MAGMA NEWS | JULY 22, 2020
Jul 23, 2020
02:15 AM

Dr. Anthony Fauci warns the coronavirus won't ever be eradicated.

Berkeley Lovelace Jr. | CNBC

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday it is unlikely the coronavirus will ever be eradicated. 

While the virus will not disappear, it's possible world leaders and public health officials could work to bring the virus down to "low levels," the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said during an interview with the TB Alliance.

"I think with a combination of good public health measures, a degree of global herd immunity and a good vaccine, which I do hope and feel cautiously optimistic that we will get, I think when we put all three of those together, we will get control of this, whether it's this year or next year. I'm not certain," he said.

But, he added, "I don't really see us eradicating it." 

Fauci's comments are at odds with President Donald Trump, who reiterated his claim Tuesday evening that the virus would disappear. The president's remark comes amid warnings from experts, including at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that Covid-19 cases and deaths could rise this fall.

"The virus will disappear. It will disappear," Trump said during a White House briefing on the pandemic.

The coronavirus is not disappearing and continues to rapidly spread across the U.S. The virus has infected more than 3.9 million people in the country, killing at least 142,090 as of Wednesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Texas and Florida hit grim records Monday for daily coronavirus deaths based on a seven-day moving average, as hospitalizations continue to surge in 34 states.

Fauci said the virus is unlike SARS, a coronavirus that emerged in the early 2000s and was contained. He said Covid-19 is incredibly efficient in transmitting from human to human and can produce a wide range of symptoms in people. He said it's unlikely the virus will change into something like the common cold.

"I have never seen infection in which you have such a broad range literally no symptoms at all in a substantial proportion of the population to some who get ill with minor symptoms to some who get ill enough to be in bed for weeks," he said. "Others get hospitalized, require oxygen, intensive care, ventilation and death. The involvement with the same pathogen is very unique."

Fauci said officials have to do better in containing the virus as states attempt to reopen. On Tuesday, he said state officials should adopt mask mandates and close bars. He said Wednesday that U.S. health officials do not see "an end in sight" to the pandemic. 

"We are certainly not at the end of the game" of the pandemic, Fauci said. "Certainly we are not winning the game right now. We are not beating it."

On Tuesday, Trump said the pandemic in the United States will probably "get worse before it gets better." 

"That's something I don't like saying about things, but that's the way it is, it's what we have," he said. "You look over the world, it's all over the world."

However, he said he would not call for a nationwide shutdown, saying it would be "completely unsustainable, produce debilitating economic fallback and lead to catastrophic public health consequences.

He said the U.S. only initially shut down to prevent hospitals from overflowing and to give the public officials more time to secure the equipment and supplies needed to fight it, like ventilators.

Earlier this month, Fauci said U.S. coronavirus cases are surging because the nation didn't totally shut down. However, he has indicated the country might not need an "absolute shutdown" right now.

The U.S is on track to add 1Million new coronavirus cases in 2 weeks.

Pinning hopes on vaccine is not the right coronavirus strategy, expert says.

Steve Almasy, Christina Maxouris and Holly Yan | CNN

As cases continue to rise, Americans looking to a vaccine as the way out of the coronavirus pandemic should consider a more comprehensive approach, a leading medical expert told CNN on Wednesday.

"Pinning all our hopes on a vaccine that works immediately is not the right strategy," Dr. William Haseltine, a former professor at Harvard University's medical and public health schools, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

Haseltine said a broad public health strategy is a better way to contain the spread of the virus along with the help of a vaccine and therapeutic drugs. Mandating masks will help but Haseltine said, "we need a lot more than masks to contain this epidemic that's running through our country like a freight train."

Haseltine recommended closing bars and other places where young people congregate at night and ban holding large meetings in the worst-hit regions. Life won't get better until people make major changes to their behavior and public health services come forward with more resources, he said.

He said a vaccine is still six months away at the earliest and he warned not to underestimate a coronavirus. Haseltine, known for his work on fighting cancer and HIV/AIDS, said it won't be easy to develop a vaccine.

"These are tricky viruses," he said. "It's not as simple as measles or mumps. It's going to be a lot more complicated"

Any Covid-19 vaccine that's sponsored by the US government will be free or affordable for the American public, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told CNBC on Wednesday.

"For any vaccine that we have bought -- so for instance the Pfizer vaccine -- those hundred million doses would actually be acquired by the US government, then given for free to Americans," Azar said.

He said the same would apply with the AstraZeneca and the Novovax vaccines.

"We will ensure that any vaccine that we're involved in sponsoring is either free to the American people or is affordable," Azar said.

And while some anti-mask protesters refuse to wear a piece of cloth to help save American lives, enormous signs of altruism have emerged.

