MONEY IS NOT WEALTH
by A. Richard Miller
Begun September 29, 2008; last updated July 7, 2020

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On the eve of USA's November 2008 national election, an urgent proposal for an unsecured $700-Billion, maybe $800-Billion loan to mismanaged banks and stockbrokers was generating understandable controversy. In its initial form the Bush Buddies Bailout was one more Weapon of Mass Deception, a (later, a two-step) public welfare program for wealthy people who game the system. But the problem remains.

What, exactly, went - and continues to go - wrong? What ARE reasonable goals, what are NOT, and how might a more populist government reach good ones?

Jill and I searched, asked friends, and found part of the discussion in the mainline U.S. Press. It is dominated by large corporations, and is quickly becoming a large corporation that reports with bias and too-often avoids reporting. We find the parts they don't want us to find - overseas, in The New York Times and The Washington Post, and in the Alternative Press. Some favorites are: Alternet, Campaign for America's Future, Common Dreams, Daily KOS, Demand Progress, Democracy Now, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Mother Jones, The Nation, Nation of Change, Dan Rather's News&Guts, Politico, The Raw Story, TruthOut, and Russ Baker's WhoWhatWhy.org. But we keep a sense of perspective; know which news is biased, and how.

The more we read, the more we realize that - as much as we want our money back - that is only one of many ways our country is becoming impoverished. Often by corporations, which most definitely are NOT people! (For one thing, these rapacious corporations have no shame.)



You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. What I mean by that, is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.
- Rahm Emanuel (Wall Street Journal Weekend Interview, Nov. 7, 2008)

Never waste the opportunities offered by a good crisis.
- Niccolo Machiavelli (Fifteenth Cent.Florentine writer and statesman)

Yes, as through this world I've wandered,
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.

- Woody Guthrie, Dust Bowl Ballads

What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?
- Bertolt Brecht

Yes, We're Corrupt.
-
A List of Politicians Admitting That Money Controls Politics

Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning.
- Jimmy Carter (1979, as U.S. President)

NEW: Cycling Is Bad For The Economy
A cyclist is a disaster for the country’s economy: He does not buy a car and does not take out a car loan. He does not buy car insurance
. He does not buy fuel. He does not send his car for servicing & repairs. He does not use paid parking. He does not become obese.
Healthy people are not needed for the economy. They do not buy drugs. They do not go to hospitals and doctors. They add nothing to the country’s GDP.
On the contrary, every new McDonald's creates at least 30 jobs: 10 cardiologists, 10 dentists, 10 weight-loss experts
apart from people working in McDonald's.
Choose wisely: A bike ride, or a Big Mac with cheese? Think about it!
P.S.
Walkers are even worse. They do not even buy a bicycle.
- NOT Sanjay Thakrar, CEO at Euro Exim Bank Ltd. (2018)

It is not particularly easy for one to climb up out of the working-class - especially if he is handicapped by the possession of ideals and illusions.
- What Life Means to Me, by Jack London (1905)

... peace was not in the interest of a stable society, that even if lasting peace "could be achieved, it would almost certainly not be in the best interests of society to achieve it." War was a part of the economy. Therefore, it was necessary to conceive a state of war for a stable economy. The government, the group theorized, would not exist without war, and nation states existed in order to wage war. War served the vital function of diverting collective aggression. They recommended "credible substitutes" and paying a "blood price" to emulate the economic functions of war. Prospective government-devised alternatives to war included reports of alien life-forms, the reintroduction of a "euphemized form" of slavery "consistent with modern technology and political processes", and - one deemed particularly promising in gaining the attention of the malleable masses - the threat of "gross pollution of the environment".
- Wikipedia's summary of The Report From Iron Mountain (1967)

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
- U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower (April 16, 1953)

There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.
- John Adams, letter to Jonathan Jackson (2 October 1780), The Works of John Adams, vol 9, p.511.

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.
-- President Abraham Lincoln (1864 letter to William Fletcher Elkin), or faked in Caldwell Remedy Company pamphlet (May 10, 1888), or...
<http://abrahamlincolnassociation.org/Newsletters/1-1.pdf> (pp. 4-6)
<https://americanmissive.com/2009/03/20/did-abraham-lincoln-say-that/>

What is this you call property? It cannot be the earth. For the land is our mother, nourishing all her children, beasts, birds, fish, and all men. The woods, the streams, everything on it belongs to everybody and is for the use of all. How can one man say it belongs to him only?
- Massasoit

Only when the last tree has been cut down, only when the last river has been poisoned, only when the last fish has been caught, only then will you realize your money cannot be eaten.
- an old Cree saying? Maybe not; but good.

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism.
- U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1938

Train communities through all their grades, beginning with individuals and ending there again, to rule themselves.
- Walt Whitman

This planet has -- or rather had -- a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
- Douglas Adams, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (1979)

The Fragile States Index (Fund For Peace)

US National Debt Clock, by Ed Hall

The Freecycle Network (Good. A grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and neighborhoods. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.)

Time Trade Circle (Good. Time Banking in eastern Massachusetts.)

Buy Nothing Project (Bad?)
(See its Person-to-Person section - on Facebook - and then see Corporate Surveillance in Everyday Life , below).

Calculated Risk (blog)

The Conscience of a Liberal (NY Times blog by Paul Krugman)

To Build A Better Ballot; an interactive guide to alternative voting systems, by Nicky Case, 2016)

OurFuture.org (Campaign for America's Future)

NEW: Secret Worlds: The Universe Within (Molecular Expressions, 1998)
View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.

Lifton's Thought Reform, (ca. 1997; Changing Minds)
Milieu control, mystical manipulation, confession, self-sanctification through purity, aura of sacred science, loaded language, doctrine over person, dispensed existence.

The 14 Characteristics of Fascism, by Lawrence Britt (Free Inquiry magazine, 2003)

The Market as God, by Harvey Cox (The Atlantic, 1999)
Living in the new dispensation.

Global surveillance disclosures (Wikipedia, 2013–present)
Ongoing news reports in the international media have revealed operational details about the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and its international partners' global surveillance of both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens. The reports mostly emanate from a cache of top secret documents leaked by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The Strange Disappearance of Cooperation in America, by Peter Turchin (Cliodynamica, 2013)

Corporate Surveillance in Everyday Life (Institute for Critical Digital Culture, 2018)
Every click on a website and every swipe on a smartphone may trigger a wide variety of hidden data sharing mechanisms distributed across several companies and, as a result, directly affect a person’s available choices. Digital tracking and profiling, in combination with personalization, are not only used to monitor, but also to influence peoples’ behavior. ...
"Facebook uses at least 52,000 personal attributes to sort and categorize its 1.9 billion users by, for example, their political views, ethnicity, and income. In order to do so, the platform analyzes their posts, likes, shares, friends, photos, movements, and many other kinds of behaviors.
"In addition, Facebook acquires data on its users from other companies. In 2013, the platform began its partnership with the four data brokers Acxiom, Epsilon, Datalogix and BlueKai, the latter two of which were subsequently acquired by the IT giant Oracle. These companies help Facebook track and profile its users even better than it already does by providing it with data collected from beyond its platform.

Help Us Cure Online Publishing of Its Addiction to Personal Data, by Doc Searls (Linux Journal, March 14, 2018)
(and The Big Datastillery that targets YOU)

It's Official: Watching Fox Makes You Stupider (The Nation, 2012)

Ten True Facts Guaranteed to Short-Circuit Republican Brains (Daily Kos, 2012)

ALEC Exposed (Center for Media and Democracy, 2011)

His Grief, and Ours: Paul Ryan's nasty ideal of self-reliance (New Republic, 2012)

We All Built This Great Nation Together: Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan, and the Myth of Radical Individualism (Nick Gier)

The Foul Reign Of Emerson's "Self-Reliance (New York Times, 2011)

"A Declaration of Conscience, June 1, 1950 speech by U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith (U.S. Senate, 1950)
(The beginning of the end for Senator Joe McCarthy but, unfortunately, not for McCarthyism.)

The Death Of God, by Friedrich Nietzsche (1885)

Losing my religion for equality (Jimmy Carter, 2009)
"The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God."

Invented Symbols, by James Carroll (Boston Globe, January 3, 2006)
'Homo Sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority," Joyce Carol Oates once remarked, ''then forgets that symbols are inventions." This lesson applies across the human condition, although it shows up regularly in the realm of religion, where symbolism is the native language.
Now the church is acknowledging that the passion and authority once invested in limbo, however ''unofficially," can yield. Limbo is an invented symbol that can be left behind.
So is the nation-state. It is not religion that draws the most fervent investment of passion and authority in our time, but rather the politically autonomous entity for which humans have learned to kill and die. That the invented character of the nation-state is forgotten is revealed whenever God is invoked as its source and justification. ''For God and country" is an idolatrous slogan, and a dangerous one. It is scrawled on walls across the world.
The new invention was the United Nations. Far more than an organization, it, too, was a symbol in which passion and authority could be invested. Not only weaponry, but new modes of transport and communication, and then a revolution in information technology all forced a redefinition of the human condition, and the symbolic power of a cooperative world entity came ever more into its own. Not ''God and country" anymore, but Earth itself as holy.
But, in one of history's great ironies, the main inventors of the United Nations, the Americans, found it impossible to stop treating their own nationhood as an absolute value. There were, perhaps, reasons for this during the Cold War, but since then the United States, more than any other nation-state, has reiterated its narrow autonomy, repudiating treaties, promulgating unilateralism, making aggressive war, and treating the global environment as a private waste dump. The United States, in sum, has invested its national sovereignty with passion and authority proper to God, not to an invention of human beings.
The United Nations, where the United States is represented by a man who holds it in contempt, is now a symbol of the planet's new jeopardy. Just as the church is letting go of one limbo, America is condemning the world's best hope to another. 

RELIGION: What It Was For; What Went Wrong; How To Fix It, by Benjamin Becula

The New Populism (Campaign for America's Future, 2014)

Grokking Republicans: The Non-Cooperator's Dilemma (Daily Kos, 2014)
"To create More and Better Democrats means to increase cooperation. Punishing cooperation is the declared Republican mission. 'The Evolution of Cooperation', by Robert Axelrod, proposes a theory that says they lose, and recommends particular political strategies to make it happen faster.

Freethinkers and Libertarianism, by David Niose

EXXON: The Road Not Taken (Inside Climate News, 2015)
"This multi-part series describes how Exxon conducted cutting-edge climate research decades ago and then, without revealing all that it had learned, worked at the forefront of climate denial, manufacturing doubt about the scientific consensus that its own scientists had confirmed.

NEW: The history of volcanic eruptions since Roman times (Past Global Changes Magazine, 2015)

What's Really Warming The World? (Bloomberg, 2015)

NEW: Vanishing: The Sixth Mass Extinction (CNN, 2016)
We're entering the Earth's sixth era of extinction -- and it's the first time humans are to blame. CNN introduces you to the key species and people who are trying to prevent them from vanishing.

Yale Climate Opinion Maps, U.S. 2016

NEW: The Legend of Hercules Mulligan (U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, June 30, 2016)
We’re all familiar with the legendary heroes who fought to secure our independence from the British: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere and his midnight ride. But there are many other influencers of the Revolutionary War whose names don’t immediately come to mind when reflecting on the birth of this great nation. Their efforts and contributions are no less significant or important to securing the freedoms we enjoy every day. The heroics of their lives and stories remain unsung, like many of those serving their country in the shadows today.
This Fourth of July, to celebrate the anniversary of our independence, we are shining the spotlight on one such hero, a man who risked his life to save General George Washington. Twice. A man who helped convert Alexander Hamilton from a Tory to a Patriot. A man who successfully ran his own New York City business and used that business to live among the British, befriending them and covertly acquiring information while overtly tarnishing his reputation with the Patriots. That’s right, Hercules Mulligan.

NEW: History of Boston's Water System (slide presentation; Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, October 6, 2016)

Earthquakes of the First 15 Years of the 21st Century (4-min. video; NOAA, December 2, 2016)

Why Excessive Consumption Limits your Creativity (Medium, May 2016)

Is the World Ready for a Guaranteed Basic Income? (Freakonomics, 2016)

Scientists Are Pro-Testing (Science, 2017)

The Gerasimov Doctrine (Politico, 2017)
"It’s Russia’s new chaos theory of political warfare. And it’s probably being used on you.

We All Want Healthcare To Cost Much Less  -  But We Are Asking The Wrong Question, by Joe Flowers (Medium, 2017)
"Imagine this: Healthcare  -  the whole system  -  for half as much. Better, more effective. No rationing. Everybody in.

Kim Hill: Sustainability is Destroying the Earth: The Green Economy vs. The Planet (Deep Green Resistance News Service, May 25, 2017)
What is it we are trying to sustain? A living planet, or industrial civilization? Because we can’t have both.

Thirteen things the public sector does better than the 'free' market (Daily Kos, October 1, 2017)

What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest An Answer. (New York Times, November 7, 2017)

MichaelMoore.com

Our Revolution

Angry White House Staffer

GOP Rape Advisory Chart

The Loneliness of Donald Trump; On the Corrosive Privilege of the Most Mocked Man in the World, by Rebecca Solnit

Vote Sleuth: Investigating Democracy (Los Angeles Times, 2017)

The way Donald Trump is handling his job as president (Gallup Poll Daily Data)

PutinTrump.org

Donald Trump (Vice)

Obamacare 101: Here's what you need to know (Los Angeles Times, 2017)

Duty To Warn (Duty To Warn, 2017)
Duty To Warn is an association of mental health professionals and other concerned citizens who advocate Trump’s removal under the 25th Amendment on the grounds that he is psychologically unfit.

The way Donald Trump is handling his job as president (Gallup Poll Daily Data)

"Who am I? Why am I here?" (#25thAmendmentNow)
A running thread of Trump not knowing where he is, how he got there, or the appropriate response to give in the moment. Some mental health professionals are concerned that he may be exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's, but he might just be an idiot.

The Hamilton 68 Dashboard tracks Russian influence operations on Twitter. (Hosted by the Alliance for Securing Democracy.)

How Facebook’s destructive ethos imperils democracy (The Guardian, March 17, 2018)

Atlas Of Utopias (Transformative Cities, 2018)

CONGRESSIONAL SCORECARD; Congressional Civil Liberties Record in the Trump Era ACLU, 2018)

Chart: The percentage of women and men in each profession (Boston Globe)

Smoking bans in private vehicles (Wikipedia)

Light Cycles, by Quinn Norton

NEW: States of Anarchy (New Republic, 2010)
America’s long, sordid affair with nullification.

"The Suffocation of Democracy", by Christopher R. Browning (New York Review Of Books, October 13, 2018)
If the US has someone whom historians will look back on as the gravedigger of American democracy, it is Mitch McConnell. He stoked the hyperpolarization of American politics to make the Obama presidency as dysfunctional and paralyzed as he possibly could. As with parliamentary gridlock in Weimar, congressional gridlock in the US has diminished respect for democratic norms, allowing McConnell to trample them even more. Nowhere is this vicious circle clearer than in the obliteration of traditional precedents concerning judicial appointments.
Trump's personal flaws and his tactic of appealing to a narrow base while energizing Democrats and alienating independents may lead to precisely that rare wave election needed to provide a congressional check on the administration as well as the capture of enough state governorships and legislatures to begin reversing current trends in gerrymandering and voter suppression. The elections of 2018 and 2020 will be vital in testing how far the electoral system has deteriorated.
Alongside the erosion of an independent judiciary as a check on executive power, other hallmarks of illiberal democracy are the neutralization of a free press and the steady diminution of basic human rights. On these issues, often described as the guardrails of democracy against authoritarian encroachment, the Trump administration either has won or seems poised to win significant gains for illiberalism. Upon his appointment as chancellor, Hitler immediately created a new Ministry of People's Enlightenment and Propaganda under Joseph Goebbels, who remained one of his closest political advisers. In Trump’s presidency, those functions have effectively been privatized in the form of Fox News and Sean Hannity. The highly critical free media not only provide no effective check on Trump's ability to be a serial liar without political penalty; on the contrary, they provide yet another enemy around which to mobilize the grievances and resentments of his base. A free press does not have to be repressed when it can be rendered irrelevant and even exploited for political gain.

She Votes (NPR's special SERIES on women and the vote, October 20, 2018)

Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2017 (ADL Center on Extremism, February 27, 2018)
Over the past 10 years (2008-17), domestic extremists have been responsible for at least 387 murders; of these, 274 (71%) were committed by right-wing extremists of one type or another.

Quantifying Hate: A Year of Anti-Semitism on Twitter (ADL Report, May 7, 2018)

NEW: Why read Aristotle today? (Aeon, May 29, 2018)
Modern self-help draws heavily on Stoic philosophy. But Aristotle was better at understanding real human happiness.

NEW: The Next Plague Is Coming. Is America Ready? (Atlantic, July 1, 2018)
The epidemics of the early 21st century revealed a world unprepared, even as the risks continue to multiply. Much worse is coming.
On average, in one corner of the world or another, a new infectious disease has emerged every year for the past 30 years: mers, Nipah, Hendra, and many more. Researchers estimate that birds and mammals harbor anywhere from 631,000 to 827,000 unknown viruses that could potentially leap into humans. Valiant efforts are under way to identify them all, and scan for them in places like poultry farms and bushmeat markets, where animals and people are most likely to encounter each other. Still, we likely won’t ever be able to predict which will spill over next; even long-known viruses like Zika, which was discovered in 1947, can suddenly develop into unforeseen epidemics.
One hundred years ago, in 1918, a strain of H1N1 flu swept the world. It might have originated in Haskell County, Kansas, or in France or China—but soon it was everywhere. In two years, it killed as many as 100 million people—5 percent of the world’s population, and far more than the number who died in World War I. It killed not just the very young, old, and sick, but also the strong and fit, bringing them down through their own violent immune responses. It killed so quickly that hospitals ran out of beds, cities ran out of coffins, and coroners could not meet the demand for death certificates. It lowered Americans’ life expectancy by more than a decade. “The flu resculpted human populations more radically than anything since the Black Death,” Laura Spinney wrote in Pale Rider, her 2017 book about the pandemic. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in history—a potent reminder of the threat posed by disease.
Humanity seems to need such reminders often. In 1948, shortly after the first flu vaccine was created and penicillin became the first mass-produced antibiotic, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall reportedly claimed that the conquest of infectious disease was imminent. In 1962, after the second polio vaccine was formulated, the Nobel Prize–winning virologist Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet asserted, “To write about infectious diseases is almost to write of something that has passed into history.”
Hindsight has not been kind to these proclamations. Despite advances in antibiotics and vaccines, and the successful eradication of smallpox, Homo sapiens is still locked in the same epic battle with viruses and other pathogens that we’ve been fighting since the beginning of our history. When cities first arose, diseases laid them low, a process repeated over and over for millennia. When Europeans colonized the Americas, smallpox followed. When soldiers fought in the first global war, influenza hitched a ride, and found new opportunities in the unprecedented scale of the conflict. Down through the centuries, diseases have always excelled at exploiting flux.
Humanity is now in the midst of its fastest-ever period of change. There were almost 2 billion people alive in 1918; there are now 7.6 billion, and they have migrated rapidly into cities, which since 2008 have been home to more than half of all human beings. In these dense throngs, pathogens can more easily spread and more quickly evolve resistance to drugs. Not coincidentally, the total number of outbreaks per decade has more than tripled since the 1980s.
Globalization compounds the risk: Airplanes now carry almost 10 times as many passengers around the world as they did four decades ago. In the ’80s, HIV showed how potent new diseases can be, by launching a slow-moving pandemic that has since claimed about 35 million lives. In 2003, another newly discovered virus, sars, spread decidedly more quickly. This is a new epoch of disease, when geographic barriers disappear and threats that once would have been local go global.
The United States has nationwide vaccination programs, advanced hospitals, the latest diagnostic tests. In the National Institutes of Health, it has the world’s largest biomedical research establishment, and in the CDC, arguably the world’s strongest public-health agency. America is as ready to face down new diseases as any country in the world.
Yet even the U.S. is disturbingly vulnerable—and in some respects is becoming quickly more so. It depends on a just-in-time medical economy, in which stockpiles are limited and even key items are made to order. Most of the intravenous bags used in the country are manufactured in Puerto Rico, so when Hurricane Maria devastated the island last September, the bags fell in short supply. Some hospitals were forced to inject saline with syringes—and so syringe supplies started running low too. The most common lifesaving drugs all depend on long supply chains that include India and China—chains that would likely break in a severe pandemic. “Each year, the system gets leaner and leaner,” says Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “It doesn’t take much of a hiccup anymore to challenge it.”
Perhaps most important, the U.S. is prone to the same forgetfulness and shortsightedness that befall all nations, rich and poor—and the myopia has worsened considerably in recent years. Public-health programs are low on money; hospitals are stretched perilously thin; crucial funding is being slashed. And while we tend to think of science when we think of pandemic response, the worse the situation, the more the defense depends on political leadership.
When Ebola flared in 2014, the science-minded President Barack Obama calmly and quickly took the reins. The White House is now home to a president who is neither calm nor science-minded. We should not underestimate what that may mean if risk becomes reality.
American hospitals, which often operate unnervingly close to full capacity, likewise struggled with the surge of patients. Pediatric units were hit especially hard by H1N1, and staff became exhausted from continuously caring for sick children. Hospitals almost ran out of the life-support units that sustain people whose lungs and hearts start to fail. The health-care system didn’t break, but it came too close for comfort—especially for what turned out to be a training-wheels pandemic. The 2009 H1N1 strain killed merely 0.03 percent of those it infected; by contrast, the 1918 strain had killed 1 to 3 percent, and the H7N9 strain currently circulating in China has a fatality rate of 40 percent.
That the U.S. could be so ill-prepared for flu, of all things, should be deeply concerning. The country has a dedicated surveillance web, antiviral drugs, and an infrastructure for making and deploying flu vaccines. None of that exists for the majority of other emerging infectious diseases.
The Hospital Preparedness Program is a funding plan that was created in the wake of 9/11 to help hospitals ready themselves for disasters, run training drills, and build their surge capacity—everything that Shelly Schwedhelm’s team does so well in Nebraska. It transformed emergency planning from an after-hours avocation into an actual profession, carried out by skilled specialists. But since 2003, its $514 million budget has been halved. Another fund—the Public Health Emergency Preparedness program—was created at the same time to help state and local health departments keep an eye on infectious diseases, improve their labs, and train epidemiologists. Its budget has been pruned to 70 percent of its $940 million peak. Small wonder, then, that in the past decade, local health departments have cut more than 55,000 jobs. That’s 55,000 people who won’t be there to answer the call when the next epidemic hits.
These sums of money are paltry compared with what another pandemic might cost the country. Diseases are exorbitantly expensive. In response to just 10 cases of Ebola in 2014, the U.S. spent $1.1 billion on domestic preparations, including $119 million on screening and quarantine. A severe 1918-style flu pandemic would drain an estimated $683 billion from American coffers, according to the nonprofit Trust for America’s Health. The World Bank estimates that global output would fall by almost 5 percent—totaling some $4 trillion.
The U.S. is not unfamiliar with the concept of preparedness. It currently spends roughly half a trillion dollars on its military—the highest defense budget in the world, equal to the combined budgets of the next seven top countries. But against viruses—more likely to kill millions than any rogue state is—such consistent investments are nowhere to be found.
Organizing a federal response to an emerging pandemic is harder than one might think. The largely successful U.S. response to Ebola in 2014 benefited from the special appointment of an “Ebola czar”—Klain—to help coordinate the many agencies that face unclear responsibilities. In 2016, when Obama asked for $1.9 billion to fight Zika, Congress devolved into partisan squabbling. Republicans wanted to keep the funds away from clinics that worked with Planned Parenthood, and Democrats opposed the restriction. It took more than seven months to appropriate $1.1 billion; by then, the CDC and NIH had been forced to divert funds meant to deal with flu, HIV, and the next Ebola.
At some point, a new virus will emerge to test Trump’s mettle. What happens then? He has no background in science or health, and has surrounded himself with little such expertise. The President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, a group of leading scientists who consult on policy matters, is dormant. The Office of Science and Technology Policy, which has advised presidents on everything from epidemics to nuclear disasters since 1976, is diminished. The head of that office typically acts as the president’s chief scientific consigliere, but to date no one has been appointed. Other parts of Trump’s administration that will prove crucial during an epidemic have operated like an Etch A Sketch. During the nine months I spent working on this story, Tom Price resigned as secretary of health and human services after using taxpayer money to fund charter flights (although his replacement, Alex Azar, is arguably better prepared, having dealt with anthrax, flu, and sars during the Bush years). Brenda Fitzgerald stepped down as CDC director after it became known that she had bought stock in tobacco companies; her replacement, Robert Redfield, has a long track record studying HIV, but relatively little public-health experience. Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, a veteran malaria fighter, was appointed to the National Security Council, in part to oversee the development of the White House’s forthcoming biosecurity strategy. When I met Ziemer at the White House in February, he hadn’t spoken with the president, but said pandemic preparedness was a priority for the administration. He left in May.

ADL H.E.A.T. Map (ADL, August 9, 2018)

Mapped: How every part of the world has warmed – and could continue to warm (Carbon Brief, September 26, 2018)

The Future Of Electric Cars Is China (Quartz, ?? 2018)
The world awaits an electric-car future, but that future is rapidly becoming the present in China. The country is on track to sell more than 1 million electric vehicles in 2018, nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. And with tens of billions of dollars already invested to build up an electric-car infrastructure (and tens of billions more on the way), China is not letting up in its pace to become the world leader in EVs.

The Great Filter - the most important question in history (Daily Kos, November 3, 2018)

Voices From The Field; FBI Agent Accounts of the Real Consequences of the Government Shutdown (FBI Agents Assn., January 2019)
If the FBI and Dept. of Justice are not funded, the Agents will continue to face challenges in carrying out our mission to protect the nation.

50 Moments That Define an Improbable Presidency (The Atlantic, January 21, 2019)

Tracking Trump: The President’s Standing Across America (Morning Consult)
On a daily basis, Morning Consult is surveying over 5,000 registered voters across the United States on President Trump. Each month, we’ll update this page with the latest survey data, providing a clear picture of Trump’s approval and re-election prospects.

Russia Investigation Summary (Teri Kanefield, continuing)
Muller Probe Overview: Documents Filed, Crimes, etc.

A Timeline of Earth's Average Temperature Since The Last Ice Age Glaciation (xkcd)

Global Climate Change; Vital Signs Of The Planet (NASA, current)

Climate Change (United Nations)

Bernie Sanders: The Green New Deal (2019)

Sizing Up the Carbon Footprint of Cities (NASA, April 11, 2019)
Large and wealthy cities have the biggest carbon footprints.

Earthquake and Volcano Activity, Worldwide, 2001-2015 (NASA, NOAA)

Nancy Pelosi, by Hillary Rodham Clinton (Time100, 2019)
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, by Elizabeth Warren (Time100, 2019)
Greta Thunberg, by Emma González (Time100, 2019)

The Privacy Project (New York Times, 2019)

Zero Waste: Our country has a waste problem. It’s time for new solutions, and a renewed commitment to move toward zero waste. (MassPIRG, 2019)

50 Days to the Moon (Fast Company, 2019)

On Bullshit, by Harry Frankfurt (Princeton University)
I propose to begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit, mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory philosophical analysis.

It’s Time to Break Up Facebook, by Chris Hughes (New York Times, May 9, 2019)
Mr. Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, is a co-chairman of the Economic Security Project and a senior adviser at the Roosevelt Institute:
"Mark Zuckerberg’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive. The company’s mistakes - the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention - dominate the headlines.
Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms - Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp - that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.
"Mark is a good, kind person. But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. I’m disappointed in myself and the early Facebook team for not thinking more about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders. And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them. The government must hold Mark accountable."

Demand an impeachment inquiry (Common Cause, July 25, 2019)
No American, especially not the President, is above the law.

United States Of Plastic (The Guardian, August 2019)

100 Photos - The Most Influential Images of All Time (Time Magazine, 2016)
Explore the stories behind 100 images that changed the world, selected by TIME and an international team of curators.
Top 100 Photos of 2018 (Time Magazine)

Globalization Isn’t Dying, It’s Just Evolving (Bloomberg, July 23, 2019)
We are entering a new era in which data is the new shipping container and there are far more disruptive forces at work in the world economy than Trump’s tariffs. New manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing and the automation of factories are reducing the economic incentives to offshore production. The smartphones we carry with us are not just products of globalization but accelerants for it. For good or bad, we are more exposed to a global culture of ideas than we have ever been. And we are only becoming more global as a result.

The 1619 Project (The New York Times, August 14, 2019)
In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the English colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed. In the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.

"Tending Soil", by Emma Marris (Emergence Magazine, October 2019)
In almost every culture, Earth is female: Mother Earth, Gaia, Pachamama, Terra, Prithvi - goddesses that, like the soil, have the power to create new life. The mystery of working with soil is that the best way to make it more fertile - more life-giving - is to mix in dead things. Soil is the medium through which death becomes life. It is the liminal stuff that exists after death and rot but before sprouting life, growth, and nourishment.

Millionaires Surtax: A Winning Issue In 2020 (Surtax, October 2019)

WMO Provisional Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019 (World Meteorological Association, December 3, 2019)

Global Transport of Smoke from Australian Bushfires (2-min. video; NASA)

The Deep Sea (Neal Agarwal)

NEW: The 21st-Century American Axis Of Evil (Jonathan Gordon, 2019)

The Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report (U.S. House Intelligence Committee, December 3, 2019
Also, here is CNN's annotated version.

Impeachment in the United States (Wikipedia)

President Trump House Impeachment Brief (U.S. House of Representatives, January 18, 2020)

Tracking President Trump's Unprecedented Conflicts of Interest (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

Environmental voter guide (Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, 2020)
We graded the 2020 Democratic candidates on four key environmental areas, and produced this environmental report card.

100th Anniversary of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU, January 2020)
"So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we’ll be called a democracy." - ACLU founder Roger Baldwin
When a roomful of civil liberties activists - led by Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, and Albert DeSilver - formed the ACLU in 1920, the Supreme Court had yet to uphold a single free speech claim. Activists languished in jail for distributing anti-war literature. State-sanctioned violence against African-Americans was routine. Women won the right to vote only in August of that year. And constitutional rights for LGBT people were unthinkable.
The ACLU was founded to ensure the promise of the Bill of Rights and to expand its reach to people historically denied its protections. In our first year, we fought the harassment and deportation of immigrants whose activism put them at odds with the authorities. In 1939, we won in the Supreme Court the right for unions to organize. We stood almost alone in 1942 in denouncing our government's round-up and internment in concentration camps of more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans. And at times in our history when frightened civilians have been willing to give up some of their freedoms and rights in the name of national security, the ACLU has been the bulwark for liberty.

NEW: There isn’t a simple story about looting. (Vox, June 2, 2020)
“The question you have to ask yourself is: Why are there so many people in our society who don’t have a lot to lose?” says sociologist Darnell Hunt.

NEW: Neo-Völkisch (Southern Poverty Law Center)
Born out of an atavistic defiance of modernity and rationalism, present-day neo-Völkisch, or Folkish, adherents and groups are organized around ethnocentricity and archaic notions of gender.

NEW: Political Coordinates Test (Individual Differences Research, 2020)
This free political observance test will allow you to obtain your scores on the two major political scales found in Western democracies. Though there are several other "political coordinates" and "political observance" tests in existence, these tests have commonly been criticized for seeking to trick the respondent into answering in a certain way, for example by applying spin to the questions or framing them in such a way as to provoke emotional reactions in the respondent. By contrast, this test attempts to simply confront you with the questions without any coating or spin.

NEW: Benjamin Franklin and the Power of Long-Term Investing (Edelman Financial Engines, 2020)
Remembered for being a publisher, scientist, diplomat and inventor, he was also the first truly long-term investor.

NEW: Shoshana Zuboff: You Are Now Remotely Controlled. (New York Times, January 24, 2020)
The belief that privacy is private has left us careening toward a future that we did not choose. Surveillance capitalists control the science and the scientists, the secrets and the truth.

NEW: The Day Democracy Died (9-min. YouTube video sung by The Founding Fathers, February 8, 2020)

NEW: White-Collar Crime (Huffington Post, February 10, 2020)
Over the last two years, nearly every institution of American life has taken on the unmistakable stench of moral rot. Corporate behemoths like Boeing and Wells Fargo have traded blue-chip credibility for white-collar callousness. Elite universities are selling admission spots to the highest Hollywood bidder. Silicon Valley unicorns have revealed themselves as long cons (Theranos), venture-capital cremation devices (Uber, WeWork) or straightforward comic book supervillains (Facebook). Every week unearths a cabinet-level political scandal that would have defined any other presidency. From the blackouts in California to the bloated bonuses on Wall Street to the entire biography of Jeffrey Epstein, it is impossible to look around the country and not get the feeling that elites are slowly looting it.
And why wouldn't they? The criminal justice system has given up all pretense that the crimes of the wealthy are worth taking seriously. The rich are enjoying a golden age of impunity unprecedented in modern history. Elite deviance has become the dark matter of American life, the invisible force around which the country's most powerful legal and political systems have set their orbit.

NEW: A Short History Of Arson (Phys.org, December 5, 2014)
Arson has evolved from a wrongful individual act into an effective means of collective violence.

NEW: Opinion Polls (Civiqs)

NEW: The Long-Term Impact of DACA: Forging Futures Despite DACA’s Uncertainty (Harvard University, 2019)
The experiences of our respondents over the last seven years powerfully highlight the importance and success of DACA—the results are indisputable. DACA has given its beneficiaries and their families a giant boost and they have achieved significant social mobility. It has also powerfully shaped personhood and agency. Nevertheless, the temporary and partial nature of DACA leaves many issues unaddressed and has created some new dilemmas. The findings of this report have clear implications for U.S. immigration policy and community practice.
In the last section, we offer a set of recommendations for policymakers, stakeholders, and educators. Ultimately, we believe that a broader immigration reform that includes a pathway to legalization would resolve most challenges experienced by DACA beneficiaries and their families. However, we also acknowledge that needs are urgent, and that a range of community stakeholders may be able to address many issues locally and immediately.

NEW: Joe Biden's Vision For America (Biden for President, July 4, 2020)

Resources re Coronavirus pandemic:
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak (World Health Organization, latest status and advice)
How the Virus Won (New York Times, June 25, 2020)
Invisible outbreaks sprang up everywhere. The United States ignored the warning signs. We analyzed travel patterns, hidden infections and genetic data to show how the epidemic spun out of control.
Inside the Coronavirus (Scientific American, July 2020 Issue)
What scientists know about the inner workings of the pathogen that has infected the world.
NEW: What’s the Best Material for a Mask? (New York Times, June 20, 2020)
Scientists are testing everyday items to find the best protection from coronavirus. Pillow cases, flannel pajamas and origami vacuum bags are all candidates.
Coronavirus May Be a Blood Vessel Disease, Which Explains Everything. (Medium, June 1, 2020)
Many of the infection’s bizarre symptoms have one thing in common.
Monster or Machine? A Profile of the Coronavirus at 6 Months (New York Times, June 2, 2020)
Our “hidden enemy,” in plain sight.
3D model of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at atomic resolution (2-min. video; Vimeo, May 11, 2020)
From hair salons to gyms, experts rank 36 activities by coronavirus risk level. (Michigan Live, June 8, 2020)
From Camping To Dining Out: Here's How Experts Rate The Risks Of 14 Summer Activities (NPR, May 23, 2020)
The Risks - Know Them - Avoid Them (Erin Bromage, May 6, 2020)
Comprehensive COVID-19 reporting (by Seattle-area 17-year-old Avi Schiffman)
Infection Trajectory: See Which Countries are Flattening Their COVID-19 Curve (Visual Capitalist)
The 7 Best COVID-19 Resources We’ve Discovered So Far (Visual Capitalist)
NEW: Coronavirus Worldwide Graphs (Worldometers)
NEW: COVID-19 Global Visualizer (Carnegie Mellon University)
Rt Covid-19 Curves for U.S. States (June 6, 2020)
These are up-to-date values for Rt, a key measure of how fast the virus is growing. It’s the average number of people who become infected by an infectious person.
How to Talk About the Coronavirus (The Atlantic, March 31, 2020)
Four ways to help those around you be better informed about the pandemic.
Epidemic Calculator (GitHub)
U.S. Projected hospital resource use based on COVID-19 deaths, assuming continued social distancing until the end of May 2020 (IHME Group at the Washington Univ. St. Louis)
Daily Coronavirus Briefing (New York Times)
What Is Coronavirus? (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Coronavirus Myths and Facts (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic (Wikipedia)
Coronavirus: Disinfectant firm warns after Trump comments. (BBC News, April 24, 2020)
How to Wear a Face Mask Correctly: Common Mistakes to Avoid (NBC Boston, April 22, 2020)
Here’s What We Know about the Most Touted Drugs Tested for COVID-19 (Scientific American, April 16, 2020)
Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – Research and Statistics (Our World In Data)
Coronavirus Resource Hub (Consumer Reports)
Information on the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (Massachusetts Department of Public Health)
2020 coronavirus pandemic in Massachusetts (Wikipedia)
Information about the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Stanford CA Hospital)
Coronavirus is most contagious before and during the first week of symptoms. (Science News, March 13, 2020)
People stop making infectious virus once the body’s antibody response kicks in. All symptoms may not appear, and NO symptoms may appear until after most contagious period.
Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, MD: Safety tips for grocery and take-out shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic (14-min. video; YouTube, March 28, 2020)
Michael Osterholm on the Coronavirus pandemic (1.5-hour video; Joe Rogan Experience #1439, March 10, 2020)
Michael Osterholm is an internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology. He is Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, a professor in the Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School, all at the University of Minnesota. Look for his book "Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Deadly Germs" for more info.
Doctors and nurses demonstrate breathing techniques proven to help with coronavirus symptoms. (Daily Kos, April 8, 2020)
How Trump Gutted Obama’s Pandemic-Preparedness Systems (Vanity Fair, May 1, 2020)
Former officials: Trump’s reshuffling of positions and departments, focus on business solutions, downgrading of science, left the country dangerously unprepared for an unprecedented pandemic.
A Complete List of Trump’s Attempts to Play Down Coronavirus (New York Times, March 15, 2020)
He could have taken action. He didn’t. Instead, he has continued many of his old patterns of self-congratulation, blame-shifting and misinformation. Trump now seems to understand that coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon. But he also seems to view it mostly as a public-relations emergency for himself rather than a public-health emergency for the country.
'It will disappear': the disinformation Trump spread about the coronavirus – timeline (The Guardian, April 14, 2020)
Heather Cox Richardson: Today, Trump and his supporters doubled down on the idea that the coronavirus is a “hoax”. (Letters from an American, February 28, 2020)
Today, Trump and his supporters doubled down on the idea that the coronavirus is a “hoax,” as Trump said, perpetrated by Democrats eager to tank his presidency. That would explain the dramatic drop of the stock market this week as nothing but an emotional reaction to “fake news.” It would mean that the strong economy Trump has hyped as his major contribution to the country—he denies that his predecessor Barack Obama had anything to do with it, although economic numbers under Obama were as good or better than today’s—remains intact, so long as people will ignore those dastardly Democrats... the Democrats that Donald Trump, Jr. says are hoping the coronavirus “comes here and kills millions of people so that they can end Donald Trump’s streak of winning.”
This is one heck of a gamble, and it reveals the corner into which the administration’s reliance on a false narrative has painted it. Under Trump, the country is great again… so the virus can’t be a problem. The rising stock market has proved that the economy is brilliant and Trump gets all the credit for it… so the falling stock market must be fake, or else the fault of jealous Democrats.
But the virus isn’t playing Trump’s game. It is spreading. Today, after we learned there are more than 85,000 known cases in the world and more than 2,900 known deaths, the director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program warned “every government on the planet” to “wake up. Get ready. You have a duty to your citizens. You have a duty to the world to be ready.”



