The Providence (R.I.) Journal, March 26, 2015
Pete Rose has re-applied for reinstatement to baseball, and Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball's new commissioner, has agreed to meet privately with him. Manfred has also said he would be open to considering legalized gambling on the game, a very ominous development. We sincerely hope these are not signs that baseball, out of mindless greed, is going to cave on this terrible threat to its integrity.
Rose lost his place in baseball — and his eligibility for enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, where he otherwise easily belongs — because he was found to have bet on a game in which his team played.
Then-Commissioner Bart Giamatti, a Renaissance scholar who wrote movingly about the beauties of baseball, took a firm stand against Rose because he understood the threat that gambling poses to the game. Rose and his allies evidently believed an academic from Yale University would be a weakling, but Giamatti instead proved himself one of baseball's greatest commissioners.
As that scholar well understood, rampant gambling corruption had come close to killing the professional game in the 19th century. In the following century, the Chicago "Black Sox" scandal — in which players threw the 1919 World Series — would have done baseball irreparable harm had owners not responded forcefully with the hiring of Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a "hanging judge" who slapped lifetime expulsions on those involved.
Since high standards and knowledge of history both seem to be waning in our culture, some fear Manfred will go soft, and welcome Rose back into the baseball fold. That would be a terrible mistake, sending a signal that people in the game can get mixed up with gambling and win forgiveness.
We are as fond of Pete Rose the player as anyone. Not blessed with tremendous natural skills, he played baseball with a marvelous passion, achieving greatness through almost superhuman effort. The game's all-time hits champ, he dashed about the field like a madman, bringing crowds to their feet and smiles to thousands of faces.
But as John Dowd, the man who led the investigation into Rose's gambling, told The Cincinnati Enquirer: "There is a reason we haven't had another gambling case in 26 years. This case wasn't about Pete — this case was about protecting the integrity of the game."
It still is. Let us hope the people running baseball today understand that, and refrain from corrupting and ruining the game.
The Concord (N.H.) Monitor, March 24, 2015
There's a funny new show on Fox called The Last Man on Earth. The setup is that a virus has wiped out the entire population of the planet, except for one guy (although a few more people have since joined the cast). The landscape isn't what you would expect from a post-apocalyptic world. It's free of destruction and dead bodies, almost as if the people of the world disappeared with the snap of all-powerful fingers. The show is a comedy, so its creators can be forgiven for such a light portrayal of unimaginable horror.
Bill Gates probably doesn't spend a lot of time watching sitcoms, but there's little doubt he wouldn't see much humor in the show's premise. For him, the reality of a world-changing virus seems too much like a sure thing.
Last week, the Microsoft founder published an essay in the New England Journal of Medicine titled "The Next Epidemic: Lessons from Ebola." His point is simple and terrifying: There is a good chance that an epidemic significantly more infectious than Ebola will come along in the next 20 years, and the world isn't even close to being ready for it.
When Gates looks at the global response to the current Ebola outbreak, he doesn't see a health system that isn't functioning properly. He sees the absence of any kind of system at all. He certainly isn't the only person who has come to that conclusion, but he has the global reach and resources to do something about it. And so he is. Every community leader and head of state should join him.
To review Gates's broad outline of what needs to be done is to become overwhelmed with logistical nightmares. A successful epidemiological defense system requires strengthening basic public health in developing countries, improving disease surveillance and training personnel to respond to outbreaks quickly and efficiently. Problems related to transportation, equipment, data systems, medical tools and quarantine plans must be studied and solved. To create a health system that is prepared to handle an outbreak as deadly as the Spanish flu of 1918, which killed at least 30 million people, the world must prepare as if for war.
"The world spends a great deal of money — hundreds of billions of dollars a year — getting ready for war," Gates writes. "I am not saying this is a mistake, but given that an epidemic is more likely to kill millions of people than a future war, I believe we should build on these efforts so we can be more prepared for a severe epidemic."
Gates believes the military model of war games could help plan for and prevent worst-case scenarios. By bringing governments in nations large and small together every few years to simulate outbreak responses, a great offensive against a common enemy can begin. Otherwise, the world will continue to experience chaos born of fear, indecision and poor planning.
When health workers carrying the Ebola virus were brought to the United States for treatment, panic soon followed. The reaction was partly based on irrational fear but also recognition that safeguards in place to prevent the spread of the disease were insufficient. No system is foolproof, but there is no better weapon against fear than preparedness.
The world's richest nations are often good at responding to crises but much less so at anticipating and preparing for them. Gates is pointing to a catastrophe on the horizon, and he has begun sketching a defensive battle plan. It is imperative that leaders of nations large and small, developed and undeveloped, join him in the war room.