MONEY IS NOT WEALTH
by A. Richard Miller
Begun September 29, 2008; last updated April 16, 2021

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

- Woody Guthrie, Dust Bowl Ballads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fragile States Index (Fund For Peace)

US National Debt Clock, by Ed Hall

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

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

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

Calculated Risk (blog)

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

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

OurFuture.org (Campaign for America's Future)

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

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

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

The Bible as God - or, Owning a Canadian, Amongst Other Fallacies (The Internet, 2018?)
Which part of Leviticus do YOU choose not to believe?

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

The Legacy of F.D.R. (Time, major series from 2009)
Franklin D. Roosevelt led the U.S. through a depression and a world war. By the time he died, the nation was profoundly changed — and we owe much of the change to him and his bold presidency.

God on Grass (Permaculture Research Institute, October 8, 2010)
[We have met the enemy, and he is us! --Pogo]

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

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

NEW: Eudaimonics: The Art of Realizing Genuinely Good Lives, by Umair Haque (Eudaimonia, September 14, 2017)
How are we, I wondered, to make a giant leap from an economic paradigm of human organization to a eudaimonic one? From one that single-mindedly, one-dimensionally maximizes near-term income, at the price of the well-being, health, flourishing, of you, me, our grandkids, and our planet, to one that elevates and expands all that — from one that, as it grows more and more broken, minimizes life realizing itself, instead of maximizing life realizing itself?

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

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

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

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

ALEC Exposed (Center for Media and Democracy, 2011)

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

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

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

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

The Death Of God, by Friedrich Nietzsche (1885)

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

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

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

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

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

Freethinkers and Libertarianism, by David Niose

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

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

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

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

Yale Climate Opinion Maps, U.S. 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Scientists Are Pro-Testing (Science, 2017)

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

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

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

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

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

MichaelMoore.com

Our Revolution

Angry White House Staffer

GOP Rape Advisory Chart

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

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

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

PutinTrump.org

Donald Trump (Vice)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlas Of Utopias (Transformative Cities, 2018)

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

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

Smoking bans in private vehicles (Wikipedia)

Light Cycles, by Quinn Norton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future Of Electric Cars Is China (Quartz, series beginning December 10, 2018)
The world awaits an electric-car future, but that future is rapidly becoming the present in China. The country is on track to sell more than 1 million electric vehicles in 2018, nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. And with tens of billions of dollars already invested to build up an electric-car infrastructure (and tens of billions more on the way), China is not letting up in its pace to become the world leader in EVs.

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

Trump’s Hidden Powers (Brennan Center for Justice, December 5, 2018)
A vast array of obscure presidential powers spans everything from the military to criminal law, and some are ripe for abuse. They need to be re-examined.
Building on previous research in this area, the Brennan Center has identified 123 statutory powers that may become available to the president when she declares a national emergency. An additional 13 statutory powers become available when a national emergency is declared by Congress. We created a database that assembles these 136 powers by subject matter, specifies the conditions triggering their use, and lists the occasions, if any, on which they have been invoked. (The methodology we used to compile the database is available here.) We have also developed a running list of national emergencies declared since the National Emergencies Act went into effect.
These resources are eye-opening in many ways: in the nature of the powers provided, in how easily the executive can access them, and in how they have been used (or misused).

In Case Of Emergency: What Can a President Do During a State of Emergency? (The Atlantic, January-February  2019)
From seizing control of the internet to declaring martial law, President Trump may legally do all kinds of extraordinary things.
More is at stake here than the outcome of one or even two elections. Trump has long signaled his disdain for the concepts of limited presidential power and democratic rule. During his 2016 campaign, he praised murderous dictators. He declared that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, would be in jail if he were president, goading crowds into frenzied chants of “Lock her up.” He hinted that he might not accept an electoral loss. As democracies around the world slide into autocracy, and nationalism and antidemocratic sentiment are on vivid display among segments of the American populace, Trump’s evident hostility to key elements of liberal democracy cannot be dismissed as mere bluster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate Change (United Nations)

Bernie Sanders: The Green New Deal (2019)

Umair Haque: Why the Anglo World is Collapsing; How the Dunces of Modern History Ended Up Being Us (Eudaimonia & Co., March 27, 2019)
The rest of the rich world has learned the great lesson of history, that cooperative nonviolence is the hand of progress. Social democracy is based on that principle. And it’s not a coincidence that social democracies are all forging ahead, whether Sweden or Canada, even in troubled times — while we Anglos are collapsing into the abyss of what supremacy must lead to: extremism, fascism, authoritarianism. All the things that are the opposite of democracy.

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

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

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

The Privacy Project (New York Times, 2019)

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

50 Days to the Moon (Fast Company, 2019)

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

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

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

Leading Civil Rights Lawyer Shows 20 Ways Trump Is Copying Hitler’s Early Rhetoric and Policies (Common Cause, August 9, 2019)
Burt Neuborne questions whether federal government can contain Trump and GOP power grabs.
Many recent presidents have been awful, but then there was Donald Trump, the only president in recent American history to openly despise the twin ideals—individual dignity and fundamental equality—upon which the contemporary United States is built. When you confront the reality of a president like Trump, the state of both sets of brakes—internal [constitutional] and external [public resistance]—become hugely important because Donald Trump’s political train runs on the most potent and dangerous fuel of all: a steady diet of fear, greed, loathing, lies, and envy. It’s a toxic mixture that has destroyed democracies before, and can do so again.
Give Trump credit. He did his homework well and became the twenty-first-century master of divisive rhetoric. We’re used to thinking of Hitler’s Third Reich as the incomparably evil tyranny that it undoubtedly was. But Hitler didn’t take power by force. He used a set of rhetorical tropes - codified in Trump’s bedside reading - that persuaded enough Germans to welcome Hitler as a populist leader. The Nazis did not overthrow the Weimar Republic. It fell into their hands as the fruit of Hitler’s satanic ability to mesmerize enough Germans to trade their birthright for a pottage of scapegoating, short-term economic gain, xenophobia, and racism. It could happen here.

United States Of Plastic (The Guardian, August 2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Deep Sea (Neal Agarwal)

The philosophy of cynicism (5-min. video; TEDEd, December 19, 2019)
Explore the ancient Greek philosophy of cynicism, which calls for the rejection of materialism and conformity in favor of a simple life.

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

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

Impeachment in the United States (Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEW: Deciphering Russia’s “Sovereign Internet Law”; Tightening Control and Accelerating the Splinternet (DGAP, January 16, 2020)
In November 2019, Vladimir Putin’s regime introduced new regulations that create a legal framework for centralized state management of the internet within Russia’s borders. Although full implementation will be extremely difficult, this framework will likely lead to tighter state control over society and additional complications for domestic and foreign companies. The regulations are expected to accelerate the fragmentation of the global internet and to increase Russian reliance on Chinese technology.

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

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

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

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

Opinion Polls (Civiqs)

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

Land Doesn’t Vote, People Do. This Electoral Map Tells the Real Story. (animated Electoral College map; Democracy Labs, November 11, 2019)

Private gain must no longer be allowed to elbow out the public good. (Aeon, April 24, 2020)
The logic of private interest – the notion that we should just ‘let the market handle it’ – has serious limitations. Particularly in the United States, the lack of an effective health and social policy in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has brought the contradictions into high relief.
Around the world, the free market rewards competing, positioning and elbowing, so these have become the most desirable qualifications people can have. Empathy, solidarity or concern for the public good are relegated to the family, houses of worship or activism. Meanwhile, the market and private gain don’t account for social stability, health or happiness. As a result, from Cape Town to Washington, the market system has depleted and ravaged the public sphere – public health, public education, public access to a healthy environment – in favour of private gain.
Simply put, a market system driven by private interests never has protected and never will protect public health, essential kinds of freedom and communal wellbeing. Many have pointed out the immorality of our system of greed and self-centred gain, its inefficiency, its cruelty, its shortsightedness and its danger to planet and people. But, above all, the logic of self-interest is superficial in that it fails to recognise the obvious: every private accomplishment is possible only on the basis of a thriving commons – a stable society and a healthy environment.

Free Resource to Help your Family Separate COVID Facts from Fiction (Tumblehome, June 3, 2020)
The best way to investigate a questionable scientific-sounding claim is to ask good questions. You can remember the following three sets of questions using the acronym SAP. A “sap” is a fool, and no one wants to be fooled by misinformation!
1. Sources:
    Are there good references provided so you know what experts think?
    Do well-qualified people have a different point of view than the one presented?
2. Author:
    Where did the claim come from?
    Is the claim made by a qualified scientist, a reputable group or website?
    Can you even tell who the author is?
3. Purpose:
    Why was the information made available?
    Is it because somebody is selling something? In which case we should be extra careful before believing what they say.
    Is the purpose to stir up your emotions, to change your vote, or to provide information?
    Do well-qualified people have a different point of view than the one presented?
Science is the pursuit of explanations of the natural world. It is deeply rooted in the minds of human beings, who for millennia have demonstrated a need to understand the world around them. A full discussion of the nature of science requires more than this one page.
However, if you want to more closely examine ‘science – fact or fiction,’ WGBH’s NOVA, Andy Zucker and our founder Penny Noyce created a FREE one-week unit for grades 6-12 called “Resisting Scientific Misinformation,” available HERE.
HERE is a list of organizations that might have reliable advice and answers to some of your questions.
Don’t be a SAP – stay informed…and stay safe.

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

NEW: Inside the Revolutionary Treatment That Could Change Psychotherapy Forever (Medium, July 21, 2020)
All too often, patients in today’s U.S. mental health system fall into a downward spiral of increasing diagnoses and increasing medication. Now Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy is upending the thinking around schizophrenia, depression, OCD, and more.
Though psychiatric medications have brought relief to millions of patients, the impact of long-term use of many drugs is only starting to become clear: chemical dependency, mounting side effects, and fundamental changes in the neurochemistry of the brain. For patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, the effect is particularly severe. Numerous studies have found that schizophrenics fare worse on long-term antipsychotics, though it remains the standard of care.
Between 85% and 90% of schizophrenic patients are unemployed in the United States, one of the most difficult places on Earth to live with the diagnosis. In a 1992 World Health Organization study of schizophrenia that continues to spark controversy in the field, patients in developing countries healed and went into remission at significantly higher rates than their counterparts in developed countries like the United States.
IFS has recently been the subject of a lot of chatter in the psychotherapy community. It is based on a novel theory of the mind so profoundly at odds with the biomedical model of mental illness that, if true, called decades of clinical orthodoxy into question. In IFS, mental health symptoms like anxiety, depression, paranoia, and even psychosis are regarded not as impassive biochemical phenomena, but as emotional events under the control of unconscious “parts” of the patient — which he/she can learn to interact with directly.
[This new IFS reminds me of Eric Berne's old Transactional Analysis ("I'm Okay, You're Okay" and "Games People Play"), revisited - which may be A Good Thing.]

MAGA2020.com (Donald Trump's vision)

ChooseDemocracy.org
Democracy is fragile. We have reason to worry that this fall we may see an undemocratic power grab — a coup. We also know that the people can defend our democracy. Nonviolent mass protests have stopped coups in other places, and we may have to do the same in this country.

2020 U.S. Election Forecast (FiveThirtyEight, 2020)
[Why FiveThirtyEight? Let Daily Kos explain, or read his 2016 prediction.]

Five takeaways from final Senate Intel Russia report (The Hill, August 18, 2020)

Animated Map: The History of U.S. Counties (Visual Capitalist, July 31, 2020)
This quick-moving animation shows how the U.S. county map has evolved since the 17th century.

Coyote Safety (Town of Natick, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife)
Including good "Coyotes 101" slide show re new population of Eastern Coyotes.

Donald J. Trump Library
Putting the 45th President's work in historical context, while documenting the damage done to American institutions and spirit

CISA Rumor Control Page (3-min. video; U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, October 2020)

LittleSis Tracks the Political Connections and Lobbying of the Ultra-Rich and Corporations. (Democracy Labs, November 16, 2020)

2020 was the year that changed everything. (Maclean's/Canada, November 17, 2020)
The pandemic, political upheaval and an economic crisis have exploded truths and ideas that mere months ago seemed so fundamental they were beyond question.
14 things we thought were true before 2020: Democracy is our destiny? Not sure about that anymore. Rich countries can overcome? Doesn't seem like it. In a crisis, leaders will lead? If you're lucky. All the 'truths' 2020 has called into question...

How Albert Einstein Reconciled Religion to Science (Nautilus, November 25, 2020)
- The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can change this for me.
- I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.
- I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds.
May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations.
I am fascinated by Spinoza’s Pantheism. I admire even more his contributions to modern thought. Spinoza is the greatest of modern philosophers, because he is the first philosopher who deals with the soul and the body as one, not as two separate things.

The Rich Kids Who Want to Tear Down Capitalism (New York Times, November 27, 2020)
Socialist-minded millennial heirs are trying to live their values by getting rid of their money.

Mueller, She Wrote (Threadreader, November 2020)

How to get rid of the Electoral College (Brookings Institution, December 9, 2020)
The Electoral College is a ticking time bomb. (Brookings Institution, December 9, 2020)

FBI's Website on Terrorism (as of January 8, 2021)
Domestic terrorism: Violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature. Protecting the United States from terrorist attacks is the FBI’s number one priority.

NEW: Amsterdam Is Embracing a Radical New Economic Theory to Help Save the Environment. Could It Also Replace Capitalism? (Time, January 22, 2021)
The Doughnut Economics Theory argues that 20th century economic thinking is not equipped to deal with the 21st century reality of a planet teetering on the edge of climate breakdown. Instead of equating a growing GDP with a successful society, our goal should be to fit all of human life into the “sweet spot” between the “social foundation,” where everyone has what they need to live a good life, and the “environmental ceiling.” By and large, people in rich countries are living above the environmental ceiling. Those in poorer countries often fall below the social foundation. The space in between: that’s the doughnut.
In 1990, British economist Kate Raworth, now 50, arrived at Oxford University to study economics. She quickly became frustrated by the content of the lectures, she recalls over Zoom from her home office in Oxford, where she now teaches. She was learning about ideas from decades and sometimes centuries ago: supply and demand, efficiency, rationality and economic growth as the ultimate goal. “The concepts of the 20th century emerged from an era in which humanity saw itself as separated from the web of life,” Raworth says. In this worldview, she adds, environmental issues are relegated to what economists call “externalities.” “It’s just an ultimate absurdity that in the 21st century, when we know we are witnessing the death of the living world unless we utterly transform the way we live, that death of the living world is called ‘an environmental externality.’”

NEW: Thomas Friedman: Made in the U.S.A.: Socialism for the Rich. Capitalism for the Rest. (New York Times, January 26, 2021)
There has been so much focus in recent years on the downsides of rapid globalization and “neoliberal free-market groupthink” — influencing both Democrats and Republicans — that we’ve ignored another, more powerful consensus that has taken hold on both parties: That we are in a new era of permanently low interest rates, so deficits don’t matter as long as you can service them, and so the role of government in developed countries can keep expanding — which it has with steadily larger bailouts, persistent deficit spending, mounting government debts and increasingly easy money out of Central Banks to finance it all.
This new consensus has a name: “Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest” — a variation on a theme popularized in the 1960s. It happens when government intervention does more to stimulate the financial markets than the real economy. So, America’s richest 10 percent, who own more than 80 percent of U.S. stocks, have seen their wealth more than triple in 30 years, while the bottom 50 percent, relying on their day jobs in real markets to survive, had zero gains. Meanwhile, mediocre productivity in the real economy has limited opportunity, choice and income gains for the poor and middle class alike.
[Also see, "The Rescues Ruining Capitalism" (Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2020).]

Philip Bump: How to rig an America (Washington Post, January 29, 2021)
If you live in a heavily Republican area and don’t personally know anyone supporting Biden, it’s easy to see why you might be skeptical of the idea that Biden won the election, including the popular vote by some 7 million votes. In the states that swung from Trump to Biden last year, a third of voters live in counties Trump or Biden won by at least 30 points. In Georgia, 33 percent of voters live in counties where Trump won by that margin.
Even if you aren’t skeptical of the idea that Biden won by that margin, though, it’s easy to see why you might be wary of the election results. The federal government is now entirely under the control of Democratic politicians, most of whom live in states that voted for Biden, such as California and New York. (Most Trump voters also live in states Biden won, but that’s neither here nor there.) If you’re a Republican in a heavily Republican area in a Republican-led state, accepting that Democrats won unified control of the government may be more disconcerting than thinking they didn’t. After all, it suggests a significant political shift away from what you support.
If you are a Republican elected official or political actor, the concern is heightened. Your party has been at a disadvantage nationally for some time, with the number of Americans who identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents hovering at or near 50 percent for a while, according to Gallup polling. Demographic trends don’t bode well, with younger Americans leaning more heavily Democratic than older Americans — and with younger Americans inevitably constituting more of the electorate as time progresses.
This sets up a tricky moment. Republican leaders see how the party’s power is poised to fade — looking no further than those shifts that flipped Arizona and Georgia in last year’s elections. (And, for Georgia, this year’s: Hard as it may be to believe, its Senate runoff contests were this month.) The Republican base, meanwhile, is skeptical that its power will fade, particularly when the former president of the United States is out there insisting that it hasn’t. It’s a moment in which there is both incentive to game the system and support for doing so.
So Republicans are trying to game the system — to game a system that’s already often rigged to their advantage.



Resources re Coronavirus pandemic:

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak (World Health Organization, latest status and advice)
How the Virus Won (New York Times, June 25, 2020)
Invisible outbreaks sprang up everywhere. The United States ignored the warning signs. We analyzed travel patterns, hidden infections and genetic data to show how the epidemic spun out of control.
Inside the Coronavirus (Scientific American, July 2020 Issue)
What scientists know about the inner workings of the pathogen that has infected the world.
Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker (New York Times)
Researchers around the world are developing more than 155 vaccines against the coronavirus, and 23 vaccines are in human trials. Vaccines typically require years of research and testing before reaching the clinic, but scientists are racing to produce a safe and effective vaccine by next year.
Track Coronavirus Cases in Places Important to You. (New York Times)
What’s the Best Material for a Mask? (New York Times, June 20, 2020)
Scientists are testing everyday items to find the best protection from coronavirus. Pillow cases, flannel pajamas and origami vacuum bags are all candidates.
Coronavirus May Be a Blood Vessel Disease, Which Explains Everything. (Medium, June 1, 2020)
Many of the infection’s bizarre symptoms have one thing in common.
Monster or Machine? A Profile of the Coronavirus at 6 Months (New York Times, June 2, 2020)
Our “hidden enemy,” in plain sight.
3D model of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at atomic resolution (2-min. video; Vimeo, May 11, 2020)
From hair salons to gyms, experts rank 36 activities by coronavirus risk level. (Michigan Live, June 8, 2020)
From Camping To Dining Out: Here's How Experts Rate The Risks Of 14 Summer Activities (NPR, May 23, 2020)
The Risks - Know Them - Avoid Them (Erin Bromage, May 6, 2020)
Comprehensive COVID-19 reporting (by Seattle-area 17-year-old Avi Schiffman)
Infection Trajectory: See Which Countries are Flattening Their COVID-19 Curve (Visual Capitalist)
The 7 Best COVID-19 Resources We’ve Discovered So Far (Visual Capitalist)
Coronavirus Worldwide Graphs (Worldometers)
COVID-19 Global Visualizer (Carnegie Mellon University)
Rt Covid-19 Curves for U.S. States (June 6, 2020)
These are up-to-date values for Rt, a key measure of how fast the virus is growing. It’s the average number of people who become infected by an infectious person.
How to Talk About the Coronavirus (The Atlantic, March 31, 2020)
Four ways to help those around you be better informed about the pandemic.
Epidemic Calculator (GitHub)
U.S. Projected hospital resource use based on COVID-19 deaths, assuming continued social distancing until the end of May 2020 (IHME Group at the Washington Univ. St. Louis)
Daily Coronavirus Briefing (New York Times)
What Is Coronavirus? (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Coronavirus Myths and Facts (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic (Wikipedia)
We Need to Talk About Ventilation. (The Atlantic, July 30, 2020)
How is it that six months into a respiratory pandemic, we are still doing so little to mitigate airborne transmission?
Coronavirus: Disinfectant firm warns after Trump comments. (BBC News, April 24, 2020)
How to Wear a Face Mask Correctly: Common Mistakes to Avoid (NBC Boston, April 22, 2020)
Here’s What We Know about the Most Touted Drugs Tested for COVID-19 (Scientific American, April 16, 2020)
Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – Research and Statistics (Our World In Data)
Coronavirus Resource Hub (Consumer Reports)
Information on the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (Massachusetts Department of Public Health)
2020 coronavirus pandemic in Massachusetts (Wikipedia)
Information about the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Stanford CA Hospital)
Coronavirus is most contagious before and during the first week of symptoms. (Science News, March 13, 2020)
People stop making infectious virus once the body’s antibody response kicks in. All symptoms may not appear, and NO symptoms may appear until after most contagious period.
Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, MD: Safety tips for grocery and take-out shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic (14-min. video; YouTube, March 28, 2020)
Michael Osterholm on the Coronavirus pandemic (1.5-hour video; Joe Rogan Experience #1439, March 10, 2020)
Michael Osterholm is an internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology. He is Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, a professor in the Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School, all at the University of Minnesota. Look for his book "Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Deadly Germs" for more info.
Doctors and nurses demonstrate breathing techniques proven to help with coronavirus symptoms. (Daily Kos, April 8, 2020)
Long-Haulers Are Redefining COVID-19. (The Atlantic, August 19, 2020)
Without understanding the lingering illness that some patients experience, we can’t understand the pandemic.
How Trump Gutted Obama’s Pandemic-Preparedness Systems (Vanity Fair, May 1, 2020)
Former officials: Trump’s reshuffling of positions and departments, focus on business solutions, downgrading of science, left the country dangerously unprepared for an unprecedented pandemic.
A Complete List of Trump’s Attempts to Play Down Coronavirus (New York Times, March 15, 2020)
He could have taken action. He didn’t. Instead, he has continued many of his old patterns of self-congratulation, blame-shifting and misinformation. Trump now seems to understand that coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon. But he also seems to view it mostly as a public-relations emergency for himself rather than a public-health emergency for the country.
Answers to Common Questions About Coronavirus and the Food You Eat (Consumer Reports, April 1, 2020)
Food safety experts address 12 top concerns.
'It will disappear': the disinformation Trump spread about the coronavirus – timeline (The Guardian, April 14, 2020)
Heather Cox Richardson: Today, Trump and his supporters doubled down on the idea that the coronavirus is a “hoax”. (Letters from an American, February 28, 2020)
Today, Trump and his supporters doubled down on the idea that the coronavirus is a “hoax,” as Trump said, perpetrated by Democrats eager to tank his presidency. That would explain the dramatic drop of the stock market this week as nothing but an emotional reaction to “fake news.” It would mean that the strong economy Trump has hyped as his major contribution to the country—he denies that his predecessor Barack Obama had anything to do with it, although economic numbers under Obama were as good or better than today’s—remains intact, so long as people will ignore those dastardly Democrats... the Democrats that Donald Trump, Jr. says are hoping the coronavirus “comes here and kills millions of people so that they can end Donald Trump’s streak of winning.”
This is one heck of a gamble, and it reveals the corner into which the administration’s reliance on a false narrative has painted it. Under Trump, the country is great again… so the virus can’t be a problem. The rising stock market has proved that the economy is brilliant and Trump gets all the credit for it… so the falling stock market must be fake, or else the fault of jealous Democrats.
But the virus isn’t playing Trump’s game. It is spreading. Today, after we learned there are more than 85,000 known cases in the world and more than 2,900 known deaths, the director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program warned “every government on the planet” to “wake up. Get ready. You have a duty to your citizens. You have a duty to the world to be ready.”
America’s uniquely bad Covid-19 epidemic, explained in 18 maps and charts (Vox, August 11, 2020)
It’s now clear the United States has failed to contain its Covid-19 epidemic, with case counts far ahead of other developed nations and more than 1,000 deaths reported a day for over two weeks and counting. Asked if America’s coronavirus outbreak is the worst in the world, White House adviser and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci admitted it was on August 5: “Yeah, it is. Quantitatively, if you look at it, it is. I mean, the numbers don’t lie.”
It didn’t have to be this way. In March and April, other developed countries had significant Covid-19 outbreaks, but they did a much better job than the US in containing the coronavirus and keeping it down after the virus arrived. So while some other developed nations have experienced upticks, they all pale in comparison to the massive surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths that the US has seen since May and June.
Here’s what you need to know.
Food and Coronavirus Disease 2019/COVID-19 (CDC, Aug. 22, 2020)
- The risk of getting sick with COVID-19 from eating or handling food (including frozen food and produce) and food packages is considered very low.
- Take everyday actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Continue following basic steps for food safety and eat nutritious foods to take care of your physical and mental health.
CDC reverses itself and says guidelines it posted on coronavirus airborne transmission were wrong. (5-min. video; Washington Post, September 21, 2020)
Despite expert recommendations, CDC removes statement, claiming website error. The agency had posted information Friday stating the virus can transmit over a distance beyond six feet, suggesting that indoor ventilation is key to protecting against a virus that has now killed nearly 200,000 Americans. Where the agency previously warned that the virus mostly spreads through large drops encountered at close range, on Friday, it had said “small particles, such as those in aerosols,” were a common vector.
The edited Web page has removed all references to airborne spread, except for a disclaimer that recommendations based on this mode of transmission are under review.
For months, scientists and public health experts have warned of mounting evidence that the coronavirus is airborne, transmitted through tiny droplets called aerosols that linger in the air much longer than the larger globs that come from coughing or sneezing.
Despair at CDC after Trump influence: 'I have never seen morale this low.' (The Hill, September 23, 2020)
The Coronavirus Unveiled (with stunning photos and links; New York Times, October 9, 2020)
The first pictures of the coronavirus, taken just seven months ago, resembled barely discernible smudges. But scientists have since captured the virus and its structures in intimate, atomic detail, offering crucial insights into how it functions.
Less than a millionth of an inch wide, the virus is studded with proteins called spikes that attach to cells in people’s airways, allowing the virus to infiltrate. But under an electron microscope, the proteins look more like tulips than spikes, consisting of long stems topped with what looks like a three-part flower. These spikes also swivel on a three-way hinge, which may increase their odds of encountering and attaching to proteins on human cells.
UN: New daily record as COVID-19 cases hit more than 350,000 (Associated Press, October 9, 2020)
In a press briefing on Friday, WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan acknowledged that even as COVID-19 continues to surge across the world, “there are no new answers.” He said that although the agency wants countries to avoid the punishing lockdowns that have devastated economies, governments must ensure the most vulnerable people are protected and numerous measures must be taken. “The majority of people in the world are still susceptible to this disease,” Ryan warned. He said countries should focus not just on restrictive measures, but also on bolstering their surveillance systems, testing, contact tracing and ensuring populations are engaged.
Globally, more than 36 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported, including more than 1 million deaths. Experts say the tally far underestimates the real number of cases and Ryan said on Monday that the WHO’s “best estimates” were that one in 10 people worldwide — or roughly 760 million people — may have been infected.
The White House blocked the C.D.C. from requiring masks on public transportation. (New York Times, October 9, 2020)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention drafted a sweeping order last month requiring all passengers and employees to wear masks on all forms of public and commercial transportation in the United States, but it was blocked by the White House, according to two federal health officials. The order would have been the toughest federal mandate to date aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, which continues to infect more than 40,000 Americans a day. The officials said that it was drafted under the agency’s “quarantine powers” and that it had the support of the secretary of health and human services, Alex M. Azar II, but the White House Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, declined to even discuss it. The order would have required face coverings on airplanes, trains, buses and subways, and in transit hubs such as airports, train stations and bus depots.
A task force official said the decision to require masks should be left up to states and localities. The administration requires the task force to sign off on coronavirus-related policies.
Lungs (and COVID-19) (Quartz, October 14, 2020)
The thing about lungs—and most of our health for that matter—is that when they’re working well, we barely notice them. It’s only when they’re threatened by something like a global respiratory pandemic that we start to notice just how talented these organs actually are.
To shut down or not shut down? Officials implement new coronavirus restrictions as cases skyrocket, but face angry backlash. (Washington Post, November 13, 2020)
Governors and mayors are forced again to weigh coronavirus deaths against anger and economic devastation.
Covid: Think for Yourself, Dammit! (This Is True, November 16, 2020)
Terry: “I’m tired of the state telling me I have to wear a face diaper as a method of control. That is what is at stake here.”
Randy: "Wrong. What’s at stake here is millions of lives — with more than 1.3 million dead around the world so far. “The state” isn’t trying to control you, it's trying to control something that has evolved to kill you."
‘They’ve been following the science’: How the Covid-19 pandemic has been curtailed in the Cherokee Nation. (Stat, November 17, 2020)
While the United States flounders in its response to the coronavirus, another nation — one within our own borders — is faring much better. With a mask mandate in place since spring, free drive-through testing, hospitals well-stocked with PPE, and a small army of public health officers fully supported by their chief, the Cherokee Nation has been able to curtail its Covid-19 case and death rates even as those numbers surge in surrounding Oklahoma, where the White House coronavirus task force says spread is unyielding.
Why face masks belong at your Thanksgiving gathering – 7 things you need to know about wearing them (The Conversation, November 19, 2020)
Here are answers to some key questions about how and when to wear masks, and how to manage their use during the holidays.
Clinical Outcomes Of A COVID-19 Vaccine: Implementation Over Efficacy. (Health Affairs, November 19, 2020)
Using a mathematical simulation of vaccination, we find that factors related to implementation will contribute more to the success of vaccination programs than a vaccine’s efficacy as determined in clinical trials. The benefits of a vaccine will decline substantially in the event of manufacturing or deployment delays, significant vaccine hesitancy, or greater epidemic severity. Our findings demonstrate the urgent need for health officials to invest greater financial resources and attention to vaccine production and distribution programs, to redouble efforts to promote public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, and to encourage continued adherence to other mitigation approaches, even after a vaccine becomes available.
We're celebrating Thanksgiving amid a pandemic. Here's how we did it in 1918 – and what happened next. (USA Today, November 22, 2020)
On Thanksgiving more than a century ago, many Americans were living under quarantines, and officials warned people to stay home for the holiday.
No. 3 - AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine shows success: Here’s how it stacks up to others. (Ars Technica, November 23, 2020)
AstraZeneca used two equal dosages and measured 62% average effectiveness. Halving the first dose upped it to 90% average. Unlike its competitor vaccines, normal refrigeration is sufficent - and its proven production methods permit early - and probably less costly - distribution to more people.
What You Need to Know About Getting Tested for Coronavirus (New York Times, December 9, 2020)
Long lines, slow results and inconsistent advice have left many of us confused about when and how to get tested. We talked to the experts to answer your questions.
SARS-CoV-2’s spread to wild mink not yet a reason to panic. (Ars Technica, December 22, 2020)
A monitoring program picked up a single case and no indications of wider spread.
How Full Are Hospital I.C.U.s Near You? (New York Times, December 28, 2020)
NEW: In fast-moving pandemic, health officials try to change minds at warp speed. (Salon, January 2, 2021)
Public health laws typically come long after social norms shift, affirming a widespread acceptance that a change in habits is worth the public good and that it's time for stragglers to fall in line. But even when decades of evidence show a rule can save lives — such as wearing seat belts or not smoking indoors — the debate continues in some places with the familiar argument that public restraints violate personal freedoms. This fast-moving pandemic, however, doesn't afford society the luxury of time. State mandates have put local officials in charge of changing behavior while general understanding catches up.
More Than 12 Million Shots Given: Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker (Bloomberg, January 2, 2021)
The U.S. has administered 4.28 million doses; Europe’s roll-out begins.
Here’s where all the COVID-19 vaccine candidates currently stand. (Popular Science, January 4, 2021)
More than a dozen frontrunners have reached late-stage clinical trials.
Professor Dr. John Dennehy: What Does SARS-CoV-2 Evolution Mean for the Future of the Pandemic? (59-min. video; Queens College, January 12, 2021)
Dr. Dennehy’s laboratory researches virus evolution, ecology, population dynamics, and the emergence of viruses in new host populations. Currently, the laboratory’s main focus if two-fold: modeling the persistence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the built environment and monitoring SARS-CoV-2 genetic diversity in NYC wastewater.
[Excellent presentation, with good charts.]
Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine suggests strong immune response. (The Hill, January 13, 2021)
One of the next vaccine candidates could change the game, but is reportedly behind production goals.
Drug Prevents Coronavirus Infection in Nursing Homes, Maker Claims. (New York Times, January 21, 2021)
An unusual experiment to prevent nursing home staff members and residents from infection with the coronavirus has succeeded, the drug maker Eli Lilly announced on Thursday. A drug containing monoclonal antibodies — laboratory-grown virus-fighters — prevented symptomatic infections in residents who were exposed to the virus, even the frail older people who are most vulnerable, according to preliminary results of a study conducted in partnership with the National Institutes of Health. The researchers found an 80 percent reduction in infections among residents who got the drug, compared with those who got a placebo, and a 60 percent reduction among the staff, results that were highly statistically powerful, Eli Lilly said.
Obesity, Impaired Metabolic Health and COVID-19: The Interconnection of Global Pandemics. (SciTechDaily, January 24, 2021)
Obesity and cardiometabolic diseases do not only trigger a more severe course of COVID-19. The SARS-CoV-2 infection could promote the development of these conditions.
As Virus Grows Stealthier, Vaccine Makers Reconsider Battle Plans. (New York Times, January 25, 2021)
Vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech effectively protect recipients. But in a worrying sign, they are slightly less effective against a variant found in South Africa.
Paul Krugman: GOP says COVID-19 bill is too big. (New York Times, February 2, 2021)
The Republican counteroffer to Joe Biden’s proposed rescue package is grotesquely inadequate. While the Republican offering is criminally underpowered, however, is it possible that Biden’s plan overdoes it? Could the extensive aid to families, businesses, and state and local governments end up being more than needed?
Yes, it could, although we don’t know that for sure; it depends on how long the pandemic lasts, and how quickly the economy rebounds once we get herd immunity. Maybe we’re overdoing it, maybe not. While the rescue plan might overshoot, there’s not much harm if it does. On the other hand, an inadequate plan would lead to vast, unnecessary suffering. So we actually want the plan to be bigger than we expect we’ll need, just in case.
The Second COVID-19 Shot Is a Rude Reawakening for Immune Cells. (The Atlantic, February 2, 2021)
Side effects are a natural part of the vaccination process, just a sign that protection is kicking in as it should. Not everyone will experience them. But the two COVID-19 vaccines cleared for emergency use in the United States, made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, already have reputations for raising the hackles of the immune system: In both companies’ clinical trials, at least a third of the volunteers ended up with symptoms such as headaches and fatigue; fevers were less common. Dose No. 2 is more likely to pack a punch—in large part because the effects of the second shot build iteratively on the first.
The Coronavirus Is a Master of Mixing Its Genome, Worrying Scientists. (New York Times, February 5, 2021)
New studies underscore how coronaviruses frequently mix their genetic components — which could contribute to the rise of dangerous variants.
When it comes to their own pandemic precautions, state legislatures in the U.S. are all over the map. (New York Times, February 8, 2021)
Nearly a year into the coronavirus crisis, with no national standard for legislating during a pandemic, lawmakers in state capitals around the country are grappling with how to carry out a new season of sessions. A partisan pattern has emerged, but there remains a patchwork of shifting, inconsistent rules about where to meet, how the public can take part, and what to do about masks.
In at least 28 states, masks are required on the floors of both legislative chambers, according to a New York Times survey of legislatures in every state; 17 of the 28 states are controlled by Democrats. Legislatures in at least 18 states, including 15 that are Republican-controlled, do not require masks on the floor in at least one chamber. In the three state legislatures where party control is divided, one is requiring masks and two are not.
China Scores a Public Relations Win After First W.H.O. Mission to Wuhan to Study the Origins of the Coronavirus Pandemic. (New York Times, February 9, 2021)
Experts with the global health agency endorsed critical parts of Beijing’s narrative, even some parts that independent scientists question.
The team did not report major breakthroughs but said it had found important clues. The virus was circulating in Wuhan several weeks before it appeared at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where some of the earliest clusters were initially reported, the experts said. It most likely emerged in bats and spread to humans through another small mammal, though the experts said they have not been able to identify the species
A next-generation coronavirus vaccine is in the works, but initial funding was denied. (2-min. video; USA Today, February 17, 2021)
Drew Weissman realized a year ago that even if the COVID-19 vaccines then in progress were eventually approved, it might not be enough. The world might need a next-generation vaccine to rid itself of this pandemic. Recent outbreaks of more resilient variants suggest he could be right. And yet, when Weissman – discoverer of the mRNA science behind two of the current vaccines – and a team of fellow scientists took a proposal for a more versatile COVID-19 vaccine to the National Institutes of Health for funding last May, they left empty-handed. The group had proposed research on vaccines to protect against any variant of the virus, known as a universal or pan vaccine.
NEW: An Antiviral Nasal Spray to Prevent COVID / Coronavirus Transmission (1-min. video; SciTechDaily, February 17, 2021)
The antiviral lipopeptide is inexpensive to produce, has a long shelf life, and does not require refrigeration. These features make it stand out from other antiviral approaches under development, including many monoclonal antibodies. The new nasal lipopeptide could be ideal for halting the spread of COVID in the United States and globally; the transportable and stable compound could be especially key in rural, low-income, and hard-to-reach populations.
Pfizer vaccine doesn’t need ultra-cold storage after all, company says. (Ars Technica, February 19, 2021)
The pharma giant and partner BioNTech have asked FDA to revise the vaccine's label.
U.S. may duck a surge from COVID-19 variant that sent Britain reeling. (Harvard Gazette, February 19, 2021)
Expert says falling COVID rates, rising vaccinations, timing may hamper spread.
We’re Just Rediscovering a 19th-Century Pandemic Strategy. (The Atlantic, February 22, 2021)
The first way to fight a new virus would once have been opening the windows.
Two-Thirds of COVID-19 Hospitalizations Are Due to These Four Conditions. (Tufts University, February 25, 2021)
Model suggests higher risk based on obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart failure (also race and age), offers insights to reduce disease impact.
Research Suggests Proper Fit of COVID Face Masks Is More Important Than Material. (SciTechDaily, February 27, 2021)
The COVID-19 pandemic has made well-fitting face masks a vital piece of protective equipment for healthcare workers and civilians. While the importance of wearing face masks in slowing the spread of the virus has been demonstrated, there remains a lack of understanding about the role that good fit plays in ensuring their effectiveness.
“We know that unless there is a good seal between the mask and the wearer’s face, many aerosols and droplets will leak through the top and sides of the mask, as many people who wear glasses will be well aware of,” said Eugenia O’Kelly from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, the paper’s first author. “We wanted to quantitatively evaluate the level of fit offered by various types of masks, and most importantly, assess the accuracy of implementing fit checks by comparing fit check results to quantitative fit testing results.”
U.S. hits grim COVID milestone amid new hope of third vaccine. (2-min. video; CBS News, February 28, 2021)
CBS News reports on the latest developments in vaccine distribution as the U.S. continues its battle against COVID-19.
COVID-19 revealed how sick the US health care delivery system really is. (The Conversation, March 2, 2021)
If you got the COVID-19 shot, you likely received a little paper card that shows you’ve been vaccinated. Make sure you keep that card in a safe place. There is no coordinated way to share information about who has been vaccinated and who has not.
That is just one of the glaring flaws that COVID-19 has revealed about the U.S. health care system: It does not share health information well. Coordination between public health agencies and medical providers is lacking. Technical and regulatory restrictions impede use of digital technologies. To put it bluntly, our health care delivery system is failing patients. Prolonged disputes about the Affordable Care Act and rising health care costs have done little to help; the problems go beyond insurance and access.
Fully-vaccinated people can visit with nearby grandchildren, dine indoors with one another, CDC says. (2-min. video; Washington Post, March 8, 2021)
Long-awaited recommendations loosen restrictions on how people can socialize.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who are two weeks past their final shot may visit indoors with unvaccinated members of a single household at low risk of severe disease, without wearing masks or distancing. That would free many vaccinated grandparents who live near their unvaccinated children and grandchildren to visit them for the first time in a year. The guidelines continue to discourage visits involving long-distance travel, however.
The CDC also said fully vaccinated people can gather indoors with those who are also fully vaccinated. And they do not need to quarantine, or be tested after exposure to the coronavirus, as long as they have no symptoms, the agency said.
NEW: Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 8, 2021)
Fully vaccinated people in non-healthcare settings can:
    Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
    Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
    Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic.
For now, fully vaccinated people should continue to:
    Take precautions in public like wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing.
    Wear masks, practice physical distancing, and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease.
    Wear masks, maintain physical distance, and practice other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households.
    Avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings.
    Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
    Follow guidance issued by individual employers.
    Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations.
NEW:
A new lab study shows troubling signs that Pfizer's and Moderna's COVID-19 shots could be far less effective against the variant first found in South Africa. (Business Insider, March 8, 2021)
The percentage of protective antibodies that neutralized the variant — called B.1.351, which has been recorded in 20 US states — was 12.4 fold lower for Moderna's COVID-19 shot than against the original coronavirus, and 10.3 fold lower for Pfizer's, the study authors said. This was a bigger drop than in previous lab studies testing the vaccines against manufactured forms of the variant, they said. For this study, the researchers used real forms of the variant taken from people who had caught th
Americans started wearing face masks a year ago. Where do we go from here? (8-min. video; Washington Post, March 8, 2021)
The rapid spread of covid-19 in the United States began in the early months of 2020. A lot has changed in our day-to-day lives since then, including the use of face masks.
A year into the pandemic, the coronavirus is messing with our minds as well as our bodies. (The Conversation, March 8, 2021)
As we see it, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a sort of zombie virus, turning people not into the undead but rather into the unsick. By interfering with our bodies’ normal immune response and blocking pain, the virus keeps the infected on their feet, spreading the virus. Zombie viruses are also a real thing, influencing their host’s behavior in ways that enhance the viruses’ evolutionary fitness.
Leaked Documents Raise Concerns Over Integrity of mRNA Molecules in Some COVID-19 Vaccines. (SciTechDaily, March 10, 2021)
Documents leaked from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) following a cyber attack in December show that some early commercial batches of Pfizer-BioNTech’s covid-19 vaccine had lower than expected levels of intact mRNA molecules.
These molecules instruct our cells to make a harmless piece of coronavirus protein, triggering an immune response and protecting us from infection if the real virus enters our bodies. The complete, intact mRNA molecule is essential to the potency of the vaccine. But in a special report for The BMJ today, journalist Serena Tinari shows that the EMA was concerned about the difference in quality between clinical batches and proposed commercial batches of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Specifically, EMA had major concerns over unexpectedly low quantities (around 55%) of intact mRNA in batches of the vaccine developed for commercial production. It is an issue relevant not just to Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine but also to those produced by Moderna, CureVac, and others, as well as a “second generation” mRNA vaccine being pursued by Imperial College London.
COVID herd immunity may be unlikely—winter surges could “become the norm”. (Ars Technica, March 10, 2021)
Some experts speculate that the pandemic coronavirus will one day cause nothing more than a common cold, mostly in children, where it will be an indistinguishable drip in the steady stream of snotty kid germs. Such is the reality for four other coronaviruses that have long stalked school yards and commonly circulate among us every cold and flu season, to little noticeable effect.
But that sanguine—if not slightly slimier—future is shaky. And the road to get there will almost certainly be rocky. For the pandemic coronavirus to turn from terror to trifle, we have to build up high levels of immunity against it. At the population level, this will be difficult—even with vaccines. And with the uncertainty of how we’ll pull it off, some experts are cautioning that we should prepare for the possibility that the pandemic coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, will stick with us for the near future, possibly becoming a seasonal surge during the winter months when we’re largely indoors.
Despite a lot of uncertainty, researchers lay out five ways to prepare for the worst.
NEW: Pandemic Special Series: The Week Our Reality Broke (New York Times, March 11-??, 2021)
A series reflecting on a year of living with the coronavirus pandemic and how it has affected American society.
Republicans on Biden’s Covid bill: "We bungled this one." (Politico, March 17, 2021)
The GOP didn’t think it could stop passage. But with nearly three-quarters of Americans approving of the law, some luminaries can’t believe how little a dent they made.
The Republican Party’s stumbles around the passage of the Covid-relief bill were, to a degree, a microcosm of the difficulties it has had finding its footing in the post-Trump era. Indeed, some Republicans said their party was hamstrung in the relief bill fight by the fact that they had so recently supported bills that relied on deficit-spending and pushed similar provisions, like direct payments...
[... to the wealthy.]
As Republicans Shun Vaccines, Congress Toils to Return to Normal. (New York Times, March 19, 2021)
A quarter of lawmakers have yet to receive a coronavirus vaccine, even though they have been available since December.
New revelations about GOP governors prove that COVID-19 has truly been an American genocide. (Daily Kos, March 29, 2021)
At least 563,000 Americans dead of the virus and likely far more than that. Over 31 million confirmed cases. Poverty rising to rates unseen since the Great Depression. When time provides some buffer and perspective, it will be impossible to recognize the pandemic in the United States as anything but a genocide — at least to those unblinkered by American exceptionalism). With that many deaths driven by cruelty and politics, there’s no other word for it.
Republicans consciously ignored all scientists, medical professionals, and policy experts, choosing to instead encourage and even force their own constituents to march towards their own doom. The facts are coming out now; in her apology tour, Trump enabler Deborah Birx just estimated that more than 400,000 American lives were lost due to Trump’s blatant and purposeful mishandling of the virus.
But Trump wasn’t the only Republican leader that was grossly negligent and willingly homicidal. Republicans across the country, from senators to governors and state legislators, downplayed the virus and spread lies about it from the moment it arrived and began killing Americans by the dozen. They did it with an election in mind, knowing that people of color were dying at higher rates and that stoking inane and vulgar culture wars allows GOP powerbrokers to continue their plunder of the American people and the dying planet.
Trump Inadvertently Admits He's GUILTY of 400,000 Cases of Negligent Homicide. (Daily Kos, March 30, 2021)
The most jarring part of that first sentence is Trump's dismissal of what he calls "faulty recommendations," that he "fortunately almost always overturned." In other words, Trump is confessing that he rejected the advice of the experts that he hired to mitigate the deadly potential of the COVID pandemic. Therefore, Trump is conceding that the tragic results that took the lives of more half a million Americans are wholly his responsibility.
Trump has entirely absolved the others of blame. And since their recommendations were discarded by Trump personally, he is unselfishly taking all the "credit" for the horror that followed. For the record, the common sense, CDC approved recommendations that he overturned were replaced by his own favorite (albeit fraudulent) therapies that included injecting bleach, hydroxychloroquine, ultraviolet light, and herd "mentality" (sic).
Network Model Shows How Combining Mask Wearing, Social Distancing Suppresses COVID-19 Virus Spread. (SciTechDaily, April 13, 2021)
Researchers at New York University and Politecnico di Torino in Italy developed a network model to study the effects of these two measures on the spread of airborne diseases like COVID-19. The model shows viral outbreaks can be prevented if at least 60% of a population complies with both measures. “Neither social distancing nor mask wearing alone are likely sufficient to halt the spread of COVID-19, unless almost the entire population adheres to the single measure,” author Maurizio Porfiri said. “But if a significant fraction of the population adheres to both measures, viral spreading can be prevented without mass vaccination.”


