has resisted imposing lockdown rules. Now the virus appears
to be raging through the country.
(New York Times, May
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
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.
has plans to use Artificial Intelligence to vet news stories
for inclusion on the MSN web site, replacing a staff of
(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.
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.
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.
Floyd Updates: ‘Absolute Chaos’ in Minneapolis as Protests
Grow Across U.S.
(1-min. video; New York Times, May 29,
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.
Floyd Death Protests In Minneapolis And Around The U.S.
(8-min. video; NBC News, May 29, 2020)
does the phrase 'When the looting starts, the shooting
starts' come from?
(3-min. video; NBC News, May 29,
Before Trump used it re Minneapolis, it was uttered by a
Southern police chief during civil rights unrest in the 1960s.
we know about George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police
(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.
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.
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.
Executive Order Is a Blatant and Unconstitutional Attempt to
Silence Critics and Fact Checkers.
(Free Press, May 28,
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.
Order on Social Media Could Harm One Person in Particular:
(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
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
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
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.
White House thumbs its nose at GOP critics of inspectors
(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
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.
Trump administration may be turning a corner in its war with
(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.
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.”
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
Floyd's death sparks large protests, confrontations with
(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.
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.
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
Team Killed Rule Designed To Protect Health Workers From
Pandemic Like COVID-19.
(4-min. audio; NPR, May 26,
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.
Must Cleanse the Trump Stain.
(New York Times, May 26,
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
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.
Economy Was Just Blasted Years Into the Future.
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.
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.”
for a Behavioral Disaster Wave: Resilience If and When
(Psychology Today, May 25, 2020)
Psychological distress caused by disaster produces cycles
lasting up to a year.
vs. politicians: The reality check for “warp speed” vaccine
(Ars Technica, May 25, 2020)
Hollywood-style messages from politicians about beating the
pandemic downplay technical complexity.
Memorial Day 2021, how about we get rid of the rest of the
Confederate statues in the Capitol?
(Daily Kos, May 25,
living death: Memorial Day in America
(AlterNet, May 25,
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.
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.
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
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.
birding turned me into a monster.
(Boston Globe, May 24,
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.
Poll: How satisfied are you with the U.S. government’s
current response to the coronavirus outbreak?
May 24, 2020)
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.”
on the golf course for a second day.
(Daily KOS, May 24,
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
Project Behind a Front Page Full of Names.
Times, May 24, 2020)
A presentation of obituaries and death notices from newspapers
around the country tries to frame incalculable loss.
'was wrong' not to shut down, says former state
(The Guardian, May 24, 2020)
Scientist who oversaw Sweden's response to Sars says country
has failed the vulnerable.
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
Turned Away a Public Health Official From Its Warehouse Days
After a Worker With COVID-19 Died.
(ProPublica, May 23,
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
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
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.
Supremacist Groups Are ‘Thriving’ On Facebook, Despite
(Huffington Post, May 23, 2020)
With many Americans vulnerable to fascist ideologies during
the pandemic, Facebook could be fertile ground for
death and economic devastation in Sweden, and U.S.
conservatives want to be like them.
(Daily Kos, May 22,
study shows Trump is racking up a second body count with his
claims about hydroxychloroquine.
(Daily Kos, May 22,
or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of
COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis
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.
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
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.
hexagonal boron nitride foster new type of information
(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
started as a joke': Animal Zoom calls are delighting a
(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
desktop org GNOME Foundation settles lawsuit with patent
(The Register, May 21, 2020)
Shotwell case ends with Rothschild Patent Imaging backing off
Schumer ask Trump to lower flags when coronavirus deaths
(NBC News, May 21, 2020)
Their request comes as the U.S. death toll has surpassed
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.
looks like Donald Trump's finally lost patience with actual
Daily Kos, May 21, 2020)
'scary,' 'distraction': Whitmer berates Trump's threats to
cut off Mich. funding.
(2-min. video; NBC News, May 21,
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
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."
dams shouldn’t be privately owned, Gov. Whitmer says after
Michigan dam break caused record flooding.
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.
dam failures force 10,000 to evacuate and could leave one
city under 9 feet of water.
