Categories
Personal

Self Portrait in The Time of the ‘Rona

Ran errands yesterday (food, pet food, booze), and I’d estimate 10%-20% of people I encountered in stores or walking on the street were wearing masks. I thought there would be more. I don’t have a quality mask, but at least it is something, and helps against touching my nose/mouth/eyes.

The hardest part for me was that my sunglasses kept fogging up.

Self Portrait in The Time of the 'Rona

Categories
Books science

Little Ice Age of 1550

Caves of Ice

Since the book I’m reading mentions the Little Ice Age of 1550 to approximately 1750, I looked it up in Wikipedia:

The Little Ice Age (LIA) was a period of cooling that occurred after the Medieval Warm Period. Although it was not a true ice age, the term was introduced into scientific literature by François E. Matthes in 1939. It has been conventionally defined as a period extending from the 16th to the 19th centuries, but some experts prefer an alternative timespan from about 1300 to about 1850.

 The NASA Earth Observatory notes three particularly cold intervals: one beginning about 1650, another about 1770, and the last in 1850, all separated by intervals of slight warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report considered the timing and areas affected by the Little Ice Age suggested largely independent regional climate changes rather than a globally synchronous increased glaciation. At most, there was modest cooling of the Northern Hemisphere during the period. Several causes have been proposed: cyclical lows in solar radiation, heightened volcanic activity, changes in the ocean circulation, variations in Earth’s orbit and axial tilt (orbital forcing), inherent variability in global climate, and decreases in the human population (for example from the Black Death and the colonization of the Americas).

(click here to continue reading Little Ice Age – Wikipedia.)

Eagle On An Alaskan Ocean Ice Floe near Juneau - 2007

Fascinating. The book I’m reading –1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created speculates the cause was related to deforestation, and subsequent burning of trees being stopped. Who knows?

“Eurasian bacteria, viruses, and parasites sweep through the Americas, killing huge numbers of people—and unraveling the millennia-old network of human intervention. Flames subside to embers across the Western Hemisphere as Indian torches are stilled. In the forests, fire-hating trees like oak and hickory muscle aside fire-loving species like loblolly, longleaf, and slash pine, which are so dependent on regular burning that their cones will only open and release seed when exposed to flame. Animals that Indians had hunted, keeping their numbers down, suddenly flourish in great numbers. And so on. 

Indigenous pyromania had long pumped carbon dioxide into the air. At the beginning of the Homogenocene the pump suddenly grows feeble. Formerly open grasslands fill with forest—a frenzy of photosynthesis. In 1634, fourteen years after the Pilgrims land in Plymouth, colonist William Wood complains that the once-open forests are now so choked with underbrush as to be “unuseful and troublesome to travel through.” Forests regenerate across swathes of North America, Mesoamerica, the Andes, and Amazonia.

Ruddiman’s idea was simple: the destruction of Indian societies by European epidemics both decreased native burning and increased tree growth. Each subtracted carbon dioxide from the air. In 2010 a research team led by Robert A. Dull of the University of Texas estimated that reforesting former farmland in American tropical regions alone could have been responsible for as much as a quarter of the temperature drop—an analysis, the researchers noted, that did not include the cutback in accidental fires, the return to forest of unfarmed but cleared areas, and the entire temperate zone. In the form of lethal bacteria and viruses, in other words, the Columbian Exchange (to quote Dull’s team) “significantly influenced Earth’s carbon budget.” It was today’s climate change in reverse, with human action removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere rather than adding them—a stunning meteorological overture to the Homogenocene.

Excerpt From: Charles C. Mann. “1493.” iBooks. https://books.apple.com/us/book/1493/id422528932

Ineffable Silences

Categories
politics

GOP Senator Ron Johnson: No More Than 3.4% of Our Population May Die

Pre-existing Conditions

Jonathan Chait:

“Right now, all people are hearing about are the deaths,” Republican Senator Ron Johnson told the New York Times last week. “I’m sure the deaths are horrific, but the flip side of this is the vast majority of people who get coronavirus do survive.” The problem with this line of reasoning is that “the vast majority” is not a useful standard when measuring a pandemic that is projected to infect at least half the population.

Johnson is comparing the virus to auto fatalities. Around 37,000 people die every year in car crashes, which is certainly a lot. But losing 1 to 3.4 percent of people who get the coronavirus would mean millions of deaths. So no, we don’t shut down the economy to prevent 37,000 deaths, but we might shut down the economy to prevent 100 times that many deaths.

(click here to continue reading GOP Senator: ‘No More Than 3.4% of Our Population’ May Die.)

