Seattle Times Opinion

Why the Democrats’ campaign against Barrett fell flat
Author: Ramesh Ponnuru

When Barrett writes her thank-you notes, the first one should go to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. In 2017, during hearings over Barrett's confirmation to an appellate court, the California Democrat infamously made a snide remark about the nominee's Catholic faith: "The dogma lives loudly in you."

NYT Politics

Trump Mimics Coronavirus ‘Superspreader’ Event in Barrett Swearing In
Author: Peter Baker
Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice only eight days before a presidential election.

Columbian Newspaper

Weather Eye: Week starts cold, ends fair
Author: Patrick Timm

If the weather didn’t assist you in getting into the autumn festive mood, then I don’t know what will. Sunday was a beautiful day for October, cool and crisp. OK, some of you would say cold and crisp. After all, despite full sunshine all day, we only managed a high of 48 degrees here in Vancouver.

There was frost on the pumpkins, whatever are left in the fields, Monday morning with Vancouver tying the record low for the date with 26 degrees. The old record was back in 1978. When I saw that date it reminded me of the weather that followed that chilly day about seven or eight weeks later. That is when we had record cold with bone-chilling easterly winds and ice flows in the Columbia, the most since all the dams were completed upstream.

Of course the cold Sunday and Monday is no precursor of things to come, but it gives food for thought. The past two winters were uneventful and not like winter in any fashion. That 26 degrees Monday morning was the coldest here in Vancouver since Dec. 26, 2019. Amazing to me that 26 degrees in October bested even the normal coldest months of January and February earlier this year.

I have another winter prediction for you from former local TV meteorologist Pete Parsons. He now does forecasting for the Oregon Department of Forestry. He states, “It may not be the coldest winter since 1978, but unlike the past two years this winter should have stormy periods with some ‘extreme’ weather events.” He added, expect relatively mild weather in late fall with a transition to colder weather by January.

Parsons noted that our Cascade snowfall would be near or above normal. Expect a possible arctic outbreak and snow in January. With an active jet stream over us and to our north in this La Nina winter, we could get a windstorm and flooding. However, it is impossible to predict such an event weeks or months out, but the conditions setting up for our winter may produce a few good storms.

Get outside and enjoy fair weather and moderating temperatures until a chance of showers Friday.

Church of the Nazarene hopes to pay for new building with sale of east Vancouver land
Author: Patty Hastings

Fourth Plain Church of the Nazarene looks to partner with a developer to build a 30-home subdivision on its property in east Vancouver.

Building committee chairman Rodney Soft emphasized that the Christian church isn’t trying to become a developer. The end goal is a new sanctuary, but financing such a project is difficult.

So, Fourth Plain Church of the Nazarene is using what it has: land. The church started with about 15 acres and sold 7 acres. With those proceeds, it bought about 8 acres just east of the church. It looks to sell a few more acres and partner with a developer to maximize the land’s value.

“We’re definitely not doing building,” Soft said.

A pre-application submitted to the city of Vancouver outlines a three-phase development where 30 single-family homes are constructed, then a 20,000-square-foot church and then 13 additional lots with single-family and live/work units. PBS Engineering and Environmental drew up the plans.

Soft said the church would like to build a bigger facility to keep worshippers and Sunday school children in the same building rather than separate ones.

There are also accessibility challenges in the current building such as a steep, narrow stairway down to the fellowship hall. It can’t accommodate large events such as visiting choirs. (Right now, it’s holding a combination of indoor and parking lot services due to COVID-19 precautions against large group gatherings.)

“The facility has some challenges that we have to deal with,” Soft said.

The main building at 16807 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd. was constructed in 1930, the school in 1980 and a house on-site was built in 1974. Soft heard that back in the day congregants used to ride horses to the rural church. Now, the county is growing up around it with busy Northeast 162nd Avenue just to the west.

Marlene Laddusaw, the church’s board secretary, described Fourth Plain Church of the Nazarene as a small but active church with about 150 to 200 churchgoers.

“We’re excited and really blessed to be able to use the property we have to build a new church,” Laddusaw said. “It’s new territory, but I think we’re up to the challenge.”

She sees the project as an opportunity to reach more people.

Soft said the church has been sitting on the land for a while, the previous lead pastor having dismissed the idea of selling land. But the conversation about selling land started back up a couple of years ago and — with the help of churchgoers who work in real estate — Soft said they hope to “maximize what the Lord provided to the church.”

He imagines it’ll be a couple of years before breaking ground on anything.


In Our View: Trump fails to deliver COVID-19 strategy
Author: The Columbian

Rather than devise a bold and aggressive plan for combating the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration is surrendering. Eight months into the pandemic, a lack of leadership from the White House is continuing to endanger Americans while providing little hope that the end is near.

