The Price Of A Life | Where COVID is Spreading | EU Picks Sides
May 26, 2020
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.” ― Thomas Merton
So, Is It COVID-19: 2 Or COVID-20?
Memorable Day traditionally marks the unofficial opening of summer in the US.
Restrictions put in place two months ago — when the coronavirus pandemic began spreading for real — are easing up everywhere. The Trump administration has prioritized the economy and downplayed health risks; it has muzzled scientists and health professionals, encouraged activists to demand their states reopen, even threatened governors who wanted to slow the pace. So people with cabin fever and a renewed sense of freedom are venturing out, gathering in crowded spaces, traveling longer distances — and risking a second wave of infections.
Some states have had little viral spread, or “crushed the curve” to a great degree. The US death toll nears 100,000, and while it may be declining in most cities, Covid-19 is beginning to ravage rural America. Last month a University of Texas study found that of the 25 rural counties with the highest per capita case rates, 20 have a meatpacking plant or prison where the virus took hold, spread with abandon, then leaped into the larger populous when workers returned home. Infection has raced through immigrant worker communities, and taken hold in counties where residents flout social distancing guidelines or believe the disease’s lethality is exaggerated.
A recent study estimates 24 states still have uncontrolled coronavirus spread; Texas tops the list. In one Oklahoma county, an internal medicine doctor worries the outbreak is facilitated by people in the conservative farming community not following preventive measures. “[People] don’t seem to know the science behind it. Even though they see the news, they just think it’s all overblown. If you go to the local Walmart … [maybe] 10 percent of people are wearing masks, and the restaurants … that are open are packed.”
- As death toll nears 100,000, some Americans break from social distancing during holiday weekend (CNN)
- Coronavirus: Americans flock to beaches on Memorial Day weekend (BBC)
- GOP governor offers emotional plea to the anti-mask crowd: Stop this senseless culture war (WaPo, $)
- No masks allowed: stores turn customers away in US culture war (Guardian)
- We’ll Be Wearing Things on Our Faces for a Long Time (Atlantic)
- Trump Hasn’t Worn A Mask Publicly. Here’s What Might Convince Him To (NPR)
- Why Are the States Reopening? (Atlantic)
- You’re Getting Used to Masks. Will You Wear a Face Shield? (NYT)
- Will the Coronavirus Kill What’s Left of Americans’ Faith in Washington? (NYT)
Somodevilla via Getty Images
That’s Not A Televised Mistake… That’s A Televised Mistake
- Aides of the US secretary of state may have thought booking Mike Pompeo for an interview with one of the conservative commentators on Rupert Murdoch’s news channel in Australia Sunday morning was pretty low-risk. After all, it was a fringe show with a small audience, hosted by a self-styled “outsider” who loves Donald Trump’s tweets. It was unlikely Pompeo would face tough questioning about the Trump administration’s own performance during the Covid-19 crisis; instead he would have room to criticize China’s lack of transparency over the origins of the pandemic.
- Unfortunately, when Pompeo was asked what he thought about a proposal by the Victorian state government to explore opportunities to cooperate with Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative — something viewed warily in Australian national security circles — the secretary appeared to say if such a partnership came about, the US would suspend information sharing with Australia — a steadfast ally and one of America’s staunchest “Five Eyes” partners.
- The bombshell news spread rapidly; within hours US diplomats were forced to clean up the damage by making clear the US government had “absolute confidence in the Australian government’s ability to protect the security of its telecommunications networks and those of its Five Eyes partners” and Pompeo was simply answering questions about “very remote” hypotheticals.
- The head of Australia’s national security college described the statements as “crude, ill-informed and bad for the health of the Australia-US alliance. [Pompeo] may have been referring to a remote hypothetical but … [it’s] just the kind of language that alliance critics will seize on.” (Guardian)
Stuck In The Middle With EU
- Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, told a group of German diplomats on Monday: “Analysts have long talked about the end of an American-led system and the arrival of an Asian century. This is now happening in front of our eyes.” He added that the coronavirus pandemic could be seen as a turning point and that the “pressure to choose sides is growing.”
- The remarks appear to confirm the EU will speed up a shift to a more independent and aggressive posture toward Beijing. Borrell said the 27-nation bloc “should follow our own interests and values” and avoid being used by either side. “We need a more robust strategy for China, which also requires better relations with the rest of democratic Asia,” he added.
