June 8, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 PM


Marine Le Pen's war with a French rapper (Arabella Byrne, 6/08/21, Spectator)

Marine Le Pen's war on the anthem is part of a long history of cultural battles over the French soccer team. Les Blues have always been central to political fights over the nature of the Republic. Composed largely of players from immigrant backgrounds, in the past the team has been held up as the literal manifestation of the vivre ensemble ethic. Take France's World Cup-winning 1998 team, nicknamed the Rainbow Squad. With players from North Africa, West Africa, the French Caribbean, the Pacific islands and the Basque country, the 1998 team became a cohesive force for French race relations.

Not everyone thought so at the time, mind. In 1998 Jean-Marie Le Pen, then leader of the Front National, commented that the 'Black, Blanc, Beur' (Black, White, Arab) team didn't look sufficiently French. In 2006 he criticized then manager Raymond Domenech for choosing too many black players. And in 2007 a top socialist aide said that he was 'ashamed for his country' that nine out of 11 players on the side were black.

It's now been 23 years since France first won the World Cup and yet again a Le Pen -- this time, Marine -- is commentating from the side of the pitch. When the FFF released its promotional video for the French squad -- a montage of council estates and soccer pitches interspersed with shots of the Eiffel Tower set to Youssoupha's music -- Le Pen hit out at the rapper's 'insulting' and 'outrageous' lyrics and speaking on her behalf, the deputy leader of the Rassemblement National denounced the choice of Youssoupha as choquant, considering his obscene lyrics about Le Pen and equally disturbing lyrics about √Čric Zemmour -- whom he described as an immigrant hating member of the elite or 'con'. (Zemmour lost a court battle with the rapper in 2012 after a judge ruled that rap was allowed a certain amount of exaggeration.) The FFF responded by scrambling to distance themselves from the controversy, blaming a 'junior' member of the team for choosing the song in the first place, before pulling it altogether.

The row has put Macron in an uncomfortable position. The French soccer team perfectly represents the Republican ideal of multiculturalism the president is keen to espouse. Yet Macron also fears being outflanked on the right on cultural issues.

Posted by orrinj at 1:25 PM


Haredi party chiefs: Jewish state in danger if wicked Bennett succeeds Netanyahu (AMY SPIRO, 6/08/21, Times of Israel)

[S]has leader Aryeh Deri asserted that a government headed by Bennett "is going to destroy and ruin everything we have maintained for years. A government headed by Bennett will destroy Shabbat, conversion, the Chief Rabbinate, kashrut and will tear the people of Israel asunder," he said. "For the sake of his personal ambition, Bennett is throwing away everything that is important to the Jewish people."

"The Jewish state is in danger!" Deri proclaimed. "The State of Israel is changing its face and its character and its identity. This isn't a separation of religion and state, but an uprooting of religion from the state."

"The names of the wicked shall rot," United Torah Judaism leader Moshe Gafni said of Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.

"We will cry out to heaven and earth... against the behavior of this man who ostensibly wears a kippa," Gafni said of Bennett. "From the beginning, we knew that this is what he wants -- he wants there to be an anti-religious government, a secular government."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


At least 3,900 children separated from families under Trump 'zero tolerance' policy, task force finds (MYAH WARD, 06/08/2021, Politico)

The Biden administration has determined that more than 3,900 children were separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy from July 2017 through January 2021, according to a Reunification Task Force report released Tuesday -- and it's possible that number will grow as the task force reviews more cases.

The review concluded that there were 5,636 family-child separations during that time period, but that only 3,913 children fell under the task force's scope, according to the report. Nearly 400 children have been sent back to their country of origin.

As for the other 1,723 children, these cases are under review, a senior official with the Department of Homeland Security said. While it's expected that the majority of those children came unaccompanied to the border, the department expects some of these cases to fall under "zero tolerance" policy separations and to tack on to the 3,913 figure.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why the GOP Just Got Blown Out in a Congressional Race (BRYAN METZGER, 06/08/2021, Politico)

Two weeks before the GOP had its first chance to pick up a seat in Congress since Joe Biden became president, the Republican Party of New Mexico hosted a three-day event dubbed "Operation Freedom." State Sen. Mark Moores, who was running for the open seat, addressed a crowd of a few hundred party leaders, activists and donors in a hotel conference center. Afterwards, he left the hotel and drove nearly 300 miles back to Albuquerque, where he was actually competing for votes.

New Mexico Republicans had opted to hold their marquee event in Amarillo, Texas.

When the votes came in, Moores had lost to Democratic State Rep. Melanie Stansbury by 24 percentage points--even more than the margin by which Joe Biden had won the district. Nationally, it was seen as a referendum on Biden's first months in office. But in New Mexico, the story is longer and more complex. For some frustrated New Mexico Republicans, the Amarillo episode and Moores' loss last Tuesday highlight deeper problems with the state party's leadership and direction over the last few years--including a turn towards Trumpism that has galvanized some of the party's base but has seemingly turned off swing voters in the state's traditionally purple electorate.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The "Lab Leak": It's Not Enough to Say Accidents Happen (THOMAS LEVENSON, JUN 08, 2021, Nautilus)

That "just asking" gambit has an unsavory history, but assuming this time the questioner is sincere, finding the answer takes some actual reporting into the specific protocols for working in such a lab. By the C.D.C.'s description, BSL-4 facilities are fortresses, with control over entry, air flow, with multiple physical barriers between any lab procedure and the outside world. Every detail matters, down to the requirement that all surfaces have to have smooth finishes to make decontamination easier, and that no cabinets can have sharp edges, to lower the risk of a glove tear.