   
News Posts

SARS-CoV-2 variant found in Brazil: More infectious, may limit immunity. (Ars Technica, April 16, 2021)
The virus appears to be more infectious and more likely to infect those who have immunity to other viral strains, and it might even be more lethal. And, as of when the paper was written, the lineage had been detected in over 35 countries.
April 16, 1862 - Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C. (White House Historical Association, April 16, 2021)
Congress passed the Compensated Emancipation Act to end slavery in the District of Columbia and President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law on April 16, 1862. Three years later, after the Civil War ended and after the 1865 ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution officially abolishing slavery nationwide, African Americans in the District began to celebrate April 16 as a holiday.
Backdoored developer tool that stole credentials escaped notice for 3 months. (Ars Technica, April 16, 2021)
AWS credentials and private repository tokens could allow self-perpetuating attacks.
Our reporters break down key moments in the Chauvin trial. (Politico, April 16, 2021)
Whatever the outcome, it will be historic.
Derek Chauvin declines to testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment right as defense rests its case. (Washington Post, April 15, 2021)
Jury deliberations to start Monday, judge says.
Biden prepares sweeping order on climate-related risks. (Politico, April 15, 2021)
In a draft executive order, President Joe Biden reaches into all corners of the federal government with plans that would touch every sector.
The GOP-Big Business Divorce Goes Deeper Than You Think. (Politico, April 15, 2021)
It’s not just about voting rights; it’s that businesses and the Republican Party increasingly care about incompatible things
A progressive landslide in Wisconsin shows how badly GOP attacks on school reopenings have failed. (Daily Kos, April 14, 2021)
On April 6, progressives got a big boost when Jill Underly easily defeated Deb Kerr in the battle for Wisconsin’s superintendent of public instruction by a double-digit margin. The office, which oversees schools throughout the state, is nominally nonpartisan, but the state Democratic Party endorsed Underly while a host of conservative luminaries (including former Gov. Scott Walker) sided with Kerr.
It might be tempting to dismiss any tea leaves from this contest: It was a spring election in an off-year, turnout was relatively low, and both candidates were, technically, Democrats. But turnout was in fact up 30% compared to the last election for schools chief in 2017, and it would serve us well to look a little deeper into the nature of Underly’s 58-42 landslide win in a state that was one of the closest in the 2020 presidential election.
Concurrent extreme hydroclimate events will pummel the Colorado river basin - and beyond. (Daily Kos, April 14, 2021)
Scientists at Los Alamos found that climate change affects weather and precipitation with multiple severe events that will combine and threaten the habitability in the region. Over 40 million people in the western United States rely on freshwater from the Colorado River, while agriculture in the basin helps feed many people across the country. All of that is threatened by ‘more frequent; intense hydroclimate events’ warn the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The basin has become drier and hotter over the decades.
This EV charger turns electric cars into back-up power sources. (Mashable, April 14, 2021)
On Wednesday, Montreal-based Dcbel announced it's launching the r16, an all-in-one energy management unit. It uses solar energy for EV charging, but also works as a home back-up power source. Total cost: $4,999, plus installation and an EV. The unit can charge up to two EVs at the same time, and offers fast charging (known as Level 3 or DC Fast Charging) giving you 60 miles of battery range in an hour.
The Dcbel can charge any EV, but to use your electric vehicle as a power source the car has to have bi-directional charging. That's only compatible with the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid vehicles for now, but more automakers are adding direct vehicle-to-grid capabilities. The Dcbel can supplement your home's everyday power use with stored energy from an EV, or it can kick into action during a power outage. Forget said the average power outage is about four hours long, and the Dcbel will automatically turn on power from the car when a blackout happens. The car battery can power the average American home for up to 12 hours,
GM hydrogen fuel strategy expands into commercial vehicles and beyond. (Hydrogen Fuel News, April 13, 2021)
Scaling rapidly in a new form of greener fuel is challenging because the fueling infrastructure must be established, and a products portfolio has to be developed. Therefore, while passenger vehicles could one day suit this renewable energy, other applications provide a greater opportunity for rapid deployment. He explained that “so by focusing on bigger applications requiring high uptime, carrying heavy payloads, and quick refuelling, like Class-8 trucks, we can continue to drive the volumes higher while bringing the cost of the hydrogen down.”
In doing so, H2 becomes a more affordable fuel source in all applications, including the smaller ones that would have been too costly to be feasible earlier on.
Zoom Burnout Is Real, and It’s Worse for Women. (New York Times, April 13, 2021)
In a new study, women reported higher levels of fatigue associated with video calls than men. The solution, though, isn’t as simple as not having video calls.
Using Humor and Emotion to Combat Science Misinformation (SciTechDaily, April 13, 2021)
Misinformation in public debates about scientific issues such as vaccinations and climate change can be found all over the internet, especially on social media. A new study examines why it’s so difficult to detect science misinformation and suggests that using humor may help combat the issue.
Sea levels are going to rise by at least 20ft. We can do something about it. (The Guardian, April 13, 2021)
That’s enough to put large parts of many coastal cities, home to hundreds of millions of people, under water. To avoid the grimmest outlook posed by warming oceans, it is urgent that humanity transition to renewable energy, stop burning fossil fuels, and develop and deploy technologies to extract CO2 from the skies and seas. We must also get realistic about adapting to the sea level rise that can no longer be prevented. Rather than building more in low-lying regions and spending public money on coastal defenses that are bound to fail, we should prepare to assist the eventual relocation of people and infrastructure from the most threatened areas (and clean the land before inundation).
Network Model Shows How Combining Mask Wearing, Social Distancing Suppresses COVID-19 Virus Spread. (SciTechDaily, April 13, 2021)
Researchers at New York University and Politecnico di Torino in Italy developed a network model to study the effects of these two measures on the spread of airborne diseases like COVID-19. The model shows viral outbreaks can be prevented if at least 60% of a population complies with both measures. “Neither social distancing nor mask wearing alone are likely sufficient to halt the spread of COVID-19, unless almost the entire population adheres to the single measure,” author Maurizio Porfiri said. “But if a significant fraction of the population adheres to both measures, viral spreading can be prevented without mass vaccination.”
Cancer DNA Blood Tests Validated – Fast, Cheap and Less Invasive Method to Diagnose and Monitor Cancer. (SciTechDaily, April 13, 2021)
An international team today reports the findings of an independent assessment of five commercially-available assays for tumor DNA sequencing – a fast, cheap and less invasive method to diagnose and monitor cancer. The researchers revealed that all assays could reliably detect so-called circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) when it made up 0.5% of the total DNA in blood, a level of sensitivity that allows detection, genetic analysis and monitoring of late-stage and metastatic tumors. The study is a major milestone for the use of ctDNA assays as cancer diagnostics, outlining best-practice guidelines and uncovering key areas of future development.
IoT bug report claims “at least 100M devices” may be impacted. (Sophos, April 13, 2021)
The NAME:WRECK report isn’t just one bug or one vulnerability, and all of them date back to last year except for one. Fortunately, they are all patched (at least one has had an update out for nearly a year already) but together they constitute a worthwhile reminder that even in the modern age, programmers continue to make old-school coding mistakes.
The vulnerabilities that have been lumped together under the NAME:WRECK “brand” were found in three different operating systems. Two were low-level operating systems, often known as RTOSes (short for real-time operating systems) dedicated to internet-of-things (IoT) devices, namely Nucleus NET from Siemens and NetX from Microsoft. The third was FreeBSD, widely used as both a mainstream server operating system and as an operating system for embedded devices. (As the name suggests, FreeBSD is available for free, like Linux, but it uses a much more easy-going and liberal open source licence.)
Hundreds capture spectacular fireball passing uncomfortably close to Earth. (The Guardian, April 13, 2021)
More than 200 people submitted reports and videos of a fiery trail and apparent space-rock explosion.
“I Felt Hate More Than Anything”: How an Active Duty Airman Tried to Start a Civil War (84-min. PBS video; ProPublica and Frontline, April 13, 2021)
Steven Carrillo’s path to the Boogaloo Bois shows the hate group is far more organized and dangerous than previously known.
Over the last three years, Frontline has collaborated with ProPublica to investigate the rise of extremism in America. In the aftermath of the assault on the U.S. Capitol, Frontline and ProPublica team up again to examine how far-right groups were emboldened and encouraged by former President Trump and how individuals were radicalized and brought into the political landscape.
Trump Excretes An Utterly Delusional and Paranoid Rant About J&J and 'His' COVID Vaccines. (Daily Kos, April 13, 2021)
Trump is purposefully trying to alarm people and get them to become "up in arms" because he thrives on fomenting fear and division. His ludicrous assertion that the FDA "has to be controlled" is just the sort of idiocy that resulted in more than half a million Americans dying of COVID on his watch. And his determination to make everything political is further evidence of his inability to grasp the severity of the pandemic and the need for competent leadership.
Paranoia strikes deep! Trump is still trying to peddle the bizarre conspiracy theory that Pfizer and all the health experts throughout the world were aligned against him. He may be right that he is widely disliked, but that's only because he's a narcissistic sociopath who has created unimaginable suffering and loss. And he had little to do with the development of the vaccines that he is now claiming credit for. Pfizer didn't even participate in his vaunted "Operation Warp Speed."
Ironically, Trump's Tuesday tirade may serve to get more people vaccinated. He is finally advocating for vaccinations, despite his having downplayed them in the past and received his own in secret. But he still couldn't resist taking another racist swing at Asian-Americans with his derogatory "China virus" epithet. But then, it wouldn't be Trump if he wasn't being offensive, obnoxious, and infantile.
Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials (The White House, April 12, 2021)
We’ve now vaccinated 120 million Americans, including over 72 million who have been fully vaccinated.  Forty-six percent of adults have had at least their first shot, and twenty-eight percent of adults are now fully vaccinated across the U.S. We’ve made significant progress also in vaccinating Americans over the age of 65.  Seventy-eight percent have now had at least their first shot.  And by this time next week, all adults across the country will be eligible for their vaccine.
The Last Time a Vaccine Saved America (The New Yorker, April 12, 2021)
Sixty-six years ago, people celebrated the polio vaccine by embracing in the streets. Our vaccine story is both more extraordinary and more complicated.
Move to rewrite Medicaid restrictions threatens the most vulnerable Missourians. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 12, 2021)
Once again, Republicans in the Missouri Legislature have decided they can just ignore any federal law that offends their extremist ideology. Previously, it’s been about federal gun laws; now, it’s birth control. Approval of the state’s annual budget remains in limbo after Senate Republicans last month attached an amendment barring the use of Medicaid funds to pay for contraception, in defiance of federal law that says that’s part of the bargain when states receive federal Medicaid money.
Legislators who for years have declined federal dollars for Medicaid expansion in their determination to kneecap the Affordable Care Act are now creating the possibility that Missouri will lose its current Medicaid funding entirely — all for the sake of ensuring that poor women are denied access to birth control.
The great capitulation of Trump’s voter fraud crusade (Washington Post, April 12, 2021)
The 2020 election is a case study in how unproved claims can be weaponized. For decades, former president Donald Trump’s party warned of significant voter fraud while successfully pushing policies such as voter ID. In 2016, Trump laid a predicate for contesting an election by suggesting there was massive fraud, even in an election he had won. By 2020, when Trump lost, it culminated in a huge portion of the electorate believing a “stolen election” theory for which there is vanishingly little actual evidence.
Some have done more than raise questions, though. They, like Trump and often in search of his allies’ support, have alleged actual massive fraud. But now they’ve been asked to account for it. And crucially and increasingly, they have backed down.
Republican megadonors had high hopes for a weekend retreat. Then Trump took the stage. (Daily Kos, April 12, 2021)
Instead, they received a weekend of misdirection and deflation courtesy of Donald Trump, who delivered the keynote address Saturday night at his Mar-a-Lago resort. But Trump effectively hung over the entire getaway like a dark cloud of grievance, always at the ready to rain on Republicans’ revival parade after he cost them the House, the Senate, and the White House.
GOP donors privately pan Trump’s ‘horrible’ RNC speech. (Politico, April 11, 2021)
A slew of well-heeled Republican National Committee donors descended on Palm Beach this weekend, excited to be schmoozed, eager for access to DONALD TRUMP and other potential 2024 nominees, but mostly interested in hearing how far their dollars would go toward winning back the Congress and White House.
Trump’s speech didn’t do any of that. It was horrible, it was long and negative,” one attendee with a donor in the room tells Playbook. “It was dour. He didn’t talk about the positive things that his administration has done.”
Instead, Trump used the final night of the retreat to talk about himself, his grievances and how he plans to enact retribution against those who voted to impeach him — which runs counter to the donors’ main objective of making sure their dollars go toward winning overall.
Making sense of conspiracy theorists as the world gets more bizarre (The Guardian, April 11, 2021)
It is 20 years since Jon Ronson wrote Them, his eye-popping investigation into conspiracy theorists. Now, in a world awash with tales of paedophile elites and puppet masters, is he any closer to understanding it all?
Trump held steady among believers at the ballot — it was the nonreligious vote he lost in 2020. (Salon, April 10, 2021)
White evangelicals continued to back Trump in significant numbers. But less fervent or nonbelievers dropped away.
Sabine Hossenfelder: Does the Universe have Higher Dimensions? Part 1 (11-min. video; BackReAction, April 10, 2021)
Space, the way we experience it, has three dimensions. Left-right, forward backward, and up-down. But why three? Why not 7? Or 26? The answer is: No one knows. But if no one knows why space has three dimensions, could it be that it actually has more? Just that we haven’t noticed for some reason? That’s what we will talk about today.
What’s the Buzz About Bitcoin Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Technology?  (SciTechDaily, April 10, 2021)
There’s a possibility the recent cryptocurrency price hikes are partially or totally justified by changes in the market participants’ perception of the factors affecting the future prospects of blockchain platforms. However, in the long run, the value of the cryptocurrencies will depend on the financial added value generated by the blockchain ecosystem. If blockchain technology’s potential is realized, perhaps many of the current blockchain platforms and projects won’t make the cut, drastically reducing in value or vanishing altogether. But, there’s a reasonable chance that some of them will be big winners.
Cycling is ten times more important than electric cars for reaching net-zero cities. (Salon, April 10, 2021)
Tackling the climate and air pollution crises requires curbing all motorized transport as quickly as possible.
How Tesla’s Battery Mastermind Is Tackling EVs Biggest Problem (18-min. video; CNBC, April 10, 2021)
Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere — in phones, laptops, tablets, cameras and increasingly cars. Demand for lithium-ion batteries has risen sharply in the past five years and is expected to grow from a $44.2 billion market in 2020 to a $94.4 billion market by 2025, mostly due to the boom in electric cars. And a shortage of lithium-ion batteries is looming in the U.S.
Former Tesla CTO and Elon Musk's right-hand man, JB Straubel, started Redwood Materials in 2017 to help address the need for more raw materials and to solve the problem of e-waste. The company recycles end-of-life batteries and then supplies battery makers and auto companies with materials in short supply as EV production surges around the world.  Straubel gave CNBC an inside look at its first recycling facility in Carson City, Nevada. Watch the video to learn why battery recycling will be an essential part in making EV production more sustainable.
Prince Philip, the Man Who Walked Two Paces Behind the Queen. (New York Times, April 9, 2021)
The late Duke of Edinburgh understood that the rituals of monarchy were both ridiculous and necessary.
Facebook will not notify the 533 million users exposed in online database for hackers. (CNN, April 9, 2021)
Last weekend, it was reported that a database of records from more than 533 million Facebook accounts — including phone numbers, email addresses, birthdays and other personal details — had been shared online. While the leak did not include sensitive information such as credit card or social security numbers, the data could still be exploited by bad actors.
Facebook released a help center page for users concerned that their data may have been released. The page explains that only information that was shared publicly on users' profiles at the time of the scraping, meaning the data does not include information that was shared only with users' friends, for example. It also details how users can adjust their privacy settings.
There are third-party websites, including haveibeenpwned.com, where users can search for themselves to see whether their personal data has been leaked.
Artemis: Humanity's Return To The Moon (4-min. video: NASA, April 9, 2021)
With the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and next man on the Moon, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. We will collaborate with our commercial and international partners and establish sustainable exploration by the end of the decade. Then, we will use what we learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.
An Evolutionary Discovery That “Literally Changes the Textbook” (SciTechDaily, April 9, 2021)
The network of nerves connecting our eyes to our brains is sophisticated and researchers have now shown that it evolved much earlier than previously thought, thanks to an unexpected source: the gar fish. An international research team has now shown that this connection scheme was already present in ancient fish at least 450 million years ago. That makes it about 100 million years older than previously believed.
450-Million-Year-Old Sea Creature’s Bizarre Breathing Organs Uncovered. (SciTechDaily, April 9, 2021)
Contrary to previous thought, trilobites were leg breathers, with structures resembling gills hanging off their thighs.
Trilobites were a group of marine animals with half-moon-like heads that resembled horseshoe crabs, and they were wildly successful in terms of evolution. Though they are now extinct, they survived for more than 250 million years — longer than the dinosaurs.
Republicans draft veteran candidates to reclaim House majority. (Politico, April 9, 2021)
The GOP is borrowing a page from Democrats' 2018 playbook.
White supremacists plan nationwide rallies on April 11. (The Hill, April 9, 2021)
The “White Lives Matter” rallies by the groups, organized on Facebook and the encrypted messenger app Telegram, are scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. New York City, Fort Worth, Texas and Chicago are just a few of the cities that will see rallies.
For One Glorious Summer, Americans Will Vacation Like the French. (The Atlantic, April 8, 2021)
Workers are on the verge of going bonkers with their paid time off.
Safety is fatal. (Aeon, April 8, 2021)
Humans need closeness and belonging, but any society which closes its gates is doomed to atrophy. How do we stay open?
Drought in Taiwan Pits Chip Makers Against Farmers. (New York Times, April 8, 2021)
The island is going to great lengths to keep water flowing to its all-important semiconductor industry, including shutting off irrigation to legions of rice growers.
Officials are calling the drought Taiwan’s worst in more than half a century. And it is exposing the enormous challenges involved in hosting the island’s semiconductor industry, which is an increasingly indispensable node in the global supply chains for smartphones, cars and other keystones of modern life.
More than 90 percent of the world’s manufacturing capacity for the most advanced chips is in Taiwan and run by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, which makes chips for Apple, Intel and other big names. The company said last week that it would invest $100 billion over the next three years to increase capacity, which will likely further strengthen its commanding presence in the market. TSMC says the drought has not affected its production so far. But with Taiwan’s rainfall becoming no more predictable even as its tech industry grows, the island is having to go to greater and greater lengths to keep the water flowing.
Down to the wire: Biden’s green goals face a power grid reckoning. (Politico, April 8, 2021)
The U.S. will need new electric transmission lines to meet the president’s aim of eliminating the power sector’s net carbon pollution. But public opposition has doomed many such projects.
It’s official: the Republican Party has lost its collective mind. (Daily Kos, April 8, 2021)
First, they cheer the Citizens United decision, which essentially turns corporations into human beings (while simultaneously still longing for the early days of the Republic when Sub-Saharan Africans, Natives and women weren’t Constitutionally quite full humans or citizens). And, now? Now that some major corporations put their reading glasses on, grokked the public message and have come out (rather) forcefully against the Make Georgia White Again through Voter Suppression Law and are behaving like *gasp* human beings in their disapproval the GOP suddenly has their knickers in a knot.
Republican congressman claims corporations standing up for voting rights is 'fascism'. (Daily Kos, April 8, 2021)
Wait, I’m confused. I thought we lived in a free-market democracy in which corporations are “people” with sacrosanct “opinions” (which, for some reason, usually come in the form of gobs and gobs of campaign cash). So when corporations literally write their own legislation, it’s A-OK. That’s just what the Founding Fathers envisioned as they grew hemp and curated their expansive STD collections.
But if a corporation—for once—stands up for voting rights instead of endorsing a coal lobbyist as head of the EPA, now you’re talking Italy circa 1943.
Heather Cox Richardson: "Fewer - but better - voters" (Letters From An American, April 7, 2021)
Last night, commentator Kevin Williamson published a piece in National Review justifying voter suppression by suggesting that “the republic would be better served by having fewer—but better—voters.” Representatives, he says, “are people who act in other people’s interests,” which is different from doing what voters want.
This is the same argument elite slaveholder James Henry Hammond made before the Senate in 1858, when he defended the idea that Congress should recognize the spread of human enslavement into Kansas despite the fact that the people living in that territory wanted to abolish slavery. Our Constitution, Hammond said, did not dictate that people should “be annoyed with the cares of Government,” but rather directed that they should elect leaders who would take those cares upon themselves.
Oklahoma Quietly Launched a Mass Surveillance Program to Track Uninsured Drivers. (Medium, April 7, 2021)
Cash-strapped governments are turning to tech that converts cameras into automated license plate readers (ALPRs) to penalize uninsured drivers.
Oklahoma’s rollout of ALPRs to track and bill uninsured motorists is another example of mission creep and expansion in the use of roadway surveillance systems. For years, governments have relied on surveillance companies to extract revenue through tolls and speeding tickets, though largely at the local and municipal level. The civil liberties organization Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Atlas of Surveillance documents over 800 bundled purchases of ALPRs by police departments.
NEW: What’s Up With Those Weird-Looking Mushrooms? (New York Times, April 7, 2021)
You may not expect to see them in your yard, but that doesn’t mean you’ve got trouble. The opposite, in fact.
We’re Finally Getting a Picture of How Dangerous PPE Is for Wildlife. (Atlas Obscura, April 7, 2021)
More than a year into the pandemic, scientists are seeing the impact of disposable gloves and masks on ecosystems.
NEW: NASA’s Odyssey Orbiter Marks 20 Historic Years of Mapping Mars. (NASA, April 7, 2021)
NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft launched 20 years ago on April 7, making it the oldest spacecraft still working at the Red Planet. The orbiter, which takes its name from Arthur C. Clarke’s classic sci-fi novel “2001: A Space Odyssey” (Clarke blessed its use before launch), was sent to map the composition of the Martian surface, providing a window to the past so scientists could piece together how the planet evolved. It has sent back more than 1 million images.
But it’s done far more than that, uncovering troves of water ice, serving as a crucial communications link for other spacecraft, and helping to pave the way not just for safer landings but also future astronauts.
Matt Gaetz's staffers were sending videos of his outrageous behavior to other Republican officials. (Daily Kos, April 6, 2021)
The biggest crime connected to Matt Gaetz may not be transporting an underage girl across state lines and putting her up at a hotel for the purposes of sex, or Gaetz’s long-running partnership with Republican official and fake ID supplier Joel Greenberg. The biggest crime is the conspiracy of silence among Republican lawmakers who continued to protect Gaetz even though they were seeing graphic evidence of his behavior. They knew what he was doing. And they were just fine with it until Gaetz was caught.
Mitch McConnell displays his big weakness (and hypocrisy) with a jaw-droppingly dumb comment today. (Daily Kos, April 6, 2021)
McConnell in Kentucky calls actions of MLB, Coca-Cola and Delta Air in opposition of Georgia voting law ‘stupid.’ ‘My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics’, he says. ‘I’m not talking about political contributions', he adds.
Texas Abortion Bill Wins “Worst State Bill” of 2021. (Secular Coalition, April 6, 2021)
After several weeks of voting, the award for “Worst State Bill” violating the separation of religion and government has been given to Texas House Bill 3326, which would allow a person who has an abortion or performs an abortion to be charged with assault or homicide, a crime punishable by death in the state of Texas.
Tool checks phone numbers from Facebook data breach. (1-min. video; BBC News, April 6, 2021)
Details of more than 530 million people were leaked in a database online, largely consisting of mobile numbers. Facebook said it had "found and fixed" the breach more than a year-and-a-half ago. But the information has now been published for free in a hacking forum, making it widely available. The database covers 533 million people in 106 countries, according to researchers analysing the data. That includes 11 million Facebook users in the UK, 30 million Americans and 7 million Australians.
People can use the Have I Been Pwned online tool to check if their numbers or emails were compromised.
[Mozilla also suggests Firefox Monitor.]
Another prominent Google scientist is leaving the company amid fallout from fired AI researcher. (3-min. video; CNBV, April 6, 2021)
Samy Bengio, a well-known researcher at Google’s research group Brain, announced on Tuesday that he’s resigning from Google.Bengio is the highest-ranked official to depart amid the fallout from Google’s handling of ethics researcher Timnit Gebru, a well-known artificial intelligence researcher at Google who said the company abruptly fired her last fall after she requested clarity about a retracted paper.
The joy of being animal (Aeon, April 6, 2021)
Human exceptionalism is dead: for the sake of our own happiness and the planet we should embrace our true animal nature.
Time online crowds out time spent in physical contact with others and in contact with the physical world. Only a belief that our animal lives are somehow less important than our mental lives can allow us to minimise what that reduction of our physical experience might mean. And this is to say nothing of what our denigration of being animal means for the other animals. We have spent thousands of years arguing that we’re the moral overlords of our world. That’s looking harder to justify now that we’re the agents of extinction and pollution. For centuries, we have tamped down these contradictions. But it’s no longer possible to ignore the long shadow we cast. Mammal sizes have been shrinking on our watch, and are now the smallest they’ve been since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Our planet’s biomass of mammals now breaks down into a mere 4 per cent wild species, around 30 per cent humans, and the rest are animals we produce for food.
Humans Were Apex Predators for Two Million Years – Our Stone Age Ancestors Mostly Ate Meat. (SciTechDaily, April 6, 2021)
Researchers at Tel Aviv University were able to reconstruct the nutrition of stone age humans. Humans were an apex predator for about two million years. Only the extinction of larger animals (megafauna) in various parts of the world, and the decline of animal food sources toward the end of the stone age, led humans to gradually increase the vegetable element in their nutrition, until finally they had no choice but to domesticate both plants and animals — and became farmers.
Unparalleled feat: India's Northern Railways completes arch of world’s highest rail bridge. (India News, April 5, 2021)
Indian Railways on Monday achieved an unparalleled feat when the 5.6-metre-long last piece of metal (a closure segment) was fitted at the highest point of the arch of the world’s highest railway bridge. The bridge runs over Chenab river in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district. The bridge, which is 35-metre higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris, is expected to be completed within a year.
Lightning Strikes Will More Than Double in Arctic As Climate Warms, Driving Increased Wildfires and Warming. (SciTechDaily, April 5, 2021)
In 2019, the National Weather Service in Alaska reported spotting the first-known lightning strikes within 300 miles of the North Pole. Lightning strikes are almost unheard of above the Arctic Circle, but scientists led by researchers at the University of California, Irvine have published new research in the journal Nature Climate Change detailing how Arctic lightning strikes stand to increase by about 100 percent over northern lands by the end of the century as the climate continues warming.
The harmful ableist language you unknowingly use (BBC, April 5, 2021)
Some of our most common, ingrained expressions have damaging effects on millions of people – and many of us don't know we're hurting others when we speak.
A QAnon revelation suggests the truth of Q’s identity was right there all along. (Washington Post, April 5, 2021)
The extremist movement’s leader had purported to be a top-secret government operative. But a possible slip-up in a new documentary about QAnon suggests that Q was actually Ron Watkins, the longtime administrator of the 8kun message board.
Fox fails again: Do not come for the Buttigieg unless he calls for you. (Daily Kos, April 3, 2021)
Fox News keeps inviting Pete Buttigieg on, hoping to humiliate him in a “gotcha” moment.  Instead, their exchange always goes viral with #SlayerPete utterly humiliating them. But like Charlie Brown and the proverbial football, Fox refuses to quit. Each time, new hosts challenge the throne.
Should Stephen Hawking have won the Nobel Prize? (11-min. video; Backreaction, April 3, 2021)
Before he worked on black hole evaporation, Hawking worked with Penrose on the singularity theorems. Penrose’s Theorem showed that, in contrast to what most physicists believed at the time, black holes are a pretty much unavoidable consequence of stellar collapse. Before that, physicists thought black holes are mathematical curiosities that would not be produced in reality. It was only because of the singularity theorems that black holes began to be taken seriously. Eventually astronomers looked for them, and now we have solid experimental evidence that black holes exist. Hawking applied the same method to the early universe to show that the Big Bang singularity is likewise unavoidable, unless General Relativity somehow breaks down. And that is an absolutely amazing insight about the origin of our universe.
Distant Stars Spiraling Towards a Collision Help Unravel the Mysterious Forces That Bind Sub-Atomic Particles. (SciTechDaily, April 3, 2021)
Space scientists at the University of Bath in the UK have found a new way to probe the internal structure of neutron stars, giving nuclear physicists a novel tool for studying the structures that make up matter at an atomic level.
How Life on Land Recovered After “The Great Dying” Mass Extinction Event. (SciTechDaily, April 3, 2021)
By characterizing how ancient life responded to environmental stressors, researchers gain insights into how modern species might fare.
From Stardust to Pale Blue Dot: Carbon’s Intriguing Interstellar Journey to Earth (SciTechDaily, April 2, 2021)
We are made of stardust, the saying goes, and a pair of studies including University of Michigan research finds that may be more true than we previously thought.
Crystals Reveal Early Humans in the Kalahari 105,000 Years Ago Were As Innovative as Their Coastal Neighbors. (SciTechDaily, April 2, 2021)
Archaeological evidence for early Homo sapiens has been largely discovered at coastal sites in South Africa, supporting the idea that our origins were linked to coastal environments. There have been very few well-preserved, datable archaeological sites in the interior of southern Africa that can tell us about Homo sapiens’ origins away from the coast.
We now know that a rock shelter on Ga-Mohana Hill that stands above an expansive savannah in the Kalahari is one such site.
A Visual Guide to Human Emotion (Visual Capitalist, April 2, 2021)
Despite vast differences in culture around the world, humanity’s DNA is 99.9% similar. There are few attributes more central and universal to the human experience than our emotions. Of course, the broad spectrum of emotions we’re capable of experiencing can be difficult to articulate. That’s where this brilliant visualization by the Junto Institute comes in. This circular visualization is the latest in an ongoing attempt to neatly categorize the full range of emotions in a logical way.
NEW: Heather Cox Richardson: The Republican focus on media, rather than policy (Letters From An American, April 2, 2021)
Former House Speaker John Boehner, who presided over the House during the Republican wave of 2010, published a preview of his forthcoming book that makes some sense of the Republican attempt to divert attention to Abrams. He says that the rise of the internet meant that by 2010, Republican lawmakers were taking their orders from internet media websites and the Fox News Channel, their only aim to keep viewers engaged and cash flowing.
The Republican focus on media, rather than policy, has mushroomed until lawmakers are now reduced to talking about Dr. Seuss and the Potato Head clan rather than answering the needs of voters, with no policy besides “owning the libs.”
NEW: 55 Corporations Exploit Old and New Loopholes to Pay $0 in Federal Taxes in 2020. (ITEP, April 2, 2021)
In 2020, a year marked by a pandemic, small business closures and widespread job loss for ordinary people, many major U.S. corporations remained profitable and 55 of them paid $0 in federal corporate income taxes on a combined $40 billion in profits, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) said today. They secured a zero-tax liability using a variety of tax breaks, including a new one enacted in 2020 as part of the CARES Act. Twenty-six of the 55 companies paid nothing over three years.
NEW: Inside an International Tech-Support Scam. (AARP Bulletin, April 1, 2021)
How a computer hacker infiltrated a phone scam operation — exposing fraudsters and their schemes.
Also in this Bulletin special investigative report, you’ll learn about:
- The new scams of 2021 and how crooks keep up with the news to deliver fresh cons
- The new wave of crime-fighting tools now available to protect yourself
- The surprising hierarchy of how scammers want to be paid in the fraud world
[Read now, be forewarned later. ]
Europa Clipper – NASA’s Mission to Search for Life on Jupiter’s Moon Europa – Just Hit a Significant Milestone. (SciTechDaily, April 1, 2021)
With an internal global ocean twice the size of Earth’s oceans combined, Jupiter’s moon Europa carries the potential for conditions suitable for life. But the frigid temperatures and the nonstop pummeling of the surface from Jupiter’s radiation make it a tricky target to explore: Mission engineers and scientists must design a spacecraft hardy enough to withstand the radiation yet sensitive enough to gather the science needed to investigate Europa’s environment.
The Europa Clipper orbiter will swoop around Jupiter on an elliptical path, dipping close to the moon on each flyby to conduct detailed reconnaissance. The science includes gathering measurements of the internal ocean, mapping the surface composition and its geology, and hunting for plumes of water vapor that may be venting from the icy crust.
NEW: Scientists Need to Admit What They Got Wrong About Covid. (WIRED, April 1, 2021)
Over the last year, the scientific community has been reluctant to openly discuss its missteps. But coming clean could help prevent the next pandemic.
NEW: The Foundations of AI Are Riddled With Errors. (WIRED, March 31, 2021)
The labels attached to images used to train machine-vision systems are often wrong. That could mean bad decisions by self-driving cars and medical algorithms.
450-million-year-old trilobites had a leg up on breathing. (Science Daily, March 31, 2021)
A new study (University of California/Riverside) has found the first evidence of sophisticated breathing organs in 450-million-year-old sea creatures. Contrary to previous thought, trilobites were leg breathers, with structures resembling gills hanging off their thighs.
This Fried Chicken Has a Waitlist—and a Secret. (Taste Cooking, March 31, 2021)
For chicken that stays crispier for longer, chef Eric Huang calls upon EverCrisp, a modernist ingredient that home cooks can use, too.
COVID-19 cases are rising again in the U.S., even as the vaccine campaign accelerates. We explain why. (New York Times, March 31, 2021)
The pandemic isn’t over yet. And it may get worse in the next few weeks. But there are still strong reasons to be optimistic about Covid’s trajectory in the U.S.
Several factors are fueling the upturn. A more contagious variant (the one first identified in Britain, called B.1.1.7) is spreading. Some mayors and governors have continued to lift restrictions and mask rules. Many Americans are behaving less cautiously. And vaccinations have not gotten the country near herd immunity.
What happens next? Cases could continue to rise in the coming weeks. Between vaccinations and prior infections, half the country may have some form of immunity to the virus, but that still leaves a lot of vulnerable people who can get infected.
The success of the country’s ongoing vaccination drive should keep deaths and hospitalizations well below their January peaks. Many of the people at the greatest risk of severe illness have already been inoculated, which means new cases are likely to be concentrated among younger and healthier people.
What Happens to a Tree When It Dies? (JSTOR, March 31, 2021)
Decomposing trees on the forest floor become “dead wood”—a part of ecosystems that researchers are only beginning to understand.
Inside the 144-hour scramble to free the giant ship stuck in the Suez Canal (Washington Post, March 31, 2021)
"Might be here for a little bit."
Traffic Jam on the Suez Canal (NASA Earth Observatory, March 31, 2021)
Hundreds of ships have been left idling around the key shipping route. Nature played a role in solving the problem.
Mapping the World’s Key Maritime Choke Points (Visual Capitalist, March 30, 2021)
Maritime transport is an essential part of international trade—approximately 80% of global merchandise is shipped via sea. Because of its importance, commercial shipping relies on strategic trade routes to move goods efficiently. These waterways are used by thousands of vessels a year—but it’s not always smooth sailing. In fact, there are certain points along these routes that pose a risk to the whole system.
Here’s a look at the world’s most vulnerable maritime bottlenecks—also known as choke points.
Getting One Vaccine Is Good. How About Mix-and-Match? (New York Times, March 30, 2021)
Researchers are exploring the possible benefits of pairing doses from two different Covid-19 vaccines.
Trump Inadvertently Admits He's GUILTY of 400,000 Cases of Negligent Homicide. (Daily Kos, March 30, 2021)
The most jarring part of that first sentence is Trump's dismissal of what he calls "faulty recommendations," that he "fortunately almost always overturned." In other words, Trump is confessing that he rejected the advice of the experts that he hired to mitigate the deadly potential of the COVID pandemic. Therefore, Trump is conceding that the tragic results that took the lives of more half a million Americans are wholly his responsibility.
Trump has entirely absolved the others of blame. And since their recommendations were discarded by Trump personally, he is unselfishly taking all the "credit" for the horror that followed. For the record, the common sense, CDC approved recommendations that he overturned were replaced by his own favorite (albeit fraudulent) therapies that included injecting bleach, hydroxychloroquine, ultraviolet light, and herd "mentality" (sic).
Who pays for Suez blockage? Ever Given grounding could spark years of litigation. (The Guardian, March 30, 2021)
Ship likely to be centre of protracted legal battle over what caused it to run aground in the Suez and who is to blame.
Giant container ship that blocked Suez Canal set free. (Associated Press, March 29, 2021)
Salvage teams on Monday set free a colossal container ship that has halted global trade through the Suez Canal, bringing an end to a crisis that for nearly a week had clogged one of the world’s most vital maritime arteries. Helped by the peak of high tide, a flotilla of tugboats managed to wrench the bulbous bow of the skyscraper-sized Ever Given from the canal’s sandy bank, where it had been firmly lodged since last Tuesday.
After hauling the fully laden 220,000-ton vessel over the canal bank, the salvage team was pulling the vessel toward the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south end of the canal, where the ship will undergo technical inspection, canal authorities said. Satellite data from MarineTraffic.com (Underway Using Engines, 1.4 knots, 309°) confirmed that the ship was moving away from the shoreline toward the center of the artery.
The salvage operation successfully relied on tugs and dredgers alone, allowing authorities to avoid the far more complex and lengthy task of lightening the vessel by offloading its 20,000 containers.
The Ever Given was freed with the help of the Mashhour, a huge dredging ship that moves 70,000 cubic feet of sand an hour. (Business Insider, March 29, 2021)
After days of struggle, salvage crews freed the giant container ship. (1-min. videos; New York Times, March 29, 2021)
Late Saturday, tugboat drivers sounded off in celebration of what was up to that point the most visible sign of progress since the Ever Given ran aground late Tuesday. The 1,300-foot ship moved. It did not go far — just two degrees, or about 100 feet, according to shipping officials. But that came on top of progress from Friday, when canal officials said dredgers had managed to dig out the stern of the ship, freeing its rudder.
On Monday morning, the movement of the ship was even more dramatic — with tugboats able to almost completely straighten the vessel. But for awhile it was still unclear whether the bulbous bow — a protrusion at the front of the ship just below the waterline — was truly free.
Assisted by a flotilla of tugboats, the ship was towed north  to the Great Bitter Lake, the widest part of the canal at about the midway point of the 120-mile-long waterway, so it could be further inspected and so delayed traffic could once gain flow smoothly. However, it would take some time to also inspect the canal itself to ensure safe passage. And with hundreds of ships backed up on either side, it could be days before operations return to normal.
Suez Canal traffic resumes after Ever Given ship succesfully refloated. (1-min. video; NBC News, March 29, 2021)
The crucial waterway will now reopen after days of intense salvage efforts to free the ship.
Hopes of reopening Suez Canal boosted by partial refloating of jammed ship. (Reuters, March 29, 2021)
A huge container ship blocking Egypt’s Suez Canal for nearly a week has been partially refloated, raising hopes that the busy waterway will soon be reopened for a big backlog of ships. The 400-metre (430-yard) long Ever Given became jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal in high winds early last Tuesday, halting traffic on the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.
The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said on Monday the vessel had been mostly straightened along the eastern bank of the canal and further tugging operations would resume once the tide rose later in the day. After dredging and excavation over the weekend, rescue workers from the SCA and a team from Dutch firm Smit Salvage had been trying to free the ship using tug boats in the early hours of Monday, two marine and shipping sources said. Around midday, tugs could be seen maneuvering around the ship, some with tow lines attached, churning the water beneath them.
Marine traffic through the canal will restart once the ship is directed to the lakes area - a wider section of the canal, the SCA said. At least 369 vessels were waiting to transit the canal, including dozens of container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels, SCA Chairman Osama Rabie said. The SCA has said it can accelerate convoys through the canal once the Ever Given is freed. “We will not waste one second,” Rabie told Egyptian state television. He said it could take from two-and-a-half to three days to clear the backlog, and a canal source said more than 100 ships would be able to enter the channel daily. Shipping group Maersk said the knock-on disruptions to global shipping could take weeks or months to unravel.
“We have movement, which is good news. But I wouldn’t say it’s a piece of cake now,” Peter Berdowski, the CEO of Smit Salvage’s parent company Boskalis, told Dutch public radio. High pressure water would be injected under the bow of the ship, which is still stuck, to remove sand and clay but if that was unsuccessful, containers might have to be removed from the ship, which would cause a considerable delay, he said.
A source involved in the salvage operation told Reuters on Monday they were re-ballasting the ship and expected that with a favorable tide, cargo would not need to be removed. “The good news is she’s moved. But she is still stuck in the mud. A second large anchor-handling tug will arrive this morning. Hopefully they will be able to pull her free.”
Taiwan reports large incursion by Chinese air force. (Reuters, March 29, 2021)Ten Chinese military aircraft including fighter jets entered the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Monday, the island’s defence ministry said, in a further escalation of tension across the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan’s air force deployed missiles to “monitor” the incursion, the island’s defence ministry said, without elaborating. It also said its planes warned the Chinese aircraft over the radio.
Microsoft’s Death in Web Servers Accelerates Further. 10% of Sites Lost in Just One Month! (22-min. video; TechRights, March 29, 2021)
The corporate ‘tech’ media never mentions it, but Microsoft is becoming a dying breed in Web servers and it will have to quit that sector altogether some time soon.
IIS might be a dead product 1-2 years from now, leaving Microsoft in the (Web) server space no better than it is in HPC/supercomputers. Shouldn’t that be all over the corporate ‘tech’ media? Well, when Microsoft pays the sites which claim to cover “tech” they’d rather defame RMS on political (non-tech) matters than cover actual tech news.
Sweeping climate law zeroes out carbon pollution for Massachusetts. (Ars Technica, March 29, 2021)
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law late last week one of the nation’s most sweeping climate bills, putting the state on a path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The law sets emissions limits of 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 75 percent cuts by 2040 with interim limits every five years. To achieve those goals, the Bay State will add gigawatts of offshore wind power, spur cities and towns to adopt a net-zero building code, and set targets for electric vehicles, charging stations, and energy storage.
The state expects that it will be able to fully eliminate 85 percent of all carbon emissions by 2050. For the remaining 15 percent, it will have to find other options, including tree planting or direct air capture of carbon dioxide. The net-zero target of 2050 is encouraged by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to avoid warming of greater than 1.5˚ C.
The governor’s office and the legislature had been volleying the bill back and forth for months—this was the third time the legislature had sent the bill to Gov. Baker’s desk. Baker, a Republican, has publicly supported climate legislation, but he vetoed the first version in January and a second in February. The legislature, which is majority Democrat, adopted some of his suggested amendments and returned it a third time with a veto-proof majority.
Massachusetts will track progress across the entire economy for the next 30 years.
New revelations about GOP governors prove that COVID-19 has truly been an American genocide. (Daily Kos, March 29, 2021)
At least 563,000 Americans dead of the virus and likely far more than that. Over 31 million confirmed cases. Poverty rising to rates unseen since the Great Depression. When time provides some buffer and perspective, it will be impossible to recognize the pandemic in the United States as anything but a genocide — at least to those unblinkered by American exceptionalism). With that many deaths driven by cruelty and politics, there’s no other word for it.
Republicans consciously ignored all scientists, medical professionals, and policy experts, choosing to instead encourage and even force their own constituents to march towards their own doom. The facts are coming out now; in her apology tour, Trump enabler Deborah Birx just estimated that more than 400,000 American lives were lost due to Trump’s blatant and purposeful mishandling of the virus.
But Trump wasn’t the only Republican leader that was grossly negligent and willingly homicidal. Republicans across the country, from senators to governors and state legislators, downplayed the virus and spread lies about it from the moment it arrived and began killing Americans by the dozen. They did it with an election in mind, knowing that people of color were dying at higher rates and that stoking inane and vulgar culture wars allows GOP powerbrokers to continue their plunder of the American people and the dying planet.
Heather Cox Richardson: Voter Suppression in America (Letters From An American, March 28, 2021)
Since the Civil War, voter suppression in America has had a unique cast. The Civil War brought two great innovations to the United States that would mix together to shape our politics from 1865 onward:
First, the Republicans under Abraham Lincoln created our first national system of taxation, including the income tax. For the first time in our history, having a say in society meant having a say in how other people’s money was spent.
Second, the Republicans gave Black Americans a say in society.
Most former Confederates wanted no part of this new system. They tried to stop voters from ratifying the new constitutions by dressing up in white sheets as the ghosts of dead southern soldiers, terrorizing Black voters and the white men who were willing to rebuild the South on these new terms to keep them from the polls.
Today, Republicans talk about “election integrity,” but their end game is the same as that of the former Confederates after the war: to keep Black and Brown Americans away from the polls to make sure the government does not spend tax dollars on public services.
Diggers and dredgers struggle to free ship blocking Suez Canal, despite rock under its bow. (1-min. video; Reuters, March 28, 2021)
Suez Canal salvage teams intensified excavation and dredging on Sunday around a massive container ship blocking the busy waterway ahead of attempts to refloat it, with two sources saying work had been complicated by rock under the ship’s bow. Diggers were working to remove parts of the canal’s bank and expand dredging close to the ship’s bow to a depth of 18 metres (19.7 yards), the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said in a statement. There was no mention of new attempts to release the ship with tugs, though canal officials and sources had said they were hoping to take advantage of high tides on Sunday and Monday to dislodge the vessel. A specialist tug registered in the Netherlands arrived and would join efforts to refloat the ship on Sunday evening, the ship’s technical manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) said.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has ordered preparations for the possible removal of some of the ship’s 18,300 containers, SCA Chairman Osama Rabie told Egypt’s Extra News.
Scramble Against Time to Free Ship Stuck in Suez Canal. (New York Times, March 28, 2021)
Days after the Ever Given became lodged in the canal, its rudder has been freed and dredging is complete. Some salvagers hope it could be freed this weekend, but the wait for shipping to resume continues.
2 tugboats speed to Egypt’s Suez Canal as shippers avoid it. (Associated Press, March 28, 2021)
Two additional tugboats sped Sunday to Egypt’s Suez Canal to aid efforts to free a skyscraper-sized container ship wedged for days across the crucial waterway, even as major shippers increasingly divert their boats out of fear the vessel may take even longer to free.
The massive Ever Given, a Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned ship that carries cargo between Asia and Europe, got stuck Tuesday in a single-lane stretch of the canal. In the time since, authorities have been unable to remove the vessel and traffic through the canal — valued at over $9 billion a day — has been halted, further disrupting a global shipping network already strained by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Dutch-flagged Alp Guard and the Italian-flagged Carlo Magno, called in to help tugboats already there, reached the Red Sea near the city of Suez early Sunday, satellite data from MarineTraffic.com showed. The tugboats will nudge the 400-meter-long (quarter-mile-long) Ever Given as dredgers continue to vacuum up sand from underneath the vessel and mud caked to its port side, said Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, techical manager of the Ever Given.
[Whee! We now learn that the literally skyscraper-sized Ever Given, which has blocked the Suez Canal in Egypt, is technically managed from Hamburg, Germany! That's in addition to being built in South Korea (by Hyundai in 2018), owned in Japan, leased to a company in Taiwan, manned by a crew from India, and flying a flag of convenience from Panama. The salvage operation is being managed by Smit Salvage, a Dutch company. It seems that the responsibility for this accident-ready-to-happen was "Ever Given" to another.]
Suez Canal Live Updates: As Impact of Ship Blockage Grows, So Does Rescue Operation. (New York Times, March 28, 2021)
The rudder of the giant cargo ship Ever Given that has been blocking the crucial maritime route is now clear of mud and dirt, and tonight a full moon will raise the tides. But many challenges remain.
Stranding of Ever Given in Suez canal was foreseen by many. (The Guardian, March 28, 2021)
Analysis: As ships ballooned in size, worst-case scenario was flagged up by organisations such as OECD.
Fear turns to fury in Myanmar as children shot by military. (The Guardian, March 28, 2021)
Bloody crackdowns and massacres initiate anger and stronger desire for a future without the Tatmadaw.
Sadly, Tina Turner Is Very Ill. And She Has Come Back To America For The Last Time...To Say Goodbye. (1-min. and 4-min. videos; Daily Kos, March 28, 2021)
For the first time in years, Tina and her husband Erwin Bach returned to America, the country whose citizenship she willingly gave up, for the Broadway premiere of her stage show, Tina - The Tina Turner Musical.
It is also the last time they plan to return here, to say goodbye and thank you to her fans.
How do faithless people like me make sense of this past year of Covid? (The Guardian, March 28, 2021)
Many of us yearn for meaning. But in our individualistic, secular society we lack even the flimsiest of narratives to guide us.
The ionizer in your kid’s school may not do much to fight COVID. (Ars Technica, March 28, 2021)
Claims that ionizers remove 99% of viruses are unproven; cheaper air filters are more effective. Frustrated air-quality scientists say the industry is making a play for funds that should go to simpler, proven improvements to school ventilation. “None of these devices have been proven to work,” says Delphine Farmer, an atmospheric chemist at Colorado State University who has studied ionization technology. “Anyone who understands the chemistry would say you should be very wary of using them.”
A bigger concern, she adds, is the potential for air-cleaner devices to do harm. Ionizers in particular have a history of producing byproducts, including ozone, formaldehyde, and other volatile compounds, that can damage the lungs. Tests of AtmosAir’s ionizer by the New York State Department of Health found elevated levels of ozone in classrooms where it was running.
But air cleaning is now in vogue in schools, which are flush with federal funding to reopen safely and are poised to receive much more. Dozens of districts have purchased ionizers using Cares Act funding, as well as other chemical air-cleaning treatments.
Anthony Fauci on "Face the Nation", re COVID-19 status (10-min. video; CBS, March 28, 2021)
Whenever we see surges in travel, be that around the Christmas and New Year's holiday and other types of holidays, you get congregation of people. Even if on the planes people are wearing masks, when you get to the airport, the check-in lines, the food lines for restaurants, the boarding that you see, how people sometimes can be congregating together, those are the kind of things that invariably increase the risk of getting infected.
Suez Canal rescue teams call in giant vacuum cleaner in bid to free grounded mega-ship. (The Sun/UK, March 27, 2021)
Rescue teams have unveiled their latest weapon in the battle to free a grounded mega-ship — a giant vacuum cleaner. A day after they sent a lone digger to shift the 200,000-tonne Ever Given, suction dredger Mashhour has been called in. It can hoover up 2,000 cubic metres of material an hour, raising hopes that the giant cargo vessel can be freed from the Suez Canal.
It moves! 220,000-ton Ever Given budges for the first time since getting stuck in Suez Canal... as officials admit 'human error' may have caused crash after first blaming 'wind'. (2-min. satellite-data video, and 22 great photos; Daily Mail/UK, March 27, 2021)
- Two attempts to dislodge the container ship - and reopen the critical global trade route - will be made today.
- The Panama-flagged vessel, which is as long as the Empire State building, has been stuck since Tuesday .
- Osama Rabie, Egypt's Suez Canal Authority chief, today said that 'Technical or human errors led to the crash.'
[In the video, also note the collision of the two following vessels.]
Now a Democrat Is Accused of Trying to Overturn the Election. (New York Magazine, March 26, 2021)
Iowa Democrat Rita Hart is asking the House to declare her the victor in November’s election for the open seat in Iowa’s Second Congressional District over Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks. Hart’s claim is simple: Iowa’s certified results put her six votes behind Miller-Meeks, but her legal team points to 22 ballots that they argue were wrongly cast aside by election officials and, if properly counted, would give Hart a nine-vote victory. “Every legal voter in this country has a right to have their ballot counted and the remedy here is clear — count the ballots,” her campaign said in a statement.
For Republicans, it is a gift that keeps giving. It is an issue that energizes base voters, is perfect fodder for Fox News segments and Wall Street Journal editorials, without alienating any swing voters and helps memory-hole the ugly aftermath of the 2020 election. For Democrats, with a slim House majority, every seat in Congress is valuable — even if it’s one like Iowa’s Second, due to come under the knife in redistricting. The question is whether it is worth giving up the moral high ground that Trump handed them.
What The Past Three Months Have Been Like For QAnon Believers (BuzzFeed News, March 26, 2021)
A millennial stay-at-home mom from South Carolina, a gay couple from Texas, and a social worker in New York believed in QAnon. Now that Biden is president, they’re not sure where to go from here.
Far-Right Extremists Move From ‘Stop the Steal’ to Stop the Vaccine. (New York Times, March 26, 2021)
Extremist organizations are now bashing the safety and efficacy of coronavirus vaccines in an effort to try to undermine the government. Although negative reactions have been relatively rare, the numbers are used by many extremist groups to try to bolster a rash of false and alarmist disinformation in articles and videos with titles like “Covid-19 Vaccines Are Weapons of Mass Destruction — and Could Wipe out the Human Race” or “Doctors and Nurses Giving the Covid-19 Vaccine Will be Tried as War Criminals.”
Bashing of the safety and efficacy of vaccines is occurring in internet chatrooms frequented by all manner of right-wing groups including the Proud Boys; the Boogaloo movement, a loose affiliation known for wanting to spark a second Civil War; and various paramilitary organizations. These groups tend to portray vaccines as a symbol of excessive government control. “If less people get vaccinated then the system will have to use more aggressive force on the rest of us to make us get the shot,” read a recent post on the Telegram social media platform, in a channel linked to members of the Proud Boys charged in storming the Capitol.
NEW: "The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions", by Chuck Collins (New Books Network, March 26, 2021)
For decades, a secret army of tax attorneys, accountants and wealth managers has been developing into the shadowy Wealth Defense Industry. These ‘agents of inequality’ are paid millions to hide trillions for the richest 0.01%. This shocking exposé of the insidious machinery of inequality is essential reading for anyone wanting the inside story of our age of plutocratic plunder and stashed cash.
Experts sound alarm of possible new COVID surge as US cases once again rise. (Ars Technica, March 26, 2021)
CDC director says she's "deeply concerned about this trajectory.”
Google’s top security teams unilaterally shut down a counterterrorism operation. (MIT Technology Review, March 26, 2021)
The decision to block an “expert” level cyberattack has caused controversy inside Google after it emerged that the hackers in question were working for a US ally.
At least 32 people killed, 108 injured after two trains collide in Egypt. (1-min. video; Sky News, March 26, 2021)
The country's railway authority said emergency brakes in the first train were triggered by "unknown individuals", causing the train to stop. The second train then crashed into the first from behind, causing two carriages to come off the tracks.
The crash is being investigated but it is the latest in a long series of accidents on Egypt's dilapidated railway network.
Piracy fears mount as ships take long way around Africa to avoid blocked Suez Canal. (Washington Post, March 26, 2021)
Shipping prices have nearly doubled and oil prices climbed, as the crisis in the canal enters a fourth day.
Brand-new Kia automobiles, cases of Heineken beer, live animals and billions of dollars of crude oil and other commodities remained stranded in the Suez Canal on Friday, as tugboats and dredgers tried to free a grounded container ship that has come to symbolize the perils of a global economy that relies on being able to send goods around the world in larger and larger vessels. The Ever Given, one of the largest container ships ever built, has been stuck in the canal since Tuesday, creating an increasingly expensive traffic jam on both sides of the waterway that connects Asia to Europe. Some tankers have already opted to change course and travel around the southern tip of Africa instead, adding weeks to their journeys and raising fears that the valuable cargo could be an appealing target in a region known for piracy.
Ships Divert From Canal; Inflation Risks Emerge: Suez Update. (Bloomberg, March 26, 2021)
The blockage of the Suez Canal is wreaking havoc on global seaborne trade, raising the prospects of higher inflation with more ships ferrying cargoes and commodities forced to divert. A special dredger has also been deployed to free the Ever Given, the vessel that has been stuck in the key waterway for days. (Ever Given alone is estimated to carry $1B in cargo.) Natural gas prices have increased and food supply chains may be affected if the blockage persists. Mark Ma, owner of China-based Seabay International Freight Forwarding Ltd., which has 20 to 30 containers waiting to cross the blocked canal, said that if traffic doesn’t resume in a week, “it will be horrible.”
Panama initiates investigation into Ever Given Suez Canal grounding. (Seatrade Maritime News, March 26, 2021)
Preliminary reports indicated that the Ever Given suffered engine problems that affected its manoeuvrability at approximately 0540 hrs (UTC) March 23, while transiting through the Suez Canal with two pilots on board despite strong winds and a sandstorm. The reasons for the grounding have not yet been determined. So far there is no pollution or injuries, only some structural damage to the vessel. Ever Given’s Technical Manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) has stated that “initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding."
The Ever Given is one of the largest container ships in the world, built in 2018. She is 400 metres in length, about 59 metres in width, 15.7 metres of draught and has a capacity of 20,388 teu. With these dimensions, the container walls act as sails and the vessel can be subject to gusts of wind, said the statement.
How Container Ships Are Causing A Frenzy At American Ports (8-min. video; Cheddar Explainers, March 26, 2021)
There's an expensive and time-consuming fad sweeping America's ports: dredging. This is the process by which ports dig up the bottoms of their channels, either to maintain depth or go even deeper. In the last 5-10 years, dredging has taken ports by storm. To take just two examples: the Port of Boston recently completed a $350 million project to dredge the channel from 40 to 51 feet, and the Port of Miami requested a second dredge in 2018, just three years after completing a $205 million project to deepen their channel from 42 to 50 feet. They're far from the only ones, so why are ports in a such a race to dig deeper? What are the limits? Who is in charge? And what about the environmental damages of this dredging?
[With good links for reading more.]
How will the Suez Canal blockage disrupt global trade? (25-min. video; Al Jazeera English, March 26, 2021)
Detailed discussion with three experts.
M.V. Ever Given - why can't it be pulled out? Suez canal blocked. (5-min. video; Al Jazeera English, March 26, 2021)
M.V. Ever Given is blocking the Suez canal - why can't they just pull it out or dig it out? In this video, I will explain the problem - and why this blockage is likely to last a long time.
[An excellent technical analysis of the problems.]
Stranded cargo ship in Suez Canal could 'take weeks' to free. (5-min. video; DW News, March 26, 2021)
Japanese media are reporting that the owner of a huge container ship blocking Egypt's Suez canal aims to free it by Saturday. But experts are warning it could take weeks. More than a hundred and fifty ships are waiting to get in to what is one of the world's most important shipping routes, with hundreds more headed its way. A prolonged suspension of traffic in the Suez will almost certainly impact global trade, which has already been hit hard by the pandemic. The Suez Canal is a choke-point for world-trade. It connects Asia and Europe and sees 30-percent of the global container-shipping-volume every day.
Suez Canal blockage is delaying an estimated $400 million an hour in goods. (NBC News, March 26, 2021)
"You have stimulus checks going into the hands of consumers. [Some] businesses are running out of inventory. How can you have a stimulus if you can’t buy anything?" said one logistics analyst.
How to free the giant container ship wedged in the middle of the Suez Canal? (with excellent images and videos; Daily Kos, March 25, 2021)
The 400-meter-long container ship Ever Given was built in 2018, and is currently leased to Evergreen Marine Corp. (Taiwan) from the Japanese company Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd. It is currently sailing under the flag of Panama with a crew from India, and was en route to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The container ship is longer than the width of the Suez canal which is about 313 meters.
Dislodging the ship will be a difficult task. The cross-section of the canal is wedge-shaped, not U-shaped; the depth of the canal gradually decreases towards its banks. Ever Given is about 400 meters long, 59 meters wide and 15.7 meters deep, while the canal is 313 meters wide and 24 meters deep at its deepest point. The canal is only 225 meters wide where the depth is 11 meters or more. The bow and stern of the ship are wedged into the sandy sloped banks on either side of the canal.
Suez Canal: Critical Waterway Comes to a Halt. (excellent summary and images; Visual Capitalist, March 25, 2021)
The blockage of such an important shipping route is bound to have consequences. According to Lloyd’s List, each day the Suez Canal is closed disrupts over $9 billion worth of goods trade.
European officials have also voiced concern about longer-term impacts, particularly after the blockage is cleared. A sudden influx of ships could cause massive congestion at European ports and further disrupt supply chains.
[See the size of the Ever Given compared to the Empire State Building!]
Dislodging the Suez Canal Ship Said to Need at Least a Week. (Bloomberg, March 25, 2021)
The extended halt to traffic through one of the world’s most important waterways is stretching a container-shipping industry that’s already operating at full capacity. It threatens costly delays for European companies that rely on a steady flow of Asian imports and for consumers who’ve grown fond of fast online purchases during the pandemic. The task of re-floating the 200,000-ton ship called Ever Given, which is still firmly wedged across the vital maritime trade route, will require about a week of work and potentially longer, said people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified. Rescue efforts had initially been expected to last only a couple of days.
Scientists were first who dared to forecast 'an act of God'. (AccuWeather, March 25, 2021)
The men in charge of developing the first tornado forecast were Air Force Capt. Robert C. Miller and Major Ernest J. Fawbush. Rather than just forecasting thunderstorms, they would now try to predict which thunderstorms could spin up a dangerous twister and what areas were at the greatest risk, but their challenges were many and complex. According to NOAA, Miller and Fawbush would need to take into account surface and upper air data then determine the “existence of these parameters or the probability of their development,” while then using those parameters to highlight a specific area all while giving proper lead time for people to seek safety.
Many QAnon followers report having mental health diagnoses. (The Conversation, March 25, 2021)
In court records of QAnon followers arrested in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, 68% reported they had received mental health diagnoses. The conditions they revealed included post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, paranoid schizophrenia and Munchausen syndrome by proxy – a psychological disorder that causes one to invent or inflict health problems on a loved one, usually a child, in order to gain attention for themselves. By contrast, 19% of all Americans have a mental health diagnosis.
QAnon’s rise has coincided with an unfolding mental health crisis in the United States. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of diagnoses of mental illness was growing, with 1.5 million more people diagnosed in 2019 than in 2018. The isolation of the lockdowns, compounded by the anxiety related to COVID and the economic uncertainty, made a bad situation worse. Self-reported anxiety and depression quadrupled during the quarantine and now affects as much as 40% of the U.S. population.
It could be that QAnon is less a problem of terrorism and extremism than it is one of poor mental health. Only a few dozen QAnon followers are accused of having done anything illegal or violent – which means that for millions of QAnon believers, their radicalization may be of their opinions, but not their actions. In my view, the solution to this aspect of the QAnon problem is to address the mental health needs of all Americans – including those whose problems manifest as QAnon beliefs. Many of them – and many others who are not QAnon followers – could clearly benefit from counseling and therapy.
NEW: Gun control fails quickly in Congress after each mass shooting, but states often act – including to loosen gun laws. (The Conversation, March 25, 2021)
Stricter gun laws are more popular among Democrats than Republicans, and major new legislation would likely need votes from at least 10 Republican senators. Many of these senators represent constituencies opposed to gun control. Despite national polls showing majority support for an assault weapons ban, not one of the 30 states with a Republican-controlled legislature has such a policy. The absence of strict control policies in Republican-controlled states shows that senators crossing party lines to support gun control would be out of step with the views of voters whose support they need to win elections.
To examine how policy changes, we assembled data on shootings and gun legislation in the 50 states between 1990 and 2014. Overall, we identified more than 20,000 firearm bills and nearly 3,200 enacted laws. Some of these loosened gun restrictions; others tightened them; and still others did neither or both – that is, tightened in some dimensions but loosened in others. We then compared gun laws before and after mass shootings in states where mass shootings occurred, relative to all other states. Contrary to the view that nothing changes, state legislatures consider 15% more firearm bills the year after a mass shooting.
