March 22, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 PM



Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul's father, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, penned an article titled "The Coronavirus Hoax," just six days before his son became the first U.S. senator to test positive for COVID-19.

Posted by orrinj at 10:32 AM


The Spanish Flu, Polish Disease, and now 'Chinese Virus': The Dark History of Naming Diseases (James Hamilton, Mar 22 2020, Vice)

The World Health Organization intentionally avoids any possible nicknames and advises people to the same because of the possible stigma. Even the Trump-appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, told the House in a hearing that using location-specific labels for the virus is "absolutely wrong and inappropriate."

There's a long, inglorious history of naming diseases after disdained groups. In 1495, Russians called a syphilis outbreak the Polish Disease, the Polish called it the German Disease, and the French and Italians named it after each other.

The 1918 flu pandemic that infected over a quarter of the world's population is still referred to as "the Spanish Flu," even though there's no consensus on where that outbreak originated. Spain just happened to have the most reliable reporting at the time, as other countries censored their press to boost morale during World War I.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


New nuclear fusion reactor design may be a breakthrough: Using permanent magnets may help to make nuclear fusion reactors simpler and more affordable. (STEPHEN JOHNSON, 20 March, 2020, Big Think)

[R]esearcher Michael Zarnstorff in New Jersey may have recently made a significant breakthrough while helping his son with a science project. In a new paper, Zarnstorff, a chief scientist at the Max Planck Princeton Research Center for Plasma Physics in New Jersey, and his colleagues describe a simpler design for a stellarator, one of the most promising types of nuclear fusion reactors.

Fusion reactors generate power by smashing together, or fusing, two atomic nuclei to produce one or more heavier nuclei. This process can unleash vast amounts of energy. But achieving fusion is difficult. It requires heating hydrogen plasma to over 100,000,000°C, until the hydrogen nuclei fuse and generate energy. Unsurprisingly, this super-hot plasma is hard to work with, and it can damage and corrode the expensive hardware of the reactor.

Stellarators are devices that use external magnets to control and evenly distribute the hot plasma by "twisting" its flow in specific ways. To do this, stellarators are outfitted with a complex series of electromagnetic coils that create an optimal magnetic field within the device.

"The twisted coils are the most expensive and complicated part of the stellarator and have to be manufactured to very great precision in a very complicated form," physicist Per Helander, head of the Stellarator Theory Division at Max Planck and lead author of the new paper, told Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory News.

The new design offers a simpler approach by instead using permanent magnets, whose magnetic field is generated by the internal structure of the material itself. As described in an article published by Nature, Zarnstorff realized that neodymium-boron permanent magnets--which behave like refrigerator magnets, only stronger--had become powerful enough to potentially help control the plasma in stellarators.

Posted by orrinj at 8:39 AM


This Is How 19 Russia Aircraft Were Shot Down In Syria In 4 Years: That's a lot of aircraft against an unsophisticated enemy. (Sebastien Roblin, 3/22/20, National Interest)

[T]he air campaign has cost the Russian military at least nineteen manned aircraft (eleven helicopters and eight airplanes) between 2015-2018, leading to the deaths of twenty-three crew and thirty-seven passengers.

For comparison, between 2014 and 2020, the U.S. military lost two aircraft in anti-ISIS operations in Syria: an F-16 jet in 2014 due to an accident shortly after takeoff and a V-22 tilt-rotor in a hard landing in 2017.

Luring Vlad into the quagmire would have been genius had it been intentional.

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


Federal law enforcement document reveals white supremacists discussed using coronavirus as a bioweapon (Hunter Walker and Jana Winter, 3/21/20, Yahoo News)

White supremacists discussed plans to weaponize coronavirus via "saliva," a "spray bottle" or "laced items," according to a weekly intelligence brief distributed by a federal law enforcement division on Feb. 17. 

Federal investigators appeared to be monitoring the white nationalists' communications on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app that has become popular with neo-Nazis. In the conversations, the white supremacists suggested targeting law enforcement agents and "nonwhite" people with attacks designed to infect them with the coronavirus. 

"Violent extremists continue to make bioterrorism a popular topic among themselves," reads the intelligence brief written by the Federal Protective Service, which covered the week of Feb. 17-24. "White Racially Motivated Violent Extremists have recently commented on the coronavirus stating that it is an 'OBLIGATION' to spread it should any of them contract the virus."

