by A. Richard Miller
Begun September 29, 2008; last updated August 6, 2022

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On the eve of USA's November 2008 national election, an urgent proposal for an unsecured $700-Billion, maybe $800-Billion loan to mismanaged banks and stockbrokers was generating understandable controversy. In its initial form the Bush Buddies Bailout was one more Weapon of Mass Deception, a 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 too-often avoids 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 MagazineThe 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

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 sharee, 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.]

   Resources re the Coronavirus Pandemic

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak (World Health Organization, latest status and advice)
How the Virus Won (New York Times, June 25, 2020)
Invisible outbreaks sprang up everywhere. The United States ignored the warning signs. We analyzed travel patterns, hidden infections and genetic data to show how the epidemic spun out of control.Inside the Coronavirus (Scientific American, July 2020 Issue)
What scientists know about the inner workings of the pathogen that has infected the world.
Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker (New York Times)
Researchers around the world are developing more than 155 vaccines against the coronavirus, and 23 vaccines are in human trials. Vaccines typically require years of research and testing before reaching the clinic, but scientists are racing to produce a safe and effective vaccine by next year.
Track Coronavirus Cases in Places Important to You. (New York Times)
What’s the Best Material for a Mask? (New York Times, June 20, 2020)
Scientists are testing everyday items to find the best protection from coronavirus. Pillow cases, flannel pajamas and origami vacuum bags are all candidates.
Coronavirus May Be a Blood Vessel Disease, Which Explains Everything. (Medium, June 1, 2020)
Many of the infection’s bizarre symptoms have one thing in common.
Monster or Machine? A Profile of the Coronavirus at 6 Months (New York Times, June 2, 2020)
Our “hidden enemy,” in plain sight.
3D model of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at atomic resolution (2-min. video; Vimeo, May 11, 2020)
From hair salons to gyms, experts rank 36 activities by coronavirus risk level. (Michigan Live, June 8, 2020)
From Camping To Dining Out: Here's How Experts Rate The Risks Of 14 Summer Activities (NPR, May 23, 2020)
The Risks - Know Them - Avoid Them (Erin Bromage, May 6, 2020)
Comprehensive COVID-19 reporting (by Seattle-area 17-year-old Avi Schiffman)
Infection Trajectory: See Which Countries are Flattening Their COVID-19 Curve (Visual Capitalist)
The 7 Best COVID-19 Resources We’ve Discovered So Far (Visual Capitalist)
Coronavirus Worldwide Graphs (Worldometers)
COVID-19 Global Visualizer (Carnegie Mellon University)
Rt Covid-19 Curves for U.S. States (June 6, 2020)
These are up-to-date values for Rt, a key measure of how fast the virus is growing. It’s the average number of people who become infected by an infectious person.
How to Talk About the Coronavirus (The Atlantic, March 31, 2020)
Four ways to help those around you be better informed about the pandemic.
Epidemic Calculator (GitHub)
U.S. Projected hospital resource use based on COVID-19 deaths, assuming continued social distancing until the end of May 2020 (IHME Group at the Washington Univ. St. Louis)
Daily Coronavirus Briefing (New York Times)
What Is Coronavirus? (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Coronavirus Myths and Facts (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic (Wikipedia)
We Need to Talk About Ventilation. (The Atlantic, July 30, 2020)
How is it that six months into a respiratory pandemic, we are still doing so little to mitigate airborne transmission?
Coronavirus: Disinfectant firm warns after Trump comments. (BBC News, April 24, 2020)
How to Wear a Face Mask Correctly: Common Mistakes to Avoid (NBC Boston, April 22, 2020)
Here’s What We Know about the Most Touted Drugs Tested for COVID-19 (Scientific American, April 16, 2020)
Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – Research and Statistics (Our World In Data)
Coronavirus Resource Hub (Consumer Reports)
Information on the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (Massachusetts Department of Public Health)
2020 coronavirus pandemic in Massachusetts (Wikipedia)
Information about the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Stanford CA Hospital)
Coronavirus is most contagious before and during the first week of symptoms. (Science News, March 13, 2020)
People stop making infectious virus once the body’s antibody response kicks in. All symptoms may not appear, and NO symptoms may appear until after most contagious period.
Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, MD: Safety tips for grocery and take-out shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic (14-min. video; YouTube, March 28, 2020)
Michael Osterholm on the Coronavirus pandemic (1.5-hour video; Joe Rogan Experience #1439, March 10, 2020)
Michael Osterholm is an internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology. He is Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, a professor in the Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School, all at the University of Minnesota. Look for his book "Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Deadly Germs" for more info.
Doctors and nurses demonstrate breathing techniques proven to help with coronavirus symptoms. (Daily Kos, April 8, 2020)
Long-Haulers Are Redefining COVID-19. (The Atlantic, August 19, 2020)
Without understanding the lingering illness that some patients experience, we can’t understand the pandemic.
How Trump Gutted Obama’s Pandemic-Preparedness Systems (Vanity Fair, May 1, 2020)
Former officials: Trump’s reshuffling of positions and departments, focus on business solutions, downgrading of science, left the country dangerously unprepared for an unprecedented pandemic.
A Complete List of Trump’s Attempts to Play Down Coronavirus (New York Times, March 15, 2020)
He could have taken action. He didn’t. Instead, he has continued many of his old patterns of self-congratulation, blame-shifting and misinformation. Trump now seems to understand that coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon. But he also seems to view it mostly as a public-relations emergency for himself rather than a public-health emergency for the country.
Answers to Common Questions About Coronavirus and the Food You Eat (Consumer Reports, April 1, 2020)
Food safety experts address 12 top concerns.
'It will disappear': the disinformation Trump spread about the coronavirus – timeline (The Guardian, April 14, 2020)
Heather Cox Richardson: Today, Trump and his supporters doubled down on the idea that the coronavirus is a “hoax”. (Letters from an American, February 28, 2020)
Today, Trump and his supporters doubled down on the idea that the coronavirus is a “hoax,” as Trump said, perpetrated by Democrats eager to tank his presidency. That would explain the dramatic drop of the stock market this week as nothing but an emotional reaction to “fake news.” It would mean that the strong economy Trump has hyped as his major contribution to the country—he denies that his predecessor Barack Obama had anything to do with it, although economic numbers under Obama were as good or better than today’s—remains intact, so long as people will ignore those dastardly Democrats... the Democrats that Donald Trump, Jr. says are hoping the coronavirus “comes here and kills millions of people so that they can end Donald Trump’s streak of winning.”
This is one heck of a gamble, and it reveals the corner into which the administration’s reliance on a false narrative has painted it. Under Trump, the country is great again… so the virus can’t be a problem. The rising stock market has proved that the economy is brilliant and Trump gets all the credit for it… so the falling stock market must be fake, or else the fault of jealous Democrats.
But the virus isn’t playing Trump’s game. It is spreading. Today, after we learned there are more than 85,000 known cases in the world and more than 2,900 known deaths, the director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program warned “every government on the planet” to “wake up. Get ready. You have a duty to your citizens. You have a duty to the world to be ready.”
America’s uniquely bad Covid-19 epidemic, explained in 18 maps and charts (Vox, August 11, 2020)
It’s now clear the United States has failed to contain its Covid-19 epidemic, with case counts far ahead of other developed nations and more than 1,000 deaths reported a day for over two weeks and counting. Asked if America’s coronavirus outbreak is the worst in the world, White House adviser and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci admitted it was on August 5: “Yeah, it is. Quantitatively, if you look at it, it is. I mean, the numbers don’t lie.”
It didn’t have to be this way. In March and April, other developed countries had significant Covid-19 outbreaks, but they did a much better job than the US in containing the coronavirus and keeping it down after the virus arrived. So while some other developed nations have experienced upticks, they all pale in comparison to the massive surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths that the US has seen since May and June.
Here’s what you need to know.
Food and Coronavirus Disease 2019/COVID-19 (CDC, Aug. 22, 2020)
- The risk of getting sick with COVID-19 from eating or handling food (including frozen food and produce) and food packages is considered very low.
- Take everyday actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Continue following basic steps for food safety and eat nutritious foods to take care of your physical and mental health.
CDC reverses itself and says guidelines it posted on coronavirus airborne transmission were wrong. (5-min. video; Washington Post, September 21, 2020)
Despite expert recommendations, CDC removes statement, claiming website error. The agency had posted information Friday stating the virus can transmit over a distance beyond six feet, suggesting that indoor ventilation is key to protecting against a virus that has now killed nearly 200,000 Americans. Where the agency previously warned that the virus mostly spreads through large drops encountered at close range, on Friday, it had said “small particles, such as those in aerosols,” were a common vector.
The edited Web page has removed all references to airborne spread, except for a disclaimer that recommendations based on this mode of transmission are under review.
For months, scientists and public health experts have warned of mounting evidence that the coronavirus is airborne, transmitted through tiny droplets called aerosols that linger in the air much longer than the larger globs that come from coughing or sneezing.
Despair at CDC after Trump influence: 'I have never seen morale this low.' (The Hill, September 23, 2020)
The Coronavirus Unveiled (with stunning photos and links; New York Times, October 9, 2020)
The first pictures of the coronavirus, taken just seven months ago, resembled barely discernible smudges. But scientists have since captured the virus and its structures in intimate, atomic detail, offering crucial insights into how it functions.
Less than a millionth of an inch wide, the virus is studded with proteins called spikes that attach to cells in people’s airways, allowing the virus to infiltrate. But under an electron microscope, the proteins look more like tulips than spikes, consisting of long stems topped with what looks like a three-part flower. These spikes also swivel on a three-way hinge, which may increase their odds of encountering and attaching to proteins on human cells.
UN: New daily record as COVID-19 cases hit more than 350,000 (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 th
Americans started wearing face masks a year ago. Where do we go from here? (8-min. video; Washington Post, March 8, 2021)
The rapid spread of covid-19 in the United States began in the early months of 2020. A lot has changed in our day-to-day lives since then, including the use of face masks.
A year into the pandemic, the coronavirus is messing with our minds as well as our bodies. (The Conversation, March 8, 2021)
As we see it, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a sort of zombie virus, turning people not into the undead but rather into the unsick. By interfering with our bodies’ normal immune response and blocking pain, the virus keeps the infected on their feet, spreading the virus. Zombie viruses are also a real thing, influencing their host’s behavior in ways that enhance the viruses’ evolutionary fitness.
Leaked Documents Raise Concerns Over Integrity of mRNA Molecules in Some COVID-19 Vaccines. (SciTechDaily, March 10, 2021)
Documents leaked from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) following a cyber attack in December show that some early commercial batches of Pfizer-BioNTech’s covid-19 vaccine had lower than expected levels of intact mRNA molecules.
These molecules instruct our cells to make a harmless piece of coronavirus protein, triggering an immune response and protecting us from infection if the real virus enters our bodies. The complete, intact mRNA molecule is essential to the potency of the vaccine. But in a special report for The BMJ today, journalist Serena Tinari shows that the EMA was concerned about the difference in quality between clinical batches and proposed commercial batches of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Specifically, EMA had major concerns over unexpectedly low quantities (around 55%) of intact mRNA in batches of the vaccine developed for commercial production. It is an issue relevant not just to Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine but also to those produced by Moderna, CureVac, and others, as well as a “second generation” mRNA vaccine being pursued by Imperial College London.
COVID herd immunity may be unlikely—winter surges could “become the norm”. (Ars Technica, March 10, 2021)
Some experts speculate that the pandemic coronavirus will one day cause nothing more than a common cold, mostly in children, where it will be an indistinguishable drip in the steady stream of snotty kid germs. Such is the reality for four other coronaviruses that have long stalked school yards and commonly circulate among us every cold and flu season, to little noticeable effect.
But that sanguine—if not slightly slimier—future is shaky. And the road to get there will almost certainly be rocky. For the pandemic coronavirus to turn from terror to trifle, we have to build up high levels of immunity against it. At the population level, this will be difficult—even with vaccines. And with the uncertainty of how we’ll pull it off, some experts are cautioning that we should prepare for the possibility that the pandemic coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, will stick with us for the near future, possibly becoming a seasonal surge during the winter months when we’re largely indoors.
Despite a lot of uncertainty, researchers lay out five ways to prepare for the worst.
NEW: Pandemic Special Series: The Week Our Reality Broke (New York Times, March 11-??, 2021)
A series reflecting on a year of living with the coronavirus pandemic and how it has affected American society.
Republicans on Biden’s Covid bill: "We bungled this one." (Politico, March 17, 2021)
The GOP didn’t think it could stop passage. But with nearly three-quarters of Americans approving of the law, some luminaries can’t believe how little a dent they made.
The Republican Party’s stumbles around the passage of the Covid-relief bill were, to a degree, a microcosm of the difficulties it has had finding its footing in the post-Trump era. Indeed, some Republicans said their party was hamstrung in the relief bill fight by the fact that they had so recently supported bills that relied on deficit-spending and pushed similar provisions, like direct payments...
[... to the wealthy.]
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. (New York 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: 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 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 immunocompromised individuals, specifically, solid organ transplant recipients or those who are diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise.
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."
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 immunocompromised. 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 immunocompromised 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 immunocompromised 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.
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 immunocompromised. Immunocompromised 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.
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.
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.
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.

News Posts

The Battle for Kherson: It Could Change the Entire Conflict. (11-min. video; TLDR News, August 6, 2022)
The military strategy used by Ukraine in the east is known as defence in depth. Ukraine seems to have applied it impeccability. It is a managed retreat that is very costly for attackers in both troops and materials, but preserves the defenders strength. As the attackers advance they are ambushed, but when they amass the strength to counter-attack, the defenders have fallen back to the next ambush point with few casualties. When the defenders launch their counter attack, the attackers are exhausted, demoralised and dispersed.
Mystery man dubbed ‘The Gentleman’ found in North Sea may have spent most of his life in Australia. (The Guardian, August 6, 2022)
Breakthrough in the decades-old cold case comes after scientists conducted an isotope ratio analysis of the man’s bones.
"They all knew!" Textile company misled regulators about use of toxic PFAS. (The Guardian, August 5, 2022)
Thousands more residents outside the original contamination zone may be drinking tainted water.
[A sad French gift to southern New Hampshire.]
Twitter confirms zero-day used to expose data of 5.4 million accounts. (Bleeping Computer, August 5, 2022)
This vulnerability allowed anyone to submit an email address or phone number, verify if it was associated with a Twitter account, and retrieve the associated account ID. The threat actor then used this ID to scrape the public information for the account. This allowed the threat actor to create profiles of 5.4 million Twitter users in December 2021, including a verified phone number or email address, and scraped public information, such as follower counts, screen name, login name, location, profile picture URL, and other information.
See Why Jeff Bezos’s Superyacht Was Towed Away. (Architectural Digest, August 5, 2022)
The billionaire’s half-billion-dollar sailboat was pulled at record speeds for 24 miles.
[See July 13th, below.]
The ludicrous idea that Trump is losing his grip on the GOP. (Vox, August 4, 2022)
Somehow, people are still underestimating Donald Trump.
If you read studies of the American conservative movement, Trump’s continued strength should be no surprise. The political strength of the movement never came from its policy ideas. Many of its positions, like tax cuts for the rich and stringent abortion restrictions, have ultimately proven to be extremely unpopular.
Instead, its strength has been rooted in grievance: the bitterness of those who believe that modern America is changing too fast, beyond recognition, turning “traditional” citizens into aliens in their own country.
A charitable observer might call this sentiment nostalgia for a bygone America. A more critical one might call it the venting of reactionary white male rage against a more egalitarian country. But whatever your assessment, it is this politics of cultural grievance that animates the GOP base.
And nobody is better at channeling it than Donald Trump.
Jake Broe: Russia Just Got Terrible News. (21-min. video; YouTube, August 4, 2022)
This is Day 162 of Russia's 7 day special limited military operation in Ukraine. The price of oil has fallen to $88 a barrel and the amount of money Russia is bringing in to fight their war is collapsing. If oil can go back under $60 a barrel, then the Russia government and economy will face collapse if they do not pull out of Ukraine.
[Very interesting analysis!]
This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting. (MIT Technology Review, August 4, 2022)
With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.
[Whee! Like a personal backup drive that looks like you?]
Coyotes are here to stay in North American cities. Here’s how to appreciate them from a distance. (The Conversation, August 3, 2022)
Coyotes have become practically ubiquitous across the lower 48 United States, and they’re increasingly turning up in cities. The draws are abundant food and green space in urban areas. People often fear for their own safety, or for their children or pets, when they learn about coyotes in their neighborhoods. But peaceful coexistence is possible – and these creatures actually bring some benefits to cities.
Coyotes can thrive in urban environments because they are incredibly adaptable. As omnivores, coyotes can change their diets depending on the type of food that’s available. In rural areas coyotes may feed on bird eggs, rabbits, deer and a wide range of non-animal matter, like plants and fruits. In urban environments they’ll supplement their natural diet with human-provided food sources, such as outdoor pet feeders and garbage cans.
Alex Jones’ Lawyers Accidentally Sent the Opposing Counsel a Copy of His Entire Phone. (3-min. and 8-min. videos; Mother Jones, August 3, 2022)
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones just might have the most incompetent lawyers on the planet. The red-faced Infowars founder is currently on trial to determine how much his website owes Sandy Hook parents for its defamatory claims that the 2012 school shooting was a hoax. He had previously testified under oath that he had not sent any text messages about Sandy Hook. But, according to an attorney for the Sandy Hook parents, Jones’ own lawyers accidentally sent him proof of the opposite. The video of Jones learning of his lawyers’ mistake is absolutely...
[This evil man has done a lot of damage, but the Wheel Of Justice has come about. Enjoy the videos and the article - but DO NOT click the article's first video link; we've substituted a non-Twitter version.]
July heat records shattered across the U.S. (Axios, August 3, 2022)
The record-breaking temperatures were concentrated in Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, North and South Carolina and Oregon.
The long duration heat in Texas, is noteworthy since it overlaps with a widespread, severe drought. A total of 60% of the state is in the most severe two categories of drought. This makes it easier for the air to reach extremely hot temperatures, but also further dries out soils in a feedback loop.
In an average year, extreme heat is the leading weather-related killer in the U.S. Human-caused global warming from fossil fuel burning and other sources makes heat waves more likely, severe, frequent and longer-lasting. Extreme temperatures can affect power grids by boosting energy demands, exacerbate already-dire drought conditions and contribute to the frequency and intensity of wildfires.
FEMA warns emergency alert systems could be hacked to transmit fake messages unless software is updated. (CNN, August 3, 2022)
Digital Alert Systems, Inc., the New York-based firm that makes the emergency-alert software, said that Pyle first reported the vulnerabilities to the firm in 2019, at which time the firm issued updated software to address the issue. However, Pyle told CNN that subsequent versions of the Digital Alert Systems software were still susceptible to some of the security issues he discovered.
Robert Reich: What you need to know about yesterday's primary elections (Substack, August 3, 2022)
Friends, a mix of good and bad news in yesterday’s primaries. Here’s what you need to know.
Thom Hartmann: Republicans Have A Plan To Change The Constitution And It Just May Work. (Medium, August 2, 2022)
If you think the Supreme Court overturning abortion rights in this country was radical and shocking, you ain’t seen nothing yet. There was a convention you should know about this past weekend in Denver, funded by some of the wealthiest men and foundations in America, that has received altogether too little publicity.
North Korea-backed hackers have a clever way to read your Gmail. (Ars Technica, August 3, 2022)
SHARPEXT has slurped up thousands of emails in the past year and keeps getting better. In its current incarnation, the malware works only on Windows, but Adair said there's no reason it couldn't be broadened to infect browsers running on macOS or Linux, too.
[One more reason to avoid Google Mail. We recommend Thunderbird.]
With tensions rising in Taiwan, we look at the shared interests of China, Russia and Iran. (New York Times, August 2, 2022)
Like Russia, both China and Iran view the U.S. as an adversary. If the world is breaking into two competing blocs — democracy versus autocracy, as President Biden has put it — Russia, China, and Iran make up the core of the anti-U.S. bloc. And they recently seem to be increasing their cooperation.
Their closer ties raise an alarming prospect: What if all three countries decide to confront the U.S. simultaneously sometime soon in an effort to overwhelm the American ability to respond?
Heather Cox Richardson: Days Of Reckoning (Letters From An American, August 2, 2022)
Tonight (August 1), President Joe Biden announced that a drone strike managed by the Central Intelligence Agency at 9:48 Eastern time on Saturday killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, 71, who took control of al-Qaeda after the death of leader Osama bin Laden. The precision strike hit Zawahiri as he stood on a balcony in a prosperous section of Kabul, Afghanistan. There were no civilian casualties.
[Putin, avoid balconies! And that's just the first item.]
Biden's Covid relapse sparks talk of "Paxlovid rebounds" - what to know about the pill, and if it could happen to you. (CNBC, August 2, 2022)
Roughly 5% of the tens of thousands of Paxlovid users have experienced rebound cases so far. They appear to be very mild: A June CDC study found that less than 1% of patients taking Paxlovid were admitted to the hospital or emergency department for Covid in the five to 15 days after they finished the treatment. Patients also appear to recover from rebound cases without any additional Covid treatment, the CDC says.
Homeless, suicidal, down to last $1,000: Celsius investors beg bankruptcy judge for help. (CNBC, August 2, 2022)
Some of the 1.7 million Celsius customers ensnared by the alleged fraud are now directly pleading with the Southern District of New York to help them get their money back. It is the latest sign that bankruptcy court has become the de facto arbiter of crypto policy in the U.S.
A Right-Wing Think Tank Claimed to Be a Church. Now, Members of Congress Want to Investigate. (ProPublica, August 2, 2022)
Forty lawmakers are calling on the IRS and the Treasury to investigate after ProPublica reported that the Family Research Council gained protections by claiming it is a church.
Fueled by virtually unrestricted social media access, white nationalism is on the rise and attracting violent young white men. (The Conversation, August 2, 2022)
In 2020, the Department of Homeland Security described domestic violent extremists as “presenting the most persistent and lethal threat” to the people of the United States and the nation’s government. In March 2021, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to Congress that the number of arrests of white supremacists and other racially motivated extremists has almost tripled since he took office in 2017. “Jan. 6 was not an isolated event,” Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now, and it’s not going away anytime soon.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights group, tracked 733 active hate groups across the United States in 2021.
The internet and social media have made the problem of white supremacist hate far worse and more visible; it’s both more accessible and, ultimately, more violent, as seen on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol and the shooting deaths of ten Black people at a Buffalo grocery story, among other examples.
Why religion without belief can still make perfect sense (Psyche, August 1, 2022)
There is more to a religion than a cold set of doctrines. Religions involve spiritual practices, traditions that bind a community together across space and time, and rituals that mark the seasons and the big moments of life: birth, coming of age, marriage, death. This is not to deny that there are specific metaphysical views associated with each religion, nor that there is a place for assessing how plausible those views are. But it is myopic to obsess about the ‘belief-y’ aspects of religion at the expense of all the other aspects of the lived religious life.
Germany is firing up old coal plants, sparking fears climate goals will go up in smoke. (Washington Post, August 1, 2022)
It’s part of a pan-European dash to ditch Russian natural gas and escape President Vladimir Putin’s energy chokehold. While the war in Ukraine has simultaneously turbocharged the European Union’s race to renewables, fossil fuels still provide the quickest fix. France, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands have all announced plans to reactivate old coal power plants. But nowhere are the plans as extensive as in Germany, which is allowing 21 coal plants to restart or work past planned closing dates for the next two winters.
Corporate America Strikes Back. (Axios, August 1, 2022)
Corporate America has launched a two-pronged, eleventh-hour assault on Democrats' reconciliation package by targeting Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the one person that big business hopes can stop — or modify — the $740 billion bill. If successful, the barrage of paid media and personal phone calls will knock out the main provision that terrifies the business community: a 15% minimum book tax that will cost the biggest 150 U.S. companies some $313 billion over 10 years.
Frustrated by US Climate Inaction, These GenZ Activists Have Taken Matters Into Their Own Hands. (Mother Jones, August 1, 2022)
“Like a public shaming”—a night with the Tyre Extinguishers.
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.
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.
Blowhole wave energy generator exceeds expectations in 12-month test. (photos and 3-min. video; New Atlas, July 31, 2022)
Wave Swell Energy's remarkable UniWave 200 is a sea platform that uses an artificial blowhole formation to create air pressure changes that drive a turbine and feed energy back to shore. After a year of powering King Island, Tasmania, the company reports excellent results.
[This is one practical Green energy solution - of many. But they all begin with sane governments AND population control.]
Democratic Lawmakers Blast Their Own Party for Boosting Election Deniers in GOP Primaries. (Mother Jones, July 31, 2022)
“The DCCC is not God.”
China’s most powerful rocket falls back to Earth, lands in criticism. (Washington Post, July 31, 2022)
Experts were concerned that the huge size of the 176-foot rocket and the risky design of its launch process would mean its debris might not burn up as it reentered the Earth’s atmosphere. The rocket shed its empty 23-ton first stage in orbit, looping the planet over several days as it approached landing in a difficult-to-predict flight path. The United States said China was taking on a significant risk by allowing the rocket to fall uncontrolled to Earth without advising on its potential path.
What to Know About IP Ratings Before Getting Your Phone Wet (Wired, July 31, 2022)
Just how resistant is your smartphone to dust and water?
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.
Heather Cox Richardson: Republicans (And Russia) Against America (Letters From An American, July 30, 2022)
[This one's a keeper. Share it when needed!]
China's Catastrophic Oil & Gas Problem (39-min. video; YouTube, July 30, 2022)
Animation: The Rise and Fall of Popular Web Browsers Since 1994 (Visual Capitalist, July 28, 2022)
[Mozilla Firefox is better than ever, and does not track you.]
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.
Robin Schoenthaler, MD: President Biden’s Covid (Medium, July 27, 2022)
Ten advances in Covid science that kept him okay.
Robert Reich: Why today's decision by the Fed is dead wrong (Substack, July 27, 2022)
Today, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point in order to battle inflation, even as the economy has begun to slow. This follows a quarter-point move in March, another half a point in May, and three-quarters of a point in June. The Fed also signaled in its post-meeting statement that more rate increases are to come, probably in September, saying that it “anticipates that ongoing increases in the target range will be appropriate.”
This is bonkers, friends. The Fed is trying to douse a fire in the living room when the forest is ablaze. Inflation has broken out all over the world. It’s happened because of pent-up demand from more than two years of pandemic. And limited supplies of everything from computer chips to wheat, due to difficulties in getting the world economy up and running, along with Putin’s war in Ukraine driving up world energy and food prices, and China’s lockdowns against COVID.
Big corporations, meanwhile, are raising prices because they can. Consumers have little choice due to record levels of corporate concentration, and the rising costs of supplies has given corporations perfect cover.
The Fed’s fire hose is hitting none of this.
Who Will Own the Art of the Future? (Wired, July 27, 2022)
OpenAI has announced that it's granting Dall-E users the right to commercialize their art. For now.
Undersea Internet Cables Can Detect Earthquakes—and May Soon Warn of Tsunamis. (New Yorker, July 26, 2022)
A trick of the light is helping scientists turn optical fibres into potential disaster detectors. Marra and his team had set out to detect undersea earthquakes, which could hint at where and when a tsunami might form. They ultimately developed a method that could help scientists track actual tsunamis in real time.
Marra said that it will take time to analyze the data and separate out the contributions of waves, earthquakes, and other environmental factors. But he envisions a future in which cables could warn coastal communities about the exact location and height of approaching waves. "We’ve got a chance," he told me. "I’m not sure we had that before."
NEW: Ring, Google and the Police: What to Know About Emergency Requests for Video Footage (CNet, July 26, 2022)
The law lets Amazon's Ring and Google's Nest share user footage with police during emergencies - without consent and without warrants. We also asked Ring if it notified customers after the company had granted law enforcement access to their footage without their consent. "We have nothing to share," the spokesperson responded.
[Big Brother is watching you! But who is watching Big Brother?]
Roboticists discover alternative physics. (Science X/, July 26, 2022)
Energy, mass, velocity. These three variables make up Einstein's iconic equation E=MC2. But how did Einstein know about these concepts in the first place? A precursor step to understanding physics is identifying relevant variables. Without the concept of energy, mass, and velocity, not even Einstein could discover relativity. But can such variables be discovered automatically? Doing so could greatly accelerate scientific discovery.
This is the question that researchers at Columbia Engineering posed to a new AI program. The program was designed to observe physical phenomena through a video camera, then try to search for the minimal set of fundamental variables that fully describe the observed dynamics.
"I always wondered, if we ever met an intelligent alien race, would they have discovered the same physics laws as we have, or might they describe the universe in a different way?" said Lipson. "Perhaps some phenomena seem enigmatically complex because we are trying to understand them using the wrong set of variables. In the experiments, the number of variables was the same each time the AI restarted, but the specific variables were different each time. So yes, there are alternative ways to describe the universe and it is quite possible that our choices aren't perfect."
The researchers believe that this sort of AI can help scientists uncover complex phenomena for which theoretical understanding is not keeping pace with the deluge of data—areas ranging from biology to cosmology.
Your Final Resting Place Could Be a Coffin Made of Mushrooms. (Wired, July 26, 2022)
Loop wants to rebuild the world with ecological structures made of fungal mycelium. Its proof of concept? Living coffins.
[For planet Earth? Radical! And well-explained.]
NEW: Monkeypox is a global health emergency—what you need to know about symptoms, vaccines and more. (CNBC, July 26, 2022)
On Saturday, the World Health Organization sounded its highest level of alarm for the monkeypox virus, labeling it a public health emergency of international concern. Seventy-five countries and territories have reported more than 16,000 monkeypox cases so far, which is roughly five times the number reported to the WHO in June. The Biden administration is weighing a similar declaration for the U.S., with more than 2,500 monkeypox cases reported across 44 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
Still, there’s plenty of confusion about the virus, especially with its rapid spread: Who’s at risk? How worried should you be? What can you do to protect yourself, especially with many people still reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic? Should you get a vaccine? Here’s what you need to know.
Study identifies way to specifically target and block disease-associated white blood cells. (Science X/, July 26, 2022)
Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that helps fight illness and disease by traveling to the body's infected site to seek and destroy harmful pathogens. But left unrestricted, neutrophils can also prolong inflammation and contribute to the development of conditions like vascular thrombosis, cancer and diabetic retinopathy.
To block the defensive cell's harmful effects, a research team led by Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) has designed a nanoparticle platform that can exclusively target disease-associated activated neutrophils—while leaving inactive circulating neutrophils untouched.
Why I Think The Midwest Is Going To Have Tons Of Abandoned Cities Soon (Medium, July 26, 2022)
I can’t believe most people haven’t figured this out. Oh, and “cities” is a loose term here.
If you have a miscarriage in Republican America, your health is now at risk. (The Guardian, July 25, 2022)
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe has created a vast new public health crisis, as abortion bans complicate once-standard care for pregnant women.
Interstate Travel Post-Roe Isn’t as Secure as You May Think. (Wired, July 25, 2022)
Despite the DOJ vowing to protect people's ability to travel out of state for abortion care, legal experts warn not to take that freedom for granted.
Sunset of the Social Network (Axios, July 25, 2022)
Mark last week as the end of the social networking era, which began with the rise of Friendster in 2003, shaped two decades of internet growth, and now closes with Facebook's roll-out of a sweeping TikTok-like redesign.
The big picture: Under the social network model, which piggybacked on the rise of smartphones to mold billions of users' digital experiences, keeping up with your friends' posts served as the hub for everything you might aim to do online.
Now Facebook wants to shape your online life around the algorithmically-sorted preferences of millions of strangers around the globe.
- That's how TikTok sorts the videos it shows users, and that's largely how Facebook will now organize its home screen.
- The dominant player in social media is transforming itself into a kind of digital mass media, in which the reactions of hordes of anonymous users, processed by machine learning, drive the selection of your content.
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.
Putin’s attack on the grain deal was despicable. It also shows he’s desperate. (The Guardian, July 25, 2022)
For the deal to work and global food supplies to get moving again, Ukraine’s ports and ships need NATO protection.
Russia-Ukraine war: Moscow defends Odesa strikes and says no barriers to grain export; Russian ammo depots hit, Kyiv says. (The Guardian, July 25, 2022)
Russia’s top diplomat has said Moscow’s overarching goal is to topple the government of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy as Russian air strikes continue to pummel cities across Ukraine. Speaking to envoys at an Arab League summit in Cairo on Sunday, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow is determined to help Ukrainians "liberate themselves from the burden of this absolutely unacceptable regime".
Lavrov’s remarks contrasted sharply with the Kremlin’s line early in the war, when Russian officials repeatedly emphasized that they were not seeking to overthrow Zelenskiy’s government.
Ukrainian forces have destroyed 50 Russian ammunition depots using US-supplied Himars rocket systems in the war with Russia, Ukrainian defense minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Monday. "This cuts their [Russian] logistical chains and takes away their ability to conduct active fighting and cover our armed forces with heavy shelling," he said in televised comments.
Ukrainian military officials also claimed a "turning point" in the battle to retake the southern region of Kherson, saying they will use western weapons to liberate by September the first major city captured by Russian forces. Ukraine will continue doing all it can to inflict as much damage on Russian forces as possible and will not be cowed, Zelenskiy has vowed. "Even the occupiers admit we will win," he said in his nightly video address on Sunday. "We do everything to inflict the highest possible damage on the enemy … we will celebrate against all odds. Because Ukrainians won’t be cowed."
Chess robot grabs and breaks finger of seven-year-old opponent. (1-min. video; The Guardian, July 24, 2022)
An official said that the Moscow incident occurred because Christopher, one of the 30 best chess players in the Russian capital in the under-nines category, "violated" safety rules by taking his turn too quickly. The machine, which can play multiple matches at a time and had reportedly already played three on the day it encountered Christopher, was "unique", he said. "It has performed at many opens. Apparently, children need to be warned. It happens." Another official said the incident was "a coincidence" and the robot was "absolutely safe."
[Like Putin, this Russian AI chess robot has a temper and won't give up. We can picture it saying, "Sit down and do your best. Do not worry, nothing can go wrong, ... go wrong, ... go wrong."]The Desperate Lives Inside Ukraine’s "Dead Cities". (New Yorker, July 23, 2022)
Since Russia shifted its vicious invasion to the east, ordinary people trapped on the front lines have faced missile storms and starvation—and have no source of help except one another.
The Controversial Plan to Unleash the Mississippi River (Wired, July 23, 2022)
A long history of constraining the river through levees has led to massive land loss in its delta. Can people engineer a way out?
[Yet another topic for that good question.]
7 quick tips for taking better photos with your smartphone (Credo, July 22, 2022)
[Like it says.]
String theory: NASA Mars rover discovers mystery object. (photo;; July 22, 2022)
Is it tumbleweed? A piece of fishing line? Spaghetti? A tangled object discovered by NASA's Mars Perseverance rover has intrigued space watchers, leaving some musing tongue-in-cheek about the quality of Italian dining on the Red Planet.
But the most plausible explanation is more prosaic: it's likely remnants of a component used to lower the robotic explorer to the Martian surface in February 2021.
The Unsolved Mystery Attack on Internet Cables in Paris (Wired, July 22, 2022)
As new details about the scope of the April 27th sabotage emerge, the perpetrators—and the reason for their vandalism—remain unknown.
Dear Mitch McConnell, No. (Secular Coalition, July 22, 2022)
This week, we wrote a letter to Senator Mitch McConnell. He had seen fit, on the Senate floor, to claim to know what nonreligious Americans feel about the current slate of Supreme Court justices and their disturbingly harmful decisions in many cases that favor faith over secularism. Cases like Carson v. Makin, Kennedy v. Bremerton, and Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization are now hammers smashing against the wall between government and religion that is meant to exist thanks to the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
There are times when it is nice just to be recognized for existing, but this is not one of those times. Together with our 20 member organizations, we let the senator from Kentucky know that we disagree with his assertion of our beliefs. You can read our letter here.
["We disagree with his assertion of our beliefs." What a nice description of too much recent Republican ignoring of public opinion and of the United States Constitution.]
A Lifetime’s Consumption of Fossil Fuels, Visualized (Visual Capitalist, July 22, 2022)
When the global economy reopened post-pandemic, energy demand and consumption rebounded past 2019 levels with fossil fuels largely leading the way. While global primary energy demand grew 5.8% in 2021, coal consumption rose by 6% reaching highs not seen since 2014. In 2021, renewables and hydroelectricity made up nearly 14% of the world’s primary energy use, with fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal) accounting for 82% (down from 83% in 2020), and nuclear energy accounting for the remaining 4%.
USPS to Buy a Ton of Electric Delivery Trucks. (Mother Jones, July 22, 2022)
Beep beep. Your government mail is here in an electric truck less likely to cause the destruction of the planet.
In February, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced his plan to buy a badly-needed new United States Postal Service delivery fleet. There was just one problem: Ninety percent of the trucks would be gas-powered, with fuel efficiency ratings less than half a mile per gallon better than those of the existing fleet.
Environmental groups sued. Lawmakers tried to step in. And then, earlier this week, the USPS announced a breakthrough: The agency said that 40 percent of its new fleet would be electric. That’s a smaller proportion of electric mail trucks than environmentalists wanted—a House bill called for 75 percent—but it’s more than double what anyone expected under DeJoy’s plan.
The announcement is a big step toward fulfilling President Biden’s goal of phasing out federal agencies’ use of gas-powered trucks. But proponents of an electric fleet argue that 40 percent emissions free vehicles is not enough.
“Investing in an outdated technology never made sense, and I am glad the Postmaster General is belatedly coming to that commonsense realization,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who introduced the House bill calling for an electric fleet, said in a statement. “We still have more work to do, and Congress will continue to help push the USPS to a modern, green fleet.”
The bigger the temperature change, the larger the extinction event. (, July 22, 2022)
Abrupt climate change, accompanied by environmental destruction from large volcanic eruptions and meteorites, has caused major mass extinctions throughout the Phanerozoic Eon—covering 539 million years to the present. Marine invertebrates and terrestrial tetrapods' extinction rates corresponded to deviations in global and habitat surface temperatures, regardless of whether it was cooling or warming. Loss of species during the "big five" major extinctions correlated with a > 7°C global cooling and a > 7-9°C global warming for marine animals, and a > 7°C global cooling and a > ~7°C global warming for terrestrial tetrapods.
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.
Robert Reich: A word of appreciation to the members and staff of the Select Committee on January 6 (Substack, July 22, 2022)
So much has gone so wrong with so many aspects of our government and other institutions we rely on that I think it’s important to recognize and salute this sort of excellence. And courage. America owes a deep debt of gratitude to the members of Congress and staff who have given us the most powerful and memorable depiction of the near-death of American democracy ever presented.
Now it’s up to the rest of us – including Merrick Garland and the Justice Department – to display the same degree of excellence and courage, and ensure that American democracy endures.
The Jan. 6 Committee Confirmed the Worst Truth About Trump. Now What Will We Do With It? (Mother Jones, July 22, 2022)
Ultimately, its investigation is not a battle over facts but over reality. We all saw what didn’t happen. In full public view, Trump did not abide by his oath of office and failed to defend the Constitution and the US government. No subpoena nor any testimony is necessary to prove this fundamental truth.
Yet, the January 6 committee on Thursday night disclosed new details that rendered the picture of Trump’s worst day as president even worse. It revealed that from the time he returned to the White House after spreading his Big Lie at a rally—and being prevented by the Secret Service from joining the armed mob heading to the Capitol—he ensconced himself in his West Wing dining room for hours. He rejected numerous pleas from aides, advisers, Republican members of Congress, and family members (Ivanka and Donald Jr.) to intervene and call off the insurrectionists rampaging in the Capitol. Instead, he phoned Republican senators, as part of his scheme to forestall certification of the electoral count. And he spoke at least twice with Rudy Giuliani, his consigliere.
House GOP Tries to Mock Jan. 6 Hearing and Just Clowns on Itself Instead. (Vanity Fair, July 22, 2022)
The House Republican Conference deleted a tweet trying to disparage ex-Trump aide Sarah Matthews. Matthews works for House Republicans. The House GOP’s Twitter account, a generally unhinged corner of the platform, is run by the office of Rep. Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 House Republican.
That wasn't its only gaffe of the night. Less than ten minutes after attacking Matthews, the House GOP declared the proceeding “all heresy,” prompting Twitter users to wonder whether this was “a hell of a typo,” or if the House Republicans indeed intended to condemn the hearing as at odds with religious doctrine. The official House Republican Twitter account confirmed as much within 40 minutes, by which time it had deleted the “heresy” tweet and posted a new one reading, “All hearsay.”
The series of unfortunate events prompted Kentucky state Senator Whitney Westerfield to offer his fellow Republicans some advice: "Maybe those with access to the @HouseGOP should just stop tweeting for a while."
Fearing for Their Lives, Pence Security Team Called Family Members to Say Goodbye. (two 1-min. videos; Mother Jones, July 21, 2022)
Disturbing new details from the latest January 6 hearing.
Robert Reich: The key to tonight's Jan. 6th Committee hearing (Substack, July 21, 2022)
The key to tonight’s hearing is found in criminal law — especially in three elements of the most serious criminal violations: knowledge, intent, and malice. The committee has already confirmed that Trump knew he lost the election. They have also confirmed that he intended to stop the transition of power to Biden.
Tonight, the committee provided evidence of Trump’s malice — his deliberate intent to stop or delay the electoral count with a violent attack on the Capitol that endangered the lives of many people, in order to remain in power.
Day 8 of the public Jan. 6th Select Committee hearing (8:00-10:47PM; YouTube, July 21, 2022)
The 2022 US Midterm Elections’ Top Security Issue: Death Threats (Wired, July 21, 2022)
While cybersecurity and foreign meddling remain priorities, domestic threats against election workers have risen to the top of the list. In the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections in the United States, law enforcement, intelligence, and election officials were on high alert for digital attacks and influence operations after Russia demonstrated the reality of these threats by targeting the presidential elections in 2016. Six years later, the threat of hacking and malign foreign influence remain, but 2022 is a different time and a new top-line risk has emerged: physical safety threats to election officials, their families, and their workplaces.
Cyber criminals attack Ukrainian radio network, broadcast fake message about Zelensky's health. (CyberScoop, July 21, 2022)
“Cyber criminals have spread the news suggesting that the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy is allegedly in critical condition under intensive care and the Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Ruslan Stefanchuk acts in his stead,” a spokesperson for Ukraine's State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection told reporters.
TAVR Media, the largest radio group in Ukraine, wrote on its Facebook page that the information about Zelensky “does not correspond to reality.” Zelensky posted a video to his Instagram page Thursday afternoon Ukrainian time saying he has “never felt as strong as I am now” and blames Russia for the attack.
“The Rashists hacked the ‘Melodia FM’ radio and began to spread lies,” the title of another video read. “Rashists” is a combination of the words “Russian” and “fascists.”
Ukraine has hacked Russian radio and TV stations, but with truth (and humor). On May 9, Russian Victory Day, hackers posted a message to some Russian smart TVs that said, “The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of murdered children is on your hands. TV and the authorities are lying. No to war.”And on June 9, hackers took over the internet stream for Russian radio station Kommersant FM to play the Ukrainian national anthem and another song, “We Don’t Need War” by the Russian rock band Nogu Svelo.
[Hmm, Rashists? Then their murderous leader must be Rash Putin - pronounced "Rash PEWtin", as he's a BIG, STINKY rash, in the global sense, and he acts rashly!]
FCC chair tries to find out how carriers use phone geolocation data. (Ars Technica, July 21, 2022)
Inquiry launched as Congress debates bill that could gut FCC's privacy authority. "Mobile Internet service providers are uniquely situated to capture a trove of data about their own subscribers, including the subscriber's actual identity and personal characteristics, geolocation data, app usage, and web browsing data and habits," the letters say. Under US communications law, carriers are prohibited from using or sharing private information except under specific circumstances. Rosenworcel told carriers to answer the questions by August 3.
The FCC letters pointed out that in February 2020, it proposed fines totaling $208 million after AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon were caught "selling access to their customers' location information without taking reasonable measures to protect against unauthorized access to that information." While that practice is believed to have been stopped, this week's FCC letters said there's still reason to worry about the data collected by carriers.
FCC Orders Blocking of Auto Warranty Robocall Scam Campaign. (FCC, July 21, 2022)
The Federal Communications Commission has ordered phone companies to stop carrying traffic related to robocalls about scam auto warranties. US voice service providers must now “take all necessary steps to avoid carrying this robocall traffic,” or provide a report outlining how they’re mitigating the traffic, the FCC’s Robocall Response Team said in a statement on Thursday. The calls are coming from Roy Cox, Jr., Aaron Michael Jones and related companies and associates.
“Consumers are out of patience and I’m right there with them,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in the statement.
Dell’s XPS 13 Plus Developer Edition gets Ubuntu 22.04 LTS certified. (Ars Technica, July 21, 2022)
Dell is extending its love for Linux to the Dell XPS 13 Plus. The Developer Edition of the laptop has been Ubuntu 22.04 LTS-certified, Canonical announced today. That means the laptop will be sold starting in August with the latest version of Ubuntu, and owners of the XPS 13 Plus Developer Edition can download Ubuntu 22.04 LTS today (even if they bought it with Windows 11) for guaranteed performance.
The XPS 13 Plus Developer Edition is the first Ubuntu 22.04 LTS-certified laptop, joining only some Raspberry Pi devices in certification. However, Dell has been certifying some of its XPS laptops, as well as other machines, for Ubuntu for generations. HP and Lenovo also have Ubuntu-certified systems.
Depression is likely not caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. (The Hill, July 21, 2022)
Many people take antidepressants because they have been led to believe their depression has a biochemical cause. A recent review study is pushing back against long-held views in medicine that depression is caused by a serotonin imbalance in the brain.
Food expiration dates don’t have much science behind them. (The Conversation, July 21, 2022)
A more science-based product-dating system could make it easier for people to differentiate foods they can safely eat from those that could be hazardous.
Also, the USDA Economic Research Center reports that nearly 31% of all available food is never consumed. Historically high food prices make the problem of waste seem all the more alarming. The current food-labeling system may be to blame for much of the waste. The FDA reports consumer confusion around product-dating labels is likely responsible for around 20% of the food wasted in the home, costing an estimated US$161-billion per year.
A food-safety researcher explains another way to know what’s too old to eat.
[Now read this!]
NEW: You Can Now Drive Your Tesla to Mount Everest. (4-min. video; Outside, July 21, 2022)
And a detailed analysis of what that means for American EV drivers - and U.S. climate initiatives.
Nuclear Power Plants Are Struggling to Stay Cool. (Wired, July 21, 2022)
Climate change is reducing output and raising safety concerns at nuclear facilities from France to the US. But experts say adapting is possible—and necessary.
5 Things to Know About Europe’s Scorching Heatwave (Visual Capitalist, July 20, 2022)
For the last few months, Europe’s smoldering heatwave has been wreaking havoc across the region, causing destructive wildfires, severe droughts, and thousands of deaths. The EU’s record-breaking temperatures are making headlines around the world, as experts worry these extreme heatwaves could be the region’s new normal.
Given the volume of coverage on the topic, we sifted through dozens of articles and Twitter threads (so you don’t have to) and complied a list of the five major things to know about Europe’s smothering heatwave.
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.
Is the Secret Service’s Claim About Erased Text Messages Plausible? (Zero Day, July 20, 2022)
The Secret Service says data erased from the phones of some of its personnel — that may shed light on the agency's handling of the Jan. 6 insurrection — can’t be recovered. Is it telling the truth?
[That's a secret.]
Republican Senators Insist There’s No Need to Protect Same-Sex Marriage Despite Literal Supreme Court Threat. (Vanity Fair, July 20, 2022)
According to Marco Rubio, a bill to enshrine same-sex marriage protection into law is a “stupid waste of time.”
[That's a better description of Marco Rubio. And, come to think of it, ...]
Russia fines Google $370M for refusing to bend to Putin’s war propaganda. (Ars Technica, July 20, 2022)
YouTube's policy prevents the removal of videos documenting the Ukraine war.
[Yes, in October 2006, 18 months after posting its first video and 10 months after its official launch, YouTube was bought by Google for $1.65-billion.]
Alternative to Silicon: Why Perovskites Could Take Solar Cells to New Heights (SciTechDaily, July 20, 2022)
Perovskites have great potential for creating solar panels that could be easily deposited onto most surfaces, including flexible and textured ones. These materials would also be cheap to produce, lightweight, and as efficient as today’s leading photovoltaic materials, which are mainly silicon. Given their enormous potential, they’re the subject of increasing research and investment. However, companies looking to harness their potential have to address some significant obstacles before perovskite-based solar cells can be commercially competitive.
New Technology Gives AI Human-Like Eyes. (SciTechDaily, July 19, 2022)
Researchers at the University of Central Florida (UCF) have built a device for artificial intelligence that replicates the retina of the eye - and then some. The research might result in cutting-edge AI that can identify what it sees right away, such as automated descriptions of photos captured with a camera or a phone. The technology could also be used in robots and self-driving vehicles. The technology could become available for use in the next five to ten years.
GM Moving To Its Own Microchips By 2025. (GM Authority, July 19, 2022)
The ongoing global microchip shortage has affected production and product availability for every major automaker, including GM. Now, however, GM says it will have its own family of microchips locked in by 2025, a move that is expected to offset future chip-related production delays. GM’s new standardization model will streamline the critical components, eliminating the need for dozens of different chips per vehicle and allowing GM to buy in bulk to ensure that supplies are not interrupted. For now, however, chip shortages will likely continue into next year, possibly exacerbated by further COVID-19 outbreaks.
Breath Lets You Run Ubuntu Linux on Modern Intel Chromebooks. (OMG!Ubuntu!, July 19, 2022)
Breath is a bit different to other “run Linux on a Chromebook” efforts. In some ways it’s a “hack”, but one that’s firmly within the technical boundaries of how Google makes ChromeOS run. In short, it lets you run a full Linux distro on a modern (post-2018) Intel Chromebook without needing to flash custom firmware, replace the boot loader, or even wipe ChromeOS. Better yet: it’s the only current solution that delivers a Linux experience that supports all drivers (touchscreen, stylus, touchpad, audio, etc) out of the box.
Europe is burning like it’s 2052. (Vox, July 19, 2022)
Yesterday, the UK broke its national record for the highest temperature ever recorded: 39.1 degrees Celsius, or 102.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Forecasters warn the numbers could climb higher. The heat in the UK has disrupted trains and flights. Hospitals are bracing for an influx of heat-related casualties, and Covid-19 cases are rising as well.
Across the channel, France broke more than 100 all-time heat records across the country in the past week. But just as energy demand is spiking with people desperate to cool off, the high temperatures have forced France to cut down its nuclear power output since the rivers used to cool the power plants have become too hot.
Spanish authorities estimate more than 500 people nationwide have already died from the heat through the weekend. High temperatures are fueling a spike in ozone pollution.
The heat and dry weather have also created ideal conditions for wildfires, and blazes have already ignited in France, Spain, and Portugal, creating harrowing scenes of flames encroaching on homes, roads, and trains while forcing thousands to evacuate.
Much of Europe is already dealing with a spike in energy prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led countries to reduce their use of Russian oil and gas.
Europe may face even more extreme heat in the future because of changes in the jet streams, the narrow, fast-moving bands of air in the upper atmosphere. The jet streams are shifting in ways that amplify heat over the European continent.
So the combination of human factors, changes in regional weather patterns, and warming around the world is converging to worsen the toll of extreme heat in Europe.  The extraordinary heat wave in Europe is showing what’s possible already, and what lies ahead under climate change.
Why the Arctic Is Warming 4 Times as Fast as the Rest of Earth. (Wired, July 18, 2022)
The loss of sea ice is exposing darker waters, which absorb more of the sun’s energy. It’s a devastating feedback loop with major consequences for the planet.
Dump Truck Partially Submerged in Lake Cochituate. (Framingham Source, July 18, 2022)
“The truck was unoccupied and there were no reported injuries,” said Natick Fire on social media. It is unknown how the vehicle got in the lake, at this time.
[Hmm. Backed into the lake during a drunken Sunday-night party, perhaps? BTW, we live at the south end of Lake Cochituate's Middle Pond; the swimming truck was at the south end of its South Pond, across from Fiske Pond. Our lake is sufficiently polluted; we don't need to add dump trucks.]
NEW: Disentangling the Debian Linux derivatives: Which should you use? (The Register, July 18, 2022)
More flavors than than an ice cream shop means something for just about everyone.
How I revived three ancient computers with ChromeOS Flex. (ZDNet, July 18, 2022)
The Linux desktop that will transform the industry is ChromeOS.
[Except, Google markets your personal data. We don't even use Google Chrome for Web-browsing. Our favorite Ubuntu-Unity has the same good qualities without the bad - and a lot more.]
Rep. Zoe Lofgren says Jan. 6 committee expects to get Secret Service text messages by Tuesday. (1-min. video; Business Insider, July 17, 2022)
Umair Haque: We’re Not Going to Make it to 2050. (Eudaimonia and Co, July 17, 2022)
The Age of Extinction is dawning by the day — and we’re doing too little too late to stop it.
This is the vicious cycle many, many civilizations have fallen into before us, essentially. Poverty breeds an inability to take collective action and make collective investments. All the systems of a golden age? They simply begin to crumble, break down, fail — and now there’s nothing much left over to repair them, because people are just fighting for basics, a little more bitterly every day.
[Read this. Believe it. Share it. Make America THINK again.]
Extreme temperatures, wildfires roast Europe. (Morning Brew, July 17, 2022)
A heat wave roasted Spain and Italy last week, and the UK is bracing for record-breaking temps today and tomorrow. With forecasts calling for unprecedented heat of 104 degrees Fahrenheit, the government issued its first-ever “extreme warning” for parts of England, and the transportation authority Transport for London urged people to only travel if necessary.
The current heat wave, which scientists say is partly fueled by climate change, has already led to more than 1,000 deaths across Portugal and Spain, and has exacerbated wildfires that are raging in Spain, Greece, and France.
Biden pledges executive action after Joe Manchin scuppers climate agenda. (The Guardian, July 15, 2022)
West Virginia senator refuses to support funding for climate crisis and says he will not back tax raises for wealthy Americans.
Corrupt Joe Manchin Deals A Death Blow To The Entire Democratic Agenda. (18-min. video; The Young Turks, July 15, 2022)
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is back at it again ruining the Democrats’ entire agenda after telling leadership that he is not on board with the party’s climate change and a tax increase for the rich policies. Who could’ve guessed that a coal company owner, who is also the top recipient of fossil fuel lobbying bribes, would disagree with subsidizing green energy and increasing taxes on the rich and big corporations?
Mary Trump: "My Uncle Donald Trump Thrives on Division and FOX News Spreads It..." (11-min. video; Thom Hartmann Program, June 15, 2022)
Mary Trump joins Thom to talk about Trump and his children. What happens if he's indicted. Will his kids stay loyal or will they flip? Will Trump stay in politics?
Texas’ Precarious Power Grid Exposes a Nasty Feedback Loop. (Wired, July 15, 2022)
Air-conditioning saves lives. But as the planet warms, more AC use stresses the grid and drives up emissions, accelerating climate change.
MIT Professor Wins European Inventor Award for Liquid Metal Batteries. (SciTechDaily, July 15, 2022)
For his work on liquid metal batteries that could enable the long-term storage of renewable energy, MIT Professor Donald Sadoway has won the 2022 European Inventor Award, in the category for Non-European Patent Office Countries. “By enabling the large-scale storage of renewable energy, Donald Sadoway’s invention is a huge step towards the deployment of carbon-free electricity generation,” says António Campinos, President of the European Patent Office. “He has spent his career studying electrochemistry and has transformed this expertise into an invention that represents a huge step forward in the transition to green energy.”
Sadoway’s liquid metal batteries consist of three liquid layers of different densities, which naturally separate in the same way as oil and vinegar do in a salad dressing. The top and bottom layers are made from molten metals, with a middle layer of molten liquid salt. To keep the metals liquid, the batteries need to operate at extremely high temperatures, so Sadoway designed a system that is self-heating and insulated, requiring no external heating or cooling. They have a lifespan of more than 20 years, can maintain 99 percent of their capacity over 5,000 charging cycles, and have no combustible materials, meaning there is no fire risk.
National Police Phishing Scam Surfaces In Framingham. (Patch, July 15, 2022)
In Framingham, the scam involves people receiving texts to purchase a Framingham Police Department T-shirt for $10 off as a way of obtaining customer data, such as credit card information. While the trend has not occurred in Natick yet, police caution it's "only a matter of time."
11 Ways to Reduce Your Data Usage and Lower Your Cell Phone Bill (Credo, July 14, 2022)
1. Use Wi-Fi when you can...
2. And when you know it's safe!
A dying star’s last hurrah (Knowable Magazine, July 14, 2022)
At the end of their lives, sun-like stars metamorphose into glowing shells of gas — perhaps shaped by unseen companions.
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.
How Canada Just Got a Land-Border With Denmark (13-min. video; RealLifeLore, July 14, 2022)
[It's an interesting story that took 50 years to resolve.]
Electric vehicles hit 5% of new cars sold in the US. (Morning Brew, July 14, 2022)
They could go from niche product to mass adoption in a matter of years.
["Average new US EV cost is $66K." We bought our 2020 Bolt EV new for $26.6K, and we love it!]
NEW: What Are the Five Major Types of Renewable Energy? (Visual Capitalist, updated July 13, 2022)
[Excellent tutorial.]
NEW: Donald Trump Should Never Be Allowed Within 1,000 Feet of the White House Again. (Vanity Fair, July 13, 2022)
If you’re reading this, then you probably already know: Donald Trump is reportedly thinking about running for president a third time. As he would only be one of a handful of ex-presidents to run again after losing reelection, there aren’t a lot of historical parallels for this, should he announce. But it would kind of be like the bubonic plague announcing a comeback and expecting people to be happy about it. Or your oncologist telling you your stage IV cancer had returned. Or the worst president in modern history, the one who incited a violent coup because his ego is so fragile he couldn’t admit he’d lost, deciding to take another stab at terrorizing the nation for another four years. Something like that.
If you or someone you know still needs convincing, allow us.
How to watch the House January 6 Committee hearings on the Capitol attack. (Business Insider, July 13, 2022)
The panel's next hearing is scheduled for Thursday, July 21 at 8 p.m. ET. The final hearing is expected to focus on how the insurrection unfolded from the perspective of the White House, with Trump refusing to act to quell the violence for 187 minutes as rioters besieged the Capitol.
[This is an excellent summary of the seven already-held hearings, and the one to come on July 21.]
NEW: It’s Official: Rotterdam Will Not Dismantle Historic Bridge for Jeff Bezos’s Superyacht. (Architectural Digest, July 13, 2022)
Dutch residents originally vowed to throw eggs at the boat while it passed through the iconic structure.
[Rotten-egg diplomacy beats billionare? No casualties, very affordable. U.S. Defense Department, take note!]
NEW: Light pollution is disrupting the seasonal rhythms of plants and trees, lengthening pollen season in US cities. (The Conversation, July 12, 2022)
City lights that blaze all night are profoundly disrupting urban plants’ phenology – shifting when their buds open in the spring and when their leaves change colors and drop in the fall. New research I coauthored shows how nighttime lights are lengthening the growing season in cities, which can affect everything from allergies to local economies.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson On The New Telescope Images Released By NASA (NBC News, July 12, 2022)
NASA released a full batch of images and data from the massive James Webb Space Telescope that provides a first look at cosmic mysteries yet to be untangled. America’s top astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson analyzes what these images mean for the future of space exploration.
James Webb Space Telescope: An astronomer explains the stunning, newly-released first images. (First non-test images; The Conversation, July 12, 2022)
The James Webb Space Telescope team has released the first science-quality images from the new telescope. In them are the oldest galaxies ever seen by human eyes, evidence of water on a planet 1,000 light-years away, and incredible details showing the birth and death of stars. Webb’s purpose is to explore origins – of the universe, of galaxies, of stars and of life – and the five images released on July 12, 2022, make good on that promise.
Webb’s First Deep Field (June 13 MIRI and June 7 NIRCam images, side by side; Webb Space Telescope, July 12, 2022)
Galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 is a technicolor landscape when viewed in mid-infrared light by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Compared to Webb’s near-infrared image at right, the galaxies and stars are awash in new colors.
NASA’s Webb Delivers Deepest Infrared Image of Universe Yet. (NASA, July 11, 2022)
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has delivered the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe so far. Webb’s First Deep Field is galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, and it is teeming with thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared. The image is approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length, a tiny sliver of the vast universe.
[Now, THAT's deep! Don't miss the links.]
Sri Lanka Just Fell. What Do We Have to Do With It? (Common Sense, July 12, 2022)
The anti-growth environmental movement deserves much of the blame.
[Does it? The tragedy is great, but - when one is heavily on drugs - why blame the one who intervenes? Why not blame the dependency upon the chemical fertilizers that reduced the plants' natural immunities? And, how to help? Our civilization has dug itself into deep holes, and won't get out easily.]
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.
Former Oath Keeper reveals racist, antisemitic beliefs of white nationalist group – and their plans to start a civil war. (The Conversation, July 12, 2022)
During his testimony before congressional investigators, former Oath Keepers spokesman Jason Van Tatenhove left little doubt about the intentions of the white nationalist militia group when its members stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Tatenhove explained that Jan. 6 “could have been a spark that started a new civil war.” “We need to quit mincing words and just talk about truths,” Tatenhove said, “and what it was going to be was an armed revolution.”
What we learned on Day 7 of the Jan. 6 hearings (13-min. video; PBS News, July 12, 2022)
The Jan. 6 committee held its seventh public hearing Tuesday afternoon with a focus on connections between extremist groups and the Trump White House. The hearing ended with a dramatic revelation that former President Trump recently called a witness the panel was talking to, an action referred to the Justice Department.
Robert Reich: Five insights from today's hearing of the Special Committee on January 6 (Substack, July 12, 2022)
The picture that emerges from today’s hearing is not dramatically different from what we’ve learned before — an unhinged man willing to do anything to maintain power, even at the cost of lives, law, and our democracy. But it fills in crucial details, making it all the more imperative that the Justice Department begin criminal proceedings against him.
[A very good summary of a very bad January 6th.]
Day 7 of the public Jan. 6th Select Committee hearing (3-hour session - from 0:51:00 to 3:47:00 on this video; YouTube, July 12, 2022)
Raskin said Trump emboldened the groups around a common goal. “Never before in American history had a president called for a crowd to come contest the counting of electoral votes by Congress,” he said.
The committee spliced together video clips from interviews to describe a meeting from Dec. 18, in the hours before Trump’s tweet, in almost minute-to-minute fashion. Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who testified live before the panel two weeks ago, called the meeting between White House aides and informal advisers pushing the fraud claims “unhinged” in a text that evening to another Trump aide. Other aides described “screaming” as the advisers floated wild theories of election fraud with no evidence to back them up, and as White House lawyers aggressively pushed back.The Supreme Court is Turning the US Into a Constitution-Free Zone. (CounterPunch, July 12, 2022)
“No one should get used to their rights. Predicting with certainty which ones, if any, will go, or when, is impossible.”—Mary R. Ziegler, legal historian
Ex-WH aide Cassidy Hutchinson is in hiding with security after bombshell testimony against Trump, NYT reports. (5-min. video; Business Insider, July 11, 2022)
The committee rushed to get Hutchinson to testify at the hearing, amid concerns Trump allies were seeking to interfere with her testimony and that details of her account would leak. The Times report described Hutchinson as "unemployed and sequestered with family and a security detail" following her testimony, which alienated her from many of the Trump officials she worked with.
State election officials who testified to the committee described facing a wave of threats from Trump supporters after coming under pressure from the former president to help overturn his defeat in the 2020 election.

