What if Kurzweil doesn't make it?
What if all the switches get stuck on destroy?
When the shuttle goes, we won't take it
When the final counter-measures are deployed
All we'll have is all this time

Friday, July 31, 2020

Linkee-poo Friday

"Isaias has become a hurricane as it approaches Florida… The National Hurricane Center said late Thursday that the storm was threatening the Bahamas and had winds of 80 mph. It was about 70 miles east-southeast of Great Inagua Island, moving northwest at about 18 mph."

"NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission is on its way to the Red Planet to search for signs of ancient life and collect samples to send back to Earth."

"SpaceX just fired the engine of its latest Starship prototype, paving the way for a test flight in the near future… The company conducted a 'static fire' test of Starship SN5 today (July 30), letting its single Raptor engine blaze while the vehicle remained tethered to the ground at SpaceX's South Texas facilities, near the village of Boca Chica." One survived!

"Contrary to popular opinion, the practice of forgiveness is not about condoning or making excuses for unfair treatment and other hurtful behaviors. It's not about getting an apology or a show of remorse from the offending party. And, despite what's portrayed in films, novels, poems and love songs, it's not necessarily about reconciliation. Granted, reconnecting with loved ones can be a wonderful by-product of forgiveness, but it's not a requirement or even a goal, in some cases – especially if doing so would subject you to more harm." On forgiving.

There's lots of news about coronavirus vaccines today. All of it is spin, all of it is either for stock price jockeying or bragging rights (waves to my Russian friends as Russia says they'll have a vaccine in wide distribution by Christmas). How do I know this? Look at where the stories are being published ("we have a vaccine that's in whatever stage!" in business magazines, the "well have the vaccine in hand" in the political section).

So how's that privatizing the coronavirus data going? "Earlier this month, when the Trump administration told hospitals to send crucial data about coronavirus cases and intensive care capacity to a new online system, it promised the change would be worth it. The data would be more complete, transparent, and an improvement over the old platform run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, administration officials said… Instead, the public data hub created under the new system is updated erratically and is rife with inconsistencies and errors, data analysts say." The public sector can't match the government.

"The revelation Wednesday that Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, a renegade lawmaker known for stalking the halls of Congress without a mask, tested positive for Covid-19 has unleashed a fusillade of anger on Capitol Hill — a sudden release of built-up tension over how the institution has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic within the confines of its own workplace."

"The further easing of coronavirus restrictions in England - due to come in this weekend - has been postponed for at least two weeks, amid concerns over an increase in coronavirus cases… Casinos and bowling alleys will remain shut, with Boris Johnson saying it was time to 'squeeze the brake pedal'."

"As one of the whitest big cities in the America, Portland's outsize role in the nationwide protests may strike some as surprising… Oregon has a long history of entrenched racism, dating back to its statehood in 1859, when the state constitution barred Black people from entering or living there. Yet the recent protests in Portland are part of another long history of black and white Oregonians combating that lingering racism, says Lisa Bates, an associate professor of urban studies at Portland State University."

"That opposition (to Medicaid expansion) by (Missouri) state leaders has meant adults like Organ who don't have dependent children or specific disabilities cannot qualify for Missouri's Medicaid program — even if their incomes are well below the poverty line." Funny how other conservative actions leading to the economic crisis may start shinning a light on some of the more heinous conservative actions.

"One U.S. Marine has died, another is in critical condition and a rescue operation is underway for eight more after a training exercise "mishap" with an amphibious assault vehicle off the coast of Southern California on Thursday." The 80's vibes just keeps getting stronger.

How go the Trade Wars? "China took another step toward meeting agricultural commitments made in the phase one trade agreement with the U.S. with its biggest-ever purchase of American corn."

"Similar deals are likely to happen on a massive scale in the coming years, according to Dave Muth, who helped Ray Williams sell and buy his farms. Muth is a partner with Alternative Equity Advisors, which is affiliated with Peoples Company, a Des Moines-based land broker. 'Right now, over 80 percent of the farmland in the country is owned by somebody 55 or older, and roughly half of [them are] 75 or older,' Muth says. 'We're going to have an incredible shift in value over the next five to twenty years.'" The myth of the small town farmer versus the reality.

"The euro zone economy contracted by 12.1% in the second quarter of 2020, compared to the first three months of the year, according to preliminary data from the region’s statistics office." What they've got that we ain't got?

"A federal judge has unsealed hundreds of pages of deposition transcripts and other documents related to a now-settled defamation suit brought against Ghislaine Maxwell, who is accused of helping the late Jeffrey Epstein run a sex trafficking operation that catered to rich and powerful men." Watch who runs for cover.

"Indeed, FBI officials even went a step farther. Once McCabe became director, Bureau employees grew so concerned that Trump would try to shut down the investigation that they secreted at least three copies of key documents, including Comey's memos, in remote locations around the Bureau. This was to make sure that in the event Trump directed an end to these inquiries, the documents could always be preserved, located, and shared." It's almost like they knew what would happen.

"The Census Bureau is cutting short critical door-knocking efforts for the 2020 census amid growing concerns among Democrats in Congress that the White House is pressuring the bureau to wrap up counting soon for political gain, NPR has learned." Heinous fuckery afoot. Remember in 2010 when Republicans were all upset about "statistical methods" and demanded a rigorous physical count?

"With aid expiring, the White House offered a short-term extension Thursday of a $600 weekly unemployment benefit that has helped keep families and the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Democrats rejected it, saying President Donald Trump’s team failed to grasp the severity of the crisis." Expect to hear about this a lot on the weekend talking head shows.

"Congress has approved roughly $2.5 trillion since March to rescue an economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic… And it doesn't look like it will be nearly enough… Lawmakers are working on a fifth round of stimulus relief that could dwarf the four previous rounds of assistance combined." But Mitch McConnell has sent the Senate home for the weekend, as the president (supposedly) "begs" Democrats to extend the $600/week unemployment deal (that's spin, it has no chance to be renewed before it expires). There is at least another week (if not a month) worth of work left to be done to reconcile the bills in the House (already passed months ago) and the Senate bill (which they can't even get to a majority of the Republicans to agree to it, to even begin the process of negotiating with the Senate Democrats). And the two bills have little overlap and agreement.

"Top officials from President Donald Trump’s administration planned more talks with congressional Republicans and Democrats on Thursday, despite flagging hopes of reaching an agreement to extend coronavirus aid before a Friday deadline." Ta-da! The time for this action was 3 weeks ago. But, say, do we have appropriations bills ready for FY2021 yet? (Puts hands in pockets and walks away whistling)

"Hours after voting unanimously to remove Larry Householder as its speaker on Thursday, members of the Ohio House of Representatives elected state Rep. Bob Cupp to replace him."

"As the coronavirus pandemic has upended normal balloting, more than half of voters under the age of 35 say they don't have the resources or knowledge they need to vote by mail in November, according to a new poll." Add in the heinous fuckery of the last few elections surrounding absentee ballots (mail-in ballots) and it's a recipe for disaster unless an effort is made at public education. And given the current state of information flow in the US (waves to my Russian friends) that's a big hurdle to overcome.

"Revealed: super-rich donate to Cuomo as he rejects tax hikes for billionaires… Investigation shows governor’s political machine has received money from more than a third of New York’s billionaire families." Oh look, politics as normal.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Linkee-poo Thursday

"The Royal Canadian Mint has launched a new toonie to commemorate the legacy of Haida artist Bill Reid, more than 20 years after his death… The new $2 coin, which marks 100 years since Reid's birth, enters circulation Tuesday." And here's a link to the Royal Canadian Mint page with the coins. Goddamn it, Canada. You do this the year after I'm in your country and months after the border is closed? And I want that (it looks like brass) challenge coin, but I can't find it on your site. Is it the gold coin (way more than I can spend)? Also, it looks like you're out of the non-painted rolls, ARGH! So now, what, I need to stalk the money exchanges to find them?