   
Pertinent Posts

Why Isn’t the ‘Southern Strategy’ Working? (New York Times, July 7, 2020)
The basic bet has been that Republicans win when voters focus on race. Steve Bannon, who helped run President Trump’s campaign, described the flip side of the idea, in 2017: “The Democrats,” Bannon said, “I want them to talk about racism every day.”
Sure enough, Trump has put race at the center of his re-election message. He did so in two aggressive speeches over the weekend and defended the Confederate flag yesterday. “Almost every day in the last two weeks, Mr. Trump has sought to stoke white fear and resentment,” Maggie Haberman writes.
And yet this time seems different: The strategy isn’t working. Trump’s poll numbers are slumping, and some of his 2016 supporters cite racial issues as a reason they plan to vote for Joe Biden.
Why is the Southern strategy suddenly flailing? I count four main reasons.
In A World First, Hyundai Fuel Cell Semis Ship To Customers. (Clean Technica, July 7, 2020)
The first ones are now in shipment to Switzerland. Meanwhile, neither Nikola or Tesla have delivered a single truck. And, depending on who you believe, one of those companies hasn’t even built one yet. That’s what makes the Hyundai fuel cell truck real news, I think. It’s real! “XCIENT Fuel Cell is a present-day reality, not as a mere future drawing board project,” says In Cheol Lee, Executive Vice President and Head of Commercial Vehicle Division at Hyundai Motor. “By putting this groundbreaking vehicle on the road now, Hyundai marks a significant milestone in the history of commercial vehicles and the development of hydrogen society.”
The Hyundai XCIENT semi trucks is powered by a 190-kW hydrogen fuel cell system with dual 95-kW fuel cell stacks. They’re fed by an array of large hydrogen tanks storing about 32 kg (approx. 70 lbs.) of hydrogen. That makes each XCIENT Fuel Cell good for about about 400 km (250 miles) of range. Crucially, the trucks can be topped off with hydrogen in 8-20 minutes.
Hyundai Motor is also planning a long-distance tractor unit capable of traveling 1,000 kilometers (over 600 miles) on a single charge that will be aimed at the North American and continental European markets. For the moment, however, Hyundai is focused on Switzerland. That’s largely because the Swiss LSVA road tax on commercial vehicles doesn’t apply to zero-emission trucks, nearly equalizing the hauling costs per kilometer of the fuel cell truck compared to a regular diesel truck, while allowing the ZEVs access to city centers that diesels are no longer allowed in.
Cybersecurity pros are uniting in a battle to save encryption. (Washington Post, July 7, 2020)
Cybersecurity and privacy advocates are rallying to defend strong encryption, which is facing its harshest assault in decades from the Trump administration and Congress. A coalition of dozens of top cybersecurity and Internet freedom groups, academics and experts sent a blistering letter this morning to the sponsors of an anti-encryption Senate bill they say would make hundreds of millions of Americans more vulnerable to hacking.
The bill, called the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act, is the harshest among a number of efforts to weaken encryption across the Justice Department and Congress. It would effectively require tech companies to weaken access to their secure systems to ensure law enforcement with a warrant can track terrorists, sexual predators and other criminals. But that would also make it far easier for cybercriminals and adversary nations to hack into troves of government, financial and health records, the authors write. They include the Internet Society, the Wikimedia Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology as well as experts at the American Civil Liberties Union, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Former Melania Trump Confidante to Release an ‘Explosive’ Tell-All Before the Election. (Daily Beast, July 6, 2020)
Did Gov. DeWine find a brilliant legal strategy in ceding control of coronavirus regulations to Ohio's  local governments? (The Plain Dealer, July 6, 2020)
Is Ohio Governor Mike DeWine bold or wishy-washy with his decision to turn Ohio’s coronavirus battle over to local governments? That may depend on who you ask. After months of thoughtful leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, DeWine created a county-by-county risk ranking tool so local leaders can see how much danger they face and encouraged them to take the actions they deem necessary.
Paul Krugman: The pandemic depression is on track. (New York Times, July 4, 2020)
The coronavirus led to a plunge in output and employment. This plunge, however, was a feature, not a bug. If we had stayed the course, this period of pain could have set the stage for a rapid recovery. But it was obvious early on that mishandling the situation — failing to stay the course on social distancing, failing to use the time to develop enough testing and contact tracing to gradually resume normal life while keeping a lid on new outbreaks — could extend the pain, turning a short, sharp recession into a prolonged depression, a long period of very high unemployment.
Well, it’s no longer a nightmare scenario; it’s just reality. The New York area, after a terrible start, has done what most advanced countries have done, and crushed the curve.
But Covid-19 is now exploding in the Sun Belt. Arizona is in full-blown crisis. So is Texas, especially big cities like Houston, where hospitalizations have soared. Florida, which has been suppressing data on hospitalizations, is probably similar. All three states have Republican governors who enthusiastically lifted stay-at-home orders and, in Arizona and Texas, at first even prevented local governments from requiring that people wear masks. Even now, they’re dithering, taking only baby steps toward restoring social distancing as the pandemic rages.
Biden builds lead as Trump goes from trailing to flailing. (Politico, July 4, 2020)
Biden’s polling lead over Trump is significant, though not unprecedented.
As recently as one month ago, Donald Trump was merely losing. Now he is flailing, trudging into the Independence Day weekend at the nadir of his presidency, trailing by double digits in recent polls and in danger of dragging the Republican Senate down with him.
But there are still four months before the election — and any number of ways for Biden to blow it. “If there’s one thing we learned from ’88, Biden is capable of screwing up big time,” said John J. Pitney Jr., who helped on Bush’s campaign in 1988 and wrote a book about that election last year.
That said, the underlying environment may be historically bad for Trump — so bad he may not only get flattened in November, but he might become the proximate cause of a wholesale shift in the American electorate. Seniors and suburban voters, two longtime pillars of the Republican coalition, are defecting to Joe Biden. Once-red states suddenly seem competitive, and children of Reagan Democrats are marching in the streets.
“The tectonic plates are shifting,” said Chris Lehane, a former Clinton White House staffer who helped to manage the turmoil surrounding that president’s impeachment proceedings. “On June 1, if I had told you that by July 1 the flag would be down in Mississippi, Woodrow Wilson would be off the wall at Princeton, Juneteenth would be a national holiday for companies, Black Lives Matter would reflect the great, not so silent majority, you would question my sanity. That’s all happened in 30 days.”
Biden: "Our nation was founded on a simple idea: We're all created equal." (6-min. video; MSNBC, July 4, 2020)
Joe Biden sends an optimistic Fourth of July message in response to President Trump’s 'dystopia of fascism' Mount Rushmore speech. He warns President Trump could dismantle democracy if he is re-elected.
Biden focuses on racial justice in July 4 message. (Politico, July 4, 2020)
“We have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country,” Biden says in the Independence Day video.
Trump seeks to claim the mantle of history in fiery Mount Rushmore address. (Politico, July 4, 2020)
The president’s speech, part of a July 4 weekend celebration, comes after weeks of protests against racism and police brutality that have forced broader discussions over America's monuments. South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem said the roughly 3,700 people who attended the event did not need to wear masks or social distance. Like attendees of the president's June rallies in Tulsa, Okla., and Phoenix, Ariz., thousands crammed shoulder-to-shoulder to listen to Trump’s speech, his third campaign-style event since the beginning of the pandemic. The event also featured fireworks and a flyover by Air Force One, Marine One and military aircraft.
Trump has come under fire for speaking at Mount Rushmore, a national landmark honoring Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln with a history that has been scrutinized amid the nationwide protests. Native American groups — who consider the land on which the monument was built sacred — staged protests outside, clashing at times with the National Guard.
New video ad: "Benedict Donald" (1-min. video; Vote Vets, July 3, 2020)
Vote Vets keeps up its pressure.
How Fauci, 5 other health specialists deal with covid-19 risks in their everyday lives (Washington Post, July 3, 2020)
Q: When and where do you wear a mask?
A: Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: It dominates everything I do. The only time I don’t wear one is when I am alone, when I am home with my wife, or when I am speaking in public — provided there is 6 feet between me and the people to whom I am speaking, as was the case when I answered questions at the recent Congressional hearings.
How Trump Could Lose the Election—And Still Remain President (Newsweek, July 3, 2020)
Something like the following scenario is not just possible but increasingly probable because it is clear Trump will do anything to avoid the moniker he hates more than any other: "loser."
Trump actually tweeted on June 22: "Rigged 2020 election: millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries, and others. It will be the scandal of our times!" With this, Trump has begun to lay the groundwork for the step-by-step process by which he holds on to the presidency after he has clearly lost the election.
So what do we do as citizens to face the impending reality of The Plot Against America? We must "out" this scenario—and do so loudly and consistently. We have an imperative to build a "people's firewall" that reaches deeply across the country and reflects public revulsion at the potential for Trump to undermine our entire democratic system of governance.
Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, should immediately ask the Judiciary, Commerce, Armed Services and Intelligence Committees to hold hearings on how steps can be taken to safeguard against this scenario, especially how to confront any invocation of emergency powers by the president.
There needs to be an outpouring at all levels of society that this will not be tolerated—from government officials and lawmakers at all levels; to civic associations and civil rights groups; to business groups and trade associations, who have to recognize the economic chaos that would result from this kind of coup; to lawyers, academics and student groups practiced in resisting government policies; and, of course, to the editorial voices of the press, both local and national.
How Police Secretly Took Over a Global Phone Network for Organized Crime. (Motherboard, July 2, 2020)
Police monitored a hundred million encrypted messages sent through Encrochat, a network used by career criminals to discuss drug deals, murders, and extortion plots.
“What Do I Do? What Do I Do?”: Trump Desperate, Despondent as Numbers Crater, “Loser” Label Looms. (Vanity Fair, July 2, 2020)
“They probably won’t have” the Jacksonville convention. The Joni Ernst campaign is angry at Trump’s horrible numbers. Meadows and Kushner are at loggerheads over Parscale. And if things don’t turn around by Labor Day, GOP defections may begin.
Herman Cain hospitalized with 'serious' COVID-19 symptoms after attending Trump's Tulsa rally. (Dialy Kos, July 2, 2020)
On June 20, 2012 Republican presidential contender Herman Cain attended Trump's mask-optional rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Twelve days later, the tenders of Cain's Twitter account announced that Cain has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently hospitalized with "serious" symptoms. As campaign surrogate, Cain has been contemptuous of mask usage and dismissive of pandemic dangers. He tweeted from within the arena on June 20, with few masks to be seen in the crowd. Just yesterday, Cain bragged that masks "will not be mandatory" for Trump's Friday event at Mt. Rushmore, tweeting "PEOPLE ARE FED UP!"
Because of Cain's travel schedule, is not completely clear whether Cain was infected with the virus at Trump's Tulsa rally or at other events: "I realize people will speculate about the Tulsa rally, but Herman did a lot of traveling the past week, including to Arizona where cases are spiking," wrote HermanCain.com editor Dan Calabrese. A less gracious interpretation of that statement would be that Cain has been sufficiently indifferent to travel precautions as to be unable to trace his own contacts, and may have possibly himself spread the virus to others before becoming symptomatic enough to require hospitalization.
Trump's Tulsa campaign event was intentionally structured to ignore pandemic safety recommendations, even as Oklahoma cases began to escalate. At least eight Trump staffers involved with the event also tested positive for the virus. Trump and Pence have continued to ignore those precautions in trips to new pandemic hot spots Texas, Arizona, and Florida.
Did a Mutation Turbocharge the Coronavirus? Not Likely, Scientists Say. (New York Times, July 2, 2020)
A preliminary report posted online claimed that a mutation had made the virus more transmissible. Geneticists say the evidence isn’t there.
"Who Made the Plague?", by Quincy Saul (CounterPunch, July 2, 2020)
Paul Krugmann: The Legacy of Our Original Sin (New York Times, July 2, 2020)
Non-American friends sometimes ask me why the world’s richest major nation doesn’t have universal health care. The answer is race: we almost got universal coverage in 1947, but segregationists blocked it out of fear that it would lead to integrated hospitals (which Medicare actually did do in the 1960s.) Most of the states that have refused to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, even though the federal government would bear the great bulk of the cost, are former slave states.
The Italian-American economist Alberto Alesina suddenly died on March 23; among his best work was a joint paper that examined the reasons America doesn’t have a European-style welfare state. The answer, documented at length, was racial division: in America, too many of us think of the beneficiaries of support as Those People, not like us.
The Thru-Hikers Who Finished the Appalachian Trail During the Pandemic (Outside, July 1, 2020)
After months of trespassing and hiding from rangers, two hikers completed the Appalachian Trail in June. Their sagas raise questions about what it means to be outdoors in the United States right now.
Given a pandemic that has prompted global travel bans, and a domestic foment stemming from centuries of racial oppression and inequality, Underwood’s decision to press on along the Appalachian Trail highlights questions of privilege and pride that have long plagued the outdoor industry. “By hiking now, you have created a narrative that says, ‘My personal needs and desires outweigh a greater societal mission. At the end of the day, what’s really important is what I want,’” says Sandi Marra, the ATC’s president and CEO.
For Marra, the pandemic and concurrent protests over racial injustice are timely reminders of entrenched patterns in the thru-hiking community—it remains, overwhelmingly, the domain of educated white men. (Rahawa Haile has written sharply about surviving those stereotypes for Outside.) Marra hopes the current national turmoil inspires potential hikers to reflect on how they can make outdoor spaces more inclusive and diverse. Part of that, she thinks, is cultivating an image that the AT is not a land of lawlessness, some place of unchecked white male privilege.
“What are you out there for? People say it’s the experience or the trail or their mental health. But that comes with an obligation to treat the resource appropriately,” Marra says. “We have to start taking responsibility for something outside of our own immediate desires.”
Is the hydrogen tech 'revolution' hope or hype? (BBC News, July 1, 2020)
The digger with the long-toothed bucket bites into a pile of stones, tilts up and flexes its sturdy mechanical arm. The digger with the long-toothed bucket bites into a pile of stones, tilts up and flexes its sturdy mechanical arm. It’s a beast of a machine and from the front it looks like a normal excavator.
But from the back you can see its tank full of dirty diesel has been replaced with a hydrogen fuel cell. The excavator is the latest in a generation of vehicles powered by the lightest element on Earth. The compendium of vehicles powered by hydrogen now stretches from diggers to micro-taxis, trucks, boats, vans, single-deck and now double-decker buses – and even small planes. It works by reacting hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell to generate electricity. The only direct emission is water.
So at last, the long-awaited hydrogen revolution is here. Or is it? Back in the early 2000s, backers of hydrogen thought it would dominate the clean automobile market. But the promised “hydrogen highway” never materialised, for a couple of crucial reasons. Firstly, hydrogen power needed a new infrastructure, whereas rival battery cars could be charged off the near-ubiquitous electricity grid. Secondly, high-powered batteries at that time were already well-advanced for other uses such as computers, but hydrogen was not. So hydrogen lost the head-on battle for the motor car. But now it’s back in the frame for the sort of transport, industry and heating tasks that batteries are struggling to fulfil.
Take our large mechanical digger, a prototype from JCB. It has a little battery-powered cousin – small enough to squeeze through a doorway and work in a building. But JCB say the big digger would need a battery weighing five tonnes, and take hours to refuel. Hydrogen on the other hand, is lighter than air and takes minutes to fill a tank. Lorries [large trucks] fall into the same category as diggers – sometimes the battery would be as heavy as the payload. The same applies to buses.
That still leaves the issue of charging infrastructure – but that can be solved by providing hydrogen pumps on motorways for long-distance truckers. Buses could use hydrogen stored at depots.
The EU Commission wants a slice of the action, too. The website Euractiv reported that it plans to publish a hydrogen strategy soon. A leaked draft floated the idea of making the Euro the currency for international hydrogen trades, as the US Dollar is for oil. The UK government also intends to announce a hydrogen strategy before the Parliament closes for the summer, as part of its economic recovery package. It’s being spurred on by rebukes that the UK lost the battle for battery technology to China – so it mustn't let the hydrogen bandwagon escape. The government is advised by its Committee on Climate Change to start large-scale trials in the early 2020s.
Indeed, within weeks from now, Britain’s first hydrogen train – developed by Birmingham University - will be tested on regular tracks.
NEW: Hyundai Launches ‘County Electric’ Minibus In South Korea. (Inside IVs, June 30, 2020)
The Hyundai County Electric can be configured for 15 to 33 seats and with a 128 kWh battery, it can drive up to 250 km (155 miles) on a single charge. Besides the obvious advantages over diesel, like zero-emissions and silence, the electric minibus is also around 30% quicker in the important speed range of 50-80 km/h (31-50 mph).
The public sector of Bühl, Gernany uses Free Software. (Free Software Foundation Europe, June 30, 2020)
We have developed an open video conferencing platform, based on the Free Software Jitsi Meet, called Palim! Palim!. This offers video telephony to all Bühl citizens at no charge and, of course, beyond the town limits. We support families, groups of friends, associations, initiatives, and also companies in their efforts to be able to meet digitally in an uncomplicated and low-threshold manner. It does not require more than an up-to-date browser to stay in touch. No need to register or collect sensitive metadata. Since the launch of our platform at the beginning of April, we have seen many interesting use cases: for example, the digital children's leisure program for doing handicrafts together or the long-awaited reunion between nursing home residents and their families.
The Free Software project Jitsi Meet was exactly the software we were looking for. It offers a very easy access for our target group to video conferencing, is easy to administer and the active community quickly finds a solution to any problems that may arise. Furthermore, we had the possibility to customise the software exactly according to our ideas, for example to include the urban design.
The feedback has been amazing! At no time did we expect such a great response. Many citizens express their personal thanks to us and we have stopped counting how many municipalities have approached us with great interest. I believe that Free Software is currently experiencing an incredible boost and that the sensitivity for data sovereignty is growing rapidly.
We had been searching for a long time for a simple solution to make the minutes of meetings and discussions available to all participants in a bundled form and to be able to track important tasks. With the Free Software project 4Minitz we found a strong candidate that met almost all our requirements. The only catch: the interface was completely in English at that time and there was a risk of insufficient acceptance within the various specialist offices. With a total of more than 11,000 lines of changes to the code base, we initiated the development of internationalisation and localisation. It is very important to us not only to use Free Software, but also to give something back to the community. By now 4Minitz can be used in 18 different languages.
Data on Financial Transfers Bolstered Suspicions That Russia Offered Bounties. (2-min. video; New York Times, June 30, 2020)
Analysts have used other evidence to conclude that the transfers were likely part of an effort to offer payments to Taliban-linked militants to kill American and coalition troops in Afghanistan.
NEW: Most People With Coronavirus Won’t Spread It. Why Do a Few Infect Many? (New York Times, June 30, 2020)
Growing evidence shows most infected people aren’t spreading the virus. But whether you become a superspreader probably depends more on circumstance than biology.
They created a model for the spread of the virus through five counties and estimated how many people each person infected. The researchers found many superspreading events. Just 2 percent of people were responsible for 20 percent of transmissions.
A study from Japan this month found clusters of coronavirus cases in health care facilities, nursing homes, day care centers, restaurants, bars, workplaces, and musical events such as live concerts and karaoke parties.
Since most transmission happens only in a small number of similar situations, it may be possible to come up with smart strategies to stop them from happening. It may be possible to avoid crippling, across-the-board lockdowns by targeting the superspreading events. “By curbing the activities in quite a small proportion of our life, we could actually reduce most of the risk,” said Dr. Kucharski.
The US has 4% of the world's population but 25% of its coronavirus cases. (CNN, June 30, 2020)
The United States has long prided itself as the world's shining beacon. But its current status is a much darker one: the globe's leader in coronavirus cases.
More than 125,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the US, and more than 2.5 million Americans have been infected. American life has been irrevocably altered by the worst pandemic in a century. And as the country struggles to reopen, cases of Covid-19 have surged again -- this time in young people and in states that had previously avoided the brunt of the virus.
Here, in dollars, percentages and — most tragically — lives, is the pandemic's devastating toll on the US.
Fauci says U.S. could reach 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day. (2-min. video; 142-min. video; PBS, June 30, 2020)
“We are now having 40-plus-thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around, and so I am very concerned,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health. Fauci said areas seeing recent outbreaks are putting the entire nation at risk, including areas that have made progress in reducing COVID-19 cases. He cited recent video footage of people socializing in crowds, often without masks, and otherwise ignoring safety guidelines.
Leaders in several states implemented new shutdowns and ordered residents to wear masks in public in a dramatic course reversal amid an alarming resurgence of coronavirus cases nationwide.
Jacksonville FL to require face masks to slow rising coronavirus cases less than 2 months before GOP convention. (CNN, June 29, 2020)
The convention is slated for August 24-27 in Jacksonville and Charlotte, North Carolina. The party moved parts of the convention out of Charlotte after Trump said the state's Democratic governor was "unable to guarantee" that the arena where the convention was to be held could be filled to capacity. Gov. Roy Cooper maintained that the state of the pandemic would dictate whether Republicans were able to fully gather. Cooper's office said Trump had called the governor and insisted on a full convention with no face masks or social distancing, and that Cooper expressed concern and suggested a scaled-back event.
Trump is now set to accept the nomination at the city-owned VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, which holds 15,000 people. Republicans are obligated to hold some portion of the convention in Charlotte because of a contract the party signed, but the celebration will be held in Jacksonville.
"The RNC is committed to holding a safe convention that fully complies with local health regulations in place at the time," Republican National Committee National Press Secretary Mandi Merritt said in a statement. "The event is still two months away, and we are planning to offer health precautions including but not limited to temperature checks, available PPE, aggressive sanitizing protocols, and available Covid-19 testing," Merritt said. "We have a great working relationship with local leadership in Jacksonville and the state of Florida, and we will continue to coordinate with them in the months ahead."
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Monday that Trump, who has resisted wearing a mask in public, told her he "has no problem with masks. It's the personal choice of any individual as to whether to wear a mask or not. He encourages people to make whatever decision is best for their safety, but he did say to me he has no problem with masks and to do whatever your local jurisdiction requests of you."
Trump did not wear a mask at his recent rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and did not require attendees of the event at the indoor arena to wear masks.
Washington (CNN)The city of Jacksonville said Monday that it would adopt a face mask requirement for public and indoor locations and where social distancing is not possible, less than two months before President Donald Trump is set to accept the Republican nomination in the Florida city.
The new mandate, which goes into effect at 5 p.m. ET on Monday, raises the possibility that attendees could be required to wear face masks at the GOP convention. It comes just weeks after Republicans announced that the President would make his speech in the city.
The convention is slated for August 24-27 in Jacksonville and Charlotte, North Carolina. The party moved parts of the convention out of Charlotte after Trump said the state's Democratic governor was "unable to guarantee" that the arena where the convention was to be held could be filled to capacity. Gov. Roy Cooper maintained that the state of the pandemic would dictate whether Republicans were able to fully gather.
Cooper's office said Trump had called the governor and insisted on a full convention with no face masks or social distancing, and that Cooper expressed concern and suggested a scaled-back event.
Jacksonville's mandatory face mask requirement comes after a spike in coronavirus cases in the state. Florida reported 9,585 new cases Saturday, a single-day record. The next day, Florida's Department of Health reported another 8,530 new cases. Beaches in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach will be closed forFourth of July weekend as officials keep a cautious eye on the rapidly rising number of new coronavirus cases in the state.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked by CNN's Natasha Chen on Sunday if he has assured Trump that the convention can take place without mask requirements, after DeSantis said residents should stay away from closed spaces, crowds and close contact -- what he calls "the three C's." DeSantis responded, "It's a work in progress. We're going to try to get to yes. ... Obviously we're in a dynamic situation."
Swine flu strain with human pandemic potential increasingly found in Chinese pigs. (Science Magazine, June 29, 2020)
The new study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on an influenza virus dubbed G4. The virus is a unique blend of three lineages: one similar to strains found in European and Asian birds, the H1N1 strain that caused the 2009 pandemic, and a North American H1N1 that has genes from avian, human, and pig influenza viruses. The G4 variant is especially concerning because its core is an avian influenza virus—to which humans have no immunity—with bits of mammalian strains mixed in. “From the data presented, it appears that this is a swine influenza virus that is poised to emerge in humans,” says Edward Holmes, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sydney who studies pathogens. “Clearly this situation needs to be monitored very closely.”
Influenza viruses frequently jump from pigs to humans, but most do not then transmit between humans. Two cases of G4 infections of humans have been documented and both were dead-end infections that did not transmit to other people. “The likelihood that this particular variant is going to cause a pandemic is low,” says Martha Nelson, an evolutionary biologist at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center who studies pig influenza viruses in the United States and their spread to humans. But Nelson notes that no one knew about the pandemic H1N1 strain, which jumped from pigs to people, until the first human cases surfaced in 2009.
Global death toll from coronavirus surpasses half a million; 10 million cases; U.S. is worst affluent country. (Washington Post, June 29, 2020)
That tally is just the latest reminder of the pandemic’s brutal toll. Over the weekend, the number of coronavirus cases reported worldwide soared past 10 million. Earlier in the day, the total number of coronavirus cases reported in the United States topped 2.5 million amid worsening outbreaks in Florida, Texas and Arizona.
[The United States now is by far the worst wealthy nation in coronavirus cases per million of population. (The curves for China and South Korea are similar to that for Japan.)]
Pelosi on Trump and Russia: ‘This Is as Bad as it Gets’. (New York Times, June 29, 2020)
A Times investigation, published Friday, found that Trump was briefed on an intelligence report three months ago showing that Russia had offered cash rewards to Islamic militants launching attacks on American forces in Afghanistan. But the White House still hasn’t taken any steps to retaliate or make the Russians stop.
“This is as bad as it gets,” Nancy Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week,” pointing out that Trump denied having been briefed on the intelligence. “Whether he is or not, his administration knows, and our allies — some of our allies who work with us in Afghanistan — had been briefed and accept this report.”
Joe Biden weighed in: “His entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this is beyond the pale. It’s a betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation, to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way.”
VoteVets Ad: Don't Thank Us, Traitor. (30-sec. video; VoteVets, June 28, 2020)
If Donald Trump wants to act like a traitor, he doesn't get to thank us for our service.
Trump’s articles of impeachment — updated (Washington Post, June 28, 2020)
Imagine that the Senate had simply postponed its impeachment vote — and that we had the opportunity now to update the articles of impeachment. Based on Trump’s behavior this year, and what we’ve learned of his prior actions, would we have anything to add? Where to start?
Changing the state flag is not about forgetting Mississippi’s past. It’s about acknowledging it. (Washington Post, June 28, 2020)
In a development that many Mississippians had longed for but never really expected to happen in our lifetimes, the state’s House and Senate on Saturday began the process of changing the flag adopted in 1894 as a backlash against Reconstruction. The way has been cleared for legislation, which Gov. Tate Reeves (R) has said he would sign, to introduce a new state flag that, finally, would represent all Mississippians.
With Flights Banned, Son Sails Solo Across Atlantic to Reach Father, 90. (New York Times, June 28, 2020)
An Argentine man stuck in Portugal because of the virus travels for 85 days the only way he could: in a small boat.
‘They Want to Kill Me’: Many Covid Patients Have Terrifying Delirium. (New York Times, June 28, 2020)
Paranoid hallucinations plague two-thirds of coronavirus patients in I.C.U.s, an experience that can slow recovery and increase risk of depression and cognitive issues.
White House Blames Rise in Virus Cases on More Testing, as Experts Dispute the Claim. (New York Times, June 28, 2020)
Vice President Mike Pence and the nation’s top health official, Alex M. Azar II, continued to assert on Sunday that reopenings in many states were not causing the sharp rises in coronavirus cases.
Heather Cox Richardson: White House lies again and again - and so poorly. (Letters from an American, June 27, 2020)
How The World Missed COVID-19's Silent Spread (New York Times, June 27, 2020)
Symptomless transmission makes the coronavirus far harder to fight. But health officials dismissed the risk for months, pushing misleading and contradictory claims in the face of mounting evidence.
After Asking Americans to Sacrifice in Shutdown, Leaders Failed to Control Virus. (New York Times, June 27, 2020)
As Covid-19 cases surge, it is clear many governors underestimated the coronavirus and rushed to reopen before their states were ready.
Arizona AG sends cease & desist order to Phoenix church with magic air that hosted Trump. (Daily Kos, June 27, 2020)
In its Comments thread:
"They certainly are lawsuit-vulnerable. In fact, the Arizona AG’s order includes the requirement that all written and electronic Dream City facility rental documents be preserved due to the possibility of consumer fraud litigation. The AG (who’s Republican!) notes that the order was issued because the church rents the space out on a regular basis (as they did for Trump’s rally) so it falls under the consumer protection laws of the state. It’s really quite a good action, especially for a red state AG."
"I’m sure this voids any validity the Covid waivers had."
"Yes, and: if a participant carries the received virus to a third party, that party has a cause of action, as well."
"As VP Pence so wisely reminded us, it’s all about the people’s First Amendment Rights to peaceably assemble. And not, of course, about anybody’s responsibilities to prevent the spread of a deadly epidemic. Americans have rights, not responsibilities."
As coronavirus cases surge, Texas governor says he let bars reopen too early. (Washington Post, June 27, 2020)
Biden’s Best Veep Pick Is Obvious. (New York Times, June 27, 2020)
She, more than anyone, can get under Trump’s skin.
Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says. (New York Times, June 26, 2020)
The Trump administration has been deliberating for months about what to do about a stunning intelligence assessment.
Heather Cox Richardson: Worst pandemic day in USA; and White House withholds Russian scandal from Congress (Letters from an American, June 26, 2020)
Today the United States registered 44,702 new coronavirus cases, a single-day record. Six states-- Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho, and Utah-- also set new single-day highs. In an attempt to stop the spread of the virus, officials in Florida and Texas, where governors have been aggressive about reopening, have both reversed course, announcing that bars must close immediately.
Incredibly, that’s not the day’s biggest story.
This evening, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both broke extraordinary news. Months ago, American intelligence officials concluded that during peace talks to end the war in Afghanistan, a Russian military intelligence group offered to Taliban-linked fighters bounties for killing American troops. They paid up, too, although it is unclear which of the twenty U.S. deaths happened under the deal.
The military intelligence unit officials judge to be behind this program, the G.R.U., is the same one that is engaged in a so-called “hybrid war” against America and other western countries, destabilizing them through disinformation, cyberattacks, and covert military operations and assassinations. Urging deadly attacks on American and other NATO troops is a significant escalation of that hostility. New York Times reporter Michael Schwirtz tweeted “it’s hard to overstate what a major escalation this is from Russia. Election meddling and the occasional poisoning are one thing. Paying the Taliban to kill American troops, that’s something entirely new.”
According to the New York Times, the National Security Council discussed the intelligence finding in late March and came up with a range of responses, none of which has been deployed. The NSC can include a number of different officials, but by law it includes the president, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette, and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. It usually also includes Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, and Director of National Intelligence, who in March was acting DNI Richard Grenell (it is now John Ratcliffe).
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) took to Twitter to note that Congress had not been informed of the information. “Congress should have been told,” he said. “And not just leadership or the Intel Committee.”
Instead of addressing this extraordinary intelligence, Trump strengthened various U.S. ties to Russia, which have been rocky since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014.
For example, on June 15 news broke that Trump has ordered the removal of 9,500 troops from Germany, where they support NATO against Russian aggression. The removal leaves 25,000 troops there.
All of these friendly overtures to Russia were alarming enough when all we knew was that Russia attacked the 2016 U.S. election and is doing so again in 2020. But it is far worse that those overtures took place when the administration knew that Russia had actively targeted American soldiers.
This news is bad, bad enough that it apparently prompted worried intelligence officials to give up their hope that the administration would respond to the crisis, and instead to leak the story to two major newspapers.
Neutrinos Reveal Final Secret of Sun’s Nuclear Fusion. (Scientific American, June 25, 2020)
The detection of particles produced in the sun’s core supports long-held theory about how our star is powered.
A Burst of Light Unlike Any Captured Before (The Atlantic, June 25, 2020)
Astronomers say they have captured an unexpected spark from a collision of two black holes.
Trump believes anyone who dies from Covid-19 is a 'loser'. (Daily Kos, June 25, 2020)
The mass psychosis  of denial that we are witnessing in Republican-governed states is a direct consequence of Trump's "macho" attitude towards "winning" or "beating" the pandemic.
The Trump Referendum: He still has no second term message beyond his own grievances. (Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, June 25, 2020)
President Trump may soon need a new nickname for “Sleepy Joe” Biden. How does President-elect sound? On present trend that’s exactly what Mr. Biden will be on Nov. 4, as Mr. Trump heads for what could be an historic repudiation that would take the Republican Senate down with him.
[A comment about the above, from Political Wire: "Murdock is messaging GOP senators. WH is gone. If the billionaires lose the senate, they may be treated like ordinary Americans and that is intolerable."]
It’s almost as if Trump is determined to destroy the Republican Party. (Washington Post, June 25, 2020)
Let me summarize the Republican platform for the coming election:
We are the party of white racial grievance. We believe those marching in Black Lives Matter protests are “thugs.” We see the term “systemic racism” as an unfair attack on white people. We support keeping Confederate monuments on their pedestals, and we have no idea why anyone would consider Confederate flags a problem. We are equal-opportunity racists. We see Latino immigrants as “bad hombres.” And we believe that using the racist term “kung flu” to describe covid-19 is hilarious, not least because we are convinced the covid-19 pandemic is basically over, anyway. Who cares what pointy-headed “experts” might say — we know in our hearts that patriotic Americans don’t wear masks.
How the Virus Won (New York Times, June 25, 2020)
Invisible outbreaks sprang up everywhere. The United States ignored the warning signs. We analyzed travel patterns, hidden infections and genetic data to show how the epidemic spun out of control.
CDC broadens guidance on Americans facing risk of severe Covid-19. (STAT, June 25, 2020)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday broadened its warning about who is at risk of developing severe disease from Covid-19 infection, suggesting even younger people who are obese or have other health conditions can become seriously ill if they contract the virus. The new advice, timed to influence behavior going into the July 4 weekend, came as CDC Director Robert Redfield acknowledged serology testing the agency has conducted suggests about 20 million Americans, or roughly 6% of the population, has contracted Covid-19. Redfield said for every person who tests positive, another 10 cases have likely gone undiagnosed.
As the rest of the world recovers, the United States heads toward a singular disaster. (Daily Kos, June 25, 2020)
Around the globe, the story of the pandemic is changing. As nation after nation brings local outbreaks under control, more and more this isn’t the story of a global disease. It’s a story about the utter failure of the United States … a disaster that may genuinely reshape the planet. It’s not just that new U.S. cases of COVID-19 are now greater than they were at their previous peak in April: it’s that they’re increasing at a rate equal to that of the previous climb in March.
[See the second graph.]
If there’s anything that’s been front and center throughout Donald Trump’s residency in the White House, it’s been the utter and absolute destruction of the United States’ role as a world leader. Trump has seen to it that U. S. policy is vindictive, trite, and petty—utterly unconcerned with issues such as human rights or the environment, and absolutely focused on playing golf, eating cake, and exchanging “beautiful” letters with autocratic tyrants. Trump is far more concerned about where he gets to stand in pictures of NATO leaders than he is about the policies of NATO toward neighboring nations.
But if Trump’s handling of foreign affairs made the United States a laughingstock, his mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic is making the nation a pariah state. Donald Trump has achieved this singular accomplishment in the same way that he has bumbled between so many failures in the past: an absolute inability to realize that he does not know everything. Trump is not smarter than all the generals. He doesn’t know more about energy than all the engineers. He doesn’t understand the environment better than all the scientists. And he absolutely does not understand how to manage a pandemic better than all the epidemiologists and health care experts at his disposal.
It’s absolutely true that the United States has access to the best experts and unmatched resources. That’s exactly what makes this such a tragedy. Thanks to Donald Trump—thanks to Matt Gaetz, and Jim Jordan, and Devin Nunes, and Mitch McConnell, and Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, and Bill Barr, and every other damn Republican who has patted Trump on the back every time he has claimed some kind of special genius that allows him to ignore the actual experts—the United States is not just hurtling toward an epic disaster, it has already taken the kind of fall usually reserved for mythological figures.
How many Americans will die is still to be seen. But the “American Century” is dead and buried.
Everything you need to know about Saharan dust (AccuWeather, June 25, 2020)
A hazy red twilight took over the area as the dust thickened, car headlights soon becoming the only source of light. Within just a few seconds, day had turned into night. The wet season had begun, bringing with it one of the two dust seasons that the West African nation, along with others in the region, face annually.
Before the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) had reached the Caribbean Sea earlier this week, thermal lows near the West African coast churned up dust that would contribute to the traveling plume, but not before hitting West African cities and towns.
Every year, around 2 billion tons of dust enters the atmosphere, globally, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), leading to sand and dust storms that can affect the weather, the environment and people's health. Among the health concerns that the dust can bring are respiratory problems and heart disorders. Dust storms can also spread diseases such as meningitis, according to the WMO.
The team found bacteria that are linked with respiratory diseases, including Micrococcus, Burkholderia and Pseudomonas in the dust they collected. The article states additional analysis using genomic techniques would better assist in identifying bacteria and potential pathogens carried by the dust, which could cause health impacts in West Africa and, downstream of the SAL, the Caribbean, the Gulf Coast, South America and Europe.
The Pyramid of Equity Returns: Almost 200 Years of U.S. Stock Performance (Visual Capitalist, June 25, 2020)
The year-to-date performance of the S&P 500 sits at -4.7%, which falls within the normal historic range.
The Black-White Wage Gap Is as Big as It Was in 1950. (New York Times, June 24, 2020)
That’s remarkable. Despite decades of political change — the end of enforced segregation across the South, the legalization of interracial marriage, the passage of multiple civil rights laws and more — the wages of black men trail those of white men by as much as when Harry Truman was president. That gap indicates that there have also been powerful forces pushing against racial equality.
Before getting into the causes, though, I want to explain the difference between the best-known wage statistics and the more accurate version. The traditional numbers are incomplete in a way that many people do not realize: They cover only workers. People who don’t work are ignored. This group includes students, full-time parents, people who have given up on finding work and people who are incarcerated.
NEW: A Decade Of Sun (61-min. video; Solar Dynamics Observatory, June 24, 2020)
Our greatest invention was the invention of invention itself. (Psyche, June 24, 2020)
There is a mental ability we possess today that must have emerged at some point in our history, and whose emergence would have vastly enhanced our ancestors’ creative powers. The ability I mean is that of hypothetical thinking – the ability to detach one’s mind from the here and now, and consciously think about other possibilities. This is the key to sustained innovation and creativity, and to the development of art, science and technology. Archaic humans, in all probability, didn’t possess it. The static nature of their lifestyle suggests that they lived in the present, their attention locked on to the world, and their behaviour driven by habit and environmental stimuli. In the course of their daily activities, they might accidentally hit on a better way of doing something, and so gradually acquire new habits and skills, but they didn’t actively think up innovations for themselves.
How did hypothetical thinking develop?
Boston becomes the biggest East Coast city to ban face recognition. (Fast Company, June 24, 2020)
Boston on Wednesday banned municipal use of facial recognition technology, becoming the largest East Coast city to do so, public radio station WBUR reports. “Boston should not be using racially discriminatory technology and technology that threatens our basic rights,” said city council member Michelle Wu at a Wednesday hearing, CNET reports.
Facial recognition technology has fallen under heavy criticism, with numerous research reports finding the technology does relatively poorly at recognizing people who aren’t white men. IBM recently announced it would stop offering “general purpose” facial recognition software, and Microsoft and Amazon both announced moratoriums on offering such technology to police.
Google will now auto-delete location and search history by default for new users. (The Verge, June 24, 2020)
A compromise between privacy and ad-targeting data.
Google’s auto-delete feature applies to search history (on web or in-app), location history, and voice commands collected through the Google Assistant or devices like Google Home. Google logs that data in its My Activity page, where users can see what data points have been collected and manually delete specific items. Historically, Google has retained that information indefinitely, but in 2019, the company rolled out a way to automatically delete data points after three months or 18 months, depending on the chosen setting.
Starting today, those settings will be on by default for new users. Google will set web and app searches to auto-delete after 18 months even if users take no action at all. Google’s location history is off by default, but when users turn it on, it will also default to an 18-month deletion schedule.
The new defaults will only apply to new users, and existing Google accounts won’t see any settings change. However, Google will also be promoting the option on the search page and on YouTube in an effort to drive more users to examine their auto-delete settings. Auto-delete can be turned on from the Activity Controls page.
The system also extends to YouTube history, although the default will be set to three years to ensure the broader data can be used by the platform’s recommendation algorithms.
Can We Call Trump a Killer? (New York Times, June 24, 2020)
It seems that in every possible way throughout this coronavirus pandemic, Trump has willfully and arrogantly put more Americans at risk of getting sick and dying, and the results have been inevitable: More Americans got sick and died. There is no way to remove Trump’s culpability in this. If your feeble effort saves two lives when an earnest, robust, science-driven effort would have saved four, are you not responsible for the two deaths?
At this point, how do we not label Trump a killer of American citizens by negligence, ignorance and incompetence?
[See "Depraved-Heart Murder" in Wikipedia.]
U.S. Sets Record for Daily New Cases as Virus Surges in South and West. (New York Times, June 24, 2020)
Public health officials in the United States reported 36,880 new cases on Wednesday. Houston’s intensive-care units are running out of available beds, the mayor said.
The Unfathomable Stupidity of Rich White Men (Daily Kos, June 24, 2020)
Barack Obama didn’t want to ruin you, you dumbasses!  He wasn’t out to confiscate your estates, kill your grandmas, and force you into re-education camps!   All he wanted was a more humane, less cruel, less racist version of the system that made you rich.  You should have wanted that too!  Not because you care about other people -- for your own good!   But you were too stupid.
What’s At Risk: An 18-Month View of a Post-COVID World (Visual Capitalist, June 24, 2020)
How the pandemic will reshape the job market (Axiom, June 23, 2020)
Global economy to shrink 'disastrous' 4.7% in 2020 amid post-pandemic scarring, Bloomberg economists forecast. (Business Insider, June 23, 2020)
Output won't fully rebound until the second quarter of 2021 as unemployment lingers and consumer confidence remains suppressed, the economists said.
Axios-Ipsos poll: Catching up when the virus comes. (Axios, June 23, 2020)
People in mostly red states where coronavirus cases have been rising the fastest are developing a heightened sense of risk and taking steps to dial back their exposure, according to the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.
These patterns are playing out comes as Americans across the nation brace for a resurgence in infections:
- 85% worry about a second wave.
- 70% now say going back to their "normal" pre-coronavirus life would be a large to moderate risk, up from 64% a week earlier and 57% two weeks ago.
- 71% worry their community will reopen too soon, also the highest share in a month.
Between the lines: Americans are looking to institutions they trust for cues about how to behave. About eight in 10 said they would stay home and avoid others if either the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or their governor told them to, or if local cases spiked, hospitals reported being full or people they knew tested positive.
Heat and Fire Scorches Siberia. (NASA, June 23, 2020)
In a report about the remarkably warm temperatures in Siberia, European scientists examined historical temperature data in their global ERA5 reanalysis, finding that temperatures have been unusually warm in the region since January 2020. Since the ERA5 data begins in 1979, the European team also looked to GISTEMP, a NASA temperature record with data through 1880. They could not find any other examples in either dataset of such an intense heat wave in this part of Siberia persisting for such an extended period.
The persistent high-pressure atmospheric pattern that brought the extreme heat has exacerbated wildfires, prompting dozens to burn in the region’s forest and shrub ecosystems. Some of those ecosystems grow on top of carbon-rich layers of peat and permafrost.
The GOP’s impossible choice on Trump’s coronavirus testing comments: He’s dangerous, or he’s lying. (Washington Post, June 23, 2020)
Among the things President Trump has forced his fellow Republicans to defend him on, few have risen to the level of him saying he asked for slower coronavirus testing. Whatever bonkers theories exist about the novel coronavirus, no serious person thinks less testing would be a good thing — unless, of course, you’re more worried about the numbers being a political liability than you are about lives. So, multiple White House officials said he was joking. And then Trump on Tuesday, as has often been the case, assured the opposite. “I don’t kid,” he said.
That leaves Republicans with an uneasy choice: suggest Trump is lying, or suggest he’s actually pushing for the unthinkable. They appear to be going with the former.
Fauci, Citing ‘Disturbing Surge,’ Tells Congress the Virus Is Not Under Control. (New York Times, June 23, 2020)
The testimony of the nation’s top infectious disease expert countered President Trump’s upbeat assessment, describing a “mixed bag” of some bright spots amid worrying trends and unknowns.
Trump just froze work visas during a time when a record number of immigrant-founded companies are generating record amounts of revenue. (Business Insider, June 23, 2020)
Trump family seeks to block book by president’s niece that calls him ‘World’s Most Dangerous Man’. (Washington Post, June 23, 2020)
President Trump’s brother on Tuesday petitioned a New York court to block the publication of a book by Mary L. Trump that describes the president, her uncle, as the “world’s most dangerous man.” Presales of the book, slated for publication on July 28, have soared to the top of bestseller lists on the basis of a description from publisher Simon & Schuster that it will reveal decades of family secrets, including a “nightmare of traumas” that explain the psychology of the man who is now president.
The darker side to TikTok’s Trump rally trolling (Washington Post, June 23, 2020)
Think Russia spreading WikiLeaks information under the guise of everyday concerned U.S. citizens. Think right-wing provocateurs masquerading as antifa as protests roared across the country, tricking rural communities to fear attacks were imminent. Or think of information warfare that isn’t technically coordinated inauthentic behavior and yet still can be insidious: conspiracy theorists taking advantage of, say, the way Twitter’s trending topics list is set up to push fringe ideas such as QAnon or Pizzagate into mainstream conversation.
We may smile to see members of a rising generation employ these tricks in service of progressive values. After all, those who pioneered them and who exploit them today often take pride in valuelessness — bowing down to chaos and crafting a world where we can believe nothing and everything at the same time. Surely it is better to troll to disrupt racism than to promote it.
Yet celebrating some manipulation and condemning others is an unsustainable tack for anyone who wants to untangle our world wide web of lies. The whole story is cute and clever, but more than that it’s sad — sad that this is the activism that feels most normal and most natural to those who grew up in the Internet age, sad that many believe it’s the activism most likely to succeed in a battlefield already full of falsehoods, and sadder still that they may be right.
How you can help unleash the new global university (University of Cape Town SA, June 23, 2020)
On Monday, 29 June, the University of Cape Town (UCT) will host the first of a series of virtual events: Unleashing the New Global University.
This time of extraordinary global crisis – combining the pandemic with protests about race and gender inequality – presents an opportunity to rethink how we can do things differently as a university. Not just within our current geographical space but around the world.
Universities around the world have had their international activities brought to a halt by COVID-19. International students have returned home, conferences have been cancelled or postponed, research that required travel has seen at least a pause, if not a complete rethink.
But this model of internationalisation was already failing because it reinforced inequality. Which groups of people are most able to travel around the world to attend academic conferences and meetings? Which kinds of students are able to take up the exciting and career-advancing opportunities of international experiences? It is surely those from wealthier backgrounds and institutions, mostly in the global north, mostly without primary childcare responsibilities. The current model also has an impact on the planet. While most universities claim to value sustainability, few have translated that into action when it comes to travel.
These issues of inequality and sustainability are at the heart of UCT’s values and our proposed Vision 2030 for UCT. We are well placed to lead this conversation: while we are far more challenged by the requirements of internationalisation than our wealthier partners in the global north, we are better able to play in these international waters than most other institutions in the country and on the continent.
Truth is that we can’t solve the problems alone. We need to persuade our partners to see the challenges for what they are, to help us think through solutions, and to have the political will to change with us.
Segway, the most hyped invention since the Macintosh, ends production. (Fast Company, June 23, 2020)
The Segway brand will no longer make its two-wheeled, self-balancing namesake.
Privacy-Focused Tails OS Wants to Know How Facebook and the FBI Hacked it. (Vice, June 23, 2020)
The developers of Tails and a video player, targeted by Facebook and the FBI in an operation to catch a child predator, are still in the dark about how the feds hacked the software.
Should Facebook, the FBI, of the cybersecurity firm, have alerted Tails or GNOME after Buster Hernandez was safely behind bars? “They should have been notified,” a current Facebook employee, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not allowed to speak to the press, told Motherboard. According to several privacy and security experts, the answer is a resounding yes as well. In fact, many think Facebook should not have gotten involved in making and paying for the hacking tool in the first place.
“The fact that Facebook or any private company would think they had the right to commission the creation of malware against another software entity is so incredibly arrogant,” said Katie Mossouris, who used to lead the vulnerability research teams at Microsoft and Symantec and is one of the world’s most well-known experts on coordinated disclosure. “Security professionals worth their salt are worried about governments not making the right call when it comes to making decisions in the Vulnerability Equities Process, and we’re all supposed to be fine with that kind of decision resting in Facebook’s hands?” According to Moussouris, what Facebook did in this case “is more evidence that Facebook is out of control at best and is making the world less safe for people who need anonymity to survive.”
Harlo Holmes has been developing tools for journalists and activists for years, and now helps media organizations set up SecureDrop and trains their journalists to use tools such as Tails. Holmes said that Facebook needs to be more transparent as to what the vulnerability was exactly, and what the agreement with the FBI was. "What was in that contract? Was it a one time use license against this one actor? Or did they just hand it over to the FBI and be like 'now this is in your arsenal now'?" Holmes said in a phone call. “Those are very, very key questions.” Moreover, she said that it’s hard to understand how Facebook thought it would be OK to help the FBI hack a child molester, while the company is also suing the spyware maker NSO Group for using WhatsApp to help their customers hack targets. "The hypocrisy is absolutely wild," she said. “More hackers should learn about the ethics of what we do, and this is a textbook example.
Trump Kills US. (1-min. video; MeidasTouch, June 23, 2020)
[Pass it on.]
Ahead of Trump Visit, Church Makes Unproven Claim of Virus-Killing Technology. (New York Times, June 23, 2020)
An Arizona megachurch hosting President Trump on Tuesday misleadingly claimed that its new air purification system “kills 99.9 percent of Covid within 10 minutes” but then backtracked shortly before the president spoke. Mr. Trump visited Dream City Church in Phoenix, one of the nation’s biggest megachurches, to speak to thousands of Arizona college students gathered to support his re-election. With coronavirus cases sharply increasing in the state, some public health experts said the gathering had the potential to be a disaster.
The president went to Phoenix to speak to a group of student supporters. Even as Arizona is seeing some of the steepest increases in cases and deaths in the country, thousands of residents have packed bars and restaurants in recent weeks, trying to escape both heat and boredom. Until last week, Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, prevented Democratic mayors in the state from requiring face masks. After calls to restrict or cancel the Trump appearance, Mr. Ducey told reporters, “we’re going to protect people’s rights to assemble in an election year.” He attended the event on Tuesday.
Mayor Kate Gallego of Phoenix, a Democrat, repeatedly criticized the event, saying on Monday that “it does not abide by C.D.C. guidelines during Covid-19.” “Public health is a group effort, not a partisan issue,” she added. “It requires the participation of every resident and every level of government.”
Photos of the event taken inside the church showed the crowd shoulder to shoulder, with very few people appearing to wear masks. Anyone who registered for the event was required to sign a waiver. “By attending this convention, you and any guest voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19 and agree not to hold Turning Point Action, their affiliates, Dream City Church, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury,” it said.
Problem solved? The Phoenix Arizona church hosting a Trump rally claims it can kill COVID-19. (AZCentral, June 22, 2020)
Opinion: Dream City Church says it has found a technology to wipe out almost all traces of COVID-19? That's too good and convenient to be true.
Privacy experts say many coronavirus apps aren't doing enough to safeguard users' information. (Washington Post, June 22, 2020)
Governments across the world are leaning on an array of coronavirus technologies, such as contact-tracing apps and smart thermometers, to make decisions about reopening. But experts are warning that their security and privacy protections are lacking — which could make it easier for hackers to compromise peoples' personal information. Developers of the apps did not implement strong digital protections that are standard on other technology that deals with sensitive personal or health information And many are siphoning data to third parties — which means peoples' private information could be used for targeted advertising or to track them across other, non-related apps.
President Trump Just Suspended the Tech Industry's Favorite Visa. (Wired, June 22, 2020)
The administration said the move will give US workers access to an additional 525,000 jobs. But sectors with lots of H-1B visas tend to have low unemployment.
Trump knows he is losing, and he's prepared to tear the nation apart when it happens. (Daily Kos, June 22, 2020)
Donald J. Trump may have some sanity problems, but even he has to recognize that the crowds are smaller, the polling data is worsening every day, and his re-election looks shakier with every passing week. There are a few standards that Presidents are expected to commit to in our country. One of those standards is the peaceful transition of power. Donald J. Trump, however, is not one of those presidents. Instead, President Trump is busy laying out a case, now, for unbridled civil unrest and ‘let’s end democracy’ acts should he fail to win in November. Why? Because Trump is already calling the 2020 election a fraud.
'Uhhhhh' Trump falters as reporter pins him down on whether he slowed COVID-19 testing. (1-min. video; Daily Kos, June 22, 2020)
 Donald Trump used a whole lot of words to refuse to say “no” when asked if he really told his administration to slow down coronavirus testing. During his flop of a Tulsa rally Saturday, Trump had bragged about doing exactly that, saying “testing is a double-edged sword” and “when you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people; you're going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down please.” White House officials had claimed Trump was joking, except that it sure didn’t look like he was, and the statement was in line with other things he’s said about the negatives he perceives in testing.
Asked about it on Monday, Trump tried to deflect and dodge. But it was Trump, so he also fumbled and stumbled and confirmed that his view is that testing causes cases. “If it did slow down, frankly, I think we’re way ahead of ourselves, if you wanna know the truth. We’ve done too good of a job,” he ultimately said.
But it was what came immediately before that line that was the most telling. Trump had been rambling on about how “Every time you do a test, it shows more and more cases” and “You’re showing people that are asymptomatic, you’re showing people that have very little problem, you’re showing young people that don’t have a problem.” The reporter finally moved to pin him down: “But did you ask to slow it down?”
And the most telling moment, more telling than the flood of words that had come before, was the “Uhhhhh” Trump started his response with, before moving on to the non-denial of “If it did slow down, frankly, I think we’re way ahead of ourselves, if you wanna know the truth. We’ve done too good of a job.”
Watch that “Uhhhh.” It’s at 44 seconds into the video. More than 120,000 people are dead and he says “We’ve done too good a job.”
Hack Brief: Anonymous Stole and Leaked a Megatrove of Police Documents. (Wired, June 22, 2020)
The so-called BlueLeaks collection includes internal memos, financial records, and more from over 200 state, local, and federal agencies.
DDOSecrets has published the files in a searchable format on its website, and supporters quickly created the #blueleaks hashtag to collect their findings from the hacked files on social media. Some of the initial discoveries among the documents showed, for instance, that the FBI monitored the social accounts of protesters and sent alerts to local law enforcement about anti-police messages. Other documents detail the FBI tracking bitcoin donations to protest groups, and internal memos warning that white supremacist groups have posed as Antifa to incite violence.
DDOSecrets notes that none of the files appear to be classified, and Best concedes that they may not show illegal behavior on the part of police. But the group argues that the documents instead reveal legal but controversial practices, as well as the tone of police discussions around groups like Antifa—for instance, describing white nationalists like Richard Spencer as anti-Antifa, rather than acknowledging that Antifa expressly opposes groups like those who follow Spencer.
"The underlying attitudes of law enforcement is one of the things I think BlueLeaks documents really well," Best writes. "I've seen a few comments about it being unlikely to uncover gross police misconduct, but I think those somewhat miss the point, or at least equate police misconduct solely with illegal behavior. Part of what a lot of the current protests are about is what police do and have done legally."
Trump says niece "not allowed" to write book because of nondisclosure agreement. (Axios, June 21, 2020)
The TikTok/K-pop stan let’s-troll-Trump operation, and specifically about the brilliant data-gathering aspect of it. (Claire Ryan, June 21, 2020)
If you’ve been keeping up with the whole MO of the Trump campaign - Cambridge Analytica, micro-targeting of demographics on social media, etc. - you’ll know that gathering people’s info in order to shill for donations is a HUGE revenue stream. AFAIK that was the reason he ran. To campaign, get donations from the MAGAts, funnel vast lakes of money into his businesses. It was just that simple. Doesn’t take much to feed racists the messaging they want to hear and suck money out of them.
The Russians/GOP/various other factors caused him to win, which was not in the plan, but anyway Trump at least knows that firing up the base = MONEY. Yes yes, donations from big GOP donors, but you have to understand - there was a vast lake of untapped racist small donations that Trump plugged a hose into back in 2016. And that hose is powered by data.
Part of the reason that FaceBook is so big isn’t because it’s any good; it’s because you can advertise to users based on their bio details and their Likes. Having those signals to determine how likely a person is to buy a product is the stuff of an advertiser’s dreams. Google works the same way, to be honest, but at least Google’s core functionality is useful.
The thing about this stuff is that it runs on ACCURATE data. The worst thing about data analysis is when your data is corrupted or inaccurate, and you have no way of filtering it out. It means insights derived from the dataset are 100% junk.
So the troll operation in this case, by all accounts, used fake emails and temp Google Voice numbers. And listen, people: you don’t know how very genius this is. I will bet a month’s salary that some poor database admin is now staring at a dataset of over a million ticket reservations that they were going to use to shill for donations and feeling sick. 
TikTok Teens and K-Pop Stans Say They Sank Trump Rally. (New York Times, June 21, 2020)
Did a successful prank inflate attendance expectations for President Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Okla.?
Heather Cox Richardson: Trump's Tulsa debacle and other White House losses (Letters from an American, June 20, 2020)
Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma was designed to jumpstart his campaign and reunite him with the crowds that energize him. His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, along with the president himself, has spent days crowing that almost a million tickets had been reserved, and the campaign had built an outside stage for overflow crowds.
But far fewer than the 19,000 people Tulsa’s BOK Center could hold showed up: the local fire marshal said the number was just under 6,200. Young TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music (so-called “K-Pop stans”), along with Instagram and Snapchat users, had quietly ordered tickets to prank the campaign. The technological savvy of their generation has turned political: they knew that the Trump campaign harvests information from ticket reservations, bombarding applicants with texts and requests for donations. So they set up fake accounts and phone numbers to order the tickets, then deleted the fake accounts. They also deleted their social media posts organizing the plan to keep it from the attention of the Trump campaign.
The poor turnout after such hype was deeply embarrassing for the campaign. Trump’s people took down the outside stage and Trump blamed “protesters” who had kept supporters out of the venue for the small size of the rally, but there were few reports of any interactions between Trump supporters and protesters and no one was turned away.
The rally itself did not deliver the punch Trump’s people had hoped. The speech was disjointed as the president rambled from one topic to another, rehashing old topics that no longer charged up the crowd, many of whom were caught on camera yawning or checking their phones. It was clear that The Lincoln Project’s needling of his difficulty raising a glass to his mouth and walking down a ramp at last week’s West Point graduation has gotten under Trump's skin: he spent more than ten minutes pushing back on those stories—the ramp was “like an ice skating rink,” he claimed-- which, of course, only reinforced them.
Much more damning, when discussing coronavirus, he told the audience falsely that the recent spikes in infections are because there has been more testing: “When you do more testing to that extent, you are going to find more people, you will find more cases. I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’”
Far from energizing Trump’s 2020 campaign, the rally made Trump look like a washed-up performer who has lost his audience and become a punchline for the new kids in town. A Trump campaign staffer said that Biden “should have to report our costs to the [Federal Election Commission] as a contribution to his campaign.
The President’s Shock at the Rows of Empty Seats in Tulsa (New York Times, June 21, 2020)
President Trump’s attempt to revive his re-election bid sputtered badly as he traveled to Tulsa for his first mass rally in months but found a small crowd and delivered a disjointed speech. The president, who had been warned aboard Air Force One that the crowds at the arena were smaller than expected, was stunned, and he yelled at aides backstage while looking at the endless rows of empty blue seats in the upper bowl of the stadium.
Mr. Trump eventually entered the arena for a meandering performance in which he excoriated the “fake news” for reporting on health concerns before his event, used racist language to describe the coronavirus as the “Kung Flu” and spent more than 15 minutes explaining away an unflattering video clip of him gingerly descending a ramp after his commencement speech at West Point.
When he landed back at the White House and walked off Marine One, his tie hung untied around his neck. He waved to reporters, with a defeated expression on his face, holding a crumpled red campaign hat in one hand. (1-min. CNN video)
Exactly what went wrong was still being dissected on Sunday. But a broad group of advisers and associates acknowledged to one another that Mr. Trump had not been able to will public opinion away from fears about the spread of the coronavirus in an indoor space. And they conceded that myriad polls showing Mr. Trump’s eroded standing were not fake, and that he might be on course to lose to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, in November.
Sick staff and empty seats: How Trump's triumphant return to the campaign trail went from bad to worse (6-min video; CNN, June 21, 2020)
By the time President Donald Trump was gliding in his helicopter toward Joint Base Andrews on Saturday, destined for what he'd once hoped would be a triumphant packed-to-the-rafters return to the campaign trail, things were already looking bad.
Scanning cable news coverage earlier in the day, Trump was disappointed to see pictures not of massive lines forming outside the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa but of Geoffrey Berman, the federal prosecutor Trump's attorney general had attempted unsuccessfully to dismiss the night before, a person familiar with his response said.
Hours later, the President was informed six campaign staffers in Tulsa had tested positive for coronavirus ahead of his scheduled arrival -- an unfortunate reminder of an ongoing pandemic Trump's critics say he is ignoring. After initially dismissing the revelation, a source familiar with his reaction said Trump erupted when it was subsequently reported in the media -- overtaking coverage of the rally itself.
Still, a determined Trump was intent on breathing new life into his staggering campaign. He took off for Tulsa, convinced large swaths of his supporters would be waiting for him there.
Things did not improve once Air Force One lifted off. The President received a report that only about 25 people were assembled in the overflow space the campaign had reserved for a crowd Trump claimed five days earlier would top 40,000.
Trump Rally Fizzles as Attendance Falls Short of Campaign’s Expectations. (1-min. video; New York Times, June 20, 2020)
President Trump’s attempt to revive his re-election bid sputtered badly as he traveled to Tulsa for his first mass rally in months but found a small crowd and delivered a disjointed speech.
Trump berates media and uses racist language about Covid-19 at Tulsa rally. (81-min. video; The Guardian, June 20, 2020)
Trump coronavirus 'Death Clock' truck enters Tulsa ahead of rally. (The Hill, June 20, 2020)
‘Racial Hate’: A famed folk singer, Trump’s dad and angry lyrics at a Tulsa landmark (Washington Post, June 20, 2020)
Black Tulsans, With a Defiant Juneteenth Celebration, Send a Message to Trump. (New York Times, June 19, 2020)
The president arrives in a city that is in the midst of addressing long-ignored racist history. People there believe the country as a whole could learn a lot from them.
Here Comes Your 19th Nervous Breakdown: the Mental State of Donald Trump. (CounterPunch, June 19, 2020)
Only a few stories in the mass media have gone beyond mention of narcissism as people use it in common parlance to quote medical authorities who speak of narcissism in a real pathological sense. A sampling of their remarks shows how seriously doctors regard Trump’s mental illness.
“Trump has no policy on any issue because his mental impairment means he cannot think strategically or in abstract terms,” tweeted John M. Talmadge, MD, a physician and clinical professor of psychiatry at U.T. Southwestern Medical Center. “He cannot weigh options, assess risk, or foresee consequences. Concepts like fairness, justice, honor, and integrity quite literally do not register. You can see this in every interview or press encounter. He never states an abstract thought or idea. Instead he falls back on simple adjectives: disgraceful, horrible, low-intelligence, perfect, innocent, nasty, stupid, fake, etc. He’s driven by negative emotion, often paranoid and often insulting, vulgar, vitriolic.”
Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, suggested that Trump should be detained involuntarily to assess his mental health. It followed a tweet by Trump in which he claimed he would “totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!)” if Turkey did anything that “I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits.” “Am I the only psychologist who finds this claim and this threat truly alarming? Wouldn’t these normally trigger a mental health hold? Right and Left must set aside politics and agree that there is a serious problem here,” Gilbert wrote on Twitter.
Given Trump’s downward mental spiral—which is accelerated by the very crises he exacerbates—his impending exit seems certain. But how will that happen? How will that be accomplished? How will his mental disorder affect even that? If Trump loses the election Joe Biden has rightly expressed concern that he will not accept the result. Biden has spoken of the possibility that the military may have to remove him from the White House. Here Biden shows himself more perceptive than most of the media pundits. This is not idle chatter or sound bytes for his campaign. Biden hardly needs to campaign. Trump’s relentlessly negative campaign has begun—and it’s against himself.
'The damage is done': Judge denies Trump administration request to block Bolton book. (Politico, June 19, 2020)
The judge, Royce Lamberth, said an injunction would be "toothless," but he warned the former national security adviser could face criminal charges.
Bolton lawyer Chuck Cooper praised Lamberth’s conclusion that no injunction should be issued, but noted disagreement with the rest of the judge’s order and suggested it was far from the final word in the dispute. “We welcome today’s decision by the Court denying the Government’s attempt to suppress Ambassador Bolton’s book,” Cooper said in a statement. “We respectfully take issue, however, with the Court’s preliminary conclusion at this early stage of the case that Ambassador Bolton did not comply fully with his contractual prepublication obligation to the Government, and the case will now proceed to development of the full record on that issue. The full story of these events has yet to be told—but it will be.”
NEW: Texas Justices Hand Exxon Setback in California Climate Cases. (Inside Climate News, June 19, 2020)
The court, while sympathetic, held that the oil giant lacked jurisdiction to compel California officials to divulge documents. Although the three justices ruled against Exxon, they made it clear they were wholly on the company's side, even taking a swipe at California courts they suggested would tip the judicial scale in favor of the cities and counties on a "lawfare battlefield." "Being a conservative panel on a conservative intermediate court in a relatively conservative part of Texas is both blessing and curse: blessing, because we strive always to remember our oath to follow settled legal principles set out by higher courts and not encroach upon the domains of the other governmental branches; curse, because in this situation, at this time in history, we would very much like to follow our impulse instead," the opinion said.
It continued, "In the end, though, our reading of the law simply does not permit us to agree with Exxon's contention." The setback in the Texas court comes just weeks after a federal appeals court handed Exxon and other oil companies a critical loss in their fight to have the cases heard in federal court, where the companies have prevailed in prior climate cases. 
W.H.O. Warns of ‘Dangerous Phase’ of Pandemic as Outbreaks Widen. (New York Times, June 19, 2020)
Beijing and Seoul have had a recent surge in coronavirus cases, and businesses are recoiling in America as infections sharply increase in Southern and Western states.
NEW: Meet the Groundswell of Open Source COVID-19 Efforts. ITPro Today, June 19, 2020)
As the global pandemic continues, the number of open source COVID-19 software and hardware projects – developed by diverse open source communities – continues to grow.
NEW: It’s time to rethink the global university. (University of Cape Town SA, June 19, 2020)
The pandemic has disrupted higher education international activities and the financial models on which universities increasingly depend. But the previous model was already problematic, contributing to global warming and benefitting rich universities more than poor. The University of Cape Town (UCT) is hosting a series of virtual events that will seize the moment to rethink global collaborations for a sustainable and equitable planet. What can we do differently, and what can we not afford to lose?
"If we don’t step into our discomfort zone, we’ll stay in the same place while the world changes around us."
We Will Be Living With the Coronavirus Pandemic Well Into 2021. (Bloomberg, June 18, 2020)
Most experts believe a vaccine won’t be ready until next year. It’s time to reset our expectations and change our behavior.
The virus is winning. That much is certain more than six months into a shape-shifting pandemic that’s killed more than 454,000 people worldwide, is gaining ground globally and has disrupted lives from Wuhan to Sao Paulo. If, as most experts believe, an effective vaccine won’t be ready until well into 2021, we’ll all be co-existing with the coronavirus for the next year or longer without a magic bullet. And this next phase of the crisis may require us to reset our expectations and awareness and change our behavior, according to public-health professionals. In their view, success isn’t defined as returning to life as it was in 2019. Rather, it’s about buying time and summoning the staying power and policy flexibility to limit the destructive capacity of an expanding pandemic, which may result in global deaths of more than one million according to one estimate, until there are medical tools to effectively treat and immunize against the virus.
Not all the news is grim. In the first half of the year, governments worldwide resorted to emergency measures like forced business closures, stay-at-home rules and bans on large gatherings. The moves slowed infection, saved lives and gave leaders time to stockpile medical equipment and supplies. Yet that progress came at the cost of economic contraction, soaring unemployment and trillions of dollars in fiscal and monetary stimulus measures. Governments are likely to be reluctant to resort to wholesale lockdowns again in anything short of a catastrophe.
Leaders such as U.S. President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson or Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have seen their poll numbers crumble at least in part because of high infection rates and deaths from Covid-19, the disease spawned by the virus. In many instances, messages from the top have seemed to conflict with the advice of experts, or drowned out the guidance of government agencies. That has created confusion and mistrust and invited people to view public-health information through a partisan lens.
The high number of asymptomatic infections is having a huge impact. This is the worst pandemic in 100 years. 1918 didn't have 30% of people who were infected who didn't know it. It’s the stealth infection thing that adds to the mix.
U.S. officials and scientists have launched an accelerated program that aims to have a vaccine to prevent Covid-19 by the first half of 2021, but White House health adviser Anthony Fauci has cautioned that it could take longer. The World Health Organization hopes there will be about 2 billion doses of a handful of effective vaccines available by the end of next year. But that’s enough for less than one-third of the world’s population. Future vaccines that do arrive on the scene may not provide long-term immunity. If SARS-CoV-2 is like other coronaviruses, including some that cause the common cold, individuals may need annual booster shots to ward off subtle changes.
People are fatigued. They mistakenly feel that things are going away. We’re going to have to figure out a way to live with this.
You May Have Antibodies After Coronavirus Infection. But Not for Long. (New York Times, June 18, 2020)
The question has haunted scientists since the pandemic began: Does everyone infected with the virus produce antibodies — and if so, how long do they last?
Not very long, suggests a new study published Thursday in Nature Medicine. Antibodies — protective proteins made in response to an infection — may last only two to three months, especially in people who never showed symptoms while they were infected. The conclusion does not necessarily mean that these people can be infected a second time, several experts cautioned. Even low levels of powerful neutralizing antibodies may still be protective, as are the immune system’s T cells and B cells. But the results offer a strong note of caution against the idea of “immunity certificates” for people who have recovered from the illness, the authors suggested.
Antibodies to other coronaviruses, including those that cause SARS and MERS, are thought to last about a year. Scientists had hoped that antibodies to the new virus might last at least as long. Several studies have now shown that most people who are visibly ill with Covid-19 develop antibodies to the virus, although it has been unclear how long those antibodies last. The new study is the first to characterize the immune response in asymptomatic people.
‘Dreamers’ Are Elated After Getting a Reprieve on DACA. (New York Times, June 18, 2020)
Thousands of young people who were in the country illegally as children have been caught in legal limbo. A new Supreme Court ruling gave them a temporary win.
[Also see: The Long-Term Impact of DACA: Forging Futures Despite DACA’s Uncertainty (Harvard University, 2019)]
The Cybersecurity 202: D.C., Georgia reflect divergent Democratic and Republican approaches to mail ballots. (Washington Post, June 18, 2020)
As Georgia and the District of Columbia struggle to recover from disastrous primaries marred by long lines, poor training and machines that didn't operate as planned, they are taking drastically different approaches to voting by mail.
Georgia plans to scuttle its primary system of mailing absentee ballot request forms to registered voters, which was a way of encouraging them to vote by mail during the pandemic, the state’s top election official Brad Raffensperger (R) announced. Instead, it will allow voters to request absentee ballots online — a move critics warn will make the process harder for people without Internet access and could create new avenues for hacking or technical malfunctions that undermine the contest.
The District, meanwhile, is doubling down on mail voting. The Board of Elections plans to send mail ballots directly to the city's 500,000 registered voters without making them request the ballots first, a move that some Republicans say invites voter fraud.
The divergence is representative of an emerging trend in which state-level Republicans are shrinking back from mail voting after the primaries while Democrats embrace it during the pandemic. It's deepening as President Trump and some Republican allies have savaged mail voting broadly, without evidence, as prone to widespread fraud. The Republican push against mail voting often isn’t coming from election officials.
World has six months to avert climate crisis, says energy expert. (The Guardian, June 18, 2020)
The world has only six months in which to change the course of the climate crisis and prevent a post-lockdown rebound in greenhouse gas emissions that would overwhelm efforts to stave off climate catastrophe, one of the world’s foremost energy experts has warned. “This year is the last time we have, if we are not to see a carbon rebound,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency.
Governments are planning to spend $9tn (£7.2tn) globally in the next few months on rescuing their economies from the coronavirus crisis, the IEA has calculated. The stimulus packages created this year will determine the shape of the global economy for the next three years, according to Birol, and within that time emissions must start to fall sharply and permanently, or climate targets will be out of reach. “The next three years will determine the course of the next 30 years and beyond,” Birol told the Guardian. “If we do not [take action] we will surely see a rebound in emissions. If emissions rebound, it is very difficult to see how they will be brought down in future. This is why we are urging governments to have sustainable recovery packages.”
Ancient yet cosmopolitan (Aeon, June 18, 2020)
Art, adornment and sophisticated hunting technologies flourished not only in prehistoric Europe but across the globe. There is no basis for any claim for European distinction in innate intelligence, behaviour or morals. Europeans are no more ‘evolved’ than any other living people.
One reason that we see a wealth of artifacts some 40,000 years ago in Europe is because those sites have been studied more extensively over the past centuries than sites in much of Africa – we can’t find where we don’t look. This is beginning to change and, in the process of exploring new sites, we’re discovering remarkable cultural treasures from Australia to Chad. Another reason for the disproportionate numbers of finds from Eurasia is that the archaeological sites are cooler, drier, protected environments – often caves – where ancient material preserves better in comparison with the humid tropics.
The most important decider seems to be group size: usually, the bigger the group, the bigger the diversity of cultural practices. Those that are particularly successful at increasing a society’s population – such as practices that improve nutrition, fertility or reduce infant mortality – will, of course, produce more carriers of that practice, so spread faster and further. This is how technologies fundamental to survival, such as fire-making, rapidly became universal. Practices less crucial to survival, such as artworks, require a large enough group to support practitioners with food and other resources. But, once group size increases enough, cultural innovation accelerates, because the group then holds a diversity of cultural practices that can be combined to produce further practices, and so on exponentially. In other words, a tipping point is reached whereby larger, connected populations experience cultural explosions.
The reason for these bursts in cultural activity is not to do with changes in our ancestors’ individual brains but in their collective brains – changes resulting from human demography and networks. Humans have a unique form of culture that is cumulative, and evolves in diversity and complexity over time.
The great flowering of culture we enjoy from our Cro-Magnon ancestors was not evidence of a cleverer, ‘more evolved’ people but because the demographic, social, environmental and cultural changes that occurred at this time in Europe drove cultural complexity. Geneticists recently discovered that the greatest population boom in prehistory occurred 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, which helps to explain a swathe of cultural explosions seen at this time, from present-day Germany to Indonesia.
Cultural complexity takes time to build up, so generally the trend is towards a greater number of technologies and practices. This is not a reflection of the individuals’ biology or intellectual capabilities, but rather the complexity of their societies.
Astronomers detect regular rhythm of radio waves, with origins unknown. (MIT News, June 17, 2020)
Signal from 500 million light years away is the first periodic pattern of radio bursts ever detected.
Letter regarding MIT's initial decisions about the Fall semester. (MIT, June 17, 2020)
Undergraduates have overwhelmingly expressed how much they value being on campus; we aim to give as many students as possible the opportunity to return safely this year. However, because we judge that physical distancing requires using doubles and triples as single-occupancy rooms, our undergraduate residential population in the fall will be much less than our normal capacity – conceivably as high as 60 percent, but likely much lower. Exactly how many students can return at any point depends on several factors, some beyond our control.
Obviously, we cannot control the trajectory of the pandemic this fall, either here in Massachusetts or in the places around the world our students call home. We also have no control over the government response. We must accept these as unknowns and be ready to adapt.
