Trump Tweets QAnon Conspiracy Theory Message Amid Unrest

‘President Trump reposted a message amid national unrest on Sunday expressing support for the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory, a movement the FBI considers a potential domestic terror threat. In his tweet, Trump quote-tweeted a May 30 tweet from “Sean Cordicon,” a QAnon conspiracy theory promoter. Cordicon’s tweet included a Trump rally highlight reel and a message to his audience that they are “the calm before, during, & after the storm.” Cordicon’s tweet appears to be a reference to “The Storm,” a QAnon concept that imagines Trump and the military suddenly arresting and either executing or imprisoning top Democrats. Trump responded to the tweet with a one-word message of his own: “STRENGTH!” …

Trump’s retweet of the “storm” message was taken as proof by QAnon believers that the arrests were about to begin, with one popular QAnon account tweeting “Here we go.” Earlier on Sunday, Trump declared that he would designate left-wing antifascist “antifa” demonstrators as terrorists. But QAnon believers have committed a number of alleged crimes, having been charged with two murders, a terrorist incident, and two child abduction plots, among other crimes….’

— Via The Daily Beast

Thousands of Species Are Fleeing to Earth’s Poles en Masse, And a Pattern’s Emerging

‘Drawing together 258 peer-reviewed studies, researchers compared over 30,000 habitat shifts in more than 12,000 species of bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals. We know that global warming is forcing many animals around the world to flee their normal habitats, but now, an exhaustive analysis has shown marine species are booking it for the poles six times faster than those on land….’

— Via Science Alert

Spell to Be Said against Hatred

Until each breath refuses they, those, them.
Until the Dramatis Personae of the book’s first page says, “Each one is you.”
Until hope bows to its hopelessness only as one self bows to another. Until cruelty bends to its work and sees suddenly: I.
Until anger and insult know themselves burnable legs of a useless table.
Until the unsurprised unbidden knees find themselves bending. Until fear bows to its object as a bird’s shadow bows to its bird. Until the ache of the solitude inside the hands, the ribs, the ankles. Until the sound the mouse makes inside the mouth of the cat. Until the inaudible acids bathing the coral.
Until what feels no one’s weighing is no longer weightless.
Until what feels no one’s earning is no longer taken.
Until grief, pity, confusion, laughter, longing know themselves mirrors.
Until by we we mean I, them, you, the muskrat, the tiger, the hunger.
Until by I we mean as a dog barks, sounding and vanishing and
sounding and vanishing completely.
Until by until we mean I, we, you, them, the muskrat, the tiger, the
hunger, the lonely barking of the dog before it is answered.

— Jane Hirshfield

The anger behind the George Floyd protests, explained in 4 charts

Even though one ex-police officer has been charged in the Minneapolis murder of unarmed George Floyd the eruption of anger around the country has continued because they are not about that one crime but rampant police violence without consequences. A recent analysis found that 99% of police killings from 2014-2019 did not result in officers even being charged, let alone convicted of a crime. During those years, there have been consistently been in excess of 1,000 killings — across race of victim — by police per year. In other words, little has changed appreciably despite years of protest and advocacy. 

Per capita, black Americans are the most likely victims, nearly three times as likely to be killed as whites, as well as much more likely to have been unarmed when shot. In many cities, the rate of police killings is higher than the rate of violent crimes. 

Protests against police killing of unarmed black men have been numerous and at times long-lived, giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement and other advocacy efforts. Some studies have shown that the resulting oversight measures, e.g. chokehold and stronghold bans, have indeed had some impact.

But not enough. A black man in America has a 1 in 1000 chance of being killed by the police. Is there anything protesters can do other than draw attention to this problem that does not seem to be going away? 

Many advocates argue that no change can come about until policies are put in place weakening police unions, and ensuring police cannot be militarized or demilitarized at the whim of the president of the United States. The decision to offer police military equipment is not made at the local, but federal level. And police union officials, who often shape the rules police officers are governed by, are voted in by officers in the union — not by the public.

The officer who has been charged with the murder of George Floyd was still on the job after 18 prior complaints. And 99% of officers are not charged following a killing. With these odds and the years of frustration they have ignited, there is little recourse other than to continue to take to the streets. 

— Via Vox

Institutionalized Racism: A Syllabus

Smoke billowing over Tulsa, Oklahoma during 1921 race riots.


‘The United States has seen escalating protests over the past week, following the death of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police. Educators everywhere are asking how can we help students understand that this was not an isolated, tragic incident perpetrated by a few bad individuals, but part of a broader pattern of institutionalized racism. Institutional racism—a term coined by Stokey Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) and Charles V. Hamilton in their 1967 book Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America—is what connects George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery with Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Emmett Till, and the thousands of other people of color who have been killed because they were black in America….’


Unexplained Phenomena Keep Suggesting the Universe Isn’t What We Thought

Is the Universe playing fair with us?

‘This notion of universal laws, known as the cosmological principle, has produced centuries of theory and has so far been borne out by astronomical observations. The model of an isotropic universe helps explain crucial phenomena such as the homogeneity of the cosmic microwave background, the oldest light in the universe, as well as the apparent expansion of the universe at a uniform rate.

“The cosmological principle is, in more tangible terms: Is the universe playing fair with us?” explained Robert Caldwell, a professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College, in a call. “Are the laws of physics the same everywhere? Or is there a preferred location in the universe?”

While most evidence suggests the universe is playing fair, there are also many cosmic wildcards that seem to clash with the cosmological principle. Just within the past few months, for instance, two teams of physicists published completely different observations of anomalies in the universe that hint at potential variations in fundamental laws and forces….’

