Lazy Caturday Reads: Looney Tunes Cats Plus News

Sylvester and Tweety

Good Morning!!

No one seems to know for sure whether Trump’s dear friend Kim Jong Un is dead or alive.

Rumors have been swirling for days, and now some news outlets are reporting that Kim is either dead or in a vegetative state.

Taiwan News: Japanese media reports N. Korea’s Kim Jong Un in vegetative state.

Japanese media, citing the medical team treating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, say the failure of initial surgery has left the 36-year-old in a vegetative state.

Amid conflicting reports about Kim’s health, Japanese weekly magazine Shukan Gendai reported on Friday (April 24) that a Chinese medical team member on the mission to North Korea briefly explained the situation to its senior writer, Kondm Daisuke.

The medical expert said during a visit to the countryside earlier this month, Kim clutched his chest and fell to the ground. A doctor accompanying Kim immediately carried out CPR and took him to a nearby hospital for emergency care.

The doctor also requested a medical team from Beijing for assistance. At the hospital, prior to the arrival of the Chinese medical team, the North Korean doctor performed cardiac surgery but there were complications due to the hereditary dictator’s obesity and the doctor’s anxiety.

Penelope and Pepe LePew

Reuters yesterday: Exclusive: China sent team including medical experts to advise on North Korea’s Kim.

China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with the situation.

The trip by the Chinese doctors and officials comes amid conflicting reports about the health of the North Korean leader. Reuters was unable to immediately determine what the trip by the Chinese team signaled in terms of Kim’s health.

A delegation led by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department left Beijing for North Korea on Thursday, two of the people said. The department is the main Chinese body dealing with neighbouring North Korea….

Daily NK, a Seoul-based website, reported earlier this week that Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure on April 12. It cited one unnamed source in North Korea….

On Friday, a South Korean source told Reuters their intelligence was that Kim was alive and would likely make an appearance soon. The person said he did not have any comment on Kim’s current condition or any Chinese involvement.

From Twitter:

Newsweek reports that Kim missed another important occasion: Kim Jong Un Remains Absent on Day North Korean Media Celebrates Founding of Armed Forces.

The state-controlled media in North Korea focused on the founding of its armed forces on Saturday as its supreme leader Kim Jong Un remained absent amid reports that a Chinese medical team was assessing his health status.

Claude cat

South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that television coverage in the secretive northern state spent the day trumpeting the 88th anniversary of the birth of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army (KPRA), which falls on April 25, without the nation’s chief heralding the event.

Hong Kong Satellite Television reported that the supreme leader was dead but this has not been confirmed by U.S. sources with a senior Pentagon official not authorized to speak on the record, telling Newsweek: “North Korean military readiness remains within historical norms and there is no further evidence to suggest a significant change in defensive posturing or national level leadership changes.”

I wonder if Kim could have had Covid-19? If he’s dead, will Trump be able to express grief and sadness as he hasn’t done after the loss of more than 50,000 Americans?

Susan Glasser at The New Yorker: Fifty Thousand Americans Dead from the Coronavirus, and a President Who Refuses to Mourn Them.

In just the past few days, President Trump has blamed immigrants, China, the “fake news” and, of course, “the invisible enemy” of the coronavirus for America’s present troubles. He has opined extemporaneously about his plans to hold a grand Fourth of July celebration on the National Mall and has announced that he planted a tree on the White House lawn in honor of Earth Day. He has offered his opinion on matters small and large, bragged about himself as “the king of ventilators,” and spent much time lamenting the pandemic-inflicted passing of what he invariably (and inaccurately) calls “the greatest economy in the history of the world.”

Despite the flood of words, though, what has struck me the most this week is what Trump does not talk about: the mounting toll of those who have died in this crisis. So voluble that he regularly talks well past dinnertime at his nightly briefings, the President somehow never seems to find time to pay tribute to those who have been lost, aside from reading an occasional scripted line or two at the start of his lengthy press conferences, or a brief mention of a friend in New York who died of the disease soon after calling him at the White House. “He said, ‘I tested positive.’ Four days later he was dead,” the President recounted. “So this is a tough deal.” It was not exactly the prayerful, if often politically expedient, mournfulness Americans generally expect of their elected leaders. Trump, for the most part, dispenses even with the ritualistic clichés that other politicians, regardless of party or creed, have always offered in times of crisis….

Sylvester Jr.

Honoring the dead has long been one of the tests of American Presidential leadership. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was, after all, not just another political speech but a remembrance of those who were killed in the bloodiest single battle of the Civil War, in which some fifty thousand Americans became casualties and about eight thousand died. Twenty-five years ago this week, Bill Clinton’s lip-bitingly empathetic response to the Oklahoma City bombing, in which a white supremacist blew up a federal building and killed a hundred and sixty-eight people, was seen as a key moment of his tenure. He was dubbed the “mourner-in-chief,” at a time when he was languishing politically. That speech is often said to have saved his Presidency. More recently, Barack Obama wept from the White House lectern in speaking about the deaths of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, and gave arguably the speech of his lifetime in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, singing “Amazing Grace” as he mourned at a funeral service for nine African-Americans killed by a white supremacist at a church massacre. Even those Presidents who aren’t particularly good at speechifying—think of the two George Bushes—have considered public commiseration amid national tragedy part of the job description. Have we ever had a President just take a pass on human empathy, even of the manufactured, politically clichéd kind?

