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The 2020 United States presidential election

Who should be elected the 46th U.S. President?

  • GPUS: Howie Hawkins + Angela Walker

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • PSL: Gloria La Riva + Sunil Freeman

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • CP: Don Blankenship + William Mohr

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Others

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Blank vote

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    11
  • Poll closed .

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The 2020 United States presidential election

ETA 46 days left from the 3rd November 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Probably among the major events of this year, but second to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Here an interesting and very rare article, testimony of the level of crisis of the U.S. hegemon:

Scientific American Endorses Joe Biden

We’ve never backed a presidential candidate in our 175-year history—until now

By THE EDITORS | Scientific American October 2020 Issue

Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly.

The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges. That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment. These and other proposals he has put forth can set the country back on course for a safer, more prosperous and more equitable future.

The pandemic would strain any nation and system, but Trump's rejection of evidence and public health measures have been catastrophic in the U.S. He was warned many times in January and February about the onrushing disease, yet he did not develop a national strategy to provide protective equipment, coronavirus testing or clear health guidelines. Testing people for the virus, and tracing those they may have infected, is how countries in Europe and Asia have gained control over their outbreaks, saved lives, and successfully reopened businesses and schools. But in the U.S., Trump claimed, falsely, that “anybody that wants a test can get a test.” That was untrue in March and remained untrue through the summer. Trump opposed $25 billion for increased testing and tracing that was in a pandemic relief bill as late as July. These lapses accelerated the spread of disease through the country—particularly in highly vulnerable communities that include people of color, where deaths climbed disproportionately to those in the rest of the population.

It wasn't just a testing problem: if almost everyone in the U.S. wore masks in public, it could save about 66,000 lives by the beginning of December, according to projections from the University of Washington School of Medicine. Such a strategy would hurt no one. It would close no business. It would cost next to nothing. But Trump and his vice president flouted local mask rules, making it a point not to wear masks themselves in public appearances. Trump has openly supported people who ignored governors in Michigan and California and elsewhere as they tried to impose social distancing and restrict public activities to control the virus. He encouraged governors in Florida, Arizona and Texas who resisted these public health measures, saying in April—again, falsely—that “the worst days of the pandemic are behind us” and ignoring infectious disease experts who warned at the time of a dangerous rebound if safety measures were loosened.

And of course, the rebound came, with cases across the nation rising by 46 percent and deaths increasing by 21 percent in June. The states that followed Trump's misguidance posted new daily highs and higher percentages of positive tests than those that did not. By early July several hospitals in Texas were full of COVID-19 patients. States had to close up again, at tremendous economic cost. About 31 percent of workers were laid off a second time, following the giant wave of unemployment—more than 30 million people and countless shuttered businesses—that had already decimated the country. At every stage, Trump has rejected the unmistakable lesson that controlling the disease, not downplaying it, is the path to economic reopening and recovery.

Trump repeatedly lied to the public about the deadly threat of the disease, saying it was not a serious concern and “this is like a flu” when he knew it was more lethal and highly transmissible, according to his taped statements to journalist Bob Woodward. His lies encouraged people to engage in risky behavior, spreading the virus further, and have driven wedges between Americans who take the threat seriously and those who believe Trump's falsehoods. The White House even produced a memo attacking the expertise of the nation's leading infectious disease physician, Anthony Fauci, in a despicable attempt to sow further distrust.

Trump's reaction to America's worst public health crisis in a century has been to say “I don't take responsibility at all.” Instead he blamed other countries and his White House predecessor, who left office three years before the pandemic began.

But Trump's refusal to look at the evidence and act accordingly extends beyond the virus. He has repeatedly tried to get rid of the Affordable Care Act while offering no alternative; comprehensive medical insurance is essential to reduce illness. Trump has proposed billion-dollar cuts to the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, agencies that increase our scientific knowledge and strengthen us for future challenges. Congress has countermanded his reductions. Yet he keeps trying, slashing programs that would ready us for future pandemics and withdrawing from the World Health Organization. These and other actions increase the risk that new diseases will surprise and devastate us again.

Trump also keeps pushing to eliminate health rules from the Environmental Protection Agency, putting people at more risk for heart and lung disease caused by pollution. He has replaced scientists on agency advisory boards with industry representatives. In his ongoing denial of reality, Trump has hobbled U.S. preparations for climate change, falsely claiming that it does not exist and pulling out of international agreements to mitigate it. The changing climate is already causing a rise in heat-related deaths and an increase in severe storms, wildfires and extreme flooding.

