Thursday, 21st January, 2021

[Day 311]

It was technically this morning (well actually. few minutes after midnight) but Sky News were indicating that they were going to broadcast the first Press Briefing from the Joe Biden White House. This turned out to be fascinating, if only for the massive contrast with the Trump counterpart. The initial Trump briefing started off with a massive row between the accredited press correspondents and the new Trump spokesman who was attempting to argue that the crowds at the Trump inauguration were the biggest in history – a ‘fact’ easily disproved by recourse to the available photographic evidence of how far the inauguration day crowds extended down the Mall. Relationships with the press started off on a bad footing and never recovered. The Biden press briefing was entirely different. The new spokesperson was very experienced having done a similar job at the State Department for years. She promised a policy of complete openness and transparency and the whole atmosphere made you feel as the years had just rolled away and what had transpired under the Trump regime was just a bad dream. One correspondent asked her whether the Joe Biden regime would prove to be boring to which she replied ‘I certainly hope so!‘ – none of the fireworks and press rows as previously but just old-fashioned boring government news!

Our Waitrose order came today and got put away, fortunately with nothing having been forgotten. Then we walked down under a fairly blue sky but quite a ‘nip’ in the air to collect our newspapers and thence onto the park. There we met with ex-University of Birmingham friend again plus the old lady who we know lives near the park so we had our normal pleasant chat before it was time to strike homewards.

This afternoon, I busied myself with going through a pile of old newspapers to see if there was anything worth preserving. What tends to happen is that any unread bits of newspaper from the day before get put onto a pile which gradually grows until it gets ‘attacked’ (as this afternoon). I find that I tend to keep any interesting cartoons from the Times, plus any important media/diet/exercise bits. The Times publishes its health section each Tuesday and this is generally worth a read. I happened to find an article on Joe Biden’s wife (who has a PhD in education) so this obviates me having to traverse the web for something similar. I have managed to get most (but not all) of this task completed by the early evening.

The COVID news this evening is interesting. The number of people now successfully vaccinated is approaching 5 million but it looks as though there are still a proportion of the 80 yr olds to be vaccinated before the next tranche of vaccines is administered to the 75+ age cohort. As you might expect, we are awaiting our call day by day but do not know whether it will be a letter, by a phone call or by text message. By my calculations, this call ought to come within the next week or so which will take us well into February. There is a certain amount of discussion going on about the efficacy of a ‘one-shot’ virus with a second dose following within 12 weeks rather than the three weeks the manufacturers recommend. The UK government scientists are arguing that it is better to ‘save’ the second dose that would normally be received three weeks after the first and to use to give a measure of protection to another person. This is following the utilitarian principle of the ‘greatest good of the greatest number‘. However, Israel has been enormously successful in vaccinating way over 90% of their population already but the scientific data is revealing that the amount of protection may be quite low. Amongst the over 60-year-old’s who need the vaccine protection most, the efficacy has been reported as only 33% – which still leaves them quite vulnerable. This question may take time some time to resolve – the Israeli data is the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine whereas in pure numbers the UK Oxford University/AstraZeneca accounts for a greater proportion of vaccination. Whether the government will admit it is wrong and has over-estimated the effigy of a one-dose shot of the vaccine is an interesting question. After all, it would not be the first time that the government have proved to be ‘economical with the truth’.

Returning to American politics to conclude, Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives seems keen to press ahead and try to secure a conviction against the impeached Donald Trump. She has argued that ‘you don’t ignore a president’s actions because people think we should be nice-nice and forget that people died here’ Although it may consume a lot of the Congress time and not help to create a bi-partisanship working relationship in the new Congress, then if you do not impeach a president who has urged, stimulated and abetted the invasion of the Capitol by a white-supremacist mob, then who would you ever impeach?