Thursday Reads

hammock-1923-henri-lebasque

Henri Lebasque, Hammock, 1923

Good Afternoon!!

More news broke yesterday about Trump’s intense efforts to overturn the results of the election so he could stay in office. It’s becoming clear that his inciting of the January 5 insurrection was just a last ditch effort after repeated coup attempts had failed.

Remember when the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta suddenly resigned early this year around the time when Trump’s phone calls pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find enough votes to change the state’s election results?

Yesterday, at the New York Times, Katie Brenner reported: Former U.S. attorney in Atlanta says Trump wanted to fire him for not backing election fraud claims.

Byung J. Pak, a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, told congressional investigators on Wednesday that his abrupt resignation in January had been prompted by Justice Department officials’ warning that President Donald J. BTrump intended to fire him for refusing to say that widespread voter fraud had been found in Georgia, according to a person familiar with his testimony.

Mr. Pak, who provided more than three hours of closed-door testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, stepped down with no notice on Jan. 4, saying that he had done his best “to be thoughtful and consistent, and to provide justice for my fellow citizens in a fair, effective and efficient manner.”

While he did not discuss Mr. Trump’s role in his decision to resign at the time, he told the Senate panel that the president had been dismayed that Mr. Pak had investigated allegations of voter fraud in Fulton County, Ga., and not found evidence to support them, according to the person familiar with the statements.

Mr. Pak testified that top department officials had made clear that Mr. Trump intended to fire him over his refusal to say that the results in Georgia had been undermined by voter fraud, the person said. Resigning would pre-empt a public dismissal.

Rowntree, Kenneth, 1915-1997; The Balcony

Kenneth Rowntree, The Balcony

He also described work done by state officials and the F.B.I. to vet Mr. Trump’s claims of voter fraud, and said they had not found evidence to support those allegations.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is examining Mr. Pak’s departure as part of its broader investigation into the final weeks of the Trump administration and the White House’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to falsely assert that the election was corrupt. The Justice Department’s inspector general is also looking at Mr. Pak’s resignation.

During a phone call with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of Georgia on Jan. 2, two days before Mr. Pak resigned, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Raffensperger to find enough votes to reverse the state’s presidential election results and described fraud allegations that Mr. Raffensperger said were not supported by facts, according to leaked audio of the call.

Mr. Pak had refused to support similar election fraud claims because of the lack of evidence, according to two people familiar with his investigation. “You have your never-Trumper U.S. attorney there,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Raffensperger during their phone call.

This story on then Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen’s Congressional testimony came out this morning at The Washington Post: What Rosen told U.S. senators: Trump applied ‘persistent’ pressure to get Justice to discredit election.

President Donald Trump’s last acting attorney general has told U.S. senators his boss was “persistent” in trying to pressure the Justice Department to discredit the results of the 2020 election.

In closed-door testimony Saturday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeffrey Rosen said he had to “persuade the president not to pursue a different path” at a high-stakes January meeting in which Trump considered ousting Rosen as the nation’s most powerful law enforcement officer.

Late Summer, Hermann Wessel, 1924

Late Summer, Hermann Wessel, 1924

According to a person familiar with the testimony, Rosen’s opening statement also characterized as “inexplicable” the actions of his Justice Department colleague, Jeffrey Clark, who was willing to push Trump’s false claims of election fraud and whom Trump considered installing as acting attorney general to replace Rosen….

On Saturday, Rosen appeared before the Senate committee to deliver his account directly. Donoghue testified as well. During a seven-hour interview, Rosen emphasized how he and other senior leaders resisted Trump’s entreaties.

“The president was persistent with his inquiries, and I would have strongly preferred that he had chosen a different focus in the last month of his presidency,” he said in his opening statement, according to a person familiar with the testimony, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door session. “But as to the actual issues put to the Justice Department, DOJ consistently acted with integrity, and the rule of law held fast.”

Rosen said he thought Trump’s claims about voting irregularities were “misguided, and I disagreed with things that President Trump suggested the Justice Department do with regard to the election. So we did not do them.”

Click the link to read the rest.

Mary Harris at Slate: A Rogue DOJ Lawyer Almost Kept Trump in Office. This is a report of an interview with Mark Joseph Stern, a Slate writer who has been reporting on Trump’s coup attempts. Stern argues that the DOJ’s Jeffrey Clark was supporting the efforts of Trump’s lawyers to get courts to declare various states’ election results invalid.

Mark Joseph Stern: …[Y]ou’ve got Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani claiming there’s mass voter fraud. You’ve got state attorneys general in 18 different states, as well as a lot of conservative intellectuals and Republican politicians, claiming that the election was conducted in an unconstitutional way….

Gari Melchers, The Sun Porch

Gari Melchers, The Sun Porch

So these folks talked about voter fraud, but they focused on this idea that only state legislatures get to decide the rules for a presidential election. And here, you had a lot of other players—governors, state courts, election boards—tweaking these rules in part because legislatures can’t foresee every possible election regulation, and sometimes state courts or secretaries of state or governors will have to step in and clarify things. But also, because of the COVID-19 crisis, you had a lot of states trying new things for the first time. And you also had a lot of states that refused to try new things, whose restrictive voting laws were going to force people to potentially wait in line indoors for a very long time and expose themselves to COVID. But all the modifications certain states made were modest.

Mary Harris: The neatness of making this argument that somehow the election was unconstitutional is that it potentially allows state legislatures to step in and override the vote, right?

That’s exactly right. That’s the endgame here. It’s not as if these folks were flailing and screaming and accusing the election results of being illegitimate. They had a purpose, which was to throw the procedure of the election into sufficient legal doubt so state legislatures would have an excuse to reconvene, step in, essentially ignore the results of the actual vote, and appoint their states’ electors in the Electoral College to Donald Trump….

It looks like most Justice Department officials balked at this idea, but Jeffrey Bossert Clark was all for it. And what we’ve seen in the release of documents that the House Oversight Committee has provided, and also from other reporting, is that he eagerly wanted to have the Justice Department step in in several different ways, specifically in Georgia, to push the state legislature to call its own special session, overturn the actual results, and declare Trump the real winner.

Winslow Homer, Sunshine and Shadow

Winslow Homer, Sunshine and Shadow

We’ve actually seen the drafts of the letters and lawsuits that Clark was typing up furiously and trying to issue on behalf of the entire Justice Department—and that would have potentially nudged Georgia and its legislature toward overthrowing its own election results….

There are a number of reports from high-level Justice Department officials that are somewhat corroborated by other emails we’ve seen about various meetings that were taking place at this time. They show that at this point, Clark had decided that Rosen didn’t have the backbone to steal the election or to intervene on Trump’s behalf. So Clark apparently held unauthorized conversations behind the backs of his superiors with the president himself, and seems to have floated this idea of using the Justice Department to make these state legislatures reconvene and reassign their electoral votes. Trump seems to have really liked this idea and even said to Rosen, Why am I having to deal with you and these state suits when I could be dealing with Clark, who would do everything I say? All I need to do is fire you and make Clark the new acting attorney general, and then he’ll do whatever I want.

Read the whole thing at Slate.