Just say it Susan. The “president” is a psychopath.

Michael Cohen at The Boston Globe: Say it loud, say it clear: Donald Trump needs to resign over his handling of the coronavirus.

The United States has just over 4 percent of the world’s population, but had about one-third of all global coronavirus cases and one-quarter of the fatalities, as of Friday.

This is a catastrophic failure that can be laid largely at the feet of President Trump. Editorial boards and politicians — both Democratic and Republican — should be calling on him to resign immediately.

Mrs. Sylvester

It’s not just the catalog of screw-ups that led us to this point — the playing down of the threat, the lack of testing, the spread of misinformation and lies, and the government-wide inattention to the issue. It’s that Trump represents an ongoing danger to the health and well-being of the American people.

Consider, for example, the strange case of hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug that Trump began publicly touting several weeks ago as a potential treatment for the coronavirus. “What do you have to lose?” the president asked, about a drug that had not been approved by the FDA for that purpose. It turns out the answer is “your life.” [….]

As remarkable as it is for the president to be suggesting the use of unproven drugs, Trump topped it on Thursday when he suggested that ultraviolet rays and cleaning disinfectants, injected into the body, should be examined as possible treatments for coronavirus. These comments led public health experts and companies like Lysol to remind Americans of something we regularly tell children: They shouldn’t ingest cleaning products….

Trump isn’t even participating in the federal response to the coronavirus. He reportedly watches television most of the day, doesn’t attend coronavirus task force meetings, and then uses his daily press briefing — for which he barely prepares — as a platform to self-aggrandize and lie.

Read the rest at the link above.

Hep Cat

Fallout continues from Trump’s touting sun and household cleaners to cure Covid-19. Is this where he got the idea? The Guardian: Revealed: leader of group peddling bleach as coronavirus ‘cure’ wrote to Trump this week.

The leader of the most prominent group in the US peddling potentially lethal industrial bleach as a “miracle cure” for coronavirus wrote to Donald Trump at the White House this week.

In his letter, Mark Grenon told Trump that chlorine dioxide – a powerful bleach used in industrial processes such as textile manufacturing that can have fatal side-effects when drunk – is “a wonderful detox that can kill 99% of the pathogens in the body”. He added that it “can rid the body of Covid-19”.

A few days after Grenon dispatched his letter, Trump went on national TV at his daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on Thursday and promoted the idea that disinfectant could be used as a treatment for the virus. To the astonishment of medical experts, the US president said that disinfectant “knocks it out in a minute. One minute!”

He went on to say: “Is there a way we can do something, by an injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that.”

Marc Antony and Pussyfoot

Trump did not specify where the idea of using disinfectant as a possible remedy for Covid-19 came from, and the source for his notion remains obscure. But the Guardian has learned that peddlers of chlorine dioxide – industrial bleach – have been making direct approaches to the White House in recent days.

Grenon styles himself as “archbishop” of Genesis II – a Florida-based outfit that claims to be a church but which in fact is the largest producer and distributor of chlorine dioxide bleach as a “miracle cure” in the US. He brands the chemical as MMS, “miracle mineral solution”, and claims fraudulently that it can cure 99% of all illnesses including cancer, malaria, HIV/Aids as well as autism.

Since the start of the pandemic, Genesis II has been marketing MMS as a cure to coronavirus. It advises users, including children, to mix three to six drops of bleach in water and drink it.

Read more at the the Guardian.

So . . . it’s another busy news day even though it’s the weekend. What stories are you following?

Friday Reads: Extra! Extra! Unexceptional Nation–full of Idiots–led by Huge Idiot

ImageGood Day Sky Dancers!

So, what does it say when two companies that produce disinfectants and dangerous cleaning products have to remind full grow adults not to drink the shit because, well, the so-called President suggests it might be a way to clean out Covid-19 infected lungs in a Prime Time TV Presser.

Injecting disinfectant?  WTF?

From CNN: Lysol maker: Please don’t drink our cleaning products .  This is usually why we put these things on high shelves or under child-proof locks in homes with very small children.

The statement followed remarks from President Trump on Thursday on the use of disinfectants.

“And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in one minute. Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning … it would be interesting to check that,” Trump said. “It sounds interesting to me,” he added.

CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta was quick to point out that this is simply wrong.

“He also said it needs to be studied. Actually, it doesn’t. I mean we know the answer to this one,” he said on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 on Thursday. “I think everybody would know that that would be dangerous and counter-productive.”

Ingesting or injecting disinfectants is dangerous,  according to a medical expert employed. Food and Drug Administration chief Dr. Stephen Hahn told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “I certainly wouldn’t recommend the internal ingestion of a disinfectant.”

The US Food and Drug Administration regularly warns the public against drinking bleach, or even inhaling fumes from bleach. It’s also irritating to skin.

On Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said calls about poisonings with cleaners and disinfectants had increased more than 20% in the first three months of 2020 — as coronavirus cleaning increased — than from the same period a year earlier. Among cleaners, bleaches accounted for the largest percentage increase in calls from 2019 to 2020.


The problem is that I actually believe most of the Trumperz aren’t smart enough to figure out that they still shouldn’t be drinking bleach and Lysol. That’s a pretty strange statement too. But, it looks like those companies and lots of doctors and health organizations  think there will be stupid people trying it because their orange messiah inkled it.