(3-min. video; CBS, May 21,
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
captures aerial footage of roaring water as Edenville Dam
bursts in Midland County, Michigan.
Michigan Live, May 19-20, 2020)
he could redo the pandemic response, Trump would change
(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.
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.
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.
has a new harebrained scheme to defeat Biden, and it's his
(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?
Bomber may become the new face of US military power in the
(We Are The Mighty, May 20, 2020)
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
Everyone Hates Remote Learning. For These Students, It’s a
(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.”
pledges not to make custom software for oil and gas
(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.
really behind Republicans wanting a swift reopening?
(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.
lockdowns ease, a new surveillance reality awaits.
(ZDNet, May 20, 2020)
Expect a surge in development of surveillance and crowd
monitoring technologies post-pandemic.
face mask selfies could be training the next facial
(C/Net, May 19, 2020)
Researchers are crawling the internet for photos of people
wearing face masks to improve facial recognition algorithms.
to think another $1,200 stimulus check is enough: Expert Ric
(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.
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.
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.
it be? Really? The Year of Linux on the Desktop is almost
here, and it's... Windows-shaped?
(The Register, May 19,
Windows Subsystem for Linux to gain out-of-the-box support for
GUI apps, GPU chippery.
Ways Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Can Help Transition to Clean
(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.
Obama He’s Going For the Jugular”: As Trump Goes After
Obama, Some in Trumpworld See a “Big Risk”.
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
“Trump hates Obama; he used to go around calling Obama a
‘child.’ --former Trump advisor
[More Trump projection of his failings onto others.]
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
Allies Are Recruiting ‘Pro-Trump’ Doctors To Prescribe Rapid
(Huffington Post, May 19, 2020)
The Trump campaign communications director confirmed that an
effort to recruit doctors to publicly support the president is
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
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
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.
refused to cooperate with watchdog probe into $8B arms sale
to Saudi Arabia.
(CNN, May 18, 2020)
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
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
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
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.
Are Trying to Stop the FBI From Snooping on Your Web
(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
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.
software firm Transcard terminates employee after firestorm
over Obama noose meme.
(Chattanooga Times Free Press,
May 17, 2020)
president admits they were wrong on open source.
On Linux, May 16, 2020)
Many People Die Each Day?
(Visual Capitalist, May 16,
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
drug promoted by Trump as coronavirus ‘game changer’
increasingly linked to deaths.
(Washington Post, May 15,
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
on our watch': Immigrant advocates lead car caravan
protesting Trump's Pennsylvania stunt.
(Daily Kos, May
“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.”
Biden Is Pivoting to the Left. What? Why?
The conciliatory nominee-in-waiting has a grandiose belief in
his own strengths and his place in the historical moment.
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.
America Resists Learning From Other Countries
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
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
made its contact tracing app mandatory. Now people are
(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.
NHS files reveal plans for UK's coronavirus contact tracing
(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
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.
Trump border rules, U.S. has granted refuge to just two
people since late March, records show.
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
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.”
Is Becoming Much Harder to Access Mental Health Support
(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.
Japanese Video Shows How Easily Infection Can Spread Through
(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
coronavirus bill shows how partisan election security has
(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
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 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.
broadly threatens criminal charges against his enemies; the
press can't keep hiding from this.
(Daily Kos, May 13,
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
coronavirus roils the nation, Trump reverts to tactic of
accusing foes of felonies.
(Washington Post, May 12,
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
Cox Richardson: Why is Trump Administration not concerned
about Democratic revenge after 2020 Election?
From An American, May 12, 2020)
A lot happened today, but I am grappling with just two things
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
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
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.
card companies are tracking shoppers like never before:
Inside the next phase of surveillance capitalism.
Company, May 12, 2020)
In the battle between data brokers and privacy advocates, the
latest front is the credit card.
COVID-19 is Rising and Falling Around the World
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.
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.
Blips Raise Questions About COVID-19 Timeline.
(Psychology Today, May 11, 2020)
What was known and when was it known?
Favorability Falls Among Seniors Amidst Pandemic.
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. 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%).
Says Reopening U.S. Economy Too Soon Could Lead to Needless
(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
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.
