Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward







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In the pandemic, the United States stands out as an exceptional failure

The New York Times reports: Nearly every country has struggled to contain the coronavirus and made mistakes along the way. China committed the first major failure, silencing doctors who tried to raise alarms about the virus and allowing it to escape from Wuhan. Much of Europe went next, failing to avoid enormous outbreaks. Today, many countries — Japan, Canada, France, Australia and more — are coping with new increases in

We really need to understand how the immune system reacts to the coronavirus

Ed Yong writes: There’s a joke about immunology, which Jessica Metcalf of Princeton recently told me. An immunologist and a cardiologist are kidnapped. The kidnappers threaten to shoot one of them, but promise to spare whoever has made the greater contribution to humanity. The cardiologist says, “Well, I’ve identified drugs that have saved the lives of millions of people.” Impressed, the kidnappers turn to the immunologist. “What have you done?”

Children often carry more coronavirus than adults do, study shows

The Scientist reports: A new study is challenging the idea that younger children are somehow less susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Children under the age of five have been found to carry just as much, if not more, coronavirus in their noses and throats than older kids or adults. The results, published Thursday (July 30) in JAMA Pediatrics, tested 145 people for evidence of the virus’s RNA. After breaking their participants

A bleak tale of chronic negligence leading to Beirut’s giant explosion

The New York Times reports: The countdown to catastrophe in Beirut started more than six years ago when a troubled, Russian-leased cargo ship made an unscheduled stop at the city’s port. The ship was trailed by debts, crewed by disgruntled sailors and dogged by a small hole in its hull that meant water had to be constantly pumped out. And it carried a volatile cargo, more than 2,000 tons of

What will happen if Trump uses Facebook to dispute election results, employees ask Zuckerberg

BuzzFeed reports: After months of debate and disagreement over the handling of inflammatory or misleading posts from Donald Trump, Facebook employees want CEO Mark Zuckerberg to explain what the company would do if the leader of the free world uses the social network to undermine the results of the 2020 US presidential election. “I do think we’re headed for a problematic scenario where Facebook is going to be used to

New York Attorney General files lawsuit to dissolve the NRA after fraud investigation

NPR reports: The Attorney General of New York took action today to dissolve the National Rifle Association, following an 18-month investigation that found evidence the powerful gun rights group is “fraught with fraud and abuse.” Attorney General Letitia James claims in a lawsuit filed Thursday that she found financial misconduct in the millions of dollars, and that it contributed to a loss of more than $64 million over a three

Trader Joe’s knows that petitions aren’t commandments

John McWhorter writes: Trader Joe’s has long given playful foreign versions of its name to certain international product lines: Trader José, Trader Giotto, Trader Ming, and so on. One could have guessed that amidst our racial reckoning (“the Great Awokening,” as Vox’s Matthew Yglesias calls it), these names would come under attack. This happened: A 17-year-old woman spearheaded a petition that attracted more than 5,000 signatures, asking Trader Joe’s to

Music: Weather Report — ‘Havona’


Two decades of pandemic simulations failed to account for Donald Trump

Nature reports: Like all pandemics, it started out small. A novel coronavirus emerged in Brazil, jumping from bats to pigs to farmers before making its way to a big city with an international airport. From there, infected travellers carried it to the United States, Portugal and China. Within 18 months, the coronavirus had spread around the world, 65 million people were dead and the global economy was in free fall.

Coronavirus testing in the U.S. is dropping, even as deaths mount

The Associated Press reports: U.S. testing for the coronavirus is dropping even as infections remain high and the death toll rises by more than 1,000 a day, a worrisome trend that officials attribute largely to Americans getting discouraged over having to wait hours to get a test and days or weeks to learn the results. An Associated Press analysis found that the number of tests per day slid 3.6% over

Israeli involvement in massive Beirut port blast ruled out by both sides

The Times of Israel reports: Massive blasts that struck Beirut were not caused by Israeli activity, sources in Lebanon and Jerusalem said Tuesday afternoon, as officials attempted to determine what sparked the huge explosions. Lebanese officials indicated that an initial explosion was caused by fireworks stored at the port, and a second, even larger explosion may have been caused by the fire reaching explosive material that has been kept there

The racial underpinnings of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings

Elaine Scarry writes: This past Memorial Day, a Minneapolis police officer knelt on the throat of an African-American, George Floyd, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Seventy-five years ago, an American pilot dropped an atomic bomb on the civilian population of Hiroshima. Worlds apart in time, space, and scale, the two events share three key features. Each was an act of state violence. Each was an act carried out against

Don’t believe the lie that voting is all you can do

Daniel Hunter writes: The Black Lives Matter movement has had significant wins in recent months. Municipalities have removed statues of racists, corporations have changed branding that reinforced racial stereotypes, schools have cut ties with police forces and cities have reduced police funding. But too often, politicians, celebrities and community leaders who applaud the protesters for these victories are quick to follow up by asserting, like Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of

GOP pines for Susan Rice as Biden VP

Politico reports: Joe Biden still may be undecided about who to pick for a running mate, but Donald Trump’s team knows exactly who they want: Susan Rice. Trump’s aides and allies accuse Rice — without delving too deeply into the evidence — of helping cover up crimes for two of the president’s favorite foils, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, making her just the kind of deep-state villain who could fire

The biggest land conservation legislation in a generation

Linda Bilmes says: The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) [signed into law on Tuesday] is the biggest land conservation legislation in a generation. The National Parks Conservation Association, the leading advocacy organization for the parks, is hailing it as “a conservationist’s dream.” The legislation has two main impacts. First, it establishes a National Park and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund that will provide up to $9 billion over the next

Music: Jaco Pastorius — ‘Continuum’