An American Outbreak
September 25, 2019
“To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man’s life.” – T.S. Eliot
No Joke Here, Vaccinate Your Kids
The World Health Organization has listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top threats to global health. Astoundingly, at a time in human history when there have been stunning scientific and medical advances, next month the US could lose its designation as a country that has eliminated measles due to a proliferation of measles outbreaks this year.
How is it possible that people in one of the most advanced, literate nations in the world could champion a cause that contradicts modern medicine? In truth, anti-vaccine sentiment has been brewing for decades. It is a byproduct of persistent social media rumor and misinformation, a backlash against big Pharma, special credence given to statements from a handful of Hollywood celebrities and a food allergy activist who’s the nephew of a popular past president — and now anti-science rhetoric from the current administration. One infectious disease expert explains the sad reality: “Science has become just another voice in the room. It has lost its platform. Now, you simply declare your own truth.”
Vaccine resistant devotees may be anti-government libertarians, apostles of the all-natural, or simply parents who don’t think doctors should dictate medical decisions about children. An overwhelming majority of Americans still have their children vaccinated, but there are ominous trends. The optimum vaccination rate for protecting an entire population is 95 percent. The CDC found that in the 2017-2018 school year, the vaccination rate for the measles, mumps and rubella injection in kindergarteners fell to 94.3 percent — the third year in a row it had dropped.
The Who’s WHO Of Vaccine Restrictions
- Ebola has killed more than 2,100 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo since August 2018. The outbreak was declared a “public health emergency of international concern” by the World Health Organization in July after a case was confirmed in Goma, a city of some 2 million people. But now Doctors Without Borders is accusing the WHO of questionable restrictions on the availability of the Ebola vaccine in Congo.
- DWB’s director of operations stated Monday that at least 2,000 people should be receiving the vaccine daily, instead of the 1,000 being vaccinated daily at present.
- “WHO is restricting the availability of the vaccine in the field and the eligibility criteria and their application for reasons that are unclear,” she said. (NPR)
Caught Red Handed And Red Faced
- Comparisons between Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson and America’s president Donald Trump are inescapable. One is an ethically challenged serial philanderer, a chronic prevaricator and misspender of public money, a chaotic leader with a beguiling, fearsome personality that somehow mesmerizes supporters. As is the other. Eventually, however, chickens come home to roost.
- And so it is that an article published in the Sunday Times of London last weekend just could be damaging enough that voters finally tire of forgiving Johnson’s flaws.
- It seems that when the PM was mayor of London, his office directed tens of thousands of pounds in government money to a budding young American entrepreneur and close female friend, whose apartment Johnson often visited during working hours. (NYT)
- Johnson’s suspension of parliament unlawful, supreme court rules (Guardian)
- Jeremy Corbyn Wins Brexit Showdown With His Labour Party (NYT $)
Deleting Announcements At Quantum Speeds
- The Financial Times has claimed it was able to save a copy of a paper published on NASA’s website — before it quickly disappeared — in which Google announced it had achieved “quantum supremacy.”
- The Times said the Google research paper, entitled “Quantum supremacy using a programmable superconducting processor,” read: “To our knowledge this experiment marks the first computation that can only be performed on a quantum processor.”
- At least one Google competitor, IBM, disputed Google’s alleged announcement, saying it is “just plain wrong.” (Verge)
- On Your Mark, Get Set, Multiply: The way you learned to multiply works, but computers employ a faster algorithm. (Quanta Magazine)
- Scott’s Supreme Quantum Supremacy FAQ! (Scott Aaronson)
- With over 110 million Americans over age 50, it’s no wonder this Princeton grad’s startup just raised another $28 million in funding to help people conquer retirement.
- You keep up with the news enough to know that it’s a scary world out there.
- A single tweet can cause the market to drop 600 points in less than ten minutes.
- The threat of trade wars dramatically reduces hiring and revenue projections.
- When uncertainty rattles even the most stolid of financial experts…Can you afford to sit on the sidelines and hope for the best? If you feel your retirement is no longer secure, now is the time to talk to a financial advisor.
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I Did Not Have Secret Relations With That Country
- After months of caution on the part of top Democratic leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally announced Tuesday afternoon that the House would begin a formal impeachment inquiry of President Trump. Pelosi said the president had betrayed his oath of office and the nation’s security in seeking to enlist a foreign power for his own political gain.
- “The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution,” Pelosi said after emerging from a meeting of House Democrats in the basement of the Capitol. “[Trump] must be held accountable — no one is above the law.”
- Democrats had been divided over using the ultimate remedy to address what is arguably flagrant and continuing misconduct by the president. (NPR)
The First Rule Of The Impeachment Defense Team…
- Lawyers for President Trump insist he is not worried about impeachment and there is no “impeachment defense team.”
- So what are at least 30 White House and Justice Department attorneys doing filing aggressive legal briefs and countersuits that are stymying any House attempts at oversight? What are several of the president’s personal lawyers doing making almost daily media statements and appearances discussing the subject of impeachment?
- Why has the president refused to let former White House counsel Don McGahn testify before Congress, and curtailed ex-staffers testimony? And why is Trump fighting so hard to keep grand jury proceedings, and his tax returns, away from congressional committees contemplating bringing articles of impeachment? (Politico)
- In Trump’s Ukraine flap, risks and opportunities for Biden (Reuters)
- Trump Ordered Hold on Military Aid Days Before Calling Ukrainian President Officials Say (WaPo $)
- Trump Admits Everything: Usually the drama of an investigation lies in finding out what happened, but the drama of this investigation lies in what happens next. (The Atlantic)
- Democrats Pressure White House and Republican Senate on the Ukraine Inquiry: They said a failure by the administration to disclose a complaint about President Trump’s interactions with the leader of Ukraine would be considered obstruction. (NYT $)
- What Were The Bidens Doing In Ukraine? 5 Questions Answered (NPR)
Does Meritocracy Have Merit?
- Get into the weeds of the meritocracy debate with an in-depth analysis of opposing perspectives on elite higher education, as only the New Yorker can bring you.
- Here’s a teaser: Assume the place social mobility and income inequality meet is in higher education. Accept that education in the US is supposed to be meritocratic.
- Question: if the educational system is reproducing existing class and status hierarchies — i.e. most of the benefits are going to students who are already privileged — does that mean either meritocracy isn’t working properly, or it wasn’t the right approach in the first place?
- Paul Tough, in “The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us,” thinks the problem is a broken system. Daniel Markovits, in “The Meritocracy Trap,” thinks the whole idea was a terrible mistake. Discuss. (New Yorker)
- The well-educated person: If we took Aristotle seriously we would revolutionise our educational systems to enable citizens to learn throughout life (Aeon)
- I thought I’d made it when I got to Cambridge University. How wrong I was: I was sold a dream of upward mobility. But from cash to culture, it’s clear my working-class background still counts against me (Guardian)
- Nestlé launches luxury KitKat bars — but they’re not cheap (CNN)
- When We Love Our Food So Much That It Goes Extinct (NPR) and Can a Burger Help Solve Climate Change?: Eating meat creates huge environmental costs. Impossible Foods thinks it has a solution. (The New Yorker, $)
“If you haven’t the strength to impose your own terms upon life, then you must accept the terms it offers you.” – T.S. Eliot
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