Tuesday Reads

Good Day!!

henri-manguin, Dream Landscape

Henri Manguin, Dream Landscape

Is it me or is the news today even more dispiriting than usual?

Paul Pelosi was brutally attacked in his home last week and is still in the ICU in at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, and around the country Republicans are minimizing and even joking about the horrific attack by a MAGA/Qanon crazy.

The New York Times: Republicans Continue to Spread Baseless Claims About Pelosi Attack.

Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, continues to post jokes about it.

Dinesh D’Souza, the creator of a discredited film about the 2020 election called “2000 Mules,” accused the San Francisco Police Department on Monday of covering up the facts.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, wrote that the “same mainstream media democrat activists” who questioned former President Donald J. Trump’s ties to Russia were now silencing the new owner of Twitter, Elon Musk.

The reason: Mr. Musk deleted a post linking to a newspaper that once claimed Hillary Rodham Clinton was dead when she ran for president in 2016.

In the days since Paul Pelosi, the 82-year-old husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was attacked by an intruder asking, “Where is Nancy?”, a litany of Republicans and conservatives have spread baseless conspiracy theories about the assault and its motives.

Although the police have not yet detailed all the circumstances of the crime, these theories have already seeped into the Republican mainstream. While many Republican officials have denounced the violence, others have at the very least tolerated, and in some cases cheered, a violent assault on the spouse of a political rival.

The disinformation “isn’t just political,” said Angelo Carusone, the president and chief executive of Media Matters for America, a progressive nonprofit. “It’s much bigger than that; it’s deeper. They’re really rethinking and reshaping a lot of our norms.”

The attack on Mr. Pelosi in the couple’s home in San Francisco early on Friday morning has raised fears about the rise of political violence against elected officials — increasingly, it seems, inspired by a toxic brew of extremism, hate and paranoia that is easily found online.

The assailant, identified by the police as David DePape, 42, posted a series of notes in the days before the attack suggesting that he had fallen under the sway of right-wing conspiracy theories and antisemitism online. Some of the flurry of posts by others questioning the circumstances of the attack appeared intended to deflect attention from Mr. DePape’s views.

the-courtyard-of-the-hospital-in-arles-1889. Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh, The Courtyard of the Hospital in Arles, 1889

Super MAGA Trump follower Kari Lake, who is likely to be the next governor of Arizona, got a big laugh from the audience when she joked about the attack on Pelosi. NBC News: Arizona GOP nominee Kari Lake mocks attack on Paul Pelosi at campaign event.

The Republican nominee for governor of Arizona, Kari Lake, made light of the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband in remarks at a campaign event Monday, drawing laughter from the audience.

Asked about school security, Lake suggested the protection afforded to federal lawmakers should be available to students, as well.

“Nancy Pelosi, well, she’s got protection when she’s in D.C. — apparently her house doesn’t have a lot of protection,” Lake said at a campaign event in Scottsdale, Arizona, sparking laughter from many in attendance….

Lake wasn’t asked about the remark in an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News but said: “We can’t talk about all these issues, because the media has told us they’re prohibited. You can’t talk about vaccines, you can’t talk about elections, you can’t talk about Paul Pelosi, and now you can’t talk about Nancy Pelosi.

“I’m talking about all of those things,” she added.

Paul Pelosi was still in intensive care, surrounded by family members, a source with knowledge of the situation said Monday.

Even New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, supposedly moderate Republican has now gone MAGA. William Saletan at The Bulwark: Even the Sane Republicans Are Embracing Election Deniers.

Chris Sununu, the governor of New Hampshire, is one of the saner people in today’s Republican party. He concedes that the 2020 election was free and fair. He acknowledges climate change. He has criticized Republican leaders for ostracizing Rep. Liz Cheney and other principled dissidents while protecting the party’s worst extremists.

That’s why Sununu’s decision in the final weeks of the 2022 campaign to embrace election deniers is a particularly bad sign. Like other Republican officials, he has decided that sabotage of public faith in democracy doesn’t matter, as long as the saboteurs are Republicans. And he’s defending their reckless behavior with pernicious excuses.