Joe Biden, in contrast, comes prepared with plans to control COVID-19, improve health care, reduce carbon emissions and restore the role of legitimate science in policy making. He solicits expertise and has turned that knowledge into solid policy proposals.

On COVID-19, he states correctly that “it is wrong to talk about ‘choosing' between our public health and our economy.... If we don't beat the virus, we will never get back to full economic strength.” Biden plans to ramp up a national testing board, a body that would have the authority to command both public and private resources to supply more tests and get them to all communities. He also wants to establish a Public Health Job Corps of 100,000 people, many of whom have been laid off during the pandemic crisis, to serve as contact tracers and in other health jobs. He will direct the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to enforce workplace safety standards to avoid the kind of deadly outbreaks that have occurred at meat-processing plants and nursing homes. While Trump threatened to withhold money from school districts that did not reopen, regardless of the danger from the virus, Biden wants to spend $34 billion to help schools conduct safe in-person instruction as well as remote learning.

Biden is getting advice on these public health issues from a group that includes David Kessler, epidemiologist, pediatrician and former U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief; Rebecca Katz, immunologist and global health security specialist at Georgetown University; and Ezekiel Emanuel, bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania. It does not include physicians who believe in aliens and debunked virus therapies, one of whom Trump has called “very respected” and “spectacular.”

Biden has a family and caregiving initiative, recognizing this as key to a sustained public health and economic recovery. His plans include increased salaries for child care workers and construction of new facilities for children because the inability to afford quality care keeps workers out of the economy and places enormous strains on families.

On the environment and climate change, Biden wants to spend $2 trillion on an emissions-free power sector by 2035, build energy-efficient structures and vehicles, push solar and wind power, establish research agencies to develop safe nuclear power and carbon capture technologies, and more. The investment will produce two million jobs for U.S. workers, his campaign claims, and the climate plan will be partly paid by eliminating Trump's corporate tax cuts. Historically disadvantaged communities in the U.S. will receive 40 percent of these energy and infrastructure benefits.

It is not certain how many of these and his other ambitions Biden will be able to accomplish; much depends on laws to be written and passed by Congress. But he is acutely aware that we must heed the abundant research showing ways to recover from our present crises and successfully cope with future challenges.

Although Trump and his allies have tried to create obstacles that prevent people from casting ballots safely in November, either by mail or in person, it is crucial that we surmount them and vote. It's time to move Trump out and elect Biden, who has a record of following the data and being guided by science.

Editor’s Note (9/15/20): This article has been edited after its publication in the October 2020 issue of Scientific American to reflect recent reporting.

his article was originally published with the title "From Fear to Hope" in Scientific American 323, 4, 12-13 (October 2020)

doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1020-12








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How Trump damaged science — and why it could take decades to recover

NEWS FEATURE 05 October 2020

The US president’s actions have exacerbated the pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 people in the United States, rolled back environmental and public-health regulations and undermined science and scientific institutions. Some of the harm could be permanent.

Jeff Tollefson


People packed in by the thousands, many dressed in red, white and blue and carrying signs reading “Four more years” and “Make America Great Again”. They came out during a global pandemic to make a statement, and that’s precisely why they assembled shoulder-to-shoulder without masks in a windowless warehouse, creating an ideal environment for the coronavirus to spread.

US President Donald Trump’s rally in Henderson, Nevada, on 13 September contravened state health rules, which limit public gatherings to 50 people and require proper social distancing. Trump knew it, and later flaunted the fact that the state authorities failed to stop him. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the president has behaved the same way and refused to follow basic health guidelines at the White House, which is now at the centre of an ongoing outbreak. The president spent 3 days in a hospital after testing positive for COVID-19, and was released on 5 October.

Trump’s actions — and those of his staff and supporters — should come as no surprise. Over the past eight months, the president of the United States has lied about the dangers posed by the coronavirus and undermined efforts to contain it; he even admitted in an interview to purposefully misrepresenting the viral threat early in the pandemic. Trump has belittled masks and social-distancing requirements while encouraging people to protest against lockdown rules aimed at stopping disease transmission. His administration has undermined, suppressed and censored government scientists working to study the virus and reduce its harm. And his appointees have made political tools out of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ordering the agencies to put out inaccurate information, issue ill-advised health guidance, and tout unproven and potentially harmful treatments for COVID-19.

“This is not just ineptitude, it’s sabotage,” says Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University in New York City, who has modelled the evolution of the pandemic and how earlier interventions might have saved lives in the United States. “He has sabotaged efforts to keep people safe.”

The statistics are stark. The United States, an international powerhouse with vast scientific and economic resources, has experienced more than 7 million COVID-19 cases, and its death toll has passed 200,000 — more than any other nation and more than one-fifth of the global total, even though the United States accounts for just 4% of world population.

Quantifying Trump’s responsibility for deaths and disease across the country is difficult, and other wealthy countries have struggled to contain the virus; the United Kingdom has experienced a similar number of deaths as the United States, after adjusting for population size.

But Shaman and others suggest that the majority of the lives lost in the United States could have been saved had the country stepped up to the challenge earlier. Many experts blame Trump for the country’s failure to contain the outbreak, a charge also levelled by Olivia Troye, who was a member of the White House coronavirus task force. She said in September that the president repeatedly derailed efforts to contain the virus and save lives, focusing instead on his own political campaign.

As he seeks re-election on 3 November, Trump’s actions in the face of COVID-19 are just one example of the damage he has inflicted on science and its institutions over the past four years, with repercussions for lives and livelihoods. The president and his appointees have also back-pedalled on efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, weakened rules limiting pollution and diminished the role of science at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Across many agencies, his administration has undermined scientific integrity by suppressing or distorting evidence to support political decisions, say policy experts.

“I’ve never seen such an orchestrated war on the environment or science,” says Christine Todd Whitman, who headed the EPA under former Republican president George W. Bush.

Trump has also eroded America’s position on the global stage through isolationist policies and rhetoric. By closing the nation’s doors to many visitors and non-European immigrants, he has made the United States less inviting to foreign students and researchers. And by demonizing international associations such as the World Health Organization, Trump has weakened America’s ability to respond to global crises and isolated the country’s science.


All the while, the president has peddled chaos and fear rather than facts, as he advances his political agenda and discredits opponents. In dozens of interviews carried out by Nature, researchers have highlighted this point as particularly worrisome because it devalues public trust in the importance of truth and evidence, which underpin science as well as democracy.

“It’s terrifying in a lot of ways,” says Susan Hyde, a political scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the rise and fall of democracies. “It’s very disturbing to have the basic functioning of government under assault, especially when some of those functions are critical to our ability to survive.”

The president can point to some positive developments in science and technology. Although Trump hasn’t made either a priority (he waited 19 months before appointing a science adviser), his administration has pushed to return astronauts to the Moon and prioritized development in fields such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing. In August, the White House announced more than US$1 billion in new funding for those and other advanced technologies.

But many scientists and former government officials say these examples are outliers in a presidency that has devalued science and the role it can have in crafting public policy. (A timeline chronicles Trump’s actions related to science.)

Much of the damage to science — including regulatory changes and severed international partnerships — can and probably will be repaired if Trump loses this November. In that event, what the nation and the world will have lost is precious time to limit climate change and the march of the virus, among other challenges. But the harm to scientific integrity, public trust and the United States’ stature could linger well beyond Trump’s tenure, says scientists and policy experts.

As the election approaches, Nature chronicles some of the key moments when the president has most damaged American science and how that could weaken the United States — and the world — for years to come, whether Trump wins or loses to his opponent, Joe Biden.

Climate harmed

Trump’s assault on science started even before he took office. In his 2016 presidential campaign, he called global warming a hoax and vowed to pull the nation out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement, signed by more than 190 countries. Less than five months after he moved into the White House, he announced he would fulfil that promise.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said, arguing that the agreement imposed energy restrictions, cost jobs and hampered the economy in order to “win praise” from foreign leaders and global activists.

What Trump did not acknowledge is that the Paris agreement was in many ways designed by — and for — the United States. It is a voluntary pact that sought to build momentum by allowing countries to design their own commitments, and the only power it has comes in the form of transparency: laggards will be exposed. By pulling the United States out of the agreement and backtracking on climate commitments, Trump has also reduced pressure on other countries to act, says David Victor, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego. “Countries that needed to participate in the Paris process — because that was part of being a member in good standing of the global community — no longer feel that pressure.”

