Elliott Erwitt New York City, USA 1955
It’s not that long ago that it seemed impossible the US would do better than the world in new cases numbers. But here we are.
The author of this particular take on T-cells can’t seem to make up his mind if this is a good thing or not.
Evidence is emerging worldwide showing between 20 and 50 per cent of people who have never been exposed to COVID-19 have immune cells that can recognise and react to the virus. The discovery of T cell cross-reactivity has excited immunologists, who hope it could explain some of the mysteries that surround the virus, such as why some people get so much sicker than others. But scientists caution that it is not yet clear what the discovery means for human health. Australian National University’s head of immunology and infectious diseases, Professor David Tscharke, said: “It’s the good, the bad and the ugly – it could help, it could do nothing, or it could make COVID-19 worse.” Professor Tscharke said the cross-reactive T cells might help to fight off the virus, or they might get in the way of the immune system, making the disease worse, a phenomenon known as “original antigenic sin”.
SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (yellow) emerging from the surface of cells (pink) cultured in a US National Institutes of Health lab. CREDIT:AP
Typically, the human adaptive immune system relies on precision. Antibodies, for example, have to be exactly the right shape to stick to a particular virus and kill it. T cells hunt for tiny fragments of virus protein – as small as eight amino acids long, in a virus that could have thousands of them – that identify a virus has infected a cell. If two viruses share protein fragments, T cells will attack both. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, shares much of its genetic code, including many of its proteins, with four coronaviruses in frequent circulation among humans. Dr Corey Smith, head of the translational and human immunology laboratory at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, said some sections of the genetic codes were virtually identical.
They cause the common cold and are extremely common – more than 90 per cent of people have been exposed to them. Scientists suspect some people who have been exposed to these viruses develop T cells that can also target SARS-CoV-2. Monash University’s head of microbiology, Professor Stephen Turner, said that in the best-case scenario, cross-reactive T cells do offer some protection. “That’s why we might be seeing so much asymptomatic infection. If there is a level of protection, due to previous exposure, you have less symptoms – because you’re limiting the amount of virus that can grow,” he said. During the 2009 influenza pandemic, scientists found people who had cross-reactive T cells to that virus were less likely to suffer severe symptoms. Professor Turner said T cells needed the right signals to be activated. It was possible SARS-CoV-2 did not trigger them, or they were in the wrong place to fight the infection.
“Start your livers..”
The DNC drinking game Monday night was so painful (and Tuesday was worse), that I’ve decided to shorten the game tonight to cover Joe Biden’s acceptance speech only. I watched Biden speak probably a half-dozen times during the primary campaign, and perhaps a half-dozen times before. He has definite tendencies, and his stump speech hits the same six or seven notes every time, but convention addresses are different. Every line, every word, will be scripted. There shouldn’t be ad-libs, freak-outs at hecklers, etc. Guessing what an unscripted Joe Biden will do at any given moment is pretty interesting. Here we’re basically trying to guess what Biden and his handlers have decided to put on a teleprompter. Biden will be speaking sometime after 9 p.m. I will be live-streaming with Katie Halper. Details to follow.
Drink EVERY TIME:
• Biden says, “Folks.”
• Biden says, “The United States of America.” Double-shots for any multiple-America construction, e.g. “The best America is an America where Americans believe in the American dream.”
• Biden says, “Middle-class.”
• Biden says, “Get up!” as in, “Folks, you’ve got to get up! This is the United States of America!”
• Biden says, “You guys.”
• Biden says, “Barack” or references the “Obama-Biden administration.”
• Biden says, “Soul of America.”
• Biden points out a surprising percentage of something, e.g. “Look, folks, seventy-four percent of venture capital goes to four cities.”
• Biden says, “My Mom used to say” or mentions one of his father’s relatable jobs, e.g. “He sold a hell of a lot of cars!”
• Biden makes a self-deprecating joke about his age or his tendency to say puzzling things.
