Just so we're clear...

Andrew Speaker-- the guy whose recklessness may have exposed dozens of people to an extremely dangerous strain of tuberculosis-- is a world-class jerk, right? I mean, it seems obvious to me, but I haven't really seen too many blogs or editorials identifying him as a would-be biological terrorist, so I just wanted to double-check.

From the Associated Press today:

"Before leaving last month for Europe for his wedding and honeymoon, Speaker has said he was advised by Fulton County, Ga., health authorities that he was not contagious or a danger to anyone. Officials told him they would prefer he didn't fly, but no one ordered him not to, he said.

"Speaker was in Europe when he learned tests showed he had not just TB, but an extremely drug-resistant strain known as XDR."

Speaker and his father both claim to have tape recorded conversations with doctors telling Speaker that he was not contagious and that he could fly if he wanted to, but they preferred he not. This raises two questions, at least:

1) What kind of person ignores medical advice like "don't travel to Europe while you have tuberculosis"? I mean, not to belabor the obvious, but it's tuberculosis-- consumption, for God's sake.

2) What kind of person regularly tape records his conversations?

(I suspect I already know the answer-- someone who knows he's about to do a potentially stupid and dangerous thing that he knows could result in lawsuits).

More from the A.P.:

"Despite warnings from federal health officials not to board another long flight, he flew home for treatment, fearing he wouldn't survive if he didn't reach the U.S., he said.

"The family said that a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official told them the only way for him to get back to America from Italy would be to hire a private plane.

"But the parents said they are not rich and could not have easily afforded a private jet.

"'We work hard,' said Betsy Cooksey, a school teacher and mother of Andrew Speaker's new bride, Sarah. 'We're not in careers that are high paying.'"

Well, that makes sense. The working poor in America frequently travel to Greece for their weddings, after all.

Actually, this is what bothers me the most about this story-- I could forgive the stupidity of someone flying to Europe knowing that he had tuberculosis. I mean, it's his wedding and rescheduling would be inconvenient and all. But what's unforgiveable, to me, was the decision to fly back to America, knowing that doing so could possibly kill hundreds of people. It's that self-centeredness-- "I might die if I stay in Europe, so therefore I'm willing to put this same risk onto others in order to protect myself, because I'm Andrew, and I'm more important than these other people." Furthermore, I suspect that-- if the family was really concerned about their son's well-being and the well-being of total strangers, they could have figured out a way to scrounge up the money to pay for the private jet. Stocks might have to be sold, mutual funds cashed in, retirement put on hold for a few years... whatever. Then, you get home and ask your lawyer friends and CDC colleagues to sponsor a $30 a plate banquet to help offset the costs you've incurred. Or whatever. Something, anything, other than deciding to risk murdering perfect strangers in order to protect your own sorry, reckless ass.

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