The FDA is warning against “use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for COVID-19 outside of the hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems”.   This was another Trump pet poison.

You’ll remember a couple in Arizona that found a fish version of that and killed the husband in a kool aid drink to save Trump Town. from the deep state.  CNBC outlines the problems with that drug.

The Food and Drug Administration warned consumers Friday against taking malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 outside a hospital or formal clinical trial setting after “serious” poisoning and deaths were reported.

The agency said it became aware of reports of “serious heart rhythm problems” in patients with the virus who were treated with the malaria drugs, often in combination with antibiotic azithromycin, commonly known as a Z-Pak. It also warned physicians against prescribing the drugs to treat the coronavirus outside of a hospital.

“Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can cause abnormal heart rhythms such as QT interval prolongation and a dangerously rapid heart rate called ventricular tachycardia,” the agency wrote in the notice. “We will continue to investigate risks associated with the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for COVID-19 and communicate publicly when we have more information.”

10 cartoons that capture America's response to coronavirus | Opinion

His ignorance as well as his extreme pathologies are killing the country.  Michael Gerson–writing for WAPO–states “The GOP has reached its sad, inevitable destination.”  My question is will its demise come soon enough to save us?

The Trump captivity of the GOP has reached its sad, inevitable destination: a failed presidency defended by a cowed party. As President Trump’s malignant narcissism and incompetence have been fully revealed — and can be objectively measured by the level of needless death from covid-19 — his approval among Republicans has remained strong. Across a continent filled with elected Republicans, only a few have taken a stand for sanity and effective governance.

Trump is, no doubt, in a perilous political situation. The activist right wing of his party has seized on social distancing as the health-care equivalent of socialism. The tea party fundraising machine has lurched into loud, clanking motion, trying to manufacture outrage against epidemiology. Some pro-life and pro-family groups have joined in the ill-timed promotion of social anarchy.

The president seldom defies the right-wing populists, and his immediate response was to identify with their anger. But this is a different political circumstance from any Trump has faced. In this case, pleasing the most vocal portion of his base puts another important constituency — older voters — at additional risk of painful, suffocating death. It is difficult to play both sides of this issue. And there are indications in recent polling that seniors have grown increasingly critical of Trump’s pandemic response.

Yet none of this is likely to change the minds of partisan Republicans. Some ignore or dismiss Trump’s cruelty and deception because conservative judges need to be appointed and the culture war needs to be fought. Some embrace his cruelty and deception because conservative judges need to be appointed and the culture war needs to be fought. And Trump naturally takes continued Republican job approval as an endorsement for his handling of the coronavirus crisis. In this way, Republican tolerance for Trump’s ineptitude and ignorance has made these traits more lethal.

It is sometimes useful to stare the worst possible political outcome full in the face. If Trump were reelected in November, he would place his stamp on Republican identity for a generation. The purges of dissidents would accelerate. Resistance within the party would dwindle from rare to vanishingly rare. A party of angry white people would head toward its demographic doom. And even then, Trump acolytes would probably reject ideological and racial outreach, preferring their resentments to the possibility of deliverance.

The entire party has nothing to offer but greed and craziness.

McConnell would actually take down the truly viable states with good economies to prop up his power agenda.

Unfortunately, it’s looking increasingly likely that tens of millions of Americans will in fact suffer extreme hardship and that there will be devastating cuts in services. Why? The answer mainly boils down to two words: Mitch McConnell.

On Wednesday, McConnell, the Senate majority leader, declared that he is opposed to any further federal aid to beleaguered state and local governments, and suggested that states declare bankruptcy instead. Lest anyone accuse McConnell of being even slightly nonpartisan, his office distributed two memos referring to proposals for state aid as “blue state bailouts.”

A number of governors have already denounced McConnell’s position as stupid, which it is. But it’s also vile and hypocritical.

When I say that we have the resources to avoid severe financial hardship, I’m referring to the federal government, which can borrow vast sums very cheaply. In fact, the interest rate on inflation-protected bonds, which measure real borrowing costs, is minus 0.43 percent: Investors are basically paying the feds to hold their money.

So Washington can and should run big budget deficits in this time of need. State and local governments, however, can’t, because almost all of them are required by law to run balanced budgets. Yet these governments, which are on the front line of dealing with the pandemic, are facing a combination of collapsing revenue and soaring expenses.

The obvious answer is federal aid. But McConnell wants states and cities to declare bankruptcy instead.

Hands on Wisconsin: Trump wants to keep stock market safe from ...

And, once again we see the “pro-life” agenda isn’t very pro-life as argued by Timothy Eagen in the NYT.

All of us want the same thing — a road map to the way out. The scientific consensus is clear and not that complicated: We need a significant upgrade of testing, contact tracing to track the infected, nuanced and dutiful social isolation, all to buy time until a vaccine is developed.

But the political way out reveals a stark divide, and some true madness. For Republicans, that pro-life slogan of theirs is just another term for nothing left to lose. They are now the party of death.

When Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas doubled down this week on prior remarks elevating commerce above life — There are “more important things than living,” he said on Fox News — he was speaking for a significant slice of his party. People are disposable. So is income. But one is more important.

Signe Wilkinson's Editorial Cartoons - Illness Comics And Cartoons ...

Whatever we can say is American is Failing.  I agree with this NBC think piece.  We are not handling this crisis well at all and I’m not proud to say I agree with Chuck Todd of all people.

