Make America #28 Again
September 11, 2020
The Daily Pnut would like to take this time to remember all of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 terrorist attacks 19 years ago today.
And it’s quiz time: Test your knowledge on recent world news with this short quiz. Submissions must be made by 12pm EST Monday, 9/14. The winner, announced Wednesday, will win bragging rights for the week as well as a free Daily Pnut t-shirt.
“If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” —Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl
“We must stop talking about the American Dream and start listening to the dreams of Americans” — Max Beerbohm
Make America #28 Again
(Mandel Ngan via Getty Images)
In 2010, a group of global leaders from the social sector sought to create a better measure of a country’s level of development and, by extension, better understand its development priorities. Funded privately and guided by Professors Michael Porter from Harvard Business School and Scott Stern from MIT, the group formed the non-profit Social Progress Imperative.
The organization publishes the Social Progress Index (SPI), which measures the well-being of a society by directly observing social and environmental outcomes rather than economic factors. Components evaluated include wellness (such as health, nutrition, shelter, and sanitation), equality, inclusion, sustainability, personal freedom, and safety.
The 2020 SPI released on Thursday provides a comprehensive picture of the lived experience of more than seven billion people across 163 countries over the past decade. More than 80,000 data points were collected and extensively vetted over that period to support this latest index.
Sadly, the new data suggest that the US, Brazil, and Hungary are the only countries worldwide where social progress is slipping backward — whose citizens are worse off than they were in 2011, even as almost everyone else is doing better. Adding insult to injury: the declines in social progress are smaller in Brazil and Hungary than in the US.
America ranks No. 1 in quality of universities, but No. 91 in access to quality basic education. Kids in the US get an education roughly on par with children in Uzbekistan and Mongolia. America leads the world in medical technology, but comes in at No. 97 in access to quality health care, similar to what people receive in Chile, Jordan, and Albania. A majority of countries have lower homicide rates; most other advanced countries have lower traffic fatalities and better sanitation and internet access. And in discrimination against minorities, America ranks a shameful No. 100.
Overall, despite its immense wealth, military power, and cultural influence, the US ranks 28th, down from 19th in 2011, and behind significantly poorer countries including Estonia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, and Greece. It must also be noted that data for the 2020 index predates COVID-19, which has had a disproportionate impact in the US, and will likely exacerbate the slide in America’s standing. Symptoms of depression have risen threefold in America since the pandemic began, and the impact on health, longevity, and education will be disproportionately large here and in Brazil.
“The data paint an alarming picture of the state of our nation, and we hope it will be a call to action,” Porter said. “We are no longer the country we think we are.”
Hey, That Doesn’t Check Out…
- An unknown number of Americans never received their congressionally-authorized $1,200 pandemic relief stimulus check from last spring — but hundreds of Austrians did. Pensioner Manfred Barnreiter, 73, and his wife each received a $1,200 check, although neither is a US resident or holds US citizenship. They thought at first the checks could be part of a sophisticated fraud scheme.
- “We quietly went to the bank … where we were told they’ll see if it’s real,” Barnreiter said. “Three days later, we had the money in our bank account.” NPR reported last month that thousands of foreigners who used to temporarily work in the US had accidentally received stimulus checks, among them several Austrians recently returned from the US after working there as au pairs.
- Barnreiter briefly worked in the US in the 1960s and still receives a small pension from that period of employment. It’s unclear how many US checks were cashed in Austria by ineligible recipients, but representatives from three banks there said that as of Wednesday they had cashed about 200 US stimulus checks. Similar instances have been reported in other countries. (WaPo)
Tribulations of the Trial
- AstraZeneca called off its late-stage COVID-19 vaccine trial after a participant reportedly developed severe neurological symptoms consistent with a condition called transverse myelitis, or inflammation of the spinal cord. The individual was one of more than 10,000 adult volunteers who were injected with AstraZeneca’s vaccine in the company’s Phase 2/3 trial in the UK.
- An independent board of experts will conduct a safety review to assess whether the participant’s condition was a reaction to the vaccine candidate or merely coincidental. No further vaccine doses will be administered during the review. After determining if the vaccine is the probable cause, the experts will advise the company on whether to resume its trials.
- AstraZeneca had halted its COVID-19 vaccine trials one other time, after another participant developed symptoms of transverse myelitis in July. That individual was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, determined to be an “unrelated neurological illness.” When that safety review was completed, the trials resumed. Even if the newly reported symptoms are eventually tied to AstraZeneca’s vaccine, trials could still continue, especially if the case appears to be an outlier. (NYT)
- Don’t jump to conclusions about the Oxford vaccine trial suspension & AstraZeneca and Oxford halting a Covid-19 vaccine trial is good news (Guardian, Vox)
Additional COVID-19 Reads
- Whatever Happened To … The Instant Hospitals Built For COVID-19 Patients In Wuhan? (NPR)
- Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was ‘superspreading event’ that cost public health $12.2 billion (The Hill)
- College Quarantine Breakdowns Leave Some at Risk (NYT, $)
- College Leaders Should Have Seen the Outbreaks Coming (Atlantic, $)
- How the Coronavirus Attacks the Brain (NYT, $)
Additional World News
- Russian state hackers suspected in targeting Biden campaign firm & New cyberattacks targeting US elections (Reuters, Microsoft). A warning sign from Gatesian gatekeepers.
