Category : Economy

(Bloomberg Businessweek) An Economist’s Guide to the World in 2050

Who really won the Cold War? Maybe China.

In 1972, Cold War logic pushed President Richard Nixon into an unlikely alliance with Mao Zedong—bringing China back into the mainstream of the world economy. In 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union encouraged “end of history” hubris that blinded the West to the consequences of China’s rise.

Fast forward to 2020 and China has emerged as a major global power, its single-party rule and state-dominated economy the cause of alarm in foreign capitals—and pride in Beijing. By 2035, Bloomberg Economics forecasts, China will have overtaken the U.S. to become the world’s biggest economy and perhaps also its most powerful political actor.

China’s rise is just one part of a larger shift that’s already under way and looks set to accelerate in the decades ahead.

Bloomberg Economics has used a growth accounting framework—adding up the contributions of labor, capital and productivity—to forecast potential GDP through 2050 for 39 countries, from the U.S. to Ghana. We’ve used that data to map some of the key geographic and political shifts in store for the world economy.

The results suggest that a remarkable period of stability, stretching from the end of World War II through to the early 21st century, is coming to an end. The center of economic gravity is shifting from West to East, from advanced economies to emerging markets, from free markets to state controls and from established democracies to authoritarian and populist rulers. The transition is already upending global politics, economics and markets. This is just the beginning.

Much could happen to throw our projections off track. The Covid crisis is demonstrating how pandemics can reconfigure the global economic map. Wars, natural disasters and financial meltdowns can do the same. So could policy choices on globalization and climate change. Still, absent a crystal ball, forecasts of potential growth provide the most reliable basis for thinking about the long term.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(Bloomberg) Joe Nocera–Joe Biden Has a Once-in-a-Century Chance to Fix Capitalism

In the years after World War II, the U.S. had some significant economic advantages when soldiers returned from the war looking for jobs. One, of course, was that the U.S. had escaped the devastation suffered by Europe and Japan, so its companies faced only domestic competition. Labor costs, for instance, were nearly irrelevant, and unions, which played an important role in raising living standards, were able to thrive.

But another advantage, as Rick Wartzman pointed out in his 2017 book “The End of Loyalty,” 3 is that American businessmen were unusually farsighted after the war. They knew it was critically important to generate millions of jobs to prevent the U.S. from falling into another depression. And they also knew that returning fighters were owed something for defeating the Nazis. There was a “we’re-all-in-this-together” feeling that came from having been through such a terrible war.

It’s impossible to claim that the pandemic has brought the nation together the same way that World War II did for that generation. But if you looked closely, you could see companies taking actions that had nothing to do with shareholder value and everything to do with helping the country.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, History, Office of the President, Politics in General

Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani to lead Church of England drive to tackle housing crisis

Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, the next Bishop of Chelmsford, is to become the Church of England’s Lead Bishop for Housing to spearhead the Church’s efforts to help ease the UK’s crippling housing crisis.

The announcement comes ahead of the publication next month of the findings of a major two-year commission, set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, examining the role of the Church in tackling housing inequality and examining possible solutions.

Bishop Guli, currently the Bishop of Loughborough, will take up the new role later this year when she becomes Bishop of Chelmsford.

The new post will involve leading efforts to implement the recommendations of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community which will be published in late February.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NPR) Why Sea Shanties Have Taken Over TikTok

Argh, the latest trend in pandemic distraction may be – shiver me timbers – sea shanties.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Singing) There once was a ship that put to sea, and the name of that ship was the Billy of Tea.

SIMON: Landlubbers on TikTok and other social media are now appreciating the 200-year-old art form.

MARY MALLOY: Sea shanties are a particular kind of song that accompanies work.

SIMON: That’s Mary Molloy. For 25 years, she taught a program out of Woods Hole, Mass., called the Sea Education Association Semester. She says sea shanties are influenced by the rhythms of African work songs with lyrics that are Anglo Irish. Mary Malloy is also a folk singer. How could she not be with so fine a name? And yes, she sings sea songs. Here be Mary.