On Sep. 13, election deniers won the Republican primaries for two of New Hampshire’s three federal offices. Don Bolduc, who has insisted that “Trump won the election” in 2020, captured the GOP nomination to face off against incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan. And Karoline Leavitt, who has said Trump “absolutely” won, got the nomination for one of the state’s two congressional seats.

Sununu could have said that he considered these nominees unfit for office. At a minimum, he could have kept his distance. Instead, he has endorsed Leavitt and praised Bolduc.

Last Tuesday, in a gubernatorial debate, Sununu was asked why he supported candidates who claimed “without evidence that elections were stolen.” He didn’t dispute that characterization of their views. Instead, he said endorsement decisions should be based on more than just “one issue,” as though election denial were no different from energy subsidies or water management.

Two days after Sununu’s comment, Bolduc—who had indicated after the primaries that he would tone down his allegations of fraud—again insinuated that elections were being stolen. In a Senate debate, he said the people of New Hampshire “don’t like the fact that they can’t trust the mail-in ballot system,” that there were “proven irregularities with voting machines,” and that “same-day voter-registration causes fraud.” He added: “We need to make sure that school buses loaded with people at the polls don’t come in and vote.”

Caspar_David_Friedrich, Woman at a Window, 1822

Caspar_David_Friedrich, Woman at a Window, 1822

In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro lost his bid for reelection, and has decided to go the Trump route and refuse to concede. The Daily Beast: Bolsonaro Plays Trump Card: Won’t Concede as Fans Block Roads.

SÃO PAULO—The biggest and busiest city in South America was forced into a stunning standstill Monday night after supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro blocked roads across the city to protest the results of a fair and free election.

Hundreds of Bolsonaro supporters, embittered by the victory of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva on Sunday, blocked the highway to the main airport in São Paulo, setting up barricades, chanting phrases like “Lula the robber!,” and starting fires in the middle of the road.

Hundreds of roadblocks in every state in the country threaten to plunge Brazil into chaos.

The populist rightwinger has yet to concede the election since the unprecedentedly close result was announced Sunday, with leftist former president Lula winning by just 1.8 percentage points. With fears mounting that Bolsonaro could take a leaf from the playbook of his close ally, Donald Trump, and refuse to accept the result, truckers loyal to the incumbent have taken matters into their own hands.

Roadblocks and protests demanding a military coup to stop Lula being certified as president have erupted in all but two Brazilian states, according to reports. Brazil’s federal highway police said over 300 protests had partially or completely shut down roads around the country, while authorities in the capital Brasilia closed traffic access to the central government esplanade amid fears that Bolsonaro’s supporters were planning to stage a demonstration in front of the Supreme Court, which they perceive as having given Lula favorable treatment.

Videos shared on social media show blockages along the 1,000 mile-long BR-163 highway which links companies in the Amazon basin with ports in the north of the country. One clip shows a fire burning as vehicles block the road, with a remix of a Brazilian song using the lyrics “Bolsonaro 22” playing in the background.

Read more at the Daily Beast link.

As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, the right-wing Supreme Court is going to end Affirmative Action in universities. Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: The Supreme Court Has No Reason to End Affirmative Action. They’re Doing It Anyway.

Oral arguments in a pair of much-anticipated cases about the future of affirmative action sprawled over almost six hours on Monday, yet the outcome was obvious within the first 30 minutes: The Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority appears poised to overturn almost 50 years of precedent and outlaw race-conscious admissions at institutions of higher education. One case—arising from the University of North Carolina’s affirmative action program—was argued over two and a half hours. The second, a challenge to Harvard’s program, took up the better part of the afternoon. These arguments suggested that six justices will deem affirmative action to be unconstitutional chiefly because the effort to promote diversity in education has reached its sell-by date.

