Murder Rose by Almost 30% in 2020. It’s Rising at a Slower Rate in 2021.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/22/upshot/murder-rise-2020.html

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Excerpt:

Previously, the largest one-year increase in total number of murders was 1,938 in 1990. The F.B.I. data shows almost 5,000 more murders last year than in 2019, for a total of around 21,500 (still below the particularly violent era of the early 1990s).

The reasons for the rise may never be fully sorted out, but analysts have pointed to many possible contributing factors, including various pandemic stresses; increased distrust between the police and the public after the murder of George Floyd, including a pullback by the police in response to criticism; and increased firearm carrying.

About 77 percent of reported murders in 2020 were committed with a firearm, the highest share ever reported, up from 67 percent a decade ago.

The change in murder was widespread — a national phenomenon and not a regional one. Murder rose over 35 percent in cities with populations over 250,000 that reported full data.

Author(s): Jeff Asher

Publication Date: 22 Sept 2021

Publication Site: NY Times

Data Shows Less Alarming Picture of Delta

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/07/briefing/risk-breakthrough-infections-delta.html

Excerpt:

How small are the chances of the average vaccinated American contracting Covid? Probably about one in 5,000 per day, and even lower for people who take precautions or live in a highly vaccinated community.

Or maybe one in 10,000

The estimates here are based on statistics from three places that have reported detailed data on Covid infections by vaccination status: Utah; Virginia; and King County, which includes Seattle, in Washington state. All three are consistent with the idea that about one in 5,000 vaccinated Americans have tested positive for Covid each day in recent weeks.

The chances are surely higher in the places with the worst Covid outbreaks, like the Southeast. And in places with many fewer cases — like the Northeast, as well as the Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco areas — the chances are lower, probably less than 1 in 10,000. That’s what the Seattle data shows, for example. (These numbers don’t include undiagnosed cases, which are often so mild that people do not notice them and do not pass the virus to anyone else.)

Here’s one way to think about a one-in-10,000 daily chance: It would take more than three months for the combined risk to reach just 1 percent.

Author(s): David Leonhardt

Publication Date: 7 September 2021

Publication Site: NY Times

New York Times quashed COVID origins inquiry

Link: https://spectatorworld.com/topic/new-york-times-quashed-covid-origins-inquiry/

Excerpt:

Atop editor at the New York Times instructed Times staffers not to investigate the origins of COVID-19, two Times employees confirmed today.

‘In early 2020,’ a veteran Times employee tells me, ‘I suggested to a senior editor at the paper that we investigate the origins of COVID-19. I was told it was dangerous to run a piece about the origins of the coronavirus. There was resistance to running anything that could suggest that [COVID-19 was manmade or had leaked accidentally from a lab].’

….

In November 2019, it emerged that China Daily had failed to disclose to federal authorities millions of dollars in payments to US outlets including the Times and the Washington Post. In August 2020, the Times quietly scrubbed the China-funded advertorials from its website. Still, in October 2020, the Times ran an op-ed by Regina Ip, a member of Hong Kong’s Executive Council, justifying the repression of anti-government protests in the Hong Kong SAR.

Author(s): Dominic Green

Publication Date: 2 August 2021

Publication Site: The Spectator

Which Groups Are Still Dying of Covid in the U.S.?

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/06/10/us/covid-death-patterns.html

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Excerpt:

“Previously, at the start of the pandemic, we were seeing people who were over the age of 60, who have numerous comorbidities,” said Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease expert at the Medical University of South Carolina. “I’m not seeing that as much anymore.” Instead, she said, hospitalizations have lately been skewing toward “people who are younger, people who have not been vaccinated.”

More than 80 percent of those 65 and older have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, compared with about half of those aged 25 to 64 who have received one dose. Data collected by the C.D.C. on so-called breakthrough infections — those that happen to vaccinated people — suggest an exceedingly low rate of death among people who had received a Covid-19 vaccine.

Author(s): Denise Lu

Publication Date: 10 June 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

U.S. Seizes Share of Ransom From Hackers in Colonial Pipeline Attack

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/07/us/politics/pipeline-attack.html

Excerpt:

The Justice Department said on Monday that it had seized much of the ransom that a major U.S. pipeline operator had paid last month to a Russian hacking collective, turning the tables on the hackers by reaching into a digital wallet to snatch back millions of dollars in cryptocurrency.

Investigators in recent weeks traced 75 Bitcoins worth more than $4 million that Colonial Pipeline had paid to the hackers as the attack shut down its computer systems, prompting fuel shortages, a spike in gasoline prices and chaos at airlines.

Federal investigators tracked the ransom as it moved through a maze of at least 23 different electronic accounts belonging to DarkSide, the hacking group, before landing in one that a federal judge allowed them to break into, according to law enforcement officials and court documents.

The Justice Department said it seized 63.7 Bitcoins, valued at about $2.3 million. (The value of a Bitcoin has dropped over the past month.)

Author(s): Katie Benner, Nicole Perlroth

Publication Date: 7 June 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

Long Slide Looms for World Population, With Sweeping Ramifications

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/22/world/global-population-shrinking.html

Excerpt:

Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seem to be expanding and accelerating. Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.

A planet with fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow the destructive impact of climate change and reduce household burdens for women. But the census announcements this month from China and the United States, which showed the slowest rates of population growth in decades for both countries, also point to hard-to-fathom adjustments.

The strain of longer lives and low fertility, leading to fewer workers and more retirees, threatens to upend how societies are organized — around the notion that a surplus of young people will drive economies and help pay for the old. It may also require a reconceptualization of family and nation. Imagine entire regions where everyone is 70 or older. Imagine governments laying out huge bonuses for immigrants and mothers with lots of children. Imagine a gig economy filled with grandparents and Super Bowl ads promoting procreation.

