Monday, February 08, 2021

In The News (19)

Please, Biden, Try for 2 Million Shots a Day The administration’s vaccine plan isn’t ambitious enough. ............ the United States could get to 150 million shots in 100 days. ......... Now, like millions and millions of others, I watch the administration with a frantic eye to my own family’s survival. ......... Pfizer and Moderna, makers of the two vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use, have promised 200 million doses, enough for 100 million people, by the end of March.  

The Coronavirus Is a Master of Mixing Its Genome, Worrying Scientists New studies underscore how coronaviruses frequently mix their genetic components — which could contribute to the rise of dangerous variants. ............ The novel coronavirus has a propensity to mix large chunks of its genome when it makes copies of itself. Unlike small mutations, which are like typos in the sequence, a phenomenon called recombination resembles a major copy-and-paste error in which the second half of a sentence is completely overwritten with a slightly different version. ............... recombination may allow the virus to shapeshift in dangerous ways .............. related coronaviruses are quite promiscuous in terms of recombining with each other. There were also many sequences that cropped up in the coronaviruses that seemed to come out of nowhere. ............ Scientists have limited knowledge about whether recombination could give rise to new pandemic coronaviruses  

The Task Ahead for Biden on Climate The new president has shown a welcome interest in combating climate change. But more will need to be done. ..........  Put simply, the richest and most powerful nation in the world is back in the fight to rescue the planet from the fires, floods, famines, rising sea levels, human dislocations and other consequences of a warming globe. ................  In part because of Mr. Trump’s intransigence, the United States has struggled to meet its commitment in Paris to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025; with the help of the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted the economy, emissions have dropped by 20 percent ........... What might cut it is major new climate legislation that encourages serious investment dollars — in millions of emissions-free vehicles, in hundreds of thousands of new charging stations to service those vehicles, in a reimagined electric grid carrying power from plants that rely not on fossil fuels but on rapidly growing renewable sources, in a cleaner public transportation system and in millions and millions of weatherized homes. ................... If America’s legislators cannot deal with a present emergency, how likely is it that they can be persuaded to address a more remote one?  

Aleksei Navalny Is Resisting Putin, and Winning The opposition leader was sentenced to prison, but he has mobilized a vast movement that’s not done growing. .............. “Hundreds of thousands cannot be locked up,” Mr. Navalny declared from court to his millions of followers on social media. “More and more people will recognize this. And when they recognize this — and that moment will come — all of this will fall apart, because you cannot lock up the whole country.” ............ The opposition now has 40 offices across Russia, and most of its millions of followers are young people who have not challenged the Kremlin before. Among people ages 18 to 24, Mr. Putin’s popularity has slid from 36 percent in December 2019 to 20 percent.  

Putin Isn’t as Strong as He Looks For the first time in a long while, the Russian president isn’t holding all the cards. ............... On Sunday, over 5,000 people were detained — the most ever on a single day in Russia — including 1,600 in Moscow alone. ............. The odds seem stacked against the protesters, who remain a tiny fraction of the population. Though his approval ratings have declined from previous highs, Mr. Putin still commands substantial popular support. There is little sign of rifts within the Russian elite, and the government has a formidable repressive apparatus at its disposal. The Kremlin also has a firm grip on the political system: United Russia holds 335 out of 450 seats in the State Duma, and the rest are mostly held by parties that back the government. ................ It’s an “imitation democracy,” as the Russian political scientist Dmitri Furman termed it. However autocratic Mr. Putin may wish to be, he still requires a facade of legality and regular elections. .............. United Russia is polling at about 30 percent and will be looking nervously over its shoulder: Elections to the national parliament are due in September. ............. A generation that has grown up entirely under Mr. Putin’s rule is more willing than its elders to take to the streets and reject it. ............ In other countries of the former Soviet Union — such as Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia — contested elections have set off movements that resulted in transfers of power. ............ There is a long way to go before Russia can turn its “imitation democracy” regime into a living, breathing one.

Becoming Teammates in Life and Business Erin Higgins Coles and Drew Coles, who own a wedding band company, admit that learning to fight fair and communicate during arguments was a challenge. ......... Because marriage is an ever-evolving experience, we constantly shift, change and, in some cases, start over. ............. He dives right in; I’m risk-averse. We rarely see eye to eye. ......... We are competitive and stubborn. Because we work together, we lost who we were as a couple. Now we set aside time for ourselves individually and as a couple. We do dinner dates, take walks, ask each other questions about our lives, and share things we might not know about the other person. It’s a deeper level of talking than we normally do. And we don’t talk about work. We’ve matured in this relationship. ............  He’s learned to loosen up and enjoy the little things in life. He’s gotten better at showing his emotions. He had a wall up getting close to my family. He had a really difficult childhood and was raised by his grandparents. He’s learned how important family is. ............ Being together every moment of every day last year helped us learn to live with each other in a way we hadn’t been able to do before. Covid slowed us down and got us on the same page. ............ Erin is loving and has made me a stronger communicator. She’s helped me interpret who and what I am. She taught me the importance of family, what family really is and what family could be. Mine wasn’t as open, welcoming and outwardly loving as hers is.  I’ve learned what to take from my past and what I want to bring into my future and the kind of father I want to be. Now that we have worked out some of our issues, enough to see what we are bringing to this marriage, this relationship and what kind of parents we will be, we’re working on starting a family. ............... We’ve had dark times in our relationship, which made it hard to know where we would end up. Marriage takes work and a lot of self-reflection. The hard work is asking, “Is this worth the fight?” And “Why am I bringing friction to the relationship?” ............... We have learned to be less selfish. To be kinder to each other in the argument. You have to fight hard when it doesn’t seem easy to give the other person a smile, but you do because they need it. We are learning to stop and appreciate each other even in the worst of times.

