News roundup for Fri, Aug 13, 2021

Fires are raging in Greece and Turkey. The fires in Greece have destroyed one of the world’s oldest trees. Turkey is also experiencing massive flooding simultaneously in different regions.

Sicily hit 120 degrees F this week, one of the highest temps ever recorded in that region. If the reading is accurate, it will be one of the highest temps ever recorded in Europe.

Wildfires in Algeria have caused significant mortality—scores have died. France is sending fire-fighting aircraft to help.

In the wake of the US withdrawal, Afghanistan is falling to the Taliban. US and British forces are returning to extract people from embassies under threat:

The US economy is still red-lining. Experts all say “it’s transient, don’t worry,” and I sincerely hope they’re right:

The chip shortage is still ravaging the auto industry.

The world has 206 million COVID cases. The world has gained 4.4 million cases in the last week. There have been over 4.3 million deaths in total. The US has had about 37.1 million cases. Nearly 636,000 Americans have died. There have been 660 deaths today in the US. The US gained a staggering 145,000 new cases yesterday. The US is once again leading the world in explosive daily case gain.

Hospitals are once again reaching capacity all over the US—the phenomenon is not just relegated to the South. Elective procedures are also being halted at numerous facilities. Some facilities can’t even accept emergency patients:

Pediatricians are seriously worried about kids’ health now that schools are restarting. The Delta variant might be behind a recent rise in hospitalized children. RSV outbreaks in the US are also hitting the young. US pediatricians are also urging government agencies not to drag out the process for approving vaccines for those under 12 as the Delta variant continues to spread.

Because Delta is able to cause breakthrough infections in the vaccinated, herd immunity may not be possible. When herd immunity is truly achieved, the unvaccinated are protected from transmission from the large pool of those who are vaccinated. Given Delta’s breakthrough potential, the unvaccinated are no longer protected by this pool. The only way to be sure you’re protected from hospitalization and death from COVID is by being fully vaccinated:

Recent US COVID-related travel bans don’t make any sense:

Teachers and school staff in California are getting a vaccine mandate:

Stanford University is requiring regular, weekly COVID testing regardless of vaccine status. It’s a good idea considering Delta’s power to cause breakthrough infections, and it might trigger other universities to follow suit:

Shipping ports in China are reeling from Delta, and this is probably going to cause more downstream scarcity in US store shelves:


    • M. E.Contributor

      If you look at the travel ban through the lens of epidemiology, it makes no sense. If you look at it through the lens of reducing the strain on the healthcare system, it makes some sense. Emergency rooms have to take all comers, even uninsured ones, even non-citizens.  So if we have an influx of tourists from Europe and a UK citizen gets low oxygen or a heart attack or a broken leg while touring Atlanta – well they’re going to Grady hospital. Which can’t even take care of the local population right now.  I’m still not a fan of the travel ban, but I think assuming it has to do with reducing the spread of COVID is starting from the wrong assumption.  

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      • DuskStar M. E.

        My thought was that of international relations – “If you won’t let our travellers in, we won’t let yours in”.

        Not sure if the EU (or member countries thereof) still ban vacationers from the US, though.

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    • Hardened

      Hold on cowboy, the dream of herd immunity is toast?  Even if we’re all vaccinated?  I want to make sure I heard that right.

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      • Greg P Hardened

        The best we can hope for is that the virus mutates into a more “traditional” corona virus (the common cold) and it kills/maims fewer people every year.  As a world-wide pandemic, there is simply not enough vaccine that will get to enough people before the virus mutates again & again.  

        The only potential silver lining is that vaccination will keep you from getting as sick when, not if, you catch the next mutation.   

        Now, as to prevention – can the world leaders learn from this episode & get on top of the next virus that will come along?  If not, then we just have to cross our fingers that it is not as lethal as Ebola as it sweeps the world.

        Good luck, everyone!

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      • Bed Greg P

        It honestly wouldn’t be surprising if it becomes an endemic after a while. Just gotta hope that most people either get vaccinated to reduce their chance of being really sick or hospitalized/dying, or somehow get lucky and don’t get too sick w/o being vaccinated.

        I doubt world leaders will learn from this pandemic. Just look at how global warming has been “handled” by them for the past several decades.

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Hardened

        Felt the same way. “This can’t be right!” But it’s true in the sense that the unvaccinated are not at all protected by the vaccinated pool if that pool is constantly transmitting viable virus. Delta breakthroughs are wrecking hopes for herd immunity. The vaccinated are still protected from hospitalization and severe disease, though. 

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    • Mary M

      On the subject of wildfires, there are fires bigger than every other one combined currently burning in Siberia. This will not only eject massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, but, potentially, quantities of methane as well. Not good.

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Mary M

        Definitely not good! Thanks for sharing the link. 

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    • Lindsey ⚜

      This seemed like a rougher update. So much bad news. I hadn’t even heard of the China port situation. 😳 Thank you for the round up!

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Lindsey ⚜

        Yes, re-reading them they are all relatively concerning. The news always is. We try to include some feel-good news too when possible. I’ll look for some good news to share this week. 

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    • Greg P

      The situation in Afghanistan reminded me of a conversation that I had with an Army civil engineer about 13 years ago when I was deployed to Landstuhl Hospital in Germany.  He was on his way back after a tour of duty in the “Stan”.   He related how we (US) were never going to be able to nation build there.  He told me that most people there live in these remote mountain valleys – no electricity, roads, indoor plumbing or running water.  They have their little plot of land and raise food and/or poppies.  They just wanted to be left alone and continue this way of life that they have known for a couple hundred years or more.  

      Obviously, his take on the situation never informed our approach as a country.  We also never took to heart the exact same lesson that the old Soviet Union learned there back in the 80’s.  I am saddened today to think of the young service members that I cared for – blown up, burned, and shot – for what?  Old men will send young men in to die because they forgot their own experience.  Maybe at some point, we will learn from history rather than simply repeating the same mistakes.  

      Rest in peace brothers

      HMC (ret) USN


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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Greg P

        Yes, that’s the same thing most of us are asking ourselves: “What lasting accomplishments came out of 20 years, tens to hundreds of thousands of lives lost, and trillions of dollars spent?” Few to none. Afghanistan seems to be the land where no lessons are ever learned. 

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      • Captain Peanut Greg P

        Didn’t the soldiers who gave their limbs and lives help restore some level of peace, relief, and comfort to many citizens? Giving one’s effort and work to help ease the burdens of another is an admirable thing that should be praised and commended. 

        Now I’m not too informed myself, but from a few headlines I am reading that girls were able to attend school while the US was there, but now that the Taliban is moving in they are afraid that they won’t be able to. Providing education to some is also a great show of their hard work.

        It is tragically sad to see 20 years of hard work and lives lost destroyed in a matter of days, but there has been good that has come of it in the lives of individuals.

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Captain Peanut

        No doubt it made a difference, and I agree that it’s a shame that that work will be rapidly dismantled by the Taliban.

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      • Greg P Captain Peanut

        I’m glad that you can point out some benefit of our time there.  I agree that some good came out of it.  Whether that was worth the cost in lives and dollars… as for the lives… I leave it to those who made those sacrifices to judge that.  Hopefully, from our perspective now, in hindsight [ always 20/20  🙁  ] let’s just hope our memory is longer than the 24 hour news cycle would generally indicate.  

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Greg P

        School buildings for children and programs for girls to get educated were good, but will not be long-lasting now (sadly). But that schooling that took place showed a few generations of kids what can be done… I can think of few other long-lasting accomplishments. Out ROI is very, very low here. 

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      • Hardened Greg P

        We didn’t succeed at nation building in Afghanistan because that wasn’t our goal.

        “We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build.” — President Biden

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Hardened

        I keep wondering what 20 years of manpower and 2 trillion dollars could have done inside the US… We could use some “nation building” here at home. 

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