Without question, it’s the worst crisis the United States has faced since the Great Depression and World War II. And so far, this country’s national leaders and federal government have failed to meet the enormity of the moment.

President Trump has failed to meet the moment — whether it’s in uniting the country, giving it the unvarnished truth of the situation or even just mourning the dead.

Congress has failed the moment — despite spending some $3 trillion in aid and stimulus, many small businesses have been unable to get loans, and state governments are seeing their trust funds depleted to pay out unemployment insurance.

And while individual governors and states have stepped up their game, the entire federal government — collectively — has failed the moment. In the months since the spread first began, there have been 4.7 million coronavirus tests in the nation, which represents less than 2 percent of the U.S. population.

Mexican Judge's tweet -

OOps. Too soon!  There’s that both siderism. The problem with Congress in the Senate Republican majority who appears to see this as a way to reshape the country into its rural white identity.   Try this for size: ” >Bailout money bypasses hard-hit New York, California for North Dakota, Nebraska“.  This is from Aaron Glantz.

This was the purpose of the Paycheck Protection Program: to subsidize vulnerable small businesses and avoid massive layoffs. The loans will be forgiven entirely under certain conditions, including a requirement that a company keep all of its employees on the payroll for at least eight weeks. Within weeks, the Small Business Administration had exhausted the $349 billion appropriated by Congress, a pace that President Donald Trump has called “an incredible, incredible success.”

An analysis of 1.6 million Paycheck Protection Program loans by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that 58% of North Dakota’s small businesses got loans through the program. A majority of small businesses in Nebraska and South Dakota, neither of which have shelter-in-place orders, also received help.

It was a different story, however, in states with high death tolls and some of the earliest stay-at-home orders prompted by COVID-19. In New York and New Jersey, where more than 350,000 are infected and more than 20,000 have died, just 18% of businesses got help, Reveal’s analysis found. In California, where more than 3 million workers have filed for unemployment after that state became the first to issue a stay-at-home order, that number was 15%.  (Reveal is among the California businesses that received a loan under the program.)

The figures were so stark that they sparked concerns of political interference. Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat who serves on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said the data raise questions about whether stimulus dollars were deliberately funneled to states that voted for Trump and have Republican governors.

Speier told Reveal that she would be calling for an investigation by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

Reveal’s analysis found that businesses in states that Trump won in 2016 received a far greater share of the small-business relief funds than those won by his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Eight of the top 10 recipient states – ranked according to the proportion of each state’s businesses that received funding – went to Trump in 2016. Meanwhile, seven of the bottom 10 states, where the lowest proportion of businesses received funding, went to Clinton. Taken together, 32% of businesses in states that Trump won got Paycheck Protection Program dollars, we found, compared with 22% of businesses in states that went to Clinton.

“If it is as it appears, it is downright criminal. So there has to be an investigation,” Speier said, noting that the president has a record of using his office to benefit his family and supporters financially, while seeking to deny government support to those he sees as his political enemies.

“As far as the president of the United States is concerned, if he can stick it to California, he will,” she said.

antitrump hashtag on Twitter

So, this is beginning to feel like they may try to selectively kill us off as well suppress our vote.   Mostly they are destroying their precious notion of American Exceptionalism because Republican and Trumpist agendas are about driving us into banana republic status.  This is from the AP’s Calvin Woodard.

At the time of greatest need, the country with the world’s most expensive health care system doesn’t want you using it if you’re sick but not sick enough or not sick the right way.

The patchwork private-public health care system consumes 17% of the economy, unparalleled globally. But it wants you to stay home with your COVID-19 unless you are among the minority at risk of death from suffocation or complications. It wants you to heal from anything you can without a doctor’s touch and put off surgeries of all kinds if they can wait.

In the pandemic’s viral madhouse, the United States possesses jewels of medical exceptionalism that have long been the envy of the world, like the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

But where are the results?

For effective diagnostic testing, crucial in an infectious outbreak, look abroad. To the United Arab Emirates, or Germany, or New Zealand, which jumped to test the masses before many were known to be sick.

Or to South Korean exceptionalism, tapped by Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, who accepted a planeload of 500,000 testing kits from Seoul to make up for the U.S. shortfall. The aid was dubbed Operation Enduring Friendship and annoyed Trump, the “America First” president.

Simple gloves. Complicated ventilators. Special lab chemicals. Tests. Swabs. Masks. Gowns. Face shields. Hospital beds. Emergency payouts from the government. Benefits for idled workers. Small business relief. Each has been subject to chronic shortages, spot shortages, calcified bureaucracy or some combination.

“This monumental failure of institutional effectiveness will reverberate for the rest of the decade,” Andreessen, a tech investor best known for the Netscape browser in the 1990s, said in his company newsletter.

Yet Trump uses his daily White House briefings to claim success and talk about his poll numbers, TV ratings, favorite theories about science and the praise he gets from governors, who may be at risk of seeing their states intentionally shortchanged by Washington if they don’t say something nice about him.

“A lot of people love Trump, right?” Trump asked himself at the briefing Monday.

He then answered himself. “A lot of people love me. You see them all the time, right? I guess I’m here for a reason, you know. … And I think we’re going to win again, I think we’re going to win in a landslide.”

InjectDisinfectant hashtag on Twitter

Polls are beginning to inform Trump that he is behind so he will certainly only get worse and more desperate.  One reason?  The one thing you can say about “safety moms” is they want safety. Trump is the furthest thing away from that.