• Biden finishes a section of his speech with a rhetorical flourish, and he sounds angry, and you can’t tell why, because he’s talking about something non-angering.
• Biden tells a story about a rewarding interaction with an ordinary person, as in, “I walk over to the guy up in the bucket. And there’s seven guys around him, all with hard hats on. I yelled up and said, ‘Hey, man, thanks!’”
• Biden references a job you’ve never heard of, as in “Why is a sandwich maker being forced to sign a non-compete clause?”
• Biden says “systemic.”
• Biden tells us there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.
If David Sirota keeps this up, they’ll ban him from the party.
The Democratic convention has sucked up all the political oxygen in America — so much so, that most people missed Team Biden signaling that it may back off the entire agenda it is campaigning on. This monumental declaration went almost completely unnoticed for an entire day — which is a genuinely disturbing commentary on how the biggest of big political news gets routinely ignored. To review the situation: earlier this month, Bloomberg News reported that Biden’s “campaign rolled out a $3.5 trillion economic program over the past month” — one that “promises to invest in clean energy and caregiving, buy more made-in-America goods, and start narrowing the country’s racial wealth gaps.” This, said the news service, was proof that Biden no longer adhered to an ideology of austerity and deficit hawkery — which would be good news.
But then on the eve of Biden’s convention speech, the Democratic nominee’s top aide suggested to Washington reporters that, in fact, that’s not true. Here’s the key excerpt: Former Delaware Sen. Ted Kaufman, a Biden confidant who succeeded him in the Senate, predicted during a Wall Street Journal Newsmakers Live interview Tuesday that a large increase in federal spending would be difficult to achieve in 2021. “When we get in, the pantry is going to be bare,” said Mr. Kaufman, who is leading Mr. Biden’s transition team. “When you see what Trump’s done to the deficit…forget about Covid-19, all the deficits that he built with the incredible tax cuts. So we’re going to be limited.” Economist Dean Baker goes over exactly how destructive and insane this ideology is.
As he says: “The idea that we would not address pressing needs, like climate change, child care, and health care because we are concerned about the debt burden is close to crazy. As long as the economy is not near its capacity, there is zero reason not to spend to address these priorities.” What I find particularly troubling is that Kaufman’s quote made it into the Wall Street Journal yesterday. The newspaper tweeted it out early in the morning. It sat out there for almost 24 hours — an eternity in the current news ecosystem. And yet, as far as I can tell, nobody noticed. Hell, the Journal’s tweet had all of 1 retweets on it as of this morning.
[..] This monumental declaration was in a major newspaper — it should have set off immediate alarm bells from all the think tanks, unions and advocacy groups in Washington whose job is to make sure that this kind of destructive austerity ideology does not once again take hold in the Democratic Party. There should have been press releases, and statements of outrage and congresspeople on TV talking about it. But for an entire day, there was nothing, until it was shamed into the conversation. This is not the first time there’s been silence on stuff like this — less than a month ago Biden explicitly promised his Wall Street donors that despite his public campaign promises, he will not be pushing new legislation to change corporate behavior.
Hmmm: “..people shouldn’t “expect perfection or anything close” to it..”
Recorded ballot counts in 72% of Detroit’s absentee voting precincts didn’t match the number of ballots cast, spurring officials in Michigan’s largest county to ask the state to investigate ahead of a pivotal presidential election. [..] In 46% of all Detroit’s precincts — absentee and Election Day — vote counts were out of balance, according to information presented Tuesday to the Wayne County Board of Canvassers. Specifically, the number of ballots tracked in precinct poll books did not match the number of ballots counted. The situation could amplify the spotlight on absentee ballots in Michigan ahead of an election for which record levels of mail-in voting are expected and President Donald Trump is already raising concerns about how votes will be handled. The election results for the primary weren’t incorrect, said Jonathan Kinloch, a Democrat and one of the canvassing board’s four members.
