Long stories short
- China is asking the World Health Organization (WHO) to assess its vaccines as a step towards making them available for international use.
- A Hong Kong primary school teacher lost his registration for using pro-independence content in his teaching materials.
- Kyrgyz election authorities annulled the result of the weekend’s parliamentary elections after protestors took over government buildings in anger at the perceived illegitimacy of the vote.
The news this morning is completely and fully dominated by Donald Trump’s health news. The New York Times has 11 articles on coronavirus in its top section this morning, of which 10 are about one patient. After three nights at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Trump has returned to the White House – where his treatment will continue. The whole thing was rather theatrical: his brief walks to the car, his helicopter ride home and removing his mask on a White House terrace were all for the benefit of the cameras.
There is not a lot of value in analysing his cadence or breathing, as some people on social media have started doing. But he is, as his doctor said, not out of the woods. He is not going “home” in the traditional sense; he is going to the White House, which has quite advanced medical facilities. He also has the use of a helicopter to go to hospital. He is on quite a hefty regimen of drugs, including steroids, which have a way to run. This is not yet over.
Meanwhile, his press secretary has tested positive for the disease. The NYT has a neat tracker showing who has it: they are up to 15 members of the president’s court. Three reporters from the White House corps have also got the disease, they note. Even so, the president used his first public statements on leaving hospital to downplay the seriousness of the virus: “Now I’m better. Maybe I’m immune. I don’t know. But don’t let it dominate your lives. Get out there. Be careful… The vaccines are coming momentarily.”
Where does this leave the election? Well, it has left Joe Biden cheerily chipping away. Yesterday he was in Florida – albeit without getting much national pickup. But it is a pretty visible reminder of Trump’s failure on the virus. Biden’s lead has inched up since the debate last week from about 7 percentage points to 8. The FiveThirtyEight forecast has Biden’s chance of winning at 81 per cent. I’ve kept writing that the position is pretty stable and Biden is a pretty heavy favourite. As the weeks tick by without a major move to Trump, that becomes more true.
Today in the app… Read my reporting on the series of missteps which led the country to follow the wrong pandemic plan – and stick with it. Join us for today’s open news meeting at 1pm, where we’ll be talking about Trump and sign up for tomorrow’s ThinkIn investigating the UK’s hidden homicides.
Our planet environment, natural resources, geopolitics
The Guardian has a story about an Italian bear, dubbed Papillon after the film/book about a prisoner who escapes captivity. Papillon, whose “real” name is M49, has escaped twice – and was seized after being accused of a string of attacks on livestock in Trento. The twist in this saga is that Trento has only relatively recently reintroduced bears into the wild. His name, M49, reflects he was the 49th bear born in Trento. Bears never quite died out, but almost did – and local folklore (as across much of Europe) is full of bear stories about men who took on (or tamed) these fierce creatures. Heritage or not, efforts to restore them have brought the conservationists into conflict with farmers: the eternal rewilding debate.
Wealth investment, fairness, prosperity
Big news for Silicon Valley: a congressional subcommittee is to propose preventing tech giants from both owning marketplaces and selling goods on them, according to Bloomberg. The anti-trust panel’s recommendation against vertical integration would hit Amazon, which sells its own line goods on its site, but would be drawn widely enough to stop Apple supplying apps for its own app store and would mean the Google search engine and YouTube could not be owned by the same party. This proposal is a long way from law, but a straw in the wind.
Belonging identity, society, beliefs, countries
The proposed Holocaust memorial in central London is a plan that has complete approval in principle, but a lot of opposition in practice. The current plan is to run it alongside the Houses of Parliament. One of the objections to this has been raised by Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terror legislation. The peer, parts of whose family were murdered in the death camps, supports a memorial, but said he was worried that putting it by Parliament would create an irresistible target for terror attack, putting these two symbols together. But I was more struck by a group of historians’ concerns: “Situating the UK Holocaust memorial next to the Houses of Parliament is likely to create a celebratory narrative of the British government’s responses to the Jewish catastrophe during the Nazi era and beyond.” It might be a more appropriate site for a memorial to the lives lost to and crushed by slavery. That was something which the British state had a direct hand in, profited from and where the aesthetics of putting the memorial in the shadow of the Victoria Tower would feel a little different.
The 100-year life health, education, living, public policy
Tax and spend
The UK political parties have held their conferences remotely this year. In the case of the Conservatives, this all just feels a bit silly: their conference has no role in party management. There is none of the voting and policy-making that goes on at Labour conference, for example. In his speech, Rishi Sunak, the finance minister, has hinted at future tax rises: “We have a sacred responsibility to future generations to leave the public finances strong.” Today, meanwhile, the prime minister’s minions have told reporters he will talk about the ambition to have more offshore wind power. He’ll probably back more nuclear, too – even if the state ends up building the facilities itself.
New things technology, science, engineering
The Nobel prize for medicine has been awarded to three men – Harvey Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles Rice – for their discovery of the hepatitis C virus. The thing that jumps out at me about this is the recency of their work. The men’s work took place in the 1970s and 1980s – before when, the Nobel committee said, transfusions were a “Russian roulette”. It is remarkable how recently this disease was a mystery, and how completely we can now treat it (if you have the money).
Stay safe, wash your hands.