Weekly Roundup: September 6-12
The Weekly Roundup by GWCD is a collaboration between members of the news & blog committee to compile three main headlines from the week. As one of the goals of the committee is to keep our GWCD community updated on current events, the Weekly Roundup is intended as an easy way for members to read up on the highlights from each week in addition to the articles published regularly by our members.
COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Halted After Patient Falls Ill
By Jane Cameron
One of the three companies in the United States whose vaccines are in late-stage clinical trials, AstraZeneca, has halted their vaccine trial. COVID-19 has taken 190,000 lives as of now and this number is projected to grow to 250,000 by the end of the year. This vaccine is a race against time. The decision to pause the trial came after one of the participants fell ill.
The participant developed an inflammatory syndrome, transverse myelitis, that affects the spinal cord and is usually caused by viral infections. While this is standard procedure, it signals a delay of when the vaccine will become available and brings up the concern of whether or not it is effective.
However, it is unknown whether the vaccine is responsible for the following illness and AstraZeneca plans to maintain their timeline while still upholding their safety standards.
DHS whistleblower alleges order to stop writing reports about Russian interference
By Abby Osborne
On Wednesday, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, announced that a complaint from a whistleblower alleges the Trump administration told him to hold off on writing reports about Russian interference in the United States.
Brian Murphy, the whistleblower and a former intelligence and analysis acting undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said that he should “instead start reporting on interference activities by China and Iran” despite thinking that those countries’ actions were not as bad as Russia’s. Murphy also alleges that the reasoning given for this request is it “‘would make the president look bad.’”
This comes at a time where William Evanina, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director, asserts that the “Russian government is ‘using a range of measures’ to ‘denigrate former Vice President Biden’ before the November election.”
In addition to the aforementioned allegations, Murphy says Ken Cuccinelli, acting DHS deputy secretary, instructed him to “modify a Homeland Threat Assessment report to make the threat of white supremacist violence ‘appear less severe.’”
Wildfires Ravage Western United States
By Alisa Kingsbury
Wildfires have burned millions of acres across a dozen western states. Over 100 active fires have burned an area roughly the size of New Jersey, and are still blazing.
California, Oregon, and Washington state have the highest amount of burnt acres, respectively. Over 3.1 million acres have burned in California alone. 500,000 Oregon residents have been placed under evacuation orders as of Friday. Wind-driven fires were also burning in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming this week.
At least 17 people have lost their lives due to the fires—at least 12 deaths in California, four in Oregon, and one in Washington state.
California experiences large blazes almost every year during fire season, when the vegetation is at its driest, and the powerful, dry Santa Ana winds roll through the state. In recent years, these fires tend to occur from October to December. One of California’s worst recent fire seasons was in 2017, when several fires ravaged through the state in December. Record-breaking fires burning in September do not bode well for what the rest of California fire season has to bring. However, several of the fires may not have started if not for lightning strikes in northern California, and one of the fires started due to a pyrotechnic device at a gender-reveal party in southern California.
Oregon does not experience the same magnitude of fire season every year like California. On Thursday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown tweeted, “Currently there are fires burning more than 900,000 acres. To put that into perspective, over the last 10 years, an average of 500,000 acres burn in an entire year. We've seen nearly double that in 3 days.”