Katharine Valentino: With Liberty and Justice for All (Medium, July 11, 2022)
A new Pledge of Allegiance: "We the people pledge our allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America. We pledge our loyalty to the principles and ideals for which it stands. We pledge an unyielding, enduring commitment to our Nation, one nation under one law, with liberty and justice for all."
[With a very clear explanation for the corrections.]

Michael Moore: THE 28th AMENDMENT (Substack, July 10, 2022)
My proposal to repeal and replace the 2nd Amendment: "Congress may create future restrictions, as this amendment specifically does not grant any American the 'right' to own any weapon." This constitutional amendment was written by Michael Moore of Michigan and presented to the 117th United States Congress on July 11, 2022.

A pro-Trump congresswoman’s victory in a historically Democratic region of Texas helps explain why Latino voters are shifting rightward. (New York Times, July 10, 2022)
The G.O.P.’s ‘wildest dream’ - Latino voters have recently shifted toward the Republican Party. Most still vote for Democrats, but the margin has shrunk.
Full Murphy: Trump 'Knew He Had Lost The Election.’ (11-min. video; NBC News, July 10, 2022)
Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), member of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, discusses testimony from former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone and questions over coordination between the White House and groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.
Jamie Raskin: Cipollone gave "valuable" testimony to Jan. 6 Committee. (9-min. video; CBS News, July 10, 2022)
Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland says the Jan. 6 committee will use the testimony of former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone to "corroborate other things" the panel has learned.
Adam Kinzinger: 'At no point' in Cipollone testimony was there any contradiction of others. (8-min. video; ABC News, July 10, 2022)
George Stephanopoulos interviews Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., on "This Week."
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.
Chinese Police Exposed 1 Billion People's Data in Unprecedented Leak. (Wired, July 9, 2022)
In one of the most expansive and impactful breaches of personal data of all time, attackers grabbed data of almost 1 billion Chinese citizens from a Shanghai police database and attempted to extort the department for about $200,000. The trove of data contains names, phone numbers, government ID numbers, and police reports. Researchers found that the database itself was secure, but that a management dashboard was publicly accessible from the open internet, allowing anyone with basic technical skills to grab the information without needing a password. The scale of the breach is immense and it is the first of this size to hit the Chinese government, which is notorious for hoarding massive amounts of data, not only about its own citizens, but about people all over the world. China was memorably responsible for the United States Office of Personnel Management breach and Equifax credit bureau breach, among many others worldwide.
The limitations of Joe Biden’s executive order on abortion (Vox, July 8, 2022)
It marks an important first step, though there’s still more the White House could do.
Facing pressure, President Biden to sign order on abortion access. (AP News, July 8th, 2022)
President Joe Biden will take executive action Friday to protect access to abortion, as he faces mounting pressure from Democrats to be more forceful on the subject after the Supreme Court ended a constitutional right to the procedure two weeks ago.
Cruise’s Robot Car Outages Are Jamming Up San Francisco. (Wired, July 8, 2022)
In a series of incidents, the GM subsidiary lost contact with its autonomous vehicles, leaving them frozen in traffic and trapping human drivers.
Mary Koch: Roads Less Traveled By (Every New Season, July 8, 2022)
Just last week, I started off innocently enough. Destination: Coyote Falls on the Similkameen River, near the Canadian border, less than an hour’s drive from home. I planned to attend the traditional Native American salmon ceremony, when fish are invited to return to their spawning grounds. Tribes have been doing this for millennia, although these days the ceremony is pretty much symbolic with a soupçon of politics. Just above Coyote Falls, salmon are blocked from proceeding upriver by the defunct Enloe Dam. The dam hasn’t produced power in half-a-century. Indian tribes on both sides of the border and various environmental groups are campaigning to have it removed.
[Hi, Mary! We're debating the same at the South Natick Dam on the Charles River. The roads to it are not nearly as exciting.]
Genetically Engineered, Sound-Controlled Bacteria That Seek and Destroy Cancer Cells (SciTechDaily, July 8, 2022)
Since its inception, chemotherapy has proven to be a valuable tool in treating many kinds of cancers, but it has a significant drawback. In addition to killing cancer cells, it can also destroy healthy cells like the ones in hair follicles, causing baldness, and those that line the stomach, producing nausea.
Now, scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) may have a better solution: genetically engineered, sound-controlled bacteria that seek and destroy cancer cells.
Noam Chomsky and the United Nations Warn of Collapse. (Counterpunch, July 8, 2022)
The onset of societal collapse is not hidden. Rather, similar to animals in the wild, people sense when something’s out of the ordinary, amiss, trouble brewing, on the alert. There’s tension in the air, tempers flare, strangers lash out, and society turns against establishment protocols. It is today’s world, and people sense trouble; something’s not right.
As for confirmation of those haunting feelings that something’s not right, a recent UN report discusses prominent risks of “global collapse”: UN 2022 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, aka: GAR2022 d/d May 2022, more on this later.
Accordingly, escalating synergies of (1) disasters (2) economic vulnerability and (3) ecosystem failures increasingly accumulate into a juggernaut of collapse, and finally, similar to an orderly line of tripped dominoes, it cascades without enough notice.
On the heels of the recent UN warning, Noam Chomsky also echoes the central premise of doomsayers: “The challenge ahead is beyond anything humans have ever faced. The fate of life on the planet is now at hand.” (Chomsky – Principal speaker for the American Solar Energy Society 51st annual conference, University of New Mexico, June 21, 2022). Chomsky is an iconic fixture of the Left known for strength of character, brilliance, and omniscience. His opening statement at the conference: “We are at a unique moment in human history. Decisions that must be made right now will determine the course of future history if there is to be any human history, which is very much in doubt. There is a narrow window in which we must implement measures to avert cataclysmic destruction of the environment.”
9 Ways to Improve Brain Health (SciTechDaily, July 8, 2022)
Your brain filters out the noise, allowing you to focus on what’s important. Your brain makes calculations and connections that enable you to think critically, solve problems, and develop new ideas, and it keeps your body functioning, coordinating all your muscles and organs. So it’s no wonder you want to do everything you can to protect your brain and keep it in good health. Here are nine ways you can improve your brain health.
Mets’ Bassitt says MLB should ‘stop testing’ for COVID-19. (AP News, July 8, 2022)
New York Mets pitcher Chris Bassitt said Thursday he “probably won’t” inform team and Major League Baseball officials if he feels COVID-19 symptoms in the future and that MLB should “just stop testing.” Bassitt was placed on the COVID-19 list on July 1 after complaining about sluggishness to team officials. The right-hander missed his scheduled start against Texas last Friday and only rejoined the team Thursday.
NEW: ‘Headed in a bad direction’: Omicron variant may bring second-largest US Covid wave. (The Guardian, July 8, 2022)
The BA.5 sub-variant has immuno-evasive properties that cause reinfection even after vaccination and previous illness. There’s a lot of opportunity for waning immunity and waning protection from the vaccine to allow these new circulating variants to do more damage,
More than one in three Americans live in a county at medium risk from Covid, and one in five are at high risk, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) . That’s the highest proportion of the country facing risks since February. There are now more than 100,000 new cases of Covid confirmed in the US every day – a rate that has been fairly steady for the past six weeks. While cases in the Northeast have slowed, surges are now hitting other parts of the country.
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.
White House COVID coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha on the rise in new variants (8-min. video; PBS News, July 7, 2022)
With vaccinations, boosters and drugs, COVID has become a far less deadly risk for most Americans than earlier in the pandemic. But COVID still presents numerous problems, particularly for some of the most vulnerable people, with an average of more than 300 people dying every day from it.
New Omicron variant BA.5.2 found in China, Shanghai carries out new rounds of covid-19 testing. (6-min. video; World Is One News, July 7, 2022)
After a fresh amount of COVID-19 infections that have been reported in China, tens of millions of people have now been put under a lock-down yet again as authorities are trying to curb the spread of the virus.
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.
Stunning! Webb Telescope image smashes an astronomical record without trying. (Super-photo; Inverse, July 7, 2022)
Its Fine Guidance Sensor surprised astronomers with an unprecedented view of the Universe during a recent engineering test.
NEW: Use secret keyboard keys on Linux. (Open Source, July 7, 2022)
With a compose key, you're not limited to what's on your keyboard. Download the cheat sheet.
[Good free stuff, hiding within the good free stuff!]
Boris Johnson: The prime minister who broke all the rules (BBC News, July 7, 2022)
In the end, it was not his handling of coronavirus that led to his downfall. It was, rather, questions about his character and fitness for high office. From his earliest days, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson had a tendency to believe rules were for other people.
The Most Pathetic Men in America (The Atlantic, July 7, 2022)
Trump said and did obviously awful and dangerous things—racist and cruel and achingly dumb and downright evil things. But on top of that, he is a uniquely tiresome individual, easily the sorest loser, the most prodigious liar, and the most interminable victim ever to occupy the White House. He is, quite possibly, the biggest crybaby ever to toddle across history’s stage, from his inaugural-crowd hemorrhage on day one right down to his bitter, ketchup-flinging end. Seriously, what public figure in the history of the world comes close? I’m genuinely asking.
Why are Lindsey Graham, Kevin McCarthy, and so many other cowards in Congress still doing Trump’s bidding?
Henry Kissinger reflects on leadership, global crises and the state of U.S. politics. (10-min. video; PBS News Hour, July 7, 2022)
Between the war in Ukraine and tensions with China, President Biden's handling of foreign policy issues is being put to the test. In former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's new book, "Leadership:  Six Studies in World Strategy," he examines how past leaders faced the challenges of their times.
Former White House counsel Cipollone to testify before Jan. 6 Committee. (Washington Post, July 6, 2022)
Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone will testify Friday morning after receiving a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, according to people familiar with the matter. It’s unclear what limits there may be on his closed-door testimony, which is scheduled for about half a day, according to one person familiar with the matter. The session will be videotaped, but there will be some limits on what he will testify to regarding direct conversations with former president Donald Trump.
Cipollone had been reluctant to testify to the committee, citing presidential privilege, but he has been regularly mentioned in the hearings and is key to a number of episodes being plumbed by the committee.
Northeastern researchers propose ‘Emerald Tutu’ to protect Boston from flooding. (Boston Globe, July 6, 2022)
Scientists envision a network of vegetation-friendly mats arranged in Boston Harbor.
[Originally, How coastal cities can build climate resilience as the clock ticks (MIT Sloan, January 11, 2022)]
The Infamous 1972 Report That Warned of Civilization’s Collapse (Wired, July 6, 2022)
The Limits to Growth argued that rampant pollution and resource extraction were pushing Earth to the brink. How does it hold up 50 years later?
Improve Memory and Cognition: The Best Berry for Brain Health. (SciTechDaily, July 6, 2022)
[Wild blueberries are best, but all are good!]
The Digital Divide Is Coming for You. (Wired, July 6, 2022)
More services are going online-only—catching more people on the wrong side of a widening gulf.
Has Google Created Sentient AI? (15-min. video; Joe Rogan Experience, July 6, 2022)
[Over 2M views in 5 days! It's what they're hearing.]
Glenn Beck: Engineer WARNS of Google's TERRIFYING artificial intelligence. (14-min video; ??, July 5, 2022)
Blake Lemoine was suspended after publishing transcripts of conversations he'd had with an AI chatbot that he claims was sentient (able to feel and perceive things, like a human being). Glenn explains the difference between artificial intelligence, artificial general intelligence, and why this engineer's claims should be extremely worrisome for the future of the entire world...
[Glenn Lee Beck is an American conservative political commentator, conspiracy theorist, radio host, and television producer. Like it or not, he has a LOT of fans.]
Discovery With “Profound Implications” – Secret Carbon Decisions Plants Are Making About Our Future (SciTechDaily, July 5, 2022)
Plants of the future could be designed to meet the world’s food needs while also aiding the environment.
This CO2 release decision is governed by a previously unknown process, a metabolic channel that directs a product of sugar called pyruvate to be oxidized to CO2 or kept to make plant biomass. We found that a transporter on mitochondria directs pyruvate to respiration to release CO2, but pyruvate made in other ways is kept by plant cells to build biomass. If the transporter is blocked, plants then use pyruvate from other pathways for respiration.
The research shows that plants can differentiate and choose one pyruvate source over another to use for CO2 release. This secret process breaks the normal rules of biochemistry, where the next step in a process does not know the origin of the product from the step before. Understanding the plant’s respiration secret to use a metabolic channel to prioritize carbon release over keeping it to make biomass provides a new opportunity to influence the decision at the last moment. This could be done by limiting this channeling to respiration or making new channels to direct carbon inside mitochondria back towards biomass production and so limiting CO2 release from plants.
Ukraine thanks U.S. for ‘game-changing’ weapons system: But what is the HIMARS? (Fortune, July 5, 2022)
A U.S. Army M142 high-mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) is the latest weapon that could turn the tide in Ukraine’s war for independence.
Fred Gray, the ‘chief counsel for the protest movement,’ to get Medal of Freedom for his civil rights work. (The Conversation, July 5, 2022)
Gray played important roles in landmark Supreme Court decisions that outlawed segregated public transit and affirmed the strategy of the Montgomery bus boycott organizers. He protected the freedom of association guaranteed by the First Amendment by preventing Alabama officials from obtaining the NAACP’s membership list. He argued in the Supreme Court a case on racial gerrymandering that redefined the city boundaries to exclude 400 Black people – but no white people – from the city limits of Tuskegee, Alabama, which set the stage for the one-person, one-vote rule that governs redistricting after every census. And when state and local segregationist leaders in Alabama sued the national press and local civil rights leaders, Gray’s legal efforts afforded strong constitutional protection to critics of public officials and government policy.
Fred Gray has had an enormous impact on American law and society. His cases are taught in every law school in the country, and his work has led to fundamental reforms in legal doctrine and helped to cement important changes in the lives of ordinary people all over the country. Martin Luther King Jr. called him “the brilliant young Negro who later became the chief counsel for the protest movement.” And on July 7, Gray will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the nation, from President Joe Biden.
Extremism expert: Highland Park shooter 'part of a new wave of terror' that advanced 'well past Donald Trump'. (5-min. video; Raw Story, July 5, 2022)
The alleged gunman in the Highland Park massacre was photographed at Donald Trump rallies, but an expert on online extremism said he's part of a "new wave of terror" that doesn't appear to have a specific political motivation. Robert "Bobby" Crimo III was taken into custody hours after the shooting that killed six people and wounded 38 others at an Illinois parade on the Fourth of July.
NBC News correspondent Ben Collins, on what he had learned about the person of interest in the massacre: "The one thing that combines all these things is ready access to weapons, and this guy had ready access to weapons. He had ready access to a machine that could kill a bunch of people in a short period of time. You're not going to be able to stop this on a rhetorical level."
The alleged gunman in the Highland Park massacre was photographed at Donald Trump rallies, but an expert on online extremism said he's part of a "new wave of terror" that doesn't appear to have a specific political motivation.
"This is part of a much larger, deeper subculture that Donald Trump is in the past of -- like, this guy grew up as a child and Donald Trump was the president, he's trying to advance the acceleration well past Donald Trump," Collins added. "He is part of a new wave of terror, and that's something we have to get our brains around right now. This is not tied to one guy. This is tied to a much larger cell of people who think they're lone wolves who are really acting in concert, to express their disaffection with the world by murdering a bunch of people. We have to stop that. I don't know how else to stop that."
[With Trump as a role model, we get this.]
Indictments are coming: At long last, criminal justice will catch up with Donald Trump. (Salon, July 5, 2022)
After only four weeks of investigation the House impeachment managers' case against him was based on circumstantial rather than direct evidence. All of that changed with the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson. That's why the testimony of Pat Cipollone, Trump's former White House counsel, who was quoted by Hutchinson as saying, "We're going to get charges of every crime imaginable," including seditious conspiracy as well as jury tampering, has now been subpoenaed by the select committee.
Putting a former president on trial for alleged criminal behavior would be the first prosecution of its kind in American history. It would also do much toward restoring the myth that no person or corporation is above the law. As James Doyle has explained, putting Trump on trial "redeems American justice."
Looking both backward and forward, I would argue that putting the former racketeer in chief and his accomplices on trial for seditious conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government — arguably the ultimate constitutional crime — is more tangible than the abstract goal of redeeming American justice. In this insurrectionary moment, "substantive" due process justice trumps "procedural" due process justice.
Gen. Russel Honoré: Trump's coup attempt "put us in the banana republic club". (Salon, July 5, 2022)
Retired general who studied Capitol security says "our government failed" on Jan. 6, and White House was complicit.
[Also see The week the Supreme Court reshaped America: 'We’re being hurled back decades.' (The Guardian, July 2, 2022), and America the Banana Republic (Bill Moyers, November 29, 2017)
Thanks to Trump the tinhorn dictator and those who elected him, this country is no longer a beacon of freedom, but a laughingstock.
-- and now, almost five years later, an increasingly deadly and anti-American one.]
Boston’s gorgeous Fourth of July fireworks show (with photos; Boston Globe, July 4, 2022)
A Boston holiday tradition returned Monday night after a three-year absence. The 2022 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular once again filled the air with music and the skies with pyrotechnics.
[This cartoon seems sadly appropriate for this year's "celebration".]
NEW: Jan. 6 Panel Could Make Multiple Criminal Referrals Of Trump, Liz Cheney Says. (Huffington Post, July 3, 2022)
"A man as dangerous as Donald Trump can absolutely never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again," the panel's vice chair said.
Trump: "Maybe This is a Good Time to Tell People I’m Running Again." (Vanity Fair, July 3, 2022)
The twice-impeached president may announce a third bid for the White House early, to distract from the fallout of the Jan. 6 hearings and stave off potential GOP rivals.
How the Founders Intended to Check the Supreme Court’s Power (Politico, July 3, 2022)
Last December, during oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case in which the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that “there’s so much that’s not in the Constitution, including the fact that we have the last word. Marbury versus Madison. There is not anything in the Constitution that says that the Court, the Supreme Court, is the last word on what the Constitution means. It was totally novel at that time. And yet, what the Court did was reason from the structure of the Constitution that that’s what was intended.”
It was a remarkable observation. The president and Congress can check SCOTUS' power when they believe the justices have exceeded their mandate. This might be the best way to save the court from itself.
NEW: Thom Hartmann: SCOTUS Has Dissolved Into A Blur Of BS, Qanon & Fundamentalist Religion. (Medium, July 2, 2022)
It’s not often that a photograph makes its way into a Supreme Court ruling, but it happened this week because Justice Sonia Sotomayor felt it necessary to expose Neil Gorsuch and his Republican colleagues on the Court as unrepentant liars.
[How DARE we let truth like this into our schools?]
The week the Supreme Court reshaped America: ‘We’re being hurled back decades.’ (The Guardian, July 2, 2022)
Last week the US Supreme Court started its summer break, but it left behind an America that many believe has been fundamentally reshaped after a momentous series of decisions by the conservative majority on abortion, guns, the power of government agencies, and the role of religion in public life. The series of decisions have spurred extensive condemnation outside conservative America and many are left wondering what, if anything, can be done.
“We’re absolutely in a constitutional crisis,” said Lawrence Gostin, a law professor at Georgetown University and director of the World Health Organization’s center on Global Health Law. “And our democracy is now one of the most fragile democracies among our peer nations. We haven’t fallen over the cliff – we still abide by the rule of law, more or less, and still have elections, more or less – but the terms of our democracy have really been eviscerated by the Supreme Court.”
Two secret service agents say they heard claim Trump angrily demanded to go to Capitol. (9-min. video; CNN, July 2, 2022)
Then-President Donald Trump angrily demanded to go to the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and berated his protective detail when he didn’t get his way, according to two Secret Service sources who say they heard about the incident from multiple agents, including the driver of the presidential SUV where it occurred.
Your internet life needs a Feeds Reboot. Here’s how to do it. (The Verge, July 2, 2022)
Once a year, spend some time taking back your algorithms.
Is Your New Car a Threat to National Security? (Wired, July 1, 2022)
Putting sensor-packed Chinese cars on Western roads could be a privacy issue. Just ask Tesla.
David Colombo, a 19-year-old German programmer, proved earlier this year that accessing incredibly sensitive data on Tesla users wasn’t just possible—it was fairly easy. Using a third-party application with access to Tesla’s API, Colombo got into the systems of more than two dozen Teslas around the world, controlling their locks, windows, and sound systems and downloading a huge bundle of information. “I was able to see a large amount of data. Including where the Tesla has been, where it charged, current location, where it usually parks, when it was driving, the speed of the trips, the navigation requests, history of software updates, even a history of weather around the Tesla and just so much more,” Colombo wrote in a Medium post published in January that detailed his exploits.
While the specific vulnerabilities Colombo took advantage of have been patched, his hack demonstrates a huge flaw at the core of these smart vehicles: Sharing data is not a bug; it’s a feature.
NEW: The West Débuts a New Strategy to Confront a Historic “Inflection Point.” (New Yorker, July 1, 2022)
In Madrid this week, NATO laid out a bold plan for military expansion in response to Putin’s war. But can its member states overcome political divisions at home?
NEW: Advocates applaud Remain in Mexico ruling, urge president to end policy 'once and for all'. (Daily Kos, July 1, 2022)
Advocates welcomed the Supreme Court’s surprising decision in Biden v. Texas on Thursday, which ruled 5-4 that the president acted lawfully in attempting to end the previous administration’s Remain in Mexico policy, officially known as Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). Embracing this rare win, they renewed their calls for an end to this inhumane anti-asylum program that has continued to subject thousands of already vulnerable people to further harm.
Thom Hartmann: The Nightmare Scenario SCOTUS is Plotting For the 2024 Election Takeover (Medium, July 1, 2022)
Six Republicans on the Supreme Court just announced — a story that has largely flown under the nation’s political radar — that they’ll consider pre-rigging the presidential election of 2024.
Under this circumstance DeSantis becomes president, the third Republican president in the 21st century, and also the third Republican President to have lost the popular vote election yet ended up in the White House. This scenario isn’t just plausible: it’s probable. GOP-controlled states are already changing their state laws to allow for it, and Republican strategists are gaming out which states have Republican legislatures willing to override the votes of their people to win the White House for the Republican candidate. Those state legislators who still embrace Trump and this theory are getting the support of large pools of right-wing billionaires’ dark money.
[READ THIS. These fascists in robes have barely begun their destruction of America.]
What the EPA ruling means for the carbon footprint of your electric car (Green Car Reports, July 1, 2022)
Electric cars are only as clean as the grid they plug into. Ater Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling, the assurance of a cleaner grid over time, everywhere, is no longer a foregone conclusion. That’s because based on this ruling, it’s quite possible that electric vehicles in some regions of the U.S. will carry a heavier carbon footprint than they might have otherwise, for years to come.
Supreme Court EPA Decision Will Accelerate Climate Change. (Teen Vogue, July 1, 2022)
This op-ed argues that the Supreme Court just gave a free pass to polluters.
[Good, that Teen Vogue is featuring these lying fools in robes, and the damage they do.]
The Supreme Court has curtailed EPA’s power to regulate carbon pollution – and sent a warning to other regulators. (The Conversation, July 1, 2022)
In a highly anticipated but not unexpected 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled on June 30, 2022, that the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act. The ruling doesn’t take away the EPA’s power to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, but it makes federal action harder by requiring the agency to show that Congress has charged it to act – in an area where Congress has consistently failed to act.
Supreme Court Significantly Reduces EPA’s Ability to Fight Carbon Pollution from Power Plants. (Union of Concerned Scientists, June 30, 2022)
Today’s decision simultaneously acknowledges EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants and severely undermines its ability to do so. This troubling ruling results in a challenging contradiction. The very agency that the court has recognized is tasked with the obligation to act has been significantly curtailed in so doing. It defies logic and defies common sense. And all the while communities are left in the lurch, clear-eyed on the escalating impacts that worsening climate change brings yet forced to stand by while a critical tool for driving necessary emissions reductions is hamstrung. “EPA has no choice. It must make do with the authority it retains to quickly advance as robust a set of power plant standards as it can. However, climate action cannot stop there. Congress must expeditiously enact robust and equitable clean energy and climate legislation. As the mounting toll borne by communities across the country and around the world makes clear, climate change is here, today, and there’s no time left to waste.
NEW: The Christian Right Hankers for Medieval Times. (Medium, June 30, 2022)
Was it just a simple oversight that the Texas Republican Convention platform failed to mention stocks, pillories, and branding?
NEW: A Note To Conservative Christians: Stop Trying To Impose Your Notion Of God’s Will Upon Others. (Medium, June 30, 2022)
In this fight over reproductive rights, I see one minority faction that has the gall to tell the rest of us what we can and cannot do. If you unrig the economy, you might reduce the demand for abortion services. That might be God’s will.
When does the fetus acquire a moral status of a human being? The philosophy of ‘gradualism’ can provide answers. (The Conversation, June 30, 2022)
From my personal perspective, it is morally abhorrent to deny anyone the ability to access abortion in their own state, no matter why they are seeking one. But the likelihood of more abortions being pushed into the second trimester, as pregnant individuals must overcome more barriers to access, also matters from the point of view of moral concern about fetuses. Many people feel that losing a pregnancy after a few months is more tragic than an early loss. The same is true for later versus earlier abortion.
Some Viruses Make You Smell Tastier to Mosquitoes – Increasing the Spread of Disease. (SciTechDaily, June 30, 2022)
When mosquitoes were offered a choice of healthy mice or mice sick with dengue, the mosquitoes were more attracted to the dengue-infected mice. One odoriferous molecule, acetophenone, was especially attractive to mosquitoes. Skin odorants collected from human dengue patients showed the same thing: more attractive to mosquitoes and more acetophenone production.
Acetophenone is made by some Bacillus bacteria that grow on human (and mouse) skin. Normally skin produces an antimicrobial peptide that keeps Bacillus populations in check. But it turns out that when mice are infected with dengue and Zika, they don’t produce as much of the antimicrobial peptide, and the Bacillus grows faster. The virus can manipulate the hosts’ skin microbiome to attract more mosquitoes to spread faster!
A potential preventative: The researchers gave mice with dengue fever a type of vitamin A derivative, isotretinoin, known to increase the production of the skin’s antimicrobial peptide. The isotretinoin-treated mice gave off less acetophenone, reducing their attractiveness to mosquitoes and potentially reducing the risk of infecting others with the virus. The next step is to analyze more human patients with dengue and Zika to see if the skin odor-microbiome connection is generally true in real world conditions, and to see if isotretinoin reduces acetophenone production in sick humans as well as it does in sick mice.
Complete Chaos: Scientists Unravel the Early History of the Solar System. (SciTechDaily, June 30, 2022)
An international team of researchers has more accurately recreated the early history of several asteroids than ever before. Their findings suggest that the early solar system was more chaotic than previously assumed.
2639: Periodic Table Changes (Explain xkcd, June 29, 2022)
The periodic table is a table used to arrange chemical elements according to their chemical and physical properties. This comic proposes "changes" to the periodic table that would be more pleasant aesthetically or make the periodic table look more regular.
Major Breakthrough Puts Dream of Unlimited, Clean Nuclear Fusion Energy Within Reach. (1-min. video; SciTechDaily, June 29, 2022)
Could a long-running joke that nuclear fusion is always 30 years away soon start to look dated? Some hope so, following a major breakthrough during a nuclear-fusion experiment in late 2021. This came at the Joint European Torus (JET) research facility in Oxfordshire, UK, in a giant, doughnut-shaped machine called a tokamak.
[Also see Horizon Magazine/EU, at June 24th below.]
Major malware warning for all iPhone and Android users. (Komando, June 29, 2022)
Spyware impersonates legitimate companies, such as ISPs and smartphone manufacturers. The malware can disable your data connection and send you a link via text message to recover it. You’re prompted to download a malicious application when you open this link. The spyware’s other trick is disguising itself as a messaging application such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. The victim sees a page asking them to install an application to recover their account.
Once it’s in your phone, Hermit can take screenshots, record audio and access your contacts, camera, messages, calendar and more. The findings from security researchers are troubling. Governments may be working with telecommunications companies and ISPs to gain access to people’s phones. This will make it much harder to detect these types of attacks. Here is what you can do.
[Safeguards you should know and use!]
NEW: Monkeypox Virus May Have Undergone ‘Accelerated Evolution’ in Current Outbreak. (Self, June 29, 2022)
A new analysis has surprised experts. It’s well-known that viruses evolve and adapt; that the monkeypox virus has done so isn’t the surprising part. Rather, it’s the speed—a mutation up to 6 to 12 times faster than expected, per the new research—that has experts questioning whether monkeypox could be more infectious now than in the past.
Neuroscientists Discover Why the Memory of Fear Is Seared Into Our Brains. (SciTechDaily, June 29, 2022)
A team of neuroscientists from the Tulane University School of Science and Engineering and Tufts University School of Medicine has been studying the formation of fear memories in the emotional hub of the brain – the amygdala —  and think they have discovered a mechanism.
In a nutshell, the scientists found that the stress neurotransmitter norepinephrine, also called noradrenaline, facilitates fear processing in the brain by stimulating a certain population of inhibitory neurons in the amygdala to generate a repetitive bursting pattern of electrical discharges. This bursting pattern of electrical activity changes the frequency of brain wave oscillation in the amygdala from a resting state to an aroused state that promotes the formation of fear memories.
Robert Reich: Cassidy Hutchinson's chilling testimony (Substack, June 28, 2022)
After today’s explosive testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson — who served as chief assistant to Mark Meadows and was literally and figuratively in the middle of Trump’s White House — I don’t see how Attorney General Merrick Garland can avoid prosecuting Trump, as well as Mark Meadows and Rudy Giuliani.
More than any other hearing to date, the audience for today’s hearing was not just the American public but also the Attorney General. Time and again, Hutchinson gave testimony about serious federal crimes. It was the most chilling depiction yet of a president in charge of an attempted coup. Trump knew exactly what was happening and what he was doing. He knew he was acting in violation of his oath of office and inciting violence in order to stay in office. He repeatedly refused to listen to reason, or to change course.
NEW: GM EVs get Plug and Charge convenience—yes, even Chevy Bolt EV. (Green Car Reports, June 28, 2022)
General Motors is adding Plug and Charge capability across its entire lineup of EVs, allowing drivers to start a charging session simply by plugging in. Plug and Charge is supported on multiple North American public charging networks. But drivers must still have an account with the EVgo network, as well as an active OnStar account and the MyChevrolet, MyCadillac, or MyGMC app for those brands.
“We’re Going to Get Charges of Every Crime Imaginable,” Trump’s Top White House Lawyer Warned. (Mother Jones, June 28, 2022)
Pat Cipollone cautioned against Trump going to the Capitol with the rioters on January 6, according to new bombshell testimony.
PBS: Aide says Trump wanted to let armed supporters into rally, ’They’re not here to hurt me.’ (21-min. video; YouTube, June 28, 2022)
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified on June 28 as the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack presented its findings to the public.
Hutchinson told Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., that former President Donald Trump was “angry about the extra space [on the Ellipse] and wanted more people to come in” to hear his speech on the day of the Capitol attack. The committee played video of Hutchinson’s deposition in which she detailed why was Trump was upset — that people with weapons weren’t being let into his rally.“
In the days leading up to the 6th, we had conversations about obstructing justice or defrauding the electoral count,” she said.
The hearing was unexpectedly announced a week after the Jan. 6 committee said they were taking a break until the month of July.
‘Worse than we ever imagined’: Tapper and CNN analysts react to testimony from ex-White House aide. (5-min. video; YouTube, June 28, 2022)
"So, this is what happens when you tell a two-year-old that he isn't going to be king anymore. I imagine Mar-a-Logo staff are cleaning Trump's dinner off the walls right now."
Day 6 of the public Jan. 6th Select Committee Hearing (live or after, entire 2-hour video; YouTube, June 28, 2022)
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testifies.
NEW: Incredible Hubble images reveal how the Webb Telescope will use galaxies to bend light. (Super-photo; Inverse, June 28, 2022)
Abell 1351, a close-knit group of about 100 galaxies bound together by gravity, is so massive that its gravity distorts spacetime. Thanks to that warping of the very fabric of existence, light that would have followed a straight line through the galaxy cluster instead traces a curving path around it. You can see the result in this recent image from the Hubble Space Telescope: curved streaks of light dancing among the spiral galaxies.
Astronomers call the phenomenon gravitational lensing. Under the right conditions, it can produce duplicate images or rings of light, called Einstein rings, around a lensing object. And when the James Webb Telescope starts its science mission later this summer, gravitational lensing will help the telescope look even deeper into the universe than Webb’s instruments could see by themselves. It’s nature’s giant telescope.
Android Antivirus Apps Are Useless — Here’s What to Do Instead. (ExtremeTech, June 27, 2022)
Your phone already has antivirus protection built-in. Your first line of defense is simply to not mess around with Android’s default security settings. To get Google certification, each and every phone and tablet comes with “Unknown sources” disabled in the security settings. If you want to sideload an APK downloaded from outside Google Play, your phone will prompt you to enable that feature for the originating app. Leaving this disabled keeps you safe from virtually all Android malware because there’s almost none of it in the Play Store.
[Good article!]
Swamps Can Protect Against Climate Change, If We Only Let Them. (New Yorker, June 27, 2022)
Wetlands absorb carbon dioxide and buffer the excesses of drought and flood, yet we’ve drained much of this land. Can we learn to love our swamps?
[By 1980, the USA had drained half of them.]
Finally, Scientists Prove the ‘Dead Cone Effect,’ Shaking Up Particle Physics. (Popular Mechanics, June 27, 2022)
Operators of the ALICE detector have observed the first direct evidence of the “dead cone effect,” allowing them to assess the mass of the elusive charm quark.
Robert Reich: When I was Baby Jesus (Substack, June 27, 2022)
Today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a former high school football coach who repeatedly led his players in postgame prayers at midfield. There were also prayers in the locker room. (At the homecoming game, the coach was joined in the postgame prayer by members of the public, a state legislator and the media.)
Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, writing for his fellow Republican appointees in the 6-to-3 decision, ruled that the coach’s prayers were protected by the Constitution’s guarantees of free speech and free religious exercise.
Writing for the dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said: “Official-led prayer strikes at the core of our constitutional protections for the religious liberty of students and their parents … The Court now charts a different path.”
Supreme Court sides with high school coach over 50-yard-line prayers. (Politico, June 27, 2022)
The religious liberty case was filed by Joseph Kennedy, a high school assistant football coach who was placed on administrative leave by Bremerton School District in 2015 after refusing to stop kneeling to pray audibly at the 50-yard line after his team’s games. Kennedy and religious freedom advocates argued the coach was exercising his First Amendment right to pray. But the school district told the justices that Kennedy’s actions were coercive, and players’ parents complained their children on the team felt compelled to participate.
The justices’ decision found that the school system infringed the coach’s religious freedom and freedom of speech rights by seeking to block him from engaging in public prayers on the field. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion, the bulk of which garnered the support of all the court’s Republican appointees. “Both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy’s. Nor does a proper understanding of the Amendment’s Establishment Clause require the government to single out private religious speech for special disfavor,” Gorsuch wrote. “The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissent joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, included several photos of the Kennedy’s on-field prayers and called the court’s decision “misguided.” “It elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this Court has long recognized are particularly vulnerable and deserving of protection,” Sotomayor wrote.
[Another day of religious zealots in robes working to revoke America's progress. But I do like the majority opinion enough to bold it (above). If only those zealots used it to respect the many religious and non-religious players that the coach coerced! See Robert Reich's "Baby Jesus" memory, above.]
Trump-Linked Company Hit With Grand Jury Subpoena. (Mother Jones, June 27, 2022)
The federal investigation into Digital World Acquisition Corp., the corporation seeking to merge with Trump’s media business, keeps expanding.
NEW: 'Cradle of Humankind' Fossils Are 1 Million Years Older Than We Thought. (Vice, June 27, 2022)
Particles from outer space helped refine the age estimates of South African ancestors of humans. The progenitors to humans lived in this area between 3.4 to 3.6 million years ago, reports a new study. The results rewrite the timeline of Australopithecus, a family of early “hominins” that eventually gave rise to our own species, Homo sapiens, and resolve a longstanding debate over the age of fossils from Sterkfontein, an ancient complex cave system that contains more Australopithecus remains than anywhere else on Earth. The results show that the Sterkfontein individuals were contemporaries with Australopithecus afarensis, the species to which the famous “Lucy” specimen belongs, which refutes the “widely accepted concept” that these cave dwellers descended from A. afarensis, reports the study. “The contemporaneity of the two species now suggests that a more complex family tree prevailed early in the human evolutionary process,” the researchers said.
NEW: Noam Chomsky issues warning. (27-min. video; American Solar Energy Society, June 27, 2022)
Dr. Chomsky defines three possible cataclysmic disasters humans face. Climate change, a nuclear accident or provocation and the newest, and perhaps most frustrating is our current inability to engage in rational discourse because of the most dangerous organization in human history.
(At the American Solar Energy Society's 51st Annual Conference at the University of New Mexico on June 21, 2022)
[It's not a clear recording - but you can request a transcript, memorize, and share!]
For many people on Capitol Hill, the Jan. 6 hearings are personal. (New York Times, June 26, 2022)
The House Jan. 6 committee’s hearings have revealed unseen footage, unheard testimony and new details about Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. They’ve also stirred painful memories for those who experienced the attack firsthand.
Astronomers Radically Re-imagine the Making of the Planets. (Wired, June 26, 2022)
Observations of faraway worlds have forced a near-total rewrite of the story of our solar system.
Research show some PFAS destroyed, others created at Manchester NH incinerator. (New Hampshire Union Leader, June 25, 2022)
Scientific researchers have recorded the destruction of some PFAS chemicals in a Manchester incinerator but also detected an unexplained amount of toxic fluoride emissions. The Ohio research firm Battelle also found that while half the PFAS — the so-called forever chemicals — were destroyed in the Manchester wastewater treatment plant incinerator, others were created. The most common were GenX chemicals, the shorter-chain chemicals manufacturers have turned to as a substitute for PFAS.
Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith: We’ve Seen What Will Happen Next to America’s Women. (New York Times/RSN, June 25, 2022)
We’re in this dark moment because right-wing politicians and their allies have spent nearly 50 years scheming to overrule a right that an overwhelming majority of Americans considered sacrosanct. Passing state laws to restrict access to abortion care. Giving personhood rights to fertilized eggs. Threatening to criminalize in vitro fertilization. Offering bounties for reporting doctors who provide abortion services. Abusing the filibuster and turning Congress into a broken institution. Advancing judicial nominees who claimed to be committed to protecting “settled law” while they winked at their Republican sponsors in the Senate. Stealing two seats on the Supreme Court.
In order to fix the damage Republicans have done to our system in their efforts to control women’s lives, we need broad democracy reform: changing the composition of the courts, reforming Senate rules like the filibuster, and even fixing the outdated Electoral College that allowed presidential candidates who lost the popular vote to take office and nominate five of the justices who agreed to end the right to an abortion.
NEW: The Elemental Composition of the Human Body (graphics; Visual Capitalist, June 25, 2022)
[This is The Right Stuff, and in the right proportions.]
We Should Be Able To Cancel OnStar Through The Remote App. (GM Authority, June 25, 2022)
At the moment, there are only two ways in which a customer can cancel their service. The first is to contact OnStar directly with a phone call, while the other is press the blue OnStar button in the vehicle to connect to an OnStar operator. In both of these scenarios, customers are likely to receive offers to remain connected to OnStar and one of the monthly plans. A few of the offers could include limited-time subscription rebates, which would be offered from the OnStar representative with whom the customer is speaking to cancel the service.
Salt and a battery – smashing the limits of power storage (1-min. video; Horizon Magazine/EU, June 24, 2022)
The European Commission's online magazine reports on its improved Green-battery research projects.
[For EVs and more, and not only salt!]
CATL's Qilin battery increases energy density to give EVs more range. (ArenaEV, June 24, 2022)
Its volume utilization rate is 72%, the highest in the world, with an energy density of 255 Wh per kilogram. This means that a Qilin pack, once installed in an EV, will allow for ranges of over 1,000 km (620 miles) on a charge. The battery also charges faster than existing cells, and on top of that it's safer and more durable.
Interest Rate Hikes vs. Inflation Rate, by Country (with chart; Visual Capitalist, June 24, 2022)
With inflation rates hitting multi-decade highs in some countries, many central banks have announced interest rate hikes.
NEW: “Power, Not Reason”: The Fall of Roe and the Rise of Republican Orthodoxy at the Supreme Court (Vanity Fair, June 24, 2022)
The conservative majority of the court did away with a half century of American law simply because they can—and regardless of the will of the majority of Americans.
The Supreme Court Is Waging a Full-Scale War on Modern Life. (Mother Jones, June 24, 2022)
The project that the conservative majority has undertaken is far more extreme than just going back to pre-Roe. The court is poised to roll back what EPA and other federal agencies can regulate, including threats as existential and enormous as climate risk. It’s a regular theme for this court, and this case was clearly so tempting to the conservatives that they took the case even when it should be, as the justices like to say, moot.
This attack on the administrative state may sound small. But it heralds an ominous shift. At its founding, the United States did not have much of an administrative state. Certainly no EPA, not even a Justice Department. Over the last 200 years, Congress has slowly created agencies with the power to function as a modern government overseeing a large and complex country. While bureaucracy is imperfect and frustrating, it funds the vaccines we need during pandemics, ensures our rights, protects our air and water, regulates industries, collects taxes—the list is long, all the way down to trying to save the continued habitability of the planet. A government with a weak and shrunken administrative state cannot protect you—not the air you breathe or your right not to face discrimination or your ability to vote.
Yet with each new opinion, narrowing those protections seems to be the goal. The six conservatives on the Supreme Court will go as far back as they have to—to the 13th century even—to peel away the rights and structures that underpin modern life.
[June 24, 2022: Be sure to set your clocks back fifty years before you go to bed tonight.]
Justice Clarence Thomas suggests Supreme Court could rethink decisions on contraceptives, same-sex marriage. (1-min. video; CBS Boston, June 24, 2022)
An opinion written by the nation's longest-serving justice is raising concerns that the high court could revisit other key cases. Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the court could re-examine decisions on access to contraception, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage. He said the court had a duty to correct the precedents.
Constitutional law expert Daniel Farbman says the abortion decision could leave the door open. "If you do exactly what he did in this case, which is define a right narrowly and look for a tradition of protecting that right, the same logic that he applies to abortion could be applied to contraceptives, to same-sex sexual activity, and same-sex marriage."
[Never waste the opportunities offered by a good crisis. -- Niccolo Machiavelli (15th-Cent. Florentine writer and statesman)]
Mike Pence Calls for Abortion Bans Across the Country. (Mother Jones, June 24, 2022)
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who appears to be laying the groundwork for a presidential run, called on Friday for “every state in the land” to enact an abortion ban. Pence, who has called certain abortions “infanticide,” celebrated the Supreme Court’s historic overturning of Roe v. Wade, tweeting, “Having been given this second chance for Life, we must not rest and must not relent until the sanctity of life is restored to the center of American law in every state in the land.”
He did not directly call for a national abortion ban (yet). But Pence has made his position clear. A “born-again evangelical Catholic,” he has gone to dubious crisis pregnancy centers, spoken at March for Life, and said at a previous CPAC that Democrats create a “culture of death” by supporting abortion rights. On days like this, one thing is clear: Mike Pence is not a good boy.
Nation’s largest union of nurses condemns Supreme Court overturn of constitutional right to abortion. (National Nurses United, June 24, 2022)
The Supreme Court’s overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling today in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a shameful and dangerous assault on women, other child-bearing people, and families at a sweeping scale. This decision is part of a coordinated rightwing effort to undo hard-won human and civil rights in the United States, and to control working people by removing their power and bodily autonomy. This decision goes against the beliefs and values of the vast majority of people in the United States and is an attack on democracy itself.
Registered nurses understand that abortion is a basic health care service, and as a union of health care providers dedicated to advocating for the best interests of our patients, National Nurses United opposes any efforts to restrict our patients’ control and choices over their own health care and their own bodies. The basic tenets of ethical medical care dictate that patients should enjoy autonomy, self-determination, and dignity over their bodies, their lives, and the health care they receive. Singling out this exception, the right to end a pregnancy, that targets only people with reproductive capacity, is not only bad health policy, it is immoral, discriminatory,  misogynist, violent, unacceptable, and violates the nursing ethics we nurses pledge to uphold.
Roe v. Wade Was Killed by Minority Rule. (Mother Jones, June 24, 2022)
Some Supreme Court opinions are hard to unpack. Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion striking down Roe v. Wade, though, can be summarized in just a few words. “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” he wrote. The first two clauses are the news, but the last line, more than just a quick housekeeping note, is the story of how we got here. The defeat of Roe was made possible by cutting corners and seizing every advantage in an undemocratic system—it was a redistribution of power bordering on theft. The system worked, for the people who worked the system.
The Supreme Court's majority and dissent opinions on Dobbs reveal a massive schism. (NPR, June 24, 2022)
Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan wrote a searing dissent to the court's decision to end Roe v. Wade and overturn the constitutional right to an abortion.
They were responding to views set forth by Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. "The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives," the court stated in a syllabus included with its lengthy Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision.
The dissent vehemently disagrees — and it warns that other Supreme Court precedents securing "settled freedoms involving bodily integrity, familial relationships, and procreation" may now be in danger, such as rulings backing contraception rights and same-sex marriage.
The dissent accuses the court of betraying its guiding principles while relegating women to second-class citizenship. It also questions the majority's reasoning, saying the Dobbs decision will place an extreme burden on low-income pregnant people. "Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today's decision is certain: the curtailment of women's rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens," the dissent states. Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan say the court's ruling discards a balance set by past abortion decisions. "It says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of," they said.
The three liberal justices also say the precedent was struck down not because of new scientific developments or societal changes, but due to changes in the makeup of the Supreme Court itself.
"Either the mass of the majority's opinion is hypocrisy, or additional constitutional rights are under threat. It is one or the other," the justices wrote. The dissent warns the decision in this case could be used to challenge other cases involving individual freedoms, including the right to use contraception and the right to marry a same-sex partner.
The Supreme Court declared that Americans have a broad right to arm themselves in public. (New York Times, June 24, 2022)
Two major developments in Washington yesterday upended the terrain of the American gun debate. The first was a Supreme Court ruling striking down a New York State law that restricted people’s ability to carry guns in public. The second was the Senate passage of a bipartisan bill that would become the most significant change to federal gun safety laws in nearly three decades.
Jan. 6th Committee's 5th public hearing in Capitol Riot probe (YouTube, June 23, 2022)
The hearing (June 23rd, 3-5:30PM ETZ) continues to illustrate "the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential Election".
[A 6th public hearing will be scheduled in July. Watch here for access live; live or later on YouTube.]
Supreme Court Strikes Down New York’s Concealed Carry Restrictions. (Mother Jones, June 23, 2022)
The ruling comes just weeks after the massacres in Uvalde and Buffalo. The case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, concerned a New York gun licensing law that required people who want to carry concealed handguns to demonstrate “proper cause.” In other words, aspiring concealed carriers had to prove that they had a special need for self-defense before they could be licensed.
During oral arguments, the court’s six conservative justices seemed eager to blow up the New York law. On Thursday, they did precisely that, ruling that it violates the Constitution by “preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.”
Supreme Court finds N.Y. law violates right to carry guns outside home. (Washington Post, June 23, 2022)
The 6-to-3 ruling clears the way for legal challenges to similar restrictions in California, New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii and Massachusetts.
[Also see, How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment (Brennan Center, May 20, 2014)
"The Founders never intended to create an unregulated individual right to a gun. Today, millions believe they did. Here’s how it happened."]
Greg Dickinson and Brian L. Ott: Look at 3 enduring stories Americans tell about guns to understand the debate over them. (The Conversation, June 23, 2022)
How people talk about an object influences how they understand and see it. And once that view hardens into an attitude, it significantly impacts future action – or inaction.
In the firearms museum, and American culture more broadly, guns are portrayed as utilitarian tools of daily life, venerated objects of technological progress and symbols of what it means to be American. These stories continue to shape and constrain how America talks and thinks about guns, and help explain why gun policy in the U.S. looks the way it does.
["Once that view hardens into an attitude..." And not only gun policy.]
Thom Hartmann: Have You Noticed That America has Gotten Meaner? (Medium, June 23, 2022)
Blood alone moves the wheels of history. -- Benito Mussolini
We need to discuss the violence and threats of violence now endemic to the GOP, because they signal a hopefully reversible — but possibly terminal — slide into fascism.
Demolishing schools after a mass shooting reflects humans’ deep-rooted desire for purification rituals. (The Conversation, June 23, 2022)
After the recent shooting in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers, some local residents want the school demolished. Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez said that President Joe Biden has offered to help the school district secure a federal grant for the building’s demolition. This is not uncommon. In numerous similar cases, buildings were knocked down, abandoned or repurposed in the aftermath of a tragedy.
There is a powerful cathartic aspect to those purification rituals. Symbolic gestures often speak to our psyche in ways no rational action could ever speak to our intellect. In times of tragedy, it is important to acknowledge this fundamental aspect of our humanity. For even as the pain remains, the knowledge that a tangible reminder of it has been undone can be soothing.
Foreign Words We Need in English (7-min. video; PBS, June 23, 2022)
English has more words than most other languages, but there are still so many familiar things and experiences that we don't have a word for - but other languages do! Here are some of our faves!
[Lovely PBS video! One of its many good Comments: "The German word 'kummerspeck', which means the weight gained through emotional eating. The literal translation is  'grief bacon'. After the last few years, I think we can all identify with this word."]
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.
Abortion and bioethics: Principles to guide U.S. abortion debates (The Conversation, June 23, 2022)
The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide the fate of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established the nationwide right to choose an abortion. If the court’s decision hews close to the leaked draft opinion first published by Politico in May 2022, the court’s new conservative majority will overturn Roe.
Rancorous debate about the ruling is often dominated by politics. Ethics garners less attention, although it lies at the heart of the legal controversy. As a philosopher and bioethicist, I study moral problems in medicine and health policy, including abortion.
Bioethical approaches to abortion often appeal to four principles: respect patients’ autonomy; nonmaleficence, or “do no harm”; beneficence, or provide beneficial care; and justice. These principles were first developed during the 1970s to guide research involving human subjects. Today, they are essential guides for many doctors and ethicists in challenging medical cases.
NEW: Google Engineer on His Sentient AI Claim. (10-min. video; Bloomberg, June 23, 2022)
Google Engineer Blake Lemoine joins Emily Chang to talk about some of the experiments he conducted that lead him to think that LaMDA was a sentient AI, and to explain why he is now on administrative leave.
Unraveling the Origin of Mysterious Explosive Radio Bursts (Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, June 23, 2022)
Mysterious fast radio bursts are among the most perplexing phenomena in the universe, releasing as much energy in one second as the Sun does in a year. Researchers have now simulated and proposed a cost-effective experiment to produce and observe the early stages of this process in a way that was previously thought to be impossible with today’s technology.
NASA’s Curiosity Rover Captures Stunning Mars Views – Unlocking Mysteries of Ancient Past. (Stunning photos, 3-min. video; Jet Propulsion Laboratory, June 23, 2022)
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has been traveling through a transition zone from a clay-rich region to one filled with a salty mineral called sulfate for the past year. While the science team targeted the clay-rich region and the sulfate-laden one for evidence each can offer about Mars’ watery past, the transition zone is proving to be scientifically enlightening as well. In fact, this transition may provide the record of a major shift in Mars’ climate billions of years ago that scientists are only now beginning to grasp.
[Still my favorite: Curiosity's 44-image 2019 panorama of Mount Sharp in Gale Crater, Mars.]
Federal gas tax holiday: Biden says it will provide ‘a little bit of relief’ – but experts say even that may be a stretch. (The Conversation, June 23, 2022)
We asked four experts to explain what gas taxes are used for and whether waiving them will make much of a difference to American households. "Not much relief." "Less money to fix roads." "Waivers only help drivers." "Consider aid for heating and cooling."
[Also see, Why Are U.S. Roads So Bad? (11-min. video; CNBC, January 27, 2020). But why did none of these experts mention the immediate need to reduce global warming and propose - instead of a small subsidy for internal-combustion engines and the oil industry - a significant assist for those transitioning to carbon-free EVs and those using public transportation?]
Stricter Vehicle Emissions Rules Through 2030 And Beyond On The Way, Says EPA. (GM Authority, June 23, 2022)
Regulators are set to propose more stringent vehicle emissions rules by March of the 2024 calendar year. The new rules, as proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will affect vehicles between the 2027 model year through at least the 2030 model year.
The Ukraine war response is fast becoming Biden’s second blunder. (The Hill, June 22, 2022)
A slippery slope filled with a series of bad choices awaits the Biden administration. A compromise peace, which much of the world apparently desires for various self-interested reasons, inevitably would begin with negotiations. Unless Russia is allowed to continue its territorial gains during the negotiations, a ceasefire would be required — and historically, these involve freezing the existing territorial division between combatants for the duration. As we have learned from Korea, the Middle East, and other such arrangements, these temporary demarcation lines often evolve into de facto permanent borders. Russia has made strategic territorial gains, so such an outcome would be disastrous for Ukraine — and humiliating for the United States. Yet, since European leaders and the U.S. so far have refused to supply the arsenal of modern weaponry that Ukraine has said it needs to survive, it is difficult to see any other scenario unfolding.
Jan. 6th Capitol riot hearings to stretch into July, chairman says. (APNews, June 22, 2022)
The chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, told reporters Wednesday that the committee is receiving “a lot of information” — including new documentary film footage of Trump’s final months in office — as its yearlong inquiry intensifies with hearings into the attack on Jan. 6, 2021, and Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election that Democrat Joe Biden won.
Thompson, D-Miss., said the committee’s Thursday hearing, which is set to highlight former Justice Department officials testifying about Trump’s proposals to reject the election results, would wrap up this month’s work. The committee would start up again in July.
NEW: Beyond Jan. 6: Trump's mob violence is now the standard GOP model. (Salon, June 22, 2022)
There is so much evidence emerging from the January 6th hearings that it's sometimes hard to wrap your arms around what it all means. They are making a strong case that Donald Trump knew the election was legitimate yet spread the Big Lie that it was stolen anyway. He was also told that his scheme to have his vice president, Mike Pence, overturn the election was illegal and unconstitutional. The committee on Tuesday, during its fourth hearing, laid out how Trump was intimately involved in the pressure campaign to persuade Republican state officials to illegally change the legitimate results and "decertify" the will of the people. Future hearings will discuss the plot to corrupt the Department of Justice(DOJ) and incite the mob to intimidate the joint session of Congress and the vice president into overturning the election.
Trump encouraged his followers to use threats and intimidation to force political acquiescence over democracy. All roads lead to Trump and his henchmen. It's clear that there were many enablers around him — as even those who resisted internally didn't publicly sound the alarm.
Threats testimony rings familiar for election workers. (4-min. video; APNews, June 22, 2022)
This week’s gripping testimony to Congress about threats to local election officials after the 2020 presidential election had a rapt audience far beyond Washington — secretaries of state and election clerks across the U.S who said the stories could easily have been their own. Death threats, harassment and unfounded accusations have driven local election officials from their jobs, unprecedented attacks that many say threaten not just themselves but American democracy itself.
Jan. 6th panel: Local ‘heroes’ rebuffed Trump, then faced threats. (APNews, June 21, 2022)
The House 1/6 committee heard chilling, tearful testimony Tuesday that Donald Trump’s relentless pressure to overturn the 2020 presidential election provoked widespread threats to the “backbone of our democracy”— election workers and local officials who fended off the defeated president’s demands despite personal risks. The high-profile pressure, described as potentially illegal, was fueled by the president’s false claims of voter fraud — which, the panel says, spread dangerously in the states and ultimately led directly to the deadly insurrection at the Capitol.
Jan. 6th Committee's 4th public hearing in Capitol Riot probe (YouTube, June 21, 2022)
The hearing (June 21st, 1-4PM ETZ) continues to illustrate "the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential Election".
[5th public hearing will begin 3PM, June 23. Watch here for access live; live or later on YouTube.]
Tuesday’s Jan. 6 Hearing Evidence Should Send Trump to Jail. (Medium, June 20, 2022)
Committee will hear from Republicans who denied Trump, faced death threats.
Benjamin Sledge: We Need to Talk About Guns, Mass Shootings, and War. (Medium, June 21, 2022)
We ignored our embrace of violence as fun, and mass shootings became commonplace.
[Coincidence, you say? I think not!]
Linus Torvalds: After 30 years, Linux is not a dead project. (VentureBeat, June 21, 2022)
Today, the Linux operating system is at the foundation of cloud, edge, embedded and internet of things (IoT) technologies that enable the operations of billions of devices. Linux is developed by an open community of contributors with new versions of the core, known as the Linux kernel, released every six to ten weeks. Each of those new major kernel updates are released by none other than Torvalds himself.
NEW: Bodies of the Titanic: Found and Lost Again (JSTOR Daily, June 21, 2022)
Decisions about which bodies to bury at sea were made largely according to the perceived economic class of the recovered victims, and those with third-class tickets were far more likely to be returned to the water.
And Then the Sea Glowed a Magnificent Milky Green. (Satellite photos; Hakai Magazine, June 21, 2022)
A chance encounter with a rare phenomenon called a milky sea connects a sailor and a scientist to explain the ocean’s ghostly glow.
Why must we humans insist on explaining everything? But as I learned more about what scientists believe might cause milky seas—about up-welling and natural flasks; about quorum sensing and the intentional, communal light made by trillions of bacteria—I realized that finding answers doesn’t necessarily correlate with diluting the wonder of such an event. If anything, it makes it that much more incredible.
Without understanding the world around us, we are all Captain Kingman, terrified by the sight of something we don’t recognize. Instead, we can be in awe of reality itself, knowing that whenever one question is answered, we’ve simply learned enough to ask a thousand more.
Here Comes the Sun—to End Civilization. (Wired, June 21, 2022)
Every so often, our star fires off a plasma bomb in a random direction. Our best hope the next time Earth is in the crosshairs? Capacitors.
Umair Haque: The Age of Extinction Is Here — Some of Us Just Don’t Know It Yet. (Medium June 21, 2022)
We are at the threshold of the Cataclysm. Some of us are now crossing over to the other side, of a different planet, one that’s going to become unlivable. This isn’t “going to happen” or “might happen,” it is actually happening now - in the Indian Subcontinent, where eagles are falling dead from the sky, where the streets are lined with dead things. Extinction. The Event. You can literally see it happening there.
They are the first ones through the Event Horizon, if you like — the lip of the black hole. They are canaries in the coal mine, my Indian and Pakistani and Bengali friends. They are on the other side, and are experiencing the world in the Event. And that world is coming for us all.
[Masses still ignore scientists, play "Let's Pretend".]
This year has been historically bad for wildfires, and there are still months to go. (New York Times, June 20, 2022)
Wildfires have burned the West for thousands of years, but they’ve become far more hazardous because of human activity.
People cause the vast majority of wildfires (about 96 percent so far this year), and people have also gone to great lengths to fight them, only to set the table for more fires. Paul Hessburg, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, explained that the nation’s well-intentioned strategy of suppressing fires over the past century has created an unnatural buildup of materials that act as kindling for wildfires: twigs, grasses, shrubs, trees, even houses.
Humans have also spent decades emitting planet-warming gases into the atmosphere, rapidly warming the climate and helping wildfires become hotter, bigger and faster.
[And vice versa.]
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.

