No doorways, no windows, no walls
No shelter here on the ground
No standing and no safe place to fall
Just the promise of this distant sound
Bells are ringing all over the world

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Linkee-poo, good night and good luck

Wishing us all a better and brighter New Year.

Dawn Wells, and so it goes. True confession, I was always more preferential to Mary Ann.

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recalled certain varieties of Sportmix pet food due to toxic levels of aflatoxin. Regulators said Wednesday they're aware of at least 28 dogs that have died due to the toxic mold and at least eight that have been sickened."

"Snowstorms, holidays and general inexperience in handling a pandemic response is to blame for a 'lag' in the number of Americans so far vaccinated for the coronavirus, according to U.S. officials… The federal government previously estimated that 20 million Americans would receive the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine by the end of the year. But as 2020, a year defined by the coronavirus pandemic, comes to a close on Thursday, the government appears set to fall well short of that goal." Who could have seen that?

"Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine held a news conference on the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday afternoon… The governor discussed distribution of the vaccine and encouraged people who have the opportunity to receive the vaccine to take it."

"They are frontline workers with top-priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine, but they are refusing to take it… The vaccine doubts swirling among healthcare workers across the country come as a surprise to researchers, who assumed hospital staff would be among those most in tune with the scientific data backing the vaccines." Ah, well, that's where you made your mistake. As one of the newly minted lizard people, come on in, the water is fine.

"An implacable surge of Covid-19 cases has overwhelmed Southern California hospitals and intensive care units for most of December after public health officials warned for weeks that people should refrain from gathering with those outside their households over the holidays… Yet millions of Americans desperate to reconnect with loved ones and restore a sense of normalcy ignored the warnings on Thanksgiving. As a result, coronavirus cases spiked, and ICU capacity dwindled."

"A now-former employee at a Wisconsin medical center 'intentionally removed' 57 vials of a coronavirus vaccine from refrigeration, forcing officials to throw out nearly 500 doses, according to an internal investigation." Fucker.

"The U.K. National Health Service has pushed back the window for people to receive the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech — to a duration the companies tested on only a small percentage of patients… The NHS wrote a letter to hospitals saying those who are scheduled to receive their second dose after Jan. 4 should be rescheduled from three weeks’ time to 12, with most recipients booked in the last week of that time frame. The move would bring the window closer to the time frame for the just-approved vaccine made by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca."

"The year of Karen: how a meme changed the way Americans talked about racism"

"Workers in 20 states will get a pay hike on January 1 when the minimum wage increases, thanks to cost-of-living adjustments and other scheduled increases. Later in the year, another four states and Washington, D.C. will raise their baseline pay, which means that low-wage workers in almost half the nation could see higher pay next year."

"The number of people filing for unemployment benefits for the first time unexpectedly fell last week, marking its second straight decline… Initial jobless claims declined by 19,000 to 787,000 in the week ended Dec. 26, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected initial jobless claims to rise to 828,000. The previous week’s total for initial claims was upwardly revised by 3,000 to 806,000."

How goes Brexit? An opinion… "But with Britain in a state of crisis because of the government’s botched response to the pandemic, most people will react with relief or perhaps indifference. For all the triumphalist claims of the Brexiters, the sunny uplands they told us to expect are no more than another cold, dark, wet winter’s day. The 11th-hour antics means there will be little scrutiny of a trade deal that could shape Britain’s economic destiny for a generation."

"Although the U.K. has now sealed a trade deal with the European Union, covering $900 billion in tariff-free goods and services annually, the British prime minister’s hopes for a new arrangement with the United States are confronting the reality of a transatlantic relationship that is now anything but special."

"Norwegian rescuers deployed drones and dogs to negotiate unstable clay soil in a search for 10 people still missing on Thursday after a landslide in southern Norway swept away more than a dozen buildings the previous day."

Even your car can be used against you. "In recent years, investigators have realized that automobiles — particularly newer models — can be treasure troves of digital evidence. Their onboard computers generate and store data that can be used to reconstruct where a vehicle has been and what its passengers were doing. They reveal everything from location, speed and acceleration to when doors were opened and closed, whether texts and calls were made while the cellphone was plugged into the infotainment system, as well as voice commands and web histories."

"America’s deadliest serial killer, Samuel Little, who confessed to strangling 93 people, has died in California aged 80 with the identity of almost half of his victims still unknown… Little said he targeted disadvantaged and mostly black women, including sex workers, in the belief that this would draw less attention from a disjointed law enforcement system that had little apparent interest in such victims – a calculation that proved grimly correct. His death means families of many of the victims may never have closure."

"New York City police turned to familiar tactics ahead of Thursday’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, deploying bomb-sniffing dogs and sand-filled sanitation trucks intended to guard against explosions… But the department’s playbook this year includes an unusual mandate: preventing crowds of any size from gathering in Times Square."

"Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed off on a package of controversial new laws that expand the government's powers to label individuals and organizations as 'foreign agents,' and introduce an array of new restrictions on media organizations." Enjoy your new "freedoms" my Russian friends.

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell all but shut the door on President Donald Trump’s push for $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks, declaring Congress has provided enough pandemic aid as he blocked another attempt by Democrats to force a vote." Oh look, it's that "party of fiscal responsibility" again. Someone should have locked the door before they scuttled back inside.

"President Donald Trump is expected to return to Washington earlier than anticipated ahead of a planned disruption by Republicans when Congress meets next week to certify President-elect Joe Biden's win… Trump is now slated to leave Palm Beach before his annual New Year's Eve party, even though guests had already gathered at his south Florida club and were told Trump would be in attendance, according to three people familiar with the matter. The President typically relishes appearing on the red carpet in front of the press and his friends, but is skipping the event altogether this year in what will be an unusual move."

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Linkee-poo Wednesday

"Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, who won a runoff earlier this month to represent Louisiana's Baton Rouge area, died Tuesday from complications of COVID-19."

"Health officials in the U.K. authorized the AstraZeneca-Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, giving the nation a second option for inoculation against the coronavirus… The government will begin rolling out the inexpensive and easy-to-store vaccine beginning Monday. It has ordered 100 million doses — enough to vaccinate 50 million residents, or three-quarters of the country's population."

"Oxygen supply issues led at least five Los Angeles County hospitals to declare an "internal disaster" Sunday, which included turning patients away… There are multiple issues involving oxygen delivery to patients, but generally the problem is not an absolute shortage of oxygen, according to Dr. Christina Ghaly, Los Angeles County Health Services director."

"California's telemetry nurses, who specialize in the electronic monitoring of critically ill patients, normally take care of four patients at once. But ever since the state relaxed California's mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios in mid-December, Nerissa Black has had to keep track of six." Not good.

"The virus infecting thousands of Americans a day is also attacking the country's social fabric. The coronavirus has exposed a weakness in many rural communities, where divisive pandemic politics are alienating some of their most critical residents — health care workers… A wave of departing medical professionals would leave gaping holes in the rural health care system, and small-town economies, triggering a death spiral in some of these areas that may be hard to stop."

"A woman who said she was the girlfriend of the man who set off the Christmas Day explosion in Nashville told police last year he was making bombs in his recreational vehicle, according to a statement and documents the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department provided to CNN."

"The Louisville Metro Police Department is moving to fire two of the officers involved in the raid that led to the police shooting of Breonna Taylor in March, attorneys for the officers confirmed on Tuesday. Detective Myles Cosgrove, one of the officers who opened fire during the raid, and Detective Josh Jaynes, who obtained the search warrant for Taylor's home, have both received pre-termination letters, their attorneys said."

