News 29.12.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 29.12.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 29.12.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 29.12.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Cities are bastions of opportunity. They are filled with vast numbers of people meeting friends and family, visiting restaurants, museums, concert halls and sporting events, and travelling to and from jobs. Yet many of us who live in cities have occasionally been overwhelmed by the activity. At other times, we might feel ‘alone in the crowd’. For decades, the conflicting experiences of city living have led urbanites and scholars to ask: are cities bad for mental health?

The conventional wisdom and scientific answer for more than half a century has been ‘yes’. This question is becoming increasingly important as global urbanisation unfolds: around two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. Bigger cities, which have more of what makes a city a city, would seem to be particularly bad for mental health. A typical explanation invokes factors such as noise, crime and short, callous social interactions (think about New York City’s reputation for rudeness) to argue that big cities create sensory and social burdens that city dwellers constantly have to combat psychologically. While this explanation appears to be supported by some evidence that rural areas might, on the whole, have lower depression rates than cities, there is scant evidence that these particular factors cause higher depression rates in cities, and no investigation of how bigger cities compare with smaller cities.

Read the rest of this article at: Psyche

News 29.12.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 29.12.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In the public-health world, the rise of Omicron prompted a great, big “I told you so.” Since the new variant was detected in South Africa, advocacy groups, the WHO, and global-health experts have said the new variant was a predictable consequence of vaccine inequity. Rich countries are hoarding vaccine doses, they said, leaving much of the developing world under-vaccinated. But in reality, countries with low vaccination rates are suffering from more than just inequity.

South Africa, the country where the variant was first reported, did receive vaccines far too late, partly because wealthy countries did not donate enough doses and pharmaceutical companies refused to share their technology. At one point, South Africa had to export doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that it had manufactured in-country in order to comply with a contract it had signed with the company. The COVID-19 vaccines must be kept cold, and because not everywhere in South Africa has reliable roads and refrigeration, the country has struggled to store and transport vaccine doses to far-flung areas.

Today, though, South Africa has about 150 days’ worth of vaccine supply. It’s now facing the same problem that’s bedeviling countries the world over: Lots of people don’t want to get their shots. South Africa recently paused deliveries of the J&J and Pfizer vaccines because it has more stock than it can use. “We have plenty [of] vaccine and capacity but hesitancy is a challenge,” Nicholas Crisp, the deputy director-general of the country’s health department, told Bloomberg recently.

The South African experience is an example of how anti-vaccine sentiment has become a global phenomenon at precisely the worst time. Nearly a quarter of Russians, 18 percent of Americans, and about 10 percent of Germans, Canadians, and French are “unwilling” to get vaccinated, according to a November Morning Consult poll of 15 countries. South Africa wasn’t part of the Morning Consult sample, but a study from this past summer found that it had a high level of vaccine hesitancy when compared globally. It falls roughly in the middle of African countries in terms of vaccine hesitancy: About a third of South Africans have been vaccinated, a higher percentage than most other African countries, but 22 percent of South Africans weren’t willing to accept a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a study from this past spring, compared with just 4 percent of people in Ethiopia and 38 percent of people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Malawi and South Sudan recently destroyed thousands of vaccine doses because the countries weren’t going to be able to administer them before they expired.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

The Balmoral in Chestnut

Shop the Balmoral in Chestnut
at Belgrave Crescent &

As we head into yet another holiday season marked by the uncertainty and dread of an ongoing pandemic, I’ve been trying to count my blessings. None of my loved ones have died of COVID. I have a job, a cozy home, and my health (physical, if not mental 🥴). In the grand scheme of things, I am absurdly lucky.

But I also can’t help but reflect upon everything we’ve missed out on these last two years. Most of what I’ve lost — what we have all lost — is time. Precious, precious time. For me, that’s meant time with my fiancé, who’s only just been able to get back into the US from her native England after a year and a half of travel bans. Other families across the country and around the world have been robbed of time with elderly relatives in the last months of their lives, or the first few months or years with loved ones’ newborns.

