fragments II

When a poem can’t quite make it as a poem, and does not become, is not renewed in a clash too pertinent to the veins at which it tugs, well, it becomes a fragment. A fragment is not a poem. A fragment is a non-poem in place of an object in need to be left […]

fragments II

Lens-Artists Challenge #129 – Favorite Photos of 2020

[Categories: Photography, Photography 101 Forever] Per TINA: “Our annual “Favorite Images of the Year ” challenge presents a different opportunity this time around.” I culled 30+ photos from my photo library, went to my blog media library, and realized my favorite photos were already there. Duh. Not 30+ either. Click the single photo below to be […]

Lens-Artists Challenge #129 – Favorite Photos of 2020

Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2020: EPIDEMIC – Pt. 6 and Final – Voices in Time

[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review] [Click HERE to see my previous posts referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.] [Some of LQ’s contents are available free.] [L.Q. cover, quotes, and images are from Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2020: EPIDEMIC, except where noted.] [Click or right-click on a photo may give the option to open it separately.] [NEW to […]

Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2020: EPIDEMIC – Pt. 6 and Final – Voices in Time

Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2020: EPIDEMIC – Pt. 5 – Voices in Time

[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review] [Click HERE to see my previous posts referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.] [Some of LQ’s contents are available free.] [L.Q. cover, quotes, and images are from Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2020: EPIDEMIC, except where noted.] [Click or right-click on a photo may give the option to open it separately.] [NEW to […]

Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2020: EPIDEMIC – Pt. 5 – Voices in Time

Lens-Artists Challenge #128 – And Here Comes the Holiday Season…PT 2

[Categories: Photography, Photography 101 Forever] Per A-C: “This last LAPC challenge, of the strange year 2020, is all about your Holiday Season. SHELF ORNAMENTOS. Representing American football team The Kansas City Chiefs. Favorite dee-oh-gee West Highlands White Terrier. Peace on Earth, Good Will towards All. Stay safe, be well. Be kind to one another. HAPPY HOLIDAYS.

Lens-Artists Challenge #128 – And Here Comes the Holiday Season…PT 2

Welcome to this Week’s Edition – A Convenient Digest and Curated Collection of Verified News and Studies Related to Global Health and Humanitarian Intervention

The clearest sign the pandemic could get worse

After weeks of falling down, down, down, coronavirus cases are snaking back up in Michigan. The surge there—along with some troubling signs in New York and New Jersey—serves as a reminder that, although the long-term outlook is promising, this pandemic is not yet over.

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Our friends at the COVID Tracking Project offer a comprehensive analysis of the Michigan surge. Here are three important things to know, pulled from their reporting:

1.    According to federal data, hospitalizations in Michigan are up 45 percent from their February low.

2.    Although genomic data in the United States are limited, the preliminary findings suggest that the B.1.1.7 variant—also known as the U.K variant—is widespread in the state.

3.    Overall, the state has doled out first vaccine doses to the majority of its residents who are 65 and older, which could help reduce deaths. But only 28 percent of Black residents in that age range have gotten their first shot. Read the full analysis.  

A U.S. trial found AstraZeneca’s vaccine was 79 percent effective with no serious side effects. The company will seek emergency F.D.A. authorization.

The findings, announced in a news release from AstraZeneca, may help shore up global confidence in the vaccine. But the fresh data may not make a difference in the United States, where the vaccine is not yet authorized and may not be needed. Read the latest

Too hot … and too cold

Americans on the right half of the political spectrum have tended to underplay the risk of Covid-19. They have been less willing to wear masks or avoid indoor gatherings and have been more hesitant to get vaccinated.

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These attitudes are part of a larger pattern in which American conservatives are often skeptical of public-health warnings from scientists — on climate changeair pollutiongun violenceschool lunches and more. In the case of Covid, Republican politicians and media figures have encouraged risky behavior by making false statements about the virus. 

To many liberals, Covid has become another example of the modern Republican Party’s hostility to facts and evidence. And that charge certainly has some truth to it. Yet the particular story with Covid is also more complicated — because conservatives aren’t the only ones misinterpreting scientific evidence in systematic ways. Americans on the left half of the political spectrum are doing it, too.

That’s a central finding from a survey of 35,000 Americans by Gallup and Franklin Templeton. It finds that both liberals and conservatives suffer from misperceptions about the pandemic — in opposite directions. “Republicans consistently underestimate risks, while Democrats consistently overestimate them,” Jonathan Rothwell, Gallup’s principal economist, and Sonal Desai, a Franklin Templeton executive, write.

