Defunding the Pandemic | A Billion Dollar Mistake | Himalayan Escalation
June 26, 2020
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“All the lessons of history in four sentences:
Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad with power.
The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small.
The bee fertilizes the flower it robs.
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.”
Defunding the Pandemic
(Kevin Winter via Getty Images)
President Trump is never more serious than when he’s said to be “kidding.” On Wednesday, as the US recorded its highest one-day total of new coronavirus cases since April, the administration started rolling back its testing program.
One day earlier, hospital admissions hit record highs in seven US states. Regardless, at the end of the month, federal funding will end for 13 testing sites in five of those states: Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Colorado.
Texas was one of the states reporting an all-time daily high on Tuesday, reaching 5,489 new cases. In the last week, the state has seen COVID-19 hospitalizations rise 60 percent. Seven of the 13 testing sites to be closed — over half — are in Texas, and over half of those sites are in Houston, Harris County, where doctors warn that hospital capacity is at 97 percent.
Four US lawmakers from Texas including Republican senator Ted Cruz, a staunch Trump ally, wrote the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, urging the agencies to reconsider defunding the testing sites. The move would be “harmful and irresponsible,” lawmakers wrote in the letter, adding that the number of people being tested daily should be increased to prevent further spread of the virus.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed alarm at the funding cut, tweeting Wednesday that the administration has another $14 billion for testing and tracing it hasn’t spent. Schumer questioned the wisdom of Trump’s decision to withhold that financial support from coronavirus hotspot areas. As of Thursday afternoon, the US has almost 2.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, and over 122,000 deaths.
- More than 20m Americans could have contracted Covid-19, experts say (Guardian)
- The US sees a record number of new coronavirus cases in a single day (CNN)
- How Arizona ‘lost control of the epidemic’ (WaPo, $)
- As Virus Surges, Younger People Account for ‘Disturbing’ Number of Cases: People in their 20s, 30s and 40s account for a growing proportion of the cases in many places, raising fears that asymptomatic young people are helping to fuel the virus’s spread. (NYT, $)
- America Didn’t Give Up on Covid-19. Republicans Did. (NYT, $)
Fake It Till You Fly It
- Pakistan’s aviation minister revealed Wednesday that almost one-third of its civilian pilots have fake licenses and are not qualified to fly. The minister said 262 of the country’s 860 active pilots “did not take the exam themselves” and had paid someone else to sit it on their behalf. “They don’t have flying experience,” he said.
- Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the country’s flagship domestic airlines, has grounded all its pilots who hold fake licenses, effective immediately. Wednesday’s announcement was part of a preliminary report into a plane crash that killed 97 people in the southern city of Karachi on May 22.
- The PIA plane crashed after taking off from Lahore, killing all but two of the passengers and crew on board. The report reveals the pilots were chatting about the coronavirus and repeatedly ignored warnings from air traffic controllers before the plane went down in a residential area near the airport.
- “The pilots were discussing corona throughout the flight. They were not focused,” the minister said. Air traffic controllers told the pilots three times that the plane was too high and they should not attempt to land, “but the captain did not pay any heed to these instructions.” (CNN)
- Daily Pnut Commentary: We hope our next topic on this won’t be “In Pakistan Literally Building the Plane and Learning to Fly While Flying”
Himalayan’ Down the Law
(Yawar Nazir via Getty Images)
- New satellite images dated June 22 show that China has built structures — bunkers, tents and storage units for military hardware — near the site of a Himalayan border clash June 15 that left 20 Indian troops dead.
- The confrontation in the Galwan Valley, in the disputed Himalayan territory of Ladakh, took place on June 15, weeks after high-level military commanders from both nations agreed to “peacefully resolve the situation in the border areas in accordance with various bilateral agreements.” Since the incident India and China have been holding talks in an effort to calm tensions.
- On Wednesday a statement released by India’s foreign ministry said that each country had “reaffirmed that both sides should sincerely implement the understanding on disengagement and de-escalation that was reached by the senior commanders on 6 June.” But a leading Indian defense analyst tweeted that the new satellite images showed that “there is a large Chinese camp in the Galwan Valley, 1.5km into the Indian side of the LAC [Line of Actual Control].”
