Lacking In Patients
February 12, 2021
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“Ethics is nothing else than reverence for life.” — Albert Schweitzer
“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.” — Potter Stewart
Waiting To Give Out Expiring Doses, This Doctor Didn’t Have The Patients
(Mark Felix via Getty Images)
Is it better to use leftover Covid-19 vaccines on someone of a doctor’s choosing, or let it go to waste? That’s the question in Harris County, Texas.
Dr. Hasan Gokal worked for Harris County Public Health. He attended a December 22nd conference call with state health officials who explained protocols for administering the newly-approved Moderna vaccine. Officials said the 10-11 doses in a vial were only viable for six hours after the seal was punctured, and the closing admonition was: “Just put it in people’s arms. We don’t want any doses to go to waste. Period.”
Gokal was supervising a vaccine distribution site on December 29th when a 10-dose vaccine vial was opened at the end of a long day, and just one dose administered. The nine remaining doses would expire within six hours, so the doctor offered the vaccine to health workers and police on site, but none accepted.
Gokal called a supervisor at the health department, who knew of no available patients. Then using contacts in his cellphone, Gokal drove off-site and administered eight doses to the elderly residents or those with certain medical conditions he had located. After 11 p.m., unable to find any other recipient, Gokal gave the final dose to his chronically ill wife. The next day he entered all the recipients into the state’s database.
Harris County Public Health officials determined Gokal had violated policy by taking doses away from a vaccination site, and he was fired on January 8th. Approximately two weeks later, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Gokal was being charged with theft for stealing a vial of vaccine and taking it offsite. “He abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there,” Ogg said. “What he did was illegal and he’ll be held accountable under the law.”
On January 26th, a Harris County judge dismissed the theft charge for lack of probable cause. In his ruling, the judge criticized the State’s decision to criminally charge a doctor for administering vaccine doses, which he documented, during a public health emergency. “The Court emphatically rejects this attempted imposition of the criminal law on the professional decisions of a physician,” the judge wrote. Undeterred, a district attorney’s office spokesperson said the case was going forward and would now be presented to a grand jury.
The Texas Medical Association and the Harris County Medical Society released a statement supporting physicians like Gokal who find themselves scrambling “to avoid wasting the vaccine in a punctured vial.” The statement read: “It is difficult to understand any justification for charging any well-intentioned physician in this situation with a criminal offense.” (NYT, $)
Whatever Group Made This Decision Was Clearly Too Monolithic
(Yasin Dikme via Getty Images)
- A mysterious 10-foot tall metal slab appeared in a field in a province in Turkey last week. It had an inscription in an ancient Turkic language: “Look at the sky, see the moon.” Their curiosity peaked, visitors came from hundreds of miles away to see the strange object. Then just as mysteriously, the monolith suddenly disappeared four days later.
- The mystery was solved on Tuesday when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the country’s ambitious new 10-year space program, which will include missions to the moon. As he spoke, an image of the monolith was projected behind him.
- Erdogan said the idea was driven by a “famous slogan.” Just a guess: Is it “Look at the sky, see the moon”? Turkey’s Minister of Industry and Technology said the idea to plant the monolith as a space program promotion came to officials when they saw other monoliths emerging around the world. (NYT, $)
After Four Years, Phone Calls With Foreign Leaders Are Boring Again
- In 2011 and 2012, when Joe Biden was America’s Vice President and Xi Jinping was heir-apparent to China’s presidency, the two men spent dozens of hours together. “I know him pretty well,” Biden said in a recent interview. Things are different now that the men occupy different roles.
- Wednesday evening, in his first conversation with President Xi, President Biden offered to cooperate on global priorities of mutual interest, but raised concerns about China’s aggressive policies abroad and human rights abuses at home. The White House call summary said Biden “underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan.”
- The official Chinese account of the call said that Xi warned Biden that the two powers had to cooperate or risk calamity. Whereas greater cooperation would greatly benefit both countries and the world, Xi said, when it comes to Chinese sovereignty and territorial integrity, “the U.S. side should respect China’s core interests and act with caution.” (NYT, $)
Additional World News
- Biden announces sanctions on Myanmar’s military in response to the coup (Vox)
- A trio of Cubans fleeing to the U.S. got stuck on a deserted island. They survived on coconuts for 33 days. (WaPo, $) The game ‘Desert Island’ gets a lot harder when you only get one item and it’s food.
