No Kids During Crisis | COVID-19’s North Korean Tour | Luau in Limbo
July 27, 2020
The Good News
- A woman’s stolen teddy bear contained a recording of her dying mother. Now celebrities are trying to help her get it back. (CNN). Though some consider celebrities to be out of touch with the public, these gracious acts show that they can be compassionate human beings too.
- Roles reversed as a St. Bernard dog was the one that needed rescuing from England’s tallest mountain (CNN). St. Bernards have been saving people in the mountains since the 18th century, but this one needed a little help of its own.
- Texas Couple Beats COVID-19, Cancer, and Chemotherapy Together (Latin Post)
“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” – John Lewis
Flattening the Population Curve
Data relative to the short term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is quantifiable. Forecasting the pandemic’s long term qualitative impact, say, on population, requires a different assessment. Three variables determine fluctuations in a country’s population: births, deaths, and migration flows. COVID-19 is disrupting all three.
The US population has grown steadily for the last 100 years; however, the birth rate is at a historic low right now, having fallen by 20 percent since the financial crisis of 2008. At the height of the pandemic, when much of the world was in lockdown, some people were predicting a wave of “coronababies.” But at the same time, a survey of people under 35 living in five wealthy European countries showed 60 to 80 percent were either postponing or entirely abandoning the idea of having children. The generations that are currently of childbearing age encountered a global financial meltdown, followed a decade later by a global pandemic. Factor in awareness of the ongoing existential threat that is climate change and it’s understandable why a generation might choose to be childless.
On Sunday, Worldometer’s US death count approached 150,000, and the numbers continue to rise. One recent study found that, during March, April, and May, the number of deaths from any cause was about 122,000 higher than would have been expected in the absence of the pandemic. That number also continues to rise, meaning it’s reasonable to argue that the pandemic is reducing the population by hundreds of thousands.
Normally, immigration is a significant contributor to America’s annual population growth. Its contribution has been declining with President Trump in office; even so, it’s estimated nearly 600,000 people have added to the US population from 2018 to 2019. In May 2019, the US issued 40,000 visas for permanent immigration; in May 2020, the number was under 700. The reduction in immigration this year alone could mean several hundred thousand fewer Americans.
A recent study projected the US population will peak in 2062, then start to shrink. A “perfect storm” of crises could speed up the arrival of that population peak.
(Kim Won Jin via Getty Images)
- Six months ago, as COVID-19 swept around the globe, North Korea closed its borders and put thousands of people in isolation. On July 3 Leader Kim Jong-un declared his country a “shining success” in dealing with COVID-19. According to Pyongyang, the secretive nation hadn’t reported a single case of the virus.
- But this weekend, state media advised that a person who defected to South Korea three years ago had returned across the demarcation line on July 19 with COVID-19 symptoms. Kim held an emergency meeting Saturday with top officials; he ordered a “maximum emergency system” to contain the virus, including locking down the border city of Kaesong.
- Kim also launched an investigation into how the person had managed to cross the heavily fortified border, warning those responsible that “a severe punishment” would be administered. Defections across the South Korean border are extremely rare (most escape North Korea through its northern border with China), and re-defections are virtually unheard of.
- Experts fear that North Korea’s poor health system may make the Hermit Kingdom very susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, but the country’s poor infrastructure and authoritarian government could prove effective in limiting the virus’ spread. (BBC)
Re-Caught Red Handed
- Early on the morning of July 18 the 15th century Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul in the city of Nantes, in western France, broke out in flames. Flames destroyed a 17th century organ and multiple 16th-century stained-glass windows. Smoke billowing from the Gothic building was a reminder of the devastating fire that consumed Notre-Dame in Paris almost exactly one year earlier. While investigators searched for arson suspects, they couldn’t find evidence of any break-ins.
- A 39-year-old Rwandan refugee who volunteered at the church was questioned and released early in the investigation. But on Sunday, the same man was arrested after police said they had received new unspecified forensic evidence. The man, whose name wasn’t made public, confessed to setting the fire that severely damaged the interior of the church.
