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Outside US, top scientists steer debate away from politics – News Talk 650 CKOM

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ATHENS, Greece — President Donald Trump is never far from a public spat with his government’s top expert on the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the most recent flare-up occurring this week over the pace of reopening schools.

Among U.S. allies, however, many leaders are happy to step away from the spotlight to leverage experts’ ability to counter misleading information and appeal across political boundaries to gain public compliance for health restrictions.

“The particular features of a pandemic give new dimensions to questions of trust,” said Terry Flew, a professor of communication at Queensland University of Technology.

“Experts who understand the subject and politicians prepared to listen to them, become vitally important. In most countries, this is happening. Hopefully, it marks a return of confidence in experts.”

Here’s a look at some other scientists around the world leading national public safety efforts.

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GREECE: SOTIRIOS TSIODRAS

Announcing the news of a deadly disaster isn’t a job many public figures look forward to. Sotirios Tsiodras has done it on some 50 occasions, updating Greeks on the progression of the pandemic in live televised briefings.

A Harvard-trained scientist and father of seven, Tsiodras spends some Sunday mornings as a cantor in the Orthodox Church and is the soft-spoken chief Health Ministry virologist. Added to the daily death toll are tips on how to maintain a healthy diet, explanations of how some countries are better-positioned to carry out mass testing, and warnings on the dangers of domestic abuse when living in prolonged confinement.

It’s made Tsiodras Greece’s most popular person: One opinion poll gave a 94.5% approval rating to the 55-year-old professor of medicine and infectious diseases. His appeal is helping lockdown enforcement and keeping infection rates low.

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CANADA: THERESA TAM

The Hong Kong-born Chief Public Health Officer of Canada delivers straight-to-camera, no-nonsense advice in a series of government TV ads, as well as heading public briefings. She has been joined in the public health ad campaign by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, and Hayley Wickenheiser, the ice hockey star who is in her final year of medical school.

Tam, 55, is credited with helping maintain high compliance levels with stay-at-home orders. National politicians rushed to her defence after criticism from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney of the speed of approval for testing methods.

Tam’s popularity recently inspired a limited-edition line of T-shirts that include a portrait of the scientist.

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SPAIN: FERNANDO SIMON

With its high death toll and fiercely politically charged environment, Spain has turned to veteran epidemiologist Fernando Simon to head the national response.

The 57-year-old quickly won praise for his easygoing style at daily news conferences, his preference for open-necked shirts, and sweaters over dark suits endearing him to many. Internet memes poke fun at his bushy eyebrows, and he is parodied on comedy shows. Spanish media report that he is stopped on the street for his autograph.

But that folksy approach has backfired among more conservative sections of society, some of whom view him as flippant and note statements he made in the early stages of the pandemic when he appeared to play down the risk to the public.

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GERMANY: LOTHAR WIELER

The head of the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s federal disease control agency, is a professor of microbiology and epidemiology and has led a campaign praised by European colleagues for rapid testing rollout and early introduction of restrictions.

The 59-year-old career scientist has also helped Germans take a partial break from their defence of fiercely protected civil liberties and participate in a data-sharing program that will help policymakers study the pandemic and target resources. The program was adapted to address concerns over centralized data storage ___ SWEDEN: ANDERS TEGNELL

The 64-year-old Tegnell worked with World Health Organization programs to fight outbreaks of Ebola and other diseases. Now, he is an outlier among his elite fellow virologists, having challenged the conventional view on how to contain the pandemic.

He has steered a Swedish public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has been markedly different to other European countries, relying primarily on voluntary social distancing instead of strict state-imposed lockdown measures.

Defenders of Tegnell argue that his approach has been misunderstood and it shares the social distancing goal of other countries but has been adapted to the local health care conditions and legal system.

Sweden’s alternative view has done little to dent Tegnell’s popularity: the bespectacled scientist has recently appeared as a tattoo design.

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IRELAND: TONY HOLOHAN

Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer for the past 12 years, Tony Holohan, is also seen as a calming presence. Holohan has appeared on popular late-night talk shows to explain the need for lockdown measures, favouring a cautious approach to easing tied to meeting virus-suppression milestones.

His down-to-earth style has made Holohan a popular figure in Ireland. Irish caricature artist Niall O’Loughlin, who gave the balding Holohan a superman appearance, says he been flooded by email requests for free prints. “I still find it utterly bizarre why so many people would want a picture of Tony Holohan on their wall,” O’Loughlin wrote on Twitter. “No offence Tony (-:”

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Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Frances D’Emilio in Rome, and Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia contributed. ___

Follow Gatopoulos at http://www.twitter.com/dgatopoulos

Derek Gatopoulos, The Associated Press

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CP NewsAlert: Kenney to remain Alberta premier until new UCP leader chosen by party

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is staying in his job for now.

United Conservative caucus chair Nathan Neudorf says the party has affirmed that Kenney should stay on until a new leader is chosen.

Kenney announced yesterday that he would be stepping down for the good of the party.

He received 51 per cent support in a leadership review.

More coming.