But, he said, something had gone wrong in the process of tracking ballots precinct by precinct. Having balanced precincts is particularly important in Michigan because precincts whose poll books don’t match with ballots can’t be recounted, according to state law. Instead, the original election results would stand. “It was a perfect storm,” Kinloch said. The “storm” involved a record number of absentee ballots being cast in Michigan’s primary and seasoned election workers not feeling it was safe to help with administering the election because of COVID-19, he added. The Wayne County board is asking Benson, a Detroit resident, to investigate “the training and processes used by the City of Detroit” in the primary election. The board also requested that the first-term Democrat appoint a state monitor to oversee the counting of absentee ballots in the general election.
Detroit had problems with precinct count mismatches in the November 2016 election. Election officials couldn’t reconcile vote totals for 59% of precincts in the city during a countywide canvass of vote results with most of the issues involving too many votes. Those votes couldn’t be recounted when Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein demanded a statewide recount following Donald Trump’s initial 13,000-vote victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. A recount was started but stopped and nullified by the courts when Stein was ruled ineligible for a recount request because she had no chance at victory. The results eventually were certified as a 10,704-vote victory for Trump, the first Republican presidential nominee to win Michigan in 28 years. It was the Republican businessman’s smallest margin of victory in the nation.
The problems with the Detroit’s numbers in the Aug. 4 primary included ballots being put in the wrong tracking containers, said Monica Palmer, one of the Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers. “It was so inaccurate that we can’t even attempt to make it right,” said Palmer, chairwoman of the board. Winfrey said the vast majority of the absentee voting precincts in the city were less than three ballots off, plus or minus. Being off by three or fewer is allowed, Winfrey said — but it’s unclear what policy she was referring to. [..] Winfrey also said Thursday that people shouldn’t “expect perfection or anything close” to it after elections staffers have worked more than 20 hours.
Running out the clock.
Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa sent letters to two of their Democratic colleagues, lambasting them for claiming that an investigation regarding U.S. policy in Ukraine during the Obama presidency is tainted by Russian disinformation—Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are the recipients of the August 20 letters. The investigation that the Democrats have said is poisoned by Russian disinformation pertains to possible conflicts of interest in America’s Ukraine policy when Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter served on the board of Burisma.
A press release says that the two Democratic senators have “falsely claimed that Grassley and Johnson are relying on information from Andriy Derkach as part of their ongoing oversight, despite the chairmen’s clear denials of having any communication with Derkach.” The Republican Senators in their letters said that as far as they know the sole instance of disinformation injected into the investigation has come from Democrats. “Regarding reports that we have received ‘packages’ of information from certain Ukrainian nationals – that is false. Further, the only relevant disinformation that we are aware of are documents that Minority Leader Schumer, Senator Warner, Speaker Pelosi, and Chairman Schiff referenced in their recent letter that your Democratic colleagues have introduced into our investigation,” the senators wrote in the letters to their Democratic colleagues.
“For example, the Schumer letter references a document, created by a Ukrainian national that mentions our names along with other Republican senators and administration officials, to suggest falsely that we might have received information from this individual. Liberal media outlets have picked up that reference, clearly from a leak, even though we have not received any information from that person, including tapes, and we have publicly and privately stated as much. To repeat, the only document in our investigation that has been described as disinformation is a document that your Democratic colleagues, not us, introduced into the record. If you and your colleagues are so concerned about disinformation, why do you continue to promote it?” Johnson and Grassley asked.
This is so nuts it can only mean she herself is certified nuts.
[..] nothing compares to what just happened in Chicago whose Mayor Lori Lightfoot – best known for encouraging local BLM protests, going so far as saying that black lives are “more important that downtown corporations” after the unprecedented looting that took place last week – defended the Chicago Police Department’s ban on protesters being able to demonstrate on the block where she lives, telling reporters Thursday that she and her family at times require heightened security because of threats she receives daily. Yes, Mayor Lori is all about BLM protests… as long as they are literally not in her back yard. Lightfoot refused to elaborate on the specific threats according to the Chicago Tribune, but said she receives them daily against herself, her wife and her home.
Lightfoot also told reporters that comparisons to how the Police Department has protected previous mayors’ homes, such as Rahm Emanuel’s Ravenswood residence, are unfair because “this is a different time like no other.” “I think that residents of this city, understanding the nature of the threats that we are receiving on a daily basis, on a daily basis, understand I have a right to make sure that my home is secure,” Lightfoot said, failing to grasp the simplest truth that all citizens of “her” devastated city also have a right to make sure that their home is secure although unlike Lightfoot they don’t have the local police to protect them. Because when it comes to outrageous liberal hypocrisy, things get complicated.
Lightfoot and Chicago police Superintendent David Brown were asked at an unrelated news conference about a Tribune report noting police have banned protesters from demonstrating on her block in the Logan Square neighborhood, ordering officers to arrest anyone who refuses to leave. The directive surfaced in a July email from then-Shakespeare District Cmdr. Melvin Roman to officers under his command. It did not distinguish between the peaceful protesters Lightfoot regularly says she supports and those who might intend to be destructive, but ordered that after a warning is given to demonstrators, “It should be locked down.” Activists and police sources could not cite instances when the city repeatedly locked down her predecessor Emanuel’s block against protesters.
The Kenwood block where former President Barack Obama lived with his family when his primary residence was in Chicago was shut down for access only by residents after his election. But Lightfoot said such comparisons “don’t make any sense,” after Brown referenced the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – which she has repeatedly overriden as a concern when BLM protests are to be held – as well as civil unrest that have flared since the George Floyd killing at the hands of Minneapolis police. “I’m not going to make any excuses for the fact that, given the threats I have personally received, given the threats to my home and my family, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure they’re protected,” Lightfoot said. “I make no apologies whatsoever for that.”
It wasn’t clear if Lightfoot would apologize to all those millions of Chicago residents who – just like her – are trying to avoid threats against their own families by angry, violent looters; looters whose despicable actions Lightfoot has repeatedly turned her eyes away from in hopes of peak virtue signaling.
So what’s the plan, guys? Green jobs?
What happened in the latest reporting week for unemployment claims was disconcerting: “Initial” claims under state unemployment insurance programs by newly laid-off workers rose. And initial claims under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program provided by the CARES Act that covers gig workers, also rose. This means that people lost their work at a faster rate than they did in the prior week. In terms of “continued” claims: The number of people on unemployment insurance (UI) under state programs (blue bars) declined, as some people returned to work. But the number of people on UI under federal and other programs (red bars) jumped. Combined, the number of people on UI under all programs ticked down by 199k to 28.06 million, the Labor Department reported this morning. It was the least catastrophic reading since mid-May, but still a horrendously huge number, representing about 17.5% of the labor force:
Blue columns: The number of people who continued claiming unemployment insurance under regular state programs fell by nearly 1 million to 14.27 million (not seasonally adjusted), continuing the fairly consistent downtrend that had started in May. Red columns: The number of people on UI under all federal programs and some other programs – after having fallen by 2.4 million last week – jumped by 737k to 13.79 million (not seasonally adjusted), driven by increases in federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims and in federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) claims.
Initial claims under state programs, filed by newly laid off workers, caused some head-scratching this morning, because they “unexpectedly” rose – and they rose both on a seasonally adjusted basis (by 135k to 1.11 million) and on a not seasonally adjusted basis (by 53k to 892k). So we can’t blame some seasonal adjustments gone awry. This was the first increase since the week ended July 11:
Nothing like paying for failure. The Financial Times describes how CEOs who ran their companies into the ground are nevertheless rewarded with “retention bonus” payouts shortly before the business declare bankruptcy, often mere days ahead. The absurd rationale is that it is necessary to keep a failed CEO on in order to reduce disruption. It appears instead that boards would rather pay a rich and unwarranted premium to keep a bad known quantity around, perhaps due to personal allegiances to the incumbent or because they might actually have to rouse themselves to oust the dud leader and select a replacement. Are we to believe that the stipends these boards approve has any relationship with the market value of these CEOs, even charitably assuming someone would hire them after their companies collapses underneath them?
