Tag Archives: optimism

Good News Monday: We Can All Be Heroes

We may not be arming ourselves in the streets, but we can still be heroic in our everyday lives.

10 Acts of Bravery

  • Speak out against injustice
  • Stand up to bullies
  • Insist on the truth
  • Plan a trip
  • Hold our politicians accountable
  • Shop; it’s an act of optimism
  • Smile at a stranger
  • Smile at someone who dislikes us
  • Listen to the other side; even if it doesn’t change our minds it deepens our understanding
  • Believe in our self-worth
Photo by ATC Comm Photo on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: And Now For Something Completely Frivolous

Ukraine. Omicron. Climate change. Can we ever catch a break from the sad, the sordid, the violent, the vain, the completely unnecessary and utterly preventable death and destruction?

Amid all the serious issues to worry and obsess about, I’ve found a few bright spots in my weekly perusal of the news, courtesy of The Week:

  1. An English bulldog, missing for five years, turned up in a Tennessee shelter, a thousand miles from her home in New York. She was identified by a microchip and happily reunited with her grateful and astonished owner.
  2. A young woman in Denver, CO, was watching some children playing on a frozen pond when she saw the ice crack. She dashed out of her apartment to pull the kids out. Then the ice broke, plunging her into the frigid depths. Treading water, the heroic 23-year-old held an unconscious six-year old girl above the water until help arrived, and all survived.
  3. And from the sublime to the ridiculous: It seems that a man in New York has filed a $6 billion class-action suit against the New York Giants and Jets for playing their home games in New Jersey. He claims that millions of New York football fans have suffered “mental and emotional damage”, depression, sadness and anxiety.

To maintain my own sanity, I’m focusing on long walks, hot baths, watching comedies, baking, planning vacations, and re-organizing my closet. How are you coping, dear readers?

Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Yes, They Work

From today’s New York Times (with apologies for wonky formatting.)