"Argentina's Senate approved a bill to legalize abortion Wednesday in an historic vote seen as a major victory for abortion rights advocates in the Catholic-majority country."

In case you ever hear about farmers hating the government, or the "rural" areas being against the "welfare payments in the inner city", just keep this in mind… "Congress approved about $35 billion in emergency aid to farmers, which came on top of roughly $10 billion in traditional farm subsidies that were already in place. In addition, farmers were able to tap billions of dollars in funding from the Paycheck Protection Program." Farmers love their governmental welfare payments when the money is going to them. This was a hellofa profitable year for farms.

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell… shortly before adjourning the Senate on Tuesday afternoon, introduced a bill that would combine increased direct payments with a repeal of the online liability protections known as Section 230 and the establishment of a commission to study voter fraud. The latter two issues have been significant drivers of Trump's ire in the wake of his general election loss -- the latter of which with zero evidence presented to this point." Killing me softly…

"A significant number of Americans believe misinformation about the origins of the coronavirus and the recent presidential election, as well as conspiracy theories like QAnon, according to a new NPR/Ipsos poll." As long as it supports their worldview, people will believe almost anything.

"We all self-censor at times. We keep quiet at dinner with our in-laws, or nod passively in a work meeting. But what happens when we take this deception a step further, and pretend we believe the opposite of what we really feel? This week on Hidden Brain, economist and political scientist Timur Kuran explains how our personal, professional and political lives are shaped by the fear of what other people think."

"Early voting in the Georgia Senate runoffs is breaking records — and Democrats have reasons for hope in the numbers… More than 2.3 million people have voted as of Tuesday morning through mail-in ballots or in-person early voting for the two races, already topping the record for the most votes in a Georgia runoff election."

"President Donald Trump’s last-gasp bid to overturn his 2020 election defeat appears doomed on Jan. 6, when Congress is set to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory… But the byzantine process by which Congress counts and validates the Electoral College results has left gnawing uncertainty about precisely how the final act in Trump’s undemocratic drama will play out."

"Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. said Wednesday he plans to object during the Electoral College certification process when Congress convenes next week, a move that ensures a delay in the final step to mark President-elect Joe Biden's election victory." Suckup.

"The outgoing Trump administration still isn't providing information in the way President-elect Joe Biden's lieutenants feel is appropriate for a team poised to take the reins of power, incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan told NPR on Tuesday… Sullivan told NPR's Scott Detrow in an exclusive interview that the Defense Department hasn't granted a meeting to the Biden transition since Dec. 18."

"The new year approaches, marking an end to a truly unexpected trip around the sun. This week, On the Media reflects on our 2020 coverage, from the pandemic to the global uprising to the rise of the anti-majoritarian right." A recap of some of their best stories of 2020.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Linkee-poo Tuesday Dec 29

"Such primordial black holes (PBHs) could account for all or part of dark matter, be responsible for some of the observed gravitational waves signals, and seed supermassive black holes found in the center of our Galaxy and other galaxies. They could also play a role in the synthesis of heavy elements when they collide with neutron stars and destroy them, releasing neutron-rich material." Seems a little facile to me.

"Nearly half a million residents in the Chinese city where the novel coronavirus first emerged may have been infected with Covid-19 -- almost 10 times its official number of confirmed cases, according to a study by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)… The study used a sample of 34,000 people in the general population in Wuhan -- the original epicenter of the pandemic -- and other cities in Hubei province, as well as Beijing, Shanghai, and the provinces of Guangdong, Jiangsu, Sichuan and Liaoning to estimate Covid-19 infection rates."

"Health care workers across the country have started receiving COVID-19 vaccines, but doctors and nurses at some of the nation's top hospitals are raising the alarm, charging that vaccine distribution has been unfair and a chaotic 'free-for-all.'"

"But a new update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has changed a guideline for people with these conditions, saying that it's safe for them to receive the COVID vaccine so long as they previously 'have not had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients' used in the doses." Those ingredients are highly protected corporate IP, so good luck.

"California is expected to extend strict stay-at-home orders Tuesday in areas where intensive care units are running out of beds, after Gov. Gavin Newsom warned residents to brace for the effect of a surge upon surge upon surge of coronavirus cases from holiday travel."

"Even with all the warnings, more passengers jammed airports on Sunday than any day since the coronavirus pandemic began. Millions of people traveled despites the post-Thanksgiving surge that has overwhelmed California hospitals."

How goes Brexit? "So far, the large majority of British and EU citizens have not felt the realities of Brexit. Though the U.K. left the European Union on Jan. 31, it follows the bloc’s rules until the end of this year as part of a transition period to the new economic relationship." Can you hear the theme to Jaws too, or is it just me?

"U.S. home price growth accelerated in October to its highest level in more than six years… Standard & Poor’s said Tuesday that its S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index posted a 8.4% annual gain in October, up from 7% in September. The growth rate marks the highest level since March 2014. The 20-City Composite posted a 7.9% annual gain, up from 6.6% the previous month — beating analysts’ estimates of 6.95%, according to Bloomberg." Hello, bubble.

Who needs regulations? "More than 190,000 ceiling fans sold by Home Depot are being recalled because the blades could spin off while in use, possibly injuring those nearby."

"The House on Monday approved giving Americans weathering the coronavirus pandemic $2,000 stimulus checks, substantially boosting payments from the $600 checks that were set to be given out as part of a COVID-19 relief package that President Donald Trump signed into law Sunday evening."

"If McConnell announces plans to bring the bill up for a formal vote, it could still take several days for that vote to occur given the procedural hurdles."

"The House of Representatives on Monday voted to override President Donald Trump's veto of the sweeping defense bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act, delivering a bipartisan rebuke to the President."

"Small drones will be allowed to fly over people and at night in the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Monday, a significant step toward their use for widespread commercial deliveries."

They're still purging voters, aren't they? "A federal judge in Georgia on Monday ordered two counties to reverse a decision removing more than 4,000 voters from the rolls ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff elections that will decide control of the U.S. Senate."

"President-elect Joe Biden is warning of massive damage done to the national security apparatus by the Trump administration and 'roadblocks' in communication between agency officials and his transition team that could undermine Americans’ security." I think part of this is that there isn't any planning or direction to actually see. Those things are not Trump's strong points.

"Rep. Louie Gohmert became the latest Republican to file a long-shot lawsuit attempting to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s victory — this time by suing Vice President Mike Pence." Long-shot? It's not even a Hail Mary play. It's a whackaloon premise.

"Though the lawsuit itself is unlikely to gain legal traction, it does put Pence in the position of having to either contest the suit — putting him on the opposite side of Trump and his GOP defenders — or support it and lay bare the intention to subvert the will over the voters in the 2020 election." And that's the problem with coddling and playing footsie with whackaloons. Eventually you're put on the spot and have to choose.

"Less than a week after his controversial pardon, Roger Stone said he was able to thank President Donald Trump in person over the weekend… 'I also told the president exactly how he can appoint a special counsel with full subpoena power to ensure those who are attempting to steal the 2020 election through voter fraud are charged and convicted and to ensure Donald Trump continues as our president,' Stone wrote." Funny, for a guy supposedly reduced to eating peanut-butter sandwiches in his mansion, he seems to belong to an expensive club and is sure getting around a lot.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Linkee-poo Monday Dec 28

Things are going to be a little crazy this week, folks. Also, don't expect posting next week. I need to take a little time off.