However, we do have significant control over MIT’s ability to provide Covid-19 testing, contact tracing and quarantining. No matter how careful we all are, we must anticipate that we will face Covid-19 cases in the fall. Therefore, we want to be confident that we have the capacity to spot an outbreak quickly and limit its spread.
Trump asked China’s Xi to help him win reelection, according to Bolton book. (2-min. video; Washington Post, June 17, 2020)
The 592-page memoir, obtained by The Washington Post, is the most substantive, critical dissection of the president from an administration insider so far, coming from a conservative who has worked in Republican administrations for decades and is a longtime contributor to Fox News. It portrays Trump as an “erratic” and “stunningly uninformed” commander in chief, and lays out a long series of jarring and troubling encounters between the president, his top advisers and foreign leaders.
Justice Dept. Escalates Legal Fight With Bolton Over Book. (New York Times, June 17, 2020)
The Trump administration asked a judge to order the former national security adviser to stop publication of his memoir even as explosive details emerged. Mr. Trump said this week that he considered “every conversation with me as president highly classified,” suggesting that Mr. Bolton was breaking the law.
In a declaration attached to the lawsuit, Michael J. Ellis, the senior director for intelligence programs at the National Security Council, said he had reviewed the manuscript and determined that it contained classified information — including a particularly restricted form of top-secret data — related to a broad category that included military plans, foreign governments, intelligence activities or foreign relations. He said he was offering the judge six specific examples of material in the book that was properly classified and whose disclosure could damage national security in a classified declaration accompanying his public filing.
Mr. Bolton’s lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, has denied that the manuscript contains any legitimately classified information. In an op-ed last week in The Wall Street Journal vowing to go forward, he said Mr. Bolton had worked closely with Ellen Knight, the National Security Council’s senior director for prepublication review of materials written by council personnel, in an “intensive four-month review.” After many changes, she told him in late April she had no more edits to ask of him, he said.
In a statement, Simon & Schuster dismissed the threat. “Tonight’s filing by the government is a frivolous, politically motivated exercise in futility,” the publisher said. “Hundreds of thousands of copies of John Bolton’s ‘The Room Where It Happened’ have already been distributed around the country and the world. The injunction as requested by the government would accomplish nothing.”
“As is often the case with the Trump administration, this motion is all hat and no cattle,” said Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. “The audience for this filing is not the court; it’s the president.”
How secure are electronic pollbooks and vote reporting tools? This new program aims to find out. (Washington Post, June 17, 2020)
Voting machines get most of the attention when it comes to election security. But officials are now trying to tackle myriad ways adversaries could undermine U.S. elections aside from directly rigging ballots.
A new pilot project run by a top cybersecurity nonprofit group and the Election Assistance Commission aims to look for bugs in the many other machines that hackers could exploit to throw an election into chaos, such as electronic poll books and systems for reporting unofficial election night results. Most states currently don’t have a formal process for ensuring they're secure. “Most of our adversaries aren’t looking to affect the outcome of an election as much as they want to affect our confidence in that outcome,” Aaron Wilson, senior director of election security at the Center for Internet Security, which is running the project, told me. “All of these technologies could have a really big impact on voter confidence and in some cases on the vote itself.”
A cyberattack that modified voter information in e-poll books, for example, could make it difficult or impossible for many people to cast ballots.  An attack that changed election night results could create confusion about the winner and degrade faith in the real result.
And, unlike voting machines which are almost always scrupulously segregated from the Internet, these systems are often online and connected to cloud-based storage, opening up numerous avenues for hackers. Election officials have relied mostly on their IT staffs and on companies that sell the tools to ensure their software is properly patched and the right security protections are in place. But that system probably isn’t secure enough for the post-2016 era when Russia and other U.S. adversaries are eager to find any route to upend U.S. elections.
Before the pandemic, top contractor Emergent BioSolutions received billions from government to help prepare the nation for biowarfare. (Washington Post, June 17, 2020)
As it races to create a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, the Trump administration this month announced that one of its largest pandemic-related contracts would go to a little-known biodefense company named. The $628 million deal to help manufacture an eventual vaccine cemented Emergent’s status as the highest-paid and most important contractor to the HHS office responsible for preparing for public health threats and maintaining the government’s stockpile of emergency medical supplies. Emergent has long been the government’s sole provider of BioThrax, a vaccine for anthrax poisoning. But over the past decade, the company has acquired biodefense competitors and treatments for smallpox, botulism and other threats for which there is no market outside of government.
A Washington Post examination found that Emergent’s strategy has been rewarded with a series of large contracts as the Trump administration focused on biodefense over preparations for a natural pandemic. But Emergent’s dominance has fueled new risks for national health preparedness, according to documents and former government officials.
“Consolidation of many important assets into a single or small handful of companies creates substantial risk since it creates the potential for a single-point of failure,” said the December 2018 report by the Mitre Corp., a consulting firm. “From a pricing perspective, the lack of competition creates a system in which companies have no incentive to keep prices low.”
Emergent, a publicly traded company, negotiated price increases from the federal government for some stockpiled medicines after it bought them from competitors, according to contracting records and interviews. Emergent’s advocacy for biodefense spending over more than a decade was aided by influential allies in Washington and tens of millions of dollars in lobbying campaigns, documents show.
Get Rid of the Presidency. (Counterpunch, June 17, 2020)
Every four years, because of a document drawn up more than two hundred years ago, the United States puts into its highest office men of stunning incompetence and low cunning, who over time have managed to turn the office of the presidency into what it is today—a violent reality show that has brought you Vietnam, Watergate, the USA Patriot Act, and Barack Obama’s “necessary war” in Afghanistan.
Benjamin Franklin (with the emotional support of Thomas Jefferson from Paris) and others favored a federal council, something closer to the Swiss model, in which the powers of the chief magistrate would be devolved to a committee, not on one person.
NEW: Why Trump Should Resign (CounterPunch, June 17, 2020)
Donald Trump should resign as president in light of a profile of disgrace about him by his onetime national security adviser, John Bolton.
Bolton’s allegations raise questions about the character and intelligence of a president who would sacrifice the interests and integrity of his country for the sake of his personal gain, assuredly a blatant violation of his oath of office, which states: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
How can Trump be trusted to safeguard and advance the interests of the United States and its 300 million-plus people if he is willing to sell us short by putting his personal interests first? Where does it stop?
One thing is certain: Bolton’s book, when added to all of Trump’s ignorance, incompetence, racism, a blanket refusal to lead the country through the pandemic, his insistence that active duty soldiers break up recent peaceful demonstrations, his withdrawals from major arms control and other treaties, his departure from invaluable U.N. organizations, his repeated demands for U.S. abandonment of NATO, his cozying up to the world’s most brutal dictators, his continual fomenting of chaos in the White House, his constant firings of senior officials and inspectors general, his weakening of major government agencies, his careless wonton deregulation of environmental protections, his denial of climate change and his flagrant abuses of power as detailed in the House impeachment trial helps serve notice to the American people that this would-be pretender to a throne is totally unfit to be president of the United States.
His resignation would be a welcome and blessed relief.
NEW: Zoom works to make service more secure, even for free users. (Washington Post, June 17, 2020)
The company has re-decided to make end-to-end encryption available to all customers, including nonpaying users, after pressure to expand security.
[A victory, when/if true. But be aware of Zoom's past and continuing problems.]
NEW: Zoom is Making Privacy and Security a Luxury. (Mozilla, June 16, 2020)
Over the past several months, the video call app Zoom has garnered millions of new users: More and more people are relying on the service to stay connected amid the pandemic. Then, earlier this month, Zoom made a controversial announcement: It will offer end-to-end encryption, but only to those who pay. End-to-end encryption means only those who are part of the call can ever access the call’s content. Without end-to-end encryption, the call’s content is only encrypted client-to-server, and your data becomes readable when it passes through a company’s servers.
We believe all users should have access to the strongest privacy and security, regardless of their ability to pay. And we’re not alone in that belief. A coalition of tech organizations, nonprofits, and tens of thousands of internet users rebuke Zoom for making end-to-end encryption a premium feature.
This is a decisive moment in terms of safety both on and offline. Zoom implementing end-to-end encryption could be one of the single most important things any company could do to keep people safe right now. End-to-end encryption saves lives.
What Should the Punishment Be for the Crime of Weaponizing a Virus for Political Purposes? (Common Dreams, June 16, 2020)
Let's be very, very clear: the president is willing to take specific, willful, intentional actions that will lead to the deaths of other people in order to get what he wants, even when they are members of his own family.
Every other country in the world that is not run by a strongman dictator and has a functioning government is executing a specific plan to protect their citizens from this deadly virus. Trump and Republicans are not only ignoring the need for a plan but are actively working against the advice of their own scientists, putting politics and Trump’s ego above the lives of American citizens. The cruel and willful brutality of Trump and Scalia’s strategy is shocking, and the rest of the world looks at us with horror. Yet the Republican Party seems to think that this is all just fine.
Weaponizing a virus for political purposes is a crime against humanity, and it is being committed right in front of our own eyes against our friends and neighbors, coworkers and family members.
NEW: We Can Protect the Economy From Pandemics. Why Didn't We? (Wired, June 16, 2020)
A virologist helped crack an impossible problem: how to insure against the economic fallout from devastating viral outbreaks. The plan was ingenious. Yet we're still in this mess. It's called the cycle of panic and neglect.
America could have 'herd immunity' tomorrow ... if everyone would just put on a mask. (Daily Kos, June 16, 2020)
How the Law Harms Public Health (Democracy Journal, June 16, 2020)
The pandemic highlights the urgent need to change the legal paradigm from individual responsibility to social solidarity.
States have an incentive to reduce benefits (to avoid high taxes that might drive businesses to less generous states), and employers have an incentive to fight their workers’ claims (to avoid higher premiums in the future). The results have been predictable. States have gutted their systems for administering unemployment insurance, creating delays and obstacles to obtaining coverage and deterring new claims. Although Congress temporarily expanded unemployment insurance in its stimulus legislation, these administrative burdens have significantly blunted the impact of Congress’s action.  The Economic Policy Institute estimates that they kept between 8.9 and 13.9 million people from filing for unemployment insurance in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. And as Georgetown University law professor Brian Galle wrote last year in the Arizona State Law Journal, “employers have grown considerably more skilled and aggressive than in the past, resulting in more workers being found ineligible or cut off from benefits before those benefits expire.” Although it is too soon to see concrete evidence, this development is bound to affect workers who claim unemployment during the pandemic.
States have also limited eligibility for benefits to ensure that workers do not obtain them when they can in fact work. Unemployment is generally available only to those who are “available and able to work,” and who did not voluntarily leave their previous positions. Workers who leave jobs for fear of being infected with the coronavirus or refuse to take particular jobs because of the same concern will often be disqualified by these provisions. Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has declared that, “If you’re an employer and you offer to bring your employee back to work and they decide not to, that’s a voluntary quit.” Reynolds has urged employers to report to the state those workers who refuse to return. Even Ohio, which has been comparatively more aggressive in responding to the pandemic, has encouraged the reporting of employees who do not come back to work when their businesses reopen. The Trump Administration has supported these efforts, on the ground that they will “guard against fraud and abuse” of the unemployment system.
And there exists no other more general program of social assistance that will pick up the slack. Social Security Disability Insurance would be the most likely candidate. But the Social Security Act provides that workers cannot qualify unless they can demonstrate that they have a “severe impairment” that makes them unable to perform not only their past work but “any other substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy.” Many people who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus will not satisfy that demanding standard. For those who can, the process can take months or even years—hardly timely for those who have lost their source of livelihood.
The voluntary-quit and available-for-work rules thus create a deadly dilemma for people who are especially vulnerable due to medical conditions.
Flushing the Toilet May Fling Coronavirus Aerosols All Over. (New York Times, June 16, 2020)
A new study shows how turbulence from a toilet bowl can create a large plume that is potentially infectious to a bathroom’s next visitor.
Thankfully, people can also easily prevent the spread of infections from the toilet plume. “Close the lid first and then trigger the flushing process,” Dr. Wang said, which he acknowledged isn’t always possible in public bathrooms. You should also wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, especially if you’re using a shared restroom where the toilet doesn’t have a lid or the flush is automatically triggered on standing up. Avoid touching your face, and keep your mask on in the bathroom, which could prevent some exposure to the coronavirus.
Dr. Wang hopes the new research will help lead to improvements in bathroom design, including increased attention to contactless dispensers for soap and paper towels, and toilets that flush only after they have been covered with a lid. Other experts are already considering indoor ultraviolet lights and automated disinfectant sprays that will zap the coronavirus and relieve some of the pressure on keeping public toilets clean.
An inexpensive drug reduces coronavirus deaths, scientists say. (New York Times, June 16, 2020)
Scientists at the University of Oxford said on Tuesday that they have identified what they called the first drug proven to reduce coronavirus-related deaths, after a 6,000-patient trial of the drug in Britain showed that a low-cost steroid could reduce deaths significantly for hospitalized patients. The steroid, dexamethasone, reduced deaths by a third in patients receiving ventilation, and by a fifth in patients receiving only oxygen treatment, the scientists said. They found no benefit from the drug in patients who did not need respiratory support.
Matt Hancock, Britain’s health secretary, said National Health Service doctors would begin treating patients with the drug on Tuesday afternoon. The government started stockpiling dexamethasone several months ago because it was hopeful about the potential of the drug, Mr. Hancock said, and now has 200,000 doses on hand. “Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in Covid-19,” said Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the University of Oxford, and one of the chief investigators for the trial, said in a statement. “The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment.”
Professor Horby said that dexamethasone should now become the “standard of care in these patients,” noting that it is inexpensive, widely available and can be used immediately.
COVID-19 is on the rise across the South, as Republicans put dollars ahead of lives. (Daily Kos, June 16, 2020)
While Trump has fingered Jacksonville as the site for an unchecked and unlimited Republican convention, Florida surpassed its previous high number for daily cases on Friday, then broke that record on Saturday. Then, despite the usual decline that comes with weekends, Florida reported a Sunday number that would have been its record just two days earlier. There is absolutely no doubt that Florida is trending upward, both in the area about Miami and in the panhandle counties. And this is happening while Florida is still preventing county officials from accurately reporting causes of deaths. All of this came in the same week that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made it clear that he wasn’t going to hold back on reopening, no matter how many cases, or deaths, he saw. Appearing at a press conference, and meeting with people in Jacksonville, DeSantis notably did not wear a mask.
It’s not just Trump’s convention that looks like it’s going to be a virus bath. In Tulsa, the public health director has begged Trump to cancel his event, and that’s despite being a Trump fan who feels “honored” to have the first pandemic rally in his hometown. The editors of Tulsa World are even less enthusiastic about the event. “We don’t know why he chose Tulsa,” they wrote in a Monday editorial, “but we can’t see any way that his visit will be good for the city.” They point out that Trump may come and go, but the city and the people will be left to deal with the aftereffects at a time when local cases are already on the increase.
The Supreme Court issues a surprising landmark ruling for L.G.B.T.Q. rights. (New York Times, June 16, 2020)
The Supreme Court currently has a reliable five-member conservative majority on many issues — like business regulation, campaign finance, voting rights and the death penalty. On several of these issues, the court has issued sweeping decisions that throw out earlier precedents. On other issues, however, the court does not lean so far to the right. The list includes immigration, antitrust and the census, all subjects on which at least one conservative justice has joined the court’s liberal members to issue liberal or moderate rulings.
After Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in 2018, it wasn’t clear which category L.G.B.T.Q. rights would fall into. Kennedy had written landmark opinions on gay rights, including the 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage. And when Brett Kavanaugh replaced Kennedy in 2018, many civil-rights advocates were anxious.
Yesterday’s big Supreme Court decision — holding that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protected gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination — seems to answer the uncertainty: Even post-Kennedy, the court still leans left on L.G.B.T.Q. rights.
Paul Krugman: Market Madness in the Pandemic; why are investors rushing to buy junk? (New York Times, June 15, 2020)
Hertz’s stock price fell from more than $20 in February to less than $1 in early June. But then a funny thing happened: Investors suddenly piled into the stock, driving it up by more than 500 percent. And Hertz — in bankruptcy! — announced plans to raise money by selling more stock. The Hertz story was just one example of a broader phenomenon. The run-up in stock prices that took place between mid-May and Thursday’s sudden plummet was driven, to an important extent, by investors rushing into very dubious companies — what one observer called a “flight to crap.”
Stock markets never bear much relationship to the real economy, but these days they don’t seem to have much to do with reality in general. So what is going on in the market? Think of it as a play in three acts (so far).
The first act was the huge decline that markets experienced as the threat from Covid-19 became clear. This decline reflected justified concerns about future profits, but it also reflected a developing financial crisis: For a few weeks credit markets were seizing up pretty much the same way they did in 2008.
The Federal Reserve, however, has been there and done that. It moved quickly, buying bonds, establishing special lending facilities, and essentially doing whatever it took to lubricate markets and keep money flowing freely. The result was the second act of the play, a stock rebound that made up about half of the losses from the initial plunge.
Up to that point the behavior of stock prices generally made sense. But then came the third act, a surge in prices that eliminated most of the previous losses and drove the Nasdaq to a new high. And this surge bore all the usual signs of a bubble. Robert Shiller, the world’s leading expert on such things, has pointed out that asset bubbles are, in effect, naturally occurring Ponzi schemes. Early investors see big gains because later investors drive prices up, inducing more people to buy in, and so on; the party continues until something cuts off the flow of new money, and suddenly everything crashes.
So it was with the recent stock surge. Encouraged by the Fed-induced recovery of stocks from their March lows, some investors began buying. Their optimism became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as initial gains led more cautious investors to join in, driven by FOMO — fear of missing out. It looked a lot like the dot-com bubble of the 1990s, except on a vastly accelerated timetable. Most of the evidence suggests that a major role in this apparent bubble was played by small investors — “retail bros” — pursuing get-rich-quick dreams. Some of these exuberant investors were people who normally bet on sports and were looking for an alternative source of excitement. And as the Hertz example shows, they didn’t care much about quality.
Why didn’t large investors offset this apparent irrational exuberance by selling stocks? As John Maynard Keynes argued long ago, staid investors who usually stabilize the market tend to abdicate judgment in “abnormal times.” We are, you might say, in a time when the smart money lacks all conviction, while the dumb money is filled with a passionate intensity.
And now the bubble may — may — be bursting. But does any of this matter? In a direct sense, not much. Stock prices surely have some impact on business investment and consumer spending, but these effects are probably small.
But the Trump team sees stock prices as the ultimate measure of policy success. Back in 2007 — on the eve of the Great Recession — Larry Kudlow, who is now Trump’s top economist, declared that things were going great, because the market was up, and stock prices are “the best barometer of the health, wealth and security of a nation.” So the Trumpists took the rising market as validation for everything they were doing — their push for early reopening even though the coronavirus was by no means contained, their opposition to further relief for unemployed workers.
In other words, the irrational exuberance of the retail bros may have enabled the irresponsibility of an administration that didn’t want to deal with reality in the first place. And while falling stocks may provoke a reconsideration, a lot of damage has already been done.
Jesse Jackson: Too many African American children are born in shackles. (Chicago Sun-Times, June 15, 2020)
Led by the passion of a young and diverse generation, the country must finally address the systemic inequality that increasingly endangers all of us. For African Americans, poverty should not be a prison and skin color should not be a cage. White supremacists disguised as police officers should not use us as target practice. So-called “qualified immunity” must not shield killers from the law. Those with a shield and a badge must be held to the highest standards.
It is time to fulfill America’s promise of equal justice under the law. As the demonstrations continue, the reality of the criminal injustice system that African Americans face every day keeps getting exposed.
At the same time, the pandemic has exposed the systemic racial gaps that scar our society. Police serve as an occupying force in poor communities of color because those communities exist — often created by red-lining — worsened by savage inequality of schools and health care and job opportunity. CNN recently detailed “Black-White Inequality in Six Stark Charts.” African Americans have barely 1/10th the median wealth of white families, a wider gap than at the beginning of the century. The disparity is primarily due to the differences in home ownership, where African Americans suffer from being locked out of so many neighborhoods for so long, and inheritance, where African Americans suffer the legacy of years of slavery and segregation.
Poverty, unemployment, low income, low savings all lead to vulnerability. African Americans are less likely to have adequate health insurance and more likely to have chronic illnesses. So African Americans, about 13.2% of the population, have suffered 23% of COVID-19 deaths.
Consider the shackles we put on too many African American children born into impoverished neighborhoods. Their mothers are less likely to have prenatal care; they are more likely to suffer death or injury at birth. They are less likely to have adequate nutrition; more likely to grow up in apartments with lead in the walls and pipes; less likely to have day care or pre-K. They go to public schools inequitable to those in the affluent suburbs. They walk dangerous streets, where police too often provide not protection but a separate threat. And if they rise above that and go to college, they graduate with far higher student debt, into a job market that will pay them less than their white peers.
All of this is well known. None of it is accidental. Solutions are known but not adopted.
Now change is in the air and, more importantly, in the streets. New possibilities are open. America is called once more, led by the passion of a young generation more diverse than ever, finally to begin to address the racism that increasingly endangers us all.
Court Cites George Floyd Killing While Denying Immunity To West Virginia Officers Who Shot A Black Man 22 Times As He Lay On The Ground. (TechDirt, June 15, 2020)
A Philly court supervisor was fired after video showed him tearing down signs and saying he doesn’t care about black lives. (Philadelphia Inquirer, June 15, 2020)
Republican who doesn't wear mask on floor of the House announces he and his family caught COVID-19. (Daily Kos, June 15, 2020)
Republican Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina took to his Facebook page on Monday to announce that he, his wife, and his son had all tested positive for COVID-19. Calling it the “Wuhan Flu,” Rice said that his son got it the worst, with a high fever and coughing, but seemed “on the mend.” Rice said his and his wife’s cases were less severe, with his wife having it worse. According to him, his son first came down with symptoms last Sunday, which would be June 7. Rice himself says he came down with it on Monday, June 8, and his wife Wrenzie “got it on Thursday.” An important thing to distinguish here is that these dates aren’t necessarily when this family “got” or contracted the virus; they just represent the days that each of them started displaying symptoms.
CNN’s Manu Raju reported that Rep. Rice was in the House chambers and on the floor the week before his son showed symptoms. At that time, Rep. Rice did not wear a mask when he was on the floor. Raju asked him about this lack of precaution at the time and Rice explained that “I'm socially distancing. I'm staying six feet away from folks.” Rep. Rice did say he would wear the mask if he was in a space like an airplane where he couldn’t keep the distance between him and others.
And from its Comments thread: The SC Republican Party had a huge going away party for a staffer on June 5 in Horry County.  Tom Rice was there. Looking back at the news coverage, there were almost no face masks worn and lots of close contact, handshakes, hugs, and kisses.   TWO DAYS later, Tom Rice’s son has symptoms, followed by Rice the next day.  Its pretty good odds that Rice was either infected at the party or was himself infectious. ... Some of the other attendees were Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, plus many other of South Carolina’s “finest” repubs.
Heather Cox Richardson: Today was busy as the White House squared off against opponents. (Letters From An American, June 15, 2020)
The president has personified his administration to such an extent that it increasingly feels like it is less a clash of political parties that fuels today’s political animosities than it is him against the world.
Pence encourages state governors to lie to their citizens about spikes in Covid-19 infections. (Daily Kos, June 15, 2020)
Vice-President Pence, whose political future is as much on the line as Donald Trump’s this November, is now encouraging state governors to lie about the reasons why Trump’s push to reopen the country is now resulting in an alarming spike in Covid-19 outbreaks. Pence also urged governors to support Trump’s increasingly dismal re-election prospects by “encourag[ing] people with the news that we’re safely reopening the country.”
The reality is that the “information” Pence is so eager for state governors to peddle to their citizens is deliberately misleading.
Research sheds new light on intelligent life existing across the galaxy. (Science X, June 15, 2020)
["30 Civilizations exist." Calculated from a sole data point - and once again, it's us! If we can design Gods in our own image, why not Cosmos(es)?]
Former eBay Execs Allegedly Made Life Hell for Natick Critics. (Wired, June 15, 2020)
Surveillance. Harassment. A live cockroach delivery. US attorneys have charged six former eBay workers in association with an outrageous cyberstalking campaign.
NEW: CityHawk eVTOL flying car will run on hydrogen. (Wordless Tech, June 15, 2020)
Urban Aeronautics Ltd. (Urban Aeronautics), the pioneering Israeli hydrogen/electric-powered vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) developer, who recently announced its partnership with the Boeing Company, now joins forces with Asia’s tech-powered urban air mobility service Ascent Flights Global Pte. Ltd (Ascent), to bring the eVTOL CityHawk to market.
What moves people? (MIT News, June 15, 2020)
Associate Professor Jinhua Zhao, who will direct the new MIT Mobility Initiative, brings behavioral science to urban transportation. To understand urban movement, Zhao believes, we also need to understand people. How does everyone choose to use transport? Why do they move around, and when? How does their self-image influence their choices? “The main part of my own thinking is the recognition that transportation systems are half physical infrastructure, and half human beings,” Zhao says.
New Access MIT program offers free public transit to MIT employees. (MIT News, June 14, 2020)
Plan gives commuters flexibility to choose, day-to-day, how they get to campus.
Coronavirus ‘Ripped A Hole’ In N.Y.C.’s Black Community. This Funeral Director Knows. (8-min. video; New York Times, June 14, 2020)
In New York City, Covid-19 is disproportionately killing black and Latino residents. As the city reopens, a longtime funeral director in Harlem says, “It’s going to take a long time for people to heal.”
Coronavirus Cases Spike Across Sun Belt as Economy Lurches into Motion. (New York Times, June 14, 2020)
Arizona, Texas and Florida are reporting their highest case numbers yet. As of Saturday, coronavirus cases were climbing in 22 states amid reopenings.
The warning has echoed ominously for weeks from epidemiologists, small-town mayors and county health officials: Once states begin to reopen, a surge in coronavirus cases will follow.
For close to a month, much of the United States has looked like a nation open or beginning to open, and increasingly unfettered by restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. After months of warnings and isolation, many residents had stopped wearing masks and maintaining social distance out of sheer fatigue. “They’ve been asked for quite some time to not be around people they love, and that they want to spend time with. Wearing a mask is not pleasant. And I think people are tired.” With many government limits removed and people left to make individual choices about precautions, Americans have gone back to salons and restaurants, crowded into public parks and, in dozens of cities, joined large public demonstrations protesting police misconduct.
A black pastor in Virginia was arrested after he called 911 alleging an assault and threats. The sheriff has apologized. (Washington Post, June 14, 2020)
Pastor McCray said he was visiting an apartment property he owns in Edinburg, population 1,100, when he saw a man and a woman who did not live there dragging a refrigerator to his dumpster. They grew “irate” when confronted, McCray said, and the man left and returned with three others. McCray said the group surrounded, jostled and threatened him, “telling me that my black life and the Black Lives Matter stuff, they don’t give a darn about that stuff in this county, and they could care less and ‘We would kill you.’ ”
McCray drew a legally concealed handgun, he said, giving him time to call 911. But when sheriff’s deputies responded, he said, “I was not given the opportunity to tell what was going on.” Instead, he was “handcuffed in front of the mob,” the members of which were yelling racial epithets and threatening him, McCray said. An officer whom McCray said he has known for more than 20 years told him he did not agree with the order but had to arrest McCray for brandishing a gun.
“All this happened on my property,” McCray said. “I said, what about the trespassing and the assault?” McCray said he was driven away while the five stood with deputies “waving at me as I go down the road. You think about how disturbing that is.”
Two sheriff’s office supervisors have been placed on unpaid administrative leave over the incident, which occurred June 1, Sheriff Carter said. “As I told Mr. McCray, if I were faced with similar circumstances, I would have probably done the same thing,” Carter said in a video and written post on Facebook. “I want the people of Shenandoah County to know that I and the sheriff’s office staff appreciate and care about the minority communities, and especially our black community, in Shenandoah County.”
6-3, Supreme Court says gay, transgender workers ARE protected by law. (Associated Press, June 14, 2020)
“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
The decision was a defeat not just for the employers, but also the Trump administration, which argued that the law’s plain wording compelled a ruling for the employers. Gorsuch, a conservative appointee of President Donald Trump, concluded the opposite, and Trump said Monday he accepted the court’s “very powerful decision.”
Gorsuch was joined in the majority by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberal members. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s other Supreme Court pick, dissented, along with Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. “The Court tries to convince readers that it is merely enforcing the terms of the statute, but that is preposterous,” Alito wrote in the dissent. “Even as understood today, the concept of discrimination because of ‘sex’ is different from discrimination because of ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity.’”
Big U.S. win for LGBT rights but fight’s not over in Pennsylvania. (Associated Press, June 14, 2020)
To be sure, LGBT rights advocates in Pennsylvania hailed the high court’s ruling as a historic victory. But the court’s ruling does not cover people who work for smaller employers, and it does not extend legal protection against discrimination to housing or public services, LGBT rights advocates in Pennsylvania said.
Michigan MAGAs burn their own absentee ballot applications to own the libs. (Daily Kos, June 14, 2020)
I have to admit, this is a strategy that never occurred to me: burning your own absentee ballot application to protest too much voting by the other side.
This should become a national movement. Show them what you’re made of, Trump fans. You’re no fools!
Trump supporters burn Michigan absentee ballot applications. (The Detroit News, June 13, 2020)
Health Care Advocates Push Back Against Trump’s Erasure of Transgender Rights. (New York Times, June 13, 2020)
A new rule narrows the legal definition of sex discrimination in the Affordable Care Act. Major health care providers actively oppose it.
Snakes have friends, too. (National Geographic, June 13, 2020)
The study is the latest in a growing body of evidence that animals form tight bonds—suggesting that they’re more like us than we thought.
Harvard study: Did coronavirus start in August 2019? (BBC News, June 13, 2020)
Spies Can Eavesdrop by Watching a Light Bulb's Vibrations. (Wired, June 12, 2020)
The so-called lamphone technique allows for real-time listening in on a room that's hundreds of feet away.
[With bare, unshaded filaments, yes. But why even more so with fluorescent and LED lights?]
Physicists Have Reversed Time on The Smallest Scale Using a Quantum Computer. (Science Alert, June 12, 2020)
[And ONLY on the smallest scale - because that does not extrapolate.]
Cybersecurity experts give a thumbs up to the Apple-Google coronavirus alert system. (Washington Post, June 12, 2020)
Except, 40% of them disagree.
NEW: VoteVets Ad: Traitor (45-sec. video; VoteVets, June 12, 2020)
The powerful message is the latest salvo in the push to change military base names honoring Confederate military leaders. The battle has gained steam in the wake of the national outcry after George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died when a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Army spokesperson Cynthia Smith said in a statement Monday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy were “open to a bipartisan discussion” about renaming the bases. The Marines and the Navy both this week banned the display of the Confederate flag.
But the president declared Wednesday he “will not even consider” renaming the military bases, claiming it would be disrespectful.
Rage and Promises Followed Ferguson, but Little Changed. (New York Times, June 13, 2020)
Millions of dollars were spent to alter overly aggressive policing after the killing of Michael Brown in 2014, with little result. After the unrest that followed that fatal shooting, police departments spent tens of millions of dollars on body cameras, revised use-of-force policies and held training sessions in implicit bias and de-escalation. A presidential task force issued 153 recommendations and action items. The Justice Department forced seven troubled police departments into consent decrees with mandatory benchmarks aimed at reducing racial disparities and police brutality.
Six years after Mr. Brown’s body was left on the street for hours, the death of another African-American man, George Floyd, who begged for his life as a Minneapolis officer pressed a knee on his neck, came down like a verdict: The plan to remake American policing has failed. Attitudes have changed, yes. Police critics have been elected to positions of power. Some departments have decreased arrests, rethought stop-and-frisk policies and reduced police shootings. There have been successful experiments with diverting people to social services instead of jail. But topline numbers, such as the overall count of people fatally shot by the police each year, have not budged. And even when departments pull back from aggressive policing, they often find that stark racial disparities linger — or worsen.
A federal after-action report found that the Ferguson police had escalated the tensions there by failing to understand the community’s problems and using “ineffective and inappropriate tactics” like the use of tear gas in unsafe conditions and without warning — tactics that now appear to have proliferated across the country. Despite the renewed urgency every time a black man or woman dies needlessly at the hands of law enforcement, activists have found that the pace of change ranges from slow to glacial.
Will George Floyd’s death be different?
Background Check: Investigating George Floyd’s Criminal Record (Snopes, June 12, 2020)
The question of past arrests often surfaces among people who want to rationalize police officers' actions when Black men are killed in custody.
Biden says Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic was ‘almost criminal’. (Washington Post, June 12, 2020)
Joe Biden ratcheted up some of his criticism of President Trump on Friday, saying that his handling of the coronavirus was “almost criminal,” that he has “bungled” the economic fallout, and that he has exacerbated racial tensions in the country.
During an hour-long town hall with the labor union AFSCME, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee warned that the U.S. will likely see a resurgence of the coronavirus and that Trump isn’t doing enough to prepare. “This is almost criminal, the way he’s handled this,” Biden said of Trump’s leadership on the coronavirus. “There’s going to be some form of second wave, I hate to tell you this,” he added later. Biden said Trump’s approach has led to more Americans deaths and a slower economic recovery. “Donald Trump has bungled everything,” he said. “He’s bungled us into the worst job crisis in over a century.”
Biden also attacked the president for his focus on reopening. “You have Trump saying, ‘Open up, open up, open up.’ Why do you want to open up?” Biden said. “He does not care about the public health. He wants to open up because he wants to say the economy’s growing and the stock market’s going up.”
Biden also criticized Trump for holding a rally next week and requiring attendees to sign a waiver that they will not sue if they are later diagnosed with coronavirus. The rally is taking place on Juneteenth, a day that celebrates the end of slavery. “Did you hear what he just did? He’s having a rally on Juneteenth,” Biden said. “All the people coming have to sign a piece of paper saying if they get covid in this, they will not sue the campaign. I mean, c’mon man.”
Referencing the waiver again later in the remarks, Biden said it showed that Trump knows that the virus is returning. “He knows it’s a problem. But he’s not doing a damn thing about it,” Biden said.
NEW: Best way to reduce coronavirus transmission is by wearing a face mask, study finds. (with short video clips; CNN, June 12, 2020)
The researchers calculated that wearing face masks prevented more than 78,000 infections in Italy between April 6 and May 9, and more than 66,000 infections in New York City between April 17 and May 9. "The current mitigation measures implemented in the United States, such as social distancing, quarantine, and isolation, are insufficient by themselves in protecting the public," the researchers wrote.
Coronavirus survival comes with a $1.1 million, 181-page price tag. (Seattle Times, June 12, 2020)
CDC posts long-awaited tips for minimizing everyday risk. (Associated Press, June 12, 2020)
Take the stairs, not the elevator, down from your hotel room. Encourage people to bring their own food and drinks to your cookout. Use hand sanitizer after banking at an ATM. Call ahead to restaurants and nail salons to make sure staff are wearing face coverings. And no high-fives — or even elbow bumps — at the gym. These are some of the tips in long-awaited guidance from U.S. health officials about how to reduce risk of coronavirus infection for Americans who are attempting some semblance of normal life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the guidelines Friday, along with a second set for organizing and attending big gatherings such as concerts, sporting events, protests and political rallies. But the guidelines are not intended to endorse any particular type of event.
CDC issues new covid-19 guidelines at a time of protests and rallies. (Washington Post, June 12, 2020)
The CDC guidance includes a recommendation that organizers of large events that involve shouting, chanting or singing “strongly encourage” the use of cloth face coverings. That is complicated by a push to reopen the country even as more than 2 million Americans have now been infected by the coronavirus.
Federal health officials on Friday said their guidance was aimed at keeping people safe as states reopen and communities plan and hold gatherings, such as concerts, festivals, conferences, parades, weddings and sporting events. Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director of infectious diseases, sidestepped questions about whether the agency’s new guidance for large gatherings applies to campaign rallies, saying the recommendations speak for themselves.
Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said Friday that it is a “danger” and “risky” for people to be gathering in large groups — whether at a Trump rally or a protest. Speaking on ABC News’s “Powerhouse Politics” podcast, Fauci said that if the gatherings take place, people should “make sure” to wear a mask.
Trump has repeatedly refused to wear a face covering in public, and recently moved the main part of his party’s nominating convention from North Carolina to Florida after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) declined to promise he could speak to a packed arena. Trump has indicated he does not want to require participants to wear masks for his acceptance speech.
The dissonance comes as fears of a new wave of coronavirus surging in several regions, with a number of states reaching record-high cases in recent days.
The US government is spending millions to prevent a shortage of glass vaccine vials. (Quartz, June 12, 2020)
On Tuesday (June 9), BARDA awarded $204 million to the upstate New York-based company Corning to make glass vials needed to bottle and store vaccines. The money will help bring one of Corning’s New York factories to maximum capacity, and equip two others in New Jersey and North Carolina with the specialized hardware to do the same. The goal is to ensure that once a vaccine makes it through all three stages of clinical testing, it can be widely distributed. This means ramping up glass production now to support clinical trials and other research, and eventually distribution. The goal of the US Operation Warp Speed is to have 300 million Covid-19 vaccines ready by January.
Corning’s pharmaceutical glass, called Valor Glass, “was intentionally designed to have optimized properties—without boron,” says Schaut. It took years of tinkering to find a chemical composition that allowed essentially no reactivity at any temperature. Borosilicate glass could work to hold new vaccines and drugs, but Valor glass is an improved version. Both require more technical equipment and know-how than run of the mill soda-lime glass.
Once there’s a vaccine and the vials to transport the doses in, doctors will need enough supplies on hand to administer millions of shots. On Monday, BARDA awarded a $143 million to SiO2 Materials Science in Auburn, Alabama to expand its syringe production.
Melania Trump was in no rush to move into the White House. That’s when she renegotiated her prenup, a new book says. (Washington Post, June 12, 2020)
When Melania Trump stayed behind in New York after her husband’s presidential inauguration, she said it was because she didn’t want to interrupt their then-10-year-old son Barron’s school year. News stories at the time concentrated on an apparent frostiness between the first couple and on the exorbitant taxpayer costs to protect Melania and Barron away from Washington.
Those stories are true, but Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan reveals in The Art Of Her Deal that the first lady was also using her delayed arrival to the White House as leverage for renegotiating her prenuptial agreement with President Trump. For her book, Jordan conducted more than 100 interviews, with everyone from the first lady’s Slovenian schoolmates to former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, and she lays out an argument that Melania Trump is as devoted to her own myth-making as her husband is to his.
The Racial Wealth Gap in America: Asset Types Held by Race (Visual Capitalist, June 12, 2020)
Bank of England 'ready to act' as economy shrinks record 20%. (BBC News, June 12, 2020)
How come the other 80% is still standing? In large part, thanks to the extraordinary levels of state intervention propping it up. More than one in four UK workers - some 8.9 million - are now on the government's furlough scheme that allows them to receive 80% of their monthly salary up to £2,500. The scheme has cost £19.6bn so far, while a similar programme for self-employed workers has seen 2.6 million claims made worth £7.5bn.
Without these schemes, household consumption, which makes up nearly two-thirds of the UK's GDP, would have fallen even further.
World Bank: Recession Is The Deepest In Decades. (NPR, June 12, 2020)
A new World Bank report warns that the pandemic has plunged the global economy into a deep recession of historic proportions, and the recovery outlook is grim, particularly for developing countries. The report, Global Economic Prospects, published Monday, compares the current economic crisis to the 13 other recessions that have hit the global economy since 1870. This recession is the first to be triggered solely by a pandemic, and it is enormous. Here are five major takeaways from the report — four pessimistic and one guardedly optimistic:
1. Historically, this is the worst global recession in several ways.
2. Tens of millions of people will be pushed back into poverty.
3. Because rich countries are being hit, poorer countries will suffer more in the long run.
4. Even under the best-case scenario, the numbers are "devastating."
5. This crisis provides the opportunity to rebuild better.
Total U.S. debt surges to $55.9 trillion amid big increases in corporate and government borrowing. (1-min. video; CNBC, June 11, 2020)
Debt surged and household net worth tumbled in the first three months of the year as the initial impact of the coronavirus pandemic hit, according to the Federal Reserve Bank. Total domestic nonfinancial debt jumped by 11.7% to $55.9 trillion, the report said. Debt had increased by 3.2% in the previous quarter.
The increases in debt and decrease in household worth came as the longest expansion in U.S. history came to an end. Earlier this week, the National Bureau of Economic Research declared that a recession started in February, following an 11-year expansion. The bull market in stocks ended the same month but turned around on March 23.
NEW: Faculty grow uneasy as universities scramble to bring students back to campus. (Boston Globe, June 11, 2020)
“People are upset,” Michaels said. “People get tired of being told by deans and provosts what the best thing to do is. If there’s anything we should be consulted about, it is how we do teaching.”
Faculty rebellions are simmering on campuses across the country, said Walter Benn Michaels, a member of the academic freedom committee at the American Association of University Professors and a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Longtime professors fear that their age makes them more susceptible to the more serious effects of the virus. Younger professors worry about having child care options if schools and day cares aren’t fully in session. And professors without tenure or employment protections worry that if they don’t come to class, they could lose their jobs, he said.
NEW: Trump targets ICC with sanctions after court opens war crimes investigation. (The Guardian, June 11, 2020)
The Trump administration has launched an economic and legal offensive on the international criminal court in response to the court’s decision to open an investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan carried out by all sides, including the US.
The US will not just sanction ICC officials involved in the investigation of alleged war crimes by the US and its allies, it will also impose visa restrictions on the families of those officials. Additionally, the administration declared on Thursday that it was launching a counter-investigation into the ICC, for alleged corruption.
The ICC responded on Thursday night with a statement expressing “profound regret at the announcement of further threats and coercive actions. These attacks constitute an escalation and an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court’s judicial proceedings. They are announced with the declared aim of influencing the actions of ICC officials in the context of the court’s independent and objective investigations and impartial judicial proceedings.”
An attack on the ICC also represents an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the Court represents the last hope for justice.
Divided Democrats make Biden one of weakest primary winners in modern history. (Washington Times, June 11, 2020)
Joseph R. Biden may have sewn up the Democratic presidential nomination, but that has not translated into unity in a party where a sizable chunk of voters is still turning out to vote against him in primary elections.
NEW: Plastic dust is blowing into U.S. national parks—more than 1000 tons each year. (Science Magazine, June 11, 2020)
Man who claimed George Floyd and Derek Chauvin "bumped heads" changes story. (3-min. video; CBS News, June 11, 2020)
A man who worked at the same club with George Floyd and Derek Chauvin – and previously told CBS News the two had "bumped heads" – changed his story Wednesday, saying he had mistaken Floyd for another unnamed African-American employee.
Pinney had also described Chauvin as "extremely aggressive within the club," a characterization he stands by.
Top U.S. general apologizes for appearing in photo-op with Trump after forceful removal of protesters. (3-min. video; CNN, June 11, 2020)
America's top general has apologized for appearing in a photo-op with President Donald Trump following the forceful dispersal of peaceful protesters outside the White House last week. Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a pre-recorded speech released on Thursday, that he regrets accompanying Trump on a walk from the White House to St. John's Church last week where he was photographed wearing his combat uniform and moving with the President's entourage through Lafayette Square. "I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics. As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it." Milley also said that he was "outraged" by the killing of George Floyd and added that the protests it sparked spoke to "centuries of injustice toward African Americans."
The Armed Forces Shouldn't Have to Save Us From the President*'s Constitutional Abuses. (Esquire, June 11, 2020)
In the nation's capital last week, it was National Guard officers who safeguarded the right to protest.
Officers slashed tires on vehicles parked amid Minneapolis protests, unrest. (Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 11, 2020)
Two law enforcement agencies acknowledged Monday that officers patrolling Minneapolis during the height of recent protests knifed the tires of numerous vehicles parked and unoccupied in at least two locations in the midst of the unrest.
Video and photo images posted on the news outlet Mother Jones show officers in military-style uniforms puncturing tires in the Kmart parking lot at Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue on May 30. Images from S. Washington Avenue at Interstate 35W also showed officers with knives deflating the tires of two unoccupied cars with repeated jabs on May 31. Department of Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon confirmed that tires were cut in “a few locations.” “State Patrol troopers strategically deflated tires … in order to stop behaviors such as vehicles driving dangerously and at high speeds in and around protesters and law enforcement,” Gordon said. Gordon said the patrol also targeted vehicles “that contained items used to cause harm during violent protests” such as rocks, concrete and sticks. “While not a typical tactic, vehicles were being used as dangerous weapons and inhibited our ability to clear areas and keep areas safe where violent protests were occurring,” he said. As in all operations of this size, there will be a review about how these decisions were made.”
All the Army troops prepared to move on D.C. protesters were armed with bayonets. (Daily Kos, June 11, 2020)
Aggressive Tactics by National Guard, Ordered to Appease Trump, Wounded the Military, Too. (New York Times, June 10, 2020)
D.C. Guard members, typically deployed to help after hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters, say they feel demoralized and exhausted. More than 60 percent are people of color, and one soldier said he and some fellow troops were so ashamed in taking part against the protests that they have kept it from family members.
Amazon Is Suspending Police Use Of Its Facial Recognition Tech For One Year. (BuzzFeed, June 10, 2020)
The company is joining IBM, but it doesn't mean Amazon is totally out of the facial recognition business.
Why it matters that IBM is getting out of the facial recognition business (Vox, June 10, 2020)
Researchers have for years warned about the problems with facial recognition. Now Big Blue is ditching the tech.
IBM is taking a stand against the development of technology that can lead to human rights abuses. Activists and researchers have sounded the alarm for years about facial recognition technology’s myriad problems, including its racial and gender biases and privacy risks. Some are hailing IBM’s announcement as a notable move, emphasizing that the major technology company’s resources will now be directed elsewhere. IMB’s decision to back away from facial recognition could also send a signal to other major sellers of this technology.
This was not a quiet announcement by IBM. In a letter to members of Congress, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said the company would no longer make general-purpose facial recognition and analysis software, citing concerns about the technology’s use by law enforcement agencies. He clarified that IBM “firmly opposes” the use of facial recognition “for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms.” The letter also outlined various efforts the company would take in response to ongoing anti-police brutality demonstrations, such as endorsing a federal registry for police misconduct.
The news follows extensive efforts by organizers and researchers highlighting how facial recognition can have baked-in racial and gender biases.
A Deadly Mosquito-Borne Illness Is Brewing in the Northeast. (Medium, June 10, 2020)
EEE kills almost half of its victims, and cases are on the rise.
Kamala Harris seizes the spotlight as Biden seeks a veep — but worries linger. (Washington Post, June 10, 2020)
U.S. House impeachment managers: Trump is as lawless and corrupt as ever. (Washington Post, June 10, 2020)
Four months ago, we tried President Trump for abusing the power of his office in ways that undermined our country’s national security, the integrity of U.S. elections and the constitutional structure of our republic. Trump’s efforts to coerce an ally to help him cheat in the upcoming election violated the public trust, went to the heart of his unfitness for office — and revealed that he prioritizes his interests over those of the nation.
The president was not changed by impeachment. He is as lawless and corrupt as ever. But his wrongdoing has far greater consequences given the acute challenges facing the nation, the failure of those around him to curb destructive impulses, and the continued unwillingness of many members of Congress to serve as a meaningful check and balance as the Founders intended.
In just the few months since the impeachment trial, more than 110,000 Americans have perished from a pandemic, tens of millions are unemployed, the world has turned away from America, and protests over police brutality and systemic racism have erupted nationwide. Yet Americans looking for leadership find none in the White House. Instead, this president and his administration take actions that rend the foundation of our democracy.
Outsider Tapped in Flynn Case Calls Justice Dept. Reversal a ‘Gross Abuse’ of Power. (New York Times, June 10, 2020)
A former federal judge said that the attorney general gave special treatment to a presidential ally, undermining public confidence in the rule of law.
Trump campaign demands CNN apologize for poll that shows Biden leading. (CNN, June 10, 2020)
President Donald Trump's campaign is demanding CNN retract and apologize for a recent poll that showed him well behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The demand, coming in the form of a cease and desist letter to CNN President Jeff Zucker that contained numerous incorrect and misleading claims, was immediately rejected by the network. In the letter to Zucker, the Trump campaign argued that the CNN poll is "designed to mislead American voters through a biased questionnaire and skewed sampling. It's a stunt and a phony poll to cause voter suppression, stifle momentum and enthusiasm for the President, and present a false view generally of the actual support across America for the President." The campaign formally requested that CNN retract the poll and publish a "full, fair, and conspicuous retraction, apology, and clarification to correct its misleading conclusions."
The CNN poll conducted by SSRS and released on Monday shows Trump trailing the former vice president by 14 points, 55%-41%, among registered voters. It also finds the President's approval rating at 38% -- his worst mark since January 2019, and roughly on par with approval ratings for one-term Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush at this point in their reelection years -- and his disapproval rating at 57%.
"We stand by our poll," said Matt Dornic, a CNN spokesman. David Vigilante, CNN's executive vice president and general counsel, told the campaign that its "allegations and demands are rejected in their entirety. To my knowledge, this is the first time in its 40-year history that CNN had been threatened with legal action because an American politician or campaign did not like CNN's polling results. To the extent we have received legal threats from political leaders in the past, they have typically come from countries like Venezuela or other regimes where there is little or no respect for a free and independent media."
NEW: How to Grow Green (Bloomberg, June 9, 2020)
26 ways to launch a clean energy future out of the pandemic recovery.
‘What I saw was just absolutely wrong’: National Guardsmen struggle with their role in controlling protests. (Politico, June 9, 2020)
POLITICO spoke to 10 National Guardsmen who have taken part in the protest response across the country since the killing of George Floyd while in police custody.
Pvt. Si’Kenya Lynch, a member of the D.C. National Guard, was on duty at Lafayette Square near the White House last Monday when U.S. Park Police cleared the area of protesters ahead of President Donald Trump’s now-infamous photo op. Lynch said she supports the protests, and that her brother was among the demonstrators on the other side of the line, adding that “he coughed a lot” due to the tear gas fired into the crowd.
Trump accuses 75-year-old peace advocate assaulted by Buffalo police of being 'antifa provocateur'. (Daily Kos, June 9, 2020)
The police response to protests following the murder of George Floyd have included many other instances in which they have demonstrated they’re perfectly willing to commit more violence in front of a watching world. But few moments in the last two weeks have been more distressing than when the Buffalo police not only pushed 75-year-old peace activist Martin Gugino violently to the ground, but continued past him without offering assistance, even as blood poured from Gugino’s ear and puddled beneath his head.
But on Tuesday morning, Trump piled on Gugino in a second attack that isn’t just shocking, it’s an utter break with reality. In a tweet reacting to his new favorite propaganda outfit, OANN, Trump accused Gugino of being an “antifa provocateur,” of faking his fall, and of “scanning” the police with a non-existent device as part of a false-flag operation. And perhaps best of all, this story comes straight from a reporter whose last job was working for Russian state media.
Trump Camp Runs Ads on D.C. Cable to Ease the Boss’ Anxieties and Buck Up Congressional GOPers. (Daily Beast, June 9, 2020)
The president has been worried about his standing electorally. So his team gave him some content to watch on his favorite cable networks.
June 9, 2020 / 7:06 PM / 3 days ago
NEW: New Zealand eradicates coronavirus, at least for now. (CBS News, June 9, 2020)
Widespread mask-wearing could prevent COVID-19 second waves: study. (Reuters, June 9, 2020)
Population-wide face mask use could push COVID-19 transmission down to controllable levels for national epidemics, and could prevent further waves of the pandemic disease when combined with lockdowns, according to a British study on Wednesday. The research, led by scientists at the Britain’s Cambridge and Greenwich Universities, suggests lockdowns alone will not stop the resurgence of the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, but that even homemade masks can dramatically reduce transmission rates if enough people wear them in public. “Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of face masks by the public,” said Richard Stutt, who co-led the study at Cambridge.
The World Health Organization said on Friday it now recommends that everyone wear fabric face masks in public to try to reduce disease spread.
NEW: 5G Revolution: Unlocking the Digital Age (Visual Capitalist, June 8, 2020)
5G will go from promise to roll-out in 2020. What sets it apart from its predecessor?
For starters, 5G’s speed improvements are something to behold—it is up to 20x faster than 4G. On 4G, an average movie takes 6 minutes to download. With 5G, it will take less than 20 seconds.
In other benefits, 5G supports 10x more devices per square kilometer. As a result, 5G will be able to seamlessly handle many more devices, within the same area as before. This is pivotal for its use in the imminent Internet of Things (IoT).
Finally, latency is the delay (lag), or the time that it takes to send data from point A to point B. With 5G, latency plunges 25x compared to 4G. This results in almost instantaneous data transfers.
5G is one of the most anticipated technologies of our time, and with good reason. In the coming years, the partnership between 5G and the IoT could bring about a boom in smart tech, and this effect could trickle into growth for the economy and investor portfolios. The 5G network is the perfect backbone for the IoT—supporting increasing device numbers, facilitating growing data transfers, and improving response time among connected devices. 5G will likely speed up the mainstream adoption of the IoT across multiple industries:
1. Transport - 5G enables self-driving cars to make “split second” decisions, making them safer. These cars can also connect to buildings, street lights, other cars, and even pedestrians in smart cities—responding rapidly to any issues and improving traffic flow. These two use cases are estimated to bring a $170-$280 billion global GDP boost to the mobility sector by 2030.
2. Manufacturing - 5G could usher in high-tech industry, using AR/VR to boost productivity and precision. Analytics and advanced robotics in smart factories can streamline manufacturing processes, leading to efficiency gains and cost savings. Altogether, the impact could be a $400-$650 billion GDP boost to the industry by 2030.
3. Healthcare - While robotic surgeries are not new, 5G could allow these procedures to occur remotely. Wearables and other smart medical devices provide real-time updates on patients, and make accurate diagnoses. These two applications will contribute an additional $250-$450 billion in GDP to the healthcare space by 2030.
NEW: After Protests, Politicians Reconsider Police Budgets and Discipline. (New York Times, June 8, 2020)
Elected officials are exploring changes ranging from defunding police departments to requiring more accountability.
NEW: Officials respond to videos of state troopers puncturing and slashing reporters’ parked car tires. (Daily Kos, June 8, 2020)
As protesters hit the streets night after night last weekend and reporters followed to cover the events, law enforcement agencies went out to do their own type of vandalism: slashing and puncturing people’s tires. Mother Jones has published a video collection showing these brave American law enforcement apples systematically destroying reporters’ and protesters’ vehicles. “In the videos, officers puncture tires in a K-Mart parking lot on May 30 and a highway overpass on May 31. Both areas briefly turned into police staging grounds near protest hot spots.”
The Star Tribune says it has identified two law enforcement agencies as the perpetrators of this fascistic brand of vandalism. They’re state troopers and deputies from Anoka County. Sheriff’s Office Department of Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon acknowledged the tire slashing and told news outlets: “State Patrol troopers strategically deflated tires [...] in order to stop behaviors such as vehicles driving dangerously and at high speeds in and around protesters and law enforcement.”
The bottom's dropping out on Trump's approvals. (Daily Kos, June 8, 2020)
New polling is out and Donald Trump will be shocked to learn that gassing and violently beating peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment wasn't as popular as Attorney General Bill Barr likely told him it would be.
Trump's approval plummeted fully seven points since last month in the new CNN/SSRS poll conducted June 2-5, entirely in the aftermath of Trump's disastrous photo op last Monday. Just 38% of Americans approve of the way he's handling his job, while 57% disapprove—a nearly 20-point gap. As CNN notes, Trump is resting comfortably right alongside where Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush at this point in their reelection bids.
Mohamed El-Erian: I’m ‘uncomfortable’ betting on continued ‘huge recovery’ in the stock market. (5-min. video; CNBC, June 8, 2020)
Could Trump Turn a Vaccine Into a Campaign Stunt? (New York Times, June 8, 2020)
Given how this president has behaved, this incredibly dangerous scenario is not far-fetched. In a desperate search for a political boost in October, he could release a coronavirus vaccine before it had been thoroughly tested and shown to be safe and effective.
There are 123 candidate Covid-19 vaccines in development, and 10 are in human trials. Many have not even been tested, or only perfunctorily tested, in animals. In July, the National Institutes of Health is planning to begin randomized phase III trials to test whether some of the 10 vaccines prevent infection with coronavirus. Researchers are expecting that it will be likely to take at least another eight to 12 months to determine whether these coronavirus vaccines are effective. Scientists have to wait until a sufficient number of patients are exposed to coronavirus to see if the vaccine really reduces the infection rate, as well as how many people develop uncommon side effects. For comparison, the effectiveness trial for the rotavirus vaccines took about four years and the human papillomavirus vaccine studies to prevent cervical cancer took seven years.
Cognizant of the fate of Rick Bright — the head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, who was summarily demoted when he resisted the president’s wishes to ramp up purchase of hydroxychloroquine — the F.D.A. could issue an Emergency Use Authorization for one or more vaccines. These authorizations only require that the F.D.A. finds it “reasonable to believe” that a vaccine “may be effective” in preventing a life-threatening disease for it to be put on the market, without being formally licensed.
Thousands of Americans have already died as Donald Trump has perpetually postponed effective public health interventions and made poor therapeutic recommendations. We must be on alert to prevent him from corrupting the rigorous assessment of safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines in order to pull an October vaccine surprise to try to win re-election.
Prof. Erin Bromage: How to Lower the Risk of Contracting Covid-19. (48-min. video; New York Times, June 8, 2020)
His recent blog post about the risks posed by coronavirus went viral, catapulting him to international fame. Professor Erin Bromage, a comparative immunologist, and professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, joined us to share the latest data on how coronavirus spreads, and explore smart ways to live your life while staying safe. Hosted by Tara Parker-Pope, founding editor of Well.
Texas reports a record number of hospitalized coronavirus patients after state reopened early. (CNBC, June 8, 2020)
BREAKING: Hell Freezes Over As Mitt Romney Marches in DC w/ Evangelicals For Black Lives Matter! (Daily Kos, June 7, 2020)
Milwaukee Attorney taken into Custody After Spitting on African American Minor. (2-min. video; Daily Kos, June 7, 2020)
A day of massive peaceful protests around Milwaukee ended with Attorney Stephanie Rapkin blocking a large group with her car & spitting in a young person's face. You can see it for yourself in this compilation. She was later arrested by the police.
Here’s the mugshot… from her SECOND arrest. She was initially charged with battery & disorderly conduct (for the spitting incident). Then the police went to her home to charge her for pushing another protester and she kneed the cop in the groin. I hope this lady has a good lawyer.
NEW: Videos Show Cops Slashing Car Tires at Protests in Minneapolis. (1-min. video; Mother Jones, June 6, 2020)
After long nights of tear gas and rubber bullets, some protesters, news crews, and medics in Minneapolis last weekend found themselves stranded: The tires of their cars had been slashed. In a city upended by protests about police brutality after the death of George Floyd, many assumed protesters were to blame. But videos reveal a different culprit: the police.
Neither the Minnesota State Patrol nor the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office responded to requests from Mother Jones. The Minneapolis Police Department and Minnesota National Guard denied involvement.
Second autopsy of George Floyd reveals unreported injuries and positive COVID-19 diagnosis. (Daily Kos, June 6, 2020)
Critical differences in findings surfaced with a new autopsy report conducted by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office and released by George Floyd’s family attorney, Benjamin Crump, on Wednesday. Floyd’s violent death follows decades of police brutality faced by Black people in the U.S. The failure to prosecute Floyd’s killers resulted in protests worldwide against racism and police brutality. Floyd died when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee onto Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes despite Floyd repeatedly pleading with the officer that he could not breathe. The death was ruled a homicide by experts hired by the family and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office; however, the cause of death was not agreed upon, CNN reported.
The new 20-page autopsy report concluded that Floyd died as a result of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” differing from the cause of death an independent examiner found as “asphyxiation from sustained pressure." While this final report does not mention asphyxiation, it did also find that Floyd had tested positive for COVID-19 in April. The report compiled by Andrew M. Baker confirmed an April 3 diagnosis with a post-mortem nasal swab.
Arguments were formerly made by the county that Floyd was under the influence, therefore causing his own death. However, this report confirms the counterargument that these tests are not always reliable. “You can’t use a post mortem fentanyl level alone to determine that someone was under the influence. You have to look at the level in context of how they are behaving,” Andrew Stolbach, a medical toxicologist and emergency room physician, told Inside Edition Digital. “In the video, we see that this man is awake and walking enough to go buy something at a store before they took him into custody,” Stolbach added. “In this case, we have the benefit of video and we can see that he died because someone’s knee was on his neck and pinning him down. From the clinical scenario that we see with our own eyes, fentanyl is not what caused his death.”
Maine COVID-19 test swab factory destroys all swabs that were made during Trump's maskless visit. (Daily Kos, June 6, 2020)
As Trump touts increased production, coronavirus swabs made during his Maine factory tour will be tossed in the trash. (USA Today, June 5, 2020)
Coronavirus vaccine developers wary of errant antibodies. (Nature Research, June 5, 2020)
Concerns persist that COVID-19 vaccines could cause antibody-dependent enhancement, which can potentiate viral entry into host cells and worsen disease.
Poll Watch: Why Most Americans Support The Protests (New York Times, June 5, 2020)
The American public’s views on the pervasiveness of racism have taken a hard leftward turn over the past few years. Never before in the history of modern polling have Americans expressed such widespread agreement that racial discrimination plays a role in policing — and in society at large. Driven by the Black Lives Matter movement, this shift has primed the country for a new groundswell — one that has quickly earned the sympathy of most Americans, polling shows. As a result, in less than two weeks, it has already forced local governments and national politicians to make tangible policy commitments.
George Floyd death: China takes a victory lap over US protests. (BBC News, June 5, 2020)
As anti-racism protests sweep across the US, Beijing has seized upon them to hit back at Washington for supporting last year's Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrations. Chinese state media have given extensive coverage to the protests, highlighting the chaotic scenes and alleged police brutality in America to claim that China enjoys greater social stability. Speaking to an international audience, Chinese diplomats are attempting to portray Beijing as a responsible global leader, standing in solidarity with other countries in condemning the racial disparity and injustice in the US.
George Floyd: Videos of police brutality during protests shock US. (BBC News, June 5, 2020)
There was one group behind the violence on Thursday night, and it sure as hell was not antifa. (various videos; Daily Kos, June 5, 2020)
What happened most notably on Thursday evening was that in multiple locations police used curfews as an excuse to come after nonviolent protesters with violence of an extraordinary, and in many cases sickening, degree. The images left behind were of genuine riots—police riots—and an incident that may be the very definition of “depraved indifference.”
But it wasn’t all violence. There were moments of cooperation … like the moment when a Salem, Oregon officer takes aside a group of gun-toting white supremacists to warn them before the police start gassing everyone else.
Episcopal bishop was blocked from vigil at church Trump commandeered ... then a good thing happened. (Daily Kos, June 4, 2020)
Jim Cramer: The pandemic led to ‘one of the greatest wealth transfers in history’. (CNBC, June 4, 2020)
“The bigger the business, the more it moves the major averages, and that matters because this is the first recession where big business … is coming through virtually unscathed,” the “Mad Money” host said. “I think we’re looking at a V-shaped recovery in the stock market, and that has almost nothing to do with a V-shaped recovery in the economy.”
Fox News poll has Trump cratering in key swing states, including one absolute zinger. (Daily Kos, June 4, 2020)
NEW: The 'Antifa' Protester Myth and the Truth About Trump's Voter Fraud Crimes (Daily Kos, June 4, 2020)
The Unpresidenting of Donald J. Trump: The CounterIntel Report Cometh. (Daily Kos, June 4, 2020)
McCabe’s stroke of genius was to bifurcate the investigation of Trump into two pieces: a criminal investigation by Robert Mueller, and a counterintelligence investigation by the FBI. The *trick* though was that McCabe apparently didn’t tell anyone there were two investigations. Everyone thought Mueller was conducting *both* a criminal and counterintelligence investigation, but he wasn’t. Mueller’s investigation was criminal only, and was a decoy for the FBI counterintelligence investigation.
Trump spent two years attacking the Mueller investigation, not realizing that he was attacking the *wrong* investigation. Mueller waited to drop the bomb on Trump until the FBI was almost done. Then he submitted his Report and revealed the truth: he was a decoy all along.
[Or is THIS theory more Russian disinformation?]
Officers Charged in George Floyd’s Death Not Likely to Present United Front. (New York Times, June 4, 2020)
Facing decades in prison and a bail of at least $750,000, two former Minneapolis officers blamed Derek Chauvin, and a third has cooperated with investigators, their lawyers said.
George Floyd death: Minneapolis to host first memorial event at 1PM local time today. (BBC News, June 4, 2020)
The Generals Are Speaking Up. Is That a Good Thing? (Defense One, June 4, 2020)
Over the past three days, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and all of the service chiefs, have issued messages to their troops — on racism, the Constitution, and the role of the military in America — that are starkly at odds with the language of the elected president of the United States. Their implicit differences with the commander in chief have been joined by explicit condemnation by several prominent retired four-stars, including Trump’s first defense secretary. On Wednesday, Jim Mattis excoriated the president over his handling of the crisis convulsing the nation following the death of George Floyd. Three other prominent retired generals — former Joint Chiefs chairmen Mike Mullen and Martin Dempsey, and retired Marine general John Allen — issued their own public missives condemning the militarized response to the protests and unrest.
Many of Trump’s critics — including at least one GOP lawmaker, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska — have celebrated this upswell of military voices on Trump’s actions. Mattis’s words, she told reporters, were “true and honest and necessary and overdue.”
But some scholars of the appropriate relationship between civilian and military leadership in U.S. governance and society — known colloquially as “civ-mil relations” — said the weight being placed on the judgment of former uniformed military leaders is as dangerous as the use of uniformed officers to police civil unrest and lawful protest on American soil. “The generals won’t save us, and — if they do — we’re already lost, and even more lost than we realize,” tweeted Jim Golby, a combat veteran, former West Point professor, and civ-mil relations scholar. That’s because civilian control of the military is considered a bedrock principle of the U.S. form of government, explained Mara Karlin, a former Pentagon official who now directs strategic studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Karlin said that system “is predicated on the notion that military leaders give advice but ultimately, civilians will be looking across a wide range of policy and political issues to make decisions on the use of force.”
“I think right now we need to juggle multiple contradictory ideas at once,” Karlin said. “It is far from ideal that retired military leaders are seen as more credible voices, and yet right now, given that that’s the case and that we are facing such extraordinary circumstances, unfortunately it’s incumbent on them to signal to the force that what’s happening right now is neither healthy nor good.” The next administration — whether in one year or four — will need to “reset” to a more healthy balance, Karlin said.
James Mattis Denounces President Trump, Describes Him as a Threat to the Constitution. (The Atlantic, June 3, 2020)
In an extraordinary condemnation, the former defense secretary backs protesters and says the president is trying to turn Americans against one another.
Evidence mounts of far-right extremists' violent chicanery at police protests around the nation. (Daily Kos, June 3, 2020)
Donald Trump may not want to believe it, but the evidence is beginning to mount around the nation that white supremacists and assorted far-right “Boogaloo Bois” are working overtime to leverage protests around the United States against police brutality in the wake of the George Floyd killing—not to merely join the protests, but to both inflict violence and property damage, as well as to threaten other communities with it, all in order to heighten political tensions around the protests.
The preponderance of evidence so far suggests that, as in Minneapolis last week, right-wing extremists are playing a powerful if not decisive role in the violence at the protests, particularly the kind taking place apart from police confrontations: interpersonal confrontations, as well as property damage. Moreover, there may be worse to come: On at least one Telegram channel, neo-Nazis could be found urging their comrades to attend protests and then shoot into the crowds.
Trump’s attempts to blame antifascists—who, in reality, are not a massive, dark conspiracy to destroy America, but rather a smallish, intense, but generally nonviolent movement that at the same time does not eschew it, and lacks the capability to commit the kind of organized attacks on communities that it’s depicted as planning—is part of the right’s long tradition of justifying violence against “the left” by painting it as inherently violent itself.
Black Voters Are Coming for Trump. (New York Times, June 3, 2020)
In Columbia, S.C., on Saturday, a young protester told a reporter that she just didn’t think voting is “how change happens.” “They’ve been telling us to do that for so long,” she added, “and we’ve done it — and look at everything that’s still going on.”
Fury over the cruel death of George Floyd, a black man in police custody, combined with fear of a deadly virus and its painful economic impact, make this a dark, dizzying moment in our national life. But African-Americans shouldn’t feel hopeless, because the black vote does matter — it has never mattered more. It is at the heart of the fight to take back America
The biggest story of 2020 politics is hard to ignore. But somehow it is being ignored. The black vote now defines American politics.
Joe Biden would be retired if not for the black vote. Black voters made him the Democrats’ presidential nominee. In November, the number of black voters who turn out in the crucial swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin is likely to be the deciding factor in the election. That means black voters, 12 percent of the national electorate, are set to pick our next president.
Mr. Biden went on to blow out the competition in South Carolina and easily win the rest of the South. Two top competitors with no traction among black voters, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, dropped out and endorsed him. The party’s sudden consolidation around Mr. Biden abruptly ended a confusing race that many feared was hurtling toward an open convention. Few had seen it coming. Mr. Biden looked boring in comparison with the impassioned Bernie Sanders and the furious Donald Trump. Yet polls consistently showed that in a general election matchup, it was Mr. Biden who held the highest margin of victory over Mr. Trump.
There are many reasons for black voters to like Mr. Biden — his record on judicial appointments and voting rights during his long tenure on the Senate Judiciary Committee; his work on federal stimulus spending after the recession and on Obamacare; and of course his service as vice president to the nation’s first black president. But beating Mr. Trump tops the list. For black voters, the prospect of four more years of this administration is about more than politics. It’s personal.
It is a reaction born of real fear — of the racism that led a white man to shoot Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and a white police officer to press his knee into the neck of George Floyd in Minnesota, of the racism that every day results in more black people dying of the coronavirus. African-Americans see this, and they see a president who does nothing to stop it. Contrary to the image created by news coverage of the Black Lives Matter protests, 43 percent of black voters are moderates. A quarter identify as conservatives. These are the black people in church on Sunday. They are proud members of a sorority or fraternity.
Russian trolls recognized the power of these voters. “No single group” was targeted more than African-Americans, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report on interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Russians wanted to drive down black enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton. But they also worked to deepen the black-white divide to increase white turnout for the Republican Party. The strategy seems to have succeeded. In 2016, while white turnout went up, “the black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election,” according to the Pew Research Center.
President Trump, too, recognizes the power of the black vote. After his upset win in 2016, he said: Blacks “didn’t come out to vote for Hillary. They didn’t come out. And that was big — so thank you to the African-American community.”
Today he continues putting his attention and campaign money into diminishing the impact of black voters. If he can’t get them to vote for him, he’d like to keep them from voting at all. Mr. Trump is opposed to mail-in voting, even during the pandemic, saying it is fertile ground for fraud. But his real concern seems to be that making voting easier in any way means more members of minorities will vote, and vote for Democrats. In March he was explicit in saying “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again” if mail-in voting were allowed. Last week he doubled down, tweeting that it would “lead to the end of our great Republican Party.”
Black Americans have had enough. They have an explosive, personal investment in defeating Mr. Trump in 2020. More than 80 percent of them say Mr. Trump is a racist. For them, defeating him is the civil rights movement of 2020. And it is not an empty threat.
NEW: The Latest: Thousands on New York City streets after curfew. (Associated Press, June 3, 2020)
Chaos in primary elections offers troubling signs for November. (Washington Post, June 3, 2020)
Sometimes-chaotic primary elections across eight states and the District of Columbia foreshadowed challenges that could undermine the security and legitimacy of the general election in November. There were signs of dangerous shortcuts and workarounds, especially in the District where officials couldn't get mail-in ballots out to everyone who requested them and resorted to accepting emailed ballots. Security experts warn such ballots are highly vulnerable to hacking because voters can't verify they were recorded accurately.
That was the biggest security concern on a night that was also marked by hours-long lines for in-person voting, last-minute extensions for absentee voting, and anxiety about going to the polls during the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests against police violence, which prompted curfews in some places including Washington and Philadelphia.
NEW: Millions Of Americans Skip Payments As Tidal Wave Of Defaults And Evictions Looms. (NPR, June 3, 2020)
Americans are skipping payments on mortgages, auto loans and other bills. Normally, that could mean massive foreclosures, evictions, cars repossessions and people's credit getting destroyed. Much of that has been put on pause. Help from Congress and leniency from lenders have kept impending financial disaster at bay for millions of people. But that may not last for long.
As with many other aspects of the coronavirus outbreak, there are disparities along socioeconomic and racial lines. Panameño says her group did a national survey to see who was having trouble paying their bills after the pandemic struck. "Twenty-five percent of Latinos had already fallen behind with their payments," she says. "Twenty-eight percent of African Americans had fallen behind. That compares to 12% of whites that had fallen behind."
NEW: The Military and FBI Are Flying Surveillance Planes Over Protests. (Motherboard, June 3, 2020)
Motherboard tracked high-tech aircraft previously used in warzones, as well as flights from other agencies above protesting cities.
Zoom says free users won’t get end-to-end encryption so FBI and police can access calls. (The Verge, June 3, 2020)
Businesses, schools, and other paying customers will get it.
#BunkerBoy’s Photo-Op War (New Yorker, June 3, 2020)
Is this an authoritarian crackdown by Donald Trump or just another politicized spectacle?
NEW: ‘Bye, Mommy, I Love You’: Medics and Coronavirus Patients Make Hard Decisions. (10-min. video; New York Times, June 3, 2020)
The CDC Waited "Its Entire Existence For This Moment." What went wrong? (New York Times, June 3, 2020)
The technology was old, the data poor, the bureaucracy slow, the guidance confusing, the administration not in agreement. The coronavirus shook the world's premiere health agency, creating a loss of confidence and hampering the U.S. response to the crisis.
Free Resource to Help your Family Separate COVID Facts from Fiction (Tumblehome, June 3, 2020)
The best way to investigate a questionable scientific-sounding claim is to ask good questions. You can remember the following three sets of questions using the acronym SAP. A “sap” is a fool, and no one wants to be fooled by misinformation!
1. Sources:
    Are there good references provided so you know what experts think?
    Do well-qualified people have a different point of view than the one presented?
2. Author:
    Where did the claim come from?
    Is the claim made by a qualified scientist, a reputable group or website?
    Can you even tell who the author is?
3. Purpose:
    Why was the information made available?
    Is it because somebody is selling something? In which case we should be extra careful before believing what they say.
    Is the purpose to stir up your emotions, to change your vote, or to provide information?
    Do well-qualified people have a different point of view than the one presented?
Science is the pursuit of explanations of the natural world. It is deeply rooted in the minds of human beings, who for millennia have demonstrated a need to understand the world around them. A full discussion of the nature of science requires more than this one page.
However, if you want to more closely examine ‘science – fact or fiction,’ WGBH’s NOVA, Andy Zucker and our founder Penny Noyce created a FREE one-week unit for grades 6-12 called “Resisting Scientific Misinformation,” available HERE.
HERE is a list of organizations that might have reliable advice and answers to some of your questions.
Don’t be a SAP – stay informed…and stay safe.

