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Power Sheet: Zika Response Could Use a Little Hysteria

Editor-at-Large Jennifer Reingold (@jennrein) is filling in for Geoff Colvin this week.

Yesterday, the CDC recommended that all pregnant women in the U.S. be tested for Zika—an admission that this disease is spreading far more quickly here than originally thought. And belatedly, the American public is starting to grasp the seriousness of the threat.

It’s a stark contrast to the complete overreaction to Ebola, a horrible disease that killed 11,000 people in Western Africa. In the U.S., just four people were diagnosed with the disease, one of whom died. The disease never went viral in the U.S.—but the hysteria did.

I remember walking nervously past a meatball shop in my neighborhood—even though I knew better—after one of the few people to contract the disease had eaten there. But now we are facing a true epidemic—one that doesn’t kill the victim but can damage the brain of a victim’s growing fetus—and the reaction has unfolded almost in slow motion. Just yesterday, the CDC noted that 50 people have been infected in one neighborhood in Miami, and issued a warning to pregnant women to avoid traveling to the area—the first time since the 1940s that the CDC has warned people away from a part of the continental U.S.

This is a very big deal. So why has the reaction, so far, been so muted, even as the disease has hit thousands of babies in Brazil? The human costs of giving birth to a baby with microcephaly are devastating—as are the actual costs to an already overtaxed health care system.

The answer has more to do with our own irrational response to fear than anything else. It explains why people can say, with straight faces, that our society is in the worst trouble it’s ever been in–while others trumpet with equal smugness that things have never been better. Are we more afraid of car accidents or terror attacks? Of buying too high or selling too low? Or could it be that the nonstop election circus has consumed much of our ability to worry?

The truly frightening thing is that Congress has done nothing to address the spread of Zika. The deadlocked organization left for summer recess before acting on President Obama’s request—back in February—for $1.9 billion in funding to combat the disease. I remember shaking my head at the sensationalization of the Ebola scare back in 2014. But now, I think we could use a little less election trivia on the front page and a little more focus on a true threat.

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What We’re Reading Today

Theranos unveils new product
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China tells Uber, Didi to hold on
China’s commerce ministry said it has not received an application for approval of a merger between Jean Liu‘s Didi Chuxing and Uber’s China business, creating a $35 billion ride-share company. It didn’t seem as if the two sides would need to file with the ministry, since neither make a profit. While it’s likely to still receive approval, it’s a hiccup in Travis Kalanick‘s escape from China.  Fortune

Valeant drug on list of pharmaceuticals too expensive for coverage 
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VW faces ban in South Korea 
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Building a Better Leader

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Walking away from the big customer isn’t easy
But if they treat your employees poorly, remember that your customers are short-term, but your employees are a long-term investment. Fortune

Corporate giants are moving back to cities
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Strong Statements

Buffett issues a challenge to Trump
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Sanderson Farms embraces antibiotics 
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Gawker CEO to file for personal bankruptcy
Nick Denton
will file for bankruptcy after losing an appeal to shield him against Hulk Hogan, who won a breach of privacy lawsuit against Gawker Media. Gawker was placed under bankruptcy in June and is now up for sale due to Hogan’s $140 million lawsuit, which was funded by billionaire Peter Thiel Fortune

Up or Out

Intel has named Paula Tolliver as its new CIO. WSJ

Fortune Reads and Videos

Trump had a big July on Wall Street
Anthony Scaramucci, a top fundraiser for Donald Trump, says that the presidential candidate and groups that support him raised up to $70 million for the cause. That’s an almost 30% jump from what was raised in June, but he still lags Clinton. Fortune

Salesforce buys Quip for $582 million
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McDonald’s announces that its chicken nuggets…
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Virgin Galactic returns with a new license…
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Happy Birthday

Brian France, chairman and CEO of NASCAR, turns 54 today The Richest

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Produced by Ryan Derousseau
@ryanderous
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