Read it all and do not miss this example of the fun:

Posted in Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Music

(NBC) Florida Restaurant Manager Saves Boy From Abuse, Police Say

“Flavaine Carvalho, sensing distress from an 11-year-old boy with his family, secretly flashed the boy a note asking him if he needed help. When the boy said yes, Carvalho called 911. The boy’s stepfather faces three charges of aggravated child abuse, and his mother faces two charges of child neglect.”

Posted in Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Violence

(FT) Boom in private companies offering disinformation-for-hire

Politicians are increasingly hiring private companies to spread disinformation online, according to researchers who found campaigns run by third-party contractors targeting 48 different countries over the past year.

The Oxford Internet Institute said the “disinformation-for-hire” market is booming, with advertising, marketing and public relations companies offering to manipulate online opinion for political parties and governments.

The OII said private contractors help to identify which groups to target with messages, and then “prompt the trending of certain political messages” either through fake accounts or with armies of bots, or automated accounts.

Researchers said they had found evidence of at least $60m of spending on such campaigns since 2009, although the real total may be far higher.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(NYT front page) They’re Under 25 and Jobless, And Their Prospects Are Bleak

Young and eager, Harry Rosado never had trouble finding a job.

Fresh out of high school, he was hired as a sales associate in Midtown Manhattan at Journeys and then at Zumiez, two fashion stores popular with young shoppers. He moved on to Uncle Jack’s Meat House in Queens, where he earned up to $300 a week as a busboy.

Then Mr. Rosado, 23, was laid off in March when the steakhouse shut down because of the pandemic. He was called back after the steakhouse reopened, but business was slow. In August, he was out of work again.

New York City has been hit harder by the economic crisis set off by the pandemic than most other major American cities.

But no age group has had it worse than young workers. By September, 19 percent of adults under 25 in the city had lost jobs compared with 14 percent of all workers, according to James Parrott, the director of economic and fiscal policy at the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Economy, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Young Adults

(Bloomberg) Millions of Renters Are Fighting to Stay Housed as Evictions Near

Mari Finkley has already been homeless once during the pandemic. For two weeks in October, she lived out of her Dodge Journey with her dog and 11-year-old godson. The 29-year-old found a new place, and fresh hope. But she’s behind on her rent again.

Finkley was pushed out of her Gainesville, Fla., home by her previous landlord after she stopped driving for Uber and fell behind on the rent. She suffers from severe asthma, and her doctor warned her the job put her at high risk for exposure to Covid-19.

“Are you going to risk potentially dying just to pay a bill?” Finkley says. “But if you don’t pay the bill you’re going to be homeless. You have to literally decide what’s worse.”

Finkley is a member of a burgeoning class of long-term underemployed and unemployed Americans who have slipped into poverty during the pandemic. Many of them are renters teetering on the verge of homelessness, even as large swaths of the U.S. economy have rebounded and coronavirus vaccines raise hopes for a brighter 2021….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance

(Bloomberg) Moderna Shot Cleared in U.S., Ready for Delivery Starting Sunday

Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine was cleared by U.S. regulators, the second vaccine to gain emergency authorization this month as a historic mass immunization effort ramps up across the country.

The Food and Drug Administration’s decision to grant the authorization Friday for the shot’s use among adults means that two of the six vaccine candidates identified by Operation Warp Speed are now available to the public, a feat accomplished in less than one year. Shots from AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson that have also received U.S

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(Bloomberg) Russia-Linked SolarWinds Hack Ensnares Widening List of Victims

It was clear from the start that a cyber attack by suspected Russian hackers aimed at several U.S. government agencies was going to be bad. One clue: National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien cut short a trip overseas early this week to rush back to Washington to help manage the crisis.

But on Thursday, the reality of just how sprawling — and potentially damaging — the breach might be came into sharper focus. It started with a bulletin from the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, known as CISA, warning that the hackers were sophisticated, patient and well-resourced, representing a “grave risk” to federal, state and local governments as well as critical infrastructure and the private sector. It didn’t take long to see how accurate the agency’s assessment was.

