R.I.P. Lee Konitz, 92


Jazz Saxophonist Dead at 92 From COVID-19

‘One of the most influential alto saxophone soloists of the modern age, Lee Konitz, died in a New York hospital on 15 April, aged 92, after contracting COVID-19.

The gifted improviser performed with dozens of first-class musicians throughout his career, including Miles Davis, Kenny Burrell, Stan Getz, Bud Powell, Chick Corea and Gerry Mulligan….’

– Martin Chilton writing in uDiscover



Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting

Julio Vincent Gambuto writing in Medium:

‘What is about to be unleashed on American society will be the greatest campaign ever created to get you to feel normal again. It will come from brands, it will come from government, it will even come from each other, and it will come from the left and from the right. We will do anything, spend anything, believe anything, just so we can take away how horribly uncomfortable all of this feels. And on top of that, just to turn the screw that much more, will be the one effort that’s even greater: the all-out blitz to make you believe you never saw what you saw. The air wasn’t really cleaner; those images were fake. The hospitals weren’t really a war zone; those stories were hyperbole. The numbers were not that high; the press is lying. You didn’t see people in masks standing in the rain risking their lives to vote. Not in America. You didn’t see the leader of the free world push an unproven miracle drug like a late-night infomercial salesman. That was a crisis update. You didn’t see homeless people dead on the street. You didn’t see inequality. You didn’t see indifference. You didn’t see utter failure of leadership and systems…

From one citizen to another, I beg of you: take a deep breath, ignore the deafening noise, and think deeply about what you want to put back into your life. This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the bullshit and to only bring back what works for us, what makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud. We get to Marie Kondo the shit out of it all. We care deeply about one another. That is clear. That can be seen in every supportive Facebook post, in every meal dropped off for a neighbor, in every Zoom birthday party. We are a good people. And as a good people, we want to define — on our own terms — what this country looks like in five, 10, 50 years. This is our chance to do that, the biggest one we have ever gotten. And the best one we’ll ever get.

…If we want cleaner air, we can make it happen. If we want to protect our doctors and nurses from the next virus — and protect all Americans — we can make it happen. If we want our neighbors and friends to earn a dignified income, we can make that happen. If we want millions of kids to be able to eat if suddenly their school is closed, we can make that happen. And, yes, if we just want to live a simpler life, we can make that happen, too. But only if we resist the massive gaslighting that is about to come. It’s on its way. Look out….’

What Does Covid-19 Do to Your Brain?

Via Wired:

‘Scientists are racing to figure out why some patients also develop neurological ailments like confusion, stroke, seizure, or loss of smell….’

My thoughts:

All vulnerable patients with infectious illnesses can suffer mental status alterations. High fevers make patients delirious. (The first thing investigated in the emergency room in an acute confusional presentation in a frail elder is the possibility of a urinary tract infection.)

It is possible that the coronavirus can directly invade the CNS but it is not known yet if it can cross the blood-brain barrier. The CNS effects may instead be due to the immune response provoked by the infection, which induces the secretion of immune-active molecules called cytokines. This so-called ‘cytokine storm’, which is also seen as a rare complication of other viral infections such as the flu, has the potential to attack and damage brain tissue.

One piece of evidence about whether the neurological complications are caused by direct viral invasion of the brain or indirect immune-response effects is whether viral particles are found in cerebrospinal fluid obtained by lumbar puncture from affected individuals. Case reports are contradictory with regard to CSF findings. There are not yet good guidelines or standardized protocols for detecting the virus in cerebrospinal fluid, which is a different process than testing nasal or throat swabs.

During the 2003 epidemic with the related coronavirus that caused SARS, which killed 774 people, a proportion of the autopsies performed on victims detected the viral genome in brain tissue in addition to its widespread presence in other organs. In animal models, SARS-CoV inoculated nasally rapidly spread into the brain via the olfactory neurons, showing a preference for the brainstem (which is involved in the control of respiration), and often caused death. The 1993 SARS-CoV and the current SARS-CoV2 which causes CoVid-19 both use the same cell surface receptor, ACE2, as their portals of entry into human cells.

Neurological symptoms likely only affect a proportion of infected patients. Reports first appeared in February in which 36% of a series of patients from Wuhan demonstrated neurological effects. Most were nonspecific (headaches, dizziness, or confusion) but a few patients had distinct neurological syndromes including strokes, prolonged seizures, and anosmia (loss of sense of smell). In some patients, the neurological symptoms preceded respiratory illness.

