Showing posts with label Joe Biden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joe Biden. Show all posts

Monday, February 08, 2021

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.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

In The News (12)

Raphael Warnock and the Solitude of the Black Senator The Georgia pastor will be just the 11th Black U.S. senator. His victory came amid an attempt to delegitimize election results — a pattern for more than 150 years. ...........  The expansion of American democracy to accommodate Black participation was interpreted as a threat to those who considered politics to be the divine and exclusive province of white men. .......... The Cincinnati Daily Enquirer’s headline the next day was even more direct: “The Mississippi Gorilla Admitted to the Senate.” ..............  By the time Bruce’s term ended in 1881, so had Reconstruction. With federal troops no longer enforcing civil rights protections, white segregationists’ violent and methodical retaking of the South, where more than 90 percent of Black Americans lived, blocked them by racial terrorism and measures like grandfather clauses, poll taxes and literacy tests from voting booths and elected office, systemically removing Black citizens from the democracy. ............ It would be more than eight decades before the Senate seated another Black member. .............. By the time he left the Senate in January 1979, a political language had emerged that eerily invoked the period after Reconstruction: “law and order,” often a euphemism for maintaining a particular social and racial order; “states’ rights,” as cover for skirting civil rights protections in the Constitution; “personal responsibility,” an evasion of the systemic economic subjugation of Black Americans. ...................  It was only eight years ago that, for the first time in the nation’s history, the Senate had more than one Black member. .............  The echoes of eras past resound in present-day America, where Black Americans’ participation in the nation’s leadership is seen by some not as a fulfillment of its founding ideals but as an existential threat to them. 

Biden’s Nightmare May Be China Think dealing with Mitch McConnell will be tough? Managing a reckless Xi Jinping will be even harder. .......... Xi is an overconfident, risk-taking bully who believes that the United States is in decline. .............  Few expected Xi to pick fights with India on their shared border, as he has several times in the past year, and heaven help us if he is similarly reckless toward Taiwan and sparks a war with the United States. ....................   Biden’s challenge will be to constrain a Chinese leader who has been oppressive in Hong Kong, genocidal in the Xinjiang region, obdurate on trade, ruthless on human rights and insincere on everything, while still cooperating with China on issues like climate change, fentanyl and North Korea ...............  I have had more Chinese friends imprisoned than I can count. I have no illusions about Beijing ............  China is a complex and contradictory place, not a caricature. ........... whether arms control agreements, hotlines and military-to-military consultations can lower temperatures.   

As Biden Plans Global Democracy Summit, Skeptics Say: Heal Thyself First The sense of a dysfunctional, if not entirely broken, democratic system in the United States has foreign rivals crowing — and suggesting that it has no business lecturing other nations. ...............  Mr. Biden should instead hold a democracy summit at home — one focused on “injustice and inequality” in the United States, including issues like voting rights and disinformation. .............  “and in progress on issues like dealing with systemic racism.” ............. who, exactly, would be invited to attend.  

The Silicon Valley Start-Up That Caused Wall Street Chaos Robinhood pitched itself to investors as the antithesis of Wall Street. It didn’t say that it also entirely relies on Wall Street. This past week, the two realities collided. .............  Online brokers had traditionally charged around $10 for every trade, but Robinhood said that customers of its phone app could trade for free. .......... Rampant speculation on options contracts helped drive the rise of GameStop’s shares from about $20 on Jan. 12 to nearly $500 on Thursday — a rally that forced Robinhood to hit the brakes on its own customers.    

A 10-Year-Old GameStop Investor Cashed In. His Return? Over 5,000%. Jaydyn Carr of San Antonio made $3,200 on shares from GameStop this week that his mother bought him in 2019 for about $60. ...............  “I asked him, ‘Do you want to stay or sell?’” .........  Jaydyn decided to sell his shares, earning $3,200 — a return of more than 5,000 percent on an investment of about $60.  

China Wanted to Show Off Its Vaccines. It’s Backfiring. Delays, inconsistent data, spotty disclosures and the country’s attacks on Western rivals have marred its ambitious effort to portray itself as a leader in global health. ........  China’s vaccines, while considered effective, cannot stop the virus as well as those developed by Pfizer and Moderna, the American drugmakers. .............  Sinopharm, a state-owned vaccine maker, and Sinovac have said they can produce up to a combined two billion doses this year, making them essential to the global fight against the coronavirus. .............  Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, their doses can be kept at refrigerated temperatures and are more easily transported, making them appealing to the developing world. ...........  Several world leaders, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, have gotten a Sinovac vaccine.   

Biden Wants the Biggest Stimulus in Modern History. Is It Too Big? Supporters of a ‘hot’ economy see a chance to correct the mistakes of the last recession. Others see danger.  ...........  “Interest rates are at zero, inflation is low, unemployment is high. You don’t need a textbook to know this is when you push on the fiscal accelerator. Let’s go.” ................  but there also might be a painful adjustment with a period of slow growth on the other side of the mountain.”  