The mistakes people make

More than one-third of Republican voters, for example, said that people without Covid symptoms could not spread the virus. Similar shares said that Covid was killing fewer people than either the seasonal flu or vehicle crashes. All of those beliefs are wrong, and badly so. Asymptomatic spread is a major source of transmission, and Covid has killed about 15 times more Americans than either the flu or vehicle crashes do in a typical year.

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Democrats, on the other hand, are more likely to exaggerate the severity of Covid. When asked how often Covid patients had to be hospitalized, a very large share of Democratic voters said that at least 20 percent did. The actual hospitalization rate is about 1 percent.

Democrats are also more likely to exaggerate Covid’s toll on young people and to believe that children account for a meaningful share of deaths. In reality, Americans under 18 account for only 0.04 percent of Covid deaths.

It’s true that some of these misperceptions reflect the fact that most people are not epidemiologists and that estimating medical statistics is difficult. Still, the errors do have a connection to real-world behavior, Rothwell told me.

Republicans’ underestimation of Covid risks helps explain their resistance to wearing a mask — even though doing so could save their own life or that of a family member. And Democrats’ overestimation of risks explains why so many have accepted school closures — despite the damage being done to children, in lost learning, lost social connections and, in the case of poorer children, missed meals.

The states with the highest share of closed schools are all blue states: California, Oregon, Maryland, New Mexico, Hawaii, Nevada, Massachusetts and New Jersey. “I think in many ways it’s based on the fact that these voters are misinformed about the risks to young people and they’re misinformed about the risks generally,” Rothwell said.

Information can help

The reasons for these ideological biases aren’t completely clear, but they are not shocking. Conservatives tend to be more hostile to behavior restrictions and to scientific research. And liberals sometimes overreact to social problems. (A classic example was the overpopulation scare of the 1960s and ’70s, when people on the left wrongly predicted that the world would run out of food.)

Covid, of course, represents a real crisis, one that has already killed more than a half-million Americans and continues to kill more than 1,000 per day. As in the case of many crises, underreaction has been the bigger problem with Covid — but it has not been the only problem.

Perhaps the best news from the Gallup survey was that some people were willing to revisit their beliefs when given new information. Republicans took the pandemic more seriously after being told that the number of new cases was rising, and Democrats were more favorable to in-person schooling after hearing that the American Academy of Pediatrics supports it.

“That’s very encouraging,” Rothwell told me. “It’s discouraging that people didn’t already know it.”

The mystery of long Covid

As we move into what may be the later phase of the pandemic, understanding long-term Covid symptoms is increasingly becoming a priority. Leading public health officials have warned that hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions of people worldwide may experience lingering symptoms — which can include monthlong fevers, breathing trouble, cognitive problems — that hamper their ability to live normally.

But so far there has been comparatively little research into the long Covid phenomenon. We still don’t know how many people are affected, but it could be a substantial number: A small study from the University of Washington recently found that about 30 percent of patients experienced lingering symptoms months after infection.

Two long Covid patients recently wrote in the Times Opinion section that the condition is not getting the attention or resources it deserves. Like other patients who become sick from conditions previously described as “mysterious illnesses,” like fibromyalgia and AIDS, they say they “still struggle to be taken seriously by friends, family members, clinicians and policymakers.”

A number of people, including some readers of this newsletter, have reported that the long Covid symptoms they’ve experienced for months have begun to improve, sometimes significantly, after they received a coronavirus vaccine. However, many people have said they have experienced no change, and a small number have said they feel worse.

While it’s still too early to know what may be causing the improvement, scientists have suggested that the vaccine, by generating antibodies, may eliminate lingering traces of the virus. Other scientists have suggested that long Covid symptoms may resemble an autoimmune disease, and that patients who feel better after a vaccine might eventually relapse.

For Judy Dodd, a teacher and director from New York, the second dose of the vaccine has nearly eliminated the shortness of breath, headaches and exhaustion she has been experiencing since last spring.

“I’m still sort of wary of what’s around the corner, this disease is so unpredictable,” she said. “Even if, God forbid, I have a relapse, to have this time now when I feel better, it’s really amazing.”

‘Vaccine apartheid’

By Spencer Bokat-Lindell,Staff Editor, Opinion, New York Times

Three interminably long months in, the U.S. coronavirus vaccine rollout is blessedly and finally going well. But the global one is very much not: For every 100 people on the planet, only five have received a shot. Models predict there won’t be enough doses for the world’s population until 2023 or 2024, and what doses there are have been snatched up by the world’s richest countries, creating what a senior United Nations official has called a “global vaccine apartheid.”