The UAE is now offering citizenship to foreigners, and the economic gains could be ‘transformative’  Nearly 90% of the UAE’s roughly 10 million inhabitants are foreign nationals. ......... A major step forward in domestic policy, the move follows several months of historic reforms and diplomatic breakthroughs for the Middle Eastern trading and business hub. In August, the UAE became the first Gulf country to normalize relations and open direct flights with Israel. In the following months, the officially Muslim country introduced reforms legalizing cohabitation, allowing alcohol buying without a license, and permitting 100% foreign business ownership, compared with previous requirements of 51% local ownership when based outside of a free zone. .............. UAE citizens currently receive very attractive advantages: a high tax-free income; subsidized education, health care and fuel; incentive packages for buying houses and land; and pensions and retirement benefits from the age of 49. 

President Biden pledges to fix the racial wealth gap. Here are his plans  The median wealth for a white family was $188,200, compared to $24,100 for Black families and $36,100 for Hispanic families ........... In addition to proposing some sort of student debt forgiveness, Biden also advocated making public colleges and universities tuition-free for all families with incomes below $125,000. He also wants to nix tuition at two-year community colleges. Nearly 85% of Black bachelor’s degree recipients carry student debt, compared with 69% of white bachelor’s degree recipients ............ Biden also wants to expand access to $100 billion in low-interest business loans by funding state, local, tribal and non-profit lending programs in Black and Brown communities. He proposes expanding the role of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) in underserved communities.  

'The Democratic version of John McCain' As the critical swing vote in a 50-50 Senate, Joe Manchin has emerged as the most powerful man in Washington. ........ The West Virginia senator has become the central character in Democrats’ control of Washington, a conservative throwback who speaks his mind and is maddeningly frustrating to liberals. He sided with his party to give them a critical vote toward approving President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus plan, but is already vowing to cut back Democrats’ dreams of a $15 minimum wage and limit who gets direct checks.  ............ Manchin often publicly discusses how he’s struggling with issues or tough votes. In a nod to his state, he lives on a boat while in D.C. named “Almost Heaven.” ............ he has found mostly frustration during his 10 years as a senator, eventually declaring of the hallowed chamber: “This place sucks.” ............ The United States doesn’t have royalty, but Manchin is pretty close to the lord of the Senate at this moment now that he’s the deciding vote.  

The Supreme Court’s new, deeply fractured decision on churches and the pandemic, explained Amy Coney Barrett just handed down her first Supreme Court opinion, and it’s surprisingly revealing ........ the state bans indoor singing and chanting because, in the words of one of the state’s expert witnesses, “most scientists believe that group singing, particularly when engaged in while in close proximity to others in an enclosed space, carries a high risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus through the emission of infected droplets.”  

In The News (18)

Through Genetics, Luck or ‘Prehab,’ Tom Brady Endures at 43 The mother of the opposing Super Bowl quarterback was a year old when Brady was born. What’s he still doing here? ........... Old quarterbacks hobble around the field, propped on stiff hips and achy knees, their arms ragged and their faces craggy. They look like survivors, elevated in myth but diminished in stature. ............ Rigid and worn, older quarterbacks usually move as if they might be unable to tie the laces on their cleats. ........... Then there is Brady, a cyborg. He is 43. Does he have a wrinkle on his face? Is his arm bionic? Are his joints made of rubber? He probably can tie his own laces while doing downward dog. ........... will be the oldest player to participate in a Super Bowl, at any position. He is the only quarterback to start a Super Bowl after age 40, and he is about to do it for the third time. ........... This will be his 10th Super Bowl. He has won six of them and earned the game’s Most Valuable Player Award four times. .......... this season Brady threw 40 touchdowns, the second-highest total of his career. Still mobile in the pocket, he was sacked at a lower rate than his career average .......... Brady talks of playing to 45, maybe beyond. .......... and explained it in a 2017 book espousing muscle “pliability.” The goal is a spongy elasticity that can absorb all that life throws at a body ..........  Brady’s diet is mostly plant-based ........... He fills his body with protein shakes, TB12-branded electrolytes and lots of water — “Drink at least one-half of your body weight in ounces of water daily” ................. “Replacing injury and rehab with pliability and prehab” is a catchphrase. Sleep and mindfulness are also promoted ............ he has found the optimal blend of diet, exercise and sleep.   

