Tag Archives: Kevin Schofield

Weekend Long Reads: Puget Sound’s Tech Workers

by Kevin Schofield

This week’s long read is a survey — but mercifully one that doesn’t ask a single question about candidates on the November ballot. The local organization sea.citi, which bills itself as “a tech industry nonprofit strengthening our region by promoting civic engagement and building relationships between community, government, and innovation workers,” recently polled Puget Sound-area tech workers to test their views on a range of civic issues, their employers’ actions, and where they want to live and work post-pandemic.

The report buries the demographic data in the back, but it’s worth addressing it first to provide some context because tech workers are not representative of the general population in the Seattle area. Not surprisingly, the survey group skewed male, white, and middle-aged. They also are predominantly transplants to the area: 72% of them moved here as an adult.

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Weekend Long Reads: mRNA Vaccines

by Kevin Schofield

This week’s “long read” is an article in the journal Nature, looking at the long and complicated path leading to the mRNA vaccine technology and techniques used to create the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines against COVID-19.

“Messenger RNA,” or mRNA, is essentially a recipe for building proteins. Living cells use it as a way of passing notes around: Parts of our DNA are transcribed into mRNA, which is then read by the tiny factories in our cells that produce proteins. 

Technically, a virus isn’t alive: It’s just a string of genetic material surrounded by a coating of fat (what biologists call “lipids”) with some proteins on the surface that help it to gain access into our cells (such as the COVID-19 “spike protein”). Once a virus invades our cells, its DNA is also transcribed into mRNA that contains the blueprint for the virus, and then our own cells do all the hard work to churn out thousands of virus copies.

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Weekend Long Reads: Asset Income

by Kevin Schofield

This week’s “long read” is a research report from the Economic Innovation Group looking at Americans’ different sources of income and in particular focusing on the one most closely tied to wealth: income from assets.

The report categorizes income into three types: “transfers” such as Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and food stamps; wages and earnings; and income from assets. An asset can be a financial investment such as stocks and bonds, but it can also be the housing that a landlord rents out, an apple orchard generating produce, or a manufacturing plant used to create goods.

Over the past fifty years, there has been a steady shift in the sources of personal income from Americans. In 1969, 77% of income was from wages and earnings; as of 2019, it was only 63%. Income from assets, however, has grown from 15% to 20%. 

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Weekend Long Reads: The Evolution of Our Health Care System

by Kevin Schofield

This weekend’s “long read” focuses on two medical research papers exploring how the U.S. health care system has changed over the past two decades: the money going into the system and the outcomes for individuals. And it’s not a pretty picture.

Let’s start with a paper from a group of researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation here in Seattle, looking at health care spending from 2002 through 2016 and broken out by race and ethnicity. Total spending has grown dramatically, from about $1.5 trillion annually in 2002 to over $2.4 trillion in 2016. The amount spent per person increases as they age, from a low of about $3,000 per year for children in 2016 to more than $15,000 per year for those over the age of 65. There are some significant differences in spending across racial and ethnic lines, with Asians, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics seeing some of the lowest levels of spending across all age groups and white and multiracial individuals seeing the highest spending.

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Weekend Long Reads: The Kids Are Eating a Lot More Pizza

by Kevin Schofield

This weekend’s “long read” is a report from a 20-year study on the food consumption habits of American youth. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NAHANES) has been collecting data since 1999, in two-year intervals, on what foods kids are eating, broken out across four categories: unprocessed and minimally processed; processed culinary ingredients such as oils; processed foods like cheeses; and “ultraprocessed” foods such as fast food, sweetened beverages, and store-bought ready-to-heat dishes.

In their most recent cohort, 2017–2018, they found that over two-thirds of the calories consumed by youth are from ultraprocessed food, up from 61.4% in 1999. The ready-to-heat/eat category jumped from 2.2% all the way up to 11.1%; that includes store-bought pizza, hamburgers, and sandwiches, and pizza alone is now over 5% of kids’ total calorie consumption.

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Weekend Long Reads: The Climate Change Report

by Kevin Schofield

This week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its new Sixth Assessment Report on the current scientific consensus on where things stand with regard to our changing global climate. It’s an update on its last report (the Fifth Assessment) from 2013, with hundreds of scientists from all over the world collaborating to provide both assessments of the current climate and also updated models of what is most likely to happen from here.

The new report is 3,949 pages. That is a “long read” even outside of my tolerance, so I’m not going to suggest that you read it.  Instead, I’m going to point you to three much shorter documents to read:

  • IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers;
  • IPCC’s Regional Fact Sheet for Central and North America, which focuses on the present and future impacts of climate change here in our own backyard; and
  • An excellent summary by the news site Quartz on the key findings from the full report.
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Weekend Long Reads: Long COVID

by Kevin Schofield

This weekend’s main “long read” deals with a scary topic: “long COVID.” This is how the medical community has come to refer to incidents where a patient diagnosed with COVID-19 initially seems to recover but continues to suffer ongoing symptoms for weeks or even months. Doctors have established two categories of long COVID: “ongoing symptomatic COVID” (OSC), in which symptoms continue on for four to 12 weeks after the initial illness; and “post-COVID syndrome” for symptoms that persist after 12 weeks.

Long COVID is still an emerging phenomenon since COVID-19 has barely been around long enough to start to complete longitudinal studies, but by existing estimates, 10% or more of the general population who contract COVID-19 will have some form of long COVID to follow, and the percentage is much higher in some high-risk populations (including those hospitalized with COVID-19). But little is still known about exactly what the risk factors are for long COVID, and how they compare to COVID-19 itself.

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Weekend Long Reads: The Climate ‘New Normal’

by Kevin Schofield

This week’s “long read” takes us into the world of climate change and how the nation’s lead agency on climate and weather tracks it.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is responsible for all things weather and climate in the United States: It runs the National Weather Service, supplies forecasts to other government agencies and to the public, and collects and archives atmospheric readings from a collection of tracking stations across the United States. That data is used to improve weather forecasting models, but it is also used to analyze broader climate trends.

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Weekend Long Reads: 2020 Didn’t Bring a Baby Boom

by Kevin Schofield

Every year the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), releases updated statistics on births and fertility rates in the United States, and this week it published figures for 2020. There have been plenty of predictions about what effect the pandemic would have on births, with some (including myself) guessing that with everyone cooped up at home we might see a mini baby boom.

Alas, it was not so. There were 3,605,201 births in the U.S. last year, a 4% drop from 2019. Birth rates declined across all age groups except for the youngest teenagers and the oldest women. Other than a slight bump up in 2014, the number of births in the United States has been steadily dropping since 2007, and 2020 saw the lowest level of births since 1979.

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Weekend Long Reads: A Whole Lot of Sloshing Going On! What a Tsunami Would Do in Puget Sound

by Kevin Schofield

If you’ve lived here in the Pacific Northwest for a while, you’ve probably heard of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a massive earthquake fault off the coast of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon where the seismic plate holding up the land is slipping underneath the one at the bottom of the ocean. Pressure builds up for centuries along the area where they overlap and rub against each other, and every 500 years a major “rip” occurs where the mainland plate moves farther west and down, and the ocean plate is pushed up (and potentially east). The resulting earthquake is around magnitude 9.0 — about 100 times stronger than the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, our last big seismic event here in Seattle. In addition to the earth-movement damage that it would cause, the uplifting and dropping of the ocean floor along the fault line is expected to cause a tsunami wave. 

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