Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: September 4, 2021
We’re heading into the long Labor Day weekend, but it isn’t quiet one on the news front. The angry reaction to the Texas abortion law continues, Louisiana and multiple states in the Northeast are still just beginning their recovery from Hurricane Ida, Covid-19 is worse than ever, thanks to GOP governors and antivaxxers, and right wing crazies are threatening another violent insurrection in Washington D.C. as well as further attacks on democratic elections.
Texas Abortion Law Stories
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A state judge has shielded, for now, Texas abortion clinics from lawsuits by an anti-abortion group under a new state abortion law in a narrow ruling handed down Friday.
The temporary restraining order Friday by state District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin in response to the Planned Parenthood request does not interfere with the provision. However, it shields clinics from whistleblower lawsuits by the nonprofit group Texas Right to Life, its legislative director and 100 unidentified individuals.
A hearing on a preliminary injunction request was set for Sept. 13.
The law, which took effect Wednesday, allows anyone anywhere to sue anyone connected to an abortion in which cardiac activity was detected in the embryo — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy before most women even realize they are pregnant.
“Drivers are never responsible for monitoring where their riders go or why. Imagine being a driver and not knowing if you are breaking the law by giving someone a ride,” Lyft said in a release.
“Similarly, riders never have to justify, or even share, where they are going and why. Imagine being a pregnant woman trying to get to a healthcare appointment and not knowing if your driver will cancel on you for fear of breaking a law. Both are completely unacceptable,” Lyft added.
Lyft said its defense fund would cover 100% of legal fees incurred by drivers because of the law, being the first rideshare company to do so. The company will also donate $1 million to Planned Parenthood.
Uber shortly followed by saying it would also cover fees.
The New York Times: TikTok Users and Coders Flood Texas Abortion Site With Fake Tips.
After a Texas law restricting abortion went into effect on Wednesday, the state’s largest anti-abortion group publicized a website that invited citizens to inform on the law’s violators.
The website, prolifewhistleblower.com, which was set up by the group Texas Right to Life, was designed to help carry out the new law. That’s because the law places enforcement not in the hands of state officials but with private citizens, who are deputized to sue anyone who performs or aids an abortion in violation of the law.
Tips about the law’s potential offenders quickly flooded into the website, which features an online form so people can anonymously submit reports of those who are illegally obtaining or facilitating abortions.
But some of the tips were a little unexpected.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who was a leading proponent of the abortion law, was a violator, according to some of the tips. The fictional characters from Marvel’s Avengers were also apparently seeking abortions, the reports said. Other tips did not point to individuals but instead contained copies of the entire script to the 2007 animated film “Bee Movie.”
The reports, which were obviously bogus, were the work of activists on TikTok, programmers, and Twitter and Reddit users who said they wanted to ensnarl the site’s administrators in fabricated data.
Hurricane Ida Aftermath
The New York Times: Satellite Images Find Oil Spill in Gulf Left in Ida’s Wake.
Cleanup crews are working to contain what experts called a substantial oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to an examination of satellite and aerial survey images, ship tracking data and interviews with local officials and others involved in the spill response.
The spill, one of multiple plumes spotted off the Louisiana coast in the wake of Hurricane Ida, was identified in satellite imagery captured Thursday by the space technology companies Planet Labs and Maxar Technologies.
A black expanse and rainbow sheen of oil spanning at least 10 miles was spreading in coastal waters about two miles off Port Fourchon, an oil and gas hub. An aerial survey image of the spill was captured Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration….
It was unclear how much oil had spilled into the Gulf, according to a person with direct knowledge of the cleanup. The spill, possibly from an old pipeline no longer in use that was damaged by the storm, was first spotted on Monday from reconnaissance flights led by a number of Gulf Coast producers, and was reported to the Coast Guard, said the person who was not authorized to speak publicly about the cleanup effort.
Hurricane Ida’s 150-mph winds crippled a Louisiana electric grid already vulnerable from aging transmission lines, electricity bottlenecks and $2 billion worth of damage caused by three hurricanes that hit last year.
Ida’s landfall on Sunday left a wake of destruction and suffering. More than 1 million customers were without electricity immediately after the storm – a hardship that, for some, could last weeks.
Entergy Corp (ETR.N), the largest Louisiana utility, is facing tough questions on whether it had done enough to harden the electric system, which lost eight major transmission lines delivering power to the New Orleans metropolitan area.
Entergy was in the midst of upgrades throughout its system after Hurricane Laura in 2020. From 2017 to 2019, Entergy’s Louisiana subsidiary spent about $1.2 billion on numerous projects to improve its transmission system.
A pivotal question now for Entergy and its consumers is how well those capital improvements survived the hurricane’s wrath compared to the company’s older infrastructure. Entergy declined to detail the age of the eight New Orleans-area transmission lines that failed.
Hurricane Ida’s remnants created deadly havoc in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York days after the system hit the Gulf Coast — some 1,000 miles away.
