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
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
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
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.

Remove

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.

Categories
government health politics

How Trump’s insecurity is making the coronavirus crisis worse

Pip checks out the N95 particulate respirator

The Washington Post reports:

Put President Trump in a room full of scientists, and he’s going to start to feel very insecure. Put him in a crisis he can’t boast his way out of, and things are going to go very badly.
That’s what we now face with the coronavirus. The crisis is not happening only in a foreign country, or in just one spot in America. It threatens to touch all of us. By all accounts, the president’s handling of it so far has been somewhere between awful and disastrous. Worst of all, from his perspective, it threatens the reality distortion field he works so hard to maintain. 

Trump is plainly more concerned with how the virus affects his public image than how it affects Americans’ health. He blurted out that he wanted to keep a cruise ship off the coast of California “because I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship.”

But when Trump feels the need to remind you that he is related to a smart person, it’s pretty obvious that he’s afraid people might not think he’s smart enough.

(click here to continue reading How Trump’s insecurity is making the coronavirus crisis worse – The Washington Post.)

Scary. Scary times, scary man to be in charge, scary time to be alive.

Categories
government health

Our lack of paid sick leave will make the coronavirus worse

A Little Blood in Our Eyes

The Washington Post:

The United States is one of the few wealthy democracies in the world that does not mandate paid sick leave. As a result, roughly 25 percent of American workers have none, leaving many with little choice but to go into work while ill, transmitting infections to co-workers, customers and anyone they might meet on the street or in a crowded subway car.

As a nation, in other words, we are sicker than we need to be. That reality could make a widespread coronavirus outbreak here worse than it would be in a comparable country that takes sick leave seriously.

The absence of paid sick days creates “a near-guarantee that workers will defy public health warnings and trudge into their workplaces, regardless of symptoms,” as Karen Scott, a doctoral student studying workplace issues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, put it recently in The Conversation. “In this way, a manageable health crisis can spiral out of control.”

The service industry — comprising the people who prepare our meals and care for our children — has one of the nation’s lowest rates of paid sick leave in the private sector at 58 percent. The CDC reports, for instance, that “1 in 5 food service workers have reported working at least once in the previous year while sick with vomiting or diarrhea.”

(click here to continue reading Our lack of paid sick leave will make the coronavirus worse – The Washington Post.)

I’m still rather blasé about covid-19, in general. However, the US is ripe for a major health disaster, especially after years of GOP cost cutting in areas like CDC and related budgets.

Having a robust health care for all citizens would help immeasurably.

Exploding Bomb Haymarket Riot 125

And retrain your brain to not touch your face:

Alarmist

Like all our habits, touching our face has been reinforced over time: It begins with an itch or an irritation, which feels better, temporarily, when scratched or rubbed. That reaction then becomes a tic, Sawyer said.
But passing unseen are the legions of germs living on your hands — picked up from your phone, keyboard, a doorknob or elsewhere — hitching a ride on the way to your throat, sinuses and lungs.

Not touching your facial mucous membranes, an area known as the “T-zone,” is perhaps the most important step you can take to prevent an infection, Sawyer said.
“It’s the one behavior that would be better than any vaccine ever created,” he said. “Just stop this simple behavior. Stop picking, licking, biting, rubbing — it’s the most effective way to prevent a pandemic.”
People are more likely to get the virus by picking it up from a surface and touching their face, than they are to breathe in droplets directly from someone who is infected, Sawyer said.

(click here to continue reading Coronavirus prevention: Stop touching your face – The Washington Post.) 

Categories
government

Trump to Send Special Troops To Democratically Controlled Cities

Document Me 

The New York Times reports:

The Trump administration is deploying highly trained officers to boost arrests of unauthorized immigrants in cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, the latest move in a battle against localities that adopt “sanctuary” policies to protect them from deportation.

Members of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol Tactical Unit will be among the officers deployed to cities to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. They will also be sent to San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and Newark, New Jersey, CBP spokesman Lawrence Payne said in a statement.

(click here to continue reading U.S. Border Patrol to Send ‘Tactical Unit’ Officers to ‘Sanctuary Cities’ – The New York Times.)

This is troublesome. Highly trained how, exactly? Are they “war gaming” for what happens when Trump loses in November?

Categories
government

Trump’s Budget Is a $292 Billion Attack on Poor Americans

Trump is a typical Republican with traditional 21st C.E. Republican goals, part the 346,212,518th…

Free Soap, circa 1996

Mother Jones reports:

Trump’s $4.8 trillion budget calls for steep cuts to welfare programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as food stamps) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the biggest cash assistance program.

The proposal calls for slashing SNAP funding by $182 billion over the next 10 years, a sharp reduction from the $58 billion the government spent on SNAP in 2019. Partly, those savings would come from significantly tightening eligibility requirements for SNAP. Currently, able-bodied SNAP recipients between the ages of 18 and 49 can receive food stamps for three months at a time and must prove that they are working at least 20 hours a week. The Trump budget calls for extending the work requirement rule to people up to the age of 65.

Initially, states with high unemployment rates were allowed to apply for waivers that would exempt recipients from the three-month limit. But beginning April 1, a new federal rule makes acquiring those waivers much more difficult. The rule is expected to remove 700,000 people from the food stamp rolls.

Other welfare programs don’t fare much better in Trump’s budget proposal. It would cut $15 billion from TANF over the next decade. The cash assistance program currently grants $16.5 billion annually, a level advocates say is insufficient to meet the needs of poor families because it has not increased since 1996.

The total cuts to welfare programs for the next decade come out to $292 billion. While the budget slashes countless programs that help the poor, it would increase military spending.

(click here to continue reading Trump’s Budget Is a $292 Billion Attack on Poor Americans – Mother Jones.)

Shouldn't That Be a Right Turn?

Yeah, a wealthy country like ours would rather purchase new aircraft carriers for an unknown enemy rather than let kids have enough to eat. If Trump and his cult have there way, that is. Luckily 2018 happened, and the Democrats can reign in some of this cruelty, if they want to. There are some corporate Democrats who are wishy-washy about the so-called entitlements, and would also prefer the military budget increase. 

Categories
crime government

The Director Of National Intelligence Missed The Deadline To Provide Congress With A Report On Jamal Khashoggi’s Killing

Legality ≠ Morality

Emma Loop, Buzzfeed reports:

The country’s top intelligence official has failed to turn over to Congress a report on the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, sources said, flouting a law passed last month.

In December, lawmakers passed a sweeping defense bill that included a provision ordering the director of national intelligence to send Congress an unclassified report identifying those responsible for Khashoggi’s death at a Saudi Arabian consulate in 2018. The legislation set the deadline for the report at 30 days, which passed earlier this week.

Though the CIA has reportedly concluded that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s killing at the consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Saudi officials have denied his involvement — something President Donald Trump seemed willing to believe. The unclassified report, if Congress receives and releases it, could provide the administration’s first public acknowledgment of the crown prince’s role, or that of other Saudi officials, in Khashoggi’s brutal death.

The provision requiring the report was contained in the larger National Defence Authorization Act that Trump signed into law on Dec. 20, 2019. The bill required Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, to provide the report to four congressional committees: the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees, and the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees.

The delay has already resulted in an inquiry from the office of Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, an Intelligence Committee member who pushed for the provision to be included in the legislation. “Our office has asked ODNI about the status of that information and has not received a response,” Keith Chu, a spokesperson for Wyden, told BuzzFeed News.

(click here to continue reading The Director Of National Intelligence Missed The Deadline To Provide Congress With A Report On Jamal Khashoggi’s Killing.)

It’s so unlike the Trump* administration to ignore laws, and support extra-judicial killing, and kowtow to dictators! Shocked, shocked I tells ya…

Darwin Fish Prototype

Categories
environment government

Trump Eases Pollution Controls on Streams and Wetlands

First Night's Camp Site - Buffalo River AR

The New York Times reports:

The Trump administration on Thursday will finalize a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands and other water bodies, handing a victory to farmers, fossil fuel producers and real estate developers who said Obama-era rules had shackled them with onerous and unnecessary burdens.

From Day 1 of his administration, President Trump vowed to repeal President Barack Obama’s “Waters of the United States” regulation, which had frustrated rural landowners. His new rule, which will be implemented in the coming weeks, is the latest step in the Trump administration’s push to repeal or weaken nearly 100 environmental rules and laws, loosening or eliminating rules on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining, oil drilling and endangered species protections.

(click here to continue reading Trump Eases Pollution Controls on Streams and Wetlands – The New York Times.)

What an asshole. And I would hazard a guess that the “farmers” discussed here are not small hard-scrabble salt-of-the-earth types, but agribusinesses with hundreds of thousands of acreage, and they want to be free to pollute all of our water without regard to consequence. You’d think some outdoorsman types would object to the destruction of lakes and rivers, I guess they are too swept up in deregulation fever to care.

Profits über alles…

Elin with her Fish Purse and Obama Pin

Categories
Business government

The IRS Decided to Get Tough Against Microsoft. Microsoft Got Tougher

Darth Vader

 

ProPublica reports:

Eight years ago, the IRS, tired of seeing the country’s largest corporations fearlessly stash billions in tax havens, decided to take a stand. The agency challenged what it saw as an epic case of tax dodging by one of the largest companies in the world, Microsoft. It was the biggest audit by dollar amount in the history of the agency.

Microsoft had shifted at least $39 billion in U.S. profits to Puerto Rico, where the company’s tax consultants, KPMG, had persuaded the territory’s government to give Microsoft a tax rate of nearly 0%. Microsoft had justified this transfer with a ludicrous-sounding deal: It had sold its most valuable possession — its intellectual property — to an 85-person factory it owned in a small Puerto Rican city.

…Meanwhile, the numbers Microsoft had used to craft its deal were laughable, the agency concluded. In one instance, Microsoft had told investors its revenues would grow 10% to 12% but told the IRS the figure was 4%. In another, the IRS found Microsoft had understated revenues by $15 billion.

Determined to seize every advantage against a giant foe, the small team at the helm of the audit decided to be aggressive. It used special powers that the agency had shied away from using in the past. It took unprecedented steps like hiring an elite law firm to join the government’s side.

To Microsoft and its corporate allies, the nature of the audit posed a dire threat. This was not the IRS they knew. This was an agency suddenly committed to fighting and winning. If the aggression went unchecked, it would only encourage the IRS to try these tactics on other corporations.

“Most people, the 99%, they’re afraid of the IRS,” said an attorney who works on large corporate audits. “The other 1%, they’re not afraid. They make the IRS afraid of them.”

Microsoft fought back with every tool it could muster. Business organizations, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to tech trade groups, rallied, hiring attorneys to jump into the fray on Microsoft’s side in court and making their case to IRS leadership and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Soon, members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, were decrying the IRS’ tactics and introducing legislation to stop the IRS from ever taking similar steps again.

The outcome of the audit remains to be seen — the Microsoft case grinds on — but the blowback was effective. Last year, the company’s allies succeeded in changing the law, removing or limiting tools the IRS team had used against the company. The IRS, meanwhile, has become notably less bold. Drained of resources by years of punishing budget cuts, the agency has largely retreated from challenging the largest corporations. The IRS declined to comment for this article.

Recent years have been a golden age for corporate tax avoidance, with massive companies awash in profits routinely paying tax rates in the single digits, or even nothing at all. But how corporations manage to do this and keep the IRS at bay is mostly shrouded in secrecy

(click here to continue reading The IRS Decided to Get Tough Against Microsoft. Microsoft Got Tougher. — ProPublica.)

Truly despicable, on many levels. Microsoft is not teetering on the edge of financial collapse, they can afford to pay their fair share of taxes. Shameful that both political parties enable this abuse, and respond by defunding/defanging the IRS from doing its job. Meanwhile, the US debt grows by leaps and bounds, and corporate profits too.

Categories
Chicago-esque crime government News-esque

Illinois: First day of recreational marijuana sales begins

Legalize Marijuana: Cook County

Cannabis is legal for adults to consume in Illinois as of this morning. Amazing. I’d visited Amsterdam for a week in early 1990s, so I knew it was theoretically possible for governments to allow citizens the freedom to chose whether to consume plants, but I did not think it would happen in America in my lifetime. Happy to be proven wrong.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton purchases edible gummies as Sunnyside Lakeview opens in the first minutes of legal recreational marijuana in Illinois.

Dispensary employees at Rise took orders from customers outside in line to speed up the process. There were outdoor heaters, and free coffee hats and gold bead medallions.

The dispensary also hired a steel drum player to play outside, adding a little “Red Red Wine” to the proceedings.

(click here to continue reading Legal weed in Illinois: First day of recreational marijuana sales begins – Chicago Tribune.)

 Henry Anslinger

and this is among the good outcomes to Democrats winning elections:

On the day before recreational cannabis becomes legal in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced he was pardoning more than 11,000 people who had been convicted of low-level marijuana crimes.
“When Illinois’ first adult use cannabis shops open their doors tomorrow, we must all remember that the purpose of this legislation is not to immediately make cannabis widely available or to maximize product on the shelves, that’s not the main purpose, that will come with time,” Pritzker said to a crowd at Trinity United Church of Christ on the Far South Side. “But instead the defining purpose of legalization is to maximize equity for generations to come.”

The 11,017 people pardoned by Pritzker will receive notification about their cases, all of which are from outside Cook County, by mail. The pardon means convictions involving less than 30 grams of marijuana will be automatically expunged.
 
 Pritzker and other elected officials said they believe Illinois is the first state to include a process for those previously convicted of marijuana offenses to seek relief upon legalization of cannabis.

(click here to continue reading Pritzker pardons 11,000 weed convictions in Illinois – Chicago Tribune.)

The Chicago Sun-Times reports:

Shortly after 6 a.m. Wednesday, Renzo Mejia walked into Chicago’s Dispensary 33 and, after perusing a menu, bought an eighth of an ounce of Motorbreath OG.

With that, the West Loop resident made the first legal purchase of recreational marijuana in Illinois history.

As soon as the order processed, a cheer permeated through the small showroom floor and employees and customers embraced.

“To be able to have [recreational marijuana] here is just mind-boggling,” said Mejia, who paid about $80 for his purchase. “ … To be able to now make the first purchase in Chicago, it’s just surreal.”

To be the first, which Dispensary 33’s Abigail Watkins said was confirmed a short time after the sale by state officials, Mejia rang in the New Year in line — literally.

He took his place outside the store at 5001 N. Clark St. at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday — when the temperature was already below freezing.

(click here to continue reading 1st man to buy legal recreational pot in state history rang in New Year in line, braved freezing temps – Chicago Sun-Times.)

Truck full of Cannabis

Block Club Chicago reports:

They began lining up at 2 a.m. in the cold, with fold-up chairs and blankets in tow. By 6 a.m., when Dispensary33 in Andersonville opened, the line, composed of people from all corners of the city and beyond, stretched for more than five blocks.

Trevor Seyller of Lakeview was first in line to buy legal recreational weed as it went on sale for the first time in Illinois. He waited four hours in temperatures below freezing for “the fun of it” — and for history.

“It’s been a long time coming, this is an historic moment,” Seyller said.

Charlie Wells drove three hours from Madison, Wis. to be among the first few in the line. He said he skipped celebrating New Year’s Eve to take part in the state’s legalization of recreational marijuana.

“It’s the end of prohibition and it’s a lot safer than drinking,” Wells said. “I’m here because my state doesn’t have it yet.”

Dispensary33 — named for 1933, the year the prohibition on alcohol was lifted — is located at 5001 N. Clark St. To help patrons battle the cold, Dispensary33 put out a few propane heating lamps along the Argyle Street.

(click here to continue reading Legal Recreational Weed Goes On Sale — And Chicagoans Line Up For Blocks In The Cold – Block Club Chicago.)

More photos of the big day at WBEZ, for instance.

Cooking Up that Cannabis Juice Like There’s No Tomorrow

Personally, had plans to go join the party and photograph people in line, but decided to wait until tomorrow or even next week to visit a dispensary. My days of being an all day smoker are long gone. Don’t get me wrong, I plan on purchasing something from a dispensary in the near future, but I didn’t feel enthusiastic enough to brave the below-freezing weather to be first in line or anything. By spring, the supply shortage should be addressed, presumedly.

Reefer songs 23 Original Jazz & Blues Vocals

Kudos to Illinois! Time to queue up the Reefer songs!

Categories
government health

Kentucky Hates Women 19RS HB 148

One Track Mind

The Kentucky General Assembly is considering this bill (with at least 40 co-sponsors):

Create a new section of KRS Chapter 311 to provide that if the United States Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade, or an amendment is adopted to the United State Constitution restoring state authority to prohibit abortion, no person shall knowingly administer to, prescribe for, procure for, or sell to any pregnant woman any medicine, drug, or other substance with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of an unborn human being and no person shall use or employ any instrument or procedure upon a pregnant woman with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of an unborn human being; any person who violates the prohibition is guilty of a Class D felony; provide an exemption for a licensed physician to perform a medical procedure necessary in reasonable medical judgment to prevent the death or substantial risk of death due to a physical condition, or to prevent the serious, permanent impairment of a life-sustaining organ of a pregnant woman; specify that this Act shall also be effective to the appropriation of Medicaid funds that set forth the limited circumstances in which states must fund abortion to remain eligible to receive federal Medicaid funds; repeal KRS 311.710; provide that this Act may be cited as the Human Life Protection Act.

(click here to continue reading 19RS HB 148.)

Here But Now Gone

and Representative Mary Lou Marzian has tongue-in-cheek proposed the following amendment:

On page 3, between lines 3 and 4, by inserting the following:
“SECTION 2. A NEW SECTION OF KRS CHAPTER 311 IS CREATED TO READ

AS FOLLOWS:

All women who are Kentucky residents, and of child bearing age, shall acquire a signed and notarized statement from a practitioner licensed pursuant to this chapter each month that states whether she is pregnant or not pregnant. If pregnant, the signed and notarized statement shall provide the status of the pregnancy. The woman shall submit the signed and notarized statement to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services each month. Any woman who fails to provide this monthly signed and notarized statement to the cabinet shall be subject to arrest and fines. Any woman who is pregnant and fails to provide this monthly signed and notarized statement to the cabinet will be fitted with an ankle monitor for the duration of the pregnancy in addition to any arrest and fines.”; and
Renumber subsequent sections accordingly.

Is this real? Or an elaborate prank? I’m guessing this amendment will not pass, but maybe it should. If the government can dictate what women can do with their bodies, why not take this to its logical conclusion?

Categories
government politics

Nevada Considering Joining National Popular Vote compact

Voting Elevators to 5th

NPR reports:

According to the National Popular Vote organization, which oversees efforts to persuade states to join the compact, 14 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to pledge their 189 electors to the winner of the national popular vote — regardless of which candidate won the state. Nevada, with its six electoral votes, would bring the total to 195. Once 270 electors are pledged, the compact would kick in.

The effort is part of a national movement to neuter the Electoral College and give more weight to the popular vote. Democrats in particular have been stung by the Electoral College, which effectively gives disproportional voting power to smaller, rural states that tend to vote Republican. In addition to President Trump, George W. Bush also won the White House without winning the popular vote.

Nevada’s Senate vote to join the agreement was 12-8, entirely along party lines. Every Republican voted against the proposal. Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, has not indicated whether he will sign the measure into law.

As NPR has reported, the popular vote movement seems to be gathering steam. In February, 11 states were on board. Since then, Colorado, Delaware and New Mexico have signed on.

(click here to continue reading Nevada May Break Up With The Electoral College : NPR.)

I’m ok with circumventing the Electoral College. We’ve changed many things about elections over the decades since 1776, and the Electoral College is another relic from our racist past, and should be set aside.

Video explainer…

Here’s a longer explanation via:

The National Popular Vote interstate compact would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election. The bill is a constitutionally conservative, state-based approach that preserves the Electoral College, state control of elections, and the power of the states to control how the President is elected.

The National Popular Vote bill has been enacted by 15 jurisdictions possessing 189 electoral votes, including 5 small jurisdictions (RI, VT, HI, DC, DE), 6 medium- size states (MD, MA, NM, WA, CT, CO), and four big states (NJ, IL, NY, CA). The bill will take effect when enacted by states with 81 more electoral votes.  The bill has passed at least one chamber in 9 additional states with 82 more electoral votes (AR, AZ, ME, MI, MN, NC, NV, OK, OR).  A total of 3,357 state legislators from all 50 states have endorsed it.

The shortcomings of the current system of electing the President stem from “winner-take-all” laws that have been enacted by state legislatures in 48 states. These laws award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in each state.

Because of these state winner-take-all statutes, presidential candidates have no reason to pay attention to the issues of concern to voters in states where the statewide outcome is a foregone conclusion. In 2012, as shown on the map, all of the  253 general-election campaign events were in just 12 states, and two-thirds were in just 4 states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa). Thirty-eight states were completely ignored.

The U.S. Constitution (Article II, Section 1) gives the states exclusive control over awarding their electoral votes: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….” The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is state law. It is not in the U.S. Constitution. The winner-take-all rule was used by only three states in 1789, and all three repealed it by 1800. It was not until the 11th presidential election (1828) that even half the states used winner-take-all laws.

The National Popular Vote interstate compact will go into effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538).  At that time, every voter in the country will acquire a direct vote for a group of at least 270 presidential electors supporting their choice for President.  All of this group of 270+ presidential electors will be supporters of the candidate who received the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC—thus making that candidate President.

In contrast, under the current system, a voter has a direct voice in electing only the small number of presidential electors to which their state is entitled.  Under NPV, every voter directly elects 270+ electors.

National Popular Vote’s Advisory Board includes former Senators Jake Garn (R–UT), Birch Bayh (D–IN), and David Durenberger (R–MN); former Congressmen John Anderson (R–IL, I), John Buchanan (R–AL), Tom Campbell (R–CA), and Tom Downey (D–NY). Other supporters include former Governor Howard Dean (D–VT), House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R–GA), and Governor Jim Edgar (R–IL).

Categories
Business government

Hedge-Fund Ownership Cost Sears Workers Their Jobs. Now They’re Fighting Back

Valleys outside of Neptune

The Nation reports:

The bill, introduced by State Senator Joseph Cryan, a Democrat, aims to bolster financial security for employees in the state by making them less disposable. Currently, there is no law anywhere in the country that guarantees severance for workers after a layoff. His bill would mandate that laid-off employees of large companies in the state be paid a severance equal to one week of wages for each full year of employment. “It is critical for holding Wall Street accountable…to the retail employees they take over,” Ryan told assembled media and lawmakers, sporting a purple vest with the Babies “R” Us logo stitched in yellow.

The bill would also require companies to give employees more notice before layoffs, including at least 15 days’ warning ahead of a bankruptcy filing or change in ownership, and would prohibit mass firings for 180 days after such an upheaval. It would ensure that Wall Street firms—like KKR, Bain, and Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund—are responsible for severance claims by classifying them as joint employers along with the executives who run their portfolio companies, and would classify severance as wages so that such payments would get top preference in the bankruptcy process alongside creditor claims.

“The genesis point for this legislation,” Cryan said, “was me standing with hundreds of Toys ‘R’ Us workers, listening to stories of folks who dedicated 27, 28, 31, 32 years and were basically getting nothing.” Democratic State Senator Nellie Pou, who backs the bill, noted that when Toys “R” Us laid off employees with little to no warning and refused to give them severance, it wasn’t “doing anything technically illegal, but they did something I believe to be reprehensible.”

The measure would be “game-changing,” said Carrie Gleason, the policy director of United for Respect. It would mean more than giving workers money to help after a layoff. It could change the calculation that companies make when deciding to cut workers in the first place, by putting a price on it. Right now, it’s “virtually costless” to fire employees, Appelbaum said. Private-equity firms in particular tend to turn to layoffs quickly after taking over a company. “Squeezing labor is the fastest way to increase cash flow to be able to make payments on the debt,” Appelbaum explained. This measure could “cause companies to think twice about whether laying off workers is their go-to solution for every problem that they face.”

(click here to continue reading Hedge-Fund Ownership Cost Sears Workers Their Jobs. Now They’re Fighting Back. | The Nation.)

I don’t know what the chances are of this bill passing, but I whole-heartedly support it. Hedge funds bleeding a company dry of its assets then laying off employees is a frequent occurrence, it isn’t right.

Even better would be a national bill with these same general parameters. Maybe Elizabeth Warren could propose it? 

Two is a Magic Number