by A. Richard Miller
Begun September 29, 2008; last updated March 19, 2023

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We also link to some Black Humor (with Cartoons), and to some of my Favorite Poems.

"NEW:" marks internal items older than 7 days but posted recently, or items which update regularly.

On the eve of USA's November 2008 national election, an urgent proposal for an unsecured $700-Billion, maybe $800-Billion loan to mismanaged banks and stockbrokers was generating understandable controversy. In its initial form the Bush Buddies Bailout was one more Weapon of Mass Deception, a public welfare program (later, a two-step 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 reporting. We find the parts they don't want us to find - in The New York Times and The Washington Post, overseas, and in the Alternative Press. Some favorite resources are: Alternet, Campaign for America's Future, Common Dreams, Daily KOS, Demand Progress, Democracy Now, The Guardian, The Hill, The Huffington Post, Little Sis, The Marginalian (was Brain Pickings), Mother Jones, The Nation, Nation of Change, Dan Rather's News&Guts, Politico, Quanta Magazine, The Raw Story, SciTechDaily, Second-Rate Democracy, TruthOut, Russ Baker's, and Wired. But we keep a sense of perspective, to 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 (15th-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 ( href="">53-min. audio)
[And on his guitar, "This Machine Kills Fascists"!]

Some rob with a six-shooter,
    And some with a computer.
- Dick Miller

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!
Walkers are even worse. They do not even buy a bicycle.
- NOT Sanjay Thakrar, CEO at Euro Exim Bank Ltd. (2018)

NEW: Global Weirding Is Here.
- Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, February 17, 2010)

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...
<> (pp. 4-6)

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.

NEW: The Lake Book: A Handbook For Lake Protection (4th Ed.; Maine Lakes, 2022)
[Excellent, and free to share. Would that I had this to share, when I was the Executive Director of the Lake Cochituate Watershed Association!]

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) (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: La Griffe du Lion (2010?)
A mathematical evaluation of racial/sexual/economic biases.

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

NEW: Envisioning the Hack That Could Take Down New York City (NY Magazine, June 19, 2016)
How it's been done. How it might all be done together.

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)

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)

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 (, 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.] (Donald Trump's vision)
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.

NEW: We Now Have a 4th Stage of Existence, and it may be the end of us all. (Medium, February 6, 2021)
We need a new plan for the last 30 years of life.

Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector (74-min. video; International Energy Agency, May 18, 2021)
[The official report.]

NEW: 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) (United Nations, October 31 - November 12, 2021)
Learn about how the negotiations at COP26 went and the outcomes achieved in the documents within.

NEW: The American Presidency Project (University of California, Santa Barbara)
[Compare, for example, the 1912 Democratic Party Platform to this year's.]

NEW: UNREPRESENTATIVES (Indivisible, March 2023)
There are 18 Republicans who won districts in the midterms that Joe Biden won in 2020. This handful of representatives ensured that MAGA extremism would claim power in Congress. They stood by as Kevin McCarthy cut deals with extremists. They’ve empowered Marjorie Taylor Greene and her MAGA allies. They’ve attacked abortion rights and threatened essential programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Some ran as moderates. Some refused to talk to voters. And one straight-up lied about his resume and identity entirely. But they all have one thing in common: they’ve been voting in lockstep with the MAGA majority even though their constituents oppose MAGA extremism. They don’t represent the voters of their district. And for the next two years, we’re going to hold them accountable for their extremism.

Resources re Recent Pandemics - Coronavirus, Polio and more

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 (bySeattle-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.

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.”

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.

Trump to launch second pandemic task force, one that does away with irritating medical experts. (Daily Kos, April 9, 2020)

The Wall Street Journal Board Has Had Enough Of Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Briefings. (Huffington Post, April 9, 2020)
In the editorial titled “Trump’s Wasted Briefings,” the conservative newspaper’s board said the pressers had started off as “a good idea to educate the public” about the pandemic but had now descended into “a boring show of President Vs. the press” after Trump decided to make them all about himself. Trump’s frequent “outbursts against his political critics” were “notably off-key at this moment” given the “once-a-century threat to American life and livelihood,” it added, noting how public health officials have in the briefings been relegated to the role of “supporting actors.”
“If Mr. Trump thinks these daily sessions will help him defeat Joe Biden, he’s wrong,” the board wrote, suggesting Trump’s 2020 campaign against the de facto Democratic nominee Biden is “about one issue: how well the public thinks the President has done in defeating the virus and restarting the economy.”

White House reverses position after blocking health officials from appearing on CNN. (CNN, April 9, 2020)
Vice President Mike Pence's office reversed course on Thursday afternoon, after declining for days to allow the nation's top health officials to appear on CNN and discuss the coronavirus pandemic, in what was an attempt to pressure the network into carrying the White House's lengthy daily briefings in full.
After this story was published, Pence's office allowed the bookings.

Emily Maitlis, BBC: They tell us Coronavirus is a great leveller. It's not. (4-min. video; BBC, April 9, 2020)

The Invisible Vector (Hakai Magazine, April 9, 2020)
Ships and their crews crisscross the planet, but their travels are largely unaccounted for in epidemiological modeling.
AIS is a global tracking program that all passenger ships, international ships over 270 tonnes, and cargo ships over 450 tonnes are legally required to take part in. Over a half million vessels carry onboard transceivers that broadcast messages on the ship’s location, speed, course, destination, and estimated time of arrival, as well as static information like the ship’s name, type, and size.
With so many messages coming at any given time from the hundreds of thousands of ships at sea, scientists could better understand the risk of a disease crisscrossing the planet.
Despite ships’ close association with historical pandemics, they have been overlooked. That’s largely down to the field’s reliance on aviation data, which dwarfs maritime traffic with nearly 40 million flights in 2019. The stories of cruise ships being floating infection hubs, however, might make using ship data seem less far-fetched.

Korean CDC investigates possible reactivation as 51 coronavirus patients retest positive after recovery. (Daily Kos, April 9, 2020)

Study from China raises serious questions about both COVID-19 immunity and vaccine effectiveness. (Daily Kos, April 9, 2020)
Since the early weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak in Hubei province, China, there have been reports of patients who were released after testing negative for the virus, only to test positive again at a later date. These numbers have definitely raised concerns over whether it is possible to be reinfected by 2019 novel coronavirus, and whether having the disease and recovering really confers lasting immunity. On the other hand, there has been every reason to expect that immunity is a given, based on the example of many similar viruses.
A new study in Shanghai may have the answer: Having COVID-19 provides lasting, strong immunity … for most people. But there may actually be a group that’s vulnerable to reinfection, and that group may not be what anyone was expecting. While the distribution of those catching COVID-19 may be more or less even across age brackets, the distribution of these “low antibodies” cases was not. Most of those who had low antibodies were young. In fact, the study showed the level of antibodies increased with age. Patients over 60 had three times the amount of antibodies as those under 40, even though both groups had mild cases of COVID-19.
If accurate, these results have a number of considerations:
- A portion of low-symptom COVID-19 patients may be subject to reinfection or rebound. It’s completely unclear whether a second round of infection is more or less mild than the first round, or whether this second round would increase the number of antibodies present.
- This weak response to the virus may also have implications for teams working on vaccines for COVID-19. If the fragments of the virus chosen for vaccine mimic this result, some portion of those vaccinated might not develop sufficient antibodies to proof them against infection. This may lead to suggestions for increased dosages or multiple-shot vaccines.
- A portion of those now considered “safe” because they’ve had the disease and recovered may be subject to reinfection, representing a danger to both themselves and acting as a vector to others.
- Vaccines may actually work better for the older population most at risk from the COVID-19 infection.
All of this is very early, unconfirmed research and 175 patients is still a very small group to characterize the tens of thousands who have already recovered from COVID-19 or the millions who will follow. Nothing about this study suggests that it was done in any randomized way, and the lack of peer review on the published paper means that there could be serious issues in methodology, even aside from some obvious issues with how the test group was defined.
One very interesting point: The researchers in Shanghai excluded any patients who had more serious cases of COVID-19 from the study exactly because use of plasma or antibodies from recovered patients has become common in treatment of critical cases there. So in anyone who had a more serious cases of COVID-19, they would have a mix of their own antibodies and those given to them as treatment. That this treatment has become so common in the country where the pandemic began may suggest that they’ve seen good results with these treatments. But, just as with the antibody study covered here, those results don’t seem to be well-documented.

Ventilators: From the "Iron Lung" to the Coronavirus (Quartz, April 9, 2020)
The history of the device we forgot we'd need more of - and what's being innovated now.

China Holds Navy Drills in Pacific As U.S. Aircraft Carriers Hit by Coronavirus. (Newsweek, April 9, 2020)

NEW: Impeached Donald Trump is a Stochastic Murderer! (Daily Kos, April 9, 2020)
Stochastic Murder is a simple inversion of G2geek’s Stochastic Terrorism. It refers to an individual, group, or system that causes the deaths of ecosystems, plants, animals or humans through indirect causation. Indirect causation or George Lakoff's systemic causation. (The utilitarian version of systemic causation is indirect causation.) These Stochastic Murderers (see diagram above) ignore statistics for their selfish gain and because our laws are mostly tribal and directly causal, they remain unpunished. Our laws have not caught up with being able to deter and punish crimes committed on a global scale.

'It will disappear': the disinformation Trump spread about the coronavirus – timeline (The Guardian, April 14, 2020)

How Trump Gutted Obama’s Pandemic-Preparedness Systems (Vanity Fair, May 1, 2020)
Former officials: Trump’s reshuffling of positions and departments, focus on business solutions, downgrading of science, left the country dangerously unprepared for an unprecedented pandemic.

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 (AP News, 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.

NEW: A top scientist questioned virus lockdowns on Fox News. The backlash was fierce. (4-min. and 3-min. videos; Washington Post, December 16, 2020)
John Ioannidis, 55 and a famous Stanford University medical professor, insists he is doing what he has always done: following the data and sometimes contending with the head winds of conventional wisdom or popular opinion. He says governments should focus on protecting the sick and elderly from infection while keeping businesses and schools open for the less vulnerable. “There is a lethal virus circulating out there. We all have responsibility to do our best to contain it as much as possible. It’s not a joke. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s not fake,” he told The Washington Post. “But we don’t panic. We don’t destroy our world. We don’t freeze everything.”
At a time when President Trump was openly at war with his own administration’s medical experts, Ioannidis’s doubts about the wisdom of lockdowns became part of the rancorous debate about how the country should respond to the threat of covid-19. His arguments in a string of appearances on Fox News, CNN and other news networks were seized on by right-wing firebrands seeking to discredit public-health officials and reopen the economy. It was a remarkable turn for Ioannidis, a longtime evangelist for science-based health policies who has argued for zealous gun-control measures and the abolition of the tobacco industry.

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 the virus.

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.]

NEW: Variant or ‘Scariant’: When to Worry About Covid Virus Strains (Medium, March 18, 2021)
Plus, the most important way to prevent more variants from emerging.

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.

Staples, Office Depot Will Laminate Your Covid-19 Vaccination Card for Free Until May 1. (Frommers, March 25, 2021)
Office supply giants Staples and Office Depot are laminating customers' Covid-19 vaccination record cards for free until May 1.
Why would you want that? Because having proof of vaccination will soon be imperative for many types of travel—cruise lines and whole countries have already announced or suggested that they will only accept vaccinated visitors in the future. Preserving the paper innoculation card, which is too large to fit in most wallets, will help the document weather use at borders and ticket counters.
The U.S. government asks citizens not to laminate Social Security cards, but Covid-19 vaccination forms have no security measures that would be hampered by encasing them in plastic.
[But see April 25th...]

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.”

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.

Hot fun in the summertime? Maybe. States begin to plan for warmer days. (New York Times, April 22, 2021)
With summer on the horizon, states are beginning to rethink social-distancing measures. Science shows that the risk of viral transmission outside is very low. The Times’s Well columnist, Tara Parker-Pope, suggests making sure activities meet two out of the following three conditions: outdoors, distanced and masked.

NEW: Do NOT Get Your COVID-19 Vaccination Card Laminated. (AARP, April 22, 2021)
Tips for safeguarding the paper record of your coronavirus vaccination.
[The bad news: Why are we hearing this too late? (See March 25, herein.)
The good news: They simply taped the newer vaccination date onto our laminated cards. No problemo!]

India’s military helps speed medical supplies as pandemic surge sets infection record. (Washington Post, April 23, 2021)
India set another daily record for new coronavirus infections Saturday as the country’s health-care system buckled under a rampaging outbreak that has left dire shortages of oxygen tanks, medicines and hospital beds. Indian authorities said they are commandeering trains and using air force planes to speed up the distribution of medical supplies to hard-hit regions. Some of India’s crematories have been put out of service from overuse.

Pesticide Exposure May Increase COVID-19 Susceptibility. (SciTechDaily, April 26, 2021)
A new study performed in human lung airway cells is one of the first to show a potential link between exposure to organophosphate pesticides and increased susceptibility to COVID-19 infection. The findings could have implications for veterans, many of whom were exposed to organophosphate pesticides during wartime, and for people with metabolic disorders.
Exposure to organophosphate pesticides is thought to be one of the possible causes of Gulf War Illness, a cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms that can include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders and memory problems. More than 25% of Gulf War veterans are estimated to experience this condition.

The African vaccine rollout (New York Times, April 26, 2021)
Of the one billion shots given around the world, 82 percent have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Only 0.2 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries — pockets of infection that can produce variants that put us all in danger.

CDC: Vaccinated Americans can go maskless outdoors in many situations. (Politico, April 27, 2021)
Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors when in small groups with other fully vaccinated friends and family, and in some circumstances can go maskless with unvaccinated people. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced the guidelines, saying the agency had made the changes after studying how likely vaccinated people are to transmit the virus.

Will the pandemic make us nicer people? Probably not. But it might change us in other ways. (Washington Post, May 1, 2021)
If past is prologue, the deadly flu epidemic of 1918 and 1919 should help us understand how we will navigate the post-covid years. “I think it’s fair to say that people want to forget as soon as possible,” said Laura Spinney, author of “Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World.” “That is pretty much the pattern for pandemics throughout history. If you talk to public health experts, they talk about us going through this cycle of panic and complacency: We panic when a pandemic declares itself, and then we forget about it as soon as it’s gone.”
[An excellent look at how pandemics can change personalities.]

Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe. (NewYork Times, May 3, 2021)
Widely circulating coronavirus variants and persistent hesitancy about vaccines will keep the goal out of reach. The virus is here to stay, but vaccinating the most vulnerable may be enough to restore normalcy.

How America’s partisan divide over pandemic responses played out in the States. (The Conversation, May 12, 2021)
Looking at states’ COVID-19 case and death rates, researchers are finding the more stringent policies typical of Democratic governors led to lower rates of infections and deaths, compared to the the pandemic responses of the average Republican governor. In preparation for future pandemics, it may be worth considering how to address the impact that a state government’s partisan leanings can have on the scope and severity of a public health crises.

The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill (Wired, May 13, 2021)
All pandemic long, scientists brawled over how the virus spreads. Droplets! No, aerosols! At the heart of the fight was a teensy error with huge consequences.

The Yankees Covid Outbreak May Be Bad News for Ditching Masks. (Wired, May 13, 2021)
The spate of cases is a bad bounce—and it might show that lifting mask mandates for the vaxxed won’t be a grand slam.

Coronavirus vaccines may not work in some people. It’s because of their underlying conditions. (Washington Post, May 18, 2021)
Early research shows that 15 to 80 percent of people with certain medical conditions, such as specific blood cancers or organ transplants, are generating few antibodies after receiving coronavirus vaccines.

NEW: Equity at a time of pandemic (US National Institute of Health, May 21, 2021)
Health promotion has long aspired for a world where all people can live to their full potential. Yet, COVID-19 illuminates dramatically different consequences for populations bearing heavy burdens of systemic disadvantage within countries and between the Global South and Global North. Many months of pandemic is entrenching inequities that reveal themselves in the vastly differential distribution of hospitalization and mortality, for example, among racialized groups in the USA. Amplified awareness of the intimate relationship between health, social structures, and economy opens a window of opportunity to act on decades of global commitments to prioritize health equity.

“Super Carriers” – 2% of People Carry 90% of COVID-19 Virus. (SciTechDaily, May 25, 2021)
A few “super carriers” with off-the-charts viral loads are likely responsible for the bulk of COVID-19 transmissions, while about half of infected people aren’t contagious at all at the time of diagnosis, suggests a new CU Boulder analysis of more than 72,000 test samples.
A second, related study lends further credence to the idea that viral load, or the amount of virus particles a person carries, drives contagion. It found that only one in five university students who tested positive while living in a residence hall infected their roommate. And their viral load was nearly seven times higher than those who didn’t spread the virus.
“The takeaway from these studies is that most people with COVID don’t get other people sick, but a few people get a lot of people sick,” said Sara Sawyer, a professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology and senior author of the first study. “If you don’t have a viral super-carrier sitting near you at dinner, you might be OK. But if you do, you’re out of luck. It’s a game of roulette so you have to continue to be careful.”
This provides another example of why you don’t necessarily need super sensitive tests that may take longer to process,” said coauthor Roy Parker, director of the BioFrontiers Institute and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “Even a faster but less sensitive test will catch all the people who are contagious.”

NEW: Paxlovid Rebound: When COVID Symptoms Return After Pills Are Gone. (AARP, May 25, 2022)
Health experts are puzzled why some people get well, then feel sick again, after antiviral treatment ends.

NEW: Our Creativity Has Increased as a Result of the COVID-19 Lockdown. (SciTechDaily, May 31, 2022)
Covid-19 caught us off guard, and the unusual circumstances of the initial lockdown demanded extraordinary adaptability, particularly from our brains. A new study from the Paris Brain Institute (Inserm/CNRS/Sorbonne University/AP-HP) has revealed how human creativity developed throughout this time period and the variables that may have impacted it. Despite the lockdown, our creativity increased and we concentrated on tasks mainly related to the situation’s issues.

Anthony Fauci’s pandemic emails: ‘All is well despite some crazy people in this world.’ (Washington Post, June 1, 2021)
866 pages of Fauci’s emails were obtained by The Washington Post as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. The correspondence from March and April 2020 opens a window to Fauci’s world during some of the most frantic days of the crisis, when the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was struggling to bring coherence to the Trump administration’s chaotic response to the virus and President Donald Trump was seeking to minimize its severity. The emails show Fauci was inundated with more than 1,000 messages a day.

The next pandemic is already happening. Targeted disease surveillance can help prevent it. (The Conversation, June 1, 2021)
As more and more people around the world are getting vaccinated, one can almost hear the collective sigh of relief. But the next pandemic threat is likely already making its way through the population right now. Don’t wait for sick people to show up at a hospital. Instead, monitor populations where disease spillover actually happens.

NEW: An Omega-3 That’s Poison for Cancer Tumors (SciTechDaily, June 11, 2021)
3D tumors that disintegrate within a few days thanks to the action of a well-known Omega-3 (DHA, found mainly in fish) — this is the exceptional discovery by University of Louvain.

Could the U.S. Have Saved More Lives? 5 Alternate Scenarios for the Vaccine Rollout. (New York Times, June 17, 2021)
About 100,000 people have died of Covid in the United States since February, after vaccine distribution was well underway.

The Delta Variant Could Create “Two Americas” Of COVID, Experts Warn. (BuzzFeed News, June 17, 2021)
If you are fully vaccinated, you are most likely to be safe. But in parts of the US where few people have gotten COVID vaccine shots, the Delta variant could trigger renewed deadly surges.
[See the graph near the end of this good/sad article!]

Return of smell can take up to one year after COVID-19 infection. (The Hill, June 25, 2021)
A new study looks at patient recovery times from anosmia brought on by the coronavirus.

Surgeon General Warns Misinformation Is The Greatest Threat To Covid-19 Vaccination Efforts. (CBS, June 25, 2021)
With a dangerous Covid-19 variant on the rise, health experts are urging people who are still hesitant to get their vaccinations. But the US surgeon general warns a big obstacle stands in their way: Misinformation. “There is so much misinformation out there about the vaccine, coming through so many channels — a lot of it being spread on social media,” Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “It’s inducing a lot of fear among people.” “Two-thirds of those who are unvaccinated in polls say that they either believe the myths about Covid-19 or think that they might be true,” he added.

Where Did the Coronavirus Come From? What We Already Know Is Troubling. (New York Times, June 25, 2021)
There were curious characteristics about the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 1977-78, which emerged from northeastern Asia and killed an estimated 700,000 people around the world. For one, it almost exclusively affected people in their mid-20s or younger. Scientists discovered another oddity that could explain the first: It was virtually identical to a strain that circulated in the 1950s. People born before that had immunity that protected them, and younger people didn’t.
But how on earth had it remained so steady genetically, since viruses continually mutate? Scientists guessed that it had been frozen in a lab. It was often found to be sensitive to temperature, something expected for viruses used in vaccine research. It was only in 2004 that a prominent virologist, Peter Palese, wrote that Chi-Ming Chu, a respected virologist and a former member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told him that “the introduction of this 1977 H1N1 virus” was indeed thought to be due to vaccine trials involving “the challenge of several thousand military recruits with live H1N1 virus.” For the first time, science itself seemed to have caused a pandemic while trying to prepare for it.
Now, for the second time in 50 years, there are questions about whether we are dealing with a pandemic caused by scientific research. While the Chinese government’s obstruction may keep us from knowing for sure whether the virus, SARS-CoV-2, came from the wild directly or through a lab in Wuhan or if genetic experimentation was involved, what we know already is troubling.

How Americans waged war on the scientists trying to save them. (Business Insider, June 27, 2021)
Distrust of science isn't new in the US. The anti-vaccination movement dates back to 19th century New Englanders who opposed the smallpox vaccine. Climate-change deniers have been vocal since the 1980s. But the pandemic intensified a new type of attack — one that focused not on the research itself, but on experts and health officials as people.
During the Ebola crisis in 2014, conservatives in the US called for tighter travel restrictions than Democrats did. At the time, psychologists theorized that conservatives were more inclined to react strongly to a perceived danger. "Conservatism is a strategy to protect a society from harm from both outsiders and diseases," journalist Brian Resnick wrote in The Atlantic in 2014. "Ebola hits this exact conservative nerve — it's a deadly disease from a foreign country."
But in the case of the coronavirus, the idea that scientists were trying to dupe the public swelled among conservatives, leading many to fear a loss of liberty more than the virus. President Donald Trump, of course, played a major role in shaping that narrative. He had already painted himself as the David that would put the Goliath industries of science and medicine in check, and also regularly suggested that Democrats were exaggerating the virus' severity as a political stunt. A Cornell University analysis found that Trump was the largest driver of coronavirus misinformation during the pandemic. He touted the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential COVID-19 treatment without much evidence, and used racist misnomers like "Chinese virus," or "kung flu" to push blame onto a foreign country — a time-tested move from the populist handbook.

NEW: The Secrets of Covid ‘Brain Fog’ Are Starting to Lift. (Wired, July 1, 2022)
Scientists are getting closer to understanding the neurology behind the memory problems and cognitive fuzziness that an infection can trigger.
For the past 20 years, Monje, a neuro-oncologist, had been trying to understand the neurobiology behind chemotherapy-induced cognitive symptoms—similarly known as “chemo fog.” When Covid-19 emerged as a major immune-activating virus, she worried about the potential for similar disruption. “Very quickly, as reports of cognitive impairment started to come out, it was clear that it was a very similar syndrome,” she says. “The same symptoms of impaired attention, memory, speed of information processing, dis-executive function—it really clinically looks just like the ‘chemo fog’ that people experienced and that we’d been studying.”

New Universal Vaccine Targets COVID-19, SARS, and Other Coronaviruses to Prevent Future Pandemics. (SciTechDaily, July 3, 2021)
To prevent a future coronavirus pandemic, UNC-Chapel Hill researchers designed a universal vaccine to provide protection from the current SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and a group of coronaviruses known to make the jump from animals to humans. It already has protected mice not just against COVID-19 but also other coronaviruses and triggered the immune system to fight off a dangerous variant.

NEW: Their neighbors called COVID-19 a hoax. Can these ICU nurses forgive them? (1-min. video; Washington Post, July 6, 2021)
For the nurses in the Appalachian highlands who risked their lives during the pandemic, it is as if they fought in a war no one acknowledges. Conspiracy theories about the pandemic and lies recited on social media — or at White House news conferences — had penetrated deep into their community. When refrigerated trailers were brought in to relieve local hospitals’ overflowing morgues, people said they were stage props. Agitated and unmasked relatives stood outside the ICU insisting that their intubated relatives only had the flu. Many believed the doctors and nurses hailed elsewhere for their sacrifices were conspiring to make money by falsifying COVID-19 diagnoses.

NEW: More Than 200 Symptoms Across 10 Organ Systems Identified in Long COVID. (SciTechDaily, July 15, 2021)
With responses from 3,762 eligible participants from 56 countries, the researchers identified a total of 203 symptoms in 10 organ systems; of these, 66 symptoms were tracked for seven months. The most common symptoms were fatigue, post-exertional malaise (the worsening of symptoms after physical or mental exertion), and cognitive dysfunction, often called brain fog. Of the diverse range of symptoms, others included: visual hallucinations, tremors, itchy skin, changes to the menstrual cycle, sexual dysfunction, heart palpitations, bladder control issues, shingles, memory loss, blurred vision, diarrhea, and tinnitus.
The research team, who have all had or continue to have long COVID, are now calling for clinical guidelines on assessing long COVID to be significantly widened beyond currently advised cardiovascular and respiratory function tests to include neuropsychiatric, neurological, and activity intolerance symptoms. Furthermore, with large numbers of long haulers “suffering in silence,” the authors advocate that a national screening program, accessible to anyone who thinks they have long COVID, should be undertaken. Given the heterogeneous (diverse) make-up of symptoms that affect multiple organ systems, it is only by detecting the root cause that patients will receive the correct treatment.

As news stories drop about COVID-19 pandemic deniers and anti-vaxxers ranting defiantly from ICU beds, let's review what fraud research suggests about the responsibility we should attribute to them for their condition and for the messages they send. (Twitter via Threadreader, July 22, 2021)
One of the recurrent problems in US popular discourse on the proper response to crises is that it's often assumed there are only two options:
1. Crack down hard, damn the consequences (usually associated with the Right Wing).
2. "Just be kind; kindness is everything😊🌈❤️" (usually associated with the Left Wing).
Both approaches have become almost completely divorced from the American pragmatic tradition, which would lead us to ask: what do we want to accomplish, and what will actually work? Those are important questions when millions of lives are at stake.
Clearly, Americans *can* be rational problem-solvers when it comes to some situations that require weighing the claims of personal liberty vs collective survival. No one (that I know of) argues that we should address the problem of drunk driving with kindness - or with executions.
[This crudely-edited article on applying fraud research to coronavirus deniers is so potentially useful that we encourage you to read it anyway. Thank you, This Is True!]

COVID-19 could cause male infertility and sexual dysfunction – but vaccines do not. (The Conversation, July 26, 2021)
Contrary to myths circulating on social media, COVID-19 vaccines do not cause erectile dysfunction and male infertility.
What is true: SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, poses a risk for both disorders. Until now, little research has been done on how the virus or the vaccines affect the male reproductive system. But recent investigations by physicians and researchers have discovered potentially far-reaching implications for men of all ages – including younger and middle-aged men who want to have children.

Pfizer data shows vaccine protection remains robust six months after vaccination even as the company argues that boosters will be needed. (4-min. video; Washington Post, July 28, 2021)
Yesterday's Pfizer paper, which has not yet undergone peer review, showed a slight drop in efficacy against any symptomatic cases of covid-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, from 96 percent protection in the first two months after vaccination to 84 percent after four months. Company officials also presented data on a third dose at least six months after full vaccination, showing that it caused antibody numbers to soar, including disease fighters capable of neutralizing the delta variant. They said that they planned to seek authorization for a booster by mid-August, reiterating the company’s belief that a third dose would be needed to enhance immunity within a year of vaccination.
Hours later, Israeli health officials moved toward making boosters available for older residents. The Israeli officials said protection against serious illness for those older than 60 who were vaccinated in January dropped from 97 percent to about 81 percent. For those older than 60 vaccinated in March, it fell to about 84 percent. They said efficacy remained at 93 percent for people ages 40 to 59 years.

Study: Vaccinated people can carry as much virus as others. (AP News, July 29, 2021)
In another dispiriting setback for the nation’s efforts to stamp out the coronavirus, scientists who studied a big COVID-19 outbreak in Massachusetts concluded that vaccinated people who got so-called breakthrough infections carried about the same amount of the coronavirus as those who did not get the shots. Health officials on Friday released details of that research, which was key in this week’s decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend that vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the delta variant is fueling infection surges.
The authors said the findings suggest that the CDC’s mask guidance should be expanded to include the entire country, even outside of hot spots. The findings have the potential to upend past thinking about how the disease is spread. Previously, vaccinated people who got infected were thought to have low levels of virus and to be unlikely to pass it to others. But the new data shows that is not the case with the delta variant.
The outbreak in Provincetown — a seaside tourist spot on Cape Cod in the county with Massachusetts’ highest vaccination rate — has so far included more than 900 cases. About three-quarters of them were people who were fully vaccinated. Like many states, Massachusetts lifted all COVID-19 restrictions in late May, ahead of the traditional Memorial Day start of the summer season. Provincetown this week reinstated an indoor mask requirement for everyone.
The delta variant, first detected in India, causes infections that are more contagious than the common cold, flu, smallpox and the Ebola virus, and it is as infectious as chickenpox, according to the documents, which mentioned the Provincetown cases.

COVID-19 Associated With Long-Term Cognitive Dysfunction, Acceleration of Alzheimer’s Symptoms. (SciTechDaily, July 29, 2021)
In addition to the respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms that accompany COVID-19, many people with the virus experience short- and/or long-term neuropsychiatric symptoms, including loss of smell and taste, and cognitive and attention deficits, known as “brain fog.” For some, these neurological symptoms persist, and researchers are working to understand the mechanisms by which this brain dysfunction occurs, and what that means for cognitive health long term.

‘The war has changed’: Internal CDC document urges new messaging, warns delta infections likely more severe. (Washington Post, July 29, 2021)
The internal presentation captures the struggle of the nation’s top public health agency to persuade the public to embrace vaccination and prevention measures, including mask-wearing, as cases surge across the United States and new research suggests vaccinated people can spread the virus - the COVID-19 delta variant is so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold.

Biden announces measures to incentivize Covid-19 vaccinations, including a requirement for federal employees. (CNN, July 29, 2021)
“This is an American tragedy. People are dying – and will die – who don’t have to die. If you’re out there unvaccinated, you don’t have to die,” Biden said during remarks at the White House. “Read the news. You’ll see stories of unvaccinated patients in hospitals, as they’re lying in bed dying from Covid-19, they’re asking, ‘Doc, can I get the vaccine?’ The doctors have to say, ‘Sorry, it’s too late.’” In his sternest approach yet to pushing Americans to get vaccinated, the President bluntly argued that if you are unvaccinated, “You present a problem to yourself, to your family and to those with whom you work.”

A COVID Diagnostic in Only 20 Minutes, Using Two CRISPR Enzymes (University of California/Berkeley, August 6, 2021)
Frequent, rapid testing for COVID-19 is critical to controlling the spread of outbreaks, especially as new, more transmissible variants emerge.
While today’s gold standard COVID-19 diagnostic test, which uses qRT-PCR — quantitative reverse-transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) — is extremely sensitive, detecting down to one copy of RNA per microliter, it requires specialized equipment, a runtime of several hours and a centralized laboratory facility. As a result, testing typically takes at least one to two days.
A research team led by scientists in the labs of Jennifer Doudna, David Savage, and Patrick Hsu at the University of California, Berkeley, is aiming to develop a diagnostic test that is much faster and easier to deploy than qRT-PCR. It has now combined two different types of CRISPR enzymes to create an assay that can detect small amounts of viral RNA in less than an hour. Doudna shared the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for invention of CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing. “Our hope was to drive the biochemistry as far as possible to the point where you could imagine a very convenient format in a setting where you can get tested every day, say, at the entrance to work.”

Recently vaccinated Scalise wants voters to know Democrats are to blame for the red-state surge. (Daily Kos, August 6, 2021)
GOP House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana spent months putting off getting vaccinated, before having an abrupt change of heart in late July. As the delta variant started ravaging his state, Scalise was photographed getting the jab. At a press conference several days later, he told reporters, "I would encourage people to get the vaccine. I have high confidence in it. I got it myself."
But quickly adopting a pro-vaccine posture wasn't enough for Scalise. On July 26, he posted a disinformation video claiming, "Democrats have a history of vaccine misinformation and not trusting the science."

Republican congressman, who filed a lawsuit over masks last week, tests positive for COVID this week. (Daily Kos, August 6, 2021)
Republican Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina was in the news a little over a week ago as he, and two other congressional Republicans announced they were suing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over a mask mandate requiring all people on the House floor to cover their yaps. Rep. Norman was flanked by bats in the belfry Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who submitted legal arguments that the mask mandate “has been used to force Plaintiffs and other members of the minority party to be instruments for fostering public adherence to this ideological point of view that Plaintiffs find unacceptable.” As with all ironies, the irony of three television vampires like Norman, Greene, and Massie complaining about political theatre was lost on the Republicans.
One of these Congresspeople will be doing their work from the comfort of a quarantine bunker. According to Rep. Ralph Norman, he’s tested positive for COVID-19. According to Norman—grain of salt and all of that—he has been “fully vaccinated” since February, but began “experiencing minor symptoms” Thursday morning. He says that “thankfully,” since he was vaccinated, his “symptoms remain mild.”

The Delta Variant Has Warped Our Risk Perception. (excellent 31-min. video w/two experts; Wired, August 8, 2021)
Gone are the easy, thoughtless choices of hot vax summer. Making decisions that balance safety and sanity just got a lot more complicated.

Florida radio and Newsmax host who opposed Covid vaccine dies of Covid complications. (NBC News, August 8, 2021)
Dick Farrel was a vocal and staunch advocate against the coronavirus vaccines, which he posted about on social media, once calling them "bogus." He also railed against figures like Dr. Anthony Fauci, whom he called a "lying freak." But at the end, a friend reported, "Dick texted me and told me to 'Get vaccinated!' He told me this virus is no joke and he said, 'I wish I had gotten it!'"

GOP Senator (and MD) Bill Cassidy breaks with DeSantis on school mask mandates: 'The local official should have control." (2-min. video; CNN, August 8, 2021)
On Friday, Florida reported more Covid-19 cases over the past week than any other seven-day period during the pandemic, and the state has accounted for about one in five of the nation's new Covid cases over the past couple of weeks. Texas came in second. When asked specifically if the two governors are prioritizing politics over public health, the senator, who had previously contracted the virus, said he didn't want to "guess other people's motives," but argued that "public health suffers" when politics get involved. "Whenever politicians mess with public health, usually it doesn't work out well for public health, and ultimately it doesn't work out for the politician, because public health suffers and the American people want public health," Cassidy said.
The bans from DeSantis and Abbott were also criticized last week by President Joe Biden, who blasted them as "bad health policy." DeSantis later defended his order and shot back at Biden, saying: "I'm the governor who answers to the people of Florida, not to bureaucrats in Washington."

Paul Krugman: "Freedom" (Privilege), Florida and the delta variant disaster (New York Times, August 8, 2021)
Florida is in the grip of a COVID surge worse than it experienced before the vaccines. More than 10,000 Floridians are hospitalized, around 10 times the number in New York, which has about as many residents; an average of 58 Florida residents are dying each day, compared with six in New York. And the Florida hospital system is under extreme stress.
And yet, at every stage of the pandemic Ron DeSantis, Republican governor of Florida, has effectively acted as an ally of the coronavirus, for example by issuing orders blocking businesses from requiring that their patrons show proof of vaccination and schools from requiring masks. More generally, he has helped create a state of mind in which vaccine skepticism flourishes and refusal to take precautions is normalized. DeSantis isn’t stupid. He is, however, ambitious and supremely cynical. So when he says things that sound stupid, it’s worth asking why. And his recent statements on COVID-19 help us understand why so many Americans are still dying or getting severely ill from the disease.
Above all, he has been playing the liberal-conspiracy-theory card, with fundraising letters declaring that the "radical left" is "coming for your freedom."
So let’s talk about what the right means when it talks about "freedom". Since the pandemic began, many conservatives have insisted that actions to limit the death toll — social distancing, wearing a mask and now getting vaccinated — should be matters of personal choice. Does that position make any sense? Well, driving drunk is also a personal choice. But almost everyone understands that it’s a personal choice that endangers others; 97% of the public considers driving while impaired by alcohol a serious problem. Why don’t we have the same kind of unanimity on refusing to get vaccinated, a choice that helps perpetuate the pandemic and puts others at risk?
My answer is that when people on the right talk about "freedom", what they actually mean is closer to "defense of privilege" — specifically the right of certain people (generally white male Christians) to do whatever they want. Not incidentally, if you go back to the roots of modern conservatism, you find people like Barry Goldwater defending the right of businesses to discriminate against Black Americans. In the name of freedom, of course. A lot, though not all, of the recent panic about "“cancel culture" is about protecting the right of powerful men to mistreat women. And so on.
Once you understand that the rhetoric of freedom is actually about privilege, things that look on the surface like gross inconsistency and hypocrisy start to make sense. Why, for example, are conservatives so insistent on the right of businesses to make their own decisions, free from regulation — but quick to stop them from denying service to customers who refuse to wear masks or show proof of vaccination? Why is the autonomy of local school districts a fundamental principle — unless they want to require masks or teach America’s racial history? It’s all about whose privilege is being protected.
The reality of what the right means by freedom also, I think, explains the special rage induced by rules that impose some slight inconvenience in the name of the public interest — like the detergent wars of a few years back. After all, only poor people and minority groups are supposed to be asked to make sacrifices.
Anyway, as you watch DeSantis invoke "freedom" to escape responsibility for his COVID catastrophe, remember, when he says it, that that word does not mean what you think it means.
[No surprise, that DeSantis has been nicknamed, "DeathSentence".]

Norwegian Cruises: 1, State of Florida: 0. (Newser, August 9, 2021)
Company wins temporary stay against Florida's ban on businesses asking for vaccine passports.

After six churchgoers die from COVID-19, FL pastor runs vaccination drive. (Daily Kos, August 12, 2021)
“Why is your church holding another vaccination event?”
"BECAUSE…6 church members have died in the last 10 days. 4 of them under 35. All healthy. All unvaccinated. And I’m tired of crying about and burying people I love. So take the political & religious games somewhere else!!"

The thoughtless privilege of America's vaccine refusers. (Daily Kos, August 13, 2021)
So we sit, month after month, patiently waiting for the 90 million or so unvaccinated, COVID-19 vaccine-eligible people in this country to get off their pampered American asses and drive a meager mile or so to the CVS or Walgreen’s to get a safe and simple shot that would prevent a long, painful hospital stay (or at worst, a dismal end-of-life experience on a ventilator) for them. We wait, and wait again, as we read article after article proposing new, clever ways to get the so-called “vaccine hesitant” to come around. (Whatever you do, don’t criticize them, we’re told.)
But while we’re busy waiting for these people to somehow see the light, we shouldn’t lose sight of just how incredibly lucky we all are to live in a country that actually has the wealth and public health infrastructure to provide these vaccines in the first place.

FDA Authorizes Additional COVID-19 Vaccine Dose – But Not For Everyone. (SciTechDaily, August 13, 2021)
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration amended the emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for both the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine to allow for the use of an additional dose in certain immuno-compromised individuals, specifically, solid organ transplant recipients or those who are diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immuno-compromise.

Inside America’s Covid-reporting breakdown (Politico, August 15, 2021)
Crashing computers, three-week delays tracking infections, lab results delivered by snail mail: State officials detail a vast failure to identify hotspots quickly enough to prevent outbreaks.

NEW: Teri Kanefield: White Supremacy, Hierarchy, and the Anti-Mask "Debate" (18-min. video; YouTube, August 15, 2021)
For this week, I tackle these questions: What’s the endgame of the anti-mask, anti-vax campaign being pushed by certain Republican leaders? Won’t it backfire when their own constituents get sick and die? To answer, I show the connection between theories of white supremacy and the anti-mask debate.
[Excellent! See her follow-up below, on August 22nd.]

Troubling CDC vaccine data convinced Biden team to back booster shots. (Politico, August 17, 2021)
The evidence showed a decline in the initial round of protection against Covid-19 infection that's coincided with a resurgence in cases driven by the more contagious Delta variant.

Radio Host Who Spread Vaccine Disinformation Dies of Covid. (Daily Kos, August 17, 2021)
Dr. Jimmy DeYoung, Sr., a conservative Christian radio host, has died in Chattanooga of Covid-19, according to his family. “Prophecy Today” was broadcast daily over several hundred stations. In February, DeYoung published an interview promoting the conspiracy theories that the Pfizer vaccine would make women sterile and that world governments were using the virus and vaccine to centralize power. DeYoung’s guest at the time, Sam Rohrer, said that very few people who were infected lost their lives, calling the vaccine only a “purported solution” and “not truly a vaccine.”
Phil Valentine, yet another conservative talk show host in Nashville, is in “grave condition” according to his family. Valentine had been skeptical of Covid vaccines, but his family is now encouraging others to get the shots.
Marc Bernier, a Daytona Beach talk show commentator who has spoken against vaccinations, has been hospitalized for more than a week with Covid.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (Republican) tests positive for Covid after banning mask, vaccine mandates. (3-min. video; NBC News, August 17, 2021)
Abbott has told people he got a third booster dose of a vaccine.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Republican) has a very good reason to be pro-virus, and it's exactly what everyone $u$pect$. (Daily Kos, August 17, 2021)
DeSantis continues to fight against schools and localities that want to save the lives of children, teachers, staff, and residents by taking minimal efforts to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Vaccines, masks, and social distancing are the way to save lives—and the way to save the economy. What can’t work to save Florida? REGEN-COV, the monoclonal antibody treatment from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Not only can the treatment not be administered to patients who have already been hospitalized for COVID-19, or patients using oxygen for COVID-19, REGEN-COV has to be administered by IV and is only available in limited quantities.
So why is DeSantis pushing the treatment from Regeneron at every press conference rather than pushing Floridians to take a free vaccine or use cheap masks? If all this seems nonsensical, writer Jennifer Cohn provides the simple answer—and it’s exactly the answer you might expect.
The largest donor to DeSantis in 2020 was a man named Ken Griffin. Griffin is the founder and CEO of investment firm Citadel. And, as Yahoo Finance reported in June about Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, "The second largest stake is held by Citadel Investment Group, managed by Ken Griffin, which holds a $171.2 million call position."
For months, it has seemed like Ron DeSantis wasn’t just failing to block COVID-19, he was openly promoting its spread. DeSantis has been objectively pro-virus - downplaying vaccines, banning masks, forcing schools to conduct in-person classes, and opening businesses even when it violated the guidelines published by his own Department of Health.
What could make sense of that? A top donor whose business is actively helped by getting more people sick.

MA Teachers Union Presses Vaccine Mandate For All Staff, Students. (Patch, August 18, 2021)
The Massachusetts Teachers Association Board of Directors wants Gov. Charlie Baker (Republican) to get strict on school vaccination requirements.
state guidance on school masks and vaccines to this point is more about recommendations than mandates.
Baker said earlier this week there are unlikely to be any additional statewide mask restrictions — leaving it up to local school districts — beyond the strong recommendation that unvaccinated students and staff wear masks indoors, while vaccinated students in seventh grade and older, as well as vaccinated staff, have the option whether to wear them or not. While Baker has repeatedly touted the state's high vaccination rates and promoted near-universal vaccinations as "the pathway out of this pandemic" he has not backed statewide requirements beyond for those who work in long-term care facilities.
"It's as if Governor Baker, Education Secretary James Peyser and Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley have learned nothing over the past year and a half," Najimy said. "MTA members have spent that time calling for well-informed and researched approaches to make in-person learning as safe as possible."

Rural Texas schools shut down to keep COVID-19 from overwhelming their small communities. (Texas Tribune, August 19, 2021)
The small districts aren’t fighting Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask rules, but fears for staff, students and local medical facilities are driving them to fight high COVID-19 rates with temporary closures.

New Research Explains Why Vaccinated People at Low Risk During COVID Delta Variant Surge. (SciTechDaily, August 19, 2021)
The researchers analyzed a panel of antibodies generated by people in response to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and found that delta was unable to evade all but one of the antibodies they tested. Other variants of concern, such as beta, avoided recognition and neutralization by several of the antibodies.

Maker of Popular Covid Test Told Factory to Destroy Inventory. (New York Times, August 20, 2021)
Abbott Laboratories, one of the leading producers of rapid tests, purged supplies and laid off workers as sales dwindled. "It's all about money."
Weeks later, the U.S. is facing a surge in infections with diminished capacity.

The US Is Getting Covid Booster Shots. The World Is Furious. (Wired, August 20, 2021)
The White House’s plan to roll out third shots for any American adult is raising profound questions about global equity. “We're planning to hand out extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets, while we're leaving other people to drown.” Globally, more than 5 billion people remain unvaccinated.

Mississippi threatens fines, jail time for Covid patients who don't isolate. (2-min. video; NBC News, August 20, 2021)
Mississippi State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs indicated sentences as long as five years could be in store for Covid-19 patients who fail to isolate.
State epidemiologist Paul Byers said Mississippi has the highest number of new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the nation. "These numbers are staggering," he said during a weekly Mississippi pandemic update. Only seven ICU beds were available in the entire state Thursday as a result of its Covid-19 fourth wave.

Teri Kanefield: More about White Supremacy and Hierarchy (20-min. video; YouTube, August 22, 2021)
Last week I drew the connection between White supremacy, hierarchies, and the anti-mask “debates.” This week I expanded on these ideas, focusing a bit more on economic hierarchy and regulations in general.
[Excellent! You can find her prior one above, at August 15th.]

Unvaccinated are breaking everything—the bank, the health care system, the bonds of society. (Daily Kos, August 23, 2021)
Vaccines and adequate supplies have definitely made the delta round of the COVID-19 pandemic less horrific for the doctors and nurses trying to save lives. The jeopardy for them and their families is at least reduced by the fact that the vaccine has been available to them, and they don't have to rely on personal protective equipment that's days old. But the fact that there is a vaccine and that many of the people who are filling up ICUs are there by choice adds a whole level of demoralization that didn't exist in the first round.

Would It Be Fair to Treat Vaccinated Covid Patients First? (Wired, August 23, 2021)
Last week, Texas health care policymakers discussed taking vaccination status into account for Covid triage. It’s a larger conversation ethicists are bracing for.

‘I’ve never seen anything like this’: ER doctor says 100's waiting to be admitted: NO BEDS! (Daily Kos, August 23, 2021)
Emergency room doctors in Southeast Texas say they are running out of hospital beds, and some patients are waiting hours, sometimes days to be admitted into a hospital. “Are there patients dying because of this that might not have died? Absolutely, yes,” said Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council CEO, Darrell Pile. “I am very concerned about the fatalities that are about to happen.”
An anonymous U.S. hospital staffer: “If you don’t trust doctors and science to keep you from getting sick, why the hell are you clogging up hospitals trusting them to cure you?”

Extreme, vocal minority of anti-mask anti-vaxxers turn to violence to win debate they have lost. (Daily Kos, August 23, 2021)
Donald Trump and Republicans like to talk about the "silent majority" of Americans who Democrats are unfairly oppressing. But what the increasingly contentious battle over masking in schools proves is that, in truth, it's the GOP's "violent minority" afflicting the rest of Americans over COVID-19.
The Associated Press lays out a series of aggressive and even violent incidents in recent weeks over pandemic mitigation efforts: a Northern California man marching into his daughter's elementary school and punching a teacher in the face; a Texas parent ripping the mask off a teacher's face at a "Meet the Teacher" event; a furious Tennessee man yelling at a mask proponent, "We know who you are. And we will find you!"

School mask, vaccine mandates are supported in US. (Associated Press, August 23, 2021)
Masks have been a point of contention as U.S. schools reopen amid rising numbers of coronavirus cases. Questions about whether to require them have caused turmoil among parents and politicians, with some Republican governors banning mask mandates even as President Joe Biden threatens legal action against them.
In a reflection of that polarizing debate, the poll finds a wide partisan divide. About 3 in 10 Republicans said they favor mask requirements for students and teachers, compared with about 8 in 10 Democrats. There was a similar split over vaccine mandates in schools.

Vaccine Mandates Work—but Only If They’re Done Right. (Wired, August 26, 2021)
Nobody has the freedom to go unmasked and unvaccinated in a crowded workspace or classroom. We do not have the freedom in America to expose other people to an infectious disease. Requiring people to get their shots can stop Covid-19, but those rules have to be doable and equitable.
Like the other vaccines still available under EUA, the Pfizer drug is extraordinarily good at keeping people from getting really sick or dying from Covid. But with more than 100,000 people in the hospital with Covid in the US—the most since January—and with the vast majority of them unvaccinated, it’s clear that alone isn’t enough. States, localities, and businesses have tried inducements like prizes, cash, or lotteries, little tricks designed to corral people into doing what’s good for them. In the language of behavioral economics, that’s called a nudge. But in states with low vaccine uptake, those nudges didn’t change the momentum. So now, it’s time for mandates. If you’re one of the 30 percent or so of Americans who haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, get ready for a good hard shove.
And nobody shoves harder than the Pentagon. The Department of Defense immediately announced it’d add Covid-19 vaccines to the more-than-a-dozen already required of servicemembers. Big universities like California’s UC system already had mandates in place, but now more schools have joined: Ohio State, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota. City workforces in Los Angeles and Chicago came under mandate. The new governor of New York announced at her inauguration that she’d institute them, too, and New York City put them in place for public school teachers and the NYPD. In late July, pretty much every major medical and health care professional association signed onto an open letter calling for vaccine mandates across health care; the influential American Medical Association has now reiterated that position. Even the hardcore capitalists at Goldman Sachs won’t let anyone in their offices without proof-of-shot. In journalism, all it takes to make a trend is three examples. I think we’re there.

DeSantis’ ban on school mask mandates violates state constitution, judge rules. (Ars Technica, August 27, 2021)
DeSantis' controversial ban “does not meet constitutional muster,” judge said.

Coronavirus Briefing (New York Times, September 2, 2021)
- Steeper medical bills to come.
- Federal pandemic unemployment assistance for millions of people will end after this week.
- Amid a record surge in cases, Hawaii is facing an oxygen shortage.
- More countries will start giving booster shots this month.

Lock Him Up: Tucker Carlson is Telling His Viewers to Get Fake Vaccination Cards - Which is a Felony. (Daily Kos, September 3, 2021)
Fox News has been at the forefront of the pro-COVID, anti-vax movement for more than a year and a half. Their callously political aversion to common sense methods of mitigating the harm of the deadly coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the latest surge that can be accurately attributed to the "Fox News Variant" that is infecting and killing Americans at record levels.
While most of the Fox News roster is spreading disinformation about COVID, no one is more committed to propagating lethal lies than Tucker Carlson. He has promoted the use of quack cures, espoused paranoid conspiracy theories that the vaccines don't work, and even exhorted his viewers to make false police reports of child abuse against parents whose children wear face masks. On Thursday's episode of Carlson's White Nationalist Hour on Fox News, he went farther over the cliff of sanity than ever before.

Here’s what we know about the mu variant of Covid-19. (1-min. Fauci video; Washington Post, September 3, 2021)
The WHO-designated ‘variant of interest’ was first detected in Colombia in January 2021, where cases continue to rise. It has since been identified in more than 39 countries, according to the WHO, among them the United States, South Korea, Japan, Ecuador, Canada and parts of Europe. About 2,000 mu cases have been identified in the United States, so far; most cases have been recorded in California, Florida, Texas and New York.
However, mu is not an “immediate threat right now” within the United States, top infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci told a press briefing on Thursday. He said that while the government was “keeping a very close eye on it,” the variant was “not at all even close to being dominant,” as the delta variant remains the cause of over 99 percent of cases in the country.

In Florida, a summer of death and resistance as the coronavirus rampaged. (4-min. video; Washington Post, September 5, 2021)
As Florida appears to be turning the corner from a coronavirus rampage that fueled record new infections, hospitalizations and deaths, its residents and leaders are surveying the damage left from more than 7,000 deaths reported since July Fourth and the scars inflicted by feuds over masks and vaccines. New infections were averaging more than 22,000 a day in the last days of August but have fallen to about 19,000. Yet recovery could prove fleeting: Holiday weekends such as Labor Day have acted as a tinderbox for earlier outbreaks, and late summer marks the return of students to college campuses.

Better Data on Ivermectin for COVID Is Finally on Its Way. (Wired, September 8, 2021)
Studies have been small and often not great. The best info so far says don’t use it, get vaccinated, and hang in there for the more promising meds being tested.

Did Neil DeGrasse Tyson Tweet This About Unvaccinated Republicans? (Snopes, September 9, 2021)
The famous astrophysicist deleted the tweet, saying it was causing unintended "Twitter fights."

NEW:Over-the-counter rapid antigen tests can help slow the spread of COVID-19 – here’s how to use them effectively. (The Conversation, September 10, 2021)
It’s important to remember that rapid antigen tests serve a different purpose than PCR testing, which is considered the gold standard even though it isn’t 100% accurate. Rapid tests are designed to identify cases with a high enough viral load in the nasal passage to be transmissible – not to diagnose all COVID-19 cases. The Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen test may only detect 85% of the positive cases detected by PCR tests. But the key is that published studies found that they detect over 93% of cases that pose a transmission risk, which is what matters most for getting the pandemic under control. Ellume correctly identifies 95% of all positive cases, and Quidel QuickVue accurately identifies 85%. All three tests correctly identify upwards of 97% of all negative cases, regardless of symptoms.
Making the COVID-19 vaccine free and easily accessible brought cases down quickly in the spring of 2021. Putting frequent rapid testing within reach for all could do the same now.

Coronavirus: The Religious Exemption (New York Times, September 14, 2021)
Major religious traditions, denominations and institutions are nearly unanimous in their support of Covid-19 vaccines. Nevertheless, many Americans say they are hesitant to get vaccinated for religious reasons. Their attempts to secure exemptions from the country’s rapidly expanding vaccine mandates are creating new fault lines, pitting religious liberty concerns against the priority of maintaining a safe environment at work and elsewhere.