Bloomberg News reported that at least three state governments were hacked. That was followed by reports of other breaches: the city network in Austin, Texas, and the U.S. nuclear weapons agency. Late in the day software giant Microsoft Corp. said its systems were exposed.

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Russia, Science & Technology, The U.S. Government

(NYT) F.D.A. Panel Endorses Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine

The coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna moved closer to authorization on Thursday, a significant step that would expand the reach of the nation’s vaccination campaign to rural areas and many more hospitals.

As the nation buckled from uncontrolled spread of the disease, with 3,611 deaths on Wednesday setting yet another horrific record, a panel of independent experts recommended, by a vote of 20 in favor and one abstention, that the Food and Drug Administration authorize the Moderna vaccine for emergency use. The formal decision, expected on Friday, would clear the way for some 5.9 million doses to be shipped around the country starting this weekend.

Moderna would be the second company allowed to begin inoculating the public, giving millions more Americans access to desperately needed vaccine. The first, made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, received authorization last week.

The Moderna vaccine can be distributed more widely because it can be stored at normal freezer temperatures and, unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, does not require ultracold storage. It also comes in much smaller batches, making it easier for hospitals in less populated areas to use quickly.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

FT People of the Year: BioNTech’s Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci

For Dr Sahin and Dr Tureci — whose insistence that the technology they have helped develop could herald a medical revolution was once dismissed as “science fiction” — the successful coronavirus vaccine has provided as much vindication as relief.

The couple, who between them have authored hundreds of academic papers, filed hundreds of patents, founded two non-profit organisations and two billion-euro businesses, faced scepticism from much of the medical establishment right up until this year.

The groundwork that led to their breakthrough was laid over several decades, in which the two softly-spoken researchers were forced to move out of the comfort zone of their labs and to become entrepreneurs, educators and evangelists.

After meeting as trainee doctors on a blood cancer ward in south-west Germany in the early 1990s, the couple discovered that they shared similar backgrounds — both sets of parents had migrated from Turkey in search of economic opportunity. They also realised that their core interest was not in purely academic science, but in applied science.

“First and foremost, we are physicians,” says Dr Tureci, who ran the duo’s first company, Ganymed, and is chief medical officer at BioNTech.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Germany, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, Turkey

(Wash Post) The U.S. government spent billions on a system for detecting hacks. The Russians outsmarted it.

When Russian hackers first slipped their digital Trojan horses into federal government computer systems, probably sometime in the spring, they sat dormant for days, doing nothing but hiding. Then the malicious code sprang into action and began communicating with the outside world.

At that moment — when the Russian malware began sending transmissions from federal servers to command-and-control computers operated by the hackers — an opportunity for detection arose, much as human spies behind enemy lines are particularly vulnerable when they radio home to report what they’ve found.

Why then, when computer networks at the State Department and other federal agencies started signaling to Russian servers, did nobody in the U.S. government notice that something odd was afoot?

The answer is part Russian skill, part federal government blind spot.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Russia, Science & Technology, The U.S. Government

(JE) Virginia TEC Diocese Signals Truro Anglican Sale is Possible

Episcopal Diocese of Virginia officials have announced that diocesan leadership initiated “confidential conversations” in late 2019 with representatives of Truro Anglican Church in suburban Washington about the future of the property, with a potential sale possible.

“The discussions have been productive and are expected to continue,” the diocese shared in a December 6 press release on its website. A member of the Truro congregation confirmed to me that the diocesan release “is substantially correct.”

I’ve reached out to Truro’s vestry wardens and will update this blog entry as I receive their responses. Truro staff confirmed that a verbal announcement was read aloud to the congregation during a parish meeting but that no written or public statement was released.

Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic Canon for Congregation and Clergy Care the Rev. Mary Maggard Hays noted that ongoing negotiations with the Diocese of Virginia are still confidential, but characterized them as “amicable and thoughtful.”

