The Daily Dose: The latest installment of the Politics and Pandemics Show; Chimpanzees illuminate human friendships.

The latest installment of the Politics and Pandemics Show is in. This episode features two regional powerhouses, one from the Middle East and the other the Far East. According to the Associated Press, “Opposition legislators in Turkey are accusing Ankara’s leaders of secretly selling out Uighurs to China in exchange for coronavirus vaccines. Tens of millions of vials of promised Chinese vaccines have not yet been delivered. Meanwhile, in recent months, Turkish police have raided and detained around 50 Uighurs in deportation centers, lawyers say — a sharp uptick from last year.” Doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been in China delayed even though Turkey has already paid for them. Some call it blackmail. If the Politics and Pandemics Show has taught us anything, it’s that everything is on the table when it comes to exploiting a global outbreak.

Public health officials are not too happy with the Biden Administration’s attempt to get a quick-result home COVID-19 test kit on the market. According to STAT, “It’s not that home testing with a 15-minute turnaround time isn’t a good idea, they said, it’s just that the rollout of this initial kit is too little and too late, and the test too expensive and complicated, to help extinguish the raging pandemic fire. A number of experts called on the Biden administration to subsidize the home test for consumers, and said the Food and Drug Administration needs to do more to make such tests widely available.” So is it a good idea or a bad idea? Good if it’s subsidized but bad if it’s not? Talk about mixed signals.

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A World Health Official is throwing some disturbing shade on the vaccines currently being used and, perhaps, some of the versions still in the pipeline. Al-Jazeera reports, “The European head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said he is ‘concerned’ over whether COVID-19 vaccines will prove effective against new virus variants. ‘The virus still has the upper hand on the human being,’ WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge told the AFP news agency on Friday. Asked whether the vaccines available since December would be effective against new virus variants, he replied: ‘That’s the big question. I’m concerned.’” For the record, if he’s concerned, I’m concerned.

A recent study hints at the drastic way the world can change through the millennia. Specifically, the authors suggest that there may have been fresh water in the Arctic a very long time ago. “Geibert et al. report analyses of an isotope of the element thorium in sea-floor sediments, which suggest that the Arctic Ocean swung between being filled with salt water and fresh water during periods of the two most recent glacials.” Their conclusions are based on records of thorium-230, produced from the decay of dissolved uranium that is naturally present in seawater. Thorium is highly insoluble and sticks to solid particles which sink to the sea floor and become buried in sediments.

When we were younger, most of us had tons of people we called friends and numerous circles the served as social lily pads we jumped between depending on our moods. However, the older you get, the narrower the range of friends gets. A study of chimpanzees may shed light on the reasons behind this phenomenon. “Like humans, as these chimpanzees grew older, they increased the number of mutual friendships and decreased the number of one-sided friendships they maintained. In these mutual friendships, aged chimpanzees were more likely to groom each other, and they engaged in grooming for longer periods of time. This suggests these friendships were of high value to the chimpanzee.” That makes a lot of sense but is that just a fancy way of saying that we get more picky in our old age?

Thanks for reading. It’s Super Bowl weekend. Have fun from a distance. Let’s be careful out there.

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