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The 100-year life 
Health, education, living, public policy

5 May 2021

Melinda French Gates latest
The Guardian’s wealth correspondent reckons the younger co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation could emerge very rich from her divorce thanks to Washington state law’s stipulation of a 50:50 split of marital assets in the absence of a prenup. And there was no prenup. So Ms French Gates should be due assets worth north of $70 billion, making her the world’s second richest woman after Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, owner of L’Oreal. Her own foundation, Pivotal Ventures, already focuses on women’s rights and gender equality. She and MacKenzie Scott, who divorced Jeff Bezos, sunk $30 million between them last year into the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, which aims to boost women’s power and influence in the US. (Fun to note, btw, that the Guardian is not at all immune from the charms of west coast tech mogul property porn. Who will get the big house on Lake Washington?)

4 may 2021

India’s crisis
The horrific news from India continues: 20 million Covid cases in total have officially been reported, and 222,000 people have died. On Monday, 3,400 died from the disease. The true numbers, however, are much higher. The levels of stress in the health system are terrifying: 24 people died in a Karnataka hospital because it ran out of oxygen. It is unclear why governments – notably the UK and US – have not seen getting vaccines to India as a key objective. About 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are sitting in an Ohio warehouse, for example, awaiting approval for use in the US while it is already approved for use in India.

30 april 2021

Refugees pushed back
Frontex, the beefed-up EU border agency, is helping the Libyan coast guard locate refugees trying to get to Europe and return them to crowded, dangerous camps in Libya instead. Le Figaro and Der Spiegel claim Frontex planes have flown over refugees’ boats headed for Europe and tipped off Libyan authorities at least 20 times since January last year. In some cases Libyan coast guard vessels then sailed into Malta’s designated search and rescue zone to pick them up and turn them round. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2012 that refugees cannot be forcibly returned to Libya because of the risk they face there of torture and death, but Frontex appears be sharing refugee boats’ coordinates with Libyan officials by WhatsApp.

29 April 2021

Vaccinate India

It is possible that India’s daily new Covid infection numbers have peaked – at around 360,000 – but by no means certain. The current spike could get even worse, because so few Indians have been vaccinated compared with richer countries. Ten per cent of adults have had a first dose. Only 1.6 per cent are fully vaccinated. The Atlantic suggests the Biden administration’s failure to airlift vaccine ingredients (not to mention emergency medical supplies) to India sooner was a serious mistake, not to mention a self-defeating one given no one’s safe till we all are. It will be interesting to get Gayle Smith’s take on his when she has time to draw breath in her new role in charge of US vaccine diplomacy.

28 april 2021

Von der vaccine
Like old elastic, the EU is slowly bouncing back from its vaccine debacle. Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president who’s taken most of the blame for the botched start, is talking up a whopping deal ($) for up to 1.8 billion Pfizer/BioNTech doses that she seems to have personally negotiated via text and calls with the Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. Two thoughts: if this happens it will allow every European to be vaccinated without troubling the AstraZeneca sales team ever again. And there will be plenty left over for vaccine diplomacy. The only question is why the deal has been trailed for nearly a week and not yet signed. Why the hold-up?