House Orders Staff to Wear Masks as Trump Misrepresents
(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.
unveiled new props at bizarre COVID-19 briefing that spurred
(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
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
Trump explains how great his administration is doing on
(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.
Krugman: How to Create a Pandemic Depression
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
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.
offices staying closed for another month.
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
salon owner who was arrested for breaking quarantine admits
she received $18,000 in funding.
(Daily Kos, May 11,
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
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
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...
weird behavior during the pandemic is messing with AI
(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.
The World’s Rapid Rise in Life Expectancy, in Just 13
(Visual Capitalist, May 11, 2020)
Vast Bettmann Photo Archive Is Hidden Inside a Cold,
Heavily-Guarded Limestone Mine.
(Atlas Obscura, May 11,
Over 11 million Getty images are on ice near Pittsburgh.
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.
A Cape Cod ice cream shop reopened — and faced harassment so
bad one staffer quit, owner says.
(Washington Post, May
Failed Deception: The Early Days of the Coronavirus Outbreak
(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.
The Geology of the Moon in Astronomical Detail
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
[OTOH, earthlings could stop exploiting and begin limiting
their own greed.]
real Lord Of The Flies: what happened when six boys
were shipwrecked for 15 months
(The Guardian, May 9,
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.
Possibly the First Recorded Death-by-Meteorite
Obscura, May 8, 2020)
Call it a cold case from space.
Brief History of TP, From Silk Road Hygiene to Pandemic
(Atlas Obscura, May 8, 2020)
An author’s end-game expertise has never been more timely.
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.
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.
Luther, Who Was Jailed After Reopening Her Dallas Salon
During Quarantine, Has Been Ordered Released.
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
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
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
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
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.”
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.
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
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 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
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!]
America’s Energy Use, in One Giant Chart
Capitalist, May 6, 2020)
opposites:' May cold snap to leave eastern US chillier than
parts of Alaska.
(Accuweather, May 6, 2020)
COVID-19 Already in France Last December?
Today, May 6, 2020)
Revisiting the coronavirus timeline.
mutations: Scientists puzzle over impact.
(BBC, May 6,
Researchers in the US and UK have identified hundreds of
mutations to the virus which causes the disease Covid-19.
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.
Krugman: The push from Trump and many others on the right to
relax social distancing look even more irresponsible than it
(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
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.
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
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.
This Pandemic Popularity Quadrant illustrates
the types of apps that are either growing or slowing in
popularity in North America.
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.
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
Map of Pangea With Modern-Day Borders
Capitalist, May 1, 2020)
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
“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
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
"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!"
Nazification of the GOP is why there's serious discussion of
killing off the 'unfit'.
(Daily Kos, May 1, 2020)
staff threatens action against VOA reporter who tweeted
about visit to clinic without surgical mask.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
Bankruptcy Reveals Why Big ISPs Choose to Deny Fiber to So
Much of America.
(Electronic Frontier Foundation, April
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).
unlikely coronavirus hotspot in the US
BBC, April 29, 2020)
How poverty and economic inequality are threatening an entire
generation of African Americans.
NEW: The Great
(4-min. video; Probably Tomfoolery, April
A bed time story of how it started, and why hindsight’s, uh,
environment won’t be helped by oil producers declaring
(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.
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."
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.
to Discover the History of Your Neighborhood, Without
(CityLab, April 28, 2020)
Even during social distancing, you can time-travel back.
Here's how I explored the history of my own street.
fighter jets are flying over New York, New Jersey, and
(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
on the military-focused site Task &
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
Blasio Breaks Up Rabbi’s Funeral and Lashes Out Over Virus
(New York Times, April 28, 2020)
After overseeing the dispersal of hundreds of Hasidic mourners
in Brooklyn, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the gathering
Donald Trump and Jared Kushner’s Two Months of Magical
(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.
Trump voters think of his handling of crisis
video; BBC, April 28, 2020)
"Dumbfounded" or "great job" - Americans who backed the
president in 2016 rate his pandemic response.
Court requires government to pay health insurers under
Affordable Care Act.
(USA Today, April 27, 2020)
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
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?
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?
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
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."
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
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
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.”
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
Trump, Lying Is a Super Power.
(New York Times, April
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
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
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
Remains Scarce as Governors Weigh Reopening States.
