(Picture from here.)
I’m down sick with COVID so I’m not going to give this one much in the way of effort. So far, it’s a thick in the brain, cough, low fever sort of thing. The virus is trying to wear me down rather than put a spike protein through my heart. We will see.
So, we’ll start with COVID news.
Omicron BA.5 is sweeping the US:. And on the horizon BA.2.75 is yet another subvariant, BA.2.75. It’s quite possible BA.2.75 might be able to evade antibody responses due to new mutations. This includes both antibodies to both vaccine and previous infections.
It’s worth noting here how viruses work. They are dirty reproducers. We are used to animals or plants that are conservative in their reproduction. An apricot produces an apricot. A lamb produces a lamb. A reproductive sport that is too far off the mark dies in the womb or shortly after birth. It doesn’t take much variation to cause that effect so selection has favored the development of mechanisms that keep the organism to the straight an narrow.
Viruses do not have that selection pressure. If a single virus can trigger a cell to explode with half a million virions, what does it care if a quarter of them don’t work? There’s actually selection pressure for increased variation even if the cost is a large portion of the virions are not operational.
Different viruses— and different vaccines— have differing methods of variation. Polio, for example, has not changed enough to make the vaccine ineffective. That’s not the case with
This is the main reason high vaccination rates are important. You start with a virus where the vaccine is effective. If the population becomes sufficiently immune, there’s not enough virions produced to find an improved strain. If you don’t vaccinate the population, you give the virus opportunities to improve itself. Evolution in action.
We’ll see how BA.2.75 plays out in the US.
COVID has also become the leading cause of death in Americans ages 45-54.
Back in the why-we-can’t-have-nice-things department, the energy charter treaty is in place and is intended to compensate fossil fuel companies for lost revenue as the world moves towards a sustainable future. Big Fossil uses these treaties to sue governments to forestall policies that interfere with fossil fuel extraction. For example, RWE is suing the Netherlands because the country plans to phase out coal.
That this is idiotic on the face of it is obvious. It’s analogous to a child murdering its parents and the suing the government about it.
This actually wouldn’t bother me so much if Big Fossil were liable for the damage they caused. Okay, you caused trillions of damage to the planet. We’ll subtract the few billion you’re losing from that. Satisfied?
More in that department, there are a lot of period tracking apps that women use to— surprise— track their periods. You would think that data would be confidential, wouldn’t you? It isn’t. Turns out the HIPAA does not cover paternity tests, fitness trackers, or health apps— including period tracking. HIPAA only protects data kept by health providers, insurers, and data clearinghouses and their business partners. These apps are not covered.
Given the rabid appetite of some to stop abortion at any cost, beware.
(Remember when the Republicans were the party of small government? I miss those days.)
These are all pretty much downers. So, I’ll leave with definite positive news: the James Webb Space Telescope is operational and producing some stunning visuals. It is showing us stars, galaxies, black holes, that not only were never that clear before but not even seen. Things we didn’t know were there.
Yes, it took a long time. Yes, it cost more than we wanted. And, yes, it is living up to the hype.
How many things in life can claim that?