As impressive as this 15% increase in gun bills may sound, gun legislation can reduce gun violence only if it becomes law. And when it comes to enacting these bills into law, our research found that mass shootings do not regularly cause lawmakers to tighten gun restrictions. In fact, we found the opposite; Republican state legislatures pass significantly more gun laws that loosen restrictions on firearms after mass shootings.
Republicans make national crisis out of Kamala Harris failing to salute, but she isn't supposed to. (Daily Kos, March 25, 2021)
There are few certainties in life, but Fox News prejudicially judging Black Democrats more harshly than white Republicans is arguably one of them. Fittingly, the news network and other Republicans ripped Vice President Kamala Harris for failing to follow in the tradition of former President Ronald Reagan and salute members of the U.S. Military when she boarded Air Force Two on Monday and in at least three other incidences this month. “Kamala Harris doesn’t salute members of the military as she gets on Air Force Two, breaking with a customary tradition of respect,” Charlie Kirk, host of the conservative radio show Turning Point USA, tweeted. “Remember when she and Joe Biden tried to sell the lie that *Trump* was the one who didn’t respect the troops?” Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik called the vice president's failure to salute "disgraceful" on Twitter. “It is a clear demonstration of her dislike for those in uniform, both law-enforcement and military,” he tweeted.
The flaw in his and Kirk’s logic is that it’s actually inappropriate for the vice president to salute, according to Tom Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College. “The Commander in Chief returns salutes as a matter of courtesy (a practice started by Reagan), but the VP is a civilian who is not in the chain of command. It would be incorrect for her to salute anyone, and @FoxNews knows this. If other VPs did it, it was incorrect,” Nicols tweeted on Tuesday.
Electric vans are all the rage at DHL, UPS—maybe even USPS, too. (Ars Technica, March 25, 2021)
Lightning eMotors gets more orders, and UK-based Arrival lists big on the NASDAQ.
Global chip shortage worsens, forces production cuts at GM, Hyundai. (Ars Technica, March 24, 2021)
And a fire at a Renesas factory in Japan just made it even worse.
Facebook shuts down Chinese hackers who infected iOS and Android devices. (Ars Technica, March 24, 2021)
The social media platform was used to spread malware that spied on Uyghurs for more than two years. Malware for both mobile OSes had advanced capabilities that could steal just about anything stored on an infected device. The hackers, which researchers have linked to groups working on behalf of the Chinese government, planted the malware on websites frequented by activists, journalists, and dissidents who originally came from Xinjiang and had later moved abroad.
After a year of downplaying the pandemic, longtime Fox News employee died of COVID-19. (Daily Kos, March 24, 2021)
Maria Bartiromo’s Fox News gig has been a long march into the bottom of an ocean awash in fearmongering, bigotry, and misinformation. Like most Fox News programming this past year, Bartiromo’s programs have been showcases for easily debunked conspiracy theories, all racist and anti-China by nature.
On Monday, CNN reported Eric Spinato, a senior Fox News employee who’d been with the network for 20 years, died from COVID-19 complications. Spinato was the “head booker and senior story editor for the Fox Business Network” where he handled bookings for top shows like Bartiromo’s misinformation-fest.
Unfortunately, the underselling and the lies and misinformation, along with the single most inept administration in living memory, led to out-of-control public health and economic crises the likes that no one living remembers. It also led to the premature death of a reportedly well-liked and well-regarded Fox News’ employee, Spinato. Spinato worked at a network where the hosts he helped support did very little to support him back by refusing to inform the audience of all the facts. Spinato leaves behind a wife and two teenage sons.
Researchers Warn: Preservative Used in Hundreds of Popular Foods May Harm the Immune System. (SciTechDaily, March 24, 2021)
A food preservative used to prolong the shelf life of Pop-Tarts, Rice Krispies Treats, Cheez-Its and almost 1,250 other popular processed foods may harm the immune system, according to a new peer-reviewed study by Environmental Working Group. For the study, published this week in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, EWG researchers used data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxicity Forecaster, or ToxCast, to assess the health hazards of the most common chemicals added to food, as well as the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS, which can migrate to food from packaging.
EWG’s analysis of ToxCast data showed that the preservative tert-butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, has been found to harm the immune system both in both animal tests and in non-animal tests known as high-throughput in vitro toxicology testing. This finding is of particular concern during the coronavirus pandemic. “The pandemic has focused public and scientific attention on environmental factors that can impact the immune system,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG vice president for science investigations and lead author of the new study. “Before the pandemic, chemicals that may harm the immune system’s defense against infection or cancer did not receive sufficient attention from public health agencies. To protect public health, this must change.”
Scientists discover how humans develop larger brains than other apes. (Phys.org, March 24, 2021)
A new study is the first to identify how human brains grow much larger, with three times as many neurons, compared with chimpanzee and gorilla brains. The study, led by researchers at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, identified a key molecular switch that can make ape brain organoids grow more like human organoids, and vice versa. The study, published in the journal Cell, compared 'brain organoids' - 3-D tissues grown from stem cells which model early brain development—that were grown from human, gorilla and chimpanzee stem cells. Similar to actual brains, the human brain organoids grew a lot larger than the organoids from other apes.
Mural Painted More Than 2,500 Years Ago Depicts Salt as an Ancient Maya Commodity at a Marketplace. (Louisiana State University, March 23, 2021)
Salt cakes could have been easily transported in canoes along the coast and up rivers in southern Belize, writes LSU archaeologist Heather McKillop in a new paper published in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.
She discovered in 2004 the first remnants of ancient Maya salt kitchen buildings made of pole and thatch that had been submerged and preserved in a saltwater lagoon in a mangrove forest in Belize. Since then, she and her team of LSU graduate and undergraduate students and colleagues have mapped 70 sites that comprise an extensive network of rooms and buildings of the Paynes Creek Salt Works. “It’s like a blueprint for what happened in the past,” McKillop said. “They were boiling brine in pots over fires to make salt.” Her research team has discovered at the Paynes Creek Salt Works, 4,042 submerged architectural wooden posts, a canoe, an oar, a high-quality jadeite tool, stone tools used to salt fish and meat and hundreds of pieces of pottery. “I think the ancient Maya who worked here were producer-vendors and they would take the salt by canoe up the river. They were making large quantities of salt, much more than they needed for their immediate families. This was their living,” said McKillop.
Ever Given Container Ship Runs Aground in Suez Canal (Wikipedia, March 23, 2021)
Ever Given is a Golden-class container ship, one of the largest container ships in the world. The ship is owned by Shoei Kisen Kaisha (a shipowning and leasing subsidiary of the large Japanese shipbuilding company Imabari Shipbuilding), and time chartered and operated by container transportation and shipping company Evergreen Marine. Ever Given is registered in Panama, and its technical management is the responsibility of the German ship management company Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM).
On 23 March 2021, while traveling from Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia[7] to Rotterdam, Netherlands, the ship ran aground in the Suez Canal, blocking it.
NASA lays out plans for its first flights on Mars. (Ars Technica, March 23, 2021)
The expectation is that we'll have five flights over the course of a month, beginning on April 8th.
Ingenuity looks familiar to anyone who's seen any of the profusion of small consumer drones that have developed over the last decade or so. But, as Ingenuity's chief engineer Bob Balaram put it, "It's the first aircraft designed for powered flight on another planet," and that makes for some substantial differences with Earth-bound drones. For starters, the hardware is much bigger than it might seem from the photos, as each of its two counter-rotating blades is 1.2 meters (four feet) long. Ingenuity also weighs in at 1.8 kilograms (four pounds) on Earth, although it's less than half of that weight on the red planet. Balaram also said that "In effect, this is an aircraft that also happens to be a spacecraft," noting it had to survive the stresses of launch and landing, as well as the temperature extremes of its flight to Mars and time on the surface. That has necessitated a heating element in Ingenuity's fuselage, which keeps things like the batteries and electronics operational overnight. Once released on the planet's surface by Perseverance, Ingenuity will be responsible for providing its own power, which it obtains via a solar panel perched above the blades.
Babies Prefer Baby Talk, Regardless of Which Languages They’re Used to Hearing. (SciTechDaily, March 23, 2021)
Some parents worry that teaching two languages could mean an infant won’t learn to speak on time, but the new study shows bilingual babies are developmentally right on track. The peer-reviewed study, published today by Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science, found bilingual babies became interested in baby talk at the same age as those learning one language.
According to the study, 6- to 9-month-old babies who had mothers with higher levels of education preferred baby talk more than babies whose mothers had less education. “We suspect that perhaps the mothers with higher education levels spoke more to the babies and used infant-directed speech more often,” Mateu said.
Independent Russian journalists are thriving on YouTube — for now. (Rest Of World, March 23, 2021)
With television networks full of government propaganda, YouTube is a vital platform for debate. But will the freedom last?
A Hong Kong journalist is on trial for using a public database. (Rest Of World, March 23, 2021)
The arrest of investigative reporter Bao Choy has implications for journalists, activists, lawyers, and investors.
Ransomware operators are piling on already hacked Exchange servers. (Ars Technica, March 23, 2021)
Microsoft Exchange servers compromised in a first round of attacks are getting infected for a second time by a ransomware gang that is trying to profit from a rash of exploits that caught organizations around the world flat-footed. The ransomware—known as Black Kingdom, DEMON, and DemonWare—is demanding $10,000 for the recovery of encrypted data, security researchers said. The malware is getting installed on Exchange servers that were previously infected by attackers exploiting a critical vulnerability in the Microsoft email program. Attacks started while the vulnerability was still a zero-day. Even after Microsoft issued an emergency patch, as many as 100,000 servers that didn’t install it in time were infected.
As expected, extremists say more armed citizens are needed to stop slaughters after Boulder shooting. (Daily Kos, March 23, 2021)
With 2 cases of voter fraud in 2020: "Let’s make it harder to vote." With 38,000 gun deaths a year in US: "Let’s make it easier to buy guns."
Suppose for a moment that not one, but five people in that Aurora theater are packing concealed pistols. Suppose two of them are highly skilled, and that the other three just have the level that most gun-owners have...
[Also see: US has 5 percent of world's population, but had 31 percent of its public mass shooters from 1966-2012. (AAAS EurekAlert, August 23, 2015)
This study provides empirical evidence, based on its quantitative assessment of 171 countries, that a nation's civilian firearm ownership rate is the strongest predictor of its number of public mass shooters.]
President Biden mourns 10 killed in Boulder and calls for ban on assault weapons. (2-min., 4-min. videos; Washington Post, March 23, 2021)
‘There is no good motive, it is evil,’ Colorado Gov. Polis says of Boulder shooting.
Days after assault weapons ban was lifted in Boulder, a community grieves another mass shooting in America: "It hurts." (2-min. video; Washington Post, March 23, 2021)
The suspect purchased an AR-556 pistol March 16, according to the arrest affidavit. Ten people were killed at a supermarket yesterday, after he opened fire.
Intel Community: “Previous Guy was a tool in a long-running Russian campaign to weaken the USA.” (Daily Kos, March 23, 2021)
Donald Trump was a tool in a long-running Russian campaign to weaken the United States. That’s been documented in Republican-led investigative reports, and now it has been updated with new evidence, thanks to the U.S. Intelligence Community’s assessment of the 2020 election. The report, drafted by the CIA, the FBI, and several other agencies, was released in unclassified form on Tuesday, but it was presented in classified form on Jan. 7. In other words, it was compiled, written, and edited during Trump’s administration. It destroys his lies about the election, and it exposes him as a Russian asset.
Trump needs secrecy, in everything he does, he craves secrecy. One might guess it is because his “brand” is the exact opposite of what goes on behind the scenes, the self-made, wealthy, business genius, is nothing more than a trust-fund baby with a life-threatening anger problem, one who might have been involved with lawbreaking all along, nothing new when he became president.
Amazon Delivery Drivers Forced to Sign ‘Biometric Consent’ Form or Lose Job. (Vice, March 23, 2021)
The new cameras, which are being implemented nationwide, use artificial intelligence to access drivers' location, movement, and biometric data.
Amazon is using new AI-powered cameras in delivery trucks that can sense when drivers yawn. Here's how they work. (Business Insider, March 22, 2021)
In February, The Information reported on an instructional video for Amazon delivery drivers announcing a new suite of artificial intelligence-equipped cameras to surveil drivers during the entirety of their routes. The decision sparked some backlash, and one driver told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the policy change had driven him to quit, calling it an invasion of privacy.
Amazon has faced controversy over claims of surveillance in the past. In January of this year, more than 200 workers signed a petition sent to the CEO Jeff Bezos asking for an end to what the employees called "labor surveillance" ahead of unionization efforts.
Big breakthrough for 'massless' energy storage in vehicles and other technology. (Chalmers University of Technology/Sweden, March 22, 2021)
Researchers have produced a structural battery that performs ten times better than all previous versions. It contains carbon fibre that serves simultaneously as an electrode, conductor, and load-bearing material. Structural battery composites cannot store as much energy as lithium-ion batteries, but have several characteristics that make them highly attractive for use in vehicles and other applications. When the battery becomes part of the load bearing structure, the mass of the battery essentially 'disappears'.
NEW: Of Trees, Tenderness, and the Moon: Hasui Kawase’s Stunning Japanese Woodblock Prints from the 1920s-1950s. (Brain Pickings, March 22, 2021)
Hasui became a master of shin hanga — the “new prints” movement fusing traditional Japanese art, the art of shadows, with the Western aesthetics of light and the European novelty of perspective. He went on to create several hundred consummate woodblock prints, watercolors, oil paintings, and hanging scrolls, animated by a tender reverence for the beauty and majesty of nature. One hundred of them are collected in the lavish annotated volume, Visions of Japan: Kawase Hasui’s Masterpieces (public library).
Hasui captured the enchantment of snowfall with especial loveliness, his intricate lines challenging the artisans he employed in carving his woodblock designs to rise to new levels of craftsmanship. But among all of nature’s beauties, nothing inspired him more than trees — those eternal muses of scientists, artists, philosophers, and poets alike — and what Margaret Fuller so unforgettably called “that best fact, the Moon.”
The languages that defy auto-translate. (BBC, March 22, 2021)
There are more than 7,000 languages in the world, 4,000 of which are written. Yet only 100 or so can be translated by automated tools such as Google Translate. New research promises to let us communicate with the others.
Training a human translator or intelligence analyst in a new language can take years. Even then, it may not be enough for the task at hand. "In Nigeria, for instance, there are over 500 languages spoken," Rubino says. "Even our most world-renowned experts in that country may understand just a small fraction of those, if any." To break that barrier, IARPA is funding research to develop a system that can find, translate and summarise information from any low-resource language, whether it is in text or speech.
11 National Guard Soldiers transporting vaccines held at gunpoint in West Texas, suspect arrested. (KCBD, March 22, 2021)
Larry Harris, of Willcox, Arizona, is accused of following three National Guardsmen vans from Love’s Travel Station on East Regis Street in Lubbock to about two miles east of Idalou. Police say Harris attempted multiple times to run the vans off of the roadway. He then turned his vehicle into oncoming traffic on Hwy. 62/82 and stopped the vans. He then pointed a gun at an unarmed National Guardsman, identified himself as a detective, and demanded to search the vehicles and ordered the rest of the unarmed guardsmen out of their vehicles at gunpoint.
When police arrived on the scene, Harris was in possession of a loaded Colt 1911 pistol .45 Caliber. He had an additional loaded magazine on his person and another loaded magazine in his truck, police say. Harris told police he thought the people in the vans had kidnapped a woman and child. All 11 of the guardsmen were in uniform.
President Biden to nominate tech antitrust pioneer Lina Khan for FTC commissioner. (Verge, March 22, 2021)
President Joe Biden has announced his intent to nominate Lina Khan, a legal scholar and leading voice in the growing tech antitrust movement, to serve as a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission. The pick signals that the Biden administration is preparing to take on some of the tech industry’s most powerful and influential companies. In 2017, Khan authored an article for the Yale Law Journal titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” which exploded in popularity in progressive economic policy circles. Khan has also served as an aide to the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on antitrust throughout its yearslong investigation into anticompetitive behavior in the tech industry.
Khan’s nomination follows the appointment of Tim Wu, a Columbia Law professor, to work on technology and competition policy at the National Economic Council. Wu coined the term “net neutrality” and has been a prominent voice on the subject of antitrust regulation against Big Tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
Sidney Powell admits her dangerous lies about Dominion really were lies. (Daily Kos, March 22, 2021)
It’s been amply established that Sidney Powell bears a large measure of moral responsibility—at the very least—for creating the poisonous environment that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection. Powell was one of the main legal lowlights behind Trump’s misbegotten legal effort to steal another term. Powell’s claims to fame were a series of lawsuits that alleged Dominion Voting Systems was in cahoots with Venezuela to steal victory from Trump—the infamous “Kraken” lawsuits. All four of them crashed and burned—but not before her claims led to Dominion and its employees facing vicious harassment and trolling. At least one Dominion employee, Eric Coomer, was driven into hiding.
Partly due to this, Dominion filed a whopping $1.3 billion defamation suit against Powell, her law firm, and her nonprofit organization, Defend the Republic. Well, earlier today, Powell sought to throw out the suit. Her reasoning? Wait for it—she now says “no reasonable person” would believe her claims.
State of emergency in Miami Beach extended to April 11 as spring breakers overwhelm the city. (Washington Post, March 21, 2021)
Miami Beach leaders attributed the surge in visitors to coronavirus-related closures in other areas, coupled with cheap flights and demand for travel. Florida reopened before many other states and has fewer restrictions. The emergency order noted that many revelers have not been wearing masks or keeping distant from one another. Gelber said the virus is “still very present in our community,” with people continuing to become infected and checking into hospitals, and variants posing a new threat.
Although the emergency measures passed unanimously Sunday, commissioners expressed dismay that they were necessary. Pointing out that the city has been battling spring break chaos for years, commissioner Ricky Arriola said the city has gone further this year than he had ever imagined, and yet problems persist. “At what point are we going to think about doing something different?” he asked.
OneWeb Satellite Constellation to Boost Wi-Fi on Planes – Speeds Up to 195Mbps. (SciTechDaily, March 21, 2021)
Flight passengers will soon be able to connect to their families and colleagues on Earth via low-orbit telecommunications satellites. Speeds will be comparable to those at home, substantially boosting the service currently provided by geostationary satellites.
On March 19, 2021, communications company OneWeb signed an agreement to deliver Wi-Fi on aircraft with SatixFy, a British manufacturer of electronic components. They will develop in-flight connectivity terminals that will work over OneWeb’s constellation of low-Earth orbit satellites, as well as on geostationary satellite networks. The companies are targeting 2022 for certification and flight testing. OneWeb currently has 110 satellites in orbit but foresees a constellation of about 650.
Human Origins: Feet, legs, buttocks ((Daily Kos, March 21, 2021)
Unlike other primates, humans are bipedal, meaning that we walk on two legs. Bipedalism is generally considered to be the central feature of being human and has consequences for much of our anatomy.
More Human Origins: Bipedalism, The Human Face, Eyes, Teeth, Humans as naked apes, The Human Hand, Transitional Humans, Fossil Evidence.
Reproductive Problems in Both Men and Women Are Rising at an Alarming Rate. (Scientific American, March 21, 2021)
A likely culprit is hormone-disrupting chemicals.
Scientists Detect 55 Chemicals Never Before Reported in People – 42 “Mystery Chemicals” Whose Sources Are Unknown. (University of California San Francisco, March 21, 2021)
“These chemicals have probably been in people for quite some time, but our technology is now helping us to identify more of them,” said Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at UCSF. “It is alarming that we keep seeing certain chemicals travel from pregnant women to their children, which means these chemicals can be with us for generations,” she said. The scientific team used high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) to identify human-made chemicals in people. 
“It’s very concerning that we are unable to identify the uses or sources of so many of these chemicals,” Woodruff said. “EPA must do a better job of requiring the chemical industry to standardize its reporting of chemical compounds and uses. And they need to use their authority to ensure that we have adequate information to evaluate potential health harms and remove chemicals from the market that pose a risk.”
What we know about the victims of the Atlanta shootings. (Washington Post, March 20, 2021)
In three deadly shootings Tuesday at Atlanta-area spas, eight people lost their lives, leaving behind family members — one an infant daughter — and friends, including longtime customers. Seven of the eight killed were women. Six people were of Asian descent. Two were White. One was a newlywed bride getting a massage with her husband. Another was an immigrant from China who proudly built her business from nothing. The youngest was 33. The oldest was 77.
NEW: Erasing Women from Science? There’s a Name for That. (JSTOR, March 20, 2021)
Countless women scientists have have been shunted to the footnotes, with credit for their work going to male colleagues. This is called the Matilda Effect. In 1883, feminist, abolitionist, and sociologist Matilda Joslyn Gage wrote an essay titled “Woman as an Inventor.” Gage begins by disputing the common assertion that women possess “no inventive or mechanical genius.” In reality, Gage points out, “Although woman’s scientific education has been grossly neglected…some of the most important inventions of the world are due to her.”
How Ancient 'Deer' Lost Their Legs and Became Whales (Discover, March 19, 2021)
They traded in their legs for flippers, gained blow holes and evolved into the largest creatures on Earth. How did these creatures go from cat-sized "deer" to blue whales the length of about two city buses? It took a lot of small changes over tens of millions of years.
Stunning Hubble Telescope Images Capture Changing Seasons in Saturn’s Vast and Turbulent Atmosphere. (SciTechDaily, March 19, 2021)
The Hubble data show that from 2018 to 2020 the equator got 5 to 10 percent brighter, and the winds changed slightly. In 2018, winds measured near the equator were about 1,000 miles per hour (roughly 1,600 kilometers per hour), higher than those measured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during 2004-2009, when they were about 800 miles per hour (roughly 1,300 kilometers per hour). In 2019 and 2020 they decreased back to the Cassini speeds. Saturn’s winds also vary with altitude, so the change in measured speeds could possibly mean the clouds in 2018 were around 37 miles (about 60 kilometers) deeper than those measured during the Cassini mission. Further observations are needed to tell which is happening.
Mars Settlement Likely by 2050 Says Expert – But Not at Levels Predicted by Elon Musk. (SciTechDaily, March 19, 2021)
Robotic mining that can provide water and fuel is the key to developing a colony on the red planet within the next 30 years. Mars will be colonized by humans by the year 2050, as long as autonomous mining processes quickly become more commercially viable.
That’s the view of Professor Serkan Saydam from UNSW Sydney in the wake of the amazing landing on Mars by NASA’s Perseverance rover. Perseverance is expected to provide answers about whether forms of life ever existed on the red planet, but it is also designed to help address the challenges of future human expeditions there.
Iceland halts air travel following volcanic eruption. (2-min video; DW, March 19, 2021)
A volcano in southwest Iceland and 25 miles from Reykavik, its capital city, has erupted — as anticipated following thousands of smaller earthquakes in the area in recent weeks.
Airborne Particulates More Dangerous Than Previously Thought – Can Trigger Pneumonia, Asthma, and Even Cancer. (SciTechDaily, March 19, 2021)
Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have for the first time observed photochemical processes inside the smallest particles in the air. In doing so, they discovered that additional oxygen radicals that can be harmful to human health are formed in these aerosols under everyday conditions. They report on their results today (March 19, 2021) in the journal Nature Communications.
It is well known that airborne particulate matter can pose a danger to human health. The particles, with a maximum diameter of ten micrometers, can penetrate deep into lung tissue and settle there. They contain reactive oxygen species (ROS), also called oxygen radicals, which can damage the cells of the lungs. The more particles there are floating in the air, the higher the risk. The particles get into the air from natural sources such as forests or volcanoes. But human activities, for example in factories and traffic, multiply the amount so that concentrations reach a critical level. The potential of particulate matter to bring oxygen radicals into the lungs, or to generate them there, has already been investigated for various sources. Now the PSI researchers have gained important new insights.
Carbon-Bomb Fridges (10-min. video; Living On Earth, March 19, 2021)
When climate reporter Phil McKenna needed a new fridge, he tried to steer clear of any appliance that would use super-potent greenhouse gases to cool his groceries. Despite his efforts he ended up with a “carbon bomb” containing a greenhouse gas thousands of times more potent than CO2. He wrote about his saga for Inside Climate News and joins Host Steve Curwood to talk about why industry has made it so hard to find climate-friendly appliances.
The Solid-State Race: Legacy Automakers Reach for Battery Breakthrough. (Inside Climate News, March 19, 2021)
GM is the latest company to team-up with a battery start-up (SolidEnergy Systems, or SES of Singapore - with links to MIT), in a bid to develop a solid-state vehicle battery and to manufacture it in Woburn, Massachusetts.
Reinstating net neutrality in the US (Mozilla, March 19, 2021)
Today, Mozilla together with other internet companies ADT, Dropbox, Eventbrite, Reddit, Vimeo, Wikimedia, sent a letter to the FCC asking the agency to reinstate net neutrality as a matter of urgency.
Net neutrality preserves the environment that allowed the internet to become an engine for economic growth. In a marketplace where users frequently do not have access to more than one internet service provider (ISP), these rules ensure that data is treated equally across the network by gatekeepers. More specifically, net neutrality prevents ISPs from leveraging their market power to slow, block, or prioritize content, ensuring that users can freely access ideas and services without unnecessary roadblocks. Without these rules in place, ISPs can make it more difficult for new ideas or applications to succeed, potentially stifling innovation across the internet.
The need for net neutrality protections has become even more apparent during the pandemic. In a moment where classrooms and offices have moved online by necessity, it is critically important to have rules paired with strong government oversight and enforcement to protect families and businesses from predatory practices. In California, residents will have the benefit of these fundamental safeguards as a result of a recent court decision that will allow the state to enforce its state net neutrality law. However, we believe that users nationwide deserve the same ability to control their own online experiences.
For almost a decade, Mozilla has defended user access to the internet, in the US and around the world. Our work to preserve net neutrality has been a critical part of that effort, including our lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to keep these protections in place for users in the US.
With the recent appointment of Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to lead the agency, there will be a new opportunity to establish net neutrality rules at the federal level in the near future, ensuring that families and businesses across the country can enjoy these fundamental rights.
While there are many challenges that need to be resolved to fix the internet, reinstating net neutrality is a crucial down payment on the much broader internet reform that we need. Net neutrality is good for people and for personal expression. It is good for business, for innovation, for our economic recovery. It is good for the internet. It has long enjoyed bipartisan support among the American public. There is no reason to further delay its reinstatement once the FCC is in working order.
How a college dropout in New Hampshire found a Shakespeare secret all the PhDs missed. (Boston Globe, March 19, 2021)
Dennis McCarthy, a self-taught scholar working from his dinner table, is challenging decades of scholarship on the origins of the Bard’s greatest work.
‘God, no’: GOP immigration allies disappear as crisis mounts. (Politico, March 19, 2021)
A bipartisan group is looking to break the chamber's gridlock, but few Senate Republicans are leaping to help Biden. Trump really set the stage and said, "Immigration is going to be an issue for the future of the Republican Party. And we're against it.”
Republicans are in disarray without Donald Trump – but that doesn't mean they aren't still a threat. (Salon, March 19, 2021)
The GOP is too distracted by relitigating Donald Trump's 2020 loss to fight against President Joe Biden's agenda.
As Republicans Shun Vaccines, Congress Toils to Return to Normal. (New York Times, March 19, 2021)
A quarter of lawmakers have yet to receive a coronavirus vaccine, even though they have been available since December.
Trump’s Mar-a-Lago partially closed due to COVID outbreak. (Associated Press, March 18, 2021)
Trump was hospitalized with COVID-19 last fall and has since been vaccinated against the virus. Mar-a-Lago was the site of his first known exposure more than a year ago. A senior Brazilian official tested positive last year after spending time at Mar-a-Lago, where he posed for a photo next to Trump and attended a family birthday party.
The Trump White House was hit with several subsequent outbreaks after it flouted virus precautions by resisting mask-wearing and continuing to hold large events.
Post-Covid America Isn’t Going to Be Anything Like the Roaring ’20s. (Politico, March 18, 2021)
Hopes of a repeat of the post-influenza Roaring ’20s are understandable, but they misunderstand the differences between then and now, says historian John M. Barry.
Behind the flappers, bootleggers and Gatsbyesque decadence was a hard-won fatalism that came from the level of loss and devastation wrought by the war and the flu, which, unlike Covid, disproportionately killed younger Americans, contributing to a sense among some who survived that since they could die young, they might as well live hard.
Where the Covid pandemic has stretched on and on, with Americans mostly staying at home for the better part of a year, the flu swept through most cities in a matter of weeks but exacted a much heavier toll. Where Covid has killed roughly 2.7 million people worldwide, the influenza pandemic of 1918-’19 killed 50 million to 100 million people at a time the global population was less than one-fourth its current size.
Barry also notes that the influenza pandemic disproportionately affected young adults, whereas older people have suffered most from Covid. One study by Metropolitan Life found that during the 1918 pandemic, 3.6 percent of all industrial workers ages 25–45 died within the period of a few weeks. “That’s not case mortality; that’s mortality,” Barry says, adding, “In 1918, the deaths among young children were astronomical.”
In 1918, the first wave was extraordinarily mild. One statistic largely tells that story: The French army had 40,000 soldiers hospitalized [with the flu] and fewer than 100 deaths — and that’s without modern medicine. That’s the first wave. When the first wave ended, there were actually medical journal articles saying, “It’s gone. It has disappeared.” The second wave was much more lethal and significantly more intense. It was the one that really counted. In the second wave, the military generally had 10 percent case mortality — and in many instances, much higher. One of the biggest differences between 1918 and today is duration. The second wave would move through a community in six to 10 weeks. It was different.
The other thing is, of course, the war — particularly in Europe. You had 20 million people killed in World War I, [including] almost 10 million soldiers. The United States only lost a little over 50,000 [troops]; the war, in terms of deaths, hardly touched us.
One similarity between then and now: Like the influenza virus, the novel coronavirus isn’t going to simply disappear. It doesn’t actually depend on human beings in order to survive; it’s ambivalent about whether mankind exists at all. “This virus seems to pass between people and other mammals very, very easily. That was also true in 1918,” Barry says. In that sense, coronavirus is not unlike the 1918 flu virus, parts of which live on in the seasonal flus we experience every year. It’s a rather sobering reality, says Barry: “This virus is here to stay.”
It's not just you: Why everyone is super exhausted right now. (Salon, March 18, 2021)
It's not Daylight Savings Time: You might suffer from "Pandemic Trauma and Stress Experience," or PTSE.
"Now that the infection rates have been decreasing, people are getting vaccinated, and some returning to more normal lives or feelings of safety, that space of feeling the need to constantly survive is also decreasing," Campbell said. "This is causing many clients to now have the time and space to pause and realize the impacts of the past year, which is leading to greater exhaustion."
Fatigue is common in delayed trauma responses, which could certainly be part of the extreme exhaustion many are experiencing. As researchers have noted, persistent fatigue, sleep disorders, nightmares, fear of recurrence, and anxiety are common delayed trauma responses among survivors.
Did the coronavirus leak from a lab? These scientists say we shouldn’t rule it out. (MIT Technology Review, March 18, 2021)
For many scientists, challenging the idea that SARS-CoV-2 has natural origins is seen as career suicide. But a vocal few say it shouldn't be disregarded or lumped in with conspiracy theories.
21 States Sue Biden Administration Over Revoked Keystone XL Permit. (NTD, March 18, 2021)
In his executive order signed in January, Biden said the revocation was necessary because the pipeline “disserves the U.S. national interest.” “The United States and the world face a climate crisis,” the order stated. “At home, we will combat the crisis with an ambitious plan to build back better, designed to both reduce harmful emissions and create good clean-energy jobs. Our domestic efforts must go hand in hand with U.S. diplomatic engagement. Because most greenhouse gas emissions originate beyond our borders, such engagement is more necessary and urgent than ever. Leaving the Keystone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my administration’s economic and climate imperatives.”
What we know so far about the victims of the Atlanta shooting spree. (New York Times, March 18, 2021)
Atlanta murders: Reckless gun laws may have played a role. (Baltimore Sun, March 18, 2021)
Tuesday’s attack on several Atlanta-area spas that left eight people dead has renewed concerns about violence directed toward Asian Americans amid the pandemic. The 21-year-old charged in the shootings is white, while six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent. And studies have shown a significant uptick in hate crimes against Asian Americans in large U.S. cities linked to the rhetoric of Donald Trump and often amplified by white nationalist supporters who describe COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” or “Kung Flu.”
But there’s another element in these attacks that deserves scrutiny, and it, too, represents a broad and persistent problem in this country. The man charged in these attacks — the worst mass shooting in the U.S. in nearly two years — purchased a firearm the same day police say he went on his rampage.
Robert Aaron Long, the man charged with eight counts of murder, reportedly strolled into a Cherokee County gun store on Tuesday, put down his money, passed an instant background check and walked out of the store with his weapon. There was no waiting period. There was no mandatory safety class. There was simply a transaction that experts say might have only taken minutes to complete. Voters are more closely scrutinized in Georgia (and Peach state Republicans are currently bent are making voting stricter still). Women seeking to terminate a pregnancy are more inconvenienced by the state’s 24-hour waiting period intended to prevent impulsive decision-making.
That argues for not just Georgia to get its act together but for the federal government to set some minimum standard. Would a waiting period prove an annoyance to hunters, target shooters and others accustomed to picking up a new firearm on a lark? Probably. But studies have suggested it would also have this impact: an 11% reduction in firearm suicide rates and a 17% drop in gun homicides. The choice is obvious.
The U.S. Senate remains a likely roadblock, however. Just last month, the Democratic-run Maryland General Assembly had to override a veto by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to give final approval to legislation simply mandating background checks for private sales of rifles and shotguns. One can only imagine the outcry from Senate Republicans over similar legislation.
But wait, you won’t have to imagine much longer: Democrats in Congress are already pushing for some modest gun safety measures, including H.R. 8, which passed the House last week and requires background checks for private gun sales, and this week’s House renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which bans convicted stalkers from acquiring firearms. None of this is gun “grabbing” or a violation of Second Amendment rights or whatever contrivance opponents care to claim. Elected officials who think otherwise ought to take a few days to talk to the victims of gun violence before they act precipitously and allow more lives to be put in grave danger.
Quarantine Defying, Qanon Believing, Cop Punching Small Business Owner Says, "I'd Go Again..." (Daily Kos, March 18, 2021)
A New Jersey gym owner, who is charged with storming the U.S. Capitol and punching a police officer, is a QAnon believer who allegedly boasted he would “go again” and has previously threatened a congresswoman, authorities said in court documents Wednesday. In seeking to have Scott Fairlamb, of Sussex, detained pending the outcome of his criminal case, prosecutors said Fairlamb’s actions — most of which were caught on video — on Jan. 6 “show an absolute disregard for the rule of law coupled with a willingness to engage in violence.”
Twelve Republicans vote against honoring police who protected Capitol from insurgents. (Daily Kos, March 18, 2021)
When it came down to it, these 12 Republican Representatives sided with the murderous mob rather than the Capitol Police. So much so that they could not accept a motion of praise for the people who may have saved their lives. The names of the 12 no-voters are familiar enough that they might as well be called the usual suspects: Andy Biggs, Michael Cloud, Andrew Clyde, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Bob Good, Lance Gooden, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Andy Harris, Thomas Massie, John Rose, and Greg Steube.
Some of the 12 came forward with statements that “clarified” their vote. For example, Gohmert didn’t like the fact that the the bill honoring the police accurately described the people smashing their way into the Capitol as “armed insurgents.” Gohmert did not make it clear whether the objection is that the guns, tasers, bear spray, bats, and spears carried by those invading the Capitol building didn’t have enough magazine capacity to really count as weapons, or whether seeking to hang public officials in order to overthrow the government shouldn’t count as insurrection. But one way or another, Gohmert was worried that the collection of hostage-seeking jackasses might get their feelings hurt.
‘Behave like grown-ups’: Conservative rebellion boils over in House. (Politico, March 17, 2021)
If GOP lawmakers refuse to relent in their delay tactics, it would mean a slog of votes on mundane issues.
During a closed-door conference meeting, House Freedom Caucus Chair Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) went after McCarthy for not being more supportive of a conservative-led effort to force a series of lengthy — and largely fruitless — procedural votes that have snarled the floor, according to sources in the room. Biggs added that, as a member of the minority party, “You’ve got to get in the way and try to slow things down as much as you possibly can. If we won’t use every procedural tool in the toolbox we have … yes, that frustrates me.”
Postal Service finds no evidence of mail ballot fraud in Pa. case cited by top Republicans. (Washington Post, March 17, 2021)
Letter carrier Richard Hopkins told federal agents he “assumed” supervisors discussed backdating ballots and then recanted his claim, inspector general’s report says.
Secret Service: Texas man arrested near U.S. vice president's residence on weapons charge. (1-min video; ABC7NY, March 17, 2021)
A veteran from Bryan, Texas who was arrested outside Vice President Kamala Harris' D.C. home Wednesday reportedly thought the government was after him.
ABC News sources say 31-year-old Paul Murray's mother called Capitol police after he made statements that worried her. Murray was seen on Massachusetts Avenue and was detained by Secret Service officers stationed near the residence following an intelligence bulletin from Texas. Metropolitan Police said Murray was held on charges that he had a large-capacity ammunition-feeding device, a dangerous weapon, a rifle and unregistered ammunition in his car.
Republican’s ‘fixer’ found dead in Ohio after being ensnared in sweeping bribery investigation. (Raw Story, March 17, 2021)
The death of a longtime Ohio lobbyist who was charged in a nearly $61 million bribery scheme is being investigated by authorities after a passerby found him in a car in a wooded area this Monday. According to Dayton.com, Neil S. Clark, 67, was found with a handgun and a bullet wound in his head.
Clark was arrested on July 21 along with former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder, former Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges, lobbyist Juan Cespedes and political strategist Jeff Longstreth. The group was charged by prosecutors for allegedly taking nearly $61 million in dark money from Ohio utility companies to position Householder as speaker, and in turn pass and defend a $1.3 billion bailout law for the companies. Clark pleaded not guilty.
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s first speech on the Senate floor inspires the chamber to a standing ovation. (22-min. video; Daily Kos, March 17, 2021)
Sen. Reverend Raphael Warnock’s historic victory in Georgia this January was inspiring. It is the culmination of years of work done on the ground by thousands of activists, young and old, working to overcome systemic racism and the continuing racist voter suppression laws in order to deliver Georgians with a more honestly representative democracy.
Today, Warnock gave his first speech on the Senate floor. It was a historic moment and Warnock did not disappoint, delivering a powerful and moving statement about the past, present, and future of our nation.
Republicans on Biden’s Covid bill: "We bungled this one." (Politico, March 17, 2021)
The GOP didn’t think it could stop passage. But with nearly three-quarters of Americans approving of the law, some luminaries can’t believe how little a dent they made.
The Republican Party’s stumbles around the passage of the Covid-relief bill were, to a degree, a microcosm of the difficulties it has had finding its footing in the post-Trump era. Indeed, some Republicans said their party was hamstrung in the relief bill fight by the fact that they had so recently supported bills that relied on deficit-spending and pushed similar provisions, like direct payments...
[... to the wealthy.]
Donald Trump Spends His Days Gossiping, Golfing and Plotting Revenge on RINOs. (2-min. video; Newsweek, March 17, 2021)
The anger is still very much there. According to several Trump allies who spoke to Newsweek on background, the former president has spent much of his time at Mar-a-lago plotting what to do—and what not to do— between now and the mid term elections in 2022. They say he has not decided whether to run again in 2024, and won't anytime soon, because his presence freezes the Presidential race for the GOP. Even though Trump remains "intensely frustrated" with the bans on him on Facebook and Twitter, they also say he has ruled out trying to start a social media or digital broadcasting company—widely rumored in 2020— saying it would be too time consuming and too expensive to pull off.
Chicago hospital executive caught bragging about vaccinating Eric Trump before he's eligible. (Raw Story, March 17, 2021)
Aspirin Use May Decrease Ventilation, ICU admission and Death in COVID-19 Patients. (George Washington University, March 17, 2021)
Researchers from the George Washington University found that aspirin may have lung-protective effects and reduce the need for mechanical ventilation, ICU admission and in-hospital mortality in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
Over 400 patients admitted from March to July 2020 to hospitals around the United States, including those at GW Hospital, the University of Maryland Medical Center, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Northeast Georgia Health System, were included in the study. After adjusting for demographics and comorbidities, aspirin use was associated with a decreased risk of mechanical ventilation (44% reduction), ICU admission (43% reduction), and in-hospital mortality (47% reduction). There were no differences in major bleeding or overt thrombosis between aspirin users and non-aspirin users.
“Aspirin is low cost, easily accessible and millions are already using it to treat their health conditions,” said Chow. “Finding this association is a huge win for those looking to reduce risk from some of the most devastating effects of COVID-19.”
Feeding Cattle Seaweed Reduces Their Methane Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 82 Percent. (University of California, Davis, March 17, 2021)
New long-term study could mean more sustainable burgers.
Greenhouse gases are a major cause of climate change, and methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Agriculture is responsible for 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and half of those come from cows and other ruminant animals that belch methane and other gases throughout the day as they digest forages like grass and hay.
Since cattle are the top agricultural source of greenhouse gases, many have suggested people eat less meat to help address climate change. Kebreab looks to cattle nutrition instead. “Only a tiny fraction of the earth is fit for crop production,” Kebreab explained. “Much more land is suitable only for grazing, so livestock plays a vital role in feeding the 10 billion people who will soon inhabit the planet. Since much of livestock’s methane emissions come from the animal itself, nutrition plays a big role in finding solutions.”
Microbial Life of a Pure Martian Design (SciTechDaily, March 17, 2021)
“Black Beauty is among the rarest substances on Earth, it is a unique Martian breccia formed by various pieces of Martian crust (some of them are dated at 4.42 ± 0.07 billion years) and ejected millions years ago from the Martian surface. We had to choose a pretty bold approach of crushing few grams of precious Martian rock to recreate the possible look of Mars’ earliest and simplest life form,” says Tetyana Milojevic, corresponding author of the study, about the probe that was provided by colleagues from Colorado, USA.
As a result, the researchers observed how a dark fine-grained groundmass of Black Beauty was biotransformed and used in order to build up constitutive parts of microbial cells in form of biomineral deposits. Utilizing a comprehensive toolbox of cutting-edge techniques in fruitful cooperation with the Austrian Center for Electron Microscopy and Nanoanalysis in Graz, the researchers explored unique microbial interactions with the genuine Noachian Martian breccia down to nanoscale and atomic resolution. M. sedula living on Martian crustal material produced distinct mineralogical and metabolic fingerprints, which can provide an opportunity to trace the putative bioalteration processes of the Martian crust.
A mouse embryo has been grown in an artificial womb—humans could be next. (MIT Technology Review, March 17, 2021)
Researchers are growing embryos outside the womb for longer than has ever been possible.
AT&T whines about Calif. net neutrality law as ISPs’ case appears doomed. (Ars Technica, March 17, 2021)
Judge thoroughly rejected ISPs' arguments against Calif. law, transcript shows. Mendez's ruling is already having an effect, as AT&T announced Wednesday that it will end its "sponsored data" program in which it charges online services for data cap exemptions. "We regret the inconvenience to customers caused by California's new 'net neutrality' law," AT&T said. "Given that the Internet does not recognize state borders, the new law not only ends our ability to offer California customers such free data services but also similarly impacts our customers in states beyond California."
As Stanford professor Barbara van Schewick pointed out, AT&T's claim that California's zero-rating ban forces it to end sponsored data in other states is contradicted by the fact that AT&T lets customers opt out of sponsored data. Since AT&T has already implemented the ability to disable sponsored data for individual customers, it could comply with the California law simply by turning the feature off for all customers in California.
Ernesto Falcon, senior legislative counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote on Twitter that "AT&T's version of zero rating with low data caps was a way to drive their users to content they owned. It is why low-income advocates in CA wanted it gone. Mobile-only users tended to be low-income and weren't getting the full Internet."
Joe Manchin just took an important filibuster reform off the table. (Vox, March 17, 2021)
Manchin just closed the door on a promising idea that could have made the Senate much more functional.
President Biden just fired a warning shot at Mitch McConnell and Republicans (and the filibuster). (Washington Post, March 17, 2021)
Mark it down. President Biden has now declared in his most explicit terms yet that Democrats may soon face a stark choice: reform the filibuster or accept that their agenda is a dead letter. At bottom, this constitutes the firing of a warning shot at Senate Republicans, especially Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Or it should, anyway: It will only matter if Biden and Democrats are actually prepared to act on it, because McConnell will proceed as if they are not.
Biden voiced an awareness, perhaps more clearly than ever before, that the fate of Democrats’ agenda will likely depend on a willingness to stiffen up their spines and reform the Senate in the direction of true majority rule.
During the 2020 campaign, Biden famously declared that if Republicans lost, they would seek “consensus” after having an “epiphany.” This suggested a conviction that any GOP intention to adopt a scorched earth strategy similar to that of 2009 — which employed the filibuster to deliberately withhold bipartisan cooperation for purely instrumental purposes — then it would be overwhelmed by the shock of electoral defeat. Biden also vowed to secure Republican cooperation, implying lingering faith in a glad-handing bipartisan give-and-take out of a long-vanished time.
After Biden’s win, of course, Republicans denied it had happened for weeks, and many joined an effort to nullify that outcome. On ABC News, Biden also indulged in more of that sort of talk, declaring: “I think the epiphany is going to come between now and 2022.” Whether Biden really believes this, it’s now packaged with an explicit declaration that Democrats really might have to target the filibuster or see their agenda perish.
In this juxtaposition a rhetorical structure is taking shape that might create a path to get to that point.
Mitch McConnell warns Democrats that overhauling filibuster rules will lead to 'completely scorched earth Senate'. (CNN, March 16, 2021)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gave a stark warning Tuesday about how Republicans would grind the chamber to a halt if Democrats changed the filibuster rules, leading to a "completely scorched earth Senate."
The Kentucky Republican defended the 60-vote threshold on the legislative filibuster in a floor speech, cautioning Democrats that if they moved to change the rules of the filibuster, it would not open up an express lane for the Biden administration to push through their agenda. Instead, Republicans would use every rule and option at their disposal to halt the chamber, making the Senate "more like a 100-car pileup, nothing moving."
Majority Whip Dick Durbin told reporters he's not concerned about McConnell's threats to slow the Senate if Democrats change the filibuster because "he has already done that."
McConnell also laid out the conservative agenda Republicans would swiftly move on the next time they take control of Congress and White House, most of which Democrats would vehemently oppose -- like defunding Planned Parenthood. The pendulum would swing both ways, "and it would swing hard," he warned. McConnell listed some of the legislation his party would move on when they're back in power. "We wouldn't just erase every liberal change that hurt the country -- we'd strengthen America with all kinds of conservative policies with zero, zero input from the other side," he said pointing to how the GOP would move swiftly to defund sanctuary cities and Planned Parenthood, add new protections for the right to life of the unborn, work on concealed carry laws, and a new era of domestic energy production."
FBI facing allegation that its 2018 background check of Brett Kavanaugh was ‘fake’. (The Guardian, March 16, 2021)
A Democratic senator has asked attorney general Merrick Garland to facilitate ‘proper oversight’ into concerns on the investigation.
Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic senator and former prosecutor who serves on the judiciary committee, is calling on the newly-confirmed attorney general, Merrick Garland, to help facilitate “proper oversight” by the Senate into questions about how thoroughly the FBI investigated Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.
The supreme court justice was accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford and faced several other allegations of misconduct following Ford’s harrowing testimony of an alleged assault when she and Kavanaugh were in high school. Kavanaugh denied the claims. The FBI was called to investigate the allegations during the Senate confirmation process but was later accused by some Democratic senators of conducting an incomplete background check. For example, two key witnesses – Ford and Kavanaugh – were never interviewed as part of the inquiry. Among the concerns listed in Whitehouse’s letter to Garland are allegations that some witnesses who wanted to share their accounts with the FBI could not find anyone at the bureau who would accept their testimony and that it had not assigned any individual to accept or gather evidence.
The FBI did not respond to a request for comment. The DOJ did not respond to a request for comment. While it is unclear whether the FBI would re-open an investigation into Kavanaugh, who is now one of nine justices on the supreme court, the letter could push Garland to force the DOJ to respond to questions about the investigation into Kavanaugh. Whitehouse said he is seeking answers about “how, why, and at whose behest” the FBI conducted a “fake” investigation if standard procedures were violated, including standards for following allegations gathered through FBI “tip lines”.
Trump's children won't be able to run in 2024 because they'll be stuck in court, his niece Mary predicts. (Business Insider, March 16, 2021)
Donald Trump's children will not be able to run for political office because they will be entangled in legal action relating to the Trump Organization, the former president's niece has predicted. "Thanks in large part to their dad but also to their own anti-social tendencies, going to be defending themselves I'm guessing in a fair number of civil and criminal cases going forward," Mary Trump said in an interview with Insider last week.
The former president's eldest child, Donald Trump Jr., and his daughter, Ivanka, have both been linked with possible presidential runs in 2024. Mark Meadows, President Trump's former White House chief of staff, in February said that all the top GOP candidates for 2024 "have Trump as their last name."
Paul Krugman: We’re in for a lot of pluck. (New York Times, March 16, 2021)
If private-sector economists are anywhere near right, the U.S. economy is about to experience a spectacular boom. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect 5.5 percent growth this year; those surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect almost 6 percent; Goldman Sachs expects 8 percent. We haven’t seen anything like this since the Morning in America boom of 1983-1984, a boom that lives on in conservative legend as proof of the magical power of tax cuts, even though every subsequent promise of a tax-cut miracle has failed.
But Ronald Reagan’s boom wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and the same will to some extent be true of President Biden’s. Rapid short-term growth will be a partial vindication of Keynesian economics, the notion that government spending can boost a depressed economy. But this kind of growth is only possible when the economy starts out way down, and the bigger test is what happens later.
To understand why forecasters are so optimistic, it helps to know about one of Milton Friedman’s lesser-known analyses: his “plucking” model of the business cycle. Friedman suggested that we think of the economy’s potential growth path — the maximum amount it could produce — as a tilted board, and its actual path as a wire string attached to that board...
NEW: eBay Sellers Embrace Recommerce Amid the Pandemic. (eBay, March 16, 2021)
A new eBay survey finds almost 75% of consumer sellers started selling secondhand goods in 2020 for additional income. The United States closed out 2020 with an unemployment rate of 6.7%, nearly two times greater than before the pandemic began. Amid COVID-19, more people are looking for ways to earn extra income — and, according to eBay’s latest survey of its sellers, they’re finding it in recommerce.
Recommerce, or the resale of pre-owned goods, has quickly become a pathway for sellers to mitigate financial challenges brought on by the pandemic. Released today, eBay’s new Recommerce Report finds that almost three-quarters of sellers surveyed began selling pre-owned goods last year for supplemental income  —  approximately 14% said they specifically turned to recommerce, because they lost their jobs due to COVID-19.
Moreover, eBay’s new survey shows that more people, particularly Generation Z, are turning to buying and selling secondhand goods online to support a healthier planet and sustainability efforts overall.
Good vibrations: Bladeless turbines could bring wind power to your home. (The Guardian, March 16, 2021)
Vortex bladeless turbines, Alpha 311 streetlight turbines, and SkySails generate significant electricity from windpower.
Last month was coldest February in US since 1989. (AccuWeather, March 16, 2021)
 February 2021 was the coldest February for the United States in over 30 years, according to the NOAA report, and the coldest February for the entire globe since 2014. North America, Scandinavia and northern Asia were all significantly below average in temperature last month. Each of those regions measured temperatures at least 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit below average. The central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, Australia and parts of the southern oceans were also notably colder during February 2021 in comparison to recent years.
The ancient fabric that no one knows how to make. (BBC, March 16, 2021)
Nearly 200 years ago, Dhaka muslin was the most valuable fabric on the planet. Then it was lost altogether. How did this happen? And can we bring it back?
Why Mount Everest’s height keeps changing (8-min. video; Vox, March 16, 2021)
The world’s tallest mountain got a little taller — here’s why.
A forgotten Cold War effort to hide nuclear missiles beneath Greenland’s ice has revealed its icy secret. It’s bad news for the planet. (1-min.video; Washington Post, March 15, 2021)
To disguise the true purpose of the venture, the United States solicited scientists to conduct research at the site. Among the experiments was a first-of-its-kind project to obtain an ice core that spanned the entire depth of the ice sheet. “That ice core revolutionized our understanding of Earth’s past climate,” Christ said. By measuring the types of oxygen contained within each layer of ice, researchers could get a rough estimate of how warm it was when the water froze. Analyses of ice cores from Greenland and elsewhere have allowed scientists to reconstruct a record of global temperatures going back tens of thousands of years.
But the roughly 12 inches of soil from the bottom of the Camp Century ice core was never studied - until fifty years later. Early analysis suggests that the plants are no older than a million years, which suggests they must have grown during the epoch of repeated ice ages known as the Pleistocene. During that time, greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere were far lower than current levels, and the Earth was rarely as hot as it is now. “If we had found a much older age, it would have been impressive, but it might not have been as scary,” Christ said. “Because what we found means the ice sheet melted away and raised sea level within a climate system kind of like ours. That, as a climate scientist, has more gravity.”
Scientists Stunned to Discover Plants Beneath Mile-Deep Greenland Ice – And Why This Is So Troubling. (3-min. video; SciTechDaily, March 15, 2021)
Long-lost ice core provides direct evidence that giant ice sheet melted off within the last million years and is highly vulnerable to a warming climate.
Myth and the mind (Aeon, March 15, 2021)
Saturated with rites and symbols, psychology feeds a deep human need once nourished by mythology.
Fingerprints Enhance Our Sense of Touch – Neurons Sensitive to Scale of a Single Fingerprint Ridge. (SciTechDaily, March 15, 2021)
The hand contains tens of thousands of sensory neurons. Each neuron tunes in to a small surface area on the skin — a receptive field — and detects touch, vibration, pressure, and other tactile stimuli. The human hand possesses a refined sense of touch, but the exact sensitivity of a single sensory neuron has not been studied before.
The width of the detection areas matched the width of a single fingerprint ridge. These areas stayed on the same fingerprint ridges during different scanning speeds and directions, indicating that they are anchored to the fingerprint ridges. The overlap of receptive fields with small detection areas explains how humans have such a sensitive and accurate sense of touch.
NEW: Jane Fonda Visits Minnesota To Protest Line 3 Pipeline. (1-min. video; CBS News, March 15, 2021)
That pipeline runs across Minnesota, beginning in Alberta, Canada and ending in Superior, Wisconsin. Opponents of the project say it could pollute native lands and water. Supporters say it creates jobs and helps the economy.
Progressives like to complain about Joe Manchin. But nothing would help Democrats as much as more Joe Manchins. (New York Times, March 15, 2021)
The structure of the Senate has not always favored Republicans. But in recent decades, heavily white and rural communities have moved to the political right. Because these communities dominate many small states, and because small states enjoy a lot of power in the Senate, it now has a large pro-Republican bias.
So how have Democrats nonetheless won control of the Senate, allowing them to pass an ambitious bill last week that will reduce poverty, lift middle-class incomes, cut the cost of health insurance and more? There are two main answers.
First, the Democratic Party has been the more popular political party nationwide for most of the past three decades, and this national edge sometimes allows it to overcome the Senate’s built-in bias. Last year, Joe Biden won the popular vote by 4.4 percentage points. That was enough for him to win exactly half of the country’s 50 states and for Democratic Senate candidates to flip seats in Arizona and Georgia.
The second answer is more succinct: Joe Manchin and Jon Tester.
Manchin, a Democratic senator from West Virginia, and Tester, a Democratic senator from Montana, have managed a remarkable feat in today’s polarized political atmosphere. They have won elections in states that usually vote by wide margins for the other party. The only other current politician with a similar track record is Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine.
The American Rescue Plan clears a path to recovery for state and local governments and the communities they serve. (Economic Policy Institute, March 15, 2021)
The passage of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) is a watershed moment for state and local governments. It is an opportunity to undo much of the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and begin to address some of the long-standing inadequacies and inequities caused by decades of disinvestment in public services. The bill’s $350 billion in aid to state and local governments will critically help many localities fill in for revenue losses, stem budget cuts, and respond—with important flexibility over the next few years—to massively increased fiscal demands caused by the pandemic.
Republicans shamelessly take credit for Covid relief they voted against. (Vox, March 15, 2021)
And it’s not going over well. Two recent tweets from members of Congress illustrate how, in the wake of President Joe Biden signing the Covid-19 relief bill, Republicans are trying to “have their cake and vote against it, too,” as Barack Obama once put it. That $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which Biden signed into law last Thursday, didn’t receive a single Republican vote, even though recent polling shows a majority of Republican voters have said they somewhat or completely support it.
The popularity of the legislation puts Republican members of Congress in a bind: How does one message against a bill that most Americans like, and that will cut child poverty in half, while also juicing an economy that’s been ravaged by the year-long pandemic? Some Republicans, perhaps understandably, are instead opting to instead focus on culture war distractions like whether Dr. Seuss is being “canceled.” But others are shamelessly trying to take credit for Democratic policy right after they voted against it.
Many Republicans are refusing COVID vaccines. Experts are trying to change that. (Ars Technica, March 15, 2021)
Straight facts and no politics are what's needed to increase vaccination.
The White House is set to unveil a wide-reaching, billion-dollar campaign aimed at convincing every American to get vaccinated. (Stat, March 15, 2021)
This television, radio, and digital advertising blitz, set to kick off within weeks, will focus on Americans outright skeptical of vaccines’ safety or effectiveness as well as those who are potentially more willing to seek a Covid-19 immunization but don’t yet know where, when, or how. Specifically, the campaign will target three groups in which access, apathy, or outright skepticism may pose a barrier to vaccinations: young people, people of color, and conservatives, according to a Biden aide. Congress and the administration have set aside over $1.5 billion for the effort. Without winning buy-in from a critical, final slice of the population, the effort could fall short of its goal: effectively ending the country’s coronavirus crisis.
CDC chief warns of another Covid surge as Americans travel for spring break. (CNBC, March 15, 2021)
The U.S. could still see another coronavirus surge — even as vaccinations against Covid-19 rapidly rise across the nation — as states relax restrictions and more Americans travel for spring break, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Monday.
“With the coming warmer weather, I know it’s tempting to want to relax and to let our guard down, particularly after a hard winter that sadly saw the highest level of cases and deaths during the pandemic so far,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing.
Italians start a widespread lockdown. (New York Times, March 14, 2021)
The circulation of a more contagious coronavirus variant, combined with a slow vaccine rollout, led to a 15 percent increase in cases nationally last week.
Pandemic Special: A year ago, we realized everything was about to change. (New York Times, March 14, 2021)
This week was the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaring a global pandemic, but also of something deeper: It has been a year since we had to unexpectedly and dramatically alter the way we live. Most of those changes are still part of our daily routines.
In the early days of the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that “things will get worse before they get better.” Far worse, it turned out.
A new study suggests 3 feet, not 6 feet, is sufficient distance for school students, with mask-wearing and other safety measures kept in place. (New York Times, March 14, 2021)
School shutdowns have been a divisive topic since the pandemic erupted, and a new study has ignited debate over the six-foot rule of social distancing and whether it can be relaxed in classroom settings, which would ease the way for children to return to schools. The new study, published last week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, suggests public schools may be able to reopen safely for in-person instruction as long as children maintain three feet of distance between them, and with other mitigation measures maintained, such as wearing masks.
“What the C.D.C. wants to do is accumulate data, and when data shows ability to be three feet, they will act accordingly,” Dr. Fauci said. He added that the agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, was aware of the new research, and that the C.D.C. was also conducting its own studies.
Trump was supposed to be a political Godzilla in exile. Instead, he’s adrift. (Politico, March 14, 2021)
Trump has always been an impulsive figure who demanded loyalty from those around him. But those traits have come with positions of power: whether atop a real estate empire, as a media celebrity, or — in his last iteration — as president of the United States.
Even allies say the president is lacking an apparatus and direction as he sorts out just what he wants to do in his post-presidency. “For any normal politician, it would look like he’s trying to have it both ways but really he’s trying to have it his way,” said a former Trump White House official. “He only cares about maintaining his power and his stranglehold over the Republican Party and it doesn’t matter to him how any of the moves he makes affect the long-term success of institutions or individuals other than himself.”
Britain is Showing the World How Nationalism Implodes Into Fascism. (Medium, March 14, 2021)
The classic pattern of Nationalism becoming Fascism seems unstoppable in an imploding Britain,
Towards "One" World Currency (ZeroHedge, March 14, 2021)
In my last article titled, "The first Global Inflationary Depression Is Possible" a case was made that the world was headed towards an economic crisis due to several factors. The problem is that such a scenario encompasses all aspects of life, from food and energy, to supply chains, geopolitics, and possibly even war. This article is an effort to offer up some ideas on how governments might respond to such an event based on current trends and some of the events that have occurred during the covid-19 pandemic. If we accept the idea that governments are self-serving and that a huge majority of the people suffer during an economic depression, we should expect frictions to develop as the populace seeks solutions to ease their pain.
NEW: The story behind Albert Einstein's most iconic photo (DW, March 13, 2021)
It’s been 70 years since the genius physicist stuck out his tongue at pesky reporters. The photo turned him into an icon. But what's the story behind it?
If you build it, they will learn: Why some schools are investing in cell towers. (NBC News, March 13, 2021)
Towers as tall as 150 feet are popping up to beam internet service from schools to surrounding neighborhoods during the pandemic, and maybe long term.
The solution they decided on was to take the district's wholesale internet service — it has had a fiber-optic network for a decade — and broadcast it for free to the neighborhoods most in need. It's a decision that demonstrates not only the lengths to which schools are going to try to make remote learning feasible, but also how few options exist for low-income families in the U.S. seeking steady internet access.
The telecommunications industry has for years lobbied against many government-provided internet services, arguing in favor of free enterprise, and municipal broadband is banned in 22 states, according to BroadbandNow. Last month, House Republicans proposed nationwide restrictions.
