Sixteen years of remote sensing data reveals that in Earth’s largest freshwater lakes, climate change influences carbon fixation trends.
NASA-funded research on the 11 largest freshwater lakes in the world coupled field and satellite observations to provide a new understanding of how large bodies of water fix carbon, as well as how a changing climate and lakes interact.
How Do Lakes Fix Carbon?
Phytoplankton are microscopic algae that photosynthesize, or make energy from sunlight. Carbon fixation is a part of photosynthesis — inorganic carbon (particularly carbon dioxide) is converted into an organic compound by an organism. All living things on Earth contain organic carbon. The amount of phytoplankton and the rate at which they photosynthesize equal the carbon fixation rate in a lake.
Scientists at the Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI) studied the five Laurentian Great Lakes bordering the U.S. and Canada; the three African Great Lakes, Tanganyika, Victoria and Malawi; Lake Baikal in Russia; and Great Bear and Great Slave lakes in Canada.
These 11 lakes hold more than 50% of the surface freshwater that millions of people and countless other creatures rely on, underscoring the importance of understanding how they are being altered by climate change and other factors.
The two Canadian lakes and Lake Tanganyika saw the greatest changes in primary productivity — the growth of algae in a water body. Productivity fluctuations point to big changes in lake ecosystems.
“The base of the food chain in these lakes is algal productivity. These lakes are oceanic in size, and are teeming with phytoplankton — small algae,” said co-author Gary Fahnenstiel, a fellow at MTRI and recently retired senior research scientist for NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. “We measured the carbon fixation rate, which is the rate at which the algae photosynthesize in these lakes. As that rate changes, whether increasing or decreasing, it means the whole lake is changing, which has ramifications all the way up the food chain, from the zooplankton to the fish.”
Many factors affect these lakes. Climate change, increasing nutrients (eutrophication) and invasive species all combine to cause systemwide change — making it difficult to pinpoint specific causes, particularly from the ground with limited on-site observations.
Counting Phytoplankton with Color
But satellite imagery has made sorting through the noise easier and provides insights over time and space. Michael Sayers, MTRI research scientist and study lead author, uses ocean color remote sensing — making inferences about type and quantity of phytoplankton based on the color of the water — to track freshwater phytoplankton dynamics.
p id=”caption-attachment-109254″>Annual lakewide production over the 16-year study period (2003-2018) for Lake Tanganyika, Great Bear Lake and Great Slave Lake. Each of these lakes exhibited significant changes in production over this time period, with the best fit line plotted over the annual data. Description: A line plot with three lines showing lake production trends for Lake Tanganyika (the line is trending down), Great Slave Lake (the line is trending up) and Great Bear Lake (the line is trending up). Credit: Karl Bosse/MTRI
“We’ve relied on NASA assets — the MODIS satellite, which has been flying since 2002, to which we apply the algorithm and model we’ve been developing at MTRI for a decade,” Sayers said. “When we start to tally the numbers of pixels as observations globally for 11 lakes for 16 years, it is really quite remarkable.” The pixels observed per lake number “in the millions,” he added.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the results is just how fast changes in these freshwater lakes have occurred — a noticeable amount in fewer than 20 years. The research contributes to NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System’s goal of determining how much freshwater lakes contribute to the global carbon cycle.
“Three of the largest lakes in the world are showing major changes related to climate change, with a 20-25% change in overall biological productivity in just the past 16 years,” Fahnenstiel said.
More Than Algae
In the 16 years of data, Great Bear and Great Slave lakes in northern Canada saw the greatest increases in productivity, while Lake Tanganyika in southeastern Africa has seen decreases. The trends are linked to increases in water temperatures, as well as solar radiation and a reduction in wind speed.
Sayers said looking at productivity, algal abundance, water clarity, water temperature, solar radiation and wind speeds at freshwater lakes provides a richer picture of the overall ecosystem.
“Temperature and solar radiation are factors of climate change,” Sayers said. “Chlorophyll and water transparency changes are not necessarily caused by climate change, but could be caused by eutrophication or invasive species, like quagga mussels.”
The researchers used lake measurements performed by the Great Lakes Research Center research vessel fleet to ground truth the satellite observations and to provide input for model estimates.
The article “Carbon Fixation Trends in Eleven of the World’s Largest Lakes: 2003–2018” is published in the journal Water. The researchers plan to continue their research, applying what they’ve learned so far to the role harmful algal blooms have on carbon flux to the atmosphere.
As the saying goes, water is life. Gaining a better understanding of how lake productivity changes affect the bodies of water so many people rely on is important to the communities who live on the lakeshores. It’s also significant to the global community as we delve deeper into the role freshwater lakes play in the global carbon cycle and climate change.
Reference: “Carbon Fixation Trends in Eleven of the World’s Largest Lakes: 2003–2018” by Michael Sayers, Karl Bosse, Gary Fahnenstiel and Robert Shuchman, 12 December 2020, Water.
Jan. 26 is a hard day for the Bryant family. This time last year, Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, were killed in a helicopter crash. The retired NBA pro was 41.
On Tuesday, Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife and Gianna’s mother, paid tribute to the pair by sharing a letter written by one of the late teenager’s friends.
In the moving note, Aubrey Callaghan wrote that she’s “thinking and praying” for Vanessa “constantly” and “cannot begin to comprehend” what she’s going through.
“[Gianna’s] smile and attitude push me to be better,” Aubrey wrote. “You have probably heard this, but if I ever become a mom, I hope my daughter turns out exactly as yours did.”
Aubrey remembered Gianna as someone who was “kind, caring and endlessly polite,” who taught her and their other friends to “be better versions” of themselves.
She next praised Gianna’s “love of life,” writing that she “attacked each day as though it was hers to conquer,” whether through basketball, her participation in their school musical, or her work on student council.
“She would smile and bring the rest of us up with her,” Aubrey wrote. “… Gianna was fiery and stubborn, she knew what she wanted and she fought to get it.”
“… She cared. She knew when I was having a bad day, and knew just how to make it better,” Aubrey added.” She was generous with her snacks when I forgot mine. She left me notes in my notebook that I cherish. She was incredible.”
While Aubrey noted that she’s had “a pit of despair thinking about [Gianna] and what she could’ve accomplished had she had a couple more years,” she’s tried to refocus her thoughts on “the mark she did leave on this earth.”
“Her fights for equality in sports made the world reconsider there [sic] opinions, she along with Mr. Bryant, set the wheels in motion,” Aubrey wrote. “But on a lower level, on behalf of every person who came across her, I can say that she changed our lives. Her simple actions made all of us a better person, and I believe that the results of this will never stop appearing.”
Aubrey concluded her note by writing, “I hope that in the midst of your intense sadness you catch a glimpse of joy in who the daughter you created and raised was. You did it right Mrs. Bryant, and we are all eternally grateful to you.”
“I am so, so blessed I got to have time with your angel of a daughter, and thank you for giving me that chance,” she added. “I love you and am thinking of you as we remember and honor her life. If you ever need more stories of her, I am filled to the brim and would be priveledged [sic] to share them with you.”
Vanessa was clearly moved by the letter, thanking Aubrey in the caption for “beautifully sharing some of your memories of my Gigi with me and allowing me to share them here on my ig.”
“Today I received this sweet letter from one of Gianna’s best friends, Aubrey. I love you Aubz (as my Gigi would call you),” Vanessa captioned the letter. “… My Gigi is INCREDIBLE and I truly appreciate your thoughtful letter. She loves you so much.”
Vanessa continued by writing that she misses her “baby girl and Kob-Kob so much, too.”
“I will never understand why/how this tragedy could’ve happened to such beautiful, kind and amazing human beings. It still doesn’t seem real,” she wrote. “Kob, we did it right. Gigi, you still make mommy proud. I love you!”
Ahead of the one year anniversary of Kobe and Gianna’s deaths, a source told ET that Vanessa and her other daughters — Capri, 1, Bianka, 4, and Natalia, 17 — “have been extremely thankful for their friends and family for their help and love over the past year.”
“Vanessa and people close to her plan to celebrate the one-year anniversary privately and reminisce on their time with the two,” the source said. “Vanessa and her daughters have gotten stronger over the past year but there are days when it’s much harder for them as it comes in waves. Vanessa plans to continue to honor Kobe and Gianna’s legacy and has some projects in the works to do so.”
Since the death of her husband and daughter, Vanessa has posted on several occasions in honor of her two loves lost.
Earlier this month, the 38-year-old posted a clip of Kobe talking about the ups and downs of marriage. He and Vanessa had been married for nearly 20 years when he died.
In the clip, a smiling Kobe calls happiness “a beautiful journey.”
“It has its ups and downs, whether it’s in marriage, whether it’s in career. Things are never perfect. But through love you continue to persevere and you move through,” he says. “Through that storm, a beautiful sun emerges. Inevitably, another storm comes. Guess what? You ride that one out too.”
For more on Vanessa and Kobe’s love story, watch the video below.
WASHINGTON – Less than one week into the administration of President Joe Biden, much of the talk in Washington is focused on the dysfunction on Capitol Hill, a spate of executive orders from the new president, and the looming impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. None of the three bodes well for bipartisan cooperation so pessimism might seem justified.
However, when experts look at the major policy areas that Biden identified in last week’s inaugural address, there are at least some areas where agreement across the aisle is a real possibility.
Coronavirus rescue package
The Biden administration came out of the gate with a request for $1.9 trillion in spending on various programs related to the coronavirus pandemic, including major economic stimulus spending and a large investment in federal infrastructure to get the vaccine to as many Americans as it can, as quickly as it can.
FILE – Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, left, and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer are seen during a joint session of Congress in the House chamber in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.
Republicans on Capitol Hill were quick to label the proposal “dead on arrival” because of its price tag, but some observers believe their initial reluctance might be overcome by the reality of the country’s economic situation.
“I think that even though people are calling it dead on arrival, there’s a lot in this bill that’s probably going to make it,” said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. Few lawmakers, he said, are going to want to stand in the way of programs meant to get people inoculated against the virus, and while there will probably be some arguing about the size of stimulus payments, the popularity of that part of the proposal will make it difficult to kill off entirely.
On tax policy specifically, Gleckman believes there is considerable bipartisan agreement on a number of proposals that might turn up in the relief package or a follow-on bill. There is support for expanding the tax credit that filers receive for children under their care and for expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to childless workers.
Gleckman said that Biden’s Made In America tax credit, meant to spur domestic manufacturing, will also likely have bipartisan support.
As with trade policy, Biden will confront a GOP that has made a sharp change of course on matters of immigration over the past several years. The Republican establishment had, for decades, been largely supportive of immigration, seeing it as a driver of economic demand and a source of lower-cost labor.
That began to change even before Trump, but the party took an even more aggressive anti-immigration stance under the former president.
FILE – Demonstrators with the New York Immigration Coalition rally asking President Joe Biden to prioritize immigration reform, Nov. 9, 2020, in New York.
However, Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, believes there are still a number of pro-immigration Republicans who have been silent during the Trump years, but who could support some of the changes Biden is proposing.
For example, the Biden proposal would seek to streamline and expand the process for bringing skilled workers into the country — a move that could earn support from Republicans with ties to the business community.
Those less enthusiastic about immigration might support other initiatives, such as a proposal to allow the Department of Homeland Security to vary the number of green cards issued each year depending on economic conditions.
“This is actually something that the Migration Policy Institute has been advocating for years, because it doesn’t make sense that our immigration [volume] is set by law,” Pierce said. “It should be flexible and maintain a relationship with market conditions within the United States.”
Another Biden proposal, to increase the wages paid to temporary workers, could appeal to some who have opposed guest worker programs on the theory that migrant labor tends to drive down the wages of competing U.S. workers.
Potential bipartisan agreement on immigration reform has limits, however. Biden’s most ambitious proposal, an eight-year path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, mirrors efforts that withered and died in Congress during both the former Obama and George W. Bush administrations.
With the exception of a few outliers, Republicans in the House and Senate oppose most of the major climate initiatives that Biden and the majority of the Democratic Party are advocating. The announcement that on his first day in office Biden had recommitted the U.S. to the Paris Climate Agreement, for instance, was met with angry denunciations from multiple Republican members of Congress.
FILE – Then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holding his granddaughter, Isabelle Dobbs-Higginson, signs the book during the signature ceremony for the Paris Agreement at the United Nations General Assembly Hall, April 22, 2016, in New York.
However, the GOP’s objections to dealing with climate change are regularly overridden when they conflict with national security interests, said Erin Sikorsky, deputy director of the Center for Climate and Security.
“In the past four years, you’ve actually seen that the House and Senate have passed pragmatic climate security legislation, usually through the National Defense Authorization Act each year, and so I think that’s definitely an area where the Biden administration can find bipartisan consensus with Congress,” she said.
This will be cold comfort to most environmental activists, however, as the measures are largely reactive rather than proactive, including steps like making military bases more resistant to extreme weather and funding programs that allow climate scientists to interact with the intelligence community.
The debate over trade has shifted dramatically in the four years since Joe Biden last served in the White House as vice president. Under Trump, the GOP radically reshaped its position on trade, following the former president’s lead by supporting tariffs and protectionism. That, perhaps surprisingly, makes trade one of the areas ripest for bipartisan cooperation.
“Trade is an issue on which, in terms of actual policy, the incoming Biden administration is closer to Trump than on most other, or maybe nearly all other, issues,” said Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Within the Biden administration, he said, the prevailing view is that “the goal of trade should not be foremost to follow the law of comparative advantage and try to enlarge two-way commerce, but rather to advance labor, environmental and human rights and, as needed, protect jobs.”
FILE – Visitors chat near American and Chinese flags displayed at a booth for an American company promoting environmental sensors during the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Nov. 7, 2019.
Biden has appointed Katherine Tai, a trade attorney who speaks Mandarin and has a history of challenging the trade practices of the Chinese government, as U.S. Trade Representative. Her past support for tough-on-China policies has earned her bipartisan support in Congress. Early indications also suggest that the Biden administration may believe, as many trade economists do, that the center of power in international trade has moved away from the World Trade Organization and toward a network of individual trade agreements, many of them bilateral.
A lingering question will be the U.S. position with regard to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a pact that creates a massive free trade zone in the Pacific region. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the accord, which had been largely negotiated by the Obama administration, a move that was supported by many Democrats.
However, now the United Kingdom and China are both looking to join the CPTPP. The participation of two more major U.S. trading partners in the accord — and especially China — may leave Biden’s team wondering whether it wouldn’t be preferable to have a seat at the table as a counter to Chinese influence.
U.S. senators will be sworn in Tuesday as jurors in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
The trial itself will not begin until the week of February 8, after Democratic and Republican leaders agreed to a short delay in order to give both the lawmakers who will serve as prosecutors and Trump’s defense team time to prepare. The extra time will also allow the Senate a chance to confirm more of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees.
House lawmakers who will serve as trial prosecutors made a ceremonial walk to the Senate chamber Monday evening to deliver the article of impeachment charging Trump with inciting insurrection in connection with the storming of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters earlier this month. The assault sent lawmakers scrambling for safety and resulted in the deaths of five people.
Lead House manager Jamie Raskin from Maryland read the charges, saying Trump “gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of the government.”
U.S. House lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin, D-MD, hands over the House article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump, on the floor of the U.S. Senate in this this frame grab from video shot at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 25, 2021.
Trump defense team
Trump has hired ethics and election lawyer Butch Bowers to lead his defense along with Deborah Barbier, a former federal prosecutor who works as a defense attorney specializing in white-collar crime.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who holds the largely ceremonial role of Senate president pro tempore, said Monday he will preside over the impeachment trial. The U.S. Constitution calls for the chief justice of the Supreme Court to preside over impeachment hearings for a president, but because Trump is no longer in office, officials said Chief Justice John Roberts would not preside.
Leahy, 80, was first elected to the Senate in 1974, making him the longest-serving member. He told reporters at the Capitol his role will be “making sure that procedures are followed” and said his years in the Senate will help him to be seen as impartial.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the new president pro tempore of the Senate, pauses in the Rotunda of the Capitol before the article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump is delivered in Washington, Jan. 25, 2021.
“When presiding over an impeachment trial, the president pro tempore takes an additional special oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws. It is an oath that I take extraordinarily seriously,” Leahy said in a statement.
Aides to Leahy said the lawmaker will still be able to vote in the trial. Republican Senator John Cornyn criticized that arrangement on Twitter, saying, “How does a Senator preside, like a judge, and serve as juror, too?”
Cornyn also suggested Trump has already faced punishment at the ballot box, one of several arguments Republicans have made in opposition of holding the trial.
“One way in our system you get punished is losing an election,” Cornyn said.
Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, said that while Trump “exhibited poor leadership,” it’s the people who assaulted the Capitol who “bear the responsibility.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said the Senate will conduct “a timely and fair trial.” He dismissed Republican opposition to the process, saying the trial is “certainly and clearly constitutional.”
“There is only one question at stake. Only one question that Senators of both parties will have to answer, before God and their own conscience: is former President Trump guilty of inciting an insurrection against the United States?” Schumer said.
Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley said the Senate’s responsibility is to hear the evidence and render a judgment.
Vice President Mike Pence administers the oath of office to Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., during a reenactment ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 3, 2021.
“This is about the most serious crime against the constitution one could imagine,” he tweeted. “Every senator was a witness; every senator experienced the threat to the very foundation of our democracy. We must treat it with absolute seriousness and conduct the trial accordingly.”
Two-thirds majority needed to convict
A two-thirds majority in the Senate would be required to convict Trump. With the Senate politically divided between 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats, 17 Republicans would have to turn against Trump for a conviction, assuming all Democrats vote as a bloc against the former president.
Biden told the U.S.-based cable news network CNN on Monday he did not think there would be enough Republican support for a conviction. He said the trial “has to happen,” and that there would be “a worse effect if it didn’t happen.”
At a January 6 rally near the White House, Trump repeated weeks of unfounded complaints that he had been cheated out of reelection by fraudulent votes and vote-counting even though he had lost 60 court challenges to the outcome.
He urged his supporters to march to the Capitol to fight for him in confronting members of Congress as they debated certifying Biden’s election win.
The mayhem left five people dead, including a police officer whose death is being investigated as a homicide. Trump supporters — roughly 800, according to officials — rampaged past authorities, ransacked some congressional offices and scuffled with police before order was restored and lawmakers in the early hours of January 7 officially declared Biden the winner.
If he is convicted, a separate, simple-majority vote could bar Trump from holding federal office again.
Trump stands as the only U.S. president in the country’s 245-year history to be impeached twice. The House impeached him in late 2019, accusing him of trying to enlist Ukraine to dig up dirt against Biden ahead of the November election, but the Senate acquitted him last February.
The addition brings new capabilities to the network, which acts as an interplanetary switchboard, connecting us to missions at the Moon and far beyond.
A powerful new antenna has been added to the NASA Space Communications and Navigation’s Deep Space Network (DSN), which connects us to the space robots exploring our solar system. Called Deep Space Station 56, or DSS-56, the dish is now online and ready to communicate with a variety of missions, including NASA’s Perseverance rover when it lands on the Red Planet next month.
The new 34-meter-wide (112-foot-wide) dish has been under construction at the Madrid Deep Space Communications Complex in Spain since 2017. Existing antennas are limited in the frequency bands they can receive and transmit, often restricting them to communicating only with specific spacecraft. DSS-56 is the first to use the Deep Space Network’s full range of communication frequencies as soon as it went online. This means DSS-56 is an “all-in-one” antenna that can communicate with all the missions that the DSN supports and can be used as a backup for any of the Madrid complex’s other antennas.
“DSS-56 offers the Deep Space Network additional real-time flexibility and reliability,” said Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator and program manager of NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN). “This new asset symbolizes and underscores our ongoing support for more than 30 deep space missions who count on our services to enable their success.”
You can check in on the which spacecraft the Deep Space Network’s antennas are currently communicating with via the online application DSN Now. Click on a dish to learn more about the live connection between the spacecraft and the ground.
With the addition of DSS-56 and other 34-meter antennas to all three DSN complexes around the world, the network is preparing to play a critical role in ensuring communication and navigation support for upcoming Moon and Mars missions and the crewed Artemis missions.
“The Deep Space Network is vital to so much of what we do – and to what we plan to do – throughout the solar system. It’s what connects us here on Earth to our distant robotic explorers, and, with the improvements that we’re making to the network, it connects us to the future as well, expanding our capabilities as we prepare human missions for the Moon and beyond,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA’s headquarters in Washington. “This latest antenna was built as an international partnership and will ultimately benefit all of humanity as we continue to explore deep space.”
With DSS-56’s increased flexibility came a more complex start-up phase, which included testing and calibration of a larger suite of systems, before the antenna could go online. On Friday, January 22, the international partners who oversaw the antenna’s construction attended a virtual ribbon-cutting event to officially mark the occasion – an event that had been delayed due to historic snowfall blanketing much of Spain.
“After the lengthy process of commissioning, the DSN’s most capable 34-meter antenna is now talking with our spacecraft,” said Bradford Arnold, DSN project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Even though pandemic restrictions and the recent weather conditions in Spain have been significant challenges, the staff in Madrid persevered, and I am proud to welcome DSS-56 to the global DSN family.”
More About the Deep Space Network
In addition to Spain, the Deep Space Network has ground stations in California (Goldstone) and Australia (Canberra). This configuration allows mission controllers to communicate with spacecraft throughout the solar system at all times during Earth’s rotation.
The forerunner to the DSN was established in January 1958 when JPL was contracted by the U.S. Army to deploy portable radio tracking stations in California, Nigeria, and Singapore to receive telemetry of the first successful U.S. satellite, Explorer 1. Shortly after JPL was transferred to NASA on Dec. 3, 1958, the newly-formed U.S. civilian space program established the Deep Space Network to communicate with all deep space missions. It has been in continuous operation since 1963 and remains the backbone of deep space communications for NASA and international missions, supporting historic events such as the Apollo Moon landings and checking in on our interstellar explorers, Voyager 1 and 2.
The Deep Space Network is managed by JPL for SCaN, which is located at NASA’s headquarters within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. The Madrid station is managed on NASA’s behalf by Spain’s national research organization, Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (National Institute of Aerospace Technology).
Researchers with the Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI) and collaborators at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and in Orange County, CA, have published the first direct evidence that higher omega-3 blood levels may reduce risk for death from COVID-19 infection. The report was published in the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids on January 20, 2021.
There are several papers in the medical literature hypothesizing that omega-3 fatty acids should have beneficial effects in patients with COVID-19 infection, but up until now, there have been no published peer-reviewed studies supporting that hypothesis.
This study included 100 patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 for whom admission blood samples had been stored. Clinical outcomes for these patients were obtained and blood was analyzed for the Omega-3 Index (O3I, red blood cell membrane EPA+DHA levels) at OmegaQuant Analytics (Sioux Falls, SD). Fourteen of the patients died.
The 100 patients were grouped into four quartiles according to their O3I, with 25% of the patients in each quartile. There was one death in the top quartile (i.e., 1 death out of 25 patients with O3I>5.7%), with 13 deaths in the remaining patients (i.e., 13 deaths out of 75 patients with O3I<5.7%).
In age-and-sex adjusted regression analyses, those in the highest quartile (O3I >5.7%) were 75% less likely to die compared with those in the lower three quartiles (p=0.07). Stated another way, the relative risk for death was about four times higher in those with a lower O3I (<5.7%) compared to those with higher levels.
“While not meeting standard statistical significance thresholds, this pilot study – along with multiple lines of evidence regarding the anti-inflammatory effects of EPA and DHA – strongly suggests that these nutritionally available marine fatty acids may help reduce risk for adverse outcomes in COVID-19 patients. Larger studies are clearly needed to confirm these preliminary findings,” said Arash Asher, MD, the lead author on this study.
Agreeing with Dr. Asher, cardiology researcher and co-developer with Dr. Harris of the Omega-3 Index, Clemens von Schacky, MD, (CEO, Omegametrix GmbH, Martinsried, Germany, and not involved with the study) said, “Asher et al have demonstrated that a low Omega-3 Index might be a powerful predictor for death from COVID-19. Although encouraging, their findings clearly need to be replicated.”
Omega-3 expert James H. O’Keefe, Jr., MD, (Director of Preventive Cardiology, Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, MO, and also not involved with the study) observed, “An excessive inflammatory response, referred to as a ‘cytokine storm,’ is a fundamental mediator of severe COVID-19 illness. Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) have potent anti-inflammatory activities, and this pilot study provides suggestive evidence that these fatty acids may dampen COVID-19’s cytokine storm.”
The FARI research team is currently seeking funding to expand upon these preliminary observations. Individuals and organizations that want to support this research are encouraged to visit FARI’s donations page.
Reference: “Blood omega-3 fatty acids and death from COVID-19: A Pilot Study” by Arash Asher, Nathan L. Tintle, Michael Myers, Laura Lockshon, Heribert Bacareza and William S. Harris, 20 January 2021, Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids.
The Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI) is a non-profit research and education foundation. FARI was founded in order to accelerate discovery of the health effects of fatty acids, most notably, the long chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. FARI researchers and scientists will focus single-mindedly on publishing high-quality research studies on the multiple relationships between fatty acid levels and human (and animal) health outcomes. These studies will improve the ability to predict risk for disease, and more importantly, suggest ways to reduce risk by changing our diets and/or supplementation regimens.
The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the nomination of Antony Blinken to be the country’s next secretary of state.
At a confirmation hearing last week, Blinken said he is ready to confront the challenges posed by China, Iran, Russia and North Korea.
He said China “poses the most significant challenge” to U.S. national interests, while noting there is room for cooperation.
“There are rising adversarial aspects of the relationship; certainly, competitive ones, and still some cooperative ones, when it is in our mutual interests,” he added.
Nominated Secretary of State Antony Blinken participates as US President Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet announcement event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Nov. 24, 2020.
He also pledged to rebuild State Department morale and the diplomatic corps. Blinken said he sees U.S. standing abroad as leadership based on “humility and confidence.”
Blinken was deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration and has close ties with President Joe Biden. He was staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel, and later was then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser.
The Foreign Relations Committee approved Blinken’s nomination by a vote of 15-3, sending the matter to the full Senate for final approval.
U.S. President Joe Biden expressed a sense of urgency for lawmakers to find agreement on a new coronavirus aid package, saying Monday, “Time is of the essence.”
Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion plan that includes money to increase the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations, help for schools to reopen, financial relief for state and local governments, and $1,400 direct payments for individuals.
Republicans have pushed back both on the size of the package and on the speed of the negotiations.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that “any further action should be smart and targeted, not just an imprecise deluge of borrowed money that would direct huge sums toward those who don’t need it.”
Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, said consideration of a package of such size and scope “seems premature.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that while passage in the Senate will not be easy, he is aiming to get approval for an aid package in the next four to six weeks.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., heads to an interview on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that action is needed before the United States reaches an “unemployment cliff” in March, when long-term unemployment benefits expire for millions of Americans.
Biden told reporters he is reluctant to “cherry-pick and take out one or two items,” seeing the whole plan as critical in responding to the many challenges posed by the pandemic that has killed more than 420,000 people in the United States.
The president, who served in the Senate for 36 years, said he understands the legislative process, and that while he wants aid legislation to have bipartisan support, there will be arguments.
He cited the $1,400 payments, which decrease above certain income thresholds, and said he is open to negotiating such details.
“Well, there’s legitimate reason for people to say, ‘Do you have the lines drawn the exact right way? Should it go to anybody making over X-number of dollars or why?’” Biden said.
Republicans arguing for a more targeting round of aid have said the payments should be focused on the neediest households.
A group of senators from both the Democratic and Republican caucuses said there was broad consensus among the group of the need for additional funding for vaccines.
Biden has set a goal of 100 million vaccinations during his first 100 days in office. The pace of U.S. vaccinations is not fast enough to reach that target, but Biden expressed confidence Monday that in the coming weeks there will start to be one million vaccinations per day.
A year ago this month, the BlackRock chief Laurence D. Fink wrote a letter to the world’s C.E.O.s with an urgent message: Climate change will be “a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects.” Underscoring his point, he added, “We are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.”
Coming from arguably the world’s most powerful investor — BlackRock controls nearly $9 trillion, making it far and away the largest such firm — this letter landed with seismic force in boardrooms across the globe. In the weeks that followed, Microsoft announced a plan to be carbon-negative by 2030, Salesforce pledged to conserve or restore 100 million trees over the next decade and even Delta Air Lines announced a $1 billion effort to be carbon-neutral in 10 years.
Still, skeptics argued that Mr. Fink’s support for the reform-minded E.S.G. movement — which stands for environmental, social and governance — was a marketing gimmick that companies would back in an economic boom but shun in a crisis. If corporate America had to pick between cutting sustainability programs or dividends for investors, the thinking went, sustainability programs would be the first to go.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic arrived and something unusual happened: E.S.G. didn’t collapse, it accelerated. In particular, the emphasis on climate change became an even greater focus within companies and among investors, who piled into the stocks of sustainable companies en masse — driving up the values of companies like Tesla and doubling the money invested in sustainability-oriented mutual funds. This gave fuel to Mr. Fink’s thesis: Green investing is profitable.
That’s why Mr. Fink’s latest annual letter to corporate leaders — which he is sending out Tuesday morning, and which was obtained by The New York Times — will once again grab attention. And this year, with an even more ambitious blueprint for businesses that BlackRock invests in, it may have an even bigger impact.
Mr. Fink is now calling on all companies “to disclose a plan for how their business model will be compatible with a net-zero economy,” which he defines as limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial averages and eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. “We expect you to disclose how this plan is incorporated into your long-term strategy and reviewed by your board of directors,” he wrote.
When Mr. Fink makes what sounds like a request, in truth, it is much more than that. BlackRock’s size gives it enormous influence: Mr. Fink can seek to oust directors of companies that he doesn’t believe are heeding his call and he can dump the shares of companies owned by the firm’s actively managed funds. Last year, the firm voted against 69 companies and against 64 directors for climate-related reasons, while putting 191 companies “on watch.”
Of course, the firm is unable to sell the shares of companies in passive indexes like those that track the S&P 500 (which remain a huge portion of its assets under management). But increasingly, BlackRock is creating sustainability-oriented index funds that have discretion in selecting which companies to include or exclude.
To that point, Mr. Fink said in his letter that his firm planned to adjust its investment process for its actively managed funds, adopting what he is calling a “heightened-scrutiny model” for climate risk that included “flagging holdings for potential exit.”
He also said that the firm planned to publish “a temperature alignment metric for our public equity and bond funds, where sufficient data is available” and that it would start new products “with explicit temperature alignment goals, including products aligned to a net-zero pathway.”
Business & Economy
Updated Jan. 26, 2021, 5:53 a.m. ETEurope’s huge spending to keep businesses alive risks could cause economic growth to stagnate.Catch up: Leon Black will step down as C.E.O. of Apollo after an inquiry found he paid $150 million to Jeffrey Epstein.Mike Lindell, MyPillow C.E.O. and a Trump conspiracy advocate, is barred from Twitter.
This could have the same effect for investors as a calorie count on a menu for diners, a nudge toward making more informed choices. In the future, big public pension funds and other investors could have firms like BlackRock create custom indexes for them based on such data. On Monday, New York City’s pension fund said it would divest $4 billion in fossil fuel-linked assets in its portfolios.
These sorts of actions won’t sacrifice investment performance, Mr. Fink said. Sustainable funds outperformed the market last year, he noted, especially during the worst moments of the pandemic downturn. “The more your firms are seen to embrace the climate transition and the opportunities it brings, the more the market will reward your firms with higher valuations,” he wrote in the letter to C.E.O.s.
Mr. Fink’s call for greater transparency on climate risks isn’t happening in a vacuum. In the past year, as his letter points out, the European Union, China, Japan and South Korea all made commitments toward a net-zero future. And following President Biden’s inauguration, his recent executive order to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and plan to unveil a new climate initiative on Wednesday that includes banning new oil and gas drilling on federal land, it appears that governments could soon force the issue of corporate climate risk disclosures.
“I urge companies to move quickly to issue them rather than waiting for regulators to impose them,” Mr. Fink wrote about companies disclosing their net-zero plans. And his disclosure push isn’t just for public companies.
“If we want these disclosures to be truly effective — if we want to see true societal change — they should be embraced by large private companies as well,” he added. “We believe that issuers of public debt also should be disclosing how they are addressing climate-related risks.”
Already, several organizations are trying to create a uniform standard for climate disclosure. A group called the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures is jockeying with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board to become the global standard, while a group within the World Economic Forum led by the Bank of America chief Brian Moynihan is announcing its own disclosure standard for E.S.G. on Tuesday. Mr. Fink, rightly, says there should be only one standard, and he has put his support behind the Task Force.
