Posted: April 28, 2022 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Anthony Fauci, climate change and viruses, coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump, fasciism, nuclear weapons, Ron DeSantis, Victor Orban, Vladimir Putin, White House Correspondents' Dinner
Boulders with Meconopsos and Rhododendrons, Amanda Richardson
For years now, it’s been difficult for me to shake the feeling that I’m living in a dystopian novel. We lived through 4 years under an insane “president” who tried to destroy the post-WWII alliances that have prevented another world war. He also ignored and exacerbated a global pandemic that has now killed close to a million Americans.
I had hoped that when Trump was defeated, he would go away and leave us alone; but instead he is still spreading his poisonous lies– and the Republican Party is still kowtowing to him. Even worse, powerful Republicans like Governors Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis are building on Trump’s legacy by enabling fascist policies in their states.
Unfortunately, despite popular opinion, the pandemic is not over, we’re not dealing effectively with climate change, and we are once more living under a threat of nuclear destruction.
The Washington Post: U.S. no longer in ‘full-blown’ pandemic phase, Fauci says.
The United States is finally “out of the full-blown explosive pandemic phase” that has led to nearly 1 million deaths from covid-19 and more than two years of suffering and hardship, Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Wednesday.
“We’re really in a transitional phase, from a deceleration of the numbers into hopefully a more controlled phase and endemicity,” Fauci told The Washington Post.
Fauci’s comments came a day after he told PBS’s “NewsHour” that he believed the country is “out of the pandemic phase,” and he expanded on, and clarified, that view Wednesday, making clear that the pandemic is not over and the United States could still see new waves of infections as the virus continues to mutate and spin off highly transmissible variants. But Fauci and other infectious-disease experts are hoping that the population has built up enough immunity from previous infections and vaccinations to avoid another devastating surge in hospitalizations and deaths.
“The world is still in a pandemic. There’s no doubt about that. Don’t anybody get any misinterpretation of that. We are still experiencing a pandemic,” Fauci said.
Huh? We’re out of the “pandemic phase,” but the pandemic is not over?
Camille Monet and child in the artist’s garden in Argenteuil, 1875 Claude Monet
His comments follow a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that roughly 3 in 5 people in the United States have already been infected by the coronavirus. About 1 in 4 people had a first-time infection during the winter wave caused by the omicron variant.
These startling numbers suggest the country has a much higher level of collective immunity than it did before omicron. What is far less clear is how long that immunity will persist, and to what extent it could be evaded by new coronavirus variants.
The omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 is the latest version to seize the attention of public health experts. It is rapidly gaining traction, and CDC estimated Tuesday that it accounted for about 30 percent of new infections. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said preliminary estimates suggest it is about 25 percent more transmissible than the omicron subvariant BA.2, itself more transmissible than the original omicron strain.
There’s also the problem that we are not testing as much these days; and many people are self-testing at home, so the results are not being reported. Meanwhile, Fauci is concerned enough that he is not going to attend the next possible DC super spreader event:
Fauci, meanwhile, has decided against going to the swank White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday, which Biden reportedly plans to attend. Fauci this month attended the Gridiron dinner, at which scores of people became infected. On Wednesday, he declined to discuss his reasoning for skipping what’s often referred to as the “nerd prom,” saying simply, “It’s just my personal choice.
The WH correspondents organization has made a disturbing decision about their event. The Washington Post: A fight over coronavirus safety at journalists’ gala event.
More than 2,000 journalists, celebrities and politicians, including President Biden, are set to descend on the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner this weekend in what is shaping up to be a major test of whether large gatherings can be safely held at this stage of the pandemic.
Organizers say they are committed to holding an event that significantly reduces the risk of coronavirus infections, pointing to vaccine and testing requirements that were strengthened after a dinner hosted by Washington’s Gridiron Club this month was linked to at least 85 infections that sickened Cabinet members, reporters and other guests.
The Way Home, Peder Monsted, Danish painter
Yet some White House officials and experts worry that those measures are insufficient and that this weekend’s events may become another high-profile superspreader event, said three administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue. Behind the scenes, one prominent coronavirus expert is scrapping with party organizers hesitant to install devices that disinfect the air using ultraviolet light because of concerns the devices might interfere with the program.