One more story on this topic from Politico: Emails: Senior DOJ officials wrangled over baseless Trump voter fraud allegations.

During Donald Trump’s final weeks in office, top Justice Department officials wrangled over how the FBI should handle a particularly wacky voter fraud allegation promoted by the then-president and his allies. Unreleased emails obtained by POLITICO show just how tense the episode got.

The dispute pitted a senior career section chief against one of the DOJ’s top officials, with the FBI caught in the crossfire. Trump’s appointees at DOJ ultimately prevailed, and their investigation — a probe into a viral video from Georgia that didn’t actually find any evidence of fraud — ended up playing a role in torpedoing the president’s narrative. While Trump’s opponents fretted that the FBI’s involvementwould undermine public confidence in elections and boost Republican talking points, it had the opposite effect.

Summer Porch at Mr. and Mrs. C.E.S. Woods, 1904, Child Hassam

Summer Porch at Mr. and Mrs. C.E.S. Woods, 1904, Child Hassam

At the time of the email dispute, Trump and his allies were lobbing a host of allegations about voter fraud, claiming wide-reaching and nefarious forces had conspired to steal the election for Biden. One allegation in particular commanded the president’s attention:a video showing election workers counting ballots at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Trump’s allies claimed it showed the workers secretly pulling ballots out of “suitcases” and using them to commit election fraud.

Officials in the office of Georgia’s secretary of state quickly debunked those claims. But on Dec. 5, Trump alluded to the video at a rally in Georgia, suggesting it proved poll workers were stuffing ballot boxes to help the Democrats.

This led to this dispute between DOJ officials involving the FBI. It’s a convoluted story that I can’s easily summarize, but the story is worth reading.

Unfortunately, the ravages of the Delta variant of the coronavirus are still the top story of the day. Here’s the latest depressing news, links only:

The Daily Beast: No One I Know Is Vaccinated’: Sturgis Rally Bikers Are Coming for America.

Ed Yong at The Atlantic: How the Pandemic Now Ends. Cases of COVID-19 are rising fast. Vaccine uptake has plateaued. The pandemic will be over one day—but the way there is different now.

Rachel Gutman at The Atlantic: Why Is It Taking So Long to Get Vaccines for Kids? A few things still need to happen before the shots can be authorized for Americans younger than 12.

The New York Times: Texas Hospitals Are Already Overloaded. Doctors Are ‘Frightened by What Is Coming.’

Adam Serwer at The Atlantic: Greg Abbott Surrenders to the Coronavirus. The Texas governor’s warped priorities are allowing an extremist minority to worsen the pandemic.

Mississippi Free Press: Mississippi’s Hospital System Could ‘Fail’ In 10 Days, UMMC Warns As Feds Rush In.

Mississippi Free Press: With Mississippi Hospitals Near Calamity, Gov. Reeves Left State For GOP Political Event.

The Daily Beast: Trump Keeps Rejecting Pleas From Allies for Pro-Vax Campaign.

The Washington Post: Republicans risk becoming face of delta surge as key GOP governors oppose anti-covid measures.

That’s it for me today. What stories are you following?


Tuesday Reads: Governors DeSantis and Abbott Are Killing Their Citizens.

Childe Hassam, Geraniums, 1888

Childe Hassam, Geraniums, 1888

Good Morning!!

Right now the Southern states are experiencing the kind of surges that hit us in the Northeast at the beginning of the pandemic. Unfortunately these states are dealing with the Delta variant, which spreads much more easily than the early versions of the virus. That’s bad enough, but many Republican governors are making it worse by fighting against simple mitigation strategies that can protect their citizens.

Dakinikat sent me this article from Yahoo News: Southern Hospitals, Crushed By Delta Strain, Report Running Out Of ICU Beds.

Hospitals across the southern United States are reporting dramatic surges in coronavirus patients, forcing some to close their emergency rooms and others to treat more patients than they have capacity for as the delta variant of the virus continues to wreak havoc on regions with large swaths of unvaccinated residents.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Monday said the state had “very startling” figures showing the largest, single-day increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began. He said state hospitals had just eight beds in the ICU left for severely ill patients.

In Louisiana, an epicenter of the current wave, hospitalizations were climbing at the fastest rate since the pandemic started. Last week, the head of the state’s largest hospital described recent weeks as the “darkest” thus far, saying doctors were no longer able to provide patients adequate care under a crush in admissions.

“When you come inside our walls, it is quite obvious to you that these are the darkest days of this pandemic,” Dr. Catherine O’Neal, who runs the Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge, said last Monday.

O’Neal added later that week that dozens of children and young adults were now in the hospital, a reality that’s new under the delta variant. Half of the 12 children admitted were under the age of 2, The Advocate reported.

At least Louisiana has a Democratic Governor–Jon Bel Edwards–who actually cares about the situation. Not so in Florida and Texas, where Ron DeSantis and Gregg Abbott seem determined to kill as many of their citizens as possible.

Florida reported similar circumstances, with many hospitals over capacity. The Wall Street Journal reported that at least 43% of the state’s intensive care beds are filled with coronavirus patients, prompting complex logistical issues as hospital workers race to find space for a tide of sick residents.

And in Texas several hospitals said they were closing their emergency rooms due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, directing patients elsewhere.

The Artist's Garden in Argenteuil, Dahlias, 1873's Garden in Argenteuil, 1873, Claude Monet

The Artist’s Garden in Argenteuil, Dahlias, 1873’s Garden in Argenteuil, 1873, Claude Monet

The delta variant has upended the country’s reopening plans, prompting cities and states nationwide to reinstate social distancing measures and mask mandates that were relaxed just months ago and meant to usher in an era of relative freedom. Now, COVID-19 cases are rising in every state in the U.S. and hit the highest levels this week since February, averaging more than 100,000 a day.

Many of the states with the biggest outbreaks have some of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates and are led by Republican governors and legislatures that have made it much more difficult to protect their citizens. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has banned vaccine passports and mask mandates for some businesses and schools. Arkansas’ Hutchinson said he made an error when he barred new mask mandates in April, and Texas’ Greg Abbott (R) has faced revolt from some school districts who have threatened to sue over his order to ban mask mandates.

Stephen Collinson at CNN: Kids are the victims of new GOP bid to politicize the pandemic.

America is being forced yet again to learn the same, repetitive lesson of the pandemic: Fighting a raging, evolving virus with cynicism-laced politics rather than medical data only leads to the same result – a prolonged national nightmare.

School kids are the latest victims as Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, the Republican governors of Florida and Texas, prioritize ideology over public health guidance. The governors are clashing with local officials who are resisting their orders banning school mask mandates, which appear to directly contradict traditional conservative resistance to distant, centralized power.

The Delta variant of Covid-19 is challenging the long-held belief that children don’t get hit hard by the coronavirus. The American Association of Pediatrics reported last week that the US had an 84% increase in new Covid-19 cases among children from July 22 to 29, and Dr. Aileen Marty – an infectious disease expert at Florida International University – told CNN last week that children’s hospitals in the Sunshine State are “completely overwhelmed.”