What Your Youngest Employees Need Most Right Now (Harvard Business Review, June 3, 2020)
The long-term toll of the coronavirus is unknown, but its effects on our health care system and the economy have already been catastrophic. And while the immediate concerns of skyrocketing unemployment and a stalled economy must be addressed today, employers also need to begin considering how to rebuild for the employees returning to the workforce — or entering it for the first time.
This includes Gen Z, the youngest members of the workforce and those currently in secondary school or college. Many who were just beginning their career journey have been furloughed or fired. Those in school were suddenly confined to their homes. Collectively, they are experiencing the greatest national trauma since the Great Depression and World War II.
Incredible fossil find is the oldest known parasite. (1-min. video; Ars Technica, June 2, 2020)
510-million-year-old rocks in China preserve brachiopods and their parasites.
The medicalised life (Aeon, June 2, 2020)
Why do so many see vaccines and other medical interventions as tools of social control rather than boons to health?
Trust in institutions and belief in technological miracles are set against fears that institutional forms such as professional medicine can’t recognise individual singularity and specific human vulnerabilities, and might indeed be doing more harm than good.
Monster or Machine? A Profile of the Coronavirus at 6 Months (New York Times, June 2, 2020)
Our “hidden enemy,” in plain sight.
Unlike previous SARS viruses, which tended to settle deeper in the respiratory system, this one tends to settle in the upper respiratory system — in your nose and throat. That means that it tends to spread with your voice, in addition to coughs and sneezes. And when you look at where a lot of the major super-spreader events have occurred, it’s places like churches where folks are singing. It’s meatpacking plants where people have to talk really loud. It’s sports arenas. It’s call centers. And I realized, holy cow, this is a virus that is ideally adapted to human conversation.
All viruses make mistakes when they make copies of themselves, but this one doesn’t make as many mistakes, or mutations — around two a month on average. Which is good for us because we are working really hard to make vaccines and drugs that would target specific aspects of this virus. And we can be pretty confident that whatever we cook up won’t be outdated six months from now because the virus has mutated again and become resistant.
History Will Judge the Complicit. (The Atlantic, June 2, 2020)
Why have Republican leaders abandoned their principles in support of an immoral and dangerous president?
There isn’t a simple story about looting. (Vox, June 2, 2020)
“The question you have to ask yourself is: Why are there so many people in our society who don’t have a lot to lose?” says sociologist Darnell Hunt.
Park Police carried out illegal order, gassing Americans for a photo-op. Now they're lying about it. (Daily Kos, June 2, 2020)
On Twitter, WTOP reporter Neal Augenstein reports what is self-evidently lies from the Park Police involved in the gassing of protesters outside the White House last night. Augenstein reports that "Park Police didn't know President Trump would be walking across the park several minutes later," when clearing the crowd but did it because "water bottles" were being thrown. This is no doubt because at least some in the command structure now realize that the White House gave an illegal order, in using local and military police to clear a peaceful crowd assembled on the property of St. John's Church so that Donald Trump could use the grounds for a photo-op, and are attempting to now dodge responsibility. But the claim that the two events were not connected is an obvious and offensive lie.
We know the two events were coordinated because we saw the White House coordinating them, in real time, on television. "Given that the attorney general was just looking this scene over moments before it began, it’s safe to assume the administration wanted this backdrop," tweeted The New York Times' Maggie Haberman. And that is precisely what William Barr did.
The picture on this post is from Barr surveying the scene and speaking with military and/or police officials immediately before gas canisters, flash-bang grenades, and military police were used to forcibly clear both church property and the park between the White House and it. The Rose Garden speech was delayed for fifteen minutes—those fifteen minutes, when the television networks had assembled their reporters in the Rose Garden and were broadcasting from it, is when the operation began.
And Trump's last line of his speech was a line announcing that he would now be walking to the church. The church that had just been cleared for him by Park Police. The church whose priest had just been gassed and driven off by Park Police in the minutes, the minutes, before Trump announced on live television that he was now heading there.
This administration has lost all legitimacy. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley betrayed his country in abetting a clearly illegal act and must resign. William Barr, who from initial evidence may have been the very person to give the "green light" to begin the operation, must be forced to resign by Congress or through relentless public action. There is nobody left in this White House but traitors. They allowed an attack on peaceful Americans so that Trump could stage a belligerent television moment.
The Last Temptation of Trump (New York Times, June 2, 2020)
The president brandishes a Bible in front of a church, in search of a divine mandate that isn’t coming.
Bishop at DC church outraged by Trump visit: 'I just can't believe what my eyes have seen!' (3-min. video; CNN, June 1, 2020)
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington said Monday evening that she is "outraged" after President Donald Trump visited her church without advance notice to share "a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus." Her pointed comments came after the President walked from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church, a house of worship used by American presidents for more than a century. Peaceful protesters just outside the White House gates were dispersed with tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets. It was all, apparently, so Trump could visit the church.
"I am outraged. The President did not pray when he came to St. John's, nor as you just articulated, did he acknowledge the agony of our country right now. And in particular, that of the people of color in our nation, who wonder if anyone ever -- anyone in public power will ever acknowledge their sacred words. And who are rightfully demanding an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country. And I just want the world to know, that we in the diocese of Washington, following Jesus and his way of love ... we distance ourselves from the incendiary language of this President. We follow someone who lived a life of nonviolence and sacrificial love. We align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others," she continued. "And I just can't believe what my eyes have seen."
Beyond using the church as a backdrop, Budde criticized Trump's use of a Bible during the visit, which he held up as he posed for cameras. "Let me be clear: The President just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without permission, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus," she said.
The episode follows nearly a week of protests across the country that at times have turned violent over the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who died at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis.
Trump was surrounded by aides in front of the church, including national security adviser Robert O'Brien, Attorney General Bill Barr, senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, chief of staff Mark Meadows, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
He remained at the boarded-up building for a matter of minutes before returning inside the White House. The exterior of the church had been defaced during protests outside the White House Sunday, and there had been a small fire in the parish house basement but church leaders said in a statement that the structure was largely untouched. The address came after he had been angered by news coverage depicting him holed up in an underground bunker amid protests in Washington. He told aides on Monday he wanted to be seen outside the White House gates, according to a person familiar with the matter, which is part of what drove the decision to stage the photo-op at St. John's Church.
But Budde stressed Monday that his presence in front of the church -- and his response to the nationwide protests -- were both unwelcome.
"What I am here to talk about is the abuse of sacred symbols for the people of faith in this country to justify language, rhetoric, an approach to this crisis that is antithetical to everything we stand for."
The Episcopal Church has repeatedly refuted Trump on a range of issues including proposed cuts to social services and the construction of a wall on the US southern border.
Michael Curry, the presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, said in a statement Monday that Trump had "used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan purposes. This was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or heal us," Curry said.
And Greg Brewer, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, tweeted that he was "shaken watching protestors in Lafayette Park gassed and cleared so that the President of the United States can do a photo op in front of St. John's Episcopal Church holding a Bible. This is blasphemy in real time."
One of my senators just called Trump's speech fascist; I couldn't be more proud. (Daily Kos, June 1, 2020)
"The fascist speech Donald Trump just delivered verged on a declaration of war against American citizens. I fear for our country tonight and will not stop defending America against Trump." --U.S. Senator Ron Wyden
Here’s some of what Wyden was responding to:
Trump: “Our country always wins. That is why I am taking immediate presidential action to stop the violence and restore security and safety in America. I am mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting to end the destruction and arson and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights. Therefore, the following measures are going into effect immediately. First, we are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now. Today I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets, mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.” ...  “If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them. I am also taking swift and decisive action to protect our great capital Washington, D.C. What happened in this city last night was a total disgrace. As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property. We are putting everybody on warning our 7 o’clock curfew will be strictly enforced. Those who threatened innocent life and property will be arrested, detained and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I want the organizers of this terror to be on notice that you will face severe criminal penalties and lengthy sentences in jail.”
I fear this will end terribly. And clearing out peaceful protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets for a photo op? With apologies to Caligula and Mussolini, it sounds like something a mad dictator would do.
NEW: Facebook Employees Take the Rare Step to Call Out Mark Zuckerberg. (Wired, June 1, 2020)
Some workers at the social media giant are publicly criticizing decisions not to remove or flag misleading posts by President Trump.
Sooner or later, Zuckerberg has to deal with the larger issue of how Trump has been exploiting social media to spread the poison of division in the body politic. It is for that reason, and not a reposting of a tweet or two, that some of his employees are walking out, others say they are about to quit, and many more will turn down Facebook recruitment offers. And the problem will only get worse as Trump seems hell-bound to post ever more extreme pronouncements.
NEW: New ad hits Trump hard on hate and violence. (1-min. video; Daily Kos, June 1, 2020)
Tear gas, rubber bullets unleashed on peaceful protesters outside White House for Trump photo op. (Daily Kos, June 1, 2020)
Minutes before Donald Trump began a chest-thumping address in the Rose Garden Monday evening, federal law enforcement officers started aggressively clearing out peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square Park in front of the White House. Clearing a path so Trump could subsequently walk to a photo op, horseback mounted federal police and national guardsmen wielding military police shields pushed protesters off H Street, unleashing flash bangs, tear gas, and rubber bullets on them. MSNBC journalist Garrett Haake described the surreal scene minutes after it took place and said the protesters were entirely peaceful.
So he was literally hiding in a bunker... (Daily Kos, June 1, 2020)
Even by his own admission there was no need for Trump’s retreat into his bunker. Since the Secret Service isn’t going to tell us, we’ll probably never know whether the existence of a threat sufficient to prompt Trump to scurry into a bunker not used since the 9/11 attacks was based on any real evidence, a fiction created out of whole cloth to generate concern for his safety, or simply an unseemly act of cowardice. Either way it serves as a fitting metaphor for a president who has done nothing but run away at every opportunity from taking any responsibility for his actions.
[We think this cartoon is appropriate.]
NEW: White Supremacist Infiltration of US Police Forces: Fact-Checking National Security Advisor O’Brien (2-min. video; Just Security, June 1, 2020)
It’s more than “a few bad apples”.
Coronavirus May Be a Blood Vessel Disease, Which Explains Everything. (Medium, June 1, 2020)
Many of the infection’s bizarre symptoms have one thing in common.
Nicaragua has resisted imposing lockdown rules. Now the virus appears to be raging through the country. (New York Times, May 31, 2020)
As protesters flood streets across the country, officials worry that they could be spreading the virus. (New York Times, May 31, 2020)
Mass protests over police violence against black Americans in at least 75 U.S. cities have spurred concern that the gatherings will seed new outbreaks. The protests could increase infections in communities of color, which are already being disproportionately hit by the disease. Death rates among black Americans are double those of whites, and the economic toll of lockdowns has also inflicted disproportionate economic pain.
World alarmed by violence in U.S.; thousands march in London. (Los Angeles Times, May 31, 2020)
Nations around the world have watched in horror the days of civil unrest in the United States following the death Monday of a black man being detained by police. But they have not been surprised. Racism-tinged events no longer startle even America’s closest allies, though many have watched coverage of the often-violent protests with growing unease.
Burning cars and riot police in the U.S. were featured on newspaper front pages around the globe Sunday — bumping news of the COVID-19 pandemic to second-tier status in some places. George Floyd died on May 25 in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck for eight minutes. It was the latest in a series of deaths of black men and women at the hands of police in America.
Microsoft has plans to use Artificial Intelligence to vet news stories for inclusion on the MSN web site, replacing a staff of human journalists. (The Guardian, May 30, 2020)
Dozens of journalists have been sacked after Microsoft decided to replace them with artificial intelligence software. Staff who maintain the news homepages on Microsoft’s MSN website and its Edge browser have been told that they will be no longer be required because robots can now do their jobs. Around 27 individuals employed by PA Media – formerly the Press Association – were told on Thursday that they would lose their jobs in a month’s time after Microsoft decided to stop employing humans to select, edit and curate news articles on its homepages. Employees were told Microsoft’s decision to end the contract with PA Media was taken at short notice as part of a global shift away from humans in favour of automated updates for news.
What Happened in the Chaotic Moments Before George Floyd Died (New York Times, May 30, 2020)
The episode began with a report of a $20 counterfeit bill. It ended in a fatal encounter with the police, which the authorities have described in detail for the first time.
LA Times reporter recounts being hit with tear gas and rubber bullets by Minnesota police. (1-min. video; Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2020)
When Minnesota police advanced on peaceful protesters gathered at an intersection outside the Fifth Precinct late Saturday, I didn’t expect them to fire on reporters.
I was wrong. At about 8:30 p.m., a group of about two dozen Minneapolis police and sheriff’s deputies appeared from behind a chain link fence opposite protesters. They were in riot gear and grasping batons.
A young African American woman approached the police, arms raised. An officer sprayed her in the face with something that smelled like pepper spray, and the woman ran to seek help from fellow protesters. A young African American man approached the officers, outraged, but another man pulled him back to the main group. The police retreated back behind the fence. But moments later, a much larger phalanx of officers in riot gear emerged to block the street.
George Floyd Updates: ‘Absolute Chaos’ in Minneapolis as Protests Grow Across U.S. (1-min. video; New York Times, May 29, 2020)
Minnesota’s governor said the police and National Guard had been overwhelmed by protests, which raged even after a former police officer was charged with murdering George Floyd.
George Floyd Death Protests In Minneapolis And Around The U.S. (8-min. video; NBC News, May 29, 2020)
NEW: Why far-right protesters are wearing Hawaiian print (Independent, May 29, 2020)
From 4chan meme to Aloha shirts, armed Americans prepare for 'The Boogaloo'.
Where does the phrase 'When the looting starts, the shooting starts' come from? (3-min. video; NBC News, May 29, 2020)
Before Trump used it re Minneapolis, it was uttered by a Southern police chief during civil rights unrest in the 1960s.
NEW: George Floyd and officer who knelt on his neck had worked at same nightclub, former owner says. (NBC News, May 29, 2020)
The club's former owner said it appeared to her that Chauvin, who worked off duty on security, “was always very nervous,” especially on the venue’s “urban nights.”
What we know about George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody (NPR, May 29, 2020)
The police officer who was seen kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, the black man who died in custody on May 25 following the exchange with police, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on May 29. Derek Chauvin was fired following the incident, along with three other officers. A bystander video captured Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, despite his pleas that he could not breathe.
The account from Darnella Frazier, who filmed the now-viral video showing part of the police encounter and said she watched Floyd being suffocated, differs from that of the police, who said Floyd was stopped because he matched the description of a suspect in a forgery case, resisted arrest and then suffered “medical distress.”
The incident has prompted investigations from state and federal authorities, an apology from the city’s mayor and comparisons to other uses of deadly force against black Americans, particularly the death of Eric Garner. It has also sparked thousands to pour out into the streets of Minneapolis to protest, largely around the intersection where Floyd died. The gatherings were a rare sight amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has kept  most people in some form of isolation for weeks.
NEW:  Zoom plans to roll out strong encryption - only for paying customers. (Reuters, May 29, 2020)
Video conferencing provider Zoom (ZM.O) plans to strengthen encryption of video calls hosted by paying clients and institutions such as schools, but not by users of its free consumer accounts, a company official said on Friday.
The World Is Still Far From Herd Immunity for Coronavirus. (New York Times, May 28, 2020)
 The coronavirus still has a long way to go. That’s the message from a crop of new studies across the world that are trying to quantify how many people have been infected. Official case counts often substantially underestimate the number of coronavirus infections. But in new studies that test the population more broadly, the percentage of people who have been infected so far is still in the single digits. The numbers are a fraction of the threshold known as herd immunity, at which the virus can no longer spread widely. The precise herd immunity threshold for the novel coronavirus is not yet clear; but several experts said they believed it would be higher than 60 percent.
Florida forced medical examiners to stop reporting death results, and now we know why. (Daily Kos, May 28, 2020)
With 52,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Florida is in the top ten states when it comes to infections. But the 2,300 recorded deaths is less than half of those from Michigan, a state with a similar number of cases. Considering the number of elderly residents and retirement communities, Florida’s relatively light death toll seemed somewhat miraculous, and DeSantis has been bragging both about the “success” of his policies and sneering at pundits that warned of potential disaster from his refusal to enforce social distancing guidelines.
But there’s still more evidence that “miracle” isn’t the right word. The correct word is “con.” Because it looks like DeSantis has been taking COVID-19 deaths out of one column and inserting them into another.
Trump's Executive Order Is a Blatant and Unconstitutional Attempt to Silence Critics and Fact Checkers. (Free Press, May 28, 2020)
Trump’s threat to use the executive branch’s power to punish internet companies for Twitter’s mild fact check of his statements is exactly the kind of abuse of power that the Constitution and our First Amendment were written to prevent. It’s undoubtedly the first step down an increasingly dark path of Trump using the power of his office to intimidate and silence media companies, journalists, activists and anyone else who criticizes or corrects him.
The FCC is supposed to be an independent agency, not the censorship or propaganda arm of the White House. That Brendan Carr, an FCC commissioner, would go on TV cloaking himself in the language of free speech while entertaining Trump’s authoritarian actions is shameful and antithetical to the rights and principles of a free society.
Trump could not be more wrong on the law, the facts and the scope of his power.
Trump’s Order on Social Media Could Harm One Person in Particular: Donald Trump. (New York Times, May 28, 2020)
President Trump, who built his political career on the power of a flame-throwing Twitter account, has now gone to war with Twitter, angered that it would presume to fact-check his messages. But the punishment he is threatening could force social media companies to crack down even more on customers just like Mr. Trump. The executive order that Mr. Trump signed on Thursday seeks to strip liability protection in certain cases for companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook for the content on their sites, meaning they could face legal jeopardy if they allowed false and defamatory posts. Without a liability shield, they presumably would have to be more aggressive about policing messages that press the boundaries — like the president’s.
That, of course, is not the outcome Mr. Trump wants. What he wants is the freedom to post anything he likes without the companies applying any judgment to his messages, as Twitter did this week when it began appending “get the facts” warnings to some of his false posts on voter fraud. Furious at what he called “censorship” — even though his messages were not in fact deleted — Mr. Trump is wielding the proposed executive order like a club to compel the company to back down.
It may not work even as intended. Plenty of lawyers quickly said on Thursday that he was claiming power to do something he does not have the power to do by essentially revising the interpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law passed by Congress in 1996 that laid out the rules of the road for online media. Legal experts predicted such a move would be challenged and most likely struck down by the courts.
But the logic of Mr. Trump’s order is intriguing because it attacks the very legal provision that has allowed him such latitude to publish with impunity a whole host of inflammatory, harassing and factually distorted messages that a media provider might feel compelled to take down if it were forced into the role of a publisher that faced the risk of legal liability rather than a distributor that does not. “Ironically, Donald Trump is a big beneficiary of Section 230,” said Kate Ruane, a senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, which instantly objected to the proposed order. “If platforms were not immune under the law, then they would not risk the legal liability that could come with hosting Donald Trump’s lies, defamation and threats.”
Heather Cox Richardson: Trump tests what he can get away with, how far he can move the goalposts for his own campaign. (Letters From An American, May 28, 2020)
Today Trump’s reaction to Twitter fact-checking him was so extreme that #TrumpMeltdown trended on Twitter. This morning, to his audience of more than 80 million, he tweeted: “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices [sic]. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen….” Then he went on to reiterate that mail-in ballots would “be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots.”
This evening, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump would be signing an executive order pertaining to social media companies, although just what that might look like is unclear. Brian Fung, CNN’s technology reporter, says that the White House did not consult the Federal Communications Commission about the forthcoming executive order, suggesting that the order has not gone through the normal review process.
This means that any executive order he issues—if he issues one—is unlikely to withstand legal scrutiny. Rather than actually affecting the law, he is likely simply trying to pressure Twitter into leaving his own disinformation unchallenged. It is also likely he is eager to change the subject to anything other than our growing numbers of Americans dead of Covid-19. (None of his tweets today acknowledged our dead.)
Finally, he is seeing what can he get away with. Will he be able to bully Twitter’s moderators into leaving his own disinformation unchecked?
The question of what Trump can get away with, how far he can move the goalposts for his own campaign, was in the news tonight over another issue, as well. In the past two months, Trump has cleaned house of five inspectors general. By law, though, he cannot fire them cleanly; he has to give Congress thirty days notice so it can prevent the president from firing an inspector general because of an investigation.
The White House thumbs its nose at GOP critics of inspectors general purge. (Washington Post, May 27, 2020)
“There’s little they can do to actually prevent the president from removing a presidential appointee,” watchdog Walter Shaub recently told NPR. “But the purpose of the law was to give Congress 30 days to raise the stakes for the president, the idea being that they would either shame him publicly, and it would cause a public reaction that would cause him to back down. Or they would use more direct leverage, like refusing to confirm his nominees.”
That’s the leverage Congress has in this case, but only if it chooses to exercise it. With Cipollone practically shrugging off the whole thing and telling members like Grassley to pound sand, the ball is now in their court.
What’s even more remarkable about Cipollone’s letter is that Grassley essentially volunteered potential justifications for Linick’s firing, but Cipollone opted not to use them. It’s apparently an attempted power play — one in which Cipollone is daring these members to push harder and believes they ultimately won’t.
Either that, or the White House worries that delving into its actual justifications will inevitably point in the direction of retaliation — which Trump’s own comments certainly have.
The Trump administration may be turning a corner in its war with Huawei. (Washington Post, May 27, 2020)
The Trump administration has scored a major victory with the United Kingdom's decision to launch an emergency review of Huawei’s role in its 5G telecommunications networks. The review is expected to conclude that a series of increasingly harsh U.S. sanctions have made it impossible for the United Kingdom to work with the Chinese telecom.
Lawmaker told his GOP peers he had COVID-19, but waited a week to inform fellow Democrats. (Daily Kos, May 27, 2020)
“If it was known yesterday that members were either positive or in quarantine, we needed to know that yesterday. We absolutely need to know more. There needs to be transparency about this. These members are pushing us to reopen the state. The hypocrisy is astounding.”
NEW: Nearly Half of the Twitter Accounts Discussing 'Reopening America' May Be Bots. (Carnegie Mellon University, May 27, 2020)
CMU researchers say sophisticated, orchestrated bot campaigns aim to sow divide.
Trump’s mockery of wearing masks divides Republicans. (Washington Post, May 27, 2020)
A growing chorus of Republicans are pushing back against President Trump’s suggestion that wearing cloth masks to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus is a sign of personal weakness or political correctness. They include governors seeking to prevent a rebound in coronavirus cases and federal lawmakers who face tough reelection fights this fall, as national polling shows lopsided support for wearing masks in public. "Wearing a face covering is not about politics — it’s about helping other people,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said Tuesday in a plea over Twitter, echoing comments by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) last week. “This is one time when we truly are all in this together."
The comments come as Trump continues to treat face masks as something to mock, refusing to wear one in public and joining his staff and family in ridiculing his Democratic rival Joe Biden for doing otherwise. White House staff members are required to wear masks in the building, though Trump is exempted from that rule.
a divide that recent polls show largely exists within the Republican Party, as clear majorities of Democrats and independents have embraced the need for mask wearing, in line with the scientific consensus that it is an effective method to slow the spread of the virus, potentially speeding a recovery of the economy.
A poll this month by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 89 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of independents report wearing a mask every time or most of the time when they leave home, compared with 58 percent of Republicans. Three recent public polls have found that between 64 and 72 percent of the public says Trump should wear a mask. Between 38 and 48 percent of Republicans say Trump should do so. That is an issue that divides Republicans and not anybody else.
When asked Tuesday by CNN if wearing a mask projected strength or weakness, Biden offered a third option, saying it projected leadership. He called Trump “an absolute fool” for his mockery of protective measures. “Presidents are supposed to lead, not engage in folly and be falsely masculine,” Biden said. “It reminds me of the guys I grew up with playing ball. They would walk around with a ball, but they didn’t like to hit very much.”
George Floyd's death sparks large protests, confrontations with police. (10-min. video; CBS News, May 27, 2020)
Large crowds gathered Tuesday to protest at the site where a man was violently arrested the night before. George Floyd, who was black, repeatedly told a white police officer kneeling on his neck that he couldn't breathe. But despite Floyd's pleas for his life, the officer didn't let up for more than seven minutes, and Floyd died hours later. The incident was caught on video by an onlooker.
Minneapolis Mayor Frey To County Attorney: Charge Arresting Officer In George Floyd's Death. (19-min. video; WCCO/CBS Minnesota, May 27, 2020)
As of yet, no arrests have been made, which Frey said inspired him to speak out Wednesday afternoon.
Minneapolis Police Chief Arradondo: 4 Police Officers Fired Following Death Of George Floyd. (CBS, May 26, 2020)
"Four responding MPD officers involved in the death of George Floyd have been terminated. This is the right call." — Mayor Jacob Frey
Trump Team Killed Rule Designed To Protect Health Workers From Pandemic Like COVID-19. (4-min. audio; NPR, May 26, 2020)
When President Trump took office in 2017, his team stopped work on new federal regulations that would have forced the health care industry to prepare for an airborne infectious disease pandemic such as COVID-19. That decision is documented in federal records reviewed by NPR.
Twitter Must Cleanse the Trump Stain. (New York Times, May 26, 2020)
The president is spreading a vile conspiracy theory on the platform. Maybe Twitter should finally hold him to its rules.
“Please delete those tweets,” the widower begged in a letter last week to Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey. “My wife deserves better.”
Yes, Twitter, Lori Klausutis certainly does deserve better, nearly two decades after she died in a tragic accident that has morphed into a macabre and continuing nightmare for her husband, Timothy Klausutis. The boogeyman plunging him and the family of his late wife into the very worst of memory holes is a conspiracy-theory-loving, twitchy-fingered and often shameless tweeter who also happens to be the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.
Tweeting misinformation is not new for Mr. Trump, who uses the service as his political cudgel to govern, campaign, wage petty digital wars and, more recently, peddle dangerous medical advice about Covid-19. All of this Twitter has allowed, because it has deemed even the most inane of the president’s utterances as “newsworthy.” At least Mr. Trump is consistent in his lowering of the bar. As the number of Americans who have died from the coronavirus approached 100,000, the president declined to address the virus’s tragic toll and chose instead to keep up the series of tweets about Ms. Klausutis, all aimed at attacking Mr. Scarborough, who is now a high-profile MSNBC host.
Our Economy Was Just Blasted Years Into the Future. (Medium, May 26, 2020)
The crisis is compressing and accelerating trends that would have taken decades to play out.
Before the coronavirus, surveillance capitalism was already a big worry — Big Tech companies were vacuuming up data from laptops, front doors, appliances, kitchens, living rooms, and smartphones and selling the resulting market intelligence for hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Now, touchless technology suggests a new front in the age of around-the-clock commercialized surveillance, hackable by Iran, China, North Korea, Russia, or any number of private actors, well- or malignly intended. It is an unusual, once-in-a-lifetime, super-charging event for surveillance companies, rebranding themselves while becoming an answer for companies, offices, and agencies everywhere contemplating how to safely reopen. “It’s a one-time shift in technology. After this, it’s going to stay like this forever,” says Saurabh Bajaj, CEO of Swiftlane, a Silicon Valley touchless startup using facial recognition. He says that Covid-19 had enabled technology to leapfrog into an immediate future of touchless elevators, doors, and trash cans. The barriers, for the most part, are gone: “We will just move on into this new world.”
The auto industry is feeling its own mortality: Ford expects to lose $5 billion this quarter after a $2 billion loss in the first three months of the year. Fiat Chrysler also lost just under $2 billion the first quarter. GM made a little money — $294 million — but that was an 86% drop year-on-year. It has been the same abroad: VW’s earnings plunged by 75% in the first quarter, and Toyota says it expects its full-year profit to plummet 80%.
But the auto industry has also lost confidence that a fully autonomous, go-anywhere vehicle is possible any time soon. In a Wall Street Journal report on May 18, Uber — whose business model until recently centered entirely on mastering autonomy — was said to be reevaluating driverless research after burning through more than $1 billion. It was stunning news since just last year, Uber’s self-driving unit was valued at $7.25 billion. In addition to the major players, tens of millions of dollars of venture capital has gone into countless startups, among them Argo AI, Zoox, Aurora, and Voyage. No one is publicly giving up — that would be too much of a concession given the hit they would probably take from Wall Street. Rather than an admission of failure, look for one after the other to embrace lesser, limited autonomy such as lane changing, highway driving, and automatic parking.
A primary economic bright spot in 2019 was the lowest-paid tier of workers, whose wages rose by a dramatic 4.5% after decades of a shrinking share of the economic pie. The coronavirus has erased all of that, returning many of the newly hired workers to jobless status and making the prior year’s wage raises look hollow. According to a new paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, 42% of those laid off won’t get their jobs back. How most will ever regain what they have lost is not clear since the economy had almost no cushion for them, says Rick Wartzman, director of the Center for a Functioning Society at the Drucker Institute. “The progress that was finally beginning to be made in raising all boats is now sinking the smallest boats most rapidly,” says Josh Bolten, head of the Business Round Table and former chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
One reason for the doubts about the revival of gains for workers is yet another byproduct of the coronavirus: an accelerated automation of jobs. Some parts of the country were long fearful of the possibility of robots taking over swaths of the economy, and companies, big consultants, and thought leaders worked overtime to assure people that automation would help workers, not replace them.
But the moment of truth forced by the virus has seen worker-replacing automation even by companies that had not previously turned to robots. The trend is more pronounced in China, where investment in automation technologies is surging, but U.S. companies are trying out more robots, too. “Many companies are experimenting with automation in ways that they might not have today without necessity — from A.I. to replacing shut-down call centers in the Philippines and India to robots using ultraviolet light to sanitize,” says Karen Harris, managing director of Bain Macro Trends. “As we have a greater installed base of automation, the cost will come down, and the number of use cases will rise.”
One of the key buyers of these new robots are retail stores, already among the most disruption-stressed sectors on the planet. Since 2015, about 32,600 stores have shuttered across the U.S. as consumer taste shifted online. Since the virus, the industry’s implosion has sped up, with new bankruptcy filings this month by J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, and J.Crew and forecasts of 100,000 more store closings over the next five years. Combined March and April sales fell a calamitous 24%, a record. Yet, look closer at the numbers: Leading up to Covid, just 15% of retail sales happened online. Now, during the coronavirus — with almost every store around the country shuttered, apart from groceries, pharmacies, and some other essential shops — the number rose to 25%, UBS said. That is, despite a majority of the country sheltering at home, captive to their computers with all those online websites, physical stores still rang up three-quarters of all sales.
What most of the biggest American companies will be able to count on is their own survival. For years, trends have favored so-called “superstar companies” — Big Tech and other mega-businesses that typically attract the best research talent, buy up the most valuable new patents, and cut the most advantageous deals. The Covid-19 age is entrenching their dominance, says Tania Babina, a professor at Columbia University. Babina is the co-author of a new paper called “Crisis Innovation” in which she describes how, during the Great Depression, the most important inventions, regardless of the creator, ended up in the hands of the largest companies, too. Not right away, but eventually. Under pressure, it turns out, future corporate behemoths may simply be faster, hardier versions of their current selves.
The Rabbi and the Pandemic (Psychology Today, May 25, 2020)
Hasidic rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810): “When a person must cross an exceedingly narrow bridge, the general principle and the essential thing is not to frighten yourself at all.”
Prepare for a Behavioral Disaster Wave: Resilience If and When COVID-19 Returns. (Psychology Today, May 25, 2020)
Psychological distress caused by disaster produces cycles lasting up to a year.
Scientists vs. politicians: The reality check for “warp speed” vaccine research (Ars Technica, May 25, 2020)
Hollywood-style messages from politicians about beating the pandemic downplay technical complexity.
NEW: For Memorial Day 2021, how about we get rid of the rest of the Confederate statues in the Capitol? (Daily Kos, May 25, 2020)
The living death: Memorial Day in America (AlterNet, May 25, 2020)
The United States likes to act as though it honors its dead. But if it did, there’d be a whole lot more people alive.
NEW: Deepfakes Are Going To Wreak Havoc On Society. We Are Not Prepared. (Forbes, May 25, 2020)
The State Farm ad was a benign example of an important and dangerous new phenomenon in AI: deepfakes. Deepfake technology enables anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to create realistic-looking photos and videos of people saying and doing things that they did not actually say or do. A combination of the phrases “deep learning” and “fake”, deepfakes first emerged on the Internet in late 2017, powered by an innovative new deep learning method known as generative adversarial networks (GANs).
‘Everyone knows he’ll cheat’: Here are 5 ways Trump and his GOP allies could steal the 2020 election. (AlterNet, May 25, 2020)
President Donald Trump and his Republican allies appear to be cooking up some schemes for stealing the 2020 election — each one more worrisome than the last.
Trump Sows Doubt on Voting. It Keeps Some People Up at Night. (New York Times, May 24, 2020)
A group of worst-case scenario planners — mostly Democrats, but also some anti-Trump Republicans — have been gaming out how to respond to various doomsday options for the 2020 presidential election.
Changing the date of the election is not the main worry. The bigger threat is the possibility that the Trump administration could act in October to make it harder for people to vote in urban centers in battleground states — possibilities that include declaring a state of emergency, deploying the National Guard or forbidding gatherings of more than 10 people. Such events could serve to depress or discourage turnout in pockets of the country that reliably vote for Democrats.
To ward off such a scenario, multiple lawsuits aim at making it easier to cast absentee ballots by mail and making in-person voting more available, either on Election Day or in the preceding weeks.
Competitive birding turned me into a monster. (Boston Globe, May 24, 2020)
Isolation, hubris, binoculars: How Mass Audubon’s Bird-a-thon nearly broke our reporter.
[And from its Comments thread:
1. I’ve planted special flowers in various gardens, to attract certain birds. I don’t deadhead my flowers, so to leave for the birds. I don’t use chemicals on my lawn or in my gardens, so the birds can eat without worry!
2. Please remember to vote this November. Out of the approximately 11,154 known bird species, 159 (1.4%) have become extinct, 226 (2%) are critically endangered, 461 (4.1%) are endangered, 800 (7.2%) are vulnerable and 1018 (9.1%) are near threatened. There is a general consensus among scientists who study these trends that if human impact on the environment continues as it has one-third of all bird species and an even greater proportion of bird populations will be gone by the end of this century.  <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_extinction> ]
National Poll: How satisfied are you with the U.S. government’s current response to the coronavirus outbreak? (Civiqs, May 24, 2020)
Moody’s chief economist pours cold water on Trump’s boast he’ll bring the economy back quickly. (4-min. video; AlterNet, May 24, 2020)
It’s difficult for me to see this economy getting back on the rails until the other side of that vaccine. and then, John, even after that, it’s going to be a struggle because we’re going to see lots of businesses fail, bankruptcies, you can already see that in the headlines yesterday with Hertz filing for bankruptcy. It’s going to take a long time to get this economy back to where it was.
We’ve lost — peak to trough will lose 25 million jobs. of course, there’s tens of millions of more people who have lost hours and wages,” Zani explained. “But 25 million jobs? We’ll get half of those back by Labor Day. and the unemployment rate is going to remain around 10% until we get that vaccine. and it won’t be until mid-decade until the economy can adjust and we get those jobs back. The kind of jobs we’re going to get back are different than the ones we have now. We’re going to lose a lot of jobs in the retail sector, hospitality, we’re going to have a lot of work re-educating people to make sure they have the skills necessary to take the jobs.”
Trump on the golf course for a second day. (Daily KOS, May 24, 2020)
Nearly 100,000 Americans are dead. With no plan of in sight, church "rights" crusader Donald J. Trump is not going to church this fine Sunday on his way to golf.  Though he will likely drive by many large churches in McLean, Langley, Potomac, Ashburn and Sterling on the way to his sons' golf course.
The Project Behind a Front Page Full of Names. (New York Times, May 24, 2020)
A presentation of obituaries and death notices from newspapers around the country tries to frame incalculable loss.
Sweden 'was wrong' not to shut down, says former state epidemiologist. (The Guardian, May 24, 2020)
Scientist who oversaw Sweden's response to Sars says country has failed the vulnerable.
Nike refuses to allow county health inspector into facility after worker dies of COVID-19. (AlterNet, May 24, 2020)
The next day the inspector received a call from an administrator at the facility, who advised her that the company had installed plexiglass shields and painted  floor markings which separated and designated safe distances between Nike employees.
But the county employee was apparently properly intimidated. After Nike assured her that it had been taking measures to ensure social distancing at its facilities, the inspector didn’t go to determine whether Nike was telling the truth. Although she had the power to summon police to accompany her on a walk-through—the county had used that power previously—she did not follow-up, presumably because Nike is such a big and powerful corporation with such a massive “footprint” in the Memphis area.
In the space of the month that followed a total of twenty one more people employed at Nike’s five Memphis facilities tested positive for Covid-19, more than doubling the number testing positive three weeks earlier.  This suggests that literally hundreds of employees at these facilities may be carrying the Covid-19 virus home with them and into Tennessee’s reopened businesses, bars, gyms, hair salons and restaurants.
Nike Turned Away a Public Health Official From Its Warehouse Days After a Worker With COVID-19 Died. (ProPublica, May 23, 2020)
The Health Department received a complaint that a Nike warehouse wasn’t being cleaned thoroughly or allowing for social distancing. Its inspector wasn’t allowed inside. Twenty-one workers have tested positive for COVID-19 at Nike’s Memphis locations.
From Camping To Dining Out: Here's How Experts Rate The Risks Of 14 Summer Activities (NPR, May 23, 2020)
It has been around two months of quarantine for many of us. The urge to get out and enjoy the summer is real. But what's safe? We asked a panel of infectious disease and public health experts to rate the risk of summer activities, from backyard gatherings to a day at the pool to sharing a vacation house with another household.
"Think of transmission risk with a simple phrase: Time, Space, People, Place." The more time you spend and the closer in space you are to any infected people, the higher your risk. Interacting with more people raises your risk, and indoor places are riskier than outdoors.
"Always choose outdoor over indoor, always choose masking over not masking, and always choose more space for fewer people over crowding."
There's no such thing as a zero-risk outing right now. As states begin allowing businesses and public areas to reopen, decisions about what's safe will be up to individuals. It can help to think through the risks the way the experts do.
White Supremacist Groups Are ‘Thriving’ On Facebook, Despite Extremist Ban. (Huffington Post, May 23, 2020)
With many Americans vulnerable to fascist ideologies during the pandemic, Facebook could be fertile ground for recruitment.
Mass death and economic devastation in Sweden, and U.S. conservatives want to be like them. (Daily Kos, May 22, 2020)
New study shows Trump is racking up a second body count with his claims about hydroxychloroquine. (Daily Kos, May 22, 2020)
Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis (The Lancet, May 22, 2020)
In summary, this multinational, observational, real-world study of patients with COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation found that the use of a regimen containing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine (with or without a macrolide) was associated with no evidence of benefit, but instead was associated with an increase in the risk of ventricular arrhythmias and a greater hazard for in-hospital death with COVID-19. These findings suggest that these drug regimens should not be used outside of clinical trials and urgent confirmation from randomised clinical trials is needed.
Migration patterns reveal an Eden for ancient humans and animals. (Arizona State University, May 22, 2020)
Home to some of the richest evidence for the behavior and culture of the earliest clearly modern humans, the submerged shelf called the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain (PAP) once formed its own ecosystem. Teams of scientists worked for decades to reconstruct the locale back into the Pleistocene, the time period that spanned from 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago. The researchers looked specifically at antelope migratory patterns at Pinnacle Point. This series of cave sites that sit on the modern South African coast offers archaeological materials from humans who were living and hunting there back to 170,000 years ago.
Mississippi Delta marshes in a state of irreversible collapse. (Tulane University, May 22, 2020)
Given the present-day rate of global sea-level rise, remaining marshes in the Mississippi Delta are likely to drown, according to a new Tulane University study. A key finding of the study, published in Science Advances, is that coastal marshes experience tipping points, where a small increase in the rate of sea-level rise leads to widespread submergence.
The loss of 2,000 square miles (5,000 km2) of wetlands in coastal Louisiana over the past century is well documented, but it has been more challenging to predict the fate of the remaining 6,000 square miles (15,000 km2) of marshland. The study used hundreds of sediment cores collected since the early 1990s to examine how marshes responded to a range of rates of sea-level rise during the past 8,500 years.
NEW: The State of Facial Recognition Around the World (Visual Capitalist, May 22, 2020)
From public CCTV cameras to biometric identification systems in airports, facial recognition technology is now common in a growing number of places around the world. In its most benign form, facial recognition technology is a convenient way to unlock your smartphone. At the state level though, facial recognition is a key component of mass surveillance, and it already touches half the global population on a regular basis.
In the U.S., a 2016 study showed that already half of American adults were captured in some kind of facial recognition network. More recently, the Department of Homeland Security unveiled its “Biometric Exit” plan, which aims to use facial recognition technology on nearly all air travel passengers by 2023, to identify compliance with visa status. Perhaps surprisingly, 59% of Americans are actually in favor of implementing facial recognition technology, considering it acceptable for use in law enforcement. Yet, some cities such as San Francisco have pushed to ban surveillance, citing a stand against its potential abuse by the government.
80% of Europeans are not keen on sharing facial data with authorities. Despite such negative sentiment, it’s still in use across 26 European countries to date. The EU has been a haven for unlawful biometric experimentation and surveillance. However, Belgium and Luxembourg are two of only three governments in the world to officially oppose the use of facial recognition technology.
In Russia, authorities have relied on facial recognition technology to check for breaches of quarantine rules by potential COVID-19 carriers. In Moscow alone, there are reportedly over 100,000 facial recognition enabled cameras in operation.
China is often cited as a notorious use case of mass surveillance, and the country has the highest ratio of CCTV cameras to citizens in the world—one for every 12 people. By 2023, China will be the single biggest player in the global facial recognition market. And it’s not just implementing the technology at home–it’s exporting too.
Oriented hexagonal boron nitride foster new type of information carrier. (Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, May 22, 2020)
Today's computers use the presence or absence of charge (0s and 1s) to encode information, where the physical motion of charges consume energy and cause heat. A novel alternative is to utilize the wave quantum number of electrons by which information encoding is possible without physically moving the carriers. This study shows that manipulation of the wave quantum number is possible by controlling the stacking configuration and the orientation of different two-dimensional materials.
'It started as a joke': Animal Zoom calls are delighting a locked-down public. (The Guardian, May 21, 2020)
From throwing an alpaca party to adding a goat to a work call, video calling is providing a financial lifeline for businesses
Linux desktop org GNOME Foundation settles lawsuit with patent troll. (The Register, May 21, 2020)
Shotwell case ends with Rothschild Patent Imaging backing off for good.
Pelosi, Schumer ask Trump to lower flags when coronavirus deaths reach 100,000. (NBC News, May 21, 2020)
Their request comes as the U.S. death toll has surpassed 94,000.
Pelosi also took aim at the president’s physical appearance this week in response to his decision to take the drug hydroxychloroquine. “I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group, morbidly obese, they say,” Pelosi said. Elaborating on the comment Wednesday, Pelosi told reporters, “I gave him a dose of his own medicine. He's called women one thing or another over time, and I thought he thinks that passes off as humor in certain cultures, and I thought that was what that was.”
The FDA issued a warning last month that cautioned against the use of the medicine outside of a hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems.
It looks like Donald Trump's finally lost patience with actual pandemic experts. Daily Kos, May 21, 2020)
'Ridiculous,' 'scary,' 'distraction': Whitmer berates Trump's threats to cut off Mich. funding. (2-min. video; NBC News, May 21, 2020)
Trump had threatened to "hold up" federal funding to Michigan for sending absentee ballot applications to millions of voters. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that he “will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!” and said, falsely, that Michigan was sending "absentee ballots" to 7.7 million voters. Trump said the move was done “illegally and without authorization from a rogue secretary of state." The president later corrected his tweet to refer to absentee ballot "applications."
Michigan's secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, also a Democrat, had said Tuesday that all registered voters in the state will be mailed applications for absentee ballots for the elections in August and November — not the absentee ballots themselves.
Trump, who has been battling Whitmer for weeks over her restrictive stay-at-home order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, later walked back his comments, telling reporters he didn't think it would be necessary to withhold funding from Michigan. Later Thursday, Trump was scheduled to visit a factory near Detroit that has been repurposed to manufacture ventilators — a trip that Whitmer pleaded not include any “petty political stuff.”
Whitmer said she and Trump had no plans to meet, but said she made the case to him in a phone conversation on Wednesday that “we all have to be on the same page here. We have to stop demonizing one another and really focus on the fact that the common enemy is the virus. This is what all the focus should be on,” she said, adding later, "We've got to be focused on doing the right thing right now on behalf of the people."
Critical dams shouldn’t be privately owned, Gov. Whitmer says after Michigan dam break caused record flooding. (Michigan Live, May 21, 2020)
Dams and other pieces of critical infrastructure shouldn’t be owned by private entities, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday after record-breaking flooding caused by a dam break forced thousands of Michigan residents to evacuate their homes. On Tuesday, May 20, the Edenville Dam collapsed after several days of heavy rain in the region. The resulting floodwaters destroyed bridges and overtopped the downstream Sanford Dam on their way to Midland, where the Tittabawassee River was cresting at about 35 feet on Wednesday evening. The crest tops the river’s 1986 all-time record level but falls short of the 38-foot mark predicted earlier.
Whitmer said during a Thursday news briefing the incident laid bare the need for increased investment in infrastructure, an issue she ran on during her candidacy for governor.
Michigan dam failures force 10,000 to evacuate and could leave one city under 9 feet of water. (3-min. video; CBS, May 21, 2020)
The National Weather Service on Tuesday evening urged anyone near the river to seek higher ground following "castastrophic dam failures" at the Edenville Dam, about 140 miles north of Detroit and the Sanford Dam, about seven miles downriver. The Tittabawassee River rose another four feet by Wednesday morning, to 34.4 feet in Midland. According to the National Weather Service, the height has set a new record for the river, beating the previous record of 33.9 feet set during flooding in 1986. Downtown Midland, a city of 42,000 about 8 miles downstream from the Sanford Dam, faced an especially serious flooding threat. Dow Chemical Co.'s main plant sits on the city's riverbank.
"In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately 9 feet of water," the governor said. "We are anticipating a historic high water level. It's hard to believe that we're in midst of a 100-year crisis, a global pandemic, and that we're also dealing with a flooding event that looks to be the worst in 500 years," she said.
A resident, Linda Chartrand, said she had to leave her Wixom Lake home. "Our whole life was in that house underwater. We called the insurance company and they said they won't cover anything," Chartrand said. "We're retired, this is all we have and now there's no help whatsoever."
In 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, revoked the license of the company that operated the Edenville Dam, Boyce Hydro Power, due to non-compliance issues that included spillway capacity — essentially an overflow valve — and the inability to pass the most severe flood reasonably possible in the area.
In its revocation proposal, FERC wrote that Boyce had a "long history of non-compliance," and listed numerous offenses. The commission's "primary concern" however, was Boyce's "longstanding failure to address the project's inadequate spillway capacity." According to FERC's 2018 proposal, the spillway was only designed to handle "approximately 50 percent" of potential flooding. "(Boyce) failed to increase the capacity of spillways to enable them to pass the probable maximum flood (PMF) as required by Regional Engineer directives," FERC wrote. And further warned that "failure of the Edenville dam could result in the loss of human life and the destruction of property and infrastructure."
In response to the revocation, Detroit News reports that Boyce Hydro wrote in a request that the "odds of a 'probable maximum flood' event occurring in the next 5 to 10 years is 5 to 10 in one million," according to federal records. The Edenville Dam, which was built in 1924, was rated in unsatisfactory condition in 2018 by the state. The Sanford Dam, which was built in 1925, received a fair condition rating. Both dams are in the process of being sold.
Midland City Manager Brad Kaye said at a press conference Wednesday that the Edenville Dam failed. "The structure has been outright eroded and all of the water from Wixom Lake is going to be coming down the river valley and will come through the city of Midland," he said. The issue of the Sanford Dam, however, is less clear, he said, as water is running over the top of the structure. "It is what we consider — for our purposes — failed, because the water is coming at us, and that's close enough to call it a failure." He said they will not be able to determine what went wrong with the Sanford Dam until the water begins to recede. According to Kaye, the water is expected to rise another three feet from where it's currently at. "That is a tremendous extent of property, tremendous extent of area that will be covered by water," he said.
Pilot captures aerial footage of roaring water as Edenville Dam bursts in Midland County, Michigan. (1-min. video; Michigan Live, May 19-20, 2020)
If he could redo the pandemic response, Trump would change 'nothing'. (Rachel Maddow Show, May 21, 2020)
Trump has either convinced himself of a fantasy or he's peddling a falsehood that few will take seriously.
Warren pivots on 'Medicare for All' in bid to become Biden's VP. (Politico, May 21, 2020)
She's pitching herself as a governing partner to Biden, despite their past clashes over policy.
New poll puts Biden 11 points ahead of Trump nationally. (3-min. video; MSNBC, May 20, 2020)
As the candidates prepare for a digital campaign unlike any we've ever seen before, a new national poll shows Trump trailing fmr. Vice President Biden by double digits.
Trump has a new harebrained scheme to defeat Biden, and it's his dumbest yet. (Daily Kos, May 20, 2020)
Trump’s problem isn't that Biden—his actual opponent—is too beloved, it’s that he himself is loathed. That’s why double-haters are flocking to Biden. How does driving down Obama’s negatives help with that?
B-1 Bomber may become the new face of US military power in the Pacific. (We Are The Mighty, May 20, 2020)
Supercomputer model simulations reveal cause of Neanderthal extinction. (Institute for Basic Science, May 20, 2020)
Climate scientists from the IBS Center for Climate Physics discover that, contrary to previously held beliefs, Neanderthal extinction was neither caused by abrupt glacial climate shifts, nor by interbreeding with Homo sapiens. According to new supercomputer model simulations, only competition between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens can explain the rapid demise of Neanderthals around 43 to 38 thousand years ago.
Not Everyone Hates Remote Learning. For These Students, It’s a Blessing. (New York Times, May 20, 2020)
“At home, it seems to be a bit easier to focus on all the work,” said one eighth grader who was struggling in school. “Everything in general is easier.”
Google pledges not to make custom software for oil and gas extraction. (Ars Technica, May 20, 2020)
Google, Microsoft, and Amazon cloud divisions have sought oil and gas business.
Google says that it will not "build custom AI/ML algorithms to facilitate upstream extraction in the oil and gas industry," the company announced on Tuesday. This represents a small but significant win for climate activists.
Google's comment coincided with the release of a new Greenpeace report highlighting the role of the three leading cloud-computing services—Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure—in helping companies find and extract oil and gas. Greenpeace notes that extracting known fossil fuel reserves would already be sufficient to push the world over 2 degrees of warming. Uncovering additional reserves will ultimately lead to even more warming. All three companies have actively courted business from oil and gas companies that will ultimately contribute to a warmer planet. Microsoft and Amazon both sponsored oil industry conferences last year. Until recently, all three companies had "oil and gas" sections on their cloud-computing websites touting the use of their machine-learning algorithms to find fossil fuel deposits.
What’s really behind Republicans wanting a swift reopening? Evangelicals. (Washington Post, May 20, 2020)
there is something more to the partisan divide than the age-old contrast between conservative and liberal politics. But our reluctance to discuss religion beyond its basic political impact often results in skirting honest evaluations. Let’s try anyway.
It’s noted so often that evangelical Christians are a cornerstone of modern GOP support that the point is in danger of losing its impact. But it’s helpful to be reminded what, exactly, makes an evangelical, because to understand it helps to understand so many Republican positions. The National Association of Evangelicals has identified four statements that it says define evangelicals, the last of which is most pertinent for this discussion: “Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.” This literal belief in eternal salvation — eternal life — helps explain the different reactions to life-threatening events like a coronavirus outbreak.
What was somewhat surprising is how the beliefs of evangelicals compare to Catholics, another group that might be considered biblical literalists. According to Pew polls, 84 percent of evangelicals believe the Bible is the word of God, compared with 62 percent of Catholics. Fifty-five percent of evangelicals agree that the Bible should be interpreted literally — twice the percentage of Catholics.
Among those who hold literal biblical interpretations is the certainty that waiting at the end of this terrestrial journey is eternal life in Heaven. Evangelicals take it to heart when James reminds them, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes,” or when Paul writes, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us,” or when Jesus asks, rhetorically, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
The coronavirus? Christian fundamentalism is often fatalistic. As far as many evangelicals are concerned, life passes quickly, suffering is temporary and worrying solves nothing. That’s not a view that comports well with long stretches of earthly time spent waiting out business closures or stay-at-home orders. It should be no surprise that a person’s deepest beliefs about the world influence how they measure the risks they’re willing to take. Former six-term Ohio Rep. Bob McEwen (R) is a longtime evangelical leader who serves as an advisory member of James Dobson’s Family Talk board of directors. McEwen told me this week that evangelicals aren’t rattled by covid-19, either the disease or the government’s response to the pandemic, because the Bible instructs them not to let earthly fears overwhelm them. “They steal your life, your liberty and your freedom by using fear,” said McEwen. “Man, on his own without God, will always be fearful,” he added. “But the Bible says, ‘Fear not.’”
Evangelicals aren’t just twiddling their thumbs until Heaven beckons, of course. Most of them aggressively pursue careers, enjoy television shows, cheer their favorite sports teams, and take pride in the achievements of family and friends. They do good things in their communities, and sometimes they do bad things, just like everyone else. They’re in no hurry to exit this world. But when ruminating over why there are millions of people who don’t seem to panic over a global pandemic or other life-threatening event, critics should remember that, right or wrong, it often involves a belief in something even bigger than people named Trump, Hannity or Limbaugh.
As lockdowns ease, a new surveillance reality awaits. (ZDNet, May 20, 2020)
Expect a surge in development of surveillance and crowd monitoring technologies post-pandemic.
Your face mask selfies could be training the next facial recognition tool. (C/Net, May 19, 2020)
Researchers are crawling the internet for photos of people wearing face masks to improve facial recognition algorithms.
NEW: Warren Harding Tried to Return America to ‘Normalcy’ After WWI and the 1918 Pandemic. It Failed. (Smithsonian Magazine, May 19, 2020)
The lessons from his presidency show that a quick retreat to the past can be just a mirage.
Elect me, Harding promised, and he would take America back to a bucolic pre-war, pre-pandemic time, a time of serenity. Mythic though it was, the vision worked. He won, in one of the largest political landslides in American history.
But history didn’t end there. Neither Harding nor normalcy would succeed. These failures, considered exactly a century later, hold lessons for those who seek restoration in our time of fear, disease and death. What Harding sought 100 years ago has much in common with what many of us say we seek today, and tomorrow, when the pandemic recedes. We want our lives back. We want to get away from the volatile and frightening economics of pandemic, to something that feels, well, normal. So did Harding. “If we put an end to false economics which lure humanity to utter chaos, ours will be the commanding example of world leadership today,” he pledged in that same speech.
But Harding-style restoration of economy meant, for many, freewheeling consumption and giddy speculation. As the stock market and the nation’s cities, began to roar in the exciting heedlessness of the Jazz Age, nary a caution was raised—except by the most astute observers. Lack of regulation was a virtue to Harding, a balm after all the rules and restrictions of war and disease. “The world needs to be reminded that all human ills are not curable by legislation,” Harding had said, again in the same speech, “and that quantity of statutory enactment and excess of government offer no substitute for quality of citizenship.”
Normalcy and restoration, to us as to Warren Harding, means and meant the return of a status quo of safety. Can’t our terrible vulnerability be ended? The Roaring Twenties might have been fun, but it left those who weren’t white or privileged more vulnerable to the tilt-a-whirl economy of the era. There was no net to catch them, and economic growth had no backstop or safety mechanism.
Harding led to Coolidge; Coolidge led to Hoover. It would take the Great Depression and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s anything-but-normal presidency to create the social protections of the New Deal.
As we now contemplate what a return to normal will look like, we need to face whether it will merely shore up old unfairness and maintain a ripped safety net, leaving the sick, the uninsured, the homeless, the unemployed, and the furloughed to mostly fend for themselves.
NEW: 'Ridiculous' to think another $1,200 stimulus check is enough: Expert Ric Edelman (7-min. video; Yahoo Finance, May 19, 2020)
Edelman Financial Engines Founder Ric Edelman joins Yahoo Finance's Zack Guzman to discuss the latest stimulus outlook as the House passes $3-trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
As Machines Get Smarter, How Will We Relate to Them? (Wired, May 19, 2020)
Millennia of evolution have left us ill prepared to crack open the black box of AI and peer inside.
Microsoft To Support GPU Acceleration, Linux GUI Apps On WSL2. (Phoronix, May 19, 2020)
Microsoft says that Linux GUI applications should "just work" under Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 without the need for any third-party software, unlike past work by the community on getting an X11 server working with WSL.
Could it be? Really? The Year of Linux on the Desktop is almost here, and it's... Windows-shaped? (The Register, May 19, 2020)
Windows Subsystem for Linux to gain out-of-the-box support for GUI apps, GPU chippery.
6 Ways Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Can Help Transition to Clean Energy (Visual Capitalist, May 19, 2020)
The world obsesses over battery technology and manufacturers such as Tesla, but there is an alternative fuel that powers rocket ships and is road-ready. Hydrogen is set to become an important fuel in the clean energy mix of the future.
“With Obama He’s Going For the Jugular”: As Trump Goes After Obama, Some in Trumpworld See a “Big Risk”. (Vanity Fair, May 19, 2020)
Frustrated with his campaign (he “feels he’s doing it all alone”), Trump has settled on a campaign bank shot: hit Obama to destroy Biden. But there’s a problem: “Obama can’t be ‘softened’ up.”
“Trump hates Obama; he used to go around calling Obama a ‘child.’ --former Trump advisor
[More Trump projection of his failings onto others.]
The woman behind ‘Roe vs. Wade’ didn’t change her mind on abortion. She was paid. (1-min. video; Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2020)
When Norma McCorvey, the anonymous plaintiff in the landmark Roe vs. Wade case, came out against abortion in 1995, it stunned the world and represented a huge symbolic victory for abortion opponents: “Jane Roe” had gone to the other side. For the remainder of her life, McCorvey worked to overturn the law that bore her name.
But it was all a lie, McCorvey says in a documentary filmed in the months before her death in 2017, claiming she only did it because she was paid by antiabortion groups including Operation Rescue. “I was the big fish. I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say. That’s what I’d say,” she says in “AKA Jane Roe,” which premieres Friday on FX. “It was all an act. I did it well too. I am a good actress.”
In what she describes as a “deathbed confession,” a visibly ailing McCorvey restates her support for reproductive rights in colorful terms: “If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that’s no skin off my ass. That’s why they call it choice.”
Trump Allies Are Recruiting ‘Pro-Trump’ Doctors To Prescribe Rapid Reopening. (Huffington Post, May 19, 2020)
The Trump campaign communications director confirmed that an effort to recruit doctors to publicly support the president is underway.
NEW: Anti-lockdown protests in US may have helped spread coronavirus, phone data suggests. (Independent, May 18, 2020)
‘We can see protesters are going from a highly concentrated event and then dispersing widely.’
Iran Sees New Surge in Coronavirus Cases After Reopening Country. (New York Times, May 18, 2020)
Health experts say the government did not heed the warnings about easing restrictions too soon. Cases spike in eight provinces.
French Covid-19 Drones Grounded After Privacy Complaint. (Bloomberg, May 18, 2020)
French top judges banned the use of surveillance drones by police to monitor public compliance with coronavirus-related restrictions, citing privacy issues. The authorities’ use of drones to help contain the spread of Covid-19 “constitutes a serious and manifestly unlawful infringement of privacy rights,” the court said on Monday. The Paris-based Conseil d’Etat ruled that drones with cameras can no longer be used until the concerns are addressed, either via a privacy-friendly law or by equipping the drones with technology that makes it impossible to identify the people filmed.
Germany and France Propose $545 Billion Coronavirus Fund for Europe. (New York Times, May 18, 2020)
The U.S. sharply criticized the World Health Organization, while China pledged $2 billion to fight the pandemic. President Trump said he has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an unproven drug against Covid-19.
Pompeo refused to cooperate with watchdog probe into $8B arms sale to Saudi Arabia. (CNN, May 18, 2020)
Trump’s purge just got much more corrupt. Here’s what’s coming next. (Washington Post, May 18, 2020)
President Trump’s abrupt decision to remove the inspector general of the State Department constitutes the latest in a string of corrupt efforts to remove public servants who prioritize real oversight and accountability over protecting Trump at all costs.
But in the case of Trump’s termination of Steve Linick, the State Department IG, this could end up looking far worse than we know. There’s a backstory here that has not yet gotten scrutiny — one that could make the firing appear even more corrupt. House Democrats have discovered that the fired IG had mostly completed an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s widely criticized decision to skirt Congress with an emergency declaration to approve billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia last year. “I have learned that there may be another reason for Mr. Linick’s firing,” Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement sent to me. “His office was investigating — at my request — Trump’s phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia.”
Committee Democrats have also learned that the State Department was recently briefed on the IG’s conclusions in that investigation, aides say. They do not know what role this investigation — and its conclusions — played in Linick’s removal, if any. But the committee is now trying to establish what those conclusions were and what links they might have to the firing, the aides confirm. “We don’t have the full picture yet, but it’s troubling that Secretary Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed,” Engel said in the statement to me.
The White House has confirmed Linick’s firing came at Pompeo’s request. Trump claimed he no longer has “confidence” in Linick, a thin justification that highlights Trump’s purging of officials exercising oversight on his administration. Many news organizations have reported that the fired IG had been examining charges that Pompeo had been directing a staffer to run errands for him. Some reported that Pompeo has undertaken abuses of taxpayer funds, including frequent visits to his home state of Kansas. It’s unclear whether these are linked to Linick’s firing.
But the fact that Linick has also mostly completed an investigation into the decision to fast-track arms to the Saudis adds another layer to this whole story. Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee — and its Senate counterpart — have launched an investigation into Linick’s firing.
Trump fired watchdog who was probing Saudi arms sales. (Reuters, May 18, 2020)
Trump announced the planned removal of Linick in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi late on Friday. He was the fourth government inspector general that the Republican president has ousted in recent weeks.
Pompeo told the Washington Post he had asked Trump to fire Linick, while declining to describe specific concerns. Pompeo said no reason had to be given, contradicting Congress’ interpretation of the inspector general law. “I went to the president and made clear to him that Inspector General Linick wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to, that was additive for the State Department,” Pompeo said.
Another State official told the Post concern over Linick had grown because of leaks about investigations, although there was no evidence Linick was responsible.  Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and Senator Bob Menendez, ranking member on Senate Foreign Relations, said Linick had been investigating Trump’s declaration of a national emergency last year to clear the way for $8 billion in military sales, mostly to Saudi Arabia. “I have learned that there may be another reason for Mr. Linick’s firing. His office was investigating - at my request - Trump’s phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia,” Engel said in a statement. Engel called on the administration to comply with the probe and turn over records by Friday.
Congressional aides had said Linick was investigating whether Pompeo misused a taxpayer-funded political appointee to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife. Trump said Linick had been appointed by former Democratic President Barack Obama, and that he knew nothing about him, but had the right to terminate him. “I just got rid of him,” he said.
Trump infuriated many members of Congress last May, including some Republicans, by declaring a national emergency related to tensions with Iran to sidestep congressional review and push ahead with $8 billion in military sales, mostly to Saudi Arabia. The House and Senate passed resolutions to block the sales. But Trump, a staunch promoter of both arms sales and ties to Saudi Arabia, vetoed them. The Republican-led Senate upheld his veto.
Menendez said he believed Linick was close to coming to a conclusion in his investigation of the arms sales. He also introduced legislation to protect inspectors general.
Some Republicans also expressed concern. Senator Chuck Grassley wrote to Trump and asked for a detailed explanation of Linick’s removal by June 1. “Congress’s intent is clear that an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the IG Reform Act,” Grassley said.
Activists Are Trying to Stop the FBI From Snooping on Your Web History. (Motherboard, May 18, 2020)
Last week, the U.S. Senate voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act, the sweeping surveillance law that infamously expanded the U.S. security state in the aftermath of 9/11. The vote came after a failed bipartisan effort to change the law to explicitly forbid federal agencies from collecting Americans’ web browsing history without a warrant. The amendment, introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Steven Daines (R-MT), failed by just one vote on the Senate floor, with several senators notably absent.
Now, activists are trying to push Democrats to add the privacy protections back into the bill when it returns to the House this week, preventing the Trump administration from gaining more internet surveillance powers in the middle of a global pandemic.
NEW: BP Smacks Exxon Upside Head With New Green Hydrogen Scheme. (Clean Technica, May 18, 2020)
Green hydrogen, also referred to as renewable hydrogen, can be produced from water by applying an electrical current. Source the electricity from renewable energy, and there you have sustainable hydrogen from renewable resources.
Green hydrogen has yet to plant its feet in the commercial market, but the technology has been improving and costs have been coming down, partly because the cost of renewable energy has been dropping. Renewable energy is already threatening gas in the power generation market, and if all goes according to plan renewable H2 will push gas out of the coveted industrial energy marketplace, too.
Back in 2017, BP revived its once-dormant interest in solar power by forming a 50/50 partnership with the solar company Lightsource to form Lightsource BP, and it seems that the partners are already looking beyond clean power to dip into the renewable hydrogen field. Last week BP Australia announced that it has been greenlighted to explore the idea of producing ammonia with renewable hydrogen at a facility in Geraldton.
NEW: Chattanooga software firm Transcard terminates employee after firestorm over Obama noose meme. (Chattanooga Times Free Press, May 17, 2020)
Microsoft president admits they were wrong on open source. (Gaming On Linux, May 16, 2020) 
How Many People Die Each Day? (Visual Capitalist, May 16, 2020)
While these numbers help provide some context for the global scale of COVID-19 deaths, they do not offer a direct comparison. The fact is that many of the aforementioned death rates are based on much larger and consistent sample sizes of data. On the flipside, since WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020, daily confirmed deaths have fallen in a wide range between 272 and 10,520 per day—and there is no telling what could happen in the future.
On top of this variance, data on confirmed COVID-19 deaths has other quirks. For example, testing rates for the virus may vary between jurisdictions, and there have also been disagreements between authorities on how deaths should even be tallied in the first place. This makes getting an accurate picture surprisingly complicated.
While it’s impossible to know the true death toll of COVID-19, it is clear that in some countries daily deaths have reached rates 50% or higher than the historical average for periods of time.
Hydroxychloroquine drug promoted by Trump as coronavirus ‘game changer’ increasingly linked to deaths. (Washington Post, May 15, 2020)
For two months, President Trump repeatedly pitched hydroxychloroquine as a safe and effective treatment for coronavirus, asking would-be patients “What the hell do you have to lose?”
Growing evidence shows that, for many, the answer is their lives.
'Not on our watch': Immigrant advocates lead car caravan protesting Trump's Pennsylvania stunt. (Daily Kos, May 15, 2020)
“Thousands of my constituents are sick, unemployed or dead. I don’t want a photo op, Mr. President. I want a plan,” state Rep. Mike Schlossberg said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “How are we going to give out PPE? How are we going to do mass testing? How are we going to protect front line workers or my most vulnerable constituents?”
Allentown, where the impeached president was headed for what was really a political rally amid a pandemic that has already infected over a million people in the U.S., has been particularly hard-hit, the group said. “Allentown, whose population is 52% Latino, has a per capita infection rate nearly 4.5 times higher than the rest of Pennsylvania. At least 3,943 Pennsylvanians have died from Coronavirus so far.”
In a tweet, the organization said, “Now he has the audacity to come to our state and ask for our votes. Not on our watch.”
Joe Biden Is Pivoting to the Left. What? Why? (Slate, May 15, 2020)
The conciliatory nominee-in-waiting has a grandiose belief in his own strengths and his place in the historical moment.
Zoom is Now Worth More Than the World’s 7 Biggest Airlines. (Visual Capitalist, May 15, 2020)
Zoom benefits from the COVID-19 virtual transition—but other industries aren’t as lucky. The app is now more valuable than the world’s seven largest airlines.
NEW: Vector in Chief, by Fintan O’Toole (NY Review of Books, May 14, 2020)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Donald Trump is no George Washington, but his descent from commander-in-chief to vector-in-chief is nonetheless dizzying. Trump’s narcissism, mendacity, bullying, and malignant incompetence were obvious before the coronavirus crisis, and they have been magnified rather than moderated in his surreal response to a catastrophe whose full gravity he failed to accept until March 31, when it had become horribly undeniable. The volatility of his behavior during the crucial weeks of February and March, when coherent action could have limited the subsequent loss of life—the veering between flippancy and rage, breezy denial and dark fear-mongering—may not seem to demand further explanation.
Even after he belatedly accepted the seriousness of the threat, the grotesque spectacle of his turning vital public information briefings into campaign rallies—with journalists serving as necessary objects of contempt and facts being indiscriminately jumbled with wild hunches and bitter invective—was, to his fans, a signal that nothing had really changed. Since the president had not altered his conduct, why should they? Since Trump simply carried on being Trump, his disastrous performance seems to require no further elucidation. It is his nature. Yet there is a mystery at its heart. For if there is one thing that Trump has presented as his unique selling point, it is “utmost Vigilance,” his endless insistence that, as he puts it, “our way of life is under threat.”
If the United States is to be run by a man who has perfected the paranoid style, the least its citizens might expect is a little of that paranoia when it is actually needed. But even on March 26, when the US had surpassed China and Italy to become the most afflicted country in the world, Trump continued to talk down the threat from the virus.
Why America Resists Learning From Other Countries (The Atlantic, May 14, 2020)
The pandemic may pose the greatest threat yet to the belief that America has little to learn from the rest of the world.
The United States had the advantage of being struck relatively late by the virus, and this gave [us] a priceless chance to copy best practices and avoid the mistakes of others. Instead, the United States squandered that advantage on many fronts. The Obama administration had developed a playbook for pandemic response that drew in part on lessons from other countries’ experiences, but the Trump administration disregarded it. When China began confining millions of people to their homes in January, the U.S. government should have gotten the message that the Chinese were grappling with a grave threat to the wider world, the Yale sociologist and physician Nicholas Christakis told me in March. “We lost six weeks” in the United States to prepare—“to build ventilators, get protective equipment, organize our ICUs, get tests ready, prepare the public for what was going to happen so that our economy didn’t tank as badly. None of this was done adequately by our leaders.” By one estimate, from the epidemiologists Britta L. Jewell and Nicholas P. Jewell, if social-distancing policies had been implemented just two weeks earlier in March, 90 percent of the cumulative coronavirus deaths in the United States during the first wave of the pandemic might have been prevented.
Amid all this, Trump has exhibited more hubris than humility. The president has repeatedly claimed that the United States is leading the world in testing, which in part is an unflattering reflection of the U.S. outbreak’s huge scale and also is not true on a per-capita basis. He has stated, referring to America’s coronavirus response, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and “so many” other world leaders, “almost all of them—I would say all of them; not everybody would want to admit it—but they all view us as the world leader, and they're following us.” Even after he has asked the South Korean government to send tests and medical equipment to the United States to help combat the coronavirus, Trump is insisting that the country cough up much more money for the privilege of stationing U.S. troops there. Trump’s proposal in April that people inject themselves with disinfectant, to the horror of scientists and laughter of people at home and abroad, marked an acceleration point for a post-American, post-coronavirus world … in which American opinions will count less.