COVID-19 updates: Most Americans believe worst of pandemic is yet to come, poll says; 1 in 500 Americans have died. (1-min. video; USA Today, September 15, 2021)
Despite widespread vaccination efforts, 54% of U.S. adults say the worst of the outbreak is still to come. The report, based on a survey of 10,348 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 23-29, 2021, found 73% of those ages 18 and older say they’ve received at least one dose of a vaccine for COVID-19.
About a quarter of adults say they have not received a vaccine. Some of the lowest vaccination rates are seen among those with no health insurance and white evangelical Protestants (57% each) as well as among Republicans and Republican leaners (60%).
Black adults are now about as likely as white adults to say they’ve received a vaccine (70% and 72%, respectively). Earlier in the outbreak, African Americans were less likely to say they planned to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Hawaii Is Out of Oxygen. (Daily Kos, September 15, 2021)
I am an 80-year-old retired physician living on the Big Island of Hawaii. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic we have prided ourselves on our ability to self-discipline, follow masking guidelines and socially distance, which has been reflected in the lowest prevalence and mortality rates in the country. However, with the emergence of the Delta variant, we have seen rates skyrocket to the point that our epidemiologic curves are approximating those of Florida and other Southern red states. Our hospitals are full and there are essentially no ICU beds available on the island. The vaccination rate is stagnating at around 60%, and 98% of the hospitalized Covid patients are unvaccinated.
Yesterday, my neighbor, a 75-year-old retiree, developed symptoms of renal stones; surgery would be necessary to remove the stone. However, due to the Covid situation, there is no oxygen available for non-emergent surgeries anywhere on the islands. Thus, as my neighbor’s condition is not life threatening, and even though he is in considerable pain, the surgery has been put off for 2 weeks until additional oxygen can be shipped in.
This is a reminder, that even in the bluest of blue states, the anti-vaxxers are continuing to create a health crisis for us all.

Nearly all Fox staffers vaccinated for Covid even as hosts cast doubt on vaccine. (The Guardian, September 15, 2021)
More than 90% of Fox Corporation staff inoculated, according to memo announcing daily testing for unvaccinated employees.

Companies backed by private-equity firms got $5 billion out of $2 trillion in federal Covid relief. (multiple short videos; NBC News, September 15, 2021)
Some $1.2 billion of PPP and other relief money targeted at small businesses went to companies backed by large and well-funded private-equity firms.

Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon helps kill drug pricing bill, endangering Biden infrastructure plan. (Oregon Live, September 15, 2021)
A House committee dealt an ominous if tentative blow Wednesday to President Joe Biden’s huge social and environmental infrastructure package, derailing a money-saving plan to let Medicare negotiate the price it pays for prescription drugs. The legislation would authorize Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, using lower prices paid in other economically advanced countries as a yardstick. The savings produced would be used to expand Medicare coverage by adding dental, vision and hearing benefits. Democrats are counting on the drug-pricing provisions to pay for a modest but significant part of their $3.5 trillion plan to bolster the safety net, address climate change and fund other programs. Proponents say it could save $600 billion over the coming decade.
U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, who inherited a fortune from his grandfather who was a top executive at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, and who has accepted large donations from big pharma during his seven terms in Congress, cast one of the key Democratic votes against the drug pricing plan.

Another Global Pandemic Is Spreading—Among Pigs. (Wired, October 12, 2021)
African swine fever killed half the pigs in China. There is no vaccine and no treatment. Now it’s in the Caribbean and on the doorstep of the US.

'I am offended': DeSantis vows to sue Biden over vaccine mandates. (Politico, October 14, 2021)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has opened a multimillion-dollar battle against vaccine mandates, and on Thursday took the fight to the Biden administration.
Florida over the summer was a hotbed for new infections as the Delta variant spread through the state. At one point, the state made up about 1 in 5 new coronavirus infections in the nation. Before the summer surge, Florida had the nation's 27th highest Covid-19 death rate; afterward, the state's death rate climbed to 10th highest, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Counterfeit Respirators, Misrepresentation of NIOSH-Approval (US CDC, November 5, 2021)
Counterfeit respirators are products that are falsely marketed and sold as being NIOSH-approved and may not be capable of providing appropriate respiratory protection to users. When NIOSH becomes aware of counterfeit respirators or those misrepresenting NIOSH approval on the market, we will post them here to alert users, purchasers, and manufacturers.

Appeals court halts COVID vaccine mandate for larger businesses. (2-min. video; CBS News, November 6, 2021)
At least 27 states filed lawsuits challenging the rule in several circuits, some of which were made more conservative by the judicial appointments of former Republican President Donald Trump. The 5th Circuit, based in New Orleans, said it was delaying the federal vaccine requirement because of potential "grave statutory and constitutional issues" raised by the plaintiffs. The government must provide an expedited reply to the motion for a permanent injunction Monday, followed by petitioners' reply on Tuesday.
Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University's law school, said it was troubling that a federal appeals court would stop or delay safety rules in a health crisis, saying no one has a right to go into a workplace "unmasked, unvaxxed and untested."
The Biden administration has been encouraging widespread vaccinations as the quickest way to end the pandemic that has claimed more than 750,000 lives in the United States. The administration says it is confident that the requirement, which includes penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation, will withstand legal challenges in part because its safety rules pre-empt state laws.

Over 80% of Deer in Study Test Positive for COVID. They May Be a Reservoir for the Virus To Continually Circulate. (SciTechDaily, November 6, 2021)
This is the first direct evidence of SARS-CoV-2 virus in any free-living species, and our findings have important implications for the ecology and long-term persistence of the virus. These include spillover to other free-living or captive animals and potential spill-back to human hosts.
While no evidence exists that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted from deer to humans, hunters and those living in close proximity to deer may want to take precautions, including during contact with or handling the animals, by wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

What the 14th Century Plague Tells Us About How Covid Will Change Politics. (Politico, November 7, 2021)
Regions hit hardest by the Black Death in Europe looked more democratic centuries later. What does that mean for society coming out of this pandemic?
[Good medicine perpetuates bad government? Interesting...]

"Don't wait!": WHO urges U.S. to pay attention as surging COVID cases flood Europe's hospitals again. (Three 3-min. videos; CBS News, November 8, 2021)
Europe has seen a jump of more than 50% in new coronavirus cases over the last month, and the World Health Organization has warned the continent could see another half of a million deaths by February.

U.S. lifts most COVID-linked bans on travelers from abroad. (2-min. video; CBS News, November 8, 2021)
The moves come as the U.S. has seen its COVID-19 outlook improve dramatically in recent weeks since the summer delta surge that pushed hospitals to the brink in many locations.
[Timed perfectly with Europe's new fourth wave of the pandemic. What fools these mortals be!]

NY Times: COVID is Getting Even Redder. (graphs; Daily Kos, November 8, 2021)
The gap in Covid’s death toll between red and blue America has grown faster over the past month than at any previous point. In October, 25 out of every 100,000 residents of heavily Trump counties died from Covid, more than three times higher than the rate in heavily Biden counties (7.8 per 100,000). October was the fifth consecutive month that the percentage gap between the death rates in Trump counties and Biden counties widened.

Coronavirus: The Future Of Work (New York Times, November 12, 2021)
As the pandemic drags on, so does the profound reordering of work and office life. After a year without commutes, many white-collar workers have grown accustomed to the flexibility of working from home. Companies are reassessing whether they need to rent large office spaces with so few employees coming in. A record number of U.S. workers quit their jobs in September as the “Great Resignation” continues, while thousands more are protesting pay or working conditions.

New clues to the biology of long COVID are starting to emerge. (NPR, November 12, 2021)
Some people experience persistent, often debilitating symptoms after catching SARS-CoV-2. It remains unclear how often it occurs. But if only a small fraction of the hundreds of millions of people who've had COVID-19 are left struggling with long-term health problems, it's a major public health problem. "It's the post-pandemic pandemic."

New COVID Threat: Rodents Could Be Asymptomatic Carriers of SARS-Like Coronaviruses. (SciTechDaily, November 18, 2021)
Ancestral rodents may have had repeated infections with SARS-like coronaviruses and have acquired some form of tolerance or resistance to SARS-like coronaviruses as a result of these infections. This raises the tantalizing possibility that some modern rodent species may be asymptomatic carriers of SARS-like coronaviruses, including those that may not have been discovered yet.

MA Sees Highest COVID Case Count In 9 Months As Virus Rebounds. (Patch, November 18, 2021)
With cold weather and family gatherings on the horizon, the state reported more new COVID-19 cases Wednesday than any day since February. There were 2,650 new coronavirus cases, the most since 3,004 cases were reported on Feb. 7. At that point, most people weren't vaccinated; now, most adults and many children are. Other coronavirus metrics have been increasing along with total case counts. The average positive test rate is at 2.84 percent, there are 642 COVID hospitalizations and more than 10 people a day on average are dying due to the virus. The average age of death was 76.
Vaccinations are still the best defense against the virus — the 64,000 breakthrough cases represents just 1.3 percent of the state's vaccinated population.
[Vaccines AND FACE MASKS! Every time the count goes down, we see fewer face masks - and then the count goes up once again.]

MA Hospitals Told To Reduce Elective Surgeries As Covid Cases Surge. (Patch, November 23, 2021)
The guidance from the state Department of Public Health comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise.

What we know so far about the B.1.1.529 'Omicron' COVID variant causing concern. (Euronews, November 25, 2021)
The WHO classified the new Omicron strain as a "variant of concern" on Friday. It is as yet unclear how effective vaccines will be against it.
A virologist posted that a "very small cluster of variant associated with Southern Africa with very long branch length and really awful Spike mutation profile" had been spotted. The high number of spike mutations - believed to be at least 32 at the moment - raise concerns about its ability to evade vaccines and to spread. The spike protein is what helps the virus to invade the body’s cells.

Today’s "Trump Is Mentally Ill" Story (Medium, November 25, 2021)
Today Trump released the above statement further evidencing the mental illness that untethers him from reality. So let’s unpack all the crazy in the Trump statement above.

Opinion: Florida’s new anti-masking law denies us key tools to protect our schools from future covid surges. (Washington Post, November 25, 2021)
Our hands are tied. If and when there’s another covid surge in Florida, public schools will be without two of the most useful weapons in our fight against the virus: masks and quarantines.
After months of harassing school districts, including mine, over our covid-19 protocols, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and the Florida Legislature have just passed a new law that blocks schools from requiring masks for students and quarantines for students and staff who appear asymptomatic. The governor even called a special legislative session to get this and other bills targeting covid-19 measures passed — although he conveniently waited until the delta-driven covid surge of the late summer and early fall had subsided in the state.
Of course, the outcome of the session was never in any doubt. DeSantis and other state leaders vehemently opposed mask mandates and quarantine protocols even as positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths from covid skyrocketed in Florida during the first few weeks of school. They fought school districts that required them tooth and nail, even withholding our funding because we did what was necessary to protect students and staff during a public health crisis. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the governor insists that masks are ineffective and even harmful. To bolster his viewpoint, he fast-tracked the appointment of Joseph Ladapo — an anti-vaccine, anti-mask, hydroxychloroquine-promoting doctor apparently focused on undermining rather than protecting public health — as the state’s surgeon general.
Their nonscientific and nonsensical agenda is now enshrined in Florida law. From here on out, school districts cannot require masks no matter what happens in the future.
[Also see "COVID isn't over" on Nov. 28th, above. When DO we jail politicians who commit blatant mass 2nd-degree murder?]

Frontline: "The Virus That Shook The World, Part 2" (54-min. video; PBS, November 26, 2021)
The epic story of how people around the world lived through the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, from lockdowns to funerals to protests. Filming across the globe and using extensive personal video and local footage, FRONTLINE documented how people and countries responded to COVID-19 across cultures, races, faiths and privilege.
[Part 1 is on April 26, 2021, below.]

EXPLAINER: What is this new "Omicron" COVID variant in South Africa? (AP News, November 26, 2021)
From just over 200 new confirmed cases per day in recent weeks, South Africa saw the number of new daily cases rocket to 2,465 on Thursday. Struggling to explain the sudden rise in cases, scientists studied virus samples from the outbreak and discovered the new variant. In a statement on Friday, the World Health Organization designated it as a “variant of concern,” naming it “Omicron” after a letter in the Greek alphabet.
It appears to have a high number of mutations — about 30 — in the coronavirus’ spike protein, which could affect how easily it spreads to people. The data so far suggest the new variant has mutations consistent with enhanced transmissibility, but the significance of many of the mutations is still not known. A virologist described omicron as “the most heavily mutated version of the virus we have seen,” including potentially worrying changes never before seen all in the same virus.

Classification of Omicron (B.1.1.529): SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Concern (WHO, November 26, 2021)
The Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) is an independent group of experts that periodically monitors and evaluates the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and assesses if specific mutations and combinations of mutations alter the behaviour of the virus. The TAG-VE was convened on 26 November 2021 to assess the SARS-CoV-2 variant: B.1.1.529.
The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021. The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant. In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021.
This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant. Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation. Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.

Covid isn't over. Texas schools pretend it is, and leave students to fend for ourselves. (2-min. video; NBC News, November 28, 2021)
With no mask or vaccine mandates, my classmates are often sick. I want to protect myself, but I get judged if I cover up.
[Also see "Opinion" on Nov. 25th.]

Omicron - the disinformation campaign from the right goes into full gear, some to hilarious effect. (Daily Kos, November 29, 2021
While the civilized world reacts to the news about the new COVID-19 virus variant called Omicron, while global teams of experts are gathering data and studying the genetic structure of the virus, while policy makers are rapidly deploying short-term measures and evaluating long term mitigation strategies, the right-wing world is busy spreading disinformation and nonsensical but insidious conspiracy theories and propaganda. Instead of informing and cautioning their supporters, they are throwing up CT after CT, relying on the ignorance and stupidity of their base, hoping to keep them scared and angry.
Until we know more about Omicron, we all know the drill — we need to stay vigilant, get the booster shot if we have not already done so, keep practicing masking and social distancing protocols, encourage others to do so and keep an eye on the news from reliable sources.

Omicron was already in Europe. (New York Times, November 30, 2021)
Across Europe, more than 44 cases of the new covid variant have been confirmed in 11 countries, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. All of the confirmed cases in Europe have exhibited mild symptoms or none at all, and authorities were analyzing six further "probable" cases. They were also testing how the variant behaved in vaccinated people, and more information was expected in a "couple of weeks".

Trump tested positive for Covid a few days before Biden debate, chief of staff says in new book. (The Guardian, December 1, 2021)
Mark Meadows makes stunning admission in new memoir obtained by Guardian, saying a second test returned negative.

Co-founder of Christian TV network that railed against vaccines dies of Covid-19. (The Guardian, December 1, 2021)
Marcus Lamb, 64, whose Daystar network reaches an estimated 2 billion viewers worldwide, had pushed alternative therapies.

How can scientists update coronavirus vaccines for omicron? (The Conversation, December 2, 2021)
A microbiologist answers 5 questions about how Moderna and Pfizer could rapidly adjust mRNA vaccines.

'Magic dirt': How the internet fueled, and defeated, the pandemic's weirdest MLM. (3-min. video; NBC News, December 2, 2021)
Black Oxygen Organics became a sudden hit in the fringe world of alternative medicines and supplements, where even dirt can go for $110 a bag.
[What fools these mortals be!]

Trump and his Deplorables Cheer the Spread of COVID While Trying to Smear Biden. (News Corpse, December 3, 2021)
Politics can be a dirty game. Particularly when disreputable players overtly applaud tragedies simply because those dreadful events will reflect badly on their opponents. These low-lifes actually care more about their own political self-interests than the suffering of innocent people. And no one is more likely to behave so despicably than the failed reality TV game show host, Donald Trump.

Deranged Trump Declares that ‘I Developed the Vaccine’ in Lie-Riddled Twitter Tantrum. (News Corpse, December 4, 2021)
Donald Trump is, if nothing else, consistent. Although that isn’t a compliment considering that his consistency is related to his being a pathological liar. He distinguished himself as having told more than 30,000 lies during his single term in the White House.

Pro-Trump counties now have far higher COVID death rates. Misinformation is to blame. (NPR, December 5, 2021)
Political polarization and misinformation are driving a significant share of the deaths in the pandemic. Since May 2021, people living in counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump during the last presidential election have been nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19 as those who live in areas that went for now-President Biden. People living in counties that went 60% or higher for Trump in November 2020 had 2.73 times the death rates of those that went for Biden. Counties with an even higher share of the vote for Trump saw higher COVID-19 mortality rates. In October, the reddest tenth of the country saw death rates that were six times higher than the bluest tenth.

Trump's Cult is Dying from COVID in Much Greater Numbers, but FOX News Won't Tell Them. (Daily Kos, December 6, 2021)
The recent surge in COVID infections is being distributed in an alarmingly discriminating fashion. Data shows that it is predominantly spreading in the parts of the country that voted for Donald Trump. This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has noticed how Trump and his right-wing propaganda machine have downplayed the risks and discouraged responsible behavior such as getting vaccinated and wearing masks. Even worse, they have actually been celebrating the suffering and loss of life.

Willfully unvaccinated should pay 100% of COVID hospital bills, lawmaker says. (Ars Technica, December 7, 2021)
Rep. Carroll calls the legislation a starting point to hold unvaccinated responsible. The Democrat from the Chicago suburb of Northbrook introduced legislation Monday that would amend the Illinois insurance code so that accident and health insurance policies in 2023 would no longer cover COVID-19 hospital bills for people who choose to remain unvaccinated. Carroll said the rule would not apply to those with medical conditions that prevent vaccination.

Pfizer CEO says fourth Covid vaccine doses may be needed sooner than expected due to omicron. (CNBC, December 8, 2021)
“When we see real-world data, we'll determine if the omicron is well covered by the third dose and for how long,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC. “And the second point, I think we will need a fourth dose,” Bourla said. The Pfizer CEO originally expected a fourth dose 12 months after the third, but he told CNBC it might be needed sooner than that.

Pfizer says its booster offers strong protection against omicron variant. (New York Times, December 8, 2021)
Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that laboratory tests suggest that three doses of their coronavirus vaccine offer significant protection against the fast-spreading omicron variant of the virus.
The companies said that tests of blood from people who received only two doses found much lower antibody levels against omicron compared with an earlier version of the virus. That finding indicates that two doses alone “may not be sufficient to protect against infection” by the new variant, the companies said. But the blood samples obtained from people one month after they had received a booster shot showed neutralizing antibodies against omicron comparable to those against previous variants after two doses, the companies said in a statement.

Two years into this pandemic, the world is dangerously unprepared. (Washington Post, December 8, 2021)
Some countries had a foundation for preparedness that “did not necessarily translate into successfully protecting against the consequences of the disease because they failed to also adequately address high levels of public distrust in government. With its vast wealth and scientific capability, the United States held on to its top ranking among 195 countries, even as it scored lowest on public confidence in government — a factor associated with high numbers of cases and deaths. The United States had more capacity to prevent and respond to epidemics than any other country, but it also had more reported cases and deaths than any other nation.
Among the report recommendations: Countries should allocate funds for health security in their national budgets; international organizations should identify countries most in need of additional support; the private sector should look for ways to partner with governments; and philanthropies should develop new financing mechanisms, such as a global health security matching fund, to prioritize resources.

NEW: Robin Schoenthaler, MD: Waiting for the Omicron Science (Medium, December 8, 2021)
It's not looking all that optimistic.

Hospital beds full, National Guard deployed amid crushing delta wave. (Ars Technica, December 9, 2021)
Pennsylvania hospitals are running at 110%, while Maine and New York call National Guard. "We should remember that 99.9 percent of cases in the country right now are from the delta variant," Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a press briefing last Friday. "Delta continues to drive cases across the country, especially in those who are unvaccinated."

17 pandemic innovations that are here to stay. (Politico, December 10, 2021)
During the pandemic, necessity became the mother of invention. Here are some innovations that are likely to stick.

I-Team: 93-Year-Old Veteran Denied Treatment For Covid-19 As Massachusetts Prioritizes Unvaccinated. (CBS Boston, December 14, 2021)
The I-Team has learned that hospitals are not able to meet the increased demand for treatment, not because of an issue with supply, but a shortage of staff and space to administer the treatments. According to state-issued guidelines, providers are advised to prioritize the unvaccinated and the immuno-compromised. Treatment requires a medical order and the decision for mAb referrals and treatment are made by the patient’s health care provider. A map of mAb therapy sites can be found here

Robin Schoenthaler, MD: Omicron This Week: A Little Good News; Some Lousy News (Medium, December 15, 2021)
Good news: We are a lot better at “genomic sequencing” than we used to be. Genomic sequencing, you’ll recall, is the kind of fancy specialized testing we need to identify a variant or in this case to confirm a positive test is actually Omicron
Bad news: We still don’t have as much capacity to do genomic sequencing as many other countries (we’re 20th in the world and do about 25% of what Britain does) and it’s always at least a week behind. So we don’t really know how much Omicron is out there right this second - except it’s pretty much anywhere we look and rising fast.
I keep saying “We can’t yet know…” and “It seems to be…”. This isn’t hedging — it’s science.
What emerges from the murkiness we now stand in is that it seems to makes sense to do whatever you can to avoid Trouble (mask, test, ventilate, reduce indoor eating, and avoid connection with unvaccinated people), but most of all to get vaccinated and boosted as quickly as possible to maximize any and all hoped-for protection against Omicron.
[There's more.]

Robin Schoenthaler, MD: Urgent Omicron Action. What To Do, Now That We See the Train A-Coming? (Medium, December 17, 2021)
a) Go get boosted. This week. Vaccination seems to still be helpful in not getting severe disease; boosters may help with not catching this wildly contagious Omicron.
b) Go buy at-home tests. I know, I know, they’re hard to find. Keep looking. They run out, they restock. Friends and patients have founds them on-line and in person at their CVS, Costco, Target, Walgreens, Walmart, Sam’s Club, BJ’s and on-line suppliers like this one .
c) Any symptoms at all? Get tested.
d) Test you and your loved ones (per Michael Mina) on Dec 25, 28, 31, and Jan 3 (and before and after any other gatherings).
e) Decline indoor dining with strangers or unmasked activities with indoor crowds until this surge is over
f) Wear the best masks you can find.
g) Read this fantastic piece by one of my favorite Covid writers Ed Yong and his thought processes about cancelling parties in the Omicron age.
h) Hang on tight. All surges go down, but this one is going to have a steep ascent.

Brace Yourself — Omicron’s Going to Be Worse Than You Probably Think. (Eudaimonia, December 18, 2021)
How Bad Omicron’s Really Looking, And Where the Myth That It’s Mild Came From.

Highly vaccinated countries thought they were over the worst. Denmark says the pandemic’s toughest month is just beginning. (Washington Post, December 18, 2021)
In a country that tracks the spread of coronavirus variants as closely as any in the world, the signals have never been more concerning. Omicron positives are doubling nearly every two days. The country is setting one daily case record after the next. The lab analyzing positive tests recently added an overnight shift just to keep pace. And scientists say the surge is just beginning.

Coronavirus Spike Sends Harvard University Remote In January. (Patch, December 18, 2021)
Harvard will go remote for at least the first three weeks of January. It is prompted by the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases locally and across the country, as well as the growing presence of the highly transmissible omicron variant.

Omicron and holidays unleash scramble for coronavirus tests across the U.S. (Washington Post, December 18, 2021)
testing capacity is under major strain as exposures to positive cases grow, schools, workplaces and travel destinations require proof of negative test results and government agencies recommend testing before holiday gatherings. Local public health officials often have to decide whether to use their limited staff and resources on shoring up vaccine sites or testing sites.
The Biden administration has taken steps to increase the availability of rapid testing, including streamlining the review process to authorize kits, and ensuring supply of about 200 million for December. But critics say the U.S. has still failed to make tests as readily accessible as they are in other countries such as the United Kingdom and Singapore. President Biden also moved to require insurers reimburse rapid test kit purchases, which typically run about $25 for two tests. But it will not take effect until after the holidays and places the burden on the consumer. Earlier this month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed a question about sending free testing kits to households as costly - although several states are already doing so.

At-home COVID testing kits will be free in 2022: Here's how and where to get yours. (CNET, December 18, 2021)
The White House has said it will issue reimbursement guidelines by January 15, with health insurers expected to start reimbursing the cost of at-home testing shortly after that date. The administration's plan is not retroactive, however, so kits purchased during the holidays will not be covered.
Some states, including Vermont, aren't waiting for Biden's plan to take effect: They've mandated insurers to start paying for at-home kits now. You may want to check with your company, as some private employers have also begun offering reimbursement options.

Finding masks that meet CDC and WHO guidelines is tough. We did the work for you. (Ars Technica, December 18, 2021)
Our newly updated mask guide includes information on how to double-mask effectively, how to reuse KN95 and N95 masks safely, how to maximize a surgical mask's effectiveness, how to choose and clean great cloth masks, and more. Below are our latest picks based on product availability and long-term testing.
[Keep this article where you can find it, and share - the article, not facemasks. Take care.]

Details released on the Trump administration’s pandemic chaos. (Ars Technica, December 20, 2021)
Report provides details of how Trump's appointees got in the way.
The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis has been investigating the previous administration's haphazard and sometimes counterproductive response to the pandemic. On Friday the group issued a major report that puts these details all in one place. The report confirms suspicions about the Trump administration's attempt to manipulate the public narrative about its response, even as its members tried to undercut public health officials.
[Think, second-degree premeditated mass murder.]

Omicron sweeps across nation, now 73% of new US COVID cases. (Associated Press, December 20, 2021)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in omicron’s share of infections in only one week. In much of the country, it’s even higher. Omicron is responsible for an estimated 90% or more of new infections in the New York area, the Southeast, the industrial Midwest and the Pacific Northwest. The national rate suggests that more than 650,000 omicron infections occurred in the U.S. last week.

Robin Schoenthaler, MD: Omicron: Our New Fierce Foe: How To Decide if Holiday Gatherings Are Safe For Your Family (Medium, December 20, 2021)
The only “mild” thing about this surge will be people’s individual symptoms; e.g., it’s much “milder” to have the sniffles and a couple of days of fatigue rather than having horrible blood clots or feeling like you’re strangling half to death. And hopefully we will have a “milder” death rate although the science isn’t all in on that yet.
But everything else will be “fierce.” We will have a fierce number of cases, a fierce fraction of people in the hospital, a fierce number of people who can’t get good hospital care because there’s not enough staff or too much Covid.

We Were Always Disposable, and We Can’t Ignore It Anymore. (Medium, December 20, 2021)
The truth behind hidden corporate transcripts.

Massachusetts Needs Full Mask Mandate, Spilka, Rausch Urge. (Patch, December 21, 2021)
A growing number of local elected officials are calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to bring back masks as COVID-19 surges.

US Army Creates Single Vaccine Against All COVID & SARS Variants, Researchers Say. (Defense One, December 21, 2021)
Within weeks, Walter Reed researchers expect to announce that human trials of Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle COVID-19 vaccine (SpFN) show success against Omicron—and even future strains.

Biden’s Omicron battle plan includes 500 million home test kits. (Ars Technica, December 21, 2021)
President Biden outlined the federal government's response to omicron's ascendancy.

Anti-vaxx Chronicles: ER doctor quits because Q nuts push him over the edge. (Daily Kos, December 21, 2021)
After more than three decades as a physician, the Q maniacs have succeeded in driving me out of providing care to patients. I, like many of my colleagues, am moving into medically-adjacent work, where we can continue to apply our training and decades off knowledge without ever having to come in contact with sick people.

Fauci says Fox News and RFK Jr. attacks 'accelerated' death threats. (10-min. video; Yahoo, December 21, 2021)
“The only thing I’ve ever said or done is to encourage people to get vaccinated, to wear a mask and to do things that would be good for their health, the health of their family and the health of the community. So to get villainized because of that is a sad testimony on our society.”

It’s Hard to Describe What’s About to Happen in America. We’re woefully unprepared. (Medium, December 22, 2021)
We know Omicron is highly contagious, and it’s not milder on its own. We also know that it knocks Pfizer’s vaccine effectiveness down significantly, even if you’re boosted, and that the benefits of a third shot only last a few months. Israel has already started rolling out a fourth dose. Meanwhile, drug companies are working on a vaccine that targets Omicron, but it won’t be ready until March. Only 30 percent of Americans have gotten a booster. Healthcare workers in states like Rhode Island describe the system as “currently in collapse,” and the Omicron wave has just barely started, after leaping up to 73 percent of cases in barely a week. Based on that rate, it’s probably already at 100 percent by now.
None of this is good news. This isn’t the kind of information that says we can all go back to living our normal lives, but that’s exactly what too many Americans are doing. They’re acting like the pandemic is over, pretending Omicron is mild, and shaming anyone who doesn’t play along. Our government is fully expecting for some fully vaccinated and boosted people to get severely sick, even die, based on the drops in efficacy. They know it’s going to happen. It’s happening right now. The losses have simply reached an acceptable level for bureaucrats and politicians seeking reelection. It doesn’t bother billionaire CEOs and hedge fund managers, either. They’re just not saying that part out loud.
It sounds amoral. It is.

Omicron: What you need to know about the COVID variant. (3-min. video; CBS News, December 22, 2021)
Omicron appears to have evolved separately from the Delta variant, descending from another strain that appeared in mid-2020. Some scientists speculate it may have accumulated so many changes while evolving for months in animals or an immuno-compromised person. The Omicron variant is the most divergent variant that has been detected in significant numbers during the pandemic so far, which raises serious concerns that it may be associated with significant reduction in vaccine effectiveness and increased risk for reinfections.

13% Mortality Rate in Fully Vaccinated Patients With Cancer Who Had Breakthrough COVID-19. (SciTechDaily, December 24, 2021)
Patients were considered fully vaccinated after having received two doses of either the BioNTech, Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna/NIAD vaccine, or one dose of the J&J vaccine, with the last vaccine dose long enough before breakthrough COVID-19, to consider them as fully vaccinated.
Because measures of immunity are not routinely collected in clinical care, we don’t know whether these were patients who mounted effective immune responses after vaccination; a lot of emerging data have suggested that patients with cancer, especially blood cancers, don’t mount adequate protective antibody responses. It’s important to note that many of the same factors that we identified prior to the availability of vaccination – age, comorbidities, performance status, and progressing cancer – still seem to drive many of the bad outcomes
A multilayered approach that includes masking and social-distancing, along with vaccination plus booster against COVID-19 remains an essential approach for the foreseeable future.
[Notes: (a) This analysis preceded the booster shot. (b) Patients with cancer, especially blood cancers, are less likely to mount adequate protective antibody responses.]

Fully-Vaccinated Individuals at Risk for COVID Infection With Omicron Variant – Columbia Study. (3-min. video; SciTechDaily, December 24, 2021)
Results suggest that previously-infected individuals and fully-vaccinated individuals are at risk for infection with the omicron variant. It is not too far-fetched to think that SARS-CoV-2 is now only a mutation or two away from being completely resistant to current antibodies.

Umair Haque: America’s Approach to Omicron Is Insane. (Eudaimonia, December 23, 2021)
Through a Combination of Incompetence, Ineptitude, and Indifference, America is Bungling Covid Yet Again.
I was trying to get the booster that everyone in power — Biden and Fauci and all the rest — were begging me to get. Only I couldn’t get one, because of America's at-least-six-months-since-the las-prior-shot rule.
Similar rules in other countries? Britainm Three months. France, Four. Holland, Three. And so forth. America’s the only country in the rich world (probably the one, period!) where the rule, even in the middle of a vaccine-resistant wave of a pandemic, is six months or no booster. Nobody in power has checked that rule. Even thought about it. CDC, hospitals, President, task force. Nobody. Nobody’s changed it, understood it. Not a single person has connected the dots and said, hey, vaccines lose their efficacy fast, and we want everyone to get boosted, so maybe we should make it happen.
Do you see what an incredible level of institutional and government failure this is? Not to even think about the science? To keep a policy that’s now in stark opposition to the science? How many millions of Americans are in the same boat as me?

God's Tech Support Hotline (2-min. video; YouTube, December 24, 2021)
[Don't miss this viral virus video!]

Robin Schoenthaler, MD: Omicron Has Landed. And It’s Everywhere. (Medium, December 26, 2021)
It was a very Omicron Christmas for many of us. As cases soar (70,000 at the end of October; over 200,000 today), I had countless friends and relatives who suddenly had to cancel, adjust, or scale down their celebrations because of people finding out they were positive on Thursday or Friday or even in the car on the way over to open presents.
The ripple effect of having so many people get Covid and needing to isolate for 5, 7, or 10 days (recommendations are evolving) is happening as we speak: schools and daycares closing because not enough teachers, flights cancelled because not enough crew, restaurants shuttering because not enough staff, church/temples cancelling in-person services because the leaders are sick.
And most importantly, hospitals forced to limit access because so many staff can’t come in.

1 Million COVID-19 Cases Later, Massachusetts Hits Grim Milestone. (The Patch, December 28, 2021)
The milestone comes during a surge where Massachusetts is ranked fifth among states where the coronavirus is spreading the fastest.

Anti-vaxx Chronicles: Husband-wife team put their faith in Jesus, mocked science. (Daily Kos, December 29, 2021)
This series documents stories from the Herman Cain Awards subreddit, tracking the COVID mis- and disinformation on Facebook that is leading to so many deaths. Today’s cautionary tale is a husband-wife fundamentalist team.
"If people feared going to Hell as much as they feared the Coronavirus. They would be more people coming to Jesus."
-If people feared COVID as much as they fear hell, maybe more people would vaccinate. (See? Everyone can play this false equivalency game. It’s stupid.)
"No mask, no service. No mark, no sale. Do you see where this is going? They are conditioning the people to accept The Mark Of The Beast."
-No shirt, no service. No shoes, no service. (See where this is going? They have been conditioning us for centuries!)
From its Comments thread:
-This whole slide sideways off the road and over the cliff started back in the Reagan Administration, with the (im)moral minority and their evangy ways about life. Trump helped, there is no doubt, but history shows us that they are taking the same route, albeit with different acts in different places, like all authoritarian dictatorships.
--The difference before was that we never had a right-wing troll as president. Trump legitimized the worst of us in a way they had never been legitimized before. Without the staggering misfortune of the Trump presidency, these people would be little more than an annoyance. Now they are an existential threat to public health and to our democracy. Trump gets 99 percent of the blame, imo.
---My take, too. Except I’d give more blame to the media. If they did their jobs and reported honestly and fairly, Trump never would have won the Republican primary, much less the general election. If the media wasn't broken, Republicans would be merely loathsome instead of criminally insane.
----The media reported the outrageous, stupid shit he said and the horrendous, credible allegations against him. The problem is that the right wing loonies loved every bit of it.
-----A study conducted by Harvard Law School faculty proved that the “right-wing media ecosystem” regularly distorts and misrepresents the facts to serve their purposes. This can be traced back to Reagan, who vetoed legislation to codify the FCC’s “Fairness Doctrine” as law, and to his granting expedited citizenship to Rupert Murdoch. Unfortunately, the US educational system cranks out far too many graduates who are incapable of critical thinking and thus naïve and gullible.
[That link leads to the entire 2018 study report, starting with:
This book examines the shape, composition, and practices of the United States political media landscape. It explores the roots of the current epistemic crisis in political communication with a focus on the remarkable 2016 U.S. president election culminating in the victory of Donald Trump and the first year of his presidency. The authors present a detailed map of the American political media landscape based on the analysis of millions of stories and social media posts, revealing a highly polarized and asymmetric media ecosystem. Detailed case studies track the emergence and propagation of disinformation in the American public sphere that took advantage of structural weaknesses in the media institutions across the political spectrum. This book describes how the conservative faction led by Steve Bannon and funded by Robert Mercer was able to inject opposition research into the mainstream media agenda that left an unsubstantiated but indelible stain of corruption on the Clinton campaign. The authors also document how Fox News deflects negative coverage of President Trump and has promoted a series of exaggerated and fabricated counter narratives to defend the president against the damaging news coming out of the Mueller investigation. Based on an analysis of the actors that sought to influence political public discourse, this book argues that the current problems of media and democracy are not the result of Russian interference, behavioral microtargeting and algorithms on social media, political clickbait, hackers, sockpuppets, or trolls, but of asymmetric media structures decades in the making. The crisis is political, not technological.]

Our Relationship With COVID Vaccines Is Just Getting Started. (The Atlantic, December 29, 2021)
We probably will need additional shots. But just how many depends on our immune systems, the virus, and how often they collide.
[A good look forward.]

The Pandemic Might Have Redesigned Cities Forever. (The Conversation, December 30, 2021)
Changes small and large—parklets, outdoor restaurants, bike lanes—could remake our relationship to cities (and help fix climate change).

Tracking the coronavirus around the U.S.: See how your state is doing. (PBS, December 30, 2021)
The consortium of researchers and public health experts who developed these risk levels advises states in the red category to issue stay-home orders. Orange states should consider stay-home orders, along with increased testing and contact tracing. Yellow states need to keep up social distancing and mask usage, and all states should continue testing and contact tracing.

Coronavirus Briefing Year 3 (New York Times, December 30, 2021)
- The U.S. set a one-day record of almost half a million cases, nearly doubling the highest numbers from last winter.
- South Africa said it has passed its fourth wave of cases, and counts few added deaths.
- The F.D.A. will allow Pfizer boosters for 12- to 15-year-olds.
- Latest updates, maps and a vaccine tracker.
As we prepare to enter the third year of the pandemic, we have been hoping for more normality and less Covid disruption by now. Case counts are soaring to all-time highs in some parts of the world, and 2022 is shaping up to be just as uncertain as the last 12 months. That said, we’ve made huge strides against the coronavirus this year. There are now multiple vaccines that offer powerful protection against the worst effects of Covid, as well as remarkably effective treatments for those who become infected.

Robin Schoenthaler, MD: Children and Omicron (Medium, December 30, 2021)
Our surge continues. It’s moving from some-Omicron to half-Omicron and soon we will be virtually-all Omicron. It is, as one of my favorite doctors innocently said, “breathtakingly infectious". The big question on every parent’s mind these days: “What’s going to happen when the kids go back to school?”
We all know there has been a lot of buzz about the increased number of pediatric cases and hospitalizations. However, this doesn’t seem to be happening because Omicron is more dangerous. It seems to be simply due to a bigger denominator: ie. since there’s more NUMBERS of sick kids, there will be more NUMBERS of kids sick enough to need a hospital.
So let’s start out with this reassurance: We are not seeing any evidence that Omicron is more severe in kids (or adults). That doesn’t mean it isn’t disruptive. But it does mean it’s not more dangerous.

Free at-home COVID-19 tests are coming: How to get reimbursed by health insurance. (Today, updated December 30, 2021)
More details of the plan will be announced in January, but here's how experts predict it will work.

Robin Schoenthaler, MD: What To Do If/When You Get Covid. (Medium, January 3, 2022)
Please, please — go stock up your Covid kits. A large number of us are going to get Covid in the next couple of weeks so get your gear today. In fact, go buy your oximeter tonight. And get home testing kits; places run out, but then they restock.
[Listen to Dr. Robin, and spread her word!]

Baker Touts Successful School Return Despite Some Delaying Class. (Mass. Patch, January 3, 2022)
"There was all kind of talk about how school wouldn't open Massachusetts today," Gov. Charlie Baker (R.) said. "They did." But not all.
Nearly 20 school districts delayed their return from the 10-day winter break due to health concerns and staffing shortages amid an unprecedented spike in COVID-19 fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant. The state had been pressed by its largest teachers union to delay the return to school to allow educators time to test following a holiday break that saw the state break record after record of single-day confirmed COVID-19 cases, punctuated by more than 20,000 on Friday. "At this time, we simply do not have the staffing capacity to operate all schools safely," Brookline Public Schools said in a letter to families late Sunday night. "While we understand that closing schools on Monday will be challenging for families, we believe this is in the best interest for our staff, students, and families and will allow us to return as safely and as strongly as possible."

1 In 5 Massachusetts COVID-19 Tests Were Positive In Latest 7-Day Average. (Mass. Patch, January 3, 2022)
Monday's Department of Public Health report also broke another record for confirmed cases after the holiday weekend in Massachusetts.
[It's true, but MDPH doesn't say it that clearly. 20-29-year-olds are most likely to catch it; 75-year-olds are most likely to die from it.]

Over 1,000 Boston Teachers, Staff Out Sick Today. (Mass. Patch, January 4, 2022)
While schools prepare for staffing shortages, officials stand firm on keeping students in class this year.

France detects new COVID-19 variant 'IHU', more infectious than Omicron: All we know about it. (Firstpost, January 4, 2022)
The new variant — B.1.640.2 — which has been detected in 12 patients near Marseille, contains 46 mutations, making it more resistant to vaccines and infectious.
[On which wave of this pandemic will the politicians heed the medical experts?]

Initial results of a 4th-dose study in Israel show an expected rise in antibodies. (New York Times, January 4, 2022)
Fourth shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine produce a five-fold increase in antibodies in recipients’ blood, according to preliminary study results announced on Tuesday by an Israeli hospital. The small, pioneering research study, underway for a week, is meant to test the safety and effectiveness of giving yet another shot of the vaccine to people who have already received a booster dose. Still, there remains debate over whether fourth shots are advisable, as research indicates that Covid vaccines already protect against the worst outcomes, including from the Omicron variant. Any booster is likely to raise the number of antibodies in the short term; the question remains how long the effect will last, since antibodies inevitably decline over time.
Israel is facing a surge in coronavirus cases, driven by the Omicron variant. In an effort to protect the most vulnerable parts of the population, Israel has already begun offering fourth vaccine doses to people aged 60 or over, to people with weakened immune systems, and to medical and nursing home workers.

If you got Pfizer’s vaccine, seek a booster 5 months after the second shot, not 6, the C.D.C. recommends. (New York Times, January 4, 2022)
The agency also recommended that some immuno-compromised children ages 5 to 11 receive an additional primary vaccine shot 28 days after the second shot, matching the guidance for similar people 12 and older. Pfizer’s vaccine is the only one authorized for pediatric use in the United States. The endorsements come on the heels of the authorization of the same steps by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday.

State Sent Expired COVID Test Kits To Massachusetts Schools. (Mass. Patch, January 4, 2022)
Meanwhile, some Massachusetts school districts did not receive enough of the coronavirus test kits, forcing teachers and staff to share.

From Delta to Omicron, here’s how scientists know which coronavirus variants are circulating in the US. (The Conversation, January 7, 2022)
Alexander Sundermann and Lee Harrison are epidemiologists who study novel approaches for outbreak detection. Here they explain how the genomic surveillance system works in the U.S. and why it’s important to know which virus variants are circulating.

Dr. Robin’s Covid-19 Updates: Doctors Telling Their Omicron Stories (Medium, January 9, 2022)
Forget anything you’ve heard about Omicron being “mild.” It is HORRIFIC how it is ravaging our society and our hospitals and our health care workers.
-   11,000 cases/day in June in the US.
- 650,000 cases yesterday (plus a gabillion unreported at-home tests).
Please do everything you can to not get Omicron this month. Get boosted. (Get vaccinated!) Wear a good mask everywhere. Hunker down. Don’t congregate inside with unmasked people. Don’t eat inside with strangers. Minimize travel. Do what you can to not get hurt or sick or quarantine-stranded.
Our hospital systems are beyond stressed: the ER’s hallways are full of patients, the ICUs are full up, the Urgent Cares have lines around the block, the PCPs are getting pounded, the pediatricians have exploding clinics.
In addition, if you get seriously ill right now, there are essentially no drugs to help you out. They simply haven’t been manufactured in bulk yet; they do not exist. There are almost no monoclonal antibodies available, and the antivirals like Paxlovid will not be readily available until February or March. There are no real out-patient treatments except Tylenol.
Please do everything you can to not get Omicron this month.

As an E.R. Doctor, I Fear Health Care Collapse More Than Omicron. (New York Times, January 10, 2022)
[via the Democratic Underground]

How To Get MA COVID-19 Vaccination Card Online (Mass. Patch, January 10, 2022)
Massachusetts still does not mandate a vaccine, though a handful of cities are requiring proof of vaccination in many instances.

Coronavirus: Free at-home tests (New York Times, January 10, 2022)
The Biden administration today released the details of its plan to allow Americans to be reimbursed for at-home virus tests through private insurance. Here’s what you need to know:
- Americans can be reimbursed for eight at-home coronavirus tests per person per month starting Saturday, my colleagues Noah Weiland and Sarah Kliff report.
- People who provide their insurance information will be able to get the tests with no out-of-pocket costs at certain pharmacies. In other instances, they will have to file claims to their insurers for reimbursement, just as they often do for other medical services.
- Tests ordered or administered by a health provider will continue to be covered by insurance without a co-payment or a deductible, the administration said.
- The policy does not apply to tests that Americans have already purchased.
[Also, you can order one free 4-pack per household, here.]

WHO: Omicron Could Infect Half of Europe’s Population in Coming Weeks. (U.S. News, January 11, 2022)
A World Health Organization official warned that COVID-19 is ‘still a way off’ from becoming an endemic, like the flu, rather than a pandemic.

NEW: Stopping COVID-19: New Research Shows Face Masks Cut Distance Airborne Pathogens Could Travel in Half. (SciTechDaily, January 12, 2022)
The research provides clear evidence and guidelines that 3 feet of distancing with face coverings is better than 6 feet of distancing without face coverings. The study is part of the researchers’ larger overall effort to control airborne disease transmission, including through food ingredients, a better understanding of factors related to being a super-spreader; and the modeling of airborne disease transmission in classrooms.

Omicron goes to Washington. (New York Times, January 12, 2022)
Omicron has ushered in a new and frustrating phase of the pandemic. Soft shutdowns, empty shelves and another pandemic winter spent at home have shortened tempers.
Like the rest of the country, the virus has ripped through Congress. At least 129 House members and senators — nearly one in four — have been infected since the beginning of the pandemic. Thirteen were infected in the last week. Since the pandemic began, two Republican legislators have died: Ron Wright of Texas and Luke Letlow of Louisiana. And yet, even as the hyper-contagious Omicron variant infects hundreds of thousands of Americans a day, the two sides can’t agree on what to do.

Robin Schoenthaler, MD: Encouraging Omicron Sewage News (Medium, January 12, 2022)
Massachusetts “poop-ometer” gives us some hope.

MA Coronavirus: Hospitalizations Top 3K, Positive Rate Drops. (Patch, January 12, 2022)
With wastewater samples showing hopes for an Omicron decline, hospitalizations reached a new high on Wednesday.

There are early signs that Omicron has begun to peak. (New York Times, January 13, 2022)
The number of new Covid-19 cases in New York City rose more than twentyfold in December. In the past few days, it has flattened. In both New Jersey and Maryland, the number of new cases has fallen slightly this week. In several major cities, the number is also showing signs of leveling off.
“We really try not to ever make any predictions about this virus, because it always throws us for a loop,” a Boston epidemiologist told GBH News. “But at least the wastewater is suggesting a steep decline, and so we hope that means cases will decline steeply as well, and then hospitalizations and deaths will follow.”

Natick Brings Back Mask Mandate Temporarily. (Patch, January 13, 2022)
Masks will be required in all public spaces in Natick MA beginning on Monday and lasting through February.

Trump surfaces with a new racist hoax—and a new attack on our elections. (Daily Kos, January 16, 2022)
Trump says white people are being discriminated against on covid treatment: “If you’re white, you don’t get the vaccine or if you’re white you don’t get therapeutics .. In NY state, if you’re white, you go to the back of the line if you want help.”
There are a great many weird things about this particular verbal spasm from the ranting man. The first, obviously, is that the claim is transparently false. Not only are white people not being refused the vaccine or treatment in New York state, it is not happening anywhere. But it also makes no sense. It is, in fact, a monument to how thoroughly the anti-democratic Republican base demands their leaders spew provocative gibberish that makes no sense. The Republican base does not want the vaccine. The Republican base, and their politicians, are going to great lengths to make sure nobody can "make" them get vaccinated against a disease that has killed over 800,000 Americans and is still going strong.

AI reveals major differences in how social media users debate vaccinations and climate change. (Study Finds, January 18, 2022)
Social media users are more open to discussion and differing views regarding climate change, whereas online vaccination conversations tend to be more biased or one-sided.

NEW: How to Identify Counterfeit N95 Masks for COVID-19 (Mental Floss, January 18, 2022)
With the highly transmissible omicron variant burning through the United States, many people are upgrading their face masks. High-filtration N95 and KN95 respirators offer more protection against viral particles than cloth face masks, but they aren't always easy to find. The market is flooded with counterfeits that look like the real thing without meeting government safety standards. To avoid spending money on a fake product, watch out for these warning signs.
Legitimate N95 (US-standard) respirators will usually have NIOSH's name (spelled correctly) displayed on the package. U.S. government-approved masks also have headbands instead of ear loops, and an approval number on the band or facepiece that starts with the letters TC. To avoid spreading virii, the mask should have no valves.

Robin Schoenthaler, MD: Omicron Update: We’ve Learned a Lot in Two Months. But We’re Still in the Soup. (Medium, January 24, 2022)
Cases don’t really matter any more: there’s huge under-counting because of the gajillion unreported at-home tests and we know Omicron is getting past our vaccines. But the vaccines are still hugely protecting us against hospitalization and deaths, and even though there’s 2,000 deaths a day, the vast majority are among the unvaccinated because vaccines are keeping us from dying.
But please don’t use the word “mild” for even a nano-second to describe what’s going on now. Our hospitals — and ERs and clinics and internist and pediatrician offices — remain under the absolute worst strain they have been under since this all started.
[As always, Dr. Robin offers excellent advice.]

The extraordinary success of Covid-19 vaccines, in two charts. (Vox, January 27, 2022)
Deaths tell one story of the pandemic. The lives saved tell another.

The Physics of the N95 Face Mask (3-min. video; Wired, January 28, 2022)
You’ve seen them a million times. You might be wearing one right now. But do you know how they work to block a potentially virus-carrying respiratory blob?

NEW: MIT Research Reveals How Omicron Escapes From All Four Classes of Antibodies That Target COVID-19. (SciTechDaily, February 1, 2022)
The researchers’ approach, known as amino acid interaction network analysis, evaluates how one mutated amino acid can influence nearby amino acids depending on how “networked” they are — a measure of how much a given amino acid interacts with its neighbors. This yields richer information than simply examining individual changes in the one-dimensional amino acid sequence space.
The researchers compared the Omicron variant to the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, as well as the Beta and Delta variants. The Beta and Delta variants have mutations that help them evade class 1 and 2 antibodies, but not class 3 and 4. Omicron, on the other hand, has mutations that affect the binding of all four classes of antibodies.
Even though Omicron is able to evade most antibodies to some degree, vaccines still offer protection, Sasisekharan says. “What’s good about vaccines is they don’t just generate B cells, which produce the monoclonal [antibody] response, but also T cells, which provide additional forms of protection.”
“Our hope is that as we understand the viral evolution, we’re able to home in on regions where we think that any perturbation would cause instability to the virus, so that they would be the Achilles' heels, and more effective sites to target,” he says.

“The Power of Boosters” is immense as NY Times shows from CDC death data. (Daily Kos, February 1, 2022)
This data underscores both the power of the Covid vaccines and their biggest weakness — namely, their gradual fading of effectiveness over time, as is also the case with many other vaccines. If you received two Moderna or Pfizer vaccine shots early last year, the official statistics still count you as “fully vaccinated.” In truth, you are only partially vaccinated.
Once you get a booster, your risk of getting severely ill from Covid is tiny. It is quite small even if you are older or have health problems. The data shows the power of boosters. Get fully vaccinated, get boosted, avoid crowds especially indoors, wear a KN-95 mask correctly when indoors, avoid those who are not vaccinated and avoid areas where the vaccination rate is low.
[View the graph

The Army Is Finally Giving Anti-Vaxxers the Boot — Effective ‘Immediately’. (RollingStone, February 2, 2022)
The Army joins the Air Force, Navy, and Marines in discharging active duty troop who have refused to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

The U.S. is seeing a higher rate of deaths from omicron. It's important to know why. (Daily Kos, February 2, 2022)
The shape of the omicron wave in the United States has differed significantly from that in other nations. That’s not so much true of the number of cases coming in—omicron has generated a spike in cases almost everywhere—but it is true of the outcomes of those cases. For most of the world, each successive wave of COVID-19 has seen a decreasing rate of hospitalizations and deaths. That steadily improving outcome was true even during the delta variant, which was widely seen as more virulent than past versions of SARS-CoV-2. However, though the U.S. saw significant improvements as vaccines rolled out, the rate of improvement slowed significantly during delta. Now the U.S. is showing a case fatality rate for omicron that greatly exceeds many nations. Americans are simply dying at a higher rate from COVID-19 than in the vast majority of wealthy nations.
On Wednesday, The New York Times noted this issue. The paper of record did an admirable job of charting America’s ”ballooning death toll” in spite of the still widely held idea that omicron is a “mild” variant of COVID-19. They note, accurately, that deaths are now exceeding the worst levels seen during the delta surge and that they are “more than two-thirds as high as the record tolls of last winter, when vaccines were largely unavailable.”
And that dependent clause is as close as the whole article ever comes to providing a reason.
[Rest assured that this article will fill that gap.]

NEW: Efficiency of Different Types of Face Masks in Preventing COVID-19 (Fact Crescendo/India, February 2, 2022)
Wearing a mask is not an alternative to physical distancing and hand hygiene, but it is most valuable in scenarios where physical distancing is challenging.
Certified N95 masks are equipped to filter out 95% of air particles and hence are touted for maximum safety from Covid-19 infection. Despite being multi layered, these masks are breathable. They are available in different sizes and if the fit is perfect, it wraps snugly around the nose and mouth area, offering protection against any droplets or particles in the air.
However, N95 masks with respirator valve should be avoided, as they do not provide protection from the virus.

There’s a Covid-19 epidemic in deer. It could come back to haunt us. (Vox, February 3, 2022)
Cats, dogs, and ferrets have been infected by the coronavirus. But outbreaks in deer are different.

NEW: Detecting Covid-19 with a 40-second eye scan (Isreal21c, February 3, 2022)
AdOM Advanced Optical Technologies and Israel’s Sheba Medical Center have launched the world’s largest study for the detection of Covid-19 on the surface of the eye. The study will compare AdOM’s Tear Film Imager (TFI) — a quick, noninvasive and inexpensive exam — to the PCR diagnostic test, the current standard. The validation trial at Sheba – Israel’s largest medical center – will test the TFI on about 500 patients over the next 30 days.
In just 40 seconds, the TFI simultaneously measures the muco-aqueous and lipid sublayers of the eye’s tear film, at a resolution depth of a few nanometers. These sublayers play an important role in the identification and treatment of specific eye conditions such as dry eye syndrome. The TFI is used in countries including the United States and Japan. It’s one of the only commercially available devices that can identify and quantify a virus within the surface of the eye.

Hamsters can transmit Covid to humans, data suggests. (The Guardian, February 8, 2022)
The research confirms fears that a pet shop was the source of a recent Covid outbreak in Hong Kong, which has seen at least 50 people infected and led to the culling of more than 2,200 hamsters. However, virologists emphasised that, although the pet trade could provide a route for viral spread, existing pet hamsters are unlikely to pose a threat to their owners and should not be harmed.
Many animals are susceptible to catching Covid from humans, but until now, only one – the mink – has proved capable of transmitting it in the opposite direction. Hamsters are particularly vulnerable to the virus – dwarf Roborovski hamsters can die from it – so have been widely used as a model for studying the disease.

NEW: Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Approved or Authorized in the United States (US CDC, February 11, 2022)
Efforts to increase the number of people in the United States who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines remain critical to preventing illness, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.

