Showing posts from October, 2020

Where does the word quarantine come from?

Photo by  CDC  on  Unsplash It is often assumed that the bubonic plague (black death) spread across Europe because the authorities did not understand the concept of contagion. In fact, it was widely understood that an infected person would pass their disease to others. What was not known was the precise transmission mechanism or what you needed to do to avoid contagion. It was obvious, however, that the disease was manifesting itself in particular localities. The key to prevention was isolation. You needed to keeping infected persons out your town, city or community. Who first used the term? In the 1340s the Venetian authorities in charge of the port city of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) issued the first quarantine measures. This was aimed  at ensuring that infected visitors did not mix with the rest of the population.  The edict established an isolation period of trentino giorni (30 days). This applied to anyone arriving from an area known to be affected by bubonic plague. This example

US Election Vocabulary: Electoral college? Battleground states?

US presidential elections are not decided by  the  popular vote  (counting the number of votes obtained nationally for each candidate).  Each voter  votes for a state representative to allocate a vote for the president and vice president in what is called an  electoral college . What is the electoral college? States send delegates to the electoral college according to the state vote - with 48 out of 50 using a 'winner takes all system'. Only in Maine and Nebraska are the delegates allocated proportionally. The number of delegates sent to the electoral college is decided by the population of the state. Thus the largest delegations come from the most populous states: New York, California and Texas. Most states are comfortably red (Republican) or blue (Democrat) - see here . This means  that presidential elections are essentially fought over a small number of purple or battleground states which swing between parties in different election cycles. Ohio is the classic exam