Sunday, August 09, 2020

"Christianity Will Have Power": Long NYTimes piece explains Trump supporters among evangelicals

Falls Park, Sioux Falls, SD

Elizabeth Dias has a long booklet-like article “Christianity Will Have Power”, with photographs and video by Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber, in the New York Times.  The subtitle is “Donald Trump made a promise to white evangelical Christians, whose support can seem mystifying to the outside observer” – as if from relativity theory.

Curiously the article doesn’t have a date in the expected place, but at the end it mentions the fact that, around Sioux Falls SD (even with the meat packing plants there) most white evangelicals have not seen much experience with COVID.  Oh, I see at the bottom the fine print, that in the print version today’s Sunday Times, p. A1, same title. It’s about group power when individual freedom has to be circumscribed.
It does describe their “trust” in Trump as their belief that he is there (perhaps proto-fascist) bully to keep minorities in line who have threatened to erode their own social hegemony.

But the article hints at the importance that older “family values” – where women submit to husbands who proved during courtship that the men could protect them (and their children), and the belief literally that more freedom for gays and lesbians and for other minorities means less freedom for them – it’s a zero-sum game.
The article also presents some Hispanic families (which tend to be larger with lower incomes) and the hardships they encounter which white evangelicals don’t seem to grasp.

Embed picture is from Wikipedia, picture of the Falls (click for attribution).  I was there in Nov. 1999. Also look at this (GNU license) picture of Falls. 

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Yuri Deigin offers long Medium "booklet" on the genealogy of the SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus, with possibly major implications for tracing the source and path of the virus (from bats)

Positive-pressure biosafety suit

Yuri Deigin, who appears to be a Russian medical researcher, has an important Medium article, “Lab-Made? SARS-CoV-2 Genealogy Through the Lens of Gain-of-Function Research”. (His YT channel).

The author traces many projects since 2003 with coronaviruses in China and other countries (there were a few in the 2006-2008 time frame)   This paper is extremely detailed.

But one particularly critical development concerns the relationships among the viruses related to Cov-2, especially RaTG13, considered the closest bat relative but not announced publicly until Jan 2020 (around Jan 20).
Particularly curious is the insertion of the “PRRA” sequence of condons into the genome, as explained by Christ Martenson in the Peak Prosperity Video on May 4, 2020.  He has related videos May 1, May 6 and May 12 (the May 1 and May 12 videos are embedded in the International Issues blog on those dates).
Bloomberg had reported July 5 that a sample was sent to Wuhan Virology Lab in 2013 from a copper mine in SW China.  While three miners died and there may be people in the area with Cov-2-like antibodies, there was no widespread outbreak in the region then. Why then in Hubei and Wuhan in late 2019?
Circumstantial evidence that somehow a lab worker might have been infected, maybe asymptomatic, and then given it to someone who started community spread, seems to be accumulating.  There are various reports of a communications blackout at the Wuhan virology lab in early Oct. 2019.  ABC News reports satellite data or parking lots near Wuhan hospitals and Internet searches show increased activity back as early as Sept 2019.
There are also curious reports of finding the coronavirus RNA in wastewater near Barcelona as early as March 2019 and possibly near Italy in December.  ABC News reports satellite data or parking lots near Wuhan hospitals and Internet searches show increased activity back as early as Sept 2-19.
Teenager Avi Schiffmann started work on his Covid tracker in December 2019, before the world knew about this.  Other science fiction and screenwriters were talking about pandemics in the fall of 2019.  A lot of people knew something. But not the CDC.

Fox has a recent video (Bill Hemer) where a female Hong Kong scientist talks about China's "coverup"/ 

Picture: embedded from Wikipedia, a CDC researcher wears a space suit for protection in the pressurized lab, click for attribution. 

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Major Time Magazine summer issues cover John Lewis, protests, coronavirus origins

The Aug. 3 – Aug. 19 issue of Time Magazine is appropriately dedicated to John Lewis (1940-2020), “Conscience of a Nation”, pp 32-47).  The most important takeaway is that Lewis felt that young adults have to take personal risks (with arrest and their safety) to jumpstart social progress – “good trouble”.  That is not something I (with my schizoid personality) have been willing to do.

