Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Occasions
A boost to the U.S. coronavirus vaccine supply
According to a White House announcement, U.S. states will shortly receive 13.5 million doses a week – a jump of over two million doses from previous weekly values, in part due to a shift in the way the Pfizer government Vaccine doses distributed.
The increases are welcome developments for state officials who are desperate to vaccinate more vulnerable Americans before more contagious variants of the coronavirus dominate.
The Biden government has worked with Pfizer to provide the company with more manufacturing materials for its vaccine, including pumps and filtration units, through the Defense Production Act.
French legislation against Islamist terrorism
The French National Assembly passed laws on Tuesday allegedly strengthening “republican principles” but with the tough aim of closing the sources of Islamist terrorism across the country. It will go to the Senate for final approval next month.
The legislation extends the requirement of strict religious neutrality beyond civil servants to anyone who is a private contractor for a public service – such as bus drivers. It also creates a new offense of “separatism,” defined as the threat, intimidation, or assault of an elected official or public sector employee.
Fifteen months before the presidential election, the left is in disarray, prompting President Emmanuel Macron to enter center-right territory to lure right-wing voters away from the Republicans or Marine Le Pen, the eternal right-wing candidate.
Context: The bill, attacked by the left as a violation of freedoms and by the right as a weak compromise, reflects Mr Macron’s decision to defeat what he calls “Islamist separatism” and uphold the uniform principles of French secularism strengths that have no place in politics for religion.
Extended winter storms in the USA
Millions of people have been left without electricity and at least 20 people have died after a violent storm shed snow across much of the United States. The takeaway: American power grids cannot handle the wild weather of the future, a consequence of global warming, experts say.
The power outages were most severe in Texas, where more than four million people woke up with power outages on Tuesday morning. The separate regional networks in the Southwest and the Midwest were also exposed to serious strains. By Tuesday afternoon, at least 23 people across the country had died in the storm or its aftermath.
During the weekend, low temperatures in Europe enabled hundreds of people to dance, ice-skate, play hockey, or go for a walk on frozen lakes and canals across the continent – but the ice wasn’t always thick enough to keep everyone busy hold.
Connected: U.S. hockey parents banned from indoor rinks due to the pandemic have focused on makeshift alternatives, repurposing old barns, expanding previous playgrounds, or buying easy-to-assemble kits to keep their children busy.
If you have 5 minutes it is worth it
“It’s ugly, but it’s ours”
The House of the Soviets, an office building in Kaliningrad, Russia designed as a symbol of Soviet control over the country conquered during World War II, has instead become a symbol of the shortcomings of the Soviet system. Due to poor construction and structural defects, it was never occupied.
Apr 16, 2021 at 10:43 am ET
But its ugliness strangely made it popular with young people as a symbol of a Soviet Union they never knew. Now, 42 years later, when the regional government plans to tear it down, some want to keep it. “People like things with flaws,” said one resident. “It’s ugly, but it’s ours.”
The following also happens
Myanmar: The trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civilian leader who was overthrown in a military coup two weeks ago, began in secret on Tuesday. Her defense attorney was briefed on the trial at the last minute – but when he arrived it was over.
Afghanistan at war: The European Court of Human Rights ruled in Germany’s favor in a dispute over the country’s investigation into a 2009 attack that killed up to 90 Afghan civilians. Regardless of this, President Biden faces a critical decision point as to whether US troops should be withdrawn from the country.
Fox News: Rupert Murdoch and a group of investors seize the moment to create two right wing news services in the UK that will challenge the BBC and borrow heavily from Fox’s playbook.
British Army: LGBT members of the British military who have been stripped of their medals now have access to a way to get their medals back after years of campaigning. The Department of Defense recognized that the practice was “wrong, discriminatory and unjust”.
Green energy: Automakers, government agencies, and investors are investing money in battery research to benefit from zero-emission electric cars.
Snapshot: Above, refugees in a tent city in Afrin, Syria. Our journalist visited Turkey’s security zone in northern Syria, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent troops across the border three years ago. Kurdish families fled the invasion, but the Syrians who moved there say they are grateful for the Turkish presence despite their hardship.
Australian Open: Serena Williams defeated Simona Halep and started a showdown with Naomi Osaka. Here’s a pre-game reading list: “The Meaning of Serena Williams” from Times Magazine and “Naomi Osaka Is Between Worlds” from The Ringer.
What we hear: The ambient noise of a jazz bar in Paris – if you are looking for an escape into another dimension. (There are many other equally soothing digital spaces to explore on YouTube, where users combine relaxing soundtracks with animated landscapes.)
Now a break from the news
Read: In Cherie Jones’ debut novel “How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House”, the lives of tourists and locals in the Caribbean intersect in 1984.
Stay energetic and engaged. At Home offers a comprehensive collection of ideas on what to read, cook, see, and do while staying safe at home.
And now for the background story about …
Adolescents in vaccine trials
Sheila Mulrooney Eldred, a health journalist, earns a front-row seat in one of the most anticipated pediatric trials in history as her two teenagers take part in the Moderna Covid vaccine trial. She wrote about how it was.
For Wes and Zoe, the shot itself was anti-climactic; Even Nadaverse Wes said it hardly hurt. Since most allergic reactions can happen within 30 minutes of a shot, we had to wait an hour.
Like all children in the current study, Wes and Zoe received the same dose as adults, which is typical of phase 3 clinical trials, said Dr. Jill Weatherhead, Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Over the next seven days, Wes and Zoe answered questions about pain, pain, swelling, fever, or fatigue in their online diaries. Unlike most adult Covid vaccine trials, which favor participants who are in regular contact with people outside their household, Moderna had no instructions for us to change our lifestyle. So life returned to distance learning and socially distant ski practice.
Then, on day 7, my phone buzzed with a text from a friend whose son had participated in the study that day: “Well, Zach has a rash at his injection site.”
I brushed aside my instinctive jealousy (we had promised to stay friends even if one of our families was stuck with the placebo). The next evening I heard some excitement upstairs that made me put my book aside: Wes had seen a similar red mark on his arm. We measured the rash to report it to our coordinator.
Even if it turns out that one or both of my children were given the saltwater placebo that is given to a third of the teenagers’ study participants, neither of us will regret signing up.
That’s it for this briefing. Until next time.
Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh took the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected]
• We hear “The Daily”. Our latest episode features an interview with a House impeachment manager.
• Here is our mini crossword and clue: word that converts good news to bad news (three letters). You can find all of our puzzles here.
• In his annual “State of The Times” address, the editor and chairman of the Times, AG Sulzberger, gave employees a review of their work in 2020.