The Daily Dose: World Health Organization says ‘Yes’ to authoritarianism

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A report in Science magazine that largely addresses the China-WHO Joint Mission report (Read it here.) that was made public late last week. It is one of the few pieces that mentions some suspect portions of the document. It’s worth quoting at length,

“The report does mention some areas where China needs to improve, including the need ‘to more clearly communicate key data and developments internationally.’ But it is mum on the coercive nature of its control measures and the toll they have exacted. ‘The one thing that’s completely glossed over is the whole human rights dimension,’ says Devi Sridhar, an expert on global public health at the University of Edinburgh. Instead, the report praises the ‘deep commitment of the Chinese people to collective action in the face of this common threat.’

‘To me, as somebody who has spent a lot of time in China, it comes across as incredibly naïve—and if not naïve, then willfully blind to some of the approaches being taken,’ Phelan says. Singapore and Hong Kong may be better examples to follow, Konyndyk says: ‘There has been a similar degree of rigor and discipline but applied in a much less draconian manner.’

Who knew the United Nations would be the latest proponent of authoritarianism and human rights abuse? We certainly didn’t think so. That was probably a bit naive of us.

South Korea has upped the ante when dealing with the novel coronavirus. Like China before them, the government has framed the struggle against SARS-CoV-2 in military terms. As per the Guardian, “President Moon Jae-in said the country was now waging ‘war’ on the virus and the government would inject US$25bn (£19.5bn) into measures to contain it…. ‘The crisis in Daegu and North Gyeongsang province reached its peak and the whole country has entered a war against the infectious disease,’ Moon said, referring to the areas where the outbreak has been the worst.” We suspect this won’t be the last time fighting the global epidemic is portrayed as a call to arms.

The outbreak in Seattle, Washington has affected its education system. The Seattle Times reports that “Sixteen K-12 schools and one college in Washington closed Monday, according to a running list from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. A few more, including Kentwood High and Covington Elementary in Kent, also planned to close Tuesday.” Authorities are expecting more school closures in the state.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday morning, a NYC high school also closed as a result of a suspected case of COVID-19 in the community.

STAT has compiled a handy one-stop-shop for coronavirus risk broken down according to demographic. It’s dense but worth using as a point of reference.

A new study in PNAS examined adaptive evolutionary changes by taking a peek under the mamallian hood. They hoped to make inroads on the tricky act of linking differences in phenotype to underlying genetic changes. According to the authors, “Our integrative analysis shows that positively selected sites tend to colocalize on protein structures and that positively selected clusters are found in functionally important regions of proteins, indicating that positive selection can contravene the well-known principle of evolutionary conservation of functionally important regions.” In other words, the notion that evolution would favor functionally important traits did not always prove to be true. Much to their surprise, they found that pathogens can have a direct influence on adaptive evolution in mammals.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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