Ron DeSantis’ newest problem: The majority of likely Republican primary voters don’t want a candidate devoted to fighting ‘woke’
Madison Hall – July 31, 2023
GOP presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis keeps hammering the idea that he’s fighting “wokeness.”
Likely Republican voters, however, told the New York Times they’d prefer the government stay away from limiting what corporations can support.
Despite this, DeSantis remains focused on attacking Bud Light for a short-lived and innocuous campaign featuring a transgender woman.
He declared war on “woke” and made fighting “wokeness” one of the central points of his campaign. Now, it’s becoming increasingly evident that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign is in hot water after a majority of likely Republican voters said they want the government to stay away from influencing what corporations can and can’t support.
According to a New York Times poll, which was conducted between July 23-27, 52 percent of Republicans who will likely vote in the GOP primary election said they’d support a candidate who thinks the “government should stay out of deciding what corporations can support” over one promising “to fight corporations that promote ‘woke’ left ideology.”
This isn’t ideal for the DeSantis campaign, whose biggest focus on the campaign trail has been how he plans to combat “wokeness” as president and the extent to which he’s done so in Florida through his “Stop WOKE Act,” which currently cannot be enforced in higher education due to a temporary injunction, along with other initiatives.
As he continues to double and triple-down on his anti-woke schtick, it doesn’t seem like it’s doing him many favors in the race to become the GOP presidential nominee.
According to the same New York Times poll, support to put DeSantis in the Oval Office came in 37 percentage points behind that of former President Donald Trump, who appears to be running off with the nomination as DeSantis and every other GOP candidate has failed to keep up.
But as his presidential campaign falters and likely GOP voters make it clear that fighting “wokeism” isn’t a priority, DeSantis keeps belaboring the point.
Three months after beer company Bud Light ran a short-lived marketing campaign featuring transgender content creator Dylan Mulvaney, the governor of Florida continues to think this is what voters are clamoring for, going as far as threatening Bud Light’s parent company, AB InBev, with legal action for breaching “legal duties owed to its shareholders.”
If DeSantis and his team don’t change their focus, he risks becoming part of the next iteration of presidential candidates like Sen. Marco Rubio who quickly got stuck repeating the same talking point again, and again, and again.
And those campaigns don’t tend to end up in the White House.
Leprosy could become endemic to Florida. Here is what to know.
Brandon Girod and Kinsey Crowley – July 31, 2023
Rising cases of leprosy in the Southeast U.S. point to the possibility of the disease becoming endemic to the region, and a high concentration of those cases were reported in central Florida.
In a recently published research letter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that Florida is witnessing an increase in leprosy cases lacking traditional risk factors and recommending that travel to Florida be considered when conducting leprosy contact tracing in any state.
The number of reported leprosy cases across the country has doubled over the past decade, according to the CDC. Citing data from the National Hansen’s Disease Program, the CDC says there were 159 new cases reported in the U.S. in 2020. Nearly 70% of these new cases were reported in Florida, California, Louisiana, Hawaii, New York and Texas.
Leprosy, scientifically known as Hansen’s disease, has never been common in the U.S., with most cases previously involving people who immigrated from leprosy-endemic areas. But the new report shows that about 34% of the reported cases between 2015 and 2020 were locally acquired.
About the Florida leprosy outbreak
According to the report, Florida may represent an endemic location for leprosy and recommends that physicians consider leprosy in the appropriate clinical context in patients who have traveled to the area, even in the absence of other risk factors. Here is why:
Florida is among the top reporting states for cases of leprosy.
80% of cases in Florida were in central Florida.
Central Florida alone accounted for nearly 20% of the total number of cases reported nationally.
Several new-case patients in central Florida demonstrated no clear evidence of zoonotic exposure or traditionally known risk factors.
What is leprosy and where did it come from?
Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae that primarily affects the skin and peripheral nervous system. It can sometimes infect other parts of the body like the lining in the airway passages of the nose, according to the Florida Department of Health. It has been around for thousands of years, with the earliest known records appearing in China and India around 600 B.C.
Despite its biblical description, the disease is not easily spread and about 95% of people have natural protective immunity, according to the FDOH. Leprosy can be easy to treat, especially if it’s addressed early. However, going without treatment can result in permanent nerve damage.
The Mycobacterium leprae bacteria is slow growing and it can often take years for signs and symptoms to develop following exposure to the bacteria. Once the first sign of infection appears, it can take anywhere between two weeks to months for it to progress.
Can leprosy be cured?
Yes, leprosy is a curable disease. Doctors prescribe antibiotics to patients with leprosy. Patients are typically no longer infectious after a few days of antibiotics, but the treatment lasts between one to two years due to the bacteria’s slow growth.
What are the signs and symptoms of leprosy?
