It’s Worth A Shot, Or Is It?
November 19, 2020
The Good News
- One virus down… Democratic Republic of Congo declares end to Ebola outbreak (Guardian)
- ‘I Had to See That Owl’: Central Park’s New Celebrity Bird (NYT, $). Hoo’s hoo in Manhattan.
“Teach self-denial and make its practice pleasure, and you can create for the world a destiny more sublime that ever issued from the brain of the wildest dreamer.”— Sir Walter Scott
“If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” — George Patton
Unproven Vaccine? China Says It’s Worth A Shot
(TPG via Getty Images)
China’s COVID-19 vaccine candidates haven’t officially been proven safe or effective. No worries, apparently. Officials have been injecting them into tens of thousands of people across the country under what’s thought to be an emergency-use policy. China has made three of its four vaccine candidates still in Phase 3 trials available since July. And apparently, because government officials and top pharmaceutical executives speak so proudly of being inoculated, other people are also clamoring to get shots.
Demand is so high some cities are limiting doses or asking people to show proof they are traveling. The quest has even given rise to a cottage industry of scalpers, called “yellow cows,” who book vaccine appointments for anywhere from $600 to $1,500. One young man, Ethan Zang, was fortunate enough to get a shot for $30, but he had to fly from Beijing to Yiwu in eastern China and wait outside a hospital for four hours to get it.
Zhang was relieved, now that he believed he had protection against the virus. He didn’t seem worried that what had been injected into his arm was still in the testing phase. But global health experts are worried. Potential problems aren’t being discussed, nor are they being revealed in China. At least one product’s vaccination consent form doesn’t specify it’s still being tested. So people who’ve perhaps taken ineffective vaccines might think they’re safe and engage in risky behavior. Or they might be unable to take another, better vaccine because they’ve already been injected. Then there’s at least the possibility of potential health risks from as yet unproven vaccines.
A senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation says: “In China, there’s this trend of ‘everyone is getting it, so I want it too.’” It’s also a matter of national pride that the country has several vaccines in late-stage trials. It’s very different in the US. A growing number of polls show many Americans would not take a coronavirus vaccine. The distrust is so ubiquitous that public health experts worry it could imperil widespread immunity.
Additional COVID-19 Reads
- US, China and the Covid-19 Vaccine Race (Bloomberg)
- Immunity to the Coronavirus May Last Years, New Data Hint (NYT, $)
- How We Can Stop the Spread of Coronavirus by Christmas (Time)
- Thanksgiving and Covid-19: A negative test result doesn’t mean it’s safe to visit family (CNN)
- South Dakota nurse Jodi Doering says dying patients deny coronavirus is real (WaPo, $)
An Argentinian Fight For Reproductive Rights
(Juan Mabromata via Getty Images)
- A little over three months ago, Argentina’s senate voted down a bill that would have legalized abortion before 14 weeks, dealing a significant blow to the abortion rights movement in the region. Hundreds of pro-choice and anti-abortion activists had braved terrible weather to protest around government buildings in Buenos Aires before the vote. After the vote, those in favor of the bill reacted angrily, starting fires and throwing missiles at police. Now the country’s president has just sent a new bill to congress that could legalize abortion completely.
- In a tweet on Tuesday, President Alberto Fernandez said: “Criminalizing abortion has been of no use. It’s only allowed abortions to occur in clandestine fashion, in worrying numbers. Legalizing abortion saves women’s lives and preserves their reproductive capacity, which is often affected by unsafe abortions. It doesn’t increase the number of abortions and it doesn’t promote it. It just solves a problem that affects public health.”
- The proposed bill decriminalizes and legalizes abortion in the first 14 weeks, and beyond that if the pregnancy is the result of rape or if the woman’s life is in danger. Medical professionals would be allowed to declare a conscientious objection to performing the procedure, but they must refer the person to someone who will carry it out in a timely fashion. It’s the first time a bill to legalize abortion in the predominantly Catholic country has had the endorsement of the president. (Vice)
Great Britain’s Green New Deal
- Boris Johnson, Britain’s center-right prime minister, has dusted off his climate change agenda, which had to be postponed due to the global pandemic and his country’s economic crisis. He brought the subject back up Wednesday when he announced a “green industrial revolution” which he said would address both climate and pandemic-related concerns.
