Thursday, December 2nd, 2021


For Those About to Grok

We don't know enough about omicron to know what to expect. That will take a couple more weeks. But we know some things. We know it spreads really fast. South Africa's new cases doubled in 24 hours. We know that so far, the cases associated with the new variant have been relatively mild. (We need more time to see if that holds.) We know that Omicron is in the US. We had a case in San Francisco and a Minnesota man who's been diagnosed with omicron recently attended NYC anime convention at Javits Center. We know that leaders around the world will push for more caution and more vaccinations (Germany is cutting off many activities to the unvaccinated and moving towards mandatory vaccinations, and they won't be the last country to do so). We know that there will be pushback to these sane restrictions and that there are some folks who seem unconvincible. Uninsured adults, Republicans, and white evangelicals continue to lag in vaccine uptake with one in four saying they definitely won't get the vaccine. And we know that while omicron could be bad, it could also have an upside. Rachel Gutman in The Atlantic: Omicron's Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios. "If Omicron continues to show signs of being milder than Delta, that's good news, of course. But if it also turns out to spread more quickly than Delta, that could be great news." (A lot has to go our way for this to happen, so don't spike the spike protein just yet.)

+ "Biden's plan to fight the coronavirus this winter is a battle of increments: efforts to get booster shots into the arms of all adults and especially seniors, setting up family vaccine clinics, offering more free and lower-cost at-home testing options, stockpiling antiviral pills and readying strike teams to help states with outbreaks." (Tests should be available free at every library, government building, pharmacy, etc.)

+ Here are the latest (free) updates from WaPo.


Tennis Gut Check

"Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way. While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation." So said WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon as the Women's Tennis Association suspends tournaments in China over concern about Peng Shuai. (More organizations should follow the WTA's lead.)


The Streets of San Francisco

In many ways, the Fentanyl crisis is America's perfect storm of a bad story. Pharmaceutical companies pushed opioids even though there were clear signs they were highly addictive. While hospital workers had overdosed on the much stronger Fentanyl (which was originally reserved for use during surgery), that drug was released into the market as well. For years, the DEA let pill mills and quack doctors hand out these painkillers like Tic Tacs. Finally, the pill mills were shut down. But people were already addicted. El Chapo and his ilk, knowing that marijuana legalization would remove that crop from the profit ledger, decided to feed the addicted with illegal, stronger Fentanyl. Similar drugs began arriving from China. Suddenly, every pill popped to feed an addiction could be the last thing a person ever swallowed. And like everything else aside from the stock market gains of those at the top, the pandemic made matters worse. The San Francisco Chronicle's Heather Knight picks up the story through the eyes of one mom trying to save a daughter after already losing a son to America's horrific scourge. She set out to save her daughter from fentanyl. She had no idea what she would face on the streets of San Francisco. Sadly, those streets run all the way across the country.


Oral Exam

"Oral argument signaled that the Court is poised to reverse Roe outright when it decides Dobbs, probably sometime in June or early July. That would be one of the most significant reversals of Supreme Court precedent in American history. Roe v. Wade has been the law for 50 years. Even Brett Kavanaugh spent much of his confirmation hearing proclaiming his fidelity to precedent." The Atlantic: The End of Roe. (In ended when Garland was blocked and Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed. This Court was built to overturn Roe and a lot more.)

+ "The commute is exhausting, of course, but I've seen firsthand how this care is so important to a patient's autonomy over their own body." WaPo: This doctor commutes 800 miles to provide abortion services in underserved communities.


Things to Do in Denver When Your Dread

"It's been 224 consecutive days (and counting) since it snowed a measurable amount in Denver, and it has just broken the record for the latest date for a first snowfall -- a record that has held since snowfall records began in 1882. In that time, Denver has never entered December without measurable snow."

+ Believe me, I'm not pointing fingers. California water districts to get 0% of requested supplies in unprecedented decision.


Beverly Hills Murder

"'I don't think it's a random attack, but I can't speculate on that right now,' said Beverly Hills Police Department Chief Mark Stainbrook, who spoke to reporters at a news conference." Philanthropist Jacqueline Avant, wife of music exec. Clarence Avant, is fatally shot. Her husband Clarence is known as the Godfather of Black Music. "Their daughter Nicole Avant is a film producer who was the U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas from 2009 to 2011. She is married to Ted Sarandos and worked on a 2019 Netflix documentary about her father." (I have a feeling this story is going to get a lot bigger.)


Robots (And Rotops)

"Scientists say they've witnessed a never-before-seen type of replication in organic robots created in the lab using frog cells. Among other things, the findings could have implications for regenerative medicine. The discovery involves a xenobot – a simple, 'programmable' organism that is created by assembling stem cells in a Petri dish." Living robots made in a lab have found a new way to self-replicate. (And that's good news. No really.)


Thou Sloth Protest Too Much

"It's not their fault that sloths are so bad at crossing the street. Far from a symptom of the deadly sin from which they get their name, the mammals' molasses-slow movement is adaptive." How to Design a City for Sloths. (They should study my kids' bedrooms.)


Positive Reinforcement

"Under protocols that were in effect at the time, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Trump should have immediately quarantined himself. Four employees at the White House residence had tested positive for COVID shortly before he got his result." All the Places Trump Went After Secretly Testing Positive for Covid. (You knew he was terrible. What bothers you is that this won't dent his support.)


Bottom of the News

NPR is out with its list of the top 100 songs of 2021. You can find links to the playlist versions of the list towards the top. (My most listened to track of 2021 was, "Oh My God, You Are So Annoying" performed by my daughter.)

+ BBC: What I learned eating at 8,000 Chinese restaurants. "The best place to find the most varied authentic Chinese foods in America is the San Gabriel Valley in LA, a Chinese immigrant enclave, he said, but for dim sum, San Francisco is the best bet." (I'm always happy when people say they're leaving San Francisco. It means shorter lines at Yank Sing.)

+ Square is changing its name to Block. (That makes Jack the Blockhead?)

+ Austrian surgeon fined for amputating wrong leg. (It'll cost her an arm and a nothing.)

+ For that last line alone you should buy several copies of my book.