Early signs of leprosy include pale or slightly red areas or rash on the body that is often associated with a loss of sensation in the affected area, according to the FDOH.
Other symptoms include:
Loss of feeling in hands and feet
Dry, stiff and sometimes painful skin in the affected area
Thinning of the eyebrows and eyelashes (if the face is involved)
Nasal congestion is sometimes reported
If the disease goes untreated, weakness in the muscles of the hands and feet can also occur.
Leprosy is contagious and can be transmitted by untreated people infected with the disease, however, most people have natural protective immunity. Exposure to people infected with leprosy should still be avoided, especially among family members as protective immunity is genetic.
How leprosy is transmitted isn’t fully known due to how uncommon it is. Scientists do know it’s not spread through casual contact, sexual transmission or from mother to fetus. The prevailing theory is that high levels of the bacteria are developed in a person’s nose and are spread to others not immune through prolonged contact.
The CDC hopes that local physicians can help identify and reduce the spread of the disease through their efforts to report cases and their support in further research to assess routes of transmission.
Can you get leprosy from armadillos?
Yes. A genetic study conducted at the National Hansen’s Disease Program found that armadillos in the southern U.S. develop a high number of M. leprae, that bacteria that causes leprosy. Transmission between animals to humans is low, but the program advises that people still take proper precautions around armadillos.
If you feel better near salt water, you are not making it up. It’s called thalassotherapy.
Kelly Burch – July 31, 2023
Some people have said they feel physically better after spending time in salt water.
Being near the sea can have mental health benefits, too, doctors say.
Using salt water for healing is known as thalassotherapy.
When Reina Sultan spent time in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, earlier this summer, she noticed that she felt better than anticipated.
“Has anyone with POTS/hEDS noticed that going in the ocean makes them feel wildly better?,” she wrote on Twitter. “Like i get 2-3 days of feeling like i am not chronically ill when i swim in the ocean and idk if its the salt or the pressure or what but even my joints feel better.”
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) and hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (HeDS) are neurological conditions that can cause joint pain, dizziness with movement, and fatigue. The Tweet took off, with many others with chronic illnesses saying that their symptoms feel better for days after they’ve been swimming in salt water.
Doctors say that Sultan is onto something — a phenomenon known as thalassotherapy, or using salt water for healing, that dates all the way back to the ancient Greeks.
Salt water has physical and mental health benefits
Anecdotal stories of feeling better in or near salt water — like Sultan’s experience — are common, says Stewart Parnacott, a personal trainer and nurse practitioner with Baylor College of Medicine.
“There is some scientific basis to support these claims,” Parnacott said.
A 2021 scientific review found evidence that thalassotherapy is associated with improved symptoms in patients. It’s particularly effective for people with certain skin conditions and inflammatory diseases, the review found.
“Saltwater contains various minerals and trace elements such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium, which are believed to have potential health benefits,” Parnacott said. “These minerals may promote relaxation, reduce inflammation, and support skin health when absorbed through the skin during activities like swimming or spending time at the beach.”
Being near the beach can have mental health benefits too
As anyone who enjoys a summer trip to the sea has probably realized, being near the ocean can also benefit mental health, says Dr. Elliot Dinetz, a functional medicine doctor and staff member at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
“On the mental health front, being near the ocean, a phenomenon often referred to as the ‘blue space effect,’ has been linked to reduced stress levels and overall mental well-being,” Dinetz said.
A 2021 study that included more than 16,000 people in 18 countries found that spending time near blue spaces, including lakes, rivers, and oceans, was associated with improved well-being. Ocean sounds, like the crashing of waves, can also promote mental health and relaxation.
For the most benefit, get moving near water
While sitting on the beach or floating can be super relaxing, Dinetz says people often get the most benefit when they move their bodies.
“Activities such as swimming or walking on the beach increase these benefits by improving cardiovascular health and promoting the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood boosters,” he said.
If you don’t live near an ocean or salt lake, don’t worry, Parnacott says. You can get many of the same benefits from visiting a lake or river — or even a pool in a pinch.
“Bodies of water, whether freshwater or saltwater, have inherent qualities that offer health benefits,” he said.
Low-impact exercises like swimming or water aerobics are beneficial for joint health and cardiovascular fitness, while the buoyancy of water reduces the impact on joints, making it an ideal option for individuals with certain musculoskeletal conditions, he says.
“Both freshwater and saltwater environments can offer unique benefits for physical and mental well-being,” Parnacott said. “Finding balance and taking time to unwind in nature can significantly contribute to a healthier and happier lifestyle.”
Is the Atlantic Ocean current system nearing collapse? Scientists weigh in
Li Cohen – July 31, 2023
A study out this week raised a dire warning about the future of the planet and humanity, suggesting a system of currents in the Atlantic Ocean could totally collapse as early as 2025 — a frightening scenario that was the premise for the 2004 film “The Day After Tomorrow.”