Here are some things to read about that:

Trump’s poor poll numbers trigger GOP alarms over November    from Politico

Team Trump Fears Suburban Women Will Destroy Him in 2020—and That Coronavirus Is Making It Worse  from the Daily Beast

Biden predicts Trump will try to delay November election from the Hill

We will need to be vigilant as ever and more reliant on the Democratic Party to fight like hell.  Be safe!  Stay Home!! Be kind to yourself!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Coronavirus Reads: Denial of Science and Collective Trauma

Katherine Bernhardt’s new public mural painted in Guatemala, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.

Good Morning!!

Yesterday the world watched in horror as Trump forced another scientist to soften remarks he had made in the media. We also learned that the government scientist who was in charge of Covid-19 vaccine development was demoted because he criticized Trump’s advocacy for an unproven and dangerous drug combination to treat the virus. Day after day in his “coronavirus briefings, Trump is trying to crush scientific expertise with his iron fist of ignorance.

The Washington Post: Under Trump, coronavirus scientists can speak — as long as they mostly toe the line.

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a candid warning Tuesday in a Washington Post interview: A simultaneous flu and coronavirus outbreak next fall and winter “will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” adding that calls and protests to “liberate” states from stay-at-home orders — as President Trump has tweeted — were “not helpful.”

By Wednesday evening, Redfield appeared at the daily White House briefing — saying he had been accurately quoted after all, while also trying to soften his words as the president glowered next to him.

“I didn’t say that this was going to be worse,” Redfield said. “I said it was going to be more difficult and potentially complicated because we’ll have flu and coronavirus circulating at the same time.”

What about the first CDC director to speak out back in March?

In another instance, Nancy Messonnier, the CDC’s director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, was removed from her post as her agency’s coronavirus response head after sounding early alarms that Americans should begin preparing for “significant disruption” to their lives from a “severe illness.” The CDC held its last daily briefing on March 9 — a forum through which the nation would normally receive critical public health information — in part out of a desire not to provoke the president.

There’s much more at the WaPo link.

A painted fence depicts president Trump as the coronavirus, Photo by Josh Edelson, APP Getty Images

The New York Times: Health Dept. Official Says Doubts on Hydroxychloroquine Led to His Ouster.

The official who led the federal agency involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine said on Wednesday that he was removed from his post after he pressed for rigorous vetting of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug embraced by President Trump as a coronavirus treatment, and that the administration had put “politics and cronyism ahead of science.”

Rick Bright was abruptly dismissed this week as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, and removed as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response. He was given a narrower job at the National Institutes of Health.

In a scorching statement, Dr. Bright, who received a Ph.D. in immunology and molecular pathogenesis from Emory University, assailed the leadership at the health department, saying he was pressured to direct money toward hydroxychloroquine, one of several “potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections” and repeatedly described by the president as a potential “game changer” in the fight against the virus.

“I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” he said in his statement. “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”

Read the rest at the NYT. In another horrifying moment at yesterday’s briefing, Dr. Fauci defended Bright’s ouster.

A dog walks past a mural depicting a coronavirus cell, Dublin, Ireland, Photo by Aidan Crawley, EPA

Meanwhile, more than 47,000 Americans have died from Covid-19 complications, and Trump isn’t capable of mustering even a drop of sympathy for the heartbroken survivors or for those currently battling the disease in hospitals and homes around the country.

Today the total of confirmed cases in the U.S. is 842,624, based on our extremely limited testing. What does the future hold for survivors and the rest of us?

Charlotte Jee at Technology Review: Many covid-19 survivors will be left traumatized by their ICU experience.

There’s a phrase to describe what we’re experiencing: collective trauma. We are all grieving—whether it’s for the deaths of loved ones, the loss of our way of life, or the knowledge that things will never quite be the same again. Most of us are experiencing some level of anxiety. The loss of control over major aspects of our lives and lack of a clear end point to the crisis are both partly to blame. For some, stress will spiral into a diagnosable mental health problem.

But we’re not all going through the same thing. Health-care workers who treat coronavirus patients every day are likely at increased risk of such issues. Many worry about working with inadequate protective equipment. The stress they’re under now could take months or even years to process, so we won’t know the pandemic’s full impact for a long time.

From artist Debbie.lee Miszaniec’s COVID-19 Sketchbook. Courtesy, Debbie.lee Miszaniec, Calgary

And there’s another group we need to prepare for: people who have been admitted to intensive care with covid-19 and survived. It’s very difficult to predict how many people will end up in this situation. The vast majority of those who catch coronavirus won’t need a hospital stay, according to a study of nearly 45,000 cases in China carried out by the country’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that 81% of infections are mild.

These survivors are going to be dealing with the aftereffects of major trauma.

For those who make it out the other side, their stay in intensive care is likely to be one of the most traumatic things they will ever experience. Being able to breathe is something we take for granted. But patients who have such difficulty breathing that they need to be intubated (which involves having a tube inserted into their mouth and down their airway) often believe they are going to die at some point during their stay in intensive care. Anecdotally, ICU doctors say patients with covid-19 tend to need a particularly large amount of sedation, which damages muscles and nerves, especially in the lungs. That damage can be permanent—which can in turn undermine the patient’s mental health.