- The man had been responsible for locking up the church at night; he gave no motive for setting the fire. Prosecutors stated, “We noticed, in two or three locations where the fire started, troubling elements that could corroborate a criminal act.” The man faces up to 10 years in prison and a $175,000 fine. (NYT)
Additional World News
- Popular Chinese-Made Drone Is Found to Have Security Weakness (NYT, $)& Chinese-made drone app in Google Play spooks security researchers (Ars Technica)
- Officials Push U.S.-China Relations Toward Point of No Return (NYT, $) & Pompeo’s Surreal Speech on China (Atlantic, $)
- Crowds wave Chinese flags and take selfies as US consulate closes in Chengdu (Guardian)
- Poland’s decision to leave treaty aimed at preventing violence against women sparks criticism (CNN)
- Russian Oil Grab in Libya Fuels U.S.-Kremlin Tensions in Mideast (WSJ, $)
- Russia’s GRU Hackers Hit US Government and Energy Targets (Wired, $)
- Sudan to send more troops to Darfur after deadly attacks (BBC)
- One million Cambodians under threat from development of vital wetlands (Guardian)
- Flooding in India Kills Scores of Animals, Including Endangered Rhinos (NYT, $)
- Baleen whales may be changing their travels because of warming climate (WaPo, $)
- My Uncle Died of Covid-19 in America. In China, Would He Have Lived? (NYT)
- Colombian guerrillas are using coronavirus curfews to expand their control. Violators have been killed. (WaPo, $)
- Can Widespread Mask Use Prevent Lockdowns Where The Virus Is Surging? (NPR)
- The Long Game of Coronavirus Research (New Yorker)
- Corporate Insiders Pocket $1 Billion in Rush for Coronavirus Vaccine (NYT)
- The Coronavirus Unleashed Along the Amazon River (NYT)
- CDC: One-third of COVID-19 patients who aren’t hospitalized have long-term illness (NBC)
- Your Coronavirus Antibodies Are Disappearing. Should You Care? (NYT)
- Study identifies six different “types” of COVID-19 (CBS)
- Viking Age Smallpox Complicates Story of Viral Evolution (NYT)
(David Ryder via Getty Images)
- The continuing clash between federal troops and Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Oregon prompted thousands of people to march through the streets of other American cities on Saturday. In Seattle, Washington, a day of demonstrations focusing on police violence by about 5,000 people left a trail of broken windows, fires and tear-gassed protesters. Police fired flash grenades into crowds, pepper-sprayed marchers and shoved people to the ground. Both police officers and protesters suffered injuries, and at least 45 people were arrested.
- In Austin, Texas shortly before 10 pm Saturday, protesters marching through an intersection in the downtown area heard a car blasting its horn and driving through the crowd before hitting an orange cone. Seconds later a man sitting inside the car fired five shots, killing a protester who appeared to have approached the car. The shots and several more loud blasts were heard on a live video taken at the scene. The driver was detained and is cooperating.
- In downtown Los Angeles, a melee between Refuse Fascism activists and police broke out in front of a federal courthouse. Other demonstrations took place in New York, Nebraska, Colorado and Virginia.
- President Trump’s decision to send federal stormtroopers into Portland over the objections of local officials has only increased the size of the chaotic confrontations, where a group of nurses joined the “Wall of Moms” in helmets and fathers in hardhats assembled by the barrier erected around a federal courthouse. (NYT)
Luau in Limbo
- For Hawaii’s string of remote islands — only reachable by plane or cruise ship — COVID-19 remains more of a distant threat than a present danger. While caseloads balloon in the continental United States, the 50th state has managed to keep the virus under control. The state is currently reporting less than 2,000 confirmed cases and 25 deaths, establishing Hawaii as a distant safe haven amidst an American crisis.
- However, geographic isolation has served as a double edged sword for the tropical archipelago. Strict travel bans have shielded Hawaiians from the virus, but not from economic peril. Without a constant stream of vacationers to buoy the state’s precious tourism economy, Hawaii is suffering from a wave of unemployment along with a growing financial deficit.
- Despite receiving almost $7 billion from the federal government, closing off the state from its largest source of income has proven extremely damaging. The jobless rate spiked to 23.5 percent in May, more than 10 percent higher than the national unemployment rate. A lack of tourist dollars compounded the standard economic hardships of a statewide shutdown, indiscriminately shuttering well-known hotels, restaurants, and shops.
- Worldwide travel restrictions to the US don’t provide much hope for the immediate future. Economists at the University of Hawaii predict a long road to economic recovery for the island state, as air travel restrictions and trepidation will likely outlast the virus itself.
- Moving forward, the state is debating whether or not extreme mitigation strategies are worth the monetary strain. Plans are in the works to loosen travel restrictions and relax mandatory quarantine rules for incoming travellers. These risky steps may help bring some of the tourism industry back to life, but economists from the University of Hawaii have declared that only federal aid will keep the state from financial ruin in the years to come. (Guardian)
Additional USA News
- COVID cases top 4 million as Trump and his base reject experts, science (USA Today)
- Local TV stations across the country set to air discredited ‘Plandemic’ researcher’s conspiracy theory about Fauci (CNN)
- Anatomy of an Election ‘Meltdown’ in Georgia (NYT, $)
- America’s Looming Primary-Care Crisis (New Yorker)
- Republicans and Democrats want Mueller to testify again. They may regret it. (Politico)
- The F.B.I. Pledged to Keep a Source Anonymous. Trump Allies Aided His Unmasking. (NYT, $)
- Trump aims barb at Reagan Foundation in fundraising coin kerfuffle (Guardian)
- Homeland Security Was Destined to Become a Secret Police Force (New Yorker) & In Portland’s So-Called War Zone, It’s the Troops Who Provide the Menace (NYT, $)
- Trump’s Portland deployment reveals a crisis of the Republican Party (Vox)
- As Trump rages, open defiance of him is mounting. Here are 7 examples. (WaPo, $)
- Kimberly Guilfoyle under fire for Trump fundraising disarray (Atlantic, $). An interesting inside look into Trump’s fundraising apparatus, including: six delayed COVID-19 tests, two hostile managers, and a one tenacious but self-absorbed boss.
- Hurricane Hanna: Storm Makes Landfall in Texas (NYT, $)
Uber Down Electric Avenue
- Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, notorious for skirting governmental oversight, may have reached the end of their evasive road in California. As the nation’s prime location for electric vehicles, the state is now workshopping legislation that would require 60% of miles travelled by ride-hail services to be electrically powered by 2030.
- Such a mandate is both unheard of and almost inconceivable, given that current e-mileage currently hovers around 1%. Even in the progressive state of California, electric cars account for less than 1/10th of the vehicles sold, meaning that a lot will need to change in the next decade in order to drive this regulation home.
- The California Air Resources Board, who is pushing for this mandate, calculates that this Uber e-revolution would require at least a third of rideshare fleets to be electric. The Clean Miles Standard, as it is referred to by lawmakers, aims to reduce carbon emissions in Californian cities like Los Angeles, which is known for its poor air quality.
- Lyft has already made such a commitment to electric vehicles, promising 100% compliance by 2030. Uber has announced no such plans, but such promises may not be so easy for these companies to keep. Neither service actually owns the vehicles they provide to passengers, instead relying on the personal wheels of drivers themselves. In order to see the changes California wants, a shift must happen at the societal, not corporate, level.
- To do that, expect massive government subsidies for electric cars and a sizable investment in charging infrastructure. Plug-in cars are still largely impractical for lower-income drivers, but by incentivizing the sale of electric cars and building a network of charging stations, the California government may be Uber and Lyft’s greatest ally in helping them meet this ambitious goal.
- The Lightness of Being a Couch Potato May Work to Keep Us Fat (NYT, $)
- New York Times Casually Drops Another Story About How Aliens Are Probably Real (Gizmodo)
- 3 Great Mysteries About Life on Mars (NYT, $) & Why the ‘Super Weird’ Moons of Mars Fascinate Scientists (NYT, $)
- This sculpture at CIA headquarters holds one of the world’s most famous unsolved mysteries (CNN)
- Sometimes, it’s not about what you say, but how you say it: The Biases We Hold Against the Way People Speak (NYT, $)
- Magicians’ priming techniques are effective at influencing choice (Ars Technica)
- Did a Person Write This Headline, or a Machine? (Wired, $)
- Intel ‘Stunning Failure’ Heralds End of Era for U.S. Chip Sector (Bloomberg)
- Remember the days before Amazon became the global go-to shopping destination?: The curious origins of online shopping (BBC)
- Elon Musk: The Maureen Dowd Interview (NYT, $). Musk is, without a doubt, one of the strangest (and most vocal) billionaires in the world. And some billionaires are very weird.
- We once heralded them as legends-in-the-making, but are we moving towards a post-celebrity world?: How the world turned on celebrities (BBC)
- 25 Underrated Films That Will Save Your Summer (Atlantic)
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