Over Par So Far
January 13, 2021
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“Vaccines are the tugboats of preventative health” — William Foege
“In times of stress and danger such as come about as the result of an epidemic, many tragic and cruel phases of human nature are brought out, as well as many brave and unselfish ones.” — William Crawford Gorgas
Azar, Over Par So Far, Tees Up A Second Round
(Ethan Miller via Getty Images)
The Covid vaccine rollout has not gone smoothly. In Texas, for example, some 8 million people qualified for the expected 1.4 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines the state received in the last four weeks. However, not only has statewide distribution been chaotic, but reports on how many doses have actually gone into arms are wobbly. As of Monday, only about 878,000 people had received their first dose, although providers insist no doses are going unused.
Overall demand seems to be outpacing availability. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows states should already have received about 25.5 million doses. After much prompting, the Trump administration said Tuesday it will release millions more Covid vaccine doses which it had been holding back for second-round shots.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said releasing the held-back doses should bring the total number available for use in the US to roughly 38 million. The administration is also urging states to offer shots to all Americans over age 65 or with chronic health conditions, which Azar believes will bring the pace of inoculations to a million per day within another 10 days. President-elect Joe Biden, who will be sworn in at noon on January 20th, has repeatedly vowed to distribute 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office.
The hand-wringing over vaccine distribution is happening as the level of new US cases is rising, no doubt the result of holiday gatherings and increased travel. On January 3rd, airports nationwide processed 1.3 million passengers, the highest since mid-March. Last week, the daily average of new coronavirus cases was 254,866, a 38% increase from two weeks ago. That includes the 280,292 new cases reported on January 7th, the latest one-day record. Texas is still second, reporting last week’s highest number of new positive cases at 121,287, an increase of 22% from the previous week. Overall, the US has seen 22.49 million total confirmed coronavirus cases.
Museveni’s Media Maneuver
(Sumy Sadurni via Getty Images)
- After the murderous reigns of dictators Milton Obote and Idi Amin, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni brought stability to the country when he took power in 1986. Now one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, the 76-year-old is governing a nation in which 80% of the population is under 30.
- A presidential election will be held Thursday, with Museveni facing opposition frontrunner Bobi Wine, a popular 38-year-old singer. The campaign season has been marred by Museveni’s brutal crackdowns on opposition rallies that left scores dead. and some opposition candidates, supporters, and campaign staff have been repeatedly intimidated and arrested.
- On Tuesday the government banned all social media, and sent a convoy of armored vehicles to Kampala, where they moved slowly through streets in the heart of the capital, which typically votes against Museveni. The same day, Wine said soldiers raided his home in Kampala and arrested his guards while he was being interviewed by a Kenyan radio station. (Reuters)
Turkey Seas Better Relationship With Mediterranean Neighbor
- Turkey and Greece, both NATO members, have been at odds for decades over the limits of their continental shelves, energy rights, air space, and status of some islands. Unproductive talks, ongoing since 2002, were finally suspended in 2016.
- Plans to renew talks fell apart in 2020 when, despite warnings from Greece and the EU, Turkey extended a gas exploration mission into the disputed waters of the Eastern Mediterranean. In December, EU leaders started drawing up a list of Turkish targets for sanctions because of Ankara’s “unilateral actions and provocations” in the disputed waters near Cyprus and Greece.
- Monday, both Ankara and Athens said they were willing to resume exploratory talks about territorial claims in the Mediterranean Sea and other issues. The latest round is slated to begin on January 25th in Istanbul. (Al Jazeera)
Additional World News
- Indian Farmers Vow to Continue Protest, Unappeased by Court Ruling (NYT, $)
- Internet restrictions and phone seizures show digital crackdown in Hong Kong (WaPo, $)
- Hindu shrine desecration: Can Pakistan protect its religious minorities? (BBC)
- Australia the only developed nation on world list of deforestation hotspots (Guardian)
- Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, says UK still faces ‘worst weeks’ of pandemic (WaPo, $)
- German lockdown could last up to 10 weeks; Ukraine asks EU for vaccine help (Guardian)
- Malaysia’s Coronavirus Lockdown Is Not A Coup, Prime Minister Says (NPR). These are not the droids you’re looking for.
- At COVID-19 ‘breaking point’, Malaysia suspends parliament (Al Jazeera)
- 27,000 trees are cut down every day to make toilet paper. That feels like 27,000 too many, so honeycomb created toilet tissue made from 100% sustainable bamboo.
- Why is bamboo better? It grows 80 times faster than an average tree – meaning that it can create thousands of toilet tissue rolls in the same time it would take for a single tree to grow back. Its short fibers are perfect for making toilet tissue, and honeycomb’s 3-ply texture strikes the perfect balance between soft & strong. It feels just like regular high-end toilet tissue, but it doesn’t harm the environment.