But some scientists say that while a collapse is possible, it’s just one of many potential scenarios that could unfold and is unlikely to occur this century.
The study, published in Nature Communications, focuses on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, a system of ocean currents in the Atlantic Ocean. This system is part of a global conveyor belt as it circulates water from north to south in the Atlantic, helping disperse warm waters. This system, along with other ocean currents, is crucial to helping maintain the Earth’s climate — and scientists believe it is being affected by climate change, as melting ice alters the balance in northern waters.
The AMOC “is a major tipping element in the climate system and a future collapse would have severe impacts on the climate in the North Atlantic region,” the study says, adding that there has been other research in recent years indicating that its circulation is weakening.
“We estimate a collapse of the AMOC to occur around mid-century under the current scenario of future [carbon] emissions,” it says.
Peter Ditlevsen, a professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute and the lead author of the study, told CBS News he believes it’s “most likely” the system could collapse in about 30 years, around 2057. In the study, the range for a collapse was estimated to be anywhere between 2025 and 2095.
But, he says, there’s an “uncertainty”: “You cannot be completely sure.”
That’s because measurements of the AMOC only go back 20 years, providing a small amount of data to work into configurations. So his team looked at records of sea surface temperatures and climate model simulations to try to predict the fate of the current system.
“We know that there’s a tipping point out there in the future. And that when you approach that tipping point, they start to be unstable in a very specific way,” Ditlevsen said.
But Marlos Goes, a scientist at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, said the likelihood of this study’s results coming to fruition within this century “is very small.” Such a timeframe, he said, is just “one scenario … out of hundreds.”
According to state-of-the-art climate models and the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group that works to assess the science behind climate change, “it’s not going to collapse in the 21st century at all,” Goes said.
“It may in the following century. It depends on the [emissions] pathways,” he told CBS News. “If the emissions go unabated the way they are going right now … that could be a potential force for this collapse. But the probability of that single scenario that they analyzed in that study is very unlikely.”
What is the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation?
The AMOC is a long current cycle in the Atlantic Ocean that transports warm water across the globe. It’s an incredibly slow-moving system that takes roughly 1,000 years to move any given cubic meter of water through its entirety, according to NOAA.
It is part of the global conveyor belt, a system of deep ocean currents driven by temperature, salinity and the wind on the ocean surface. The belt begins where warm water from the Gulf is thrust into a cold atmosphere of the Norwegian Sea. From there, the now much cooler water sinks lower into the ocean and is carried south. The conveyor belt takes that cold water all the way down to Antarctica.
Is the Gulf Stream going to collapse?
The Gulf Stream is a warm ocean current that runs from the coast of Florida and up to North Carolina, where it then diverts and goes across the Atlantic. It’s also part of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. The latest study makes no mention of the Gulf Stream, specifically, but because it is part of this system, it would be impacted by such a collapse.
However, Goes told CBS News that wouldn’t disappear. The Gulf Stream is primarily driven by wind rather than temperature and salinity, as the AMOC as a whole is, meaning it would still function.
“We would have a Gulf Stream just if we had the wind, if we didn’t have this formation in the North Atlantic,” Goes said. “…So even if the AMOC collapses, we’ll still have a Gulf Stream, but it would be much weaker.”
What would happen if the AMOC shut down?
A collapse of the system was the inspiration for the 2004 disaster film “The Day After Tomorrow.” In the movie, ocean current systems stopped because of global warming, triggering another Ice Age.
But Ditlevsen said, “That’s not gonna happen.” The principle of it, however, is the same, he said.
“You get colder Europe, northern Atlantic region, which is maybe not nice for us living in Scandinavia because it will be more similar to what’s going on in Alaska,” he said.
“But worse is that, the heat that’s not coming here stays in the tropics, heating them even more,” he continued. “The livelihood of people in the tropics can be severely threatened by this. … These are climate changes that are going to happen very fast.”
The AMOC won’t collapse just yet, some say — but it is slowing
Even though Goes says the chances of the AMOC collapsing within the next few decades are low, the current system is at risk. In 2021, another study found that the system is the weakest it’s been in at least 1,600 years. Researchers found that the current has slowed down an “unprecedented” amount — 15% since 1950.
Other research has found that it could be reduced up to 45% within the next 70 years or so.
Goes said that even just a slowdown of the currents, and not a total collapse, could impact people around the world.
“Generally, when the AMOC weakens or collapses, you have a cooling of the North Atlantic because this heat wouldn’t be carried further north, and there’s a warming of the South Atlantic. This would shift the precipitation patterns further south,” he said. “And that could influence all the sub-Sahara, the African and South American continents in the tropical bands. It would have influence on the storms in the North Atlantic, in Europe.”
