I want squirrels in my back yard so bad it hurts:
Thank you, Schroedinger’s Cat:
We are in the middle of a global pandemic, a cold virus gone viral. The death toll due to Covid-19 is rising everyday. May isn’t even over and we have already crossed 100,000 deaths in the United States alone.
The virus has bought the whole world to it knees. Almost no one alive today has seen an epidemic on this scale. So paranoia is running amok even among people who should know better. The closest parallel is the Spanish Flu that swept the globe almost a hundred years ago. First it was China and then it was Italy and now we are at the eye of this storm. So far our response has been anything but surefooted. States are scrambling to get medical supplies while the federal response has been halting and inadequate to combat the scale of the unfolding disaster. A microscopic virus invisible to the naked eye has brought the behemoth of the global economy to a complete standstill.
But was this inevitable? The federal response to the pandemic has been guided more by wishful thinking and posturing than by hard scientific data. What explains all the missteps and the fits and starts to combat this pandemic? At the heart of this unfolding tragedy is the scientific and numerical illiteracy that plagues our society, from ordinary citizens to the President. Climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers and people who believe that the earth is flat have been proliferating for sometime now. Some of them have ascended to the highest positions of power. Isaac Asimov said it better than I ever could in his 1980 essay.
The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.- Isaac Asimov
This cult of ignorance is proving costly to our health as the death toll keeps rising due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Infectious diseases experts have been warning about a pandemic at the scale of the 1918 flu pandemic for a while now. The President and his team had been warned by experts as far back as January that a catastrophe was looming. They knew yet they did nothing. They disregarded the scientific consensus about the virus just like they have disregarded the scientific consensus about climate change.
One look at the graph of the exponential spread of infection should have scared anyone. Unfortunately for us some one didn’t pay attention in their high school math class or their intelligence briefings for that matter.
People who disregard science forget one thing, you don’t have to believe in science for it to be true. The laws of nature work whether or not you believe in them. The earth’s gravitational acceleration is g =9.8 m/s2 even if you think that the earth is flat. Viruses can infect you even if you are an anti-vaxxer. But ignorance of science and math is not without consequence. People who promote falsehoods that vaccines cause autism are bringing back infectious diseases like measles which were considered eradicated. They also vote into office elected officials who deny climate change and twiddle their thumbs as a virulent virus ravages the nation. They gut budgets that fund our research infrastructure from the CDC to the NIH and NSF. They want to gut CDC funding during a pandemic. The research budgets which were trimmed because of sequestration (across the board funding cuts to the funding of government agencies to enforce fiscal discipline enacted in 2012) never bounced back when the economy did. Gutting research funding while cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations is like burning seed corn to have a party right now.
Everyone wants a vaccine for COVID-19 in a hurry now but scientific expertise and research excellence don’t happen in a day or even a year. There is no just-in-time research. It has to be funded generously and in a consistent manner so that people are willing to dedicate their lives to careers in science which for the most part is hard lonely work with little glory. And who else but the government can do this when the rewards, if they exist, are distant?
Investment in science and math is essential for our very survival. This includes support for science and math education, K-12 and beyond and robust federal funding for both pure and applied research. I hope that this pandemic has taught us that ignorance of science comes at a steep price, the price tag is 100,000 dead Americans and counting.
Sent this around to my family yesterday because I found it so practical and helpful. https://t.co/2LCdNjhrc8
— Lizzie O'Leary (@lizzieohreally) May 24, 2020
This actually is a good, “sensible” at-this-point-in-time guide (with charts, for science!), if you want something not too depressing to share:
… In particular, so-called superspreading events seem to be a major cause of infections. One London School of Hygiene analysis suggested that 80% of the secondary transmissions were caused by just 10% of infected people. In other words, if you want to avoid getting COVID-19, one of your major focuses should be avoiding a superspreading event.
So as Utahns leave their homes and reengage with society, we thought now would be a good time to scour the research to note where these events have been documented and where they haven’t. We can also learn about the circumstances that led to each superspreading event, and do our best to avoid them…
TL; DR — Stay away from bars, clubs, buffets, and sports venues. Be cautious about buses, planes, gyms, malls, and offices. Grocery stores (grab & go) and (possibly? probably?) voting sites should be okay, though! As for church-going and family gatherings: “Churches can be the site of community-changing superspreading events… Avoid hugging and sharing food, especially while sick.”
(Jesus and your grandma both love you, but they didn’t raise you to be an idiot.)
