Links 1/21/22

Links for you. Science:

SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and variants under investigation in England: Technical briefing 34
Unvaccinated pregnant women more likely to experience severe covid symptoms and newborn deaths, study says (paper here)
Koalas are getting harder to find. Scientists in Australia are on a quest to uncover a hidden population.
Ecuador expands protections around Galápagos, creating ‘a new highway’ for sea life
An icefish colony discovered in Antarctica is world’s largest fish breeding ground
With COVID-19, Air Is Both the Problem and the Solution: SARS-CoV-2 can linger in the air. Dealing with it can be relatively easy, but first, we have to admit we have a problem

Other:

What If We Multiply A Much Larger Number By A Slightly Smaller Number
Should I Be Wearing an N95 or KN95? Understanding the Evolving Advice on Masks
There’s a Critical Shortage of Federal Judges (Biden should appoint more, and Democrats need to find a way to ram through funding for this)
1,760 Acres. That’s How Much More of Manhattan We Need.
Bernie Sanders says Democrats are failing: ‘The party has turned its back on the working class’
Election officials in Texas reject hundreds of ballot applications under state’s new voting restrictions
Chile is rewriting its constitution. Americans should pay attention.
OSHA Can Do More to Protect Americans From Covid-19
The Supreme Court Had No Legal Reason to Block Biden’s Workplace Vaccine Rules (“In 2022, the Supreme Court serves as the nation’s most powerful policy making institution. It would be much easier to contain COVID if we acknowledged that the court’s decisions rest on not law but on some imprecise admixture of politics, ideology, and personal preferences. If Biden sat down with Roberts and Kavanaugh and asked them what pandemic policies they are comfortable with, we could skip over the performative litigation and get some real work done.”)
AOC Is a YIMBY Now
One of Biden’s biggest achievements is going largely ignored
Rioters Who Stormed Capitol Called Nancy Pelosi’s Office Wanting Their Stuff Back. Staffers answering the calls handed them over to the police, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said. (and yet these nitwits almost pulled it off)
Why Wordle is the perfect game for the moment
As COVID-19 vaccine mandate begins, Wu describes toll of protests at her home
Youngkin pick for medical adviser bucks trends on covid (Makary. Ugh. And not good for D.C., right next door…)
At the mayor’s house, a measure of how low people can go
How often can you safely reuse your KN95 or N95 mask?
Boston was right to refuse to fly Christian flag. As a Jewish legal advocate and a Baptist minister, we support the arguments of Boston in this critical First Amendment case that Supreme Court justices will hear on Jan. 18.
Security officers say Smithsonian staff shortages threaten safety of priceless treasures, and people
We Want You To Like Us
There Is Something Very Wrong With a Society That Scapegoats Its Teachers
White Supremacy and Sedition

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SCOTUS’ Inchoate Anti-Vaccinationism

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision to prevent OSHA from enacting a mask mandate with a vaccination opt-out (it’s not a vaccination mandate) isn’t surprising. This is the sort of half-assed jurisprudence the radical Republicans on the Court regularly engage in, except this time the stakes are so noticeable and they are unable to cloak their mediocrity in legalese and other technical terms.

What is surprising, though perhaps given their political alignments it shouldn’t be, is their playing footsie with anti-vaccinationism (boldface mine):

…it makes sense that the justices would also express their opposition in federalist terms, arguing that the states can do what the federal government can’t. But the decision in the employer-mandate case, and the dissent from the four conservative justices in the health-care case, hinges on a new and alarming embrace of the right-wing culture war against vaccination, a deeply regrettable cost of conservative political strategy and political-identity formation.

…It was arguably inevitable that the justices would echo their cultural milieu—in which a COVID vaccine is like a mark of Cain that stains the soul forever—in their decision.

The conservative wing of the Court wants to have it both ways: insisting they are not questioning the safety or efficacy of vaccination, while issuing decisions that are entirely premised on the right’s newfound and quasi-religious conception of them as traumatic and metaphysically significant—a necessity for the mandates to be seen as oppressive. This is little more than culture war dressed up in the language of constitutionalism.

This shift was evident during the oral argument, when the justices who signed on to Gorsuch’s concurrence raised soft anti-vaccination talking points. Although technically the argument was about whether to stay the mandates while the legal challenges against them proceed, the arguments were focused on whether the mandates themselves were lawful. When it came to the employer mandate, the Republican-appointed justices were profoundly skeptical. And not just skeptical of federal power to regulate business, but skeptical of the vaccines themselves, even when they were strenuously claiming not to be.

