The latest economic stimulus bill has officially made its way through Congress, and only awaits the President’s signature for passage. There were ZERO (yes, that’s 0) Republican votes for this measure in the House and Senate. “Handouts”were apparently OK when your party could claim credit, but not so much otherwise. Oh, and that spirit of bipartisanship present when Democrats voted for Republican sponsored stimulus bills? Gone…
From Ezra Klein’s “Texas Is a Rich State in a Rich Country, and Look What Happened” piece in the NYT:
Texas will not prove unique, or even all that bad, in terms of how fragile the assumptions beneath its critical infrastructure really were. Most of its mistakes are familiar to anyone who has ever covered the politics of infrastructure and disaster preparation. Shalini Vajjhala, who worked on climate resilience in the Obama administration and is now the chief executive of re:focus partners, a firm that helps cities prepare for climate change, put it sharply to me. “When I am successful, that means something hasn’t happened. That’s good policy, but it’s lousy politics. The first year, you’re applauded. The second year, your budget is cut. The third year, your staff goes away.”
Yes, indeed, the US approach to preventative maintenance encapsulated. Respond to a crisis, decide whew, this is expensive, stick head in sand, underfund, eliminate, repeat. Witness public health before the pandemic. We’re not always particularly smart.
In an cohort study published in JAMA Internal Medicine by Harvey, Rassen, Kabelac et al., the authors looked at more than 3.2 million US patients who obtained SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests and followed the group for results of subsequent nucleic acid testing for the virus. The proportion of patients with positive PCR tests was initially higher in the group positive for antibodies, a result consistent with post-infection shedding, but then declined steadily over time and ended up being markedly reduced overall in the antibody positive group; after 90 days, 3% of the group without antibodies had a positive NAAT as opposed to only 0.3% of the antibody positive group, a 10-fold reduction. This study did not go on long enough to help answer the question of how long the reduction in risk persists, but it does support other studies that have found similar decreases in the risk of subsequent SARS-CoV-2 infection following naturally acquired illness. We’ll need more time and data to help sort out how durable the protection from natural illness and vaccines will ultimately be, but these results help reinforce the notion that COVID antibodies can be protective.
Harvey RA, Rassen JA, Kabelac CA, et al. Association of SARS-CoV-2 Seropositive Antibody Test With Risk of Future Infection. JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 24, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.0366
Richard North Patterson has it right when he advises that “Republicans play hardball—and, all too often, lie. Far better for Democrats to play hardball with the truth. The party of extremism deserves no less.” in his opinion piece in the Bulwark.
Paul Sax takes a positive slant on the development of coronavirus vaccines in his blog post, Are We Expecting Too Much from Our COVID-19 Vaccines? And this was an excellent response to the patently false rumors of adverse vaccine effects on fertility, authored by Alice Lu-Culligan and Akiko Iwasaki writing in the NY Times.
From an article in Inc. by Justin Bariso, reporting on a speech Tim Cook gave at Brussels’ International Data Privacy Day; excerpted from the talk:
“Technology does not need vast troves of personal data stitched together across dozens of websites and apps in order to succeed. Advertising existed and thrived for decades without it, and we’re here today because the path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom.
If a business is built on misleading users on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.
We should not look away from the bigger picture and a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theory juiced by algorithms. We can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement, the longer the better, and all with the goal of collecting as much data as possible.
Too many are still asking the question, ‘How much can we get away with?’ When they need to be asking, ‘What are the consequences?’
What are the consequences of prioritizing conspiracy theories and violent incitement simply because of the high rates of engagement?
What are the consequences of not just tolerating but rewarding content that undermines public trust in life-saving vaccinations?
What are the consequences of seeing thousands of users joining extremist groups and then perpetuating an algorithm that recommends even more?
It is long past time to stop pretending that this approach doesn’t come with a cause. A polarization of lost trust, and yes, of violence.
A social dilemma cannot be allowed to become a social catastrophe.”
Maybe now America can begin to breathe again.
Tom Friedman, writing in the NYT: “President Donald J. Trump: The End – This terrible experiment is over.”
One can only hope.