Fear Of A Clotted Planet
March 16, 2021
The Good News
- Covid cases fall over 80% among US nursing home staff and residents (Guardian)
- Bill Ackman donates his more than $1 billion Coupang stake to charity (CNBC)
“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” — Carl Sagan
“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.” — Arthur M. Schlesinger
Fear Of A Clotted Planet
(Dinendra Haria via Getty Images)
Over a week ago, authorities in Austria were investigating the death of one person and the illness of another after they received doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.
By Wednesday, out of some 5 million Europeans who received the vaccine, 30 cases of so-called “thromboembolic events” — blood clots forming in the blood vessels and blocking blood flow — had been reported. Several more European countries halted their use of the vaccine.
The Norwegian Medicines Agency (NOMA) received several reports of adverse events in younger people shortly after they received the AstraZeneca vaccine. One person died unexpectedly from a brain hemorrhage and three more were hospitalized with severe cases of blood clots. NOMA noted that the clinical presentation of low platelet counts, bleeding, and clotting in both large and small vessels seen in these patients was “very unusual.”
On Thursday, Europe’s drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) stressed that there was no indication the shot was causing blood clots, adding it believed the vaccine’s benefits “continue to outweigh its risks.” The World Health Organization agreed. EMA did acknowledge some member states had paused the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot, but said inoculations may continue to be administered while an investigation of blood clot cases is ongoing. However, the reports were troubling enough that Denmark, Norway, and Iceland suspended their use of the vaccine on Thursday. Thailand followed suit on Friday, Ireland and the Netherlands on Sunday.
Monday, the EMA announced it had worked through the weekend to analyze and make sense of the reports of blood clots, particularly those involving “unusual features” like low platelet counts in affected individuals. The EMA said it was continuing a “rigorous analysis of all the data related to thromboembolic events,” and that its safety committee would hold an emergency meeting Thursday “to conclude on the information gathered and any further actions that may need to be taken.” The WHO said it has been in close contact with the EMA, and that its vaccines safety committee is meeting Tuesday “as a precautionary measure” to conduct its own review of the data.
After these announcements, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal joined the growing list of countries suspending the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. But just as a reminder, British professor and statistician Sir David Spiegelhalter urges restraint in judgment. While it’s human nature to spot patterns in data, he says, we should be careful about finding causal links where none may exist. (Reuters, CNBC, Regulatory Focus, Guardian)
You’ll Never Sea Food The Same Way Again
- An analysis of 44 recent studies of more than 9,000 seafood samples from restaurants, fishmongers, and supermarkets in more than 30 countries found that 36% were mislabeled, exposing seafood fraud on a vast global scale.
- Many of the studies used relatively new DNA analysis techniques. In one comparison of sales of fish labeled “snapper” by fishmongers, supermarkets, and restaurants in Canada, the US, the UK, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand, researchers found mislabeling in about 40% of fish tested. The UK and Canada had the highest rates of mislabeling in that study — 55% — followed by the US at 38%.
- Sometimes the fish were labeled as different species in the same family. Other substitutes were of endangered or vulnerable species. Still, other samples had nothing at all to do with an aquatic species. Prawn balls sold in Singapore were frequently found to contain pork without a trace of prawn. (Guardian)
Cheese Sales In France Are Doing Grate
- Last year during the lockdown, sales of cheese soared in France as the confined population sought comfort food. Sales of Raclette — a mostly-winter specialty cheese melted and eaten with charcuterie (prepared meat products like bacon, ham, sausage), and boiled potatoes — were up over 12%. Machines used to melt that cheese were also in high demand.
- Sales of Comté, similar to Swiss Gruyère, rose 8.2% and Emmental, similar to Swiss cheese, rose 7.8%. Sales of cheeses produced from cows’ milk were up by 9.4%, organic goats’ cheese jumped by 32.2% and organic sheep’s cheese rose by 5.5%.
- Former president Charles de Gaulle famously noted that France has 246 different kinds of cheese. Yet even with all those choices, the biggest winner in France in 2020 was Italian mozzarella, up 21.2%. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- With Iranian Nuclear Deal In Limbo, Some Worry Inspectors Will Lose Access For Good (NPR)
- They can’t sand it: Sandstorm Blankets Northern China, Snarling Morning Traffic (NPR)
- What Do Domestic Extremists And ISIS Have In Common? A Social Media Strategy (NPR)
- Could Putin Launch Another Invasion? (Politico)
- The device that reverses CO2 emissions (BBC)
- Piers Morgan Can’t Wait to Bring the Worst of America Home (NYT, $)
- Thousands March In Australia As Another #MeToo Wave Hits The Country (NPR)
- Vatican Says Catholic Church Cannot Bless Same-Sex Marriages (NPR)
- Spain to launch trial of four-day working week (Guardian). Great, we’d like to put the five-day workweek on trial.
- More U.S. Travelers Are Flying Again Despite COVID-19 Risks (NPR)
- Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy is highest in those who fear side effects, vaccine safety (Vox)
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Facebook Finds The Facts On Anti-Vax Movement
(Brook Mitchell via Getty Images)
- A massive internal study is being conducted by Facebook to figure out what’s driving users’ skepticism about vaccines. It’s a major project that attempts to probe and teach software to identify the medical attitudes of millions of Americans in an effort to understand the spread of ideas that contribute to vaccine hesitancy.