- The effort would help the country become emissions-neutral while creating a quarter-million jobs and reviving the battered economy. A notable element of his 10-point plan is a ban on new sales of gas and diesel cars to start in 2030, which cuts the current target by 10 years. Germany, Ireland, and the Netherlands are also banning fossil fuel vehicles by 2030.
- “The recovery of our planet and of our economies can and must go hand-in-hand,” Johnson said in a statement. Johnson wants to highlight Britain’s global leadership role before it’s due to host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, in Scotland in November 2021. The COP26 is considered to be the most significant gathering of world leaders since the 2015 climate meeting in Paris.
- On his congratulatory call to Joe Biden, Johnson said he and the president-elect discussed the many areas that “united” Britain and the US, including climate change. Johnson said Biden “wants to join us next year in leading the world in getting global greenhouse emissions down [at] the COP 26 in Glasgow.” (WaPo)
Additional World News
- Scared of robots? Fear not: Lessons From a Study of the Digital Economy (NYT, $)
- New China-anchored trade bloc shows the waning influence of the U.S. (Axios)
- Suu Kyi’s godlike status drove her Myanmar election win. It threatens to rip the country apart. (WaPo, $)
- Iran admits breach of nuclear deal discovered by UN inspectorate (Guardian). Iran went fission, but won’t be let off the hook.
- Trump’s just-announced troop drawdown from Afghanistan and Iraq, explained (Vox)
- Trump withdrawal plan could tip Afghanistan towards more violence (Guardian)
- A problematic pull-out: Why America Cannot Leave the Middle East (Foreign Affairs)
- AP investigation: Female palm oil workers face abuse, no pay (AP)
- Joe Biden’s Irish ancestral hometown Ballina revels in win, as London grows uneasy over Brexit (NBC)
- Third time’s a charm? Peru got its third president in a week. What happens now? (CNN)
- Mexico Threatened to Kick Out the DEA to Get US Charges Dropped Against Former Top General (Vice)
America Isn’t On The Same Wage
- Eight years after fast-food workers walked off the job in New York City and began calling for raising the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour, Florida has become the first state in the South (and the eighth state in all) to adopt such a measure. But in a year when both low-wage workers and small businesses are struggling, the path forward is dicey.
- In big metropolitan areas, a $15 starting salary might make sense, one business owner said, but not in rural Virginia. Tina Miller pays an entry-level wage of $10 an hour at her business, Walkabout Outfitter, an outdoor equipment and clothing retailer based in Lexington, Virginia. Most of the employees earning that wage are students working part-time. Miller’s already trying to figure out how she’s going to accommodate state-mandated wage hikes that are headed her way.
- Virginia’s minimum wage, currently $7.25, will rise to $12 an hour by 2023, and to $15 an hour by 2026. “We’ve run the numbers,” Miller says, “and you know, it would potentially put us out of business.” The federal minimum wage has not risen since 2009. The East and West Coasts have the highest minimum wages, whereas the lowest are found throughout the South.
- And in reality, according to the Labor Department, fewer than 2 percent of hourly paid workers actually earn the federal minimum wage. The House of Representatives passed a bill last year to raise the federal minimum to $15 by 2025, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to take it up, calling it a jobs killer. (NPR)
An Unexpected Call To Arms
- Suicide by self-inflicted gunshot is on the rise in America. Overall, gun violence kills some 40,000 Americans each year, and while the public’s attention is mostly focused on mass shootings, murders, and accidental gun deaths, those are only about a third of the nation’s firearms fatalities. The majority of gun deaths are suicides: 24,432 in 2018, up from 19,392 in 2010.
- It’s not that gun owners are more suicidal than people who don’t own guns, but with the ready availability of a firearm, attempts at suicide by gun are more often fatal. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic — with its economic dislocation, uncertainty, isolation, and despair — gun sales have been on the rise, and experts are bracing for an accompanying rise in suicides.