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.
Need Herd Immunity From Trump and the Coronavirus.
York Times, April 25, 2020)
It will take more care than the president is currently
demonstrating to loosen restrictions but still protect the
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.
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
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.’”
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)
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
Economic Damage Is Barely Conceivable.
In America, people who lose jobs don’t necessarily get them
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.
becomes the third European country to close its last coal
(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.
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.
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.
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
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
man leading U.S. COVID-19 testing was forced out of his last
(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.”
pandemic has not stopped cyberattacks on hospitals and other
(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
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
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
Will Covid-19 speed up the use of robots to replace human
(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
Of Digital Currency Say Pandemic Bolsters Case For A New
(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
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
Coronavirus and Post-Traumatic Growth
American, April 19, 2020)
Surviving an awful experience can lead to some surprisingly
positive psychological effects in many people.
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
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
, 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.
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
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.”
the Length of the Fine Print, for 14 Popular Apps
(Visual Capitalist, April 18, 2020)
[For example, compare iffy
's 7,243 lines and
to Jitsi Meet
Just one of the many reasons that MMS avoids all of these but
YouTube. Hurray for FOSS - Free,
Sobering Astronomical Reminder from COVID-19
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.
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.
you can still get a package delivered. Just wash your hands,
(Boston Globe, April 18, 2020)
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
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
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
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
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.
incredible shrinking president
(Boston Globe, April 18,
As the country staggers through the coronavirus pandemic,
Trump appears increasingly irrelevant.
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.
We Don’t Know the True Death Rate for Covid-19
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.
Testing Needs to Triple Before the U.S. Can Reopen, Experts
(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
Encourages Protest Against Governors Who Have Imposed Virus
(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.
and Failures: Trump During COVID-19
(People For The
American Way, April 17, 2020 update)
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
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
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
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.
Misinformation as a political weapon: COVID-19 and Bolsonaro
(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
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
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.
Mystery of a Medieval Blue Ink Has Been Solved.
Obscura, April 17, 2020)
Turns out it was hiding in plain sight by the side of a
Executives Knew They Had a Virus Problem, But Kept the Party
(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.
(Free Software Foundation, April 16, 2020)
Go ahead, video chat with the whole team. In fact, invite
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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
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.
scientists know about Covid-19 immunity can help us fight
(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 Statistic Reveals Why America’s COVID-19 Numbers Are
(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
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
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
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
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.
Trump Be Criminally Liable for His Deadly Mishandling of
(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
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
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.
Gates says Trump's decision to halt World Health Organzation
funding is 'as dangerous as it sounds'.
(CNN, April 15,
"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
"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
(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
never backed a Democrat for president. But Trump must be
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.]
are being deployed in the war against invasive species in
(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.
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
York Orders Residents to Wear Masks in Public.
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.
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
the microscope: Just a splash of seawater
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!]
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.
We respect your privacy so much we've revealed a little
about what we can track when you use Maps.
Register, April 15, 2020)
But we've only done it to help governments understand that
virus thing you may have heard about lately.
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.
everybody needs a hobby.
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
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: "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
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.
Spiegel on Trump's America: 'Is the world witnessing the
collapse of a superpower?'
(Daily Kos, April 13, 2020)
and Chickens Were Revered as Gods—Not Food—in Ancient
(Smithsonian Magazine, April 13, 2020)
New research indicates that Iron Age Britons venerated brown
hares and chickens long before modern Easter celebrations.
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.
edge closer to Chernobyl nuclear plant.
(BBC News, April
[While we are diverted, global warming continues.]
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.
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)
Other TV News anchors also affected. Iceland
reports 50% of COVID-1 positives are asymptomatic.
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
Under Lockdown in Wuhan, China
(Bloomberg News, April
Professional photographer Daniel Xie documented the eerie
desolation of the quarantined city.
of 39 million masks exposed as fake.
(SF Gate, April 13,
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
month after Rose Garden speech, Trump's pandemic response is
(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
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
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
U.S. Postal Service Has Never Been More Important, or More
(Bloomberg, April 13, 2020)
The agency was already facing tumbling mail volume, financial
losses, and hostility from Washington. And then coronavirus
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.
Mitch McConnell Became Trump’s Enabler-in-Chief
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
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
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
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,
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.”
Aircraft Carrier Sails into Pacific as State Media Mock
U.S. Navy's Coronavirus Troubles.
(Newsweek, April 13,
Theory Proves That Consciousness Moves To Another Universe
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
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.
Coronavirus Class Divide: Space and Privacy
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.
(Physics and Astronomy Zone, April 12,
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.
News host hits back at Trump over Chris Wallace criticism:
'Enough with the 3rd grade name-calling.'
April 12, 2020)
House rejects bailout for U.S. Postal Service battered by
(Washington Post, April 11, 2020)
The pandemic has pushed USPS to the brink, but Trump and
Mnuchin shot down emergency aid.
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
Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump’s Failure on
(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.
and Google are building coronavirus tracking into iOS and
(MIT Technology Review, April 10, 2020)
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?
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
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
— 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.
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.]
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
to launch second pandemic task force, one that does away
with irritating medical experts.
(Daily Kos, April 9,
Wall Street Journal Board Has Had Enough Of Donald Trump’s
(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.”
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
Maitlis, BBC: They tell us Coronavirus is a great leveller.
(4-min. video; BBC, April 9, 2020)
(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.
CDC investigates possible reactivation as 51 coronavirus
patients retest positive after recovery.
April 9, 2020)
from China raises serious questions about both COVID-19
immunity and vaccine effectiveness.
(Daily Kos, April 9,
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.
From the "Iron Lung" to the Coronavirus
The history of the device we forgot we'd need
more of - and what's being innovated now.
Holds Navy Drills in Pacific As U.S. Aircraft Carriers Hit
(Newsweek, April 9, 2020)
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
New Solar-Pavement Driveways Made of Plastic Bottles Can
Power the Average Household.
(Good News Network, April
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.
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.
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
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
fall: Google bans Zoom from staffers' gear.
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.
funeral and a birthday party: CDC traces Chicago coronavirus
outbreak to two family gatherings.
April 8, 2020)
Case study shows how a single person can set off a chain
reaction of infections.
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
team blocked Colorado order for 500 ventilators. Now Trump
says he'll give them 100 instead.
(Daily Kos, April 8,
models for diagnosis and prognosis of covid-19 infection:
systematic review and critical appraisal
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.
in Wisconsin During a Pandemic: Lines, Masks and Plenty of
(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.
Unconscionable Choice for Wisconsin Voters Highlights Need
for States to Prepare for November.
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
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.
Navy Secretary Resigns After Outcry Over Criticism of
(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.
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
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
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.
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
holders urged to take “Open COVID Pledge” for quicker end to
(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
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!]
campaigning could give hackers new ways to attack the 2020
(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.
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.
Have All the Heart Attacks Gone?
(New York Times, April
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
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
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
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.
Twitter thread by New York City health committee chair
raises concerns on COVID-19 deaths.
Daily Kos, April 6,
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.
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.
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.
General Fired by Trump Urges Whistle-Blowers ‘to Bravely
(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.
daily stream of coronavirus lies are all about to hit a
(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.
Supreme Court site says it's closed due to COVID-19, just
above order saying election must go on.
April 6, 2020)
churches run smack into coronavirus' lethal reality, but
some continue to resist.
(Daily Kos, April 4, 2020)
Reveals What Really Makes the World Go Round, and It's Not
(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
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
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 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
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.
Cox Richardson: Trump late-night firing further weakens US
(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
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.
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
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.
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
Live Updates: C.D.C. Recommends Wearing Masks in Public;
Trump Says, ‘I’m Choosing Not to Do It.’
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
[FSF uses Jitsi Meet to
videoconference, as do we.]
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.
We're freezing all new features to sort out security and
(ZDNet, April 2, 2020)
As SpaceX bans its workers from using it, Zoom says all
feature development is halted to work on security.
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.
racist says coronavirus fears made him stab an Asian
American family as they grocery shopped.
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
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.
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
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
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.
Jared Kushner In Charge Is Utter Madness.
Times, April 2, 2020)
Trump’s son-in-law has no business running the coronavirus
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
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
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” 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
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
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
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
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.
Live Updates: Job Losses in America Soar, Part of Global
(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.
