News roundup for Tue, Nov 9, 2021

A self-driving farm vehicle called the Carbon Robotics Autonomous Laserweeder lasers away weeds and eliminates the need for chemical herbicides. It can work during the day or night. It’s very cool technology.

Meat packing plants are still having trouble finding workers. This does not bode well for meat prices.

Cod may disappear entirely from British and Celtic sea waters due to rising sea temperatures.

The US Treasury plans to use app data to surveil some Americans’ financial activities. Many would argue that this is a spectacular overreach and a violation of the 4th Amendment.

A shortage of nitrogen fertilizer could cause global crop failures. It’s not just the cost of natural gas causing the problem. Hurricane Ida shuttered ammonia plants in Louisiana this summer, halting production. Many are warning of an imminent food crisis. The shortage is anticipated to last well into 2023.

“Stocking up for winter” in China could be a euphemism for “preparing for war with Taiwan et al.” In the same vein, conspicuous mockups of US warships have been spotted in the Taklamakan Desert:

The US infrastructure bill passes—once signed, monies will be on the way for highways, roads, bridges, city transit systems, rail, and more:

The City of Austin, Texas encourages folks to remember the lessons from Storm Uri and get better prepared this year. The city and county, taking the same advice, will prepare for severe weather events in advance this year.

In good news, the US wants to make carbon capture less expensive. The Earthshot Program by the Department of Energy plans to help scale up new technologies to make carbon capture easier and more ubiquitous. The infrastructure bill will help fund it.

The world has had over 251 million COVID cases. The world has gained 3.2 million cases in the last week. There have been nearly 5.1 million deaths in total. The US has a cumulative 47.4 million cases. The US gained about 500,000 cases in the last seven days. Over 775,000 Americans have died during the pandemic—about 9,000 in the last week. The US gained over 40,000 new cases on Sunday, and over 37,000 by late afternoon Monday. The US, Russia, UK, and Turkey have had the largest case gains over the last week.

The WHO has given emergency authorization for India’s Covaxin vaccine in adults. The benefits of its use outweigh the risks. Over 110 million doses have already been given in India.

Japan plans to begin producing Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine in January. Japan currently relies on imports and wishes to bulk up its own vaccine manufacturing base.

Novovax has applied for EUA in multiple countries.

The NIH pushes ahead with Gain of Function (GoF) research in pathogenic viruses despite the lingering questions about the origin of SARS-CoV-2 and any role GoF research could have had in precipitating the current pandemic (which, to be clear, is uncertain and unanswered at this time):

Pfizer’s COVID pill regimen cuts risks of hospitalization and death in trials by almost 90%. Pfizer will submit its data to the FDA as soon as it can.


  • 11 Comments

    • brownfox-ff

      What you can do about it:

      Brainstorm other things you could do:

      • Take a first aid class
      • Learn a new, fun skill
      • Practice a family fire drill
      • Keep up with maintenance – does your car need a tune-up? What’s one thing you’ve been putting off but could do?
      • Read a book – expand your mind
      9 |
      • Gideon ParkerStaff brownfox-ff

        Good summary of things we can do brownfox-ff! This week I will be working on improving my exercise, will test my smoke detectors, and take a look at the car and prepare for the winter.

        2 |
    • Sbesch

      “Pfizer said there were six hospitalizations and zero deaths out of the 607 trial participants who received the pill in combination with the HIV drug within five days of symptom onset. That compares with 41 hospitalizations and 10 deaths out of the 612 people who received a placebo.”

      When you’re lucky enough to get into a trial for what many would describe as a “miracle drug”, but unlucky enough to get assigned to the group that gets the placebo instead of the drug.  🙁

      3 |
      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Sbesch

        In some trials placebo/control group is unethical for this exact reason–but the safety/risks have to be known to determine that. 

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    • Bill Masen

      FYI These excellent News Roundups are becoming essential reading for me these days, Please keep it up the Intel, it is very useful in improving my planning.

