APEC Faux Pas

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit this past week, historical tensions and cultural differences caused high drama in front of the cameras. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a forum for 21 countries around the Pacific Rim. The countries summit to promote free trade and economic cooperation among themselves. It was established in 1989 to establish new markets for agricultural products and raw materials beyond Europe.[1]

During the summit, world leaders often pay respect to the hosting country by way of their dress and customs. This year’s summit in Beijing, China, was no exception. It is typical for press to analyze the actions and reactions of the political leaders to proposed actions and directions of political actions, but this year, the real drama at the Asia summit came from world leaders in front of the cameras.

Chinese President Xi Jinping played host, but his guests President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin committed some diplomatic faux pas.

#1: Nah, I’ll take my own:

Being the first Black President in the history of our country comes with a downside: the Obama campaign was the earliest time a candidate received secret service protection before even being officially nominated. Thus, it makes sense that the president would often opt to use his own armored limousine, dubbed “The Beast,” but this time it was seen as a slight.

“We made this meeting so luxurious, with singing and dancing, but see Obama, stepping out of his car chewing gum like an idler,” wrote a Chinese blogger. The general sentiment was that the move demonstrated a lack of confidence and consideration for China’s efforts.

Though Obama’s choice to ride in “The Beast” may be explainable, his next faux pas was not as easy to…swallow.

#2: Chew Into the Problem:

Obama is a known cigarette smoker, and has often been seen using Nicorette gum to curb his cravings; however, in the conservative environment that most Chinese citizens are used to, this was a MAJOR faux pas. According to USA Today, Chinese bloggers took to the internet once again after Obama was seen emerging from “The Beast” chewing gum. Some bloggers thought he looked like “an idler” or a “rapper” when he arrived at the event.

#3: Chivalry: It isn’t Dead, but it does sleep!

Finally, Putin was potentially the worst offender during the summit. During a party, the Russian President gently draped a shawl over the shoulders of the Chinese First Lady, Peng Liyuan. As any first lady would, Peng Liyuan accepted the shawl, but only momentarily. She can be seen on the video instantly looking for an aid to remove Putin’s shawl and replace it with her own.

Many consider the move a chivalrous one, but some Chinese saw it as flirtatious. As maybe an example of the sentiment felt by Chinese citizens, the government controlled Chinese media had erased any footage from the incident by the next morning.

This isn’t the first time that Putin has offered a shawl, however. He covered German Chancellor Merkel with a shawl at a previous G20 summit.

I’m so glad that we don’t live in China. I like that my President chews gum instead of smoking cigarette’s, and I’m all for men offering me shawls when I’m cold!

[1] Wiki APEC


Should America Close Our Borders?

With the highly contagious nature of the Ebola virus and the looming threat of a pandemic, many people are wondering if the U.S. should close its borders to people traveling from West Africa.

Thomas Eric Duncan boarded a commercial flight from Liberia on Sept. 19 and arrived in Texas on Sept. 20. Though he later died of Ebola in a Dallas, Texas hospital, the International Air Transport Administration and World Health Organizations have said that there is no risk of anyone who flew getting sick, since he was asymptomatic at the time of travel. “It’s not contagious until it’s symptomatic, and the symptoms tend to be such that typically the traveler does not feel like traveling,” said Perry Flint, spokesman for the International Air Transport Association. “And the symptoms tend to be recognizable.”

Ebola can only be contracted through direct contact with a sick person’s (that is, a person exhibiting symptoms) bodily fluids. That means saliva, feces, urine, blood, vomit or semen. Though many people believe it so, Ebola is not airborne, and therefore cannot be contracted by simply breathing the same air as an infected person.

That does mean that people aren’t afraid. On Facebook, several videos and news articles have surfaced outlining how Africans have been stigmatized and ostracized. Some commenters are speculating that the disease has been engineered as a form of bioterrorism, while others believe it is the fault of Africans. Locally, many people were afraid of the news that Nina Pham, the nurse who contracted Ebola from Duncan, was moved to NIH in suburban DC.

So, should we close our borders?

Some African Nations, like Senegal and Nigeria, have mitigated their outbreaks with travel restrictions and such effective screenings that the World Health Organization declared both countries Ebola free.