The Working Mother And The Pandemic

A YouTuber Shoots to Literary Fame in France, Ruffling  Feathers The social media star known as Léna Situations, 23, had a pretty eventful 2020. She racked up millions of followers, became a best-selling author — and attracted criticism from the Paris book world.  .......... On her desk stood a nameplate saying “I am not bossy, I am the boss.” ..........  She is quick to laugh and talks with big, enthusiastic gestures, marveling on a recent morning at the large snowflakes falling outside her window. ............ She started sharing low-price fashion advice and makeup tutorials on her YouTube channel five years ago, as she was juggling several odd jobs to pay for her studies in a fashion marketing school. ...........  Her videos are often low-key and feature family and friends. In one, her father, a puppeteer who performed at schools and is currently unemployed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, makes jokes about his unfashionable clothes ............. how naturally curly hair should be acceptable even if artists like Beyoncé and Rihanna have straightened theirs. ........  “One positive aspect of social media is that it gives minorities a space,” Ms. Mahfouf said. “I hope that this dynamic will take off from social media to real life.” ........ in a country where French people of North African origin still suffer from stigmatization and discrimination. .......... With a few exceptions, like the young Moroccan-born novelist Leïla Slimani, voices like Ms. Mahfouf’s are rarely heard in the very closed French world of publishing, which is dominated by white men. ............ Unlike some YouTubers who hire camera operators and editors, Ms. Mahfouf spends days writing, filming and editing her videos herself. ............ “Social networks are my No. 1 priority, where I am the freest and the happiest,” she said. “And the internet won’t disappear anytime soon.”  

QAnon Believers Are Obsessed With Hillary Clinton. She Has Thoughts. The mass execution cult has roots in three decades of demonization. .......... The lurid fantasy of Frazzledrip refers to an imaginary video said to show Hillary Clinton and her former aide, Huma Abedin, assaulting and disfiguring a young girl, and drinking her blood. It holds that several cops saw the video, and Clinton had them killed. ............ Trump himself called Clinton “the Devil.” .........  “This is a Salem Witch Trials line of argument against independent, outspoken, pushy women. And it began to metastasize around me.” .......... “I don’t have one iota of sympathy for someone like her, but the algorithms, we are now understanding more than ever we could have, truly are addictive. And whatever it is in our brains for people who go down those rabbit holes, and begin to inhabit this alternative reality, they are, in effect, made to believe.” ............ Clinton now thinks that the creation and promotion of this alternative reality, enabled and incentivized by the tech platforms, is, as she put it, “the primary event of our time.”  

The First Post-Reagan Presidency So far, Joe Biden has been surprisingly progressive. .......... Franklin Delano Roosevelt was such a figure. For decades following his presidency, Republicans and Democrats alike accepted many of the basic assumptions of the New Deal. Ronald Reagan was another. After him, even Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama feared deficit spending, inflation and anything that smacked of “big government.” ............. Trump was a “late regime affiliate” — a category that includes Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover. ......... if Trump represented the last gasps of Reaganism instead of the birth of something new, then after him, Skowronek suggests, a fresh regime could begin. ........... a time when what was once conventional wisdom about deficits, inflation and the proper size of government has fallen apart ............. government, by getting the shots in every person’s arm of the vaccines, and building infrastructure, and helping working families, is going to be a force for good ......... His administration is working on a child tax credit that would send monthly payments to most American parents. ........ “Every major economist thinks we should be investing in deficit spending in order to generate economic growth.” ........ It’s not just that the Democratic Party has moved left — the old Reaganite consensus in the Republican Party has collapsed. ............ he has at least the potential to be the grandfather of a more socially democratic America. ........... both Abraham Lincoln and Roosevelt were “viciously” attacked from the left ........ “Moderation can stand as an asset if it’s firmly grounded in a repudiation of the manifest failure and bankruptcy of the old order. In that sense, moderation is not a compromise or a middle ground. It’s the establishment of a new common sense.”  

It’s Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Party Now She embarrasses some Republicans, but she’s no outlier. ........ By now, you’ve surely heard her theory that California wildfires might have been caused by a space laser controlled by Jewish bankers. That wasn’t Greene’s first foray into anti-Semitism; in 2018 she shared a notorious white nationalist video in which a Holocaust denier claimed that “Zionist supremacists have schemed to promote immigration and miscegenation.”  ........... She described the results of the 2018 midterms as “an Islamic invasion of our government.” ......... and several agreed that Democrats are controlled by Satan ............  The Texas Republican Party has adopted the QAnon slogan “We are the storm” as its motto, though it insists there’s no connection. The chairman of Wyoming’s Republican Party, who attended Trump’s rally on Jan. 6, said he might be open to secession. ..............  Senator Mitch McConnell floated openness to convicting Trump in a Senate trial, but ended up voting that such a trial was unconstitutional. Fox News, finger to the wind, purged many of its real journalists and gave the conspiracy theorist Maria Bartiromo a prime-time tryout. 