COVID Won’t End Up Like the Flu. It Will Be Like Smoking. (The Atlantic, February 17, 2022)
Hundreds of thousands of deaths, from either tobacco or the pandemic, could be prevented with a single behavioral change.
The COVID vaccines are, without exaggeration, among the safest and most effective therapies in all of modern medicine. An unvaccinated adult is an astonishing 68 times more likely to die from COVID than a boosted one. Yet widespread vaccine hesitancy in the United States has caused more than 163,000 preventable deaths and counting. Because too few people are vaccinated, COVID surges still overwhelm hospitals—interfering with routine medical services and leading to thousands of lives lost from other conditions. If everyone who is eligible were triply vaccinated, our health-care system would be functioning normally again.
Smokers are 15 to 30 times more likely to develop lung cancer. Quitting the habit is akin to receiving a staggeringly powerful medicine, one that wipes out most of this excess risk. Yet smokers, like those who now refuse vaccines, often continue their dangerous lifestyle in the face of aggressive attempts to persuade them otherwise. Even in absolute numbers, America’s unvaccinated and current-smoker populations seem to match up rather well: Right now, the CDC pegs them at 13 percent and 14 percent of all U.S. adults, respectively, and both groups are likely to be poorer and less educated.

Increased Infectivity Drives COVID Evolution. Mutations That Allow the Virus To Escape Vaccines Become Dominant. (SciTechDaily, February 20, 2022)
Omicron and other variants are evolving increased infectivity and antibody escape, according to an artificial intelligence (AI) model. Therefore, new vaccines and antibody therapies are desperately needed, the researchers say.

Maps reveal spread of ‘stealth’ Omicron sub-variant BA-2 in UK as Whitty warns ‘next strain could be worse’. (graphs; Grapitic, February 23, 2022)
These maps show how much Omicron’s “stealth” sub-variant has spread in the UK within a month. BA.2 has taken over Delta and is able to spread faster than original.

Omicron.Deadly BA.2 subvariant of Omicron spreading in more than 74 countries and dominant already in several, just as mask mandates are being lifted. (Grapitic, February 23, 2022)
“It’s really quite incredible how quickly the Omicron, the latest variant of concern, has overtaken Delta around the world. Most of the sequences are this sublineage BA.1. We are also seeing an increasing in proportion of sequences of BA.2. Omicron is more transmissible than Delta—all of the sublineages [are]. But within the sublineages, Omicron BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1. And so, what we are looking for in the epi[demic] curves, we’re looking at not only how quickly those peaks go up, but how they come down. And as the decline in cases occur, we also need to look at is there a slowing of that decline or will we start to see an increase again? If we start to see an increase, we could see some further infections of BA.2 after this big wave of BA.1.”.

10 Consequential Days: How Biden Navigated War, COVID and the Supreme Court (New York Times, February 28, 2022)
[An inside look at President Biden doing his job during a time of turmoil, and doing it well.]

From ‘Zero’ to Surge (New York Times, March 3, 2022)
For a lot of the pandemic, Hong Kong and New Zealand have been icons of success in fighting the coronavirus. Their cautious “zero Covid” approaches kept instances and deaths low, and every day life has continued as normal.
Now, with the Omicron variant walloping a lot of Asia, each location is experiencing scary surges — but in strikingly divergent ways.

'Very sobering': Global deaths from COVID may be more than 3 times higher than official toll, study says. (USA Today, March 10, 2022)
Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation found an estimated 18.2 million people may have died by the end of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than three times the official toll of 5.9 million, according to the study published Thursday in The Lancet.

MA Town-By-Town COVID: Positivity Rate Below 2% 2 Straight Weeks. (Data tables; Patch, March 10, 2022)
In Massachusetts, COVID-19 case counts dropped in 267 communities, stayed the same in 52 and rose in 32.
[Good news! IF this local drop continues.]

China’s worst covid-19 surge since 2020 (New York Times, March 14, 2022)
China is grappling with its worst spate of Covid-19 infections since the coronavirus first emerged more than two years ago in central China. Sustained outbreaks have erupted in two-thirds of the country’s provinces, prompting two of the country’s largest cities, Shenzhen and Shanghai, to impose stringent restrictions.

Once again, America is in denial about signs of a fresh Covid wave. (The Guardian, March 16, 2022)
In the past couple of weeks, UK, Germany, France and others are experiencing a new wave. The US should get ready.

Robin Schoenthaler, MD: They’ve Changed The Covid Rules of Engagement. (Medium, March 16, 2022)
Six Steps To Being SafeR..
MA Town-By-Town COVID-19: Infection Rates Rise In 143 Communities. (Patch, March 24, 2022)
The state's positive test rate, though still low, started heading in the wrong direction, according to the Department of Public Health.

Robin Schoenthaler, MD: BA.2 Is Covid Is Snapping At Our Heels. Will It Cripple Us Again? (Medium, March 27, 2022)
Numbers of cases, deaths and hospitalizations are going down in the US but skyrocketing in other parts of the world, including places like the UK which has super high numbers. This is worrisome because the UK is one of our “Prediction Countries” — they tend to have patterns in Month One (late March) that we usually follow pretty closely in Month Two (late April). In addition, our wastewater situation is worrying — there’s a bunch of places in the US that are showing an increase in Covid particles in the wastewater, and that tends to be very predictive. If you see rising numbers of particles in the poop it’s pretty inevitable that a few weeks later you are going to see a rise in cases.
Even though testing and reporting is getting lousy (fewer places to test, more at-home tests), the fact that BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1 makes it probable that — as “good” as things are now — we may have some kind of a surge of cases in late April/May
That’s the bad news. The good news is that I doubt a BA.2 uptick will affect our public lives. I don’t think schools will shut down or hospitals will get so jammed they will have to cancel surgeries or routine care again.
There is some good news about BA.2 as well...
[There's more, and it's worth a close read.]

New Variants. New Boosters. But So Far, No New COVID Spending From Congress. (10-min. audio; NPR, March 29, 2022)
An omicron subvariant known as BA.2 could soon become the dominant form of the coronavirus in the United States. It's not more deadly, but it is more transmissible.
At the same time, the Biden administration has authorized a second booster shot for people over 50 and other people vulnerable to infection.
But against that backdrop, Congress has so far refused to authorize more COVID spending measures, which would fund the stockpiling of more vaccine doses and public health surveillance for emerging variants.

Preparing for the next wave (New York Times, April 1, 2022)
Just when the Omicron wave seems to have died down in the U.S., experts are already warning about the next surge of cases — this time driven by the highly infectious subvariant BA.2.

NEW: We’re Running Out of Money to Track Covid Variants. An Expert Explains Why That Would Be Very Bad. (Mother Jones, April 7, 2022)
“There are times when you ask yourself, ‘Have we learned nothing here?'”

A tale of many pandemics: In year three, a matter of status and access. (Washington Post, April 16, 2022)
At this precarious moment in the pandemic — with cases comparatively low but poised to rise again — the reality is that people are experiencing many different pandemics depending on their job, health, socioeconomic status, housing and access to medical care.

Now We’re Getting Rid of Masks on Planes—Just as Covid Is Spiking Again. (Mother Jones, April 18, 2022)
Gear up for another round of mass pandemic chaos. Not even a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended its masks mandate for public travel—a move that reflected rising Covid trends from the BA.2 subvariant—a federal judge in Florida has struck down the order, sending airlines and other public transportation hubs into confusion.
The CDC had previously extended the federal mask mandate to stay in effect until May 3 in order to monitor how the omicron subvariant BA.2 would transpire across the country. (Coincidentally, the requirement had been set to expire today.) The Northeast in particular has seen cases tick up significantly, with New York and New Jersey seeing average daily cases climb by an alarming 64 percent over the past week.

For mRNA, Covid Vaccines Are Just the Beginning. (Wired, April 18, 2022)
With clinical vaccine trials for everything from HIV to Zika, messenger RNA could transform medicine—or widen health care inequalities.

Travel Mask Mandate Struck Down: What It Means In Massachusetts. (Patch, April 19, 2022)
Florida federal Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle - appointed to the federal bench by now-former President Donald Trump in November 2020 after he lost the presidential election - said in the 59-page decision striking down the travel mask mandate that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both exceeded its legal authority and failed to go through proper channels to put the rule in place. The ruling means face coverings to protect against COVID-19 are no longer required on planes, trains and, in most cases, subways and buses.
The MBTA held out and kept the rules in place for part of Tuesday, but is now expected to follow other agencies and drop them later today. The CDC said late Monday that its order requiring masks on public transportation "is no longer in effect" and the agency will not enforce it. The CDC said it "continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings at this time."
The suit was brought by the so-called Health Freedom Defense Fund, which apparently supports the freedom to continue the ravages of this Covid-19 pandemic by fighting mandatory Covid masks and vaccines in public places.
[Worried about an invasion of America? Too late; it's already occupied.]

Biden administration to appeal ruling striking down transit mask mandate. (Washington Post,
April 20, 2022)
“If the courts handcuff the CDC in this most classic exercise of public health powers, it seems to me that CDC will not be able to act nimbly and decisively when the next health crisis hits. And it will hit,” said Lawrence O. Gostin, a Georgetown University professor of global health law who advises the White House and urged the administration to appeal. If the decision is allowed to stand, Gostin said, the CDC “will always be looking over its shoulder, always gun-shy about exercising its powers.”
But the appeal could tee up a battle at the Supreme Court, which has already dealt several blows to the administration’s coronavirus policies and could issue a new ruling that further constrained the CDC’s attempts to fight future virus surges.

Evidence of Zoonotic Spread: Superbug C. difficile Can Jump Between Pigs and Humans. (SciTechDaily, April 23, 2022)
C. difficile is a bacterium that infects the human gut and is resistant to all current antibiotics except three. Some strains possess genes that allow them to produce toxins that can cause damaging inflammation in the gut, leading to life-threatening diarrhea, mostly in the elderly and hospitalized patients who have been treated with antibiotics.
C. difficile is regarded as one of the most serious antibiotic resistance threats in the United States. It caused an estimated 223,900 infections and 12,800 deaths in 2017, at a healthcare cost of more than $1 billion. A hypervirulent strain of C. difficile (ribotype 078; RT078) that can cause more serious disease and its main sequence type 11 (ST11), is associated with a rising number of infections in the community in young and healthy individuals. Farm animals have recently been identified as RT078 reservoirs.

COVID-19 Third Dose Vaccine Protection Against Hospitalization Wanes After 3 Months. (SciTechDaily, April 24, 2022)
A booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine provides strong protection, roughly 80% to 90%, in the first few months against hospital admissions and emergency department visits caused by the delta and omicron variants of COVID-19. However, this protection against omicron deteriorates over time – even after a third vaccine dose.
[Get that next booster shot!]

When the Next Covid Wave Breaks, the US Won’t Be Able to Spot It. (Wired, April 27, 2022)
Lab programs are closing. Home testing has shrunk the pool of publicly reported data. Will we still see the next surge before it arrives?

More than half of Americans infected with the coronavirus. (New York Times, April 27, 2022)
According to new research from the C.D.C., 60 percent of Americans — including 75 percent of children — had been infected with the coronavirus by February. Omicron seems be responsible for much of the toll. In December last year, as the highly contagious variant began spreading, only half as many people had antibodies indicating prior infection.
The astonishing milestone was certainly not reached by design and came at an immense human and economic cost. But the data may signal good news. A high level of population-wide immunity and resistance may offer at least a partial bulwark against future waves. The trend may also explain why the surge that is now roaring through China and many European countries has been muted in the U.S. A high percentage of previous infections may also mean that there are now fewer cases of life-threatening illness or death relative to infections.

MA Town-By-Town COVID-19: Hospitalization Rate Up 85% Since Last Month. (Patch, April 28, 2022)
The COVID-19 positive test rate for Massachusetts also rose above 5 percent for the first time in months.

Coronavirus Briefing: Lessons from a lesser variant (New York Times, May 4, 2022)
Some variants are really good at spreading, and others are maybe fine at spreading, but much better at evading antibodies and our immune system defenses. And at least for the first year or two years of the pandemic, transmissibility really won out.
That may already be changing. As vaccinations and multiple waves of infection have changed the immune landscape, a highly immune-evasive variant should now have more of an edge, scientists said, which is probably part of the reason Omicron has been so successful.
Looking back at previous variants is also providing insight into what worked — and didn’t — in containing them.
Lesser variants are also revealing our blind spots. By analyzing the genomic sequences of Mu samples collected from all over the world, researchers have reconstructed the variant’s spread and found that it circulated for months before it was detected.
It’s a reminder that comprehensive, real-time surveillance is going to give us the best warning system for which variants pose a threat. Even countries that have had laudable tracking systems, like Britain, are starting to ease off and discontinue some aspect of their programs. There’s a real concern that we’re not doing enough.

NEW: Making up 1 million deaths: Where Covid killed (NBC News, May 6, 2022)
From nursing homes to prisons, measuring the pandemic's U.S. death toll.

Cognitive Impairment From Severe COVID-19 Equivalent to 20 Years of Aging – Losing 10 IQ Points.
(SciTechDaily, May 8, 2022)
Survivors scored particularly poorly on tasks such as verbal analogical reasoning, a finding that supports the commonly-reported problem of difficulty finding words. They also showed slower processing speeds, which aligns with previous observations post COVID-19 of decreased brain glucose consumption within the frontoparietal network of the brain, responsible for attention, complex problem-solving and working memory, among other functions.

Scientists Warn U.S. Health Officials Against “New Normal” Strategies for COVID-19. (SciTechDaily, May 10, 2022)
The warning, published in a Journal of General Internal Medicine viewpoint, contends that discussions of a new normal fail to incorporate key lessons from the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the significant role of noncommunicable chronic diseases in exacerbating COVID-19 and the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on under-served populations and communities of color.
Noncommunicable chronic diseases are those that are not spread from person to person and persist for at least one year, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. They are the leading cause of death worldwide and represent a global health threat that predates the COVID-19 pandemic — the noncommunicable disease crisis kills more than 15 million Americans prematurely each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ticks Are Spreading in the US—and Taking New Diseases With Them. (Wired, May 10, 2022)
The vast majority of tick-borne disease goes unrecorded, meaning life-threatening pathogens are traveling under the radar to new locations.

Natick seeks to fight COVID fatigue as numbers head in wrong direction. (Natick Report, May 11, 2022)
Natick Public Health Director Michael Boudreau ticked off a list of COVID-19 numbers at the Board of Health meeting on Wednesday that confirmed what many of us know personally or anecdotally: The virus is making yet another comeback.

NEW: Paxlovid vs. Molnupiravir (Lagevrio) for COVID-19 (GoodRx, May 17, 2022)
Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir) and molnupiravir (Lagevrio) are two oral antiviral treatments that are authorized to treat mild to moderate COVID-19. These COVID-19 pills are only recommended for people with a high risk of developing severe illness. Both Paxlovid and molnupiravir are taken by mouth twice daily for 5 days. They should both be started within 5 days of first feeling symptoms.
In late April 2022, some reports emerged of COVID-19 symptoms returning after a completed course of Paxlovid. More research is needed to understand why this happens and what raises the risk for it.

NEW: Donald G. McNeil Jr.: Let’s Take Monkeypox Seriously. (Medium, May 23, 2022)
It’s adapting to humans. We have a safe vaccine. Let’s offer it voluntarily to those most at risk, like gay men, Africans in the modern diaspora and health workers, and head off the possibility that it becomes another AIDS.
As viruses get better at infecting humans, the infection routes they sniff out are unpredictable. For 50 years, we thought Ebola was transmitted only by blood, vomit and feces, and then in 2015 we discovered that it could be transmitted by sex. We thought Zika was transmitted only by mosquitoes, and then in 2016, we discovered that it too could be transmitted by sex. Conversely, 40 years ago, we initially feared AIDS might be spread by kissing or sharing forks and spoons, and we turned out to be wrong.
Going forward, we will undoubtedly sometimes be wrong about monkeypox, and we should be prepared to change our minds. (Let’s not repeat the “Fauci lied about masks” nonsense. Fauci, like any good scientist, changed his advice as we learned more.)
[This article is informative and excellent!]

Michael Moore: Holy America (A Monkeypox on us all!) (Michael Moore, May 24, 2022)
Riding through the tidal waves of emboldened Archbishops who are weaponizing & politicizing communion, a new viral outbreak (monkeypox WTF?!) threatening public health, and the corporate greed behind the real story of why there’s no formula milk that is causing American babies to go hungry, plus Biden saying he’d send troops to Taiwan if China invaded when he knows no American parent will offer up their son or daughter to go and die for such a crazy idea, I have had it. And any day now, the Supreme Court is about to set off their time bomb against an entire gender.

Neuroscientists Discover Brain Mechanism Tied to Age-Related Memory Loss. (SciTechDaily, May 30, 2022)
As the brain ages, a region in the hippocampus becomes imbalanced, causing forgetfulness. Researchers say understanding this region of the brain and its function may be the key to preventing cognitive decline.

Study Shines Light on Immune Responses for Long-Lasting Protection From COVID-19. (SciTechDaily, May 30, 2022)
The team studied how immune responses behaved in previously infected individuals versus those who hadn’t yet been infected. The antibody response in previously-infected individuals was relatively stable, and they were protected from re-infection unless the new infection was the Omicron variant. The researchers showed that previously infected individuals mounted very rapid immune responses even after a single vaccine dose. Vaccination boosts your protection and provides better immunity.

Blood oxygen monitors miss concerning COVID-19 symptoms more often in patients of color. (The Verge, May 31, 2022)
Blood oxygen monitors said that hospitalized Asian, Black, and Hispanic COVID-19 patients had higher blood oxygen levels than they actually did, according to a new study. Oxygen levels are an important indicator of how serious someone’s case of COVID-19 is and what medications they’re eligible for — and that overestimation meant that it took longer for Black and Hispanic patients to get necessary treatment.

How American Influencers Built a World Wide Web of Vaccine Disinformation. (Mother Jones, June 2, 2022)
Last year, the anti-extremism group Center for Countering Digital Hate found that 65 percent of vaccine disinformation on Facebook and Twitter came from just 12 people, including the activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the natural lifestyle influencer Dr. Joseph Mercola. The target audience, the media reports, is in bastions of American conservatism—in rural communities, among evangelical Christians, and among Trump voters.
Over the last year, global public health experts have documented rising rates of vaccine hesitancy in other parts of the world, from Africa to South Asia, from Eastern Europe to South America. While some disinformation is locally sourced, these experts have traced many of the myths to American anti-vaccine activists who create an onslaught of social media content at virtually no cost.

MA Town-By-Town COVID-19: Case Rates Down In 84% Of Communities. (Patch, June 2, 2022)
Every key coronavirus metric in Massachusetts headed in the right direction for the first time since late March, state data showed.

Behind the high-tech COVID-19 tests you probably haven’t heard about. (The Verge, June 3, 2022)
OTC molecular tests combine PCR accuracy with the convenience of rapid antigen tests.

Robin Schoenthaler, MD: Should You Boost? Now? Then? When? (Medium, June 14, 2022)
Do You Feel Lucky? Covid remains active but less horrifying than many times in the past. With the one-two-three punch of summertime, vaccines, treatments, and shorter isolation periods, for some of us it’s becoming more of an inconvenience and less of a life-altering drama.
This is not to minimize that some people still get really sick and miserable, but fewer are ending up in the hospital.
This is also not to say the inconvenience of a Covid diagnosis can’t be really rough — this week alone I’ve heard of people who were unable to attend their own graduations, who had to cancel trips, who couldn’t attend weddings, and who needed to drop out of speaking engagements — all because of an ill-timed illness. But overall in much of the Northeast and other parts of the country things are a little better. We’re in better shape than two years ago, a year ago, a month ago.
Why are things better? It’s all about the progress we’ve made in Covid science. It’s because people who were once at high risk to end up in the hospital are now:
a) vaccinated, which decreases the chance of serious disease.
b) boosted, which decreases the chance of serious disease.
c) taking Paxlovid or bebtelovimab when they do get infected, which seems to decrease the chance of serious disease.
d) taking Evusheld ahead of getting ill if immunosuppressed, which decreases the chance of serious disease.
When you get these agents, you are safer and suffer less. However, even though people are moving back towards a normal life with conferences and weddings and travel — there’s still a bunch of Covid out there and you still don’t want to get Covid.
Why? Because it can be a misery, it’s an inconvenience, there’s still too much we don’t know about long Covid and how Covid infection can affect organs in the long-term. And every now and then super-healthy people get really sick from this disease.
So, should you and your kids be getting boosted? The CDC says yes, everybody over 5 should have the “primary series” (two shots if mRNA) and then a booster (I like to call it a third shot). The THIRD shot should come FIVE months after the primary series. The CDC also says you should get a FOURTH shot (second booster) if you are over 50 or immuno-compromised. Immuno-compromised in this situation means people getting active treatment for cancer, transplant patients, HIV, bad immunodeficiency diseases, and actively taking high-dose steroids. That fourth shot (second booster) comes at least FOUR months after the last shot.
[There's plenty more, and it should be Must Reading.]

Evidence of Covid-related Original Antigenic Sin Has Finally Surfaced. (Medium, June 20, 2022)
Prior immunity — especially from natural infection — may backfire instead when it comes to Omicron.
In the late 1900s, scientists discovered that antibodies generated against a particular influenza virus strain were deployed again even when the person got infected with a different influenza virus strain.
Not only are such old antibodies ineffective, but they sometimes hinder the formation of newer, more effective antibodies. In essence, the immune system insists on doing what it has learned initially, despite that the same trick may not work twice. This phenomenon is called the original antigenic sin or immune imprinting.

A Plane of Monkeys, a Pandemic, and a Botched Deal: Inside the Science Crisis You’ve Never Heard Of (Mother Jones, June 23, 2022)
Experts say there’s a dire shortage of primates for biomedical research—and it’s putting human lives at risk.

NEW: The Secrets of Covid ‘Brain Fog’ Are Starting to Lift. (Wired, July 1, 2022)
Scientists are getting closer to understanding the neurology behind the memory problems and cognitive fuzziness that an infection can trigger.
For the past 20 years, Monje, a neuro-oncologist, had been trying to understand the neurobiology behind chemotherapy-induced cognitive symptoms—similarly known as “chemo fog.” When Covid-19 emerged as a major immune-activating virus, she worried about the potential for similar disruption. “Very quickly, as reports of cognitive impairment started to come out, it was clear that it was a very similar syndrome,” she says. “The same symptoms of impaired attention, memory, speed of information processing, dis-executive function—it really clinically looks just like the ‘chemo fog’ that people experienced and that we’d been studying.”

MA Town-By-Town COVID: Positivity Rate At Highest Since Late January. (Patch, July 7, 2022)
The COVID-19 hospitalization rate in Massachusetts also rose, but deaths and weekly case counts were down, according to state data.

The worst virus variant just arrived. The pandemic is not over. (Washington Post, July 7, 2022)
COVID-19 > Omicron > BA.5. Whether BA.5 will lead to more severe disease isn’t clear yet. But knowing that the virus is spreading should reinforce the need for the familiar mitigation measures: high-quality face masks, better air filtration and ventilation, and avoiding exposure in crowded indoor spaces.

As the BA.5 variant spreads, the risk of coronavirus reinfection grows. (Washington Post, July 10, 2022)
America has decided the pandemic is over. The coronavirus has other ideas. The latest omicron offshoot, BA.5, has quickly become dominant in the United States, and thanks to its elusiveness when encountering the human immune system, is driving a wave of cases across the country.
The size of that wave is unclear because most people are testing at home or not testing at all. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the past week has reported a little more than 100,000 new cases a day on average. But infectious-disease experts know that wildly underestimates the true number, which may be as many as a million.

Covid hospitalizations have doubled since May as omicron BA.5 sweeps U.S., but deaths remain low. (CNBC, July 12, 2022)
The omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants now make up 80% of Covid infections across the U.S., with BA.5 emerging as the dominant version of the virus. Fauci said BA.5 is more transmissible than past variants and it substantially evades the protective antibodies triggered by vaccines, but the shots are still generally protecting against severe disease. In other words, people who are fully vaccinated might get infected and have mild to moderate symptoms, but they are unlikely to be hospitalized and even more unlikely to die from Covid.

The BA.5 Wave Is What COVID Normal Looks Like. (The Atlantic, July 14, 2022)
The endless churn of variants may not stop anytime soon, unless we do something about it.

The COVID-19 Reinfection Loop and What It Means for Americans’ Health (US News, July 14, 2022)
The continued emergence of new coronavirus variants means that protection from COVID-19 is fleeting and that herd immunity is likely unattainable.

The Pandemic Fueled a Superbug Surge. Can Medicine Recover? (Wired, July 14, 2022)
As Covid swept ICUs, doctors prescribed antibiotics to ward off secondary infections. Now bacteria have evolved resistance—but hospitals are fighting back.

Experts Know Very Little About COVID Reinfection, Including Long-Term Health Effects. (Self, July 20, 2022)
Here’s what to know about your risk as cases continue to rise.

NEW: How Accurate Are At-Home COVID Tests With BA.5? Chicago's Top Doc Explains. (2-min. video; NBC TV Chicago, July 22, 2022)

NEW: Natick's COVID-19 Positivity Rate Rises To 8.95%. (Natick Patch, July 22, 2022)
This week, Natick reported a two-week case count of 124. The total positive test number reported was 130.

Monkeypox is truly an emergency. The WHO was right to raise the highest alarm. (The Guardian, July 25, 2022)
Supporting the people most at-risk of this awful disease is the only way to reduce its impact and stop its spread.

Robin Schoenthaler, MD: President Biden’s Covid (Medium, July 27, 2022)
Ten advances in Covid science that kept him okay.

NEW: Study finds molnupiravir well-tolerated, and effective in vaccinated and unvaccinated. (News Medical, July 27, 2022)
Molnupiravir has been shown to effectively reduce the risk of hospitalization and death in treated patients. Furthermore, this treatment has been associated with a higher severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) negativity rate following five, ten, and 14 days of treatment.
Nevertheless, in vivo, long-term safety studies of molnupiravir have not been conducted. Additionally, the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants has caused a loss of efficacy for several monoclonal antibodies; therefore, monitoring the efficacy of directly-acting antivirals against new variants is needed.
A new study published on the preprint server medRxiv* reports the phase II efficacy and safety of molnupiravir in both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals in the United Kingdom.

NEW: He discovered the origin of the monkeypox outbreak — and tried to warn the world. (NPR, July 29, 2022)
Five years ago Dr. Dimie Ogoina, an infectious disease specialist at the Niger Delta University in Nigeria, saw perhaps the most important patient of his career – a patient whose infection would eventually be linked to the largest monkeypox outbreak in history.

In Race for Monkeypox Vaccines, Experts See Repeat of COVID. (many related items; NBC TV Chicago, July 30, 2022)
Public health officials warn that moves by rich countries to buy large quantities of monkeypox vaccine could leave millions of people in Africa unprotected against a more dangerous version of the dise...
Moves by rich countries to buy large quantities of monkeypox vaccine, while declining to share doses with Africa, could leave millions of people unprotected against a more dangerous version of the disease and risk continued spillovers of the virus into humans. Critics fear a repeat of the catastrophic inequity problems seen during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sewage sludge contaminated with toxic-forever chemicals spread on thousands of acres of Chicago-area farmland. (Chicago Tribune, July 31, 2022)
Long-term exposure to tiny concentrations of certain PFAS can trigger testicular and kidney cancer, birth defects, liver damage, impaired fertility, immune system disorders, high cholesterol and obesity, studies have found. Links to breast cancer and other diseases are suspected.
Yet forever chemicals remain largely unregulated. In Illinois and most other states, there is no requirement to test sludge for PFAS before it is spread as fertilizer. Nor are there limits on concentrations of the chemicals in sludge or soil.
Operators of most of the nation’s sewage treatment plants aren’t even required to warn farmers about the risks. Everybody wants to pretend it’s not happening.

Flood maps show US vastly underestimates contamination risk at old industrial sites. (The Conversation, August 1, 2022)
Climate science is clear: Floodwaters are a growing risk for many American cities, threatening to displace not only people and housing but also the land-based pollution left behind by earlier industrial activities.
In 2019, researchers at the U.S. Government Accountability Office investigated climate-related risks at the 1,571 most polluted properties in the country, also known as Superfund sites on the federal National Priorities List. They found an alarming 60% were in locations at risk of climate-related events, including wildfires and flooding.
As troubling as those numbers sound, our research shows that that’s just the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

NEW: Life hacks from India on how to stay cool (without an air conditioner) (NPR, August 2, 2022)
People in India and in other countries across the Global South have long figured out ways to deal with the horrible heat. And so, I'd like to share a few tips on how to stay cool that I've learned from my upbringing and elders in Uttar Pradesh. Some of the advice is just what you'd think – like drinking lots of liquids and staying out of the sun – but others might surprise you.
[This one is important during these heat waves! Share.]

First map of immune system connections reveals new therapeutic opportunities. (ETH Zurich, August 3, 2022)
Researchers of the Wellcome Sanger Institute and ETH Zurich have created the first full connectivity map of the human immune system, showing how immune cells communicate with each other and ways to modulate these pathways in disease.
[Excellent! Now, how long to wait?]

NEW: What is Monkeypox? Neil deGrasse Tyson and Epidemiologist Anne Rimoin Explain. (27-min. video; August 5, 2022)
Is this going to end up like COVID-19? Learn about the field of epidemiology, how monkeypox spreads, and where monkeypox comes from. Does it really come from monkeys? We take a deep dive into the history of monkeypox and zoonotic diseases. How long has it been around? How contagious is it? How does it transmit? How prevalent is it? Find out how to keep yourself and others safe from the disease.

NEW: How many animal species have caught COVID? First global tracker has (partial) answers. (Interactive chart; PBS, August 5, 2022)
Mink get it. Hamsters get it. Cats and dogs get it. They're a few of the many animal species to have contracted COVID-19. This interactive visualization lets users explore which animals have gotten COVID, how many cases were reported for each species and the source of the data. It also covers what happened to the animals, ranging from mild symptoms like a runny nose to more severe symptoms like myocarditis or even sudden death.<

It's Hot! (No link? E-mail message from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, August 8, 2022)
We’re sure you’ve noticed these last few weeks have made for an especially uncomfortable summer in NYC, the rest of the country, and all over the world. Make no mistake, skyrocketing global temperatures are a result of the climate crisis, and we can expect these extreme weather conditions to worsen.
So, here at Team AOC, we want to make sure you know how to stay safe this summer from heat stroke and other health effects of heat:
Get creative with hydration.
It doesn’t just have to be water! Juices and electrolyte-infused drinks will help replace some of the energy lost in your sweat. You can even add DIY electrolytes to your beverages at home with this recipe from
Mix together:
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tbsp raw honey
- 1/8 tsp of sea salt
- 2 cups of cold water
If you don’t have A/C, cover your windows with curtains or sheets – better yet, damp sheets.
The curtains will block the sun’s rays from further heating up your home, and the moisture in the fabric will cool down whatever air is flowing in from outside. This is an important tip from heat wave researcher Gulrez Shah Azhar — who grew up in Uttar Pradesh, India without A/C — in an article for NPR (read more here).
Mist yourself with cool water, or place a wet towel around the back of your neck.
Azhar also attests to how important it is to lower the temperature of your skin with moisture and breezes whenever possible. Soaking your feet in cool water will help lower that temp too!
Check on your neighbors.
Are the elders and unhoused in your neighborhood struggling to keep themselves cool? Post these tips in your lobby and knock on your neighbors’ doors to check in. Offer water and damp towels to the unhoused. Communities keep each other safe!
Keep the larger climate fight in mind.
If corporations and establishment politicians are going to continue to prioritize profit over protecting vulnerable communities, it’s up to us to educate and protect our neighbors from the dangers of extreme heat - which we know disproportionately affects lower-income communities and marginalized people. It’s no secret as to why portions of The Bronx have the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. As temperatures climb and air quality suffers, we have to stick together to fight these devastating health outcomes. The climate crisis may be global, but Alexandria firmly believes that coordinated action at a local level is the best community protection money can’t buy.

Robin Schoenthaler, MD: A 2022 Covid Kit (Medium, August 10, 2022)
Given that everybody is traveling and coming back from camp and every day there’s less masking and Omicron’s BA.5 variant is the most contagious one yet, I think it’s safe to assume you or somebody in your friends and family group has Covid, is going to get Covid, and/or is about to get Covid very soon. Here is what to do if you get Covid, and what to have in your Covid Kit.

New virus found in China is another hard-to-predict threat. (2-min. video; CNN, August 17, 2022)
Just when you thought that 2022 already had provided a century's worth of scary infectious diseases, from Covid-19 to monkeypox to polio, last week's headlines warned of yet another. In eastern China, the Langya virus may have jumped from the white-toothed shrew to humans. It has sickened dozens of people, but has caused no reported deaths.
Whatever is happening, the moment has created a scramble to find someone who can predict the future, no experience necessary. This search for a crystal ball specialist goes back millennia: The Oracle of Delphi dominates stories from ancient Greece, while astrologers and clairvoyants have filled a similar role for centuries.

Is Oxygen the Answer to Long Covid? (Wired, August 17, 2022)
Treatment options for lasting Covid symptoms are limited, but initial studies suggest hyperbaric oxygen could help.

Oregon identifies first pediatric case of monkeypox as outbreak spreads. (Oregon Capital Chronicle, August 17, 2022)
With the next school year starting, the biggest risk remains Covid, not monkeypox which usually requires skin-to-skin contact. It can take up to four weeks for monkeypox to end. Patients are infectious until the scabs fall off. The outbreak is growing, with more than 116 cases in Oregon. Nearly one-third of the cases are Hispanics.
Nationwide, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are nearly 12,700 cases in 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. They are among more than 38,000 cases in 93 countries.

The Preventable Tragedy of Polio in New York (New Yorker, August 22, 2022)
Polio is one of the few diseases that can be eradicated—but faltering vaccination rates could undo years of hard-won global progress.

Polio Is Back in the US and UK. Here’s How That Happened. (Wired, August 24, 2022)
For every person paralyzed, hundreds or thousands could be infected. It’s a setback for the long-overdue plan to eradicate the virus from the world.

Virus Briefing (The New York Times, August 24, 2022)
Something perplexing is going on with the U.S. monkeypox outbreak. If you look at the national case numbers, it looks as if the outbreak in the country may have plateaued in the worst-afflicted states. The only problem is, we don’t yet know why this is happening. If cases are stabilizing because the vaccine is having a real effect, it bodes well for our ability to contain the outbreak. But while we wait for data on how well the Jynneos vaccine is working, the rollout continues to experience hiccups.
The Biden administration plans to offer the next generation of coronavirus booster shots to Americans 12 and older soon after Labor Day, and ahead of an expected surge this winter. The F.D.A. is close to authorizing updated doses that would target the Omicron versions of the virus. The shots we currently have were formulated to disrupt the virus that was circulating in 2020. Federal health officials are eager to offer the updated boosters as quickly as possible, pointing to a death toll that now averages about 450 Americans per day and could rise in the coming months as people spend more time indoors.
An outbreak of tomato flu, a viral infection that was first detected in India, is spreading there, The Guardian reports.

NEW: Report: New data shows long Covid is keeping as many as 4 million people out of work. (Brookings Institution, August 24, 2022)
In January 2022, Brookings Metro published a report that assessed the impact of
long Covid on the labor market
. Data on the condition’s prevalence was limited, so the report used various studies to make a conservative estimate: 1.6 million full-time equivalent workers could be out of work due to long Covid. With 10.6 million unfilled jobs at the time, long Covid potentially accounted for 15% of the labor shortage.
This June, the Census Bureau finally added four questions about long Covid to its Household Pulse Survey (HPS), giving researchers a better understanding of the condition’s prevalence.
This report uses the new data to assess the labor market impact and economic burden of long Covid, and finds that around 16 million working-age Americans (those aged 18 to 65) have long Covid today. Of those, 2 to 4 million are out of work due to long Covid. The annual cost of those lost wages alone is around $170 billion a year (and potentially as high as $230 billion).
These impacts stand to worsen over time if the U.S. does not take the necessary policy actions. With that in mind, the final section of this report identifies five critical interventions to mitigate both the economic costs and household financial impact of long Covid.

Americans Who Have Had Covid More Than Once: You Are In For a Miserable Fate. (Medium, August 26, 2022)
Social media is full of examples of people catching Covid, now going into second, third, and fourth infections. How is this ok? Why is this ok? How is this happening? Common sense has to come into play at some point. Right? Here is the thinking pattern of the average American who doesn’t care about Covid, Monkey Pox or any pandemics coming down the road.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech Bivalent COVID-19 Vaccines for Use as a Booster Dose. (US FDA, August 31, 2022)
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration amended the emergency use authorizations (EUAs) of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to authorize bivalent formulations of the vaccines for use as a single booster dose at least two months following primary or booster vaccination. The bivalent vaccines, which we will also refer to as “updated boosters,” contain two messenger RNA (mRNA) components of SARS-CoV-2 virus, one of the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and the other one in common between the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.
The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent, is authorized for use as a single booster dose in individuals 18 years of age and older. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent, is authorized for use as a single booster dose in individuals 12 years of age and older.

For Some Patients, Long Covid Symptoms Mask Something Else. (Wired, August 31, 2022)
Long Covid is common—estimates of its prevalence vary widely, but even the most conservative studies imply that millions of people are dealing with long-lasting symptoms of their infections.
But issues like fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue can also be signs of other illnesses. With dozens of possible symptoms, long Covid can be easily confused with countless other conditions, including cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, autoimmune diseases like lupus and multiple sclerosis, and cancer. Add the fact that Covid can make pre-existing conditions worse, and determining whether or not someone has long Covid becomes a daunting task.
Symptoms that group together can help point doctors toward what that something else might be. Most of the long Covid patients Brode sees who exhibit fatigue and the sluggish thinking known as “brain fog” are also dealing with post-exertional malaise—extreme exhaustion after physical, mental, or emotional effort. So when a man came into his clinic with the first two symptoms but not the third, Brode suspected that something else might be going on. He eventually discovered that the patient was dealing with a large, benign brain tumor.
Most US states have only a few long Covid clinics; some have none at all. Some patients don’t have a primary care doctor; as a result, long Covid clinicians have had to take on the role of filling gaps in the nation’s medical system. These clinics, however, were not designed to carry the full weight of chronic illness care in a broken health care system.

NEW: Long COVID or Post-COVID Conditions (CDC, September 1, 2022)
Some people who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience long-term effects from their infection, known as post-COVID conditions (PCC) or long COVID. People call post-COVID conditions by many names, including: long COVID, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19, post-acute sequelae of SARS CoV-2 infection (PASC), long-term effects of COVID, and chronic COVID.
- Post-COVID conditions can include a wide range of ongoing health problems; these conditions can last weeks, months, or years.
- Post-COVID conditions are found more often in people who had severe COVID-19 illness, but anyone who has been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience post-COVID conditions, even people who had mild illness or no symptoms from COVID-19.
- People who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 and become infected may also be at higher risk of developing post-COVID conditions compared to people who were vaccinated and had breakthrough infections.
- While most people with post-COVID conditions have evidence of infection or COVID-19 illness, in some cases, a person with post-COVID conditions may not have tested positive for the virus or known they were infected.
- CDC and partners are working to understand more about who experiences post-COVID conditions and why, including whether groups disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 are at higher risk.
- As of July 2021, “long COVID,” also known as post-COVID conditions, can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Learn more: Guidance on “Long COVID” as a Disability Under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557.

Covid, monkeypox, polio: Summer of viruses reflects travel, warming trends. (Washington Post, September 1, 2022)
‘We are the invaders of the viral world, not vice versa,’ a virologist says.

Powerful New Antibody Neutralizes All Known COVID Variants. (Boston Children's Hospital, September 5, 2022)
Therapeutic antibodies that were effective early in the pandemic have lost their efficacy as SARS-CoV-2 has changed and mutated, and more recent variants, particularly Omicron, have learned how to circumvent the antibodies our systems produce in response to vaccinations. We may be able to better guard against possible variations thanks to a new, widely neutralizing antibody created at Boston Children’s Hospital. In tests, it neutralized all known SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, including all Omicron variants.
The BCH researchers utilized a modified version of a humanized mouse model they had previously used to look for broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV, another virus that often mutates. Since the mice effectively have built-in human immune systems, the model closely resembles how the trial-and-error process our immune system uses to create increasingly effective antibodies.
The researchers initially introduced two human gene segments into the mice, causing their B cells to create a wide repertoire of humanized antibodies in a short period of time. They subsequently exposed the mice to the original Wuhan-Hu-1 strain of the virus’s SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which is the main protein targeted by our antibodies and current vaccines.
The modified mice developed nine lineages, or “families,” of humanized antibodies that bonded to the spike in response. Antibodies from three of the nine lineages were effective in neutralizing the original Wuhan-Hu-1 virus. The SP1-77 antibody and other members of its lineage, in particular, demonstrated extremely wide activity, neutralizing Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and all prior and current Omicron strains. Structural studies showed that SP1-77 works differently from current antibodies (either therapeutic antibodies or those we make in response to current vaccines).
Many of the existing antibodies work by attaching to the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike in certain regions, preventing SARS-CoV-2 from binding to our cells’ ACE2 receptors, which is the initial step in infection. The SP1-77 antibody binds to the RBD as well, but in a completely different manner that does not prevent the virus from binding to ACE2 receptors. SP1-77 prevents the virus from fusing its outer membrane with the membrane of the target cell. This thwarts the final necessary step that throws the door open to infection.
"We hope that this humanized antibody will prove to be as effective at neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 in patients as it has proven to be thus far in pre-clinical evaluations."
[Let's hope this generates an effective COVID defense, and quickly. Because face masks, you know, are so very hard to use. See "Summer of Viruses" (September 1st, above).]

“Unlimited Possibilities” – New Law of Physics Could Predict Genetic Mutations. (University of Portsmouth, September 6, 2022)
The study discovers that the second law of information dynamics, or “infodynamics,” behaves differently from the second law of thermodynamics. This finding might have major implications for how genomic research, evolutionary biology, computing, big data, physics, and cosmology develop in the future.
"If the second law of thermodynamics states that entropy needs to stay constant or increase over time, I thought that perhaps information entropy would be the same. But what we found was the exact opposite – it decreases over time. The second law of information dynamics works exactly in opposition to the second law of thermodynamics.”
The group analyzed Covid-19 (Sars-CoV-2) genomes and discovered that their information entropy reduced with time: “The best example of something that undergoes a number of mutations in a short space of time is a virus. The pandemic has given us the ideal test sample as Sars-CoV-2 mutated into so many variants and generated so much data. The Covid data confirms the second law of infodynamics and the research opens up unlimited possibilities. Imagine looking at a particular genome and judging whether a mutation is beneficial before it happens. This could be game-changing technology which could be used in genetic therapies, the pharmaceutical industry, evolutionary biology, and pandemic research."

RobinSchoenthaler, MD: The New “Omicron Vaccine” (Medium, September 6, 2022)
The new vaccine the CDC is recommending for everyone over 12.
[She's good. Details inside. Do it!]

New York to ramp up polio vaccinations after virus found in wastewater. (Reuters, September 9, 2022)
New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a disaster emergency on Friday in a bid to accelerate efforts to vaccinate residents against polio after the virus was detected in wastewater samples taken in four counties. Hochul's executive order followed the discovery of the virus last month in samples from Long Island's Nassau County, bordering the New York City borough of Queens. Earlier this year the virus was found in samples from Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties, all north of the city.

Weekly Virus Briefing (New York Times, September 14, 2022)
[It ends with links for Coronavirus, Monkeypox, and Polio news.]

CDC warns about enterovirus in kids — and the risk of rare paralysis that can follow. (3-min. video; CBS News, September 12, 2022)
After virtually disappearing for several years amid measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now urging doctors to be vigilant for a renewed wave of enterovirus D68, or EV-D68 — a viral infection in children that can cause a rare kind of paralysis. In July and August, the CDC says hospitals detected an increase in infections caused by enterovirus D68. The number is now the biggest seen since 2018, when the agency tracked the last wave of summer and fall infections caused by the virus.
Many children are infected by enterovirus D68 early in their life and will face only a range of mild cold-like symptoms at worst, like runny nose and cough. One study in Missouri from 2012 and 2013 found antibodies from a prior infection in every child they tested. But some kids, especially those with underlying conditions like asthma, are at higher risk of severe symptoms that can cause breathing issues and require hospitalization. A small fraction of infected kids also develop a rare complication known as acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), which can result in muscle weakness and paralysis similar to, but likely rarer than, the paralysis caused by polio.

NEW: Commonly Used Agricultural Herbicide Can Cross the Blood-Brain Barrier. (SciTechDaily, September 15, 2022)
Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s are among the most puzzling in medical research. The underlying causes of these conditions might be anything from dietary influences and lifestyle decisions to genetic factors and general cardiovascular health.
Various environmental pollutants have also been linked to the development or progression of neurological illness. Among them is glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide. Glyphosate is a widely used herbicide that is used on agricultural crops all over the globe.

NEW: Alzheimer’s Disease Risk 50–80% Higher in Older Adults Who Caught COVID-19. (SciTechDaily, September 15, 2022)
Older people who had a COVID-19 infection show a considerably higher risk—as much as 50% to 80% higher than a control group—of developing Alzheimer’s disease within a year. This is according to a new research study of more than 6 million patients aged 65 and older. People 65 and older who contracted COVID-19 were substantially more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease in the year following their COVID diagnosis. The highest risk was observed in women at least 85 years old.

NEW: Dangerously wrong oxygen readings in dark-skinned patients spur FDA scrutiny. (Ars Technica, September 15, 2022)
The meeting follows years of mounting data on inaccuracies and potential harms.

Stick to Masks: Face Shields Don’t Provide High-Level COVID Protection. (SciTechDaily, September 16, 2022)
The peer-reviewed study found that face shields did not give high levels of protection against external droplets.

WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard (World Health Organization, September 19, 2022)
Globally, as of 5:42pm CEST, 19 September 2022, there have been 609,247,113 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 6,503,894 deaths, reported to WHO.

Biden says ‘the pandemic is over.’ Some local docs disagree. (Boston Globe, September 19, 2022)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data indicates the U.S. is on pace for more than 10,000 COVID-related deaths this month.
“The biggest and most important thing that folks can do today is to make sure they are vaccinated and, if eligible, boosted — particularly for folks that are aged 50 plus,” Ranney said. She also advised wearing masks in public during surges and advocating for investments in ventilation, testing, and treatment.
Levy said people should be “sensible” when it comes to wearing masks, testing, and avoiding indoor crowds. “Just because people are wanting to move on past COVID doesn’t mean that it is no longer present and in our lives,” he said.

Potent new boosters are here. Will weary Americans bother? (New York Times, September 19, 2022)
The new vaccine campaign is one of the country’s last remaining strategies, as masks have fallen away and quarantines have diminished.

What Long COVID Is Like For These 14 People (Teen Vogue, September 20, 2022)
The COVID-19 pandemic has been filled with unexpected and difficult health challenges, many of which researchers are beginning to understand better. But among the challenges that still remain is long COVID — a complex and often taxing illness that scientists can't yet fully explain.

How Clean Is the Air on Planes? (Condé Nast Traveler, September 20, 2022)
Apprehension about aircraft cabin air is common during flu season. Here's what to know.
[This story was originally published in July 2017. It has been updated with new information.]

Why Omicron Might Stick Around (The New York Times, September 22, 2022)
Omicron, the 13th named variant of the coronavirus, seems to have a remarkable capacity to evolve new tricks.

When Will the Pandemic Truly Be ‘Over’? (Wired, September 28, 2022)
It was a political stumble that turned into a policy two-step. In a 60 Minutes interview, US President Joe Biden declared the Covid pandemic over. Within 12 hours, public health officials, including in his own administration, weighed in to say “No, it’s not.” And within 12 hours after that, the White House—somewhat—walked his comments back.
Chalk it up to exuberance—the updated boosters were just rolling out—or to pandemic fatigue. But look past the immediate messaging failure, and the episode poses an important question: If the pandemic isn’t over yet, how will we know when it is?
Everyone wants to be done with Covid. But no single milestone will signal the end of the virus.

MCAS Scores Dip Shows COVID-19 Learning Recovery May Take 'Years'. (Patch, September 29, 2022)
Education Secretary James Peyser said more learning time is needed after English scores drop statewide. See how your school district scored.

How a Chinese Doctor Who Warned of Covid-19 Spent His Final Days. (DNYUZ, October 6, 2022)
In early 2020, in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Dr. Li Wenliang lay in a hospital bed with a debilitating fever. He was no ordinary patient, and even then — before Covid had its name — he feared that this was no ordinary ailment. Dr. Li was widely regarded in China as a heroic truth-teller. He had been punished by the authorities for trying to warn others about the virus, and then, in a terrible turn, had become severely sickened by it. Weeks later, he would become China’s most famous fatality of the emerging pandemic. He was 34.
His death set off an outpouring of grief and anger on a scale and intensity rarely seen in China. More than two years later, Dr. Li remains a galvanizing figure, a symbol of frustration with the government’s suppression of independent voices.

An Unlikely Source Provides New Hope for Heart Disease Patients. (SciTechDaily, October 8, 2022)
Half of all cases of sudden cardiac arrest in athletes occurring during physical activity are thought to be caused by ARVC. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen provide new insights into a process involved in the development of the disease - and also present a viable treatment method.
The previously unknown disease mechanism is a defect in the nucleus, deep within the heart cells that are responsible for heart muscle contraction. The defect sets off a chain reaction that leads to cell death.
Based on the new insights, the researchers found that by activating a specific molecule, sirtuin-3, they could slow down disease development. They, therefore, started a hunt for a molecule with that function. And with honokiol, they found it. Honokiol is a natural product extracted from the bark and leaves of the tulip tree and has been used; e.g., as a pain killer in traditional medicine in some parts of Asia.
When they tested honokiol on their mouse model, it really did slow down the development of the disease. The same happened in their stem cell-derived heart cells. They have begun to determine whether the new disease mechanism is present in all ARVC patients.

Pfizer-BioNTech releases first human results on updated COVID-19 booster, citing an increase in antibodies. (NBC News, October 13, 2022)
In the six weeks since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized updated omicron boosters, it’s been unclear how much more protection the new version of the shot provides against infection.
On Thursday, Pfizer and BioNTech provided an early glimpse at the findings from their ongoing study in humans, saying in a press release that the updated booster generated a strong immune response against the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. Experts were critical of the companies' announcement, however, pointing to a lack of data in their press release.

Vaccines to treat cancer possible by 2030, say BioNTech founders. (The Guardian, October 16, 2022)
Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci, who co-founded BioNTech, the German firm that partnered with Pfizer to manufacture a revolutionary mRNA Covid vaccine, said they had made breakthroughs that fueled their optimism for cancer vaccines in the coming years.

NEW SERIES: Living with long Covid (The Guardian, October 17, 2022)
Millions of lives are impacted by long Covid. The Guardian takes a closer look at the illness, and those who live with it.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: Long Covid is an ‘insidious’ public health emergency. (The Guardian, October 17, 2022)
America’s top disease expert speaks to the Guardian about the dangers of long Covid and urges US Congress to avoid complacency.

WHO chief urges immediate action to tackle ‘devastating’ long Covid. (The Guardian, October 17, 2022)
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus calls for ‘sustained’ efforts to help people still experiencing ‘prolonged suffering’.

DeSantis Is Slamming Covid Vaccines. Here’s Why. (Mother Jones, October 20, 2022)
It’s a little bit of a dance between him and Trump right now.

'Tripledemic' Warning As Respiratory Illness Cases Rise In MA (Patch, October 26, 2022)
Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a fairly common illness that can cause breathing difficulties in young children, is surging early across the country, and infectious disease experts worry that local hospitals may be unable to keep pace. Health officials are warning of a possible “tripledemic” if the RSV peak coincides with seasonal peaks in influenza and COVID-19. The three illnesses have similar symptoms.
There are no inoculations against RSV, as there are for both the flu and COVID-19, but a couple of pharmaceutical companies are working to develop vaccines.
RSV cases fell dramatically two years ago when schools, day cares and businesses shut down to control the spread of COVID-19. Doctors saw an alarming increase in what is normally a fall and winter virus when coronavirus restrictions were eased in the summer of 2021.

COVID-19 Surges Linked To Spike in Heart Attack Deaths – “Like Nothing Seen Before”. (SciTechDaily, October 27, 2022)
Researchers at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai conducted a new data analysis and found that deaths from heart attacks rose significantly during pandemic surges, including the COVID-19 Omicron surges, overall reversing a heart-healthier pre-pandemic trend. The heart attack increase has been most prominent in young adults, especially those ages 25-44.

Thawing Permafrost Exposes Old Pathogens—and New Hosts. (Wired, October 27, 2022)
The Arctic—that remote, largely undisturbed, 5.5 million square miles of frozen terrain—is heating up fast. In fact, it’s warming nearly four times quicker than the rest of the world, with disastrous consequences for the region and its inhabitants. Many of these impacts you probably know from nature documentaries: ice caps melting, sea levels rising, and polar bears losing their homes. But there is another knock-on effect to worry about: the warming landscape is rewiring viral dynamics, with the potential to unearth frozen viruses and transport them elsewhere.

“A Silent Killer” – COVID-19 Shown To Trigger Inflammation in the Brain Without Outward Symptoms for Years. (University of Queensland November 8, 2022)
Research led by The University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia has found COVID-19 activates the same inflammatory response in the brain as Parkinson’s disease. The discovery not only identified a potential future risk for neurodegenerative conditions in people who have had COVID-19, but suggested also a possible treatment.

Virus Briefing: How to approach the holidays (The New York Times, November 9, 2022)
There was a brief moment this fall, when Covid-19 cases were low and we hadn’t yet heard the word “tripledemic,” that I thought we might have something close to a normal holiday season, for the first time in years. But the last few weeks have changed the picture. A soup of Omicron variants is swirling across the U.S., and we don’t yet know how much these variants will spread this winter. Meanwhile, a surge in flu and R.S.V. cases is already stretching hospitals thin, and we still have months of cold weather ahead. Make a plan!

Growing anger in China over ‘zero-Covid’ policy (2-min. video; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2022)
Images shared on social media showing residents in China’s Canton tearing down barriers and clashing with Covid prevention enforcement officers have highlighted growing discontent in the country over Beijing’s tough “zero-Covid” policy and repeated lockdowns.

RSV, covid and flu push hospitals to the brink — and it may get worse. (Washington Post, November 20, 2022)
More than half a million people in the health-care and social services sectors quit their positions in September — evidence, in part, of burnout associated with the coronavirus pandemic — and the American Medical Association says 1 in 5 doctors plan on leaving the field within two years.
The shortages have hit the health-care system like a tsunami, according to Thomas Balcezak, chief medical officer at Yale New Haven Health Hospital. He said physicians, nurses and support staff have experienced a shift in how the public treats them compared with 2020.

