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"I'm going to lose the script, and I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much to look forward to so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope. But right now. I'm scared." 

Those are the recent words of CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. Much of the messaging to the public during the pandemic has used fear of the consequences to ourselves, families, or society as a “cudgel” to strongly influence our behavior. A new study looks to see if fear is the best motivator.

A Bit of Theory

There is a hypothesis, the protection motivation theory, that holds that our motivation to “comply with risk-relevant...

Imagine for a moment that you're standing in the grocery store, choosing between two identical tomatoes. The only difference between them is price because one is certified organic and thus more expensive. Before you decide to purchase the cheaper option, you say to yourself, “I want to buy this tomato, but what if it gives me cancer?” 

If this sounds like an absurd thought experiment to you, that's because it is. To the organic food champions at Natural News [1], though, this is actually a reasonable “profit/loss statement” you should  calculate because consuming “GMO foods,” while cheaper in the short run, causes cancer and ultimately results in expensive medical bills:

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In a sleepy moment, I had an inspiration.

Funding a pull incentive for antibiotic R&D in the U.S. – like a market entry reward, for example – would be more attractive to our representatives in Congress if we required that all manufacturing and supply chains for the beneficiary product be physically located in this country.

Great idea, right?  Not exactly.

I raised this with two biotech CEOs. Both, politely, told me I was out of my mind.

The U.S. currently does not have a sufficient small molecule manufacturing infrastructure to either (1) provide for the entire manufacturing chain from API to finished product, or (2) have sufficient availability of raw materials here. This is an especially acute problem for the manufacture of B-lactams (like penicillins...

Remember a few years ago Dr. Baselga and charges of conflicts of interest at Memorial Sloan Kettering? New York seems to have cleaned up its act, Boston not so much. 

As chief of Boston Children’s Hospital, one of the most esteemed pediatric hospitals in the world, Sandra Fenwick had outsized influence. After the pandemic struck last spring, she used that clout to lobby Massachusetts legislators for more money for telemedicine, a suddenly essential alternative to in-person visits.

She also spoke glowingly about remote care during an online forum last September, saying that satisfaction among patients and staff was hitting “eight, nine, and 10.’' The hospital, she told a Harvard public health professor, would objectively study the best...

Before jumping into the study, let’s take a moment to talk about R0, that standard measure of infectious transmission. I am sure you remember all the various values put forward for COVID-19’s R0 earlier in the pandemic – many took that as science’s flip-flopping, often with some hidden political intent. As it turns out, R0 is only a static number for those infections that have been around for a long time, like measles. For a novel disease, and that is COVID-19, the R0 will change over time as we reach equilibrium with our foe. 

An Rof less than 1 means the pandemic ends, greater than 1, and it continues, with the rapidity of spread related to increasing values over 1. We also know that the new variants seem to be more...

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released provisional mortality data[1] by cause, age, and race for 2020 that facilitates assessing “excess” mortality. Here I define percent “excess” as the ratio of COVID-19 related deaths to the non-COVID-19 deaths as obtained by subtraction. That figure for the nation was 12.8%, which seems a modest effect but represents nearly the national improvement in mortality over the last twenty years.

Males exceed females by 10%, and those with Hispanic heritage exceed those declared multi-racial by a factor of 4. 

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The study involved asking 2,000 participants in RAND’s American Life Panel (ALP) their level of trust of the CDC, USPS, and FEMA in May and again in October. Here are the results weighted to reflect our nation’s population.

That decline for the CDC was statistically significant and more than likely was socially significant as well. As you might expect, there is a robust political component with the distrust growing more among, at the time, potential Trump voters, a 0.8 point decrease, than likely Biden voters at 0.3 point decrease. Skepticism did not change much in the Black community, dropping from 7.2 o 6.9. Still, distrust grew much more in the non-...

A bit of background - Why do some people choose to be vegetarians?

There appear to be two polar positions for health or because of an ethical imperative overexploiting and killing animals. Vegans make up the latter group and do not consume dairy products and eggs, or wear or use products made from animals, think leather, not just fur. Of course, there are many people in-between those poles whose reasons include health and a smattering of ethical concerns – think free-range chicken, grass-fed beef, or sustainably caught fish, the Whole Foods crowd. 

The study sought to understand the role of “moralization” in the transformation from omnivore to vegetarian or vegan. Moralization is a process where our preferences become our values. In the case of our diet,...

When it comes to staying at home, what is the most significant driver, our government, or our beliefs? A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research teases out the different effects of fear and policy in lockdowns. The study is based upon cellphone data reporting our movements and looks at neighboring areas where shutdown policies differed. The study's beauty lies in its granularity; it looked at a county-wide rather than state-wide level, letting the variability, in this case of government policies, always lost in aggregation shine through.

Cellphone data geolocation data was collected from March 1st to May 16th and identified the businesses visited and the amount of time spent. It assumes that visits equate with economic activity.

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Background

Did the use of lead pipes for drinking water cause the collapse of the Roman Empire? Although historians no longer believe that lead poisoning caused the Roman Empire's collapse, the Romans did have an extensive plumbing system upgraded about 2,200 years ago to include lead pipes. In the U.S. in the 1800s, cast iron pipes were used, but with the growth of cities came the need for more flexible piping to connect buildings to water mains. Lead became the perfect material for this task, and by the 1900s, most of the largest cities in the U.S. installed lead piping. Amazingly, many of these pipes are still in use today.      

On March 31, President Biden released The American Jobs Plan, also known...