October 19, 2021
The Good News
- Michael J. Fox on 20-Year Anniversary of His Parkinson’s Foundation (Variety)
- Myanmar to release 5,600 anti-regime prisoners ahead of ASEAN summit (NPR)
“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” — Billy Graham
Here’s Sickness, But Where’s Health?
Besides killing over 700,000 people in the U.S., Covid-19 has created exigent circumstances that have pushed hospitals and health care professionals to their breaking points. During most of 2020, state and local public health departments were generally effective at imposing health orders critical to America’s early response to the pandemic. This year, highly effective vaccines became available, saving innumerable lives even as the Delta variant propelled new waves of illnesses and death.
The Biden administration’s valiant effort to get more shots in arms aside, it became clear that additional common-sense measures, like masking, would be necessary to protect the public and curb the virus’ spread. But instead of being seen as the public health issues they were, masking and vaccinations became weirdly politicized weapons, used by an increasingly hostile segment of the population to vehemently attack the very people on the front lines of battling a continuing pandemic.
America’s neglected public health system was already underfunded even before the pandemic. A New York Times review of health departments and legislative activity in all 50 states indicates that local public health is less equipped today to confront a pandemic than it was at the beginning of 2020. A staggering number of healthcare personnel have left their jobs, from exhaustion, demoralization, or threats to their personal safety. The federal government has made billions of dollars available, but most of it has been geared toward stemming the emergency rather than hiring permanent staff or building long-term capability. The majority of public health departments responding to the Times survey said they were worried about their funding levels, which were decreasing, or flat, before the pandemic.
Lawmakers have passed hundreds of new measures limiting state and local health powers. Governors, legislators, and county commissioners have been given more power to undo health decisions and undermine everything from flu vaccination campaigns to quarantine protocols for measles. Large segments of the population have voted in new local government leaders who ran on pledges to rein in public health departments. Last month, Idaho commissioners appointed a new physician representative to the health board in the Boise region who advocates unapproved treatments for COVID-19 and refers to coronavirus vaccinations as “needle rape.”
It’s unknown if misinformation, conspiracy theories, and false claims about vaccinations will ever abate, but prospects don’t look good. Centner Academy — the headline-making Miami private school that barred vaccinated teachers from interacting with students — made another startling declaration last week. This time it’s to parents: If you vaccinate your child, they must stay home for 30 days after each inoculation, so they don’t pass on “harmful effects” of the shot that could have a “potential impact” on unvaccinated students and staff. (NYT, WaPo, $)
Karrada Attacker Arrested
- Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, announced the arrest of the Islamic State militant who masterminded a 2016 suicide bombing in Baghdad that killed 300 people. Kadhimi accused Ghazwan al-Zawbaee, an Iraqi national, of being the “primary culprit behind the Karrada atrocity and many others.” The prime minister said Zawbaee was captured in an “intelligence operation outside the country.”
- The attack in the Karrada district was the deadliest single bombing in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. A lorry filled with explosives was blown up next to a crowded shopping center where people had been enjoying a night out after breaking their daily fasts for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Many of the victims were killed by a fire that ripped through the building after the bomb blast. Kadhimi said intelligence agents had arrested the alleged I.S. financial chief, Sami Jasim al-Jaburi, a week ago, in a similar operation outside its borders. (BBC)
Mu-slimming The Population
- Initiatives passed by Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have clearly been aimed at reducing the Muslim population in India. In December 2019, India passed an immigration law that fast-tracked citizenship for undocumented migrants from nearby countries, as long as they were Hindu, or one of five other religions not including Islam.
- Some of the toughest measures focus on the state of Assam, in a far northeastern part of the country. The new laws left more than two million of Assam’s 33 million people — most of them Muslim and poor — stateless. Since then, the government has been forcibly evicting longtime residents on government land that local officials say is needed for vital agricultural projects.
- Officials insist they are targeting illegal squatters from Bangladesh, but recent violence was carried out against legal residents when police entered a village, killed a man and a young boy, and burned to the ground numerous homes and possessions. Government officials plan to redistribute the land to Assam’s ‘Indigenous’ people, most of whom are Hindu. (NYT, $)
Additional World News
- Taiwan Couple Is Suspected of Negligent Homicide in Building Fire (NYT, $)
- India to move some migrant workers in Kashmir to army camps after killings (Reuters)
- China denies testing a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, says it was a spacecraft (CNN)
- Air strikes hit capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray, regional TV reports (Reuters)
- David Amess stabbing: Britain considers police protection, security measures for MPs (WaPo, $)
- Russia suspending mission to NATO in response to staff expulsions (CNN)
- Afghan Taliban’s victory boosts Pakistan’s radicals (AP)
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Former Secretary Of State Colin Powell Died
- General Colin Powell, 84, died Monday from complications from Covid-19. Although fully vaccinated, he also suffered from multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells that suppresses the body’s immune response, as well as Parkinson’s Disease.