Preparing vaccines in Rochester Hills, Mich. Emily Elconin for The New York Times
The C.D.C. has begun to publish data on Covid outcomes among people who have received booster shots, and the numbers are striking:
Based on 25 U.S. jurisdictions. | Source: C.D.C.
As you can see, vaccination without a booster provides a lot of protection. But a booster takes somebody to a different level.
This data underscores both the power of the Covid vaccines and their biggest weakness — namely, their gradual fading of effectiveness over time, as is also the case with many other vaccines. If you received two Moderna or Pfizer vaccine shots early last year, the official statistics still count you as “fully vaccinated.” In truth, you are only partially vaccinated.
Once you get a booster, your risk of getting severely ill from Covid is tiny. It is quite small even if you are older or have health problems.
The average weekly chance that a boosted person died of Covid was about one in a million during October and November (the most recent available C.D.C. data). Since then, the chances have no doubt been higher, because of the Omicron surge. But they will probably be even lower in coming weeks, because the surge is receding and Omicron is milder than earlier versions of the virus. For now, one in a million per week seems like a reasonable estimate.
That risk is not zero, but it is not far from it. The chance that an average American will die in a car crash this week is significantly higher — about 2.4 per million. So is the average weekly death rate from influenza and pneumonia — about three per million.
With a booster shot, Covid resembles other respiratory illnesses that have been around for years. It can still be nasty. For the elderly and immunocompromised, it can be debilitating, even fatal — much as the flu can be. The Omicron surge has been so terrible because it effectively subjected tens of millions of Americans to a flu all at once.
For the unvaccinated, of course, Covid remains many times worse than the flu.
‘Heartbreaking’
I’m highlighting these statistics because there is still a large amount of vaccine skepticism in the U.S. I have heard it frequently from readers in the past week, after our poll on Covid attitudes and partisanship, as well as the “Daily” episode about the poll.
This vaccine skepticism takes two main forms. The more damaging form is the one that’s common among Republicans. They’re so skeptical of vaccines — partly from misinformation coming from conservative media figures and Republican politicians — that many remain unvaccinated.
Look at this detail from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest portrait of vaccination: Incredibly, there are more unvaccinated Republican adults than boosted Republican adults.
From a survey of 1,536 adults in Jan. 2022. | Source: Kaiser Family Foundation
This lack of vaccination is killing people. “It’s cost the lives of people I know, including just last week a friend of 35 years, a person I met on one of the first weekends of my freshman year of college,” David French, a conservative writer who lives in Tennessee, wrote in The Atlantic. “I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it is to see person after person fall to a virus when a safe and effective shot would have almost certainly not just saved their life but also likely saved them from even having a serious case of the disease.”
Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at the Baylor College of Medicine, estimates that in the second half of last year, 200,000 Americans needlessly lost their lives because they refused Covid vaccines. “Three doses of either Pfizer or Moderna will save your life,” Hotez told me. “It’s the only way you can be reasonably assured that you will survive a Covid-19 infection.” (Young children, who are not yet eligible for the vaccines, are also highly unlikely to get very sick.)
The vaccines don’t prevent only death. Local data shows the risks of hospitalization are extremely low, too. Vaccination also reduces the risk of long Covid to very low levels.
Healthy and anxious
The second form of vaccine skepticism is among Democrats — although many would recoil at any suggestion that they are vaccine skeptics. Most Democrats are certainly not skeptical about getting a shot. But many are skeptical that the vaccines protect them.
About 41 percent of Democratic voters say they are worried about getting “seriously sick” with Covid, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released last week. That’s a very high level of anxiety for a tiny risk.
Here’s the proof that much of the fear is irrational: Young Democrats are more worried about getting sick than old Democrats, even though the science says the opposite should be true.
From a survey of 1,536 adults in Jan. 2022. | Source: Kaiser Family Foundation
The most plausible explanation for this pattern is political ideology. Younger Democrats are significantly more liberal than older Democrats, according to the Pew Research Center (and other pollsters, too). Ideology tends to shape Covid views, for a complex mix of often irrational reasons. The more liberal you are, the more worried about Covid you tend to be; the more conservative you are, the less worried you tend to be.
I know that many liberals believe an exaggerated sense of personal Covid risk is actually a good thing, because it pushes the country toward taking more precautions. Those precautions, according to this view, will reduce Covid’s death toll, which truly is horrific right now. In a later newsletter this week, I will consider that argument.
For now, I’ll simply echo the many experts who have pleaded with Americans to get vaccinated and boosted.
Answers and convenience
What might help increase the country’s ranks of vaccinated? Vaccine mandates, for one thing — although many Republican politicians, as well as the Republican appointees on the Supreme Court, oppose broad mandates. Private companies can still impose mandates on their employees and customers.
Without mandates, the best hope for increased vaccination is probably community outreach. While many unvaccinated Americans are firmly opposed to getting a shot, others — including some Democrats and independents — remain agnostic. If getting a vaccination is convenient and a nurse or doctor is available to answer questions, they will consider it.
“I cannot count how many people I’ve spoken to about the Covid vaccine who have been like, ‘No, I don’t think so. No,’” Dr. Kimberly Manning of Emory University told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Then I run into them two weeks later and they tell me they got vaccinated.”
Related: “You have to scratch your head and say, ‘How the heck did this happen?’” Dr. Anthony Fauci told Michael Barbaro on today’s episode of “The Daily,” about the partisan gap in Covid attitudes. Fauci also predicted that people who were anxious about Covid would become less so as caseloads fell.
In Times Opinion, James Martin, a Jesuit priest, argues that schadenfreude over vaccine skeptics’ suffering warps the soul.

The Deploring Twenties

Happy New Year, dear readers! As we shake off our hangovers and make resolutions, I suggest we virtually hold hands and pray that 2022 isn’t a repeat of 2020 and 2021.

A century ago, the Roaring Twenties ushered in an era of economic prosperity, cultural milestones including jazz and Art Deco, the end of corsets along with acknowledgment of a woman’s right to vote, innovations such as automobiles, radio and telephones, electrical appliances, and moving pictures.