But according to Deborah R. Malac, the U.S. ambassador to Liberia, screening procedures at the airport in the capital of Liberia, one of the hardest hit nations, have been in place for months. What does that say about the effectiveness about screenings across the board? More importantly, does that invoke confidence in a global population that is already terrified?

Many global health organizations argue, however, that increasing travel restrictions would really only increase the economic havoc that the disease has already created in hard-hit nations.

According to the Washington Post, the World Health Organization and CDC both feel that closing the borders to the U.S. would only cut off critical support to countries affected by the Ebola crisis. The article claims that Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone are already “economically isolated because this epidemic has spread far wider and lasted much longer than any other Ebola outbreak in history”.

Daniel Menucci, a representative for the World Health Organization Travel and Transport Task Force has said that the safeguards put in place to contain the spread of Ebola have already made it difficult to treat other illnesses which may require imports of medical supplies or food. It has also been said that limiting access to the United States could also encourage sick people to sneak across the borders through Canada or Mexico, not seeking immediate medical attention. That could potentially expose even more people.

The Political scientist in me believes that every person and every nation has a responsibility toward helping the disadvantaged. In that vein, not only should America keep its borders open, but the pharmaceutical companies who serve it should be forced to develop and manufacture the drug that is seemingly the cure. Meanwhile, the Woman, Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister and friend in me say close the borders- do whatever is necessary to keep the people that I love safe.


Ebola in America

The first Ebola patient to die on U.S. soil was a Black man. According to CNN, Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, most likely caught the virus while coming to the aid of Marthalene Williams, 19, a pregnant woman who collapsed during Duncan’s recent trip to Liberia. While Duncan’s family and friends mourn his loss, Pastor George Mason of Wilshire Baptist Church, spoke of his inability to comfort Duncan’s partner, Louise Troh, who at the time of Mason’s interview with Anderson Cooper, was still in isolation.

Duncan became ill a few days after arriving in the US. He first went to a Dallas hospital on September 25, complaining of fever, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Though Louise Troh claims to have alerted the hospital staff at least three times of his recent trip to Liberia, Duncan was released from the hospital with antibiotics. He was not tested for Ebola.
On September 28, after having three days to potentially expose others to the deadly virus, Duncan returned to the hospital via ambulance. It was then that he was admitted and isolated.

A recent CNN article outlines the differences between the care received by Duncan and the four other White patients, who each survived. For example, two of those four patients received a drug called ZMapp. Duncan received a drug called brincidofovir, but not until October 4th- six days after he was admitted to the hospital with potential Ebola.

Dr. Robert Haley, an expert with the Dallas County Medical Society, claims that it is unlikely that Duncan could have been saved if the treatment had started the first time Duncan and Troh went to the emergency room.[1]

“The treatment they did was state-of-the-art,” said Haley. “It was more intense than any other patient has received in this epidemic; it’s just the best that you could have done.” He also called the efforts of the medical staff that worked to save Duncan’s life “heroic”.

Despite what the experts say, it is hard for me to believe that this is all just coincidence. Not only was Duncan a Black man in America, he was an African in America, without health insurance. It is common knowledge (among minorities, at least) that the biggest determinants of treatment and care in this country are both class and race. Duncan was on the losing side of both.
Some say that there were several factors working against Duncan- the hospital did not have advance notice of his arrival (and were therefore unable to acquire the drug ahead of time), the drug Zmapp had been depleted by the previous survivors and that Duncan’s blood type was incompatible with serum donors, making a blood transfusion impossible. The idealist in me wants to acknowledge that as implied, Mr. Duncan fell victim to a series of unfortunate events, none of which had to do with his race or socio-economic status. The realist in me, however, believes otherwise. As a Black woman in America with a Black son, I have to look at all the evidence- and after the Tuskegee experiments, after Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell, there is a definite pattern. The realist in me tells me that after Emmitt Till and Oscar Grant, Eric Garner and Ramarley Graham, after the Scottsboro Boys, there is a definite pattern that I had better not ignore- and that as a person of color living in America, if I want to live, I had better not contract Ebola. RIP Mr. Duncan.