Konrad Vilhelm Mägi, Landscape of Vilsandi, 1913-14

Konrad Vilhelm Mägi, Landscape of Vilsandi, 1913-14

What was perhaps most remarkable in these largely predictable arguments was how much time the conservative justices devoted to pure policy arguments. These justices dislike affirmative action for a whole lot of deep emotional reasons that, it turns out, have nothing to do with the Constitution. They barely even considered the meaning 14th Amendment until Justice Elena Kagan finally brought it to their attention two and a half hours into the UNC arguments. Kagan, along with Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sonia Sotomayor, were vastly more interested in the history of the Constitution’s equal protection clause than their ostensibly originalist colleagues. If and when the supermajority does eradicate race-conscious admissions, everyone will be able to weigh the strength of their arguments. But no one should pretend the decision was remotely rooted in actual law.

The history of affirmative action at the Supreme Court is not particularly complicated. In 1978’s Bakkedecision, a majority found that universities could consider race to build a diverse student body, identifying educational benefits that flow from diversity. At the same time, a majority prohibited quotas and other rigid metrics that reduced applicants to their race, requiring universities to undertake a holistic review of each applicant. The Supreme Court affirmed this principle in 2003’s Grutter v. Bollinger and again 2016’s Fisher v. Texas.

Although these cases involve both public and private institutions, the Supreme Court has consistently held that federal law simply applies the equal protection clause to private universities that receive federal funds. So, in theory, the justices should’ve been debating the meaning of the Constitution. Instead, the conservative justices continually reverted to free-floating policy discussions about how affirmative action makes them feel. (Hint: they feel bad.)

John Roberts has also put a hold on releasing Trump’s taxes to Congress. The Washington Post: Chief Justice Roberts temporarily delays release of Trump tax records.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Tuesday temporarily halted the release of former president Donald Trump’s tax records to a congressional committee, and called for more briefing in the case.

Without the Supreme Court’s intervention, the records could have been handed over to the House Ways and Means Committee as early as Thursday.

Last week, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to review earlier rulings finding that lawmakers are entitled to the documents in the long-running legal battle. The court also said it would not put the release of the papers on hold while Trump’s lawyers sought Supreme Court review.

Roberts, the justice designated to hear emergency orders from that court, put the release on hold and called for a response from the committee by noon on Nov. 10. A committee spokeswoman said in a statement, “The Ways and Means Committee maintains the law is on our side, and will file a timely response as requested. Chairman [Richard E.] Neal (D-Ma.) looks forward to the Supreme Court’s expeditious consideration.” [….]

The Supreme Court generally has not been receptive to Trump’s assertions that he should be allowed to keep records private and that he was immune to investigation while in office. The justices in 2020 upheld Congress’s right to subpoena that information with some limitations, and last year declined to block the release of Trump’s financial records for a New York state investigation.

I hope this really is just temporary.

A_Forest_Stream_by_Peder_Mork_Monsted

A Forest Stream, by Peder Mork Monsted

Finally, it looks as if Elon Musk is about as competent to take over Twitter as Trump was to be POTUS. Rebecca Kern at Politico: Musk’s Twitter: ‘This is exactly what many of us were worried about.’

A day after Elon Musk seemed to confirm critics’ worst fears about his ownership of Twitter by tweeting out right-wing misinformation from his personal account, political leaders and operatives wrestled with a loaded question: Would the most important social-media platform in the political world survive his ownership?

And if it did, should they stay on it?

“This is exactly what many of us were worried about,” said Mark Jablonowski, the managing partner of Democratic digital advertising firm DSPolitical.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce panel on consumer protection, said she was worried about Twitter becoming “a platform that is a sewer of hateful and harmful content” and planned to leave if Musk allowed it to become more of a Wild West.

The immediate anxiety comes from a false story about the brutal attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, that Musk personally tweeted over the weekend. Musk has now deleted the tweet, but the story continues to ricochet around the conservative political world.

In the larger sense, political players are worried that Musk’s promises to bring Twitter’s policies closer in line with his own ideas about politics and society, as well as his firing of its top accountability executives, will permanently change a platform they’ve come to rely on, and trust to police misinformation and hate speech.