— Via VICE

The problem with comparing health care workers to soldiers on Memorial Day

‘While images of health care workers running into death may seem “beautiful” to some, frequently hailing health care workers as heroes and praising our sacrifices suggests that our lost colleagues were expected to be human collateral damage in the fight. As if the California nurse who ran into a code blue to save a patient and died from lack of PPE is a martyr whose tragic death should be celebrated. In reality, as we’ve argued before, none of us chose to be in this position. Rather, we have been thrust into roles where we have to risk ourselves and our families, largely because leadership has failed, and continues to fail, to protect us….’

— Via Vox

If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for Biden or Trump, then you ain’t a woman


Trump spreads sexist insults about Hillary Clinton, female Democrats

‘On Saturday, President Donald Trump shared a series of sexist insults and personal jibes about prominent female Democrats. 
The tweets, by a failed conservative congressional candidate, were aimed at Hillary Clinton, Stacey Abrams, and Nancy Pelosi. 
Trump has a long record of aiming sexist insults at female critics. 
His campaign has doubled down on spreading insults and conspiracy theories about opponents in the wake of the president’s faltering response to the coronavirus….’

— Via Business Insider

I am a simple potato guardian who needs my Second Amendment rights

‘ “We’re going after Virginia with your crazy governor. … They want to take your Second Amendment away. You know that right? You’ll have nobody guarding your potatoes.”
— President Trump, to farmers assembled at the White House

I am a potato guardian. This is the only life I have known. Here is my tale, one no doubt familiar to you, just as the concept of a person who guards potatoes in Virginia is familiar….’

Alexandra Petri in The Washington Post

Wingnut Update

QAnon Is More Important Than You Think

‘QAnon is emblematic of modern America’s susceptibility to conspiracy theories, and its enthusiasm for them. But it is also already much more than a loose collection of conspiracy-minded chat-room inhabitants. It is a movement united in mass rejection of reason, objectivity, and other Enlightenment values. And we are likely closer to the beginning of its story than the end. The group harnesses paranoia to fervent hope and a deep sense of belonging. The way it breathes life into an ancient preoccupation with end-times is also radically new. To look at QAnon is to see not just a conspiracy theory but the birth of a new religion….’

— Via The Atlantic

Wingnuts’ Latest


More than 40% of Republicans think Bill Gates will use COVID-19 vaccine to implant microchips, survey says:

‘A survey from Yahoo News and YouGov finds that the conspiracy theory is popular among Fox News viewers, Republicans and Trump voters.

— Ian Sherr writing on CNET

Brazil: The coronavirus is hitting indigenous communities hard

‘The mortality rate is double that of the rest of Brazil’s population, according to advocacy group Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) which tracks the number of cases and deaths among the country’s 900,000 indigenous people.
APIB has recorded more than 980 officially confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 125 deaths, which suggests a mortality rate of 12.6 percent — compared to the national rate of 6.4 percent….’

— Via CNN

6 months on, Trump hasn’t completed his physical. The White House won’t say why.

‘In November 2019 — six months ago this week — Trump began what the White House described as “portions” of his third physical during a two-hour examination at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

That visit to Walter Reed was unannounced and remained shrouded in secrecy for two days as the president remained out of public view and as the White House declined to answer questions about it.

The president’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, later wrote in a memo released by the White House that Trump’s “interim checkup” had been “routine.” Conley at the time said a “more comprehensive” examination would occur this year and that the president’s labs and exam results would be released in a corresponding report.

At 73, Trump is the oldest person to be sworn in for his first term as president.

Questions about Trump’s health are newly relevant, given his announcement this week that he is taking hydroxychloroquine to ward against contracting the coronavirus. The president described it as a “two-week regimen,” which ends today. Trump has repeatedly promoted the anti-malarial drug as a coronavirus treatment despite multiple warnings about its dangers….

A president’s annual physical typically occurs at the beginning of a new year. Trump’s 2019 exam was conducted in February, and his 2018 physical was conducted in January. It is uncommon for a president to complete a routine physical exam months apart and in multiple stages.

“As a part of granting a president as much power as we do, he has the obligation to demonstrate that he is well or, if he is not, to let us know exactly what is amiss,” said presidential historian Michael Beschloss…’


— Via NBC News

A doctor shares steps he’ll review to decide when and where it’s safe to go out and about

William Petri, immunologist and professor of medicine at the University of Virginia reminds us that our individual behavior affects not only our own health, but that of others. These are just careful common sense, in a sense they shouldn’t even have to be stated:

— correlate level of risk-taking to data on incidence of new COVID-19 infections in the community

— extra caution if you or those with whom you will visit have risk factors for severe infection, such as age >65 or serious medical conditions

— attentiveness to knowledge about the virus’ modes of transmission

— mask-wearing, avoidance of touching surfaces, avoidance of touching face, frequent handwashing

— staying outdoors, limiting time indoors with others, social distancing

— mask wearing, avoidance of venturing out and risking infecting others if experiencing fever, cough or other symptoms of a viral syndrome

— Via The Conversation

The Dream of “Disconnected Psychology”

‘A thought-provoking paper proposes a way to advance psychology: by encouraging researchers to ignore previous work in the field.

The piece is called Unburdening the Shoulders of Giants: A Quest for Disconnected Academic Psychology and it appeared in Perspectives on Psychological Science.

According to author Dario Krpan, academic psychology is failing to fully explore the space of possible theories. In other words, it is stuck in an intellectual rut (or ruts)….’

— Via Discover

Is America too libertarian to deal with the coronavirus?