But it would also release even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The ocean absorbs 90% of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and without the current, the ocean won’t be able to absorb as much, Goes said, a situation that would only add to the already rampant global warming the planet is facing. It would also increase sea levels along the U.S. coast.
Urgent action could stop a slowdown
A drastic change or shutdown of the AMOC wouldn’t necessarily be detectable right away, Goes said. In fact, it could take 40 to 50 years to emerge.
“By the time we detect that, it will be too late,” he said. “We really need to act now. This is one of the tipping points of the world.”
Once a tipping point such as a slowdown or shutdown of the AMOC is passed, it could cause a cascade of impacts that could cause “irreversible and severe changes in the climate system,” according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Even though a full collapse of the AMOC within the next few decades isn’t probable, it is possible, Goes said, and it could come with high risk.
Scientists are continuing to monitor the system to learn what they can about its current state. But to help prevent a continued slowdown or a potential full shutdown, both Goes and Ditlevsen agreed that global emissions must be reduced drastically. Those emissions, largely from the burning of fossil fuels, are trapping heat in the atmosphere and causing sea ice to melt. When that ice melts, it adds fresh water to the AMOC, disrupting the salinity and temperature it relies on to move.
“If we stop our emissions, it will not collapse,” Ditlevsen said. “The disturbing part about this study is that we have to react much faster than we perhaps would like to do. … It’s yet another wake-up call or warning sign that we have to react faster than we do.”
Scientists Say Atlantic Current Collapse Could Lead to Extreme Cold in Europe and North America
Victor Tangermann – July 31, 2023
Researchers are warning that the crucial ocean currents known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) could collapse as soon as 2025 — an impending, climate change-fueled disaster that could usher in a new era of extreme temperature fluctuations.
It’s important to note that not every scientist is convinced by this assessment. And though the researchers say the collapse could take place as soon 2025, they also say it could take another 70 years.
That said, a team of researchers led by Peter Ditlevsen, professor and climate researcher at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark anticipate in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications that the currents could collapse anywhere between 2025 and 2095 — if we don’t cut global carbon emissions, that is.
If it were to collapse, much of the Western world could be plunged into an extended period of extreme cold — a counterintuitive result of climate change. Previous collapses, which have predominantly occurred during ice ages many thousands of years ago, have indeed led to temperatures going haywire.
“I think we should be very worried,” Ditlevsen told The Guardian. “This would be a very, very large change. The AMOC has not been shut off for 12,000 years.”
Back in 2021, researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany warned in a separate paper that the AMOC is being driven to the brink of collapse due to climate change. In the short term, this collapse could cause temperatures to plunge in Europe and North America, resulting in prolonged periods of extreme cold.
And if the planet’s past history is anything to go by, the stakes are significant. 12,000 years ago, the melting of a massive glacial lake plunged Europe into an extreme cold spell for almost a millennium.
Now, by analyzing statistics from the last 150 years, Ditlevsen and his team say they’ve calculated with a 95 percent certainty that the AMOC will collapse between 2025 and 2095.
“Shutting down the AMOC can have very serious consequences for Earth’s climate, for example, by changing how heat and precipitation are distributed globally,” Ditlevsen said in a statement.
“While a cooling of Europe may seem less severe as the globe as a whole becomes warmer and heat waves occur more frequently, this shutdown will contribute to increased warming of the tropics, where rising temperatures have already given rise to challenging living conditions,” he added.
This change could be far more rapid than the incremental 1.5 degrees Celsius rise caused by climate change over a century. With a collapsed AMOC, we’d be looking at far more extreme changes in the ten to 15 degrees Celsius range over just a decade.
“Our result underscores the importance of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible,” Ditlevsen said.
But while researchers generally agree with this final conclusion, not everybody is convinced the AMOC is about to, well, run amok.
For one, the conclusion contradicts the latest findings of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found in its most recent report that the current was unlikely to just collapse within this century.
“The work provides no reason to change the assessment of the [IPCC],” Jochem Marotzke of the Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, told Politico.
“We just don’t have the evidence to state that it has declined,” Penny Holliday, researcher at the UK’s National Oceanography Center, told the BBC. “We know that there is a possibility that AMOC could stop what it’s doing now at some point, but it’s really hard to have certainty about that.”
At the same time, while we may never get a 100 percent accurate prediction — after all, our planet’s climate systems are incredibly complex — we should still heed Ditlevsen and his colleagues’ warning.
“We do still have to take the idea seriously that there could be abrupt changes in the North Atlantic climate system,” University of Reading atmospheric scientist Jon Robson told the BBC. “But the exact predictions that it will happen — and within this time frame — you have to take that with some skepticism.”
1. “We need a future that’s made in America. That means using products, parts, and materials built right here in the United States of America. It means bringing manufacturing back, jobs back, building the supply chains here at home, not outsourcing abroad.”
2. “We need to incentivize the repatriation of American capital and investment here in the United States so we can recapture our supply chains and build a strong durable industrial base.”
DeSantis, badly lagging Donald Trump in Republican polling for the 2024 race, is trying to establish himself as a conservative populist akin to Trump, but with a better reputation for competence and governing. To further the cause, he outlined a “Declaration of Economic Independence” during a July 31 campaign stop in New Hampshire, his first major effort to present an economic vision.
It’s surprisingly similar to Biden’s. Both men favor protectionism and a heavier government role than usual to steer the US economy toward future prosperity. Both vilify China and say the United States needs to end its reliance on the huge trade partner for key products. And they both bash big corporations for building massive amounts of wealth at the expense of ordinary workers.
The biggest difference between the two agendas, in fact, may be that Biden is already pursuing efforts to achieve many of those goals, while DeSantis is only talking about them as a candidate. There are other differences between the two, some largely rhetorical, others more substantive. But the unusual similarities between a center-left president and a far-right challenger indicate how much traditional political views have shifted as foreign threats have changed during the last decade and the global economy has transformed.
Like most challengers facing an incumbent, DeSantis argues that the current leadership has sent the nation into “decline.” Corporate fat cats and Beltway opportunists are lining their pockets while everybody else falls behind. This is a reprise of Bernie Sanders in 2020, Donald Trump in 2016, and even Barack Obama in 2008.
One big change between then and now is an increasingly aggressive China that seems bent on confrontation with the United States and the democratic West, rather than the trade symbiosis of 10 or 15 years ago. “We have to stop selling out this country’s future to China,” DeSantis demanded in his July 31 speech.
Well, Biden beat him to it. And Trump beat him to it before Biden.
Trump started by decrying the US trade deficit with China and slapping tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese imports each year to fix it. The tariffs raised the cost of US imports to the United States but did almost nothing to alter the trade balance. Then COVID hit in 2020, exposing extreme American dependence on China for medical supplies, electronics, minerals, and other crucial products.
After Biden took office in 2021, he left the Trump tariffs in place and went further. Biden began encouraging allies to join the United States in containing China’s expansionist policies, instead of going it alone the way Trump did. In 2022, Biden lobbied for and signed the CHIPS Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, a huge package of subsidies meant to boost US manufacturing of semiconductors, green energy components, and many other things — much as China subsidizes its own domestic manufacturing. A boom in US factory construction suggests those incentives are working.
So what might DeSantis do on top of all this? He called for an end to normal trade relations with China and said he would ban the import of Chinese products built with stolen technology. That’s not a big expansion of Biden policies and it might be little more than symbolic. China’s “normal” trade relationship with the United States is already undermined by the Trump tariffs and Biden sanctions, and who knows how the US government would assess which of the thousands of Chinese products coming to the United States include pirated technology.
Like Biden, DeSantis also wants to exert a government hand to boost certain parts of the manufacturing sector. He’d seek to repeal Biden’s green energy subsidies, however, and focus more on the domestic fossil fuel industry. If he were president, DeSantis could do a bit of that on his own through regulatory and executive action, but it would require Congress to undo hundreds of billions in green energy subsidies Congress passed last year, and replace them with subsidies directed elsewhere — no easy lift.
DeSantis distinguishes himself from Biden more clearly on cultural issues that have economic implications, such as diversity and inclusion policies and investing focused on environmental factors. DeSantis says he will “end the politicization of the economy” by discouraging or forbidding these kinds of policies in businesses, schools, and other organizations, but critics argue that DeSantis is the one politicizing the economy by focusing on these issues in the first place. Whatever the case, voters haven’t responded very enthusiastically to DeSantis’s “anti-woke” crusade, and DeSantis didn’t use his go-to word—”woke”— a single time in his July 31 speech. The dogs have not responded to this dog whistle. Maybe DeSantis decided to stop blowing it.
Here’s a fresh and interesting DeSantis idea: Hold universities accountable if students take on gobs of debt to get a degree and don’t earn enough once they graduate to pay it off. That does differ from Biden’s approach, which is to forgive a certain amount of debt, which would benefit the borrower but require nothing of the university. Mostly everybody agrees the cost of college in the United States is out of control and the current system of financing badly broken.
Finally, DeSantis finds a familiar bogeyman responsible for America’s economic woes in the Federal Reserve. He says the Fed should worry about inflation alone and stay out of extraneous matters such as saving the US economy during a financial crash or a pandemic. Except guess what: If DeSantis were president during such a crisis, he’d beg the Fed to ride to the rescue, because it’d be foolish to let a depression ruin lives if you had an alternative, and because President DeSantis’s own political survival would depend on a Fed bailout. Tough talk often ends the moment the election takes place.
Brain fog and other long COVID symptoms are the focus of new small treatment studies
Lauran Neergaard – July 31, 2023
WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Institutes of Health is beginning a handful of studies to test possible treatments for long COVID, an anxiously awaited step in U.S. efforts against the mysterious condition that afflicts millions.
Monday’s announcement from the NIH’s $1.15 billion RECOVER project comes amid frustration from patients who’ve struggled for months or even years with sometimes-disabling health problems — with no proven treatments and only a smattering of rigorous studies to test potential ones.
“This is a year or two late and smaller in scope than one would hope but nevertheless it’s a step in the right direction,” said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly of Washington University in St. Louis, who isn’t involved with NIH’s project but whose own research highlighted long COVID’s toll. Getting answers is critical, he added, because “there’s a lot of people out there exploiting patients’ vulnerability” with unproven therapies.
Scientists don’t yet know what causes long COVID, the catchall term for about 200 widely varying symptoms. Between 10% and 30% of people are estimated to have experienced some form of long COVID after recovering from a coronavirus infection, a risk that has dropped somewhat since early in the pandemic.
“If I get 10 people, I get 10 answers of what long COVID really is,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said.
That’s why so far the RECOVER initiative has tracked 24,000 patients in observational studies to help define the most common and burdensome symptoms — findings that now are shaping multipronged treatment trials. The first two will look at:
— Whether taking up to 25 days of Pfizer’s antiviral drug Paxlovid could ease long COVID, because of a theory that some live coronavirus, or its remnants, may hide in the body and trigger the disorder. Normally Paxlovid is used when people first get COVID-19 and for just five days.
— Treatments for “brain fog” and other cognitive problems. They include Posit Science Corp.’s BrainHQ cognitive training program, another called PASC-Cognitive Recovery by New York City’s Mount Sinai Health System, and a Soterix Medical device that electrically stimulates brain circuits.
Two additional studies will open in the coming months. One will test treatments for sleep problems. The other will target problems with the autonomic nervous system — which controls unconscious functions like breathing and heartbeat — including the disorder called POTS.
A more controversial study of exercise intolerance and fatigue also is planned, with NIH seeking input from some patient groups worried that exercise may do more harm than good for certain long COVID sufferers.
The trials are enrolling 300 to 900 adult participants for now but have the potential to grow. Unlike typical experiments that test one treatment at a time, these more flexible “platform studies” will let NIH add additional potential therapies on a rolling basis.
“We can rapidly pivot,” Dr. Amy Patterson with the NIH explained. A failing treatment can be dropped without ending the entire trial and “if something promising comes on the horizon, we can plug it in.”
The flexibility could be key, according to Dr. Anthony Komaroff, a Harvard researcher who isn’t involved with the NIH program but has long studied a similarly mysterious disorder known as chronic fatigue syndrome or ME/CFS. For example, he said, the Paxlovid study “makes all sorts of sense,” but if a 25-day dose shows only hints of working, researchers could extend the test to a longer course instead of starting from scratch.
Komaroff also said that he understands people’s frustration over the wait for these treatment trials, but believes NIH appropriately waited “until some clues came in about the underlying biology,” adding: “You’ve got to have targets.”
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Technical writers, budget analysts, web developers and data key operators are among those with high exposure to AI displacement, while workers such as firefighters, barbers and janitors have low exposure due to the nature of their work.
Impact on racial disparities: Overall, the study found that approximately 19% of American workers held jobs that are the most exposed to AI technologies.
Asian workers face the highest risk of displacement at 24% compared to their white, Black and Hispanic counterparts. According to the findings, about 20% of white workers were found to be exposed, while 15% of Black workers and 13% of Hispanic workers faced similar risks.
Other findings: Women faced a slightly higher risk with 21% of female workers being exposed to AI in their jobs, compared to 19% of male workers. This discrepancy is attributed to the different types of jobs typically held by individuals of different genders.
The study also revealed a correlation between education levels and susceptibility to AI displacement or assistance. Workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher accounted for 27% of the workforce and were more than twice as likely to be exposed to AI technologies in their jobs than those with only a high school diploma, of which 12% faced similar risks.
The study also shed light on income disparities among workers with varying levels of AI exposure. Those in jobs with the highest exposure to AI technologies earned an average hourly wage of $33, while those in positions with the least exposure earned an average of $20 per hour.
Study’s implications: The findings, which provide crucial insights into the impact of AI on the American workforce, hold significant implications for policymakers and employers.
By identifying the groups most vulnerable to AI displacement, the study’s authors aim to provide policymakers with the ability to devise targeted strategies to support affected individuals and create measures to minimize potential workforce disruptions.
Global disruption: A previous study published by the University of Oxford in 2013 predicted that 47% of U.S. jobs could be eliminated by AI over the next two decades.
Meanwhile, a more recent study by Goldman Sachs suggested that generative AI tools could potentially disrupt around 300 million full-time jobs worldwide, signifying a significant disruption in the global job market.