 

The Canadian Press

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Politics This Morning: Kenney resigns – The Hill Times

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The government says it plans to appeal the May 10 Alberta Court of Appeal decision that found the Impact Assessment Act is unconstitutional because it infringes on provincial jurisdiction.
Liberal MP Michael Coteau predicts that Ontarians will vote Liberal in tight Liberal-NDP races in order to oust the Ford government.
Fearing Russian aggression, Finland and Sweden will likely apply for NATO membership. While Canada supports the membership of these countries, it needs to step up its own contributions, especially in the Arctic: experts.

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Opinion | Abortion and America’s Polarized Politics – The New York Times

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Damon Winter/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “How Roe Warped the Public,” by Ross Douthat (column, May 8):

Mr. Douthat argues that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was “an inflection point where the choices of elite liberalism actively pushed the Republic toward our current divisions,” but he ignores three glaring facts.

First, Roe v. Wade still aligns well with the American people’s best sense about the complexity of abortion: that it be safe, legal and rare. Second, it was deliberate decisions by conservative elites that weaponized minority opposition to abortion for their own goals. Third, it is the unyielding minority religious belief that personhood begins at the moment of conception that has been driving the divisive politics of abortion for decades.

Frederick Civian
Dedham, Mass.

To the Editor:

Ross Douthat lays the social divisions of this country at the feet of the liberal elites who foolishly made the mistake of codifying a constitutional right not specifically delineated in our Constitution. He overlooks the deliberate choice of abortion as a politically galvanizing issue by movement conservatives who, seeking to unite a party in disarray after the “Southern strategy” and Watergate, fixed on abortion as a standard to unite under.

Abortion was not originally a significant concern of evangelicals and was simply one tool they picked to create and sustain the quest for political control. Mr. Douthat, while thoughtful, is simply dead wrong on this one.

Andrew Mishkin
Portland, Maine

To the Editor:

Ross Douthat’s column about Roe was exceptionally brilliant. In an age when so much opinion content is designed to simplify complex issues, to create easy distillations that fit into previously established convictions, it takes courage to present issues with nuance and complexity and trust that readers will reward you for it.

Well done, Ross!

Ben Lincoln
Mount Desert Island, Maine

To the Editor:

I am a strongly pro-choice feminist, and I understand and respect the perspective of people who are opposed to abortion. However, opposition to abortion has taken on an element that is not pro-life. Not making an exception for instances of rape and incest suggests a lack of compassion, rather than reverence for life. Criminalizing and instigating vigilante injustice suggest not just lack of compassion, but also punishment and vindictiveness.

Where in this response is the love and mercy that are at the heart of the message of Jesus?

Berne Weiss
Estoril, Portugal

Bernardo Bagulho

To the Editor:

Running for Office to ‘Stop the Steal,’” by Barbara McQuade (Opinion guest essay, Sunday Review, May 15), should strike fear in the heart of every patriotic American.

Between now and November, honest Americans of every political stripe need to get the word out that Donald Trump is working frantically to elect “his” state legislators, secretaries of state and election officials who will replace the honest bipartisan ones who said there was no election fraud in 2020. His apparent goal is to have Trump electors tallied instead of legally chosen ones in what could be our last free election.

People need to be reminded how Mr. Trump attempted to cajole officials — even his own vice president — into overturning an honest election. Now he’s learned a better way to do it, and only the voters can prevent this electoral calamity and national tragedy.

Two years from now our democracy could be in as much danger as Ukraine’s is now, but without one missile being launched or one shot being fired.

Bobby Braddock
Nashville

Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The Perils of 2 Ukraine War Endgames” (column, May 15):

Ross Douthat is right to envision these endgame scenarios. He fears that if the Ukrainian military (with U.S. weapons support) should come close to expelling the Russian forces, “nuclear escalation suddenly becomes more likely than it is right now.”

If the Russians should decide to end a protracted war with a tactical nuclear strike on Ukraine, the U.S. might be tempted to retaliate against Russia with its own nukes. Both sides have put the nuclear option back on the table.

Even short of World War III, a continuing military stalemate in the Donbas would likely have serious consequences: global grain shortages, starvation in poor countries and eventual upheavals and mass migration. U.S. arms aid would also come with high domestic costs, including the likely abandonment of needed social programs.

The U.S. and NATO should make the reduction of nuclear war risk a top priority. They should stop stoking the conflict with arms shipments. Instead, they should encourage Volodymyr Zelensky to engage in meaningful negotiations with Vladimir Putin, even if it means territorial concessions in the Donbas region.

President Biden’s objective should now be peace through diplomacy, not endless war through the continuing supply of weapons.

L. Michael Hager
Eastham, Mass.
The writer is co-founder and former director general of the International Development Law Organization.

Gabriela Bhaskar/The New York Times

To the Editor:

According to the F.B.I. expert who spoke to my synagogue on Sunday about how to survive an attack by an “active shooter,” we should not encourage mentally ill bigots by giving them heroes, that is, by naming other shooters they can emulate.

In other words, every time the news media repeats the shooter’s name, sick folks will have another person to admire. So stop saying those names. What is horrific to us is cool to them. Don’t name them.

Emily Farrell
Philadelphia

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