March 15, 2020

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Sometimes a cult is right and their end really is nigh.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM


Trump considering 'full pardon' of former national security advisor Michael Flynn (Spencer Kimball, 3/25/20, CNBC)

What flu?

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Netanyahu rival Gantz to receive mandate for forming Israeli government (Barak Ravid of Israel's Channel 13 news, 3/15/20, Axios)

 Gantz secured the mandate after the Arab Joint List recommended him to Rivlin. This was a historic move by the Arab Israeli party that many view as a sign that the Arab minority, which turned out to vote in high numbers in the last elections, wants to further integrate into society and have a stake in the government.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Trump is increasingly irrelevant (Jennifer Rubin, March 15, 2020, Washington Post)

At his Friday news conference, President Trump declared his opposition to the House bill meant to ease the burden on businesses and individuals from the coronavirus pandemic. Trump said Republicans had not "gotten enough," a reference to the payroll tax that members of both parties opposed.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced she had reached a deal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, it predictably did not include that payroll tax. Increasingly, the way to get anything done is for Pelosi and Mnuchin to hammer out a reasonable compromise, let Mnuchin sell it /to the president and then present it as a fait accompli to the Senate Republicans who have no ideas or legislation of their own, having become vassals of the president. This is how it went on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade negotiations.

He will leave behind him only the stench of racism.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Trump Intentionally Misnames the CoronavirusWhen conservative figures continually refer to the "Wuhan virus" or "Chinese coronavirus," it's clear they're doing it to make a point. (BEN ZIMMER, MARCH 12, 2020, The Atlantic)

As the science journalist Laura Spinney details in her 2017 book, Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World, Spain ended up taking the blame not because the pandemic actually originated there, nor because its outbreak was any more severe. Rather, it happened because while Europe was at war, Spain remained neutral and did not censor its press. Spinney explains that the major combatants in World War I kept their outbreaks under wraps to avoid damaging morale, with French military doctors cryptically referring to maladie onze, or "disease eleven." When influenza hit Spain hard in May 1918, it lit up the international news, and the French, British, and Americans began calling it "Spanish influenza."

With Spain serving as a convenient scapegoat, reports of the disease's spread followed the old xenophobic tropes. For instance, in July 1918, the Fort Worth Record picked up a wire report about a Spanish passenger liner arriving at an unnamed Atlantic port and being "thoroughly fumigated and those on board thoroughly examined by federal and state health officers." The article carried the headline "Spanish Influenza Is an Undesirable," conflating the disease with the foreign "undesirables" blamed for spreading it. The irony, in retrospect, is that the leading theory for the origin of the so-called Spanish flu places it right here in the United States. In early 1918, the first wave of the pandemic started at Camp Funston, an Army training camp in Fort Riley, Kansas, before it spread to other military camps and traveled overseas.

Even when a geographic label for a disease is more accurate in pinpointing its origin, such names can be quickly outgrown. The Ebola virus was named for the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa, where it was first identified, but the 2014 epidemic took place far away in western Africa. Similarly, the Zika virus was named for a forest in Uganda where it was first isolated in 1947, but the outbreak that began in 2015 started in Brazil and spread throughout the Americas.

More recently, world health officials have tried to be more sensitive in naming diseases by avoiding geographic references that may seem to assign blame to a particular region. Sometimes names can have unexpected connotations, however. As Spinney notes in her book, the acronym for "severe acute respiratory syndrome," SARS, seems innocuous enough, but it created problems in Hong Kong when the disease reached epidemic levels in East Asia in 2003. Some in Hong Kong found the designation offensive because the official name of the country in English includes the phrase "special administrative region," which is abbreviated as "SAR."

Cognizant of how geographic labels have been unfairly used in the past, the WHO introduced a new set of best practices for naming infectious diseases, in 2015. Geographic names are to be avoided in order to "avoid causing offense," though the WHO did not insist that already established names like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, should be retroactively changed.

When the WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced last month that the new coronavirus disease would be called COVID-19, he referred to the 2015 guidelines to explain why the name did not refer to Wuhan, the city in central China where the virus is thought to have originated. "Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing," he said, adding, "It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Bill Buford's Stint in Hell's Kitchen (Jonny Segura, March 11, 2020, The Millions)

By then Buford had published his well-received Among the Thugs, a horrifying and very funny study of English football violence in the 1980s. (A nod to Buford's literary cred: early in Thugs he writes about attending his first English football match with two unnamed friends; he says they were Salman Rushdie and Mario Vargas Llosa.) [...]

Dirt is big, 400-something pages, and the longest thing Buford has written. It started out as a pretty simple idea: go to Paris, work in a kitchen for a few months, bang out a book. This idea was jangling around in Buford's head well before Obama was elected, right after he wrapped up Heat. Basically, do Heat in France.

One problem: the French really didn't care about Buford or his book. If he wanted to go, which at that point meant taking his family (he and his wife, Jessica Green, a magazine editor turned wine expert, had preschool-age twin boys at the time), there would be beaucoup paperwork to fill out for their residency permits. So they did, and with a little fraudulent help from a well-placed friend, the Lyonnaise chef Daniel Boulud, they were in. Which was another problem: then they were there. And in Lyon, not Paris.

What follows is a mix of memoir, culinary anthropology, and immersion journalism, all told in Buford's hallmark erudite and ruthlessly self-effacing way. Early life in Lyon was a parade of difficulties and humiliations: contending with the French fetish for bureaucracy; finding an apartment; failing to find a kitchen to work in; finally getting work, only to be bullied by a 19-year-old kitchen psychopath; coming to realize that strangers thought Buford was a local in a city where, he writes, the men are all "ugly f[****]rs."

"It was a wild thing we did. Really, a wild thing," Buford says. "Because we get there, and everything's going wrong and I can't get into a kitchen, and I think, 'Well, what the f[***]? Now what?' Then I got into a kitchen where any reasonable person would say, 'Why didn't you get out of there?' But of course, as a writer, that's what you want."

The job Buford landed at the Michelin-starred restaurant La Mère Brazier required 15-plus-hour days in a kitchen where the culture resembled that of a pirate ship. The labor was so demanding and physical that he wound up losing weight working in a place where the recipes measured butter in kilos.

"I liked it a lot," Buford says. "I think I enjoy physical activity, but I've got kind of a desk brain. So, the pleasure of the situation--La Mère Brazier was different because it was so intense--is you can have a reflecting brain while you're doing a physical activity. It helps that I know that I'm going to be writing about it."

There are intellectual pursuits in the book as well as the demented rigors of the kitchen. Not to give anything away, but a turning point Buford discovers in the controversial history of interplay among Italian and French food (if you want to piss off the French, tell them French cuisine is actually Italian in origin, as Buford did repeatedly) will have people who care about such things looking at their ragù differently.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Origins of Baptism  (Peter Jackson, 3/15/20, Foreign Policy)

Water ceremony has long been practiced in the old world as a symbol not only of physical but also of moral purification. Christian baptism originates from the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. In the first centuries of Christianity, it was always preceded by the introduction of faith. In early Christianity, it was performed on mature believers, who had previously had to apply as candidates for the baptismal rite and to go through the preparatory period by practicing fasting and prayer. Adults who intended to receive it had a special status.

This status lasted about two years, but sometimes the deadline was reduced or increased. If they were worthy of it, or admission to the Christian community, there would be a rite during which the initiate would, without clothing, descend into the water, washing away sins and symbolizing the death of his former self. The priest would then invite the Spirit to descend on the reborn, who wears a white robe and receives honey mixed with milk - food for the newborn. It was performed in streams and rivers, and from Constantine the Great in the special water pools that were at the church.

Jesus was not an infant.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


1 classic game to watch online for each MLB team (Sarah Langs, Andrew Simon, Manny Randhawa and Jason Catania , March 14, 2020,

With no live baseball games currently on TV, you can always fill the void by streaming a classic game from your favorite team's past. The MLB Vault account on YouTube has numerous games, and the MLB account has a bunch more, too.

Here's one memorable game for each team that can be watched online, for free, in its entirety...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Older Americans are more worried about coronavirus -- unless they're Republican (Philip Bump, March 14, 2020, Washington Post)

It's worth noting a significant part of Sal Gentile's expressed lack of concern about the virus: his pointed mention about what "TV stations" were advocating.

Pew data indicate that about 3-in-10 members of both political parties identify cable news as their most common platform for political news. But the preferred cable news station varies widely depending on a viewer's politics. Almost no Democrats of retirement age identify Fox News as their main source of political or election news. Fully half of Republicans did.

Fox News, of course, is home to a number of hosts who've dismissed the threat posed by the coronavirus, framing the sense of urgency conveyed on other networks as being about Trump's presidency rather than the public health. If that is the message that half of older Republicans are hearing, it's not really a surprise that they are less concerned about the virus.

On the other hand, they were way ahead of the curve on President Obama being a gay Muslim Socialist from Kenya...