By rolling right over the hardest of hard-right crowd that has called the shots all year long.
It was a refreshing bit of bipartisanship in a record-long session that featured precious little of it.
The result is a ballot proposition that will let Maricopa County voters decide whether to continue taxing themselves to fund the Valley’s regional transportation plan for the next 20 years. Recent polls show sizable support for the plan.
“This is great for the taxpayers,” Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, who chairs the House Transportation Committee. “It’s good for the citizens.”
Freedom Caucus crew couldn’t stomach a compromise
Far-right Republicans, meanwhile, were furious.
“Democrats are over-the-moon on this Prop. 400 bill,” Rep. Justin Heap, R-Mesa, tweeted just before the vote. “If we pass this it will be a massive win for Hobbs and the Democrats. We will be giving Democrats a club to bludgeon us with in 2024.”
“Way to end the session with a win for Hobbs and the Democrats,” one of them, Rep. Rachel Jones, R-Tucson, harrumphed right after the vote, while, no doubt, stomping her foot.
You’ll have to excuse Heap, Jones and some of their fellow far righties for seeing this in politically opportunistic terms rather than in terms of what is best for Arizona.
With Republicans clinging to a one-vote majority in each chamber, the Arizona Freedom Caucus that seems to run the Legislature has taken a my-way-or-the-highway approach all year, never seeing any need to compromise.
Thankfully, the majority acted in Arizonans’ best interest
In the view of its members, a veto by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs (and she’s had a BUNCH of them) is simply another talking point in their favor with primary election voters – the only ones who matter in the vast majority of legislative districts – come election time.
Fortunately, many of the Legislature’s more traditional Republicans understood the necessity of compromise, especially on an issue so vital to the future growth and prosperity of the Valley and thus the state.
Not to mention to the future prospect of being stuck in horrendous traffic for hours on end if the tax isn’t extended before it expires in December 2025.
And so comes Senate Bill 1102, on Day 204 of this year’s 100-day legislative session.
Both sides scored wins on their priorities on Prop. 400 spending
The $20 billion tax extension, if approved by voters next year, calls for spending 63% of the proceeds on freeways and roads and 37% on transit over the next 20 years.
Among other things, it significantly boosts the amount spent on pavement, kills any future extension of light rail and dictates that “road diets” are a distinct no-no – all Republican priorities.
It also preserves a hefty percentage of the tax for public transit, a priority of Democrats.
And it allows for maintaining the existing light rail system, which should be a priority for everybody given that we spent billions to build the thing.
Overall, Monday’s passage was a welcome exercise in give-and-take by warring politicians who have spent most of the year at each other’s throats. Credit goes to both Republican legislative leaders and Hobbs for finally getting it done.
But the vote also spoke loudly and clearly about those hard right Republicans who spent much of the weekend and all of Monday pitching a fit.
Far-right obstructionists rendered irrelevant when it counted
“Never forget that the democrat goal is to remove private vehicles from the average person completely,” an overwrought Rep. Jacqueline Parker, R-Mesa, tweeted. “It’s already starting. The latest rendition of prop 400 will help with that car-free goal.”
That’s nonsense. Even Senate President Warren Petersen, no slouch when it comes to conservative credentials, praised the plan as a Republican triumph.
“This will be the most conservative transportation plan in the history of Arizona ever passed, ever implemented, ever adopted,” the Gilbert Republican said, ticking off the many concessions Republicans won.
The freedom folk are just mad that they were rendered irrelevant. In the end, seven Senate Republicans and 14 House Republicans voted no on the bill (along with one Democrat, who objected to the light rail cuts).
They wanted the ballot measure split into the two questions – one on freeways and one on public transportation.
They believed voters would have killed the transit portion of the tax given low ridership, thus resulting in a tax cut.
So because so few people – and certainly their own constituents – ride buses … we don’t need them?
We won’t need them in the future as the Valley’s continues to explode with newcomers? With new employers? With new job opportunities?
Yeah, that’s some forward thinking there.
SB 1102 passed 43-14 in the House and 19-7 in the Senate.
Senate Republicans who voted no: Shawnna Bolick of Phoenix, Jake Hoffman of Queen Creek, Anthony Kern of Glendale, J.D. Mesnard of Chandler, Wendy Rogers of Flagstaff and Justine Wadsack of Tucson.
Democrat Sally Ann Gonzales of Tucson also voted no.
House Republicans who voted no: Neal Carter of San Tan Valley, Joseph Chaplik of Scottsdale, Justin Heap of Mesa, Laurin Hendrix of Gilbert, Rachel Jones of Tucson, Alexander Kolodin of Scottsdale, David Marshall of Snowflake, Cory McGarr of Marana, Steve Montenegro of Goodyear, Barbara Parker of Mesa, Jacqueline Parker of Mesa, Michelle Pena of Yuma, Beverly Pingerelli of Peoria and Austin Smith of Wittman.