"The man believed to be responsible for the Christmas Day bombing that tore through downtown Nashville blew himself up in the explosion, and appears to have acted alone, federal officials said Sunday."

"Hundreds of tips and a phalanx of law enforcement officers helped determine that Anthony Quinn Warner triggered the bomb that rocked this city and took his life on Christmas morning… All that information and effort, however, have thus far failed to determine why. Investigators on Monday continued to try to put together the pieces."

"A sheriff's office in Tennessee says the driver of a box truck that was heard playing audio at a convenience store outside Nashville Sunday has been booked into jail on felony charges. But authorities say it didn't have explosives."

"Ever wonder what a 2,000-year-old fast food restaurant might look like?… Well, new photos from researchers might give you an idea. Archaeologists said on Saturday they excavated a complete thermopolium — a Roman food counter — in the ancient city of Pompeii." I'll have fries, please.

"The ashes of the late James Doohan, who played chief engineer Montgomery Scott on the original Star Trek television series, have been aboard the International Space Station for 12 years — and the Times of London has the fascinating backstory of how it happened. Doohan died in 2005 at the age of 85, and his family wanted to fulfill his wish of getting on the ISS."

"U.S. health officials believe the coronavirus mutation that set off alarms in parts of Britain is no more apt to cause serious illness or be resistant to vaccines than the strain afflicting people in the United States but it still must be taken 'very seriously,' the government’s top infectious disease expert said Sunday."

"At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a small group of disability rights advocates found itself in a race against time to save the life of a woman with an intellectual disability… The woman was taken to the hospital with COVID-19. But the hospital, in a small Oregon town, denied the ventilator she needed. Instead, a doctor, citing her 'low quality of life,' wanted her to sign a legal form to allow the hospital to deny her care." The fuck?

"Novavax has begun a large late-stage study of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine in the United States, the drug developer said on Monday, after delaying the trial twice due to issues in scaling up the manufacturing process."

An exception is made. "The Vatican on Monday declared that it is 'morally acceptable' for Roman Catholics to receive COVID-19 vaccines based on research that used cells derived from aborted fetuses, guidance that came after some churchmen in the United States argued that such products were immoral."

How goes Brexit? "There will be "bumpy moments" for UK businesses and travellers as they get to grips with new EU rules, says government minister Michael Gove… He said there would be "practical and procedural changes" when the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December… Mr Gove also urged people going to the EU to make extra checks, including mobile phone roaming charges."

"China has escalated its campaign to rein in the vast tech empire controlled by Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba and one of the country’s richest people." Can't wait to hear from conservatives how breaking up Facebook would have the government just like China.

"The suspect in a deadly shooting Saturday night at an Illinois bowling alley is a Green Beret. Duke Webb, a 37-year-old Florida resident, allegedly killed three people and wounded three others at Don Carter Lanes in Rockford, Illinois… He's been charged with three counts of first degree murder and three counts of attempted first degree murder, police announced Sunday."

"One of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights activists was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison Monday despite international pressure for her to be released, according to a member of her family."

"The suit claims that Pence should not be allowed to count the electoral college's votes because state legislatures have not 'affirmatively voted to certify the Presidential electors,' despite the fact that the electoral college has already voted and given Biden 306 votes, which is more than what he needs to win the presidency."

"President Donald Trump signed the massive $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and government funding bill into law Sunday night, averting a government shutdown that was set to begin on Tuesday, and extending billions of dollars in coronavirus aid to millions." While that great, IIRC, some of those on unemployment will need to refile claims.

"Georgia’s election administrators are fighting bizarre conspiracy theories, ballooning costs and coronavirus-related staffing problems as they prepare for the state’s contentious, nationally watched Senate runoffs next week… In interviews, eight Georgia election officials — including a top aide in the secretary of state’s office and county administrators around the state — said they were confident of holding a smooth election on Jan. 5 to decide control of the Senate. But those runoffs have pushed the people making the system work to their breaking point."

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Linkee-poo 7 O'Clock News/Silent Night

"A large winter storm that brought blizzard conditions to the Midwest on Wednesday night is set to hit much of the East Coast on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, bringing snow to parts of the South and heavy rain across the East Coast."

"The massive surge in coronavirus cases has left hospitals in Los Angeles County scrambling to handle the increasing numbers of patients showing up at their doors. Nowhere is that more evident than in hospitals' intensive care units, which are rapidly filling up with the worst COVID-19 cases."

"'I don't trust this hospital,' Dr. Susan Moore said from her hospital bed in Indiana, an oxygen tube hooked up to her nose. 'That is not how you treat patients.'… Moore, an Indianapolis physician who was being treated for COVID-19 at Indiana University Hospital North, died of the virus this week. Earlier this month, she posted a video to Facebook to share that she believed she was not receiving proper medical care because she was Black."

"Body camera footage shows a Columbus police officer fatally shooting 47-year-old Andre Maurice Hill less than 10 seconds after finding him in a garage early Tuesday. The officer who shot him is Adam Coy, a 19-year veteran of the department who has since been placed on paid administrative leave."

"Dozens of Tennessee hospitals have stopped taking transfer patients because they are already overwhelmed during one of the nation’s worst recent outbreaks of COVID-19, the state’s top health official said Wednesday."

"Russia’s Health Ministry agreed Wednesday to cut the size of a study of a domestically developed coronavirus vaccine and to stop the enrollment of volunteers."

How goes Brexit? "The new trade deal is what is known as a hard Brexit, meaning the British and EU economies will no longer have the close regulatory alignment they've enjoyed for decades. Economists say that even with the deal, Britain's per capita income will be 6.4% lower over the next decade than it would've been if the U.K. had remained part of the EU." What it looks like is they drew the line where they were and declared victory. But it still needs to be ratified.

"The British pound traded near 2-½ year highs on Thursday as investors reacted to the U.K. and the European Union striking a long-awaited Brexit trade deal."

"Millions of gifts may arrive late, as the U.S. Postal Service grapples with an unprecedented volume of packages from people shopping online, instead of at stores, and shipping holiday gifts instead of bringing them in person."

"President Donald Trump on Wednesday vetoed the annual defense policy bill, following through on threats to veto a measure that has broad bipartisan support in Congress and potentially setting up the first override vote of his presidency."

"House Republicans on Thursday blocked a Democratic attempt to pass $2,000 direct payments to Americans, as the fate of the massive coronavirus relief package passed by Congress earlier in the week hangs in the balance." Because of course they did.

"With the Georgia Senate runoff races just two weeks away, the Department of Homeland Security is warning of the possibility of 'ideologically motivated violence' and even a foreign influence campaign as voters prepare to go to the polls, according to a new internal report obtained by Yahoo News."

"The Federal Election Commission has not been able to operate since July, when a Republican commissioner resigned, leaving the FEC short of the four commissioners necessary to meet and unable fulfill its job of enforcing campaign finance law… Following Senate action earlier in December, it now has a full compliment of six commissioners: three Democrats, two Republicans and one independent."

Look, actual election fraud! "Local officials have debunked several of the dead-voter claims, and there remains no evidence of widespread voter fraud. But now, Pennsylvania officials say one of the names held up by the Trump campaign was used to cast a vote in the election… Here’s the catch: Authorities say the fraudulent vote was cast for Mr. Trump." Nevermind, yet another conservative voter.

"President Trump issued dozens more pardons on Wednesday evening to many wealthy and well-connected convicts with ties to his innermost circles, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Republican operative Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father-in-law of Ivanka Trump… The pardons and commutations to such close allies showcase Trump's willingness to flout the norms of presidential conduct."

