It worked for Dinah Bazer, who endured a terrifying hallucination that rid her of the fear that her ovarian cancer would return. And for Estalyn Walcoff, who says the drug experience led her to begin a comforting spiritual journey.
The work released Thursday is preliminary and experts say more definitive research must be done on the effects of the substance, called psilocybin (sih-loh-SY’-bihn).
But the record so far shows “very impressive results,” said Dr. Craig Blinderman, who directs the adult palliative care service at the Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He didn’t participate in the work.
Psilocybin, also called shrooms, purple passion and little smoke, comes from certain kinds of mushrooms. It is illegal in the U.S., and if the federal government approves the treatment, it would be administered in clinics by specially trained staff, experts say….
Psychedelic drugs have looked promising in the past for treating distress in cancer patients. But studies of medical use of psychedelics stopped in the early 1970s after a regulatory crackdown on the drugs, following their widespread recreational use. It has slowly resumed in recent years.
So people stop using drugs to recreational use, at least legally by the doctors, but the people still take all kind of drugs and supplements that help them with their body or gaining muscle or losing weight like plexus slim, which help them with all the above.
Griffiths said it’s not clear whether psilocybin would work outside of cancer patients, although he suspects it might work in people facing other terminal conditions. Plans are also underway to study it in depression that resists standard treatment, he said.
Thursday Reads: Pandemic Good News and Bad NewsPosted: May 6, 2021 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, Donald Trump, India, Narenda Modi, Nepal, vaccine patents 16 Comments
There’s good news and bad news on the pandemic front. We may be “turning the corner” in the U.S., but the situation in India is out of control and getting worse.
First the good news.
The New York Times: ‘Turning the Corner’: U.S. Covid Outlook Reaches Most Hopeful Point Yet.
After weeks of coronavirus patients flooding emergency rooms in Michigan, the worst Covid-19 hot spot in the nation, hospitalizations are finally falling.
On some recent days, entire states, including Wisconsin and West Virginia, have reported zero new coronavirus deaths — a brief but promising respite from the onslaught of the past year.
And in New York and Chicago, officials encouraged by the recent progress have confidently vowed to fully reopen in the coming weeks, conjuring images of a vibrant summer of concerts, sporting events and packed restaurants revving cities back to life.
Americans have entered a new, hopeful phase of the pandemic. Buoyed by a sense that the coronavirus is waning, in part because of vaccinations, more people are shrugging off masks, venturing into restaurants and returning to their prepandemic routines. Mayors, governors and other local officials — once the bearers of grim news about the virus’s toll and strict rules for businesses — have joined in the newfound optimism, rapidly loosening restrictions.
Public health experts remain cautious, but said that while they still expect significant local and regional surges in the coming weeks, they do not think they will be as widespread or reach past peaks.
“We’re clearly turning the corner,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Across the country, the outlook for the pandemic has indeed improved, putting the United States in its best position against the virus yet. The nation is recording about 49,000 new cases a day, the lowest number since early October, and hospitalizations have plateaued at around 40,000, a similar level as the early fall. Nationwide, deaths are hovering around 700 a day, down from a peak of more than 3,000 in January.
Lazy Caturday Reads: The Latest Covid-19 NewsPosted: April 24, 2021 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: 1918 flu pandemic, anti-vaccine movement, coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, India, long haul Covid-19, the flu, transmission of Covid-19, vaccines, Vietnam 13 Comments
Things have been looking up for the U.S. now than we have a responsible, knowledgeable president with competent advisers. But we we’re still in danger as long as the worldwide pandemic rages in other countries. Right now India isin the spotlight. We also need to deal with the anti-vaxxers and the Trumpists who refuse to accept vaccines. We’re also still learning about the long-term effects of Covid-19 as well as how the disease is transmitted.
How bad is this pandemic? Maybe worse than the 2018 flu, reports The New York Times: How Covid Upended a Century of Patterns in U.S. Deaths.
A surge in deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic created the largest gap between the actual and expected death rate in 2020 — what epidemiologists call “excess deaths,” or deaths above normal.
Aside from fatalities directly attributed to Covid-19, some excess deaths last year were most likely undercounts of the virus or misdiagnoses, or indirectly related to the pandemic otherwise. Preliminary federal data show that overdose deaths have also surged during the pandemic.
A New York Times analysis of U.S. death patterns for the past century shows how much 2020 deviated from the norm….
Since the 1918 pandemic, the country’s death rate has fallen steadily. But last year, the Covid-19 pandemic interrupted that trend, in spite of a century of improvements in medicine and public health.
In the first half of the 20th century, deaths were mainly dominated by infectious diseases. As medical advancements increased life expectancy, death rates also started to smooth out in the 1950s, and the mortality rate in recent decades — driven largely by chronic diseases — had continued to decline.
In 2020, however, the United States saw the largest single-year surge in the death rate since federal statistics became available. The rate increased 16 percent from 2019, even more than the 12 percent jump during the 1918 flu pandemic….
Combined with deaths in the first few months of this year, Covid-19 has now claimed more than half a million lives in the United States. The total number of Covid-19 deaths so far is on track to surpass the toll of the 1918 pandemic, which killed an estimated 675,000 nationwide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 percent of the deaths last year can be directly attributed to Covid-19, which overtook other leading causes of death — like chronic lower respiratory diseases and unintentional injuries, such as car accidents and overdose deaths — to become the third biggest killer, after heart disease and cancer.