President Donald Trump, apparently, would prefer that we ignore his nonexistent strategy. On Monday, he used Twitter to accuse the media of talking about “COVID, COVID, COVID” and wrote that such reporting “should be an election law violation.”

Unfortunately for the president, the United States over the weekend saw its highest number of COVID-19 cases for any two-day span since the virus arrived on our shores. This adds to the total in a nation that has one of the highest per-capita rates of infection and one of the highest per-capita death rates in the world.

Equally important, the latest modeling from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that at the current trajectory, the United States will see more than 2,000 COVID deaths per day by December and that by the end of winter the total U.S. death toll could reach more than 500,000. The same model estimates that if 95 percent of Americans wore masks, 130,000 lives would be saved.

Of course, models are merely predictions. But they are predictions created by scientists who have spent their careers studying the spread of disease.

Rather than pay heed to those models, Trump has spent the past eight months ignoring them. Rather than devising a strategy or demonstrating leadership, he has capitulated to a disease that is killing Americans every day, long after he insisted it would just go away. As recently as Oct. 10, after he was hospitalized with COVID-19, Trump said, “It’s going to disappear. It is disappearing.”

We repeat: This past weekend saw the country’s highest two-day total of confirmed infections.

The fact is that the Trump administration has acquiesced to coronavirus rather than fight it. That lack of strategy has kept the economy from fully reopening, schools from welcoming students in large numbers and life from returning to normal for millions of Americans.

The administration has embraced a herd-immunity strategy that relies on as many Americans as possible contracting the disease. On Sunday, chief of staff Mark Meadows said, “We’re not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations.”

That represents a false choice between slowing the spread of the virus and preparing for its aftermath. Both approaches are necessary for getting a handle on the coronavirus, not one or the other. As Jeffrey D. Sachs, a professor at Columbia University, wrote for “Donald Trump has surrendered without ever joining the battle.”

That has been the plan from the beginning, as we now know that Trump revealed in taped interviews that he downplayed the disease “because I don’t want to create a panic.”

That is not leadership. It is an abdication of duty and an admission that he lied to the public. In the process, Trump underestimated Americans. We don’t panic; we are willing to do what is necessary to fight coronavirus, but first we must have accurate information.

Whether it is in the coming months or four years from now, the pandemic will provide the epitaph for the Trump presidency, a tenure marked by unprecedented failure.

Child care centers don’t drive coronavirus infections, national study shows
Author: Sonja Sharp, Los Angeles Times

A large national study published Wednesday by the American Academy of Pediatrics provides some of the clearest evidence yet that child care centers don’t hasten the spread of the novel coronavirus, even in communities where overall infections are high.

“This is the largest study of COVID transmission in child care programs that’s been attempted in the U.S., and I think globally,” said Yale professor Walter Gilliam, who led a team of researchers in the groundbreaking study. “These are very positive findings, and they should be very comforting,” both to child care providers and the families who rely on them.

The study surveyed 57,335 providers serving almost 4 million children across two-thirds of counties in the United States, including Puerto Rico. It found that those who continued to work during the first three months of the pandemic were no more likely to have fallen ill than those who did not.

“We found there was absolutely no relationship whatsoever” between working in child care settings and contracting the virus, Gilliam said. “Working at a child care center did not put these providers at any increased risk of COVID-19 than if they had stayed home.”

Adults are far more likely than children to get sick from COVID-19, making providers “a good measuring stick” for the rate of transmission in child care settings, Gilliam said. Smaller studies in the United States and abroad have generally shown that schools are not hot spots for SARS-CoV-2, the scientific name for the virus, the way they are for other viral illnesses, particularly the flu.

“In influenza, we see that children are a main vector and schools are hot spots,” Dr. Nava Yeganeh, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “What we’re trying to do is find out if it’s the same for COVID-19. And we’re seeing that they’re not.”

The newly published findings also conform with low rates of infection and transmission reported by over 33,000 licensed preschools and day cares in California, where just 657 children and about 1,000 providers have been sickened since March.

But labor advocates warn that the majority of those cases have emerged since the Yale study was done, and that rising infections everywhere, combined with widespread reopening and “quarantine fatigue,” could make child care riskier than the study’s findings suggest.

“We’re now in a very different time,” said Lea Austin, director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. “The report expressly states, ‘communities may pose a considerable threat to child care when background transmission rates are high.'”

The study’s authors also cautioned against extrapolating their results to K-12 schools, where larger class sizes and more group mixing make it harder to control the spread of the disease. At the same time, they acknowledged that child care providers are disproportionately from communities hit hardest by the pandemic.

“The child care setting itself did not contribute to the disparities in race that we see in COVID-19, but there are disparities in communities in which our providers live that do,” Gilliam said.