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Linkee-poo Wednesday Dec 23

"It's no secret that inhaling smoke is bad for your lungs. But now, scientists are suggesting smoke may also carry and spread infectious diseases… The theory, published in Science Magazine, is based on research that found wildfire smoke is teeming with thousands of species of microorganisms. Some of these microorganisms, including bacteria and fungal spores, are known to cause disease."

"Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?… Yes, with some exceptions."

"Ten months into the pandemic, it has become far clearer why tens of thousands of healthcare workers have been infected by the virus and why so many have died: dire PPE shortages. Limited Covid tests. Sparse tracking of viral spread. Layers of flawed policies handed down by healthcare executives and politicians, and lax enforcement by government regulators." Jazz hands! "And an Osha investigation into Marks’ death found there was no sign on the door to warn him that a potentially infected patient was inside, nor was there a cart outside the room where he could grab protective gear." I can't tell you how many time this has happened, both from negligence and from ignorance. The later I can understand (although it makes me mad, because seriously, what is it about the word "pandemic" that administrators don't understand), the former makes me incandescent with rage.

"The European Union executive threw Britain a lifeline on Tuesday after it became stranded in Covid-19 isolation, recommending that E.U. members roll-back sweeping border closures to allow freight to resume and people to return home for Christmas."

"Some goods and passengers began arriving on French shores in the morning, thanks to an agreement that allows people with a negative virus test to cross the Channel from Britain. But officials warned the backlog would take days to clear, and some truckers scuffled with police as huge lines of vehicles persisted at the port of Dover."

"The Department of Justice is alleging that Walmart broke the law and contributed to the prescription opioid crisis by filling thousands of invalid prescriptions and failing to report suspicious orders of opioids, according to the department's statement… The Justice Department said the civil penalties it is seeking could total billions of dollars and injunctive relief." Didn't see that one coming. But also understand, the DoJ is asking Walmart to police what you take, not just "noticing the large trends."

"A second round of stimulus checks had been expected to land in the bank accounts of millions of Americans as soon as next week, thanks to the $900 billion economic relief package that Congress passed Monday night. But President Donald Trump's sudden insistence Tuesday that lawmakers boost the bill's $600 stimulus checks to $2,000 per person is now throwing the timing and amount of the checks into question." It's one way to throw a temper tantrum and deny people any relief, all while appearing to be fighting for people. It's a lame political hack job. Why do I think so? The president could have interjected the conservation and negotiations to bring about a $2000 stimulus AT ANY TIME. Instead he waited until the bill was on the way to his desk. And even with the Democrats saying, "We'll pass it!" the original $600 bill will be signed (most likely) and everybody can go into Christmas saying how they "wanted to do more for the people who are suffering." Also I'll point out that the extra stimulus going to people who are on Medicaid will bump many of them out of the program.

"Jobless claims rose less than expected last week as employers weighed a wintertime spike in Covid-19 cases against expected relief from a pending $900 billion stimulus package, the Labor Department reported Wednesday… The number of first-time unemployment-benefits filers decelerated to 803,000 in the week ended Dec. 19. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected initial claims to rise to 888,000… Initial claims for the previous week were revised higher by 7,000 to 892,000, the highest print since early September." Again, note the trend of revising earlier numbers upward. And while it's starting to sound and feel familiar, having 800,000+ new jobless claims in one week is Not Normal™.

"Israeli politics is once again in turmoil: parliament has dissolved and Israel will hold yet another election expected on March 23. It will be Israel's fourth national vote in the span of two years."

"Facebook argues that Apple's privacy changes in iOS 14, which give users the option to opt-out of ad tracking, will harm small businesses that see increased sales from personalized ads. However, some Facebook employees are reportedly complaining about what they perceived to be a self-serving campaign." Well of course, cancelling ad tracking would destroy Facebook's revenue stream.

"When the votes came in a few hours later, the $900 billion stimulus package easily cleared both chambers. It was long overdue, desperately needed and, by many measures, not quite good enough considering the sizable problems many Americans still face in the Covid-19 era. But one bright spot was the $15 billion set aside for independent venues, Broadway theaters, movie theaters, talent agencies and museums. Though it benefits numerous cultural institutions that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, its inclusion in the bill is due in large part to the efforts of those in the live music industry."

"U.S. airlines have begun the complicated process of calling back 32,000 workers they furloughed this fall, a condition struggling carriers need to comply with to receive $15 billion in additional federal payroll support."

"The U.S. Postal Service has opened a new processing facility in Northeast Ohio and may receive additional funding through the latest federal COVID-19 relief bill as it faces continued mail delays that have led to holiday gifts, medications and more arriving weeks behind schedule." The damage done by this administration will last a long time.

"Floriano is one of more than 30 undocumented immigrants who've come forward with allegations of medical abuse, according to court papers filed late Monday — all of them current or former detainees at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga. Many of the women say that they were pressured to have unwanted or unnecessary gynecological procedures while in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or that they were retaliated against for speaking out."

"In a one-day special legislative session called to address a number of pandemic-related crises, lawmakers also voted to protect schools from lawsuits related to COVID-19 and to bolster bars and restaurants by allowing cocktail sales to go… Those proposals all passed relatively speedily. The real tumult was happening outside."

Just a bunch of peaceful patriotic protestors… "Oregon State Police reported that officers were sprayed with 'some kind of chemical agent' twice while trying to repel people from the building. Officers had arrested three people as of early afternoon, including a 41-year-old man who state police said sprayed bear mace at police… Those arrests did not dissuade demonstrators, some of whom shattered glass doors into the Capitol while demanding to be let inside. Some members of the crowd harassed or assaulted journalists reporting on the event." Yet they carried the "Thin Blue Line" flag.

"The voting conspiracy theories that have led millions of Republicans to feel as though the election was stolen from them, which are still spreading, have also led to calls for Coomer's head."

"A top employee of Dominion Voting Systems, who has gone into hiding after becoming the subject of conspiracy theories on the right since the election, is suing the Trump campaign, a number of campaign surrogates and pro-Trump media outlets, alleging defamation."

"All of which is to say: Actual secession in the U.S. remains, for the moment, something outside the realm of feasibility. But that misses the point about what is really driving the threats. Whether they acknowledge it or not, the proponents of severing centuries-old bonds don’t necessarily want to break away. (Who wants the financial implosion and massive outflow of capital that would come with actual independence, anyway?) Instead, they are using secession as a kind of rhetorical cover for an opposition strategy that has erupted periodically throughout American history: rampant obstructionism and even outright nullification. This isn’t a replay of the rise of the Confederacy in 1861 as much as it is the birth of the Tea Party in 2009—a grinding war of attrition fought from inside the government, using the legislatively lethal weapon of 'no.'"

"Justice Department whistleblowers are calling on federal watchdogs and members of Congress to investigate what they call illegal and abusive government directives that waste money and chill 'diversity-related speech across the entire federal workforce.'… NPR has obtained a letter by a lawyer for the whistleblowers, who report that diversity and inclusion programs they had planned for the Justice Department earlier this year were branded "divisive propaganda" and had to be canceled."

"President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned four former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that left more than a dozen Iraqi civilians dead and caused an international uproar over the use of private security guards in a war zone." The fuckers. These assholes belong in jail. Because we don't treat humans like the rabid dogs they are.