Here’s what the situation looks like from Kenya:

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How can the global vaccine distribution be made more equitable? Here’s what public health experts, journalists, politicians and activists are saying.

The many hazards of vaccine nationalism

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, enough vaccine has already been purchased to immunize 80 percent of the world’s adult population. But high-income countries, which account for just 20 percent of the world’s adult population, have bought more than half of all doses. As a result, only about one in four people in lower-income countries can expect a shot this year.

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The moral argument against this hoarding of lifesaving medicine — what the sociologist Zeynep Tufekci approvingly calls “the hippie dippy wishful thinking” argument — is self-evident. But there is a growing chorus of experts who argue that vaccine nationalism is not only morally unconscionable but also self-defeating.

The epidemiological argument against vaccine hoarding is that the virus can’t be defeated anywhere until it’s defeated everywhere.

“As long as there are large swaths of people who are unprotected, then we’re going to see variants continue to pop up,” Ruth Faden, a bioethics professor at Johns Hopkins University, tells The Atlantic. “And it’s likely that some of those variants will evolve to escape the power of vaccines.”

Not everyone agrees with this argument’s premise, though: Tufekci finds it quite easy to imagine a world in which high-income countries also hoard variant booster shots, enabling the wealthy to live and travel freely while the rest of the world suffers.

The economic argument against vaccine hoarding is that even the richest nations will not be able to recover if developing countries continue to be shut out. In the worst-case scenario, the inequity might cost the global economy up to $9 trillion, nearly half of which would be borne by wealthy nations like the United States and Canada.

The geopolitical argument against vaccine hoarding is that it’s harmful to the West’s global standing, such as it is. China and Russia have made deals to send at least 1.6 billion doses to more than 50 countries, while the European Union has exported only 40 million since January. The United States just announced its first export of four million doses (to Mexico and Canada), and Britain has apparently yet to export any.

“This petty vaccine nationalism is irreparably damaging the West, betraying their claims to magnanimity, inclusive global leadership and concern for global health,” Fatima Bhutto writes in The Guardian. As The Times editorial board writes, “Poor countries will remember who came to their assistance, and when.”

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The push for a ‘people’s vaccine’

When the polio vaccine was announced safe and effective in the spring of 1955, its inventor, Jonas Salk, was asked on television who owned the patent. “The people, I would say,” he responded. “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

Today, a movement involving 57 countrieshundreds of scientiststhe director of the W.H.O. and congressional lawmakers has sprung up to demand coronavirus vaccine makers follow in Salk’s footsteps by temporarily waiving their patent rights so other nations can manufacture their own supply. The Biden administration and the European Union, however, have blocked the waiver requests,which they say could stifle innovation.

We’ve been here before: As many proponents of the patent waiversare quick to point out, such exceptions were made in the early 2000s, after years of activism, for antiretroviral drugs that transformed H.I.V. from a death sentence into a manageable condition. Taxpayers funded the development of many of those drugs, just as they did the Moderna vaccine’s (with some help from Dolly Parton).

“If more Americans actually knew the substance of the requests being made by other nations, they’d have no reason to worry about losing any of ‘our’ vaccine doses,” Alex Pareene writes in The New Republic. “Instead, they would understand that the only thing at risk — and only temporarily at that — are some potential future profits of Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and the like.”

Another view: Vaccines are much more complex products than ordinary drugs, so giving other countries only the legal ability to replicate them without the “proprietary recipe” would be an insufficient remedy, argues Rachel Silverman, a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. It could even backfire by serving as an excuse for vaccine makers to pull out of their current global commitments. A better option, Silverman says, would be pressuring vaccine makers into licensing agreements that would give other countries both the rights and the knowledge for generic production in exchange for modest royalties.

“Already, voluntary licensing deals from AstraZeneca and Novavax are facilitating large-scale production in India, Japan and South Korea,” she writes in The Washington Post. “The best route to vaccine equity involves creating the conditions for pharmaceutical developers to identify and execute more of these voluntary deals, engaging industry as a partner in the process.”

Three more ideas for fast-tracking global immunity

Take on price gouging: The price of vaccines varies widely across the globe, and many poor nations are paying more than rich ones. The price of an AstraZeneca dose, for example, the most affordable vaccine, is $3.50 for Europeans, $5.25 for South Africans and $8.50 for Ugandans.

“During natural disasters, price gouging for essential supplies is illegal,”