GOP's Future  a majority of House Republicans voted to reject the results of the 2020 presidential election ............ Histories of the modern Republican Party often place Ronald Reagan at their center. That is, in Levin’s view, a mistake, and one that obscures the true nature of the coalition’s tensions. “I think Reagan is better understood as a detour from a history that is otherwise a story of a constant struggle between populism and conservatism,” he said. Donald Trump was an inheritor of a tradition that stretches long before him — Pat Buchanan’s tradition, and Strom Thurmond’s tradition. He didn’t form a new Republican Party; he allowed a long-existing part to express itself. .................  The core institutions of American media, the academy, culture are abjectly left-leaning institutions. ............. I think that when conservatives think about universities now, they’re more inclined to think that there is no saving these institutions — we have to attack these institutions. ............. the culture of the right has become much more hostile to the establishment. .............. I don’t think conservatism can do its job in a free society in opposition to the institutions of that society. I think it can only function in defense of them. And a conservatism that becomes anti-institutional looks like a mob attacking the Capitol — which I don’t think is where anybody wants to end up. .................  conservatives need their own New York Times — a place that goes out and does reporting and is not completely bought into the movement’s incentives. ............ whether we can move a little more in the direction of a politics of ‘What does government do?’ and less of a politics of ‘Who rules?’ ............. I’d like to see a more democratized, majoritarian system. Levin would, among other things, add a filibuster to the House. .............. the filibuster plus the weird structural imbalances in our electoral system plus the system’s other veto points have created such a slow-moving form of government that symbolic politics can take over. .............. a functional republic, to be stable, has to not only enable enduring majorities to have their way but also protect durable minorities — large ones. .......... there are all kinds of structures in the system that compel accommodation, that require differing factions to work together if they’re going to achieve anything. ........... Congress was not intended to be like a European Parliament, where the majority rules for as long as the public will let it. .............. I would create a filibuster in the House before I would get rid of the one in the Senate. ................ the filibuster was not an idea of the founding fathers. They did not want a supermajority requirement in Congress. They thought about that and rejected it. ............. We have more filibusters than ever and more polarized politics than ever. More party line votes than ever. Less cooperation than ever. ............... how to fix American politics — how to recenter it on policy that changes people’s lives, rather than symbolic clashes that harden our hearts.

Liz Cheney’s Courage A reader praises her vote to impeach Donald Trump. Also: Renaming San Francisco schools; discrimination against Black girls; food pop-ups and safety. ........  her statement preceding her vote was one of the most powerful any politician has ever delivered, paving the way for the most bipartisan vote to impeach a president in our nation’s history. 

Fighting Covid Is Like Fighting a War Why Biden needs to go big and ignore the worries. .........  What we’re dealing with is more like a natural disaster than a normal recession, and the appropriate policy response is mainly a kind of disaster relief. ........... You spend what you need to spend to win the war. ............. Winning, in this case, means providing the resources for a huge vaccination program and for reopening schools safely, while limiting the economic misery of families whose breadwinners can’t work and avoiding gratuitous cuts in public services provided by fiscally constrained state and local governments.  ..............  Emergency spending may not be intended as stimulus, but it nonetheless has a stimulative effect. And wartime surges in spending have often been accompanied by bursts of inflation, because they can lead to an overheated economy. ................ the only way to find out what we’re capable of is to test our limits .............. every major element in the Biden plan has strong public approval. But support for stimulus checks is through the roof. ......... If you want effective policy on infrastructure, on the environment, on children and more, Biden has to deliver big, tangible benefits with his rescue plan. Otherwise he’ll squander political capital, and probably lose any chance to do significantly more.

In The News (17)

Workers in L.A.’s courts are dying of COVID-19 as in-person hearings, trials continue  “Judges are very strict with people not chewing gum, looking at cellphones, not wearing a hat,” De Salvo said. “But wearing a mask? That’s another story.” 

Virus Variant First Found in Britain Now Spreading Rapidly in U.S. A new study bolsters the prediction by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the so-called B.1.1.7 variant will dominate Covid-19 cases by March. .......... A more contagious variant of the coronavirus first found in Britain is spreading rapidly in the United States, doubling roughly every 10 days ........  “We should probably prepare for this being the predominant lineage in most places in the United States by March.” ............. The first case turned up on Dec. 29 in Colorado ........ B.1.1.7 contains a distinctive set of 23 mutations scattered in a genome that is 30,000 genetic letters long. ........ The variant was separately introduced into the country at least eight times, most likely as a result of people traveling to the United States from Britain between Thanksgiving and Christmas. ........... The contagiousness of B.1.1.7 makes it a threat to take seriously. Public health measures that work on other variants may not be enough to stop B.1.1.7. More cases in the United States would mean more hospitalizations ........... the risk of dying of B.1.1.7 is 35 percent higher than it is for other variants. ..........  wearing effective masks, avoiding large gatherings and making sure indoor spaces are well ventilated. .........  Driving down B.1.1.7 will also reduce the risk that the variant will evolve into something even worse. Already in Britain, researchers have found samples of B.1.1.7 that have gained a new mutation with the potential to make vaccines less effective. 

A Parallel Pandemic Hits Health Care Workers: Trauma and Exhaustion Vaccines may be on the way, but many on the front-lines are burned out. Has the government done enough to help alleviate their stress? ............ and the exasperating public disregard for mask-wearing and social distancing ............. and the realization that she needed to spend more time at home after her children, 10 and 11, switched to remote learning. ......... Now, a year into the pandemic, with emergency rooms packed again, vaccines in short supply and more contagious variants of the virus threatening to unleash a fresh wave of infections, the nation’s medical workers are feeling burned out and unappreciated. .............  the crushing sense of guilt for nurses who unknowingly infected patients or family members, and the struggles of medical personnel who survived Covid-19 but are still hobbled by the fatigue and brain fog that hamper their ability to work. ..............  many Americans had scant appreciation for the tribulations that she and her colleagues face day after day. ........ “It feels like we’re failing, when in actuality we’re working with what we’ve got and we don’t have enough,” she said. “We feel quite helpless, and it’s a real injury to our psyches.” ................. the pandemic’s effect on clinicians who serve in poor communities. Many of the 2,000 medical, dental and mental health professionals who have participated in the survey so far say they are disillusioned. ........... two-thirds of American doctors said they had grappled with intense burnout during the pandemic, with a similar percentage reporting a drop in income. A quarter of respondents said their experiences with Covid had led them to exit the medical field. ............ 8 percent of doctors in the United States had closed their offices during the pandemic ....... As more and more medical staff members fall ill or quit, those who remain on the job have to work harder, and the quality of care invariably suffers ..........  a “parallel pandemic” of psychological trauma among health workers. .............  “The day before I got sick, I could comfortably run eight to 10 miles,” said Dr. Bial, 45, who started a Facebook group memorializing doctors lost to Covid. “Now I go out for a brisk walk and my heart is pounding. I’m starting to wonder whether these effects could be permanent.”  