Also… "President Donald Trump has pardoned 15 people, including a pair of congressional Republicans who were strong and early supporters, a 2016 campaign official ensnared in the Russia probe and former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad." 25th Amendment time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Linkee-poo Tuesday Dec 22

"While blasting a wall of permafrost with a water cannon to release whatever riches might be found inside, Neil Loveless saw something melting out of the ice. It wasn’t a precious mineral, but the oldest and most complete wolf mummy ever discovered."

"People with private health insurance will see the nasty shock of “surprise” medical bills virtually gone, thanks to the coronavirus compromise passed by Congress." Yeah, I'mma gonna need a ruling on this one because it seems overly complicated with many opportunities to just bill the consumer, because they have no say in the process.

"There is a new strain of coronavirus in the United Kingdom that health experts are saying is more contagious. At least 40 countries are taking drastic action to isolate the U.K., closing borders, cutting off trade routes and restricting travel, resulting in chaotic scenes at airports and on the roads."

"As dozens of countries blocked the flow of people and goods from Britain to avoid a new and more contagious strain of coronavirus, scientists raced to understand how it emerged and the scope of its threat."

"Hundreds of stranded truck drivers hoped to get the green light to leave Britain on Tuesday as the country found itself increasingly isolated and its trade bottled up, cut off by neighbors afraid of a new strain of the coronavirus circulating in England." Welcome to Hard Brexit Lite.

"Pfizer and Moderna are testing their coronavirus vaccines to see if they work against the mutated version of the virus found in the United Kingdom and other countries, the companies said… The variant has not been identified in the United States, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a Tuesday brief, but 'given the small fraction of US infections that have been sequenced, the variant could already be in the United States without having been detected.'" Um…

Even Bullshit Mountain has to acknowledge reality once in a while. "This is the deadliest year in U.S. history, with deaths expected to top 3 million for the first time – due mainly to the coronavirus pandemic… Final mortality data for this year will not be available for months. But preliminary numbers suggest that the United States is on track to see more than 3.2 million deaths this year, or at least 400,000 more than in 2019." But don't worry, they do their best to muddle the waters with comorbidities. But it's basically this AP news story.

Using religion as a shield for their hatred… "When the church doors open, only white people will be allowed inside… That’s the message the Asatru Folk Assembly in Murdock, Minnesota, is sending after being granted a conditional use permit to open a church there and practice its pre-Christian religion that originated in northern Europe… Despite a council vote officially approving the permit this month, residents are pushing back against the decision." They could have denied the permit and invited the church to purchase any of the land zoned to allow churches.But then they would also need to make sure they had a clean record of where they allowed church gatherings.

"Two passengers aboard a Delta flight bound for Atlanta opened a cabin door and activated the slide to exit the plane while it was taxiing to a runway at New York's LaGuardia Airport Monday morning, Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant told CNN… The New York Times reported that a large service dog also deplaned with them."

"A closely-watched gauge of U.S. consumer confidence tumbled in December as rising coronavirus cases dragged American optimism to its lowest level since the summer… However, rising pessimism is now spreading during the crucial holiday season, which could make or break a number of retailers, airlines, restaurants other sector that have been hammered financially during the pandemic."

"Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google agreed to 'cooperate and assist one another' in case of an investigation into their pact to work together in online advertising, the Wall Street Journal reported late on Monday… The Journal report cited an unredacted version of a lawsuit filed by 10 states against Google last week… The states had accused Google of working with Facebook in an unlawful manner that violated antitrust law to boost its already-dominant online advertising business."

"Facebook has already been accused of spreading lies and polarizing society. Now, the federal government says it illegally crushed competition. On this week’s On the Media, how to roll back a global power that has transformed our economy and warped our democracy." A good primer for how Facebook and Google have warped our world and changed our economy. Especially good for the 3rd segment… "Shoshana Zuboff, professor emeritus at Harvard Business School and author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, on the data extraction and human futures markets that comprise much of our economy." Here we are in our cyberpunk future, not like the game, but still one with an economy driven by corporations, where we are the product they're selling.

"Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny says he has uncovered details of his own poisoning by duping one of the Kremlin agents involved into revealing how it was done… The research group Bellingcat revealed details Monday of a 45-minute phone call between Navalny, who posed as an agent for Russia's National Security Council, and the alleged Kremlin agent, Konstantin Kudryavtsev. Navalny coaxed details of the attack from Kudryavtsev, who said the nerve agent Novichok was applied to the politician's underwear."

"As part of the deal, Morocco, which is home to a small but centuries-old Jewish community and has long welcomed Israeli tourists, secured U.S. recognition of its 1975 annexation of the disputed region of Western Sahara, which is not recognized by the United Nations."

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed in a new interview to bring all of President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees to the Senate floor for votes by the full chamber — a pledge that comes ahead of what both Democrats and Republicans are expecting to be a series of bitter confirmation fights early next year." It also comes as he fights to save being majority leader by trying to win both Senate seats in Georgia. Also note he's not saying they'll be confirmed, or that he'll work for their confirmation, just that there will be a vote.

"Televangelist Pat Robertson acknowledged on Monday's 700 Club that President-elect Joe Biden won, predicted 'we'll be seeing a President Kamala Harris not too long after the inauguration of President Biden,' and said it's time for President Trump to concede and retire from politics." Didn't Crazy Uncle Pat say God told him Trump would win?

"Joe Biden will be president in 30 days. Until then, the question is how much damage can be done by a vengeful, delusional soon-to-be ex-President swilling conspiracy theories, whose wild anti-democratic instincts are being encouraged by fringe political opportunists… Donald Trump will retain the awesome powers of the presidency until noon on January 20, and there's never been a time when he has been subject to as few restraining influences or has had a bigger incentive to cause disruption."

Monday, December 21, 2020

Linkee-poo Solstice 2020

For your edification, aluminum oxynitride, otherwise known and transparent aluminum.

"Astronomers hunting for radio signals from alien civilizations have detected an 'intriguing signal' from the direction of Proxima Centauri, the nearest star system to the sun, The Guardian reported." Well, maybe.

"The Hawaii county Civil Defense Agency (COH) has asked residents to stay indoors after the Kilauea volcano erupted following a series of earthquakes… The eruption on the Big Island took place late Sunday night local time at the Halemaumau Crater, COH said. The Kilauea Volcano observatory raised the alert level to warning, an advisory said."

The War on Christmas… "The United Kingdom has entered a period of intense restrictions after a mutation of the coronavirus was discovered spreading rapidly through the population of London and the southeast and east of England. Most of the country faces a strict lockdown as Christmas approaches, and several countries throughout Europe have banned travel from the U.K." And "christians" are freaking the fuck out. I recommend watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and pay extra careful attention this time.

"A highly contagious new variant of the coronavirus is causing countries in Europe and elsewhere to block travel from Britain… The U.K. last week warned of a new coronavirus variant that is thought to be up to 70% more transmissible than the original strain of the disease. According to the World Health Organization, the new variant has so far been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia."

"Tax cuts for the wealthy have long drawn support from conservative lawmakers and economists who argue that such measures will 'trickle down' and eventually boost jobs and incomes for everyone else. But a new study from the London School of Economics says 50 years of such tax cuts have only helped one group — the rich." I know, I'm shocked too. Tax the rich.

How goes Brexit? "With yet another Brexit deadline disappearing in the rearview mirror, a breakthrough on fishing rights remained elusive for the European Union and Britain on Sunday — leaving both without a trade agreement that would dull the cutting edge of a chaotic, costly economic break on New Year’s Day."

