America didn’t have to have so many people die, as the example of Hong Kong proves…
This is the new normal in Hong Kong — both very different from before the virus and very different from an American-style lockdown.
Subway workers clean handrails frequently. Restaurants are open, with tables spaced five feet apart. Diners are often given a small paper bag in which to put their mask — so it doesn’t infect the table, or vice versa
Entrance to Hong Kong is limited mostly to residents, all of whom are tested and quarantined, even if the test is negative. And residents wear masks despite 90-degree heat. “They’re so hot,” Adrienne says. “But it feels second nature to me at this point.”
The most important point: Hong Kong’s strategy is working extremely well.
It hasn’t reported a new homegrown case in more than two weeks. Over all, only about 1,000 people — out of 7.5 million — have tested positive. Only four have died.
Via NYT newsletter.
Meanwhile, in one US area roughly the same population size as Hong Kong:
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced 2,122 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 176 additional deaths.…Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 65,962 cases, including 2,838 deaths, in 97 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have processed 13,139 specimens for a total of 346,286.
If only the US had competent leadership, and a president who trusted science and data, and we had ramped up testing back in February (or even January!)
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.
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…
As part of a longer article about “Steel rain” cluster artillery, John Ismay writes:
The Army’s first generation of artillery cluster shells was born out of the service’s bitter experience facing human wave attacks in the Korean War. A top-secret postwar program at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey raced to create a new generation of weapons it called COFRAM, for Controlled Fragmentation Munition. The idea was to design artillery shells that broke open in midair, dispensing little grenades that exploded in more uniformly sized pieces than earlier munitions did. The key, they found, was to score the inside walls of the grenade body in a crosshatch type of design. (The M67 fragmentation hand grenade still in use today is a direct descendant of the COFRAM program.) By blanketing large areas with smaller munitions, they hoped human wave attacks could be defeated.
These COFRAM munitions stayed largely under wraps until early 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson panicked over the possibility of North Vietnamese forces overrunning the Marine base at Khe Sanh. The president discussed the possibility of using small nuclear weapons with Pentagon leadership to defend the base, but his commander in Vietnam, Gen. William Westmoreland, suggested that nukes would not be necessary.
I can’t say I’ve ever read that particular factoid before – that LBJ was prepared to drop a nuclear bomb on Vietnam! I’d heard of rumors of Nixon considering this, but never Johnson. Perhaps I just missed this in all the history I’ve read. Still concerning.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kudos to Illinois! Time to queue up the Reefer songs!
I was lucky enough to be born in the international melting pot of Toronto, blessed to spent formative years in liberal university town Austin, and Chicago.1
I’ve met and become friends with immigrants and first generation Americans from every continent: Asia, Africa, North/South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Oceania (well, maybe not Antartica). In my experience, immigrants are not seeking to steal our precious bodily fluids, replace us in the workplace, or murder us in our sleep. Politicians who demonize immigrants are assuming their constituents don’t have human interactions with immigrants, or they’ll have a realization that people are just people.
Sort of like the cliche of the anti-LGBT politician who changes his harsh tune when his daughter comes out as gay.
note: cleaning out some never-published, half-written blog posts that have been saved in MarsEdit for a while [↩]
One day after Google CEO Sundar Pichai was questioned on data privacy during a House hearing, a group of 15 Democratic senators has proposed a new bill for protecting personal information online.
The Data Care Act, proposed by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and more than a dozen co-sponsors, including Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), would create new rules around how companies that collect user data can handle that information.
Under the act, data collectors would be required to “reasonably secure” identifying information, to not use that information in a harmful way, and to give notice to consumers about breaches of sensitive information. The requirement extends to third parties, if the data collectors share or sell that data with another entity, and the plan would also give the FTC new authority to fine companies that act deceptively with users’ data.
“Anytime you see anybody drive over (to) a vacant lot in a limo, you know it’s no good.”
When you’re a reporter trying to bring a complicated story to life, quotes like that — wry, sharply worded, evocative of a much larger scenario — are pure gold.
And in the promising, new Chicago-focused podcast “The City,” chronicling the battle over vacant lots in North Lawndale that became illegal dumping sites in the 1990s, lead reporter and narrator Robin Amer recognizes that quote for the gem that it is.
It comes from Gladys Woodson, one of the residents who tried to fight the illegal dumps, a story that would lead to FBI surveillance, court cases and a picture window into city corruption during the early years of the reign of the second Mayor Daley, the podcast asserts.