“Their lives will never look exactly as they were before. Being admitted to an ICU is one of those ‘before and after’ life events, like having a child, or a parent dying,” says Megan Hosey, a psychologist who treats ICU patients.

Patients on ventilators often become delirious. They can drift in and out of consciousness, hallucinate, and become confused about what’s happening to them. It’s common for them to form delusions and misremember what’s occurred. “They can recollect that a nurse or doctor was trying to hurt them when they were doing a procedure to help them,” says Timothy Girard, associate professor of critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. It’s unsurprising, then, that so many ICU survivors go on to experience depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and other mental health issues.

Read the rest at MIT’s Tech Review.


Scientific American offers an article on personal growth following traumatic experiences: The Coronavirus and Post-Traumatic Growth, by Steve Taylor.

Post-traumatic growth (or PTG) is the idea that, in the long run, traumatic events and experiences—like illness, accidents, bereavement, addiction and divorce—can have beneficial effects. Often, after the initial shock and pain of a traumatic situation has faded away, people report feeling more appreciative of their lives, and sensing a new inner strength and confidence. They feel that their relationships are more intimate and authentic, and that they have a new sense of meaning and purpose. They often become less materialistic and more altruistic, more concerned with the well-being of others than with their own success and status. They develop a more philosophical or spiritual attitude to life, with—in the words of Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun, two of the pioneers of the theory of PTG—a “deeper level of awareness.”

Overall, it appears that nearly half of people who experience such traumatic events are likely to experience PTG in the aftermath.

Over the last 10 years or so, my own research has focused on what I call post-traumatic transformation. I have found that psychological turmoil and trauma may not simply bring about growth, but a dramatic transformation. After a period of intense suffering (such as a diagnosis of cancer or a long period of depression or addiction), a person may undergo a sudden shift of identity.

Painting to honor the heroes of the service industry, Terrance Osborne, New Orleans, LA

All of a sudden, they feel like a different person inhabiting the same body, with heightened sensory awareness, an increased sense of compassion and connection, and new values or goals. For example, a woman who experienced post-traumatic transformation after the death of her daughter told me that she felt like she had broken through “to another state. I’ve moved up to another level of awareness which I know is going to stay with me.”

As I showed in my book The Leap, many people could specify a particular moment at which transformation occurred, often at the moment when they shifted into an attitude of acceptance of their predicament. For example, a man told me how, as an alcoholic undergoing the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery process, he experienced transformation at the moment when he “handed over” his problem. Another person had become severely disabled and underwent a shift at the point when he heard an inner voice say, “Let go, man, let go. Look at how you’re holding on. What do you think life’s telling you?” A woman who went through a period of intense postnatal depression, entering into a psychotic state, which led to four nights without sleep. In the midst of this turmoil, she had an argument with her husband, which suddenly triggered what she described as “feelings of such perfect joy and peace. I remember thinking afterward ‘so that’s what I’m supposed to feel like!’ Within that one instant, you are forever changed.”

Taylor argues that traumatic growth can also happen within communities. Read all about at Scientific American.

One more rather dark look at our future from John Harris, founding editor of Politico Magazine: Stop Looking on the Bright Side: We’ll Be Screwed By the Pandemic for Years to Come.

…my wariness toward seeing the glass half-full is grounded in the experience of the past generation. Unfortunately, that experience offers ample reason to be pessimistic about the next one. People who feel that the pandemic is going to “break the fever” of the last couple decades—that it will finally drain public life of its malice, its addiction to remorseless conflict and conspiracy theory, its devil-take-the-hindmost nihilism—carry the burden of proof. I’d like to buy it but can’t yet.

A glass sculpture entitled “coronavirus – COVID-19” created by British artistLuke Jerram, Bristol, southwest of England on March 17, 2020.

What if instead of ushering in a new era of respect for science—including the obvious truth that most policy questions around science involve mixed evidence and relative probabilities rather than absolute certainties—the next several years are marked by a distorted, dishonest, told-you-so debate over the pandemic? What if instead of launching a new season of public interest, a weak economy leaves little money or political will to solve long-deferred problems like climate change? What if this cataclysm makes us even more selfish and short-term in our thinking?

In short: What if we’re screwed?

None of this is a prediction. Nor is it a generational lament. Unlike some younger friend —who feel they came of age with events conspiring against their life prospects and are aggrieved about it—I was already in my thirties at the turn of the century and my basic worldview was pretty well set. That view was that the tides of modern life were moving unevenly but inexorably toward liberal democracy; that politics often could be distorted by corruption or fanaticism but was more rational than irrational; that public life was contentious and chaotic but more on the level than not.

like many of the thinkers commissioned by POLITICO, my impulse was to respond to the succession of astounding, can-this-really-be-happening events of the past 20 years by assuming they might somehow be occasions to hit the reset button, to get back to normal. Maybe a bizarre election in which George W. Bush became president under disputed circumstances will cause him to transcend ideological warfare and find common ground. Maybe the horror of 9/11 will be a great unifying event in the United States and for civilized people around the world. Maybe Hurricane Katrina will focus useful attention on climate change and the need to invest in improved national infrastructure. Maybe the 2008 financial crash will bring pressure to bear on income inequality. Maybe Donald Trump surprised even himself with his 2016 victory and will actually prove to be an effective post-partisan dealmaker.

Read more at the Politico link.

I hope I haven’t completely bummed you out. I tend to be an optimist generally, but right now I’m more in agreement with John Harris’ take. What do you think? What stories have you been following?

