Jewish World Review April 25, 2003 / 23 Nisan, 5763

Keith Olbermann

Keith Olbermann
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Consumer Reports

The panic over SARS | Here's a question you're never likely to hear asked again: Is cable news not doing a good enough job of panicking everybody about SARS? Have we been too blase? Have you been too blase? And if either is the case, is that because we've all seen this scenario play out too many times before in the movies?

A DEADLY VIRUS with no known cure or cause spreading among a population through casual contact, government imposed quarantines, travel restrictions - It sounds like something from a science fiction novel, like Stephen King's "The Stand" or "The Andromeda Strain" or the plot of a lousy movie like "Outbreak."

And maybe this is where we come in: in the movies and TV, where we seemingly go to escape from the real world; where that is just science fiction and where it always turns out OK in the end. And maybe we're all simply waiting for Dustin Hoffman to find the infected monkey just in time.

Or more likely, perhaps, maybe it's that the SARS outbreak is not as scary as all that. Reporting of new cases in Hong Kong is actually down and the C.D.C. reports just under 4,000 cases of SARS worldwide, with 229 deaths thus far. More people died last year from tuberculosis.

But tell that to the people of Hong Kong where most hotels are 90% empty. Tell that to the neighbors of ours, Toronto, a city which has just been named a SARS danger area. They're taking it seriously and so is the C.D.C. in an effort to prevent 'outbreak-type' scenes from happening on American city streets, not just on Hollywood back lots.

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The writer hosts MSNBC's “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” The news program, dedicated to all of the day’s top stories, telecasts weeknights, 8-9 p.m. ET. Comment by clicking here.

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