"In a way, Yuki Morono and his team of researchers at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology flipped that experience around by giving modern food to some old organisms. But their case involved bringing up ancient mud from the seafloor and adding some food to see if anything was alive in there… There were, in fact, bacteria in the mud, which likely doesn’t sound surprising. But given the environment and the age of this stuff—100 million years—it’s actually pretty remarkable." It's like these scientists have never seen a movie in their life.

They've figured out where the sarsen stones in Stonehenge came from. "English Heritage said the opportunity to do a destructive test on the core proved "decisive", as it showed its composition matched the chemistry of sarsens at West Woods, just south of Marlborough."

"California, Florida and Texas, the three largest U.S. states, all set one-day records for fatalities from COVID-19 on Wednesday, a Reuters tally showed, and the Miami-area school district said students would not return to classrooms when the new academic year begins as deaths from the virus spiked nationwide."

"NIH: 'No replicating virus' in lungs of 87.5% of vaccinated monkeys after COVID exposure." This was two days after exposure (and after 2 doses). I'd wait to see results from a text done 10-20 days after inoculation.

"Well, it turns out that the housing market is in the rudest of health. Traffic on the real estate website Redfin is up about 40 percent, and the National Association of Realtors announced that pending home sales are up 15 percent from last month." I'm movin' out.

"Now, many of those power shut-off moratoriums are expiring, including Georgia Power's, which ended on July 15. And this comes as Americans who are still struggling face the end of another lifeline: supplemental unemployment benefits that are set to lapse."

"'The typical places where coin enters our society have slowed or even stopped the normal circulation of coin,' said the Federal Reserve, which manages coin inventory, in a June statement." Remember the economy is the movement of money. When money sits, the economy suffers. Sometimes is suffers in more concrete ways.

"More than 1.43 million people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, according to weekly data released Thursday by the Department of Labor. It's the second-straight week that the number has risen, and the 19th week in a row that the U.S. has seen more than a million claims… The extent of the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic was further revealed on Thursday, with gross domestic product for the second quarter sinking by a record 32.9 percent annualized, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis." So much winning. That pretty much wipes out any growth for the past 10 years.

But someone is making money. "Procter & Gamble on Thursday reported strong quarterly revenue growth as consumers stuck at home bought more Tide laundry detergent and Mr. Clean products."

"A federal judge delayed the unsealing of a deposition of Jeffery Epstein's former girlfriend and alleged accomplice to allow her time to appeal its release… US District Judge Loretta Preska denied Ghislaine Maxwell's request to block the release of depositions from a 2016 civil lawsuit Wednesday but delayed the unsealing until Monday so Maxwell could ask an appeals court to review the matter, according to court documents." Things aren't looking good for her.

"US Rep. Jim Jordan questioned Google CEO Sundar Pichai about allegations of anti-conservative bias in Google's practices. After a colleague characterized his questions as 'fringe conspiracy theories,' Jordan lashed out and interrupted lawmakers." Rage and anger is all Jim has left.

"President Donald Trump's decision to pull nearly 12,000 US troops from Germany triggered an onslaught of disapproval from Republicans, Democrats and former senior military officials, who said the move will benefit Russia, degrade US national security and military readiness, cost US taxpayers billions and undermine US relations with Germany, NATO and Europe." Waves to my Russian friends.

"But Reuters/Ipsos polling this month shows white suburban Americans are far more worried about the economy and healthcare than crime, a sign that Trump’s strategy could be at odds with the priorities of the critical voting bloc he narrowly won in 2016 and must win back to secure a second term."

"Donald Trump has suggested November's presidential election be postponed, saying increased postal voting could lead to fraud and inaccurate results… He floated a delay until people could 'properly, securely and safely' vote." He would have to get Congress to agree. And that's doubtful.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Linkee-poo Wednesday

Sorry for the latetness. Alligators up to my armpits.

"This week, a team of 25 researchers—drawn from across the earth sciences and descended from the Bavaria effort—published the first new answer in 41 years. Their estimate of this value, called 'climate sensitivity,' significantly reduces the amount of uncertainty involved in forecasting climate change. 'It helps us answer this fundamental question, which is: How warm is it gonna get?' Kate Marvel, a climate scientist at NASA and an author of the paper, told me." The answer is "pretty darn hot."

"In one study published in JAMA, researchers said the blood test could could identify Alzheimer's disease and even detected signs of disease 20 years before cognitive problems were expected in a group of people who carry a rare genetic mutation." It's that "rare genetic mutation" part that gets me, because the rest of the article this sounds like this is a general population test.

"COVID-19 may not be just one disease, but six distinct types, a new British study claims… Each type differs in severity and in the need for respiratory support during hospitalization, the researchers added." That statement is a little misleading. What it appears to be is the disease has 6 distinct groups of symptoms and those groups of symptoms may be an indicator of how severely the disease will affect the patient. But in reality, it stands to reason that the more symptoms you have the more severely your systems are being effected.

"Florida on Tuesday hit a new statewide record high for number of coronavirus deaths reported in a single day since the pandemic began — 186 residents. And while there are signs hospitalizations may be leveling off, the virus continues to upend life there and across the country… Nearly half of all states are now part of the government's so-called "red zone" due to rising cases, including Missouri, North Dakota and Wisconsin."

"Spain reacted angrily on Tuesday to recommendations from Britain and Germany that their citizens avoid its islands and beaches because of an increase in coronavirus cases during what should be the height of the tourism season."

"Rep. Louie Gohmert — a Texas Republican who has been walking around the Capitol without a mask — has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to multiple sources." I'm not usually one to wish people ill, but I make an exception for people like Gohmert.

"Trump resumed his daily news briefings on Tuesday afternoon, where he again touted advancements on vaccines and treatments for the virus. After largely ignoring the pandemic for weeks and denying its severity, the White House revived the briefings last week to demonstrate presidential leadership… But the approach has hit early stumbling blocks… When Trump was pressed by CNN's Kaitlan Collins about his words of support for a doctor who downplayed masks and suggested alien DNA was used in medical treatments, he cut the briefing short and stormed out." Because these briefings aren't about informing the public, they're about his re-election.

"A Houston doctor who praises hydroxychloroquine and says that face masks aren’t necessary to stop transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus has become a star on the right-wing internet… Donald Trump Jr. declared the video of Stella Immanuel a 'must watch,' while Donald Trump himself retweeted the video… Before Trump and his supporters embrace Immanuel’s medical expertise, though, they should consider other medical claims Immanuel has made—including those about alien DNA and the physical effects of having sex with witches and demons in your dreams." They don't care about that other stuff. It makes no impression in the conservative mind. The weird sex stuff just fits into their "chastity until marriage" philosophy.

"Call it coronavirus déjà vu. After planning ways to reopen campuses this fall, colleges are increasingly changing their minds, dramatically increasing online offerings or canceling in-person classes outright… This sudden shift will be familiar to students whose spring plans were interrupted by the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Now, COVID-19 cases in much of the country are much higher than in the spring, and rising in many places."

"U.S. officials say Russian intelligence officers are spreading disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic through English-language websites, trying to exploit a crisis that America is struggling to contain before the presidential election in November." Waves to my Russian friends.

"As the world races to find a vaccine and a treatment for COVID-19, there is seemingly no antidote in sight to the burgeoning outbreak of coronavirus conspiracy theories, hoaxes, anti-mask myths and sham cures." Including from the president.