There was “just the right mix of weather conditions” in place to fuel the system, according to Tripti Bhattacharya, an assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Syracuse University.
“A storm like this would have been exceptionally rare 20 or 50 years ago,” she told NPR. “But we have to start thinking about it becoming the norm as the climate warms.”
Bhattacharya’s research on regional rainfall and climate change was cited in the U.N.’s recent climate change report.
Click the link to read the interview.
The Washington Post: U.S. covid death toll hits 1,500 a day amid delta scourge.
Nationally, covid-19 deaths have climbed steadily in recent weeks, hitting a seven-day average of about 1,500 a day Thursday, after falling to the low 200s in early July — the latest handiwork of a contagious variant that has exploited the return to everyday activities by tens of millions of Americans, many of them unvaccinated. The dead include two Texas teachers at a junior high, who died last week within days of each other; a 13-year-old middle schoolboy from Georgia; and a nurse, 37, in Southern California who left behind five children, including a newborn.
What is different about this fourth pandemic wave in the United States is that the growing rates of vaccination and natural immunity have broken the relationship between infections and deaths in many areas.
The daily count of new infections is rising in almost every part of the country, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. But only some places — mostly Southern states with lower vaccination rates — are seeing a parallel surge in deaths. The seven-day average of daily deaths is about a third of what it was in January, the pandemic’s most deadly month, but it is forecast to continue rising as high numbers of patients are hospitalized.
Florida reported 2,345 additional Covid-19 deaths in its latest weekly report, the most ever in a similar period.
The daily average rose 36% to 335, according to calculations based on the report. That would surpass the high for the entire pandemic in Johns Hopkins University data. The data is based on when the death was reported, not when it occurred.
People 65-and-over accounted for 63% of the deaths reported in the period. Cumulatively over the entire pandemic, Florida seniors have made up 79% of deaths.
On Friday, NBC 6 Miami reported that 15 staffers and educators in the Miami-Dade County school system have died of COVID 19 — just in the past ten days.
“Sonia Diaz, a spokesperson for several unions in the school district, confirmed the number of deaths to NBC 6,” reported Johnny Archer. “Miami-Dade County Public Schools resumed classes on Aug. 23, and it’s unknown when the employees contracted COVID-19.”
The news comes as school districts and state governments around the country wrestle with how to handle the continued spread of the Delta variant.
The Washington Post: Here’s what we know about the mu variant.
A coronavirus variant known as “mu” or “B.1.621” was designated by the World Health Organization as a “variant of interest” earlier this week and will be monitored by the global health body as cases continue to emerge across parts of the world. It is the fifth variant of interest currently being monitored by the WHO….
The variant 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, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID), the largest database of novel coronavirus genome sequences in the world. Most cases have been recorded in California, Florida, Texas and New York among others.
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.
More Coronavirus stories:
Katherine J. Wu at The Atlantic: What We Actually Know About Waning Immunity.
Derek Thompson at The Atlantic: The Masks Were Working All Along. Now we have definitive proof that masks really are effective.
Trump Supporters’ Threats on Democracy
Ellie Silverman at The Washington Post: Former Trump campaign operative plans rally for those charged in Capitol riot.
One of the loudest voices urging Donald Trump’s supporters to push for overturning the presidential election results was Steve Bannon. “We’re on the point of attack,” Bannon, a former Trump adviser and far-right nationalist, pledged on his popular podcast on Jan. 5. “All hell will break loose tomorrow.” The next morning, as thousands massed on the National Mall for a rally that turned into an attack on the Capitol, Bannon fired up his listeners: “It’s them against us. Who can impose their will on the other side?”
When the insurrection failed, Bannon continued his campaign for his former boss by other means. On his “War Room” podcast, which has tens of millions of downloads, Bannon said President Trump lost because the Republican Party sold him out. “This is your call to action,” Bannon said in February, a few weeks after Trump had pardoned him of federal fraud charges.
The solution, Bannon announced, was to seize control of the GOP from the bottom up. Listeners should flood into the lowest rung of the party structure: the precincts. “It’s going to be a fight, but this is a fight that must be won, we don’t have an option,” Bannon said on his show in May. “We’re going to take this back village by village … precinct by precinct.”
Precinct officers are the worker bees of political parties, typically responsible for routine tasks like making phone calls or knocking on doors. But collectively, they can influence how elections are run. In some states, they have a say in choosing poll workers, and in others they help pick members of boards that oversee elections.
After Bannon’s endorsement, the “precinct strategy” rocketed across far-right media. Viral posts promoting the plan racked up millions of views on pro-Trump websites, talk radio, fringe social networks and message boards, and programs aligned with the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Suddenly, people who had never before showed interest in party politics started calling the local GOP headquarters or crowding into county conventions, eager to enlist as precinct officers. They showed up in states Trump won and in states he lost, in deep-red rural areas, in swing-voting suburbs and in populous cities.
Read the rest at ProPublica.