Patriots’ team plane is delivering more than a million masks
from China to Massachusetts.
(Boston Globe, April 2,
The Patriots team plane is making its most important trip of
the year before the season even starts.
Cities for Bikes, Buses, and Feet—Not Cars.
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.
International Fraud Rings Operate and Target Older Americans
(AARP, April 1, 2020)
From phone and email scams to imposter fraud, see how they
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
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
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.
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.
You Be Wearing a Face Mask? Why Not?
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
ingredient in coronavirus tests comes from Yellowstone’s
(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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Wars: Industry Spent Millions Selling Recycling — To Sell
(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.
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.
Trump Cannot Move the General Election.
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,
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.
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.
100 Years Ago, Artists Were Asked to Depict the Year 2000.
These Were The Results.
(Can You Actually, March 30,
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
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!]
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.
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
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.
Linux readies an anti-coronavirus hack-a-thon.
March 30, 2020)
Open-source developers are uniting to create and improve code
and programs to help fight COVID-19.
COVID-19 Virus May Have Been in Humans For Years, Study
(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
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."
president unfit for a pandemic
(Boston Globe, March 30,
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
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.
Contrarian Coronavirus Theory That Informed the Trump
(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.”
Meaning of Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Quackery
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.
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)
graph of milestones
isn't written in stone, but later
adjusted versions should prove interesting.]
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.
Split-Screen: Pandemic Sends Presidential Candidates Toward
(The Recount, 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.
Math Behind Social Distancing
(Visual Capitalist, March
Defends Trump Coronavirus Response: He ‘Has a History of
(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.”
evangelicals are part of Trump’s death cult with Americans’
blood on their hands.
(PoliticusUSA, 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.
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
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.
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.
Coronavirus Cases Top 100,000 As Trump Demands Praise From
(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
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
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
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.”
Debates $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package Amid
(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.”
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
Want proof? Buckle your seat belts. Here we go.
You Had the Virus Is Going Viral.
(Medium, March 27,
People are playing a dangerous game online by speculating they
had the coronavirus.
Turn Out in Melee on Bridge Linking Hubei, Jiangxi as
(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!
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."
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.
new FDA-authorized COVID-19 test doesn’t need a lab and can
produce results in just 5 minutes.
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
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.
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.
Lawyers Create Coronavirus IP Pledge.
March 27, 2020)
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.
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
Trump though promised Friday that more ventilators were
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.
Ventilator Shortage: Trump Says GM Won't Meet Need Despite
(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 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
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.
saw over 60 gigawatts of wind power installed.
Technica, March 27, 2020)
Slower growth likely as attention shifts and pandemic adds
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
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
[Ring Inc. (formerly Doorbot) is a home security and smart
home company owned by Amazon.]
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.
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
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
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.”
Crash: How China’s Economy May Offer a Glimpse of the Future
(Visual Capitalist, March 26, 2020)
iOS App Sends Data to Facebook Even if You Don’t Have a
(Motherboard, March 26, 2020)
to Facebook at all.
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
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 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."
won't survive': Iranian scientist in US detention says ICE
will let Covid-19 kill many.
(The Guardian, March 26,
Although he was exonerated, Dr Sirous Asgari remains locked up
and tells the Guardian ‘inhumane’ jail is denying detainees
masks and hand sanitizer.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci
explains the reality of crafting a timeline to reopen parts of
the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Comfort prepares for deployment to NYC.
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
In same video: US military orders no troop movements to or
from overseas for 60 days.
coronavirus threat to public health is no time to restrict
(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.
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
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
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
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
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
The questions raised by this life-changing crisis are open…
and so, suddenly, is America’s future.
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
Here’s the story of a corporate profiteering
- Gilead Sciences makes an experimental medication that might
prove effective in treating COVID-19, the disease caused by
- 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
- 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
And yesterday, Gilead backed down, rescinding its immoral
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.
Sciences requests FDA rescind 'orphan drug' status for
potential coronavirus treatment.
(The Hill, March 25,
The federal agency awarded Gilead special status over its drug
remdesivir, prompting backlash.
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
Krugman: Is Density Deadly?
(New York Times, March 25,
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.