Soon, we’ll all be a couple of years older than we were when this all began, but it doesn’t necessarily feel that way — in part because certain milestones and accomplishments we might have otherwise reached continue to evade us, and might still for years to come.

Read the rest of this article at: BuzzFeed

News 29.12.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

How Disgust Explains Everything

Two distinguished academics walk into a restaurant in Manhattan. It is their first meeting — their first date, in fact — and the year is 2015. The man wears a down jacket against the icy winter evening. The woman has a shock of glossy white hair. The restaurant is on a cozy corner of the West Village and has foie gras on the menu. What the man doesn’t know is that the interior of his down jacket has suffered a structural failure, and the filling has massed along the bottom hem, forming a conspicuous bulge at his waist. As they greet each other, the woman perceives the bulge and asks herself: Is my date wearing a colostomy bag?

They sit down to eat, but the woman is distracted. As they chat about their lives — former spouses, work, interests — the woman has “colostomy bag” on her mind. Is it or isn’t it? The two academics are of an age where such an intervention is, well, not exactly common, but not out of the realm of possibility. At the end of their dinner, the man takes the train back to Philadelphia, where he lives, and the woman returns to her apartment on the Upper West Side. Despite the enigma of the man’s midsection, the date is a success.

It wasn’t until their third date that the question got resolved: no colostomy bag. “I was testing her,” Paul Rozin, one of the academics, later joked, “to see if she would put up with me.” (He wasn’t testing her. He was unaware of the bulge.) “I was worried,” said Virginia Valian, the other academic.

It was fitting that an imaginary colostomy bag played a starring role in the couple’s first encounter. Paul Rozin is known for many things — he is an eminent psychologist who taught at the University of Pennsylvania for 52 years, and he has gathered honors and fellowships and published hundreds of influential papers and served on editorial boards and as chairman of the university’s department of psychology — but he is best known for his work on the topic of disgust. In the early 1980s, Rozin noticed that there was surprisingly little data available on this universal aspect of life. Odd, he thought, that of the six so-called basic emotions — anger, surprise, fear, enjoyment, sadness, disgust — the last had hardly been studied.

Once you are attuned to disgust, it is everywhere. On your morning commute, you may observe a tragic smear of roadkill on the highway or shudder at the sight of a rat browsing garbage on the subway tracks. At work, you glance with suspicion at the person who neglects to wash his filthy hands after a trip to the toilet. At home, you change your child’s diaper, unclog the shower drain, empty your cat’s litter box, pop a zit, throw out the fuzzy leftovers in the fridge. If you manage to complete a single day without experiencing any form of disgust, you are either a baby or in a coma.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

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News 29.12.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

ENID, Okla. — On a hot night in July, the first summer of the pandemic, Jonathan Waddell, a city commissioner in Enid, Okla., sat staring out at a rowdy audience dressed in red. They were in the third hour of public comments on a proposed mask mandate, and Mr. Waddell, a retired Air Force sergeant who supported it, was feeling increasingly uncomfortable.

He had noticed something was different when he drove up in his truck. The parking lot was full, and people wearing red were getting out of their cars greeting one another, looking a bit like players on a sports team. As the meeting began, he realized that they opposed the mandate. It was almost everybody in the room.

The meeting was unlike any he had ever attended. One woman cried and said wearing a mask made her feel like she did when she was raped at 17. Another read the Lord’s Prayer and said the word “agenda” at the top of the meeting schedule seemed suspicious. A man quoted Patrick Henry and handed out copies of the Constitution.

“The line is being drawn, folks,” said a man in jeans and a red T-shirt. He said the people in the audience “had been shouted down for the last 20 years, and they’re finally here to draw a line, and I think they’re saying, ‘We’ve had enough.’”

At the end of the night, the mask mandate failed, and the audience erupted in cheers. But for Mr. Waddell, who had spent seven years making Enid his home, it was only the beginning. He remembers driving home and watching his mirrors to make sure no one was following him. He called his father, a former police officer, and told him what had happened. He said that people were talking about masks, but that it felt like something else. What, exactly, he did not know.

“I said, ‘This is honestly just crazy, Dad, and I’m not sure where it goes from here.’”

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.