Read the rest at the NYT.
What about the today’s flu viruses? The New York Times: The Flu Vanished During Covid. What Will Its Return Look Like?
There have been fewer influenza cases in the United States this flu season than in any on record. About 2,000 cases have been recorded since late September, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In recent years, the average number of cases over the same period was about 206,000.
As measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus were implemented around the country in March 2020, influenza quickly disappeared, and it still has not returned. The latest flu season, which normally would have run until next month, essentially never happened.
After fears that a “twindemic” could batter the country, the absence of the flu was a much needed reprieve that eased the burden on an overwhelmed health care system. But the lack of exposure to the flu could also make the population more susceptible to the virus when it returns — and experts say its return is certain….
Experts are less certain about what will happen when the flu does return. In the coming months — as millions of people return to public transit, restaurants, schools and offices — influenza outbreaks could be more widespread than normal, they say, or could occur at unusual times of the year. But it’s also possible that the virus that returns is less dangerous, having not had the opportunity to evolve while it was on hiatus.
“We don’t really have a clue,” said Richard Webby, a virologist at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. “We’re in uncharted territory. We haven’t had an influenza season this low, I think as long as we’ve been measuring it. So what the potential implications are is a bit unclear.”
One more from The New York Times: Patients With Long Covid Face Lingering Worrisome Health Risks, Study Finds.
The health effects of Covid-19 not only can stretch for months but appear to increase the risk of death and chronic medical conditions, even in people who were never sick enough to be hospitalized, a large new study finds.
In the study, published Thursday in the journal Nature, researchers looked at medical records of more than 73,000 people across the United States whose coronavirus infections did not require hospitalization. Between one and six months after becoming infected, those patients had a significantly greater risk of death — 60 percent higher — than people who had not been infected with the virus.
The research, based on records of patients in the Department of Veterans Affairs health system, also found that nonhospitalized Covid survivors had a 20 percent greater chance of needing outpatient medical care over those six months than people who had not contracted the coronavirus.
The Covid survivors experienced a vast array of long-term medical problems that they had never had before — not just lung issues from the respiratory effects of the virus, but symptoms that could affect virtually any organ system or part of the body, from neurological to cardiovascular to gastrointestinal. They were also at greater risk of mental health problems, including anxiety and sleep disorders.
Click the link to read more about the study results.
We’re still learning about how the coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. CNBC: MIT researchers say you’re no safer from Covid indoors at 6 feet or 60 feet in new study challenging social distancing policies.
The risk of being exposed to Covid-19 indoors is as great at 60 feet as it is at 6 feet — even when wearing a mask, according to a new study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers who challenge social distancing guidelines adopted across the world.
MIT professors Martin Z. Bazant, who teaches chemical engineering and applied mathematics, and John W.M. Bush, who teaches applied mathematics, developed a method of calculating exposure risk to Covid-19 in an indoor setting that factors in a variety of issues that could affect transmission, including the amount of time spent inside, air filtration and circulation, immunization, variant strains, mask use, and even respiratory activity such as breathing, eating, speaking or singing.
Bazant and Bush question long-held Covid-19 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization in a peer-reviewed study published earlier this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America.
“We argue there really isn’t much of a benefit to the 6-foot rule, especially when people are wearing masks,” Bazant said in an interview. “It really has no physical basis because the air a person is breathing while wearing a mask tends to rise and comes down elsewhere in the room so you’re more exposed to the average background than you are to a person at a distance.”
The important variable the CDC and the WHO have overlooked is the amount of time spent indoors, Bazant said. The longer someone is inside with an infected person, the greater the chance of transmission, he said.
Opening windows or installing new fans to keep the air moving could also be just as effective or more effective than spending large amounts of money on a new filtration system, he said.
Bazant also says that guidelines enforcing indoor occupancy caps are flawed. He said 20 people gathered inside for 1 minute is probably fine, but not over the course of several hours, he said.
“What our analysis continues to show is that many spaces that have been shut down in fact don’t need to be. Often times the space is large enough, the ventilation is good enough, the amount of time people spend together is such that those spaces can be safely operated even at full capacity and the scientific support for reduced capacity in those spaces is really not very good,” Bazant said. “I think if you run the numbers, even right now for many types of spaces you’d find that there is not a need for occupancy restrictions.”
I mentioned the disastrous situation in India. The Guardian: India’s daily Covid death toll hits new record amid oxygen shortages.
India’s daily coronavirus death toll passed a new record Saturday as the government battled to get oxygen supplies to hospitals overwhelmed by the hundreds of thousands of new daily cases.
Queues of Covid-19 patients and their fearful relatives are building up outside hospitals in major cities across India, the new world pandemic hotspot, which has reported nearly a million new cases in three days.
Another 2,624 deaths, a new daily record, were reported in 24 hours, taking the official toll to nearly 190,000 since the pandemic started.
More than 340,000 new cases were also reported, taking India’s total to 16.5 million, second only to the United States.
But many experts are predicting the current wave will not peak for at least three weeks and that the real death and case numbers are much higher.
More from CNN: No respite in India as country sets Covid-19 infection record for third straight day.
India reported 346,786 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday — the third day in a row the country has set a world record for infections during the coronavirus pandemic, according to government and scientific tallies.
The related death toll for the previous 24 hours hit 2,624 — also a daily record for India — for 189,544 total fatalities.
