Vaccine Mania and Speculation
September 4, 2020
Workers of the world, relax! We will be celebrating Labor Day and will return on Tuesday, 9/8/20. We hope everyone has a great Labor Day weekend.
It’s quiz time: Test your knowledge on recent world news with this short quiz. Submissions must be made by 12pm EST Tuesday, 9/8. The winner, announced Wednesday, will win bragging rights for the week as well as a free Daily Pnut t-shirt.
“There is so much wealth and so much misery at the same time, that it seems incredible that people can endure such class difference, and accept such a form of hunger while on the other hand, the millionaires throw away millions on stupidities.” — Frida Kahlo
Suffering in the Shadow of Skyscrapers
(Brent Stirton via Getty Images)
Dubai — the glitteringly rich city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) known for luxury shopping, ultramodern architecture, soaring skyscrapers, and a lively nightlife scene. In the shadow of those skyscrapers — in places tourists don’t see — are the desperate conditions endured by migrant laborers, largely from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who work in 122 F heat for a pittance. And now they are starving.
COVID-19 and an oil price crash have led to hundreds of thousands of job losses in the UAE, where almost 90 percent of the workforce come from foreign countries. At the beginning of the pandemic, the government ordered companies employing blue-collar migrant workers to continue providing them with food and accommodation, even if the workers were laid off. But many companies wouldn’t, or couldn’t, abide by the order.
Some migrants still technically have jobs and go to work every day, but haven’t received a salary in months. With no support from their Dubai employers, workers don’t even have money for food, much less to pay for flights back home. They’re trapped in a desperate situation, crowded in labor camps, and dependent on food donations to eat. The UAE does not provide a social safety net for foreigners.
Before the pandemic the majority of a migrant worker’s monthly salary may have been sent to support a wife and children, or aging parents, in the country of the worker’s origin. No salary means the worker’s plight expands to include many more people. And even if workers were somehow able to return home, many are reluctant to do so empty-handed. One 39-year-old Pakistani is owed so much back salary he hasn’t been able to send any money to his wife and two children in over a year. “We are sick and tired of this place and we want to escape,” he said. “But I can’t go back with nothing.”
[Daily Pnut’s Tim: While overseas in Iraq there were easily thousands and likely tens of thousands to perhaps hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who worked while the US military was in Iraq. These migrant workers lived in close and cramped quarters at the edge of bases and helped build US bases (forward operating bases) or Iraqi ones. Additional reference: Daily Pnut’s Tim’s Los Angeles Times op-ed in 2017 about “The outsourced war.”]
The Real Olympic Time Trial
(Tomohiro Ohsumi via Getty Images)
- Thanks to COVID-19, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics had to be postponed to the summer of 2021. Vaccines are in the works, and Japan’s government says it expects to vaccinate the entire country against the virus by the middle of next year. It’s even agreed to buy 120 million doses of British drugmaker AstraZeneca’s vaccine next year, with 30 million doses to be supplied by March.
- In a separate deal, the government will buy 120 million doses of a vaccine from US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech by June, 2021, if clinical trials are successful. In an interview on Monday, the CEO of Tokyo 2020, Toshiro Muto, said it would be “too optimistic to assume that the issue of the coronavirus will be a thing of the past” by next summer. But Muto added: “We don’t think a vaccine is a prerequisite for holding the Olympics.”
- So the games are on track to proceed, even if the number of spectators must be limited. Just over 10 months remain before the scheduled opening ceremony on July 23, 2021. (WaPo)
- [Daily Pnut: We fear that the amount of speculation and mania associated with COVID-19 vaccines might only be matched by the letdown when it comes to efficacy and safety. The second and third order effects of initial faulty vaccines will cause great harm given unfortunately how prevalent anti-vaccine sentiment existed before COVID-19 and given how many people are pinning their hopes on a medical breakthrough that will make COVID-19 “just go away.”]
