Background Briefing: April 7, 2020


An Expert on the Zoonotic Leap of the Virus from Animals to Humans

We begin with the good news coming from science as New York experiences its worst day of death from the COVID-19 pandemic and speak with Shannon Bennett the Chief of Science and Dean of Science and Research Collections at the California Academy of Sciences. She studies infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans and joins us to discuss how much progress has been made in the genetic study of this novel coronavirus with scientists around the world working on vaccines and medicines which may treat some of the more deadly aspects of this disease. In contrast the president and his Fox News friends and Rudy Giuliani are touting an unproven drug  hydroxychloroquine to treat a viral infection which is used against the parasite malaria that has resulted in a behind-the-scenes battle inside the White House between the scientist Tony Fauci and Trump’s trade advisor the fringe “social scientist” Peter Navarro. With COVID-19 having emerged from a wet market in Wuhan, China, we investigate the zoonotic leap this virus originating in bats took from animal to human and how the delay in nipping the epidemic in the bud came from the slow realization that it has virulent human-to-human transmission properties which because of the lag in scientific information coming out of China, meant that it was able to spread around the world and become a pandemic. We will also investigate what is driving these zoonotic transfers which originate from both the natural world and the unnatural industrial world of agribusiness. First the penetration of forests by poor populations relying on bush meat and the ecological disruption caused by the devastation of forests to create Palm Oil plantations etc. And second the growth of industrial factory farms in which the genetic monoculture of closely penned-in pigs and poultry lowers immunity and gives rise to avian and swines flus, both making it likely we will have more and different pandemics in the future.

Today’s Insult to Democracy and Decency Underway in Wisconsin

Then we examine the insult to democracy and decency underway in Wisconsin today following the Supreme Court’s conservative majority’s partisan ruling to block an extension for mail-in ballots due to the health emergency, along with the Republican-dominated Wisconsin Supreme Court’s insistence on in-person voting during a pandemic. John Nichols, The Nation magazine’s Washington correspondent joins us from Madison, Wisconsin to describe what is a harbinger for the November elections ahead in which Republican politicians and their enablers on the courts will shamelessly do anything to prevent a majority from voting in this country.

Will the Public Tire of Our Wartime President’s Reality TV Antics as the Body Count Mounts?

Then finally with Trump having declared himself a wartime president, we look into his rise in the polls which have half the country approving of his handling of the crisis while a majority believe he mishandled the outbreak and did not act quickly enough to contain it. Matthew Baum, a Professor of Global Communications and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government who studies the role of mass media and public opinion in contemporary American politics, joins us to assess whether the public will tire of our wartime president’s Reality TV antics as the body count mounts.