"To some American companies and Florida men, COVID-19 is apparently a war that will be won through antimicrobial blasting, to ensure that pathogens are banished from every square inch of America’s surface area… But what if this is all just a huge waste of time?" Whispers, most of it is.

"The (DoJ) will send agents 42 to Detroit and more than 25 each to Cleveland and Milwaukee – cities that officials said have seen rising violent crime rates. The federal officers, drawn from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and other agencies, will help local and state officials in ongoing criminal investigations, according to the Justice Department." Oh shit, they're on to me. (Grokked from Dan)

"Social scientist Adam Galinsky has found that people who have deep relationships with someone from another country become more creative and score higher on routine creativity tests." When I was a young designer I was asked to write one of those 30 Under 30 pieces and this was my basic argument (although not put with the specificity), but I didn't know the term "edge effect." This is also a part of the young writer admonishment to "go out and live life." I truly can't imagine what it would be like to only experience your own culture (although I know what it's like to stagnate, and I know finding new things helps break you out of it). This is the argument for diversity. Sure, diversity brings in several viewpoints and can preemptively help you from sticking your foot in your mouth, but it is necessary for creativity. Not only will having diverse voices bring new viewpoints to the table, if done well it will also help you, the individual, come up with new ideas.

How goes Brexit? "Europe is braced for its second wave of coronavirus, as infection rates rise in numerous countries, including Spain, France and Germany… Covid-19 has sucked up the political capacity of virtually every European nation, leaving every other area of policy playing second fiddle as the world tries to fight this invisible threat." Looks like Boris picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue. "It has previously been suggested by some Brexit hardliners that the only way to make Brussels budge is to show that Britain is not only willing to walk away, but will thrive should it do so." Good luck with that.

"As the first wave of U.S. aid runs short - and landlords and lenders lose patience - lawmakers are in tense negotiations over a new round of stimulus, which could include more money for small business." Right now the economy is artificially propped up by the stimulus money and hope for a quick recovery. As both of those run out, we'll begin to feel the real effects of this economic crisis. Also, sometime next week the analysts will wake up to the thought of, "Wait, there won't be huge Back to School Sales receipts if schools are all online this Fall! Oh noes!" Back to school is almost as good as Black Friday for retailers in that business.

"In a fast-changing global pandemic, this was not the turn U.S. Federal Reserve officials hoped for in early June, when their forecasts showed guarded optimism for a sharpish early economic rebound and steady slow growth to follow… In the ensuing seven weeks, much has gone downhill."

"The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it will continue to defy a federal court order compelling the full restoration of DACA, the Obama-era program that allows 700,000 immigrants to live and work in the United States legally. By doing so, the administration has chosen to flout a decision by the Supreme Court, effectively rejecting the judiciary’s authority to say what the law is." Meanwhile he's touting his support for DACA to win Latino votes.

"Divisions within the Republican conference spilled out once again Tuesday as GOP senators dismissed key pieces of their own leadership's stimulus proposal not even a day after its release… The revolt, which spans the ideological spectrum from conservatives to moderates in the conference, represents the latest challenge for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as he seeks to salvage the GOP's opening bid and begin negotiations with Democrats to get a deal before the August recess." Well, it's mostly between the whackaloon and far-right wing nuts, but those are the equivalents in the modern GOP to the 70s-80s conservatives and moderates split. "'Let me speak for myself, I am opposed to non-germane amendments, whether it's funding for the FBI building or for example whether in the House bill it's a tax cut for high income earners in blue states or other non-germane amendments in the House bill like marijuana studies or aid to illegal immigrants,' (Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) said." So besides the "whataboutisms" going on there, it's your goddamn bill, McConnell. The only thing I can think off is they included them so the GOP can vote them out to make it seem (politically, and only to those not paying attention) as if they're fighting against the freewheeling spending of the Democrats.

"White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was pressed Wednesday on why a coronavirus stimulus bill includes $1.75 billion for a new FBI building." She doesn't know. Although it appears to be at the behest of the White House.

"Spurred on by President Donald Trump’s demand to pull troops out of Germany, the U.S. will bring about 6,400 forces home and shift about 5,400 to other countries in Europe, U.S. defense officials said Wednesday, detailing a Pentagon plan that will cost billions of dollars and take years to complete."

"Donald Trump’s 'new' tones are perpetually faltering… After a week in which the president was more willing to stick to a script, to temporarily eschew some of his more fact-challenged medical statements and to keep many of answers to reporters’ questions uncharacteristically succinct, Trump’s more typical behavior is starting to show through." He's going to make that pivot to being presidential any day now.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Linkee-poo Tuesday

"From a smaller hospital bailout to stiffing strained Medicaid programs, the GOP’s opening bid revealed stark differences with the plan passed by House Democrats this spring. As Congress tries to resolve thorny issues like unemployment aid and liability protections, health care funding could become another sticking point."

"Democrats, nonwhites and elderly Americans are all significantly more likely to say they wear protective masks every time they leave home, new polling data show, as measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus continue to be polarized and case counts in the U.S. reach new heights." This is my surprised face.

"A winery in Geneva said that its staff, and now property, have been subjected to inappropriate behavior from customers upset over mask orders… South River Winery posted a photo of a hole in the wall of its bathroom to Facebook Sunday, expressing disappointment over 'unacceptable' behavior that it said has been directed at staff and the property."

"A week after appearing to project a more serious tone about the coronavirus, President Donald Trump is back to pushing unproven claims that an anti-malaria drug is an effective treatment and challenging the credibility of the nation’s leading infectious disease expert." The president and his family continue to spread fake news.

"The chief of critical care at a Baltimore hospital who helped treat the 'sickest' patients, including during the pandemic, died Saturday of the coronavirus." One of the untold stories is how many healthcare workers are getting ill now. Coupled with this is the "virus fatigue" they are feeling.

"Fears over a second wave of the outbreak have been raised in Europe following recent spikes seen in Spain, France and Germany. Each nation has reported around a 30 to 90 percent increase in new infections over roughly the past couple of weeks."

"Texas' uninsured rate has been climbing along with its unemployment rate as COVID-19 cases surge in the state. Before the pandemic, Texas already had the highest rate and largest number of people without health insurance in the country. And 20 percent of all uninsured children in the U.S. live in Texas."

"Black community leaders are urging local protesters to shift the focus of demonstrations back to the Black Lives Matter movement and away from what has become a largely 'white spectacle.'"

"A group of Portland protesters is suing the Trump administration alleging that the actions of federal agents in the city violated their constitutional rights, went beyond legal authority and were directed by someone not formally confirmed in their role."

Meanwhile on Bullshit Mountain… "Crowds launch fireworks at brewery, draw guns on drivers as riots spread from Portland to smaller Oregon city."

"Two of the biggest retailers in the U.S. are closing their doors on Thanksgiving this year, sidestepping a recent tradition of keeping the lights on for customers to bargain hunt after their turkey dinners." Note that this is just their "early bird Black Friday" sales. They're still planning Black Friday sales.

"It is the story of how Afghan opium growers have switched to solar power, and significantly increased the world supply of heroin."

"Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard fired a missile from a helicopter targeting a replica aircraft carrier in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, state television reported on Tuesday. The exercise was aimed at threatening the U.S. amid tensions between Tehran and Washington."

"'Ever since I made it clear that I was going to do everything I could to get to the bottom of the grave abuses involved in the bogus "Russiagate" scandal, many of the Democrats on this Committee have attempted to discredit me by conjuring up a narrative that I am simply the President's factotum who disposes of criminal cases according to his instructions. Judging from the letter inviting me to this hearing, that appears to be your agenda today,' Barr says in his written remarks." If the shoe fits…

Monday, July 27, 2020

Linkee-poo Monday

Olivia De Havilland, and so it goes.