- Powell was a distinguished and trailblazing professional soldier whose career took him from combat duty in Vietnam to becoming the first Black national security adviser during the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency and the youngest and first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush. His national popularity soared in the aftermath of the U.S.-led coalition victory during the Gulf War, and for a time in the mid-90s, he was considered a leading contender to become the first U.S. Black President.
- However, his reputation was sullied when, as President George W. Bush’s first secretary of state in 2001, he pushed faulty intelligence before the U.N. to advocate for the Iraq War. Powell is survived by his wife, Alma Vivian (Johnson) Powell, whom he married in 1962, three adult children, and two grandchildren. (CNN)
What They Do In The Shadows
- Supreme Court justices utilized their shadow docket again Monday to side with law enforcement in a pair of cases that implicated “qualified immunity,” the controversial legal doctrine that gives police broad protection from lawsuits. In the unsigned summary rulings, SCOTUS reversed federal appeals courts in California and Oklahoma that had permitted excessive force lawsuits to proceed against officers in separate cases. Both lawsuits dealt with police responses to an emergency 911 call.
- The shadow docket is the informal term for expedited rulings that SCOTUS issues outside its typical process of hearing arguments and handing down lengthy opinions. The court has increasingly used short, unsigned emergency orders to intervene in high-profile litigation before lower courts issue their rulings. These orders often do not explain the court’s reasoning or indicate how each justice voted. Critics say the court uses the shadow docket inconsistently, intervening aggressively when, for example, religious rights are at stake but declining to intervene to protect abortion rights in Texas. (The Hill, Slate)
Additional USA News
- Out of the Shadows: Christopher Steele defiant on dossier, says Trump still ‘potential’ threat (ABC)
- US Arrests Alex Saab, Deal Maker for Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela (NYT, $)
- Dems push Biden to take forceful role in bridging party’s sparring factions over agenda (CNN)
- J&J vaccine ‘very likely’ should have been 2 doses from the start: Fauci (ABC)
- ‘This is our last chance’: Biden urged to act as climate agenda hangs by a thread (Guardian)
- Manchin lays down demands for child tax credit: report (The Hill)
- Covid anger drives recall election targeting 3 San Francisco school leaders (Politico)
- The only venomous snakes found in California are rattlesnakes. Al Wolf, the director of Sonoma County Reptile Rescue in Northern California, has been rescuing snakes for 32 years and has been bitten 13 times. He responds to calls about snakes under houses in 17 counties, and is used to clearing one or two of the critters from under people’s homes. He’s seen dozens of snakes in one place in the wild, but never under a house. Recently, Al got a call from a woman who said she saw some rattlesnakes scurry under her mountainside home in Santa Rosa.
- On October 2, Al went to the house in the Mayacamas Mountains and crawled under it on his hands, knees, and stomach, tipping over more than 200 small rocks in the process. For the next four hours, he “kept finding snakes.” With his trusty 24-inch snake pole, he removed 22 adult rattlesnakes and 59 babies; he returned another two times and collected 11 more snakes, a dead cat, and a dead possum. Al said all the culprits were Northern Pacific rattlers, the only venomous species in Northern California.
- The homeowners hadn’t removed any rocks when they built their house, making it an inviting spot for the stealthy vertebrates. “We know it’s a den site already because of the babies, and the amount of females I found,” Al noted. Once he’s rounded up all the usual suspects, he releases them in the wild, away from people. Sometimes he lets them go on private land, when ranchers request them for pest control. Al plans to return to the Reptile Airbnb again before the end of the month, to see if any additional late-arrivers have taken up residence. (AP News)
- Hollywood Strike Averted As IATSE & AMPTP Reach Deal On New Film & TV Contract (Deadline)
- Official Wizard of New Zealand fired by city council after more than 2 decades (USA Today)
- Mountain lion sighting prompts lockdowns at two California schools (NBC)
- LA County wants Vanessa Bryant to get a psych exam before her lawsuit goes to trial (NPR)
- How a Nuclear Bomb Could Save Earth From a Stealthy Asteroid (NYT, $)
- Ancient dog-size sea scorpion unearthed in China (LiveScience)
- Virtual Museums Challenge the Art World’s Status Quo (Wired)