Brexit comes early… "A growing number of countries are closing their borders to travelers from the United Kingdom as a way to preemptively block the spread of a new strain of the coronavirus that is sweeping through southeast England."

"Lawmakers struck a nearly $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus deal Sunday that includes another round of stimulus checks and badly needed jobless benefits for struggling Americans, ending a long standoff in Washington with one of the biggest rescue bills in U.S. history."

"The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee inside the U.S. Capitol was removed from the building’s crypt Monday morning and will be relocated to the Virginia Museum of History & Culture." Bye, asshole.

"Rocket attacks by "Iran-backed militias" into an area housing the U.S. Embassy in Iraq killed at least one local civilian and damaged the embassy compound, according to U.S. diplomatic sources."

"The cyber-security firm that identified the large-scale hacking of US government agencies says it 'genuinely impacted' around 50 organisations… The US Treasury and departments of homeland security, state and defence are known to have been targeted."

"A meeting President Donald Trump held to discuss overturning the election result alarmed some White House staffers -- people who are used to Trump's inflammatory and anti-democratic rhetoric… With only a month remaining until President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn into office, Trump has been ramping up his efforts to remain president, while also trying to convince millions of Americans that election fraud is to blame for his presidential loss."

"The attorney Sidney Powell was spotted on Sunday leaving the White House, where the New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman cited a source saying she had been advocating an executive order that would allow for voting machines to be collected and examined." That's not within the Executive's purview. You'd need a court order.

"Over the next month, the president would conduct a sweeping campaign to personally cajole Republican Party leaders across the country to reject the will of the voters and hand him the election. In his appeals, he used specious and false claims of widespread voter fraud, leaning on baseless allegations that corrupt Democrats had conspired at every level to steal a presidential election." The president is a tyrant.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Linkee-poo weekend Saturday Dec 19

The continuing saga of #DisneyMustPay… "What I’ve learned from investigating the claims highlights the perilous position that writing for popular, existing properties poses for creators. The legal landscape is tilted towards the corporations — and the publishers under them — making the system tough to challenge."

"With just a few weeks left, 2020 is in a dead-heat tie for the hottest year on record. But whether it claims the top spot misses the point, climate scientists say. There is no shortage of disquieting statistics about what is happening to the Earth."

"Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope watched a mysterious dark vortex on Neptune abruptly steer away from a likely death on the giant blue planet."

"I am a violence researcher and study the role of grievances and retaliation in violent crime. Recently, I’ve been researching the way grievances affect the brain, and it turns out that your brain on grievance looks a lot like your brain on drugs. In fact, brain imaging studies show that harboring a grievance (a perceived wrong or injustice, real or imagined) activates the same neural reward circuitry as narcotics."

"Scientists and policymakers are hopeful about a slate of vaccines, but it may be a long time before everyone has access. This week, On the Media explores the ethical questions around vaccine distribution. Plus, how some pundits are inflating the odds of Donald Trump facing criminal charges. And, how death rituals can help us face our mounting grief." It's a wide range of topics, but highly recommended.

There is some discussion about politicians getting the vaccine before healthcare workers and I want to acknowledge those who says it's wrong. Yes, politicians (especially those who fucked up the response) shouldn't be first in line. BUT (and you knew it was coming), they should. And they should all have it on camera/broadcast. It is a confidence booster for the general public. Because the alternate explanation is "they people asking us to get the shot won't take it themselves." And that would absolutely destroy any chances of having enough of the population vaccinated to really stop this thing. However, there is a point along the pecking order that it should stop, like say right below the governors. And all of the inoculations of politicians should be on camera. Again, this isn't a favoritism exercise, this is a "I'm putting my body/health on the line to show you that I trust this thing, and you should too." It's propaganda, but of the good kind.

"On Friday, just one week after Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine received a federal green light, the Food and Drug Administration formally authorized a second vaccine for emergency use — this one developed by Moderna. The biotech upstart won authorization for use in adults following extensive federal analysis of the vaccine, which the FDA found to be 94% effective at preventing the disease." No, you can't mix them.

"An otherwise stoic emergency room physician found himself overcome with emotion as he got the Covid-19 vaccine this week… 'I wasn't expecting to really feel much getting the vaccine emotionally,' Matuskowitz, 37, told CNN. 'Yet I still felt so overcome with this almost ecstasy about this idea of there is actually an end in sight.'" What goes on relatively unseen by the public are the battles healthcare workers have amongst themselves. In my workroom there have been very intense discussions over getting the vaccine. While I would prefer the AstraZeneca vaccine, if offered the Pfizer vaccine first I will take it. I would rather get it after ICU, Emergency Room, lab/phlebotomy, and the environmental services people have their chance, but that's not my decision.

"Pfizer is pushing back on the Trump administration's suggestion that the company is having trouble producing its COVID-19 vaccine, saying it's ready to ship millions more doses – once the government asks for them. As the company spoke out, several states said their vaccine allocations for next week have been sharply reduced… Here's what the key players are saying about a complicated situation:" Incompetence.

"Army General Gustave Perna, the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, acknowledged during a briefing on Saturday there was a 'miscommunication' with states about how many doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine would be initially available to them… Perna's briefing came after more than 10 states were told this week the number of doses of the vaccine they were expecting to receive next week has been cut, with little information as to why. Perna said he took 'personal responsibility' for the miscommunication, saying he had to revise the allocation of doses to certain states after getting more information from Pfizer about the amount of vaccine available." Falling on their sword, haven't seen that for a while.

You might forget exactly why we had economic lockdowns… "With intensive care units full and projections showing big increases in hospitalizations through New Year’s Day, Southern California’s medical system is faced with the prospect of not being able to provide critical medical care to everyone who needs it, which would significantly increase the chances of patients dying as they wait for help." The curve ain't flattening this time.

The year without a Santa Claus… "Italy has ordered a nationwide lockdown over much of the Christmas and New Year period in an effort to combat a rise in coronavirus cases… The country will be under 'red-zone' restrictions over the public holidays, with non-essential shops, restaurants and bars closed, and Italians only allowed to travel for work, health and emergency reasons."

How goes Brexit? "Boris Johnson might not be fully aware of it, but the next two weeks could contain two of the most significant moments in his premiership… As Brits wind down for the Christmas break and look forward to the end of a horrendous year, the country will live in real time the consequences of policy decisions Johnson has taken in the face of the two greatest post-war crises the UK has faced: coronavirus and Brexit." Look, given the amount of planning, logistics, and government functions there are only two paths right now, hard Brexit or capitulation. No deal has the time work through the parliaments to be ratified. At best, a deal could be struck with an agreement to continue the status quo for another month or two.

"A modeling agent who is suspected of organizing the 'accommodation of young girls or young women on behalf of Jeffrey Epstein' has been charged with the rape of minors, a French prosecutor said Saturday… Jean Luc Brunel was arrested as part of an ongoing investigation on Wednesday at Charles de Gaulle airport as he was preparing to take a flight to Senegal."

"More than 300 schoolboys have been reunited with their families, a week after they were kidnapped from their school in north-west Nigeria… The boys arrived by bus in Katsina, capital of the state of the same name, where they were met by President Muhammadu Buhari."

"Agreement on a bipartisan coronavirus relief package remains elusive as top congressional leaders continue to negotiate and their efforts spilled into the weekend. While they've had a framework for days, they are struggling to close out several details, and a new issue emerged as a key sticking point." One of those sticky points… "Separately, Democrats are objecting to efforts by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to add a provision to the bill that they say will make it more difficult for the incoming Biden administration to access emergency powers for additional lending authority."