Are we to believe there was no able lieutenant worth a battlefield promotion? No retired industry greybeard who could be engaged for an eighteen month to three year gig? No one in the ranks of turnaround expert or “temp for hire” CEOs who would do? Even worse, some of these payments are flat out looting: “Brad Holly, Whiting’s chief executive who joined the company in November 2017, received $6.4m at the end of March under a new compensation plan approved by the board of directors, which he also chairs, less than a week before the company filed for bankruptcy. Whiting, which expects to emerge from Chapter 11 next month, said last week that Mr Holly would step down as chief executive when that happens and would receive an additional $2.53m in severance. In total, Whiting paid out more than $14m to executives just a few days before declaring itself bust. In a regulatory filing on April 1 the company said its pay plan was designed “to align the interests of the Company and its employees”.
$6.4 million for Holly for at most five months of babysitting bankruptcy lawyers? Seriously? Another example: “Briggs & Stratton’s board approved more than $5m in retention payments on June 11, including more than $1m to chief executive Todd Teske, who has led the company for a decade. Four days later the company failed to make a $6.7m interest payment on a bond due later this year, and on July 20 it filed for bankruptcy. On July 19, the company’s board voted to terminate the health and life insurance benefits of the company’s retirees… The company’s 2020 bond is now trading at just a few cents on the dollar, reflecting slim hopes of recovery.
Why are these losers who almost assuredly have nowhere to go being paid in advance? Why aren’t they instead getting $1 per year and working for a contingent payout to be paid when the company emerged from bankruptcy, say tiered based upon results versus specified targets? This is the sort of deal that someone who cared about salvaging the company, as opposed to his personal bottom line, should accept.
Facebook is the opposite of free speech.
I’m pretty close to being a free speech absolutist. Or at least I have an old-school small-l liberal John Stuart Mill-esque belief in free speech, with an extremely high bar for the “harm” that speech must directly inflict on other citizens before a rightfully constituted government, based on the consent of its citizens, has a legitimate duty to regulate that speech. And I believe that the US Supreme Court has been pretty much spot-on with its free speech decisions like Brandenburg v. Ohio and R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, where they said (roughly speaking) that even speech calling for violent protest against the government is protected speech and that hate speech isn’t a thing. Let me repeat that last one. The US Supreme Court has repeatedly held that hate speech is not a thing. I think this is exactly right.
To be clear, I also believe that a private organization has the right to apply hate speech standards (or any other speech standards) to its members, if those members have the ability to leave the private organization AND that organization does not enjoy unique government support. So, for example, if I choose to attend a private religious college, and they have rules against hateful/blasphemous speech, then it’s fine for them to kick me out when I start doing my hateful blasphemous speech thing. I’d never go to that college in the first place, and there are plenty of other schools I can attend. But if ALL colleges started imposing hate speech standards, or if the ONLY college started imposing hate speech standards, or if ANY public college started imposing hate speech standards … well, I’d have a real problem with any of these circumstances.
And I believe that a just government has a duty to intervene in these circumstances. Now I also believe that the US Supreme Court got it terribly, terribly wrong with Citizens United, where they decided (again, roughly speaking) that non-real life citizens – like corporations or other constructed legal entities – enjoy the same protections for political speech that real life citizens do. I’ll repeat that one, too. The US Supreme Court has held that constructed entities of pooled capital (corporations) or pooled labor (unions) or pooled political influence (parties) have the same protection for their political speech as unconstructed/unpooled you and unconstructed/unpooled me. I think this is nuts.