The United States, of course, still has tremendous capacity to teach. But it also may need to emerge from this crisis recognizing that it has equal capacity to learn. To learn is to admit room for improvement, and thus to improve, especially in dealing with modern-day threats such as pandemics, which America doesn’t have much experience contending with as a superpower.
India made its contact tracing app mandatory. Now people are angry. (Wired UK, May 14, 2020)
India’s contact tracing app playbook comes straight from China. People are being forced to download the app – if they don’t, their freedoms are limited.
Secret NHS files reveal plans for UK's coronavirus contact tracing app. (Wired UK, May 13, 2020)
Documents left unsecured on Google Drive reveal the NHS could in the future ask people to post their health status to its Covid-19 contact tracing app
When Manhattan Was Mannahatta: A Stroll Through The Centuries (New York Times, May 13, 2020)
From lush forest to metropolis, the evolution of Lower Manhattan. Our critic walks with Eric W. Sanderson of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
NEW: Biden Names Ocasio-Cortez, Kerry to Lead His Climate Task Force, Bridging Democrats’ Divide. (Inside Climate News, May 13, 2020)
Progressives applaud the former vice president’s embrace of Bernie Sanders’ climate advisors. One analyst called the panel “the Climate Dream Team for Democrats.”
NEW: Under Trump border rules, U.S. has granted refuge to just two people since late March, records show. (Washington Post, May 13, 2020)
Citing the threat to public health from the coronavirus, the Trump administration has suspended most due-process rights for migrants, including children and asylum seekers, while “expelling” more than 20,000 unauthorized border-crossers to Mexico under a provision of U.S. code known as Title 42.
Department of Homeland Security officials say the emergency protocols are needed to protect Americans — and migrants — by reducing the number of detainees in U.S. Border Patrol holding cells and immigration jails where infection spreads easily. But the administration has yet to publish statistics showing the impact of the measures on the thousands of migrants who arrive in the United States each year as they flee religious, political or ethnic persecution, gang violence or other urgent threats.
Lucas Guttentag, an immigration-law scholar who served in the Obama administration and now teaches at Stanford and Yale universities, said the border measures “are designed to pay lip service” to U.S. law and international treaty obligations “without providing any actual protection or screening. The whole purpose of asylum law is to give exhausted, traumatized and uninformed individuals a chance to get to a full hearing in U.S. immigration courts, and this makes that almost impossible. It’s a shameful farce.”
It Is Becoming Much Harder to Access Mental Health Support Anonymously. (Slate, May 13, 2020)
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t just a physical health crisis—it’s also a mental one. But online resources for mental health come with privacy risks.
Viral Japanese Video Shows How Easily Infection Can Spread Through Indirect Contact. (IFL Science, May 13, 2020)
NHK conducted an experiment to see how germs spread at a cruise buffet. They applied fluorescent paint to the hands of 1 person and then had a group of 10 people dine. In 30 min the paint had transferred to every individual and was on the faces of 3.
Democratic coronavirus bill shows how partisan election security has become. (Washington Post, May 13, 2020)
Democrats yesterday released their most ambitious and detailed plan yet to fundamentally reshape U.S. voting systems in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Their new virus stimulus bill includes $3.6 billion to run elections safely and securely during the pandemic. But it couples that money with a slate of new mandates for state and local election officials that will last long after the pandemic ends.
Many of those mandates are sure to irk Republican election officials at the state and county level — even those who broadly agree with Democrats’ goals of ramping up voting by mail and polling-place safety during the pandemic. And they're probably nonstarters with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has fiercely blocked such conditions in the past.
The bill comes as the brief moment of crisis-driven bipartisanship that helped rush through four earlier coronavirus relief bills is starting to wane. “While the first four bills were the result of urgent bipartisan compromise in the early days of the pandemic, now the two sides aren’t even talking and are moving in radically different directions. It’s unclear when they will come together to produce another bipartisan response, but some Republicans suggested it might not be anytime soon,” Erica Werner reports.
Trump broadly threatens criminal charges against his enemies; the press can't keep hiding from this. (Daily Kos, May 13, 2020)
Even in describing Trump's various false statements, the Post ignores the obvious dangers—the inherent threat to democracy—of an installed national leader threatening his political opponents and public critics alike with criminal prosecution. And again it is baffling, because any other nation's leader engaging in similarly punitive and authoritarian thinking would result in plain statements identifying it as such. Faced with this national leader, our press goes to great lengths to obscure the implications from their readers. Again, and again, and again, we learn that Trump is demanding his detractors and his investigators be locked up. Again, and again, and again, an American president calling for the jailing of his detractors and investigators is treated as a novelty, rather than an unforgivable sin against his nation.
As coronavirus roils the nation, Trump reverts to tactic of accusing foes of felonies. (Washington Post, May 12, 2020)
On a day when coronavirus deaths passed 80,000 and top government scientists warned of the perils of loosening public health restrictions too soon, President Trump used his massive public platform to suggest a talk-show host he has clashed with committed murder. His baseless charge capped a 48-hour stretch in which he accused scores of perceived opponents of criminal acts ranging from illegal espionage to election rigging.
Heather Cox Richardson: Why is Trump Administration not concerned about Democratic revenge after 2020 Election? (Letters From An American, May 12, 2020)
A lot happened today, but I am grappling with just two things tonight.
White House coronavirus task force medical expert Anthony Fauci testified remotely before a Senate health committee. He warned that reopening states too aggressively would lead to “needless suffering and death.” He also said the death toll from coronavirus—currently more than 80,000-- was “almost certainly” higher than known.
The other big event was that the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether Congress or state prosecutors can subpoena information from the president or from his accountants or his bankers. The questioning appeared to go poorly for Trump’s lawyers, who had to argue against precedent and in favor of the idea that the president can largely act without oversight, but we will not know for a while—until June, at least—how the court will decide.
To me, the two big stories from today were about what I see as a gamble on the part of Trump and his sycophants to grab power of the national government, and a surprising move on the part of a judge to undercut that power grab.
[One action] suggests that the Trump administration does not anticipate a Democratic presidency following this one, since it could expect any precedent it now sets to be used against its own people. That it is willing to weaponize intelligence information from a previous administration suggests it is not concerned that the next administration will weaponize intelligence information against Trump officials. That confidence concerns me.
But that’s only one side of the story with the Flynn case. The other side is just as interesting. The Justice Department’s move to drop the case against Flynn had to be approved by a judge. Tonight, that judge, Emmet G. Sullivan, moved… sideways. It was a really interesting move. Rather than deciding the issue at hand, the U.S. District Judge, who is known as a stickler for institutions, said he would receive briefs from interested third parties to offer opinions about the case. This means that the 2000 former Department of Justice employees (of both parties) who demanded Barr’s resignation over the Flynn case can now be heard. It will invite public scrutiny of the case, and means the case will not get swept under the rug. Flynn’s lawyers instantly cried foul. Not only do they not want more attention to the facts of the case, but also it is possible that Sullivan’s order will permit him to require both sides to revisit the case, producing evidence and calling witnesses. Rather than enabling Trump to turn the tables on the original Russia investigation and invert it so that it serves his purposes, Sullivan’s move could remind people that there was a reason for the Russia investigation in the first place and rehash some of the stories of the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian operatives.
Both of these stories seem to me a preview of the 2020 election. Trump is going to attack his predecessor and argue that Obama officials engaged in an illegal underground campaign to weaken him. He might even try to prosecute officials who were part of the investigation into Russia’s actions in 2016. Sullivan’s unexpected move suggests that not everyone will let this attempt to sway the 2020 election go unchallenged.
Less momentous, but still eye-opening, was the president’s tweeted suggestion that MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough had murdered an aide in 2001 when he was a congressman from Florida. It’s mind boggling that a president would make this sort of unhinged allegation, but here we are.
NEW: Aircraft spies gravity waves being sucked into Antarctica’s polar vortex. (Science Magazine, May 12, 2020)
For about 2 decades, researchers have known that a region near 60° South, along the Drake Passage between the tip of South America and Antarctica, is the planet’s hot spot for these so-called gravity waves. They have long suspected that the waves (not to be confused with the gravitational waves rippling through space) are launched by the mountains of the southern Andes and the Antarctic Peninsula, which jut thousands of meters into westerly winds. But puzzlingly, the hot spot lies hundreds of kilometers away from the mountains. Now, a high-altitude aircraft has traced newborn gravity waves rising from the mountains and bending, or refracting, toward that hot spot.
The phenomenon helps explain why climate models predict unrealistically cold temperatures over the South Pole.
Credit card companies are tracking shoppers like never before: Inside the next phase of surveillance capitalism. (Fast Company, May 12, 2020)
In the battle between data brokers and privacy advocates, the latest front is the credit card. 
Where COVID-19 is Rising and Falling Around the World (Visual Capitalist, May 12, 2020)
For many of the world’s major economies, containing the spread of the virus has proven exceptionally difficult. Despite increased testing and lockdown measures, the United States still has one of the steepest infection trajectory curves. The UK also has a very similar new case curve.
Coronavirus: The lost six weeks when US failed to contain outbreak (7-min. video; BBC, May 12, 2020)
Having watched Asian and European countries struggle against Covid-19, the US was slow to ramp up testing and order its residents to stay at home. We look at this crucial time period and what exactly was done to prevent the outbreak.
NEW: Mysterious Blips Raise Questions About COVID-19 Timeline. (Psychology Today, May 11, 2020)
What was known and when was it known?
Trump’s Favorability Falls Among Seniors Amidst Pandemic. (PRRI, May 11, 2020)
The spread of the coronavirus pandemic and President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis may have caused his favorability among seniors, the age group most vulnerable to the coronavirus, to fall substantially. In April just over four in ten (42%) seniors said they have a mostly or very favorable view of Trump compared to a 57% majority who are mostly or very unfavorable to the president. This represents a 14 percentage point drop since mid-March when a majority (56%) of seniors said they view Trump favorably.
Currently, seniors display a notable divide in their views on Trump based on age. Older Baby Boomers represent a majority (59%) of seniors, while 41% are ages 75 and over.[4] Members of the Silent Generation (ages 75 and over) are less likely than older Baby Boomers (ages 65-74) to hold a favorable view of Trump (34% vs. 45%, respectively). This stands in sharp contrast with previous findings where the Silent Generation and older Baby Boomers were in lockstep in their views on Trump in March (56% vs. 54%), February (46% vs. 43%), and 2019 (47% vs. 46%).
Fauci Says Reopening U.S. Economy Too Soon Could Lead to Needless Deaths. (New York Times, May 11, 2020)
The risks of reopening the country too soon will be a focus of government hearings tomorrow. The White House’s new mask requirement won’t apply to President Trump.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a central figure in the government’s response to the coronavirus, intends to warn the Senate on Tuesday that Americans would experience “needless suffering and death” if the country opens up too quickly. Dr. Fauci, who has emerged as perhaps the nation’s most respected voice during the coronavirus crisis, is one of four top government doctors scheduled to testify remotely at a high-profile hearing on Tuesday before the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
It will be his first appearance before Congress since President Trump declared a national emergency in March, and a chance for him to address lawmakers and the public without President Trump by his side. He has been largely out of public view since last week, when Mr. Trump abandoned his daily briefings with his coronavirus task force.
In an email late Monday night, Dr. Fauci laid out what he intended to tell senators. “The major message that I wish to convey to the Senate HLP committee tomorrow is the danger of trying to open the country prematurely,” he wrote. “If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to: ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country. This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”
Dr. Fauci was referring to a three-phase White House plan, Opening Up America Again, that lays out guidelines for state officials considering reopening their economies. Among its recommendations: States should have a “downward trajectory of positive tests” or a “downward trajectory of documented cases” of coronavirus over two weeks, while conducting robust contact tracing and “sentinel surveillance” testing of asymptomatic people in vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes. But many states are reopening without meeting those guidelines, seeking to ease the economic pain as millions of working people and small-business owners are facing ruin while sheltering at home. “We’re not reopening based on science,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We’re reopening based on politics, ideology and public pressure. And I think it’s going to end badly.”
The comments came as the United States has recorded more than 1.35 million infections and over 80,000 deaths, according to Reuters' figures, while worldwide the number is nearly 4.2 million infections and more than 285,000 deaths.
The much-feared second wave of infection may not wait until fall, many scientists say. Instead, it may become a series of wavelets occurring unpredictably across the country.
Dr. Fauci himself is now in “modified quarantine,” he has said, after what he described as a “low risk” exposure to someone infected with the virus.
White House Orders Staff to Wear Masks as Trump Misrepresents Testing Record. (New York Times, May 11, 2020)
At a news conference, the president reiterated that he would not wear a mask himself and again exaggerated the availability of testing for the coronavirus.
Asked at a Rose Garden news conference whether he had ordered the change, Mr. Trump — who did not wear a mask and has repeatedly said he sees no reason to — said, “Yeah, I did.” But officials said the new requirement was not expected to apply to Mr. Trump or to Vice President Mike Pence.
White House officials have scrambled since last week’s positive diagnoses to keep the virus from spreading throughout 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue even as the president, Mr. Pence and many other senior administration advisers who may have come into contact with Ms. Miller and the valet declined to self-quarantine. Mr. Trump said on Monday that he and Mr. Pence had tested negative for the virus.
Three top public health officials have chosen to remain isolated for a period of time — Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Trump unveiled new props at bizarre COVID-19 briefing that spurred instant memes. (Daily Kos, May 11, 2020)
Donald Trump held a bizarre pep rally press conference type thing on Monday. Trump and others spoke in the Rose Garden with two identical posters hung on each side of Trump’s dumb head, boasting a lie about America’s primacy in testing for the novel coronavirus. Americans with even the smallest level of critical thinking could see what was happening. Trump is attempting to sell America Trump steaks made out of Grade Z beef.
The signs, in big sans serif lettering, said: “AMERICA LEADS THE WORLD IN TESTING.” This was a last-second deal and, as George Orwell’s 1984 has taught us, simple bold lettering is how you drive home propaganda. Of course, simple bold lettering on a blank white background is also wildly easy to photoshop.
Donald Trump explains how great his administration is doing on COVID-19 testing. (Daily Kos, May 11, 2020)
Donald Trump once again stood in the Rose Garden to brag about his administration’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the message was clear: Mission. Accomplished. With U.S. COVID-19 deaths having passed 80,000, Trump’s bragging centered on testing—so long a major failing of his response and only now, with the virus raging through the country, getting to the levels it needed to be at long ago.
Paul Krugman: How to Create a Pandemic Depression (New York Times, May 11, 2020)
Opening the economy too soon can backfire, badly.
Getting the virus under control doesn’t mean “flattening the curve,” which, by the way, we did — we managed to slow the spread of Covid-19 enough that our hospitals weren’t overwhelmed. It means crushing the curve: getting the number of infected Americans way down, then maintaining a high level of testing to quickly spot new cases, combined with contact tracing so that we can quarantine those who may have been exposed.
To get to that point, however, we would need, first, to maintain a rigorous regime of social distancing for however long it takes to reduce new infections to a low level. And then we would have to protect all Americans with the kind of testing and tracing that is already available to people who work directly for Donald Trump, but almost nobody else.
Crushing the curve isn’t easy, but it’s very possible. In fact, many other countries, from South Korea to New Zealand to, believe it or not, Greece have already done it. Bringing the infection rate way down was a lot easier for countries that acted quickly to contain the coronavirus, while the rate was still low, rather than spending many weeks in denial. But even places with severe outbreaks can bring their numbers down if they stay the course. Consider New York City, the original epicenter of the U.S. pandemic, where the numbers of new daily cases and deaths are only a small fraction of what they were a few weeks ago.
But you do have to stay the course. And that’s what Trump and company don’t want to do.
Fox offices staying closed for another month. (CNN Business, May 11, 2020)
Fox News stars are echoing President Trump's call to "reopen the country" and urging people to get back to work in the face of the coronavirus threat. But Fox's offices won't be opening up anytime soon.  A Friday memo from Fox Corp chief operating officer John Nallen extended the company's work from home directive through June 15. On that date, at the earliest, Fox Corp properties like Fox News will begin a gradual reopening of offices. The date could very well be delayed further.
Texas salon owner who was arrested for breaking quarantine admits she received $18,000 in funding. (Daily Kos, May 11, 2020)
While Shelley Luther  [see May 7th, below] claims she had “no choice” but to stay open and is being applauded by conservatives nationwide for her “selfless” act of defying the government to feed her family, many are forgetting that she did in fact receive government funding. During her court hearing, Luther argued that she had to stay open in order to feed her children in addition to supporting the hairstylists she had who “are going hungry because they’d rather feed their kids.”
While Luther stood strong in her stance that her actions were unselfish and she needed to provide her workers with financial support, she later admitted on ABC’s The View that she received stimulus funds prior to her hearing. “You applied for small business loans and unemployment, and you did receive some aid from the government,” said The View host Sunny Hostin. “You received $18,000 from the government.” Hostin added: “So I understand why people feel so strongly about going back to work because they feel that the government isn’t doing its job and taking care of people, but in this instance, two days before you went to court, the money went into your account. So I’m troubled by that.”
Luther replied that while she understood why some may feel troubled by this revelation, she was unsure what to do with the money, claiming it appeared in her bank account with no instructions. Luther’s lie could not be more obvious—the funds were received from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which distributes funds based on how many employees a business has and what their salaries are. Applicants must declare the information themselves during the vigorous application process, and it’s clearly explained what the funds can be used for. But of course, despite applying for the loan and certifying she understood the terms while doing so, Luther claimed she did not want to spend the money until she was sure how to do so without going into debt.
In addition, Luther added that the very hairstylists who she argued in court that she was supporting by staying open are not actually her employees. “And giving me $18,000 to spend when my stylists aren’t actual employees of mine, they’re actually subleasing,” she said. “So I wasn’t sure if I was even able to give them any of that money as employees because I don’t pay them.”
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the PPP program is designed for businesses to keep workers on the payroll. Employers are encouraged to apply for the loan in order to pay employees for at least eight weeks amid the current crisis, and the employers are rewarded with loan forgiveness for doing so. If Luther really does not have any employees, why did she receive $18,000 for a loan that represents at least 75% of employees’ salaries? As Luther’s lies continue, we wonder which Republican will come to her defense next.
Republican Congress members are upset because banks are dropping support for fossil fuels. (Ars Technica, May 11, 2020)
A letter to the president ignores some inconvenient facts: that wind and solar also employ people, that wind and solar generation have become cost-competitive with fossil fuels in most markets, that some of the resources now held as assets by fossil fuel companies will end up "stranded"—meaning the assets will turn out to have no value...
Our weird behavior during the pandemic is messing with AI models. (MIT Technology Review, May 11, 2020)
Machine-learning models trained on normal behavior are showing cracks —forcing humans to step in to set them straight.
With everything connected, the impact of a pandemic has been felt far and wide, touching mechanisms that in more typical times remain hidden. If machines are to be trusted, we need to watch over them.
Animation: The World’s Rapid Rise in Life Expectancy, in Just 13 Seconds (Visual Capitalist, May 11, 2020)
NEW: Come On and Zoom-Zoom. (The New Yorker, May 11, 2020)
Like the teleconferencing service, the original 1970s “Zoom” was screen-based and interactive, and it quickly evolved into a national obsession. But, unlike Zoom the online platform, “Zoom” was mostly the province of kids, primarily those in the tween cohort. Keen to foster more easygoing relationships between kids, Christopher Sarson of WGBH-TV in Boston came up with a general outline for a program in which a cast of children of preteen age would perform songs, sketches, and craft projects based on scripts and premises sent in by home viewers in the same age group. Onscreen and off, kids would learn from each other rather than from an adult authority figure. “If the emphasis is on learning rather than teaching, you achieve a lot,” Sarson said. “If the kids are learning rather than being taught, they’ll be more sure of themselves and enjoy life more. So, it was this [idea] of getting kids in a position where they could be thinking for themselves.”
The Vast Bettmann Photo Archive Is Hidden Inside a Cold, Heavily-Guarded Limestone Mine. (Atlas Obscura, May 11, 2020)
Over 11 million Getty images are on ice near Pittsburgh.
Coronavirus: How South Korea 'crushed' the curve (2-min. video; BBC, May 10, 2020)
As coronavirus spread outside China, South Korea was at risk of becoming among the world's worst affected countries. The country managed to avoid the peaks and fatalities seen elsewhere due to the government's implementation of an aggressive test, trace and contain policy.
Coronavirus: A Cape Cod ice cream shop reopened — and faced harassment so bad one staffer quit, owner says. (Washington Post, May 10, 2020)
NEW: A Failed Deception: The Early Days of the Coronavirus Outbreak in Wuhan (Der Spiegel, May 9, 2020)
On the morning of Dec. 20, 2019, the Chinese fish monger Chen Qingbo was cleaning out his stand at the market, completely unaware that he would soon become the focus of intense scientific research, that he was carrying a virus within him of a kind the world had never seen before. He was unaware that his fate was linked closely with that of all of humanity.
Mapped: The Geology of the Moon in Astronomical Detail (Visual Capitalist, May 9, 2020)
It is clear that there are resources earthlings can exploit. Hydrogen, oxygen, silicon, iron, magnesium, calcium, aluminum, manganese, and titanium are some of the metals and minerals on the Moon. Interestingly, oxygen is the most abundant element on the Moon. It’s a primary component found in rocks, and this oxygen can be converted to a breathable gas with current technology.
[OTOH, earthlings could stop exploiting and begin limiting their own greed.]
The real Lord Of The Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months (The Guardian, May 9, 2020)
The real Lord Of The Flies is a tale of friendship and loyalty; one that illustrates how much stronger we are if we can lean on each other.
NEW: Found: Possibly the First Recorded Death-by-Meteorite (Atlas Obscura, May 8, 2020)
Call it a cold case from space.
NEW: A Brief History of TP, From Silk Road Hygiene to Pandemic Hoarding (Atlas Obscura, May 8, 2020)
An author’s end-game expertise has never been more timely.
NEW: Hackers Turned Virginia Government Websites Into Elaborate eBooks Scam Pages. (Vice, May 8, 2020)
Two subdomains of an official Virginia government website were hijacked and enrolled into a eBooks scam.
Hunger Pandemic: The COVID-19 Effect on Global Food Insecurity (Visual Capitalist, May 8, 2020)
While COVID-19 is dominating headlines, another kind of emergency is threatening the lives of millions of people around the world—food insecurity. The two are very much intertwined. By the end of 2020, authorities estimate that upwards of 265 million people could be on the brink of starvation globally, almost double the current rate of crisis-level food insecurity.
Will Antibodies After COVID-19 Illness Prevent Reinfection? (NPR, May 7, 2020)
It would have huge public health implications if it turns out people can still spread the disease after they've recovered. Studies from China and South Korea seemed to suggest this was possible, though further studies have cast doubt on that as a significant feature of the disease.
Nadeau is also trying to figure out what can be said about the antibody blood-tests that are now starting to flood the market. There are two issues with these tests. First, a positive test may be a false-positive result, so it may be necessary to run a confirmatory test to get a credible answer. Second, it's not clear that a true positive test result really indicates a person is immune and, if so, for how long.
Companies would like to be able to use these tests to identify people who can return to work without fear of spreading the coronavirus. "I see a lot of business people wanting to do the best for their employees, and for good reason," Nadeau says. "And we can never say you're fully protected until we get enough [information]. But right now we're working hard to get the numbers we need to be able to see what constitutes protection and what does not."
It could be a matter of life or death to get this right.
Shelley Luther, Who Was Jailed After Reopening Her Dallas Salon During Quarantine, Has Been Ordered Released. (BuzzFeed, May 7, 2020)
The Texas Supreme Court has ordered the release of Shelley Luther, a Dallas salon owner who was jailed on Tuesday after violating state and local stay-at-home orders by reopening her shop and flouting a judicial restraining order in front of television news cameras.
Luther’s release came after she had become a cause célèbre among conservative activists and politicians around the country who had been calling on Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to take swift action to come to her aid. Abbott has modified his original executive order, explicitly saying local officials can no longer jail people who violate the state’s stay-at-home order. Previously, Abbott had said jailing offenders was an option for local officials but should be considered the last resort.
The state's lieutenant governor has also paid Luther's fine.
After Luther was jailed, Texas Republicans began calling for her immediate release.
“Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen,” Abbott said in a statement on Wednesday. “That is why I am modifying my executive orders to ensure confinement is not a punishment for violating an order.”
Defenders of the sentence say Luther was not jailed just for violating state and local stay-at-home orders, but instead for contempt of court charges stemming from her decision to disobey a state judge’s temporary restraining order prohibiting her from continuing to operate her salon. Moyé offered to let Luther go with just a fine if she apologized for what he called her “selfish” actions. “Feeding my kids is not selfish,” she told the judge. “If you think the law is more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision, but I am not going to shut the salon.”
In his decision, Moyé pointed out that Luther had “expressed no contrition, remorse or regret” for her actions. “The defiance of the court’s order was open, flagrant, and intentional.”
At least one Texas state legislator believes that she has received special treatment because she is white. “I wish Black and Brown people could be offered the chance to apologize instead of going to jail,” Gene Wu, a Houston Democrat, said in a tweet on Wednesday. “I wish people wouldn't be put back into prison because they couldn't pay their fees or fines.”
On Thursday, a group of 12 Texas judges wrote to Paxton saying that his actions in the Luther case had violated state rules concerning judicial conduct.
Luther’s release comes as Texas is reopening large swaths of its economy even as the state has recorded some of its highest numbers of new COVID-19 cases in recent days. As of Friday, salons and barbershops will be allowed to reopen across the state.
In leaked audio from a call last week with Texas legislators, Abbott announced that “much every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a reopening…it actually will lead to an increase in spreads.”
NEW: Why Fake Video, Audio May Not Be As Powerful In Spreading Disinformation As Feared (NPR, May 7, 2020)
Sophisticated fake media hasn't emerged as a factor in the disinformation wars in the ways once feared — and may have missed its moment. Deceptive video and audio recordings, often nicknamed "deepfakes," have been the subject of sustained attention by legislators and technologists, but so far have not been employed to decisive effect.
NEW: 11 Cognitive Biases That Influence Political Outcomes (Visual Capitalist, May 7, 2020)
Humans are hardwired to make mental mistakes called cognitive biases. Here are common biases that can shape political opinion, and...
FFRF promotes ‘Day of Reason’ in provocative New York Times ad. (Free From Religion Foundation, May 7, 2020)
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is running a full-page ad in the national news section of the New York Times today that urges: “We need reason, not prayer, to combat the coronavirus.” FFRF’s ad notes that “Nothing fails like prayer. Prayer cannot stop a virus. Pious politicians should get off their knees and get to work.”
An eye-popping cartoon drawn by Steve Benson, formerly with the Arizona Republic, depicts Jesus being transported by gurney into an ambulance while asking: “Is there a doctor in the house?”
The ad deliberately coincides with the congressionally-mandated National Day of Prayer, occurring on the first Thursday in May (today), which requires the president to unconstitutionally enjoin citizens to “turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups and as individuals.” Ironically, the National Day of Prayer theme this year is “God’s glory across the Earth,” chosen by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, an evangelical outfit that has hijacked the date to promote an exclusionary Christian viewpoint.
FFRF’s ad notes that House Resolution 947, introduced by U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, calls on making today a “National Day of Reason,” because “irrationality, magical thinking, and superstition have undermined the national effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.” “Science works,” FFRF asserts in the ad: “We’re all in this together — that’s why we need actions based on science, evidence and compassion, not prayer or ‘alternate facts.’ ” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is quoted as saying, “Our behavior has stopped the spread of the virus. God did not stop the spread of the virus. And what we do now, how we act, will dictate how the virus spreads.”
The ad concludes, “Our work to uphold the constitutional principle of separation between religion and government has never been more essential.”
[What better day than today, to join FFRF and to contribute to this effort? We did!]
Visualizing America’s Energy Use, in One Giant Chart (Visual Capitalist, May 6, 2020)
'Polar opposites:' May cold snap to leave eastern US chillier than parts of Alaska. (Accuweather, May 6, 2020)
NEW: Was COVID-19 Already in France Last December? (Psychology Today, May 6, 2020)
Revisiting the coronavirus timeline.
NEW: Coronavirus mutations: Scientists puzzle over impact. (BBC, May 6, 2020)
Researchers in the US and UK have identified hundreds of mutations to the virus which causes the disease Covid-19.
AI: Decoded: Cold winds are blowing around regulation — The ethics of contact-tracing — Doubts over AI to treat COVID-19 (Politico, May 6, 2020)
Experience has shown that many AI models, which work great in theory, don’t survive the process.
But these are not normal circumstances, and a pandemic leaves no time for that process. That’s why it’s becoming ever more important to share data and make sure researchers have access to decent data they can train their models with. The reasoning that ‘any model’ is better than nothing is not true.
Paul Krugman: The push from Trump and many others on the right to relax social distancing look even more irresponsible than it already did. (New York Times, May 5, 2020)
For the past couple of months one epidemiological model — the IHME model from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation — has played an outsized role in public discussion of Covid-19.
It’s not at all clear that it deserved this role. Among other things, its predictions have been highly unstable, sometimes revised sharply downward and sometimes sharply upward. Many epidemiologists have criticized the model as simplistic. But its very simplicity let it offer state-by-state predictions other models couldn’t. And the White House liked it, at least better than many other models, because it generally predicted a lower death toll than its rivals.
But the White House probably likes IHME less today than it did yesterday: the institute just drastically revised its projected death total upward, from 72,000 to 134,000. This is terrible news, and makes the push from Trump and many others on the right to relax social distancing look even more irresponsible than it already did.
But it also tells us something about the field of epidemiology. It turns out that epidemiologists often disagree, sometimes by a lot. Their forecasts are often wrong, sometimes very wrong indeed. They are, in fact, the worst people to rely on in a crisis — except for everyone else. In other words, they’re a lot like economists.
Here we are in a pandemic, a complex phenomenon that depends on human behavior as well as biology. Like financial crises, different pandemics share many common features but differ in detail, in ways that can create huge uncertainty. Nobody can forecast their course especially well, but you do much better listening to the professional epidemiologists than to law professors, politicians, or, yes, economists who claim to know better.
Heather Cox Richardson: There has been another leak from the White House, and this one is colossal. (Letters From An American, May 4, 2020)
The New York Times obtained a document suggesting that the administration has misrepresented the numbers of American deaths expected from this pandemic by pushing an artificially low estimate for close to a month.
Coronavirus model projects 134,000 deaths in US, nearly double its last estimate. (CNN, May 4, 2020)
An influential coronavirus model often cited by the White House is now forecasting that 134,000 people will die of Covid-19 in the United States, nearly double its previous prediction. The model, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, had predicted 72,433 deaths as of Monday morning.
Relatedly, a Trump administration model projects a rise in coronavirus cases and deaths in the weeks ahead, up to about 3,000 daily deaths in the US by June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times. Over the past week, about 2,000 people died daily in the US, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
IHME director Dr. Christopher Murray said "I think the challenge for us all is to figure out what's the trajectory of relaxing social distancing on a measured pace that will protect us from big increases or even a full-scale resurgence." The projections make clear that these reopenings come with fatal risks.
"It's simple logic," CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen said. "When you tell people, 'Hey, you can go to bars, you can get your nails done, you can go to a restaurant,' those numbers are going to go up."
The novel coronavirus's incubation period -- or the time from exposure to developing symptoms -- ranges from two to 14 days, according to the CDC, and the virus can even spread among people who show no symptoms at all. With widespread testing still limited, the consequences of these reopenings may not be evident for several weeks.
President Donald Trump had previously said he expected 65,000 Americans to die, but on Sunday night, he revised that estimated death toll up to 80,000-90,000 people. It may not be the last upward revision; Dr. Deborah Birx, a White House coronavirus task force official, said projections have shown between 100,000 to 240,000 American deaths, even with social distancing.The public pressure to ease restrictions is rising even in states with significant outbreaks. This weekend, thousands gathered in California to protest coronavirus restrictions, leading to 32 arrests at the state Capitol.
In Massachusetts, a few hundred demonstrators on Monday gathered outside the State House in Boston. Some of the hundreds of protesters wore masks as is required, but most did not.
Three people charged in Michigan killing of Family Dollar security guard over mask policy. (Washington Post, May 4, 2020)
The argument began when the security guard told a woman that customers needed to wear face masks in the store. She yelled at him, spit on him and drove off. About 20 minutes later, her car returned to the store, and her husband and her son, 44 and 23, stepped out and confronted the guard. The son pulled out a gun and shot the guard.
The COVID-19 Impact on App Popularity (Visual Capitalist, May 4, 2020)
This Pandemic Popularity Quadrant illustrates the types of apps that are either growing or slowing in popularity in North America.
NEW: Pandemic brings Trump's war on science to the boil – but who will win? (The Guardian, May 3, 2020)
Three years of hostility to evidence-based policy have led to a crisis in which the president’s ill-informed, self-serving ‘hunches’ have deadly consequences.
“Trump’s constant antics are a danger to the American people,” said John Holdren, a Harvard environmental scientist who was Barack Obama’s White House science adviser through both his presidential terms. Holdren told the Guardian the current approach to science and expertise within the Trump administration is a “shame on many levels. Trump’s talking nonsense risks misleading the public, and it distracts top scientists who spend emotional energy neutralizing the damage he causes when they should be tackling the virus.”
Three months into the pandemic, with the number of confirmed cases passing 1 million, the tension that has been simmering for months between Trump and the scientific world is at boiling point. His improvisation about injecting disinfectant encapsulated the sense of demoralization – of despair, almost – that many American scientists now feel about the drift from evidence-based leadership.
“They are doing everything they can to undermine science at a time when it is critically important, as are facts. We have come to an extreme level,” said Gina McCarthy, who led the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) until Trump’s accession in 2017. Science is so assailed at present that the situation raises a startling question: are we losing the fight for reason in the pandemic? McCarthy, who now heads the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said she frets America may prove incapable of withstanding the anti-science assault unleashed by Trump. “I have been worried that people wouldn’t notice the attack happening. These things are difficult to explain – they are not soundbites – and our country has for a long time taken for granted the fact that we make science-based decisions. That is simply not true any more.”
The accusation that in three short years Trump has succeeded in severing historic ties between the US government and science-based decision making is one of the more chilling charges leveled at his presidency. Science has after all been at the core of the American experiment, ever since Franklin Roosevelt created the White House Office of Scientific R&D in 1941. Not only was scientific endeavor instrumental in winning the second world war – through the atomic bomb and innovations such as radar and communications technology – it was also central to America’s postwar economic success. In recent times, Obama inherited that legacy and ran with it, promising on his first day in office in 2009 that “we will restore science to its rightful place”. In his first set of presidential appointments, Obama brought into his administration five science Nobel prizewinners and 25 members of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. They became known as the “dream team”.
By contrast, Holdren said, “Trump is the exact opposite. Science has played no role in virtually all the top appointments he has made.” The roll call of officials Trump has entrusted with protecting Americans from Covid-19 tells its own story. With no Nobel laureates in sight, Trump relied initially on Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), who is a lawyer and former drug company boss; followed by Mike Pence, a career politician and evangelical Christian; and most recently Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, whose expertise lies in real estate.
Trump’s top team have in turn promoted individuals in their own mold. As Reuters has reported, Azar gave the job of coordinating the fight against coronavirus within HHS, to an individual whose job immediately before joining the Trump administration was as a dog breeder running a small business called Dallas Labradoodles.
7 open source alternatives to Skype (Red Hat, May 2, 2020)
Communicate without compromising your open source ethos or your computer data with these alternatives (Jitsi Meet and more) to Zoom and other proprietary web-conferencing software.
The FSF reveals the software it uses for chat, video, and more. (Free Software Foundation, May 1, 2020)
Take a look at the Free Software Foundation's recommended communications tools that respect your freedom, privacy, and security.
Incredible Map of Pangea With Modern-Day Borders (Visual Capitalist, May 1, 2020)
NEW: How Trump Gutted Obama’s Pandemic-Preparedness Systems (Vanity Fair, May 1, 2020)
Former officials: Trump’s reshuffling of positions and departments, focus on business solutions, downgrading of science, left the country dangerously unprepared for an unprecedented pandemic.
“President Trump has, throughout this, seemed a little schizophrenic about his role,” Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who ran USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance in the Obama administration, told me. “On the one hand, he clearly wants all the credit for it when things go right. On the other hand, he has furiously attempted to avoid having to take ownership for the success of the effort…he wants the credit without the accountability.”
The biggest difference between Obama’s approach and Trump has to do with science. “Traditionally, we have had a situation where the response is always scientifically, technically proven,” says a former government official. “Of course there are political considerations. But the options that are presented are fundamentally sound from a scientific perspective.”
The novel coronavirus is exposing the inadequacies of a cornerstone of Trump’s (and Kushner’s) governing philosophy. “The entire argument behind electing Donald Trump is that business can handle anything better than the government, right? So the entire philosophy, the entire ideology of every senior leader in the White House and that they’ve installed across the federal government is, ‘Get the private sector to do it. Government shouldn’t be picking winners or losers and coordinating these efforts,’” the former administration official told me. But the problem is, there are some things only the federal government can do, after all. “This is the crisis for this administration, just as every administration faces, that challenges its ideology and worldview to its core and cannot be effectively addressed with that worldview.”
“This president doesn’t make decisions based on objective criteria.”
Republican host let loose on her frustration with Trump. (1-min. video; Daily Kos, May 1, 2020)
"Where do we look?", Nicole Wallace asks as if throwing her hands up in the air. "We have a White House that is what it is. We have a liar-in-chief who's pushed hoax treatments, who's diminished his scientists. We have a VP who for some reason doesn't wear a mask because it obscures his vision or something. I mean, WHERE DO WE TURN!"
Trump's Nazification of the GOP is why there's serious discussion of killing off the 'unfit'. (Daily Kos, May 1, 2020)
Pence’s staff threatens action against VOA reporter who tweeted about visit to clinic without surgical mask. (Washington Post, April 30, 2020)
A copy of the document obtained by The Washington Post explicitly stated that masks are required for the visit and instructed reporters to wear them. “Please note, the Mayo Clinic is requiring all individuals traveling with the VP wear masks,” the document said. “Please bring one to wear while on the trip.”
The directive confirms that Pence’s staff was well aware of the need for masks, raising the possibility that none of his aides had alerted him to the requirement or that Pence had intentionally flouted it, perhaps to avoid being photographed in a mask. (Pence himself told reporters after the visit that because he doesn’t have the coronavirus — he is tested frequently — he decided he could “speak to these researchers, these incredible health-care personnel, and look them in the eye and say thank you.”)
Voice of America is a government-funded but independent news agency that has lately been the object of White House criticism. The Trump administration accused VOA this month of promoting Chinese government propaganda in its reporting about the coronavirus.
On Thursday, Pence wore a mask as he toured a General Motors auto plant in Indiana that has been converted into a factory making ventilators for hospitals around the country.
Texas reports record coronavirus deaths the day before stores open. But Gov. Greg Abbott sees hope in other metrics. (Texas Tribune, April 30, 2020)
Abbott is looking at two figures: the percentage of tests in the state that come back positive and the percentage of patients with COVID-19 who are hospitalized.
Animated Map: An Economic Forecast for the COVID-19 Recovery, 2020-21 (Visual Capitalist, April 30, 2020)
According to the most recent forecast from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it’s projected that the global economy will contract by 3% in 2020, followed by 5.8% growth in 2021. In today’s Markets in a Minute from New York Life Investments, we take a look at the country-level economic forecast to highlight which areas may recover the fastest.
NEW: Coronavirus contact tracing apps were meant to save us. They won’t. (Wired UK, April 30, 2020)
With little evidence to show how effective such apps are and growing privacy concerns, there’s a risk they could do more harm than good.
Frontier’s Bankruptcy Reveals Why Big ISPs Choose to Deny Fiber to So Much of America. (Electronic Frontier Foundation, April 30, 2020)
Giant monopoly ISPs have had decades to bring America's Internet into the 21st century. They have been singularly terrible at delivering decent speed, reliable service, reasonable customer support, or competitive prices. The only thing these companies have demonstrated competence in is making money for their investors. And Frontier's bankruptcy reveals that even that core competence is vastly overrate).
It's long past time we gave up on waiting for Big Telco to do its job. Instead, America should look to the entities with proven track-records for getting fiber to our curbs:  small, private, competitive ISPs and local governments. These are the home of the "patient money" that doesn't mind ten-year payoffs for investments in fiber. Fiber is vastly superior to every other means of delivering high-speed Internet to our homes, schools, institutions, and businesses. Nothing else even comes close (not 5G, either).
NEW: An unlikely coronavirus hotspot in the US (3-min. video; BBC, April 29, 2020)
How poverty and economic inequality are threatening an entire generation of African Americans.
NEW: The Great Realisation (4-min. video; Probably Tomfoolery, April 29, 2020)
A bed time story of how it started, and why hindsight’s, uh, 2020.
[Wonderful!]
The environment won’t be helped by oil producers declaring bankruptcy. (Popular Science, April 29, 2020)
In the past, low oil prices have led consumers to use it more, not less. Some economists say that for this situation to be any different, regulators need to step in and help steer our society away from fossil fuel reliance. The present, extremely low oil prices are the result of a few things, but the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an “absolute collapse” in demand for petroleum. We’re staying at home, not driving, and spending much less money.
With a drop in revenue from oil due to low prices, companies will reap less profit and thus have less money to spend on expanding into clean energy. Fossil fuel interests have dragged their feet on addressing their contribution to climate change and have actively worked to crush measures to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Based on their history of committed fossil fuel extraction, it’s unlikely we’d see any meaningful change from energy companies now, even as their profits plummet.
If we want to steer towards a clean energy future, one place to start is putting a price on carbon. One method, a carbon fee and dividend program, could be just what America needs right now. It would take the carbon taxes from fossil fuel companies and issue the money back to households. That means you reduce the oil energy dominance and you’d be able to help people right now with a check.
A more radical solution would be to buy out the fossil fuel industry, coupled with a green stimulus program to support jobs. Right now, in theory, the government could buy the entire oil and gas industry for cheap, then dismantle it. Markets are bad at making these kinds of transitions themselves, so this massive purchase could be a way to end fossil fuel dominance for good.
Why Rooftop Wind Power Hasn't Really Worked—Until Now (Popular Mechanics, April 29, 2020)
The surprising secret to unlocking the energy's potential? Airfoils.
Link identified between dietary selenium and outcome of COVID-19 disease. (Science Daily, April 29, 2020)
Selenium is an essential trace element obtained from the diet (i.e. fish, meat and cereals) which has been found to affect the severity of a number of viral diseases in animals and humans. For example selenium status in those with HIV has been shown to be an important factor in the progression of the virus to AIDs and death from the condition. China is known to have populations that have both the lowest and highest selenium status in the world, due to geographical differences in the soil which affects how much of the trace element gets into the food chain.
Examining data from provinces and municipalities with more than 200 cases and cities with more than 40 cases, researchers found that areas with high levels of selenium were more likely to recover from the virus. For example, in the city of Enshi in Hubei Province, which has the highest selenium intake in China, the cure rate (percentage of COVID-19 patients declared 'cured') was almost three-times higher than the average for all the other cities in Hubei Province. By contrast, in Heilongjiang Province, where selenium intake is among the lowest in the world, the death rate from COVID-19 was almost five-times as high as the average of all the other provinces outside of Hubei. Most convincingly, the researchers found that the COVID-19 cure rate was significantly associated with selenium status, as measured by the amount of selenium in hair, in 17 cities outside of Hubei. The report states: "There is a significant link between selenium status and COVID-19 cure rate, however it is important not to overstate this finding; we have not been able to work with individual level data and have not been able to take account of other possible factors such as age and underlying disease."
NEW: Video Call Apps Get a Bit More Secure. (Mozilla, April 29, 2020)
On Tuesday, Mozilla published our latest edition of *Privacy Not Included, in which we outlined the privacy and security features and flaws of 15 popular video call apps. At the time of publication, three of those 15 apps did not meet Mozilla’s Minimum Security Standards: Discord, Doxy.me, and HouseParty.
Mozilla has been talking with all three apps, and as a result of those conversations, Discord now requires stronger passwords. With this update, Discord now meets our Minimum Security Standards. (Previously, Discord’s minimum password length was six characters, with no complexity detection. As recently as last week, our researchers found the password "111111" worked as a login.) In addition to strengthening its password requirements, Discord says it prevents users from choosing a password that has been compromised by another service. It also encourages two-factor authentication.
We’re pleased to see Discord prioritize consumers’ security, and thank them for their quick action.
Which Video-Call Apps Can You Trust? (Mozilla, April 28, 2020)
Right now, a record number of people are using video-call apps to conduct business, teach classes, meet with doctors, and stay in touch with friends. It’s more important than ever for this technology to be trustworthy — but some apps don’t always respect users’ privacy and security. So today, Mozilla is publishing a guide to popular video-call apps’ privacy and security features and flaws. Consumers can use this information to choose apps they’re comfortable with — and to avoid ones they find creepy.
How to Discover the History of Your Neighborhood, Without Leaving Home (CityLab, April 28, 2020)
Even during social distancing, you can time-travel back. Here's how I explored the history of my own street.
Why fighter jets are flying over New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania today. (Popular Science, April 28, 2020)
The aircraft are F-16s and F/A-18s, flown by the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels, the Air Force and Navy aerial demonstrations teams. The purpose of the flights is a chance “to salute those working on the frontline of the COVID-19 response.”
Here’s when and where you might see F-16s and other high-performance aircraft in the sky. The Air Force and the Navy say that more of these flights over additional cities will be happening over the “coming weeks.” (For a critical take on the operations, check out this post on the military-focused site Task & Purpose.)
UFO Pentagon video: Is it Aliens? 8 questions and answers. (1-min. video; Inverse, April 28, 2020)
The Pentagon formally released yesterday three videos taken by US Navy pilots that show an "unidentified aerial phenomenon." These videos were leaked back in 2017, and stirred up major UFO rumors. The footage shows a cluster of odd-looking aircraft flying over the East Coast with unidentified maneuvers, unlike anything the Navy pilots had seen before.
De Blasio Breaks Up Rabbi’s Funeral and Lashes Out Over Virus Distancing. (New York Times, April 28, 2020)
After overseeing the dispersal of hundreds of Hasidic mourners in Brooklyn, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the gathering “absolutely unacceptable.”
NEW: Inside Donald Trump and Jared Kushner’s Two Months of Magical Thinking (Vanity Fair, April 28, 2020)
Obsessed with impeachment and their enemies and worried about the stock market, the president and his son-in-law scapegoated HHS Secretary Alex Azar, and treated the coronavirus as mostly a political problem as it moved through the country.
NEW: What Trump voters think of his handling of crisis (3-min. video; BBC, April 28, 2020)
"Dumbfounded" or "great job" - Americans who backed the president in 2016 rate his pandemic response.
Supreme Court requires government to pay health insurers under Affordable Care Act. (USA Today, April 27, 2020)
Paul Krugman: Peacocks and Vultures Are Circling the Deficit. (New York Times, April 27, 2020)
The government will be able to borrow that money at incredibly low interest rates. In fact, real interest rates — rates on government bonds protected against inflation — are negative. So the burden of the additional debt as measured by the rise in federal interest payments will be negligible. And no, we don’t have to worry about paying off the debt; we never will, and that’s OK.
The bottom line is that right now, the only thing we have to fear from deficits is deficit fear itself. In this time of pandemic, we can and should spend whatever it takes to limit the damage.
The Man Who Thought Too Fast (New Yorker, April 27, 2020)
Frank Ramsey—a philosopher, economist, and mathematician—was one of the greatest minds of the last century. Have we caught up with him yet?
It didn’t have to be this way. (Aeon, April 27, 2020)
A bioethicist at the heart of the Italian coronavirus crisis asks: why won’t we talk about the trade-offs of the lockdown?
Trump says he knows about Kim Jong Un's health 'but I can't talk about it now'. (Yahoo, April 27, 2020)
There have been multiple media reports in recent weeks that Kim, who is 36 and has ruled North Korea as “Supreme Leader” since 2011, is either dead or incapacitated after heart surgery. The rumors and speculation have been fueled by the fact that Kim hasn’t appeared in North Korean state media for two weeks and missed the April 15 birthday celebrations for his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, founder of the repressive regime.
The president also said he didn’t think Kim made any statements over the weekend. However, the North Korean government did release a statement that purportedly came from Kim, but Trump was seemingly unaware of that communiqué. He cut off a reporter, and indicated it would not have been possible for Kim to have issued a statement. “He didn’t say anything last Saturday, nobody knows where he is, so he obviously couldn’t have said it."
Trump campaign lashes out over 'Don't defend Trump' memo. (Politico, April 27, 2020)
A strategy memo on coronavirus distributed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee infuriated Trump aides.
Earlier this month, the Senate Republican campaign arm circulated a memo with shocking advice to GOP candidates on responding to coronavirus: “Don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban — attack China.”
The Trump campaign was furious. On Monday — just days after POLITICO first reported the existence of the memo — Trump political adviser Justin Clark told NRSC executive director Kevin McLaughlin that any Republican candidate who followed the memo’s advice shouldn’t expect the active support of the reelection campaign and risked losing the support of Republican voters.
McLaughlin responded by saying he agreed with the Trump campaign’s position and, according to two people familiar with the conversation, clarified that the committee wasn’t advising candidates to not defend Trump over his response.
The episode illustrates how the Trump political apparatus demands — and receives — fealty from fellow Republicans and moves aggressively to tamp down on any perceived dissent within the GOP. The president maintains an iron grip on his party, even as his poll numbers sag and he confronts fierce criticism from Democrats over his response to the coronavirus pandemic. During the conversation, McLaughlin called the line in the memo inartful in its wording and argued that the overall thrust of the document was about pushing candidates to go on offense over China — something that Trump has done frequently in recent days — and not to evade defending the president. “There is no daylight between the NRSC and President Trump,” McLaughlin said in a statement, adding: “Senate Republicans have worked hand in glove with the Trump administration to ensure a highly effective federal response to Covid-19.”
The 57-page memo, which was authored by a top GOP strategist, was perceived by Trump aides as giving candidates leeway to avoid backing the president on what could be the defining issue of the 2020 campaign. And they held a series of conversations on Friday and over the weekend figuring out how to respond. The memo urged GOP Senate candidates to stay relentlessly on message with attacks against China, where the coronavirus originated, when pressed about the pandemic on the campaign trail. When asked about Trump’s response to the pandemic, the document advised candidates to pivot to an attack on the authoritarian country rather than offer an explicit defense of Trump’s response.
But the Trump team didn’t take kindly to the guidance. Senior Trump campaign officials, including campaign manager Brad Parscale, political advisers Clark, Bill Stepien and Chris Carr, and communications director Tim Murtaugh, decided to reach out to the NRSC to convey the campaign’s displeasure. Top Republican National Committee officials were also involved in the deliberations and the White House was kept apprised of developments. Clark said in a statement that Republican candidates “who want to win will be running with the president. Candidates will listen to the bad advice in this memo at their own peril. President Trump enjoys unprecedented support among Republican voters and everyone on the ballot in November will want to tap into that enthusiasm. The president’s campaign, the RNC, and the NRSC are firmly on the same page here.”
Trump campaign officials said they were rankled by other passages in the memo, including one line that advised Republican candidates to say: “I wish that everyone acted earlier - that includes our elected officials, the World Health Organization, and the CDC.”
Presidential Swing State Polling Results (eBay Main Street, April 27, 2020)
New York Times Waves Off Hannity Threat: No Retraction Coming. (Daily Beast, April 27, 2020)
Sean Hannity and his lawyer allege the Times mischaracterized his coverage when it published columns claiming he downplayed the virus early on.
Despite Hannity’s protestations, the unofficial adviser to President Donald Trump repeatedly minimized and downplayed the pandemic during the critical early weeks of the crisis. The Fox News fixture spent weeks comparing the deadly coronavirus to the seasonal flu while insisting Democrats were “politicizing and actually weaponizing an infectious disease” to “bludgeon” Trump. He also suggested in early March that the outbreak was a “deep state” plot to destroy the economy, and Democrats’ concerns over the virus were a “new hoax” to take down the president.
In a letter delivered to Harder, New York Times newsroom lawyer David McCraw bluntly responded that there would be no retraction.
For Trump, Lying Is a Super Power. (New York Times, April 27, 2020)
He will use deception to keep his bungled response to Covid-19 from ruining his re-election chances.
After Donald Trump’s ridiculous and dangerous suggestion last week that household disinfectants injected into people’s bodies might be a treatment for Covid-19, Republicans intensified their hand-wringing over whether his daily briefings were doing more harm — to his political fortunes and theirs — than good.
The coronavirus has completely reshaped the coming election. The economy is in dire straits. Trump’s polls have taken a dip. People are anxious and afraid. The outlook isn’t good … at the moment.
The Republican Party see similarities to 2006: “In 2006, anger at President George W. Bush and unease with the Iraq war propelled Democrats to reclaim Congress; two years later they captured the presidency thanks to the same anti-incumbent themes and an unexpected crisis that accelerated their advantage, the economic collapse of 2008. The two elections were effectively a single continuous rejection of Republican rule, as some in the G.O.P. fear 2018 and 2020 could become in a worst-case scenario.”
But I would caution all those who take this fear as encouragement that Trump is weakened and vulnerable: Trump is not George W. Bush. This is not the Republican Party of 2006. This is not a cultural environment in which social media is in its infancy.
Trump, as a person and politician, is riddled with flaws. But he also has an ignominious super power: He is completely unencumbered by the truth, the need to tell it or accept it. He will do and say anything that he believes will help him. He has no greater guiding principles. He is not bound by ethics or morals. His only alliances are to those who would support and further his devotion to self-promotion.
I don’t look back to the 2008 campaign for parallels, but to the 2016 one. When the “Access Hollywood” tape, on which Trump bragged about groping and sexually assaulting women, came out, Republicans were worried. They began to openly reject him. Some called for him to drop out of the race. “But the image of Republicans running for the exits, a month before a presidential election, is as extraordinary as a party’s nominee using vulgar, violent language that seemed to reduce an entire gender to sexual anatomy. And this time, no amount of spin seems sufficient to control the damage Mr. Trump has wrought.”
But, as we now know, that damage was short-lived. The Republican Party would rally to Trump’s side. Indeed, the party would be completely remade by him, and become loyal to only him.
Testing Remains Scarce as Governors Weigh Reopening States. (New York Times, April 25, 2020)
In both red and blue states, governors, health departments and hospitals are finding innovative ways to cope, but still lack what experts say they need to track and contain outbreaks. While the U.S. has made strides over the past month in expanding testing — about 1.2 million tests were done in one week alone — its capacity is nowhere near the level President Trump suggests it is.
NEW: Fintan O’Toole: The World Has Loved, Hated and Envied the U.S. Now, for the First time, we pity it. (The Irish Times, April 25, 2020)
Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.
However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.
It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – wilfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.
The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestationof a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.
We Need Herd Immunity From Trump and the Coronavirus. (New York Times, April 25, 2020)
It will take more care than the president is currently demonstrating to loosen restrictions but still protect the vulnerable.
With each passing day it becomes more obvious how unlucky we are that one of the worst crises in American history coincides with Donald Trump’s presidency. To get out of this crisis with the least loss of life and least damage to our economy, we need a president who can steer a science-based, nonpartisan debate through the hellish ethical, economic and environmental trade-offs we have to make.
We need a president who is a cross between F.D.R., Justice Brandeis and Jonas Salk. We got a president who is a cross between Dr. Phil, Dr. Strangelove and Dr. Seuss.
Sure, Trump isn’t the only one sowing division in our society, but as president he has a megaphone like no one else, so when he spews his politics of division, and suggests disinfectants as cures, he is not only eroding our society’s physical immunity to the coronavirus but also eroding what futurist Marina Gorbis calls our “cognitive immunity” — our ability to filter out science from quackery and facts from fabrications. As a result, the Trump daily briefing has itself become a public health hazard.
If we don’t have a president who can harmonize our need to protect ourselves from the coronavirus and our need to get back to work — as well as harmonize our need to protect the planet’s ecosystems and our need for economic growth — we are doomed. Because this virus was actually triggered by our polarization from the natural world. And it will destroy us — physically and economically — if we stay locked in a polarized, binary argument about lives versus livelihoods.
When you simultaneously hunt for wildlife and push development into natural ecosystems — destroying natural habitats — the natural balance of species collapses due to loss of top predators and other iconic species, leading to an abundance of more generalized species adapted to live in human dominated habitats. These are rats, bats and some primates — which together host 75 percent of all known zoonotic viruses to date, and who can survive and multiply in destroyed human-dominated habitats. As we humans have become more numerous and concentrated in cities, and as deforestation has brought these generalized species closer to us — and as countries like China, Vietnam and others in central Africa tolerated wet markets where these virus-laden species were mixed with domesticated meats — we’re seeing ever more zoonotic diseases spreading from animals to people. Their names are SARS, MERS, Ebola, bird flu, and swine flu — and Covid-19. Add globalization to this and you have the perfect ingredients for more pandemics. We need to find a much more harmonious balance between economic growth and our ecosystems.
The same kind of harmonic approach has to be brought to our current debate about reopening the economy. We’re having this important debate about our health and economic future in an incredibly uncoordinated way. Instead, we should have federal government experts on one team offering their approach — and a Team B of independent medical, economic, public health, data and strategic analysts offering an alternative approach. And then go for the best synthesis. For instance, if we concluded that an identified group of a quarter of the population face an unacceptable risk of death from coronavirus, but that for the other 75 percent, with appropriate precautions like social distancing and masks, face no greater risk than other risks of death we accepted before coronavirus, would it be possible to design a response that protected the most vulnerable while simultaneously reopening most of the economy for others?
The bottom line is that Mother Nature has been telling us something huge in this crisis: “You let everything get out of balance and go to extremes. You ravaged my ecosystems and unleashed this virus. You let political extremism ravage your body politic. You need to get back into balance, and that starts with using the immune system that I endowed you with.” Herd immunity, which kicks in after about 60 percent of the population is exposed to and recovers from the virus, has historically been nature’s way of ending pandemics. We need to bend with her forces, while concentrating our health services and social services on protecting those most vulnerable who need to stay sheltered until there is a vaccine.
Nervous Republicans See Trump Sinking, and Taking Senate With Him. (New York Times, April 25, 2020)
The election is still six months away, but a rash of ominous new polls and the president’s erratic briefings have the G.O.P. worried about a Democratic takeover.
Mr. Trump’s advisers and allies have often blamed external events for his most self-destructive acts, such as his repeated outbursts during the two-year investigation into his campaign’s dealings with Russia. Now, there is no such explanation — and, so far, there have been exceedingly few successful interventions regarding Mr. Trump’s behavior at the podium.
Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, said the president had to change his tone and offer more than a campaign of grievance. “You got to have some hope to sell people,” Mr. Cole said. “But Trump usually sells anger, division and ‘We’re the victim.’”
The White House tried to move a reporter to the back of the press room, but she refused. Then Trump walked out. (Washington Post, April 25, 2020)
NEW:  Private gain must no longer be allowed to elbow out the public good. (Aeon, April 24, 2020)
The logic of private interest – the notion that we should just ‘let the market handle it’ – has serious limitations. Particularly in the United States, the lack of an effective health and social policy in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has brought the contradictions into high relief.
Around the world, the free market rewards competing, positioning and elbowing, so these have become the most desirable qualifications people can have. Empathy, solidarity or concern for the public good are relegated to the family, houses of worship or activism. Meanwhile, the market and private gain don’t account for social stability, health or happiness. As a result, from Cape Town to Washington, the market system has depleted and ravaged the public sphere – public health, public education, public access to a healthy environment – in favour of private gain.
Simply put, a market system driven by private interests never has protected and never will protect public health, essential kinds of freedom and communal wellbeing. Many have pointed out the immorality of our system of greed and self-centred gain, its inefficiency, its cruelty, its shortsightedness and its danger to planet and people. But, above all, the logic of self-interest is superficial in that it fails to recognise the obvious: every private accomplishment is possible only on the basis of a thriving commons – a stable society and a healthy environment.
U.S. Navy leaders recommend Captain Crozier's reinstatement. (1-min. video; ABC News, April 24, 2020)
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned due to backlash after firing Navy Captain Crozier, who raised concerns over coronavirus spreading on the aircraft carrier, USS Theodore Roosevelt. New Acting Secretary of the Navy James E. McPherson also is dragging his heels.
Trump Speech to Force 1,000 West Point Cadets Back to Campus. (New York Times, April 24, 2020)
The president’s off-again, on-again speech in June will bring back cadets who had scattered across the country to help counter the coronavirus.
The Naval Academy, for its part, decided it was too risky to recall its nearly 1,000 graduating midshipmen to Annapolis, Md., for a commencement. Those graduates will have a virtual event. But the Air Force Academy, in contrast to the other schools, sent home its underclassmen, locked down its seniors on campus, moved up graduation, mandated social distancing — and went ahead with plans for Vice President Mike Pence to be its speaker.
And so last Friday, the day before Mr. Pence was to speak at the Air Force ceremony in Colorado, Mr. Trump, never one to be upstaged, abruptly announced that he would, in fact, be speaking at West Point. That was news to everyone, including officials at West Point, according to three people involved with or briefed on the event. The academy had been looking at the option of a delayed presidential commencement in June, but had yet to complete any plans. With Mr. Trump’s pre-emptive statement, they are now summoning 1,000 cadets scattered across the country to return to campus in New York, the state that is the center of the outbreak.
NEW: Coronavirus: Disinfectant firm warns after Trump comments. (BBC News, April 24, 2020)
Heather Cox Richardson: Trump lies re internal disinfectants "sarcasm" and CNN calls it a lie. (Letters From An American, April 24, 2020)
Media outlets have been uncomfortable calling out Trump’s lies, instead using words like “untruths,” but Dale has fa ct-checked every Trump rally and speech in real time and regularly uses the word “lie” on Twitter. That the word is showing up more in news media suggests editors are rethinking how best to cover this president.
Their problem is that everything a president does and says is newsworthy, but reporting what a lying politician says without identifying it as false puts the media in the position of amplifying the skewed message, rather than delivering accurate information. This tactic was pioneered by Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.
Heather Cox Richardson: McConnell lies re "Blue State bail-out" but Cuomo corrects. (Letters From An American, April 23, 2020)
Today the House of Representatives passed a new $484 billion coronavirus relief bill by a vote of 388-5. The Senate passed it Tuesday. $381 billion is for small businesses left out in the cold when the money from the previous coronavirus relief package quickly ran dry. Republicans wanted to stop there, but Democrats demanded $75 billion for hospitals, and $25 billion for coronavirus testing, as well as a requirement that the administration figure out a strategy to get tests to states. The relief bill comes as more than 26 million Americans are out of work and almost 50,000 Americans have died of Covid-19.
But the Democrats did not get any more aid to states, crippled by the crisis, than the $150 billion previously provided. The bipartisan National Governors Association, headed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, has asked for $500 billion to help the states replace lost tax revenues. Democrats wanted such aid, but Republicans refused. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) went on talk radio host Hugh Hewitt’s show on Wednesday and tried to make the question of state aid partisan. He said that he opposed granting money to states whose problems, he said, stemmed from their underfunded state pension plans. Instead, the states should consider bankruptcy. A document put out by McConnell’s office called aid to the states a “blue state bailout.”
McConnell has it wrong. States have not been overspending; their expenses for education and infrastructure are actually significantly below what they were in 2008, despite more inhabitants, and they have put about 7.6% of their budgets into rainy day funds, a historic high, up from the previous high of 5% they held in reserve in 2006 before the Great Recession. The problem is that states have to balance their budgets annually, and they depend on sales and income taxes for 70% of their revenue. The shutdowns have decimated tax revenues as shopping ends and people lose their jobs. At the same time, unemployment claims are climbing dramatically. States are looking at a $500 billion loss between now and 2022. States need money to avoid massive layoffs and deep spending cuts, actions that would make the economic crisis continue much longer than it would if they do not have to make them.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was blunt. “New York puts into that federal pot $116B more than we take out. Kentucky takes out $148B more than they put in,” he said at a press conference. “Senator McConnell, who’s getting bailed out here? It’s your state that’s living on the money that we generate.”
NEW: Stop Looking on the Bright Side: We’ll Be Screwed By the Pandemic for Years to Come. (Politico, April 23, 2020)
Unfortunately, the history of the past generation justifies pessimism about the next one.
NEW: Two Errors Our Minds Make When Trying to Grasp the Pandemic (The Atlantic, April 23, 2020)
Disappointment and uncertainty are inevitable. But we don’t have to turn them into suffering.
NEW: The Nuclear Ban Treaty and the Green New Deal (NuclearBan.US, April 22, 2020)
A Webinar on Wednesday, April 29th, from 7-9PM Boston time, featuring Timmon Wallis, PhD of NuclearBan.US and US Representative Jim McGovern. Register in advance for this webinar. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
Climate crisis, expanding nuclear arsenals, extreme inequality, and now a pandemic – the challenges confronting our species are beyond daunting. Yet with extreme threat and great loss come an opportunity to change priorities and construct a path toward a more sustainable and harmonious future. Our upcoming webinar shows how. An initiative of NuclearBan.US, Wallis’ report details what it will take to adequately address the climate crisis and where the needed funds and scientific and engineering expertise could come from: the nuclear weapons program. “These weapons threaten our very existence as a species. And so does the climate crisis. But if we eliminate nuclear weapons, we can convert an industry of death to an industry of life. We can shift massive amounts of money and scientific talent to green technologies we need to survive – and we can create millions of jobs.” – Timmon Wallis
So join us for an evening of practical hope. Warheads to Windmills: Wednesday, April 29th, 7-9PM.
UN warns of 'biblical' famine due to Covid-19 pandemic. (France 24, April 22, 2020)
World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley told the U.N. Security Council that even before COVID-19 became an issue, he was telling world leaders that “2020 would be facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.” That’s because of wars in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, locust swarms in Africa, frequent natural disasters and economic crises including in Lebanon, Congo, Sudan and Ethiopia, he said.
Beasley said today 821 million people go to bed hungry every night all over the world, a further 135 million people are facing “crisis levels of hunger or worse,” and a new World Food Program analysis shows that as a result of COVID-19 an additional 130 million people “could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020.”
The Economic Damage Is Barely Conceivable. (Nautilus, April 22, 2020)
In America, people who lose jobs don’t necessarily get them back.
France and COVID-19: Incompetence and Conceit (Counterpunch, April 22, 2020)
The French government’s mantra, that every minister and secretary of state is expected to chant in unison, is: “masks are useless, the tests are unreliable”. They all swear by handwashing and lockdowns. No reference is made to the way things had been handled in Seoul, Hong Kong, or Taiwan, where free masks were distributed and people were required to wear them, and large-scale testing was carried out, and where economic life goes on, in slow motion, but it goes on. Today, with 23 million inhabitants, Taiwan has recorded 6 COVID-19 deaths; Hong Kong, with 7 million inhabitants, has lost 4. As for the French doctors who were in Wuhan working alongside their Chinese colleagues and thus well informed, they were not even consulted.
The French police stop and fine transgressors, solitary walkers or joggers, while the metro, airports, trams, and buses are all operating and supermarkets and tobacconists are open for business. The police are themselves without masks and many fall victim to the virus, becoming potential carriers. The same is true of healthcare and administrative personnel, working without personal protective equipment in retirement homes. The authorities refused to report the number of victims among healthcare workers, citing “medical secrecy” concerns. The elderly die but are not counted in the official statistics. Nor are those who die at home. Now that their numbers are so high and can no longer be ignored, we discover that the residents of these retirement homes account for 40% of the deaths recorded in France. They are not hospitalized. Their treatment? Paracetamol for the mildly afflicted, morphine for the rest. Close to half of the nursing staff in retirement homes are affected by the epidemic. But the government is powerless: it does not have sufficient testing solution and will not allow tests to be conducted in retirement homes unless there is a confirmed case there. The borders remain open. President Macron refuses to close the border with Italy.
Sweden becomes the third European country to close its last coal power plant. (Electrek, April 22, 2020)
Just days after Austria shut its last coal power plant, Sweden has followed suit with the closure of Stockholm Exergi AB’s Värtaverket plant, two years ahead of schedule. Belgium shut down its last coal power station in 2016. The coal-fired cogeneration plant Värtaverket has been in operation and supplied heat and electricity to Stockholmers since 1989. Now it is closed down for good. Our goal is for all our production to come from renewable or recycled energy. Stockholm Exergi’s CO2 emissions will be reduced by about half.
[A happy note for the 50th Earth Day!]
On this 50th Earth Day, "On The Fifth Day" (Brain Pickings, April 22, 2020)
Jane Hirshfield wrote this poem for 2017's March For Science in Washington, D.C.
Forget About Zoom — Here are 3 Open Source Zoom Alternatives. (FOSS Post, April 22, 2020)
The Zoom developers were depending on security through obscurity. Their so-thought private chats and calls were discovered to be publicly accessible, and their claimed end-to-end encryption wasn’t actually an end-to-end encryption. Many other security vulnerabilities were discovered in their infrastructure, too. (Here’s a full list of them). All of this happened because Zoom was closed source, and no one was able to review its source code and confirm its claims.
You’ll be glad to know that there are many open source Zoom alternatives for video conferencing. And in today’s article, we’re gonna introduce 3 great ones.
Zoom: Former Dropbox staff say Zoom stalled on security fix. (C/Net, April 21, 2020)
Here's a timeline of every security issue uncovered in the video chat app.
Advancing high temperature electrolysis: Splitting water to store energy as hydrogen (Science X, April 21, 2020)
The reaction now happens faster and more efficiently, so the operating temperature can be reduced while maintaining good performance. The trick was figuring out how to add the element to the perovskite electrode material that would give it the triple-conducting properties—a process called doping. "We successfully demonstrated an effective doping strategy to develop a good triple-conducting oxide, which enables good cell performance at reduced temperatures," said an engineer at Idaho National Laboratory's Chemical Processing Group.
How Oil Prices Went Subzero: Explaining the COVID-19 Oil Crash (Visual Capitalist, April 21, 2020)
On April 20th, futures for crude oil's U.S. benchmark (WTI) went into negative territory - meaning for the first time in history, producers would pay traders to take oil off their hands.
NEW: Origins of human language pathway in the brain at least 25 million years old. (Science Daily, April 20, 2020)
The human language pathway in the brain has been identified by scientists as being at least 25 million years old -- 20 million years older than previously thought.
Open-source firmware turns CPAP machines into coronavirus ventilators. (ZDNet, April 20, 2020)
The Airbreak firmware is a big step toward transforming the Airsense 10 CPAP machine into a non-invasive ventilator.
The man leading U.S. COVID-19 testing was forced out of his last job. (Daily Kos, April 20, 2020)
Brett Giroir, the federal official overseeing coronavirus testing efforts, says that his experience working on vaccine development projects at Texas A&M University helped prepare him for this historic moment. He once said that his vaccine effort was so vital that “the fate of 50 million people will rely on us getting this done.” But after eight years of work on several vaccine projects, Giroir was told in 2015 he had 30 minutes to resign or he would be fired.  His annual performance evaluation at Texas A&M, the local newspaper reported, said he was “more interested in promoting yourself” than the health science center where he worked. He got low marks on being a “team player.”
Giroir has worn a number of different hats in this administration.  As Assistant Secretary of Health, Giroir has worked to take away access to birth control and abortion—he is a forced birther.
