Saturday, January 08, 2022

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- John Michael McGrath writes that the Omicron wave of COVID may manage to be the most disruptive year, while Alex Press discusses how its effects at an individual level may differ drastically based on one's income.

- Ed Yong warns that the U.S.' health care system is grossly underequipped to deal with the Omicron wave. Ashleigh Stewart reports on the impending nursing shortage in Canada, while Nicholas Frew reports on projections that Alberta will soon see record high hospitalization levels. Lindsay Tanner and Mike Stobbe report on the U.S.' soaring COVID hospitalization numbers among children too young to be vaccinated. Roni Caryn Rabin notes that even children who recover from initial symptoms are at a higher risk of developing diabetes.

- Sharon Kirkey summarizes the current state of knowledge around long COVID - including the devastating effects people have suffered already, and the great unknowns about longer-term damage. Reuters reports on Finland's warning that it may become the country's largest and most severe chronic disease.

- But in case anybody thought greater awareness of the consequences of COVID and its variants would lead to more responsible choices, Adam Hunter reports on the Moe government's refusal to implement any limitations on gatherings even as health officials beg people to be more responsible than their political leaders. Jim Stanford rightly calls out the trend of Canadian employers demanding that employees come to work while infected and infectious, while Alex Press points out the same trend in the U.S. And Katherine Wu discusses the complete lack of logic behind the CDC's latest self-isolation guidelines.

- Finally, Scott Schmidt blasts the conservative messaging machine for having the nerve to blame others for the decisions of right-wing governments to expose people to avoidable risk while undermining any public response.

Friday, January 07, 2022

Musical interlude

Bonobo feat. Jordan Rakei - Shadows

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Bruce Arthur writes that Doug Ford's photo ops around empty hospital beds don't signal any useful accomplishment when they're not paired with solutions to the staffing crisis. Jessie Anton reports on the alarm bells sounding about Saskatchewan's health care system, while Nathaniel Dove highlights Cory Neudorf's recognition that we need to do far more to limit community transmission in order to make schools anything close to safe. Sara Mojtehedzadeh points out how people stand to lose out on treatment and income supports due to the lack of availability of COVID tests, while Kendall Latimer reports on the statement by Saskatchewan's Workers' Compensation Board that the Moe government's attempt to get people not to have PCR tests done will deprive anyone who listens of their expected income support. Colin Furness makes the case for a broad shift to wearing N95 masks. 

- Max Fawcett discusses the need to stop putting up with the anti-social effects of anti-vaxxers and the right-wing politicians who coddle them. 

- Hadas Thier makes the case for a response to inflation which reins in profiteering while ensuring people have the resources they need to secure the necessities of life. And Stephen Wentzell notes that workers actually stand to benefit from the economic conditions which lead to inflation - as long as the rug isn't pulled out just as gains start to filter down to the people who have contributed to larger profits. 

- Finally, Phil McKenna reports on the environmental fallout from poorly-regulated fossil fuel extraction and processing - including far more abandoned wells than may have previously been assumed.  

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- CBC News reports that Saskatchewan's children's hospital is among the health care facilities with an internal outbreak, while Laura Sciarpelletti talks to some of the parents begging the provincial government to limit transmission in schools.

- Moira Wyton reports on British Columbia's warning to businesses that they need to be prepared for major worker shortages - though the apparent decision to let that happen only following the spread of a disease rather than through choices which actually keep people healthy is left without any adequate explanation. And Josh Rubin notes that while corporate interests and deficit scolding have dominated most discussion of COVID policy, it's workers who are being faced into impossible choices in trying to get by now that public supports have been slashed.

- Robert Reich describes the "Potterizing" of the U.S. as policy is systematically made to enrich corporate oligarchs and rent-seekers rather than to benefit people. And Noah Smith interviews Ryan Petersen about the causes of the supply chain crisis - including the short-term focus on shareholder payouts rather than investments in people and infrastructure.

- Nathan Robinson writes that the backlash against Don't Look Up misses the central point contrasting the self-interest of billionaires against the possibility of collective action. And George Monbiot discusses how the movie mirrors his experience as a climate campaigner. 

- Leyland Cecco reports on the continued spread of an unexplained neurological condition among New Brunswick children in the face of alarming official denial.

- Erika Shaker makes the case for student loan relief to ensure that people who have worked toward higher education aren't limited in their future choices due to resulting debt.

