Things have been pretty hectic at work and home, so have been neglecting the blog a bit. Here are a few items you may have missed:
(1) The European Union vaccine fustercluck. As a Belgian source told me, “if this is what the EU stands for, it can go to h*ll, and good on the UK for getting out”. Der Spiegel English Edition has one long article from a German perspective, the Daily Telegraph another from a British perspective.
My Belgian source told me the EU should have done the same as Israel: pay premium prices for its jabs rather than cheese paring, as the money saved from relaxing lockdowns and other COVID19 restrictions on the economy will very quickly make up for the extra expense.
(2) Somewhat surprisingly, then again not, French PM Emmanuel Macron nixed another lockdown. Being a career economist before entering politics, he is keenly aware of the economic ravages of a lockdown, and therefore probably was unwilling to pay that price again if the benefit looked dubious to him.
For US context: it is important to realize that the political elite in a country like France, while just as overbearing and out of touch as its US counterpart, generally are smart people — the Grandes Ecoles (Geat Schools, idiomatically: the elite colleges one tier above the university system) do not admit based on legacy or affirmative action.
Speaking of smarts: Nobody in their right mind would ever accuse Andrew “Fredo” Cuomo of having a surfeit of those. His execrable leadership-off-a-cliff as (mis)governor of NY state does not stop him from ‘burning incense to himself’ (zichzelf bewieroken, priceless Dutch idiom used instead of a more graphic English one). PJ Media looks at his bungling and the media cover-up. A Russian immigrant to whom I described this asked me if the US media were like the Pravda of yore, or worse.
(3) I’ve been thinking of starting an item, “Turtleboy of the week”, for the most nauseating kowtow to Emperor Xi.[*] Alas, I’d have to run this as a daily feature. Harvard, with its decision to invite the politruk and Xi puppet at the head of the WHO as a commencement speaker, would be one worthy awardee; YouTube, for demonetizing the Epoch Times channel, would be another.
(4) The defiance of COVID19 restrictions against communal gatherings by Israel’s chareidi (“ultra-Orthodox”) minority baffles more than one outside observer — especially in light of the exalted status pikuach nefesh (freely: ‘when a life is at stake’) has in halacha (Jewish law).
This article in the JPost adds some context. Basically, paraphrasing the writer, strict observance of Jewish law is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for being chareidi — because otherwise it would just be a somewhat stricter version of mainline Orthodoxy. Its communal activities are what define the identity of both the Chasidic and “Litvak” streams of chareidi society, and COVID19 restrictions hit those particularly hard.
Another article I saw the other day, by Ḥaviv Rettig Gur in the Times of Israel, pointed out that large chareidi families tend to live in cramped apartments that act primarily as places to sleep, while during the day children [and often, but not always, the husband] are away long hours studying at seminaries.
(At least one [modern-]Orthodox coworker sarcastically referred to ‘chareidism’ as ‘the religion closest to Judaism’.)
(5) An article in De Standaard (in Dutch) looks at the effectiveness of existing vaccines for mutant strains like the one from South Africa (short answer: somewhat reduced for Oxford-AstraZeneca and for the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine; no available data yet for Pfizer and Moderna). It also looks at the ease with which updated vaccines could be produced (trivial for Pfizer and Moderna, still easy for Oxford-Astrazeneca) — these could be issued as bivalent vaccines for both strains, in fact. The main hurdle would be regulatory: would the EU equivalent of the FDA insist on a full round of clinical trials for what amounts to the biochemical version of a software patch?
(6) New vaccine kids on the block:
- Novavax claims 96% effectiveness against ‘classic COVID’, 86% against UK mutation, but (worryingly) only about 60% against South African mutation. Its technology may make it attractive for use in people at risk from vaccine reactions:
Called a recombinant protein vaccine, the Maryland company uses genetic engineering to grow harmless copies of the coronavirus spike protein in insect cells. Scientists extract and purify the protein and then mix in an immune-boosting chemical.
- Data are now also available for Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine (developed by its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutica in Beerse, Belgium). It is 66% effective at preventing disease, and 85% effective at preventing severe disease.
Thus far, Pfizer and the very similar Moderna still seem to be the ones to beat.
[*] There’s a Chinese insult, roughly corresponding to SOB or bastard, that literally means: turtle-“lover”. Also, ‘your mother is a turtle’ is still pretty potent, as a turtle does not know its ancestors and turtles mate indiscriminately.