In truth, despite the best intention of companies to reduce their carbon footprints, many rely on buying what are known as carbon offsets. This might entail, for example, a company paying to protect a forest that is about to be chopped down as a way to offset its own emissions. The problem is that the carbon-offset market remains sketchy, with few legitimate auditing programs that track whether that forest was really in jeopardy. Mr. Fink acknowledged that there was still work to be done on developing and auditing the right measures to use in gauging climate commitments.
Mr. Fink is hardly without critics. Environmentalists say that he is isn’t doing enough and that BlackRock should divest from all fossil-fuel companies. The activist groups Reclaim Finance and Urgewald published a report this month showing that the firm still held $85 billion in assets connected to coal. “BlackRock has a major problem with its passively managed investments, which make it widely exposed to coal assets likely to become stranded,” the report said. BlackRock, for its part, has said that it can’t sell stocks that are part of indexes and that it has tried to work behind the scenes with coal companies to encourage them to adopt cleaner technologies.
In his latest letter Mr. Fink said he was encouraging companies to think about the climate in the context of other initiatives serving a broader set of stakeholders. “Questions of racial justice, economic inequality or community engagement are often classed as an ‘S’ issue in E.S.G. conversations,” he wrote. “But it is misguided to draw such stark lines between these categories. For example, climate change is already having a disproportionate impact on low-income communities around the world — is that an E or an S issue?”
Many of BlackRock’s rivals suggest that Mr. Fink’s letters are simply good marketing, meant to insulate the firm from greater scrutiny. They may have that effect. But far more profoundly, Mr. Fink’s letters have consistently helped change the topic of conversation in corporate boardrooms.
ImageImageCredit…Damon Winter/The New York Times
Larry Fink’s letter has landed
The BlackRock chief’s annual letter to C.E.O.s is going out this morning and Andrew has a copy, which he writes about in his latest column. Mr. Fink’s letter has driven the conversation inside corporate America’s boardrooms for years — such as his proclamation that companies must have a purpose beyond profit, which preceded the Business Roundtable’s statement on stakeholder capitalism, and his call for corporate climate disclosures, which was followed by a raft of climate pledges by companies.
Now, he’s pushing out the goal posts on climate action, asking companies to “disclose a plan for how their business model will be compatible with a net-zero economy.” He defines this as limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial averages and eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
With nearly $9 trillion of investments, BlackRock has a lot of influence. Last year, the firm voted against 69 companies and against 64 directors for climate-related reasons, and it put 191 companies “on watch.”
BlackRock is planning to create “a temperature alignment metric for our public equity and bond funds, where sufficient data is available,” and Mr. Fink added that the firm would start new products “with explicit temperature alignment goals, including products aligned to a net-zero pathway.”
This could have the same effect for investors as a calorie count on a menu for diners, a nudge toward making more informed choices. In the future, big public pension funds and other investors could have firms like BlackRock create custom indexes for them based on such data.
Critics say that Mr. Fink isn’t moving fast enough and still owns $85 billion of assets tied to coal. But much of that investment is in passive index funds that it can’t divest; the firm said it was working behind the scenes with coal companies to encourage them to adopt cleaner technologies.
What about investment performance? Mr. Fink said that sustainability-oriented funds outperformed market benchmarks last year, especially during the worst of the pandemic downturn. “The more your firms are seen to embrace the climate transition and the opportunities it brings,” he wrote to C.E.O.s, “the more the market will reward your firms with higher valuations.”
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Janet Yellen is confirmed as Treasury secretary. The Senate approved President Biden’s nominee in an 84-15 vote, making her the first woman to hold the position (when she became Fed chair, she was the first woman in that role, too).
European leaders take center stage at the World Economic Forum. Panels at the virtual summit today will discuss stakeholder capitalism, climate change and a post-pandemic world. Featured speakers include Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission; Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany; and President Emmanuel Macron of France.
New York City’s biggest pension funds will divest fossil fuel stocks. Two funds voted to divest an estimated $4 billion in energy stocks from their portfolios, while a third is expected to approve a similar move soon.
Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech rush to protect against new Covid-19 strains. The drug manufacturers said they were studying ways to alter their coronavirus vaccines after news that the treatments were less effective against a new variant found in South Africa. In other Covid-19 news, Merck withdrew its vaccine candidates after disappointing trials.
Silicon Valley donors’ new focus: recalling California’s governor. Top executives like Doug Leone of Sequoia have given thousands of dollars to a once quixotic campaign to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom, amid dissatisfaction over his handling of the pandemic and tax policies. Another frequent critic, the financier Chamath Palihapitiya, just announced that he is running for governor.
Epstein ties cost Leon Black his C.E.O. job
Leon Black, the billionaire co-founder of Apollo Global Management, said yesterday that he would retire as chief executive by July 31. The announcement follows an internal investigation into The Times’s revelation that he had paid the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein millions in consulting fees.
Business & Economy
Updated Jan. 26, 2021, 5:53 a.m. ETEurope’s huge spending to keep businesses alive risks could cause economic growth to stagnate.Catch up: Leon Black will step down as C.E.O. of Apollo after an inquiry found he paid $150 million to Jeffrey Epstein.Mike Lindell, MyPillow C.E.O. and a Trump conspiracy advocate, is barred from Twitter.