- Finally, Jeremy Sherman discusses the need to make sure that the all-too-familiar sociopathic model of political communication is challenged and weakened. And Johann Hari writes about the concerted effort to undermine our ability to concentrate rather than having our attention dictated by corporate manipulations.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Madhukar Pai and Manu Prakash discuss how artificially limited vaccination is allowing COVID variants to get the jump on any attempt to protect public health, while Felicia Ceban et al. find that widespread fatigue and cognitive impairment are among the prices of letting the coronavirus run rampant. An open letter calls out Francois Legault for again using ineffective curfews as a substitute for effective public health measures in workplaces and commercial environments, while Bruce Arthur notes that Ontario's delayed reaction may come too late to have any discernible impact. And David Leonhardt discusses how far too many political leaders have prioritized profit-making and adult convenience and entertainment over children's well-being and development, while Maggie Astor writes about the agonizing choices parents face where governments haven't left any tolerable options. 

- Meanwhile, Kate Pickett et al. study the social determinants of children's health, along with the causes of health inequity. And Jeremy Appel reports on the National Advisory Council on Poverty's latest report showing the path out of poverty for marginalized people in the wake of the pandemic.

- Rebecca Altman highlights how plastic production is both worse for the climate than we're generally led to assume, and mostly avoidable if we don't allow the fossil fuel industry's manufactured demand to dictate our economic choices. 

- Rick Smith is hopeful that we can make a path toward climate progress into a normal and boring aspect of life. Ashley Kulkarni writes about a few of the options for more urban design and planning that better mitigates against the effects of climate change. And Julius Melnitzer highlights how energy workers are transitioning away from fossil fuels on their own.

- Finally, Dyanoosh Youssefi points out the need to stop over-incarcerating Indigenous people. 

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Grasping cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Shree Paradkar laments the folly of making the same mistakes over and over again throughout the course of a continuing pandemic, while Crawford Kilian offers his own list of lessons we should have learned by now. And Andrew Nikiforuk provides some suggestions to people navigating the newest wave - including going beyond the minimum (or lower) standards that have been established by governments who seem all too willing to let the Omicron variant tear through their populations.  

- Austin Landis and Reuben Jones report on Anthony Fauci's recognition that even cases classified as "mild" may lead to a lifetime of long-haul neurological and other symptoms. Peter Hall et al. find direct relationships between both infection and symptom severity, and cognitive dysfunction. And as COVID minimizers try to excuse their own negligence by distinguishing between health effects "with COVID" and "from COVID", Firas Raheman et al. conclude (PDF) that the coronavirus correlates with more severe outcomes even among patients with a condition as obviously unrelated as a hip fracture. 

- Stephen Maher writes about the importance of countering the flood of misinformation spilling out from the U.S. And Paul Frost, Marguerite Xenopoulos, Michael Epp and Michael Hickson discuss how to push back against antivaxxers and other bad-faith actors. But Richard Luscombe reports on Thomas Homer-Dixon's warning that propaganda may be the least of our worries if the U.S. comes under a right-wing dictatorship - as seems all too plausible over the next few years.  

- David Milstead reports on the massive bonuses taken by grocery executives at the same time they've raised prices on consumers and slashed any pandemic benefits for workers. And the CCPA points out another year of gross inequality between CEOs and workers generally, even as compensation structures were reconfigured to allow employers to take wage subsidies. 

- Finally, Anton Jager discusses how the supposed "post-politics" era has given way to "hyper-politics" in which issues are recognized to be political, but a lack of organization makes it impossible to actually give effect to people's preferences and interests. 

Monday, January 03, 2022

On voluntary efforts

The past few days have seen the emergence of an effort to build up self-reporting capacity to fill in where provincial governments are choosing to be wilfully blind to COVID caseloads - as well as a response questioning whether people should be willing to provide information to that project. 

Now, I certainly wouldn't dispute the point that if governments at any level were putting resources into a reliable source of COVID case tracking data tied into a reliable testing sample, we'd be far better served using that than any voluntary alternative. 

Sadly, that option doesn't exist. To the contrary, plenty of provinces are doing everything in their power to push testing (and thus results) into the private and personal realms, while also withholding the information they do have in their possession.

That game-playing with crucial public health information would be dangerous enough as a matter of normal accountability. It's downright suicidal where the same governments going out of their way to close the door on case tracking are the sames ones who have repeatedly launched into a "nothing to see here!" routine even when it was a matter of widespread awareness that cases, hospitalizations and deaths were spiking. 

