Environment & Health New COVID Variants Threaten to Make Pandemic Permanent Economy & Labor COVID Relief Packages Dramatically Reduced Poverty. They Should Be Permanent. Economy & Labor Predatory Banks at Walmarts Made Over 100 Percent of Profits From Overdraft Fees Environment & Health Biden to Set Goal for Half of All Vehicle Sales to Be Electric by 2030 Environment & Health MO Coroner Says He Alters Death Certificates If Families Dislike COVID Inclusion Environment & Health Biden Made Big Compromises on Climate — and Movements That Backed Him Are Livid My work days move to the sound of McCoy Tyner’s mastery pouring out of the Pandora app on the television. Every so often, and always against my better judgment, I’ll flip to one of the alphabet soup “news” networks to get an update on how screwed we are. They seldom disappoint, which is to say they always do, and I flee back to the piano of the gods at speed. Lately, however, those forays to CNN or MSNBC have been fraught with a special sort of gall. In between the litany of doom that is the average break-to-break broadcast, they’ve been showing wall to wall commercials congratulating viewers on COVID being over. “It’s been a long year, but now that things are getting back to normal…” intones one, followed by another announcing “We made it!” The imagery is all sunrises and maskless couples noshing pasta in crowded restaurants, everyone wreathed in smiles and presumably vaccinated… …and then the broadcast begins again: “Good morning, I’m Fippy Fuzznerf sitting in for Ankles McGee, and here are our top stories. There were more than 96,000 new cases of COVID-19 recorded yesterday alone, a two-week increase of 131 percent. Around the world, known cases of COVID have surpassed 4 million infections. Scientists credit the dramatic infection spike in this country to the national dominance of the highly contagious Delta variant, and to the fact that millions of Americans still refuse to accept vaccination. Leading COVID expert Anthony Fauci anticipates we may see as many as 200,000 new infections per day until this new spike recedes, or until enough people have gotten vaccinated. We’ll be right back after these messages.” “…Now that the pandemic is over, isn’t it time to start planning your special vacation at last? At BookYourCrap.com, we have all the tools you need to organize the trip you’ve been dreaming about for a year…” Sigh. Thanks to the incredible bungling of this crisis for vital months by the Trump administration, that last horse appears to have left the barn. “Early in the pandemic, when vaccines for the coronavirus were still just a glimmer on the horizon, the term ‘herd immunity’ came to signify the endgame: the point when enough Americans would be protected from the virus so we could be rid of the pathogen and reclaim our lives,” reports The New York Times. “Now, more than half of adults in the United States have been inoculated with at least one dose of a vaccine. But daily vaccination rates are slipping, and there is widespread consensus among scientists and public health experts that the herd immunity threshold is not attainable — at least not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not ever.” There were more than 96,000 new cases of COVID-19 recorded yesterday alone, a two-week increase of 131 percent. Of course, it is not all gloom and shadows at this juncture. The number of people dying from COVID has plummeted, thanks almost entirely to the vaccines. Vaccination rates are ever so incrementally on the rise. Those who are vaccinated currently face a very low chance of enduring a virus “breakthrough” which infects them, and those who do become infected have a much, much lower chance of hospitalization. The vaccines are not seamless, a small percentage of people who got the shot(s) are still getting damn sick, but the drear finality of mass death at the end of a ventilator tube has receded dramatically for the time being. If that were the whole story, I would just put on my mask and bend my shoulder to the task of convincing as many people as possible to get vaccinated. I will still do so every single day, but there are weevils in this loaf that threaten to ruin all the progress we have made so far. Delta, you see, is not the only variant. New ones — specifically named Epsilon and Lambda — have emerged, and early research indicates these new breeds of COVID might be far more effective at breaching our vaccine defenses than Delta. “The Epsilon and Lambda variants of COVID-19 are ‘variants of interest,’ according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and early studies show they have developed a resistance to vaccines,” reports NJ.com. “Japanese researchers found the Lambda variant, which was initially discovered in Peru and is now spreading throughout South America, is highly transmissible and more resistant to vaccines than the initial COVID-19 strain…. Meanwhile, the Epsilon variant that was initially discovered in California in 2020 is spreading in Pakistan and is proving to be resistant to vaccines, according to researchers.” The current national conversation on COVID is not broad enough. It is essential to get millions more vaccinated — it’s an absolute top priority — but we must also recognize that we’ve let this thing burn for so long that it appears to be on the edge of evolving beyond our defenses. A virus evolves within its host at an astonishing rate. Every new host gives COVID a chance to concoct a variant with the ability to turn our vaccines into white wine spritzer, and as noted, there were almost 100,000 new infections yesterday in this country alone. The variant that partly defies our vaccines may have already emerged in the form of Epsilon or Lambda, but the research on those two has only begun. The Law of Large Numbers strongly suggests the emergence of a more strongly vaccine-resistant variant is going to happen sooner or later, and thanks to our bungled response for the first year of the crisis — and to the ongoing intransigence of millions who disdain science because it makes Donald Trump look bad — the rise of such a circumstance is all but inevitable. The TV commercials are peddling an alluring fiction, but the facts are difficult to dispute: This thing is not over, and the way matters are going, it may never be over. The wolf is through the door, and the feeding is fine indeed. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Environment & Health EPA Approval of PFAS for Fracking May Spell a New Health Crisis for Communities Politics & Elections Both the Delta Variant and Thin-Willed Democrats Are Lethal to Our Society Environment & Health Biden Promotes $100 Incentives to Encourage Unvaccinated to Get Their Shots Environment & Health Exxon-Influenced Senators Carved Climate Out of Infrastructure Almost Entirely Environment & Health Chomsky: We Need Genuine International Cooperation to Tackle the Climate Crisis Politics & Elections The Right Wing Wants Misinformation and Manufactured Ignorance, Not Democracy Two headlines had themselves a nasty little car accident in my mind yesterday. “Pro-Sanders Group Rebranding Into ‘Pragmatic Progressives’” blew through a stoplight and t-boned “‘The War Has Changed’: Internal CDC Document Urges New Messaging, Warns Delta Infections Likely More Severe,” right there in the intersection of my prefrontal lobe. Shattered safety glass everywhere, air bags sagging over steering wheels, a side-view mirror in the gutter like a lost shoe… it was ugly. “The delta variant of the coronavirus appears to cause more severe illness than earlier variants and spreads as easily as chickenpox,” reads the grim tide of words under the second headline, from the Washington Post. “The [Centers for Disease Control] document strikes an urgent note, revealing the agency knows it must revamp its public messaging to emphasize vaccination as the best defense against a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold.” Of course, I have absolutely had it with the “Because Trump” brigade and their Bellagio fountain of self-interested bullshit when it comes to getting the shot (among a great many other things, but we’ll leave that for later). Those who refuse to be masked and/or vaccinated as they cling to right-wing conspiracy theories have become petri dishes for the variants that are stealing more and more lives and putting all of us at grave risk. “Pro-Sanders Group Rebranding Into ‘Pragmatic Progressives,’” however, is the jerk that ran the light. “Rather than insisting on ‘Medicare for All’ — Sanders’ trademark universal, government-funded health care plan — or the climate-change-fighting Green New Deal, Our Revolution is focusing on the more modest alternatives endorsed by President Joe Biden,” reports the Associated Press. Check me here, because I could very well be off-base: In a time when drastic measures are shriekingly necessary to stave off a whole cavalcade of calamities, an advocacy group founded on the principles of lifelong advocate Bernie Sanders is downshifting from progressive advocacy to some sort of milquetoast cuddling with the conservative Democrat in the White House? The guy who got one quarter of what he asked for in his first infrastructure try and dared to call it a triumph after the Republicans ate his (and our) lunch. “The senator didn’t comment for this story,” reads the report, and Christ on crutches, I hope that means Sanders doesn’t endorse this move. Progressive advocacy groups are not supposed to get along with the conservatives they’re advocating against. Activists on our side seldom get what they came for, and are usually struggling against terrible odds — and that is the fugging point. We seldom get what we want, but we always push for what everyone needs. The view is foreshortened when your shoulder is to the wheel, and sometimes we don’t recognize progress when it happens. We never stop, and 20 years later, we look behind us and maybe say with dim surprise, “Damn, we got some stuff done.” The view is foreshortened when your shoulder is to the wheel, and sometimes we don’t recognize progress when it happens. But what we cannot do is trade in our shovels for some spats and a snazzy seat on the rubber chicken circuit. Shame upon you, “Our Revolution.” Your revolution isn’t just over; you surrendered. God save us from our “friends.” There were 71,621 new COVID infections yesterday, a two-week increase of 151 percent. The president and the media are going back and forth about “messaging” while nihilist Republicans do everything they can to kill off their own voter base (and everyone else) with lies and galling distractions. The Delta variant gains steam, and Democrats haggle over what to cut from vital legislation, with the cool hand of “Our Revolution” pressed fondly against their backs. We are embarked upon dark waters, again. It will be worse in two weeks, because this is COVID, and it’s always worse in two weeks when the virus trends as it does today. This is no time for advocates to seek the low road; it’s already underwater, and no half-assed infrastructure bill can fix it. “Stout hearts” is all I have to offer. I am holding on to mine with both hands, but as Stephen Crane wrote, it is bitter — bitter… “But I like it because it is bitter, and because it is my heart.” Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
“If matters continue as they are,” I wrote on July 6 about vaccinations and the Delta variant of COVID, “a bright new line will be drawn between ‘Two Americas’: The Vaccinated vs. the Unvaccinated.” The Wall Street Journal this morning would seem to agree: “The Delta variant is hardening a divide between people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and those who aren’t, prompting hospitals to brace for new case surges and health authorities to redouble vaccination efforts. Now the most common strain in the U.S., Delta is spreading as public life resumes at restaurants, sporting events and other public settings across the country.”
