State of Coronavirus Globally at the Start of 2021

When the first cases of COVID-19 were announced in Washington State at the start of 2020, the idea that the world would take on two extended lockdown periods and three infection surges seemed unlikely.

What would follow would be several months of uncertainty, unemployment, and life-changing circumstances.

As the world enters 2021, hope is on the horizon. Pfizer and Moderna have developed COVID-19 vaccines with over 90% efficacy ratings, creating the idea that we can all return to some level of normal at some point during the year.

We also have several challenges to meet, which means you must still take care of your health. Having your shelves stocked with products from brands like Douglas Laboratories and Amazing Grass to keep your immune system strong can help during this historical moment.

1. Some People Can’t Take the Vaccine

Although the adverse reaction rates are low with modern vaccines, there is always the possibility of an unwanted outcome when getting this shot. Some people have allergies to the ingredients that make it challenging to receive the necessary dosage. That means the individuals in this group may need to limit their social activities until 2022 – or later.

2. Some Vaccines Require Multiple Doses

Pfizer’s vaccine offers an excellent efficacy rating, but it also requires two doses to be effective. The company reported that they have the capacity to produce 1.3 billion does in 2021. That means this product will be available to about 650 million people – a far cry from the billions globally that need it.

3. Shipping Issues with the Vaccines

Although Moderna’s vaccine doesn’t require extensive freezing arrangements, Pfizer’s must be kept at exceptionally cold levels during transport and storage. That makes the logistics of receiving one quite difficult. Although front-line workers should not have issues accessing this product, it could be problematic for the average family trying to get back to normal.

There is still a lot of work to do in 2021 to manage COVID-19. If we don’t want a repeat of 2020, it is up to all of us to be healthy, stay safe, and take care of those around us.

Three Scientists Awarded Nobel Prizes for Black Hole Research

Three scientists received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for two discoveries made about black holes in our universe.

Roger Penrose received half of the prize for demonstrating how black holes could form. Andrea Ghez and Reinhard Genzel received the other half for their discovery of a supermassive object at the center of our galaxy.

The total prize awards $1.1 million to the recipient. That figure will split with half going to Penrose, one quarter to Ghez, and the remaining to Genzel.

This award makes it only the fourth time a woman has won the Nobel Prize in Physics. The other three are Marie Curie (1903), Marie Goeppert Mayer (1963), and Donna Strickland (2018).

Black Holes Come From Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity

When Einstein announced his general theory of relativity in 1915. It works to explain how we understand gravity. One of the first predictions coming from this scientific approach was the extreme option of black hole creation.

Karl Schwarzschild used Einstein’s work to show that the equations pointed out that putting too much matter and energy inside of a space not capable of managing it would collapse space-time into a singularity. That place would not hold the same physical laws as the rest of the universe.

Einstein saw that the math was correct. He also felt that nature would find ways to avoid such a problematic issue. Those hopes disappeared in 1965 with Penrose’s work on black holes.

The Penrose diagram bypasses general relativity’s mathematical complexity to make it much easier to explore the universe’s foundations. His work shows that black holes are the gateway to the literal end of time.

After making these observations, Penrose collaborated with Stephen Hawking to prove that the universe must also have a beginning event if general relativity is correct.

With these discoveries, most experts believe that Einstein’s theory will require modifications to manage extreme situations.

Democrats Push to Break Up Tech Companies

American tech companies have been under fire in recent days because of bias perceptions against conservative lawmakers. In a rare moment of solidarity, Democratic representatives are also urging changes to organizations like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Alphabet (Google), and Twitter to prevent monopolies.

After 16 months of Congressional investigation into the issue, the official recommendation was that the firms had too much power, and it needed to be stopped to prevent future problems.

When the Democrats published their findings, the Republicans disagreed with the results. Congressman Jim Jordan said the report was partisan and advanced the proposals that would “refashion antitrust law in the vision of the far left. 

That’s after a July hearing where Jordan said, “I’ll cut right to the chase. Big tech is out to get conservatives… That’s a fact.”

What Changes Are Being Recommended to Address the Issue?

The report covers 449 pages, authored by the committee staff. It accuses the companies of charging high fees, forcing small customers into unfavorable contracts, and using acquisitions to stop rivals.

