It gives us all a chance to reflect on what we are thankful for. I have so many things to be grateful for, including this blog, and you the reader. And I’m grateful for the skills I have developed in data science.
I love the idea that there is truth hidden in plain sight, if only we have the patience to look for it.
And now we have two fun data science problems to work on. First, we are near the end of the vote counting for the 118th U.S. House of Representatives. Just three seats remain! Republicans now hold a 220-212 edge – enough for majority control, but far short of their expectations.
Colorado-3: Pueblo, Grand Junction, and the rural western third of the state
And I now have a Data Challenge from a random person on the Internet. He claims that there was no excess mortality in Europe in 2020, but there has been excess mortality in 2022. (Excess mortality is defined as the number of annual deaths above the baseline for the previous several years.) Since there was a global pandemic in 2020 that has abated by 2022, that seems crazy – but I can test the idea myself. I’m now getting the data from the European Mortality Monitoring program (EuroMOMO) of the European Centers for Disease Control.
I’ll let you know what I find.
Thanks for reading, and here’s to many more years of gratitude!
Three years ago, right about this time, a killer was beginning to kill. We had no idea at the time, but our lives were about to change forever.
Word began to spread on December 31st, 2019. That day, the Municipal Health Commission of Wuhan, China told the World Health Organization (WHO) that a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause had been observed in the city. That cause, of course, would turn out to be the new disease now known as COVID-19. Disease detectives from WHO and other organizations began to trace the contacts of people who had been infected. And their search led them to the one place that nearly all patients had visited:
The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market
The map above shows the Huanan Seafood Market (in Chinese, 武汉华南海鲜批发市场, Wǔhàn Huánán Hǎixiān Pīfā Shìchǎng) was a market at 207 Fa Zhan Da Dao in the Jiangshan District in the city of Wuhan, in east-central China. It appears to have been torn down, but this Google Earth historic image shows what it looked like from space in October 2019, right around the time the virus likely arrived there:
And of course the photo at the top of the post shows what it looks like from the street.
Wuhan is huge – home to 12 million people – nearly twice the population of New York City. And Huanan Seafood Market was the largest market of its kind in the city. It frequently gets described in English-speaking media as a “wet market,” but I don’t actually know what that means, so I’ll just call it a market.
The market sold mostly fish and other seafood, but one section specialized in wild game – what in Chinese is called 野味 (yěwèi), meaning “wild taste.” Wild game can mean just about anything; an old South Chinese saying is that “Chinese people will eat anything with four legs except a table.” Although the wild ancestor of the human SARS-CoV-2 virus has its reservoir in bats, genetic evidence suggests that it passed through another organism before arriving in humans. The most likely culprit is the pangolin, a small, endangered, adorable mammal native to south China, and formerly a popular wild game animal until its consumption was banned in China in mid-2020.
From bats to pangolins to the seafood market to a few unknown humans, the virus began its spread around the world, as I had tracked for quite a long time on this blog (like this just one of tragically many updates).
As the virus spread around the world, so too did false conspiracy rumor about the spread of the virus. One of the most powerful and lasting has been the rumor that the virus was genetically engineered by humans, either as a bioweapon by the Chinese government or escaped in a lab accident. The rumor started in February 2020, spread quickly online and in person by many well-meaning people and… not well-meaning people.
If the mountains of epidemiological and genomic evidence isn’t enough to convince any of the well-meaning people who have shared this rumor, this probably won’t be either. But for what it’s worth…
I recently saw an Internet Opinion Piece asking: how likely is it that the outbreak started at the market rather than at the virology lab LESS THAN ONE MILE AWAY???!!!1!!??
Surely the Internet wouldn’t lie about such an easily verifiable fact, right? lol
Conspiracy rumors and false information rely on passive consumers who don’t even bother to check whether what they are reading is true. Always check!
Colorado-3: Pueblo, Grand Junction, and the rural western third of the state
It will likely be a few days until the last seven races are decided – all are close enough that it will matter which voters follow up to “cure” ballots they cast on Election Day that were later ruled invalid.
What does the new Republican majority mean? Obviously, they will be able to pass legislation with a simple majority vote. As is always true even in the most divisive times, most of this legislation will be uncontroversial and will be quickly passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Biden. Obviously some will be controversial.
But the smaller the majority, the harder it will be to pass controversial legislation. Just as Democratic senators have had to convince Joe Manchin (D-WV) to vote with the party, Republican representatives will need to convince moderates who won in close elections – from places like Binghamton, New York (Brandon Williams, R-NY-22) and Scottsdale, Arizona (Juan Ciscomani, R-AZ-6). Banning gay marriage and endlessly investigating Hunter Biden might be popular in traditional Republican strongholds in the deep south, but will it play in Peoria (Darin LaHood, R-IL-16)?
It’s tempting to say “Republicans always follow the party line,” but historically that hasn’t always been the case, especially in the House. Ultimately this is an empirical question, and we will begin to know the answer in less than two months.
Four more seats decided, all to Democrats. Republicans now hold a 217-208 edge, meaning they are still just one seat away from claiming a majority. Don’t get your hopes up (or down), Republicans are leading in enough remaining seats that they will definitely get at least one more.
Six more seats of the House of Representatives for the incoming 118th United States Congress have been decided. Republicans now hold a 217-204 edge, meaning they are just one seat away from claiming a majority. But the opposition party always does well in the first midterm election after a new President. Combined with the five seats that Republican state legislatures c̶h̶e̶a̶t̶e̶d̶ gerrymandered, the fact that we’re even still talking about “Democrats might theoretically get a majority” shows what a disappointing night it was for Republicans.
EDIT: I originally said Oregon’s 5th district was still undecided; it was actually Oregon’s 6th district, containing the far southwestern suburbs of Portland
We still don’t know all the members of the House of Representatives for the incoming 118th United States Congress. We don’t even know which party will be in the majority.
Here’s what we do know so far, presented in the usual Mapping Democracy map style. White ? hexagons are seats that are still undecided. Click for a larger view.
The current count by party is Republican 212, Democratic 203. Twenty seats are still up for grabs: one each in Alaska, Maine, New York, and Oregon; two each in Arizona and Colorado; and twelve in California. Halfway, at 218 seats, is enough for control – so Republicans must win six of the remaining seats to hold the advantage. That seems likely, but whothehellknows.
If Republicans do get the majority, what happens? Obviously, it would be harder to pass legislation with different parties controlling the House and Senate – but maybe not impossible. Remember that Republicans in the House will face the same Joe Manchin Effect a the Democratic Senate – the closer the margin, the more people will need to be convinced to vote for the party line. And representatives from competitive districts will have an incentive to show their voters that they are willing to stand up to the party line.
With gerrymandering, are there enough competitive seats to make a difference? Yes, obviously – after all, there are still 20 seats up for grabs now, nearly a week after votes were cast. Here are those districts, with information about where they are: