2021-01-29 11:51:12 | First Thing: vast racial disparity in Covid vaccination rates | US news

Story by: Molly Blackall The Guardian

Good morning.

Black Americans are receiving Covid vaccinations at dramatically lower rates than white Americans in the first weeks of the chaotic rollout, according to an analysis.

About 3% of Americans have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine so far. But in 16 states that have released data by race, white residents are being vaccinated at significantly higher rates than Black residents, according to the analysis – in many cases two to three times higher.

The most dramatic case was Pennsylvania, where 1.2% of white residents had been vaccinated as of 14 January, compared with 0.3% of Black Pennsylvanians.

 

My concern now is if we don’t vaccinate the population that’s highest-risk, we’re going to see even more disproportional deaths in Black and brown communities. It breaks my heart.”
Dr Fola May, UCLA physician and health equity researcher

  • A man arrested on weapons charges was allegedly plotting attacks on Democrats, the FBI has said. Ian Rogers from California was arrested for stockpiling weapons including pipe bombs, and sent texts that could be seen as threats against the governor’s office and social media companies.
  • Sarah Sanders has raised $1m in four days in her bid for governor of Arkansas, according to her campaign. The former White House press secretary announced her run on Monday in a video that expressed her support for Trump. No Democrat has announced their run yet.

Biden is making health insurance more accessible

President Joe Biden speaks before signing executive orders on healthcare
President Joe Biden speaks before signing executive orders on healthcare, in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Joe Biden has signed an executive order to reopen federal health insurance marketplaces, to improve access to health insurance during the coronavirus pandemic. The markets allow people to buy health insurance as individuals and offer subsidies to those in certain income brackets. The order will open the markets for a special sign-up opportunity aimed at people who need health insurance during the pandemic, so will be particularly helpful to those who have lost their jobs and subsequently their insurance. It came as the South African strain of coronavirus, which appears to be more infectious, was detected in the US for the first time, in two people in South Carolina.

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In another significant public health measure, Biden formally ended “global gag rule” on Thursday, a policy which bans US funding for overseas aid organisations that facilitate or promote abortion. It was first adopted by Ronald Reagan in 1984, with every Democratic president since repealing it, and every subsequent Republican president reinstating it again. Now, reproductive rights advocates are calling on Biden to go a step further and break the cycle by permanently repealing the policy to prevent it being reinstated.

  • Drivers stranded in a snowstorm were given the coronavirus vaccine before the doses expired. A group of health workers were on the way back from a Covid-19 vaccination event, before being stuck in snow on a highway. They went car to car on foot to inject other stranded drivers to ensure the doses did not go to waste.
  • Canadian millionaires who took vaccines intended for indigenous communities may face jail for breaking public health rules. The casino executive Rodney Baker and his wife, Ekaterina Baker, an actor, chartered a plane to a remote community in the Yukon territory, and pretended to be local motel employees to receive the vaccine, which was intended for vulnerable and elderly indigenous people.

General Motors will have an all-electric fleet by 2035

GM assembly workers connect a battery pack under a partially assembled Chevrolet Bolt EV vehicle
GM assembly workers connect a battery pack under a partially assembled Chevrolet Bolt EV vehicle in 2018. Photograph: Rebecca Cook/Reuters

The US’s largest automaker has announced it will phase out fossil fuel-powered engines and make a wholesale shift to electric vehicles by 2035. General Motors also announced plans to become carbon neutral by 2040, marking a significant shift towards a greener car industry. It will be no mean feat. Last year, GM sold 2.55m vehicles in the US and only 20,000 of them were electric. The announcement comes after Biden announced on Monday that he would replace the government’s fleet of about 650,000 vehicles with electric models.