“A paradigm shift is necessary,” said Frank Swiaczny, a German demographer who was the chief of population trends and analysis for the United Nations until last year. “Countries need to learn to live with and adapt to decline.”

Author(s): Damien Cave, Emma Bubola, Choe Sang-Hun.

Publication Date: 22 May 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

A Misleading C.D.C. Number

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/11/briefing/outdoor-covid-transmission-cdc-number.html

Excerpt:

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines last month for mask wearing, it announced that “less than 10 percent” of Covid-19 transmission was occurring outdoors. Media organizations repeated the statistic, and it quickly became a standard description of the frequency of outdoor transmission.

….

That benchmark “seems to be a huge exaggeration,” as Dr. Muge Cevik, a virologist at the University of St. Andrews, said. In truth, the share of transmission that has occurred outdoors seems to be below 1 percent and may be below 0.1 percent, multiple epidemiologists told me. The rare outdoor transmission that has happened almost all seems to have involved crowded places or close conversation.

Saying that less than 10 percent of Covid transmission occurs outdoors is akin to saying that sharks attack fewer than 20,000 swimmers a year. (The actual worldwide number is around 150.) It’s both true and deceiving.

Author(s): David Leonhardt

Publication Date: 11 May 2021

Publication Site: NY Times

F.B.I. Asking Questions After a Pension Fund Aimed High and Fell Short

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/11/business/dealbook/psers-pennsylvania-fund-fbi.html

Excerpt:

The search for high returns takes many pension funds far and wide, but the Pennsylvania teachers’ fund went farther than most. It invested in trailer park chains, pistachio farms, pay phone systems for prison inmates — and, in a particularly bizarre twist, loans to Kurds trying to carve out their own homeland in northern Iraq.

Now the F.B.I. is on the case, investigating investment practices at the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System, and new questions are emerging about how the fund’s staff and consultants calculated returns.

…..

The error in calculating returns was a tiny one, just four one-hundredths of a percentage point. But it was enough — just barely — to push the fund’s performance over a critical threshold of 6.36 percent that, by law, determines whether certain teachers have to pay more into the fund. The close call raised questions about whether someone had manipulated the numbers and the error wasn’t really an error at all.

…..

“If you can’t change the benefits, and you can’t change the contributions, the only lever left for these people to pull is investment policy — that’s it,” said Kurt Winkelmann, a senior fellow for pension policy design at the University of Minnesota’s Heller-Hurwicz Economics Institute. “And that exposes younger beneficiaries and taxpayers to a lot of risk.”

Author(s): Mary Williams Walsh

Publication Date: 11 May 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

Why Did It Take So Long to Accept the Facts About Covid?

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/07/opinion/coronavirus-airborne-transmission.html

Excerpt:

But clear evidence doesn’t easily overturn tradition or overcome entrenched feelings and egos. John Snow, often credited as the first scientific epidemiologist, showed that a contaminated well was responsible for a 1854 London cholera epidemic by removing the suspected pump’s handle and documenting how the cases plummeted afterward. Many other scientists and officials wouldn’t believe him for 12 years, when the link to a water source showed up again and became harder to deny. (He died years earlier.)

Similarly, when the Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis realized the importance of washing hands to protect patients, he lost his job and was widely condemned by disbelieving colleagues. He wasn’t always the most tactful communicator, and his colleagues resented his brash implication that they were harming their patients (even though they were). These doctors continued to kill their patients through cross-contamination for decades, despite clear evidence showing how death rates had plummeted in the few wards where midwives and Dr. Semmelweis had succeeded in introducing routine hand hygiene. He ultimately died of an infected wound.

Author(s): Zeynep Tufekci

Publication Date: 7 May 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

Cuomo Aides Spent Months Hiding Nursing Home Death Toll

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/28/nyregion/cuomo-aides-nursing-home-deaths.html?smid=tw-share

Excerpt:

Aides to the New York governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, repeatedly prevented state health officials from releasing the number of nursing home deaths in the pandemic.

The effort by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office to obscure the pandemic death toll in New York nursing homes was far greater than previously known, with aides repeatedly overruling state health officials over a span of at least five months, according to interviews and newly unearthed documents.

Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aides engaged in a sustained effort to prevent the state’s own health officials, including the commissioner, Howard Zucker, from releasing the true death toll to the public or sharing it with state lawmakers, these interviews and documents showed.

A scientific paper, which incorporated the data, was never published. An audit of the numbers by a top Cuomo aide was finished months before it became publicly known. Two letters, drafted by the Health Department and meant for state legislators, were never sent.

….

The Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing home death data now is the subject of a federal investigation, one of at least four overlapping inquiries into the governor and his administration. As of this month, more than 15,500 nursing home residents with Covid-19 have died.

Author(s): Goodman, J David; Mckinley, Jesse; Hakim, Danny.

Publication Date: 28 April 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

U.S. Calls for Pause on Johnson & Johnson Vaccine After Clotting Cases

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/13/us/politics/johnson-johnson-vaccine-blood-clots-fda-cdc.html

Excerpt:

Federal health agencies on Tuesday called for an immediate pause in use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine after six recipients in the United States developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within about two weeks of vaccination.

All six recipients were women between the ages of 18 and 48. One woman died and a second woman in Nebraska has been hospitalized in critical condition.

Nearly seven million people in the United States have received Johnson & Johnson shots so far, and roughly nine million more doses have been shipped out to the states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Author(s): Noah Weiland, Sharon LaFraniere, Carl Zimmer

Publication Date: 13 April 2021

Publication Site: New York Times