Is America too libertarian to deal with the coronavirus? – Vox:

‘Keith Humphreys, a Stanford University professor who works on addiction and public health policy, argued in a viral Twitter thread last week… that a lot of his public health colleagues weren’t thinking seriously enough about the cultural obstacles that might undercut the country’s efforts to test, trace, and isolate Americans. He later penned a Washington Post column drawing out his arguments in a little more detail.

Humphreys’s basic claim is that any plan we adopt, no matter how wise, is useless without “widespread political consent” from American citizens. And the obsession with individual liberties in America, coupled with a general distrust of government, poses an enormous challenge to even the best conceivable plan….’

— Via Vox

How the Black Death Gave Rise to British Pub Culture


‘By the 1370s, though, the Black Death had caused a critical labor shortage, the stark consequence of some 50 percent of the population perishing in the plague. Eventually, this proved a boon for the peasantry of England, who could command higher wages for their work and achieve higher standards of living. As a result, the alehouses that were simply households selling or giving away leftover ale were replaced by more commercialized, permanent establishments set up by the best brewers and offering better food.

The burial ceremony of a monk in a 14th-century English convent. DE LUAN / ALAMY
“The survivors [of the Black Death] prioritized expenditure on foodstuffs, clothing, fuel, and domestic utensils,” writes Professor Mark Bailey of the University of East Anglia, who also credits the plague for the rise of pub culture, over email. “They drank more and better quality ale; ate more and better quality bread; and consumed more meat and dairy produce. Alongside this increased disposable income, they also had more leisure time.”…’

— Via Atlas Obscura

Why Ahmaud Arbery’s killing was a lynching


‘A video recorded his last moments. In it, two white men with guns corner him as he runs near their parked pickup truck. One shoots him three times, twice in the chest. The other man is a former officer with the local police department. Both men, a father and his son, were free until that video went viral on May 5. It took 74 days after Arbery’s death before the men were put in jail and charged with murder; they now face possible federal hate crimes charges.

The video brought a level of attention to Arbery’s killing that it had not attracted until then. It also sparked national anger: People were — and are — furious that an arrest had taken so long, that police appear to have empowered one of the suspects to act as a vigilante, that a small and interconnected local criminal justice community appeared uninterested in a full investigation, and, most of all, that another young, unarmed black man had been killed over nothing….’

— Via Vox

Dept of American Idiocy (cont’d)

20b5591b ebda 450c 83e6 68407f3fc2d0The press touts a coronavirus milestone as the global count passes 5 million. Of course, the count bears the same relationship to the realities as Plato’s shadows on the cave wall. Alex Madrigal in The Atlantic covers the evidence that the CDC is making a crucial error in counting cases, underestimating fatality statistics upon which governors have been basing their reopening decisions

Imperfect as the statistics are, The WHO reported (WSJ) the largest single-day increase in infections since the outbreak began, about 40% of them in the U.S. A research team from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which uses cellphone data to track social distancing and forecast pandemic trends, warns that hotspots throughout the South suggest danger of a second wave (Washington Post) over the coming four weeks in, among other places, Dallas, Houston, Florida’s Gold Coast, and throughout Alabama. Cases are also already rising in parts of the Midwest. 

Our cognitive machinery evolved with a risk-averse bias so as not to be miss dangers that threaten survival through false optimism. It is better to prepare for the possibility that that shadow at the mouth of the cave is a marauding predator, even if it is from a leaf blowing by, than to get eaten because you lulled yourself with a false sense of security. Of course, our evolutionary machinery has been challenged by the fact that, in this case, the predator is an abstraction rather than a beast with a face. Abstraction is certainly beyond the cognitively impaired elected (and impeached) president and his anti-intellectual mob of followers.



One might argue, in a social Darwinist way, that people are entitled to make their own risk assessments, either to learn heuristically from the consequences or succumb. At some points since the emergence of CoViD, I speculated that we would see divergent mortality rates between red and blue regions of the U.S., for example. The problem is, of course, that during an epidemic, your idiocy jeopardizes me, my loved ones, many other innocents, as well as yourself, epidemiologically. To paraphrase a great social philosopher, “A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.” 

Scarborough Spots Moment Trump Hurt 2020 Chances More ‘Than Any Democrat Ever Could’

One can only hope:

‘Joe Scarborough on Tuesday pointed out when he believes President Donald Trump did the most damage to his 2020 reelection campaign.

According to the co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump likely doomed himself in April and May when he pondered injecting disinfectant to treat COVID-19, talked about taking an unproven cure and declared war on various government agencies and “every doctor or every scientist or every person who had spent their entire life planning for this moment when it came to vaccines.”…’

— Via HuffPost

Is Trump now screwing himself as he’s done to the country?

Hydroxychloroquine as Microcosm:

‘For anyone who treats medical evidence seriously, assesses risk, and acts prudently, Trump’s decision to take a potentially hazardous drug prophylactically is crazy. But it fits with the conservative-media ecosystem that launched Trump’s political career, and in which he continues to marinate, preferring it to hard data and unpleasant truths. Right-wing outlets are full of advertising in which program hosts tout the benefits of this or that snake-oil supplement: mysterious pills with magical oils, or supercharged-vitamin regimes. Trump, who contemplated launching a talk-radio show this spring, is emulating this. He has often treated the presidency as more like a media platform than a leadership position, and now he has the dubious product endorsements to match. (Last week, the FDA also issued a warning about an instant COVID-19 test that Trump has energetically touted.)