An underwater revolution millions of years ago rewrote the script of the ocean. (Science Daily Press, March 13, 2021)
Look far enough back in time, and a pattern may emerge. After studying thousands of ancient fossils, paleontologist Jack Sepkoski identified just such a thing in 1981: an epic sequence of life and death, etched into the skeletons of the last 500 million years.
How Partisan Politics Rots Your Brain (ZeroHedge, March 13, 2021)
Recent research ... has revealed the profound importance of evolution in shaping the ways in which our brains process all kinds of information, in particular political information. At the center of this evolutionary journey is the importance of groups—of being initiated and accepted into them, of aligning ourselves with them, of being loyal to them regardless of philosophical considerations. The social dynamics of group membership and participation are programmed more deeply into our brains than is abstract philosophizing. "In other words, people will go along with the group, even if the ideas oppose their own ideologies—belonging may have more value than facts." Because we once moved from place to place as nomads, such groups are our homes even more than any physical locations are.
It’s important not to interpret these results as pointing to some kind of determinism, whereby we can’t choose how to think or what we believe. Rather, these neural pathways seem to be carved largely by the kinds and sources of the media we consume. From the data yielded by such research, among many other similar studies, a picture begins to emerge of partisanship as a kind of mind poisoning, an infection that leads to serious and, importantly, measurable cognitive impairment. Evidence suggests that, under the influence of partisanship, we can’t even understand our own thoughts and opinions.
In the shadow of its exceptionalism, America fails to invest in the basics. (Washington Post, March 13, 2021)
In recent months in the United States, historic breakthroughs have come alongside monumental failures of infrastructure and healthcare.
The disparities reflect a multitude of factors, experts say, but primarily stem from a few big ones: Compared with other well-to-do nations, the United States has tended to prioritize private wealth over public resources, individualism over equity and the shiny new thing over the dull but necessary task of maintaining its infrastructure, much of which is fast becoming a 20th century relic.
"To care for the community and still not be offered health care, I think that's just crazy," Jones said. Health-care experts say it's also, simply, American.
"I try to look out for other people," Prescott said. "There might be a time when I get in that situation and need someone to help me."
NEW: Lara Trump caught pumping charity money to Donald Trump—from a dog rescue. (Daily Kos, March 13, 2021)
Daughter-in-law Lara Trump has been advertised as a “chairwoman” of the charity’s fundraisers over the past several years. The spending by a charity she is associated with at her family’s businesses mirrors practices at Donald Trump’s now-shuttered Trump Foundation and Eric Trump’s Eric Trump Foundation, which also spent donor money at Trump properties. The self-dealing by the Trump Foundation was so egregious that New York state Attorney General Letitia James cited it as the reason the charity could no longer operate.
NEW: Slumping Trump properties under Manhattan DA probe placed on debt “watch lists” by banks. (Salon, March 12, 2021)
Trump's most prominent buildings are struggling financially. The financial slump comes as Trump faces large debt bills in the coming years. The New York Times reported last year that Trump is personally on the hook for $421 million in debt over the next four years, though other analyses have put that number closer to $1 billion.
Trump's financial troubles may only get worse after he stoked a mob of supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and hunted lawmakers through the halls of Congress. Trump's role in the Capitol riot prompted the PGA to pull next year's PGA Championship from his New Jersey golf course, and New York City canceled its contracts with the Trump Organization to operate a golf course and ice skating rinks. Trump's properties have also seen an exodus of tenants looking to vacate their leases, according to the Wall Street Journal, including large organizations like the Girl Scouts of Greater New York. Vornado Realty Trust, a longtime Trump Organization partner run by Trump friend Steven Roth, is also looking to cut ties with the former president's company, the Journal reported last month, amid growing concern that the Trump brand has become increasingly toxic. Deutsche Bank, Trump's biggest lender, is looking to distance itself as well.
NEW: GM's New Lithium-Metal Batteries Could Yield 600-Mile Range. (Car Buzz, March 12, 2021)
... and be cheaper to produce than ever before. This is a massive breakthrough for EV cars in general; pricing is seen as one of the biggest limitations in the EV market right now, but these developments will help to level the playing field. "Affordability and range are two major barriers to mass EV adoption. With this next-generation Ultium chemistry, we believe we're on the cusp of a once-in-a-generation improvement in energy density and cost," said Reuss. Work is also being done to ensure that these batteries are backward compatible with future-proofed older models. The first Ultium-based cars are expected to go on sale later in 2021 and follow GM's massive $27 billion investment into EV product development. With a clear plan to be the no.1 seller of electric vehicles globally, GM is ready to take the fight not only to Tesla but to transition to an electrified lineup faster than its traditional competitors. It plans to launch 30 EVs globally by the end of 2025.
The US Federal $1,400 stimulus payments are already posting to some bank accounts, but others could face delays. (Washington Post, March 12, 2021)
Some taxpayers reported a pending payment notice in their bank accounts on Friday, saying the funds would be available on March 17. Look for ‘IRS TREAS 310 - TAXEIP3’.
[On March 12th - the morning after President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law - we received notice. Our payments are due to arrive on March 15th.]
We finally know what’s going on with that weird, long, recurring cloud on Mars. (Science Daily Press, March 12, 2021)
In 2018, a camera on board the Mars Express mission caught sight of a strangely long and wispy cloud, billowing across the surface of the red planet. From a distance, the 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) trail of fog almost resembled a plume of smoke, and it seemed to be emerging from the top of a long-dead volcano.
Looking back at archived images, researchers soon realized this had been happening for a while. Every few years in spring or summer, this curious cloud would return, before disappearing once again.
For the first time, we’ve examined the stomach contents of a 47-million-year-old fly. (Science Daily Press, March 12, 2021)
Scientists have found a 47-million-year-old fossilized fly with a bloated belly absolutely full of pollen. The discovery is the first direct evidence that some species of ancient tangle-veined flies once fed on the microspores of several different species of subtropical plant.
Geologists discover powerful 'river of rocks' below Caribbean. (Phys.org, March 11, 2021)
The findings have implications for understanding the shape of the Earth's surface, of its evolution over time through the appearance and disappearance of shallows seas, low-lying land bridges and the forces that move tectonic plates and cause earthquakes.
Another fascinating discovery, according to the researchers, is the asthenosphere is moving six inches per year, which is three times faster than an average plate. It can move independently from the overlying plates and drag them in a different direction.
NEW: I Tried to Buy a Climate-Friendly Refrigerator. What I Got Was a Carbon Bomb. (Inside Climate News, March 11, 2021)
Most refrigerators in the U.S. are still cooled by climate “super-pollutants” called hydrofluorocarbons. I’d been promised my new fridge wouldn’t be...
The refrigerator only used 127 grams—roughly one-quarter of a pound—of HFC-134a, and the coolant was tightly sealed in a network of pipes somewhere deep inside. But, at some point, maybe not until my new fridge is crushed for scrap metal at the end of its useful life, that 127 grams of refrigerant will likely be released into the atmosphere. When it is, the chemical will produce the greenhouse gas equivalent of burning 519 pounds of coal, or setting an entire barrel of oil on fire.
It was as if the shippers didn’t just drop off a refrigerator, but left a steel drum full of west Texas sweet crude behind and lit a slow-burning fuse.
Nearly all refrigerators in use in the United States today use chemical refrigerants that are some of the most potent greenhouse gases on the planet. Yet, a growing number of manufacturers now offer new models with an alternative refrigerant that has little to no climate impact. But none of the major appliance makers advertise which fridges are climate-friendly, and which are carbon bombs. In some cases, it seems they themselves don’t know which is which.
More than 1 billion HFC-free refrigerators have now been sold worldwide, including units sold overseas by U.S. manufacturers, at a time when climate-friendly refrigerators are just becoming available in the United States. A recent Inside Climate News investigation found the decades-long delay in the use of climate-friendly refrigerants in America has been driven largely by the U.S. chemical industry, which manufactures HFCs. HFCs are multi-billion dollar products that would likely be replaced by less expensive and more efficient climate-friendly alternatives if standards put forth by Underwriters Laboratories didn’t until recently limit their use, likely at the behest of chemical companies. Underwriters Laboratories, now known as “UL,” is a private company that provides independent safety certifications for thousands of consumer products. When GE first submitted its application to EPA in 2008 to use only small amounts of isobutane as a refrigerator coolant, Honeywell International, one of the leading HFC manufacturers, opposed the rule change. The company claimed that isobutane is “highly flammable and explosive even in small amounts,” a claim that has not been substantiated by the more than 1 billion isobutane refrigerators in safe operation worldwide. The agency finally granted the request in 2011.
NEW: 5 Famous People Who Got Away With Killing Someone (Medium, March 11, 2021)
Apparently, laws don’t apply to the wealthy and famous.
NEW: The Things That Changed When I Became Beautiful. (Medium, March 11, 2021)
It turns out that many people are superficial.
How the quest for significance and respect underlies the white supremacist movement, conspiracy theories and a range of other problems. (Medium, March 11, 2021)
I am a psychologist who studies the human quest for significance and respect. My research reveals that this basic motivation is a major force in human affairs. It shapes the course of world history and determines the destiny of nations. It underlies some of the chief challenges society is facing. Among others, these are:
- The suicides – known as “deaths of despair” – of working-class Americans
- White supremacist movements
- Systemic racism
- Islamist terrorism
- The proliferation of conspiracy theories
- The growing rift in the Republican Party between moderates and extremists
In all these cases, people’s actions, opinions and attitudes aim, often unconsciously, to satisfy their fundamental need to count, to be recognized and respected.
The very term “supremacism” betrays concern for superior standing. So do names like “Proud Boys” or “Oath Keepers.” Systemic racism is rooted in the motivation to put down one race to elevate another. Islamist terrorism targets the alleged belittlers of a religion. Conspiracy theories identify alleged culprits plotting the subjugation and dishonor of their victims. And the extremist faction of the Republican Party cares exclusively about winning, no holds barred.
NEW: ‘Everybody Shouldn’t Be Voting,’ Republican Blurts Out. (New York Magazine, March 11, 2021)
Representative John Kavanagh, a Republican legislator who chairs Arizona’s Government and Elections Committee and is shepherding through a bill to make voting more cumbersome and therefore rare, described his party’s motives with blundering candor. “There’s a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans,” he told CNN. “Democrats value as many people as possible voting, and they’re willing to risk fraud. Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don’t mind putting security measures in that won’t let everybody vote — but everybody shouldn’t be voting … Not everybody wants to vote, and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they’re totally uninformed on the issues. Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well.”
Donald Trump’s presidency, with its continuous demands to silence his opposition and efforts to undermine the election, highlighted his party’s anti-democratic character. But hostility to democracy is a long tradition on the right, including (perhaps especially) in its loftiest highbrow quarters. Conservatives are hysterical in opposition to proposals in Congress to guarantee voting access and limit gerrymandering. National Review calls H.R. 1, the main House bill to promote election reform, “a partisan assault on American democracy.” But NR should be more honest in its criticism: Democracy is not what it wants at all, and never has been.
Democratic-led Congress gets serious about universal broadband funding. (Ars Technica, March 11, 2021)
Congress this week approved a $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund that schools and libraries will use to help people get Internet access at home. The fund is part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus sent to President Joe Biden yesterday after being approved by the House and Senate. Biden signed the bill into law today. The emergency fund should help students who live in areas where broadband is available but cannot afford it.
This emergency measure may just be a prelude to a $94 billion broadband package that includes $80 billion to deploy high-speed broadband to parts of the US that do not have it. Democrats introduced the $94 billion broadband initiative yesterday—it isn't yet clear whether or when it will pass, but such initiatives have a much better chance now that Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress.
NEW: The pandemic has been of two lines — haves and have-nots — moving in different directions. (excellent charts; New York Times, March 11, 2021)
At the start, it felt that we were all in it together. As affluent international travelers, celebrities and heads of government contracted the virus, many believed Covid-19 would be a great equalizer. But as the weeks and months wore on, that was revealed to be an illusion. In America, your experience of lockdown — and of the pandemic as a whole — depended not on luck or chance or fortune. It was instead largely foretold by something far more prosaic: the position you held on the socioeconomic spectrum, by your class, race and gender. Across so many issues, the pandemic is not a story of an infection curve rising and falling, but two lines moving in different directions.
NEW: Pandemic Special Series: The Week Our Reality Broke (New York Times, March 11-??, 2021)
A series reflecting on a year of living with the coronavirus pandemic and how it has affected American society.
"I'm Not Throwing Away My Shot!" (5-min video; Vax'n 8, March 10, 2021)
This new COVID-19 take-off by doctors (of a song from the musical "Hamilton: An American") is a musical appeal to the unconvinced, to stop the spread of this pandemic.
Leaked Documents Raise Concerns Over Integrity of mRNA Molecules in Some COVID-19 Vaccines. (SciTechDaily, March 10, 2021)
Documents leaked from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) following a cyber attack in December show that some early commercial batches of Pfizer-BioNTech’s covid-19 vaccine had lower than expected levels of intact mRNA molecules.
These molecules instruct our cells to make a harmless piece of coronavirus protein, triggering an immune response and protecting us from infection if the real virus enters our bodies. The complete, intact mRNA molecule is essential to the potency of the vaccine. But in a special report for The BMJ today, journalist Serena Tinari shows that the EMA was concerned about the difference in quality between clinical batches and proposed commercial batches of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Specifically, EMA had major concerns over unexpectedly low quantities (around 55%) of intact mRNA in batches of the vaccine developed for commercial production. It is an issue relevant not just to Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine but also to those produced by Moderna, CureVac, and others, as well as a “second generation” mRNA vaccine being pursued by Imperial College London.
COVID herd immunity may be unlikely—winter surges could “become the norm”. (Ars Technica, March 10, 2021)
Some experts speculate that the pandemic coronavirus will one day cause nothing more than a common cold, mostly in children, where it will be an indistinguishable drip in the steady stream of snotty kid germs. Such is the reality for four other coronaviruses that have long stalked school yards and commonly circulate among us every cold and flu season, to little noticeable effect.
But that sanguine—if not slightly slimier—future is shaky. And the road to get there will almost certainly be rocky. For the pandemic coronavirus to turn from terror to trifle, we have to build up high levels of immunity against it. At the population level, this will be difficult—even with vaccines. And with the uncertainty of how we’ll pull it off, some experts are cautioning that we should prepare for the possibility that the pandemic coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, will stick with us for the near future, possibly becoming a seasonal surge during the winter months when we’re largely indoors.
Despite a lot of uncertainty, researchers lay out five ways to prepare for the worst.
Congress adopts $1.9 trillion stimulus, securing first major win for Biden. (Washington Post, March 10, 2021)
A House vote Wednesday sends the bill to President Biden, who is expected to sign Friday, the White House said.
The bill, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, authorizes another round of stimulus payments up to $1,400 for most Americans, extends additional, enhanced unemployment aid to millions still out of a job, and makes major changes to the tax code to benefit families with children. It couples the new pandemic relief with what Democrats have come to describe as one of the most robust legislative responses to poverty in a generation, seeking to assist low-income families who struggled financially long before the coronavirus took root.
Lawmakers also set aside tens of billions of dollars to fund coronavirus testing, contact tracing and vaccine deployment, as they aim to deliver on Biden’s recent promise to produce enough inoculations for “every adult in America” by the end of May. And the stimulus bill approves additional funds to help schools reopen, allow restaurants and businesses to stay afloat and assist state and local governments trying to meet their own financial needs.
Marcia Fudge confirmed as first Black woman to lead HUD in more than 40 years. (Washington Post, March 10, 2021)
Fudge, who entered Congress in 2008, won bipartisan approval to lead the embattled agency where the morale among civil servants had plummeted under the leadership of Ben Carson, who eviscerated fair housing enforcement and other civil rights protections during the Trump administration.
The Ohio congresswoman has pledged to address systemic racial inequities in housing.
Russian attempt to throttle Twitter appears to backfire. (Ars Technica, March 10, 2021)
Begin with 99 problems. Solve one with a regex. You now have 108 problems...
Making sense of China’s crackdown on Hong Kong (New York Times, March 10, 2021)
China’s crackdown on Hong Kong has happened swiftly: A rising power has asserted its authority over a global financial capital, through a harsh national security law enacted last summer. It’s one of the world’s most consequential stories, yet one often overshadowed by the pandemic.
NEW: How The Next Batteries Will Change the World (11-min. video; Bloomberg, March 10, 2021)
Silicon Valley is about to commercialize revolutionary technology that will enable huge breakthroughs in the battle against global warming.
Trump makes cash grab in bid to dominate GOP. (Politico, March 9, 2021)
Donald Trump is tightening his grip on the Republican Party in the most painful way possible — he’s threatening to starve the GOP of funding.
Just in the past few weeks, Trump declared at the Conservative Political Action Conference that the “only” way to give to Trump-aligned candidates was through Save America, his leadership political action committee, circumventing the party campaign arms devoted to electing Republicans. He has criticized the party for how it spends donor money, and his attorneys have sent cease-and-desist letters to GOP committees demanding they stop using his name in fundraising appeals.
In case his message wasn’t clear enough, Trump followed up this week by proclaiming that “no more money” should be given to “RINOS” — Republicans in Name Only. On Tuesday, he said in another statement that sending cash to his PAC would be "doing it right."
[The Little Dictator again]
Entire Staff Of Nevada Democratic Party Quits After Democratic Socialist Slate Won Every Seat. (The Intercept, March 9, 2021)
The battle between insurgent progressives in Nevada and what's known in Nevada as the Reid machine — a tightly run operation still guided by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — began building in 2016.
On March 6, a coalition of progressive candidates backed by their local Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) chapter swept the elections for leadership roles in the Nevada Democratic Party. Shortly afterward, the Nevada Democratic Party's executive director, Alana Mounce, sent an email to Judith Whitmer, the incoming party chair, that every staff member was quitting. The former party staff members said that Whitmer would have fired them anyway and they were merely preempting the inevitable. Whitmer disagrees and says she was surprised that there was this "willingness to just walk away, instead of working with us."
[And, like Trump, first they took the money.]
The Very Concept of Dark Matter Itself,Is Questioned in New Research. (SciTechDaily, March 9, 2021)
Models of galactic rotation curves built of a general relativistic framework could use gravitomagnetism to explain the effects of dark matter.
Summers May Last Nearly Half the Year in the Northern Hemisphere by 2100. (SciTechDaily, March 9, 2021)
In the 1950s in the Northern Hemisphere, the four seasons arrived in a predictable and fairly even pattern. But climate change is now driving dramatic and irregular changes to the length and start dates of the seasons, which may become more extreme in the future under a business-as-usual climate scenario. Summers are getting longer and hotter while winters shorter and warmer, due to global warming.
As a crop, cannabis has enormous carbon emissions. (Ars Technica, March 9, 2021)
Ironically, growing it in a controlled environment has a huge environmental impact.
Back in the pre-legalization days, cannabis production meant finding a rarely visited patch of land and growing outside, or it meant taking cultivation indoors—typically to a basement where your product wouldn't be visible from the outside world. But the power-use involved in lighting a basement growing space was legendary.
With legalization, it's really only the scale that has changed. Most legal marijuana is grown indoors, with some pretty hefty electrical use to match. Now, researchers have attempted to quantify the greenhouse gases emitted, and they came up with some impressive figures. Based on their calculations, cannabis production results in over 2,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide emitted for every kilogram of product (defined as dried flowers), and its legalization has had a measurable effect on Colorado's greenhouse gas output.
Google Funds Two Full-Time Linux Security Developers. (ITPro Today, March 9, 2021)
Google and the Linux Foundation recently announced that Google will fund two full-time Linux  security developers to focus entirely on securing the kernel.
There's always room for Linux security improvements – especially with a project that currently weighs-in at close to 29 million lines of code, meaning there's plenty of room for mistakes. Since Linux is open source, the code is also freely available for everyone to see, even bad actors looking for vulnerabilities to exploit.
Protecting against exploits is important, since Linux not only powers most data center workloads and an estimated majority of Web servers, it's running IoT devices at the edge and is the backbone of consumer devices such as Android phones and Chromebooks.
How Secure Is Linux? (Free Republic, March 9, 2021)
The general consensus among experts is that Linux is a highly secure OS - arguably the most secure OS by design. This article will examine the key factors that contribute to the robust security of Linux, and evaluate the level of protection  against vulnerabilities and attacks that Linux offers administrators and users.
Religion 102: Some Norse (Viking) gods (Daily Kos, March 8, 2021)
The Christian scribes who recorded Norse mythology sought to portray the gods according to their stereotypes of pre-Christian gods and so their recorded mythology often resembles Greek mythology. This makes it more difficult for today’s scholars to understand Norse religion prior to Christianity.
From the perspective of an eighth-Century raider, Christian monasteries were seen as profitable targets not because they were Christian but rather because they were undefended and contained valuables.
Programmable optical quantum computer arrives late, steals the show. (2-min. video; Ars Technica, March 8, 2021)
New optical quantum computer overcomes previous limits, looks like a winner.
[For background, see this good 15-min. video primer on the emerging field of quantum computers.]
Next Steps Announced in Process to Reinstate and Strengthen Migratory Bird Treaty Act. (Audubon Society, March 8, 2021)
The Trump administration’s final rule will go into effect today, but a new rulemaking process will begin that is expected to bring back critical bird protections
Supreme Court Rejects Its Final Trump Appeal. (Daily Kos, March 8, 2021)
Today the Supreme Court, without comment or dissent, refused to hear a Trump appeal challenging his election loss in Wisconsin. This is the final Trump challenge that was pending before the Supreme Court.
Trump filed the lawsuit after the election claiming decisions made by administrators of Wisconsin's elections, to make voting during Covid easier, were unconstitutional.  The judge who heard the case, Judge Brett Ludwig, is a Trump appointee.  Judge Ludwig dismissed the case on the merits. (Those claiming no cases were decided on the merits are wrong.)
Trump appealed to the United States Court of Appeals.  The three judge panel unanimously rejected Trump's appeal writing, "Wisconsin lawfully appointed its electors in the manner directed by its Legislature." The judge who wrote that decision, Judge Michael Scudder, is also a Trump appointee.  Another judge, Llana Rovner, was appointed by George H. Bush.  The third judge, Joel Flaum, is a Reagan appointed.  So that's three Republican appointed appellate judges, to include a Trump appointee (who wrote the unanimous decision) who ruled against Trump. Plus the Trump appointee on the District Court. With three Trump appointees on the Supreme Court, the request for cert there was denied without dissent.
One chart shows the dramatic difference between Biden's American Rescue Plan and the Trump tax scam. (4-min. video; Daily Kos, March 8, 2021)
I suppose we plebes can be forgiven for misunderstanding the abstruse details of a complex tax-reform bill, even if the bottom line was that most Americans were getting crumbs while the rich were getting fire-hosed with canapes and fancy soft European cheeses. Again.
But here’s one way to demonstrate the stark difference between Trump’s phony “middle-class” tax cut and what Joe Biden just did for the American people — a chart that shows it all in beautiful reds and blues: The top 20% of households reaped 65% of benefit from Trump’s tax cuts. The bottom 20% got 1%.
The American Rescue Plan gives aid to those who actually need it.
In 2018, 2 Years Before the Outbreak, Diplomats Warned of Risky Coronavirus Experiments in a Wuhan Lab. No One Listened. (Politico, March 8, 2021)
After seeing a risky lab, they wrote a cable warning to Washington. But it was ignored.
Since the 2002 outbreak of SARS—the deadly disease caused by a coronavirus transmitted by bats in China—scientists around the world had been looking for ways to predict and limit future outbreaks of similar diseases. To aid the effort, the NIH had funded a number of projects that involved the WIV scientists, including much of the Wuhan lab’s work with bat coronaviruses. The new study was entitled “Discovery of a Rich Gene Pool of Bat SARS-Related Coronaviruses Provides New Insights into the Origin of SARS Coronavirus.”
These researchers, the American officials learned, had found a population of bats from caves in Yunnan province that gave them insight into how SARS coronaviruses originated and spread. The researchers boasted that they may have found the cave where the original SARS coronavirus originated. But all the U.S. diplomats cared about was that these scientists had discovered three new viruses that had a unique characteristic: they contained a "spike protein” that was particularly good at grabbing on to a specific receptor in human lung cells known as an ACE2 receptor. That means the viruses were potentially very dangerous for humans—and that these viruses were now in a lab with which they, the U.S. diplomats, were largely unfamiliar.
Knowing the significance of the Wuhan virologists’ discovery, and knowing that the WIV’s top-level biosafety laboratory (BSL-4) was relatively new, the U.S. Embassy health and science officials in Beijing decided to go to Wuhan and check it out. In total, the embassy sent three teams of experts in late 2017 and early 2018 to meet with the WIV scientists, among them Shi Zhengli, often referred to as the “bat woman” because of her extensive experience studying coronaviruses found in bats.
When they sat down with the scientists at the WIV, the American diplomats were shocked by what they heard. The Chinese researchers told them they didn’t have enough properly trained technicians to safely operate their BSL-4 lab. The Wuhan scientists were asking for more support to get the lab up to top standards.
The diplomats wrote two cables to Washington reporting on their visits to the Wuhan lab. More should be done to help the lab meet top safety standards, they said, and they urged Washington to get on it. They also warned that the WIV researchers had found new bat coronaviruses could easily infect human cells, and which used the same cellular route that had been used by the original SARS coronavirus.
Taken together, those two points—a particularly dangerous groups of viruses being studied in a lab with real safety problems—were intended as a warning about a potential public-health crisis, one of the cable writers told me. They kept the cables unclassified because they wanted more people back home to be able to read and share them, according to the cable writer. But there was no response from State Department headquarters and they were never made public. And as U.S.-China tensions rose over the course of 2018, American diplomats lost access to labs such as the one at the WIV.
“The cable was a warning shot,” one U.S. official said. “They were begging people to pay attention to what was going on.” The world would be paying attention soon enough—but by then, it would be too late.
A year into the pandemic, the coronavirus is messing with our minds as well as our bodies. (The Conversation, March 8, 2021)
As we see it, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a sort of zombie virus, turning people not into the undead but rather into the unsick. By interfering with our bodies’ normal immune response and blocking pain, the virus keeps the infected on their feet, spreading the virus. Zombie viruses are also a real thing, influencing their host’s behavior in ways that enhance the viruses’ evolutionary fitness.
Americans started wearing face masks a year ago. Where do we go from here? (8-min. video; Washington Post, March 8, 2021)
The rapid spread of covid-19 in the United States began in the early months of 2020. A lot has changed in our day-to-day lives since then, including the use of face masks.
NEW: A new lab study shows troubling signs that Pfizer's and Moderna's COVID-19 shots could be far less effective against the variant first found in South Africa. (Business Insider, March 8, 2021)
The percentage of protective antibodies that neutralized the variant — called B.1.351, which has been recorded in 20 US states — was 12.4 fold lower for Moderna's COVID-19 shot than against the original coronavirus, and 10.3 fold lower for Pfizer's, the study authors said. This was a bigger drop than in previous lab studies testing the vaccines against manufactured forms of the variant, they said. For this study, the researchers used real forms of the variant taken from people who had caught the virus.
Dire Coronavirus Prediction: Virus Evolving to Escape Current Vaccines, Treatments – “May Be Condemned to Chasing After the Evolving SARS-CoV-2 Continually” (Columbia University, March 8, 2021)
If the rampant spread of the virus continues and more critical mutations accumulate, then we may be condemned to chasing after the evolving SARS-CoV-2 continually, as we have long done for influenza virus. Such considerations require that we stop virus transmission as quickly as is feasible, by redoubling our mitigation measures and by expediting vaccine rollout.
Digital COVID-19 “Symptom Checkers” Failed to Pick Up Severe COVID-19, Bacterial Pneumonia, and Sepsis. (SciTechDaily, March 8, 2021)
Digital COVID-19 ‘symptom checkers’ may stop some patients from getting prompt treatment for serious illness, suggests an international case simulation study, published in the online journal BMJ Health & Care Informatics. Both the US and UK symptom checkers consistently failed to identify the symptoms of severe COVID-19, bacterial pneumonia, and sepsis, frequently advising these cases to stay home, the findings indicate. The availability and use of symptom checkers is on the rise, and they are currently being used at a national level to pick up COVID-19 infection.
NEW: Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 8, 2021)
Fully vaccinated people in non-healthcare settings can:
    Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
    Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
    Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic.
For now, fully vaccinated people should continue to:
    Take precautions in public like wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing.
    Wear masks, practice physical distancing, and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease.
    Wear masks, maintain physical distance, and practice other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households.
    Avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings.
    Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
    Follow guidance issued by individual employers.
    Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations.
Fully-vaccinated people can visit with nearby grandchildren, dine indoors with one another, CDC says. (2-min. video; Washington Post, March 8, 2021)
Long-awaited recommendations loosen restrictions on how people can socialize.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who are two weeks past their final shot may visit indoors with unvaccinated members of a single household at low risk of severe disease, without wearing masks or distancing. That would free many vaccinated grandparents who live near their unvaccinated children and grandchildren to visit them for the first time in a year. The guidelines continue to discourage visits involving long-distance travel, however.
The CDC also said fully vaccinated people can gather indoors with those who are also fully vaccinated. And they do not need to quarantine, or be tested after exposure to the coronavirus, as long as they have no symptoms, the agency said.
Researchers Warn: Large Number of COVID-19 Survivors Will Experience Cognitive Complications. (Oxford Brookes University, March 7, 2021)
The study found that in the short term, a wide range of neuropsychiatric problems were reported. In one examined study, 95% of clinically stable COVID-19 patients had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other studies found between 17-42%* of patients experienced affective disorders, such as depression.
The main short-term cognitive problems were found to be impaired attention (reported by 45% patients) and impaired memory (between 13-28% of patients).
In the long term, neuropsychiatric problems were mostly affective disorders and fatigue, as well as impaired attention (reported by 44% of patients) and memory (reported between 28-50% of patients).
Earth Has a Hot New Neighbor – And It Could Change How We Look for Life in the Universe. (University of New South Wales, March 7, 2021)
A newly discovered planet could be our best chance yet of studying rocky planet atmospheres outside the solar system, a new international study involving UNSW Sydney shows.
The planet, called Gliese 486b (pronounced Glee-seh), is a ‘super-Earth’: that is, a rocky planet bigger than Earth but smaller than ice giants like Neptune and Uranus. It orbits a red dwarf star around 26 light-years away, making it a close neighbor – galactically speaking. With a piping-hot surface temperature of 430 degrees Celsius, Gliese 486b is too hot to support human life. But studying its atmosphere could help us learn whether similar planets might be habitable for humans – or if they’re likely to hold other signs of life.
In the Stimulus Bill, a Policy Revolution in Aid for Children (New York Times, March 7, 2021)
The $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package moving through Congress advances an idea that Democrats have been nurturing for decades: establishing a guaranteed income for families with children.
Do Complex Numbers Exist? (11-min. video; BackReaction, March 6, 2021)
Are complex numbers necessary to describe the world as we observe it? Do they exist? Or are they just a mathematical convenience?
Tens of thousands of US organizations hit in ongoing Microsoft Exchange hack. (Ars Technica, March 6, 2021)
Tens of thousands of US-based organizations are running Microsoft Exchange servers that have been backdoored by threat actors who are stealing administrator passwords and exploiting critical vulnerabilities in the email and calendaring application. Microsoft issued emergency patches on Tuesday, but they do nothing to disinfect systems that are already compromised.
Who truly was the most dishonest president? (BBC News, March 6, 2021)
The Washington Post maintains a database of Trump statements - over 30,000 of them - that it claims are false or misleading. Many of these utterances, such as about golf or his wealth or whether it snowed at one of his rallies, sound relatively trifling. Others, such as claims he deliberately misled the American people about the severity of coronavirus, or his unfounded assertions that the 2020 White House election was rigged, would be much more damaging.
Prof. Ginsberg says "whoppers" that lead to military action are the most harmful of all, and that Trump is not as blame-worthy as some of his predecessors in this respect. The political science lecturer at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore adds: "The problem is the American presidential selection process is fundamentally flawed and produces monsters. It requires years of campaigning, and only the most arrogant, ambitious and narcissistic individuals would possibly be willing to do such a thing."
Five Signs of a Highly Intelligent Person (Medium, March 6, 2021)
- They demonstrate a curiosity to learn more information.
- They can openly admit when they don’t know something. They know and operate within their limits.
- They can break down complex problems and cut straight to a solution.
- They have an acute awareness of their own thought process. They critique and understand it. They use that knowledge to their advantage.
- They display obvious signs of intelligence. They think quickly on their feet and have situational awareness. They wear a mask during a pandemic.
The sooner AI stops trying to mimic human intelligence, the better – as there isn't any. (The Register, March 5, 2021)
Still waiting for neuroscientists to work out why.
NEW: Farmers Fight John Deere Over Who Gets to Fix an $800,000 Tractor. (Bloomberg, March 5, 2021)
The right-to-repair movement has come to the heartland, where some farmers are demanding access to the software that runs their equipment.
A landmark Massachusetts statute, passed in 2012, required the auto industry to offer car owners and independent mechanics the same diagnostic and repair software they provide their own dealers. After it passed, automakers relented and made all their repair tools available nationwide.
That’s what Kenney demands for farm equipment—and what John Deere and its competitors reject.
NFTs, explained (The Verge, March 5, 2021)
I have questions about this emerging... um... art form? Platform?
‘We’re Vaccinated. Everyone Wants to Visit. Now What?’ (Wired, March 5, 2021)
My mom and stepdad got their two doses. They want to know why their New Normal isn’t normal at all.
One and Done: Why People Are Eager for Johnson & Johnson’s Vaccine (New York Times, March 4, 2021)
Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine is allowing states to rethink distribution, even as health officials and experts worry some will view it as inferior.
Can Alien Smog Lead Us to Extraterrestrial Civilizations? (Wired, March 4, 2021)
A new study modeled whether we could find intelligent life on another planet—by looking for its pollution.
World's first space hotel scheduled to open in 2027. (CNN Travel, March 4, 2021)
[What an appropriate location for Earth's least-needed breakthough.]
NEW: Scientists may have discovered a new layer within the Earth. (Salon, March 4, 2021)
Scientists previously believed the Earth has four layers. New Australian National University research says there may actually be five.
NEW: A Blight on Soviet Science (Damn Interesting, March 4, 2021)
Nikolai Vavilov dedicated his life to improving Soviet agriculture and eradicating famine, but his allegiance to science would ultimately lead to his downfall.
100Mbps uploads and downloads should be US broadband standard, senators say. (Ars Technica, March 4, 2021)
Pandemic showed that "upload speeds far greater than 3Mbps are critical."
US roads got more dangerous in 2020 even though we stayed at home. (Ars Technica, March 4, 2021)
Preliminary data puts the death toll at 42,060, with 4.8 million people injured.
Dr. Seuss Books Are Pulled, and a ‘Cancel Culture’ Controversy Erupts. (New York Times, March 4, 2021)
The beloved author’s most famous books, like “Green Eggs and Ham,” were untouched, but his estate’s decision nevertheless prompted a backlash and raised questions about what should be preserved as part of the cultural record.
Washington Updates: Capitol Is on Alert as Senate Prepares for Debate. (New York Times, March 4, 2021)
The Capitol Police reported a new threat embraced by some QAnon conspiracy theorists.
Intelligence analysts have been tracking online chatter by some adherents of the pro-Trump conspiracy theory known as QAnon. Those adherents appear to have latched on to March 4 — the original inauguration date set in the Constitution — as the day Mr. Trump would be restored to the presidency and renew his crusade against the country's enemies.
Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, a senior Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, took the threat seriously enough on Wednesday to publicly argue that Mr. Trump should use his influence to keep it from happening. “President Trump has a responsibility to tell them to stand down,” Mr. McCaul said on CNN. “This threat is credible. It’s real.”
The Rise of the Biden Republicans (Politico, March 4, 2021)
The pollster who identified “Reagan Democrats” in the 1980s sees the emergence of a mirror image voting bloc. And it spells trouble for a GOP dominated by Trump.
Biden limits eligibility for stimulus payments under pressure from moderate Senate Democrats. (2-min. video; Washington Post, March 3, 2021)
Change comes as Senate prepares to move forward on Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief bill.
NEW: The Billionaire Behind the Biggest U.S. Tax Fraud Case Ever Filed (Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2021)
Prosecutors accused Robert Brockman, a litigious, sometimes penny-pinching software entrepreneur, of hiding $2 billion from the Internal Revenue Service.
If You Transplant a Human Head, Does Its Consciousness Follow? (Wired, March 3, 2021)
In her new book, Brandy Schillace recalls the unbelievable legacy of a Cold War era neurosurgeon’s mission to preserve the soul.
Why You Need a Wildlife Camera (photos and short videos; New York Times, March 3, 2021)
Without one, you may never know who else lives on your property. Or who’s eating your bush beans.
Anthony Fauci Pleads: Don’t Declare Victory. (Wired, March 3, 2021)
The Covidologist-in-chief says we can’t relax on masks and social distancing yet. Hear that, Texas?
COVID-19 revealed how sick the US health care delivery system really is. (The Conversation, March 2, 2021)
If you got the COVID-19 shot, you likely received a little paper card that shows you’ve been vaccinated. Make sure you keep that card in a safe place. There is no coordinated way to share information about who has been vaccinated and who has not.
That is just one of the glaring flaws that COVID-19 has revealed about the U.S. health care system: It does not share health information well. Coordination between public health agencies and medical providers is lacking. Technical and regulatory restrictions impede use of digital technologies. To put it bluntly, our health care delivery system is failing patients.
Prolonged disputes about the Affordable Care Act and rising health care costs have done little to help; the problems go beyond insurance and access. Most of these problems aren’t about medicine or technology. Rather, they are about the inability of our delivery system to meet the evolving needs of patients.
In reality, the U.S. health care sector is not a system at all. Instead, it is an under-performing conglomerate of independent entities: hospitals, clinics, community health and urgent care centers, individual practitioners, small group practices, pharmacy and retail outlets, and more, most of which compete for profits and in some cases pay sky-high salaries to executives.
Is EV charging the next gig for the gig economy? SparkCharge thinks so. (TechCrunch, March 2, 2021)
SparkCharge is basically creating a whole new [charging] network,” said Aviv. “This isn’t a network meant to be a stopgap. It’s a network that’s always on, always available and better and faster than [traditional chargers]… we don’t need permits, we don’t need construction. With our unit, you take it out of the box, you plug it into the car, you push a button and begin charging. With us, every parking spot, every location — that’s now a charging station. That’s a much better network than the legacy.”
NEW: Could plastic roads make for a smoother ride? (BBC, March 2, 2021)
From lower carbon emissions to fewer potholes, there are a number of benefits to building a layer of plastic into roads.
[Also see: Plastic Road (Wikipedia) and It’s the end of the road for waste plastics. (MacRebur.com)]
The Texas blackouts showed how climate extremes threaten energy systems across the US. (4-min. video; The Conversation, March 2, 2021)
The events in Texas offer three important lessons for energy planners across the U.S.:
- Not enough attention to climate extremes
- Water, electricity and natural gas are connected.
- The future will be different.
FBI Director: No Evidence Suggests Capitol Attack Was Organized By ‘Fake Trump Supporters’. (2-min. video; Forbes, March 2, 2021)
NEW: Tiktaalik, Ballistic Tongues and Evolution. (48-min. podcast; Quanta Magazine, March 2, 2021)
The paleontologist Neil Shubin talks with host Steven Strogatz about hunting for a 375-million-year-old fossil and finding novel traits that evolved many times.
Error 14: Apple iPhone users report losing thousands of pictures after glitch. (3-min. video; WCVB News, March 1, 2021)
They all called on Apple to find a solution. But from Apple's perspective, one might not be needed because the phones can still work.
YouTube’s TikTok clone, “YouTube Shorts,” is live in the US. (Ars Technica, March 1, 2021)
US users can now upload and view one-minute videos in a swipe interface.
NEW: People Literally Don’t Know When to Shut Up—or Keep Talking—Science Confirms. (Scientific American, March 1, 2021)
We are really bad at navigating a key transition point during one of the most basic social interactions.
Here are the false and misleading claims Donald Trump made in his CPAC speech. (96-min. video of speech; Business Insider, March 1, 2021)
Former President Donald Trump spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, his first speech since leaving the White House last month. During his remarks, Trump hinted at a 2024 run, said he would not be forming a new party, and targeted Republicans who had supported his impeachment. He criticized the Democrats, cancel culture, and big tech — and especially President Joe Biden. He also made a number of statements that were false or misleading. We've fact-checked them here.
The $1.9 Trillion Virus Relief Bill heads to the Senate. We tell you what to watch for. (New York Times, March 1, 2021)
The virus relief bill that the House passed on Saturday heads to the Senate this week, and White House officials hope President Biden will be able to sign it into law in the next two weeks.
The current price tag is about $1.9 trillion — or roughly twice the size (after adjusting for inflation) of the stimulus bill Barack Obama signed shortly after taking office, in 2009. The Senate may shrink it somewhat, but the bill is likely to remain very large. That reflects the fact that Biden and his aides don’t want to repeat the mistake of the 2009 bill, which many economists believe was too small to prevent a sluggish recovery. This time, Biden is erring on the side of aggressiveness, hoping to return the economy to full employment and spark strong wage growth. Jerome Powell — the Federal Reserve chairman, appointed by Donald Trump — has avoided talking about the bill’s details but has signaled he supports moving aggressively, rather than focusing on the deficit. One factor: Over the past two decades, forecasters have repeatedly been too optimistic about economic growth — which suggests that policymakers have usually done too little to support growth, not too much.
Roughly half of it is direct cash payments. The biggest item (costing about $420 billion) is a package of $1,400-per-person checks for most households. Other major items include an expansion of jobless benefits ($240 billion); an expansion of tax credits for parents and low-income workers ($130 billion); health insurance subsidies ($65 billion); and housing assistance ($40 billion).
The other half of the bill is mostly aid to state and local governments, including money for schools as well as for coronavirus testing and vaccination.
U.S. hits grim COVID milestone amid new hope of third vaccine. (2-min. video; CBS News, February 28, 2021)
CBS News reports on the latest developments in vaccine distribution as the U.S. continues its battle against COVID-19.
Luck Played a Major Role in Keeping Earth Fit for Life. (2-min. video; SciTechDaily, February 28, 2021)
A study by the University of Southampton gives a new perspective on why our planet has managed to stay habitable for billions of years – concluding it is almost certainly due, at least in part, to luck. The research suggests this may lengthen the odds of finding life on so-called ‘twin-Earths’ in the Universe. The research, published in the Nature journal Communications Earth and Environment, involved conducting the first-ever simulation of climate evolution on thousands of randomly generated planets.
MIT Neuroscientists Identify Brain Circuit in the Hippocampus That Encodes Timing of Events. (SciTechDaily, February 27, 2021)
When we experience a new event, our brain records a memory of not only what happened, but also the context, including the time and location of the event. A new study from MIT neuroscientists sheds light on how the timing of a memory is encoded in the hippocampus, and suggests that time and space are encoded separately.
NFTs Boom as Collectors Shell Out to ‘Own’ Digital Art. (Wired, February 27, 2021)
Non-fungible tokens provide a way to invest in and own digital imagery. But is it just another crypto fad—or the future of intangible art?
Research Suggests Proper Fit of COVID Face Masks Is More Important Than Material. (SciTechDaily, February 27, 2021)
The COVID-19 pandemic has made well-fitting face masks a vital piece of protective equipment for healthcare workers and civilians. While the importance of wearing face masks in slowing the spread of the virus has been demonstrated, there remains a lack of understanding about the role that good fit plays in ensuring their effectiveness.
“We know that unless there is a good seal between the mask and the wearer’s face, many aerosols and droplets will leak through the top and sides of the mask, as many people who wear glasses will be well aware of,” said Eugenia O’Kelly from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, the paper’s first author. “We wanted to quantitatively evaluate the level of fit offered by various types of masks, and most importantly, assess the accuracy of implementing fit checks by comparing fit check results to quantitative fit testing results.”
Biden urges Senate to take 'quick action' on 'American Rescue Plan' coronavirus relief package. (Politico, February 27, 2021)
President Joe Biden on Saturday called for the Senate to quickly pass his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which the House approved early Saturday morning. “I hope it will receive quick action,” Biden said. “We have no time to waste. If we act now, decisively, quickly and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus, we can finally get our economy moving again and the people of this country have suffered far too much for too long. We need to relieve that suffering.”
DNC releases video hitting Republicans on vote against coronavirus relief bill. (The Hill, February 27, 2021)
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) War Room on Saturday released a new video hitting House Republicans for voting against a sweeping $1.9 trillion package that aims to provide financial relief for Americans amid the pandemic. The video, which the DNC posted on Twitter Saturday afternoon, includes news coverage of House Democrats passing the stimulus package in a 219-212 vote early in the early morning.  Two Democrats — Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Kurt Schrader (Ore.) — joined all Republicans in voting against the bill.
The DNC’s video outlines that the package, dubbed the "American Rescue Plan", includes funding for coronavirus vaccine distribution, reopening schools and rental assistance. The package also includes an additional $400 in weekly unemployment benefits, as well as a one-time stimulus payment of up to $1,400 for individuals or $2,800 for married couples. A Morning Consult/Politico poll conducted last week found that 76 percent of registered voters supported the stimulus package, with 52 percent saying they “strongly” supported it.
Democrats are hoping to finalize the bill before unemployment insurance benefits are set to expire on March 14.
Biden tells the world ‘America is back.’ The world isn’t so sure. (Washington Post, February 27, 2021)
President Biden is pushing to reclaim America’s global leadership after four years of the former president's insults and snubs. But allies worry the United States could easily return to Trumpism.
"It’s Donald Trump’s party.": How the former president is building a political operation to cement his hold on the GOP. (Washington Post, February 27, 2021)
In advance of his first major post-White House address, Trump is making plans to launch a super PAC, has begun endorsing candidates and is plotting a possible 2024 comeback.
The ugly story of Trump and Jamal Khashoggi is confirmed. (Washington Post, February 27, 2021)
A newly released report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence points the finger squarely at Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the gruesome murder of U.S. resident and contributing Washington Post global opinions columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The allegation was no secret, and hasn’t been for two years. But it was something Trump took pains to cast doubt upon, even as his own government verified it.
Colorado White Supremacist sentenced to 19 years over plot to blow up Synagogue. (The Hill, February 27, 2021)
Richard Holzer, 28, received a sentence of 235 months, which equates to about 19 and a half years, in prison for his plot to attack Temple Emanuel Synagogue in Pueblo, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado. Holzer was also sentenced to 15 years of supervised release.
Holzer, who was arrested and charged with a federal hate crime in 2019, pleaded guilty to his charges in a plea agreement last October. He admitted to undercover FBI agents at the time he was arrested that he wanted “to do something that would tell Jewish people in the community that they are not welcome in Pueblo, and they should leave or they will die,” according to the Justice Department.
Federal officials said that Holzer's scheme to ignite explosives at the synagogue met the definition of domestic terrorism, though the dynamite and pipe bombs he received from the undercover FBI agents could not have been detonated.
American Fascism is Becoming American Nazism. (Medium, February 27, 2021)
The American Right is Hardening Into a Full-Blown Nazi Party.
A few years ago, when American fascism exploded — just as I’d predicted, as many had — it was just that: a nascent fascist movement. It dabbled with the doing the things fascist movements always dream of, having ascended to having its very own demagogue in the White House. Bans, camps, kids in cages, kids in cages in camps, raids, purges, Gestapos…beatings, disappearances, hate…all culminating a violent coup.
The coup on Jan 6th was a turning point — at least that’s how history will remember it. That’s going unnoticed by Americans, at least liberal Americans. But it was a moment of sudden and sweeping transformation for the Republicans and their base. Violence was legitimized. The Big Lies were acted upon. Brutality was normalized. A head of state allegedly led a violent coup that left five people dead (and counting) to overthrow a democratically elected government by trying to stop the process of vote counting. It’s a minor miracle there wasn’t a massacre.
Why do I say that was a turning point? Because after that, Republicans could have thought “we’ve gone too far.” Or “That was wrong.” Or “that was way too much, and we are on the wrong path.” And to be fair, a few have — a tiny, slender few. That is the exception which proves the rule.
By and large, Republicans — not just leaders, but everyday people — believe the “election was stolen” and therefore “it needed to be taken back,” presumably by any means necessary, right up to paramilitaries storming Congress and hunting down members of Congress to kill. Republican support for Trump has soared after the coup.
The reason that Republican leaders don’t disavow Trump is because they can’t. They’ll lose grass roots support. So they’re caught between a rock and a hard place — at least “moderates,” like Mitt Romney, who, it should be widely understood, are as still as conservative as say fanatical right wingers in Europe. The “moderates” can’t fully attack Trump, because they will lose their positions in the party.
What does that tell you? It should tell you three things, all of which are very, very bad. One, it’s Trump’s party now. Two, it’s Trumpism’s party. And three, Jan 6th was a moment that sealed the American right’s fate and destiny from a nascent fascist movement, to a now aspiring Nazi one.
What’s the difference? A fascist movement is a coalition of social groups. They are still debating goals and purposes. They agree on general philosophical principles, to use that word far too generously. You know the score. It’s the old, old Nietzschean logic: there are the weak and the strong, the weak deserve to perish, the strong to survive, and the strong must prove their strength therefore by dominating the weak. All that is broken down along lines of “race,” which is an artificial construct to begin with (after all, most “white” people are actually pink, and there are no “yellow” or “red” or “black” people at all — those are just boxes we force people into.)
A fascist movement is testing the waters. It’s disseminating this moral logic of the strong subjugating the weak among itself. It is busy developing this logic in mythologies and fairy tales that then go on to provide a real world belief system which justifies oppression and hate. It is toying with creating institutions to turn this abhorrent moral philosophy of strong dominating weak along racial lines into a social and political reality.
A fascist movement is like any other movement in that regard — it is vying for power, its philosophies yet to harden and coalesce, really, into widely held mythologies and symbols and belief systems, which then trickle down further into institutions and norms and values and aspirations and goals.
All that’s a little soft, but do you see the difference? Let me make it clearer. Fascism is Trump challenging the courts with ban after ban. Nazism is a group at CPAC standing on a white-supremacist symbol shaped stage, chanting slogans that are barely even thinly veiled code for fascism anymore.
The Odal/Othala Rune Used By CPAC is 100% Explicitly a Nazi Symbol. (Daily Kos, February 26, 2021)
This rune was NEVER used before the 1930's. NEVER. No Germanic tribesman or Viking ever carved, wrote or saw this symbol.
Biden Revokes a Trump Order Seeking ‘Classical’ Civic Architecture. (New York Times, February 26, 2021)
Prominent architects had criticized the order for seeking to impose a national style from above.
Trump’s executive order, which he signed in December after losing his bid for re-election, was titled “Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture,” and it praised Greco-Roman architecture as being “beautiful” while describing modernist designs as “ugly and inconsistent.” Those who championed the order heralded it as a return to a bygone era of federalist style. The American Institute of Architects, which had said it was “appalled” by the Trump order, praised the decision to revoke it.
The debate was not merely about aesthetics. “By overturning this order, the Biden Administration has restored communities with the freedom of design choice that is essential to designing federal buildings that best serve the public,” the institute’s president, Peter Exley, said in a statement. “This is fundamental to an architect’s process and to achieving the highest quality buildings possible.” Michael Kimmelman, the architecture critic for The New York Times, had condemned the measure when it was discussed last February. “Just to have this argument feels demeaning,” he wrote.
The Rumored Apple Car Is Bad News for Elon Musk. (Wired, February 26, 2021)
Gulf Stream is weakest it's been in more than 1,000 years, study says. (Accuweather, February 26, 2021)
 A group of scientists from Europe presented new research this week claiming that the Gulf Stream is weaker now than it's been at any point over the last 1,000 years. The Gulf Stream is an Atlantic Ocean current that plays a largely hidden role in shaping weather patterns in the United States. Much has been researched and learned about the influential current over the past 500 years, particularly due to the expertise of one of America's Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin.
But in recent decades, a shift in the Gulf Stream's circulation has become weaker than any other time over the last millennium, according to a recently published study by scientists from Ireland, Britain and Germany. The weakening of the Gulf Stream, formally known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), can be mostly pinned to one catalyst, the researchers said: human-caused climate change.
Why Opening Windows Is a Key to Reopening Schools (New York Times, February 26, 2021)
The C.D.C. is urging communities to reopen schools as quickly as possible, but parents and teachers have raised questions about the quality of ventilation available in public school classrooms to protect against the coronavirus. We worked with a leading engineering firm and experts specializing in buildings systems to better understand the simple steps schools can take to reduce exposure in the classroom.
[Now, how to answer the questions about 9 students per classroom?]
Two-Thirds of COVID-19 Hospitalizations Are Due to These Four Conditions. (Tufts University, February 25, 2021)
Model suggests higher risk based on obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart failure (also race and age), offers insights to reduce disease impact.
5 Gentle Wisdoms That Make Life Worth Living (Medium, February 25, 2021)
Harsh life advice has had its day. Life advice shouldn’t yell at you — it should whisper. It should gently land on you in a way that makes — no, allows — you to think, to absorb it in your own time, in your own way. Especially now, especially in a world that’s been tipped upside down by a pandemic.
Jennifer Granholm is confirmed as Secretary of U.S. Dept. of Energy. (New York Times, February 25, 2021)
The Senate confirmed Jennifer M. Granholm to be energy secretary on Thursday, positioning the former governor of Michigan to play a key role in President Biden’s plans to confront climate change. Ms. Granholm, a longtime champion of renewable energy development, was confirmed by a vote of 64 to 35, with support from both Democrats and Republicans.
Ms. Granholm will oversee an agency that plays a leading role in researching and developing new energy technologies, such as advanced wind turbines or methods to capture carbon dioxide from industrial facilities before the gas reaches the atmosphere. Energy experts have said innovations like these could prove critical for slashing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
At her confirmation hearing last month, Ms. Granholm sought to allay fears by lawmakers that transitioning the United States away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner energy sources would devastate the nation’s economy. She pointed to her experience as Michigan’s governor during the 2009 recession, when the state invested heavily in electric vehicle technology and worker retraining programs amid efforts to rescue an ailing auto industry that had long focused on building gasoline-powered cars and trucks. “I understand what it’s like to look into the eyes of men and women who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” Ms. Granholm said. But clean energy, she added, “is a sector that every single state can benefit from.”
Manhattan prosecutor gets Trump tax records after long fight. (Associated Press, February 25, 2021)
A New York prosecutor has obtained copies of Donald Trump’s tax records after the Supreme Court this week rejected the former president’s last-ditch effort to prevent them from being handed over. The Manhattan district attorney’s office enforced a subpoena on Trump’s accounting firm within hours of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday and now has the documents in hand, a spokesperson for the office, Danny Frost, said Thursday.
District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. had been fighting for a year and a half for access to Trump’s tax records for a criminal grand jury investigation into his business dealings. Vance, a Democrat, is conducting a wide-ranging investigation that includes an examination of whether Trump or his businesses lied about the value of assets to gain favorable loan terms and tax benefits. The district attorney is also scrutinizing hush-money payments paid to women on Trump’s behalf.
The documents are protected by grand jury secrecy rules and are not expected to be made public.
Hackers Tied to Russia's GRU Targeted the US Grid for Years, Researchers Warn. (Wired, February 24, 2021)
A Sandworm-adjacent group has successfully breached US critical infrastructure a handful of times, according to new findings from the security firm Dragos.
Kamacite's main intrusion tools have been spear-phishing emails with malware payloads and brute-forcing the cloud-based logins of Microsoft services like Office 365 and Active Directory as well as virtual private networks. Once the group gains an initial foothold, it exploits valid user accounts to maintain access, and has used the credential-stealing tool Mimikatz to spread further into victims' networks.
When the Grid Goes Down, Can a Fleet of Batteries Replace It? (Wired, February 24, 2021)
In a power crisis, maybe the solution is a network of smaller energy sources distributed across multiple places—like your garage.
So Long, Fry’s. I Learned Everything About Gadgets From You. (Wired, February 24, 2021)
The Company ceased regular operations and began the wind-down process on February 24, 2021. Now that the big-box electronics  store has shuttered, future generations need a place where they can touch and discover the next great technology.
NASA’s Perseverance Rover Gives High-Definition 360-Degree Panoramic View of Landing Site. (NASA, February 24, 2021)
This 360-degree panorama was taken by Mastcam-Z, a zoomable pair of cameras aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. The panorama was stitched together on Earth from 142 individual images taken on Sol 3, the third Martian day of the mission (Feb. 21, 2021).
BNT162b2 mRNA (Pfizer) Covid-19 Vaccine in a Nationwide (Israel) Mass Vaccination Setting (New England Journal of Medicine, February 24, 2021)
Each study group included 596,618 persons. Estimated vaccine effectiveness for the study outcomes at days 14 through 20 after the first dose and at 7 or more days after the second dose was as follows: for documented infection, 46% (95% confidence interval [CI], 40 to 51) and 92% (95% CI, 88 to 95); for symptomatic Covid-19, 57% (95% CI, 50 to 63) and 94% (95% CI, 87 to 98); for hospitalization, 74% (95% CI, 56 to 86) and 87% (95% CI, 55 to 100); and for severe disease, 62% (95% CI, 39 to 80) and 92% (95% CI, 75 to 100), respectively. Estimated effectiveness in preventing death from Covid-19 was 72% (95% CI, 19 to 100) for days 14 through 20 after the first dose. Estimated effectiveness in specific subpopulations assessed for documented infection and symptomatic Covid-19 was consistent across age groups, with potentially slightly lower effectiveness in persons with multiple coexisting conditions.
French researchers trial more accurate fast "CorDial-1" COVID-19 test. (Reuters, February 23, 2021)
A nasal or saliva swab is placed onto a strip and if nanobodies come into contact with the virus, the test will know it. You start your mobile phone, a signal will occur, and depending on the height of the signal, you can say if you’re COVID positive or negative.
Researchers said initial trials on 300 samples were 90% accurate and delivered in 10 minutes. The next phase of the project is to run a three-month trial on more than 1,000 people. Creators of the CorDial-1 test say if it receives approval, it’ll be cheap once manufacturing begins on a large scale.
NEW: Latest Firefox release includes Multiple Picture-in-Picture and Total Cookie Protection. (1-min. MPIP video; Mozilla Blog, February 23, 2021)
Our Picture-in-Picture feature topped our Best of Firefox 2020 features list and we heard from people who wanted more than just one picture-in-picture view. In today’s 68.0 release, we added multiple picture-in-picture views, available on Mac, Linux and Windows, and includes keyboard controls for fast forward and rewind.
Today, we are announcing Total Cookie Protection for Firefox, a major new milestone in our work to protect your privacy. Total Cookie Protection stops cookies from tracking you around the web by creating a separate cookie jar for every website. Total Cookie Protection joins our suite of privacy protections called ETP (Enhanced Tracking Protection). In combining Total Cookie Protection with last month’s supercookie protections, Firefox is now armed with very strong, comprehensive protection against cookie tracking. This will be available in ETP Strict Mode in both the desktop and Android version.
NEW: How Google's balloons surprised their creator (BBC, February 23, 2021)
Unexpectedly, the artificial intelligence (AI) on board the balloon had learned to recreate an ancient sailing technique first developed by humans centuries, if not thousands of years, ago. "Tacking" involves steering a vessel into the wind and then angling outward again so that progress in a zig-zag, roughly in the desired direction, can still be made. Under unfavourable weather conditions, the self-flying balloons had learned to tack all by themselves. The fact they had done this, unprompted, surprised everyone, not least the researchers working on the project.
The exploratory nature of AI is fundamental to its future success; the things they are doing that are creative and impressive are no longer academic curiosities. As AIs find better ways to diagnose disease or deliver emergency supplies to people, they'll even save lives thanks to their ability to find new ways to solve old problems. But those who develop such systems need to be open and honest about their unpredictable nature, to help the public understand how AI works.
It is, after all, a double-edged sword – the very promise and threat of AI all wrapped up in one. Whatever will they think of next?
NASA's Perseverance Rover Sends New Video and Images of the Red Planet. (112-min. video; NASA, February 22, 2021)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover safely touched down on the Red Planet on Feb. 18. So what will the robotic scientist "see" on her descent and what will she do next? Join mission experts for update about the rover – the biggest, heaviest, cleanest, and most sophisticated six-wheeled robot ever launched into space – including imagery it captured and its mission to explore Mars.
Humans had never seen a spacecraft land on another planet—until now. (3-min. video; Ars Technica, February 22, 2021)
On Monday, NASA released a video (embedded below) that included several viewpoints from the descent of Mars Perseverance to the surface of the red planet last week. A camera on the back shell captured a view of the parachute deploying, and cameras on the descent stage and rover itself captured the final seconds of the landing.
We’re Just Rediscovering a 19th-Century Pandemic Strategy. (The Atlantic, February 22, 2021)
The first way to fight a new virus would once have been opening the windows.
China Hijacked an NSA Hacking Tool in 2014—and Used It for Years. (Wired, February 22, 2021)
The hackers used the agency’s EpMe exploit to attack Windows devices years before the Shadow Brokers leaked the agency’s zero-day arsenal online.
FBI Seized Congressional Cellphone Records Related to Capitol Attack. (Intercept, February 22, 2021)
The inclusion of congressional phone data in the FBI investigation raises thorny constitutional questions.
In the hours and days after the Capitol riot, the FBI relied in some cases on emergency orders that do not require court authorization in order to quickly secure actual communications from people who were identified at the crime scene. Investigators have also relied on data “dumps” from cellphone towers in the area to provide a map of who was there, allowing them to trace call records — but not content — from the phones. The cellphone data includes many records from the members of Congress and staff members who were at the Capitol that day to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory. The data is also being used to map links between suspects, which include members of Congress, they also said.
Thom Hartmann: Trump’s Ruthless Plan to Stomp Out Democracy in 2024 (Medium, February 21, 2021)
Trump still has majority Republican support; most are ready and willing for a 2024 authoritarian coup.
NEW: The pitfalls and perils of the Anthropocene; that’s us, by the way. (Boston Globe, February 21, 2021)
“If control is the problem, then . . . still more control must be the solution,” writes Elizabeth Kolbert, who calls this the “logic of the Anthropocene,” the new geological epoch in which we live (Humans need to remake the planet yet again, Ideas, Feb. 13). But are we really hearing the dark truth in her remark? As geological eras are measured, the Anthropocene is a newborn, and yet we humans have already unmade and remade vast tracts of our planet, disrupted ecological balances of all sorts, and put in jeopardy not just the Louisiana coastline, as Kolbert reports, but also the atmosphere we live in, the oceans that surround us, and the land that feeds us.