After Trump announced his decision on the Paris accord, his appointees at the EPA set about dismantling climate policies put in place under former president Barack Obama. At the top of the list were a pair of regulations targeting greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants and automobiles. Over the past 15 months, the Trump administration has gutted both regulations and replaced them with weaker standards that will save industry money — and do little to reduce emissions.

In some cases, even industry objected to the rollbacks. The administration’s efforts prompted objections from several carmakers, such as Ford and Honda, which last year signed a separate agreement with California to maintain a more aggressive standard. More recently, energy giants such as Exxon Mobil and BP opposed the administration’s move to weaken rules that require oil and gas companies to limit and eliminate emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

According to one estimate from the Rhodium Group, a consultancy based in New York City, the administration’s rollbacks could boost emissions by the equivalent 1.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2035 — roughly five times the annual emissions of the United Kingdom. Although these measures could be overturned by the courts or a new administration, Trump has cost the country and the planet valuable time.

“The Trump era has been really a terrible, terrible time for this planet,” says Leah Stokes, a climate-policy researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The Trump administration formally filed the paperwork to exit the Paris agreement last year, and the US withdrawal will become official on 4 November, one day after the presidential election. Most nations have vowed to press forward even without the United States, and the European Union has already helped to fill the leadership void by pressing nations to bolster their efforts, which China did on 22 September when it announced that it aims to be carbon neutral by 2060. Biden has promised to re-enter the agreement if he wins, but it could be difficult for the United States to regain the kind of international influence it had under Obama, who helped energize the climate talks and bring countries on board for the 2015 accord.

“Rejoining Paris is easy,” Victor says. “The real issue is credibility: will the rest of the world believe what we say?”

War on the environment

Trump hasn’t just gone after regulations. At the EPA, his administration has sought to undermine the way the government uses science to make public-health decisions.

The scale of the threat came into focus on 31 October 2017 — Halloween — when then EPA administrator Scott Pruitt signed an order barring scientists with active EPA research grants from serving on the agency’s science-advisory panels, making it harder for people with the most expertise to help the agency assess science and craft regulations. The order made it easier for industry scientists to replace the academic researchers, who would be forced to either give up their grants or resign.

“That was when I said, ‘Oh my god, the fix is in,” says John Bachmann, who spent more than three decades in the EPA’s air-quality programme and is now active in a group of retired EPA employees that formed to advocate for scientists and scientific integrity at the agency, after Trump officials began their assault. “It’s not just that they have their own views, it’s that they are going to make sure that their views carry more weight in the process.”

Pruitt’s order, which would eventually be overturned by a federal judge, was part of a broader effort to accelerate turnover and appoint new people to the panels. And it was just the beginning. In April 2018, Pruitt revealed a “science transparency” rule to limit the agency’s ability to base regulations on research for which the data and models are not publicly available. The rule could exclude some of the most rigorous epidemiological research linking fine-particulate pollution to premature death, because much of the underlying patient data are protected by privacy rules. Critics say that this policy was aimed at raising doubts about the science and making it easier to pursue weak air-pollution standards.

Pruitt resigned in July 2018, but the trend at the EPA continues. Under its new administrator, Andrew Wheeler, the agency has accelerated efforts to weaken regulations targeting chemicals in water and air pollution.

Whitman, the former EPA chief, says there’s nothing wrong with revisiting regulatory decisions by past administrations and altering course. But decisions should be based on a solid scientific analysis, she says. “We don’t see that with this administration.”

One of the biggest recent decisions at the EPA came in the air-quality programme. On 14 April this year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the EPA proposed to maintain current standards for fine-particulate pollution, despite evidence and advice from government and academic scientists who have overwhelmingly backed tighter regulations.

“It’s devastating, totally devastating,” says Francesca Dominici, an epidemiologist at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, whose group found that strengthening standards could save tens of thousands of lives each year. “Not listening to science and rolling back environmental regulations is costing American lives.”

Pandemic problems

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the perils of ignoring science and evidence into sharp focus, and one thing is now clear: the president of the United States understood that the virus posed a major threat to the country early in the outbreak, and he chose to lie about it.