We shouldn't respond to deadly know-nothingism by simply accepting the self-interested decision of negligent leaders that nothing can be known. And the attempted alternative - flawed though it's been so far - serves as an example of what citizens may need to do in order to account for governments abandoning all sorts of fields where action would be in the public interest. (This is a familiar issue given the development of tent cities, harm reduction sites and other stopgap community measures which have emerged to take care of people whose lives apparently aren't seen as worth saving by the people who hold the power of the state.)

From the standpoint of having a means of actually collecting data about a pandemic which governments are all eager to put out of sight and out of mind, we should be applauding - not criticizing - the people putting in the time to assemble one. And from the standpoint of collecting information, it's also worthwhile for people to consider reporting rather than rejecting the possibility of non-state data collection - once we can be satisfied that there isn't undue risk in providing our own information. 

In the case of ReportMyRapidTest, it's worth noting that there was some thought as to levels of privacy within its initial design, which makes names and other identifying information optional. And to his credit, since the systemic problems with the initial database were pointed out, Kevin Liu has recognized the need to start putting together appropriate security architecture and privacy governance to ensure that any sensitive information actually provided is properly protected.

From here, the path forward should then be for people with concerns to participate in strengthening the protection the voluntary site is able to offer, ideally to allow it to reach a level of security which makes them comfortable participating as well. 

Ideally, the end result will be for our political leaders to get back into the picture based on the recognition that it's an embarrassment for community-minded volunteers to have to develop alternatives to basic government functions. But if they refuse to do so, we're far better off cooperating to redevelop the pillars of civil society, rather than simply taking the word of ideologically-driven politicians that they need to be left in ruins.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- CTV reports on Alberta Health Services' recognition that tens of thousands of the province's residents project to suffer from long COVID. Alex McKeen reports on Ontario's missing health care workers as the Omicron variant runs rampant, while Enzo Dimatteo examines the potentially catastrophic consequences of a collapse in testing capacity. Clare Ansberry and Nidhi Subarraman chime in on the growing recognition that cloth masks fall short of cutting down sufficiently on the spread of Omicron. And Emily Oster discusses the risks of COVID for small children who can't get vaccinated.

- Tobias Debell and Mathieu Rousselin ask whether it's possible to move past the neoliberal belief system which has exacerbated the pandemic (along with so many other crises). And Andrew Parkin notes that while public opinion in Canada has changed very little in the wake of COVID-19, the general population remains strongly in favour of using the power of government to reduce inequality between the rich and the poor.

- Meanwhile, Branko Marcetic writes that Don't Look Up is particularly noteworthy in exposing the sheer stupidity of political discourse in comparison to the seriousness of the issues which actually require political resolution.

- David Wallace-Wells discusses the horrifying urban firestorms in Colorado as a new development in the breakdown of our climate. Harry Brechner, Anna Greenwood-Lee and Richard Kool call for a coherent and focused social fight to prevent it from deteriorating further. And Heather Short pushes people to move from words to direct climate action.

- Finally, Philip Goff writes that a land tax could go a long way toward ensuring the people with the most wealth contribute their fair share toward a society that works for everybody.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Ryan Cooper highlights the reasons to be careful about any COVID minimizers seeking to declare the Omicron variant as too mild to cause problems for our health care system. Ryan Patrick Jones reports on the choice of Ontario (and other provinces) to choose out-of-control transmission over any effort to limit the magnitude of the fifth wave. And David Robertson and Peter Doshi discuss what it means to end a pandemic - though it's worth noting that several attempts to declare it over by their definition have already given way to the realities of ongoing death and destruction.

- Eric Doland reports on new research showing a less-than-surprising connection between COVID denialism and infection with the disease. And Devi Sridhar discusses how weaponized misinformation has also resulted in threats to the experts working to keep us up to date with accurate data.

- Meanwhile, Tim Lister discusses how Cuba and other Latin American countries have been able to achieve an exceptionally high vaccination rate - with Cuba's home-grown vaccine development and manufacturing serving as a particularly positive success story.

- Catherine Bennett writes about the folly of demanding that satire such as Don't Look Up be toned down to be less absurd than the reality it's attempting to mimic. 

- And finally, if we needed more examples of our laughable neglect of the climate breakdown, Bloomberg reports on one U.S. operator's methane cloud visible from space which didn't need to be reported for emissions accounting purposes because it arose out of normal maintenance activities.