More than 100,000 people have volunteered to participate in Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"I think we'll be fine with regards to getting enough people," Fauci said during a webinar Wednesday with the TB Alliance.

1 million more cases in two weeks

The US is heading in the wrong direction with Covid-19 numbers, and it's doing so with astonishing speed.

Just after 1,000 people died in a single day, the country is about to reach 4 million Covid-19 cases.

To put that in perspective, the first reported case came on January 21. After 99 days, 1 million Americans became infected.

It took just 43 days after that to reach 2 million cases.

And 28 days later, on July 8, the US reached 3 million cases. The 4 millionth case could come just two weeks after that.

As of Wednesday evening, more than 3.95 million people had been infected across the US, and more than 142,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Some states are reporting record-breaking numbers of new cases. Johns Hopkins reported at least 56,649 new cases in the US on Wednesday.

More governors are requiring masks, and dozens of hospitals are out of intensive care unit beds.

President Donald Trump said the United States has now conducted more than 50 million coronavirus tests. He told reporters at a White House briefing that people should wear masks, pay attention to social distancing and wash their hands. While hot spots like Florida and Texas have popped up, it's all going to work out, he said.

"We're all in this together," he said.

Covid-19 a leading cause of death in L.A. County

California, the most populous state and the first to shut down months ago, appeared to have Covid-19 under control -- only to suffer a massive resurgence and surpass New York with the most coronavirus cases in the nation.

This month, state Gov. Gavin Newsom shut down bars and indoor restaurant services again due to an influx of cases after reopening.

Covid-19 is set to become one of the leading causes of death in Los Angeles County, according to Barbara Ferrer, the county's health director.

"It's killing more people than Alzheimer's disease, other kinds of heart disease, stroke and COPD," Ferrer said, referring to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which causes airflow blockage and breathing issues.

Comparing Covid-19 to the flu, Ferrer said data shows Covid-19 killed twice as many people in six months as the flu did in eight months.

Where cases are surging

Some politicians, including the President, have insisted that much of the soaring case numbers are a reflection of increased testing.

But the surge is new cases has greatly outpaced the increase in testing, with troubling rates of transmission and test positivity in many states.

A CNN analysis of testing data from the Covid Tracking Project reveals the positive test rate -- or the average number of positive test results out of 1,000 tests performed -- has increased significantly in many of the current hotspots, including Florida, Arizona, Texas and Georgia.

Florida saw an average rate of 35 positive results per 1,000 tests during the month of May. But in June, that number nearly tripled to 105. So far in July, the average rate of test positivity has been 187 out of 1,000.

But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state is on the "right course" in the fight against the virus.

"I think we will continue to see improvements," the governor said Tuesday. "We just have to, particularly Floridians, have to continue doing the basic things."

Over the weekend, nearly 50 Florida hospitals said they were out of ICU beds. Statewide, the ICU bed availability had dwindled to 15.98% on Tuesday, down from about 18.1% on Monday.

And new data from the CDC also show infections could be more than 10 times higher than the number of reported cases in some parts of the US.

More mask mandates lead to decreased death projections

Researchers estimate the US will have 219,864 total Covid-19 deaths by November 1, according to the Institute for Health Metrics at the University of Washington.

That's actually a decrease of about 5,000 deaths from the IHME's previous forecast of 224,546 by that date.

The reasons for the slightly better forecast include more face masks mandates, more people wearing masks, and more people practicing social distancing, the researchers said.

"So a mandate is very important and helping, and a national mandate, of course, would do much better," said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the IHME

If Americans wore masks nationwide, the number of total deaths by November 1 would drop to 185,887, the researchers project. But if the mandates ease more, the US could have 231,012 deaths by November 1.

At least 41 states have some kind of mask requirement in place or planned. Starting Saturday, Minnesota will require people to wear masks inside businesses or indoor public settings. People who have conditions that make "it unreasonable for the individual to maintain a face covering are exempt from the order," Gov. Tim Walz said.

Trump said Wednesday he would make a decision over the next day on whether to mandate masks on federal property.

Major testing delays make tracing almost useless

With the high transmission levels of the virus, traditional contact tracing has now become "impractical and difficult to do," said California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.

The state is working to refine strategies and continue to work with counties to build up their "tracing army," but Ghaly warns that "even a very robust contact tracing program will have a hard time reaching out to every single case."

Contact tracing is now harder all over the nation while testing results take days, Fauci said.

Quest Diagnostics, a leading commercial testing lab, said in a news release Monday that for some patients, testing results can take up to two weeks.

"The time frame from when you get a test to the time you get the results back is sometimes measured in a few days," Fauci said Tuesday.