Thomas questioned whether “vaccinations are efficacious in preventing some degree of infection to others,” and asked, “Is a vaccine the only way to treat COVID?” Although the Omicron variant has shown itself able to break through vaccination, it is not the only variant in circulation, and the vaccines remain effective against all variants in preventing many deaths and hospitalizations.

Gorsuch compared COVID to the flu, and asked why OSHA had not mandated flu vaccines, even though the flu is nowhere near as lethal as COVID.

Alito prefaced a question suggesting that the vaccines were unsafe by insisting that he was not suggesting the vaccines were unsafe. “I don’t want to be misunderstood in making this point, because I’m not saying the vaccines are unsafe,” Alito said to Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar. “Has OSHA ever imposed any other safety regulation that imposes some extra risk, some different risk, on the employee, so that if you have to wear a hard hat on the job, wearing a hard hat has some adverse health consequences? Can you think of anything else that’s like this?”

…The justices’ reasoning follows the path set by the rest of their political coalition. Their academic pedigrees and social status do not insulate them from adjusting their views to fit those of the community they have chosen.

Their willingness to dismantle federal regulatory authority is par for the course–that is what they do. But the embrace of anti-vaccination sentiment, even as they are unwilling or unable to clear state what is objectionable, is galling. It is willful ignorance, and a final stain on the court.

And every Very Serious Lawyer who argued that Kavanaugh, Barrett, Gorsuch would be competent jurists needs to go fuck themselves while we’re at it.

Posted in Conservatives, COVID-19, We're Really Fucked | 1 Comment

Links 1/20/22

Links for you. Science:

Microbial defenses against mobile genetic elements and viruses: Who defends whom from what?
The Worst of the Omicron Wave Could Still Be Coming
Israel Still Not Sure Omicron Causes Milder Illness, Despite Research. Which variant do seriously ill Israeli COVID patients have, and how many have underlying conditions? Lack of clear information is making it difficult for doctors to precisely assess the nature of severe illness caused by omicron
Muted and deferential, the UK’s scientists have failed the pandemic test. Throughout the pandemic, senior advisers and institutions have failed to challenge a post-truth government. It bodes ill for the climate crisis.
Immunological dysfunction persists for 8 months following initial mild-to-moderate SARS-CoV-2 infection (possible markers of long COVID)
Omicron thwarts some of the world’s most-used COVID vaccines

Other:

Family Capitalism and the Small Business Insurrection (very good)
‘Back Alley’ Advice Is Making The Pandemic Worse
Public Libraries Aren’t Essential Services
Voters Want the U.S. to Provide Free N95 Masks (Dear professional Dems, giving people nice things is good policy and politics)
Biden Under Fire for Resisting Calls to Distribute N95 Masks to All
Bernie Wants Democrats to Fight for the Working Class. They Won’t.
At-Home Coronavirus Tests Are Inaccessible to Blind People
Poll: Americans value “health and safety” over in-person learning
What fake 2020 Electoral College certificates tell us about America’s fragile democracy
Shame
D.C. Launches Pilot Program To Give Cash To New Parents And Pregnant People — With No Strings Attached
In a 6–3 Ruling, the Supreme Court Upholds the Covid Pandemic
Rollups: All Monopolies Are Local. How one supermarket chain, Stop & Shop, abuses property transfers to frustrate competition
Why Pizzeria Paradiso Is Done With Tipping After 30 Years in Business. Customers now see a 20 percent service charge for dine-in and a 12 percent service charge for takeout.
The Supreme Court’s golden rule: Only Republican leaders hold true power
The Subversive Genius of Extremely Slow Email
Here’s what you need to know for the week of January 14, 2022
Michigan AG refers Republicans behind fake electoral certificates to federal prosecutors
A Democrat won a US House seat this week with 79 percent of the vote. Her GOP opponent has not conceded.
Colors: Where did they go? An investigation. Why do so many TV shows and movies look like they were filmed in a gray wasteland?
As Omicron Surges, Effort to Vaccinate Young Children Stalls
Minus is the anti-Twitter that grants you 100 posts for life

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Long COVID and Missing Workers

In late October, I argued that some of the ‘missing workers’ were missing not by choice, but by necessity: long COVID meant they were unable to work–or work certain jobs. Then in December, we began to see unprecedented COVID-related effects in employment data, over the short-term, and possibly long-term, in those who had to miss work due to illness. And shortly after that, news outlets started covering the long COVID problem, estimating, as I had in October, that somewhere around a million plus people were unable to work.