Musk has left no doubt who’s in charge of the company since he took Twitter private Thursday night. He renamed himself “Chief Twit” on his official bio, and told the Securities and Exchange Commission that he dissolved the board and named himself sole director.

Musk doesn’t understand that what makes Twitter so popular is the well known journalists, experts, and popular personalities who post content on the platform. Now he wants to charge these people for being verified with blue checks. The Hollywood Reporter: Elon Musk Defends Controversial $20 Blue Checkmark Twitter Plan to Stephen King.

Elon Musk has responded to Stephen King’s horrified reaction at his reported plan to charge for a blue checkmark — and in the process, confirmed that the surprising and controversial idea is in the works.

On Monday, King went viral with his reaction to a report that Musk wanted to charge verified users a whopping $20 per month to keep their blue checkmarks. “$20 a month to keep my blue check?” King tweeted to his 6.9 million followers. “Fuck that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.” When a reader told King he could afford the fee, he replied, “It ain’t the money, it’s the principle of the thing.”

Henri Manguin

Trees, by Henri Manguin

Five Thirty Eight political guru Nate Silver similarly wrote to his 3.5 million followers: “I’m probably the perfect target for this, use Twitter a ton, can afford $20/mo, not particularly anti-Elon, but my reaction is that I’ve generated a ton of valuable free content for Twitter over the years and they can go fuck themselves.”

Early Tuesday, Musk responded to the uproar, replying to King: “We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot entirely rely on advertisers. How about $8?” Musk then added: “I will explain the rational in longer form before this is implemented. It is the only way to defeat bots & trolls.”

But critics have pointed out that verified accounts are not simply a free perk for a certain level of user, but rather a utility that makes the wild-west social media platform/hellscape more credible. Blue checks help everyday readers — as well as journalists — determine whether a comment being made by a public figure is actually from that person instead of their fans or impersonators. It is, in other words, a way of preventing fake news. TechCrunch dubbed Musk’s idea a potential “misinformation nightmare.”

“Musk and his buddies view this plan as a way to get people to actually give Twitter money,” TechCrunch noted. “But by monetizing a symbol that currently has value, they will ultimately remove all of that existing value.”

I’ll end there. Please share your thoughts on these and other current happenings. I hope you all have a great Tuesday!!


Thursday Reads

Rainy Day Boston, Frederick Childe Hassam

Rainy Day Boston, Frederick Childe Hassam

Good Morning!!

Here’s what I see as the major topics in the news today: world events stemming from Russia’s war on Ukraine; the ongoing Trumpist attack on U.S. democracy; and the new wave of Covid-19 cases.

Outgrowths of Ukraine War

Fascism and totalitarianism expert Timothy Snyder at The New York Times: We Should Say It. Russia Is Fascist.

Fascism was never defeated as an idea.

As a cult of irrationality and violence, it could not be vanquished as an argument: So long as Nazi Germany seemed strong, Europeans and others were tempted. It was only on the battlefields of World War II that fascism was defeated. Now it’s back — and this time, the country fighting a fascist war of destruction is Russia. Should Russia win, fascists around the world will be comforted.

We err in limiting our fears of fascism to a certain image of Hitler and the Holocaust. Fascism was Italian in origin, popular in Romania — where fascists were Orthodox Christians who dreamed of cleansing violence — and had adherents throughout Europe (and America). In all its varieties, it was about the triumph of will over reason.

Because of that, it’s impossible to define satisfactorily. People disagree, often vehemently, over what constitutes fascism. But today’s Russia meets most of the criteria that scholars tend to apply. It has a cult around a single leader, Vladimir Putin. It has a cult of the dead, organized around World War II. It has a myth of a past golden age of imperial greatness, to be restored by a war of healing violence — the murderous war on Ukraine.

You’ll need to read the whole essay to get the full impact of Snyder’s argument, but here’s a bit more:

We understand more about fascism than we did in the 1930s. We now know where it led. We should recognize fascism, because then we know what we are dealing with. But to recognize it is not to undo it. Fascism is not a debating position, but a cult of will that emanates fiction. It is about the mystique of a man who heals the world with violence, and it will be sustained by propaganda right to the end. It can be undone only by demonstrations of the leader’s weakness. The fascist leader has to be defeated, which means that those who oppose fascism have to do what is necessary to defeat him. Only then do the myths come crashing down.

