1.26.2022

Omicron Vaccine, Hall of Fame Snubs, and the World's Coldest Marathon Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Wednesday, Jan. 26, and we're covering new clinical trials tailored to the omicron variant, a controversial Hall of Fame (non-)selection, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

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NEED TO KNOW

 

Omicron-Matched Vaccine

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and partner BioNTech have launched clinical trials of a version of its COVID-19 vaccine tailored to the omicron variant. The US-based study will include roughly 1,400 volunteers, with preliminary results expected in the spring.

 

Early studies suggest a two-dose regimen of the current formulation offers around 30%-35% protection against infection by the strain, and 70% protection against severe disease. Efficacy rises to around 70% and 90%, respectively, following a booster shot. It remains unclear whether a variant-specific shot would receive authorization for use.

 

The exercise may ultimately be a demonstration of the adaptability of mRNA-based vaccines—the current wave of omicron infections appears to have crested, with new cases down about 15% over the past week. Hospitalizations have dropped about 6% over the same timeframe. Average deaths continue to rise, currently near 2,250 per day.  

 

See what makes mRNA vaccines easy to update here.

Hall of Fame Snub

Former Boston Red Sox power hitter David Ortiz is headed to the baseball Hall of Fame after the Baseball Writers' Association of America selected him as their lone inductee in the upcoming class.  

 

The BBWAA is comprised of roughly 400 established writers and reporters, each of whom submits a ballot nominating 10 former players (see rules). To be inducted, a player must be on at least 75% of ballots cast; eligibility ceases 10 years after their first appearance on the list. 

 

Voters may take into account more than on-field performance. The outcome was most notable for those who did not meet the threshold for induction, including sluggers Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa and pitcher Roger Clemens. Each played during the peak of baseball's steroid era, and each has reached the 10-year limit of eligibility. 

 

The exclusion of Bonds and Clemens, in particular, has raised widespread criticism—Bonds is the all-time home run leader, while Clemens won 354 games and seven Cy Young awards, and is third all-time in strikeouts. 

SAT Goes Digital

The College Board announced yesterday the SAT college admission exam will switch to an all-digital and shorter format in the US beginning spring 2024 and internationally in 2023. Among other changes, the exam will be shortened to two hours, and calculators will be allowed for all math sections.

 

The news comes as more than 1,800 colleges have dropped the SAT requirement or made it optional for fall 2022 admission, as critics said the exams provide an unfair advantage to affluent students. The change accelerated during the pandemic and resulted in significant loss of revenue for the board (WSJ, paywall)—decreasing from $1.05B in 2019 to $760M in 2020.

 

Despite the online format, the test will take place at a proctored test center, albeit on students' personal or school-issued devices. The board said in a trial run, over 80% of students found the online option less stressful.

 

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IN THE KNOW

 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with Firstleaf

> Rocker Neil Young demands Spotify remove his music over alleged vaccine misinformation shared on Joe Rogan's podcast; Rogan's show has an estimated 11 million listeners per episode (More)

 

> Top US female downhill skier Breezy Johnson to miss 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics (Feb. 4-20) with knee injury (More) | Full Team USA contingent of 222 athletes for Olympics and Paralympics announced (More)

 

> NBC and Fox to simulcast debut of United States Football League (April 16); will be first network simulcast of a pro football game since Super Bowl I (More) | Sean Payton to step down as New Orleans Saints' head coach after 15 seasons (More)

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Science & Technology

> COVID-19 "super immunity" may be generated from either infection followed by vaccination, or vice versa; either pathway resulted in antibody potency up to 10 times higher than vaccination alone (More)

 

> Google ends FLoC, or federated learning of cohorts; the machine learning technique was meant to replace behavior-tracking cookies in internet browsers (More)

 

> Researchers find hippos' loud "wheeze honks" are key to the animal's social communication, including identifying friend from foe (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close lower in second consecutive mercurial session (S&P 500 -1.2%, Dow -0.2%, Nasdaq -2.3%) ahead of today’s Federal Reserve meeting (More)

 

> Microsoft beats revenue and earnings expectations driven by increased work from home demand (More) | General Electric reports decline in quarterly revenues due to supply chain issues, shares fall 6% (More)

 

> General Motors to invest $7B in four facilities across Michigan, creating 4,000 projected jobs amid electric vehicle demand (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Russia announces series of military drills across the country amid Ukraine standoff (More) | The US says it will assist affected European nations with oil and gas supplies if Russia cuts off exports (More)

 

> Oath Keepers militia leader Stewart Rhodes pleads not guilty to charges of seditious conspiracy for role in Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol (More)

 

> Second NYPD officer involved in Friday Harlem shootout dies; first time since 2014 two NYPD officers have been killed in a single incident (More); US Coast Guard finds capsized boat off the Florida coast, 39 people missing; vessel said to be used for human smuggling (More)

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ETCETERA

 

Extreme athletes complete the world's coldest marathon.

 

The most delicious dishes in every state.

 

... and the best hike in every national park.

 

Apply to rule over this English island.

 

China gives "Fight Club" an alternate ending.

 

The intense world of extreme ironing

 

Rare sea eagle spotted in Maine.

 

Train glides along on flaming tracks.

 

Clickbait: How to cheat at Wordle.

 

Historybook: Actor Paul Newman born (1925); HBD Ellen DeGeneres (1958); RIP football coaching great Bear Bryant (1983); Condoleezza Rice becomes first Black woman appointed US secretary of state (2005); Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna among nine deaths in California helicopter crash (2020).

 

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