Trump said a White House doctor had prescribed the medicine. “A White House doctor—didn’t recommend—no, I asked him, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘Well, if you’d like it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like it. I’d like to take it.’” A little later, the White House issued a statement in which Sean Conley, the Navy officer who serves as the president’s physician, confirmed that Trump was taking the drug and explained, through what seemed like gritted teeth, the process: “After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.”

It’s absurd that Trump would take the drug despite the many risks when he has also declined to take more commonsense measures such as wearing a mask and gloves, as Olivia Nuzzi has noted. Part of that is selfishness: Trump is terrified about getting the disease himself, but is cavalier about other people getting it, and masks are mostly useful for protecting other people from getting infected.
But a large chunk is also symbolism. Trump reportedly believes that wearing a mask is a sign of weakness and is unpresidential; Trump allies such as the writer R. R. Reno have been more explicit in claiming that it is unmasculine and cowardly. Wearing a mask is certainly passive, and Trump likes to be seen as active and bold, even if that means taking an unproven putative miracle drug….’

— David Graham writing in The Atlantic

9 Words Formed by Mistake

‘Of all the ways that words come into being—descent from ancient roots, handy neologisms, onomatopoeia, back-formations that make sense, borrowings from other languages—one type stands out from the rest: words that are formed by mistakes. We’re talking here about words formed by what linguists call “false division,” “misdivision,” or “metanalysis”; it’s what happens when the spelling or sound of a word is split in the wrong place, often when the word has jumped from one language to another and is subject to the gravitational pull of new phonetic combinations. Let’s take a look at a few….’

Via Merriam-Webster

How Pandemics End

‘According to historians, pandemics typically have two types of endings: the medical, which occurs when the incidence and death rates plummet, and the social, when the epidemic of fear about the disease wanes.
“When people ask, ‘When will this end?,’ they are asking about the social ending,” said Dr. Jeremy Greene, a historian of medicine at Johns Hopkins….’

— Via The New York Times Magazine

How long will the Covid-19 pandemic last? We need immunity data to find out.

How long will the Covid-19 pandemic last? We need immunity data to find out. – Vox:

‘If immunity lasts a couple of years or more, Covid-19 could fade in a few years’ time. If immunity wanes within a year, Covid-19 could make fierce annual comebacks until an effective vaccine is widely available. While there’s hope that a vaccine will become available, it’s not a given. The vaccine could also be less than perfectly effective. Manufacturers could struggle to produce enough of it.

Immunity is one key to understanding the duration of this pandemic. Here’s what we know about it so far, and how scientists can crack the mystery for good….’

— Via Vox

Netflix’s ‘Extraction’ is being called out for its Bangladesh yellow filter

Netflix’s ‘Extraction’ is being called out for its Bangladesh yellow filter:

‘ON APRIL 19, Netflix shared a new trailer for its recently released Chris Hemsworth film Extraction, which takes place in Bangladesh. The trailer depicts the high-octane methods used to film the movie (a cameraman attached to the front of a car moving at high speed, for instance). But the trailer had an unexpected consequence: Viewers quickly noticed that the footage of the movie being filmed looked normal while the final cut of the film has a distinct, and off-putting, yellowish tint.

There’s a phrase for this distinct color palette: It’s called yellow filter, and it’s almost always used in movies that take place in India, Mexico, or Southeast Asia. Oversaturated yellow tones are supposed to depict warm, tropical, dry climates. But it makes the landscape in question look jaundiced and unhealthy, adding an almost dirty or grimy sheen to the scene. Yellow filter seems to intentionally make places the West has deemed dangerous or even primitive uglier than is necessary or even appropriate, especially when all these countries are filled with natural wonders that don’t make it to our screens quite as often as depictions of violence and poverty….’

— Via Matador

Doctors in need of mental health treatment fear licensing hurdles

Killing Our First Responders:


‘Young doctors are planning funerals — their own. They are intubating patients — their colleagues. And they are hearing bedside monitors beep and fall flat over and over again in a single shift, only to return to more of the same in the next shift, and the next, as they find their years of training unequal to the awful challenges of the covid-19 pandemic.

Last month, a prominent Manhattan emergency room doctor, Lorna Breen, died by suicide after describing the horrific events she had witnessed while fighting the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Her death highlighted what some of us in the mental health community have known since the start of the crisis: that the psychological impact of what is happening in American hospitals will stay with us long after the immediate crisis subsides and that among those most affected will be health-care workers. All agree that we should focus on how to help them seek the care they may need, but little has been said about the barriers that can discourage them from reaching out — or that a significant barrier is medical licensing.

The pandemic has provoked fear in doctors and nurses. They’re scared, not just because they so often can’t save the lives of covid-19 patients, but because they can’t always protect themselves and their families from infection. Those like Breen who lead a hospital department probably feel most the additional burden of having to keep their colleagues safe and fight for protective equipment. National shortages, coupled with the highly contagious nature of this virus, have resulted in workers and vulnerable relatives getting sick and, in some cases, dying. No doctor imagines having to treat a colleague; confronting our own mortality and safety in the workplace on a daily basis is something none of us were taught in medical school. It makes the mundane experience of going to work terrifying and even traumatic.
The toll that trauma and post-traumatic stress puts on the body is well-established. We’ve also known for some time that trauma can change the structure and chemical makeup of the brain. It hijacks the brain’s ability to reason and activates our most primal emotional responses. It should come as no surprise, then, that there is a proven link between trauma and suicide. While we do not know the specific circumstances of Breen’s challenges — she had also contracted the virus herself — we do know that her experience in the hospital, as relayed by her father and sisterin the news media, is the experience of countless other health-care workers who remain on the front lines and, consequently, face the same risk. The common symptoms of trauma include avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event, nightmares with similar themes, flashbacks and intrusive memories, critical self-evaluation, guilt, negative mood, anxiety, panic attacks and detachment or dissociation. When these symptoms go untreated, sufferers become vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), other serious disorders and, yes, suicide.