Significant Post-COVID Brain Abnormalities Revealed by Special MRI. (SciTechDaily, November 21, 2022)
As more people become infected and recover from COVID-19, research has begun to emerge, focusing on the lasting consequences of the disease. These are known as post-COVID conditions, which are also known by a myriad of names including long COVID, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19, post-acute sequelae of SARS CoV-2 infection (PASC), long-term effects of COVID, and chronic COVID.
Scientists uncovered brain changes in patients up to six months after they recovered from COVID-19 by using a special type of MRI. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in five adults will develop long-term effects from COVID-19. Difficulty thinking or concentrating, sleep problems, headache, lightheadedness, change in smell or taste, pins-and-needles sensation, and depression or anxiety are all neurological symptoms associated with long COVID. However, research studies have found that COVID-19 may be associated with changes to the heart, lungs, or other organs even in asymptomatic patients.

After Decades of Public Service, Dr. Fauci Gives His Final White House Briefing. (Mother Jones, November 22, 2022)
After nearly forty years as the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday made what is likely his final appearance in the White House briefing room before he steps down from his positions as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical officer to President Joe Biden.
His departing message to the public: Get vaccinated before the holidays. “My final message, maybe the final message I give you from this podium, is, please, for your own safety and the safety of your own family, please get your updated COVID-19 shot as soon as you’re eligible,” Fauci told reporters. The remarks come as families around the country prepare to gather for the holidays amid rising cases of various respiratory illnesses, including Covid. Last month saw a record number of hospitalizations for the flu. As my colleague Kiera Butler recently reported, hospitalizations for RSV in children have also skyrocketed.

MIT Finds Indoor Humidity “Sweet Spot” To Reduce Spread of COVID-19. (SciTechDaily, November 26, 2022)
We know proper indoor ventilation is key to reducing the spread of COVID-19. Now, a study by MIT researchers links very dry and very humid indoor environments with worse COVID-19 outcomes. Their study suggests a strong connection between regional outbreaks and indoor relative humidity. The MIT team reports that maintaining an indoor relative humidity between 40 and 60 percent is associated with relatively lower rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths, while indoor conditions outside this range are associated with worse COVID-19 outcomes. To put this into perspective, most people are comfortable between 30 and 50 percent relative humidity, and an airplane cabin is at around 20 percent relative humidity.
[I shared this easy and apparently significant protection from COVID with our Town Health Dept., Senior Center and Library - and you may want to share it, too.]

The Era of One-Shot, Multimillion-Dollar Genetic Cures Is Here. (Wired, December 5, 2022)
Gene therapies promise long-term relief from intractable diseases—if insurers agree to pony up.

Covid Will Become Endemic. The World Must Decide What That Means. (Wired, December 5, 2022)
The task of 2022 will be figuring out how much action we’re willing to take and how much disease and death we’ll tolerate.

NEW: Everyone Is Sick Right Now. (Wired, December 7, 2022)
For the past two years, social distancing kept seasonal viruses at bay. Now they’re roaring back.

Robin Schoenthaler, MD: How To Protect Yourself From December’s Perfect Viral Storm - And Protecting Yourself From Paxlovid Myths As Well. (Medium, December 5, 2022)
We are again seeing a “Thanksgiving-as-super-spreader” small surge (I’ve heard of entire families testing positive by Sunday afternoon!), but nothing like last year.
There are a few changes: one is the Covid daily death rate, now “down” to ~250 compared to ~2500 at our worst. Another important change in the death statistics: the vast majority of deaths now are in the “elderly elderly,” sometimes defined as over 85 (my personal definition is “much older than me”).
A huge change this month is that the newer Omicron variants changed just enough that they “out-grew” some of our best drugs so now most old monoclonal antibodies no longer work against Covid. Included in this sad list is the excellent antibody bebtelovimab and the preventative drug Evusheld which has ceased to give the immuno-compromised against the new variants — a gigantic loss. The only thing left for Covid treatment is Paxlovid, remdesivir (three IVs), or the less effective Molnupiravir.
Number one myth: “I don’t need Paxlovid because I’m not that sick.”
Myth-buster: The reason to get Paxlovid is NOT how sick you are with Covid but rather whether you are at high risk to DEVELOP severe Covid. Your EARLY symptoms don’t matter. What matters is your RISK to develop severe disease. Those risks are: AGE AGE AGE (over 65 if vaccinated; over 50 if unvaccinated) or any significant heart, lung, kidney disease, current cancer, depression etc maladies listed by the CDC here. If you are 65 or at risk, you and your doctor should really consider Paxlovid.
Number two myth: “I take medications that can’t be taken with Paxlovid.”
Myth-buster: The reality is that you’re on Paxlovid for five little days. Many medications can be stopped for those few days, like some statins, sleeping pills, etc. Obviously you DO NOT stop the heart medicine that keeps your heartbeat normal (please!), but there’s other times your health won’t be harmed by briefly pausing a med. Talk to your doc!
Number three myth: “I’ll wait a few days and see how I feel.”
Myth-buster: Paxlovid needs to be taken within five days of your positive test. This makes sense — it’s an anti-viral. The viruses multiply like crazy the first week so that’s exactly when you want Paxlovid in your body so it can kill tons of viruses before they turn into gazillions of viruses. It’s useless after the first week: you NEED to take it early.
Number four myth: Paxlovid only helps the unvaccinated.
Myth-buster. The data is now clear Paxlovid keeps BOTH vaccinated and unvaccinated people out of the hospital, off ventilators, and not dead. Paxlovid may also be shortening the disease, the symptoms and the chance of getting Long Covid, although this evidence is preliminary.
Number five myth: There’s other meds I can take instead.
Myth-buster: Unfortunately, no. The evidence AGAINST other treatments that first week is strong. You definitely do NOT want to take steroids (can cause more deaths), or antibiotics (no help, can harm), and no supplements have been definitively shown to help, not even my beloved Vitamin C and D.
Number six myth: “Everybody who takes Paxlovid rebounds.”
Myth-buster: It’s more like everybody who gets rebound gets a headline. In fact, the percentage of people who “rebound” after Paxlovid seems similar to people who “rebound” without taking Paxlovid, and it’s lower than originally thought in both groups.
We’ve all known somebody who said, “I just can’t shake this cold I got last month” or “I started to get better and then I felt lousy again”; this seems to be a similar process.
People at risk to get super sick should strongly consider Paxlovid. If your doctor/NP/PA says no, it’s very reasonable to ask why they think you in particular don’t need it. And you can always double check the treatment guidelines as formalized by the specialty societies. And best of all, plan ahead. Talk to your doctor now about what to do if you get sick.
Protecting yourself this winter: This winter is shaping up to be a particularly nasty one for respiratory viruses. On top of a not-going-away Covid, we already have record-breaking rates of flu, the off-the-charts rates of RSV, and there’s a ton of what I call the GLLABC virus: the non-flu, non-RSV, non-Covid, non-strep Generalized-Long-Lasting-And-Brutal Crud.
It’s clear we’re in the middle of a respiratory perfect storm: a boatload of pretty darn contagious bugs and our immune systems unaccustomed to the fight, and now on top of that it’s winter. With masking pretty much a thing of the past — well, I’m afraid the genie is out of the bottle. There’s still five things you can still do to protect yourself in addition to masking — boost for Covid, vaccinate for flu, keep washing your hands, stay home when sick, and test-before-you-go.
But the other thing you can do to protect yourselves and your family and friends is: don’t hang out with people who are sick, and try and create a culture where symptomatic people stay home. I know this is super hard at jobs with lousy sick leave and unbearable work burdens (in which case you should of course mask!), but it is something you can absolutely do in your social life.
This is also a time to think about Covid testing before social gatherings. If you feel even a little under the weather, test before showing up. In fact, testing ANYtime you’re in a group — especially with the elderly, frail, or immunosuppressed — should really be our fallback position these days. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s a help.
And if you’re actually coughing or sneezing or blowing your nose fifty times an hour, you should definitely assume you’re contagious with one of our winter-wrecking-ball viruses even if it’s not actually Covid.
Getting even slightly sick these days is our body’s way of saying, “Stay home, get in bed, watch ‘The Crown,’ and keep Aunt Petunia safe.”
We need to do this, even when it breaks our hearts during this, our Three-Years-of-Constant-Disappointments. Because high on the list of the one gajillion things we’ve learned from Covid it’s that Friends Don’t Share Secretions With Friends.
[This is long. Read it! Believe it! Share it

NEW: Hackers linked to Chinese government stole millions in Covid benefits, Secret Service says. (NBC News, December 5, 2022)
The theft of state unemployment funds is the first pandemic fraud tied to foreign, state-sponsored cybercriminals that the U.S. government has acknowledged publicly.

Researchers Turn Cancer Cells Into Less Harmful Cell Types. (SciTechDaily, December 10, 2022)
Cancer cells are incredibly adaptable, much like stem cells. Researchers from the University of Basel have discovered substances that artificially mature breast cancer cells of the very aggressive triple-negative subtype and transform them into a state that is similar to normal cells.
“Understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that define cancer and how these mechanisms differ from normal cells is crucial for developing new innovative therapies,” says Bentires-Alj. The results open a new avenue for treating triple-negative breast cancer. “The compounds used in this study are already in clinical trials to treat other cancer types, including blood-borne, lung, and pancreatic cancer”, the researcher continues. This underlines the possibility of testing these compounds in clinics and in treating breast cancer.
Especially in the era of immunotherapies, it has been suggested that “normal-like” cells can be cleared by the immune system while “cancerous” cells evade killing by immune cells. In the future, it remains to be determined if differentiation therapy can be combined with immunotherapies. “We are pursuing such strategies, and only time and resources are in our way to make further progress,” the researchers conclude.

3 Ways to Actually Reduce Your Heart Failure Risk, According to Science. (Self, December 19, 2022)
These habits can make a big impact over time—and it’s never too late to start.

The UK Is Enduring an Onslaught of Scarlet Fever. Is the US Next? (Wired, December 19, 2022)
The US is more alert to the risks of strep infections, but the UK has better data. It’s not clear which makes more difference in controlling disease.

NEW: 11 Rapid At-Home Covid-19 Tests—and Where to Find Them (Wired, December 21, 2022)
How accurate are over-the-counter swabs? Does your insurance cover them? We have answers.

A Covid-19 ‘senior wave’ is driving up hospitalizations. (CNN, December 23, 2022)
Rise in Covid-19 hospitalizations among seniors is creating the largest age gap yet.
[Get current booster shots. Wash your hands. Wear a face mask.]

Molecular Changes Linked to Long COVID a Year After Hospitalization. (SciTechDaily; by The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, December 23, 2022)
Mount Sinai researchers have published one of the first studies to associate changes in blood gene expression during COVID-19 with “long COVID” in patients more than a year after they were hospitalized with severe COVID-19. Long COVID is the common name used for what is known more technically as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The findings highlight the need for greater attention at the infection stage to better understand how the processes that begin then eventually lead to long COVID, which could help improve both prevention strategies and treatment options for COVID-19 survivors experiencing persistent symptoms after infection.

A More Elegant Form of Gene Editing Progresses to Human Testing. (Wired, December 23, 2022)
Instead of cutting out chunks of the genome to disable malfunctioning genes, base editing makes a smaller, more precise swap. Early results for treating leukemia and other cancers, and for treating people at risk of repeated heart attacks.

XBB Subvariant Now Accounts for Half of All COVID Cases in New England. (23-min. video; NBC/Boston, December 27, 2022)
The XBB variant, which accounted for only 11% of COVID cases in the region two weeks ago, now makes up 52.6%.

Why Do You Get Sick in the Winter? Blame Your Nose. (Wired, January 2, 2023)
A new study shows that as temperatures drop, nasal cells release fewer of the tiny protectors that bind and neutralize invading germs.
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the team notes that there’s already a practical real-world way to help your nose defend you in cold weather: Masking. Noses can stay snug and cozy under a mask—as any glasses-wearer whose lenses have fogged from their warm breath can attest. “Wearing masks may have a dual protective role,” says Bleier. “One is certainly preventing physical inhalation of the [viral] particles, but also by maintaining local temperatures at least at a relatively higher level than the outside environment.”
And here’s one more idea to consider: Maybe it’s just time for a vacation somewhere warm.

New Covid strain is the most transmissible yet, WHO says. (Politico, January 4, 2023)
The coronavirus Omicron strain XBB.1.5, which has become the dominant strain in the U.S. in just a matter of weeks, could drive a new wave of cases. The global health body is now trying to figure out how severe the sub-variant is.
The United States is suffering far less from Covid than it did a year ago. Death rates were about seven times higher at this time last year, and hospitalizations were almost three times as high. Both categories have been lower at various points in the pandemic, however, and hospitalizations in New England, where XBB.1.5 is spreading fast, are rising and are at about 40 percent of last year’s levels. The increase in hospitalizations in the Northeast cannot be attributed yet to XBB.1.5 because other respiratory illnesses, including flu, could be partially responsible.
Jha warned that Americans’ immunity against XBB.1.5 “is probably not great” if a prior infection was before July or if they have not received the bivalent shot that became available in September.

A New Study Has Identified Genes Associated With the Most Aggressive Kidney Cancer. (SciTechDaily, January 6, 2023)
Clear cell renal carcinoma (ccRCC) is the most common type of kidney cancer. In the past few decades, the number of new cases has been increasing. Although there is a significant amount of data on this disease, there is still a lack of information on specific human genes that could help predict its clinical course.
Findings from Puzanov’s study reveal which ccRCC subtypes are more dangerous than others and which human genes appear to be responsible for the progression of the disease. This new information is significant for the early detection of aggressive tumors and for designing personalized treatment plans for ccRCC patients.

What You Need to Know About the Kraken Covid Variant. (Wired, January 12, 2023)
XBB.1.5, aka the Kraken, is sweeping the Northeast US and dodging immunity. Any time a new variant snowballs so quickly, it garners attention. Significant variations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus can mean more illness, hospitalizations, and death, which can strain health care systems and increase rates of long Covid. While XBB.1.5 infections are swelling, the WHO says there’s no evidence that this variant’s mutations would result in more severe infections—but it’s still early.
It’s also spreading faster because of how people are behaving: Few are wearing masks compared to 2020, and many have traveled and gathered indoors to celebrate the holiday season. That’s a recipe for lots of people getting sick, fast.

COVID-19 Wastewater Levels Vary In MA, But Headed Down In Places. (Patch, January 13, 2023)
Wastewater COVID-19 levels in the Boston area have begun to trend downward, with concentration levels falling rapidly between Jan. 5 and 10.

For Some Food Professionals, Long-COVID Has Cast a Long Shadow on Their Senses. (Civil Eats, January 19, 2023)
Many workers in the food industry experiencing parosmia—or a long-term distorted sense of smell—find their lives and livelihoods disrupted. And they have trouble accessing help.

Virus Briefing Newsletter will suspend. (New York Times, January 25, 2023)
On Jan. 6, 2020, The New York Times first reported on a mysterious “pneumonia-like illness” that sickened 59 people in Wuhan, China. Symptoms included high fever, trouble breathing and lung lesions, but Chinese health officials said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.
But two days later, they identified it as a new coronavirus, and it WAS spreading, dramatically.
“We thought that we were going to have a big burst of infections, and, like every other outbreak, it was going to peak, turn around, come back down and then, essentially, if not disappear, go to a low enough level that it didn’t bother anybody,” Dr. Fauci said. “And here we are three years later, into our fifth or sixth variant.”
As the virus evolved, so did the newsletter. We explored the pandemic’s effects on health care, education, politics, mental health, minority groups, workplaces, travel, relationships and families. Times reporters from across the world — in China, Brazil, India, Israel, Canada, Britain, Hong Kong and more — gave us on-the-ground reports of outbreaks. We also covered the fault lines that the pandemic revealed and exacerbated.
Now, after three years, we’re pausing this newsletter. The acute phase of the pandemic has faded in much of the world, and many of us have tried to pick up the pieces and move on. We promise to return to your inbox if the pandemic takes a sharp turn. But, for now, this is goodbye.

A Completely New Way To Kill Cancer: Artificial DNA (SciTechDaily, January 30, 2023)
University of Tokyo researchers have made a breakthrough in the fight against cancer with the use of artificial DNA. In laboratory tests, the method effectively targeted and destroyed human cervical and breast cancer cells, as well as malignant melanoma cells from mice.
The team designed a pair of chemically synthesized DNA, shaped like hairpins, specifically to kill cancer cells. When injected into cancer cells, the DNA pairs attached to microRNA (miRNA) molecules that are overproduced in certain cancers. The DNA pairs, upon attaching to the miRNA, unraveled and combined, forming longer chains of DNA that activated an immune response. This response not only eliminated the cancer cells but also prevented the continuation of cancerous growth.
This innovative approach stands apart from traditional cancer drug treatments and is hoped to usher in a new era in drug development.

How to Improve Your Gut Health in 6 Easy Steps (Vogue, January 31, 2023)
They don’t call it the “second brain” for nothing. The gut microbiome, which consists of no less than 100 trillion bacteria, affects everything from skin health and sex drive to energy levels and hormone balance. How, exactly? The gut has its own nervous system called the enteric nervous system (ENS), and while its main purpose is to regulate digestion, it also has a strong connection to the brain, and thus, a major impact on your mental well-being. “If your gut health is out of whack, your microbes send signals that negatively influence your mood,” explains Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian and founder of Nutritious Life.
From understanding the signs of poor digestion to giving your microbiome the good bacteria it craves to stay balanced, experts weigh in on how to take a holistic approach to improving your gut health.

New UN Report: Bracing for Superbugs: Strengthening environmental action in the One Health response to Anti-Microbial Resistance (United Nations Environmental Programme, February 7, 2023)
Antimicrobial resistance or AMR is considered one of the top global public health problems. It also poses an urgent and critical threat to animal and plant health, food security and economic development. To reduce superbugs, the world must reduce pollution.
Antimicrobials – antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics – are medicines widely used
to prevent and treat infections in humans, aquaculture, livestock, and crop production.
What is antimicrobial resistance (AMR)?
AMR occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi become resistant
to antimicrobial treatments to which they were previously susceptible.
Increasing use and misuse of antimicrobials and other microbial stressors (e.g. the presence of
heavy metals and other pollutants) creates favourable conditions for microorganisms to develop
The World Health Organization (WHO) lists AMR among top 10 threats for global health. Limiting the emergence and spread of AMR is critical to preserving the ability to treat diseases, reduce food safety and security risks, and protect the environment.
Why? Without effective antimicrobials, modern medicine would struggle to treat even mild
infections among humans, animals, and plants. In 2019, it is estimated that 1.27 million deaths were directly attributed to drug-resistant infections globally, and 4.95 million deaths worldwide were associated with bacterial AMR (including those directly attributable to AMR).
Estimates suggest that by 2050 up to 10-million additional direct deaths could occur annually. That is on par with the 2020 rate of global deaths from cancer. In the next decade, AMR could result in a GDP shortfall of at least USD 3.4 trillion annually and push 24 million more people into extreme poverty.

A Crucial Group of Covid Drugs Has Stopped Working. (Wired, February 8, 2023)
A key tool in the early pandemic response, monoclonal antibodies are now ineffective against new variants. Immuno-compromised patients are especially at risk.

Lack of diversity in clinical trials is leaving women and patients of color behind and harming the future of medicine. (40-min. podcast; The Conversation, February 9, 2023)
Despite the many biological differences between people of different genders, races, ages and life histories, chances are that if two people walk into a doctor’s office with the same symptoms, they are going to get roughly the same treatment. As you can imagine, a whole range of treatments – from drugs to testing – could be much more effective if they were designed to work with many different kinds of bodies, not just some abstract, generic human.

NEW: A Little-Known Inflammatory Disease Is Hiding in Plain Sight. (February 14, 2023)
Genetic analyses show a newly-discovered condition called Vexas is more common than previously thought—and could explain some patients’ undiagnosed symptoms.

Dramatic Drop in U.S. Heart Attack Deaths Over the Past Two Decades. (SciTechDaily, March 4, 2023)
The U.S. not only saw a significant decline in the overall rate of heart attack-related deaths in the past two decades, but also a reduction in racial disparities for heart attack deaths. The gap in the rate of heart attack deaths between White people and African-American/Black people narrowed by nearly half over the 22-year period, researchers reported.

Brain Tumor Breakthrough: New Cancer Vulnerability Discovered. (SciTechDaily, March 12, 2023)
Scientists have discovered high levels of LDL receptors on blood vessels feeding high-grade glioma brain tumors. These findings open the door for using drugs currently in development to target these receptors and attack the tumors.
Gliomas are the most common primary brain tumors and originate from the glial cells of the brain. They are a heterogenous spectrum, from slow-growing to highly-aggressive infiltrating tumors. Nearly half of all glioma’s are classed as high-grade gliomas (HGG) and, due to their highly aggressive nature, have a dismal prognosis with an average survival of only 4.6 months without treatment and approximately 14 months with today’s optimal multi-modal treatments.

New data links Covid-19's origins to raccoon dogs at Wuhan market. (The Guardian, March 17, 2023)
Analysis of gene sequences by international team finds Covid-positive samples rich in raccoon dog DNA.
The discovery does not prove that raccoon dogs or other animals infected with Covid triggered the pandemic.
[Meanwhile, avoid eating that raccoon-dog sandwich.]

News Posts

AVOID sites that track you or share your personal data:
Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

latest updates, photos, video; The Guardian, March 17, 2023)
Financial Crisis 2023
latest updates, photos, video; The Guardian, March 17, 2023)
Russia-Ukraine War Live (latest updates, photos, video; The Guardian, March 17, 2023)
Turkey-Syria Earthquake 2023 (latest updates, photos, video; The Guardian, March 17, 2023)

Heather Cox Richardson: Since Reagan, the GOP has adopted Russian "Political Technology"; Trump is using it now. (Letters from an American, March 19, 2023)
Rumors that he is about to be indicted in New York in connection with the $130,000 hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels have prompted former president Donald Trump to pepper his alternative social media site with requests for money and to double down on the idea that any attack on him is an attack on the United States.
The picture of America in his posts reflects the extreme version of the virtual reality the Republicans have created since the 1980s. This old Republican narrative created a false image of the nation and of its politics, an image pushed to a generation of Americans by right-wing media, a vision that MAGA Republicans have now absorbed as part of their identity. It reflects a manipulation of politics that Russian political theorists called "political technology." Russian "political technologists" developed a series of techniques to pervert democracy by creating a virtual political reality through modern media. They blackmailed opponents, abused state power to help favored candidates, sponsored “double” candidates with names similar to those of opponents in order to split their voters and thus open the way for their own candidates, created false parties to create opposition, and, finally, created a false narrative around an election or other event that enabled them to control public debate. Essentially, they perverted democracy, turning it from the concept of voters choosing their leaders into the concept of voters rubber-stamping the leaders they had been manipulated into backing. The GOP has been using this Russian strategy and significant Russian help to apply the same dirty tricks in our USA.
[Read the details, and share!]
Manhattan Prosecutor Promises Security After Trump Calls for Protests. (Mother Jones, March 19, 2023)
The former president has said he expects to be arrested. An online watchdog noted that some Trump supporters are beginning to call for violence.
[Much like how he instigated the infamous Jan. 6th MAGA-mob invasion.]
With $1.6-Billion at stake, Fox News is suddenly interested in freedom of the press. (The Guardian, March 18, 2023)
Fox pundits called mainstream journalists ‘left-wing media hacks’ and ‘cringing animals’. Now they’re eager for solidarity.
Ukraine calls for Nuremberg-style tribunal to judge Vladimir Putin. (Politico, March 17, 2023)
Ukraine seeks to fill gap in international law to prosecute Russian leader for invasion.
New data links Covid-19's origins to raccoon dogs at Wuhan market. (The Guardian, March 17, 2023)
Analysis of gene sequences by international team finds Covid-positive samples rich in raccoon dog DNA. The discovery does not prove that raccoon dogs or other animals infected with Covid triggered the pandemic, but scientists presenting the work to an expert group at the World Health Organization on Tuesday believe it makes that more likely.
What started the worst pandemic in a century has become the focus of intense – and often toxic – debate. One theory proposes that the virus emerged in wild animals and spread to humans through contamination at the market. Another suspects it escaped from the nearby Wuhan Institute of Virology, where researchers work on similar pathogens. Concrete evidence is lacking for either theory and may never be found.
Also on Friday, the WHO said the Covid-19 pandemic could settle down this year, posing a risk similar to that of flu.
iPhone or Android slow or buggy? Do this one simple thing every week. (ZDNet, March 17, 2023)
The internet is packed with tips and tricks to enhance your smartphone's performance but the simplest solution often proves to be the most effective.
[Hint: REBOOT!]
Silicon Valley Bank's parent company files for bankruptcy. (The Guardian, March 17, 2023)
SVB Financial Group files for Chapter-11 protection. But failed Silicon Valley Bank, now under FDIC control, is not part of it.
Low-income Americans face a "hunger cliff" as Snap benefits are cut. (The Guardian, March 17, 2023)
The US food assistance program offered expanded benefits during the Covid emergency, but they ended last month.
Oceanfront homes crumble in California as torrential rains lead to landslides. (The Guardian, March 17, 2023)
Intense storms highlight fragility of the state's infrastructure, with 35 of 58 counties now under an emergency declaration.

Cases of yet another tick-borne disease are rising in the Northeast, CDC says. (NBC News, March 16, 2023)
or piroplasmosis, a tick-borne disease that can be fatal in rare cases, is becoming more prevalent in the Northeast, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report released Thursday. The findings show that among the 10 states that reported babesiosis cases from 2011 to 2019, eight saw their numbers rise, while just two - Minnesota and Wisconsin - observed declines. What's more, babesiosis is now considered endemic in three new states: Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Previously, the disease was considered endemic only in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
Babesiosis can be more severe than Lyme disease,
another tick-borne illness that causes fever and muscle aches. Whereas Lyme disease has a defining feature - a rash at the site of the tick bite - there is no obvious babesiosis symptom. It's usually diagnosed by a blood test.
Humans largely acquire babesiosis from deer ticks, whose bites can transmit Babesia parasites that infect red blood cells. Most transmission occurs from late May to early September. Researchers think that as climate change drives longer periods of humidity, it creates more hospitable environments for ticks. The new data shows that the number of babesiosis cases rose 17-fold in Vermont and more than 34-fold in Maine from 2011 to 2019.
Global fresh water demand will outstrip supply by 40% by 2030, say experts. (
The Guardian, March 16, 2023)
Landmark report urges overhaul of wasteful water practices around world on eve of crucial UN summit.

Free data-center heat is allegedly saving a struggling public pool $24K a year. (Ars Technica, March 16, 2023)
Deep Green, like other digital boiler firms, including Qarnot and Heata, address this issue by deploying its data centers where heat is actually desired. Deep Green stands out further by giving the heat away for free, an offer that's harder to pass up.

RIP (again): Google Glass will no longer be sold. (
Ars Technica, March 16, 2023)
This week, Google announced that it has stopped selling Google Glass Enterprise Edition, marking another end-of-life for the Glass product that was originally meant to start an augmented-reality revolution. First launched to a limited audience back in 2013, the Glass headset offered users a head-up display and a built-in camera, allowing them to see a small amount of information and capture images of their environment. While some tech enthusiasts took to it, it was also widely mocked for its geeky appearance, limited functionality, and potential role in violating the privacy of people around the user. The criticism was so fierce that the term "Glasshole" was sometimes used to describe people who wore it.
The initial version, which had mainstream consumer ambitions, was discontinued in 2015. Two years later, Google announced Google Glass Enterprise Edition with a scaled-back ambition of selling the device for narrow uses in industries like medicine and construction. An updated version called Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 was announced in 2019, and that's the one that was discontinued this week.
FCC orders phone companies to block scam text messages. (Ars Technica, March 16, 2023)
First robotext rule requires blocking of texts from invalid and unused numbers.
[A deadlocked FCC finally makes a first move to block phone junk - or worse.]
Heather Cox Richardson: More Chinese and Russian Links to the GOP (Letters from an American, March 16, 2023)
The Justice Department today announced the arrest of Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, also known as Ho Wan Kwok and Miles Guo, charged with defrauding followers of more than $1 billion. The U.S. government seized more than $630 million from multiple bank accounts as well as other assets purchased with illicit money. If convicted, Guo faces up to 20 years in prison. Guo has attracted donors by developing the idea that he is a principled opponent of the Chinese Communist Party, but this persona appears to be a grift. Guo is close to sometime Trump ally Steve Bannon, who was reading a book on Guo’s yacht, Lady May, when federal officers arrested him in 2020 for defrauding donors of $25 million in his “We Build the Wall” fundraising campaign. Rather than constructing a wall, Bannon and three associates funneled that money to themselves. Trump pardoned Bannon for that scheme hours before he left office. In April 2020, Guo and Bannon formed the GTV Media Group, which flooded the news with disinformation before the 2020 election, especially related to Hunter Biden and the novel coronavirus. One of the entities Guo and Bannon created together is the “New Federal State of China,” which sponsored the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.
Russia Disinformation looks to US Far Right to weaken Ukraine support. (The Guardian, March 16, 2023)
The Kremlin is deploying new tactics by drawing on favorite themes and conspiracy theories of right-wing Republicans. "Millions of people in the West understand they are being led to a real spiritual catastrophe," Putin railed last month in a wildly hyperbolic speech that homed in on "the destruction of families" and related themes.
Russia experts warn that Putin's rhetoric and Kremlin messaging on these themes is far removed from the reality in Russia. "One of the glaring mistakes of far-right propagandists is to view Vladimir Putin as some kind of defender of Christendom, of family values and as a protector of the white race," said Ariel Cohen, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center. "They repeat the Kremlin talking points and get excited about the Russian 'gay propaganda' law. Nothing could be further from reality. Today Russia is the leader in Europe of high divorce rates, HIV infections, and low church attendance and practice."
MAGA Mogul Guo Wengui Charged in $1 Billion Fraud Scheme. (Mother Jones, March 15, 2023)
Guo Wengui, a far-right mogul on the run from criminal charges in China, has worked for years with Steve Bannon to promote charitable organizations and for-profit ventures that the men say are collectively aimed at destroying the Chinese Communist Party. By claiming to be an outspoken Chinese dissident, Guo, who also uses the names Miles Guo and Ho Wan Kwok, won a large and ardent following in the international Chinese diaspora. And his fans have showered his enterprises with investments and donations.
But his project was largely a scam, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged on Wednesday. FBI agents arrested Guo early Wednesday morning, and prosecutors charged him with 12 criminal counts, including wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering.
Guo has previously paid Steve Bannon to advise his businesses. Bannon was initially a board member of a GTV, a Chinese-language video streaming company that prosecutors say was part of Guo’s fraud. Bannon does not face charges related to Guo.
Arkansas Governor Signs Law Targeting Doctors Who Provide Gender-Affirming Care. (Them,
March 15, 2023)
Days after becoming a real life Charles Dickens villain by loosening child labor laws in her state, Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has signed a new law expanding malpractice statutes to more easily target doctors that provide gender-affirming care.
EPA Announces Limits On 'Forever Chemicals': See MA Impacts. (Natick Patch, March 15, 2023)
The federal proposal is a "transformational change" for improving the safety of drinking water in the United States. The agency estimates the rule could reduce PFAS exposure for nearly 100 million Americans, decreasing rates of cancer, heart attacks and birth complications.
Dangerous PFAS chemical levels were detected in drinking water in many Massachusetts towns.
[Now it's official - and help is on the way. Our adjacent Wayand and Wellesley are on the list.]
Credit Suisse takes $54-Billion loan from Swiss central bank after share price plunge. (The Guardian, March 15, 2023)
After largest shareholder was unable to provide backing, Europe’s 17th largest lender says it will use government help to become "simpler and more focused".
Federal investigators examined Trump Media for possible money laundering. (The Guardian, March 15, 2023)
Federal prosecutors in New York involved in the criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s social media company last year started examining whether it violated money laundering statutes in connection with the acceptance of $8m with suspected Russian ties. Though the two payments to Trump Media ostensibly came from two separate entities – first Paxum Bank and second ES Family Trust – the trustee of ES Family Trust, a person called Angel Pacheco, appears to have simultaneously been a director of Paxum Bank. The Russian connection centers on a part-owner of Paxum Bank – an individual named Anton Postolnikov, who appears to be a relative of Putin ally Aleksandr Smirnov.
Smirnov, who heads the Russia-controlled maritime company Rosmorport, worked in the Central Office of the Russian government until 2017. Before that, Smirnov was the first deputy minister of justice of Russia until 2014, and for most of Putin’s first two terms as president, Smirnov served in the executive office of the president.
This Is the New Leader of Russia's Infamous Sandworm Hacking Unit. (Wired, March 15, 2023)
Evgenii Serebriakov now runs the most aggressive hacking team of Russia's GRU military intelligence agency. Thanks to a botched 2018 operation, he's already well-known to Western intelligence.
Russia plans to recover wreckage of US drone downed over Black Sea. (
The Guardian, March 15, 2023)
US says any recovery operation in that mile-deep water would be difficult and unlikely to yield useful intelligence.
OpenAI checked to see whether GPT-4 could take over the world. (Ars Technica, March 15, 2023)
While the concern over AI "x-risk" is hardly new, the emergence of powerful large-language models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT and Bing Chat - the latter of which appeared very misaligned but Microsoft launched it anyway - has given the AI alignment community a new sense of urgency. They want to mitigate potential AI harms, fearing that much more powerful AI, possibly with superhuman intelligence, may be just around the corner.
With these fears present in the AI community, OpenAI granted the group Alignment Research Center (ARC) early access to multiple versions of the GPT-4 model to conduct some tests. Specifically, ARC evaluated GPT-4's ability to make high-level plans, set up copies of itself, acquire resources, hide itself on a server, and conduct phishing attacks.
The Origin Of "Beware The Ides Of March" (, March 15, 2023)
[If you change a Republic to an Empire, your buddies will kill you. Trump, are you listening?]
30 Pi Day Jokes and Puns to Help You Celebrate on March 14th (Good Housekeeping, March 14, 2023)

Like π, we could go on forever with this silly math humor.
5 ways GPT-4 outsmarts ChatGPT (TechCrunch, March 14, 2023)
OpenAI's new GPT-4 AI model has made its big debut and is already powering everything from a virtual volunteer for the visually-impaired to an improved language-learning bot in Duolingo. But what sets GPT-4 apart from previous versions like ChatGPT and GPT-3.5?
Neuromarketing and the Battle for Your Brain
(Wired, March 14, 2023)
You experience subtle and overt manipulation on the web every day, but that doesn't mean you can't think and act for yourself. It's critical that we understand what others can and can't do to change our minds, as neurotechnology enables newfound ways to track and hack the human brain.
[It's as old as
politics and religion, and as new as Russia's and China's manipulation of a recent US president and his manipulation of his MAGA followers.]
A biologist on the sorrows of documenting the Great Salt Lake's collapse (5-min. "namesake" Aeon Video, March 14, 2023)
"We're seeing the system crash before our eyes. I don't know any other way to see it."
For Bonnie Baxter, a professor of biology at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, fieldwork means gathering and analysing samples at the Great Salt Lake. Recently, as water levels have plummeted to record lows due to the climate crisis and population growth, it’s also meant sporadic bouts of tears. Confronted with an ecosystem in free fall – and potentially catastrophic consequences for the local human population as well – Baxter has found it increasingly difficult to play the role of dispassionate observer. Baxter's narration combines with beautiful yet poignant cinematography from the local filmmaker Dane Christensen, whose short documentary Namesake captures both the state of the lake, and the sorrows of being a scientist tasked with documenting its collapse.
What if companies could read your mind? Neurotechnology is coming, and your cognitive liberty is at stake. (Boston Globe, March 14, 2023)
Neurotechnology is any technology that can help access, decode, or change what’s happening in the human brain. For example, companies are marketing neurotech devices that can detect if drivers are sleepy, and this could improve safety.
Because neurotech can reveal highly personal information, ranging from our desires to our political beliefs, it might be possible to use it in neuromarketing that invades our privacy and manipulates us. In her new book, Battle for Your Brain: Defending the Right to Think Freely in the Age of Neurotechnology, Nita Farahany argues that we can't afford to wait until neurotechnology further advances before confronting its risks. She is calling for expanding ethics and the law to include a right to "cognitive liberty", which would safeguard our brains and mental processes
Just how bad is your phone for the planet - and what can you do about it? (ZDNet,
March 14, 2023)
Tracing the eco footprint of a single smartphone means following a long and winding path.
[It's bad. But keeping it longer is your most-significant step.]
Pi Is Hiding Everywhere. (Wired,
March 14, 2023)
For Pi Day, let's track down the surprising spots where this mathematical constant turns up, from the quantum world to the everyday one.
How Silicon Valley Bank & Signature Bank Lobbied to Weaken Regulations That Could Have Prevented Collapse (
43-min. video; Democracy Now!, March 14, 2023)
Watch Sirota react to Democratic Sen. Mark Warner still defending his decision to join Republicans in voting to deregulate SVB after the bank's president did a fundraiser for him. Even after the bank collapse, Sen. Warner is going on national TV to protect banking interests. This shows you how much power the banking lobby has in Congress.
Banks, Trains and Political Finger-Pointing (New York Times, March 14, 2023)
The quiet from Republicans on Capitol Hill after two bank implosions has been understandable, given their near unanimity behind the 2018 legislation lifting regulations on all but the largest banks. But the people jostling for the party’s presidential nomination as well as the pundits in conservative media have been anything but silent.
Miscalculation fears rise after Russian fighter jet collides with US drone over Black Sea. (1-min. video; The Guardian, March 14, 2023)
US accuses Russia of ‘unsafe and unprofessional’ intercept of MQ-9 Reaper drone over waters west of Crimea.
American company accused of violating sanctions, doing business with Russian arms industry. (9-min. video; PBS NewsHour, March 14, 2023)
Russia's economy depends on revenues from oil exports and American sanctions have been tuned up to choke its war effort against Ukraine. But there's one area important to the Kremlin's military output that has so far avoided scrutiny. It involves Haas Automation, a high-tech American manufacturer that may be flouting export controls.
Climate & Indigenous Activists Decry Biden’s Approval of Willow Oil Drilling Project in Arctic. (
43-min. video; Democracy Now!, March 13, 2023)
The Biden administration has approved a massive oil and gas development in Alaska known as the Willow project, despite widespread opposition from environmental and conservation groups that argue Willow will amount to a carbon bomb. One environmentalist says Willow would undermine Biden’s larger climate goals: "This project would emit so much carbon, it would actually double the amount that Biden had promised he would reduce."

