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Spend prophylactically? Nah, too expensive…

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.

2021-02-25T16:47:28-05:00February 25th, 2021|Home, Musings|

More data suggesting that natural COVID19 infection provokes protective antibodies

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

2021-02-24T18:41:06-05:00February 24th, 2021|Home, Musings|

Tim Cook on Privacy vs. the Social Network

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.”

Well said.

2021-01-30T10:28:38-05:00January 30th, 2021|Home, Musings|

Oh, the Irony…

Direct quotes from an executive order issued by the currently sitting president on June 26, 2020 :

“Section 1.  Purpose.  The first duty of government is to ensure domestic tranquility and defend the life, property, and rights of its citizens.  Over the last 5 weeks, there has been a sustained assault on the life and property of civilians, law enforcement officers, government property, and revered American monuments…In the midst of these attacks, many State and local governments appear to have lost the ability to distinguish between the lawful exercise of rights to free speech and assembly and unvarnished vandalism.  They have surrendered to mob rule, imperiling community safety, allowing for the wholesale violation of our laws, and privileging the violent impulses of the mob over the rights of law-abiding citizens.  Worse, they apparently have lost the will or the desire to stand up to the radical fringe and defend the fundamental truth that America is good, her people are virtuous, and that justice prevails in this country to a far greater extent than anywhere else in the world.  Some particularly misguided public officials even appear to have accepted the idea that violence can be virtuous and have prevented their police from enforcing the law and protecting public monuments, memorials, and statues from the mob’s ropes and graffiti.

My Administration will not allow violent mobs incited by a radical fringe to become the arbiters of the aspects of our history that can be celebrated in public spaces.  State and local public officials’ abdication of their law enforcement responsibilities in deference to this violent assault must end.

Sec2.  Policy.  (a)  It is the policy of the United States to prosecute to the fullest extent permitted under Federal law, and as appropriate, any person or any entity that destroys, damages, vandalizes, or desecrates a monument, memorial, or statue within the United States or otherwise vandalizes government property.  The desire of the Congress to protect Federal property is clearly reflected in section 1361 of title 18, United States Code, which authorizes a penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for the willful injury of Federal property… Civil statutes like the Public System Resource Protection Act, section 100722 of title 54, United States Code, also hold those who destroy certain Federal property accountable for their offenses.  The Federal Government will not tolerate violations of these and other laws.

(b) It is the policy of the United States to prosecute to the fullest extent permitted under Federal law, and as appropriate, any person or any entity that participates in efforts to incite violence or other illegal activity in connection with the riots and acts of vandalism described in section 1 of this order.  Numerous Federal laws, including section 2101 of title 18, United States Code, prohibit the violence that has typified the past few weeks in some cities.  Other statutes punish those who participate in or assist the agitators who have coordinated these lawless acts.  Such laws include section 371 of title 18, United States Code, which criminalizes certain conspiracies to violate Federal law, section 2 of title 18, United States Code, which punishes those who aid or abet the commission of Federal crimes, and section 2339A of title 18, United States Code, which prohibits as material support to terrorism efforts to support a defined set of Federal crimes.  Those who have joined in recent violent acts around the United States will be held accountable.”

I wonder how well it will be enforced?

2021-01-10T10:45:20-05:00January 10th, 2021|Home, Musings|
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