Doctors on the front line tell us, in their own words, what they've learned about coronavirus after months of treating patients.https://t.co/JRVGTZKfN7
— BBC South East (@bbcsoutheast) May 25, 2020
This, on the other hand, is just plain terrifying:
When you talk to intensive care doctors across the UK, exhausted after weeks of dealing with the ravages of Covid-19, the phrase that emerges time after time is, “We’ve never seen anything like this before.”
They knew a new disease was coming, and they were expecting resources to be stretched by an unknown respiratory infection which had first appeared in China at the end of last year.
And as the number of cases increased, doctors up and down the UK were reading first-hand accounts from colleagues in China, and then in Italy – in scientific journals and on social media – about the intensity of infection.
“It felt in some ways like we were trying to prepare for the D-Day landings,” says Barbara Miles, clinical director of intensive care at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, “with three weeks to get ready and not a great deal of knowledge about what we would be facing”.
But what arrived in the UK as winter turned into spring took even the most experienced ICU specialists by surprise.
Most people infected with the coronavirus have only mild symptoms, or sometimes none at all. But in many thousands of patients who fall critically ill, Covid-19 is a disease of alarming complexity.
What follows is a summary, often in their own words, of what doctors have learnt about how Covid-19 attacks the human body, and what they still need to know…
Opinion: America’s seniors, sacrificed on the altar of reopening https://t.co/ZQF3eZNcAn
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 23, 2020
More people are growing fruits and vegetable at their homes while they practice social distancing pic.twitter.com/8W2xTn0ZvL
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 20, 2020
Many thanks to commentor The Mighty Trowel for a lovely Sunday essay on seeds and human connections. Ruby Tandoh, in Medium, on “The Life and Dreams of Esiah Levy”:
The seeds would arrive in envelopes, their names scrawled in ballpoint pen across the back. ‘Giant Hubbard,’ read one packet, the seeds for the heavy, dense-fleshed squash landing in Wiltshire in England’s rural south-west. A package of squash and corn seeds found its way to a village perched on Senegal’s coast, just south of the nation’s capital, Dakar. In Cypress, southern California, a similar parcel arrived. Inside the crumpled paper was a jumble of seeds for rhubarb and beautiful, mosaic-like glass gem corn, each kernel shimmering a different colour.
It was an operation as vast as it was ramshackle. Old envelopes that once delivered bank statements or utility bills were torn open, filled with seeds, taped back together and sent back out into the world, given new, green life. Sometimes seeds were carefully divided and labelled, keeping white zucchini separate from beetroot and scotch bonnet pepper. Other times, they were crammed into one packet, beans nestled alongside tiny lettuce seeds or dried corn kernels. One package to southern Germany contained eight varieties of squash alone. Hundreds of envelopes, containing thousands of seeds, were scattered across five continents, missing only those far reaches of Australia and the frozen expanse of Antarctica.
This empire of seeds tells an unlikely story. Trace its sprawling roots back to their source and you will find that they converge in Croydon, a town to the south of London, tucked just inside the capital’s roaring orbital motorway…
Michelle Obama is stepping into the 2020 election with a program to boost voter turnout https://t.co/W4ZkDaX1LG
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 22, 2020
… On Thursday, Michelle Obama took her first concrete step toward being a factor in the 2020 election. Her nonpartisan voting initiative, When We All Vote, which she founded months before the 2018 midterms, announced a coalition of 31 mayors across the country who will be brainstorming and sharing lessons and practices about how to increase voter registration and civic engagement.
“This current crisis is a clear reminder of how critical it is to have competent leadership at all levels of government,” she said in a recent Zoom call with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, announcing the launch of the program, called Civic Cities. “Voting is bigger than any one party, any one issue, any one candidate, any one election,” she added. “The point is that no matter what party, what ideology, we want everyone to participate. We need your voices in this with us.”
While thanking the mayors for all the work they’ve done in the crisis, and asking them to tell their frontline workers “how grateful we are, me and Barack,” she emphasized that they were entering a new battle.
“This pandemic will likely have a significant impact on the November election and on how voters across the country cast their ballots,” said Obama, who did not turn on her video on the Zoom call, but used a photo of herself in a purple suit as her avatar. “Already in state and local elections, we’ve seen voters forced to choose between protecting their health and making their voices heard. And that’s absolutely not acceptable.” The big thing to keep an eye on, she said, was ensuring that the health and economic crisis of the pandemic “doesn’t turn into a crisis of democracy, too.”…
Obama’s partners in the program are mostly Democrats, including Los Angeles’s Eric Garcetti, Chicago’s Lori Lightfoot, Atlanta’s Keisha Lance Bottoms, and D.C.’s Muriel E. Bowser, but there are also three Republicans and two independents in the mix.
