March 17, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM

LIFE IN THE BUBBLE (profanity alert):

Inside the Pro-Trump Facebook Group Where First Responders Call Coronavirus a Hoax (Isaac Arnsdorf March 17, 2020, ProPublica)

In a 27,000-member private Facebook group for first responders who support President Donald Trump, firefighters and paramedics have posted thousands of comments in recent weeks downplaying the coronavirus pandemic that they are responsible for helping to handle.

Posts in the group, which is called IAFF Union Firefighters for Trump and has been endorsed by Trump, scoffed at the seriousness of the virus, echoing false assertions by Trump and his allies comparing it to the seasonal flu. "Every election year has a disease," read one meme, purporting to be written on a doctor's office whiteboard. "This is a viral-pneumonia being hyped as The Black Plague before an election." [...]

Posts containing factual information or firsthand experiences with the virus were met with more accusations of plots to harm Trump's reelection. When a Florida firefighter said action was required now to prevent a crisis like is currently underway in Italy, where 27,980 have been infected and 2,158 have died, because the virus spreads at an exponential rate, the first reply was poop emojis and "Trump2020."

Some comments promoted a baseless conspiracy theory that the virus is a biological weapon developed by the Chinese in collaboration with Democrats.

"By the Chinese to stop the riots in Hong Kong," one member wrote.

"[Y]ou are absolutely correct," another replied. "I said that in the beginning. Democrats saw an opportunity to use it against Trump and get rid of older people which they have been trying to do for a while." 

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


A new study pins down the source of the 'rapid spread' of the coronavirus in China -- people with little or no symptoms (Diane Peters, 3/17/20, Business Insider)

In China, an estimated 86% of COVID-19 infections went undiagnosed before the country's travel ban was enacted on January 23, according to a new study published in Science on Monday. 

Because there were so many undocumented cases of infection in China at that time, it was these people with undiagnosed COVID-19 coronavirus who spread it the most, leading to the "rapid spread of the virus throughout Chinam," the researchers report. 

Using mathematical models to simulate the spread of the virus, the researchers calculated the contagiousness of people who were reported to have the COVID-19 virus and the estimated number of undocumented cases.

The researchers found that undocumented cases transmitted the new coronavirus about half as often as documented cases. But there were a lot more of undocumented cases. As a result, people who had not been diagnosed were the source of about eight out of every 10 infected cases in China prior to January 23. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:37 AM


Why had we never heard of Wuhan?: Few of us had heard of Wuhan before the coronavirus, yet it is among a number of Chinese megacities shaping our world. Knowing about Beijing and Shanghai isn't enough (PETER FRANKLIN, 3/17/20, UnHerd)

China is almost the same size as the United States of America. In fact, there's a debate as to which one is bigger -- it depends on precise territorial definitions. In any case, China is big.

It also occupies much the same latitudes as the contiguous United States, although the southernmost parts of China are at Mexican latitudes and the northernmost at Canadian latitudes. So China ranges from the bitterly cold to the steaming hot.

But while America stretches from "sea to shining sea", China stretches from the Pacific Ocean to Central Asia. In fact, the most inland place on the planet is in the far north-west of China.

There's something called the Heihe-Tengchong line that bisects China from the Russian border in the far north-east to the Burmese border in the south. Remarkably, just 4% of the country's population lives west of the line. So, when you look at China on a map, remember that almost everything is going on in the eastern half of the country.

Here's another really important line: the line of latitude that lies thirty degrees north of the equator. It's on or near this parallel that all four of the world's oldest civilisations -- ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley civilisation and ancient China -- got their start. Later civilisations arose further north or further south, but the earliest ones were all at this crucial latitude.

River valleys were another essential ingredient. Whereas in ancient Egypt it was the Nile, in ancient China it was the Yangzi (or Yangtse), the third longest river in the world. Unlike the Nile, however, it runs east-west along the 30th parallel, allowing civilisation to spread and stay connected over a wide area sharing the same sort of climate. Furthermore, not too far to the north is another great river -- the Huang He (a.k.a. the Yellow River). Even better, the land through which both rivers flow is fertile not arid. Tributary rivers (and, later, canals) helped to link up the Lower Yangzi Plain and the North China Plain into a vast and cohesive Chinese heartland.

It was there that Chinese civilisation developed over the millennia and from there that it spread out in all directions.

1. Wuhan -- the crossroads of China

Which bring me back to Wuhan. The city is known as the cross-roads of China for a very good reason.

It sits on the Yangzi about a thousand kilometres inland; a thousand kilometres to the north is Beijing; a thousand to the east (i.e. downstream) is Shanghai; a thousand to the south is the Pearl River delta, which includes Guangdong and Hong Kong; and a thousand to the west (i.e. upstream) are the mighty Sichuanese cities of Chongqing and Chengdu.

Wuhan is also where the Han river flows into the Yangzi -- the Han being the birthplace of the Han dynasty, which in turn gave its name to the Han people i.e. China's majority ethnic group.

Wuhan, therefore, is the most central city in the most populous country on the planet. There couldn't have been a worse place for the coronavirus to take hold. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:12 AM


Trump won't stop using racist terms for coronavirus (Emily Singer -March 17, 2020, American Independent)

Public health experts, including the CDC, have called out for an end to the use of stigmatizing terms amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Donald Trump is ignoring calls from public health experts not to use racist terms for the novel coronavirus that contribute to stigmatizing Asians and Asian Americans amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The World Health Organization has warned against using geographic locations to name viruses, saying doing so "has had unintended negative impacts by stigmatizing certain communities or economic sectors."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines stigma as "discrimination against an identifiable group of people, a place, or a nation," and warns that contributing to stigma during the current virus outbreak "hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem."

Yet Trump has used a racist name for the virus at least twice in the last 24 hours.

And only group defending him.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Are Conservatives Obsessed With Revenge on China for the Coronavirus? (Jonathan Chait, 3/13/20, New York)

Focusing on China allows conservatives to sidestep the question of whether the coronavirus poses a serious health risk at all. That question becomes a sideshow to the primary objective of blaming China. Right-wing organs like the Federalist have mounted a campaign to brand the disease the "Wuhan Virus," scolding anybody who fails to use their lingo as China appeasers. Breitbart's coverage of Joe Biden's coronavirus plan zeroes in on its failure to blame Beijing. "Not once in the detailed plan does Biden mention China or Wuhan -- the origin city of the coronavirus," it reports, accurately, "Instead, the Biden plan repeatedly focuses on fighting 'global' public health threats and refers to the coronavirus in its technical term of COVID-19."

This is a completely bizarre passage to those of us who have read mainstream news. It credits Biden with outlining a "detailed plan," but brushes aside this fact to complain that he describes the virus as a "global threat," which it demonstrably is.

What's so strange about the right's China obsession is that it lacks any policy implications. Cotton has warned, "We will hold accountable those who inflicted it on the world," but what actions could he be threatening? Create a pandemic virus of our own in the United States? There is no prospective course of action that follows from blaming China. It is a global pandemic.

And the reason the mainstream media and liberal elite are using the standard terms for the virus rather than the conservative movement's preferred labels isn't some delicacy about offending China. It's that we don't actually care at this point where it started. Biden focused his speech on ways to prevent Americans from suffering and dying, instead of on ways to blame China, because that seems more important, not because he's secretly in hoc to the Chinese Communist Party (which Cotton, naturally, has also insinuated).

I pay close attention to conservative thought, and try to understand the ideological roots of various strands of right-wing argument. Explaining the China obsession in philosophical terms, though, seems to give its adherents too much credit. It's as if they are unable to grasp the concept of a positive-sum global problem, and lacking the proper capacity to analyze this category of problem, are using the parts of their brains that process external threats. Their lizard brains have transformed a crisis in which every country has a joint interest in mitigation into an act of war demanding retaliation.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Axios|SurveyMonkey poll: coronavirus and trust (Laura Wronski, 3/16/18, Survey Monkey)

A majority of Americans trust the major health agencies and organizations to protect the country from a major outbreak of coronavirus, according to a new Axios|SurveyMonkey poll. The CDC is the most trusted (75%), with the NIH (68%), state health departments (68%), local offices of emergency management (67%), and the WHO (66%) not far behind. 

Many fewer people--just 42% overall--say they trust President Trump to protect Americans from a major outbreak. 

The only question remaining for 2020 is how much lower than 42% he can drive his vote in November and how many Republicans he takes with him.