Wisconsin is not sending their best to the U.S. Senate.

Wikipedia:

The United States is the third-most populous country in the world, with an estimated population of 329,227,746 as of January 28, 2020.

 

(click here to continue reading Demographics of the United States – Wikipedia.)

2% of 329,227,746 = 6.5 million people. If 2% of the US population died in a month or two, that would be a hell of a car crash. 3.4% is 11 million people, by the way.

Wash your hands…

Categories
Chicago-esque politics

Primary Day 2020

Exercising One's Franchise In The Time The Novel Coronovirus

Despite the underlying threat of contracting COVID-19 aka the Trump Flu, I voted in the primary today. 

191 N Clark Polling Place - Loop Super Site

The process was simple – it took me longer to walk to the polling location1 than it did to actually exercise my voting franchise.

I checked in, signed my name and address, using my own pen, gave my piece of paper to one clerk of the dozen or so, all of who were keeping several feet from each other, got my ballot smart card, went to the touchscreen. Again, there were enough voting machines that nobody was close to anyone else. Filled out my ballot, checked it twice, printed it out, and went to the optical scanner. Easy, peasy. 

More than just the president is on the ballot, as is always the case. I am interested in my Congressman losing in the primary, as I think it is time for fresh blood. I’ve had a Google alert for my Congressman for years, and he seemingly does nothing newsworthy most months. In fact, sometimes it will be years before I read any tidbit of news with his name. Sad, really. What does he do all day? I assume he does some work, and he seems like a pleasant enough man on a personal level, but I would be pleased if he was no longer my Congressman.

I voted for Kristine Schanbacher, fwiw.

WBEZ:

[Danny] Davis faces a similar push for new blood in the 7th Congressional District, which spans from west-central suburban Hillside all the way to Lake Michigan, making it one of the most economically diverse in Illinois. He was elected to his seat in 1996, after having served for nearly two decades on Chicago’s City Council and then the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

Davis’ opponents criticize him for missing a lot of votes, saying he’s no longer effective. One of his young challengers, Clark, a veteran and teacher from Oak Park, identifies as a Democratic Socialist and has been pushing a heavily issues-oriented campaign. Clark snagged the endorsement of the Sun-Times. Kina Collins, a community organizer for health care policy, has aligned with the newly elected alderman of Woodlawn, who’s been pressuring the Obama Presidential Center for a community benefits agreement. Another Davis challenger, Schanbacher, is a human rights lawyer from Streeterville. She already has the endorsement of three downtown and lakefront aldermen in Chicago and the west suburbs.

 

(click here to continue reading WBEZ 2020 Illinois Primary Election Voter Guide | WBEZ.)

Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands

Footnotes:
  1. changed at the last minute []
Categories
Personal

Grocery Shopping During a World-Wide Panic, Sample Size of One

I ran errands today1 – going to the pet store for cat food, and so on. For groceries, I first went to Local Foods to pick up what I could – they usually have excellent locally sourced produce and foods – and while some shelves were empty, I was able to pick up a bags worth of food, arugula, shiitake mushrooms, and some other items. The cashier said that Sunday was worse than Thanksgiving as far as store traffic, I believed her.

Then I went to the regional Whole Foods flagship store. Aiee caramba! I guess yesterday was bad, but today was still as busy as I’ve ever seen it, and I’ve been shopping at Whole Foods on and off since 1982. Amazingly empty of food, and full of people!

I was able to pick up some items, but they were flat out of many entire categories of food. After awhile, I started taking snapshots with my cellphone…

Whole Foods - 3-16-20

My cart, while I was waiting in line. I was looking for some stewed tomatoes or similar (preferably San Marzano, those are the best, Jerry), but had to settle for pre-made tomato sauce. The beer, wine and booze section was well stocked, so I did pick up some Armagnac, and a few bottles of wine, and some Guinness Stout. I don’t plan on dying it green.2

Whole Foods Cart - 3-16-20

Another shot of my shopping cart while bored waiting in line. Fire roasted corn is a good soup addition.

Whole Foods Shelves - Pasta- 3-16-20

I bought (some of) those pastas, and actually, they are my favorite brand, not sure why they were left behind.
Montebello is an Italian pasta maker from 1388! Isola del Piano, Italy: they make damn fine macaroni product! I guess I should have taken a photo after I took these…

Whole Foods Shelves - 3-16-20

Olive oils

Whole Foods Shelves - Oatmeal - 3-16-20

A couple sad containers of 365 brand (Whole Foods store brand) oatmeal. I didn’t see what I was looking for, so didn’t take a chance on these (though they probably are fine). I was looking for that Irish brand of steel cut oatmeal that comes in the metal tin, but I have a little bit left still.