Now the Brookings Institute has released a report arguing the same (boldface mine):

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that through October 2021, just over 100 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 have contracted COVID-19. And studies suggest that between 27% and 33% of COVID-19 patients still experience symptoms months after infection. That means 31 million working-age Americans—more than one in seven—may have experienced, or be experiencing, lingering COVID-19 symptoms.

It may not be the case that all 31 million are still sick; some may have recovered. Understanding how many people have long Covid at any given time requires an assumption about average illness duration. In the U.K., which is doing a much better job collecting data than the U.S., more than 70% of people with persistent COVID-19 symptoms have been sick for more than three months, and more than one-third have been sick for at least a year. This chronicity is consistent with other post-viral illnesses, which behave similarly to long Covid and often last for years.

To be conservative, this analysis assumes the 31 million long Covid patients stayed sick for an average of three months. That means that about 4.5 million may have been sick at any given time over the past 20 months.

Not all of these 4.5 million people would have stopped working. Two studies of long Covid patients found that 23% and 28%, respectively, were out of work due to long Covid at the time of the study. That suggests there may have been about 1.1 million Americans not working due to long Covid at any given time.

Additionally, some long Covid patients reduced hours rather than taking time off: 46% according to a study in The Lancet. That is another 2.1 million workers. If those workers reduced their hours by only a quarter, that would increase the labor market impact to 1.6 million full-time equivalent workers. In other words, under reasonable assumptions given the data available, long Covid could account for 15% of the nation’s 10.6 million unfilled jobs.

Like so many policies over the last forty years, I think we (or some of us, anyway) will realize after the fact just how bad it was to have a de facto policy of Let ‘Er Rip. Then again, those who made the policies are far less likely to be affected by them, so this is, unfortunately, par for the course.

Posted in Economics | Leave a comment

Links 1/19/22

Links for you. Science:

Strong new evidence suggests a virus triggers multiple sclerosis (paper here)
The Impact of Real-Time Whole-Genome Sequencing in Controlling Healthcare-Associated SARS-CoV-2 Outbreaks
COVID vaccines safely protect pregnant people: the data are in
Debunking the idea viruses always evolve to become less virulent (my take here)
Viral dynamics and duration of PCR positivity of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant
Phase I clinical trial of Moderna mRNA vaccine for Epstein-Barr virus starting at UMass Chan

Other:

Fire Jeff Zients. Biden’s COVID czar has gone from ‘Mr. Fix-It’ to grim reaper, steering the administration’s pandemic response to catastrophic lows. (yes)
The Real Reason Americans Aren’t Isolating. Many workers with COVID-19 still—still!—can’t afford to isolate, because they don’t have paid sick leave.
The Seditious Conspiracy Indictment Describes a Very Sophisticated Plot for January 6
Calling My Shot On Letting Omicron Rip
Herschel Walker Makes Tommy Tuberville Look Like a Statesman
My wife had long Covid and killed herself. We must help others who are suffering
Everyone in Centrist Pundit Gumdrop Land Picked the Same Week to Go On an Acid Trip
Republicans who falsified Michigan electoral college vote under scrutiny from Congress, Attorney General
The Supreme Court’s ruling against vaccine mandates is much, much worse than it seems
Teachers’ Unions Are Making Totally Reasonable Pandemic Health and Safety Demands
Art Nouveau doors from c.1900 in Brussels, Belgium.
The lack of a US non-occupational respirator standard has entered the realm of absurdity
What Patients Can Learn With Confidence From One Negative Rapid Test (Hint: Very Little)–not a great headline, but this is what I meant by some people didn’t realize they weren’t being as cautious as they thought they were
Manchin and Sinema have been allowed to lie about the filibuster
Why Republicans Won’t Confirm This Renowned Holocaust Scholar
If Dems Don’t Save Democracy Now They Won’t Get Another Shot
D.C.’s Vaccine Requirement For Businesses Starts Saturday. Here’s What To Know
Metro Says 7000-Series Trains Won’t Return Until Mid-April At Earliest
American Democracy: A Status Check. A year after the Jan. 6 insurrection, what have we learned?
Examining Silver Spring’s past, present, and future as a “Black Space”
Exhausting Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy
Racist Rep. Paul Gosar shares white nationalist ideology (again) in email sent to congressional list
Oh no! In a world of COVID horror stories, I wouldn’t wish this one on my worst enemy
Rep. Paul Gosar shared white nationalist screed asking if Americans will be replaced with “foreigners who are more violent or less capable”

