The Demand of Freedom

Economy, Policies

The Demand of Freedom

The United States’ first civil rights movement.

Rcism is not regional. I often hear people refer to it as though it were trapped in the South. White Northerners who are appalled by the blatant racism around them will say things like “This isn’t Mississippi” or “Take that attitude back to Alabama.” But whether white Northerners like to recognize it or not, slavery was in every colony in the United States for more than a century and a half. It was part of the fabric of America—all of America. After Charleston, South Carolina, New York City had the largest urban enslaved population; by the mid-18th century, one in five people in the city of New York was Black.

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How remote learning failed special education students

Education, Policies

How remote learning failed special education students

Plus, why a fourth of teachers probably won’t quit, when the northern border could open, Africa sees a rise in cases, and more.

7 million students in America attend special education classes that cater to their learning needs. But whether it was speech or physical therapy or modified instruction, teaching shut down for some when classes went virtual during the pandemic.

NPR explores this story, which deserves your attention. NPR reports:

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Deadly Fungi Are the Newest Emerging Microbe Threat All Over the World

Disease, Threats

Deadly Fungi Are the Newest Emerging Microbe Threat All Over the World

It was the fourth week of June in 2020, and the middle of the second wave of the COVID pandemic in the U.S. Cases had passed 2.4 million; deaths from the novel coronavirus were closing in on 125,000. In his home office in Atlanta, Tom Chiller looked up from his e-mails and scrubbed his hands over his face and shaved head.

Chiller is a physician and an epidemiologist and, in normal times, a branch chief at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in charge of the section that monitors health threats from fungi such as molds and yeasts. He had put that specialty aside in March when the U.S. began to recognize the size of the threat from the new virus, when New York City went into lockdown and the CDC told almost all of its thousands of employees to work from home. Ever since, Chiller had been part of the public health agency’s frustrating, stymied effort against COVID. Its employees had been working with state health departments, keeping tabs on reports of cases and deaths and what jurisdictions needed to do to stay safe.

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Asian Americans and social justice

Demographic, Policies, Society, Wild Cards

Asian Americans and social justice

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and we should note recent achievements. Congress finally acknowledged the 20,000 Chinese Americans who, despite intense racism, served in the U.S. military during the Second World War. Taiwanese American Charles Yu’s novel about that racism, “Interior Chinatown”, won the National Book Award. Kamala Harris, a woman with roots in India, became U.S. vice president.

Even more remarkable is Gintanjali Rao, an Indian American from Colorado. Over the past five years, Rao has invented technologies to measure lead in drinking water, diagnose opioid addiction, and detect cyberbullying. She has conducted international science workshops, given public talks, and learned to pilot an airplane. And she’s only fifteen!

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The Money Plot: A History of Currency’s Power to Enchant, Control, and Manipulate

Economy, Policies

The Money Plot: A History of Currency’s Power to Enchant, Control, and Manipulate

Money obeys the rules of math, but math does not rule money. When it comes to creating and sustaining faith in a currency, the principles of narrative reign supreme. Like great characters, great currencies develop. The dollar faltered for more than 100 years after its founding. It teetered into the 20th century, then much like an adolescent on the verge of adulthood, matured and regressed in equal measure until, by the middle of the same century, it was ready to rescue the franc, the lira, the mark, the pound and the yen.

Heroes often discard logic and reason in favor of fury and passion; likewise, the impulses that motivated the greatest character ever invented. Molded from farmland, flesh, fish, forests, sugar and slaves, the dollar was and always would be synonymous with the American spirit. It epitomized the vision of Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Nothing would surpass it.

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The great forgetting

Disease, Threats

The great forgetting

The second Moderna shot made me sick — as predicted. A 24-hour touch of what an alarmed immune system feels like left me all the more grateful for my good fortune in avoiding the real thing and for being alive at a time when science had devised a 95% effective vaccine in record time.

To distract myself from the fever as I tried to sleep, I visualized strands of synthetic messenger RNA floating into my cells to produce the alien spike protein that attracted my warrior T-cells. I drifted off envisioning an epic micro-battle underway in my blood and had a series of weird nightmares. At about two a.m., I woke up sweating, disoriented, and fixated on a grim image from one of the studies I had consulted while writing my own upcoming book, Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America’s Response to the Pandemic, on the Covid-19 chaos of our moment. In his Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver, Arthur Allen described how, in the days of ignorance — not so very long ago — doctors prescribed “hot air baths” for the feverish victims of deadly epidemics of smallpox or yellow fever, clamping them under woolen covers in closed rooms with the windows shut.

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In prison, today’s pandemic and shades of yesterday’s: What the fight against COVID can learn from the one against AIDS

Disease, Threats

In prison, today’s pandemic and shades of yesterday’s: What the fight against COVID can learn from the one against AIDS

A few months back I was part of a cluster of six people called to the prison infirmary to be offered the seasonal flu shot; four of the other five men refused it. Today, as I listen to the loud conversations “on the gate” (people talking back and forth while locked in their cells), I hear considerable sentiment against taking the COVID-19 vaccine when it is offered. (As a result of a court order, it will now be available for New York State prisoners.)

People in more comfortable sectors of society may not understand why such distrust of the medical authorities is so widespread in here, but it’s reality-based. The infamous Tuskegee syphilis study on Black men is but the best known of the plethora of medical experiments on Black and Brown people in and out of prisons, and other vulnerable populations. On top of that, in here we all know some grim examples of the problems with prison medical care.

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Article: Out of the Pandemic, Chances for Another Future

Policies, Society

Out of the Pandemic, Chances for Another Future

About a year ago, just as the pandemic was hitting New York City, St. John Frizell and his two partners were readying for the grand reopening of Gage & Tollner, a newly renovated, 140-year-old restaurant in Downtown Brooklyn. One day before the March 15 opening — for which the three partners had spent almost a year and a half preparing — they made the difficult decision not to open.

Mr. Frizell retreated to his home in Brooklyn. “The only sounds in the street were ice cream trucks and ambulances,” he recalled. Anxious about going to the supermarket but needing groceries for himself and his son, he reached out to one of his vendors, Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op, to see about having some food delivered. Lancaster was delivering boxes of seasonal produce, but needed an order large enough to be worth the trip. So Mr. Frizell, who suddenly had downtime, did something he hadn’t done in a while: He reached out to his neighbors.

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A Novel Effort to See How Poverty Affects Young Brains

Poverty, Threats

A Novel Effort to See How Poverty Affects Young Brains

An emerging branch of neuroscience asks a question long on the minds of researchers. Recent stimulus payments make the study more relevant.

New monthly payments in the pandemic relief package have the potential to lift millions of American children out of poverty. Some scientists believe the payments could change children’s lives even more fundamentally — via their brains. It’s well established that growing up in poverty correlates with disparities in educational achievement, health and employment. But an emerging branch of neuroscience asks how poverty affects the developing brain.

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The Global Economy’s Uneven Recovery

Economy, Policies

The Global Economy’s Uneven Recovery

While the US, China, and other leading economies are on their way to a robust recovery, many others are struggling to return to pre-pandemic GDP levels. In most regions, including Europe and Latin America, the 2020 recession will most likely leave long-lasting scars on both GDP and employment.

The chances for a swift, uniform rebound from the COVID-19 crisis have dimmed, and the world economy now faces sharply divergent growth prospects. Although the latest update of the Brookings-Financial Times Tracking Indexes for the Global Economic Recovery (TIGER) offers some grounds for optimism, it also raises renewed concerns.

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