News Roundup: Hong Kong, Black Death, Climate Change

Here’s a roundup of some of the bigger stories out there of interest to preparedness-minded readers. If we’ve missed any vital links, please let us know in the comments.

Hong Kong on the edge

The situtation in Hong Kong escalated sharply this week, as the protests turned violent.

Some key developments:

What it means: There are many worries that a Tiannamen-style crackdown is imminent. It’s very possible that such a crackdown will differ from Tiannamen Square in one important respect, though: Tiannamen was televised, but we may well see a Kashmir-style internet blackout hit the peninsula before anything truly serious goes down.

Hong Kong is a major global financial center, and any substantial shutdown of the city could rattle global markets. This being the case, you might think that watching the markets for a big sell-off would give you a heads-up that something bad is imminent, but don’t count on it. Markets are not great at forecasting politically-driven event risk, and in this particular case everything depends on what a few people in the Chinese Communist Party decide. That makes it difficult for relevant insider information to leak to trading desks ahead of events, so the markets may not give much of a heads-up before a dramatic escalation, there.

Two cases of deadly pneumonic plague surface in China

Credit:  Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

The pneumonic plague, the cause of the “Black Death” that decimated Medieval Europe, is one of the deadliest bacterial infections known. The infection spreads via the air by droplets from coughs and sneezes. Two people are being treated for plague in a hospital in Beijing, and this on the heels of two plague infections in Mongolia back in May.

Key points:

  • The disease can be treated effectively with antibiotics if you get to it early enough.
  • We typically have about seven cases of plague reported per year in the US (often in rural places with prairie dogs, such as CO and AZ), so it’s not unheard of over here.
  • Medical experts put the chances of a plague pandemic at close to zero.
  • Right now, the only thing concerning to health experts is the lack of communication from the Chinese government.
Climate change
The flooded San Marco square with St. Mark’s Basilica and the Bell Tower. (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

There are number of climate-related stories in the news right now, so consider this a mini-roundup within the news roundup: