News roundup for Fri, Nov 12, 2021

The internet went down briefly across wide swathes of the US this week but was restored relatively quickly:

The FDA has announced hundreds of drug shortages—everything from insulin to iron dextran to Narcan. Check with your pharmacies to make sure your next refill can be filled. If you run into trouble try filling your prescriptions at a large hospital outpatient pharmacy if you can as they’re more likely to be stocked than smaller facilities.

California continues to shutter nuclear power plants even when it struggles to keep the lights on during peak summer demand. Nuclear power, however controversial it is, is clean energy that will help keep the planet cool. I know that the containment of nuclear waste is a huge issue, but so is catastrophic climate change:

Inflation is still rising, and it’s biting into people’s spending power:

Because of the cost of food, fewer donations are being made to food banks. Demand for food banks is simultaneously increasing as families struggle to put affordable food on the table. It’s a concerning cycle.

The China Evergrande Group barely made its interest payments this week, narrowly missing default. A number of news outlets announced it had defaulted, but that turned out not to be true. But it still may be true in the near future. See this thread:

In more “conflicting headline news” there’s this doozy:

A urea shortage is impacting diesel-run vehicles. Urea is used in Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) which helps reduce smog-producing chemical emissions. Some vehicles won’t run without DEF. In response, some countries are going to great measures to help keep things running smoothly:

You can search the Environmental Working Group’s database to see how contaminated tap water is in your area. You can search by zip code. It lists the contaminants found for each relevant water district/company and whether or not that water provider is operating within legal contamination limits. It’s also a good reminder that legal does not necessarily equal safe.

A little girl recently saved her family from carbon monoxide poisoning by thinking fast and calling 911 and neighbors to help her:

The world has 252.6 million COVID cases. The world has gained 3.3 million cases in the last seven days. There have been over 5 million deaths in total. The US has had a cumulative 47.7 million cases—nearly 500,000 cases were added in the last seven days. Over 780,000 Americans have died—over 7,600 in the last week. The US added nearly 94,000 new cases on Wednesday and nearly 1,500 deaths that day as well. The US is trending back up in case gain and is still leading global daily case gain.

Deaths among the double vaccinated elderly (in England) are on the rise as antibodies wane. Uptake on third doses is lower than anticipated in the US—encourage folks who are eligible to get their third jab, especially if elderly.

Nosocomial COVID infections of hospital patients (the spread of COVID to patients who did not come in with COVID), and incidental COVID in already sick patients (people who tested positive because they were exposed just before entering the hospital) are proving to be deadly infections indeed:

That respiratory thing that just burned through Europe and the US? The one where all the tests were negative but the symptoms were there? Might have been COVID:

Cases are rising again in the US. I’m hoping that this is because antibodies are waning, and not because of overwhelming seasonality trends. And I hope that because if its antibodies, we can vaccinate our way out with boosters and kids getting their first dose:


  • 15 Comments

    • brownfox-ff

      What you can do about it:

      • Work on your finances. This might help with your prescription payment. Or it might just help with something else.
      • Consider a solar charger or portable battery power bank. Do you have gear that you’d like to keep running during a power outage?
      • Meet your neighbours. Having a friendly ally may be one of the best preps. Do you know each of your neighbours? Could you start building a relationship?
      • Check on your neighbours. Is there someone who might rely on the food bank? Could you help them with something?
      • Keep working on your pantry.
      • Consider if there is a way to localize your food chain. Do you live near any local food?
      • Consider alternate transportation. Could you get groceries or get around without a car? Find a used bike? Take public transit?
      • Unplug. No internet? You are free. Practice for an internet outage by taking a break. What do you enjoy doing most with downtime? Reading? Meditation? Exercise?
      • Consider filtering water at your home
      • Check your Carbon Monoxide detectors and Smoke Detectors. Do they work? This may be one of the highest priorities for safety.
      • If you haven’t set up an annual personal review, now is a great time.
      • Get some exercise. The more ways you can stay out of the hospital, the better.
      • Get a hospital bag ready. If you must visit the hospital, you may want some supplies at the ready.
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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor brownfox-ff

        Seconding checking on friends, family, and neighbors this winter. 

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      • Gideon ParkerStaff brownfox-ff

        Brownfox-ff, I was talking to some people about the state of the world, how various disasters and things to be prepared for are discussed on this site, and how many can feel a sense of despair and gloom about the future. I then shared how you are a shining example that instead of just sitting and worrying and getting depressed you are encouraging hope and a brighter tomorrow. 

        You aren’t just saying hang in there or it will get better, but are showing that we need to take action for the situation we are in individually, as a community, or globally. It’s that action and doing something that removes us from that state of concern and fear.

        Thank you for being a good example to me.

        6 |
      • Sbesch Gideon Parker

        Couldn’t agree more, Gideon.  Reminds me of another of my favorite quotes: “The purpose of fear is to warn you of danger, not to make you afraid of it.”

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      • Lindsey ⚜ brownfox-ff

        Love the “What you can do about it” section after these articles. Gives hope, peace of mind and great reminders! Well done! 