So far, the 2020s have little to boast about: a deadly pandemic; social isolation; increased pushback against the basic human dignities of controlling our own bodies, loving whom we choose, existing without fear because of the color of our skin; the ever-increasing consequences of climate change, etc.

It’s enough to make any sensate being take to our beds with a bottle of booze and wait until humanity comes to its collective senses.

But hey, it’s a new year, and optimism springs eternal. We’ve still got a chance to turn this century into the Soaring 20s. It’s just gonna take a little effort.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

Do You Have PPSD*?

(*Post-Pandemic Survival Dysfunction)

Even as daily life seems headed towards recovery, it’s hard to relax. This insightful analysis explains why “burnout” only begins to describe what so many of us have been feeling.

[by Soo Youn, The Washington Post]

Why burnout won’t go away, even as life returns to ‘normal’

For Marcia Howard, the Cheez-Its were a breaking point.

At her son’s first in-person school event this year, she realized she forgot to bring the class snack.

“I just broke down in the car and I started crying,” she said. As a class parent, she was torn up about forgetting the crackers. “It turns out everything has been overwhelming. And there’s no shaking it.”

Howard started a new job at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic working as a creative operations director at a Fortune 500 company.

“I’m a Black woman. Between the pandemic and everything that happened to George Floyd and the summer of protests. . . . I had that first wave of, ‘Oh, gosh, I’m tired. I don’t feel like I can do anything. I stay up all night, looking at my phone and just really can’t focus,’ ” she said.

Then the fall came around, and it became clear many schools wouldn’t fully reopen for in-person learning.

“I’ve never thought about quitting more,” said Howard, who lives in New York City.

She’s been told by her company that she can take time off as she needs, but it’s just not that simple for her, she said. “It is all really wonderful to hear. But trying to prove myself in a corporate environment as the only Black leader, can I?” Howard said.

In February, she says she was told by her therapist that she was on the verge of depression.

“I feel like everyone is starting to think the world is getting back to normal, and I just can’t even bring myself to be hopeful about it,” Howard said.

With vaccinations initiated for half of Americans over 12, and guidance on masking and social distancing easing, the triage stage of the pandemic is lessening for some in the United States. Yet external progress markers can disguise – or even induce – a flurry of conflicting emotional, physical or cognitive states. Like getting sick right after turning in your last final, for some women who bore the brunt of domestic burdens while juggling work pressures for over a year, the breaking point may come with the breathing room.

As the country races toward a “normal” summer, for women like Howard, the picture doesn’t match up with her reality. She’s still struggling through a burnout unlike any other.

“Traditionally, we think of burnout being a state where someone is increasingly overwhelmed with the tasks in their lives, feeling a markedly decreased sense of accomplishment and effectiveness in what they are doing, and feeling like the things they loved to do now feel like just additional tasks. After a time, there can be mental health consequences,” said Maureen Sayres Van Niel, a Boston-based psychiatrist.

The pandemic magnified that condition exponentially.

“We had women with and without children managing situations that had life and death consequences in their daily lives: how to provide food for their families when the deadly virus was omnipresent or they were suddenly without an income, how to care for an elderly mother without physical contact,” she said. “Burnout in the traditional sense doesn’t capture the sense of the past year’s events.”

By March 2021, 1 in 4 Americans adults suffered the loss of a close friend or relative to the coronavirus, according to the KFF coronavirus vaccine Monitor; about 1 in 3 knew someone who died. And for those with family and friends in countries where death tolls are mounting daily, there is little relief.

“By mid-summer many will likely be feeling conflicting emotions such as relief that they are protected against the virus and happiness to see friends and family again. But having these new freedoms allows us to reflect on what we just lived through, what we endured, and what we lost. We will then be able to really feel our burnout, to let it surface,” said Stanford University sociologist Marianne Cooper. “People will need time to process what they have lived through.”

People are also mourning the loss of jobs – as well as routines, health, opportunities and time.