Democrats recommend using a robust enforcement protocol for the existing competitive laws to resolve these issues. They also hope to limit the areas that Big Tech can start offering products or services. By taking these steps, the goal would be to prevent an organization from operating as players in the same industries where they offer infrastructure.

Amazon is a prime example of the threat that Democratic lawmakers see from this process. It acts as a seller by producing its own branded goods while offering a marketplace for other merchants to reach out to customers.

Although the report isn’t bi-partisan, some Republicans do support some of the report’s core ideas. The most popular recommendation is to shift the burden of proof for acquisitions to become more stringent to avoid having companies buy out the competition.
With both major parties at odds with Big Tech, it is only a matter of time until changes happen. This will surely go down as one of 2020’s biggest moments. Expect to see progress on this issue in 2021.

Despite Border Closures, Many Attend Grand Magal Pilgrimages

The Grand Magal pilgrimages are a West African tradition that takes place in Touba, Senegal’s holy city, each year. Despite the threat of COVID-19 and a potential superspreader event, tens of thousands of people descended on the town to embrace their faith.

Senegal’s land borders are closed. Although fewer people showed up to attend the pilgrimage’s leading events on its first day, long lines of people still arrived for the day; facial coverings and hand sanitizer where requirements to enter.

For many of the people who came, going a year without Magal would be too much. They decided to take the physical risks to gain a potential spiritual reward.

Senegal has recorded over 15,000 cases of COVID-19, including over 300 deaths.

How to Manage COVID-19 Risks While Traveling

You can take several steps to help protect yourself when traveling, with COVID-19 still a prevalent health concern globally.

  1. When you travel, take as much food and miscellaneous supplies as you can to limit interactions with other people.
  2. Keep yourself healthy. If that means taking products from brands like Jarrow Formulas and Nature’s Way, do what it takes to give your immune system a fighting chance.
  3. Wear a mask whenever the possibility exists that you could be around others. You might be asymptomatic with a coronavirus infection, but it won’t stop you from shedding the virus so that others catch it.
  4. Stay six feet apart whenever possible.
  5. Avoid shaking hands, meeting new people, or finding yourself in unfamiliar locations without taking the personal protective gear precautions. 
  6. Many people rely on their faith to get them through challenging situations. Although prayer and fasting are essential spiritual components, they don’t replace something simple, like a face mask.

Senegal fears that a COVID-19 resurgence may occur after the Grand Magal pilgrimages. Only time will tell if enough precautions were taken.

What Does the Middle East Peace Deal Mean for Iran?

When the UAE and Israel reached a peace deal in 2020, many in the American government were quick to spin it as a victory for Middle East peace.

The agreement is rather basic. Israel receives diplomatic relations with a Middle East neighbor in exchange for postponing, not ceasing, its plans for annexing West Bank settlements.

UAE is only the third Arab country to normalize a relationship with Israel since its establishment after World War II. Although it is a step in the right direction, it only formalizes the shared security interests and economic ties the two already had.

What is the actual outcome? Iran expects to see an escalation of the cold war happening with Israel and the United States.

Iran Already Threatened UAE with Consequences

Iran called the deal with Israel a “betrayal of the Palestinian people.” With the Kushner family behind the financing of the West Bank settlements, it’s easy to see Trump’s influence within this dynamic. After backing out of the peace deal and reimposing sanctions, Iran’s government is in a challenging predicament.

UAE can route through Israel to the United States to improve its military armament. Israel already has American weapons it can use to prevent an attack. That leaves a depleted Iran desperately seeking nuclear power to have a potential counter.

Saudi Arabia no longer sees Israel as a potential threat. If anything, Middle East governments are more concerned about domestic protests about discrimination and corruption.

It is a return to the politics of Henry Kissinger. The Obama Administration wanted to hold allies in the region accountable for their faults. It was part of a non-interventionalist strategy. Trump is more accepting of the idea of being at peace with potential human rights monsters if the decision benefits the U.S. in some way.

The moves the American government is making are thrilling Israel. The choices are also pushing Europe away while Iran blusters. How long this tinderbox can keep simmering is anyone’s guess.

Who Is Japan’s New Prime Minister?

Yoshihide Suga assumed the Office of the Prime Minister in Japan on September 14, 2020. He took over from Shinzo Abe, who stepped down to the surprise of much of the world.

Suga served as the Chief Cabinet Secretary from 2012 to 2020. He was also the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications in 2006-2007.