Wednesday Reads: Death Becomes US

As y’all know…I am a Georgia resident, and right now…if ya live in my state: Death Becomes You.

Yes, even Alabama is smart enough to know…you don’t open the damn state up in the middle of a fucking pandemic!

(I know that the Death card has this message:

But for now, I am using the imagery for what it is.)

This is Bullshit:

Look what was trending last night on Twitter.

So if you sense a disturbance in the force, it will be populations of Georgians dying from the #KempGenocide

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We loved this. r/p @pinche_raf_art

A post shared by Voto Latino (@votolatino) on

My internet is not working, so here is where I have to leave off…

So, enjoy this gallery:

Tuesday Reads: Living In A Failed State

Good Morning

More than 40,000 Americans have died of Covid-19, but the so-called “president” is doing nothing to stop the carnage. He refuses to help states with desperately need medical equipment and tests to identify carriers. He has made it abundantly clear that we are on our own. Money and supplies are being doled out selectively–red states get the most and blue states the least. He is using FEMA and the FBI to try to stop shipments of equipment to hospitals in blue states. It actually looks like Trump is hoping those of us who did not and won’t vote for him just get sick and die.

The U.S. is no longer the country I grew up in. We are looking more like post-Soviet Russia. George Packer describes the situation we find ourselves in: We Are Living in a Failed State. The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken.

When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.

The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational, and collective. The United States reacted instead like Pakistan or Belarus—like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering. The administration squandered two irretrievable months to prepare. From the president came willful blindness, scapegoating, boasts, and lies. From his mouthpieces, conspiracy theories and miracle cures. A few senators and corporate executives acted quickly—not to prevent the coming disaster, but to profit from it. When a government doctor tried to warn the public of the danger, the White House took the mic and politicized the message.

Every morning in the endless month of March, Americans woke up to find themselves citizens of a failed state. With no national plan—no coherent instructions at all—families, schools, and offices were left to decide on their own whether to shut down and take shelter. When test kits, masks, gowns, and ventilators were found to be in desperately short supply, governors pleaded for them from the White House, which stalled, then called on private enterprise, which couldn’t deliver. States and cities were forced into bidding wars that left them prey to price gouging and corporate profiteering. Civilians took out their sewing machines to try to keep ill-equipped hospital workers healthy and their patients alive. Russia, Taiwan, and the United Nations sent humanitarian aid to the world’s richest power—a beggar nation in utter chaos.

Donald Trump saw the crisis almost entirely in personal and political terms. Fearing for his reelection, he declared the coronavirus pandemic a war, and himself a wartime president. But the leader he brings to mind is Marshal Philippe Pétain, the French general who, in 1940, signed an armistice with Germany after its rout of French defenses, then formed the pro-Nazi Vichy regime. Like Pétain, Trump collaborated with the invader and abandoned his country to a prolonged disaster. And, like France in 1940, America in 2020 has stunned itself with a collapse that’s larger and deeper than one miserable leader. Some future autopsy of the pandemic might be called Strange Defeat, after the historian and Resistance fighter Marc Bloch’s contemporaneous study of the fall of France. Despite countless examples around the U.S. of individual courage and sacrifice, the failure is national. And it should force a question that most Americans have never had to ask: Do we trust our leaders and one another enough to summon a collective response to a mortal threat? Are we still capable of self-government?

Head on over to The Atlantic to read the rest.

What’s next for this country? Can we survive the ravages of this pandemic? Over the weekend, The New York Times published an important piece by Donald G. McNeil Jr.: The Coronavirus in America: The Year Ahead.

In truth, it is not clear to anyone where this crisis is leading us. More than 20 experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology and history shared their thoughts on the future during in-depth interviews. When can we emerge from our homes? How long, realistically, before we have a treatment or vaccine? How will we keep the virus at bay?

Some felt that American ingenuity, once fully engaged, might well produce advances to ease the burdens. The path forward depends on factors that are certainly difficult but doable, they said: a carefully staggered approach to reopening, widespread testing and surveillance, a treatment that works, adequate resources for health care providers — and eventually an effective vaccine.

Still, it was impossible to avoid gloomy forecasts for the next year. The scenario that Mr. Trump has been unrolling at his daily press briefings — that the lockdowns will end soon, that a protective pill is almost at hand, that football stadiums and restaurants will soon be full — is a fantasy, most experts said.

“We face a doleful future,” said Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg, a former president of the National Academy of Medicine.

He and others foresaw an unhappy population trapped indoors for months, with the most vulnerable possibly quarantined for far longer. They worried that a vaccine would initially elude scientists, that weary citizens would abandon restrictions despite the risks, that the virus would be with us from now on.

“My optimistic side says the virus will ease off in the summer and a vaccine will arrive like the cavalry,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a preventive medicine specialist at Vanderbilt University medical school. “But I’m learning to guard against my essentially optimistic nature.”

Most experts believed that once the crisis was over, the nation and its economy would revive quickly. But there would be no escaping a period of intense pain.

Exactly how the pandemic will end depends in part on medical advances still to come. It will also depend on how individual Americans behave in the interim. If we scrupulously protect ourselves and our loved ones, more of us will live. If we underestimate the virus, it will find us.

Read more about what the experts had to say at the NYT link.

Jonathan Chait on Trump’s abandonment of the states: Trump Wants to Starve the States Into Opening Before It’s Safe.