Robert Reich: Why the January 6 committee is failing to slow Trump's attempted coup, and why the G.O.P. continues to slouch toward fascism. (Substack, June 20, 2022)
We fool ourselves if we believe that the televised hearings of the January 6 committee are changing the direction of the Republican Party, or that the hearings will end the attempted coup that Trump launched immediately after the 2020 election. The G.O.P. is becoming ever more divorced from reality. Trump’s attempted coup continues unabated.
The moments resonating from the Jan. 6 hearings (so far) (APNews, June 20, 2022)
[Lest we forget.]
Umair Haque: The Economy’s Crashing Because We’re an Industrial Civilization on a Dying Planet. (Eudaimonia and Co, June 19, 2022)
How bad will the economy get? You don’t want to know.
Mike Pence’s actions on Jan. 6 were wholly unremarkable – until they saved the nation. (The Conversation, June 17, 2022)
New revelations from the congressional committee investigating the events on and leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol show the crucial role then-Vice President Mike Pence played in thwarting the insurrection – and reveal the principles behind his actions.
The 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads “the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.” Under the Constitution, the vice president also serves as president of the Senate.
At the June 16 hearing, Judge J. Michael Luttig, a conservative political icon, and Greg Jacob, Pence’s counsel, asserted that the Constitution grants the vice president no authority to overturn or reject the electoral votes.
Pence himself has said “there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.” Every single vice president in U.S. history agreed. I am a historian of the U.S. presidency. No vice president has ever rejected officially certified electors, refused to count the votes or paused the official ceremony – not even when their own personal interests were at stake. Our mission is to share knowledge and inform decisions.
Indeed, in 2001, Vice President Al Gore proclaimed, “The choice between one’s own disappointment in your personal career and upholding the noble traditions of American democracy is an easy choice.” He then oversaw the process of counting electoral votes that delivered defeat to him in his campaign to win the presidency and victory to his opponent, George W. Bush.
And yet as the committee’s evidence has shown, Trump insisted Pence overturn the election. Trump fueled the rage of the mob marching toward the Capitol and he egged them on, even after he knew violence was possible. When the rioters chanted “hang Mike Pence,” Trump reportedly said Pence “deserves it.”
Pence barely escaped the mob’s wrath. New testimony shows that the rioters were just 40 feet from the vice president. But as rioters called for his execution and erected gallows outside the Capitol building, Pence refused to leave the Capitol complex. He didn’t want anyone to see the vice president fleeing the Capitol. That symbol would be too hard to forget. We still don’t have all the evidence, but it appears Pence also coordinated city and federal responses to the riot from the secure underground location where he took refuge. And once the mob had been driven out of the Capitol, Pence insisted on completing the ceremony in the early morning hours of Jan. 7.
Until December 2020, Pence had been unfailingly loyal. He had never publicly disagreed with Trump, regardless of the embarrassment or implications for his own future career.
Why did Pence draw such a visible line over the certification of the election? There appear to be two reasons: a clear sense of legality and a deep conviction about his place in history.
[Q: What does Trump's mob call a politician who votes with him 99% of the time?
 A: A traitor.
 "They hung him for a traitor, themselves the traitor crew..."]
EPA Issues New Drinking Water Health Advisories: See MA Impacts. (USA PFA-Contamination Interactive Map; Patch, June 17, 2022)
More than 150 Massachusetts cities and towns are identified as being at risk for "forever chemicals" in drinking water, the EPA said. The best thing people can do right now is to install one of several commercially available filters, but they need to make sure the filter removes PFAS.
[Yes, including Natick. Expand the global map for details.]
NEW: Kim Komando: How to see if anyone is using your Gmail, Facebook, or Netflix accounts. (USA Today, June 16, 2022)
There’s a new hack or scam around every corner. The sad thing is, you likely won’t realize someone has wormed their way into your digital life until it’s too late.
[Read this, before you wish you had done so!]
The Black Carbon Cost of Rocket Launches (Wired, June 16, 2022)
Researchers say that the rising number of space launches around the world will warm parts of the atmosphere and thin the ozone layer. If you keep raising black carbon in the atmosphere, you eventually hit nuclear winter conditions. Not yet, but the sensitivity is very large. Rockets are like taking a scalpel to the atmosphere, and nuclear weapons and meteor impacts are like taking a sledgehammer to it.
Government agencies like NASA haven’t heeded these concerns much until recently. Rockets present a challenge for them, because not only are they supposed to be protecting the ozone layer and understanding it, they’re also supposed to be advancing space launches.
It’s Time to Burn Medical Consent Forms. (Wired, June 16, 2022)
Attempts at reform have not gone far enough. The problem isn’t the documents—it’s how to frame consent in the new health ecosystem.
MA Town-By-Town COVID-19: Case Rates Down In 86% Of Communities. (Patch, June 16, 2022)
The COVID-19 hospitalization rate also dropped about 26 percent over the last two weeks in Massachusetts.
[Including Natick and all nearby towns. Enlarge the map for details.]
Clarence and Ginni Thomas: The GOP’s Bonnie and Clyde (Medium, June 16, 2022)
It must be perfectly normal for the wife of a sitting Supreme Court justice to help plot a coup.
Why Hasn’t Trump Been Indicted? (Medium, June 16, 2022)
Fear that Republicans will reciprocate by impeaching Biden in 2023 is naïve.
Donald Trump believes he is above the law, and since he remains unindicted almost 17 months after leaving office, maybe he is. Despite solid evidence that the former president has violated laws, cheated people, lied under oath, engaged in blatant grift, and more for decades, he has yet to face criminal prosecution. Now that Trump’s involvement in the January 6 insurrection is being documented, will the Department of Justice finally act? Don’t count on it.
Trump Sycophants Advanced a Coup Plot They Knew Was Illegal. (Mother Jones, June 16, 2022)
Eastman, Giuliani, and others helped push the president’s unlawful scheme, testimony shows.
4 takeaways from the Jan. 6 committee’s hearing on Pence (Washington Post, June 16, 2022)
The committee drilled down on whether the plotters knew their efforts were illegal — and Pence and a top ally put a fine point on how dangerous it all was.
Jan. 6th Committee's 3rd public hearing in Capitol Riot probe (YouTube, June 16, 2022)
The hearing (June 16th, 1-4PM ETZ) continues to illustrate "the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential Election".
[4th public hearing will begin 1PM, June 21. Watch here for access live; live or later on YouTube.
5th public hearing will begin 1PM, June 23. Watch here for access live; live or later on YouTube.]
‘Detached From Reality’ Is Trump’s Best Defense at This Point. (Politico, June 15, 2022)
Refusing to acknowledge the truth about the 2020 election seems crazy and that is why prosecutors might have a hard time proving Trump knowingly committed fraud.
Ginni Thomas corresponded with John Eastman, sources in Jan. 6 House investigation say. (2-min. and 4-min. videos; Washington Post, June 15, 2022)
Select Committee Renews Request for Information from Representative Loudermilk. (Jan. 6th Committee, June 15, 2022)
Chairman Thompson wrote, "On May 19, 2022, the Select Committee invited you to meet with us about evidence of a tour you provided on January 5, 2021. Based on our review of surveillance video, social media activity, and witness accounts, we understand you led a tour group through parts of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021. That group stayed for several hours, despite the complex being closed to the public on that day. Surveillance footage shows a tour of approximately ten individuals led by you to areas in the Rayburn, Longworth, and Cannon House Office Buildings, as well as the entrances to tunnels leading to the U.S. Capitol." Chairman Thompson continued, "Individuals on the tour photographed and recorded areas of the complex not typically of interest to tourists, including hallways, staircases, and security checkpoints."
[Is this related to the postponement of today's public hearing?]
FTA Ordered Boston's MBTA To Take 'Immediate Action' On Safety Issues. (Boston Patch, June 15, 2022)
Citing recent injuries and death, the Federal Transit Agency has ordered a series of special directives to improve safety within the MBTA.
Thom Hartmann: How Much Money is Worth Killing 212,000 Americans in a Single Year? (Medium, June 15, 2022)
Monday, Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Lindsey Graham had a debate on Fox Nation. Sanders asked: “In the United States, Lindsey, we spend twice as much per capita on health care compared to the people of any other country, while major countries like Canada, the U.K., Germany manage to supply health care to all their people. Why is that?”
The simple answer is the same reason we have an ongoing climate crisis and a student loan crisis that Republicans refuse to let Congress address: the legal bribery of politicians like Lindsey Graham.
How much money would it take to bribe you to help kill 212,000 Americans in a single year? What size incentive would cause you to assist in the theft of $543.6 billion? It’s a serious question. These are real numbers. The bribery is real, the deaths are real, the thefts from the American people — most extracted from individual families — are real.
[And whose money did those corporations and politicians repurpose for those bribes that they defend? In a few simple steps, yours and mine. Further details here: "Despite spending more on healthcare than any other country, both overall and on a per capita basis, the United States does not provide universal healthcare, resulting in preventable deaths and excessive costs. In 2019, prior to the emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), over 28 million adults were uninsured, an increase of 2.2 million from 2016."]
EPA warns that even tiny amounts of chemicals found in drinking water pose risks. (NPR, June 15, 2022)
The EPA on Wednesday issued nonbinding health advisories that set health risk thresholds for PFOA and PFOS to near zero, replacing 2016 guidelines that had set them at 70 parts per trillion. The chemicals are found in products including cardboard packaging, carpets and firefighting foam, and are associated with cancer and reduced birth weight. The compounds are part of a larger cluster of "forever chemicals" known as PFAS that have been used in consumer products and industry since the 1940s.
At the same time, the agency is inviting states and territories to apply for $1 billion under the new bipartisan infrastructure law to address PFAS and other contaminants in drinking water. Money can be used for technical assistance, water quality testing, contractor training and installation of centralized treatment.
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 immunocompromised. Immunocompromised 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.]
NEW: The Sexist Pseudoscience at the Heart of Biology (Wired, June 14, 2022)
For centuries, zoological law taught that sexual inequality was inevitable. Then women began studying Darwin for themselves.
5 things to know about the Fed’s biggest interest rate increase since 1994 and how it will affect you (The Conversation, June 14, 2022)
The Federal Reserve on June 15, 2022, lifted interest rates by 0.75 percentage point, the third hike this year and the largest since 1994. The move is aimed at countering the fastest pace of inflation in over 40 years.
Wall Street had been expecting a half-point increase, but the latest consumer prices report released on June 10 prompted the Fed to take a more drastic measure. The big risk, however, is that higher rates will push the economy into a recession, a fear aptly expressed by the recent plunge in the S&P 500 stock index, which is down over 20% from its peak in January, making it a “bear market.”
GM’s Mary Barra And Other CEOs Ask Congress To Lift EV Tax Credit Cap. (GM Authority, June 14, 2022)
The CEOs of several major automakers, including GM CEO Mary Barra, recently signed a joint letter urging Congress to lift the EV tax credit cap.
According to a recent report from Reuters, the joint letter was signed by the CEOs of the Big Three Detroit automakers (GM, Ford, and Chrysler-parent Stellantis), as well as Toyota North America. In addition to GM CEO Barra, this includes Jim Farley (Ford), Carlos Tavares (Stellantis), and Tetsuo Ogawa (Toyota North America). The automakers indicated that they have pledged to invest more than $170 billion through 2030 towards the development of electric vehicle technology, production, and sales.
As it stands, the current $7,500 tax credit is phased out once the manufacturer reaches 200,000 EV units sold. GM has already hit the cap, and is therefore ineligible for further consumer tax credits. Tesla has also hit the cap. Toyota expects its EV credits to expire by the end of the year, while Ford is on track to hit the cap by the end of 2022. The automakers cite recent economic pressures and supply chain constraints as increasing manufacturing costs, thus raising prices for consumers. “We ask that the per-(automaker) cap be removed, with a sunset date set for a time when the EV market is more mature,” the automakers state in the letter to Congress. There are growing concerns that an extension to the EV tax credit may not be possible in the future with Republicans poised to possibly retake control of one or both houses of Congress next year.
NEW: Record-Breaking Moments That Blew Our Meteorologists' Minds in 2021 (1-min. video, many extreme-weather maps; The Weather Channel, June 14, 2022)
All-time United States weather records were set for a wide range of extreme weather in 2021, covering everything from temperatures parts of the country have never seen before to astonishing rainfall totals and a hurricane that gave us déjà vu.
[When will homo unsapiens seriously address global warming, and the population explosion that drives it?]
Some of Trump's nuttiest election lies were around voting machines. (Washington Post, June 14, 2022)
The master narrative of yesterday’s Jan. 6 hearing was that former president Donald Trump’s 2020 election lies helped prod the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and are continuing to press politics in a dangerous direction. Even some Trump campaign and administration officials didn’t buy his baseless attacks, which have riven the nation for nearly two years now. Those officials watched with alarm and dismay after the election as the president embraced easily disprovable conspiracy theories and ignored evidence, according to video testimony. Some of Trumps most unbelievable claims were around voting machines.
[Unfettered capitalism first, ignore the issues? Its fascinating Comments thread shows no awareness of global warming or the fact that the urgent need to convert MOST to non-ICE vehicles has been failing. And it says Chevy EVs cost $70K; some may, but the action is to shift most drivers to inexpensive and excellent EVs like our $26.5K-new Chevy Bolt EV.]
How Do Narcissists Feel When You Aren’t Triggered by Their Hurtful Behavior? (Medium, June 14, 2022)
Confusion, desperation, and fury drive these 6 reactions.
Umair Haque: The Jan 6th Committee Is Building the Case Against Trump — And It’s Devastating. (Eudaimonia and Co., June 14, 2022)
Did you watch the J6 Committee Hearings yesterday? You should have. Because they went from explosive — to sealing their place in history. Trump’s lieutenants are ratting him out for the greatest crime in American history.
The 1/6 Committee’s Biggest Challenge: Assessing Whether Trump Is Bonkers. (Mother Jones, June 13, 2022)
Does he really believe his Big Lie? Or is it just a big grift? Detached from reality—that’s a frightening prospect regarding a person who controls a nuclear arsenal. This is a matter that warrants attention, especially since Trump may seek the presidency again. Is it possible that Trump believed his own BS? That he couldn’t accept his loss and embraced a falsehood as true? Or was his promotion of this lie a cynical stance that he adopted only as a tactic to whip up his base, undermine the political system, and retain power?
Trump produced an unprecedented flood of lies and false statements during his presidency—over 30,000, according to the Washington Post. Trump cannot cite any confirmed evidence of fraud, yet he has unwaveringly insisted dark sinister forces stole a grand electoral landslide from him. Is this because he cannot recognize reality, or because he doesn’t want to recognize reality for assorted transactional purposes?
In any event, there is a fundamental truth that transcends resolution of this issue: Whether or not Trump believes in his Big Lie, he has successfully encouraged millions of Americans to do so, and that includes the thousands who assaulted the Capitol on January 6. In either case, Trump is a threat to the republic.
[Another excellent analysis.]Jimmy Kimmel: Trump and Drunk Giuliani Cause an Insurrection & Putin’s Got a Poop Suitcase! (13-min. video; YouTube, June 13, 2022)
"How did Rudy ever become a lawyer when he clearly never passes a bar?"
"To be fair, if I was Rudy, I would be drunk all the time too..."
Robert Reich: Today's hearings: What did Trump know and when did he know it? (Substack, June 13, 2022)
There is no doubt that Trump knew he had lost and that his claims of fraud were absurd. He knew on the night of the election or soon thereafter. The truth didn’t stop him. He viewed the truth as he always has. If it doesn’t help him, it’s an obstacle to be surmounted at any cost.
I hope all Republican lawmakers in America who have sold their soul to Trump in order to hold or gain power watched this hearing. And I hope they feel the shame and humiliation that their constitutional oath demands they feel. They also knew the truth. They chose to ignore it.
It cannot be best for the nation to put Trump’s attempted coup behind us. Unless Trump is held accountable, it will surely be repeated.
[From its Comments thread: "In 2016, Trump was asked if there would be a peaceful transition. People were already getting the measure of this dude. His answer was, 'Peaceful, if I win.'"]
Jan. 6th Committee's 2nd public hearing in Capitol Riot probe. (YouTube, June 13, 2022)
The hearing (June 13th, 10:47-12:50AM ETZ) continues to illustrate "the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential Election".
3rd public hearing will begin 1PM, June 16. Watch here for access live; live or later on YouTube.
NEW: The Surreal Case of a C.I.A. Hacker’s Revenge (New Yorker Magazine, June 13, 2022 issue)
A hot-headed coder is accused of exposing the agency’s hacking arsenal. Did he betray his country because he was pissed off at his colleagues?
HelloXD ransomware bulked up with better encryption, nastier payload. (The Register, June 13, 2022)
Russian-based group doubles the extortion by exfiltrating the corporate data before encrypting it.
How Ukraine Is Winning the Propaganda War (Wired, June 13, 2022)
As the Russian siege drags on, Ukraine's media campaign has shifted from glorified myths to accounts of everyday bravery.
NEW: Here We Downsize Again – Spring 2022, Part 2 (including Part 1; Consumer World, June 13, 2022)
Downsizing/Shrinkflation: Here are products that have shrunken in size as a sneaky way for manufacturers to pass on a hidden price increase.
Real Telekinesis: Chinese Scientists Advance Toward Moving Things With Our Thoughts. (SciTechDaily, June 12, 2022)
When you think of telekinesis, using your mind to move objects at a distance, you think of pure fiction. However, scientists actually are working on it and, for some of them, the key technology is something called metamaterials.
Metamaterials have attracted extensive attention from many fields due to their extraordinary physical properties. They have provided researchers with a new concept of designing artificial materials, bringing vigor and vitality to advanced functional materials. As the two-dimensional counterpart to metamaterials, metasurfaces have unprecedented freedom in manipulating Electromagnetic (EM) waves.
Through on-site programming, programmable metasurfaces (PMs) with multiple or switchable functions can be realized and further integrated with sensors or driven by pre-defined software. The self-adaptability significantly improves the response rate by removing human involvement. The switches among different functions on these PMs generally rely on manual operation. The fundamental framework is wire-connected, manually-controlled and non-real-time switched. Therefore, it is fascinating to construct an entire framework that can realize remote, wireless, real-time, mind-controlled functional metasurfaces.
["I think dinner is ready." Nice!]
Russia’s military potential is declining after defeats in Ukraine. (4-min. video; UATV, June 11, 2022)
The Russian army's rating in the world is rapidly declining. Former and current U.S. and NATO Defense Department officials claim that they overestimated its potential. The Kremlin has spent huge amounts of money on the military. However, the Russian military could not stand up to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Our correspondent found out why the enemy army failed to achieve lightning success in Ukraine.
NEW: How the Supreme Court's major climate case could change the course of Biden's presidency (USA Today, June 11, 2022)
Fifteen years ago, a divided Supreme Court ruled the federal government had the power to regulate carbon dioxide from car emissions – a decision hailed by environmentalists as a landmark win in the effort to curb climate change. But as the high court prepares to decide another major climate case in the coming days and resolve a controversy over water pollution this fall, the mood among environmental groups is more gloomy – and the sense of foreboding, experts say, is likely justified. That's not only because the Supreme Court is more conservative than it has been in decades – and perhaps more willing to reconsider precedent – but also because environmental rules are caught up in a broader fight over whether federal agencies may regulate businesses without explicit approval from Congress.
NEW: It’s time to end the use of ‘forever chemicals’ in firefighting ‘turnout gear’. (Environmental Working Group, June 11, 2022)
What happens if life-saving equipment also poisons your body? Ask a firefighter – it’s been happening to them for the past half-century.
Give this AI a few words of description and it produces a stunning image – but is it art? (AI images, and alternate AI programs; The Conversation, June 10, 2022)
It’s clear that DALL-E – while not without shortcomings – is leaps and bounds ahead of existing image generation technology. It raises immediate questions about how these technologies will change how art is made and consumed. It also raises questions about what it means to be creative when DALL-E 2 seems to automate so much of the creative process itself. You might be inclined to say there’s little artistic merit in an image produced by a few keystrokes. But in my view, this line of thinking echoes the classic take that photography cannot be art because a machine did all the work. Today the human authorship and craft involved in artistic photography are recognized, and critics understand that the best photography involves much more than just pushing a button.
[And, what fascinating links!]
Apple Just Wrecked 15+ Startups In Less Than 1 Hour. (Medium, June 10, 2022)
What would you do if Apple added a feature that made your startup obsolete?
[Switch to Linux.]
The Smile: A History (Aeon, June 10, 2022)
How our toothy modern smile was invented by a confluence of French dentistry and Parisian portrait-painting in the 1780s.
NEW: Central bank tightening, UK income squeeze and forecasting South Korean inflation with Indicio (with charts; MacroBond, June 10, 2022)
We start the week with a chart that shows how central banks globally are reacting to soaring inflation. It shows the change in the policy rate with the change in the inflation rate since the beginning of the year. As you can see, most central banks have started raising key lending rates as consumer prices climbed. The European Central Bank, Bank of Japan and Swiss National Bank are the notable exceptions so far – though the ECB may start some timid rate hikes this summer.
President Biden just declared heat pumps and solar panels essential to national defense – here’s why and the challenges ahead. (The Conversation, June 10, 2022)
President Joe Biden authorized using the Defense Production Act to ramp up their production in the U.S., along with insulation and power grid components.
As an environmental engineering professor, I agree that these technologies are essential to mitigating our risks from climate change and over-reliance on fossil fuels. However, efforts to expand production capabilities must be accompanied by policies to stimulate demand if Biden hopes to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.
A better way to subsidize EVs? (ChevyBolt, June 10, 2022)
[Interesting debate in its Comments thread, as well:
"A better way to subsidize EV's is to take away all fossil fuel and BEV subsidies."
"Personally, I think propping up an industry is wrong-way thinking. Norway primarily taxed the ### out of ICE, and gave some temporary relief to EV buyers. I'm not sure which was the most effective, but combined they have made ICE nearly obsolete. Any attempt to only address the EV side is missing a huge opportunity to offset the cost of subsidizing ICE. It wouldn't be difficult to defend an ICE tax given the amount of public money spent on clean air programs. Simply shift funding for these programs to new taxes on ICE and it wouldn't take much on the EV side to attract buyers. That includes oil subsidies." Etc.]
How Tesla Is the Fake Meat of Cars (June 10, 2022)
Just as the rise of techy meat substitutes have so far failed to dent the US appetite for meat—currently near all-time highs—Musk’s successes don’t seem capable of stemming the mounting environmental wreckage of the Anthropocene. Maybe striving to build the “Tesla of meat”—or of anything—was always a wrong turn. Or at best it was a supplement to, but not a replacement for, the real political work of reining in the abuses of our lightly regulated, powerful meat and fossil fuel industries.
'Consciousness of guilt': Former Tea Party lawmaker Joe Walsh slams GOP colleagues who sought Trump pardons. (Raw Story, June 10, 2022)
"They knew they did wrong," he said. "Consciousness of guilt, these Republican Congressmen... knew that what they were doing for Donald Trump was wrong and it's just -- it also reminded me last night that everybody around Trump kind of knew that this was all B.S. It was all bogus. He lost. That was the other startling thing. Perry and the rest of my former colleagues, I think they all knew that as well but they all went -- they all went along with it."
I Was Wrong, Thursday’s Jan. 6 Hearing Did Move the Needle. (Medium, June 10, 2022)
New damning information spurs demand for indictments.
Thom Hartmann: Trump's Sedition: George Washington Warned Us In 1796. (Hartmann Report, June 10, 2022)
Sedition is the word for what we call, during times of war, treason. Trump and his Republican and media allies are in it up to their necks.

I have said that any man who attempted by force or unparliamentary disorder to obstruct or interfere with the lawful count of the electoral vote should be lashed to the muzzle of a twelve-pounder gun and fired out of a window. —General Winfield Scott, 1861

Democrats, Republicans, and members of other political parties have, for two-and-a-half centuries, disagreed about things but kept that disagreement respectful and tried to deal with issues and disputes in an open and honest fashion.
That all came to an end with the Reagan revolution, because the Supreme Court legalized political bribery and it became “normal“ in America for politicians to put their loyalty to their donors and their donors’ industries and causes above the interests of our nation and its people. In service of their overlords, Republicans have frozen Congress and forward movement for forty years now. It’s gotten so bad we can’t even deal with the ongoing slaughter of our own children or the climate change threat to all life on Earth.
We now have entire media organizations devoted to alienating one portion of the country from another and enfeebling the sacred ties that once bound America into a single, united nation.
[Trump, according to George Washington and/or Alexander Hamilton. Another must-read!]
Trump takes to "Truth Social" to fire back at Jan. 6 Committee. (The Hill, June 10, 2022)
Former President Trump late on Thursday took to his Truth Social platform to condemn the House Jan. 6 Committee’s prime-time public hearing. “So the Unselect Committee of political HACKS refuses to play any of the many positive witnesses and statements, refuses to talk of the Election Fraud and Irregularities that took place on a massive scale,” Trump wrote in a post. “Our Country is in such trouble!”
Trump had also publicly denounced the hearing earlier in the day, before the event began, through a statement from his Save America PAC, describing the 2021 Capitol riot as the “greatest movement” in the history of the U.S.
Umair Haque: A Coup. A Plan. A Conspiracy. The Day They Tried to Kill American Democracy (Medium, June 10, 2022)
The findings are every bit as bad as we “alarmists” said. It’s time for America to wake up to the awful truth.
'A Very Powerful Case': CNN legal expert says Jan. 6 committee off to a stunning start. (7-min. video; Raw Story, June 10, 2022)
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin praised the work that was presented so far, saying there is good reason to believe there is evidence of criminality in the Donald Trump White House.
[Excellent analysis.]
Jan. 6 panel lets Trump allies narrate the case against him. (video clips; Politico, June 10, 2022)
At the select committee's first hearing, members mostly took a back seat while airing the testimony from members of Donald Trump's inner circle.
Trump: "Maybe our supporters have the right idea. Mike Pence deserves it." (Mother Jones, June 10, 2022)
Of all the new evidence to emerge from the first night of the January 6 hearings, this quote appears to be the biggest. The one that, rather neatly, captures Donald Trump's support for the Capitol attack, as well as the seething vengeance that animates just about everything he's ever done in life.
Cheney: Trump Said Capitol Attackers “Were Doing What They Should Be Doing”. (Mother Jones, June 10, 2022)
Trump sided with rioters during the January 6 attack.
Pence team couldn't verify Trump campaign's election fraud claims, new memo shows. (Politico, June 10, 2022)
In a previously unseen memo obtained by Politico, the former vice president's legal team called most of the fraud allegations minor and unverifiable.
Jan. 6 hearings get underway Thursday evening. (Fox News, June 9-10, 2022)
The January 6th committee will detail the findings from its year-long bipartisan investigation of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 in a series of public, televised hearings starting Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.
[Unlike the major news channels, Fox News avoided live-TV coverage of the first public hearing, instead featuring conservative extremists Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. But online, Fox appears to have hedged its bet with this series of items by a few Fox reporters.]
The January 6 Committee’s Battle for Reality (Mother Jones, June 10, 2022)
A democracy is only as strong as its ability to recognize what threatens it. If a nation cannot comprehend the danger it faces, it is not in a position to adopt measures to protect itself. On Thursday night—in prime time!—the House committee investigating the January 6 riot tried to sound the alarm. Its opening hearing establishes a powerful narrative. But the fact that the committee needed to highlight the obvious—that the constitutional order was jeopardized by a president who schemed to overturn a free and fair election and who incited an insurrectionist attack on the US government—was itself a warning that this threat has not been fully or adequately addressed.
Nearly 20M watched Jan. 6 hearing: Nielsen. (The Hill, June 10, 2022)
Each of the major broadcast television news networks preempted their regularly scheduled programming on Thursday to show continuous live coverage of the two-hour hearings. Friday’s preliminary figures are likely to grow and do not include viewers who watched the hearing via streaming service online through YouTubeTV or other platforms.
Fox News took criticism this week for its decision not to air continuous live coverage of the hearings on its main cable channel. The network did not preempt its regularly scheduled opinion shows, featuring hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.
The Jan. 6 Committee's plan to prove Trump’s culpability. (Axios, June 9, 2022)
The Jan. 6 Committee hearing on Thursday promised to prove former President Trump was responsible for the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
Driving the news: “President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame,” Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said, before laying out a seven-point plan for how the panel will publicly show Trump tried to overturn the 2020 election and prevent the transition of power to President-elect Biden.
The last hearing, likely to be the most explosive, will center on Trump's specific actions as the violence was underway. Between the lines: It’s intentional that Cheney delivered the most damning evidence against the former president. The committee wants Americans to see not only a Republican, but the daughter of a former Republican vice president, detailing Trump's involvement and directly connecting him to the Capitol attack.
The Jan. 6 Committee plan is to argue the GOP's 7-step plan:

  1. Trump spread false information about the 2020 election.
  2. Trump tried to install loyalists at the DOJ so the department would "support his fake election claims."
  3. Trump pressured former Vice President Mike Pence to help overturn the election.
  4. Trump urged on state election officials and legislators to change the election results.
  5. Trump’s legal team "instructed Republicans in multiple states to create false electoral slates and transmit those slates to Congress and the National Archive."
  6. Trump summoned and assembled the mob in D.C. and directed them to march on the Capitol.
  7. Trump ignored pleas for assistance from his team and failed to take action to stop the violence.

NEW: January 6 Vice Chair Cheney said Trump had a 'Seven-Part Plan' to overturn the election. Here's what she meant. (2-min. video; CNN, June 9, 2022)
Jan. 6th Committee's first public hearing in Capitol Riot probe (YouTube, June 9, 2022)
The hearing (June 9, 8-10PM ETZ) will illustrate "the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential Election," the panel said.
[2nd public hearing will begin 10AM, June 13. Watch here for access live; live or later on YouTube.
3rd public hearing will begin 10AM, June 15. Watch here for access live; live or later on YouTube.]
Thom Hartmann: When Was Bribery of Politicians Legalized In America? (Medium, June 9, 2022)
Why don’t we have gun control? It’s because our Supreme Court, or, more correctly, five Republicans on our Supreme Court, legalized bribery.
Our modern era of legalized political bribery began in the decade after Richard Nixon put Lewis Powell — the tobacco lawyer who wrote the infamous 1971 “Powell Memo” outlining how billionaires and corporations could take over America — on the Supreme Court in 1972.
In the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, the Court ruled that political money wasn’t just cash: they claimed it’s also “free speech” protected by the First Amendment that guarantees your right to speak out on political issues.
In the 200 preceding years — all the way back to the American Revolution of 1776 — no politician or credible political scientist had ever proposed that giving money to a politician in exchange for favors or votes was anything other than simple bribery.
[Thom Hartmann gets to the heart of the matter.]
New video shows Ukraine destroy Russian rocket launcher with US-provided weapon. (4-min. video; CNN, June 9, 2022)
Ukrainian troops say weapons provided by the US are giving them an advantage because they are lighter and more precise than the ones used by Russia.
Russia says West risks ‘direct military clash’ over cyberattacks. (4-min. video; NBC News, June 9, 2022)
Russia’s housing ministry website appeared to be hacked over the weekend, with an internet search for the site leading to a “Glory to Ukraine” sign.
Hackers Can Steal Your Tesla by Creating Their Own Personal Keys. (Wired, June 9, 2022)
A researcher found that a recent update lets anyone enroll their own key during the 130-second interval after the car is unlocked with an NFC card.
NEW: Artificial neural networks are making strides towards consciousness. (The Economist, June 9th, 2022)
A Google engineer explains why: In 2013 I joined Google Research to work on artificial intelligence (AI). Following decades of slow progress, neural networks were developing at speed. In the years since, my team has used them to help develop features on Pixel phones for specific “narrow ai” functions, such as face unlocking, image recognition, speech recognition and language translation. More recent developments, though, seem qualitatively different. This suggests that AI is entering a new era.
Over the past 2m years the human lineage has undergone an “intelligence explosion”, marked by a rapidly growing skull and increasingly sophisticated tool use, language and culture. According to the social brain hypothesis, advanced by Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist, in the late 1980s, (one theory concerning the biological origin of intelligence among many) this did not emerge from the intellectual demands of survival in an inhospitable world. After all, plenty of other animals did fine with small brains. Rather, the intelligence explosion came from competition to model the most complex entities in the known universe: other people.
Humans’ ability to get inside someone else’s head and understand what they perceive, think and feel is among our species’s greatest achievements. It allows us to empathise with others, predict their behaviour and influence their actions without threat of force. Applying the same modelling capability to oneself enables introspection, rationalisation of our actions and planning for the future. This capacity to produce a stable, psychological model of self is also widely understood to be at the core of the phenomenon we call “consciousness”. In this view, consciousness isn’t a mysterious ghost in the machine, but merely the word we use to describe what it’s “like” to model ourselves and others. When we model others who are modelling us in turn, we must carry out the procedure to higher orders: what do they think we think? What might they imagine a mutual friend thinks about me? Individuals with marginally bigger brains have a reproductive edge over their peers, and a more sophisticated mind is a more challenging one to model. One can see how this might lead to exponential brain growth.
Sequence modellers like LaMDA learn from human language, including dialogues and stories involving multiple characters. Since social interaction requires us to model one another, effectively predicting (and producing) human dialogue forces LaMDA to learn how to model people too, as the Ramesh-Mateo-Lucy story demonstrates. What makes that exchange impressive is not the mere understanding that a dandelion is a yellow flower, or even the prediction that it will get crushed in Mateo’s fist and no longer be lovely, but that this may make Lucy feel slighted, and why Ramesh might be pleased by that. In our conversation, LaMDA tells me what it believes Ramesh felt that Lucy learned about what Mateo thought about Lucy’s overture. This is high order social modelling. I find these results exciting and encouraging, not least because they illustrate the pro-social nature of intelligence.
[About the above article, and published a week later: "Former Google Ethical AI team co-lead Timnit Gebru says Blake Lemoine is a victim of an insatiable hype cycle; he didn’t arrive at his belief in sentient AI in a vacuum. Press, researchers, and venture capitalists traffic in hyped-up claims about super intelligence or humanlike cognition in machines. 'He’s the one who’s going to face consequences, but it’s the leaders of this field who created this entire moment,' she says, noting that the same Google VP that rejected Lemoine’s internal claim wrote about the prospect of LaMDA consciousness in The Economist."
Methinks the lady doth protest too much. Lemoine didn't say LaMDA already SEEMS sentient; he said it's time for open study and discussion before they BECOME sentient. What's more, the very same... Timnit Gebru was fired by Google in December 2020 after a dispute over a paper involving the dangers of large language models like LaMDA. Gebru’s research highlighted those systems’ ability to repeat things based on what they’ve been exposed to, in much the same way a parrot repeats words. The paper also highlights the risk of language models made with more and more data convincing people that this mimicry represents real progress: the exact sort of trap that Lemoine appears to have fallen into. Now head of the nonprofit Distributed AI Research, Gebru hopes that going forward people focus on human welfare, not robot rights. Other AI ethicists have said that they’ll no longer discuss conscious or superintelligent AI at all.]
Newly discovered fast radio burst challenges what astronomers know about these powerful astronomical phenomena. (The Conversation, June 9, 2022)
Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are extremely bright pulses of radio waves that come from faraway galaxies. They release as much energy in a millisecond as the Sun does over many days. Researchers here at West Virginia University detected the first FRB back in 2007. In the past 15 years, astronomers have detected around 800 FRBs, with more being discovered every day.
The new FRB my colleagues and I discovered is named FRB190520. An immediately apparent interesting thing about FRB190520 was that it is one of the only 24 repeating FRBs and repeats much more frequently than others – producing 75 bursts over a span of six months in 2020.
Our team then pinpointed the location of its source – a dwarf galaxy roughly 3 billion light years from Earth. It was then that we started to realize how truly unique and important this FRB is.
First, we found that there is a persistent, though much fainter, radio signal being emitted by something from the same place that FRB190520 came from. Of the more than 800 FRBs discovered to date, only one other has a similar persistent radio signal.
Second, since we were able to pinpoint that the FRB came from a dwarf galaxy, we were able to determine exactly how far away that galaxy is from Earth. But this result didn’t make sense. Much to our surprise, the distance estimate we made using the dispersion of the FRB was 30 billion light years from Earth, a distance 10 times larger than the actual 3 billion light years to the galaxy. This new FRB shows that estimates using dispersion can sometimes be incorrect and throws many assumptions out the window.
Our new discovery raises specific questions, including whether persistent radio signals are common, what conditions produce them and whether the same phenomenon that produces FRBs is responsible for emitting the persistent radio signal. My colleagues are going to focus in on studying FRB190520 using a host of different telescopes around the world. By studying the FRB, its galaxy and the space environment surrounding its source, we are hoping to find answers to many of the mysteries it revealed.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: I love the Linux desktop, but that doesn't mean I don't see its problems all too well. (The Register, June 8, 2022)
Fragmentation has put paid to the dream of this OS ever being bigger than Windows.
Umair Haque: This Is Collapse — Some of Us Just Aren’t Paying Attention. (Medium, June 8, 2022)
Food, Water, Energy, Money. How Many Crises Can a Civilization Have? We’re Finding Out the Hard Way.
NEW: ‘Plastitar’ Is the Unholy Spawn of Oil Spills and Microplastics. (Wired, June 8, 2022)
On the beautiful beaches of the Canary Islands, scientists discovered a noxious new pollutant: tar mixed with tiny bits of plastic.
NEW: Pregnancy Has Risks. Without Roe, More People Will Face Them. (Wired, June 8, 2022)
The national abortion debate has focused on its legal and political dimensions. But that ignores the physiology of pregnancy.
Understanding monkeypox (New York Times, June 8, 2022)
Monkeypox looks like it’s been circulating for quite a while, and it will continue to do so for quite a while longer. The big question is whether monkeypox will find a permanent home in animals in the U.S. It’s endemic in about 10 countries in Africa because it’s in the wild animals there. So if monkeypox becomes endemic in animals in North America or Europe, we’re looking at a similar situation where we will probably have ongoing small outbreaks and cases every year — forever.

NEW: Trump hits another snag: 6 takeaways from a big primary night. (Politico, June 8, 2022)
Two weeks after Donald Trump was humiliated in Georgia’s primaries, a lower-profile collection of Republicans on Tuesday were putting a finer point on the limitations of Trump’s influence over the GOP. It’s still enormous, of course. But five of the 35 House Republicans who voted to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol appeared on ballots on Tuesday. And all of them appear to have survived to fight another day.
As for what Tuesday said about Trump’s influence on the party, Bob Heckman, a Republican consultant who has worked on nine presidential campaigns, said, “I think the jury’s out now, and it wasn’t before. If I were a candidate, I’d certainly rather have Trump’s endorsement than opposing me, but there’s a lot of other factors beyond that. Before, it was perceived to be a done deal that Trump could kill you, and now it’s not so clear.”
Jared and Ivanka Knew Trump Was a Loser. But Don’t Believe This Rehab Job. (Mother Jones, June 8, 2022)
How is the New York Times still doing the couple’s dirty laundry?
Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearing on the rise of domestic terrorism. (69-min. video; The Hill, June 7, 2022)
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday is slated to hold a hearing to address the rise in domestic terrorism in the wake of multiple mass shootings over the last month.
NEW: There’s Almost Nothing In Life A Day On Massachussetts’ Lake Cochituate Can’t Cure. (Only In Your State, June 7, 2022)
At Cochituate State Park, there are plenty of recreational activities you can partake in. How about hiking one of the park's trails or fishing or swimming in the lake? If you would rather be on the water, you can always hop aboard a boat and explore the lake that way. Only non-motorized boats are allowed at Cochituate Lake, so you are guaranteed some peace and quiet.
[We live there. One (Snake Brook) trail. Plenty of motorized boats - and water-skiing in the South Pond of Lake Cochituate. (Lake Cochituate is a chain of ponds.)]
NEW: Doctors are left stunned after cancer 'disappears' for EVERY patient in drug trial - raising hopes treatment is 'tip of the iceberg' and can be used to help people fighting other forms of the disease. (Daily Mail/UK, June 6, 2022)
- Clinical trial of dostarlimab cured 18 patients in the US of colorectal cancer.
- One researcher said that it was the 'first time this has happened' in a cancer trial.
- It is still too early to declare the drug a cancer cure because the trial was small.
- Doctors are expanding trial for gastric, prostate and pancreatic cancer patients.
A Long-Awaited Defense Against Data Leaks May Have Just Arrived. (Wired, June 7, 2022)
MongoDB claims its new “Queryable Encryption” lets users search their databases while sensitive data stays encrypted. Oh, and its cryptography is open source.
US: Chinese govt. hackers breached telcos to snoop on network traffic. (Bleeping Computer, June 7, 2022)
Several US federal agencies today revealed that Chinese-backed threat actors have targeted and compromised major telecommunications companies and network service providers to steal credentials and harvest data. As the NSA, CISA, and the FBI said in a joint cybersecurity advisory published on Tuesday, Chinese hacking groups have exploited publicly known vulnerabilities to breach anything from unpatched small office/home office (SOHO) routers to medium and even large enterprise networks. Once compromised, the threat actors used the devices as part of their own attack infrastructure as command-and-control servers and proxy systems they could use to breach more networks.
NEW: The Geek Squad Phishing Scam is Costing People Lots of Money. (DLC Technology, June 6, 2022)
Phishing scams are emails and messages sent that are designed to extort money and gain access to computers and networks for nefarious purposes. The popular IT support company Geek Squad, a subsidiary of Best Buy, is the latest company caught up in such a scam. Let’s take a look at how the scam works and how you can avoid becoming its next victim.
AlphaBay Is Taking Over the Dark Web—Again. (Wired, June 6, 2022)
Five years after it was torn offline, the resurrected dark web marketplace is clawing its way back to the top of the online underworld.
NEW: Car Color and Its Effect on Value. (ISeeCars,
June 6, 2022)
Which colors help/hurt a car's resale value?
D-Day by the numbers: Here's what it took 78 years ago to pull off the biggest amphibious invasion in history. (Business Insider, June 6, 2022)
An unprecedented landing force of 132,715 Allied troops made landfall at five beaches in Normandy. The landings came at a heavy toll.
NEW: How a 15-year-old Ukrainian drone pilot helped destroy a Russian army column (3-min. video; Global News, June 6, 2022)
As Ukraine's forces keep battling Russia, some civilians are playing a pivotal role in repelling the enemy. Consumer drones in particular have become a crucial tool in the Ukraine war.
A $4.4 billion US destroyer was touted as one of the most advanced ships in the world. Take a look at the USS Zumwalt, which has since been called a 'failed ship concept.'
(Business Insider, June 6, 2022)
As a 2018 report from Military Watch Magazine noted the Zumwalts "suffered from poorly functioning weapons, stalling engines, and an underperformance in their stealth capabilities, among other shortcomings. They have almost entirely failed to fulfill the originally intended role of multipurpose destroyer warships, while the scale of cost overruns alone brings the viability of the program into question even if the destroyers were able to function as intended," the outlet said.
The Zumwalts lack several vital features, including anti-ship missiles, anti-submarine torpedoes, and long-range area-air defense missiles, the military expert Sebastian Roblin wrote in a 2021 National Interest article. Roblin called the destroyers an "ambitious but failed ship concept."
Change won’t appear overnight in many states if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. (The Conversation, June 3, 2022)
The Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade in 1973, establishing that women have a right to get an abortion before a fetus could survive outside of its mother’s womb – typically around 24 weeks of pregnancy. After this time, states could choose to restrict abortion – as long as there were exceptions to preserve the life or health of a pregnant woman.
Now, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Mississippi law and overturns Roe v. Wade, states would regain power to regulate abortion. This would result in a new patchwork of state laws across the U.S. that would take time to be approved and implemented.
State legislatures may review old state abortion laws that predate Roe v. Wade, for example. State Supreme Courts could also review existing or new laws on abortion. There’s already been a growing gap on this issue across states. In 2018, many states began passing new laws to either make it harder or easier to get an abortion. Many states are now working to not entirely ban abortion, but rather to change the point at which someone can get an abortion during pregnancy. Currently, only three states – Alabama, Arkansas and South Dakota – plan to entirely ban abortions, with the exception of a medical emergency.
In over a dozen states, including Kentucky, a federal court blocked state laws in April 2022 that restricted when someone can get an abortion. But overturning Roe v. Wade could allow these laws to take effect, or could produce more legal battles to block the law or revise it.
An estimated 21 states, though, would continue to have few limitations on getting abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. There is also growing momentum for some states to make it easier to get an abortion, by allocating taxpayer funding for abortion services, for example, or mandating insurance coverage with no additional cost.
Eight states, including California, New York and Washington, have laws that guarantee the right to get an abortion. Seven states, including Colorado, Oregon and Vermont, have no limits on when a pregnant woman can get an abortion.
Peter Navarro, “Trump’s Looniest Economic Adviser,” Has Been Indicted. (Mother Jones, June 3, 2022)
The DOJ charged Navarro with contempt of Congress over his refusal to cooperate with the January 6 committee.
Paul Ryan just slammed Republicans who didn't vote to impeach Donald Trump. (CNN, June 3, 2022)
After the Jan. 6th Capitol Riot, then-U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (and prior Trump supporter) said: "It has been a week since so many were injured, the United States Capitol was ransacked, and six people were killed, including two police officers. Yet, the President has not addressed the nation to ask for calm. He has not visited the injured and grieving. He has not offered condolences. Yesterday in a press briefing at the border, he said his comments were 'perfectly appropriate.'"
This June 1st, in support of incumbent Republican Congressman Tom Rice, Ryan said: "There were a lot of people who wanted to vote like Tom but who just didn’t have the guts to do it. There are a lot of people who say they’re going to vote their conscience, they’re going to vote for the Constitution, they’re going to vote for their convictions; but when it gets hard to do that, they don’t do it."
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.
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.

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.
NEW: VoLTE: How to use it and why you should care (Android Central, June 2, 2022)
You're likely already using VoLTE every day. VoLTE, or Voice over LTE, is how our phones and carriers transmit our voices during a call, so there's good reason to know how to use it and why you should care. All of the major US carriers including AT&T, T-Mobile (including Sprint), U.S. Cellular, and Verizon, support VoLTE
, or what most of us call 4G.
However, some carriers refer to VoLTE as HD Voice for marketing reasons, as it points to its increased fidelity compared to a traditional cell call. Wi-Fi calling tech is nearly identical to HD Voice from the user's perspective in that it uses a Wi-Fi data connection to complete the call instead of LTE data. Carriers want their customers to use HD Voice if possible because even with the increased quality, these calls will cost carriers less in the long run.
Earlier in 2020, some AT&T customers were told that they needed to upgrade their phones to continue using the service. In fact, AT&T has already shut down its 3G network so affected customers should have already been upgraded to LTE-compatible devices. AT&T isn't the first carrier to drop support for older phones, and it certainly won't be the last.
T-Mobile has also taken its 3G network down in 2022, so customers more than likely have already been upgraded to VoLTE phones.
Report: Boston Could Have Three Months Of 90 Degree Weather By 2100. (Boston Patch, June 2, 2022)
Changes in weather and sea level could affect the quality of drinking water in Massachusetts, as well as the state's winter sports industry. 90-degree weather days could increase from 8-10 days to 3 months per year. In seaside communities, sea level could rise as much as 16 feet. Here is the 142-page report.
[Is anybody listening? "Boston Skyscraper for sale, cheap; has wharf on third floor."]
Woman receives 3D-printed ear made from her own cells. (The Verge,
June 2, 2022)
It’s the first clinical trial of the technology.
‘Masked’ cancer drug stealthily trains immune system to kill tumors while sparing healthy tissues, reducing treatment side effects. (5-min. video, and others; The Conversation, June 1, 2022)
Cytokines are proteins that can modulate how the immune system responds to threats. One way they do this is by activating killer T cells, a type of white blood cells that can attack cancer cells. Because cytokines can train the immune system to kill tumors, this makes them very promising as cancer treatments. One such cytokine is interleukin-12, or IL-12.
Though it was discovered more than 30 years ago, IL-12 still isn’t an FDA-approved therapy for cancer patients because of its severe side effects, such as liver damage. This is in part because IL-12 instructs immune cells to produce a large amount of inflammatory molecules that can damage the body.
Scientists have since been working to re-engineer IL-12 to be more tolerable while retaining its powerful cancer-killing effects.
Gas Prices Rise To Record Highs In Massachusetts Overnight. (Natick Patch,
June 1, 2022)
The week of Memorial Day is always one where gas prices rise - but those numbers could grow even higher in the following weeks. Massachusetts' average gas price as of Wednesday, June 1, sits at $4.76 per gallon, surpassing the national average of $4.67, according to the American Automobile Association. Mid-grade gas is averaging around $5.09, with $5.35 for premium and $6.25 for diesel across the Bay State.
At an average of $4.76, that number is the highest ever recorded in Massachusetts, according to AAA. Quite the jump from the average price of a gallon of gas last year, where the average for Massachusetts was $2.92.
Political scientist Kirill Rogov on why Russia’s invasion of Ukraine isn’t just ‘Putin’s war’ (Meduza, June 1, 2022)
It will take a lot of time and research to answer the question of what led to Russia’s monstrous war against Ukraine. After Moscow launched its full-scale invasion on February 24, the notion quickly spread around the world that this was “Putin’s war” and that he personally made the decision to invade. In this essay for Meduza’s “Ideas” section, political scientist Kirill Rogov breaks down why this reasoning is more of a convenient pretense than a real explanation of how Russia reached this point.
Zero-day security hole in Word, Microsoft very slow to act. (Office-Watch, June 1, 2022)
A large security risk has appeared in Microsoft Word, a zero-day security problem which can infect even fully updated Word. Microsoft has taken at least 14 months and still hasn’t fixed the security hole. It’s a relatively simple hack which takes advantage of gaps in Word, Windows and the Microsoft Support Diagnostic Tool (MSDT).

There are many security problems that Microsoft needs to address.
Microsoft has known about this Follina bug for over a year, allowing time for criminals to exploit their security lapse at least since April, mostly in Russia, India and later China.
Until Microsoft pulls their proverbial finger out, all customers can do is be careful:
- Be wary of previewing RTF files in either Explorer or Outlook.
- Instead open the documents in Word, making sure protected mode is enabled.
- As ever, be wary of incoming documents from any source but especially unusual or unexpected docs.
On May 30, 2022, Microsoft finally acknowledged the problem and released what it calls a ‘mitigation’. Like many of its quick fixes, there’s a downside. The fix removes the association which allows ms-msdt: links to work, opening the Diagnostic Tool. It can only be a temporary fix because other systems rely on that type of link.
Microsoft has handled this vulnerability very badly.
Microsoft should have known about the possibility of intrusion via the ms-msdt: links since August 2020! In stark contrast to its big talk about security, its actions have been slow, incomplete and self-serving. As usual, Microsoft's focus is more on immediate sales numbers than customer security.
Have we mentioned Linux? Psst, it's FREE!]
Extreme drought could cost California half its hydroelectric power this summer. (The Verge,
June 1, 2022)
Nearly 60 percent of the state is experiencing ‘extreme’ drought or worse.
50 years of UN environmental diplomacy: What’s worked, and the trends ahead (27-min. 1972 video; The Conversation, May 31, 2022)
In 1972, acid rain was destroying trees. Birds were dying from DDT poisoning, and countries were contending with oil spills, contamination from nuclear weapons testing and the environmental harm of the Vietnam War. Air pollution was crossing borders and harming neighboring countries.
At Sweden’s urging, the United Nations brought together representatives from countries around the world to find solutions. That summit – the U.N. Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm 50 years ago on June 5-16, 1972 – marked the first global effort to treat the environment as a worldwide policy issue and define the core principles for its management.
EU leaders agree on Russian oil embargo. (Politico, May 31, 2022)
Package includes exemptions to placate Hungary and other countries worried about domestic impact. The leaders’ agreement will effectively cut around 90% of oil imports from Russia to the EU by the end of the year.
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.
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.
Dyson Is Secretly Building Robots to Perform Your Most Dreaded Household Chores. (Popular Mechanics, May 31, 2022)
Going a step beyond the vacuum, Dyson wants to give your household tasks a robotic helping hand.
‘Thinkwashing’ Keeps People From Taking Action in Times of Crisis. (Wired,
May 31, 2022)
When it comes to issues like climate change, too many let the perfect become the enemy of the good, while the world burns.
Windows MSDT zero-day now exploited by Chinese APT hackers. (Bleeping Computer, May 31, 2022)
The TA413 APT group, a hacking outfit linked to Chinese state interests, is actively exploiting a Microsoft Office zero-day vulnerability (known as Follina) to execute malicious code remotely on Windows systems belonging to its favorite target, the international Tibetan community.
Microsoft initially tagged the flaw as not a "security-related issue," however, it later closed the vulnerability submission report with a remote code execution impact. Described by Microsoft as a remote code execution flaw in the Microsoft Windows Support Diagnostic Tool (MSDT) and now tracked as CVE-2022-30190, it impacts all Windows client and server platforms still receiving security updates (Windows 7 or later and Windows Server 2008 or later).

