The Last Frontier
October 4, 2021
The Good News
- Foundations pledge $5 billion in record funding for biodiversity (The Hill)
- Southern California beachfront property clear to be returned to black owners after nearly a century (CNN)
“Home is the nicest word there is.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder
“Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.” — Jane Austen
The Last Frontier
The AMA’s Medical Ethics Code updated its guidance for crisis standards of care in April 2020. During public health emergencies, the principle that a patient’s care is always paramount must be counterbalanced by the need to protect the welfare of a population of patients — and to be prudent stewards of limited societal resources.
For the past month, U.S. hospitals overrun with a majority of unvaccinated patients suffering from the Delta variant of COVID-19 have been forced to consider enacting “crisis standards of care,” the last resort plan for rationing medical care during a catastrophic event. When unable to transfer patients to other nearby facilities, hospitals in numerous states have had to choose one critically ill patient over another, based on which one had a better chance of survival.
Alaska’s natural isolation shielded it through much of the pandemic. Early on there were strict testing protocols for people arriving from the outside, and many villages locked down. Once vaccines arrived, planes, ferries, and sleds brought doses to far-flung communities. The death numbers remained low in the Last Frontier, but as the Delta variant began sweeping through, Alaska’s isolation became a growing liability. Only 50% of the population is fully vaccinated, and Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy has resisted restrictions to curtail the virus.
But hospitalizations continue surging, and Alaska doesn’t have the flexibility to transfer patients to neighboring facilities. Doctors and nurses who have spoken out in meetings, urging the public to take the virus more seriously, have repeatedly encountered frightening hostility. On September 14, health care professionals who testified at the Anchorage Assembly meeting pleaded with local governments to take action to protect public health, advocating for common sense protections like masks, vaccination, and social distancing. They were loudly jeered, accused of lying, deliberately hurting or killing patients, and withholding effective medical treatments such as the animal anti-parasite drug “Ivermectin” in order to promote vaccines. Protesters held signs saying “Liberty or Tyranny.” The next morning, Alaska’s far-right, conspiracy-theory-laced political blog “Must Read Alaska” published an article titled: “Medical theater: Doctors, nurses coordinate with liberal Assembly to intimidate community over vaccines.”
Alaska has become the latest state to implement crisis care. What’s happening echoes the pandemic’s earliest days, and now Dunleavy is asking hundreds of medical workers to fly in from elsewhere to help. At the same time — despite having the highest vaccination rates in the country — parts of New England are seeing record cases, hospitalizations, and deaths among the unvaccinated. Meanwhile, an infectious disease expert was quoted as saying that other COVID-19 strains “pale in comparison” to the Delta variant’s ability to infect people. (AMA, WSJ, NPR, NYT, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Land Mine, AP News, The Hill)
- Beijing is flexing its military muscles by flying warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ). The self-governing island’s Ministry of National Defense reported spotting 39 Chinese military aircraft entering the ADIZ on Saturday; 38 had been spotted on Friday.
- The sightings included fighter jets and anti-submarine and early warning aircraft; it’s the highest number of incursions Taiwan has reported in one day since it began publicly reporting such activities last year. The Taiwanese air force scrambled the aircraft, issued radio warnings, and deployed air defense missile systems in response.
- Friday’s incursions came as Beijing celebrated 72 years since the end of a civil war in 1949 and the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The defeated Nationalists had fled to Taipei, and Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately ever since. The Chinese Communist Party has never governed the democratic island of some 24 million people. However, the party views Taiwan as an inseparable part of China’s territory, and President Xi Jinping won’t rule out military force to capture Taiwan if necessary. (CNN)
He’s Roman-Off The Market
- The Romanov family ruled Russia for 300 years before the last sitting emperor, Nikolai II Alexandrovich Romanov, was forced to abdicate the throne in February 1917. Several members of the imperial family managed to stay on good terms with the provisional government established in the capital city of St. Petersburg, and were eventually allowed to leave Russia. Nicholas II, his wife, and their five children were exiled to Siberia, where in July 1918 they were executed in a merchant’s cellar by a Bolshevik firing squad.
- On Friday, a descendant of the royal dynasty, 40-year-old Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov, married his Italian bride, Victoria Romanovna Bettarini, 39, in an Orthodox ceremony in St. Petersburg; it was the country’s first royal wedding in over a century.