"If that's the case, it kind of negates the purpose of the contract tracing because if you don't know if that person gets the results back at a period of time that's reasonable, 24 hours, 48 hours at the most ... that kind of really mitigates against getting a good tracing and a good isolation."

Healthcare workers move a patient in the Covid-19 Unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas
Healthcare workers move a patient in the Covid-19 Unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas

U.S. hospitals scramble to adopt new HHS coronavirus data system, some states see 'data blackout'

Will Feuer | CNBC

HHS abruptly instructed all hospitals last weekto stop reporting coronavirus data to the CDC, rerouting it to a new portal run by HHS.

Hospitals had two days to comply, and HHS tied it to the distribution of remdesivir, a vital drug used to treat Covid-19.

The abrupt change left many state officials and hospitals, especially smaller and rural ones, in the lurch.

Hospitals and states are scrambling to adopt a new national Covid-19 data reporting system hastily implemented by the Trump administration last week that has left some, mostly rural, states in the dark about the severity of their own coronavirus outbreaks.

The Department of Health and Human Servicesabruptly instructed all hospitals last weekto stop reporting their coronavirus data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's long-standing National Healthcare Safety Network. Instead,hospitals were instructed to report the data to HHS through a new portal that went live on Monday.HHS gave hospitals two days to comply and tied their cooperation to the distribution of remdesivir, a vital drug used to treat Covid-19.

HHS officials said they made the move to ensure the federal government had more comprehensive and real-time data used to make importantdecisions,such as remdesivir distribution. But it's left some states without key information on their own Covid-19 outbreaks: coronavirus hospitalizations, available hospital beds and available ICU beds.

Left in the lurch

Some states don't collect the data themselves and rely on the CDC to assemble and share that information, which public officials use to decide how to allocate key resources. The abrupt change left many hospitals, especially smaller and rural ones, as well as local policymakers in the lurch as health systems transition to the new system, officials in Missouri, Idaho and Montana told CNBC.

In Missouri, hospitals went "all in" on building out computer systems to quickly report data to the CDC, Missouri Hospital Association spokesman Dave Dillon told CNBC. About 99% of hospitals across the state were successfully reporting their Covid-19 data to the CDC before the change, he said.Over the past four days, just 82% of Missouri's hospitals submitted data to the new system, according to HHS data.

"It is taking time to pivot," Dillon said. HHS has requested new, "poorly defined" data they weren't collecting for the CDC before, he said.What's more, the state used the CDC's data to build its own Covid-19 dashboard for the public and now it's unable to access the same information on the new HHS platform, he said.

'Data blackout'

The hospitalization data presented on Missouri'sdashboard has not been updated since July 12 as a result. TheMissouri Department of Health and Senior Services' websitenow reads: "Please note, due to an abrupt change in data measures and the reporting platform issued by the White House... Missouri Hospital Association (MHA) and the State of Missouri will be unable to access critical hospitalization data during the transition."

"This is the worst possible time for a data blackout," Dillon said."It is quite possible that during the downtime, Missouri exceeded the all-time high for hospitalizations."

Hospitals in the state are working "nonstop" to comply with the new guidance, Dillon said, and the state is working to get access to the full data from HHS so it can update its dashboard. He said the state hopes it can update basic information such as available "beds, vents and admissions" as soon as this week.

"Until MHA can see everyone's data, we won't be able to report.More critically, we won't be able to understand where resources are needed," he said. "It's hard to manage this crisis when the goalposts keep moving."

Even though HHS is getting hospital data from every state, that information remains incomplete. But the agency says it's collecting more information than the CDC was ever able to get.

Incomplete information

Across the country, nine states currently have fewer than 50% of their hospitals reporting data through the new HHS system, according to the agency's site. Roughly 25% of the hospitals in North Dakota and 28% in Louisiana were reporting their Covid-19 hospitalization data through the new system as of Wednesday, HHS data show.

To be sure, many states and hospitals were able to transition to the HHS portal without any problems. And some states were already collecting their hospital data themselves and didn't lose much, if any data, when the CDC's system was shut down.

John Haupert,CEO of Grady Health System in Atlanta, Georgia, for example, said the new reporting system hasn't placed much of a burden on them.

"There is slightly more information being requested, but in our minds it's essential information for [HHS] to be able to make decisions," he said on a conference call organized by the American Hospital Association. "As far as the effort to submit the data and collect the data, that has not been significant."

TheCovid Tracking Project,which monitors Covid-19 hospitalizations and other coronavirus statistics across the country, said most of their data has remained uninterrupted.

"However, some smaller states like Idaho, South Carolina, and Missouri were using the CDC system that HHS replaced to provide data to the public," the Covid Tracking Project said in a statement to CNBC. "Now, those states are scrambling to create new pipelines that can provide that data."