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM



The United States now has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, following behind only Italy and China, new data shows.

In recent weeks, the spread of COVID-19 has continued to expand across the country, with the U.S. seeing a total of 26,747 confirmed cases as of Sunday morning, according to an online tracker maintained by the Johns Hopkins University. At least 340 of those cases have resulted in death, with New York and Washington state sharing the brunt of those deaths from the new coronavirus, with 94 and 76, respectively.

Asking for a friend who thinks it's just about geography, not ethnicity....

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


Coronavirus, Courage, and the Second Temptation of Christ: Discerning the difference between courage, cowardice, and recklessness. (David French, 3/22/20, The Dispatch)

There exists within Christianity a temptation to performative acts that masquerade as fearlessness. In reality, this recklessness represents--as the early church father John Chrysostom called it--"display and vainglory." Look how fearless we are, we declare, as we court risks that rational people should shun. In the context of a global pandemic followers of Christ can actually become a danger to their fellow citizens, rather than a source of help and hope.

Or, put another way, reckless Christians can transform themselves from angels of mercy to angels of death, and the rest of the world would be right to fear their presence.

But just as Christ rejected performative displays, he also rejected cowardice. He demands sacrifice even unto death. Yet taking up one's cross in imitation of Christ means engaging in purposeful sacrifice. This is the risk of the doctor or the nurse who possesses the courage to continually expose himself or herself to deadly disease to care for the sick and dying. This is the risk of the faithful believer who sheds personal protection to care for the least of these so that they are not alone.

And this person does not then walk into church or to church events--or even surround herself with her own family--to prove God's divine protection. Were the men and women who were infected at a church event in Nashville not faithful Christians who were fearlessly serving the Lord? Yet one man's infection still became their infection, and now dozens of people are paying a steep price.  

I know doctors who are separating themselves from their families. They're treating this moment of crisis in much the same way that a soldier treats a deployment. The normal comforts of home are just not available. That's not fear. In fact, they are fearless in their service. It's prudence. They will not impute their personal risk to the men, women, and children in their family and community.

Veterans are instinctively familiar with the distinction between cowardice, courage, and recklessness. A combat operation requires a soldier to expose himself to extreme danger. The coward shuns his duty. The courageous man embraces the mission, yet he also wears body armor, often fights from armored vehicles, uses cover when he has it, and avails himself of as much air support and artillery support as he can. No one would call that "giving in to fear." Instead, his caution is wise. It maximizes the combat power of the individual and helps retain the cohesion of the team.

There was a moment in my deployment when an officer violated every rule of safety and caution. In an ostentatious display of reckless physical risk, he ordered a subordinate to ride with him in an unarmored pickup truck down an "uncleared" road (an uncleared road was a road that hadn't been swept clean of mines or improvised explosive devices). No one applauded his vainglory. They were livid at his carelessness. And he was instantly repentant. He knew what he had done. In spiritual terms, he had climbed to the top of the temple and cast himself off the edge. 

And what is our mission in this time? Shun performative recklessness. Do not presume that our faith makes us immune to the laws of biology and viral transmission. At the same time, believers should not shrink from purposeful and sacrificial personal risk. There may come a time when you must care for those who are sick. Do so without reservation, but do so prudently with the knowledge that you should not impute your risks to others. 

It's entirely natural for a certain set of folks to feel that the religion is solely performative or that they have to perform to remove doubts about their genuine faith.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Jerry Falwell Jr. just unmasked social conservatism (JOHN STOEHR, MARCH 22, 2020, Salon)

Here's some context, courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor (my italics):

"As in many states, residents in parts of rural, conservative Virginia say they seem to inhabit an increasingly different daily reality than that of urban and suburban districts. That feeling of separation was compounded by last November's Democratic sweep of the state's elected offices. Now residents in Frederick County are mulling a radical proposal: seceding from Virginia and joining neighboring West Virginia."

Apparently Falwell is part of the effort. He's the head of something called "Vaxit," according to Fox & Friends. Whether that's a real organization I have no idea, but that's not what I'm most interested in. I'm most interested in expressing gratitude to the good reverend for admitting that "states' rights" have nothing to do with conservatism.

Think about it.