The administration also announced Sunday it will ban future oil and gas leasing for 3 million acres of federal waters in the Arctic Ocean and will limit drilling in a further 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska’s North Slope.
Ukraine war live updates: Kyiv claims over 1,000 Russians died in Bakhmut in the last week; Wagner mercenaries pivoting recruitment; more. (photos; CNBC, March 13, 2023)
Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen arrives for grand jury testimony, blasts ex-president. (CNBC, March 13, 2023)
Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said the ex-president "needs to be held accountable for his dirty deeds," as Cohen arrived to testify before a grand jury probing Trump.    "My goal is to tell the truth," said Cohen, the key witness in the investigation into the payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels. Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 before the 2016 election to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual tryst with Trump.
Robert Reich: There's a deeper story to Silicon Valley Bank's failure. What can we learn from it? (The Guardian, March 13, 2023)
Financial deregulation led to the crash in 2008 and it could again in 2023. It's time to make banking boring again.
Silicon Valley Bank parent, CEO, CFO are sued by shareholders for fraud. (Reuters, March 13, 2023)
SVB Financial Group (SIVB.O) and two top executives were sued on Monday by shareholders who accused them of concealing how rising interest rates would leave its Silicon Valley Bank unit, which failed last week, "particularly susceptible" to a bank run. The proposed class action against SVB, Chief Executive Greg Becker and Chief Financial Officer Daniel Beck was filed in the federal court in San Jose, California.
It appeared to be the first of many likely lawsuits over the demise of Silicon Valley Bank, which U.S. regulators seized on March 10 following a surge of deposit withdrawals.
Elizabeth Warren knows exactly why Silicon Valley Bank failed—and who should pay. (Fortune, March 13, 2023)
"SVB suffered from a toxic mix of risky management and weak supervision," she wrote, adding that it "apparently failed to hedge against the obvious risk of rising interest rates. This business model was great for SVB’s short-term profits, which shot up by nearly 40% over the last three years‌ - but now we know its cost." Warren added that had stricter regulations for small and regional banks remained in place, regular required stress tests could have better prepared SVB for a bank run. She also repeated her constant criticism of the Federal Reserve's actions under Jerome Powell's guidance, saying a prioritization of loose monetary policies and low interest rates for much of his term let "financial institutions load up on risk."
Warren recommended the government and the banking sector work together to instill faith in the industry by discouraging excessive risk-taking and increasing regulatory oversight, and make clear to financial institutions that the burden of failure and risks sit squarely on their shoulders, and that the government's mandate to step in for banks that are "too big to fail" really is in the past. "These threats never should have been allowed to materialize. We must act to prevent them from occurring again."
"That's how capitalism works," Biden says of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank investors who lost money in failed banks. (9-min. video; CNBC, March 13, 2023)
President Joe Biden addressed the nation to assure Americans that the banking system is safe after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. In his speech, he highlighted the immediate action that his administration has taken:
- He assured Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank customers that their deposits were safe.
- The nation’s top bank regulators on Sunday announced the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Federal Reserve would fully cover deposits at both failed banks.
- Any losses to the Deposit Insurance Fund will be covered by a special assessment levied on federally insured banks, not taxpayers.
- Senior management of the banks will be fired following the FDIC takeover.
[YES! See "Giant Tech Bank Collapses" on March 11, below. It's as if he took half of MY recommendations to heart! A welcome change from "how unregulated capitalism worked in the financial panic of 2008"!]
Wall Street - not taxpayers - will pay for the SVB and Signature deposit relief plans.(CNBC, March 12, 2023)
[Did they listen to me? See my "Modest Proposal" on March 11, below.]
U.S. government steps in and says people with funds deposited at SVB will be able to access their money. (CNBC, March 12, 2023)
Regulators approved plans Sunday to backstop both depositors and financial institutions associated with Silicon Valley Bank. Officials will unwind both SVB and Signature Bank, ensuring that depositors will have full access to their funds on Monday. The Federal Reserve stepped in with a separate facility that will provide loans up to one year for institutions affected by the bank failures. "Today we are taking decisive actions to protect the U.S. economy by strengthening public confidence in our banking system," leading regulators said in a joint statement.
SVB crisis: You can’t understate the danger the American banking system is in, strategist says. (5-min. video; CNBC, March 12, 2023)
Dick Bove of Odeon Capital Group says the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank is a "massive crisis."
Ezra Levin: Monthly Newsletter: The worst thing MAGAs might do that nobody’s talking about. (Indivisible, March 12, 2023)
What a week! We started with a pathetic showing of right-wing wackjobs at CPAC, then I joined Rachel Maddow on Monday for a chat, and we launched the new Unrepresentatives campaign focusing on the 18 MAGA enablers in the House.
Trump Said He Might Have Let Russia "Take Over" Parts of Ukraine. Fox News Edited It Out. (Mother Jones, March 12, 2023)
That’s what Russia secretly asked for in 2016.
Brain Tumor Breakthrough: New Cancer Vulnerability Discovered. (SciTechDaily, March 12, 2023)
Scientists have discovered high levels of LDL receptors on blood vessels feeding high-grade glioma brain tumors. These findings open the door for using drugs currently in development to target these receptors and attack the tumors.
Gliomas are the most common primary brain tumors and originate from the glial cells of the brain. They are a heterogenous spectrum, from slow-growing to highly-aggressive infiltrating tumors. Nearly half of all glioma’s are classed as high-grade gliomas (HGG) and, due to their highly aggressive nature, have a dismal prognosis with an average survival of only 4.6 months without treatment and approximately 14 months with today’s optimal multi-modal treatments.
Cory Doctorow: Spirit warned investors that merging with jetBlue would be illegal. (Pluralistic, March 12, 2023)
jetBlue is trying to buy Spirit Airlines. It's a terrible idea. Consolidation in the US aviation industry has resulted in higher fares, less reliable planes, spiraling junk-fees, and brutal conditions for flight- and ground-crews. The four remaining US major airlines, who gobbled their rivals, are three times more profitable than their European counterparts:
Giant Tech Bank Collapses After Scoring Weaker Risk Regs. (The Lever, March 11, 2023)
Yesterday, California regulators shut down the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), a top lender to venture capital firms and tech startups, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation took it over, following a bank run by its customers. The bank reportedly did not have a chief risk officer in the months leading up to the collapse, while more than 90 percent of its deposits were not insured. SVB President Greg Becker reportedly sold $3.6-million of his own stock two weeks ago, in the lead-up to the bank’s collapse.
In 2015, Becker appeared before a Senate panel to push legislators to exempt more banks - including his own - from new regulations passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Despite warnings, in 2018 Becker’s $half-million lobbying effort succeeded. The bill was supported in the Senate by 50 Republicans and 17 Democrats. President Donald Trump signed the bill despite a report from Democrats on Congress’ Joint Economic Committee warning that under the new law, SVB and other banks of its size "would no longer be subject to nearly any enhanced regulations." In 2019, Becker was elected to serve on the board of directors at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Becker left the board on Friday.
["Hey, politicians don't come cheap! This way, we keep OUR big cuts while OTHERS pick up the tab. We won't even pay our share of THAT, thanks to the GOP's huge tax break for the wealthy!"
Modest Proposal: Make those politicians and the bank officers pick up the tab.]
Meet Ubuntu Flatpak Remix, Ubuntu with Flatpak Support Preinstalled. (9to5 Linux, March 11, 2023)
That was fast! After Canonical’s announcement that future Ubuntu releases won’t include Flatpak support by default, someone already made Ubuntu Flatpak Remix, an unofficial Ubuntu flavor that doesn’t feature support for Snap apps and comes with support for Flatpak apps working out of the box.
[See February 22 article, below. We also are watching BlendOS, Debian and Vanilla OS.]
Here’s how the second-biggest bank collapse in U.S. history, Silicon Valley Bank, happened in just 48 hours. (CNBC, March 10, 2023)
SVB’s downward spiral began late Wednesday, when it surprised investors with news that it needed to raise $2.25-Billion to shore up its balance sheet. "This was a hysteria-induced bank run caused by VCs," said Ryan Falvey, a fintech investor of Restive Ventures. All told, customers withdrew a staggering $42-Billion of deposits by the end of Thursday, according to a California regulatory filing.
Now, those who remained with SVB face an uncertain timeline for retrieving their money.
The time has come: GitHub expands Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) requirement rollout on March 13. (Ars Technica, March 10, 2023)
Certain types of users enroll first, but it will be all users by year's end.
China’s ChatGPT Black Market Is Thriving. (Wired, March 7, 2023)
A booming illicit market for OpenAI’s chatbot shows the huge potential, and risks, for Chinese generative AI.
How Denmark’s Welfare State Became a Surveillance Nightmare (Wired, March 7, 2023)
Once praised for its generous social safety net, the country now collects troves of data on welfare claimants.
The Fraud-Detection Business Has a Dirty Secret. (Wired, March 7, 2023)
When systems designed to catch welfare cheats go wrong, people find themselves trapped between secretive governments and even more opaque private companies.
The Era of Faked CCTV Has Truly Arrived. (Wired, March 7, 2023)
Bad actors are manipulating scenes to cover their tracks, fueling “malinformation” that is tough to contain.
The Company Offering Free Healthcare to East Palestine? It’s a Right-Wing, Anti-Vax Project. (Mother Jones, March 7, 2023)
The Wellness Company’s top brass are leaders in the “medical freedom” movement.
Steve Bannon, an Exiled Mogul, and the Ukraine Rescue Effort That (Mostly) Wasn’t (Mother Jones, March 7, 2023)
How a far-right group raised money and sowed confusion in the middle of a massive refugee crisis.
In Colorado, "Net-Zero" Housing That’s Actually Affordable.
(Mother Jones, March 7, 2023)
A nonprofit is building units whose monthly energy bill is expected to average $14.
Biden Proposes Raising Taxes on People Making Over $400,000 a Year to Fund Medicare. (
Mother Jones, March 7, 2023)
The plan is a direct challenge to Republicans.
CRISPR Is A Potential Savior For Climate-Change-Threatened Rice Crops. (SciTechDaily, March 7, 2023)
CRISPR (Clustered Regularly-Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is a revolutionary gene-editing tool that allows scientists to make precise changes to the DNA of an organism with remarkable ease and accuracy. By using an enzyme called Cas9 guided by a small RNA molecule, CRISPR enables the targeting and modification of specific genes, opening up new possibilities for research and applications in fields such as medicine, agriculture, and biotechnology.
According to a review of gene-editing techniques, the CRISPR/Cas method has the potential to be a savior for rice crops facing challenges from climate change and high food demand.
NEW: Joe Luca: Charles Bukowski Wrote Poetry Like a Real Son of a Bitch, and We Should Thank Him for It. (Medium, March 6, 2023)
Poetry isn’t always happy. Reality is both good and bad.
"Bukowski wrote angry. He wrote drunk. He wrote minutes after getting laid or having listened restlessly all night to his neighbor trying to. Then he got up and wrote about what he knew. About the homeless. The dissolute. Whatever heartache was ripping through his life at that moment."
[Whee! Excellent - but don't read it unless your day is sunny.]
Prigozhin: Bakhmut Frontline "Will Crumble" Without Wagner Fighters. (1-min. video; Newsweek, March 5, 2023)
Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin can be seen discussing the role of his mercenary fighters in hot spots of fighting in eastern Ukraine. The paramilitary recruits have been fighting alongside Russia's conventional military forces to try and capture the embattled Donetsk city of Bakhmut, which has experienced heavy fighting and bombardment for months. If the Wagner fighters are taken out of the equation, "it is clear the front line will crumble," Prigozhin said in the video. Ukrainian forces may then advance to Russia's borders or "maybe even further," he added.
"I am your retribution": Trump rules supreme at CPAC as he relaunches bid for White House. (The Guardian, March 4, 2023)
Former president claims Biden is leading America into "oblivion" and that he could end the war between Russia and Ukraine.
The High-Stakes Blame Game in the White House Cybersecurity Plan (Wired,
March 4, 2023)
The long-awaited document proposes stronger cybersecurity protections and regulations for critical infrastructure, an expanded program to disrupt cybercriminal activity, and a focus on global cooperation. Many of these priorities are widely accepted and build on national strategies put out by past US administrations. But the Biden strategy expands significantly on the question of liability; it
would shift the liability for security failures to a controversial target: the companies that caused them.
Facebook and Google are handing over user data to help police prosecute abortion seekers. (Business Insider, March 4, 2023)
Humanity’s Quest To Discover the Origins of Life in the Universe (SciTechDaily, March 4, 2023)
"We are living in an extraordinary moment in history," says Didier Queloz, who directs ETH Zurich’s Centre for Origin and Prevalence of Life and the Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe at Cambridge. While still a doctoral student, Queloz was the first to discover an exoplanet — a planet orbiting a solar-type star outside of Earth’s solar system. A discovery for which he would later receive a Nobel Prize in physics.
Within a generation, scientists have now discovered more than 5,000 exoplanets and predict the potential existence of trillions more in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Each discovery inspires more questions than answers about how and why life emerged on Earth and whether it exists elsewhere in the universe.
Dramatic Drop in U.S. Heart Attack Deaths Over the Past Two Decades. (SciTechDaily, March 4, 2023)
The U.S. not only saw a significant decline in the overall rate of heart attack-related deaths in the past two decades, but also a reduction in racial disparities for heart attack deaths. The gap in the rate of heart attack deaths between White people and African-American/Black people narrowed by nearly half over the 22-year period, researchers reported.
Californians await key decisions from Reparations Task Force. (Associated Press, March 4, 2023
Nearly two years into the California Reparations Task Force’s work, the group still has yet to make key decisions that will be at the heart of its final report recommending how the state should apologize and compensate Black residents for the harms caused by slavery and discrimination. Some say the task force’s ground-breaking interim 500-page report, released last year, should be made available in libraries and schools.
Crowd erupts in laughter at Russia's top diplomat after he claimed the Ukraine war "was launched against us". (1-min. WaPo video; MSN, March 4, 2023)
[We recommend avoiding Twitter, so view the Washington Post video clip instead]
What we know about Russia's claim of a cross-border attack (PBS, March 3, 2023)
Russia has declared that saboteurs from Ukraine crossed into its territory and attacked border villages, a raid that fueled fears of an escalation in the war as it has dragged into a second year. Russian President Vladimir Putin canceled a scheduled trip to an event in southern Russia because of what he described as a "terrorist attack" deliberately targeting civilians. A day after Thursday's purported attack, details of what happened remain scarce and conflicting theories about possible perpetrators and their goals are still swirling.
Ukrainian officials have denied involvement and a presidential aide described it as a false-flag attack used by the Kremlin to justify the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak described the Russian claims as "a classic deliberate provocation," saying that Russia "wants to scare its people to justify the attack on another country and the growing poverty after the year of war."
But Podolyak also alleged that the attack could be the work of Russian guerrillas who had rebelled against the Kremlin. The Russian Volunteer Corps, an obscure group of Russian nationalists who described themselves as part of the Ukrainian military, claimed responsibility for the attack - but their status and goals remain unclear.
The Key to Victory Against Russian and Chinese Autocracy Is Aluminum. (1-min. video; Newsweek, March 3, 2023)
To stay ahead of our adversaries, the U.S. and its allies must disentangle themselves from Russia and China when it comes to strategic resources like rare earth elements and primary aluminum, and find a way to succeed independent of the whims of two autocratic nations.
[Its Comments thread also has interesting views.]
Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause leader and CT reformer, dies. (CTMirror, March 3, 2023)
Karen Hobert Flynn was president of Common Cause and an architect of Connecticut’s groundbreaking campaign finance reforms.
Global race to boost electric vehicle range in cold weather (3-min. video; Associated Press, March 3, 2023)
Many electric vehicle batteries lose power when it's very cold. Thousands are confronting the issue if they own an electric car and have to make a longer trip when temperatures dip.
The Biden administration has a new cybersecurity strategy. Now comes the hard part. (Washington Post, March 3, 2023)
The Biden strategy differs from past strategies in many regards, especially in its advocacy for regulation to its endorsement of legislation making software makers liable for insecure products.
The first big push for cyber regulation came in Congress with Obama-backed legislation introduced in 2011 (and repeatedly amended) that aimed to create security standards for critical infrastructure. But the Senate narrowly voted it down in 2012 amid industry and GOP opposition.
"We haven’t really heard that so clearly from an administration since 2011, when it was tried and failed," Spaulding said. "We’ve got a dysfunctional Congress and the bipartisan success that we’ve enjoyed over the last several years and getting important cybersecurity legislation through may be slowing."
Here's why Biden's new cyber strategy is notable. (Washington Post, March 2, 2023)
The long-awaited Biden administration national cybersecurity strategy is finally here. The strategy calls for security regulations, moves to hold software manufacturers liable for insecurity and signals that the administration will stay on offense against malicious hackers.
(You can read the strategy here.)
FTC reaches deal with online-therapy company BetterHelp over data misuse claims. (Politico, March 2, 2023)
BetterHelp requires anyone interested in its services to fill out a lengthy questionnaire about their health, like whether or not they’ve previously been in counseling before, as well as personally identifiable information. The FTC asserts that although the company promises not to share this data, it sent personal health information to Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Criteo, and Pinterest for marketing purposes. "This industry-standard practice is routinely used by some of the largest health providers, health systems, and healthcare brands," BetterHelp said in a prepared statement.
The $7.8-million action against Teladoc-owned BetterHelp is just the latest the agency has taken to protect online health data. The case follows a similar settlement with online pharmacy GoodRx. That settlement prohibits GoodRx from sharing consumer data with third parties for advertising purposes and requires it to get explicit consent from consumers for any other kind of data sharing. It must also pull back previously shared data from companies like Google and Facebook, and pay a $1.5-million fine. In addition to unfair and deceptive practices, GoodRx was accused of violating the 2009 Health Breach Notification Rule, a rule that protects health data not governed by the Department of Health and Human Services or HIPAA, which sets privacy rules for medical providers. Sharing personal consumer data, including health information, in order to retarget ads to people who once showed interest in a product is a widespread practice.
NEW: Moscow loses at least 130 tanks in Vuhledar, report says; Putin preparing to meet China’s Xi in Moscow. (The Guardian, March 1, 2023)
Ukraine officials say ‘epic’ fight on plain near Vuhledar produced the biggest tank battle of the war. This live blog is now closed.
3 unexplainable mysteries of life on Earth (Vox, March 1, 2023)
Earth, for all we know, is the only planet with life on it. But how did it start?
NEW: Mississippi Bans Gender-Affirming Care for Trans Minors. (
Them, February 28, 2023)
It is now the sixth state to outlaw such health care for trans youth.
Sonia Sotomayor Just Nailed the Problem With the Student Debt Cancellation Challenge. (Mother Jones, February 28, 2023)
It starts with generational wealth.
Michael Moore: Dear President Carter (, February 27, 2023)
The news last weekend that you’ve decided to enter hospice - an "end of life" hospice as the news reports called it - was devastating. I broke down and cried. People will say that at 98 years old you’ve been blessed to live such a long life. And of course, that is true. But I’m not crying over you. I’m crying for us. We need 10,000 more of you, not one less as you leave us.
Rupert Murdoch Admits Under Oath That Fox News Hosts Were Lying About the Stolen Election. (The New Republic, February 27, 2023)
Court documents released Monday revealed that not only did Murdoch know his network was spreading falsehoods, but he also continued to allow the hosts and guest speakers to appear on screen. Murdoch acknowledged that multiple popular Fox News hosts such as Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, and Jeanine Pirro were "endorsing" the conspiracy that the election had been stolen. He also said he knew regular guests such as Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell were spreading the election lies, but he continued to allow them on air.
His reason, as he explained in Lindell’s case, was that "It is not red or blue, it is green." - what is democracy compared to dollars, apparently.
Are we really doing no harm by rejecting the End of Life Options Act? (Metrowest Daily News, February 26, 2023)
A month ago, state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, reintroduced the Massachusetts End of Life Options Act (SD.265). Despite controversy surrounding the bill, in 2022 a Suffolk University poll reported “a record 77% support level among Massachusetts residents for medical aid-in-dying legislation, including majorities across the state regional, political and racial spectrum."
Several states have passed similar legislation, and the benefits have been robust. Medically assisted death is associated with less traumatic grief symptoms compared to natural deaths. Loved ones described feeling at peace knowing the decision was voluntary. Furthermore, there have been no convictions regarding coercion or misuse. Overall, the medication was found to be 99.4% effective, and all reports state a peaceful passing.
Adam Schiff (Dem., CA): Protecting Our Democracy (Adam Schiff for US Senate, February 25, 2023)
- We must protect and expand voting rights for all.
- It’s time to pass my landmark legislation: the Protecting our Democracy Act.
- We can never let another authoritarian like Trump sit in the oval office again.
Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election preserved our democracy. But without strong legislative reform and vigorous grassroots action, that lifeline may only be temporary.
Donald Trump’s time in the White House took a devastating toll on our democracy. On the rule of law. And on the truth. All because of one man, who abused the powers of the presidency and invited chaos, and all those who enabled him.
The greatest threat to our democracy does not come from without, but from within. The threat comes from those who would put party over country, and loyalty to one man above the law and Constitution. The GOP is now waging a state-by-state crusade against voting rights. With hundreds of bills in state legislatures across the country designed to disenfranchise people of color and strip independent elections officials of their powers and give them over to partisan boards and legislatures. It is insurrection, by other means.
Robert Reich: What’s Kevin McCarthy’s deal with Tucker Carlson? (and more) (Substack, February 25, 2023)
- Kevin McCarthy’s decision to give Fox News’s Tucker Carlson exclusive access to 40 hours of surveillance video from January 6, 2021. Is this a way for House Republicans to plant a “false flag” narrative about what happened on that fateful day?
- Two dangerous illustrations of corporations off the rails — the Norfolk Southern Railway derailment, courtesy of the Trump administration’s decision to trash proposed safety rules, and a Nebraska meatpacker that’s been hiring 13-year-olds to do hazardous work. So why do Republicans continue to demand “deregulation”?
- Yesterday’s one-year anniversary of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and Biden’s historic (and dangerous) visit to Kyiv last Monday. Why did Biden do it? What’s his game plan from here onward?
- Special Prosecutor Jack Smith subpoenas Ivanka and Jared to testify. Does this mean the Justice Department’s grand jury is on a fast track to prosecuting Trump?
- Britain’s experiment with a four-day workweek. A good idea?
Richard Engel: Ukraine’s Secret Resistance (NBC News, February 25, 2023)
One year after Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine, Richard Engel is on the ground, speaking with ordinary civilians who bravely joined an underground resistance to help liberate the city of Kherson from Russian occupation.
Who Should You Believe When Chatbots Go Wild? (6-min. 1987 Apple video; Wired, February 24, 2023)
Microsoft and others ask us to ignore their glitchy bots’ pleas for personhood. But we need better explanations—and guardrails.
Why NPR's Layoffs Are a Public-Policy Problem (Free Press, February 24, 2023)
More than 50 years on, it’s easy to wonder what went wrong with the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, the legislation that created public media as we’ve come to know it in the United States. Despite the popular understanding that a healthy democracy requires a free press, the U.S. Congress remains reluctant to offer public subsidies for any journalism that doesn’t operate under the dictates of the commercial marketplace.
Nowhere is this more evident than in news from earlier this week that NPR plans to cut 10 percent of its staff to make up a budget shortfall of $30 million. The reason NPR’s chief executive gives for the layoffs is not the routine failure of Congress to fund public journalism at the level it needs, but a “sharp decline in our revenues from corporate sponsors.” Say what?
9 People Hold the Internet’s Fate in Their Hands. (Wired, February 24, 2023)
The Supreme Court should continue to safeguard online speech—in the Section 230 case and beyond.
Amazon Has a Donkey Meat Problem. (Wired, February 24, 2023)
The online retailer sells products meant for human consumption that contain donkey meat. A new lawsuit claims that’s illegal in California.
Western unity could have consequences beyond Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (New York Times, February 24, 2023)
Vladimir Putin was counting on this winter — with its potential for cold weather and high energy prices — to fracture the West’s alliance over Ukraine. He hoped that Americans and Europeans would ask: Is refusing Russian oil and gas really worth it?
But the Western alliance has held up far better than Putin and many analysts expected, even as the rest of the world has largely taken a more neutral approach to the invasion. Today, on the first anniversary of the war, the unity of Ukraine’s allies is a crucial reason that Russia continues to struggle. In just the past couple of weeks, the Russian military surprised analysts again by failing to capture the city of Vuhledar despite an aggressive offensive.
This newsletter will explain how the West has hung together.
How Ukraine’s Trains Kept Running Despite Bombs, Blackouts, and Biden. (Wired, February 24, 2023)
Since Russia’s full-scale assault began, Ukraine’s railways evacuated 4 million people and brought 300 foreign delegations to Kyiv.
Ukraine’s War Brings Autonomous Weapons to the Front Lines. (Wired, February 24, 2023)
Drones that can find their own targets already exist, making machine-versus-machine conflict just a software update away.
Ukraine uses strikes on occupied Mariupol to suggest it now has longer-range weapons. (New York Times, February 23, 2023)
The deliberate vagueness was in keeping with Ukraine’s interest in keeping Moscow guessing about what weapons Kyiv has available and making Russian forces feel unsafe everywhere in the territory they occupy. For two consecutive nights, explosions have rocked Mariupol, including blasts near the airport and around a steel plant. Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the city’s exiled mayor, said on Thursday that Ukrainian forces directed three “surgically precise” hits on concentrations of Russian forces.
NEW: Data Privacy Labels for Most Top Apps in Google Play Store are False or Misleading. (Mozilla Foundation, February 23, 2023)
*Privacy Not Included researchers find discrepancies between Google Play Store’s Data Safety labels and privacy policies of nearly 80% of the reviewed apps.
Microscopic View of a Ballpoint Pen and Other Items (2-min. video; Laughing Squid, February 23, 2023)
[We love the popcorn detail. Pop art!]
Linux is Just a Kernel: What Does it Mean? (It's FOSS, February 23, 2023)
This is a common question from Linux users. It's also a common question asked in exams and interviews. Here's all you need to know about it.
NEW: Ubuntu Flavors Agree to Stop Using Flatpak. (OMG! Ubuntu!, February
22, 2023)
As far as Ubuntu is concerned, only deb and snap software is intrinsic to the ‘Ubuntu experience’, and that experience now needs to be offered everywhere. Flavor leads (apparently) agree, and have all agreed to mirror regular Ubuntu by not offering Flatpak features in their default install for future releases.
Do keep in mind that “not installed by default” is not the same as “not available to install at all”. To this end, Flatpak continues to be available in the Ubuntu repos, and users of Ubuntu flavors are free to install Flatpak (and any related packages) on their system, manually, as is their wont, anytime they like. Additionally, Flatpak will not be uninstalled or removed when user makes the upgrade to Ubuntu 23.04 from a version where Flatpak is already present.
[The amazingly polarized Comments thread also includes some valuable insights.]
Thousands dead, millions displaced: the earthquake fallout in Turkey and Syria (The Guardian, February 22, 2023)
Death toll of 47,000 expected to rise and WHO says 26-million people need assistance across both countries.
Webb telescope makes a surprising galactic discovery in the distant universe. (CNN, February 22, 2023)
Astronomers have used the James Webb Space Telescope to peer back in time to the early days of the universe — and they spotted something unexpected. The space observatory revealed six massive galaxies that existed between 500-million and 700-million years after the Big Bang that created the universe. The discovery is completely upending existing theories about the origins of galaxies
Will SCOTUS Overturn This 1996 Law Governing the Internet? (Mother Jones, February 22, 2023)
"I don’t know if I’ve ever seen lawyers do so much damage to their own cases."
Ukraine wants ban on game allegedly funded by Russians and set in glorified USSR. (Ars Technica, February 22, 2023)
A deeper look into the ties between a Soviet-era fantasy and very modern Russia.
[Is Atomic Heart a computer game? A mind game? Yes.
But whose side does it serve, and how? Do its sales benefit Russia's now year-old war on Ukraine? This fascinating article digs deep.]
"It’s a disgrace not to go to war": muted Russian protest against Ukraine conflict. (The Guardian, February 22, 2023)
Families of dead Russian soldiers appear even more supportive of military operation.
Russia, One Year After the Invasion of Ukraine (New Yorker, February 21, 2023)
Last winter, my friends in Moscow doubted that Putin would start a war. But now, as one told me, "the country has undergone a moral catastrophe."
The ChatGPT Reincarnation of the Marquis de Sade Is Coming. (Wired, February 21, 2023)
“Loab” was just the beginning. Artificial intelligence will soon dredge up all kinds of secret fascinations and fears.
Heat Pumps Sell Like Hotcakes on America’s Oil-Rich Frontier. (Wired, February 20, 2023)
In Alaska, people are flocking to buy electric appliances instead of fuel-guzzling furnaces, as oil prices soar and temperatures plummet.
Workers Are Dying in the EV Industry’s "Tainted" City. (Wired, February 20, 2023)
In Indonesia, sickness and pollution plague a sprawling factory complex that supplies the world with crucial battery materials. "The face of this place has been utterly transformed. It’s become unrecognizable. It’s like a city was dropped in the middle of paradise."
"Labor exploitation, economic injustices, and environmental degradation are undermining the socio-ecological transformation promised by electric vehicles."
What Does It Mean to Be “Indigenous”? (New Yorker, February 20, 2023)
The term was shaped by social-evolutionist thinking; white settlers used it to designate the “primitive” other. Many groups who identify as Indigenous don’t claim to be first peoples; many who did come first don’t claim to be Indigenous. Can the concept escape its colonial past?
Conspiracy Theorists Are Coming for the 15-Minute City. (Wired, February 20, 2023)
A movement to promote neighborhoods with amenities within walking distance has enraged far-right activists, climate deniers, and extremists.
Trumpworld Launches Bonkers New Attack on DeSantis. (Daily Beast, February 19, 2023)
And somehow George Soros is at the center of it.
Tiny College Hijacked by Woke-Obsessed DeSantis Saddles Up to Fight Back. (Daily Beast, February 19, 2023)
New College has become a pawn in DeSantis’ war on education in the Sunshine State. But alumni tell The Daily Beast: “The political pawns are going to fight back.”
NEW: When Pigs Fly (This Is True, February 19, 2023)
An 11-year-old girl drew a "piggie" with a bow tie - but a classmate thought it featured "boy parts" and it went downhill from there.
‘Loving’ Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Shot Dead. (Daily Beast, February 18, 2023)
David O’Connell, whose death is being investigated as “suspicious,” was named as a bishop by Pope Francis in 2015.
Heaven into hell: how a luxury block in Turkey became a mass grave. (The Guardian, February 17, 2023)
The Renaissance flats in Antakya advertised themselves as safe – instead they now encapsulate much of what went wrong.
New Zealand Faces a Future of Flood and Fire. (Wired, February 17, 2023)
The country’s climate woes are just beginning and will likely include rising heat and drought, as well as stronger cyclones. Two-thirds of New Zealanders live in areas prone to flooding and rising sea levels. The biggest threat will be to built infrastructure. Five airports that are going to be impacted, several thousand kilometers of roads, kilometers of railway.
GoDaddy: Hackers stole source code, installed malware in multi-year breach. (Bleeping Computer, February 17, 2023)
Plus: An election-disruption firm gets exposed, Russia mulls allowing “patriotic hacking,” and more.
FBI is investigating a cybersecurity incident on its network. (Bleeping Computer, February 17, 2023)
The federal law enforcement agency says it already contained the "isolated incident" and is working to uncover its scope and overall impact.
In wake of Ukraine war, U.S. and allies are hunting down Russian spies. (Washington Post, February 17, 2023)
The moves amount to precision strikes against Russian agents still in Europe after the mass expulsion of more than 400 suspected Russian intelligence officers from Moscow’s embassies across the continent last year.
Object downed by US missile may have been amateur hobbyists’ $12 balloon. (1-min. video; The Guardian, February 17, 2023)
Illinois hobby group says balloon went missing the day military missile costing $439,000 destroyed unidentified entity nearby.
[Also, note the "balloon" and "UFO" articles of May 17, 2021, below.]
U.S. and China Vie in Hazy Zone Where Balloons, U.F.O.s and Missiles Fly. (NY Times, February 17, 2023)
During the Cold War, American strategists feared the Soviet Union was outpacing the United States in arms production, potentially leading to a so-called missile gap.
Now, U.S. officials are worried about a literal gap called near space and China’s growing presence there. High above earth, but below orbiting satellites, the United States and China are testing new defense systems. China’s exploitation of the zone with aerial craft and advanced munitions suggests it is pulling ahead of its superpower rival in important ways.
NEW: Biden Officials Hesitate to Update Rail Brake Guidelines for Fear of Pushback. (The New Republic, February 17, 2023)
Asked about the disastrous Ohio train derailment, Biden administration officials said Congress should take the lead on updating brake guidelines for trains carrying hazardous materials.
We Need to Talk About Norfolk Southern’s Anti-Labor Policies. (Mother Jones, February 16, 2023)
Earlier this month, a train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, triggering a massive fire and forcing everyone within a 1-mile radius of the crash to evacuate. To avoid a potential explosion, officials conducted a controlled detonation of five tankers three days later, sending carcinogenic vinyl chloride into the air. Two days later, residents of the 4,500-person village were told they could safely return home. Many questioned the safety of the air and water supply.
Since then, reporting has made clear that this environmental disaster was less a freak accident than a predictable outcome of lax safety measures and capitalist greed.This is what capitalism-run-amok looks like. Here’s what you need to know about the Norfolk Southern rail company.
Top Russian Military Official Dead After Fall From 16th Floor. (Daily Beast, February 16, 2023)
Marina Yankina handled cash flows for the Western Military District.
A Russian military official in charge of financial provisions for the military district blamed for the Kremlin’s worst losses in Ukraine has been found dead after a nasty fall from a St. Petersburg high-rise. Marina Yankina, head of the department of financial provisions for the Western Military District, was found dead on a sidewalk on Wednesday morning, according to multiple local reports.
She is just the latest in a growing list of Russian military officials, defense industry figures, war critics, and gas and oil execs to die suddenly and mysteriously since the start of the full-scale invasion last year.
Chatbots Got Big - and Their Ethical Red Flags Got Bigger. (Wired, February 16, 2023)
Researchers have spent years warning that text-generation algorithms can spew bias and falsehoods. Tech giants are rushing them into products anyway.
Real Humans Chat About Chatbots. (35-min. podcast; Wired, February 16, 2023)
The unstoppable march of artificial intelligence carries on. In mere weeks, generative AI has oozed into nearly everything we interact with on the internet, from conversations, to journalism, to how we look stuff up online. It's even got Google scrambling to reclaim its spot on the search throne after Microsoft implemented its own AI tools to miraculously make Bing feel relevant again. Should we actually be freaking out about our new robot overlords?
The Bird Flu Outbreak Has Taken an Ominous Turn. (Wired, February 16, 2023)
The avian flu has killed millions of chickens, decimated wild birds—and moved into mammals. Now the poultry industry needs new measures to stop its spread.
Shocking new evidence of Big Oil's lies (Union of Concerned Scientists, February 16, 2023)
Not only did ExxonMobil executives know their practices were harmful, as early as the 1970s, their scientists accurately projected the global temperature rise that would result from the heat-trapping emissions produced from burning fossil fuels the company extracted, refined, marketed, and sold. Over the last 50 years, the oil and gas industry has generated $2.8 billion a day in revenue. They've used their profits to buy power and influence to delay action on the climate crisis-fighting tooth and nail to protect their outrageous profits when they knew what they were costing communities and the environment.
An act of God caused the earthquake in Turkey – murderous corruption caused so many deaths. (The Guardian, February 15, 2023)
Corner-cutting contractors sold buildings as safe that then collapsed. But just as culpable are officials who offered permits and lax controls.
Ken Paxton Settled His Whistleblower Lawsuit. His Constituents Will Pick Up the Tab. (Mother Jones, February 15, 2023)
The Texas AG has survived scandal after scandal. But there’s still one big case outstanding.
World Bank chief to leave by July. (Politico, February 15, 2023)
The departure of [global warming denier and Trump appointee] David Malpass opens the door for the Biden administration to pick his replacement.
"I never thought this day would come": Deported veterans return home, win U.S. citizenship. (Daily Kos, February 15, 2023)
U.S. Army veterans Mauricio Hernandez Mata and Leonel Contreras are finally back home. Both are among the deported veterans who have been brought back to the U.S. under a Biden administration initiative returning "unjustly removed" immigrant Americans who served their country but who were then exiled following oftentimes tragic circumstances.
Biden to require EV chargers to be universal for federal funds, expects Tesla to open some chargers. (The Hill, February 15, 2023)
The Biden administration on Wednesday is announcing new requirements for electric vehicle chargers that receive federal funds, including limiting funds to chargers that can serve electric vehicles regardless of brand. This requirement is expected to push Tesla in particular away from chargers that only serve its own vehicles.
NEW: Here's how 10 industries are experimenting with ChatGPT. (Quartz, February 14, 2023)
Judges, teachers, and real estate agents wonder what AI means for their industry.
Everything We Know About The Chinese Balloon—And 3 Other Objects— Shot Down By The U.S. (Forbes, February 14, 2023)
There’s no apparent connection between the three unknown vessels shot down this weekend and the 200-foot tall Chinese surveillance balloon shot-down on February 4, but questions and misinformation regarding the objects’ origins and purpose remain.
NEW: A Little-Known Inflammatory Disease Is Hiding in Plain Sight. (February 14, 2023)
Genetic analyses show a newly discovered condition called Vexas is more common than previously thought—and could explain some patients’ undiagnosed symptoms.
NEW: The ancient diseases that plagued the dinosaurs (BBC, February 14, 2023)
Scientists have discovered the tell-tale signs of a range of dinosaur diseases – and found that they're remarkably similar to those affecting animals alive today.
Cory Doctorow: Obama's turncoat antitrust enforcer is angry about the Google breakup. (Pluralistic, February 13, 2023)
Why does the establishment fall all over itself to invent reasons that the DoJ's case is both wrongheaded and doomed? They may not be particularly invested in defending Google itself. Rather, they represent the last gasp of a 40-year-long conspiratorial legal ideology that embraced the Reagan-era idea of "consumer welfare"
Phillips P. OBrien: Russia’s Massive Offensive and Signs of Military Learning (Phillips's Newsletter, February 12, 2023)
This week has been a fascinating contrast in reporting, and once again highlights the ease with which a particular narrative about the war can quickly spread and even start influencing debates and possibly policy. The contrast was about how to understand the obvious uptick in Russian offensive military operations, primarily around Bakhmut and Vuhledar.
One story that seemed to take off, was that the Russians had massed a huge force not only of newly trained soldiers, but also tanks and aircraft and that they were poised to mount a hammer blow attack on Ukranian forces. This article in Foreign Policy might have been the most extreme example. The Russians had supposedly put together 1,800 tanks, 700 aircraft and hundreds of thousands of new troops. Ukraine, on the other hand, didn’t have enough and the Russian assault would start long before new NATO-standard tanks arrived. The story took off like hot cakes as more and more alarmist reporting piled in. The Telegraph soon bumped the 1,800 Russian tanks ready to strike up to 2,000 and spoke of a ‘huge invasion’ of the Donbas.
[He seems to have shot down that hot-air balloon.]
Paul Ford: God Did the World a Favor by Destroying Twitter. (Wired, February 12, 2023)
Remember what happened with the Tower of Babel? Same type of deal. The reason the Babel story matters is not that it happened once but that it happens over and over: We Babelize and de-Babelize. The internet is an engine of both processes. Eventually, brands will find purchase in Mastodon’s rocky soil and grow engagement. Billionaires will order the construction of new marketplaces of ideas. Everything will centralize again, and it will seem eternal, as if the tower could never fall. For now, let’s enjoy the scattering.
[Fun reading - but it's about the current shift from Twitter to Mastodon and the other decentralized Internet groups in the Fediverse. Think about it!]
Ranked: The World’s Most and Least Powerful Passports in 2023 (Visual Capitalist February 12, 2023)
Depending on your passport, travel can be as simple as just booking flights, finding a hotel, and, then simply going. But for many across the world, it’s not that easy—a number of passport holders need to obtain a travel/tourist visa prior to arrival. These visas typically require approval from the destination country’s government that can take weeks or months. Japanese passport holders, for example, are able to visit 193 countries without pre-approval (nearly every country on Earth). Afghans, on the other hand, can only visit 27 countries with the same level of ease.
Robert Reich: The stadium scam (5-min. video: Substack, February 11, 2023)
Ever notice how there never seems to be enough money to build public infrastructure like mass transit lines and better schools? And yet, when a multi-billion-dollar sports team demands a new stadium, our local governments are happy to oblige.
A good example of this billionaire boondoggle is the host of tomorrow’s Super Bowl: State Farm Stadium.
Security News This Week: North Korean Hackers Are Attacking US Hospitals. (Wired, February 11, 2023)
Plus: Deepfake disinformation spotted in the wild, Android privacy problems in China, Reddit gets phished, and more.
The FBI’s Most Controversial Surveillance Tool Is Under Threat. (Wired, February 10, 2023)
New details about the FBI’s failures to comply with restrictions on the use of foreign intelligence for domestic crimes have emerged at a perilous time for the US intelligence community.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the so-called crown jewel of US intelligence, grants the government the ability to intercept the electronic communications of overseas targets who are unprotected by the Fourth Amendment. That authority is set to expire at the end of the year. But errors in the FBI’s secondary use of the data—the investigation of crimes on US soil—are likely to inflame an already fierce debate over whether law enforcement agents can be trusted with such an invasive tool.
Geological impact of Turkey-Syria earthquake slowly comes into focus. (The Guardian, February 10, 2023)
Subsidence has caused flooding, while hillsides are at risk of landslip, which mean roads may need to be rerouted and people re-homed.
Oil Industry To Crash & Burn By Early 2030s. (graph; Clean Technica, February 10, 2023)
This article draws its main points from the recent report, Russia’s war wakes sleeping renewables giants of post 2030 power, by UK’s Rethink Energy. Rethink Energy is knownfor its aggressive predictions of the decline of the oil industry, the rise of renewables, and the imminent domination of electric vehicles on our roads. It has a proven track record, and analysis is based on a broad range of data sources.
Rethink Energy produces an "Annual Primary Electricity" model each year. It is now in its third edition. The analysis has led to the startling conclusion that: "The Oil Industry has already peaked and will crash and burn very early in the 2030s. The fight for the countries which will replace the dominance of oil with renewables has already begun."
NEW: The Generative AI Race Has a Dirty Secret. (21-min. video; Wired, February 10, 2023)
Integrating large language models into search engines could mean a five-fold increase in computing power - and huge carbon emissions.
The Economic Tides Just Turned for US States. (Clean Technica, February 10, 2023)
We uncover the surprising, transformative benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act and clean energy for US states.
NEW: A Duggar Revisits Her Religious Upbringing. (New York Times, February 10, 2023)
Jinger Duggar Vuolo, who was one of 19 children on a popular reality show, becomes a powerful voice in a trend of young adults re-examining their own conservative Christian childhoods.
The End of Grading (Wired, February 9, 2023)
How the irrational mathematics of measuring, ranking, and rating distort the value of stuff, work, people—everything.
Lack of diversity in clinical trials is leaving women and patients of color behind and harming the future of medicine. (40-min. podcast; The Conversation, February 9, 2023)
Despite the many biological differences between people of different genders, races, ages and life histories, chances are that if two people walk into a doctor’s office with the same symptoms, they are going to get roughly the same treatment. As you can imagine, a whole range of treatments – from drugs to testing – could be much more effective if they were designed to work with many different kinds of bodies, not just some abstract, generic human.
Corporations are facing the same climate choice that Exxon did in the 1970s. (The Hill, February 9, 2023)
Researchers from Harvard and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research assessed the accuracy of the forecasts by Exxon scientists, from 1977 to 2003, who projected "global warming from carbon dioxide emissions over the coming decades." The researchers’ study was published in the journal Science. They found the industry scientists predictions were frighteningly accurate. What the scientists projected in the 1970s in carbon dioxide (CO2) build up and temperature increases have come to pass. So, it seems we are now living the consequences of Exxon’s failure to acknowledge the science and take right action.
We’re at a critical juncture in climate change: Many companies are having an "Exxon moment."
SpaceX admits blocking Ukrainian troops from using satellite technology. (2-min. video; CNN, February 9, 2023)
Ukrainian troops have roundly praised Starlink as a game-changing piece of satellite technology that has not only allowed them to maintain communications, but also better target Russian forces with artillery and drones.
Last October, Musk angered Ukrainians, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, for proposing a peace plan on Twitter that argued Ukraine just give up efforts to reclaim Crimea and cede control of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. That same month, there were reports that the Starlink signal had been restricted and was not available past the front line as Ukrainian troops tried to advance, essentially hamstringing their efforts to retake territory from the Russians. Those reports of the outages fueled accusations that Musk was kowtowing to Russia.
"That has affected every effort of the Ukrainians to push past that front," a person familiar with the outages told CNN in October. "Starlink is the main way units on the battlefield have to communicate."
After Musk received Ukrainian – and global – praise for quickly delivering Starlink capabilities to Ukraine, CNN obtained exclusive documents showing that SpaceX was trying to get the Pentagon to start paying for thousands of terminals, along with their expensive connectivity, for Ukraine’s military and intelligence services. Thousands of units had also quietly been purchased by third countries for Ukraine. One senior defense official told CNN that SpaceX had "the gall to look like heroes" while having others pay so much.
Former Vice President Mike Pence subpoenaed by special counsel investigating Trump. (5-min. video; MSNBC, February 9, 2023)
Donald Trump's former vice president Mike Pence has been subpoenaed by special counsel Jack Smith, a source familiar with the matter tells NBC News. Smith is overseeing the dual probes involving Pence's former boss, regarding the classified documents Trump took with him to Mar-a-Lago and the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Missouri Republicans Vote to Affirm Toddlers’ Rights to Carry Firearms in the Streets. (Vanity Fair, February 9, 2023)
Yes, it’s exactly as crazy as it sounds.
House Democrats file resolution to expel George Santos. (Axios, February 9, 2023)
It’s the latest escalation of Democrats’ efforts to punish Santos for the serial fabrications he made about his background, resume and finances on the campaign trail. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), who led the resolution, told reporters that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declining to block Santos from receiving a classified briefing, despite calls from Democrats to do so, was the "last straw."
Biden in Florida takes on Rick Scott’s ‘outrageous’ views on Social Security, Medicare. (The Hill, February 9, 2023)
“The very idea the senator from Florida wants to put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block every five years, I find to be somewhat outrageous. So outrageous that you might not even believe it,” Biden told the audience at the University of Tampa. Biden, like he has in other speeches about protecting Social Security and Medicare, held up a pamphlet of Scott’s proposal and read from it. Brochures on Scott’s 12-point plan were also left on seats in the audience.
Scott last year proposed sunsetting all federal legislation after five years, forcing Congress to reauthorize them each time. On Wednesday, Scott defended his plans in a Twitter thread, disputing that his proposals amounted to cutting Social Security and Medicare.
The Chatbot Search Wars Have Begun. (Wired, February 9, 2023)
Microsoft, Google, and China’s Baidu all showed off ChatGPT-inspired technology to reinvent web search this week.
My Strange Day With Bing’s New AI Chatbot (Wired, February 9, 2023)
Microsoft’s chatty search interface was impressive. But it also served up glitches, ethical dilemmas, and talk of a mysterious “Sydney.”
The WIRED Guide to Artificial Intelligence (Wired, updated on February 8, 2023)
Super-smart algorithms won’t take all the jobs, but they are learning faster than ever, doing everything from medical diagnostics to serving up ads.
[Back when, some of our friends helped to develop AI at MIT. Eliza fascinated us then, as ChatGPT does now. Wired's Guide to AI is a wonderful way to learn more about AI's pros and cons, its history and its future.
P.S.- Don't miss its link to Wired's OTHER Guides!]
AI and the Collapse of Societal Trust (Newsweek, February 8, 2023)
The Internet has vastly reduced the cost of sharing words or images, degrading their perceived value as signals of true capability or accomplishment. Instagram filters make it easier for far more people to present a "TV-quality" image. Social media broke the near-monopoly legacy media enjoyed on mass distribution, and allowed growing arrays of competition and challenge to legacy elites.
The advent of mass AI is set to take this trend to the next level. The possibility of "deep fakes" means that images can no longer be trusted as a source of information, rendering them meaningless when it comes to establishing credibility. Similarly, advancements in AI-powered language models like ChatGPT will make it easy for anyone to sound like a well-educated professional—wielding language skills that traditionally reflected years of schooling and corporate experience, further undermining the value of words as markers of credibility. These developments will have far-reaching consequences.
Is open-source as secure as proprietary software? (Canonical, February 8, 2023)
More and more security flaws are being found simply because there is more software being produced in the world than ever before, and more aspects of our lives are incorporating software features. Open-source software has been at the forefront of this technological transformation, giving anyone in the world the access and opportunity to develop functionality and products that would have been infeasible without free access to such resources.
However, 85% of commercial codebases contain open source that is more than four years out-of-date. Whether code is open or proprietary, the most crucial security measure is patching and updating that software, and the best way to do this is to consume the software from a trusted source which provides strong security maintenance commitments.
We Must Save the Drought-Stricken Colorado River. Here's How. (1-min. video; Newsweek, February 8, 2023)
The Colorado River is in trouble, and so are the water supplies of seven U.S. states, dozens of Native American Tribes, and parts of northwestern Mexico. We can't continue to operate from crisis to crisis in perpetuity; we need to begin addressing now the foundational interstate agreement that got us into this situation.
A Crucial Group of Covid Drugs Has Stopped Working. (Wired, February 8, 2023)
A key tool in the early pandemic response, monoclonal antibodies are now ineffective against new variants. Immuno-compromised patients are especially at risk.
MH17 probe: "Strong indications" Putin approved supply of missiles to Ukraine rebels who downed Malaysia Airlines flight. (14-min. video; CBS News, February 8, 2023)
Dutch prosecutors said in their summary of investigation findings that "there are strong indications that the Russian president decided on supplying" a Buk missile system to Ukrainian separatists. A Buk system was used to bring down MH17. One Dutch prosecutor said that without Russian cooperation, "the investigation has now reached its limit. All leads have been exhausted."
The announcement comes nearly three months after a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian rebel for their roles in shooting down the plane. One Russian was acquitted by the court. None of the suspects appeared for the trial and it was unclear if the three who were found guilty of multiple murders will ever serve their sentences.
American Aircraft Carriers: From Past to Present (14-min. video; YouTube, February 8, 2023)
Discover the fascinating evolution of American aircraft carriers! From the humble beginnings of the USS Langley to the modern-day supercarriers, we trace the journey of these maritime marvels. Witness the significant technological advancements and innovations that transformed these ships into floating fortresses. From World War II to the 21st century, learn about the critical role that American aircraft carriers have played in shaping the world's political and military landscape.
NEW: The mysterious doodles hidden in a 1,300-year-old book (BBC, February 8, 2023)
Around 1,300 years ago, a woman leant over a precious book, and etched some letters into the margin, along with some cartoonish drawings. She didn't use ink – she scratched them in, so they were almost invisible to the naked eye. Until last year, no-one knew they were there.
Centuries-old books, manuscripts and printing plates often contain invisible etchings, mysterious letters – and even doodles. A new technology that maps the surface of these objects is bringing them to light.
AF-22 Pilot's Real Audio of Chinese Balloon ShootDown (25-min. video; YouTube, February 7, 2023)
I was a retired f16 pilot and gave my impression and fundamental analysis of the Chinese balloon shootdown off the coast of South Carolina on February 4, 2023. Simulated footage created by Growling Sidewinder in a digital combat simulator. The fighter communication audio was received by an unknown ground receiver. which is the reason we only hear the aircraft and not the ground transmitters.
Largest-ever submarine heads for Russian scrapyard. (New Atlas, February 7, 2023)
A Cold War story has come to an end as the largest-ever submarine is put out to pasture. According to the Russian state news agency TASS, the Dmitry Donskoy, the first of the gigantic Typhoon submarines and the last still in service, has been officially decommissioned. It was an enigma since it entered service in 1981, with many of the boat's secrets not being revealed until the end of the Cold War in the 1990s. In the meantime, it inspired the thriller The Hunt For Red October, which was made into a film in 1990 and filled the gap about what was known by filling the fictional boat with fanciful technology.
Fact check: President Biden's 2023 State of the Union address. (2-hour video of entire Address; CBS News, February 7, 2023)
Here are some of the claims and statements President Joe Biden made during his State of the Union address, and CBS News team's fact check on their veracity, as well as additional context.
[Thorough coverage.]
2023 State of the Union address (The Guardian, February 7, 2023)
"Pride is coming back": President Biden hopes to combat widespread sense of pessimism and touts his victories on jobs and climate during first two years in office.
NEW: Mapped: Geopolitical Risk by Economy (Visual Capitalist, February 7, 2023)
Prior to invading Ukraine, Russia had one of the highest levels of geopolitical risk. How does geopolitical uncertainty vary around the world?
New UN Report: Bracing for Superbugs: Strengthening environmental action in the One Health response to Anti-Microbial Resistance (United Nations Environmental Programme, February 7, 2023)
Antimicrobial resistance or AMR is considered one of the top global public health problems. It also poses an urgent and critical threat to animal and plant health, food security and economic development. To reduce superbugs, the world must reduce pollution.
Antimicrobials – antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics – are medicines widely used
to prevent and treat infections in humans, aquaculture, livestock, and crop production.
What is antimicrobial resistance (AMR)?
AMR occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi become resistant
to antimicrobial treatments to which they were previously susceptible.
Increasing use and misuse of antimicrobials and other microbial stressors (e.g. the presence of
heavy metals and other pollutants) creates favourable conditions for microorganisms to develop
The World Health Organization (WHO) lists AMR among top 10 threats for global health. Limiting the emergence and spread of AMR is critical to preserving the ability to treat diseases, reduce food safety and security risks, and protect the environment.
Why? Without effective antimicrobials, modern medicine would struggle to treat even mild
infections among humans, animals, and plants. In 2019, it is estimated that 1.27 million deaths were directly attributed to drug-resistant infections globally, and 4.95 million deaths worldwide were associated with bacterial AMR (including those directly attributable to AMR).
Estimates suggest that by 2050 up to 10-million additional direct deaths could occur annually. That is on par with the 2020 rate of global deaths from cancer. In the next decade, AMR could result in a GDP shortfall of at least USD 3.4 trillion annually and push 24 million more people into extreme poverty.
Scientist: 40% U.S. animal extinction shows it's "suicidal (to continue) business as usual". (Daily Kos, February 7, 2023)
Sean T. O’Brien, CEO and president of the conservation-focused NatureServe, leads off the organization’s "first report of its kind" with a horrifying sentence: At this moment, species are going extinct faster than any time in human history.
Using 50 years of data it has collected from its network of 1,000 scientists, NatureServe scrutinized only the United States. Researchers for Biodiversity in Focus: United States Edition concluded that 40% of U.S. animals and 34% of plants are at risk of extinction. On top of this, 41% of ecosystems are collapsing from habitat degradation and land conversion, invasive species, damming and polluting of rivers, and climate change.
[The entire report, with photos and video, is available at the above link.]
Turkey and Syria earthquake updates: race to find survivors as death toll nears 8,400 and hundreds of thousands seek shelter. (The Guardian, February 7, 2023)
The 1-Minute Rule Can Make Your Life More Serene and Successful. (Medium, February 7, 2023)
Here’s a basic explanation of the rule: “I must do any task that can be finished in one minute.” Right now, no excuses. And yes, everything. From filing that paper to hanging up that quote to sending that two-word email. The idea couldn’t be simpler, but consistency is key. The results are worth it.
Psychologists have a concept called the Zeigarnik effect that explains why uncompleted tasks keep popping back into your consciousness. It turns out that our brains are wired to nag us about pending tasks and obligations. The repetitious reminders only stop when you close out a task by scheduling or completing it. Which is why folding my socks only takes a minute, but the thought of having to fold my socks haunts me all day. (And also why I often write a to-do list, feel calmer, and then forget about it completely.) Our endless mental reminders of small undone tasks add up to big stress.
How will Google and Microsoft AI chatbots affect us and how we work? (The Guardian, February 7, 2023)
Microsoft-backed ChatGPT and Google’s Bard take on the future of search in the battle of the bots.
English Teacher Grades Homework By ChatGPT. (9-min. video; Wired, February 6, 2023)
He also provides a variety of assignments for ChatGPT, including writing a limerick, a Shakespearean sonnet about Taco Bell, and a five-paragraph essay.
NEW: Meet Bard, Google’s Answer to ChatGPT. (Wired, February 6, 2023)
The search giant’s new chatbot is in testing and will be launched “in the coming weeks.” An API will make it available for developers to build on.
Here’s Who Will Be Talking About Jesus On Super Bowl Sunday. (Lever, February 6, 2023)
The foundation behind a $20 million Christian Super Bowl ad campaign has funded a group fighting to limit abortion access and allow anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.
NEW: Wes O'Donnell: Putin’s Death Cult Prepares for Huge Casualties in the Coming Days. (February 7, 2023)
The Russian army just suffered the deadliest 24 hours since the start of the war. According to Ukraine, 1,030 Russians were killed yesterday as Moscow continues to throw thousands of freshly mobilized soldiers into the meat grinder. This brings the Russian death toll to 133,190.
As Russia prepares for a much larger offensive in the coming days, expect to see these casualty numbers soar.
NEW: Wes O'Donnell: Why Do MAGA Conservatives Support Russian Aggression? (Medium, February 6, 2023)
To these voters, democracy itself has become the enemy. Sociologically, there are a bunch of interesting things happening here, from groups tending to blindly follow popular leaders, to individuals letting their reptile brains override rational thought to follow “strong” leaders:
Might makes right, so to speak. And Putin is an authoritarian who suppresses democracy. It’s a MAGA match made in hell.
Another factor at play is the perception that Ukraine is entwined with the Biden family, specifically Hunter Biden’s “corrupt” employment by the Ukrainian gas company Burisma. This led to numerous conspiracy theories that were spread primarily in an attempt to damage Joe Biden’s reputation during the 2020 presidential campaign. Don’t get me wrong; in 2016, corruption in Ukraine was a matter of bipartisan concern in the U.S., but this thread doesn’t lead where MAGA voters think it does.
[True, this article is a good fit for "Black Humor, VERY". But it's also honest, insightful, and it addresses a major concern.]
NEW: Shankar Narayan: Finally, Ukraine Gets the Wonder Weapon It Needs. (map; Medium, February 6, 2023)
In theory, it was the greatest mismatch of the century. The world’s second most powerful army housing 146 million inhabitants on the world’s largest landmass, facing up against a much smaller enemy. Russia had the army, the population and the money. Nobody had any reason to support Ukraine.
And yet, the war will soon begin its second year. Holding the line will become a struggle for Putin’s Army. Three factors played a major role in denying Russia a path to victory:
1. Putin assumed the sight of thousands of tanks on the highway and screaming aircraft would force Ukraine into submission. Ukraine simply refused to roll over and die.
2. As the war erupted in February last year, one by one, nations around the world coalesced behind Ukraine. There isn’t a single global leader of repute who expressed support for Russia’s invasion. Ukraine has allies. Russia is backed up by international pariahs.
3. The quality of Western weapons supplied to Ukraine exposed the Russian military and its defense industry for what it is: Inept and corrupt. But the West did not give Ukraine enough weapons. It only gave weapons in the last minute, at minimal quantity and sometimes the weapons were either the second best or even the third best.
Nothing explains the indecisive nature of Western support better than the Multiple Rocket-Launcher System (MRLS), the precision-guided artillery weapons system the West supplied to Ukraine. It was the one weapon that helped Ukraine regain the initiative after losing several towns to Russia in July last year. Russia resorted to crude artillery bombardment to raze Ukrainian villages before encircling them. After receiving the multiple rocket launchers, Ukrainians decimated the Russian supply lines running to the front line, making it impossible for Russians to advance. It is unfortunate that the West didn’t provide enough MRLS systems to Ukraine, even after they realized the impact on the battlefield - a measly 40 units, to combat the Russian occupation chain spanning a front line of more than 900 kilometers. Ukrainians were not only given a limited number of these systems, but also ammunition that was limited in range. The MRLS systems were capable of hitting targets 300 km away., but Ukraine received ammunition that could only reach 70 km. Despite giving Ukraine the best car in the world, the West refused to allow them to fill the whole fuel tank, out of concern that Ukraine would drive it to its logical conclusion.
But Ukraine made full use of the limited supply-limited range MRLS systems given by the West. They wisely kept moving those units around, while systematically targeting enemy warehouses, logistical nodes, transportation hubs and important military installations. They did not waste them attacking the Russian front lines; instead, Ukraine used them to choke the flow of Russian weapons, food and fuel to the frontlines. It worked. It would be an understatement to say that multiple rocket launchers provided by the west changed the war.
Western media has been raving about the decision to supply heavy weapons to Ukraine. I agree that it is a good decision, one that is essential. But when viewed in isolation, the supply of tanks and armored vehicles is not the magic bullet that will push Ukraine towards victory. Ukraine has to relentlessly attack the Russian supply — food, fuel and weapons.
It wasn’t until last week that the Biden administration changed the equation by making a single decision to eliminate all the Russian warehouses on Ukrainian soil. The Ground-Launched Small-Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) will allow Ukraine’s military to hit targets at twice the distance reachable by the rockets it now fires from the U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). If included as expected in an upcoming weapons-aid package first reported by Reuters, the 151 km (94 mile) GLSDB will put all of Russia’s supply lines in the east of the country within reach, as well as part of Russian-occupied Crimea.
Russia is building trenches to defend the Ukrainian territory it is occupying. Trenches need soldiers. Soldiers need weapons and food. You cannot fight when you are hungry all the time.
It is my assumption that the Biden administration will expedite the supply of the extended-range ammunition for HIMARS immediately. Western tanks are not expected to arrive until summer.
Between now and then, Ukraine can use multiple rocket launchers to attack Russian supply routes and force them to move those warehouses deep into the occupied territory. Most probably the Russians will move the big warehouses inside Russia and pivot to keeping small ones all over the place in the occupied territory. Ukraine has to keep attacking them over and over.
As commander-in-chief of an army that lost nearly half of the territory it occupied in March 2022, Putin has lost confidence in his army. His only aim is to force the West to negotiate with him. He knows that protecting occupied territory for another six months is not going to work against the latest tranche of weapons. He will go overboard with his recruitment drive and push thousands of Russians to death every day.
The war cannot be won by Putin. He is completely dependent on two Western leaders to give him a strategic lift-off to safety. Consequently, the United States will have the most impact on this conflict. The United States has revised its strategic doctrine in the Russia-Ukraine war. No U.S. combat forces are in Ukraine. The risk for America is weapons and dollars, while the full brunt of the war has fallen on Ukrainians. So far, the U.S. cost of the Ukraine war is zero American lives and $110 billion dollars. This will be cheapest war ever won by America. That’s a lot less than the $8 trillion America spent in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Russia has already lost its position as a strategic enemy of the United States. Putin had the plan and the patience to destroy the liberal order built by America. Had he won, it would have completely upended global trade. Every war is about the flow of goods. Russia’s war against Ukraine is no different.
As long as the Biden administration’s weapons supply to Ukraine is too restrictive, Ukraine will remain at a loss to compete with Russia. Recently, by providing Ukraine with GLSDB ammunition, Biden has set the war towards its logical end. It is still a small step, but a good step in the right direction. Ukraine does not need a wonder weapon to win the war against Russia. It only needs the weapons that are already there in the Western stockpile.
[Yes! An excellent and hopeful analysis of how to end Putin's unthinkable war.]
Researchers Report Progress On A Solid-State Lithium-Air Battery With High Energy Density. (Clean Technica, February 6, 2023)
Researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Illinois-Chicago, and Argonne National Labs claim to have developed a solid-state lithium-air battery that has an energy density similar to gasoline.
[This will be BIG news! Meanwhile, we're glad to have our Bolt EV.]
The Website That Wants You to Kill Yourself—and Won’t Die (Mother Jones, February 6, 2023)
How the trolls on Kiwi Farms hounded people to kill themselves and created the online culture we have today.
More than 2,300 dead as powerful quake hits southern Turkey and Syria. (video clips; CNN, February 6, 2023)
A series of aftershocks have reverberated throughout the day. The largest, a major quake that measured 7.5 in magnitude, hit in Turkey about nine hours after the initial quake, according to the USGS. That aftershock hit around 95 kilometers (59 miles) north of the original. Monday’s quake is believed to be the strongest to hit Turkey since 1939, when an earthquake of the same magnitude killed 30,000 people, according to the USGS. Earthquakes of this magnitude are rare, with fewer than five occurring each year on average, anywhere in the world. Seven quakes with magnitude 7.0 or greater have struck Turkey in the past 25 years – but Monday’s is the most powerful.
Video from the scene in Turkey showed day breaking over rows of collapsed buildings, some with apartments exposed to the elements as people huddled in the freezing cold beside them, waiting for help. A host of countries have sent rescue workers to help the stricken region, where a colossal effort to find and free trapped civilians is underway. A cold and wet weather system is moving through the region, further hampering that challenge.
Turkey and Syria devastated by earthquake. (Temblor, February 5, 2023)
A powerful magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck southern Turkey, near the Syrian border. Numerous casualties have been reported, with more expected.
Menopause has long been a taboo topic. Talking about it can help women learn more about an overlooked treatment. (NY Times Magazine, February 5, 2023)
Women Have Been Misled About Menopause. (NY Times Magazine, February 5, 2023)
Hot flashes, sleeplessness, pain during sex: For some of menopause’s worst symptoms, there’s an established treatment. Why aren’t more women offered it?
Dems reshuffle primaries to stress diversity over tradition. (AP News, February 4, 2023)
Although more changes are possible later this year, the formal endorsement by the Democratic National Committee during its meeting in Philadelphia is an acknowledgement that the start of the 2024 primary will look very different from the one in 2020. Hundreds of party stalwarts climbed to their feet and cheered after the easy passage by voice vote.
States with early contests play a major role in determining the nominee because White House hopefuls struggling to raise money or gain political traction often drop out before visiting states outside the first five. Media attention and policy debates concentrate in those areas, too.
Cory Doctorow: Higher interest rates increase both the monetary supply and inflation. (Pluralistic; February 4, 2023)
When interest rates go up, businesses don't reduce their borrowing, as the neoclassicals would predict. Why not? Because businesses in our real world enjoy pricing power, which means that when their costs of borrowing go up, they pass those increases on to their customers (economists call this "cost-plus pricing"). Which is to say that because interest rates increase the costs for businesses who enjoy monopolistic market power, interest rate increases also cause price increases. And not to put too fine a point on it, the economists' term of art for "a sustained rise in the price level" is…inflation.
Fix says that at best, monetary policy – raising interest rates – simply fails to cause inflation. But at worst, it actually increases inflation. Here he echoes Joseph Stiglitz and Regmi Ira, who compare interest rate hikes to bloodletting. If the patient gets worse, you're not bleeding them enough. If they get better, the bloodletting clearly saved them. If they die, well, some diseases are simply incurable.
For Stiglitz and Ira, interest rate hikes don't address inflation because inflation isn't caused by too much money. Rather, it's caused by things like wars and pandemics (which reduce the supply of key inputs and goods), mass deaths (which reduce the workforce), lack of daycare and other policies (which reduce it further), and more.
[And ALL of those causes reduce the number of consumers who feel confident to buy now.]
Eyes on the sky as Chinese balloon shot down over Atlantic. (good images and video; AP News, February 4, 2023)
The maneuverable balloon had become a major flashpoint in tensions between Washington and Beijing, and President Joe Biden faced pressure from Republicans in Congress to shoot it down. The administration waited until the balloon — about the size of three school buses — was over water because of risks to people on the ground from falling debris.
No boats appeared to be in the water beneath the balloon as the wreckage fell, but several aircraft arrived soon after. U.S. officials tried to time the operation so they could recover as much debris as possible before it sinks.
Why would the Chinese government be flying a large stratospheric balloon? (Ars Technica, February 3, 2023)
It is possible that the balloon's flight termination system failed.
Boeing’s 747 Should Have Been Retired Years Ago. (Wired, February 3, 2023)
The last jumbo jet was delivered in January, but it has been obsolete for decades.
WINE Windows translation layer has matured like a fine... you get the picture. (The Register, February 3, 2023)
Along with DXVK 2.1, more and better compatibility comes to Linux – we'll drink to that.
LibreOffice 7.5 update: A great time to jump on this FOSS productivity suite. (The Register, February 3, 2023)
Decent upgrade from older versions, essential if you're still on OpenOffice.
Visualizing Population Density Patterns in Six Countries (3D population-density maps; Visual Capitalist, February 3, 2023)
In the last 50 years, the global population more than quadrupled. But none of this growth has been evenly spread out, including within countries.
According to the World Bank, more than half of the world’s population currently lives in cities, and that trend is only growing. By 2050, 7 out of 10 people are projected to live in cities. This congregation makes cities a beehive of productivity and innovation—with more than 80% of the world’s GDP being generated at these population centers.
It’s in this context that mapping and studying urban development becomes all the more important, particularly as policymakers try their hand at sustainable urban planning. By showing where people are (and are not), they show us where political and economic power is concentrated, and perhaps where and who our governments represent.
Is the 'Damn Those Pesky Facts' Quotes Meme Accurate? (Snopes, updated February 2, 2023)
A meme purported to show eight quotes on the subject of religion from three Founding Fathers and "Common Sense" author Thomas Paine.
Cory Doctorow: Netflix wants to chop down your family tree. (Pluralistic; February 2, 2023)
Netflix says that its new policy allows members of the same "household" to share an account. This policy comes with an assumption: that there is a commonly understood, universal meaning of "household," and that software can determine who is and is not a member of your household.
This is a very old corporate delusion in the world of technology. Everyone who is in the room when a cartel draws up a standard definition of what constitutes a household is almost certainly drawn from a pool that is more likely to have a summer villa than to have a child doing domestic work or construction labor half a world away. These weirdos, so dissimilar from the global majority, get to define the boxes that computers will shove the rest of the world into. If your family doesn't look like their family, that's tough: "Computer says no."
[Another excellent essay by Cory Doctorow.]
Damus, another decentralized social networking app, arrives to take on Twitter. (TechCrunch, February 1, 2023)
Last year, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey donated around $245,000 in bitcoin (then roughly 14 BTC) to fund the development of an open and decentralized social networking protocol known as Nostr, which is based on cryptographic key pairs. Now, the first mobile app to leverage the protocol, Damus, has been published on the App Store, allowing anyone to try out the new technology.
The new app is the latest of many Twitter rivals to emerge following Elon Musk’s takeover of that social network, which has driven former Twitter users to return to older apps like Tumblr and to try out other decentralized social networking services, like Mastodon. Several startups are also spinning up their own Twitter competitors, like T2 and Spill, which have been raising seed rounds.
But Damus is not a venture-backed startup. Instead, it’s another experiment in decentralized social networking. The app’s promise is an open social network without a central authority that makes decisions about the network’s content or who’s allowed to participate, as Facebook or Twitter do. The site also touts end-to-end encrypted messaging — something Twitter does not have, and which has concerned users in the wake of the Musk takeover. There’s also no requirement to sign up with a phone number, email, or name because of how the Nostr works. That’s a big point of differentiation with Mastodon, where a user’s account is attached to a particular server and admins have some control over their server’s registered users. That also means issues with the Mastodon server you’re using — like an outage — could impact your ability to use the network. And you could risk losing data if that shutdown was sudden or permanent.
On Damus, messages are distributed through decentralized relays — in fact, the name Nostr is an acronym for “Notes and Other Stuff Transmitted by Relays.” There aren’t federated servers involved, but some Nostr relays are said to be better for filtering out spam. Bitcoin integration is also a part of the Damus experience, allowing users to tip friends’ posts, for instance. This is made possible by way of Bitcoin’s Lightning Network. Plus, unlike Twitter, posts can also exceed 280 characters in length.
[Also see, Minds Is the Anti-Facebook That Pays You for Your Time. (Wired, April 19, 2018)]
On Feb. 1 and Feb. 2, see a comet that hasn't been viewed since the Stone Age. (Wicked Local/Natick, February 1, 2023) states that the comet's "last passage through the inner solar system apparently came during the Upper Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. If we take these calculations at face value, then the last people to look up and witness this visitor from the depths of the outer solar system, were likely very early Homo sapiens or Neanderthals."
"I can tell you a few things about how best to observe the comet from the city," Brothers explained. "First, I would get out of the city. Head for the shoreline or west or toward New Hampshire. We’re going to try to observe it from MIT’s Wallace Observatory this week (in Westford)."
[We're going to try to observe it from and then maybe from here.]
London Super Tunnel (53-min. video; Nova/PBS, February 1, 2023)
For over a decade, more than 10,000 engineers and construction workers raced to build a new subterranean railroad under London. For the monumental project, they had to create 10 new stations, learn to operate state-of-the-art trains, and test out new 13-mile twin tunnels under the city. Discover the challenges, setbacks, and ingenious solutions that lead to ultimate success, as the Queen finally opens the Elizabeth Line on May 24, 2022.
Ted Gioia: Introducing the Slickest Con Artist of All Time (The Honest Broker, February 1, 2023)
Judging by my Twitter feed, ChatGPT is hotter than Wordle and Taylor Swift combined. It’s even hotter than its predecessor Sam Bankman-Fried, who was doing something similar 12 months ago. ChatGPT is just better than SamFTX in every way. It can’t even be extradited—because it’s just a bot.
People love it. People have confidence in it. They want to use it for everything—legal work, medical advice, term papers, or even writing Substack columns. If I believed half of what I heard about ChatGPT, I could let it take over The Honest Broker, while I sit on the beach drinking margaritas and searching for my lost shaker of salt.
But that’s exactly what the confidence artist always does. Which is:
- You give people what they ask for.
- You don’t worry whether it’s true or not—because ethical scruples aren’t part of your job description.
- If you get caught in a lie, you serve up another lie.
- You always act sure of yourself—because your confidence is what seals the deal.
Am I exaggerating? Is the hottest AI chatbot in the world really doing this? Instead of offering up my opinions on this, I’ll just share some tweets from knowledgeable observers who are starting to suspect the con.
Trump Tried to Out-Transphobe DeSantis With Proposed Trans Youth Health Care Ban. (Them,
February 1, 2023)
The race for the presidency and the race to the bottom are both on.
NEW: Losing: See Trump under oath after caving to New York A.G.
(8-min. video; MSNBC, January 31, 2023)
In a rare piece of video, you see Former President Donald Trump under oath. The never-before-seen footage of Trump’s deposition with the New York Attorney General reveals him taking the 5th more than 400 times. It comes as Trump faces a barrage of legal heat, two federal criminal probes, a Georgia criminal probe with an "imminent" charging decision, and a grand jury in New York hearing Trump’s hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.
It’s a Very Bad Week (Legally, Professionally, Psychically) to Be Donald Trump. (Vanity Fair, January 31, 2023)
One of the great mysteries of the modern universe is the question of whether or not Donald Trump is ever—even just once!—going to be held responsible for any of the unethical, underhanded, seemingly criminal acts he has engaged in for the last 70-odd years. (No, bringing Don Jr. into the world isn’t on the list, though maybe it should be.) Based on his long history of evading any and all repercussions for virtually everything, one could be forgiven for assuming that no, he will not. Then again, it’s possible the law will finally catch up to him, and recently, we got more than one indication it just might.
The Fulton County district attorney investigating the attempt to overturn the election has indicated criminal charges will be filed, and that’s not the only cause for concern at Mar-a-Lago.
NEW: At the Supreme Court, Ethics Questions Over a Spouse’s Business Ties. (New York Times, January 31, 2023)
After Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the Supreme Court, his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, gave up her career as a law firm partner to become a high-end legal recruiter in an effort to alleviate potential conflicts of interest.
Now, however, a former colleague of Mrs. Roberts has raised concerns that her recruiting work poses potential ethics issues for the chief justice, and has provided records to the Justice Department and Congress indicating she has been paid millions of dollars in commissions for placing lawyers at firms — some of which have business before the Supreme Court.
Her former colleague said he was worried that a financial relationship with law firms arguing before the court could affect justices' impartiality or at least give the appearance of doing so. "I do believe that litigants in U.S. courts, and especially the Supreme Court, deserve to know if their judges’ households are receiving six-figure payments from the law firms."
Ron DeSantis Battles the African American A.P. Course—and History; February 6, 2023 Issue (New Yorker, January 31, 2023)
The state’s intent seems to be to provide white Floridians, from a young age, with a version of history that they can be comfortable with, regardless of whether it’s true.
How to Improve Your Gut Health in 6 Easy Steps (Vogue, January 31, 2023)
They don’t call it the “second brain” for nothing. The gut microbiome, which consists of no less than 100 trillion bacteria, affects everything from skin health and sex drive to energy levels and hormone balance. How, exactly? The gut has its own nervous system called the enteric nervous system (ENS), and while its main purpose is to regulate digestion, it also has a strong connection to the brain, and thus, a major impact on your mental well-being. “If your gut health is out of whack, your microbes send signals that negatively influence your mood,” explains Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian and founder of Nutritious Life.
From understanding the signs of poor digestion to giving your microbiome the good bacteria it craves to stay balanced, experts weigh in on how to take a holistic approach to improving your gut health.
Scientists Discover a New Cause of Melting Antarctic Ice Shelves. (SciTechDaily, January 31, 2023)
An international team of researchers has discovered that adjacent ice shelves play a role in causing instability in others downstream. The University of East Anglia in the UK led a study that identified that the amount of glacial-meltwater flowing beneath the Thwaites Ice Shelf can be impacted by a small ocean gyre next to it. A weaker gyre allows more warm water to access the areas beneath the ice shelf, causing it to melt.
The Thwaites Ice Shelf is one of the biggest ice shelves in West Antarctica and buttresses the eastern side of the Thwaites Glacier, which has been retreating rapidly over the last 20 years and is the largest contributor to global sea-level rise among Antarctic glaciers.
Did the Seeds of Life Ride to Earth Inside an Asteroid? (Wired, January 31, 2023)
Biological amino acids could have celestial or terrestrial roots. An experiment simulated their formation in deep space—but the mystery isn’t solved yet.
You Really Need to Update Firefox and Android Right Now. (Wired, January 31, 2023)
January saw a slew of security patches for iOS, Chrome, Windows, and more.
Cheaters beware: ChatGPT maker releases AI detection tool. (TechXplore, January 31, 2023)
The maker of ChatGPT is trying to curb its reputation as a freewheeling cheating machine, with a new tool that can help teachers detect if a student or artificial intelligence wrote that homework. The new AI Text Classifier launched Tuesday by OpenAI follows a weeks-long discussion at schools and colleges over fears that ChatGPT's ability to write just about anything on command could fuel academic dishonesty and hinder learning.
Oil Companies Plan to Take the Road Already Traveled. (Union of Concerned Scientists, January 30, 2023)
January is here and oil and gas companies are revving their engines, preparing to boast about record-busting revenues from the year when the invasion of Ukraine fattened oil investor pockets. They’re also hoping to circumnavigate efforts to hold them accountable for their contribution to climate change. Here are some obstacles ahead on the road to corporate accountability based on the signs we see.
Ron DeSantis Is “Actively Preparing” for Presidential Run and Donald Trump Is Having a Meltdown. (Them, January 30, 2023)
The Florida governor’s team is reportedly in talks with key campaign hires.
Identity Theft Awareness Week 2023, Jan. 30 - Feb. 3 (Federal Trade Commission, January 30, 2023)
Has someone used your personal information to open accounts, steal your tax refund, or file fake health insurance claims? That’s identity theft. It can happen to anyone, but simple steps can help lessen the chance it will happen to you.
Join us for Identity Theft Awareness Week 2023. The FTC and its partners will host free podcasts, webinars, Facebook Live interviews, and other events focused on avoiding and recovering from identity theft and spotting scams. We’ll have information for everyone and added advice for servicemembers, older adults, young adults, and business owners.
[Their "Live Webinars" are NOT available later; everything else appears to be so.]
3 Memphis EMTs fired for their response to the fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols. (4-min. video; NBC News, January 30, 2023)
Fire personnel who responded to the scene "failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment," the Memphis Fire Department said Monday.
A Completely New Way To Kill Cancer: Artificial DNA (SciTechDaily, January 30, 2023)
University of Tokyo researchers have made a breakthrough in the fight against cancer with the use of artificial DNA. In laboratory tests, the method effectively targeted and destroyed human cervical and breast cancer cells, as well as malignant melanoma cells from mice.
The team designed a pair of chemically synthesized DNA, shaped like hairpins, specifically to kill cancer cells. When injected into cancer cells, the DNA pairs attached to microRNA (miRNA) molecules that are overproduced in certain cancers. The DNA pairs, upon attaching to the miRNA, unraveled and combined, forming longer chains of DNA that activated an immune response. This response not only eliminated the cancer cells but also prevented the continuation of cancerous growth.
This innovative approach stands apart from traditional cancer drug treatments and is hoped to usher in a new era in drug development.
NEW: The Rift (Aeon, January 30, 2023)
Splitting the African continent, it is the only place where our human story can be read continuously from the very start
Do We Really Need 8 Glasses of Water a Day? New Research Challenges Conventional Wisdom. (SciTechDaily, January 30, 2023)
It is a common recommendation that people should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, which is often referred to as the “8×8 rule.” However, there is no scientific evidence to support this specific recommendation and actual hydration needs can vary significantly depending on a person’s age, gender, weight, and level of physical activity, as well as environmental factors such as climate and altitude. It is important to listen to your body’s thirst signals and drink water when you feel thirsty, as well as consume water-rich foods and beverages, to ensure adequate hydration.
The American West’s Salt Lakes Are Turning to Dust. (Wired, January 28, 2023)
A new research and monitoring program aims to conserve threatened but overlooked saline ecosystems.
Brian Tyler Cohen: Trump, Bill Barr’s crooked scheme finally BACKFIRES. (17-min. YouTube video, January 28, 2023)
Glenn Kirschner joins to discuss the end of the Durham probe and the way in which it actually backfired on Trump.
Americans once again protested after another recorded instance of police brutality. (four damning videos; New York Times, January 28, 2023)
Memphis police officers held down Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, and took turns punching and kicking him as he pleaded for them to stop, according to video footage released by officials yesterday. Nichols died in the hospital three days after the Jan. 7 traffic stop. The videos are grim and at times difficult to watch, but what they show is important. Today’s newsletter will focus on what we know and don’t know about the beating and the reaction from the public and officials.
[His T. Nichols Photography website remains active, and we like it. Sigh!]
5 Memphis Cops Charged With Murder of Tyre Nichols, Who Died After Traffic-Stop Beating. (Reason, January 27, 2023)
Five Memphis cops involved in the killing of Tyre Nichols have been indicted on charges that include kidnapping and murder. Nichols died three days after being pulled over for a traffic stop on January 7.
Authorities will release body camera footage of that incident this evening, according to Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy. And you can tell it will be bad by the fact that officials are already pleading with people not to riot.
All five officers are Black, as was Nichols—highlighting how the culture of U.S. policing, not just racism, contributes to America's abysmal police brutality problem.
Since this will come up a lot in media coverage of Tyre Nichols in Memphis: It seems narratively significant that the officers are Black; but statistically, it is unsurprising. In tracking police violence, we never found that race of the officer made much difference.
     -- Wesley (@WesleyLowery), January 26, 2023
[Originally posted to Twitter, which we avoid.
Advisory: "Reason: Free Minds and Free Markets", says "Founded in 1968, Reason is the nation's leading libertarian magazine. We produce hard-hitting independent journalism on civil liberties, politics, technology, culture, policy, and commerce. As the magazine of free minds and free markets, Reason exists outside of the left/right echo chamber."
"Free markets? Unregulated capitalism? Just HOW is that "outside of the left/right echo chamber"?]
NEW: How US police use digital data to prosecute abortions (TechCrunch, January 27, 2023)
Warrants for digital data are routine in police investigations, which makes sense, given how much time we spend online. Technology giants have for years responded to valid court orders for specific information sought by law enforcement, though some companies have done more to fight for our privacy than others. Millions of people now use apps that encrypt their calls and messages, like Signal and WhatsApp, so that no one can access their messages — not even the providers themselves.
The Cycle Of Civilizations: A Symposium On Clashes And Cross-pollination, by Nathan Gardels (Noema, January 27, 2023)
“The intelligible unit of historical study,” Arnold Toynbee famously wrote, is neither the nation-state nor mankind as a whole, but civilizations that grew out of societies that evolved toward dominance of their “known world,” or stalled in isolation and fell into obscurity, depending on challenges to which they rose in response or that defeated them. Writing his Study of History in the mid-20th century, he counted some 22 such civilizations that had arisen over the last 6,000 years, from the Mayan to Hindic to Sinic and Hellenic among many others. Each saw its foundation in a religious or cosmological outlook that shaped its internal cohesion through the form of the life of a society, its style of life, moral taste, form of government and spirit of laws.
For Toynbee, as the political scientist Robert Loevy has put it, “often one nation-state is the most powerful leader in the Civilization and comes to dominate it and symbolize it. After a lengthy period of domination, the Civilization falls, the world goes into a state of low-level organization, and humanity waits for the next Civilization to emerge and the cycle to begin anew.” Inevitably, as Toynbee saw it, creative elites become complacent in their success and fail to meet new challenges, both internally and from the outside.
Jerusalem synagogue attack: Seven killed in Friday-evening shooting. (BBC News, January 27, 2023)
Seven people have been shot dead at a synagogue in East Jerusalem, the most killed in an attack of this kind for years. At least three more people were injured. Police described the attacker as a "terrorist" and said he had been "neutralised". Local media identified him as a Palestinian man from East Jerusalem.
The attack happened on Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the six million Jews and other victims who were killed in the Holocaust by the Nazi regime in Germany. Tensions have been high since nine Palestinians - both militants and civilians - were killed during an Israeli military raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank on Thursday. This was followed by rocket fire into Israel from Gaza, to which Israel responded with air strikes.
CVS, Walmart to Cut Pharmacy Hours as Staffing Squeeze Continues. (Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2023)
Operating schedules remain ‘pain point’ as chains seek to improve work environment.
FDA advisory committee votes unanimously in favor of a one-shot COVID-19 vaccine approach – 5 questions answered. (The Conversation, January 27, 2023)
Many questions remain about next steps for US vaccine policy. But the FDA advisory panel’s hearty endorsement of a single-composition COVID-19 vaccine represents a pivotal step.
Visualizing U.S. Consumption of Fuel and Materials per Capita (chart; Visual Capitalist, January 27, 2023)
According to data from the National Mining Association, each American needs more than 39,000 pounds (17,700 kg) of minerals and fossil fuels annually to maintain their standard of living.
Can Elephants Save the Planet? These Majestic Animals Are Key to Capturing Atmospheric Carbon. (SciTechDaily, January 27, 2023)
Elephants play a key role in creating forests that store more atmospheric carbon and maintaining the biodiversity of forests in Africa. If the already critically endangered elephants become extinct, the rainforest of central and west Africa, the second largest rainforest on earth, would lose between six and nine percent of its ability to capture atmospheric carbon, amplifying planetary warming.
[Uh, don't forget reducing human population and pollution and energy waste. Don't say we didn't warn you.]
A Growing Threat: Harmful Fungal Toxins Are Spreading in Wheat. (SciTechDaily, January 26, 2023)
Wheat, the most commonly grown crop globally, is facing an increasing threat from harmful toxins. A study led by Dr. Neil Brown, a fungal biologist from the University of Bath in the UK and in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Exeter, has found that almost half of the wheat crops in Europe are affected by a fungal infection that leads to the production of these toxins. The fungus that causes Fusarium Head Blight, a disease affecting wheat and other cereals in the field, produces mycotoxins, which are causing problems. These mycotoxins, when present in contaminated food products, can cause sickness in humans and livestock, including vomiting and gastrointestinal issues. Additionally, mycotoxins can have a negative impact on farmers and the economy as they can decrease the value of the grain.
Wheat plays a huge role in feeding humanity, providing 18% of the total calories in people’s diets globally. Concerns both for our health and for global food supplies were the impetuses for the new study.
[Maybe we'll all be forced to believe The Population Bomb (Paul Erlich, 1968) after all.]
First Look at blendOS: A Blend of Arch Linux, Fedora Linux, and Ubuntu (9to5 Linux, January 26, 2023)
An immutable operating system built around Distrobox and using the GNOME desktop environment. Or, an easy way to mold it to your preferences. You can try it right now by downloading it below or by visiting its official website.
[MMS and many friends love Ubuntu-Unity; this new offering is by its author, Rudra Saraswat.]
NEW: Ron DeSantis’ Secret Twitter Army of Far-Right Influencers (Daily Beast, January 26, 2023)
Ron DeSantis’ political operation has been recruiting conservative influencers. But the personalities DeSantis is attracting have plenty of problems.
“Lies Have Short Legs”: Inside the Brazilian WhatsApp Group Exposing George Santos (Mother Jones, January 26, 2023)
“He always convinced people that everything was a big misunderstanding.”
ChatGPT’s Mind-Boggling, Possibly Dystopian Impact on the Media World (Vanity Fair, January 26, 2023)
Is artificial intelligence “useful for journalism” or a “misinformation superspreader”? With CNET mired in controversy, Jonah Peretti promising “endless opportunities,” and Steven Brill warning of AI’s weaponization, the industry is only just coming to grips with this jaw-dropping technology.
[So, let's enjoy it now, and regret it later?]
Lawsuit: Social media causes mental illness. (Politico, January 26, 2023)
A California court could soon decide whether algorithms that promote and recommend content on Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites are defective products. If the plaintiffs win, it will have far-reaching consequences for how software is developed and regulated, and how the next generation of users experiences social media.
The plaintiffs’ case: Social media users who developed eating disorders, anxiety, and depression say the tech giants knew that their algorithms encourage users to view posts that might lead them into mental illness, and that the companies had a duty to warn them of the dangers.
Robert Reich: When Fox entered the hen house, and tried to make me into a soufflé. (Substack, January 26, 2023)
After sifting through the evidence, Farm Action concludes:
The real culprit behind this 138 percent hike in the price of a carton of eggs appears to be a collusivescheme among industry leaders to turn inflationary conditions and an avian flu outbreak into an opportunity to extract egregious profits reaching as high as 40 percent. What Cal-Maine Foods and the other large egg producers did last year—and seem to be intent on doing again this year—is extort billions of dollars from the pockets of ordinary Americans through what amounts to a tax on a staple we all need: eggs. They did so without any legitimate business justification. They did so because there is no ‘reasonable substitute’ for a carton of eggs. They did so because they had power and weren't afraid to use it. Not especially sunny-side up — but at least not scrambled by Fox.
While avian flu and inflation may have contributed to some of the rise in prices, the extraordinary surge certainly smells rotten. The leading egg firms have a long history of cartel-like conspiracies to limit production, split markets, and increase prices for consumers.
Farm Action wants the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. On Tuesday, Senator Jack Reed asked the FTC to investigate whether “fowl play” by egg producers may have harmed consumers.
When it comes to the corporate monopolization of eggs — or of anything else — the American public shouldn’t go over easy.
US joins Germany in sending battle tanks to Ukraine. (BBC News, January 25, 2023)
The US will send 31 powerful battle tanks to Ukraine, joining Germany in sending the vehicles to support the fight against Russia's invasion. The decision to deliver the M1 Abrams tanks was announced just hours after Germany said it would send 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks to the battlefield. Berlin also cleared the way for other European countries to send German-made tanks from their own stocks.
Ukraine has lobbied Western allies to send the military equipment for months.
[See Jan. 22 Medium article, below.]
NEW: Edmunds: The pros and cons of software running your car (AP News, January 25, 2023)
Software was a big theme for automakers attending CES 2023 in January. The takeaway was clear: More and more vehicles will be run top to bottom by software, not hardware. In some cases, the future is already here.
NEW: Another crypto collapse just occurred. (Medium, January 25, 2023)
Last week, Genesis trading filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, unable to withstand the huge hole in the balance sheet caused by a series of extremely clumsy investments and an unfiltered passion for gambling.
Naturally, the first question is, how did this happen? Well, let’s put it this way, it was a poorly-executed masterclass of loan engineering.
The Rebellion Amazon Can No Longer Ignore. (Wired, January 25, 2023/font>)
Warehouse workers in the UK are walking out for the first time, and they want the world to follow.
Virus Briefing Newsletter will suspend. (New York Times, January 25, 2023)
On Jan. 6, 2020, The New York Times first reported on a mysterious “pneumonia-like illness” that sickened 59 people in Wuhan, China. Symptoms included high fever, trouble breathing and lung lesions, but Chinese health officials said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.
But two days later, they identified it as a new coronavirus, and it WAS spreading, dramatically.
“We thought that we were going to have a big burst of infections, and, like every other outbreak, it was going to peak, turn around, come back down and then, essentially, if not disappear, go to a low enough level that it didn’t bother anybody,” Dr. Fauci said. “And here we are three years later, into our fifth or sixth variant.”
As the virus evolved, so did the newsletter. We explored the pandemic’s effects on health care, education, politics, mental health, minority groups, workplaces, travel, relationships and families. Times reporters from across the world — in China, Brazil, India, Israel, Canada, Britain, Hong Kong and more — gave us on-the-ground reports of outbreaks. We also covered the fault lines that the pandemic revealed and exacerbated.
Now, after three years, we’re pausing this newsletter. The acute phase of the pandemic has faded in much of the world, and many of us have tried to pick up the pieces and move on. We promise to return to your inbox if the pandemic takes a sharp turn. But, for now, this is goodbye.
Why politicians keep misplacing classified documents. (BBC News, January 25, 2023)
The big difference between others' missteps, and Mr Trump's, is how the mistakes were handled after they were discovered, says national security legal expert Brad Moss. "You notify the authorities, you make sure that the documents are properly returned to the relevant government entity and taken away from the unauthorised location. That's the way you're supposed to do it," he said. "What you don't do is what Trump did, which was spend 18 months delaying, obfuscating, obstructing the inquiry."
It Came From the Basement. (Mother Jones, January 25, 2023)
How Nick Fuentes groomed a new generation of racist hate.
The Case of a 6-Year-Old School Shooter Raises Gut-Wrenching Questions. (Mother Jones, January 25, 2023)
There is so much we still don’t know about the shocking violence at a Virginia elementary school. As I document in Trigger Points, my book about preventing school and mass shootings through the emerging field of behavioral threat assessment, the common belief that such planned attacks arise fundamentally from mental illness is wrong. Millions of people suffer from clinically diagnosable mental health afflictions, but decades of research have shown that there is no meaningful link, causal or predictive, between mental illness and violence, let alone in a person so young. Whether intentional or not, the implication that a young child’s disability is responsible for such a shooting could reinforce a damaging stigma for countless individuals with clinical conditions who never commit violence.
The private angst over Donald Trump’s racist attacks on Elaine Chao goes public. (Politico, January 25, 2023)
His rhetoric "says a whole lot more about him than it will ever say about Asian-Americans." Chao’s statement is an extremely rare case of the former Transportation Secretary wading into the political thicket that her former boss has laid around her since the end of his administration. It suggests that discomfort with Trump’s anti-Asian rhetoric has reached a new level amid several high-profile shootings targeting Asian-Americans.
NEW: Two Supreme Court Cases That Could Break the Internet (New Yorker,
January 25, 2023)
Until now, Internet platforms could allow users to share speech pretty freely, for better or for worse, and they had immunity from liability for a lot of things that their users said. This is the law colloquially known as Section 230, which is probably the most misunderstood, misreported, and hated law on the Internet. It provides immunity from some kinds of claims for platform liability based on user speech.
What happens if that immunity goes away?
NEW: Brazil, Kenya, the US – Tech giants are putting democracy in peril the world over. (The Guardian, January 25, 2023)
Billions of us are due to vote in the next two years - as the scourge of online misinformation grows ever worse. It’s time to regulate!
['Way beyond time! But Big Business and its hired politicians...]
NEW: Fossil teeth reveal how brains developed in utero over millions of years of human evolution. (The Conversation, January 25, 2023)
To investigate the evolution of prenatal growth rates, we focused on the in-utero development of teeth – which do fossilize. By building a mathematical model using the relative lengths of molar teeth, we were able to track evolutionary changes in prenatal growth rates in the fossil record. Based on our model, it looks as if pregnancy and prenatal growth became more human-like than chimp-like almost 1 million years ago.