There is a major section on going back to school (as in Europe).

The last section, starting on p. 78, has a long section by Charlie Campbell and Alice Park, “Anatomy of  Pandemic, Inside the Global Effort to Understand Where Covid-19 Came From.”

The article starts with a discussion of the Shitou Cave, and a female scientist Shi’s discovery of a virus RaTG13 that is very close to the SARS-Cov-2.  Apparently the Wuhan lab obtained a sample sometime in 2013.  Although there is no direct evidence of mishandling or accident, the progress in small genetic changes that allowed the virus to spread like a respiratory disease among humans needs to be traced in detail.  This would include accounting for insertion of the “PRRA” sequence associated with furin cleavage inside the ACE2 receptor (and maybe other receptors).  On p. 82, Time offers a circle color chart allowing you to track virus samples to countries by color code, and this technique (if programmed) might give an exact account of how the mutations evolved and where.
The article more or less supports conventional ideas that, although the virus patient zero probably did not come from the Wuhan wet market, that place may have helped spread;  it also supports the idea of an intermediate animal like a pangolin.
The article doesn’t explain how a Seattle teenager (Avi Shiffmann) knew enough in early December 2019 to be motivated to spend scores of all-nighters setting up his coronavirus tracker, one of the largest sites in the world.  Sometime individuals, even very young ones, tech savvy, find out things our entire intelligence apparatus overlooks.
The July 6-13 issue has a special set of essays "America Must Change". There is an important essay June 25 (for this group) about the Hmong (by Viet Thanh Nguyen), as a "model minority", and I became familiar with it when I lived in Minnespolis-St Paul 1997-2003 (partly through someone in the Libertarian Party who ran for office). 
I also want to refer the visitor to a June 8 an article in Time by Brooke Cunningham, in a series called “America must change”.  It is “Protesting Police Brutality and Racial Oppression is Essential Work”.  Yes, “protesting” is a job.  Interesting view. Ask journalists who film them, like Ford Fischer and Alejandro Alvarez.  And notice also that so far protesters (congregating outside and sometimes using masks) and their journalists have remained rather healthy in the Covid world.  It may well be that very gradual but repeated exposure to germs outdoors enhances natural “T-cell” immunity which does protect (younger people at least) against COVID in practice (NIH).

The artwork picture is from the eastern shore of Maryland, June 2017. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

"A Vaccine Reality Check": Major free coronavirus coverage in The Atlantic

Capacitação dos profissionais da Saúde que atuarão nos terminais de ônibus - 49667698972

Sarah Zhang writes a long article July 25, “A Vaccine Reality Check”, in the Atlantic (coronavirus coverage is free). 

Most likely a vaccine will not be as effective as, say, measles, because this is a respiratory disease. It may require a booster, and be given every year.

It is likely that many vaccines will protect your internal organs and blood vessels but not stop the virus from colonizing in your nose and throat and being passed to others who aren’t vaccinated.

Also, the vaccine is likely to work only with people with normal or strong T-cell immunity, which forms a kind of “cloud backup” for neutralizing antibodies which disappear.

Some people seem to have a lot of latent or abstract immunity now with their T-cells.  This may help explain the large number of totally asymptomatic cases.

Generally, when there is a mass spreading event, every one gets infected (like in a family).  But members of a family cohort tend to react similarly;  in some families no one gets sick but do test positive. Most professional athletes have few symptoms, but Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves was quite ill and had a 104 fever.

Derek Thompson asks “How Long Does Covid Immunity Last?”   The basic answer is, well, T-cells. Don’t become immunocompromised. Covid-19 is starting to act like a semi-opportunistic infection. (If you think about it, several of the OI’s associated with AIDS in the past could devastate multiple organ systems).

There is also a link to a big photoessay, “Coronavirus in Brazil”, by Alan Taylor, with people sewing masks and preparing mass graves for Bolsonaro’s “little flu”. (Picture above from Wikipedia, embed, click for attribution.) 