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The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: Declining from an Awful Peak

And miles and miles to go. obviously no wards are below the German rollback threshold of 50 new cases per 100,000 per week–which also is the moderate threshold the CDC uses (0.05% in the second column below; n/a is not available):


Ward one-week prevalence one-week % pos. two-week prevalence two-week % pos.
1 0.871% n/a 2.032% n/a
2 0.930% n/a 2.190% n/a
3 0.871% n/a 2.036% n/a
4 1.264% n/a 3.189% n/a
5 1.189% n/a 3.163% n/a
6 1.046% n/a 2.558% n/a
7 1.206% n/a 3.171% n/a
8 1.260% n/a 3.438% n/a
D.C. total 1.131% 17.9% 2.818% 18.8%

Most wards in D.C. had large declines, with the exception of Ward 2 which had a thirty percent increase. The entire city had another 33% decline. There were far fewer self-reported positives because the back-to-school testing didn’t happen this week, but with those tests that decline shrinks to twenty percent. In addition, the self-reported positives aren’t broken out by ward, so we have no idea to which ward those tests belong.

COVID ICU patients have leveled off, but are still very high, and D.C. has had 23 deaths in the last week. As we noted last week:

Also, given the limited protection two doses provides against infection and that less than thirty percent of those with two doses have had a third dose, it’s likely that transmission will keep going for a while–and you really can protect yourself from infection* by getting the third dose (the booster) and wearing a good mask.

You also can get free, at-home antigen tests at D.C. public libraries, and the online federal site is now up and running. We also need free distribution of good masks.

Rage is the appropriate emotion.

Posted in COVID-19, DC | Leave a comment

Links 1/18/22

Links for you. Science:

Calling Omicron ‘Mild’ Is Wishful Thinking. We are far past the point of hoping that this variant will spare us. (must-read; accessible to non-specialists)
Effectiveness of BNT162b2 Vaccine against Critical Covid-19 in Adolescents
COVID-Hospitalization Numbers Are as Bad as They Look: Many supposedly “incidental” infections aren’t really incidental, and cannot be dismissed.
COVID-19 vaccine surveillance report, Week 2, 13 January 2022
Omicron Variant: NYC Report for January 13, 2022
Mutation bias reflects natural selection in Arabidopsis thaliana

Other:

Why Don’t The People Who Serve Me Understand It Is Time To Get Back To Normal (excellent)
Look Outside It’s Fucking Raining (also excellent)
Let us now celebrate the retirement of Pat Leahy
It’s time to acknowledge reality. Many schools will likely have to close because of omicron. (yep)
Republican Opposition To D.C.’s Vax Mandate Has Escalated To Nazi Comparisons
What The Fuck Is Wrong With These People (“…maybe masks are dumb, but you guys are in charge and you better figure something out, aside from yelling at people to go to work sick.”)
The Tom Friedman Party
The Filibuster Is Made-Up and Stupid, and So Is the Made-Up, Stupid History to Justify It
He fell in love with D.C. R&B as a child and has spent his life tracing every last note
As state ignores at-home COVID test data, boards of health come up with their own solutions
‘Crime tourists’: An international spree targets D.C. area’s wealthy Asian residents
A new plan to ‘Trump-proof’ the 2024 election quietly comes together
Hot takes on remote schooling are all over the place, but most of them miss the point
36 million families won’t get a child tax credit check this week, thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin
John Kuczwanski killed in Tallahassee road rage incident (looks like the shooting actually was self-defense; cars suck)
Oakland students threaten to boycott classes unless school district meets covid demands
Omicron Isn’t Milder for Everyone, Like Our Patients
New York City high school students stage walkout, citing inadequate covid measures
The Real Estate Industry and New York Progressives Are Headed for a Showdown
Judge critical of Biden administration’s progress on student debt relief claims (failure of governance)
Why the GOP is suddenly running scared from Trump’s Big Lie
What a progressive champion from rural Maine can teach Democrats about winning
As Pandemic Strains School Workers, Substitute Teachers In D.C. Demand Higher Pay

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The War Against ‘Critical Race Theory’ Is Dumber Than You Can Imagine

