San Juan County, Colorado, can boast that 99.9% of its eligible population has received at least one dose of covid-19 vaccine, putting it in the top 10 counties in the nation, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If vaccines were the singular armor against covid’s spread, then on paper, San Juan County, with its 730 or so residents on file, would be one of the most bulletproof places in the nation.
Yet the past few months have shown the complexity of this phase of the pandemic. Even in an extremely vaccinated place, the shots alone aren’t enough because geographic boundaries are porous, vaccine effectiveness may be waning over time and the delta variant is highly contagious. Infectious-disease experts say masks are still necessary to control the spread of the virus.
An investigation of the Chicago Policemen Annuity and Benefit Fund was funded by members of the Chicago Police Department Pension Board Accountability Group. According to the report, the CPABF is one of the worst funded public pension plans in the U.S. today with a funding ratio at year-end of only 23%. According to the report, “The toxic mix of defunding the police pension, conflicted and high-risk investments, and poor management of the pension cry out for greater transparency and accountability.”
As Arthur Levitt, Chairman of the SEC stated back in 1999 in connection with the Commission’s review of pay-to-play practices at public pensions, “Today, public funds hold more than $2 trillion of assets. These assets do not belong to the elected officials, and they do not belong to the trustees. They belong to the tens of thousands of firefighters, ambulance drivers, city clerks, bus drivers and other public employees who make our communities work. “Their interests,” as my father said twenty years ago, “must be paramount in investment of that money.”
The tremendous importance of public funds demands that they be managed with complete honesty and integrity and for the sole benefit of their beneficiaries.”
Now, what she identifies as an “accomplishment,” having finished the climb up the pension ramp, is actually a state law that left her no choice in the matter. But that’s not the only incorrect part of her statement. Even having finally left the ramp behind, the plans are not funded on an “actuarially determined basis.” They are funded based on the Illinois legislature’s decision of a funding schedule which, for the police and fire plans, is sufficient to attain 90% funding in the year 2055, and for the Municipal and Laborers’ plan, not until 2058. Yes, if you do the math, that’s 34 and 37 years from now.
In fact, the plans’ actuarial valuations calculate a figure that’s labelled the Actuarially Determined Contribution. For the Fire plan (19% funded), the city’s contribution was only 79% of the ADC; for the Police plan (23% funded), the city’s contribution was only 75% of the ADC. And these are the two plans which reached the top of the ramp last year!
Nearly a quarter of U.S. critical infrastructure—utilities, airports, police stations and more—is at risk of being inundated by flooding, according to a new report by First Street Foundation, a Brooklyn nonprofit dedicated to making climate risk more visible to the public.
Roughly 14% of Americans’ properties face direct risk from major storms, but the study shows danger extends far from those property lines.
The authors say the report provides the first holistic understanding of flood risk beyond individual property level. In addition to critical infrastructure, the report assesses commercial buildings, millions of miles of roads and socially important institutions such as schools and museums.
“Even if your home is far from the risk of flooding or forest fires, you may not so easily escape the systemic impacts from vulnerable critical infrastructure that sometimes extends hundreds of miles,” said Jesse Keenan, a climate-change and real-estate expert at Tulane University in New Orleans.
Author(s): Leslie Kaufman, Rachael Dottle, Mira Rojanasakul
Between 2010 and 2019, the hottest decade on record, California’s official data from death certificates attributed 599 deaths to heat exposure.
But a Times analysis found that the true toll is probably six times higher. An examination of mortality data from this period shows that thousands more people died on extremely hot days than would have been typical during milder weather. All told, the analysis estimates that extreme heat caused about 3,900 deaths.
California’s undercount is one of the ways it overlooks the threat posed by heat waves, even as climate change delivers them more frequently, more intensely and with deadlier consequences. Other states are moving with greater urgency to confront this public health challenge that disproportionately imperils the elderly and vulnerable.
Extreme heat did not suddenly become a threat to Californians’ lives. The Times found that state leaders have ignored years of warnings from within their own agencies that heat was becoming more dangerous. Data reviewed by The Times show heat-related hospital visits increasing in some parts of California, including Los Angeles County, for at least the last 15 years.
Women in finance in the U.K. still make significantly less than men. While the gender pay gap at financial firms in the country narrowed slightly last year, overall the industry continues to have the biggest disparity.
Men working in finance and insurance made 25% more than women last year, down from 28% in 2019, a Bloomberg News analysis of government data shows. The pay gap is especially wide in investment banking, where some of the highest-paid employees work.
It is the fourth straight year that finance has led the industry rankings, showing that executives are finding it difficult to shrink the gap. Mining and quarrying had the second-biggest pay gap at 23% as the commodity boom boosted the income of workers, who are largely male.
America is recording nearly 2,000 covid-19 deaths a day, according to a seven-day average compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That is only 40% below the country’s January peak. But the true death toll is even worse. The Economist’s excess-deaths model, which estimates the difference between the actual and the expected number of deaths recorded in a given period, suggests that America is suffering 2,800 pandemic deaths per day, with a plausible range of 900 to 3,300, compared with 1,000 (150 to 3,000) in all other high-income countries, as defined by the World Bank. Adjusting for population, the death rate is now about eight times higher in America than in the rest of the rich world.
Although there is a large gap between Black and White American life expectancies, the gap fell 48.9% between 1990-2018, mainly due to mortality declines among Black Americans. We examine age-specific mortality trends and racial gaps in life expectancy in rich and poor U.S. areas and with reference to six European countries. Inequalities in life expectancy are starker in the U.S. than in Europe. In 1990 White Americans and Europeans in rich areas had similar overall life expectancy, while life expectancy for White Americans in poor areas was lower. But since then even rich White Americans have lost ground relative to Europeans. Meanwhile, the gap in life expectancy between Black Americans and Europeans decreased by 8.3%. Black life expectancy increased more than White life expectancy in all U.S. areas, but improvements in poorer areas had the greatest impact on the racial life expectancy gap. The causes that contributed the most to Black mortality reductions included: Cancer, homicide, HIV, and causes originating in the fetal or infant period. Life expectancy for both Black and White Americans plateaued or slightly declined after 2012, but this stalling was most evident among Black Americans even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. If improvements had continued at the 1990-2012 rate, the racial gap in life expectancy would have closed by 2036. European life expectancy also stalled after 2014. Still, the comparison with Europe suggests that mortality rates of both Black and White Americans could fall much further across all ages and in both rich and poor areas.
Author(s): Hannes Schwandt, Janet Currie, Marlies Bär, James Banks, Paola Bertoli, Aline Bütikofer, Sarah Cattan, Beatrice Zong-Ying Chao, Claudia Costa, Libertad Gonzalez, Veronica Grembi, Kristiina Huttunen, René Karadakic, Lucy Kraftman, Sonya Krutikova, Stefano Lombardi, Peter Redler, Carlos Riumallo-Herl, Ana Rodríguez-González, Kjell Salvanes, Paula Santana, Josselin Thuilliez, Eddy van Doorslaer, Tom Van Ourti, Joachim Winter, Bram Wouterse & Amelie Wuppermann
“Between 1990 and 2018,” the paper reports, “the U.S. White-Black life expectancy gap decreased from 7.0 to 3.6 years.” A black person born in the U.S. in 1990 could be expected to live to about age 69, compared to 76 for a white person. In the intervening generation, black life expectancy rose about twice as fast as white life expectancy. A black person born in 2018 could be expected to live just over age 75, compared to just under 79 for a white person.
The drivers, the authors say, are primarily “greater reductions in Black relative to White death rates due to cancer, homicide, HIV, and causes originating in the fetal or infant period.” The most pronounced reductions in black mortality are among children and adults under age 65, rather than the elderly.
“Deaths of despair” (deaths from suicide, drug overdoses, and alcohol-related disease) increased among black and white Americans, especially in the last decade, but took a larger toll on white life expectancy. That accounted for 16.2% of the narrowing of the racial gap. The linear extension of life expectancies for both races stopped after 2012, meaning that it’s hard to see much effect from ObamaCare’s health insurance expansion in the data.
Historical Fact: Replace American Sugar with Apple or Tesla, and this entire column could be published during the next bear market. Human psychology hasn’t changed in 100 years. Central banks cannot prevent a bear market once optimism has been exhausted.
Research has also found being extroverted or introverted affects how people make decisions about Covid-19 precautions. A recent study of more than 8,500 people in Japan published in the journal PLOS One in October 2020 found that those who scored high on a scale of extraversion were 7% less likely to wear masks in public and avoid large gatherings, among other precautions.
Scientists believe that a person’s propensity to take risks is partly genetic and partly the result of early life experiences. Studies of twins have generally found that about 30% of the difference in individual risk tolerance is genetic. Certain negative childhood experiences including physical, emotional or sexual abuse, parental divorce, or living with someone who was depressed or abused drugs or alcohol are linked to risky behavior in adulthood like smoking and drinking heavily, other research has found.
And scientists have discovered that the brains of people who are more willing to take risks look different than those of people who are more cautious. In a study published in the journal Neuron in 2018 that involved scanning the brains of 108 young adults, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania found that participants who made riskier choices on a gambling task had differences in the structure and function of the amygdala, a part of the brain involved in detecting threats, and the prefrontal cortex, a region involved in executive functioning.