Don Milton, a University of Maryland environmental scientist who has advised the White House and others on airborne transmission, said his offer to have a company install the devicesat no charge was rebuffed by both the correspondents’ association and the Washington Hilton, which is hosting the event. “I enlisted a team of scientists and germicidal UV lighting companies to provide, as a demonstration project at no cost, a temporary installation to help protect the White House correspondents’ dinner,” Milton said. “Unfortunately, it has not worked out.”
In an interview, Steve Portnoy, a CBS News reporter who serves as the WHCA’s president,said the association had put safety protocols in place and Milton’s offer came too late.
“We’re interested in learning more about this technology,” Portnoy said. “We just aren’t in a position, with less than a week to go, to more fully understand the benefits or potential risks of what appears to be an experimental technology.”
What about the “potential risks” of the president getting Covid?
The New York Times: Climate Change Will Accelerate Viral Spillovers, Study Finds.
Over the next 50 years, climate change will drive thousands of viruses to jump from one species of mammal to another, according to a study published in Nature on Thursday. The shuffling of viruses among animals may increase the risk that one will jump into humans and cause a new pandemic, the researchers said.
Scientists have long warned that a warming planet may increase the burden of diseases. Malaria, for example, is expected to spread as the mosquitoes that carry it expand their range into warming regions. But climate change might also usher in entirely new diseases, by allowing pathogens to move into new host species.
“We know that species are moving, and when they do, they’re going to have these chances to share viruses,” said Colin Carlson, a biologist at Georgetown University and a co-author of the new study.
To understand what that sharing will look like, Dr. Carlson and his colleagues built a computer model of potential spillovers in a warming world. The researchers started by projecting how thousands of mammals might shift their ranges as the climate changes between now and 2070.
As temperatures increase, many species are expected to spread away from the blazing Equator to find more comfortable habitats. Others may move up the sides of hills and mountains to find cooler altitudes. When different species come into contact for the first time, the viruses may be able to infect new hosts.
Wind from the sea, Andrew Wyeth, 1947
To understand the odds of a successful new infection, the researchers began by building a database of viruses and their mammalian hosts. Some viruses have been found in more than one species of mammal, which means that they must have jumped the species barrier at some point in the past.
Using a computational technique called machine learning, the researchers developed a model that could predict whether two host species share a virus.
The more that two species overlap geographically, the researchers found, the more likely they were to share a virus. That’s because the hosts were more likely to encounter each other, giving their viruses more opportunities to move between them.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Zach Beauchamp at Vox: Ron DeSantis is Viktor Orbán’s true American disciple.
In June of last year, Hungary’s far-right government passed a law cracking down on LGBTQ rights, including a provision prohibiting instruction on LGBTQ topics in sex education classes.
About nine months later, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill banning “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” up through third grade. According to some knowledgeable observers on the right, these two bills were closely connected.
“About the Don’t Say Gay law, it was in fact modeled in part on what Hungary did last summer,” Rod Dreher, a senior editor at the American Conservative magazine, said during a panel interview in Budapest. “I was told this by a conservative reporter who … said he talked to the press secretary of Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and she said, ‘Oh yeah, we were watching the Hungarians, so yay Hungary.’” [….]
It’s easy to see the connections between the bills — in both provisions and justifications. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán described his country’s anti-LGBTQ law as an effort to prevent gay people from preying on children; Pushaw described Florida’s law as an “anti-grooming bill” on Twitter, adding that “if you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer” — meaning a person preparing children to become targets of sexual abuse, a slur targeting LGBTQ people and their supporters that’s becoming increasingly common on the right.
Oak Grove, 1887, Ivan Shishkin
This is not a one-off example. DeSantis, who has built a profile as a pugilistic culture warrior with eyes on the presidency, has steadily put together a policy agenda with strong echoes of Orbán’s governing ethos — one in which an allegedly existential cultural threat from the left justifies aggressive uses of state power against the right’s enemies.
