Revenge of the Nerds

We've learned the hard way that Covid doesn't care about your misinformed political beliefs. Well, thankfully, neither do the nerds. While science is being relentlessly attacked, scientists are absolutely killing it. These new RNA vaccines are game changers for this pandemic and for global health in general. "It's worth pausing to reflect on where we are: At the one-year anniversary of the first detection in China of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the pathogen that causes Covid-19, there are now two highly effective vaccine candidates developed at a record pace, both using mRNA, a new vaccine technology that has never before been approved for use in humans." Vox: Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, with 95% effectiveness, just came a little closer to emergency approval.

+ Wired: Larry Brilliant Says We'll Beat Covid—After We Go Through Hell. "Science has proven we can develop a vaccine that not only creates neutralizing antibodies but prevents the disease. You can't underestimate how important that is. Right on the heels of that, we have now got two good candidates for treatment—monoclonal antibodies, the Lilly one having received FDA approval, the Regeneron one shortly behind it. Right behind that we have almost 150 vaccine candidates and 150-plus candidates for treatment. And for the first time in history, in large part because of Bill Gates' challenge, the vaccine has been produced at the same time as it was being developed. Huge amounts have been manufactured in anticipation of a positive, meaning a successful, vaccine. That is all absolutely incredible." (Maybe the craziest of all alt right attacks is on Bill Gates. Getting vaccines produced quickly is a challenge. Thanks in part to Gates, they're already being produced. I'm a rabid Windows, Clippy, and IE6-hating Mac lifer, and even I admit Gates is a hero in this fight. I mean, obviously if Steve Jobs were alive, the vaccine would have better packaging and a more elegant user experience, but you can't have everything...)

+ "The next phase of this race will depend on the herculean task of producing these tiny vials of vaccine at a vast scale nearly overnight and distributing millions of doses without wasting any. Getting a vaccine into people's arms is a meticulously choreographed high-wire act that must not falter at any juncture, and distribution looms as among the most daunting challenges." WaPo: A vial, a vaccine and hopes for slowing a pandemic — how a shot comes to be. (This is just one of the reasons why the refusal of the administration to procede with the transition is so tragic.)

+ NYT: Immunity to the Coronavirus May Last Years, New Data Hint.

+ NYT: How the Out-of-Control Pandemic Is Speeding the Hunt for Vaccines. "We are seeing something apocalyptic play out in terms of the level of transmission in the country right now. Unfortunately, this pandemic is still raging, and that affords lots of opportunities to look at vaccine efficacy." (Just when you thought irony was knocked out, it picks itself up off the canvas.)

+ NPR: FDA Approves 1st At-Home Coronavirus Test.

+ LA Times: Dolly Parton is also surprised she helped fund Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine. Dolly Parton is so good she does good stuff she doesn't even know about...


Is There a Doctor (Left) in the House?

While vaccine progress is surpassing the most optimistic projections, the virus spread is living up to our worst fears. As the US tops 250,000 deaths, more than 3 million Americans are estimated to be contagious with the virus.

+ The surge is proving to be unmanageable for many hospitals. 900 on Mayo Clinic staff have contracted coronavirus in last two weeks. And that's part of a broader trend: Twenty-two percent of American hospitals don't have enough workers right now.

+ Chuck Grassley, second oldest senator (and third in the line of succession to the presidency) tests positive for COVID-19. From the halls of power to the smallest towns, Covid doesn't care who you are or where you are. Texas Monthly: COVID Is Everywhere, Even in the Last COVID-Free County.


Hearts of Palm Oil

"Women are burdened with some of the industry's most difficult and dangerous jobs, spending hours waist-deep in water tainted by chemical runoff and carrying loads so heavy that, over time, their wombs can collapse and protrude. Many are hired by subcontractors on a day-to-day basis without benefits, performing the same jobs for the same companies for years – even decades. They often work without pay to help their husbands meet otherwise impossible daily quotas." A special report from AP: Rape, abuses in palm oil fields linked to top beauty brands.


The Man Who Knew Too Much

"The Justice Department spent years investigating Cienfuegos, who served as Mexico's top defense official from 2012 to 2018 under then-president Enrique Peña Nieto. Prosecutors said they discovered thousands of exchanges that showed that he was also working with the H-2 cartel to expand its territory and move drugs into the United States. It appeared to be a blockbuster case, revealing deep connections between the Mexican state and the country's criminal underworld." U.S. judge drops narco-trafficking charges against former Mexican defense minister. (This is such a meta drug war story. You can't go after one dirty official because they know about the other dirty officials. And I'm sure this deal has nothing to do with the fact that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador still refuses to congratulate Joe Biden and admit the US election is over. So many people have died in this phony, failed, farce of a war.)


