Airlines and Sick Passengers

On Austrian Airlines flight 94 (United 9822) from IAD-WIE  (Washington-Dulles to Vienna), October 7,  an overnight flight, a passenger vomited.  Flight attendants got all gloved up and everyone got very quiet.  Was there ebola on board?

Asked about the airline’s procedures, Austrian Airlines replied via email:

“Thank you for your mail. Austrian Airlines follows the recommendations for cabin crew procedures issued by WHO, CDC, ECDC, EASA and IATA. Accordingly, a highly communicable disease has to be suspected when a traveler has a fever of 38°C/100°F or higher, associated with at least one or more symptoms like coughing, impaired breathing, persistent diarrhea or vomiting, skin rash, bruising or bleeding without previous injury, confusion of recent onset. Concerning the Ebola-outbreak it is additionally important to find out if the passenger had possible contact to Ebola-contaminated material or sick persons or if he stayed in the outbreak region in West Africa during the last 21 days.

“If a passenger meets the above criteria the captain has the obligation (according to international health regulations) to inform the destination airport which will contact the relevant health authorities. Those authorities will decide if further actions like follow-ups are necessary or not.

“However, if a passenger obviously suffers from e.g. simple air-sickness or is pregnant and does not require any additional medical support or attention the authorities will not be involved.

“Nevertheless, I hope you still enjoyed your flight with Austrian Airlines.”

No word on that particular flight, of course. But also, so far, no reports of flight attendants getting sick.

In Response to the Perception of Electoral Integrity Index


Voters in Bosnia, October 2014.

In the current issue of PS: Political Science and Politics (47:4, October 2014), Pippa Norris, Richard W. Frank, and Ferran Martinez i Coma announce a new dataset for “Measuring Electoral Integrity around the World.”  In the spirit of Freedom House, Transparency International, and other global indices, the Electoral Integrity Project surveys experts on 49 indicators for a particular election, and generates a PEI index on a 100-point scale.

The authors anticipated relationships between electoral integrity and liberal democracy, democratic history, and  economic development.  They found these, with some interesting exceptions.  They also find that media and campaign finance, not just ballot box integrity, are important.  To be sure, this effort will become an important contribution to the study of elections, political development, democratization, and more.  But it risks suffering from a serious flaw – one that might have a simple, partial solution.  Continue reading

Back to Bosnia, Part I

After 17 years away, I returned to Bosnia last week as part of the OSCE Election Observation Mission.  It was in part exciting, rewarding, and disheartening.


Baščaršija, the lively old part of Sarajevo.

Much was improved from 1997, to be sure.  In Sarajevo, there were not tanks on the street corners.  The library has reopened, and one Wednesday night in the old part of the city, Baščaršija, dozens of small and medium-sized restaurants were crowded with customers.  Across much of the country there is very good mobile phone service, and in even small hotels and cafes outside Sarajevo is plenty of free Wi-Fi.

The people were as I remembered – smart, generous, hard-working.  The young people I met were not necessarily an accurate cross-section – they all spoke English and/or owned cars, to serve the week’s 180 international observers.  In the more suburban and rural areas I observed, the people setting up the polling stations seemed capable and dedicated.


Classes on the Qur’an, west of Sarajevo.

There were some other differences from 1997, though.  In Sarajevo and a town to the west where I was based, there were more shops and advertisements in Arabic.  Cafes noted they were “halal.”  A significant number of young women dressed in head scarves, a few in abayas, and a couple of women in the niqab.  The locals advised me these were Arabs, on vacation in Sarajevo, but they were in the towns and rural areas as well.

Conversations with most of the people I met focused on the lack of political progress since the war.  Everything was still divided by ethnic group – especially the politicians.  Provisions of the Dayton Accords that had ended the war in late 1995 seemed archaic and dysfunctional two decades later.


Rural Bosnia: Rovna, west of Sarajevo.

The country still has three presidents, one Serb, Croat, and Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim).  Indeed, anyone who self-identifies as another identity – Yugoslav, Bosnian, Roma, Jew, or other – is not eligible to be a candidate for president.  Most (but not all) of the 65 political parties and 24 coalitions are based on ethnic identity.

The young people I met seemed much more interested in making “Bosnia” work than serving their own ethnic groups or ethnic regions.  This is typical of many Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), though.



Church of St. Anthony of Padua, Bugojno.

But it was one of my first conversations in Sarajevo that made perhaps the biggest impression.  I sat down for a while with two 20-something women in fluent English.  They were probably born during, or just before, the war, and had no real memory of it.  Their wishes weren’t about Kosovo Polje or Ustashe or Srebrenica.  They said what the country needed was jobs and health care – echoing my own university students in Washington.  They agreed corruption was the problem, but the needs were jobs and health care.  They said they would issue a challenge to Bear Grylls – the famous television adventurist/survivalist – to try to survive medical care in Bosnia.

