Monday, March 1, 2021

Wake-Up Call: First J&J COVID Vaccine Doses Shipped

The first doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were shipped last night and will begin to be delivered to states on Tuesday, after it was approved for use by federal regulators this weekend. Nearly four million doses were shipped of the vaccine, which unlike the other two that have been approved and are being used from Pfizer and Moderna is one shot instead of two. Johnson and Johnson plans to deliver about 16 million more doses by the end of March and 100 million total by the end of June.

Despite the good news about another vaccine and the big decline in Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths since the peak of the latest surge in January, health experts are warning against easing up on safety precautions too soon. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease specialist, warned on CNN yesterday that previous dips during the pandemic that have led to loosening restrictions have led to rebounds with new surges. Additionally, the situation is made more complicated now because of the coronavirus variants that are increasingly spreading. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a similar warning yesterday, saying that data shows the declines may be stalling, stating, "That is why it is so critical that we remain vigilant and consistently take all of the mitigation steps we know work to stop the spread of Covid-19 while we work our way toward mass vaccination."

➤WHITE HOUSE DEFENDS AGAINST NOT SANCTIONING BIN SALMAN FOR KHASHOGGI'S KILLING: The White House has been taking criticism for not directly sanctioning Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after releasing a declassified intelligence report Friday that said he directly approved the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the decision yesterday, saying on CNN, "We believe there is more effective ways to make sure this doesn't happen again and to also be able to leave room to work with the Saudis on areas where there is mutual agreement -- where there is national interests for the United States." White House communications director Kate Bedingfield also defended the White House's stance, saying on MSNBC that, quote, "historically, the United States has not placed sanctions on leadership of countries that we have diplomatic relations with." Visa restrictions were imposed on 76 Saudis involved in harassing activists and journalists. Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who worked for the Washington Post, was killed in a Saudi consulate in Turkey in October 2018. Turkish officials allege he was killed and dismembered with a bone saw inside the consulate.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo apologized yesterday for comments that he said were "misinterpreted" after a second woman who had worked for him accused him of sexual harassment, and said he'd cooperate with an investigation led by the state's attorney general. Cuomo said that while he'd never inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone, he'd teased people about their personal lives in what he said was an attempt to be "playful." He said, "I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that." 

The latest developments came after Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old woman who'd worked as a low-level aide in Cuomo's administration until November, told the New York Times Saturday that the governor had asked her questions about her sex life, including whether she'd ever had sex with older men, and other questions that she believed were suggesting a possible affair. Days earlier, another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, charged Cuomo had kissed her on the lips without consent at the end of a meeting and, in her words, "would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs." Cuomo has denied Boylan's allegations.

: Former President Donald Trump spoke at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday in his first public appearance since leaving office in January. Greeted by cheers from the crowd in Orlando, Trump made clear his intention to remain central to the Republican Party, saying, "I stand before you today to declare that the incredible journey we begun together . . . is far from being over," and while not saying he'll run again in 2024, he repeatedly teased the idea. Trump called for unity in the party, but also slammed Republicans who have been critical of him, reading the names of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him and the seven Republican senators who voted to convict him over the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Breaking from the usual conduct of former presidents, particularly soon after they leave office, Trump slammed his successor, charging that President Biden's first month had been, quote, "disastrous," taking particular aim at him over immigration and the border. Trump also continued his false claims that he won the presidential election, calling it "rigged" and saying of Biden, "they just lost the White House."

➤STUDY...SOCIAL MEDIA USE DRIVEN BY SEARCH FOR REWARD, AKIN TO ANIMALS SEEKING FOOD: It turns out seeking “likes” on social media is pretty much the same thing as animals seeking out food. Researchers from two universities found that people post on social media in a way that maximizes how many “likes” they receive on average: they post more frequently in response to a high rate of likes and less frequently when they get fewer likes. The researchers used a computational model to reveal that this pattern conforms closely to known mechanisms of reward learning, a long-established psychological concept that argues behavior may be driven and reinforced by rewards. They add that non-human animals are driven by similar principles to maximize their food rewards in certain experiments. The study’s lead author adds, “Our findings can help lead to a better understanding of why social media dominates so many people’s daily lives and can also provide leads for ways of tackling excessive online behavior.”

