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December 28, 2021

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Thanks for the links, lj - I was wondering about Japan as an outlier myself.

I read "The Vaccine: Inside the Race to Conquer the Covid 19 Pandemic" by Joe Miller over Christmas.

https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250280374/thevaccine

It's the story of Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci, the founders of BioNTech, the company that developed the so-called Pfizer vaccine. It's a fascinating read, covering the research, bureaucratic and the business aspects (not only a brilliant scientist, Sahin is also a gifted entrepreneur) of the development of the vaccine.

But the most interesting aspect for me was the character of the couple (they're married), their calmness and determination in pursuit of their goal. It also made me really angry being faced with vaccine refuseniks, the below article expresses my feeling quite quell, lol:

https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/oh-my-fucking-god-get-the-fucking-vaccine-already-you-fucking-fucks

Criticism ( not from vax deniers) of the Biden Administration’s Covid policies.

https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2021/12/administrations-obvious-covid-flail-officially-abdicates-as-case-count-hits-record-pundits-and-press-misrepresent-data-to-put-happy-face-on-omicron.html

I don’t agree with the last point ( the Gottlieb tweet). I am also not sure about the implications of this five day policy, but it does come across as more political than science driven.

And before Covid I had this vague impression that the CDC was this super competent organization.

Clarifying my position on the Gottlieb tweet— I agree our health care system is a disgrace but it is fair I think to point this out in trying to get people to get the vaccine. It’s the truth and it might work on people whose reluctance hasn’t been based on culture war crap.

It's not really possible to follow it super closely from here, but my impression of Biden talking about individual states running COVID policy was that it was due to resistance in any number of states to any kind of Federal effort. The Federal government can only help states if they want to be helped. That's a depressing realpolitik views, but this article suggests that it is taken out of context
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/12/no-joe-biden-did-not-just-surrender-to-the-omicron-variant.html

Not really a pull graf, so this will have to suffice.
In any case, Biden’s leftist critics aren’t wrong to think that a change in the administration’s posture is afoot. And their inclination to view the president’s rebalancing of priorities uncharitably is understandable. No CDC guidance will be sufficient to make the federal response to COVID just or equitable. The fundamental reality is that there is no non-obscene means of satisfying pandemic-era economic, epidemiological, and social imperatives in a nation where workers are not guaranteed paid sick leave, universal health care, or other labor protections common to most wealthy nations. No matter what balance the federal government strikes — whether it favors economic growth over public health or vice versa — the brunt will fall on working people. And this is all the more true now that the reigning Democratic trifecta has presided over the expiration of almost all the relief programs that had previously mitigated workers’ burdens.

Concerning the CDC, I think it had the same issues as the State Department with Trump's budget
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/mar/24/trump-cuts-undermine-coronavirus-containment-cdc-watchdog-report

A lot of the press discussed the cuts in the CDC related to COVID, but I assume that the cuts were general throughout the organization.

I might have to subscribe to nymag at some point. Long ago I used to think of them as neolib central, like the New Republic of the 90’s, but if that was ever correct it isn’t now. Eric Levitz is really good the few times I have read him.

a deep well of xenophobia that, being Japan, never really disappears.

It appears, from afar, that the Japanese** really have only three choices.
- They can accept a stream of immigrants, acculturate them, and maintain their culture. At the cost of racial purity.
- They can maintain racial purity by rejecting immigration, and watch their population grey, shrink, and grow steadily poorer.
- They can drastically alter their culture, to the point that young Japanese women are interested in starting big families. (Figure this one for the least likely to be embraced.)

I understand that they are in denial on that. And robotics will help them put off implosion for a while. But there really isn't any other option.

** Just for the record, China seems to have a quite similar situation. Having an autocratic, and overwhelmingly male, government seems to be resulting in them trying for option 3. But it looks like it's not working so far.

On the COVID front, I've spent all the "break" time since Christmas trying to get a syllabus and assignments put together for next term - which shifted to online remote for the first two weeks (at least).

Of course this probably means that a lot of students (the ones without local part-time jobs) will just stay with their parents an additional two weeks rather than returning to campus, which will add another several days of potential quarantine time and adaptation before the classes get settled and working.

Puts an already tight class schedule (10 week quarters) under even more time crunch with less than ideal learning conditions.

It's especially hard on the first-gen students, who tend to have poor connectivity, less privacy, and more schedule demands with part-time jobs to accommodate.

Good times.

@Donald-- the first part of this article was enough to make me start thinking along the same lines as you:

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/dr-oz-senate-pennsylvania.html

still chuckling about that phone call.

All the numbers -- cases, positive test rate, hospitalization, ICU -- are up sharply here this week. And in three weeks, 20,000 college students come back to town.

Well, almost all the numbers. New cases now exceed vaccinations given per day.

Couldn't stand it and went out to dinner yesterday. Everyone who came in was masked, and kept them on except when seated. Didn't hear any complaints. It wasn't busy and the staff -- also all masked -- seemed to be making a point to leave an empty table or booth between parties.

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