S1: The following podcast may be a little dirty, but forget about that. Going to tell you to go to our Twitter feed at Slate, just dot com.
S2: It’s Tuesday, June 16th, 20-20 from Slate, it’s the gist. I’m Mike Pesca. And I speak to you from Brooklyn, where we’re apparently not allowed to sleep.
S1: Headline Gothamist Louder, Longer and crazier complaints about illegal fireworks soar in NYC. Daily News Fireworks complaints skyrocket in NYC. There’s been an explosion in complaints about fireworks in New York City. Data shows the city’s three one one system received 1249 complaints between June one and 14th. That’s compared to twenty one complaints during the same period last year. But hey, don’t take it from me. Reading some words from a page taken from this. That was right outside my window. Twelve, thirty three a.m. a couple of nights ago, I could play the ones from 1:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. and some of the hundred seventy five others. But without the rest of the 1812 Overture backing it up, it just sounds like noise. Maybe such fireworks, Brooklyn on Twitter, you will find a broad panoply of all the races in all the genders, United is one to say what is up with these fireworks? But it has become racialized. Lots of white people are telling other white people, don’t be a KARREN. To quote Catherine Rubino writing in the blog above the law of some Brooklynites who called the authorities to keep the noise down. Quote, The entire incident is yet another reminder that where some see nothing but black joy and exuberance. Others see a nuisance or even a threat. OK, point. Here’s a counterpoint. Am I going to call nine one one? Absolutely not. Are we going to commiserate with all our black neighbors again tonight, only to have them tell us that they called nine one one? Well, that is what happened the last two nights. And during these discussions, as my neighbors all complained about the fireworks, I could barely feel their joy and exuberance. And I just wondered what was wrong with me. But at bottom, the issue of my and my burrow mate’s lack of sleep is secondary to the issue of police violence, police brutality, overpolicing and, of course, over incarceration. So the Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation to ban chokeholds, mandate body cams, create a federal registry of disciplined officers, limit the transfer of military grade equipment to police departments. Just really a bunch of good proposals that will not eliminate police killing civilians, but will lessen those instances. I believe you can’t have real true reform until you really attack the unions. And that’s a larger lift. Republicans in Congress are less than two, mandating the changes and more into restricting funding for departments that don’t sign on to the changes. I don’t know why. I mean, I do. It’s pretty much a weaker version of progress that allows for the fig leaf of a states rights justification. Also, the GOP is taking cues from the White House that they don’t want qualified immunity to be taken away. Now, personally, I don’t think that a change in the qualified immunity status will actually stop many shootings. The evidence is that cops shoot because they actually perceive that their lives are in danger. And I don’t think they generally stop shooting in that moment of panic, real or imagined, because they imagine down the road they’ll lose a civil case. But I don’t think it would be an act of justice overall to put police in a different category than what qualified immunity confers, which is essentially putting them in a class of person who could do no wrong. Right now, all across the country, municipalities are seriously thinking about ways to take away some of the money that is used to fund the police. A well thought out approach in these instances could be useful in these developments. All belong under the rubric called reform.