Outdated data

Idaho can finally access the HHS data, but its own Covid-19 dashboard was outdated for several days during the transition. The information, however, is still incomplete. "Not all hospitals are reporting, so that does present some challenges," said Kelly Petroff, spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

Until that data is restored, some researchers, states and others are missing critical information in tracking and responding to the outbreak, according to the Covid Tracking Project, which is a volunteer organizationlaunched by journalists atThe Atlantic.

"This is important because current hospitalization data had become the most reliable indicator of the severity of outbreaks in different states," the group said. "Unfortunately, now we're not sure if some of the erratic changes in hospitalizations that we're seeing are due to reporting problems or real changes on the ground."

HHS Chief Information Officer Jose Arrieta told reporters on a conference call Monday that the new system collects data from roughly 4,500 hospitals on most days, compared with 3,000 hospitals under the CDC's old reporting system.

"From our perspective, when we look at the total number of hospitals reporting since the transition has occurred, the number has actually increased pretty significantly," he said. "We realize this is a change and anytime there is a change, it obviously creates a little bit of tension, maybe a little bit of pain to transition."

An HHS spokeswoman told CNBC the agency has "held a number of calls" with hospitals and industry representatives to "share details of the program changes and respond to questions." HHS also set up a service desk to help hospitals submit their data, she said. The new TeleTracking system provides more frequent and detailed data, which will help the U.S. response, she said.

"This methodology also highlights recent case increases in states/territories and allows us to allocate more amounts of commercially available remdesivir to areas of the country with the most need," she added.

'Drain on resources'

The transition is a tough one for smaller, more rural hospitals that don't have as many resources,Charles Kahn, CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, told CNBC.

"On the other hand, the data is needed for the distribution of remdesivir and other materials ... so I can see their reasoning for collecting much of the data that they're now asking for," he said in an interview.

Brian Whitlock, CEO and president of the Idaho Hospital Association, said the burden of the policy change is weighing heavily on some hospitals in his state. Hospitals had roughly 36 hours to transition to the new system, and the federal government threatened to cut off allocation of resources such as remdesivir if they failed to do so, he said.

Part of the problem, he said, is that the state's contractor wasn't initiallycleared to access the HHS data. SoIdaho hospitals now have to report the data to both the federal government and the state instead of one centralized database as they adjust to the new system, he said.

Rural hospitals hit hard

"When you're talking about a rural, critical-access hospital that may have somebody who is wearing half a dozen other hats in the hospital, being tasked with Covid-19 reporting is an additional hat," Whitlock said. "We're finding that that person who already is wearing half a dozen hats, they now have to go back and do duplicative reporting to the state system until we can figure out how to crosswalk the data between those two systems."

Before the policy change, he said Idaho was successfully collecting data from "nearly every hospital" in the state. HHS says it's now collecting data from about 65% of the hospitals. Whitlock, however, said he's confident that over the next few weeks more hospitals will adapt to the new system. But that extra strain comes as Idaho is grappling with a major spike in cases and cash-strapped hospitals are struggling to care for patients and with less staff. Many hospitals had to lay off workers after several states imposed mandatory shutdowns that prohibited elective surgeries earlier this year.

Cullen Anderson, RN, screens people in a line of cars waiting to be tested for coronavirus COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing station in Idaho
Cullen Anderson, RN, screens people in a line of cars waiting to be tested for coronavirus COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing station in Idaho

Rich Rasmussen, president and CEO of the Montana Hospital Association, echoed the experiences described in Idaho and Missouri. He said cash-strapped hospitals across the state worked hard to ramp up their reporting infrastructure as the virus hit the U.S. in March.

"We just got the system working with NHSN. We were reporting it. We were moving right along," he said in an interview with CNBC. "And then we have to switch and now we have to learn a new portal, new training, more questions."

Rasmussen added that some hospitals in Montana, especially in "frontier communities," "have less net patient revenues than the average Home Depot has in revenues." He said staffing resources are particularly tight, making this transition to the new reporting system a "heavy lift."

"It's kind of a catch-22 to take limited resources that you have in your hospitals and add additional responsibilities and reporting requirements to those stretched-thin resources," said Whitlock, of Idaho. "More time to make these changes and some resources to pay for these changes would have been nice."

The updated “Holy Grail of Climate Science” casts new doubt on low-end global warming estimates.

Andrew Freedman & Chris Mooney | The Washington Post

The current pace of human-caused carbon emissions is increasingly likely to trigger irreversible damage to the planet, according to a comprehensive international study released Wednesday. Researchers studying one of the most important and vexing topics in climate science — how sensitive the Earth’s climate is to a doubling of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — found that warming is extremely unlikely to be on the low end of estimates.