"Congressional leaders on Saturday morning were still scrambling to clinch a coronavirus relief deal, just two days before lawmakers face the threat of yet another shutdown… Both chambers now plan to hold a rare weekend session days before Christmas, with negotiators in both parties saying they aim to reach a final agreement within hours." Sure. And monkey may fly out of my butt.

"Leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives received an FBI briefing regarding Rep. Eric Swalwell's ties to a suspected Chinese spy, as a report of his association with the woman prompted Republicans to call for the California Democrat's removal from his position in the House Intelligence Committee."

You said it yourself, bitch. We're the guardians of the galaxy. "Vice President Mike Pence announced Friday that members of the Space Force military service will be called guardians."

"This week news broke that United States government agencies and corporations alike—as well as international targets—were victims of a massive nation-state espionage campaign. But as the revelations continue to pile up, and new targets are discovered by the day, it can be hard to get a handle on what exactly happened and what it all means."

"Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday publicly linked Russia to a massive cyberattack on US federal government agencies, calling the data breach 'a very significant effort' in remarks the President appeared to contradict Saturday." They're going to argue over reality until the bitter end.

"The U.S. State Department is shutting down its consulate in Vladivostok, Russia, and suspending operations at one in Yekaterinburg, officials confirmed on Friday… Secretary of State Mike Pompeo consulted with Ambassador John Sullivan before deciding to implement the changes which the department says will 'optimize the work of the U.S. mission in Russia,' a spokesperson said in an emailed statement." Consulates are our outreach to the Russian public. Basically this means we're pulling back from helping everyday Russians.

"The U.S. Supreme Court ducked a direct ruling Friday on whether President Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants from a key census count… In an unsigned opinion, the court said it would be 'premature' to rule on the case right now because it is 'riddled with contingencies and speculation' and even the Trump administration doesn't know how many undocumented immigrants there are or where they live."

"President-elect Joe Biden's transition team is having new problems with the Trump administration, the latest in a series of clashes between them. There is disagreement over access to the Pentagon, according to CBS News' Ed O'Keefe… Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said his team and the president-elect's office mutually agreed to put off some meetings scheduled for Friday until after the holidays. However, Yohannes Abraham, the Biden-Harris transition's executive director, told reporters Friday that agreement was not made." It's at this point, in a well functioning organization, where the leaders stand up in front of the decision makers and tell them to play nice. But when only one side has adults and the other side is lead by a sulking poor loser, this shit can go on for another month.

"President Donald Trump's continuing fraudulent attacks against the reality of his election loss have pitted Republicans in Arizona against each other, with some in the party fearing the ongoing and public rift will open the door to further gains by Democrats beyond 2020."

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Linkee-poo Thursday Dec 17

More than likely there won't be a post tomorrow. There's too much going on in the morning.

Charley Pride, and so it goes.

"New Jersey’s first major snowstorm of the year is winding down early Thursday with accumulations expected to end before daybreak and wind gusts that reached more than 60 mph along the Jersey Shore calming."

"Fiji's government ordered a nationwide curfew on Thursday, including a ban on public transportation, with a potentially devastating cyclone expected to unleash powerful winds and flooding on the island nation within a day… Tropical Cyclone Yasa made landfall in Fiji Thursday afternoon, local time, slamming into the island of Vanua Levu packing winds of 240 kph (149 mph) equivalent to a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. This is the second time this year the Fiji archipelago has had a direct landfall from a major tropical cyclone."

Who needs regulations? "A 9-year-old girl who died after an asthma attack is thought to be the first person in the world to have air pollution listed as a cause of death in a landmark coroner's ruling… Ella Kissi-Debrah lived in Lewisham, southeast London, near one of the UK capital's busiest roads, the South Circular. She died in hospital in February 2013 after suffering a cardiac arrest from which she could not be resuscitated, the coroner reported on Wednesday." Because she was 9, it's easier to point to air pollution as a significant factor on her death. As we get older, it becomes harder.

"The U.S. on Wednesday reported the highest number of new cases of the coronavirus and the most COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began… As of 1:30 a.m. Thursday, more than 3,600 Americans died Wednesday from complications of the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking coronavirus infection data."

"The Japanese capital Tokyo, faced with acute strains on its medical system from the COVID-19 pandemic, raised its alert level to the highest of four stages on Thursday as the number of new cases spiked to a record daily high of 822."

"Tyson Foods has fired seven managers at an Iowa pork plant after investigating allegations they bet on how many workers there would get sick from the coronavirus." I doubt any of the top management have been disciplined. Corporate culture flows from the top. Also note the betting was only the most egregious behavior, and that the company did a lot of other things which increased their employees' chance of contracting COVID and dying.

"New Zealand has advance purchased two new coronavirus vaccines from pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Novavax, giving the small island country the ability to vaccinate its 5 million residents… Government officials also announced Thursday they will go a step further and provide free doses to its population as well as neighboring nations Tokelau, Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu, should they want them."

"The distribution of the coronavirus vaccine has expanded to nursing homes days after the first doses were given… More than a third of the 306,000 COVID-19 deaths have come from long-term care facilities and nursing home residents, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Workers in West Virginia and Florida were at the front of the line to get their first dose of the vaccine."

"Some of those nurses have had family members admitted to the hospital, gravely ill with COVID-19. But he said some nurses and hospital staff members — many of whom are Latinx or Black — are skeptical it will work and are worried about unfounded side effects… According to the Pew Research Center, skepticism in a COVID-19 vaccine is highest among African Americans. While 60% of Americans overall say they intend to get vaccinated, fewer than half of Black adults say they will get a vaccine, according to Pew… Among health care workers, most say they plan to get vaccinated, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared at a public meeting of its vaccine advisory committee last month." My hospital has a very low number of minorities working there, but I can tell you that 50% figure is about correct for everybody. And at this time the vaccine will not be mandatory (although this was the first year the annual flu vaccine was). My guess is it won't be mandatory until everyone who wants it receives it. It's only when we have a solid supply that they will make it mandatory. Some workers have real concerns (they don't do well with vaccines and have had reactions to other vaccines), but a lot of it is the misinformation out there. And this… "Varon said he is worried about a post-Christmas surge that he expects will be even worse than what his unit is seeing now." Yes, this.

"Moderna's coronavirus vaccine candidate is similar to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that was authorized and shipped out to the first Americans earlier this week… But there are a few key differences. Most importantly, Moderna's vaccine can be stored in normal freezers and does not require a super-cold transportation network, making it more accessible for smaller facilities and local communities."

"Some of the first doses of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccine were held up from delivery in the U.S. this week and sent back to the company because they were colder than anticipated… Gustave Perna, the army general who serves as Operation Warp Speed’s chief operations officer, said that two trays of vials at two California locations was colder than they are supposed to be. The same thing happened at one location in Alabama, Perna said at a news briefing Wednesday." It's a Goldilock's problem, this one is too hot, this one is too cold. You gotta have one that's just right.

"In the end, the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed scrambled to address the problem, signing a $25 million deal in mid-November with Controlant Global, an Icelandic company that created the proprietary temperature-monitoring platform for all Pfizer’s shipping containers. Under this agreement, Pfizer will discontinue its temperature monitoring once the boxes arrive at their destination, and the federal government will simultaneously turn the system back on." Does anyone else see this as extortion? Nice vaccine you've got there, shame if you didn't know if it got too warm.