That assessment is similarly held by Episcopalians.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Law & Legal Issues, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: Virginia, TEC Departing Parishes

(Noema Magazine) James Crabtree–China’s Radical New Vision Of Globalization

But then came the interesting part. “Since the beginning of this year, I have said on many occasions that we must promote the formation of a new development pattern, in which domestic and international cycles are the mainstay, and the domestic and international dual cycles promote each other,” Xi said. To an outsider, this might seem unremarkable, cloaked as it is in the elliptical phraseology that often marks Chinese economic ideas. But the “dual circulation” strategy Xi outlined actually represents a radical new understanding of globalization and of China’s place within it.

More than just a buzzword, dual circulation describes the deeply pessimistic worldview that has settled over Beijing. Once China’s leaders saw opportunity in globalization. Now, they expect the U.S. and its allies to deny China the technology it needs to build “a modern socialist country” by mid-century, meaning a wealthy superpower fit to rival the U.S. Although likely to be less pugilistic, Beijing rightly believes an incoming Biden administration will also press forward with policies designed to stop advanced technologies finding their way into Beijing’s hands. Chinese thinking has long valorized self-reliance, dating back to ideas developed by former Chinese leader Mao Zedong during the country’s civil war, which ended with the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Now, Trump’s tariffs, as well as his campaigns against companies like Huawei and TikTok, have given new impetus to the modern form of self-reliance Xi dubs “internal” development.

Many experts have noted a changing Western consensus on China, as leaders in Washington abandoned the idea that economic modernization would inevitably lead to political liberalization in Beijing. But there has been a comparable shift in China’s internal conversation on the West too. Beginning with semiconductors but potentially expanding to all manner of other areas, China now expects it will have to develop technologically on its own. Xi’s new theory now sits at the heart of the country’s 14th five-year plan, which covers development from 2021 to 2025, and was unveiled in draft form in October. The result will accelerate China’s decoupling from the West, while also increasing the importance of trading links forged with other parts of the world — for instance, via Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative. Put more bluntly, while the world was distracted by the drama of the U.S. presidential election, Xi quietly unveiled an economic strategy fit for a new Cold War. Both for China and for globalization itself, the results are likely to be profound.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, China, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(AP) US panel endorses widespread use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

A U.S. government advisory panel has endorsed Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, in a major step toward an epic vaccination campaign that could finally conquer the outbreak.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to follow the recommendation issued Thursday by its expert advisers. The advisory group, in 17-4 vote with one abstention, concluded that the shot appears safe and effective against the coronavirus in people 16 and older.

A final FDA decision is expected within days. Millions of shots would then ship to begin vaccinating health care workers and nursing home residents. Widespread access to the general public is not expected until the spring.

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, The U.S. Government

(LA Times) Get ready for another roaring ’20s, UCLA economic forecast predicts

“The ’20s will be roaring, but with several months of hardship first,” according to the quarterly UCLA Anderson forecast. “These next few months will be dire, with rising COVID infections, continued social distancing, and the expiration of social assistance programs.”

The forecast, which assumes mass vaccination of Americans will take place by summer, predicts that annualized growth in the nation’s gross domestic product will accelerate from a weak 1.2% in the current quarter to 1.8% in the first quarter of next year, then to a booming 6% in next year’s second quarter and consistent 3% growth each quarter thereafter into 2023.

“With a vaccine and the release of pent-up demand, the next few years will be roaring as the economy accelerates and returns to previous growth trends,” wrote Leo Feler, a senior economist with the forecast. “We expect a surge in services consumption and continued strength in housing markets to propel the economy forward.”

Read it all.

Posted in Economy, History

(FT) New Glencore Leader Pledges to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions dramatically going forward

At Friday’s event Glencore pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, including “scope 3” created when customers burn raw materials, to net zero by 2050.

It plans to do this mainly by placing its coal business into managed decline in which reserves are not replaced as they run down. 

By setting out a credible pathway to net zero, Mr Glasenberg believes Glencore will be able to hang on to a business it can milk for cash and not be penalised by investors. 

Coal accounts for about 10 per cent of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, and 5 per cent of revenue, so it is not a huge part of its business.

The move has met a positive response. While Glencore’s commitments require careful consideration, they are “significant”, according to Adam Matthews, director of ethics and engagement at the Church of England Pensions Board and co-chair of the Transition Pathway Initiative.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology

A Forbes article on the tragic downfall and death of highly gifted Zappos leader Tony Hsieh

But while he directly (by the tens of thousands) and indirectly (by the millions) delivered on making other people smile, Hsieh was privately coping with issues of mental health and addiction. Forbes has interviewed more than 20 of his close friends and colleagues over the past few days, each trying to come to grips with how this brightest of lights had met such a dark and sudden end.

Reconciling their accounts, one word rises up: tragedy. According to his friends and family, Hsieh’s personal struggles took a dramatic turn south over the past year, especially as the Covid-19 pandemic curtailed the nonstop action that Hsieh seemingly craved. According to numerous sources with direct knowledge, Hsieh, always a heavy drinker, veered into frequent drug use, notably nitrous oxide. Friends also cited mental health battles, as Hsieh often struggled with sleep and feelings of loneliness—traits that drove his fervor for purpose and passion in life. By August, it was announced that he had “retired” from the company he built, and which Amazon had let him run largely autonomously since paying $1.2 billion for Zappos in 2009. Friends and family members, understanding the emerging crisis, attempted interventions over the past few months to try to get him sober.

Instead, these old friends say, Hsieh retreated to Park City, where he surrounded himself with yes-men, paying dearly for the privilege. With a net worth that Forbes recently estimated, conservatively, at $700 million, Hsieh’s offer was simple: He would double the amount of their highest-ever salary. All they had to do was move to Park City with him and “be happy,” according to two sources with personal knowledge of Hsieh’s months in Utah. “In the end, the king had no clothes, and the sycophants wouldn’t say a fucking word,” said a close friend who tried to stage one of the interventions, with the help of Hsieh’s family. “People took that deal from somebody who was obviously sick,” encouraging his drug use, either tacitly or actively.

“He fostered so much human connection and happiness, yet there was this void,” the close friend continued. “It was difficult for him to be alone.”

Ultimately, that may have been a fatal trait. “When you look around and realize that every single person around you is on your payroll, then you are in trouble,” Jewel wrote in that August letter (a representative for Jewel declined to comment). “You are in trouble, Tony.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Alcohol/Drinking, Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Psychology

David French–The Crisis of Christian Celebrity

A person who doesn’t trust his own virtue takes affirmative steps to protect himself from a foolish fall. You don’t have to map out a full-blown “Pence rule” or “Modesto Manifesto” to take prudent steps to guard against your own fallen nature. This shouldn’t even be a matter of religious controversy. I’m reminded of these powerful and self-aware words from one of America’s most influential and thoughtful progressive atheists, Ta-Nehisi Coates:

I’ve been with my spouse for almost 15 years. In those years, I’ve never been with anyone but the mother of my son. But that’s not because I am an especially good and true person. In fact, I am wholly in possession of an unimaginably filthy and mongrel mind. But I am also a dude who believes in guard-rails, as a buddy of mine once put it. I don’t believe in getting “in the moment” and then exercising will-power. I believe in avoiding “the moment.” I believe in being absolutely clear with myself about why I am having a second drink, and why I am not; why I am going to a party, and why I am not. I believe that the battle is lost at Happy Hour, not at the hotel. I am not a “good man.” But I am prepared to be an honorable one.

The way I’ve put it in speeches to young Christians is simply this, “Make the easy choice so you don’t have to make the hard choice.” Saying no to the extra drink is much easier than halting a drunken flirtation.

And if a person gains fame, he cannot—he must not—believe the easy laughs, the shining eyes, or the copious flattery of starstruck fans. There are reciprocal responsibilities here. It would be far better if Americans didn’t treat celebrities (including religious celebrities) like Greek gods. It would be far better if celebrities didn’t start to believe that they belong on Mount Olympus.

Christian celebrities will continue to fall. But they don’t have to fall so often.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Entertainment, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(NYT front page) As Hospitals Fill, Travel Nurses Race to Virus Hot Spots

It is a nomadic existence and, in a pandemic, a particularly high-risk one. The nurses parachute into cities like New York, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Green Bay for weeks or months at a time, quickly learning the ways of a new hospital and trying to earn the trust of the existing staff.