Baltimore-based psychiatrist Kimberly Gordon says burnout isn’t an adequate term. She treats patients from underserved communities and has lived and worked through traumatic events like Hurricane Katrina. She frames the current conversation as one of moral injury, a term referring to “the strong cognitive and emotional response that can occur following events that violate a person’s moral or ethical code.”

“Burnout suggests that the problem resides within the individual, who is in some way deficient. It implies that the individual lacks the resources or resilience to withstand the work environment,” according to a 2019 study published in the journal Federal Practitioner.

That’s impossible, the authors say: “While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those practices, it is absurd to believe that yoga will solve the problems.”

The problem with using the term burnout, Gordon said, is that people equate it with a failure of their own, compounding the issue.

“You take these people who are really passionate and energetic, who want to do a good job, and they lose their motivation,” Gordon said. “Moral injury addresses the systems issues that lead to burnout, and calls for systems to address those issues.”

For some, the moral injury felt like betrayal by employers, the government and neighbors.

Jennifer Casaletto, an emergency physician in North Carolina, remembers one of the lowest points in the middle of the pandemic, a period she refers to as “backstabbing.”

“That was one of the hardest humps to get over, realizing we’re still going to work risking our lives and the lives of our family, and our friends telling us ‘This is completely overhyped.'” She recalled an incident during which a neighbor brought their child to Casaletto’s house to get stitches, then told her they were going on vacation to Mexico and were hoping to get around having to mask on the plane.

While the pandemic has been hard on everyone, women are bearing the physical and mental load of burnout unequally, emerging data shows.

In March, the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index found 30% of women said they felt “overwhelmed or burned out” over the past year, compared with 21% of men.

“The pandemic has also laid bare the ways in which the society and its institutions were not created with the biology of women workers in mind,” Sayres Van Niel said.

Mental health professionals suggest telling employers about what you need to be more productive at work.

“We think of ourselves as passive participants in our workplace but we can actually have an active role in the culture,” Gordon said.

For example, say you can work until 7 p.m. but you need child care. One of Gordon’s patients recently told their manager they were manic depressive, and they were able to come up with a more flexible schedule.

“It’s really important to find workplaces or create workspaces, where people can have courageous conversations,” she said.

She also recommended making small changes in everyday life, like exercise or watching a comedy special. Little daily tweaks can be more effective than a week-long vacation over time, she said.

Howard, the Fortune 500 director, says she tries to work in a daily bath and is focusing on a renewed exercise routine. There’s still plenty for her to be stressed out about: an upcoming minor surgery for her son, family reunions with mixed vaccination statuses and a recent emergency room visit for the family cat.

It can feel like the rush to reopen is happening too fast, she said, putting her at odds with others who are thrilled to take off their masks and return to “normal.”

“I’ve just realized that I don’t have to be there. . . . I don’t emotionally have to get there. I can take my time recovering from the past year and a half. I’m sitting with my feelings and it’s still normal to be unable to focus.”

– – –

This story first appeared in The Washington Post’s The Lily publication.

Good News Monday: Yes, Vaccines Work!

Encouraging news from today’s New York Times (Sorry, the formatting is a little wonky):

Why the vaccine news is better than you may think.

By David Leonhardt

Preparing the Pfizer vaccine in Phoenix.Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times


‘We’re underselling the vaccine’
Early in the pandemic, many health experts — in the U.S. and around the world — decided that the public could not be trusted to hear the truth about masks. Instead, the experts spread a misleading message, discouraging the use of masks.

Their motivation was mostly good. It sprung from a concern that people would rush to buy high-grade medical masks, leaving too few for doctors and nurses. The experts were also unsure how much ordinary masks would help.

But the message was still a mistake.

It confused people. (If masks weren’t effective, why did doctors and nurses need them?) It delayed the widespread use of masks (even though there was good reason to believe they could help). And it damaged the credibility of public health experts.

“When people feel as though they may not be getting the full truth from the authorities, snake-oil sellers and price gougers have an easier time,” the sociologist Zeynep Tufekci wrote early last year.

Now a version of the mask story is repeating itself — this time involving the vaccines. Once again, the experts don’t seem to trust the public to hear the full truth.