As the Delta variant scythes across the country – especially less-vaccinated Republican states – there are increasing signs that leaders like DeSantis and Abbott have locked themselves into absolutist positions that they will be unable to water down without sustaining serious personal and political damage. But the price for their path is more sickness and death in crowded Covid-19 units among people they were elected to serve.

Renée Carpentier-Wintz

Renée Carpentier-Wintz

“For any other disease, you would not turn to your political leader for medical advice,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told CNN’s Pamela Brown on Monday. “Politicians should really let the public health and physician leaders move forward on how to get this thing under control.” [….]

The irony is that by resisting similar measures, these Republicans have proved true warnings by federal health officials that the Delta variant represents a grave threat. Now the same dynamic may play out again, as they ignore CDC advice that all kids in schools should wear masks.

Both governors enjoy strong support in conservative media. DeSantis was recently celebrated by right-wing pundits for his handling of the pandemic and is seen as a possible alternative nominee in 2024 if ex-President Donald Trump decides not to run again. ThSo their refusal to change course as conditions worsen only bolsters the impression that those who want a political future in the GOP must now demonstrate their contempt for common-sense health measures, just as surely as they must repeatedly prove their devotion to Trump.

There’s much more at the CNN link.

Both Abbott and DeSantis have ordered school districts not to require masks; some school officials are resisting. DeSantis is even threatening to defund schools that require masks. CNN: Florida governor’s office says state could withhold salaries of officials who enact school mask mandates.

In a move that escalated Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ fight over mask mandates, the governor’s office said Monday that the state board of education could move to withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who disregard the governor’s executive order that effectively prohibits mask mandates in school districts.

Last month DeSantis, a Republican, issued an executive order requiring the state’s health and education departments to create rules based on parents’ rights to make the health care decisions for their children who are students. Several lawsuits have since been filed challenging the constitutionality of the executive order.

Several school districts are considering mask mandates and a few have said masks will be required, with some opt-out exceptions.

A statement from the governor’s office on Monday says the state board of education “could move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members.”

His spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, pinned a tweet Monday that reads: “Ultimately — Education funding is for the students. The kids didn’t make the decision to encroach upon parents’ rights. So any financial penalties for breaking the rule would be targeted to those officials who made that decision.”

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Woman with a Parasol in a Garden, 1875

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Woman with a Parasol in a Garden, 1875

It’s close, but I’d have to say DeSantis is the worst. How bad is Covid in Florida? Newsweek: Florida’s COVID Death Rate Is More Than 32 States Combined.

According to a COVID tracker created by The New York Times, Florida is currently recording a seven-day average of 122.1 deaths in the state from the virus, a figure larger than 32 other states combined.

Florida’s figure is also more than double that of the second most affected state, Texas, which is currently recording a seven-day average of 57.6, closely followed by California with around 42 people dying every day.

Louisiana and Missouri have also been badly affected, with average death rates of 33.4 and 25.1 each, while Maine and Vermont are faring the best, reporting figures of 0.1 and 0.3 respectively.

USA Today: As kids return to school, most Florida counties report COVID cases four times higher than last year.

Most Florida children are returning to school in areas where COVID-19 outbreaks are far more intense than they were when school started last year.

In most counties, cases are at least four times higher than a year ago, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. Five counties report a more than tenfold increase.

Cases among children are surging too, raising questions about the health consequences of students returning to campuses and a state ban on school mask mandates while vaccines are available for only some of the schoolchildren.

Public health experts and pediatricians said last fall that the most important factor to consider when deciding whether to start classes in-person was the amount of viral spread in the community at large. With cases so much higher than last year, districts are going against those recommendations by welcoming students to campus and limiting online learning options. Those moves follow instructions from the state government, which also prohibited schools from requiring masks for all children.

Over the seven days prior to last Friday’s state report, Florida saw 13,596 cases among children under 12, and 13,858 cases among ages 12 to 19.

Do Fournier, 1951

Philip Bump at The Washington Post: When it comes to the new coronavirus surge, Florida is an obvious outlier.

There is no real mystery undergirding Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) decision not to advocate for measures aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus in his state. During the first six months of the year, when cases were falling, he made his future ambitions very clear, embracing a variety of right-wing culture-war fights with an obvious eye toward maximizing his position for the 2024 Republican primary. He’d deny this if asked, no doubt, because there are legal obligations that accompany an actual declaration of candidacy and because elected officials enjoy being courted for such roles. But if you’ve seen a candidate position himself for a run, you knew what you were seeing.

Part of his ploy was to position his stewardship of Florida during the first part of the pandemic as the ideal balance of safety and freedom. Florida’s economy was unexceptional last year and its case totals unremarkable, but DeSantis, with the help of conservative media, was hailed as the anti-Andrew-Cuomo: a Republican who set aside the forceful recommendations of business closures and remote schooling. So he leaned into that with cases falling, waging a rhetorical battle against South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R) and others as the most effective champion of personal freedom in the face of the pandemic.

It probably seemed like a good bet. Vaccinations were pushing cases lower and the pandemic seemed like it was moving to the background. It was easy to be the masks-are-a-choice guy because it seemed less likely that there would be a call to reimplement mandates. And Republicans, even in recent polling, don’t see masks as necessary because they aren’t worried about being infected. (Perhaps in part because they’re not following news about the virus very closely.)

But then the delta variant emerged. Cases in Florida began to spike and DeSantis was left with a bad set of choices: play it off as no big deal, push hard on vaccinations or reintroduce containment measures. He tried the second option for a while, without numbers budging much. So now he’s bear-hugged the first option.

Gustav Klimt, Bauerngarten mit Sonnenblumen, 1906

Gustav Klimt, Bauerngarten mit Sonnenblumen, 1906

DeSantis is either very stupid or just plain evil. I’m going to go with stupid. This idiot is even trying to keep cruise ships from requiring vaccines.Predictably, Abbot and DeSantis are now expecting the rest of us to bail them out.

The Guardian: Texas governor appeals for out-of-state help to fight latest Covid wave.

The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, appealed for out-of-state help to fight the third wave of Covid-19 in his state amid dire warnings while two more of the state’s largest school districts announced mask mandates in defiance of the increasingly hardline Republican.

Abbott’s request came on Monday as a county-owned hospital in Houston raised tents to accommodate their coronavirus patient overflow.

Private hospitals in the county already were requiring their staff to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the Dallas and Austin school districts announced Monday that they would require students and staff to wear face masks. The Houston school district already announced a mask mandate for its students and staff later this week if its board approves.

The highly contagious Delta variant is fueling the wave.

The Republican governor has directed the Texas department of state health services to use staffing agencies to find additional medical staff from beyond the state’s borders as the Delta wave began to overwhelm its present staffing resources.

He also has sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association to request that hospitals postpone all elective medical procedures voluntarily.

Local10.com: Florida requests 300 ventilators from federal government as COVID cases keep rising. Hospitals face ‘sheer exhaustion.’

 As a result of the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the state of Florida requested 300 ventilators from the federal government, according to a Department of Health and Human Services planning document obtained by ABC News.

Flowering Garden, Vincent Van Gogh

Flowering Garden, Vincent Van Gogh

The request was made on Friday “to replace expended state stores,” the document said.

The ventilators were expected to be delivered on Monday, though it was not said how they will be allocated.

It comes as doctors are stressed and hospitals are tapped for resources, their beds continuing to fill with unvaccinated patients infected with the virus.

“The nurses, the physicians, they have passed burnout a long time ago,” said Dr. Joshua Lenchus, Broward Health’s chief medical officer. “This is sheer exhaustion”

Florida reported an average of over 19,000 new coronavirus cases per day last week, and more than 13,000 hospitalizations were reported across the state Sunday.

CDC metrics on Monday showed five consecutive days with more than 20,000 new infections.

I feel for the citizens of Texas and Florida–especially the young children, who are at the mercy of their parents’ political ideologies as they return to school. This is completely insane!

That’s my rant for today. Thanks for reading, and I hope you stay safe and healthy wherever you live.


Tuesday Reads: The Long War Against Covid-19

Without Hope, 1945, by Frida Kahlo

Without Hope, 1945, by Frida Kahlo

Good Afternoon!!

Thanks to the Delta variant, and people refusing to be vaccinated, Covid-19 cases are rising around the country, particularly in Florida, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. At least Louisiana’s Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards is trying to get the situation under control. But in the other three states, governors are working against public health.

The Advocate: ‘Do you give a damn?’ John Bel Edwards reissues mask mandate in dire COVID surge update.

When Gov. John Bel Edwards lifted Louisiana’s mask mandate at the end of April, he warned that loosening restrictions wasn’t a “one way street” and that he would reimpose the rules if COVID-19 came roaring back.

On Monday, as hospitals statewide buckled under an unprecedented surge in patients, Edwards followed through on his word.

Schools, businesses, universities, churches, and any other indoor public settings in Louisiana will require a face mask for entry beginning on Wednesday, under a proclamation Edwards signed that expires September 1.

“It has become extremely clear that our current recommendations on their own are not strong enough to deal with Louisiana’s fourth surge of COVID. In fact, nobody should be laboring under the misapprehension that this just another surge,” Edwards told reporters Monday in announcing the order he had already signed. “This is the worst one we’ve had thus far.”

The return to restrictions comes as the pandemic enters a new stage defined by the delta variant, a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 first identified in India that now accounts for most new cases in Louisiana. On Monday, the state reported 11,109 new confirmed and probable infections of COVID-19. More than 2,000 of those cases were among children.

Tree of Hope, Remain Strong, 1946, by Frida Kahlo

Tree of Hope, Remain Strong, 1946, by Frida Kahlo

CNN: Florida and Texas had one-third of all US Covid-19 cases in past week, official says.

One-third of all US Covid-19 cases reported in the past week were in just two states – Florida and Texas – according to White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients.

The cases are mainly in areas where vaccination rates remain low, Zients said at a briefing Monday.

“In fact, seven states with the lowest vaccination rates represent just about 8- 1/2% of the US population, but account for more than 17% of cases, and one in three cases nationwide occurred in Florida and Texas, this past week,” Zients said.

In the past two weeks, daily case rates have gone up fourfold, according to Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

The increase comes as the Delta variant spreads and the percentage of fully vaccinated Americans hovers around 49.7%, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitals are once again filling up with patients as the virus tears through the unvaccinated population.

“There are still about 90 million eligible Americans who are unvaccinated,” Zients said. “And we need them to do their part, roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated. Each and every shot matters.”

It doesn’t seem to matter to some Republican Governors.

Mother Jones: COVID Is Spiking in Florida and Mississippi. Their GOP Governors Are Waging War Against Masks.

On Saturday, Florida recorded 21,683 new cases of COVID-19, breaking its one-day record for new cases. But even as the state swells with fresh infections, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis remains hellbent on his war against mask mandates. He even recently barred school districts from instituting mask mandates when classes reconvene in August. 

The Sick Child 1907 by Edvard Munch 1863-1944

The Sick Child, 1907, by Edvard Munch

DeSantis feels so good about his war on masks, he’s even laughing about it. “Did you not get the CDC’s memo?” DeSantis joked to a largely maskless crowd at a conference for the American Legislative Exchange Council in Utah last week, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidelines recommending mask-wearing amid the surge of the Delta variant. “I don’t see you complying.” 

He continued, prompting applause, “I think it’s very important that we say unequivocally, ‘No to lockdowns, no to school closures, no to restrictions, and no mandates.’ Floridians are free to choose and all Americans should be free to choose how they govern their affairs, how they take care of themselves and our families.”

The governor, who is reportedly eyeing a bid for president in 2024, has spent most of the pandemic fiercely opposing COVID safety measures—a stance public health officials say has allowed the virus to run rampant across the state and has now made Florida the epicenter of the pandemic in this country. To DeSantis’ sort-of credit, he has made recent efforts to boost vaccinations, though at the same time he’s selling anti-Anthony Fauci merchandise on his website.

In Mississippi:

In Mississippi, where ICU beds are nearing capacity with a surge of unvaccinated individuals, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves blasted the CDC’s mask guidelines as “foolish” and claimed that it reeked of “political panic.”

“It has nothing, let me say that again: It has nothing to do with rational science,” Reeves said on Thursday. 

Except that it does. As Dr. Fauci warned on Sunday, “Things are going to get worse.” The country’s top expert on infectious diseases told ABC’s This Week, “You want them to wear a mask so that if in fact they do get infected, they don’t spread it to vulnerable people, perhaps in their own household, children, or people with underlying conditions.”

In Texas, Governor Abbott is also trying to kill his constitutents. The New York Times: Gov. Greg Abbott bars mandates for vaccinations and masks in Texas.

In an executive order issued on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of the nation’s second-largest state, prohibited local governments and state agencies from mandating vaccines, saying that protection against the virus should be a matter of personal responsibility, not forced by a government edict.

Essential Workers, Carolyn Olson

Hospital Workers, by Carolyn Olson

The order also reinforced his prior directive prohibiting local officials from requiring face masks, despite growing calls from city leaders for greater flexibility to reverse the renewed spread of Covid.

The daily average of cases in Texas as of Friday was 8,820, according to a New York Times database, a 209 percent increase over the past 14 days. Cities across the state are facing a surge in hospitalizations reminiscent of the alarming spikes that occurred before Covid cases began nosing downward with the arrival of vaccines.

With 56 percent of the state’s population unvaccinated — including nearly five million children under 12 who are not eligible — health officials have expressed concern about the state’s vulnerability.

It was always going to be a long battle against the coronavirus, but many Americans didn’t want to face that fact. At STAT News, Megen Molteni writes: For many, the belated realization that Covid will be ‘a long war’ sparks anger and denial.

In May, when the CDC said fully vaccinated people could ditch masks and social distancing, it seemed to signal a return to normalcy. But epidemiologists cautioned at the time that the move wasn’t likely to be permanent, and shouldn’t be interpreted as the end of Covid-19 as a daily concern. Colder weather or a right hook in the virus’s evolution could bring restrictions right back.