Speaking to Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward on 7 February, when only 12 people in the United States had tested positive for the coronavirus, Trump described a virus that is five times more lethal than the even the most “strenuous flus”. “This is deadly stuff,” Trump said in the recorded interview, which was released only in September.

In public, however, the president presented a very different message. On 10 February, Trump told his supporters at a rally not to worry, and said that by April, when temperatures warm up, the virus would “miraculously go away”. “This is like a flu,” he told a press conference on 26 February. In a TV interview a week later: “It’s very mild.”

In another recorded interview with Woodward on 19 March, Trump said he had played down the risk from the beginning. “I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic,” Trump said.

After the tapes were released, Trump defended his efforts to keep people calm while simultaneously arguing that he had, if anything, “up-played” the risk posed by the virus. But health experts say that explanation makes little sense, and that the president endangered the public by misrepresenting the threat posed by the virus.

All the while, scientists now know, viral transmission was surging across the country. Rather than marshalling the federal government’s power and resources to contain the virus with a comprehensive testing and contact-tracing programme, the Trump administration punted the issue to cities and states, where politics and a lack of resources made it impossible to track the virus or provide accurate information to citizens. And when local officials started to shut down businesses and schools in early March, Trump criticized them for taking action.

“Last year, 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu,” he tweeted on 9 March. “Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on.” Within a month, the US coronavirus death toll had topped 21,000, and the pandemic was in full stride, killing around 2,000 Americans every day.

Shaman and his colleagues at Columbia decided to investigate what might have happened had the country acted sooner. They developed a model that could reproduce what happened county by county across the United States from February to early May, as state and local governments shut down businesses and schools in an effort to halt the contagion. They then posed the question: what would have happened if everybody had done exactly the same one week earlier?

Their preliminary results, posted as a preprint on 21 May (S. Pei et al. Preprint at medRxiv https://doi.org/ghc65g; 2020), suggested that around 35,000 lives could have been saved, more than halving the death toll as of 3 May. If the same action had been taken two weeks earlier, that death toll could have been cut by nearly 90%. Reducing the initial exponential explosion in cases would have bought more time to roll out testing and address the inevitable outbreaks with targeted contact-tracing programmes.

“There’s no reason on Earth this had to happen,” Shaman says. “If we had gotten our act together earlier, we could have done much better.”

Gerardo Chowell, a computational epidemiologist at Georgia State University in Atlanta, says that Shaman’s study provides a rough approximation of how earlier action might have changed the trajectory of the pandemic, although pinning down precise numbers is difficult given the lack of data early in the pandemic and the challenge of modelling a disease that scientists are still trying to understand.

Trump responded publicly to the Columbia study by dismissing it as a “political hit job” by “an institution that’s very liberal”.

Control the message, not the virus

With the economy in freefall and a mounting death toll, Trump increasingly aimed his vitriol at China. The president backed an unsubstantiated theory suggesting that the virus might have originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, and argued that international health officials had helped China cover up the outbreak in the earliest days of the pandemic. On 29 May, he made good his threats and announced that he was pulling the United States out of the World Health Organization — a move that many say weakened the country’s ability to respond to global crises and isolated its science.

For many experts, it was yet another counterproductive political manoeuvre from a president who was more interested in controlling the message than the virus. And in the end, he failed on both counts. Criticism mounted as COVID-19 continued to spread.

“The virus doesn’t respond to spin,” says Tom Frieden, who headed the CDC under Obama. “The virus responds to science-driven policies and programmes.”

As the pandemic ground forward, the president continued to contradict warnings and advice from government scientists, including guidance for reopening schools. In July, Frieden and three other former CDC directors issued a sharp rebuke in a guest editorial in The Washington Post, citing unprecedented efforts by Trump and his administration to undermine the advice of public-health officials.

Similar concerns have arisen with the FDA, which must approve an eventual vaccine. On 29 September, seven former FDA commissioners penned another editorial in The Washington Post raising concerns about interventions by Trump and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Alex Azar in a process that is supposed to be guided by government scientists.

This kind of political interference doesn’t just undermine the public-health response, but could ultimately damage public trust in an eventual vaccine, says Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist and vice-provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “Everybody is wondering: ‘Am I going to be able to trust the Food and Drug Administration’s decision on the vaccine?’” says Emanuel. “That fact that people are even asking that question is evidence that Trump has already undermined the agency.”

