Sunday, August 05, 2007

Governments get second chances...

Two separate incidents bear watching unfold this week.
  1. The foot-and-mouth outbreak in the UK.
After badly mishandling both the public relations and recovery of the 2001 FMD occurrence, the British officials will be all over this problem.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown vowed to work "night and day" to avoid a repeat of a 2001 outbreak, when millions of dead animals were burned on pyres, swathes of the countryside were closed, rural tourism was badly hurt, and British meat was shut out of international markets.

"Our first priority has been to act quickly and decisively," Brown said. "I can assure people . . . we are doing everything in our power to look at the scientific evidence and to get to the bottom of what has happened and then to eradicate this disease." [More]
The news gets worse for the PM: the virus may have come from a nearby government laboratory.
Last night, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that the strain of foot and mouth disease found on a farm in southern England was identical to one used at a nearby laboratory. This raised the prospect of the outbreak being caused by a leak from one of the facilities most concerned with trying to defeat the disease. The only two laboratories licensed in this country to work with live foot and mouth disease virus are at Pirbright, Surrey, within three miles of the infected farm. And, The Independent on Sunday understands, there have been no movements of cattle at the infected farm since June. [More]
Understandably, this development could churn up international beef markets. My guess is the perishingly remote risk of BSE in US beef will suddenly disappear as a worry as FMD becomes the Scare-of-the-Day.

2. The Minneapolis Bridge recovery effort.

This is a possible catch-22 for the feds. While the commendable promise to deal swiftly with this tragedy is an effort to demonstrate government competence, a success here will throw the N.O. debacle into starker relief and point out some obvious (and likely unfair) reasons why they got Katrina wrong and Minneapolis right.

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