- Local media quoted sources in the Indian army as saying the additional build-up by China seemed to have taken place between the June 15 clash and commander-level talks prior to that. Satellite imagery from May shows no structures in the disputed area near where the encounter took place. (BBC)
- How China and India Came to Lethal Blows: Beijing saw a threat in New Delhi’s steady improvement of borderland infrastructure and renewed Indian claims on disputed territory. (NYT, $)
Additional World News
- Meng Wanzhou: Trudeau rejects calls to release top Huawei executive (BBC)
- China targeting non-English-speaking journalists in new push for influence (Guardian)
- Support dips for Hong Kong democracy protests as national security law looms (Reuters)
- Iraqi forces raid Iran-backed militia base, detain commanders: government sources (Reuters)
- Some very good news: Congo Announces End to Second Deadliest Ebola Outbreak Ever (Time)
- Israel Announces Partnership With U.A.E., Which Throws Cold Water On It: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touted a rare public opening between the two countries. Apparently, the Emirates was not ready for it. (NYT, $)
- Palestinians in Jordan Valley Fear Annexation Would Choke Off Their Villages (NYT, $)
- U.S. Postpones Balkan Peace Summit, in Blow to Trump Foreign Policy (NYT, $)
- Roundup Maker to Pay $10 Billion to Settle Cancer Suits (NYT, $)
- Journalist’s phone hacked by new ‘invisible’ technique: All he had to do was visit one website. Any website. (Toronto Star)
- When Brazilians Can’t Afford Steak, Peak Beef Is Nearing (Bloomberg, $)
- Coronavirus: ‘Very significant’ resurgences in Europe alarm WHO (BBC)
- COVID-19 Infection Rate In Rio’s Favelas Far Exceeds Official Count, A New Study Says (NPR)
- Uruguay and Paraguay buck Latin America coronavirus trend (Guardian)
- I’m a viral immunologist. Here’s what antibody tests for Covid-19 tell us (Guardian)
- Is Air-Conditioning Safe During the Pandemic? (Atlantic, $)
- The Second Coronavirus Surge Is Here (Atlantic, $)
- Bill Gates: US ‘not even close’ to doing enough to fight pandemic (CNN)
Seeing Green and Making Money While in the Grave
- The Government Accountability Office released an analysis Thursday revealing that the IRS sent out $1.4 billion in pandemic stimulus checks to over a million dead people because it didn’t think it had the authority to withhold the money. The agency later reversed itself and began asking survivors to return checks.
- The report doesn’t say what prompted the agency to reverse course, when it decided to change direction, or who made the decision. The GAO report does make clear that in late March the IRS raised questions about payments going to the departed when Congress was still writing the legislation authorizing the COVID-19 stimulus checks..
- In early May the IRS announced that checks paid to deceased people should be returned, but admits it doesn’t plan to spend much time tracking down the money. (Politico)
Additional USA News
- Texas Governor Pauses Reopening as Coronavirus Cases Soar in Region (NYT, $)
- Don’t Bet on a Quick Recovery: The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco discusses the pandemic, the diversity crisis in economics, and monetary policy. (Atlantic, $)
- The Decline of the American World: Other countries are used to loathing America, admiring America, and fearing America (sometimes all at once). But pitying America? That one is new. (Atlantic, $)
- America Is Facing 5 Epic Crises All at Once (NYT, $)
- Hospitals Sued to Keep Prices Secret. They Lost. (NYT, $)
- Coronavirus: US Secret Service staff self-isolating after Trump rally (BBC)
- House Passes Police Reform Legislation But Issue Mired In Partisan Standoff (NPR)
- Police Groups Wield Strong Influence in Congress, Resisting the Strictest Reforms (NYT, $)
- US public more aware of racial inequality but still rejects reparations (Reuters) Without a doubt our country has a history of racism. Black Lives Matter. Full Stop. We are so glad our country is undergoing a reawakening when it comes to race relations. With all that, Daily Pnut agrees right now with the 80% of Americans who reject reparations and while the topic is incredibly complex we don’t see our viewpoint changing anytime soon.
