Chicken little forecast

Still Chugging Along

Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.


Bye, Cancer

Our latest newsletter takes a look at a big development for cancer screenings, Biden's plan to withdraw from Afghanistan, (rare) concerns regarding the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and more.

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

This is our weekly newsletter, What Could Go Right? Sign up here to receive it in your inbox every Thursday at 6am. You can read past issues here.

The new mRNA technology may revolutionize medicine, and there has been heaps of well-deserved coverage of that. Here’s another piece of eye-popping medical news that is flying under the radar: a new cancer screening that can be done with a blood draw at your annual physical. Only ten years ago, the tech seemed impossible to achieve.

Instead of relying on biopsies, scans, or endoscopies—and instead of giving up on certain cancers that currently can’t be screened at all—a handful of companies are developing what’s called a liquid biopsy, a blood test that can detect cancer. One company, Grail, is planning to launch theirs, which covers 50 different kinds of cancer, within months. Their goal is to prevent nearly 40% of cancer deaths among those screened. (Two side notes: it’s a Barron’s article, so investors, take note, and thanks to reader Alaina, who sent this story in.)

In other cancer news, the common cold is finally useful for something: researchers are studying a new method that combines a common cold virus with an immunotherapy drug to shrink inoperable melanoma tumors. Next steps include seeing whether patients whose tumors did shrink can be candidates for surgery to remove the tumors entirely.

Since there is a lot of concern out there around the safety of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a few helpful links. Quartz with a list of all the things that carry a higher risk of blood clots, including flying and taking birth control. The Washington Post with a nifty tracker that shows all the J&J vaccinations as grey dots, the lives saved from COVID-19 due to the J&J vaccine as blue dots, and the blood clot complications as red dots. (Spoiler, although we do recommend taking a look at the article: the point is you have to watch the tracker for over three hours before a red dot appears, but blue dots appear almost immediately.) And a Twitter thread collecting positive vaccination stories.

Cheers to our readers in the UK, where one survey found that instead of anti-vaxx fears materializing and stunting vaccination progress, 94% of adults feel positively about the coronavirus vaccines, with many of those previously unwilling to take them changing their mind.

A couple follow-ups from last week: First, we’re feeling prescient about asking whether Biden might end endless wars, given that he’s announced a September pullout from Afghanistan. The war there has cost tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and thousands of US service members their lives, as well as trillions of dollars. “It’s tremendously encouraging,” said Quincy Institute’s Stephen Wertheim in this Rolling Stone piece that asks some questions about what might come next, both for US foreign policy and for Afghanistan. Embedded in there is the not-insignificant fact that ending US military intervention is hugely popular on the right and on the left. And here’s an optimistic take on Afghanistan’s future from the United Nations Development Programme representative for Afghanistan.

Second, TPN Member David Brooks is on the “good news about good mental health train” with us, recently tweeting about the low 2020 suicide rates. It feels especially important to correct the record on that given that it’s high on the list of what’s stressing Americans out. In a new graph from Statista, worry over high suicide rates takes fifth place, coming in under only the pandemic, healthcare, mass shootings, and climate change.

Below in the links section, The Economist’s package about why workers are going to hold the power soon, the modern solution of AI and machine learning to the biblical problem of locust swarms, a much-improved president for Tanzania, and more. 

Concerns over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine seem to be following a similar path to the ones over AstraZeneca’s. A picture may be worth a thousand words in risk analysis, too. Credit for the graphic goes to Andrew Kemendo

From us: Though not as flashy as the “stimmies” we all know and love, the expansion of the Child Tax Credit could be a real game changer. It’s expected to reduce child poverty by nearly half, putting the woefully-behind US in the company of wealthy countries that offer parents assistance with the costs of raising children. How will it work and what progress might come next? Find out in our latest Progress in 5 Minutes.

Progress, Please

(Found good news? Tweet at us @progressntwrk or email.)

TPN picks: our suggested reads and listens this week 🤓

TPN Member originals 

Other good stuff in the news 

Upcoming Events

Futureproof: 9 Rules for Humans in the Age of Automation | Erik Brynjolfsson | April 15
Fireside Chat with Biden’s National Climate Advisor | Bina Venkataraman | April 19
The Social Media Summit at MIT | Andrew McAfee & Eli Pariser | April 22

New Member Alert

Economist Noreena Hertz is on a quest to reconnect us. Her latest book, The Lonely Century: Coming Together in a World That’s Pulling Apartposits thatloneliness is the defining condition of the twenty-first century. The culprits? Technology, yes, but also the dismantling of civic institutions, the radical reorganization of the workplace, mass migration to cities, and decades of neoliberal policies.

Named by The Observer as “one of the world’s leading thinkers” and by Vogue as “one of the world’s most inspiring women,” Noreena is an honorary professor at University College London. Her previous books are The Silent TakeoverThe Debt Threat, and Eyes Wide Open.

Welcome, Noreena. You can read more about her work here.

Vaccination Selfie of the Ages

When we asked our readers to send us their vaccination selfies, we were not expecting to receive anything close to this level of incredible. TPN Member Deborah Fallows sent us this shot of 107-year-old Leontina Garau, of Rome, Italy, receiving her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine!

Nonna, as she’s affectionately called, is homebound, and in Rome, vaccines are still very hard to come by. A doctor (the one in red) and a nurse (yellow) came to Nonna’s apartment to administer the dose in her kitchen on Monday, April 5.

On the right is Nonna’s son, Pietro. The photo was taken by Deborah’s sister, Susan Garau, and is shared with permission. Nonna is doing well after her dose. This is her second global pandemic.

🐧We’re not usually an organization that links to elderly men knitting at-risk penguins sweaters, but we couldn’t resist this. . .

See you next week!

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Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas is the Executive Director of The Progress Network. An editor and writer specializing in nonprofit media, she was formerly Executive Editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and is the editor of two books from Wisdom Publications.