Paris Street in the rain, by Gustave Caillebotte

Paris Street in the rain, by Gustave Caillebotte

As in the 1930s, democracy is in retreat around the world and fascists have moved to make war on their neighbors. If Russia wins in Ukraine, it won’t be just the destruction of a democracy by force, though that is bad enough. It will be a demoralization for democracies everywhere. Even before the war, Russia’s friends — Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orban, Tucker Carlson — were the enemies of democracy. Fascist battlefield victories would confirm that might makes right, that reason is for the losers, that democracies must fail.

Had Ukraine not resisted, this would have been a dark spring for democrats around the world. If Ukraine does not win, we can expect decades of darkness.

The Economist: The coming food catastrophe. War is tipping a fragile world towards mass hunger. Fixing that is everyone’s business.

By invading Ukraine, Vladimir Putin will destroy the lives of people far from the battlefield—and on a scale even he may regret. The war is battering a global food system weakened by covid-19climate change and an energy shock. Ukraine’s exports of grain and oilseeds have mostly stopped and Russia’s are threatened. Together, the two countries supply 12% of traded calories. Wheat prices, up 53% since the start of the year, jumped a further 6% on May 16th, after India said it would suspend exports because of an alarming heatwave.

The widely accepted idea of a cost-of-living crisis does not begin to capture the gravity of what may lie ahead. António Guterres, the un secretary general, warned on May 18th that the coming months threaten “the spectre of a global food shortage” that could last for years. The high cost of staple foods has already raised the number of people who cannot be sure of getting enough to eat by 440m, to 1.6bn. Nearly 250m are on the brink of famine. If, as is likely, the war drags on and supplies from Russia and Ukraine are limited, hundreds of millions more people could fall into poverty. Political unrest will spread, children will be stunted and people will starve.

Mr Putin must not use food as a weapon. Shortages are not the inevitable outcome of war. World leaders should see hunger as a global problem urgently requiring a global solution.

landscape-with-rain-wassily-kandinsky

Landscape with rain, Wassily Kandinsky

Russia and Ukraine supply 28% of globally traded wheat, 29% of the barley, 15% of the maize and 75% of the sunflower oil. Russia and Ukraine contribute about half the cereals imported by Lebanon and Tunisia; for Libya and Egypt the figure is two-thirds. Ukraine’s food exports provide the calories to feed 400m people. The war is disrupting these supplies because Ukraine has mined its waters to deter an assault, and Russia is blockading the port of Odessa.

Even before the invasion the World Food Programme had warned that 2022 would be a terrible year. China, the largest wheat producer, has said that, after rains delayed planting last year, this crop may be its worst-ever. Now, in addition to the extreme temperatures in India, the world’s second-largest producer, a lack of rain threatens to sap yields in other breadbaskets, from America’s wheat belt to the Beauce region of France. The Horn of Africa is being ravaged by its worst drought in four decades. Welcome to the era of climate change.

The Trumpist Attack on U.S. Democracy

This is from The Washington Post news analysis by Leigh Ann Caldwell, Theodoric Meyer: Trump uses Pa. primary to continue effort to undermine electoral system.

Donald Trump‘s continued effort to discredit or manipulate the electoral process is playing out in two distinct but related ways in the wake of Tuesday’s primary contests in Pennsylvania.

First, he is casting doubt on the result of the Senate GOP primary by once again making baseless claims that mail-in ballots are causing problems and suggesting his preferred candidate, Mehmet Oz, should just declare victory.

“It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they ‘just happened to find,’” Trump said, providing no evidence, on his social media platform Truth Social, our colleague Colby Itkowitz reports.