S3: They’re reform. So remember the arguments I talked about that you probably heard that reform won’t work. Those arguments, not the rhetoric of them. It’s hard to get into that debate, but the actual defacto actions show that those arguments are being rejected. People are trying for reform the right reforms that have never been tried before. There is a movement that insists we can improve the situation of overpolicing with any of the proposals that are on the table. But I do think a lot can happen. A lot of progress can be made if our efforts are aimed at tangible change, not just looking at root causes or advancing aspirational lists of housing and social services and mental health counselling and wealth redistribution and progressive taxes. Sure, sure. Advance that agenda, I say. But don’t make it a requirement of the moment right now. If Congressional Democrats have their proposals stymied by Republicans, then vote out. Republicans who control the Senate don’t merely hold out hope for housing, mental health and environmental nirvana. Look, let’s think of movements that really have achieved change. Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Universal pre-K. There was a goal. It was identified. It was fought for. Different tactics were used. There are some grass roots. There was some messaging. And then there was a changing of the rules and even a changing of norms. But with any of those, we could have said, OK. Instead of focusing on the laws about drunk driving or what people think about drunk driving, go. We need to go deeper. We always need to go to the deeper level. What causes people to drink, what’s psychologically puts a bottle in their hand such that they have to self medicate or change their state. We could have said till we solve those issues, we’re not gonna achieve anything on the anti drunk driving front or universal pre-K. You know, we can’t make up for the paucity of language in books in the home or parental time and parental resources, pulling parents away from the home and necessary parenting until we dig down to those root causes. The reform of just one more year of schooling, it’s not going to do anything. But you know what? Sometimes you dig so deep, you bypass the roots and you just hit bedrock and you’re trowel or drill bit breaks and then where are you? So I say identify, change, change that can be made. Chokeholds, African-Americans on the force. DeRay McKesson 8th. I can’t wait and address them and let union overhaul be the Hail Mary and keep working on the reforms that you haven’t been able to achieve just yet and try to achieve them and see what happens. Of course, to do all this, you need to be energized and well rested for the fight. So what I’m saying is, please stop at the fireworks in the name of. The societal overhaul we need on the show today, Asian conflict rages, just team coverage. But first, we have on as our guests, the director of the Division of Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, Jeffrey Morris. And I check in as states are beginning to open. We look at what the data is saying and how did judge scenarios that aren’t quite worst case but and great. Dr. Jeffrey Morris up next.
S4: Jeffrey Morris is a statistical data scientist, professor and director of biostatistics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He has the creds. He has the site. He’s now on the show. Thanks for joining me, Jeffrey. Thanks, Mike. Appreciate it. I have a number of big questions to ask you. But as I go through your blog posts, every single one sparks curiosity and I think is really valuable. The latest one is about or as of this recording, it says, in wartime science, we need to be cautious and carefully evaluate information, even in top journals. So this is one main strain of the information you’re trying to spread that we have some information, but that doesn’t mean that we’re done and this information is solid.
S3: And let’s put it in the book. So what are you trying to communicate with this post?
S5: So, yes, with this post. It’s just communicating the challenge that we have right now and the scientific and broader community to try and come to grips with what’s going on with this novel virus. And the trick about it is that science usually moves along quite cautiously and deliberately trying to figure out what’s going on. Do studies evaluate information very rigorously. But the problem is the typical procedures that we follow in science. If we follow, then at at that pace. Now, by the time we got the answers, it wouldn’t do any good for the potential millions of people that are in this first wave of the virus. So that requires us to somehow figure out how to accrue information more quickly while we’re also trying to do it rigorously. But so that we can treat the current patients that are experiencing this disease. But then, of course, this raises the problem of rigour and of mistakes being made. And so this post, I’m I’m kind of highlighting that tricky balance we have to strike, making the argument that we do need to do things faster so we can get knowledge to treat these patients must also be very careful because there can be some bad science that slips through. And some information that we start acting upon that is not accurate information.
S6: So there is a post of a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll just ask you the headline has a question. Why do some KOVA 19 patients infect many others, whereas most don’t spread the virus at all?
S5: Yeah, that’s that’s a good question. So that post I was talking about a specific article, but what what that’s especially dealing with is the phenomenon that this virus seems to spread in super spread events and in clusters. So it’s not that every person who is infected seems to be spreading it evenly to those around them, but somehow a small number of individuals seem prone. To be super spreaders and spread it to many people around them. And this is maybe, I wouldn’t say unique, but it’s definitely a defining characteristic of this virus that has major implications in how we try and mitigate or prevent it spread.
S6: I am respectful of how science works, and I know that there’s so much uncertainty and that’s why there is such a thing as preprint since such a thing as peer review. But, you know, if you’re a governor or a mayor and you have to make choices next week or in three weeks about this, you just go with the best estimate. So let’s talk about a couple of these things. One is seasonality. I’ve heard esteemed scientists say we don’t know. We just don’t know. There is some evidence that the weather might not really affect the virus, as we assume it does. But Kiko Iwazaki of Yale makes this point. But then when I look at some of the research that you’ve cited and just the incidence of the virus by place, according to, you know, the average degrees, it does seem to be a correlation. So not in terms of what can we absolutely prove to the best standards of science. But if you’re a governor or if you’re a mayor and you’re saying, you know, is June a time to open up and might we be helped by the warmer weather? What’s the answer to that?