This issue is important and complex enough that I’m going to make today’s newsletter a bit longer than usual. If you still have questions, don’t hesitate to email me at themorning@nytimes.com.

‘Ridiculously encouraging’
Right now, public discussion of the vaccines is full of warnings about their limitations: They’re not 100 percent effective. Even vaccinated people may be able to spread the virus. And people shouldn’t change their behavior once they get their shots.

These warnings have a basis in truth, just as it’s true that masks are imperfect. But the sum total of the warnings is misleading, as I heard from multiple doctors and epidemiologists last week.

“It’s driving me a little bit crazy,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health, told me.

“We’re underselling the vaccine,” Dr. Aaron Richterman, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, said.

“It’s going to save your life — that’s where the emphasis has to be right now,” Dr. Peter Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine said.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are “essentially 100 percent effective against serious disease,” Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said. “It’s ridiculously encouraging.”

The details
Here’s my best attempt at summarizing what we know:

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines — the only two approved in the U.S. — are among the best vaccines ever created, with effectiveness rates of about 95 percent after two doses. That’s on par with the vaccines for chickenpox and measles. And a vaccine doesn’t even need to be so effective to reduce cases sharply and crush a pandemic.


If anything, the 95 percent number understates the effectiveness, because it counts anyone who came down with a mild case of Covid-19 as a failure. But turning Covid into a typical flu — as the vaccines evidently did for most of the remaining 5 percent — is actually a success. Of the 32,000 people who received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine in a research trial, do you want to guess how many contracted a severe Covid case? One.


Although no rigorous study has yet analyzed whether vaccinated people can spread the virus, it would be surprising if they did. “If there is an example of a vaccine in widespread clinical use that has this selective effect — prevents disease but not infection — I can’t think of one!” Dr. Paul Sax of Harvard has written in The New England Journal of Medicine. (And, no, exclamation points are not common in medical journals.)

On Twitter, Dr. Monica Gandhi of the University of California, San Francisco, argued: “Please be assured that YOU ARE SAFE after vaccine from what matters — disease and spreading.”


The risks for vaccinated people are still not zero, because almost nothing in the real world is zero risk. A tiny percentage of people may have allergic reactions. And I’ll be eager to see what the studies on post-vaccination spread eventually show. But the evidence so far suggests that the vaccines are akin to a cure

Offit told me we should be greeting them with the same enthusiasm that greeted the polio vaccine: “It should be this rallying cry.”


The costs of negativity
Why are many experts conveying a more negative message?

Again, their motivations are mostly good. As academic researchers, they are instinctively cautious, prone to emphasizing any uncertainty. Many may also be nervous that vaccinated people will stop wearing masks and social distancing, which in turn could cause unvaccinated people to stop as well. If that happens, deaths would soar even higher.

But the best way to persuade people to behave safely usually involves telling them the truth. “Not being completely open because you want to achieve some sort of behavioral public health goal — people will see through that eventually,” Richterman said. The current approach also feeds anti-vaccine skepticism and conspiracy theories.

After asking Richterman and others what a better public message might sound like, I was left thinking about something like this:

We should immediately be more aggressive about mask-wearing and social distancing because of the new virus variants. We should vaccinate people as rapidly as possible — which will require approving other Covid vaccines when the data justifies it.

People who have received both of their vaccine shots, and have waited until they take effect, will be able to do things that unvaccinated people cannot — like having meals together and hugging their grandchildren. But until the pandemic is defeated, all Americans should wear masks in public, help unvaccinated people stay safe and contribute to a shared national project of saving every possible life.

Good News Monday: Beginning of the End?

The first coronavirus vaccine was given in the U.S., opening a new, hopeful chapter in the battle against a pandemic that has ravaged the country.
Monday, December 14, 2020 9:35 AM EST
Shortly after 9 a.m. on Monday, vaccinations took place in Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, N.Y. The pandemic has scarred New York State profoundly, leaving more than 35,000 people dead and severely weakening the economy.
The vaccinations started after the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Friday night, and as the U.S. coronavirus death toll approaches 300,000, with a steady surge in new cases daily.
Better late than never?
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Send In the Cavalry!