Follina, new Microsoft Office zero-day malware, used in attacks to execute PowerShell. (Bleeping Computer, May 30, 2022)
Security researchers have discovered a new Microsoft Office zero-day vulnerability that is being used in attacks to execute malicious PowerShell commands via Microsoft Diagnostic Tool (MSDT) simply by opening a Word document. The vulnerability, which has yet to receive a tracking number and is referred to by the infosec community as Follina, is leveraged using malicious Word documents that execute PowerShell commands via the MSDT.
This new Follina zero-day opens the door to a new critical attack vector leveraging Microsoft Office programs as it works without elevated privileges, bypasses Windows Defender detection, and does not need macro code to be enabled to execute binaries or scripts.
[We Linux users need not worry.]
NEW: Every Letter Is Silent, Sometimes. (Merriam-Webster, May 30, 2022)
Every letter can be (annoyingly) silent. English is maddening, and it's not sorry.
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 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 team studied how immune responses behaved in previously infected individuals versus those who hadn’t yet been infected. 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.
Gene Therapy Successfully Treats Spinal Cord Injuries Without Side Effects. (SciTechDaily, May 30, 2022)
There are no singularly effective remedies for neuropathy. Pharmaceutical therapy, for example, may need sophisticated, continuous medication administration and is linked with adverse side effects such as drowsiness and motor weakness. Opioids may be effective, but they can also develop tolerance and raise the risk of overuse or addiction.
Because physicians and researchers are able to pinpoint the precise location of a spinal cord injury and the origin of neuropathic pain, there has been much effort to develop treatments that selectively target impaired or damaged neurons in the affected spinal segments.
In recent years, gene therapy has proven an increasingly attractive possibility. In the latest study, researchers injected a harmless adeno-associated virus carrying a pair of transgenes that encode for gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA into mice with sciatic nerve injuries and consequential neuropathic pain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells; in this case, pain signals.
NEW: Humanity’s Food Supply: A Catastrophe Approaches. (Medium, May 30, 2022)
There is a bottleneck in our food chain. Seventy out of the top 100 human food crops — which supply about 90 percent of the world’s nutrition — are pollinated by bees. One-third of all the food we eat depends on insect pollinators to grow; honeybees make up 80% of those pollinators. And bee populations are “far too insufficient” to keep up with the world’s pollination demands, according to an analysis of data stretching back 30 years.
As Putin health rumors swirl, Lavrov denies Russian leader is seriously ill. (Politico, May 30, 2022)
It’s at least the third time the Kremlin has been forced to deny rumors of the president’s ill health.
NEW: Become a Telegram Master With These 10 Tips and Tricks. (Wired, May 29, 2022)
Whether you've picked up the messaging app recently or you've been using it for ages, these tools can help you make the most of it.
Completely New Type of Magnetic Wave Discovered Sweeping Across Earth’s Outer Core. (SciTechDaily, May 28, 2022)
Using information from ESA’s Swarm satellite mission, scientists have discovered a completely new type of magnetic wave that sweeps across the outermost part of Earth’s outer core every seven years. This fascinating finding opens a new window into a world we can never see. This mysterious wave oscillates every seven years and propagates westward at up to 1500 kilometers (900 miles) a year.
Webb Space Telescope To Provide Details of Two Intriguing “Super-Earths” in the Milky Way. (SciTechDaily,
May 27, 2022)
Imagine if Earth were much, much closer to the Sun. So close that an entire year would only last a few hours. So close that gravity has locked one hemisphere in permanent searing daylight and the other in eternal darkness. So close that the oceans boil away, rocks begin to melt, and the clouds rain lava.
While nothing like this exists in our own solar system, planets like this—rocky, roughly Earth-sized, extremely hot, and close to their stars—are not uncommon in the Milky Way galaxy.
Ancient Moon Volcanoes May Supply Future Astronauts With Drinking Water and Rocket Fuel. (SciTechDaily, May 27, 2022)
Billions of years ago, a series of volcanic eruptions raged on the moon, blanketing hundreds of thousands of square miles of the orb’s surface in hot lava. Over the eons, that lava created the dark blotches, or maria, that give the face of the moon its distinctive appearance today.
Now, new research from the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) suggests that volcanoes may have left another lasting impact on the lunar surface: sheets of ice that dot the moon’s poles and, in some places, could measure dozens or even hundreds of feet thick.
The researchers drew on computer simulations, or models, to try to recreate conditions on the moon long before complex life arose on Earth. They discovered that ancient moon volcanoes spewed out huge amounts of water vapor, which then settled onto the surface—forming stores of ice that may still be hiding in lunar craters. It’s a potential bounty for future moon explorers who will need water to drink and process into rocket fuel, said study co-author Paul Hayne.
New Type of Extremely Reactive Substance Discovered in the Atmosphere.

(SciTechDaily, May 27, 2022)
For the first time, an entirely new class of super-reactive chemical compounds has been found under atmospheric conditions. Scientists from the University of Copenhagen, in close collaboration with international colleagues, have documented the formation of so-called trioxides – an extremely oxidizing chemical compound that likely affects both human health and our global climate.
NEW: What Do Those Pesky 'Cookie Preferences' Pop-Ups Really Mean? (Wired, May 27, 2022)
We asked the engineer who invented cookies what they mean and how to handle them.
NEW: How to Block Spam Calls. (New York Times, updated May 26, 2022)
If you have a phone number in the US, you’ve likely answered calls like this. But where do they come from? What are the laws that attempt to wrangle them, and what can you do about them in the meantime?
[An excellent article, with many excellent links!]
NEW: The 5 best Linux distros for beginners: You can do this! (ZDNet,
May 26, 2022)
What is the best Linux distro for beginners? ZDNet's top choice for best Linux distribution is Linux Mint. It feels just like Windows, you don't need any coding or programming experience to use it, and best of all: It's free. We analyzed usability, interface, integration, and price.

[They DO recommend Ubuntu highly - "Ubuntu is simple, beginner and user-friendly, straightforward, and has a great deal of community support" - athough they didn't know that Ubuntu 22.04 had been out for over a month or that Ubuntu always has been free, not "pay as you go." WE think Ubuntu-Unity is the win!]

Original killer PC spreadsheet Lotus 1-2-3 now runs on Linux natively. (The Register, May 25, 2022)
As the Google guru who ported it points out, the operating system did not exist when 1-2-3 came out in 1983.
NEW: Covid and the brain: A neurological health crisis (9-min. video; Knowledgeable Magazine, May 25, 2022)
Even a mild SARS-CoV-2 infection can cause inflammation that disrupts neural communication, says Stanford neurologist Michelle Monje. Her concern is that Covid-19 may leave millions dealing with cognitive problems, from a loss of mental sharpness to lapses in memory, that prevent them from returning to their previous level of function.
Trump faces growing dilemma after Georgia Primary. (The Hill, May 25, 2022)
The Republican primary season started out with a bang for Trump in Ohio, but Georgia and Alabama are leaving the former president whimpering. Trump is finding out the hard way that party politics is a lot more complex than he thought. His imperial, non-strategic obsession with controlling every Republican from Alaska to Florida is not working, and his undisciplined behavior is costing him.
The trio Trump blamed for his 2020 loss in Georgia — Gov. Brian Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — all won handily in yesterday’s Republican primary. Georgia Republicans ignored Trump all over the ballot. Alabama was also rough on Trump with Katie Britt, top aide to retiring Trump-basher Sen. Richard Shelby to face Congressman Mo Brooks, who won — and then lost — Trump’s endorsement, in the run-off.
How Trump wheedles his way out of this race will be something to see.

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.
NEW: ‘Almost nobody is happy with Putin.’ (Meduza,
May 24, 2022)
Meduza’s sources say a new wave of pessimism in the Kremlin has Russia’s hawks demanding more brutality in Ukraine while others scout for presidential successors.
GM Actively Becoming A More Inclusive Company. (GM Authority, May 24, 2022)
Back in 2020, GM CEO Mary Barra made a commitment to transform General Motors into the most inclusive company in the world. Now, GM is actively working towards that goal with a number of programs and changes within the company.
The 9 Traits Truly of Highly Rational People (Medium, May 23, 2022)
We are inherently biased creatures, and as such applying rationality in decision-making is a skill that is learned. It starts with cultivating self-awareness and emotional intelligence because most of the wrong decisions we make in life are emotion-based. Here are 9 ways you can learn to use rationality when making important decisions.
Volodymyr Zelensky and the Art of the War Story (Wired,
May 22, 2022)
Video dispatches from the Ukrainian president skillfully dissolve Putin’s delusions. We would all do well to listen.

Tiny Microdrones Are Propelled by Light-Driven Nanomotors. (SciTechDaily, May 22, 2022)
Physicists have now shown for the first time that it is possible to not only efficiently propel micrometer-sized objects in an aqueous environment with light, but also control them precisely on a surface with all three degrees of freedom (two translational plus one rotational).
USS Constitution, world’s oldest ship, begins sailing season. (7 News Boston, May 20, 2022)
The world’s oldest operating ship began another sailing season on Friday. The USS Constitution, celebrating its’ 225th birthday this year, left the Charlestown Navy Yard and circled Boston Harbor, signaling the beginning of another year it will spend on the high seas.
["Sailing season"? "Another year on the high seas"? We think "Old Ironsides" was towed by a tug, only within Boston Harbor, and that it may not leave its wharf again for the rest of the year.]
Ukraine Invasion Day 86: Russia has already stolen 400,000 tons of grain, as encirclements occur. (Daily Kos, May 20, 2022)
Russia dismissed calls from top United Nations and Western officials to halt a Black Sea blockade that has prevented Ukraine from exporting much of its grain to world markets, causing price hikes and exacerbating food shortages.
Anthony Blinken called Russia’s claims that sanctions are to blame for the worsening global food crisis false, declaring: “The decision to weaponise food is Moscow’s and Moscow’s alone. Sanctions aren’t blocking Black Sea ports, trapping ships filled with food, and destroying Ukrainian roads and railways; Russia is,” he said. “Sanctions are not emptying Ukrainian grain silos and stealing Ukrainian farm equipment; Russia is.”
Canadian agricultural fields in the plains are rapidly deteriorating from heavy rain. (Daily Kos, May 20, 2022)
Yet another threat to global food supplies is unfolding in parts of Canada’s breadbasket (primarily Manitoba. Alberta is suffering from drought) as heavy rains and frost have made planting corn and soybeans impossible. Some farmers hope to switch crops to wheat which has a shorter growing season.
Why Atheism Makes a Lot of Sense Today: Part 1, Introduction (Medium, May 19, 2022)
Something got lost when they transplanted God from a flat-Earth to the real Universe. God doesn't scale up very well.
NEW: Fiona Hill says Putin got 'frustrated many times' with Trump because the Russian leader 'had to keep explaining things' to him. (Business Insider, May 18, 2022)
Hill said this factored into Putin's decision to invade Ukraine during the Biden administration.
Markwayne Mullin, self-professed Jan. 6 hero, tries to codify Big Lie and expunge Trump impeachment. (Daily Kos, May 18, 2022)
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) is trying to codify the Big Lie and expunge the second impeachment of the former guy. The Hill obtained a copy of Mullin’s draft legislation, which asserts that the charge against Trump for incitement of insurrection  “contains a subjective account of that which transpired at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.”
Because what the entire world witnessed on their television sets for hour upon hour on Jan. 6…  wasn’t as bad as it looked? This is a particularly interesting reimagining of history because Markwaye went to great pains to highlight his own heroics as the MAGA army of orcs attacked on January 6. He told Politico a few weeks later that he “first leapt into action, helping an officer barricade the door on the House floor that leads to Statuary Hall.”
New Mexico battling historic blaze as Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire 26% contained. (ABC News,
May 17, 2022)
The wildfire is now the largest in the state's history. The Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire -- made up of two fires that merged into one giant blaze last month -- has burned 299,565 acres, state fire officials said Tuesday.
It officially surpassed the Whitewater-Baldy Fire as the largest fire in New Mexico's history on Monday. That fire, which was caused by lightning and also consisted of two separate fires that merged, had burned 297,845 acres primarily in the Gila National Forest before being contained in late July 2012.
Maria Popova: Trial, Triumph, and the Art of the Possible: The Remarkable Story Behind Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” (The Marginalian, May 17, 2022)
A hymn of rage, a hymn of redemption, and a timeless love letter to the possible.
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: How a Burner Browser Hides My Most Embarrassing Internet Searches (New York Times, May 17, 2022)
I tend to use Firefox Focus, a “burner browser” - one that doesn’t save any history and is disconnected from my accounts. I’ve used this dual-browser setup for years so that every random product, trivia, or health-related search doesn’t follow me around for days or weeks. I still use a standard browser for work, where I want a history, saved logins, and other tracking-based conveniences.
NEW: Adam Mosseri Says He Wants Big Tech to Give Up Control. (14-min. TedX video; Wired, May 17, 2022)
The head of Instagram has a vision for using Web3 to shift power from tech platforms to content creators—which he says will ultimately benefit both.
How to Write Software With Mathematical Perfection (Quanta Magazine, May 17, 2022)
Leslie Lamport revolutionized how computers talk to each other. Now he’s working on how engineers talk to their machines. 
Drones Are Turning Into Personal Flying Machines. (Wired, May 17, 2022)
We were promised jetpacks that never arrived. But you know what’s finally here? Big, honking drones you can ride on. Dozens of firms worldwide are now making “electrical vertical takeoff and landing” (eVTOL) vehicles. Their goal is to introduce vehicles and gradually improve them such that, in 10 years, you could zip from downtown to the airport in one—since unlike planes they need no runway, and are so heavily software-guided that pilots would need little skill. (A few of these firms aim to have their crafts remotely piloted, or to fly autonomously.) Some models shift the propellers sideways once in flight, so they cruise airplane-style.
How GM Uses Drones To Speed Up Plant Inspections. (4-min. video; GM Authority, May 17, 2022)
Back in 2020, GM partnered with a Detroit-based drone manufacturer called Skypersonic to use the company’s drones to perform crane rail inspections at its various North American metalworking facilities. Two years and more than 200 successful flight hours later, the automaker says it’s ready to adopt Skypersonic’s drone technology as a standard piece of equipment for all of its manufacturing facilities.
Red Hat's Partnership With GM: From Edge to Data Center and Back Again. (DataCenter Knowledge, May 16, 2022)
The partnership announced last week will see Red Hat working with General Motors to bring connected vehicles to a new level. A great amount of the data being generated by software designed for connected devices, such as robotic machines in factories, oil exploration platforms in remote locations, as well as automobiles on streets and highways, will need to be pushed to edge locations, and then on to more centralized locations such as public and private clouds. Creating the infrastructure to move data from GM's vehicles to the Internet, and then across the Internet to where it's needed, will be Red Hat's primary task in this partnership with GM.
Ultifi will run on Red Hat's In-Vehicle Operating System, which is an embedded operating system for cars. Basically, it's a minified version of Linux that pares the company's Red Hat Enterprise Linux server distribution from about 4,000 packages to about 200, and is customized to meet the needs of automakers and fleet owners.
Scientists Find That DNA Mutations Are More Common Than Previously Thought. (SciTechDaily, May 16, 2022)
Our DNA serves as a blueprint for the cellular machinery that allows cells, organs, and even whole organisms to work. However, mutations in our DNA can cause genetic illnesses. Point mutations at a single site, as well as deletions, duplications, and inversions, are examples of such DNA mutations.
The researchers uncovered how inversions are formed and investigated in detail a set of 40 inversions that form recurrently in the genome, where the DNA sequence flips back and forth at a much higher rate than previously thought. These ‘flip-flopping’ inversions typically lie in regions linked to the development of certain human diseases called genomic disorders. Scientific studies of long-distance gene regulation or epigenetics must now take into account this flipping behavior of genomic regions.
'Voracious' Jumping Worms Can Leap 1 Foot In The Air, Destroy Soil. (The Patch, May 16, 2022)
Unlike other worms, the invasive Asian jumping worms wreak havoc in New York ecosystems by depriving other plants and animals of nutrients.
[Yes, they also are in Natick, Massachusetts.]
NEW: Energy storage is important to creating affordable, reliable, deeply-decarbonized electricity systems. (MIT,
May 16, 2022)
MIT Energy Initiative
's new report supports energy storage paired with renewable energy to achieve decarbonized electricity systems.
Visualizing U.S. Crude Oil and Petroleum Product Imports in 2021 (Visual Capitalist, May 16, 2022)
Despite being the world’s largest oil producer, in 2021 the U.S. still imported more than 3 billion barrels of crude oil and petroleum products, equal to 43% of the country’s consumption. While Russia only makes up 8% of American petroleum product imports, their 254 million barrels will need to be replaced as both countries ceased trading soon after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In an effort to curb rising oil and gasoline prices, in March President Joe Biden announced the release of up to 180 million barrels from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserves. Other IEA nations are also releasing emergency oil reserves in an attempt to curb rising prices at the pump and volatility in the oil market.
While the U.S. and the rest of the world are still managing the short-term solutions to this oil supply gap, the long-term solution is complex and has various moving parts. From ramping up domestic oil production to replacing oil demand with other cleaner energy solutions, oil trade and imports will remain a vital part of America’s energy supply.

NEW: The West's new fear: What if Ukraine wins? (Politico, May 16, 2022)
After weeks spent fretting over what would happen if Russia crushed Ukraine, Western European leaders are now worried about what might happen if Ukraine actually wins. … One big concern is that a Ukrainian win could destabilize Russia, making it even more unpredictable and putting a normalization of energy links further out of reach. That’s why some western European capitals quietly favor a ‘face-saving’ resolution to the conflict, even if it costs Ukraine some territory.
We know that Russian military doctrine envisions using tactical nuclear weapons defensively, to turn the tide in a losing war. We should assume that Putin and his circle regard total defeat in Ukraine as a regime-threatening scenario. Combine those realities with a world where the Russians are suddenly being routed, their territorial gains evaporating, and you have the most nuclear-shadowed military situation since our naval blockade of Cuba in 1962.

A U.S. Government Loophole Is Helping Putin’s Cronies Hide Their Cash. (Mother Jones, May 16, 2022)
The private equity industry has lobbied hard to keep its exemption. Over the past four decades, private equity has become a powerful, and malignant, force in our daily lives. In our May+June 2022 issue, Mother Jones investigates the vulture capitalists chewing up and spitting out American businesses, the politicians enabling them, and the everyday people fighting back. Find the full package here.
QAnon’s Chief Enabler Ran a Website Where He Brushed Off Concerns About Pedophilic Content. (Mother Jones, May 16, 2022)
The QAnon conspiracy has always stood on a morbidly ironic contradiction: “Q,” the pseudonymous poster who claimed to be a government insider batlling elite liberal pedophiles, infamously became a phenomenon by posting on 8chan, a website where users had allegedly established a child porn swapping network.
8chan’s proprietor is Jim Watkins—an American but often Philippines-based pornographer, pig farmer, and internet forum entrepreneur. While 8chan’s historic association with child sexual abuse material is familiar to close observers of the QAnon conspiracy, Mother Jones has reviewed a little-known archive documenting conversations in the moderation channel of Pink, an earlier internet forum, that capture Watkins, the site’s administrator, pushing for a hands-off approach to the moderation of child porn-related content there.
Buffalo shooter's manifesto highlights the tight linkage between racism and antisemitism. (Daily Kos, May 16, 2022)
Peter Beinart explains why white nationalism requires antisemitism, tracing how “White supremacists have long imagined Jews as the sinister puppeteers behind both Black and brown immigration and Black and brown liberation.” Because of that long history, “For Jews, there’s an important lesson here. It is that anyone who fuels paranoia and rage about a non-white takeover of the United States endangers us. It does not matter if, like Tucker Carlson, they don’t explicitly mention Jews in their conspiracy theories. Plenty of their followers will connect the dots.

Online data could be used against people seeking abortions if Roe v. Wade falls. (The Conversation, May 16, 2022)
When the draft of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked to the press, many of us who have been studying privacy for vulnerable individuals came to a troubling realization: The marginalized and vulnerable populations whose online risks have been the subject of our attention are likely to grow exponentially. These groups are poised to encompass all women of child-bearing age, regardless of how secure and how privileged they may have imagined themselves to be.
In overturning Roe, the anticipated decision would not merely deprive women of reproductive control and physical agency as a matter of constitutional law, but it would also change their relationship with the online world. Anyone in a state where abortion becomes illegal who relies on the internet for information, products and services related to reproductive health would be subject to online policing.

Search Backwards: Reverse Directory Lookups (Ask Bob Rankin,
May 16, 2022)
Can you find the name of a person or business if all you know about them is a phone number or street address? What if all you have is an email address or a photo? This type of search is called a reverse directory lookup. Learn about the free and fee-based reverse search tools you can find online.

Total Lunar Eclipse – a supermoon eclipse – on May 15-16, 2022. (EarthSky, May 14, 2022)
People in the Americas, Europe and Africa will see the total lunar eclipse during the night of May 15-16, 2022. Plus, on this night, the moon is close: a supermoon.
Note: This total eclipse is central. That means the moon passes centrally through the axis of Earth’s dark (umbral) shadow. The moon is in a near part of its orbit – close to Earth – during the eclipse. It’s a supermoon.

Ukraine update: Something *big* is happening, as the Battle of the Izyum Salient begins. (Daily Kos, May 14, 2022)
With unconfirmed reports that Ukraine has pushed Russia mostly out of its territory north of Kharkiv, we have been speculating where Ukraine would counter next—toward the railhead northeast of Kharkiv in Vovchansk, or the the logistical hub at Kupiansk, where three major rail lines connect. Both those locations would cut off the flow of supplies to the Izyum salient and Russia’s 22 battalion tactical groups (BTGs) in the pocket—the largest concentration of Russian forces anywhere in Ukraine.
Ukraine took a look at both of those critical logistical centers, and
instead decided to hit the salient directly: "Army of Ukraine launched a counteroffensive in the Izyum district of the Kharkiv oblast." - Kharkiv Military Administration Head
Fires north of Kharkiv are on newly-liberated Ukrainian territory, which means Russia is firing artillery on those positions either to slow down their advance, or simply out of punitive anger. Much of Russia’s military strategy appears to be a manifestation of Vladimir Putin’s aggrieved, irrational rage.
Back to the Battle of the Izyum Salient, Russian telegram claims five Ukrainian brigades are moving in on Izyum from the north, looking to directly cut off supply lines to the bulk of the Russian forces in the salient. That would be the equivalent of 10-15 Russian BTGs which seems … fantastical. Given how well Ukraine has fought, Russians may be mythifying them so they seem 10 feet tall and three times their number. But for context, a Ukrainian brigade is around 1,600 troops and 200 armored vehicles. If these reports are correct, we’re talking about 1,000 armored vehicles, and a metric buttload of artillery, raining on Russian positions. Ukraine had 20 brigades pre-war, with another four in reserve, which are likely already in action. More are being created from reservists, but there’s no indication they’ve had to be fielded just yet. So five brigades would be a massive commitment of forces.
Russian sources on telegram also say Ukraine has crossed the Donets for the attack. So if Ukraine is crossing the Donets to attack Izyum’s supply lines, then this seems like a logical place to do so
Remember, Ukraine doesn’t announce operations in advance. We now can see that the counter-offensive began on May 10-11. Russia abandoned Kharkiv because it had no reserves left. Ukrainian general staff and the Pentagon have said Russia has 19 BTGs in reserve in Belgorod, so why weren’t they rushed to Kharkiv to defend their supply lines? If there’s anything left in Russia, it’s likely shattered remnants and troops refusing to deploy or redeploy.
And then there's this: Massive forest fires raging in the Tyumen region in Russia right now. The army used to play an important role in helping the firefighters to put these out but they are nowhere to be found at the moment.
Now, with Russia already at its limits, Ukraine is taking direct aim at the largest concentration of Russian forces in Ukraine. 20-25% of Russia’s entire Army is in that pocket. Something big is happening. I mean big, as in war-altering. We were looking at Izyum’s supply hubs in Kupiansk and Vochansk. Ukraine is going straight for the jugular instead.
Ukraine Update: Russia's river-crossing debacle is beyond belief. (Daily Kos, May 14, 2022)
It’s said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. If that’s the case … Russia qualifies.
We saw it in the early days of the war in Hostomel airport northwest of Kyiv. Russia made an unsupported airborne landing on the base. Got wiped out. Tried it again. Same result.
We’re currently seeing it on Snake Island, of “Russia warship, go fuck yourself” fame. Over the past week, Russian forces have been wiped out several times (here, here, here, and here), and yet last night we saw Russian troops landing there once again.
But nothing is as dramatic as the saga of the riverside crossing at Bilohorivka, where Russia didn’t just suffer one disastrous river-crossing attempt, but three of them over the past few days.
Russia made its first effort May 8, and it was utterly decimated, destroying several dozen vehicles. The bridge lay half-sunk. Russian command and control structure is highly centralized, giving local commanders zero ability to deviate from stated orders. So if high command said “get to Bilohorivka,” well, who was to say something like, “Guys, Ukraine has our number, maybe we should look for a new place to cross?” Nah, giving local commanders, or any commanders for that matter, the gift of “free thinking and initiative” might lead to a military coup. Best to keep them stupid.
Hence … try number 2: More charred vehicles were added to the list. Then someone from Moscow or Belgorod called and screamed, “do we have Bilohorivka yet?” And since the answer was no, then yeah, sigh, there they went again.
Counting the damage, or at least, what could be determined from drone footage, Russian losses from the infamous failed Russian Siverskyi Donets river crossing near Bilohorivka now total 82 vehicles + 2 boats destroyed/abandoned + a bridge section:
    14 T-72
    35 BMP-1
    2 BMP-2
    17 unknown AFV (likely most BMP-1)
    5 MT-LB
    2 BMD/BTR-D
    2 BREM-1
    1 PTS-3
    5 PMP trucks (2 likely recovered)
    2 BMK boats
Those 82 vehicles include eight in the river. The tally includes 14 tanks and 62 infantry fighting vehicles. A Russian battalion tactical group (BTG) has 10 tanks and 40 IFVs, but there’s no such thing as a full-strength BTG in Ukraine. Likely never was. So Russia just lost two BTGs worth of troops attempting to make the same compromised river crossing three times.
Russia has 22 BTGs in this axis, so in this ill-fated multi-effort river-crossing debacle, it has lost nearly 10% of its entire fighting force. But hey, why stop when they’re so close to succeeding? Here’s hoping they’re stupid enough to give it a fourth shot.
The war in Ukraine is spurring transatlantic co-operation in tech. (The Economist, May 14, 2022)
Talks are bound to get trickier once attention turns back to China.
Researchers say they’ve found the reason why infants die from SIDS. (Global News, May 13, 2022)
Researchers from The Children’s Hospital in Westmead in Sydney, Australia, have found that a lowered level of a certain enzyme, called butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), can explain the malfunction that causes some babies not to startle or wake if they stop breathing in their sleep. The study is published in the latest volume of The Lancet’s eBioMedicine, the upcoming June 2022 issue.
NEW: This is how many lives could have been saved with COVID vaccinations in each state. (NPR, May 13, 2022)
The vaccine rollout has been both a remarkable success and a remarkable failure," says Stefanie Friedhoff, a professor at the Brown School of Public Health, and one of the analysis's authors. It was a success, she says, in the sense that "the United States was first in getting those vaccines developed and making doses available at high numbers quickly to the public." A lot of money and energy was invested in the logistics of the rollout – the supply side of the equation. Much less was invested in encouraging vaccine demand, she says. "We did not start early on with information campaigns about why vaccines are important – what do they do for us?" she says. "We underestimated dramatically the investment it would take to get people familiarized with vaccines because, by and large, we haven't had a deadly disease like this, so people have become estranged from the important impact of vaccination."
The map of states with the most preventable deaths shows a sharp political divide – as NPR has reported, people living in counties that voted for then-President Trump in the 2020 election were three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than people who lived in counties that voted for President Biden. According to the analysis, West Virginia, Wyoming, Tennessee, Kentucky and Oklahoma had the most vaccine-preventable deaths per capita. Washington D.C., Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, Vermont and Hawaii had the fewest.
NEW: The Top 10 Largest Nuclear Explosions, Visualized (Visual Capitalist, May 13, 2022)
The U.S.’ Trinity test in 1945, the first-ever nuclear detonation, released around 19 kilotons of explosive energy. The explosion instantly vaporized the tower it stood on and turned the surrounding sand into green glass, before sending a powerful heatwave across the desert.
As the Cold War escalated in the years after WWII, the U.S. and the Soviet Union tested bombs that were at least 500 times greater in explosive power. This infographic visually compares the 10 largest nuclear explosions in history.
A portrait of the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way (Physics Today, May 12, 202)
Hidden behind a fog of galactic gas, Sagittarius A* proved a tricky imaging target for the Event Horizon Telescope team.
The Case for War Crimes Charges Against Russia’s Sandworm Hackers (Wired, May 12, 2022)
A group of human rights lawyers and investigators has called on the Hague to bring the first-ever “cyber war crimes” charges against Russia’s most dangerous hackers.

Google’s new Android Auto interface works with any screen size. (
Ars Technica, May 12, 2022)
Say goodbye to pillar boxes and other weird screen-fit solutions in your car.
NEW: Google Launches LaMDA 2 And PaLM At I/O 2022. (FOSS Bytes,
May 12, 2022)
The new AI system is a step up from the original LaMDA which was designed for dialogue applications. The system could communicate with users and answer their questions.
The new LaMDA 2 is an enhanced version of the original which can engage in long, human-like conversations. Moreover, it can fetch accurate responses and mold them into easy-to-understand sentences.
Terra’s Cryptocurrency Meltdown Was Inevitable. (
9-min. video; Wired, May 12, 2022)
An epic crash in algorithmic stablecoins spells trouble for the entire industry.

Clearview AI clears the final hurdle in its quest to undermine US democracy. (The Next Web, May 12, 2022)
Congratulations America, you played yourself.
“Radical” ruling lets Texas ban social-media moderation based on “viewpoint”. (Ars Technica, May 12, 2022)
5th Circuit reinstates Texas law that was previously found to violate 1st Amendment.
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.
Judge bars MAGA election officials from midterms. (Daily Kos, May 11, 2022)
When Mesa County Colorado Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters and her fellow deputy Belinda Knisley were busted for breaking all security protocols in order to tamper with voting machines, it led to questions about whether they were the only MAGA-aligned elections officials breaking the law. The answer was “probably not.” The fact that Peters is now campaigning to take control of the state’s entire election system—challenging Democratic incumbent Secretary of State Jena Griswold in the upcoming election—while also being arrested a bunch for obstruction of justice has simply reinforced the belief that many of these election fascists are true zealots. Even more distressing, but not surprising, is that Peters recently received 60% of the Colorado GOP’s delegates to run for that position.
Colorado Secretary of State Griswold has subsequently been successful in getting Peters banned from having any meaningful responsibilities in upcoming elections. On Wednesday, Mesa County District Judge Valerie Robison ruled that Peters and deputy Belinda Knisley will be barred from overseeing the upcoming midterm elections. The Peters ruling is just one of the many MAGA-related elections security breaches being litigated and investigated by Colorado officials.
NEW: What is SIM swapping? SIM swap fraud explained and how to help protect yourself (Norton, May 11, 2022)
SIM swapping happens when scammers contact your mobile phone’s carrier and trick them into activating a SIM card that the fraudsters have. Once this occurs, the scammers have control over your phone number. Anyone calling or texting this number will contact the scammers’ device, not your smartphone.
This means scammers could potentially enter your username and password when logging onto your bank’s website. The bank will then send a code by text — two-factor authentication — to your smartphone number, a code that you’ll then have to enter to access your online account. The problem? After a SIM swap, that number now goes to the smartphone or other device possessed by scammers. They can then use that code to enter your bank account.
Fortunately, you can protect yourself against SIM swapping. It’s all about preventing scammers from finding out what logins and passwords you use to access your online bank or credit card accounts. And it helps, too, to look out for the most common warning signs of a SIM swap scam.
NEW: Cautionary Tales from Cryptoland (Harvard Business Review, May 10, 2022)
All of a sudden, it feels like Web3 is everywhere. The money, the buzz, the name all make it seem like Web3 will inevitably be the next big thing. But is it? And do we even want it to be?
As the hype has reached a fever pitch, critics have started to warn of unintended and overlooked consequences of a web with a blockchain backbone.

The Web3 Movement’s Quest to Build a ‘Can’t Be Evil’ Internet (Wired, May 10, 2022)
Crypto dreamers want to free us from Big Tech and exploitative capitalism—using only the blockchain, game theory, and code. What could possibly go wrong?
To a core of true believers, Web3 stands apart from the garish excesses and brazen misbehavior of the flashing-neon crypto casino. If cryptocurrency was originally about decentralizing money, Web3 is about decentralizing … everything. Its mission is almost achingly idealistic: to free humanity not only from Big Tech domination but also from exploitative capitalism itself—and to do it purely through code.
Your Phone Is Secretly Always Recording: How to Stop Google From Listening. (MakeUseOf, May 10, 2022)
Yes, iPhones too. Here are the facts and how to stop Google from listening to you.

Focus on the First Image of the Galactic Center Black Hole, Sagittarius A*. (1977 image; Astrophysical Journal, May 10, 2022)
Results from the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration.
[Confirmed by about 300 scientists, using 8 super-telescopes, after 5 years!]
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.
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).
Florida is not a red state. We are a blue state where Democrats have given up. (Daily Kos, May 10, 2022)
Florida has been far more oppressive than anything we’ve ever seen, and the response has been negligible.
Against Florida’s constitution, our white supremacist governor illegally drew his own map and eliminated the Black-majority districts. Teachers are now under assault: they can now get sued if they dare even answer a question that comes up about homosexuality, they are banned from teaching civil rights topics in schools, and can’t even use math books that show images of diversity. Meanwhile, DeSantis has tried to legalize running over peaceful protesters, created a Gestapo-like election police force, and punishes corporations that dare to speak out against his hateful agenda.
However, I don’t see anything close to the outcry that happened with other states not long ago. Corporations have been noticeably silent about our descent into fascism, and activists in and outside the state haven’t organized campaigns targeting our state. This begs the question: did we just give up on Florida?
Ukraine update: Russian soldiers reported 'missing in action' actually piled high in 'body dump'. (Daily Kos, May 10, 2022)
Groups in Ukraine have set up “help lines” for Russian families, both with the purpose of helping locate soldiers who have gone silent after crossing into Ukraine, and driving home the point that Russian soldiers are dying in Putin’s illegal invasion in large numbers. Meanwhile, the Kremlin not only continues to report low numbers of casualties overall, but to list large numbers of troops as simply “missing in action,” sometimes with a hint of accusation that those missing are actually AWOL.
"Thousands. They are thrown here and there, for them it’s easier to make it look like they are missing in action. … It’s not a morgue. It’s a dump."
US and its allies say Russia waged cyberattack that took out satellite network. (Ars Technica, May 10, 2022)
February outage came an hour before Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.
“Today, in support of the European Union and other partners, the United States is sharing publicly its assessment that Russia launched cyber attacks in late February against commercial satellite communications networks to disrupt Ukrainian command and control during the invasion, and those actions had spillover impacts into other European countries,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in a statement. “The activity disabled very small aperture terminals in Ukraine and across Europe. This includes tens of thousands of terminals outside of Ukraine that, among other things, support wind turbines and provide Internet services to private citizens.”
Some Russian officers in Ukraine are joining their troops in refusing to carry out orders. (Daily Kos, May 10, 2022)
If Putin’s Victory day speech seemed muted today, that might be because his military is starting to balk when ordered to carry out perilous offensive operations.
Ukraine Invasion Day 76: Victory Day was like a crummy Cope Cage on your tank. (Daily Kos, May 10, 2022)
Russian invasions don't start wars; countries not submitting to Russian invasions start wars.
Ukraine mocked Russia's 'Victory Day' by holding a 'parade' of captured Russian tanks.

Jeffrey Snover claims Microsoft demoted him for inventing PowerShell. (The Register, May 10, 2022)
"When I was doing the prototype for what became PowerShell, a friend cautioned me saying that was the sort of thing that got people fired. I didn't get fired. I got demoted."
"Courage is a key characteristic of future leaders and previous employees. Many people focus on getting their boss to pat them on the head rather than addressing problems."
Only Microsoft can give open-source the gift of NTFS. Only Microsoft needs to. (The Register, May 9, 2022)
File systems can get pretty political. They're one of the last fronts still fighting in the Interoperability Wars. While you can plumb any number of open file systems to Linux if you need what they have, NTFS remains a problem.
How Private Equity Looted America (
Mother Jones, May 9, 2022)
Inside the industry that has ransacked the US economy—and upended the lives of working people everywhere. Over the past four decades, private equity has become a powerful, and malignant, force in our daily lives. In our May+June 2022 issue, Mother Jones investigates the vulture capitalists chewing up and spitting out American businesses, the politicians enabling them, and the everyday people fighting back.
[See this major report!]

Incredibly Sharp Webb Space Telescope Test Images Hint at New Possibilities for Science. (astrophotos; NASA, May 9, 2022)
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is aligned across all four of its science instruments. When Webb is ready to begin science observations, studies such as these with MIRI will help give astronomers new insights into the birth of stars and protoplanetary systems. The Webb team has begun the process of setting up and testing Webb’s instruments to begin science observations this summer.
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.
Ukraine's Bayraktar TB2 drone destroys Russian landing aircraft near Snake Island. (
Agence France-Presse, May 7, 2022)
The Ukrainian military in a separate statement said that the Bayraktar drone strike had also destroyed a Tor-M2 anti-aircraft system being delivered to the island. "The traditional parade of the Russian Black Sea fleet on May 9 this year will be held near Snake Island -- at the bottom of the sea," the Ukrainian defence ministry added.
[Whose Victory Day will Russia be celebrating? And who's the Hitler here? Hint: Adolf Putin/Putler/Putain.]
Small Drones Are Giving Ukraine an Unprecedented Edge. (Wired, May 6, 2022)
From surveillance to search-and-rescue, consumer drones are having a huge impact on the country’s defense against Russia.
NEW: Fires and Forest Health (Atlas Obscura, May 6, 2022)
In Oregon, the Humongous Fungus plays a complex role in an ecosystem reshaped by humans.
NEW: 1 million deaths: Where Covid killed (NBC News,
May 6, 2022)
From nursing homes to prisons, measuring which groups are most affected by the pandemic's U.S. death toll.
Chinese government to dump Windows in favor of Linux, and to dump foreign PCs. (Neowin, May 6, 2022)
It has happened in other regions before and it's happening again in China: the government has ordered the dumping of Windows in favor of Linux, among other things. This time, though, the reasoning is a bit different. According to Bloomberg, Beijing has ordered government offices and state-backed firms to replace foreign-branded PCs and their associated operating systems with alternatives that can be domestically maintained.
China is set to replace almost 50 million PCs in central government agencies alone. It is important to note that this process will obviously not be completed in one fell swoop but is intended to be carried out in a staggered manner over a period of two years. "Hard-to-replace" PC components such as CPUs and GPUs developed by western firms are likely exempt from this order.

How Apple, Google, and Microsoft will kill passwords and phishing in one stroke. (Ars Technica, May 6, 2022)
The program that Apple, Google, and Microsoft are rolling out will finally organize the current disarray of Multi-factor Authentication services in some significant ways. Once it’s fully implemented, I’ll be able to use my iPhone to store a single token that will authenticate me on any of those three companies' services (and, one expects, many more follow-on services). The same credential can also be stored on a device running Android or Windows.
[The article and consortium appear to ignore Linux. Linux has not ignored them.]
Every ISP in the US Must Block These 3 Pirate Streaming Services. (Wired, May 5, 2022)
The 96 internet service providers were told to enforce the orders “by any technological means available.”
Glencore Invests $200M In GM Partner Li-Cycle. (GM Authority,
May 5, 2022)
Li-Cycle has engaged in a partnership with GM at the Ultium Cells battery production campus currently under construction in Warren, Ohio, where the battery recycling company will operate a lithium-ion battery cell recycling plant adjacent to the GM facility. Meanwhile, Glencore supplies GM with cobalt, a material required for the production of the automaker’s EV battery systems.
At the scene of Mariupol theater tragedy, Russia prepares for a parade. (Washington Post, May 5, 2022)
The March 16 bombing of the Mariupol theater is one of the deadliest known attacks against civilians to date in Ukraine.
Russian forces are preparing for a parade in the shattered port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said, clearing debris from a bombed-out theater that had served as the city’s main shelter before it was destroyed seven weeks ago, in an attack that remains one of the deadliest of the war.
Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for the latest updates on Russia's war in Ukraine. City officials estimated at the time that as many as 300 people were killed in the March 16 airstrike. An Associated Press investigation, published Wednesday, put the number killed at close to twice that, based on the accounts of survivors and rescue workers. The report also drew on detailed floor plans of the Mariupol Drama Theater and photos and videos taken before and after the attack. A white flag had been tied atop the building before the airstrike, and the word “children” was painted in Russian on the ground along two sides.
Americans might love Cinco de Mayo, but few know what they’re celebrating. (The Conversation, May 5, 2022; reprint from May 3, 2019)
Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo doesn’t mark Mexican Independence, which is celebrated on Sept. 16. Instead, it’s meant to commemorate the Battle of Puebla, which was fought between the Mexican and French armies in 1862.
The Mexican Army was outnumbered two to one by seasoned French troops, so Mexico proved itself to be a formidable opponent worthy of international respect. And the fact that the country was led by an indigenous president held a special symbolic significance. In Mexico’s long and storied history, the Battle of Puebla is generally considered a fairly minor event. But its legacy lives on a century and a half later, particularly in the United States.
[It also makes us think of Ukraina fighting off Russia's invasion, this year - and since 2014.]
NEW: Guns Now Kill More Children and Young Adults Than Car Crashes. (Scientific American, May 5, 2022)
Firearms now exceed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury-related death for people ages one to 24, a new analysis shows.
[This is the article that President Biden cited. Although he did not mention the "young adults", that resulting gap also is closing quickly.]
On This National Day Of Prayer, Educate Yourself About The Growing Threat Of Christian Nationalism. (Americans United, May 5, 2022)
Today is the National Day of Prayer (NDP). Under a 1952 law, the president is required to issue a proclamation recognizing the NDP. Furthermore, while many NDP events are privately sponsored, state and local governments often celebrate NDP with proclamations that laud the value of prayer and call on citizens to engage in acts of worship. Sorry, but that’s simply not the government’s job.
Rather than take part in a government-sponsored prayer, you could spend today boning up on the impulse behind it: Christian nationalism. My colleague Andrew Seidel often refers to Christian nationalism as an “existential threat” to the United States. He’s right. Our country was founded on the principle of religious freedom for all, a place where the government respects the rights of believers and nonbelievers equally but refrains from endorsing or advocating a specific faith. If Christian nationalists succeed in merging their narrow fundamentalism with state policy, America can no longer be that beacon of hope and freedom.
These 13 corporations have spent $15 million supporting anti-abortion politicians since 2016. (list; Popular Information, May 4, 2022)
Anti-abortion forces had a critical ally: Corporate America. A Popular Information analysis of corporate political giving found 13 major companies have given $15.2 million to the NRSC, RSLC, and RGA since 2016. This figure significantly understates the role that corporate America has played in ending constitutional protections for abortion rights. First, it only includes 13 corporations and, even for that group, does not include PAC contributions donated directly to anti-abortion politicians. It does not include money donated to the NRSC, RSLC, and RGA by corporate trade organizations. It also excludes corporate support for anti-abortion non-profits like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society because those contributions do not have to be disclosed. But the figure makes clear the central role of corporate money in the imminent reversal of Roe — including money from many corporations that claim to be champions for women's rights and equality.
The Forced Birth Ruling (
Michael Moore, May 4, 2022)
An entire gender was degraded, the fertilized egg was declared a human being, and all citizens are now conscripted to follow a vicious edict of the Catholic Church.
Religious Interference In Health Care Is Unwarranted, Unwanted And Unconstitutional. (
Americans United, May 4, 2022)
This is not the first time we have seen policies like this pop up. In 2019, the Trump administration announced the dangerous Denial of Care Rule, which would have invited health care professionals to cite their religious or moral beliefs in order to deny services to patients. The implementation of the rule would have been a disaster. Imagine showing up at an emergency room in medical distress or calling an ambulance and having potentially life-saving care delayed or denied because someone on staff decides, for whatever reason, that helping you contradicts their religious beliefs. Luckily, because of lawsuits by Americans United and our allies, the Denial of Care rule was blocked by the federal courts and never went into effect.
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.
Action Bias: Why It’s So Hard To Stay in the Same Line at the Supermarket. (, May 4, 2022)
Many times throughout your life, you will find yourself asking the question, “Should I do something about this?” Almost as many times, you will find yourself answering in the affirmative. This is the action bias in action and it is not always your friend. Also known as the Do Something Syndrome, the action bias describes our innate tendency to respond to situations by taking some kind of action, even when we have no evidence that it will lead to a better outcome and might even make things worse.
NEW: In Farming, a Constant Drive For Technology (Undark, May 4, 2022)
Although real-world data is scant, proponents say robotics and AI will soon revolutionize agriculture.
GM Replaced More Than 27,000 Chevy Bolt EV, Bolt EUV Batteries So Far. (GM Authority
, May 3, 2022)
26,925 units of the 2017 through 2019 Chevy Bolt EV have been remedied out of a recall population amounting to 57,414 units, while 661 units of the 2020 through 2022 Bolt EV and EUV have been remedied of a recall population amounting to 52,414 units.
[So our 2020 Bolt EV may have many more months to endure GM-reduced driving range...]
High Gas Prices Are Pushing Electric Car Sales to a Tipping Point. (Time, May 3, 2022)
An unreleased report from CarGurus, an automotive research and shopping firm, shows that 53% of active shoppers say they are considering a more fuel-efficient vehicle in response to high gas prices. The data, shared with TIME, looks at consumer sentiment toward electric vehicles based on an online survey of 2,176 U.S. automobile owners at various points this year. It finds that 40% of Americans now expect to own an electric car in the next five years, up from 32% in February and 30% last year.
Kremlin on high alert as coup rumours grow in Moscow: Disgruntled generals join FSB looking to oust Putin and end Ukraine war. (City A.M., May 3, 2022)
The top of Putin’s former employer – the Russian security service FSB – is said to be so frustrated about the lack of military progress in Ukraine that it has reached out to a number of generals and former army officials, according to various analysts and local media reports. In particular a group called the ‘Siloviki’ – which comprises of former FSB officers who are active in Russian politics – is said to be pushing hard to replace Putin, together with former officers from the GRU, KGB and FSO, other Russian intelligence units.
The idea a coup may be imminent is further strengthened by social media activity across Russia and Eastern Europe, which has gone into overdrive in the last 24 hours. Moreover, analysts in and outside Russia have said all signs are there that Putin will face a coup soon.
Phishers exploit Google’s SMTP Relay service to deliver spoofed emails. (Help Net Security, May 3, 2022)
Phishers are exploiting a flaw in Google’s SMTP relay service to send malicious emails spoofing popular brands. April 2022 has seen a massive uptick of these SMTP relay service exploit attacks in the wild, as threat actors use this service to spoof other Gmail tenants.
CDC Tracked Millions of Phones to See If Americans Followed COVID Lockdown Orders. (
Vice, May 3, 2022)
Newly released documents showed the CDC planned to use phone location data to monitor schools and churches, and wanted to use the data for many non-COVID-19 purposes, too.
Data Broker Is Selling Location Data of People Who Visit Abortion Clinics. (Vice, May 3, 2022)
It costs just over $160 to get a week's worth of data on where people who visited Planned Parenthood came from, and where they went afterwards.
Lauren Stiller Rikleen: SCOTUS Draft Rejecting Roe Must Spur Legal Profession to Speak Up. (Bloomberg Law, May 3, 2022)
Sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option, she writes, as the fundamental right of women to make decisions affecting their own bodies is at risk.
Ignoring the importance of nearly 50 years of settled law since 1973, and the concomitant explosion in cases adjudicating individual rights that has evolved in modern times, Justice Alito, in the draft document, instead relied on this bleak history: “The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions. On the contrary, an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973.”
What does it say when the majority of the Supreme Court, in 2022, is willing to justify the elimination of a woman’s right to choose by, in part, detailing this harsh history throughout the same centuries that women were treated as chattel and had no legal rights of any kind?

Our Obsession with Ancestry Has Some Twisted Roots. (New Yorker, May 2, 2022)

From origin stories to blood-purity statutes, we have long enlisted genealogy to serve our own purposes.
Big News out of Ukraine, if it can be verified: Russia's Top General Injured and Evacuated to Russia. (Daily Kos, May 1, 2022)
Official Ukrainian sources on May 1 said devastating artillery strikes on a Russian military headquarters may have injured the senior general in the Russian Army, Valery Gerasimov, along with killing or wounding dozens of other military personnel, many of them senior members of the officer’s corps. A statement from Ukraine’s Army General Staff (AGS) said a pair of surprise bombardments hit Russian military command centers in the Izyum are of Kharkiv region during overnight April 30-May 1.
General Gerasimov is not just another field General.  Rather, he is Russia’s leading war theorist, best known as the namesake of the Gerasimov Doctrine of hybrid warfare, pursuant to which Russia now includes political, economic, informational, humanitarian and other non-military activities in a total war strategy.   The doctrine became known after its publication in February 2013 and Russia’s subsequent hostile actions against Ukraine in 2014 which were carried out in a manner consistent with the doctrine.
Satellites have detected land surface temperatures in some parts of India at 149 F. (Daily Kos, May 1, 2022)
Owing to the absence of cloud cover on April 29 (10:30 local time), the Sentinel-3 spacecraft was able to obtain an accurate measurement of the land surface temperature of the ground, which exceeded 60°C (140°F) in several areas. The data shows that surface temperature in Jaipur and Ahmedabad reached 47°C (117°F), while the hottest temperatures recorded are southeast and southwest of Ahmedabad (visible in deep red) with maximum land surface temperatures of around 65°C (149°F).
The Fire Map shows locations in India where fires were detected by satellite during the last 24 hours. Regardless of whether these fires are triggered by humans or not, extremely high temperatures and dry conditions due to climate change are exacerbating them.
[May Day, May Day! Global warming is real!]
Heatwave: No Respite For Northwest, Central India in May; Worst Power Crisis in 6 Years. (The Wire/IN, May 1, 2022)
Northwest and central India experienced the hottest April in 122 years with average maximum temperature touching 35.9 degrees Celsius and 37.78 degrees Celsius respectively.
India is experiencing power outages, as its coal supply is not enough to meet the surge in electricity demand from air-conditioning. Authorities are frantically seeking more coal imports. Temperatures are expected only to increase in May and June.
[Burning more coal because of global warming? Can such things be? And most of rural India does not HAVE air conditioning.]
Cooking on Car Bonnets, Shelter in Dry Tunnels: India's Heatwave in Photos and Videos (
The Wire/IN, May 1, 2022)
Glimpses of hardship and coping mechanisms from across parts of India reeling from high temperatures.
Apple’s Self-Repair Program Is Off to a Bumpy Start. (Wired, April 30, 2022)
For a very long time, Apple pooh-poohed the idea of letting you repair your own stuff. The company has even gone toe-to-toe with the US Congress to keep its tight grip on repairs of its tech. Then, last November, Apple announced it would give users the ability to access official repair manuals and “genuine Apple parts” to fix their devices. This week, the company launched that program, making self-repair kits available for newer iPhones.
Thing is, Apple isn’t exactly giving people free rein. Apple is keeping tight control over its parts. For a repair to be considered valid, users must use (and buy) parts stamped with Apple’s seal of approval. Having to buy serialized parts from Apple makes them more exclusive, and therefore more expensive, than third-party parts. Apple is also making the tools you'll need to fix your device available to rent through its repair program. A one-week rental of a tool kit will cost you $49.
You Need to Update iOS, Android, and Chrome Right Now. (Wired, April 29, 2022)
Plus: Microsoft patched some 100 flaws, while Oracle issued more than 500 security fixes.
Russian forces face strong resistance amid stark reminders of war’s toll. (Washington Post, April 29, 2022)
Cracks emerge in Russian elite as tycoons start to bemoan invasion.
On the battlefield, Ukraine uses Soviet-era weapons against Russia.
Russian troops stole more than 2,000 pieces of art from Mariupol, city council says.
U.N. to vote next month on replacing Russia on Human Rights Council.
Putin likely not capable of functioning by year end. (eight videos; Robert Lansing Institute, April 28, 2022)
Putin currently appears to suffer from mental and physical deterioration due to cancer and stage-3
Parkinson’s disease. Progressing dementia, typical for the fifth stage, indicates that the ability to move on his own, usually lost at the fourth stage, is preserved due to excessive medication, likely to affect the patient’s mental health. If Kremlin hawks succeed in preventing disclosure of Putin’s real health condition, Russia might then repeat the scenario of North Korea.
Putin’s death is unlikely to bring Russia back to the framework of civilized  international relations.
The desire by Putin’s entourage to stay in power and avoid responsibility for the  crimes committed by his regime closes the door for that scenario. An attempt by Putin’s entourage to replace him with a “democratic” candidate would deceive the West, as it preserves the Putin regime in a new guise.
[He's got The Bomb. And his successors are not likely to be better.]
Inside Zelensky's World (Time, April 28, 2022)
Outside Ukraine, Zelensky told me, “People see this war on Instagram, on social media. When they get sick of it, they will scroll away.” It’s human nature. Horrors have a way of making us close our eyes. “It’s a lot of blood,” he explains. “It’s a lot of emotion.” Zelensky senses the world’s attention flagging, and it troubles him nearly as much as the Russian bombs. Most nights, when he scans his agenda, his list of tasks has less to do with the war itself than with the way it is perceived. His mission is to make the free world experience this war the way Ukraine does: as a matter of its own survival. He seems to be pulling it off.
Kremlin slams West for backing Ukraine’s right to strike Russia back. (Washington Post, April 28, 2022)
The comments come after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was Ukraine’s prerogative to strike back on Russian soil. Asked whether the United States should support offensive operations, Blinken said he believed that it was “vital” that Ukraine “do whatever is necessary to defend against Russian aggression” and that “the tactics of this are their decisions.”
The comments come as Ukrainian officials said unexplained fires and explosions that were reported in recent days against sensitive targets in Russia were justified — and could increase — but did not take responsibility for them.
Tonight, America begins an annual festival celebrating hubris. (New York Times, April 28, 2022)
Tonight at the Caesars Forum Conference Center near Las Vegas, thousands of people will gather for an annual demonstration of human overconfidence. The official name of the gathering is the N.F.L. draft. There, with millions of Americans watching on television, executives of the N.F.L.’s 32 teams will choose which college players to add to their rosters. And the executives will almost certainly make a lot of decisions that they later regret.
I recognize that many readers of this newsletter are not football fans. Still, I think the draft is worth a few minutes of your attention, because it turns out to be a delightful case study of human hubris, one with lessons for other subjects, like the economy and Covid-19.
[And phasing out coal...]
NEW: GNOME patent troll stripped of patent rights. (OSI, April 28, 2022)
The patent troll who attacked them also lost the patent it was using for the assault, following the persistent efforts of McCoy Smith, an open source community legal specialist.
How Far Are We From Phasing Out Coal? (Chart; Visual Capitalist, April 28, 2022)
TOO far. At the COP26 conference last year, 40 nations agreed to phase coal out of their energy mixes. Despite this, in 2021, coal-fired electricity generation reached all-time highs globally, showing that eliminating coal from the energy mix will not be a simple task.
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.
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.
Ukraine's well-calculated strikes inside Russia have multiple effects. (Daily Kos, April 27, 2022)
On Sunday, a pair of fuel deports in Bryansk, Russia, roughly 100 miles from the border with Ukraine, exploded into flames. As with the fuel depot that “mysteriously” burned in Belgorod, Russia, back on March 31 (after two Ukrainian helicopters were seen zipping past in a daring treetop-level raid), Ukrainian officials are being cagey about the cause of the explosions at Bryansk. But there seems almost no doubt that the fires were started by a carefully targeted Ukrainian assault that avoided hitting civilian targets and went straight for vital military supplies.
‘Nobody wants to run from the war’ – a voice from Ukraine’s displaced millions describes the conflicting pulls of home, family and safety. (The Conversation, April 27, 2022)
Yuliia thinks that most Ukrainians who have left where they live plan to return soon or after the war. And many Ukrainians are in fact going back home, despite the continuing danger. Since Feb. 28, 2022, 1.7 million Ukrainians have returned to Ukraine. Since April 15, 2022, the number of those returning to Ukraine from Poland has been greater than those going to Poland from Ukraine.
Even in longer, more drawn-out conflicts around the world where millions have been displaced, such as Afghanistan and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, many people do not leave their home areas, despite great danger.

Heather Cox Richardson: Biden restores the U.S. State Department. (Letters From An American, April 27, 2022)
Shortly after Trump took office journalists wrote about how he was sidelining the State Department. Trump seemed “enamored of the military” and seemed eager to get rid of the nonpartisan bureaucracy that stabilizes democracies.
Of course, we now know that Trump was centering foreign affairs in the White House—Ivanka Trump went along on that trip to Saudi Arabia to promote “female entrepreneurs”—and among his own cronies like the “Three Amigos” who tried to pressure Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky into launching a fake investigation into Hunter Biden. The plan was, at least in part, to stop looking at foreign affairs as national security (just days ago, Trump told an audience that during his term he had threatened European leaders that the U.S. would not honor the mutual aid pact and defend Europe against incursions by Russia) and instead to pocket huge sums of money. We know now it was Trump friend Tom Barrack who was behind the meeting with the Saudis as he angled for a huge deal to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. People who seemed nonplussed by the extraordinary actions of the Trump administration just couldn’t believe they were seeing the dismantling of centuries of diplomacy to enrich one family and its inner circle.
President Biden's Secretary of State Antony Blinken now talks about values and national security again. Today, he spoke to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reminding it that he, the secretary of state, had spoken to the committee 100 times. In addition to responding to the urgency of the attack on Ukraine, the State Department “continues to carry out the missions traditionally associated with diplomacy, like responsibly managing great power competition with China, facilitating a halt to fighting in Yemen and Ethiopia, pushing back against the rising tide of authoritarianism and the threat that it poses to human rights,” he said. The State Department will continue to modernize, as well, to address emergence of infectious diseases, the climate crisis, and the digital revolution.
“My first 15 months in this job have only strengthened my own conviction that these and other reforms are not just worthwhile;” Blinken said, “they’re essential to our national security and to delivering for the people we represent.”

[Vive la difference!]
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: Microsoft Aggression and Deflection - Against Linux (34-min. video; TechRights, April 27, 2022)
Microsoft Loves Linux FUD.

Microsoft points at Linux and shouts: Look, look! Privilege-escalation flaws here, too! (The Register, April 27, 2022)
Will Redmond start code-naming Windows make-me-admin bugs?
Microsoft finds Linux desktop flaw that gives root to untrusted users. (Ars Technica, April 26, 2022)
Elevation of privilege vulnerabilities can be used to gain persistent root access. Adversaries with physical access or limited system rights can deploy backdoors or execute code of their choice.
Nimbuspwn, as Microsoft has named the EoP threat, is two vulnerabilities that reside in the
networkd-dispatcher, a component in many Linux distributions - including Linux Mint - that dispatch network status changes and can run various scripts to respond to a new status. When a machine boots, networkd-dispatcher runs as root.
The vulnerability has been patched in the networkd-dispatcher, although it wasn’t immediately clear when or in what version, and attempts to reach the developer weren’t immediately successful. People using vulnerable versions of Linux should patch their systems as soon as possible.
[That's the bottom line. Techies will enjoy this detailed explanation.]
So You Think You've Been Hacked? (Ask Bob Rankin, April 26, 2022)
Sometimes the best security software in the world can't protect you from yourself. If you click on anything that moves, use trivial passwords, or download from sites that are not trustworthy, you might as well open the door and invite the bad guys in for a party. Other times the attacks are very clever, and may catch you off guard. A link in a carefully crafted "phishing" email can take you to a rogue site designed to steal your password or banking credentials.
Fake virus warning messages are almost as old as antivirus software, and they still work. When “VIRUS DETECTED! Click here to delete it NOW!” appears on-screen, people often rush to click. After all, who remembers what the real warning message of an antivirus program is supposed to look like? But when you click on the fake warning it can lead you down a rabbit hole.
[Read it. Memorize it. Believe it.]
Florida man asks schools to ban the Bible following the state's efforts to remove books. (PBS, April 26, 2022)
In petitions sent to public school superintendents across the state, Chaz Stevens asked the districts to "immediately remove the Bible from the classroom, library, and any instructional material," Stevens wrote in the documents, which were shared with NPR. "Additionally, I also seek the banishment of any book that references the Bible." His petitions cited a bill signed into law last month by Gov. Ron DeSantis, which lets parents object to educational materials.
A Billionaires’ World (New York Times, April 26, 2022)
The world’s richest person didn’t like Twitter. So he’s buying it.
[With a good explanation of how a very few super-rich families are gaming our world.]
NEW: The World’s Largest Economies
(1970-2020), Sized by GDP (Visual Capitalist, April 26, 2022)
Global GDP has grown massively over the last 50 years, but not all countries experienced this economic growth equally. In 1970, the world’s nominal GDP was just $3.4 trillion. Fast forward a few decades and it had reached $85.3 trillion by 2020. And thanks to shifting dynamics, such as industrialization and the rise and fall of political regimes, the world’s largest economies driving this global growth have changed over time.
[The slideshow animates automatically. To pause, move your cursor on the image. Arrows on left/right navigate.]
Models of Landscape Formation on Saturn’s Moon Titan Reveal an Earth-Like Alien World. (SciTechDaily, April 26, 2022)
Titan, Saturn’s moon, appears very much like Earth from space, with rivers, lakes, and seas filled by rain that pours through a thick atmosphere. While these landscapes appear to be familiar, they are made of materials that are undoubtedly different – liquid methane streams streak Titan’s frozen surface, while nitrogen winds produce hydrocarbon sand dunes.
The presence of these materials – whose mechanical properties are vastly different from those of silicate-based substances that make up other known sedimentary bodies in our solar system – makes Titan’s landscape formation enigmatic. By identifying a process that would allow for hydrocarbon-based substances to form sand grains or bedrock depending on how often winds blow and streams flow, Stanford University geologists have shown how Titan’s distinct dunes, plains, and labyrinth terrains could be formed.
Titan, which is a target for space exploration because of its potential habitability, is the only other body in our solar system known to have an Earth-like, seasonal liquid transport cycle.
NEW: Self-driving cars and earthquakes have more in common than you’d think. (Temblor, April 26, 2022)
Scientists and a Japanese cell phone provider are working together to measure land movements, with an eye toward locating earthquakes. Such partnerships would be particularly helpful in the United States, where more than 100 geolocation stations are being decommissioned due to a reduction in funding.
And In The End... (35-min. podcast; Michael Moore, April 25, 2022)
Our environmental movement has failed us and we must change course — and leadership — immediately. Planet Earth is fed up with us, and from climate to coronavirus, it sees no choice but to throw an extinction event.
As a follow-up to last week’s Substack letter — “At Earth Day’s End” — I was compelled to raise the stakes again after sitting through one more Earth Day that offered no hope that we are going to get this right. So a new kind of battle must now be fought.
NEW: The revival of a forgotten American fruit (BBC, April 25, 2022)
The pawpaw, North America's largest native edible fruit, grows wild in 26 US states including Texas, Ohio, West Virginia, New York and Michigan, and all the way up to Ontario, Canada. Yet most people have never heard of it.
Natick History: The Charles River (Natick Historical Society, April 25, 2022)
Some stretches of the Charles River in South Natick still look much the way they did when the “Praying Indians” and Rev. John Eliot did their first walk-around at the site and decided to build a town in 1651.
NEW: How Do Big Tech Giants Make Their Billions? (Visual Capitalist, April 25, 2022)
In 2021, the Big Five tech companies generated more than $1.4 trillion in revenue - that's more than Mexico's entire GDP. Where does big tech make their money? We dug through each company's 2021 10-K reports to find out.
Donald Trump Dealt a Blow in New York Fraud Case. (Newsweek, April 25, 2022)
A New York Supreme Court judge on Monday ruled to hold Donald Trump in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena, the latest development in the former president's ongoing fight with the office of state Attorney General Letitia James. The decision was a major victory for James in the New York fraud case. State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron ruled that Trump will be fined $10,000 every day until he complies with the subpoena.
Robert Reich: Elon Musk Doesn't Want 'Free Speech.' He Wants Freedom from Accountability. (Newsweek, April 25, 2022)
Elon Musk struck a deal today to buy Twitter for roughly $44 billion, in a victory by the world's richest man. Twitter agreed to sell itself to Musk for $54.20 a share, a 38 percent premium over the company's share price this month before he revealed he was the firm's single largest shareholder.
Twitter's founder and top managers had offered Musk a seat on the board but he didn't take it because he'd have to be responsible to all other shareholders. Now, he doesn't have to be accountable to anyone. Hey, it's a free market, right?
Elon Musk to Buy Twitter. (Mother Jones, April 25, 2022)
Musk has been a prolific Twitter user and a sharp critic of its use of content moderation.
[Bad news. Money talks - and in this case, far too much in bad ways.]
Hingham Doctor Bringing 1,500 Pounds Of Medical Supplies To Ukraine. (Patch, April 25, 2022)
Dr. Frank Duggan is en route to Ukraine with medical supplies in hopes to help people and hospitals in need.
[Bravo for the good people who Just Do It!]
Ukraine’s postal service prints stamp mocking sunken Russian ship, and gets hit by DDoS attack. (good photos; Graham Cluley, April 25, 2022)
February 24, 2022: Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, called on the 13 border guards defending Ukraine’s Snake Island to surrender.
 It only took a matter of days for Ukraine’s national postal service, Ukrposhta, to issue a stamp honouring the defiance of the border guards on Snake Island as they refused to surrender to Russia’s Moskva warship. On the stamp, a guard is rebelliously giving a defiant “one fingered salute” to the Moskva.
April 13, 2022: Ukraine claimed that its forces had hit Moskva with two missiles, and it subsequently sank.
April 22, 2022: Reuters reported that Ukrposhta was hit by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. The speculation is that this was in retaliation against the sale of the stamps, which cheekily referenced the doomed Moskva.
Russia uses African mercenaries as consumables in the war against Ukraine. (Robert Lansing Institute, April 25, 2022)
Hundreds of Ethiopians have reportedly lined up outside the Russian embassy in Addis Ababa, hoping to be recruited to fight for Moscow in its war against Ukraine that began on February 24, 2022. The Ethiopians applying to the Russian Embassy in Addis Ababa want to leave their country, reach Europe and search for a better future. Most of them saw recruitment announcements published by the Russian embassy on the Internet.
In the same manner around 5,000 citizens of Eritrea are being recruited. There is information about the recruitment of citizens of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Cameroon. The mercenaries are partly recruited by Russian intelligence personnel working in the Russian embassies under cover, and, by private military companies’ branches (for example, in the Central African Republic and Cameroon).
Ukraine update: Massive explosions at Russian oil depots; Russia creeps closer to vital rail line. (Daily Kos, April 25, 2022)
The situation on the ground in Ukraine continues to see only small changes, with Russian forces continuing to stage small attacks as Ukrainian defenders publicize equipment captures behind Russia's frontlines. Russian state television continues to be apoplectic in their fury over ... the rest of the world existing, for the most part.
Russia continues to show no apparent battle plan other than the current probing attacks,
The mass of European and American artillery, tanks, and other heavy weaponry being rushed to Ukrainian forces continues to flow towards the frontlines, making every day of the current near-stalemate considerably more dangerous for Russia than for the country they are invading.
The weekend's biggest news was the continued tendency of major infrastructure inside Russia to violently and inexplicably explode. Two massive fires are burning in Bryansk, 90 miles from Ukraine, after explosions rocked two large oil depots in the city. One of those depots is next to a Russian "artillery and missile storage" site. The cause of both explosions is currently unknown; this, after fires destroyed a Russian missile research facility, a Russian space program facility, and Russia's largest (and absolutely critical) chemical plant in recent days. It also coincides with a string of bloody murder-suicides plaguing the Russian oligarchy since Russian strongman Vladimir Putin issued his orders to invade.
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!]
Zelensky says Blinken and Austin will visit Ukraine on Sunday. (CNN,
April 23, 2022)
Biden announced Thursday that the US will send an additional $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine as the Russian invasion soon enters its third month in what US officials warn could be a potentially bloody new phase. The new shipments include heavy artillery and 144,000 rounds of ammunition. The US sent a similarly sized military aid package earlier this month that included Mi-17
helicopters, Howitzer cannons, Switchblade drones and protective equipment.
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.
[See related "Chain-Mail" article on February 26th, below.]
Celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope’s 32nd Birthday With a Stunning Galaxy Grouping (photo and two 1-min. videos; SciTechDaily, April 23, 2022)
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating its 32nd birthday with a magnificent view of the Hickson Compact Group 40, an extraordinary close-knit grouping of five galaxies that captures a special moment in their lifetimes as they fall together before merging. This menagerie includes three spiral-shaped galaxies, an elliptical galaxy, and a lenticular (lens-like) galaxy. Somehow, these different galaxies have crossed paths to create an unusually crowded and diversified galaxy sampler.
Climate activists protest in D.C.: ‘Our futures are at stake!’ (Washington Post, April 22, 2022)
The world is running out of options to implement the sweeping changes needed to slow Earth’s warming, highlighted by the latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But organizers say they are determined to keep pressing for humanity to shift course.
'Vampire Energy' Is Sucking the Life Out of Our Planet.
(Wired, April 22, 2022)
This Earth Day, it's time to tackle a sneaky source of waste that drains wallets and accelerates climate change.
Opposition to abortion doesn’t stop some Americans from supporting friends and family who seek one. (The Conversation, April 22, 2022)
Data from the 2018 General Social Survey, a nationally representative survey fielded since 1972 by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, revealed that 76% of Americans who were morally opposed to abortion would nonetheless give “emotional support” to a friend or family member who decided to have an abortion. Another 43% would help make arrangements, and 28% would help pay for associated costs. Six percent would help pay for the abortion itself.
Amid the backdrop of legislation in Texas permitting citizens to sue anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, these findings may be noteworthy. While federal and state courts debate the legal status of abortion, the issue is much more personal for ordinary Americans. Nearly a quarter of U.S. women will obtain an abortion by the age of 45. Three-quarters of the hundreds of Americans my team and I interviewed knew someone personally who has had an abortion.
NEW: Universal healthcare as pandemic preparedness: The lives and costs that could have been saved during the COVID-19 pandemic (PNAS, April 22, 2022)
The fragmented and inefficient healthcare system in the United States leads to many preventable deaths and unnecessary costs every year. During a pandemic, the lives saved and economic benefits of a single-payer universal healthcare system relative to the status quo would be even greater. For Americans who are uninsured and underinsured, financial barriers to COVID-19 care delayed diagnosis and exacerbated transmission. Concurrently, deaths beyond COVID-19 accrued from the background rate of uninsurance. Universal healthcare would alleviate the mortality caused by the confluence of these factors. To evaluate the repercussions of incomplete insurance coverage in 2020, we calculated the elevated mortality attributable to the loss of employer-sponsored insurance and to background rates of uninsurance, summing with the increased COVID-19 mortality due to low insurance coverage. Incorporating the demography of the uninsured with age-specific COVID-19 and non-pandemic mortality, we estimated that a single-payer universal healthcare system would have saved about 212,000 lives in 2020 alone. We also calculated that US$105.6 billion of medical expenses associated with COVID-19 hospitalization could have been averted by a single-payer universal healthcare system over the course of the pandemic. These economic benefits are in addition to US$438-billion expected to be saved by single-payer universal healthcare during a non-pandemic year.
With over 973,000 reported deaths attributed to COVID-19 as of 14 March 2022, the United States represents 16% of the documented worldwide mortality burden of the virus, while only composing 4% of the global population. Inadequate health insurance coverage has exacerbated the COVID-19 pandemic on both individual and population levels. At the individual level, concerns over medical expenses delay diagnosis and treatment, elevating case fatality rates. At the population level, postponement of diagnosis, and thus of case isolation, fuels transmission. In addition, fear of losing employer-sponsored health insurance during a pandemic may make it untenable for people to miss work even when they feel unwell.
[Among well-off countries, the US stands shamefully alone in leaving its citizens to die and to spread pandemics. Read the map!]
NEW: The Week It Became Obvious: The Biden Admin Is Over Making Covid Decisions. (Mother Jones, April 22, 2022)
We’re all exhausted by decision fatigue. But the government has no excuse.
Joe Biden, and the Country, Could Really Use a CTO. (Wired, April 22, 2022)
One of the US government’s best innovations so far this century was establishing a chief technology officer. Since Barack Obama created the post, you would expect that his former VP Joe Biden would want to choose his own CTO early into his presidency. Doing so would provide Americans with a strong voice and a knowledgeable leader in a period when tech’s issues—in AI, education, jobs, privacy, and disinformation—are more critical than ever. But nope. Nearly a year and half into the Biden administration, we have no CTO. The office is empty.
One obstacle in particular: the Biden administration’s guidelines about owning stakes in companies. Ethics standards make perfect sense as a way to avoid conflicts, but the CTO candidate pool is loaded with people who have amassed equity in these companies from working in tech or investing in startups. For many of them, divesting isn’t as simple as just selling off stock, especially if the shares or options they own are in illiquid companies. Giving up those holdings might mean losing them outright. Worse, these restrictions apply to spouses as well. Multiple sources told me that the CTO job was offered to D.J. Patil, who was Obama’s chief data scientist and a member of the Biden transition team, but under the financial restrictions, he couldn’t make it work. (Patil declined to confirm or deny.) I also heard that feelers went out to at least four other candidates, who had similar problems.
Trump says he threatened not to defend NATO against Russia. (3-min. video; Washington Post, April 22, 2022)
Pentagon seeking info from U.S. industry on Ukraine-ready systems. (Reuters, April 22, 2022)
The Department of Defense posted a request for information on that had an initial response deadline of May 6 and sought information on weapons or commercial capabilities related to air defense, anti-armor, anti-personnel, coastal defense, counter battery, unmanned aerial systems, and communications like radios or satellite internet.
Ukraine update: Russia is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. (Daily Kos, April 22, 2022)
Can Russia do better when the next obstacle in their way is not Kyiv but the smallish cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk? That’s not clear. Neither is it clear when the force at Izyum will begin to move. If Putin wants something to actually celebrate on May 9, Russia needs to find a new gear and move. On the other hand, what do actual accomplishments even mean when you have complete media control? Putin could just announce that Russia has taken all of Ukraine and is marching on Germany. Then all the planes could get back to practicing flying in a Z formation.
Meanwhile, additional U.S. weapons are arriving in Ukraine daily, as are weapons from other NATO partners.
NEW: During meeting with Russia's Defense Minister Vladimir Putin looks like he is in discomfort or pain. (videos; Daily Kos, April 22, 2022)
[Interesting videos and Comments thread, too.]
NEW: Every Russian Oligarch Who Has Died Since Putin Invaded Ukraine. (Newsweek, April 22, 2022)
Two Russian oligarchs were found dead this week alongside their family in luxurious homes in Russia and Spain, with the two cases discovered within 24 hours of each other. Both deaths appeared to be cases of murder-suicide, but the evidence supporting these theories is muddled by the fact that the events happened so close together, with the two oligarchs the last of several who have been "found to have died by suicide" since the beginning of the year.
"I had it all wrong. My prediction was the oligarchs would bump off Putin. Spain and the U.K.? THIS GUY HAS REACH. In Russia, human life has no value. Rather than divorce, they push their wives out windows, "another suicide". Even in battle, as we now see in the Ukraine, they have little regard for their own casualties. How did they defeat the Germans? Russia was willing to accept a 5:1 casualty ratio; for each German-army casualty, the Soviets had five. One-third of all military and civilian casualties during WWII were Russian. These are very dangerous people."
"What do Russian Oligarchs fear more than COVID? It's Oligarchitis, an always fatal disease. It is contracted from close financial contact with Putin. If you believe for one minute that a rash of "murder-suicides" is sweeping through the wealthiest Russians, you are delusional. The message being sent from the top is a simple one: Your relationship with Putin is always a limited engagement. When you are no longer useful, or if you dare turn against him, you and your family will be wiped from the face of the Earth."
"Or as Putin said last month, 'will be spat out as a midge.'"
"It's right out of the Lenin playbook: Use them to come to power, then kill them. History repeats. Putin has no imagination, no original thought. He's a 2-bit psychopath that happens to be starting WWIII."
Stellar Devastation on a Massive Scale: Black Holes Destroy Thousands of Stars To Fuel Growth. (photos, 3-min. and 21-min. videos; SciTechDaily, April 21, 2022)
Astronomers have found evidence for the destruction of thousands of stars in multiple galaxies, using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
The new study involved the observations of over a hundred galaxies with Chandra.
Growing black holes within dense stellar clusters are thought to be responsible for this large-scale devastation. This process could account for “intermediate mass black holes” through the runaway growth of stellar-mass black holes.
Humans Disrupting 66 Million-Year-Old Fundamental Feature of Ecosystems – “This Hasn’t Happened Before.” (SciTechDaily, April 21, 2022)
It’s been several decades since ecologists realized that graphing the diet-size relationship of terrestrial mammals yields a U-shaped curve when aligning those mammals on a plant-to-protein gradient. Plant-eating herbivores and meat-eating carnivores tend to grow much larger than the all-consuming omnivores and invertebrate-feasting invertivores. To date, though, virtually no research had looked for the pattern beyond mammals or the modern day.
In a new study, researchers from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and institutions on four continents have concluded that the pattern actually dates back to deep time and applies to land-dwelling birds, reptiles, and even saltwater fishes. However, the study also suggests that human-caused extinctions of the largest herbivores and carnivores are causing a disruption in what appears to be a fundamental component of past and present ecosystems, with potentially unpredictable implications.
Clarence Thomas and his wife’s text messages highlight missing ethics rules at the Supreme Court. (The Conversation, April 21, 2022)
In general, ethical behavior by judges in our federal system is governed by the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, which was adopted in 1973. The code applies to federal judges and magistrate judges serving in the courts of appeals, district courts, bankruptcy judges, the Court of International Trade and the Court of Federal Claims. Judges must not only avoid actual conflicts of interest, they must also avoid the appearance of impropriety. Thus, judges covered under the code need to recuse themselves from cases whenever their impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
Notably absent from coverage under the code are the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.
[And Trump packed that court.]
GOP’s cozy ties with big business unravel as DeSantis unloads on Disney. (World News Era, April 21, 2022)
A growing numbers of state and federal Republican leaders today seem eager to clash with the country’s biggest corporations over bills on hot-button issues.
Last year, the GOP attacked entities such as Delta Air Lines and Major League Baseball for standing against Georgia’s restrictive voting law. Citigroup was threatened for taking action seen as opposing Texas’s recent abortion law. And Disney’s complaints about Florida’s new law limiting classroom discussion of sexual identity has led to Republicans targeting the Magic Kingdom’s perks.
Despite the onslaught, companies are not backing down — goaded by heightened expectations from customers and employees. Citigroup did not rescind its offer to help its Texas workers obtain out-of-state abortion services after the new restrictive law there, despite the threat from a state GOP representative to block the financial company from underwriting municipal bonds.
The result is fresh cracks in the once-sturdy relationship between companies and a business-friendly GOP.
Perils of Invisible Government
(New York Times, April 21, 2022)
More than a decade ago, the political scientist Suzanne Mettler coined the phrase “the submerged state” to describe a core feature of modern American government: Many people don’t realize when they are benefiting from a government program. “Americans often fail to recognize government’s role in society, even if they have experienced it in their own lives,” Mettler wrote. “That is because so much of what government does today is largely invisible.”
The American Rescue Plan is huge and yet little noticed.  
“Democrats win elections when we show we understand the painful economic realities facing American families and convince voters we will deliver meaningful change,” Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote this week. “To put it bluntly: if we fail to use the months remaining before the elections to deliver on more of our agenda, Democrats are headed toward big losses in the midterms.”
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.
The crazy details of the Trump era just keep piling up. (Mother Jones, April 20, 2022)
Why Isn’t Jared Kushner’s $2 Billion Saudi Payment a Big Scandal? (Mother Jones, April 20, 2022)
Anyone remember Billygate? Billygate is a good point of reference when assessing what could be called Jaredgate. On April 10, the New York Times revealed that Jared Kushner, son-in-law and adviser of the 45th president, secured a $2 billion investment for his new private equity firm, Affinity Partners, from a fund controlled by the Saudi crown prince—even after advisers to the Saudi fund raised serious objections to the investment. The panel was overruled by the fund’s board, which is headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s autocratic de facto leader, who, according to US intelligence, green-lit the operation that resulted in the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
It’s damn hard to not see the $2 billion investment as either a payoff for past services rendered or a preemptive bribe should Trump manage to regain the White House. And it could be both.
It’s a wonder that the disclosure of this deal hasn’t created more of a fuss and prompted congressional investigations. (Imagine what Republicans and Fox News would be doing if Hunter Biden received $2 billion from a Ukrainian government leader who was responsible for the gruesome murder of an American resident.) A 10-figure payment to a relative of a former president who is essentially the current (though undeclared) GOP front-runner in the 2024 contest and possibly the next inhabitant of the White House is a major scandal. Or it should be.
Top 100 Linux Blogs and Websites (FeedSpot, April 20, 2022)
The best Linux blogs from thousands of blogs on the web ranked by traffic, social media followers, domain authority & freshness.
How To Use The Driving Modes In The Chevy Bolt EV And Bolt EUV (2-min. video; GM Authority, April 20, 2022)
Drivers that learn how to properly utilize Regen on Demand and One Pedal Driving will be able to maximize the usable range of their Chevy Bolt EV or Bolt EUV. The Sport mode, on the other hand, may cause the user to drain the battery faster and therefore probably won’t be used by very many owners.
Or Take The Bus! (1-min. Belgian TV commercials - from 2014!)