S5: Right. So second mentioned two things about about my opinion about opening up based on the data, but also the seasonality. It does seem like there’s significant evidence for a seasonality effect, but there’s also evidence that the seasonality effect is not enough to completely make the virus go away. At least it looks that way right now. But one thing one thing I’ll mentioned, there’s there is a group called Policy Lab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Right. Right. Sort of next door and affiliated with Penn. There’s a group I’m collaborating with that is doing some some sort of statistical epi modeling of the county level incidence and relating it to different factors and using this for projections. You can see the link on on my some of my blog posts and on their Web page, they’re putting out weekly projections. And this has gained a fair amount of visibility. It’s Deborah Berk’s has shown interest in this and the results have gotten presented to her each week. And and I think this is partially informing her and locating hotspots. But any way that with this modeling, one of the important factors in the model is temperature and humidity. So when you model the incidence curves across the counties in the US over time, it’s very clear that temperature and humidity have some type of an effect. And we think that some of the data that we’re seeing now this month, we think that’s starting to kick in even more. So the way I think about it is that high temperatures and especially high humidity with high temperatures seems like it can be a mitigating factor that will reduce the spread of the disease and definitely help in our efforts to find safe. Mitigation strategies that allow society to open up, but yet still protect against initiating any new surge of infections.
S3: Have we been overly concerned with spread out of doors?
S5: That’s something that I really wish there was firm studies on. I think that outdoors is a lot safer than we realize. Just in my reading of the data, but I wish there was more definitive information. There was a study in Japan that showed the infection spreading about 20 times more efficiently indoors than outdoors. There’s a great blog post by Aaron Burr MoJ, a microbiologist from Massachusetts that went completely viral back in May. I think he at 13 million views in one week. And he went into a lot of detail looking at the super spread events and trying to break down somewhat quantitatively how the virus sort of spreads and making the point that a key is how much volume of virus you are exposed to. And that’s part of the reason for the super spread events and why the indoor may be a bigger risk, because there’s a lot more chance for virus to accumulate and then people to be exposed to a large amount of the virus were outside. A lot more of it is going to dissipate. In addition to being exposed to sunlight and to the heat and humidity, all of which seem to be helpful for slowing the spread of respiratory illnesses, when you get.
S6: I assume you get occasionally package delivered to you. You wipe it off. This is this is a proxy for asking what about transmission versus surfaces?
S5: Over time, I’ve become a little less concerned about that. And I found it interesting how the CDC sort of tweaked the description of the guidelines on their site, suggesting that solid surfaces was not the primary mode of spread, that it was respiratory and aerosol droplets basically through the air being close to people who are infected. And so when I first saw that, I was actually a little bit disturbed by that, because when you read it carefully, it’s not saying that it cannot spread through these means. It’s just saying it’s not the primary. It appears the primary is respiratory. So so my thought about it is, yes, we should be careful. We should still practice these things. But maybe that’s not the main thing that we should worry about. And this this kind of gets on one of my big sort of philosophical points about all of this, that I think when the virus first descended upon us and was was spreading rapidly through the country, when it was clear it couldn’t be contained, that we had community spread and the statewide lockdown started very quickly through the country. I think that I agree with that approach, that we didn’t know enough about the virus at that time. And we had to do that to be careful because we didn’t know how dangerous it was. We didn’t know how fast it spread. We don’t know how it spread. But then after about a month after I saw evidence accruing, I felt like we should be. Loosening things up a little more, putting into action the things that we’re we’re learning and stepping out a little bit. And so that started happening a bit later than what I thought it should. And part of my philosophy is just that that strategy of doing a lockdown or a complete stay at home order, closing all non-essential businesses is going to slow the spread of the virus. But there is incredible collateral damage. That’s very tough to quantify. People are trying to quantify it a little now, but it’s devastating. And the question is, how much benefit are we really getting by taking that extreme of a step? And I think that the way people thought of it is they thought of the early projections based on sort of static Eppy models like coming from, for example, the Imperial College Group that projected there would be two point two million American deaths. And on the order of one hundred plus million infections. So that’s what we thought would happen if we didn’t do these lockdowns. So the question is, is that what would have happened if we didn’t do those lockdowns? And I kind of don’t think so. And this is one of the things that gets into kind of statistical data science a little bit, trying to think about causal inference and counterfactuals like with observational data. You can’t know what caused what. You can discern it. But conceptually, you can think about what would have happened. If so, so what would have happened if we wouldn’t have done the lockdown’s if we would have taken lesser mitigation steps, would we have more cases and more deaths? Almost certainly. How much more? I’m not sure. But I think that that’s an interesting question that we need to think about in an open minded fashion to find the right balance. So I think that the real key game here really for society is to figure out accurately how this is spreading and what the risks are so that we can devise the most targeted mitigation strategies we can.