"Hurricane Hanna weakened to a tropical depression after making landfall as a hurricane along the Gulf Coast of southern Texas on Saturday evening, bringing heavy rains and threats of flooding to parts of the state already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic."

"As Texas contends with the ongoing aftermath of one hurricane on Sunday, Hawaii is bracing for the impact of another."

"A new study, yet to undergo peer review, was published on the pre-print repository bioRxiv on July 17 and examines one of these species, Cladosporium sphaerospermum. It suggests the fungi could be used as a self-healing, self-replicating shield to protect astronauts in deep space. Specialist science publication New Scientist reported on the findings on July 24."

"For years, public health officials have been trying to dispel the myth that people who get a flu shot are more likely to get Alzheimer's disease… They are not. And now there is evidence that vaccines that protect against the flu and pneumonia may actually protect people from Alzheimer's, too."

"President Donald Trump’s national security advisor Robert O’Brien has tested positive for the coronavirus… O’Brien has 'mild symptoms and has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site,' the White House said in a statement Monday." Insert the theme of Jaws here.

"Young Catalans should stop partying to help halt a surge in new coronavirus cases or local authorities may have to reimpose harsh restrictions, the leader of the northeastern Spanish region said on Monday." Here comes Europe's second wave.

"Nightclubs, bars and beaches — some of Spain’s most beloved summer venues — are facing new lockdown restrictions after turning into coronavirus hot spots, and some European nations are warning citizens not to visit the country."

"Want to beat COVID-19? Then lose weight… That's the message from Boris Johnson, Britain's boisterous prime minister, who has used his own brush with the coronavirus to urge Britons to shed a few pounds to reduce their risk of catching it." Fat shaming? Sure, why not.

"Police say a bag containing Molotov cocktails and loaded rifle magazines has been found at a park in Portland, close to where nightly protests have taken place for two months." So, let's unpack this a little bit. First, those "molotov cocktails" aren't very well made and you also wouldn't carry them in a closed bag. And if used, would not cause much of an issue (you'll note there is very little liquid in only one of them, the other looks fairly dry inside, although the rag may be saturated). Secondly, mason jars are inappropriate (the glass is somewhat thick and prone to not breaking and expensive, when vodka bottles are easily found and used). Seriously, pickle jars are more appropriate, unless you're shopping for supplies. Also, terry cloth? This is also not the first time "prepositioned" munitions have been found… at protests where no one is carrying a weapon that could use them. Is there some manual out there that outlines prepositioning weapons like this?

"A suspect is in custody following the fatal shooting Saturday of an anti-racism demonstrator in Austin, Texas, police said… Officials have not released the victim’s name, but his mother identified him as Garrett Foster in an interview with ABC’s 'Good Morning America.'" So much for the "more guns make us a polite society" argument.

"A senator for the state of Arkansas has described slavery as a 'necessary evil' on which the American nation was built… In a local newspaper interview, Republican Tom Cotton said he rejected the idea that the US was a systemically racist country to its core… He is introducing legislation to ban federal funds for a project by the New York Times newspaper, aimed at revising the historical view of slavery." Tom Cotton, just evil, not necessary.

"So as you might have surmised, this week we talking about Karens."

"The price of gold has hit a record high, reaching $1,943 an ounce, as worries over issues such as the coronavirus pandemic as well as U.S.-China tensions weighed on investor sentiment."

"White House officials and Senate Republicans are finalizing a bill that would offer another round of $1,200 checks to many Americans and that would not renew the full unemployment insurance enhancement as part of a proposal for the next stimulus bill set to be unveiled Monday, several top administration officials said Sunday."

"Great Depression levels of unemployment have hit some of the country’s biggest cities… The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the jobless rate in New York, Los Angeles and other major urban areas to near or above 20%, nearly twice the national rate."

"A group of more than 100 Christian pastors, religion professors and other advocates is urging the Democratic National Committee to adopt a party platform that’s friendlier to abortion opponents." No. If your only political concern is "anti-abortion", go ahead and vote Republican. If the entirely of the rest of the conservative agenda gives you pause or makes you feel icky, that's your own problem and maybe you should rethink whom you support. A vote for the GOP brings all that extra baggage, because in reality the GOP is only anti-abortion just to get your vote. They don't care about really being anti-abortion, but they'll throw you enough red meat to keep you somewhat satisfied.

"In an exclusive four-part series, CNN offers a rare glimpse behind the scenes at how justices on the Roberts court asserted their interests, forged coalitions and navigated political pressure and the coronavirus pandemic. The justices' opinions are public, but their deliberations are private and usually remain secret." This one focuses on Chief Justice Roberts.

"As criticism of these events rolled in—including from virtually every relevant state and local official in Oregon—the Department of Homeland Security scheduled a press conference earlier this week to try to reclaim the narrative. If the point of that press conference was to reassure an anxious nation that this unfamiliar and recently constituted federal police force is following the law, it likely achieved the opposite effect." A legal discussion about the cluelessness of those who lead our government. (Grokked from Eric)

"President Donald Trump has a symbiotic relationship with white nationalists… It’s been a constant in nearly every element of his presidency: The white nationalist violence in the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was followed by a pronouncement that there were 'some very fine people on both sides.'" Is this really in doubt anymore?

"The Reagan Foundation has asked the Donald Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee joint fundraising committee to stop using President Ronald Reagan's likeness in fundraising appeals, an RNC spokesman confirmed to CNN." Let's you and him fight.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Linkee-poo Weekend

"Nasa's Perseverance rover, due to launch to Mars this summer, will search an ancient crater lake for signs of past life. But if biology ever emerged on the Red Planet, how will scientists recognise it? Here, deputy project scientist Ken Williford explains what they're looking for."

"The outcome could be legislation that seeks to rein in the market power of these giants, limiting their ability to create monopolies. Or it could turn out to be one more theatrical tech hearing in a series of them, where members of Congress look to score points with gotcha-style questioning as CEOs furrow their brows and promise that a member of their teams will follow up on that later." I'm going for the latter.

"Long-time friends Joe Feeney and Tom Cook made a pact in 1992 - sealed with a handshake - that if one of them won the US Powerball lottery they would share it… Nearly 30 years later the numbers came up for Tom - and he honoured the deal."

There's all this great news about progress with vaccines for COVID-19, right? Hang on a second. "The race is on to develop a coronavirus vaccine, and some companies and investors are betting that the winners stand to earn vast profits from selling hundreds of millions — or even billions — of doses to a desperate public… Across the pharmaceutical and medical industries, senior executives and board members are capitalizing on that dynamic… After such announcements, insiders from at least 11 companies — most of them smaller firms whose fortunes often hinge on the success or failure of a single drug — have sold shares worth well over $1 billion since March… And some companies have awarded stock options to executives shortly before market-moving announcements about their vaccine progress." Ta-da! Welcome to late stage capitalism where all that matters is the appearance of prosperity.

"Moderna Inc has lost the bid to invalidate a key patent related to the development of several of its next-generation vaccines, including one meant for coronavirus, to Arbutus Biopharma Corp, Reuters reported."

"But scientists are increasingly of the view that this virus will not disappear. In interviews and correspondence with more than a dozen researchers around the world, NPR found that the vast majority believes the virus will persist at some level for a long time in places like the U.S. and Europe."

