News roundup for Tue, Feb 8, 2022

Ottawa has declared a state of emergency as a sustained trucker protest over mandatory vaccination policies causes trouble. A surprising number of these protesters are from America:

An oil production and storage vessel containing 60,000 barrels of oil (but capable of holding millions of barrels) exploded off the coast of Nigeria this week:

As Russia continues to surround Ukraine with military assets, small numbers of US troops arrive in NATO countries:

Free land programs still exist in sparsely populated regions of Kansas. Despite the existence of these programs, populations are still in decline. Some folks still try to make a go of it. In an era of remote work, I’m surprised more people don’t take the state up on the offers. But population decline is a vicious downward spiral. People need services, and without services (like a dentist, or local firefighters and EMTs), even free land can be a gamble not worth taking.

Roads that wirelessly charge electric vehicles? The technology exists and is coming (on a small scale, anyway) to Detroit.  The Michigan Department of Transportation is running the pilot project, and companies that were once the heart of Detroit, like Ford, are also involved in the effort.

The cost of fresh produce is rising, especially for avocados, blueberries, bananas, apples, grapes, and oranges—some of these foods are being hit by weather and disaster-related growing shortages.

Beavers help restore ecosystems after damaging wildfires. Much in the same way that grazing animals help with reforestation, beavers help shore up impacted waterways by shuttling debris around. Water downstream of beaver dams is filtered and cleaned up by their work.

The world has nearly 397.8 million COVID cases. The world has gained 20.4 million cases in the last week. The Omicron wave has peaked and is now in a downtrend globally. There have been nearly 5.8 million deaths in total. The US has had over 78.2 million cases cumulatively. The US gained about 2.2 million cases in the last seven days. Over 928,000 Americans have died during the pandemic—over 19,000 in the last week. The US gained over 110,000 new cases on Sunday and over 106,000 by later afternoon Monday. Although cases are declining in the US, deaths are still high:

COVID infections among American white-tailed deer are still raging. I’ve posted about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Animal reservoirs of this virus are a scary prospect, and people (hunters) interact with these deer not infrequently. My main concerns are mutation and spillover into the human population, but also the fact that the reservoir can be a persistent source of disease re-emergence. There’s no evidence yet of the jump back from deer to humans. But it’s something to keep an eye on.

Convalescent plasma may be a safe COVID treatment option for high-risk kids (for example, immunocompromised children) in the near future. Most studies on convalescent plasma have been done on adults to date. Larger studies on kids will be needed.

A non-peer-reviewed but much touted study out of Johns Hopkins claiming that lockdowns don’t work is being pilloried by mathematicians, statisticians, and academicians. And Nassim Taleb.