At the end of their shifts, they return to their temporary homes: hotels, Airbnb apartments or rented houses. Their families and friends are sometimes thousands of miles away, available only through phone calls or FaceTime.

Last week in Green Bay, where the surrounding county has averaged more than 150 cases a day since late September, a team of four travel nurses worked at Bellin Hospital, grappling with the unrelenting pressure of the emergency room and a Thanksgiving holiday far from home.

More than eight months into the pandemic, many travel nurses have done little else but treat Covid-19 patients.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology

(McKinsey) What’s next for remote work: An analysis of 2,000 tasks, 800 jobs, and nine countries

Now that vaccines are awaiting approval, the question looms: To what extent will remote work persist? In this article, we assess the possibility for various work activities to be performed remotely. Building on the McKinsey Global Institute’s body of work on automation, AI, and the future of work, we extend our models to consider where work is performed. Our analysis finds that the potential for remote work is highly concentrated among highly skilled, highly educated workers in a handful of industries, occupations, and geographies.

More than 20 percent of the workforce could work remotely three to five days a week as effectively as they could if working from an office. If remote work took hold at that level, that would mean three to four times as many people working from home than before the pandemic and would have a profound impact on urban economies, transportation, and consumer spending, among other things.

More than half the workforce, however, has little or no opportunity for remote work. Some of their jobs require collaborating with others or using specialized machinery; other jobs, such as conducting CT scans, must be done on location; and some, such as making deliveries, are performed while out and about. Many of such jobs are low wage and more at risk from broad trends such as automation and digitization. Remote work thus risks accentuating inequalities at a social level.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

(Science Magazine) ‘Absolutely remarkable’: No one who got Moderna’s vaccine in trial developed severe COVID-19

Continuing the spate of stunning news about COVID-19 vaccines, the biotech company Moderna announced the final results of the 30,000-person efficacy trial for its candidate in a press release today: Only 11 people who received two doses of the vaccine developed COVID-19 symptoms after being infected with the pandemic coronavirus, versus 185 symptomatic cases in a placebo group. That is an efficacy of 94.1%, the company says, far above what many vaccine scientists were expecting just a few weeks ago.

More impressive still, Moderna’s candidate had 100% efficacy against severe disease. There were zero such COVID-19 cases among those vaccinated, but 30 in the placebo group. The company today plans to file a request for emergency use authorization (EUA) for its vaccine with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is also seeking a similar green light from the European Medicines Agency.

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(LA Times) Muslims reel over a prayer app that sold user data: ‘A betrayal from within our own community’

Five times a day, tens of millions of phones buzz with notifications from an app called Muslim Pro, reminding users it’s time to pray. While Muslims in Los Angeles woke Thursday to a dawn notification that read, “Fajr at 5:17 AM,” users in Sri Lanka were minutes away from getting a ping telling them it was time for Isha, or the night prayer.

The app’s Qibla compass quickly orients devices toward the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia — which Muslims face when praying. When prayers are done, the in-app Quran lets users pick up reading exactly where they left off. A counter tallies the days of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Listings guide users to halal food in their area.

These features make it easier to practice the many daily rituals prescribed in Islam, turning Muslim Pro into the most popular Muslim app in the world, according to the app’s maker, Singapore-based BitsMedia.

But revelations about the app’s data collection and sales practices have left some users wondering if the convenience is worth the risk.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(NYT) Politics, Science and the Remarkable Race for a Coronavirus Vaccine

The call was tense, the message discouraging. Moncef Slaoui, the head of the Trump administration’s effort to quickly produce a vaccine for the coronavirus, was on the phone at 6 p.m. on Aug. 25 to tell the upstart biotech firm Moderna that it had to slow the final stage of testing its vaccine in humans.

Moderna’s chief executive, Stéphane Bancel, a French biochemical engineer, recognized the implication. In the race to quell the pandemic, he said, “every day mattered.” Now his company, which had yet to bring a single product to market, faced a delay of up to three weeks. Pfizer, the global pharmaceutical giant that was busy testing a similar vaccine candidate and promising initial results by October, would take the obvious lead.