Exciting news these days, as several COVID vaccines show promising results, and it looks as though antibodies in those who’ve survived the disease can last months or even years.

While we wait, it’s also good to know that both mouthwash and baby shampoo have been shown to provide additional protection. (No, we aren’t supposed to gargle with baby shampoo or put mouthwash in our hair. It’s quite straightforward.)

What I really want to see, though, are some additional, mandatory vaccines:

  • Protection against false claims of fake news, fake election results, and generally fake anything you happen to disagree with
  • A vaccine against racism, antisemitism and Holocaust denial
  • 100% protection against ignoring the reality of climate change
  • 99.9% protection against stupidity — 100% being simply unrealistic
  • A vaccine against meanspiritedness, unneighborly behavior and selfishness

And, finally, a shot that will permanently erase 2020.

Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

Good News Monday (early edition): A Sigh of Relief

Despite the looming threats of new COVID devastation, many are feeling optimistic after Biden’s decisive presidential win. For any readers who are disappointed, I hope this will usher in a new era of civility and a return to classic American values of inclusion. Unless your ancestry is Indigenous, we all came to this melting pot from somewhere and we all deserve to live in a country that welcomes us.

Here’s a great piece — brought to my attention by the Enlightened Mind blog — that shows worldwide jubilation about the end of 45’s reign of terror. I have no doubt he’ll continue to tweet his nastygrams, but hopefully to a smaller audience and without daily media coverage of his sociopathy. Cheers!

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

World now looks at how Biden will reshape U.S. policies after turbulent Trump era

Shibani Mahtani, Miriam Berger  1 day ago


Elections expert Q&A: No evidence of fraud and fail-safes everywhere in US.

The world looked ahead Saturday to new American leadership, with U.S. allies and rivals alike starting to predict what the change in the White House would mean for their relations with the United States and for American engagement more generally.a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Activists join a pro-migrant demonstration on the U.S.-Mexico border at the San Ysidro Crossing Port in Tijuana, Mexico, after Joe Biden was declared winner of the U.S. presidential election. (Guillermo Arias / AFP/Getty Images)Activists join a pro-migrant demonstration on the U.S.-Mexico border at the San Ysidro Crossing Port in Tijuana, Mexico, after Joe Biden was declared winner of the U.S. presidential election. (Guillermo Arias / AFP/Getty Images)

Here are the latest developments:

  • Congratulatory messages poured in from around the world to Biden and vice president-elect Kamala D. Harris.
  • Spontaneous celebrations broke out on streets in London, Berlin and other cities.
  • President Trump has continued to make unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud, retweeting misleading claims about the integrity of the vote count.
  • Trump’s far-right allies, notably Brexit party leader Nigel Farage, encouraged him to keep up the fight and railed against mail-in ballots.

It did not take long after Joe Biden’s victory was projected for world leaders to unleash the normal flood of congratulatory messages. But for those abroad who have felt uneasy with President Trump and his norm-breaking style, it was a much-awaited moment of optimism and even jubilation.PlayCurrent Time 0:14/Duration 1:15Loaded: 43.14%Unmute0FullscreenDeath toll from storm Eta soarsClick to expand

Death toll from storm Eta soars
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Biden defeats Trump| The 2020 Fix
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Crowds celebrate Biden-Harris win near White House

Shouts of “Biden!” and cheers broke out in Berlin, London, Toronto and other cities when the excruciating wait for an announcement came to an end. On Twitter, echoing Paris’ mayor, people tweeted out, “Welcome Back, America.”

Many hope that Trump’s unilateralism and America-first populism will give way to an era of renewed U.S. global leadership and an embrace of multilateralism to tackle common challenges.

“It’s good that there are finally clear numbers. We look forward to working with the next U.S. administration,” tweeted German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. “We want to invest in cooperation for a transatlantic new beginning, a new deal.

Reinhard Bütikofer, a German member of European Parliament, quipped, “I heard a Pan-European sigh of relief, when Biden’s victory was called.”Marianne Hoenow from Connecticut celebrates the victory of president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala D. Harris in front of the Brandenbug Gate next to the United States Embassy in Berlin on Nov. 7, 2020. (Markus Schreiber/AP)Marianne Hoenow from Connecticut celebrates the victory of president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala D. Harris in front of the Brandenbug Gate next to the United States Embassy in Berlin on Nov. 7, 2020. (Markus Schreiber/AP)The U.S. election gripped the world, making way for plenty of memes

Though Trump had yet to acknowledge his defeat, some of the foreign leaders closest to him did not delay in sending their congratulations to Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted his congratulations., saying, “The U.S. is our most important ally and I look forward to working closely together on our shared priorities, from climate change to trade and security.”

Poland’s right-wing President Andrzej Duda, who has been politically aligned with Trump, cautiously tweeted to congratulate Biden “for a successful presidential campaign.” Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, whom Trump once called his “favorite dictator,” sent his best wishes to Biden, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the president-elect. He also noted that Harris’s Indian heritage is “a source of immense pride.”Villagers in Painganadu, India, prepare placards featuring Sen. Kamala D. Harris on Nov. 6, 2020, a day before Joe Biden and Kamala D. Harris were declared winners as president-elect and vice president-elect. (Aijaz Rahi/AP)Villagers in Painganadu, India, prepare placards featuring Sen. Kamala D. Harris on Nov. 6, 2020, a day before Joe Biden and Kamala D. Harris were declared winners as president-elect and vice president-elect. (Aijaz Rahi/AP)

Harris’s family hometown in southern India — the birthplace of her maternal grandfather — had already been holding celebrations in her honor ahead of the traditional Diwali festival. Meanwhile, Jamaica’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, also saluted her family ties to Jamaica, the birthplace of her father, as well as her “monumental accomplishment for women.”

In Biden’s ancestral hometown in Ireland, a crowd gathered to pop champagne. “I want to congratulate the new President Elect of the USA @JoeBiden Joe Biden has been a true friend of this nation throughout his life and I look forward to working with him in the years ahead,” wrote Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin in a nod to Biden’s Irish heritage.

Perhaps the first foreign leader to congratulate Biden was Frank Bainimarama, the prime minister of Fiji, who said in a tweet — even before the election was formally called — that they must work together to confront a warming planet and rebuild the global economy.

Hours later, congratulations from world leaders and others — who were watching the vote count unfold over days — were finally uncorked as soon as U.S. news organizations declared Biden the winner. Leaders with diverse views and priorities — from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron to Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — were quick to share their enthusiasm about working with Biden.Residents in Ballina, Ireland, climb a scaffold as they hang out American flags and bunting for president-elect Joe Biden on Nov. 07, 2020 in the ancestral home of the Biden family. (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)Residents in Ballina, Ireland, climb a scaffold as they hang out American flags and bunting for president-elect Joe Biden on Nov. 07, 2020 in the ancestral home of the Biden family. (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari urged Biden to “deploy his vast experience in tackling the negative consequences of nationalist politics on world affairs — which have created divisions and uncertainties — and to introduce greater engagement with Africa on the basis of reciprocal respect and shared interests.”

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari urged Biden to “deploy his vast experience in tackling the negative consequences of nationalist politics on world affairs — which have created divisions and uncertainties — and to introduce greater engagement with Africa on the basis of reciprocal respect and shared interests.”

Some U.S. rivals, however, reacted differently. The People’s Daily China, an official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, chose instead to taunt Trump by retweeting his boast that he’d won the election and commenting “HaHa” with a laughing emoji.

