Losing 25 Years in 25 Weeks
September 18, 2020
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“Nothing in progress can rest on its original plan. We might as well think of rocking a grown man in the cradle of an infant.” — Edmund Burke
“Progress is the law of nature. The duty of each of us is to promote the progress and prevent stagnation.” — Wilhelm Weitling
Losing 25 Years in 25 Weeks
(Mohd Firdaus via Getty Images)
An annual progress report from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released this week offers a bleak illustration of just how much COVID-19 and its deluge of “mutually exacerbating catastrophes” have set back global development efforts. The 2020 Goalkeepers report — which provides the most current global dataset for how the pandemic is affecting progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals — warns that the world lost 25 years of developmental headway in just 25 weeks.
Drawing comparisons to the 1918 influenza pandemic, the report suggests that no sector of development will come out of this crisis unscathed. In the 47-page analysis, the Gates Foundation departs from the optimistic tone that has characterized previous editions, instead revealing that progress has either halted or regressed in all major indicators of global prosperity.
“In past editions of the Goalkeepers Report – almost every time we have opened our mouths or put pen to paper, in fact – we have celebrated decades of historic progress in fighting poverty and disease,” Bill and Melinda Gates write in the introduction. “But we have to confront the current reality with candour: this progress has now stopped.”
Progress in this report is being measured against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, otherwise known as the Global Goals. These metrics serve as a series of 17 targets that all members of the UN agreed to in 2015, with the stated goal of providing all people with “peace and prosperity” by 2030. The Gates Foundation cites an economic recession — which has increased extreme global poverty by 7% — and lack of vaccine coverage as the primary contributors to this developmental stagnation. To close out the report, the Gates Foundation admonishes against hyper-nationalism in response to this international crisis.
“If rich countries buy up the first two billion doses of vaccine instead of making sure they are distributed in proportion to the global population, then almost twice as many people could die from Covid-19,” the report warns.
Take a Flight To Nowhere
- Are you itching to hop on a plane, but worldwide travel restrictions got you down? In response to a major drop-off in business due to COVID-19, some airlines are resorting to “flights to nowhere” that will give travelers the experience of air travel, all from the comfort of their local airport.
- Confused? We were too. Who wants to shell out airline prices just to end up on the same tarmac at the end of the flight? As it turns out, lots of customers in Asia and Australia. Qantas, an Australian carrier, claims their first “flight to nowhere” sold out in less than 10 minutes last Thursday. “It’s probably the fastest-selling flight in Qantas history,” a spokeswoman for the airline said.
- The 7-hour Qantas flight takes off in Sydney and gives passengers an aerial tour of the Australian outback, the Uluru monolith, and the Great Barrier Reef, before returning from whence they came. Prices range anywhere from $575 to $2,765, proving that some grounded travelers are still willing to pay premium prices for a chance to take to the skies.
- These peculiar “flights to nowhere” are just the latest in a series of changes being forced upon a struggling airline industry. Initial data suggests that airfare revenue may drop by 50 percent in 2020, resulting in billions of dollars in losses. Despite predictions that companies like Qantas will break even on these destination-less journeys, gimmicks won’t do much to solve the underlying problem. The airline still lost $2.9 billion during the 2020 fiscal year. (WaPo, $)
India On Pace To Move Past US
- Just two weeks ago, India overtook Brazil as the second worst-affected country from COVID-19 as the nation recorded its 4 millionth positive case. This Wednesday, the Indian tally soared over 5 million cases, a number that only the United States has exceeded.
- While they still trail America’s staggering caseload of 6.6 million, this rapid increase in just two weeks foretells a time in the near future where India will surpass the US as the country worst affected by the virus. Nearly 100,000 new cases were reported on Thursday morning alone, breaking the record for the highest daily tally for any country since the pandemic began.
- This dramatic uptick in confirmed cases likely doesn’t tell the full story, as much of rural India lacks access to proper testing and treatment. Serological studies insinuate that as many as 1 in 4 Indians could have COVID-19 antibodies, revealing that the extent of the spread may be even more severe than daily tallies can quantify. (NPR)
Additional COVID-19 News
- Asia’s migrant workers are having a rough time under covid-19 (Economist, $)
- WHO warns Europe over ‘very serious’ Covid surge (BBC)
- More than half of Covid-19 patients have lasting fatigue, research suggests (NBC)
- Medical Care Delays In Pandemic Exact Steep Price From Patients (NPR)
- Yes, you can have Covid-19 and the flu at the same time. Here’s what that could do to your body (CNN)
- Photos: Life in the Wake of COVID-19 (Atlantic, $)
- How Vermont became a ‘model for the country’ in responding to the coronavirus pandemic (ABC)
Additional World News
- Navalny team says he was poisoned by water bottle in hotel room, not at airport (Reuters). Never trust the free beverage fridge at the hotel.
- Xinjiang: China defends ‘education’ camps (BBC)
- Towing the line in Taiwan: US Official Visits Taiwan Amid Rising Tensions With China (NYT, $)
- US accuses Hezbollah of stockpiling weapons and ammonium nitrate across Europe (Guardian)
- Migrants allege Greece is pushing them back to sea (CNN)
- Death-by-Police Has Plummeted in Brazil’s Favelas Since the Supreme Court’s Police Ban (Vice)
- Lima in limbo: Peruvian president Vizcarra faces impeachment vote during coronavirus pandemic (WaPo, $)
- UN report ‘extremely concerned’ about Burundi’s new leader (AP)
Heat Ray The Streets
(Drew Angerer via Getty Images)
- Few can forget the scene in the streets of Washington D.C. earlier this summer, when law enforcement tear-gassed, smoke-bombed, and forcibly removed peaceful protestors in Lafayette Square so that President Trump could pose in front of a church holding a bible. If such measures seemed overly aggressive at the time, then details recently revealed by a National Guard whistleblower reveal the full extent of the Trump administration’s predisposition for strong-arm tactics.
- D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam D. Demarco told lawmakers that in the hours leading up to the photoshoot, defense officials were searching for a myriad of non-lethal crowd control devices. One of the devices officials sought, Demarco revealed under oath, was an Active Denial System. This microwave-like weapon, designed by the military, emits invisible rays that make its targets feel as if their skin is burning.
- The technology is more commonly referred to as a “heat ray,” and internal defense emails describe it as a weapon that can “immediately compel an individual to cease threatening behavior or depart through application of a directed energy beam that provides a sensation of intense heat on the surface of the skin.”
- Pentagon officials have been reluctant to use the heat ray in the Iraq War, let alone in addressing domestic concerns. Despite this, Demarco testifies that the use of this weapon was considered in the hours leading up to the photoshoot. Fortunately, the heat ray was not on-site upon request, and defense officials moved forward with alternative crowd dispersion methods. (WaPo)
First Past the Post (Office)
- Be forewarned, it is unlikely that a winner in the presidential election will be declared come election night. As battleground states prepare for an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, delays in the final count are expected as the process of receiving, certifying, and tallying mail-in votes takes usually much longer than traditional in-person voting.
- However, two Thursday morning tweets from President Trump took this practical reality and distorted it into a claim that official results “may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED.” He followed up this claim by calling that mail-in voting an “election disaster” and that the “ballot madness” must be stopped.
- Election experts have dismissed the assertion that mail-in voting could lead to fraudulent results, as states like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have been conducting elections via mail for years. In fact, many consider mail-in voting especially secure and accurate in the case of recounts, because of the clear paper trail they leave behind.
- Twitter was quick to chime in on the matter, and by late Thursday afternoon, Trump’s tweets were labeled with links to proper information on mail-in voting. This isn’t the first time the social media platform has had to actively correct and counteract the President of the United States for spreading misinformation regarding the validity of the upcoming election. (NYT)
- Trump is trying to sabotage the election. Here’s why it won’t work. & Trump Could Use Mailed and Absentee Votes to His Advantage (WaPo, Time)
Additional USA News
- Temporary Restraining Order Against Census Bureau Extended (NPR)
- More than 240 schools in US are named after a Confederate leader. About half serve majority Black or nonwhite students (CNN)
- Trump Defends Indoor Rally, but Aides Express Concern (NYT, $). Not the man in the arena that Teddy Roosevelt was referring to.
- Former Pence aide says she will vote for Biden because of Trump’s ‘flat out disregard for human life’ during pandemic (WaPo, $)
- Caputo apologizes to HHS staff, signals desire for medical leave & Michael Caputo Is What a Second Trump Term Looks Like (Politico, Atlantic)
- A tech-tonic shift: Gen Zers Say Silicon Valley Is Elitist and Exclusive. Can They Build a New System? (NYT, $)
- Five myths about antifa (WaPo, $)
- America Is Being Pulled Apart. Here’s How We Can Start to Heal Our Nation (Time). Push back against polarization.
- Hurricane Sally aftermath: Flooding threats expand across the Southeast (CBS News)
- Hawaii to allow travelers to skip quarantine with virus test (AP)
Mother Russia, Sister Venus
- Are you in on Venus fever? Ever since it was announced that British researchers discovered chemical traces of phosphine — or the possibility of “alien life” — Earth’s closest planetary neighbor has become all the rage. So much so that Russia wants to claim the planet for themselves.
- In an announcement on Tuesday, the head of Russia’s space agency claimed that Venus is a “Russian planet,” citing that his country was the first and only to successfully land on the sweltering planet. Despite Russian pride over their supposed ownership of the planet, they are quite honest in assessing the conditions of their extraterrestrial satellite state.
- “It is like hell over there,” said Dmitry Rogozin, the director-general of Roscosmos. The Russian probe Rogozin referenced found the surface temperature of Venus to be somewhere around 450 degrees Celsius, which is hot enough to melt lead.
- It isn’t the molten surface that has everyone so intrigued, however. The tantalizing traces of phosphine were found some 30 to 40 miles above the surface, floating in a dense set of clouds. News of potential life in the clouds has riled up space-junkies everywhere, and Russia is ready to capitalize on this energy surrounding their so-called sister planet. On Tuesday, they announced that they will independently explore Venus, as well as participate in a joint exploration with NASA. (Vice)
- What Even Is ‘Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior’ on Platforms? (Wired)
- We combined the most dangerous parts of every sport—this is the result (PopSci)
- What’s the point? Punctuation is dead, long live punctuation (Aeon)
- How Beethoven’s 5th Symphony put the classism in classical music (Vox)
- Learning the card way: Who Gets Hurt When the World Stops Using Cash (NYT, $)
- Zoom Fatigue and the New Ways to Party (New Yorker)
- Why ‘Cancel Netflix’ is trending (The Verge)
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