These scientists now say it is likely that if human activities — such as burning oil, gas and coal along with deforestation — push carbon dioxide to such levels, the Earth’s global average temperature will most likely increase between 4.1 to 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit (2.3 and 4.5 degrees Celsius). The previous and long-standing estimated range of climate sensitivity, as first laid out in a 1979 report, was 2.7 to 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 4.5 Celsius).

If the warming reaches the midpoint of this new range, it would be extremely damaging, said Kate Marvel, a physicist at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies and Columbia University, who called it the equivalent of a “five-alarm fire” for the planet.

The new range is narrower than previous studies, but shows at least a 95 percent chance that a doubling of carbon dioxide, which the world is on course to reach within the next five decades or so, would result in warming greater than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) relative to preindustrial temperatures. That is the threshold beyond which scientists say the Earth will suffer dangerous effects — disruptive sea level rise, intolerable heat waves and other extreme weather and permanent damage to ecosystems.

Staying below that is still possible. If steep emissions cuts are made in the near-term, a doubling of carbon dioxide levels could be avoided. But if a doubling does occur, there would be a 6 to 18 percent chance of exceeding the upper bound defined by the study of 8.1 Fahrenheit (4.5 Celsius).

The study by 25 researchers from around the world and published in the journal Reviews of Geophysics is the result of a four-year effort sponsored by the World Climate Research Program. It includes a narrower projected sensitivity range that has a two out of three chance of occurring, of 4.7 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit (2.6 to 3.9 Celsius).

Flames rip through trees in Susanville, Calif.
Flames rip through trees in Susanville, Calif.
Global average temperature departures from average for January through June.
Global average temperature departures from average for January through June.

The “Holy Grail” of climate science

For decades, climate scientists have been seeking to answer the question of how much global temperatures would climb if the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere were to double. This measure was estimated in a 1979 study from the National Research Council led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Jule Charney.

The “Charney Report” concluded that the planet’s climate sensitivity was most likely within the range of 2.6 to 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 4.5 Celsius).

Ever since, researchers have tried to narrow that range, contending with myriad uncertainties in how the oceans and atmosphere respond to historical changes in solar output, the planet’s orbit, past periods with higher amounts of carbon dioxide in the air as well as feedback, such as how various cloud types act to trap or reflect heat energy. In addition, scientists have wrestled with uncertainties in models that simulate past, present and future climate change.

“Constraining climate sensitivity has been something of a Holy Grail in climate science for some time,” said study co-author Zeke Hausfather, director of climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute.

The climate sensitivity question has taken on new urgency as some of the newest computer models developed for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , due in a report next year, show a higher climate sensitivity than earlier models.

The new result narrows the range from what Charney and his colleagues calculated while raising the lower bound.

Multiple lines of evidence pointing in the same direction

To produce the study, the group of researchers worked like detectives, breaking up into teams that sifted through multiple sources of evidence. Some of the data examined include instrument records since the industrial revolution, paleoclimate records from coral reefs and ice cores that provide evidence of prehistoric temperatures, as well as satellite observations and intricate models of how the climate system works.

To reach their new, authoritative estimates, the researchers required that multiple lines of evidence point to the same general conclusion and that this be explained without being the result of a bias that influences one or more sources of evidence.

“An important part of the process was to ensure that the lines of evidence were more or less independent,” said lead author Steven Sherwood, a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales’s ARC Center of Excellence for Climate Extremes, in a news release. “You can think of it as the mathematical version of trying to determine if a rumor you hear separately from two people could have sprung from the same source; or if one of two eyewitnesses to a crime has been influenced by hearing the story of the other one,” Sherwood said.

Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University who was not involved in the study, called this “a tour de force of climate science.” He said via email that the study, “Really, really kills the skeptical argument that climate sensitivity is low.”

“It would have been great if the skeptics had been correct and climate sensitivity was, say, 1.5°C, but that’s not the world we live in.”

Knowing the climate sensitivity range could enable better decision-making

The term “climate sensitivity” might seem like an academic construct, a metric that matters more in the grand theories and computer models of scientists than it does in our everyday lives.

In fact, the study has a message that matters to us a great deal: There is basically little or no chance that we are going to get lucky and find that the warming caused by our activities turns out to be minor.

There are at least two main lines of evidence that lead to the conclusion, based on the study. The first is simply the warming that has already occurred since the industrial revolution.

Currently, with atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide at 415 parts per million (compared with a preindustrial level of 280 parts per million), the world is about halfway toward doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide (560 parts per million). And already, the Earth has warmed by at least 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) preindustrial temperatures.

