News roundup for Fri, Oct 8, 2021

Why is India running out of coal

Fertilizer prices are soaring, and this is bad news for food production and food prices. The 2022 growing season is at serious risk if nothing is done to shore up fertilizer production.

India is running scant on the coal it relies on to run its power companies. 70% of the countries electrical output depends on consistent and ample coal supplies. Rising coal prices on imported coal seems to be the cause. Large-scale power outages are a possible outcome.

Scarcity itself is destabilizing—things don’t have to be completely gone for negative outcomes to ripple through a society or economy. Globalization relies on relatively fragile networks and these networks are currently under significant stress.

Here’s a useful website that monitors and documents situations around the world that may be a cause for an emergency/disaster. You can filter the info, zoom in on a global map, or organized the list by category.

A lack of access to childcare is a major factor fueling labor shortages in the US. There are more jobs than folks out of work, but if folks can’t get childcare, those jobs will go unfilled. Wages for childcare providers are also notoriously low.

Kellogg’s cereal plant workers have gone on strike. The union representing the workers says that the company is asking “workers give up quality health care, retirement benefits, and holiday and vacation pay. The company continues to threaten to send additional jobs to Mexico if workers do not accept outrageous proposals that take away protections that workers have had for decades.” The union and the company are now at an impasse:

The WSJ says we’ve had a small group of US troops in Taiwan for over a year who have been secretly training Taiwanese forces. This is quite a statement. The intelligence community is recalibrating its sights on China as well. Oh, and in the meantime, we’ve had a US Navy Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine suffer an underwater collision in the South China Sea:

I think it would do the world some good to get more white-collar company folk back out in the proverbial trenches:

The US Forestry Service has approved the use of a long-lasting fire retardant that could meaningfully help in preventing catastrophic wildfires.

In good news, bystanders made a makeshift stretcher and helped to rescue an injured 70-rear-old hiker.

The WHO approves a malaria vaccine. It will likely be given out to billions of people at risk.

The world has 237.5 million COVID cases. The world has gained 3 million cases in the last seven days. There have been over 4.8 million deaths in total. The US has had a cumulative 45 million cases—nearly 700,000 cases were added in the last seven days. Over 729,000 Americans have died—over 13,000 in the last week. The US added over 107,000 new cases on Wednesday and over 2,100 deaths that day as well. The US is still leading global daily case gain.

Vaccine efficacy may wane over time, but it’s still pretty good at keeping people alive and out of the hospital:

Bird flu, we don’t need this right now—a concerning rise in human cases of H5N6:

Nearly 20% of health care workers reported in a poll that they quit their jobs during the pandemic. There’s likely to be some voluntary response bias here as people who feel very strongly about something are more likely to answer a poll, but it’s still an incredibly concerning trend. In addition to the stressors of the pandemic, violent outbursts by patients were cited as a factor by many in their choice to leave—this is reminiscent of the recent increase in violent outbursts in plane passengers.

COVID tests can be alarmingly difficult to procure, so it’s about time the Administration did something to make tests more available to people:

Many of those ivermectin studies are questionable. That’s why the US doesn’t recommend it:

Kaiser Permanente has suspended without pay about 1% of its workforce—those who refused vaccines. The suspended workers have until December 1st to get vaccinated if they wish to return.

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