- Oakland moves to bar police from schools as bigger cities reject change (Guardian)
- Elijah McClain: Colorado appoints special prosecutor to investigate 2019 police killing (Guardian)
- The Black Lives Matter Movement: What began as a call to action in response to police violence and anti-Black racism in the U.S. is now a global initiative to confront racial inequities in society, including environmental injustice, bias in academia and the public health threat of racism. (Scientific American)
- A Minneapolis Neighborhood Vowed to Check Its Privilege. It’s Already Being Tested. (NYT, $)
- ‘We are just gonna go out and start slaughtering them’: Three cops fired after racist talk of killing black residents (WaPo, $)
- Donald Trump is facing the prospect of a landslide loss (CNN)
- Wall Street executives brace for Biden win as Trump fades in polls (CNBC)
- Trump allies see a mounting threat: Biden’s rising evangelical support (Politico)
- Who Are the Key Voters Turning Against Trump? They’re senior voters, and they could be Joe Biden’s secret weapon. (NYT, $)
- Trump’s brother fails in bid to block niece’s tell-all book (Guardian)
- Trump increasingly preoccupied with defending his physical and mental health (WaPo, $)
When Only Mice Can Smell Who Cut The Cheese
- In 1981, two neuroscientists won a Nobel Prize for unlocking a part of the brain’s “visual code,” the way in which the brain represents visual information about its environment. Their discoveries kick-started the rich, diverse field of visual neuroscience. However, scientists wanting to study our sense of smell don’t don’t have the same advantages.
- Smell “is much more, in a sense, mysterious,” said Edmund Chong, a graduate student in neuroscience at NYU. While complex images and shapes can be broken down into their constituent lines and angles when studying “visual code,” it’s not immediately obvious how to decompose smells, which are conveyed by airborne chemicals.
- When a person inhales these molecules, they travel through their nostrils and attach to receptor cells, which spark a pattern of activity in the olfactory bulb, a tiny, elongated brain structure right above the nasal cavity. Eventually, the brain recognizes this pattern as a particular scent.
- Humans can detect as many as a trillion different odors even though our olfactory bulbs take up only a hundredth of a percent. Mice, on the other hand, have olfactory bulbs taking up a full 2 percent of their brain volume, making them much more gifted smellers than humans. Chong says because these odor-carrying chemicals aren’t easily broken up into their constituent parts, they are “hard to directly manipulate.”
- So to avoid the issues of manipulating odor molecules entirely, Chong and his colleagues went directly to the brains of their lab mice, teaching them to smell scents that don’t actually exist in the real world. Their study was published last week in the journal Science. It’s being touted as “a spectacular achievement, both from a technical perspective and conceptually” by other neurobiologists. (Wired)
- Birds might follow their noses home (Popular Science)
- This Time-Management Trick Changed My Whole Relationship With Time (NYT, $) One of our productivity tips we have is to make sure you carve out enough time in the morning to do the most important tasks. The reason they are called priorities is because they should be done first.
- How to Start Meditating: The world is stressful. That’s especially true right now. Here are strategies to take just a few minutes every day to calm your mind and check in with yourself. (NYT, $) Daily Pnut’s Tim likes to say that he’s a better practitioner of meditation than any meditator because his solution to stress is the nap.
- Doomscrolling Is Slowly Eroding Your Mental Health (Wired, $) If you want to be less stressful, then avoid Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Nuff said.
- Down the rabbit hole: how QAnon conspiracies thrive on Facebook (Guardian) & Verizon pulling advertising from Facebook and Instagram (CNBC) Daily Pnut generally has a theory that things that grow fast also tend to die fast. Myspace, the original social network, encountered this fate. Perhaps Facebook will too. If it does, it would be a good thing for democracy given how rife with misinformation it has become.
- Warner Bros. pushes ‘Tenet’ release to August as coronavirus cases rise (CNBC) There are really only two movies we want to see this summer: Hamilton and Tenet (Trailer). And no we don’t care about Top Gun’s sequel. Beat Navy.