climate change, coronavirus pandemic, bat habitats, research
The author writes, “Often, climate change is blamed for shrinking habitats and depressing biodiversity, but new research suggests climate change has expanded the preferred habitat of coronavirus-carrying bats in Southern China.” Photo credit: Anton 17 / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Why the Pandemic Is 10 Times Worse Than You Think (Reader Pat)

The author writes, “Ever since the coronavirus reached the U.S., officials and citizens alike have gauged the severity of the spread by tracking one measure in particular: How many new cases are confirmed through testing each day. However, it has been clear all along that this number is an understatement because of testing shortfalls. Now a research team at Columbia University has built a mathematical model that gives a much more complete — and scary — picture of how much virus is circulating in our communities.”

How Congress Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Handing Out Cash (Dana)

From Vox: “The Biden administration and its allies in Congress are pushing for a new round of $1,400 checks to all but the richest Americans. If you’ve been following the ins and outs of Covid-19 relief politics in recent weeks, this isn’t surprising news. But consider what a dramatic transformation of American politics this represents. The first $1,200 checks that were sent out as part of a massive relief package in early 2020 were genuinely unprecedented in American history. The US has issued refunds for taxes paid in the past, and those refunds sometimes looked a bit like unconditional checks, as in 2001. The $1,200 checks were not refunds. They were just checks, and they were available even to low-income Americans with low or no tax burdens.”

Tesla’s Dirty Little Secret: Its Net Profit Doesn’t Come From Selling Cars (Dan)

The author writes, “Tesla posted its first full year of net income in 2020 — but not because of sales to its customers. Eleven states require automakers sell a certain percentage of zero-emissions vehicles by 2025. If they can’t, the automakers have to buy regulatory credits from another automaker that meets those requirements — such as Tesla, which exclusively sells electric cars. It’s a lucrative business for Tesla — bringing in $3.3 billion over the course of the last five years, nearly half of that in 2020 alone. The $1.6 billion in regulatory credits it received last year far outweighed Tesla’s net income of $721 million — meaning Tesla would have otherwise posted a net loss in 2020.”

Redwoods Are Made to Survive Fire, but They Don’t Live Alone in the Forest (Dana)

From CNET: “When four of the five largest wildfires in California’s history were ablaze simultaneously late last summer, it certainly felt apocalyptic for the state’s coastal redwoods. Beyond burning more than 2 million acres and destroying thousands of homes and structures, the fires swept through pristine redwood groves, many with old-growth trees that had been standing before non-native settlers arrived on the West Coast hundreds of years ago. The images of flames climbing some of the largest and oldest living things on Earth were sobering, as was an assessment from state officials that Big Basin Redwoods, California’s oldest state park, had been extensively damaged.”

Man Swallows Earbud in His Sleep, Cautions Others (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “A man is warning people against using headphones while falling asleep after health care workers had to remove a wireless earbud from his esophagus. Worcester [MA] resident Brad Gauthier, who detailed his bizarre experience in a Facebook post, went to bed Monday listening to music. He woke up Tuesday, shoveled snow for about an hour, and then went inside to take a sip of water. But the liquid wouldn’t go down, and he had to lean over to drain it from his throat.”