The sky-rocketing Covid-19 infections are devastating India’s communities and hospitals. Everything is in short supply — intensive care unit beds, medicine, oxygen and ventilators. Bodies are piling up in morgues and crematoriums.
Twenty critically ill patients died at a Delhi hospital Friday night after its supply of oxygen was delayed by seven hours, according to Dr. DK Baluja, medical director at the Jaipur Golden Hospital.
“That happened last night. Everything we had was exhausted. The oxygen was not supplied on time. It was supposed to come in at 5 p.m. but it came around midnight. People who were critically ill needed oxygen,” said Baluja.
The hospital is currently scrambling to arrange more oxygen but has not received a fresh supply all Saturday morning. “We have only 15-20 minutes of oxygen left now. It may take hours to get another tanker,” Baluja told CNN.
Delhi hospitals have been facing a severe oxygen shortage as the number of Covid-19 cases have soared in the national capital in the past two weeks….
Delhi recorded 24,331 new cases Friday, including 348 deaths, according to the Covid-19 health bulletin issued by the Delhi government.
Countrywide, India has now recorded more than 16.6 million cases since the start of the pandemic, a CNN tally of figures from the Indian Ministry of Health reveals.
In contrast, Vietnam successfully limited the spread of the virus. The Verge: Vietnam defied the experts and sealed its border to keep Covid-19 out. It worked.
As the pandemic took hold last year, travel restrictions quickly proliferated — they were the second-most-common policy governments adopted to combat Covid-19. According to one review, never in recorded history has global travel been curbed in “such an extreme manner”: a reduction of approximately 65 percent in the first half of 2020. More than a year later, as countries experiment with vaccine passports, travel bubbles, and a new round of measures to keep virus variants at bay, a maze of confusing, ever-changing restrictions remains firmly in place.
But few countries have gone as far as Vietnam, a one-party communist state with a GDP per capita of $2,700. The Haiphong checkpoints timed for Tet were the equivalent of closing off Los Angeles to Americans ahead of Thanksgiving — within a country that was already nearly hermetically sealed. Last March, the government canceled all inbound commercial flights for months on end, making it almost impossible to fly in, even for Vietnamese residents.
Today, flights are limited to select groups, like businesspeople or experts, from a few low-risk countries. Everybody who enters needs special government permission and must complete up to 21 days of state-monitored quarantine with PCR tests. (Positive cases are immediately isolated in hospitals, regardless of disease severity.)
This strict approach to travel, global health experts say, is directly connected to Vietnam’s seeming defeat of Covid-19. Thirty-five people have reportedly died in total, and a little more than 2,700 have been infected with the virus during three small waves that have all been quickly quashed. Even on the worst days of the pandemic, the country of 97 million has never recorded more than 110 new cases — a tiny fraction of the 68,000 daily case high in the United Kingdom, which has a population one-third smaller than Vietnam, or the record 300,000-plus cases per day only the US and India managed to tally.
Finally, The Daily Beast addresses the crazy anti-vaxxer situation: The Anti-Vaxxer Hunt for Dead People Is Getting Even Weirder.
Starting in mid-January, several social media channels and websites emerged as hubs for stories, generated by admins and users pulling together snippets from across the internet and crafting them into cohesive narratives and brief posts, linking reported deaths to COVID vaccinations. Several of these platforms have grown notably, and become more formalized, in recent weeks. Unsurprisingly, given the robust safety profile of the vaccines in use in the United States, they rarely detail how a vaccination supposedly caused a given death.
Lazy Saturday Reads: #tRump – Bull in a China ShopPosted: December 3, 2016 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: bumbling foreign policy, China, corruption, Donald Trump, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Taiwan, Trump Organization 43 Comments
Yesterday I spent the afternoon and evening with my brother’s family–they invited me for a birthday dinner and family movie. Unsurprisingly, while I wasn’t paying attention for a few hours the president-elect did massive damage to U.S. foreign policy, overturning decades-long policies on China. And it appears this wasn’t about policy but about enriching the #tRump family business.
Ann Gearan at The Washington Post: Trump speaks with Taiwanese president, a major break with decades of U.S. policy on China
President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday with Taiwan’s president, a major departure from decades of U.S. policy in Asia and a breach of diplomatic protocol with ramifications for the incoming president’s relations with China.
The call is the first known contact between a U.S. president or president-elect with a Taiwanese leader since before the United States broke diplomatic relations with the island in 1979. China considers Taiwan a province, and news of the official outreach by Trump is likely to infuriate the regional military and economic power.
The exchange is one of a string of unorthodox conversations with foreign leaders that Trump has held since his election. It comes at a particularly tense time between China and Taiwan, which earlier this year elected a president, Tsai Ing-wen, who has not endorsed the notion of a unified China. Her election angered Beijing to the point of cutting off all official communication with the island government.
It is not clear whether Trump intends a more formal shift in U.S. relations with Taiwan or China. On the call, Trump and Tsai congratulated each other on winning their elections, a statement from Trump’s transition office said….
A statement from the Taiwanese president’s office said the call lasted more than 10 minutes and included discussion of economic development and national security, and about “strengthening bilateral relations.”
Trump claimed the call was initiated by Taiwan’s president, but that was a lie, NBC News reports:
BEIJING — A phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwan’s leader that risks damaging relations between the U.S. and China was pre-arranged, a top Taiwanese official told NBC News on Saturday.