"'Health care providers are walking into a war zone every day where we can be killed by this virus, and even serve as a Trojan horse to bring it home to our family and to kill our loved ones,' (Dr.) Gilman tells Rachel Martin on Morning Edition. 'The amount of emotional strain our health care providers are under right now is just unimaginable.'" Remember when we were heroes and people put up signs to thanks us and companies bought us food and people went on to their balconies and cheered for us? Why, it was only like that was 9 months ago. But in all seriousness, I tried to help my coworkers understand what was happening at the time. They didn't quite listen and many got caught up in the rapture of it all. And now, as the shitstorm has truly arrived, many of them are wondering where that love went. When you can see the fear in the other person's eyes, it's hard to tell them, "This is what we've been facing since February, you just didn't think about it then." Hospital management doesn't want to hear about how their plans aren't working, employees have been whipsawed by changing policies/priorities/instructions that we can barely make sense of up or down, patients don't want to know their odds and thought they had skipped by the danger. As we've learned more about COVID our restrictions have been lessened, but without the instructions as to why (so many people don't trust the new procedures). Those of us on the front lines know many of the policies/procedures are total bullshit (10 days after your last "positive" test and you're considered "recovered"? Yeah, tell that to the people we have to vent 20 days after their last positive test, or explain to me why their chest x-ray shows how bad their pneumonia is 17 days down the line). We don't trust the "anonymity" of our support services. "There's this false image that we are supposed to be perfect and that things can't really affect us." And that's total bullshit.

"Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf has described 2020 as a 'terrible' year and says the national coronavirus strategy has failed… He made the remarks as part of an annual TV programme reviewing the year with the royal family… Sweden has been criticised for its unorthodox approach to handling the pandemic, relying more on guidelines and never imposing a full lockdown." Sweden's response has been the "herd immunity" path, just so you all know how that would have played out (and is still partially playing out in the US).

"The common fingertip devices that measures oxygen in the blood can sometimes give misleading readings in people with dark skin, according to a report Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine… These devices, called pulse oximeters, are increasingly finding their way into people's homes, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, this is not just a concern for medical personnel using professional-grade devices." And it's not just black people, and it's not just pulse ox.

The apocalypse in higher education arrived a little early. "Williams is one of hundreds of thousands of students who decided to put off higher education this year. According to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse, undergraduate enrollment this fall declined by 3.6% from the fall of 2019. That's more than 560,000 students, and twice the rate of enrollment decline seen last year. Most of that decline occurred at community colleges, where enrollment fell by more than 10%, or over 544,000 students." And then there's this… "Without federal or state money, colleges may look to increase tuition to offset budget shortfalls." Funny, usually lower demand for an oversupplied product leads to lower prices. But then, all those administrators and coaches need their bonuses and high salaries. We'll just cut instructors (aka "the product") instead. Businesses that do this die quickly. But colleges are no longer run by academics, they're run by MBAs and PhDs of business. To them, the dire need to trim the fat at the top, to flatten the org chart, grow the business by making a compelling product that is first class (and ignoring the decorations) will never occur to them. The've lost track of what the business of a university actually is and got wound up in offering "experiences" while ignoring the basics.

"The number of first-time unemployment-benefits filers totaled 885,000 in the week ending Dec. 12, the most since the week of Sept. 5. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected initial claims to fall to 808,000… Initial claims for the previous week were revised higher by 9,000 to 862,000."

"The Federal Reserve on Wednesday made a key adjustment to its efforts to support the economy, while upgrading its outlook for growth… As expected, the Fed held benchmark interest rates near zero following the conclusion of its two-day meeting." Remember a time when this would have been the lead in the news?

"Facebook on Wednesday ran newspaper ads, published a new website and ran blog posts outlining its arguments against Apple’s privacy change, which it claims 'threatens the personalized ads that millions of small businesses rely on to find and reach customers.'" I'm sure that it would wreck Facebook's reliance on "targeted" ads and selling them at a premium was not a concern here… and I have some swamp land you might be interested in.

"As many as 3 million people have been infected by Chrome and Edge browser extensions that steal personal data and redirect users to ad or phishing sites, a security firm said on Wednesday… In all, researchers from Prague-based Avast said they found 28 extensions for the Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge browsers that contained malware. The add-ons billed themselves as a way to download pictures, videos, or other content from sites including Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, and Spotify. At the time this post went live, some, but not all, of the malicious extensions remained available for download from Google and Microsoft."

"When the pandemic began spreading across the U.S. in March, stores, restaurants, and schools closed down. But liquor stores in many parts of the U.S. were deemed essential, and stayed open. Alcohol sales have ticked up during the pandemic, so maybe it's a good time to ask yourself: are you drinking more than you'd like to be?"

"As congressional leaders scramble to finalize a $900 billion Covid relief deal, it's growing increasingly unlikely that Congress will be able to get the long-awaited plan through both chambers by Friday night when a government shutdown looms… With fewer than two days left on the clock, lawmakers are now discussing the possibility of extending the shutdown deadline, again, to allow more time for negotiations to lock down a deal and push it through the House and Senate. The two issues are tied together since leaders want to tie the relief deal to a $1.4 trillion funding bill to keep the government open through next September."

"With the end of his presidency nearing, Trump appears eager to wield his powers before he finds them gone. Unlike practically any other matter related to the end of his presidency, his clemency powers are a topic Trump actually seems to enjoy discussing, one person in communication with the President said, even though it amounts to another tacit reminder that his tenure at the White House is nearly over."

"But how to do it is another story. After beating Trump and creating a permission structure for some GOP voters to back Biden, the task now, they said, is to turn back Republicans’ embrace of authoritarianism and transform their party in the process. But ask each of the never-Trump leaders what that means, and you get a different answer from each of them." When there isn't a single locus of control, the task becomes harder. As I've said before, Trump is a symptom, not the disease within the conservative coalition. The GOP spent decades forming the support base which found its message bearer in Trump. You'd have to refocus that base (considering how it was built and what they have in common, that's a near impossibility) before any real change is possible. Everything else is putting lipstick on the pig. "Some never-Trump leaders said their biggest point of leverage is within the Biden administration and the Democratic Party, not the GOP. They’re looking to leverage friendships they’ve forged within Biden’s circle to pull the new president toward the center — all but ensuring he will be squeezed by the left and right." No, they haven't learned a damn thing.

"At conferences, in op-eds and at agency meetings, domestic terrorism analysts are raising concern about the security implications of millions of conservatives buying into baseless right-wing claims. They say the line between mainstream and fringe is vanishing, with conspiracy-minded Republicans now marching alongside armed extremists at rallies across the country. Disparate factions on the right are coalescing into one side, analysts say, self-proclaimed 'real Americans' who are cocooned in their own news outlets, their own social media networks and, ultimately, their own 'truth.'" Republicans thought they could ride that tiger, but they just left us all in danger.

And why are we all in danger? "As vice president, Pence has the awkward but unavoidable duty of presiding over the session of Congress that will formalize Biden’s Electoral College victory — a development that is likely to expose him and other Republicans to the wrath of GOP voters who believe President Donald Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen from him… But Pence could dodge their ire by leaving Washington immediately for the Middle East and Europe. According to three U.S. officials familiar with the planning, the vice president is eyeing a foreign trip that would take him overseas for nearly a week, starting on Jan. 6." Because of cowardice on the part of the GOP. They don't want to face what they've done, and the certainly don't want to do the hard work it'll take to dismantle their power base. They're unwilling to be truthful and show their complicity because they know it would mean the end of the party as that house of cards collapses.