Half Moon Bay: Seven dead in another California mass shooting. (photos, videos and links; BBC News, January 24, 2023)
The US state of California is reeling from its third mass shooting in eight days, after a man shot dead seven former co-workers south of San Francisco.
The Food Expiration Dates You Should Actually Follow. (New York Times, January 24, 2023)
The first thing you should know? The dates, as we know them, have nothing to do with safety.

NEW: Remote Work Destroyed America's Most Profitable Industry. (Medium, January 24, 2023)
How did tech become America's most troubled industry?
NEW: ChatGPT uses AI to pass MBA final exam at UPenn’s Wharton. (2-min. video; NBC News, January 24, 2023)
ChatGPT uses artificial intelligence to write an essay instantly on any topic. It even passed an MBA exam at UPenn’s Wharton. Learn more about the cutting-edge technology and the shockwaves it’s causing on college campuses.
NEW: Waze now supports Android Auto’s ‘Coolwalk’ dashboard; will users actually start getting it now? (9to5 Google, January 24, 2023)
[More on Android Auto here.]
Hey, EV Owners: It’d Take a Fraction of You to Prop Up the Grid. (Wired, January 23, 2023)
If you agree to provide some of your car’s battery power in times of high energy demand, you’ll get paid AND help make the grid more stable.
The Constitution Has a 155-Year-Old Answer to the Debt Ceiling. (DNYUZ, January 23, 2023)
The 14th Amendment, added to the Constitution in the wake of the Civil War, has been back in the news of late, mostly because the Supreme Court has taken aim at past decisions, notably Roe v. Wade, that employed it to protect Americans’ liberties. The amendment remains the most significant addition to the Constitution since the adoption of the Bill of Rights. Its magnificent first section established the principle of birthright citizenship and prohibited the states from denying to any person the equal protection of the laws, laying the foundation for many of the rights Americans prize.
Long-forgotten provisions of the 14th Amendment are suddenly crying out for enforcement. Section Two provides for a reduction in the number of representatives allocated to states that deny the right to vote to any “male citizens.” With many states seriously limiting voting rights, its time may have come.
Section Three bars from public office anyone who took an oath to support the Constitution and subsequently participated in or encouraged “insurrection.” The events of Jan. 6, 2021, have focused new attention on this stipulation, which could be applied to participants in the uprising who previously held military, political, or judicial positions, including former President Donald Trump.
Then there is Section Four, which offers a way out of the current impasse over increasing the debt ceiling. “The validity of the public debt of the United States,” it declares, “shall not be questioned.” What were those who wrote, debated and ratified this provision trying to accomplish?
U.S. Mass Shootings, 1982–2023 (Mother Jones, January 23, 2023)
The full data set from our in-depth investigation into mass shootings may be viewed or downloaded.
Once again, America is confronting the aftermath of a gun massacre. (NY Times, January 23, 2023)
A gunman shot to death 10 people and injured at least 10 others on Saturday at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park, Calif., a city of about 60,000 people east of Los Angeles. He opened fire as many people in the city, which is predominantly Asian, were celebrating the eve of Lunar New Year. The gunman, whom the authorities identified as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, is believed to have then gone to a dance hall in the neighboring city of Alhambra. But he fled, according to the authorities. Officers later found him in a parked van after he reportedly shot himself to death.
This kind of mass shooting has become tragically common in the U.S.; what would be a rare horror in any other developed country is typical here. Yet the cause is no mystery. America has an enormous amount of guns, making it easier for someone to carry out a deadly shooting. All over the world, there are people who argue, fight over relationships, suffer from mental health issues or hold racist views. But in the U.S., those people can more easily obtain a gun and shoot someone.
NEW: Send tanks to Ukraine now! (Medium, January 22, 2023)
Germany’s refusal to supply Leopard 2s is a disaster.
[Excellent analysis!]
Suspect in Monterey Park mass shooting dead from self-inflicted gunshot wound. (NBC News, January 22, 2023)
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said the suspect in the mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, is dead. Luna identified 72-year-old Yuu Can Tran as the shooter who was found in a white van, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot.
Suspect Is Still at Large in Mass Shooting at LA-Area Ballroom. (Mother Jones, January 22, 2023)
“We need to get this person off the street as soon as possible.”
Robert Reich: Saturday coffee klatch: Hitting our heads on the debt ceiling and other lowlights of the past week (19-min. audio; Substack; January 21, 202)
This morning we take a look at the past week, in particular:
- The debt ceiling scare, and the House Republicans’ attempt to hold the full faith and credit of the U.S. hostage to their demands.
- George Santos, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and other luminaries of the new Republican House.
- Supreme Court leaks, who Sherlock Holmes would name as the probable leaker, and why the Court doesn’t have a code of ethics.
NEW: Google’s Sparrow Will Kill ChatGPT. It is Microsoft Teams vs. Slack, All Over Again. (Entreprenal, January 21, 2023)
History favors the winners, and you know how big Microsoft Teams is.
Cory Doctorow: Tiktok's en----tification (Pluralistic, January 21, 2023)
Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.
It is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a "two sided market," where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them.
[Very perceptive article. Who comes first, users or stockholders? Etc.]
NEW: Somnath Singh: Coding Won’t Exist In 5 Years. This Is Why. (Javascript in Plain English, January 20, 2023)
AI-powered tools are about to take over.
TikTok’s Secret "Heating" Button Can Make Anyone Go Viral. (Forbes, January 20, 2023)
TikTok and ByteDance employees regularly engage in "heating," a manual push that ensures specific videos "achieve a certain number of video views," according to six sources and documents reviewed by Forbes.
T-Mobile’s $150-Million Security Plan Isn’t Cutting It. (Wired, January 20, 2023)
The mobile operator just suffered at least its fifth data breach since 2018, despite promising to spend a fortune shoring up its systems.
Elon Musk Sold Tesla Shares Before Company Acknowledged Weakness. (Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2023)
The stock tumbled after the CEO’s almost $3.6-Billion sale, and fell further when electric-vehicle maker said it had delivered fewer cars than expected.
How Kevin McCarthy Became the Last "Young Gun" Standing. (Mother Jones, January 20, 2023)
For McCarthy, his political ambitions have always come with a catch: To get where he wanted to go, he first had to hand over the keys. His elevation to speaker of the House in January on the 15th ballot was the culmination of his life’s work and a demonstration of his powers. In nailing down a belligerent caucus, McCarthy leaned on relationships cultivated over a decade-and-half on the campaign trail, at the Capitol, and on the fundraising circuit. But it was also a reminder of the compromises he made to get there. McCarthy won the gavel, but not the authority it traditionally brings, by ceding control to the insurrectionists and austerity-obsessed hard-liners who blocked his nomination 14 times. Before he could win anything, he had to believe in nothing.
[Tim Murphy's special feature is a fine report about GOP hypocrisy.]
Robert Reich: Psst: You want to know who leaked the Supreme Court's Dobbs opinion? (Substack, January 20, 2023)
The Supreme Court yesterday announced that an internal investigation failed to identify the person who leaked a draft of the Court’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization — the opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that had established a constitutional right to abortion. A modern Sherlock Holmes might well conclude that the leaker was … Justice Samuel Alito, Jr.
Even if uncontroverted evidence emerges that Alito leaked the Dobbs decision, there’s nothing the Supreme Court could do to discipline him. The Court has no code of conduct or rules of ethics. (Think Clarence Thomas.) Partly for this reason, public trust in the Supreme Court has been plummeting.
Trump Confused His Ex-Wife With the Rape Accuser He Called “Not My Type”. (Mother Jones, January 19, 2023)
A newly unsealed deposition undermines the former president’s go-to defense against E. Jean Carroll’s rape allegation.
Robert Reich: What will the House Oversight Committee do? (Substack, January 19, 2023)
The House Oversight and Accountability Committee is the major investigative unit in the House. Yesterday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy loaded it with people who enabled Donald Trump’s attempted coup in the months after the 2020 election. They have also called for violence against their political enemies, embraced conspiracy theories, and associated with white supremacists.
McCarthy’s move is the most cynical act of political thuggery since Trump left the White House. Not coincidentally, it is designed to advance Trump’s re-election and his anti-democracy agenda.
MRFF responses, based upon the First Amendment, to Merchant Marine Academy grad who objects to covering of giant Jesus painting (Military Religious Freedom Foundation, January 19, 2023)
Differences of opinion: Religio-political Freedom Of Speech vs. the First Amendment.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: “In America, we don’t count heads before enforcing the First Amendment.”
MRFF Advisory Board Member: "Constitutional rights don’t work on votes of preference, convenience, or what suits you as acceptable based on your own perceptions of history. For some, it takes a lifetime to understand this."
MRFF Advisory Board Member: "I think you’ll find that many, if not most, Christians understand that the U.S. Constitution and its doctrine of the separation of church and state protect everyone’s right to believe as they choose and for that reason disallow overt demonstrations of preference and/or support for one belief system over others. While you and some of your compatriots may find this kind of proselytizing perfectly acceptable, it is in direct contradiction to the fundamental understandings of our nation and should be moved to an appropriate Christian chapel, church or specifically Christian gathering place."
MRFF Advisory Board Member: "Thank you for your prior service as a Merchant Marine. The sworn oath you and all Merchant Marines, including the Merchant Marine Academy Superintendent, take requires you to perform all duties required by the laws of the United States.
"For your information, US laws, beginning with the US Constitution 1st Amendment (effective December 15, 1791) prohibit the US Government, of which the Merchant Marines and Merchant Marine Academy are a part, from establishing, enforcing or endorsing a religion and require government neutrality regarding religion (neither pro-religion nor anti-religion but religion-neutral). It is a shield of protection for the right of every American, including Merchant Marines, to determine, enjoy and practice his or her own beliefs free from government favor or disfavor. It is never a sword of privilege to harm, discriminate against or impose religion on fellow Americans."
American Founder & President John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776): "The very definition of a republic is '…a nation of laws and not of man.'"
MRFF Supporter Steve Dundas: "Let us clear up one thing about the United States being a 'Christian nation,' a myth that you have obviously swollowed hook, line and sinker. The one thing I truly despise is myth masquerading as history being shoved down the throats of others by pseudo-historians masquerading as Christian leaders and politicians. But I can’t forget "Christians that suffer from the persecutors of Christians" - actually, suffering from false persecution syndrome, sometimes called being upset at other people having the same rights as them. The fact that you don’t get the idea that this painting was in a room where meetings of people who are not Christians have to meet, as opposed to a strictly denominational Chapel facility, where if it were a Christian facility it would be fine, shows that you don’t care about anyone’s rights but your brand of Christians.
"Back when Madison penned the First Amendment there were Christian people who wanted their denominations to be the State Religion, and who had no tolerance for what then were small denominations, like the Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, and dare I say, Roman Catholics, not to mention the even smaller number of Jews and Muslims. These people wanted to have established churches in every state, except Rhode Island. Of precedence Madison had the Virginia Statute on Religious Liberty. That was written because Virginia Anglicans were pushing to establish their faith as the state religion of Virginia. To help their cause they went around breaking up meetings of other groups, and in the case of Baptists, broke of their meetings, broke their noses, and took them to the nearest body of water to water board or “re-baptize” them. The leader of Virginia Baptists was a man named John Leland. Back in those days the Baptists believed in the absolute separation of Church and State because of how they were treated in England, by the Church of England, which in addition to being a Church worked with the government to persecute religious minorities."
John Leland early American Baptist (Christian): "The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever. … Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.
“Is conformity of sentiments in matters of religion essential to the happiness of civil government? Not at all. Government has no more to do with the religious opinions of men than it has with the principles of mathematics. Let every man speak freely without fear - maintain the principles that he believes – worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods; and let government protect him in so doing; i.e., see that he meets with no personal abuse or loss of property for his religious opinions. Instead of discouraging him with proscriptions, fines, confiscation or death, let him be encouraged, as a free man, to bring forth his arguments and maintain his points with all boldness; then if his doctrine is false it will be confuted, and if it is true (though ever so novel) let others credit it. When every man has this liberty what can he wish for more? A liberal man asks for nothing more of government.”"
Robert Heinlein: "Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so."
Thomas Paine (the author of that little book Common Sense, which was such a favorite of the Founders): “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.
U.S. President James Madison: "Every new & successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."
American philosopher Eric Hofer (who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan): "The impression somehow prevails that the true believer, particularly the religious individual, is a humble person. The truth is the surrendering and humbling of the self breed pride and arrogance. The true believer is apt to see himself as one of the chosen, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a prince disguised in meekness, who is destined to inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven too. He who is not of his faith is evil; he who will not listen will perish."
Gary North (who schooled Ronald Reagan and Rand Paul in the ways of Christian Nationalism and persecution of non-Christians of any kind or Christians of the wrong kind): "The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant–baptism and holy communion – must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel."
[In Kings Point NY (note the coincidence), the US Merchant Marine Academy was quick to comply by covering up the large painting featuring Jesus (see 1:31 in this 2-min. video.) But why was it ever permitted, why was it not corrected for so very long and, during those many years, how many were trained to ignore the wrong?
This long condensation barely scratches the surface of this fundamental issue in our divided USA. If you can't read the entire article, read its complete letter by Steve Dundas; you'll be glad you did. After editing its typos, it should be basic reading in every school in America.
Comedian Bill Marr: "Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking."]
Over 100 groups press Biden administration to set ‘forever chemicals’ drinking water standards without further delay. (EWG, January 19, 2023)
The standards, promised last year, have thus far been delayed. The administration committed to proposing enforceable drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, two widespread and harmful PFAS, by Fall 2022.
For Some Food Professionals, Long-COVID Has Cast a Long Shadow on Their Senses. (Civil Eats, January 19, 2023)
Many workers in the food industry experiencing parosmia—or a long-term distorted sense of smell—find their lives and livelihoods disrupted. And they have trouble accessing help.
Tunisian Cave Village Empties Out in Face of Drought and Modernity’s Draw. (DNYUZ, January 19, 2023)
Nearly a thousand years ago, the people who first built Chenini and nearby cave villages like it did so to protect their precious food stores from raiders. Using the golden stone under their feet for camouflage, they erected a granary that crowned their chosen mountain like a fortified citadel, then hollowed vaults for living out of the mountainside just beneath.
“We are together, and then, every time somebody grows up, they leave,” said her mother, Salima Najjar, 74. She sighed. “We are left alone here.”
NEW: The bitter dinosaur feud at the heart of palaeontology (BBC, January 19, 2023)
Othniel Charles Marsh (centre, back row) was an outstanding palaeontologist locked in a bitter rivalry with Edward Drinker Cope (not pictured). As two warring bone hunters sought to destroy each other, they laid the foundations for our knowledge of dinosaurs.
Little-Known Surveillance Program Captures Money Transfers Between U.S. and More Than 20 Countries. (Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2023)
Hundreds of federal, state and local U.S. law-enforcement agencies have access without court oversight to a database of more than 150 million money transfers between people in the U.S. and in more than 20 countries, according to internal program documents and an investigation by Sen. Ron Wyden. The database, housed at a little-known nonprofit called the Transaction Record Analysis Center, or TRAC, was set up by the Arizona state attorney general’s office in 2014 as part of a settlement reached with Western Union to combat cross-border trafficking of drugs and people from Mexico. It has since expanded to allow officials of more than 600 law-enforcement entities—from federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to small-town police departments in nearly every state—to monitor the flow of funds through money services between the U.S. and countries around the world.
Metaverse Landlords Are Creating a New Class System. (Wired, January 18, 2023)
Virtual landowners have found a way to put their investments to work, but with unintended consequences. The evolution of virtual real estate is “profoundly political,” says Burrows. He sees virtual worlds as places people go to cocoon themselves among others who share their political beliefs. In this case, so-called cryptonatives have constructed a world over which they preside, as owners of the land, built around the same suspicion of government and public institutions on which the crypto movement was founded. Nominally, anyone is welcome, but only as a tenant.
Burrows says metaverse worlds are simply reflecting what’s happening in the physical world, where ultra-wealthy people like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel separate themselves from “the great unwashed, the difficult and the messy.” The result will be a series of virtual enclaves populated by people with a “misunderstanding of the world” and “fear of otherness,” he says, eliminating any remaining hope that the metaverse will deliver on its promise to unite people from different walks of life.
Thom Hartmann: Is the Reason Some Wealthy People Oppose Democracy Deeper Than We Think? (The Hartmann Report, January 18, 2023)
If working people were a bit more desperate about their economic situations, some conservative thinkers & the uber wealthy believe, they’d be less likely to organize, protest, or even vote.
Popes, kings, queens, pharaohs, emperors: none allowed democracy because all knew it was both a threat to their wealth and power but also because, they asserted, it would render their nations unstable. These historic leaders — and their modern day “strongman” versions emerging in former democracies like Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Egypt, The Philippines, and Russia — are the model for many of today’s conservatives. And not just because they were rich.
[A quick history of oppression by oligarchy.]
Which Countries are the Most Polarized? (Visual Capitalist, January 18, 2023)
Despite being one of the largest economies in Latin America, Argentina is the most polarized country surveyed by a large margin. Foreign loan defaults, a high fiscal deficit, and now surging inflation have created a perfect storm in the country. 43% of the Argentinian respondents said they will be better off in five years, down 17 percentage points from last year. Along with fiscal upheaval, Argentinians are also dealing with enduring corruption in the public sector and abrupt policy reversals between governments. Only 20% of those surveyed in Argentina said they trusted the government—the least of all surveyed countries.
Here are all six of the countries considered to be severely polarized: Argentina, Colombia, United States, South Africa, Spain and Sweden.
In the U.S., heightened political upheaval between Democrats and Republicans over the last few years has led to strengthening ideological stances and to an abundance of headlines about polarization. Only 42% of respondents in the country trust the government.
[Be proud, Trump and Trump friends (including Russia and China).]
Two Years Ago This Brazilian Expert on the Far Right Predicted Their Insurrection. (Mother Jones, January 18, 2023)
Two years and two days after the invasion of the US Capitol by pro-Trump insurrectionists, much of the world appeared to be astonished as an angry mob stormed Brazil’s seat of power, calling for a military intervention and attacking the congressional building, the presidential offices, and the Supreme Court. David Nemer, a Brazil-born assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Department of Media Studies, monitors far-right channels on social media, and, for him, the mob’s violence was a tragedy foretold. In an interview on January 8, 2021, for the Brazilian nonprofit investigative publication Agência Pública, Nemer predicted a January 6-like event was bound to happen in Brazil. “If [Jair] Bolsonaro loses the [next] elections they won’t accept it,” he said of the defeated former president’s supporters, “and the same thing will happen.”
Exactly two years later, Nemer was proved to be right, but for those paying attention, it wasn’t hard to see it coming. As I wrote last week, the anti-democratic coordinated effort on January 8 has been long in the making, and plans for the invasion itself were openly discussed online. More than 1,300 people have been arrested in connection with the attack.
Democracy defenders and Rambo wannabes: Ukraine's volunteer foreign fighters. (Washington Post, January 18, 2023)
The willingness of tens of thousands to answer Zelenskyy's call speaks to the resonance of Ukraine's cause: a country aspiring to be a free and democratic member of the European Union fighting for survival against a totalitarian regime with a history of violently violating the territorial sovereignty of its neighbors. But some volunteer fighters are breaking the laws of their home countries to fight in Ukraine, and experts have noted a risk that U.S. volunteers could be violating the Neutrality Act, a law enacted in 1794 that intended to prohibit U.S. citizens from potentially embroiling the country in foreign wars.
NEW: Wes O'Donnell: How Russia’s New Commander in Ukraine is a Win for Ukrainians (Medium, January 18, 2023)
Last week, the Kremlin announced that it was replacing General Sergei Surovikin — who had actually made moderate gains for Russia — with another general, Valery Gerasimov. This is good news for Ukraine. Here’s why…
Valery Gerasimov is a Putin loyalist, prized more for his politics than for his military acumen. In fact, he helped plan the disastrous Russian invasion in 2022.
On the other hand, Surovikin was a competent general who had improved the Russian war effort and had made small to moderate gains over the past three months. I don’t mean to sound like I admire the guy; he is still a war criminal who is listed on the Human Rights Watch.
But by sacking Surovikin and replacing him with Gerasimov, Putin has just handed Ukraine an incredible gift. Gerasimov is not the best tactician.
Russian TV Touts a Big Victory in Ukraine. On the Ground, It’s More Complicated. (3-min. video; Wall Street Journal, January 17, 2023)
Russian media has portrayed the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar as a major strategic outpost after Moscow claimed its troops seized it in their first victory in months. WSJ's Ian Lovett fact-checked the propaganda reports.
Russia sees sanctions impact on oil products, eyes crude export boost. (Reuters, January 17, 2023)
In what the West casts as unprecedented sanctions and President Vladimir Putin deems a declaration of economic war, the United States and its allies are trying to constrict the economy of Russia, the world's second largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia. Russia expects Western sanctions to have a significant impact on its oil products exports and therefore its production, but that will likely leave more crude oil to sell.
Lasers Are Mapping Scotland’s Mysterious Iron Age Passages. (Wired, January 17, 2023)
Digitized archaeology is making souterrains—subterranean passages in the Highlands—accessible in a way Indiana Jones could only dream of.
How Restaurant Workers Help Pay for Lobbying to Keep Their Wages Low. (DNYUZ, January 17, 2023)
The company they are paying, ServSafe, doubles as a fund-raising arm of the National Restaurant Association — the largest lobbying group for the food-service industry, claiming to represent more than 500,000 restaurant businesses. The association has spent decades fighting increases to the minimum wage at the federal and state levels, as well as the sub-minimum wage paid to tipped workers like waiters.
Life as a 21st-Century Trucker (Wired, January 17, 2023)
Technology, corporate greed, and supply-chain chaos are transforming life behind the wheel of a big rig. I went on the road to find exactly how.
Visualizing the World’s Top 25 Fleets of Combat Tanks (Visual Capitalist, January 17, 2023)
Russia has by far the most, but the headline number conceals a number of weaknesses of the Russian tank fleet. Of Russia’s nearly 13,000 active combat tanks, only a fraction are main battle tanks. A 2021 Russian source estimated that their operational main battle fleet was closer to 2,600 tanks, made up of T-72s, T-80s, and T-90s, with another 400 T-72 variants used as range tanks.
On top of that, only one-quarter of those are considered modern tanks—T-72B3/B3M, T-80-BVM, and T-90A/M—that is, fitted with up-to-date fire control systems and sighting.
That’s why, on top of poor morale, inadequate logistics, and inflexible tactics, Russia has struggled to perform on the Ukrainian battlefield despite having more than six times the number of tanks (12,556 vs. 1,890). According to a Pentagon official speaking in early November 2022, Russia has lost half of their tanks since their so-called “special military operation” began on February 24, 2022. The conflict has also injured or killed thousands of civilians, displaced millions, and upended the post-Cold War security architecture.
With $1.5-Billion Bill due at month-end, Elon Musk’s options aren’t great. (Ars Technica, January 17, 2023)
Purchased for $44 billion, company is likely worth as little as $15 billion today. Elon Musk’s personal equity investment in Twitter of about $26 billion would be effectively wiped out in the event of a bankruptcy.
Clothes Make the Con Man. (DNYUZ, January 17, 2023)
Throughout history, the greatest grifters have understood that dressing the part is half the game. And so it has been with George Santos, the Republican congressman representing parts of Long Island and Queens, who has been unmasked as having fabricated pretty much his entire résumé in his quest to get elected, potentially committing campaign finance fraud in the process.
Why, people keep asking, did it take so long for his lies to be revealed? Why did no one think to poke deeper? Why did the people who did know something fishy was going on not speak up? In part, because he just looked so darn convincing.
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: "FBI's Vicious Letter To King Holds Lessons On Surveillance, Hindsight". (photo of the letter; NY Daily News, NPR, NY Times, January 16, 2023)
[Lest we forget... 1964! Thank you, journalists! Are we doing better, 58 years later?]
Wyoming Seeking To Phase Out EV Sales By 2035. (GM Authority, January 16, 2023)
As the state of California and others move to phase out the sale of internal-combustion-powered passenger vehicles, the state of Wyoming has announced it’s moving a different direction with plans to phase out EV sales by the 2035 calendar year. The resolution lays out a number of justifications for phasing out EV sales, the most prominent of which is Wyoming’s reliance on oil and gas production. Although Wyoming is the least-populace state in the U.S., it’s also one of the biggest producers of crude oil. Critically, the resolution isn’t an outright ban on EV sales. Rather, it “encourages” Wyoming industry and citizens limit EV sales, with the eventual goal of phasing out new EV sales by 2035.
["Forget about planet Earth. We're from Wyoming."]
NEW: All the Data Apple Collects About You—and How to Limit It. (Wired, January 16, 2023)
In the past decade, Apple has positioned itself as a privacy-first company. It has butted heads with law enforcement for encrypting people’s phones, messages, and FaceTime calls, and battled Facebook over its creepy ad-tracking practices. But Apple’s business model is also shifting.
For years, Cupertino has made its money by selling expensive hardware—iPhones, iPads, and Macs. However, it has recently pushed to boost its profits by increasing its services, such as subscriptions to Apple Music, iCloud, and Apple TV. And its advertising business is quickly growing.
As a result, Apple’s users are starting to see more ads inside some of Apple’s apps. Apple has always collected some data about its customers—as all businesses do—but its increasing push into services and advertising opens the door for more potential data collection.
Are we getting dumber and dumber? (26-min. video; DW Documentary, January 15, 2023)
For a long time, mankind was getting smarter and smarter. In fact, our progress seemed unstoppable. Intelligence research actually confirmed this. But a few years ago, IQ scores stagnated. What could be the reason for this?
California battles deadly storms with millions under flood watch. (1-min. video; BBC News, January 15, 2023)
Californians are used to extreme weather - wildfires, drought and the threat of earthquakes, with many awaiting the "Big One" that so many experts predict. But the "storm parade" pummelling California is new.
The rain has raised the water level in rivers across the state. At least 19 people have died in these storms, which began in late December. In Northern California, vineyards are under water. In Capitola, the historic wharf has been destroyed and the beach town battered. In the storied Salinas Valley, the river is rising and threatening California's famed agricultural heartland.
Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF: a new image and live feed. (photos and 44-min. video; Virtual Telescope/EU, January 14, 2023)
Soon after its perihelion, we imaged comet C/2022 E3 ZTF again, as it continues to slowly brighten.
[Perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun, was on January 12th. Its closest approach to Earth will be on February 1st. See good article from January 6th, below.]
Jesus baptism site makeover aims to draw a million Christians in 2030. (BC News, January 14, 2023)
It promises a biblical village and the largest Christian pilgrimage and interfaith centre in the region, recognising that the River Jordan and its valley is also loaded with religious importance for Jews and Muslims. The baptism site, also known as Bethany Beyond the Jordan, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, where the ruins of Roman and Byzantine churches, a monastery and baptism pools are preserved among the wilderness near to the lowest point on Earth.
They were uncovered in 1995 after Jordan's peace treaty with Israel. Prior to that, both sides of the river had been a closed military zone since the 1967 Middle East War, in which Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan and occupied it.
How to Save Your Smartphone’s Battery Life. (Wired, January 15, 2023)
Shrug off your anxiety with these power-saving tips to extend the juice of your iPhone or Android phone.
Friends Say Santos Wore Stolen Scarf To 'Stolen Election' Speech. (Port Washington, NY Patch, January 13, 2023)
Two former friends of the Long Island Rep. alleged he was wearing a stolen item while delivering a Jan. 5, 2021 speech about stolen votes in D.C.
California’s devastating storm in maps and charts. (BBC News, January 13, 2023)
Between 26 December and 9 January, parts of California saw up to six times more rain than usual, according to the National Weather Service. In the last week, some areas of Santa Barbara received more than 410mm (16 inches) of rain in two days.
ExxonMobil: Oil giant predicted climate change in 1970s - scientists. (BBC News, January 13, 2023)
Prof. Oreskes and Prof. Supran carried out the research after journalists in 2015 uncovered evidence suggesting ExxonMobil knew about climate change, but were accused by ExxonMobil of "cherry-picking" the truth. They plotted scientific data in more than 100 publications from Exxon and Exxon Mobil between 1977 and 2014 to calculate their predictions of global temperature rise. Prof. Oreskes suggests that it showed the company was internally using climate science when publicly it called the models "speculative" or "bad science".
The findings add to ongoing pressure on ExxonMobil over what it knew about climate change. Campaigners allege it spread misinformation in order to protect its business interests in fossil fuels and are suing the company in a number of U.S. courts. In May a court in Massachusetts ruled that ExxonMobil must face trial over accusations that it lied about climate change.
Newport News VA School searched 1st-grader’s backpack before teacher shot. (AP News, January 13, 2023)
Before a first-grader shot his teacher last week, administrators at the Virginia school learned the child may have had a weapon in his possession but did not find the 9mm handgun he brought to school despite searching his bag. Police said they were not told about the tip before the shooting occurred.
The teacher was shot in the chest and her injuries initially were considered to be life threatening. Her condition has improved, though, and she has been reported in stable condition at a hospital.
The district will install metal detectors at all schools, starting with that one.
Senate Democrats in Virginia held a news conference Friday to unveil a list of gun safety legislation they hope to pass this year, including a bill that would require anyone who owns a gun in a home where a minor is present to store the gun unloaded and in a locked container or cabinet, and to store all ammunition in a separate locked container. “Gun violence is the number 1 cause of death for children in Virginia and in our nation, and safe firearm storage will help prevent gun deaths and injuries,” said Sen. Jennifer Boysko, the bill’s lead patron.
COVID-19 Wastewater Levels Vary In MA, But Headed Down In Places. (Patch, January 13, 2023)
Wastewater COVID-19 levels in the Boston area have begun to trend downward, with concentration levels falling rapidly between Jan. 5 and 10.
What You Need to Know About the Kraken Covid Variant. (Wired, January 12, 2023)
XBB.1.5, aka the Kraken, is sweeping the Northeast US and dodging immunity. Any time a new variant snowballs so quickly, it garners attention. Significant variations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus can mean more illness, hospitalizations, and death, which can strain health care systems and increase rates of long Covid. While XBB.1.5 infections are swelling, the WHO says there’s no evidence that this variant’s mutations would result in more severe infections—but it’s still early.
It’s also spreading faster because of how people are behaving: Few are wearing masks compared to 2020, and many have traveled and gathered indoors to celebrate the holiday season. That’s a recipe for lots of people getting sick, fast.
New Federal Scientific Integrity Framework Can Protect Public Health, Restore Trust. (Union of Concerned Scientists, January 12, 2023)
Today, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has issued a new framework for scientific integrity protections that will improve the use of science at agencies across the federal government. This framework will protect scientists—but also protect public health and ensure that the nation will get the best scientific information from the federal government, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
Here is a statement by Dr. Jacob Carter, research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS.
NASA Says 2022 Fifth Warmest Year on Record, Warming Trend Continues. (5-min. video; NASA, January 12, 2023)
Earth's average surface temperature in 2022 tied with 2015 as the fifth warmest on record, according to an analysis by NASA. Continuing the planet's long-term warming trend, global temperatures in 2022 were 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit (0.89 degrees Celsius) above the average for NASA's baseline period (1951-1980), scientists from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York reported.
“This warming trend is alarming,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Our warming climate is already making a mark: Forest fires are intensifying; hurricanes are getting stronger; droughts are wreaking havoc and sea levels are rising. NASA is deepening our commitment to do our part in addressing climate change. Our Earth System Observatory will provide state-of-the-art data to support our climate modeling, analysis and predictions to help humanity confront our planet’s changing climate.”
The past nine years have been the warmest years since modern record-keeping began in 1880. This means Earth in 2022 was about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (or about 1.11 degrees Celsius) warmer than the late 19th century average.
Hubble Space Telescope Finds Hungry Black Hole Twisting Captured Star Into Donut Shape. (Hubble ST, January 12, 2023)
Black holes have such a voracious gravitational pull that they even swallow light. This makes them hungry monsters lurking in the eternal darkness. There’s no escape if you happen to stumble across one in the inky blackness of space. That’s no worry for astronauts who have yet to travel farther than the Moon. But entire stars can face that peril if they wind up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Hubble astronomers got a front row seat to such an interstellar demolition derby when they were alerted to a flash of high-energy radiation from the core of a galaxy 300 million light-years away.
People Love Electric Vehicles! Now Comes the Hard Part. (Wired, January 12, 2023)
EV sales are booming. But to keep the momentum going and make a dent in carbon emissions, the US will have to build a vast new charging infrastructure.
Heather Cox Richardson: Jan. 6th USA Coup vs. Jan. 8th Brazil Coup (Letters From An American, January 11, 2023)
Today, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva gathered around him the president of the supreme court and the governors or vice-governors of each state, the senators, the attorney general, and congressional representatives, all of whom condemned the coup. Many had been staunch supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro, but since the coup failed, they have thrown their lot behind Lula. After they declared their support, Lula led them through the vandalized buildings, symbolically reclaiming them.
Lula and his administration say that police worked with the rioters, and a judge has approved warrants for the arrest of two key law enforcement officials close to Bolsonaro:. Pro-Bolsonaro groups have been camped near military posts and buildings since the election; it appears the insurrectionists’ plan was to induce the military to join them. In the wake of the unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government, Bolsonaro supporters are claiming that the attack was by leftists who infiltrated a peaceful protest. Police have so far arrested about 1500 participants.
Observers have noted the many similarities between the attack on the Brazilian government on January 8 and the attack on the U.S. government almost exactly two years earlier. But there are differences, too, and one of the big differences is that power had already changed hands in Brazil, and President Lula has compelled other leaders into a show of support even as the government is arresting rioters.
In the U.S., Trump was still in office when his supporters tried to overthrow the government, and there was neither a house cleaning nor a demand for lawmakers to declare their support for the duly elected government. Many of those who supported Trump in the events of January 6, 2021, are still in Congress. At least six Republican congress members asked Trump for a preemptive pardon, and four of them are still in office. They make up the core of the far-right Republicans House speaker Kevin McCarthy had to bargain with to win the speakership.
NEW: Ransomware attacks decreased 61% in 2022. (Security Magazine, January 11, 2023)
Ransomware attacks made headlines throughout 2022, from compromising K-12 student data to disabling healthcare networks. However, cyberattacks using the tactic have declined significantly over the past 12 months compared to the previous year, and fewer companies are paying ransoms. The survey found that 25% of organizations were victims of ransomware attacks over the past 12 months, a 61% decline from the previous 12-month period, when 64% of organizations reported being victims.
The FAA Outage Lays Bare an Essential System Everyone Hates. (Wired, January 11, 2023)
A glitch in the so-called NOTAM system caused the agency to ground flights across the US. But its problems go back years.
Prediction Consensus: What the Experts See Coming in 2023 (detailed report; Visual Capitalist, January 11, 2023)
Mass Climate Migration Is Coming. (Wired, January 11, 2023)
With rising sea levels and extreme weather events, the global north needs to prepare to welcome displaced people. Climate displacement is adding to a massive migration already underway to the world’s cities, and it is becoming a critical issue globally. In 2022, the number of forcibly displaced people exceeded 100 million for the first time, with climate change displacing more people than conflicts. Models show that for every degree of temperature rise, a billion people will be displaced. Over the coming decade, hundreds of millions of people will have to move—you will either be among them or receiving them.
We are facing a huge upheaval, a crisis for our species. Yet, to date, there has been little acknowledgment of this unavoidable climate migration and certainly no plan to manage it. The global map of today’s climate impacts, and those modeled for the coming decades as temperatures continue to rise in this century, makes it clear that people will have to retreat from large swathes of the tropics, which will become unlivable for at least parts of the year, from coastlines as sea levels rise and weather becomes more extreme, and from low-lying islands. Infrastructure adaptations will not save us, and agriculture will become impossible in places which are now breadbaskets supplying millions of people. Where will they move to? Largely, northwards, to expanded cities, and entirely new cities that will need to be built on the habitable fringes of Europe, Asia, and North America.
NEW: City At Sea: Life Inside World’s Largest US Navy Aircraft Carrier (37-min. full documentary; YVMA Productions, January 11, 2023)
Embark on a journey to the heart of a floating city at sea with this full documentary about life inside the world's largest US Navy aircraft carrier. Experience the thrill of life onboard as we take you behind the scenes of this massive military machine. Get a glimpse into the daily routines and challenges faced by the sailors who call this moving metropolis their home. Discover the cutting-edge technology and sophisticated systems that keep this massive vessel afloat and operating at maximum efficiency.
NEW: NASA’s Webb Space Telescope Confirms Its First Exoplanet. (STScI, January 11, 2023)
The planet is rocky and almost precisely the same size as Earth, but whips around its star in only two days.
[The inhabitants are intelligent, but dizzy and very tired from near-constant celebrations of the new year. :-) ]
Astronomers May Have Just Spotted the Universe’s First Galaxies. (Wired, January 10, 2023)
NASA’s new JWST space telescope has revealed some cosmic surprises, including galaxies that might have assembled earlier than previously thought.
The Public Domain Review is a vast collection of shareable riches. (ThanksToFerren, January 10, 2023)
[Enjoy! But take care, that it doesn't capture a vast amount of your time.]
A Tax Guru Explains Why Donald Trump May Finally Be in Trouble. (text, 26-min. podcast or video; Mother Jones, January 10, 2023)
The IRS, too, is in danger, says attorney Steven Rosenthal.
‘A world rapidly warming’: The past eight years were the eight warmest on record for planet. (CNN, January 10, 2023)
The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service described 2022 as “a year of climate extremes” that brought record-breaking heatwaves in Europe, deadly floods in Pakistan, extreme widespread flooding in Australia, and that saw the Antarctic Sea reach its lowest minimum extent on record. The report said that annual average temperature reached 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, marking the eighth year in a row of temperatures at least 1 degree above the 1850 to 1900 reference period.
Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, most countries agreed to limit warming to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, but preferably to 1.5 degrees. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified the 1.5-degree mark as a key threshold and said breaching it would dramatically increase the risk of extreme weather events and irreversible changes.
Human actions created the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake – here’s how to save it from collapse, protecting wild birds and human health. The Conversation, January 10, 2023)
The Salton Sea spreads across a remote valley in California’s lower Colorado Desert, 40 miles (65 kilometers) from the Mexican border. For birds migrating along the Pacific coast, it’s an avian Grand Central Station. In midwinter tens of thousands of snow geese, ducks, pelicans, gulls and other species forage on and around the lake. Hundreds of other species nest there year-round or use it as a rest stop during spring and fall migration.
At the dawn of the 20th century, this massive oasis didn’t even exist. It was created in 1905 when Colorado River floodwaters breached an irrigation canal under construction in Southern California and flowed into a basin that had flooded in the past. Since then, agricultural runoff from newly formed nearby irrigation districts has sustained it. By midcentury, the sea was considered a regional amenity and stocked with popular sport fish.
Now, however, this resource is in trouble. Wasteful irrigation practices that maintained the sea have been reduced, and excess water is now being transferred to thirsty coastal cities instead. The sea’s volume has declined by about 40%. As water evaporates from its surface, its salinity has spiked: The sea is now almost twice as salty as the Pacific Ocean.
In November 2022, the federal government pledged US$250-Million for environmental restoration and dust suppression at the Salton Sea. It’s a historic contribution, but experts agree that other critical steps are needed.
Russia is letting prisoners soak up withering Ukrainian fire in a 'savage' battle, 'trading' them and others for bullets, US official says. (Business Insider, January 10, 2023)
The official added that Moscow's current tactic of "trading individuals for bullets" has been used on the battlefield throughout Russian history. Russia, for example, did this with conscripts who were sent into the Chechnya region during the First Chechen War of the mid-1990s.
The senior military official described fighting in the area around Bakhmut, which had a pre-war population of over 73,000 people, as "really severe and savage."
I've driven 19 electric cars. Here are 4 reasons you should consider buying one (that have nothing to do with the environment). (Business Insider, January 10, 2023)
EVs offer tons of benefits over gas cars that have nothing to do with being green. Electric rides are quick, fun, spacious, and brimming with cutting-edge features.
NEW: GM, Ford, Google partner to promote 'virtual' power plants. (Reuters, January 10, 2023)
Companies including GM, Ford, Google and solar energy producers said on Tuesday they would work together to establish standards for scaling up the use of virtual power plants (VPPs), systems for easing loads on electricity grids when supply is short. Energy transition nonprofit RMI will host the initiative, the Virtual Power Plant Partnership (VP3), which will also aim to shape policy for promoting the use of the systems, the companies said.
Virtual power plants pool together thousands of decentralized energy resources like electric vehicles or electric heaters controlled by smart thermostats.
U.S. asks Tesla about Musk tweet on driver monitoring function. (Reuters, January 9, 2023)
NHTSA is reviewing whether Tesla vehicles adequately ensure drivers are paying attention, and previously said evidence suggested drivers in most crashes under review had complied with Tesla's alert strategy that seeks to compel driver attention, raising questions about its effectiveness. The auto safety agency confirmed the questions about Musk's tweet are in connection with its ongoing defect probe into 830,000 Tesla vehicles with driver assistance system Autopilot and involving crashes with parked emergency vehicles.
Tesla sells the $15,000 FSD software as an add-on which enables its vehicles to change lanes and park autonomously. That complements its standard "Autopilot" feature, which enables cars to steer, accelerate and brake within their lanes without driver intervention. Both systems use the steering wheel monitoring function.
Virgin Atlantic Will Fly the First-Ever Transatlantic Flight With Net-Zero Emissions. (CN Traveller, January 9, 2023)
The historic flight will be powered solely by sustainable aviation fuel.
Islamic paintings of the Prophet Muhammad are an important piece of history. Here’s why art historians teach them. (The Conversation, January 9, 2023)
Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, recently dismissed Erika López Prater, an adjunct faculty member, for showing two historical Islamic paintings of the Prophet Muhammad in her global survey of art history. Following complaints from some Muslim students, university administrators described such images as disrespectful and Islamophobic.
As an expert on Islamic representations of the Prophet Muhammad, I consider the recent labeling of such paintings as “hate speech” and “blasphemy” not only inaccurate but inflammatory. Such condemnations can pose a threat to individuals and works of art. The Prophet Muhammad has been represented in Islamic paintings since the 13th century. Islamic art historians such as my colleagues and me, both Muslim and non-Muslim, study and teach these images regularly. They form part of the standard survey of Islamic art, which includes calligraphy, ornament and architecture.
NEW: Biden Judge Upholds Important Federal Gun Safety Law. (People For the American Way, January 9, 2023)
Judge Regina Rodriguez, nominated by President Biden to the District of Colorado, upheld the federal law that prohibits those convicted of a felony from possessing firearms. Specifically, she rejected a motion to dismiss an indictment under the long-standing federal law by a defendant who claimed that recent pro-gun Supreme Court decisions have made the statute unconstitutional.
First bill under Speaker McCarthy will cost taxpayers more than $100 billion. (AlterNet, January 9, 2023)
Kevin McCarthy promised on his first day as Speaker of the House that Members would “read every single word of the Constitution aloud from the floor of the House.” He also promised to “fight for a strong, fiscally responsible, and free America.”
Neither of those have happened yet. Instead, during his acceptance speech when he was elected Speaker on the fifteenth try, McCarthy promised, “Our very first bill will repeal the funding for 87,000 new IRS agents.” There is no funding for 87,000 IRS agents. Regardless, Speaker McCarthy on Monday night will preside over legislation that cuts IRS funding back to levels before Democrats increased it last year. And it will cost Americans billions, while enabling his billionaire buddies to continue avoiding fair payment of taxes.
Marc Goldwein, a senior vice president of the non-partisan non-profit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) says, “rescinding IRS funding will increase the deficit by well over $100 billion, encourage tax cheating, and cut the tax enforcement budget well below what President Trump wanted.”
Will members of Congress see McCarthy’s secret 3-page addendum of 'controversial concessions' before voting? (Alternet, January 9, 2023)
At 5:00 PM ET Monday the House will reconvene to vote on the rules for how the 118th Congress will operate – discussions which consumed now-Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his top lieutenants last week as they wheeled and dealed to get him the gavel. Few know all the details of what McCarthy gave away to win the coveted Speaker’s seat, but it took five days, fifteen different votes, some last-minute begging, and a Republican-on-Republican near-fist-fight on the floor of the House of Representatives before he was able to cinch the deal.
But not included in that 55-page document, according to PunchBowl News, is a “secret three-page addendum that McCarthy and his allies hashed out during several days of grueling negotiations with the House Freedom Caucus.” PunchBowl News also reported that it “includes the most controversial concessions McCarthy made in order to become speaker – three seats on the Rules Committee for conservatives, freezing spending at FY2022 levels, a debt-ceiling strategy, coveted committee assignments and more.”
McCarthy Pledges Repeal of IRS Funding Meant to Target Wealthy Tax Cheats. (Common Dreams, January 8, 2023)
The proposal has little chance of passing in the Senate, but could be used as leverage by the GOP later this year when Congress is expected to debate raising the debt ceiling.
After Selling 'Soul to Sedition Caucus,' McCarthy Is Finally Elected Speaker. (Common Dreams, January 8, 2023)
After nearly a week of chaotic voting on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Kevin McCarthy of California was elected Speaker of the House of the 118th Congress just after midnight early Saturday morning after finally securing enough votes in the 15th ballot. The final vote followed a dramatic 14th ballot vote in which tensions soared on the floor of the House chamber.
The final tally was 216 votes for McCarthy and 212 votes for Democrat Hakeem Jeffries of New York, after 6 far-right holdouts, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), lowered the threshold to secure the speakership by voting "present" instead of registering a vote for another GOP member.
Progressive critics responded to the final vote by noting the price paid to win over the hostage-takers in the Republican conference. "Kevin McCarthy has repeatedly put his personal ambitions ahead of our democracy," said Sean Eldridge, president of Stand Up America, referencing the GOP leader's membership in the "Sedition Caucus" to whom he said the new speaker had "sold his soul". "McCarthy made dangerous concessions to the most fringe members of the House in exchange for their support in his effort to become Speaker. The punishment for his political cowardice will be presiding over the GOP's conference of chaos for the next two years. Unfortunately, it's the American people who will pay the price. He voted against certifying President Biden's victory and obstructed the investigation into the January 6 attack on our country," Eldridge said.
Eldridge noted that over 70% of the current GOP conference in the House "are election deniers, including every single member of GOP leadership." That fact, he said, "should be chilling to every American who cares about protecting our democracy and our freedoms."
Elon Musk says he can’t get fair trial in California, wants Texas. (AP News, January 8, 2023)
The shareholder lawsuit stems from Musk’s tweets in August 2018 when he said he had sufficient financing to take Tesla private at $420 a share — an announcement that caused heavy volatility in Tesla’s share price. In a victory for the shareholders last spring, Judge Edward Chen ruled that Musk’s tweets were false and reckless.
In a filing submitted late Friday — less than two weeks before the trial was set to begin on Jan. 17 — Musk’s lawyers argue it should be moved to the federal court in the western district of Texas. That district includes the state capital of Austin, which is where Musk relocated his electric car company, Tesla, in late 2021. If moving the trial isn’t possible, Musk’s lawyers want it postponed until negative publicity regarding the billionaire’s purchase of Twitter has died down.
[Sure, why not use your money to shift Tesla from California to Texas, then get judged in the state that didn't lose taxes? Because - again and again - that's unfair use of Big Money; that's why.]
Massachusetts Gov. Healey’s Jan. 5th Inauguration Speech (full text; Framingham Source, January 7, 2023)
Housing, free community college, child care, climate change and the economy will be among her top priorities.
What's in McCarthy's emerging deal with conservatives — and why it got him the votes. (Politico, January 7, 2023)
The GOP leader offered concessions that helped hand him the speakership, while prompting no shortage of worries among his members.
Kevin McCarthy’s Hollow Victory Will Have Economic and Political Consequences. (New Yorker, January 7, 2023)
If the new House Speaker is to get anything done, he will need to retain the support of far-right extremists.
No, Don Jr., No One Said Exercise is Racist. (Medium, January 7, 2023)
The Little MAGA Prince is lying again — because stoking white resentment is the family brand now.
[Also see similar article below (AlterNet on January 2, 2023).]
Trump, two years after Jan. 6th (14-min. podcast; Washington Post, January 6, 2023)
On the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, we have a conversation about the political and legal consequences former president Donald Trump faces and how they are affecting his presidential campaign. Former president Donald Trump’s sphere of influence appears to be waning: Many of the candidates he supported publicly in the midterms lost races, and despite his recent announcement to run for the presidency again in 2024 his campaign has garnered little public support. We discuss some of the significant setbacks Trump has faced and what consequences he could face, including the release of his tax returns and the recommendations for charges by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
At CES, Google proves it’s rediscovered Android. (Fast Company, January 6, 2023)
Google’s mobile OS takes center stage in Las Vegas as its Assistant fades to the background.
A New Study Has Identified Genes Associated With the Most Aggressive Kidney Cancer. (SciTechDaily, January 6, 2023)
Clear cell renal carcinoma (ccRCC) is the most common type of kidney cancer. In the past few decades, the number of new cases has been increasing. Although there is a significant amount of data on this disease, there is still a lack of information on specific human genes that could help predict its clinical course.
Findings from Puzanov’s study reveal which ccRCC subtypes are more dangerous than others and which human genes appear to be responsible for the progression of the disease. This new information is significant for the early detection of aggressive tumors and for designing personalized treatment plans for ccRCC patients.
NEW: Researchers Discover That Our Ancient Ancestors Were More Complex Than Previously Thought. (SciTechDaily, January 6, 2023)
In the distant past, animals underwent a significant evolution by developing bilateral symmetry and two gut openings. This allowed them to move faster through the early seas, find food and extract nutrients more efficiently, and protect themselves from predators. The success of this trait can be seen in the diverse range of animals that still possess bilateral symmetry and two gut openings today, including humans, starfish, sea cucumbers, elephants, crickets, and snails. Additionally, a group of simple marine worms called Xenacoelomorphs also exhibit this trait, despite lacking the complex features of other animals.
For years, scientists have debated who is more closely related to who in this diverse collection of bilaterally symmetrical animals. Some experts argue that Xenacoelomorphs marks the first group to branch in that major jump in innovation from animals with circular body plans (e.g. jellyfish and corals) to bilateral symmetry. If this was the case, then the first bilaterian itself was also a very simple animal. Others argued for different placements of Xenacoelomorphs on the family tree.
Oxford study warns of extreme heat and drought impacting 90 percent of Earth's population. (AlterNet, January 6, 2023)
Quantifying "the response of ecosystem productivity to heat and water stressors at the global scale" shows that the joint threats of dangerously hot temperatures and drought pose substantially greater risks to society and the environment when assessed together rather than independently. The effects of rising temperatures and declining terrestrial water storage combine to weaken the capacity of "carbon sinks" to absorb heat-trapping emissions and release oxygen.
The new research, which is aimed at "assessing and mitigating adverse effects of compound hazards on ecosystems and human well-being," comes in the wake of record-breaking extreme heat and historic droughts around the world in 2022. The life-threatening impacts of the global climate emergency have only continued to reverberate in 2023, underscoring the need to expedite the clean energy transition, among other necessary transformations.
Half Of Earth’s Glaciers Will Disappear By 2100 In Best-Case Scenario, New Study Finds. (Weather, January 6, 2023)
To read the study visit .
NEW: A comet not seen in 50,000 years is coming. Here's what you need to know. (1-min. video; Space, January 6, 2023)
Last seen by Neanderthals, and this may very well be the last time that C/2022 E3 comes our way again.
[GOOD article! Closest to Sun on Jan. 12th, closest to Earth on Feb. 1st. On-line viewing, too!]
South Korean lunar orbiter beams back unreal new photos of Earth and Moon. (real photos; BGR, January 5, 2023)
South Korea’s Danuri lunar orbiter, also known as the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket last year. In mid-December, the orbiter reached its destination and began orbiting the Moon. Now, South Korea has shared Danuri’s first moon images.
Florida’s Beehives Were Devastated By Hurricane Ian. (1-min. video; Weather, January 5, 2023)
Hundreds of thousands of beehives were lost to Hurricane Ian in Florida, and that has major consequences outside the Sunshine State.
Snowless Alps Ski Resorts Are An Alarming Impact Of Climate Change. (1-min. video; Weather, January 5, 2023)
Ski resorts in the Alps are missing snow so far this season, after a record-breaking warm spell across Europe.
European High Temperature Records Falling As Heat Wave Warms The Continent. (1-min. video; Weather, January 5, 2023)
Winter isn’t feeling much like winter right now in parts of Europe. Record high temperatures are being reported from hundreds of different weather stations across numerous countries.
NEW: Get Ready, Congress: Here Comes Gen Z. (People For the American Way, January 5, 2023)
When 25-year-old Maxwell Frost of Florida takes his seat in the U.S House this month, he will be the nation’s first Gen Z member of Congress. That — in and of itself — is a major milestone and accomplishment. And what makes it even better is that Frost is a young Black man who won on a great platform focused on ending gun violence, addressing climate change and providing universal health care.
Thom Hartmann: The Real Reason the Freedom Caucus Hates Kevin McCarthy Is Larger Than You Think. (Medium, January 5, 2023)
While Kevin McCarthy’s struggle to become Speaker of the House of Representatives appears to be about personality and struggles within the House Republican caucus, it’s really about something much larger: the fate and future of American “big government” and the middle class it created.
Ever since the Reagan Revolution, the phrase “big government” has been on the lips of Republican politicians. They utter it like a curse at every opportunity. It seems paradoxical: Republicans complain about “big government,” but then go on to support more and more government money for expanding prisons and a bloated Pentagon budget. Once you understand their worldview, however, it all makes perfect sense.
The Cybersecurity 202: Twitter’s latest hack is a big one. (Washington Post, January 5, 2023)
Already under elevated regulatory scrutiny since its purchase by Elon Musk, Twitter could be facing even more government oversight after the records of 235 million accounts and the emails connected to them have surfaced on an online forum. The leak sets the stage for anonymous handles to be linked to real-world identities.
It’s not the first time hackers appear to have exploited that vulnerability. In another incident, which appears to be a separate case, hackers in July 2022 were found selling 5.4 million Twitter account handles as well as their associated email addresses and phone numbers.
NEW: The Slow Death of Surveillance Capitalism Has Begun. (Wired, January 5, 2023)
A European Union ruling against Meta (Facebook and Instagram) marks the beginning of the end of targeted ads.
Irish regulator fines Meta more than $400 million. (Washington Post, January 5, 2023)
The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) levied the $414 million fine against Facebook and Instagram over personal data processing for behavioral advertising, RTÉ Ireland’s Brian O’Donovan reports. The DPC investigated the companies after complaints that Facebook and Instagram, which are both owned by Meta, forced users to accept the terms of service and wouldn’t allow them to opt out of data processing associated with that.
[To find this article, scroll down in the larger article.]
Bad news for Deezer users: over 220+ million users' info exposed. (AlternativeTo, January 4, 2023)
If you're a user of the well-known music streaming app, you'll probably want to change your security details, or even consider switching after the Paris-based company admitted it was the target of a hacker attack that stole the data of approximately 229 million users back in 2019.
[Or? We'd recommend both. AlternativeTo offers many alternatives to Deezer.]
NEW: Bitcoin is the Detector of Imbeciles. (Medium, January 4, 2023)
On the cluster of charlatans, zero-interest-rate virgins, & crypto tumors....
New Covid strain is the most transmissible yet, WHO says. (Politico, January 4, 2023)
The coronavirus Omicron strain XBB.1.5, which has become the dominant strain in the U.S. in just a matter of weeks, could drive a new wave of cases. The global health body is now trying to figure out how severe the sub-variant is.
The United States is suffering far less from Covid than it did a year ago. Death rates were about seven times higher at this time last year, and hospitalizations were almost three times as high. Both categories have been lower at various points in the pandemic, however, and hospitalizations in New England, where XBB.1.5 is spreading fast, are rising and are at about 40 percent of last year’s levels. The increase in hospitalizations in the Northeast cannot be attributed yet to XBB.1.5 because other respiratory illnesses, including flu, could be partially responsible.
Jha warned that Americans’ immunity against XBB.1.5 “is probably not great” if a prior infection was before July or if they have not received the bivalent shot that became available in September.
NEW: Lies and corruption: A sailor on the Black Sea flagship Moskva gives new revealing insights that contributed to seal the Moskva’s fate. (65-min. video; Medium, January 4, 2023)
More than six months have passed since the inglorious death of the flagship of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. Putin could not admit the fact of the loss of Moskva on the Kremlin TV, so the multi-layered lies hid any reliable information in its abyss. Lies accompanied the cruiser from the very beginning to the very end.
The Russian Volunteer Corps posted a unique interview with Alexander, a survivor of the Moskva flagship cruiser. This interview also mentions pre-war events as well as the exact time of its sinking. This is an eyewitness report by one of the former crew members, who is now fighting for Ukraine.
American Myths Are Made of White Grievance—and the Jan. 6 Big Lie Is Just the Latest. (6-min. video; Mother Jones, January 4, 2023)
Let’s not lose sight of the real motivations behind the Jan. 6 insurrection.
House Speaker election coverage: Signs of progress in GOP talks as McCarthy loses sixth vote. (4.5-HOUR video; The Hill, January 4, 2023)
House speakership vote in marathon mode as McCarthy on track to lose 6th bid. (Axios, January 4, 2023)