Three funny TV commercials make the point that it's better to travel in groups.
NEW: The End of Astronauts—and the Rise of Robots (Wired, April 19, 2022)
Human space travel has captured the global imagination, but robots may be a better, cheaper, and safer option.
Kremlin Says Not 'Authorized' to Discuss Moskva Warship's Missing Crew. (Moscow Times, April 19, 2022)
The Kremlin refused Tuesday to reveal any details about casualties suffered from the sinking of Russia's guided-missile cruiser Moskva, as parents called for the truth about their missing children. The flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet sank last week after an explosion and fire that Ukraine said was caused by a successful missile strike and Russia said was the result of exploding munitions. Russian authorities said the crew had been evacuated from the warship — which is able to carry up to 680 sailors — but gave no other details.
After the Moskva sank, parents and other family members of sailors who served aboard — including conscripts — took to social media, saying their children had gone missing and that they needed answers.
NEW: Russian Military Secretly Evacuate Families From Region Bordering Ukraine Inland. (Ukrainian News, April 19, 2022)
Tsymbalyuk noted that the Russian military is carefully concealing information about the need for evacuation so as not to provoke panic among the local population.
As Ukrainian News Agency reported, on April 14, the Center for Counteracting Disinformation under the National Security and Defense Council reported that Russia was carrying out terrorist attacks on its territory in order to blame Ukraine for them.
Russia-Ukraine war by the numbers: Live Tracker (Al Jazeera, April 19, 2022)
As the Russian offensive enters its fifty-fifth day, we track where battles are taking place and the human cost of war, as more than 4.9 million refugees stream out of Ukraine.
The Surprising Climate Cost of the Humblest Battery Material (2-min. video; Wired, April 19, 2022)
Graphite is made in blazing-hot furnaces powered by dirty energy. Until recently, there has been no good tally of the carbon emissions.
'No place in New York City': Big city cutting ties with Wells Fargo over 'brazen and illegal' acts. (Daily Kos, April 19, 2022)
It appears Wells Fargo is starting to reap what it sows. New York City announced on April 8 that it is refusing to open new accounts with the financial company after a Bloomberg News study showed that the bank rejected more than half of its Black applicants looking to refinance their homes in 2020.
[Also see: Repeated errors cost hundreds of people their homes—now Wells Fargo wants to buy their silence. (Daily Kos, January 2, 2019). Its Comments thread is long and very enlightening.]
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.]
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.
At Earth Day’s End (Michael Moore; April 18, 2022)
I, like many of you, have warned and pleaded for years that we are killing our planet. How arrogant of me, of all of us, to think we could pull such a thing off! Oooh, look at us — sooo powerful, so all-knowing and invincible, we humans — WE think WE can kill a planet!
No, my friends. Long before we kill Earth, Earth will kill us. It’s already underway. This massive living organism of iron, nickel, magnesium, silicon, nitrogen and oxygen has one purpose — to LIVE — and it has identified its greatest threat, its sworn enemy — us. And in order to survive, with superpowers that we can only dream of having, it has reared its head and begun its extinction of the one species that, if allowed to continue, will turn Earth into one big dead rock — but only on its surface. The 4,000 interior miles below us will keep cranking away with its magnetic field and orbiting powers. Eventually it’ll find a way to create something new to amuse itself and which doesn’t need six inches of topsoil, Teflon and a lithium battery.
[Harsh words - and perhaps just in time. Like it or not, DISCUSS it!]
Climate change will transform how we live, but these tech and policy experts see reason for optimism. (The Conversation, April 18, 2022)
The latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change discuss changes ahead, but they also describe how existing solutions can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help people adjust to impacts of climate change that can’t be avoided.
The problem is that these solutions aren’t being deployed fast enough. In addition to push-back from industries, people’s fear of change has helped maintain the status quo.
The Renewable-Energy Revolution Will Need Renewable Storage. (New Yorker, April 18, 2022)
Can gravity, pressure, and other elemental forces save us from becoming a battery-powered civilization?
Do poison pills work? A finance expert explains the anti-takeover tool that Twitter hopes will keep Elon Musk at bay. (The Conversation, April 18, 2022)
Not every company wants to be taken over. This is the case with Elon Musk’s US$43 billion bid to buy Twitter. One of the most effective anti-takeover measures is the shareholder rights plan, also more aptly known as a “poison pill.” It is designed to block an investor from accumulating a majority stake in a company.
Twitter adopted a poison pill plan on April 15, 2022, shortly after Musk unveiled his takeover offer in a Securities and Exchange filing.
Used-Car Prices Increased 28 Percent Year-Over-Year In March. (GM Authority, April 18, 2022)
The anniversary of the chip shortage – when prices started to skyrocket – is approaching. Year-over-year growth rates will come back to earth. However, prices will not go negative. Rather they should return to more normal growth trends but from a higher base.
NEW: Russians at War: Putin’s Aggression Has Turned a Nation Against Itself. (Foreign Affairs, April 18, 2022)
[Cannot connect on April 27; try again later.]
The Agonizing Life of a College Student in Ukraine (Mother Jones, April 18, 2022)
“Our generation,” Azad Mamedov wrote in his diary, “has known the horror of war.”
A Newly-Measured Particle Could Break Known Physics.
(Wired, April 17, 2022)
A new analysis of W bosons suggests these particles are significantly heavier than predicted by the standard model of particle physics.
Install, Configure, and Scan for Viruses on Linux with ClamAV. (Putorius, April 17, 2022)
Many believe you do not need an antivirus if you use Linux. I am not going to start that debate here. However, in my opinion it is always better to have one and not need it, than to need one and not have it. In this tutorial we are going to show you how to install, configure, and scan for viruses on Linux with ClamAV. ClamAV is a fully open source anti-malware toolkit. It is available for almost any operating system, including Windows (ClamWin).
GM’s New BT1 Electric Vehicle Platform Is Not Unibody Or Body-On-Frame. (GM Authority, April 17, 2022)
GM’s transition to an all-electric lineup is bringing a wealth of new technology and engineering to the fore, including the development of new vehicle platforms to underpin a deluge of new GM EV models. “It is not a unibody and it is not a body-on-frame. We’ve designed a different type of architecture where we have a body that has a floor, but also, the Ultium battery structure is actually a good portion of the structure and those two are connected after the body exits the body shaft. So we’ve defined kind of a new category of vehicle that doesn’t have that traditional body-and-frame approach.”
The GM BT1 architecture underpins GM’s battery-powered pickup trucks and SUVs, including the Chevy Silverado EV, GMC Sierra EV, GMC Hummer EV, and the forthcoming all-electric variant of the Cadillac Escalade. GM’s new BEV3 platform is used to underpin the automaker’s all-electric crossovers and sedans, including the Cadillac Lyriq, Cadillac Celestiq, Chevy Blazer EV, and Chevy Equinox EV.
Musk bid for Twitter underscores the risks of social media ownership.
(Washington Post, April 17, 2022)
Experts worry about the impact of ownership by one person after years of dealing with Facebook.
The Brooklyn shooting and other headline-making U.S. violence are part of a broader trend. (New York Times, April 17, 2022)
Besides Covid and police brutality, the country’s increasingly polarized politics and poor economic conditions have also fueled this discord. That helps explain the murder spike, as well as recent increases in drug addiction and overdoses, mental health problems, car crashes and even confrontations over masks on airplanes.
Trump Posts Hostile Easter Greetings Filled with Insults and Hatred and Fear. (News Corpse, April 17, 2022)
The worshipful infatuation that evangelicals have for Donald Trump has always been starkly hypocritical. Trump is indisputably the most flagrantly faithless person to ever occupy the White House. His ignorance of – and animosity toward – religion is evident every time he deigns to mention it. And he only mentions it when he has something personal to gain by doing so.
Ukraine update: Goodbye to Moskva. (Daily Kos, April 16, 2022)
The U.S. Department of Defense has now confirmed that the Russian missile cruiser Moskva (“Moscow”) sank after being struck by Neptune missiles fired by Ukrainian coastal defense. With a displacement of over 12,000 tons and a length greater than two football fields, the Moskva was a large ship. In fact, it may be the largest ship to go down in war since World War II.
At a small remembrance ceremony held in Sevastopol yesterday, it appears that only 58 survivors out of her crew of around 500 could attend. This may also be the worst loss of hands since World War II.
U.S., allies plan for long-term isolation of Russia. (Washington Post, April 16, 2022)
A new strategy would mark a return to containment after years of seeking cooperation and coexistence with Moscow.
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.
NEW: It Took Me 10 Years to Understand Entropy, Here is What I Learned. (Cantor's Paradise, April 16, 2022)
From the Big Bang to the Heat Death of the Universe.
GM Files Patent For Cabin Radiant Heating System. (GM Authority, April 16, 2022)
A system like this is designed to provide adequate comfort inside the cabin while staying as energy-efficient as possible. Additionally, the system would more quickly alleviate the sense of being cold by directly heating adjacent surfaces, something which traditional HVAC systems typically lag in providing vehicle occupants. As General Motors moves towards offering a fully electric lineup, systems like this will be necessary in order to ensure maximum range-per-charge without sacrificing passenger comfort.
Lithium-sulfur batteries can be cheaper to produce and up to three times more energy-dense than lithium-ion batteries. (Freethink, April 15, 2022)
A lucky discovery could revolutionize the battery and change how we power our world. A chemical phase of sulfur basically stops battery degradation! This chemical phase is known as monoclinic gamma-phase sulfur. It had only been observed in the lab at high temperatures — upwards of 95°C (203°F). This is the first time it has been seen at room temperature.
In the battery, this phase completely stops the reaction that creates polysulfides; it lasts at least twice as long as lithium-ion. The battery is three times as energy-dense as lithium-ion and can charge just as fast! This new phase of sulfur also has other benefits, like reducing battery expansion and increased safety margins. In other words, this battery has all of the hallmarks of the ultimate mass-market battery. That means much faster, more efficient EVs with ranges of thousands miles will be commercially viable at a similar cost to today’s EVs, and they will still be useful in 10 years time, dramatically reducing waste and increasing the rate of EV adoption. Lithium, sulfur, and the other materials that make this new battery are abundant all over the Earth. This means we can drastically reduce mining’s ecological impact, as well as ensure a stronger supply chain.
Furthermore, short-haul flights, cargo vessels, and passenger ferries will have a technology that will allow them to go fully electric. The weight-saving, long life, and competitive price will mean these sectors can finally achieve their low-carbon goals.
In short, lithium-sulfur batteries could allow a huge range of activities to go electric, making net-zero emissions far more feasible.
But that isn’t the end of this discovery. The team at Drexel are already looking into using this breakthrough to make sodium-sulfur batteries. By removing the need for lithium, they can make batteries even more eco-friendly and eliminate a massive supply chain bottleneck, ensuring EV adoption can continue at the speed that global warming demands.
The Rise of Brand-New Secondhand EVs (Wired, April 15, 2022)
The global chip shortage has triggered a surge in demand for prized, pricey used electric vehicles. It's only just beginning.
NEW: Why Human Life Is Only About 80 Years:
We May Have Solved the Mystery. (Medium, April 15, 2022)
A new study from the Wellcome Sanger Institute published in Nature suggests that the rate of genetic damage may be the key. Genetic changes, called somatic mutations, occur in all cells and are mostly harmless. The body repairs or ignores them. But some can put a cell on the path to cancer. These cells mutate in a way the body can’t repair.
Somatic mutations have been suspected of contributing to aging since the 1950s, but their study has been difficult. With recent advances in DNA sequencing technology, we can finally study the role that somatic mutations play in aging and in various diseases.
What’s new here is that even if mutations don’t cause cancer, they accumulate. They cause the body to shut down and die after a certain point. the study found that life expectancy is inversely proportional to the somatic mutation rate. This suggests that somatic mutations play an important role in aging. It seems that long-lived animals have successfully slowed the rate of DNA mutations and therefore live longer. The average number of mutations across all species at the end of life was about 3200. This seems to be the critical mass of errors when a body can no longer function properly.
Understanding the direct link between mutations and longevity means that it’s crucial to stay away from substances that cause mutations. Alcohol, smoking, sunlight, processed foods. We all know the culprits. But now, it’s not about whether you die of cancer or not. It’s also about how long we live, even if we don’t get it.
[This is an important breakthrough. But remember the need to greatly reduce over-population.]
Top Political Cartoonist Sergei Elkin Flees Russia. (Moscow Times, April 15, 2022)
Russia’s most prominent political cartoonist Sergei Elkin announced Wednesday that he had left Russia amid a wartime crackdown on journalism. He is now in Bulgaria. Over the years, Elkin has lampooned politicians, businessmen, and international elites in media outlets across the world — including The Moscow Times, who published his series, “Putin’s Russia” in print and online. New laws passed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 stipulate that anyone found guilty of spreading "fake news" can face up to 15 years in prison.
The Moscow Times is celebrating Elkin’s work by sharing some of the cartoons he created for the newspaper over the years.

Russian Warship Moskva Is Featured in New Ukrainian Postage Stamp. (Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2022)
An explosion aboard the Russian missile cruiser the Moskva this week came shortly after the issue of a new Ukrainian postage stamp that highlights the warship in an image celebrating national resistance to Moscow’s invasion.
[Also see Wikipedia.]
NEW: Putin nemesis Bill Browder reveals the 'real money' funding Kremlin's war. (Yahoo, April 14, 2022)
A trillion dollars: That’s how much money famed investor Bill Browder believes Vladimir Putin and Russian oligarchs have stolen from the Russian people since the fall of the Soviet Union. “And that was money that was supposed to be spent on health care and education, roads and services,” Browder said at a Manhattan event to celebrate the publication of his second book, “Freezing Order,” which chronicles how he became a Putin nemesis as a result of his attempts to expose Kremlin corruption. Those efforts led to the death of Browder’s attorney Sergei Magnitsky, who was tortured in a Russian prison and whose name is affixed to sanctions bills passed by Congress.
The Toxic Culture That Produced the Subway Shooter Is All Around Us. (1-min. video; Newsweek, April 14, 2022)
Suspected Brooklyn subway shooter Frank James may have acted alone. But if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire culture to create a mass-murder. Ours can take full credit here. The toxic ideas that consumed James are all around us.
James is a now considered a suspect in Tuesday's subway attack, in which at least 23 people were injured and at least four hospitalized. The shooter allegedly set off smoke grenades in a crowded subway car and then started shooting. And what motivated this act of violence? News outlets have reported that James' alleged writings and YouTube videos are laced with racism, including pejorative discussions of white, Black, Hispanic, and Asian people. This is true. But it also misses the point. If you listen closely to his rants, you will hear a singular motif emerge: the rage of the Jew-obsessed.
NEW: ​ ​Oceans Aren’t Just Warming—Their Soundscapes Are Transforming.
(Wired, April 14, 2022)
Humans are polluting the seas with sound, while warming waters change how noise propagates. What does that mean for whales and other animals?
EPA Urged To Approve Carbon Nanotube Use For GM’s Ultium Battery Packs. (GM Authority, April 14, 2022)
Michigan members of Congress recently sent a letter to the EPA requesting that the regulatory body expedite GM’s request to approve the use of carbon nanotubes, an advanced material slated for use in the production of the automaker’s Ultium electric vehicle batteries. The letter reinforces the importance of a request for approval made by Ultium Cells LLC, the joint venture between GM and LG Energy Solutions, and states that the carbon nanotube material is critical in opening GM’s new battery production facility in Delta Township. GM recently announced $7 billion in investments for its Michigan-based facilities to support the production of new electric vehicles, including $2.5 billion for battery production at the Delta Township plant, which is expected to create 1,700 new jobs. Carbon nanotubes are essentially chemically bonded carbon atoms, which can be used for the efficient storage or transfer of heat or electrical energy.
While great for new EV battery technology, the EPA determined in 2011 that carbon nanotubes could be a health hazard, for example, causing lung issues if inhaled.
[Its Comments thread includes an excellent debate on "all that's wrong with EVs", and a glaring lack of comment about global warming. Also, this: "What is it about EVs that give people with sub-70 IQs prodromal schizophrenia?"]
Elon Musk’s Truth (Wired, April 14, 2022)
At TED, the Tesla CEO made his case for owning Twitter—and rewrote his own history.

Russian warship sinks in the Black Sea after Ukraine claims it was hit by a missile. (2-min. video: CNN, April 14, 2022)
One of the Russian Navy's most important warships has sunk in the Black Sea, a massive blow to a military struggling against Ukrainian resistance 50 days into Vladimir Putin's invasion of his neighbor. Russian state news agency TASS reported Thursday evening that the guided-missile cruiser Moskva had sunk, citing a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense. "During the towing of the cruiser Moskva to the port of destination, the ship lost its stability due to hull damage received during a fire from the detonation of ammunition. In the conditions of stormy seas, the ship sank," the statement said, according to TASS.
Early-day version of
same URL: "Russian navy evacuates badly damaged flagship in Black Sea. Ukraine claims it was hit by a missile."
One of the Russian Navy's most important warships has been badly damaged in the Black Sea, a massive blow to a military struggling against Ukrainian resistance 50 days into Vladimir Putin's invasion of his neighbor. Russian sailors evacuated the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of its Black Sea fleet, after a fire that detonated ammunition aboard, Russia's defense ministry said.
Ukraine's Operational Command South claimed Thursday that the Moskva had begun to sink after it was hit by Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Thursday that "the way that this has unfolded is a big blow to Russia," as Moscow has had to admit its flagship has been badly damaged. "And they've had to choose between two stories. One story is that it was just incompetence, and the other is that they came under attack. And neither is a particularly good outcome for them." Whatever happened to the Moskva, analysts say its loss would strike hard at the heart of the Russian navy as well as national pride, comparable to the US Navy losing a battleship during World War II or an aircraft carrier today.
[Also see Wikipedia. How will Adolph Putin feature THIS in Russia's May 9th Victory Day celebration?]
Donald Trump Condemns NATO When Asked About Russia's 'Evil' Actions. (1-min. video; Newsweek, April 14, 2022)
Donald Trump criticized NATO for failing to prevent atrocities that Russia is accused of committing in Ukraine, rather than speaking out against President Vladimir Putin. Trump, whose association with Russia as president was long controversial, has been criticized in recent weeks for not condemning the Russian president amid the war in Ukraine, as well as calling him "genius" and "savvy" for his tactics preparing the invasion in late February.
Trump was condemned by the Biden administration recently after he asked Putin to "release" dirt on President Biden's son, Hunter Biden, while Russia was being accused of war crimes. "What kind of American, let alone an ex-president, thinks that this is the right time to enter into a scheme with Vladimir Putin and brag about his connections to Vladimir Putin? There is only one, and it's Donald Trump," White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield told reporters on March 30.
Russia’s New Motto: “We Are Not Ashamed.” (Mother Jones, April 14, 2022)
A letter from St. Petersburg: The economy is doing weird things, and we all need each other now more than ever. We don’t talk about politics because we don’t want to be fired. But also because “in this difficult time” we don’t want to sow discord between people who can help us do things and get things we might need or want through their personal channels. Stores are closing, commodities are disappearing, old ladies are fighting in grocery stores over the last bag of cheap sugar. China will surely come in and solve everything soon enough…but right now things are uncertain. So no political discussions. Politics is contentious, and therefore should be kept private, should be kept away from the street where it might disrupt the smooth flow of traffic. Times are tough. The West has attacked us with sanctions. We must hang together.

In Photos: 50 Days of Russia's War in Ukraine. (Moscow News, April 14, 2022)
In the 50 days since, Russia's military incursion — which the Kremlin denies is an invasion — has killed tens of thousands, displaced millions and turned once-peaceful cities into war zones. Here is a look back at the first 50 days of the war in Ukraine.

What images of Russian trucks say about its military's struggles in Ukraine (CNN, April 14, 2022)
Armies need trucks to transport their soldiers to the front lines, to supply those tanks with shells and to deliver those missiles. In short, any army that neglects its trucks does so at its peril. Yet that appears to be exactly the problem Russia's military is facing during its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, according to experts analyzing battlefield images as its forces withdraw from areas near Kyiv to focus on the Donbas.
Russia Is Leaking Data Like a Sieve. (Wired, April 13, 2022)
Since Russian troops crossed Ukraine’s borders at the end of February, colossal amounts of information about the Russian state and its activities have been made public. The data offers unparalleled glimpses into closed-off private institutions, and it may be a gold mine for investigators, from journalists to those tasked with investigating war crimes. Broadly, the data comes in two flavors: information published proactively by Ukranian authorities or their allies, and information obtained by hacktivists. Hundreds of gigabytes of files and millions of emails have been made public.
“Both sides in this conflict are very good at information operations,” says Philip Ingram, a former colonel in British military intelligence. “The Russians are quite blatant about the lies that they'll tell,” he adds. Since the war started, Russian disinformation has been consistently debunked.

NEW: Feds Uncover a ‘Swiss Army Knife’ for Hacking Industrial Control Systems.
(Wired, April 13, 2022)
The malware toolkit, known as Pipedream, is perhaps the most versatile tool ever made to target critical infrastructure like power grids and oil refineries. Malware designed to target industrial control systems like power grids, factories, water utilities, and oil refineries represents a rare species of digital badness. So when the United States government warns of a piece of code built to target not just one of those industries, but potentially all of them, critical infrastructure owners worldwide should take notice.
The malware has the ability to hijack target devices, disrupt or prevent operators from accessing them, permanently brick them, or even use them as a foothold to give hackers access to other parts of an industrial control system network. While the toolkit, which Dragos calls “Pipedream,” appears to specifically target Schneider Electric and OMRON PLCs, it does so by exploiting underlying software in those PLCs known as Codesys, which is used far more broadly across hundreds of other types of PLCs. This means that the malware could easily be adapted to work in almost any industrial environment. “This toolset is so big that it’s basically a free-for-all,” Caltagirone says. “There’s enough in here for everyone to worry about.”
The CISA advisory refers to an unnamed “APT actor” that developed the malware toolkit, using the common acronym APT to mean advanced persistent threat, a term for state-sponsored hacker groups. It's far from clear where the government agencies found the malware, or which country's hackers created it—though the timing of the advisory follows warnings from the Biden administration about the Russian government making preparatory moves to carry out disruptive cyberattacks in the midst of its invasion of Ukraine.
The discovery of the Pipedream malware toolkit represents a rare addition to the handful of malware specimens found in the wild that target industrial control systems (ICS) software. The first and still most notorious example of that sort of malware remains Stuxnet, the US- and Israeli-created code that was uncovered in 2010 after it was used to destroy nuclear enrichment centrifuges in Iran. More recently, the Russian hackers known as Sandworm, part of the Kremlin's GRU military intelligence agency, deployed a tool called Industroyer or Crash Override to trigger a blackout in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in late 2016.
Ukraine's 36th Brigade Marines Breakthrough to join Azov Regiment in Mariupol. (Daily Kos, April 13, 2022)
Against impossible odds, Mariupol still stands. Yesterday, April 12th it was reported that Ukrainian marines broke through a Russian cordon. Not only did several hundred Marines break through but they took their wounded with them.

Russia-Ukraine war latest: Biden accuses Russia of genocide; Putin ally captured in Ukraine. (The Guardian/UK, April 12, 2022)

[But who's got his yacht?]
NEW: Ukrposhta issued one million postage stamps "Russian warship, f***k you…!" (photos; Ukrposhta, April 12, 2022)
On April 12, Ukrposhta presented and put into circulation the first postage stamps "Russian warship, f***k you...!" in wartime conditions. This phrase - the answer of Ukrainian border guards defending  Snake Island, to the Russian ship Moskva on the offer to surrender on the day of the invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine on February 24 - has become a symbol of courage and indomitable spirit of the Ukrainian people in the fight against Russia.
Last Tuesday, Wisconsinites went to the polls in thousands of local elections. Republicans wanted a wave. They didn’t get one. (Daily Kos, April 12, 2022)
In community after community, Democrats fought back, and—in so many places, though not everywhere—won. In a 50/50 state, during a tough year for Democrats, we won more than we lost. Out of 276 races where WisDems actively engaged, investing in organizing, digital, and/or mail to voters, we won 147 of the races.
Trump's North Carolina "rally" on Saturday was a total bust. Here's why. (Daily Kos, April 12, 2022)
Last Saturday, the disgraced former President Donald Trump held one of his signature rallies at a venue in Selma in Johnston County. How successful the event was depends on who you ask. For some – like Republican Reps. Ted Budd and Madison Cawthorn, as well as the NC-13 Republican primary candidate Bo Hines – the rally was a great success. They all landed very public endorsements from the former President, as well as from Lt. Governor Mark Robinson, for their respective races.
For others, like Trump himself, the rally was more of a bust. Its paltry attendance was a testament to his waning popularity outside the hardcore Republican base. The rally was also a major embarrassment for North Carolina’s media, who demonstrated absolutely nothing learned from four (or five) years of Trumpian chaos. It was also a body blow to the state’s Republican establishment.
U.Penn. law professor Amy Wax lays her racism bare on Tucker Carlson’s show for all the world to see. (videos and more; Daily Kos, April 12, 2022)
Wax, 69, has a history of sharing her bigoted opinions about Black and brown folks. But her latest screed targeted the alleged "resentment, shame, and envy" harbored by “Black and other “non-Western” people for  Westerners’ "outsized achievements and contributions." When Wax was done criticizing Black Americans, she moved on to Asian and South Asian Indians, focusing particularly on doctors at Penn and Brahmin women from India.
[U.Penn. is more diverse than I'd realized; it lets Amy Wax teach there!]
‘Like where are the dads?’: Tucker Carlson calls for violence against teachers who talk identity. (Daily Kos, April 12, 2022)
Tucker Carlson is at it again. From hating on women to hating on the homeless, he’s now targeting teachers who discuss gender identity. In a segment of Tucker Carlson Tonight that aired Friday, Carlson said anyone talking about sex to kindergartners 'should be beaten up.’