  • Opposition is mounting to a Canadian mining plan near the US border that could cause harmful pollution in communities on both sides, and the North Cascades national park. More than 200 indigenous groups, business and environmentalists are opposing the move.
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The dream might be over for small investors in their assault on Wall Street

Hours after Robinhood, an online stock trading company, restricted their users from trading the popular GameStop stocks, a class action suit was filed in New York
Hours after Robinhood, an online stock trading company, restricted their users from trading the popular GameStop stocks, a class action suit was filed in New York. Photograph: John Lamparski/SOPA Images/Rex/Shutterstock

Small investors who took on Wall Street through investments in GameStop have had their wings cut after the trading platform they used banned them from buying further shares in the video game chain. The investors sent shockwaves around the world when they cost Wall Street institutions billions of dollars after piling into stocks that hedge funds had betted would fail, causing their share prices to soar and big Wall Street banks to lose billions of dollars. The trading platform, an app called Robinhood, is facing a backlash, including lawsuits, over its decision to prevent further investment.

Robinhood’s decision also sparked unlikely bipartisanship, with Ted Cruz supporting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when she described the move as “unacceptable” – perhaps the only time the two have been seen to agree. AOC said that while she was pleased to work with Republicans on the issue, she rejected Cruz’s help: “You almost had me murdered 3 weeks ago so you can sit this one out.”

  • Why did the investors do it? One saw it as a chance to make money, another saw it as a way to “send a message” to Wall Street after the 2008 financial crash. Jedidajah Otte spoke to three investors about what motivated them to buy shares in GameStop.
  • Five films to watch if you’re confused about GameStop: with global attention focusing on complex stock market procedures this week, you’re not alone if you feel slightly out of your depth. Our writers suggest five films to help you understand what’s going on. Or at least pretend to.
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In other news …

A Hall County sheriff guards the entrance to the campus of Free Chapel, a church where about 130 workers were taken to be examined for injuries following a liquid nitrogen leak in Gainesville
A Hall County sheriff guards the entrance to the campus of Free Chapel, a church where about 130 workers were taken to be examined for injuries following a liquid nitrogen leak in Gainesville. Photograph: AP
  • A chemical leak at a poultry plant has killed six workers in Georgia, with at least 11 others taken to hospital, three in a critical condition. Early indications suggest a nitrogen line ruptured in the facility.
  • A black deputy was not buried in a local cemetery because of a ‘whites only’ policy, according to his family. Darrell Semien died on Sunday aged 55 but his widow was told he could not be buried in Oaklin Springs cemetery in California because it was for white people only.
  • A former top Obama advisor is expected to be named special envoy for Iran, according to multiple sources. Robert Malley was one of the architects of the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump pulled out of in 2018.

Stat of the day: Trump was allegedly cultivated as a Russian asset for more than 40 years

Donald Trump was cultivated as an asset for the Russian government for more than 40 years, a former KGB spy has told the Guardian. Trump first appeared on the Russians’ radar after marrying a Czech model in 1977, and was tipped as a potential asset three years later by a “spotter agent”, Yuri Shvets says. Shvets alleges that during a trip by Trump to Russia in 1987 KGB operatives suggested he go into politics – he began exploring a run for the Republican nomination soon after.

Don’t miss this: Nancy Sinatra on feminism, family and why’ll she’ll never forgive Trump voters

In this interview, Nancy Sinatra, now 80, discusses feeling ostracised by her fellow 60s stars, her relationship with her father, and what feminism means to her. She also discusses Trump’s penchant for her father’s music and how the last four years meant she “couldn’t believe that this great nation had sunk so low”.

Last thing: scientists have discovered why wombats poo cubes

An international study has put an end to speculation about this bizarre natural phenomenon
An international study has put an end to speculation about this bizarre natural phenomenon. Photograph: Albert Wright/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ever wondered why wombats have cubed-shaped poo? No, me neither, but this has long been a biological puzzle. Now scientists have worked it out, finding that the cube shape is produced inside the intestines, not at the “point of exit”, as our reporter politely puts it. The discovery puts to bed a series of bizarre theories, including one that suggested the wombats patted the faeces into shape after depositing them.

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Source References: The Guardian

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