"This month, Stephen Miller, the extremist anti-immigrant Trump adviser who has promoted white nationalist ideas, lost a relative to the coronavirus pandemic, and his uncle tells Mother Jones that the Trump administration is partly to blame for this death." They're even denying how their own family members are dying.

"President Donald Trump says the country is doing great in a pandemic that just infected its four millionth US victim and is killing 1,000 people a day. But his claim is based on a brazen confidence trick, requiring Americans to ignore his responsibility for the spike in the southern and western states as he claims credit for the success of northeastern states that suppressed the disease after not heeding his advice to reopen before the virus was under control… And that might not even be the most outrageous thing the President said at his third briefing in as many days."

"It's time to hit the reset button: Shut it down and restart. That's what more than 150 health professionals are urging government leaders in an open letter published earlier this week." Yeah, that ain't gonna happen.

"Public schools should delay reopening in coronavirus hotspots, but should open fully if they want to receive tens of billions of dollars in new federal aid, President Trump said in a White House briefing." Can't have it both ways, Sparky. Also, "He had previously called the existing guidance 'very tough & expensive,' while Vice President Mike Pence said 'we don't want the guidance from CDC to be a reason why schools don't open.'" Because who wants to follow the guidance of the experts who just want to keep us alive?

"A federal judge has temporarily blocked federal law enforcement officers deployed to Portland, Ore., from targeting journalists and legal observers at the protests against police violence and racial injustice that have intensified in recent days." And then they continued to target them.

"Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced late Thursday that a 'limited number' of federal agents have been sent to Seattle, reports CBS Portland, Oregon affiliate KOIN-TV… Seattle wasn't mentioned when President Trump said earlier Thursday that he'll send federal agents into Chicago and Albuquerque to help combat rising crime, or in a subsequent White House news release saying the program would be expanded in the next few weeks into Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee, as well."

A twitter thread about continuing Facebook manipulation, this time to make it seem like Chicagoans want federal troops.

"Hoping to avoid another high-profile confrontation between police and protesters like the clash that happened last week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered the statues of Christopher Columbus removed from Chicago’s Grant and Arrigo parks overnight."

"Van Spronsen's belief in militancy to fight injustice showed up in his song lyrics and street protests. Eventually, friends say, it shaped what they call his 'final action,' which began around 4 a.m. that July 13. Armed with a semiautomatic rifle, authorities say, van Spronsen crept onto the grounds of a sprawling immigration jail, set his car on fire, tossed Molotov cocktails and died in a hail of police bullets." Thats one, expect to hear about tit ad nauseam as justification for what Trump is doing.

Who needs a competent government and strict business regulations? "FDA is warning consumers and health care providers that the agency has seen a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products that are labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but that have tested positive for methanol contamination. Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested and can be life-threatening when ingested… The agency is aware of adults and children ingesting hand sanitizer products contaminated with methanol that has led to recent adverse events including blindness, hospitalizations and death."

"The White House is lifting a months-long ban on residents of New York state from taking part in a federal program to streamline passenger security checks at airports and international borders, after the Department of Homeland Security admitted that it made false statements responding to a lawsuit brought by the state over the issue." Because they can't get what they want unless they lie. "In the DHS statement (about restoring NYers access to the program), Wolf said the department appreciates the information-sharing now possible with the amended law. 'Nonetheless, local New York law continues to maintain provisions that undermine the security of the American people and purport to criminalize information sharing between law enforcement entities.'" Fuck this guy.

"Earlier this month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that international students attending universities that switch to online-only courses in the fall would be required to leave the United States. By threatening student visas, the Trump administration, which has been pushing to reopen businesses and schools despite the continuing pandemic, was widely seen as pressuring colleges to resume in-person classes. If implemented, the visa policy could have driven away thousands of brilliant minds—the brainpower that, for decades, has proved essential to entrepreneurship and technological innovation in the United States." There goes a generation of technological innovation. Oh they'll still probably do it, just not in the USA.

"In the three and a half weeks since the enactment of the law at the end of June, a sense of fear and uncertainty has taken hold in Hong Kong, where anything seen to provoke hatred against the Chinese government is now punishable with up to life in prison. Some people have redacted their social media posts and erased messaging app histories. Journalists have scrubbed their names from digital archives. Books are being purged from libraries. Shops have dismantled walls of Post-it Notes bearing pro-democracy messages, while activists have resorted to codes to express protest chants suddenly outlawed."

"The US has charged four Chinese nationals with visa fraud for allegedly lying about their membership of China's armed forces… Three are under arrest while the FBI is seeking to arrest the fourth, who is said to be in China's San Francisco consulate."

"The US military on Thursday confirmed that one of its fighter jets had flown within a few thousand feet of an Iranian commercial aircraft over Syria to 'inspect it,' after Iranian state media released videos showing apparently shaken and injured passengers."

"Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., took to the House floor Thursday morning to admonish the insults hurled at her by Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., earlier this week… Yoho confronted Ocasio-Cortez on the steps of the Capitol on Monday, Ocasio-Cortez said, calling her 'disgusting' for linking poverty to crime rates in New York City." Yeah that wasn't the insult she was talking about.

"Mail deliveries could be delayed by a day or more under cost-cutting efforts being imposed by the new postmaster general. The plan eliminates overtime for hundreds of thousands of postal workers and says employees must adopt a 'different mindset' to ensure the Postal Service’s survival during the coronavirus pandemic." The GOP continues their plan to kill off and privatize the US Mail.

"'REQUEST YOUR ABSENTEE BALLOT TODAY,' reads a mailer sent to North Carolina Republicans earlier this week by the North Carolina Trump Victory campaign, the Trump campaign’s joint field operation with the Republican National Committee in the state. The mailer, part of a push to contact more than three million voters in the state, calls voting by mail 'easy and secure,' and urges recipients to use the 'Official Republican Party Absentee Ballot Application to safely and securely request your ballot.'" Seems kinda odd for a party whose leader thinks vote by mail can be rigged.

"In a campaign year marked by a global pandemic, a recession and a national wave of protests, it’s easy to forget that this whole election season began with an absolute debacle when it came to the simple act of voting." For a party who likes to tout the support of the "silent majority", they sure are working hard to keep everyone from voting.

"President Donald Trump on Thursday moved to cancel the Jacksonville, Florida, portions of the Republican National Convention, scheduled for August, citing the threat of the coronavirus." And then conservatives rally around the president's "strong" decision.

"Lisa Kenna, Pompeo's executive secretary — a gatekeeper of sorts to his office — told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she was unaware of the substance of Giuliani's outreach at the time, but now knows it was an effort to discredit Yovanovitch. Giuliani made calls and delivered documents to Pompeo that came from Ukrainian figures viewed as corrupt by the State Department."

"Mary Trump said she was devastated when her uncle was elected president: 'I knew he was unfit,' she said. 'And whether other people knew that aspect of the situation or not, they certainly had ample evidence that he was sexist, if not misogynist, racist and not truthful about his alleged success in business.'"

Friday, July 24, 2020

Linkee-poo Fridays

Sorry, just a quickie today. Alligators overboard! WIll try and push one out this weekend.

"Their bottom-line estimate: If 95% of people wear cloth masks when they're out and about interacting with other people, it reduces transmission by at least 30%. In other words, each infected person will go on to infect 30% fewer people." Will masks protect you completely? No. But it will protect all of us just enough to break the infection cycle.

"It’s yet another day in Trump-era America. You know what that means: Another Lincoln Project ad going viral on Twitter, bound for the evening news" On the Media podcast extra (about 15 minutes) on the Lincoln Project. Again, some conservatives are attempting the "we were with you kids all along" to avoid being thrown in the dumpster with the Trump party.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Linkee-poo Thursday

The speed of light visualized. (Grokked from Deborah Beale)

"About 300 light-years away from us, two giant exoplanets are orbiting a young sun-like star… The proof is in the picture: Scientists have captured the first direct image of this system."

