Thursday, January 7, 2010

Orlando Sentinel: Secret health talks & Bio hazards

The U.S. isn't ready to deal with a flu pandemic, and even less prepared to handle a more serious disease or biological attack.

This alarming assessment comes from former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, based on how the nation has responded to theswine flu. That response has been hampered by shortcomings in making vaccines and tracking the disease.

Mr. Graham is co-chair of a panel on terrorism that found the most likely mass attack would be biological. Given that threat, and the systemic problems exposed by the swine flu, policymakers need to get right to work on fixes. As the senator has noted, terrorists won't give us six months' warning.

Secret health talks

When he was running for president, Barack Obama vowed that his administration would put together a plan to reform health care and broadcast those negotiations on C-SPAN "so the American people can see what the choices are." That was then.

Now, the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress are hammering out a final deal on reform behind closed doors. President Obama's spokesman weakly argued that there already has been enough public exposure in the process.

The head of C-SPAN, the network that covers Congress, has called on its leaders to allow their health-care talks to be televised. Brian Lamb pointed out that the legislation in question "will affect the lives of every single American."

If Mr. Obama really is committed to transparency in government, he'll make sure Congress lets the cameras in.

Copyright © 2010, Orlando Sentinel

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