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In the 30 May issue of Vaccine , Gray and colleagues estimated the current U. In a 2-year prospective study of rural Iowans, published in Emerging Infectious Diseases in December , he found that CAFO workers were 50 times more likely to have elevated H1N1 antibodies than nonexposed controls. Equally important, their spouses were 25 times more likely to harbor these antibodies, reflecting how the viruses can jump from farm workers to their intimate contacts.

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Beyond surveying workers directly, Gray adds, academic researchers should also sample CAFO environments. If we find a high prevalence of viral infection with a given strain in January, why do we see it again the next January if the pigs live only six months before slaughter? We need to study the pigs, the workers, and the environment to understand how the viruses get around, and what sort of interventions we can take to limit transmission. A crucial question is whether other, potentially more lethal influenzas could emerge from CAFOs, assuming these facilities allow new strains to evolve with unprecedented speed and efficiency.

According to Andrew Pekosz, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, newly virulent strains emerge randomly, by chance. By concentrating so many viruses in one place, he explains, CAFOs increase the frequency at which more dangerous strains might appear.

Given that threat, the industry relies on biosecurity measures to prevent pathogens from getting into or out of CAFOs. Johnson Smith says biosecurity protocols are company-specific and can vary by facility.

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In general, she says, CAFOs require employees to shower before they enter and leave the workplace, and to wear protective clothing that covers their hair, shoes, and clothes. They are in place to help prevent the spread of disease from humans to animals. In addition, Wing counters there are other routes by which pathogens could get into or out of CAFOs regardless of these biosecurity protocols.

For instance, hog waste stored in onsite lagoons can spill into streams or penetrate into groundwater, he says. Untreated hog wastes are also routinely sprayed on crop fields as fertilizer. And, although not a standard industry practice, anecdotal evidence suggests hog carcasses are sometimes loaded into dumpsters, raising the possibility that vectors could carry hog pathogens to surrounding environs. The degree to which hog waste might be pathogenic is unknown.

Still, Donham says other zoonotic pathogens in hog waste—particularly bacterial agents including Salmonella , Leptospira , and some infectious strains of Escherichia coli —could travel downwind as spray aerosols and theoretically infect local populations. Moreover, he says, air- and waterborne CAFO emissions are often contaminated with antibiotic-resistant microbes such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus MRSA.


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Meanwhile, Robert Martin, senior officer with the Pew Environment Group in Washington, DC, is concerned that competing financial interests may be partly to blame for the current lack of data and regulation. Many academic researchers are concerned about alienating their primary source of research dollars—i. Who else will pay for agricultural research besides those with a vested interest in advancing and improving current practices? These points lead to new questions: Who should decide how current practices are advanced and improved? Answers to these questions devolve quickly into subjective and wildly divergent views about how food production should be managed, yet this vastly complex topic defies simple solutions.

Industry argues the trend toward CAFO-dominated animal agriculture is safer than more traditional farming, wherein livestock spend much of their time outside, exposed to inclement weather and viruses from other animals, including wild birds. Among other preventive measures, says Johnson Smith, pork producers raise their stock in enclosed buildings with bird wire to prevent birds from entering the facility, and pig feed is stored in enclosed bins that prevent contamination with bird droppings.

In another example of how traditional farming comes with its own infectious disease risks, Smith says infection with Trichinella spiralis the source of the dangerous foodborne human disease trichinosis is much rarer in CAFO-raised swine than in pigs raised outdoors, which are more likely to eat a diet of swill and the occasional rat or wild animal carcass. Yet CAFOs can be shocking to the senses and capable of evoking highly charged public reactions. These reactions routinely put the industry in a defensive posture as it attempts to sway opinion in its favor with communication strategies routinely dismissed by critics as spin.

Extracting accurate information in this embattled context is challenging at best—or, some say, impossible. As with other complex topics, nearly every significant aspect of CAFO production can be viewed from multiple perspectives. But perhaps this much is clear: the current pandemic shows that viruses of animal origin can pose a substantial human health threat.

And if CAFOs were to accelerate the evolution of these viruses, Gray says, then the public has a right to know how those viruses evolve and what steps can be taken to limit their spread. Earlier cases have since been identified elsewhere, and it is impossible to say now where or how the pandemic began. So, the team discovered a loophole.

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Although the distributors required that Amazon ordered 10 books, the company didn't need to receive that many. So, they would order one book they needed, and nine copies of an obscure lichen book, which was always out of stock. When that site did launch, one of the company's founders, Len Riggio, wanted to call it Book Predator. One early employee worked so tirelessly over 8 months — biking back and forth from work in the very early morning and very late night — that he completely forgot about the blue station wagon that he'd parked near his apartment.

He never had time to read his mail, and when he finally did, he found a handful of parking tickets, a notice that his car had been towed, a few warnings from the towing company, and a final message that his car had been sold at an auction. The company was dramatically under-staffed. Every employee had to take a graveyard shift in the fulfillment centers to meet orders. They would bring their friends and family and would often sleep in their cars before going to work the next day. After that, Amazon vowed that it would never have a shortage of labor to meet demand for the holidays again, which is why Amazon hires so many seasonal workers today.

Amazon suffered extreme growing pains in the late 90s and early s. Facilities would get shut down for hours because of system outages, piles of products would sit around ignored by workers, and there was no preparation for new product categories. When the kitchen category was first introduced, knives without protective packaging would come hurtling down conveyor shoots. It was extremely dangerous. Employees would be organized into groups of fewer than ten people — the perfect number to be satisfied by two pizzas for dinner — and were expected to work autonomously.

Teams had to set strict goals, with equations to measure their success.

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Those equations were called "fitness functions," and tracking those goals is how Bezos managed his teams. We should be trying to figure out a way for teams to communicate less with each other, not more. Many employees hated "two-pizza teams," and especially the stress of the fitness functions. They've typically got a few hours to solve whatever issue the CEO has flagged and prepare a thorough explanation for how it occurred, a response that will be reviewed by a succession of managers before the answer is presented to Bezos himself.


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Such escalations, as these e-mails are known, are Bezos's way of ensuring that the customer's voice is constantly heard inside the company. The A9 team started a project called Block View, a visual Yellow Pages, which would pair street-level photographs of stores and restaurants with their listings in A9's search results. Amazon hires seasonal workers, but the holiday season is still extremely stressful for the logistics teams.

In the early s, Jeff Wilke, Amazon's operations manager, would let any person or team who accomplished a significant goal close their eyes, lean back, and yell into the phone at him at the top of their lungs. Following 0. Nina Siegal.

A novel about an anti-vaxxer: fears, facts and fiction

About Nina Siegal. Based in Amsterdam, she covers museums, exhibitions, art restoration and attribution issues, art world discoveries and legal cases, profiles of conductors, filmmakers, dancers and other cultural figures, and culture in a socio-political context. An occasional general-news reporter, she has also written about migration issues, emerging political parties and legal cases in the Netherlands. After that, she spent four years as the cultural news and art market reporter for Bloomberg News in New York. In addition to The Times , her freelance writing has appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines, including the Wall Street Journal, W.