- Top Adviser To Operation Warp Speed Calls An October Vaccine ‘Extremely Unlikely’ (NPR)
- These Scientists Are Giving Themselves D.I.Y. Coronavirus Vaccines: Impatient for a coronavirus vaccine, dozens of scientists around the world are giving themselves — and sometimes, friends and family — their own unproven versions. (NYT)
- Flu Season and Covid-19 Are About to Collide. Now What? (Wired)
- ‘The 1918 flu is still with us’: The deadliest pandemic ever is still causing problems today (WaPo, $)
- Gerald Ford Rushed Out a Vaccine. It Was a Fiasco.: Trump should keep that in mind as he pushes for a coronavirus shot. (NYT, $)
- Trump puts pressure on FDA for coronavirus silver bullet ahead of Election Day (CNN)
- People’s trust of the government will further plummet if the CDC is wrong. We hope we are wrong but we think the CDC and Trump will be wrong when it comes to when the vaccine will be safe enough to administer: C.D.C. Tells States How to Prepare for Covid-19 Vaccine by Early November: As President Trump pushes the possibility of a vaccine this year, the C.D.C. has outlined technical scenarios to state public health officials for an unidentified Vaccine A and Vaccine B. (NYT) & The CDC has failed: Ex-health officials urge states to abandon agency (Ars Technica)
Additional World News
- Tokyo shift: Backroom deals, old-school politics help rise of Japan’s likely new premier (Reuters)
- China is trying to mend fences in Europe. It’s not going well. (WaPo, $) & China may double its nuclear arsenal in just 10 years. Don’t panic. (Vox)
- Things get dystopian down under: The Story of How the Australian Government Screwed Its Most Vulnerable People (Vice)
- The Coming Revolution in Intelligence Affairs (Foreign Affairs). What happens when spies use AI?
- Negotiating with the Taliban: Efforts ramping up to get intra-Afghan peace talks started (AP)
- Waves of Russian and Emirati Flights Fuel Libyan War, U.N. Finds (NYT, $)
- Navalny ‘poisoned’: What are Novichok agents and what do they do? (BBC)
- Labor Day weekend travelers are heading to COVID-19 hot spots (NBC)
- The pandemic is ruining our sleep. Experts say ‘coronasomnia’ could imperil public health. (WaPo)
- Latin America’s COVID-19 Disaster (Foreign Affairs)
Daily Pnut’s 2020 Presidential Endorsement: Joe Biden
- Trump went full authoritarian in his latest Fox News interview & Can anything change Americans’ minds about Donald Trump? The eerie stability of Trump’s approval rating, explained. (Vox)
- White House denies report claiming Trump called dead American soldiers ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’ (NBC). Those are some (bone) spurious claims. Daily Pnut has never felt more confident about this political endorsement: “We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes” (for Joe Biden). Another four years of Trump will be another four years of incompetence, lawlessness, and lies. Additional song: Death Cab For Cutie – The Sound of Settling.
- Electoral college explained: how Biden faces an uphill battle in the US election (Guardian) & The True Colors of America’s Political Spectrum Are Gray and Green (NYT, $) We think that all of the moving of urban city dwellers to suburbia could impact 2020 elections.
- Dem group warns of apparent Trump Election Day landslide (Axios)
Facebook’s Ad Nauseum
- Facebook, which has come under increasing criticism for failing to police foreign and domestic elections propaganda on its platform, announced Thursday that in addition to not accepting any new political ads in the final week of the election, it would flag any posts by any campaign that tries to declare victory before the final election results are in.
- The social media giant said the ban on new ads in the final week of the election was designed to prevent campaigns from airing false charges at such a late stage in the race. The company said it would also remove posts that convey misinformation about COVID-19 and voting.
- Facebook did not specifically single out President Trump, but Joe Biden has never shown an intention of declaring premature victory, and has never challenged the integrity of US elections, whereas Trump has kept attacks for months, including declaring on the first day of the Republican convention that any election he did not win would be invalid.
