This weekend, we’re reading about genetics research, a rapidly progressing field with some unfortunate ties to backward, outdated ways of labeling groups of people.
Much of genetic research is about trying to link a “genotype,” specific instructions written in a living organism’s DNA, to a “phenotype,” a physical attribute that was generated by that genotype. Those attributes can include the color of someone’s hair, skin, or eyes; body shape (like height, foot size, the length of fingers and toes, or the shape of your nose); or specific body functions that might be inherited, like near-sightedness, high blood pressure, sickle-cell disease, or even whether cilantro tastes bitter.
(This article previously appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted with permission.)
Last week, the new King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) announced that it will forego next year’s annual count of King County’s unsheltered homeless population, leaving the region without one major source of information about how many people are living unsheltered, and in what circumstances, for two consecutive years after last year’s count was scuttled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The count, which is generally regarded as an undercount, is often used to measure whether homelessness is increasing or decreasing over time and how; in 2020, for example, the count suggested a large increase in the number of people living in their vehicles.
This weekend’s long read is a research paper from the leading medical research journal in the U.K., The Lancet. The paper, however, has local roots: It was authored by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The paper attempts to ascertain the accuracy of statistics on U.S. deaths caused by police in the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) official repository on births and deaths.
The NVSS collects data from death certificates, including the cause of death. Usually a physician fills out the death certificate, but it could be completed by a coroner or medical examiner instead if there is suspicion of crime, foul play, or police violence. However, that creates a conflict of interest, as the paper describes, if the same government responsible for police violence is also responsible for reporting it.
The Kids Count project tracks indicators of children’s well-being over time and looks at which are trending better or worse.
The 2021 Data Book includes information collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and other agencies through 2019 and compares it with 2010 figures (get used to seeing a lot of 2019 data for a while — 2020 wasn’t a good year for collecting data).
Washington State has avoided a post-Thanksgiving surge in COVID-19 cases, but the state — particularly its hospital system — isn’t in the clear yet.
In a press conference on Dec. 16, Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy shared graphs from the DOH’s COVID-19 tracking dashboard that show case counts and hospitalizations, including ICU bed occupancy, are levelling off. The Emerald has shared these graphs below. But the trends aren’t yet level, and the state must go beyond just flattening the curve, DOH Health Sec. Dr. John Wiesman said.
Washington State Sen. Patty Murray (D) was among the four United States senators who didn’t vote on a bipartisan amendment that would have prevented law enforcement agencies from obtaining Americans’ internet search histories and web browsing activities without a warrant.
The amendment to H.R. 6172 needed 60 in-person votes to pass, and failed by one vote, according to Gizmodo. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) were the other three senators who did not vote, though Alexander is currently in self-isolation, after a member of his staff tested positive for COVID-19.