On the Zoom call, mayors tossed around ideas like placing dropboxes for mail-in ballots all over their cities so fewer people had to wait in line at polling places. Or making voter registration automatic, with an option to opt out, when getting the new enhanced drivers licenses, which Tacoma, WA, mayor Victoria Woodards said she’d already enstated.
Obama promised them, “we are committing to supporting your efforts in the years to come.” But she also stressed that they had a lot to do, and fast: “We’ve got to get to work because we don’t have much time.”…
Bowser has had a working relationship with the Obamas since they were in office, and it’s one that’s continued as they became the rare first couple to stay in Washington after their time at the White House was done. Bowser is working on encouraging voters to request mail-in ballots but said that she got her closest look at Michelle Obama’s influence recently when the former first lady volunteered to help get out the word about safety from the coronavirus by recording a robocall with testing information for D.C. residents.
“Immediately after that call, we had three times the number of calls into our call center for testing. So people really felt it,” Bowser said…
Not so uplifting, but quite encouraging for those of us who cherish our grudges:
Opinion: Republicans are realizing the crisis is pulling them toward disaster https://t.co/PcWMrNKQY8
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 22, 2020
“The worst is behind us,” declared Herbert Hoover in 1930. Two years later, Franklin Roosevelt won the presidency by an 18-point margin, capturing 42 states.
Now, nearly 90 years later, at least some Republicans are starting to worry that President Trump could meet a fate similar to Hoover’s, and drag them down with him…
90,000 Americans are dead.
1,400,000 confirmed U.S. cases.
36,000,000+ unemployment claims filed.
— CAP Action (@CAPAction) May 18, 2020
The Washington Post did an anodyne and extremely predictable beat-sweetener on “The Power of Stacey Abrams” last week, and it completely unhinged that portion of the Very Serious Commentariat which would predictably come unhinged at the very possibility that a voting-rights activist might be getting serious attention. Give Jen Rubin her due, she can hear the dog whistles:
There is now a whole genre of right-wing punditry declaring, in hysterical and angry tones, that Stacey Abrams would be the worst pick in the history of vice-presidential picks. No, really. The people who defend their vote for President Trump, who support the most unqualified Cabinet in history and who think political experience is overrated now see a catastrophe if the former minority leader of the Georgia state House, the founder of Fair Fight and Fair Count and a rising star in the Democratic Party is picked as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee…
Why all the venom? Let’s begin with the assumption that it is perfectly reasonable to argue she is not the best VP choice or that her lack of national experience would weaken the ticket. But the anger, the determination to ignore her accomplishments (she did found a voting rights group, deliver a response to the State of the Union and hold the minority leader position in her state for more than half a decade), the resentment over her insistence on calling out voter suppression as the reason for her loss and feigned offense at her ambition (horrors!) smack of racism. I suggest the tone of these voices — How dare she?! — would be far different if, say, Pete Buttigieg or Beto O’Rourke were promoting themselves for the job.
Abrams has committed the cardinal sin for an African American woman in the eyes of the right: She will not accept the legitimacy of elections won through voter suppression, and she will not be appropriately docile and humble. Unfortunately, I fear that this is just the beginning of the thinly disguised racism that we will see should former vice president Joe Biden select an African American as his running mate…
Abrams’ political style is “Person Who Is Never Afraid to Demand What Her Constituents Need”, which puts her squarely in the camp of such political stars as Shirley Chisholm (“If they won’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair”), Bella Abzug, and Ann Richards, among others. The current Democratic quest for Biden’s VP gives her a space to advocate for her goals, and she’s out there doing the work.
Some samples: From the AP, Q&A: Stacey Abrams is ready to serve but not on top court
… AP: The pandemic has elevated calls for mail voting. Can states make the changes necessary for that by November?
ABRAMS: No-excuse absentee balloting has to become the law of the land. It’s so critical that the next (pandemic response bill from Congress) include the $4 billion or $3.6 billion to help every state scale (up their absentee mail balloting.) The reality is we cannot afford not to do this. We have no excuse not to comply and not to meet our responsibilities for democracy, and it’s absolutely possible if we scale it up.
AP: The president said recently that people “cheat” by mail voting. How do you compete with that given his platform?
ABRAMS: I would ask journalists to tell the truth, which is that voter fraud is almost nonexistent. Donald Trump voted by mail. It is actually the safest and most accessible way of voting. In 2017, Donald Trump convened a voter fraud task force. It was so impossible to prove rampant voter fraud that they disbanded the committee before they had to issue a report…
AP: Can you talk about black identity politics and what might seem to be a more accepting environment for “blackness” in politics today?