Forecast: Wild Weather in a Warming World The polar vortex is experiencing an unusually long disturbance this year because of a “sudden stratospheric warming.” Bundle up. .......... two disruptions of the polar vortex so far this year and, potentially, a third on the way. ........... While warming means milder winters overall, “the motto for snowstorms in the era of climate change could be ‘go big or go home!’ ......... The wild weather has its origins in the warming Arctic. .......   “We’re changing the planet in such dramatic and incontrovertible ways,” she said. “The atmosphere is different now. The Earth’s surface is different now. The oceans are different now. So there must be some connections that are yet to be discovered as we do more research on the stratospheric polar vortex.” ...............  precisely where the snow will fall, and how deep, is difficult to predict ahead of time.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

In The News (11)

Fauci, unchained The government’s leading infectious-disease expert exults in being able to speak frankly ........... Over the months that followed, Fauci was a regular frustration to Trump, given that same prioritization of accuracy and research over gut feelings and platitudes. Eventually, Trump elevated Scott Atlas from doing Fox News interviews to serving on his coronavirus team, on which Atlas advocated a “do-little” approach more in line with Trump’s preferences. Fauci spoke to the media regularly but was clearly sidelined within the White House. ............. “One of the things that we’re going to do is to be completely transparent, open and honest,” he said of the government’s approach to the pandemic. “If things go wrong, not point fingers but to correct them and to make everything we do be based on science and evidence. I mean, that was literally a conversation I had 15 minutes ago with the president, and he has said that multiple times.” ............  The doctor’s repeated references to there being a new sheriff in town did not go unnoticed.  

The pandemic is showing us which friendships are worth keeping and overall her quieter life has felt restorative. “I detoxed from all the social connecting I was doing,” Carlton said recently. “I’ve gotten to crave that time to myself, and I’m so much more aware of when I need it.” .............   once her family is vaccinated and life begins to speed up again, she wants to continue focusing mostly on her besties rather than stretching to see everyone in her circle. Her pod just might outlive the pandemic. .............. Just as working from home has revealed that commuting to an office five days a week isn’t necessary for every worker, some who once tried to maintain dozens of friendships are realizing they’re more fulfilled while keeping up with just their nearest and dearest.............. We don’t have to catch up with everyone. Some friendships won’t survive this time, and that’s okay. .............. people who are prioritizing fewer pals, and are going deeper with them, are feeling more connected. “The pandemic gave us this collective permission to talk about the hard things going on in our lives without shame” ...............   those with friendships that didn’t make the transition to phone calls, texting or Zoom “are the people who are super-lonely right now.” .......... she doesn’t have room for “inauthentic interactions anymore,” meaning connections that feel more like networking ....... Gujral plans to be more transparent with invitations she can’t accept, telling friends or acquaintances that an event would intrude on family time. ............. some people will never return to pre-pandemic levels of party-hopping and calendar-packing.  

CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant to become dominant in U.S.  So far, no variant is known to cause more severe illness, although more infections would inevitably mean a higher death toll overall ........... Scientists both in and out of government have stressed the need for the public to stick to proven methods of limiting viral spread, such as wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding crowds and having good hand hygiene. ...............   the level of pain and suffering in late March, when the new variant is forecast to be dominant, depends on actions taken today to try to drive down infection rates. ............ Scientists say B.1.1.7 has mutations in the “receptor binding domain” of the virus, and this may be enhancing the ability of the virus to bind with cells in the human body. There is evidence it leads to higher viral loads, which in turn could boost the amount of virus that a person is shedding, or prolong the period in which someone can transmit the virus. ........ vaccination, performed rapidly, is critical to crushing the curve of viral infections. Without vaccines, under one CDC scenario, the country could be dealing with even greater levels of infections in May than in January.   

Boris Johnson says British coronavirus variant may be more deadly  among 1,000 men in England age 60 or older who get infected, the original virus would kill 10. The new variant, he said, would kill 13 or 14.  

FEMA would operate up to 100 federally run mass vaccination sites under Biden plan A draft document envisions different models for sites, with the largest capable of handling 6,000 doses a day  ........... The document envisions FEMA, which previously had more of a piecemeal role in pandemic response, fully unleashed. Its mission will be to “provide federal support to existing or new community vaccination centers and mobile clinics across the country.” .............  Biden intends to involve the federal government more directly in the administration of vaccines, instead of leaving the final step of the massive effort to state and local authorities. ............. “FEMA … will mobilize thousands of clinical and nonclinical staff and contractors who will work hand-in-glove with the National Guard and state and local teams to assist, augment, and expedite the distribution and administration of coronavirus vaccines,” the FEMA document states. If requested by states and other jurisdictions, the draft notes, “the U.S. Government would develop, equip, provide information management, and staff and operate the site.” ............. A lack of abundant vaccine supply will remain the most pressing problem, probably through March. .................  The largest, called the “Mega Model,” would be able to administer 6,000 doses a day but require a space at least as large as 15,000 square feet. The smallest would extend across just 2,500 square feet and be able to handle 250 doses a day.  

‘Pixie dust’: Why some vaccine sits on shelves while shortages intensify nationwide Confusion over set-asides for nursing homes and reluctance to order vaccine that might go unused mean some doses remain in warehouses. .......... The bottleneck isn’t just in administering the vaccines; some states are not ordering everything they’ve been allotted. ........... The president’s advisers have said they were left no plan by the Trump administration. But what they inherited this week was more like a black box than a bare cupboard — the result of fractured communication among federal, state and local officials and a juggling act between manufacturers making a new product and thousands of providers, from big hospital systems to tiny clinics, struggling to plan around an unknown amount of vaccine. ...............  comes in a minimum order of 975 doses. Once vials are opened, doses must be used within six hours. ............  there is reluctance to set up vaccination sites and mobilize beleaguered medical workers only to perform a meager number of inoculations. 

People without symptoms spread virus in more than half of cases, CDC model finds The finding underscores the importance of following guidelines to wear masks and maintain social distancing ........... Regardless of whether you feel ill, wear a mask, wash your hands, stay socially distant and get a coronavirus test. ............ The clinical trials for the mRNA vaccines, authorized in December, concluded the vaccinations are highly capable of preventing symptomatic illness. But those trials did not determine whether vaccinated people are able to spread the pathogen. “If they were asymptomatic but equally contagious, then that’s going to have quite an impact on the epidemic,” Menzies warned. That is why it is so important to keep testing people, he said, especially those who were vaccinated and then exposed to the virus.

Yes, people with coronavirus vaccinations should still distance from each other. Here’s why.  experts have repeatedly emphasized that getting vaccinated doesn’t mean an immediate return to pre-pandemic life. ............ “There are many people that think it’s kind of an antidote to it all and that once you’re vaccinated, you won’t have to mask or distance or any of those things,” said Namandje Bumpus, director of the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, who has participated in community calls about the vaccines. “Certainly, all of us getting vaccinated moves us toward that more quickly, but it’s not something that we’re going to be able to do as soon as we get vaccinated. We’re going to have to continue to be diligent the way that we have been.” .................  So far, more than 2.2 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated ....... But public health officials say at least 70 percent of the population needs to be inoculated for the country to achieve herd immunity and stop the virus’s spread.............   And with the virus continuing to spread rapidly across much of the country, many forms of in-person socializing carry some level of risk, including gatherings among people who are fully vaccinated...............  It is possible that people who are vaccinated can be exposed to the coronavirus and become unknowing carriers .......... The virus can also sometimes just hang around in a person’s nostrils after they are exposed, Barocas said. Then, all it takes is an ill-timed sneeze to potentially transmit it. ............ “The problem with this virus is that it’s incredibly contagious and it’s very easily transmissible,” Shah said. “We’ve seen cases of very minimal exposures and then people getting infected from there.” ..............  “In the short term, life is going to look much the same until much more of society has had a chance to be vaccinated”

In The News (10) READ: Transcript of Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem
The bottom line is if you look at the data, the problem is all along the supply chain. ....... there must be aggressive and comprehensive coordination, at the national level, that covers the entire supply chain. ...... Throughout the pandemic, President Trump threatened to invoke but almost never actually used the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law that allows the federal government to mobilize the entire U.S. economy and infrastructure for wartime efforts. ......... That would allow the government to rapidly increase the supply of the vaccines themselves, accessories like alcohol swabs, syringes, and medical-grade glass, and fix whatever other bottlenecks the government identifies. ........ the U.S. vaccine rollout missed the mark and made easily-avoidable errors. ........ the reserve of vaccinations that Trump recently promised to release might not even exist. 
EXPERT: WE COULD VACCINATE EVERYONE ON EARTH AND NOT ELIMINATE THE CORONAVIRUS YOU SHOULD STILL GET VACCINATED, THOUGH.  scientists aren’t yet sure whether the vaccines currently being deployed actually stop disease transmission or if they merely prevent symptomatic disease ............ there’s a chance the vaccine doesn’t actually keep people from catching and spreading COVID-19, but simply makes them less likely to suffer from it. ............ “I think this virus is here to stay”

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

In The News (9)