Trump — who lambasted China throughout the election campaign and promised to slap 45 percent tariffs on Chinese goods — tweeted that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen had called him.
“Maintaining good relations with the United States is as important as maintaining good relations across the Taiwan Strait,” Taiwanese presidential spokesman Alex Huang told NBC News. “Both are in line with Taiwan’s national interest.”
He added that the call had not been a surprise.
Apparently the call was carefully planned and scheduled by Trump staffers. It was also reported that bomb-thrower John Bolton was seen at Trump tower yesterday. Could he have helped instigate this?
After the media reported foreign policy experts’ heads exploding, Trump defensively tweeted again.
China was apparently on the phone with the White House right after the news broke, and they have now filed a complaint with the U.S. about this breach of diplomacy. The Guardian:
China has lodged “solemn representations” with the US over a call between the president-elect, Donald Trump, and Taiwan’s leader, Tsai Ing-wen.
Trump looked to have sparked a potentially damaging diplomatic row with Beijing on Friday after speaking to the Taiwanese president on the telephone….
The US closed its embassy in Taiwan – a democratically ruled island which Beijing regards as a breakaway province – in the late 1970s after the historic rapprochement between Beijing and Washington that stemmed from Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to China.
Since then the US has adhered to the “One China” principle, which officially considers the independently governed island to be part of the same single Chinese nation as the mainland.
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said in a statement on Saturday: “It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory. The government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing China.”
Geng added: “This is a fact that is generally recognised by the international community.”
#tRrump is a real bull in a china shop, so to speak. But what was his real goal in talking to Taiwan? Think Progress: Trump’s unusual phone call is great for his business, dangerous for America.
Trump is mixing his business with the presidency. Today was a stark illustration that the combination is extremely dangerous — to Americans and the world.
The Financial Times, citing three sources, reports that Trump called Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan, on Friday. The call is a symbolic breach of the United States’ “One China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as the only government and which has been in place since 1972.
The call will antagonize China and risks “opening up a major diplomatic dispute with China before he has even been inaugurated.”
The incident is raising eyebrows because the Trump Organization, in which Trump plans to maintain ownership as president, is actively seeking new business opportunities in Taiwan. The Shanghaiist reported on the Trump Organization’s interest last month:
A representative from the Trump Organization paid a visit to Taoyuan in September, expressing interest in the city’s Aerotropolis, a large-scale urban development project aimed at capitalizing on Taoyuan’s status as a transport hub for East Asia, Taiwan News reports.With the review process for the Aerotropolis still underway, Taoyuan’s mayor referred to the subject of the meeting as mere investment speculation. Other reports indicate that Eric Trump, the president-elect’s second son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will be coming to Taoyuan later this year to discuss the potential business opportunity.
#tRump is trying to turn our country into a wholly owned subsidiary of the #tRump organization.
In just the past couple of days, Trump has bumbled through bizarre phone calls with Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte. Do you supposed #tRump even knows that China, Pakistan and sworn enemy India have nukes?
The Atlantic: Lessons From Trump’s ‘Fantastic’ Phone Call to Pakistan.
This week, the U.S. president-elect spoke with the Pakistani prime minister and, according to the Pakistani government’s account of the conversation, delivered the following message: Everything is awesome. It was, arguably, the most surprising presidential phone call since George H.W. Bush got pranked by that pretend Iranian president.
Pakistan, Donald Trump reportedly told Nawaz Sharif, is a “fantastic” country full of “fantastic” people that he “would love” to visit as president. Sharif was described as “terrific.” Pakistanis “are one of the most intelligent people,” Trump allegedly added. “I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.” ….
Like their problems with India?
It’s unclear how accurate the Pakistani government’s record of the discussion is, though the language does have a Trumpian ring to it (Trump’s transition team released a much more subdued summary of the call). But what’s surprising about the account is how disconnected it is from the current state of affairs. Everything is not awesome in U.S.-Pakistan relations. The two countries are the bitterest of friends. They have long clashed over the haven that terrorist groups have found in Pakistan and over U.S. efforts, including drone strikes and the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, to kill those terrorists. Pakistan, a nation with a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, is the archenemy of India, another nuclear-armed state and a critical U.S. ally. U.S. officials see Pakistan—with its weak political institutions and suspected government support for militant groups in Afghanistan and the contested territory of Kashmir—as an alarming source of regional instability. The suspicion is mutual: Just a fifth of Pakistanis have a favorable view of the United States. Trump himself has argued that Pakistan “is probably the most dangerous” country in the world, and that India needs to serve as “the check” to it.
The reports also provoked a caustic response from the Indian government, which opposes U.S. mediation in its border dispute with Pakistan. “We look forward to the president-elect helping Pakistan address the most outstanding of its outstanding issues: terrorism,” a spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs said. And, ultimately, they forced Pakistani officials to backpedal after initially publicizing the conversation. “Our relationship with the United States is not about personalities—it is about institutions,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarified. In other words, a brief, breezy conversation had real reverberations on the subcontinent.One lesson of the phone call is that words matter, especially in international relations where information is patchy, things get lost in translation, rhetoric is often interpreted as policy, and a government’s credibility is only as good as its word. (Think of all the people in the United States puzzling over what policies Trump will pursue as president; now imagine trying to do that from Islamabad or New Delhi.)