Fiery Floor Speech, Senator Bernie Sanders Rips GOP for
Relentless Efforts to 'Punish' Poor People.
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
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
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
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
Trump's plan is more than just sacrificing old people. It's
guaranteed to destroy the nation.
(Daily Kos, March 25,
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.
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.
to Help Scientists Without Leaving Home
March 25, 2020)
Gaze out the window or at your computer, in the name of data.
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?
a National Emergency Library to Provide Digitized Books to
Students and the Public
(Internet Archive, March 24,
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.
[Placed two days earlier, alongside related
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.”
coronavirus’s survival mechanism is what makes it so
(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.
lining: Could COVID-19 lead to a better future?
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
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
Scenario: August Peak For Virus In Middlesex County,
(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
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
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
news: GOP floats 'sacrifice the elderly' trial balloon; U.S.
becomes new world hotspot.
(Daily Kos, 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.
toxic, partisan game has wasted 10 days of critical
coronavirus response time.
(Daily Kos, March 24, 2020)
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.
News sneered at coronavirus, but owner Rupert Murdoch isn't
taking chances with his own health.
(Daily Kos, March
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
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.’”
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
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.
Lashes Out as Americans Remain Under Lockdown: A Closer Look
(17-min. video; Late Night with Seth Meyers, March 23, 2020)
Senate Democrat and Treasury Secretary Say They Are Near a
(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.
Krugman: Republicans Add Insult to Illness.
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
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.
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.
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
Singapore waged war on coronavirus
(Irish Times, March
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.
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
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.
latest MAGA nonsense: “Grandparents would be willing to die
to save the economy for their children.”
Kanefield, March 23, 2020)
People Back to Work Now Will Not Save the Economy. It Will
(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.
Already Trying to Find a Way Out of His Own Inadequate,
Mostly Made-Up Lockdown.
(Slate, March 23, 2020)
Are Getting What They Bargained for Out of Joe Biden.
(Slate, March 23, 2020)
Which is maybe just enough to get by.
Voters Know What They Want. But They Don’t See Anyone
(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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Hardware Sees Itself As ‘Critical Infrastructure’ During
(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
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.
video captures Trump supporter buying Dollar Tree store out
of toilet paper during coronavirus crisis.
March 21, 2020)
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.
House Won’t Say When More Masks Will Be Available To Health
(Huffington Post, March 21, 2020)
During Saturday’s coronavirus task force update, Trump once
again blamed his administration’s bungled response on Obama.
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.
Emissions Impact of Coronavirus Lockdowns, As Shown by
(Visual Capitalist, 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.
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.
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).
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:
[Plant these for bees.]
the Ecologist Who Wants You to Unleash the Wild on Your
(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
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
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.
and doctors are wiping out supplies of an unproven
(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.
Trump’s News Conferences What They Are: Propaganda.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
Kelly Loeffler and her NYSE owner CEO husband defend stock
sales after her coronavirus briefing.
(CNBC, March 20,
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.
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.
Stimulus Plan Gives Less Money to Poor Households.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Global Pandemic Preparedness by Country
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,
2 in 5 Americans canceled plans to be in crowds last week as
coronavirus pandemic escalated, polls show.
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!]
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.
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
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
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.”
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.
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.
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
footage captures Boston emptied by coronavirus.
video; Boston Globe, 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
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.
Dumped Up to $1.7 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public
About Coronavirus Preparedness.
(ProPublica, March 19,
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.
On February 27th, Burr told wealthy attendees
of the luncheon held at the Capitol Hill Club: “There’s one
thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more
aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen
in recent history ... It is probably more akin to the 1918
pandemic.” He warned that companies might have to curtail
their employees’ travel, that schools could close and that the
military might be mobilized to compensate for overwhelmed
Before Coronavirus Panic, Intelligence Chairman Privately
Raised Alarm, Sold Stocks.
(NPR, March 19, 2020)
Intelligence Chair Richard Burr’s selloff came around the time
he was receiving daily briefings on the health threat.
[Q: Why did Republicans call COVID-19 a hoax before the Stock
Market crashed? A: They were getting their money out
before you could.]
reveal what officials are being told about COVID-19 … and
it's not what they are telling us.