Why a dawn of technological optimism is breaking The 2010s were marked by pessimism about innovation. That is giving way to hope .......... For much of the past decade the pace of innovation underwhelmed many people—especially those miserable economists. Productivity growth was lacklustre and the most popular new inventions, the smartphone and social media, did not seem to help much. Their malign side-effects, such as the creation of powerful monopolies and the pollution of the public square, became painfully apparent. Promising technologies stalled, including self-driving cars, making Silicon Valley’s evangelists look naive. Security hawks warned that authoritarian China was racing past the West and some gloomy folk warned that the world was finally running out of useful ideas. .................  Today a dawn of technological optimism is breaking. The speed at which covid-19 vaccines have been produced has made scientists household names. Prominent breakthroughs, a tech investment boom and the adoption of digital technologies during the pandemic are combining to raise hopes of a new era of progress: optimists giddily predict a “roaring Twenties”. ..........  The 18th century brought the Industrial Revolution and mechanised factories; the 19th century railways and electricity; the 20th century cars, planes, modern medicine and domestic liberation thanks to washing machines. In the 1970s, though, progress—measured by overall productivity growth—slowed. The economic impact was masked for a while by women piling into the workforce, and a burst of efficiency gains followed the adoption of personal computers in the 1990s. After 2000, though, growth flagged again. ............ Humans are increasingly able to bend biology to their will, whether that is to treat disease, edit genes or to grow meat in a lab. Artificial intelligence is at last displaying impressive progress in a range of contexts. A program created by DeepMind, part of Alphabet, has shown a remarkable ability to predict the shapes of proteins; last summer Openai unveiled gpt-3, the best natural-language algorithm to date; and since October driverless taxis have ferried the public around Phoenix, Arizona. Spectacular falls in the price of renewable energy are giving governments confidence that their green investments will pay off. Even China now promises carbon neutrality by 2060. ............... Such is the market’s optimism about electric vehicles that Tesla’s ceo, Elon Musk, who also runs a rocket firm, is the world’s richest man. ............ The pandemic has also accelerated the adoptions of digital payments, telemedicine and industrial automation ............. Eventually, synthetic biology, artificial intelligence and robotics could up-end how almost everything is done. .......... Ensuring that the whole economy harnesses new technologies will require robust antitrust enforcement and looser intellectual-property regimes. ......... The 2020s began with a cry of pain but, with the right policies, the decade could yet roar.

Biden Treasury pick Janet Yellen says additional stimulus and expanded unemployment insurance will provide the 'biggest bang for the buck'   Yellen emphasized the extent of the economic and human devastation the virus has inflicted on the US over the past year and warned of another recession without a set of fiscal policies to address the issues those most impacted by the pandemic face everyday. ......... Her plans align with Biden's $1.9 trillion relief proposal, which calls for bigger benefits for Americans struggling with hunger and $400 weekly federal unemployment benefits. Yellen called for the government to "act big" when it comes to providing stimulus, going along with Biden's $1,400 boost to the $600 stimulus checks.   ........ She will be the first woman to lead the Treasury in the nation's history. 

China builds massive Covid-19 quarantine camp for 4,000 people as outbreak continues  On Tuesday, China reported 103 new confirmed cases and 58 asymptomatic infections, which are counted separately, spread out across four provinces. Hebei province now has a total of 818 active locally transmitted cases, and more than 200 asymptomatic infections, according to the provincial health commission. Last Wednesday, a patient died in Hebei -- the country's first Covid-19 related death in 242 days. The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 88,557, while the official death toll is 4,635. ........ In an effort to contain the outbreak, authorities placed Shijiazhuang under lockdown on January 8, with all 11 million residents barred from leaving the city. ........ In northeastern Jilin province, 102 cases have been linked to a so-called "superspreader," a salesman who traveled from his home province of Heilongjiang.

What a ‘wrecked’ polar vortex means for winter-starved Americans It’s been an easy winter on the East Coast, but that’s not guaranteed to continue ........... Experts now say that although the bout of unsettled wintry weather is delayed, it’s too soon to count it out. ........ surprises can be in store when the polar vortex is weak and wobbly — as is currently the case. ....... The stratospheric polar vortex is a whirlpool of high-altitude cold air that swirls around a low-pressure area near the North Pole. It’s born as a result of polar night, a months-long dark spell that accompanies the dead of winter in the Far North. The lack of sunlight chills the air, jump-starting the gyrating icebox’s spin every winter. It vanishes once spring returns, only to re-form by September or October. ..........  It’s not guaranteed that each polar vortex disruption or stratospheric warming event will yield unusually cold and snowy conditions, given how unique each event is. ......... The ongoing event, which kicked off in early January, has been complex. “Typically, when you get a large disruption, that’s it,” said Judah Cohen, a polar vortex specialist and director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research. “[But this time] we got a split, then it recovered; it kind of split again, and now it’s displaced, and it could split a third or fourth time.” ........ One of the lobes has already brought extreme cold to Siberia, where temperatures in Yakutia, in eastern Russia, haven’t climbed above minus-40 in more than a month, according to the Associated Press. Delyankir, in northeastern Russia, dropped to minus-73 degrees Jan. 18. The concentrated cold has been fierce and extreme, and looks to remain in place in eastern Russia through at least early next week. ........ the messy split of the polar vortex may be causing it to play out differently than other years when the vortex was displaced. ........ “While the polar vortex has become very stretched out and wobbly, it has not displaced as strongly southward or split as clearly into two lobes as in other events,” wrote Butler. “[That] means it might not be able to influence the underlying jet stream quite as well.” ............... Signs also point to the vortex remaining unsteady and unstable for the remainder of the season. That bolsters the odds of wintry weather in the northeastern United States .......... it’s just too late in the season to expect the polar vortex to regain its former strength. “We will not get to the cold temperatures in Arctic [stratosphere]; the vortex will stay in a weakened warm state.” .......... “If it becomes disturbed enough, it could help nudge the jet stream south, allowing cold air to spill from Canada into the U.S. But this prediction is for a couple of weeks from now, which is still too far in the future for any guarantees.” .......... His gut tells him late January into February could be interesting. “It’s not over,” Cohen said. “I think it’s just getting started.” 

Monday, January 18, 2021

In The News (8)

Shadows on the Silk Road Finding omens of American decline on a long walk across Asia. ........ toxic polarization, mobocracy and global retreat ......... I have spent the entire Trump administration stepping over the rubble of another once dynamic but collapsed experiment in multilateralism: the Silk Road. ......... the Silk Road, a fabled 2,000-year-old trade nexus connecting the markets and minds of Asia, Europe and Africa through a complex web of commercial trails ........... the United States, under its most polarizing leader in generations, experiences extreme polarization over race and identity, the rise of white supremacist militias and an autocratic president assaulting the national institutions till his very last days in office. ..............  Seen from afar, my home country is ......withdrawing into a fetal position. ............  homicidal traffic on the 2,500-year-old Grand Trunk Road in India — probably the oldest overland trade route still in bustling use. ........... made the Silk Road a conduit of human innovation .......... Chinese paper — an invention crucial, like computers, for transmitting knowledge cheaply and quickly — traveled westward into medieval Arabia and Europe. ............ “For centuries before the early modern era, the intellectual centers of excellence of the world, the Oxfords and Cambridges, the Harvards and Yales, were not located in Europe or the west, but in Baghdad and Balkh, Bukhara and Samarkand” ..............  “A thousand years ago we had world-class astronomers, mathematicians and many other scientists here,” said Inessa Yuvakaeva, a cultural guide in the town’s walled old city. “We were more advanced than Europe.” ............... Ms. Yuvakaeva ticked off some homegrown Einsteins. Muhammad al-Khwarizmi, a ninth-century genius who helped formulate the precepts of algebra, has lent his name to the word “algorithm.” A century later, the brilliant polymathic Abu Rayhan Muhammad al-Biruni wrote more than 140 manuscripts on everything from pharmaceuticals to the anthropology of India. (A typical al-Biruni title: “The Exhaustive Treatise on Shadows.”) ................... Probably the most celebrated Silk Road sage of all was Abu Ali al-Hussein ibn Sina, revered in the West as Avicenna, who in the 11th century compiled an encyclopedia of healing that was still in use by European doctors as late as the 18th century. Avicenna’s “Canon of Medicine” accurately diagnosed diabetes by tasting sweetness in urine. Its pharmacopoeia cataloged more than 800 remedies. A millennium ago, Avicenna advocated quarantines to control epidemics. ................... Pacing off continents is an exercise in humility. You inhabit the limit of your daily strides. To the next tree shade. To the next horizon. ........... Back in the United States, the country seems to have U-turned into mustier Uzbek terrain. The government has erected its own fearmongering ads: Immigration and Customs Enforcement billboards in Pennsylvania featured mug shots of undocumented migrants charged with crimes. Federal agents interrogated American citizens for speaking Spanish in Montana. And a departing president with his own huge personality cult reportedly suggested shooting migrants in the legs at the Rio Grande. Mr. Trump’s mainstreaming of racism, xenophobia and science denialism doesn’t look very temporary. More than 74 million American voters endorsed it. And some even answered his call for insurrection. ..................... The Silk Road made our world. Ten centuries ago, incredibly diverse societies spanning a hemisphere extended an open hand — true enough, one holding the coin of commerce — and not a closed fist. Humanity’s capacity for curiosity grew. So, for a while, did intellectual achievement and open-mindedness. But by the 1600s, it had faded. ..................  blames Mongol invasions, shriveling patronage by wealthy sultans, rising European maritime competition and even climate change as factors of collapse. But he emphasizes a phenomenon that seems scraped from today’s social media: extreme polarization. ................ “By the late 11th century a full-blown cultural war was underway,” writes Mr. Starr. It was Muslim against Muslim, with “Sunni watchdogs of the faith making sure that no thinker strayed beyond the strict bounds of tradition, and Shiite watchdogs of the faith responding in kind. Free inquiry was caught in the crossfire.” .................. on the morning of Feb. 10, 1258: Mongol invaders breached the walls of Baghdad, massacred its civilian population and dumped the wisdom gathered across centuries — thousands of priceless manuscripts looted from 36 city libraries — into the Tigris. .......... A poll conducted over the summer revealed that almost a third of the American electorate would accept “a strong incumbent leader who does not have to bother with Congress and elections.” .................. And the ground slopes east toward an Asian century. ......... India, yet another democracy cartwheeling into an abyss of right-wing populism. Riding a wave of Hindu nationalism, one Indian state all but criminalized marriages between Hindu and Muslim citizens. 

