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On Republicans, Pokémon, blood-testing, Brazil, John Cleese, Italian banks: Letters to the editor

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Former Republicans

Donald Trump’s insurgent takeover of the Republican Party (“The dividing of America”, July 16th) has an ironic counterpart in 1940, when the party nominated Wendell Willkie to run against Franklin Roosevelt. Like Mr Trump, Willkie was a former Democrat, never held political office and was perceived as an alternative to entrenched politicians in both parties. But there the comparison ends. He positively favoured civil rights, trade and internationalism. By defeating the Republican isolationists, he gave crucial cover to Roosevelt to build American support for Britain in its lone defence against Nazi Germany.

Willkie lost the election, but afterwards he became an unofficial ambassador for FDR. He also championed equal rights at home and opposed the prospect of post-war colonialism. When he died suddenly in 1944, a journalist recorded that Willkie had come “on the American scene like a meteor and like a meteor he burned himself out”. He was a “challenging figure possessed of an integrity, honesty and courage far beyond the average measure.”

It does not seem a trivial question to ask, but where are the Willkies of today?

WARD CAMPBELL
Sacramento, California

I would be persuaded by your thesis that Donald Trump will leave a lasting mark on the Republican Party but for one distinction between him and the examples you put forth: Barry Goldwater and George McGovern were men of profound and verifiable conviction. Mr Trump is a man of mirage. I predict that the mirage will fade.

FRED LAKNER
San Diego

If people want to know why Mr Trump says crazy things they should turn to this Wikipedia article on narcissistic personality disorder: it “is a long-term pattern of abnormal behaviour characterised by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration and a lack of understanding of others’ feelings. People affected often spend a lot of time thinking about achieving power, success or their appearance. They often take advantage of the people around them.”

TIMOTHY COTTON
New York

Pokémon no!

Once upon a time, adults who chased fairies at the bottom of the garden were locked up. Now, through “Pokémon GO” and the wonders of smartphone technology, they are encouraged to play with other fairy-chasers (“I mug you, Pikachu!”, July 16th). I’m still trying to work out if this represents progress or regress.

NICK WILLS-JOHNSON
Perth, Australia

Testing blood

You wrote about the problems at Theranos, a blood-testing startup that gave incorrect results to patients (“Red alert”, July 16th). The underlying reason for Theranos’s ascent was the lack of general awareness of the advances in the in-vitro diagnostics field over the past 50 years and the critical and widespread contribution it makes to health care. The biggest irony is that “the ability to perform multiple tests in a tiny droplet of blood” has long been a reality in medical diagnosis and is actually carried out millions of times a day in laboratories everywhere. The challenge does not lie in the instruments used, but in the lack of reliable methods to transfer the sample to those instruments.

Diagnostic tests were already performed routinely using a drop of blood from a pinprick long before Theranos existed. However, the blood obtained that way differs from, and is far more variable than, that drawn from the vein. This fact is widely known in the industry. For example, last year the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid prohibited the unrestricted use of fingerstick glucose-testing on critically ill patients, after several fatal incidents that were linked to spurious pinprick tests.

The silver lining around Theranos’s lamentable cloud might be a wider awareness of this important practice.

SAMUEL REICHBERG
Laboratory Assessment and Biotech Systems
New York

A pair of comedians

If Theresa May wanted a comedian as foreign secretary (“May time”, July 16th), John Cleese would have been a better pick than Boris Johnson. He openly supported Brexit and has ministerial experience (at the ministry of silly walks). And although both are classical scholars, Boris is fact light, whereas Mr Cleese is intellectually rigid, pointing out that Romani ite domum is the correct Latin spelling for “Romans go home” in “Life of Brian”. With those attributes he is much better equipped to negotiate the complexities of Brexit.

MICHEL VAN ROOZENDAAL
Helsinki

Brazil’s future

The problems in Brazil cannot be denied (“A sporting chance of safety”, July 9th). The Petrobras scandal makes Watergate look like child’s play. But another way of looking at it is that, after a long history of corruption throughout colonisation and dictatorship, the crooks are at last getting rounded up, ousted from office and sent to jail. In fact, Brazil is a success story for the global anti-corruption movement, the Olympic spirit and the rule of law.

In the midst of a vote-buying scandal, a recession, the rare back-to-back hosting of the world’s biggest sporting events, and a much-resented increase in fares on public transport, Brazilians took to the streets to protest against corruption and mismanagement. Its Congress responded by enacting a dramatic series of anti-corruption laws. In 2011, public-procurement reforms and a new freedom of information law. In 2013 a statute addressing corporate complicity in public corruption and another giving federal prosecutors important new enforcement tools. These laws made possible the investigations and convictions of today.

So let’s turn the conventional narrative on its head. Short-term, Brazil is in a political and economic crisis. But long-term, Brazil is becoming less corrupt; democracy and the rule of law are becoming stronger, not weaker. In this regard, its prospects may actually be improving.

ANDY SPALDING
Associate professor
University of Richmond School of Law
Richmond, Virginia

The self-preservation society

You wrote about the parlous state of the Italian banking system and the lessons that go unheeded in the banking industry. Your headline, “The Italian job” (July 9th) was an amusing parallel with that wonderful film and only served to underline the scale of the problem, on whose rear end the stash of gold seized by Charlie Croker and his mob would represent but a pimple. Perhaps you could have taken the parallel one step further by using another line from the film, which sums things up neatly: “Camp Freddie, everybody in the world is bent.”

ARCHIE BERENS
Abu Dhabi

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Julio Marchi ©

Publisher / Editor at BS News & Media Services
A free thinker, not labelled as anything, not associated with any party, not part of any group or engaged with any religion... A simple guy tired of the nowadays bullshit who decided to promote more serious debates about what is really happening hoping to bring back intelligence to the superficial and shallow news & headlines that unfortunately took over the existing media scene.
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