- Hours after Facebook made its announcement, Trump posted instructions for his supporters to potentially commit voter fraud by voting twice, saying they should mail in their ballots then go to their polling places on election day. Facebook added a label to the post saying “voting by mail has a long trustworthiness in the US.” It failed to note that double voting is fraudulent and illegal. (Guardian)
- Trump suggests voters cast ballots twice, which if done intentionally is illegal & Facebook is paying people to shut down their accounts ahead of the election (WaPo, The Verge)
Additional USA News
- Trust issues: Justice Dept. Plans to File Antitrust Charges Against Google in Coming Weeks (NYT, $)
- International Criminal Court officials sanctioned by US (BBC)
- He fought corruption in Russia. ICE wants to deport him. (Politico)
- Build the Fall: New Engineering Report Finds Privately Built Border Wall Will Fail (ProPublica)
- Its Electric Grid Under Strain, California Turns to Batteries (NYT, $). The Golden State goes off the grid.
- Americans Increasingly Polarized When It Comes To Racial Justice Protests, Poll Finds (NPR)
- But her emails…”Melania Trump used private email accounts while in the White House, says former colleague and friend” (WaPo, $)
- Lawsuit Led By 105-Year-Old Seeks Reparations From Tulsa Race Massacre (NPR)
From Red Ink to Robots
- As schools across the country move to online or hybrid class structures, many schools are outsourcing some instruction and grading to virtual education platforms. For example, Edgenuity offers over 300 online classes for middle and high school students — with subjects ranging from math to social studies, AP classes to electives — made up of instructional videos and virtual assignments as well as tests and exams. Edgenuity provides the lessons and goes so far as to grade the assignments.
- There’s just one big problem. Students’ answers are graded by artificial intelligence — an algorithm programmed to look for specific keywords in the answers. Without a key word, the answer is rendered wrong, even if it isn’t. One teacher, and mother of a seventh-grader, decided to take a closer look after her dejected son got a 50 out of 100 on a history test, even though he’d correctly answered the short answer question. Soon she figured out how to game the system.
- Now her son writes two long sentences, followed by a disjointed list of keywords: “anything that seems relevant to the question,” she said. More than 20,000 schools currently use Edgenuity’s platform, including 20 of the country’s 25 largest school districts. With all those students using the system, others were bound to have figured out other ways to fool the algorithms.
- Teachers do have the ability to review any content students submit and can override Edgenuity’s assigned grades. And sometimes students get caught keyword-mashing. But most students said they’d never seen a teacher change a grade that Edgenuity had assigned to them. (The Verge)
- Dolezal’s stunt double: White US professor admits she has pretended to be Black for years (Guardian). Additional song: Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies)
- One of the most interesting reads this week that is written with a tint of schadenfreude: Larry Flynt: My Final Farewell to the Falwells: The Hustler publisher, who won a landmark First Amendment legal battle against Jerry Falwell Sr., writes about Jerry Falwell Jr.’s fall from grace—and the Trump of it all. (Daily Beast) Additional trailer: The People vs. Larry Flynt.
- For those who think Daily Pnut is too liberal, well we aren’t: What Liberals Get Wrong About Work: Unfettered markets and a rampant culture of meritocracy have eroded the rewards and dignity of work for most Americans. It’s time for a new ethic of “contributive justice.” & Disdain for the Less Educated Is the Last Acceptable Prejudice: It’s having a corrosive effect on American life — and hurting the Democratic Party. (Atlantic & NYT)
- And for those who write us about our political views please watch this: The Rock “It Doesn’t Matter” Moments
- What Is It About California and Cults? (Vanity Fair)
- Flat Earthers End Up in Quarantine After Sailing to the ‘End of the World’ (Vice)
- Russia’s ‘slow-motion Chernobyl’ at sea (BBC)
- Cover up under the covers: Wear a mask during sex, Canada’s top doctor advises (CNN)
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