Biden’s Covid-19 Plan Is Maddeningly Obvious It is infuriating that the Trump administration left so many of these things undone. ....... But vaccines don’t save people; vaccinations do. And vaccinating more than 300 million people, at breakneck speed, is a challenge that only the federal government has the resources to meet. ............ broke the plan down into four buckets. Loosen the restrictions on who can get vaccinated (and when). Set up many more sites where vaccinations can take place. Mobilize more medical personnel to deliver the vaccinations. And use the might of the federal government to increase the vaccine supply by manufacturing whatever is needed, whenever it is needed, to accelerate the effort. ............ Biden’s team members intend to use the Federal Emergency Management Agency to set up thousands of vaccination sites in gyms, sports stadiums and community centers, and to deploy mobile vaccination options to reach those who can’t travel or who live in remote places. They want to mobilize the National Guard to staff the effort and ensure that strapped states don’t have to bear the cost. They want to expand who can deliver the vaccine and call up retired medical personnel to aid the campaign. They want to launch a massive public education blitz, aimed at communities skeptical of the vaccine. They’re evaluating how to eke out more doses from the existing supply — there is, for instance, a particular vial that will get you six doses out of a given quantity of Pfizer’s vaccine rather than five, and they are looking at whether the Defense Production Act could accelerate production of that particular vial and other, similarly useful goods. ......... people who could’ve been saved by simple competence and foresight will die instead. ............... Even on the most optimistic timetable, it will take until well into the summer for America to reach herd immunity. ........... the coronavirus death toll in America will pass 500,000 by the end of February. And it will not end there. ............. Back in May, I wrote that we were operating, in effect, without a president and without a national plan. It is January, and that remains true.

Yellen Readies Big Changes for Treasury From financial regulation to minority lending, Biden’s pick is poised to change course sharply from the policies of Secretary Steven Mnuchin. ........... Ms. Yellen’s plans to revive a pandemic-stricken economy. .......... emphasized the need to create “equitable growth,” using the tools of the Treasury Department to combat climate change and rebuild regulatory institutions like the F.S.O.C. .............. She called last year for a “new Dodd-Frank,” arguing at a Brookings Institution event that existing laws were insufficient for dealing with problems in the “shadow” banking sector that emerged when the pandemic caused severe market turmoil. ............ “This is the worst economic crisis in 100 years, and nobody is better qualified than Secretary-designate Yellen to lead an economic recovery”  

Sunday, January 17, 2021

In The News (7)

Trump Is Blowing Apart the G.O.P. God Bless Him. There still will be a place for principled Republicans. ...............  If you look closely, there are actually four different Republican factions today: principled conservatives, pragmatic conservatives, unprincipled conservatives and Trump cultists. In the principled conservatives camp, I’d put Romney and Murkowski. They are the true America firsters. While animated by conservative ideas about small government and free markets, they put country and Constitution before party and ideology. They are rule-abiders. In the pragmatic conservative camp, which you could call the Mitch McConnell camp, I’d put all of those who tried to humor Trump for a while — going along with his refusal to acknowledge the election results until “all the legal votes were counted” — but once the Electoral College votes were cast by each state, slid into the reality-based world and confirmed Biden’s victory, some sooner than others. ............... The unprincipled Republicans — the “rule-breakers” in Charney’s lingo — are led by Hawley and Cruz, along with the other seditious senators and representatives who tried to get Congress to block its ceremonial confirmation of Biden’s election. Finally, there are the hard-core Trump cultists and QAnon conspiracy types, true believers in and purveyors of the Big Lie. I just don’t see how these four camps stay together. 

