Your Hiatus Briefing for April 27

Covid surges in India, census results are in, and electric vehicles are booming.

Here’s what’s new in the world since last week. Enjoy your Hiatus!

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Covid is surging in India, and hospitals are struggling to keep up with demand for ventilators and oxygen. While published per-capita case numbers don’t look as bad as those in the United States from earlier this year (see graphic below), local reporting suggests that a huge number of deaths are going unreported and that the situation is far worse than the official numbers show. Here’s a quote from The Hindu, an Indian newspaper, describing undercounts in the official data:

For example, on April 16, as per the State health bulletin, total deaths were 78. But from seven cities — Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara, Gandhinagar, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar — 689 bodies were either cremated or buried following COVID-19 protocols on the disposal of bodies. “From Ahmedabad’s 1,200-bed COVID-19 designated Civil Hospital, almost 200 bodies were moved out on Friday (April 16) from the morgue,” a source in the hospital’s mortuary told The Hindu. Similarly, from Surat’s two main hospitals, officials said that “around 190 bodies were sent for cremation”.

– Here’s the full article, and details from Wikipedia on The Hindu as a credible news source

And here’s the current case chart. India’s population is about quadruple that of the U.S., which means in absolute terms, the daily number of new cases in India is at least four times that of the U.S. right now and rising rapidly. About 10 percent of people in India have been vaccinated with at least one dose so far.

The United States, after a few days of hesitation, has committed to sending aid to India, and to sharing tens of millions of stockpiled doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine (which is not yet approved in the U.S.) with other countries. India is the largest producer of vaccines and has been exporting about half of the vaccines it produces. The local surge of infections could slow down the export of vaccines to other countries.

The results of the 2020 census are in, and 13 states will gain or lose House representatives and electoral college votes starting next year. Texas gains two votes, while Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon gain one each. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia lose one vote each. There are 435 House seats, and the distribution between states is adjusted every 10 years based on population. The states’ governments will redraw their districts later this year for the 2022 Congressional election. Here’s a deeper look, with graphics and frequently asked questions, from NPR.

President Biden’s 100th day in office is Friday, April 30. This week, he will give his first major address to Congress and introduce a plan to add billions of dollars of funding for education, childcare and paid leave. Earlier this month, he pledged major reductions in American carbon emissions.

Tesla reported its highest-ever quarterly earnings, and other automakers are ramping up their electric-vehicle lines to capitalize on the popularity of EVs. Ford says it will launch its electric F-150 pickup early next year.

Apple launched its new version of iOS, which includes much stronger “Don’t Track Me” features to allow you to prevent apps and web sites from tracking and sharing your behavior. The features have caused disagreements between Apple, which is taking a more customer-centric approach to privacy, and Facebook, which expects reduced ad tracking to hurt its revenue and its advertisers’ ability to target niche audiences. I will editorialize for a moment and suggest you choose “Do Not Track” whenever you have the option. Here are details on how the new feature works, from The New York Times.

Billions of cicadas will emerge for a six-week lifespan in early to mid-May across much of the eastern United States. The “Brood X” cicadas emerge every 17 years. The “X,” though apocalyptic-sounding, is just the Roman numeral for “10.”

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter made its third flight on Mars, this time for a record 328-foot round trip around the red planet. The helicopter, which is the first craft to fly on Mars, carries a piece of fabric from the Wright Brothers’ first working airplane.

In France, 15 volunteers spent 40 days in a cave without access to natural light, electronics or communication with the outside world. The experiment, called “Deep Time,” had the goal of determining how people perceive time under major changes in living conditions. The participants said that time seemed to pass more slowly – that is, they estimated they’d been in the cave for about 30 days when in fact it had been 40 days.

At the Oscars, Nomadland won best picture, and the film’s director, Chloé Zhao, won best director. She’s the second woman and first woman of color to win the best director award in the Oscars’ history. Frances McDormand won best actress (also for Nomadland) and Anthony Hopkins won best actor for The Father.

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