Massachusetts self-employed, independent contractors, and ‘gig’ workers can now apply for state unemployment benefits. (Boston Globe, April 20, 2020)
NEW: Want to Ditch Zoom? Jitsi Offers an Open-Source Alternative. (Wired, April 20, 2020)
As we spend more time on videoconferences, concerns mount about trust. Emil Ivov says you shouldn't have to trust anyone.
Coronavirus pandemic has not stopped cyberattacks on hospitals and other vital infrastructure. (Washington Post, April 20, 2020)
Attempted cyberattacks against several hospitals and an airport in the Czech Republic show the coronavirus pandemic has not slowed down the West’s digital adversaries. While those attacks were successfully foiled, Czech leaders fear more attacks from highly sophisticated adversaries are on the way. The nation’s top cybersecurity agency has warned it expected imminent “serious cyberattacks” against its health-care sector aimed at disabling computers and destroying data.
Czech officials didn’t name the suspected attacker but the language they used suggested greater concern about hackers backed by a national government rather than criminals. The stakes are high: A cyberattack that takes the lives of coronavirus patients would likely prompt serious retaliation, Painter notes. That could draw countries into a conventional military conflict.
Nation-backed hackers are also trying to steal information from companies that are researching coronavirus treatments. The cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike has also tracked multiple government-linked hacking groups launching sophisticated data-stealing operations during the pandemic. Those include groups linked to China and North Korea, the company said.
Hacking by criminal gangs has also continued unchecked, though few thought criminals might temper their actions out of global health concerns.
Coronavirus: Will Covid-19 speed up the use of robots to replace human workers? (BBC News, April 19, 2020)
For better or worse the robots are going to replace many humans in their jobs, analysts say, and the coronavirus outbreak is speeding up the process.
"People usually say they want a human element to their interactions but Covid-19 has changed that," says Martin Ford, a futurist who has written about the ways robots will be integrated into the economy in the coming decades. "[Covid-19] is going to change consumer preference and really open up new opportunities for automation."
Companies large and small are expanding how they use robots to increase social distancing and reduce the number of staff that have to physically come to work. Robots are also being used to perform roles workers cannot do at home. Walmart, America's biggest retailer, is using robots to scrub its floors. Robots in South Korea have been used to measure temperatures and distribute hand sanitiser.
Food service is another area where the use of robots is likely to increase because of health concerns. Fast-food chains like McDonald's have been testing robots as cooks and servers.
In warehouses, like those operated by Amazon and Walmart, robots were already used to improve efficiency. The Covid-19 outbreak has both companies looking to increase the use of robots for sorting, shipping and packing. This may reduce the number of complaints by warehouse workers who say they cannot social-distance from their colleagues under the current conditions. But, according to technology experts, it would put some of them out of work.
Once a company has invested in replacing a worker with a robot it's unlikely the firm will ever rehire for that role. Robots are more expensive to create and integrate into businesses but once they are up and running, robots are typically cheaper than human workers.
According to the futurist Martin Ford, using robots in the post Covid-19 world also presents some marketing advantages. "People will prefer to go to a place that has fewer workers and more machines because they feel they can lower overall risk," he explains
What about service roles where a person is needed to offer a lesson or guideline? Artificial intelligence is being developed that can replace school tutors, fitness trainers and financial advisers. Big tech companies are expanding the use of artificial intelligence. Both Facebook and Google are relying on AI to remove more inappropriate posts since the companies' human content moderators can't review certain things from home.
Robot sceptics had believed humans would have an edge in those jobs. That could be changing as lockdowns have made humans more comfortable with the idea of connecting remotely. The instructor or adviser on the screen doesn't need to be a real person, it just needs to think and act like one.
A 2017 report by global consultants McKinsey predicted a third of workers in the US would be replaced by automation and robots by 2030. But events like pandemics have the potential to change all the timelines and experts say it's really up to humans to decide how they want to integrate this technology in the world.
Supporters Of Digital Currency Say Pandemic Bolsters Case For A New Approach. (NPR, April 19, 2020)
Direct-deposit economic relief money is expected to be weeks ahead of physical checks. Supporters of digital currency say that transaction could — and should — be even faster.
However, digital wallets, or software programs that store passwords to access funds, have often been the source of cryptocurrency hacks that have lost customers millions of dollars. The unbanked may not have the technology to keep their funds safe.
Regulation of digital currency has also been a concern. Facebook's proposed Libra coin faced congressional scrutiny last year when members raised questions about Facebook's trustworthiness after its issues with user privacy and misinformation. Facebook has since scaled back the project and decided to ditch the idea of becoming a global financial payment system after several of its supporters abandoned it last year.
The United States might be years away from developing the necessary infrastructure and helping people adapt to digital currency, but it might be a huge help for the next economic catastrophe.
The Coronavirus and Post-Traumatic Growth (Scientific American, April 19, 2020)
Surviving an awful experience can lead to some surprisingly positive psychological effects in many people.
A stark coronavirus reality: Sunday’s Boston Globe runs 16 pages of death notices. (Boston Globe, April 19, 2020)
Trump’s Two Horrifying Plans for Dealing With the Coronavirus (The Atlantic, April 19, 2020)
The administration has two plans for the next six months. It is implementing them at the same time. They reinforce each other, and each can replace the other if either fails. If he can’t confine the suffering to his opponents, he is prepared to incite a culture war to distract his supporters.
Plan A is Russia's old Chernobyl plan: trading higher human casualties in hopes of a triumph for the central state. By reopening some aspects of the U.S. economy in the next few weeks, Trump hopes to goose the stock market and restore jobs. It’s plainly impossible to return to full employment by November 2020, but Trump can hope that the trajectory of the economy will matter more than the economy’s absolute level. It did not have to be this way. If the Trump administration had not bungled testing, if it were not to this day jerking and lurching in obedience to the president’s latest ego demand, we could by now begin to see the way to a safer reopening in the next few weeks. As is, the testing regime remains bottlenecked and slow. Contact tracing barely exists. The United States will be nearly as blind in May as it was in March.
In the event of an early and partial reopening, the disparities can only widen. Those who can telecommute, who can shop online, or who work for health-conscious employers like public universities will be better positioned to minimize their exposure than those called back to work in factories, plants, and delivery services. The economy will be further divided along its widening class fault: those who can control their contacts with others, and those who cannot. To look at casualties as numbers on the curve is to misunderstand what the Fox talkers and the Trump donors are telling us. The political calculus of Trump’s Plan A depends less on containing the total number of casualties than on confining the casualties to people deemed expendable. From his entry into presidential politics, Trump has divided Americans into first class, second class, and third class. He has continued that politics of division into this pandemic. On Saturday, Trump retweeted an ugly insinuation that state governments were favoring Muslim Ramadan observance over Easter worship. The division is more than rhetorical. It shapes who gets economic assistance, who gets aid, and now, whose deaths are acceptable in order to put the country back to work.
But what if the calculus of Plan A is wrong? What if reopening leads to a surge in deaths that cannot be politically contained? In that case, Trump reverts to his Plan B: a culture war against Democratic governors and blue states. On April 16, Trump tweeted “Liberate Michigan!” in apparent support of protesters who blocked traffic around the state legislature in Lansing. To date, the great majority of Americans support the lockdown, according to polling by Pew. Twice as many fear that the lockdown will be ended too early than those who worry it will be ended too late. In the face of this decisive opposition to the president’s wishes, the president’s supporters are borrowing the tactics of the early Tea Party. They are protesting in aggressively obnoxious ways to entice the TV cameras to overlook their tiny numbers and fringe membership: Confederate-flag wavers, militia cosplayers, anti-vaxxers. The Lansing protesters used their cars to impede ambulances. They brandished guns on the steps of the step legislature. Behave obnoxiously enough, and the television cameras will disregard your scanty numbers. The Lansing protests have been joined by even smaller protests in California and North Carolina, each numbering fewer than 100 people. And of course, America’s most powerful cable-news network is more than a passive victim of disinformation. As with the Tea Party a decade ago, so now with the anti-lockdown protests: Fox News acts as the co-author of the pseudo-events staged for its cameras, as in this fanciful graphic showing half the United States colored red in protest, as if the whole country were aflame rather than a few hundred oddballs.
For Trump, it's win-win. Either he pushes the country to trade poor people’s lives for the pursuit of economic recovery, or he gets a cable-TV culture war to distract his supporters from the troubles he himself aggravated by his own negligence. President Trump’s bad leadership has inflicted terrible hardship on Americans. Trump’s Plan A is to use the pain of that hardship to justify more bad leadership. His Plan B is to use the pain as a way to shift odium: Don’t blame me, the guy who failed to prepare for the pandemic. Blame the governors who are now forced to respond to my failure. The tools entrusted to the administration to protect the country are being used by the administration to protect the president.
A Beloved Bar Owner Was Skeptical About the Virus. Then He Took a Cruise. (New York Times, April 18, 2020)
Joe Joyce oversaw JJ Bubbles, a welcoming tavern in a conservative corner of Brooklyn, for 43 years until he died of Covid-19.
He was a Trump supporter who chose selectively from the menu of current Republican ideologies, freely rejecting what didn’t suit him. He didn’t want to hear how much you loved Hillary Clinton, as one regular at his bar put it to me, but he was not going to make the Syrian immigrant who came in to play darts feel as if he belonged anywhere else. Where these kinds of voters align is not in the right’s hatred of the marginalized but in its distrust of the news. If the “liberal” media was telling us that a plague was coming and that it would be devastating, why should anyone believe it? Joe Joyce had his skepticism.
On March 1, Joe Joyce and his wife, Jane, set sail for Spain on a cruise, flying first to Florida. His adult children — Kevin, Eddie and Kristen Mider — suggested that the impending doom of the coronavirus made this a bad idea. Joe Joyce was 74, a nonsmoker, healthy; four years after he opened his bar he stopped drinking completely. He didn’t see the problem. “He watched Fox, and believed it was under control,’’ Kristen told me.
Early in March Sean Hannity went on air proclaiming that he didn’t like the way that the American people were getting scared “unnecessarily.’’ He saw it all, he said, “as like, let’s bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.”
Eventually, Fox changed course and took the virus more seriously, but the Joyces were long gone by then. There was a way he might have avoided the trip, his daughter speculated. “If Trump had gone on TV with a mask on and said, ‘Hey this is serious,’ I don’t think he would have gone.”
Visualizing the Length of the Fine Print, for 14 Popular Apps (Visual Capitalist, April 18, 2020)
[For example, compare iffy Zoom's 7,243 lines and secret code to Jitsi Meet. Just one of the many reasons that MMS avoids all of these but YouTube. Hurray for FOSS - Free, Open-Source Software!]
A Sobering Astronomical Reminder from COVID-19 (Scientific American, April 18, 2020)
We must treasure all the good that nature gives us rather than take it for granted, because it can easily disappear. Over the next century, trillions of dollars could be lost not just from pandemics like COVID-19 but also from major solar flares or asteroid impacts. We’d better prepare protections for those before they hit us.
Life as we know it is merely an afterthought in the global scheme of the cosmos. The universe started off consisting mainly of hydrogen and helium. Heavy elements like carbon and oxygen, which enable the chemistry of life, are the “ashes” from nuclear burning in the hot cores of stars. Our transient existence has lasted for less than 10 one-billionths of cosmic history so far on a tiny rock we call Earth, surrounded by a vast lifeless space. We should be thankful for the fortuitous circumstances that allow us to exist, because they will surely go away one day, with or without COVID-19.
Warmest Oceans on Record Could Set Off a Year of Extreme Weather. (Bloomberg, April 18, 2020)
Parts of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans all hit the record books for warmth last month, according to the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Information. The high temperatures could offer clues on the ferocity of the Atlantic hurricane season, the eruption of wildfires from the Amazon region to Australia, and whether the record heat and severe thunderstorms raking the southern U.S. will continue.
Yes, you can still get a package delivered. Just wash your hands, expert says. (Boston Globe, April 18, 2020)
The Coronavirus In America: The Year Ahead (New York Times, April 18, 2020)
There will be no quick return to normal American life, but there is hope for managing the outbreak now and in the long term.
The lockdowns will end haltingly. Putting safety first could mean reopening only after coronavirus cases declined for 14 days, 90 percent of contacts of infected people could be traced, infections of health care workers were eradicated, recuperation sites existed for mild cases — and many other hard-to-reach goals.
It is not clear whether recovery from the virus and antibodies confer immunity. If they do, or are believed to, America could be split into two classes: those protected (or thought to be) and those still vulnerable.
The virus can be kept in check, but only with expanded resources like widespread testing. The U.S. needs to triple the number of coronavirus tests it is currently administering before the country can reopen. And treatments are likely to arrive before a vaccine.
Germany was the first large democracy to contain the spread of the virus, and is now the first to methodically go about reopening its economy: It is aiming to test the entire population for antibodies in the coming months to assess the virus’s spread.
Stimulus check glitches: Why you’re having trouble and what you can do about it. (Washington Post, April 18, 2020)
Tens of millions of Americans got their stimulus payments, but many others reported receiving the wrong amount and frustrating online issues.
The key to getting your payment in the first batch sent out was whether the IRS had direct deposit information for you as a result of a refund. If you owed the IRS or did not get a refund in 2018 or 2019, the agency doesn’t have a way to send your money electronically. This does not mean you won’t get a payment. It means you need to either go to “Get My Payment” on the IRS website or wait for a paper check in the mail.
If you don’t get the money, you’ll have to wait for a letter from the IRS. The agency is required to mail a letter to your last known address 15 days after sending your payment. As described in the Cares Act, the notice from the IRS is supposed to indicate the method by which your payment was made, the amount of the payment and a phone number for the appropriate point of contact at the IRS to report any failure to receive the money.
Lots of people are worried that the message “Payment Status Not Available” means they may not get their stimulus money. It is very likely that the system hasn’t been able to process your information from a recently filed 2019 tax return. Or, it’s like a waiting room where you sit until you are called.
Many people have complained about a glitch that won’t allow them to move forward because they neither owed any money to the IRS nor received a refund for 2018 or 2019. Initially, IRS spokesman Eric Smith suggested that people type in zero for either answer. However, this does not work. Others tried using information from their 2018 return. That didn’t work either. “We are aware of the problem and we are working hard to find a solution,” Smith said. “In these very difficult times, we know how very much people need their money, and we are working hard to get it to them as quickly as we can.”
To prevent fraud, the “Get My Payment” portal will lock you out after multiple failed attempts to enter information. You may be locked out by no fault of your own. The information the IRS has on file may be outdated or wrong. Perhaps you moved and the IRS has an old address. A Social Security number may be incorrect in the system. If you get a message that your payment status can’t be determined, wait a day. Because information is updated once a day, overnight, there is no need to check back several times during the day.
The incredible shrinking president (Boston Globe, April 18, 2020)
As the country staggers through the coronavirus pandemic, Trump appears increasingly irrelevant.
Democrats confront Pence: 'I have never been so mad about a phone call in my life.' (CNN, April 17, 2020)
Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said to Pence and everyone on the call, "I have never been so mad about a phone call in my life." King called the administration's failure to develop a more widespread national testing regime a "dereliction of duty."
Access to testing has been uneven throughout the country amid the pandemic even with efforts to expand capacity -- and pressure is intensifying on the President and the administration to ensure adequate testing, which is widely viewed as a requirement to reopening the shuttered US economy.
Why We Don’t Know the True Death Rate for Covid-19 (New York Times, April 17, 2020)
Determining what percentage of those infected by the coronavirus will die is a key question for epidemiologists, but an elusive one during the pandemic.
NEW: Coronavirus Testing Needs to Triple Before the U.S. Can Reopen, Experts Say. (New York Times, April 17, 2020)
As some governors consider easing social distancing restrictions, new estimates by researchers at Harvard University suggest that the United States cannot safely reopen unless it conducts more than three times the number of coronavirus tests it is currently administering over the next month.
Trump Encourages Protest Against Governors Who Have Imposed Virus Restrictions. (New York Times, April 17, 2020)
President Trump on Friday openly encouraged right-wing protests of social distancing restrictions in states with stay-at-home orders, a day after announcing guidelines for how the nation’s governors should carry out an orderly reopening of their communities on their own timetables. In a series of all-caps tweets that started two minutes after a Fox News report on the protesters, the president declared, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” — two states whose Democratic governors have imposed strict social distancing restrictions. He also lashed out at Virginia, where the state’s Democratic governor and legislature have pushed for strict gun control measures, saying: “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”
The president’s stark departure from his message on Thursday night, when he announced guidelines for governors to reopen their states and said they would “call your own shots,” suggested he was ceding any semblance of national leadership on the pandemic.
Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (People For The American Way, April 17, 2020 update)
These Charts Put the Historic U.S. Job Losses in Perspective. (Visual Capitalist, April 17, 2020)
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into the economic status quo, creating a situation that is incomparable to any previous downturn. Instead of a gradual economic transition to slower growth prospects, business operations have suddenly screeched to a halt with no clear window to resume. The Great Lockdown of the economy has been completely unprecedented, both in terms of the speed of the shutdown and its impact on jobs.
The New Fault Lines in a Post-Globalized World (Brave New Europe, April 17, 2020)
The coronavirus pandemic has upended the global economic system, and just as importantly, cast out 40 years of neoliberal orthodoxy that dominated the industrialized world. Forget about the “new world order.” Offshoring and global supply chains are out; regional and local production is in. Market fundamentalism is passé; regulation is the norm. Public health is now more valuable than just-in-time supply systems. Stockpiling and industrial capacity suddenly make more sense, which may have future implications in the recently revived antitrust debate in the U.S.
Biodata will drive the next phase of social management and surveillance, with near-term consequences for the way countries handle immigration and customs. Health care and education will become digitally integrated the way newspapers and television were 10 years ago. Health care itself will increasingly be seen as a necessary public good, rather than a private right, until now in the U.S. predicated on age, employment or income levels. Each of these will produce political tensions within their constituencies and in the society generally as they adapt to the new normal.
This political sea change doesn’t represent a sudden conversion to full-on socialism, but simply a case of minimizing our future risks of infection by providing full-on universal coverage. Beyond that, as Professor Michael Sandel has argued, one has to query the “moral logic” of providing “coronavirus treatment for the uninsured,” while leaving “health coverage in ordinary times… to the market” (especially when our concept of what constitutes “ordinary times” has been upended).
Internationally, there will be many positive and substantial international shifts to address overdue global public health needs and accords on mitigating climate change. And it is finally dawning on Western-allied economic planners that the military price tag that made so-called cheap oil and cheap labor possible is vastly higher than investment in advanced research and next-generation manufacturing.
Using Misinformation as a political weapon: COVID-19 and Bolsonaro in Brazil (HKS Misinformation Review, April 17, 2020)
With over 30,000 confirmed cases -as of April 16th- Brazil is currently the country most affected by COVID-19 in Latin America, and ranked 12th worldwide. Despite all evidence, a strong rhetoric undermining risks associated to COVID-19 has been endorsed at the highest levels of the Brazilian government, making President Jair Bolsonaro the leader of the “coronavirus-denial movement”. To support this strategy, different forms of misinformation and disinformation have been leveraged to lead a dangerous crusade against scientific and evidence-based recommendations.
His election mirrors the process of rise of right-wing populist leaders who came to power in other countries during the past decade16. Bolsonaro successfully mobilized part of society against an “enemy” to be beaten (primarily the “left” or “communists”, among others), normalizing discriminatory discourses, while leveraging the capillarity of social media. Several candidates in the 2018 presidential race used mass messaging services on WhatsApp (one of the most popular communication apps in Brazil) offered by the company Yacows for their campaigns. Bolsonaro’s campaign particularly stood out among the candidates because of its massive and orchestrated use of disinformation, and the fact that it was financed by private companies (which is currently prohibited in Brazil), as shown in several investigations published by the national and international media. As the Folha de São Paulo newspaper has reported, the content was spread both from outside the country, as well as from Brazilian telemarketing companies. The collaboration of Steve Bannon, former vice president of Cambridge Analytica, is a strong indication that Bolsonaro’s campaign has acquired databases for the distribution of messages to targeted micro-segments of the electorate.
Since the beginning of his term, Bolsonaro has remained an agent of information disorder, leveraging his massive audience and making recurring use of bots. He also uses what Giuliano Da Empoli calls “saturation of the public debate” with controversial and false statements.
The Mystery of a Medieval Blue Ink Has Been Solved. (Atlas Obscura, April 17, 2020)
Turns out it was hiding in plain sight by the side of a Portuguese road.
China’s Economy Shrinks, Ending a Nearly Half-Century of Growth. (New York Times, April 16, 2020)
The contraction comes at a time when the rest of the world needs an economic boost, underscoring how momentous the task of reviving the global economy will be.
What caused the coronavirus? A skeptical take on the theories about the outbreak’s Chinese origin. (Washington Post, April 16, 2020)
Of all the mysteries about the novel coronavirus, its origin excites the most fervent debate. At the outbreak’s beginning, there were conspiracy theories that the virus was man-made; recently, questions have focused on whether a natural virus was accidentally spread through research.
Carnival Executives Knew They Had a Virus Problem, But Kept the Party Going. (Bloomberg, April 16, 2020)
More than 1,500 people on the company’s cruise ships have been diagnosed with Covid-19, and dozens have died.
Jitsi Meet (Free Software Foundation, April 16, 2020)
Go ahead, video chat with the whole team. In fact, invite everyone you know. Jitsi Meet is a fully encrypted, 100% open source video conferencing solution that you can use all day, every day, for free — with no account needed.
What else can you do with Jitsi Meet? Share your desktop, presentations, and more Invite users to a conference via a simple, custom URL Edit documents together using Etherpad Pick fun meeting URLs for every meeting Trade messages and emojis while you video conference, with integrated chat.
[MMS videoconferences using Jitsi Meet, without any special software. To begin, browse meet.jit.si using open-source Chromium.]
Secret Military Task Force Prepares to Secure the U.S. Capital. (Newsweek, April 16, 2020)
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser yesterday ordered a one-month extension of the state of emergency, as cases in the region grow at a rapid pace. Federal officials in the nation's capital expect a New York-like epidemic in the District, Maryland and Virginia, one that could potentially cripple the government.
Activated on March 16, Joint Task Force National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) is chartered to "defend" Washington on land, in the air, and even on its waterfronts. The special task force, the only one of its kind in the country, demonstrates how there are two sides of government preparedness. The public face, and even the day-to-day work of most men and women assigned to JTF-NCR, is the same as it is everywhere else in the country—medical support, delivering supplies, manning health-check stations. But behind the scenes, JTF-NCR is responsible for what the military calls "homeland defense": what to do in the face of an armed attack on the United States, everything from guarding Washington's skies to preparing for the civil unrest that could occur if a nuclear weapon were detonated in the capital. But most immediate, JTF-NCR is charged with facilitating continuity of government, particularly moving civil and military leaders to secret locations were the order given to evacuate the city.
Ever since National Guards started to activate countrywide, Pentagon officials have insisted that men and women in uniform are not conducting secret missions and that they will not administer or enforce "stay at home" quarantines. The Pentagon has also rejected reports, including articles in Newsweek, about martial law or other extreme contingency plans, arguing that the Guard remains under strict control of state governors, while federal troops support civil agencies like FEMA.
And yet the activation of Joint Task Force National Capital Region, including almost 10,000 uniformed personnel to carry out its special orders, contradicts those assurances. JTF-NCR is not only real and operating, reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense for some of its mission, but some of its units are already on 24/7 alert, specially sequestered on military bases and kept out of coronavirus support duties to ensure their readiness.
NEW: What scientists know about Covid-19 immunity can help us fight the pandemic. (Quartz, April 16, 2020)
As of April 8, there are over 100 Covid-19 vaccines in development, using a variety of tactics to prompt the immune system into action. Vaccines show the immune system a biological mugshot of the pathogen: Some use proteins and peptides, others use bits of genetic material encapsulated in other viruses, and others use weakened or immobile bits of the pathogenic virus itself.
The resulting race likely won’t have a single winner, but rather a handful. “It’s possible that out of the 50 or 80 candidates, there could be three or four that could be effective,” says Mark Poznansky, an immunologist and director of the vaccine and immunotherapy center at Mass. General Hospital. This is the best case scenario: More kinds of vaccines mean that more people can receive them, safely.
But testing, treatments, and vaccine development will all need to stay abreast of continual updates in our understanding of the virus. “We’re after a moving target,” said Poznansky. “Fundamentally viruses have been infecting humans for millions of years, so it’s unlikely this represents a new type of battle. But because there’s a lack of immunity in most of the population of humans, it’s like a vast, horrendous experiment on our immune systems.”
NEW: A New Statistic Reveals Why America’s COVID-19 Numbers Are Flat. (The Atlantic, April 16, 2020)
Few figures tell you anything useful about how the coronavirus has spread through the U.S. Its U.S. test-positivity rate does.
Because the number of Americans tested for COVID-19 has changed over time, the U.S. test-positivity rate can’t yet provide much detailed information about the contagiousness or fatality rate of the disease. But the statistic can still give a rough sense of how bad a particular outbreak is by distinguishing between places undergoing very different sizes of epidemics, Andrews said. A country with a 25 percent positivity rate and one with a 2 percent positivity rate are facing “vastly different epidemics,” he said, and the 2 percent country is better off.
In that light, America’s 20 percent positivity rate is disquieting. The U.S. did almost 25 times as many tests on April 15 as on March 15, yet both the daily positive rate and the overall positive rate went up in that month. According to the Tracking Project’s figures, nearly one in five people who get tested for the coronavirus in the United States is found to have it. In other words, the country has what is called a “test-positivity rate” of nearly 20 percent. That is “very high,” Jason Andrews, an infectious-disease professor at Stanford, told us. Such a high test-positivity rate almost certainly means that the U.S. is not testing everyone who has been infected with the pathogen, because it implies that doctors are testing only people with a very high probability of having the infection. People with milder symptoms, to say nothing of those with none at all, are going undercounted. Countries that test broadly should encounter far more people who are not infected than people who are, so their test-positivity rate should be lower. 
The positivity rate is not the same as the proportion of COVID-19 cases in the American population at large, a metric called “prevalence.”* Nobody knows the true number of Americans who have been exposed to or infected with the coronavirus, though attempts to produce much sharper estimates of that figure through blood testing are under way. Prevalence is a crucial number for epidemiologists, in part because it lets them calculate a pathogen’s true infection-fatality rate: the number of people who die after becoming infected.
If the United States were testing more people, we would probably still be seeing an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. And combined with the high test-positivity rate, it suggests that the reservoir of unknown, uncounted cases of COVID-19 across the country is still very large.
Each of those uncounted cases is a small tragedy and a microcosm of all the ways the U.S. testing infrastructure is still failing. When Sarah Pavis, a 36-year-old engineer in New York, woke up on Tuesday, she was out of breath and her heart was racing. An hour of deep breathing failed to calm her pulse. When her extremities started tingling, she called 911. It was her ninth day of COVID-19 symptoms. New York City’s positivity rate is an astonishing 55 percent. More than 111,000 of the city’s residents have lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, but Pavis is not among them. When the ambulance arrived at Pavis’s apartment, an EMS worker took her vitals, then explained there was little he could do to help. The city’s hospitals only admitted people with a blood-oxygen level of 94 percent or lower, he said. Pavis’s blood-oxygen reading was 96 percent. That 2 percent difference meant that her illness was not serious enough to merit hospitalization, not serious enough to be tested, not serious enough to be counted.
Trump Says States Can Start Reopening While Acknowledging the Decision Is Theirs. (New York Times, April 16, 2020)
President Trump told the nation’s governors on Thursday that they could begin reopening businesses, restaurants and other elements of daily life by May 1 or earlier if they wanted to, but abandoned his threat to use what he had claimed was his absolute authority to impose his will on them. At the evening briefing, the president conceded that the choice of how and when to reopen the country would not be his. “If they need to remain closed,” he said, “we will allow them to do that.” Mr. Trump’s choice of words amounted to a significant reversal only three days after he insisted that “the president of the United States calls the shots” and that he had the “total” authority to decide how and when the country would end widespread lockdowns. Several governors rebelled at the notion, defying Mr. Trump’s assertion of unilateral power and declaring that they would come to their own conclusions.
On a day when the nation’s death toll from the coronavirus increased by more than 2,000 for a total over 30,000, the president released a set of nonbinding guidelines that envisioned a slow return to work and school over weeks or months. The guidelines released by the president effectively mean that any restoration of American society will take place on a patchwork basis.
The guidelines envision proceeding without the comprehensive testing program that many public health experts have sought and opened the president to criticism that in his eagerness to start rebuilding a cratered economy, he may have encouraged some states to move too quickly and leave themselves exposed to a second wave of the coronavirus. Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed the guidelines even as she pushed for more testing. “The White House’s vague and inconsistent document does nothing to make up for the president’s failure to listen to the scientists and produce and distribute national rapid testing,” she said in a statement.
The 18-page document released by the White House provided mostly general guidance and did not confront some difficult questions, including how to finance the billions of dollars necessary for expanded testing; whether travel should be restricted between states; when the ban on international travel from Europe and elsewhere would be lifted; and how the states should deal with future shortages of protective equipment if the virus resurged in the fall.
The president said a little more than three weeks ago that he wanted to reopen the country by Easter, April 12, then changed the date to May 1 before declaring that when to do it would be “the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make.” He has repeatedly lurched from one position to another as his administration has struggled to confront what he calls an “invisible enemy.” For weeks, he played down the threat from the coronavirus, predicting it would “miraculously” disappear in warm weather. As the number of cases overwhelmed some hospitals, Mr. Trump blamed governors for failing to prepare, even as he claimed credit for federal help that was slow to arrive.
The federal guidelines, which recommend phased reopenings depending on case levels and hospital capacity, came as governors were already setting their own courses. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced that the state’s sweeping shutdown would last until at least May 15, while Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio said he planned to begin lifting restrictions on public activities starting May 1. Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin said residents must stay at home until May 26, and in Missouri, Kansas City and St. Louis County both extended similar orders. A bipartisan group of governors from the Midwest that included Mr. DeWine and Mr. Evers announced the formation of a regional coalition to weigh next steps, which the governors said would be “fact-based” and “data-driven.” Other coalition members include Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana and Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky. States elsewhere in the country with fewer cases and smaller, more rural and more distant populations may take their cue from Mr. Trump and begin moving to lift restrictions.
The fitful movement toward reopening came as another 5.2 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits, bringing the total number of people put out of work in the past four weeks to a staggering 22 million. Facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression only six months before an election, Mr. Trump has felt enormous pressure to get business restarted and put Americans back to work. A federal loan program intended to help small businesses keep workers on their payrolls has proved woefully insufficient. The administration said Thursday that the Paycheck Protection Program had run out of money, leaving millions of businesses unable to apply for the loans while Congress struggled to reach a deal to replenish the funds.
Could Trump Be Criminally Liable for His Deadly Mishandling of Coronavirus? (Newsweek, April 16, 2020)
As Dr. Anthony Fauci has said, it didn't have to be this bad in the U.S. The world's richest country with the strongest economy and a population of 330 million people has more coronavirus cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any other country, including China, whose population is more than four times larger. The U.S. accounts for just 4.2 percent of the world's population but 30 percent of COVID-19 cases and 19 percent of COVID-19 deaths. In 12 other countries, the virus's spread has slowed. China is returning to work while the U.S. remains shut down.
The U.S would have experienced fewer deaths and less economic damage had the federal government been better prepared—or simply as prepared as some other countries, even smaller and poorer ones.
While China provided thousands of virus-fighting supplies to countries on three continents, including all 54 African nations, the U.S. was so short it had to ask other countries for help. Publicly, Trump boasted, "We have so many companies making so many products" and "We have millions of masks being done. We have respirators. We have ventilators." Privately, he called South Korean President Moon Jae-in for supplies, though the call doesn't appear in the White House call readout.
Many U.S. deaths—now over 28,000—and much economic damage could have been avoided if Trump hadn't crippled U.S. biodefense capabilities. Obama officials said they presented incoming Trump officials with a pandemic simulation, but Trump's team ignored it, "convinced they knew more than the outgoing administration." Trump also ignored multiple warnings that cutting pandemic defense would expose Americans to the "significant probability of a large and lethal modern-day pandemic," that that U.S. capacity wasn't "sufficient to fight many types of infectious disease outbreaks," and that unless he invested more in biodefense now, we'd pay much more in "human and economic costs" later.
Undeterred, Trump's fiscal year 2019 White House budget proposal cut funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and a $30 million emergency response fund. Trump fired Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert, who advocated strengthening our pandemic defenses. Trump's National Security Council adviser disbanded our entire pandemic response team and never replaced it. When the World Health Organization (WHO) urged global testing and sent test kits to 120 countries, the CDC failed to request any.
The results were catastrophic. Large-scale testing needed to identify hot spots and implement early quarantines never materialized. The U.S. suffered acute shortages of test kits, and many of the kits the CDC did produce were unusable. The CDC briefly posted 472 test results on its website, then removed the figure because it paled in comparison to other countries. Ventilators and the drugs needed to use them, as well as nasal swabs for testing, are running out. Protective equipment is so scarce, health care professionals have to wash and reuse masks. States compete against one another and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for supplies, bidding up prices, because the federal government failed to centralize procurement and distribution.
In 2009, H1N1 influenza triggered the largest federal distribution ever, sending respirators, protective masks, gowns and gloves to the states. Yet Trump told governors that the federal government is "not a shipping clerk" and that states should procure their own supplies. That's an unconscionable abdication of responsibility. The Defense Production Act authorizes the president to force production and distribution of materials needed in a crisis precisely because it's a federal responsibility.
Having failed to control the massive spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump turned to massive misinformation and scapegoating. He's attempted to shift blame to Obama, governors, Democrats, the media and, most bizarrely, the WHO, whose funding he recently suspended. He predicted the mortality rate "within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero," that it would "disappear like a miracle," and claimed that "we're very close to a vaccine," which Fauci and the WHO said would take a year to 18 months at best. Trump assured the public he had COVID-19 "totally under control," that everybody "infected is getting better," and suggested the common flu was worse.
Such misdirection and false statements have led more Americans to eschew caution and subject themselves to more infection and death. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said her city would have canceled Mardi Gras if Washington had taken the outbreak more seriously and sent clearer signals. Orleans Parish now has the highest per capita death rate of any U.S. county.
The definition of involuntary or negligent manslaughter encompasses unintended killing through negligence, as well as knowledge that one's actions pose a risk to life. Irresponsible actions or failure to perform a duty can constitute the crime. Do Trump's actions and omissions rise to that level? Ask the families of the 28,000 Americans and counting who have died.
NEW: How does the coronavirus work? (MIT Technology Review, April 15, 2020)
What it is, where it comes from, how it hurts us, and how we fight it.
Bill Gates says Trump's decision to halt World Health Organzation funding is 'as dangerous as it sounds'. (CNN, April 15, 2020)
"Their work is slowing the spread of Covid-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever," the Microsoft founder and philanthropist said in a tweet. The WHO declared coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern in late January and a week later, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged up to $100 million to help contain the outbreak. Bill Gates, who since March cautioned about the effects of delayed social distancing measures, urged the United States to implement a country-wide shutdown, saying a state-by-state strategy wouldn't work as effectively.
"If you don't want many more body bags, then please refrain from politicizing it. My short message is: Please quarantine politicizing Covid. The unity of your country will be very important to defeat this dangerous virus," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Gates' concerns over the president's announcement echoed ones made by the American Medical Association on Tuesday, which also called Trump's decision "dangerous." "During the worst public health crisis in a century, halting funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) is a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will not make defeating Covid-19 easier," the association's president, Dr. Patrice Harris, said in a statement. Harris urged Trump to reconsider, saying AMA was "deeply concerned by this decision and its wide-ranging ramifications."
Republicans Endorse Biden. (Daily Kos, April 15, 2020)
Lots of stories out about former President Obama endorsing Joe Biden, Bernie endorsing Biden, Warren endorsing Biden, pretty much every Democratic candidate for the nomination has stepped up to endorse him. (Even Tulsi Gabbard did so a month ago.) So now people are asking, what about Republicans? Especially “Never Trumpers”? Well, that dam is also starting to crack. The Lincoln Project posted this op-ed in the Washington Post today by George Conway, Reed Galen, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and Rick Wilson: "We’ve never backed a Democrat for president. But Trump must be defeated."
The Lincoln Project says its mission is to defeat President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box. "We do not undertake this task lightly nor from ideological preference. Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain. However, the priority for all patriotic Americans must be a shared fidelity to the Constitution and a commitment to defeat those candidates who have abandoned their constitutional oaths, regardless of party. Electing Democrats who support the Constitution over Republicans who do not is a worthy effort."
[Also see the Lincoln Project's New York Times op-ed on December 17, 2019, below.]
Insects are being deployed in the war against invasive species in Connecticut. (Connecticut, April 15, 2020)
The emerald ash borer was first discovered in the U.S. in 2002 near Detroit, and it slowly expanded into ash forests in nearby states. It was found in New York in 2008 and Connecticut and Massachusetts in 2012, though it probably arrived a few years earlier. Although its rampage through the region isn’t expected to end before every mature ash tree is dead, scientists hope that efforts to control the insect by releasing the parasitic wasps will allow future generations of the trees to fend off the invader.
Non-native insects and plants have been invading the U.S. for more than a century, costing billions of dollars and causing significant ecological harm. Removing these invaders by conventional means — the application of chemical pesticides and herbicides or manual removal of plants — is a labor-intensive exercise that seldom works for long. And although biological control does not completely eliminate the problem either, practitioners say it is a self-sustaining strategy that is cost-effective and causes less harm to the environment than chemical methods.
Think This Pandemic Is Bad? We Have Another Crisis Coming. (New York Times, April 15, 2020)
On the last Friday in March, I lost hope.
I have always believed in America: not in our inherent goodness — I am too black for that — but in our sheer animal will to survive. Crisis after crisis, our country has evolved to meet the moment, even if that meant changing the way we thought the world worked or striving to upend the imbalance of power. But on that Friday, I was on my couch working when the messages started to pour in. Friends sent me video after video of Republican senators debating stimulus measures to address the coronavirus crisis, standing in the Senate chamber, saying that the Green New Deal — a proposal that I helped create — was the reason millions of Americans would not receive the help that they need.
I was furious. Of the nearly $2 trillion in aid proposed in that first version of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act, $500 billion went toward a business-relief fund with little to no oversight. Fifty-eight billion of this was earmarked for airlines, and a lax definition of eligible businesses created a loophole for oil and gas. The bill included no climate protections, so the claim that it was being held up over Green New Deal provisions was absurd. And the changes proposed by Democrats — emissions reductions for airlines, limiting bailouts for fossil fuel industries, protections for airline workers — were modest.
The senators I saw did not mention those things. Nor did they mention that the airlines had requested $50 billion after spending $45 billion on stock buybacks over the past five years. They did not mention that emissions reductions requested would not be required until 2025 or that when they were, the reductions would be less than 3 percent per year. And no one stood up and asked why corporations should be exempt from loan terms when the rest of us are not. Why is it “opportunism” when we try to design policy that would address more than one problem at a time, but it’s “efficiency” when businesses do the same? (The final version of the CARES Act does not provide targeted funding for fossil fuels and reduced the aid for passenger airlines to $25 billion. None of the climate policies mentioned were included in the final version of the bill.)
Covid-19 and the economic collapse it has caused have laid bare how connected our problems are. Congress and the Federal Reserve are not going to lay out trillions of dollars, over and over, in perpetuity. Refusing to include measures related to climate and environmental justice in economic stimulus packages related to the coronavirus is not neutral when there is no guarantee of other opportunities to do so later. We need to design the stimulus not only to help the U.S. economy recover but to also become more resilient to the climate crisis, the next multitrillion-dollar crisis headed our way.
Addressing climate change is a big-enough idea to revive the economy.
New York Orders Residents to Wear Masks in Public. (New York Times, April 15, 2020)
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said all New Yorkers must wear face coverings when social distancing is not possible, including on public transport, in stores and on crowded sidewalks.
Ivanka Trump, Disregarding Federal Guidelines, Travels to N.J. for Passover. (New York Times, April 15, 2020)
Testing Falls Woefully Short as Trump Seeks an End to Stay-at-Home Orders. (New York Times, April 15, 2020)
Flawed tests, scarce supplies and limited access to screening have hurt the U.S.’s ability to monitor Covid-19, governors and health officials warn.
Locast Offers Free Local TV - No Antenna, No Cable, No Problem. (Ask Bob Rankin, April 15, 2020)
Locast takes broadcast TV signals from the air and converts them to streamable Internet content. A subscriber can stream content to their computer, TV, Roku, smartphone, or other device, enabling them to watch favorite shows anywhere or record them for later viewing. Yes, that means you can watch The Price is Right, Judge Judy, or local news broadcasts, even if you don't have an antenna on the roof, or cable TV service.
Copyright law restricts nonprofit re-transmissions to local markets in which a nonprofit’s antenna receives broadcast signals. So unlike Aereo, Locast sets up physical facilities in each market it chooses to serve. Since launching in New York City in January, 2018, Locast has expanded to Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Rapid City, San Francisco, Seattle, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, and Washington DC. Those markets include 36% of U.S. TV households, or about 42 million people.
Under the microscope: Just a splash of seawater (Dive-Shield, April 15, 2020)
Scoop up a bucket of seawater (or swallow a mouthful) and this is what you get: a bizarre menagerie of plants and animals, some of them known to us, others a complete mystery. The Earth's open seas are home to countless tiny animals and plants that are known collectively as plankton.
This extraordinary photograph shows a random splash of seawater, magnified 25 times.
[Or is it a sketch with dabs of water-color? But good!]
What the Administration is Missing About Huawei and 5G (The Standards Blog, April 15, 2020)
A few weeks ago it seemed likely that the US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”), would issue new guidance that might free standards setting organizations (SSOs) from the difficult position they have found themselves in for almost a year. But that didn’t happen. Instead, most SSOs have concluded that they still cannot allow Huawei and its affiliated companies to return to the working groups that are creating the essential standards that will make the roll-out of 5G networks become possible.
How much does that matter in the context of the overall U.S.-Chinese confrontation? The answer is a great deal, as continuing to bar Huawei and other Chinese telecom giants from standards development may weaponize the patent portfolios of those companies in a way that could prove disastrous for the U.S. and other Western nations.
Apple: We respect your privacy so much we've revealed a little about what we can track when you use Maps. (The Register, April 15, 2020)
But we've only done it to help governments understand that virus thing you may have heard about lately.
April 2020 and – rest assured – your Windows PC can still be pwned by something so innocuous as an unruly font. (The Register, April 14, 2020)
Adobe and Intel add their woes.
We lost another good one: Mathematician John Conway loses Game of Life, taken by coronavirus at 82. (The Register, April 14, 2020)
British mathematician checks out.
Explore Two of Pompeii’s Newly-Excavated Homes in This Virtual Tour. (8-min. drone video; Mental Floss, April 14, 2020)
See drone footage of two middle-class houses and surrounding ruins, along with Italian commentary that explains what exactly you’re looking at and what types of people lived there in 79 AD. You can read a separate English translation.
Massive forest fires around Chernobyl power station put out. (New York Post, April 14, 2020)
Crews have prevented the flames from engulfing the radioactive waste sites in Chernobyl.
Officials said they registered short-term rises in Caesium-137 particles in the Kiev area about 60 miles south of the plant, but that radiation levels were within normal limits overall. They did not say why the particle levels rose.
Last week, officials said they tracked down a 27-year-old man suspected of igniting dry grass in the area. The man said he burned grass “for fun” and then failed to extinguish the flames when the wind caused them to spread.
[Hey, everybody needs a hobby.]
Coronavirus Has Paralyzed Europe’s Far Right. (Foreign Policy, April 14, 2020)
The continent's borders are closed, like extreme nationalists always wanted—but they're one of the pandemic's victims anyway.
Mapped: The World’s Ultra-Rich, by Country (Visual Capitalist, April 14, 2020)
The Wisconsin Results Should Worry Republicans Everywhere. (New York Magazine, April 14, 2020)
My initial reaction to the upset win by Jill Karofsky in Wisconsin’s officially nonpartisan but intensely ideological State Supreme Court election was all about karma: Republicans went to epic lengths to hold down turnout (including forcing citizens to vote in public despite the need for social distancing!) in order to reelect conservative judge Daniel Kelly, and lost anyway.
Indeed, they lost badly, as the final returns indicated, with Karofsky winning by ten points, achieving the standard definition of a landslide in a state where virtually every recent election has been close. Given Wisconsin’s key role in electing Donald Trump in 2016, and its potential status as a tipping-point state this year, the judicial results may have more national significance than one might immediately discern.
T]he scope and nature of Kelly’s defeat was historically humiliating. No incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court justice had been defeated since 2008, when a conservative challenger ousted liberal justice Louis Butler. That victory turned out to be part of a remarkable run for conservatives who would go on to build a 5-2 majority on the court. (It will now be 4-3.) And until Monday night, no incumbent conservative justice appointed by a Republican governor had been defeated.
Wisconsin’s map on Monday night looked like a dream general election result for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee — stronger than typical for Democrats in the suburbs, and a respectable showing among the state’s blue-collar white voters in rural counties.
Vote and Die: Covering Voter Suppression during the Coronavirus Pandemic (Nieman Reports, April 14, 2020)
The United States has a long history of disenfranchisement and voter suppression; struggles to achieve full voting rights are targeted by disinformation campaigns to keep already marginalized voters home on Election Day. As more of our political communication moves online, concern grows that misleading information is being micro-targeted to impact national and local elections. Research indicates that online voter suppression campaigns are tailored across race, class, and age. But, there is a gap in understanding how Covid-19 or health disparities may contribute to voter suppression
Journalists must cut through rampant disinformation around the pandemic to robustly report on efforts to suppress voting and delegitimize election results.
Trump declares himself a dictator. Blue-state governors organize. A breakup is now on the table. (Daily Kos, April 14, 2020)
Trump: "When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that's the way it's gotta be. It's total." Declaring his power “total” and claiming the states couldn’t do anything without his approval was just another whole level of delusional. Asked where such power derived, he said “We are going to write up papers on this. It's not going to be necessary because the governors need us one way or the other. Because ultimately it comes with the federal government.” Don’t ask what the hell he’s talking about. Even he doesn’t know.
We saw in Wisconsin how both their state Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court were happy to subvert democracy for their own partisan gains. The move backfired, Democrats won anyway, but it shows that we cannot depend on the judicial branch to defend our democracy.
California, which already calls itself a “nation-state,” has joined with Oregon and Washington to forge regional consensus on both the response to the pandemic, as well as how to best open their economies back up. (Hawaii shouldn’t be too far behind.) The same has happened in the East Coast, with New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts banding together. It is beyond remarkable that states have been forced to join for collective action because of the rank failure of Trump and the federal government. This isn’t just a difference of opinion, this is responding to Trump’s “I am in charge and my power is absolute” insanity with a big, fat, “screw-you.”
But it’s even more than that—it’s the seeds to something history-altering dramatic, a hint to what might happen if conservatives decide to overtly subvert democracy this November.
U.S. Governors Defy Trump by Forming Regional Alliances. (Foreign Policy, April 14, 2020)
In a move that puts them at odds with the White House, the governors plan to chart their own path.
Der Spiegel on Trump's America: 'Is the world witnessing the collapse of a superpower?' (Daily Kos, April 13, 2020)
Hares and Chickens Were Revered as Gods—Not Food—in Ancient Britain. (Smithsonian Magazine, April 13, 2020)
New research indicates that Iron Age Britons venerated brown hares and chickens long before modern Easter celebrations.
Apollo 13: Enhanced 50-year-old images reveal life on stricken spacecraft. (BBC News, April 13, 2020)
Deadly olive tree disease across Europe 'could cost over €20-Billion'. (BBC News, April 13, 2020)
Spread by insects, the bacterium now poses a potential threat to olive plantations in Spain and Greece. The disease could increase the costs of olive oil for consumers.
Xylella is considered to be one of the most dangerous pathogens for plants anywhere in the world. The organism is transmitted by sap-sucking insects such as spittlebugs. At present there is no cure for the infection. It can infect cherry, almond and plum trees as well as olives. It has become closely associated with olives after a strain was discovered in trees in Puglia in Italy in 2013.
Wildfires edge closer to Chernobyl nuclear plant. (BBC News, April 13, 2020)
[While we are diverted, global warming continues.]
Boston COVID-19 Community Care (via Sierra Club/Massachusetts Chapter, April 13, 2020)
There are drastic differences in how this pandemic impacts various populations. Check out this comprehensive Massachusetts mutual aid spreadsheet to support those in need during this time, or to ask for what you need. There are sections on health (mental and physical), housing, childcare, location-specific aid resources, and more.
In 2015 TED Talk, Bill Gates predicted an epidemic would kill millions. Here’s what he says now. (9-min. and 19-min. videos; Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2020)
George Stephanopoulos and wife positive for COVID-19. He's asymptomatic; she's 'never been sicker'. (Daily Kos, April 13, 2020)
Other TV News anchors also affected. Iceland reports 50% of COVID-1 positives are asymptomatic.
Airborne COVID-19 virus can travel 13 feet, Wuhan study suggests. (SF Gate, April 13, 2020)
“The aerosol distribution characteristics … indicate that the transmission distance of [COVID-19] might be 4 m (meters),” the report says. “Furthermore, half of the samples from the soles of the ICU medical staff shoes tested positive. Therefore, the soles of medical staff shoes might function as carriers.”
NEW: Life Under Lockdown in Wuhan, China (Bloomberg News, April 13, 2020)
Professional photographer Daniel Xie documented the eerie desolation of the quarantined city.
Stockpile of 39 million masks exposed as fake. (SF Gate, April 13, 2020)
A major California labor union that claimed to have discovered a stockpile of 39 million masks for health care workers fighting the coronavirus was duped in an elaborate scam uncovered by FBI investigators.
Investigators stumbled onto the scheme while looking into whether they could intercept the masks for the Federal Emergency Management Agency under the Defense Production Act. The federal government has been quietly seizing supplies across the country as the outbreak spreads. But in this case, there was no warehouse, and there were no masks to seize. Investigators tracked the tip back to a Pittsburgh businessman, who said he had been working with the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West to secure millions of masks. The businessman had been using WhatsApp to connect with a broker in Australia and a supplier in Kuwait, who are both now the target of a federal investigation.
One month after Rose Garden speech, Trump's pandemic response is near collapse. (Daily Kos, April 13, 2020)
The grand total of testing sites now, one month later? A National Public Radio report says the total has increased from five to eight.
We can't say that the failure is surprising. It has been clear, every week of the pandemic, that Trump's interest lies in making grandiose claims about his successes, not in actually succeeding. While even the most marginally competent leader might see a grand total of eight testing sites as an abject failure of a much-vaunted program, find the failure humiliating or infuriating, and seek to take action to remedy that failure, Trump's response is to continue to assert success while ignoring all such evidence.
The federal emergency response to a pandemic is in chaos, with nearly all aspects having so far collapsed. And Trump is a liar; he stood in the Rose Garden and lied, outright, about efforts that he and his administration never even bothered to further pursue.
Trump says it's his call when to ease virus rules, not governors', and threatens to fire Dr. Fauci. (Associated Press, April 13, 2020)
President Donald Trump claimed the authority Monday to decide how and when to reopen the economy after weeks of tough social distancing guidelines aimed at fighting the new coronavirus. But governors from both parties were quick to push back, noting they have the primary constitutional responsibility for ensuring public safety in their states and would decide when it's safe to begin a return to normal operations.
Trump's claim that he could force governors to reopen their states represents a dramatic shift in tone. For weeks now, Trump has argued that states, not the federal government, should lead the response to the crisis. And he has refused to publicly pressure states to enact stay-at-home restrictions, citing his belief in local control of government.
Trump's frustration was amplified by comments made by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's nation’s top infectious diseases expert. Asked Sunday on CNN if acting earlier could have saved lives, Fauci said that, "obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated.”
Trump responded by reposting a tweet that referenced Fauci’s comments and included the line, “Time to #FireFauci," raising alarms that Trump might consider trying to oust the doctor. Fauci, 79, has served in both Democratic and Republican administrations and has emerged as one of the most recognizable and trusted faces of the federal government’s response.
NEW: The U.S. Postal Service Has Never Been More Important, or More Endangered. (Bloomberg, April 13, 2020)
The agency was already facing tumbling mail volume, financial losses, and hostility from Washington. And then coronavirus hit.
Independents are abandoning Trump. (Daily Kos, April 13, 2020)
Independents disapprove of Trump’s coronavirus performance in every state, and by large margins in the key battlegrounds of Arizona (36-62, or a -26 net approvals), Florida (-8), Georgia (-23), Michigan (-13), North Carolina (-18), Pennsylvania (-17), and Wisconsin (-24). In every one of these states, those numbers have fallen in the last two weeks. It’s a uniform nationwide realization that maybe, just maybe, the country isn’t going in the right direction.
How Mitch McConnell Became Trump’s Enabler-in-Chief (The New Yorker, April 13, 2020)
The Senate Majority Leader’s refusal to rein in the President is looking riskier than ever.
On Thursday, March 12th, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, could have insisted that he and his colleagues work through the weekend to hammer out an emergency aid package addressing the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, he recessed the Senate for a long weekend, and returned home to Louisville, Kentucky. McConnell, a seventy-eight-year-old Republican who is about to complete his sixth term as a senator, planned to attend a celebration for a protégé, Justin Walker, a federal judge who was once his Senate intern. McConnell has helped install nearly two hundred conservatives as judges; stocking the judiciary has been his legacy project.
McConnell, who is known as one of the wiliest politicians in Washington, soon reframed the narrative as a personal success story. In Kentucky, where he is running for reëlection, he launched a campaign ad about the bill’s passage, boasting, “One leader brought our divided country together.” At the same time, he attacked the Democrats, telling a radio host that the impeachment of Trump had “diverted the attention of the government” when the epidemic was in its early stages. In fact, several senators—including Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, and Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut—had raised alarms about the virus nearly two months before the Administration acted, whereas Trump had told reporters around the same time that he was “not concerned at all.” And on February 27th, some three weeks after the impeachment trial ended, McConnell had defended the Administration’s response, accusing Democrats of “performative outrage” when they demanded more emergency funding.
Many have regarded McConnell’s support for Trump as a stroke of cynical political genius. McConnell has seemed to be both protecting his caucus and covering his flank in Kentucky—a deep-red state where, perhaps not coincidentally, Trump is far more popular than he is. When the pandemic took hold, the President’s standing initially rose in national polls, and McConnell and Trump will surely both take credit for the aid package in the coming months. Yet, as COVID-19 decimates the economy and kills Americans across the nation, McConnell’s alliance with Trump is looking riskier.
 Indeed, some critics argue that McConnell bears a singular responsibility for the country’s predicament. They say that he knew from the start that Trump was unequipped to lead in a crisis, but, because the President was beloved by the Republican base, McConnell protected him. He even went so far as to prohibit witnesses at the impeachment trial, thus guaranteeing that the President would remain in office.
Trump was the moral test, and the Republican Party failed. It’s an utter disaster for the long-term fate of the Party. The Party has become an obsession with power without purpose.
Bill Kristol, a formerly stalwart conservative who has become a leading Trump critic, describes McConnell as “a pretty conventional Republican who just decided to go along and get what he could out of Trump.” Under McConnell’s leadership, the Senate, far from providing a check on the executive branch, has acted as an accelerant. “Demagogues like Trump, if they can get elected, can’t really govern unless they have people like McConnell,” Kristol said. McConnell has stayed largely silent about the President’s lies and inflammatory public remarks, and has propped up the Administration with legislative and judicial victories.
McConnell and the President are not a natural pair. A former Trump Administration official, who has also worked in the Senate, observed, “It would be hard to find two people less alike in temperament in the political arena. With Trump, there’s rarely an unspoken thought. McConnell is the opposite—he’s constantly thinking but says as little as possible.” The former Administration official went on, “Trump is about winning the day, or even the hour. McConnell plays the long game. He’s sensitive to the political realities. His North Star is continuing as Majority Leader—it’s really the only thing for him. He’s patient, sly, and will obfuscate to make less apparent the ways he’s moving toward a goal.” The two men also have different political orientations: “Trump is a populist—he’s not just anti-élitist, he’s anti-institutionalist.” As for McConnell, “no one with a straight face would ever call him a populist—Trump came to drain the swamp, and now he’s working with the biggest swamp creature of them all.”
When Trump ran for President, he frequently derided “the corrupt political establishment,” saying that Wall Street titans were “getting away with murder” by paying no taxes. In a furious campaign ad, images of the New York Stock Exchange and the C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs flashed onscreen as he promised an end to the élites who had “bled our country dry.” In interviews, he denounced his opponents for begging wealthy donors for campaign contributions, arguing that, if “somebody gives them money,” then “just psychologically, when they go to that person they’re going to do it—they owe him.”
McConnell, by contrast, is the master of the Washington money machine. Nobody has done more than he has to engineer the current campaign-finance system, in which billionaires and corporations have virtually no spending limits, and self-dealing and influence-peddling are commonplace. Rick Wilson, a Never Trumper Republican and a former political consultant who once worked on races with McConnell’s team, said, “McConnell’s an astounding behind-the-scenes operator who’s got control of the most successful fund-raising operation in history.” Former McConnell staffers run an array of ostensibly independent spending groups, many of which take tens of millions of dollars from undisclosed donors. Wilson considers McConnell, who has been Majority Leader since 2015, a realist who does whatever is necessary to preserve both his own political survival and the Republicans’ edge in the Senate, which now stands at 53–47. “He feels no shame about it,” he said. “McConnell has been the most powerful force normalizing Trump in Washington.”
McConnell’s political fealty to Trump has cost him the respect of some of the people who have known him the longest. McConnell also appears to have lost the political support of his three daughters. All three daughters declined to comment, as did their mother, Sherrill Redmon, whom McConnell divorced in 1980. After the marriage ended, Redmon, who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy, left Kentucky and took over a women’s-history archive at Smith College, in Massachusetts, where she collaborated with Gloria Steinem on the Voices of Feminism Oral History Project. In an e-mail, Steinem told me that Redmon rarely spoke about McConnell, and noted, “Despite Sherrill’s devotion to recording all of women’s lives, she didn’t talk about the earlier part of her own.” Steinem’s understanding was that McConnell’s political views had once been different. “I can only imagine how painful it must be to marry and have children with a democratic Jekyll and see him turn into a corrupt and authoritarian Hyde,” she wrote.
Although McConnell and Trump almost always support each other in public, several members of McConnell’s innermost circle told me that in private things are quite different. They say that behind Trump’s back McConnell has called the President “nuts,” and made clear that he considers himself smarter than Trump, and that he “can’t stand him.” (A spokesman for McConnell, who declined to be interviewed, denies this.)
In a forthcoming book, “Let Them Eat Tweets,” the political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson challenge the notion that the Republican Party is riven between global corporate élites and downscale white social conservatives. Rather, they argue, an “expedient pact” lies at the heart of today’s Party—and McConnell and Trump embody it. Polls show that there is little voter support for wealthy donors’ agenda of tax cuts for themselves at the expense of social-safety-net cuts for others. The Republicans’ 2017 tax bill was a case in point: it rewarded the Party’s biggest donors by bestowing more than eighty per cent of its largesse on the wealthiest one per cent, by cutting corporate tax rates, and by preserving the carried-interest loophole, which is exploited by private-equity firms and hedge funds. The legislation was unpopular with Democratic and Republican voters alike. In order to win elections, Hacker and Pierson explain, the Republican Party has had to form a coalition between corporatists and white cultural conservatives who are galvanized by Trump’s anti-élitist and racist rhetoric. The authors call this hybrid strategy Plutocratic Populism. Hacker told me that the relationship between McConnell and Trump offers “a clear illustration of how the Party has evolved,” adding, “They may detest each other, but they need each other.”
[That's just the start of this big, must-read article! I'll add the following little chunk, re 2017 actions leading to this year's Trump/McConnell Coronavirus Pandemic.]
The costs of the Senate’s dysfunction stretch in all directions, and include America’s vulnerability in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. For seven years after Obama’s signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act, passed, in 2010, Republicans in Congress tried at least sixty times to repeal it. In 2017, McConnell, who called it “the worst bill in modern history,” led the charge again and, among other things, personally introduced a little-noticed amendment to eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which provided grants to states for detecting and responding to infectious-disease outbreaks, among other things. The fund received approximately a billion dollars a year and constituted more than twelve per cent of the C.D.C.’s annual budget. Almost two-thirds of the money went to state and local health departments, including a program called Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases, in Kentucky.
Hundreds of health organizations, including the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, sent a letter to McConnell and other congressional leaders, warning them of “dire consequences” if the Prevention Fund was eliminated. Public-health programs dealing with infectious-disease outbreaks had never been restored to the levels they were at before the 2008 crash and were “critically underfunded.” The letter concluded, “Eliminating the Prevention Fund would be disastrous.”
In a column in Forbes, Judy Stone, an infectious-disease specialist, asked, “Worried about bird flu coming from Asia? Ebola? Zika? You damn well should be. Monitoring and control will be slashed by the Senate proposal and outbreaks of illness (infectious and other) will undoubtedly worsen.” The cuts, she wrote, were “unconscionable—particularly given that the savings will go to tax cuts for the wealthiest rather than meeting the basic health needs of the public.”
On July 28, 2017, a dramatic thumbs-down vote by Senator John McCain stopped Senate Republicans from eliminating the entire Affordable Care Act, including money for the Prevention Fund. McConnell and other Republicans subsequently tried again to gut the C.D.C. fund. Much of the funding survived, although some of it was later shifted, with bipartisan support, to cancer research and other activities. McConnell’s attempt to kill the fund was just a small piece of the Republicans’ much larger undermining of Obamacare. According to Jeff Levi, a professor of public health at George Washington University, one result of the Republicans’ efforts is that many Americans who lack insurance “will likely avoid getting tested and treated for COVID-19, because they fear the costs.”
Chinese Aircraft Carrier Sails into Pacific as State Media Mock U.S. Navy's Coronavirus Troubles. (Newsweek, April 13, 2020)
Nearly 600 USS Theodore Roosevelt Sailors Catch Coronavirus, Navy Evacuates Thousands From Aircraft Carrier. (Newsweek, April 13, 2020)
NEW: We Need to Talk About What Coronavirus Recoveries Look Like. (New York Times, April 13, 2020)
They’re a lot more complicated than most people realize.
When I tested positive for coronavirus on March 17, I didn’t know what to expect. Much remains unknown about the virus, and many of the symptoms I experienced, such as gastrointestinal issues and loss of smell, were only just being identified. In the weeks since, the world has learned more about what the virus’s symptoms can look like, but we still don’t know much about the long-term health impacts, the possibility of immunity, how long infected patients remain contagious, or what recovery looks like. We need to start paying closer attention to the stories of coronavirus survivors.
When I first came home from the hospital, I felt alone in my healing process. I wanted information, and to connect with others who shared my experience, so I started an online support group for people experiencing Covid-19 symptoms or recovering from the virus. Over the past two weeks, people from all over the world have joined. And one of the most common topics of discussion has been how complicated the recovery process has been — more complicated than is widely realized. People have shared stories of symptoms cycling on and off, and recoveries — even for mild cases — that have taken much longer than two weeks.
The Coronavirus Class Divide: Space and Privacy (New York Times, April 12, 2020)
“Shelter in place” is a dictate that assumes the existence of shelter — the safe, stable, controlled environment that poor people often lack.
Quantum Theory Proves That Consciousness Moves To Another Universe After Death? (Physics and Astronomy Zone, April 12, 2020)
A book titled “Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the Nature of the Universe” has stirred up the Internet, because it contained a notion that life does not end when the body dies, and it can last forever. The author of this publication, scientist Dr. Robert Lanza who was voted the 3rd most important scientist alive by the NY Times, has no doubts that this is possible.
Fox News host hits back at Trump over Chris Wallace criticism: 'Enough with the 3rd grade name-calling.' (The Hill, April 12, 2020)
White House rejects bailout for U.S. Postal Service battered by coronavirus. (Washington Post, April 11, 2020)
The pandemic has pushed USPS to the brink, but Trump and Mnuchin shot down emergency aid.
The secret weapon in the fight against coronavirus: women. (The Guardian, April 11, 2020)
What do Germany, Taiwan and New Zealand have in common? Well, they’ve all got female leaders and they’re all doing an exceptional job in their response to the coronavirus crisis. Denmark (ditto) and Finland (whose female prime minister is the head of a coalition whose four other parties are all led by women) are also doing noteworthy jobs in containing coronavirus.
Being a woman doesn’t make you better at handling a global pandemic – but women generally have to be better in order to become leaders.
He Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump’s Failure on the Virus (New York Times, April 11, 2020)
“Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion,” President Trump said last month. He has repeatedly said that no one could have seen the effects of the coronavirus coming. An examination reveals the president was warned about the potential for a pandemic but that internal divisions, lack of planning and his faith in his own instincts led to a halting response.
Apple and Google are building coronavirus tracking into iOS and Android. (MIT Technology Review, April 10, 2020)
Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting. (Medium, April 10, 2020)
Gaslighting, if you don’t know the word, is defined as: manipulation into doubting your own sanity.
Pretty soon, as the country begins to figure out how we “open back up” and move forward, very powerful forces will try to convince us all to get back to normal. That never happened. What are you talking about? Billions of dollars will be spent in advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again. I urge you to be well aware of what is coming.
For the last hundred years, the multi-billion-dollar advertising business has operated based on this cardinal principle: find the consumer’s problem and fix it with your product. When the problem is practical and tactical, the solution is “as seen on TV” and available at Home Depot. But when the problem is emotional, the fix becomes a new staple in your life, and you become a lifelong loyalist. Coca-Cola makes you: happy. A Mercedes makes you: successful. Taking your kids to Disneyland makes you: proud. Smart marketers know how to highlight what brands can do for you to make your life easier. But brilliant marketers know how to re-wire your heart. And, make no mistake, the heart is what has been most traumatized this last month. We are, as a society, now vulnerable in a whole new way.
What the trauma has shown us, though, cannot be unseen. A carless Los Angeles has clear blue skies as pollution has simply stopped. In a quiet New York, you can hear the birds chirp in the middle of Madison Avenue. Coyotes have been spotted on the Golden Gate Bridge. These are the postcard images of what the world might be like if we could find a way to have a less deadly daily effect on the planet.
Our way of life is not ruinous. The economy is not, at its core, evil. Brands and their products create millions of jobs. They make up a system that keeps us living long and strong. We have lifted more humans out of poverty through the power of economics than any other civilization in history. Yes, without a doubt, Americanism is a force for good. It is not some villainous plot to wreak havoc and destroy the planet and all our souls along with it. I get it. But its flaws have been laid bare for all to see. It doesn’t work for everyone. It’s responsible for great destruction. It is so unevenly distributed in its benefit that three men own more wealth than 150 million people. Its intentions have been perverted and the protection it offers has disappeared. In fact, it’s been brought to its knees by one pangolin.
And so the onslaught is coming. Get ready, my friends. What is about to be unleashed on American society will be the greatest campaign ever created to get you to feel normal again. It will come from brands, it will come from government, it will even come from each other, and it will come from the left and from the right. We will do anything, spend anything, believe anything, just so we can take away how horribly uncomfortable all of this feels. And on top of that, just to turn the screw that much more, will be the only effort even greater: the all-out blitz to make you believe you never saw what you saw. The air wasn’t really cleaner; those images were fake. The hospitals weren’t really a war zone; those stories were hyperbole. The numbers were not that high; the press is lying. You didn’t see people in masks standing in the rain risking their lives to vote. Not in America. You didn’t see the leader of the free world push an unproven miracle drug like a late-night infomercial salesman. That was a crisis update. You didn’t see homeless people dead on the street. You didn’t see inequality. You didn’t see indifference. You didn’t see utter failure of leadership and systems. But you did. And so we are about to be gaslit in a truly unprecedented way. It starts with a check for $1,200 — don’t say I never gave you anything — and then it will be so big that it will be bigly. And it will be a one-two punch from both big business and the big white house — inextricably intertwined now more than ever and being led by, as our luck would have it, a Marketer-in-Chief. Business and government are about to band together to knock us unconscious again. It will be funded like no other operation in our lifetimes. It will be fast. It will be furious. And it will be overwhelming. The Great American Return to Normal is coming.
From one citizen to another, I beg of you: take a deep breath, ignore the deafening noise, and think deeply about what you want to put back into your life. This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the bullshit and to only bring back what works for us, what makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud.
Trump calls reopening U.S. economy ‘biggest decision of my life’ as his advisers urge against rushing. (NY Daily News, April 10, 2020)
The Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services warned in a joint report Friday that as many as 200,000 Americans could die if the restrictions are lifted on April 30. Trump told reporters at the White House he hadn’t seen that report and reiterated his dubious belief that people will die regardless. “Staying at home leads to death also. It’s very traumatic for this country," Trump said. “But staying at home, if you look at numbers, that leads to a different kind of death, perhaps ... so it’s a very big decision. It’s the biggest decision I will ever make.”
Trump’s daily White House coronavirus briefings have been marred by contradiction and misinformation, as the president tends to offer one set of advice and his health experts another. The president also frequently veered off-topic, including jokingly telling Fauci at Friday’s briefing that he should move back to his native New York City and launch a campaign to unseat progressive Queens-Bronx Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Trump said he ultimately wouldn’t rely on anyone or anything but himself to make the momentous decision. “The metrics right here," Trump said, pointing to his head, when a reporter asked what sort of data he’ll lean on. "That’s my metrics. That’s all I can do.”
[No! You could listen to experts.]
Trump responds to Wall Street Journal criticism of his daily clown show briefings. (Daily Kos, April 10, 2020)
NEW: The Supreme Court is poised to extend gun rights at the worst possible time. (Raw Story, April 9, 2020)
As the deadly COVID-19 contagion sweeps across the country, gun sales are surging, spurred in many regions by panic buying and purchases by first-time firearm owners. Fearful and insecure Americans are taking advantage of weak and ineffective gun-control laws and stocking up, as President Trump might say, “like never before.”
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is poised to issue its first major Second Amendment opinion in more than a decade in a case that originated, fittingly, in New York City, now the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. The case—New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York—has the potential to vastly extend the rights of gun owners, and not just in New York, but throughout the entire nation.
Trump to launch second pandemic task force, one that does away with irritating medical experts. (Daily Kos, April 9, 2020)
The Wall Street Journal Board Has Had Enough Of Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Briefings. (Huffington Post, April 9, 2020)
