Europe is again grappling with a problem we in the US are really lucky to have avoided. European and British regulators now seem to be increasingly confident the AstraZeneca vaccine is associated with a serious but extremely rare blood-clotting side effect. Until now the UK – which has one of the world’s leading vaccination campaigns – has rejected reports of adverse side effects. But now they’re seeing them too and are recommending those under 30 get other vaccines. (There’s some indication younger people may be more susceptible to the side effect; and of course they face less threat from COVID.)
This isn’t just a major setback for Europe. It’s a major setback for the whole world. The global effort to vaccinate the populations of poorer nations (COVAX) relies heavily on the AstraZeneca vaccine because it requires less complex refrigeration and transport technology.
Somehow yesterday I happened on this December article about COVID vaccines by David Wallace-Wells in New York Magazine. The premise is a set of facts you probably know. The Moderna vaccine, which along with Pfizer’s and Johnson and Johnson’s is now protecting millions of Americans from COVID and in all likelihood bringing a halt to the pandemic, was designed by January 13th. A month later a small first batch had already been sent to the NIH to begin phase one trials. Moderna was first but the Pfizer vaccine was almost as fast. In other words, we had the vaccines before the pandemic in the US even really got off the ground in early March.
I’ve been wondering about this from the moment we learned Matt Gaetz was under federal investigation for sex trafficking or sex with a minor. Why didn’t he ask for a pardon? Or rather, he must have asked for and not received a pardon. Public reporting suggests that Gaetz drew the interest of federal prosecutors as far back as early June of 2020. That doesn’t mean Gaetz himself knew about the probe then or perhaps for some time after. But the investigation of what seems to have been his pretty close friend, Joel Greenberg, was public. It’s hard to imagine that he still didn’t know or suspect he was in jeopardy by mid-January when Trump was still in office and preparing what turned out to be an historic pardon spree, which gave especial focus to the legal woes of people who had been consistently loyal to him.
Mitch McConnell is upping the ante and threatening “serious consequences” for corporations who use their clout against GOP voter suppression bills in states. They should “stay out of politics,” he warns. I discussed the broader issue on Friday as a disjuncture between culture and consumerism on the one hand and apparatus of the American political system on the other. But McConnell’s threat of “serious consequences” demonstrates the hollowness of this debate.
Throughout the last year of the COVID pandemic and through the polarized debates over lockdowns and mitigation one constant refrain from politicians has been that aggressive lockdowns are taking lives as well as saving them. In its crudest form, remember ex-President Trump’s constant insistence that ‘the cure can’t be worse than the disease’. He and others who made this argument focused particularly on depression and suicide. But now preliminary data for 2020 shows that death by suicide actually declined by a small but significant amount. Year over year in 2020 death by suicide (44,834) declined by 5.6% and was the lowest in absolute numbers since 2015 (44,193).
Is this a surprise?
A simply astonishing confluence of events today in Israel – one that at least temporarily has led Pfizer to refuse to deliver the latest shipment of its COVID vaccine to the country.
After a number of delays, a prosecutor began his opening statement today in the corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu was in court today, with the jarring images you would expect from such a moment going out over the news wires. Meanwhile, party leaders are meeting today with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to formally recommend which party leader should be given the first opportunity to build a government after the inclusive results of last month’s election.
As Tierney Sneed explains here, big corporations are lining up in opposition to the voter suppression law in Texas as many have been over the last couple weeks in response to the legislation in Georgia. This broader trend has spurred a generally insipid and perhaps offensive debate about whether corporate America is now “woke” as well as a more interesting question about whether we should applaud a system in which corporate America tries to exercise a veto over the political choices of state governments. (Remember, it may not always be laws you disagree with.) But apart from loaded questions this phenomenon is an illustration of a broader reality undergirding almost all American politics today, which is important to focus on.
Why are corporations doing this?
If you’re a serious Gaetz-ologist this is a must-read piece by Josh and Kate. They dive into timelines and granular nuts and bolts for when the investigation started, when Bill Barr found out about it, when Gaetz or possibly Trump may have found out about it, Gaetz alleged co-trafficker and hints that Gaetz may have started bearding up his personal life as the Feds closed in.
The Matt Gaetz story is exploding in so many bizarre and incriminating directions at once that it’s pretty hard to keep up with all the threads of the story. But there’s one broader element of the saga which has become increasingly evident over the last couple days: Matt Gaetz lifestyle and behavior, if not the specific alleged crimes, appear to have been common knowledge in MAGA world and among DC Republicans generally.
A few examples.
Having read the Times latest installment of Matt Gaetz I feel fairly confident that Mr. Gaetz will not be serving in Congress for much longer. The piece is simply devastating, not only for the facts alleged but for what you can glean about the breadth of the investigation from the nature of the reporting itself. Times reporters appear to have spoken to many of the women involved, reviewed ‘receipts’ from digital payment apps which were allegedly payments for sex, as well as other digital communications. In other words, it’s big; it’s bad; and there are receipts, literally and figuratively.
Let me summarize this as concisely as I can.