Early treatment is essential to the prevention of a potentially debilitating, if not deadly, outcome, but physicians, in particular, face elevated levels of scrutiny when disclosing any form of mental health treatment to state licensing boards. For many doctors, the repercussions they may face introduce a significant obstacle. About 90 percent of state licensing applications include a question about a physician’s mental health, and some even ask questions about past diagnoses, such as depression or anxiety, that may have occurred before medical school. This goes against the recommendation of the American Medical Association and has been cited in studies as a significant reason that physicians are reluctant to seek mental health care.

Although there is no reason to believe that psychiatric diagnosis or treatment poses a risk to patients unless the physician has very serious ongoing symptoms, answering yes to these questions often leads to further questions. The state licensing board can require all of your medical and mental health records, including intimate details about your upbringing, your family and your spouse that you may have divulged in private psychotherapy sessions. Your license may be contingent upon sharing these records.

Moreover, after sharing your records, the board can then dictate further evaluation and possibly send a physician to a Physician Health Program (PHP). Initially started to assist physicians through tough times, some PHPs have earned a poor and even malignant reputation over the years, partly because they have financial arrangements with select institutions across the country. PHPs reportedly send physicians to these institutions — at their own expense — for costly cash-only evaluations that sometimes last several weeks. After the evaluation, the PHP may require supervision of the physician’s practice of medicine, a workplace monitor whose job it is to report back to the PHP about the “troubled physician,” or order random check-ins even without any specific evidence of current impairment.

Once a PHP requires this evaluation, the physician is trapped. If you don’t enter into a contract with the PHP to fulfill whatever requirements have been outlined, you risk permanently losing your medical license. Many physicians caught in what some believe to be a corrupt PHP system have written about their experiences, and others who know how this system works have advocated for these doctors, but PHPs still exist and physicians still fear them…’


— Kayla Behbahani and Amber Thompson writing in The Washington Post

The 1918 Flu Pandemic Killed Millions. So Why Does Its Cultural Memory Feel So Faint?

701ad6ec 804b 460a 8aab 9b727dd2cd79Literary scholar Elizabeth Outka finds the pandemic between the lines in literature.:

Historians have by and large felt that the event, despite killing 50-100 million, left little impact on culture and public memory. Many argue that it was overshadowed by the concurrent experience of WWI. But in late 2019 literary scholar Elizabeth Outka published Viral Modernism: The Influenza Pandemic and Interwar Literature, arguing that while only a handful of writers addressed the pandemic explicitly it was foundational for the work of luminaries such as T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and W.B. Yeats. 

Diseases are recorded differently by our minds than something like a war. By their nature, diseases are highly individual. Even in a pandemic situation, you’re fighting your own internal battle with the virus, and it’s individual to you. Many, many people in a pandemic situation may be fighting that same battle, but it’s strangely both individualized and widespread…

It’s difficult to memorialize a pandemic, because disease makes people feel helpless, and there’s very little we can do to make meaning from it. With war, even if you disagree with the war, you could at least argue about whether the death was worth it. Did this sacrifice keep a soldier’s family safe? With an infectious disease, if you die, your family is more likely to die. There’s no sacrificial structure to build around a loss of this kind. It’s simply tragedy.

My specialty is literature, and literature is especially good at capturing these elements of disease that are difficult to represent. Our bodies’ perception of the world depends on the health of the body and the experiences of that body. There’s that sort of invisible, strange conversation that happens between the body and the mind. Literature can capture that.

For instance, Yeats’ canonical 1919 poem The Second Coming, generally read as c capturing the postwar zeitgeist and the political upheaval in Ireland, was written while his wife was convalescing from near-death from the virus while pregnant at a time when the death rate among pregnant women was up to 70%. ‘Now, did Yeats have this at the top of his mind when he was writing the poem? We don’t know, but it certainly captures that horror, and that delirium.’ And Woolf, who was ill with the virus herself, showed the subtle ways the flu still affected Mrs. Dalloway’s eponymous main character long afterward. Outka also finds reflections of survivor guilt in characters with experiences of pandemic loss in several works, and ‘there’s not any place to put it.’ . 

— Via Slate

I recently read one estimate that, by the time the death toll reached around half a million here in the US, on average everyone will have experienced the death of someone they knew from coronavirus. Will we have any place to put that?

McDonald’s Workers in Denmark Pity Us

Nicholas Kristof:

‘Put it this way: More than 35,000 Americans have already died in part because the United States could not manage the pandemic as deftly as Denmark…

[P]aradoxically, while Americans on both left and right often think of Scandinavia as quasi-socialist, Scandinavians flinch at that characterization. They see themselves as simply pursuing market economies, just with higher taxes and greater social benefits than the United States.

Danes pay an extra 19 cents of every dollar in taxes, compared with Americans, but for that they get free health care, free education from kindergarten through college, subsidized high-quality preschool, a very strong social safety net and very low levels of poverty, homelessness, crime and inequality. On average, Danes live two years longer than Americans….’

— Via The New York Times

Why Does Meatpacking Have Such Bad Working Conditions?