Kim Possible

"Suzyn Waldman, the Yankees' broadcaster, cried when she heard the news. Mariana Patraca, a Latin America operations assistant with the Diamondbacks, parked and sat in her car, scrolling through Twitter. Andrea Nuñez, a strength and conditioning coach in the Angels' organization, summoned all her self-control to keep from jumping up and down at Disney World." SI on the first female GM in Major League Baseball. What Kim Ng's ascent means to the women of baseball. (There's no crying in baseball, but it's OK to choke up a little.)

+ "In 2000, Derek Jeter presented Kim Ng with a Women in Sports and Events award for her pioneering work with the Yankees. Ng used a video from the event to tell her family that Jeter had hired her as general manager of the Marlins." NYT: Kim Ng Has Been Ready for Years.


Coup de Shill

"In an abrupt about-face, Michigan's largest county on Tuesday night unanimously certified election results showing Democrat Joe Biden defeating President Donald Trump, hours after Republicans first blocked formal approval of voters' intentions."

+ "Trump announced the firing of Christopher Krebs, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, also known as CISA, in a tweet that was itself flagged within minutes by Twitter for pushing false claims of election fraud." Trump Fired a Top Election Cybersecurity Official Who Repeatedly Rebuked Baseless Claims of Voting Fraud. This firing had it all. It was done via tweet, the tweet was full of lies, Krebs was fired for telling the truth, the enablers were silent, our security was hampered, our enemies are emboldened, our democracy took it in the chops. USA! USA!

+ David Ignatius in WaPo: "President Trump may be rattling our nerves with his baseless claims of fraud and his vindictive firings. But the two weeks since the election should give Americans greater confidence that our democracy can't so easily be subverted." (True, but... It may be a pathetic coup. It may be carried out by laughable sycophants in the name of a mad man. But the president is trying to overturn accurate election results, refusing to concede, and firing everyone who tells the truth. That seems like a big deal.)

+ "Brann asked what standard of review he should apply in the case. 'I think the normal one,' Giuliani replied. 'Maybe I don't understand what you mean by strict scrutiny,' Giuliani said at another point. At a different moment, Giuliani said: 'I'm not quite sure what ‘opacity' means. It probably means you can see.' The judge responded: 'It means you can't.'" WaPo: Here's what happened when Rudolph Giuliani made his first appearance in federal court in nearly three decades.

+ Rudy was hilariously awful enough to be named as a partner at the Four Seasons Total Law Firm, but here's the thing. Not everyone is laughing. Half of Republicans say Biden won because of a 'rigged' election.

+ Trump pays $3 million for recount of 2 Wisconsin counties. (Pro tip: Have him pay in advance.)


Airing Dirty French Laundry

"A day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom apologized for attending a birthday party at Yountville's French Laundry that violated his state's COVID-19 guidelines, newly released photos are raising additional questions about the incident." Even if the risk was low, attending this event was a horrible decision by Newsom. It gives fuel to the restriction naysayers, and it's the opposite of leading by example. Covid is terrible. But it does present a moment for all of us to be in one fight together. Leaders need to act like it.


Magnetic Poles

"Since October 22nd, hundreds of thousands across Poland have been protesting—in five hundred and eighty cities and towns, by one organizer's count. In some places, including the town of Kościerzyna, population twenty-four thousand, more than ten per cent of residents have taken to the streets. The umbrella term for the protests is 'Women's Strike,' though it's not just women participating, and it's not exactly a strike." Masha Gessen in The New Yorker: The Abortion Protests in Poland Are Starting to Feel Like a Revolution.


Van Life

"On an overcast morning in the spring of 1984, Kurt Jefferis and Tom Winnick, a couple of college-age bros of no particular renown, departed the world of normalcy in a stretch limousine to embark on a rock-and-roll fantasy. Their destination: Detroit. More accurately: oblivion." Our ‘Lost' Weekend With Van Halen. A couple college dudes won an MTV contest to tour with Van Halen. Then all hell broke loose. (This story depicts and reality that is pretty similar to how the newsletter writer lifestyle was back in the day.)

+ Wolfgang Van Halen's very nice tribute song/video for his dad Eddie.


Bottom of the News

"Thanks to some handy time-lapse video, we see that houseplants are actually quite active, stretching, bending, twirling and moving throughout the day." Today I learned that if you ignore my fingers, I remain much more still than a fern.

+ Michael B. Jordan is People's Sexiest Man Alive 2020. I've been a fan since he was QB 1 on Friday Night Lights, and I concur. Therefore, he's also NextDraft's Sexiest Man Alive 2020 (which is gonna really bum out my proofer, RD.)

+ 25 Words That Are Their Own Opposites.