9/5/21 News Roundup: Surfside Collapse, Endemic COVID, COVID Origin, BDS, Awesome LEGO App, Jews Playing Ball, Chicken On A Plane, And More!

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Some stories and deals don’t get their own post, but should get some coverage. Here are some quick takes on stories that caught my eye. Let’s hear your thoughts about them in the comments below!

View previous roundups and commentary here.


Featured Trip Report

Divora M shares her summer trip to Costa Rica. It’s a country where I’ve long wanted to travel to, have you been there?


Collapse in Surfside

From April to June, just as the COVID pandemic was taking a time-out between waves, we saw 4 devastating collapses that struck Jews across 3 continents. The progressive crowd collapse in Meron on Lag B’Omer claimed 45 victims, the bleacher collapse in Karlin-Stolin on Erev Shavuos claimed 3 victims and injured dozens more, a cable car collapse in Italy killed 14, including an Israeli family of 5, leaving their 5 year old son as an orphan and the lone survivor.

And just in case anyone thought that those are things that only happen in other countries, at 1:25am on June 24th Champlain Towers South collapsed in Surfside, FL, burying 98 people.

While most Americans had to Google where Surfside is, every Orthodox Jew knows exactly where the city is. It’s the heart of Jewish life in South Florida. It’s where we go to vacation and eat on a block that’s like no other in the universe, with dozens of kosher establishments all within walking distance of each other and several hotels. It’s where I went several times over the past year to visit my brother JJ who helps run this website, including for the bris of his triplet son.

JJ lives just half a mile from the building and he quickly helped fundraise for anything that would be needed. He spoke to VINnews about how it struck close to home for him. JJ shared several stories on DDF about the outpouring of love and kindness among the local community and the heroes on the Israeli recue team.

The building knew about major structural damage and critical design errors for years, but getting everyone onboard for an 8 figure repair is no easy feat.

Everyone in Miami knew someone from the building.

Watching videos of water pouring into the collapsed garage before the collapse is surreal. Eyewitnesses say that they saw people rushing onto their balconies to see what was going on before the balcony collapsed.

According to all reports, the IDF team that was tasked to help with the mission was incredible. The diary of Col. Golan Vach is insightful and heart-breaking at the same time. The team’s respect and methodology won hearts and minds.

I loved Golan’s interview with CNN and how he insisted on calling victims people and not bodies:

And it was touching that Golan was able to be present for the naming a granddaughter named after the grandmother that he found in the rubble.

This diagram of each floor of the building shows the devastation left behind in each apartment.

 

4 collapses in middle of a global pandemic. I can’t help but think about what G-d is trying to teach us and where do we go from here? It’s certainly a tough pill to swallow.

But among the tragedy, there were also stories of hope.

The Nir family managed to escape thanks to Sterna Sarah attending a farbrengen and arriving home to strange noises at 12:30am. They escaped seconds before the building came down, which flattened their apartment.

 

Many other people had near misses that night, due to delayed flights, or just happening to stay elsewhere that night.

Several buildings in Miami have been condemned since the collapse, hopefully this terrible tragedy will serve as a lesson for inspectors and will save many lives in the future.

May the friends and families of the 98 victims find comfort and may the Jewish year of 5782, which we will usher in tomorrow night, be a year free of tragedy.


COVID Fourth Wave Or Endemic COVID?

The US is now in its 4th wave of COVID, fueled by the Delta variant. Breakthrough cases means that the dream of stopping COVID in its tracks is just a fantasy.

But it’s not all bad news.

The severe case and death rate among the vaccinated is a small fraction that it is among the non-vaccinated. As was pointed out last year, the vaccines may become less effective against transmission, but if they help stop severe disease, that’s still a win. All current data suggests they do exactly that.

 

Israel’s latest data shows that those who aren’t vaccinated are 18 times more likely to have severe COVID symptoms than those who are fully vaccinated and 8 times more likely to have severe COVID symptoms than those who are partially vaccinated.

 

Some studies, like from Mayo Clinic show that Moderna offers significantly stronger protection against the Delta variant than Pfizer. A Qatar study concurs. That’s unfortunate for Israel, which went all in on Pfizer. It’s good reason for people who got a Pfizer shot to try to get a Moderna booster. US guidelines will recommend staying with the same brand, but other countries have already recommended to mix brands when taking an additional shot to have better protection.