S1: You know, I’ve talked a lot about the Sweden model, and the way I look at it is you could say, all right, it didn’t turn into the Lombardy region of Italy, but it’s worse than Denmark, Finland and all the other Scandinavian neighbors look remarkably worse. So I guess there is a question of what’s the baseline that you’re comparing yourself to? And secondly, if I look at Georgia, you’re right. So far, it doesn’t seem to be huge exponential growth. But at what point to say, OK. This was a failed experiment?
S5: Well, I think we have to think about what is the game here like is the game to make the virus go to zero and go away? If that’s the game, then we should lock up and stay locked up for a super extended period of time. But the problem is winning that game doesn’t matter if we lose the other games. You know, better going on in society, obviously. So I think the trick is what should we be trying to do here? What are our expectations? And I think the idea of getting the virus to go completely to zero before we open up, in my opinion, is too conservative and I think isn’t the right question because the virus is spread all over the world. So it’s just not going, you know, just to go away. So the question is, how far should we go trying to mitigate its spread relative to the other contagious diseases that we have that spread around? And I think the balance is the key question.
S1: So right now, I have the Georgia statistics and the seven day moving average for death has just gone down, down, down, down, down. But if it goes back, up, up, up, up, up. So right now, it’s in the single digits. But on May 11th, it was in the 30s. If it goes back up to the 30s or the 40s, do we say, OK? It looks like they opened up too early.
S5: So so I think that monitoring the death is fine. But it’s so lagged because some people, the people who are dying today were probably infected, you know, a month ago, maybe six weeks ago. So waiting until then to make a change in the mitigation strategy would be way too late. But the question to me is, what should be done? Should we step in and lock things down if incident starts going up? Personally, I don’t think that’s probably the best strategy. I think there’s other things that we can do. And I think a big part of it is getting across and educating the public and learning what are the key targeted mitigation steps that give us the most bang for our buck in terms of preventing spread.
S4: Jeffrey S. Morris is the director of biostatistics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Check out his writing at covert dash data science dot com. That’s Kova Dash Data Science dot com. Thank you so much.
S7: Thank you, Michael.
S3: And now the spiel headline. North Korea blew up peace talks and said, well. North Korea is always playing these games of brinkmanship, but by games of brinkmanship, I didn’t literally mean they were playing hopscotch on the edge of a cliff. But in this case, blowing up peace talks literally meant blowing things up, reduced to rubble at around 250 p.m. local time.
S8: As promised, Pyongyang has destroyed a case songs into Korean liaison office. The official reason, defectors sending anti North Korean propaganda across the border.