The new research finds that, in light of this, there is strong evidence refuting the notion that a doubling of carbon dioxide would only cause around 2.6 degrees (1.5 Celsius) of warming.

At the same time, researchers rejected the idea that there is any factor in the climate system that will counteract the warming trend in a meaningful way.

In the past, climate change contrarians and doubters have said that clouds might be such a factor. For instance, if as the planet warms the overall size, composition or surface area of clouds increases, they could reflect more sunlight from Earth, which would cool the planet some. But the study finds that isn’t likely to happen.

“We find that a negative total cloud feedback is very unlikely,” the authors write, concluding that for this reason the climate sensitivity cannot be very low.

“The uncertainty is really asymmetric here,” Marvel said in an interview. “We can be very confident in ruling out sensitivities on the low end. So basically what we’re saying here is that there is really no evidence for any sort of natural response, any sort of big, stabilizing feedback, that in the absence of human actions, is going to save us from climate change."

But Gavin Schmidt, the study’s co-author and Marvel’s colleague at NASA Goddard, offered some optimism, noting that collective action by nations could prevent the doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“The primary determinant of future climate is human actions,” Marvel said.

What’s Going on With Ghislaine Maxwell and Donald Trump?

An ostensibly tossed-off embrace of the alleged sex trafficker on Tuesday became an avenue of exploration into the president’s long relationship with her and Epstein.

Dan Adler | Vanity Fair

Earlier this month, Ghislaine Maxwell’s arrest in New Hampshire immediately prompted speculation about which other high-profile figures could be implicated in connection to Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse. The socialite and longtime Epstein associate has denied charges of trafficking minors and perjury, but a federal judge denied her bail last week and she continues to be held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. As with Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew, Donald Trump’s relationship with Epstein and Maxwell has shown up in various reports and photographs over the years. But rather than attempt to distance himself from Maxwell during a coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, Trump offered a limp embrace.

“I don’t know,” he shrugged, after a reporter asked whether he thought Maxwell would reveal which powerful men were involved in Epstein’s trafficking ring. “I haven’t really been following it too much. I just wish her well, frankly.”

“I’ve met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach, and I guess they lived in Palm Beach, but I wish her well,” he continued. “Whatever it is.”

Even the ultraconservative Trump ally Chip Roy, the Republican congressman from Texas, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday morning, “This is unacceptably obtuse for a woman accused of the most morally depraved of crimes.”

And while the remarks were a rich sound bite for those who’ve been tracing out Maxwell and Epstein’s associations in all their still-emerging detail, they were also a reminder of their history with Trump that’s already known. The Palm Beach milieu that Trump mentioned was the occasion for his early relationship with Epstein: as the New York Times pointed out, he told reporters at the White House last July that he knew Epstein “like everybody in Palm Beach knew him.” The paper reported last year that Trump and Epstein hosted a party at Mar-a-Lago in 1992 with a guest list comprising the two of them and “28 girls.” The Florida businessman George Houraney told the Times that he organized the event and told Trump, “Look, Donald, I know Jeff really well, I can’t have him going after younger girls.” Houraney said Trump dismissed the warning.

It wasn’t the only such interaction between the two men, who’d overlapped in social and business circles for years. Last year, MSNBC’s Morning Joe aired newly found footage of Trump and Epstein laughing together while watching dozens of NFL cheerleaders dance at a Mar-a-Lago party in 1992.

“I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with,” Trump told New York magazine in 2002. “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it—Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

Last year, though, after Epstein was arrested, Trump told reporters, “I had a falling-out with him. I haven’t spoken to him in 15 years. I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you.” The full nature and timing of any conflict still isn’t clear, but Trump called Epstein’s private Caribbean island an “absolute cesspool” in 2015 and told reporters to ask Andrew about it.

Photos of Trump with Epstein and Maxwell continue to circulate, especially in recent weeks since Maxwell’s arrest. Fox News cropped Trump out of one image of the three along with Melania following the arrest. Sure enough, Geraldo Rivera leapt to Trump and Maxwell’s defense on Wednesday morning:

After Trump pardoned Roger Stone earlier this month, there were also some murmurs that his statement of affection for Maxwell might be more than offhanded.

A Justice Department prosecutor told Politico, “in the aftermath of the Stone pardon, it reeks of the president indicating to her that he might reward her if she’ll stay silent about whatever she knows about him.”

The Rise Of Low-Code App Development.

Ilker Koksal | Forbes

Building apps has been widely accessible for both enterprises and non-programmers without putting high engineering efforts, mostly called low-code development, in recent years. In that regard, Gartner predicts that low code application building would gather more than 65% of all app development functions by the year 2024 and with about 66% of big companies using a minimum of four low code platforms.