Still, Americans seem shocked by the recent turn of events. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised everyone — even those who’ve gotten Covid-19 shots — to go back to indoor masking, a decision driven by new data showing the hyper-contagious Delta variant colonizes the nose and throat of some vaccinated people just as well as the unvaccinated, meaning they may just as easily spread this new version of the virus, while stilling being protected against the worst manifestations of the disease.

The prospect of contending with a prolonged outbreak phase — and adjusting again to a constantly evolving roster of restrictions — has brought back another feature of pandemic living in America: anger.

Board, Ernest, 1877-1934; Vaccination: Dr Jenner Performing His First Vaccination, 1796

Board, Ernest; Vaccination: Dr Jenner Performing His First Vaccination, 1796

This time it’s not just the mostly Republican anti-masking refrain rearing its defiant head (though fights over school mask mandates have returned with a vengeance). Coast to coast, and across the political spectrum, contempt for unvaccinated people is rising. “It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, a Republican, said on July 22, as her state, with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, reeled from a 530% rise in Covid-19 hospitalizations in just three weeks.

Among the vaccinated, there’s a sense that the freedoms they gained by getting the shots — travel, eating out, concerts, sports, school, seeing friends — are now being jeopardized by those who are still holding out.

Though this new flavor of outrage might look and sound like righteous indignation, mental health professionals say that what’s behind it is fear.

“It’s scary to admit that somebody else has power over you and you’re at their mercy and you’re afraid of them, but showing that is not a very American ideal,” said David Rosmarin, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a clinician at McLean Hospital. “Instead of expressing that fear, it’s a lot more comfortable to blame somebody else.”

Anger is what people in his profession refer to as a “secondary emotion.” It’s a feeling that arises in response to a more primal emotion, like fear and anxiety over having some aspect of your life threatened. “The reality is that there are millions of people who are miseducated about something, they’re making a big mistake that will have massive consequences that might affect you and your family and that makes you scared,” Rosmarin said. “But nobody is saying that.”

Unfortunately, there’s another looming disaster caused by the pandemic: the CDC eviction ban is expiring, and in Washington everyone is accusing everyone else of being responsible for dealing with the situation. And it’s complicated by a Supreme Court ruling. 

Yahoo News: White House says it has been unable to find way to extend eviction moratorium.

The White House said Monday that it was unable to find a legal means to extend the eviction moratorium, despite the fact that millions of Americans could soon lose their homes even as the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has “been unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “Our team is redoubling efforts to identify all available legal authorities to provide necessary protections.”

The Garden of Death, Hugo Simberg, 1897

The Garden of Death, Hugo Simberg, 1897

Citing a Supreme Court decision issued in late June, the White House said it was unable to unilaterally extend the moratorium for evictions. Late last week, Psaki issued a statement pressuring Congress to act, but the House went into recess before a vote could be held. Were it to pass the House, it is unclear if an extension of the moratorium would be able to pass the Senate.

The federal eviction moratorium expired over the weekend, yet more than 6.5 million U.S. households are currently behind in rental payments totaling more than $20 billion, according to a study by the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project. Without federal protections in place, many renters will now need to pay months of back rent.

“On this particular issue, the president has not only kicked the tires, he has double, triple, quadruple checked,” Gene Sperling, the White House COVID-19 economic relief coordinator, said at a briefing on Monday, adding, “The rise off the Delta variant is particularly harmful for those who are most likely to face evictions, and as that reality became more clear going into the end of last week, I think all of us started asking what more can we do.”

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: The Supreme Court Caused the Looming Eviction Disaster. Why Won’t Democrats Say So?

On July 31, the federal government’s eviction moratorium expired, potentially forcing millions of Americans out of their homes during yet another COVID surge. In the days before the eviction cliff, House Democrats attempted to extend the moratorium, but Republicans easily blocked their measure. Democratic lawmakers then spent the weekend arguing over who was to blame for the looming catastrophe.

Curiously, most Democrats chose not to focus on the primary culprit: the Supreme Court. In late June, five conservative justices signaled that they would not let the White House extend the eviction ban beyond July 31 absent further congressional authorization. These Republican-appointed justices set the terms of the debate, yet were largely absent from Democrats’ blame game. As a result, most vulnerable Americans will likely not understand they face homelessness in a pandemic because of SCOTUS.  This strange dynamic is symptomatic of a deeper pathology in contemporary American politics: Democrats appear incapable of explaining how the Supreme Court stymies their own agenda—and the resulting confusion shields the court from criticism, consequences, and accountability when its decisions wreak havoc.

Vaccination by Adolfo Flores

Vaccination by Adolfo Flores

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Biden to extend the eviction moratorium on his own, she framed the issue as a matter of morality. But the president’s inaction was almost certainly a legal calculation. To understand his hesitation, it’s key to remember that the recently expired moratorium was not the same policy that had been in effect since the start of the pandemic. Congress passed its first eviction ban in March 2020, explicitly prohibiting landlords from kicking out tenants who could not afford rent because of the pandemic. After this provision expired that August, Donald Trump issued an executive order asking the CDC to take action. The CDC responded in September with its own eviction moratorium set to run through the end of 2020. It was rooted in a federal law that allows the agency “to make and enforce such regulations” that are “necessary to prevent” the “spread of communicable diseases” between states. In December, Congress passed legislation that explicitly extended the CDC’s moratorium through Jan. 31, 2021. The agency then extended the ban several more times.

While the CDC kept the moratorium in place, a group of landlords sued to block it, claiming it exceeded the agency’s authority. On May 5, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich sided with the plaintiffs against the ban but stayed her order. One month later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit court refused to block the ban. The plaintiffs then appealed to SCOTUS, which came within an inch of ending the moratorium. Five justices—Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett—believed it violated the law. But Kavanaugh, who cast the decisive fifth vote, wrote separately to explain that although he believed the CDC had “exceeded its existing statutory authority,” he would not invalidate the ban. Instead, weighing the “balance of equities,” he would allow it to remain for “a few weeks.”

“In my view,” the justice declared, “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31.”

Kavanaugh’s analysis is dubious at best. (Maybe that’s why Chief Justice John Roberts didn’t join it, instead quietly voting to keep the moratorium in place.) Congress already gave the CDC expansive powers to fight the “spread of communicable diseases” between states. The agency acted pursuant to this law when it determined that mass evictions would force many Americans to live unhoused or crammed together in close quarters, transmitting the virus more widely. Crucially, when Congress chose to extend the moratorium, it simply passed a law extending the CDC’s own ban. By doing so, lawmakers chose “to embrace” the agency’s action and “expressly recognized” that it had the authority to issue the ban, in the words of the D.C. Circuit. It would not make a lick of sense for Congress to extend the CDC’s moratorium if it did not believe the CDC had authority to issue it.

More eviction reads:

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Opinion: There’s plenty of money to avoid evictions. States just have to spend it.

NPR: White House Calls On States To Do More After Federal Eviction Ban Expires.

The Washington Post: Liberals erupt in fury at White House over end of eviction moratorium. [the “liberals” referred to in the headline are actually far left Bernie bro types]

The New York Times: Yellen and Pelosi will discuss rental assistance as an eviction crisis looms and Democrats demand answers.

That’s it for me today. Sorry this post is such a downer. As always, this is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: Coronavirus News

Frida in Flames, 1953-54

Frida in Flames, 1953-54

Good Afternoon!!

The illustrations in this post are by paintings by Frida Kahlo

I hate to focus another post on Covid-19, but honestly I think it’s the biggest story today. Cases are rising again, even in highly vaccinated states like Massachusetts. 

WCVB ABC 5: Massachusetts seeing COVID-19 surge; 717 new cases reported since Friday.

Despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the United States, Massachusetts is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health shows an additional 717 confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported Monday. The data includes new positive coronavirus cases reported since Friday.

The data shows the biggest percentage increase in cases was on Cape Cod, where 59 new cases were reported, or a 0.4% increase since Friday.

Middlesex County reported 147 new cases since Friday. Suffolk County reported 114 new cases, Worcester County reported 73 new cases and Norfolk County reported 59 new cases.

The COVID-19 positivity rate has also increase, from a seven-day weighted average low of 0.31% in mid-June to its current mark of 1.16%.

According to Monday’s report from the DPH, 106 patients with confirmed coronavirus cases were hospitalized in Massachusetts, of which 31 were reported to be in an intensive care unit.

The seven-day average of hospitalizations has increased every day since July 9, increasing from a low of 85 to its current number of 106.

Still Life with Roses

Still Life with Roses, 1925

Some of these cases and deaths are breakthrough cases. Boston NBC 10: Breakthrough COVID Cases in Massachusetts, Explained.

At least 79 people have died and more than over 300 have been hospitalized in Massachusetts due to COVID-19 breakthrough cases after they were fully vaccinated, state health officials say….

A vaccine breakthrough case occurs when a person tests positive for COVID-19 after they’ve been fully vaccinated against the disease.

A person is considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after receiving the second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID vaccine, or two weeks after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine….

Seventy-nine vaccinated residents in Massachusetts died from COVID-19, either without being hospitalized or following a hospital stay, DPH said. That death toll reflects 1.78% of the 4,450 confirmed breakthrough cases and 0.0019% of the 4,195,844 people fully vaccinated as of July 10.

“All available data continue to support that all 3 vaccines used in the US are highly protective against severe disease and death from all known variants of COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated,” the DPH said in a statement to The Boston Globe.

Stephen Collinson at CNN on the state of the pandemic in the U.S. as a whole: A day of reckoning shows America’s pandemic battle is sliding backward.

If Joe Biden’s July Fourth fireworks marked a moment to declare the darkest days of the pandemic over, Monday was the day when reality dawned that the nation’s fight against Covid-19 is quickly sliding back in the wrong direction.

A hybrid version of American life that will pass for normality for the foreseeable future is coming into view, in which most of the vaccinated live and many of those who refuse their shots get sick or die.

In a moment of stark symbolism, new schools guidance released Monday from the American Academy of Pediatrics on mask wearing dashed hopes that kids robbed of a chunk of their childhoods by Covid-19 could go back to carefree schooldays this fall. The prospect of millions of youngsters over 2-years-old in face coverings in class epitomized how the nation is still under siege from the virus. It’s also likely to unleash yet another political culture war in some GOP states that abhor masking and have banned schools from seeking to protect the vulnerable that way.

thinking-about-death-1943.jpg!Large

Thinking about Death, 1943

In another shock to the national psyche on Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 700 points in its biggest drop of the year as alarm over virulent Delta variant infections hammered travel, leisure and energy stocks that had been juiced by the idea of a summer of freedom.

And at the same time, eyes were drawn toward Tokyo, where more worries loom. So often, the Olympics forge cathartic national unity thanks to athletes inspired to go faster, higher, stronger. Such a moment has rarely been so needed. But these Games are unlikely to offer that feeling of escape, as they often do — a sheen of reflected glory for the White House….

All these developments, in many cases, represented a realization that hopes that the virus would be in the rearview mirror this summer were unfounded and that some kind of new national effort is warranted.

“If we don’t get a significant proportion of these recalcitrant people vaccinated, you’re going to be seeing a smoldering of this outbreak in our country for a considerable period of time,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Monday.

In fact, the Olympic games could still be cancelled. CNBC: Tokyo 2020 chief Muto doesn’t rule out 11th-hour cancellation of Olympic Games.

The chief of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee on Tuesday did not rule out a last-minute cancellation of the Olympics, as more athletes tested positive for COVID-19 and major sponsors ditched plans to attend Friday’s opening ceremony.

Asked at a news conference if the global sporting showpiece might still be cancelled, Toshiro Muto said he would keep an eye on infection numbers and liaise with other organizers if necessary.

“We can’t predict what   will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases,” said Muto.

“We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.”

tunas-still-life-with-prickly-pear-fruit-1938.jpg!Large

Tunas. Still Life with Prickly Pear, 1938

Two new polls reveal discouraging news about the people who are refusing to be vaccinated. 

Yahoo News: Unvaccinated Americans say COVID vaccines are riskier than the virus, even as Delta surges among them.

When asked which poses a greater risk to their health, more unvaccinated Americans say the COVID-19 vaccines than say the virus itself, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll — a view that contradicts all available science and data and underscores the challenges that the United States will continue to face as it struggles to stop a growing “pandemic of the unvaccinated” driven by the hyper-contagious Delta variant.

The survey of 1,715 U.S. adults, which was conducted from July 13 to 15, found that just 29 percent of unvaccinated Americans believe the virus poses a greater risk to their health than the vaccines — significantly less than the number who believe the vaccines represent the greater health risk (37 percent) or say they’re not sure (34 percent).

Over the last 18 months, COVID-19 has killed more than 4.1 million people worldwide, including more than 600,000 in the U.S. At the same time, more than 2 billion people worldwide — and more than 186 million Americans — have been at least partially vaccinated against the virus, and scientists who study data on their reported side effects continue to find that the vaccines are extraordinarily safe.

Yet 93 percent of unvaccinated U.S. adults — the equivalent of 76 million people — say they will either “never” get vaccinated (51 percent); that they will keep waiting “to see what happens to others before deciding” (20 percent); or that they’re not sure (22 percent).

Read more details at the link.

Axios: Axios-Ipsos poll: Convincing the unvaccinated.

Most Americans who still aren’t vaccinated say nothing — not their own doctor administering it, a favorite celebrity’s endorsement or even paid time off — is likely to make them get the shot, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: The findings are more sobering evidence of just how tough it may be to reach herd immunity in the U.S. But they also offer a roadmap for trying — the public health equivalent of, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”

Henry Ford Hospital, 1932

Henry Ford Hospital, 1932

What they’re saying: “There’s a part of that population that are nudge-able and another part that are unbudge-able,” said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.

  • “From a public health standpoint they’ve got to figure out how you nudge the nudge-able.”