Moderna uses a larger dose and people have twice as many antibodies with it than with Pfizer, which may explain why people with Moderna appear to have higher protection against the Delta Variant.

I think that the CDC has lost some credibility among the masses by refusing to acknowledge that natural immunity after being infected with COVID is typically robust, when that can plainly be seen in many communities with high infection rates.

The CDC’s argument will be that they are waiting for studies, which is fair, but how long will it take to react when studies do come out?

A preprint study which has yet to be peer-reviewed concludes that natural immunity does provide better and longer protection than vaccinated immunity. That being said, those who had COVID and are vaccinated fare better than anyone.

As antibodies do appear to predict protection from COVID, perhaps it’s time for people with antibodies to have the same treatment as people who were vaccinated? Is it fair for employers to require recovered employees to vaccinate if studies show that natural immunity works better?

Of course that will require peer-reviewed studies and updated guidance from the CDC, but I think that will eventually happen. One reason that we didn’t have immunity passports for people who had COVID before vaccines existed is that countries didn’t want people purposefully trying to get COVID. That same concern still exists.

But I’d love to see more studies done on the correlation between antibodies and COVID and if there is a “magic” number of antibodies that will provide better protection against reinfection.

I don’t regret being full vaccinated with Moderna despite having recovered from COVID. Major side effects from the vaccine are incredibly rare and the consensus of Doctors I trust was to get vaccinated. But a big factor for was also to allow myself to travel more easily, though it can’t hurt to be more protected against COVID. Infection and vaccination may just be the way out of the pandemic.

Eventually the world is going to have to come to terms with endemic COVID. There will be new variants that come out. Some will spread faster and some will be more deadly. But countries can only stay closed for so long. Australia is finally realizing that a zero COVID strategy is a pipe dream. Can they and other countries afford to keep their borders closed for years to come? What is the endgame?

We can take precautions and perhaps we’ll need an annual booster shot, but the world has to learn to live with COVID. The dream of defeating it altogether appears shattered, at least for now.


Will We Ever Learn The Truth Of The COVID Origin?

Several bloggers took me to task and called me a conspiracy theorist last year when I wrote about the possibility of COVID coming from a Wuhan lab leak.

A year later and most of the media has changed their tone.

The NY Times writes what we know about the origins and the likelihood of a lab leak. Gain-of-function testing, a controversial practice where scientists manipulate a virus to make it more transmissible and/or more deadly, is a distinct possibility.

The Washington Post writes about the history of the Wuhan lab leak going from a conspiracy theory to a real theory.

The Chinese communist party went on the offensive to label lab-leak theories as racist and offensive.

However Chinese researchers uploaded sequences showing that COVID was present before the Wuhan wet market cases. They were deleted in March 2020, but recovered by a US researcher.

And several researchers from the Wuhan lab were hospitalized in November 2019, before the initial hospitalizations from the Wuhan wet market.

Cellphone data also suggested that the Wuhan lab was shutdown for 2.5 weeks in October 2019 from a potential event that occurred between October 6-11.

When does the conspiracy theory become the logical theory?

Or as Jon Stewart puts it:

 

China isn’t the first communist country to deny a lab leak. It happened in Russia in 1979 and the US backed their cover up story as well. It took the fall of communism to confirm that there was a cover up and a lab leak.

Perhaps it will take an event like that to find out the truth this time as well?


Delta Won’t Reference The Delta Variant

I posted in jest back in June that Delta executives were praying that the next COVID variant won’t be named after their Delta One business class suites:

 

But apparently they really don’t refer to it by the delta variant internally. Delta CEO Ed Bastian announced that none of their hospitalized employees were fully vaccinated and that those hospital bills cost Delta an average of $50,000 each. In response, Delta would be charging unvaccinated employees a surcharge of $200 per month due to the rise of the “B.1.617.2 variant.”

While it was originally called the Indian variant, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone call it the B.1.617.2 variant except for Delta.


South Africa Rejects Delta’s Triangle Route

Delta retired their 777s during the pandemic and had been all set to operate a unique triangle route from Atlanta to Johannesburg to Cape Town to Atlanta to help with the range issues on some of Delta’s A350s that would have a hard time flying from Johannesburg to Atlanta nonstop.

However the South African government stepped in to deny the route.

Delta wasn’t even selling domestic South African tickets from Johannesburg to Cape Town, so there was no reason for the application to be denied, other than the South African government being obstinate…or Delta failing to grease the palms of the right officials?