Most recently, there was DeSantis’s crackdown on Disney’s special tax exemption; using regulatory powers to punish opposing political speech is one of Orbán’s signature moves. On issues ranging from higher education to social media to gerrymandering, DeSantis has followed a trail blazed by Orbán, turning policy into a tool for targeting outgroups while entrenching his party’s hold on power….
DeSantis’s agenda in Florida is evidence that the Republican shift in this direction is continuing, maybe even accelerating. He has shown little interest in moderation or consensus-building instead centering his governing philosophy on using policy to own the libs. While Trump may have been an ideological catalyst for the GOP’s authoritarian lurch, DeSantis is showing how it could actually be implemented in practice. The consequences for democracy in Florida, and America in general, could be dire.
There’s much more at the Vox link.
Financial Times: The return of the 20th century’s nuclear shadow.
Vladimir Putin’s willingness to threaten nuclear weapons is in one respect a good sign: it means Russia is probably losing in Ukraine. It is also a potentially catastrophic one. If Putin’s aim is to scare the west, he is failing. Nato keeps stepping up its supplies to Ukraine. The question is what he would do if he thought Russian defeat was inescapable. Putin keeps implying he knows exactly what steps he would take. Is he bluffing? It is plausible even he does not know the answer.
Either way, the genie is out of the bottle. Putin has broken a post-Cuba taboo on threatening to go nuclear. That, in itself, puts us in new territory. Without most people being aware of it, the world is entering its most dangerous period since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The majority under the age of 50 have grown up thinking the nuclear spectre is a relic of the last century. In the past few weeks, the prospect of a nuclear exchange has become the most live threat to this century’s peace.
In terms of public awareness, the debate about Putin’s language is a good example of “those who don’t know talk, and those who know don’t talk”. It is easy to think of Putin as a poker addict trying to bluster his way out of a bad bet. Eventually he must fold. US civilian and military officials suffer from no such complacency. Many have taken part in war game exercises where the use of low-yielding tactical nuclear weapons as often as not escalates to strategic nuclear exchange — doomsday, in plain English.
Windmills in the Ukrainian Steppe at Sunset, 1862, Ivan Aivazovsky
If there were a 5 per cent chance of Putin detonating a battlefield nuclear weapon, the world would be at more risk than at any point in most people’s lifetimes. In the past few days, Moscow’s signalling has arguably raised the chances to one in 10. Putin described last week’s test of the Sarmat hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile as giving the west “food for thought”, which would not sound out of place from Blofeld, the 20th-century Bond villain. On Wednesday, Putin said: “We have all the instruments for this [responding to an existential threat to Russia] — ones nobody else can boast of. And we will use them, if we have to.”
The natural response is that Joe Biden and his European counterparts have made it plain Nato will not fight in Ukraine. The west, in other words, poses no “existential threat” to Russia — its threshold for use of nuclear weapons. But that is only how the west sees it. Putin’s threats, and those of his officials, have been made in the context of claiming Russia is already at war with Nato. Russians are being told every day that they are in a fight for national survival against western-backed Nazis. This level of rhetoric exceeds anything from the cold war.
One more from David Rothkopf at The Daily Beast: Putin Must Be Stopped Once and for All.
Defending Ukraine is not enough. Defeating Russia on the battlefield is not enough. We must ensure—using every means at our disposal—that Vladimir Putin may never again commit the kinds of atrocities that have marked his two decades in power.
Fortunately, this week, it was made absolutely clear that the Biden administration recognizes that necessity and has made it a strategic centerpiece of their foreign and national security policy efforts.
On Monday, after visiting Ukraine with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”
Although one senior U.S. official admitted to me (somewhat uneasily) that “Austin said the quiet part out loud,” it soon became clear that the U.S. was publicly willing to own the new goal of turning Russia’s unprovoked, brutal escalation of its ongoing eight-year war in Ukraine into a lasting and meaningful defeat for the Kremlin.
On Tuesday in Germany—at a meeting of the “Ukraine Defense Consultative Group” (a gathering of the countries from around the world that have pledged to support Ukraine’s war effort)—Secretary Austin said it was the U.S. belief that Ukraine can win the war with Russia. Austin’s spokesperson, John Kirby, stated: “We don’t want a Russia that’s capable of exerting that kind of malign influence in Europe or anywhere in the world.”
That’s all I have for you today. I hope the paintings help just a little bit.
Posted: April 27, 2013 Filed under: Barack Obama, Crime, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: EU austerity, Frank Luntz, grand jury, Lindsay Lohan, Reno Saccoccia, sequestration, snit fits, Steubenville High School, Steubenville rape case, Tom Brokaw, Tommy Christopher, University of Pennsylvania, White House Correspondents' Dinner
There is some news coming out of Steubenville, Ohio in the buildup to the the grand jury investigation, which begins hearing from witnesses on Tuesday.
From The Columbus Dispatch: School, other sites searched in wider Steubenville rape probe
Police officers and investigators yesterday were searching the eastern Ohio high school attended by two football players who raped a 16-year-old girl after an alcohol-fueled party last summer, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said.
Searches also took place at Vestige Ltd., a digital-evidence company in northeastern Ohio, and the offices of the Steubenville school board in addition to Steubenville High School, DeWine said. The searches are part of an attempt to learn whether other laws were broken in connection with the rape.
“What I hope people will believe when we’re done is that we did everything we could to find the truth and that justice was done,” DeWine said in an interview. “What you’re seeing today is just part of that effort.”
Using warrants, police officers and investigators began the searches about 2 p.m. and possibly would work into the night, DeWine said. There was no immediate word on what the searches turned up…
Judges sealed investigators’ requests for the search warrants at the request of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, ruling that disclosing them “would be detrimental to the ongoing criminal investigation,” according to the judges’ orders.
Investigators leaving Steubenville High School on Thursday with documents, servers, and computers (Atlantic Wire)
The Atlantic Wire asks: What Is Steubenville Still Hiding?
Toward the end of the school day Thursday, more than eight months after a Steubenville Big Red pre-season game turned into a serious of house parties and a series of attacks on a 16-year-old girl, local police and investigators showed up — as if out of nowhere — at Steubenville High. They stayed on campus into the night, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told the Associated Press, executing search warrants that were either new or unheard of — and certainly fascinating. “Steubenville Police assisted the Attorney General in the search warrants,” said William McCafferty, the local police chief who “begged” for evidence when the initial crime was reported. Officials for Steubenville city schools, who have been publicly silent (save for one brief statement) since that fateful August night that brought a social media and judicial storm upon the Ohio town, confirmed the search in a a statement released Friday reading in part that “we have been from the beginning and are continuing to fully cooperate with the authorities in this investigation.”
But this is a new investigation, and this week’s search appears to have an urgency of its own, as DeWine’s grand jury prepares to convene on Tuesday. The attorney general said the searches at Steubenville city schools were “just part of that effort” — an effort he announced after two Steubenville High students and football players, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were found guilty of rape. “We cannot bring finality to this matter without the convening of a grand jury,” DeWine said at the time. “I anticipate numerous witnesses will be called. The grand jury, quite frankly, could meet for a number of days.”
Grand juries, by their nature, are conducted in secret, and the warrants executed on Thursday remain sealed — and so it remains unclear whether investigators were searching computers, paperwork, or physical evidence. DeWine has said the grand jury will be looking for, among other things, at the crimes of failure to report a felony, tampering with evidence. DeWine explained that “indictments could be returned and additional charges could be filed” in light of the jury, the nine members of which were seated last week but will begin hearing testimony and reviewing evidence on April 30. He alsocalled the grand jury “a very good investigative tool as well as a very deliberative body,” which makes the timing of the school search all the more interesting.
It sounds like this could get interesting. Personally, I’m hoping Coach Reno Saccoccia gets his comeuppance.
Yesterday, Democrats in Congress once again allowed Republicans to treat them like doormats when they voted to ease sequestration “pain” for the mostly wealthy frequent flyers.
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Posted: April 29, 2012 Filed under: Barack Obama, Catfood Commission, China, Congress, Cuba, Discrimination against women, Federal Budget, Foreign Affairs, GLBT Rights, Great Britain, House of Representatives, jobs, morning reads, Republican politics, science, the GOP, U.S. Politics, unemployment, Violence against women, War on Women | Tags: Dark Shadows, food stamps, John Boehner, Military Funding, Shark Populations, SNAP, TANF, Tribeca Film Festival, Vernon Traversie, White House Correspondents' Dinner
This is Sunday, April 29th…the last Sunday in April. What a whirlwind of a month!
Today is also my mother’s birthday, so if you would just let me take a moment to say, “Happy Birthday Ma!”
I have lots of links for you this morning, some are serious…some are funny…and some are just ridiculous!
We will go ahead and get the serious ones out-of-the-way first. Yesterday was the big White House Correspondents Dinner, here are some choice bits for you to check out…it looks like it was a good one.
President Obama on Palin: What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? ‘A pit bull is delicious’
Now that is a funny joke…if you would like to see Obama’s stand-up in full:
One from The Associated Press: Romney, Secret Service, GOP: Obama mocks them all
Another from CNN: TRENDING: 2012 race makes fodder for Obama, Kimmel
And one last link for you about the WHCD: Lindsay Lohan Would Rather Take a Nap than Meet the President. The only reason I mention this Jezebel article is because it gives me the opportunity to say that Lindsay Lohan should not play Elizabeth Taylor! That’s for dang sure!
From Addicting Info, two links:
Rape Away The Gay? Radio Personality Tells Father To Get A Man To Rape His Daughter Until She Turns Straight
A radio personality in Cleveland is facing tremendous backlash after telling a father that he should get one of his male friends to rape his daughter to force her to turn straight.
In response to an email from a father who suspected his daughter was gay after discovering her kissing another girl, DJ Dominic Deiter declared on the air that “You should get one of your friends to screw your daughter straight.”
You read that correctly. An apparently anti-gay radio personality told a father that he should arrange for his daughter to be raped repeatedly until she magically turns straight.
And what radio network is responsible for such a revolting disc jockey? Take a guess…
After the disgusting remark, GLAAD received multiple reports about the incident, which was said during ‘Rover’s Morning Glory’ radio program that airs on WWMS 100.7 FM radio station on Clear Channel Communications, which includes radio shows hosted by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and several other right-wing radio shows. Clear Channel is also owned primarily by Bain Capital, the company that Mitt Romney began and is still involved with.
Yup, it makes me think of the perfect response…
The other link from Addicting Info, I will not post the photo, but if you click the link you can see it. Warning…it is graphic. Native American Blind Man Mutilated By Staff At Rapid City Hospital
As a country we have been mesmerized, sickened and disgusted by the shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. All eyes have been on this hate crime and emotions on both sides of the issue have run high.
But there are other stories out there, not so well publicized by the mainstream media. The most recent to come to light is the shocking mutilation of a 68-year-old blind man. His crime, it seems, is being a Native American living in South Dakota.
Vernon Traversie, a Lakota elder, suffered a heart attack last August and was taken to Rapid City Regional Hospital for emergency surgery. Upon his return home after a two-week stay, he found that three Ks had been carved or burned into his abdomen.
I know that was difficult to read, but I felt I should bring it to your attention. More information about this hateful mutilation at the link.
More news reads after the jump:
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Posted: April 30, 2011 Filed under: just because | Tags: Fake Obama vs. Real Ron Paul, White House Correspondents' Dinner
WHCD red carpet: THE DONALD
Tonight is the WH correspondents’ dinner.
via the NYT Caucus blog’s live coverage:
Donald Trump, who just arrived at the White House Correspondents Dinner, was booed while walking the red carpet. #WHCD#NerdPromstableford2 hours ago
Obama’s speaking right now… says tonight he’s going to release his birth video….
He played Lion King Circle of Life.
“I want to make clear to the Fox News channel. That was a joke.” — Obama
Earlier… Powell and Albright share a moment:
Also, here’s some more theater of the absurd from this week… Fake Obama v. Real Ron Paul on Stossel’s Fox show (h/t Stacy):