withered ground

DAILY DOSE: Drought in Somalia has killed thousands and is getting worse; Universal healthcare could have saved American lives during Covid-19 pandemic.


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There’s a dire situation in Africa that looks like it may be getting worse – the drought in Somalia. Already, thousands of people have died. Per the Associated Press,

In Somalia, a nation of poets, droughts are named for the kind of pain they bring. There was Prolonged in the 1970s, Cattle Killer in the 1980s, Equal five years ago for its reach across the country. A decade ago, there was Famine, which killed a quarter-million people.

Somalis say the current drought is worse than any they can remember. It doesn’t yet have a name. Diriye, who believes no one can survive in some of the places he traveled, suggests one without hesitation: White Bone.

This drought has astonished resilient herders and farmers by lasting four failed rainy seasons, starting two years ago. The fifth season is underway and likely will fail too, along with the sixth early next year.

A rare famine declaration could be made as soon as this month, the first significant one anywhere in the world since Somalia’s famine a decade ago. Thousands of people have died, including nearly 900 children under 5 being treated for malnutrition, according to United Nations data. The U.N. says half a million such children are at risk of death, “a number, a pending nightmare, we have not seen this century.”

There are time that you just feel helpless (and useless). https://bit.ly/3e37pik


The Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been announced. The winners essentially transformed molecules into those magnetic tiles that snap together so conveniently. Per Nature,

Three chemists who pioneered a useful technique called “click chemistry” to efficiently join molecules together have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Barry Sharpless at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, and Morten Meldal at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark laid the foundation for click chemistry and independently discovered a pivotal reaction that could be used to link two molecules — an azide and an alkyne — with relative ease1,2. This reaction has been applied to develop a host of different molecules, including modified plastics and potential pharmaceuticals.

The third winner, Carolyn Bertozzi at Stanford University in California, used click chemistry to map the complex sugar-based polymers called glycans on the surface of living cells without disturbing cell function3. To do this, she developed reactions called biorthogonal reactions, which are now being used to aid cancer drug development.

Click chemistry has been applied to DNA sequencing technologies and materials science, as well as aiding basic research into cell function and the discovery of new biomolecules.

Congratulations. https://go.nature.com/3rtLVy9


There’s no telling how many lives could have been saved had the U.S. possessed a healthcare system that served the 99% as well as it does the 1%. That’s without even mentioning the costs. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences investigated how much better America would have fared with universal healthcare.

The fragmented and inefficient healthcare system in the United States leads to many preventable deaths and unnecessary costs every year. During a pandemic, the lives saved and economic benefits of a single-payer universal healthcare system relative to the status quo would be even greater. For Americans who are uninsured and underinsured, financial barriers to COVID-19 care delayed diagnosis and exacerbated transmission. Concurrently, deaths beyond COVID-19 accrued from the background rate of uninsurance. Universal healthcare would alleviate the mortality caused by the confluence of these factors. To evaluate the repercussions of incomplete insurance coverage in 2020, we calculated the elevated mortality attributable to the loss of employer-sponsored insurance and to background rates of uninsurance, summing with the increased COVID-19 mortality due to low insurance coverage. Incorporating the demography of the uninsured with age-specific COVID-19 and nonpandemic mortality, we estimated that a single-payer universal healthcare system would have saved about 212,000 lives in 2020 alone. We also calculated that US$105.6 billion of medical expenses associated with COVID-19 hospitalization could have been averted by a single-payer universal healthcare system over the course of the pandemic. These economic benefits are in addition to US$438 billion expected to be saved by single-payer universal healthcare during a nonpandemic year.

Too bad too many Americans are in love with their inequitable healthcare system, even when it doesn’t benefit them at all. https://bit.ly/3SG8ETp

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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