Details: 30% of U.S. adults in our national survey said they haven’t yet gotten the COVID-19 vaccine — half of them a hard no, saying they’re “not at all likely” to take it. We asked the unvaccinated about how likely they’d be to take it in a number of scenarios:

  • The best prospect was a scenario in which they could get the vaccine at their regular doctor’s office. But even then, 55% said they’d remain not at all likely and only 7% said they’d be “very likely” to do it. That leaves a combined 35% who are either somewhat likely or not very likely but haven’t ruled it out.
  • The Biden administration’s Olivia Rodrigo play won’t reach a lot of the holdouts, according to these results: 70% said the endorsement of a celebrity or public figure they like is “not at all likely” to get them to take a shot, and just 4% said they’d be “very likely” to do it. But another combined 24% could be somewhat in play.
  • What if your boss gave you paid time off to get the shot? 63% said they’d still be not at all likely to do it, while 5% said they’d be very likely. Another 30% combined are potentially but not eagerly gettable.
  • Similar majorities said they’d be unmoved by community volunteers coming to the door to discuss the vaccine, the option to get a shot at work or a mobile clinic, or being lobbied by friends or family members.

Again, go deeper at the Axios link.

At CNN Oliver Darcy reports on the horrifying vaccine hypocrisy at Fox News: Fox has quietly implemented its own version of a vaccine passport while its top personalities attack them.

Tucker Carlson has called the idea of vaccine passports the medical equivalent of “Jim Crow” laws. And other Fox News personalities have spent months both trafficking in anti-vaccine rhetoric and assailing the concept of showing proof of vaccination status.

But Fox Corporation, the right-wing talk channel’s parent company, has quietly implemented the concept of a vaccine passport as workers slowly return back to the company’s offices.

Fox employees, including those who work at Fox News, received an email, obtained by CNN Business, from the company’s Human Resources department in early June that said Fox had “developed a secure, voluntary way for employees to self-attest their vaccination status.”

fx1The system allows for employees to self-report to Fox the dates their shots were administered and which vaccines were used.

The company has encouraged employees to report their status, telling them that “providing this information to FOX will assist the company with space planning and contact tracing.”

Employees who report their status are allowed to bypass the otherwise required daily health screening, according to a follow-up email those who reported their vaccination status received.

“Thank you for providing FOX with your vaccination information,” the email said. “You no longer are required to complete your daily health screening through WorkCare/WorkMatters.”

The concept, which was first reported Monday by Ryan Grim on The Hill’s morning streaming show, is known internally as “FOX Clear Pass.”

While the “Fox Clear Pass” is voluntary for employees, and other companies have similar tools, it is still remarkable, given how vocal Fox’s top talent has been in criticizing the concept of vaccine passports.

There was a bit of good news yesterday in Indiana. The New York Times: A Federal Judge Upholds Indiana University’s Vaccine Requirement for Students.

In what appeared to be the first ruling upholding a coronavirus vaccine mandate by a university, a federal judge affirmed on Monday that Indiana University could require that its students be vaccinated against the virus.

A lawyer for eight student plaintiffs had argued that requiring the vaccine violated their right to bodily integrity and autonomy, and that the coronavirus vaccines have only emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, and should not be considered as part of the normal range of vaccinations schools require. He vowed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary….

He said that the appeal would be paid for by America’s Frontline Doctors, a conservative organization that has been pursuing an anti-vaccine agenda. Mr. Bopp, of Terre Haute, Ind., is known for his legal advocacy promoting conservative causes.

Mr. Bopp filed the lawsuit in June, after Indiana University announced the previous month that faculty, staff and students would be required to get coronavirus vaccinations before coming to school this fall.

viva-la-vida-watermelons 1954

Viva la Vida, 1954

The university, whose main campus is in Bloomington, Ind., said that students who did not comply would have their class registrations canceled and would be barred from campus activities.

The requirement permitted exemptions only for religious objections, documented allergies to the vaccine, medical deferrals and virtual class attendance.

On Monday, Judge Damon R. Leichty of the U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana said that while he recognized the students’ interest in refusing unwarranted medical treatment, such a right must be weighed against the state’s greater interest.

“The Fourteenth Amendment permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty and staff,” his ruling said, also noting that the university had made exceptions for students who object.

Judge Leichty was appointed by former President Donald J. Trump.

Sorry for the boring post, but unless we get a grip on this pandemic, any chance of a return to “normal” life is going to disappear. 

As always, this is an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Cat on a flowery Meadow, Bruno Liljefors

Cat on a Flowery Meadow, by Bruno Liljefors

Good Afternoon!!

Yesterday I wrote about the latest revelations from some of the many Trump books that have been hitting the shelves, as well as an upcoming one by Susan Glasser and her husband NYT reporter Peter Baker. Yesterday Glasser spoke to CNN’s Jack Tapper. From Raw Story: ‘Most terrified I’ve ever been’: Reporter describes learning ‘extremely alarming’ details of Trump’s final days.

Reporter Susan Glasser on Friday told CNN’s Jake Tapper that she felt personally unnerved while reporting out details of former President Donald Trump’s final days.

While discussing her most recent article in the New Yorker about Trump’s fights with General Mark Milley in the waning weeks of his administration, Glasser explained to Tapper that it was unprecedented for American military leaders to view the sitting commander-in-chief as a potential national security threat.

“You know, when I first learned about the level of alarm that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had through the election and all the way into January, I have to say it was probably the most terrified I’ve ever been as a reporter in several decades,” said Glasser, who has also reported from American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

She said she was relieved to see that Milley and other top military commanders had done their best to hold Trump in check, but still found it frightening just how far the twice-impeached former president was willing to go.

The question arises: why are we just now learning about these horrific events and those reported in other books? From The Washington Post: The media scramble at the heart of Trump Book Summer.

The peak of Trump Book Summer, the moment of maximum media intensity, may have come last Wednesday, when reporters scrambled to match a story about a story contained in one of those books.

Around 3 p.m. that day, New York magazine published an article based on a revelation its writer had discovered in the pages of “I Alone Can Fix It,” one of the entries in the current spate of Trump Studies, a copy of which the magazine said it had “obtained” before its official release.

The gist of the magazine’s report — that the book would reveal that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, feared Trump would precipitate a coup to maintain power — was so hot that it in turn triggered a nearly immediate follow-up report on CNN.com, written by no less than five reporters. Which in turn prompted The Washington Post to chase down the same nugget — which was kind of ironic considering the book that produced the scoop was written by two Post reporters and had already generated a prominent excerpt in the paper, with a second to come days later.

wyndham Lewis, A Woman with a Cat

Wyndham Lewis, A Woman with a Cat

The media-on-media scramble, a kind of Russian nesting doll of reportage, attested to both the profound import of the Milley anecdote and the cultural heat of the new syllabus of Trump books. On the same day, “I Alone,” written by The Post’s Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, was the best-selling book on Amazon, which includes preorders for not-yet-released books. The third and fourth bestsellers were also dishy Trump titles, “Landslide,” by the independent journalist Michael Wolff, and “Frankly, We Did Win This Election,” by the Wall Street Journal’s Michael C. Bender, respectively. A fourth book, “Nightmare Scenario,” about Trump’s handling of the pandemic by two other Post reporters, Damian Paletta and Yasmeen Abutaleb, had climbed up the lists the week before….

This spurt doesn’t include another dozen or so Trump books that will be released over the next few months, including one co-authored by Washington Post veteran Bob Woodward, who has already written two Trump tomes, including last September’s predictably best-selling “Rage.”