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      • Momof6 brownfox-ff

        So glad you comment BrownFox!

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      • brownfox-ff Momof6

        Thank you everyone for the kind words. I am quite humbled and flattered. I am glad these posts have been useful.
        I fully agree with your frames of mind about looking at the positive and taking what action we can.

        I wish each of you the best of luck with whatever you are working on this week.

        3 |
    • Hardened

      Nuclear power isn’t clean.  Even when working normally, nuclear power plants leak radioactive pollution into their neighboring communites (see https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14630411/).  Other kinds of disasters have beginnings, middles, and ends.  Disasters involving nuclear power plants have beginnings but no ends.  The Fukushima plant has been leaking over 300 metric tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean every day since 2011.  The are farmers in Japan who won’t eat their own crops because they know the food is radioactive.  The official plan to clean up Fukushima involves technology that hasn’t been invented yet.  The Japanese government can legally censor anyone who talks about Fukushima.  You’ll read in mainstream media that “dilution is the solution to polution” so it’s no big deal that radioactive waste is being poured constantly into the ocean (see “Japan to release 1m tonnes of contaminated Fukushima water into the sea” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/16/japan-to-release-1m-tonnes-of-contaminated-fukushima-water-into-the-sea) but that isn’t true of radioactive waste, the most carcinogenic substance known to humankind, in which a single particle can cause cancer.

      Hunters who catch wild boar in Germany have to have it tested by the government before they eat it to find out whether it’s too contaminated by Chernobyl fallout.

      There are plenty of nuclear power plants in the United States with the same (American) design of Fukushima that are stacking nuclear waste in the roof, even though they weren’t designed for that, because there’s nowhere else for it to go.  These things are potentially ticking time bombs with virtually infinite environmental cost compared to traditional disasters because of the thousands of years involved.

      If you dig past the nuclear power industry PR veneer, as I did in 2011 after the Fukushima disaster, things get ugly fast.

      5 |
      • MainPugh Hardened

        This is not to dismiss your point about nuclear waste, but I just wanted to clarify that nuclear power is considered clean because it does not release carbon dioxide and is therefore a zero-emission energy source. 

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Hardened

        I know that the potential for nuclear plant disasters were drastically downplayed when nuclear went big in the 1970s. And nuclear waste is a ticking time bomb. So the question is: which will get us first? The nuclear waste/nuclear disaster, or near-term climate catastrophe from burning coal/fossil fuels? I wonder if using nuclear as a crutch until we can bridge the gap to renewables isn’t a smarter option than using a coal burning crutch. 

        2 |
      • Using nuclear isn’t a smarter option.  We don’t need it, nor coal, to achieve the goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 Celsius.  This has all been figured out and is detailed in the One Earth Climate Model (https://oneearth.uts.edu.au/).

        3 |
      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Hardened

        That’s a cool resource, thanks.

        1 |
      • Gideon ParkerStaff Hardened

        I just finished watching the 1984-1989 tv series Highway to Heaven. The last episode of the series is kind of like a Christmas Carol spin off where the angel gives a nuclear power plant builder, a farmer who uses pesticides, and the US President a vision of what the future will be like if we don’t take action now and stop what we are doing. 

        It made me feel very guilty of the damage I do to the planet and makes me want to do better.

        It is a very wholesome, clean, and thought provoking series that tackles many hard topics like racism, being disabled, suicidal, pollution, and more. Highly recommend it.

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      • más picante Hardened

        Nuclear power is far less dangerous than any other method of generation. A good metric for the danger of an energy source is deaths per terawatt hour. Here are the stats, according to Our World in Data: Coal:30; Oil: 18.4; Wind: 0.035; Hydro: 0.024; Nuclear: 0.01-0.074. Nuclear doesn’t seem dangerous at all. In fact, by many estimates, rooftop solar panels kill significantly more people per TWh (terawatt-hour) than nuclear, because roof installations are so perilous. Approximately the same number of people die in mining and drilling operations EVERY YEAR than have EVER died from nuclear power, with 80% of all nuclear power deaths resulting from one incident – Chernobyl.

        The waste issue is also overblown.  Reactors don’t just spit out waste willy-nilly, ala those barrels of glowing ooze on The Simpsons (which were mostly produced in weapons construction or science experiments, not in commercial power generation).  They produce spent fuel rods, which are removed from the reactor and stored in heavy duty concrete barrels.  All the spent fuel rods ever created in the US would barely fill one football field. 

        We also have the technology to reuse these rods rather than store them, since they retain something like 90% of their energy even when “spent”.  Other countries, like France, already do this.  We don’t, because of misguided politics. 

        We are not going to get out of this mess via renewable sources.  All the rivers have already been damned.  Solar and wind are not reliable sources of baseline “always on” power that everyone depends on.   Opposing nuclear means either resorting to more fossil fuels (hence the rapid growth of gas turbines as nuclear plants are shuttered), or some fantasy low-energy future that will never happen, particularly with the high volume of people migrating from low-use third-world cultures to high-use western cultures.  

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