- Wave of coronavirus cases brings a tide of racism in Hong Kong (WaPo, $)
- Trump hid his calls with Putin. Now, Biden has access to them. (Politico)
- Before Uttarakhand Flood, India Ignored Warnings (NYT, $)
- Why Germany Prosecutes the Aged for Nazi Roles It Long Ignored (NYT, $)
- Israelis ask, why hasn’t the U.S. president called their prime minister yet? (WaPo, $) Call me, maybe?
- Myanmar protests: A creative currents runs through demonstrations against military rule (WaPo, $)
- Ebola Kills Second Person In Congo In A Week (NPR)
- Pakistan’s top court bans execution of people with mental illness (Al Jazeera)
- The Unlikeliest Pandemic Success Story (Atlantic)
- Virus Variant First Found in Britain Now Spreading Rapidly in U.S. (NYT, $)
- Kent coronavirus variant set to ‘sweep world’, says UK scientist (Al Jazeera). This past year has really taught scientists how to make their announcements more attention-grabbing.
- Mount Sinai study finds Apple Watch can predict COVID-19 diagnosis up to a week before testing (TechCrunch)
- Leave Your Antibodies Alone (Atlantic)
- What’s at Stake in the Fight Over Reopening Schools (New Yorker) & Rhode Island Kept Its Schools Open. This Is What Happened. (NYT, $)
- How Covid Overwhelmed One LA Hospital in California’s Worst-Hit County (NYT, $)
- Can’t Find an N95 Mask? This Company Has 30 Million That It Can’t Sell. (NYT, $)
- How Merck’s Vaccine Lost the Covid Race (NYT, $). In this case, slow and steady lost millions of dollars.
- FDA Prepares For COVID-19 Vaccines Changes To Deal With Variants (NPR)
- ‘It’s as if there’s no Covid’: Nepal defies pandemic amid a broken economy (Guardian)
- Coronavirus Venezuela: Maduro touts supposed covid-19 cure Carvativir (WaPo, $)
FHA Flies The Rainbow Flag
- For the first time since its passage in 1968, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) will be extended to protect the rights of millions of LGBTQ Americans. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Thursday it will begin enforcing the FHA to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
- The act traditionally protected against discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.” Sexual orientation and gender identity were not explicitly included. HUD’s announcement comes just three weeks after one of President Biden’s inauguration day executive orders directing the heads of each agency to review “all existing orders, regulations, guidance document policies, programs or other agency actions” that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, and ensure that those are broadened to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
- The Supreme Court ruled in a 2020 case, Bostock v. Clayton County, that Title VII protections against discrimination on the basis of ‘sex’ must necessarily include discrimination based on sexual orientation. (Vox)
Survey Shows 100% Of Respondents Want Their Party To Win
- In a new survey from Vox and Data for Progress, 69% of Republicans polled said they are less likely to vote for a political candidate in their state if that person found Donald Trump guilty in his current impeachment trial. Specifically, 56% said they were much less likely, while 13% said they were somewhat less likely.
- Only 22% of Republicans surveyed blame Trump for the January 6th insurrection, compared to 91% of Democrats and 64% of independents. As far as impeachment goes, just 12% of Republicans agree that Trump should be found guilty, as do 82% of Democrats and 52% of Independents.
- Overall, the survey found that 48% of likely voters believe Trump should be found guilty. However, likely Republican voters are still overwhelmingly supportive of Trump, with 70% saying they’d like to see him run in 2024, and 82% saying they oppose the Senate voting to bar him from future office. Overall, 49% support barring him from office. (Vox)
Additional USA News
- ‘If white people were still here, this wouldn’t happen’: the majority-Black town flooded with sewage (Guardian) & Activist Catherine Flowers: the poor living amid sewage is ‘the final monument of the Confederacy’ (Guardian)
- Asian Americans Are Calling on Allies in Response to a Wave of Violence (Vice)
- ‘Explosion of risk’: Yellen will fight misuse of cryptocurrencies (Al Jazeera). Let’s hope she didn’t byte off more than she can chew.
- Opinion | Black History’s Place in America’s Story (NYT, $)
- Opinion | Cyberspace Plus Trump Almost Killed Our Democracy. Can Europe Save Us? (NYT, $)
- K.K.K. Member Who Drove Into Protesters Gets More Than 3 Years in Prison (NYT, $). One year for each ‘K’.