Second, the nominee he backed for governor, Doug Mastriano, won the primary and if he wins the election in November, Mastriano would have considerable influence over how the state’s presidential election results are handled in 2024 when Trump may be on the ballot as our colleague’s Rosalind S. HeldermanIsaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey explain.

Mastriano has been one of the staunchest backers of Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election and the steps he wanted officials to take to deny Joe Biden victory.

Rain swept street, by Mike Barr

Rain swept street, by Mike Barr

“As governor, Mastriano would have the opportunity not just to speak, but to act,” Roz, Isaac and Josh write. A possibility that is “worrying experts already fearful of a democratic breakdown around the 2024 presidential contest.”

“Those concerns are made especially acute in Pennsylvania by the fact that the governor has the unusual authority to directly appoint the secretary of state, who serves as chief elections officer and must sign off on results. If he or she refuses, chaos could follow.”

Read more at the WaPo link.

Reid Epstein at The New York Times: Midterm Stakes Grow Clearer: Election Deniers Will Be on Many Ballots.

Republican voters in this week’s primary races demonstrated a willingness to nominate candidates who parrot Donald J. Trump’s election lies and who appear intent on exerting extraordinary political control over voting systems. The results make clear that the November midterms may well affect the fate of free and fair elections in the country.

In Pennsylvania, Republican voters united behind a nominee for governor, Doug Mastriano, who helped lead the brazen effort to overturn the state’s 2020 election and chartered buses to the rally before the Capitol riot, and who has since promoted a constitutionally impossible effort to decertify President Biden’s victory in his state.

In North Carolina, voters chose a G.O.P. Senate nominee, Representative Ted Budd, who voted in Congress against certifying the 2020 results and who continues to refuse to say that Mr. Biden was legitimately elected.

And in Idaho, which Mr. Trump won overwhelmingly in 2020, 57 percent of voters backed two Republican candidates for secretary of state who pushed election falsehoods, though they lost a three-way race to a rival who accepts Mr. Biden as president.

The strong showings on Tuesday by election deniers, who have counterparts running competitively in primaries across the country over the coming months, were an early signal of the threat posed by the Trump-inspired movement.

This story about what’s happening in Idaho was published before yesterday’s primaries, but it’s still an important read. Christopher Mathias at HuffPo: Living With The Far-Right Insurgency In Idaho.

IDAHO — White nationalist Vincent James Foxx had a new video for his nearly 70,000 subscribers on BitChute, one of the few tech platforms that hasn’t banned him. On Feb. 16, he appeared wearing a baseball hat emblazoned with the state’s outline tilted on its side so that it resembled a pistol.

“We are going to take over this state,” Foxx declared. “We have a great large group of people, and that group is growing. A true, actual right-wing takeover is happening right now in the state of Idaho. And there’s nothing that these people can do about it. So if you’re a legislator here, either get in line, or get out of the way.”

Foxx, 36, isn’t from Idaho. He only recently moved from California to Post Falls. But in the video, he showed off photos of himself posing with a string of prominent Republican politicians in the state as he explained who he’s supporting in the upcoming primaries, slated for May 17.

gregory thielker Rainy day in Washington DC

Gregory Thielker,, Rainy Day in Washington, DC

He was especially excited about a selfie he’d taken a week prior: It showed him and fellow white nationalist Dave Reilly, a recent Pennsylvania transplant also living in Post Falls, standing alongside Idaho’s lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin. All three were smiling.

“We’re supporting her,” Foxx said, bragging of his movement’s “deep connections” to McGeachin, whom former President Donald Trump endorsed in the GOP primary race for governor. Foxx then explained how his particular brand of Christian white nationalism is poised to conquer Idaho, then the country.

“The solution is local politics: Amassing power in these pockets of the country until it’s time to unify,” he said. “I’ve only been here for a couple of months and I’m tapped in the way that I am. You can do it too.”

Fascists like Foxx are famous fabulists, experts at exaggerating their influence and success. But Foxx wasn’t just talking shit.

