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In the Great Game, government fights for the White Walkers and the germs

Life really does imitate Game of Thrones.

Republicans, Democrats, Lannisters and Starks fight over White Houses and King’s Landings, but the future is trending in favor of the White Walkers and the germs.

A timely reminder of The Coming Plague comes from USA TODAY investigative reporter Alison Young, who weighed in this week with new reporting on the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) screw-ups in the handling of Ebola and other deadly viruses and bacteria.

The CDC dragged its feet for two years on USAT’s Freedom of Information Act request for incident reports about sloppy and potentially fatal missteps at its laboratories in Atlanta and Ft. Collins. Apparently, that’s how long the CDC’s Department of Making Documents Look Like Swiss Cheese needed to review 503 pages of reports and redact the living daylights out of them.

Young and her colleagues in USAT’s investigative reporting unit are the sweat and muscle behind Biolabs in Your Backyard, an exhaustive and exhausting look at “vials of bacteria gone missing, escaped lab mice carrying deadly viruses, wild rodents making nests in research waste” and myriad other tidbits and outrages you won’t read about in government press releases.

Along with America’s roads and bridges, our public health infrastructure is teetering on the brink of collapse. Government won’t cough up the money necessary for scientists and researchers to do their essential work in the safety of facilities that are appropriately staffed, equipped and maintained. But government can always be counted upon to support the CDC’s Department of Don’t You Worry Your Pretty Little Taxpaying Heads.

Reporters who write about threats to public health suffer from poor pay, the constant threat of being laid-off or transferred to the Deal Diva beat and have a round-the-clock migraine from banging their heads against The Government Stone Wall of Secrecy, Silence and Spin.

This blast from the Nieman Reports past reminds us just how much time these public servant-journalists spend “talking to the hand.”  It’s a chilling collection of horror stories about the “complete lack of respect for the public in the way…agencies operate” to block, tackle, and bully reporters trying to tell stories that might cause a run on the Torch & Pitchfork Depot.

Right now, the germs are winning. On the present trajectory, we all might get repealed and replaced.

Written By

Florence Beth Snyder is a Tallahassee-based lawyer and consultant.

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