"Scientists have, for the first time, discovered an active leak of methane gas from the sea floor in Antarctica. It is a process that's likely to accelerate the process of global heating." We're boned.

"Now, in a landmark effort, a team of 25 scientists has significantly narrowed the bounds on this critical factor, known as climate sensitivity. The assessment, conducted under the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and publishing this week in Reviews of Geophysics, relies on three strands of evidence: trends indicated by contemporary warming, the latest understanding of the feedback effects that can slow or accelerate climate change, and lessons from ancient climates. They support a likely warming range of between 2.6°C and 3.9°C, says Steven Sherwood, one of the study’s lead authors and a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales." Really boned.

"Texas on Wednesday set one-day records for increases in COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations in the state, forcing one county to store bodies in refrigerated trucks and prompting a top health official there to call for new stay-at-home orders." Looks like the death numbers are starting to catch up to the spike in infection numbers. About 10-14 days after those all time high spikes in infection rate. In other words, right on time.

"Laboratories across the U.S. are buckling under a surge of coronavirus tests, creating long processing delays that experts say are undercutting the pandemic response." Ta-da! Note we're not even close to the per capita testing capability of other countries.

"A new study says the number of coronavirus infections in the U.S. could be as many as 2 to 13 times higher than what has been officially reported. With 3.9 million confirmed cases and more than 142,000 deaths, the U.S. is already at the epicenter of the global pandemic."

"Germany, like many other countries, had a contingent of people who fought lockdowns and argued that Covid-19 was a hoax. But it also had a handful of prominent scientists communicating regularly and openly with the public. That played a huge role in drowning out rumors and misinformation, locals tell CNBC." Funny how that works. Also, Germany has a single-payer healthcare program which doesn't discourage people from seeing their doctor, and they have mandatory sick time (including time off to see that doctor). Oh, and they have a high quality test and the capability to test a substantial portion of their population.

"What's much less understood is the extent to which kids can spread the illness among themselves — or to the adults with whom they come in close contact." Ask any adult who has regular contact with children what they think about this. I'll wait. Also pointed out because even NPR doesn't understand the math.

And here rises the lowly T-cell. "Several studies have shown that people infected with Covid-19 tend to have T cells that can target the virus, regardless of whether they have experienced symptoms. So far, so normal. But scientists have also recently discovered that some people can test negative for antibodies against Covid-19 and positive for T cells that can identify the virus. This has led to suspicions that some level of immunity against the disease might be twice as common as was previously thought." I just wanna take a baseball (or cricket) bat to these stories. If you've had any college education in health and anatomy/physiology you too are probably just shaking your head. We know this. T-cells and B-cells are the memory of your immune system. Antibodies, if they're not used, will either be excreted, or (most likely) their protein bases will broken into components and repurposed by your cells. Also, yes, you might have some pre-existing immunity to SARS-CoV2 (hey look, lots of people are asymptomatic for the disease, some people it affects a little, some a lot, and some it kills). This is the nature of diseases. And you may have some protection depending on your history of infection. You might have been exposed to a flu or cold virus that was just close enough to the SARS-CoV2 virus that your immune system has either a head start, or offers immunity. Coronaviruses are a very large family. And just because you have virus in you doesn't mean you'll be sick (you'd be surprised at how many viruses surround you at this very moment, but 90+% of them are attacking bacteria). Here is a most probable scenario, the close group of viruses labeled now as SARS-CoV2 have been circulating around the world for a number of years now. They just weren't virulent enough to stand out from the background noise of other viruses, the flu, and colds. But something happened in Wuhan, the virus had a (fortuitous for it, bad for us) mutation which enhanced its ability to infect humans and reproduce quickly (causing more disease). In fact, right now there are at least 2 major strains of this mutation (one came from China, through Asia and to the Americas, the other from China to Europe to the Americas). We consider both SARS-CoV2. And you want to know a kicker? The virus is still mutating. Viruses proliferate very quickly. When you do transcription quickly you make a lot of mistakes, in other words, mutations. Sometimes if you're infected with more than one virus (like almost every single day of your life), the can "cross the streams" as it were and recombine into something new (this is most likely how viruses learn how to infect new animal hosts). Most die (or "fail to thrive"), enough "good" copies get made and those out compete the other mutations.

Also I want to be clear about this. While what this disease is doing to us is horrible on an individual/group/species level, this is evolution in progress. SARS-CoV2 worldwide is exhibiting evolutionary pressures on us humans. It kinda sucks, doesn't it. When people ask "what was it like before modern medicine", this is exactly it. Lots of people died. And to those who are spouting "herd immunity", here's some numbers for that. Without a vaccine (if one is successful), herd immunity requires approximately 70% of the population to have been exposed to the virus at a level that they would be infected. The US has roughly 360 million people, that's 252 million people. Of that, about 60% won't display symptoms, or won't require hospitalization, that leaves almost 101 million people infected. We are currently at about 4 million. Currently we are seeing about a 3.6% death rate of those infected, that means the US will experience 3.7 million deaths to have "herd immunity." We currently have had 144,000 deaths in the US, 618,000 worldwide. Without an effective vaccine, "herd immunity" will be about 25x more devastating that it already has been, and that's just the US.

"In the intervening months the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has become the most studied microbe on the planet -- and the pace of science and scientific discovery has dramatically accelerated. The microbe is no longer a mystery: We know how it gets into cells and how it makes people sick, its genetics and the methods that prevent it from spreading. Scientists and researchers I spoke to lauded the progress, calling it 'inspiring' and 'impressive.'… But there's still just as much we don't know. Coupled with an increasing level of 'pandemic fatigue' and the uncontrollable spread of misinformation, understanding the coronavirus feels as difficult as scaling Everest." I'll just point out that the memo we got in March about how to tell when a viral infection is not COVID-19, what symptoms to look out for, has since then been completely discredited by our continuing knowledge. Every symptom that said, "this is NOT COVID-19" is now a symptom of COVID-19. Our intake triage form still asks if you've travelled to China (even though that has not been a major concern for infection for several months).

"Chhabra said he's hearing more anecdotal reports about insurance plans simply not paying for surgical assistants, which leaves the patient stuck with the bill." Single-payer.

"But the coronavirus was not impressed, and the effects of the pandemic-related shutdown on the country's museums have been dire, says AAM President and CEO Laura Lott. In a survey released Wednesday of 760 museum directors, 33% of them said there was either a 'significant risk' of closing permanently by next fall or that they didn't know if their institutions would survive."

"During the spring and summer, as the coronavirus health crisis exploded, the government allowed most families to pick up free meals from whichever school was closest or most convenient without proving they were low-income. But that effort is on the verge of expiring as states prepare for children to return to school, and as school systems are pushing the federal government to continue the free meals program through the fall." Nothing more conservative than starving little kids while telling to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Remember, Trump is the president doing away with red tape and regulations… for corporations. For the average citizen it's "fuck yous" all the way down.

"Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the murder of George Floyd, has also been charged along with his wife with nine counts of felony tax evasion." But but but he's a police officer?

"Portland, Ore., Mayor Ted Wheeler was among the protesters tear-gassed Wednesday evening by an assortment of Department of Homeland Security agents President Donald Trump has deployed to the city amid unrest and mass demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality."

"A DHS worker also said they were concerned that the disturbing visuals emerging from the streets of Portland reflected poorly on the entire organization." Ya think?