- Opinion | California Is Making Liberals Squirm (NYT, $)
- How Reddit Became America’s Unofficial Unemployment Hotline (NYT, $)
- George Floyd Killing: New Details Emerge Ahead of Derek Chauvin’s Trial (NYT, $)
- Thieves Nationwide Are Swiping Catalytic Converters (NYT, $). The trend has really driven crime rates up this year.
- California’s rainfall is at historic lows. That spells trouble for wildfires and farms (Guardian). The report isn’t as dry as it sounds.
- Revisiting Marcus Garvey’s Legacy During Black History Month (NPR)
- Black-Owned Businesses Fighting For Survival Turn To Small Banks (NPR)
- What’s most interesting about the Florida water system hack? That we heard about it at all. (Krebs on Security)
- Impeachment video: Capitol rioters narrowly missed lawmakers according to new footage (Vox)
- Dozens of former Republican officials in talks to form anti-Trump party (Guardian)
The Future Of The Republican Party
- How Right-Wing Radio Stoked Anger Before the Capitol Siege (NYT, $)
- Trump plans a reemergence and some retribution after impeachment (Politico)
- Republican senators show emotion, but little evidence of changed minds (WaPo, $). That’s good, it’s easy to forget senators have those sometimes.
- Can We Put Fox News on Trial With Trump? (NYT, $)
- Lie After Lie: Listen to How Trump Built His Alternate Reality (NYT, $). And he did it entirely without the help of Oculus.
- There Is No Defense—Only Complicity (Atlantic)
- Opinion | I’ve Studied Terrorism for Over 40 Years. Let’s Talk About What Comes Next. (NYT, $)
- Opinion | How Long Can Democracy Survive QAnon and Its Allies? (NYT, $)
- Corey Lewandowski Allegedly Tried to Get More Than $1 Million for a Trump Pardon (Atlantic)
- Twitter says Trump ban is permanent – even if he runs for office again (Guardian)
- Your Daily Dose of (Dangerous) Data: 4 In 10 Republicans Say Political Violence May Be Necessary (NPR)
Diabetes Doctors Try To Lighten Things Up
- Semaglutide, a drug made by Novo Nordisk, is being marketed as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes. But researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago tested semaglutide at a much higher dose as an anti-obesity medication.
- The clinical trial involved almost 2,000 participants in 16 countries, who injected themselves weekly with semaglutide or a placebo for 68 weeks. Results published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine showed those who got semaglutide lost 15% of their body weight, on average, compared with 2.4% of those receiving the placebo. More than a third of participants taking semaglutide lost more than 20% of their body weight. Symptoms of diabetes and pre-diabetes also improved in many participants.
- The results far exceeded the amount of weight loss observed in clinical trials of other obesity medications. An obesity researcher who led the study called semaglutide a “game-changer,” and “the start of a new era of effective treatments for obesity.” The study confirms what scientists (and dieters) already know: Will power isn’t enough.
- It must be noted that insurance companies have refused to pay for the weight-loss drugs on the market, but they usually cover diabetes drugs. Semaglutide’s average retail price for the lower dose used to treat diabetes runs about $1,000 a month. No telling what a much higher dose to treat obesity would cost, or if insurers would balk at covering the tab for a prescription to treat diabetes involving ‘a much higher dose.’ (NYT, $)
Additional Weekend Reads
- Pigs can be trained to use computer joysticks, say researchers (Guardian). Just wait until they learn how to play Farmville… we may have an Animal Farm situation on our hands.
- ‘I get better sleep’: the people who quit social media (Guardian)
- Toyota will debut its first mass-market EVs in the US this year (Verge)
- Beauty, Serenity, Stillness: An Ode to the Final Miles of the Mississippi River (NYT, $)
- The world’s most misunderstood novel (BBC)
- Browser ‘Favicons’ Can Be Used as Undeletable ‘Supercookies’ to Track You Online (Vice). They’re like regular browser cookies, but with macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips.
- Neuroscience shows how interconnected we are – even in a time of isolation (Guardian)
- Lost in Antarctica, a Wallet Is Returned 53 Years Later (Memories Included) (NYT, $)
- Inside The Billion-Dollar Plan To Kill Credit Cards (Forbes)
- This laptop has seven times the average number of screens (Verge). So… seven. Seven screens.
- What is Clubhouse, the invite-only app that celebrities and entrepreneurs are talking about? (Vox)
- How you can help astronomers hunt for undiscovered worlds (Verge)
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