And they come with no warning,
nature loves her little surprises.
Continual crisis!

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.

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