He is one of many far-right activists who have flocked to Idaho in recent years, where a large and growing radical MAGA faction in the state’s Republican Party has openly allied itself with extremists to a shocking extent, even for the Trump era. This faction is accruing more and more power in Boise, the state capital: Imagine a statehouse full of Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Steve Kings. At the local level, they have seized seats on school boards and county commissions at a fast clip.

Please read the rest. This could easily happening in other small states.

New Covid Wave

The Washington Post: Top Biden health officials sound warning on rising covid infections.

Top Biden administration officials warned Wednesday that one-third of Americans live in communities experiencing rising levels of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations and urged them to resume taking personal protection measures, including wearing masks.

The increase in new infections — nearing 100,000 a day — comes as the nation heads into Memorial Day weekend with its large gatherings and travel. That case count is almost certainly an undercount, officials said, given the widespread use of at-home tests for which results are often not reported to health officials.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strongly encouraged those living in communities designated yellow or orange, indicating they have large numbers of new infections and hospitalizations, to consider wearing masks in indoor public spaces and taking other steps to protect themselves.

“As we’re currently seeing a steady rise of cases in parts of the country, we encourage everyone to use the menu of tools we have today to prevent further infection and severe disease, including wearing a mask, getting tested, accessing treatments early if infected and getting vaccinated or boosted,”she said.

Wednesday’s warnings from Walensky and two other officials — Ashish Jha, White House coronavirus coordinator, and Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser — came on the same day the United States surpassed the grim milestone of 1 million covid-19 deaths, a toll that even the starkest predictions at the start of the pandemic in 2020 did not anticipate.

In the Rain, ,Franz Marc

In the Rain, Franz Marc

Also from The Washington Post: How big is the latest U.S. coronavirus wave? No one really knows.

Experts say Americans can assume that infections in their communities are five to 10 times the official counts.

“Any sort of look at the metrics on either a local, state or national level is a severe undercount,” said Jessica Malaty Rivera, an epidemiologist at the Pandemic Prevention Institute, housed at theRockefeller Foundation. “Everyone knows someone getting covid now.”

Hospitalizations nationally have increased 57 percent since bottoming out six weeks ago. But the roughly 23,000 covid patients in hospitals over the last week still represent nearly the lowest hospitalization levels of the entire pandemic.The recentincrease is led by the Northeast, where hospitalization rates are almost twice as high as in any other region.

Reported cases of covid have also tripled in the Northeast in just over a month, driving much of the growth nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The country has averaged about 100,000 new cases each day over the past week —more than three times as high as at the lowest point in March.

The latest uptick in infections is testing a new CDC alert system adopted by many local and state governments that categorizes community levels of covid-19 as “low” even with the number of new cases rising to a level once considered high.

More than two-thirds of Americans live in low-risk areas under these metrics. But 43 percent of residents in the Northeastlive in areas considered high-risk, compared with 9percent in the Midwest and less than 1 percent each in the South and West.

I recommend clicking the link and reading the entire article.

morning-on-the-seine-in-the-rain-1898, Claude Monet

Morning on the Seine in the rain, Claude Monet

CNBC: U.S. faces unnecessary Covid deaths if Congress fails to pass funding bill, top health official warns.

Top U.S. health officials on Wednesday reiterated their calls for Congress to pass funding for the nation’s fight against Covid-19, warning that failure to act now would result in an unnecessary loss of life in the fall and winter.

Their warning comes as new infections and hospitalizations are on the rise as the more transmissible omicron subvariants sweep the U.S.

The nation is reporting more than 94,000 new infections daily on average as of Monday, a 25% increase over the previous week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, hospitalizations have increased 18% over the past week with about 3,000 people admitted with Covid every day on average, according to CDC data.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the new White House Covid response coordinator, said the fact that many people are now taking at-home tests, results of which are not captured in the data, has to be taken into consideration.

“We know that the number of infections is actually substantially higher than that, hard to know exactly how many, but we know that a lot of people are getting diagnosed using home tests,” Jha said during a White House update on the pandemic Wednesday. “We’re clearly undercounting cases. There’s a lot of infections across America.”

Those are today’s top stories as I see it. What do you think? What stories are you following?