In the editorial titled “Trump’s Wasted Briefings,” the conservative newspaper’s board said the pressers had started off as “a good idea to educate the public” about the pandemic but had now descended into “a boring show of President Vs. the press” after Trump decided to make them all about himself. Trump’s frequent “outbursts against his political critics” were “notably off-key at this moment” given the “once-a-century threat to American life and livelihood,” it added, noting how public health officials have in the briefings been relegated to the role of “supporting actors.”
“If Mr. Trump thinks these daily sessions will help him defeat Joe Biden, he’s wrong,” the board wrote, suggesting Trump’s 2020 campaign against the de facto Democratic nominee Biden is “about one issue: how well the public thinks the President has done in defeating the virus and restarting the economy.”
White House reverses position after blocking health officials from appearing on CNN. (CNN, April 9, 2020)
Vice President Mike Pence's office reversed course on Thursday afternoon, after declining for days to allow the nation's top health officials to appear on CNN and discuss the coronavirus pandemic, in what was an attempt to pressure the network into carrying the White House's lengthy daily briefings in full.
After this story was published, Pence's office allowed the bookings.
Emily Maitlis, BBC: They tell us Coronavirus is a great leveller. It's not. (4-min. video; BBC, April 9, 2020)
The Invisible Vector (Hakai Magazine, April 9, 2020)
Ships and their crews crisscross the planet, but their travels are largely unaccounted for in epidemiological modeling.
AIS is a global tracking program that all passenger ships, international ships over 270 tonnes, and cargo ships over 450 tonnes are legally required to take part in. Over a half million vessels carry onboard transceivers that broadcast messages on the ship’s location, speed, course, destination, and estimated time of arrival, as well as static information like the ship’s name, type, and size.
With so many messages coming at any given time from the hundreds of thousands of ships at sea, scientists could better understand the risk of a disease crisscrossing the planet.
Despite ships’ close association with historical pandemics, they have been overlooked. That’s largely down to the field’s reliance on aviation data, which dwarfs maritime traffic with nearly 40 million flights in 2019. The stories of cruise ships being floating infection hubs, however, might make using ship data seem less far-fetched.
Korean CDC investigates possible reactivation as 51 coronavirus patients retest positive after recovery. (Daily Kos, April 9, 2020)
Study from China raises serious questions about both COVID-19 immunity and vaccine effectiveness. (Daily Kos, April 9, 2020)
Since the early weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak in Hubei province, China, there have been reports of patients who were released after testing negative for the virus, only to test positive again at a later date. These numbers have definitely raised concerns over whether it is possible to be reinfected by 2019 novel coronavirus, and whether having the disease and recovering really confers lasting immunity. On the other hand, there has been every reason to expect that immunity is a given, based on the example of many similar viruses.
A new study in Shanghai may have the answer: Having COVID-19 provides lasting, strong immunity … for most people. But there may actually be a group that’s vulnerable to reinfection, and that group may not be what anyone was expecting. While the distribution of those catching COVID-19 may be more or less even across age brackets, the distribution of these “low antibodies” cases was not. Most of those who had low antibodies were young. In fact, the study showed the level of antibodies increased with age. Patients over 60 had three times the amount of antibodies as those under 40, even though both groups had mild cases of COVID-19.
If accurate, these results have a number of considerations:
- A portion of low-symptom COVID-19 patients may be subject to reinfection or rebound. It’s completely unclear whether a second round of infection is more or less mild than the first round, or whether this second round would increase the number of antibodies present.
- This weak response to the virus may also have implications for teams working on vaccines for COVID-19. If the fragments of the virus chosen for vaccine mimic this result, some portion of those vaccinated might not develop sufficient antibodies to proof them against infection. This may lead to suggestions for increased dosages or multiple-shot vaccines.
- A portion of those now considered “safe” because they’ve had the disease and recovered may be subject to reinfection, representing a danger to both themselves and acting as a vector to others.
- Vaccines may actually work better for the older population most at risk from the COVID-19 infection.
All of this is very early, unconfirmed research and 175 patients is still a very small group to characterize the tens of thousands who have already recovered from COVID-19 or the millions who will follow. Nothing about this study suggests that it was done in any randomized way, and the lack of peer review on the published paper means that there could be serious issues in methodology, even aside from some obvious issues with how the test group was defined.
One very interesting point: The researchers in Shanghai excluded any patients who had more serious cases of COVID-19 from the study exactly because use of plasma or antibodies from recovered patients has become common in treatment of critical cases there. So in anyone who had a more serious cases of COVID-19, they would have a mix of their own antibodies and those given to them as treatment. That this treatment has become so common in the country where the pandemic began may suggest that they’ve seen good results with these treatments. But, just as with the antibody study covered here, those results don’t seem to be well-documented.
Ventilators: From the "Iron Lung" to the Coronavirus (Quartz, April 9, 2020)
The history of the device we forgot we'd need more of - and what's being innovated now.
China Holds Navy Drills in Pacific As U.S. Aircraft Carriers Hit by Coronavirus. (Newsweek, April 9, 2020)
NEW: Impeached Donald Trump is a Stochastic Murderer! (Daily Kos, April 9, 2020)
Stochastic Murder is a simple inversion of G2geek’s Stochastic Terrorism. It refers to an individual,  group, or system that causes the deaths of ecosystems, plants, animals or humans through indirect causation.  Indirect causation or George Lakoff's systemic causation. (The utilitarian version of systemic causation is indirect causation.) These Stochastic Murderers (see diagram above) ignore statistics for their selfish gain and because our laws are mostly tribal and directly causal they remain unpunished. Our laws have not caught up with being able to deter and punish crimes committed on a global scale.
Oversight erased, Supreme Court hijacked: Trump turns the presidency into a dictatorship. (USA Today, April 9, 2020)
In the course of three days, Trump fired an IG for telling the truth, attacked another for exposing the totality of a health care pandemic, and removed another in a brazen effort to avoid being held accountable for how trillions of taxpayer dollars will be allocated. The sum of these actions is nothing short of blatant corruption in plain sight. Free from the limitations of accountability, there is nothing stopping the president from turning the so-called “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (CARES Act) into a $2 trillion personal slush fund.
Trump feels empowered to obliterate the guardrails of checks and balances. Bit by bit, he has stripped away the levers of oversight until there's nothing left. It started by ignoring congressional subpoenas for his financial records. It continued as Trump refused to cooperate with the House impeachment investigation, stonewalling Congress’ attempts to hear witness testimony and conduct depositions with administration officials close to the president. And now he is leading a purge of the final remaining frontier of oversight — the inspectors general.
Trump has stripped away the levers of independent oversight until there's nothing left. Our democracy is in the midst of a three-alarm fire.
NEW: These New Solar-Pavement Driveways Made of Plastic Bottles Can Power the Average Household. (Good News Network, April 9, 2020)
Sanders ends White House bid, clears way for Biden’s nomination. (Washington Post, April 8, 2020)
The exit by Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 78-year-old democratic socialist from Vermont, marked the close of a roller-coaster primary race. The move came after decisive losses to Joe Biden and the novel coronavirus pandemic that halted all traditional forms of campaigning.
Humans living in Amazon 10,000 years ago cultivated plants. (The Guardian, April 8, 2020)
The new findings from Bolivia offer direct evidence such plants were grown in south-west Amazonia, meaning the region has a claim to join the Middle East, China, south-west Mexico and north-west South America as locations where wild plants were domesticated shortly after the last ice age.
What The Heck Is This Long, Hypnotic Stringy Thing Floating in The Indian Ocean? (Science Alert, April 8, 2020)
Known in some regions as the "long stringy stingy thingy", siphonophores blur the line between organ and organism. They somehow manage to be both at once.
"The whole thing looks like one animal, but it's many thousands of individuals which form an entity on a higher level," marine biologist Stefan Siebert of Brown University told Wired.
Our Journey to a Better Internet (Mozilla Foundation, April 8, 2020)
The internet is now our lifeline, as a good portion of humanity lives as close to home as possible. Those who currently don’t have access will feel this need ever more acutely. The qualities of online life increasingly impact all of our lives.
Mozilla exists to improve the nature of online life: to build the technology and products and communities that make a better internet. An internet that is accessible, safe, promotes human dignity, and combines the benefits of “open” with accountability and responsibility to promote healthy societies.
NEW: Google bans its employees from using Zoom over security concerns. (The Verge, April 8, 2020)
The Zoom backlash has arrived at Google.
Coronavirus home work: Zoom sued over security lapses as stock slides. (ZDNet, April 8, 2020)
Zoom faces class action, as security criticisms hit its share price, which has skyrocketed in the coronavirus pandemic.
Zoom's fall: Google bans Zoom from staffers' gear. (ZDNet, April 8, 2020)
Google follows many others in banning use of the popular but troubled Zoom video-conferencing program. This move comes after Taiwan told government employees not to use Zoom. Earlier, New York schools told its teachers to "gradually transition" from Zoom to another video-conferencing service. Other groups are also distancing from Zoom.
Zoom just announced that former Facebook CSO Alex Stamos is joining Zoom as outside security consultant.
[Facebook? WHOSE security?]
Interim Guidance for Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19 (US Centers for Disease Control, April 8, 2020)
NEW: Unchecked Global Warming Could Collapse Whole Ecosystems, Maybe Within 10 Years. (Inside Climate News, April 8, 2020)
Global warming is about to tear big holes into Earth's delicate web of life, pushing temperatures beyond the tolerance of thousands of animals at the same time. As some key species go extinct, entire ecosystems like coral reefs and forests will crumble, and some will collapse abruptly, starting as soon as this decade, a new study in the journal Nature warns.
Many scientists see recent climate-related mass die-offs, including the coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and widespread seabird and marine mammal mortality in the Northeastern Pacific linked to a marine heat wave, as warning signs of impending biodiversity collapse, said lead author Alex Pigot, a biodiversity researcher at University College, London. The new study shows that nowhere on Earth will escape the impacts.
"In the U.S., the southern states from Texas to Florida, the Appalachians and the West Coast are projected to be at particularly high risk, with between 20 and 40 percent of species facing conditions beyond anything they have previously experienced," Pigot said.
The Pandemic Economy: What are Shoppers Buying Online During COVID-19? (Visual Capitalist, April 8, 2020)
A funeral and a birthday party: CDC traces Chicago coronavirus outbreak to two family gatherings. (Washington Post, April 8, 2020)
Case study shows how a single person can set off a chain reaction of infections.
Most New York Coronavirus Cases Came From Europe, Genomes Show. (New York Times, April 8, 2020)
Travelers seeded multiple cases starting as early as mid-February, genomes show. Two teams analyzed genomes from coronaviruses taken from New Yorkers starting in mid-March. The research revealed a previously hidden spread of the virus that might have been detected if aggressive testing programs had been put in place.
On Jan. 31, President Trump barred foreign nationals from entering the country if they had been in China during the prior two weeks.
The genome of the new virus contains a number of mutations in common with strains of coronaviruses that infect bats. The most closely related coronavirus is in a Chinese horseshoe bat, the researchers found. But the new virus has gained some unique mutations since splitting off from that bat virus decades ago. That ancestral virus probably gave rise to a number of strains that infected horseshoe bats, and perhaps sometimes other animals.
The deepest branches of the tree all belong to lineages from China. The Nextstrain team has also used the mutation rate to determine that the virus probably first moved into humans from an animal host in late 2019. On Dec. 31, China announced that doctors in Wuhan were treating dozens of cases of a mysterious new respiratory illness.
In January, as the scope of the catastrophe in China became clear, a few countries started an aggressive testing program. They were able to track the arrival of the virus on their territory and track its spread through their populations. But the United States fumbled in making its first diagnostic kits and initially limited testing only to people who had come from China and displayed symptoms of Covid-19. “It was a disaster, that we didn’t do testing.”
While the coronavirus mutations are useful for telling lineages apart, they don’t have any apparent effect on how the virus works. That’s good news for scientists working on a vaccine. Some viruses evolve so quickly that they require vaccines that can produce several different antibodies. That’s not the case for Covid-19. Like other coronaviruses, it has a relatively slow mutation rate compared to some viruses, like influenza.
Trump team blocked Colorado order for 500 ventilators. Now Trump says he'll give them 100 instead. (Daily Kos, April 8, 2020)
NEW: Prediction models for diagnosis and prognosis of covid-19 infection: systematic review and critical appraisal (British Medical Journal, April 7, 2020)
Prediction models for covid-19 are quickly entering the academic literature to support medical decision making at a time when they are urgently needed. This review indicates that proposed models are poorly reported, at high risk of bias, and their reported performance is probably optimistic.
Voting in Wisconsin During a Pandemic: Lines, Masks and Plenty of Fear (New York Times, April 7, 2020)
Wisconsin’s primary showed an electoral system stretched to the breaking point by the coronavirus crisis, as people weighed the health risks against their desire to vote. Many others across the state, however, appeared inclined to stay home as the fear of contracting the disease outweighed their desire to participate in the most fundamental ritual of democracy. Late Monday, Republicans in the state legislature had gone to court to block the Democratic governor’s order to postpone the primary.
“No one should have to choose between risking their health and possibly dying and going to vote,” said a county supervisor for Milwaukee. She said she was unsure she could vote safely after having been exposed to the coronavirus herself.
In Milwaukee — where the number of polling stations was reduced from 180 to only five — voters tried to exercise proper social distancing as they waited, in some cases, for more than two hours. Milwaukee has the biggest minority population in the state, which means that geographic and partisan differences in access to voting often overlap with racial ones.
The scenes that unfolded in Wisconsin showed an electoral system stretched to the breaking point by the same public health catastrophe that has killed thousands and brought the country’s economic and social patterns to a virtual standstill in recent weeks. And in Wisconsin, the political institutions proved overmatched, with a Republican legislature and a conservative state and federal judiciary resisting efforts to reschedule the election or revise the procedures for voting.
The result was a dangerous spectacle that forced voters to choose between participating in an important election and protecting their health. While election administrators said they were trying in myriad ways to make the voting process safer, the long lines, last-minute judicial rulings and backlogged absentee ballot requests added up to something resembling system failure. Ellie Bradish, for instance, said she was forced to vote in person in Milwaukee after attempts at early voting and absentee voting failed.
The array of procedural problems led some state party officials to predict that the results would be contested by whichever side loses. National voting rights experts said the turmoil and acrimony surrounding the election could be an unsettling example of what might happen across the country later this spring if states do not manage to implement new methods of voting during the coronavirus outbreak — or even in the November general election if the pandemic has not abated by then.
An Unconscionable Choice for Wisconsin Voters Highlights Need for States to Prepare for November. (Public Citizen, April 7, 2020)
Today millions of Wisconsin voters are faced with the choice of protecting their health and for some, their lives, or losing their right to vote. Every voter deserves a chance to cast their ballot safely by mail, drop box or curbside, or to be able to vote early. Forcing voters to choose between preserving their health and casting a ballot is unconscionable.
Wisconsin State House Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) proclaimed by their refusal to delay today’s state primary that they will require people to put their lives at risk to gain what they view as an election advantage for their party. They know that voters risk contracting COVID19 if they go to the polls today and that some of those who get sick may die. They know that both Republicans and Democrats are still waiting for absentee ballots that will not arrive on time.
But Vos and Fitzgerald know that, with only five polling locations open in the Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee, holding the election now will suppress the Democratic vote more than the GOP vote. That outcome will skew votes for some statewide elections, such as for the state Supreme Court, to their party. The conservative-led Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed that the election should be held, even if it means that some voters will have to risk death. The U.S. Supreme Court later blocked a federal court order allowing an additional week for absentee voting.
Acting Navy Secretary Resigns After Outcry Over Criticism of Virus-Stricken Crew. (New York Times, April 7, 2020)
Thomas B. Modly, the acting Navy secretary, resigned Tuesday after his bungled response to an outbreak of the novel coronavirus aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt engulfed the Navy in a command crisis and a public relations disaster. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper accepted Mr. Modly’s resignation Tuesday morning, as a growing chorus of lawmakers and former military officials called for the firing of the acting Navy secretary, who single-handedly turned a health issue into a crisis of morals and morale for the Navy.
Mr. Modly became the acting Navy secretary after Mr. Trump fired Richard V. Spencer in November. He will be succeeded by yet another acting secretary, Mr. Esper said. The move continues the revolving door of appointees that has characterized the Defense Department’s civilian leadership since Mr. Trump came to power. Next up for the Navy’s top civilian job, Mr. Esper said, will be Jim McPherson, the current Army under secretary.
Trump Ousts Pandemic Spending Watchdog Known for Independence. (New York Times, April 7, 2020)
President Trump moved on Tuesday to oust the leader of a new watchdog panel charged with overseeing how his administration spends trillions of taxpayer dollars in coronavirus pandemic relief, the latest step in an abruptly unfolding White House power play against semi-independent inspectors general across the government. The official, Glenn A. Fine, has been the acting inspector general for the Defense Department since before Mr. Trump took office and was set to become the chairman of a new Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to police how the government carries out the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill. But Mr. Trump replaced Mr. Fine in his Pentagon job, disqualifying him from serving on the new oversight panel.
The move came at a time when the president has been reasserting authority over the executive branch and signaling impatience with independent voices within the government that he considers disloyal. In recent days, he fired an inspector general who reviewed the whistle-blower complaint that led to his impeachment, nominated a White House aide to another key inspector general post, declared that he would ignore certain oversight provisions in the new relief law and attacked another inspector general who criticized virus testing shortages.
Mr. Trump even cheered the firing of the captain of an aircraft carrier for sending a letter to fellow Navy officers pleading for help for his virus-stricken crew, castigating the officer for airing unfavorable information. Only after a loud backlash over the firing and the acting Navy secretary’s speech calling the captain “stupid” did the president partly reverse himself and say he would look into it. The acting Navy secretary, who said he had ordered the firing because he assumed Mr. Trump might have done it himself otherwise, took the hint and resigned on Tuesday.
How COVID-19 Has Impacted Media Consumption, by Generation (Visual Capitalist, April 7, 2020)
Paul Krugman: And Now For Something Completely Different (New York Times, April 7, 2020)
The coronavirus slump actually makes the case against universal basic income, even though part of that $2 trillion not-a-stimulus bill did involve sending everyone a check. What’s happening now is that a large number of American workers — maybe as many as one in four — have lost their income because of social distancing. These workers have bills to pay; they need replacement income close to what they were making before. The rest of the work force doesn’t need anything comparable. If you just send everyone a check, it will be either grossly inadequate for the newly unemployed, impossibly expensive, or both. Universal income, independent of circumstances, won’t do the job.
Over the past week or so mainstream economists have largely converged on the view that we should focus not on economic stimulus — we want part of the economy shut down for the time being — but on disaster relief for those losing their incomes.
Patent holders urged to take “Open COVID Pledge” for quicker end to pandemic. (Open COVID Pledge, April 7, 2020)
The Open COVID Pledge (Open COVID Pledge, April 7, 2020)
Immediate action is required to halt the COVID-19 Pandemic and treat those it has affected. It is a practical and moral imperative that every tool we have at our disposal be applied to develop and deploy technologies on a massive scale without impediment.
We therefore pledge to make our intellectual property available free of charge for use in ending the COVID-19 pandemic and minimizing the impact of the disease.
[FOSS against the coronavirus pandemic!]
NEW: Scientists uncover a 60,000-year-old forest underwater off Alabama and think its preserved trees may help pioneer new medicines. (1-min. video; CNN, April 7, 2020)
Virtual campaigning could give hackers new ways to attack the 2020 election. (Washington Post, April 7, 2020)
Zoom, which the Biden campaign has used for town halls, has been blindsided by a number of security concerns. After multiple reports of anonymous trolls targeting educators with racist and pornographic material, the FBI issued a warning last week advising that Zoom users should opt to keep meeting private and use participant-screening features. But thousands of private Zoom calls, including confidential therapy sessions, were found online last week, raising concerns about the company's privacy features.
NEW: Zoom concedes custom encryption is substandard as Citizen Lab pokes holes in it. (ZDNet, April 6, 2020)
Company also claims it mistakenly ran calls from outside China through the Middle Kingdom.
NEW: Trump’s Aggressive Advocacy of Malaria Drug for Treating Coronavirus Divides Medical Community. (New York Times, April 6, 2020)
While Dr. Anthony Fauci has urged caution in using hydroxychloroquine, some doctors are prescribing it to patients who have the virus despite the fact it has never been tested for it.
President Trump made a rare appearance in the Situation Room on Sunday as his pandemic task force was meeting, determined to talk about the anti-malaria medicine that he has aggressively promoted lately as a treatment for the coronavirus. Once again, according to a person briefed on the session, the experts warned against overselling a drug yet to be proved a safe remedy, particularly for heart patients. “Yes, the heart stuff,” Mr. Trump acknowledged. Then he headed out to the cameras to promote it anyway. “So what do I know?” he conceded to reporters at his daily briefing. “I’m not a doctor. But I have common sense.”
Day after day, the salesman turned president has encouraged coronavirus patients to try hydroxychloroquine with all of the enthusiasm of a real estate developer. The passing reference he makes to the possible dangers is usually overwhelmed by the full-throated endorsement. “What do you have to lose?” he asked five times on Sunday.
Dr. Fauci made his concern clear last week. “I think we’ve got to be careful that we don’t make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug,” he said on Friday on Fox News. “We still need to do the kinds of studies that definitively prove whether any intervention, not just this one, any intervention is truly safe and effective.” At his briefing after the meeting, Trump said it was wrong to wait for the kind of study Dr. Fauci wanted. “We don’t have time,” the president said. “We don’t have two hours because there are people dying right now.”
If hydroxychloroquine becomes an accepted treatment, several pharmaceutical companies stand to profit, including shareholders and senior executives with connections to the president. Mr. Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine. Some associates of Mr. Trump’s have financial interests in the issue. Sanofi’s largest shareholders include Fisher Asset Management, the investment company run by Ken Fisher, a major donor to Republicans, including Mr. Trump. Another investor in both Sanofi and Mylan, another pharmaceutical firm, is Invesco, the fund previously run by Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary. As of last year, Mr. Trump reported that his three family trusts each had investments in a Dodge & Cox mutual fund, whose largest holding was in Sanofi. Several generic drugmakers are gearing up to produce hydroxychloroquine pills, including Amneal Pharmaceuticals, whose co-founder Chirag Patel is a member of Trump National Golf Course Bedminster in New Jersey and has golfed with Mr. Trump at least twice since he became president, according to a person who saw them. Amneal announced last month that it would increase production of the drug and donate millions of pills to New York and other states. Other generic drugmakers are ramping up production, including Mylan and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.
Head lice drug Ivermectin is being tested as a possible coronavirus treatment, but that’s no reason to buy it. (The Conversation, April 6, 2020)
Where Have All the Heart Attacks Gone? (New York Times, April 6, 2020)
Except for treating Covid-19, many hospitals seem to be eerily quiet. Across the United States and in many other countries, doctors are all asking: Where are all the patients with heart attacks and stroke? They are missing from our hospitals. Almost half of the hospitals reported that they are seeing a 40 percent to 60 percent reduction in admissions for heart attacks; about 20 percent reported more than a 60 percent reduction. Colleagues also report a decline in many other emergencies, including acute appendicitis and acute gall bladder disease.
In this time of social distancing, our meals, social interactions and physical activity patterns tend to be very different. Maybe we have removed some of the triggers for heart attacks and strokes, like excessive eating and drinking or abrupt periods of physical exertion. This theory merits research but seems unlikely to explain the dramatic changes we’re observing.
The most concerning possible explanation is that people stay home and suffer rather than risk coming to the hospital and getting infected with coronavirus. And when they do finally seek medical attention, it is often only after their condition has worsened. Doctors from Hong Kong reported an increase in patients coming to the hospital late in the course of their heart attack, when treatment is less likely to be lifesaving.
NEW: Everyone But Us; The Trump Administration and Medical Supply Exports (Report by the Office of Congresswoman Katie Porter/CA-45, April 6, 2020)
Rep. Porter released a report showing that in spite of growing concerns and warnings about the potential oncoming pandemic threat of the COVID-19 virus from top officials and experts, Donald Trump not only did nothing about it, he allowed ramped up exportation of much-needed medical supplies. The report, titled “EVERYONE BUT US,” charges Donald Trump with misapplying and mismanaging our nation’s medical supplies in the months leading up to our current crisis.
NEW: Horrific Twitter thread by New York City health committee chair raises concerns on COVID-19 deaths. Daily Kos, April 6, 2020)
As the death toll resulting from the novel coronavirus continues to rise, some New York cemeteries are facing difficulties despite the ability to operate 24 hours a day. New York City has begun to store bodies in freezer trucks to accommodate the number of victims the pandemic has claimed. In a series of viral tweets Monday, Mark Levine, the chair of the New York City Council Committee on Health, claimed that officials are considering temporarily burying people who die from COVID-19 in local parks due to the number of increasing dead bodies and lack of space in freezers at Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) facilities in the state.
Amid stay-at-home orders, domestic violence police calls increase nationwide. (Daily Kos, April 6, 2020)
As social distancing and staying at home is encouraged survivors and victims of domestic violence may be safe from COVID-19 but not their abusers. Domestic violence is rooted in power and control, and all of us are feeling a loss of power and control right now. With isolation efforts in place to slow down the pandemic, survivors are put in a difficult position potentially being trapped inside their homes with their abusive partners or parents.
Cities across the U.S. are reporting increases in domestic violence cases. As gun sales reach a record high, advocates also worry incidents of violence will worsen.
Captain Crozier: Navy Hero, or Unsteady Leader? (New York Times, April 6, 2020)
The acting secretary of the Navy explains why he removed the captain of a ship with many infected sailors. Another reader found that action “clearly excessive.”
It is clear from the enthusiastic cheers the captain received from his crew as he disembarked the ship that he was motivated only by the well-being of his crew and had their confidence and admiration. Tragically, Captain Crozier himself has contracted the disease. Once he has recovered, as we trust he and the other sailors will, President Trump, as commander in chief, should reinstate Captain Crozier to his command, not unlike how he intervened when he restored the rank of Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL. This would send the message to our military commanders that the health and welfare of our servicemen and women are paramount.
Inspector General Fired by Trump Urges Whistle-Blowers ‘to Bravely Speak Up’. (New York Times, April 6, 2020)
Michael Atkinson, who President Trump made clear was dismissed in reprisal for his role in revealing the Ukraine matter, broke his silence.
NEW: Trump's daily stream of coronavirus lies are all about to hit a wall. (Daily Kos, April 6, 2020)
Donald Trump's relentless string of lies about the coronavirus going away, being just like the flu, being a media hoax, and being a problem that governors and governors alone should handle are all about to hit a wall as the death toll mounts across the country. Americans of all stripes will have the opportunity to see with their own eyes the deadly results of a president who was too incoherent, too incompetent, and too inhumane to worry about leading an unprepared nation into an ambush blindfolded. And no region will be spared, not even those that rabidly support Trump.
NEW: Wisconsin Supreme Court site says it's closed due to COVID-19, just above order saying election must go on. (Daily Kos, April 6, 2020)
NEW: #FireFauci Is Trending Because Right Wings Idiots Think Dr. Fauci is Wrong to Correct Trump. (Political Flare, April 5, 2020)
I suppose in Trump’s America it was always inevitable. The heroes become the most hated. Trump is not a hero, and yet must have all the credit for things done well, none of the blame when something goes wrong. A lot goes wrong in the Trump White House, and so a lot of people must absorb a lot of blame.
We have seen it how many times now? Vindman, Yates, Comey, hell – even Bannon went from god to a man reviled by the same MAGA heads that Bannon literally invented. And now the man of science, the man who has probably averaged four hours of sleep in the last three months, the man who has patiently stood there as Trump spewed complete bullshit, yes, Dr. Anthony Fauci. They now blame him and want him fired.
NEW: Evangelical churches run smack into coronavirus' lethal reality, but some continue to resist. (Daily Kos, April 4, 2020)
NEW: Coronavirus Reveals What Really Makes the World Go Round, and It's Not Money.  (Haaretz, April 4, 2020)
A structure, whether economic or mental, is usually hidden from view, but crises have their own ways of exposing their patterns to the naked eye. The bluff of neo-liberalism is being called out.
We now all watch, transfixed, as the world as we knew it has shut down and the pandemic continues to unfold. The coronavirus is an event of a magnitude that we struggle to grasp, not only because of its planetary scale, not only because of the speed of the contamination, but also because institutions whose titanic power we never previously questioned have been brought to their knees in a matter of few weeks.
Health, according to Michel Foucault, is the epicenter of modern governance (he called it bio-power). Through medical and mental health services, he claimed, the state manages, watches and controls its population. Although Foucault would not have put it this way, we may say that there is an implicit contract between modern states and their citizens, based on the capacity of the former to ensure the physical security and health of the latter.
The crisis highlights two opposite things: that this contract, in many places in the world, has been gradually breached by the state, which has seen its mission instead as enlarging the volume of economic activity, lowering the costs of labor and facilitating the transfer offshore of production (among other things, of such key medical products as masks and respirators), deregulating banks and other financial institutions, and generally responding to the needs of corporations. The result has been, whether by design or by default, an extraordinary erosion of the public sector. The second obvious thing, visible to all, is that only the state can manage and overcome a crisis of such scale.
Many (including philanthropist Bill Gates and epidemiologist Larry Brilliant) have been warning for more than a decade that previously unknown viruses will increasingly threaten human beings. But in the industrialized West, no one paid attention. In fact, in 2018, President Donald Trump closed down the National Security Council department responsible for dealing with pandemics. Trump also famously derided the danger of the coronavirus, suggesting it was a Democratic hoax, and describing it as a “foreign virus” to bolster his trade war with China. The United States now has the highest number of people sick with the virus worldwide, paying the price for Trump’s criminal lack of attention to the importance of rapid action in combating the epidemic. But Trump was not alone: To some degree or another, both American and European societies lacked imagination, in that they were too busy, pursuing profit and exploiting land and labor whenever and wherever they could.
But what is new about this crisis is how much it is haunted by “economism.” The British model for responding to the medical threat initially embraced (and subsequently abandoned) the least intrusive path of intervention, for the sake of maintaining regular economic activity. It opted to let nature take its course, according to the model of auto-immunization (that is, contamination) of the younger 60 percent of the population, even though that would mean sacrificing an estimated 2 to 4 percent of its population (this model was also adopted by Holland and Sweden). In the Italian city of Bergamo and its environs, industrialists and governing officials demanded that workers keep working, even when the virus was already present. In Brazil, the courts ruled against President Jair Bolsonaro’s claim that the health of the economy could not be sacrificed for an imaginary threat to the health of the populace. Germany and France, too, initially responded in a way that was similar to the United Kingdom, ignoring the crisis as long as they could, until they couldn’t anymore. Even China, which has an appalling human rights record, did not use “economism” as a yardstick for its fight against the virus as overtly as European nations did (at least initially and until it was almost too late).
The choice that has been laid in front of contemporary societies is unprecedented. Which do we choose to risk sacrificing: the lives of the vulnerable or the economic survival of the young? While the moral questions raised by this dilemma are genuine and profound (how many lives is the economy worth?), it also points to the ways in which public health has been neglected and been relegated to a place of lower priority than the health of the economy. It is with no small irony that the world of finance, usually arrogant and so often unaccountable, was the first to collapse, showing that the continued and unfathomable circulation of money in the world relies on a resource we all took for granted: the health of citizens. Markets feed on trust as a currency to build the future, and trust, it turns out, rests on the assumption of health.
Health was taken for granted, so much so that, in recent decades, politicians, financial institutions and corporations in the West converged in pushing for policies that severely decreased public budgets for services ranging from education to health care, ironically ignoring the ways in which corporations had been enjoying the fruits of public goods they never paid for. In the United States, the wealthiest country on the planet, doctors are currently scrambling to obtain face masks to protect themselves (The New York Times has reported that paramedic workers are improvising masks out of coffee filters). Hordes of politicians worldwide, have treated the health of their own citizens with an unbearable lightness, failing to grasp the obvious: Without health there can be no economy.
The capitalism we have come to know in recent decades – which is deregulated, which penetrates all state considerations, which benefits the rich, which creates abyssal inequalities (among others in the health system itself) – will have to change. The pandemic is going to cause unfathomable economic damage, massive unemployment, slow or negative growth and it will affect the entire world, with Asian economies possibly emerging as the stronger ones.
Banks, corporations and financial firms must be made to bear the burden, along with the state, of coming out of the crisis and becoming partners in the collective health of their employees. They will have to contribute to research, to emergency preparedness, and to massive hiring drives, once the crisis passes. They will have to bear the burden of the collective effort to rebuild the economy, even at the price of lower profits. Capitalists have taken for granted resources provided by the state – education, health, physical infrastructure – without acknowledging that the resources they were squandering from the state could, in a situation like this, ultimately be responsible for withholding them from the world which makes the economy possible. This must stop. For the economy to have meaning, it needs a world. And this world can only be built collectively, by the joint efforts of corporations and the state.
Heather Cox Richardson: Trump late-night firing further weakens US Intelligence. (Letters From An American, April 3, 2020)
At about ten o’clock tonight, Trump notified Congress he has fired the Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.
In September 2019, Atkinson made sure Congress knew that then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire was illegally withholding from the congressional intelligence committees a whistleblower complaint. Atkinson had examined the complaint, as required by law, and had determined it was “credible” and “urgent” and so sent it on to the acting DNI, who was supposed to send it to Congress. Instead, Maguire took it to the Department of Justice, where Attorney General Barr stopped the transmission by arguing that since it was a complaint about the president, and since the president was not a member of the intelligence community, the complaint shouldn’t go forward. And we know where it went from there.
The sentence announcing that he no longer has “the fullest confidence” in Atkinson is working hard. Why has his confidence faded? Why now? Is there something that was about to come out and he wants to keep it hidden? It was the intelligence community that repeatedly tried to get him to take the coronavirus seriously; perhaps there is a whistleblower complaint over that. In the chaos over supplies it seems likely that there is profiteering going on; perhaps someone knows something about that.
Or perhaps this is part of Grenell’s longer strategy to stop any investigation of Russian attacks on the 2020 election. Russian President Vladimir Putin has not dropped his determination to end the US sanctions imposed on the country after Russia invaded Ukraine, sanctions that hit oligarchs, especially Putin, hard. These sanctions were at the heart of Putin preferring Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016, and have been key to much of our international affairs ever since.
Hospitals, Universities Push For Treatment Using Plasma From Recovered COVID Patients. (NPR, April 3, 2020)
With few tools in their medical kit, doctors are turning to an old idea for treating COVID-19: using plasma from recovered patients to treat patients infected with the coronavirus. The idea is fairly straightforward: patients who have recovered from the virus must have mounted a robust immune response to the infection. Sharing the antibodies from that immune response that linger in their plasma could help others recover. The approach has been around since the 1890s. More recently it has been used to treat SARS and Ebola.
It's unlikely that using the plasma when patients are in extremis will be very helpful. Experience shows it is best to give it in the first few days of illness.
A Russian doctor is detained after challenging the country’s official count of coronavirus cases. (New York Times, April 3, 2020)
Russian authorities detained the leader of an independent doctors’ union, an outspoken critic of the Kremlin who has dismissed as “lies” the country’s low official numbers for coronavirus infections. Anastasia Vasilieva, the head of the Alliance of Doctors, was stopped by the police on Thursday and held overnight while traveling from Moscow to an impoverished rural town to deliver masks, gloves and other supplies to a hospital, according to a colleague who was traveling with her.
The detention of Dr. Vasilieva, an eye specialist who has been highly critical of Russia’s response to the pandemic, added fuel to already widespread skepticism, particularly among Kremlin critics, about the accuracy of official figures showing relatively few coronavirus cases in Russia. Her detention also increased skepticism about the readiness of Russia’s health care system to cope with the pandemic.
New York's coronavirus death toll surpasses that of 9/11. (Politico, April 3, 2020)
Over the course of nearly five weeks, the coronavirus has killed more New Yorkers than the terrorists who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. And the death toll is only expected to grow — by leaps and bounds. The terrorists killed about 2,700 people in New York state. The coronavirus has so far killed 2,935 state residents — moms, dads, grandparents, brothers and sisters, a grim toll that’s straining the state’s morgues and funeral homes.
Coronavirus Live Updates: C.D.C. Recommends Wearing Masks in Public; Trump Says, ‘I’m Choosing Not to Do It.’ (New York Times, April 3, 2020)
U.S. elections will take place as scheduled on Nov. 3, the president said, and Alabama became the 41st state to issue a stay-at-home order.
At Risk From COVID-19: The Geography of America’s Senior Population (Visual Capitalist, April 3, 2020)
A small trial finds that hydroxychloroquine is not effective for treating coronavirus. (The Conversation, April 3, 2020)
There are already other clinical studies that showed it is not effective against COVID-19 as well as several other viruses. And, more importantly, it can have dangerous side effects, as well as giving people false hope. The latter has led to widespread shortages of hydroxychloroquine for patients who need it to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, the indications for which it was originally approved.
45's Falsehoods And Failures (People For the American Way, April 3, 2020)
NEW: Better than Zoom: Try these free software tools for staying in touch. (Free Software Foundation, April 3, 2020)
[FSF uses Jitsi Meet to videoconference, as do we.]
NEW: Zoom’s Encryption Is “Not Suited for Secrets” and Has Surprising Links to China, Researchers Discover. (The Intercept, April 3, 2020)
Meetings on Zoom, the increasingly popular video conferencing service, are encrypted using an algorithm with serious, well-known weaknesses, and sometimes using keys issued by servers in China, even when meeting participants are all in North America, according to researchers at the University of Toronto. The researchers also found that Zoom protects video and audio content using a home-grown encryption scheme, that there is a vulnerability in Zoom’s “waiting room” feature, and that Zoom appears to have at least 700 employees in China spread across three subsidiaries. They conclude, in a report for the university’s Citizen Lab — widely followed in information security circles — that Zoom’s service is “not suited for secrets” and that it may be legally obligated to disclose encryption keys to Chinese authorities and “responsive to pressure” from them.
NEW: Zoom: We're freezing all new features to sort out security and privacy. (ZDNet, April 2, 2020)
As SpaceX bans its workers from using it, Zoom says all feature development is halted to work on security.
NEW: FBI sees spike in gun sale background checks amid coronavirus pandemic. (CNN, April 2, 2020)
The FBI reported a 41% surge in background checks by individuals attempting to purchase firearms in the United States last month, according to newly released data from the agency, a significant increase over the same period last year. The new figures indicate 3.7 million gun purchase background checks were conducted in the month of March alone, marking the greatest number of background checks conducted in a single month since the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was launched in 1998. By far, the state leading in federal firearm background checks numbers for the month of March was Illinois -- with over half a million background checks conducted -- followed by Texas, Kentucky, Florida, and California.
NEW: Texas racist says coronavirus fears made him stab an Asian American family as they grocery shopped. (Daily Kos, April 2, 2020)
The Texas stabbing incident is not isolated. It is just one example of the many cases of xenophobia Asian Americans are experiencing in addition to the COVID-19 crisis in the U.S. Hate crimes are at an all-time high nationwide. A new website, Stop AAPI Hate, which was launched in order to document racist acts, received more than 650 reports within eight days of its launch.
Macroeconomic Implications of COVID-19: Can Negative Supply Shocks Cause Demand Shortages? (MIT, April 2, 2020)
Jean-Baptiste Say is famously misquoted for stating the Law “supply creates its own demand.” In this paper, we introduce a concept that might be accurately portrayed as “supply creates its own excess demand”. Namely, a negative supply shock can trigger a demand shortage that leads to a contraction in output and employment larger than the supply shock itself. We call supply shocks with these properties Keynesian supply shocks.
Heather Cox Richardson: The Trump administration wants to abandon responsibility for American citizens. (Letters From An American, April 2, 2020)
Behind the confusion and foot-dragging as the White House confronts the global pandemic is the administration’s desire to dismantle the federal government and give power to businesspeople.
The Trump administration has been clear that it does not want the federal government to assume responsibility for American citizens any longer. Trump has refused to issue a stay at home order from the federal government, insisting instead that governors make their own calls. He has refused to use the Defense Production Act to mobilize industry to produce the masks and ventilators Americans so desperately need. He is refusing to tell manufacturers where to place their supplies. In place of government coordination, his administration officials are counting on business people to assume leadership.
Instead, the fifty states are trying to respond on their own. They are making their own decisions about what to shut down, when, and are bidding against each other for supplies. This piecemeal response to the pandemic crisis means we are not effectively cutting off the spread of the virus, or supporting the healthcare we will need.
Putting Jared Kushner In Charge Is Utter Madness. (New York Times, April 2, 2020)
Trump’s son-in-law has no business running the coronavirus response.
Reporting on the White House’s herky-jerky coronavirus response, Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman has a quotation from Jared Kushner that should make all Americans, and particularly all New Yorkers, dizzy with terror. According to Sherman, when New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said that the state would need 30,000 ventilators at the apex of the coronavirus outbreak, Kushner decided that Cuomo was being alarmist. “I have all this data about I.C.U. capacity,” Kushner reportedly said. “I’m doing my own projections, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter about this. New York doesn’t need all the ventilators.” (Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top expert on infectious diseases, has said he trusts Cuomo’s estimate.)
Even now, it’s hard to believe that someone with as little expertise as Kushner could be so arrogant, but he said something similar on Thursday, when he made his debut at the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing: “People who have requests for different products and supplies, a lot of them are doing it based on projections which are not the realistic projections.”
Kushner has succeeded at exactly three things in his life. He was born to the right parents, married well and learned how to influence his father-in-law. Most of his other endeavors — his biggest real estate deal, his foray into newspaper ownership, his attempt to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians — have been failures. Undeterred, he has now arrogated to himself a major role in fighting the epochal health crisis that’s brought America to its knees.
Corporate Medicine to doctors and nurses: "We saw you were on fire, so we brought this gasoline..." (Daily Kos, April 2, 2020)
Corporate “medicine” is a malignancy.  And it grows like one, too.
Here is a chart, showing the number of jobs in the healthcare sector from 1970 to 2009. Now granted, this study is 10 years out of date, but I suspect the curves are pretty unchanged. Want to know where your healthcare dollars go? The red area is physicians. Not much growth in the time frame is there?
The yellow zone is healthcare ‘administrators’. Can you say ‘metastatic’?
Doctors Say Hospitals Are Stopping Them From Wearing Masks. (NPR, April 2, 2020)
Trump Administration Officials Weigh How Far to Go on Recommending Masks. (New York Times, April 2, 2020)
The expected change in position reflects concern over a worrisome rate of infection spread by people with no symptoms.
NEW: Elizabeth Warren: How John Bolton Blew Off Senators Who Asked About Global Pandemics. (Mother Jones, April 2, 2020)
The senator recounts her 2018 effort to get the Trump White House to take the threat seriously.
Georgia governor says he didn't know asymptomatic people could spread coronavirus. (The Hill, April 2, 2020)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), while announcing a statewide stay-at-home order, said Wednesday that he only recently became aware the coronavirus could be spread by asymptomatic people. "The reason I'm taking this action, like I've continued to tell people, I'm following the data. Finding out that this virus is now transmitting before people see signs, so what we've been telling people from directives from the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] for weeks now that if you start feeling bad, stay home... Those individuals could've been infecting people before they ever felt bad, but we didn't know that until the last 24 hours. And this is a game changer for us."
Public health officials have long warned the virus can be carried and passed on by people not displaying symptoms, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who became the first senator to test positive for the virus (announced March 22nd), reported that he had not experienced any symptoms before testing positive.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said earlier this week that up to a quarter of all cases do not show symptoms, telling NPR "This helps explain how rapidly this virus continues to spread across the country because we have asymptomatic transmitters and we have individuals who are transmitting 48 hours before they become symptomatic."
NEW: A silver lining to the current crisis: Rethinking work (Enterprisers Project, April 2, 2020)
The surprising link between remote work and coming together - and why work culture will strengthen.
The playbook for working remotely that existed even a month ago has been thrown out the window — as I discovered myself, just the other day. While on a call with our board of directors, I was interrupted by two of my college-age children. They walked into the room and asked me for the Wi-Fi password, which I had changed the night before. As I wrote it down for them, we kept talking — none of it on mute. None of it dismissed or disguised. And, most important, no one cared as the board waited patiently for me for several extra seconds.
There was a time, not so long ago, when people went to great lengths to avoid the telltale signs and sounds of “I’m working from home.” Now, it’s the soundtrack of our lives — and leaders need to send the message that it’s not only okay; it’s wanted. Welcome to the new world of work and the culture that goes with it. Here are some thoughts.
Coronavirus Live Updates: Job Losses in America Soar, Part of Global Economic Collapse. (New York Times, April 2, 2020)
More than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. Federal stockpiles of medical supplies are running low as the death toll rises and global infections approach one million.
The Patriots’ team plane is delivering more than a million masks from China to Massachusetts. (Boston Globe, April 2, 2020)
The Patriots team plane is making its most important trip of the year before the season even starts.
NEW: Build Cities for Bikes, Buses, and Feet—Not Cars. (Wired, April 1, 2020)
San Francisco's MTA boss Jeff Tumlin is one of a new breed of planner trying to kick cars out of the city. That's good for business, good for people, and amazing for the planet.
NEW: How International Fraud Rings Operate and Target Older Americans (AARP, April 1, 2020)
From phone and email scams to imposter fraud, see how they operate.
A Ventilator Stockpile, With One Hitch: Thousands Do Not Work. (New York Times, April 1, 2020)
Federal officials revealed on Wednesday that their stockpile of medical gear was nearly depleted. FEMA has shipped 26 million surgical masks, 11.6 million respirator masks and more than five million face shields to states, setting off a race to obtain millions of recently produced masks from a variety of manufacturers at a moment of huge price spikes for respirators that previously sold for about 85 cents.
The bigger struggle, however, has focused on ventilators because states have asked for tens of thousands more than the approximately 9,400 that the U.S. government currently has in its stockpile. The Defense Department is also making 1,065 ventilators available, although those require special training and are not used as frequently in hospitals.
As White House officials have for the first time looked at a supply they had not thought about, they have discovered it is not only far smaller than what they need — it is also in constant need of maintenance. While President Trump has assured states that thousands of ventilators remain at the ready, thousands more are in storage, unmaintained or otherwise unusable.
As of Wednesday morning, FEMA had sent about 7,000 ventilators to a number of states, with 4,000 directed to New York. Mr. Trump said he wanted to hold the current stockpile in reserve until it was clear where new hot spots would emerge. Even with the federal help, states are scrambling for their own ventilators. They have flooded the few manufacturers in the country with orders, only to discover that the machines are largely made abroad, in China, Ireland, Switzerland and elsewhere.
Officials in Illinois say they asked for 4,000 and got 450. New Jersey sought 2,300 and got 300. New Mexico has only 370. Virginia requested 350 ventilators but has not received any. The governor of Illinois asked Vice President Mike Pence for 4,000 ventilators this week and was told the state would not need that many.
At the same time, states are trying to grab whatever else they can, converting anesthesia machines for use as ventilators and sometimes fashioning new valves on 3-D printers so that multiple patients can share the same machine. That has never been tested on a broad scale, and it carries some risks.
Every Vaccine and Treatment in Development for COVID-19 (Visual Capitalist, April 1, 2020)
NEW: Why we need women’s leadership in the COVID-19 response (Thomas Reuters Foundation, April 1, 2020)
Heather Cox Richardson: The USA has deprived our own health care workers while shipping masks and more overseas. (Letters From An American, April 1, 2020)
The United States has been sending medical supplies to other countries while our own health care workers don’t have masks or PPE (personal protective equipment). Politico revealed that an administration official called counterparts in Thailand to ask for PPE, only to be told by a confused official on the other end who said that the U.S. was shipping those very supplies to Thailand. One shipment had already arrived, and another was on its way. Vice President Mike Pence, who is in charge of the administration’s coronavirus task force, immediately halted the shipment. It appears that there has been no coordination between the administration and USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, so we have apparently been exporting the very supplies we need at home.
This created a furor over the fact that we also sent 17.8 tons of medical supplies, including masks, gowns, gauze, and respirators to China in February, after the severity of our own impending crisis was already clear. The administration has said these supplies were “donated,” but I have not been able to track down by whom.
Politico also broke the story that since March 12, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been in charge of his own coronavirus response team to get the private sector on board to fight the crisis. Trump has been reluctant to activate the Defense Production Act, a law that enables the government to encourage manufacturers to produce vital equipment and protects them from losses when they do. Bizarrely, the Trump administration—like all others since the law went into effect in the 1950s—uses this act all the time to respond to natural disasters, to move supplies around during emergencies, and so on, but refuses to do so now. Instead, it appears Trump has tapped Kushner to coordinate with private industry. In that capacity, he and his outside experts—including a number from the consulting firm McKinsey—are acting as a sort of independent cell without government oversight and are overruling the teams already in place.
Should You Be Wearing a Face Mask? Why Not? (People's Pharmacy, March 31, 2020)
Public health officials have told us wearing face masks are unnecessary. Were they wrong? Could wearing a face mask help you avoid catching COVID-19?
The Italian COVID-19 hospital where no medics have been infected. (Sky News, March 31, 2020)
What is really striking here is that the rules of separating infected environments and the clean areas are followed by everyone. But armed security guards are on every connecting corridor in case anyone forgets.
Everyone and anyone can get infected, not just the old. There are many young patients being treated here and interestingly they are finding that the middle classes are being infected the most. I asked why? The answer is obvious really - they travel.
Key ingredient in coronavirus tests comes from Yellowstone’s lakes. (National Geographic, March 31, 2020)
Microbiologist Thomas Brock was tramping through Yellowstone in the 1960s when he stumbled upon a species of bacteria that would transform medical science. Brock was investigating the tiny life-forms that manage to eke out a living in the superheated waters of the park’s thermal pools. There, he and a student found golden mats of stringy growth in Yellowstone’s Mushroom Spring containing a microbe that produces unusual heat-resistant enzymes.
Today, those enzymes are a key component in polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, a method used widely in labs around the world to study small samples of genetic material by making millions of copies. This technique, which would have been impossible without the discovery of heat-resistant bacteria more than half a century ago, is now being used to boost the signal of viruses in most of the available tests for COVID-19.
Captain of U.S. aircraft carrier with growing coronavirus outbreak, now in Guam, pleads for help from Navy. (San Francisco Chronicle, March 31, 2020)
The captain of a nuclear aircraft carrier with more than 100 sailors (out of 4,000) infected with the coronavirus pleaded Monday with U.S. Navy officials for resources to allow isolation of his entire crew and avoid possible deaths in a situation he described as quickly deteriorating. “This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” Crozier wrote. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.” In the four-page letter to senior military officials, Crozier said only a small contingent of infected sailors have been off-boarded. Most of the crew remain aboard the ship, where following official guidelines for 14-day quarantines and social distancing is impossible. “Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,” Crozier wrote. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”
The Navy did not respond to The Chronicle’s requests for comment Monday, but on Tuesday morning as the news spread, the Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly spoke to CNN. “I heard about the letter from Capt. Crozier (Tuesday) morning, I know that our command organization has been aware of this for about 24 hours and we have been working actually the last seven days to move those sailors off the ship and get them into accommodations in Guam. The problem is that Guam doesn’t have enough beds right now and we’re having to talk to the government there to see if we can get some hotel space, create tent-type facilities,” Modly said. “We don’t disagree with the (captain) on that ship and we’re doing it in a very methodical way because it’s not the same as a cruise ship, that ship has armaments on it, it has aircraft on it, we have to be able to fight fires if there are fires on board the ship, we have to run a nuclear power plant, so there’s a lot of things that we have to do on that ship that make it a little bit different and unique but we’re managing it and we’re working through it,” he said.
So far, none of the infected sailors has shown serious symptoms, but the number of those who have tested positive has jumped exponentially since the Navy reported infections in three crew members on March 24, the first time COVID-19 infections had been detected on a naval vessel at sea. Senior military officials said last week that the entire crew of more than 4,000 will be tested. The carrier’s home port is San Diego. At the time, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly expressed confidence that they identified all the sailors who had been in contact with the trio of infected sailors and they had been quarantined.
Paul Krugman: We have always been at war with the Chinese virus. (New York Times, March 31, 2020)
Needless to say, the mounting coronavirus death toll hasn’t produced any apologies from pundits who previously claimed that the virus was a hoax, let alone admissions that the terrible, horrible, no-good mainstream media were actually giving accurate information. Perhaps more surprisingly, as far as I know there haven’t been any howls of protest from Fox viewers, or Rush Limbaugh listeners, who are now being told something completely different from what they were hearing three weeks ago. Their trust in Fox, their disdain for The New York Times and The Washington Post, and, above all, their faith in Donald Trump are apparently unshaken.
The parallels with George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” are obvious. Orwell wrote a great essay a few years before “Nineteen Eighty-Four” titled “Looking Back on the Spanish War.” In it he wrote of his vision of a “nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, ‘It never happened’ — well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five — well, two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs.”
Well, a lot of Americans evidently already live in that nightmare world. And that scares me more than Covid-19.
Plastic Wars (full film) | FRONTLINE (53-min. video; PBS, March 31, 2020)
Despite efforts spreading across America to reduce the use of plastic and the crisis of ocean pollution growing, the plastics industry is rapidly scaling up new production and promoting a familiar solution: recycling. But it’s estimated that no more than 10% of plastic produced has ever been recycled. The documentary “Plastic Wars,” from FRONTLINE and NPR, reveals how plastic makers for decades have publicly promoted recycling, despite privately expressing doubts that widespread plastic recycling would ever be economically viable.
Plastic Wars: Industry Spent Millions Selling Recycling — To Sell More Plastic. (4-min. video; NPR, March 31, 2020)
For decades, Americans have been sorting their trash believing that most plastic could be recycled. But the truth is, the vast majority of all plastic produced can't be or won't be recycled. In 40 years, less than 10% of plastic has ever been recycled. Oil and gas companies — the makers of plastic — have known that all along, even as they spent millions of dollars telling the American public the opposite.
NEW: Tinker, Tailor, Mobster, Trump (Greg Olear, March 31, 2020)
What happens when a Confidential Informant becomes President?
We don’t need more careful legalese. We don’t need more cryptic phrasings along the lines of “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” We need to hear, loud and clear, what the FBI knows. We need to be told, unequivocally, that Trump is an inveterate crook—a real crook; an actual criminal; not just a cute Twitter assertion—and, even more surprising, and contrary to all recent evidence, that he is capable of telling the truth when it serves him.
NEW: No, Trump Cannot Move the General Election. (Democracy Docket, March 31, 2020)
The president has no legal authority to change the date of federal elections — period. And though one court — one time — found that a congressional election, in part of one state, could be postponed by a few weeks, the circumstances under which the court found that was warranted does not apply in 2020 and could never apply to the office of the president.
With respect to congressional elections, the Constitution gives states the power to set the “times, places and manner” of elections, subject to Congress’s ultimate authority to “make or alter” state regulations. This means that while states have the power to enact rules around how elections for federal office are run, ultimately Congress can overrule the states. Congress has used this power in a number of ways including requiring states to ensure that military and overseas voters receive mail ballots in time for them to be able to vote.
Most importantly, more than 100 years ago, Congress set, by federal statute, the date on which congressional elections are to be held as the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. Neither the president nor a state can alter or postpone that date and only once has a court done so.
Republicans Don't Want You To Vote. (4-min. video; The Young Turks, March 31, 2020)
Includes the famous 1980 "Goo Goo" film clip of Paul Weyrich—who started the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and others—saying, "I don't want everybody to vote … Our leverage in the elections, quite candidly, goes up as the voting populace goes down."
That's why Republicans oppose sensible measures to make it easier for eligible citizens to vote—such as universal vote-by-mail, same-day voter registration and restoring full voting rights for those formerly incarcerated for a felony. They know that if everybody voted, as Trump would say, no Republican with their extreme views could get elected.
NEW: Trump says Republicans would ‘never’ be elected again if it was easier to vote. (The Guardian, March 30, 2020)
President dismissed Democratic-led push for voter reforms amid coronavirus pandemic during "Fox & Friends" appearance.
NEW: Over 100 Years Ago, Artists Were Asked to Depict the Year 2000. These Were The Results. (Can You Actually, March 30, 2020)
The images depict the world as it was imagined it would be like in the year 2000. Some of these unique illustrations are actually quite accurate vision of the current era today, including farming machines, robotic equipment, and flying machines.
New York Attorney General Looks Into Zoom’s Privacy Practices. (New York Times, March 30, 2020)
As the videoconferencing platform’s popularity has surged, Zoom has scrambled to address a series of data privacy and security problems.
Taxpayers Paid Millions to Design a Low-Cost Ventilator for a Pandemic. Instead, the Company Is Selling Versions of It Overseas. (ProPublica, March 30, 2020)
Five years ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tried to plug a crucial hole in its preparations for a global pandemic, signing a $13.8 million contract with a Pennsylvania manufacturer to create a low-cost, portable, easy-to-use ventilator that could be stockpiled for emergencies.
This past September, with the design of the new Trilogy Evo Universal finally cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, HHS ordered 10,000 of the ventilators for the Strategic National Stockpile at a cost of $3,280 each.
But as the pandemic continues to spread across the globe, there is still not a single Trilogy Evo Universal in the stockpile. Instead last summer, soon after the FDA’s approval, the Pennsylvania company that designed the device — a subsidiary of the Dutch appliance and technology giant Royal Philips N.V. — began selling two higher-priced commercial versions of the same ventilator around the world.
The contracted company was acquired by Covidien, in Ireland. A spokesman for the still-larger firm that acquired Covidien in 2015, Medtronic, said that the prototype ventilator created by Newport Medical “would not have been able to meet the specifications required by the government, nor at the price required.” In a statement responding to a story in The New York Times, Medtronic said it left the federal government with all the designs and equipment created in the project.
[See the Medtronic article, below!]
Medtronic is sharing its portable ventilator design specifications and code for free to all. (TechCrunch, March 30, 2020)
This move by Medtronic makes freely available everything needed to spin up new production lines at existing manufacturers around the world — without any costs or fees owed to Medtronic.
It is also intended to provide the resources necessary for anyone looking at what they can build today — a blueprint to spawn new and innovative ideas. Manufacturers might be able to look at Medtronic’s proven design and engineer something they can build at scale relatively quickly that offers the same or similar performance characteristics.
Coronavirus: Mercedes F1 to make breathing aid. (BBC News, March 30, 2020)
A breathing aid that can help keep coronavirus patients out of intensive care has been created in under a week. University College London engineers worked with clinicians at UCLH and Mercedes Formula One to build the device, which delivers oxygen to the lungs without needing a ventilator.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices are already used in hospitals but are in short supply. China and Italy used them to help Covid-19 patients.
Forty of the new devices have been delivered to ULCH and to three other London hospitals. If trials go well, up to 1,000 of the CPAP machines can be produced per day by Mercedes-AMG-HPP, beginning in a week's time. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has already given its approval for their use.
Debian Linux readies an anti-coronavirus hack-a-thon. (ZDNet, March 30, 2020)
Open-source developers are uniting to create and improve code and programs to help fight COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Virus May Have Been in Humans For Years, Study Suggests. (Physics & Astronomy Zone, March 30, 2020)
As COVID-19 has hitchhiked around the globe, causing lockdowns, pneumonia and fear, scientists have been racing to determine where the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has come from. While we don't have all the answers yet - including whether it came from an animal reservoir - a new analysis has definitively put to rest the conspiracies that claim it's a lab-made disease.
The study raises some interesting possibilities regarding the origin of the new coronavirus. One of the scenarios suggests the virus may have been circulating harmlessly in human populations for quite a while before it became the pandemic that's now stopped the world in its tracks. "It is possible that a progenitor of SARS-CoV-2 jumped into humans, acquiring [new genomic features] through adaptation during undetected human-to-human transmission," the team from the US, UK and Australia writes in the study. "Once acquired, these adaptations would enable the pandemic to take off and produce a sufficiently large cluster of cases."
A president unfit for a pandemic (Boston Globe, March 30, 2020)
Much of the suffering and death was preventable. The president has blood on his hands.
While the spread of the novel coronavirus has been aggressive around the world, much of the profound impact it will have here in the United States was preventable. As the American public braces itself for the worst of this crisis, it’s worth remembering that the reach of the virus here is not attributable to an act of God or a foreign invasion, but a colossal failure of leadership.
The outbreak that began in China demanded a White House that could act swiftly and competently to protect public health, informed by science and guided by compassion and public service. It required an administration that could quickly deploy reliable tests around the nation to isolate cases and trace and contain the virus’s spread, as South Korea effectively did, as well as to manufacture and distribute scarce medical supplies around the country. It begged for a president of the United States to deliver clear, consistent, scientifically sound messages on the state of the epidemic and its solutions, to reassure the public amid their fear, and to provide steady guidance to cities and states. And it demanded a leader who would put the country’s well-being first, above near-term stock market returns and his own reelection prospects, and who would work with other nations to stem the tide of COVID-19 cases around the world.
What we have instead is a president epically outmatched by a global pandemic. A president who in late January, when the first confirmed coronavirus case was announced in the United States, downplayed the risk and insisted all was under control. A president who, rather than aggressively test all those exposed to the virus, said he’d prefer not to bring ashore passengers on a contaminated cruise ship so as to keep national case numbers (artificially) low. A president who, consistent with his mistrust and undermining of scientific fact, has misled the public about unproven cures for COVID-19, and who baited-and-switched last week about whether the country ought to end social distancing to open up by Easter, and then, on Saturday, about whether he’d impose a quarantine on New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. A president who has pledged to oversee the doling out of the $500 billion in corporate bailout money in the latest stimulus package, some of which will go to the travel industry in which his family is invested. A president who spent a good chunk of a recent press conference complaining about how hard it is for a rich man to serve in the White House even as Americans had already begun to lose their jobs, their health care, and their lives. A president who has reinforced racial stigma by calling the contagion a “Chinese virus” and failed to collaborate adequately with other countries to contain their outbreaks and study the disease. A president who evades responsibility and refuses to acknowledge, let alone own, the bitter truth of National Institutes of Health scientist Dr. Anthony Fauci’s testimony: that the country’s testing rollout was “a failing.”
Timing is everything in pandemic response: It can make the difference between a contained local outbreak that endures a few weeks and an uncontrollable contagion that afflicts millions. The Trump administration has made critical errors over the past two months, choosing early on to develop its own diagnostic test, which failed, instead of adopting the World Health Organization’s test — a move that kneecapped the US coronavirus response and, by most public health experts’ estimation, will cost thousands if not hundreds of thousands of American lives. Rather than making the expected federal effort to mobilize rapidly to distribute needed gowns, masks, and ventilators to ill-equipped hospitals and to the doctors and nurses around the country who are left unprotected treating a burgeoning number of patients, the administration has instead been caught outbidding individual states (including Massachusetts) trying to purchase medical supplies. It has dragged its heels on invoking the Defense Production Act to get scarce, sorely needed ventilators and masks into production so that they can be distributed to hospitals nationwide as they hit their peaks in the cycle of the epidemic. It has left governors and mayors in the lurch, begging for help. The months the administration wasted with prevarication about the threat and its subsequent missteps will amount to exponentially more COVID-19 cases than were necessary.
In other words, the president has blood on his hands.
Many pivotal decision points in this crisis are past us, but more are still to come. For our own sake, every American should be hoping for a miraculous turnaround — and that the too-little, too-late strategy of the White House task force will henceforth at least prevent contagion and economic ruin of the grandest scale. But come November, there must be a reckoning for the lives lost, and for the vast, avoidable suffering about to ensue under this president’s watch.
The Contrarian Coronavirus Theory That Informed the Trump Administration (The New Yorker, March 30, 2020)
President Trump, who at one point called the coronavirus pandemic an “invisible enemy” and said it made him a “wartime President,” has in recent days questioned its seriousness, tweeting, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.” Trump said repeatedly that he wanted the country to reopen by Easter, April 12th, contradicting the advice of most health officials. (On Sunday, he backed down and extended federal social-distancing guidelines for at least another month.) According to the Washington Post, “Conservatives close to Trump and numerous administration officials have been circulating an article by Richard A. Epstein of the Hoover Institution, titled ‘Coronavirus Perspective,’ which plays down the extent of the spread and the threat.”
The Meaning of Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Quackery (The New Yorker, March 29, 2020)
The President’s pronouncements are a reminder, if one was needed, of his scorn for rigorous science, even amid the worst pandemic to hit the U.S. in a century.
Trump’s Message to U.S. Intelligence Officials: Be Loyal or Leave. (The New Yorker, March 29, 2020)
The nomination of Representative John Ratcliffe is the clearest sign yet that powerful spy agencies are being politicized.
California proves that stay-in-place saves lives; Florida and Texas hurl toward 6-figures dead. (Daily Kos, March 29, 2020)
California, by far the largest state, is over 12% of the population of the United States. Any state that loses more people to COVID-19 than California—despite the state being an early foothold for the disease—has so mismanaged its response that its leadership deserves to be tar and feathered. That the states above still haven’t taken this disease seriously enough to issue shelter-in-place orders is downright criminal. Hundreds of thousands of people might die as a result.
Now, those numbers aren’t set in stone. The ActCovidNow.org models provide the dates upon which these states will hit their point of no return. For example, Tennessee still has three weeks before its hospitals are overloaded. Texas about two and a half weeks. Florida a little over two weeks. We can still avoid the worst of this disease if the leadership in those states acts.
The problem, of course, is that those states are all run by Republicans, Trump-loving Republicans. And if Trump is talking about opening up the country by Easter, which is Sunday, April 12, then they won’t want to do anything to undermine Trump’s “leadership” of the crisis. (Mississippi’s useless Republican governor even invalidated local stay-in-place orders from mayors!) The rot starts at the very top, with a president who only cares about the immediate message and PR, as opposed to listening to the experts on the long-term (very painful) solution.
[This graph of milestones isn't written in stone, but later adjusted versions should prove interesting.]
Fox News is worried about legal action after misleading viewers about coronavirus. (Media Matters, March 29, 2020)
Gabe Sherman (Vanity Fair): When I've been talking to Fox insiders over the last few days, there's a real concern inside the network that their early downplaying of the coronavirus actually exposes Fox News to potential legal action by viewers who maybe were misled and actually have died from this. I've heard Trish Regan's being taken off the air is, you know, reflective of this concern that Fox News is in big trouble by downplaying this virus and The New York Times reported days ago that the Murdoch family was privately taking the coronavirus seriously. The Murdochs, of course, own Fox News. So, they were taken personal steps to protect themselves while anchors like Trish Regan and Sean Hannity were telling viewers that it's a hoax and putting themselves in potentially mortal danger. So I think this is a case where Fox's coverage, if it actually winds up being proved that people died because of it, this is a new terrain in terms of Fox being possibly held liable for their actions.
Coronavirus Split-Screen: Pandemic Sends Presidential Candidates Toward Collision. (The Recount, March 28, 2020)
NEW: Corona blue: New highs in clear skies, clean air in New Delhi, India (Times of India, March 28, 2020)
Reduced vehicular movement on the roads and an early morning shower led to not only a dramatic improvement in air quality, with the PM2.5 level dropping to 20 micrograms per cubic metre by Friday, afternoon, but also unusually clear blue skies, a sight rarely seen in the capitol at this time.
The Math Behind Social Distancing (Visual Capitalist, March 28, 2020)
Limbaugh Defends Trump Coronavirus Response: He ‘Has a History of Solving Problems’. (Breitbart, March 28, 2020)
“You know, we’ve talked about the deep state all these years since Trump was elected, the Trump-Russia collusion, the FBI — well the deep state extends very deeply. And the American people did not elect a bunch of health experts that we don’t know. We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know. And how do we know they’re even health experts? Well, they wear white lab coats, and they have been at the job for a while, and they are at the CDC, and they are at the NIH. Yeah, they have been there, and they are there, but have there been any job assessments for them? They are just assumed to be the best because they are in government. These are all kinds of things I have been questioning. And I have been watching  people routinely accept whatever the authorities say.”
Defiant evangelicals are part of Trump’s death cult with Americans’ blood on their hands. (PoliticusUSA, March 28, 2020)
Trump Reportedly Wants His Signature on Coronavirus Stimulus Checks. (Slate, March 28, 2020)
Even though the president thanked “Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first,” it seems he wants Americans to thank him for any checks they receive. Trump has told people he wants his signature to appear on the direct payment checks, an administration official told the Wall Street Journal. A civil servant would normally sign the checks.
Trump says he won’t comply with key transparency measures in the coronavirus stimulus bill. (Vox, March 28, 2020)
The administration says it won’t provide documentation for audits into $500 billion in corporate bailout funds.
That bill also establishes a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR) within the Treasury Department to audit and investigate half a trillion dollars in loans for large businesses. In his signing statement, Trump said that this provision raises “constitutional concerns,” adding that his administration would not comply with such an official’s request for documents. “I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the SIGPR to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required by the Take Care Clause,” part of Article II Section 3 of the Constitution that states a sitting president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” This seems to suggest the administration believes it is the president’s duty and not that of an inspector general to ensure the funds are distributed as the law intends.
The special inspector general, as authorized within the bill, would be able to request information from government agencies and report on failures to comply with those information requests. In his signing statement, Trump essentially stated that he will not let such reports reach Congress without his approval, which many fear directly undermines the provision’s goal of maintaining transparency in how that fund is handled.
NEW: The bad news for Trump, amid his coronavirus poll bump (Washington Post, March 27, 2020)
Trump’s handling of this situation has been unsteady and consistently factually challenged. Many people are either not consuming this or are willing to look past it for now. And his most devoted supporters will probably continue to do so regardless of what happens from here on out. But that doesn’t mean it will always be thus for people in the middle. And this poll, for perhaps the first time, speaks to lingering doubts about how up to the task he has been.
U.S. Coronavirus Cases Top 100,000 As Trump Demands Praise From Governors. (8-min. video; MSNBC, March 27, 2020)
As the number of coronavirus cases continues to surge across America, Trump took time at his briefing and on Twitter to go after the governors of Michigan and Washington as dire reports pour out of American hospitals. He no longer calls it a hoax, but is still passing out pens when trying to fight a virus pandemic?
The White House chose the week the USA became the epicenter of a historic pandemic to virtually stop policing big polluters, privatize a bedrock federal food safety job, advance a mining road through a pristine swath of northern Alaska and revive a regulatory rollback so difficult to defend that the administration [had] abandoned the effort last year at the peak of a high-profile fight. On Thursday, the EPA announced it would suspend enforcement of bedrock clean air and water laws, leaving the fossil fuel, chemical and agribusiness industries to police themselves amid a historic public health crisis.
Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Cases Top 100,000, Deaths 1,500; Trump Signs $2 Trillion Relief Bill. (New York Times, March 27, 2020)