To be clear, I also believe that limitations on how much money or time real life citizens can spend on their political speech are similarly nuts. So, for example, I believe that really rich American citizens like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos or George Soros or Charles Koch can spend as much money as they please – literally billions of dollars if they want – to proclaim whatever cockamamie political idea they want to proclaim. What is unacceptable in my view – but is exactly what Citizens United allows – is for really rich guys to spend unlimited amounts of money on political speech after they are dead, or (worse!) for corporations and unions and parties to spend unlimited amounts of other people’s money on political speech, with the same legal protections as real life citizens.
Government does not exist to protect the rights of a dead rich guy’s money. Government does not exist to protect the rights of corporations, unions and political parties. Government EXISTS to protect the unalienable rights of its citizens, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Because “we” are so much smrter than God.
Local officials in Florida have approved the release of 750 million mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to reduce local populations. The aim is to reduce the number of mosquitoes that carry diseases like dengue or the Zika virus. The green-lighting of a pilot project after years of debate drew a swift outcry from environmental groups, who warned of unintended consequences. One group condemned the plan as a public “Jurassic Park experiment”. Activists warn of possible damage to ecosystems, and the potential creation of hybrid, insecticide-resistant mosquitoes. But the company involved says there will be no adverse risk to humans or the environment, and points to a slate of government-backed studies.
The plan to release the mosquitoes in 2021 in the Florida Keys, a string of islands, comes months after the modified mosquitoes were approved by federal regulators. In May, the US Environmental Agency granted permission to the British-based, US-operated company Oxitec to produce the genetically engineered, male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are known as OX5034. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are known to spread deadly diseases to humans such dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever. Only female mosquitoes bite humans because they need blood to produce eggs. So the plan is to release the male, modified mosquitoes who will then hopefully breed with wild female mosquitoes.
However the males carry a protein that will kill off any female offspring before they reach mature biting age. Males, which only feed on nectar, will survive and pass on the genes. Over time, the aim is to reduce the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the area and thereby reduce the spread of disease to humans.
A -large- group of ravens is called an unkindness of ravens, or a conspiracy of ravens.
A lack of tourists is driving the ravens at the Tower of London to boredom and causing them to fly away. Legend has it the monarchy and the Tower of London will fall if its six resident ravens leave the fortress. The birds, known as the guardians of the tower, are shrouded in myth and live in lodgings on the South Lawn. There are seven in total – the required six, plus one spare. The tower closed on 20 March and reopened five weeks ago. However, few tourists have returned. Summer visitor numbers would usually exceed 15,000 but because of the coronavirus pandemic, they have fallen to fewer than 800 a day. As a result, the birds are restless for more company.
With a lack of regular tourists, the birds have been venturing away, according to those who work there. Christopher Skaife, a raven master, told the Sun: “If the ravens were to leave, the tower would crumble to dust. The tower is only the tower when the people are here. “The ravens have always been so important … because they’ve been surrounded by myths and legends. We really need people to come back to help the ravens.” The seven ravens are Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Rocky, Erin, Poppy and Merlina. They are free to roam the tower precincts in the day and preside over four territories within its walls.
Charles II is thought to have been the first to insist that the ravens of the Tower be protected after he was warned the crown and the tower would fall if they left. Skaife said during lockdown they got bored and lonely because there were no full bins to rummage or people bringing them food. He encouraged the Beefeaters who guard the building to throw them their leftovers. Skaife said: “It’s been tough because the ravens only saw me or one warden walking by during the lockdown. They depend on tourists. “Never in a raven’s history have we seen fewer people in the Tower of London. Even in world war two, there were still hundreds in and around.”
Beefeaters and a resident raven. Photo: Lynn Fergusson/Reuters
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China building about 21.4 million vehicles annually; wide gap for next-largest producer, as Japan only makes 8.3 million each year (U.S. has gone from 2nd to 6th place over past 20 years).
If Japan were in the Atlantic, it would stretch the length of the American coastline.
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