President Trump’s current pandemic strategy — emphasize current; like the cliché about the weather, if you don’t like it, wait a few hours — is a baffling knot of contradictions. He is hurling all responsibility to state governments, leaving it to them to devise effective tests and to decide when to relax social distancing.

At the same time, he is starving them of the resources to handle the job. And even as Trump hides behind a policy of deference to governors, he is goading right-wing protesters to force their hand. Trump is “saying things that seem contradictory,” as the New York Times puts it, “like pledging to work with governors and then urging people to ‘liberate’ their states, and leaving it to his audiences to hear what they want to hear in his words.”

Yet there does appear to be a strategy here. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday afternoon that Trump has “asked White House aides for economic response plans that would allow him to take credit for successes while offering enough flexibility to assign fault for any failures to others.” Trump’s seemingly paradoxical stance is an attempt to hoard credit and shirk risk, straddling the demands of his business allies with the pleas of his public-health advisers. On the surface, he is deferring responsibility and blame to the governors. Just below the surface, he is coercing them to resume economic activity as fast as possible, regardless of what public-health officials say.

Trump’s plan to coerce the states into reopening has at least three discernible elements. The first is, or was, the formation of a task force to reopen the country. The purpose of the council was to give Trump cover. The council would prod governors to reopen businesses, and because it would be seen as coming from the business community, Trump himself would not bear the blame for future outbreaks that might result. As the Washington Post reported last week, “Trump’s advisers are trying to shield the president from political accountability should his move to reopen the economy prove premature and result in lost lives, and so they are trying to mobilize business executives, economists and other prominent figures to buy into the eventual White House plan, so that if it does not work, the blame can be shared broadly, according to two former administration officials familiar with the efforts.” (In part because its purpose was so naked, the task force seems to have collapsed.)

The second element is the mobilization of protests. The appearance of flag-waving and sometimes gun-toting demonstrators in a handful of state capitols this weekend seems to have come as a shock to the news media, but Trump’s allies signaled this was coming. Last Monday, Stephen Moore, a right-wing pseudo-economist and close Trump ally who has spent weeks pushing back on public-health guidelines, was quoted in the press saying, “In the next two weeks, you’ll see protests in the streets of conservatives; you’ll see a big pushback against the lockdown in some states.”

Click the link to read the rest at New York Magazine.

At The Washington Post, Paul Waldman on Trump’s “war against the states”:

President Trump and congressional Republicans are going to war with the states.

It’s bizarre, it’s self-defeating, it will do enormous harm to Americans in every corner of the country, and it can be fully explained only by understanding the president’s pettiest and most narcissistic motives. In other words, it’s the kind of thing we’ve come to expect in the Trump era.

Last week, the $349 billion allotted for small businesses in the CARES Act rescue package ran out, with only a portion of the American businesses that have suffered in this pandemic-driven recession getting the help they need. While everyone seemed ready to provide more money, we found ourselves in a familiar situation, with Democrats saying we need to be swift and aggressive in saving Americans suffering from this economic catastrophe, and Republicans saying that we shouldn’t spend too much or help too many people.

When negotiations began, Republicans wanted to add about $250 billion to the small business fund — and do nothing else. Now it appears that Democrats have pressured them into accepting a package that sends $370 billion to small businesses, gives $75 billion to hospitals, and spends $25 billion to beef up coronavirus testing.

What isn’t included in the package, however, is the desperately needed aid to states and cities Democrats sought. Republicans absolutely refused to even consider it.

Why? The need is urgent. State and local budgets are suddenly facing all kinds of new costs related to the pandemic, while at the same time tax revenues have fallen off a cliff. If they don’t get help, they’ll have to start laying people off and slashing state services, which will only make the recession deeper and longer. By some estimates, states and cities will need $500 billion in federal aid to make up the shortfall.

Read more at the WaPo.

So far Trump’s strategy isn’t convincing most Americans. The Washington Post: Most rate Trump’s coronavirus response negatively and expect crowds will be unsafe until summer, Post-U. Md. poll finds.

Most Americans expect no immediate easing of the health risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic, despite calls by President Trump and others to begin reopening the economy quickly. A majority say it could be June or later before it will be safe for larger gatherings to take place again, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.

Most Americans — 54 percent — give the president negative marks for his handling of the outbreak in this country and offer mixed reviews for the federal government as a whole. By contrast, 72 percent of Americans give positive ratings to the governors of their states for the way they have dealt with the crisis, with workers also rating their employers positively.

Partisan allegiances shape perceptions of when it will be safe to have gatherings of 10 or more people and of the president’s performance during the pandemic. But governors win praise across the political spectrum for their leadership, which has sometimes put them sharply at odds with Trump and his administration.

Personal health concerns are widespread, with 57 percent saying they are “very” or “somewhat” worried about becoming infected and seriously ill from the coronavirus, including at least 40 percent of people in every major demographic and political group. For those most concerned, the fear was enough to override partisanship when it comes to the safety of public gatherings, particularly for Republicans.

Today we face another day in the time of coronavirus. There will be more reports of deaths and infections, more horror stories, and more lies and propaganda from the Trump gang, and another insane briefing airing of grievances by Trump. We have to steel ourselves to protect ourselves from the virus and save our sanity in these crazy times.

Have courage Sky Dancers! What’s on your mind today?