S3: Yes, that was France 24, The New York Times reports. SEOUL, South Korea. North Korea on Tuesday blew up a building where its officials and their South Korean counterparts had recently worked side by side, dramatically signaling its displeasure with the South. After weeks of threats to end the country’s recent detente, signaling displeasure. Do you think Kim Jong un is saying signaling displeasure? What do we have to do to get the times to use some action verbs? If I piss on the South Korean flag, they call it an increasingly perturb. North Korea indicated its growing lack of contentment. I poison my half brother. Was that a general critique going as far as to offer a quite forceful rebuke to the notion of my brother being able to successfully exhale? So, yeah. North Korea blew up negotiations against bombs in your court, South Korea. I was thinking maybe the North would allow the rest of the world to interpret for itself what it did. Maybe that we could all decide. I guess they’re just really committed to disinfecting the area in their fight against coronavirus. But no, because hours later, the North’s official news agency said, quote, The liaison office was tragically ruined with a terrific explosion, adding that the action reflected, quote, the mindset of the enraged people of North Korea. Oh, to be a North Korean pollster. Let me ask you, sir, if your mindset were to be expressed via, say, ordnance or munitions, what would the explosion be saying? Would it be saying, A, I appreciate you. B, I respect you. See, I’m quite upset with you. Another C, because this time. Say it with bombs. Because the South has been saying it with balloons. You heard the reference in that France 24 clip to sending propaganda across the border, much like blowing up negotiations. Isn’t figurative on the Korean Peninsula. Neither is sending a message floating a trial balloon or airing grievances because dissidents in South Korea have routinely sent helium filled balloons floating over the DMZ and dropping Antine North Korean leaflets into the North. North Korea would viciously pop the balloons, reflecting the mindset of the enraged people. But recently they did go further than that.
S8: Reuters reports on Thursday, the influential sister of North Korea’s leader will in South Korea to stop defectors sending leaflets into the demilitarized zone separating the two countries. Kim Jong threatened that the North may cancel a recent bilateral military agreement.
S1: If the activity doesn’t stop and so it went tit for tat, your balloon drops lead to our detonation. It was like a slow motion multi-party Hindenburg. In other Asian state sponsored violence, India and China fought, battled, went at it.
S9: 20 Indian soldiers have died in a confrontation with Chinese forces in Ladak in disputed Kashmir. That’s according to Delhi officials. It’s the first that they clash in a bowl in the border area in at least forty five years.
S1: BBC reporting. If you drop bombs and balloons were primitive. An Indian government source said the troops fought with iron rods and stones and that no shots had been fired, the Indian newspaper The Tribune added. Most of the deaths have occurred as soldiers fell off cliffs during a physical fight in the narrow GAO Juan Valley into the river at an altitude of 15000 feet. Some died due to hypothermia and other injuries. What a grab bag of carnage. At issue was the border. Let me describe it is from a CNN story. Retired Indian General Bikram Singh said that part of the problem is that the de facto border, the LHC line of actual control, is so ill defined, quote, at strategic and operational levels, both militaries have exercised restraint. However, at the tactical level, face offs occur due to differing perceptions of where the actual border is. As the LHC line of actual control is not delineated on the ground. So it’s actually not actual. Both sides think to themselves, well, that’s not actually the line. It was described in some news accounts as differing perceptions of the line of actual control that would make it the line of perceived control. And it’s no wonder why more attacks haven’t happened in the last three decades. If you combine rocks, cliffs, coldness and what is at best a line of perceived control, good things will not be happening.
S3: So to recap, a day in Asian attacks, an example of metaphorical brinksmanship ends in an explosion, literally an explosion in North Korea and an example of literal brinksmanship turns metaphorically explosive, but not yet literally explosive in India. Or maybe it was China. Don’t at me. Don’t attack me with rocks.
S10: And that’s it for Today Show, Margaret Kelly is the gists associate producer, she remembers the fiscal cliff. Remember that? And that always reminded her of the villain Mr. McSally flick The Imp from the Fifth Dimension, who battled with Superman, who, if you tricked Mr. McSween, Flick into saying his name backwards, you could zero out spending for the import export bank. Daniel Shrader, just producer, was gratified to see that news of the North Korean detente reversal was just blowing up on Twitter. The gist? Balloons cause Kim Jong Il to blow up a building. I wonder if a candy gram could somehow trigger him into poisoning another sibling. You know, his sister seems to be getting pretty powerful. Maybe a well-timed cameo call from Dennis Rodman could put her in the crosshairs. Who knows?
S3: Maybe Kim Jong un just hates balloons. Some people see nothing but South Korean dissident joy and exuberance. Others see a nuisance or even a threat for her.
S10: Adepero Jabiru. And thanks for listening.