Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward







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How the pandemic brought America to its knees

Ed Yong writes: How did it come to this? A virus a thousand times smaller than a dust mote has humbled and humiliated the planet’s most powerful nation. America has failed to protect its people, leaving them with illness and financial ruin. It has lost its status as a global leader. It has careened between inaction and ineptitude. The breadth and magnitude of its errors are difficult, in the moment,

A vaccine is not going to fix everything

The Washington Post reports: In the public imagination, the arrival of a coronavirus vaccine looms large: It’s the neat Hollywood ending to the grim and agonizing uncertainty of everyday life in a pandemic. But public health experts are discussing among themselves a new worry: that hopes for a vaccine may be soaring too high. The confident depiction by politicians and companies that a vaccine is imminent and inevitable may give

Measuring excess mortality gives a clearer picture of the pandemic’s true impact

Philip Setel writes: How best to represent the true toll of the Covid-19 pandemic on human lives is an urgent matter. Though loss of life represents the clearest indicator, limited testing, inconsistencies in assigning the cause of death, and even political influence are creating uncertainty over how deaths are being counted and attributed (or not) to Covid-19. It’s simple, really: Limited testing gives a limited picture of confirmed Covid-19 cases

Why the botched N.Y.C. primary has become the November nightmare

The New York Times reports: Election officials in New York City widely distributed mail-in ballots for the primary on June 23, which featured dozens of hard-fought races. The officials had hoped to make voting much easier, but they did not seem prepared for the response: more than 10 times the number of absentee ballots received in recent elections in the city. Now, nearly six weeks later, two closely watched congressional

As Trump attacks mail voting, GOP officials confront signs of Republican turnout crisis

The Washington Post reports: President Trump’s unfounded attacks on mail balloting are discouraging his own supporters from embracing the practice, according to polls and Republican leaders across the country, prompting growing alarm that one of the central strategies of his campaign is threatening GOP prospects in November. Multiple public surveys show a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans about the security of voting by mail, with Republicans saying they are

Trump and his company being investigated over fraud, filing suggests

The New York Times reports: The Manhattan district attorney’s office suggested on Monday that it has been investigating President Trump and his company for possible bank and insurance fraud, a significantly broader inquiry than the prosecutors have acknowledged in the past. The suggestion by the office of the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., came in a new federal court filing arguing that Mr. Trump’s accountants should have to comply

One-third of New York’s small businesses may be gone forever

The New York Times reports: In early March, Glady’s, a Caribbean restaurant in Brooklyn, was bringing in about $35,000 a week in revenue. The Bank Street Bookstore, a 50-year-old children’s shop in Manhattan, was preparing for busy spring and summer shopping seasons. And Busy Bodies, a play space for children in Brooklyn, had just wrapped up months of packed classes with long waiting lists. Five months later, those once prosperous

Music: Ton Risco & Jacobo de Miguel — ‘Zeta’


A hopeful vision of our planet’s future

By Ramin Skibba, July 31, 2020 In a remote pocket of the Pacific Ocean lie the Marshall Islands, which nearly 60,000 people call home. But the islanders are facing the grim and very real prospect of losing their entire country in their lifetimes. One resident, Selina Leem, spoke at the Paris climate summit in 2015, passionately arguing that she refuses to lose her homeland, which will be inexorably enveloped by

Hot ocean waters along East Coast are drawing in ‘weird’ fish and supercharging hurricane season

The Washington Post reports: Ocean temperatures along the East Coast are near or above their warmest levels on record for this time of year, and they are not only drawing in unusual sea creatures but also helping to fuel the busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record to date. Now, Hurricane Isaias is poised to draw energy from these abnormally toasty waters as it rides up the East Coast and, depending

A Covid-19 vaccine, amazingly, is close. Why am I so worried?

Michael S. Kinch writes: A mere six months after identifying the SARS-CoV-2 virus as the cause of Covid-19, scientists are on the precipice of a having a vaccine to fight it. Moderna and the National Institutes of Health recently announced the start of a Phase 3 clinical trial, joining several others in a constructive rivalry that could save millions of lives. It’s a truly impressive a feat and a testament

Six months into a respiratory pandemic, why are we are still doing so little to mitigate airborne transmission?

Zeynep Tufekci writes: I recently took a drive-through COVID-19 test at the University of North Carolina. Everything was well organized and efficient: I was swabbed for 15 uncomfortable seconds and sent home with two pages of instructions on what to do if I were to test positive, and what precautions people living with or tending to COVID-19 patients should take. The instructions included many detailed sections devoted to preventing transmission

Concerns about waning COVID-19 immunity are likely overblown

Scientific American reports: COVID-19 triggers a strong immune response in most people. Yet several recent studies observed that the amounts of antibodies in those recovering from the virus appear to decline within a few months of infection. The findings set off a frenzy of speculation that immunity to the virus may not last long, throwing cold water on hopes for a vaccine. Many scientists say such worries are overblown, however.

Riding the subway during the pandemic may be safer than you think

The New York Times reports: Five months after the coronavirus outbreak engulfed New York City, riders are still staying away from public transportation in enormous numbers, often because they are concerned that sharing enclosed places with strangers is simply too dangerous. But the picture emerging in major cities across the world suggests that public transportation may not be as risky as nervous New Yorkers believe. In countries where the pandemic

William Barr makes it official — he’s Donald Trump’s new ‘fixer’

Victoria Bassetti and Norman Eisen write: Of President Donald Trump’s many career skills, perhaps the least appreciated is his lifelong and uncanny ability to sniff out lawyers who will serve his will. In slightly more than 500 days in office, Attorney General William Barr has pivoted from establishment D.C. attorney—sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States—into Trump’s family lawyer. The office of the attorney general is

Music: Matthieu Saglio — ‘El Abrazo’