Low-code app development platforms have various methods that help companies or non-programmers to build custom applications in the cloud. Visual development environment which is provided by platforms allows many different methods such as drag-and-drop some components to build the app in a smooth way.

Benefits of low-code

Agility might be the first pillar of low-code development. It’s faster to build apps with low-code using pre-built modules in the visual environment. This allows more agility with cutting down the time spent on app development. Most of the low-code platforms run in the cloud, this also automates most of the processes while iterating the application.

Another aspect is the cost structure. Acquiring talented developers is always a challenge on the cost side. Low-code solutions require less engineering efforts so this automatically lowers down the cost in the long run.

On the compatibility side, low-code development platforms provide cross-platform mobility. With much less effort, platforms enable companies and non-programmers to develop robust applications with giving access to third-party APIs and modules for different platforms.

News in the space

A market study by Forrester expects the market for low-code development platforms to increase to $21.2 billion by 2022, up from $3.8 billion in 2017.This growth also leads to M&A activities in the market as well.

Beginning of the year, Google announced to acquire AppSheet, an eight-year-old no-code mobile application building platform. With this acquisition, Google aims to provide companies to build mobile apps without having to write a line of code. “This acquisition helps enterprises empower millions of citizen developers to more easily create and extend applications without the need for professional coding skills,” says Amit Zavery, VP Business Application Platform at Google.

Another acquisition is from Appy Pie, which is one of the largest no-code mobile application building platforms, acquired AppMakr, and Infinite Monkeys at the beginning of April. Appy Pie and AppMakr have been competing for the top spot for several years and after joining their forces Appy Pie has a reach of over 10 million end-users.

In the era of rapid change and compatibility, it seems low-code application development platforms will continue to rise with providing fast, creative, and efficient visual environments in the cloud for companies and non-programmers.

The Bubble Begins: What We Saw in the NBA's First Disney Scrimmages.

Sean Highkin | Bleacher Report

In a strange way, Wednesday's NBA scrimmages in the Disney World bubble were as close to normalcy as can be. This time of year, the league would normally be televising a full day's worth of scrimmages in mostly empty gyms, where the teams' highest-profile stars may or may not be playing. And that was basically what we got here, but instead of the NBA's annual Las Vegas Summer League, it was essentially a second preseason for what will be the oddest three months in the history of the NBA.

Our first live NBA basketball since the league shut down on March 11 because of Rudy Gobert's positive COVID-19 test was predictably hit-or-miss. Guys are still working their way back into shape, and some teams are very short-handed and forced to play bizarre lineups. The kinks of the broadcasts and game presentations are still being worked out. But the NBA is back.

Here's what jumped out from our first look at what it's going to be like to watch NBA basketball for the foreseeable future.

Summer-league atmosphere

Considering the circumstances—the NBA attempting to resume its season with no fans in a Disney-sponsored bubble amid a pandemic—it was shocking how normal the games looked on television. The camera angles were mostly the same as they are on a normal game broadcast, and team personnel and media members were spread out in the seats down by the court to create the illusion of the seats you usually see on TV being filled.

There was a small amount of music played over the PA and a regular-sounding PA announcer. There were ads on the stanchions separating the benches from the court, just as there are below the scorers' table in every arena in the league.

With no fans, the NBA attempted to create home-court advantage by installing a giant videoboard behind the bench that displayed the "home" team's logo, as well as some piped-in "DE-FENSE" chants. But while the NBA allowed teams to ship their own courts to Florida for practices, the games are taking place on a court with an NBA logo at the center (as well as "Black Lives Matter" painted along the sideline, which is awesome).

All of this was strange at first, but it didn't take long to get used to the differences. It helps that the NBA has had several months to study game presentations from various European soccer leagues and Asian baseball leagues that have returned during the pandemic. By the time the playoffs and Finals come around, this isn't going to be weird at all. It turns out, you don't miss the crowd shots as much as you thought.

The Bol Bol era begins

No team has been more short-handed in the bubble than the Denver Nuggets—they've barely had enough players to run five-on-five contract drills. For their Wednesday scrimmage against the Washington Wizards, they trotted out one of the strangest lineups the NBA has seen in years, headlined by Nikola Jokic at point guard and 7'2" Bol Bol making his pro debut at small forward.

Once seen as a lottery-level prospect, Bol fell to No. 44 overall in the 2019 draft after his freshman season at Oregon as teams were scared off by injury concerns. Bol, the son of the late former NBA center Manute Bol, spent his rookie season redshirting in the G League. Wednesday's scrimmage represented his first time stepping on the court with the Nuggets.

It was one scrimmage in insanely bizarre circumstances, but you could see why talent evaluators were this high on him in the first place. He finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks in 32 minutes and looked more mobile than expected considering he spent much of the past 18 months rehabbing a foot fracture.