"President Trump on Wednesday said his administration would 'surge' federal law enforcement officials to help fight crime in Chicago and Albuquerque, N.M., as part of the Justice Department's controversial Operation Legend." Jackbooted federalies coming to a town near you. Wearing the flag or skulls and lightning bolts, it doesn't really matter, fascism is fascism.

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain… "The 'surge' of agents announced on Wednesday to Chicago and other American cities is part of Operation Legend – named after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was fatally shot while sleeping in a Kansas City apartment late last month – and comes as federal law enforcement officers have already descended on Portland, Ore. and Kansas City, Mo." Funny how we have to deploy paramilitary wannabe soldiers in the name of a child who was shot in their sleep, yet they still haven't arrested the police who shot Breonna Taylor while she slept (and then watched her die instead of calling for medical help).

The retail apocalypse continues unabated. "The parent company of Ann Taylor and Loft, Ascena Retail Group, just became the latest retailer to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, pushed to the brink during the coronavirus pandemic."

"Around 1.4 million people filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, according to new data from the Department of Labor, marking the first week in almost four months that the number has risen." I don't know about you, but these numbers are starting to feel "normal" and I have to remind myself that just 6 months ago 250,000 new claims would have been "devastating."

"Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC that the Republican coronavirus relief plan will extend enhanced unemployment insurance 'based on approximately 70% wage replacement.'" Dear Sec Mnuchin, that's what unemployment insurance is currently based on, and you can see how incredibly insufficient that already is. How about we base it on 70% of your income, Steve?

"A dysfunctional Congress is about to go careening off yet another fiscal cliff — but this will hurt a hell of a lot more than most… Tens of millions of unemployed Americans are about to lose their economic lifeline during the worst recession in 80 years, with eviction protections set to expire at the same time." Note the dysfunction is just the GOP led Senate. The House passed their bill 3 months ago. And again I'll note about the extra $600 a week being more than people can earn working… 1) isn't that pretty pathetic and 2) if you refuse a job offer you can lose your unemployment. Ohio even set up a "snitch" hotline to report people who refuse work.

"The U.S. and the U.K. have revised their diplomatic immunity rules, almost a year after the wife of a U.S. diplomat fled the country after allegedly killing a young man with her car… The move, announced by U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, is aimed at making it more difficult for the families of some diplomats to claim immunity."

"A German court on Thursday found a former Nazi SS camp guard guilty of 5,232 counts of accessory to murder and one case of accessory to attempted murder — equal to the number of people believed to have been killed at Stutthof concentration camp during his service there."

"Canada's federal court has ruled that an asylum agreement the country has with the US is invalid because America violates the human rights of refugees… The Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), in place since 2004, requires refugee claimants to request protection in the first safe country they reach."

"Roy Den Hollander, the self-described 'anti-feminist' attorney who authorities say is the chief suspect in the shootings of the son and the husband of a federal judge in New Jersey, attacked that judge by name in misogynistic, racist writings he wrote over a period of years and posted in bulk on the Internet Archive. Den Hollander, who describes himself as a Trump volunteer in his writings, called the judge an 'affirmative action' case who affiliated with those who wanted 'to convince America that whites, especially white males, were barbarians, and all those of a darker skin complexion were victims.'"

"A proposed Housing and Urban Development rule would allow federally funded homeless shelters to judge a person’s physical characteristics, such as height and facial hair, in determining whether they belong in a women’s or men’s shelter, according to a copy of the rule’s text obtained by Vox. Advocates say this ultimately targets both trans women and cisgender women with masculine features, which could force them into men’s shelters and put them at risk for harm." Cruelty is the program.

"The White House plans to eliminate a sweeping Obama-era fair housing regulation on Thursday and replace it with a much weaker rule amid an effort by President Donald Trump to paint rival Joe Biden as a danger to the suburbs."

"The House of Representatives approved legislation Wednesday to remove statues honoring figures who were part of the Confederacy during the Civil War from the U.S. Capitol. The bill would also replace the bust of Supreme Court Justice Roger Brooke Taney, the author of the Dred Scott decision in 1857 denying freedom to an enslaved man, and replace it with a bust of Justice Thurgood Marshall."

But what about all those racists in progressive causes, the right asks. "Arguably no figure looms larger than John Muir in the history of America's national parks. His writings and contributions are widely regarded as the founding ethos of environmentalism in the U.S., including by one of the country's oldest environmental groups, the Sierra Club… But amid the nationwide reappraisal of racist monuments, the Sierra Club said Wednesday that 'it's time to take down some of our own monuments,' including of its founder, Muir."

Remember when Liz Cheney was the rising star in the Republican Party? "President Donald Trump on Thursday joined in the attacks on Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., saying the third-ranking House leader is “only upset” because he has been trying to end U.S. involvement in wars overseas." That was like, what, 5 months ago? TO all the other conservatives who are trying to tell us the GOP is not about Trump's politics… yes, yes it is.

"Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz has privately engaged in several spending practices in his nearly four years in office that appear to be in conflict with the House’s ethics rules, a POLITICO investigation has found… Gaetz, a close ally of President Donald Trump from the Florida Panhandle, improperly sent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to a limited liability company linked to a speech-writing consultant who was ousted from the Trump administration, in direct conflict with House rules." End the GOP, it's riddled with corruption. And yes, the media loves Gaetz and the public likes to watch. The American tv public loves to watch an asshole doing their schtick.

"A Senate committee investigating Joe Biden’s son has secured a deposition with a high-level State Department official, George Kent, who was a star impeachment witness against President Donald Trump." Yawn. "'Later, I became aware that Hunter Biden was on the board of Burisma,' Kent (testified earlier). 'Soon after that, in a briefing call with the national security staff in the Office of the Vice President, in February 2015, I raised my concern that Hunter Biden’s status as board member could create the perception of a conflict of interest. Let me be clear, however: I did not witness any efforts by any U.S. official to shield Burisma from scrutiny. In fact, I and other U.S. officials consistently advocated reinstituting a scuttled investigation of Zlochevsky, Burisma’s founder, as well as holding the corrupt prosecutors who closed the case to account.'"

"U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Robert Wood "Woody" Johnson IV told embassy staff in 2018 that his friend, President Trump, asked him to help get the British Open golf tournament held at one of the Trump family's golf resorts in Scotland." That is direct corruption and grift.

"In an interview with Fox News Wednesday, President Donald Trump explained that he asked for doctors to give him the cognitive test, it wasn't suggested by them." And then he talked about the "extra points." There are no "extra points", you do get more points if you list the words in order, but it's not like extra credit.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Linkee-poo Wednesday

"We've known for some time now that our neighbor Venus is hell off-Earth, but new research suggests it's even worse than we thought… In addition to its toxic atmosphere and lead-melting (literally) temperatures, the second planet from the sun looks to be home to at least a few dozen active volcanoes belching up brimstone to add to the ambience." It's alive (said in my best Dr. Frankenstein voice).

"In his first coronavirus briefing since April, President Donald Trump got a little more accurate about the state of the pandemic in the US -- but also continued to make some of the same false claims and promote some of the same misleading narratives of his previous moments in the White House briefing room."

"New research suggests that antibodies the immune system makes to fight the new coronavirus may only last a few months in people with mild illness, but that doesn’t mean protection also is gone or that it won’t be possible to develop an effective vaccine." The question about reinfection still remains to be answered.

Remember the line about why drugs are so expensive because it has to do with development costs? "The U.S. will pay Pfizer and biotech firm BioNTech $1.95 billion to produce and deliver 100 million doses of their Covid-19 vaccine if it proves safe and effective, the companies announced Wednesday." That's a lot of money. Now, the first does costs a hellofalot, but all those subsequent doses are hellacheap.