And now Pakistan is sending an envoy to meet with the #tRump bumblers. The Indian Express reports:
Pakistan has decided to send an envoy to the US to hold meetings with Donald Trump’s transition team, two days after a “productive” telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the President-elect. Pakistani Prime Minister’s special assistant for foreign affairs Tariq Fatemi will visit the US this weekend to meet officials of the Trump transition team.
Fatemi’s meeting with officials of Trump transition team was confirmed by Jalil Abbas Jilani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US. “Besides meeting members of the transition team, Fatemi will meet officials of the outgoing Obama administration,” said Jilani.
Huffington Post: Donald Trump Praises Philippines Deadly Drug War And Invites Leader To White House.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump praised Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte for his war on drugs that has left thousands dead, Duterte said on Saturday after the two held a phone conversation in which Trump also invited Duterte the White House.
“He was quite sensitive also to our worry about drugs. And he wishes me well … in my campaign and he said that … we are doing it as a sovereign nation, the right way,” Duterte said in a statement. Duterte has conducted a severe crackdown on drugs in the country, where police and vigilante groups have killed thousands.
Trump’s brief chat with the firebrand Philippine president follows a period of uncertainty about one of Washington’s most important Asian alliances, stoked by Duterte’s hostility towards President Barack Obama and repeated threats to sever decades-old defense ties.
The call lasted just over seven minutes, Duterte’s special advisor, Christopher Go, said in a text message to media, which gave few details. Trump’s transition team had no immediate comment.
So #tRump is on the record supporting mass murder now. Awesome.
Two more links to check out:
The New York Times: How Trump’s Calls to World Leaders Are Upsetting Decades of Diplomacy.
The Washington Post: Donald Trump keeps confirming fears about his diplomatic skills.
Isn’t there anyone who can do something about this monster before he destroys our country and/or blows up the world? We are so screwed.
What stories are you following today?
Thursday ReadsPosted: December 1, 2016 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: anxiety and depression, CIA, Donald Trump, India, Iran deal, John Brennan, magic mushrooms, Pakistan, psilocybin, Russia, Tennessee wildfires, US Office of Government Ethics 50 Comments
Today is my birthday. I don’t feel much like celebrating, but I’m being lazy so I don’t know when this post will go up.
The wildfires in Tennessee are a real disaster. I’m hoping our beloved ANonOMouse and her family are still safe.
NBC News: Seven Deaths Confirmed as Smokies Wildfires Spread in Tennessee.
Officials were continuing to assess the damage Thursday from a ferocious wildfire that erupted across Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park more than a week ago, killing at least seven people and gutting over 700 structures.
Drenching rain on Wednesday helped firefighters beat back the massive blaze, which still burned more than 15,650 acres and was about 10 percent contained, according to the Southern Area Incident Management Team, which assumed command of the fire.
Rescue operations have been slowed by mud and rockslides caused by the wet weather.
“The rain we received may have slowed this fire for a day or two at a critical time, but the threat from this fire is still there,” the team said.
While large swaths of the national park were ravaged, the wind-whipped flames also reached the neighboring Appalachian tourist meccas of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
The Washington Post: Tennessee officials say wildfires that left 7 dead ‘likely to be human-caused.’
Efforts to pinpoint the cause of deadly wildfires that engulfed two popular tourist towns outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park and shut down one of the country’s most popular natural attractions focused Thursday on their devastating path through East Tennessee, where officials said at least seven people were dead and hundreds of buildings have burned.
Several people remained missing Thursday, and at least 53 people have been treated for injuries at hospitals, though their conditions were not known.
The fires are estimated to have damaged or destroyed more than 700 homes and businesses throughout Sevier County — nearly half of them in the city of Gatlinburg. Additionally, thousands of wooded acres have burned in the most-visited national park in America.
Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said that the first fires, spotted last week, were “likely to be human-caused.”
As people throughout Sevier County tried to return to their routines Thursday, some schools were still closed and access to Gatlinburg remained limited.
The story doesn’t give anymore information about the suspected causes of the fires.
In other non-political news, researchers have discovered that psilocybin could help people with anxiety and depression just like MyEtizolam. AP via TPM: Studies: ‘Magic Mushroom’ Psychedelic Drug May Ease Anxiety, Depression.
The psychedelic drug in “magic mushrooms” can quickly and effectively help treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients, an effect that may last for months, two small studies show.
Have you heard about the conversation #tRump had with the prime minster of Pakistan? Yes, the president-elect is still talkingto foreign leaders on his personal phone without benefit of intelligence briefings or background information from the State Department.
Time Magazine: Donald Trump’s Phone Conversation With the Leader of Pakistan Was Reckless and Bizarre.
There are few foreign policy topics quite as complicated as the relationship between India and Pakistan, South Asia’s nuclear-armed nemeses. Any world leader approaching the issue even obliquely must surely see the “Handle With Care” label from miles away, given the possibility of nuclear conflict.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, however, doesn’t seem to have read the memo, injecting a pronounced element of uncertainty about the position of the world’s only remaining superpower on this most complex of subjects in a call with the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
According to a readout of the conversation from the Pakistani authorities, he apparently agreed to visit the country and said he was “ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.” He reportedly added: “You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way.”
The hilarity of his hyperbole aside, Trump’s intervention could have serious consequences for both regional and global stability.
Do you suppose #tRump knows that both Pakistan and India have nukes and they hate each others’ guts? Anyway, read the rest at the link. Here’s the full readout of the call from Pakistan’s press information site. The Trump people don’t bother to provide any information about the god-emperor’s phone calls.
Yesterday the CIA head John Brennan tried to give #tRump some foreign policy suggestions via an interview with the BBC. The New York Times reports: C.I.A. Chief Warns Donald Trump Against Tearing Up Iran Nuclear Deal.
LONDON — The director of the C.I.A. has issued a stark warning to President-elect Donald J. Trump: Tearing up the Iran nuclear dealwould be “the height of folly” and “disastrous.”
During the election campaign, Mr. Trump railed against the deal, calling it a disaster and pledging to “dismantle” the historic accord, reached in 2015, in which Tehran agreed to limits on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of international oil and financial sanctions.
Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas, a Republican whom Mr. Trump has chosen to succeed John O. Brennan as head of the C.I.A., wrote in mid-November on Twitter, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”
But in an interview with the BBC that was published on its website on Wednesday, Mr. Brennan warned that scrapping the nuclear deal would undermine American foreign policy, embolden hard-liners in Iran and threaten to set off an arms race in the Middle East by encouraging other countries to develop nuclear weapons.
“First of all, for one administration to tear up an agreement that a previous administration made would be unprecedented,” Mr. Brennan said in the BBC interview, which the broadcaster said was the first by a C.I.A. director with the British news media. “I think it would be the height of folly if the next administration were to tear up that agreement.”
Mr. Trump has professed admiration for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, calling him a strong leader, and promised closer relations with Moscow, but Mr. Brennan, who was appointed by President Obama and will step down in January after four years, warned that the incoming http://Loanovao needed to be skeptical about the Kremlin.
“I think President Trump and the new administration need to be wary of Russian promises,” he told the BBC, reiterating the widely held view that Russia had carried out hacking during the United States election and blaming Moscow for the deteriorating situation in Syria.
More at the link. #tRump supposedly reads the NYT; will he pay attention? Probably not.
Some analysis from Vox: CIA Director John Brennan tells the BBC that Trump’s ideas are terrible.
On Wednesday morning, the BBC published excerpts from an interview with CIA Director John Brennan, the first time a serving head of America’s best-known spy agency has sat down with the British media, according to the BBC. Brennan’s comments are, unmistakably, a shot at Donald Trump. He calls Trump’s proposal to scrap the Iran deal “disastrous,” warns that “the overwhelming majority of CIA officers” oppose Trump’s call to bring back torture of suspected terrorists, and says the famously Putin-sympathetic Trump should “beware Russian promises.”
Brennan is stepping down from the CIA leadership on January 20, so he’ll never have to deal with President Trump directly. That means he’s free to do something as brazen as trash the incoming president on one of the world’s most-watched TV channels.
If you take a deeper look at Brennan’s comments, you start to realize that he’s expressing criticisms of Trump policies that are widely held in the foreign policy community.Take his attack on Trump’s approach to the Iran deal, which Brennan calls “the height of folly.” He warns that doing so would allow Iran to simply restart its nuclear program.
This, as my colleague Zeeshan Aleem explains, is the consensus among even anti-deal experts and policymakers. That’s because of the way the deal is structured: Iran has already gotten the sanctions relief it was promised, but has yet to fully comply with the terms of the deal that dismantle its nuclear program. If Trump were to scrap the deal on day one, Iran would have everything it wanted without having to give up too much. It would have billions of new dollars as well, and a free hand to build a nuke without pesky international inspectors.
Brennan’s position on Russia is another good example. His argument is that the Obama administration’s negotiations with Russia have mostly failed to alter Moscow’s worst behavior — for example, its slaughtering of civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo and bombing of the moderate opposition looking to unseat Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.
Intelligence officials have been reduced to trying to communicate with a madman through the media. Please go over to Vox and read the rest.
You probably heard that #tRump drove someone at the Office of Government Ethics Office to nervous breakdown yesterday. Slate: Federal Ethics Agency Spent the Afternoon Sarcastically Praising Donald Trump.
The U.S. Office of Government Ethics, as its name suggests, interprets and advises federal officials on the ethics laws and rules designed to help keep them honest. “When government decisions are made free from conflicts of interest, the public can have greater confidence in the integrity of executive branch programs and operations,” its mission statement admirably declares. Given what likely awaits the agency in less than two months’ time, it understandably had some, um, thoughts on Donald Trump’s vague, predawn Twitter announcement that he will be “leaving his great business” to focus on the presidency….
Remarkably, those exclamation-filled tweets from a normally staid Twitter account don’t appear to be the result of a hack. “Like everyone else, we were excited this morning to read the President-elect’s twitter feed indicating he wants to be free of conflicts of interest,” agency spokesman Seth Jaffe said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. He added: “We don’t know the details of their plan, but we are willing and eager to help them with it.”
A few of the tweets (see the rest at Slate):
That’s it for me today. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy the rest of your Thursday!
Lazy Saturday ReadsPosted: June 7, 2014 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: A Girl of the Limberlost, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Bode Bergdahl, Boston bombing, genre fiction, Hershey Candy Company, India, Khairullozhon Matanov, literary fiction, Mark Ames, Maureen Dowd, mental illness, Pierre Omidyar, reading for pleasure, Ruth Graham, Ukraine, YA, Young Adult novels 36 Comments
Yesterday, Slate published a piece by Ruth Graham that started a minor controversy on Twitter and various blogs. Graham argued that adults should be ashamed to be caught reading books written for the Young Adult (YA) audience. Graham writes:
The once-unseemly notion that it’s acceptable for not-young adults to read young-adult fiction is now conventional wisdom. Today, grown-ups brandish their copies of teen novels with pride. There are endless lists of YA novels that adults should read, an “I read YA” campaign for grown-up YA fans, and confessional posts by adult YA addicts. But reading YA doesn’t make for much of a confession these days: A 2012 survey by a market research firm found that 55 percent of these books are bought by people older than 18. (The definition of YA is increasingly fuzzy, but it generally refers to books written for 12- to 17-year-olds. Meanwhile, the cultural definition of “young adult” now stretches practically to age 30, which may have something to do with this whole phenomenon.)
The largest group of buyers in that survey—accounting for a whopping 28 percent of all YA sales—are between ages 30 and 44. That’s my demographic, which might be why I wasn’t surprised to hear this news. I’m surrounded by YA-loving adults, both in real life and online. Today’s YA, we are constantly reminded, is worldly and adult-worthy. That has kept me bashful about expressing my own fuddy-duddy opinion: Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.
Graham has no problem with adolescents reading these books, but she thinks adults should focus on reading “literary fiction,” because “Life is so short, and the list of truly great books for adults is so long.”
I’m not one of the demographic that reads the new YA books, but I do love to escape into detective stories and I know many adults who enjoy reading science fiction and fantasy. In essence, what Graham’s is arguing against is so-called “genre fiction.” Her article made me want to rush out and buy a couple of Harry Potter books. The idea that anyone should be shamed for reading something that gives them pleasure really rubbed me the wrong way; and the notion that adults should avoid reading for pleasure–what Graham characterizes as “escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia.” Her real problem with YA lit is that it is specifically designed to be give pleasure.
Of course I was not alone in my reaction to Graham’s essay. There were a number of excellent responses. Here’s Hillary Kelly from The New Republic: In Praise of Reading Whatever the Hell You Want: Don’t let Slate make you feel ashamed for reading books that you love.
One evening when I was 11 years old, lifelong friends of my parents came to our house for dinner. As the youngest child, I was the only one left at home to sulk on our living room floor and listen to adult chatter that I neither understood nor cared about. But the couple, Bob and Nancy, were thoughtful enough (and had witnessed my boredom enough) to bring me something to keep me occupied: a book, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
I won’t gush too long and too hard about how that novel affected me, how I felt Francie Nolan’s injustices, how romantic I found her fire escape reading perch, how I reveled in the fact that Francie was a reader like me. It’s enough to say that I loved—in fact, love—that novel. I reread it about once a year.
In the intervening years, I’ve only found about a half dozen “young adult” books that I’ve enjoyed and found fulfilling. I will reread the Harry Potter books over and over until the day I die. I haven’t come close to picking up The Fault in Our Stars. I found The Hunger Games books clumsy and absurd. Don’t get me going on The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I rarely, if ever, seek out YA lit. It just (usually) isn’t my thing. But that doesn’t mean that the Ruth Graham piece Slate published Thursday, titled “Against YA: Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children,” has any merit whatsoever. In fact, Graham fundamentally misunderstands and mislabels the entire genre, and sends a ridiculous message that any reader should rebel against: “Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children” (itals hers).
You should never be embarrassed by any book you enjoy. And you certainly shouldn’t let some woman you’ve never met make you feel inferior for reading beneath your grade level.
As a young girl, I also read and loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I’ve never been tempted to go back and reread it, but I have reread other children’s books over the years–even books written for younger children. I’ve reread and cried over The Wind in the Willows, and I’ve often thought about rereading A Girl of the Limberlost and Laura Igalls Wilder’s “Little House” books, which I adored. I’ve reread Huckleberry Finn numerous times, each time getting more adult insights from it. Another book that I’ve reread several times with pleasure is The Hobbit.
There’s actually an even more practical argument against Graham’s premise that *real* reading should be a *very serious* endeavor. It’s very important for young children to develop a joy in reading–to learn to read for pleasure (pdf). Apparently this is something that is more recognized in the UK at the moment then here, where the focus is on testing and “Common Core standards.”
From the Guardian: How to encourage students to read for pleasure: teachers share their top tips.
The big challenge for teachers is not simply getting students to read – it’s getting them to enjoy it too. It’s one thing for students to trudge through set texts in a lesson, but will they open another book when they get home at the end of the day?
The National Literacy Trust has noted that becoming a lifetime reader is based on developing a deep love of reading.
“Research has repeatedly shown that motivation to read decreases with age, especially if pupils’ attitudes towards reading become less positive,” it said. “If children do not enjoy reading when they are young, then they are unlikely to do so when they get older.”
For younger readers in particular, their home environment is critically important.
“Home is a massive influence,” says Eleanor Webster, a primary school teacher in Nottinghamshire. “Supportive and understanding parents are key to developing their child’s reading.”
Here are a few more responses to the Graham piece if you’re interested:
Rachel Carter at The New Republic: I Write Young Adult Novels, and I Refuse to Apologize for It.
Alyssa Rosenberg at The Washington Post: No, you do not have to be ashamed of reading young adult fiction.
Kat Kinsman at CNN: Grownups: Don’t be ashamed of your YA habit.
Mark Shrayber at Jezebel: Hey, Everyone! Read Whatever the Fuck You Want.
Now a few newsy reads:
Have you heard about the edible pot controversy in Colorado? A few days ago Maureen Dowd wrote about the bad trip she took on a pot-infused candy bar, and the discussion went viral. Poor MoDo didn’t heed the warnings about not eating the whole thing at one sitting. From The Boston Globe: Maureen Dowd Eats Pot Candy in Denver, Breaks Internet.
As Dowd tells it, she legally purchased a caramel-chocolate flavored edible, ate it in her Denver hotel room, washed it down with some chardonnay, and then waited. About an hour later, the effects of THC set in, and the result was not good:
I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.
The high lasted eight hours. EIGHT.
Dowd’s conclusion is that pot candy needs to be better labelled. Newbies to the drug should only eat about 1/16 of the kind of bar she ate, according to a medical consultant at an edibles plant she interviewed. Her candy wrapper had no mention of recommended servings, she wrote.
The tour guide who escorted Dowd around said she was warned. It’s not clear if she was told the recommended serving size.
According to The Cannabis, Matt Brown, co-founder of tourism company My 420 Tours, accompanied Dowd as she purchased the edibles at a Denver dispensary. He said she “got the warning” about how edibles affect everyone differently.
I have to admit, I’m a little concerned about pot-infused candy. What if kids get ahold of it? — and inevitably they will. There’s also the man who killed his wife after eating some of the candy and smoking a joint. The Hershey Candy Company is also perturbed and they’re suing: From Boston.com:
DENVER (AP) — The Hershey Co. has sued a Colorado marijuana edibles maker, claiming it makes four pot-infused candies that too closely resemble iconic products of the chocolate maker.
The trademark infringement lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Denver this week against TinctureBelle LLC and TinctureBelle Marijuanka LLC.
It alleges TinctureBelle’s Ganja Joy, Hasheath, Hashees and Dabby Patty mimic Hershey’s Almond Joy, Heath, Reese’s peanut butter cups and York peppermint patty candies, respectively.
At Pando Daily, Mark Ames is continuing to follow the international adventures of Glenn Greenwald’s boss Pierre Omidyar. Two weeks ago, he revealed Omidyar’s role in supporting and profiting from the election of India’s new fascist government: REVEALED: The head of Omidyar Network in India had a secret second job… Helping elect Narendra Modi. He followed up last week with this: eBay Shrugged: Pierre Omidyar believes there should be no philanthropy without profit.
The role of Omidyar Network in so many major events of the past week — helping elect India’s ultranationalist leader Narendra Modi; co-funding Ukraine regime-change NGOswith USAID, resulting in a deadly civil war and Monday’s election of Ukrainian billionaireoligarch Petro Poroshenko; and now, this week’s first-ever sit-down TV interview with Edward Snowden, through an arrangement between NBC News and Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media — shows how these contradictions are coming to the fore, and shaping our world.
Omidyar’s central role in the US national security state’s global agenda may still come as a shock to outsiders and fans of First Look media’s roster of once-independent journalists. But to White House foreign policy hawks, Pierre Omidyar represents the new face of an old imperial tradition.
And this week, Ames wrote: Just as we predicted, India’s new leader is about to make Pierre Omidyar a lot richer.
Well that was fast. Two weeks ago, we reported that eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s top man in India had secretly helped elect controversial ultranationalist Narendra Modi, implicated by Human Rights Watch and others in the gruesome mass killings and cleansing of minority Muslims. As we also revealed, shortly after Omidyar’s man publicly joined the Modi campaign in February, Modi suddenly began warming up to the idea of letting global e-commerce companies into the world’s third largest economy. Omidyar’s eBay, which draws the majority of its revenues from overseas operations, has been champing at the bit to get into India.
Now, just weeks after Modi’s election, it seems their prayers have been answered.
Today, Reuters is reporting that Modi is planning to open India up to global e-commerce firms like eBay next month, and that Modi’s industry minister has been drawing up the new guidelines with input from top eBay officials, along with their e-commerce counterparts from Google, Amazon, Wal-Mart and others.
I wonder how all this ties in to Omidyar’s purchase of the Snowden data through Greenwald and Laura Poitras?
In a recent post, I mentioned that there has been a new arrest in the Boston bombing case. A friend of the Tsarnaev brothers, Khairullozhon Matanov, was arrested in Quincy, MA, last week and charged with obstruction of the bombing investigation. AP reported recently that Matanov had wired large amounts of money to people overseas. AP via The Daily Mail: Revealed: Boston bombing suspect’s friend wired $71,000 to people in six countries, as judge rules he should remain in jail.
A friend of Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev wired more than $71,000 to people in six countries and used fake names several times for the transactions – including while Tsarnaev was on a pilgrimage in Russia, according to prosecutors.
Khairullozhon Matanov, 23, is accused of deleting computer files and lying to agents investigating the 2013 bombings, which killed three and injured more than 260.
Prosecutors accuse the immigrant from Kyrgyzstan of a ‘pattern of deceit’ in dealing with authorities as they investigated the bomb attacks.
At a detention hearing, Matanov waived his right to seek release on bail. His lawyer said Matanov has no family here, lost his job as a cab driver after his indictment last week and has nowhere to go if he were released.
Curiouser and curiouser.
I’ll end with three links to interesting and helpful reads on the Bowe Bergdahl controversy.
Think Progress: Did Sergeant Bergdahl Desert The Army Or Did The Army Desert Him?
Reuters: Bergdahl reveals the impossible choices faced by hostages’ families.
NYT Editorial Board: The Rush to Demonize Sgt. Bergdahlgen