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Oct 13, 2021
Intrigue and investigations commence as the “Havana Syndrome,'' a mysterious neurological condition, is reported in the US Embassy in Colombia prior to Secretary of State, Tony Bilken’s visit. The I.M.F. warns of significant economic decline if the coronavirus and its variants aren’t tamed. Biden struggles to assert authority amid a slew of intractable problems.
1 - Mysterious Illness
“Havana syndrome” symptoms reported in Colombia
More than a dozen US officials working at the US Embassy in Colombia and their family members have reported symptoms consistent with "Havana syndrome", according to a US official and a source familiar with the situation. Incidents of Havana syndrome began in 2016 in Cuba. Now, five years later, as many as 200 incidents have been reported among U.S. personnel in multiple countries, including Russia, China, Uzbekistan, and even the United States itself. The incidents, which are now among hundreds the US is investigating, come as Secretary of State Tony Blinken is planning to visit Bogota next week.(Sources: CNN, WSJ)
2 - Biden Under Siege
President Biden has a tall order to get things right
With his approval ratings slipping fast, President Biden finds himself confronted by a slew of intractable domestic and global crises that he has no power to quickly fix. Among them: rising gasoline prices and inflation, a global supply chain backup, and a pandemic Biden was elected to end. With the economic recovery slowed by the summer Covid-19 surge, the President faces a political imperative to impose authority amid a rising national sense that a lot is going wrong. (Source: CNN)
3 - Wealth Gap Widens
World’s growth cools and the rich-poor divide widens
In its latest World Economic Outlook report, The I.M.F. warned that if the coronavirus or its variants continued to spread across the globe, it could reduce the world’s estimated output by $5.3 trillion over the next five years. The decline reflects vast and growing inequities across rich and poor countries. While the overall growth rate will remain near 6 percent this year, a historically high level after a recession, worldwide poverty, hunger, and unmanageable debt are all on the upswing. (Source: NYT)
4 - For The Children
Schools activate voters in Virginia’s gubernatorial race
Republicans in Virginia are focusing on schools in their final push to capture the governor’s office, hoping to galvanize conservatives over their frustration with school closures, mask mandates and mandatory vaccinations, as well as their fears over critical race theory and transgender rights. Vocal groups of parents, some led by Republican activists, are organizing against school curriculums and calling for recalls of school board members, and Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin is seizing the opportunity to argue that Democrats want to come between parents and their children’s education. (Sources: NYT, The Hill)
5 - Pay Now
Florida fines county $3.5 million for enforcing vaccine passports
Florida’s Health Department levied a $3.5 million fine against Leon County for violating the state's ban on vaccine passports. It is the latest attempt by a State Republican leader to flout federal mandates to require vaccinations and tests to combat Covid-19. The fine could be seen as political posturing by Governor DeSantis to boost his national prominence within the Republican Party ahead of a 2022 reelection campaign and a potential 2024 presidential bid. (Sources: CNN,CTV News)
1 - Healthcare Scarcity
Job loss, strikes, and labor shortages in the healthcare industry
Continuing a trend of labor shortages across the nation, healthcare workers lost 17,500 jobs in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report. The report comes just after nurses urged the HHS to declare the healthcare worker staffing shortage a national crisis. While vaccine mandates have exacerbated the issue, experts identify burnout as the leading cause of labor shortages in the industry. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Axios)
2 - Benched
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving suspended due to vaccination status
Brooklyn Nets announced that 7-time NBA All-star point guard Kyrie Irving will be suspended until he is fully vaccinated against coronavirus. Due to COVID protocols mandating a vaccine in indoor spaces in New York, an official from the New York department of health ruled Irving would be ineligible to participate in home games. Irving has recently become the face of the anti-vaccination movement in recent weeks after refusing the vaccine - a decision that could potentially cost the player $17 million dollars.(Source: The Hill, CNN)
3 - Noble Economics
U.S. Economists take home the Nobel prize
Three U.S.-based economists have won the 2021 Nobel prize in economics for groundbreaking research that transformed ideas about the labor force. Their “natural experiments”, events or policy changes in real life that allow researchers to analyze their impact on society, showed how an increase in the minimum wage doesn’t hinder hiring and immigrants don't lower pay for native-born workers. The winners were David Card of the University of California at Berkeley; Joshua Angrist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Guido Imbens from Stanford University. (Sources: Economist, NPR)
4 - Building Inclusivity
Lego announces the company will rid toys of gender bias
The Danish company Lego has announced it will remove gender bias and harmful stereotypes from its products and marketing to ensure that children’s creative ambitions are not limited by stereotypes. Along with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, a research organization that advocates for equal representation of women, Lego surveyed nearly 7,000 people in seven countries. The study found gender biases were being reinforced through the creative play of children. LEGO also said in a statement, “The company will ensure any child, regardless of gender identity, feels they can build anything they like.” (Sources: WaPo, CNN)
5 - Not Today
UN panel won’t rule on climate case from Greta Thurnberg
A UN panel announced that it cannot rule on a complaint by environmental activist, Greta Thurnberg and 14 youth fellow activists. The activists argue that the inaction of France, Brazil, Germany, and Argentina on curbing carbon emissions violates children’s rights. This complaint continues the trend of legal suits invoking climate change as a human rights issue. While the committee ruled that countries bear responsibility for the impact of climate change, it ultimately decided the complaint should be taken first to national courts. (Source: Reuters)
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