What GMF is Reading
A weekly transatlantic reading list from the desks of GMF experts:
Reta Jo Lewis (Senior Fellow and Director of Congressional Affairs – Washington):
Blog Post: “The Risks - Know Them - Avoid Them”
I loved this blog post recently written by Comparative Immunologist and Professor of Biology Dr. Erin Bromage. In the post, which translates fact from fiction, Bromage discusses where people are getting sick, how much virus is released into the environment, the role of asymptomatic people in spreading the virus, and the commonality of outbreaks. His post guides you away from situations of high risk and provides the reader with information that individuals can use to protect themselves and to keep our families safe.
This investigative piece by Talia Buford, which was published last month, sounded the alarm when preliminary coronavirus data showed that African Americans were being infected and dying at higher rates. The article, which centers around what the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is doing about this challenge, puts a spotlight on nationwide trends. While very alarmed by this story, I was glad to see that the health disparities among black and brown Americans getting attention.
Sam duPont (Deputy Director, GMF Digital – Washington)
MIT Technology Review: Nearly 40% of Icelanders are using a covid app—and it hasn’t helped much
I’ve been reading a lot about efforts to use mobile apps to support manual contact tracing—which will be an essential element of any “return to normal” in the coming months. Iceland is a few steps ahead of the rest of the world in getting its citizens to download and use their app, with almost 40 percent of the country participating. But even there, the technology hasn’t yet proven especially useful. Still, I’m optimistic that a well-designed app that prioritizes the protection of personal data may yet prove to be a useful tool supporting the hard work of manual contact tracing and facilitating the safe reopening of our economies.
We’ve all been reading a lot about the uncommonly difficult situations that healthcare professionals are facing in responding to the coronavirus. This thoughtful piece provides a window into another medical challenge on the front lines: how to deal with critical but not urgent surgeries—such as those to address cancer—in the time of corona. It’s yet another area where even the most prepared, informed, talented people are having to make it up as they go along.
Ozgur Unluhisarcikli (Director, Ankara Office)
I found this article important for two reasons. First, it highlights that taking strong measures against the coronavirus can pay off rather quickly. Bodrum, which is a top tourist destination in Turkey, closed itself to visitors and in two months they are at a position to invite tourists again. Second, tourism is a significant part of Turkish economy and therefore whether tourism will pick up in summer or not matters a lot. Bodrum is of course just one town and that Bodrum opens up doesn’t mean people will go, but this is still a small piece of good news we need so much in these days.
Not long ago, when I would visit historical monuments and buildings I would appreciate their beauty and perhaps understand the underlying historical and political context—but not much more. But when I started reading about the history of art and architecture, I began noticing new things during my travels. This book explains the political, technical, and philosophical background of Gothic architecture. Although it does use some architectural terminology, it’s an easy read and will transform your experience the next time you visit a Gothic cathedral.
Nad’a Kovalcikova (Program Manager, Alliance for Securing Democracy – Brussels)
The Harvard Gazette: Battling the ‘pandemic of misinformation’
Crises are times of uncertainty, insecurity, and confusion which can get exploited. Therefore, it is not surprising that the coronavirus pandemic is accompanied by an extensive amount of information which can and does get manipulated. The author of the article highlights several recommendations to address such ‘pandemic of misinformation.’ I find one of them particularly interesting: a need for “a little more intellectual humility” which would help avoid cognitive biases. Many of them “get in the way of even the best truth-seeking strategies” especially in this time of “such great uncertainty.” Connecting knowledge across borders, generations, and political spectrums is critical for stronger social resilience to manipulated information.
We often say, do not judge a book by its cover. But this time I did, in a good way. This story starts with powerful cover images, symbolizing how oppression of some and freedom of the others are never too far apart. This sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, placed in the future, is a chilling interpretation of moral compromises, vulnerability of acquired (women) rights in times of crisis, and the power of collaboration, hope and perseverance. The Testaments reveal the struggles of three women who fight for a better future for all when history repeats, and it often does, or it rhymes.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.