On April 21, Connor Friedersdorf had written, “Let Volunteers Take the COVID Challenge”, young and healthy volunteers who would get infected deliberately if they got the placebo. There is a risk of a lifelong disability if something goes wrong.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

"What the Hell Is Happening in Portland?" Now (The Cut in New York Magazine narrative)

Madeleine Aggeler writes a long account of the violence this week in Portland Oregon after Trump sent in federal troops, apparently to protect ICE or federal buildings and monuments, in New York Magazine (digital subscription $50 year now), a column called “The Cut”. The article is titled "What the Hell Is Happening in Portland?" (Now) 

The article includes graphic accounts of injuries to protesters, including a skull fracture.

The political leadership of Portland has condemned the federal intervention, but in many confrontations in the past local law enforcement was unable to protect private businesses, which seem to be extorted to join some sort of Marxist revolution which despises private property and business and wants everyone to join their “suffering” (Maoism).

Video: Gutfeld from Fox: "Jim Jordan blasts Portland leadership" 

Portland Independent Documentarians has a lot of short clips on Twitter of the newest riots. 

The article has a detailed depiction of the “Wall of Moms” protecting protesters.

 Wikipeida picture: By Ted Timmons - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Bruce Feiler writes about his "Life Is in the Transitions"

Bruce Feiler speaks in a Wall Street Journal article July 10 (my birthday), “Leaning to Conquer Life’s Crises   This is a preview of his new book “Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age”, published today by Penguin, 368 pages.  The book is a compendium of interviews of dozens of people facing life changing events and existential changes in sense of self as a result. 

He talks about two kinds of events:  “disrupters”, which happen every 1-2 years, and “lifequakes”, 3 to 5 times in a lifetime.  For most of us, the coronavirus is indeed causing a “lifequake”.

In my own life, I would say the “lifequakes” subdivide into “disrupters”.  The first quake arguable was my William and Mary expulsion in Nov. 1961.  There were disrupters (my first job in 1963, the “scandal” with my teaching assistantship at KU in 1966, and getting drafted in early 1968).

My first layoff in 1971 (and there would not be another one until 2001) was a near quake, but I settled in and lived a stable life until 2001, and then had another kind of stability afterward, too dependent on family wealth, with mother’s surgery producing a “disruption” in 1999, and another one with her passing in 2010.

Actually, the AIDS epidemic provided a life quake from about 1983-1986 when I was living in Dallas (with its two-year delay) but I never got infected.  There was a kind of new normal.  But the coronavirus threatens to force a change on me -- if I live long enough -- that really is existential and indeed ironic, maybe one my writings set up as a potential perfect storm. 

Monday, July 13, 2020

Toby Ord warns us about our civilization's "making it" in "The Precipice"

As a globalist who doesn’t feel allegiance to any particular minority, I do think more about existential threats to “our way of life” and the meaning of my own (schizoid) “independence”.  I think the power grid (or the pandemic) is a more important issue than bathroom bills – although the pandemic and anti-racism do come together.

(Interview video above is at the Future of Humanity Institute.)

Fahreed Zakaria has recommended Toby Ord’s “The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity”, published in May 2020, 480 pages, from Hachette.

The book apparently starts with the first atomic bomb test in New Mexico in 1945 for the Manhattan Project. People didn’t know if it could start a chain reaction to destroy the world (like a strangelet).

Stepan Jerabek provides a nice overview in Science Magazine.

There is a tendency when you look at your own life to realize that if you avoid death by one means (your own health) you face more risk of an end brought on by the actions of potential enemies.  The perception of the greatest risk changes. 

Ord apparently does fear a deliberately introduced pandemic based on political motives, one that is like Covid (asymptomatic people spread it) but much more inevitably deadly, like a casually contagious form of AIDS.  He also fears runaway artificial intelligence.  A virus, after all, is in a sense, a kind of chemical intelligence, evolving ways to reproduce itself merely through quantum opportunity which we seem to have underestimated.