ABRAMS: Writ large, identity politics simply means I can see you, and I understand that there are barriers to your ability to access what is considered a general good.
I enter this space as a black woman with natural hair, who does not look like everyone else. That doesn’t diminish my capacity to be effective, but it heightens my responsibility to be vocal.
Going back to COVID-19, black people are dying at a higher rate here in Georgia: 32% of the population, 54% of the deaths. That’s directly tied to identity, and if we do not acknowledge it, we are never going to find the solutions to address it. And so I think identity politics is a necessary part of our politics, but it’s also not new.
This nation began with identity politics. White men who owned land were allowed to vote and no one else was. That is the most strident degree of identity politics I think you can imagine, and what makes America such an important country is that we evolve, we continue to expand who is a part of our narrative and who has access to leadership (and) access to opportunity.
AP: The bottom line for November – do you believe that 50 states will be able to put together a fair election, an accurate count of the public will?
ABRAMS: Yes, we can have a free and fair election if, one, we have federal investment in those state elections now. Because this is a matter not simply of will, but of capacity. What I want everyone to pay attention to is that as Democrats work to expand access to the right to vote for all Americans, Republicans are doing their level best to limit that access. Why would we want to limit access to our democracy? That should be a question every person asks.
If you or a loved one has been refused entry to a private business for not wearing a mask and you would like to explore legal options to protect your constitutional rights, our law firm is happy to explain just how fucking stupid you are.
— Contingency Fee (@ContingencyFee) May 18, 2020
But seriously, only call – do not show up for an in-person consultation you plague rat.
— Contingency Fee (@ContingencyFee) May 18, 2020
NEW: cellphone data suggests anti-lockdown protesters have been dispersing to all corners of their respective states, and beyond https://t.co/jmPsM0nt4I
— Jason Wilson (@jason_a_w) May 18, 2020
Drawn to each other like flies to… other flies:
… The data, provided to the Guardian by the progressive campaign group the Committee to Protect Medicare, raises the prospect that the protests will play a role in spreading the coronavirus epidemic to areas which have, so far, experienced relatively few infections.
The anonymized location data was captured from opt-in cellphone apps, and data scientists at the firm VoteMap used it to determine the movements of devices present at protests in late April and early May in five states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado and Florida.
They then created visualizations that tracked the movements of those devices up to 48 hours after the conclusion of protests. The visualizations only show movements within states, due to the queries analysts made in creating them. But the data scientist Jeremy Fair, executive-vice president of VoteMap, says that many of the devices that are seen to reach state borders are seen to continue across them in the underlying raw data…
In North Carolina in late April, one of the leaders of the state’s anti-lockdown protests tested positive for Covid-19 but said she would attend future rallies…
I linked this story last night (early this morning), but ICYMI:
Religious gatherings, nursing homes, meat packing plants, choirs, ski resorts, ships. COVID-19 spreads in clusters, and @kakape powerfully explores the role these play in population spread–and how targeting them might help get us out of this mess. https://t.co/nqokYjvKHS pic.twitter.com/A1XYL0BaiU
— Jon Cohen (@sciencecohen) May 19, 2020
Chinese farmers offered cash to quit wild animal trade https://t.co/szsChYBFUO
— SCMP News (@SCMPNews) May 18, 2020
I hadn’t realized how extensive the ‘wildlife’ farming operations were. As with the ‘exotic animal’ tiger-breeding business in America, obviously there’s a market, but it’s probably not essential, if the farmers can be otherwise compensated:
… The central province of Hunan said on Friday that people who bred wild animals for food and who voluntarily closed their farms would be compensated and encouraged to raise other animals.
It was the first province to introduce such a policy, and under the scheme farmers will be paid 120 yuan (US$17) for each kilogram of snakes or 75 yuan for bamboo rats they handed over.
Each porcupine or civet, a catlike species previously linked to the sever acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic in the early 2000s, will bring a payout of about 600 yuan (US$84).
Hunan also announced extra subsidies and employment training programmes to help wild animal farmers…
In Ganzhou, a city in the eastern province of Jiangxi, the city government has encouraged wild animal farmers to switch by offering loans and cheaper rents for farmland.
In the town of Dongyuan, in the southern province of Guangdong, the government has pledged to spend 2 million yuan (US$280,000) subsidising bamboo rat and snake farmers who have to give up their trade…
According to a 2017 report by the Chinese Academy of Engineering, China’s wildlife trade is worth 520 billion yuan (US$74 billion) and employs more than 14 million people.
In some of the poorest parts of China, such as Guizhou and Guangxi, wildlife farming is an important source of income, especially for those in poverty.