As a result, the US DOT denied South African Airways the rights to operate triangle routes in the US, though they haven’t done so in quite some time.

But Delta won’t cede the South African market to United. They’ll just use the subfleet of A350s that can make the nonstop journey, though perhaps they’ll have to go light on the cargo on the flight back from Johannesburg to Atlanta. If you want to fly nonstop to Cape Town, you’ll have to do that on United’s seasonal flight there from Newark.


Alaska Bails On JFK-LAX

The Alaska Airlines purchase of Virgin America is one of the stranger airlines mergers that we’ve seen and reminds me of the Southwest-Airtran merger.

While Southwest didn’t want Airtran’s planes or routes, they didn’t want a competitor getting them either, so they paid to avoid other airlines snapping up Airtran. It was a massive gift to Delta, which shared Airtran’s Atlanta hub and who wound up getting Airtran’s delightful Boeing 717s. But Airtran was a rare high quality low cost airline and its marketplace presence is dearly missed.

Perhaps Southwest just wanted to stop commercials like these:

 

Alaska didn’t want Virgin so much as it didn’t want JetBlue buying Virgin and becoming a west coast powerhouse in addition to its east coast focus. So Alaska overpaid for Virgin and proceeded to kill their premium experience and make plans to unload their Airbus planes in favor of its own Boeing fleet.

And now Alaska will discontinue Virgin’s flagship JFK-LAX route effective October 7th. It’s a route that printed money for Virgin America and put them on the map with industry leading first class seats and service in 2007. However with Alaska downgrading the seats and service on the route while other airlines are upgrading their seats and service, Alaska just can’t compete.

United cancelled their JFK-LAX route in 2015 but later learned to regret that decision as it cost them from competing systemically and brought it back earlier this year. Time will tell if Alaska will have the same regrets.


American Airlines Pilot Gives Lifesaving Advice 

Nice to see a story with a happy ending.

We should all be so lucky as to have someone feeding us advice like this when we need it the most!


Beware Of Risk-Free Airline Compensation Claims

This story is mind-boggling. After being delayed by Finnair, the airline refused to pay up for EU delayed flight compensation, blaming the mechanical issues on Airbus.

Passengers outsourced the claims to IfDelayed, a 3rd party company that offered to get compensation in exchange for a cut of the proceeds, but the airline won the case and lawyer fees. IfDelayed declared bankruptcy, so the airline went directly after everyone who claimed compensation and the passengers had to cough up some €7,000 each.

You may not be entitled to delay compensation in the US, but at least you also won’t have to owe an airline thousands of dollars for being delayed!


First Orthodox Jews Are Drafted By MLB Teams

When it rains it pours.

Jacob Steinmetz became the first Orthodox Jew drafted by an MLB team in history, picked by the Diamondbacks far higher than expected.

Incredibly though, he wasn’t alone.

Elie Kligman was later selected by the Nationals.

I can’t pitch for my life (my father is not exactly the sports type, but while I loved watching sports and crunching the numbers, I never was much of a sports player growing up), but I couldn’t be prouder watching my son Rafi have an incredible summer from the mound. I sure hope these new ballplayers will be good role models and will make a true Kiddush Hashem. I can’t wait to see either of them become the 2nd Orthodox Jew to walk up the mound for game 7 of the World Series. 😉

 

Hopefully it won’t be on Yom Kippur either!

 

 


Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Of The Day Is BDS

Unilever’s purchase of Ben & Jerry’s in 2000 had a unique clause. The progressive ice cream brand would retain an independent board to advance its social causes.

In July the board decided to stop selling in Israel in response to Israel having the nerve of defending itself against a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip.

For the first time since 2000, Unilever stepped in to overrule the board and insist that the company would still sell ice cream in Israel, but would stop selling it in Judea and Samaria, or what it called the occupied Palestinian Territories.

Unilever then put out a statement saying that the board makes its own decisions, but they welcomed the fact the Ben & Jerry’s will still be sold in Israel.

That was nonsense and Unilever’s compromise upset everyone. Israel vowed to fight back against BDS.

Ben & Jerry’s chairman of the board Anuradha Mittal said that Unilever violated the acquisition agreement of the company by putting out a statement that the ice cream will still be sold in Israel. She accused Unilever of trying to destroy the soul of the company.

The board said in a separate statement: “The statement released by Ben & Jerry’s regarding its operation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (the OPT) does not reflect the position of the independent board, nor was it approved by the independent board. By taking a position and publishing a statement without the approval of the independent board on an issue directly related to Ben & Jerry’s social mission and brand integrity, Unilever and its CEO at Ben & Jerry’s are in violation of the spirit and the letter of the acquisition agreement.”

Mittal is accused of funneling funds into her own think tank and has been a strong champion of Palestinian causes.

She will likely get her wish to stop selling in Israel, as the country forbids discrimination between Israel proper and Judea and Samaria, which means that the brand may well disappear completely from Israel next year after the current franchise agreement ends.


Amazon Will Insure For Damage, Even When You Buy From A 3rd Party

In an excellent move for sellers and consumers, Amazon will insure and pay out for property damage or personal injury claims of $1,000 or less.

That will cover most claims and it means that 3rd party sellers can sell without worrying about small claims against their products as Amazon won’t ask 3rd party sellers to cover claims that it pays out.

It’s great to see Amazon ensure that products purchased on its marketplace are safe while protecting consumers and sellers.


Don’t Laugh At Jeff Bezos…


Will You BOGO Jobs?

With Work From Home looking like the future of work, some employees are using a BOGO special to get 2 salaries by working 2 jobs!

It’s certainly unethical and I’m shocked that people would admit to doing it. After all, what’s the point about bragging about such a scheme? It reminds me of when someone bragged to the WSJ about buying $800,000 of coins from the mint for the miles. I was also buying 6 figures of coins every month, but I sure wasn’t telling the WSJ about it! The program was shut down shortly after that article.

The WSJ verified that they looked into employees who will make $200K-$600K by double dipping jobs. Of course, they risk losing everything if they’re caught and you better believe that companies will start auditing that after this article. But perhaps the future of work will be based off productivity and some companies will allow such an arrangement?


Uber Hacker

Venture capitalists throw money at high-tech companies without regard if they can make a profit. Which means there are all kinds of arbitrage opportunities.

That ranges from a pizzeria ordering their own pies to turn a profit on Doordash to this:

 


Don’t Fly To Hawaii With A Maderna Shot

In the dumb criminals department, Chloe Mrozak was arrested for flying to Hawaii and avoiding quarantine by presenting a CDC card that said “Maderna.”

While Moderna may be the most effective vaccine, Maderna is not so much.

Somehow, she was allowed to leave the airport, but her vaccination was flagged for verification, and of course it came back as a forgery.

She lied about where she was lodging in Hawaii and lied about her return flight being on American Airlines. Investigators looked at her social media and found a distinctive tattoo on her leg and found out that she was returning on Southwest as she had flown outbound. Then it was just a matter of waiting to nab and arrest her at the airport.

But it’s not just vaccine cards that are faked. Passengers have been caught leaving Israel with fake COVID PCR tests and they face 5,000 shekel fines and future entry bans.

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.


Iceland Is One Strange Place

I was in Iceland in July and it was nothing like any other place I’ve been to. It felt more otherworldly than Svalbard or Antarctica.

I had the time of my life flying over an active volcano there:

 

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But not only does the terrain feel like another planet, but the Chabad Shliach to Iceland points out that the halachic times may as well be from another planet as well:

 

As Iceland has no Tzeis during some parts of the summer, Shabbos doesn’t end until it’s Sunday. By the time it’s Sunday, the fast of the 17th of Tammuz already began…and it didn’t end until Monday morning!

Talk about flashbacks to Antarctica and our 24 hour 10th of Teves fast day!

On that note, talk about an awesome Shliach. I was thrilled that we were able to bring him a suitcase of kosher food when we traveled to Iceland.


Wells Fargo Shutting Down All Personal Lines Of Credit

Wells Fargo is blaming the pandemic for shutting down all personal lines of credit, which can range from $3K-$100K.

They are giving customers a 60 day notice that their accounts are being terminated.

This being Wells Fargo, I guess that means a bunch of people are about to find out they had lines of credit that they never knew about?


An MLB Play For The Ages

I don’t understand how this happens!

How can Pirates first basemen Will Craig not know that all he has to do is touch first base to end the inning? Even if the runner crosses home, tagging first base before Javy Baez does ends the inning on the force out and the run won’t count.

Not that Baez is free from criticism either. How does he just stand there and watch the play at the plate without running back to first base? Lucky for him, he does make it to first and then to second on error, so he winds up looks pretty good just messing with the Pirates here.


Topps Drops The Ball

Topps has dominated baseball cards for 7 decades.

No longer.

The company was informed that their time is up, having been outbid by Fanatics. Chairman and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner was caught flat footed.

It’s an outcome that’s hard to believe, but is a good lesson in business. Don’t put your eggs in one basket. And if you do only have one basket, be sure to lock up that basket for as long as possible!


Get LEGO Building Inspiration From An App

Have a big pile of LEGOs?

There’s an app for that.

Scan your pile and the app will suggest different things you can build and provide instructions to build it.

My only advice? Avoid stepping on a big pile of LEGOs! #BTDT


Birds On A Plane

Ever wondered how they get birds off a plane? Me neither, but wonder no more!

 


Chickens On A Plane

Ew.

And this is another reason why I travel with Polar Bear cooler bags and not traditional coolers.

https://twitter.com/ABC7/status/1432817340526125064


A Stroll Back In Time…Flying From Iceland To JFK In 1966:

The first 10 minutes of this video will take you back to aviation’s golden era, on a Loftleidir flight on a Canadair CL-44 from Keflavik to JFK in 1966. You’ll even see the PanAm Worldport and the TWA Saarinen Terminal back in their glory days at 9:08 into the video!


Emirates Is On Top Of The World

I have no words. What an ad!

 


Share your thoughts on these stories or post a comment about what other stories that I missed!


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23 Comments On "9/5/21 News Roundup: Surfside Collapse, Endemic COVID, COVID Origin, BDS, Awesome LEGO App, Jews Playing Ball, Chicken On A Plane, And More!"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.

c

wells fargo backtracked to some extent on the personal lines of credit.
https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/19/investing/wells-fargo-consumer-line-of-credit/index.html

Abey

VX buyout by AS is perhaps one of the lousiest decisions for an otherwise great company, B6 continues to grow exponentially and has only benefited.
Legislation needs to step up in the case of Surfside not to allow continued living in buildings flagged as structurally in danger, say 3 months to file plans to fix etc. otherwise you can’t expect residents to always grasp the gravity of the situation

Yitz

I dont think that there is anybody but John Stewart who can come on Colberts show and make it funny again….

Mr. Knowitall

in Alaska, whenever 17 tamuz falls out mon motzoei shabbos / sunday, Havdala is not made until monday mornign as the fast actually starts on Sunday “morning” before shabbos actually ends.

BT

“I think that the CDC has lost some credibility”

Understatement of the century.

chaim

amazon requires third party sellers to have liability insurance and name amazon as a co-insured. When amazon pays the claim of under 1000 they will attempt to get it from the sellers insurance. If the seller does not have the required insurance amazon will bill the seller for the claim that they paid and take the money from the sellers funds. So while this announcement may be beneficial to the customer it is not beneficial to the seller and I believe your take is incorrect

sam

did the guy who spoke to the WSJ at least make money for the article after ruined the best-manufactured spend idea of the last century???

Boruch

I’m enjoying the fighting between B&J and unilever. But if we really want to have an impact on these 2 anti-Semitic corporations, it will only happen with a concerted effort to boycott them, which means every product owned by unilever, not just b&j. THAT will have an impact on them. Hit the bastards in the pocketbook. Unlike the gift everybody has given the drug cartel

Simcha

Dan-I missed these roundups.
Thanks for starting again.
שנה טובה

ShmuliT

+1

Sam

Don’t hold your breathe on the CDC recognizing natural immunity.

Eli

Wishing you and yours a כתיבה וחתימה טובה
Very good read as usual.

My favorite line is about the 2nd frum pitcher in game 7. LOL!!!

General comments

Thanks for sharing the difference between the two vaccines . I was debating which one to use now I have more information .

Thank you for explaining in what way Iceland is a more unique place than Svalbard and Antarctica . I think with Iceland being so easy to get to people might think it’s not as exotic .

Thanks for explaining the JFK to LAX competition as it is one of the most important route inside the United States .

turgutbey

Dan, can you link to info on other countries allowing moderna booster if you got pfizer originally

Jacob

I really don’t get the conflicting stories that come out of Israel. You’re cherry picking one. Other stories I saw (on mainstream news sites) in the beginning of Delta and still recently was that a large percentage (more than majority) of those hospitalized in Israel for Covid are indeed vaccinated.

(I can tell you -anecdotally- of someone I know personally in Israel, young man who was triple vaxxed, and just got a bad case of covid)

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