“It was the hardest decision I made this year,” Mr. Bancel said.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Science & Technology, The U.S. Government

(NYT) The Covid19 Vaccines Will Probably Work. Making Them Fast Will Be the Hard Part

The promising news that not just one but two coronavirus vaccines were more than 90 percent effective in early results has buoyed hopes that an end to the pandemic is in sight.

But even if the vaccines are authorized soon by federal regulators — the companies developing them have said they expect to apply soon — only a sliver of the American public will be able to get one by the end of the year. The two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have estimated they will have 45 million doses, or enough to vaccinate 22.5 million Americans, by January.

Industry analysts and company executives are optimistic that hundreds of millions of doses will be made by next spring. But the companies — backed with billions of dollars in federal money — will have to overcome hurdles they’ve encountered in the early days of making vaccines. Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines use new technology that has never been approved for widespread use. They are ramping up into the millions for the first time. Other challenges include promptly securing raw vaccine ingredients and mastering the art of creating consistent, high-quality batches.

“The biology of scaling manufacturing is a very temperamental activity, and there were many, many different attempts over the months until we cracked it,” said Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Theology

(AP) Toilet paper limits, empty shelves are back as virus surges

Looking for toilet paper? Good luck.

A surge of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. is sending people back to stores to stockpile again, leaving shelves bare and forcing retailers to put limits on purchases.

Walmart said Tuesday it’s having trouble keeping up with demand for cleaning supplies in some stores. Supermarket chains Kroger and Publix are limiting how much toilet paper and paper towels shoppers can buy after demand spiked recently. And Amazon is sold out of most disinfectant wipes and paper towels.

A similar scene played out back in March, when the pandemic first hit and people hunkered down in their homes.

Read it all.

Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Health & Medicine

(Washington Post) Walter Isaacson–I was part of a trial for Pfizer’s covid-19 vaccine. It’s a miracle for genetic medicine.

Vaccines work by stimulating a person’s immune system. One traditional approach is to inject a weakened version of the dangerous virus. That’s the way we now fend off measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox. Another method is to use a version of the virus or a part of the virus that has been totally killed.

The success of the Pfizer vaccine means that the plague year of 2020 will be remembered as the time when traditional vaccines began to be supplanted by genetic vaccines. Instead of delivering tiny and safe doses of the virus itself, these new vaccines deliver a piece of genetic coding that will instruct human cells to produce, on their own, components of a targeted virus. These safe components can then stimulate the patient’s immune system.

It is another wondrous miracle from a biotech revolution in which knowledge of genetic coding will become as important as digital coding and molecules will become the new microchips.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

A Fantastic development–(Stat News) Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech is strongly effective, early data from large trial indicate

Pfizer and partner BioNTech said Monday that their vaccine against Covid-19 was strongly effective, exceeding expectations with results that are likely to be met with cautious excitement — and relief — in the face of the global pandemic.

The vaccine is the first to be tested in the United States to generate late-stage data. The companies said an early analysis of the results showed that individuals who received two injections of the vaccine three weeks apart experienced more than 90% fewer cases of symptomatic Covid-19 than those who received a placebo. For months, researchers have cautioned that a vaccine that might only be 60% or 70% effective.

The Phase 3 study is ongoing and additional data could affect results….

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(Guardian) Americans have bought record 17m guns in year of unrest, analysis finds

Americans have bought nearly 17m guns so far in 2020, more than in any other single year, according to estimates from a firearms analytics company.

Gun sales across the United States first jumped in the spring, driven by fears about the coronavirus pandemic, and spiked even higher in the summer, during massive racial justice protests across the country, prompted by police killings of black Americans.

“By August, we had exceeded last year’s total. By September, we exceeded the highest total ever,” said Jurgen Brauer, the chief economist of Small Arms Analytics, which produces widely cited estimates of US gun sales.

The estimated number of guns sold in the US through the end of September 2020 is “not only more than last year, it’s more than any full year in the last 20 years we have records for”, Brauer said.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy