Trump Frees Friends | The Reality of Cellphone Addiction | Immunity is Only Temporary
July 13, 2020
“Life under a good government is rarely dramatic; life under a bad government is always so.” — Oscar Wilde
“Good government is known from bad government by this infallible test: that under the former the labouring people are well fed and well clothed, and under the latter, they are badly fed and badly clothed.” — William Cobbett
Stay Home or Get Schooled
(NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Federal public health response teams deployed to COVID-19 hotspots to assist local public health officials carried with them a 69-page document marked “For Internal Use Only.” The document warns that fully reopening K-12 schools and universities would be the “highest risk” for spreading COVID-19.
Current CDC guidelines, updated in May, say the “lowest risk” setting for COVID-19 spread is virtual-only learning options, while full-sized, in-person classes lacking social distancing is set at “highest risk.” Trump administration officials have been pushing hard for students and teachers to return to their classrooms in person this fall. Last Wednesday, the president criticized the CDC guidelines as “very tough” and “expensive.” During a White House task force briefing, Vice President Mike Pence announced the CDC would issue new guidelines on reopening schools because “we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough.”
CDC Director and task force member Dr. Robert Redfield said the agency’s recommendations should not be viewed as a barrier to returning children to classrooms. However, Redfield later insisted the CDC would not be releasing new guidance nor changing the existing guidance.
On Friday, Trump tweeted “schools must be open in the Fall,” arguing that virtual learning is “TERRIBLE” compared to in-school or on-campus learning. He also threatened to cut federal funding to schools and universities that don’t reopen, although he doesn’t have unilateral authority to do that.
COVID-19 infections are rising in 40 states. Florida set a record one day increase of 15,300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, a day after Orlando’s Walt Disney World reopened, even with a limited number of guests and a host of safety measures including masks and temperature checks. Meanwhile anti-mask activists in states including Florida are protesting local safety mandates, arguing such measures infringe on individual freedom.
- Reopened schools in Europe and Asia have largely avoided coronavirus outbreaks. They have lessons for the U.S. (WaPo, $)
- Schools Reopening: Teachers Fearful, Angry Over Pressure to Return (NYT, $)
- Disney World Opens Its Gates, With Virus Numbers Rising (NYT, $)
Common Cold or Common COVID?
- A new study from researchers at King’s College London finds that people who have recovered from COVID-19 may lose their immunity to the disease within months, suggesting the virus could reinfect people year after year like common colds.
- Scientists analyzed the immune response of more than 90 patients and healthcare workers at one hospital and found levels of antibodies that can destroy the virus peaked about three weeks after the onset of symptoms, then swiftly declined. “People are producing a reasonable antibody response to the virus, but it’s waning over a short period of time and depending on how high your peak is, that determines how long the antibodies are staying around,” said the study’s lead author.
- The research has implications for the development of a vaccine, and for the pursuit of “herd immunity” in the community over time. “Infection tends to give you the best-case scenario for an antibody response, so if your infection is giving you antibody levels that wane in two to three months, the vaccine will potentially do the same thing,” she said. “People may need boosting and one shot might not be sufficient.” (Guardian)
Let Down in Lockdown
- The UN’s International Office for Migration says more than 80 percent of the tens of thousands of Nigerian women who’ve arrived in Italy from Libya in recent years are victims of highly organized sex trafficking gangs.
- The women are forced into prostitution to pay off debts, and controlled by violence and fear of “juju” — black magic rituals they’re made to undergo before their journey to Europe. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Italy’s government imposed a strict lockdown which lasted three months. Because the women couldn’t work, trafficking gangs simply abandoned thousands of them and their children, leaving them without food or money to pay rent.
- The women were ineligible for governmental financial assistance or unemployment benefits due to the illegal status of their jobs; many began turning to volunteer associations for a package of rice or a loaf of bread. Anti-trafficking organizations said the lockdown caused more women to risk coming forward to seek help in leaving their traffickers, but it also meant they faced huge potential psychological and physical repercussions.
- The complicated and frightening juju rituals the women had undergone made them believe that attempting to escape will bring terrible consequences for themselves and their families. “This juju might seem like something small or meaningless to people here in Europe, but to the women these curses are real and terrifying,” said one sex-trafficked survivor. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Defying U.S., China and Iran Near Trade and Military Partnership (NYT, $)
- Poland’s Duda holds slim election lead – exit poll (BBC)
- Priti Patel to unveil details of post-Brexit immigration plans (Guardian)
- In Ladakh, Caught Between the Troops of India and China (NYT, $)
- Millions in southern China face floods caused by heavy rains (Al Jazeera)
- Bartering Child’s Dress for Food: Life in Lebanon’s Economic Crisis (NYT, $)
- Philippines top broadcaster ABS-CBN denied new licence (BBC)
- For 20 Years, His Firm Called Him Antoine. Now Mohamed Is Suing. (NYT, $)
- Civil War descendants in Brazil fly Confederate flags (NYT, $)
- Coronavirus: South Africa bans alcohol sales again to combat Covid-19 (BBC)
- Amazon warehouse workers say they’re risking coronavirus exposure to fulfill your Amazon Prime orders (Vox)
- The Coronavirus Is a Special Mental-Health Disaster (Atlantic, $)
- ‘I Couldn’t Do Anything’: The Virus and an E.R. Doctor’s Suicide (NYT, $)
- From playgrounds to packages, why it may be harder to catch COVID-19 from surfaces than we first though (CBC)
- 68% Have Antibodies in This Neighborhood. Can It Hold Off a Next Wave? (NYT, $)
- Trump sidelines public health advisers in growing rift over coronavirus response (WaPo, $)
- How Scientists Got Coronavirus While Trying to Find a Drug for the Disease (NYT, $)
- So Many Coronavirus Patients Don’t Get to Say Goodbye (Atlantic, $)
- What Does a Music Festival During a Pandemic Look Like? We’re About to Find Out (Pitchfork)
In Jail, Mail In
(Jeff Kowalsky via Getty Images)
- The US has some of the strictest policies in the world when it comes to disenfranchising people convicted of felonies of their right to vote, and states have widely divergent policies dictating whether someone can regain their voting rights once released from prison.
- More than six million Americans were unable to vote in the 2018 midterms because of a felony conviction. In recent years, there’s been a push to ease these restrictions, recognizing that many of the voting policies have roots in the Jim Crow south and were part of an effort to disenfranchise African Americans after they gained the right to vote.
- Washington DC has a very high incarceration rate, but now a measure included in emergency police reform legislation — passed last Tuesday by the city council — means up to 4,500 imprisoned people could get their voting rights back. Absentee ballots would automatically be mailed to DC residents held at the local jail and in federal prisons across the country, and DC would join the states of Maine and Vermont as the only places where felons are permitted to vote in prison.There’s a caveat, however: Being emergency legislation, the DC measure would expire in 90 days unless a permanent version were approved by the council this fall. (Guardian)
Using vs Abusing
- President Trump has demonstrated a clear pattern of using his power to pardon or grant clemency to prominent political allies and people who have shown him loyalty. According to Mark Osler, a law professor and clemency scholar, Trump’s clemency grants have gone to “people he knows or learned about from Fox News,” with only a handful of exceptions.
- On a single day in February, Trump pardoned or commuted the sentences of 11 people, all of whom had one thing in common: either their cases were promoted on Fox News or they had an inside connection to the president. The latest example was Friday night, when Trump abruptly commuted the sentence of his former campaign adviser Roger Stone.
- Last fall, a jury convicted Stone on all counts of lying to lawmakers during their probe into Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election, obstructing the investigation, and witness tampering. Attorney General Bill Barr pressured prosecutors into reducing much stronger sentencing recommendations for Stone to a term of just 40 months in federal prison.
- Trump called Stone a “victim of the Russia Hoax,” and pronounced that he “has already suffered greatly.” Osler noted: “Modern presidents have sullied clemency through disuse (both Bushes) and occasional self-serving grants (Clinton). However, no president has ever used clemency primarily to reward friends and political allies” — until Trump.
- Saturday morning a member of Trump’s own party, Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah), tweeted: “An American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.” Romney described the move as “unprecedented, historic corruption.” (NPR)
Additional USA News
- Fracking Firms Fail, Rewarding Executives and Raising Climate Fears (NYT, $)
- Graham to Call Mueller to Testify Before Senate Judiciary Committee (NYT, $)
- Officials warn of health risks as heatwave may break records in the south of US (Guardian)
- San Diego naval ship fire injures 17 sailors and four civilians (CNN)
- What Donald Trump’s ‘Access Hollywood’ Weekend Says About 2020: On a Friday, the world heard vulgar audio of Mr. Trump boasting about forcing himself on women. By Sunday night, the episode that was supposed to doom him had begun to recede. (NYT, $)
- Mazars, Vance, and Financial Disclosures: Trump Runs Out the Clock (Atlantic, $)
- A book by Trump’s niece claims he has psychological disorders. We asked psychologists (CBC)
- Expert warns the US is approaching ‘one of the most unstable times in the history of our country’ (CNN)
- After the fastest recession in U.S. history, the economic recovery may be fizzling (WaPo, $)
- Actually, the Supreme Court Just Gave Congress a Big Win (Politico)
- Who Gets the Banhammer Now? (NYT, $)
- The Perils of ‘With Us or Against Us’ (Atlantic, $)
- Police brutality, systemic racism, and a hidden ideology helped shape American policing (Vox)
- Will Republicans ditch Trump to save the Senate as support nosedives? (Guardian)
iCan’t Look Away
- If a global quarantine has proved anything, it’s that human interaction and technology are now entirely interwoven. With work, class, and even cocktail hours relegated to the screen, our devices have never felt more integral to daily life. Mobile technology is now widely accepted as both a necessary and positive good, but can there be too much of a good thing?
- After studying the effects of smartphones on the human brain, the answer appears to be yes. Just as our neural activity is hijacked by addictive substances, our phones have been observed to produce a similarly intoxicating neurological response.
- In a recent study, neuroimaging from 21 self-described cell-phone addicts revealed that the presence of stimuli from mobile phones can alter activity in regions of the brain that regulate self-control and attention. These regions combine to make up our personal reward centers, where cell phones can induce addictive compulsions similar to those who suffer from drug abuse.
- The limited sample size prevents any absolute scientific claims, but German researcher Robert Christian Wolf concluded that “persons with smartphone addiction showed a pattern of increased and decreased activity in specific brain regions, i.e. increased activity in parts of the brain that process salience, together with decreased activity in parts of the brain that subserve cognitive control or control.”
- However, Wolf noted that such observations “do not necessarily imply that smartphone addiction is ‘truly’ an addictive disorder, nor do they show that something is ‘abnormal’ in brains of people meeting psychometric criteria for smartphone addiction.”
- So while comparing your iPhone to an addictive drug may make for an easy, and partially correct, metaphor — more research is required for such a diagnosis to hold psychological merit. (PsyPost).
- How to remember anything using the memory palace technique (Wired, $). As our attention spans become increasingly shorter as we consume bites of information and entertainment, developing a strong memory can help your brain stay in shape.
- Why does laughing feel so stinkin’ good? (Popular Science)
- We’re Going to Run Out of TV (Ringer)
- Should We Be Drinking Less? (NYT, $)
- ‘We are all Martians!’: space explorers seek to solve the riddle of life on Mars (Guardian)
- Why Is a Tech Executive Installing Security Cameras Around San Francisco? (NYT, $). Technology can be a double-edged sword. People often object to government surveillance, but what if that power is handed to communities instead? Would you trust a neighborhood council more than the police?
- A Reporter’s Lonely Mission When the Writing Is on the Wall (NYT, $). As print media continues to die out, all but the largest journalism companies are still struggling to find a sustainable revenue model.
- Debating ‘Hamilton’ as It Shifts From Stage to Screen (NYT, $)
- Geologists find evidence of two new supervolcano eruptions at Yellowstone (Salon)
- 25 years after returning to Yellowstone, wolves have helped stabilize the ecosystem (National Geographic)
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