Thursday, September 29

Avian Flu becomes a star! And on the need for redundancy in disaster preparations

National Geographic 9/27 cover story on Avian flu. ABC World News special report on Avian flu (airing tonight). Can an interview with Diane Sawyer be far behind?

As to why Pundita is cynical, because the UN crowd knows the party is over. They know the US has wised up about corruption and waste in United Nations aid programs for the world's poorest countries. I am very concerned as to how that crowd will spin getting ready for Avian flu: the best solution is to wring megabucks out of US to help the world prepare for pandemic. And of course the UN wants to control the distribution of financial aid.

Best ways America can help the world prepare for pandemic:

1. Retain complete control over how any US aid for H5N1 outbreak preparation is applied. For scoundrels, aid money for pandemic prevention is the pot of gold at the rainbow's end.

The more the US drains the swamp at the UN, the more you will see global Do Good organizations spring up with the same cast of characters lurking in the background that the oil-for-food investigators are trying nail.

Be aware that the thieves caught red-handed in the UN Oil for Food scam are just like the gangs in the American Old West. Run them out of Dodge City, they go to Abeline. Run them out of Abeline, they high-tail to Tombstone. Run them out of Tombstone, they turn up in Nogales. Run them out of Nogales, they skittle back to Dodge.

America, this is your life during the coming decade: Chasing varmits in circles. Get used to it.

Bright side: It costs the US less to chase varmits in circles than it costs the varmits to keep setting up shop. Sooner or later, they run out of moola -- provided US aid programs don't keep replenishing their coffers.

2. Continue dealing with our local, state and federal inadequacies with regard to disaster preparation and keep this is in the news as much as possible.

Never before has so much international television coverage been given to such issues. People in poorer countries don't see much if anything about their own disasters on TV. But the drama of Katrina (and the fact that it made the US look bad) has meant unprecedented TV coverage in poorer countries -- even those with very repressive regimes.

As with the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, which also received TV coverage in countries with repressive regimes, widely publicized US mistakes and how Americans deal with them provide invaluable lessons to peoples in countries with repressive regimes.

America is the world leader but too much of our leadership has been lecturing and attempting to buy agreement with our views. Nobody in the world questions that America is the leader. However, what people everywhere expect from a leader is guidance by example. Showing the rest of the world how Americans deal with our mistakes is real leadership. It has the ring of truth.

Speaking of disaster preparation, Pundita stumbled across very instructive observations (published September 1) about Industry, Redundancy, and Coping with Hurricane Katrina at a blog called Indus Valley Rising:
It looks like fully industrialized societies may not be much of an improvement over societies that have not fully industrialized. In engineering (mechanical, software, etc.), when critical services that other system services depend on are concentrated in a single component or single center or operation, if that component or service fails the rest of the system goes down with it. That is called a "single point of failure."

Systems that have multiple failover mechanisms and redundant components are, however, considered more reliable because if one or more components go down, then the other redundant components for a time can assume the extra load. The system is strained, but it doesn't go down.

The cost of redundancy is high, but the cost of system failure is higher -- even if it rarely happens. Like any other system that depends on highly specialized components but lacks redundancy, a highly industrialized society is similarly fragile because critical services become concentrated with a small number of people or agencies. If small but important social components fail on account of sabotage or disaster, the effect on the rest of society can be disproportionately catastrophic.
Continue reading the essay (link above) for observations on the vulnerability of America's food supply in a time of disaster.

Redundancy, redundancy, redundancy: the more backup systems, the better the chance of surviving disasters. Because authorities neglected to stock up on diesel fuel for backup generators in key installations, New Orleans was thrown into chaos during Katrina's wake.

The unacceptably high price of neglecting backup systems is perhaps the biggest lesson we can take from Katrina. And, I might add, the critical lesson to apply in preparing for pandemic. Redundancy.

Hat tips: To Bruce Kesler for alerting me to the National Geographic story. To Dymphna at Gates of Vienna for mentioning my coverage of Katrina to the Indus Valley blogger, which by a long way around is how I happened across the essay about redundancy.

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