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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

As COVID-19 cases skyrocket in children, doctors warn of lifelong side effects |

As COVID-19 cases skyrocket in children, doctors warn of lifelong side effects

"COVID-19 cases in children — who could get sick for life — have risen 32 percent in two weeks

Sick girl lying on bed in ICU during COVID-19 (Getty Images/Morsa Images)

In the 1940s and 1950s, the polio epidemic left tens of thousands of people disabled for the rest of their lives. Even after virologist Dr. Jonas Salk announced a successful vaccine in 1955, there were still heart-wrenching photographs of paralyzed children for whom that inoculation was released far too late. Some of the most powerful imagery from that period involves showing children in leg braces or wheelchairs, their miserable expressions suggesting a deep mourning for the quality of life they had forever lost.

Roughly 70 years later, the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) has released a report, which includes a familiar warning that those who lived through the polio era will recognize: If children are not protected against COVID-19 through vaccination, it could haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Although children rarely become severely ill due to COVID-19, the APA wrote that "there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects." This refers to the growing body of evidence that a wide range of physical and psychological issues can persist for COVID-19 sufferers long after the disease itself has supposedly passed. (Hence the term "long COVID.") Common physical symptoms of long COVID include fatigue, coughing, shortness of breath, joint pain, dizziness and loss of smell or taste. In terms of their mental health, patients with long COVID report feeling depressed, having brain fog, experiencing anxiety and having trouble with their memory.

This matters more than ever because, as the APA explained in their report (which will be released on Nov. 30), the number of children developing COVID-19 is on the rise. A staggering 141,905 child cases were added in the United States over the past week, an increase of 32 percent from the figure two weeks ago. That figure is also more than one-fourth of all new COVID-19 cases from the past week; at the start of the pandemic in early 2020, children comprised only three percent of confirmed cases.

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This also marks the 15th consecutive week in which the number of new child COVID-19 cases has exceeded 100,000. While the current peak is 252,000 new cases (for the week of Sept. 2), the ongoing figures remain "extremely high," according to the APA. Overall nearly 6.8 million American children have been diagnosed with COVID-19 infections since Nov. 18. Despite this, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey found that roughly two-thirds of parents are either waiting to vaccinate their young children against COVID-19 or are outright refusing to do so.

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The Kaiser survey also made it clear that, while there are a number of variablesthat influence people who oppose the COVID-19 vaccines, the most common culprit is right-wing partisanship.

"Although COVID-19 vaccination rates have increased over time with majorities across partisan groups reporting being vaccinated, Republicans make up an increasingly disproportionate share of those who remain unvaccinated and political partisanship is a stronger predictor of whether someone is vaccinated than demographic factors such as age, race, level of education, or insurance status," KFF explained.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic has lingered for longer and more severely than it would have if most of the population had gotten vaccinated, President Joe Biden announced a series of vaccine mandate in September that he hopes will begin to close the gap. In that speech he specifically blamed the ongoing problem on unvaccinated Americans, arguing that a "pandemic of the unvaccinated" had caused people to feel "frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans" who have access to free inoculations but refuse to get them."

As COVID-19 cases skyrocket in children, doctors warn of lifelong side effects |

How the killing of Ahmaud Arbery further exposes America’s broken and racist legal system | Race | The Guardian

How the killing of Ahmaud Arbery further exposes America’s broken and racist legal system

"The shooting of a man who was ‘running while Black’ has prompted calls for racial justice in the US

Annie Polite, 87, leads a protest march outside the Glynn county courthouse during the trial of three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.
Annie Polite, 87, leads a protest march outside the Glynn county courthouse during the trial of three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. Photograph: Stephen B Morton/AP

For many observers, the high-profile case of the three white men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was out jogging, revealed the racist ways the American legal system has been designed to treat Black people differently.

Arbery was killed in February 2020 in the coastal town of Satilla Shores, Georgia. None of the men involved were charged until eyewitness footage was made public months later, shortly before the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, prompting widespread protests.

