy’s Western allies.

A total of 29 deals amounting to €2.5bn ($2.8bn) were signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Rome…

❝ The new Silk Road has another name – the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – and it involves a wave of Chinese funding for major infrastructure projects around the world, in a bid to speed Chinese goods to markets further afield. Critics see it as also representing a bold bid for geo-political and strategic influence…

❝ The levels of debt owed by African and South Asian nations to China have raised concerns in the West and among citizens – but roads and railways have been built that would not exist otherwise..

Here I sit in the richest, most powerful country in world history. Our roads suck. Bridges suck. Water systems throughout the land are polluted. And more. Our government doesn’t make infrastructure a priority. Our politicians are glad to blather about their support for rebuilding and repairing national infrastructure decades old – as long as they aren’t actually pushed into doing a damned thing.

New Silk Road, old Silk Road. If someone is putting their political and economic clout behind better, easier commerce…try to keep the whining down to a minimum, folks. You’re on the wrong side of history. I know what construction contracts look like going back to the original build-out of the US Interstate System. It was justified to keep our military happy. Which was Cold War bullshit. The victory was owned by US trucking companies.

Syrian refugees bring new life to Italian village


Aljazeera

Mohamed al-Okla and his wife Amal fled Syria’s civil war with their five children in order to resettle in Italy…Hoping for a fresh start away from the horrors of war, the family has found a place they can call home.

In stark contrast to the transitory way of life in migration centres, the small village of Camini in southern Italy has helped bring a sense of normality to the Syrian family.

“The children are happy here, and so am I,” Mohamed told Al Jazeera. “Here, it’s calm, tranquil, it’s good. We’re now living in a democratic country and, most importantly, there is peace.”

While the continuous influx of refugees is seen as a concern for most European nations, the Camini community has welcomed their arrival as it has helped bring new life to the village.

Half a century ago, hundreds of locals were driven away by poverty and lack of opportunities.

But with homes being refurbished and children filling up classrooms, the town in the region of Calabria is undergoing a revival…

Rosaria Zulzolo, who leads the cooperative, appreciates the increased business the inflow of refugees and migrants has brought.

“We never thought it would be like a resource for us,” said Zulzolo. “We just wanted to receive people who were running away from war and offer them hospitality.

“And in this hospitality, we saw that shopkeepers were selling more goods, more work was being created.”

Around 105,000 refugees and migrants have reached Italy by boat so far this year, according to data from the International Organization for Migration.

A brief description of life springing into fruition in a couple of ways. Syrian refugees finding a new life in freedom. A village returning to full life as a community with children, new ways, new crafts and trade from the spirit of fresh citizens.

Half my antecedents came from just such a village. From an Italy worn and beaten down by war over a century ago. This was an important part of the story of how America grew. Isolated from European wars. Room to grow.

Yes, it is a curious thing how different people find opportunity in the same places other have left behind.

Italy updates laws to encourage food donations

In Italy, 181 senators voted to pass a bill that seeks to cut 20 percent of the food Italy wastes per year — approximately one million tons. This recovered food will go to the needy, with Italy’s Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina deeming the bill “one of the most beautiful and practical legacies” of the Expo Milano 2015 international exhibition, which…focused on tackling hunger and food waste around the globe.

At present, ministers say that food waste in Italy costs the country approximately $13.4 billion each year — around one percent of the country’s GDP. At least some of this waste stems from complex health and safety regulations which have effectively discouraged businesses and farmers from donating extra food or marginally past-date food to charities or directly to the needy.

And when coupled with the fact that millions of Italians live in poverty, unemployment hovers at approximately 20 percent, and the country’s public debt has increased by 20 percent since 2003, this level of food waste is unacceptable.

…By simplifying the regulatory codes, lifting sanctions to businesses that give away food past its sell-by date, creating tax incentives to donate food, and permitting famers to give away unsold produce without incurring costs, lawmakers hope to change cultural attitudes toward food and its consumption…

Perhaps the most interesting and potentially transformative component of the law is its $1.1 million campaign to promote the use of the “family bag,” or taking home the remainder of one’s meal from a restaurant.

While a relatively common practice in the United States, the notion of taking home extra food from a restaurant — and moreover, the “doggy bag” — is quite rare in Italy. Indeed, some have called the measure the biggest cultural change the bill proposes.

Who knew?

Wasps build rainbow nests when given colored paper


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It’s unnerving to discover a wasp’s nest dangling outside your house, but perhaps it would be a tad less so with the help of biology student Mattia Menchetti who cleverly realized he could give colored construction paper to a colony of European paper wasps. By gradually providing different paper shades, the wasps turned their homes into a functional rainbow of different colors.

This isn’t the first time scientists have encountered insects producing colorful materials with the aid of artificial coloring. In 2012, residue from an M&M plant caused local bees to make blue and green honey…You can see more of Menchetti’s experiment on his website.

Way cool. I happen to love wasps, anyway.

Thanks, Ursarodinia