The first episode of “The City” debuts Monday, under the auspices of USA Today and available there and on iTunes, Stitcher and the like. In it, the host promises the first season’s Chicago illegal dump story will be one of “corruption, apathy and greed,” a story dark enough to stun even hardened city dwellers.
A measure that could dramatically expand access to medical marijuana in Illinois — making it available as an opioid painkiller replacement and easing the application process for all who qualify — was signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday.
The new law is a response to the epidemic of overdose deaths from narcotics, which killed almost 2,000 people in the state in 2016 and an estimated 72,000 people nationwide last year. It would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for any patient who has or would qualify for a prescription for opioids like OxyContin, Percocet or Vicodin.
No longer will any applicants have to be fingerprinted and undergo criminal background checks. And those who complete an online application with a doctor’s authorization will get a provisional registration to buy medical cannabis while they wait for state officials to make a final review of their request.
[Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health] said the elimination of background checks and fingerprinting for applicants goes into effect immediately, and all patients may now get provisional approval to buy medical marijuana immediately upon receiving a receipt for payment from the state health department.
But it will take the state until Dec. 1 to implement all the new rules for the program, and will take until early next year to develop a new system to monitor the program to make sure that opioid replacement patients don’t go to multiple dispensaries and don’t buy marijuana for more than 90 days at a time. The 90-day period can be renewed by patients’ doctors.
Patients who qualify for medical marijuana for something other than opioid replacement can maintain their authorization for three years.
And Rauner, being Rauner, changed the period of this access from 1 year to 90 days.
Legalize Marijuana: Cook County
Also, this seems like an important distinction for the upcoming election:
The pilot medical cannabis program is due to expire in July 2020. But state lawmakers have proposed legalizing recreational marijuana next year for those over age 18. The Democratic candidate for governor, J.B. Pritzker, supports the measure, while Rauner opposes it.
Ash and smoke are choking Seattle’s air for the second week in a row, as wildfires smolder in the Cascades and in British Columbia. The air quality in Seattle this week has been worse than in Beijing, one of the world’s most notoriously polluted cities.
As of Wednesday morning, the Air Quality Index in Seattle was at 190, a rating classified as “unhealthy.” In parts of the city, the index rose as high as 220, which is “very unhealthy.” Other parts of Puget Sound, like Port Angeles, Washington — 80 miles from Seattle — saw the AQI rise to 205 this week.
To put it in perspective, an AQI of 150 is roughly equal to smoking seven cigarettes in a day. People breathing air this unhealthy should avoid being outside and exerting themselves, particularly people with heart and lung problems, the elderly, and children.
And yet one of the two major political parties in the US is adamant that nothing can or even should be done to ameliorate the effects of climate change. A vote for the GOP is a vote for this kind of apocalyptic condition to worsen.
Fires are a natural occurrence in many woodlands and are essential to a healthy ecosystem. But the growing scale and destruction from these fires stems from human activity.
What kinds of human activity? According to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, environmental terrorists.
“[Fires] have been getting worse,” Zinke said in an interview with Breitbart News Saturday. “We have longer seasons, hotter conditions, but what’s driving it is the fuel load. And we have been held hostage by these environmental terrorist groups that have not allowed public access, that refuse to allow the harvest of timber.”
I asked the Interior Department who these terrorists are and they pointed me toward Zinke’s August 8 editorial in USA Today, where he said that radical environmentalists “make outdated and unscientific arguments, void of facts, because they cannot defend the merits of their policy preferences year after year as our forests and homes burn to the ground.”
Environmentalism is a recurring scapegoat in the Trump administration. Earlier this month, Trump blamed “bad environmental laws” for amplifying wildfires.
But researchers say this ire is pointed in the wrong direction. And in Zinke’s zeal to blame conservationists for deadly fires, he conspicuously sidestepped larger human-caused factors driving the current rash of wildfires, including climate change.
Nick Heer writes about a topic near and dear to our brains, albeit from the web developer side: why do websites load so slowly? And why is our personal data being sold without our informed consent?
The average internet connection in the United States is about six times as fast as it was just ten years ago, but instead of making it faster to browse the same types of websites, we’re simply occupying that extra bandwidth with more stuff. Some of this stuff is amazing: in 2006, Apple added movies to the iTunes Store that were 640 × 480 pixels, but you can now stream movies in HD resolution and (pretend) 4K. These much higher speeds also allow us to see more detailed photos, and that’s very nice.
But a lot of the stuff we’re seeing is a pile-up of garbage on seemingly every major website that does nothing to make visitors happier — if anything, much of this stuff is deeply irritating and morally indefensible.
Take that CNN article, for example. Here’s what it contained when I loaded it:
Eleven web fonts, totalling 414 KB
Four stylesheets, totalling 315 KB
Twenty-nine XML HTTP requests, totalling about 500 KB
Approximately one hundred scripts, totalling several megabytes — though it’s hard to pin down the number and actual size because some of the scripts are “beacons” that load after the page is technically finished downloading.
The vast majority of these resources are not directly related to the information on the page, and I’m including advertising. Many of the scripts that were loaded are purely for surveillance purposes: self-hosted analytics, of which there are several examples; various third-party analytics firms like Salesforce, Chartbeat, and Optimizely; and social network sharing widgets. They churn through CPU cycles and cause my six-year-old computer to cry out in pain and fury. I’m not asking much of it; I have opened a text-based document on the web.
An actual solution recognizes that this bullshit is inexcusable. It is making the web a cumulatively awful place to be. Behind closed doors, those in the advertising and marketing industry can be pretty lucid about how much they also hate surveillance scripts and how awful they find these methods, while simultaneously encouraging their use. Meanwhile, users are increasingly taking matters into their own hands — the use of ad blockers is rising across the board, many of which also block tracking scripts and other disrespectful behaviours. Users are making that choice.
They shouldn’t have to. Better choices should be made by web developers to not ship this bullshit in the first place. We wouldn’t tolerate such intrusive behaviour more generally; why are we expected to find it acceptable on the web?
An honest web is one in which the overwhelming majority of the code and assets downloaded to a user’s computer are used in a page’s visual presentation, with nearly all the remainder used to define the semantic structure and associated metadata on the page. Bullshit — in the form of CPU-sucking surveillance, unnecessarily-interruptive elements, and behaviours that nobody responsible for a website would themselves find appealing as a visitor — is unwelcome and intolerable.
All that “surveillance” stuff and related files are an abomination, and pleases no-one. I’ve heard anecdotal reports that even marketing savvy companies don’t frequently use all the data that is collected on their behalf. So who wants it? Unclear to me. I guess the third party data collection industry is happy to vacuum up this data because they can subsequently re-sell our information to the highest bidder, but that’s not a good enough reason to continue making web pages cumbersome.
Rebecca Solnit eloquently writes about the rural bubble that racists like Charles Murray want the rest of us to enter:
The exhortations are everywhere. PBS News Hour featured a quiz by Charles Murray in March that asked “Do You Live in a Bubble?” The questions assumed that if you didn’t know people who drank cheap beer and drove pick-up trucks and worked in factories you lived in an elitist bubble. Among the questions: “Have you ever lived for at least a year in an American community with a population under 50,000 that is not part of a metropolitan area and is not where you went to college? Have you ever walked on a factory floor? Have you ever had a close friend who was an evangelical Christian?”
The quiz is essentially about whether you are in touch with working-class small-town white Christian America, as though everyone who’s not Joe the Plumber is Maurice the Elitist. We should know them, the logic goes; they do not need to know us. Less than 20 percent of Americans are white evangelicals, only slightly more than are Latino. Most Americans are urban. The quiz delivers, yet again, the message that the 80 percent of us who live in urban areas are not America, treats non-Protestant (including the quarter of this country that is Catholic) and non-white people as not America, treats many kinds of underpaid working people (salespeople, service workers, farmworkers) who are not male industrial workers as not America.
More Americans work in museums than work in coal, but coalminers are treated as sacred beings owed huge subsidies and the sacrifice of the climate, and museum workers—well, no one is talking about their jobs as a totem of our national identity.
PBS added a little note at the end of the bubble quiz, “The introduction has been edited to clarify Charles Murray’s expertise, which focuses on white American culture.” They don’t mention that he’s the author of the notorious Bell Curve or explain why someone widely considered racist was welcomed onto a publicly funded program. Perhaps the actual problem is that white Christian suburban, small-town, and rural America includes too many people who want to live in a bubble and think they’re entitled to, and that all of us who are not like them are menaces and intrusions who needs to be cleared out of the way.
We’ve discussed this before a few times. The rural voters may have disproportionate power in Congress, but they don’t have much cultural power. Urbanites are not clamoring to move out to small towns in Alabama or Iowa, places where the Walmart and four Protestant churches are the sum total of cultural life. Not all rural folk are racist assholes wallowing willfully in their ignorance, by the way. And in truth, there are liberal-minded folk all over the country, even in pockets of small town America. Jefferson’s America is long, long gone though.
I actually have lived in rural America, years ago, albeit not by choice. I have no desire to move back.
I mean, sure, who wouldn’t like being wealthy enough to have a place to go and unwind, some isolated thousand acre ranch in beautiful country, maintained by staff, but I wouldn’t want to live there more than a few weeks a year.
Rural Still Life
Back to the main point, why aren’t there a gazillion think pieces on the bubble of the rural Trump supporter? Coal jobs are not coming back, women are going to be able to vote, and drive, and make reproductive decisions for themselves; and non-white people are going to have civil liberties and be able to vote for their own interests. Supporting reactionaries like Trump and Scott Pruitt and the like is not going to alter the march of human history towards inclusion.
As somebody said on the internets (sic), the corporate media and the political chattering classes are treating the Trump base as if they are superdelegates. These reactionaries who voted for Trump despite all the warning signs of Trump’s incompetence are never going to be convinced to vote for progressive policies, why do we need to devote so much effort trying to cater to them? Are the Deplorables the only citizens who matter? Why not spend resources convincing the sometime voters who lean left to come to the polls instead?
The country will henceforth be known as eSwatini, the kingdom’s name in the local language. (It means “land of the Swazis” in the Swazi — or siSwati — tongue.)
The king, who has reigned since 1986, announced the name change — an adjustment, really — during a ceremony in the city of Manzini on Thursday to mark his 50th birthday.
Many African countries upon independence “reverted to their ancient, native names,” The Associated Press quoted the king as saying. “We no longer shall be called Swaziland from today forward.”
According to Reuters, Mswati argued that the kingdom’s name had long caused confusion. “Whenever we go abroad, people refer to us as Switzerland,” the king said, according to Reuters.
The king had used the name eSwatini in recent years, including in addresses to his country’s Parliament, the United Nations General Assembly and the African Union. He said that the kingdom was reverting to its original name, before the advent of British colonization in 1906.
When Swaziland gained independence from Britain on Sept. 6, 1968, it retained its colonial-era name, unlike several other former British colonies in the region.
Nyasaland became Malawi on achieving independence in 1964. Months later, Northern Rhodesia achieved nationhood as the new republic of Zambia. In 1966, Bechuanaland was reborn as Botswana, and Basutoland changed its name to Lesotho. Rhodesia, following a 14-year period of white-minority rule that was not internationally recognized, became the new nation of Zimbabwe in 1980.
Sounds legitimate to me. Why shouldn’t a country be named by its inhabitants instead of its former colonial overlord? I named my land outside Austin as Upper Yurtistan, why can’t eSwatini be an accepted new name? Granted eSwatini might have some bigger issues of corruption and so forth, but names are important too.
You’d think this would be a bigger story, but I guess the Trumpnado overwhelms the news cycle most days.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was taken into police custody Tuesday over allegations he illegally accepted 50 million euros ($68.5 million) from the government of the late Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to finance his successful 2007 presidential campaign.
The detention of Sarkozy — France’s president between 2007 and 2012 — represented a major development in what is likely to become an explosive political scandal.
If the allegations are true, it would mean Sarkozy knowingly violated France’s campaign finance laws, which in 2007 capped campaign funding at 21 million euros ($28.8 million). In the presidential election that year, Sarkozy narrowly defeated Ségolène Royal, a Socialist, in the final round of the vote.
Investigators and journalists have long scrutinized potential connections between the former center-right president and Gaddafi.
More than 5,600 of Studs Terkel’s radio interview programs on the Chicago station WFMT will be released to the public.
The Studs Terkel Radio Archive will launch May 16, the 106th birthday of the late author, activist and oral historian. Terkel died in 2008 at age 96. The archive will be available on studsterkel.org.
For 45 years — 1952 to 1997 — the legendary Terkel elevated oral history to a popular genre by interviewing both the celebrated and everyday people for books and on WFMT. Among the radio interviews to be released are those with Martin Luther King Jr., Simone de Beauvoir, Bob Dylan, Cesar Chavez and Toni Morrison.