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

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.

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