- Early findings show a QAnon connection is at the core of the doubts expressed by US users. The findings suggest that while a large amount of increasingly nuanced content may not be breaking the rules — Facebook has banned outright false and misleading statements about coronavirus vaccines since December — a huge realm of expression about vaccines sits in a gray area, still able to cause harm in certain communities where there’s an echo chamber effect.
- Furthermore, the flames are being fanned by a very small group. A recent poll found that nearly 30 percent of Americans — and half of all Republican men — say they won’t get one of the three federally approved vaccines. A Facebook spokeswoman said: “Public health experts have made it clear that tackling vaccine hesitancy is a top priority in the COVID response, which is why we’ve launched a global campaign [to connect people] to reliable information from health experts and remove false claims about COVID and vaccines.” (WaPo, $)
Miami Plays Party Pooper
- In unsurprising news, thousands of spring breakers ignored Covid-19 safety protocols and amassed on Miami Beach over the weekend. The mayor of the popular South Florida destination said hundreds of people were arrested and at least two police officers were injured. The officers were hurt Friday night when police were forced to use pepper spray to disperse a “very large” disorderly crowd after someone started throwing money into the air.
- The city of Miami Beach had extended its state of emergency declaration and emergency measures, including a midnight curfew, through March 17. “We’ve got too many people coming, we’ve got too many people acting out and we have COVID at the same time, so it’s a triple threat,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told CBS Miami.
- “If you’re coming here to disrupt then it’s not worth the money to us. It’s not worth the revenue. You cannot pay our community to endure the kind of inappropriate and improper conduct that we’ve been seeing.” Gelber added: “If you’re coming here because you think anything goes, you’re going to have a terrible time. We’re going to arrest you. We’ve made hundreds and hundreds of arrests.” (CBS News)
Additional USA News
- Backlog of migrant children in Border Patrol custody soars to 4,200, with 3,000 held past legal limit (CBS)
- US prison guards refusing vaccine despite COVID-19 outbreaks (AP)
- Wicked Winds of the West: Winter Storm Slams The West With Heavy Snow, Strong Winds (NPR)
- Stimulus payments are already arriving. Americans say they really need them. (Vox)
- Amazon expands gamification program that encourages warehouse employees to work harder (Verge)
- Points for honesty? Republican senator says he would’ve been afraid had Capitol rioters been BLM activists (Guardian)
- Sports Are Returning to Normal. So Is Their Role in Political Fights. (NYT, $)
- Private Schools Are Indefensible (Atlantic). Have they tried installing moats?
- Virtually No One is Dangerous Enough to Justify Jail (The Appeal)
- Would you like your homework assignment with a side of fries? Attending school at a fast-food spot: 12m US students lack internet a year into pandemic (Guardian)
- How the pandemic is reshaping education (WaPo, $)
- For Voting Rights Advocates, a ‘Once in a Generation Moment’ Looms (NYT, $)
Swiping Left On Violence
- Soon Tinder users will be able to find out a little more about their potential anonymous sex partner — like maybe their arrest record, or history of violence.
- Match Group US, owner of Tinder and other dating apps including OkCupid, Hinge, and Match, announced its investment in Garbo, a nonprofit that aims to allow people to run background checks with only a first name and phone number or a full name. Match didn’t say how much it spent on the investment, but promised it would make the group’s tech available to all Match’s users, starting with Tinder.
- Garbo says it collects “public records and reports of violence or abuse, including arrests, convictions, restraining orders, harassment, and other violent crimes,” and its website says it accepts manually submitted “police report(s), order(s) of protection / restraining orders, and other legal documents that report abuse, harassment, or other crimes.”
- Garbo won’t be disclosing drug possession charges or traffic violations, which it contends aren’t racially equal and don’t meaningfully predict “gender-based violence.” Predators are known to stalk teens and tweens on Tinder, and Garbo’s focus is on preventing violence against girls and women.
- Neither Garbo nor its manual function is currently live right now, so precautionary users might want to wait a little longer before heading out to hook up with a stranger. (Verge)
- Florida’s feral hogs: a pervasive pest – but a profitable one for some (Guardian)
- Don’t say the M-word: Twitter accidentally blocks users who post the word ‘Memphis’ (Guardian)
- Judge rules Google has to face lawsuit that claims it tracks users even in Incognito mode (Verge)
- Mother charged with deepfake plot against daughter’s cheerleading rivals (Guardian)
- SpaceX launches Falcon 9 rocket carrying Starlink satellites. Their goal is to blanket the planet in high-speed broadband (CNN)
- Salvation is a $2,000 bike. A Peloton delivery driver on being the most popular person in the pandemic (Vox)
- Who Are These Kids, and What Are They Doing to Jazz? (NYT, $)
- New images from China’s Tianwen-1 at Mars (Earth Sky)
- Why Not Meditating Is Good (Atlantic). Living in the moment is good… but this moment?
- You Might Never Guess That Jacob Collier Was a Genius (NYT, $)
- Job-hunting is stressful and humiliating enough. Now robots judge our resumes (Guardian). In a crazy twist, the robots are actually more compassionate than HR.
- The forgotten film that paved the way for this year’s Oscars contenders (WaPo, $)
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