Elias Zerhouni, who headed the US National Institutes of Health under former president Bush from 2002 to 2008, says the Trump administration failed to control the coronavirus, and is now trying to force government agencies to use their prestige and manipulate science to buttress Trump’s campaign. “They don’t really get the science,” says Zerhouni of Trump and his appointees. “This is the rejection of any science that doesn’t fit their political views.”

The White House and the EPA did not respond to several requests for comment. The HHS issued a statement to Nature saying: “HHS has always provided public health information based on sound science. Throughout the COVID-19 response, science and data have driven the decisions at HHS.” The department adds: “President Trump has led an unprecedented, whole-of-America response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Isolationist science

On 24 September, the US Department of Homeland Security proposed a new rule to restrict how long international students can spend in the United States. The rule would limit visas for most students to four years, requiring an extension thereafter, and impose a two-year limit for students from dozens of countries considered high-risk, including those listed as state-sponsors of terror: Iraq, Iran, Syria and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Although it is not yet clear what effects this rule might have, many scientists and policy experts fear that this and other immigration policies could have a lasting impact on American science. “It could put the US at an enormous, enormous competitive disadvantage for attracting graduate students and scientists,” says Lizbet Boroughs, associate vice president of the Association of American Universities in Washington, DC, a group representing 65 institutions.

It fits in with previously implemented travel restrictions that have made it more difficult for foreigners from certain countries — including scientists — to visit, study and work in the United States. These policies mark a sharp shift from previous governments, which have actively sought talent from other countries to fill laboratories and spur scientific innovation.

Researchers fear that the latest proposal will make the United States even less attractive to foreign scientists, which could hamper the country’s efforts in science and technology.

“How we intersect with students from other countries has been hugely impacted,” says Emanuel. If the best and brightest students from other countries start to go elsewhere, he adds, US science will suffer. “I fear for the country.”

The proposed rule provides a glimpse of what a second Trump term might look like, and highlights the intangible impacts on US science that could endure even if Biden prevails in November. Biden could reverse some of the Trump administration’s regulatory decisions and move to rejoin international organizations, but it could take time to repair the damage to the reputation of the United States.

James Wilsdon, a science-policy researcher at the University of Sheffield, UK, compares the US situation under Trump to the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, saying both countries are at risk of losing influence internationally. “Soft power is driven a lot by perception and reputation,” Wilsdon says. “These are basically the intangible assets of the science system in the international arena.” Whether or how quickly that translates into loss of competitiveness in attracting international scientists and students is unclear, he says, in part because scientists understand that Donald Trump doesn’t represent US science.

On the domestic front, many scientists fear that increased polarization and cynicism could last for years to come. That would make it harder for government agencies to do their jobs, to advance science-based policies, and to attract a new generation to replace many of the senior scientists and officials who have decided to retire under Trump.

Re-establishing scientific integrity in agencies where government scientists have been sidelined and censored by political appointees won’t be easy, says Andrew Rosenberg, who heads the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which has documented more than 150 attacks on science under Trump’s tenure. “Under Trump, political appointees have the authority to override science whenever they want if it doesn’t conform to their political agenda,” Rosenberg says. “You can reverse that, but you have to do it very intentionally and very directly.”

At the EPA, for example, it would mean rebuilding the entire research arm of the agency, and giving it real power to stand up to regulatory bodies that are making policy decisions, says one senior EPA official, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the press. The problem pre-dates Trump, but has accelerated under his leadership. Without forceful action, the official says, the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, which conducts and assesses research that feeds into regulatory decisions, might simply continue its “long decline into irrelevance.”

If Trump wins in November, researchers fear the worst. “The Trump folks have poured an acid on public institutions that is much more powerful than anything we’ve seen before,” says Victor.

“People can shake some of these things off after one term, but to have him elected again, given everything he has done, that would be extraordinary. And the damage done would be much greater.”

Nature 586, 190-194 (2020)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-02800-9

Update 07 October 2020: This story has been updated with new details of the president’s health status.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02800-9






 

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Dying in a Leadership Vacuum

October 8, 2020

Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.