Mr. Black gave tens of millions more to Mr. Epstein than previously known. The company’s investigation into the two men’s relationship, conducted by the law firm Dechert at Apollo’s request, found that Mr. Black had paid Mr. Epstein $158 million from 2012 to 2017 for tax advice, double what The Times’s previous report had found. Mr. Black also lent Mr. Epstein, who died by suicide in jail in 2019, over $30 million. The report asserted that there was no evidence Mr. Black took part in any of Mr. Epstein’s criminal activities.
What Mr. Epstein did for Mr. Black: The biggest project, according to the Dechert report, was helping Mr. Black with so-called GRATs, trusts that let families pass wealth to future generations without paying any estate taxes. (The Times has previously explained how the Trump family also made use of the tactic.) Over all, Mr. Black reckoned that Mr. Epstein’s work saved perhaps $2 billion in taxes.
The relationship created a rift between Mr. Black and a longtime partner. Josh Harris, another of Apollo’s founders, argued that the ties to Mr. Epstein showed “poor judgment,” and he tried unsuccessfully to convince fellow board members that Mr. Black should step down immediately, citing the risk of reputational damage to Apollo, Matt Goldstein and Katie Rosman of The Times report.
It’s unclear how much will change. Apollo’s new C.E.O. is Marc Rowan, the firm’s third co-founder, who built Apollo’s $300 billion insurance business but had largely stepped away last year. Mr. Black is staying on as Apollo’s chairman and will keep his seat on the firm’s three-member executive committee.
Apollo announced moves that could dilute Mr. Black’s power, including adding four independent directors to its board and eliminating the firm’s super-voting stock, giving each investor one vote apiece.
“Too many people have fought too hard in too many places for freedom of speech to be suppressed by this awful woke orthodoxy.”
— Rupert Murdoch, whose media empire includes Fox News, in a speech accepting a lifetime achievement award.
Exclusive: Billion-dollar golf carts
Ingersoll Rand has tapped Goldman Sachs to run a sale of its Club Car golf cart unit in a deal that could fetch more than $1.5 billion, DealBook has learned. It’s already begun to talk to corporate buyers about a potential deal. Representatives for Ingersoll Rand and Goldman declined to comment.
A focus on industrial equipment. The private equity firm KKR is a large shareholder in Ingersoll Rand, an industrial giant with a market cap of about $18 billion that specializes in compressors, pumps and power tools. It has owned Club Car since 1995, when it acquired the business through a $1.3 billion deal for its parent company, Clark Equipment. Ingersoll Rand is now exploring a sale of Club Car to focus on its core industrial businesses.
“Personal utility vehicles.” Georgia-based Club Car produced the first golf cart with a steering wheel in the 1960s. Its carts, which sell at $7,000 to $25,000, can be decked out with features like Bluetooth speakers and GPS technology to measure the distance to the pin on a golf course. The golf cart industry, worth $1.2 billion annually, is expected to grow at an average of less than 2 percent over the next few years, according to Ibis World, with cart makers looking for new markets, like gated communities and campus security.
‘The law is frozen’
Ben Cohen — of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream fame — is fired up about a judicial doctrine called qualified immunity, which shields police officers from liability for wrongdoing with few exceptions. “It’s a clear example of injustice and contributes to a lack of trust in police,” Mr. Cohen told DealBook. “In any other organization, everybody is accountable for their actions.”
Qualified immunity was created by judges. It’s not written in a statute but developed in Supreme Court precedent, starting in 1967, ostensibly to balance between police accountability and protection. The doctrine severely limits victims’ ability to hold officers accountable for even extreme misconduct. Since the killing of George Floyd raised public attention to police brutality, a coalition of business leaders, artists, athletes, activists and advocacy groups have joined a movement called the Campaign to End Qualified Immunity. Today, they are launching a 100-day awareness effort aimed at pressuring lawmakers to end the legal protection. “The law is frozen,” Mr. Cohen said.
It’s a rare issue that puts progressives and conservatives on the same page. Mr. Cohen — who is planning to release a book about immunity with the rapper and activist Killer Mike — said he was pleasantly surprised by the diverse alliances around the issue, uniting groups like the libertarian Cato Institute and the liberal American Civil Liberties Union. Last year, Representative Ayanna Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, joined with Justin Amash, then a Republican-turned-Independent congressman from Michigan, on a bill to eliminate qualified immunity. It didn’t survive.
“With momentum and support for ending this unjust doctrine evident nationwide, we must meet the moment and show the political courage to get it done,” Ms. Pressley said in a statement to DealBook.
THE SPEED READ
Qualtrics, a survey software provider, is seeking a valuation of up to $15 billion in its I.P.O., nearly double what SAP paid for the company two years ago. (Reuters)
The owner of the Boston Red Sox has reportedly called off talks to sell a stake to a SPAC founded by the financier Gerry Cardinale and the former Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane. (Axios)
Politics and policy
The Treasury Department resumed efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, reviving an initiative that President Donald Trump had halted. (NYT)
Republican operatives are reportedly considering pushing company executives to give money to political candidates personally to make up for a potential drop in corporate funds. (CNBC)
A growing number of companies are finding ways to use blockchains to avoid relying on a central authority, making them harder to shut down. (NYT)
The most prominent unionization drive among Amazon workers will take place next month in Alabama, a state not known for union-friendly laws. (NYT)
Best of the rest
Instead of airing ads during the Super Bowl this year, Budweiser will help fund public-service ads promoting Covid-19 vaccines. (NYT)
The C.E.O. of a casino company who jumped the line for a Covid-19 vaccine has resigned. (Bloomberg)
The World Economic Forum isn’t being held in Davos this year — and skiers and locals are grateful. (WSJ)
We’d like your feedback! Please email thoughts and suggestions to [email protected]