Suga’s story is unique. His family were strawberries farmers in the Akita Prefecture. He moved to Tokyo after high school, enrolling in Hosei University to study the law. He became a political aide before running a successful campaign to join the Yokohama Municipal Assembly in 1987.

Suga says that he’ll continue many of the policies started under Abe, who served four terms as Japan’s PM.

Why Did Shinzo Abe Resign as Prime Minister?

Abe announced that he was resigning as Japan’s prime minister because of ongoing health issues. There was still a year left in his current tenure. He apologized during his announcement for being unable to fulfill his job during the pandemic.

Shinzo Abe has colitis, which is an incurable inflammatory bowel disease. It was the reason for his resignation in 2007, when he ended his first term after about a year in office.

Although Abe received criticism for trying to rewrite Japan’s wartime history and party corruption, he also had ambitious economic ideas that could transform the country’s economy. Suga says that he will continue this work, but the markets were unsure of the message. The local markets closed about 1.4% lower.

One of Suga’s immediate challenges is to get the Tokyo Olympics on track for a 2021 competition.

COVID-19 is the other challenge that Japan faces today. With an aging population and an initial lackluster response, the country is further behind others in controlling outbreaks.

Abe may decide to make another comeback one day. As for right now, Yoshihide Suga is leading the charge toward what everyone hopes to be a brighter future for Japan.

Are We Any Closer to a COVID-19 Vaccine?

With millions of people infected and hundreds of thousands dying, COVID-19 is the public health emergency of a lifetime for many people today.

It spreads easily, is highly contagious with exposure, and can cause symptoms to last for months in some people.

Even a mild case of COVID-19 can last for 14+ days.

Everyone wants to get back to a level of normalcy. Taking products from Curamed and Life Extension might help, but it isn’t the same as receiving a vaccine. Here’s where the world stands right now on that work.

Over 200 COVID-19 Vaccines Are in Development

Russia and China have announced they are using a vaccine already. Most governments doubt the safety and efficacy of that work, but they are still watching with hope to see if early breakthroughs could create safe outcomes.

Eight candidate vaccines are currently in clinical trials with human subjects. One of those is presently suspended because of adverse side effects. Most experts believe it will be late 2021 before something is widely available for everyone to use. The World Health Organization is working with scientists, business leaders and global health agencies to speed up the pandemic response.

Most companies are in the Stage II or Stage III testing phase of their vaccine. The FDA has promised to fast-track reviews to ensure anything that offers promising results can reach the market as quickly as possible.

One of the promising candidates comes from a company called Inovio. They were already working on a vaccine for the MERS coronavirus, allowing them to transition to COVID-19 rather quickly.

What to Know About a COVID Vaccine

With multiple competitors producing potentially viable COVID-19 vaccines, distribution networks may not take long to create. That means once one of them gets approved, it will be a slow and steady race toward inoculation for the general public.

The data collected from the Phase III trials will dictate the next steps. FDA rules require a 50% efficacy rate, which puts it in line with the flu shot for effectiveness.

If a vaccine gets approved by the end of 2020, the earliest distribution would be the following spring for essential personnel. It could be Halloween 2021 before everyone can have one.

Until a vaccine becomes available, continue taking your CuraMed supplements, washing your hands, wearing a mask, and adopting social distancing practices. 

Did Russia’s COVID Vaccine Work?

Russia has had to manage about one million COVID-19 cases. Some experts believe that figure could be grossly under-reported. 

Local officials promised that they would begin creating and distributing a vaccine to protect the population from the easily spreadable coronavirus. On August 11, 2020, Putin’s government announced that they had done so successfully.

The vaccine was developed at the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology. They call the product Sputnik V. Russia believes it can produce up to 500 million doses annually.

Although initial studies show that the vaccine creates a desirable immune response, the degree of protection it offers is currently unknown.

What Are Long-Term Studies Needed for Vaccines?

Although several companies are at the same vaccine development stage as the Russian government, their products are still several months from being considered safe to use.

Russia has the benefit of avoiding litigation. If someone becomes ill or dies because they took the COVID-19 vaccine, that individual’s family has few legal options to pursue.

If that outcome were to happen in the United States, the family could pursue the company who made the vaccine for damages.

The first large-scale trials for Sputnik V launched in late August. Over 40,000 people, including Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia, and UAE, were scheduled to participate in the program.