Interestingly, reports suggest that sudden anosmia may be more common than appreciated and one of the first symptoms of the infection. The olfactory receptors in the nose are “the only central nervous system cells exposed to the exterior world”, said one neuroscientist, and this might be the first place you would see CNS signs of CoVid infection if it was one of the virus’ behaviors. On the other hand, some clinicians think the loss of sense of smell is not a direct effect of the coronavirus infection. Some research suggests that human olfactory neurons do not express the ACE2 receptor, unlike other cells in the respiratory tract. Some theorize that the virus affects support cells for the olfactory neurons instead of those neurons themselves. Others suggest that the loss of smell may be due to secondary infection of the nasopharynx by Candida (yeast) in infected individuals.

A historical parallel to the neurological impact of CoVid-19 may exist. During and after the 1918 “Spanish flu’ epidemic, the world saw an epidemic of an atypical form of brain infection known as encephalitis lethargica or ‘sleeping sickness’ (as distinct from the African sleeping sickness transmitted by tsetse flies), which affected nearly 5 million people around the world between 1915-1926. A third died and many of those who survived where permanently neurologically impaired, left in a speechless, apathetic and immobile condition. Others, who appeared to make a complete recovery, developed neurological or psychiatric disorders years or decades later, e.g. the postencephalitic Parkinsonism which was the basis of the patients described in neurologist Oliver Sacks’ book Awakenings. Interestingly, there is speculation that Adolf Hitler may have had encephalitis lethargica as a young adult. There is strong evidence that he had Parkinsonism in his later years, and one one could certainly speculate that he suffered from mental health disturbances.

No recurrence of this epidemic has been reported. Although the cause of the brain infection remains uncertain, the strong correlation to the influenza epidemic suggests a causal link. Immunological evidence of influenza infection was frequently found in encephalitis lethargica patients, although recent studies show that no viral RNA appears in the few 100-year old samples of brain tissue from these patients. As argued above with respect to the coronavirus, while CNS pathology may be due to direct infection of the brain, a virus may or may not be able to cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the CNS. An alternative mechanism may be via an autoimmune response.

Unholy anorexia

Neuropsychologist-writer  Paul Broks, in Aeon:

‘Medieval mystics starved the body to feed the soul. Understanding this perfectionist mindset could help treat anorexia today…

I am prepared to speculate that disgust will eventually prove crucial to understanding the anorectic mindset, medieval and modern. …With eating behaviour at its evolutionary root, physical disgust elaborates biologically and culturally to shape mental attitudes towards the body of a kind that, in vulnerable individuals, sets body and mind in conflict. The holy anorexics’ quest was spiritual purity, whereas their present-day counterparts are driven by a warped notion of physical perfection. But in both its medieval and modern forms, anorexia is a self-destructive expression of ‘mind over matter’, a way of asserting mental over physical selfhood. Self-loathing and shame, derivatives of disgust, are the main drivers….’


Donald Trump threatens to adjourn Congress unilaterally. Can he do that?

Dahlia Lithwick writing about what would be unprecedented power grab in Slate:

‘At his coronavirus press conference on Wednesday, President Donald Trump issued a stunning threat-slash-promise-slash-constitutional fantasy. Complaining that Democrats were blocking his judicial appointees, the president said that the Senate should either end its current pro forma session and come back to Washington amidst a pandemic to approve his appointees or officially adjourn so that he can make recess appointments. “The Senate has left Washington until at least May 4,” Trump said. “The Constitution provides a mechanism for the president to fill positions in such circumstances, the recess appointment it’s called. The Senate’s practice of gaveling into so-called pro forma sessions where no one is even there has prevented me from using the constitutional authority that we’re given under the recess provisions. The Senate should either fulfill its duty and vote on my nominees or it should formally adjourn so that I can make recess appointments.”

“If the House will not agree to that adjournment,” he continued, “I will exercise my constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress. The current practice of leaving of town while conducting phony pro forma sessions is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis. It is a scam what they do.”

Trump is likely referencing Article 2, Section 3 of the Constitution, which provides that the president can “on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper.” Does he have the power to actually do this, though? According to this 1964 article from the New York Times the Senate Parliamentarian issued an opinion in that year, regarding presidential authority to adjourn Congress: “The answer is yes—but only under, certain unusual circumstances. These conditions are so limited that a President has never exercised the power to adjourn Congress.” …’