- Biodegradable, plastic-free, and they also deliver right to your door. Daily Pnut readers can take 15% off their first shipment with code PNUT15.
Stock Market Still Hasn’t Gotten Memo About State Of U.S. Economy
- The S&P and Dow indexes rose Tuesday, recovering a bit after some declines on Monday. Energy stocks — laggards throughout 2020 — led the way when crude oil prices jumped above $53 per barrel to a 10-month high. Also performing well was financial, another cyclical sector heavily dependent on a strong economy for growth.
- The consumer discretionary sector showed some of its biggest boosts from carmakers. GM led the way — shares in the US automaker were up 6%, hitting its highest level in a decade after outlining plans for its ‘BrightDrop’ brand of electric commercial vehicles.
- Shares in smaller companies soared to record highs as investors favored more economically sensitive market segments. Traders are betting on incoming President Joe Biden to boost the economy by ushering in heftier fiscal stimulus and ramping up distribution of Covid vaccines.
- Meanwhile, Twitter shares extended their recent losses after the company banned President Trump from the platform and stirred up concerns over increased regulatory scrutiny and impacts to user growth. Facebook and Apple also came under pressure. (Reuters, Forbes)
Senate Democrats Move Urgently Against Death Penalty
- President Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr announced in July 2019 that the Justice Department would resume federal executions. 10 prisoners were put to death last year, more civilian prisoners than all the states combined over the same period.
- Three more executions are scheduled in the last week of the Trump administration. Rushing to forestall this outcome are Senator Dick Durbin (D-Il), incoming chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Ma).
- The two legislators have reintroduced a bill that would ban federal capital punishment and are urging Congress to act immediately to pass it. One of the three prisoners, Lisa Montgomery, is the only woman on federal death row. Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, she dies Tuesday night. (NPR)
Additional USA News
- Michigan Capitol Bans Open Carry (NPR)
- Capitol Police have big budget, little accountability (WaPo, $)
- Ex-Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s death to be tried separately, judge rules (WaPo, $)
- No Parler? No problem, as more apps claim to allow ‘free speech’ (Al Jazeera)
- Uber expands green rides option to 1,400 cities (TechCrunch)
- Insurrection merch shows just how mainstream extremism has become (Vox)
- What 1919 Teaches Us About Pent-Up Demand (NPR). Get ready for the roaring (20)20s.
- Capitol riot revives calls to reform Section 230 and regulate Twitter and Facebook (Vox)
- Covid-19 Took a Bite From U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2020 (NYT, $). Doesn’t sound very filling.
Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas? Pablo Escobar Plenty To Go Around.
- While hundreds of species have become extinct in recent decades, one animal has thrived to the point of becoming the world’s largest invasive species, an ecological menace so destructive that time is running out to reverse its environmental impacts or control its numbers. And it’s all thanks to a long-dead Columbian drug lord, Pablo Escobar.
- Hippopotami are massive, aggressive, foul-tempered, armor-skinned creatures that belong in the savannas and forests of sub-Saharan Africa. In the 1980s, Escobar smuggled four young hippos into his country estate. After Escobar’s death in 1993, Colombian officials dismantled his sprawling estate and sent most of his exotic animals to zoos. But they were reluctant to deal with the now Huge Hippos, three females and a male, so they decided to let them roam.
- The hippos thrived in tropical Colombia, where rain is plentiful, food abundant, and they could dominate any potential predators. They began terrorizing local farmers, but laws were passed protecting them. That’s when David Echeverri, a researcher at the regional environmental agency, launched a sterilization campaign in 2013.
- “It was horrible,” Echeverri recalled. Tracking was exhausting, and corralling impossible. Finally he managed to pen one. Then came the really hard part. Male hippos have what scientists politely call “spatially dynamic testes,” meaning their genitalia is retractable, and can hide in an opening called the inguinal canal. Female reproductive organs proved even harder to find.
- Finally, he was able to perfect a process, but it remains dangerous, time consuming, and costly, especially for his low-budget agency. Echeverri is only able to castrate about one male hippo a year, while the population grows at an estimated 10% annually. A recent study forecasts the invasive hippo population will swell to 1,500 individuals by 2040, at which time their environmental impacts will be irreversible, and their numbers impossible to control. (WaPo, $)
- How Many Microcovids Would You Spend on a Burrito? (Wired)
- Father of the Web Tim Berners-Lee prepares ‘do-over’ (Reuters)
- Car Concerts Offer Choirs A Way To Rehearse And Perform (NPR). Carmina Burana: coming to a parking lot near you.
- Job Screening Service Halts Facial Analysis of Applicants (Wired)
- Lost Passwords Lock Millionaires Out of Their Bitcoin Fortunes (NYT, $)
- Florida manatee with ‘Trump’ etched on back prompts investigation (BBC)
- The ancient roots of Wonder Woman (BBC).
- What do we know about the lives of Neanderthal women? (Aeon)
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