We Know Very Little About America’s Vaccine Debacle It’s hard to solve a problem when you barely know what’s going on. .......  owing to failures of planning and monitoring, the federal government has essentially lost track of some 20 million vaccine doses that were delivered to the states during the previous administration. ......... We know that the 32 million or so shots that have been administered so far have gone disproportionately to wealthier, whiter Americans. ......  a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s disease surveillance system, a massive upgrade of its data infrastructure and a reimagining of public health authority during a global crisis are all in order. ...... There’s a good chance that children will return to school come fall and that people across the country will be able to celebrate holidays in normal fashion by next winter. But the nation remains locked in a desperate contest, between its own ability to vaccinate people as quickly as possible and the virus’s ability to mutate and spread ever faster. Right now, the virus still has the lead.

What It Means to Be Black in America Six short films for Black History Month. ......... Ed Dwight Jr. was invited by his country to train to be the first African-American astronaut. But the United States never sent him to space. ...........  Founded in 1966 in Oakland, Calif., to combat police violence, the Black Panther Party and its story are a key part of our nation’s still-complicated racial narrative. 

In The News (16)

If Poor Countries Go Unvaccinated, a Study Says, Rich Ones Will Pay A failure to distribute the Covid-19 vaccine in poor nations will worsen economic damage, with half the costs borne by wealthy countries, new research shows. ............  In monopolizing the supply of vaccines against Covid-19, wealthy nations are threatening more than a humanitarian catastrophe: The resulting economic devastation will hit affluent countries nearly as hard as those in the developing world. ..........  In the most extreme scenario — with wealthy nations fully vaccinated by the middle of this year, and poor countries largely shut out — the study concludes that the global economy would suffer losses exceeding $9 trillion, a sum greater than the annual output of Japan and Germany combined. ......... Nearly half of those costs would be absorbed by wealthy countries like the United States, Canada and Britain. ........ In the scenario that researchers term most likely, in which developing countries vaccinate half their populations by the end of the year, the world economy would still absorb a blow of between $1.8 trillion and $3.8 trillion. More than half of the pain would be concentrated in wealthy countries. ............ “No economy will be fully recovered unless the other economies are recovered.” ............ there are global supply chains that produce the piece parts for industry, and that will continue to be disrupted so long as the virus remains a force. .......... the reality that most international trade involves not finished wares but parts that are shipped from one country to another to be folded into products. Of the $18 trillion worth of goods that were traded last year, so-called intermediate goods represented $11 trillion ............ the wealthiest countries in North America and Europe locked up orders for most of the supply — enough to vaccinate two and three times their populations — leaving poor countries scrambling to secure their share. ................. Many developing countries, from Bangladesh to Tanzania to Peru, will likely have to wait until 2024 before fully vaccinating their populations. .............  In failing to ensure that people in the developing world gain access to vaccines, it concludes, leaders in the wealthiest nations are damaging their own fortunes. ............ “Purchasing vaccines for the developing world isn’t an act of generosity by the world’s richest nations. It’s an essential investment for governments to make if they want to revive their domestic economies.”

4 ways the U.S. can reassert leadership on climate change Congress and the new administration can help put the world on a path to zero emissions. ......... federal spending on clean-energy research and development needs to go up fivefold—an increase that would put it on equal footing with health research. ......... Countries will need to invest in climate-proofing infrastructure to cope with more severe weather and rising sea levels. This includes upgrading electrical grids, expanding storm water drainage systems, and building or expanding seawalls. And two of the best ways for wealthy countries to help low- and middle-income ones is to invest in primary health care and make sure smallholder farmers can grow enough food to feed everyone.  

In The News (15)

What Has Gone Wrong Between Iran and the United States?  Iran was a coveted prize in the 19th-century Big Game between Russia and England, a pivotal point in the 20th-century Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, and for the last 40 years, a stalwart bastion of Shia anti-Americanism and its particular brand of anti-Israeli rhetoric and policy. ..............  the first newspapers of North America were absolutely enchanted by Iran, writing with a “breathless” energy about Iran and its battle with the Ottoman Turks, deemed to be “a danger to Christendom.” ..............  “one of the great unspoken rivalries of the 20th century: the competition between the United States and Great Britain for Iran’s vast petroleum bounty.” ............. No less powerful, however, are the leaders of the current regime in Iran, particularly Ali Khamenei, who thrive on United States-Iran antagonism. ............ Khamenei has a long history of anti-American sentiment, dating back to his days as an unknown seminarian translating the works of the obsessively anti-American Sayyid Qutb, and clerics close to Khamenei have even created a theological basis for this antagonism. ..............  The published text of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s lectures elucidating this concept makes it clear that he was committed to the absolute rule of a “learned jurist” over the people, who are seen as incapable of managing their own affairs. .............. This constitution was tailor-made to allow a junior cleric like Khamenei to ascend to the role of the Supreme Leader in what was now literally called the absolute guardianship of the jurist. And Khamenei, with the power granted him by virtue of his absolute guardianship, has by fiat declared a ban on normalized relations with the United States.  

In Biden’s Catholic Faith, an Ascendant Liberal Christianity President Biden, perhaps the most religiously observant commander in chief in half a century, speaks of how his Catholic faith grounds his life and his policies. .................  Mr. Biden, perhaps the most religiously observant commander in chief in half a century, regularly attends Mass and speaks of how his Catholic faith grounds his life and his policies. ..........  And with Mr. Biden, a different, more liberal Christianity is ascendant: less focused on sexual politics and more on combating poverty, climate change and racial inequality.  .......  Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez connects her Catholic faith with her push for reforming health care and environmental policy. She has said her favorite Bible story is one where Jesus, in anger, threw money changers out of the temple. ............   For Mr. Biden, “it was a subtle and explicit effort to show a different vision of a way in which a Christian could imagine themselves as part of a diverse America, one that is defined by these common objects of love, rather than by hate and fear or exclusion,” he said. ............. the coming of a new America, one “built on love, rooted in justice and propelled by our moral imagination.” ............  to pursue a Third Reconstruction, decades after the civil rights era. He urged them to address “interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation/denial of health care, the war economy, and the false moral narrative of religious nationalism.” ...........   Jesus taught that a nation is judged by how it treats the least of these, the poor, the hungry, the sick, the immigrant ......... “That is a deeply biblical posture,” she said, “mourning with those who mourn.”  

Hong Kong Crackdown Is an Early Test for Biden Even with Trump out of office, prospects seem dim for rapprochement between China and the United States. ............ as far as Hong Kong is concerned, there appears to be continuity between the two presidential administrations  

Fauci on What Working for Trump Was Really Like From denialism to death threats, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci describes a fraught year as an adviser to President Donald J. Trump on the Covid-19 pandemic. 

‘More painful than death’: a year on from coronavirus lockdown chaos in Wuhan City of 11 million was sealed off for 76 days on January 23 as authorities tried to contain the spread of the new virus Those who were there recall overwhelmed hospitals, empty streets and resilience, and say they fear it could happen again ........ Another friend told Yue that his mother had been placed in a body bag while she was still breathing. ..........  “It felt like the only thing that was moving in the city was that bus … and the people who were on it were shouldering all the responsibility [to save lives],” she said. “I felt my power as an individual was not enough … I felt helpless.” .............  “I survived the Great Famine,” he said, referring to the catastrophe between 1959 and 1961 that claimed at least 45 million lives. “Chinese went hungry for so many years,” he said. “For the people who lived through this, is there anything they couldn’t bear?” .......... “When millions of people died in China in the Great Famine, the conclusion was that it was a natural disaster, which it was not,” he said. “The situation is the same today – we have a history of not telling the truth.”

My Neighbor, My Pandemic Pal Coronavirus precautions have made it harder for people to spend time with friends and family. For some, neighbors are filling the gap.

How to help your child cope amid the coronavirus pandemic: spend more time with them, use social media less – and find ways to laugh every day The coronavirus pandemic has had a negative impact on children in many ways and parents need to do what we can to help them cope Use the opportunity to spend more time together, whether that’s through watching movies at home, cooking together, or going on hikes

Why the New Covid-19 Variants Could Be More Infectious Mutations in the virus’s appendage have created potentially more infectious versions of the pathogen, including one currently circulating around the world ............  As viruses replicate, they change, or mutate. Some mutations give these viral variants an edge, such as being better able to latch on to and infect human cells. That’s what scientists think happened with the coronavirus variant that swept through the U.K. recently and which is now showing up in states across the U.S. Mutations can also make a viral pathogen stealthier, or better at evading the body’s immune system. That’s what some scientists find worrisome about another mutation seen in the variants that emerged recently in South Africa and Brazil. 

Was the Constitution a Pro-Slavery Document?  Gradually the antislavery advocates accumulated a variety of textual protections for freedom and limitations on slavery. Then they began moving beyond the text of the Constitution to invoke its spirit, which, they said, was mainly derived from the Declaration of Independence and its inspiring dedication to equality. By the 1850s the antislavery Northerners had built a powerful case for antislavery constitutionalism. They had created a “Constitution that made freedom the rule and slavery the exception.” ..............  The Republican Party became the political embodiment of this antislavery constitutionalism, with Abraham Lincoln its most eloquent spokesman. So fearful were the Southern slaveholders of Lincoln and the Republicans that simply his election as president in November 1860 precipitated the immediate secession of many slave states. By Feb. 1, 1861, even before Lincoln took office in March, seven states had formed the Confederacy. Four more joined between April and June 1861. .................. he had to make his way along a very “crooked path” to achieve the ultimate extinction of slavery that he wanted .............. Despite all the backtracking and roundabout routes that Lincoln and his party followed, however, they never abandoned the central tenets of the antislavery constitutionalism that had developed over the previous half-century. ..............   By the end of January 1865 there were 27 free states and nine slave states in the Union, exactly the proportions needed to ratify the amendment. Enough states had abolished slavery on their own to make acceptance of a nationwide abolition amendment by three-quarters of the states possible. “This amendment,” Lincoln said, “is a king’s cure for all the evils. It winds the whole thing up.”

Joe Biden’s Catholic Moment The new president elevates a liberal Catholicism that once seemed destined to fade away.

A Summit of Their Own: A Nepali Team Climbs K2 A bold winter ascent captures the last great challenge in the world’s highest mountains. ........... Scaling K2 in winter was perhaps the last great prize of high-altitude mountaineering, a sport born as an expression of national strength among Western European nations in the mid-20th century. ..........  After quitting the military in 2018, he masterminded a record-setting mountaineering binge he undertook the next year, climbing all 8,000ers in six months, six days. ......... Going by the moniker Nimsdai, Purja is an outspoken voice on social media, exuding the confidence of a mountaineering Muhammad Ali ............ when 10 mountaineers left Camp 4 on the Abruzzi Ridge in minus-70 degree Fahrenheit weather and pushed toward K2’s summit, every one of them was Nepali. ............  They climbed the last few feet together while singing the national anthem of Nepal. ............ The Nepalis, on the other hand, got lucky with the weather, avoided avalanches, worked together and, he added, “were determined to show the world that Nepali climbers were amongst the best.” 

A New Era of Far-Right Violence The imagery of the Capitol siege will have enduring resonance. 

In Los Angeles, Teachers and Students Struggle With ‘No Human Contact’ The nation’s second-largest district has kept classrooms closed since March. The superintendent acknowledges it is “disproportionately hurting students who can least afford it.” .......... No matter how hard she tried, how many voices she used, she could not hold the attention of kindergartners while reading to them on Zoom. ............  roughly 600,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest after New York City .................  “If you’re a first or second grader, and someone at home is not helping you, you’re probably not making a ton of progress” ..............  remote instruction falls far short of classroom learning ........... Roughly 80 percent of students live in poverty ......... “Studying virtually is nobody’s dream. But I cannot imagine my daughter going back at all this year, since we’re seeing a rise in cases every day.” ............  As she conducts class, she wonders what her students are getting from the lessons. Many of them struggle to find a quiet place in their home; she sees them wiggling on top of their beds or next to a brother or sister. Often, she asks students to mute themselves so that the voice of a sibling’s teacher doesn’t interrupt her.  

Canada Formally Declares Proud Boys a Terrorist Group The designation could see bank accounts linked to the group frozen and assets seized, while also expanding police investigative powers.   

The Trump Presidency Is Now History. So How Will It Rank? As scholars consider the legacy of Donald J. Trump, it appears that even the woefully inadequate James Buchanan has some serious competition.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

In The News (14)

Everyday Covid mistakes we are all still making  A common problem is not connecting the dots between the people you see in one context, and those you see in another. “For instance, young people often feel they can mix freely with their peers, because they know their peers are not at high risk. Then they’ll go and see their grandparents, and be more careful with them – but not as careful as they need to be, given that they’ve been mixing freely with their peers, who’ve been mixing freely with everybody” ............. Even if young people avoid their grandparents, but mix freely with their parents, their parents might then go and see the grandparents. ............ If you can smell someone’s garlic or alcohol breath, or cigarette smoke, you’re inhaling air carrying not just the smell of the garlic, alcohol or smoke, but any virus that’s leaving their nose or mouth if they’re infected .............. just as you’ll eventually detect the smell of cigarette smoke if someone lights up on the opposite side of the office, airborne viruses gradually accumulate in stuffy indoor conditions, which is why ventilation is so important. ............ People should be conscious of ventilation in the workplace, shops, or any enclosed space – including at home, which is where most transmission takes place.” .............  and the virus doesn’t smell of anything, so you don’t know  

Has the Pandemic Transformed the Office Forever? Companies are figuring out how to balance what appears to be a lasting shift toward remote work with the value of the physical workplace. .........  digital tools such as e-mail, Excel, Google Docs, video conferencing, virtual whiteboarding, and chat channels like Slack ................  Twenty-seven per cent of the American workforce will be remote in 2021 ......... About twenty million workers have moved—many of them out of major cities—or are planning to. .......... Everyone said that they missed seeing their colleagues in person, but very few workers envisaged returning to the office five days a week. One to three days was more appealing. ........... humans can maintain stable social relationships with no more than a hundred and fifty people at any one time. ..........  without the company’s New York headquarters, people who worked in other cities and countries felt much more involved. One worker wrote, “New York has stopped acting like it’s New York and everyone else.” ......... “The office can be very overwhelming and very hard to concentrate, that’s been the best part about working from home, being able to focus” ................ people working in open offices take sixty-two per cent more sick leave, according to a 2011 Danish study. ............  Creating a successful digital product such as Google’s Ad Words—an invention that helped turn the money-losing search company into an advertising-driven colossus—often involves cross-disciplinary teams of engineers, marketers, and product managers. ............. I couldn’t concentrate. I missed my colleagues. Whether walled, open, or cloud-based, an office is about the people who work there. Without the people, the office is an empty shell.

