National News Roundup: Year 6, Week 2 (January 23–29)
If I had to catalog my own reaction to the news this week, I think it would be ‘pronounced disgust’–it’s hard to read about so many system dysfunctions coming home to roost at once. If you’re feeling that way as you read this week, know that it’s not just you! At minimum, it’s you and me, and we can be disgruntled weirdos together.
Standard standing reminders still apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a COVID test!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Cleanup in Aisle 45:
As seems to be true every week, there are a lot of Election Rejection updates to report, and they’re back to being concerning again. Here’s what I have for you:
- Insurrection Updates. This week’s rain of subpoenas from the House Panel includes, among others, fourteen people who apparently tried to file fake electoral college certificates during the 2020 election. Meanwhile, a baseless challenge to last week’s subpoena of Trump’s attorneys has already been tossed out by a judge. And the Oathkeeper charges continue forward, with ten members pleading not guilty, but Trump’s publicly assuring them that he’ll pardon them once he’s President again.
This wasn’t exactly a stellar week on the Biden Rebuilding front. Here’s what has happened:
- Biden Missteps. There were a lot of stories this week about Biden dropping balls. The big and overblown story was Biden getting picked up on a hot mic again, though in his defense I think he said what a lot of us were thinking when he called Fox correspondent Peter Doocy a ‘stupid sonofabitch.‘ (He apparently later phoned Doocy and apologized, in case that’s relevant to life.) Personally, I’m a lot more concerned that he misused a COVID hospital fund to pay pharma companies for vaccine doses just like Trump did with Operation Warp Speed–which, given the strain hospitals face during the pandemic, is a really big deal even though we did also need the vaccine doses. Also, the Washington Post pointed out that Biden promised to halt fossil fuel leasing when he took office but a year later had issued more drilling permits than Trump did. Finally, the vaccine mandate for businesses issued by OSHA last year is being officially withdrawn, though that last one is probably more the fault of the Supreme Court that shot it down.
Your New Normal:
- Spotlight on Spotify. There was a whole Spotify saga this week that is a bigger deal than it appears. The whole story actually started in mid-January, when over 270 professionals penned an open letter to Spotify protesting extreme COVID misinformation on its biggest podcasting platform, the Joe Rogan Experience, and asking them to moderate the information it disseminates. Neil Young then picked up the thread and published a letter on his own website saying that he wanted his music removed from the platform in protest. Young followed through immediately, removing his tracks and causing significant market capitalization disruption for the company. This promptly snowballed, with Joni Mitchell and a few other prominent musicians following suit; Mitchell also issued a statement about the life-threatening consequences of vaccine misinformation. (She is not wrong, incidentally; experts estimate about 200,000 COVID deaths occurred last year after widespread vaccine availability due to vaccine refusal.) Eventually, Spotify issued a statement indicating that they would put a general content warning on any podcasts that touched on COVID-19, but notably this did not constitute any actual warnings about misinformation. Vaccine misinformation dissemination is an important contemporary issue that we can expect to continue as the pandemic does.
- Scope of SCOTUS. The Supreme Court was in the news a lot this week, between Justice Breyer announcing that he’s stepping down this term, Biden then recommitting to nominating a Black woman as the next Justice, and the court itself agreeing to hear a case that is challenging affirmative action. (Of course, Republicans lost no time in claiming those last two things were related, though both women considered to be the main frontrunners for the next SCOTUS pick are extremely qualified appellate justices.)
- State of the COVID-19. We’ve touched on some of the biggest stories already, but there were a number of research publications in the past week, particularly regarding the efficacy of boosters and Omicron hospitalization rates, and legislators are beginning to seek data on long COVID as well. Additionally, Pfizer and BioNTech are beginning testing on Omicron-specific vaccines, which may be related to the fact that we’ve identified a new Omicron variant called BA.2 (though at present, it appears pretty similar to Original Flavor Omicron).
- Recent Health Field Resilience. We’ve apparently had a record enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act, which is perfectly logical given the circumstances but still honestly quite good to see. And a recent study that highlights the positive health impact that financial support has on infants has been getting a surprising amount of outlet attention–the study isn’t truly news for most people in field, but the fact that it’s being taken so seriously is nonetheless very promising.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve this happy goose reunion as well as a more consistently improved government. I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved news, and I hope you will be back as well — but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me news of less snowfall!