The magnitude of this failure is astonishing. According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering,1 the United States leads the world in Covid-19 cases and in deaths due to the disease, far exceeding the numbers in much larger countries, such as China. The death rate in this country is more than double that of Canada, exceeds that of Japan, a country with a vulnerable and elderly population, by a factor of almost 50, and even dwarfs the rates in lower-middle-income countries, such as Vietnam, by a factor of almost 2000. Covid-19 is an overwhelming challenge, and many factors contribute to its severity. But the one we can control is how we behave. And in the United States we have consistently behaved poorly.

We know that we could have done better. China, faced with the first outbreak, chose strict quarantine and isolation after an initial delay. These measures were severe but effective, essentially eliminating transmission at the point where the outbreak began and reducing the death rate to a reported 3 per million, as compared with more than 500 per million in the United States. Countries that had far more exchange with China, such as Singapore and South Korea, began intensive testing early, along with aggressive contact tracing and appropriate isolation, and have had relatively small outbreaks. And New Zealand has used these same measures, together with its geographic advantages, to come close to eliminating the disease, something that has allowed that country to limit the time of closure and to largely reopen society to a prepandemic level. In general, not only have many democracies done better than the United States, but they have also outperformed us by orders of magnitude.

Why has the United States handled this pandemic so badly? We have failed at almost every step. We had ample warning, but when the disease first arrived, we were incapable of testing effectively and couldn’t provide even the most basic personal protective equipment to health care workers and the general public. And we continue to be way behind the curve in testing. While the absolute numbers of tests have increased substantially, the more useful metric is the number of tests performed per infected person, a rate that puts us far down the international list, below such places as Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia, countries that cannot boast the biomedical infrastructure or the manufacturing capacity that we have.2 Moreover, a lack of emphasis on developing capacity has meant that U.S. test results are often long delayed, rendering the results useless for disease control.

Although we tend to focus on technology, most of the interventions that have large effects are not complicated. The United States instituted quarantine and isolation measures late and inconsistently, often without any effort to enforce them, after the disease had spread substantially in many communities. Our rules on social distancing have in many places been lackadaisical at best, with loosening of restrictions long before adequate disease control had been achieved. And in much of the country, people simply don’t wear masks, largely because our leaders have stated outright that masks are political tools rather than effective infection control measures. The government has appropriately invested heavily in vaccine development, but its rhetoric has politicized the development process and led to growing public distrust.

The United States came into this crisis with enormous advantages. Along with tremendous manufacturing capacity, we have a biomedical research system that is the envy of the world. We have enormous expertise in public health, health policy, and basic biology and have consistently been able to turn that expertise into new therapies and preventive measures. And much of that national expertise resides in government institutions. Yet our leaders have largely chosen to ignore and even denigrate experts.

The response of our nation’s leaders has been consistently inadequate. The federal government has largely abandoned disease control to the states. Governors have varied in their responses, not so much by party as by competence. But whatever their competence, governors do not have the tools that Washington controls. Instead of using those tools, the federal government has undermined them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was the world’s leading disease response organization, has been eviscerated and has suffered dramatic testing and policy failures. The National Institutes of Health have played a key role in vaccine development but have been excluded from much crucial government decision making. And the Food and Drug Administration has been shamefully politicized,3 appearing to respond to pressure from the administration rather than scientific evidence. Our current leaders have undercut trust in science and in government,4 causing damage that will certainly outlast them. Instead of relying on expertise, the administration has turned to uninformed “opinion leaders” and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies.

Let’s be clear about the cost of not taking even simple measures. An outbreak that has disproportionately affected communities of color has exacerbated the tensions associated with inequality. Many of our children are missing school at critical times in their social and intellectual development. The hard work of health care professionals, who have put their lives on the line, has not been used wisely. Our current leadership takes pride in the economy, but while most of the world has opened up to some extent, the United States still suffers from disease rates that have prevented many businesses from reopening, with a resultant loss of hundreds of billions of dollars and millions of jobs. And more than 200,000 Americans have died. Some deaths from Covid-19 were unavoidable. But, although it is impossible to project the precise number of additional American lives lost because of weak and inappropriate government policies, it is at least in the tens of thousands in a pandemic that has already killed more Americans than any conflict since World War II.

Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences. Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment. Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates. But truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.

Disclosure forms provided by the authors are available with the full text of this editorial at NEJM.org.


https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2029812




 

Gomig-21

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Is the orangutan still considered a dotard in North Korea, or is he something else now because of all the kissing and love letters etc.?
 

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