Bol probably won't play much for the Western Conference's No. 3 seed when the regular season restarts, let alone in the playoffs. He's too raw to be counted on in a playoff environment once the Nuggets have their full roster back. Expect him to get the kid-gloves treatment Michael Porter Jr. got this year after he missed all of the 2018-19 season with a back injury.

But even if this is the most we get to see of Bol in the next three months, Nuggets fans have plenty of reason to be excited for the future. Hopefully he can stay healthy.

Game broadcasts, but make it Zoom

While players get reacclimated into the NBA game environment, team broadcasters are forced to adapt to a less-than-ideal set of circumstances. No local announcers are in the bubble, which means every game is being called remotely.

Different teams had different approaches to this in the first day of action. The Clippers simulcast their radio broadcast with mixed results—Noah Eagle is a very good play-by-play man, but radio broadcasters call games differently than TV broadcasters do, so it was a little disconcerting. Nets analysts Ian Eagle and Sarah Kustok sat 10 feet apart on the floor of an empty Barclays Center and did their thing.

No broadcast was weirder than the Nuggets', which featured the faces of their analysts superimposed onto the top of the screen for the entire game, Zoom backgrounds and all.

And if you were worried you wouldn't get the full Zoom call experience we've all grown accustomed to over the past four months, have no fear: At one point, an analyst was brought into the broadcast and forgot to mute his line when he wasn't talking, resulting in some heavy breathing that briefly overwhelmed the call of the game. We've all been on that call before. NBA teams—they're just like us.

Joakim Noah is back

The Clippers signed Joakim Noah to a 10-day contract in March, but the season was suspended before the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year was able to make his season debut. Noah was surprisingly solid last season with the Grizzlies following two disastrous seasons in New York, but he spent much of this year rehabbing an Achilles injury. So it was a bit of a shock to see him in the Clippers' starting lineup for his first NBA action in 16 months.

But Noah looked great. He can still set hard screens, and he's still one of the league's smartest passers at his position. It was obvious right away that he's going to make an impact for the Clippers.

But more than that, he got a head start on renewing his war of words with LeBron James that could come back into play if, as most people expect, the Clippers and Lakers meet in the Western Conference Finals. The man who brought us "Hollywood as hell"and "What's so good about Cleveland?"took what appeared to be another shot at LeBron in his postgame virtual media availability on Wednesday, saying, "No prima donnas on the Clippers, that's for sure."

If the two Los Angeles teams do meet in the postseason, it's going to get petty.

Not much talk

With no fans to drown out the on-court sounds, the possibility of fans finally getting to hear what players say to each other on the court was an exciting one.

No such luck, at least so far. What you mainly hear on the broadcasts are the commentary, the sneakers squeaking and the piped-in chants. Anyone hoping to hear uncensored trash talk was in for a disappointment.

Another broadcast wrinkle I would have liked to see: sound from the huddles during timeouts. WNBA broadcasts on ESPN are fantastic because they show the strategy and play-calling from the huddles. In the NBA, it's usually just the part when the coach is screaming about needing to bring more energy.

If the NBA is experimenting with new ways to make these unusual broadcasts engaging, that's an easy one. Some of the league's best coaches (Doc Rivers, Erik Spoelstra, Michael Malone) were on the sidelines Wednesday. Who wouldn't have wanted to take this unique opportunity to hear how they talk to their teams during games? It would add a layer of intrigue while helping to make fans smarter about the game.

Tesla Can Now Join The S&P 500 & Why That Is Bullish For The Stock.

Adam Sarvak | Forbes

TeslaTSLA reported its fourth consecutive quarterly profit which makes it eligible to join the S&P 500 for the first time since the stock started trading over a decade ago. If that happens that will be very bullish for the shareholders. Already, Tesla is one of the strongest stocks in 2020 and its recent move is reminiscent of prior alpha stocks (a.k.a. the strongest stocks in history).

The stock is up over +4% in extended hours after reporting earnings. Tesla closed 2019 at $418.33/share and is currently trading $1,657 after the close. That is an incredible move and one that shows there is a tremendous amount of institutional buying. Whenever you see a big cap stock rally that much in such a short amount of time that clearly shows you that the big institutions are aggressively accumulating the stock. This move is one for the record books.

If Tesla joins the S&P 500, many institutions will be required to buy it, which could drive the price even higher. In the short-term the stock is extremely extended and way over due to pullback. But clearly, Tesla is one of the strongest stocks in 2020 (and in history) and, for now, it is firing on all cylinders.

Disclosure: The Portfolio is up +125.74% in Tesla since its most recent purchase in April 2020.

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