Politics & Elections India and Brazil’s COVID Crises Show We Must End the Fiction of Borders Human Rights 125 Democrats Say Military Aid to Israel Shouldn’t Depend on Human Rights Record Prisons & Policing University of California Pushes to Militarize and Expand Its Police Force Politics & Elections Sanders Accuses McConnell of Hypocrisy and Corruption in Scathing KY Speech Immigration DHS Touts Reuniting Just 4 of More Than 1,000 Separated Migrant Families Human Rights Over 10 Million People Could Become Homeless When Eviction Moratorium Ends A new poll says that most of us are optimistic about the country’s future (with a margin of error of plus or minus eleventy billion, of course). According to ABC News/Ipsos, a full 64 percent of the country believes we are on the right track. It makes sense: The president of the United States is no longer screaming 20 hours a day about whatever happens to pass his screen. New COVID-19 infections are down by almost a quarter, and the number of COVID deaths has also dropped. Close to half the country has been at least partially vaccinated. The weather is turning, and opportunities for outdoor activities are expanding. Yet the home front news is far from all good, polls notwithstanding. Scientists and public health experts are rapidly concluding that achieving herd immunity in the U.S. is probably out of reach now, due in no small degree to vaccine hesitancy on the part of millions of Republicans and evangelical Christians, who somehow believe they are assisting Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign by shunning the needle. Many of the people gumming up herd immunity are doing so out of ideological purity. The irony here is that Trump and members of his administration spent last winter arguing that we should let the virus run wild. Sure, it might kill millions, they said, but we’ll nail herd immunity at the end of that road of bones. Once those wreckers were dispossessed of power, it was hoped the new administration might be able to convince a preponderance of the people that the vaccines are safe, effective and devoid of politics. To date, that has not happened to a sufficient degree. “Instead,” reports The New York Times, “[medical experts] are coming to the conclusion that rather than making a long-promised exit, the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers.” Not great, entirely galling, but better than where we were… yet there is an illusory element to all this new data and the happy feelings they bring. This hard-won moment is unbelievably fragile, and for one simple reason: Borders are a legal fiction that COVID-19 and its variants could not give less of a damn about, and COVID is still very much on the move. India: “After a devastating week of soaring infections, India reported more than 400,000 new cases Saturday, a global record. Experts believe that number will climb even higher in the coming days, an unimaginable burden for a health system already under siege with hospitals issuing pleas for oxygen,” reports The Washington Post. “The powerful resurgence of infections in India — a country where cases had ebbed just months earlier — is also a reminder that the coronavirus is far from controlled around the world, even with vaccination rates climbing in many countries.” South America: “At least 100,000 Brazilians have died in the last 36 days and 100,000 more are expected to lose their lives before July,” reports the Guardian. “Last week South America, home to 5.5% of the world’s population, suffered nearly 32 percent of all reported Covid deaths. ‘What’s happening is a catastrophe,’ Argentina’s health minister, Carla Vizzotti, admitted as her country’s Covid restrictions were extended until late May.” The fictions of borders and “rugged individualism” must be dismissed out of hand, for we are all in this together. The U.S. is rushing aid to India, and the Biden administration claims that it is doing everything it can to help that nation weather the storm, though clearly more could be done. Brazil’s pleas for help, by contrast, are being generally ignored by the world at present. Jair Bolsonaro is not the one being punished here; the people of Brazil are suffering. Moreover, if COVID’s history is any guide, what is happening in those countries will not stay in those countries. When it arrives here — when, not if — this new wave of COVID and its variants will find a half-vaccinated nation in a pretty good mood, and that good mood will sour like milk left out in the sun. A country still fighting over masks, a country that prioritizes capitalism’s profits over its own people, is not ready to confront any number of the worst-case scenarios that lurk at the business end of this threat. That must change, immediately. “There is no such thing as the State,” notes poet W.H. Auden in September 1, 1939, “and no one exists alone.” The fiction of borders, of “rugged individualism,” must be dismissed out of hand, for we are all in this together. If the COVID crisis is not immediately treated by the U.S. and the world as a global crisis, if a global solution is not collectively achieved, we will eventually arrive at a global calamity so bleak, even the poets will be wordstruck. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Thanks to “leaders” like Gov. Chris Sununu, the end of this ordeal remains nowhere in sight.