- The EU has been reluctant to side with President Trump’s confrontational stance toward China, but analysts say Beijing’s assault on the independence of Hong Kong, its growing willingness to side with Europe’s populists and its refusal to open its markets has led to a change of heart. (Guardian)
- Taiwan promises ‘support’ for Hong Kong’s people as China tightens grip (Guardian)
- Why China’s Move to Rein In Hong Kong Is Just the Start (NYT, $)
- Germany’s Lessons for China and America (NYT, $)
- How Upbeat Vaccine News Fueled a Stock Surge, and an Uproar (NYT)
- Results from the remdesivir COVID-19 trial are out, and it’s good news (Ars Technica)
- The Coronavirus Vaccine Is on Track to Be the Fastest Ever Developed (New Yorker)
- How to weigh the risk of going out in the coronavirus pandemic, in one chart (Vox)
- Coronavirus Does Not Spread Easily on Surfaces, C.D.C. Says (NYT)
- Pandemic Disrupts Illegal Drug Trade, Upending Both Product And Profits (NPR)
- One final viral infusion: Trump’s move to block travel from Europe triggered chaos and a surge of passengers from the outbreak’s center (WaPo, $)
- Coronavirus: How scared should we be? (BBC)
- No One Knows What’s Going to Happen (NYT, $)
- How did the Covidsafe app go from being vital to almost irrelevant? (Guardian)
- 6 feet away isn’t enough. Covid-19 risk involves other dimensions, too. (Vox)
- C.D.C. Test Counting Error Leaves Epidemiologists ‘Really Baffled’ (NYT)
Kevork Djansezian via Getty Images
Mail In Ballots Are Not Getting Republicans’ Stamp Of Approval
- The ‘old’ Republican Party used to stand for states’ rights, but this is the Trump Republican Party. Three GOP groups, including the Republican National Committee, are suing California governor Gavin Newsome over his executive order to use mail-in ballots for the November election. The Democratic governor’s move came in response to the coronavirus pandemic and health risks likely surrounding crowded polling places.
- California is now the first state in the country to commit to sending mail-in ballots to all registered voters for the November election. The RNC’s chairwoman called Newsome’s EO “the latest direct assault on the integrity of our elections.”
- Last week Trump denounced plans to expand voting by mail in Michigan and Nevada. He briefly threatened to withhold federal funding for the two states but dropped the warning after an avalanche of criticism.
- Republicans contend mail-in voting is susceptible to fraud although no definitive evidence exists to support the claim. (Reuters)
Additional USA News
- Jonathan Haidt Is Trying to Heal America’s Divisions (Atlantic)
- Trump reportedly wants to restrict visa programs for skilled workers (Vox)
- Elizabeth Warren to Hold Big-Dollar Fund-Raiser for Joe Biden (NYT, $)
- We Need to Speak Honestly About the GOP’s Evolution Into a Conspiracy Cult (Washington Monthly) & Bill Gates Conspiracy Theories Have Circulated For Years. It Took The Coronavirus Pandemic To Turn Him Into A Fake Villain. (BuzzFeed News) & Why the Pandemic Is Driving Conservative Intellectuals Mad (New Republic, $)
Saving The Lives Of Thousands Of People… Priceless
- In late March President Trump said he didn’t think the economic devastation from stay-at-home orders was a good trade off for avoiding Covid-19 deaths. But even as he was tweeting “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” economists across the country were already working on the exact kind of cost-benefit analysis implied by the president. They reached a very different conclusion from Trump.
- Economists at the University of Wyoming estimated the economic benefits from lives saved by efforts to “flatten the curve” outweighed the projected massive hit to the nation’s economy by a staggering $5.2 trillion. Another study by University of Chicago economists estimated the savings from social distancing could be so huge, “it is difficult to think of any intervention with such large potential benefits to American citizens.” In other words, economists are saying, “the cure” doesn’t come at a cost at all when factoring in the economic value of the lives saved.
- This type of calculation — known as Value of a Statistical Life or VSL — is the amount people are willing to spend to cut risk enough to save one life. The VSL at most federal agencies, developed over decades, is about $10 million. If a new regulation is estimated to avoid one death a year, it can cost up to $10 million and still make economic sense.
- Two key federal agencies that have previously used VSL research to support policy decisions under Trump — the CDC and the White House Office of Management and Budget, which oversees federal regulations — say they are not using this type of cost-benefit analysis in their response to the pandemic. In other words, in the political debate over letting the economy reopen or protecting more lives, a VSL hasn’t even entered the discussion. (WaPo)
- Vice dressed as virtue (Aeon)
- The Healing Power of Proper Breathing (WSJ, $)
- The ‘law’ that explains why you can’t get anything done (BBC)
- Out-of-Sync ‘Loners’ May Secretly Protect Orderly Swarms (Quanta Magazine)
- John Malkovich: ‘I had a lot of violence growing up, but so what?’ (Guardian) A fascinating read and we have even more appreciation now for Being John Malkovich.
- Is this the end of productivity? (Vox)