Daily Digest: Jan. 18, 2021
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, everyone.
Since these Daily Digests have been a nonstop deluge of terrible news as of late, we’re going to start off today’s edition with something positive: the vaccine news.
“Wait,” you may be saying. “The vaccine news is positive? The rollout of the vaccines has been a debacle!”
That’s definitely true. However, given that 1) there’s never before been a mass-vaccination effort on this scale, and 2) the federal government has, to this point, washed its hands of responsibility for the distribution, leaving things instead up to overwhelmed state and county governments … we all saw this coming. Didn’t we?
As long as the vaccines keep coming off the manufacturing lines, the process will inevitably get better as time goes on. The process will also be helped by the fact that, in a matter of hours, we will have a new presidential administration that is taking things more seriously.
However, I am not talking about the distribution efforts; I am talking about the vaccines themselves.
David Leonhardt, in The New York Times’ “The Morning” newsletter, today explained how truly freaking amazing these vaccines are. After talking to all sorts of experts, Leonhardt breaks down how, out of an abundance of caution, our leaders have been underselling the vaccines. For example, he explains that the almost-unprecedented 95 percent effectiveness rates don’t tell the whole story:
If anything, the 95 percent number understates the effectiveness, because it counts anyone who came down with a mild case of COVID-19 as a failure. But turning COVID into a typical flu—as the vaccines evidently did for most of the remaining 5 percent—is actually a success. Of the 32,000 people who received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine in a research trial, do you want to guess how many contracted a severe COVID case? One.
I highly recommend reading Leonhardt’s piece. It’s truly encouraging.
Yes, the rollout is a mess. But shots are still getting into more and more arms—and those shots are likely to truly end this damned pandemic.
From the Independent
Rock for the Sake of Rock: Concert-Film Series ‘Live in the Mojave Desert’ Keeps the Stoner-Rock Party Going Through the Pandemic
By Matt King
January 18, 2021
After the Stoned and Dusted festival was cancelled, founder Ryan Jones wanted to do something “really rad” to help fans get through the pandemic. The […]
Home Video Review: ‘MLK/FBI’ Is a Fine Look at the Government’s Attempts to Smear the Civil Rights Great
By Bob Grimm
January 18, 2021
This new documentary, streaming now, shows how awful J. Edgar Hoover and his cronies were.
And Now, the News
• As explained by SFGate: “California’s leading epidemiologist is warning health departments across the state to stop dispensing a single lot of the Moderna vaccine ‘out of an extreme abundance of caution’ after fewer than 10 people at one vaccine distribution site experienced a possible allergic reaction.” This will mean some places in the state may have problems keeping all of their vaccine appointments this week.
• However, Riverside County officials say their scheduled vaccination clinics will not be affected.
• In Washington state, the governor is turning to Starbucks to help with the vaccination effort. Yes, Starbucks.
• Meanwhile, one of the biggest obstacles standing between us and the possible end of the pandemic is anti-vaccination sentiment. Well … that fact makes this Washington Post lede beyond infuriating: “Five prominent anti-vaccine organizations that have been known to spread misleading information about the coronavirus received more than $850,000 in loans from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, raising questions about why the government is giving money to groups actively opposing its agenda and seeking to undermine public health during a critical period.”
• If you want to better understand the new SARS-CoV-2 variants and how they work, you should check out this deep dive into the science by The New York Times. Key quote, since we’re focusing on the positive (as much as possible) here today: “None of these variants are expected to help the coronavirus evade the many coronavirus vaccines in clinical trials around the world. Antibodies generated by the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were able to lock on to coronavirus spikes that have the N501Y spike mutation, preventing the virus from infecting cells in the lab. Experts stress that it would likely take many years, and many more mutations, for the virus to evolve enough to avoid current vaccines.”
• Related: An expert on fluid dynamics and aerosols, writing for The Conversation, offers tips on how to stay safe from those faster-spreading coronavirus variants. Key quote: “With people possibly having more virus in their bodies and the virus being more infectious, everyone should take extra care and precautions. Wearing face masks and social distancing are essential.”