More controls are on the way. Scientists are starting to explore geoengineering as so-called solutions to the problem of our warming planet. Schemes to redesign our atmosphere with reflective particles and remake the chemistry of our oceans are gaining traction as the politics of greenhouse gas reduction looks increasingly futile. Can nothing prevent this clever ape from straining toward its own extinction?

Kolbert’s “logic of the Anthropocene” matches a classic definition of madness. But that madness seems to be part of our nature, and the Anthropocene is at risk of becoming a very brief era indeed. Unless, that is, we can shed our hubris and find our way back to a more wholesome coexistence with the earth as it is.

New "Silver Sparrow" malware found on 30,000 Macs has security pros stumped. (Ars Technica, February 20, 2021)
With no payload (yet), analysts are struggling to learn what this mature malware does.
New browser-tracking hack works even when you flush caches or go incognito. (Ars Technica, February 19, 2021)
At least 4 top browsers affected by "powerful tracking vector," researchers say.
U.S. may duck a surge from COVID-19 variant that sent Britain reeling. (Harvard Gazette, February 19, 2021)
Expert says falling COVID rates, rising vaccinations, timing may hamper spread.
Pfizer vaccine doesn’t need ultra-cold storage after all, company says. (Ars Technica, February 19, 2021)
The pharma giant and partner BioNTech have asked FDA to revise the vaccine's label.
Mars 2020 Perseverance: Initial Surface Checkout Briefing (60-min. video; NASA, February 19, 2021)
The Insane Engineering of the Perseverance Rover (20-min. video; Real Engineering, February 18, 2021)
How to Watch NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover Landing (NASA's 131-min. video of the event; Wired, February 18, 2021)
NASA’s biggest and boldest rover attempts a momentous landing on February 18. Here’s how to watch—and why you should.
[NASA's JPL presents its ultimate educational device: host Raquel Villanueva.]
NASA Lands the Perseverance Rover on Mars. (2-min. video; Wired, February 18, 2021)
The science mission will launch the first drone to fly on another planet, attempt making oxygen in space, and search for signs of ancient life.
Perseverance rover lands on Mars. (2-min. video; 3-min. video; CNN, February 18, 2021)
Perseverance, NASA's most sophisticated rover to date, landed on Mars. This is NASA's first mission that will search for signs of ancient life on another planet. It launched from Florida at the end of July. NASA only lands a rover on Mars about every 10 years. The last was Curiosity in 2012.
Thom Hartmann: As Texas Shows, the GOP Big Lie Strategy has Already Destroyed Much of America. (Medium, February 18, 2021)
When politics are based on lies, fascism thrives.
-Republicans and their media are lying right now about why people are dying from the cold in Texas.
-The GOP has been embracing lies instead of policy since the Reagan Revolution.
-It’s become a way of life for Republican politicians.
-As a consequence, Republican voters are among the most misinformed people in America.
-When the electorate believes lies, democracy doesn’t work.
-The Libertarian billionaires who own the Republican Party don’t believe in democracy, so this is working out exactly the way they want.
-This is a formula for the destruction of democracy and the rise of fascism.
Ancient kauri reveal secrets of life on Earth after magnetic pole shift 42,000 years ago. (1 NEWS/NZ, February 18, 2021)
Ancient kauri trees from New Zealand's Northland have revealed, for the first time, precisely when Earth’s last magnetic pole shift happened and its devastating consequences on the environment.
Searching for Life in NASA’s Perseverance Mars Samples (NASA, February 17, 2021)
When the agency’s newest rover mission searches for fossilized microscopic life on the Red Planet, how will scientists know whether they’ve found it?
Scientists Achieve Real-Time Communication With Lucid Dreamers In Breakthrough. (w/15-min. NOVA video; Vice, February 18, 2021)
Humanity has been able reach distant vistas, such as the Moon, the deep oceans, and the wild expanses at Earth’s poles. Now, scientists have made a new breakthrough in the exploration of a very different type of frontier—the hallucinatory world inside dreams.
An international team of researchers was able to achieve real-time dialogues with people in the midst of lucid dreams, a phenomenon that is called “interactive dreaming”.
Million-year-old mammoth DNA rewrites animal’s evolutionary tree. (Ars Technica, February 17, 2021)
The oldest DNA yet sequenced shows how the genus split off into new species.
A next-generation coronavirus vaccine is in the works, but initial funding was denied. (2-min. video; USA Today, February 17, 2021)
Drew Weissman realized a year ago that even if the COVID-19 vaccines then in progress were eventually approved, it might not be enough. The world might need a next-generation vaccine to rid itself of this pandemic. Recent outbreaks of more resilient variants suggest he could be right. And yet, when Weissman – discoverer of the mRNA science behind two of the current vaccines – and a team of fellow scientists took a proposal for a more versatile COVID-19 vaccine to the National Institutes of Health for funding last May, they left empty-handed. The group had proposed research on vaccines to protect against any variant of the virus, known as a universal or pan vaccine.
NEW: An Antiviral Nasal Spray to Prevent COVID / Coronavirus Transmission (1-min. video; SciTechDaily, February 17, 2021)
The antiviral lipopeptide is inexpensive to produce, has a long shelf life, and does not require refrigeration. These features make it stand out from other antiviral approaches under development, including many monoclonal antibodies. The new nasal lipopeptide could be ideal for halting the spread of COVID in the United States and globally; the transportable and stable compound could be especially key in rural, low-income, and hard-to-reach populations.
Paul Krugman: Pandemic Economics: Stay Weird. (New York Times, February 16, 2021)
In this situation, the purpose of government spending isn’t to provide stimulus, it is to provide disaster relief, money that helps those hurt hard by the pandemic make it through until widespread vaccination makes it possible to resume our usual lives. It’s OK if a lot of pandemic spending is pretty poor stimulus. In fact, it might even be a good thing.
NEW: Five Things Happy People Have in Common According to Science (Medium, February 16, 2021)
Use correlation as a framework to improve your odds of happiness.
Fauci is awarded $1 million prize in Israel, including for ‘speaking truth to power’. (Boston Globe, February 15, 2021)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, 80, won in the “Present” category for his scientific contributions, including his research and his efforts to inform the public about the pandemic.
NASA Invites You to Share Thrill of Mars Perseverance Rover Landing. (4-min. video; NASA, February 14, 2021)
NASA is inviting the public to take part in virtual activities and events as the agency’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover nears entry, descent, and landing on the Red Planet, with touchdown scheduled for approximately 3:55 p.m. EST Thursday, Feb. 18. Live coverage and landing commentary from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California will begin at 2:15 p.m. EST on the NASA TV Public Channel and the agency’s website, as well as the NASA App, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitch, Daily Motion, and THETA.TV
You also can follow every step of entry, descent, and landing with this visualization.
During landing, the rover will plunge through the thin Martian atmosphere at more than 12,000 mph (about 20,000 kph). A parachute and powered descent will slow the rover down to about 2 mph (3 kph). During what is known as the sky crane maneuver, the descent stage will lower the rover on three cables to land softly on six wheels at Jezero Crater.
Perseverance also is carrying a technology experiment – the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter – that will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.
NEW: The Untold History of America’s Zero-Day Market (Wired, February 14, 2021)
The lucrative business of dealing in code vulnerabilities is central to espionage and war planning, which is why brokers never spoke about it—until now.
Congressional Democrats say Trump acquittal was foregone conclusion. (The Hill, February 14, 2021)
Democratic members of Congress said on Sunday that the acquittal of former President Trump at the conclusion of his second impeachment trial one day earlier had been a foregone conclusion.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead House impeachment manager, said he had “no regrets” about the trial, however. “[W]e have no regrets at all. We left it totally out there on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and every senator knew exactly what happened. And just go back and listen to McConnell’s speech,” Raskin said on NBC's "Meet the Press," referencing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s floor speech blasting Trump shortly after the Kentucky Republican voted to acquit the former president. “It could be First Amendment, it could be bill of attainder, it could be due process. I mean all of them are nonsense,” Raskin told host Chuck Todd. “I thought that I successfully demolished them at the trial but, you know, there's no reasoning with people who basically are, you know, acting like members of a religious cult and when they leave office should be selling flowers at Dulles Airport.”
Raskin’s fellow impeachment manager, Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.), expressed similar sentiments on CNN’s “State of the Union,” defending the Democrats' decision not to call witnesses. McConnell, she said, “agreed with us, they all agreed with us … [w]hat we needed we more senators with spines, not more witnesses."
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) similarly said the Senate was “never going to reach” the required two-thirds majority to convict without McConnell’s support. “We were never going to reach 67 votes in the Senate without Mitch McConnell voting guilty. So he went up on the floor afterwards, he basically gave the speech that Jamie Raskin would have given to the Senate, and then tried to justify his vote for acquittal,” Durbin said on “Meet the Press.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), meanwhile, said the trial would serve as a historical referendum on Trump. “It’s not what we accomplished… it’s what our republic accomplished,” Klobuchar said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’ve got to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. To me, this was about not hiding history.”
Trump’s acquittal is a sign of ‘constitutional rot’ – partisanship overriding principles. (The Conversation, February 13, 2021)
In a constitutional democracy, the majority’s authority to govern is limited by the rule of law and by a set of legal rules and principles set out in the Constitution.
Constitutional rot is a condition in which we appear to be formally governed by constitutional rules and the rule of law, but the reality is quite different. When rot sets in, public officials and the public routinely ignore or subvert those rules while sanctimoniously professing fidelity to them.
Constitutional rot is not only a failure of constitutional law — it is a failure of constitutional democracy.
Heather Cox Richardson: Republicans no longer set the terms of the country’s politics. (Letters From An American, February 13, 2021)
McConnell tried to address the party’s capitulation immediately after the vote with a speech blaming Trump for the insurrection and saying that his own vote to acquit was because he does not think the Senate can try a former president. This is posturing, of course; McConnell made sure the Senate did not take up the House’s article of impeachment while Trump was still in office, and now says that, because it did not do so, it does not have jurisdiction.
McConnell is trying to have it both ways. He has made it clear he wants to free the Republican Party from its thralldom to Trump, and he needs to do so in order to regain both voters and the major donors who have distanced themselves from party members who support the big lie. But he needs to keep Trump voters in the party. So he has bowed to the Trump wing in the short term, apparently hoping to retain its goodwill, and then, immediately after the vote, gave a speech condemning Trump to reassure donors that he and the party are still sane. He likely hopes that, as the months go by and the Republicans block President Biden’s plans, alienated voters and donors will come back around to the party. From this perspective, the seven Republican votes to convict Trump provide excellent cover. It’s a cynical strategy and probably the best he can do, but it’s a long shot that it alone will enable the Republicans to regain control of the House and the Senate in 2022. For that, the Republicans need to get rid of Democratic votes.
That need was part of what was behind the party’s support for Trump’s big lie. The essence of that lie was that Trump won the 2020 election because the votes of Democrats, especially people of color, were illegitimate. Republican lawmakers were happy to sign on to that big lie: it is a grander version of their position since 1986. Even now, those Republicans who backed the big lie have not admitted it was false. Instead, they are using the myth of fraudulent Democratic votes to push a massive attack on voting rights before the 2022 election.
But they are no longer setting the terms of the country’s politics. By refusing to engage with the impeachment trial, Biden and his team escaped the trap of letting Trump continue to drive the national narrative. Instead, they are making it a priority to protect voting rights. At the same time, they are pushing back against the Republican justification for voter suppression: that widespread voting leads to Black and Brown voter fraud that elects “socialists” who redistribute money from “makers” to “takers.” Biden’s team is using the government in ways that are popular with voters across the board: right now, for example, 79% of Americans either like Biden’s coronavirus relief package or think it is too small.
It was disheartening today to see that even trying to destroy the American government was not enough to get more than seven Republican senators to convict the former president. But it is not at all clear that tying their party to Trump is a winning strategy.
McConnell unloads on Trump: 'Morally responsible' for provoking mob. (1-min. video; The Hill, February 13, 2021)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Saturday unleashed blistering criticism of former President Trump, blaming him for sparking the attack on the Capitol while also explaining why he didn't vote for a conviction.
McConnell also suggested that Trump could face criminal prosecution for his actions. "There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it. The people that stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president," McConnell said. "And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on the Earth," McConnell added.
McConnell's remarks came after the Senate fell short of the 67 votes needed to convict Trump. Though McConnell voted to acquit him, arguing it fell outside the Senate's jurisdiction, his remarks are a stinging rebuke of Trump's actions and rhetoric.
Thom Hartmann: Did Trump Think His January 6th Mob Had Taken Pence Hostage? (Medium, February 13, 2021)
What if Donald Trump actually hoped that his mob would murder Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi? What if he believed such a crime would create a crisis big enough to let him declare a state of emergency, shut down the government for a transition period through that emergency, and retain his position as President moving into the new year?
Trump on acquittal: MAGA 'has only just begun'. (1-min. video; The Hill, February 13, 2021)
Former President Trump declared victory on Saturday after Senate Republicans voted to acquit him for a second time, saying that his political movement “has only just begun” and that he would have more to share in the near future. “Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun. In the months ahead, I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people,” he said in the statement. Trump thanked his legal team for “upholding justice and defending truth.”
Senators voted 57-43 to convict Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors for “willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” However, a two-thirds vote was needed to find Trump guilty.
NEW: China refused to hand over key data to WHO team probing pandemic’s origin. (Ars Technica, February 13, 2021)
The WHO and investigators offer conflicting accounts of the closely watched probe.
The researchers had requested raw data on 174 of the very first COVID-19 cases identified in Wuhan, China during December 2019, as well as other cases. But the team—assembled by the World Health Organization—was only given a summary of those early cases, according to multiple media reports.
Having such detailed patient data from the start of an outbreak is “standard practice for an outbreak investigation,” Dominic Dwyer, an Australian infectious diseases expert and WHO team member, told Reuters in an interview Saturday. Dwyer emphasized that data on those 174 cases is particularly key because only half of them were connected to the Huanan seafood market, which was initially thought to be the source of the outbreak.
NEW: Humans need to remake the planet yet again, by Elizabeth Kolbert (Boston Globe, February 13, 2021)
Because there’s no going back to nature as it once was, the future will be defined by how wisely we exercise our control over it.
If control is the problem, then, by the logic of the Anthropocene, still more control must be the solution.
Antarctica: Southern Ocean Cools at the Surface but Warms Up at Depth. (SciTechDaily, February 13, 2021)
A comprehensive analysis on the evolution of Southern Ocean temperatures over the last 25 years has concluded that the slight cooling observed at the surface hides a rapid and marked warming of the waters, to a depth of up to 800 meters. The study points to major changes around the polar ice cap where temperatures are increasing by 0.04°C per decade, which could have serious consequences for Antarctic ice. Warm water is also rising rapidly to the surface, at a rate of 39 meters per decade, i.e. between three and ten times more than previously estimated.
Sensors Prepare to Collect Data as Perseverance Enters Mars’ Atmosphere. (NASA, February 12, 2021)
Nearly six and a half months and 300 million miles since launch, NASA’s Perseverance rover will land on Mars about 3:55PM EST on Thursday, Feb. 18th, to begin its robotic exploration of the Red Planet. But before Perseverance touches down on the surface of Mars, it has to achieve a successful entry, descent, and landing (EDL).
Onboard the rover’s protective aeroshell is the Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing Instrumentation 2 (MEDLI2), which will collect critical data about the harsh entry environment during Perseverance’s entry through the planet’s atmosphere. While not used as part of the Mars 2020 controls for this Mars landing, the MEDLI2 data will help improve the designs of entry systems for future robotic and crewed Mars missions.
NEW: Researchers Levitated a Small Tray Using Nothing but Light. (Wired, February 12, 2021)
In the basement of a University of Pennsylvania engineering building, Mohsen Azadi and his labmates huddled around a set of blinding LEDs set beneath an acrylic vacuum chamber. They stared at the lights, their cameras, and what they hoped would soon be some action from the two tiny plastic plates sitting inside the enclosure. “We didn't know what we were expecting to see,” says Azadi, a mechanical engineering PhD candidate. “But we hoped to see something.”
Let’s put it this way: They wanted to see if those plates would levitate, lofted solely by the power of light. Light-induced flow, or photophoresis, isn't a breakthrough on its own. Researchers have used this physical phenomenon to float invisible aerosols and sort particles in microfluidic devices. But they have never before moved an object big enough to grasp—much less lifted anything that can carry objects itself.
And it worked. “When the two samples lifted,” Azadi says, “there was this gasp between all four of us.” The Mylar plates, each as wide as a pencil’s diameter, hovered thanks to nothing but the energy from the light below, according to a paper published today in Science Advances. Energy from the LEDs heats up the Mylar’s specially-coated underbelly, energizing air particles under the plastic and propelling the plates away with a tiny, but mighty, gust.
One day a “magic carpet” based on this light-induced flow technology could carry climate sensors high into the ignorosphere—wind permitting.
[I see the light - and it is uplifting! :-)]
NEW: How ‘killer’ T cells could boost COVID immunity in face of new variants (Nature, February 12, 2021)
In the race against emerging coronavirus variants, researchers are looking beyond antibodies for clues to lasting protection from COVID-19.
NEW: Panspermia: The Mind-Boggling Theory That We Could Be Descended from Martians (13-min. video; Vice, February 12, 2021)
February is a blockbuster month for Mars missions. The United Arab Emirates and China have both arrived successfully in Martian orbit this week, and NASA is due to land its Perseverance rover on the red planet next Thursday. All of these missions are, to some degree, tasked with assessing whether Mars might have hosted life in its distant past, billions of years ago. This question is not only crucial to our understanding of Mars’ habitability, it also has implications for life on Earth: many scientists think that life may have started on Mars first, only to spread to Earth, through a process called panspermia.
Vast Portions of Today’s Sahara Desert Were Green Thousands of Years Ago. (SciTechDaily, February 12, 2021)
Large parts of today’s Sahara Desert were green thousands of years ago. Prehistoric engravings of giraffes and crocodiles testify to this, as does a stone-age cave painting in the desert that even shows swimming humans. However, these illustrations only provide a rough picture of the living conditions. Recently, more detailed insights have been gained from sediment cores extracted from the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya. An international research team examined these cores and discovered that the layers of the seafloor tell the story of major environmental changes in North Africa over the past 160,000 years.
Local Rivalry Over Valentine's Day Card Origins In U.S. (Worcester/MA Patch, February 12, 2021)
Worcester's Esther Howland and Grafton's Jotham Taft both claim to have brought the Valentine's Day staple to the U.S.
Investigators in Fort Worth, TX still picking up pieces of yesterday's 135-car pileup that killed six people. (2-min. video; NBC News, February 12, 2021)
Freezing rain contributed to the smashup.
America's Spy-Busters Put Secret-Stealing Chinese 'Grad Students' Under the Microscope. (RealClear Investigations, February 11, 2021)
The FBI last month arrested Gang Chen, a well-known MIT nanotechnologist, and charged the China-born naturalized American with concealing close and lucrative connections to China's scientific and technological establishment on his applications for federal research grants.
Chen, who has pleaded not guilty and is supported by MIT, is not the only prominent academic figure to be arrested and charged with failing to disclose connections to Chinese research institutes. At least half a dozen have been arrested in the last year or so. They include Charles Lieber, the chair of the Harvard University Chemistry Department, who is accused of concealing his participation in an ambitious, state-sponsored Chinese effort to recruit top scientists and engineers from around the world to work in China. 
The prosecutions illustrate growing American alarm about Chinese technology theft, an important part of China’s effort to supplant the United States both as the dominant military power in Asia and as the world's leader in science and technology. Despite the publicity surrounding the American academics' arrests, U.S. officials and analysts say a particular concern is Chinese graduate school researchers with advanced backgrounds.
An estimated 1,000 Chinese graduate researchers abruptly fled the country and returned to China – apparently, in the view of American officials, because they had concealed their ties to the Chinese military and were afraid of arrest. Still, 1,000 researchers represent a tiny fraction of the 360,000 Chinese nationals enrolled in American colleges and universities, many of whom, perhaps the large majority of whom, are engaged in activities above reproach.
NEW: Darius Foroux: The Stoic Path to Wealth (Medium, February 11, 2021)
An ancient investing strategy for the modern world.
The Unlikeliest Pandemic Success Story (The Atlantic, February 10, 2021)
How did a tiny, poor nation manage to suffer only one death from the coronavirus?
Breached Florida water plant employees used the same TeamViewer password and no firewall. (Ars Technica, February 10, 2021)
Shortcomings illustrate the lack of security rigor in critical infrastructure environments. The computer intrusion happened last Friday in Oldsmar, a Florida city of about 15,000 that’s roughly 15 miles northwest of Tampa. After gaining remote access to a computer that controlled equipment inside the Oldsmar water treatment plant, the unknown intruder increased the amount of sodium hydroxide—a caustic chemical better known as lye—by a factor of 100. The tampering could have caused severe sickness or death had it not been for safeguards the city has in place.
Congressional scrutiny heats up of government response to the SolarWinds hack. (Washington Post, February 10, 2021)
The House Homeland Security Committee will today hold its first cybersecurity hearing of 2021. The hearing comes as scrutiny heats up of the government's response to a massive Russian hack of government systems exposed in December. Russian actors were able to exploit a vulnerability in SolarWinds products and other software to infiltrate the networks of at least eight government agencies and potentially thousands of other companies and governments around the world. Lawmakers will be looking for answers as to why, despite significant investments in federal network security, Russians managed to lurk unnoticed in government systems for months. Lawmakers are working with other key committees to learn more about the campaign.
Also likely to come up is a recent hack of a Florida town's water supply, a committee spokesperson said. The attempted poisoning of the water supply by a hacker has raised alarm about serious vulnerabilities in U.S. critical infrastructure.
“Today we will be discussing what I hope will be a bipartisan endeavor — making cyberspace more secure and networks more resilient,” Thompson said. “Thankfully, after four years, Congress now has a willing and able cybersecurity partner in the White House. I am optimistic about the progress we can make but we must work quickly to make up for lost time.”
The impeachment managers have sealed off Republicans’ escape hatches. (5-min. video; Washington Post, February 10, 2021)
The House impeachment managers moved efficiently on Wednesday to close off the escape hatches and back doors for Senate Republicans. Quietly but passionately, they put the lie to the sham alibis that weak and cowardly members of the GOP are likely to invoke if they decide to do Donald Trump’s bidding one more time.
Those who vote to acquit the former president will now own it all: The incendiary speech that made the nation’s capital a killing ground but also the months of incitement and lying that built up to the violence. They will own the threats against elected officials who refused to cheat on Trump’s behalf, the attacks on Black voters in big cities, and the savage mendacity of his all-caps tweets. Voting to acquit will mean joining in Trump’s rejection of the democratic obligation to accept the outcome of a free election and in his declarations even before the voting began that this was a “rigged” and “stolen” contest.
The impeachment trial gets off to a rough start for Donald Trump. (New York Times, February 10, 2021)
The first day did not go well for Trump’s team. Most Americans believe that he incited a violent mob to attack Congress and that he should never hold office again. His lawyers didn’t do much to change that perception yesterday.
Trump’s second impeachment is different: Most Americans believe the Senate should convict Trump and disqualify him from holding office again, according to multiple polls. In our deeply polarized country, even a narrow majority of public opinion is significant. It indicates that a meaningful number of people have crossed over to the other side of a debate. In the CBS poll, for example, 21 percent of Republican voters said they believed Trump had encouraged violence during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. (A new Times video lays out the many lies he told about the election, feeding the crowd’s anger.
Representative Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrat leading the prosecution, opened with a video montage showing both the Jan. 6 attack and Trump’s words during that day. (You can watch it here.) Raskin later delivered an impassioned argument recalling his own experience that day. “All around me, people were calling their wives and their husbands, their loved ones to say goodbye,” Raskin said. “Senators, this cannot be our future. This cannot be the future of America. We cannot have presidents inciting and mobilizing mob violence against our government and our institutions because they refuse to accept the will of the people.”
Raskin and other Democratic managers also said that Trump’s lawyers were creating a dangerous precedent by arguing the trial was invalid because Trump was no longer in office. If that were true, the end of every president’s time in office would turn into a “January exception” when he would be immune from consequences for his actions.
The performance of Trump’s lawyers received mostly dreadful reviews. Trump himself was furious while watching the proceedings from Palm Beach, Fla., my colleague Maggie Haberman reported. And several of Trump’s Senate allies — including Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham — criticized his lawyers’ case as ineffective. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, called the prosecutors’ case focused, organized and compelling. “President Trump’s team were disorganized,” Cassidy added. “They did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand, and when they talked about it, they kind of glided over it, almost as if they were embarrassed of their arguments.” Carl Hulse, The Times’s chief Washington correspondent, noted that the Trump team’s strategy had changed from his last impeachment. “I haven’t heard either of the president’s lawyers say he did nothing wrong,” Carl wrote. “This is a process argument and the Trump team wants to stay away from what happened on Jan. 6 as much as possible.”
Heather Cox Richardson: The people who are really on trial are the 50 Republican senators judging Trump’s guilt. (Letters From An American, February 9, 2021)
The goal behind impeachment, Neguse said, is to guarantee accountability and stop corruption. There is, he said, no merit to Trump’s claim that he can incite an insurrection and then insist weeks later that the Senate lacks power to hold a trial. 
Like Raskin and Neguse, Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) emphasized that there is no “January exception” to the Constitution. He pointed out that Trump committed a terrible constitutional offense when he incited an armed angry mob to riot in the Capitol.
Cicilline also pointed out that Trump did not back down. At the end of that fateful day, Trump tweeted: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” It is no wonder Trump’s lawyers want to talk about jurisdiction rather than facts, he said.
The goal for the defense today was simply to give cover to Republicans who wanted to avoid voting on the merits of the case by giving them room to dismiss the case on the grounds it was unconstitutional. Trump's new lawyers did not give them that cover. At the end of the presentations, the Senate voted that it was constitutional to proceed with the trial by a vote of 56 to 44. Six Republicans, one more than had voted yes on a similar vote in Congress, joined the Democratic majority. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) said the defense lawyers had not provided a convincing argument that such a trial was unconstitutional. When pressed by reporters about why he thought the defense was poor, he said: “Did you listen to it? It was disorganized, random—they talked about many things, but they didn’t talk about the issue at hand.”
The defense lawyers’ problem, of course, is that they are being asked to defend the indefensible. They know it; we know it; Republican senators who have been defended Trump know it. If Republican senators permit Trump to get away with the big lie, it must, logically, take over the Republican Party. It’s no wonder that he lost his first defense team because he insisted they use their media time to argue that he had won the election in a landslide. Trump is not trying to win just this trial: he is trying to win control of the Republican Party and, through it, the country.
Thom Hartmann: The Real Reason the GOP Supports a Lying, Corrupt, Narcissistic, Failed Real Estate Hustler and Reality TV Star. (Medium, February 10, 2021)
The Senate Trial: Will support for an unrepentant traitor be the final straw?
In the last half of the 1700s and early half of the 1800s, American conservatives promoted and clung to slavery; they even fought a Civil War to preserve it.
Throughout the second half of the 1800s and into the first half of the 20th century, American conservatives fought to keep racial segregation and to stop the rise of labor unions, all on behalf of the “billionaires” of their era, popularly called the Robber Barons.
From the 1960s to today, American conservatives have fought to let modern billionaires and big corporations run our economy and our political system, further cementing their power over America‘s working class.
“Lower taxes and deregulation,” racially specific “law and order,” and “small government” were their singular mantras, all in service of the uber-rich and giant, monopolistic corporations.
Now, with Trump’s impeachment trial, Americas conservatives have turned their efforts from protecting their rich patrons to protecting the dynasty of a lying, corrupt, narcissistic, failed real estate hustler and reality TV star.
Some suggest that the GOP “has lost their soul,” but conservatives in America, having called themselves by various political names over the years, never really had a soul.
Thom Hartmann: If The Senate Trial Doesn’t Blow Up The GOP’s Big Lie — Democracy Is Doomed. (Medium, February 9, 2021)
It’s about more than just the impeachment of Trump.
Republicans are arguing today that impeaching Donald Trump after he has left office is unconstitutional and makes no sense…because he’s left office. This just proves that they’re operating in the interest of politics rather than the United States, and a couple of simple data points blow their argument all to hell.
First, Donald Trump was in office when he was impeached, and the House tried to send the impeachment to the Senate for trial while Trump was still president. Mitch McConnell refused to accept the referral then, saying he wouldn’t hold the trial until the day after Trump left office. Now McConnell is saying that because Trump has left office the trial shouldn’t happen at all, a situation himself himself set up!
That is such a clear demonstration of bad faith, of cynical manipulation, of politicians unwilling to do what’s best for our nation, that it’s laughable…and tragic. That the Republicans in the Senate are even making such an argument should shock Americans. It definitely demonstrates that most Republicans in the Senate would rather throw in with a fascist cult leader than with the bedrock principles of the Constitution and the needs of the American people, who were largely ignored while almost a half-million of us died unnecessarily in a pandemic that Donald Trump out of laziness, stupidity or malice totally botched.
And impeachment is about more than just removal from office: it’s about justice, accountability and deterrence of future criminality or treason in the White House.
Video stirs emotions on second Trump trial's first day. (1-min. video; The Hill, February 9, 2021)
House Democrats on Tuesday launched their impeachment case against former President  Trump with a stirring video montage of violence and mayhem at the Capitol on Jan. 6 — a highly charged opening salvo, stripped of all subtlety, that at once implicated the former president in the deadly attack and heightened the pressure on Republicans to convict him. The 13-minute video, introduced by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead impeachment manager, featured a sampling of Trump’s fiery rhetoric leading up to the deadly siege, mashed up with scenes of mob violence in and around the Capitol building in the subsequent hours.
NEW: New research finds 1 out of 5 deaths around the world were caused by fossil fuels in 2018. (The Hill, February 9, 2021)
A study looks at the relationship between pollution exposure and human health outcomes.
'Invisible killer': fossil fuels caused 8.7m deaths globally in 2018. (The Guardian, February 9, 2021)
Air pollution from power plants, vehicles and other sources accounted for one in five of all deaths that year, more detailed analysis reveals. Countries with the most prodigious consumption of fossil fuels to power factories, homes and vehicles are suffering the highest death tolls, with the study finding more than one in 10 deaths in both the US and Europe were caused by the resulting pollution, along with nearly a third of deaths in eastern Asia, which includes China. Death rates in South America and Africa were significantly lower.
NEW: WHO team rejects lab origin of coronavirus, focuses on animals, frozen food. (Ars Technica, February 9, 2021)
Meanwhile, China still clings to possibility the virus originated in another country.
China Scores a Public Relations Win After First W.H.O. Mission to Wuhan to Study the Origins of the Coronavirus Pandemic. (New York Times, February 9, 2021)
Experts with the global health agency endorsed critical parts of Beijing’s narrative, even some parts that independent scientists question.
The team did not report major breakthroughs but said it had found important clues. The virus was circulating in Wuhan several weeks before it appeared at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where some of the earliest clusters were initially reported, the experts said. It most likely emerged in bats and spread to humans through another small mammal, though the experts said they have not been able to identify the species.
When it comes to their own pandemic precautions, state legislatures in the U.S. are all over the map. (New York Times, February 8, 2021)
Nearly a year into the coronavirus crisis, with no national standard for legislating during a pandemic, lawmakers in state capitals around the country are grappling with how to carry out a new season of sessions. A partisan pattern has emerged, but there remains a patchwork of shifting, inconsistent rules about where to meet, how the public can take part, and what to do about masks.
In at least 28 states, masks are required on the floors of both legislative chambers, according to a New York Times survey of legislatures in every state; 17 of the 28 states are controlled by Democrats. Legislatures in at least 18 states, including 15 that are Republican-controlled, do not require masks on the floor in at least one chamber. In the three state legislatures where party control is divided, one is requiring masks and two are not.
This Aurora 7 laptop has seven times the average number of screens. (4-min. video; The Verge, February 8, 2021)
Behold, a multitasker’s dream device.
[And the least portable portable in many years.]
NEW: Can The FBI Hack Into Private Signal Messages On A Locked iPhone?Evidence Indicates Yes. (Forbes, February 8, 2021)
The evidence indicates not only that Signal had been decrypted on the phone, but that the extraction was done in “partial AFU.” That latter acronym stands for “after first unlock” and describes an iPhone in a certain state: an iPhone that is locked but that has been unlocked once and not turned off. An iPhone in this state is more susceptible to having data inside extracted because encryption keys are stored in memory. Any hackers or hacking devices with the right iPhone vulnerabilities could then piece together keys and start unlocking private data inside the device.
Beyond the !Kung (Aeon, February 8, 2021)
A grand research project created our origin myth that early human societies were all egalitarian, mobile and small-scale.
NEW: Brain’s ‘Background Noise’ May Hold Clues to Persistent Mysteries. (Quanta, February 8, 2021)
By digging out signals hidden within the brain’s electrical chatter, scientists are getting new insights into sleep, aging, and more.
Superb Owl Sunday V (The Atlantic, February 7, 2021)
A special Sunday event: our fifth annual photographic essay celebrating these magnificent birds of prey. If you have some time today before the big game (or are skipping the event entirely), I invite you to take a look; as always, it was a hoot to put this together.
(Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.)
The First Steps Toward a Quantum Brain: An Intelligent Material That Learns by Physically Changing Itself (SciTechDaily, February 6, 2021)
An intelligent material that learns by physically changing itself, similar to how the human brain works, could be the foundation of a completely new generation of computers. Radboud physicists working toward this so-called “quantum brain” have made an important step. They have demonstrated that they can pattern and interconnect a network of single atoms, and mimic the autonomous behavior of neurons and synapses in a brain.
NEW: U.S. Navy Has Patents on Tech It Says Will ‘Engineer the Fabric of Reality’. (Vice, February 5, 2021)
The U.S. Navy’s “UFO patents” sound like they’ve been ripped from a science fiction novel.
Swift, TESS Catch Eruptions from an Active Galaxy. (2-min. and 1-min. videos; SciTechDaily, February 5, 2021)
Using data from facilities including NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), scientists have studied 20 instances and counting of regular outbursts of an event called ASASSN-14ko.   
The Coronavirus Is a Master of Mixing Its Genome, Worrying Scientists. (New York Times, February 5, 2021)
New studies underscore how coronaviruses frequently mix their genetic components — which could contribute to the rise of dangerous variants.
Marjorie Taylor Greene isn’t here to legislate. She’s here to live-stream. (Washington Post, February 5, 2021)
The QAnon movement got to Congress. It has no idea what to do next.
Fox News cancels Lou Dobbs’ show; pro-Trump host not expected to be back on air. (Los Angeles Times, February 5, 2021)
Fox News Media has canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” the program hosted by television’s staunchest supporter of Donald Trump and of his assertions of voter fraud in the 2020 election, The Times has learned. Dobbs’ program, which airs twice nightly at 5 and 7 p.m. Eastern on the Fox Business Network, will have its final airing tonight, and without his presence. Starting next week, the program will be called “Fox Business Tonight,” with rotating substitute hosts Jackie DeAngelis and David Asman, who filled in for Dobbs on Friday.
The cancellation comes a day after voting software company Smartmatic filed a $2.7-billion defamation suit against Fox News and three of its hosts — Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro. The company claims the hosts perpetuated lies and disinformation about Smartmatic’s role in the election, damaging its business and reputation.
Fox News said it stands by its 2020 election coverage and will “defend this meritless lawsuit in court."
They Stormed the Capitol. Their Apps Tracked Them. (New York Times, February 5, 2021)
Times Opinion was able to identify individuals from a trove of leaked smartphone location data. The data we were given included about 100,000 location pings for thousands of smartphones, revealing around 130 devices inside the Capitol exactly when Trump supporters were storming the building.
The data presented here is a bird’s-eye view of an event that posed a clear and grave threat to our democracy. But it tells a second story as well: One of a broken, surreptitious industry in desperate need of regulation, and of a tacit agreement we’ve entered into that threatens our individual privacy. None of this data should ever have been collected.
Movie at the Ellipse: A Study in Fascist Propaganda (2-min. video; Just Security, February 4, 2021)
On January 6, Trump supporters gathered at a rally at Washington DC’s Ellipse Park, regaled by various figures from Trump world, including Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani. Directly following Giuliani’s speech, the organizers played a video. To a scholar of fascist propaganda, well-versed in the history of the National Socialist’s pioneering use of videos in political propaganda, it was clear, watching it, what dangers it portended. In it, we see themes and tactics that history warns pose a violent threat to liberal democracy. Given the aims of fascist propaganda – to incite and mobilize – the events that followed were predictable.
Increasingly central to Trumpism is the QAnon conspiracy theory, which, as many commentators have now pointed out, closely resembles Nazi anti-Semitic myths. QAnon is just the most obvious manifestation of the increasing parallels between Trumpism and Hitler’s framework itself. Indeed, several contemporary fascist and white supremacist movements find similar roots in the framework Hitler developed, even if they did not culminate in such extreme actions as the Nazis.
WOW! The Intro to Smartmatic's Lawsuit Against Fox News Reads Like a Riveting Crime Novel. (Daily Kos, February 4, 2021)
The voting technology company Smartmatic has now filed a lawsuit against the proponents of Trump's election fraud fictions. They include Fox News, Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro, and Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. The introduction to the lawsuit reads like a captivating tale of political intrigue and depravity that rivals any great work of literature.
[Pertinent factoid: In February 2016, Trump made this (subsequently unfulfilled) promise: If elected president, Trump told supporters in Fort Worth, Texas, he would "open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money."]
Drinking Coffee, Green Tea Lowers Risk of Death for Heart Attack and Stroke Survivors. (SciTechDaily, February 4, 2021)
Stroke survivors who drank seven or more cups of green tea each day lowered their risks of multiple causes of death by 62%.
Drinking one cup of coffee each day lowered the risks of death for heart attack survivors and for those without a history of stroke or heart attack.
Fauci warns against Super Bowl parties to avoid virus spread. (Associated Press, February 3, 2021)
The nation’s top infectious disease expert doesn’t want Sunday's Super Bowl to turn into a super spreader. Dr. Anthony Fauci, says when it comes to Super Bowl parties during the pandemic, people should “just lay low and cool it.” He said during TV interviews Wednesday that now isn’t the time to invite people over for watch parties, because of the possibility that they’re infected with the coronavirus and could sicken others.
[As happened following Thanksgiving and Christmas. At least half of us appear to be below average in intelligence - and proud of it.]
New Fastener With Microscopic Mushroom Shapes Could Be an Improved Version of Velcro. (SciTechDaily, February 3, 2021)
Probabilistic fasteners work because they are designed with a tiny pattern on one surface that interlocks with features on the other surface. Currently available fasteners, like Velcro and 3M, are called hook and loop fasteners. That design requires harder, stiff material, which is what causes the loud ripping sound when they are peeled off and why they can damage delicate surfaces, such as fabrics, when attached to them.
A Velcro-like fastener with a microscopic design that looks like tiny mushrooms could mean advances for everyday consumers and scientific fields like robotics. Researchers from Wageningen University in the Netherlands show how the design can use softer materials and still be strong enough to work.
Discoveries at the Edge of the Periodic Table: First Ever Measurements of Einsteinium Reveals Unexpected Properties. (SciTechDaily, February 3, 2021)
Since element 99 — einsteinium — was discovered in 1952 at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) from the debris of the first hydrogen bomb, scientists have performed very few experiments with it because it is so hard to create and is exceptionally radioactive. A team of Berkeley Lab chemists has overcome these obstacles to report the first study characterizing some of its properties, opening the door to a better understanding of the remaining transuranic elements of the actinide series. With less than 250 nanograms of the element, the team measured the first-ever einsteinium bond distance, a basic property of an element’s interactions with other atoms and molecules. The researchers also discovered some physical chemistry behavior that was different from what would be expected from the actinide series, which are the elements on the bottom row of the periodic table.
Once scientists have this picture of the atomic arrangement of a molecule that incorporates einsteinium, they can try to find interesting chemical properties and improve understanding of periodic trends withing the whole actinide series. And in that series are elements or isotopes that are useful for nuclear power production or radiopharmaceuticals.
Tantalizingly, this research also offers the possibility of exploring what is beyond the edge of the periodic table, and possibly discovering a new element - similar to the latest elements that were discovered in the past 10 years, like tennessine, which used a berkelium target. If you were to be able to isolate enough pure einsteinium to make a target, you could start looking for other elements and get closer to the (theorized) island of stability, where nuclear physicists have predicted isotopes may have half-lives of minutes or even days, instead of the microsecond or less half-lives that are common in the superheavy elements.
The origins of the filibuster—and how it came to exasperate the U.S. Senate (National Geographic, February 2, 2021)
The concept of making marathon speeches to block legislation has been around since ancient Rome. But U.S. lawmakers have made this tactic notorious—and created a new form of "stealth" filibusters.
Appropriately, its name comes from a Dutch word for “pirate”—because the filibuster is, in essence, a hijacking of debate in the U.S. Senate. It’s also one of the most controversial traditions in American politics.
Damning Timeline Of Trump Tweets And Calls On January 6th. (Daily Kos, February 2, 2021)
I originally prepared this timeline in response to someone who claimed Trump ‘immediately” condemned the violence on January 6th. That’s false. Throughout the riot, and even into the night, Trump endorsed it, egged it on and, even as it ended, justified it. All while he and his attorney continued to lobby Senators to further delay the count of the electoral college beyond what the riot had accomplished.
New Research Shows Sea Level Will Rise Faster Than Previously Thought. (SciTechDaily, February 2, 2021)
There are two main elements to observe when assessing sea level rise. One is the loss of the ice on land, e.g., melting mountain glaciers and inland ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica, and the other is that the sea will expand as it gets warmer. The more its temperature increases, the faster the sea will rise.
Researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen have constructed a new method of quantifying just how fast the sea will react to warming. The level of the sea is monitored meticulously, and we can compare the responsiveness in models with historical data. The comparison shows that former predictions of sea level have been too conservative, so the sea will likely rise more and faster than previously believed.
Temperature, Humidity & Wind Predict Second Wave of COVID-19 Pandemic. (SciTechDaily, February 2, 2021)
Though face masks, travel restrictions, and social distancing guidelines help slow the number of new infections in the short term, the lack of climate effects incorporated into epidemiological models presents a glaring hole that can cause long-term effects. In Physics of Fluids, from AIP Publishing, Talib Dbouk and Dimitris Drikakis, from the University of Nicosia in Cyprus, discuss the impacts of these parameters.
Typical models for predicting the behavior of an epidemic contain only two basic parameters, transmission rate and recovery rate. These rates tend to be treated as constants, but Dbouk and Drikakis said this is not actually the case. Temperature, relative humidity, and wind speed all play a significant role, so the researchers aimed to modify typical models to account for these climate conditions. They call their new weather-dependent variable the Airborne Infection Rate index.
When they applied the AIR index to models of Paris, New York City, and Rio de Janeiro, they found it accurately predicted the timing of the second outbreak in each city, suggesting two outbreaks per year is a natural, weather-dependent phenomenon. Further, the behavior of the virus in Rio de Janeiro was markedly different from the behavior of the virus in Paris and New York, due to seasonal variations in the northern and southern hemispheres, consistent with real data.
The authors emphasize the importance of accounting for these seasonal variations when designing safety measures.
Paul Krugman: GOP says COVID-19 bill is too big. (New York Times, February 2, 2021)
The Republican counteroffer to Joe Biden’s proposed rescue package is grotesquely inadequate. While the Republican offering is criminally underpowered, however, is it possible that Biden’s plan overdoes it? Could the extensive aid to families, businesses, and state and local governments end up being more than needed?
Yes, it could, although we don’t know that for sure; it depends on how long the pandemic lasts, and how quickly the economy rebounds once we get herd immunity. Maybe we’re overdoing it, maybe not. While the rescue plan might overshoot, there’s not much harm if it does. On the other hand, an inadequate plan would lead to vast, unnecessary suffering. So we actually want the plan to be bigger than we expect we’ll need, just in case.
The Second COVID-19 Shot Is a Rude Reawakening for Immune Cells. (The Atlantic, February 2, 2021)
Side effects are a natural part of the vaccination process, just a sign that protection is kicking in as it should. Not everyone will experience them. But the two COVID-19 vaccines cleared for emergency use in the United States, made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, already have reputations for raising the hackles of the immune system: In both companies’ clinical trials, at least a third of the volunteers ended up with symptoms such as headaches and fatigue; fevers were less common.
Dose No. 2 is more likely to pack a punch—in large part because the effects of the second shot build iteratively on the first.
Senate Democrats take first step toward big COVID-19 bill. (The Hill, February 2, 2021)
Senate Democrats took a first step on Tuesday toward passing a coronavirus relief bill — with or without GOP support. The Senate voted 50-49 to proceed to a budget resolution that greenlights passing a separate coronavirus relief bill through reconciliation, avoiding a 60-vote legislative filibuster.
The House is expected to pass its budget resolution on Wednesday. The Senate will now need to go through tens of hours of debate and a marathon session known as a vote-a-rama, before they can hold a final vote on the budget resolution
COVID-19 has prompted new cooperation among rival hospitals. (Boston Globe, February 2, 2021)
In a state with a famously competitive health care market, the unrelenting coronavirus pandemic has compelled hospitals across Massachusetts to do something they’ve never had to do at this scale: work together to get through a crisis that threatened to overwhelm them. The collaboration is largely about managing the flow of patients, but it also includes sharing advice about treatments and vaccinations.
Suspected Chinese hackers used SolarWinds bug to spy on U.S. payroll agency. (2-min. video; Reuters, February 2, 2021)
Suspected Chinese hackers exploited a flaw in software made by SolarWinds Corp to help break into U.S. government computers last year, five people familiar with the matter told Reuters, marking a new twist in a sprawling cybersecurity breach that U.S. lawmakers have labeled a national security emergency.
The software flaw exploited by the suspected Chinese group is separate from the one the United States has accused Russian government operatives of using to compromise up to 18,000 SolarWinds customers, including sensitive federal agencies, by hijacking the company’s Orion network monitoring software. Security researchers have previously said a second group of hackers was abusing SolarWinds’ software at the same time as the alleged Russian hack, but the suspected connection to China and ensuing U.S. government breach have not been previously reported.
The NFC is responsible for handling the payroll of multiple government agencies, including several involved in national security, such as the FBI, State Department, Homeland Security Department and Treasury Department. Records held by the NFC include federal employee social security numbers, phone numbers and personal email addresses as well as banking information. On its website, the NFC says it “services more than 160 diverse agencies, providing payroll services to more than 600,000 Federal employees.”
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny jailed. (Politico, February 2, 2021)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was on Tuesday sentenced to more than two-and-a-half years in prison on charges that he violated probation while he was recuperating in Germany after being poisoned. Navalny was arrested on January 17 upon his return from Germany where he was treated after the attack with a nerve agent, which he has blamed on the Kremlin.
There was a heavy riot police presence outside the Moscow City Court, and more than 250 people who had come to support the Kremlin critic were detained, according to data from the OVD police monitoring website.
"Why are you lying and misleading the court?", Navalny asked in the courtroom.
Complex Mechanics of the Evolution of the Universe: The Secrets of 3,000 Galaxies Laid Bare (4-min. video: SciTechDaily, February 2, 2021)
The complex mechanics determining how galaxies spin, grow, cluster and die have been revealed following the release of all the data gathered during a massive seven-year Australian-led astronomy research project. The project used bundles of optical fibers to capture and analyze bands of colors, or spectra, at multiple points in each galaxy. The results allowed astronomers from around the world to explore how these galaxies interacted with each other, and how they grew, sped up, or slowed down over time.
Two Scientists Have Figured Out What Caused Saturn’s Tilt. (SciTechDaily, February 2, 2021)
Rather like David versus Goliath, it appears that Saturn’s tilt may in fact be caused by its moons. Recent observations have shown that Titan and the other moons are gradually moving away from Saturn much faster than astronomers had previously estimated. By incorporating this increased migration rate into their calculations, the researchers concluded that this process affects the inclination of Saturn’s rotation axis: as its satellites move further away, the planet tilts more and more.
NEW: What Is the Scientific Method and How Did It Shape Science? (Discover, February 2, 2021)
How careful observation, strict reasoning and clever hypotheses guided the great human endeavor of science.
Around the turn of the 6th century B.C., beside the Aegean Sea in the city of Miletus, the first Greek philosopher concluded that “all is water.” His name was Thales. His pupil, Anaximander, disagreed — he believed the underlying substance of the universe was “indefinite stuff.” His own student, Anaximenes, thought it was air.
These ideas seem fantastic, but in them the scientific mind is taking root. They’re arguably the first competing hypotheses, marking “a shift away from mythological explanations,” says Brian Hepburn, a philosopher of science at Wichita State University. Setting aside gods and supernatural forces, these philosophers instead base their understanding of nature on observation. In other words, they employ a rudimentary form of what we now call scientific method.
for all its success, and all the legend surrounding it, this blueprint for knowledge-gathering isn’t as simple as it appears in textbooks. For 500 years scientists and philosophers have argued over how it ought to work, and these days many question whether it even makes sense to search for the scientific method — history suggests there are many.ence, science? The details vary tremendously across time, space and field of study. For Aristotle, its foundation was passive observation of nature. In the modern age, it often involves experimentation, too. Besides these, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the most common elements are “inductive and deductive reasoning, and the formation and testing of hypotheses and theories.”
357,000-Year-Old Abrading Tool Unearthed in Israel. (Sci-News, February 1, 2021)
The 357,000-year-old abrader found in the Lower Paleolithic layers of Tabun Cave in Israel is the earliest documented artifact of its kind.
Myanmar army takes power in coup as Aung San Suu Kyi detained. (The Guardian, February 1, 2021)
Military has previously threatened to ‘take action’ over alleged fraud in a November election.
NEW: It’s Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Party Now. (New York Times, February 1, 2021)
She embarrasses some Republicans, but she’s no outlier.
Steve King, the Republican former congressman from Iowa, must feel robbed. Two years ago, he was stripped of all his committee assignments after asking, in an interview with The New York Times, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” The Republican Party threw its weight behind King’s primary challenger, and he was whisked off the national stage, no longer to embarrass colleagues who prefer that racist demagogy be performed with enough finesse to allow for plausible deniability.
Since then, standards have changed. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, is every bit as bigoted as King, and 10 times as unhinged. By now, you’ve surely heard her theory that California wildfires might have been caused by a space laser controlled by Jewish bankers. That wasn’t Greene’s first foray into anti-Semitism; in 2018 she shared a notorious white nationalist video in which a Holocaust denier claimed that “Zionist supremacists have schemed to promote immigration and miscegenation.”
Recently, Greene met with a far-right British commentator, Katie Hopkins, who has described migrants as “cockroaches” and said she doesn’t care if they die. Greene told her, “I would love to trade you for some of our white people here that have no appreciation for our country.” She described the results of the 2018 midterms as “an Islamic invasion of our government.” Greene endorsed calls for the execution of prominent Democrats and agreed with Facebook posts claiming that the Parkland and Sandy Hook school shootings were hoaxes. She harassed one of the Parkland massacre’s young survivors.
As it happens, this week House Republicans are seeking to punish a prominent woman in their ranks — but it’s not Greene. A big chunk of the House Republican caucus is reportedly trying to oust Liz Cheney of Wyoming from leadership because she voted to impeach Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection.
On Monday Politico reported that if Republicans don’t strip Greene of committee assignments, Democrats will try to do it, bringing the issue to the House floor. Republican members will have the chance to distance themselves from her. If they don’t, it will be because they know she belongs.
McConnell says Taylor Greene's embrace of conspiracy theories a 'cancer' to GOP, country. (The Hill, February 1, 2021)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday blasted Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s embrace of “loony lies and conspiracy theories” as a “cancer for the Republican Party.” “Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality,” McConnell said. “This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party.”
With Greene ultimatum, Democrats force Republicans to decide whether they want to be the QAnon party. (Daily Kos, February 1, 2021)
The new QAnon extremist in the House, Georgia Republican Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene, wore out her welcome with fellow members in about a week's time. Now House leadership is ready to step in where Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has failed, doing something to keep this dangerous member constrained. Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is filing a resolution to remove Greene from her committee assignments because of her "repulsive" comments and behavior. "If Republicans won't police their own, the House must step in," she told reporters Monday.
That's the first step of an ultimatum Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is giving McCarthy. If he doesn't move to strip her of her committee assignments within 72 hours, the resolution comes to the floor and every single Republican will have to vote on it, showing whether they're standing with QAnon or not. So far, McCarthy has only said he'll have a "conversation" with her, and she's vowed to "never apologize."
Former Bush officials leave GOP over failure to disown Trump. (The Hill, February 1, 2021)
Dozens of members of former President George W. Bush's administration are reportedly planning to leave the Republican Party following the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, citing the party's ongoing embrace of former President Trump. Sources told Reuters that as many as 60 former officials would leave the party in the coming days, with at least one also citing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's (R-Ga.) promotion of conspiracy theories as a reason for their exit.
Court tosses Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule. (The Hill, February 1, 2021)
A federal court has vacated the Trump administration's "secret science" Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule, which critics had said would undermine the use of public health studies in agency rulemaking. The decision comes after the Biden administration asked the court to throw out the rule restricting the EPA’s use of studies that don’t make their underlying data publicly available.
Trump administration officials had billed it as a transparency measure and a way to combat "secret science." Opponents warned that it could hamstring the use of major health studies that keep their data under wraps for legitimate reasons including privacy.
An EPA spokesperson said in an email that the agency was "pleased" with the decision to vacate the rule. "EPA is committed to making evidence-based decisions and developing policies and programs that are guided by the best science," the spokesperson said.
Environmentalist groups that had sued over the rule also celebrated the court order.
After exhibiting signs of integrity, Trump's impeachment lawyers simply had to go. (Daily Kos, February 1, 2021)
Donald Trump repels integrity of any kind. Anyone who exhibits even a smidge of it must be immediately stricken from his presence, which is exactly what happened this weekend with Trump's top impeachment lawyers.
Trump has been insisting that his impeachment defense center around the big lie that he won the election and it was stolen from him. Karl "Butch" Bowers Jr. and four other lawyers on Trump's defense team abruptly quit over the weekend because they refused to mount his defense on a gigantic lie, according to The Washington Post. Instead, they had pushed to make the case that trying a president who was no longer in office was unconstitutional, reinforcing an argument that most mainstream legal scholars reject but that was nonetheless embraced last week by the 45 GOP senators who voted against proceeding with the trial.
Physicists Surprise Discovery: Intracluster Light May Provide a New Way to Measure Dark Matter. (SciTechDaily, February 1, 2021)
A combination of observational data and sophisticated computer simulations have yielded advances in a field of astrophysics that has languished for half a century. The Dark Energy Survey, which is hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, has published a burst of new results on what’s called intracluster light, or ICL, a faint type of light found inside galaxy clusters. The first burst of new, precision ICL measurements appeared in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal in April 2019. Another appeared more recently in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. In a surprise finding of the latter, DES physicists discovered new evidence that ICL might provide a new way to measure a mysterious substance called dark matter.
The source of ICL appears to be rogue stars, those not gravitationally bound to any galaxy. The ICL has long been suspected of possibly being a significant component of clusters of galaxies, but its faintness makes it difficult to measure. No one knows how much there is or to what extent it has spread through galaxy clusters. “Observationally we confirmed that intracluster light is a pretty good radial tracer of dark matter. That means that where intracluster light is relatively bright, the dark matter is relatively dense,” said Fermilab scientist Yuanyuan Zhang, who led both studies. “Just measuring the ICL itself is pretty exciting. The dark matter part is a bonus.”
Internet Transparency; Real Change How? (Internet Health Report, January 31, 2021)
[The 2020 Internet Health Report from Mozilla.org is worth reading.]
Scottish parliament to vote on pursuing 'Unexplained Wealth Order' into how Donald Trump financed his golf resorts in the country. (Daily Mail, January 31, 2021)
Scotland's government could investigate Donald Trump's Scottish assets . MSPs are set to vote on whether to pursue an Unexplained Wealth Order.
Biden reverses Trump last-minute attempt to freeze $27.4 billion in programs. (The Hill, January 31, 2021)
Trump had moved, with less than a week left in his term, to freeze the billions in federal funding using a budget maneuver called rescission. The 73 budget reductions that Trump had called for were spread across almost every Cabinet-level agency and mostly lined up with his proposed cuts to domestic program spending in the 2021 federal budget that were rejected by Congress.
“I am withdrawing 73 proposed rescissions previously transmitted to the Congress,” Biden said in the letter.
It's Happening! 'Proud Boys' And 'Oath Keepers' Get Federal Charges UPGRADED To... CONSPIRACY!! (Daily Kos, January 31, 2021)
It’s not easy being an FBI Agent lately, sorting through mountains of evidence and sifting through tens of thousands of tips; but our intrepid federal officers remain undaunted in bringing those responsible for attacking our democracy to justice.
Trump's biggest advocate for election fraud refuses audit of her own election after major error. (Daily Dos, January 30, 2021)
Kelli Ward was challenged for state chair of the Arizona Republican Party by numerous people. With Trump’s backing, Ward won—barely—with just 42 votes. However, doubts began to emerge when one of the announced winners for another race, a committee member from the 8th Congressional District, was falsely told that she had lost her race.  Kelli Ward attributed it to “human error.”
The four challengers for the chair asked Ward for an audit of the ballots. Ward should have been for that, since those were very similar words she used when demanding an audit of Arizona’s presidential results. Yet in a video response to all the challengers and doubters who wanted an audit of her race for chair, Kelli Ward told them there would be no such thing, and they could go pound salt: "These are the final, final results of that election!!"
This was done without a hint of irony. Ward spent months alleging widespread voter fraud with no evidence, and even asked if people were willing to die to overthrow the election. But an audit for her own race?  Get outta here.
Trey Terry is the treasurer of the GOP in the legislative district chaired by Sandra Dowling; she’s the one who was originally declared the winner in her race, then told she lost. Terry was livid and wasn’t having it: "Multiple flagrant violations of bylaws... meeting rules not being followed… Vote counting errors… Vote switching as well?"
This is one state where the GOP really needs their A-game, but they brought Q instead. Expect Ward to watch her party lose all of the important races in 2022, and instantly declare fraud with no evidence.
‘Be ready to fight’: FBI probe of U.S. Capitol riot finds evidence detailing coordination of an assault. (14-min. video; Washington Post, January 30, 2021)
FBI agents around the country are working to unravel the various motives, relationships, goals and actions of the hundreds of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Some inside the bureau have described the Capitol riot investigation as their biggest case since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and a top priority of the agents’ work is to determine the extent to which that violence and chaos was preplanned and coordinated.
Investigators caution there is an important legal distinction between gathering like-minded people for a political rally — which is protected by the First Amendment — and organizing an armed assault on the seat of American government. The task now is to distinguish which people belong in each category, and who played key roles in committing or coordinating the violence.
Trump Defense Secretary Disarmed D.C. National Guard Before Capitol Riot. (National Memo, January 30, 2021)
The full memo shows that the D.C. Guard did receive a request from D.C. government for guard presence during the Jan. 6 event. Miller responds promptly to go ahead, so long as the soldiers are given no weapons, no body armor, and no helmets. They can bring agents like pepper spray or flashbangs. They can't share any gear with Capitol Police or Metro D.C. Police. They can't … really do much of anything.
When initial reports indicate that the handful of National Guard forces that were deployed to D.C. on that day were dedicated to directing traffic several blocks away from the area of the Trump rally, it may simply be because that's the only thing they could find for them to do considering the restrictions that were given. It's clear that these restrictions would have absolutely prevented any guard forces from trying to protect any location.
Body cam video shows violence on Jan. 6 as woman trampled by insurgents eager to attack police. (Daily Kos, January 29, 2021)
In testimony before the House this week, Capitol Police and D.C. National Guard officials acknowledged that by Jan. 4 they understood that "… the January 6th event would not be like any of the previous protests held in 2020. We knew that militia groups and white supremacist organizations would be attending. We also knew that some of these participants were intending to bring firearms and other weapons to the event. We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target."
On that same day, former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller issued a memo to the secretary of the Army placing some extremely unusual limits on National Guard forces for that event. It’s not a to-do list. It’s a list of thou shalt nots. A long list. A list that says guard forces can’t arrest any of the pro-Trump protesters, or search them, or even touch them. And that’s just for starters.
Legal Pressure on Trump Increases With Judge’s Order in Fraud Inquiry. (New York Times, January 29, 2021)
The order, answering a demand for documents by New York’s attorney general, rejected a bid to shield the records with attorney-client privilege.
[The "Seven Springs estate" is at 111 Oregon Road, Mt. Kisko NY, adjacent to the Eugene and Agnes Meyer Nature Preserve overlooking Byram Lake Reservoir.]
What those mourning the fragility of American democracy get wrong (The Conversation, January 29, 2021)
Everyone's saying it: 'Democracy is fragile' in the United States. But a political science scholar says that has always been the case.
Philip Bump: How to rig an America (Washington Post, January 29, 2021)
If you live in a heavily Republican area and don’t personally know anyone supporting Biden, it’s easy to see why you might be skeptical of the idea that Biden won the election, including the popular vote by some 7 million votes. In the states that swung from Trump to Biden last year, a third of voters live in counties Trump or Biden won by at least 30 points. In Georgia, 33 percent of voters live in counties where Trump won by that margin.
Even if you aren’t skeptical of the idea that Biden won by that margin, though, it’s easy to see why you might be wary of the election results. The federal government is now entirely under the control of Democratic politicians, most of whom live in states that voted for Biden, such as California and New York. (Most Trump voters also live in states Biden won, but that’s neither here nor there.) If you’re a Republican in a heavily Republican area in a Republican-led state, accepting that Democrats won unified control of the government may be more disconcerting than thinking they didn’t. After all, it suggests a significant political shift away from what you support.
If you are a Republican elected official or political actor, the concern is heightened. Your party has been at a disadvantage nationally for some time, with the number of Americans who identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents hovering at or near 50 percent for a while, according to Gallup polling. Demographic trends don’t bode well, with younger Americans leaning more heavily Democratic than older Americans — and with younger Americans inevitably constituting more of the electorate as time progresses.
This sets up a tricky moment. Republican leaders see how the party’s power is poised to fade — looking no further than those shifts that flipped Arizona and Georgia in last year’s elections. (And, for Georgia, this year’s: Hard as it may be to believe, its Senate runoff contests were this month.) The Republican base, meanwhile, is skeptical that its power will fade, particularly when the former president of the United States is out there insisting that it hasn’t. It’s a moment in which there is both incentive to game the system and support for doing so.
So Republicans are trying to game the system — to game a system that’s already often rigged to their advantage.
Piling up incriminating information about Trump’s Russian connections (Washington Post, January 29, 2021)
As the Trump administration came to a spectacular end, Unger must have felt the need to update his book continually. Day by day, Trump took actions that added to Unger’s thesis. In the closing weeks of his term, Trump sought to divert attention from a damaging Russian cyberhack, refused to concede Russian President Vladimir Putin’s poisoning of his leading political challenger and brazenly pardoned cronies who refused to testify in Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. (Not to mention allegedly inciting the mob that violently overtook the Capitol.)