Amsterdam Is Embracing a Radical New Economic Theory to Help Save the Environment. Could It Also Replace Capitalism?   Inner Ring: Twelve essentials of life that no one in society should be deprived of; Outer Ring: Nine ecological limits of earth’s life-­supporting systems that humanity must not collectively overshoot; Sweet Spot: The space both environmentally safe and socially just where humanity can thrive ........... the goal of getting “into the doughnut” should replace governments’ and economists’ pursuit of never-ending GDP growth. ............ denim is one of the most resource-intensive fabrics in the world, with each pair of jeans requiring thousands of gallons of water and the use of polluting chemicals.  

COVID has decimated women's careers — we need a Marshall Plan for Moms, now  a Marshall Plan for Moms—one that includes a monthly, means-tested $2,400 monthly payment to the women ......... mothers’ unpaid, unseen, unappreciated labor.  

As Biden gets into gear, could a Federal Reserve interest rate rise be on the cards? The Fed’s dilemma is whether the new US president’s stimulus plan risks overheating the US, given that the economy is being swamped with liquidity from the central bank’s bond buy-back scheme

China-US tensions: meet us halfway to build trust and ease conflict, former Chinese vice-premier urges Biden Zeng Peiyan tells Hong Kong forum confrontation between the two global powers need not be inevitable Hong Kong chief executive appeals for new US administration to view the national security law ‘in a fair manner’

Helping Kids Is a Very Good Idea Republicans won’t support the Democrats’ proposal, but they should.
Capitol Riot Puts Spotlight on ‘Apocalyptically Minded’ Global Far Right Leaderless but united by racist ideology that has been supercharged by social media, extremists have built a web of real and online connections that worries officials. ........ For many, the idea of an international nationalist movement is an oxymoron. 

The Dark Reality Behind Saudi Arabia’s Utopian Dreams  the Line, a postmodern ecotopia to be built on the kingdom’s northwest coast. It will be a narrow urban strip 106 miles long with no roads, no cars and no pollution. ...........  plans to pour $500 billion into the Line and related projects .......... The hubris underlying these proposals, nourished by generations of yes men (including well-paid Western consultants), will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in Saudi Arabia. ............. What the prince doesn’t say is that there are already thousands of people living in harmony with nature in the same area: a tribal community that has been there for centuries and is now being replaced by the project. .......... Narrow-minded clerics preside over corrupt bureaucracies that are resistant to change.  

Monday, February 01, 2021

In The News (13)

The Standing 7-Minute Workout A gentler version of a popular workout keeps you moving while keeping your body off the floor.  

Powerful Snowstorm Expected to Affect Much of the East Winter storm warnings have been issued from North Carolina to New York. Hazardous travel conditions and heavy snow are expected, forecasters said. ............   most of New Jersey Transit’s bus and rail operations would be temporarily suspended on Monday because of the storm. ...........  At the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, which describes itself as the “busiest bus terminal in the world,” all bus service in and out will be suspended on Monday.   

The Forgotten People Fighting the Forever War A devastating incident in Afghanistan shows the perils of relying on Special Operations alone to fight the nation’s battles. ...........  The Afghan army and police, plagued by corruption and poor leadership, had abandoned their posts and left the city to the Taliban with barely a fight.   

The Brazil Variant Is Exposing the World’s Vulnerability Somehow the coronavirus is rampaging through a city that was supposedly immune. ........... Even in a year of horrendous suffering, what is unfolding in Brazil stands out. In the rainforest city of Manaus, home to 2 million people, bodies are reportedly being dropped into mass graves as quickly as they can be dug. Hospitals have run out of oxygen, and people with potentially treatable cases of COVID-19 are dying of asphyxia. This nature and scale of mortality have not been seen since the first months of the pandemic. ................  Data seemed to support the idea that herd immunity in Manaus was near. ........... Although no known variants have been found to pose an immediate threat to vaccinated people, the capacity for reinfection to any significant degree would reshape the pandemic’s trajectory. .............. The new wave of COVID-19 cases in Manaus occurred about eight months after the initial wave. People might have lost some degree of immunity during that window. .............  the variant in Brazil, known as the P.1 (or B.1.1.248) lineage, has a potent combination of mutations. Not only does this variant seem to be more transmissible; its lineage carries mutations that help it escape the antibodies that we develop in response to older lineages of the coronavirus. That is, it at least has a capacity to infect people who have already recovered from COVID-19, even if their defenses protect them against other versions of the virus. .................... the virus’s capacity to cause such a deadly second surge in Brazil suggests a dangerous evolutionary potential. ............. New, dangerous variants are all but inevitable when there are extremely high levels of transmission of the virus. ............ The immune response that the vaccines create is generally more robust than the immune response we get after being infected by a virus .......... vaccines will not be available to more than a fifth of the world’s population until 2022. ........... Ensuring that every human is vaccinated is in everyone’s interest, as global distribution of vaccines is the most effective way to drive down the virus’s capacity to replicate and evolve. The key will be bringing down the global rates of transmission as quickly as possible—not getting any single country to 100 percent vaccination while dozens of countries roil. ..............   In a recursive loop, the virus could come back to haunt the vaccinated, leading to new surges and lockdowns in coming years. The countries that hoard the vaccine without a plan to help others do so at their own peril.