China has not publicised the progress or actions it has taken to enforce a national ban on the trade and consumption of wild animals since it was imposed in February…
This is the political equivalent of believing that Michael Jordan’s true talents lay on the baseball diamond. https://t.co/BnFChXY49s
— Peter Wolf (@peterawolf) May 17, 2020
Of course Nancy Pelosi is right where she and the Goddess intended her to be, but let’s take some time away from the Inevitable Ugliness(es) to discuss Biden’s potential partner.
Right now, assuming she wants the job, Kamala Harris is my personal favorite — she’s ready, she’s tested, and she’ll drive the Squatter-in-Chief even further out of his nasty rotted little mind. My favorite senator Elizabeth Warren, I get the feeling, is salivating at the chance to head up the Democratic Senate rooting out corruption the minute Lord Smallgloves (and, it can only be hoped, #MoscowMitch) flee DC (possibly for dachas in the glorious motherland, where Vlad the Interferer can better keep an eye on them). To which I say: You go, Liz!
But Biden has any number of excellent options, including no doubt some that we’re not yet aware of…
ICYMI: "A Biden-Duckworth ticket would emphasize Biden’s key selling points without taking on any new risks. Duckworth would help Biden stay the course and stay ahead in this race — which is exactly what he needs."https://t.co/vHHJ5oLe7t
— VoteVets (@votevets) May 16, 2020
if at this point anyone still thinks Republicans are the “law and order” party, then by “law and order” they mean “white people rule,” and I don’t think Val Demings is going to win them over. https://t.co/D3cRuyEtrD
— Jamison Foser (@jamisonfoser) May 18, 2020
Excellent read from Jonathan Capeheart, in the Washington Post — “Biden has four great options for a black female running mate. One is his best”:
… Biden knows how important it is to have an empowered governing partner who commands respect inside and outside the White House. That’s who he was as vice president to former president Barack Obama, and Biden is right to want the same for himself.
Before I list some popular choices, let me obliterate an argument that has cropped up in response to my first post. When folks say that whomever Biden selects should be the most qualified or that “identity politics only gets you so far,” they should be aware of how that hits the African American ear. Since Jim Crow, such sentiments have been used to question our abilities and snuff out our ambitions. No matter how brilliant we are, we are never brilliant enough in a world that still believes someone not straight or white or male (usually all three) is inherently unqualified for any role, let alone being a heartbeat away from the presidency.
The four black women most often mentioned as a possible Biden running mate defy that racist notion. They are worthy of the speculation…
You wanna know his pick, you’ll have to read the whole thing.
Just gonna throw this out there: Biden's VP pick is going to be Terri Sewell and within 24 hours there will be no less than a trillion articles about how picking a black former corporate lawyer shows the shallowness of identity politics.
— Tentin Quarantino (@agraybee) May 19, 2020
Hmmm. Per Wikipedia:
Terrycina Andrea “Terri” Sewell (born January 1, 1965) is an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, she has served as the U.S. Representative since 2011 for Alabama’s 7th congressional district, which includes most of the Black Belt, as well as most of the predominantly black portions of Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Montgomery. Alongside U.S. Senator Doug Jones, Sewell is one of two Democrats in Alabama’s congressional delegation. A native of Selma, Sewell is a graduate of Princeton University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford University. Before entering politics, she was a securities lawyer for Davis Polk & Wardwell. She is the first African-American woman to have been elected to Congress from Alabama, and, along with Republican Martha Roby, was one of the first women elected to Congress from Alabama in a regular election…
As I said: Lotsa fine choices available!
You gotta watch 98 (!!) year old Carl Reiner and friends call Congress to ensure older Americans can vote by mail this Fall. "Although we're dying to vote, we'd much rather just vote and not die.??" @robreiner pic.twitter.com/a9MAvWm7Y9
— Tim Miller (@Timodc) May 15, 2020
People should live in the present and not be obsessing about when the next president will be sworn in.
Which is 35 weeks, 2 days, 8 hours, 6 minutes, and 27 seconds from now.
— The Hoarse Whisperer (@HoarseWisperer) May 17, 2020
High quality state polling (15k interviews & 20+ polls) since April 1 suggests Biden leads by 7-8 pts nationally, is ahead in states totaling a majority of electoral votes, & said lead is wide enough to withstand a 2016 like error were election held today. https://t.co/ZAaPTZqFoE
— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) May 17, 2020
Biden White House would yank Keystone XL permit
— Ariana Pekary (@arianapekary) May 18, 2020
Ducklo is Biden’s National Press Secretary, so…
"Twitter has only two gears: cynicism and outrage…The media spaces occupied by journalists and pundits often feel immune to what Bengtson called Biden’s 'superpower'—relating to people, being warm, and caring about people."
— TJ Ducklo (@TDucklo) May 18, 2020
A takeaway from @statnews reporter @levfacher covering the Senate #COVID19 hearing:
"As some lawmakers push to reopen the U.S. economy, it’s not clear whether the Senate itself is capable of resuming normal operations.''https://t.co/wZ6k7HHsh6
— Rick Berke (@rickberke) May 13, 2020
As much as a layperson can, I’ve been following the unfolding pandemic pretty closely, but I still learned a few things from this widely-praised Financial Times piece:
Edward Luce spoke with dozens of officials to discover what went wrong in Donald Trump’s first real crisis — and found a president who ignored increasingly urgent intelligence warnings and dismissed anyone who claimed to know more than him https://t.co/jSkLQL4KCS
— Financial Times (@FinancialTimes) May 14, 2020
Vivid analogy, from a pandemics expert:
Alright. There is a LOT of chatter on this website bashing those who are saying most of the country still isn't ready for a safe reopening.
So, as we approach what would normally be summer pool season, here's a short analogy about pooping and accountability.
— Jeremy TEST/TRACE/ISOLATE Konyndyk (@JeremyKonyndyk) May 15, 2020
There's a next step – some poor soul on pool staff has to go fish out the poop. It's a pretty thankless job.
Then they have to shock the pool with chlorine to kill off bacteria.
And then everyone waits half and hour or so til it's safe to swim again. https://t.co/y0IMgvvDT9
— Jeremy TEST/TRACE/ISOLATE Konyndyk (@JeremyKonyndyk) May 15, 2020
If the lifeguards tell everyone to clear the pool, but the pool staff declines to actually get rid of the poop, what happens?
No one can go back in. The poop is still there. Limbo.
Whose fault is it that it's not safe to go back in the water? Who is accountable?
— Jeremy TEST/TRACE/ISOLATE Konyndyk (@JeremyKonyndyk) May 15, 2020
Coronavirus may never go away, World Health Organization warns https://t.co/Jofa7T8PIS
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) May 13, 2020
Emergency physician & former Baltimore health commissioner Leana Wen, in the Washington Post — “We’re retreating to a new strategy on covid-19. Let’s call it what it is”:
… At the beginning of the outbreak, the United States had a chance to contain the novel virus by identifying each person bringing the infection into the country and stopping it before it spread in the community. We failed, with a lack of testing largely to blame. Instead of individual-level containment, which would have had minimal effect on the economy, we had to employ societal-level lockdowns to slow the explosive spread of the virus and buy us time until we developed the capacity to rein it in. The idea was that restrictions would be lifted once we reduced the number of infections far enough and built up the public health infrastructure needed to find new positive cases, trace contacts and quarantine those exposed.
Unfortunately, due to a late start, inconsistent state actions and a lack of federal direction, most states have yet to see a consistent decline in cases, much less reduced them to low enough levels for this to work. No state has achieved sufficient testing and contact tracing. Reopening under these circumstances means we are giving up on containing covid-19.
What’s next, then? The administration has yet to use these words, but it appears that we’re adopting a strategy that I recognize from other aspects of public health: harm reduction.
Harm reduction was initially developed as a public health approach to reduce the negative consequences of drug use. It recognizes that while stopping drug use is the desired outcome, many people won’t be able to do that. For those individuals, needle-exchange programs can reduce their risk of acquiring HIV and hepatitis and transmitting these infections to others. Such programs do not promote or condone drug use, as some critics contend. Rather, they face the reality that if a behavior with harmful consequences is going to happen regardless, steps should be taken to reduce the risk for both individuals and others around them. Think, too, of safe-sex campaigns, or motorcycle helmet laws.
And this seems to me where we are with covid-19: We’re no longer trying to eliminate the virus. Instead, we are accepting that Americans will have to live with it.
If that’s the case, then our efforts should pivot from justifying why reopening is a good idea to figuring out how best to reduce the harm it is certain to cause. If employees have to go to work, let’s at least come up with evidence-based practices that help them do so more safely. Should workplaces all get regular deep cleaning, close off any communal areas and meet new standards for ventilation? Can employees be mandated to wear masks, work six feet apart and keep a contact diary?
We know that covid-19 is most likely to be transmitted when a lot of people are in an enclosed area for a prolonged period. I would not have advised that hair salons and gyms open for business, but since they have in some states, we should aim to stop the highest-risk practices — prolonged treatments and crowded indoor fitness classes, for example. If people are going to get together in large groups despite the danger, we should at least advise that they do so outdoors, for shorter periods of time, and avoid practices with a higher likelihood of disease transmission, like sharing utensils and group contact sports…
I wish the United States had taken a different path. We could have contained the virus earlier, and we still had a chance to do it until we reopened against the guidance of public health experts — including the Trump administration’s own top doctors. But now that we are where we are, we should at least be honest and call our new strategy what it is. It’s our best hope left for saving lives.
LeVar Burton still loves reading aloud. His storytelling might be what you need right now. https://t.co/6RcNG92RJT
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 11, 2020
… Burton, 63, has always had a particular love for the simple act of reading aloud, he says, a form of human connection that he views as vital, especially in times like these. Confined as we are, unsettled as we feel — when has the sense of possibility, the transportive power of stories, felt more necessary?
On his first night of what would ultimately become a month of readings, Burton begins with “We Can Get Them for You Wholesale,” a dark work of speculative fiction by English author Neil Gaiman. Burton delivers the story with polish and precision, expressive but never distractingly so, careful to make the voices of characters feel distinctive, not over the top…
Burton is sitting in his crimson-walled home office, the room where he has been hosting most of his live streams. One of the 13 Emmys he won for “Reading Rainbow” gleams on a small table behind him, below the framed cover art of his 1997 debut sci-fi novel, “Aftermath.” Burton wears a black T-shirt with a silver pendant around his neck, his look of choice for his recent online appearances, though on this particular afternoon, he is speaking only to a reporter on the other side of the screen.
“It’s one of my favorite ways of storytelling, reading aloud. I love it. I am aware that it’s something that I don’t suck at,” he says. His laugh is a rich, slow-building crescendo. “It brings me joy to know that I am in my purpose.”
“Reading Rainbow” ended its 26-year run in 2009, but fans who grew up watching have since flocked to Burton’s popular podcast, “LeVar Burton Reads,” which he launched in 2017. In recent years, he’s heard from many who have been listening to him for decades, and he’s come to realize “just how powerful that seems to be for people,” he says. “They love hearing my voice. It brings them calm. And I think at this time, more than any other, I felt a responsibility to step up, to step into the moment because I could.”
Burton’s new live-stream series has been helpful for him, too, he says, as he adjusts to his own transformed lifestyle. He refers to himself as an “itinerant storyteller,” a constant traveler who is typically only home for a week or two at a time, when he might dine out with friends or soak in his favorite local hot spring. Now he is homebound, along with his wife of 27 years, Stephanie Cozart Burton, their 25-year-old daughter, Michaela Burton, and his mother-in-law. In the absence of his usual routine, Burton has found structure and meaning in his weekly Twitter readings, which regularly draw an international audience of more than a million viewers.
“Stories are so innately part of the human condition,” he says. “And stories, like music, have the power to bring us together, and I think it’s that magnetizing property that is really important right now, especially in this situation where isolation is so much a part of how we are being required to live.”
For as long as he can remember, Burton has known that he wanted to be someone who helps others think about the deeper questions: Who are we? What is our purpose here? What will we do in the time we have? He credits his mother, Erma Gene Christian, a schoolteacher, social worker and voracious reader, with instilling a clear sense of purpose in her three children. “I was raised in a family where your life is meant to be about service,” Burton says.
So, white British dude imagines that boys marooned on an island will become murderous "savages." Actual children — Tonga people, "savages" as imperialism endlessly frames them — built a commune and took care of each other. https://t.co/aa3bCw3P5e
— N. K. Jemisin (@nkjemisin) May 9, 2020
I’d read Kipling’s Stalky & Co. some years before we were assigned Lord of the Flies in the eighth grade, so I took it as further proof that the British public-school system was designed to turn callow teenagers into mature sociopaths. Never found it believable that anybody other than overwrought English teachers would mistake Golding’s nasty fantasy for anything more than torture porn, but apparently such people still walk among us. Rutger Bregman’s report in the Guardian is a lovely corrective:
… The real Lord of the Flies, Mano told us, began in June 1965. The protagonists were six boys – Sione, Stephen, Kolo, David, Luke and Mano – all pupils at a strict Catholic boarding school in Nuku‘alofa [Tonga]. The oldest was 16, the youngest 13, and they had one main thing in common: they were bored witless. So they came up with a plan to escape: to Fiji, some 500 miles away, or even all the way to New Zealand.
There was only one obstacle. None of them owned a boat, so they decided to “borrow” one from Mr Taniela Uhila, a fisherman they all disliked. The boys took little time to prepare for the voyage. Two sacks of bananas, a few coconuts and a small gas burner were all the supplies they packed. It didn’t occur to any of them to bring a map, let alone a compass.
No one noticed the small craft leaving the harbour that evening. Skies were fair; only a mild breeze ruffled the calm sea. But that night the boys made a grave error. They fell asleep. A few hours later they awoke to water crashing down over their heads. It was dark. They hoisted the sail, which the wind promptly tore to shreds. Next to break was the rudder. “We drifted for eight days,” Mano told me. “Without food. Without water.” The boys tried catching fish. They managed to collect some rainwater in hollowed-out coconut shells and shared it equally between them, each taking a sip in the morning and another in the evening.
Then, on the eighth day, they spied a miracle on the horizon. A small island, to be precise. Not a tropical paradise with waving palm trees and sandy beaches, but a hulking mass of rock, jutting up more than a thousand feet out of the ocean. These days, ‘Ata is considered uninhabitable. But “by the time we arrived,” Captain Warner wrote in his memoirs, “the boys had set up a small commune with food garden, hollowed-out tree trunks to store rainwater, a gymnasium with curious weights, a badminton court, chicken pens and a permanent fire, all from handiwork, an old knife blade and much determination.” While the boys in Lord of the Flies come to blows over the fire, those in this real-life version tended their flame so it never went out, for more than a year…
They survived initially on fish, coconuts, tame birds (they drank the blood as well as eating the meat); seabird eggs were sucked dry. Later, when they got to the top of the island, they found an ancient volcanic crater, where people had lived a century before. There the boys discovered wild taro, bananas and chickens (which had been reproducing for the 100 years since the last Tongans had left).
They were finally rescued on Sunday 11 September 1966. The local physician later expressed astonishment at their muscled physiques and Stephen’s perfectly healed leg. But this wasn’t the end of the boys’ little adventure, because, when they arrived back in Nuku‘alofa police boarded Peter’s boat, arrested the boys and threw them in jail. Mr Taniela Uhila, whose sailing boat the boys had “borrowed” 15 months earlier, was still furious, and he’d decided to press charges…
Amazing details in this Kushner scoop:
– his team followed leads from "Fox&Friends" on where to find PPE.
– took 30% of national stockpile for drive-through testing site plan that failed.
– had no experience in health care, procurement, supply chain etc.https://t.co/jaoiropprA
— Greg Miller (@gregpmiller) May 5, 2020
Devastating indictment of Kushner from an ex-employee: “When I knew him, he seemed constitutionally incapable of considering the humanity of other people as a starting point.” https://t.co/oLRonQt83x
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) May 8, 2020
The nation’s preeminent Fortunate Son-in-Law has been all over the news this week, because no Trump Crime Cartel story is complete without a little Kushner in the mix:
… In any normal administration, an adviser with Kushner’s string of failures would be fired, but Kushner, like his father-in-law, keeps crediting himself with imaginary successes. Most recently, he declared the administration’s coronavirus response “a great success story,” a mind-boggling assertion that raises the question of what, if anything, Kushner thinks failure looks like. He has also continued to bash the actual experts, disputing their assessments and implying that they, not he, are the amateurs, and he is here to clean up their mess.
This is basically Kushner’s modus operandi, and it’s painfully familiar to me because he was my boss when I was the editor in chief of the New York Observer, which he had bought when he was 25…
… [H]e apparently can’t register the grief millions of Americans are experiencing now as their lives are upended by covid-19 and people they love become sick and die. It’s what enables him to lie on camera about the state of what’s happening — to view the coronavirus response as an opportunity to trade favors and not a necessary and vital obligation of the federal government — and why he will cast himself as a begrudging custodian of problems other people created even as those problems metastasize all around him as a direct consequence of his mismanagement…
On some level, Trump and Kushner appear to believe that whether they are really doing their jobs is irrelevant. But they have no reason to believe otherwise; they’ve never faced any consequences for not doing what they’re supposed to do except bad press. (Or, in Trump’s case, an impeachment that quickly led to a pro forma acquittal.) As of today, Kushner’s string of failures have not resulted in any kind of demotion or reprimand, much less dismissal. (Whatever happened to the Office of American Innovation? What has it done? Who’s demanded results?) They act like they think they should get credit for any effort at all, for stooping to bother…
Stars Wars Day — May the Fourth be with you…
— Kerim (@UCLAKerim) May 4, 2020
— Monash University (@MonashUni) May 3, 2020
May the fourth be with your immune system pic.twitter.com/DfbUvTy2O3
— Beth-Ann Bloom (@beth_annbloom) May 4, 2020
— Queensland Police (@QldPolice) May 3, 2020