(Daily Kos, March 18,
As your friend walked through the door he took
a breath and 32,456 virus particles settled onto the lining of
his mouth and throat. Viruses have been multiplying inside his
body ever since. And as he talks, the passage of his breath
over the moist lining of his upper throat creates tiny
droplets of virus-laden mucus that waft invisibly into the air
over your table. Some settle on the as-yet-uneaten food on
your plate, some drift onto your fingers, others are drawn
into your nasal sinus or settle into your throat. By the time
you extend your hand to shake good-bye, your body is carrying
43,654 virus particles. By the time you’re done shaking hands,
that number is up to 312,405.
One of the droplets gets drawn into the branching passages of
your lungs and settles on the warm, wet surface, depositing
virus particles into the mucus coating the tissue. Each
particle is round and very small; if you magnified a human
hair so that it was as wide as a football field, the virus
particle would be four inches across. The outer membrane of
the virus consists of an oily layer embedded with jagged
protein molecules called spike proteins. These stick out like
the protrusions on a knobby ball chew toy. In the middle of
the virus particle is a coiled strand of RNA, the virus’s
genetic material. The payload.
As the virus drifts through the lung’s mucus, it bumps into
one of the cells that line the surface. The cell is
considerably larger than the virus; on the football-field
scale, it’s 26 feet across. A billion years of evolution have
equipped it to resist attackers. But it also has a
vulnerability — a backdoor.
bloody battle or a long war? The ethical dilemma of tackling
(MIT Technology Review, March 18, 2020)
Francois Balloux, a computational epidemiologist who worked on
an influential new coronavirus model, on the trade-offs that
have to be made.
Chilling Question - Coronavirus Death Toll vs. Economic
(Daily Kos, March 18 2020)
The bottom line is that we can save 2+ million of our fellow
citizens with our sacrifice. But is that sacrifice finite? Is
the limit 10% unemployment as businesses collapse? Or 20%
unemployment with more of the house coming down into a new
Great Depression that lasts years? Or is there no level of
economic collapse that would justify opening things back up
sooner, knowing that that will accelerate coronavirus spread,
at least some?
A Trump administration decision to loosen privacy requirements for
doctors treating patients over phone and video apps during the
coronavirus pandemic raises the risk of hackers snooping on
people’s highly personal medical information. But even
cybersecurity experts say it's worth making this compromise on
cybersecurity to protect public health during the rapidly
worsening crisis. “We’re in a different environment today with
this pandemic … Putting a patient in front of a doctor is what’s
important,” said Curtis Dukes, a former top National Security
Agency official who’s now executive vice president of the Center
for Internet Security. “Given where we are today … this is a
But this raises the risk that doctors will use video services
without full encryption protections or that companies will store
data from the chats in insecure ways. Hackers, preparing for an
influx of digital visits, could compromise doctors’ computers to
snoop on and record medical consultations. The risk is especially
high for top government officials and executives who probably are
already being tracked by foreign intelligence services that know
which doctors they visit and are eager to find information that
they could use to blackmail or extort them. Cybersecurity experts
pointed to the relaxed requirements as just another way in which
the government is accepting digital risks that would have seemed
too dangerous just weeks ago – but that now look minor compared to
the public health benefit of keeping people separated to prevent
the virus’s spread.
“The most important thing now is diagnosing people and getting
ahead of the virus,” Mick Baccio, a former cybersecurity official
at the Obama White House and for the Pete Buttigieg presidential
campaign, told me. “Ordinarily, I’d say, ‘No, don’t do this. It
introduces too much risk.’ But, given what we all woke up to the
last few weeks, it makes sense.”
[And yet, it still introduces that "too-much risk". Medical
records are now subject to new levels of theft and misuse.]
A new controlled clinical study conducted by doctors in France
shows that Hydroxychloroquine (an over-the-counter malarial drug)
cures 100% of coronavirus patients within 6 days of treatment. A
loading dose of 400 mg twice daily of hydroxychloroquine sulfate
given orally, followed by a maintenance dose of 200 mg given twice
daily for 4 days is recommended for SARS-CoV-2 infection, as it
reached three times the potency of chloroquine phosphate when
given 500 mg twice daily 5 days in advance.