In fact, preschool and day care workers are twice as likely as K-12 teachers to be nonwhite. In California, and especially in L.A. County, the contrast is stark.

“Infection rates were higher among American Indian/Alaskan Native, African American/Black, and Latinx educators, populations that are most at risk from becoming sick or dying from COVID-19,” Austin wrote in an email. “Nearly 40 percent of the child care workforce are women of color, and the elevated risk of COVID-19 that they and their family members face should not be minimized or become a footnote.”

And while the study’s authors credited “truly Herculean efforts” to stem transmission, the smaller classes and stepped-up sanitary procedures that seem to have largely inoculated child care centers against the virus have also led thousands of providers to close under intense financial pressure. Workers in small, home day care centers have borne the brunt of those closures.

“These findings should make clear that policy makers and leaders are not absolved from protecting the health and safety of the people providing critical child care services,” Austin wrote. “Rather, they have a responsibility to safeguard their well-being, especially that of educators of color and those working in communities with high infection rates.”

Asthma and acid reflux can often go hand and hand
Author: Mayo Clinic News Network

Asthma and acid reflux often occur together. It isn’t clear why, or whether one causes the other. But we do know that acid reflux can worsen asthma and asthma can worsen acid reflux — especially severe acid reflux, a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Asthma and acid reflux can occur together in children as well as in adults. In fact, about half the children with asthma also have GERD.

When asthma and acid reflux do occur together medications may not work as well to control signs and symptoms of either condition, such as coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest pain.

Treating acid reflux may help ease symptoms. You may be able to control acid reflux with over-the-counter medications — for example, a proton pump inhibitor, such as omeprazole (Prilosec OTC). Avoiding reflux triggers, such as fatty foods, alcohol and tobacco, also may help. If that’s not enough, prescription medications may be needed. If you have asthma and think you might have acid reflux, talk to your health care provider about the best treatments.

In some cases, asthma medications can worsen acid reflux. This is particularly true of theophylline (Theo-24, Elixophyllin, Theocron). But don’t quit taking or change any asthma medications without getting your doctor’s OK first.

COVID’S foggy glasses spawning Lasik revival
Author: Bailey Lipschultz, Bloomberg News

Lasik eye surgery is making a comeback.

After months of face masks fogging up their glasses and contacts drying out from all the extra Zoom meetings while working from home, Americans are fed up and are boosting demand for the corrective surgery that had waned in popularity over the past decade.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have cut back on activities, such as overseas travel and entertainment, and for many that has left a big pot of cash to be spent elsewhere. A lot of that has been poured into home improvement and buying cars. And now consumers are shifting to upgrading themselves with procedures like Lasik and its starting price tag of about $4,500.

In Los Angeles, Dr. Neda Shamie, an opthalmic surgeon, has seen a 30 percent jump in Lasik procedures at her practice, the Maloney Shamie Vision Institute. It’s being driven by younger adults, with the average age of a patient falling to 34 years old, a seven-year drop from the early 2000s, she said. Her group did an informal survey of other big eye care practices around the country, and they reported similar gains.

“People have budgets set aside for travel and are converting their travel budget into self improvement,” Shamie said. And our patients are “telling us the glasses-mask conundrum is real.”

More than 30 Lasik systems have been approved since Laser Sight Technologies Inc.’s Kremer Excimer Laser System won U.S. approval for the surgery in 1998. After an initial boom in the early 2000’s, Lasik’s growth slowed as the Great Recession reduced disposable income and the Food and Drug Administration warned of dodgy advertising practices.

Online searches in the U.S. for the procedure peaked in 2004 and had bottomed out earlier this year before spiking when the pandemic hit, according to Google Trends. The industry is now forecast to hit $4.1 billion in sales by 2027, more than doubling 2018’s total, according to consulting firm Coherent Market Insights.

Lasik’s revival is part of an industry-wide boom in elective procedures during the pandemic. Quarantines and social-distancing caused weight gain and more self-consciousness with all the time on video chats. That’s led to spikes in Botox injections, breast implants and repairing droopy eyelids for the group of Americans who haven’t suffered financially during the COVID-triggered recession.

People who are working remotely are also more confident to go under the knife because they can recover at home, according to Jared Holz, a health strategist at Jefferies.

“You could get a lot of these procedures done without anybody you work with knowing about it,” Holz said. “Before, it was almost taboo to have to take some time off to get these elective procedures done.”

The rise in demand for smoothing wrinkle lines could boost AbbVie Inc.’s Allergan unit that sells the Botox injection. And as more invasive elective surgeries — like knee, hip and ankle replacements — pick up after a slowdown during the initial COVID wave, medical device makers such as Stryker Corp. and Zimmer Biomet Holdings Inc. will likely benefit.