Three white men, Gregory McMichael, 67, his 35-year-old son, Travis McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, pursued Arbery, claiming they suspected his involvement in a series of burglaries in the neighborhood. The McMichaels, both carrying firearms, attempted to corner Arbery in a roadway using their truck before the younger McMichael fired three times with a shotgun.

Key moments from the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial – video report
Key moments from the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial – video report

The men were charged with murder, aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, counts to which they all pleaded not guilty.

A court has now found all three guilty of murder.

Here are some of the ways the trial touched on race and racism in the US, echoing America’s segregated past as well as modern-day prejudice.

Black people face danger for doing ordinary things

Arbery’s killing highlighted the dangers that Black Americans can face doing entirely ordinary things that white people can perceive as a threat. They can range from bird watching, to showing a house for sale to swimming.

Arbery, a former high school football standout, loved to run. On 23 February last year, he was unarmed and out jogging through his neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia, when he was tracked by the McMichaels and Bryan before being gunned down.

Relying on a defunct civil war-era law that deputizes citizens to police the movements of Black bodies and carry out citizen’s arrests of suspected criminals, the white men argued that they were acting in self-defense. And they believe they were legally justified in pursuing Arbery because they thought he matched the description of a burglary suspect.

Arbery’s death has reaffirmed a concern among many Black runners that they will be racially profiled or attacked while running in the United States. The multitude of racist experiences of “running while Black” has prompted runners to take precautionary measures such as wearing bright colors to appear non-threatening and running during daylight hours.

Yet Arbery’s white T-shirt, his habit of waving at some neighbors as he passed, and his decision to go jogging in the middle of the day did not protect him.

A reluctance to prosecute

In the weeks and months after Arbery’s killing, Glynn county law enforcement officials either ignored the case or failed to thoroughly investigate his death. In one instance, a district attorney refused to allow police officers to make arrests.

Jackie Johnson, the Glynn county district attorney, barred police officers who responded to the shooting from arresting the McMichaels, saying that Greg McMichael had worked as an investigator in her office for 20 years before retiring in 2019.

“The police at the scene went to her, saying they were ready to arrest both of them,” Allen Booker, the Glynn county district 5 commissioner, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “She shut them down to protect her friend McMichael.”

Johnson recused herself from the case four days after Arbery’s killing.

George Barnhill, the Waycross district attorney, took over. Less than 24 hours after seeing the video and evidence compiled by the police, Barnhill decided not to charge the McMichaels, citing insufficient evidence, according to Glynn county commissioner Peter Murphy.

On 2 April, Barnhill emailed law enforcement authorities, saying “Arbery’s mental health records and prior convictions help explain his apparent aggressive nature and his possible thought pattern to attack an armed man.”

Less than a week later, Barnhill recused himself because his son worked on a case involving Arbery while working in Johnson’s office. The connection was only discovered when Lee Merritt, an attorney representing Arbery’s mother, found the link between Barnhill’s son and her own on Facebook and raised it with his office.

Tom Durden, the district attorney in nearby Hinesville then took the case on 13 April, making little progress for more than three weeks until the graphic video of Arbery’s killing emerged on 5 May. The video prompted swift outcry and Durden notified the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The McMichaels were arrested two days later and on 11 May, the Cobb county district attorney and the case’s fourth prosecutor, Joyette M Holmes, took over the case. Holmes is one of only seven black district attorneys in Georgia.

In September, Johnson was indicted on charges of misconduct for allegedly using her position to protect the McMichaels. 

According to evidence introduced in pre-trial hearings, Greg called Johnson soon after the shooting and left her a voicemail, saying, “Jackie this is Greg. Could you call me as soon as you possibly can? My son and I have been involved in a shooting and I need some advice right now.”

An almost all-white jury

In November, a nearly all-white jury was selected after defense attorneys eliminated almost all Black jurors from the pool.

Throughout a jury selection period that lasted 11 days, lawyers were given a pool of 48 potential jurors, 12 of whom were Black. However, defense lawyers struck all but one of them from the final jury, leaving 11 white members and one Black member.

Defense attorney Kevin Gough previously said in an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the case’s jury selection pool lacked “bubbas or Joe six-packs”, referring to white men over 40 without a college degree.

