Daily Digest: Feb. 22, 2021
COVID-19 has taken the lives of an estimated 500,000 Americans.
Wow. That’s larger than the population of the Coachella Valley. Imagine the horror you’d have felt if someone you trusted had told you on Feb. 22, 2020—back when we still had no idea whether this pandemic thing we were hearing about on the news would actually affect our day-to-day lives—that over the next year, this disease would take a half-million lives.
A half-million. As The Washington Post put it, if you put a half-million people on average-sized buses (which hold about 50 people), it would require a caravan 94.7 miles long.
And we aren’t done with COVID-19 yet. We may be on our way out of it—a prominent doctor wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week that a lot of experts think we may more or less reach herd immunity in April (!)—but we certainly aren’t out of it yet.
Stay safe. Wear a mask. Get vaccinated when it’s your turn. And keep your fingers crossed so hard that it hurts.
From the Independent
Exhibition, Virtually: The Artists Council Uses Pioneering Technology to Give Online Juried Show ‘Reflections 20/20’ a Real Museum Feel
By Matt King
February 22, 2021
Some 89 artworks, selected by jurors Rodney D. Lubeznik and Robert S. Leathers, were selected among submissions by Artists Council members from 20 states and […]
Van Life: Frances McDormand Goes Full ‘Method’ to Help Make ‘Nomadland’ a Compelling, Realistic Standout
By Bob Grimm
February 22, 2021
The year 2020 was a weird one for film, of course, but Nomadland stands out as one of the year’s best—and it would stand out […]
And Now, the News
• Lengthy trials will not be needed for the tweaks that may need to be made to the vaccines to handle the various variants, the Food and Drug Administration announced today. According to The New York Times: “The recommendations, which call for small trials more like what’s required for annual flu vaccines, would greatly accelerate the review process at a time when scientists are increasingly anxious about how the variants might slow or reverse progress made against the virus.”
• Good news for small and minority owned businesses, as explained by NBC News: “President Joe Biden announced changes Monday to the Paycheck Protection Program aimed at ensuring more small and minority-owned business are able to qualify for federal assistance as a result of the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The changes are intended to facilitate loans for contractors and self-employed people, noncitizens who are lawful U.S. residents and business owners with previous nonfraud convictions, Biden said. It will also open a 14-day window starting March 9 for businesses with fewer than 20 employees to apply for relief.”
• Bad news for the former president: The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Donald Trump has to turn over his tax returns to a New York grand jury. NBC News says: “The ruling doesn’t mean the returns will become public any time soon, and they might never be publicly released. Under New York state law, materials turned over to a grand jury must be kept secret. But Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance can now require Trump’s accountants to turn over the records that Trump has steadfastly refused to surrender to prosecutors or Congress.”
• Good news on the vaccine front: Pfizer says it plans on doubling its weekly vaccine-production output very soon. Reuters says: “‘We have improved our processes to double the batch size and increase yield and we have deployed more efficient lab test methods to reduce release times,’ (Pfizer Inc Chief Executive Albert Bourla) said in his remarks. He said those measures allowed the company to reduce the time it takes to make the vaccine from 110 days to 60 days.”
• Not-so-good news on the vaccine from comes this headline from our partners at CalMatters: “Immigration detention centers showcase California’s vaccine chaos.” Key quote: “Who is responsible for vaccinating immigrants in California’s detention centers? Neither state officials nor federal agencies have taken responsibility. In the midst of this chaos, one county, San Diego, has already taken action and sent doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to a local detention center. But another county, San Bernardino, is awaiting instructions from state health officials on when detainees will become eligible for shots.”
• The New York Times ponders the curious case of Russia and its Sputnik V vaccine—and how Russia is using promises of doses to improve its worldwide status. Key quote: “So far, more than 50 countries from Latin America to Asia have ordered 1.2 billion doses of the Russian vaccine, buffing the image of Russian science and lifting Moscow’s influence around the world. Yet, in Russia things are not always what they seem, and this apparent triumph of soft-power diplomacy may not be all that the Kremlin would like the world to think. While Sputnik V is unquestionably effective, production is lagging, raising questions about whether Moscow may be promising far more vaccine exports than it can supply, and doing so at the expense of its own citizens.”
• The Texas public-utilities system continues to be a massive trash fire. First came insane outages because of a lack of preparation for severe winter storms. And now this, according to The Texas Tribune: “As the bad weather bore down, it froze natural gas production and wind turbines, choking off the supply of electricity as demand skyrocketed. In response, the Public Utility Commission, appointed by Abbott, let the wholesale market price of electricity rise to $9 per kilo-watt hour, a 7,400% increase over the average 12 cents per kilo-watt hour. The rate hike was supposed to entice power generators to get more juice into the grid, but the astounding costs were also passed directly on to some customers, who were suddenly being billed more for electricity each day than they normally pay in a month. Karen Knox, a special education teacher in Bedford, was among them. She lost power during the crisis but still owes some $7,000 to Griddy, an electricity provider located in Houston.”
• The owner of the Outpost Market on Ramon Road in Cathedral City was shot and killed during a robbery last night. KESQ has the details.
• An expert in poverty and inequality, writing for The Conversation, discusses how an idea with a history of bipartisan support, now being pondered by the Biden administration, could help lift a lot of families out of poverty: giving families with kids a monthly stipend. Richard Nixon famously pushed for it—but it never came to fruition. A snippet: “The U.S. has long been an outlier in its lack of support for families with children. That helps explain why child poverty in the U.S. is comparable to that in Mexico and Chile, and far higher than child poverty in other wealthy countries. Some 18% of U.S. children live in poverty, far above the 12% average for the 37 wealthy and middle-income countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation. One reason most industrialized countries have lower child poverty rates is that they make monthly payments to families with children. These payments are standard in Europe and have been since around World War II.”
• And finally … Daft Punk has announced, in somewhat weird fashion, that the duo will be splitting up. However, I’d be gobsmacked if this is actually the last we’ve heard actually heard from the insanely influential electronic-music group. Here’s “Epilogue,” their, uh, breakup video, if you have eight minutes with nothing better to do.
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