So why is it OK for these reporters to keep shocking news to themselves so they can use it to sell their books later on? The answer is that newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times allow their reporters to go on leave while writing their books and their research is “walled off from from their daily beat responsibilities,” according to editor Sally Buzbee. 

“Basically, when staffers go on unpaid book leaves, which is the case here, there is an understanding that the reporting they are doing is for the book,” she said. “The Post typically publishes the book’s first excerpt, which gives our readers the first cut at the news. This is our long-standing practice and has served readers of The Post and the reporters well.”

Lilla Cabot Perry (1848-1933)

Painting by Lilla Cabot Perry (1848-1933)

New York Times editor Dean Baquet said he encourages his reporters to “keep in touch” with editors at the paper when they’re working on books, and to alert them when they come up with something worthy of daily publication.

“Sometimes we make the judgment that it is okay to hold [a big scoop], or at least to hold until we publish an excerpt,” he said. Book-writing and daily news reporting aren’t “church and state,” said Baquet, whose star White House reporter Maggie Haberman is at work on a Trump book, “and I do hope reporters break their big news in the Times.”

Rucker noted another constraint on real-time reporting of the news he and Leonnig uncovered: “Many of the officials we interviewed for ‘I Alone Can Fix It’ agreed to speak with us about these events only after Trump had left office and only for the purposes of this deeper history,” he said.

OK then. I have to admit I can’t resist reading these books, even though I’m troubled by reporters keeping these secrets. 

In other news, a Texas judge ruled that DACA is illegal. The Washington Post: U.S. judge blocks new applicants to program that protects undocumented ‘dreamers’ who arrived as children.

A federal judge in Texas has largely halted an Obama administration initiative that grants work permits and reprieves from deportation to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — calling the program “unlawful” even as he allowed the more than 600,000 young people already in it to keep their protected status.

U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen sided with Texas and other states in his ruling that President Barack Obama overstepped his executive authority when he created the program.

Hanen’s ruling called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an “illegally implemented program” and said “the public interest of the nation is always served by the cessation of a program that was created in violation of law.”

He prohibited the Department of Homeland Security from approving new applications, issued a permanent injunction vacating the memo that created DACA in 2012 — when President Biden was vice president — and remanded the issue to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for reconsideration.

Oskar Kokoschka

Painting by Oskar Kokoschka

President Biden said the DOJ will appeal the decision. The White House: Statement by President Joe Biden on DACA and Legislation for Dreamers.

In 2012, the Obama-Biden Administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which has allowed hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to remain in the United States, to live, study, and work in our communities. Nine years later, Congress has not acted to provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers.

Yesterday’s Federal court ruling is deeply disappointing. While the court’s order does not now affect current DACA recipients, this decision nonetheless relegates hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to an uncertain future. The Department of Justice intends to appeal this decision in order to preserve and fortify DACA. And, as the court recognized, the Department of Homeland Security plans to issue a proposed rule concerning DACA in the near future.

But only Congress can ensure a permanent solution by granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers that will provide the certainty and stability that these young people need and deserve. I have repeatedly called on Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act, and I now renew that call with the greatest urgency. It is my fervent hope that through reconciliation or other means, Congress will finally provide security to all Dreamers, who have lived too long in fear.

Thanks to all the misinformation Trump and his fans have spread about the Covid-19 and vaccines that prevent infections, we now appear to be entering a fourth wave of the deadly virus. USA Today: The fourth wave of COVID-19 cases is here. Will we escape the UK’s fate? It’s too soon to know, by Karen Weintraub.

A doubling of COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks suggests the United States has entered a fourth wave of the pandemic.

Beaver Meadow, Paul Sample

Beaver Meadow, by Paul Sample

No one knows what the next month or two will bring, but the example of the United Kingdom suggests the infection rate could get quite high, while hospitalizations and deaths stay relatively low.

Instead of the virus raging through entire communities, it is expected to target the unvaccinated, including children, and if rates are high enough, also the most vulnerable of the vaccinated – the elderly and the immunocompromised.

“Since the majority of our population is now immune, it’s unlikely that we’re going to return to the massive nationwide waves we saw back in January,” Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in a Wednesday webinar with media.

But major outbreaks can still occur, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates.

“We’re going to be living in two pandemic worlds, the world that’s vaccinated and the world that’s unvaccinated,” said Dr. Luis Ostrosky,  chief of infectious diseases at UTHealth and an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston.

The three vaccines authorized for use in the United States, from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson, have all been shown to be highly effective against variants of the virus, including Delta, which now accounts for most of the cases in the U.S.

It’s a long article, so click the link to learn more.

Ed Yong at The Atlantic: Delta Is Driving a Wedge Through Missouri. For America as a whole, the pandemic might be fading. For some communities, this year will be worse than last.

The summer wasn’t meant to be like this. By April, Greene County, in southwestern Missouri, seemed to be past the worst of the pandemic. Intensive-care units that once overflowed had emptied. Vaccinations were rising. Health-care workers who had been fighting the coronavirus for months felt relieved—perhaps even hopeful. Then, in late May, cases started ticking up again. By July, the surge was so pronounced that “it took the wind out of everyone,” Erik Frederick, the chief administrative officer of Mercy Hospital Springfield, told me. “How did we end up back here again?”

Alice Neel

Painting by Alice Neel

The hospital is now busier than at any previous point during the pandemic. In just five weeks, it took in as many COVID-19 patients as it did over five months last year. Ten minutes away, another big hospital, Cox Medical Center South, has been inundated just as quickly. “We only get beds available when someone dies, which happens several times a day,” Terrence Coulter, the critical-care medical director at CoxHealth, told me.

Last week, Katie Towns, the acting director of the Springfield–Greene County Health Department, was concerned that the county’s daily cases were topping 250. On Wednesday, the daily count hit 405. This dramatic surge is the work of the super-contagious Delta variant, which now accounts for 95 percent of Greene County’s new cases, according to Towns. It is spreading easily because people have ditched their masks, crowded into indoor spaces, resumed travel, and resisted vaccinations. Just 40 percent of people in Greene County are fully vaccinated. In some nearby counties, less than 20 percent of people are.

Many experts have argued that, even with Delta, the United States is unlikely to revisit the horrors of last winter. Even now, the country’s hospitalizations are one-seventh as high as they were in mid-January. But national optimism glosses over local reality. For many communities, this year will be worse than last. Springfield’s health-care workers and public-health specialists are experiencing the same ordeals they thought they had left behind. “But it feels worse this time because we’ve seen it before,” Amelia Montgomery, a nurse at CoxHealth, told me. “Walking back into the COVID ICU was demoralizing.”

Those ICUs are also filling with younger patients, in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, including many with no underlying health problems. In part, that’s because elderly people have been more likely to get vaccinated, leaving Delta with a younger pool of vulnerable hosts. While experts are still uncertain if Delta is deadlier than the original coronavirus, every physician and nurse in Missouri whom I spoke with told me that the 30- and 40-something COVID-19 patients they’re now seeing are much sicker than those they saw last year.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

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