As coronavirus outbreak hotspots, the focus has been on the awful conditions and low wages in meatpacking plants even before the pandemic. The work is largely done by immigrant and underprivileged workers with few other job opportunities and the gospel is that it is doomed to be bad. Conditions are familiar to anyone who read Upton Sinclair’s muckraking novel The Jungle, but after WWII unionization, closely aligned with the civil rights movement, brought wages and working conditions considerably uphill, in line with other blue collar industries. However, in the 1960’s, in a shift made possible by transporting meat in refrigerated trucks instead of trains, the industry began moving to more rural areas, undercutting the unions’ militant urban powerbase. Meanwhile, new production techniques reduced the skill required of slaughterhouse workers, and recruitment of Latin American immigrants ensued in the 1990s and 2000s. Thus, working on the killing floor became a death sentence. 


The case for taking UFOs seriously


It’s not exactly clear what the recently released Pentagon UFO videos show, but Alexander Wendt, professor of international relations at Ohio State University, thinks “the odds [of their extraterrestrial origins] are high enough that we should be investigating it. It’s as simple as that.” (Later in the interview he gives his estimate of the odds as 51-49!)

‘It’s possible they’ve been here all along. And that’s something that I’ve been thinking about lately, which is a bit unsettling. Because it means it’s their planet and not ours. They could just be intergalactic tourists. Maybe they’re looking for certain minerals. It could just be scientific curiosity. It could be that they’re extracting our DNA. I mean, who knows? I have no idea. All I know is that if they are here, they seem to be peaceful…’

He argues that there is a taboo about studying UFOs because their reality calls into question the modern state’s reliance on an anthropocentric worldview. (He admits that this does not address the reluctance of the private sector and non-state actors.) 

‘…[I]f ETs were discovered, it would be the most important event in human history. If it became known, it could be a very dangerous event in the sense that we might see a collapse of state authority. We might see chaos. The possibility of contact with a civilization that has vastly more knowledge than we do is exciting and terrifying and unpredictable. My feeling is that if they’re here, they’re almost certainly peaceful, because if they were not peaceful they would have wiped us out a long time ago. They can probably do it very quickly. So my assumption is they don’t mean any harm… Sure, it’s possible they’re on a surveillance mission. But people have been reporting UFOs for at least 80 years, and that’s a really, really long surveillance mission. And also, why would they want to conquer us? That’s like us conquering ants…But it’s still the case that society could implode or destabilize as a result of colliding with ETs…’

Wendt attempts to explain the perhaps curious fact that the ETs have neither remained completely clandestine nor openly revealed themselves and “landed on the White House lawn”. Whatever the answer is, he concludes: ‘… I guess I will say this: Montezuma could’ve prepared a lot better for Cortes than he did, had he only known Cortes was coming.’

— Via Vox

White House suppresses CDC guide to reopening America without killing everyone

‘The Trump administration has blocked the Centers for Disease Control from releasing a detailed guide on to how to reopen public spaces. The 17-page report was titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework” and was intended to help business, churches, schools and local governments recover from the coronavirus pandemic without endangering public health.

No reason was given for suppressing the document, which was leaked to and summarized by the AP, but Trump and Republican allies have stated that reopening the economy must be done quickly, even if it results in many more deaths….’

— Via Boing Boing


Which do you find more useful. The attribution (“So-and-so writing in such-and-such a source”) in bold header type at the head of the article, or the older-style “Via such-and-such a source” at the bottom after the blockquote? If you’ve noticed, I have been vacillating  between the two and, be it as it may that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, the inconsistency is bothering me. Your comments are welcome…

Study using human brain tissue shows herpes link to Alzheimer’s

adobestock_250192751-768x432-1The new study, reported in StatNews, is the first evidence of an association between herpesvirus HSV-1 and Alzheimer’s Disease using a lab model of a brain. Brain-like tissue infected with HSV-1 became riddled with amyloid plaques, one of the characteristic pathological findings in post-mortem studies of Alzheimer’s patients’ brains, along with tangles of tau protein. The plaques and other pathology that are generally thought to cause the disease may be the brain’s defensive response to viral infection long before the onset of symptoms. Amyloid is known to be antimicrobial but can disrupt brain structure and function. The finding may revitalize research on the connection between infectious agents and Alzheimer’s, a sort of backwater area of investigation, and the possibility that antiviral medications might offer treatment or prevention potential.

I am not a virologist, but it seems clear that some caution about these findings is indicated. The literature has see-sawed back and forth in recent years about whether viral etiologies are likely or not. Algorithms to analyze RNA and DNA sequencing data, and thus findings about viral presence in affected brains, can differ. More than 50% of us are estimated to be infected with HSV-1, far in excess of the proportion who will develop Alzheimer’s Disease. Indeed, non-demented patients may have considerable amyloid plaque at autopsy as well. The presence of higher levels of DNA strands of HSV-1 in postmortem studies of Alzheimer’s brains was first observed around 30 years ago but proving causality has not been easy. More recent studies have contradicted that findingas well, as well as putative links between Alzheimer’s and other herpesvirus or non-herpes viral genomes.

(Props to Abby)

New piece of Alzheimer’s puzzle found

Via Neuroscience Stuff:

‘Two years after discovering a way to neutralize a rogue protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease, University of Alberta Distinguished University Professor and neurologist Jack Jhamandas has found a new piece of the Alzheimer’s puzzle, bringing him closer to a treatment for the disease.

In a study published in Scientific Reports, Jhamandas and his team found two short peptides, or strings of amino acids, that when injected into mice with Alzheimer’s disease daily for five weeks, significantly improved the mice’s memory. The treatment also reduced some of the harmful physical changes in the brain that are associated with the disease.

“In the mice that received the drugs, we found less amyloid plaque buildup and a reduction in brain inflammation,” said Jhamandas, who is also a member of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute.