- And it’s not just Russia this time: Trump and Biden’s campaigns were targeted by hackers in Iran, China this year (Axios)
- What’s driving India-China military standoff (AP)
- Stealthy star wars: Experts Say It Is Possible China Flew A Space Plane This Past Weekend (NPR)
- How an overpriced warplane complicates diplomacy in the Middle East (Economist). It ain’t just plane and simple.
- Panic again at Beirut port as huge fire breaks out (Guardian)
- Growing more radical, Mexican feminists seize control of a federal building (LA Times, $).
Another Week, Another Whistleblower
- A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official, Brian Murphy, said in a formal 22-page whistleblower complaint filed Tuesday with the department’s inspector general that on two separate occasions, in May and July, Acting Secretary Chad Wolf ordered him to stop reporting on the Russian threat to the US election because it “made President Trump look bad.”
- Murphy said he was told by Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, to “modify intelligence assessments [emphasizing potential threats from China and Iran] to ensure they matched up with the public comments by President Trump.” Murphy said Wolf told him the instructions had come directly from White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.
- In the complaint, Murphy also described multiple meetings over the summer centered around downplaying the domestic threat posed by White supremacists and focusing more on militant leftist movements like Antifa. The White House and DHS have denied the allegations. Murphy had been running the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis prior to declining to change the intelligence assessments in July. Afterward, he was demoted to a lesser management job. (NPR)
Raging Through the Ranks
- Assistant Police Chief Christopher McCormack is one of the New York Police Department’s highest-ranking officers. He kept receiving promotions despite complaints from over a dozen Black and Latino men claiming he’d subjected them to humiliating and invasive strip searches.
- McCormack’s career began three decades ago as a rookie cop patrolling drug-infested Washington Heights, where he earned the nickname “Red Rage” for his ginger hair, fiery temperament, and aggressive approach to policing. But during his seamless rise through the ranks, police leaders were privy to an ever-growing list of complaints over his harsh tactics and heated temperament. Some of the grievances became lawsuits that the city eventually settled.
- Others were submitted to the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), created to investigate misconduct; many of the allegations were hidden from public view. Using court records, newly released data and a trove of confidential documents, ProPublica pieced together how much offensive behavior top officials had to look past to promote him. But McCormack is just one of dozens of high-ranking NYPD officers who have ascended in rank despite allegations of misconduct in their records.
- The NYPD said that it continuously evaluates the conduct of its officers “through a host of internal monitors” and factors in their CCRB histories and lawsuits, along with their “record of fighting crime,” before promoting them. But more than a dozen current and former officers say there is no formal system for examining CCRB complaints as part of the promotions process, and there should be. (ProPublica)
Additional USA News
- Stimulus bill gets floored by the Senate: Virus bill blocked in Senate as prospects dim for new relief (AP)
- Emails show HHS official trying to muzzle Fauci (Politico)
- Trump’s Attacks Put Military In ‘Presidential Campaign Minefield’ (NPR). An unprecedented standoff between the President and the Pentagon.
- How One Man Conned the Beltway (NYT, $)
- What the Electoral Count Act Means for Biden—And Trump (Atlantic, $). Why December 14th could prove more consequential than November 3rd.
- Seven Election Day Nightmares (NYT, $)
- The land of big skies burns away: The West Has Never Felt So Small (Atlantic, $)
- Undocumented Farmworkers Toil in California Fire Evacuation Zones (The Intercept)
(Philip Pacheco via Getty Images)
- Anyone who’s turned on the TV or glanced at a newspaper this week has undoubtedly seen images of the eerie red-orange skies enveloping Salem, Oregon and San Francisco, California. Below lies a horrifying hellscape of wildfires burning across the Western US, with smoke so thick it blots out the sun — noon might as well be midnight.
- What’s causing the current creepy red glow that looks like literal Hell? It’s the thick smoke. Here’s why: visible light travels in waves, and those waves can have different wavelengths and frequencies. ROY G BIV is an acronym representing the order of colors that make up a rainbow. That order arranges colors by the length of their light wavelengths.
- The shortest wavelengths are I and V on the right end, representing indigo and violet. The R and O, red and orange, have the longest wavelengths. Smoke blocks shorter wavelength colors, so all we see is red, orange, and hellish. Oh, and with smoke that thick, forget about breathing. (Slate)
- The sky is on fire in San Francisco, and we flew a drone through it (The Verge)
- Unchecked fires could turn the Amazon into a savannah (CNN)
- Can you dig it? NASA announces it’s looking for companies to help mine the moon (WaPo, $)
- Dozens of scientific journals have vanished from the internet, and no one preserved them (Science Mag)
- How broadband internet could be affordable and accessible for everyone (Vox)
- Pandemic string theory: Guitars Are Back, Baby: Women and Gen Z Fuel Record Sales During Pandemic (NYT, $)
- Facts v feelings: how to stop our emotions misleading us (Guardian)
- Exercise May Make It Easier to Bounce Back From Stress (NYT, $). Working it out, inside and out.
- Increase Your Productivity by Knowing Your Chronotype (Lifehacker)
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