McCarthy fails a fifth time as chaos reigns over House GOP. (3-min. video; Politico, January 4, 2023)
Allies of the conference's embattled leader scrambled ahead of his failure to secure a majority on Day Two of a chamber in limbo.

Who’s to Blame for GOP Chaos? “Coco Chow,” Says Trump in Another Racist Rant. (Mother Jones,
January 4, 2023)
That’s one way to shore up support for Kevin McCarthy.

Biden world both humored and terrified by McCarthy meltdown. (1-, 2- and 2-min. videos; Politico, January 3, 2023)
The president’s aides saw the failed House speaker votes as a political opportunity for them, but also as an ominous sign of battles to come.
There is no immediate threat of a government shutdown after last month’s passage of a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package, an achievement propelled in large part by Senate Republicans who foresaw the coming chaos of a GOP-controlled House. In fact, as McCarthy struggled to secure the speaker’s gavel Tuesday, some Senate Republicans expressed vindication about having passed the bipartisan legislation last year, spiking the football on House Republicans harder than anyone at the White House did.
McCarthy's GOP support splinters as House adjourns without speaker. (NBC News, January 3, 2023)
For the first time in more than a century, the House was unable to elect a speaker after three ballots. The chamber adjourned until Wednesday at noon.
Ukraine war live updates: Russian anger over deadly Ukrainian strike; Zelenskyy says Moscow aims to ‘exhaust’ Ukraine with attacks. (2-min. video; CNBC,
January 3, 2023)
And much more...
Encryption Faces an Existential Threat in Europe. (Wired, January 3, 2023)
The CEO of Proton says new competition laws have finally given him a voice in Brussels, even as he fights the EU’s anti-encryption campaign.
Why Do You Get Sick in the Winter? Blame Your Nose. (Wired, January 2, 2023)
A new study shows that as temperatures drop, nasal cells release fewer of the tiny protectors that bind and neutralize invading germs.
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the team notes that there’s already a practical real-world way to help your nose defend you in cold weather: Masking. Noses can stay snug and cozy under a mask—as any glasses-wearer whose lenses have fogged from their warm breath can attest. “Wearing masks may have a dual protective role,” says Bleier. “One is certainly preventing physical inhalation of the [viral] particles, but also by maintaining local temperatures at least at a relatively higher level than the outside environment.”
And here’s one more idea to consider: Maybe it’s just time for a vacation somewhere warm.
Hacker Lexicon: What Is a Pig-Butchering Scam? (Wired, January 2, 2023)
This type of devastating scheme ensnares victims and takes them for all they’re worth—and the threat is only growing.
NEW: Watch: Donald Trump Jr. explodes at Time Magazine over article about fitness industry's racist past. (2-min. Twitter video; AlterNet, January 2, 2023)
[We recommend avoiding Twitter; we'll post a better link when we can. Meanwhile, the text IS good.]
Earth currently experiencing a sixth mass extinction, according to scientists. (15-minute video; 60 Minutes, January 1, 2023)
Leading biologist tells Scott Pelley humans would need “five more Earths” to maintain our current way of life.
[Are governments really too preoccupied to listen?]
Blue Dots in a Red Sea, Episode 7: Michael Moore’s 2023 New Year’s Resolutions: “More Democracy!” (12-min. podcast; Michael Moore, January 1, 2023)
We Are the Majority in 2023. HAPPY NEW YEAR!
The Largest Military Planes In The World Are A Sight To Behold! (Previously posted September 4, 2019;
Postfun, January 1, 2023)
The military consistently has some of the finest gadgets known to mankind, and that definitely counts when we’re talking about their vehicles. Those commercial passenger planes that you take from Detroit to LA are about to seem incredibly small after you see just how big these military planes can get. From double-decker layouts to wingspans longer than football fields to six-engine rigs — it’s amazing that some of these aircraft can even get off the ground in the first place. When a plane is taller than a five-story building, it’s no longer a plane, it’s a spectacle. Here are the biggest military aircraft to ever hit the skies.
Natick starts out New Year’s Eve at Cochituate Rail Trail event. (good photos!; Natick Report, January 1, 2023)
[And we were there.]
The secret to happiness? Here’s some advice from the longest-running study on happiness. (Harvard Medical School, January 1, 2023; originally published October 5, 2017)
About half of our level of happiness is based on genes. Some people are just predisposed to be happier and more upbeat than others. But that does not mean you cannot increase your level of happiness if it does not come naturally. In fact, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest-running studies on happiness. has suggested that 40% of people’s happiness comes from the choices they make.
[We share this gift, on a good day for New Year resolutions. Plus, here's a 13-minute Ted Talk video by the man in charge of that study.]
A New Year gift: Fading to White, Parts 1 and 2 of 4 (Robert K. Massie IV, December 31, 2022)
Happy New Year! As many of you know, I have written a long profile of my late father, Robert K. Massie, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of Nicholas and Alexandra, Peter the Great, Dreadnought, Catherine the Great, and many other beloved biographies. In my full essay, called Fading to White, I describe three deeply moving visits he made to our home in Somerville in the last year of his life. I intersperse my descriptions of our final revealing conversations with flashback accounts of his remarkable life.
Fading to White has been divided into four parts, and I have been releasing them one by one every few weeks. Today Parts One - Participating in History and Two - Lightning from Nowhere are available to the general public and Part Three is being released to subscribers.
[To read other Massie essays now and Parts 3 and 4 of
Fading to White over the next month or so, OR to become a patron and get access to Part 3 now, click here.]
Do Boycotts and Buycotts Actually Have an Impact? A New Study Sheds Light. (
SciTechDaily, December 31, 2022)
The CEO of Goya, a well-known Latin food brand, publicly endorsed then-president Donald Trump during a campaign event in the 2020 US presidential election. This sparked a boycott and a counter “buycott” movement in support of the brand.
Do such boycotts or “buycotts” have any impact on brand sales? A recent study examined the impact of these actions on Goya’s sales in both the short and long term. The researchers found that the immediate increase in sales due to the buycott was significant, but not sustained over time. On the other hand, the boycott had a temporary impact on sales in heavily Democratic counties.
Blue Dots in a Red Sea, Episode 6: Our Civic Duty - WE Must Attend! (15-min. podcast; Michael Moore, December 31, 2022)
An Open Letter to My Bipolar Mother (Medium, December 28, 2022)
“She’s mad but she’s magic; there’s no lie in her fire.”
Neanderthals Were Smart, Sophisticated, Creative—and Misunderstood. (3-min. video;
Newsweek, December 28, 2022)
Nearly 40,000 years after disappearing from the planet, Neanderthals are having a moment. In recent years, tantalizing new evidence suggests that our primitive, heavy-browed cousins were chefs, jewelry-makers and painters. And what we are learning from the genetic clues they left behind—and the promise of what those clues will tell us about ourselves in the years ahead—won Swedish paleo-geneticist Svante Pääbo the 2022 Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology this fall. The most recent discoveries, un-earthed in a Siberian cave, show why scientists are so excited.
Yes, It’s Time to Ditch LastPass. (Wired, December 28, 2022)
The password manager’s most recent data breach is so concerning, users need to take immediate steps to protect themselves.
Hacktivism Is Back and Messier Than Ever.
(Wired, December 27, 2022)
Throughout 2022, geopolitics has given rise to a new wave of politically motivated attacks with an undercurrent of state-sponsored meddling.
This Was the Year That Electric Vehicles Took Off. (Wired, December 27, 2022)
More EVs were sold in the first half of 2022 alone than any previous year—and there are signs the surge can continue.
XBB Subvariant Now Accounts for Half of All COVID Cases in New England. (23-min. video; NBC/Boston, December 27, 2022)
The XBB variant, which accounted for only 11% of COVID cases in the region two weeks ago, now makes up 52.6%.
The Best Password Managers to Secure Your Digital Life. (Wired, December 27, 2022)
Keep your logins locked down with our favorite apps for PC, Mac, Android, iPhone, and web browsers.
Inside the Fight to Clean Up the Crypto Underworld (Wired, December 27, 2022)
In the darkest corners of the internet, cybercrime and corruption run free—that is, until a small group of detectives turn the criminals’ own tools against them.
[A series of good articles about bad doings; catch them while you can!]
Everyone Is Using Google Photos Wrong. (Wired, December 25, 2022)
Ever-expanding cloud storage presents more risks than you might think.
[Computer risks: The computer gift that keeps on giving. :-( ]
Security News This Week: Russians Hacked JFK Airport Taxi Dispatch in Line-Skipping Scheme. (Wired, December 24, 2022)
Plus: An offensive US hacking operation, swatters hacking Ring cameras, a Netflix password-sharing crackdown, and more.
[The Net Of A Million Lies - back then - demonstrates new security weaknesses.]
El Niño Is Coming—and the World Isn’t Prepared. (Wired, December 24, 2022)
In 2023, the relentless increase in global heating will continue, bringing ever more disruptive weather that is the signature calling card of accelerating climate breakdown.
According to NASA, 2022 was one of the hottest years ever recorded on Earth. This is extraordinary, because the recurrent climate pattern across the tropical Pacific—known as ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation)—was in its cool phase. During this phase, called La Niña, the waters of the equatorial Pacific are noticeably cooler than normal, which influences weather patterns around the world.
One consequence of La Niña is that it helps keep a lid on global temperatures. This means that—despite the recent widespread heat waves, wildfires and droughts—we have actually been spared the worst. The scary thing is that this La Niña will end and eventually transition into the better-known El Niño, which sees the waters of the equatorial Pacific becoming much warmer. When it does, the extreme weather that has rampaged across our planet in 2021 and 2022 will pale into insignificance.
Canada's Hudson Bay polar bear population plummets as climate change warms Arctic. (Reuters, December 23, 2022)
Canada's Western Hudson Bay polar bear population has fallen 27% in just five years.
Dramatic warmup to bust loose in US as new year arrives. (AccuWeather, December 23, 2022)
Many cities may even experience the coldest Christmas in decades -- and in some cases, ever. But a major weather pattern turnabout will have temperatures climbing in time for the new year across much of the nation.
Death toll climbs, over 1M without power amid bitter cold on Christmas Eve. (AccuWeather, December 24, 2022)
Tens of thousands of flights have been disrupted by a deadly winter storm slamming the United States, leaving at least 16 dead and several others injured and forcing highway shutdowns.
Winter Storm Elliott Intensified Into Bomb Cyclone With High Winds, Blizzard Conditions, Flooding. (Maps and a string of shortvideos; The Weather Channel, December 23, 2022)
S​now is falling right now from the Great Lakes and has developed in the Northeast after changing from rain. Blizzard conditions continue from the Upper Midwest into the southern Great Lakes where snowfall from the sky has stopped but strong winds continue. R​ain is still soaking coastal New England ahead of the fast-moving arctic cold front.
Massive winter storm knocks out power, foils holiday travel across country. (AccuWeather, December 23, 2022)
Spanning from border to border and impacting over 200 million people, the winter storm sent temperatures plunging below freezing and snarled travel as snow and ice created dangerous road conditions.
Bomb Cyclone Elliott: Power outages top 1.2 million across United States. (AccuWeather, December 23, 2022)
Power outages continue to be a concern across the country on Friday as a large winter storm encompassed the midwest and northeast. As of Friday evening, more than 540,000 customers were without power in New England and over 350,000 were without power in the Mid-Atlantic. Maine topped the list of power outages with over 250,000 customers in the dark as of 8 p.m. EST. To the west of Maine, New Hampshire recorded over 100,000 customers with power loss. Several other states have suffered over 70,000 power outages such as New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Virginia. Outages stretched to the south and included over 10,000 customers in South Carolina and Tennessee.
Accuweather RealFeel® temperatures across Pennsylvania are some of the lowest in the country. At 8:30 p.m. EST, DuBois, Pennsylvania, was experiencing a RealFeel® of -43 degrees. In southern Pennsylvania, RealFeel temperatures dipped to -47 degrees in Johnstown. With temperatures falling to dangerous levels and power outages increasing, many will be turning to generators to keep themselves safe. But it is important to understand the risks that come with using one, such as picking a safe location that is 15 feet away from any window or doors and operating them outside only to prevent dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide.
A Covid-19 ‘senior wave’ is driving up hospitalizations. (CNN, December 23, 2022)
Rise in Covid-19 hospitalizations among seniors is creating the largest age gap yet.
[Get current booster shots. Wash your hands. Wear a face mask.]
Molecular Changes Linked to Long COVID a Year After Hospitalization. (SciTechDaily; by The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, December 23, 2022)
Mount Sinai researchers have published one of the first studies to associate changes in blood gene expression during COVID-19 with “long COVID” in patients more than a year after they were hospitalized with severe COVID-19. Long COVID is the common name used for what is known more technically as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The findings highlight the need for greater attention at the infection stage to better understand how the processes that begin then eventually lead to long COVID, which could help improve both prevention strategies and treatment options for COVID-19 survivors experiencing persistent symptoms after infection.
A More Elegant Form of Gene Editing Progresses to Human Testing. (Wired, December 23, 2022)
Instead of cutting out chunks of the genome to disable malfunctioning genes, base editing makes a smaller, more precise swap. Early results for treating leukemia and other cancers, and for treating people at risk of repeated heart attacks.
Pelosi on McCarthy calling omnibus "one of the most shameful acts" he’s seen in House: "Had he forgotten Jan. 6?" (The Hill, December 23, 2022)
Pelosi responded on the House floor on Friday ahead of the House voting to pass the $1.7 trillion bill, saying it would likely be her last speech as speaker on the floor. “It was sad to hear the minority leader earlier say that this legislation is the most shameful thing to be seen on the House floor in this Congress. I can’t help but wonder, had he forgotten Jan. 6?” Pelosi said.
Senate GOP rebukes Trump with Electoral Count Act. (The Hill, December 23, 2022)
Eighteen Senate Republicans rebuked former President Trump this week by voting to clarify that the vice president does not have the power to overturn a presidential election as Trump pressured then-Vice President Mike Pence to do on Jan. 6, 2021. And several other Republicans, who didn’t vote for the omnibus spending package, which included the electoral count reforms, such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), previously expressed support for changes to the law to make it tougher to object to the Electoral College’s vote.

NEW: January 6 committee releases final report, says Trump should be barred from office. (CNN, December 23, 2022)
- Read
(845-pp.): The full January 6 investigation report from the House select committee. (CNN, December 22, 2022)
[Full, 896-page report!]
- Read (
154-page): Executive Summary: January 6 investigation report from the House select committee. (CNN, December 19, 2022)

Heroes and Monsters of 2022 (Mother Jones, December 22, 2022)
Once again, our staff has rounded up the very worst and best of the year.
Ashland Doctor Ordered To Surrender Passport. (Source, December 22, 2022)
Dr. Jacquelyn Starer, 68, was arrested on Tuesday in connection with the insurrection at the U.S. capitol on January 6, 2021. The U.S. Justice Department charged her with felony civil disorder, assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers, and entering and remaining in a restricted building, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building as well as engaging in physical violence in a restricted building.
Dr. Starer was arraigned and released. In addition to U.S. citizenship, Starer holds Austrian citizenship, according to the Boston Globe. Per the release, she has to surrender her passport, is prohibited from traveling to Washington D.C. except to attend matters of court, and forbidden from unlawfully entering any state or federal buildings. She was ordered not to consume alcohol excessively or any drugs and submit to testing. She is prohibited from possessing any firearms.
MA Storm Timing: 24 Hours Of Wind, Torrential Rain, Temperature Swings (Natick Patch, December 22, 2022)
This storm will bring everything but snow to Massachusetts, including a huge change in temperatures.
Here Comes a Bomb Cyclone to Ruin Christmas. (Wired, December 22, 2022)
The storm’s scale and severity is unprecedented. Almost everyone in America, and a fair few in Canada, will feel its force.
[Charge your batteries now; make preparations for clean-up, etc.]
Hands On With Flipper Zero, the Hacker Tool Blowing Up on TikTok. (Wired, December 22, 2022)
Don’t be fooled by its fun name and Tamagotchi-like interface—this do-everything gadget is trouble waiting to happen and a whole lot more.
NEW: Thom Hartmann: Is Homelessness Our “Malnutrition & Starvation” Applied to Housing? (Medium, December 22, 2022)
As America’s housing & homelessness problems reach crisis levels — the housing equivalent of malnutrition & starvation — Sen. Merkley has submitted legislation to stop the corporate feeding frenzy.
To Rebuild Cities After War, Look to the Past. (Wired, December 22, 2022)
It sounds counterintuitive to prioritize the restoration of cultural heritage sites over housing and urban infrastructure, but putting culture, identity, and community engagement at the center of reconstruction planning is essential to revitalize communities scarred by prolonged wars and conflict. In 2023, we will see Ukrainian cities and communities developing plans to do just that.
NEW: Think America Is A "Christian Nation"? George Washington Didn't. (6-min. "video"; Washington Post, December 21, 2022)
At the White House’s Hanukkah celebration Monday night, President Biden attested to the “permanence” of the Jewish people in the United States.
But he did not ignore the cloud of antisemitism hanging over the joyous holiday season. “I recognize your fear, your hurt, your worry that this vile and venom is becoming too normal,” Biden said. He added, “Silence is complicity. We must not remain silent. … Today, we must all say clearly and forcefully: Antisemitism and all forms of hate and violence in this country can have no safe harbor in America. Period.”
"The Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens." -- George Washington (1790 letter to Touro Synagogue in Newport, RI)
Iran’s Internet Blackouts Are Sabotaging Its Own Economy. (Wired, December 21, 2022)
As internet shutdowns, platform blocking, and content filtering become increasingly common levers for authoritarian control around the world, Iran has presented an especially dramatic case study on the economic impact and humanitarian toll of connectivity blackouts. In response to mass government opposition and protests, the Iranian regime launched an extensive shutdown in September that drastically limited all digital communication in the country. And Tehran has ongoing campaigns to slow connectivity and access to popular services, including Meta's Instagram. Dragging out the disruptions, though, is beginning to reveal the true economic toll of the brutal technique.
Five things we’ve learned through the release of Trump’s tax records (The Hill, December 21, 2022)
The main tax committee in the House voted Tuesday night to release six years of tax returns belonging to former President Trump as part of an investigation into the presidential audit program at the IRS. The vote was 24-16 and fell along party lines, with Democrats voting in favor and Republicans voting against.
The returns include six years of personal returns as well as returns for eight of Trump’s businesses. They’ll be released within a few days following redactions, committee members said Tuesday.
NEW: 11 Rapid At-Home Covid-19 Tests—and Where to Find Them (Wired, December 21, 2022)
How accurate are over-the-counter swabs? Does your insurance cover them? We have answers.
Bill McKibben: The Climate Changed Fast This Year, and Institutions Responded. (New Yorker, December 20, 2022)   
2022 saw record heat and floods around the globe, but also, at last, major legislation in this country.
The Great Carbon Con Is Coming to an End. (Wired, December 20, 2022)
No more fluffy climate goals and emissions offsets. Businesses will soon be expected to show real progress.
The World Made a Biodiversity Pact, And Of Course We Aren’t Part of It. (Mother Jones, December 20, 2022)
Senate’s reluctance to ratify puts the US in a weird position.
NEW: The Black Death’s legacy, Neanderthal family ties, and other secrets revealed by ancient DNA in 2022. (CNN, December 20, 2022)
"Other secrets" include ??
The deep sea is an unexpected, but at-risk, trove of biodiversity. (Ars Technica, December 20, 2022)
The UN biodiversity conference reminds us how little we know of the deep ocean.
Tired, Filthy, and Overworked: Inside Amazon’s Holiday Rush (Wired, December 20, 2022)
The retailer’s warehouses are flooded with packages. Workers say that means mandatory extra shifts and faster-paced work.
Billionaires Are A Security Threat. (Wired, December 20, 2022)
Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter is particularly hard to swallow because every report of internal chaos reminds us that we may have sacrificed the most promising mode of online communication invented in decades by failing to identify it for what it was back when we had the chance. Musk’s purchase should never have been possible in the first place because Twitter should never have been an asset. It is “the public conversation layer of the internet,” as founder Jack Dorsey once put it, and consequently has functioned as the de facto center of our global alert system through the pandemic. It is astonishing that it is even still possible for one person to own this. It’s like owning email.
Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover is a case study in destruction. It doesn’t have to be this way.
[This is a master read on why FOSS is so important!]
Elon Musk and the Dangers of Censoring Real-Time Flight Trackers. (Wired, December 20, 2022)
Elon Musk claims plane-tracking data is a risky privacy violation. But the world loses a lot if this information disappears—and that’s already happening.
Elon Musk Breaks Silence After Twitter Users Vote for His Resignation. (Daily Beast, December 19, 20222)
The billionaire had been tweeting up a storm—but went uncharacteristically silent after a Twitter poll which showed a majority in favor of him stepping down as head of the company.
Sizing up Mauna Loa’s Lava Flows (NASA Earth Observatory, December 19, 2022)
Airborne mapping of the thickness of the lava flows helped scientists calculate that 230 million cubic meters of molton rock poured from the volcano during the two-week eruption.
The Mystery of Nevada’s Ancient Reptilian Boneyard (Wired, December 19, 2022)
Whale-sized shonisaurs dominated the ocean 230 million years ago. A fossil cluster offers a fascinating glimpse at how they lived—based on where they died.
NEW: Researchers discover over 100 new ancient designs in Peru's Nazca lines. (photos; Reuters, December 19, 2022)
The geoglyphs, huge figures carved into the South American desert, date back more than 2,000 years and represent humans, cats, snakes, killer whales, birds and native camalids - animals such as llamas, guanacos and alpacas. The new figures averaged between two and six meters (6.56 to 19.7 feet) in length. The purpose of the Nazca lines, which could only be seen from the air, remains a mystery.
3 Ways to Actually Reduce Your Heart Failure Risk, According to Science. (Self, December 19, 2022)
These habits can make a big impact over time—and it’s never too late to start.
The UK Is Enduring an Onslaught of Scarlet Fever. Is the US Next? (Wired, December 19, 2022)
The US is more alert to the risks of strep infections, but the UK has better data. It’s not clear which makes more difference in controlling disease.
Who Is Rep.-Elect George Santos? His Résumé May Be Largely Fiction. (dNYuz, December 19, 2022)
George Santos, whose election to Congress on Long Island last month helped Republicans clinch a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, built his candidacy on the notion that he was the “full embodiment of the American dream” and was running to safeguard it for others.
His campaign biography amplified his storybook journey: He is the son of Brazilian immigrants, and the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat as a non-incumbent. By his account, he catapulted himself from a New York City public college to become a “seasoned Wall Street financier and investor” with a family-owned real estate portfolio of 13 properties and an animal rescue charity that saved more than 2,500 dogs and cats.
But a New York Times review of public documents and court filings from the United States and Brazil, as well as various attempts to verify claims that Mr. Santos, 34, made on the campaign trail, calls into question key parts of the résumé that he sold to voters.

January 6 Report Presents a Devastating Case Against Trump. (Mother Jones, December 19, 2022)
After 18 months of investigation and hearings, the House January 6 committee has confirmed the obvious: “The central cause of January 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump, who many others followed. None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him.” The committee cited this conclusion in a 161-page introduction to its forthcoming final report that was released on Monday. The full report is expected to be made public on Wednesday.
The committee had something of an odd assignment: Prove what was already proved. Trump’s disinformation crusade that advanced the lie that the 2020 election was fraudulent and his incitement of the insurrectionist violence both happened in plain sight. Yet the introduction notes, “Millions of Americans believed that Trump was telling the truth on election night—that Trump actually had proof the election was stolen and that the ongoing counting of votes was an act of fraud.” These Americans continued to believe Trump in the weeks after Election Day, and the committee notes it initially faced the challenge that “millions of Americans still lack the information necessary to understand and evaluate what President Trump has told them about the election.”
[You can read the full report and/or its executive summary above, at CNN, December 23, 2022.]
It’s Official: The January 6 Committee Calls for Trump Prosecutions. (Mother Jones, December 19, 2022)
The House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on Congress voted unanimously on Monday to ask the Justice Department to charge former President Donald Trump with crimes. The committee referred charges against Trump of conspiracy to make a false statement, conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an act of Congress, and inciting insurrection.
The committee’s recommendation is no surprise and will likely have little legal impact. But it carries substantial political significance. Committee members have long argued in public and in court that Trump’s efforts to retain power despite his electoral defeat broke the law. And the panel’s public hearings have been largely aimed at highlighting the former president’s involvement and culpability in efforts to stop Congress from certifying his defeat.
Investigations of the January 6 Insurrection Are Far From Over. (Mother Jones, December 19, 2022)
The House committee will refer Trump for criminal charges, but big questions and risk of violence still loom.
Umair Haque: Our Civilization Just Hit Three Great — And Ominous — Inflection Points. (Eudaimonia and Co, December 17, 2022)
(Why the 2020s are) the Age of Inflection.
[This is one of the most fundamental of Umair Haque's many good articles. Major lessons from history are playing out again now , globally and with even greater consequences.]
The US touts support for biodiversity – but at Cop15, it remains on the sidelines. (The Guardian, December 17, 2022)
Washington hasn’t signed a 30-year-old pact, leaving Biden’s envoy in the role of ‘influencer’ in Montreal. Only two countries in the world have not joined the UN Convention on Biological Diversity: the Vatican and the US.
NEW: Giant Vibrating Wind Turbines May Be The Future. (Medium, December 17, 2022)
The first modern 3-blade electricity-producing wind turbines were built in the 1920s. While our current turbines are more refined, with better blade designs and more efficient generators, their blueprint is now a century old! Surely we could develop a better design rather than relying on such ancient technology. Well, as it turns out, we can. "Skybrators" are cheaper, easier to maintain, better for the environment, and potentially more efficient than current turbines.
A Battle for the Arctic Is Already Underway. And the U.S. Is Already Behind. (Politico, December 17, 2022)
Since the end of the Cold War, the Arctic has largely been free of visible geopolitical conflict. In 1996, the eight countries with Arctic territory formed the Arctic Council, where they agreed to environmental protection standards and pooled technology and money for joint natural resources extraction in the region.
Now, climate change is opening the Arctic. Can the U.S. and NATO surpass Russian capabilities and ambitions in a new Cold War?
Cyber Warfare Is Getting Real. (Wired, December 17, 2022)
The risk of escalation from cyberattacks has never been greater—or the pursuit of peace more complicated. In 2023, there will almost certainly be a major cyberattack. It could shut down Taiwan’s airports and trains, paralyze British military computers, or swing a US election. This is terrifying, because each time this happens, there is a small risk that the aggrieved side will respond aggressively, maybe at the wrong party, and (worst of all) even if it carries the risk of nuclear escalation. This is because cyber weapons are different from conventional ones. They are cheaper to design and wield. That means great powers, middle powers, and pariah states can all develop and use them.
Yeast Is a Competitive Killer – Scientists Discover a New Venomous Phenomenon. (SciTechDaily, December 17, 2022)
Yeast was previously believed to be a simple unicellular (single-cell) microorganism, but now researchers at the University of Tokyo have shown it has a murderous survival strategy. A recently discovered phenomenon known as latecomer killing describes how yeast kills its own clones and other nearby microorganisms to survive when starved of glucose. This previously unknown venomous phenomenon adds to our knowledge of unicellular microorganism behavior and the evolution of unicellular to multicellular organisms. It also has potentially valuable uses in the food industry.
Low-Carb vs. Low-Fat: Science Reveals Which Diet Is Better for Weight Loss and Diabetes Control. (SciTechDaily, December 16, 2022)
Patients achieved better weight loss and glucose control over a 6-month intervention with a low-carbohydrate, high-fat, calorie unrestricted diet compared to a high-carb, low-fat diet.
The Spawn of ChatGPT Will Try to Sell You Things. (Wired, December 16, 2022)
Companies are exploring how to adapt powerful new chatbot technology to negotiate with customer service—and to persuade humans to buy stuff.
Or alternatively: Joshua Browder, the CEO of DoNotPay, a company that automates administrative chores including disputing parking fines and requesting compensation from airlines, this week released video of a chatbot negotiating down the price of internet service on a customer’s behalf. The negotiator-bot was built on the AI technology that powers ChatGPT. It complains about poor internet service and parries the points made by a Comcast agent in an online chat, successfully negotiating a discount worth $120 annually.
How Far Can You Fly a Battery-Powered Jumbo Jet? (plus 17-min. Super Canard Paper Airplane video; Wired,
December 16, 2022)
The answer explains why electric cars are everywhere but electric aircraft are still a novelty.
[Pfun with physics!]
Linux, Amazon, Meta, and Microsoft want to break the Google Maps monopoly. (Ars Technica, December 16, 2022)
Overture Maps Foundation wants to end the oppressive rule of the Google Maps API.
[Open Street Maps will benefit, too.]

Freethought Matters: Winter Solstice (
28-min. video: "Heathen's Greetings, the real meaning of the season"; Freedom From Religion Foundation, December 16, 2022)
The Solstice heralds the symbolic rebirth of the sun, the lengthening of days and the natural New Year. Nonbelievers are quite willing to celebrate the fun parts of anybody's holidays but want to be spared the schmaltz, the superstition — and the state/church entanglements.
[Also see Non-religious voters wield clout, tilt heavily Democratic. (Associated Press, December 3, 2022) Reason's Greetings!]

Michael Moore: The 14th Amendment, Section 3, Plainly States What to Do with an Attempted Coup. (Michael Moore, December 16, 2022)

"No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress who, having previously taken an oath as a member of Congress to support the Constitution, shall have [then] engaged in insurrection or rebellion or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof...”

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was written to guarantee that anyone who seeks to overturn or overthrow the government — or gives aid and comfort to those who do — is never allowed to serve as an elected official in any federal, state or local office again. Yet there has been little or no mention anywhere of the impending return of these 121 Members and Senators., all of them Republicans, who were reelected to the U.S. House and Senate last month. They each share two things:
1. On January 6, 2021, they all voted to illegally overturn the 2020 presidential election, effectively participating in an attempt to stage a coup, overthrow the United States government, prohibit Joe Biden from entering the White House and reinstall Donald J. Trump as an unelected president of the United States; and
2. On November 8, 2022, their actions to stage this coup and commit sedition were rewarded when the voters in their mostly gerrymandered districts returned them to a new term in Congress that begins two weeks from this Tuesday — unless the other 400+ members of the House and Senate invoke the 14th Amendment and refuse to seat them.
[Michael is right. His "TRAITORS" poster is at the end of this article, for you to read and share.]
Heather Cox Richardson: Jan. 6th House Committee to vote Monday on Trump criminal charges.
(Letters From An American, De
cember 16, 2022)
On Monday the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol will hold its final public meeting. Today, Politico reported that the committee will vote on referring former president Trump to the Justice Department for at least three criminal charges. Those charges include insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.
[As usual, Heather provides a good analysis with the missing background information.]
Jan. 6 panel to vote on urging DOJ to prosecute Trump on at least three criminal charges. (8-min. video; Politico, December 16, 2022)
The report that the select panel is expected to consider on Monday afternoon reflects some recommendations from a subcommittee that evaluated potential referrals.

Trump’s Twitter Ban Was Unfair, but Not for the Reason You Think. (Wired, December 16, 2022)
If Twitter had implemented its rules uniformly, other world leaders would have been banned, too.
Twitter condemned by UN and EU over reporters’ ban. (BBC News, December 16, 2022)
The United Nations has joined the European Union in condemning Twitter's decision to suspend some journalists who cover the social media firm. Reporters for the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post were among those locked out of their accounts.
The UN tweeted that media freedom is "not a toy" while the EU has threatened Twitter with sanctions.
Twitter suspends Mastodon’s account and bans links to Mastodon servers. (TechCrunch, December 15, 2022)
A day after Twitter crafted a new policy to explain its decision to ban an account that tracks Elon Musk’s private jet, the fallout continues. Twitter apparently suspended its open source competitor Mastodon from the service on Thursday afternoon. Just prior to its suspension, Mastodon (@joinmastodon) tweeted a link to the jet tracking account on its own service, according to archives.
Update: As of 6:30 PM PT, many links to Mastodon no longer work on Twitter, which flags them as “potentially harmful.” Tweeted links to some servers without Mastodon’s name in the domain still appeared to work in our testing. Banned domains include and, while links to and others still work.
NEW: 3 Ways to Tame ChatGPT (Wired,
December 15, 2022)
Governments around the world are pushing AI regulation that has nothing to say about generative models. That could be dangerous.
What social media regulation could look like: Think of pipelines, not utilities. (13-min. "60 Minutes" video; The Conversation, December 15, 2022)
Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, and his controversial statements and decisions as its owner, have fueled a new wave of calls for regulating social media companies. Elected officials and policy scholars have argued for years that companies like Twitter and Facebook – now Meta – have immense power over public discussions and can use that power to elevate some views and suppress others. Critics also accuse the companies of failing to protect users’ personal data and downplaying harmful impacts of using social media.
As an economist who studies the regulation of utilities such as electricity, gas and water, I wonder what that regulation would look like. There are many regulatory models in use around the world, but few seem to fit the realities of social media. However, observing how these models work can provide valuable insights.
How Artificial Intelligence Can Revolutionize Art and Creativity (46-min. video; The Atlantic, December 15, 2022)
Decades from now, historians may remark that 2022 was the year of AI. Breakthroughs in text-to-image and language-modeling technology such as DALL-E and GPT-3 have astonished and frightened people. What will the AI revolution mean for those in the creative industry? OpenAI lead researcher Mark Chen speaks about what’s to come with The Atlantic’s Ross Andersen, followed by a live demonstration by the metaverse creator Don Allen Stevenson III.
Umair Haque: (How) Britain’s Collapse is a Warning to the World (Medium, December 15, 2022)
The moral of Brexit Britain’s descent into the underworld of modernity.
In my last essay about Britain, I catalogued the shocking privations that Brits are going through — it’s descent into neo-Dickensian poverty. This is what becoming a failed state is. This time, though, I want to discuss the moral of the story: modern day Britain is a warning to the world. Of just how severely, swiftly, and shockingly a society can fail — how fast and hard it can all come crashing down.
But is the world learning that lesson? Particularly Europe, which is a decade or so behind Britain, in its dalliance with the fanatical, extreme right? Is the future of Europe — and America — Britain? This is a serious warning, because, well, this is where flirting with the fanatical, far right ends.
The shocking thing about Britain today isn’t just its absolutely catastrophic list of self-made problems. But let’s begin there, and then I’ll come back to the really shocking part...
NEW: "Stop The Human Asteroid!" Avaaz calls for action to stop extinction crisis as COP15 reaches endgame. (Avaaz, December 15, 2022)
Jurassic Park actor James Cromwell joins Avaaz and giant dinosaur to resist asteroids with faces of world leaders from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, UK...

The Grim Origins of an Ominous Methane Surge (Wired, December 14, 2022)
During the coronavirus lockdowns, emissions of the potent greenhouse gas somehow soared. The culprit wasn't humans—but the Earth itself.
Record low water levels on the Mississippi River in 2022 show how climate change is altering large rivers. (2-min. animated map; 4-min. video; The Conversation, December 14, 2022)
Record low water levels on the Mississippi and other major rivers, as seen in 2022, could become more common, threatening transportation of many key goods and raising prices.
[The video and article have links to more.]

U.N. member states oust Iran from women’s rights panel. (Politico, December 14, 2022)
The Biden administration led a push to boot Iran from the decades-old commission, but a notable number of countries abstained from the vote.
Why Billionaires Are Actually Ruining the Economy (8-min. video; Wired, December 14, 2022)
60% of Americans polled think billionaires like Elon Musk are good for the economy, but the economic data reveals something very different. "These people become a black hole for the economy," says economist Gary Stevenson. WIRED spoke with Gary as well as Princeton economist Atif Mian to debunk some commonly held beliefs about this nation's ultra rich.
Visualizing Currencies’ Decline Against the U.S. Dollar (graphics; Visual Capitalist, December 14, 2022)
The U.S. Dollar Index is having one of its strongest years since its inception in 1973.
This graphic visualizes almost 50 years of the Dollar Index’s returns along with the decline of major currencies against the U.S. dollar in the past two years.
In a highly volatile and difficult year for many currencies and equities, the U.S. dollar has been a safe haven for investors. The greenback has provided exceptional stability, with almost every currency around the world declining against the U.S. dollar in 2022.
NEW: McConnell launches mad hunt for whoever whiffed Trump's impeachment then backed his loser candidates. (Daily Kos, December 14, 2022)
The truth is, if McConnell hadn't miscalculated every step of this midterm cycle, perhaps he'd be poised right now to become the longest-serving Senate Majority Leader in U.S. history. Instead, he's devoting press conferences to excuse peddling for the GOP's anemic election showing. If McConnell's still looking around for culprits, might be time to take a look in the mirror.
NEW: Randy Cassingham: My Interview with an AI Chatbot about… Thinking (7-min. video; This Is True, December 14, 2022)
What happens when you talk to an artificial-intelligence language model (ChatGPT) about the value of something it can’t actually do? Thinking, I mean.
75 percent of industrial control devices are vulnerable, unpatched. (Washington Post, December 14, 2022)
The convergence of operational technology (OT) and information technology — which is more focused on collecting and transmitting data — in “internet of things” (IoT) devices such as routers and cameras means the threat is rising, Microsoft fears. That’s especially true for the most vital U.S. infrastructures.

A Fight Over Automation Plans at US Hydroelectric Dams (Wired, December 13, 2022)
The US government says replacing staff with automation and remote monitoring saves taxpayers money. Some workers fear accidents and cyberattacks.
[What could go wrong? Hint: See the article above.]
NEW: How Can Tech Be Used to Create, Not Destroy? (86-min. video; The Atlantic, December 13, 2022)
Scientists, entrepreneurs, executives, and artists discuss today’s most exciting innovations and how to invent our way to a better world.
Arctic Report Card 2022: The Arctic is getting rainier and seasons are shifting, with broad disturbances for people, ecosystems and wildlife. (The Conversation, December 13, 2022)
In the Arctic, the freedom to travel, hunt and make day-to-day decisions is profoundly tied to cold and frozen conditions for much of the year. These conditions are rapidly changing as the Arctic warms.
The Arctic is now seeing more rainfall when historically it would be snowing. Sea ice that once protected coastlines from erosion during fall storms is forming later. And thinner river and lake ice is making travel by snowmobile increasingly life-threatening.
Ship traffic in the Arctic is also increasing, bringing new risks to fragile ecosystems, and the Greenland ice sheet is continuing to send freshwater and ice into the ocean, raising global sea level.
The Real Fusion Energy Breakthrough Is Still Decades Away. (Wired, December 13, 2022)
US nuclear scientists have achieved the long-sought goal of a fusion ignition—but don't expect this clean technology to power the grid yet.
National Ignition Facility achieves fusion ignition. (2-min. video; The U.S. Department of Energy, December 13, 2022)
(DOE) and DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced the achievement of fusion ignition at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in
California — a major scientific breakthrough decades in the making that will pave the way for advancements in national defense and the future of clean power. On Dec. 5, a team at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) conducted the first controlled fusion experiment in history to reach this milestone, also known as scientific energy breakeven, meaning it produced more energy from fusion than the laser energy used to drive it. The team successfully generated a fusion reaction between two hydrogen atoms and maintained that reaction in a controlled setting, marking the potential to use such reactions to generate huge amounts of energy without burning fuels.
The announcement could mark a major step in creating a form of energy that would not release the gases that are warming the planet and contributing to climate change, but is still decades away from being ready for large-scale application.
[This would be a game-changer, except the estimated minimum of 20 years until broad availability means it will arrive very late on the global-warming curve.]
For U.S. Museums With Looted Art, the Indiana Jones Era Is Over. (Armwood Opinion, December 13, 2022)
Prodded by law enforcement, and pushed by foreign governments, American museums are increasingly returning artifacts to countries of origin, but critics wonder at what cost.
A New Lawsuit Accuses Meta's Facebook of Inflaming Civil War in Ethiopia. (Wired, December 13, 2022)
The suit claims the company lacks adequate moderation to prevent widespread hate speech that has led to violence and death.
Heather Cox Richardson:
President Joe Biden signs H.R. 8404, the Respect for Marriage Act, into law. (Letters From An American, December 13, 2022)
This afternoon, in front of a crowd of more than 5,000 people on the South Lawn of the White House, President Joe Biden signed H.R. 8404, the Respect for Marriage Act, into law. The new law protects same-sex and interracial marriages after the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision brought their safety into question.
[We may still have a corrupt SCOTUS, but the corrupt President is out of office.]
NEW: The FTX Collapse Is Also a Huge Campaign Finance Scandal. (Mother Jones,
December 13, 2022)
Prosecutors charged mega-donor Sam Bankman-Fried with violating political contribution laws.
The Trumpification of Elon Musk (Wired, December 13, 2022)
Once again, a single narcissistic troll has short-circuited our ability to have a sensible discussion about the future. The point isn’t that Musk may not be as terrible as you think. He is definitely terrible. Just as Trump was unequivocally unfit to be president, Musk is unequivocally cruel, vindictive, a heartless manager, and a troll who amplifies extremists. (Over the weekend he sicced his followers onto Yoel Roth, Twitter's former head of trust and safety, who fled his home with his family after getting threats.) He is also a chaotic leader who, far from having a plan, is—in the words of Chris Sacca, a venture capitalist and self-confessed admirer of Musk—“winging this.” It’s entirely possible that he will either destroy Twitter outright or turn it into what right-wing platforms like Gab and Parler only dreamed of becoming.
The point is that the focus on Musk is a mistake. Arguably not as much of a mistake as it was with Trump; an owner-CEO has more power over their company than a president does over their country. The point isn’t that Musk may not be as terrible as you think. He is definitely terrible. Just as Trump was unequivocally unfit to be president, Musk is unequivocally cruel, vindictive, a heartless manager, and a troll who amplifies extremists. (Over the weekend he sicced his followers onto Yoel Roth, Twitter's former head of trust and safety, who fled his home with his family after getting threats.) He is also a chaotic leader who, far from having a plan, is—in the words of Chris Sacca, a venture capitalist and self-confessed admirer of Musk—“winging this.” It’s entirely possible that he will either destroy Twitter outright or turn it into what right-wing platforms like Gab and Parler only dreamed of becoming.
The point is that the focus on Musk is a mistake. Arguably not as much of a mistake as it was with Trump; an owner-CEO has more power over their company than a president does over their country. But trying to report on what’s happening by expecting either his abject failure or resounding success, and then using his most attention-grabbing tactics as evidence for that thesis, is not doing anyone a service.
Elon Musk Loses World’s Richest Title to Arnault With Tesla Unwinding. (Bloomberg, December 13, 2022)
The Tesla CEO’s wealth has been cut in half from its $340 billion peak partly due to his Twitter purchase.
Tesla extends declines amid broader market rally as the EV maker sees stock slashed in half in 2022. (Business Insider, December 13, 2022)
Shares of the electric vehicle-maker hovered around $162, and have lost 55% year-to-date. Tesla's market cap is at $513.96 billion, and has been slashed in half in 2022. According to Bloomberg data, Tesla is now trading at roughly 30 times projected earnings, its lowest mark ever, as the company faces obstacles including waning demand in China as well as Elon Musk's entanglements with his recent acquisition of Twitter.
NEW: Kavanaugh Holiday Party Appearance Raises Ethics Questions. (Bloomberg Law, December 12, 2022)
Politico reported that Justice Brett Kavanaugh attended a private holiday party on Friday night at the home of Matt Schlapp, who is chairman of the Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC), and that attendees included Stephen Miller, whose group America First Legal Foundation has interests in cases now pending before the court.
Kavanaugh’s party-going raises questions about when a justice’s personal relationships cross a line and become problematic. Democrats have recently renewed calls for sitting Supreme Court justices to follow a formal judicial code of ethics.
Mark Meadows Exchanged Texts With 34 Members Of Congress About Plans To Overturn The 2020 Election. (Talking Points Memo, December 12, 2022)
The messages included battle cries, crackpot legal theories, and ‘invoking Marshall Law!!’.
A Plot To Overturn An American Election (
Talking Points Memo, December 12, 2022)
TPM has obtained explosive evidence uncovered by the January 6 Select Committee - the 2,319 text messages that Mark Meadows, who was President Trump’s last White House chief of staff, turned over to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Today, we are publishing The Meadows Texts, a series based on an in-depth analysis of these extraordinary — and disturbing — communications.
The vast majority of Meadows’ texts described in this series are being made public for the very first time. They show the senior-most official in the Trump White House communicating with members of Congress, state-level politicians, and far-right activists as they work feverishly to overturn Trump’s loss in the 2020 election. The Meadows texts illustrate in moment-to-moment detail an authoritarian effort to undermine the will of the people and up-end the American democratic system as we know it.
Thom Hartmann: Is America Blind to Trump’s Genocide? (Medium, December 12, 2022)
When the media discovered most of the people dying from Covid were Black or Hispanic, not White people — It hit conservative media and Donald Trump like a lightning bolt.
Riot brewing in Russian-occupied Mariupol, and analysing Surovikin. (49-min. video; Telegraph/UK, December 12, 2022)
Today, we discuss reports that Ukrainian armed forces have destroyed the Wagner Group’s headquarters in Luhansk, and analyse the influence of Putin's new 'General Armageddon’, Sergey Surovikin.
'Vladimir Putin has ruined the future of Russia', says Head of Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign. (8-min. video; Euronews, December 12, 2022)
"The war has to end. Then there have to be reparations and there has to be a democratic government before we can ever look at Russia the same again", said the Kremlin critic.
Firefox 108 Now Available With WebMIDI, Import Maps Enabled By Default. (Phoronix, December 12, 2022)
Firefox 108 is now available for download as the last major Firefox web browser release of 2022.

Researchers Turn Cancer Cells Into Less Harmful Cell Types. (SciTechDaily, December 10, 2022)
Cancer cells are incredibly adaptable, much like stem cells. Researchers from the University of Basel have discovered substances that artificially mature breast cancer cells of the very aggressive triple-negative subtype and transform them into a state that is similar to normal cells.
“Understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that define cancer and how these mechanisms differ from normal cells is crucial for developing new innovative therapies,” says Bentires-Alj. The results open a new avenue for treating triple-negative breast cancer. “The compounds used in this study are already in clinical trials to treat other cancer types, including blood-borne, lung, and pancreatic cancer”, the researcher continues. This underlines the possibility of testing these compounds in clinics and in treating breast cancer.
Especially in the era of immunotherapies, it has been suggested that “normal-like” cells can be cleared by the immune system while “cancerous” cells evade killing by immune cells. In the future, it remains to be determined if differentiation therapy can be combined with immunotherapies. “We are pursuing such strategies, and only time and resources are in our way to make further progress,” the researchers conclude.

How new drone technology is helping scientists in the uphill battle against plant extinction (lovely visuals; Reuters, December 10, 2022)
Locating rare plants in the wild is only half the battle. To protect species in the long run, botanists need to collect samples — seeds and genetic material — which they can cultivate in greenhouse nurseries. This helps provide an insurance policy against extinction.
In 2020, Nyberg and Canadian researchers from Outreach Robotics began developing a special robotic arm they could attach to a drone to carefully cut off bits of plants growing in perilous locations. Known as Mamba (Multi-use Aerial Manipulator Bidirectionally Actuated), the robotic arm dangles on a cable below a drone and is equipped with eight propellers and a cutting mechanism that pilots can control from a mile away. Today it’s out to sample the elusive W. hobdyi located along the steep cliffs of the Nā Pali Coast of Kauai.
First Martian Regolith Samples: NASA’s Perseverance Rover Gets the Dirt on Mars. (SciTechDaily, December 10, 2022)
On December 2 and 6, NASA’s Perseverance rover snagged two new samples from the Martian surface. Unlike the 15 rock cores collected to date, these newest samples came from a pile of wind-blown sand and dust similar to but smaller than a dune.
Now contained in special metal collection tubes, one of these two samples will be considered later this month for the Mars Sample Return campaign. Scientists want to study Martian samples with powerful lab equipment on Earth to search for signs of ancient microbial life and to better understand the processes that have shaped the surface of Mars. Most of the samples will be rock; however, researchers also want to examine regolith – broken rock and dust – not only because of what it can teach us about geological processes and the environment on Mars, but also to mitigate some of the challenges astronauts will face on the Red Planet. Regolith can affect everything from spacesuits to solar panels, so it’s just as interesting to engineers as it is to scientists.
Security News This Week: Attackers Keep Targeting the US Electric Grid. (Wired,
December 10, 2022)
Plus: Chinese hackers stealing US Covid relief funds, a cyberattack on the Met Opera website, and more.

New Research Reveals How Fears Get Stuck in Brains. (SciTechDaily, December 10, 2022)
A biological mechanism has been identified by researchers at Linköping University in Sweden that increases the strength with which fear memories are stored in the brain  The research, conducted in rats, was published in the scientific journal Molecular Psychiatry. It provides new insights into the processes behind anxiety-related disorders and identified shared mechanisms of anxiety and alcohol dependence.
NEW: Sea Water Found In Upstate New York Rocks Dating Back 390 Million Years. (1-min. video; Weather, December 9, 2022)
In a new study led by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, scientists identified miniscule bubbles of saltwater trapped in rocks dating back 390 million years.
Helpful Dog Collects Plastic Bottles for Recycling. (3-min. video; Laughing Squid, December 9, 2022)
A clever recycling dog is helping clear the streets of litter by collecting hundreds of plastic bottles during his daily walks.
What We Don't Talk About, When We Talk About Fast Food's Chicken Sandwich Wars (Bon Appétit, December 9, 2022)
Years after Popeye's viral moment, fast food companies are still fighting to create the hot new version. But what's the cost on our food system?
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mocks Kyrsten Sinema's announcement to leave the Democratic Party and register as an independent: 'She lays out no goals for Arizonans.' (Yahoo News, December 9, 2022)
Sinema's announcement comes after Democrats expanded their Senate majority in the midterm elections, allowing the party to move more quickly on legislation and nominations. Since President Joe Biden took office, Sinema has faced attacks from members of her party over her policy positions that have at times halted Democrats' agenda in the 50-50 Senate. Sinema's breaks from the party include refusing to eliminate the Senate filibuster to advance voting-rights legislation and rejecting corporate tax increases. She's experienced low approval ratings among Democrats in Arizona.
Kyrsten Sinema Is Leaving the Democratic Party. (Mother Jones, December 9, 2022)
She dismissed the idea that timing—and the party’s victory in Georgia—had anything to do with the decision.
In Wake Of Shocking Dinner, Trump Says It's Jews Who Should Be 'Ashamed' For Disloyalty. (Huffington Post, December 9, 2022)
Trump issued a startling first public message to the Jewish community since his Mar-a-Lago dinner with antisemitic Ye and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes. Accusing the Jewish community of disloyalty as Trump did is itself an antisemitic attack that goes back centuries.
Republicans Wonder if Georgia Is the Final Nail in Trump’s Political Coffin. (11-min. video; Late Night with Seth Meyers, December 8, 2022)
Seth takes a closer look at Republicans bickering with each other over who's to blame for their party's dismal performance in this year's midterms after Herschel Walker lost the Senate runoff in Georgia.

Elon Musk’s Twitter Files Are a Feast for Conspiracy Theorists. (35-min. video; Wired, December 8, 2022)
From QAnon influencers to @catturd, the very online right sees exactly what they want to see in the CEO’s orchestrated disclosure.
[Good article, better video panel discussion re why the Internet went wrong.]
Ada Lovelace’s skills with language, music and needlepoint contributed to her pioneering work in computing. (3-min. video; The Conversation, December 8, 2022)
Lovelace – properly Ada King, Countess of Lovelace after her marriage – drew on
mathematical logic and many other fields for her innovative work, not only. Recognizing that her well-rounded education enabled her to accomplish work that was well ahead of her time, she can be a model for all students, not just girls.
Lovelace was the daughter of the scandal-ridden romantic poet George Gordon Byron, aka Lord Byron, and his highly educated and strictly religious wife Anne Isabella Noel Byron, known as Lady Byron. Lovelace’s parents separated shortly after her birth. At a time when women were not allowed to own property and had few legal rights, her mother managed to secure custody of her daughter...
Umair Haque: Where Does Trumpism Go Now? It Becomes Terrorism — And It’s Already Beginning. (Medium, December 8, 2022)
What do fanatical movements do after Democracy rejects them? They double down on violence.

NEW: What the Conviction of Stewart Rhodes Means for Right-Wing Militancy (New Yorker, December 7, 2022)
Will imprisoning the Oath Keepers’ leader for seditious conspiracy derail the movement he helped build?
NEW: Restaurant Cancels Reservation for Conservative Christian Group. (Medium, December 7, 2022)
The owners said the group’s views made the restaurant staff uncomfortable. The author seeks your comments.
[What ARE the limits on "Public means ALL the public."? Must "Inclusive" mean "Include active segregationists/Nazis/etc."?]
NEW: ChatGPT’s Most Charming Trick Is Also Its Biggest Flaw. (8-min. video; Wired, December 7, 2022)
The articulate new chatbot has won over the internet and shown how engaging conversational AI can be—even when it makes stuff up.
NEW: Music Service Deezer Admits Data Breach via Third Party, Possibly Affecting 200M+ Users. (Restore Privacy, December 7, 2022)
Deezer, the popular music streaming service with millions of users around the world, has admitted to a large-scale data breach via a third-party service provider that potentially affects millions of Deezer users. The company says the data breach occurred back in 2019, with the hackers managing to steal a snapshot of user data.
NEW: Everyone Is Sick Right Now. (Wired, December 7, 2022)
For the past two years, social distancing kept seasonal viruses at bay. Now they’re roaring back.
Russian troops’ poor performance and low morale may worsen during a winter of more discontent. (The Conversation, December 7, 2022)
"As a career U.S. special forces officer who conducted field research on the 2008 and 2014 wars in Georgia and Ukraine, it is my view that this war has demonstrated that only one side, the Ukrainians, can execute effective combat maneuvers. I believe that the Ukrainians will attempt to launch a large-scale counteroffensive in late winter when the ground is still frozen."

NEW: In Moore v. Harper, SCOTUS Could Decide Who Gets The Final Say In A 2024 Election Dispute. (The Federalist, December 07, 2022)
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week in the biggest sleeper case of its 2022-23 term. If a dispute arose over the results of the 2024 election, Moore v. Harper might provide the touchstone for a state legislative role in determining the winner.
[You've read the related articles immediately below, right? Then you'll recognize THIS one as
a very-GOP gambit for undermining our elections. In fact, naming themselves "The Federalist " while advocating for States' rights is also a rather-typical GOP gambit.]
'Big consequences': Supreme Court grapples with Moore vs. Harper elections case that some warn could up-end federal elections. (2-min. video; USA Today, December 7, 2022)
- The Supreme Court heard arguments in the election case for three hours.
- At least three justices signaled support for giving legislatures more power to set election rules.
- But the issues seemed to divide the conservative majority and the outcome is not clear.
[Simple solution: Switch to One Person, One Vote (simple majority) and Instant Run-off Voting!]
What to know about Moore v. Harper, the high-stakes elections case at the Supreme Court (CBS News, December 7, 2022)
"Incredibly disruptive." Wreaking "havoc." "Potentially damaging for American democracy." Those are just some of the characterizations of a legal theory that is at the center of a case set to be argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Known as the "Independent State Legislature Theory" which largely laid dormant for the better part of 15 years, the idea may seem stale at first glance. But it has election law experts sounding the alarm that its embrace by the high court would upend election administration nationwide and ensnare federal courts in "endless" disputes about state law.
The independent state legislature theory is the idea that the Constitution's Elections Clause vests exclusive authority to state legislatures for setting elections rules for Congress and the presidency, without oversight from state courts to ensure those laws comply with state constitutions. Its Elections Clause states: "the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof."
The theory gained little traction in the wake of Bush v. Gore but was thrust into the spotlight when it was raised by former President Donald Trump and his allies as part of efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Then (SCOTUS): A version of the theory was invoked in 2000 by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist in his concurring opinion in Bush v. Gore, in which he wrote "the general coherence of the legislative scheme may not be altered by judicial interpretation so as to wholly change the statutorily provided apportionment of responsibility among these various bodies." In other words, there are limits on state courts' authority to alter rules for federal elections. Rehnquist, whose opinion was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas (all Republican nominations), wrote: "There are a few exceptional cases in which the Constitution imposes a duty or confers a power on a particular branch of a State's government. This is one of them."

Now (Rep.): The Honest Elections Project, a conservative organization, said a decision in favor of North Carolina Republicans — finding the power to regulate federal elections rests solely with state legislatures — would be a "net positive." "State legislatures will remain constrained by the federal constitution, state constitutional requirements concerning voter qualifications, and congressional supervision," the group said in a filing with the Supreme Court. "Federal courts will provide the same modest check they already provide in our constitutional system. And state courts and executives will be free to interpret and administer — but not rewrite — the legislature's written election code."

Now (Dem.)
: Adoption of the independent state legislature doctrine would lead to legal uncertainty, increase the chance that legislators give themselves power to certify votes, and effectively create an unchecked branch of governmen
[Yes, Moore vs. Harper IS a big SCOTUS issue; read the entire article.]

Trump Organization tax fraud convictions show downsides of private companies having no independent oversight or outside accountability. (The Conversation, published July 1, 2021 and updated December 6, 2022)
Donald Trump’s family business was found guilty of 17 counts of tax fraud and other financial crimes on Dec. 6, 2022, in a case prosecutors said displayed a “culture of fraud and deception” at the Trump Organization. Private companies like the Trump Organization lack the safeguards of public corporations – like outside ownership and independent oversight. Moreover, impulsive decision-making by an individual or small, isolated group of people, without those safeguards, can and often will lead to disastrous results. That appears to be what the convictions in the Trump Organization trial show.
Dem Dysfunction, Tabloid Hellscapes, Crime: How New York Almost Went Red (Mother Jones, December 6, 2022)
“Here’s the problem: We don’t feel safe.”

Ukraine war: Russian missile strikes force emergency power shutdowns. (BBC News, December 6, 2022)
Ukraine is switching to emergency shutdowns to stabilise its power grid after Monday's Russian missile attacks, President Volodymyr Zelensky has said. He said many regions were affected, and the local authorities warned that about half of the Kyiv region would remain without electricity in the coming days.

Raphael Warnock defeats Herschel Walker in Georgia runoff, giving Democrats outright control of the Senate and capping Republicans’ underwhelming election cycle. (Fortune, December 6, 2022)
Walker’s defeat bookends the GOP’s struggles this year to win with flawed candidates cast from Trump’s mold, a blow to the former president as he builds his third White House bid.
Democrats’ new outright majority in the Senate means the party will no longer have to negotiate a power-sharing deal with Republicans and won’t have to rely on Vice President Kamala Harris to break as many tie votes.
[Good that Senator Warnock won Georgia! But only by 3%, against a demonstrably unqualified (AND pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic) Walker? Our country has BIG problems!]
Thousands Have Joined Mastodon Since Twitter Changed Hands. Its Founder Has a Vision for Democratizing Social Media. (Time, December 6, 2022)
Mastodon, a decentralized micro-blogging site named after an extinct type of mammoth, recorded 120,000 new users in the four days following billionaire Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, its German founder Eugen Rochko tells TIME. Many of them were Twitter users seeking a new place to call their online home. Those users, whether they knew it or not, were following in the footsteps of Rochko, 29, who began coding Mastodon in 2016 after becoming disillusioned with Twitter. “I was thinking that being able to express myself online to my friends through short messages was very important to me, important also to the world, and that maybe it should not be in the hands of a single corporation,” Rochko says. “It was generally related to a feeling of distrust of the top-down control that Twitter exercised.”
Q: What do you think of what Elon Musk is doing at Twitter?
A: I don’t know. The man is not entirely comprehensible. I don’t agree with a lot of his behaviors and his decision-making. I think that buying Twitter was an impulse decision that he soon regretted. And that he basically got himself into a situation that kind of forced him to commit to the deal. And now he’s in it, and he has to deal with the fallout.
I specifically disagree with his stance on free speech, because I think that it depends on your interpretation of what free speech means. If you allow the most intolerant voices to be as loud as they want to, you’re going to shut down voices of different opinions as well. So allowing free speech by just allowing all speech is not actually leading to free speech, it just leads to a cesspool of hate. I think that is a very uniquely American idea of creating this marketplace of ideas where you can say anything you want completely without limits. It is very foreign to the German mindset where, in our Constitution, our number one priority is maintaining human dignity.
[Another fine Mastodon article. "Thousands" of new users? 120-thousand in four days! And now closing in on 6-million users, up from 4-million in August!]

Mastodon Growth Numbers Might Not Mean What You Think They Mean. (Absolutely Maybe,
December 5, 2022)
Mastodon’s growth in the last month has been extraordinarily fast – but just how fast? Did the number of users jump up to 2.5 million or 8 million in the month or so since Musk took over Twitter? The vast difference between 2.5 and 8 million isn’t just because the first is a tally of active users – accounts that have at least been logged into in the last month – and the second is the number of existing accounts. The data sources are measuring very different “Mastodons”.
When Musk took over Twitter, there were 3.6 million accounts in the Mastodon network. That includes people with multiple accounts and bot accounts. But even though they’re not unique individuals, accounts are called users (the same as at Twitter). Before the takeover, only about 10% (say, 400,000) of those Mastodon accounts had been used in the previous month. Or to put it another way, 90% of Mastodon accounts weren’t active.
Since then, 1.8 million accounts have been added, bringing the total to 5.4 million accounts – and close to half of all Mastodon accounts had been at least logged into in the last month (47%). That added up to 2.5 million active users in the first days of December.
[So, 2,500,000 / 400,000 = greater than 6 times more active Mastodon accounts in a little over one month, and still growing!]
Georgia runoff elections are exciting, but costly for voters and democracy. (The Conversation, December 5, 2022)
In recent decades, the Peach State has had four high-profile runoff elections, all for the U.S. Senate. The last was on Jan. 5, 2021, when, in a pair of runoffs, the state made history by electing Raphael Warnock, the first African American U.S. senator elected in the state and second elected in the Deep South since 1875, and Jon Ossoff, the first Southern Jewish U.S. senator elected since 1974.
Enthusiasm is strong for the Dec. 6, 2022, runoff election between Warnock, the Democratic incumbent, and former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate. But beyond the hype, there’s a cost. Runoff elections in the state are expensive. Turnout is also typically lower in runoffs than in general elections, meaning not as many people’s voices are ultimately involved in the final decision.
There is a less expensive way. “You can accomplish the same thing with instant-runoff voting as with a general election runoff, without conducting a whole separate election,” Swint has said. “It’s quick, it’s cheap, it does the same thing, so it’s something Georgia should take a look at.” In instant-runoff voting, also sometimes called ranked-choice voting, voters indicate the order in which they prefer candidates. If no majority winner emerges immediately, the lowest vote-getter is dropped, and the votes that had been for that person are reassigned to those voters’ next-best choices. The process continues until one candidate gets more than half of the votes.
There may be an even simpler solution. “The other thing Georgia could take a look at is just eliminating runoffs altogether and moving to a plurality vote,” in which the person who gets more votes than any other wins, Swint said.
So far, early voting for this year’s Georgia runoff has broken records. But it has cost a lot, and the number of votes cast still may not match the first-round totals. Perhaps that’s why instant-runoff voting is already being proposed for future Georgia elections.
Statement: Meta Threatens to Remove News from Facebook if Journalism Competition and Preservation Act is Passed. (News/Media Alliance, December 5, 2022)
Facebook’s threat to take down news is undemocratic and unbecoming. As the tech platforms compensate news publishers around the world, it demonstrates there is a demand and economic value for news. These threats were attempted before the Australian government passed a similar law to compensate news outlets, played out unsuccessfully, and ultimately news publishers were paid. The Australian law resulted in countless jobs for local journalists and $140 million to news outlets, which translates to billions in the U.S.
[We are confused. Also see Stop the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (December 2, 2022) and Myth vs. Fact: The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (August 1, 2022).]
Windows 11 Still Not Winning the OS Popularity Contest. (Slashdot, December 5, 2022)
The operating system was released on October 5 last year, but shifting stubborn consumers onto this software has proved challenging for top brass at Microsoft HQ in Redmond. According to Statcounter, a web analytics service that has tracking code installed on 1.5 million websites and records a page view for each, some 16.12 percent of Windows users had installed Windows 11 in November, higher than the 15.44 percent in the prior month, but likely still not close to the figures that Microsoft was hoping for.
Please Stop Freaking Out About This Giant Yellow Spider. (Wired, December 5, 2022)
Invasive species experts urge scientists and the media to avoid sensationalizing Jorō spiders—and wait for science to catch up.
The Era of One-Shot, Multimillion-Dollar Genetic Cures Is Here. (Wired, December 5, 2022)
Gene therapies promise long-term relief from intractable diseases—if insurers agree to pony up.
Covid Will Become Endemic. The World Must Decide What That Means. (Wired, December 5, 2022)
The task of 2022 will be figuring out how much action we’re willing to take and how much disease and death we’ll tolerate.
Robin Schoenthaler, MD: How To Protect Yourself From December’s Perfect Viral Storm - And Protecting Yourself From Paxlovid Myths As Well. (Medium, December 5, 2022)
We are again seeing a “Thanksgiving-as-super-spreader” small surge (I’ve heard of entire families testing positive by Sunday afternoon!), but nothing like last year.
There are a few changes: one is the Covid daily death rate, now “down” to ~250 compared to ~2500 at our worst. Another important change in the death statistics: the vast majority of deaths now are in the “elderly elderly,” sometimes defined as over 85 (my personal definition is “much older than me”).
A huge change this month is that the newer Omicron variants changed just enough that they “out-grew” some of our best drugs so now most old monoclonal antibodies no longer work against Covid. Included in this sad list is the excellent antibody bebtelovimab and the preventative drug Evusheld which has ceased to give the immuno-compromised against the new variants — a gigantic loss. The only thing left for Covid treatment is Paxlovid, remdesivir (three IVs), or the less effective Molnupiravir.
Number one myth: “I don’t need Paxlovid because I’m not that sick.”
Myth-buster: The reason to get Paxlovid is NOT how sick you are with Covid but rather whether you are at high risk to DEVELOP severe Covid. Your EARLY symptoms don’t matter. What matters is your RISK to develop severe disease. Those risks are: AGE AGE AGE (over 65 if vaccinated; over 50 if unvaccinated) or any significant heart, lung, kidney disease, current cancer, depression etc maladies listed by the CDC here. If you are 65 or at risk, you and your doctor should really consider Paxlovid.
Number two myth: “I take medications that can’t be taken with Paxlovid.”
Myth-buster: The reality is that you’re on Paxlovid for five little days. Many medications can be stopped for those few days, like some statins, sleeping pills, etc. Obviously you DO NOT stop the heart medicine that keeps your heartbeat normal (please!), but there’s other times your health won’t be harmed by briefly pausing a med. Talk to your doc!
Number three myth: “I’ll wait a few days and see how I feel.”
Myth-buster: Paxlovid needs to be taken within five days of your positive test. This makes sense — it’s an anti-viral. The viruses multiply like crazy the first week so that’s exactly when you want Paxlovid in your body so it can kill tons of viruses before they turn into gazillions of viruses. It’s useless after the first week: you NEED to take it early.
Number four myth: Paxlovid only helps the unvaccinated.
Myth-buster. The data is now clear Paxlovid keeps BOTH vaccinated and unvaccinated people out of the hospital, off ventilators, and not dead. Paxlovid may also be shortening the disease, the symptoms and the chance of getting Long Covid, although this evidence is preliminary.
Number five myth: There’s other meds I can take instead.
Myth-buster: Unfortunately, no. The evidence AGAINST other treatments that first week is strong. You definitely do NOT want to take steroids (can cause more deaths), or antibiotics (no help, can harm), and no supplements have been definitively shown to help, not even my beloved Vitamin C and D.
Number six myth: “Everybody who takes Paxlovid rebounds.”
Myth-buster: It’s more like everybody who gets rebound gets a headline. In fact, the percentage of people who “rebound” after Paxlovid seems similar to people who “rebound” without taking Paxlovid, and it’s lower than originally thought in both groups.
We’ve all known somebody who said, “I just can’t shake this cold I got last month” or “I started to get better and then I felt lousy again”; this seems to be a similar process.
People at risk to get super sick should strongly consider Paxlovid. If your doctor/NP/PA says no, it’s very reasonable to ask why they think you in particular don’t need it. And you can always double check the treatment guidelines as formalized by the specialty societies. And best of all, plan ahead. Talk to your doctor now about what to do if you get sick.
Protecting yourself this winter: This winter is shaping up to be a particularly nasty one for respiratory viruses. On top of a not-going-away Covid, we already have record-breaking rates of flu, the off-the-charts rates of RSV, and there’s a ton of what I call the GLLABC virus: the non-flu, non-RSV, non-Covid, non-strep Generalized-Long-Lasting-And-Brutal Crud.
It’s clear we’re in the middle of a respiratory perfect storm: a boatload of pretty darn contagious bugs and our immune systems unaccustomed to the fight, and now on top of that it’s winter. With masking pretty much a thing of the past — well, I’m afraid the genie is out of the bottle. There’s still five things you can still do to protect yourself in addition to masking — boost for Covid, vaccinate for flu, keep washing your hands, stay home when sick, and test-before-you-go.
But the other thing you can do to protect yourselves and your family and friends is: don’t hang out with people who are sick, and try and create a culture where symptomatic people stay home.
I know this is super hard at jobs with lousy sick leave and unbearable work burdens (in which case you should of course mask!), but it is something you can absolutely do in your social life.
This is also a time to think about Covid testing before social gatherings. If you feel even a little under the weather, test before showing up. In fact, testing ANYtime you’re in a group — especially with the elderly, frail, or immunosuppressed — should really be our fallback position these days. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s a help.
And if you’re actually coughing or sneezing or blowing your nose fifty times an hour, you should definitely assume you’re contagious with one of our winter-wrecking-ball viruses even if it’s not actually Covid.
Getting even slightly sick these days is our body’s way of saying, “Stay home, get in bed, watch ‘The Crown,’ and keep Aunt Petunia safe.”
We need to do this, even when it breaks our hearts during this, our Three-Years-of-Constant-Disappointments. Because high on the list of the one gajillion things we’ve learned from Covid it’s that Friends Don’t Share Secretions With Friends.
[This is long. Read it! Believe it! Share it!]

: Hackers linked to Chinese government stole millions in Covid benefits, Secret Service says. (NBC News, December 5, 2022)
The theft of state unemployment funds is the first pandemic fraud tied to foreign, state-sponsored cybercriminals that the U.S. government has acknowledged publicly.

NEW: Umair Haque: The Beginning of the End of the World (Medium, December 5, 2022)
Why we have to take the idea of Civilizational Collapse seriously, and what it really looks like. Am I serious? How am I not? A relatively mild pandemic brought our civilization to its knees. We couldn’t even vaccinate the world to end it. The world is already resorting to resource wars in anticipation of climate change. And we’re our climate inaction is causing levels of warming faster and worse than scientists predicted.
Imagine that aliens visited this planet. What would they see? Something like this. This planet was dying. Meanwhile, “the world” as the species that dominated it had become accustomed to thinking of it, looked something very much like this. About 10% of the world was rich, and that was mostly in an enclave in the North and West — Europe and America. Just 10%. Rich in the simple and minimal sense of: being able to provide for one’s basic needs. And even among that 10%, much of it had fallen into poverty — like Americans and Brits, who increasingly couldn’t provide for basic needs. Nevertheless, thanks to a long, long history of centuries of violence, slavery, hatred, and subjugation, 10% of this world was vastly richer than the rest.
That was the world — in the simplest way. A rich 10%, a poor 90%, and an ultra rich 1% or 0.1%. And that ultra rich was increasingly the only people for whom life was really improving. They were becoming richer than kings of yore. But what about everyone else? In fact, those billionaires profited off a worldwide illness, making as much money as workers lost.
Human beings were effectively three tribes on a dying planet. And soon enough, those three tribes, those three strata, would find themselves at each others’ throats, in a bitter, desperate fight for survival.
[It gets worse. And worst of all, he's right.]

Leaders react to Trump questioning Constitution. (4-min. video; NBC News, December 5, 2022)
Former President Trump is drawing attention for calling for the termination of parts of the Constitution, citing baseless claims of widespread election fraud in the 2020 election. Here's more on Trump’s latest controversies since announcing his third bid for the White House.
[Trump blames Constitution, withdraws his statement, blames Democrats for it. What's wrong here? What's new here?]

Elon Musk’s Twitter Isn’t Ready for the Next Natural Disaster. (Wired, December 5, 2022)
Emergency responders rely on the platform to share and collect lifesaving information. Looser moderation puts that in peril.
Emergency responders long-ago should have moved from Twitter and Facebook to Mastodon.]
Tesla’s Berlin Hub Can’t Hire Enough People, or Keep Them. (Wired, December 5, 2022)
The company’s staffing problems have been magnified in Germany, where it is unable to meet targets as more workers head for the exit.
Hybrid Vehicles Unnecessary On Path To EV-Only Future, Says GM President M
ark Reuss. (GM Authority, December 5, 2022)
Some automakers, like Toyota, have been using hybrids to make the transition to an EV-only lineup a little easier, while Reuss believes this approach to be unnecessary. “We’re not going to dilute our investment with hybrids,” Reuss said. “If you look at some of the other companies that are doing or have signaled that they’re going to have an all-electric lineup, the profitability picture is quite different.”
Ukrainian Drones Just Took Out A Russian Heavy Bomber 300 Miles From Ukraine. (Forbes, December 5, 2022)
Now the Ukrainian armed forces have exacted a measure of revenge. On Monday morning, Ukrainian drones struck the Russian bomber bases at Dyagilevo and Engels, respectively 100 and 400 miles southeast of Moscow—and both nearly 300 miles from the Ukrainian border. The nearly simultaneous drone raids damaged two bombers, killed three Russian personnel and wounded four, according to the Russian defense ministry.
The raids on Dyagilevo and Engels aren’t isolated incidents. The Ukrainian armed forces have been striking Russian air bases deep inside Russia since the first month of Russia’s wider war on Ukraine starting in February. One of the most successful raids, targeting Saki air base in occupied Crimea in August, knocked out several Russian navy fighter-bombers. The Ukrainians have struck Russian air bases with long-range artillery, rockets, ballistic missiles, explosives-laden “suicide” drones and even—allegedly—land-based anti-ship missiles. In one startling attack in October, Ukrainian saboteurs traveled to an air base in Pskov, 500 miles from Ukraine, and blew up at least one Russian air force Kamov Ka-52 attack helicopter.
Ukraine’s counter-airfield campaign is reaching deeper and deeper into Russia, putting at risk some of the Kremlin’s most valuable assets. For the Russians, it’s a troubling development.
New CryWiper wiper targets Russian entities masquerading as a ransomware. (Security Affairs, December 4, 2022)
Researchers from Kaspersky discovered a previously unknown data wiper, dubbed CryWiper, that was employed in destructive attacks against Russian mayor’s offices and courts.
[Update of prior report on Dec. 2nd, below.]
NEW: Cory Doctorow Wants You to Know What Computers Can and Can’t Do. (New Yorker,

December 4, 2022)
A conversation with Cory Doctorow of the Elecronic Freedom Foundation about the “mediocre monopolists” of Big Tech, the weirdness of crypto, and the real lessons of science fiction. "When we design a computer that treats its user or owner as its adversary, we lay the groundwork for unimaginable acts of oppression and terror."
[A fine interview in an influential magazine.]
NEW: GM’s Cruise Seeking To Enter More Markets In 2023. (GM Authority, December 4, 2022)
Cruise, GM’s autonomous robo-taxi service, recently announced that it will expand its coverage in the cities of Phoenix and Austin, while driver-manned Cruise Origin units have starting roaming the streets of San Francisco. In order to capitalize on its autonomous vehicle technology, GM’s Cruise has announced its intention to scale up operations to field thousands of vehicles in a larger number of markets by 2030.
To increase the appeal of the Origin, Cruise is also working to develop its delivery services. Prototypes have been spotted with locker outfitted to increase grocery carrying capacities.
The anticipation for expansion comes as GM CEO Mary Barra indicated that General Motors will continue to invest $500 million a quarter into the self-driving technology. If Cruise Origin performs as expected, GM sees the potential for revenue of $50 billion a year by 2030. With the recent departure of the Ford and Volkswagen jointly developed Argo AI, Cruise will have an easier time expanding with less competition.
“It Appears All Hope Is Lost,” House Republicans Warn. (Mother Jones, December 4, 2022)
I have one last chance to send them my money.
Putin 'critically ill' with 'Parkinson's and cancer' leaving him bloated and unstable. (Daily Express/UK, December 3, 2022)
Sources close to the Russian President have claimed he is suffering from a number of serious health conditions.
[Anything new here, since The Sun's report on November 1st (below)?]
The Cold War Legacy Lurking in U.S. Groundwater (2-min. video; ProPublica, December 3, 2022)
For the first time, ProPublica has cataloged cleanup efforts at the 50-plus sites where uranium was processed to fuel the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Even after regulators say cleanup is complete, polluted water and sickness are often left behind.
[Worth reading in full. This is our USA, proving once again that money is not wealth.]
The Twitter Files Revealed One Thing: Elon Musk Is Trapped. (Wired, December 3, 2022)
Messages show Twitter’s past leaders struggling with a tough moderation call with political overtones. Musk is now on the hook for such decisions himself.
Trump Most Likely to Be Convicted in This Investigation, Kirschner Predicts. (Newsweek, December 3, 2022)
"Donald Trump's going to be convicted first on: Mar-a-Lago documents, January 6th, or Fani Willis down in Georgia in Fulton County? What's your pick?" Phang asked the attorney. Without hesitation, Kirschner responded: "His Mar-a-Lago documents crimes because that frankly poses an ongoing threat to our nation's security."
Trump reportedly took dozens of boxes containing classified and top secret information to his Florida home when he left the White House last January. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) attempted to get the documents back, but Trump reportedly did not cooperate. Eventually, the matter was referred to the Justice Department.
Herschel Walker's Georgia Runoff Hopes Just Got Bleaker. (Newsweek, December 3, 2022)
The way Congress works nowadays, most voters don't care very much about a Senate candidate's character, intelligence, or experience. It's gratifying to see your senator deliver a compelling speech, ask cogent questions in a hearing, or take the lead in advocating for a cause. But the main thing is how he or she votes in numerous party-line votes that shape the direction of the country.
In November, Republican voters turned out in force and mostly adhered to that logic, resulting in a close contest between Walker and Warnock. Even then a significant fraction of them bailed out, voting for the Republican candidate for governor but not for Walker. But when the Democrats secured a 50th senate seat and control of the Senate, the urgency of that logic evaporated.
The Walker campaign has been dogged by controversy, including accusations that he paid for an ex-girlfriend's abortion and pressured another into having a termination—which he as denied—and his frequent public gaffes. Regardless of how Herschel Walker ultimately fares, the remarkable aspect of the Georgia runoff is how he's managed to make it as far as he has. For a scandal-plagued, rookie politician with no qualifications, no policy expertise, and no discernible message, getting within striking distance of a seat in the U.S. Senate is a feat in and of itself.
NEW: Non-religious voters wield clout, tilt heavily Democratic. (Associated Press, December 3, 2022)
Atheists and agnostics form only a subset of "nones" and are less numerous than evangelicals. But they are more likely than evangelicals to make a campaign donation, attend a political meeting or join a protest, Burge said, citing the Harvard-affiliated Cooperative Election Study. “When you consider how involved they are in political activity, you realize how important they are at the ballot box,” he said.
The nones equaled Catholics at 22% of the electorate, though they were barely half the figure for Protestants and other Christians (43%), according to VoteCast. Other religious groups totaled 13%, including 3% Jewish and 1% Muslim. Separately, 30% of voters identified as born again or evangelical Christians.
In several bellwether races this year, the secular vote made its impact felt, according to AP VoteCast.
- About four in five people with no religious affiliation voted against abortion restrictions in referendums in Michigan and Kentucky.
- Between two-thirds and three-quarters of nones supported Democratic candidates in statewide races in Arizona and Wisconsin.
- About four in five people with no religion voted for Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman, the Democrats elected Pennsylvania’s newest governor and senator, respectively.
NEW: Garrison Hayes: Walker, Warnock, and the Epic Battle for Georgia’s Soul (8-min. video; Mother Jones, December 2, 2022)
Two wildly different visions of Christianity are on the ballot in the critical Senate run-off.
[New to Mother Jones, Garrison Hayes tells it like it is. Except for silence regarding their positions on aetheists...]
Herschel Walker Takes Credit for Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka's 'Intelligence'. (22-sec. video; Newsweek, December 2, 2022)
A video of Herschel Walker taking credit for Donald Trump's children's intelligence has resurfaced on social media. The Republican U.S. Senate candidate for Georgia said that he spent time with Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. while they were growing up and was responsible for their intelligence.
Donald Trump’s Lawyers Might Have Made a Huge Mistake. (Mother Jones, December 2, 2022)
The ex-president’s companies are on trial for tax fraud. Defense attorneys just made the case all about Trump.
A Heat Pump Might Be Right for Your Home. Here’s Everything to Know. (Wirecutter, December 2, 2022)
Heat pumps are the cheapest and most efficient way to handle both heating and cooling for your home, no matter where you live. They’re also better for the environment. In fact, most experts agree they’re one of the best ways for homeowners to reduce their carbon footprint and reap the benefits of a greener future without sacrificing comfort. In other words, they’re a win-win.
To Save Whales, Should We Stop Eating Lobster? (Mother Jones, December 2, 2022)
Whole Foods plans to pull Maine lobster from its shelves amid a debate about its sustainability. For the North Atlantic right whale to avoid extinction, there simply needs to be a drastic reduction in the amount of vertical fishing line in the ocean. Getting whale deaths below NOAA’s threshold of one animal per year is achievable if we take rope out of the water.
Alex Jones files for bankruptcy after Sandy Hook verdict. (BBC News, December 2, 2022)
Jones, who founded the conspiracy-laden Infowars website and talk show, argued for years that the Sandy Hook shooting was a "staged" government plot to take guns from Americans and that "no-one died". He called the parents of the 20 children who died "crisis actors" and argued that some of them never actually existed.
He now acknowledges the attack was "100% real", a concession he made in August at a separate defamation trial in Texas. Families who lost loved ones in the shooting alleged Jones' lies led to years of death threats, intimidation and other forms of harassment from his followers.
Jones still faces a third defamation trial over the Sandy Hook shooting that begins in Texas later this year.
Never-before-seen malware is nuking data in Russia’s courts and mayors’