The great mall of China Why retailers everywhere should look to China That is where they will see the future of e-commerce .............. For a century the world’s consumer businesses have looked to America to spot new trends, from scannable barcodes on Wrigley’s gum in the 1970s to keeping up with the Kardashians’ consumption habits in the 2010s. Now they should be looking to the East. 

The next big thing in retail comes with Chinese characteristics Chinese apps are to 21st-century shopping what American malls were to last century’s 

The End of the GOP  It is easy to forget that the Emancipation Proclamation was a wartime measure that freed slaves only as a military exigency and only in those states in rebellion against the Union. If the Civil War had not dragged on long enough for the 13th Amendment to finally escape the House of Representatives, many of those men and women set free by Lincoln’s proclamation might very well have been forced back into manacles. ...............  It wasn’t Chief Justice Earl Warren who desegregated the schools: It was President Dwight Eisenhower, who deployed the 101st Airborne to Little Rock to get it done. But Eisenhower thought Brown was a bad decision and came to regard his appointment of Warren as chief justice one of the great blunders of his presidency. That skepticism about Brown was superseded by his conviction that it is the duty of the executive to enforce the law rather than to make it unilaterally, as a dictator. .................  Many progressives who once embraced the expansive view of the Supreme Court championed by Warren et al. must currently be rethinking that stance. ........... Lincoln, for his part, bitterly noted that if he had listened to the radicals in the early days of the Civil War or in the lead-up to it, then the war almost certainly would have been lost with the defection of the border states. The result would have been the preservation not of the Union but of slavery — and not merely its preservation but almost certainly its expansion. As a moral question, we might be with John Brown, even while we concede that as a political question Abraham Lincoln had the better case. ................... The United States is a nation founded in revolution — that’s what treason is called when you win — with a long history of resistance, sometimes violent, to duly constituted authority. .............. The largest U.S. corporations by market capitalization are firms such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet, and Tesla; by revenue, the top of the list comprises Walmart, Amazon, ExxonMobil, Apple, CVS, and Berkshire Hathaway. Which of those firms is led or owned by Republican-friendly, conservative-leaning activists? ............... The radical conservatives described by Buckley were “those who have not made their peace with the New Deal,” as he put it in 1955, unlike Eisenhower and his clique. ............. Donald Trump is the candidate of the 9/11 Republicans, whose politics is Kulturkampf and whose style is paranoid. (It is not for nothing that the worst and most embarrassing of his sycophants described 2016 as the “Flight 93 election.”) .................  Donald Trump, an avid conspiracy buff — 9/11, vaccines, Barack Obama’s place of birth, etc. — found himself in a petri dish practically tailored to his cultural DNA. .............. Trump had been, until five minutes before seeking the Republican nomination, pro-abortion and pro-gun control. ...........  Patriotism? He is a funny kind of patriot who cheers the sacking of the seat of government by barbarians carrying enemy flags. Republican radicals once stood for resistance to the worst kind of tyranny. Today’s Republican radicals stand for tyranny itself, for junta government, and they march under the banner of the very tyranny the Republican Party originally was constituted to oppose. ......... In 2016, I wrote that the likely outcome of a Trump presidency would be the end of the Republican Party as we had known it.......  In 2016, I wrote that the likely outcome of a Trump presidency would be the end of the Republican Party as we had known it. And so it ends for the Grand Old Party: From abolition to anarchy, from republicans to rabble, a bloody-minded, homicidal gang in thrall to the very democracy John Adams warned us about. A dog in this condition would be put to sleep. It would be a piece of mercy.

In The News (6)

This Spicy White Bean Soup Is a Poem in a Pot Filled with winter greens, savory beans and just a little bit of turkey, this piquant soup is both hearty and light. 

Meena Harris, Building That Brand Kamala Harris’s niece is building her own empire with statement T-shirts. Just don’t define her by her family. ......... Meena Harris, a lawyer and former tech executive, used to make statement T-shirts as a side job. Her most famous read, simply, “Phenomenal Woman.” .......... Ms. Harris’s passion project became her full-time job; she left her role as head of strategy and leadership at Uber to run her own company, called Phenomenal. She also picked up another side-gig — one that brought her more visibility than any prestigious job that came before it: campaign surrogate for her aunt, Kamala Harris, now the vice president-elect. ........... “I look at her as another figure in history and someone to be celebrated,” she said of her aunt — for example, with a holiday sweatshirt reading “Deck the halls with smart, strong women, Kamala-la-la-la-la-la-la.”  

This Year’s Underground Sensation: Modern Monetary Theory The economic ideas that once fueled deficit mythbusters and provided hope for a pandemic recovery have spawned a vibrant political subculture. ....... Modern Monetary Theory posits that a governing body like the United States federal government, which borrows and spends in the same currency it issues, can never run out of money and that taxes serve to take excess money out of circulation rather than to fund the government. ..............  The Cares Act, perhaps the most effective anti-poverty policy since the Great Society, really was “a few computer keystrokes ... without all that messy class conflict.” Since the 1970s, and especially since 2008, central banks have become the most powerful centers of economic power in the world by making money out of thin air, without spurring runaway inflation.  