The two then went back to their beverages and cigarettes, headed for a short night of rest before another long day serving the Americans and Europeans who breeze in for a week, absorb some of the local flavor, and return home with stories of adventure.  When a colleague and I complained about how early our flights were, one Bosnian hardly hid his contempt, uttering, “Lucky.”

Casus belli

BlueForceTracker is a useful bridge between military and civilian understandings of current events, providing insightful analysis by military personnel and veterans.  But in one recent article, the prolific Nolan Peterson skips a couple of important items.

In “Yes, countries with McDonald’s do go to war with each other,” Peterson effectively identifies human nature as a source of interstate conflict.  He joins classical realists like Clausewitz and Hans Morgenthau, and Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes before them.  As a military pilot, diplomat, and journalist, Peterson has seen more of human nature’s dark sides than most people.  But he omits some of the important parts of the framework – the “McDonalds peace” – in which he structures his argument.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman offered The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention in 1996.  At that time, no two countries with McDonalds had gone to war with each other. Countries with a rising level of income and declining political risk were judged as suitable for investments by companies like McDonalds in part because the character of those countries – populations and governments – preferred globalization to war.  (Incidentally, in that same first column, Francis Fukuyama of “the end of history” fame judged that the income level for a McDonalds, and Friedman’s thesis, was probably too low to consider a country unlike to go to war against similar countries.)

In 1999, NATO allies bombed the Yugoslavia capital, Belgrade, which had five McDonalds.  Friedman acknowledged the end of McPeace, sort of: he explained that the war was so short precisely because the citizens of modern Yugoslavia preferred peace and Western investment over retaining Kosovo at the cost of war.

The relationship between globalization and peace was not entirely new in 1996, though.  Harvard’s Robert Keohane and future Department of Defense assistant secretary Joseph Nye had discussed “complex interdependence” in the 1970s and 1980s. Norman Angell, the 1933 Nobel Peace laureate, had been talking about the peace-making impact of globalization (“interdependence”) since before World War I.  Angell argued that the spread of trade and technology among developed nations in Europe made war among them an irrational economic choice – but not impossible, because, as Peterson argues, wars are choices of men.  The great U.S. naval strategist, Captain Alfred T. Mahan, on the other hand, saw the late 19th century rise of trade and technology (including the Panama Canal) as a possible source of increased wealth, but also a new source of conflict. [More on Angell and Mahan, here.]

Peterson is also right to identify that McPeace developed after a bipartisan embrace of “democratic peace theory” – the idea that democracies do not go to war with each other.  This idea helped build support for assistance to “transitioning” countries of the post-Communist world of the early 1990s and, less directly, democratization efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  But democratic peace theory itself had earlier roots.  Michael W. Doyle discussed it in 1983, based on the 18th century writings of Immanuel Kant.

The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention is one of my favorite topics with students, not because it is high theory, but precisely the opposite.  It offers a vivid, easily accessible illustration of several complex ideas.  But like most good ideas, it has roots and histories to be appreciated.

In Defense of Christians

summit of leaders from churches across the Middle East began today (Sept 9) in Washington, with representatives from  Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Melkite Greek Catholic, Chaldean, Antiochian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Assyrian Church of the East, and more. It continues Sept 10-11.

The format of the opening prayer service was apparently one which was last done by St John Paul II in 1987, and had never been done in the United States. It was based on 3rd and 4th century customs, and in several languages.

The messages were simple, and clear:  history divides us but faith [and desperation?] unites us; we must fight the most difficult way: with love; when in doubt, follow the Golden Rule.  The homily was one from St John Chrysostrum: you are the salt of the earth and St Matthew calls you to work for the whole world.   Continue reading

Justices Scalia, Ginsburg Concur – Against 2-Year Law School

Last year, President Obama supported the idea of two-year law school programs.  This past May, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia railed against two-year law school programs (compared to the traditional three years). He argued that two years is not sufficient for training for the profession of law, but treats law school instead like a trade school.  

This week, liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg seconded Scalia’s motion, using essentially the same language:  

Two years—it does reduce the respect, the notion that law is a learned profession. You should know a little about legal history, you should know about jurisprudence. [Two years] makes it more of a craft like the training you need to be a good plumber.

Not sure why she thought to make a crack against plumbers.  Time and US News and World Report say the average plumber makes about $50,000 per year – not much less than a local prosecutor or public interest lawyer. Moreover, Time notes that a good plumber in Cincinnati with seven years experience can make $100,000 or more.  

In any case this gives us a chance to mention the Notorious R.B.G. tumblr.  Just because we can.