Challenger disaster, COVID vaccine and pregnancy, missing our ‘weak ties’

Slipped the surly bonds of earth – Today marks the 35th anniversary of the U.S. Space Shuttle Challenger explosion that killed all 7 astronauts on board. It’s a morning I still remember – I had finished working a night shift as a nurse in a local hospital and got a call I should turn on the TV just as I was going to bed. Instead of sleeping, I spent the morning watching news coverage of the disaster. Tevi Troy, a presidential historian wrote about that day. It was supposed to be the State of the Union address. Instead, President Reagan and his team pivoted, including Peggy Noonan who drafted the short speech that he gave that night. “That four-minute speech, with its famous closing about how the fallen heroes ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God,’ became not only one of Reagan’s best known and best-loved speeches, but it has also become one of the most famous and important pieces of presidential rhetoric in history,” writes Troy. “To Reagan, there was no obstacle that America could not overcome.”

Watch his 4-minute speech here.


Pregnant women not included in clinical trials, asked to avoid vaccine – The World Health Organization issued interim guidance this week recommending pregnant women avoid the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines unless they are at a high risk of exposure. “WHO recommends not to use mRNA-1273 in pregnancy, unless the benefit of vaccinating a pregnant woman outweighs the potential vaccine risks, such as in health workers at high risk of exposure and pregnant women with co-morbidities placing them in a high-risk group for severe Covid-19,” the report said. Covid-19 mRNA vaccines aren’t made from live virus, and the mRNA, or messenger RNA—named after the molecular couriers that deliver genetic instructions—doesn’t itself enter the cell’s nucleus and is degraded quickly, the WHO said. Developmental and reproductive toxicology studies in animals haven’t shown any harmful effects, the WHO added. At the same time, there aren’t enough data on actual pregnant people to assess the vaccine’s effectiveness or risk in pregnancy, the agency said. (Wall Street Journal, The Hill)

Missing our ‘weak ties’ – Do you remember hearing about the “strength of weak ties’ in class? “Weak ties” is the term used to describe our relationships with people don’t know well – friends of friends, gym buddies you see when you go everyday, or the co-worker you chat with by the water cooler. (“Strong ties,” on the other hand, describe our closest relationships.) Amanda Mull describes why we miss the people we didn’t even know that well: the loss of those weak ties. The psychological effects of losing all but our closest ties can be profound. Peripheral connections tether us to the world at large; without them, people sink into the compounding sameness of closed networks. Regular interaction with people outside our inner circle “just makes us feel more like part of a community, or part of something bigger,” Gillian Sandstrom, a social psychologist at the University of Essex, told me. People on the peripheries of our lives introduce us to new ideas, new information, new opportunities, and other new people. If variety is the spice of life, these relationships are the conduit for it. She concludes that all the researchers she spoke with were optimistic that this “extended pause” could be a catalyst for deeper appreciation for the many types of friendships in our lives. “The end of our isolation,” she writes, “could be the beginning of some beautiful friendships.” (The Atlantic)