President Trump, who had questioned the need for additional ventilators, pushes industry to make more. A new survey of mayors finds dire shortages of urgently needed medical supplies. And in Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive.
President Trump on Friday evening lamented the loss of economic gains that he had often used to measure his success in office and that served as the heart of his re-election message until the coronavirus hit the United States. And he attacked Democratic governors for being insufficiently grateful for his efforts. “Think of it, 22 days ago we had the greatest economy in the world,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference. “Everything was going beautifully. The stock market hit an all-time high again for the over 150th time during my presidency.”
He singled out the governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, and the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, for his primetime scorn. Mr. Inslee, he said, was “a failed presidential candidate” who was “constantly tripping and complaining.” Ms. Whitmer “has no idea what’s going on,” he said. He then said he told Vice President Mike Pence, his coronavirus coordinator, to stop calling Mr. Inslee and Ms. Whitmer: “Don’t call the woman in Michigan, doesn’t make any difference,” he said of Ms. Whitmer. “Very simple. I want them to be appreciative,” he said, saying his administration has “done a hell of a job.”
Mr. Trump said he planned to visit Norfolk, Va., to wave goodbye to the U.S.N.S. Comfort, the Navy hospital ship, on Saturday, despite the danger of making such a trip when any gatherings of more than ten people nationwide are still considered dangerous. “I have spirit for the country,” Mr. Trump said. “I’m not going to be jumping around in a huddle.”
House Debates $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package Amid Last-Minute Snag. (Time, March 27, 2020)
The House kicked off debate Friday on a $2.2 trillion package to ease the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating toll on the U.S. economy and health care system, even as a maverick conservative threatened to delay passage until most lawmakers return to Washington for a vote. That left many angry lawmakers scrambling to return to the nation’s capital amid a pandemic in which Americans have been urged to self-quarantine or keep their distance from one another.
President Donald Trump vented his anger as well, on Twitter. Shortly after the House opened, Trump called Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who had threatened to try to force a roll call vote, “a third rate Grandstander” who “just wants publicly.”
No, the entire GOP is not being blackmailed. (Teri Kanefield, March 27, 2020)
There’s a theory on Twitter (and perhaps elsewhere) that the GOP bows to Trump and does his bidding because they are being blackmailed. Proponents of this theory point to the fact that the Russians also hacked the GOP computers but never released stolen information. They point to Sen. Lindsay Graham’s abrupt turnaround after a golfing meeting with Trump.
People. This theory gives way too much credit to the GOP. They prefer Trump’s politics to the Democrats.
If there is dirt, the dirt would be the extent of their willingness to work with Putin. But you know what? Their hardcore supporters wouldn’t even care about that. Wanna know why? They not only prefer Trump’s politics to the Democrats, they also prefer Putin’s Russia to liberal democracy.
Want proof? Buckle your seat belts. Here we go.
Thinking You Had the Virus Is Going Viral. (Medium, March 27, 2020)
People are playing a dangerous game online by speculating they had the coronavirus.
Thousands Turn Out in Melee on Bridge Linking Hubei, Jiangxi as Lockdown Eases. (Radio Free Asia, March 27, 2020)
The clashes came as travel restrictions on Hubei and its capital Wuhan were lifted after more than two months after the emergence of the coronavirus epidemic in Wuhan late last year. Jiangxi police on a checkpoint on the bridge had allowed a group of migrant workers stranded during the lockdown to pass, but had refused to allow Hubei residents through. After angry disputes broke out, Jiangxi police sent in riot police to seal off the entrance to Jiujiang.
Video footage posted to YouTube showed thousands of people marching up the approach road to the bridge, shoulder to shoulder with uniformed police from Hubei, shouting "Go Hubei! Go Hubei!"
A local resident who gave only his surname He said the past few months have seen people from Hubei -- who can be identified by their birthplace on their national ID cards -- being denied entry to places across China, including accommodation in hotels and guesthouses. "All the other provinces are discriminating against people from Hubei right now; stopping them from coming in," He said. "Everyone has been cheering Wuhan and Hubei during the epidemic, but they are very discriminatory towards them when they try to travel to where they are, and demand that they be isolated."
Estimates Show Wuhan Death Toll Far Higher Than Official Figure. (Radio Free Asia, March 27, 2020)
As authorities lifted a two-month coronavirus lockdown in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, residents said they were growing increasingly skeptical that the figure of some 2,500 deaths in the city to date was accurate.
Since the start of the week, seven large funeral homes in Wuhan have been handing out the cremated remains of around 500 people to their families every day, suggesting that far more people died than ever made the official statistics. "It can't be right ... because the incinerators have been working round the clock, so how can so few people have died?" an Wuhan resident surnamed Zhang told RFA on Friday.
A new FDA-authorized COVID-19 test doesn’t need a lab and can produce results in just 5 minutes. (TechCrunch, March 27, 2020)
There’s a new COVID-19 test from healthcare technology maker Abbott that looks to be the fastest yet in terms of producing results, and that can do so on the spot right at point-of-care, without requiring a round trip to a lab. This test for the novel coronavirus causing the current global pandemic has received emergency clearance for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and will begin production next week, with output of 50,000 per day possible starting next week.
The new Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test uses the Abbott ID NOW diagnostics platform, which is essentially a lab-in-a-box that is roughly the size of a small kitchen appliance. Its size and that it can produce either a positive result in just five minutes or a negative one in under 15 mean that it could be a very useful means to extend coronavirus testing beyond its current availability to more places including clinics and doctor’s offices, and cut down on wait times both in terms of getting tested and receiving a diagnosis.
The coronavirus test that wasn’t: How federal health officials misled state scientists and derailed the best chance at containment. (USA Today, March 27, 2020)
From its biggest cities to its smallest towns, America’s chance to contain the coronavirus crisis came and went in the seven weeks since U.S. health officials botched the testing rollout and then misled scientists in state laboratories about this critical early failure. Federal regulators failed to recognize the spiraling disaster and were slow to relax the rules that prevented labs and major hospitals from advancing a backup.
The nation’s public health pillars — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration — shirked their responsibility to protect Americans in an emergency like this new coronavirus, USA TODAY found in interviews with dozens of scientists, public health experts and community leaders, as well as email communications between laboratories and hospitals across the country. The result was a cascading series of failures now costing lives.
The FDA, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, regulates according to laws passed by Congress and guidance laid out by the administration. Yet Trump has blamed the initial approach on the prior administration, which he said created barriers that made it difficult to rapidly ramp up testing. “I don’t take responsibility at all,” he said at a news conference two weeks ago. The White House did not respond to requests for comment and directed USA TODAY to the health department, which also did not respond.
Dr. Margaret Hamburg, who served as commissioner of the FDA under former president Barack Obama and helped oversee the agency’s response to the H1N1 flu outbreak, said there was nothing stopping the administration from acting sooner. “I’ve been confused by those characterizations of the FDA’s inability to move swiftly in a crisis,” Hamburg said.
NEW: Scientists, Lawyers Create Coronavirus IP Pledge. (Bloomberg Law, March 27, 2020)
Hundreds of Volunteers Are Working to Create Open-Source Ventilators to Fight Coronavirus. (Medium, March 27, 2020)
The goal is to create one million devices that cost less than $200 and operate with little to no power.
Trump Demands GM, Ford Produce Ventilators 'Immediately'. (International Business Times, March 27, 2020)
US President Donald Trump demanded Friday that automakers Ford and General Motors start making ventilators to help ease the growing pressure on hospitals to care for coronavirus patients. "General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!!" Trump tweeted. "FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!" he added.
According to The New York Times, the White House had been planning this week to announce a joint venture between GM and Ventec Life Systems to jointly manufacture some 80,000 ventilators, as many areas of the country already report a dire shortage of the machines necessary to help COVID-19 victims continue breathing. GM had been expected to retool a mothballed car plant for the production.
But the announcement of the deal was cancelled at the last minute, the Times wrote, due to the substantial, $1 billion cost involved.
Trump though promised Friday that more ventilators were coming.
Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, the US region most heavily impacted so far by the coronavirus, has repeatedly pleaded with the government for more ventilators to be able to contend with patient needs as infections soar. Cuomo said he expects the epidemic won't peak in his region for another three weeks.
Coronavirus Ventilator Shortage: Trump Says GM Won't Meet Need Despite Promises. (International Business Times, March 27, 2020)
President Trump criticized General Motors Friday, saying it will be able to deliver only 6,000 of the 40,000 ventilators initially promised to help victims of coronavirus – and that won’t happen for another month. “As usual with this General Motors, things just never seem to work out,” Trump tweeted, blaming CEO Mary Barra.
GM had said it would retool its Kokomo, Indiana, plant to produce ventilators with technology from Ventec Life Systems. The company said it would put several hundred million dollars upfront to get production started but the effort would cost more than $1 billion.
‘I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators’: Trump questions New York’s plea for critical equipment. (Washington Post, March 27, 2020)
“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity in a phone interview. “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go into major hospitals sometimes they’ll have two ventilators, and now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”
The president’s comments came shortly after the New York Times reported that the White House had abruptly called off a plan to announce this week that General Motors and Ventec Life Systems would be partnering to produce as many as 80,000 ventilators, citing concerns with the deal’s $1 billion price tag.
As Coronavirus Crisis Unfolds, Sanders Sees a Moment That Matches His Ideas. (New York Times, March 26, 2020)
With the odds of winning long, some Democrats wonder why Bernie Sanders is still in the presidential race. He’s still pushing his agenda, though it’s not clear who’s listening.
2019 saw over 60 gigawatts of wind power installed. (Ars Technica, March 27, 2020)
Slower growth likely as attention shifts and pandemic adds uncertainty.
Ring Doorbell App Packed with Third-Party Trackers. (Electronic Frontier Foundation, March 27, 2020)
Ring isn't just a product that allows users to surveil their neighbors. The company also uses it to surveil its customers.
An investigation by EFF of the Ring doorbell app for Android found it to be packed with third-party trackers sending out a plethora of customers’ personally identifiable information (PII). Four main analytics and marketing companies were discovered to be receiving information such as the names, private IP addresses, mobile network carriers, persistent identifiers, and sensor data on the devices of paying customers.
The danger in sending even small bits of information is that analytics and tracking companies are able to combine these bits together to form a unique picture of the user’s device. This cohesive whole represents a fingerprint that follows the user as they interact with other apps and use their device, in essence providing trackers the ability to spy on what a user is doing in their digital lives and when they are doing it. All this takes place without meaningful user notification or consent and, in most cases, no way to mitigate the damage done. Even when this information is not misused and employed for precisely its stated purpose (in most cases marketing), this can lead to a whole host of social ills.
Ring has exhibited a pattern of behavior that attempts to mitigate exposure to criticism and scrutiny while benefiting from the wide array of customer data available to them. It has been able to do so by leveraging an image of the secure home, while profiting from a surveillance network which facilitates police departments’ unprecedented access into the private lives of citizens, as we have previously covered. For consumers, this image has cultivated a sense of trust in Ring that should be shaken by the reality of how the app functions: not only does Ring mismanage consumer data, but it also intentionally hands over that data to trackers and data miners.
[Ring Inc. (formerly Doorbot) is a home security and smart home company owned by Amazon.]
Oil Price Crash Opens A Window Of Opportunity For Renewables. (Oil Price, March 26, 2020)
Just a month ago, companies and investors had a financial incentive to continue investing in new oil and gas projects despite the societal and environmentalist backlash against fossil fuels. Not anymore. In just a couple of weeks, the oil price crash made investments in renewable energy starting to look more attractive. Or at least as attractive as investment in oil and gas.   
The oil price collapse and the expected economic depression as a result of the coronavirus pandemic—as analysts are now warning of depression rather than recession in many major economies—could slow down the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs). Yet, history suggests that investments in renewable energy, especially wind and solar, are not expected to take a major hit during an oil price collapse, analysts say.
E.P.A., Citing Coronavirus, Drastically Relaxes Rules for Polluters. (New York Times, March 26, 2020)
The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution.
The move comes amid an influx of requests from businesses for a relaxation of regulations as they face layoffs, personnel restrictions and other problems related to the coronavirus outbreak. Issued by the E.P.A.’s top compliance official, Susan P. Bodine, the policy sets new guidelines for companies to monitor themselves for an undetermined period of time during the outbreak and says that the agency will not issue fines for violations of certain air, water and hazardous-waste-reporting requirements.
Gina McCarthy, who led the E.P.A. under the Obama administration and now serves as president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called it “an open license to pollute.” She said that while individual companies might need flexibility, “this brazen directive is nothing short of an abject abdication of the E.P.A. mission to protect our well being.’’
Cynthia Giles, who headed the E.P.A. enforcement division during the Obama administration, said: “This is essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules. It is so far beyond any reasonable response I am just stunned.”
COVID-19 Crash: How China’s Economy May Offer a Glimpse of the Future (Visual Capitalist, March 26, 2020)
Zoom iOS App Sends Data to Facebook Even if You Don’t Have a Facebook Account. (Motherboard, March 26, 2020)
Zoom's privacy policy isn't explicit about the data transfer to Facebook at all.
Surging Traffic Is Slowing Down Our Internet. (New York Times, March 26, 2020)
With people going online more in the pandemic, internet traffic has exploded. That’s taking a toll on our download speeds and video quality.
In late January, as China locked down some provinces to contain the spread of the coronavirus, average internet speeds in the country slowed as people who were stuck inside went online more and clogged the networks. In Hubei Province, the epicenter of infections, mobile broadband speeds fell by more than half.
In mid-February, when the virus hit Italy, Germany and Spain, internet speeds in those countries also began to deteriorate.
And last week, as a wave of stay-at-home orders rolled out across the United States, the average time it took to download videos, emails and documents increased as broadband speeds declined 4.9 percent from the previous week. Median download speeds dropped 38 percent in San Jose, Calif., and 24 percent in New York. Company officials said they had never seen such a steep, sudden surge. The chief technology officer at Telefónica, a Spanish telecommunications company, said: “In just two days we grew all the traffic we had planned for 2020.” As the use of YouTube, Netflix, Zoom videoconferencing, Facebook calls and videogaming has surged to new highs, the stress on internet infrastructure is starting to show in Europe and the United States — and the traffic is probably far from its peak.
The demand has pushed up failure rates delivering video conferencing. “I don’t know if we’ll soon see a peak, not for weeks to come,” he said. “The reason I say that is because we aren’t seeing traffic in Asia slow down even now.”
To head off problems, European regulators have pushed streaming companies such as Netflix and YouTube to reduce the size of their video files so they don’t take up as much bandwidth. In the United States, regulators have given wireless carriers access to more spectrum to bolster the capacity of their networks. YouTube, which is owned by Google, said this week that it would reduce the quality of its videos from high to standard definition across the globe. Disney delayed the start of its Disney Plus streaming service in France by two weeks, and Microsoft’s Xbox asked gaming companies to introduce online updates and new releases only at certain times to prevent network congestion.
'For Common Benefit of All,' Ireland Nationalizes Hospitals for Duration of Coronavirus Crisis, Sparking Demand for US to Follow Suit. (Common Dreams, March 26, 2020)
"For the duration of this crisis the State will take control of all private hospital facilities and manage all of the resources for the common benefit of all of our people," Ireland's Health Minister Simon Harris announced Tuesday. "There can be no room for public versus private when it comes to pandemic."
'I won't survive': Iranian scientist in US detention says ICE will let Covid-19 kill many. (The Guardian, March 26, 2020)
Although he was exonerated, Dr Sirous Asgari remains locked up and tells the Guardian ‘inhumane’ jail is denying detainees masks and hand sanitizer.
Dr. Fauci: "You don't make the timeline; the virus does." (11-min, video; CNN, March 26, 2020)
Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci explains the reality of crafting a timeline to reopen parts of the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.
USNS Comfort prepares for deployment to NYC. (5-min. video; MSNBC, March 26, 2020)
Naval ship, the USNS Comfort, is expected to depart from Virginia for New York City where, early next week, it will serve as a 1,000-bed hospital for non-COVID-19 patients so other area hospitals can focus their attention on the coronavirus.
In same video: US military orders no troop movements to or from overseas for 60 days.
The coronavirus threat to public health is no time to restrict abortion access. (Washington Post, March 26, 2020)
Texas, Ohio and Mississippi have halted abortion services during the coronavirus outbreak — and they’re unlikely to be the last states to institute such restrictions. Some policymakers are using the pandemic as an excuse to try to achieve a political, and perhaps moral, goal that is not currently supported by law. The facts are clear: Abortion is legal. The procedure is usually carried out in facilities that do not also take care of people with respiratory illnesses, which means it does not take up needed hospital beds. The right to an abortion is guaranteed under the law.
Pastor Who Claimed Covid-19 ‘Hysteria’ Was Plot Against Trump Dies From Virus. (Patheos, March 26, 2020)
On his Facebook page Spradlin shared a misleading meme attempting to minimize COVID-19, comparing the virus to the swine flu, and suggesting that the response to the coronavirus pandemic was media created “mass hysteria” to damage Trump.
The Ibuprofen Debate Reveals the Danger of Covid-19 Rumors. (Wired, March 26, 2020)
An online furor over whether it’s safe to use the fever reducer reveals how people are sharing incomplete—and sometimes bad—information.
Inside One Distillery’s Pivot to Hand Sanitizer (Atlas Obscura, March 26, 2020)
The small Massachusetts outfit supplies local police, firefighters, and hospitals.
Biden's new ad attacks Trump for repeatedly downplaying the coronavirus outbreak, using the president's own words against him. (MSN, March 26, 2020)
Biden's new video mirrors a similar ad by Priorities USA Action, a Democratic political action committee, which superimposes Trump's words over a graph that shows reported U.S. coronavirus cases increasing.The Trump campaign called for that ad to be taken down in a cease-and-desist letter to television networks, claiming it was "patently false, misleading, and deceptive" because it appeared to stitch together two soundbites that made it sound like Trump was calling coronavirus a hoax at a February 28 rally in North Carolina. Trump's rally remarks actually claimed that the Democrats were were politicizing the rally, in the manner that he claims they politicized impeachment. "Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right?" Trump said. "Coronavirus. They're politicizing it ... They tried the impeachment hoax ... and this is their new hoax." 
Heather Cox Richardson: The questions raised by this life-changing crisis are open… and so, suddenly, is America’s future. (Letters From An American, March 25, 2020)
Trump is using his daily briefings on the coronavirus in place of his rallies, and media channels are trying to figure out how both to cover the briefings and to avoid spreading disinformation that will hurt Americans’ ability to respond to the crisis. It is clear Trump is relishing the constant television coverage, and is using it to advance his reelection campaign. In the process, he is playing fast and loose with the truth. Media channels are aware that Trump got scads of free press coverage by engaging in shocking behavior, and are trying to cover the news without repeating that mistake. Today an NPR station in Seattle announced that it will no longer cover his briefings because they disseminate misleading or false information.
Increasingly, the reality is that Trump is outside the real action in the fighting against the pandemic. As the federal government has dropped the ball, state governors and local leaders have stepped in. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who leads the National Governors Association, dismissed out of hand the idea of ending the national lockdown by Easter, as Trump has suggested, and Republican and Democratic governors both have prioritized public health over the national economy.
Similarly, Trump played little if any role in drafting and passing the stimulus packages, leaving the largest stimulus bill in history in the hands of Congress and his Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, while he tweeted (incorrectly) that “the United States has done far more ‘testing’ than any other nation, by far!” and that the “LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success. The real people want to get back to work ASAP. We will be stronger than ever before!”
The country is reordering itself as we hunker down for this crisis. Already our work habits, our social habits, our shopping habits, and our personal lives have been knocked into new grooves. It is a mistake, I think, to imagine that when we finally get a handle on this disease, America will go back to what it was before coronavirus. Observers cannot help but note that such profound dislocation presents a perfect opening for an authoritarian power grab. The Department of Justice’s recent attempt to get Congress to pass legislation permitting the arrest and detention of defendants at will during a time of emergency is a troubling step in that direction. During past crises, a number of Americans have welcomed such authoritarianism, hoping to ditch the slow messiness of democracy in favor of quick, strong fixes. Notably, during the Depression, fascism didn’t strike everyone as a bad idea.
But while it is imperative for citizens of a democracy to watch for and resist the rise of such authoritarian power during a crisis, these times are also open for a redefinition of the nation, not only of our government, but also of how we live. We are learning that many of us can work from home—how will that change our urban and rural spaces? We are learning that our lives depend on a strong government response to pandemics and economic dislocation—how will that change our government? We are learning that our families and friends are even more important than even we knew—how will that change our priorities?
The questions raised by this life-changing crisis are open… and so, suddenly, is America’s future.
After Caving on ‘Orphan Drug’ Designation, Gilead Must Commit to Licensing and Mass Production. (Public Citizen, March 25, 2020)
It was outrageous that Gilead ever sought an “orphan drug” designation for remdesivir, which aims to treat a patient population that easily may number in the tens of millions in the U.S. alone. That designation would confer a special seven-year monopoly on the drug. Thankfully, under pressure, the company has backed down. There’s no doubt that the prospect of an enormous public backlash is what made the difference.
Here’s the story of a corporate profiteering scheme thwarted:
- Gilead Sciences makes an experimental medication that might prove effective in treating COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
- The company — which saw its revenue top $22 billion last year — rushed to acquire special monopoly privileges meant to spur development of medications that treat rare diseases.
- A disease qualifies as “rare” if it afflicts fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S. at the time a company seeks the monopoly privileges.
- Those privileges stay in place even if the patient population later exceeds 200,000.
- And, as we all know, it is entirely possible that tens of millions of people will contract COVID-19.
- Public Citizen and allies jumped into action, denouncing Gilead’s unconscionable effort to exploit the coronavirus crisis.
And yesterday, Gilead backed down, rescinding its immoral monopoly claim.
But today’s action is not enough. If remdesivir proves to be a viable treatment for COVID-19, then the world cannot afford to have one manufacturer maintain a monopoly over it, particularly given the huge amount of public investment that has gone into the drug. Gilead must do more than make vague promises of reasonable pricing. It should commit right now to license the right and needed know-how to manufacture remdesivir to all qualified producers, in exchange for a modest royalty. If the drug proves viable as a COVID-19 treatment, the U.S. and the world will need the product available at a low price that reflects both the public health need and the potentially enormous market – with production at an unprecedented scale.
Gilead Sciences requests FDA rescind 'orphan drug' status for potential coronavirus treatment. (The Hill, March 25, 2020)
The federal agency awarded Gilead special status over its drug remdesivir, prompting backlash.
Gilead Must Relinquish Monopoly on Potential Coronavirus Treatment. (Public Citizen, March 25, 2020)
51 Groups Warn Gilead Against Profiteering Off the Pandemic.Senate Approves $2-Trillion Stimulus After Bipartisan Deal. (New York Times, March 25, 2020)
The plan would provide direct payments to taxpayers, jobless benefits and a $500 billion fund to assist distressed businesses, with oversight requirements demanded by Democrats. The measure, which the Senate approved unanimously just before midnight on Wednesday, amounts to a government aid plan unprecedented in its sheer scope and size, touching on every facet of American life with the goal of salvaging and ultimately reviving a battered economy. Its cost is hundreds of billions of dollars more than Congress provides for the entire United States federal budget for a single year, outside of social safety net programs. Administration officials said they hoped that its effect on a battered economy would be exponentially greater, as much as $4 trillion.
The deal is the product of a marathon set of negotiations among Senate Republicans, Democrats and Mr. Trump’s team that nearly fell apart as Democrats insisted on stronger worker protections, more funds for hospitals and state governments, and tougher oversight over new loan programs intended to bail out distressed businesses. The perils of the pandemic, which by Wednesday had spread within the marble halls of the Capitol to infect lawmakers themselves, prompted Republicans to put aside their usual antipathy for big government and spearhead an effort to send cash to American families, while agreeing to astonishingly large additions to the social safety net. Democrats, for their part, dropped their routine opposition to showering tax cuts and other benefits on big corporations — all in the interest of getting a deal.
On Wednesday afternoon, four Republican senators said they were concerned the new benefits would be larger than some people’s wages, prompting employers to lay off workers and some employees to prefer staying home and collecting unemployment payments. The Republicans’ threat to hold up the bill because of the issue prompted Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and a Democratic presidential contender, to issue his own warning that he, too, would seek to block the legislation for being too lenient on corporations. Later, in a speech on the floor, Mr. Sanders said he would support the bill despite his many reservations.
The agreement came together after a furious final round of haggling between administration officials led by Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Mr. Schumer after Democrats twice blocked action on the measure as they insisted on concessions. In the end, though, not a single senator voted “no.”
And even as they prepared to approve it, lawmakers were already discussing the likelihood that they would soon have to consider yet another package to respond to the pandemic and the toll it was taking on the United States. Some states said they needed far more government aid than it planned to provide. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, whose state is battling by far the largest outbreak of the virus in the United States, said Wednesday that the package was “terrible” for New York, and that the $3.1 billion earmarked to help the state with its budget gap was not nearly enough.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California endorsed the deal, and planned to push it through the House on Friday by voice vote — meaning that no roll call would be taken — given that the chamber is in recess and its members are scattered across the country, some in places that have imposed travel restrictions and quarantines.
Paul Krugman: Is Density Deadly? (New York Times, March 25, 2020)
New York is in a class of its own, with the average resident living in a census tract with more than 31,000 people per square mile. (My own neighborhood has about 60,000 people per square mile.) That’s two-and-a-half times the density in San Francisco or L.A., four times the density of Chicago.
$2 Trillion Senate Stimulus Deal Reached. House to weigh in - No $ For Trump. (Daily Kos, March 25, 2020)
In Fiery Floor Speech, Senator Bernie Sanders Rips GOP for Relentless Efforts to 'Punish' Poor People. (2-min. video; Common Dreams, March 26, 2020)
"Meanwhile, these very same folks had no problem a couple years ago voting for a trillion dollars in tax breaks for billionaires and large profitable corporations. Not a problem."
How the Pandemic Will End (The Atlantic, March 25, 2020)
The White House is a ghost town of scientific expertise. A pandemic-preparedness office that was part of the National Security Council was dissolved in 2018. On January 28, Luciana Borio, who was part of that team, urged the government to “act now to prevent an American epidemic,” and specifically to work with the private sector to develop fast, easy diagnostic tests. But with the office shuttered, those warnings were published in The Wall Street Journal, rather than spoken into the president’s ear. Instead of springing into action, America sat idle.
Rudderless, blindsided, lethargic, and uncoordinated, America has mishandled the COVID-19 crisis to a substantially worse degree than what every health expert I’ve spoken with had feared. “Much worse,” said Ron Klain, who coordinated the U.S. response to the West African Ebola outbreak in 2014. “Beyond any expectations we had,” said Lauren Sauer, who works on disaster preparedness at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “As an American, I’m horrified,” said Seth Berkley, who heads Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “The U.S. may end up with the worst outbreak in the industrialized world.”
Man Suspected of Planning Attack on Missouri Hospital Is Killed, Officials Say. (New York Times, March 25, 2020)
According to officials, the man had expressed racist and anti-government sentiments.
Trump sends cease, desist letter on ad featuring one giant sound bite of his mad coronavirus musings. (Daily Kos, March 25, 2020)
Donald Trump is angry. The Democratic Super PAC Priorities USA assembled a 30-second TV ad that features the sound bites of Trump and Trump only, and guess what? Turns out he’s an unhinged maniacal liar who’s gotten everything about the coronavirus wrong. That may not be news to you, but it is apparently news to Trump. And his dangerously factless musings on the coronavirus over the past several weeks have not worn well.
So on Wednesday, a Trump campaign attorney released a cease and desist letter demanding that TV stations across the nation pull the ad immediately. “On behalf of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., President Trump’s principal campaign committee, this letter notifies you that your station is airing a patently false, misleading, and deceptive advertisement,” wrote Alex Cannon, special counsel to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. “Because [the] ad’s central point is deliberately false and misleading, your station has an obligation to cease and desist from airing it immediately to comply with FCC licensing requirements, to serve the public interest, and to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation.” Um, yeah, the ad simply regurgitates all Trump’s falsehoods on the virus, sound bite by sound bite. So if it’s “patently false” and “misleading,” that’s because Trump narrates the entire thing in his own words.
Why Trump's plan is more than just sacrificing old people. It's guaranteed to destroy the nation. (Daily Kos, March 25, 2020)
Donald Trump is suggesting that we should rescind efforts at coronavirus suppression in order to “save” the economy, while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas calls on patriotic grandparents to sacrifice themselves to drive up the Dow. Across the pond, the U.K. government already mulled over the idea of allowing that nation to become a viral incubator until it reached the level required for “herd immunity”—though at least their plan called for sequestering the vulnerable while the nation sweated things out, rather than tossing them all into the Save the Stock Market National Patriotism Volcano.
There’s another name for the daring plan now being promoted by the right: It’s called “doing nothing.” It’s called letting the disaster play out, or allowing the disease run to its course, or simply permitting the wildfire to burn unchecked. But the problem is that when it’s done, what they get would not be a nation going “back to normal.” It would be ashes.
Catastrophic earthquake, oil rig blowout, fire, storm or pandemic: Thinking about the unthinkable (Temblor, March 25, 2020)
 In the U.S., we were unprepared, flat-footed and arrogant in response to this pandemic. We had nowhere near enough test kits and still don’t; we had nowhere near enough respirators and still don’t; and nowhere near enough hospital beds and still don’t. New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo has asked the National Guard to turn the Javits Center into a huge, 1,000-bed field hospital. It’s a good idea, but who could have imagined it. Cuomo says it’s the first of four: a proportionate response.
We could have and should have been better prepared for the virus. But the notion of prediction that we are so invested in as natural scientists in seismology, climatology and volcanology has no place here. Preparing for the unprecedented is really tough, but not impossible. Viruses have ravaged humanity for centuries. We learn from them and we put them out of our minds in the belief—hope, really—that something so terrible will not repeat itself in the modern world. Then they do, and here we are, wondering again how to respond and how to prepare for the next time.
How to Help Scientists Without Leaving Home (Atlas Obscura, March 25, 2020)
Gaze out the window or at your computer, in the name of data.
The therapeutic value of the garden in trying times. (Washington Post, March 24, 2020)
If someone were to say I must self-isolate in the garden for the next few weeks, I would shake him or her by the hand. If I could. Here’s a thumbs up from a distance of six feet or more. The neighborhood sidewalks and nature trails are thronged with the cabin-fevered, so what better place to be outdoors and yet away from others than in your backyard and garden?
Announcing a National Emergency Library to Provide Digitized Books to Students and the Public (Internet Archive, March 24, 2020)
The Internet Archive will suspend waitlists for the 1.4 million (and growing) books in our lending library by creating a National Emergency Library to serve the nation’s displaced learners. This suspension will run through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later.
NEW: MIT-based team works on rapid deployment of open-source, low-cost ventilator. (MIT News Office, March 26, 2020)
Clinical and design considerations will be published online; goal is to support rapid scale-up of device production to alleviate hospital shortages.
[Placed two days earlier, alongside related articles.]
Can low-cost, open-source ventilator designs help save lives? (MIT Technology Review, March 24, 2020)
An MIT team is racing to publish designs it hopes could help as the escalating pandemic strains supplies of the machines. The team recently launched a website unveiling the MIT Emergency Ventilator Project, or E-Vent, which now states the device "is being submitted" to the Food and Drug Administration for rapid review under an “Emergency Use Authorization.” “At present, we are awaiting FDA feedback," one member of the team told MIT News. “Ultimately, our intent is to seek FDA approval. That process takes time, however.”
NEW: The coronavirus’s survival mechanism is what makes it so dangerous. (Quartz, March 24, 2020)
For most people, Covid-19 seems to be pretty mild. And it takes a while—to the tune of five days to two weeks—to cause symptoms, if it does at all.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what makes the novel coronavirus so dangerous. In the period that an infected person is asymptomatic or mildly ill, they could transmit the virus to dozens of other people through water droplets expelled by coughs or sneezes, transferred on skin and other surfaces. One person in South Korea, known only as patient 31, transmitted the virus to over 1,100 people as she went about her life.
Silver lining: Could COVID-19 lead to a better future? (The Conversation, March 24, 2020)
It’s an uncomfortable but inescapable historic fact that great pandemics often bring about social reform.
Historians note that the most fatal iteration of the bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death, from 1347 to 1351 resulted in improved working and living conditions for low-income workers of that era, which in turn led to healthier diets and better resistance to later recurrences of the disease. The 1854 cholera epidemic in London allowed pioneering epidemiologist John Snow to establish the link between clean drinking water and the disease, which eventually led to government infrastructure investments in water and sanitation.
The influenza epidemic of 1918-19, like the bubonic plague and cholera, was a “crowd disease” that fed on social inequalities. People living in overcrowded homes or in the trenches of the First World War who were poorly fed and cold were more susceptible. In the aftermath of the pandemic 100 years ago, many countries recognized the importance of universal health care and better housing. In the United States, where the male workforce was decimated due to the absence of “social distancing,” women workers gained a measure of financial independence, which furthered the suffrage movement.
Best-Case Scenario: August Peak For Virus In Middlesex County, Massachusetts (Patch, March 24, 2020)
If everyone in Middlesex County adheres to social distancing, the virus may not peak until late summer, according to a recent analysis. Under the best-case scenario, including strict imposition of measures like closing schools, banning mass gatherings, and testing and quarantining sick people and their contacts, the peak of infection could be pushed past July 31, with as few as 32,000 cases — just 2 percent of the county population.
If severe control measures including strict social distancing are NOT put in place, coronavirus infections could top 900,000 in Middlesex County by early May - 60 percent or more of the population.
Governor Charlie Baker stressed the importance of social distancing Monday as he explained his new stay-at-home advisory. But social distancing in the U.S. isn't as easy as telling everyone to stay home, said Mary Travis Bassett, director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University. "The United States has particular vulnerabilities that make it possible that we'll have the worse coronavirus epidemic of all," Bassett said, citing the country's health, economic and social inequalities. "These inequalities... mean that we are both more susceptible and more likely to have people who are not going to follow the public health advice of social distancing, hand-washing and seeking prompt medical care because they risk their livelihood," Bassett said. She added that many low-wage workers in the health care sector can't afford to miss a day of pay or take a sick day. "The infusion of financial support to people who are no longer working is absolutely critical," Bassett said, "People are not going to stay home and not feed their families."
COVID-19 news: GOP floats 'sacrifice the elderly' trial balloon; U.S. becomes new world hotspot. (Daily Kos, March 24, 2020)
Rachel Maddow: Mardi Gras, coronavirus make 'perfect storm' crisis in Louisiana. (6-min. video; MSNBC, March 24, 2020)
Dr. Rebekah Gee, CEO of LSU Healthcare Services, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the skyrocketing spread of the coronavirus in Louisiana threatens to overwhelm hospital resources there, not just the bed capacity but the staffing resources as well.
Cuomo to Feds: ‘You Pick the People Who Are Going to Die’; WH Tells Those Recently in NYC to Self-Quarantine. (ABC News, March 24, 2020)
NY COVID-19 Cases Doubling Every 3 Days; 50% of All New U.S. Cases Coming From Metro Area, Feds Say.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded his loudest alarm yet on New York's coronavirus crisis Tuesday, warning the curve was showing no signs of flattening out and was in fact rising faster and more dangerously than projected. He said last week that peak infection was 45 days out; now, he says, the state may see it in two weeks.
Cuomo initially projected the state would need 110,000 hospital beds at the peak of the crisis. Now he believes New York will need up to 140,000 hospital beds. That's more than double current capacity. The intensive care situation is worse; the state has 3,000 ICU units and may need up to 40,000, Cuomo said.
The federal government has sent supplies, including masks and gowns and another 400 ventilators that arrived in New York City this week. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the city needs 15,000 — the state needs double that, on top of the 7,000 it already has procured. The governor's frustration boiled over Tuesday. "What are we going to do with 400 ventilators when we need 30,000? You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators," Cuomo said.
McConnell's toxic, partisan game has wasted 10 days of critical coronavirus response time. (Daily Kos, March 24, 2020)
Trump privately says he's facing pressure over refusal to use Defense Production Act. (CNN, March 24, 2020)
Trump himself has caused confusion over the process. In a briefing Friday, he argued he had already used the act, though aides later clarified he had only signed it and the status had remained unchanged, which his FEMA administrator Pete Gaynor confirmed during an interview on CNN Sunday. "If it comes to a point we have to pull the lever, we will," Gaynor said.
Two people familiar with the President's thinking said he's now languishing in a place where neither side is satisfied by his moves on Defense Production Act. Those who wanted him to sign the act aren't pleased because he did but isn't using it. And the people who didn't want him to sign it aren't because he did, while holding out hope he won't actually use it.
Fox News sneered at coronavirus, but owner Rupert Murdoch isn't taking chances with his own health. (Daily Kos, March 24, 2020)
Trump wants ‘the country opened,’ but easing coronavirus restrictions now would be disastrous, experts say. (Washington Post, March 24, 2020)
A growing debate pits the health of the U.S. economy against the health of its people. With President Trump saying he wants “the country opened” by Easter to salvage the U.S. economy, a fierce debate is now raging among policymakers over the necessity of shutting down vast swaths of American society to combat the novel coronavirus. Health experts point to overwhelming evidence from around the world that closing businesses and schools and minimizing social contact are crucial to avoid exponentially mounting infections. Ending the shutdown now in America would be disastrous, many say, because the country has barely given those restrictions time to work, and because U.S. leaders have not pursued alternative strategies used in other countries to avert the potential deaths of hundreds of thousands.
“To be a week into these restrictions and already be talking about abandoning them is irresponsible and dangerous,” said Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Removing restrictions now would allow the virus, he said, to “spread widely, rapidly, terribly, and could kill potentially millions in the year ahead with huge social and economic impact.”
While not mentioning the president by name, Bill Gates — who co-founded Microsoft and now leads a global health foundation — rebuked Trump’s approach in a Tuesday interview with TED: “There really is no middle ground, and it’s very tough to say to people: ‘Hey, keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner. We want you to keep spending because there’s maybe a politician who thinks GDP growth is all that counts.’”
Trump Doesn’t Have the Attention Span to Fight Coronavirus. (New York Times, March 24, 2020)
He already seems to be losing interest. Look elsewhere for hope. The deep problem with Trump is that he completely squandered whatever remained of the moral capital of the presidency long before any of us had heard of the coronavirus. So even if he were getting everything right — and he hasn’t — he would be failing at his task because he inspires zero trust with at least half the country.
The federal government needs to create some kind of mechanism that can provide low-interest loans to every business that needs one, without political demands or heavy paperwork in order to speed the transmission of funds. Another idea, suggested by a friend who is savvy in these matters, is to use the tax laws to impose a four-month moratorium on interests and rents, since rent and interest are often the biggest expenses for many businesses. Congress could pass a 100 percent tax on rental and income interest during this period to enforce compliance without needing to void contracts.
My own brainstorm (not deeply thought through, so I’ll be grateful for reader comments on this) is to hand every American adult in a lockdown zone a government-backed credit card — call it a CovidCard — so that they can cover their essential expenses now and begin repayment, at zero-interest, starting in 2023, or at a gradually rising rate later on. Obviously there would have to be a fairly strict maximum limit to keep people from bankrupting themselves, but if the government worked with the credit card companies it should be relatively easy to do from a technical standpoint.
Trump Lashes Out as Americans Remain Under Lockdown: A Closer Look (17-min. video; Late Night with Seth Meyers, March 23, 2020)
Top Senate Democrat and Treasury Secretary Say They Are Near a Stimulus Deal. (New York Times, March 23, 2020)
The Treasury secretary and the top Senate Democrat said late Monday that they were on the brink of a deal on a nearly $2 trillion emergency economic aid measure to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, after a marathon day of talks as Democrats demanded stronger protections for workers and restrictions for bailed-out businesses.
Paul Krugman: Republicans Add Insult to Illness. (New York Times, March 23, 2020)
Greed, germs and the art of no deal. If you want a quick summary of the state of play over fiscal stimulus legislation, here it is: Republicans insist that we should fight a plague with trickle-down economics and crony capitalism. Democrats, for some reason, don’t agree, and think we should focus on directly helping Americans in need.
Let’s talk about the nature of the economic crisis we face. At the worst point in the 2007-2009 recession, America was losing around 800,000 jobs per month. Right now, we’re probably losing several million jobs every week. What’s causing these job losses? So far it’s not what usually happens in a recession, when businesses lay off workers because consumers aren’t spending enough. What we’re seeing instead are the effects of social distancing: restaurants, entertainment venues and many other establishments have been closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.And we neither can nor should bring those jobs back until the pandemic has faded. What this tells us is that right now our highest priority isn’t job creation, it’s disaster relief: giving families and small businesses that have lost their incomes enough money to afford necessities while the shutdown lasts. Oh, and providing generous aid to hospitals, clinics and other health care providers in this time of incredible stress.
Now, while social distancing is currently driving employment destruction, there will eventually be a second, more conventional round of job losses as distressed families and businesses cut back on spending. So there is also a case for stimulus to sustain overall spending — although helping Americans in need will provide much of that stimulus, by also helping them continue to spend.
If legislation is stalled, as it appears to be as I write this (although things change fast when we’re on Covid time), it’s because Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is holding needy Americans hostage in an attempt to blackmail Democrats into giving Donald Trump a $500 billion slush fund.
Funny, isn’t it, how helping ordinary Americans is always framed as a “Democratic demand”? And even there the legislation includes poison pills, like a provision that would deny aid to many nonprofit institutions like nursing homes and group homes for the disabled. And it also includes that $500 billion slush fund for corporations that the Trump administration could allocate at its discretion, with essentially no oversight. This isn’t just terrible policy; it’s an insult to our intelligence. It would be hard to justify giving any administration that kind of power to reward its friends and punish those it considers enemies. It’s almost inconceivable that anyone would propose giving such authority to the Trump administration.
Remember, we’ve had more than three years to watch this administration in action. We’ve seen Trump refuse to disclose anything about his financial interests, amid abundant evidence that he is profiting at the public’s expense. Trump’s trade war has been notable for the way in which favored companies somehow manage to get tariff exemptions while others are denied. And as you read this, Trump is refusing to use his authority to require production of essential medical gear.
Cronyism aside, there’s also the issue of competence. Why would you give vast discretionary power to a team that utterly botched the response to the coronavirus because Trump didn’t want to hear bad news? Why would you place economic recovery efforts in the hands of people who were assuring us just weeks ago that the virus was contained and the economy was “holding up nicely”?
Finally, we’ve just had a definitive test of the underlying premise of the McConnell slush fund — that if you give corporations money without strings attached they will use it for the benefit of workers and the economy as a whole. In 2017 Republicans rammed through a huge corporate tax cut, which they assured us would lead to higher wages and surging business investment. Neither of these things happened; instead, corporations basically used the money to buy back their own stock. Why would this time be any different?
As I write this, Republicans are ranting that Democrats are sabotaging the economy by refusing to pass McConnell’s bill — which is a bit rich for those who remember the G.O.P.’s scorched-earth opposition to everything Barack Obama proposed. But in any case, if McConnell really wants action, he could get it easily either by dropping his demand for a Trump-controlled slush fund or by passing the stimulus bill House Democrats are likely to offer very soon. And maybe that will happen within a few days. As I said, we’re now living on Covid time. But right now Republicans seem dead set on exploiting a crisis their own president helped create by his refusal to take the pandemic seriously.
The Senate Is Mad. Tempers flare as the chamber tries to close out a $2 trillion coronavirus deal. (Slate, March 23, 2020)
Early Sunday evening, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled a procedural vote for the roughly $2 trillion stimulus package that Senate Republicans and Democrats had been negotiating over the weekend. Democrats hadn’t signed off on the deal, though, and were still pushing for increased benefits for the unemployed, hospitals, and states, as well as stronger guardrails and oversight of the roughly $500 billion fund for large corporations, disbursement of much of which would otherwise be largely left to the treasury secretary’s discretion.
So Senate Democrats successfully filibustered. An unusually mad McConnell blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who flew back to D.C. from San Francisco on Saturday, for blowing up the negotiations by bringing with her a new wish list of demands. Later in the night, when McConnell tried to schedule a do-over on the same procedural vote for 9:45 Monday morning—15 minutes after the stock markets opened, in an effort to terrify Democrats—Democratic leader Chuck Schumer objected. The Senate opened at noon on Monday instead.
The coronavirus isn’t alive. That’s why it’s so hard to kill. (Washington Post, March 23, 2020)
The science behind what makes this coronavirus so sneaky, deadly and difficult to defeat
How Singapore waged war on coronavirus (Irish Times, March 23, 2020)
Singapore reported its first two deaths from the pathogen only this weekend, despite being one of the first countries to be hit by the outbreak outside China two months ago. That has made it one of the safest places in the world for patients of the disease, which has already killed almost 13,000 people globally. The city’s success in dealing with the outbreak is attributed to the government’s speed in imposing border controls soon after the disease first erupted in China, meticulous tracing of known carriers, aggressive testing, a clear public communication strategy and a bit of luck.
Before Trump called for reevaluating lockdowns, they shuttered six of his top-earning clubs and resorts. (Washington Post, March 23, 2020)
President Trump’s private business has shut down six of its top seven revenue-producing clubs and hotels because of restrictions meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, potentially depriving Trump’s company of millions of dollars in revenue.
Those closures come as Trump is considering easing restrictions on movement sooner than federal public health experts recommend, in the name of reducing the virus’s economic damage. In a tweet late Sunday, Trump said the measures could be lifted as soon as March 30. “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” he wrote on Twitter.
In his unprecedented dual role as president and owner of a sprawling business, Trump is facing dual crises caused by the coronavirus. As he is trying to manage the pandemic from the White House, limiting its casualties as well as the economic fallout, his company is also navigating a major threat to the hospitality industry. That threatens to pull Trump in opposite directions, because the strategies that many scientists believe will help lessen the public emergency — like strict, long-lasting restrictions on movement — could deepen the short-term problems of Trump’s private business, by keeping doors shut and customers away.
The latest MAGA nonsense: “Grandparents would be willing to die to save the economy for their children.” (Teri Kanefield, March 23, 2020)
Sending People Back to Work Now Will Not Save the Economy. It Will Doom It. (Slate, March 23, 2020)
President Donald Trump is already having second thoughts about telling Americans to stay at home in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, because he is worried about how badly it will hurt the economy (and, presumably, the Dow). The president reportedly began talking privately about “reopening” the country as early as last week. He’s also being nudged in that direction by conservative pundits, advisers within his own administration, and Wall Street figures who have urged a quick return to normalcy, in order to limit the blow to businesses and workers.
Trump Already Trying to Find a Way Out of His Own Inadequate, Mostly Made-Up Lockdown. (Slate, March 23, 2020)
Democrats Are Getting What They Bargained for Out of Joe Biden. (Slate, March 23, 2020)
Which is maybe just enough to get by.
Young Voters Know What They Want. But They Don’t See Anyone Offering It. (New York Times, March 22, 2020)
The oldest of them were just out of college on 9/11; the youngest were not yet born. Over the two decades that followed, they all came of age under storm clouds: of war, of recession, of mass shootings, wildfires and now a pandemic. The result is perhaps the most profound generational gap since the 1960s: between the Generation X, baby boomer and Silent Generation voters who remember one world, and the millennial and Generation Z voters for whom that world never existed.
In November, for the first time, the new generations will have enough electoral clout to seriously compete with the old. But, with Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign barely clinging to life, many feel more disillusioned than empowered.
Lost Sense of Smell May Be Peculiar Clue to Coronavirus Infection. (New York Times, March 22, 2020)
Doctor groups are recommending testing and isolation for people who lose their ability to smell and taste, even if they have no other symptoms.
Anosmia, the loss of sense of smell, and ageusia, an accompanying diminished sense of taste, have emerged as peculiar telltale signs of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and possible markers of infection. On Friday, British ear, nose and throat doctors, citing reports from colleagues around the world, called on adults who lose their senses of smell to isolate themselves for seven days, even if they have no other symptoms, to slow the disease’s spread. The published data is limited, but doctors are concerned enough to raise warnings.
Tormented Italy tries to get to grips with coronavirus epidemic. (Irish Times, March 22, 2020)
Initial hesitation and failure to grasp scale of the threat were likely factors in the sharp rise in deaths. Covid-19 had been circulating in Europe since December. It took too long to recognise all the atypical cases of pneumonia that arrived in hospitals between January and February. We should have had a more open mind and think that Chinese coronavirus would become Italian, French, Irish and so on.
Fox News' COVID-19 Lies Are DANGEROUS. (6-min. video; The Young Turks, March 22, 2020)
A mashup of clips from right-wing media compiled by TYT's Jayar Jackson makes a compelling case that Fox News and other similar outlets have consistently downplayed the threat from Covid-19, blamed Democrats and the media for using the coronavirus to attack Trump, encouraged viewers to continue going out, traveling and patronizing bars and restaurants, and even suggested that the virus may have been unleashed on the US by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Seeing the poll figures, Francesca expresses genuine frustration and anger at Fox and other news outlets for misleading their audience over a matter of life and death on a global scale.
U.S. axed CDC expert job in China months before virus outbreak. (Reuters, March 22, 2020)
The American expert, Dr. Linda Quick, was a trainer of Chinese field epidemiologists who were deployed to the epicenter of outbreaks to help track, investigate and contain diseases. As an American CDC employee, Quick was in an ideal position to be the eyes and ears on the ground for the United States and other countries on the coronavirus outbreak, and might have alerted them to the growing threat weeks earlier.
No other foreign disease experts were embedded to lead the program after Quick left in July, according to the sources. An embedded expert can often get word of outbreaks early, after forming close relationships with Chinese counterparts.
Restoration Hardware Sees Itself As ‘Critical Infrastructure’ During Coronavirus Outbreak. (Huffington Post, March 22, 2020)
Employees at the company’s California call center have been told to continue working despite a statewide shelter-in-place order.
Workers at Restoration Hardware were given a letter to show police this week if they were stopped on their way to work in California. The letter argues that employees of the upscale furniture company can work despite a statewide shelter-in-place order prompted by the coronavirus outbreak because they are part of “critical infrastructure.” Restoration Hardware sells high-end furniture, bedding, bath fixtures and lighting through its stores and website. It’s not clear how the company is part of what the state of California describes as “functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.”
The company had concluded after a legal review that its customer call center was an essential service. Cassidy said customers may be wondering what happened to their orders and the company needs to be able to let them know. Asked if it was essential that a customer receive a Restoration Hardware order during a pandemic, Cassidy said that if the company’s orders don’t continue to move out of the ports, it could affect the movement of critical items like food and toilet paper.
Shocking video captures Trump supporter buying Dollar Tree store out of toilet paper during coronavirus crisis. (Raw Story, March 21, 2020)
DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic. (Politico, March 21, 2020)
One of the requests to Congress would allow the department to petition a judge to indefinitely detain someone during an emergency. The move has tapped into a broader fear among civil liberties advocates and Donald Trump’s critics — that the president will use a moment of crisis to push for controversial policy changes. Already, he has cited the pandemic as a reason for heightening border restrictions and restricting asylum claims. He has also pushed for further tax cuts as the economy withers, arguing that it would soften the financial blow to Americans. And even without policy changes, Trump has vast emergency powers that he could legally deploy right now to try and slow the coronavirus outbreak.
White House Won’t Say When More Masks Will Be Available To Health Care Workers. (Huffington Post, March 21, 2020)
During Saturday’s coronavirus task force update, Trump once again blamed his administration’s bungled response on Obama.
COVID-19 By the Numbers: The View of a 20-Year Veteran of Pandemic Preparedness. (Daily Kos, March 21, 2020)
Italy is the canary in the coal mine. Don’t count cases (testing rate is still too low/spotty). Count deaths per day. It is a lagging indicator, but the most solid trend for decision making.
U.S. FDA approves first rapid coronavirus test with 45 minutes detection time. (Reuters, March 21, 2020)
The test’s developer, California-based molecular diagnostics company Cepheid, said on Saturday it had received an emergency use authorization from the FDA for the test, which will be used primarily in hospitals and emergency rooms. The company plans to begin shipping it to hospitals next week, it said.
The diagnostic test for the virus that causes COVID-19 has been designed to operate on any of Cepheid’s more than 23,000 automated GeneXpert Systems globally, the company said. The systems do not require users to have special training to perform testing, and are capable of running around the clock, Cepheid President Warren Kocmond said in the statement. The company did not give further details or say how much the test will cost.
The Emissions Impact of Coronavirus Lockdowns, As Shown by Satellites (Visual Capitalist, March 21, 2020)
Impact of coronavirus on Census could weaken democracy for a decade. (Daily Kos, March 21, 2020)
Lawmakers and civil rights groups are warning that the novel coronavirus crisis could devastate minority communities for the next decade if the outbreak upends the 2020 census, which normally takes place in Spring.
How It All Came Apart for Bernie Sanders (New York Times, March 21, 2020)
The Sanders campaign appeared on the brink of a commanding lead in the Democratic race. But a series of fateful decisions and internal divisions have left him all but vanquished.
Twitter Suspended Cory Doctorow For Putting Trolls On A List Called 'Colossal Assholes'. (TechDirt, March 20, 2020)
Content moderation at scale is impossible to do well. Mistakes will always be made, or even "legitimate" decisions will appear "wrong" to many, many people.
The latest example: Twitter -- which has received criticism for being both too aggressive in shutting down accounts and not nearly aggressive enough (sometimes by the same people) -- suspended Cory Doctorow's account earlier this week. The reasoning for the suspension? He would put various trolls onto a Twitter list called "colossal assholes" before muting them, and Twitter claimed this violated its policies (though the company only told him well after it suspended him).
NEW: A Home-Grown Response to Insect Population Collapse (NOFA/Massachusetts, March 20, 2020)
In this time of the Anthropocene, when human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment, stories about biodiversity loss have become heartbreakingly common. Once limited to the occasional report of a notable megafauna—the endangerment of pandas, snow leopards, elephants—today our awareness of species engagement extends to those small and oft-taken-for-granted service workers of earth’s ancient plant propagation engine: pollinators.
[Plant these for bees.]
Meet the Ecologist Who Wants You to Unleash the Wild on Your Backyard. (Smithsonian Magazine, March 20, 2020)
Fed up with invasive species and sterile landscapes, Douglas Tallamy urges Americans to go native and go natural.“The little things that run the world are disappearing,” he says. “This is an ecological crisis that we’re just starting to talk about.”
NEW: The cure for COVID-19, and so much more, is global cooperation. (The Hill, March 20, 2020)
There is much to be learned here for the current crisis and for the longer term in a multitude of other areas. There are pools of experts — scientists, doctors. engineers, humanitarians, financial professionals — who see problems not in a partisan political context (which frequently is infused with misinformation or incomplete information) or within the constraints of national borders (which limits the number of minds and experience being brought to bear on the problem) but in global terms and as urgent challenges to lives and societies across the world. For example, cooperation between Chinese and American doctors and scientists is essential; “decoupling" most definitely is not an option here. And experts from other countries also must be engaged, as must the World Health Organization (WHO), which plays a critical role. This requires global cooperation at its most intense and urgent.
If the centerpiece of the 21st century version of globalization encouraged and elevated such collective endeavors to deal with this virus and similar challenges in a systematic way — and if it gave greater visibility and weight in our respective political systems and public discourse to scientists, researchers, engineers and other experts with deep knowledge of global challenges — then the credibility of the global order would be enhanced. So would the stature of political leaders who recognized that their own credibility would be enhanced.
Hospitals and doctors are wiping out supplies of an unproven coronavirus treatment. (Washington Post, March 20, 2020)
Lack of definitive evidence has not stopped exploding demand for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, two old anti-malarial drugs. The sudden shortages of the two drugs could come at a serious cost for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients who depend on them to alleviate symptoms of inflammation, including preventing organ damage in lupus patients.
Call Trump’s News Conferences What They Are: Propaganda. (New York Times, March 20, 2020)
Then contrast them with the leadership shown by Andrew Cuomo, Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel.
In a time of global emergency, we need calm, directness and, above all, hard facts. Only the opposite is on offer from the Trump White House. It is therefore time to call the president’s news conferences for what they are: propaganda.
We may as well be watching newsreels approved by the Soviet Politburo. We’re witnessing the falsification of history in real time. When Donald Trump, under the guise of social distancing, told the White House press corps on Thursday that he ought to get rid of 75 to 80 percent of them — reserving the privilege only for those he liked — it may have been chilling, but it wasn’t surprising. He wants to thin out their ranks until there’s only Pravda in the room.
Coronavirus Could Overwhelm U.S. Without Urgent Action, Estimates Say. (New York Times, March 20, 2020)
The coronavirus has infected far more people in the United States than testing has shown so far, and stringent measures to limit social contact in parts of the country not yet seeing many cases are needed to significantly stem the tide of illness and death in the coming months. The estimates are inherently uncertain, and they could change as America adopts unprecedented measures to control the outbreak. But they offer a stark warning: Even if the country cut its rate of transmission in half — a tall order — some 650,000 people might become infected in the next two months.
The growth is driven by Americans with mild symptoms who are carrying and spreading the virus without being aware that they have it, the researchers say. The number of undetected cases — 11 times more than has been officially reported, they estimate — reflects how far behind the United States has fallen in testing for the virus. We’re looking at something that’s catastrophic on a level that we have not seen for an infectious disease since 1918. And it’s requiring sacrifices we haven’t seen since World War II. There are going to be enormous disruptions. There’s no easy way out.
Senate Republicans’ cash assistance plan is far too limited. (Vox, March 20, 2020)
Too little help for children, low-income people, and those hit hard by the crisis.
Forecasts worsen as experts say trillions of dollars needed to stimulate economy back to health. (Daily Kos, March 20, 2020)
Senate Republicans are pushing what chief White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow calls more than a $2 trillion injection. But that huge amount—$1.3 trillion more than the 2009 Obama stimulus that only three congressional Republicans supported—won’t be enough if the COVID-19 plague takes longer to conquer than a few months, which many health experts say is possible, and even likely. Said Yale’s Andrew Metrick, a leading expert on economic crises: “If it lasts a year, it's going to be several trillion they have to spend to keep people from starving."
In 2008, Richard Burr Also Told The Public Not To Panic While He Cashed Out. (Huffington Post, March 20, 2020)
During the 2008 financial crisis, he withdrew as much money as possible from the ATM. This time, he dumped his stocks before the coronavirus crisis fully took hold. In 2012, Burr was one of three senators who opposed the STOCK Act, legislation that bars members of Congress and their staff from using nonpublic information to make financial trades.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her NYSE owner CEO husband defend stock sales after her coronavirus briefing. (CNBC, March 20, 2020)
Republican senators who dumped stocks ahead of pandemic take withering fire from their own party. (Daily Kos, March 20, 2020)
A massive new scandal unfolded Thursday when ProPublica reported that Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina had sold as much as $1.72 million in stock holdings just before the markets tanked as the coronavirus pandemic worsened. Later that same evening, the Daily Beast reported that Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia had similarly liquidated her assets and even bought shares in a teleworking company that has seen its price tick up.
At least three other senators, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, Oklahoma Republican Jim Inhofe, and Georgia Republican David Perdue, also recently sold stock in large quantities, but none of the sales appear timed to have taken advantage of any possible foreknowledge of the downturn.
Burr, however, as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had been receiving intelligence briefings on the threat posed by the virus and had offered reassurance to the public, even saying on Feb. 7 that "the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus."
But in private, as NPR separately reported earlier on Thursday, Burr was issuing dire alarms about the disease. "It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history," he told members of a high-priced North Carolina social club, according to a secret recording from Feb. 27. "It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic." He urged travelers to Europe to instead stay home and warned that school closures would be forthcoming—two weeks before the Trump administration or local officials took either step. Burr, it appears, believed what he was telling wealthy donors rather than ordinary Americans: On Feb. 13, he sold a large portion of his stock portfolio in more than 30 separate transactions. That included hospitality companies like Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, whose share prices have since collapsed, saving Burr considerable sums.
Apparently Burr is a repeat offender. In 2008, Burr told his constituents not to panic to give himself time to get as much cash as possible before a run on the banks. In 2020, he told them there was nothing to worry about to give himself time to cash out his stocks before a market collapsed.
Republican Stimulus Plan Gives Less Money to Poor Households. (New York Magazine, March 20, 2020)
Last night, Mitch McConnell unveiled the Republicans’ economic rescue plan. The good news is that Senate Republicans have abandoned their Obama–era position that fiscal stimulus can’t work and the government should respond to tough times by cutting spending. The bad news is that they haven’t abandoned their long-standing belief in screwing over poor people just for the sake of it.
NEW: Is Our Fight Against Coronavirus Worse Than the Disease? (New York Times, March 20, 2020)
There may be more targeted ways to beat the pandemic. We routinely differentiate between two kinds of military action: the inevitable carnage and collateral damage of diffuse hostilities, and the precision of a “surgical strike,” methodically targeted to the sources of our particular peril. The latter, when executed well, minimizes resources and unintended consequences alike.
As we battle the coronavirus pandemic, and heads of state declare that we are “at war” with this contagion, the same dichotomy applies. This can be open war, with all the fallout that portends, or it could be something more surgical. The United States and much of the world so far have gone in for the former. I write now with a sense of urgency to make sure we consider the surgical approach, while there is still time.
The coronavirus crisis shows what happens when a country puts its workers last. (Los Angeles Times, March 20, 2020)
In recent days, alarm about the economic effect of the novel coronavirus has turned conservatives who weeks ago were boasting about the shrinking of the U.S. government into raving Keynesians, proclaiming the virtues of deficit-financed economic stimulus. The same leaders who were pushing reductions in Social Security benefits, Medicare and other “entitlements” for the working class because they were supposedly unaffordable by the richest nation on Earth now call for a trillion-dollar pump-priming for American households and industries. Those who defended mortgage foreclosures and tenant evictions by pointing to the sanctity of contracts are now on board with legislation prohibiting both, at least for the duration of the emergency. And many who sounded the siren about the economic drag of government deficits and the national debt are saying, “Never mind.”
Meanwhile, Democrats and some business leaders are talking about the need to avoid the mistakes of the last major economic stimulus, in 2009, which shored up banks guilty of plying Americans with unaffordable loans while leaving the bankers free to impose punishing foreclosures on mortgage borrowers. As the federal government prepares to funnel hundreds of billions of dollars to the private sector, the danger is that businesses will treat these new bailouts as they have before: as cash to give top executives raises and divert capital to shareholders, leaving the working class with empty hands.
Proponents of financial aid to industry are calling for strict oversight of how businesses use bailout funds. “We’re not writing blank checks to giant corporations,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted. In her view, companies receiving government assistance should be required to set their minimum wage at $15 an hour within a year of the emergency ending, be permanently barred from share repurchases, forbidden to pay dividends or executive bonuses for at least three years, be required to keep their union contracts in effect, and set aside at least one board seat for worker representatives.
The question is not merely whether the recognition that rank-and-file workers need immediate help, perhaps more than their employers, will take root rather than evaporate as the crisis ebbs. It’s also whether the crisis will awaken Americans to the folly of what has been a systematic dismantling of the public sector over the decades. The safeguarding of workplace rights and income has been privatized, ceded to employers who view their workforces as expense items, not assets to be invested in. The best evidence of that trend right now is the scarcity of paid sick leave for American workers.
The 5 Scariest Moments From Trump’s Coronavirus Briefing Today (New York Magazine, March 20, 2020)
President Trump has used his daily coronavirus press briefings to drive home two messages: He is in charge, and things are running smoothly. Unfortunately, the two messages are in direct conflict with each other. The only moments of success the administration has enjoyed in advancing its “things are running smoothly” message have come when Trump recedes into the background. But Trump himself places more value on the unsettling “Trump is in charge” message, which dominated today’s proceedings.
Trump Lies His Way Through a Pandemic. (New York Magazine, March 20, 2020)
The president who is leading this country into battle cares about no one but himself, continues to lie to Americans daily about the most basic imperatives of a public-health catastrophe, and presides over an administration staffed with incompetent, third-tier bootlickers and grifters. And I am not just talking about Mike Pence, Jared Kushner, and Wilbur Ross. There are now three college seniors serving in White House positions, thanks to a new purge of ostensibly disloyal staffers. Trump calls himself a “wartime president,” but his only previous wartime experience was partying during Vietnam, when he was spared military service because of “bone spurs.” If America rises to the occasion, it will be despite him, not because of him. We’re at the point where even if Trump were to start telling the truth, no one except the most mad-dog MAGA-ites would believe him.
Rachel Maddow slams Trump's COVID-19 lies in epic rant. (1-min. video; Indy100, March 20, 2020)
Maddow went through a litany of lies by the president, She points out that every press conference turns out to be one that tells the American population that the president is executing actions he is not.
Ranked: Global Pandemic Preparedness by Country (Visual Capitalist, March 20, 2020)
While there may be top performers relative to other countries, the overall picture paints a grim picture that foreshadowed the current crisis we are living through.
“It is likely that the world will continue to face outbreaks that most countries are ill positioned to combat. In addition to climate change and urbanization, international mass displacement and migration—now happening in nearly every corner of the world—create ideal conditions for the emergence and spread of pathogens.” – The Global Health Security Index, 2019
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California Orders 40 Million Californians to Stay at Home. (New York Times, March 20, 2020)
In making the announcement, Mr. Newsom has taken the most drastic step of any state leader to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Just 2 in 5 Americans canceled plans to be in crowds last week as coronavirus pandemic escalated, polls show. (CNN, March 20, 2020)
Photos of crowded beaches, packed bars and large crowds at amusement parks like Walt Disney World last weekend shocked many Americans who had decided to heed warnings to hunker down amid the coronavirus pandemic.
[What fools these mortals be!]
Almost half of coronavirus patients have digestive symptoms, Chinese study finds. (CBS News, March 19, 2020)
Clinicians must bear in mind that digestive symptoms, such as diarrhea, may be a presenting feature of COVID-19, and that the index of suspicion may need to be raised earlier in these cases rather than waiting for respiratory symptoms to emerge.
Newest Trump Attack Ad Is Scathing and It Was Done by Republicans. (Daily Kos, March 19, 2020)
White House itself is choosing which immigration courts get to close amid COVID-19. (Miami FL Herald, March 19, 2020)
According to an email obtained by the Herald, immigration court staffers and judges at a courthouse were told by court management on Wednesday that the decisions to close are out of their control. “Decisions for closure are beyond the agency level; but rather are forwarded to [the Department of Justice] and ultimately the White House,” the email said. “Please understand that decisions for court closures are based upon individual incidents at each respective court. I have not been privy to the incidents that ultimately led to the closure[s].”
“The politicization of the immigration courts has now infected the decision-making process of the agency as to the health and well-being of immigration judges, staff and all who appear before the court,” said A. Ashley Tabaddor, president of the union that represents all U.S. immigration judges. The lack of communication during the global pandemic has made immigration judges, prosecutors and court staff anxious. Though the government recently canceled all preliminary hearings at all courtrooms, which has lowered attendance, judges are still concerned about their own health as well as their families’ because courthouses are still crowded by court goers and employees.
In almost a dozen letters, the employees have asked that the government consider their plight and at least explain why some courts are being prioritized over others. The DOJ and the White House have not responded to their various requests for a telephone meeting. According to three court staff members, employees have been told in meetings that the directive to shut down courthouses is coming “from the very top of the administration.”
Although the government has shut down a handful of courts across the country one by one, dozens remain open, despite recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the president's urging that the public avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. The government also issued a directive that all immigration courts take down CDC coronavirus posters, though it later rescinded that.
“The health of no one seems to be their primary concern,” Tabaddor said. “We are guessing that ‘incidents’ refers to potential exposure to coronavirus at the courts. We’ve heard that people in management were told that they can’t put anything relating to COVID-19 or coronavirus in any email unless it’s been cleared.”
Total Cost of Her COVID-19 Treatment: $34,927.43 (Time, March 19, 2020)
Public health experts predict that tens of thousands and possibly millions of people across the United States will likely need to be hospitalized for COVID-19 in the foreseeable future. And Congress has yet to address the problem. On March 18, it passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which covers testing costs going forward, but it doesn’t do anything to address the cost of treatment.
‘At War With No Ammo’: Doctors Say Shortage of Protective Gear Is Dire. (New York Times, March 19, 2020)
The lack of proper masks, gowns and eye gear is imperiling the ability of medical workers to fight the coronavirus — and putting their own lives at risk.
NEW: COVID-19 Shows Us a Green New Deal is Possible. (Medium, March 19, 2020)
The COVID-19 mitigation effort presents an unexpected blueprint for what rapid change in the face of a climate crisis might look like. In fact, the current situation should give us hope in our ability to cope with rapid change and encourage us to recognize our resilience.
Former Obama official: We knew we were due for a pandemic. (CNN, March 19, 2020)
Ambassador Susan Rice, National Security Adviser to President Obama, said that the US government has been aware of the threat of a global health crisis for decades, and she personally briefed President Trump's then-incoming National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn on the matter during the transition.
NEW: Drone footage captures Boston emptied by coronavirus. (5-min. video; Boston Globe, March 19, 2020)
The Staggering Rise in Jobless Claims This Week (New York Times, March 19, 2020)
As the accompanying charts show, jobless claims rose sharply in the vast majority of states. These figures come from state unemployment insurance offices tallying up the number of people newly applying for unemployment benefits.
The big picture is clear: When we write the history of the coronavirus recession, we’ll say the downturn started in early March. But don’t take these official numbers or the preliminary reports from individual states as providing precise signals: There are numerous anecdotal accounts of phone lines to unemployment offices that are jammed, offices that are closed, or websites that have crashed. The official data is on the number of claims filed, whereas the number eligible and attempting to file may be much larger.
The stark rise in jobless claims reflects the unusual nature of this recession. In a “normal” recession, the economy slows over a period of months, and joblessness rises over an even longer period as individual employers see the effect on their businesses. The resulting rise in initial unemployment claims tends to be spread over several months.The stark rise in jobless claims reflects the unusual nature of this recession. In a “normal” recession, the economy slows over a period of months, and joblessness rises over an even longer period as individual employers see the effect on their businesses. The resulting rise in initial unemployment claims tends to be spread over several months.
This is different. State government directives shut down many businesses, leading to an unusually rapid downturn. A rapid spike in jobless claims will also be an extremely large spike, as what would normally be a few months’ worth of job loss happens in a few weeks. As you look at what’s going on in your state, keep in mind that these numbers reflect developments last week, but that in most states, the more draconian changes in economic life were imposed this week.
Senator Dumped Up to $1.7 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public About Coronavirus Preparedness. (ProPublica, March 19, 2020)
Intelligence Chair Richard Burr’s Feb. 13th selling spree was his largest stock selling day of at least the past 14 months, according to a ProPublica review of Senate records. Unlike his typical disclosure reports, which are a mix of sales and purchases, all of the transactions were sales.