2020 Shatters the Myth of American Exceptionalism We learned something about ourselves on that street corner in Minneapolis. 
The Mutated Virus Is a Ticking Time Bomb There is much we don’t know about the new COVID-19 variant—but everything we know so far suggests a huge danger.
Russia admits coronavirus death toll three times higher than reported New figures show that more than 186,000 Russians have died from the virus
As Trump meets with QAnon influencers, the conspiracy's adherents beg for dictatorship With Trump's days in office dwindling, QAnon influencers have become increasingly restless and militant, urging the president to "#crosstherubicon.”
Politics, Science and the Remarkable Race for a Coronavirus Vaccine The furious race to develop a coronavirus vaccine played out against a presidential election, between a pharmaceutical giant and a biotech upstart, with the stakes as high as they could get.

In The News (5)

He Created the Web. Now He’s Out to Remake the Digital World. Tim Berners-Lee wants to put people in control of their personal data. He has technology and a start-up pursuing that goal. Can he succeed? ........ Mr. Berners-Lee, 65, believes the online world has gone astray. Too much power and too much personal data, he says, reside with the tech giants like Google and Facebook — “silos” is the generic term he favors, instead of referring to the companies by name. Fueled by vast troves of data, he says, they have become surveillance platforms and gatekeepers of innovation. .............. The goal, he said, is to move toward “the web that I originally wanted.” ...........  Mr. Berners-Lee’s vision of personal data sovereignty stands in sharp contrast to the harvest-and-hoard model of the big tech companies. ............ If the concept takes off, low-cost or free personal data services — similar to today’s email services — could emerge. ......... Tim has become increasingly concerned as power in the digital world is weighted against the individual ........... The long view is a thriving decentralized marketplace, fueled by personal empowerment and collaboration  

How the Right Foods May Lead to a Healthier Gut, and Better Health A diet full of highly processed foods with added sugars and salt promoted gut microbes linked to obesity, heart disease and diabetes. ...........  a diet rich in nutrient-dense, whole foods supported the growth of beneficial microbes that promoted good health ........... People who tended to eat minimally processed foods like vegetables, nuts, eggs and seafood were more likely to harbor beneficial gut bacteria. Consuming large amounts of juices, sweetened beverages, white bread, refined grains, and processed meats, on the other hand, was associated with microbes linked to poor metabolic health. ................ The researchers identified clusters of so-called good gut bugs, which were more common in people who ate a diverse diet rich in high-fiber plants — like spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, nuts and seeds — as well as minimally processed animal foods such as fish and full-fat yogurt.   

With ‘I Hate Men,’ a French Feminist Touches a Nerve Pauline Harmange is adjusting to the success and backlash of her debut book, one of a handful of titles from France that suggest a more frank approach to sexism and gender violence. 

The American Abyss A historian of fascism and political atrocity on Trump, the mob and what comes next. ............ Plato noted a particular risk for tyrants: that they would be surrounded in the end by yes-men and enablers. Aristotle worried that, in a democracy, a wealthy and talented demagogue could all too easily master the minds of the populace. Aware of these risks and others, the framers of the Constitution instituted a system of checks and balances. ................ Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. .............  Thanks to technological capacity and personal talent, Donald Trump lied at a pace perhaps unmatched by any other leader in history. For the most part these were small lies, and their main effect was cumulative. To believe in all of them was to accept the authority of a single man, because to believe in all of them was to disbelieve everything else. ............. big lies work only in lonely minds; their coherence substitutes for experience and companionship. ...........  In November 2020, reaching millions of lonely minds through social media, Trump told a lie that was dangerously ambitious: that he had won an election that in fact he had lost. This lie was big in every pertinent respect: not as big as “Jews run the world,” but big enough. ................ His vision never went further than a mirror. ........... The lie outlasts the liar. The idea that Germany lost the First World War in 1918 because of a Jewish “stab in the back” was 15 years old when Hitler came to power. How will Trump’s myth of victimhood function in American life 15 years from now? .............. For a coup to work in 2024, the breakers will require something that Trump never quite had: an angry minority, organized for nationwide violence, ready to add intimidation to an election. Four years of amplifying a big lie just might get them this. To claim that the other side stole an election is to promise to steal one yourself. It is also to claim that the other side deserves to be punished. ........... right-wing white supremacism is the greatest terrorist threat to the United States ..........  Democracy is not about minimizing the vote nor ignoring it, neither a matter of gaming nor of breaking a system, but of accepting the equality of others, heeding their voices and counting their votes.