Remember when we used to have psychiatric hospitals, but then closed the majority of them to save money and then expected police and other parts of the healthcare system to pick up the lose ends? "'The patients that I was seeing in my hospital were indistinguishable many times from the men and women that I was evaluating in jail,' Montross says. 'But the environments were so markedly different. One [is] charged with ... trying to help and heal, and the other [is] really designed to control and punish.'" If you're able to get into a "behavior ward" you might get actual help, but the ER and jails are not the place for those in the grips of mental disease.

"The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection arm confirmed on Tuesday it has deployed officers from three paramilitary-style units to join a federal crackdown on protests against police violence in Portland, Oregon."

How go the Trade Wars? "The US has ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas, by Friday - a move described as 'political provocation' by Beijing… The US State Department said the decision was taken 'in order to protect American intellectual property'."

"Sales of existing homes jumped nearly 21% in June compared with May, according to the National Association of Realtors… It was the largest monthly gain since the Realtors began tracking the data in 1968 and came after sharp declines over the previous three months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sales were still 11.3% lower annually." Don't expect that second number to halt the rise in home prices (note I didn't say "home values").

"'The outrage isn't [whether] there was (Russian) interference (in UK politics/BREXIT); the outrage is that no one has wanted to know if there was interference,' member Kevan Jones of the Labour Party told a news conference laying out the committee's findings. 'That, I think, comes through very loud and clear in our report.'"

"Labour has agreed to pay 'substantial' damages to seven former employees who sued the party in an anti-Semitism row… The party has issued an unreserved apology in the High Court for making 'false and defamatory' comments about seven whistleblowers who spoke out in a BBC Panorama programme last year." About the anti-Semitism in the UK Labour party which was used as a hammer in the last elections. And while the apology and payments are a good thing, unless heads roll at the top, it's mostly window dressing.

"President Trump issued a directive Tuesday instructing the U.S. Census Bureau to not count undocumented immigrants for purposes of apportioning seats in the House of Representatives, targeting states like California, Texas and New York with large communities of residents who lack a legal immigration status." Yeah, there's this little thing called the Constitution which countermands that order. But he expects this will play well to his base and will play in the background when he says this election was "rigged" against him.

"The body of a Fort Hood soldier was found by a lake near the military installation, officials announced Tuesday, marking the third time in a month that remains of a service member from the Texas base have been found."

"Senate Republicans plan to include a second round of direct payments, or stimulus checks, for Americans in the next coronavirus relief package, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday… The details of the final proposal remain a work in progress, with White House negotiations and Republicans shuffling back and forth to meetings throughout the day in an effort to coalesce around a unified overall plan in the range of $1 trillion."

"Senate Republicans and the White House remain at odds over several central components of their next stimulus proposal after a full day of negotiations on Capitol Hill… With fewer than three weeks to go until the August recess -- and with the virus still ravaging many corners of the country -- Tuesday's negotiations marked little progress, and instead evolved into a day of venting sessions for rank-and-file members, each with his or her own idea of how to tackle the next chapter of spending. It all comes just days before a $600 federal enhancement to unemployment insurance is set to expire." Note they haven't even begun to include Democrats in the negotiations.

"Beset by internal divisions and clashes with the Trump administration, Senate Republicans downplayed the prospects Tuesday of enacting new coronavirus relief before key programs like boosted unemployment payments expire." And now we'll see who is a kool-aid drinker and who still has a functioning brain. Also note the pre-emptive "it's all Democrats fault for not passing my bill" language from McConnell.

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain… "Sen. Rand Paul slammed Republican colleagues on Tuesday after leaving a coronavirus stimulus bill negotiating session, venting that he could have been in a meeting with 'Bernie Bros' while claiming there are no fiscal conservatives left in the Senate… There is 'no difference' between the Democratic and Republican parties when it comes to spending, he said." The start of the "fiscal conservative" retrenchment. They aren't. They never have been. And there are huge differences between the parties. This is also throwing sand into the bull's eye for the next election.

"Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was arrested Tuesday morning ahead of an announcement about a $60 million federal racketeering case related to Ohio’s new nuclear bailout law, according to sources and media reports." Larry got the job because he was supposed to help break the corruption in Columbus. Apparently it was just that he wanted his check first. You might remember me talking about HB6, the bill that created surcharges to Ohioans' electric bills to support FirstEnergy's nuclear power plants (for which we have already paid twice). There was a vicious fight over a voter initiative to repeal the law. Yes, the republicans took money to screw the citizens of the state. Fuckers.

And this morning… "Now, two GOP lawmakers and a slew of Democrats are working on a way to repeal House Bill 6." Two. The Ohio legislature is dominated by Republicans. Also, HB6 had several other onerous positions. "The law is now on Ohio’s books. Starting Jan. 1, Ohioans will pay 85 cents a month on their electric bills, raising about $150 million a year for the two nuclear plans outside Toledo and Cleveland." It also increased setbacks for wind generation stations, repealed all mandatory clean energy goals, and also supported several coal-fired power plants. "But repealing the measure could be a challenge. For one, it’s not clear when the Ohio House of Representatives will meet next or who will lead them when they do." Expect to see a lot of shamed faces on the news, but not a lot of action on the floor. Fuckers.

"In a brief but heated exchange, which was overheard by a reporter, Yoho told Ocasio-Cortez she was 'disgusting' for recently suggesting that poverty and unemployment are driving a spike in crime in New York City during the coronavirus pandemic… 'Fucking bitch,' he said." He seems nice. And they wonder why we call them "deplorable." Rep. Yoho then went on to not apologize "for his passion." Fair. Rep. Yoho adequately represents the cousin-fuckers, racists, and generally low-brow asshole electorate in this country. Sorry man, "I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my god, my family and my country," fucker.

"While law enforcement violating civil rights is sadly not new, Trump appears to be trying to do something novel in this country: establishing a force like interior ministries in other countries. The United States has a Department of the Interior, but it is unlike most agencies with that name around the world. Here, it oversees units such as the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the U.S. Geological Survey. But in many countries, the ministry’s role is much broader and more powerful: Its role is to oversee the interior of the country."

"Announced with much fanfare, (Ivanka Trump's “Find Something New”) program amounts to a website with links. Seriously. That’s all it is. There are links to one of those handouts high school guidance counselors give you, asking if you want to work outdoors or in an office, or if you like ideas or working under pressure. There’s a link to the entire Occupational Outlook Handbook of the Department of Labor that lists every job title in the country and tells you if it’s growing or shrinking. (Animal trainer, I was surprised to learn, is growing faster than average!) There are links to community colleges, and links to a few big corporations that say they want to help people find work. There are a lot of links, but none to any actual jobs that are open… For all its laziness and uselessness, the site is a perfect distillation of a lot of the inherited, poorly thought-through ideas that govern much career advice." (Grokked from Coca)

"The message: be afraid, be very afraid… The newest ad from Trump's campaign is a very dramatic dramatization of an older white woman calling 9-1-1 when she sees an intruder. But no one is there to answer her call for help. As she is attacked, the words 'You won't be safe in Joe Biden's America' flash on the screen." Since they lost the anti-gay fight and terrorism just isn't the boogie man it was before, it's the only lever conservatives have left. Also this… "'Your home will go down in value and crime rates will rapidly rise,' (Trump) said. 'People have worked all their lives to get into a community, and now they're going to watch it go to hell. Not going to happen, not while I'm here.'… That kind of racial view, pitting whites in the suburbs against Blacks and Latinos who might move in, is an appeal that seems to stem from an anachronistic view of the suburbs." Just a reminder Trump and company have been sued several times for blocking minority families from renting.