A Sneaky Form of Climate Obstruction Hurts Pension Funds

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/17/opinion/environment/climate-change-pension-texas-florida.html

Excerpt:

Mr. Read is the Oregon state treasurer.

In several Republican-led states, the officials who oversee pension funds for millions of state workers are being told, or may soon be told, to ignore the financial risks associated with a warming world. There’s something distinctly anti-free market about policymakers limiting investment professionals’ choices — and it’s putting the retirement savings of millions at risk.

The Texas comptroller, Glenn Hegar, recently announced that 10 financial firms and 348 funds could be barred from doing business with the state’s pension plans because they appeared to consider environmental risks in their investment decisions regarding the fossil fuel industry. The day before, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida announced a similar move. Other states, including Idaho, Louisiana and West Virginia, have either taken or are thinking of taking similar actions, which amount to ideological litmus tests that will likely result in lower returns for pensioners.

Author(s): Tobias Read

Publication Date: 17 Sept 2022

Publication Site: NYT

A Filmmaker Imagines a Japan Where the Elderly Volunteer to Die

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/17/world/asia/japan-plan75-hayakawa-chie.html?smid=url-share

Excerpt:

The premise for Chie Hayakawa’s film, “Plan 75,” is shocking: a government push to euthanize the elderly. In a rapidly aging society, some also wonder: Is the movie prescient?

TOKYO — The Japanese film director Chie Hayakawa was germinating the idea for a screenplay when she decided to test out her premise on elderly friends of her mother and other acquaintances. Her question: If the government sponsored a euthanasia program for people 75 and over, would you consent to it?

….

Close to one-third of the country’s population is 65 or older, and Japan has more centenarians per capita than any other nation. One out of five people over 65 in Japan live alone, and the country has the highest proportion of people suffering from dementia. With a rapidly declining population, the government faces potential pension shortfalls and questions about how the nation will care for its longest-living citizens.

….

Aging politicians dominate government, and the Japanese media emphasizes rosy stories about happily aging fashion gurus or retail accommodations for older customers. But for Ms. Hayakawa, it was not a stretch to imagine a world in which the oldest citizens would be cast aside in a bureaucratic process — a strain of thought she said could already be found in Japan.

Euthanasia is illegal in the country, but it occasionally arises in grisly criminal contexts. In 2016, a man killed 19 people in their sleep at a center for people with disabilities outside Tokyo, claiming that such people should be euthanized because they “have extreme difficulty living at home or being active in society.”

Author(s): Motoko Rich

Publication Date: 17 June 2022

Publication Site: NYT

Vehicle Crashes, Surging

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/15/briefing/vehicle-crashes-deaths-pandemic.html

Graphic:

Excerpt:

Per capita vehicle deaths rose 17.5 percent from the summer of 2019 to last summer, according to a Times analysis of federal data. It is the largest two-year increase since just after World War II.

….

Rising drug abuse during the pandemic seems to play an important role, as well. The U.S. Department of Transportation has reported that “the proportion of drivers testing positive for opioids nearly doubled after mid-March 2020, compared to the previous 6 months, while marijuana prevalence increased by about 50 percent.” (Mid-March 2020 is when major Covid mitigations began.)

….

Vehicle crashes might seem like an equal-opportunity public health problem, spanning racial and economic groups. Americans use the same highways, after all, and everybody is vulnerable to serious accidents. But they are not equally vulnerable.

Traffic fatalities are much more common in low-income neighborhoods and among Native and Black Americans, government data shows. Fatalities are less common among Asian Americans. (The evidence about Latinos is mixed.) There are multiple reasons, including socioeconomic differences in vehicle quality, road conditions, substance abuse and availability of crosswalks.

Author(s): David Leonhardt

Publication Date: 15 Feb 2022

Publication Site: NYT

U.S. Has Far Higher Covid Death Rate Than Other Wealthy Countries

Link:https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/02/01/science/covid-deaths-united-states.html

Graphic:

Excerpt:

“We’ve finally started getting to a stage where most of the population has been exposed either to a vaccine or the virus multiple times by now,” said Dr. David Dowdy, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Referring to American and European death rates, he continued, “I think we’re now likely to start seeing things be more synchronized going forward.”

Still, the United States faces certain steep disadvantages, ones that experts worry could cause problems during future Covid waves, and even the next pandemic. Many Americans have health problems like obesity and diabetes that increase the risk of severe Covid.

Author(s): Benjamin Mueller and Eleanor Lutz

Publication Date: 1 Feb 2022

Publication Site: NYT

Why Are More Black Kids Suicidal? A Search for Answers.

Link:https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/18/well/mind/suicide-black-kids.html

Excerpt:

A 2018 study found that while the suicide rate of Black children ages 5 to 12 was low, it was nearly twice that of white children in the same age group. In one of the most recent examples, a 10-year-old Black girl with autism died by suicide in Utah in early November. Her parents said she had been subjected to racist bullying by her classmates.