      5 |
    • Hardened

      > Meat packing plants are still having trouble finding workers.

      Does this impact the safety of the meat too?  Last year The Prepared sounded the alarm on meat safety in the US.  How are things looking now?

      3 |
      • Gideon ParkerStaff Hardened

        Around April and May of last year we talked about many issues with the meat industry such as higher prices and rationing as a result of labor shortage, the food supply chain redirecting from restaurants to consumers, and farmers having to kill many of their herds because of the change in demands. This then led to meat processing plants seeking permission from the FDA to increase their line speed, plant employees getting sick and dying from COVID-19, and yet being forced to stay open by the government.

        Here are the two articles: What’s next for meat & milk: higher prices, odd sizes, weird packaging, rationing and Meat supply safety worries mount: even if it’s available, should you eat it?

        In 2020, we saw many store shelves completely empty of meat or if they had some, there were limits on how much you could buy. Much of this was caused by panic buying and hoarding. But supply caught up to the demand and stores lifted their limits and you didn’t have to worry if you were going to find meat or not. The same thing happened with toilet paper and cleaning products. With the rise of the Delta variant of COVID-19, we are starting to see people buy out toilet paper again out of panic buying and stores enacting limits.

        But it is unlikely that we will see the same 2020-like shortages with meat. Meat prices are up 6% compared to last year, but many other areas are seeing dramatic increases such as 12.3% rise in cost for major appliances and 3.4% in food overall. (Forbes) Local grocery stores are preparing and creating better inventories to meet demand. Many meat processing plant employees are vaccinated now and these plants have had time to implement better COVID procedures to prevent the spread, both things that they didn’t have in early 2020.

        There are some things to keep an eye out for though, such as meat processing plants requiring all employees to be vaccinated like Tyson Foods has. There will always be a portion of the population who will be against this and would rather quit than be vaccinated. So there may be some labor shortages because of this. Tyson foods is offering a $200 bonus to vaccinated employees to help encourage them to stay, though I don’t think that is much of an incentive to keep people if they would have quit their job anyways and lost out on their entire source of income.

        Another thing that we touched on earlier this year was proposed anti-farming laws that would drive meat production out of some states in the US. This would potentially cause us to import more meat from other nations where strict food safety laws may not be as closely monitored, and continue to raise prices further.

        Although there always seems to be some product being recalled because of salmonella we haven’t seen any major widespread meat safety issues over the past year that was caused by the increase in line speed at processing plants. In the above linked article, we spoke with food scientist Dr. Gretchen Mafi who had full confidence in the meat processing system and the strict training and testing that the USDA goes through to monitor meat quality, it looks like she was right.

        This week we talked with a local farmer farmer who raises 100% grass fed beef. He says that the small processing plant that he takes his cows to are booked out until 2023. They were overwhelmed last year when the big plants closed down due to covid and are still trying to catch up. He says it used to cost him $0.65/pound to process but now its over a dollar a pound. So everyone is raising their prices. So to me it doesn’t look like they are speeding up production or cutting corners in quality and safety but just booking out later and later.

        When possible, buy local and know where your food is coming from. Not only will you establish and support good connections with local farmers but you can ask questions on the quality of meat and the processing they go through. 

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Gideon Parker

        Amazing answer, Gideon.

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      • Hardened Gideon Parker

        Thank you so much!

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      • Gideon ParkerStaff Hardened

        Hardened, please take the following with a grain of salt as it is based off of some person on Twitter which is far from a reliable and fact trusted source. Also please try and look over the anti-vax mandate attitude that this person clearly is upset about.

        Looking over all of those things, there are some concerning points that he makes such as USDA inspectors being stretched between multiple facilities and there being a shortage of them.

        It is a long thread of messages, so click on the below link and read the series of Tweets.

        Just something we may have to keep our eye on.

        3 |