“So this was very interesting and exciting because it showed us that not only was memory being improved in the mice, but signs of brain pathology in Alzheimer’s disease were also greatly improved. That was a bit of a surprise for us.”…’

R.I.P. Michael McClure,, 87


New York Times obituary:

‘Michael McClure, who at 22 helped usher in the Beat movement as part of a famed poetry reading at the Six Gallery in San Francisco, then went on to a long and varied career as a poet, playwright, novelist and lyricist, died on Monday at his home in Oakland, Calif. He was 87.
His wife, Amy Evans McClure, said the cause was complications of a stroke he had last year.

Mr. McClure was one of the poetry readers at the Six Gallery, a former auto repair shop that had been turned into an art gallery, on Oct. 7, 1955, a date that Beatdom magazine, marking the 60th anniversary of the event, called “arguably one of the most important dates in American literature.”
To an audience of perhaps 150 people (the number varies in the tellings), Mr. McClure read a poem called “For the Death of 100 Whales,” said to have been inspired by a report that bored American soldiers stationed in Iceland had amused themselves by shooting a pod of whales. But he and the other readers — Philip Lamantia, Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, with Kenneth Rexroth as M.C. — were overshadowed by the sixth man on the bill, Allen Ginsberg….’

The Mystery of the Hunt

It’s the mystery of the hunt that intrigues me,

That drives us like lemmings, but cautiously— The search for a bright square cloud—the scent of lemon verbena—

Or to learn rules for the game the sea otters

Play in the surf.

It is these small things—and the secret behind them

That fill the heart.

The pattern, the spirit, the fiery demon

That link them together

And pull their freedom into our senses,

The smell of a shrub, a cloud, the action of animals

—The rising, the exuberance, when the mystery is unveiled.

It is these small things

That when brought into vision become an inferno.

— Michael McClure (2011)

Trump’s disastrous ABC interview illustrated why he usually sticks with Fox News

The event foreshadows the White House policy ahead: There is no serious, coordinated plan to tackle the crisis. Instead, Trump will spend the summer trying to convince his supporters to ignore the data and believe that he turned the coronavirus crisis into an economic success story. That means opening up businesses, even though no expert believes that will help the economy. At the same time, it’ll cause more Americans to die.

Trump, gallingly, has decided to put his bogus campaign message before the health and safety and lives of Americans. As he said earlier Tuesday: “Will some people be badly affected? Yes.”
“Well, I’ll be honest, uh, I have a lot of things going on”

During the interview with Muir, Trump tried to deflect questions about his administration’s failures with regard to obtaining personal protective equipment and deploying an effective coronavirus test by pinning blame on former President Barack Obama. This talking point is absurd, but he has largely gotten away with making it during press briefings.

It took Muir just one question to demonstrate that Trump has no defense beyond deflection.

“What did you do when you became president to restock those cupboards that you say are bare?” he asked.

“Well, I’ll be honest, uh, I have a lot of things going on,” Trump began, in a soundbite tailor-made for an attack ad. “We had a lot of, uh, people, that refused to allow the country to be successful. They wasted a lot of time on ‘Russia, Russia, Russia’ — that turned out to be a total hoax. Then they did ‘Ukraine, Ukraine,’ and that was a total hoax. Then they impeached the president for absolutely no reason.”

…None of that was reassuring. But the most terrifying part of the interview came at the beginning, when Trump acknowledged that American lives will have to be sacrificed for the sake of reopening the economy.

Asked by Muir if “lives will be lost to reopen the country,” Trump didn’t try to deny it.

— Aaron Rupar writing in Vox

What Goes On In a Proton? Quark Math Still Conflicts With Experiments.

baryonfluxtubes_1160_cObjects are made of atoms, and atoms are likewise the sum of their parts — electrons, protons and neutrons. Dive into one of those protons or neutrons, however, and things get weird. Three particles called quarks ricochet back and forth at nearly the speed of light, snapped back by interconnected strings of particles called gluons. Bizarrely, the proton’s mass must somehow arise from the energy of the stretchy gluon strings, since quarks weigh very little and gluons nothing at all.

Physicists uncovered this odd quark-gluon picture in the 1960s and matched it to an equation in the ’70s, creating the theory of quantum chromodynamics (QCD). The problem is that while the theory seems accurate, it is extraordinarily complicated mathematically. Faced with a task like calculating how three wispy quarks produce the hulking proton, QCD simply fails to produce a meaningful answer.

via Quanta Magazine

Discriminating against our older selves

‘Although largely unnoticed by mainstream media, something significant has happened with the rise of COVID-19: the marginalization of older Americans. Scorn for elders is now on full display. Some blame them for the shelter-in-place guidelines. Some even say they should be offered up as a sacrifice for the good of the country.

But the coronavirus affects everyone. It’s true that hospitalization and mortality rates increase with age, but a March report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows young adults take up more ICU beds than the very old. This may evolve as the pandemic ensues. However, it highlights the potential issues in ageist assumptions. So why portray only older adults as vulnerable?

…We are professors of gerontology at the University of Southern California. We ask anyone who considers themselves polite, socially aware and considerate of others to rethink the common, casual use of the stereotypical phrases that refer to age. Many people do value and respect the experience of older adults, of course; only by being aware of the implications of our word choices and behaviors can we start to adjust our prejudices….’

— Carolyn Cicero and Paul Nash, writing in The Conversation

“Live and Let Die” played for Trump during factory tour

live-and-let-dieRepublicans broadly agree that mass deaths are an acceptable sacrifice in the effort to “reopen” an economy savaged by the coronavirus pandemic. This approach got its media moment yesterday as Trump toured a mask factory to Paul McCartney’s classic hit Live and Let Die.