• As for the variants: The Los Angeles Times says they’re popping up more and more in California. While that information is interesting, this paragraph toward the end of the story was what caught my attention: “So many people have died in Los Angeles County that officials have temporarily suspended air-quality regulations that limit the number of cremations. Health officials and the L.A. County coroner requested the change because the current death rate is ‘more than double that of pre-pandemic years, leading to hospitals, funeral homes and crematoriums exceeding capacity, without the ability to process the backlog,’ the South Coast Air Quality Management District said Sunday.” Sigh.
• Meanwhile, in Florida, the saga of the state and a data scientist—who was fired after claiming Gov. Ron DeSantis and co. were trying to cover up the dire state of the pandemic—keeps getting weirder. As CNN explains: “Rebekah Jones has been charged with one count of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices, the (state) said. She surrendered Sunday to the Leon County Detention Facility. Jones walked out of the jail Monday afternoon after posting bail. Wearing a mask, she told reporters outside the jail she had just tested positive for COVID-19.”
• The Washington Post over the weekend published an excellent piece breaking down the scariest 41 minutes during the siege at the U.S. Capitol: “To reconstruct the pandemonium inside the Capitol for the video above, The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and hundreds of videos, some of which were exclusively obtained. By synchronizing the footage and locating some of the camera angles within a digital 3-D model of the building, The Post was able to map the rioters’ movements and assess how close they came to lawmakers — in some cases feet apart or separated only by a handful of vastly outnumbered police officers.”
• Also from the Post (which has been doing AMAZING journalism as of late): The government is scrutinizing the backgrounds of the 21,000 National Guard troops in advance of the inauguration on Wednesday. Why? “Concern about potential internal threats has intensified as investigators have identified a growing list of individuals with law enforcement and military ties, including at least two service members, among the rioters who stormed Congress in their effort to overturn President Trump’s electoral loss.”
• Authorities say a woman who pilfered a laptop from Nancy Pelosi’s may have tried to sell it to the Russians. According to NBC News, the 22-year-old was turned in by a former romantic partner.
• Related: ProPublica compiled a collection of more than 500 “newsworthy” videos posted on Parler during the U.S. Capitol insurrection: “Taken together, they provide one of the most comprehensive records of a dark event in American history through the eyes of those who took part.”
• Also related: Uh, so, Parler is making its way back online. How? As explained by Engadget: “Per CNN, Parler’s domain is currently registered with Epik, a DNS provider known for offering a safe haven to websites like 8chan and The Daily Stormer in the past. A tweet from Dave Temkin, Netflix’s vice-president of network and systems, suggests Russia’s DDOS Guard is hosting the website. But getting online is just one of the challenges Parler needs to solve before it can say it’s fully up and running again. Without access to the App Store and Google Play, Parler users won’t have an easy way of installing the software on their phones.”
• Kamala Harris officially resigned as one of California’s U.S. senators today, because, as you may have heard, she’s starting a new gig on Wednesday. Our partners at CalMatters, therefore, have decided to share five things we should know about Harris’ replacement, Alex Padilla.
• As if Fox News’ credibility wasn’t weak enough already, we now have this frustrating story, per The New York Times: “On Oct. 12, 2020, Fox News agreed to pay millions of dollars to the family of a murdered Democratic National Committee staff member, implicitly acknowledging what saner minds knew long ago: that the network had repeatedly hyped a false claim that the young staff member, Seth Rich, was involved in leaking DNC emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. … Fox’s decision to settle with the Rich family came just before its marquee hosts, Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity, were set to be questioned under oath in the case. … But there was one curious provision that Fox insisted on: The settlement had to be kept secret for a month—until after the Nov. 3 election. The exhausted plaintiffs agreed.”
• Finally … expect a flurry of pardons by the soon-to-be-ex president tomorrow … and, according to The New York Times, some of those pardons may be more or less purchased: “As President Trump prepares to leave office in days, a lucrative market for pardons is coming to a head, with some of his allies collecting fees from wealthy felons or their associates to push the White House for clemency, according to documents and interviews with more than three dozen lobbyists and lawyers.”
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