Window of opportunity 稍纵即逝的好机会


Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, with "window of opportunity" in particular: If Israel is planning to annex the Jordan Valley, the window of opportunity is only from now until the American election in November.


My comments:

In other words, if Israel wants to annex the Jordan Valley, it must act now, moving fast and finishing the task before November, or before the next US election.

Presumably this is because Israel has the support of Donald Trump, currently President of the United States. Trump may lose the November election and leave the Oval Office. The next president, Joe Biden that is to be, unless something extraordinarily unexpected happens, almost certainly opposes the Israeli aggression.

Window of opportunity, as you may guess, is a small opportunity, an opportunity that lasts only a short period of time. In our example, it means for Israel, the opportunity to annex the Jordan Valley may very well cease to exist after November.

I say a window of opportunity is a small opportunity because window, by definition, is a smaller opening on the wall of a room, smaller at any rate in comparison with the door to the room, which is the main entrance and opening.

However small it is, the window is nonetheless an escape.

If you follow English football, you'll know the English Premier League has something called a transfer window, which allows clubs to exchange players with one other in the middle of the playing season.

The playing season usually lasts from August to next April. The transfer window usually lasts a month. For 2020, it opened on January 1, closing at the end of January 31.

Like a regular window, it opens and it closes. While it's open, there is the opportunity for everybody.

As opportunities go, the window of opportunity is temporary. It doesn't last forever. Hence, carpe diem. Seize the day. Grab the opportunity while it's there.

Alright, here are recent media examples of "window of opportunity":

1. Can the state tell your favorite local restaurant to close, or tell you that you must stay at home unless it’s absolutely necessary to leave, because of an emergency? The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have closed down bars, movie theaters and dine-in restaurants. Six counties in the San Francisco Bay Area have imposed a shelter-in-place order that allows people to leave their homes only for essential activities.

In response to these drastic measures intended to slow down the spread of coronavirus, there are plenty of voices on social media, and even some in government, denouncing such measures as unprecedented, un-American and unconstitutional. Most of us have never imagined such impositions outside of a situation of armed conflict, but allegations that those measures in the current circumstances are unlawful are wrong. And this is a case where legal misinformation can exacerbate a public health crisis.

States—and their cities and counties by extension—possess what has long been known as a “police power” to govern for the health, welfare and safety of their citizens. This broad authority, which can be traced to English common law and is reserved to the states by the 10th Amendment, is far from radical; it justifies why states can regulate at all.

The police power of the states has been invoked on multiple occasions by the Supreme Court, often in contrast to the limited powers of the federal government—for example, in Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion in the 2012 Obamacare case. This power also has been recognized in the context of public health for decades. In a 1905 Supreme Court case that upheld mandatory smallpox vaccinations, the court observed that “upon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.”

What does this mean for the drastic coronavirus responses we’re seeing across the country? State and local governments can indeed decide to force even unwilling businesses to shut down, require people to stay mostly at home, impose curfews and even threaten noncompliance with arrest if necessary. (Thankfully, with COVID-19, we have so far seen mostly peaceful, even if begrudging, compliance to “flatten the curve” so that our health care workers and hospitals are not overwhelmed.) But, you might ask, don’t I have individual rights, even in a pandemic? Of course you do. We possess constitutionally protected rights to assemble and travel, for instance. State and local governments must be careful to make sure that measures they impose to protect people are not overly broad and are taken only for justifiably important reasons.

Our legal history is filled with cases where government has had insufficiently important reasons to justify restrictive measures, or where the measures themselves are overly broad. Or even cases where government restrictions turn out to have been implemented for impermissibly discriminatory reasons, such as when the city of San Francisco targeted only its Chinese residents in a bubonic plague outbreak in 1900. Not all exercises of the police power will withstand constitutional scrutiny.

But the very existence of this framework—the balance between the need to protect the public and individual rights—assumes that there will be times when there are truly compelling emergencies justifying severe measures. A global pandemic that spreads even among those who are asymptomatic and could exceed the capacity of the American health care system would appear to be just such a compelling situation.

When prominent voices tell the public that these drastic measures are somehow inherently unlawful or obviously unconstitutional, they detract from the social solidarity we need right now. People who are misled about what the government may do, and confused about its established powers, might not take heed of the necessary measures to protect their own health and that of their communities.

At some point in the future, we could see a coronavirus response that has gone on too long or is too broad to justify its burdens. Or we might see instances of people who were denied civil liberties without real justification. Even now, you might feel that these measures are too little, too late, or that they are drastic, and burdensome. But if we are facing a window of opportunity that is rapidly closing, to say that the states cannot try to use their most basic authority to save lives is not only wrong—it might be deadly.

- Yes, States and Local Governments Can Close Private Businesses and Restrict Your Movement,, March 18, 2020.



2. For six weeks, Martha's Cafe was closed. With no customers at the counter and no orders in the kitchen, they decided to make a change.

"We’ve always wanted to put a drive-thru in," owner Pam Metz said. "We decided - my kids decided - that we should get on that, so thank God for our kids. They all jumped in and we got it done in about a week and here we are."

Metz has owned Martha's since 1990. She said adding a drive-thru had always been something they discussed, but having to shut their doors to customers was the motivation they needed to actually go through with it.

Opening their new window of opportunity last Friday, Metz says it's been like starting from scratch.

"We’re starting like a new business because we don’t know what we’re doing," she joked. "We’ve never had online ordering, now we have online ordering."

"We’re learning, it’s a learning process, but it’s been pretty good, so far."

Preparing to-go orders is a change of pace from sit down dishes and there’s a pinch of adjustment with each meal.

"The to-go is a lot of work," Metz said. "You have to do everything separately, it’s not just on a nice little plate, so that’s probably been our biggest challenge, figuring out how to do this."

According to Metz, things are getting better each day and their die-hard diners are helping ease the stress.

"We’re getting pumped now, again. We’re feeling a little better about things that we still have a lot of our customers, so it’s not quite as scary as it was," she said.

- A window of opportunity: Martha’s Cafe reopens with a drive-thru,, May 6, 2020.

3. Richard Bright, a career government scientist-turned-whistleblower, will tell a congressional panel Thursday that without a stronger federal response, the coronavirus threatens to make 2020 the "darkest winter in modern history."

Bright is testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, which called the hearing after Bright filed a whistleblower complaint with the Office of Special Counsel.

Bright contends that he was removed from his post as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority by top officials at the Department of Health and Human Services "in response to my insistence that the government invest funding allocated to BARDA by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit," according to his prepared testimony, released Tuesday by the subcommittee.

Bright says his testimony is to be "forward looking" and that he is speaking out "because science — not politics or cronyism — must lead the way to combat this deadly virus."

Bright contends that his transfer to a lower-ranking post at HHS came because of his reluctance to promote use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat patients with COVID-19, which had been touted by President Trump and others.

Trump has dismissed Bright as "a disgruntled employee who's trying to help the Democrats win an election."

In his written opening statement, Bright paints a gloomy picture unless the Trump administration responds more quickly and more strongly to the coronavirus.

"It is painfully clear that we were not as prepared as we should have been," Bright says. "We missed early warning signals and we forgot important pages from our pandemic playbook."

Bright warns, "Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities."

"The undeniable fact is there will be a resurgence of the COVID-19 this fall, greatly compounding the challenges of seasonal influenza and putting an unprecedented strain on our health care system," he says. "Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history."

- Ousted Scientist Says ‘Window Of Opportunity’ To Fight Coronavirus Is Closing,, May 14, 2020.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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