BlackRock’s iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF rebounded from a March 23 low, as investors bet on a return for elective surgeries. The ETF’s 18 percent gain this year is triple the return on State Street’s $24 billion Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund and more than double that of the S&P 500 Index.

Lasik, which uses lasers to reshape the front of the eye and often improves vision to better than 20/20, has an advantage over other procedures because it has a minimal recovery period. Following a brief consultation, a patient could have surgery the same day and better vision within a few hours, Dr. Shamie said. After a post-surgery nap to let the eyes rest and heal, the patient can return to their regular routine and work the next day, she said.

Like many Americans during the pandemic, Dana Johnson, who had worn glasses since she was 6-years-old, had extra cash on hand as plans for travel and entertainment options evaporated.

“Due to not being able to eat out or vacation, I had what I felt like was a good amount of money saved to put down,” the 25-year-old nurse in Nashville, Tenn., said in an interview. She had the procedure in late September.

Don’t delay cancer screenings
Author: Mayo Clinic News Network

Fewer breast cancers are being diagnosed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier in the year, when the pandemic began to intensify, many health care institutions suspended their screening programs and weren’t offering mammography to patients. This resulted in a nearly 50 percent drop in new diagnoses of breast cancer, according to a study in JAMA.

Fewer people are being diagnosed with breast cancer because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Katie Hunt, a Mayo Clinic radiologist, wants patients to know it’s safe and important to resume their regular breast cancer screening.

“If you delayed getting your screening mammogram because of the pandemic, schedule it now.

“The biggest risk of skipping breast cancer screening is that cancer has more time to grow and potentially progress into a more advanced stage.

“Screening mammography has been incredibly successful because we detect cancers when they’re small and treatable, which results in better outcomes for our patients. We don’t want to miss that window of opportunity. So, again, if your mammogram has been delayed by the pandemic, please don’t wait any longer and come in and get your mammogram done.”

Dr. Hunt recommends women start yearly screening mammograms at age 40.

Beetle armor gives clues to tougher planes
Author: MARION RENAULT, Associated Press

NEW YORK — It’s a beetle that can withstand bird pecks, animal stomps and even being rolled over by a Toyota Camry. Now scientists are studying what the bug’s crush-resistant shell could teach them about designing stronger planes and buildings.

“This beetle is super tough,” said Purdue University civil engineer Pablo Zavattieri, who was among a group of researchers that ran over the insect with a car as part of a new study.

So, how does the seemingly indestructible insect do it? The species — aptly named diabolical ironclad beetle — owes its might to an unusual armor that is layered and pieced together like a jigsaw, according to the study by Zavattieri and his colleagues published in Nature on Wednesday. And its design, they say, could help inspire more durable structures and vehicles.

To understand what gives the inch-long beetle its strength, researchers first tested how much squishing it could take. The species, which can be found in Southern California’s woodlands, withstood compression of about 39,000 times its own weight.

For a 200-pound man, that would be like surviving a 7.8-million-pound crush.

Other local beetle species shattered under one-third as much pressure.

Researchers then used electron microscopes and CT scans to examine the beetle’s exoskeleton and figure out what made it so strong.

As is often the case for flightless beetles, the species’ elytra — a protective case that normally sheaths wings — had strengthened and toughened over time. Up close , scientists realized this cover also benefited from special, jigsaw-like bindings and a layered architecture.

When compressed, they found the structure fractured slowly instead of snapping all at once.

“When you pull them apart,” Zavattieri said, “it doesn’t break catastrophically. It just deforms a little bit. That’s crucial for the beetle.”

It could also be useful for engineers who design aircrafts and other vehicles and buildings with a variety of materials such as steel, plastic and plaster. Currently, engineers rely on pins, bolts, welding and adhesives to hold everything together. But those techniques can be prone to degrading.

In the structure of the beetle’s shell, nature offers an “interesting and elegant” alternative, Zavattieri said.

Because the beetle-inspired design fractures in a gradual and predictable way, cracks could be more reliably inspected for safety, said Po-Yu Chen, an engineer at Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University not involved in the research.

The beetle study is part of an $8 million project funded by the U.S. Air Force to explore how the biology of creatures such as mantis shrimp and bighorn sheep could help develop impact-resistant materials.

“We’re trying to go beyond what nature has done,” said study co-author David Kisailus, a materials scientist and engineer at the University of California, Irvine.

The research is the latest effort to borrow from the natural world to solve human problems, said Brown University evolutionary biologist Colin Donihue, who was not involved in the study. Velcro, for example, was inspired by the hook-like structure of plant burrs. Artificial adhesives took a page from super-clingy gecko feet.

Donihue said endless other traits found in nature could offer insight: “These are adaptations that have evolved over millennia.”