Whole Foods Shelves - 3-16-20

There were some items left in this section (nothing that I bought, fwiw)

Whole Foods Shelves - 3-16-20 - Izze Clementine

I guess these bottles of Izze were in the back or something. Or else this is a horrible flavor? I’m not familiar with it.

Whole Foods Shelves - 3-16-20

A nearly empty shelf. Looks like 365 (Whole Foods house brand) Macaroni and Cheese was the least favorite. I didn’t buy it either, I have standards.

Whole Foods Shelves - Sausages and Hot Dogs - 3-16-20

One brand of Amylu Chicken sausage was the only one left. Apple & Gouda didn’t sound good to me either.

Whole Foods Shelves -Poultry 3-16-20

Forget about getting chicken or turkey, unless you want gizzards, or there were a few sad packages of drumsticks.

Whole Foods Shelves - Yogurt - 3-16-20

Nearly all individual servings of yogurt were gone, but there were some tubs left.

Whole Foods Checkout Line - 3-16-20

Maybe not all employees showed up? Or some other glitch? Not all cash registers were open, and the line was excrutiationly slow. At the time I took this photo, my line had 12 people in front of me (typically 3 or 4 on a busy day)

Footnotes:
  1. instead of working []
  2. ewwww) Most beans were gone from the bulk section, but for some reason there were plenty of kidney beans. Not sure why kidney beans were so unpopular, but I got some. Also some Cannellini beans ((though I much prefer pre-cooked, there was nary a can of bean to be found []
Categories
Photography

Irresponsible Rhetoric – Explored

Another photo of mine made it into Flickr’s Explore

Irresponsible Rhetoric

Columns, Federal Reserve Bank, LaSalle St. and Jackson, downtown Chicago

I took this photo February 2nd, 2020, and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 13th, 2020.

Equipment: Nikon D7000 18.0-200.0 mm f/3.5-5.6

  • ƒ/4.2
  • 32.0 mm
  • 1/50
  • 200 ISO

Sort of an unusual angle, I suppose, and cropped so as to look like the columns are leaning to the right. I bumped up the contrast, and used a Kodak Ektar filter (emulation of film stock).

Categories
government health

Mapping the Social Network of COVID-19 And Other News

Fascinating article from The New York Times:

Historically, scientists trying to anticipate the trajectory of infectious diseases focused on properties of the agent itself, like its level of contagion and lethality. But infectious diseases need help to spread their misery: humans meeting humans, in person. In the past decade or so, leading investigators have begun to incorporate social networks into their models, trying to identify and analyze patterns of individual behavior that amplify or mute potential pandemics.
Those findings, in turn, inform policy recommendations.

When does it make sense to shut down schools or workplaces? When will closing a border make a difference, and when won’t it? World health officials consult with social network modelers on a near daily basis, and Dr. Vespignani’s lab is part of one of several consortiums being consulted in the crucial and perhaps disruptive decisions coming in the next few weeks. On Friday, in an analysis posted by the journal Science, the group estimated that China’s travel ban on Wuhan delayed the growth of the epidemic by only a few days in mainland China and by two to three weeks elsewhere. “Moving forward we expect that travel restrictions to COVID-19 affected areas will have modest effects,” the team concluded.

“Today, with the enormous computing power available on the cloud, Dr. Vespignani and other colleagues can model the entire world using” publicly available data, said Dr. Elizabeth Halloran, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Washington and a senior researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “On the one hand, there is the rise of network science, and on the other, there is the enormous rise in computing power.”

click to continue reading Mapping the Social Network of Coronavirus – The New York Times:

Waiting for Baggage -TRI-X 400

Meanwhile, the federal government forgot to increase staffing at international airports such as O’Hare and Dulles and elsewhere, of course there was chaos and confusion and people standing shoulder to shoulder for hours. Jeez, wonder if there will be consequences?

O’Hare, DFW coronavirus: ‘Enhanced screening’ bring delays, crowds to U.S. airports – The Washington Post:

Airports around the country were thrown into chaos Saturday night as workers scrambled to roll out the Trump administration’s hastily arranged health screenings for travelers returning from Europe.
Scores of anxious passengers said they encountered jam-packed terminals, long lines and hours of delays as they waited to be questioned by health authorities at some of the busiest travel hubs in the United States.

The administration announced the “enhanced entry screenings” Friday as part of a suite of travel restrictions and other strategies aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Passengers on flights from more than two dozen countries in Europe are being routed through 13 U.S. airports, where workers check their medical histories, examine them for symptoms and instruct them to self-quarantine.