Prosecutors urged Judge Timothy Walmsley to reverse the unseating of eight Black potential jurors, whom they argue had been deliberately targeted over race. Despite Walmsley’s acknowledgment of the “intentional discrimination”, he said he was limited by the supreme court precedent and said that the defense presented justifiable reasons to strike the Black potential jurors that were unrelated to race.

Attacking civil rights leaders

Gough also tried unsuccessfully to remove prominent civil rights leaders and Black pastors, including Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, from the courtroom, arguing that their presence was intimidating and could influence the jury.

Gough told the judge, “We don’t want any more Black pastors in here” and later in the trial compared his clients’ treatment to a “public lynching” in language that seemed designed to provoke racial tensions.

During a prayer vigil held outside the Glynn county courthouse earlier this month by Sharpton, Ben Crump, an attorney representing the Arbery family, stressed the acute need for racial justice for Black communities.

“What happens here in Brunswick, Georgia, in the trial in the killers of Ahmaud Arbery, is going to be a proclamation not only to Georgia, not only to America, but to the world, how far we have come to get equal justice in America for marginalized Black people,” he said."

How the killing of Ahmaud Arbery further exposes America’s broken and racist legal system | Race | The Guardian

Analysis: Travis McMichael Guilty On All Counts, Split Verdict For Greg McMichael, William Bryan

Under Georgia law, without a successful appeal, all three men are facing life in prison. They still face federal hate crime charges.

Nasa launches spacecraft in first ever mission to deflect asteroid | Asteroids | The Guardian

Nasa launches spacecraft in first ever mission to deflect asteroid

"Spacecraft heads off on 6.8m-mile journey to crash into moonlet Dimorphos in test to see if asteroids can be diverted from collision with Earth

Nasa video shows the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or Dart, spacecraft onboard, on a collision course with moonlet Dimorphos.
Nasa animation shows how spacecraft could deflect asteroid – video

A spacecraft that must ultimately crash in order to succeed lifted off late on Tuesday from California on a Nasa mission to demonstrate the world’s first planetary defence system.

Carried aboard a SpaceX-owned Falcon 9 rocket, the Dart (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft soared into the sky at 10.21pm Pacific time from the Vandenberg US Space Force Base, about 150 miles (240km) north-west of Los Angeles.

The plan is to crash the robot spacecraft into the moonlet Dimorphos at 15,000mph (24,100km/h) and change its path by a fraction. If the mission is successful, it will mean that Nasa and other space agencies could deflect an asteroid heading towards Earth and avert an Armageddon-style impact.

The Dart payload, about the size of a small car, was released from the booster minutes after launch to begin its 10-month journey into deep space, some 6.8 million miles (11 km) from Earth.

Once there Dart will test its ability to alter an asteroid’s trajectory with sheer kinetic force. Cameras mounted on the impactor and on a briefcase-sized mini-spacecraft to be released from Dart about 10 days beforehand will record the collision and beam images of it back to Earth.

The asteroid being targeted by Dart poses no actual threat and is tiny compared with the cataclysmic Chicxulub asteroid that struck Earth 66m years ago, leading to extinction of the dinosaurs. But scientists say smaller asteroids are far more common and pose a greater theoretical danger in the near term.

The team behind Dart chose the Didymos system because its relative proximity to Earth and dual-asteroid configuration make it ideal for observing the results of the impact.

The blast-off was shown live on Nasa TV and on the SpaceX Twitter account.

It is the latest of several Nasa missions in recent years to explore and interact with asteroids, primordial rocky remnants from the solar system’s formation 4.6bn years ago.

Last month, Nasa launched a probe on a voyage to the Trojan asteroid clusters orbiting near Jupiter, while the grab-and-go spacecraft Osires-Rex is on its way back to Earth with a sample collected in October last year from the asteroid Bennu.

The Dimorphos moonlet is one of the smallest astronomical objects to receive a permanent name and is one of 27,500 known near-Earth asteroids of all sizes tracked by Nasa.

Nasa has put the entire cost of the Dart project at $330m, well below that of many of the space agency’s most ambitious science missions."

Nasa launches spacecraft in first ever mission to deflect asteroid | Asteroids | The Guardian