And by ‘critical race theory’ I mean teaching anything that might be upsetting to white Christian supremacists. Virginia has a bill pending, H. 781, with the usual ‘anti-CRT’ pablum, but it also has this doozy (boldface mine):

B. The Board shall, in furtherance of the citizens skills portion of the 5 C’s in the Profile of a Virginia Graduate, incorporate into each relevant Standard of Learning and associated curriculum framework a requirement that each student demonstrate the understanding of:

1. The fundamental moral, political, and intellectual foundations of the American experiment in self-government, as well as the history, qualities, traditions, and features of civic engagement in the United States;

2. The structure, function, and processes of government institutions at the federal, state, and local levels; and

3. The founding documents of the United States, including the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Federalist Papers, including Essays 10 and 51, excerpts from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, the first debate between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, and the writings of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

And “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice!”

For those as unaware of U.S. history as the august solons of the Virginia House of Delegates, the Lincoln-Douglas debates (note the one s in Douglas) were between Lincoln and Senator Stephen Douglas over whether states admitted to the Union should be mandatory free states, or possible slave states, depending on the popular will of the newly admitted states (states rights has a very long and odious history).

They did not involve Frederick Douglass, the Black abolitionist (though those would have been some very interesting debates!).

Sadly, both the ignorance and the incompetence are par for the course for the Republican Party.

In case they decide to alter the text, here it is for posterity:

Screen Shot 2022-01-14 at 12.05.35 PM

Posted in Conservatives, Racism | Leave a comment

Links 1/17/22

Links for you. Science:

A Naturalist Stumbled on an Ichthyosaur Skeleton, the Largest in U.K. History
Can You Get the Flu and Covid at the Same Time? Yes, you can get “flurona.” But it’s probably not as bad as it sounds.
Scientists Pull Animal DNA Out of Thin Air
PixR, a Novel Activator of Conjugative Transfer of IncX4 Resistance Plasmids, Mitigates the Fitness Cost of mcr-1 Carriage in Escherichia coli
Screening for SARS-CoV-2 persistence in Long COVID patients using sniffer dogs and scents from axillary sweats samples (WHO IS A VERY GOOD BOY?)
Outcomes of laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection in the Omicron-driven fourth wave compared with previous waves in the Western Cape Province, South Africa

Other:

The D.C. region’s snow is melting. Trash, mail and power problems remain.
Montgomery Co. health officials to present vaccine ‘passport’ proposal to council
Why taking down Ron Johnson would be a tremendous victory for Democrats
Vaccine Mandates Have a Bad Day at the Supreme Court (no difference between the two parties tho something something)
Australia should send Novak Djokovic home
The Restaurant Industry Has Always Treated Sick Workers With No Remorse. Will anything change because of Omicron?
No, Republicans aren’t hammering Democrats in redistricting. They’re doing something worse.
Calls for Paid Leave Grow as Workers Face ‘Vicious Cycle’: Their Jobs or Covid Safety
Email spam is breaking through again. Here’s what you can do to minimize it
Montgomery County Council May Implement Vaccine Mandate To Enter Some Businesses
Alabama’s capitol is a crime scene. The cover-up has lasted 120 years.
How the Left Alienates Jews. Jewish voices are too often excluded from precisely the conversations they should be leading.
Locals Who’ve Enforced Vaccine Policies Detail What Workers Can Expect Come Saturday
Stock Trade Ban Gains Steam Despite Pelosi’s ‘Mind-Boggling’ Resistance
Mocking anti-vaxxers’ COVID deaths is ghoulish, yes — but may be necessary
Web3 had better not be Transaction Cost Hell
A DC law could put cash back in the pocket of commuters who turn down parking benefits
The latest ‘Partygate’ revelations may prove too much even for the great escapologist Boris Johnson
A Simple Plan to Solve All of America’s Problems: The U.S. doesn’t have enough COVID tests—or houses, immigrants, physicians, or solar panels. We need an abundance agenda. (fine if it happens, but conservatives are all about racial grievance so how does this get passed?)
Conservatives push for boycott of GOP club over DC vaccine mandate (WATBs)
‘A Menace to Public Health’: Doctors Demand Spotify Puts an End to Covid Lies on ‘Joe Rogan Experience’
Are Maryland hospitals overflowing? Official data and ground reports seem to differ.

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MLK on the Filibuster

Seems relevant to the day and current events:

Posted in Resistance Rebellion And Death | Leave a comment