- George is the great-grandnephew of Nicholas II. His great-grandfather was the czar’s first cousin Kirill, who had fled Western Europe after the Revolution. The grand duke insists he’s the hereditary crown prince of the Romanov dynasty, a claim challenged by some family members and Russia-based royal watchers. (NPR)
Additional World News
- Blast targeting Kabul mosque leaves ‘a number of civilians dead,’ Taliban spokesman says (CNN)
- Conservative conference: UK in period of adjustment after Brexit, says PM (BBC)
- Fuel crisis and supply shortages are a product of the UK’s economic model (Guardian)
- Israel tightens COVID ‘green pass’ rules, sparking protest (AP)
- Philippines’ Duterte says daughter running for president in 2022 elections (Yahoo)
- Rishi Sunak to announce £500m ‘plan for jobs’ extension (Guardian)
- Small Plane Crashes Near Milan, Killing All on Board (NYT, $)
Oil And Water Don’t Mix
- A major oil spill reached Huntington Beach in Southern California on Saturday, causing an emergency response to protect the region’s ecology. Workers moved to shut down the pipeline and retrieve as much of the oil as possible soon after the spill occurred. It’s believed to have originated from a pipeline that has dumped 126,000 gallons into the waters.
- As of Sunday morning, the ongoing spill had surpassed the 2007 oil spill that affected San Francisco Bay when a cargo ship struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and 58,000 gallons leaked. Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said there were “significant ecological impacts” in Huntington Beach. “We’ve started to find dead birds & fish washing up on the shore,” Foley tweeted, sharing photos. Miles of beaches in Orange County could remain closed for weeks or even months. (The Hill)
Putting Out Fires
- Following an investigation into complaints made by several Black firefighters, New York City officials have suspended nine firefighters without pay. The suspensions, which range from a few days to six months, resulted from last April’s string of racist messages and memes the white firefighters shared on their phones, including ones mocking the 2020 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and ones about the use of fire hoses on protesters.
- A spokesperson called the suspensions the most severe punishments ever handed down in the history of the NYC Fire Department. But Black firefighters said the suspensions fell far short of addressing what they consider deep-rooted problems in the department, where leaders have acknowledged that racism, sexism, and harassment have been tolerated. (NBC)
Additional USA News
- Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema: the centrists blocking Biden’s agenda (Guardian)
- Florida women protest Republican proposal to ban most abortions after Texas law (WaPo, $)
- Trump asks judge to force Twitter to restore his account (Politico)
- George Floyd statue vandalized in NYC’s Union Square two days after unveiling (The Hill)
- Red Mass at Catholic church in DC offers blessings ahead of Supreme Court term (WaPo, $)
- West Virginia governor gets testy over questions about handling of Covid surge (Politico)
- Pressure is growing on Biden to lift Trump’s tariffs as supply chain problems worsen (CNN)
Live From New York…
Saturday Night Live opened its 47th season this weekend, with new cast member James Austin Johnson taking on the role of President Joe Biden. “What’s cookin’, what’s good?” Johnson’s Biden said, kicking off the premiere. “How was everybody’s summer? Mine was bad.” But on the bright side, he said he “went the entire summer without falling down the stairs once.”
Johnson’s Biden then brought out a bunch of fellow Democrats from different ends of the political spectrum, including Senators Kyrsten Sinema, played by Cecily Strong, and Joe Manchin, played by Aidy Bryant. “Is it just me or does she look like all of the characters from ‘Scooby-Doo’ at the same time?” Johnson’s Biden said of Strong’s Sinema. Also on board were Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, played by Melissa Villaseñor, and Ilhan Omar, played by Ego Nwodim. Nwodim’s Omar thanked Biden for not “calling me Kamala,” and said she’d been “designed in a lab to give Tucker Carlson a heart attack.”
The gist of the skit was that Johnson’s Biden was trying to unite the party’s conservatives and progressives in hopes of getting the infrastructure bill finished. It went about as expected. Villaseñor’s Ocasio-Cortez said “I’m saying we need at least $300 billion in clean energy tax credits.” Bryant’s Manchin responded “And I’m saying $0.”
“See? Same page!” Johnson’s Biden insisted. He trudged ahead, still looking for common ground. He asked if everyone likes roads. Strong’s Sinema said she wants no roads — she prefers “Chaos” instead. The group was then joined by other Democrats, like former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, played by Pete Davidson, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, played by Alex Moffat. Both were there to promote books — Schumer’s was titled “Sandwiches I Have Liked and Tried,” while Cuomo’s book was just called “Whoops.”
Johnson’s Biden then said that Democrats, despite their differences, are fundamentally all the same, to which Davidson’s Cuomo interjected “screwed!” With that the cast yelled “Live from New York … It’s Saturday night!” And so it goes. (CNN)
- BepiColombo spacecraft sends its first images of Mercury during flyby (Guardian)
- VIDEOS: Fireball Streaks Across Colorado Sky Early Sunday Morning (CBS Denver)
- Apple Doesn’t Make Videogames. But It’s the Hottest Player in Gaming. (WSJ)
- Circus clowns are the latest pandemic related shortage in Northern Ireland (NPR)
- The coin that could avert a federal debt default (Axios)
- As SpaceX’s Starlink Ramps Up, So Could Light Pollution (Wired)
- The controversial quest to make cow burps less noxious (Ars Technica)
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