But shortly after taking effect, the measures designed to prevent new infections in the United States created the exact conditions that facilitate the spread of the highly contagious virus, with throngs of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder in bottlenecks that lasted late into the night.

“AT THIS MOMENT, HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE ARRIVING FROM NUMEROUS COUNTRIES ARE JAMMED TOGETHER IN A SINGLE SERPENTINE LINE VAGUELY SAID TO BE ‘FOR SCREENING,’” read a tweet from Tracy Sefl, who wrote that she waited for several hours to be screened at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

“Authorities are going to have to deal with the ramifications of the breakdown of whatever this system is supposed to be,” she wrote. “Not to mention needless exposure risks from containing thousands of passengers like this.”

Illinois authorities made it clear that this is 100% a federal problem

Lightfoot to Trump: ‘No one has time for your incompetence’ over O’Hare crowding as customs struggles to keep up with influx of international passengers – Chicago Tribune:

Beginning Saturday, processing through United States Customs was taking longer than usual inside the Federal Inspection Services facility due to “enhanced #COVID19 screening for passengers coming from Europe,” the airport said via Twitter. Angry international travelers also took to social media to express dismay at the handling of events, which caused thousands of people to stand in close proximity with potential carriers of COVID-19. As of Sunday morning, “O’Hare Airport” was trending on Twitter as a result.

“So last night as people were flooding into O’Hare Airport, they were stuck in a small area, hundreds and hundreds of people, and that’s exactly what you don’t want in this pandemic,” Pritzker said on the NBC News program. “So we have that problem. And then today, it’s going to be even worse. There are a larger number of flights with more people coming and they seem completely unprepared.”

Waiting at ORD
So things are going great!

Categories
science

Trump used to flirt with anti-vaxxers. Now he is demanding a coronavirus vaccine

Needle Park

The Guardian:

Informing Fauci and other government scientists that they must clear all public comments with Mike Pence, the vice-president, is unacceptable. This is not a time for someone who denies evolution, the climate crisis and the dangers of smoking to shape the public message. Thank goodness Fauci, Francis Collins, the director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), and their colleagues across federal agencies are willing to soldier on and are gradually getting the message out.

While scientists are trying to share facts about the epidemic, the administration either blocks those facts or restates them with contradictions. Transmission rates and death rates are not measurements that can be changed with will and an extroverted presentation. The administration has repeatedly said – as it did last week – that virus spread in the United States is contained, when it is clear from genomic evidence that community spread is occurring in Washington state and beyond. That kind of distortion and denial is dangerous and almost certainly contributed to the federal government’s sluggish response. After three years of debating whether the words of this administration matter, the words are now clearly a matter of life and death.

And although the steps required to produce a vaccine could possibly be made more efficient, many of them depend on biological and chemical processes that are essential. So the president might just as well have said, “Do me a favor, hurry up that warp drive.”

I don’t expect politicians to know Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetism or the Diels-Alder chemical reaction (although I can dream). But you can’t insult science when you don’t like it and then suddenly insist on something that science can’t give on demand. For the past four years, Trump’s budgets have made deep cuts to science, including cuts to funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NIH. With this administration’s disregard for science of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the stalled naming of a director for the Office of Science and Technology Policy – all to support political goals – the nation has had nearly four years of harming and ignoring science.

(click here to continue reading Trump used to flirt with anti-vaxxers. Now he is demanding a coronavirus vaccine | H Holden Thorp | US news | The Guardian.)

The GOP’s decade long war against science, and experts in general, is finally bearing bitter fruit for all of us. Drink deeply.

I am also genuinely curious if the anti-vaxxer idiot crowd will accept this vaccine without complaint. Will they insist upon being first in line? Or will they block widespread distribution of it? We won’t know for a bit, and by then, the death toll will most likely be higher. A real test of their principles, or lack of them. Herd immunity and all that…

Categories
government health

Sick people across the country say they have been denied coronavirus test, despite doctor’s advice

Forgive Yourself Trump Tower

The Washington Post reports:

Many Americans who are sick and seeking a coronavirus test continue to be turned away, creating a vexing problem for patients and health officials as the virus spreads. The problem persists, doctors and patients across the country say, despite increased production and distribution of the tests in recent days.

At a time when U.S. fatalities from the virus have risen, there remain limited numbers of tests and the capacity of laboratories is under strain.
The constraints are squeezing out patients who don’t meet rigid government eligibility criteria, even if their doctors want them tested, according to dozens of interviews with doctors and patients this week.

The gap between real-life obstacles to testing and President Trump’s sweeping assurances that “anybody that needs a test gets a test” has sown frustration, uncertainty and anxiety among patients who have symptoms consistent with covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, but have been unable to find out whether they are infected.

(click here to continue reading Sick people across the country say they have been denied coronavirus test, despite doctor’s advice – The Washington Post.)

Having competent leadership really does matter. Trump’s people knew about the virus in early January, did nothing to ramp up the nation’s pandemic infrastructure, twiddled their thumbs, and now we are all paying the price, or about to.

If Trump had any love of America1 he’d resign in shame.

The vaccine won’t be available for a while in any case…

That Was What It Was For

 Los Angeles Times:

Nothing can stop a global outbreak in its tracks better than a vaccine. Unfortunately, creating a vaccine capable of preventing the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 will probably take at least a year to 18 months, health officials say.

“That is the time frame,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee this week. Anyone who says they can do it faster “will be cutting corners that would be detrimental.”

While there are about 10 vaccine candidates in the works — and at least one of them could begin clinical trials in April — it would still take about three more months to conduct the first stage of human testing and another eight months or so to complete the next stage of the trial process, he added.

New vaccines require copious research and time-consuming testing that can cost hundreds of millions of dollars. There’s no guarantee of success, but even if everything goes well, the final product might not hit the market until after an outbreak has subsided.

Here’s a look at how vaccines are made and why the process takes so long.

 

(click here to continue reading Coronavirus vaccine: why will it take so long to create? – Los Angeles Times.)

Maybe We All Went Mad

Keep washing your hands, we are in for a long, bumpy ride…

Paul Krugman:

 Now, however, we face a much bigger crisis with the coronavirus. And Trump’s response has been worse than even his harshest critics could have imagined. He has treated a dire threat as a public relations problem, combining denial with frantic blame-shifting.

 His administration has failed to deliver the most basic prerequisite of pandemic response, widespread testing to track the disease’s spread. He has failed to implement recommendations of public health experts, instead imposing pointless travel bans on foreigners when all indications are that the disease is already well established in the United States.

 And his response to the economic fallout has veered between complacency and hysteria, with a strong admixture of cronyism.
It’s something of a mystery why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, normally a highly competent agency, have utterly failed to provide resources for widespread coronavirus testing during the pandemic’s crucial early stages. But it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that the incompetence is related to politics, perhaps to Trump’s desire to play down the threat.

According to Reuters, the Trump administration has ordered health agencies to treat all coronavirus deliberations as classified. This makes no sense and is indeed destructive in terms of public policy, but it makes perfect sense if the administration doesn’t want the public to know how its actions are endangering American lives.

 

(click here to continue reading Opinion | It’s a MAGA Microbe Meltdown – The New York Times.)

Footnotes:
  1. haha I know []
Categories
politics

With coronavirus, the Fox News-Trump feedback loop will get people killed

Dystopian Future Reading

Speaking of the danger of having a baby as president, Media Matters for America reports:

The U.S. was not prepared to respond to the coronavirus — in no small part because Trump had hamstrung the nation’s pandemic response capabilities. The Washington Post detailed Saturday the “many preventable missteps and blunders in the federal government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis — the embodiment of an administration that, for weeks, repeatedly squandered opportunities to manage and prepare for a global epidemic.” The problems started from the top: Trump “has undermined his administration’s own efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak — resisting attempts to plan for worst-case scenarios, overturning a public-health plan upon request from political allies and repeating only the warnings that he chose to hear,” Politico reported the same day.

Trump’s lax response to the spread of the coronavirus mimics the reaction of his favorite network — and that’s no coincidence. The president is shunning aides who provide him with negative information about the epidemic and basking in Fox’s glowing coverage. On Friday afternoon, amid a rambling and incoherent press event at the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Trump downplayed the threat posed by the disease, praised his administration’s response, lashed out at Democrats, and told reporters that he was getting information about the spread of the coronavirus from Fox.

“As of the time I left the plane with you, we had 240 cases — that’s at least what was on a very fine network known as Fox News,” he said. “I know you love it. But that’s what I happened to be watching.” This was not an anomaly. As coronavirus spread in February 2020, Trump sent more than twice as many live-tweets of Fox’s coverage as he did in February 2019. On Friday morning alone, he sent three tweets about coronavirus in response to Fox.

What was Trump learning from his regular Fox-watching? Roughly an hour before his comments, a Fox medical correspondent argued on-air that coronavirus was no more dangerous than the flu; a few hours later, the same correspondent argued that coronavirus fears were being deliberately overblown in hopes of damaging Trump politically. The network’s personalities have frequently claimed that the Trump administration has been doing a great job responding to coronavirus, that the fears of the disease are overblown, and that the real problem is Democrats and the media politicizing the epidemic to prevent Trump’s reelection. The president absorbs those narratives and parrots them to the public in tweets and statements; the network responds by continuing to push those talking points.

No one wants a public panic. But by downplaying the risks of coronavirus in order to rally to Trump’s defense, Fox is endangering its audience, which skews older and is most susceptible to the disease. It seems to be having an effect — both anecdotally and based on polling: Republicans are less likely to view the disease as a serious threat.

But the greater danger is that one of Fox’s older Republican viewers is the president of the United States. And when the network tells him that coronavirus is nothing to worry about, he listens.

As a result, a significant number of Americans are likely to die — prematurely and unnecessarily — because Trump is taking advice from Fox News. We are courting disaster, thanks to the Trump-Fox feedback loop.

(click here to continue reading With coronavirus, the Fox News-Trump feedback loop will get people killed | Media Matters for America.)

If only the virus cared whether or not individuals “believed” in it, this would be funny. But if a large percentage of MAGA cultists catch and spread COVID-19, the rest of us suffer as well.

Categories
politics

Trump Is Seething Over Having to Work With Nancy Pelosi on a Coronavirus Response

Spy Magazine - Donald Trump - Trumps final days

The Daily Beast reports:

All of official Washington has come to an agreement that swift, bold action is needed to counteract the dramatic economic impact of the coronavirus’ spread. But negotiations around such a package have been complicated by the fact that President Donald Trump can’t stand the idea of negotiating one-on-one with his chief counterpart, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Indeed, he suspects that she would use the moment to try to humiliate him.

Two senior Trump administration officials described a president who, out of an intense bitterness toward the House Speaker, has shuddered at the prospect of being in the same room with her during the ongoing public-health crisis and economic reverberations.

(click here to continue reading Trump Is Seething Over Having to Work With Nancy Pelosi on a Coronavirus Response.)

What a damn baby. Resign already. And take Pence with you. President Nancy Pelosi will get the country back on track.

Categories
government health

U.S. coronavirus testing threatened by shortage of critical lab materials

Fever Dreams

POLITICO:

A looming shortage in lab materials is threatening to delay coronavirus test results and cause officials to undercount the number of Americans with the virus.

The slow pace of coronavirus testing has created a major gap in the U.S. public health response. The latest problem involves an inability to prepare samples for testing, creating uncertainties in how long it will take to get results.

The growing scarcity of these “RNA extraction” kits is the latest trouble for U.S. labs, which have struggled to implement widespread coronavirus testing in the seven weeks since the country diagnosed its first case. Epidemiologists and public health officials say that the delayed rollout, caused in part by a botched CDC test, has masked the scope of the U.S. outbreak and hobbled efforts to limit it.

If enough processing kits aren’t available, the risk that testing will be disrupted is “huge,” said Michael Mina, associate medical director of molecular diagnostics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“RNA extraction is the first step in being able to perform” a coronavirus test, he said. “If we cannot perform this step, the [coronavirus] test cannot be performed.”

Qiagen, a major supplier of the kits, confirmed that its product is backordered due to “the extraordinary pace” at which the world has increased coronavirus testing over the last few weeks.

(click here to continue reading Exclusive: U.S. coronavirus testing threatened by shortage of critical lab materials – POLITICO.)

It’s almost as if having a malignant narcissist as chief executive is a bad idea…

Categories
Music

No Thanks! The ’70s Punk Rebellion

If I’m Going To Have to Self-Isolate, I At Least Can Rock Out

If I’m going to have to self-isolate, at least I can rock out!

I purchased this item on May 24, 2005, per the Amazon-borg. There isn’t a song on here that I skip. I usually don’t listen to the whole thing in one sitting, as it is over five hours, but dipping in and out of the 1970s is good enough for me. 

Wikipedia entry  repeats this factoid:

Notably absent from the compilation are the Sex Pistols, whose singer John Lydon refused Rhino Entertainment permission to include any of the band’s tracks, allegedly because Rhino chose not to release the 2002 Sex Pistols boxed set in the United States

The Pistols are mentioned several times in the liner notes however. So add in your favorite Sex Pistols songs in the mix, turn up the volume, and you’ll be ok.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Allmusic:

 

Like all the great rock revolutions, punk was fueled by singles. Sure, there were a lot of tremendous albums, but all the artists that cut great LPs also had great 7″s — and in the case of Television and Patti Smith, they had independent singles released prior to their first albums that never appeared on their debuts. Since rock criticism tends to be album-driven, singles tend to get slightly overlooked, and since punk is a rock critic’s favorite, some revisionist historians paint the era as fueled by albums, not singles. Rhino’s excellent four-disc No Thanks! The ’70s Punk Rebellion corrects that error by focusing on the singles, winding up with a one-stop introduction and summary of the era that is as good as Loud, Fast & Out of Control, their similar set on early rock & roll. The compilers have bent the rules of punk slightly, deciding to include proto-punkers like New York Dolls, the Stooges, the Dictators, and Jonathan Richman, and then to not present the cuts in a strictly chronological order.

This benefits the album, since these artists are in the same spirit of the bands they inspired, and the sequencing plays like a great mixtape. Rhino has also evenly balanced the set between American and British punk, including both early hardcore punkers the Dead Kennedys and British pub rock renegades like Nick Lowe and Ian Dury in equal measure. Though there’s a bit of difference between “California Über Alles” and “Heart of the City,” they deserve to be paired on this set because they both were genuinely independent, exciting 45s that crackled with energy and captured the spirit of punk, albeit in different ways. And that’s what makes No Thanks! work so well — it illustrates how diverse punk and new wave were in the late ’70s, but it places a premium on adventure and excitement, which means even artier bands like Pere Ubu and Suicide come across as pure rock & roll.

 

 

(click here to continue reading No Thanks! The ’70s Punk Rebellion – Various Artists | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic.)

Eric Carr, Pitchfork:

Fortunately, Rhino’s overwhelmingly comprehensive four-disc love letter to the heart and soul of punk music isn’t particularly conventional. While punk remained a mostly well-kept (and easily documented) secret prior to the Sex Pistols’ spectacular collapse, the aftermath of the punk explosion was a shambles. That the Pistols are conspicuously absent on No Thanks! might be the doing of a petulant Lydon (presumably irked that Rhino pulled a stateside release of a Sex Pistols box a few years back), but fitting nonetheless. Fine. Fuck ’em. Of all the admirable successes of No Thanks!, the finest is surely the deliberateness with which it unearths so many of the also-rans long-since buried in the Pistols’ wake. With barely a track to spare for The Clash, The Ramones, or The Fall, they’re barely an afterthought here. No Thanks! isn’t about “essential”; it’s “scope,” pure magnitude. Deadbeats and dilettantes, glammed progenitors and goth poseurs, the revered and the reviled. This isn’t just “punk,” this is everything that was boiling beneath the surface, the whole of the late-70s underground brought to light.

The Motors will never, ever be spoken of in the same regard as Richard Hell. Or The Damned. Or even Generation X (Billy Idol was the Diamond Dave of punk rock, after all). Ditto for the Glen Matlock’s Rich Kids, 999, The Vibrators, Subway Sect, and half of the other bands that grace this stage, and that’s the collection’s charm; every Englishman or Yankee to ever hold a guitar, let alone learn to play one (how else can you explain The Adverts?) gets at least an act, maybe two. The diversity contained here is staggering, but the disparity of sound is nullified by the unity of motivations; whether out of sincerity or fashionability, everyone’s got a grudge to bear. No matter what form it takes, the underlying theme is simple dissatisfaction; no one was playing because he or she was happy (except maybe Devo– who knows what they wanted?). Something, anything, needed to change, but all any of these people were empowered to do was play music. Punk was fundamentally unfocused rage, a loaded gun aimed at any institution– politics, clothing, loneliness, provinciality, music itself– too societally entrenched to get out of the way. The tactics aren’t always smart, and rarely pretty, but the execution is brilliant, and Rhino has released the ultimate document.

 

(click here to continue reading Various Artists: No Thanks!: The 70s Punk Rebellion Album Review | Pitchfork.)

Categories
News-esque

The Terror and the Fascination of Pompeii

Cloudless Religions 93-12-08

Joan Acocella, The New Yorker:

Pliny’s eyewitness account of the 79 A.D. Vesuvius eruption tells us what happened, but the archeological remains conjure with agonizing intimacy the lives of those who perished.

[Pliny the Younger] wrote long letters to Trajan, asking whether he should do this or that. The letters took two months to arrive in Rome, and the answers took two months to get back. Reading them, you sense that Trajan often wished Pliny would just go ahead and make whatever decision seemed reasonable.

We do hear about some celebrated crimes: Agrippina, the Emperor Claudius’ wife, poisoning him in order to secure the succession for her son, Nero; Nero then killing Agrippina and also kicking his pregnant wife, Poppaea, to death. (That’s after he arranged for the poisoning of his stepbrother, Brittanicus.) Then, there’s Domitian, going off with, they say, whatever implement he had at hand, to terminate his niece Julia’s pregnancy, engendered by him. This, Dunn writes, inspired a locally popular ditty: “Julia freed her fertile uterus by many / an abortion and shed clots which resembled their uncle.” (Julia died from the procedure.) Next to such reports, the regular rubouts, as in the notorious Year of the Four Emperors, in 69 A.D.—Nero, to avoid execution, stabbed himself in the throat and was replaced by Galba, who was assassinated after seven months by the Praetorian Guard and succeeded by Otho, who ruled for three months before, faced with a rebellion, he committed suicide, yielding his place to Vitellius (soon murdered by the soldiers of Vespasian, but let’s stop there)—look like business as usual. Or they would seem so if they didn’t involve those little Cosa Nostra touches, such as a victim’s being found with his penis cut off and stuffed in his mouth.

(click here to continue reading The Terror and the Fascination of Pompeii | The New Yorker.)

Romans Discussing Motor Scooters 1993

I think I was 17 when I first read some Roman history, in a freshman level survey class at UT. I was amazed at how gossipy Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars was. Such a contrast with the neutral tones of typical history textbooks, especially the ones that I had read in high school. Still fascinating…

Categories
government health

How Long Will It Take to Develop a Coronavirus Vaccine

You Say You Want to Be Ordinary

The New Yorker:

With more than a hundred cases already discovered in the U.S., which had resulted in six deaths (the virus has since infected nearly four hundred people in the U.S., and killed at least nineteen of them), Trump was concerned. But he was also confused, despite having had several previous briefings with the Administration’s top health officials. Grasping for some good news, he pressed the executives to deliver a vaccine within a few months, at which point Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (N.I.A.I.D.), spoke up. “A vaccine that you make and start testing in a year is not a vaccine that’s deployable,” he said. The earliest it would be deployable, Fauci added, is “in a year to a year and a half, no matter how fast you go.”

(click here to continue reading How Long Will It Take to Develop a Coronavirus Vaccine? | The New Yorker.)

Never a good sign when incompetence is the first word that executive leadership brings to mind.

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And private industry is not going to give away billions of dollars of R&D, only governments can handle that, and should handle projects of that size.

John Shiver, the global head of vaccine research and development at the multinational pharmaceutical company Sanofi, which is developing a covid-19 vaccine, was at the meeting with Trump. “There was some confusion there,” Shiver said, that certain officials did not understand that “being in people,” as in human trials, is not the same as having a product. Clinical trials are conducted on healthy people, which is inherently challenging. “You certainly don’t want a vaccine that can make it worse,” Shiver said. “There have been some vaccine candidates historically that could actually enhance the disease.” Sanofi is working with the United States Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a sort of biomedical darpa, to advance a covid-19 vaccine based largely on the vaccine candidate it had developed for sars. Shiver told me that the authority doesn’t expect to have anything ready for human trials until much later this year. “It’s difficult,” Shiver said, “to see how, even in the case of an emergency, a vaccine could be fully ready for licensure in a year and a half.”

 
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (cepi), an Oslo-based nonprofit organization, was established at Davos, in 2017, to help the world prepare for a “disease X” pandemic. One of its aims is to dramatically hasten the process of vaccine development. To create a viable, scalable vaccine “takes vast amounts of funding and R. & D.,” Rachel Grant, the advocacy and communications director at cepi, told me. “It is a long and complex business. It’s all doable, science can meet the challenges, but there is lots of attrition” before any vaccine gets to the point of licensure. The problem is twofold. First, there may never be a market for a vaccine at the end of the development process, because the epidemic is contained, or never comes to pass. Then, traditionally, if there is an epidemic, it may take hold in a developing country where the costs of research and development cannot be recouped. “The resources and expertise sit in biotech and pharma, and they’ve got their business model,” Grant said. “They’re not charities. They can’t do this stuff for free.”

cepi, with funding from the government of Norway, the Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and several other countries (the United States is not among them), is trying to bridge the gap. The challenge of vaccine development is “what cepi was set up to solve,” Grant told me, “played out writ large in an episode like this.” Since the novel coronavirus emerged, cepi has ramped up its grant-making expenditures to more than nineteen million dollars. Two grant recipients—a Massachusetts-based biotech startup named Moderna and a lab at the University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia—have, remarkably, already developed a vaccine candidate that they will start testing in human trials in the next few months, and another biotech startup supported by cepi is not far behind. But, ultimately, to get three different vaccines through the final phase of clinical testing, Nick Jackson, cepi’s head of programs and innovative technology, told me, will require an estimated two billion dollars.