The big idea: is it too late to stop extremism taking over politics?
Bizarre conspiracy thinking has infiltrated the mainstream in many western democracies. How can we push back?
Julia Ebner – July 31, 2023
Illustration: Elia Barbieri/The Guardian
Welcome to the 2020s, the beginning of what history books might one day describe as the digital middle ages. Let’s briefly travel back to 2017. I remember sitting in various government buildings briefing politicians and civil servants about QAnon, the emerging internet conspiracy movement whose adherents believe that a cabal of Satan-worshipping elites runs a global paedophile network. We joked about the absurdity of it all but no one took the few thousand anonymous true believers seriously.
Fast-forward to 2023. Significant portions of the population in liberal democracies consider it possible that global elites drink the blood of children in order to stay young. Recent surveys suggest that around 17% of Americans believe in the QAnon myth. Some 5% of Germans believe ideas related to the anti-democratic Reichsbürger movement, which asserts that the German Reich continues to exist and rejects the legitimacy of the modern German state. Up to a third of Britons believe that powerful figures in Hollywood, government and the media are secretly engaged in child trafficking. Is humanity on the return journey from enlightenment to the dark ages?
I am often asked why the UK doesn’t have a successful far-right populist party. My answer is: Because it doesn’t need to
As segments of the public have headed towards extremes, so has our politics. In the US, dozens of congressional candidates, including the successfully elected Lauren Boebert, have been supportive of QAnon. The German far-right populist party Alternative für Deutschland is at an all-time high in terms of both its radicalism and its popularity, while Austria’s xenophobic Freedom party is topping the polls. The recent rise to power of far-right parties such as Fratelli d’Italia and the populist Sweden Democrats bolster this trend.
I am often asked why the UK doesn’t have a successful far-right populist party. My answer is: because it doesn’t need to. Parts of the Conservative party now cater to audiences that would have voted for the BNP or Ukip in the past. A few years ago, the far-right Britain First claimed that 5,000 of its members had joined the Tory party. Not unlike the Republicans in the US, the Tories have increasingly departed from moderate conservative thinking and lean more and more towards radicalism.
In 2020, Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski was asked to apologise for attending the National Conservatism conference in Rome. The event is well known for attracting international far-right figures such as Italy’s Giorgia Meloni, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, former Fox News host Tucker Carlson and the hard-right US presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. This year, an entire delegation of leading Conservatives attended the same conference in London. It might be hard for extreme-right parties to rise to power in Britain, but there is no shortage of routes for extremist ideas to reach Westminster.
I sometimes wonder what a QAnon briefing to policymakers might look like in a few years. What if the room no longer laughs at the ludicrous myths but instead endorses them? One could certainly imagine this scenario in the US if Donald Trump were to win the next election. In 2019 – before conspiracy myths inspired attacks on the US Capitol, the German Reichstag, the New Zealand parliament and the Brazilian Congress – I warned in a Guardian opinion piece of the threat QAnon would soon pose to democracy. Are we now at a point where it is it too late to stop democracies being taken over by far-right ideologies and conspiracy thinking? If so, do we simply have to accept the “new normal”?
There are various ways we can try to prevent and reverse the spread of extremist narratives. For some people who have turned to extremism over the past few years, too little has changed: anger over political inaction on economic inequality is now further fuelled by the exacerbating cost of living crisis. For others, too much has changed: they see themselves as rebels against a takeover by “woke” or “globalist” policies.
What they have in common is a sense that the political class no longer takes their wellbeing seriously, and moves to improve social conditions and reduce inequality would go some way towards reducing such grievances. But beyond that, their fears and frustrations have clearly been instrumentalized by extremists, as well as by opportunistic politicians and profit-oriented social media firms. This means that it is essential to expose extremist manipulation tactics, call out politicians when they normalize conspiracy thinking and regulate algorithm design by the big technology companies that still amplify harmful content.
If the private sector is part of the problem, it can also be part of the solution. Surveys by the Edelman Trust Barometer found that people in liberal democracies have largely lost trust in governments, media and even NGOs but, surprisingly, still trust their employers and workplaces. Companies can play an important role in the fight for democratic values. For example, the Business Council for Democracy tests and develops training courses that firms can offer to employees to help them identify and counter conspiracy myths and targeted disinformation.
Young people should be helped to become good digital citizens with rights and responsibilities online, so that they can develop into critical consumers of information. National school curricula should include a new subject at the intersection of psychology and internet studies to help digital natives understand the forces that their parents have struggled to grasp: the psychological processes that drive digital group dynamics, online engagement and the rise of conspiracy thinking.
Ultimately, the next generation will vote conspiracy theorists in or out of power. Only they can reverse our journey towards the digital middle ages.