Russia reports that world governments are requesting one billion doses of the new vaccine.

As of August 28, nine candidates are in late-stage trials, with all of them offering potential immune response benefits. Some have encountered difficulties since then, forcing the research to be put on hold while safety factors get evaluated.

Why Did Russia Work Hard to Have the First COVID Vaccine?

Whoever provides the first COVID vaccine to the world with documented safety evidence backing it stands to earn a small fortune.

Moderna is one of the companies outside of Russia with a viable COVID vaccine in late-stage trials. They are making deals with government providers at prices around $32 per dose. Since an annual update may be necessary, it could be a multi-billion-dollar windfall for the winner of the vaccine race.

Russia wants to cash in on that opportunity.

Most experts believe that the first vaccines should be available in 2021 for essential workers and at-risk groups. It may be September before it is ready for everyone to take.
Until then, remember to keep up with your healthy habits. Include items from brands like Enzymedica and Herb Pharm to give your immune system the help it wants.

What Caused the Explosion in Beirut?

A shocking explosion ripped through Beirut’s streets on August 4, 2020. It killed at least 200 people, caused 5,000 injuries, and leveled several city blocks.

Before the explosion occurred, a large fire developed in Warehouse 12 at the Port of Beirut. White smoke billowed into the sky until the roof caught fire. Once that happened, a massive initial explosion occurred, followed by some smaller ones, until a mushroom cloud sent a blast wave throughout the city.

Authorities believe that welding work was responsible for starting the initial fire. A door at the warehouse was ordered fixed that day. 

About 300,000 people were left homeless immediately. Lebanon blamed the event on 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in the warehouse.

A similar event happened in Texas in 1947. A ship carrying 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded, killing almost 600 people.

How Big Was the Explosion?

The explosive event was approximately 10% of the size of the atomic weapon unleashed on Hiroshima. That makes it one of the most gigantic non-nuclear explosions in history.

Once the fires were put out, a crater almost 500 feet wide was discovered. It was eventually filled with seawater.

A ship was blasted out of the water when the shockwave went through the city. Windows at Beirut’s airport broke from the event even though it was five miles away.

People in Cyprus heard the explosion when it happened. Seismologists analyzing the area said that the ground shook at the equivalency of a 3.3-magnitude earthquake.

Among the victims of the explosion was the renowned architect Jean-Marc Bonfils. He was involved in the restoration work happening in the city after the recent civil war. Bonfils was broadcasting on Facebook live after the first explosion, but he was injured in the second one.

Some first responders who were coming to assess the damage after the first massive explosion were caught in the second one, dying instantly. Five nurses who were responding to the scene were killed while helping others.

Most of the government resigned six days later, although no one was willing to take responsibility for the ammonium nitrate’s oversight.

UK Crashes Into Deepest Recession of Any Major Economy

Although the United States saw a significant decrease in economic output during 2020’s second quarter, the UK experienced an even worse outcome.

The economy’s output shrank by over 20%, making it the worst quarterly slump on record in history. Although the COVID-19 pandemic drove the results, it is still the deepest recession of any major economy.

Although the US experienced a 31.4% drop in economic activity, that figure was only a 10.6% drop than the GDP. 

France and Italy both suffered over 15% drops in relation to the second quarter of 2020. The cause for these massive declines involves the dependence on retail and services in those economies.

Why Did the UK’s Economy Decline Steeply?

The issue with the UK’s financial results involves the lockdown length imposed on people. Most businesses were stopped from providing services or selling goods for the entire quarter.

Although the United States had a lengthy lockdown period that started in March, different states took unique approaches. Some of them barely put in any restrictions, while others used significant lockdown measures to restrict movement.

The states that followed the UK’s approach are seeing similar problems with their economy.

Even when comparing Italy to the United Kingdom, restaurants, cafés, and hairdressers were allowed to reopen in May for Italians. It wasn’t until July 4 that those in the UK could do the same.

Germany faired even better because it allowed car dealerships, bike shops, bookstores, and other businesses to reopen as early as April 20.

Since the restrictions were lightened, the UK economy saw an 8.7% increase in activity from the previous month. It’s a start, but more needs to be done to rescue people trapped near the poverty line.
Although the UK economy expects to recover, a fast response is not likely. Another wave of COVID-19 cases, shedding almost one million jobs, and slow Brexit negotiations threaten to make a 10% contraction for 2020.