Elon Musk’s Kid Or Covid Vaccine?
August 26, 2021
The Good News
- A Record Number Of Out LGBTQ Athletes Will Compete In The Tokyo Paralympics (NPR)
- Blue whales returning to Spain’s Atlantic coast after 40-year absence (Guardian)
“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” — C.S. Lewis
What’s Going On With China?
In the nine years since coming to power, President Xi Jinping has worked to strengthen the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) role in all areas of society, including its businesses, schools, and cultural institutions. From internet screening and censorship to ubiquitous surveillance and repetitive delivery of the official narrative, Xi’s message to the people has been clear: “Listen to the party, appreciate the party, follow the party.”
To ensure the narrative is ingrained from childhood, China’s ministry of education published new guidelines on Tuesday that include an addition to the national curriculum for all Chinese students: “Xi Jinping Thought.” The education ministry said the addition was to help “establish Marxist belief” in the country’s youth. Xi’s “thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era” will be taught from primary school all the way to university. The aim is to solidify the “resolve to listen to and follow the Party.” New teaching materials must “cultivate patriotic feelings.”
Xi’s message to the world last month was equally clear: the days of pushing China around are over. In his July 1 speech celebrating the CCP’s 100th anniversary, Xi said foreign powers will “get their heads bashed” if they attempt to bully or influence the country. “The Communist Party of China and the Chinese people do solemnly declare to the world that the Chinese people are not only good at destroying an old world, but also good at building a new one. [We have] built a well-off society in an all-round way on the land of China …[and are] marching towards the goal of the second century of building a strong socialist modern country in an all-round way.” Then, there was this hubristic boast: “No one should underestimate the resolve, the will and ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“Territorial integrity” for China also means claiming sovereignty in disputed territories, like those in the South China Sea. Vietnam, also a single-party Communist state, shares its northern border and trade with China. But Beijing has become a geopolitical rival to Hanoi’s interests. And despite Vietnam’s adversarial past history with the U.S., today it’s considered a potential U.S. ally.
Vice President Kamala Harris is on an international trip to Southeast Asia, and was scheduled to fly into Hanoi Wednesday. One of the things she planned to announce was a donation to the pandemic-plagued country of one million coronavirus vaccine doses. But a three-hour delay in Harris’ schedule gave China an opportunity to crash the party. Beijing quickly sent its envoy in Hanoi to meet with Vietnam’s prime minister and pledge a donation of two million vaccine doses before Harris could make her announcement. A senior analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute noted: “Beijing likes to remind Hanoi who of the two giants is closer to it.”
The incident underscored delicate diplomatic challenges facing the Biden administration. Harris’ trip was supposed to demonstrate a U.S. pivot to the Indo-Pacific, but the chaotic collapse of Kabul’s Western-backed government has raised questions about Washington’s commitment to its allies. China seized on the turmoil to embarrass the U.S. and label it an unreliable partner. For 21st century relevance, President Roosevelt’s pithy quote might need tweaking: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself — and China.” (Reuters, BBC, Defense One, WaPo)
The Cost Of War
- Hamas and Israel have engaged in four wars in Gaza in thirteen years. The pattern is always the same: Palestinian rocket fire, devastating Israeli airstrikes, a mounting loss of life and property, and appeals for the “senseless cycle” to stop. According to the U.N., there has been more than $5 billion (in 2021 dollars) in damage to Gaza’s homes, agriculture, industry, electricity, and water infrastructure.
- 4,000 plus Palestinians have been killed, half of them civilians. The death toll in Israel is 106, including civilians, soldiers, and foreign residents The property damage is estimated to reach $193 million. U.N. economist Rami Alazzeh says Gaza’s economy is caught in a “vicious” cycle of destruction, reconstruction, and infusions of aid “just to get it back to before this military operation. If this cycle keeps going on, Gaza can never recover.”
- Palestinian officials say 70% of Gaza’s two million residents are under age 30. The median age is 19, compared to 30 in Israel. Gaza’s young adults have spent their childhood and adolescent years in an active war zone, and symptoms of PTSD are common. And under Hamas, unemployment among young people has worsened, standing at 62% in June. “This is a lost generation,” Alazzeh said. (AP News)
Breathing Down Their Necks
- Mexico has the world’s fourth-highest COVID-19 death toll — 253,000 to date. Researchers believe the true figure could be nearly three times higher because testing numbers are low. When the pandemic hit, demand for oxygen soared. Two companies that supply medical oxygen, Grupo Infra and Praxair Mexico, control 70% of the market together.