- It’s forged an unusual alliance between suicide-prevention advocates and gun rights proponents. Gun shows across the country have suicide-prevention booths at their events. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the firearms industry, carries a suicide-prevention video on its website, and invites experts to give talks at online events.
- Firearms retailers hand out postcards that carry suicide prevention hotline numbers and list telltale signs of depression. Gun enthusiasts are urged to keep their guns locked up, to store guns and bullets separately, and to offer to store firearms for a fellow gun owner who is going through a life crisis. (NYT)
Additional USA News
- Biden hopes to avoid divisive Trump investigations, preferring unity (NBC). That’s a nice sentiment…
- Let’s see how it’s playing out… ‘It’s a terrible situation’: Inside a government bureaucrat’s pressure-filled decision to delay the transition (CNN)
- Trump blocks Biden’s incoming staff in unprecedented ways (Politico)
- The coup goes cuckoo: Infighting and an attempted ‘coup’: Trump team erupts into chaos as Giuliani takes over legal efforts (ABC)
- Counted out: Trump’s desperate fight to stop the minority vote (Guardian)
- Investigate Lindsey Graham’s intervention in Georgia & Lindsey Graham’s Long-Shot Mission to Unravel the Election Results (WaPo, NYT, $)
- Amid the worst of the pandemic, our mad king rages only about himself (WaPo, $)
- A big stank from the big bank: Jamie Dimon lashes out at ‘childish behavior’ from Congress amid deadlock over coronavirus relief (CNBC)
- Dems nominate Pelosi as speaker again to lead into Biden era (AP)
- The Tattered Idealism of Barack Obama (Atlantic, $)
- Obama says internet, social media are threat to democracy (Vox). Disclaimer: he made no such mention of email newsletters.
- Groupthink Has Left the Left Blind (NYT, $)
- Ivanka Trump Was My Best Friend. Now She’s MAGA Royalty (Vanity Fair)
- Inside the Chaotic, Cutthroat Gray Market for N95 Masks (NYT, $)
Don’t Forget To Catch Some Z’s
- Lots of new research is indicating that you can cut down your risk for Alzheimer’s disease, if you can make sure you’re getting some really deep sleep at night. This stage of sleep — when dreams are rare and the brain follows a slow, steady beat — can help reduce levels of beta-amyloid and tau, two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.
- “There is something about this deep sleep that is helping protect you,” notes Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley. Decades of observations have linked poor sleep to long-term problems with memory and thinking. “We are now learning that there is a significant relationship between sleep and dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease,” he says. The kind of deep sleep Walker is talking about is when body temperature drops and the brain begins to produce slow, rhythmic electrical waves.
- For Walker’s research, his team studied 32 people in their 70s, none with memory problems, who had taken part in a sleep study that looked for the slow electrical waves that signal deep sleep. The scientists used brain scans to monitor levels of beta-amyloid in each participant for up to six years. The results, published in the November 2 issue of the journal Current Biology, showed people who got less deep sleep had more beta-amyloid in their brains.
- Other studies have found that a lack of deep sleep is associated with higher levels of tau, which forms toxic tangles inside the brain cells of people with Alzheimer’s. “We have a specific sleep signature right now that seems to help us better understand where you may sit on the Alzheimer’s risk trajectory in the future,” Walker says. (NPR)
- The science behind our prehistoric pals: Ancient Dog DNA Reveals Their Enduring Connection With People (Wired)
- Scientists Find Vital Genes Evolving in Genome’s Junkyard (Quanta)
- Feeling spaced out? Head in the clouds? This might help: Does the human brain resemble the Universe? (Phys)
- The Few, the Tired, the Open Source Coders (Wired)
- Google’s latest Chrome update delivers ‘largest performance gain in years’ (The Verge)
- Remote learning is here to stay — can we make it better? (The Verge)
- How COVID-19 Dethroned the Kardashians (Atlantic, $). Turns out one thing is more viral than a sex tape.
- Recession With a Difference: Women Face Special Burden (NYT, $)
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU