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.

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
health

Coronovirus COVID-19

Coronavirus COVID-19 (2019-nCoV):

We are tracking the COVID-19 spread in real-time on our interactive dashboard with data available for download. We are also modeling the spread of the virus. Preliminary study results are discussed on our blog.

(Via Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE.)

Categories
politics

Joe Biden and Super Tuesday

The Wild, Wild West

First, I am disappointed that more Americans don’t consider Elizabeth Warren as the best choice for president. She seems to me the most likely to get a progressive agenda through Congress.

Second, I worry that Joe Biden, the Democratic establishment’s favorite, also known as Credit Card Joe, will not beat Donald Trump. Biden reminds me of Al Gore, of John Kerry, of Michael Dukakis, even of Walter Mondale. And of course, Hillary Clinton. All centrist, corporate friendly Democrats, supported by the Democratic establishment, who won the Democratic Party’s nomination, but then lost because of these same reasons. Maybe I’m wrong: I don’t know how Biden would actually perform when going up against the Trump/GOP Wurlitzer. Biden does have a tendency to misspeak, make gaffes, but then there is Trump who lies nearly every sentence he utters.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Third, if Biden does pull out the nomination, of course I’ll vote for him in the general election, just as I did for all those mentioned above1 but not enthusiastically. Donald Trump is a threat to our entire planet, and a threat to the continuation of America as a nation of democratic ideals; other than marching in the street, voting against Trump is our only recourse to removing him.

Financial Entanglements 

The Guardian U.K.:

The former vice-president Joe Biden surged to Super Tuesday victories in nine states, sweeping the south and taking the key state of Texas in a remarkable comeback on the most pivotal night of the Democratic presidential primary race.

His rival, Bernie Sanders, won the crucial state of California, according to the Associated Press, where 415 delegates – more than any other state in the Democratic primary – were up for grabs. Exit polls indicated that the Vermont senator had an approximate 15-point lead, though final results may not be confirmed for days.

The win gave Sanders a much-needed boost after a rejuvenated Biden swept the southern states of Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Oklahoma, propelled by black voters, and scored surprise wins in Massachusetts and Minnesota, before topping the winning streak with the delegate-rich state of Texas.

(click here to continue reading Super Tuesday: Biden sweeps southern states as Sanders wins California | US news | The Guardian.)

Chase Rainbow

Vox:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was the first Democratic 2020 hopeful to take a direct swing at former Vice President Joe Biden since he got into the race, accusing him of being “on the side of the credit companies” in a fight that launched her political career a decade ago.

Warren’s quarrel with Biden isn’t personal. It’s about a 2005 bankruptcy bill he supported as a senator. Warren opposed the bill so vehemently that its passage inspired her transition from a Harvard bankruptcy law professor, who studied middle-class economics, to a senator and now a presidential hopeful.

“I got in that fight because [families] just didn’t have anyone and Joe Biden was on the side of the credit card companies,” Warren said after an April rally in Iowa. “It’s all a matter of public record.”

The bill made it harder for individuals to file for bankruptcy and get out of debt, a legal change that credit card companies and many major retailers had championed for years. The bill passed Congress with large majorities, but most Democratic senators, including Barack Obama, voted no. Biden voted yes and was widely seen at the time as one of the bill’s major Democratic champions.

To Warren, bankruptcy is fundamentally about bad luck rather than irresponsible behavior. The changes were mostly unnecessary additional burdens for struggling families that would enrich powerful special interests. Supporters of the changes, like Biden, believed that too many people were filing for bankruptcy — often people with more ability to repay their debts — a problem that was costly not just to creditors but to ordinary nonbankrupt consumers.

 

(click here to continue reading Bankruptcy law: Joe Biden vs. Elizabeth Warren – Vox.)

Footnotes:
  1. except Walter Mondale, I was too young []
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
Music

Weird Dream About Gene Chandler and Jimi Hendrix

Speaking of musicians I don’t know much about, I had a dream about Gene Chandler last night. I have an album of his, a compilation of his mid-to-late 1960s tracks called Soul Master, and a couple of miscellaneous tracks. I know he was affiliated with the great Curtis Mayfield, and was also from Chicago, but other than that, don’t know much off the top of my head.

Wikipedia:

Gene Chandler (born Eugene Drake Dixon on July 6, 1937) is an American singer, songwriter, music producer and record label executive. Nicknamed “The Duke of Earl” or simply “The Duke”, he is best known for his most successful songs “Duke of Earl” and “Groovy Situation” and his association with The Dukays, the Impressions and Curtis Mayfield.

Gene Chandler was born Eugene Drake Dixon in Chicago, Illinois, on July 6, 1937. He attended Englewood High School on Chicago’s south side. He began performing during the early 1950s with the band The Gaytones. In 1957, he joined The Dukays, with James Lowe, Shirley Jones, Earl Edwards and Ben Broyles, soon becoming their lead singer. After his draft into the U.S. Army he returned to Chicago in 1960 and rejoined the Dukays.

Gene Chandler Soul Master
Gene Chandler – Soul Master

(click here to continue reading Gene Chandler – Wikipedia.)

Anyway, I dreamt that Gene Chandler, before he was successful, was friends with Jimi Hendrix before he was successful. This could actually be true, but I don’t know for certain. Jimi Hendrix did tour as a guitarist with a lot of the R&B acts of the time. In my dream, Gene Chandler had a day job which required him to go into a studio and record 10 or 12 new bass guitar riffs for inclusion in someone else’s song, or other commercial purposes. In my dream, Jimi Hendrix sat in for a day, substituting for Gene Chandler. Chandler’s riffs were straight forward R&B shuffles, but Hendrix came up with some weird, funky, super catchy riffs. I wish I could recall what they were, I’d probably have fun playing them, if I had a bass guitar.