- In 2020, deliveries were often delayed, causing shortages and price increases. Some hospitals responded by building their own onsite oxygen generator plants, with help from the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the World Bank. Grupo Infra noticed its orders had begun falling. Grupo Infra’s lawyers, crying breach of contract, embarked on a harrowing campaign against the hospitals, sending threatening letters with misleading and untrue claims, asserting patients’ lives were at risk, and imposing ever-larger fines.
- When the Bureau of Investigative Journalism accused the company of unlawful intimidation, Grupo Infra said it was not aware of any legal action taken against any hospital for installing its own oxygen-generating equipment. Praxair, which reported $27 billion in sales in 2020, had no comment. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Taliban takeover prompts fears of a resurgent al-Qaida (AP)
- Hong Kong Censorship Law: Jail Terms For Breaches of National Security (Variety)
- Phones of nine Bahraini activists found to have been hacked with NSO spyware (Guardian)
- Navalny compares Russian prison to Chinese labor camp (The Hill)
- Mexico welcomes more than 100 Afghan journalists fleeing the Taliban (CNN)
- Paralympics opening ceremony: pandemic, politics and plenty of fun (Guardian)
Elon Musk’s Kid Or Covid Vaccine?
- After Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine received full FDA approval, it got a new name. An actual branding agency came up with it. The word is a mashup of “Covid-19 immunity” + “mRNA” in the middle, and is meant to evoke “community.” Ready? It’s COMIRNATY.
- Perhaps you already caught late-night comedians trying to pronounce the name, or read through some very clever posts on social media. But really, is Comirnaty better than other names under consideration, like Covuity, RnaxCovi, Kovimerna, and RNXtract? If the public had anything to say about it, it’d just be Pfizer’s Covid Vaccine. Or maybe FizVax. (CNN)
Voting Rights Advance
- After House Democrats passed the $3.5 trillion budget resolution blueprint along party lines on Tuesday, they did the same with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. And just as Republican representatives did with the budget package, all 212 said ‘no’ to the voting protection legislation, which is named after the late civil rights icon from Georgia.
- The legislation would require states with recent histories of discrimination to get federal “preclearance” to change their voting laws, which directly addresses the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder. The ruling gutted the preclearance system in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which civil rights advocates argue was successful in blocking proposed voting restrictions in states and localities with histories of racial discrimination.
- The John Lewis bill now moves to the Senate, where it will be quashed, unless the 50-vote Democratic caucus can stick together, and carve out an exception to the 60-vote filibuster rule. This, however, seems unlikely. (NBC News, Brookings)
Additional USA News
- Biden receives inconclusive intelligence report on covid origins (WaPo, $)
- California launches investigation into recall candidate Larry Elder’s financial disclosure (The Hill)
- Possible Havana syndrome incident delayed Harris flight to Vietnam (CNN)
- Georgia orders National Guard to hospitals as virus spreads (AP)
- Man who plotted to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sentenced to over 6 years (NBC)
- Trump makes executive privilege threat as House committee seeks documents from agencies on January 6 attack (CNN)
What Can Brown (Bears) Do For You?
Maybe he was trying out for a Charmin commercial.
Minutes after Amazon dropped off a package on the doorstep of a Connecticut woman’s home, her security camera filmed a bear stealing it. In the clip, the bear can be seen taking the Amazon box off the porch and carrying it in his mouth as he casually ambles away. “I knew nothing in there was going to be irreplaceable,” she said. The box, which contained toilet paper, was found in a neighbor’s yard a while later.
The first settlers arrived in Connecticut in the early 1600s. By the mid-1800s most of the state was farmland — the forests were gone and so were the bears. By the end of the 19th century, the farms were abandoned, forests had started growing back, and the bear population had begun thriving again.
Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) keeps track of the bear population and the multitude of sightings around the state. As of September 2020, DEEP had 8,500 bear sightings reported. According to the West Hartford News, bears were getting much bolder, too. In all of 2019, there were 17 reports of bears entering homes; by the first nine months of 2020, there’d been 42 reports of bears inviting themselves into the house.
Stephen Colbert used to say bears were “soulless Godless killing machines” and “the No. 1 threat facing America.” Maybe they’re not the No. 1 threat, but they do deserve a healthy appreciation for potential danger. If one wants your Amazon package, better just let him have it. (NBC News, DEEP, Daily Voice, Denver Post)
- T-Rex was fearsome but may have been a picky eater (SEA Times)
- Fastest orbiting asteroid found in our solar system (CNN)
- ‘Genetic fossil’: intact DNA from woman who lived 7,200 years ago discovered in Indonesia (Guardian)
- Fukushima nuclear water to be released via undersea tunnel (AP)
- ‘Mini-Neptunes’ beyond solar system may soon yield signs of life (Guardian)
- Rare ‘Einstein Ring’ captured by Hubble reveals the depths of the universe (Yahoo)