Iranian Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei did not directly mention Biden or Trump in a tweet denouncing the election as a sign of the “definite political, civil, & moral decline of the US regime.” But Iranian Vice President Eshaq was more optimistic, saying, “I hope we will see a change in the destructive policies of the United States, a return to the rule of law and international obligations and respect for nations.”a person riding on the back of a motorcycle: A man reads a copy of Iranian daily newspaper Sobhe Nou with a cartoon depicting U.S. president Donald J Trump and a headline reading 'Go to hell gambler', in front of a newsstand in Tehran, November 07, 2020. According to local media reports, many Iranians are rooting for Democratic candidate Joe Biden. (Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)Man reads a copy of Iranian daily newspaper Sobhe Nou with a cartoon depicting U.S. president Donald J Trump and a headline reading ‘Go to hell gambler’, in front of a newsstand in Tehran, November 07, 2020. According to local media reports, many Iranians are rooting for Democratic candidate Joe Biden. (Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock) In Europe, few sad to see Trump go

Politics and pandemic

The pandemic has added urgency to Biden’s pledge to reverse Trump’s approach, which has left the United States estranged from the World Health Organization and facing the highest numbers of deaths and new cases at home.

After Trump withdrew from the WHO, Biden promised to rejoin it on his first day in office. Biden is a “globalist at heart,” wrote Natasha Kassam, a research fellow at Sydney’s Lowy Institute political think tank, in the Guardian.

Other Trump policies are also in doubt. The Times of India, which anticipated Biden’s win with the headline “Bye Don, It’s Biden Finally,” said that H1-B work visas — allowing nonimmigrants to work in the United States — are unlikely to return in their previous numbers, even if the Biden administration has a more favorable immigration policy. But it noted that the Democrats could be stronger about challenging human rights violations in India.

In China, relations with the United States have fallen to their lowest point in 40 years amid bitter disputes over trade, technology, human rights and the novel coronavirus. But hopes have been stirred that a Biden win might act as a circuit-breaker and offer possible cooperation in certain areas.

Still, an op-ed in the nationalistic Global Times tabloid noted deep partisan divisions in the United States that it said would not be easily eased.

With Trump determined to contest the election results in court, some foreign commentators expressed their fears.

“The squatter” was the title of the Saturday cover of Der Spiegel, a leading German news magazine. A defiant, fatigue-clad Trump is depicted holding a rifle, barricaded in the Oval Office with a bullet-holed picture of a smiling Biden in the backdrop.Trump’s claims of stolen election have some recent precedents — in Gambia and Guyana

In Britain, the Guardian declared Trump in a “fight against reality,” but noted in an editorial that Biden would have his work cut out to “rebuild the U.S. government’s credibility after Trumpism hollowed out its institutions.”

In Japan, a burger outlet near a U.S. naval base followed a long tradition of naming a burger after every sitting American president by adding the Biden Burger to its menu, according to public broadcaster NHK.

The Biden Burger pays homage to his Scranton, Pa., roots. It comes with Philadelphia-style cheese and potato chips to represent Pennsylvania, a major chip producer. The Trump Burger has a dash of jalapeño, “supposedly reflecting Trump’s sharp tongue,” NHK wrote.

Mahtani reported from Hong Kong and Berger from Washington. David Crawshaw in Hong Kong; Steve Hendrix in Jerusalem; Michael Birnbaum in Latvia, Riga; Kareem Fahim in Istanbul; Danielle Paquette in Dakar; William Booth and Karla Adam in London; Niha Masih in New Delhi; James McAuley in Paris; Susannah George in Kabul; Chico Harlan in Rome; Isabelle Khurshudyan in Moscow; Amanda Coletta in Toronto; Lesley Wroughton in Cape Town, South Africa, and Kate Chappell in Kingston, Jamaica, contributed to this report.

Good News Monday: Writers, Think Pink!

Many of us remain isolated from friends and family during this pandemic. So imagine how difficult it would be to find yourself newly diagnosed with breast cancer — and with no support system to help you through the crisis.

An organization called Girls Love Mail has a novel way of boosting women’s spirits. Since 2011, it’s enlisted thousands of empathetic people to send words of encouragement to strangers; about 167,000 letters have been mailed to date.

Want to share a little hand-written optimism? Visit girlslovemail.com in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month in October.

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