➤STUDY...DOGS, CHILDREN ARE ‘IN SYNC’:  Dogs and kids are more than just best friends, a new study suggests. Oregon State University researchers found in experiments that dogs were synchronized with their children owners about 60 percent of the total time—73 percent of the time when moving, and 41 percent of the time when stationary. Study author Monique Udell says, “The great news is that this study suggests dogs are paying a lot of attention to the kids that they live with. They are responsive to them and, in many cases, behave in synchrony with them, indicators of positive affiliation and a foundation for building a strong bond.” She adds that this suggests with some guidance, kids and dogs can embark on learning experiences together at a much earlier age, and it will benefit them both. Still, previous studies have found dogs had 82 percent active synchrony with adults. To that, Udell says, “[this] suggests […] that [dogs] may view children as social companions" and view adults are caregivers.

➤POLL...ANXIETY ABOUT THE FUTURE CAUSING AMERICANS TO LOSE SLEEP: A lot of Americans are having trouble sleeping, and a big reason is because of their anxiety about the future. In a new poll of 2,000 Americans, 62 percent said they struggle to fall asleep, and of those, 41 percent said it's due to anxiety about the next day. Other reasons given in the OnePoll survey included replaying the day's events, named by 37 percent, being too hot or cold, named by 31 percent, and having too much caffeine earlier in the day, cited by 28 percent, as well as things like feeling uncomfortable, being itchy, a fear of nightmares, and being kept up by their dog or cat. Once people are asleep, they're having more stress-related dreams, with half reporting more of those types of dreams this year than ever before. When asked the source of the dreams, an equal number named the pandemic and money problems, with events earlier in the day also ranking high. Respondents shared some of the things they do to fall asleep and stay asleep, including having a little wine, aromatherapy, reading, using a nasal rinse, watching boring documentaries, and finding a way to get comfortable.

⚾SPRING TRAINING GAMES BEGIN IN FRONT OF FANS: After a coronavirus-shortened season last year in which games were played without fans, except for a limited number during the World Series and National League Championship Series, spring training games began Sunday with fans in the ballparks, which are all in Arizona and Florida, although way below capacity to follow Covid safety guidelines. The fans who were at the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates got to experience a touching moment with Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini, who was playing in his first game after missing all of last season to have surgery for colon cancer. As the 28-year-old came up to bat in the first inning, he got a standing ovation, including from both teams, and then hit a single to centerfield.

🏀RAPTORS GAME AGAINST BULLS POSTPONED DUE TO COVID ISSUES: Last night's (February 28th) scheduled game between the Toronto Raptors and the Chicago Bulls was postponed due to growing coronavirus issues on the Raptors. The NBA said the Raptors have positive test results, while not saying how many, and that combined with contact tracing, it left the team without enough players available. The game was the 30th this season to be postponed so far due to Covid issues, but the first for Toronto.

⚾DOZIER REPORTEDLY AGREES TO FOUR-YEAR, $25 MILLION DEAL WITH ROYALS: Third baseman Hunter Dozier has agreed to a $25 million, four-year deal with the Kansas City Royals, according to media reports Sunday (February 28th). The extension keeps the 29-year-old Dozier with Kansas City after debuting with them in 2016. He had a breakthrough season in 2019, but then fell off last year after missing the start of the season with Covid-19.

🏌GOLFERS SHOW SUPPORT FOR TIGER WOODS BY WEARING RED SHIRTS AND BLACK PANTS: Several golfers showed their support for Tiger Woods after his car accident last week by wearing his standard Sunday final round outfit of a red shirt and black pants during the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship, Puerto Rico Open and Gainbridge LPGA. Among them were Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood, Scottie Scheffler, Carlos Ortiz and Cameron Champ. Billy Horschel had "TW" on his hat, and Matt Kuchar, Jason Day and Bryson DeChambeau played with golf balls stamped with the word "TIGER" on them. Woods tweeted his appreciation, saying, "It is hard to explain how touching today was when I turned on the tv and saw all the red shirts. To every golfer and every fan, you are truly helping me get through this tough time."

➤VANESSA BRYANT WANTS NAMES RELEASED OF DEPUTIES WHO TOOK CRASH SITE PHOTOS: Kobe Bryant's widow, Vanessa Bryant, wants the names publicly released of the L.A. County sheriff's deputies who she alleges took unauthorized photos of the site of the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed her husband, their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people, the L.A. Times reported. The county is opposed to doing so, believing it will make the deputies targets for hackers. The Sheriff's Department internal affairs report found that one sheriff took 25 to 100 photos of the crash site and sent them to other deputies who shared them with others. One was seen showing pictures to a woman and bartender at a local bar. Bryant said in an Instagram post after the Times report came out: "These specific deputies need to be held accountable for their actions just like everyone else." Bryant has sued over the photos, seeking damages for negligence and invasion of privacy.

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