Unger outlines Trump’s decades-long relationships with Russian criminals and his willingness to abet the laundering of dirty money flowing from Moscow, and explains why Russian intelligence would find him an easy mark. The web of Trump’s damning connections and his actions as president suggest some sort of affinity for Putin.
According to Unger, there are indications that Trump was used as a conduit for Soviet covert messaging campaigns in the late 1980s. He made numerous visits to Russia where he was certainly watched, feted and cultivated. At the time, he publicly expressed thoughts that were far outside of mainstream Western opinion. For example, he complained that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was destroying the Soviet Union — suggesting perhaps relations with KGB elements that shared such a view. Unger cites former KGB officer Yuri Shvets, who served in Washington at the time, saying of Trump: “The guy is not a complicated cookie, his most important characteristics being low intellect coupled with hyperinflated vanity. This combination makes him a dream for an experienced recruiter.”
By compiling decades of Trump’s seedy ties, disturbing and consistent patterns of behavior, and unexplained contacts with Russian officials and criminals, Unger makes a strong case that Trump is probably a compromised trusted contact of Kremlin interests.
‘The perfect target’: Russia cultivated Trump as asset for 40 years. – ex-KGB spy (The Guardian, January 29, 2021)
The KGB ‘played the game as if they were immensely impressed by his personality’, Yuri Shvets, a key source for a new book, tells the Guardian.
Shoshana Zuboff: The Coup We Are Not Talking About (New York Times, January 29, 2021)
We can have democracy, or we can have a surveillance society, but we cannot have both.
Dr. Zuboff, a professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, is the author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.”
Pipe bombs found near Capitol on Jan. 6 are believed to have been placed the night before. (1-min. video; Washington Post, January 29, 2021)
The explosive devices, which were placed blocks from one another at the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic national committees, have been largely overshadowed by the violent insurrection at the Capitol. But finding the person suspected of planting both bombs remains a priority for federal authorities, who last week boosted the reward for tips leading to the person’s arrest from $50,000 to $75,000.
Five Giant Planets Orbit Nearby Sun-Like Star. (Sci-News, January 29, 2021)
Astronomers using ESA’s CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite (CHEOPS) have discovered a fifth planet around the bright, Sun-like star HD 108236.
Is Your Robotic Vacuum Sharing Data About You? (Consumer Reports, January 29, 2021)
Robotic vacuums are smart little suckers. Most use mechanical sensors, optical sensors, and advanced software to get the job done. And most connect to the internet, which puts them in the same category as video doorbells and webcams, which collect personal and environmental data to serve the user better.
As part of Consumer Reports' Digital Lab initiative, we evaluate devices that collect data about consumers, and we recently tested robotic vacuums. We found that on the whole, their potential vulnerabilities aren't as worrisome as those for video doorbells, but that manufacturers could still adopt more robust security measures. After all, in some cases we're talking about a bot with a camera connected to the internet scooting around your house.
Comcast delays broadband usage caps as lawmakers threaten rate regulations. (Boston Globe, January 28, 2021)
Broadband provider Comcast is delaying its plan to charge extra fees for users of its Xfinity Internet service who exceed a monthly data cap of 1.2 terabytes. Once the plan kicks in, Xfinity customers whose total monthly uploads and downloads exceed 1.2 terabytes will be charged an additional $10 per month for each additional 50 gigabytes of data. The controversial plan was set to begin this month, though Comcast offered a grace period so that heavy Internet users would not have to start paying extra until April. That grace period has now been extended to August.
News crew threatened with arrest for asking QAnon congresswoman a question. (Daily Kos, January 28, 2021)
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene continues to distinguish herself as an opponent of the basic tenets of U.S. democracy and basic f’ing decency. She’s already spent months pushing for the 2020 presidential election to be overturned. She’s done a lot of assassination-friendly social media. She harassed the teenage survivors of a mass shooting. And on Wednesday night she had a local television news crew threatened with arrest for asking a question at a town hall event.
NEW: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reacts to Ted Cruz's tweet on GameStop: 'You almost had me murdered.' (ABC News, January 28, 2021)
Ocasio-Cortez said that while she would be happy to work with Republicans on the issue where there’s "common ground" she would not work with one who "almost" had her "murdered" amid the Capitol riots. "In the meantime if you want to help, you can resign," she wrote.
A Capitol rioter who allegedly tweeted that he wanted to "assassinate" Ocasio-Cortez is facing five federal charges.
In February 2020, when Ocasio-Cortez criticized former President Donald Trump's decision to put then-Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the COVID-19 task force, Cruz attempted to mock Ocasio-Cortez's own scientific knowledge: "As you are speaking as the oracle of science, tell us, what exactly is a Y chromosome?" Ocasio-Cortez then fired back with some insults of her own, stating that she holds awards from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory for accomplishments in microbiology.
Krugman: The G.O.P. Is in a Doom Loop of Bizarro. But will it doom the rest of us, too? (New York Times, January 28, 2021)
Here’s what we know about American politics: The Republican Party is stuck, probably irreversibly, in a doom loop of bizarro. If the Trump-incited Capitol insurrection didn’t snap the party back to sanity — and it didn’t — nothing will.
What isn’t clear yet is who, exactly, will end up facing doom. Will it be the G.O.P. as a significant political force? Or will it be America as we know it? Unfortunately, we don’t know the answer. It depends a lot on how successful Republicans will be in suppressing votes.
‘The Capitol Insurrection Was as Christian Nationalist as It Gets.’ (New York Times, January 28, 2021)
Religious resentment has become a potent recruiting tool for the hard right.
Christian Nationalism includes assumptions of nativism, white supremacy, patriarchy and heteronormativity, along with divine sanction for authoritarian control and militarism. It is as ethnic and political as it is religious. Understood in this light, Christian Nationalism contends that America has been and should always be distinctively ‘Christian’ from top to bottom — in its self-identity, interpretations of its own history, sacred symbols, cherished values and public policies — and it aims to keep it this way.
Obviously the best evidence would be the use of sacred symbols during the insurrection such as the cross, Christian flag, Jesus saves sign, etc. But also the language of the prayers offered by the insurrectionists both outside and within the Capitol indicates the views of white Americans who obviously thought Jesus not only wanted them to violently storm the Capitol in order to take it back from the socialists, globalists, etc., but also believed God empowered their efforts, giving them victory.
The evidence reflects a mind-set that clearly merges national power and divine authority, believing God demands American leadership be wrested from godless usurpers and entrusted to true patriots who must be willing to shed blood (their own and others’) for God and country. Christian Nationalism favors authoritarian control and what I call “good-guy violence” for the sake of maintaining a certain social order.
The Racist Guy Behind One Of The Most Influential Pro-Trump Twitter Accounts Was Arrested For Election Interference. (BuzzFeed News, January 27, 2021)
Douglass Mackey, a white nationalist troll who ran a Trump-boosting Twitter account as “Ricky Vaughn,” is accused of using memes to spread misinformation and disenfranchise voters during the 2016 election. At the time, MIT Media Lab listed the anonymous personality as one of the top 150 influencers of the 2016 presidential election, placing him ahead of NBC News, Stephen Colbert, and Newt Gingrich.
Mackey, a 31-year-old from Vermont, was arrested today in West Palm Beach, Florida. Federal prosecutors allege he conspired with others to use memes and social media platforms to spread misinformation aimed at depriving people of their right to vote during the 2016 presidential election. “With Mackey’s arrest, we serve notice that those who would subvert the democratic process in this manner cannot rely on the cloak of Internet anonymity to evade responsibility for their crimes,” Seth D. DuCharme, acting US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.
[So, a U.S. attorney in NY just had a Vermonter arrested close to where Trump is hiding, for a crime that's five years old? Hmm.]
Senate GOP braces for more retirements after Portman stunner. (Politico, January 27, 2021)
Republicans' efforts to win back the majority could be hampered if swing-state incumbents decide not to run again next year.
Democrats consider one-week impeachment trial, censure resolution after GOP signals likely acquittal of Trump. (Washington Post, January 27, 2021)
In the two weeks since the House impeached Trump for “incitement of insurrection,” Democrats have signaled that they are likely to rely on an extensive video record of the events of Jan. 6 but not call witnesses or present revelatory new evidence, which would probably extend the proceedings for weeks.
“Make no mistake, there will be a trial, and the evidence against the former president will be presented in living color for the nation and every one of us to see once again,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday. “We will all watch what happened. We will listen to what happened, and then we will vote. We will pass judgment as our solemn duty under the Constitution demands. And in turn, we will all be judged on how we respond.”
Some Democrats complained that an abbreviated trial would be shortsighted, ignoring the historical mandate to document what happened before, during and after the riot. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said he wanted the trial to document how much Trump personally knew about what the rioters planned and what actions he took to quell the violence. But others think the case is clear-cut and that Tuesday’s vote indicated no chance of conviction, meaning that senators should base their votes on what they saw with their own eyes.
NEW: Women leaders of the World (2-min. video; YouTube, January 26, 2021)
[Short and very sweet!]
Cartoon and quotes: Maya Angelou (Daily Kos, January 26, 2021)
Thomas Friedman: Made in the U.S.A.: Socialism for the Rich. Capitalism for the Rest. (New York Times, January 26, 2021)
I understand why Democrats are fuming. Donald Trump ran up budget deficits in his first three years to levels seen in our history only during major wars and financial crises — thanks to tax cuts, military spending and little fiscal discipline. And he did so prepandemic, when the economy was already expanding and unemployment was low. But now that Joe Biden wants to spend more on pandemic relief and prevent the economy from tanking further, many Republicans — on cue — are rediscovering their deficit hawk wings. What frauds.
We need to do whatever it takes to help the most vulnerable Americans who have lost jobs, homes or businesses to Covid-19 — and to buttress cities overwhelmed by the virus. So, put me down for a double dose of generosity.
But, but, but … when this virus clears, we ALL need to have a talk. There has been so much focus in recent years on the downsides of rapid globalization and “neoliberal free-market groupthink” — influencing both Democrats and Republicans — that we’ve ignored another, more powerful consensus that has taken hold on both parties: That we are in a new era of permanently low interest rates, so deficits don’t matter as long as you can service them, and so the role of government in developed countries can keep expanding — which it has with steadily larger bailouts, persistent deficit spending, mounting government debts and increasingly easy money out of Central Banks to finance it all.
This new consensus has a name: “Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest,” argues Ruchir Sharma, chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, author of “The Ten Rules of Successful Nations” and one of my favorite contrarian economic thinkers. “Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest” — a variation on a theme popularized in the 1960s — happens, Sharma explained in a phone interview, when government intervention does more to stimulate the financial markets than the real economy. So, America’s richest 10 percent, who own more than 80 percent of U.S. stocks, have seen their wealth more than triple in 30 years, while the bottom 50 percent, relying on their day jobs in real markets to survive, had zero gains. Meanwhile, mediocre productivity in the real economy has limited opportunity, choice and income gains for the poor and middle class alike.
The best evidence is the last year: We’re in the middle of a pandemic that has crushed jobs and small businesses — but the stock market is soaring. That’s not right. That’s elephants flying. I always get worried watching elephants fly. It usually doesn’t end well. And even if we raise taxes on the rich and direct more relief to the poor, which I favor, when you keep relying on this much stimulus, argues Sharma, you’re going to get lots of unintended consequences. And we are. For instance, Sharma wrote in July, in a Wall Street Journal essay titled “The Rescues Ruining Capitalism”, that easy money and increasingly generous bailouts fuel the rise of monopolies and keep “alive heavily indebted ‘zombie’ firms, at the expense of start-ups, which drive innovation.” And all of that is contributing to lower productivity, which means slower economic growth and “a shrinking of the pie for everyone.”
In the 1980s, “only 2 percent of publicly traded companies in the U.S. were considered ‘zombies,’ a term used by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) for companies that, over the previous three years, had not earned enough profit to make even the interest payments on their debt,” Sharma wrote. “The zombie minority started to grow rapidly in the early 2000s, and by the eve of the pandemic, accounted for 19 percent of U.S.-listed companies.” It’s happening in Europe, China and Japan, too. And it’s all logical. Prolonged and increasingly generous bailouts, where governments are willing to buy even corporate junk bonds to prevent foreclosures, added Sharma, “distort the efficient allocation of capital needed to raise productivity.”
As such, no one should be surprised that millennials and Gen Z are growing disillusioned with this distorted form of capitalism and say that they prefer socialism.
Going forward, how about more inclusive capitalism for everyone and less knee-jerk socialism for rich people. Economies grow from more people inventing and starting stuff. “Without entrepreneurial risk and creative destruction, capitalism doesn’t work,” wrote Sharma. “Disruption and regeneration, the heart of the system, grind to a halt. The deadwood never falls from the tree. The green shoots are nipped in the bud.”
Russia, US exchange documents to extend nuclear pact. (Associated Press, January 26, 2021)
Russia and the United States traded documents Tuesday to extend their last remaining nuclear arms control treaty days before it is due to expire, the Kremlin said.
A Kremlin readout of a phone call between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin said the two leaders voiced satisfaction with the exchange of diplomatic notes about extending the New START treaty. New START expires on Feb. 5. After taking office last week, Biden proposed extending the treaty for five years, and the Kremlin quickly welcomed the offer.
The pact’s extension doesn’t require congressional approval in the U.S., but Russian lawmakers must ratify the move. Top members of the Kremlin-controlled parliament said they would fast-track the issue and complete the necessary steps to extend the treaty this week.
Verizon is still investigating the cause of a widespread internet outage on the East Coast. (New York Times, January 26, 2021)
An internet outage disrupted work from home and remote learning on the East Coast on Tuesday, with some Verizon Fios users unable to rely on popular services such as Zoom and Slack that have become essential during the pandemic. The outage was first reported on social media around noon and started to clear up about 90 minutes later, though it was not fully resolved until later in the afternoon. The website Down Detector showed users had reported problems all along the Northeast corridor and into Western Pennsylvania.
Verizon said Tuesday afternoon it was working on identifying the root cause of the outage, and said the impact of a cut to a fiber optic cable in Brooklyn was minimal. The outage attracted the attention of the Federal Communications Commission. The acting chairwoman of the F.C.C. said on Twitter that the “Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is working to get to the bottom of what is going on.”
They Found a Way to Limit Big Tech’s Power: Using the Design of Bitcoin. (New York Times, January 26, 2021)
Bitcoin first emerged in 2009. Its creator, a shadowy figure known as Satoshi Nakamoto, has said its central idea was to allow anyone to open a digital bank account and hold the money in a way that no government could prevent or regulate.
When YouTube and Facebook barred tens of thousands of Mr. Trump’s supporters and white supremacists this month, many flocked to alternative apps such as LBRY, Minds and Sessions. What those sites had in common was that they were also inspired by the design of Bitcoin. The twin developments were part of a growing movement by technologists, investors and everyday users to replace some of the internet’s fundamental building blocks in ways that would be harder for tech giants like Facebook and Google to control.
Dozens of start-ups now offer alternatives to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Amazon’s web hosting services, all on top of decentralized networks and shared ledgers. Many have gained millions of new users over the past few weeks, according to the data company SimilarWeb. “This is the biggest wave I’ve ever seen,” said Emmi Bevensee, a data scientist and the author of “The Decentralized Web of Hate,” a publication about the move of right-wing groups to decentralized technology. “This has been discussed in niche communities, but now we are having a conversation with the broader world about how these emerging technologies may impact the world at quite large scales.”
Biden's COVID relief package presents 1st test of his deal-making skills. (ABC News, January 26, 2021)
He's facing pressure from both Republicans and some of his fellow Democrats.
January 5 Meeting at Trump International Hotel Could Hold the Key to the January 6 Insurrection. (Seth Abramson, January 26, 2021)
The night before the insurrection, a large group of Trump family and advisers held an urgent meeting with January 6 organizers at the president's private residence in DC. In Charles Herbster’s Facebook post detailing the meeting—a post that looks forward with anger and trepidation to the upcoming January 6 certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory, and has since been hidden and reposted, along with all photos of the Trump family on Herbster’s Facebook account posted from December 2020 through January 2021—the Nebraska Republican writes of the “battles and blood” that in the past have been required to “protect our way of life”, as well as his own decision “[not to] choose the easy path” but instead “fight” the “widespread voter fraud that happened on November 3.” Herbster is, as of January 26, not yet speaking to media about January 5, nor about Senator Tuberville’s contrary account of the events of that evening in DC.
[Read this article!]
Trump plots death-by-a-thousand-cuts for Republican Party. (Daily Kos, January 26, 2021)
Aides to Donald Trump have apparently jingled some keys in front of him just long enough to divert him away from forming his own party, but that has only renewed his focus on torturing what remains of the Republican Party. First and foremost, that means figuring out how to exact revenge on Republicans who crossed him on impeachment, such as Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
As Trump Seeks to Remain a Political Force, New Targets Emerge. (New York Times, January 25, 2021)
As Donald Trump surveys the political landscape, there is a sudden Senate opening in Ohio, an ally’s bid for Arkansas governor, and some scores to settle elsewhere.
But Trump's dark cloud extends far beyond some dozen or so GOP congressional lawmakers all the way into the states, where parties are veering far right.
Mr. Trump has only been out of the presidential office five days and has little in the way of political infrastructure. He has told aides he would like to take a break for several months. But the former president has remained the party’s strongest fund-raiser, with tens of millions in PAC money at his disposal, and he retains an enduring base of Republican support across the country. Perhaps most important, he harbors a deep-seated desire to punish those he believes have crossed him and reward those who remain loyal.
As President Biden’s inauguration approached, Mr. Trump began telling some allies that he was considering forming a third party if Republicans moved to convict him in the Senate trial. But by Saturday, after his own advisers said it was a mistake, Mr. Trump started sending out word that he was moving on from his threat. “He understands that the best thing for his movement and conservatism is to move forward together, that third parties will lead to dominance by Democrats,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is a close ally of Mr. Trump.
[Goodbye, "Patriots Party"?]
Rudy Giuliani Sued for more than $1.3 Billion by Dominion Voting Systems Over False Election Claims. (New York Times, January 25, 2021)
The suit against Mr. Giuliani, a lawyer for former President Donald Trump who pushed to overturn the election results, accuses him of carrying out “a viral disinformation campaign.”
Capitol riot latest: Man accused of stealing documents from Mitch McConnell's desk charged. (ABC News, January 25, 2021)
Authorities continue to arrest rioters who reportedly took part in the siege.
QAnon Thinks Trump Will Become President Again on March 4. (Vice, January 25, 2021)
This is the latest conspiracy that QAnon followers have embraced in the wake of President Joe Biden’s inauguration last week, and extremist experts are worried that it highlights the way QAnon adherents are beginning to merge their beliefs — about the world being run by an elite cabal of cannibalistic satanist pedophiles —with even more extreme ideologies. The latest claims being made by QAnon supporters echo those of the sovereign citizen movement, a group of people who believe they are not governed by the same laws as everyone else. That belief has led to violent confrontations with law enforcement have viewed them among the top domestic extremist threats facing the country.
NEW: “Fight for Trump”: Video Evidence of Incitement at the Capitol (11-min. video; Just Security, January 25, 2021)
How direct is the connection between what President Donald Trump communicated to his supporters and their actions in laying siege to the U.S. Capitol? Videos recorded by many individuals over the course of the day provide some answers. A portion of these videos have not been seen widely before, including video footage largely from the platform Parler showing how the crowd reacted in real time to some of the most potent lines in Trump’s speech at the Ellipse. The videos, along with other information in the public record, provide strong evidence of a causal link between Trump’s messages to his supporters and their dangerous, illegal conduct. The collection of videos, viewed chronologically, also shows the ways in which Trump placed the life of Vice President Mike Pence, among others, in grave danger.
Global radical right celebrated when extremists breached the Capitol—and drew lessons from it. (Daily Kos, January 25, 2021)
Most of the world—particularly leaders around the globe—was shocked and horrified Jan. 6 when a mob of far-right insurrectionists attempted to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, recognizing it as a “direct attack on democracy.” But at the same time, leaders of the global radical right from Europe and elsewhere were watching those events unfold with undisguised glee—for largely the same reasons. We were following it like a soccer match,” said a German far-right publisher. European white nationalists were especially excited because they had attempted the same thing at the Parliament building in Berlin in August and had failed. The successful breach by the American mob gave them hope, as well as ideas for the future.
McConnell relents on Senate rules, signals power-sharing deal with Democrats. (Washington Post, January 25, 2021)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday night signaled he would step back from an ultimatum over Senate rules that sparked a partisan showdown and threatened to obstruct President Biden’s early legislative agenda. McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement that he was ready to move forward with a power-sharing accord with Democrats on how to operate the evenly divided Senate, defusing a potentially explosive clash over the minority’s rights to block partisan legislation.
At issue for McConnell was the fate of the filibuster, the Senate rule that acts as a 60-vote supermajority requirement for most legislation. With many Democrats calling for its elimination as their party takes control of the House, Senate and White House, McConnell had sought ­assurances from the new Senate majority leader, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), that the filibuster would be preserved. Democrats bristled at the request, demanding that McConnell agree to a power-sharing arrangement that followed the model used during the last 50-to-50 Senate, in 2001 — which would give the party with the vice presidency and its tie-breaking powers control of the floor agenda — without any additional provisions. Without the deal in place, Senate committees remained frozen from the previous Congress, where Republicans held a majority. That has created the unusual circumstance where Democrats have control of the floor while GOP chairs remain in charge of most committees.
McConnell on Monday said he was prepared to move forward on a deal “modeled on that [2001] precedent” after two Democratic senators — Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) — publicly reiterated their previously stated opposition to eliminating the filibuster. “They agree with President Biden’s and my view that no Senate majority should destroy the right of future minorities of both parties to help shape legislation,” he said.
McConnell filibusters to prevent a Biden government as his argument to keep the filibuster. (Daily Kos, January 25, 2021)
Republican leader Mitch McConnell is literally filibustering the Senate organizing resolution in order to preserve the filibuster and selling his actions to the public with a "unity" argument. In other words, Democrats have to prove they're trying to unify the country by allowing Republicans to veto everything President Joe Biden wants to accomplish.
As Virus Grows Stealthier, Vaccine Makers Reconsider Battle Plans. (New York Times, January 25, 2021)
Vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech effectively protect recipients. But in a worrying sign, they are slightly less effective against a variant found in South Africa.
NEW (and OLD): Watch World Premiere Of Newly Discovered Mozart Piano Piece. (5-min. video; UDiscoverMusic, January 25, 2021)
The world premiere of Mozart’s ‘Allegro in D’ will be performed by Seong-Jin Cho to celebrate the composer’s 265th birthday on the Deutsche Grammophon Stage in Mozart's own Salzburg, Austria.
[Wunderbar! But are we SURE we saw Cho Seong-Jin performing? BTW, Mozart's given name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart.]
A Harmonious New Landsat Dataset (NASA, January 25, 2021)
The provisional public release of the Harmonized Landsat Sentinel-2 (HLS) dataset through NASA’s LP DAAC opens new avenues for global terrestrial research.
Responsibly Recycling Computers in the Age of COVID-19 (ITPro Today, January 25, 2021)
Recycling computers is costly – but there's an easy way to avoid the cost while helping those economically affected by the COVID crisis.
NEW: Brain-Computer Interface tech (BCI) will allow video games far beyond what human 'meat peripherals' can comprehend. (12-min. & 60-min. videos; 1 News, January 24, 2021)
Gabe Newell, the head of US gaming company Valve Corporation, says a future is fast approaching where video games will use data from people's brain signals to adjust the experience they get — and even a future where people's minds can be adjusted by computers.
"The real world will seem flat, colourless, blurry compared to the experiences you'll be able to create in people's brains. Where it gets weird is when who you are becomes editable through a BCI," Newell said.
At the moment, people accept their feelings are just how they feel — but Newell says BCIs will soon allow the editing of these feelings digitally, which could be as easy as using an app. "One of the early applications I expect we'll see is improved sleep — sleep will become an app that you run where you say, 'Oh, I need this much sleep, I need this much REM,'" he said.
Another benefit could be the reduction or total removal of unwanted feelings or conditions from the brain, for therapeutic reasons.
[It's real. Gaming companies are hot to invest, but can't market anything yet - because, although they DO have products, the progress is too fast to make money with a product before it's obsolete! (Except, maybe, for a BCI headset to learn more.) And there's the matter of introducing PAIN - a new malware consideration, for certain! But from sleep apps through therapeutic changes to people's brains, it's bound to come.]
NEW: In Secret Action, Trump Administration Granted License to Sanctioned Mining Billionaire Dan Gertler. (The Sentry, January 24, 2021)
The issuance of a specific license to a designated individual as an end-run around a delisting, general license, or other public statement, absent any discernible intelligence or national security rationale, threatens the integrity, implementation, and impact of economic sanctions programs as a whole. In particular, for a sanctions designation issued specifically for corrupt and secretive activities in the DR Congo and elsewhere, to have been privately undercut under a cloud of haste and secrecy at the very end of the Trump administration strikes a terrible blow to the heart of one of the most lauded and effective anti-corruption programs of the last decade.
Lawmakers are threatened ahead of impeachment trial. (Associated Press, January 24, 2021)
Federal law enforcement officials are examining a number of threats aimed at members of Congress as the second trial of former President Donald Trump nears, including ominous chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside of the U.S. Capitol. The threats, and concerns that armed protesters could return to sack the Capitol anew, have prompted the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal law enforcement to insist thousands of National Guard troops remain in Washington as the Senate moves forward with plans for Trump’s trial.
U.S. police weigh officer discipline after rally, Trump-incited Capitol riot. (Associated Press, January 24, 2021)
An Associated Press survey of law enforcement agencies nationwide found that at least 31 officers in 12 states are being scrutinized by their supervisors for their behavior in the District of Columbia or face criminal charges for participating in the riot. Officials are looking into whether the officers violated any laws or policies or participated in the violence while in Washington. A Capitol Police officer died after he was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher as rioters descended on the building and many other officers were injured. A woman was shot to death by Capitol Police and three other people died after medical emergencies during the chaos. Most of the officers have not been publicly identified; only a few have been charged. Some were identified by online sleuths. Others were reported by their colleagues or turned themselves in.
Trump Fumes in His First Weekend Out of Office as Fauci Clowns on Him. (Daily Beast, January 24, 2021)
And the worst part? Trump can’t even tweet about it.
Dr. Fauci on What Working for Trump Was Really Like. (New York Times, January 24, 2021)
For almost 40 years, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci has held two jobs. As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, he has run one of the country’s premier research institutions. But he has also been an adviser to seven presidents, from Ronald Reagan to, now, Joseph R. Biden Jr., called upon whenever a health crisis looms to brief the administration, address the World Health Organization, testify before Congress or meet with the news media.
For Dr. Fauci, 80, the past year has stood out like no other. As the coronavirus ravaged the country, Dr. Fauci’s calm counsel and commitment to hard facts endeared him to millions of Americans. But he also became a villain to millions of others. Trump supporters chanted “Fire Fauci,” and the president mused openly about doing so. He was accused of inventing the virus and of being part of a secret cabal with Bill Gates and George Soros to profit from vaccines. His family received death threats. On Jan. 21, appearing in his first press briefing under the Biden administration, Dr. Fauci described the “liberating feeling” of once again being able to “get up here and talk about what you know — what the evidence, what the science is — and know that’s it, let the science speak.”
Big Differences in Long-Term Immunity Resulting From Mild vs. Severe COVID-19 Cases. (SciTechDaily, January 24, 2021)
The data from this study suggest people with severe COVID-19 cases may have stronger long-term immunity. The research, published on January 21, 2021, in Science Immunology, is the first to describe the T cells that fight SARS-CoV-2 in “high resolution” detail.
Obesity, Impaired Metabolic Health and COVID-19: The Interconnection of Global Pandemics. (SciTechDaily, January 24, 2021)
Obesity and cardiometabolic diseases do not only trigger a more severe course of COVID-19. The SARS-CoV-2 infection could promote the development of these conditions.
An Aqueous Battery That’s Fast Charging, Safer and Less Expensive. (SciTechDaily, January 24, 2021)
Mighty Morphing 3D Printing: New Shape-Changing Nozzle That Could Revolutionize “4D Printing”. (SciTechDaily, January 23, 2021)
Engineers at the University of Maryland (UMD) have created a new shape-changing or “morphing” 3D printing nozzle. The team’s morphing nozzle offers researchers new means for 3D printing “fiber-filled composites” — materials made up of short fibers that boost special properties over traditional 3D-printed parts, such as enhancing part strength or electrical conductivity. The challenge is that these properties are based on the directions or “orientations” of the short fibers, which has been difficult to control during the 3D printing process, until now.
To demonstrate their new approach, the researchers set their sights on emerging “4D printing” applications. “4D printing refers to the relatively new concept of 3D printing objects that can reshape or transform depending on their environment,” said UMD mechanical engineering professor David Bigio, a co-author of the study. “In our work, we looked at how printed parts swelled when submerged in water, and specifically, if we could alter that swelling behavior using our morphing nozzle.” Recent advances in 4D printing rely on materials capable of both “anisotropic” expansion, swelling more in one direction than another, as well as “isotropic” expansion, swelling identically in all directions. Unfortunately, switching between these conditions has typically required researchers to print with multiple, different materials.
“What was exciting was discovering that we could cause a single printed material to transition between anisotropic and isotropic swelling just by changing the nozzle’s shape during the 3D printing process,” said Connor Armstrong, lead author of the study. Armstrong developed the approach as part of his MS thesis research at UMD. “Importantly, the nozzle’s ability to morph and to even up the score in terms of swelling properties is not limited to 4D printing,” said study co-author and recently graduated mechanical engineering undergraduate student Noah Todd. “Our approach could be applied for 3D printing many other composite materials to customize their elastic, thermal, magnetic or electrical properties for example.”
Harvard Scientists Reconstruct the Game-Changing Evolution From Fin-to-Limb in Early Tetrapods. (SciTechDaily, January 23, 2021)
It’s hard to overstate how much of a game-changer it was when vertebrates first rose up from the waters and moved onshore about 390 million years ago. That transition led to the rise of the dinosaurs and all the land animals that exist today. Scientists have been trying for more than a century to unravel exactly how this remarkable shift took place, and their understanding of the process is largely based on a few rare, intact fossils with anatomical gaps between them.
A new study shows how and when the first groups of land explorers became better walkers than swimmers. The analysis spans the fin-to-limb transition and reconstructs the evolution of terrestrial movement in early tetrapods. These are the four-limbed land vertebrates whose descendants include extinct and living amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.
The researchers focused on the humerus, the long bone in the upper arm that runs down from the shoulder and connects with the lower arm at the elbow, to get around the dilemma of gaps between well-preserved fossils. Functionally, the humerus is invaluable for movement because it hosts key muscles that absorb much of the stress from quadrupedal locomotion. Most importantly, the bone is found in all tetrapods and the fishes they evolved from and is pretty common throughout the fossil record. The bone represents a time capsule of sorts, with which to reconstruct the evolution of locomotion since it can be examined across the fin-to-limb transition, the researchers said.
NEW: What We Call “Dating” Teeters on the Brink of Extinction. (Medium, January 23, 2021)
Dating is the byproduct of a bygone world.
We like to think love is free and timeless. It’s not. Love is scripted. We adhere to a set of dominant behaviors and pursue relationships as defined for us in a specific cultural moment. We bond. We mate. We do it according to societal pressures and expectations. We either accommodate and conform, or we do our best to deviate and find our own version. No matter how hard we try, the age we live in always has a deep influence on who and how we love.
Sabine Hossenfelder: Where do atoms come from? (9-min. video; BackReaction, January 23, 2021)
In Aleksei Navalny Protests, Russia Faces Biggest Dissent in Years. (New York Times, January 23, 2021)
Demonstrations in support of the jailed opposition leader swept the nation, beginning in the Far East, where people braved subzero temperatures, and reaching the capital. Arrests climbed into the thousands.
Over 3,400 arrested at Russia protests demanding Alexey Navalny's release. (2-min. video; CBS News, January 23, 2021)
Russian police arrested more than 3,400 people Saturday in nationwide protests demanding the release of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, the Kremlin's most prominent foe, according to a group that counts political detentions. The protests in scores of cities in temperatures as low as minus-58 F highlighted how Navalny has built influence far beyond the political and cultural centers of Moscow and St. Petersburg. In Moscow, an estimated 15,000 demonstrators gathered in and around Pushkin Square in the city center, where clashes with police broke out and demonstrators were roughly dragged off by helmeted riot officers to police buses and detention trucks. Some were beaten with batons.
"The problem is Putin": Protesters throng Russia's streets to support Navalny. (The Guardian, January 23, 2021)
More than 2,500 are arrested at rallies across the country as cities see huge turnouts in support of opposition leader.
For more than a decade, the Kremlin has used every tool at its disposal to keep Russians off the streets, wielding fear and boredom to make protesting against Vladimir Putin seem pointless. And yet in defiant scenes on Saturday in cities across Russia, from St Petersburg to Vladivostok and even in Yakutsk, where protesters braved temperatures below -50C, tens of thousands of Russians sent a message to a Kremlin that has squeezed out all opposition in Russia: enough is enough.
As police fought to retake control of city squares, some protesters fought back, throwing snowballs and trading blows with officers in body armour. Many more chanted for Putin to leave, swapped jokes, filmed Instagram stories, and ran to stay one step ahead of the police, who chased them across the city.
The spark was the arrest of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader allegedly poisoned by the FSB. But many of the tens of thousands out in Moscow said that the problems went deeper, tied to Putin and his two decades of control over the country.
Protests Swell Across Russia Calling For The Release Of Kremlin Critic Alexei Navalny. (NPR, January 23, 2021)
Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in protest on Saturday to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, braving the threat of mass arrests in what was expected to be one of the largest demonstrations against the Kremlin in years. From the port city of Vladivostok in the east to the capital of Moscow seven time zones away in the west, protesters swept across the country in open defiance of warnings from Russian authorities that the demonstrations have been deemed illegal.
On Tuesday, Navalny's team released a scathing investigation accusing Putin of corruption and detailing the construction of a lavish palace on the Black Sea allegedly build for the Russian leader using a "slush fund." The investigation, titled "Putin's Palace. History of world's largest bribe," has already been viewed more than 70 million times since its release on YouTube.
[From Navalny's 2-hour YouTube bombshell:
It was here, in Dresden (East Germany, 1987) that Putin defined his main life principles:
1. Always say one thing and do another. Lying and hypocrisy are the most effective methods of work.
2. Corruption is the foundation of trust. Your main friends are those who have been stealing and cheating with you for many years.
3. And the most important thing: There is never too much money.
Hmm. Who else does that remind us of?]
Pennsylvania Lawmaker Played Key Role in Trump’s Plot to Oust Acting Attorney General. (New York Times, January 23, 2021)
When Representative Scott Perry joined his colleagues in a months-long campaign to undermine the results of the presidential election, promoting “Stop the Steal” events and supporting an attempt to overturn millions of legally cast votes, he often took a back seat to higher-profile loyalists in President Donald J. Trump’s orbit. But Mr. Perry, an outspoken Pennsylvania Republican, played a significant role in the crisis that played out at the top of the Justice Department this month, when Mr. Trump considered firing the acting attorney general and backed down only after top department officials threatened to resign en masse.
It was Mr. Perry, a member of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, who first made Mr. Trump aware that a relatively obscure Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, the acting chief of the civil division, was sympathetic to Mr. Trump’s view that the election had been stolen, according to former administration officials who spoke with Mr. Clark and Mr. Trump. Mr. Perry introduced the president to Mr. Clark, whose openness to conspiracy theories about election fraud presented Mr. Trump with a welcome change from the acting attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, who stood by the results of the election and had repeatedly resisted the president’s efforts to undo them.
Mr. Perry’s previously unreported role, and the quiet discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Clark that followed, underlined how much the former president was willing to use the government to subvert the election, turning to more junior and relatively unknown figures for help as ranking Republicans and cabinet members rebuffed him.
NEW: Rudy Giuliani ADMITS billing Trump $20,000-a-day to dispute election and moans he's been portrayed as 'some kind of money-grubbing ambulance chaser'. (Daily Mail, January 23, 2021)
Giuliani previously denied claims that he was charging the Trump campaign money to dispute the results of the November election. However, on Friday, Giuliani admitted that an associate had sent off an email requesting that he be paid a fee of $20,000 per day for his legal services. Giuliani insisted that he was unaware the email had been sent on his behalf, and says he has received no such payments. 'I never had a single expectation of being paid a penny,' Giuliani told The New York Times on Friday.
It comes after reports Trump was angered that Giuliani has requested money for his services. Trump allegedly ordered his aides not to pay the legal fees and 'demanded that he personally approve any reimbursements for expenses Giuliani incurred'. It's now unclear whether Giuliani and Trump are on speaking terms
An unapologetic Biden is finally saying goodbye to the centrism that hobbled Democrats for decades. (Daily Kos, January 23, 2021)
What jumps out from his first days in office is both Biden's resolve and his aggressive use of the tools at his disposal to take decisive action. He seems uniquely clear about the perils of this political era and what is required to meet them—a distinct break from the centrist dogma that has hung over Democrats for the better part of 30 years. And congressional Democrats across the liberal-to-moderate spectrum seem entirely bought into Biden's vision.
Republicans, for their part, are playing very small ball. The best any of the saner ones can manage is clinging to the same tired Reagan-era talking points that left the party open to hijack by a vulgar populist demagogue. It seems safe to say that it's going to require a lot more inspiration and creativity than what we are currently witnessing for the Republican Party to build an electorally viable coalition of voters over the next several years.
If President Biden continues to rise to the moment, the unity he engenders may ultimately be less about winning GOP votes for his policies than it is about unifying some 65% of Americans against a factionalized but dangerous party of seditionists.
Senate ends standoff, agrees to start Trump’s impeachment trial Feb. 9th. (Washington Post, January 22, 2021)
The impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump will begin Feb. 9 under a deal reached Friday by top Senate leaders — delaying by two weeks the high-stakes proceedings over whether Trump incited the violent Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The agreement was made by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) following a standoff over the timing of the trial, which could permanently bar Trump from holding public office.
Astronomers Discover First Cloudless, Jupiter-Like Planet – “Smoking Gun Evidence”. (SciTechDaily, January 22, 2021)
Astronomers at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian have detected the first Jupiter-like planet without clouds or haze in its observable atmosphere. This marks the second time astronomers have ever observed a cloud-free exoplanet.
“Something Is Happening to the Bees” – 25% of Known Bee Species Haven’t Appeared in Public Records Since the 1990s. (SciTechDaily, January 22, 2021)
“Figuring out which species are living where and how each population is doing using complex aggregated datasets can be very messy,” says Zattara. “We wanted to ask a simpler question: what species have been recorded, anywhere in the world, in a given period?” To find their answer, the researchers dove into the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), an international network of databases, which contains over three centuries’ worth of records from museums, universities, and private citizens, accounting for over 20,000 known bee species from around the world.
In addition to finding that a quarter of total bee species are no longer being recorded, the researchers observed that this decline is not evenly distributed among bee families. Records of halictid bees–the second most common family–have declined by 17% since the 1990s. Those for Melittidae–a much rarer family–have gone down by as much as 41%.
Biden cleans house of propagandists at the Voice of America. (Daily Kos, January 22, 2021)
President Biden is pushing back Donald Trump’s efforts to turn the U.S. Agency for Global Media, including its flagship Voice of America, from U.S. state media (however problematic that may often be) to Trumpist state media (much worse). One of Biden’s first moves on Inauguration Day was to request the resignation of Michael Pack, the CEO of  the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees VOA and four other networks. On Biden’s first full day in office, Pack’s interim replacement took the next step, removing the director and deputy director Pack had installed at VOA in recent months.
Biden Signs Orders to Expand Food Stamps and Raise Wages, but Says Economy Needs More Help. (New York Times, January 22, 2021)
The president called it an “economic imperative” to provide more aid for millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet as the virus exacts a bruising toll.
NEW: Amsterdam Is Embracing a Radical New Economic Theory to Help Save the Environment. Could It Also Replace Capitalism? (Time, January 22, 2021)
The Doughnut Economics Theory argues that 20th century economic thinking is not equipped to deal with the 21st century reality of a planet teetering on the edge of climate breakdown. Instead of equating a growing GDP with a successful society, our goal should be to fit all of human life into the “sweet spot” between the “social foundation,” where everyone has what they need to live a good life, and the “environmental ceiling.” By and large, people in rich countries are living above the environmental ceiling. Those in poorer countries often fall below the social foundation. The space in between: that’s the doughnut.
In 1990, British economist Kate Raworth, now 50, arrived at Oxford University to study economics. She quickly became frustrated by the content of the lectures, she recalls over Zoom from her home office in Oxford, where she now teaches. She was learning about ideas from decades and sometimes centuries ago: supply and demand, efficiency, rationality and economic growth as the ultimate goal. “The concepts of the 20th century emerged from an era in which humanity saw itself as separated from the web of life,” Raworth says. In this worldview, she adds, environmental issues are relegated to what economists call “externalities.” “It’s just an ultimate absurdity that in the 21st century, when we know we are witnessing the death of the living world unless we utterly transform the way we live, that death of the living world is called ‘an environmental externality.’”
Thom Hartmann: America is dying: three steps to bring us back from the brink (Medium, January 21, 2021)
Other developed countries are doing all these things; we can, too
Trump hires impeachment lawyer, McConnell wants Senate trial in February for Capitol riot incitement charge. (CNBC News, January 21, 2021)
Former President Donald Trump hired South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers to defend him at his second impeachment trial, which the Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, on Thursday proposed should begin in mid-February. The New York Times later Thursday noted that Trump’s other lawyers “had all bowed out” of representing him in what will be his second impeachment trial.
It is possible that Democrats could try to force the trial to begin as early as next week. McConnell said it is “absolutely imperative that we do not allow a half-baked process to short-circuit the due process that former President Trump deserves or damage the Senate or the presidency.”
McConnell on Tuesday had said on the Senate floor that Trump was to blame for inciting the assault on the Capitol. “The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said that day. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”
Jimmy Kimmel's "Goodbye, Donald Trump!" (2-min. video; Jimmy Kimmel Live, January 21, 2021)
Dancing national monuments celebrate the Trump dump.
Drug Prevents Coronavirus Infection in Nursing Homes, Maker Claims. (New York Times, January 21, 2021)
An unusual experiment to prevent nursing home staff members and residents from infection with the coronavirus has succeeded, the drug maker Eli Lilly announced on Thursday. A drug containing monoclonal antibodies — laboratory-grown virus-fighters — prevented symptomatic infections in residents who were exposed to the virus, even the frail older people who are most vulnerable, according to preliminary results of a study conducted in partnership with the National Institutes of Health. The researchers found an 80 percent reduction in infections among residents who got the drug, compared with those who got a placebo, and a 60 percent reduction among the staff, results that were highly statistically powerful, Eli Lilly said.
Tiny corner of US has been isolated from mainland for 10 months. (Accuweather, January 20, 2021)
[And is desperate enough to build a 22-mile ice road across Lake of the Woods.]
'Don't do it': McCarthy explicitly warns that attacking other members is putting them in jeopardy. (Daily Kos, January 20, 2021)
Congressional Republicans have kicked into high gear over the past week to minimize the fallout for the Republican Party caused by Donald Trump and the murderous mob he sicced on the lawmakers at the Capitol. On the one hand, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell finally directly blamed Trump for inciting the riot by feeding his cultists a steady diet of disinformation and baseless lies about the election. On the other is extraordinary leaked audio of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy explicitly warning members of his caucus not to target other congressional members by name because "it's putting people in jeopardy."
McConnell's obstruction of Biden's agenda has already begun. (Daily Kos, January 20, 2021)
The first half of this Inauguration Day has been devoted, at least rhetorically, to unity. But Sen. Mitch McConnell is still in charge of the Senate Republicans, and he's still Mitch McConnell. The chamber is evenly divided, which does one good thing: It makes Vice President Kamala Harris one of the most—if not the most—powerful VPs the nation has ever had. McConnell seems intent on making her work. In his discussions with new Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on power-sharing in the split chamber, McConnell is insisting that the agreement contain a commitment from Schumer to retain the filibuster.
That tells you everything you need to know about McConnell's intentions for helping President Biden, House Speaker Pelosi, and the Senate save the country. Staff for each leader had been operating on the assumption that the power-sharing agreement from 2001 would be the default for this time around. Then McConnell threw the filibuster curveball.
Biden’s 17 Executive Orders and Other Directives in Detail (New York Times, January 20, 2021)
The moves aim to strengthen protections for young immigrants, end construction of President Donald J. Trump’s border wall, end a travel ban and prioritize racial equity.
Heather Cox Richardson: “Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” (Letters From An American, January 20, 2021)
For the past four years we have lived under an administration that advanced policies based on bullying; a fantasy of a lost, white, Christian America; and disinformation. We have endured the gutting of our government as the president either left positions empty or replaced career officials with political operatives, corruption, the rise of white supremacists into positions of power, the destruction of our international standing, an unchecked pandemic that has led to more than 400,000 deaths from Covid-19, an economic crash, and unprecedented political polarization.
“And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it,” Gorman reminded us.
"Overjoyed": Hear from poet who stole the show at inauguration. (CNN News, January 20, 2021)
CNN's Anderson Cooper speaks with Amanda Gorman, the nation's first-ever youth poet laureate, after she delivered a poem at the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural Poem Is a Stunning Vision of Democracy. (New Yorker, January 20, 2021)
Among the firsts in Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb,” is the concept of democracy that it assumed. Democracy, according to the twenty-two-year-old poet, is an aspiration—a thing of the future. The word “democracy” first appears in the same verse in which Gorman refers to “a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it.” The insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th took place while Gorman was working on the poem, although the “force,” one may assume, is bigger than the insurrection—it is the Trump Presidency that made the insurrection possible, and the forces of white supremacy and inequality that enabled that Presidency itself—“it / Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy / And this effort very nearly succeeded” the poem continues. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed / it can never be permanently defeated.”
"The Hill We Climb"; Read Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem. (CNN, January 20, 2021)
It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it's the past we step into and how we repair it.
We've seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it,
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy,
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
it can never be permanently defeated.
Republican Garth Brooks sang at Biden's inauguration. The internet reacted with memes and history lessons. (Insider, January 20, 2021)
[After performing, why didn't he replace his face mask before hugging all those national leaders? And why haven't we seen that reported?]
The Inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice President of the United States of America. (3.5-hr. video; Biden Inaugural, January 20, 2021)
Proud Boys are ditching Trump hours after he left the White House for good, calling him a 'shill' and 'extraordinarily weak'. (Business Insider,  January 20, 2021)
Ex-C.D.C. Chief on Challenge of Serving Trump During Pandemic (New York Times, January 20, 2021)
Dr. Robert Redfield predicted the “worst is yet to come” with the coronavirus and expressed frustration with the politicization of mask-wearing and mitigation efforts. "My greatest disappointment was the lack of consistency of public health messaging and the inconsistency of civic leaders to reinforce the public health message. You can read between the lines what that means — civic leaders."
Mitch McConnel says Trump provoked the attack on the U.S. Capitol building. (11-min. video; The Young Turks, January 19, 2021)
Attorney General William Barr calls Trump claims "bulls***", Trump freaks. (7-min. video; The Young Turks, January 19, 2021)
Paul Krugmann: Evidence Makes A Comeback. (New York Times, January 19, 2021)
"And I, for one, am thrilled that 23½ hours after this newsletter goes out we’ll have an administration that understands that."
Navalny, From Jail, Issues Report Describing an Opulent Putin ‘Palace’. (New York Times, January 19, 2021)
As part of a dramatic battle with the Russian president playing out before an online audience of millions, the opposition leader and his team detailed a lavish compound costing more than $1 billion.
NEW: The State of Broadband in America, Q4 2020 (BroadbandNow, January 19, 2021)
While 78% of Americans have access to wired providers who report that they can service speeds of 100 Mbps download / 25 Mbps upload, only 30% of Americans have access to low-priced plans at that speed.
Seventeen Ways America is Less Democratic than other Major Western Countries and How We Can Do Better. (Second Rate Democracy, January 19, 2021)
A web project of Douglas J. Amy, Professor Emeritus of Politics, Mount Holyoke College.
The United States is the country that democracy left behind. At its founding, the U.S. was on the cutting edge of democracy. Our Constitution rejected rule by kings and pioneered democratic innovations like civil liberties. But in the 200 years since, democratic institutions have continued to evolve – with improvements in legislatures, elections, the judiciary, party systems, and so on. Other Western nations, with more modern constitutions, have taken advantage of these institutional advances and made their democracies fairer, more representative, and more accountable to their citizens. We haven’t followed suit and we’ve become a second-rate democracy, with a government mired in gridlock, dominated by monied interests, and unresponsive to the public.
Rioter planned attack, wanted to trap lawmakers and 'turn on gas': Prosecutors. (ABC News, January 19, 2021)
Federal authorities are continuing to charge rioters who took part in the siege on Capitol Hill. These are the most recent charges:
The Justice Department has filed its first conspiracy charges from the Capitol riot against a Virginia man who they allege was an apparent leader of a group of militia members who were part of the mob that stormed the building. Thomas Edward Caldwell is identified in an FBI affidavit as a member of the Oath Keepers. An agent alleges that he helped organize a group of eight to 10 of his fellow members to storm the Capitol with the intention of disrupting the counting of the Electoral College vote. The group can be seen in video walking uniformly through a crowd of rioters trying to gain entrance to the Capitol. Those members included co-conspirators Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl, who were charged for their role in the riots earlier this week. In social media posts, both Crowl and Watkins referred to Caldwell as "Commander," according to the court documents. While inside the Capitol, Caldwell allegedly received Facebook messages telling him to "seal" in lawmakers in the tunnels under the Capitol and to "turn on gas." Other messages appeared to be trying to give him updates on the locations of lawmakers, the affidavit states. Other texts reveal the extensive planning and even potential attacks that he and other members of the Oath Keepers were mounting leading up to the riots.
[And many others...]
Self-styled militia members planned on storming the U.S. Capitol days in advance of Jan. 6 attack, court documents say. (Washington Post, January 19, 2021)
Self-styled militia members from Virginia, Ohio and other states made plans to storm the U.S. Capitol days in advance of the Jan. 6 attack, and then communicated in real time as they breached the building on opposite sides and talked about hunting for lawmakers, according to court documents filed Tuesday. While authorities have charged more than 100 individuals in the riot, details in the new allegations against three U.S. military veterans offer a disturbing look at what they allegedly said to one another before, during and after the attack — statements that indicate a degree of preparation and determination to rush deep into the halls and tunnels of Congress to make “citizens’ arrests” of elected officials.
“This is the first step toward identifying and understanding that there was some type of concerted conspiracy here,” said one senior official with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which is leading the investigation. “Whether everyone else just happened to be there and got caught up in the moment, or if this is just the tip of the iceberg, how much this will grow at this point I can’t tell you, but we are continuing to investigate aggressively,” according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a pending investigation.
NEW: “Holy Grail” – Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments Reverse Aging Process in First Clinical Trial. (SciTechDaily, January 19, 2021)
A new study from Tel Aviv University (TAU) and the Shamir Medical Center in Israel indicates that hyperbaric oxygen treatments (HBOT) in healthy aging adults can stop the aging of blood cells and reverse the aging process. In the biological sense, the adults’ blood cells actually grow younger as the treatments progress.
The researchers found that a unique protocol of treatments with high-pressure oxygen in a pressure chamber can reverse two major processes associated with aging and its illnesses: the shortening of telomeres (protective regions located at both ends of every chromosome) and the accumulation of old and malfunctioning cells in the body. Focusing on immune cells containing DNA obtained from the participants’ blood, the study discovered a lengthening of up to 38% of the telomeres, as well as a decrease of up to 37% in the presence of senescent cells.
Trump Has Discussed Starting a New "Patriot" Political Party. (Wall Street Journal, January 19, 2021)
It’s unclear how serious Mr. Trump is about starting a new party, which would require a significant investment of time and resources. The president has a large base of supporters, some of whom were not deeply involved in Republican politics prior to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign. Third parties have typically failed to draw enough support to play a major role in national elections. Any effort to start a new party would likely face intense opposition from Republican party officials, who would chafe at the thought of Mr. Trump peeling off support from GOP candidates.
Departing Trump administration issues racist school curriculum report on MLK day. (CNN, January 18, 2021)
A commission stood up by President Donald Trump as a rebuttal to schools applying a more accurate history curriculum around slavery in the US issued its inflammatory "1776 Report" on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Trump announced that he was establishing the commission last fall, following a slew of Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the country. He blamed the school curriculum for violence that resulted from some of the protests, saying that "the left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools." The commission is an apparent counter to The New York Times' "1619" Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning project aimed at teaching American students about slavery. Trump, speaking last fall, called the project "toxic propaganda."
[As one of his first-day actions, President Biden took down this hypocritical "preserve the imbalance" report]
Trump promoted N.M. official’s comment that "the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat." Now the man is arrested in the Capitol riot. (Washington Post, January 18, 2021)
President Trump’s culpability for the attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol two weeks ago will be judged by U.S. senators in a looming impeachment trial — and possibly by the court system after he leaves the presidency. Now a man with a personal connection to Trump — and whose violent rhetoric Trump promoted to the world — has been arrested in the riot.
Otero County, N.M., Commissioner Couy Griffin was arrested Sunday for illegally entering the Capitol on Jan. 6. Griffin, the head of a group called Cowboys for Trump, claims he got caught up with the crowd and didn’t actually enter the building, but the affidavit says video on his personal Facebook page showed him in restricted areas.
Griffin also pledged to return to Washington with guns for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration Wednesday, and he alluded to the prospect of violence and another incursion into the offices of lawmakers. According to the affidavit, he said in a video posted after the Jan. 6 riot: "    … We could have a 2nd Amendment rally on those same steps that we had that rally yesterday. You know, and if we do, then it’s gonna be a sad day, because there’s gonna be blood running out of that building. But at the end of the day, you mark my word, we will plant our flag on the desk of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Donald J. Trump if it boils down to it."
FBI: Texas man threatened to shoot family if they reported him going in U.S. Capitol. (Houston Chronicle, January 18, 2021)
A Wylie man arrested over the weekend for going inside of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 told his family he went there "to protect the country" and threatened to shoot his children if they turned him in, authorities say. Guy Reffitt took his gun with him when they "stormed the Capitol" and recorded some of the events on his Go Pro camera that he was wearing on his helmet, according to a federal criminal complaint.
Reffitt was arrested Saturday at his Wylie home and faces federal charges of obstruction of justice and knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority. Wylie is about 55 miles northeast of Fort Worth. The Wylie man, who is a member of "Texas Freedom Force," a militia extremist group, remained in federal custody on Monday. FBI agents tracked down Reffitt through a news video, showing a man outside the U.S. Capitol building using a water bottle to flush out his eyes after apparently being pepper-sprayed.
Biden has a congressional shortcut to cancel Trump’s regulatory rollbacks, but it comes with risks. (The Conversation, January 18, 2021)
The Trump administration dedicated itself to deregulation with unprecedented fervor. It rolled back scores of regulations across government agencies, including more than 80 environmental rules.
The Biden administration can reverse some of those actions quickly – for instance, as president, Joe Biden can undo Donald Trump’s executive orders with a stroke of the pen. He plans to restore U.S. involvement in the Paris climate agreement that way on his first day in office.
Undoing most regulatory rollbacks, however, will require a review process that can take years, often followed by further delays during litigation.
There is an alternative, but it comes with risks. Biden could take a leaf from the Republicans’ 2017 playbook, when congressional Republicans used a shortcut based on an obscure federal law called the Congressional Review Act to wipe out several Obama administration regulations.
Breakthrough Allows Inexpensive Electric Vehicle Battery to Charge in Just 10 Minutes. (Sci Tech Daily, January 18, 2021)
Range anxiety, the fear of running out of power before being able to recharge an electric vehicle, may be a thing of the past, according to a team of Penn State engineers who are looking at lithium iron phosphate batteries that have a range of 250 miles with the ability to charge in 10 minutes.
NEW: 41 minutes of fear: A timeline from inside the Capitol siege (14-min. video; Seattle Times, January 17, 2021)
At 2:12 p.m. on Jan. 6, supporters of President Donald Trump began climbing through a window they had smashed on the northwest side of the U.S. Capitol. “Go! Go! Go!” someone shouted as the rioters, some in military gear, streamed in. It was the start of the most serious attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812. The mob coursed through the building, enraged that Congress was preparing to make Trump’s electoral defeat official. “Drag them out! … Hang them out!” rioters yelled at one point, as they gatherednear the House chamber. Officials in the House and Senate secured the doors of their respective chambers, but lawmakers were soon forced to retreat to undisclosed locations. Five people died on the grounds that day, including a Capitol police officer. In all, more than 50 officers were injured.
To reconstruct the pandemonium inside the Capitol for the video above, The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and hundreds of videos, some of which were exclusively obtained. By synchronizing the footage and locating some of the camera angles within a digital 3-D model of the building, The Post was able to map the rioters’ movements and assess how close they came to lawmakers – in some cases feet apart or separated only by a handful of vastly outnumbered police officers.
NEW: Poison squad stalked Alexei Navalny on 40 flights, says Bellingcat investigator. (The Guardian, January 17, 2021)
As Russian opposition leader returns to Moscow, flight records show how Kremlin agents have been following him for years
America's soaring national debt is a looming disaster. (Business Insider, January 17, 2021)
The problem in the United States today is that our use of debt does not satisfy the conditions for "good" debt.
A Single Gene “Invented” Hemoglobin Several Times. (Sci Tech Daily, January 17, 2021)
Thanks to the marine worm Platynereis dumerilii, an animal whose genes have evolved very slowly, scientists have shown that while hemoglobin appeared independently in several species, it actually descends from a single gene transmitted to all by their last common ancestor.
Astronomers Discover Earliest Supermassive Black Hole and Quasar in the Universe – 1000x More Luminous Than the Milky Way. (Sci Tech Daily, January 17, 2021)
The most distant quasar known has been discovered. The quasar, observed just 670 million years after the Big Bang, is 1000 times more luminous than the Milky Way. It is powered by the earliest known supermassive black hole, which weighs in at more than 1.6 billion times the mass of the Sun. Seen more than 13 billion years ago, this fully formed distant quasar is also the earliest yet discovered, providing astronomers with insight into the formation of massive galaxies in the early Universe.
Sabine Hossenfelder: Was the universe made for us? (9-min. video; BackReaction, January 16, 2021)
Today I want to talk about the claim that our universe is especially made for humans, or fine-tuned for life. According to this idea, it’s extremely unlikely our universe would just happen to be the way it is by chance, and the fact that we nevertheless exist requires explanation. This argument is popular among some religious people who use it to claim that our universe needs a creator, and the same argument is used by physicists to pass off unscientific ideas, like the multiverse or naturalness, as science. In this video, I will explain what’s wrong with this argument, and why the observation that the universe is this way and not some other way, is evidence neither for nor against god or the multiverse.
Mary Koch: The Vaccine (Every New Season, January 16, 2021)
There are folks with “vaccine hesitancy.” It’s a national phenomenon, especially among many front-line health care workers whose responses range from “maybe later” to downright “no.” A hospital in New York reported that only three of nineteen full-time staff members in the respiratory therapy department agreed to get vaccinated. These are the folks who are at great personal risk as they intubate critically ill coronavirus patients.
My own Patrick Henry stance is that I’ll fight for other people’s right not to be injected, but I didn’t hesitate. I rolled up my sleeve for the same reason I get a flu shot every winter, for the same reason I wear a mask when around others. It’s really not about me. It’s about living in a community. The healthier each one of us is, the healthier we all are.
DuckDuckGo surpasses 100 million daily search queries for the first time. (ZDNet, January 16, 2021)
DuckDuckGo reaches historic milestone in a week when both Signal and Telegram saw a huge influx of new users.
Misinformation dropped dramatically the week after Twitter banned Trump and some allies. (Washington Post, January 16, 2021)
Zignal Labs charts 73 percent decline on Twitter and beyond following historic action against the president.
Selfie-Snapping Rioters Leave FBI a Trail of Over 140,000 Images. (Bloomberg, January 16, 2021)
Citizens and police sift online trove to find Capitol mob. Facial recognition software used by at least one police department. The FBI has quickly identified more than 275 suspects -- the number is expected to grow quickly -- related to last week’s Capitol riot. More than 98 have been arrested, often with the aid of video taken or social media posted by the participants themselves. And investigators, academics and citizen sleuths are still combing though broadcast footage and websites such as Twitter Inc., YouTube and even archives of the now-defunct Parler platform favored by right-wing activists.
“Social media companies let this fester for years, but you’re seeing a sea change,” said a global head of managed security services. “They’re not going to stonewall any longer.” Like social media companies, telecoms will be essential to investigations, and be obligated to maintain and turnover subscriber call logs and location data once subpoenaed or presented with a warrant. Carriers and online companies say they cooperate with law enforcement.
Historians having to tape together records that Trump tore up. (The Guardian, January 16, 2021)
Implications for public record and legal proceedings after administration seized or destroyed papers, notes and other information.
The public will not see Donald Trump’s White House records for years, but there is growing concern the collection will never be complete – leaving a hole in the history of one of America’s most tumultuous presidencies. Trump has been cavalier about the law requiring that records be preserved. He has a habit of ripping up documents before tossing them out, forcing White House workers to spend hours taping them back together.
Bundy warns he will 'walk towards guns' if Biden tries to collect 28 years of unpaid grazing fees. (Daily Kos, January 16, 2021)
Remember Cliven Bundy, the stubborn Nevada rancher whose decades-long refusal to pay grazing fees for cattle he runs on federal land led to a 2014 armed stand-off at his family ranch and in 2016, another armed stand-off led by his son Ammon Bundy in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge? Bundy wound up in pre-trial detention for 18 months over the 2014 stand-off, but because of prosecutorial misconduct, he was released and his case adjudged a mistrial. New charges weren’t filed. He and his large family continue to run cattle on federal land without paying the modest grazing fees. By 2014, 21 years after he began refusing to pay for this use of public land, the back fees had accumulated to more than $1 million. Currently, 24,000 permit holders are charged $1.35 per animal per month for grazing—a very good deal. But not as good as Bundy’s steal.
Now the 74-year-old rancher has advice for President-elect Joe Biden’s administration: It better not come trying to collect those unpaid fees, because he and his militant supporters are willing to "walk towards guns" again if that happens.
What motivates the motivated reasoning of pro-Trump conspiracists? (Ars Technica, January 16, 2021)
New study suggests a desire to see society focus on men helps drive support.