“They blasted “Live and Let Die” while Trump walked around a Honeywell plant today in Arizona without a mask,” writes Aaron Rupar on Twitter. “It’s hard to believe this clip is real.”

71,000 dead as of today.

I keep seeing liberal folks accusing the right of hypocrisy, especially with respect to abortion. This is pointless, because they don’t care. We’re at the threshold of a sea change, where many right-wingers ditch pro-life rhetoric in favor of blunter, more sectarian weapons. “All life is sacred” was a lie its own proponts hardly pretended to believe in the first place, so why honor it after they abandon it? The post-Roe political reality of “it’s not her body anyway” is coming.

— Rob Beschizza, writing on Boing Boing

Beginning with the End

final_dadu_emergence_print_v2_4_23-2048x1191-1‘In this essay, Roy Scranton asks what we mean when we say “the world is ending.” Examining the nature of the narratives we tell ourselves about the future, he explores what revelation may be before us.

…Existence has no shape but change, and history is one damned thing after another…’

via Emergence Magazine

Children Are Falling Ill With a Baffling Ailment Related to Covid-19

Via New York Times:

‘Since the coronavirus pandemic began, most infected children have not developed serious respiratory failure of the kind that has afflicted adults. But in recent weeks, a mysterious new syndrome has cropped up among children in Long Island, New York City and other hot spots around the country, in an indication that the risk to children may be greater than anticipated.
The number of children in the United States showing signs of this new syndrome — which first was detected in Europe last month — is still small. None is known to have died, and many have responded well to treatment.
No solid data yet exists about how many children in the United States have fallen ill with what doctors are calling “pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome.”…’

Trump Is Unraveling

‘In case there was any doubt, the past dozen days have proved we’re at the point in his presidency where Donald Trump has become his own caricature, a figure impossible to parody, a man whose words and actions are indistinguishable from an Alec Baldwin skit on Saturday Night Live.

President Trump’s pièce de résistance came during a late April coronavirus task-force briefing, when he floated using “just very powerful light” inside the body as a potential treatment for COVID-19 and then, for good measure, contemplated injecting disinfectant as a way to combat the effects of the virus “because you see it gets in the lungs and does a tremendous number on them, so it’d be interesting to check that.”

But the burlesque show just keeps rolling on.

Take this past weekend, when former President George W. Bush delivered a three-minute video as part of The Call to Unite, a 24-hour live-stream benefiting COVID-19 relief. …Bush made a moving, eloquent plea for empathy and national unity, which enraged Donald Trump enough that he felt the need to go on the attack.

But there’s more. On the same weekend that he attacked Bush for making an appeal to national unity, Trump said this about Kim Jong Un, one of the most brutal leaders in the world: “I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!”

Then, Sunday night, sitting at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial for a town-hall interview with Fox News, Trump complained that he is “treated worse” than President Abraham Lincoln. “I am greeted with a hostile press, the likes of which no president has ever seen,” Trump said.

By Monday morning, the president was peddling a cruel and bizarre conspiracy theory aimed at MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, a Trump critic, with Trump suggesting in his tweet that a “cold case” be opened to look into the death of an intern in 2001.

I could have picked a dozen other examples over the past 10 days, but these five will suffice. They illustrate some of the essential traits of Donald Trump: the shocking ignorance, ineptitude, and misinformation; his constant need to divide Americans and attack those who are trying to promote social solidarity; his narcissism, deep insecurity, utter lack of empathy, and desperate need to be loved; his feelings of victimization and grievance; his affinity for ruthless leaders; and his fondness for conspiracy theories….’

— Peter Wehner, writing in The Atlantic


Anne Applebaum: The rest of the world is laughing at Trump (The Atlantic)

George T. Conway III: Unfit for office (The Atlantic)

George Packer: We are living in a failed state (The Atlantic)

The mysterious disappearance of the first SARS virus, and why we need a vaccine for the current one but didn’t for the other

SARS-CoV-1 was more aggressive and lethal than SARS-CoV-2. However, SARS-CoV-2 spreads faster, sometimes with hidden symptoms, allowing each infected person to infect several others. The current estimate is about three, but we scientists won’t know the real number until we can test a lot more people, and can understand the role of people without symptoms.

The most important difference is that contact tracing – or finding out who was exposed to someone infected with the virus – was relatively easy: Everyone had severe symptoms in two to three days.

With SARS-CoV-2, it takes about two weeks for symptoms to appear, and many people don’t have any symptoms at all. Imagine asking someone whom they had contact with for the last two weeks! You can accurately remember most people you had contact with for the past two days, but two weeks? This critical tool for pandemic control is very challenging to implement. This means that the only safe thing to do is to maintain quarantine of everyone until the pandemic is under control.

— Marilyn Roossinck, environmental microbiologist at Pennsylvania State University, writing in The Conversation

Asian Giant ‘Murder’ Hornet Reaches the U.S.

Plague Upon Plague: Mike Baker writing in The New York Times:

‘With queens that can grow to two inches long, Asian giant hornets can use mandibles shaped like spiked shark fins to wipe out a honeybee hive in a matter of hours, decapitating the bees and flying away with the thoraxes to feed their young. For larger targets, the hornet’s potent venom and stinger — long enough to puncture a beekeeping suit — make for an excruciating combination that victims have likened to hot metal driving into their skin.
In Japan, the hornets kill up to 50 people a year. Now, for the first time, they have arrived in the United States….’