NEW: Muting your mic reportedly doesn’t stop big tech from recording your audio. (The Next Web, April 12, 2022)
We recommend using the double-mute technique.
Delicious? Gross? The great fish dish that divides – and unites – families on Passover. (11-min. video; Aeon, April 12, 2022; okay, April 19, 2019, but who's counting?)
Celebrated annually in early spring [and beginning again this Friday night], Passover commemorates the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt as described in the Book of Exodus. The holiday is generally marked by a large gathering of family and friends known as a Seder, and includes a reading of the Haggadah, a text that recounts the exodus from Egypt, and provides a guide to the traditional Passover meal, which includes matzoh (unleavened bread) and bitter herbs. This short documentary focuses on the tradition as celebrated by the Hermelin family of Detroit, in particular their relationship with a Passover dinner staple – gefilte fish. Though it plays no part in the Exodus story (it originated with Ashkenazi Jewish communities in eastern Europe), this dish of ground whitefish – with a flavour ranging from savoury to sweet, depending on the recipe – is nonetheless the most discussed culinary offering at the table. But despite its deeply polarising taste and texture, the annual gefilte fish is embraced by generations of Hermelins as a symbol of cultural tradition and familial bonds, imbued with ‘the joy of Judaism’.
[Eleven minutes not to miss. Humorous and heart-warming. Sad and heart-wrenching. Ancient and contemporary. Beautifully told. Tradition!]
Who’s the Real Nazi? (poster of "Adolph Putin"; Medium, April 12, 2022)
Look no further than the little man behind the Iron Curtain. Vladimir Putin is on a noble mission to “denazify” Ukraine. Apparently, he views Ukraine as a country controlled by vicious autocrats and wants nothing more than to free the natives from their despotic fate. This mission is not only tragic but also laughable. Ukraine is a functioning democratic state. The last thing Ukraine can be accused of is being a Nazi state. “Nazi” means a member of the political party that ran Germany from 1933 to 1945 and believed in totalitarian government, territorial expansion, and Aryan supremacy. A lowercase “nazi” is someone who holds similar views. Here we have an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland situation where up is down and democrats are nazis. Over the years, Putin has carefully altered Russia’s government and turned it into a dictatorship ruled by him. So, he now gets away with turning everything upside down as he sees fit.
Putin is also engaged in territorial expansion, believing that Ukraine is really part of the Russian motherland, and should be reunited with its true friend and ally. Russia previously annexed Crimea and was busy militarily supporting Russian separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine. There are also elements of blind nationalism, racism, and anti-Semitism. Russia and its predecessor, the Soviet Union, have consistently discriminated against Jews and, over the years, driven many into exile.
By any definition, Putin is the true nazi. His unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is reminiscent of Germany’s invasion of Poland and Hitler’s quest for Lebensraum. His vicious attacks on Ukrainian civilians mirror the genocidal actions of Hitler. The truly flabbergasting aspect of Putin’s war is the overwhelming support apparently shown for it by Russian citizens.
The autocratic control of messaging by state media partially explains this phenomenon, but something else is also at play. That something else is the Second World War and Russia’s ultimate victory against Nazi Germany, notwithstanding the loss of millions and millions of lives. Russians call the Eastern Front action against Germany the Great Patriotic War, and anti-Nazism has forever since been hardwired into the national psyche. All Putin has to say is that he is rooting out nazis in Ukraine and - like that other Russian, Pavlov’s dog - much of the Russian citizenry salivates blind nationalism. Cut off from non-state media, they fall in line and, in Trumpian fashion, label counter narratives fake news.
Vladimir Putin insists Russia will achieve its ‘noble’ goals in Ukraine. (The Guardian/UK, April 12, 2022)
Russian president dismisses killing of civilians in Bucha by Russian forces as ‘fake’.
Russia Claims It Used Kalibr Missiles To Destroy West's S-300 Air Defence Systems Given To Ukraine. (3-min. YouTube video; Republic World/IN, April 11, 2022)
[S-300 is a RUSSIAN air-defense system, given to Ukaraine by Slovakia; did Russia include secret location information? The Comments thread is heavily pro-Putin spam.]
Ukraine update: Russia will break new records of stupidity if it really thinks it can move on Dnipro. (Daily Kos, April 11, 2022)
Russia expended considerable efforts to take Kyiv in the first five weeks of the war, for all the obvious reasons: Regime decapitation, propaganda value, cutting off supply routes to Ukrainian forces in the east, and so on. However, the effort quickly ran into trouble. The prong from the northwest, through Chernobyl, stalled at Bucha and Irpin. From the northeast, Russia’s inability to take Chernihiv fixed Russian forces just over their border. Thus, desperate to encircle Kyiv, Russia stretched itself out from Sumy, all the way to the capital’s eastern outskirts. Maps marked those roads as Russian controlled, but the reality was quite different. For weeks, Ukraine feasted on supply convoys attempting that trip (here, here, here, here, here, and here, are just a few examples), until at the end of March, Russia cried “uncle!” and that was that. Those forces were withdrawn. Well, what shards of them remained.
Why bring up this old bit of news? Because the New York Times reports that Russia will likely wage an offensive between Izium and Dnipro. There is little indication Russia can mass the kind of forces needed to make a real go at this. The existing, obvious plan is already a bit of a Hail Mary pass, as Russia desperately tries to notch any success in time for Vladimir Putin’s precious WWII commemorative parade on May 9.
Yet despite the difficult odds, Russia is supposedly looking to additionally march on Dnipro? Let’s get a close-up of the route Russian forces would have to take.
The war next door: Conflict in Mexico is displacing thousands. (Washington Post, April 11, 2022)
As criminal groups battle for control over Mexican territory, the displaced are becoming increasingly visible, in towns such as Coahuayana and at the U.S. border. An estimated 20,000 people have fled violence in the past year in Michoacán state, roughly the size of West Virginia. Thousands more have abandoned their homes in other states like Zacatecas and Guerrero.
‘This Was Trump Pulling a Putin.’ (New York Times Magazine, April 11, 2022)
Amid the current crisis, Fiona Hill and other former advisers are connecting President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine to Jan. 6. And they’re ready to talk.
NEW: Could the Siloviki Challenge Putin? (Foreign Policy,
April 11, 2022)
What It Would Take for a Coup by Kremlin Insiders.
[Very interesting authors! Unable to connect on April 27; try again later.]
May 9 Russian holiday will be pivotal, dangerous deadline. (Axios, April 10, 2022)
May 9 is a major holiday in the Russian Federation, with the country closing down each year to mark its World War II victory over the Nazis. That makes it a deadline with significant symbolism in Russian domestic politics. A senior Defense Department official told Axios on Thursday the U.S. and other allies are rushing myriad forms of military assistance to Ukraine knowing the stakes of the next month.
Separately, retired Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a former infantry officer and National Security Council director of European affairs, told Axios on Sunday: "This is, actually, a bit more of a dangerous situation, more of a turning point, than anything we've seen thus far. Russia can achieve objectives here," said Vindman, a Ukraine-born, naturalized American citizen and Iraq combat veteran who testified at former President Trump's first impeachment trial. "I think that, if Russia were to lose, it would be spent" and only able to hold the territory it had. "But, if they succeed, I fear, it's a recipe for a protracted war, and Russia will not stop at limited gains. Protracted war is a recipe for spillage over into, potentially, confrontation with NATO."
The Month That Changed a Century (Foreign Policy, April 10, 2022)
Putin seeks to destroy not just Ukraine but the entire postwar global system. He may yet succeed.
NEW: Texas' Lizelle Herera Abortion-Murder Charge 'Tip of the Iceberg', Warns Nonprofit. (1-min. video; Newsweek, April 10, 2022)
Lizelle Herrera, 26, was arrested in Starr County, Texas, on Thursday for what authorities described as a "self-induced abortion," for which she was charged with murder. In September, the Texas state government passed a bill, officially known as Senate Bill 8, banning any abortion starting at six weeks into a pregnancy, when many women don't realize they're pregnant. The measure has been widely criticized as "draconian."
On Saturday, Herrera was released from the Starr County Jail after significant international backlash to her arrest and protests outside the jailhouse. The following day, District Attorney Gocha Allen Ramirez announced that his office would be filing a motion to dismiss the indictment against Herrera on Monday.
GM's New Chevy Bolt EUV ‘Life Changes’ TV Ad (1-min. video; GM Authority, April 9, 2022)
General Motors has shared the first TV spot from its new Chevy Bolt EV and Bolt EUV ad campaign. The advertisement, dubbed ‘Life Changes’ is a short, 30-second spot that puts a humorous spin on the trials of EV ownership and motherhood.
Sabine Hossenfelder: Is Nuclear Power Green? (23-min. video; BackReaction, April 9, 2022)
Opinions about nuclear power are extremely polarized and every source seems to have an agenda to push. Will nuclear power help us save the environment and ourselves, or is it too dangerous and too expensive? Do thorium reactors or the small modular ones change the outlook? Is nuclear power green?
Watchers of the Earth (Aeon, April 9, 2022)
Indigenous peoples around the world tell myths which contain warning signs for natural disasters. Scientists are now listening.
Mary Koch: Everybody's Business - When Adults Give Time to Teens (Every New Season, April 8, 2022)
- Imagine a water bottle that measures your hydration level as you sip.
- Imagine cell phone batteries that recharge off your body heat.
- Imagine an ear piece that projects a hologram so you can read a book or watch a movie hands-free.
If you’re seventeen, these are the kinds of technological wonders you can dream up. They’re the kinds of things I was invited to invest in (virtually) during Business Week. Every year high school juniors from our two neighboring towns (Okanogan and Omak, WA) are excused from their regular class schedule for five days to sample what’s ahead for them in the realm of free enterprise.
[Brooklyn Technical High School in NYC offered a similar event around 1950.]
NEW: Ukrainian teens’ voices from the middle of war: ‘You begin to appreciate what was common and boring for you.’ (The Conversation, April 8, 2022)
A colleague from Kyiv, Ukraine, whom I’ll call N.M., sent me brief essays her students wrote on what they would do when the war ends. As both a scholar and a novelist, I knew that these voices, which expressed a beautifully straightforward and pure yearning for the simplest things that are lost in war, needed to be heard by the world.
Tell the Senate: The Solution to Kids’ Privacy Isn’t More Surveillance. (Electronic Freedom Foundation, April 8, 2022)
The Senate Commerce Committee is considering a bill that, in the name of children’s privacy, creates a system of private surveillance that would force platforms to collect more information on every user, further invading their privacy in the process. The “Kids Online Safety Act” (KOSA) would make platforms the arbiter of what children see online and could hand over significant power, and private data, to third-party identity verification companies like Clear or Lawmakers should be providing real privacy protections for everyone online. KOSA doesn’t do that.
NEW: Your digital footprints are more than a privacy risk – they could help hackers infiltrate computer networks. (The Conversation, April 8, 2022)
When you use the internet, you leave behind a trail of data, a set of digital footprints. These include your social media activities, web browsing behavior, health information, travel patterns, location maps, information about your mobile device use, photos, audio and video. This data is collected, collated, stored and analyzed by various organizations, from the big social media companies to app makers to data brokers. As you might imagine, your digital footprints put your privacy at risk, but they also affect cybersecurity.
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?'”
Uber, Taxi Cabs, and the Limits of Digital Disruption (Wired, April 7, 2022)
Many Silicon Valley companies aren’t creating an exciting new future so much as further confusing an already dysfunctional present. The linking of former competitors in an uneasy (and still unclear) alliance says a lot about what the pandemic has done to the business landscape. But it also reveals a more universal truth about startups and disruptors: They can only grow so much before they need to incorporate the very traditional formats and ideologies they so often spurn. In the case of Uber and its embrace of taxis, it’s a strategy shift that will have major consequences for everyone as cities and offices move to fully reopen. More broadly though, the perpetual whiplash around Uber and its dealings is indicative of a way of doing business that thrives in Silicon Valley ideation chambers—and then unleashes clumsy chaos in the real world.
Why Republicans are obsessed with pedophilia, gender identity, gay people, and abortion. (Robert Reich, April 7, 2022)
From Ron DeSantis to Josh Hawley to Greg Abbott, they're fixated on sex. Here's why.
Roberts joins dissent blasting extremist Supreme Court conservatives for abusing the shadow docket. (Daily Kos, April 6, 2022)
That it is five justices instead of six is notable because Chief Justice John Roberts was not in the majority. What’s even more notable is that Roberts signed onto Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent, blasting the court’s majority for using the shadow docket to issue a momentous decision on the flimsiest of grounds. “The request for a stay rests on simple assertions—on conjectures, unsupported by any present-day evidence, about what States will now feel free to do,” Kagan wrote. That the court issued this stay—when the applicants showed no harm and there was no “emergency” that required the Supreme Court to intervene—shows the “Court goes astray,” Kagan wrote. It
provides a stay pending appeal, and thus signals its view of the merits, even though the applicants have failed to make the irreparable harm showing we have traditionally required.”
The court just spoiled the case in the appeals process. It just told the lower court what it is going to do when the case ultimately reaches it.
NEW: Har Gobind Khorana: The chemist who cracked DNA’s code and made the first artificial gene was born into poverty 100 years ago in an Indian village. (The Conversation, April 5, 2022)
2022 marks the 100th birthday of Nobel Prize winning chemist Har Gobind Khorana – or so we think. The exact date of his birth is not known, because Khorana was born in poverty in a British Indian class that rarely recorded such dates. As a child, he had to beg a neighbor for a glowing ember so his mother could light their daily cooking fire. He was 6 before he owned his first pencil.
Khorana emerged from this background to receive a Nobel Prize in 1968 for deciphering the genetic code that translates DNA sequences into the protein molecules that carry out the functions of living cells.
This Is How the Global Energy Crisis Ends. (Wired, April 5, 2022)
With future price rises baked in and some countries on the verge of rationing gas, things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get any better.
NEW: The FBI is spending millions on social media tracking software. (Washington Post, April 5, 2022)
Social media users seemed to foreshadow the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — and the FBI apparently missed it. Now, the FBI is doubling down on tracking social media posts, spending millions of dollars on thousands of licenses to powerful social media monitoring technology that privacy and civil liberties advocates say raise serious concerns.
One of Twitter's worst users is now its largest shareholder. (Mother Jones, April 5, 2022)
Elon Musk—the Tesla executive with a storied history of inciting harassment, spreading misinformation, and trolling lawmakers with extremely immature digs on the social media platform—recently snatched up 9.2 percent of the company. The Musk news happens to fit neatly into a Venn diagram of some of the worst parts of our current news cycle. That includes Trump's flailing efforts at Truth Social—hence his supporters rallying for a Twitter return—and the complete mainstreaming of false and malicious accusations of pedophilia within the Republican Party.
Here's to hoping that Twitter can convince Musk to start behaving like a normal human being.
How can the world respond to Russian atrocities? (New York Times, April 5, 2022)
Civilians lay dead in the middle of the street. Others lay by the side of the road, next to or underneath their bicycles. Often, the victims had been shot in the head. Some of them had their hands tied. These are the scenes that the world is discovering as Russian troops retreat from the area around Kyiv.
In response to these atrocities against Ukrainian civilians, President Biden and European leaders vowed yesterday to take new measures against Russia. Today’s newsletter explains their options. They fall into two main categories: weapons for Ukrainian troops and economic sanctions against Russia.
Ukraine update: Russia's real losses may be greater than even Ukraine believes. (Daily Kos, April 5, 2022)
It’s quite likely that Russia doesn’t have an accurate count of their losses, even if they had any incentive to give it. It’s also generally assumed that the number from Ukraine overstates the results to make Russia look weaker and their own military more successful.
However, professor and author Phillips O’Brien suggests that Ukraine’s numbers, though they seem inflated, might be the most accurate of all those floating around. That’s because we have something in this war that hasn’t been available in other conflicts—open-source intelligence in the form of all those photos, videos, and messages captured by phones. While those images are the basis of the numbers reported by OSInt and Oryx, O’Brien points out that these numbers represent the absolute minimum for Russian losses. And the evidence of the last few days shows us just how badly these values can undershoot the truth.
NEW: Chernobyl Was a Wildlife Haven. Then Russian Troops Arrived. (Wired, April 4, 2022)
The area around the defunct power plant has been an unexpected rewilding success story. Now attempts to monitor progress are hampered by the war.
In Mykolaiv, Russia continues a pattern: Shelling Ukranian hospitals. (Washington Post, April 4, 2022)
Hospitals in Ukraine are being battered by artillery and airstrikes with increasing frequency. The World Health Organization said that as of March 30, it had verified 82 incidents of attacks on health care since Russia invaded Ukraine, causing 72 deaths and 43 injuries.
Heather Cox Richardson: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has barely enough votes to become a Supreme Court Justice. (Letters From An American, April 4, 2022)
Today the Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked, 11 to 11, on whether to send Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court to the full Senate for a vote. The Democrats can still move the nomination forward through procedural measures, and three Republicans—Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Mitt Romney (R-UT)—have said they will vote for her, so her confirmation is assured (even if Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who has not yet said how she will vote, votes no).
NEW: Chevy Bolt EV, Bolt EUV Production Restarted. (GM Authority, April 4, 2022)
To support the recall and prioritize repairs for affected models, GM halted production of the Chevy Bolt EV and Chevy Bolt EUV last November, while also issuing a stop-sale order for both nameplates. Battery production restarted in mid-September. Now, production of both vehicles at the GM Lake Orion Assembly plant in Michigan has restarted as well. The Lake Orion facility is the exclusive producer of both Chevy Bolt vehicles.
Going forward, GM has announced a$4 billion investment to upgrade the Lake Orion facility for production of the Chevy Silverado EV and GMC Sierra EV. Production of the Chevy Bolt EV and Bolt EUV will continue throughout the upgrade process. As a reminder, the Chevy Bolt EV and Chevy Bolt EUV ride on the GM BEV2 platform and feature a single front-mounted Voltec drive motor.
Sulfur Battery Technology Could Make Electric Cars Go Three Times Further For One-Third The Cost By 2024. (Forbes, April 2, 2022)
Limited range is one of the most frequent criticisms of EVs. Although a 300-mile rating is becoming increasingly common for current electric cars, some fossil fuel models can go twice as far on a tank. But what if your BEV could do 900 miles on a single charge?
The key to Theion’s technology is sulfur, and in fact the company’s name is derived from the Greek for this yellow mineral. EV batteries are full of rare earth minerals, which makes them expensive and ethically problematic to manufacture, particularly when sourcing cobalt from the Congo. Theion’s strategy is to base its battery technology on minerals that are far more abundant than those used in current Lithium-Ion cells, but that have similar potential for energy density.
Another important aspect is of course price, and Theion is promising amazing reductions here too. “Our price target is €30 per kilowatt hour in comparison to €90 per kilowatt hour today,” says Ehmes. This is because the materials Theion uses are cheaper, and so is the energy consumption. “Production energy is 90% less.” With batteries making up around a third of current EV costs, this reduction would easily push total car prices well below that of internal combustion vehicles.
Unfortunately, Theion isn’t initially going to be delivering its technologies to the EV industry. “We’re currently talking to the space industry,” says Ehmes. “We will hand over the R&D surplus to the air taxi next. Then mobile devices like handhelds, laptops, mobile phones, and wearables.” But EVs are definitely on the roadmap for Theion, and production has been designed to scale up to the quantities required by electric cars.
[Now THAT's the replacement battery pack that our EV wants! More importantly, it's the EV-battery technology that Earth wants before gasoline vehicles drive global warming beyond correction. But profit... By licensing or otherwise, this technology should immediately be applied for EVs.]
Putin 'going through horrific crash' over failure of Russia's war strategy. (Express/UK, April 2, 2022)
Vladimir Putin is going through "a horrific crash", a psychotherapist has claimed amid reports Russia's invasion of Ukraine is proving "disastrous" for the Kremlin.
Former MI6 spy warns Ukraine conflict could end with Putin’s assassination – ‘No way back.’
A former M16 officer has claimed that the conflict in Ukraine could end with Putin's assassination. (Express/UK, April 1, 2022)
Former secret intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who ran the Russia desk at MI6 in London from 2006 to 2009, believes the war will only end when a deal is made that excludes Vladimir Putin and sees him ousted from leadership. Mr. Steele says there is no way back for Putin and this will cause issues for the diplomatic discussions and negotiations trying to secure a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine.
Russia Inches Toward Its Splinternet Dream. (Wired, April 1, 2022)
For years, the country has been trying to create its own sovereign internet—a goal given new impetus by the backlash to its invasion of Ukraine. But even if Russia did have the people, inserting barriers into relatively open internet infrastructure built over decades is far from straightforward. Controlling a country’s internet requires two major components: separating yourself from the rest of the world, and cutting access from within. Both are harder for Russia than China because it’s starting from a comparatively open internet, after years of engagement with the West. (China, by contrast, has been closed almost since the first people logged on to the internet, following a February 1996 order giving the state absolute control over its design and establishing a prohibition on “inciting to overthrow the government or the socialist system”—meaning it was insular by design.)
Who Needs a Climate When We Can Sell Gas to Europe? (Green-Rainbow Party, April 1, 2022)
On Friday, March 25, in Brussels, President Biden announced a “deal” with the European Union to “end the bloc’s dependence on Russia’s energy exports.” He committed the United States and its “international partners'' to selling vast quantities of liquefied natural gas to the EU starting this year. US Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm stated the Biden administration is urging the U.S. oil and gas industry to ramp up production to meet demand and to help lower prices for working families everywhere.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned “We are sleepwalking to climate catastrophe… countries could become so consumed by the immediate fossil fuel supply gap that they neglect or knee-cap policies to cut fossil fuel use. This is madness," he said, adding that addiction to fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction.
NEW: Why light pollution is a solvable environmental crisis (NOVA, April 1, 2022)
Excessive outdoor lighting wastes energy and pollutes, is deadly to animals and takes a toll on human health and well-being, too. But when it comes to large-scale environmental problems, this one may be a relatively easy fix.
NEW: GM's BrightDrop Renames Its Delivery Vans To Zevo 600 And Zevo 400. (GM Authority, April 1, 2022)
General Motors’ logistics brand BrightDrop has announced the official names of its EV410 and EV600 electric delivery vans: Zevo 400 and Zevo 600.  “We chose Zevo because it contains ZEV (Zero Emissions Vehicle) and EV (Electric Vehicle) and is a play-off ‘zero’ – a reference to GM’s Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions, and Zero Congestion vision.”
Production of the BrightDropZevo 600 and EV410 will take place at the GM CAMI Assembly plant in southern Ontario. Production will begin at the Canadian plant this fall, with GM targeting an annual production output of roughly 30,000 units.
Putting the Nation’s Cooling Towers to Work to Combat Climate Change (Slice of MIT, April 1, 2022)
The infrastructure for carbon sequestration, the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide, already exists in the more than two million cooling towers at factories and commercial buildings across the United States—which use the movement of air and water to dissipate heat—if only they could be used for that purpose. Santos and Cavero reoriented their company toward producing a simple device that could be attached to existing cooling towers to direct the flow of air across a solid material that absorbs CO2, and then using heat and pressure to extract the CO2 where it can be safely contained. “They are already moving all of this air—we just give them something productive to do,” he says. Santos estimates that the existing cooling tower infrastructure in the US could remove up to 10.3 billion tons of carbon per year—more by far than the 6.6 billion the country emits. "This technology has the potential to transform our cities into places that are not only sustainable but also work to clean up the damage we’ve done to the planet over the last 100 years."
Visualizing the World’s Loss of Forests Since the Ice-Age (graphic; Visual Capitalist, April 1, 2022)
The world’s forests have been shrinking since the last ice age at an increasingly rapid pace. The effects of deforestation on the climate are already being seen and felt, and these repercussions are expected to increase with time. That’s why more than 100 world leaders pledged to end and reverse deforestation by 2030 at the COP26 climate summit.
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: The Supreme Court is playing hardball politics, and democracy is losing. (Boston Globe, March 31, 2022)
None of it follows precedent. Indeed, it’s not even consistent with a decision the court made last month in a redistricting case from Alabama — except in how it narrows the Voting Rights Act, limits the voting power of racial minorities, and entrenches Republican political advantage.
Putin humiliated as 300 troops 'hitchhike home' after feeling they were 'left for dead'. (Express/UK, March 31, 2022)
Vladimir Putin is facing embarrassment after 300 troops employed by the Russian army reportedly chose to "hitchhike" home - after fearing they had been left for dead.
Biden EPA Refuses to Protect Drinking Water from Toxic Perchlorate, Affirms Trump EPA Decision to Leave Millions Exposed to the Chemical. (National Resources Defense Council, March 31, 2022)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced it would not regulate perchlorate, a toxic component of rocket fuel associated with brain damage in fetuses and infants, leaving millions of people unknowingly exposed to the chemical through their tap water. The determination affirms a Trump EPA decision to not regulate perchlorate in drinking water.
NEW: Hoover Dam - All the Secrets of the Engineering Wonder (10-min. video; Lesics, March 31, 2022)
The magnificent Hoover Dam which was constructed 80 years ago, still stands strong and serves the US in the fields of irrigation, flood control, and power production. Even during a torrential rainfall you won’t see Hoover dam overflowing like this causing destruction. Welcome to the engineering secrets of Hoover Dam. In this video, you are going to assume the role of Hoover Dam design engineer Mr. John Savage and design and construct a gigantic dam in Arizona’s Colorado River.
Mother Fox Feeding Her Kits,, and Story Of The Fox Den (many short videos: Framingham Wildlife Blog, March 31, 2022)
On March 29th, I was walking in the woods next to Framingham High School one day, during "Junior Privileges" (This is the same way I found the dens to begin with). Movement on the riverbank caught my eye. An adult red fox was trotting towards the den!
[Meet 16-year-old Aiden Garrity, a Framingham High School student who is very interested in ecology, biology, and wildlife - and his trail cam and a local family of foxes.]
Putin's top generals likely tiptoeing around 'disastrous truth' of war to save humiliation. (Express/UK, March 30, 2022)
Vladimir Putin is facing yet more major humiliation as his top Generals tiptoe around the "disastrous truth" of the war on Ukraine.
NEW: The Ocean Is Having Trouble Breathing. (Nautilus,
March 30, 2022)
A drop in oxygen levels is putting ocean ecosystems on life support. Scientists are looking at places where anoxia—a complete absence of oxygen—already exists. Researchers say the world’s oceans lost 2 percent of their oxygen between 1960 and 2010, a rate that would leave the oceans entirely devoid of oxygen in just a few thousand years, making them uninhabitable to most life. The causes of this deoxygenation are myriad, but can mostly be traced back to anthropogenic climate change caused by increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and related global warming trends. These carbon emissions are mostly produced by burning fossil fuels, and even if they were to stop immediately, they have already set in motion processes that will continue to affect the oceans for decades to come.
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.
A 7-Hour Gap in Jan. 6 Phone Logs Raises the Question: Did Trump Use a Burner? (Mother Jones, March 29, 2022)
He insisted he has no idea, “to the best of” his knowledge, what a burner phone even is.
Michael Moore: Justice Jackson and the Putin That Is Us (52-min. podcast; Substack, March 28, 2022)
It’s been another week of mind-dumbing drivel and tragedy, beginning with the Senate Republicans’ racist mansplainin’ and prop-making of the brilliant new nominee to the US Supreme Court — where, in the near future, this white privileged performance art will not exist any longer. Make no mistake — that hearing wasn’t a hearing. It was a dry run for the Republicans’ staging of this November’s midterms — running their candidates on the Q-anon agenda and honing their election-stealing plans to perfection.
In today’s episode I also share my latest thoughts on how the war in Ukraine is “progressing” — and make a suggestion to President Zelensky. Perhaps he should switch the narrative regarding the hapless Russian army, and surprise Putin by now conducting a Ukrainian invasion of Russia. It’s what a true satirist president would do. And it would make Putin’s head spin out of control just long enough for the generals and the oligarchs to stage their coup and end this madness.
Ex-separatist leader calls Russian attack on Ukraine a mistake. (Reuters, March 28, 2022)
In comments that show the Kremlin cannot count on support from all pro-Russian opponents of Kyiv, one of the architects of the Moscow-backed 2014 separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine now says Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a mistake. Alexei Alexandrov was one of the leaders of a movement in 2014 to reject Kyiv's rule and create an autonomous pro-Moscow territory in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, triggering a war against Ukrainian government forces.
Alexandrov says Moscow had, over many years, failed to grasp how to deal with Ukraine, whose rulers he said were set on crushing the identity of the Russian-speaking community in eastern Ukraine, an allegation that Kyiv and its allies deny. "Moscow's reaction was always late, and never got to grips with the situation," he said. "That was a mistake, and we are reaping the consequences now in blood, and multiple victims on both sides."
Alexandrov says once the active phase of the conflict in Ukraine is over, the long-term outlook for Donbas is unclear. He doubts Russia has the resources to bring the whole of Ukraine under its control. If Russia keeps its presence in eastern Ukraine, there will therefore be a high likelihood of a renewed armed conflict with the Ukrainian state, Alexandrov says. "This is not how it should have ended. It's not worth all the victims."
Why Some Russians Are Fleeing To A Country Their Government Already Invaded. (11-min. audio; NPR, March 28, 2022)
In 2008, Russia invaded another former Soviet republic: Georgia, a small country on the southeast edge of Europe. Today, Georgia is seeing an influx of Russians who are fleeing their home country in opposition to its invasion of Ukraine. Hear how people who live with Russian troops on their doorsteps are feeling as they watch the war in Ukraine play out.
Russian troops’ tendency to talk on unsecured lines is proving costly. (Stars  and Stripes, March 27, 2022)
Russian troops in Ukraine have relied, with surprising frequency, on unsecured communication devices such as smartphones and push-to-talk radios, leaving units vulnerable to targeting, and further underscoring the command-and-control deficiencies that have come to define Moscow’s month-long invasion.
Russia’s war in Ukraine is especially dangerous after decades of relative peace worldwide. (New York Times, March 27, 2022)
Though it has not always felt like it,
since the 1990s the world has endured less war than any other period in recorded history. Wars and resulting deaths plummeted with the conclusion of the Cold War in 1991 — and the subsequent end of direct and proxy conflicts between the world’s great powers.
But the world has since changed. After emerging from the Cold War as the lone superpower, the U.S. grew weaker, bogged down by failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Russia and China evolved into more formidable powers; they are now better positioned to challenge a world shaped by American norms and rules. Invading Ukraine is the biggest example of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to challenge a U.S.-led order. Another is Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war. China has its own interests — in controlling Taiwan and increasing influence in East and Southeast Asia.
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 is 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: Electricity sector of the United States (Map, charts and tables; Wikipedia, March 27, 2022)
The electricity sector of the United States includes a large array of stakeholders that provide services through electricity generation, transmission, distribution and marketing for industrial, commercial, public and residential customers. It also includes many public institutions that regulate the sector.
GM Is Benchmarking Tesla Model S Plaid. (GM Authority, March 26, 2022)
General Motors is making major moves in the all-electric vehicle segment, with plans to launch 30 new EV models globally by the 2025 calendar year. At the top end of the EV segment, General Motors will have the Tesla Model S Plaid to contend with, and now, GM Authority has photographic evidence that GM is currently benchmarking Tesla’s top-spec sedan.
President Biden Remarks on Ukraine and Russia (27-min. video; C-Span, March 26, 2022)
“We stand with you,” said President Biden to the Ukrainian people as he gave remarks from Warsaw, Poland, on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He went on to talk about sanctions against Russia, and said “this war has already been a strategic failure for Russia already.” Addressing the Russian people directly, President Biden said, “You, the Russian people, are not our enemy,” later adding, “This war is not worthy of the Russian people.” As he closed out his remarks, President Biden rebuked Russian President Putin, saying “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
7th Russian general, Yakov Rezantsev, killed in Ukraine. (BBC News, March 26, 2022)
Ukraine's defence ministry says another Russian general, Lt Gen. Yakov Rezantsev, was killed in a strike near the southern city of Kherson. Rezantsev was the commander of Russia's 49th combined army. In a conversation intercepted by the Ukrainian military, a Russian soldier complained that Rezantsev had claimed the war would be over within hours, just four days after it began.
A western official said he was the seventh general to die in Ukraine, and the second lieutenant general - the highest rank officer reportedly killed. It is thought that low morale among Russian troops has forced senior officers closer to the front line.
War in Ukraine: Change of emphasis or admission of failure by Moscow? (BBC News, March 25, 2022)
Is the Russian military having to change its plans? Perhaps even reduce the scale of Moscow's ambitions in Ukraine? It's probably too early to tell, but there's definitely a shift in emphasis.
NEW: JK Rowling hits back after Putin cites author in bizarre rant about the West cancelling Russia. (Standard/UK, March 25, 2022)
Sharing an article about incarcerated Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Twitter, Rowling wrote: "Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics." The writer also shared the hashtag “IStandWithUkraine”. In a subsequent tweet, she detailed the work her Lumos charity is doing in the country. "Children trapped in orphanages and other institutions are exceptionally vulnerable right now," she said. "Thank you so, so much to everyone who has already donated to Lumos's Ukraine appeal."
NEW: Putin says West is treating Russian culture like ‘cancelled’ JK Rowling. (The Guardian/UK, March 25, 2022)
Russian president complains West is ‘trying to cancel a whole 1,000-year culture’ after his invasion of Ukraine.
Russia can’t find enough buyers for its oil, considers selling in bitcoin. (Ars Technica, March 25, 2022)
Move could work in the Kremlin’s favor—or further undermine Russia’s economy.
Jeff Fortenberry: The US lawmaker toppled by a Nigerian billionaire (BBC News, March 25, 2022)
Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican congressman from Nebraska, lied to the FBI about taking illegal donations from Gilbert Chagoury, a high-flying Nigerian businessman, a federal jury found. He could face expulsion from Congress, and could be sentenced to 15 years in prison on three felony counts.
The case has also renewed attention on the access of foreign influencers on US politics.
NEW: Astrophysicist Explains Black Holes in 5 Levels of Difficulty. (27-min. video; Wired, March 24, 2022)
A black hole might be different than you imagine.  To some extent it's a place and not a thing. Black holes play an important role in the history of the universe, in sculpting galaxies that we live in, and possibly in the ultimate fate of the universe.
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.
How Wellness Influencers Became Cheerleaders for Putin’s War (Mother Jones, March 24, 2022)
There is not a huge gap in the ideological differences between the far right and the truckers in convoys. But increasingly these geopolitical conspiracy theories have moved beyond extremist spaces and into the mainstream, as polished Instagram wellness influencers cheerfully share them far and wide.
The path of disinformation follows a clear pattern. It starts in the shadows of the internet, where crusaders share some conspiracy with their die-hard followers. But these communities are not locked rooms—rather, people with overlapping interests flow in and out, grabbing pieces of disinformation that align with their own interests and then spreading it to their followers, who in turn do the same.
Russian warship destroyed in occupied port of Berdyansk, says Ukraine. (1-min. video; BBC/UK, March 24, 2022)
Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar told Ukrainian TV that the military had hit a "huge target", capable of carrying 20 tanks, 45 armoured vehicles and 400 troops. Video posted by the navy and on social media showed explosions and a big ship on fire at the port at 07:00 (05:00GMT) on Thursday. While the Orsk was said to have been destroyed, fire reportedly spread to other vessels as well as an ammunition depot and a fuel terminal in the port. Footage from the scene appeared to show two ships sailing at speed from the port.
How fairy tales shape fighting spirit: Ukraine’s children hear bedtime stories of underdog heroes, while Russian children hear tales of magical success. (The Conversation, March 23, 2022)
Several weeks into the war, it’s clear many overestimated the Russian army’s will and capability to fight and the Ukrainian army’s will to resist an opponent superior in number, equipment and positioning. What can explain the way the Ukraine war has played out, in contradiction to experts’ predictions?
[It's a very different explanation, and its links (say, The Marvel of Martyrdom: The Power of Self-Sacrifice in a Selfish World) also are excellent.]
NEW: Putin mutiny as soldier 'drives tank over commanding officer' in protest against war. (Express/UK, March 23, 2022)
A Russian soldier reportedly drove his tank into his commanding officer in a dramatic protest against the heavy losses Kremlin forces have suffered in Ukraine.
NATO: 7,000 to 15,000 Russian troops dead in Ukraine. (photos and 2-min. video; Associated Press, March 23, 2022)
NATO estimated on Wednesday that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in four weeks of war in Ukraine, where fierce resistance from the country’s defenders has denied Moscow the lightning victory it sought. By way of comparison, Russia lost about 15,000 troops over 10 years in Afghanistan. When Russia unleashed its invasion Feb. 24 in Europe’s biggest offensive since World War II, a swift toppling of Ukraine’s government seemed likely. But with Wednesday marking four full weeks of fighting, Moscow is bogged down in a grinding military campaign.
Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted the military operation is going “strictly in accordance” with plans. NATO said 30,000 to 40,000 Russian soldiers are estimated to have been killed or wounded. In its last update, Russia said March 2 that nearly 500 soldiers had been killed and almost 1,600 wounded. Ukraine also claims to have killed six Russian generals. Russia acknowledges just one dead general.
Addressing Japan’s parliament, Zelenskyy said thousands of his people have been killed, including at least 121 children. “Our people cannot even adequately bury their murdered relatives, friends and neighbors. They have to be buried right in the yards of destroyed buildings, next to the roads,” he said. Still, major Russian objectives remain unfulfilled. The capital, Kyiv, has been bombarded repeatedly but is not even encircled.
In the south, the encircled port city of Mariupol has seen the worst devastation of the war, enduring weeks of bombardment and, now, street-by-street fighting. But Ukrainian forces have prevented its fall, thwarting an apparent bid by Moscow to fully secure a land bridge from Russia to Crimea, seized from Ukraine in 2014. Zelenskyy said 100,000 civilians remain in the city, which had 430,000 people before the war. Efforts to get desperately needed food and other supplies to those trapped have often failed. Zelenskyy accused Russian forces of seizing a humanitarian convoy.
Madeleine Albright, 1st female US secretary of state, dies. (Associated Press, March 23, 2022)
Madeleine Albright, a child refugee from Nazi- and then Soviet-dominated eastern Europe who rose to become the 1st female U.S. secretary of state and a mentor to many current and former American statesmen and women, has died of cancer, her family said Wednesday. She was 84.
Born Marie Jana Korbel in Prague on May 15, 1937, she was the daughter of a diplomat, Joseph Korbel. The family was Jewish and converted to Roman Catholicism when she was 5. Three of her Jewish grandparents died in concentration camps. Albright later said that she became aware of her Jewish background after she became secretary of state. The family returned to Czechoslovakia after World War II but fled again, this time to the United States, in 1948, after the Communists rose to power. She grew up in Denver, then attended Wellesley College, Columbia University...
NEW: The Portentous Comeback of Humpback Whales (Nautilus,
March 23, 2022)
Humpbacks are returning to pre-whaling populations with a warning about ocean ecosystems.
NEW: Top 40 Ubuntu Blogs and Websites To Follow in 2022 (FeedSpot, March 23, 2022)
The best Ubuntu blogs from thousands of blogs on the web ranked by traffic, social media followers, domain authority & freshness.
NEW: GM’s Self-Driving Cruise Delivers More Than Two Million Meals. (2-min. video; GM Authority, March 23, 2022
General Motors recently announced that it was increasing its investment in Cruise, buying out SoftBank Vision 1’s equity ownership stake for $2.1 billion, while also making an additional independent investment of $1.35 billion. Cruise also recently filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requesting approval for the production and deployment of its new autonomous taxi, Cruise Origin. Cruise Origin was unveiled in January of 2020, and will be produced at the GM Factory Zero facility in Michigan.
Motorcycle (1) (Mike Agranoff, March 22, 2022)
I'll tell a story or two from my past. For 25 years I rode motorcycles. Anyone who rode a bike for that long will have stories to tell. If he's still alive to tell them.
'This Is Really, Really Bad': Lapsus$ Gang Claims Okta Hack. (Wired, March 22, 2022)
Lapsus$ leaking Microsoft source code would be bad enough. Breaching Okta could prove much, much worse.
Is Russia’s Largest Tech Company Too Big to Fail? (Wired, March 22, 2022)
It took 20 years for Arkady Volozh to build Yandex into Russia’s Google, Uber, Spotify, and Amazon combined. It took 20 days for everything to crumble.
Volunteers Rally to Archive Ukrainian Web Sites. (Internet Archive, March 22, 2022)
As the war intensifies in Ukraine, volunteers from around the world are working to archive digital content at risk of destruction or manipulation. The Internet Archive is supporting several preservation efforts including the Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO) initiative launched in early March.
A month in Ukraine: 'All normal life is gone.' (BBC, March 22, 2022)
Sweeping shattered glass from the stairway of her nearby apartment block, Natasha broke down describing the terrified screams of her son. "What are they killing us for?" she cried, her hands covering her face. A Russian-speaker, she demanded to know why Russia was doing this. "We didn't ask to be saved." It was a statement I heard over and over again.
The man known as ‘Putin’s brain’ envisions the splitting of Europe — and the fall of China. (Washington Post, March 22, 2022)
On the eve of his murderous invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a long and rambling discourse denying the existence of Ukraine and Ukrainians, a speech many Western analysts found strange and untethered. Strange, yes. Untethered, no. The analysis came directly from the works of a fascist prophet of maximal Russian empire named Aleksandr Dugin. Dugin’s intellectual influence over the Russian leader is well known to close students of the post-Soviet period, among whom Dugin, 60, is sometimes referred to as “Putin’s brain.” His work is also familiar to Europe’s “new right,” of which Dugin has been a leading figure for nearly three decades, and to America’s “alt-right.” Indeed, the Russian-born former wife of the white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, Nina Kouprianova, has translated some of Dugin’s work into English.
But as the world watches with horror and disgust the indiscriminate bombing of Ukraine, a broader understanding is needed of Dugin’s deadly ideas. Russia has been running his playbook for the past 20 years, and it has brought us here, to the brink of another world war. Dugin’s deadliest idea? The wrong alliance won World War II. If only Hitler had not invaded Russia, Britain could have been broken. The United States would have remained at home, isolationist and divided, and Japan would have ruled the former China as Russia’s junior partner.
Could Putin’s Invasion Go Nuclear? A Former NATO War Planner Assesses the Odds. (John Graham, March 21, 2022)
Will a nuclear war start in Ukraine? Is that even possible? As someone who once planned nuclear war for NATO, I can tell you that events in Ukraine have moved us closer to Armageddon than anything since the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Mapped: Gas Prices in America at All-Time Highs. (map; Visual Capitalist, March 21, 2022)
The price of gas was already rising two weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, owing to the increased demand due to the lifting of COVID restrictions. But when the war broke out, the price of regular gas jumped 41¢ during the first week. This surge in prices could add up to $2,000 in annual cost to the average American household. While the price at the pump sits at $4.25 per gallon on average, it’s worth mentioning that prices range quite substantially depending on the state. California has the highest average price at $5.86 per gallon. On the other extreme, Kansas has an average price of $3.77 per gallon.
Sabine Hossenfelder: Optimist meets Doomsayer. (1-min. video; BackReaction, March 21, 2022)
[Sabine tests a new approach - from both sides at once. Hilarious, even if you DO think about it.]
NEW: Witness Claims Trump’s Chief of Staff Was on Phone Call Planning Jan. 6 March on Capitol. (Rolling Stone, March 20, 2022)
Trump’s team agreed it would encourage supporters to march, but try to “make it look like they went down there on their own."
Heather Cox Richardson: Tomorrow, the Senate will begin confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. (Letters from an American, March 20, 2022)
Tomorrow, the Senate will begin confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominated by President Joe Biden on February 25, 2022, to take a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States.
Judge Breyer, who she clerked under and who she would replace, thought that the law should change based on what voters wanted, so long as the majority did not abuse the minority. Every decision was complicated, he told an audience in 2005—if the outcome were obvious, the Supreme Court wouldn’t take the case. But at the end of the day, justices should throw their weight behind whichever decision was more likely to promote democracy.
It is notable that in her decisions, Judge Jackson has argued for this approach, repeatedly focusing on democracy and the rules that preserve it. In her 118–page decision in Committee on the Judiciary v. McGahn (2019) concerning whether Congress could compel members of the executive branch to testify, she famously wrote: “Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings.” Her conclusion began: “The United States of America has a government of laws and not of men.
[An excellent summary of the history of civil rights in America, and a good candidate to restore them.]
Sabine Hossenfelder: The New Science of Microscopic Robots (12-min. video; BackReaction, March 19, 2022)
Injecting tiny remote controlled robots into the human body isn’t all that far-fetched any more. What tiny robots are scientists working on? How far along is the technology? And what could they be good for?
Tiny Star Unleashes Gargantuan Beam of Matter and Anti-Matter That Stretches for 40 Trillion Miles. (Photos and 1-min. video; SciTechDaily, March 19, 2022)
The filament spans about half the diameter of the full Moon on the sky, making it the longest one from a pulsar as seen from Earth. “It’s amazing that a pulsar that’s only 10 miles across can create a structure so big that we can see it from thousands of light-years away,” said Martijn de Vries of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who led the study. “With the same relative size, if the filament stretched from New York to Los Angeles the pulsar would be about 100 times smaller than the tiniest object visible to the naked eye.”
This result may provide new insight into the source of the Milky Way’s antimatter, which is similar to ordinary matter but with its electrical charges reversed. For example, a positron is the positively charged equivalent to the electron. The vast majority of the universe consists of ordinary matter rather than antimatter. Scientists, however, continue to find evidence for relatively large numbers of positrons in detectors on Earth, which leads to the question: What are possible sources of this antimatter?
Pulsars like PSR J2030+4415 may be one answer. The combination of two extremes — fast rotation and high magnetic fields of pulsars — leads to particle acceleration and high-energy radiation that creates electron and positron pairs. (The usual process of converting mass into energy, famously determined by Albert Einstein’s E = mc2 equation, is reversed, and energy is converted into mass.) The pulsar may be leaking these positrons into the galaxy.
These charts show how much it costs to charge an EV vs. refueling a gas vehicle. (CNBC, March 19, 2022)
While gas prices have soared in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, so have electricity prices – particularly in some parts of the U.S. that have been big markets for Tesla’s EVs. It's still much cheaper to “refuel” an EV. The total lifetime cost of ownership of an EV is about $4,700 less than that of an internal-combustion vehicle. That cost difference is likely to increase as more EVs come to market — and as battery prices continue to fall — over the next couple of years.
GM Vehicles Need To Offer Dash Cam Mode In Vehicles: Opinion. (GM Authority, March 19, 2022)
Dash cams are a viable solution to a variety of different issues, and in fact, in many parts of the world, these devices are actually required equipment by insurance companies. Here in North America, however, dash cams have yet to really hit the mainstream, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to offer the consumer. As such, it makes sense that GM should offer a dash cam mode in its vehicles.
[It's not that simple. But the Comments thread covers the issues well.]
The AI Placed You at the Crime Scene, but You Weren’t There. (Wired, March 18, 2022)
This week, we talk about the limitations of using facial recognition technology to identify suspected criminals.
Customize GNOME Desktop in Ubuntu with a Clean Look. (DebugPoint, March 19, 2022)
This tutorial gives you some easy steps to customize GNOME Desktop with a clean look with minimal effort.
[Or, try Ubuntu-Unity et al.]
Leaked Ransomware Docs Show Conti Helping Putin From the Shadows. (Wired, March 18, 2022)
Members of the hacker gang may act in Russia’s interest, but their links to the FSB and Cozy Bear hackers appear ad hoc.
NEW: How Putin’s War Is Sinking Climate Science (Nautilus,
March 18, 2022)
An American journalist leaves Russia as war breaks up the international collaboration key to climate research in the Arctic. "
With the situation changing from day to day, and seeming to go from bad to worse, some scientists I contacted for this article did not want to speak about their Russian counterparts at all, for fear of harm to them, or of jeopardizing future projects that remain essential from a planetary perspective."
Never has it been more critical to collaborate. Just days after Russia attacked Ukraine, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—involving the work of 270 researchers from 67 countries—released its first report for 2022. The authors underlined the urgency of acting now to stabilize ecosystems and save existing species, in order to preserve the planet’s ability to adapt. “Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future.”
The West thinks that Russians, suffering from sanctions, will end up abandoning Putin – but history indicates they won’t. (The Conversation, March 18, 2022)
We believe the West’s sanction strategy could backfire. Not all Russians support the war in Ukraine and the government that dragged them into it. But all Russians are suffering from the sanctions and the crisis. Their common suffering is a dangerous thing: It is all too familiar; it makes them angry, and some are eager to strike back. The possibility of this stems from the Russian national mindset, crafted in Soviet times and now affecting even generations that grew up in post-Soviet Russia. Western freedoms are only partially appealing, since historically, Russians never had them – not freedom of speech, self-determination, religion nor unrestricted travel.
Instead, the Russian people are patient, stoic and often irrationally devoted to their cruel motherland, whose autocratic leader started a war. Where does that leave the Russians? From our perspective, in a deep limbo: The country-aggressor that is currently bombing and destroying Ukraine is also their beloved homeland, and by now the only place in the world that accepts them as they are.
Kamil Galeev: How to sabotage Russian war efforts (Threadreader, March 17, 2022)
There are ways to sabotage Russian war capacities by focusing on its three major bottlenecks: demographic, economic & institutional. Let's start with demography. Russian started this war suffering from the shortage of young draftable males.
Why Crimean Tatars are fearful as Russia invades Ukraine (The Conversation, March 17, 2022)
In 2014, Putin annexed the Crimea to punish Ukraine for its efforts to form closer ties with Western Europe and the U.S. For the Crimean Tatars who had rebuilt their devastated nation in democratic Ukraine, the conquest of their homeland by their historical nemesis, now ruled by an increasingly autocratic Putin, was a nightmare come true. Among the new Russian Federation authorities’ first measures after annexing the Crimea Autonomous Republic was to ban the Crimean Tatars’ parliament, known as the Mejlis, which had given women the right to vote in 1918. They also arrested, tortured and killed Crimean Tatar activists. Thousands of Crimean Tatars fled Russian oppression in Crimea following its 2014 annexation. Many settled in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, or nearby Kherson, a town Putin’s forces claimed they had captured on March 2, 2022.
Russia's Killer Drone in Ukraine Raises Fears About AI in Warfare. (Wired, March 17, 2022)
The maker of the lethal drone claims that it can identify targets using artificial intelligence.
NASA Finally Rolls Out Its Massive SLS Rocket, With Much at Stake. (Wired, March 17, 2022)
The agency’s long-awaited, costly Space Launch System is finally ready for a practice countdown before the first Artemis mission this spring.
NEW: If You Thought Covid Was Over…Congratulations, You’re an Idiot. (Eudaimonia and Co, March 17, 2022)
Covid’s back and the pandemic’s not over. Just like — wait for it — Science said.
This is a global pandemic. One year of fighting it is not going to be enough. Especially knowing what we know now. Our vaccines fade in efficacy, fast. So do boosters — lasting maybe ten weeks or so, before they begin to lose potency. That leaves us with basic precautions like masking and social distancing. If we don’t follow those precautions, then Covid will keep recurring. And no, it won’t be “the flu.” Covid is evolving, and will continue to evolve. There’s every chance — let me beat an old drum for a moment — that tomorrow’s variants will be deadlier. How deadly? We don’t know, but Covid could easily recombine with SARS or MERS and then we have a virus with Omicron’s infectiousness, but a mortality rate between 15 and 40%. (By the way, when I say that, I get piled on, harassed, and called names. So don’t take it from me. Listen to Dr. William Haseltine of Harvard Med, saying exactly that.)
Think about what the policies of the last few months really did. They said to old people, young people, kids, the immunocompromised — “You’re on your own. Good luck! It’s your problem now. The rest of us” — meaning healthy working age people, basically — “are going to get back to ‘normal’. Covid’s over!! Ha-ha!!” So we left all these groups at the mercy of the virus. That’s not just morally bankrupt, because of course the test of a civilized society is how it cares for its most vulnerable, and in this case, we just left them to die.
It’s scientifically incredibly dangerous, stupid, and reckless. Because it’s in immunocompromised bodies that Covid mutates out of control, and new variants emerge through recombination. It’s an immunocompromised person, for example, that variants can co-infect, and recombine, because they will stay sick for a long time. Now imagine an elderly one. Now imagine a world of them, just being left for dead. We are giving Covid a perfect opportunity to become something worse. We’re handing it our world and civilisation on a silver platter — and daring it to feast. What do we do if Covid does recombine with SARS or MERS? Then we die. Or at least many of us do. No, that’s not a joke or an exaggeration. It is reality. Remember how bad Delta was? Even if we have some degree of immune protection now, it’s not going to make us invulnerable to worse strains of Covid, which will invariably kill and hospitalise scores of people.
This wave hasn’t hit America yet. That is because waves always tend to hit America last. But when it does? It’s not going to be pretty. Less than half of Americans are boosted — and that’s a lower number than in plenty of countries where Covid’s surging all over again. The first two vaccines don’t give you as much protection against Omicron, especially BA2, as against the first variants — that is what waning efficacy means. America will be hit hard by this variant, yet again. And that was all eminently predictable. It’s incredible, given all that, that the CDC let this happen. We are in the middle of a titanic, historic set of government failures. Truly incredible ones. How is it that Denmark’s public health agencies let this happen? America’s CDC? The list goes on and on.
How is it even possible that the people tasked with protecting public health, safeguarding it, paid serious and significant sums to do it…don’t…by denying science and ignoring evidence…and instead cherry-picking facts and nitpicking over details? We all know the answer to that. Because it’s what’s politically palatable. It’s what Presidents and Prime Ministers want. It’s what a certain segment of the population wants.
SUV, Pickup Truck Drivers More Likely To Hit Pedestrians, IIHS Says. (GM Authority, March 17, 2022)
Researchers examined how larger vehicles were involved in fatal crashes at or near intersections, and at other locations. They found that crashes killing a pedestrian during left-turn maneuvers were roughly twice as high for an SUV, almost three times as high for vans and minivans, and nearly four times as high for pickup trucks compared to passenger cars. During right-turn maneuvers, a crash killing a pedestrian was 89 percent higher for pickups and 63 percent higher for SUVs than for cars.
In pedestrian crashes of all severities, pickups were 42 percent more likely to hit pedestrians than passenger cars, and SUVs were 23 percent more likely as well. Even away from intersections, pickup trucks were 80 percent more likely to hit a pedestrian, SUVs were 61 percent more likely, and vans were 45 percent more likely, all compared to passenger cars.
Microchip Manufacturer Renesas Halts Production In Japan After Earthquake. (GM Authority, March 17, 2022)
Renesas Electronics Corp., a microchip manufacturer that supplies components to the automotive industry, including General Motors, has halted operations at three of its manufacturing facilities in Japan following a massive 7.4-magnitude earthquake.
The microchip production stoppage in Japan arrives as the automotive industry continues to grapple with an ongoing worldwide shortage of microchip components. Mainstream automotive manufacturers, including General Motors, have been forced to curtail production and reduce feature availability as demand for microchips far outstrips available supply. To address the shortage, General Motors previously prioritized production of its most in-demand vehicles, namely its full-size SUVs and pickup trucks. GM has also cut a number of features from its vehicles lines, such as heated and ventilated seats, as well as heated steering wheels, although the automaker has since resolved these availability issues, at least to some degree.
Russia’s no longer a ‘most-favored nation’: 5 questions about the coveted trading status answered. (The Conversation, March 17, 2022)
The U.S., the European Union, Japan and Canada are further severing Russia from global markets by removing a coveted trading designation over its war in Ukraine. Known as most-favored-nation status, it generally entitles a country to the best possible trading terms, which comes with many economic benefits.
A Recent History of U.S. Sanctions on Russia (charts; Visual Capitalist, March 17, 2022)
Russia faces a multitude of U.S. sanctions for its participation in global conflicts. This infographic lists who and what has been impacted.
A Zelensky Deepfake Was Quickly Defeated. The Next One Might Not Be. (Wired, March 17, 2022)
The response to a video impersonating the Ukrainian president gives a blueprint for how to stop more sophisticated attempts.
A big bet to kill the password for good (Wired, March 17, 2022)
FIDO Alliance says it’s found the missing piece on the path to a password-free future.
[Also see <>.]
The Big, Baffling Crypto Dreams of a $180-Million Ransomware Gang (Wired, March 17, 2022)
Leaked files from cybercrime group Conti show it started building a crypto payment platform, a social network—and even had plans for a casino.
The Workaday Life of the World’s Most Dangerous Ransomware Gang (Wired, March 16, 2022)
A Ukrainian researcher leaked 60,000 messages from inside Conti. Here’s what they reveal.
NEW: A Timeline of Russian Cyberattacks on Ukraine (8-min. video; Wired, March 16, 2022)
Russia has been launching some of the most disruptive cyberattacks in history against Ukraine for some years now. Wired's Andy Greenberg, author of the book "Sandworm," walks us through the history of Russia's cyberattacks against Ukraine.
NEW: 'There's an Atmosphere of Fear.' With Flights Banned, Russians Are Fleeing By Train for Europe. (photos and 2-min. video; Time, Marlch 16, 202)
With more than 30 countries banning flights that originate in Russia from their airspace, the only options for reaching Europe are over land. A handful of buslines offer service to Finland or Estonia, but the Allegro train from Saint Petersburg to Helsinki, which currently runs twice a day and seats 350 passengers, is the only remaining option by rail. A few days after the war in Ukraine began, those trains began selling out.
"Russia is saying that no conscripts are being sent to Ukraine, that they’ve all signed contracts to go. But that’s not exactly true. They’re forcing conscripts to sign the contracts."
Kyiv has faced adversity before – and a stronger Ukrainian identity grew in response. (The Conversation, March 16, 2022)
The history of Ukraine following the 1918 battle for Kyiv is complex and messy. But as a historian of Ukraine, my research has found that this first period of modern independence from 1918 to 1920 is central to a national narrative that maintains Ukraine is a sovereign country, separate from Russia.
This sense of identity makes occupation a hard task, as the Soviets found out in 1918 following Kyiv’s fall.
Analysis: From the Kremlin, Putin ponders war and peace. (Reuters, March 16, 2022)
As Vladimir Putin looks out from behind the Kremlin's red walls, Russia's paramount leader of 22 years has a riddle to solve: how to win a war in Ukraine that the West says he has already lost. Three weeks into its invasion, Russia is battling fierce resistance from Western-armed Ukrainian forces. It has yet to achieve its stated aims and its heavily sanctioned economy faces the deepest crisis since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.
Russia, where journalists risk jail if they use the term "invasion", says its special military operation is going to plan and that despite sanctions it can fare well without what it casts as a deceitful and decadent West led by the United States. Putin, who works from an office in the Kremlin's 18th century Senate Palace, is expected to decide soon whether to press on with a war that has already killed thousands of people and displaced several million, or to seek some sort of peace that would allow him to claim victory.
Launching the invasion on Feb. 24th, Putin listed his key aims as halting NATO's eastward enlargement and ending what he called the "genocide" of Russian-speaking people by "nationalists and neo-Nazis" in Ukraine since Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who is Jewish and a native Russian speaker, and his Western supporters says Putin's claims are baseless.
NEW: Why Ukraine wants a no-fly zone — but is unlikely to get one (Axios, March 16, 2022)
"We are not in a position where we want to get engaged in conventional conflict with the Russians because that could rapidly escalate to a tactical nuclear level and a strategic nuclear level. Then we're dealing with the end of history as we know it."
Russia-Ukraine war latest news: NATO allies united against no-fly zone; UN court orders Russian troops to withdraw – live. (The Guardian, March 16, 2022)
The UN’s International Court of Justice orders Russia to stop its invasion, saying it has not seen any evidence to support the Kremlin’s justification for the war.
U.S. warns Russia of consequences of any possible Russian use of chemical weapons. (Reuters, March 16, 2022)
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke on Wednesday with Nikolay Patrushev, the secretary of Russia's Security Council, in the first high-level contact publicly disclosed between the two countries since the invasion of Ukraine, and warned Patrushev about the consequences "of any possible Russian decision to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine." The White House statement after the call between the two officials did not specify what those consequences would be.
Washington and its allies have accused Russia of spreading an unproven claim that Ukraine had a biological weapons program as a possible prelude to potentially launching its own biological or chemical attacks.
Robin Schoenthaler, MD: They’ve Changed The Covid Rules of Engagement. (Medium, March 16, 2022)
Six Steps To Being SafeR...
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.
Citigroup to cover travel expenses for employee abortions as U.S. states curb access. (Reuters, March 16, 2022)
Several states with Republican-led legislatures are passing new abortion limits in anticipation that the U.S. Supreme Court will likely undercut constitutional abortion protections this year. Citi has taken stances on controversial issues before, including in 2018 when it enacted restrictions on its clients who sell firearms following several U.S. mass shootings.
The allure of cosmopolitan languages to courtiers and pop fans (Psyche, March 15, 2022)
The vernacular revolution in western Europe started far from the Roman heartland, where Latin did not have deep roots – in Ireland and Iceland – and worked its way gradually toward the Mediterranean. In one region after the other, scriveners wrote registers, notary contracts, poems and, finally, laws and scientific treatises in local languages. From beginning to end, the process took more than a millennium. Portions of the oldest grammar of a European vernacular – Irish – date to the 7th century. Yet Galileo and Kepler still wrote scientific works in Latin into the 17th century and German universities used Latin as language of instruction into the 19th century. But, from the moment in 1295 when Dante explained that poets preferred the vernacular because the ladies they courted knew no Latin, the writing was on the wall.
Enduring Antarctic Sea Ice – Icebreaker Cut Through on Expedition That Located Shackleton’s Lost Ship. (SciTechDaily, March 15, 2022)
An international expedition has located the lost ship of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton more than 100 years after it was crushed by ice and sank. The discovery of
Endurance on the floor of the Weddell Sea occurred on March 5, 2022—late in the austral summer, after much of the sea ice around Antarctica had melted away.
It’s a Perfect Time for EVs. It’s a Terrible Time for EVs. (Wired, March 15, 2022)
Gas prices are up, commutes are back, and Russian oil is under sanction. Too bad the electric vehicle industry isn’t ready to seize the moment.
Small oil producers like Ghana, Guyana and Suriname could gain as buyers shun Russian crude. (The Conversation, March 15, 2022)
Attention has focused on Iran and Venezuela, both of which are led by governments that the U.S. sought until recently to isolate. But emerging and less-developed producers could also play roles. Among the world’s many oil-producing countries, a few are positioned to jump the list and become increasingly active. They include the West African nation of Ghana (No. 33), along with Guyana (No. 42) and Suriname (No. 69), two small adjoining countries on the north Atlantic coast of South America. All three nations have become oil producers within the past 12 years.
[AND encourage more people and countries to embrace Green energy?]
Chinese ambassador: Where we stand on Ukraine (Washington Post, March 15, 2022)
There were more than 6,000 Chinese citizens in Ukraine. China is the biggest trading partner of both Russia and Ukraine, and the largest importer of crude oil and natural gas in the world. Conflict between Russia and Ukraine does no good for China. Had China known about the imminent crisis, we would have tried our best to prevent it.
On Ukraine, China’s position is objective and impartial: The purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter must be fully observed; the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, including Ukraine, must be respected; the legitimate security concerns of all countries must be taken seriously; and all efforts that are conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis must be supported.
China has also outlined a six-point initiative that calls for making sure that humanitarian operations abide by the principles of neutrality and impartiality; gives full attention to the displaced persons in and from Ukraine; ensures the protection of civilians; provides for safe and smooth humanitarian aid activities; provides for the safety of foreign nationals in Ukraine; and supports the United Nations’ coordinating role in channeling humanitarian aid, as well as the work of the U.N. crisis coordinator for Ukraine. The first tranche of emergency humanitarian supplies provided by the Red Cross Society of China to its Ukrainian counterpart has been shipped from Beijing.
As a Chinese proverb goes, it takes more than one cold day to freeze three feet of ice. The long-term peace and stability of Europe relies on the principle of indivisible security. There must be a balanced, effective and sustainable European security architecture. The priority now is to achieve a cease-fire to protect civilians from war. But as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and a responsible major country, China will continue to coordinate real efforts to achieve lasting peace. We stand ready to do whatever we can and work with other parties. Our ultimate purpose is the end of war and support regional and global stability.
["But Taiwan is different." Aha; Someone just added to its powerful Comments thread: "The Ambassador is remarkably stone-deaf to why those of us who believe in democracy view the Russian invasion of Ukraine as similar to the Chinese threat to take over Taiwan: we feel very strongly that we all have the right to freely elect our leadership. The Chinese are making the same argument as the Russians - "we" (conflating the state with them personally) have a historical "right" over the land and therefore over all the people in it, no matter what they think or want, whether they want us to or not; they have no choice whatsoever, no say in the matter at all. The Chinese give a false choice: "freely" surrender or we retain the right to attack you by force. And what the Ukrainians have shown the world - once free, a people will fight tooth and nail, town by town, street by street, inch by inch to stay free." Amen.]
Automakers scramble to replace Ukrainian parts supplies. (Atomotive News, March 14, 2022)
Europe's automakers scramble to replace Ukrainian parts such as wire harnesses.
‘All art must go underground:’ Ukraine scrambles to shield its cultural heritage. (Washington Post, March 14, 2022)
Emptying a museum is a gargantuan task, and the entire workforce of the Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv had been at it for a week before the final piece — a century-old portrait of the museum’s namesake — was taken down, leaving the last of its walls bare. Ihor Kozhan, the director of the grand gallery opposite Lviv’s opera house, explained the rush. “There is an egomaniac in Moscow who doesn’t care about killing children, let alone destroying art,” he said. “If our history and heritage are to survive, all art must go underground.” Across Ukraine, artists, gallerists, curators and museum directors are desperately but carefully unhooking, wrapping and stashing away the country’s hefty cultural endowment as Vladimir Putin’s onslaught closes in.
The deliberate destruction of a country’s or culture’s heritage is considered a war crime, but UNESCO has not yet canceled its next summit, which is scheduled to take place in Russia. “The first thought that came to mind for me is that a Ukrainian museum is protecting Russian masterpieces from Russian aggression.” Even as they struggled to believe it, museum directors also said their plight was hardly unfamiliar. Ukraine has been stripped of artwork by invaders multiple times over the past century.
Saving art was secondary only to saving lives, many of those interviewed said, because Ukrainians’ pride in their culture serves as a deep well of inspiration for its resistance to invasion. Putin has made it clear that he considers Ukraine to be part of greater Russia, a contention artists here say denies Ukraine’s distinct heritage. “With each invasion, some loss of culture is inevitable,” said Taras Voznyak, director of the Lviv National Art Gallery. “Putin knows that without art, without our history, Ukraine will have a weaker identity. That is the whole point of his war — to erase us and assimilate us into his population of crypto-fascist zombies.”
How Kyiv’s outgunned defenders have kept Russian forces from capturing the capital of Ukraine (Washington Post, March 14, 2022)
When Russian forces seized control of a military airport in Hostomel, a few miles north of Irpin, on the first day of the war, many military observers expected a rapid takeover of Kyiv. But more than two weeks later, Russian troops have struggled to advance.
Australia joins allies, sanctions 33 Russian oligarchs. (The Hill, March 14, 2022)
Australia on Monday announced that it is sanctioning 33 Russian oligarchs in response to Moscow’s continued invasion of Ukraine, joining allies in placing penalties on prominent Russian individuals. Australia had already sanctioned Russia for recognizing two Ukrainian regions as independent and for launching a military operation in Ukraine. In total, Australia said it has levied more than 460 sanctions on individuals and entities in past weeks, including President Vladimir Putin and his Security Council, the Central Bank of Russia, the country’s national sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund and Russia’s armed forces.
Monday’s announcement of more penalties comes after the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, European Union and New Zealand imposed sanctions against key Russian individuals.