If the principle of "states' rights" meant what conservatives have said it meant to them, not one of them, not Jerry Falwell Jr. nor anyone calling him or herself a "principled conservative," would dare suggest that a county secede from a state. If states are sovereign, as conservatives have alleged since Strom Thurmond ran as a Dixiecrat in 1948, calling for a county to secede from a state is traitorous. If "states' rights" are as sacred as conservatives have said they are, the idea of secession is an abomination.

In saying counties should leave the state as casually as ordering unsweet tea with his burger and fries, the Rev. Falwell told us without knowing he was telling us that conservatism in theory is authoritarianism in practice. It cannot and will not tolerate democratic change, despite change coming with the blessing of the majority. If the majority rules, Falwell and his confederates will abandon commitments to democracy.

Once you abandon democracy--once you open the door to treason--there's no end in sight. Once it seceded, "the Confederacy began to deny states' rights," wrote James W. Loewen in Lies My Teacher Told Me. "Jefferson Davis denounced states' rights as destructive to the Confederacy. The mountainous counties in western Virginia bolted to the Union. Confederate troops had to occupy east Tennessee to keep it from emulating West Virginia. Winn Parish, Louisiana, refused to secede from the Union. Winston County, Alabama, declared itself the Free State of Winston. Unionist farmers and woodsmen in Jones County, Mississippi, declared the Free State of Jones."

By February 1864, Davis despaired: "Public meetings of treasonable character, in the name of state sovereignty, are being held." Thus states' rights as an ideology was contradictory and could not mobilize the white South for the long haul.

What mobilized the white South was the defense of slavery.

Jerry's kids don't want to be governed by blacks.
Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Enjoyable at a distance, holiday lights brighten dark times in NH and across the country (HOLLY RAMER, 3/21/20, Associated Press)

 At a time of great uncertainty, even the seasons seem scrambled. Christmas lights in springtime?

Hung high over Main Street in a New Hampshire town, wrapped around a tree trunk in Colorado and fashioned into a heart in Alabama, holiday lights are going back up. As the coronavirus spreads, the displays are providing a bit of emotional and actual brightness. And they're especially easy to enjoy from a safe social distance.

"We live out in the country, but I know you can see them from the highway," said Julie Check, who turned on the white lights that trace the roof line of her home in Eastman, Wis., on Wednesday night. "Anything I can do to make people happy right now, I'm going to try to do."

In Farmington, N.H., a roughly five-block stretch of downtown has been re-illuminated with holiday lights that swoop and zigzag between tall wooden posts. So cherished is the town's 80-year decorating tradition that taxpayers approved spending $11,500 six years ago to erect the posts after the electric company said lights could no longer be affixed to its poles.

"It's a small town; we don't have a lot of traditions. That was one of them, and we just didn't want it to go away," said Lee Warburton, president of the Farmington Preservation and Improvement Organization, which maintains and installs the lights. At his suggestion, the 27 strands totaling 2,000-plus bulbs were tested and turned back on Thursday night.

"It's tough for everybody right now. Everyone is on edge," he said. "We just thought it would be nice to give the folks in town something to smile about."

Police Chief John Drury was all for the idea. He remembers how pretty the lights looked when he first visited the town for a job interview on a December day 20 years ago.

"It was one of the things that actually drew me to this community when I was first looking to be a police officer," he said. "By bringing the lights back, hopefully it gives people the sense of hope that we're all in this together. We'll get through it."

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


'I walk a fine line': Dr. Fauci reveals he has to force Trump to accept facts and that correcting his mistakes in public is a 'risky business'  (HANNAH SKELLERN FOR DAILYMAIL.COM and ANDREW COURT FOR DAILYMAIL.COM, 3/22/20)

Dr. Anthony Fauci has admitted he has been 'walking a fine line' by publicly contradicting President Donald Trump as he leads the team fighting the coronavirus pandemic amid rumors of tension between the pair. 

Telling Trump 'things he doesn't want to hear' was a 'risky business,' the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said in an interview with the New York Times. 

The respected immunologist was caught smirking at President Donald Trump during a coronavirus press conference on Friday afternoon 

He was also forced to publicly row back on the president's claims that the anti-malarial drug cloroquine offered a potential cure for coronavirus in the latest of a series of public rebukes.

Fauci said that he tried not to 'embarrass Trump' and said that he attempts to deal with the president by 'continually' talking about scientific facts.

How many extra deaths is it worth to disguise Donald's ignorance and incompetence?