Motivated reasoning is the idea that our mental processes often cause us to filter the evidence we accept based on whether it's consistent with what we want to believe. During these past few weeks, it has been on display in the United States on a truly grand scale. People are accepting context-free videos shared on social media over investigations performed by election officials. They're rejecting obvious evidence of President Donald Trump's historic unpopularity while buying in to evidence-free conspiracies involving deceased Latin American dictators.
If the evidence for motivated reasoning is obvious, however, it's a lot harder to figure out what's providing the motivation. It's not simply Republican identity, given that Trump adopted many policies that went against previous Republican orthodoxy. The frequent appearance of Confederate flags confirms some racism is involved, but that doesn't seem to explain it all. There's a long enough list of potential motivations to raise doubts as to whether a single one could possibly suffice.
A recent paper in PNAS, however, provides a single explanation that incorporates a lot of the potential motivations. Called "hegemonic masculinity," it involves a world view that places males from the dominant cultural group as the focus of societal power. And survey data seems to back up the idea.
A Shocking List of 30+ Elected Officials at Trump's Rally, Capitol Insurrection; It Keeps Growing. (Daily Kos, January 16, 2021)
There is a new class of fringe radical right-wing trolls entering Congress this year, including Reps. Madison Cawthorn, crime enthusiast Lauren Boebert, QAnon fanatic Marjorie Taylor Greene. They join resident right-wing conspiracy degenerates like Reps. Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, and Mo Brooks, among others.
The latter three coordinated with the leaders of the coup attempt, encouraging them and recording rally hype videos for their followers. Boebert seems to have played an active role on the day of the coup attempt, which is a whole new level of treason. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a moderate Democrat from New Jersey and a Navy veteran, suggested earlier this week that she saw Republicans giving rioters tours of the Capitol the day before the insurrection took place. Capitol Police confirm that there is an active investigation into the accusation, while Boebert seemed to accidentally confirm it on Twitter.
That QAnon and these far-right conspiracy lunatics have infiltrated the national government is terrifying, but what’s even scarier is the fact that so many more of them have wormed their way into state and local governments.
Off-duty police were part of the Capitol mob. Now police are turning in their own. (Washington Post, January 16, 2021)
During the chaos at the Capitol, overwhelmed police officers confronted and combated a frenzied sea of rioters who transformed the seat of democracy into a battlefield. Now police chiefs across the country are confronting the uncomfortable reality that members in their own ranks were among the mob that faced off against other law enforcement officers. At least 13 off-duty law enforcement officials are suspected of taking part in the riot, a tally that could grow as investigators continue to pore over footage and records to identify participants. Police leaders are turning in their own to the FBI and taking the striking step of reminding officers in their departments that criminal misconduct could push them off the force and behind bars.
“We are making clear that they have First Amendment rights like all Americans,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who on Thursday accepted the resignation of an 18-year veteran in his department due to his involvement in the riot, which followed a rally at which President Trump urged his supporters to not accept his defeat. “However, engaging in activity that crosses the line into criminal conduct will not be tolerated.”
How the rioters who stormed the Capitol came dangerously close to Pence. (Washington Post, January 15, 2021)
According to the FBI, one man who was charged this week with trespassing and disorderly conduct after making his way into the Senate chamber said in a YouTube video: “Once we found out Pence turned on us and that they had stolen the election, like, officially, the crowd went crazy. I mean, it became a mob.” At one point, a group of rioters began chanting, “Hang Mike Pence!” as they streamed into the main door on the east side of the Capitol.
The violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 came perilously close to Vice President Pence, who was not evacuated from the Senate chamber for about 14 minutes after the Capitol Police reported an initial attempted breach of the complex — enough time for the marauders to rush inside the building and approach his location, according to law enforcement officials and video footage from that day.
Twice the vice president’s agents told Pence that they recommended he and his immediate entourage evacuate the Capitol, according to two people briefed on the episode. Pence declined the recommendation both times, saying he did not want to be driven out of his own office and the Capitol by an unruly mob. The third time, the Secret Service didn’t give Pence a choice. Detail agents told Pence they were all going — that instant. Secret Service officers spirited Pence to a room off the Senate floor withhis wife, Karen Pence, his daughter, Charlotte Pence Bond, and his brother, Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), who had come to the Senate and was watching its debate over Arizona’s electoral vote with his sister-in-law and niece.
About one minute after Pence was hustled out of the chamber, a group charged up the stairs to a second-floor landing. , chasing Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman who drew them away from the Senate. They arriving on the landing at 2:14 p.m., video footage shows — mere seconds after the vice president had been whisked inside the office.
It would take several hours before Capitol Police — aided by hundreds of D.C. police officers, FBI SWAT team members, Secret Service officers and National Guard soldiers — ejected the rioters from the grounds and secured the building. As lawmakers debated where and how they should reconvene to continue the electoral vote count disrupted by the violent mob, Pence pushed to continue the session where it had begun — in the Capitol.
Once the Capitol Police gave the all-clear, Pence left his secure location and returned to the Senate chamber after 8 p.m. Before Congress resumed its work, the vice president addressed the day’s violence in an unusual speech as president of the Senate. “Today was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol,” Pence said, adding: “We will always be grateful to the men and women who stayed at their posts to defend this historic place. To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the People’s House.”
“Where They Countin’ the Votes?!”: New Video Details Tense Moments as Capitol Mob Sought Out Lawmakers. (3-min. video; ProPublica, January 15, 2021)
More than 10 million people have seen the video shot by HuffPost reporter Igor Bobic showing a Black Capitol Police officer leading pro-Trump rioters away from where senators were holed up in the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Now, ProPublica has uncovered new footage — amid a trove of content archived from the now-shuttered social platform Parler — that reveals the raw moments before Officer Eugene Goodman’s actions. The clip, recorded minutes after crowds breached a barrier outside, allows the public to see and hear new details from a turbulent day that ultimately led to President Donald Trump’s second impeachment.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a bill to award Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal for luring the mob away from lawmakers. Goodman is a 40-year-old U.S. Army veteran and was deployed with the 101st Airborne Division to Iraq for a year.
Two rioters claim Capitol officer told them, ‘It’s your house now,’ FBI says. (Washington Post, January 15, 2021)
As rioters overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, an officer guarding the building shook hands with two people in the mob and admitted defeat, according to the account the men provided FBI agents. Robert L. Bauer and Edward Hemenway told an FBI agent that after they rushed into the building with the crowd, one Capitol Police officer shook their hands, gave one a partial hug and told them both that “it’s your house now.”
“Sorry,” Hemenway recalled telling the officer.
“It’s your house now, man,” he said the officer replied.
Bauer told the FBI he “believed that the policeman was acting out of fear,” according to an affidavit filed Thursday in federal court in the District.
The chief of the Capitol Police and House and Senate sergeants at arms have all resigned in the wake of the attack that left a Capitol Police officer and four rioters dead. It took nearly four hours to secure the building from rioters seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Biden taps Eric Lander and Maria Zuber for senior science posts. (MIT News, January 15, 2021)
Biden intends to elevate the Presidential Science Advisor, for the first time in history, to be a member of his Cabinet.
Bill Gates is now America's biggest private farmland owner, says new report. (The Hill, January 15, 2021)
The Microsoft tech billionaire and his wife own 242,000 acres of farmland across the U.S.
NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas. (Politico, January 15, 2021)
The announcement came months after New York’s attorney general sued the organization over claims that top executives illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars for lavish personal trips, no-show contracts for associates and other questionable expenditures. The coronavirus pandemic has also upended the NRA, which last year laid off dozens of employees. The group canceled its national convention and scuttled fundraising. The NRA's bankruptcy filing listed between $100 million and $500 million in assets and between $100 million and $500 million in liabilities. Still, the NRA claimed in announcing the move that the organization was “in its strongest financial condition in years.”
Shortly after the announcement, New York Attorney General Letitia James said she would not allow the NRA to “evade accountability” or oversight. Her office's lawsuit last year highlighted misspending and self-dealing claims that have roiled the NRA and LaPierre in recent years— from hair and makeup for his wife to a $17 million post-employment contract for himself. “The NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt," James said.
Hackers alter stolen regulatory data to sow mistrust in COVID-19 vaccine. (Ars Technica, January 15, 2021)
Post titled “Astonishing fraud! Evil Pfffizer! Fake vaccines!” found on the dark Web.
Federal COVID-19 vaccine reserve is now empty, sparking angry response. (The Hill, January 15, 2021)
The Trump administration had previously been stockpiling half of available COVID-19 vaccine doses to ensure those who received the first jab would have access to the required second dose.
Parler Tricks (Mozilla News Byte, January 15, 2021)
Parler touted itself as the social network that offered its users unbridled free speech “without fear of being ‘deplatformed’ for your views.” But the site’s lax approach to content moderation backfired last week. Apple and Google suspended Parler from their app stores based on concerns about its limited content moderation. Faster than you can say, “just use the website,” Amazon removed Parler’s site from its AWS web servers. Parler says the tech companies’ response was anti-competitive in nature, and outlined this claim in its lawsuit against Amazon.
Texas realtor who flew on private jet to the Capitol arrested after filming herself breaking in. (Daily Kos, January 15, 2021)
A real estate broker from Frisco, Texas, has been charged in the Capitol building insurrection that took place in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6. Jenna Ryan documented her crimes on social media and is being charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority” and “disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.” The complaint includes Facebook posts from Ryan’s account detailing her private jet flight, with images, from Denton, Texas, to Washington to participate in a crime against our democracy.
Ryan made headlines with her photos and video from the Capitol siege, including one strange image of her in front of one of the many broken Capitol building windows that showed her smiling and putting up the victory sign (Lord knows it wasn’t the peace sign), and writing this cryptic soliloquy: “Window at The capital [sic]. And if the news doesn’t stop lying about us we’re going to come after their studios next...” Ummm. Got that?
FCC fines white-supremacist robocaller $10 million for faking caller ID. (Ars Technica, January 15, 2021)
The Federal Communications Commission finalized the fine against Scott Rhodes of Idaho yesterday, nearly one year after the FCC first proposed the penalty. "This individual made thousands of spoofed robocalls targeting specific communities with harmful pre-recorded messages," the FCC said in an announcement. "The robocalls included xenophobic fearmongering (including to a victim's family), racist attacks on political candidates, an apparent attempt to influence the jury in a domestic terrorism case, and threatening language toward a local journalist. The caller used an online calling platform to intentionally manipulate caller ID information so that the calls he was making appeared to come from local numbers—a technique called 'neighbor spoofing.'"
Rhodes in November 2018 "launched a campaign targeting Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams," with 583 robocalls that "purported to be from Oprah Winfrey, who was in Georgia campaigning with Ms. Abrams," the FCC said in the forfeiture order. The FCC order pointed to a CNN article from the time, which said, "The group behind the robocall is The Road to Power, a white supremacist and anti-Semitic video podcast hosted by Scott Rhodes of Idaho." The robocall contained "racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric," CNN wrote.
Another Rhodes campaign targeted Andrew Gillum, who was running for governor in Florida. "Well hello there. I is the negro Andrew Gillum, and I be asking you to make me governor of this here state of Florida," the robocalls said, "with a man speaking in a caricature of a Black dialect," CNN wrote at the time.
As to Rhodes' claim that his actions are protected as "free speech", because his robocaller's fake caller ID numbers were allegedly chosen as neo-Nazi symbols, "The fact that particular numbers may be intended to convey a political message does not afford a caller the right to use the numbers in violation of the Truth in Caller ID Act. The Truth in Caller ID Act bars the knowing transmission of inaccurate or misleading caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value."
The FCC has a poor track record collecting fines against robocallers, partly because proposed fines often don't lead to forfeiture orders. In Rhodes' case, yesterday's forfeiture order requires him to pay the fine within 30 days. If he doesn't, the FCC said it "will refer the matter to the US Department of Justice for further action." Issuing the forfeiture order was one of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's final acts before he leaves the commission next week. "With today's fine, we once again make clear our commitment to aggressively go after those who are unlawfully bombarding the American people with spoofed robocalls," Pai said yesterday.
FDA blindsided as Trump Admin cripples agency on its way out. (Ars Technica, January 15, 2021)
It's “a full-frontal assault on public health," one official said.
Last week, HHS said it had finalized a rule that would cause all FDA regulations to expire after 10 years unless they are reviewed. Critics of the rule, called Securing Updated and Necessary Statutory Evaluations Timely or “SUNSET,” noted that the FDA already has mechanisms to sunset outdated regulations, making automatic expiration dates unnecessary. But in a statement announcing the rule, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said that “finalizing our SUNSET rule will deliver for the American people better, smarter, less burdensome regulations in the years to come.”
Next, the HHS moved to permanently waive FDA’s review requirements of medical devices before they hit the market. Seven types of medical gloves have already been permanently exempted, and the HHS has proposed exempting 84 other medical devices, including ventilators, fetal heart monitors, infusion pumps, pediatric facemasks, and medical imaging equipment.
The HHS also moved to force the FDA to publish on its website the time it takes to review new drug applications, claiming that the agency’s current reviews are often too slow.
In yet another strike, Politico reported Thursday that the Trump Administration is working to ram through term limits on top career scientists at the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other health agencies. The regulation would mandate job reviews every five years, in which scientists would either be renewed or reassigned. “It’s been a step-by-step escalation in retaliation by HHS against career scientists throughout the pandemic,” a current senior administration official told Politico, blaming HHS Secretary Azar for the flurry of attacks. “It’s a clear abuse of power by Azar.”
Donald Trump Built a National Debt So Big (Even Before the Pandemic) That It’ll Weigh Down the Economy for Years. (ProPublica, January 14, 2021)
One of President Donald Trump’s lesser known but profoundly damaging legacies will be the explosive rise in the national debt that occurred on his watch. The financial burden that he’s inflicted on our government will wreak havoc for decades, saddling our kids and grandkids with debt. The “King of Debt” promised to reduce the national debt — then his tax cuts made it surge. Add in the pandemic, and he oversaw the third-biggest deficit increase of any president.
The national debt has risen by almost $7.8 trillion during Trump’s time in office. That’s nearly twice as much as what Americans owe on student loans, car loans, credit cards and every other type of debt other than mortgages, combined, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It amounts to about $23,500 in new federal debt for every person in the country.
Trump seeks to freeze $27.4 billion of programs in final week of presidency. (8-min. video; The Hill, January 14, 2021)
Rex Tillerson is speaking out, and ooh boy, the stories he’s telling about Donald Trump. (Daily Kos, January 14, 2021)
Thousands of troops in Washington for inauguration. (9-min. video; CBC/Canada, January 14, 2021)
“No One Took Us Seriously”: Black Cops Warned About Racist Capitol Police Officers for Years. (ProPublica, January 14, 2021)
Allegations of racism against the Capitol Police are nothing new: Over 250 Black cops have sued the department since 2001. Some of those former officers now say it’s no surprise white nationalists were able to storm the building. The 2001 case, which started with more than 250 plaintiffs, remains pending. As recently as 2016, a Black female officer filed a racial discrimination complaint against the department.
In her 25 years with the Capitol Police, Blackmon-Malloy spent decades trying to raise the alarm about what she saw as endemic racism within the force, even organizing demonstrations where Black officers would return to the Capitol off-duty, protesting outside the building they usually protect. “Nothing ever really was resolved. Congress turned a blind eye to racism on the Hill,” Blackmon-Malloy, who retired as a lieutenant in 2007, told ProPublica. She is now vice president of the U.S. Capitol Black Police Association, which held 16 demonstrations protesting alleged discrimination between 2013 and 2018. “We got Jan. 6 because no one took us seriously.”
“The Capitol Police is terrible and pathetic when it comes to threat assessment,” Chaffetz told ProPublica in an interview. “They have a couple people dedicated to it, but they’re overwhelmed. Which drives me nuts. ... It’s not been a priority for leadership, on both sides of the aisle.” He said he is not aware of any serious changes to the force’s intelligence gathering following the debacle.
“For weeks, these people had been talking about coming to the Capitol to do as much harm as they can,” Norton said. “Everyone knew it. Except the Capitol Police.” Reports show the force had no contingency plan to deal with an escalation of violence and mayhem at last week’s rally, even though the FBI and the New York Police Department had warned them it could happen.
Judge frees North Texan who faces charges in the Capitol riot, despite warnings from the FBI. (Dallas News, January 14, 2021)
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cureton ordered Brock released on restrictive conditions including house arrest. The North Texas man is charged with one count of entering or remaining in a restricted building without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. The siege of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6 left five people dead. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer said more serious federal charges against Brock are expected.
In ruling not to detain the defendant, Cureton cited his “long and distinguished military career.”
Earlier in the hearing, John Moore, a Dallas FBI agent specializing in domestic terrorism, testified that Brock had become radicalized in recent months over unsubstantiated claims of a stolen election. The agent also said Brock had been fired from a job in 2018 for making threatening and bigoted remarks. Moore said he had spoken to some of Brock’s Air Force Academy classmates who said his “rhetoric started to get pretty hostile” after the November election. Brock, they said, had “made reference to a civil war.” Some blocked him on social media because of his vague threats of violence, the agent said.
Capitol rioters included highly trained ex-military and cops. (Associated Press, January 14, 2021)
“ISIS and al-Qaida would drool over having someone with the training and experience of a U.S. military officer,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent and fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “These people have training and capabilities that far exceed what any foreign terrorist group can do. Foreign terrorist groups don’t have any members who have badges.”
Among the most prominent to emerge is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and decorated combat veteran from Texas who was arrested after he was photographed wearing a helmet and body armor on the floor of the Senate, holding a pair of zip-tie handcuffs.
NEW: 'HOOYAH!' Deadly attack on Capitol has retired Navy warfare operator all but jumping for joy. (Daily Kos, January 13, 2021)
[Interesting Comments thread, as well.]
Dostoevsky warned of the strain of nihilism that infects Donald Trump and his movement. (The Conversation, January 13, 2021)
Heather Cox Richardson: Republicans are in the same bind they’ve been in for years. (Letters From An American, January 13, 2021)
At 4:22 this afternoon, the House of Representatives passed the number of votes necessary to impeach Trump. In the end, 232 Representatives—222 Democrats and 10 Republicans—agreed that the president had incited an insurrection and must be removed from office. But 197 Republicans disagreed.
In the week since the attack, emerging information indicates the insurgency was planned, not spontaneous, and that lawmakers might be involved. Democrats have stood up to this attack on our democracy, but Republicans are in the same bind they’ve been in for years: how can they both keep Trump’s voters and reject Trump himself? Only by ignoring the Constitutional oath and the well-being of the nation.
This Impeachment Is Different. (The Atlantic, January 13, 2021)
In 2019, Democrats voted to make a statement. Maybe the second time’s the charm.
This afternoon, Donald Trump, the third president in American history to be impeached, became the first to be impeached twice. The House of Representatives voted 232–197 to impeach Trump for inciting the attempted coup on January 6 and for trying to overturn Joe Biden’s election as president. The matter now goes to the Senate, where a trial is unlikely before Biden’s January 20 inauguration.
Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine suggests strong immune response. (The Hill, January 13, 2021)
One of the next vaccine candidates could change the game, but is reportedly behind production goals.
Natick "Boil Water" Alert (Town of Natick, January 13, 2021)
The Town received notice this afternoon of the presence of E. coli bacteria within drinking water samples collected yesterday, January 12th. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection regulations require the Town to issue a ‘boil water order’ effective immediately.
[And here are the CDC guidelines. On afternoon of Jan. 15th, Natick gave all-clear; it was a lab-analysis error.]
"Too little, too late": Extremism experts criticize payment companies. (NBC News, January 13, 2021)
After violent Trump supporters stormed the Capitol last week, several mainstream payment companies pledged to sever ties with groups or individuals promoting hate and violence. Stripe, PayPal and Square said that they had stopped providing services to individuals and organizations connected to the riot as part of a sweeping enforcement of policies against inciting violence.
But extremism experts say it’s too little, too late. The flurry of activity and public pledges follows years of efforts by extremism and brand safety experts to get payment companies to better police their platforms to ensure they don’t let hate groups receive direct donations or provide them payment tools for selling merchandise.
Extremists flocking to encrypted apps could restart debate over law enforcement access. (Washington Post, January 13, 2021)
Far-right chat rooms in Telegram have gained thousands of members in the days since the assault on the Capitol, particularly since Parler was suspended, where some extremists are sharing instructions for making and hiding guns and bombs to use against government officials on Inauguration Day. Other rallies are being planned on the platform and Signal, another encrypted app that's hard for government officials to monitor. And the FBI is scrambling to identify those involved in the Jan. 6 violence – a task that will surely be harder if they move their open plotting to encrypted chats.
The migration could revive the encryption debate in Washington. The chances for this issue to resurface are higher if violence continues until and past President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration – and exponentially so if law enforcement deems the encrypted apps a blind spot.
Locals Who Attended Pro-Trump Protest Return To MA As Pariahs. (Natick Patch, January 13, 2021)
Town officials, business owners and others have returned home to heavy criticism, calls for resignation and boycotts.
Parler is offline, but violent posts scraped by hackers will haunt users. (Washington Post, January 12, 2021)
Parler’s data was easily scraped from its site, a researcher said, as it fell off the Internet this week.
Rioters who stormed the Capitol last week posted some of their plans on Parler, a social media network that prides itself on free speech. “Better advice … go armed and ready to shoot,” one user posted on the site on Jan. 6, according to screenshots shared on Twitter.
Over the weekend, Parler was removed from the Apple and Google app stores. On Monday, Parler disappeared from the Internet entirely as Amazon’s cloud provider dropped it. All the tech giants cited the site’s incitements to violence and lack of content moderation.
Parler quickly became a breeding ground for conspiracy theories about the election and calls for violence in D.C. And one by one, technical services in the days following the riot dropped their support, culminating with Amazon’s decision. As its fate became clear, a group of hackers worked to archive the site so no posts — potentially incriminating or not — would be lost. Users, who flocked to the site on the promise of free speech and expression without censorship, were dealt a parting blow from a researcher who said she is in the process of archiving nearly all public posts on Parler and will make them available to others online.
After US Capitol assault, a different cybersecurity threat emerges. (Engadget, January 12, 2021)
In which we acknowledge the big cyber-elephant in the room.
We all saw the images: threatening notes left on computers, the House Speaker’s computer screen unlocked with email open, MAGA terrorists looting — and taking electronic items yet to be identified. Reports, with probably more to come, of laptops stolen from the offices of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senator Jeff Merkley. Now there are as-yet unconfirmed reports that several classified laptops were stolen during the mob’s assault on the Capitol -- left open and logged onto the classified SIPRNet network.
Initial impressions of the January 6 attack made it seem like the violent mob were costumed, unstable, virulently racist clowns that were just doing it for the ‘gram. Infosec got the quick impression that they “were unsophisticated opportunists who were more interested in taking selfies than infiltrating computer networks.”
As we now know, this masked an organized, well-equipped, and pre-planned reality. Low-key, armed, ex-military teams with flexicuffs. Militia (“Oath Keepers”) on radios and in body armor, whose forums overflow with fantasies and plans to execute people. In just one example of preparation, attackers knew where to find (Black, Democrat) House Majority Whip James Clyburn’s unmarked secondary office — bee-lining to where he was supposed to be at the time.
Weeks of advanced notice, a loud and unpredictable mob as cover, and a plan to breach and occupy the Capitol building. It makes sense to think of it as an opportunity for a foreign adversary to tag along, blend into the crowd and see what they could get.
Let’s just hope the House of Representatives and Senate — which each have their own Sergeant-at-Arms offices overseeing cybersecurity — can think beyond the concept of “foreign adversary” and acknowledge domestic, white supremacist terrorist hackers as an extremely serious threat. Downplaying or ignoring domestic cyber-adversaries, vis-a-vis everyone’s first impressions about the Capitol mob, is likely to be a deadly mistake.
Paul Krugmann: The Economic Consequences of the Putsch (New York Times, January 12, 2021)
Why Are Markets Optimistic? It actually makes sense.
At impeachment hearing, lawmakers will deliberate over a deadly weapon used in the attack on Capitol Hill – President Trump’s words. (73-min. video; The Conversation, January 12, 2021)
Five days after supporters of President Donald Trump attacked the Capitol building, the House of Representatives introduced a single article of impeachment against the president. The article accuses Trump of incitement of insurrection for his continued propagation of lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, as well as his violent rhetoric immediately preceding the attack on Capitol Hill. The article contends that Trump’s lies and rhetoric directly led to violence with the goal of undermining the counting of electoral votes. The president, says the impeachment article, “willfully made statements that, in context, encourage – and foreseeably resulted in – lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.’”
Impeachment proceedings that consider incitement to insurrection are rare in American history. Yet dozens of legislators – including some Republicans – say that Trump’s actions leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol contributed to an attempted insurrection against American democracy itself.
Such claims against Trump are complicated. Rather than wage direct war against sitting U.S. representatives, Trump is accused of using language to motivate others to do so. Some, including the president, have countered that the connection between President Trump’s words and the violence of Jan. 6 is too tenuous, too abstract, too indirect to be considered viable. However, decades of research on social influence, persuasion and psychology show that the messages that people encounter heavily influence their decisions to engage in certain behaviors.
House votes to call on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to strip Trump of power. (New York Times, January 12, 2021)
The House voted on Tuesday night to formally call on Vice President Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment to strip President Trump of his powers after he incited a mob that attacked the Capitol, as lawmakers warned they would impeach the president on Wednesday if Mr. Pence did not comply. Lawmakers, escorted by armed guards into a heavily fortified Capitol, adopted the nonbinding measure just before midnight largely along party lines. The final vote was 223 to 205 to implore Mr. Pence to declare Mr. Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office and to immediately exercise powers as acting president.”
“We’re trying to tell him that the time of a 25th Amendment emergency has arrived,” Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the author of the resolution, said before the vote. “It has come to our doorstep. It has invaded our chamber.”
In letter to Pelosi, Pence rejects House effort to have him strip Trump of powers. (w/link to full letter; New York Times, January 12, 2021)
“I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our nation or consistent with our Constitution,” Mr. Pence wrote in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “I urge you and every member of Congress to avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment.” Mr. Pence privately indicated last week that he did not support invoking the 25th Amendment, and his public rejection of the resolution all but ensured that the House would vote to impeach Mr. Trump on Wednesday.
Pence Reached His Limit With Trump. It Wasn’t Pretty. (New York Times, January 12, 2021)
After four years of tongue-biting silence that critics say enabled the president’s worst instincts, the vice president would not yield to the pressure and name-calling from his boss.
“You can either go down in history as a patriot,” Mr. Trump told him, according to two people briefed on the conversation, “or you can go down in history as a pussy.”
The blowup between the nation’s two highest elected officials then played out in dramatic fashion as the president publicly excoriated the vice president at an incendiary rally and sent agitated supporters to the Capitol where they stormed the building — some of them chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” It was an extraordinary rupture of a partnership that had survived too many challenges to count.
The loyal lieutenant who had almost never diverged from the president, who had finessed every other possible fracture, finally came to a decision point he could not avoid. He would uphold the election despite the president and despite the mob. And he would pay the price with the political base he once hoped to harness for his own run for the White House.
Not everyone gave Mr. Pence much credit, arguing that he should hardly be lionized for following the Constitution and maintaining that his deference to the president for nearly four years enabled Mr. Trump’s assault on democracy in the first place. “I’m glad he didn’t break the law, but it’s kind of hard to call somebody courageous for choosing not to help overthrow our democratic system of government,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey. “He’s got to understand that the man he’s been working for and defending loyally is almost single-handedly responsible for creating a movement in this country that wants to hang Mike Pence.”
Thomas L. Friedman: Trump Is Blowing Apart the G.O.P. God Bless Him. (New York Times, January 12, 2021)
There still will be a place for principled Republicans.
Republicans begin backing impeachment in "vote of conscience". (CNN, January 12, 2021)
Multiple House Republicans announced Tuesday evening they would support the impeachment of President Donald Trump for his role inciting last week's riot as congressional Republicans made their clearest break with Trump to date after he showed no remorse for the US Capitol mob.
While the vast majority of House Republicans are expected to oppose the article of impeachment on Wednesday, there are predictions ranging anywhere from as many as 10 to even 20 or more Republicans who could vote to impeach, according to Republican sources, with some estimates trending upward after the first Republicans came out in favor of impeachment Tuesday.
The first impeachment backers included the House's No. 3 Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, in a remarkable rebuke with a President who has been unassailable in the House GOP conference throughout his four-year term. While House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is opposed to impeachment, House Republican leaders are not lobbying their members to oppose it, and Cheney told the conference Monday it was a "vote of conscience." In another potentially significant blow to Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he believes that impeaching Trump will make it easier to get rid of the President and Trumpism from the Republican Party, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.
McConnell believes impeachment push will help rid Trump from the GOP, but has not said if he will vote to convict. (4-min. video; CNN, January 12, 2021)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he believes that impeaching President Donald Trump will make it easier to get rid of the President and Trumpism from the Republican Party, according to a source with knowledge of the matter. Another person with direct knowledge told CNN there's a reason McConnell has been silent on impeachment as other Republicans have pushed back: he's furious about last week's attack on the US Capitol by the President's supporters, even more so that Trump has shown no contrition. His silence has been deliberate as he leaves open the option of supporting impeachment.
McConnell has made no commitments on voting to convict Trump, and wants to see the article itself before voting. It's a stark contrast to the President's first impeachment when McConnell repeatedly spoke out against Democratic intentions to hold Trump accountable for a pressure campaign on the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his family. McConnell has been steadily moving his conference away from Trump for weeks. While he knows they all aren't there with him, the Kentucky Republican believes the party needs to turn the page.
On Eve of House Vote, McConnell Is Said to Be Pleased About Effort to Impeach Trump. (New York Times, January 12, 2021)
Senator Mitch McConnell is said to believe that the impeachment effort will make it easier to purge President Trump from the party. And Representative Kevin McCarthy has asked other Republicans whether he should call on Mr. Trump to resign in the aftermath of the Capitol siege.
In Extraordinary Move, Joint Chiefs Publicly Affirm That Biden Will Be President. (w/full letter; Talking Points Memo, January 12, 2021)
President Biden will take office on Jan. 20, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Tuesday in a message to the armed forces. “As we have done throughout our history, the U.S. military will obey lawful orders from civilian leadership, support civil authorities to protect lives and property, ensure public safety in accordance with the law, and remain fully committed to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” the message, sent out on Tuesday to all troops, reads. “Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath: it is against the law."
It’s a stunning statement, if only for the fact of its existence: the military feels the need to say that it will stay apolitical, as it has done for nearly 250 years. The message suggests that the country’s top generals feel the need to remind the troops to “embody the values and ideals of the Nation.”
Open Letter to the United States Air Force Academy: “We told you so.” (w/full text; Daily Kos, January 12, 2021)
The MRFF now calls on the Air Force Academy to not only clearly and publicly condemn the actions of its graduate, Mr. Brock, in the harshest possible manner, but also to call on all other USAFA graduates who attended the insurrection to identify themselves and either turn themselves in to police if they broke the law or disavow the violence and storming of the Capitol—if they, themselves, behaved in an otherwise peaceful manner.
We know that one graduate, a newly elected Republican member of Congress from Texas, August Pfluger, embarrassed a multitude of fellow USAFA graduates by objecting to the results of the largest and most scandal-free election in American history—and for that he is complicit in encouraging this mob and should be held responsible for the physical and moral damage caused to our Capitol and the Republic.
The USAFA must address its decades old, complicit role in developing fundamentalist Christian religious/political extremists who are now widely serving in our military. It must, as well, hold itself responsible for creating horrors like Mr. Brock in the same way it does USAFA graduate heroes whom we praise on the other end of the patriotic spectrum.
We told you this was happening. We told you the consequences. It happened.
In his first public appearance since the Capitol siege, Trump expresses no contrition for inciting the mob. (New York Times, January 12, 2021)
President Trump on Tuesday showed no contrition or regret for instigating the mob that stormed the Capitol and threatened the lives of members of Congress and his vice president, saying that his remarks to a rally beforehand were “totally appropriate” and that the effort by Congress to impeach and convict him was “causing tremendous anger.”
Answering questions from reporters for the first time since the violence at the Capitol on Wednesday, Mr. Trump sidestepped questions about his culpability in the deadly riot that shook the nation’s long tradition of peaceful transfers of power. “People thought what I said was totally appropriate,” Mr. Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, en route to Alamo, Texas, where he was set to visit the wall along the Mexican border. Instead, Mr. Trump claimed that protests against racial injustice over the summer were “the real problem.”
Earlier, he asserted that it was the impeachment charge, not the violence and ransacking of the Capitol, that was “causing tremendous anger.”
Mr. Trump had been largely silent since Friday, when Twitter permanently suspended his account. When asked directly on Tuesday morning if he would resign with just nine days left in office, Mr. Trump said, “I want no violence.”
He did not address his own role in inciting the mob of his supporters. Instead, Mr. Trump framed himself as a victim, calling impeachment a "continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics. I think it’s causing tremendous anger."
“The 25th Amendment is of zero risk to me,” he said. “But it will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration. As the expression goes, be careful what you wish for.”
Professor Dr. John Dennehy: What Does SARS-CoV-2 Evolution Mean for the Future of the Pandemic? (59-min. video; Queens College, January 12, 2021)
Dr. Dennehy’s laboratory researches virus evolution, ecology, population dynamics, and the emergence of viruses in new host populations.  Currently, the laboratory’s main focus if two-fold: modeling the persistence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the built environment and monitoring SARS-CoV-2 genetic diversity in NYC wastewater.
[Excellent presentation, with good charts.]
House Democrats propose $1,000 fine for members of Congress who don't wear masks on Capitol grounds. (USA Today, January 12, 2021)
The bill was filed less than a week after a pro-Trump mob stormed and ransacked the Capitol, causing members of Congress to be in lockdown in secure locations within the Capitol complex, where officials say they may have been exposed to the deadly virus.
“It is not brave to refuse to wear a mask, it is selfish, stupid, and shameful behavior that puts lives at risk,” Dingell said in a press release. “We’re done playing games. Either have some common sense and wear a damn mask or pay a fine. It’s not that complicated.”
“No Member of Congress should be able to ignore the rules or put others at risk without penalty,” Brown said.  “As the people’s representatives, it is critical that we set an example for the rest of the country. If Members jeopardize the safety of others, they should face fines.”
Many Democratic lawmakers have complained that several Republican colleagues refused to wear personal protective equipment offered during the Capitol riots last week. In the days since, Reps. Bonnie Coleman, D-N.J., Brad Schneider, D-Illin., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., have all tested positive for the virus. "Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy," Jayapal tweeted after her positive diagnosis.
Thom Hartmann: Will the “Trump Train's” 3rd attempted coup be successful? (Medium, January 12, 2021)
Twice before, oligarchs have attempted to overthrow the government of the United States. This time they might succeed.
It’s all one thing, an effort to overthrow the elected government of the United States, and the oligarchs and fascists aren’t done yet. They want complete control of America.
When Donald Trump first ran for president, it was a stunt to squeeze more money out of NBC and to polish his brand.
But when he was unexpectedly elected, he took cues from the corrupt oligarchs he admired around the world and began a serious project to remake and remold America in their image.
The first country he visited as president, in fact, was the oligarchy of Saudi Arabia, which he effusively praised.
When he proclaimed after his election that there were 3,000,000 “illegal votes” for Hillary Clinton, he was setting up today’s oligarchic takeover attempt by denigrating the American electoral system. He knew from the example of what oligarchs elsewhere in the world had successfully done that if he could convince enough Americans that our election system was “rigged,” he could ignore elections in the future.
House Democrats Briefed On 3 More Terrifying Plots To Overthrow Government. (Huffington Post, January 12, 2021)
On a private call Monday night, new leaders of the Capitol Police told House Democrats they were closely monitoring three separate plans that could pose serious threats to members of Congress as Washington prepares for Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration on Jan. 20. Democrats were told that the Capitol Police and the National Guard were preparing for potentially tens of thousands of armed protesters coming to Washington and were establishing rules of engagement for warfare. In general, the military and police don’t plan to shoot anyone until one of the rioters fires, but there could be exceptions.
The first is a demonstration billed as the “largest armed protest ever to take place on American soil.”
Another is a protest in honor of Ashli Babbitt, the woman killed while trying to climb into the Speaker’s Lobby during Wednesday’s pro-Trump siege of the Capitol.
And another demonstration, which three members said was by far the most concerning plot, would involve insurrectionists forming a perimeter around the Capitol. Lawmakers were told that the plot to encircle the Capitol also included plans to surround the White House ― so that no one could harm Trump ― and the Supreme Court, simply to shut down the courts. The plan to surround the Capitol includes assassinating Democrats as well as Republicans who didn’t support Trump’s effort to overturn the election ― and allowing other Republicans to enter the building and control government.
Parler scrape puts some Capitol rioters in legal jeopardy. (Washington Post, January 12, 2021)
Researchers and analysts say a trove of data archived from conservative-favored social media app Parler poses a real risk for those who used the platform to share their involvement in a pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol. “It's mind-blowing. The potential effects go well beyond tagging who participated in the takeover of the Capitol,” said Peter Singer, a strategist and senior fellow at the New America think tank.
The archive, which was scraped by a self-described hacker who goes by the Twitter handle @donk_enby, represents up to 99.9 percent of the data from Parler before Amazon's cloud services took it offline Monday, Gizmodo's Dell Cameron first reported. Some of the rioters who attacked the Capitol last week, hoping to overturn the presidential election, had posted their plans on Parler, which was also removed from Apple and Google's app stores in the riot's aftermath.
Law enforcement officials have since used the rioters own social media accounts to help track them down and arrest them. That means information archived from sites like Parler, which also includes millions of posts that users deleted, could be used to implicate those who stormed the Capitol and committed possible crimes. The underlying data attached to the posts, including location data, could be matched with information from other online forums, such as Facebook, Singer says.
Natick Residents Petition To Oust Official Seen At Capitol Riot. (Patch News, January 12, 2021)
In Natick, over 500 residents signed a petition to oust a Town Meeting member after she was photographed inside the U.S. Capitol during Wednesday's riot. Sue Ianni was photographed in the Capitol building with her fist raised in a large crowd.
[On Jan. 9th (see below), Sue Ianni refused to say whether she entered the Capitol or not. Also: Bedford Town Flag Spotted At Capitol Riot.)
"We get our President or we die": FBI issued dire warning day before Capitol riots. (36-min. video; USA Today, January 12, 2021)
The FBI issued a dire internal warning on the day before the Capitol riots that violent extremists were planning an armed uprising in Washington that the attackers described as "war" to coincide with Congress' counting state-certified Electoral College votes to confirm the election of Joe Biden, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. The intelligence report, prepared by the FBI's Norfolk office, described an array of preparations for an assault to include a map of Capitol-area tunnels and staging areas in in Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. “An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in,'" the Post reported, quoting from the document's contents. "Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”
FBI warns of plans for nationwide armed protests next week. (Politico, January 11, 2021)
An internal FBI bulletin warned that, as of Sunday, the nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
Before Capitol Riot, Republican Lawmakers Fanned the Flames. (New York Times, January 11, 2021)
A “1776 moment”: Several of the president’s closest allies in Congress used bellicose language to urge their supporters to attend the Jan. 6 rally that turned into a deadly riot.
How should schools teach kids about what happened at the US Capitol on Jan. 6? We asked 6 education experts. (The Conversation, January 11, 2021)
Teachers shouldn't avoid this topic, no matter how uncomfortable it might make them to discuss it with children and teens.
Bill Belichick Turns Down Trump's Offer, Cites Freedom, Democracy. (Patch News, January 11, 2021)
The New England Patriots coach said in a statement that he will not accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week.
The military has a hate group problem. But it doesn't know how bad it's gotten. (Politico, January 11, 2021)
The rise of extremism in the ranks is seen as a "crisis issue" but the military's efforts to weed out radicals are "haphazard" at best.
N.Y.P.D. Concludes Anti-Harassment Official Wrote Racist Online Rants. (New York Times, January 11, 2021)
The official, James F. Kobel, who will now face a departmental trial, filed for retirement as the inquiry was winding down.
An N.J. lawmaker tests positive after being in lockdown in Capitol. (New York Times, January 11, 2021)
Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday — an infection she believes is linked to the time she spent in a secure location with colleagues who refused to wear masks during Wednesday’s siege of the U.S. Capitol. “It angers me when they refuse to adhere to the directions about keeping their masks on,” Ms. Watson Coleman, a Democrat, said in an interview. “It comes off to me as arrogance and defiance. And you can be both, but not at the expense of someone else.”
Parler Is Gone, But Hackers Say They Downloaded Everything First. (Vice, January 11, 2021)
Right-wing social network Parler was taken offline in the early hours of Monday morning, but not before a hacker found a way to download all data posted by users — including messages, images, videos, and users’ location data — shared during last week’s attack on the Capitol. The downloaded data is now being processed before being uploaded to the Internet Archive, where anyone will be able to view or download it — including the open-source intelligence community and law enforcement agencies.
Trump supporters are already voicing their concerns about what the data dump could expose about them and their activity in Washington, D.C. last week. “Bad news. Left extremists have captured and archived over 70TB of data from Parler servers. This includes posts, personal information, locations, videos, images, etc,” a Telegram account called North Central Florida Patriots said on Monday morning. “The intent is a mass dox and a list to hold patriots ‘accountable’. It is too late to scrub your data, and it’s already archived. There is nothing you can do to prevent what’s already happened. All you can do is prepare for the fallout. Accountability may come in many forms for our free speech, doxing, jobs might be called, addresses leaked and people coming to your house, etc.”
Majority of Republicans Blame Biden for the Capitol Riot! (25-min. video; The Young Turks, January 11, 2021)
The Roots of Josh Hawley’s Rage (New York Times, January 11, 2021)
Why do so many Republicans appear to be at war with both truth and democracy?
In today’s Republican Party, the path to power is to build up a lie in order to overturn democracy. At least that is what Senator Josh Hawley was telling us when he offered a clenched-fist salute to the pro-Trump mob before it ransacked the Capitol, and it is the same message he delivered on the floor of the Senate in the aftermath of the attack, when he doubled down on the lies about electoral fraud that incited the insurrection in the first place. How did we get to the point where one of the bright young stars of the Republican Party appears to be at war with both truth and democracy?
The line of thought here is starkly binary and nihilistic. It says that human existence in an inevitably pluralistic, modern society committed to equality is inherently worthless. It comes with the idea that a right-minded elite of religiously pure individuals should aim to capture the levers of government, then use that power to rescue society from eternal darkness and reshape it in accord with a divinely-approved view of righteousness.
At the heart of Mr. Hawley’s condemnation of our terrifyingly Pelagian world lies a dark conclusion about the achievements of modern, liberal, pluralistic societies. When he was still attorney general, William Barr articulated this conclusion in a speech at the University of Notre Dame Law School, where he blamed “the growing ascendancy of secularism” for amplifying “virtually every measure of social pathology,” and maintained that “free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people.” Christian nationalists’ acceptance of President Trump’s spectacular turpitude these past four years was a good measure of just how dire they think our situation is. Even a corrupt sociopath was better, in their eyes, than the horrifying freedom that religious moderates and liberals, along with the many Americans who don’t happen to be religious, offer the world.
Although many of the foot soldiers in the assault on the Capitol appear to have been white males aligned with white supremacist movements, it would be a mistake to overlook the powerful role of the rhetoric of religious nationalism in their ranks. At a rally in Washington on Jan. 5, on the eve of Electoral College certification, the right-wing pastor Greg Locke said that God is raising up “an army of patriots.” Another pastor, Brian Gibson, put it this way: “The church of the Lord Jesus Christ started America,” and added, “We’re going to take our nation back!” In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection, a number of Christian nationalist leaders issued statements condemning violence — on both sides. How very kind of them. But few if any appear willing to acknowledge the instrumental role they played in perpetuating the fraudulent allegations of a stolen election that were at the root of the insurrection.
Over the past few days, following his participation in the failed efforts to overturn the election, Mr. Hawley’s career prospects may have dimmed. Two of his home state newspapers have called for his resignation; his political mentor, John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, has described his earlier support for Mr. Hawley as “the biggest mistake I’ve ever made”; and Simon & Schuster dropped his book. On the other hand, there is some reporting that suggests his complicity in efforts to overturn the election may have boosted his standing with Mr. Trump’s base. But the question that matters is not whether Mr. Hawley stays or goes, but whether he is simply replaced by the next wannabe demagogue in line. We are about to find out whether there are leaders of principle left in today’s Republican Party.
‘We’re in a Worse Place Today Than We Were Before He Came In.’ (Foreign Policy, January 11, 2021)
Former U.S. Secretary of State (and Exxon CEO) Rex Tillerson on the mess Donald Trump is leaving behind.
Trump’s New Criminal Problem (Politico, January 11, 2021)
The president could face charges for inciting the Capitol riot—and maybe even for inciting the murder of a Capitol Police Officer. The federal criminal code (18 USC 373) makes it a crime to solicit, command, induce or “endeavor to persuade” another person to commit a felony that includes the threat or use of physical force. Simply put, it is a crime to persuade another person, or a mob of several thousand, to commit a violent felony.
From the early results of the investigation, we know that several insurrectionists already have been charged with felonies. However, the crime posing the biggest problem for the president could be having solicited the mob into a seditious conspiracy. The federal criminal code makes it a crime for “two or more persons … to oppose by force the authority [of the United States] or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States” (18 USC 2384). That felony, including the use of force, clearly was committed by the mob after being encouraged by the president.
House to vote Wednesday as Pelosi gets the votes to impeach Trump. (Politico, January 11, 2021)
Momentum to impeach the president a second time has only grown since last Wednesday's attack. Key members of the House Judiciary Committee introduced a single article of impeachment Monday that has already gathered at least 218 cosponsors, according to a congressional aide involved in the process, meeting the majority needed for passage in the House. 
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team informed members on a private call Monday they will need to return to the Capitol — for many, the first time since the Jan. 6 attacks — on Tuesday night. Impeachment is scheduled for consideration at 9 a.m. Wednesday, if Trump refuses to resign and Vice President Mike Pence won’t initiate other procedures to remove him.
An impeachment charge against Trump is introduced as Republicans block a measure demanding Pence act. (1-min. video; New York Times, January 11, 2021)
House Democrats on Monday introduced an article of impeachment against President Trump for inciting a mob that attacked the Capitol last week, vowing to press the charge as Republicans blocked a separate move to formally call on Vice President Mike Pence to strip him of power under the 25th Amendment.
The dual actions came as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her caucus sought to ratchet up pressure on Mr. Pence to intervene and push Mr. Trump to resign. If they did not, the Democrats promised immediate consequences for Mr. Trump’s role in an attack that put the lives of the vice president, members of Congress and thousands of staff working on Capitol Hill at risk as officials met to formalize President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. “The president’s threat to America is urgent, and so too will be our action,” Ms. Pelosi said on Monday.
AOC cuts to the point: "We came close to half of the House nearly dying on Wednesday." (Daily Kos, January 10, 2021)
“Our main priority is to ensure the removal of Donald Trump as President of the United State,” Ocasio-Cortez told Stephanopoulos. “Every minute and every that he is in office represents a clear and present danger not just to the United States Congress but to the country. But in addition to removal, we’re also talking about completely barring the president—or rather, Donald Trump—from running for office ever again. And in addition to that, the potential ability to prevent pardoning himself from those charges that he was impeached for.”
A number of Republicans who implored President-elect Biden to forego impeachment for the sake of “unity,” arguing that it is “unnecessary” and “inflammatory.” The group of House Republicans, led by Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, wrote: “In the spirit of healing and fidelity to our Constitution, we ask that you formally request that Speaker Nancy Pelosi discontinue her efforts to impeach President Donald J. Trump a second time.”
To that, Ocasio-Cortez hammered down on the point that what happened this past week was an “insurrection against the United States.” The New York City progressive argued that “healing” requires “accountability.” She pointed out that if we allow insurrection to happen with impunity, “we are inviting it to happen again. We came close to half of the House nearly dying on Wednesday. If a foreign head of state, if another head of state, came in and ordered an attack on the United States Congress, would we say that should not be prosecuted? Would we say that there should be absolutely no response to that? No. It is an act of insurrection. It is an act of hostility.” She stressed that without accountability, “it will happen again.”
[And from its Comments thread:
- When 45% of the House is in favor of a radical right-wing revolution even after its first fascistic sortie fails, it’s time to stop calling it a "conservative electorate".
- There are a lot of rats who can’t be trusted who are now pleading for unity. History has shown over and over again that dictators, fascists and autocrats often play the accepted mainstream political game until they get their opening to make their move. I feel a lot of these Trump supporters (not all) who now condemn him and what happened would be singing a different tune if Trump had succeeded. They can never be trusted to put their country first….as the term goes “ALL enemies foreign and domestic”. They have shown they won’t stand up for their country because they have supported Trump bringing us to this point. A lot of the wolves are trying to pass themselves off as sheep because Trump screwed up and blew it as is his lifelong historical pattern. If they manage to get a more competent leader they will be back at it again, trying to tear down our democracy and dismantle our government and trying to remove or nullify our checks and balances.
- Thank you for including: “ALL enemies foreign and domestic”. The GOPers somehow keep forgetting.
- By dangling the lure of national “Unity” in front of optimistic democrats, the GOP has managed to drag the whole country toward the extreme right wing, step by traitorous step.]
The House could vote as soon as Tuesday on an impeachment article. (New York Times, January 10, 2021)
The No. 3 House Democrat said on Sunday that the chamber could vote as soon as Tuesday on an article of impeachment charging President Trump with inciting a violent mob that attacked the Capitol — but then delay sending it to the Senate for trial. Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democratic whip, said that the vast majority of House Democrats believed the president must be impeached for his conduct but that top leaders were still trying to determine how to punish Mr. Trump without hamstringing the first days of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidency with an all-consuming Senate trial. They recognized it would be impossible to impeach and hold a trial before Mr. Trump leaves office in 10 days, he said. “If we are the people’s house, let’s do the people’s work and let’s vote to impeach this president,” Mr. Clyburn said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The Senate will decide later what to do with that impeachment.”
Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ Myth Reaches Its Catastrophic Conclusion. (Huffington Post, January 10, 2021)
Reflections on violence in the heart of the American empire.
A deranged mob of Americans, fueled by lies about election fraud peddled by the president of the United States along with multiple senators and House members, sacked the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday as part of an insurrection encouraged by Donald Trump to stop the constitutional process allowing for the peaceful transfer of power taking place within the building. “[Y]ou’ll never take back your country with weakness,” Trump told the rioters immediately before they marched on the Capitol. “You have to show strength and be strong.”
On the grounds outside, rioters erected a giant wooden cross and a gallows with a noose. Reporters were beaten and threatened with death. Their cameras and equipment were smashed and burned. Echoing Trump’s long-standing calls that the press were the enemy of the people, rioters scrawled “Murder the media,” on a Capitol doorway. A rioter murdered a police officer with a fire extinguisher. Another rioter was shot dead by a police officer while trying to break into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s chambers. In perhaps the most indelible image, rioters commandeered a scaffold and used it to take down an American flag and replace it with a Trump “Make America Great Again” flag. This was the catastrophic and prophetic culmination of the Make America Great Again myth.
Trump’s supporters were not taking his words either literally or seriously, they were taking them mythically. When Trump entered the political fray in 2015, he gave the supporters of the conservative movement that came to dominate the Republican Party since the end of World War II a political myth they could die for. And myths, for the believer, cannot be refuted.
A political myth is a narrative cast in dramatic form that provides a practical explanation of present events to a specific group at a time or place. Political myths provide meaning, direction and purpose through an interpretation of what the group of believers takes to be reality. They mythologize and interpret real events, and historical facts can be altered to suit the myth’s purpose. There are many kinds of political myths. There are foundation myths, like the Myth of the American Founding Fathers and the 1776 Revolution, the Roman Foundation Myth or the Soviet Myth of the October Revolution. And there are other political organizing myths, like the Myth of Norman Yoke, the Confederate Lost Cause Myth or the Myth of the U.S. Constitution.
But what Trump presents under the banner of “Make America Great Again” is an apocalyptic, or eschatological, myth. It is a myth foretelling a great and cataclysmic future event where deliverance will arrive through the exertion and sacrifice of the believers. The present order will be swept away and either a new one will take its place or an older order will be majestically restored. “Politicians have used you and stolen your votes,” Trump said while campaigning in 2016. “They have given you nothing. I will give you everything. I will give you what you’ve been looking for for 50 years. I’m the only one.”
The catastrophic Make America Great Again myth came to fruition, and it played out on Capitol Hill. What it ultimately amounted to is not clear, but that is beside the point, as Sorel argued when he defended the myth of the general strike and its utility for socialism. “Even if the only result of the idea of the general strike was to make the socialist conception more heroic, it should on that account alone be looked upon as having an incalculable value,” Sorel wrote. The same holds true for the Make America Great Again myth. Non-believers, however, will have to wait to see what catastrophe it anticipates next.
Arnold Schwarzenegger calls Trump 'worst president' ever, 'failed leader' after Capitol riot. (8-min. video; Huffington Post, January 10, 2021)
The former California governor released a video message on Sunday addressing the deadly riot in which he slammed Trump supporters and “complicit” members of the Republican Party, who he said have “enabled [Trump’s] lies and his treachery” for far too long. “I grew up in Austria. I’m very aware of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass. It was a night of rampage against the Jews in 1938 by the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys,” he explained, in the nearly eight-minute-long video. “Wednesday was the Day of Broken Glass right here in the United States,” he continued. “The broken glass was in the windows of the United States Capitol. But the mob did not just shatter the windows of the Capitol. They shattered the ideas we took for granted. They did not just break down the doors of the building that housed American democracy; they trampled the very principles in which our nation was founded.”
“President Trump sought to overturn the results ... of a fair election. He sought a coup by misleading people with lies,” he said. “I know where such lies lead. President Trump is a failed leader. He will go down in history as the worst president ever. The good thing is he will soon be as irrelevant as an old tweet.”
Schwarzenegger went on to reproach his fellow Republicans, asserting that those who’ve stood by Trump should be held accountable. “A number of members of my own party, because of their own spinelessness ... They’re complicit with those who carried the flag of self righteous insurrection into the Capitol,” he said.
He concluded the video by wishing President-elect Joe Biden “great success” when he takes office later this month, and calling for bipartisan unity. “We need to heal, not just as Republicans or as Democrats, but as Americans,” he said. “Now to begin this process, no matter what your political affiliation is, I ask you to join me in saying to President-elect Biden, ‘President-elect Biden, we wish you great success as our president. If you succeed, our nation succeeds. We support you with all our hearts as you seek to bring us together.’”
The Narcissist in Chief Brings It All Crashing Down. (New York Times, January 10, 2021)
An ending as terrible as it was predictable engulfs the president and the country.
Our president has never been a very stable man. But I’m trying to think of what threshold of loco he had to clear in order for one of his senior advisers to confide in my colleague Maggie Haberman that Donald J. Trump “lost it” on the day of the insurrection. Or for an administration official to describe him as “a total monster” to The Washington Post the next day. Or for Representative Adam Kinzinger, a member of Trump’s own party, to call for the cabinet and the vice president to invoke the 25th Amendment because we require “a sane captain of the ship” to steer us through the administration’s final days, and “all indications are that the president has become unmoored, not just from his duty, or even his oath, but from reality itself.” Our president has always been out there. But on Jan. 6, 2021, he clearly reached escape velocity and hurtled into space.
We shouldn’t be surprised. The president’s flight into the ozone of crazy was as inevitable as the country’s descent into anarchy — and almost certainly intertwined. Trump, as I and many others have noted, impeccably meets the criteria of a malignant narcissist, and he has a defect in moral conscience that is emblematic of psychopaths. People like this do not react well to being fired, divorced or kicked out of any club. They’re ego hemophiliacs. Their self-esteem cannot self-repair. And so the president is now doing exactly what all pathological narcissists of the malignant, conscience-free variety do when they’ve been given the boot. They behave dangerously. They claim they are victims. They lie, reject facts and call foul play. They blame everything — and everyone — for their failures except themselves. They accuse even their most loyal supporters of treachery.
And most important, they lash out with a mighty vindictiveness, often destroying the very institution — or spouse, family, whatever it is — they were once sworn to nurture. Which in this case is democracy itself. Trump is a man who found failure so intolerable, so humiliating, that he was willing to incite an acre-wide mob to violent insurrection, both in and around the Capitol, on Congress’s election certification day. Either he would get what he wanted or no one would. Five are now dead.
Congress member declared "Today is 1776," tweeted re Pelosi's location during insurrection. (Daily Kos, January 10, 2021)
Lauren Opal Boebert, 34-year-old firearms enthusiast, covid-restrictions refusenik, QAnon sympathizer, somehow or other brand-new newly-sworn-in member of Congress from the third district of Colorado (western slice of the state), and electoral-vote rejecter, tweeting 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, before the coup attempt started: "Today is 1776." Another connection that may shed light on Boebert’s, “Today is 1776.”: “(Ali) Alexander led a host of activists threatening to '1776'...opponents of Trump’s re-election.”
And here is her comment on the state of things today: "In the past 5 days the left has shown us what vile hypocrites they truly are. They are driven by hate, projection and endless conspiracy theories." - which probably deserves some kind of Olympic award for gaslighting.
Rifle-Toting Militia Men Rail Against Mitch McConnell In Kentucky, Hail D.C. Rioters. (Huffington Post, January 10, 2021)
Dozens of heavily armed self-described militia members dressed in camouflage descended on Kentucky’s statehouse Saturday to loudly bash Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and praise the Donald Trump-supporting rioters who stormed the nation’s Capitol. The men, toting rifles and zip ties, also railed against socialism, communism, and Kentucky’s Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. They were there to demand the democratic election for president be overturned.
FBI arrests Nashville zip-tie suspect and another from assault on U.S. Capitol. (Nashville TN NewsChannel5 TV, January 10, 2021)
A self-described "hidden patriot" from Nashville, outed on social media as a rioter who invaded the U.S. Senate chambers Wednesday with a weapon and zip-tie handcuffs, was arrested Sunday on federal charges. FBI agents took Eric Gavelek Munchel, age 30, into custody on a federal arrest warrant charging him with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
A video, livestreamed in the hours after the riot, showing the pair having drinks in the lobby of a Washington, D.C., hotel. Munchel was still wearing the same camouflage clothing. One of the interviewers noted that he had an empty holster on his right side. "It's just a Taser, but the police came and took it away from me," Munchel said. "They didn't like it because of tonight. They said I couldn't open carry a Taser." Munchel described himself as "a hidden patriot ready to jump off."
From there, the crowdsourcing effort led Internet sleuths to Munchel's Facebook page, where his own livestreamed video showed him walking to the Capitol with the same woman and other Trump supporters.
Munchel is believed to be employed at a Nashville bar that has opposed Cooper's restriction on bars in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. After he became the object of social media speculation, he apparently disabled his Facebook page.
The U.S. Department of Justice also announced agents had also arrested Larry Rendell Brock, of Texas. Brock was identified as one of the individuals who unlawfully entered the U.S. Capitol wearing a green helmet, green tactical vest with patches, black and camo jacket, and beige pants holding a white flex cuff, which is used by law enforcement to restrain and/or detain subjects, the DOJ said.
Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman hailed a ‘hero’ for diverting mob from Senate chambers. (Independent/UK, January 10, 2021)
The officer appears to strategically divert the mob away from Senate entrance, where lawmakers were convening to certify the 2020 presidential election.
Huffington Post reporter Igor Bobic describes Officer Goodman's saving maneuver in the Capitol riot. (4-min. video; Good Morning America/ABC, January 7, 2021)
Igor Bobic, who was in the Capitol building when protesters pushed their way in, filmed them as they entered the Senate chamber.
A Black Police Officer saved America on Wednesday. Say His Name. (Daily Kos, January 10, 2021)
I saw Officer EUGENE GOODMAN make himself bait as white domestic terrorists chased him up several flights of stairs in the Capitol on Wednesday. I watched the footage and wondered why did he repeatedly stop to goad them, then lead them on, stop to goad again, then lead them on. Well, now we know. This man risked his life to give the members of the Senate enough time to clear the area. This country did not earn in any way, shape, or form, the sacrifice this man made to save the nation. And he was able to do what he did WITHOUT FIRING A SHOT. Cause if he did shoot… oh boy White America would have had some thoughts. And not just on the right. I am grateful he did not lose his life. Cause Lord knows white America would have gladly just made him a martyr and political talking point. Black America has given this country enough martyrs. If not for the action of this one person, democracy might have died on Wednesday.
Inside the Capitol siege: How barricaded lawmakers and aides sounded urgent pleas for help as police lost control. (Washington Post, January 10, 2021)
By around 1 p.m., as the joint session began, the mood in the crowd outside began to shift. Trump had just given a one-hour speech to thousands of supporters amassed on the Ellipse near the White House, excoriating his enemies and reiterating his baseless claims of fraud. GOP lawmakers, he emphasized, needed to take a stand. “We’re going to the Capitol,” he said. “We’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” The president added: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Trump returned to the White House; he did not go to Capitol Hill. But his supporters began streaming east along Pennsylvania Avenue.
Lawmakers inside were still being evacuated when, around a side entrance, the mob came much closer to breaking their way onto the House floor — less than 10 feet away from an open door into the chamber. Dozens of rioters pressed against police trying to block their entry into the Speaker’s Lobby. Several officers left their post seconds before much heavily armed reinforcements showed up. But in those few seconds, the rioters smashed in the windows of the doors to the Speaker’s Lobby and were on the verge of entering the House chamber. “There’s a gun! There’s a gun!’ one rioter screamed, then an officer fired into the crowd. Trump supporter and Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old California native, was killed.