Among teenagers and young adults, suicide rates remain highest among whites, Native Americans and Alaska Natives. But while the suicide rate has recently declined among those groups, it has continued to rise among Black youths. From 2013 to 2019 the suicide rate of Black boys and men ages 15 to 24 rose by 47%, and by 59% for Black girls and women of the same age.

…..

Deaths by suicide are more common among boys than girls overall, but a study published in September found that suicide rates among Black girls increased by an average of 6.6% each year from 2003 to 2017 — more than twice the increase for Black boys. A diagnosis of depression or anxiety was more common among the girls. Additionally, nearly 20% of the girls had engaged in an argument within 24 hours of their deaths.

Author(s): Christina Caron

Publication Date:18 Nov 2021

Publication Site: NYT

To Fight Covid, We Need to Think Less Like Doctors

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/14/opinion/covid-america.html

Excerpt:

If we’re trying to prevent Covid surges and end the pandemic, then we need to center the population in our thinking. Health authorities need to get tools like rapid tests and better masks to as many people as possible, especially those who are more likely to spread disease, even if they’re at low risk themselves. People need to be persuaded or incentivized to vaccinate to protect others.

If you are sick, even with severe Covid, you want someone with a doctor’s viewpoint caring for you. America, however, is not a patient. And we’d all be better off, as a society and as individuals, if those in control of our country’s health stopped thinking of it that way.

Author(s): Aaron E. Carroll

Publication Date: 14 Jan 2022

Publication Site: NYT

Omicron Is an Economic Threat, but Inflation Is Worse, Central Bankers Say

Link:https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/16/business/economy/omicron-inflation.html

Excerpt:

Facing surging inflation, three of the world’s most influential central banks — the Federal Reserve, Bank of England and European Central Bank — took decisive steps within 24 hours of each other to look past Omicron’s economic uncertainty.

On Thursday, Britain’s central bank unexpectedly raised interest rates for the first time in more than three years as a way to curb inflation that has reached a 10-year high. The eurozone’s central bank confirmed it would stop purchases under a bond-buying program in March. The day before, the Fed projected three interest rate increases next year and said it would accelerate the wind down of its own bond-buying program.

….

Aside from Omicron, the central banks were running out of reasons to continue emergency levels of monetary stimulus designed to keep money flowing through financial markets and to keep lending to businesses and households robust throughout the pandemic. The drastic measures of the past two years had done the job — and then some: Inflation is at a nearly 40-year high in the United States; in the eurozone it is the highest since records began in 1997; and price rises in Britain have consistently exceeded expectations.

….

The Federal Reserve and Bank of England are worried about the persistence of high inflation. For the European Central Bank, inflation in the medium term is too low, not too high. It is still forecasting inflation to be below its 2 percent target in 2023 and 2024. To help reach that target in coming years, the central bank will increase the size of an older bond-buying program beginning in April, after purchases end in the larger, pandemic-era program. This is to avoid “a brutal transition,” Ms. Lagarde said.

Author(s): Eshe Nelson

Publication Date: 16 Dec 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

As U.S. Nears 800,000 Virus Deaths, 1 of Every 100 Older Americans Has Perished

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/13/us/covid-deaths-elderly-americans.html

Graphic:

Excerpt:

As the coronavirus pandemic approaches the end of a second year, the United States stands on the cusp of surpassing 800,000 deaths from the virus, and no group has suffered more than older Americans. All along, older people have been known to be more vulnerable, but the scale of loss is only now coming into full view.

Seventy-five percent of people who have died of the virus in the United States — or about 600,000 of the nearly 800,000 who have perished so far — have been 65 or older. One in 100 older Americans has died from the virus. For people younger than 65, that ratio is closer to 1 in 1,400.

…..

After the first known coronavirus death in the United States in February 2020, the virus’s death toll in this country reached 100,000 people in only three months. The pace of deaths slowed throughout summer 2020, then quickened throughout the fall and winter, and then slowed again this spring and summer.

Throughout the summer, most people dying from the virus were concentrated in the South. But the most recent 100,000 deaths — beginning in early October — have spread out across the nation, in a broad belt across the middle of the country from Pennsylvania to Texas, the Mountain West and Michigan.

These most recent 100,000 deaths, too, have all occurred in less than 11 weeks, a sign that the pace of deaths is moving more quickly once again — faster than at any time other than last winter’s surge.

By now, Covid-19 has become the third leading cause of death among Americans 65 and older, after heart disease and cancer. It is responsible for about 13 percent of all deaths in that age group since the beginning of 2020, more than diabetes, accidents, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Author(s): Julie Bosman, Amy Harmon and Albert Sun

Publication Date: 13 Dec 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

States Are Seeing Steep Income Tax Revenue Growth. Will It Last?

