The (Potential) Wages Of Hubris

Today the Texas Department of State Health Services announced that a preliminary test indicates that an American health care worker has tested positive for Ebola.  The worker was involved in treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the West African man who came to the United States after being infected with the Ebola virus and died of the disease last week.  The preliminary results indicating the health care worker has Ebola will be subject to confirmatory testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This news of transmission of Ebola in America is troubling in and of itself, but it is especially alarming when coupled with the fact that a Spanish nurse who also was involved in treating an Ebola victim contracted the disease.  The Spanish nurse’s infection is attributed to “human error” — her alleged failure to follow strict protocols designed to prevent transmission of the dread disease — but there is no explanation, yet, for why the Texas health care worker may have contracted the disease.

Perhaps the Texas health care worker also made a “human error,” or perhaps the world health care authorities don’t know as much about how to prevent the spread of this strain of Ebola as they think they do.  Could the CDC, the World Health Organization, and other health care entities have experienced a bit of hubris about their ability to deal with this disease, and could we now be learning that they were overconfident about their understanding of Ebola and how it is transmitted?  Even if the new cases are due entirely to “human error,” the fact that treatment protocols are so challenging that trained health care workers can fail to comply with them should give us all pause.

We’ve all heard about epidemic scenarios — read Stephen King’s The Stand if you want a realistic and chilling depiction of what might happen if the genie of a highly contagious disease gets out of the containment bottle — and Ebola seems like exactly the kind of devastating disease that could cause such nightmares to come true.  The fact that health care workers are being infected should cause us to redouble our efforts to prevent people who might be infected from entering the country in the first place, and to dramatically increase the precautions taken when we identify a person stricken with the disease.

No doubt we will be getting assurances from the federal government and the CDC that the situation is well under control.  Given what is happening, I’m not quite ready to credit those assurances just yet.  Let’s see some actual positive results first.

Feral Cat Gangs Causing Havoc In Australia

According to newspaper accounts, residents of Moorooka, a suburb of Brisbane, Australia, are being terrorized by a gang of feral cats “the size of dogs.” Members of the cat gang are attacking pedestrians after darkness falls, clawing small, prissy dogs, hissing at passersby, and generally intimidating the beleaguered Aussies. And they are doing so with shocking impunity.

It sounds like a far-fetched scene from The Stand or some other Stephen King novel, but it isn’t — it is just a return to the natural order of things.  It is not surprising, really, that delinquent cats would form thuggish, bullying gangs.  Everyone knows that, deep down, cats despise humans.  When cats resort to their feral state, and are no longer dependent upon humans for Purina cat chow or canned salmon, they are bound to act out the superiority they clearly feel.  Right now, they are probably treating Moorooka like one vast litter box and scratching post, yowling at the moon, strutting in their leather jackets and riding their cat motorcycles into saloons.

I am sure that other citizens of Australia are deeply concerned that the cat gangs of Moorooka might spread throughout the Land Down Under — and then across the face of the globe.  And before you know it, every haughty, diffident Tabby, Morris and Whiskers is feeling that feral urge, ready to pounce on their human companions as they slumber and scratch their eyes out.  This menace must be stopped before it is too late!

The Book Of . . . Enough Already!

Last night Kish and I decided to watch a movie on HBO On Demand.  We ended up picking The Book of Eli.  We both like Denzel Washington, I like science fiction.  Why not?

Only a few minutes in, I thought to myself, “I’ve seen this movie already,” even though I hadn’t.  And that is because the ugly future, post-apocalyptic, lone hero movie has been done to death.  How is The Book of Eli different, for example, from The Road Warrior?  Something horrible has happened, civilization has crumbled, and the animal nature of the remaining humans is being acted out in the most gruesome fashion.  A lone guy appears, fights and beats and kills dozens of subhuman survivors, and then helps to set humanity back on the road to civilization.  They even share religious themes.  The only difference is the explicit Biblical aspect of The Book of Eli.

Apocalyptic themes have long been popular in science fiction books and science fiction movies.  On The Beach, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Road, and The Stand come readily to mind.  Isn’t it about time that authors and screenwriters start looking at futuristic movies involving an Earth that falls somewhere between Star Trek and cataclysm?