At 2:11 p.m. on the Senate side, Vice President Pence sat in the chair of the presiding officer when aides started motioning to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) that he had to replace him. The vice president hurried out a door. At that moment, one floor below, rioters had crashed through windows and climbed into the Capitol and clashed with police, including a lone Black Capitol police officer who tried to prevent them from ascending toward the Senate chamber. A video captured by Igor Bobic, a congressional reporter for HuffPost on the scene, shows the officer trying to hold back a few dozen rioters who push him back and up the steps leading almost directly to the chamber. For almost a minute, the officer held them back — at the exact moment that, inside the Senate, police were frantically racing around the chamber trying to lock down more than a dozen doors leading to the chamber floor and the galleries above. “Second floor!” the officer yelled into his radio, alerting other officers and command that the mob had reached the precipice of the Senate.
Had the rioters turned right, they would have been a few feet away from the main entrance into the chamber. On the other side of that door, had they made their way into the Senate, were at least a half-dozen armed officers, including one with a semiautomatic weapon in the middle of the floor scanning each entrance for intruders.
A Natural Phenomenon, Rime Ice, Has Been Popping Up In Massachusetts And It’s Breathtaking. (w/fine photos; Only In Your State, January 10, 2021)
While this kind of ice has many names from rime ice to hoar frost, it leaves a breathtaking scenery no matter what you call it. Let’s learn about the natural phenomenon that tends to pop up throughout Massachusetts in the winter.
Sabine Hossenfelder: The Mathematics of Consciousness (11-min. video; BackReaction, January 9, 2021)
Physicists like to think they can explain everything, and that, of course, includes human consciousness. And so in the last few decades they’ve set out to demystify the brain by throwing math at the problem. I find it to be a really interesting development that physicists take on consciousness, and so, today I want to talk a little about ideas for how consciousness can be described mathematically, how that’s going so far, and what we can hope to learn from it in the future.
White House Forced Georgia U.S. Attorney to Resign. (Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2021)
Pressure for resignation was part of broader push by President Trump to overturn state’s election results.
Georgia Officials Reveal Third Trump Call Trying to Influence Election Results. (New York Times, January 9, 2021)
More than a week before President Trump called Georgia’s secretary of state, pressuring him to “find” votes to help overturn his electoral loss, the president made another call, this one to a top Georgia elections investigator, in which he asked the investigator to “find the fraud” in the state. The earlier phone call, which Mr. Trump made in late December, was first reported today by The Washington Post.
In the December call, Mr. Trump said the investigator would be a “national hero” for finding evidence of fraud. The call occurred as Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office was  conducting an audit of more than 15,000 ballots in Cobb County, a populous suburb of Atlanta that was formerly a Republican stronghold but voted against Mr. Trump in both 2016 and  2020. The audit appeared to be an effort to placate Mr. Trump and his allies, who repeatedly, and baselessly, argued that he lost the election in Georgia by around 12,000 votes due to a “rigged” system. The president also repeatedly alleged that there were problems with the signature-matching system by which elections officials in the state verify the identity of absentee voters. On December 29, the office of Mr. Raffensperger, a Republican, announced that the audit had found no evidence of fraud.
Earlier in December, Mr. Trump made a third call, this one to Gov. Brian Kemp, urging him to call a special session of the Georgia legislature in hopes that lawmakers would overturn the election results. In a television interview on Monday, Mr. Raffensperger was asked if his office would open an investigation into the president’s phone call with him. He replied that because he had been on the Jan. 2 call, he might have a conflict of interest and suggested instead that such an investigation might be in the works by the Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis.
Mr. Kemp and Mr. Raffensperger have rejected all of Mr. Trump’s efforts to get them to help him overturn the election results, even though both are conservative Republicans and Trump supporters. Mr. Trump has publicly attacked both men, spreading a baseless conspiracy theory about Mr. Raffensperger’s brother and promising that he would back a candidate in the Republican primary to challenge Mr. Kemp, who is up for re-election next year.
The new details about the president’s personal pressure campaign on Georgia officials comes as Democrats in the House of Representatives announced their plans to introduce an article of impeachment against the president for “willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States,” a reference to the pro-Trump mob that violently attacked the U.S. Capitol Wednesday. Mr. Trump is also facing growing calls to resign, while his cabinet is under pressure to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
Facing Backlash, Republicans Confront Trump’s Effect on Their Party. (1-min. video; New York Times, January 9, 2021)
In encounters with their constituents this week, Republican lawmakers have grappled with the consequences of their years-long alliance with President Trump: an angry, misinformed base.
When a distraught constituent accosted her on Tuesday night at a restaurant in the nation’s capital, Representative Nancy Mace confronted an impossible task that sprang from President Trump’s false promises: getting them to understand why she and other Republicans in Congress could not simply overturn the results of the election. Driven by Mr. Trump’s fictitious claims that the election had been stolen from him — and that lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence could clinch him another four years in power during Congress’s official electoral count — the voter had come all the way from Ms. Mace’s home state of South Carolina to witness it. Now, the voter, shaking and in tears, demanded to know why Ms. Mace, a first-term congresswoman, had refused to join the effort.
Calm but firm, Ms. Mace tried to explain that it was not Congress’s role to subvert the results of an election — and that to do so would defy the Constitution. “It didn’t matter what I said,” Ms. Mace said in an interview. “They didn’t believe it.”
Similar scenes — sometimes painful, always unresolvable — played out again and again in Washington this week in the hours before and after a violent mob urged on by Mr. Trump stormed the Capitol, as Republican voters loyal to the president cornered Republican lawmakers who voted to certify the election results, demanding answers and promising revenge. The confrontations — and the scenes of mayhem that unfolded on Wednesday — have brought Republicans face to face with the consequences of their years-long alliance with Mr. Trump, providing human evidence of the downside of his deep influence on the voters who form their party’s base. It helps explain the searing anger that has prompted many Republicans to belatedly turn against Mr. Trump after years of enabling him and seeking his validation. But it also reflects the conundrum in which the Republican Party finds itself, beholden to voters who have internalized the president’s falsehoods and been emboldened by his divisive talk.
“Their hearts, minds and wallets were taken advantage of,” Ms. Mace said, her voice rising in fury. “Millions of people across the country who were lied to. These individuals, these hardworking Americans truly believe that the Congress can overturn the Electoral College.” Many Republican members of Congress stoked that belief this week when they objected to Mr. Biden’s victory in battleground states and backed the challenges in votes that illustrated their party’s rift. In the House, more than half the Republicans, including the party’s top two leaders, voted in support of the challenges, while in the Senate, fewer than 10 Republicans did so and the leaders were vocally opposed.
The videos that emerged from the standoffs dramatized the yawning distance between elected Republicans in Washington who are increasingly desperate to peel away from the president and their constituents who say they will never let go.
Alleged lectern thief and horn-helmeted suspect arrested in connection with Capitol riot. (ABC News, January 9, 2021)
Federal authorities say they've arrested two of the alleged Capitol rioters who went viral for their part in the siege of the building.
Adam Johnson, 36, of Parrish, Florida, who was seen in a viral photograph carrying Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern through the halls, is being held in Pinellas County Jail and pending charges after federal marshals picked him up Friday night, according to the United States Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia.
The U.S. Attorney's office also arrested Jacob Anthony Chansley, a.k.a. "Jake Angeli," Saturday. Investigators said he was the man seen in viral photos of the siege dressed in horns, a bearskin headdress, red, white and blue face paint, shirtless, and tan pants and carrying a 6-foot spear with an American flag tied below the blade.
Amazon cuts off Parler’s Web hosting following Apple, Google bans. (Ars Technica, January 9, 2021)
The app will need to find new Web hosting by Sunday or go offline.
Twitter warns of plans for new violence, brewing again on social media, as reason for Trump ban. (3-min. video; Washington Post, January 9, 2021)
These demonstrations are scheduled to culminate with what organizers have dubbed a “Million MAGA March” on January 20th itself, as President-elect Biden is to be sworn in on the same Capitol grounds that rioters overrun on Wednesday.
Given the very clear and explicit warning signs for January 6th — with Trump supporters expressing prior intent to ‘storm and occupy Congress’ and use ‘handcuffs and zip ties,’ clear plans being laid out on public forums, and the recent precedent of the plot to storm the Michigan Capitol building while the legislature was in session — it is truly mind-boggling that the police were not better prepared.
Will Joe Biden’s inauguration be marred by the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol? (Los Angeles Times, January 9, 2021)
To people who study right-wing militia groups and QAnon fanatics, the idea that armed insurrectionists would storm the Capitol while Congress was in session was not merely possible. It was predictable. Long before the mob began its march up Pennsylvania Avenue, it was obvious that hordes of anti-democratic loonies had been swayed by the outlandish lies of President Trump and his echo chamber of co-conspirators, who maintained that President-elect Joe Biden had stolen the election. On Twitter, Parler, Facebook, 4chan, 8chan and the dark web, momentum was building.
For weeks, quite publicly, a growing number of Trump supporters had been whipping themselves into a frenzy, talking about doing something big on Jan. 6, when Congress met to count the votes of the electoral college. We now know, of course, that their seditious plans, inflamed by Trump himself, came to pass.
The armed insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol may have seemed disorganized, but their goal was clear: disruption of the highest levels of government. They succeeded in sowing terror and upending, at least temporarily, the peaceful transfer of power in America. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died.
We talked about how social media works against the common good and how anger-driven right-wing groups flourish as a result. “Facebook’s algorithms decide what to show you based on what keeps you on Facebook the longest. And the content that keeps you scrolling and clicking is content that makes you angry. Facebook has chosen not to fix this. Essentially, social media makes more money if we are mad at each other.”
Trump has exploited this aspect of social media like no other political figure.
In April, the Wall Street Journal published an article based on internal 2016 Facebook documents about the site’s contribution to social and political divisiveness. A high number of extremist groups use the site, and Facebook found that its own recommendation tools — “Groups You Should Join” and “Discover” — were responsible for 64% of new followers for extremist pages. What did the social media giant do? Nothing.
The American Abyss (New York Times Magazine, January 9, 2021)
Timothy Snyder, a historian of fascism and political atrocity, writes on Trump, the mob and what comes next.
When Donald Trump stood before his followers on Jan. 6 and urged them to march on the United States Capitol, he was doing what he had always done. He never took electoral democracy seriously nor accepted the legitimacy of its American version. Even when he won, in 2016, he insisted that the election was fraudulent — that millions of false votes were cast for his opponent. In 2020, in the knowledge that he was trailing Joseph R. Biden in the polls, he spent months claiming that the presidential election would be rigged and signaling that he would not accept the results if they did not favor him. He wrongly claimed on Election Day that he had won and then steadily hardened his rhetoric: With time, his victory became a historic landslide and the various conspiracies that denied it ever more sophisticated and implausible.
People believed him, which is not at all surprising. It takes a tremendous amount of work to educate citizens to resist the powerful pull of believing what they already believe, or what others around them believe, or what would make sense of their own previous choices. Plato noted a particular risk for tyrants: that they would be surrounded in the end by yes-men and enablers. Aristotle worried that, in a democracy, a wealthy and talented demagogue could all too easily master the minds of the populace. Aware of these risks and others, the framers of the Constitution instituted a system of checks and balances. The point was not simply to ensure that no one branch of government dominated the others but also to anchor in institutions different points of view.
In this sense, the responsibility for Trump’s push to overturn an election must be shared by a very large number of Republican members of Congress. Rather than contradict Trump from the beginning, they allowed his electoral fiction to flourish. They had different reasons for doing so. One group of Republicans is concerned above all with gaming the system to maintain power, taking full advantage of constitutional obscurities, gerrymandering and dark money to win elections with a minority of motivated voters. They have no interest in the collapse of the peculiar form of representation that allows their minority party disproportionate control of government. The most important among them, Mitch McConnell, indulged Trump’s lie while making no comment on its consequences.
Yet other Republicans saw the situation differently: They might actually break the system and have power without democracy. The split between these two groups, the gamers and the breakers, became sharply visible on Dec. 30, when Senator Josh Hawley announced that he would support Trump’s challenge by questioning the validity of the electoral votes on Jan. 6. Ted Cruz then promised his own support, joined by about 10 other senators. More than a hundred Republican representatives took the same position. For many, this seemed like nothing more than a show: challenges to states’ electoral votes would force delays and floor votes but would not affect the outcome.
Letter to Natick Select Board and Chief Hicks (Metrowest Daily News, January 9, 2021)
On January 6th, 2021, Town Meeting Member Sue Ianni organized multiple busloads of people to attend what became an act of insurrection targeting the United States Capitol. Through photos readily available on social media, it is clear that social distancing and other COVID protocols were not followed. What is additionally clear is that Natick residents participated in the assault on the Capitol and violence against the United States. This assault threatened the integrity of the American government, breaching the Capitol for the first time since a foreign invasion in the War of 1812, and did so in the midst of a pandemic that is ravaging our nation, our commonwealth, and our town.
Natick woman who attended violent protest in D.C. still believes 'illegal election' is at play. (Metrowest Daily News, January 8, 2021)
Sue Ianni organized 11 buses to ride down to D.C. for the protest. She is concerned she, and all Trump supporters, are targets of retribution.
Ianni declined to comment when asked if she marched to the U.S. Capitol and entered the building, offering that “too many people were arrested wrongly for a peaceful protest after being waived in by Capitol police.”
American Amnesia (The Cut, January 8, 2021)
Despite the very American efforts to obscure past pain every time there’s progress and treat horrific events as one-offs, there is no amount of change that can wipe our memories or the slate clean. We witnessed this process at its absolute apex on January 6, a day that will live in infamy unless we do our American thing of pretending as if the worst parts of us are a fringe.
Wednesday’s insurrection was not a singular event in our history. It was the result of a decades-long plan for white nationalists to wreak havoc on the U.S. government. With the encouragement of a sitting president, they did exactly that with little consequences. Five people died. The majority of the insurrectionists left the U.S. Capitol unscathed. There were no tanks to greet them, no militarized police force with batons at the ready, no eagerness to push them to the ground, break their bones, and leave them traumatized. Of course righteous anger spread on social media. There were mumblings about removing Trump from office. The very senators who encouraged the violence, including Missouri senator Josh Hawley and Texas senator Ted Cruz, released statements condemning it. Once the Capitol Police finally dispersed the crowd and cleared the building, Congress restored order and continued its procedural vote — allowing representatives and senators who helped incite the insurrection to still object to specific election results in specific states — and business continued as normal. Because it always does.
This kind of whiplash is as common in the United States as mythmaking exceptionalism and double standards in policing. America was built on violent theft, enslavement enforced through brutality, and congressional leaders manipulating the levers of power to suppress the vote, but whenever there’s perceived progress, including Barack Obama being elected to the presidency and Warnock becoming the first Black Democratic senator from the South, we’re asked to bury all of the ugly history. We’re at a new dawn, so we should pretend as if the darkness never existed — until we’re forced to face the next tunnel.
It took a mob riot for Twitter to finally ban Trump. (Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2021)
Whose megaphone will President Trump use now? In the wake of the horrifying attack on the U.S. Capitol, major social media companies have all “deplatformed” Trump and some of his fellow traffickers in false claims about the November 2020 election. The last to join in the cancel ceremonies was Twitter, Trump’s favorite vehicle for spreading deception and calumny. After Twitter finally started labeling Trump’s deceptive tweets for what they were last May, I wrote that the company had waited three years too long. That delay, combined with Twitter’s ongoing refusal to make Trump abide by the rules that apply to everyone else on the network, made Friday’s ban inevitable.
The long-overdue deplatforming could be an analgesic for the Trumpists’ fever dreams about overturning Joe Biden’s victory in November, which Congress formally certified several hours after the Capitol was cleared. No other micro-blogging or messaging service has the reach in the United States of Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. None can have the sort of impact for Trump that Twitter has.
Twitter’s analysis of Trump’s last two tweets, issued after the president’s personal account had been suspended for a day, is instructive. The first tweet proclaimed that “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” The second stated, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
The company looked across the Twitterverse to see how the tweets were being interpreted by Trump’s seditious followers. And what it found was chilling. Trump’s use of the phrase “great American Patriots,” Twitter said, was “being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the U.S. Capitol.” Trump’s announcement that he’s blowing off the Inauguration was seen by some “as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate” and as a disavowal of the president’s stated support for an orderly transition of power. “The second Tweet may also serve as encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts that the Inauguration would be a ‘safe’ target, as he will not be attending,” Twitter wrote.
But for heaven’s sake, why did it take a mob of Trump zealots storming the Capitol, and five deaths that resulted, for Twitter to look at what Trump has been signaling across its network? Or for Facebook to cut off Trump’s use of its network to micro-target his snake oil? Promoting a free speech culture does not mean amplifying all speech.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he doesn’t feel comfortable playing the role of speech police. But he’s created one of the world’s most powerful amplifiers, and he’s rightly set standards — low standards, sadly — for what people can do with it. World leaders should be held to the same rules as everyone else; otherwise, social networks are giving those politicians a means to communicate which is less transparent and public than the powerful soapboxes that come with their offices.
Twitter permanently suspends Trump’s account. (Politico, January 8, 2021)
"After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence," Twitter said in a statement Friday afternoon.
Two days after throngs of his supporters staged a violent rampage through the Capitol, the social media company said Trump broke its rules yet again. This came even after the company had publicly warned Wednesday that additional violations would result in his indefinite expulsion.
After his account was reactivated Thursday, Trump tweeted out two messages saying his supporters "will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form," and announcing he would not attending President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. Twitter cited those messages as motivating their decision to deactivate his account. "These two Tweets must be read in the context of broader events in the country and the ways in which the President’s statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence, as well as in the context of the pattern of behavior from this account in recent weeks," the company said in its statement. It added the tweets violated its policy on glorification of violence.
Trump's ouster culminates years of friction between the outgoing president and Twitter, the platform he has long used to promote conspiracy theories, personal grievances and surprise policy decisions to his nearly 89 million followers. But it came too late for many critics of both Trump and Twitter, who say the company has allowed him to flout its rules with rhetoric such as threats of war or violence against racial justice protesters.
The final straw came shortly after pro-Trump rioters breached the Capitol during a deadly assault, when Trump posted a series of tweets that urged his supporters to leave but continued to claim falsely that the November election had been stolen from him. Those included a tweet attacking Vice President Mike Pence for refusing to overturn the election results, and another describing the rioters as "great patriots." Twitter and Facebook, where Trump posted some of the same messages, temporarily locked Trump’s account in response. Further rule-breaking, Twitter said, "will result in permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account."
Facebook and Instagram subsequently locked Trump's accounts at least through Inauguration Day. “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a statement posted to his personal page the day after the mayhem.
"Coward": MAGA internet turns on Trump. (Politico, January 8, 2021)
The president acknowledged his defeat and urged for political reconciliation. His online faithful didn’t take it well.
After years of fidelity, Donald Trump's most ardent online fans have finally turned on him. All it took was for the president to acknowledge the reality of his loss a little over a day after they, the MAGA faithful, stormed the Capitol in a violent attempt to stop the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
“People were willing to die for this man and he just threw them all under the bus. That’s the only thing that’s shameful about the events of the past 36 hours,” Nick Fuentes, the host of the America First podcast and the unofficial leader of the white nationalist Groyper Army, angrily tweeted, shortly after Trump released a video Thursday night in which he conceded that Biden would be the next president and called for political reconciliation.
Hawley Faces Fierce Backlash From Colleagues, Donors After Capitol Riot. (Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2021)
Missouri senator’s objection to election results has drawn widespread condemnation, raising questions about his political future.
Mr. Hawley, an ambitious 41-year-old former Missouri attorney general, last week became the first senator to say he would object to the results of the 2020 presidential election, bucking GOP leaders and sending shock waves through his conference. By law, an objection requires the backing of at least one House member and one senator to trigger a debate and vote on whether to disqualify a state’s electoral results. Once Mr. Hawley had signed on, there was enormous pressure on other Republican senators to follow suit or risk being seen as betraying President Trump.
Now he has become a pariah among Senate Republicans, many of whom blame him for what they see as his role instigating a riot that overwhelmed the Capitol and resulted in the deaths of five people, including a Capitol Police officer. Mr. Hawley also is contending with fallout beyond the Capitol: The former Missouri senator who recruited him to run for Senate has denounced him, Simon & Schuster canceled publication of his upcoming book on big tech, the president of his Jesuit high school called on him to reflect and atone, and a multimillion-dollar donor has said the Senate should censure him. Some Democrats are demanding his resignation.
Biden: Trump skipping inauguration a "good thing". (Politico, January 8, 2021)
"He exceeded even my worst notions about him," the president-elect said. "He’s been an embarrassment to the country.”
Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to three golfers in a closed-to-the-public ceremony less than 24 hours after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. (Daily Mail/UK, January 8, 2021)
On Thursday, President Donald Trump awarded three golfers the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a closed-door ceremony. Two of the recipients, Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player, are retired, and the third, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, was awarded the medal posthumously. It comes less than 24 hours after Trump's supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a riot that led to five deaths. Many have called the timing of the ceremony 'tone deaf,' including Player's own son, Mark, who called on his father to turn down the award.
Only four other golfers have ever received the nation's highest civilian honor, including Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Charlie Sifford.
Impeachment strikes back. (Politico, January 8, 2021)
A fissure in the Republican party split wide open today. Some GOP members are now considering voting for a second impeachment of Trump. The Nightly chatted with Congressional reporter Kyle Cheney over Slack about what this week’s events mean for the days and weeks ahead.
Support for New Trump Impeachment Rises After Death of Police Officer. (Slate, January 8, 2021)
On Thursday, congressional Democrats including both Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Donald Trump needs to be removed from office for his role in inciting the mob attack on the Capitol that took place during Electoral College counting Wednesday. Some Democrats wanted to begin impeachment proceedings immediately. Others, like Pelosi and Schumer, said they would first like to see if Vice President Mike Pence invokes the 25th Amendment process to take away Trump’s authority. As of Thursday night, Pence was reportedly unwilling to do so; whether or not he changes his mind, developments overnight and this morning have strengthened the case, and the visible support, for removal.
Congressman Cohen Will Introduce Resolution to Abolish the Electoral College. (w/full text; Congressman Steve Cohen, January 8, 2021)
In the past 20 years, the archaic institution has twice awarded the presidency to a candidate who did not win the popular vote, defeating the will of the American people.
The Journey of Ashli Babbitt (Bellingcat, January 8, 2021)
Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran, was shot and killed by Capitol Police while attempting to enter the Speaker’s Lobby on the second floor of the US Capitol in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021. Babbitt was part of a thousands-strong mob that stormed the building after the conclusion of the #StopTheSteal rally at the Washington Monument earlier in the day. At that event, President Donald Trump had encouraged rally goers to head to the Capitol to protest the certification of the 2020 presidential election. His comments came after weeks of false and inflammatory statements to the effect that he had won the election, and that his enemies had rigged it against him.
Babbitt’s shooting was captured on several videos that were recorded and shared by people in the crowd. Her own social media history also reveals her movements on the morning and afternoon of January 6. But looking back further shows an ideological journey that saw her travel from stating she had backed President Barack Obama to engaging in damaging right-wing conspiracy theories. We have looked at Babbitt’s social media footprint, as well as other open source information, to trace both journeys.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal on surviving the siege: "It Was No Accident!" (The Cut, January 8, 2021)
On Wednesday, January 6, Pramila Jayapal, a Democratic congresswoman from Washington State, was sitting in the gallery above the House chamber, watching the proceedings to count the Electoral College vote and certify the result of the presidential election, when armed right-wing rioters breached the Capitol Building and began to make their way inside, toward the lawmakers and administrative, custodial, and food-service staff working inside. Jayapal, a longtime immigration activist who worked to negotiate Seattle’s $15 minimum wage before being elected to Washington’s state senate in 2015, then to the U.S. Congress in 2017, heads the House Progressive Caucus. We spoke about Wednesday’s siege, about the particular vulnerability of Black and brown women to violent incursion, and about how her party must now move forward, both in response to the attack and as the governing party moving into a new administration.
"I Was There When The Rioters Stormed The Capitol." (Newsweek, January 8, 2021)
Trump eventually took to the stage, more than an hour late, to the roar of the crowd. Immediately he called the result "bulls***" to great cheers and laughter before continuing in his usual, off-script rambling style. Yet one part of his speech really resonated with those stood staring up at him. "We will never give up; we will never concede," Trump said to thunderous applause. "We will stop the steal," he told the crowd, and later: "We're going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, and we're going to the Capitol...We're going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones...the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country."
Video of the Moment When Pro-Trump Rioters Clashed With Police in Capitol Corridor. (3-min. video; Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2021)
New footage shows a moment when pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. The violent day resulted in the deaths of five people, including a U.S. Capitol police officer.
Ignorance and Ideology Meet at the Capitol. (HistoryNet, January 8, 2021)
On Wednesday as pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington, DC in an unprecedented domestic attack on the institution of democracy, further chilling scenes unfolded on the steps of the Capitol as photographs of rioters were seen dressed in clothing with brazenly anti-Semitic messages. Some proudly displayed shirts with the insignia 6MWE — meaning “six million Jews weren’t enough.” A reminder that if democracy becomes vulnerable, genocidal forces in the wings are ready to rise. Yes, even in America.
Among the rioters were members of the Proud Boys and other alt-right, neo-fascist organizations. Hundreds or more of the mob broke into the Capitol, sparking hours of chaos and violence in which dozens were injured and five people — including a U.S. Capitol police officer — were killed.
One man wore a black sweatshirt with a skull-and-crossbones logo with the words “Camp Auschwitz” emblazoned above it and “work brings freedom.” The Nazi death camp notoriously had the phrase Arbeit macht frei or “Work sets you free” on the entrance of the camp gates.
Eleven million men, women, and children perished during the systematic, Nazi state-sponsored persecution and murder of Jews, Slavic peoples, Roma, people with disabilities, Soviet prisoners, homosexuals, and others deemed “inferior.” Of those 11 million, more than six million Jews perished during the Holocaust.
They Were Out for Blood. (Slate, January 8, 2021)
The men who carried zip ties as they stormed the Capitol weren’t clowning around. Call the zip ties by their correct name: The guys were carrying flex cuffs, the plastic double restraints often used by police in mass arrest situations. They walked through the Senate chamber with a sense of purpose. They were not dressed in silly costumes but kitted out in full paramilitary regalia: helmets, armor, camo, holsters with sidearms. At least one had a semi-automatic rifle and 11 Molotov cocktails. At least one, unlike nearly every other right-wing rioter photographed that day, wore a mask that obscured his face.
These are the same guys who, when the windows of the Capitol were broken and entry secured, went in first with what I’d call military-ish precision. They moved with purpose, to the offices of major figures like Nancy Pelosi and then to the Senate floor. What was that purpose? It wasn’t to pose for photos. It was to use those flex cuffs on someone.
In October, the FBI and state authorities charged 13 men with plotting to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan. Members of that plot attended protests at the Michigan Capitol in April, real planners of violence mixing easily with those for whom guns are fun protest props. The plotters discussed a summary execution—“knock on the door,” one wrote in the group chat, “and when she answers it just cap her”—but settled on a kidnapping, pulled off while police were distracted by a nearby explosion. Think of that plot, as these men surely did, as a dress rehearsal for what the zip-tie guys wanted to accomplish at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
They went into the Capitol, as Congress was counting electoral votes, equipped to take hostages—to physically seize officials, and presumably to take lives. The prospect is terrifying. But just because it seems unthinkable doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think hard about what almost happened. Don’t dismiss the zip-tie guys as “LARPers” or “weekend warriors.” First of all, given the well-documented overlap between ex-military, law enforcement, and right-wing militias, it’s entirely possible these guys were weekday warriors using their training in service of extracurricular interests. (One of the Twitter sleuths who are now trying to track them down sure seems to think they’re ex-military.) More importantly, the long awful course of history reminds us how slippery the slope is from playacting as a strike force to actually behaving as a strike force.
Trump Still Has the Power to Blow Up the World. (Slate, January 8, 2021)
And as long as he’s in office, there’s not much anyone can do about that.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, summoning the ultimate fear of Trump’s unbounded powers for the next 12 days, said Friday that she has asked Milley about “available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike.” If Milley was honest in his reply, he would have told Pelosi that there are no such formal precautions—that, in fact, the nuclear command-control system was designed to allow the president, and only the president, to launch nuclear weapons as quickly as possible. This system was put in place so that the United States could respond to (or preempt) an enemy nuclear attack before the enemy’s missiles landed on American soil. But the system’s designers made no distinction between responding to a nuclear attack and launching a nuclear first strike out of the blue. In both cases, the president has untrammeled monopoly control.
At the dawn of the republic, James Madison wrote in the Federalist No. 10, “Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.” This was why he and the other founders devised checks and balances to a potential autocrat’s power—a legislature, judiciary, free press, and (they hoped) an educated public. Yet from the dawn of the nuclear age till now, no one has devised checks or balances to keep an “unenlightened statesman” from obliterating life on the planet.
It’s extremely unlikely that Trump will try to launch nukes in the final 12 days of his presidency, but several lawmakers, officials, and officers are worried that they don’t know what Trump might do. The possibility that he might do something destructive was what drove all 10 of the living former secretaries of defense to sign a Washington Post op-ed, reminding current officials and officers that it would be “dangerous, unlawful, and unconstitutional” for the military to play any role in settling a political election. Their main fear was that Trump might call on the armed forces to extend his term of power. His former national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (who was later indicted, then pardoned), had recently (and incorrectly) claimed the president possessed the power to declare martial law and redo the election under military supervision. The secretaries were also concerned about Trump taking military action abroad. Shortly after the election, Trump had fired the top echelon of Pentagon civilians and replaced them with loyalists, some of them inexperienced ideologues. In mid-December, these new acting officials stopped meeting with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team. The former secretaries wondered: Was Trump planning something and relying on his lackeys to execute his orders out of sight?
One silver lining to Trump’s Jan. 6 incitement of an attempted insurrection is that more people in Congress, the armed forces, and elsewhere—including many erstwhile supporters—are on heightened alert. The report that Vice President Mike Pence authorized the Defense Department to send the National Guard to Capitol Hill—an act that the president would normally take—suggests that high officials are crafting workarounds to Trump’s powers in moments of urgency. (This isn’t a totally positive thing, by the way.)
But for as long as he’s president, Trump continues to possess powers like the world has never seen. If American politics calm down in the next few years, to the point where Republicans and Democrats can hold rational discussions, premised on a common reality (even if not common views), it might be good for Biden to lead a discussion on paring down these powers.
Nancy Pelosi says she spoke to Gen. Milley about Trump and the nuclear codes. (CNN, January 8, 2021)
"This morning, I spoke to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike," Pelosi wrote in a letter. "The situation of this unhinged President could not be more dangerous, and we must do everything that we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country and our democracy."
After speaking with Milley on Friday, Pelosi told her caucus that she has gotten assurances there are safeguards in place in the event Trump wants to launch a nuclear weapon.
Nancy Pelosi's letter on speaking with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs about Trump and the nuclear codes (CNN, January 8, 2021)
Biden plans to release nearly all available vaccine doses in an attempt to speed delivery. (New York Times, January 8, 2021)
In a sharp break with the Trump administration, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. intends to release nearly all available doses of the coronavirus vaccine soon after he is inaugurated, rather than hold back millions of vials to guarantee second doses will be available. The decision is part of an aggressive effort to “to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,” the Biden transition team said on Friday. The vaccination plan, to be formally unveiled next week, also will include federally run vaccination sites in places like high school gyms and sports stadiums, and mobile units to reach high-risk populations. The president-elect has vowed to get “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” during his first 100 days in office.
45's Falsehoods and Failures: COVID-19 (People For the American Way, January 8, 2021)
This week’s news has been largely dominated by the Senate runoff races in Georgia and Trump supporters’ terrorism at the U.S. Capitol. But even as news coverage focused on these events, the pandemic continued its dangerous spread through our communities.
At Trump’s rally that preceded the assault at the Capitol, his supporters urged the crowd to “turn to the person next to you and give them a hug” – creating a “mass-spreader event.” That same day, the United States experienced its most deadly day of the pandemic so far: More than 3,900 deaths and 255,000 new cases were reported on January 6. And neither Trump nor his Republican allies have indicated any concern about the ongoing severity of the pandemic or that their failures and misdeeds have further exacerbated it.
Despite the ongoing devastation, Trump and his federal allies continue to obstruct the orderly transition of coronavirus information to the Biden-Harris administration’s incoming team of public health experts. During a pandemic, every day can make a life-or-death difference. Trump’s callous indifference to protecting the American people has already taken a needlessly tragic toll on the country.
Trump’s failure to lead us through the pandemic will be among the greatest failures of his presidency. And although he will soon lack any governing power, the impact of his failures will continue to hurt the American people. President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have outlined their extensive plans to combat the virus and speed up the production and dispersal of COVID-19 vaccines – and their leadership couldn’t come soon enough.
Donald Trump’s Final Days (Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2021)
If Mr. Trump wants to avoid a second impeachment, his best path would be to take personal responsibility and resign. This would be the cleanest solution since it would immediately turn presidential duties over to Mr. Pence. And it would give Mr. Trump agency, a la Richard Nixon, over his own fate.
This might also stem the flood of White House and Cabinet resignations that are understandable as acts of conscience but could leave the government dangerously unmanned. Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, in particular should stay at his post.
We know an act of grace by Mr. Trump isn’t likely. In any case this week has probably finished him as a serious political figure. He has cost Republicans the House, the White House, and now the Senate. Worse, he has betrayed his loyal supporters by lying to them about the election and the ability of Congress and Mr. Pence to overturn it. He has refused to accept the basic bargain of democracy, which is to accept the result, win or lose.
It is best for everyone, himself included, if he goes away quietly.
Donald Trump Finally Concedes Election to Biden: Full Text of Speech. (Newsweek, January 7, 2021)
After weeks of refusal, President Donald Trump conceded the November election to President-elect Joe Biden in a video posted to social media on Thursday.
[While, on Twitter, Trump posted the still-deceptive: “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th. I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”]
Trump Has Now Been Suspended From Four of the Six Most Popular Social Media Platforms. (Newsweek, January 7, 2021)
Inauthentic Editing: Changing Wikipedia to Win Elections and Influence People (Stanford Internet Observatory)
Wikipedia celebrates its 20th anniversary this month. This is the first of two blog posts exploring the use, misuse, and ultimate resilience of this open, community-edited platform.
“God Have Mercy on and Help Us All.” (Slate, January 7, 2021)
How prominent evangelicals reacted to the storming of the U.S. Capitol.
Michelle Obama Calls on Social Media to "Stop Enabling Trump's Monstrous Behavior." (Newsweek, January 7, 2021)
"Now is the time for those who voted for this president to see the reality of who they've supported – and publicly and forcefully rebuke him and the actions of that mob," Obama said. "Now is the time for Silicon Valley companies to stop enabling this monstrous behavior – and go even further than they have already by permanently banning this man from their platforms and putting in place policies to prevent their technology from being used by the nation's leaders to fuel insurrection."
After Delays and Tumult, Trump Finaly Tells Political Appointees to Submit Resignations. (New York Times, January 7, 2021)
Until Thursday, the White House had still not told its political appointees to step down, a routine request to smooth presidential transitions that usually happens within weeks of an election.
The White House formally asked for the resignations of its ambassadors and other political appointees on Thursday, as a wave of senior officials announced their departure from the government after President Trump incited supporters who had assaulted the Capitol a day earlier. The storming of the Capitol to disrupt the official Electoral College tally on Wednesday sent shock waves across the United States and around the world, and prompted Mr. Trump to promise early Thursday that he would ensure an “orderly transition” to the administration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Trump Administration Officials Who Resigned Over Capitol Violence (New York Times, January 7, 2021)
Several officials announced that they were stepping down, after a mob of the president’s supporters disrupted the process of certifying the election results yesterday.
Trump Erases His Legacy. (3-min. video; Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2021)
Mr. Trump's obsession with the results helped to lose the GOP the Senate and to encourage Wednesday's mob.
A politician has to work hard to destroy a legacy and a future in a single day. President Donald J. Trump managed it.
Peter Bart: Washington Won’t Miss Donald Trump, Nor Will Hollywood Miss His Enabler Rupert Murdoch. (Deadline, January 7, 2021)
The Donald Trump era is passing like a dark cloud, but I’d offer a second headline of equal importance: The Rupert Murdoch era also is history. As the media lord nears 90, his ominous hold on the politics and pop culture of three nations is lifting as well. Hollywood, too, will be healthier in his absence.
The Trump legacy is one of hatred and betrayal – that much has come into alarming focus in the last 48 hours. But that shouldn’t distract from the reality that Murdoch’s media arsenal helped build Trumpism – Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and even those assets overseas. Murdoch has profited from splintering American society.
Cybersecurity experts warn about Congress's information security after Capitol riots. (CNN, January 7, 2021)
Digital security experts are raising the alarm over Wednesday's breach of the US Capitol, which not only threatened lawmakers' physical safety but also created potential national security and intelligence risks, they say. As rioters stormed the Capitol building, they broke into congressional offices, ransacked papers and in at least one case, stole a laptop, according to a video shared on Twitter by Sen. Jeff Merkley. Merkley's office wasn't the only one robbed, according to authorities. On a call with reporters Thursday afternoon, US officials said multiple senators' offices were hit.
"This is probably going to take several days to flesh out exactly what happened, what was stolen, what wasn't," said Michael Sherwin, acting US attorney for the District of Columbia. "Items, electronic items, were stolen from senators' offices. Documents, materials, were stolen, and we have to identify what was done, mitigate that, and it could have potential national security equities. If there was damage, we don't know the extent of that yet."
A Riot Amid a Pandemic: Did the Virus, Too, Storm the Capitol? (New York Times, January 7, 2021)
The mob that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday did not just threaten the heart of American democracy. To scientists who watched dismayed as the scenes unfolded on television, the throngs of unmasked intruders who wandered through hallways and into private offices may also have transformed the riot into a super-spreader event. The coronavirus thrives indoors, particularly in crowded spaces, lingering in the air in tiny particles called aerosols. If even a few extremists were infected — likely, given the current rates of spread and the crowd size — then the virus would have had the ideal opportunity to find new victims, experts said. “It has all the elements of what we warn people about,” said Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “People yelling and screaming, chanting, exerting themselves — all of those things provide opportunity for the virus to spread, and this virus takes those opportunities.”
President Trump has downplayed the pandemic almost since its beginning, and many of his supporters who entered the Capitol yesterday did not appear to be wearing masks or making any effort at social distancing. Under similar conditions, gatherings held in such close quarters have led to fast-spreading clusters of infection.
Pence is said to oppose invoking 25th Amendment to strip Trump of his duties. (New York Times, January 7, 2021)
Vice President Mike Pence is opposed to a call by Democrats in Congress and some Republicans to invoke the 25th Amendment to strip President Trump of his powers before his term ends, a person close to the vice president said.
It is unclear when Mr. Pence will alert Congress of his position. But the decision by Mr. Pence is said to be supported by several Trump cabinet officials. Those officials, a senior Republican said, viewed the effort as likely to add to the current chaos in Washington rather than deter it.
Democrats Threaten Impeachment if Pence Won’t Act After Capitol Siege. (New York Times, January 7, 2021)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House could be ready to impeach President Trump again within days if the vice president does not invoke the 25th Amendment to strip his powers.
Pelosi calls for Trump's immediate removal through 25th Amendment. (Reuters, January 7, 2021)
Sen. Romney: This was "an insurrection incited by the President". (3-min. video; CNN, January 7, 2021)
Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) called the riots at the US Capitol "an insurrection incited by the President of the United States," while addressing his colleagues at a ceremonial counting of electoral votes that will confirm President-elect Biden's win.
Mike Pence was livid 'after all the things I've done' for Trump. (Business Insider, January 7, 2021)
Pence took lead as Trump initially resisted sending National Guard to Capitol. (CNN, January 7, 2021)
Vice President Mike Pence, not President Donald Trump, helped facilitate the decision to mobilize members of the DC National Guard Wednesday when violence at the US Capitol building started to escalate, according to a source familiar with the move and public comments from top officials.
As the chaos unfolded, doubts were raised about whether Trump would order the DC National Guard to respond due to the slowness of the response. Public statements by acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and other top officials suggested it was Pence who ultimately approved the decision. Miller's statement Wednesday seems to indicate he did not even speak with Trump, discussing the matter with his deputy instead as sources told CNN the President was reluctant to even denounce the violence being carried out in his name.
Trump, who has proven over the past year to be eager to deploy the National Guard when violence breaks out, initially resisted doing so on Capitol Hill Wednesday as a mob of his supporters breached the building, per a source familiar. Pence played a key role in coordinating with the Pentagon about deploying them, and urged them to move faster than they were.
The news raises questions about who was acting as commander in chief on one of America's darkest days, which saw the country's legislature overrun for the first time since the British attacked and burned the building in August 1814.
Industry Labor Leaders Condemn Trump Supporters’ Attack On Capitol: “Shocking And Unacceptable”. (Deadline, January 7, 2021)
A growing chorus of entertainment industry union leaders is condemning Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol building by supporters of President Donald Trump – and the politicians who incited the violence.
“It took three years, 50 weeks and four dead at the Capitol for far too few Republicans to abandon him. Trump didn’t destroy their party — they did,” tweeted WGA East president Beau Willimon, who also called for Trump to be impeached for a second time. “For those who think, ‘Only two weeks left, why impeach?’ — consider this: Would you be comfortable with a deranged and violent amateur piloting the plane you’re on for even 30 seconds? And, don’t you want to send a message that we will never allow such a pilot at the yoke again?”
Thom Hartmann: Tyrants often turn on their own people: it’s time to remove Trump from office. (Medium, January 7, 2021)
Tyrants very rarely leave power voluntarily. In almost every case they’ve committed so many crimes in the process of acquiring and holding power, and exploiting that power to enrich themselves, their friends and allies, that they know if they step down they will be facing, at the very least, a long stretch in prison.
A dear friend of mine, Armin Lehmann, was the 16-year-old courier who brought Adolf Hitler the news that the war was totally lost, and thus was in the Führerbunker when Hitler committed suicide. Armin told me how a few weeks earlier, on March 19, 1945, Hitler had ordered the remnants of the German Air Force and tank crews to bomb Berlin and reduce other German cities to rubble. Germans still refer to it as his Nero Decree.
This is why it’s so vital that Donald Trump be removed from power immediately. Be it through the 25th Amendment or immediate articles of impeachment and a vote in the Senate, it must be done.
On His Way Out, Trump Trashes America—and the GOP. (Newsweek, January 7, 2021)
This piece was initially about the GOP and where it stands after four years of being controlled by Donald Trump and his family. The party has been in lockstep with him, but perhaps things are finally changing. In addition to being the first incumbent to lose reelection in nearly 30 years, the GOP lost the House in 2018 and the Senate just yesterday. The Senate loss is especially galling, as Republicans only had to win one of two Georgia runoff races. Though Trump campaigned for Senators Perdue and Loeffler, he focused far more on his grievances, especially his loss in the Georgia popular vote in November, than in boosting their prospects. He repeatedly complained of electoral fraud and in a widely publicized call just before the runoff election pressured the Republican Secretary of State to change the state's vote totals, despite three recounts that confirmed he had lost. His baseless conspiracy mongering could very well have deterred Republicans from voting, or soured other voters on supporting Loeffler and Perdue.
Trump's biggest problem has always been his lack of any core convictions or governing philosophy. As president, Trump focused on stoking resentment, Twitter threats and insults.
'Found one': Rep. Karen Bass identifies lead instigator in attempted coup at Capitol as Donald J. Trump. (Daily Kos, January 7, 2021)
Democratic Rep. Karen Bass has been calling for President Donald Trump’s leave of office for more than a year now. She punctuated the urgency of that call Thursday by answering an FBI tweet seeking the individuals who instigated violence in Washington, D.C. with a photo of Trump. “Found one,” Bass captioned.
Trump incited an entitled mob that climbed fences, stole property, and shattered glass doors of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday in what was by no exaggeration an attempted coup. It ended with four people dead, 14 police officers injured, and 52 arrests, authorities said. The riot was intended to block lawmakers from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory, but it achieved no such thing.
In a CNN interview Thursday, Bass also pointed out the brazen double standard in how authorities peacefully responded to Trump protesters versus how they have brutally responded to Black Lives Matter protesters over the last year. She said it’s “demoralizing” for people of color who “know if you could even imagine if tens of thousands of young, old African Americans attacked the Capitol like that what would have happened.”
Jan. 6 Was 9 Weeks — And 4 Years — in the Making. (Politico, January 7, 2021)
I spent the last election cycle immersed in the metastasizing paranoia behind Wednesday’s assault on Congress. Nobody should be surprised by what just happened.
I certainly never expected to see platoons of insurrectionists scaling the walls of the U.S. Capitol and sacking the place in broad daylight. Still, shocking as this was, it wasn’t a bit surprising. The attempted coup d'état had been unfolding in slow motion over the previous nine weeks. Anyone who couldn’t see this coming chose not to see it coming. And that goes for much of the Republican Party.
Make no mistake: Plenty of the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol complex on Wednesday really, truly believed that Trump had been cheated out of four more years; that Vice President Mike Pence had unilateral power to revise the election results; that their takeover of the building could change the course of history. I know this because I know several people who were there, and several more who planned to go. They bear responsibility for their actions, of course. But the point remains: They were conned into coming to D.C. in the first place, not just by Trump with his compulsive lying, but by the legions of Republicans who refused to counter those lies, believing it couldn’t hurt to humor the president and stoke the fires of his base.
"Is This Really Happening?": The Siege of Congress, Seen From the Inside. (Politico, January 7, 2021)
On Wednesday, when the waves of pro-Trump rioters overwhelmed U.S. Capitol Police and surged through the building’s lobbies and stairways, they trapped journalists and nearly all members of Congress. Some of them had ways out; Vice President Mike Pence, there to preside over the Senate, was quickly ushered to safety. Some didn’t. Members dove to the gallery floor; rooms were quickly pressed into service as safe spots for journalists covering the session.
Five of the journalists in the building were congressional reporters for POLITICO, whose normal beats cover the far more bureaucratic daily business of Congress. We asked them—as well as a photographer and two more reporters outside—to describe, by phone, what happened in those frenzied, confusing hours when the threat to American democracy came from inside the building. This is their account.
NEW: UFOs: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Collection (80-min. video; The Black Vault, January 7, 2021)
Below you will find a collection of CIA related Unidentified Flying Object records. The Black Vault’s connection to the CIA in getting some of these UFO documents released goes back to 1996. Originally, the CIA would only release about 1,000 pages that had been previously disclosed after a FOIA court case in the 1980s. They never addressed the records that were dated in the years after the case. The Black Vault spent years fighting for them, and many were released in the late 1990s. However, over time, the CIA made a CD-ROM collection of UFO documents, which encompassed the original records, along with the ones that took years to fight for. In an effort to make sure The Black Vault stayed up to date, in mid 2020, this CD-ROM was purchased to have one particular data dump available for all users of The Black Vault. You will find this below for download in its original state, along with a converted/searchable .pdf format. (Although the CIA claims this is their “entire” collection, there may be no way to entirely verify that. Research by The Black Vault will continue to see if there are additional documents still uncovered within the CIA’s holdings.)
[Maybe.]
Donald Trump, In New Statement, Says There Will Be “Orderly Transition Of Power”. (Deadline, January 7, 2021)
Donald Trump released a new statement in which he said that there would be an “orderly transition of power,” amid the uproar over his role in fomenting a mob of protesters who went on to storm the U.S. Capitol.
Shortly after Congress affirmed the victory of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, one of Trump’s aides, Dan Scavino, tweeted out the statement. The president continued to make unfounded and false claims of election fraud. “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th. I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”
Kamala Harris will be able to break Senate ties. Why her staff hopes she won't need to. (Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2021)
The victories by the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Tuesday's high-stakes races create a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans, including two independent senators who caucus with Democrats. The rare circumstance sets Harris up for a starring role on Capitol Hill — presiding at the Senate dais to deliver for the administration the final "yes" vote on key bills, Cabinet confirmations and judgeships.
Harris' advisors are hoping the Senate duties don't distract from her other responsibilities and priorities too much, hindering travel, dominating her schedule or interfering with her ability to become an active player in the Biden White House. To that end, although Harris will have a pair of offices in the Senate, like all vice presidents, don't expect her to be hanging out there all day, supervising debate or trolling committee meetings. And expect the administration to work with Republicans to avoid 50-50 ties whenever possible.
Congress completes electoral count, finalizing Biden's win after violent delay from pro-Trump mob. (CNN, January 7, 2021)
As they reconvened, Democrats and some Republicans condemned Trump's rhetoric in the lead-up to Wednesday's session, saying he deserved some of the blame for inciting the pro-Trump rioters who stormed into the Capitol. "This mob was a good part President Trump's doing, incited by his words, his lies," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. "Today's events almost certainly would not have happened without him."
The Senate voted 93 to 6 to dismiss the objection raised by Republicans to Arizona's results, and 92 to 7 to reject the objection to Pennsylvania.
In the House, a majority of Republicans voted to object to the results, but they were still soundly rejected, 303 to 121 for Arizona and 282 to 138 for Pennsylvania, with all Democrats in opposition. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was among the House Republicans to vote to reject the two states' results.
The riots prompted several Senate Republicans who had planned to object to decide they would no longer do so.
Republicans and Democrats alike condemned the protesters for breaching the US Capitol, and several blamed Trump -- who pushed for Republicans and Pence to use the joint session of Congress to overturn the election result -- for the dangerous situation that unfolded. "We gather due to a selfish man's injured pride and the outrage of supporters who he deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning," said Sen. Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican and 2012 GOP presidential nominee. "What happened today was an insurrection incited by the president of the United States," Romney added, warning those who voted to back Trump's objections would "forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy."
Warnock, Ossoff win in Georgia, handing Dems Senate control. (Associated Press, January 6, 2021)
Democrats won both Georgia Senate seats — and with them, the U.S. Senate majority — as final votes were counted Wednesday, serving President Donald Trump a stunning defeat in his turbulent final days in office while dramatically improving the fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s progressive agenda. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Democratic challengers who represented the diversity of their party’s evolving coalition, defeated Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler two months after Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992.
Warnock, who served as pastor for the same Atlanta church where civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, becomes the first African American from Georgia elected to the Senate. And Ossoff becomes the state’s first Jewish senator and, at 33 years old, the Senate’s youngest member.
This week’s elections were expected to mark the formal finale to the tempestuous 2020 election season, although the Democrats’ resounding success was overshadowed by chaos and violence in Washington, where angry Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. Wednesday’s unprecedented siege drew fierce criticism of Trump’s leadership from within his own party, and combined with the bad day in Georgia, marked one of the darkest days of his divisive presidency.
NEW: Giuliani to Senator: "Try to Just Slow it Down." (complete 2-min. audio; The Dispatch, January 6, 2021)
The president’s lawyer tries to block the count of the Electoral College votes. With the Capitol building barely cleared of Trump’s seditious invaders, Giuliani left a voicemail intended for Senator Tommy Tuberville (a Trump diehard, and former college football coach, newly elected to the Senate from Alabama).
Except Giuliani called the wrong number and actually left his message with a different senator, who leaked it to the media. Here’s some of what Giuliani said:
“Senator Tuberville? Or I should say Coach Tuberville. This is Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer. I'm calling you because I want to discuss with you how they’re trying to rush this hearing and how we need you, our Republican friends, to try to just slow it down ... I know they’re reconvening at eight tonight, but ... the only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states ...”
It’s not clear whether Giuliani—who opens the call by referring to himself as “the president’s lawyer”—was directed to call Tuberville by President Trump. One longtime Trump adviser still talking to top White House officials says Trump is in constant communication with Giuliani. Asked if such a call is something Trump would know about, he said: “Oh, yeah, 100 percent.”
"He screwed the country": Trump loyalty disintegrates. (Politico, January 6, 2021)
Wednesday’s Capitol Hill riot will reverberate for years, shaping Trump’s legacy and pushing Republicans to confront the GOP’s future.
NEW: QAnon Led the Storming of the US Capitol. (Vice, January 6, 2021)
QAnon has become central to the election conspiracy theories that have helped incite the violence on display on Wednesday. President Donald Trump has in recent weeks and months adopted many of the wild and unfounded conspiracies being shared by leading QAnon influencers—which include several lawyers who were at one point part of Trump’s own legal team.
Ahead of Wednesday’s riot, QAnon accounts on Twitter were actively calling for the protests to turn violent—and it appears that many of them followed their own advice. The first protester to storm the capitol was wearing a QAnon t-shirt.
Was it a coup? No, but siege on US Capitol was the election violence of a fragile democracy. (The Conversation, January 6, 2021)
Supporters of President Donald Trump, following his encouragement, stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, disrupting the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. Waving Trump banners, hundreds of people broke through barricades and smashed windows to enter the building where Congress convenes. One rioter died and several police officers were hospitalized in the clash. Congress went on lockdown.
While violent and shocking, what happened on Jan. 6 wasn’t a coup. This Trumpist insurrection was election violence, much like the election violence that plagues many fragile democracies.
Chaos, violence, mockery as pro-Trump mob occupies Congress. 4 die. (Associated Press, January 6, 2021)
This began as a day of reckoning for President Donald Trump’s futile attempt to cling to power as Congress took up the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. It devolved into scenes of fear and agony that left a prime ritual of American democracy in tatters.
Trump told his morning crowd at the Ellipse that he would go with them to the Capitol, but he didn’t. Instead he sent them off with incendiary rhetoric. “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” he said. “Let the weak ones get out,” he went on. “This is a time for strength.”
His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told the crowd, “Let’s have trial by combat.”
What happened Wednesday "was nothing less than an attempted coup", said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a frequent Trump critic, said, “Today, the United States Capitol — the world’s greatest symbol of self-government — was ransacked while the leader of the free world cowered behind his keyboard.” Sasse went on: “Lies have consequences. This violence was the inevitable and ugly outcome of the president’s addiction to constantly stoking division.”
Police said they recovered two pipe bombs, one outside the Democratic National Committee and one outside the Republican National Committee and a cooler from a vehicle that had a long gun and Molotov cocktail on Capitol grounds.
Police evacuated the chamber at 2:30 p.m., grabbing boxes of Electoral College certificates as they left - before the mob could burn them.
Yet Trump, in a video posted 90 minutes after lawmakers were evacuated, told the insurrectionists “We love you. You’re very special,” while asking them to go home. The police did allow most of them to leave.
“This is how a coup is started,” said Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif. “This is how democracy dies.”
"Not Only Did He Incite It, He Didn't Do Anything To Stop It!" -Sen. Amy Klobuchar On Trump's Failed Coup (11-min. video; Late Show, January 6, 2021)
Moments after voting on the Senate floor, Senator Amy Klobuchar joins us from a secure location inside the Capitol Building and says the president is responsible for today's failed attempted coup, and she wants every person involved to be prosecuted.
Stephen Colbert: Hey, Republicans Who Supported This President: Are We Great Again Yet? (14-min. live monologue; Late Show, January 6, 2021)
After the unprecedented assault on democracy that took place in the Capitol Building today, Stephen Colbert kicks off his monologue with a message for "the cynical cowardly Republican" lawmakers who for five years have coddled the president's fascist rhetoric: "There will be a terrible price to pay."
[Stephen Colbert calls it like it is - and has been, for far too long. Stunning!]
The Late Late Show’s James Corden Says Today Was Trump’s “Last Dance At The Worst Party Ever” But Urges Viewers To Have Hope. (8-min. video; Deadline, January 6, 2021)
Today has been a tough day and this evening’s late-night shows are likely to reflect that. James Corden, host of CBS’ The Late Late Show, was the first late-night star to address what happened earlier when a mob burst into the Capitol and caused chaos. James Corden begins The Late Late Show reflecting on what was a dark day at the United States Capitol, but sees hope on the horizon. After, he looks at Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff's victories in the Georgia Senate run-off election. “Today was [Trump’s] last dance at the worst party any of us have ever been to, so if you can, have hope, we’ve seen in these past few weeks that voting counts, change is coming, science is real, vaccines are on the way. I really do believe that there are better times ahead,” he said.
He talked about being an “outsider”, growing up in England. “I used to look to America as this beacon of light and possibility, a place where anything can happen and you’d be lucky to work, a place where many people I knew used to fantasize about living in, a place that gives an individual more opportunity than they would get elsewhere, yet cares for their fellow man. And yet today people across the world would have looked at these pictures of Washington and they would have wondered what on earth has happened to this great country.” He said that the country had been “hijacked” by a “lunatic and his crazy army” for the past four years. “But that’s about to end because in two weeks on those same steps, where the mob fought and pushed past the police, Joe Biden will be sworn in as President of the United States and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as Vice President of the United States.”
Lawmakers call for Trump's impeachment or invoking 25th Amendment in wake of Capitol Hill violence. (ABC News, January 6, 2021)
"We can't allow him to remain in office."
Gen. Barry Mccaffrey: "Rogue' Trump Must Be Removed From Office - TONIGHT!." (5-min. video; MSNBC, January 6, 2021)
Retired Four-Star U.S. Army General and MSNBC Military Analyst Gen. Barry McCaffrey reacts to Trump's role in the violent mob that stormed Capitol Hill on Wednesday, saying Congress needs to remove Trump from office now.
Jim Acosta: Trump is "traumatized" and "out of his mind" over his election loss. (2-min. video; CNN, January 6, 2021)
Presidential Cabinet "lackeys" not expected to invoke 25th Amendment, but they ARE discussing it.
[And it was Pence, not Trump, who finally called in the National Guard.]
Obama: 'A Moment Of Great Dishonor And Shame For Our Nation' — But Not A Surprise. (NPR, January 6, 2021)
Former President Barack Obama said that the violence that gripped the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was the unsurprising result of two months of instigation by President Trump and his enablers.
"History will rightly remember today's violence at the Capitol, incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election, as a moment of great dishonor and shame for our nation," Obama said in a statement Wednesday evening. "But we'd be kidding ourselves if we treated it as a total surprise. For two months now, a political party and its accompanying media ecosystem has too often been unwilling to tell their followers the truth — that this was not a particularly close election and that President-Elect Biden will be inaugurated on January 20. Their fantasy narrative has spiraled further and further from reality, and it builds upon years of sown resentments. Now we're seeing the consequences, whipped up into a violent crescendo," wrote Obama, whose eight-year administration directly preceded Trump's.
Obama also pointed a finger at a larger group of Republicans for their role in inciting the fracas, as many denied for months that Biden was the lawful winner of November's election.
Trump's Stochastic Terrorism becomes Actual Terrorism as defined under US law. (Daily Kos, January 6, 2021)
Stochastic terrorism is the use of mass communications to stir up random lone wolves to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable. For four years, Trump has probed the depths of Stochastic Terrorism, stirring up death through terrorists in El Pas, Charlottesville, Charleston, Kenosha and elsewhere. Today he crossed the line to direct, immediate incitement to terror.
Manufacturers Call on Armed Thugs to Cease Violence at Capitol. (National Assn. of Manufacturers, January 6, 2021)
Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement in response to large groups of armed Trump adherents who have violently stormed the U.S. Capitol building as members of Congress meet to count the electoral votes:
“Armed violent protestors who support the baseless claim by outgoing president Trump that he somehow won an election that he overwhelmingly lost have stormed the U.S. Capitol today, attacking police officers and first responders, because Trump refused to accept defeat in a free and fair election. Throughout this whole disgusting episode, Trump has been cheered on by members of his own party, adding fuel to the distrust that has enflamed violent anger. This is not law and order. This is chaos. It is mob rule. It is dangerous. This is sedition and should be treated as such. The outgoing president incited violence in an attempt to retain power, and any elected leader defending him is violating their oath to the Constitution and rejecting democracy in favor of anarchy. Anyone indulging conspiracy theories to raise campaign dollars is complicit. Vice President Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy.
“This is not the vision of America that manufacturers believe in and work so hard to defend. Across America today, millions of manufacturing workers are helping our nation fight the deadly pandemic that has already taken hundreds of thousands of lives. We are trying to rebuild an economy and save and rebuild lives. But none of that will matter if our leaders refuse to fend off this attack on America and our democracy—because our very system of government, which underpins our very way of life, will crumble.”
This Is a Coup. Why Were Experts So Reluctant to See It Coming? (Foreign Policy, January 6, 2021)
Today, rioters incited by President Donald Trump have stormed the U.S. Capitol building. Both the House and the Senate have suspended their counting because of security threats. Reportedly, shots have been fired. A photograph of a rioter occupying the House speaker’s chair shows that the Capitol is, essentially, being occupied. C-SPAN is reporting that senior members of leadership of the legislative branch are being held in an “undisclosed location.” Reporters are refusing to divulge their locations on the grounds—entirely reasonable—that doing so could endanger their safety. The National Guard has been deployed.
It’s undeniable at this point. The United States is witnessing a coup attempt—a forceful effort to seize power against the legal framework. The president has caused the interruption of the process that would certify his removal from office. The mechanics of constitutional government have been suspended. Americans are in da