Brian Klaas

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A clinical research nurse prepares to administer a coronavirus vaccine to a volunteer at a clinic in London on Aug. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Most of us have spent the past two years desperately trying to avoid catching covid-19. But in Britain, more than 27,000 people volunteered to get deliberately infected with the virus. Thirty-six of those volunteers were selected for a research trial. In spring 2021, they willingly took a nasal spray that would make them sick.

Experiments that involve deliberate infection of human subjects are known as “challenge trials” — and they raise a host of complicated ethical questions. But the grim reality is that additional pandemics are likely, and if we want to prepare for the next one, we should encourage more carefully designed challenge trials to prevent widespread, avoidable deaths.…  Seguir leyendo »

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Adrian Dennis/Reuters)

We live in strange times when holding a covert Christmas party amounts to a national scandal. But here in Britain, a yuletide coverup is threatening to topple Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In December 2020, as a new coronavirus variant was spreading throughout the country, the British government introduced a series of increasingly severe restrictions on gatherings and travel. Christmas parties were strictly banned.

But at Johnson’s residence, 10 Downing Street, staff were still (allegedly) enjoying wine and cheese boards as families across the country put theirs away, wistfully hoping they’d be able to use them with friends and family in 2021.…  Seguir leyendo »

A police officer watches protests by residents in the Lalue neighborhood who are upset with growing violence in Port-au-Prince on July 14. Haitian President Jovenel Moise was assassinated on July 7. (Matias Delacroix/AP)

This weekend, we learned that the assassination of Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, was allegedly orchestrated by a Florida-based doctor who wanted power for himself. Now, with the president dead and the doctor arrested in Port-au-Prince, Haiti finds itself in familiar territory: on the precipice of a violent upheaval as a power struggle plays out between ambitious, ruthless men vying for the nation’s top job.

There’s a hidden story here — one that is rarely discussed when countries such as Haiti keep repeating their tragic cycle of ruthless intrigue and political violence. And it helps explain why countries such as Haiti so often end up with toxic, destructive leaders.…  Seguir leyendo »

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (greenish brown) heavily infected with novel coronavirus particles (pink), isolated from a patient sample. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases via Reuters) (Niaid/Via Reuters)

A year ago this month, much of the world went into lockdown. This spring, the world is mostly coming out of lockdown. Vaccinations are increasing. Infections, hospitalizations and deaths are decreasing. But once the public health emergency subsides and our lives slowly return to normal, there’s an urgent question that needs to be addressed: How can we make sure this doesn’t happen again?

To answer that question, we must understand how this pandemic began. Yet the origin story of covid-19 remains a mystery. China’s official explanation (which is also endorsed by many scientists) is that the novel coronavirus likely made the leap from animals to humans.…  Seguir leyendo »

Police officers attempt to push back a pro-Trump mob trying to storm the Capitol. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

For the past four years, I’ve watched with dismay as the echoes of authoritarianism that I’d experienced elsewhere in the world reverberated through President Trump’s America. Now, in the final days of Trump’s presidency, the logical endpoint of that evolution has arrived. Dangerous extremists have violently stormed the Capitol and took control of the congressional chambers, all to keep their leader in power illegally after he lost an election.

These harrowing images seem familiar to me — thanks to the time I’ve spent in places ranging from coup-prone Thailand to the war-torn Ivory Coast to the tinderbox of Madagascar with its bloody protests.…  Seguir leyendo »

People look at a chalkboard in Monrovia, Liberia, giving updates on the coronavirus on Monday. (Ahmed Jallanzo/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Covid-19 is about to overload health-care systems in Italy, France, Spain, Britain and the United States. But what if you don’t have a health-care system to overload?

Liberia, in West Africa, has a population equivalent to Louisiana. But according to one expert, there are just three ventilators for the entire country. Beyond the lucky three who get them, all Liberian coronavirus patients who need a ventilator to live will die.

In the coming months, the coronavirus death tolls will be horrific. Yet, astonishing as it may seem to all of us living in lockdown, we are the lucky ones. In rich countries, it is likely that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, will die in the coming months.…  Seguir leyendo »

Thai activists hold a symbolic protest against Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who has become embroiled in a scandal involving high-end wristwatches, in Bangkok on Tuesday. (Narong Sangnak/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Last week, historian Charnvit Kasetsiri was summoned to a police station in Bangkok. His crime? He shared a Facebook post about a handbag belonging to the wife of Thailand’s military junta leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha. Under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act — a national security measure — Charnvit could face years in prison.

How did Thailand, once a flawed democracy, lose its way and become an oppressive authoritarian state that criminalizes dissent?

On May 22, 2014, soldiers in green camouflage fanned out across the leafy streets of Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city. They took control of the airport, government ministries, closed down roads, blacked out television stations and imposed martial law.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Thursday British voters willfully walked off a cliff when they decided to leave the European Union. The “Brexit” victory is a defeat for Britain, Europe and the global economy.

Tens of millions of Britons voted for isolation — to go it alone — rather than for cooperation. The European Union just lost a sixth of its economy, roughly akin to Florida and California seceding from the United States. The impact on the British economy could be catastrophic. Europe’s unified stance against a reemerging and aggressive Russia will be splintered.

Moreover, the vote doesn’t mean that debates over Britain’s relationship with Europe, or its place in the wider world, are suddenly resolved. …  Seguir leyendo »

In today’s world, internationally recognized governments do not always control their countries. Libya, which is embroiled in a multipolar civil war, is one tragic example.

Rival administrations — one in Tobruk, one in Tripoli — claim to be legitimate nationwide rulers even though neither actually governs the splinters of territory it claims to control. The real power lies with militia commanders and local councils.

All efforts to broker peace have failed. The Tobruk-based administration — having grown spoiled by a surfeit of international support — walked away from United Nations-sponsored negotiations last week, flatly rejecting the latest attempt at a power-sharing plan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Three years ago Tuesday, the Arab Spring began when 26-year-old vegetable vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in suicidal protest against the political repression and limited economic opportunity offered in dictator Zine el Abidine ben Ali's Tunisia. This literal spark ignited dramatic political change across the Middle East.

Today, Tunisia's stalled transition remains the last, best prospect for a democratic blossoming from the Arab Spring. Hope lives on because Tunisia has learned from the other derailed democratic experiments in the region, notably in Iraq, Egypt and Libya.

In May 2003, shortly after U.S.-led coalition forces toppled Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime, L.…  Seguir leyendo »