Link:https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizfarmer/2021/12/01/states-are-seeing-steep-income-tax-revenue-growth-will-it-last/

Excerpt:

States collected nearly $455 billion in total income tax revenue in fiscal 2021—an astounding 14.7% increase over the prior year. That’s according to the latest report from the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), which covers spending through June 2021. Over two years, income tax revenue is up 15%.

However, these numbers are highly influenced by unusual economic times. For starters, states delayed their tax filing deadline by several months when the pandemic began. For most, this pushed their 2020 income tax revenue into the next fiscal year. This artificially deflated 2020’s numbers while inflating 2021 collections.

The federal stimulus has also played a role. Since March 2020, the feds have doled out $867 billion in cash to households via three Economic Impact Payments. While those payments weren’t taxable, they could indirectly increase state tax liability for some. (The New York Times NYT +1% has a good explainer on that.) Plus, unemployment insurance — which most states do tax — received a massive boost for about 15 months.

Author(s): Liz Farmer

Publication Date: 1 Dec 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

An Unsolved Mystery: Why Do More Men Die of Covid-19?

Link:https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/02/opinion/men-covid-19-deaths.html

Excerpt:

Men are much more likely than women to die of Covid-19 and are more likely to be intubated and have long hospitalizations. This disparity in Covid-related deaths has existed since early in the pandemic, before there were any vaccines. Men are also more likely to develop certain rare complications from some Covid-19 vaccines and to experience a faster decline in measures of immunity once vaccinated. The reasons remain unclear.

Historically, women have been largely excluded from medical studies, and health issues that predominantly affect women have been underresearched. This is both morally wrong and medically foolish because it limits physicians’ ability to deliver optimal care. Rather than ignore sex differences in Covid-19 outcomes, scientists should pay attention to them to better understand the disease and how to treat it.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that in the United States, women account for 45.6 percent of Covid-19 deaths so far and men account for 54.4 percent. (Men make up slightly less than half the U.S. population.) Among Americans ages 65 to 84 — the group at highest risk for severe Covid-19 — the gap is even larger: 57.9 percent of deaths have occurred among men and 42.1 percent among women. According to the Brookings Institution, at least 65,000 more men than women have died of Covid-19 in the United States. Globally, the death rate has been about 50 percent higher for men.

A July 2021 study found that compared to women, men with Covid-19 had an almost 50 percent higher rate of respiratory intubation and a 22 percent longer hospital stay.

Author(s): Ezekiel Emanuel

Publication Date: 2 Nov 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

Who Had Covid-19 Vaccine Breakthrough Cases?

Link:https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/10/28/us/covid-breakthrough-cases.html

Graphics:

Excerpt:

Compared with the unvaccinated, fully vaccinated people overall had a much lower chance of testing positive for the virus or dying from it, even through the summer’s Delta surge and the relaxation of pandemic restrictions in many parts of the country. But the data indicates that immunity against infection may be slowly waning for vaccinated people, even as the vaccines continue to be strongly protective against severe illness and death.

“The No. 1 take-home message is that these vaccines are still working,” said Dr. David Dowdy, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “If you saw these data for any disease other than Covid, what everyone’s eyes would be drawn to is the difference between the unvaccinated and fully vaccinated lines.”

The data shows notable differences in breakthrough death rates by age and slight differences in both case and death rates by vaccine brand, trends that experts say are important to consider as tens of millions of Americans weigh whether to get a booster shot.

Author(s): Aliza Aufrichtig, Amy Schoenfeld Walker

Publication Date: 28 Oct 2021

Publication Site: NYT

Trying to Make Sense of COVID’s Mysterious 2-Month Cycle

Link:https://news.yahoo.com/trying-sense-covids-mysterious-2-121821028.html

Excerpt:

The number of new daily cases in the United States has fallen 35% since Sept. 1. Worldwide, cases have also dropped more than 30% since late August. “This is as good as the world has looked in many months,” Dr. Eric Topol of Scripps Research wrote last week.

The most encouraging news is that the most serious forms of COVID are also declining. The number of Americans hospitalized with COVID has fallen about 25% since Sept. 1. Daily deaths — which typically change direction a few weeks after cases and hospitalizations — have fallen 10% since Sept. 20. It is the first sustained decline in deaths since early summer.

These declines are consistent with a pattern that readers will recognize: COVID’s mysterious two-month cycle. Since the COVID virus began spreading in late 2019, cases have often surged for about two months — sometimes because of a variant, such as delta — and then declined for about two months.

Public health researchers do not understand why. Many popular explanations — such as seasonality or the ebbs and flows of mask wearing and social distancing — are clearly insufficient, if not wrong. The two-month cycle has occurred during different seasons of the year and occurred even when human behavior was not changing in obvious ways.

Author(s): David Leonhardt

Publication Date: 4 Oct 2021

Publication Site: Yahoo News (originally at NYT)