Bloggers on the tubercular traveler.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
May 31 2007 6:04 PM

TB or Not TB?

Bloggers are arguing about the tubercular traveler. They're also puzzling over the latest accusations in the poisoning death of a former KGB agent in Britain last year, and cheering (or smirking) about a new Harry Potter theme park.

TB or not TB:An Atlanta man who has been diagnosed with a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis flew on several international flights for a long-planned wedding and honeymoon. Bloggers debate the event through their own particular filters: Is it a medical crisis? A civil rights issue? Or a homeland security debacle?

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At Forgotten Beatitudes, QuakerJono, a scientist, bemoans the serious public-health risk posed by the man's actions before revealing that his own grandmother was faced with a similar choice decades ago. "So I'm torn. Knowing the risks and effects from a scientific perspective, I'm horrified by and filled with fury at this man's actions, particularly given the fact that the strain of TB he has is highly resistant to the standard antibiotic treatments," he writes. "At the same time, I feel rather hypocritical as I'm only able to have these feelings and write this because someone in my family made a similar choice awhile back."

Conservative Michelle Malkin poses the obvious security question: "What good is a no-fly list if a banned passenger can still get on a plane?" While Greg at Rhymes With Right fumes in another direction. "This is precisely the sort of entitlement-fueled arrogance that allowed the AIDS epidemic to spread. …. If terrorists ever want to do a biological attack on the US, all they have to do is send in a dozen guys with Ebola. The ACLU will quickly file suit to ensure the attack is a success. After all, public health and public safety can't trump the freedom to pass on deadly diseases." At Hillbilly White Trash, North Carolinian Lemuel Calhoon longs for a simpler time: "America, and the world, was better off when its public health agencies worried about controlling infectious disease and improving sanitation. The current focus on 'lifestyle issues' like obesity and smoking reflect a truly bizarre ordering of priorities." 

But at The Computer Diva Diaries, Jess sifts through the details of the story and finds a different cause for concern. The man "said that he decided to go back home, after being told not to, because he 'feared for his life.' Because his fellow passengers had heard about this and were coming after him in Italy? No … because he felt (based on the extensive knowledge of European medicine that he gathered while living in Georgia, USA) that Italian doctors did not have the expertise to treat him and his treatment there would fail, leaving him 'doomed.' Um. OK." Liberal Digby at Hullabaloo rails against such medical xenophobia. "This attitude actually kills people. In this case it may be some poor schnooks who had the misfortune to come across this foolish man during his mad dash to get back to "civilization." But it's the same combination of hubris and stupidity that is making people all over the world recoil in horror at America's leadership."

Read more about the tubercular traveler here.

Spooks: Andrei Lugovoi, the man accused of poisoning former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London last year, says that British intelligence services may have been behind the murder. Or maybe it was Boris Berezovsky. But certainly not him.

Mark MacKinnon, author of The New Cold War, observes that "[w]hatever the truth of his charges, he couldn't have made them at the Interfax press centre without approval from very, very high up in the Kremlin. It tells you that relations between London and Moscow have now officially reached the abysmal stage."

"Like a story straight out of the pages of a Dostoevsky's novel, Russian intrigues never really end; they only stay quiet long enough to increase the drama," says Thomas Belknap at DragonFlyEye.Net. "The safest bet in the Litvinenko case is that there is some direct connection between the murder and the Russian military or FSB (the former KGB, repackaged), because you'd have to have some serious credentials to get a hold of Polonium, and the only country known to have refined Polonium is Russia. Let's face it: a radioactive poison that kills without leaving a trace is just so very Russian. Who else would think of such a thing?"

At The Republic of Heaven, "Mrs. Coulter" offers a more succinct analysis. "Lugovoi, naturally, avers that he himself was an innocent victim who is now being turned into a scapegoat. Uh huh. Sure. Right."

Read more about Lugovoi's allegations here.

Harry does Orlando: The final Harry Potter novel won't hit bookstores until July 21, but Hogwarts may live on in a new form. Author J.K. Rowling has approved Universal Studios' proposed theme park based on the boy wizard's adventures. Predictably, countless blog posts are best summed up by dm_hpcrazy at Lalaland: "OMG!! Wheee!! A Harry Potter theme park!! AWESOMENESS!!" 

At Just Another Pretty Farce,Katherine Coble smells a spoiler for the forthcoming book: "Can you imagine how this would go over if Harry were to die in the last book?" she wonders. "Not very well, I'm sure. Death does not sell roller-coaster tickets." And Stuart Heritage at Heckler Spray predicts, "It's unclear what form The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter theme park will take, although it's expected that at 12 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. daily, there'll be some sort of parade where JK Rowling rolls about cackling on top of a solid gold limo with her pockets stuffed with money, jewels and priceless pieces of art that she'll use to light her cigars with."

Read more about the Harry Potter theme park here.

Susan Daniels is a former Slate staffer. She lives in Amsterdam.