So, if, as Baker implies, the coronavirus may have leaked from Wuhan's BSL-4 lab, it's not enough to say "lab accidents happen." Of course they do! But to argue for a human error producing global tragedy out of this environment, a responsible reporter needs to be able to show how would this one hypothesized accident have played out: How did this pathogen make its way from a freezer to sealed work area to a moon-suited person and then to the streets of the city? So far no one has come up with any clear account of how a coronavirus escaped BSL-4 barriers. 

There is a twist. The C.D.C.'s own guidelines allow for coronavirus research at lower levels of protection, within BSL-2 and -3 facilities. I believe there's a reason Baker and some others emphasize the existence of the Wuhan max-containment lab: to play off Andromeda-Strain tropes of horror at the prospect of out-of-control scientists doing frightening stuff in scary places--so much so that those who invoke the Wuhan's BSL-4 security forgo the seemingly more powerful argument that COVID-19 could have escaped from a less-secure lab. 

Shifting focus to the actual sites of Wuhan's coronavirus research, though, the same problem is still there. A reporter testing the lab-leak possibility needs to understand in detail what types of work were done in each type of lab, how a level 2 or 3 standard of security works, and then establish a plausible failure mode for the particular protections in place that would allow a dangerous bug to escape.

This is a question of mechanism: How a breach could have occurred in a way that could produce widespread infection. There are other, similarly particular and technically demanding questions to be answered for the lab-accident scenario to gain plausibility, but the issue remains across each of the particular technical hurdles required to get a virus into the Wuhan lab and, perhaps modified, out again to the sorrow of the world.

Doing science is hard; reporting on it is, too. The subjects at the heart of the COVID story--molecular biology, bioengineering, virology, epidemiology, and more--are all difficult subjects, and they're challenging in a different way than, say, physics is daunting. The biological sciences require both a grasp of critical organizing concepts and the mastery of prodigious amounts of specific details within each domain and sub-discipline. 

Such complexity creates a particular problem for journalists, especially those unused to covering detailed science. Sources aren't enough, even those who are experts in their own domain. A bacteriologist may be distinguished and decorated and still miss crucial elements of bleeding-edge virology; a molecular geneticist doesn't necessarily know what happens in the weeds of infection at the cellular level, and so on. 

For now, the core of the lab-leak story still rests on an unfalsifiable negative: It's impossible to say a lab-accident couldn't happen. 

It is no coincidence that those trumpeting a lab leak are the same folks who opposed the measures to limit the pandemic.  It's just blame-shifting with a racial bonus. Note, in particular, what's lacking from their mantra: they don't even pretend that our response to the outbreak should be any different based on whether it was a lab-leak or a cave-leak.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


China vents anger at US Senators' visit to Taiwan (Yahoo! News, , June 7, 2021)

A delegation of three US lawmakers made a stopover on Sunday in Taipei, where they announced Washington would donate 750,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to Taiwan.

The gift came as Taiwan accuses China of hampering its efforts to secure vaccines, saying it is part of Beijing's ongoing campaign to isolate the island.

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China "expresses strong dissatisfaction (toward the visit) and has lodged a solemn representation".

Boy, Xi sure misses his Nationalist pal. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Far-Right Gang Killed Cop In Plot To Blame 2020 Protest Violence On 'Leftists' (David Neiwert, June 08 | 2021, National Memo)

Despite the widespread media narrative blaming Black Lives Matter and antifascist activists for last summer's protest violence, there were plenty of suspicions that far-right extremists seeking to intensify the public's fear of the "violent left" were in fact responsible for a significant amount of it. These suspicions were fed by such incidents as the assassination of a federal officer in Oakland by two far-right "Boogaloo Bois" and the arrest of another "Boogaloo" enthusiast from Texas for attacking a police station in Minneapolis.

Now we know, thanks to federal prosecutors investigating the Oakland incident, that in fact it was not the act of a single "lone wolf" and his accomplice, but rather part of a larger plot by group of far-right extremists who called themselves the "Grizzly Scouts" and planned a series of deadly attacks on law-enforcement officers with the intent of making it appear to be the work of the "violent left." Even more disturbing, according to the San Jose Mercury-News, most of these conspirators, following their arrests for destroying evidence in the case, have been released on bond by federal magistrates who have deemed them not a risk to the community.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Confederacy Resurgent? (George Thomas, 6/07/21, The Constitutionalist)

The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbot, just signed a law establishing the 1836 Project to promote patriotic education and Texas values. In 1836 Texas declared itself an independent republic. In doing so, Texas not only sanctioned slavery (which had been prohibited), but made clear the subordinate position of Blacks. Sections 9 and 10 of the 1836 Constitution prohibited individuals from emancipating enslaved Blacks, denied citizenship to those of African descent, and prohibited free Blacks from residing in the state.

And then Republicans wonder why we don't get any black votes. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


FDA approves injectable obesity drug that helps people cut weight 15% (LINDA A. JOHNSON, 6/07/21, AP)

Regulators on Friday said a new version of a popular diabetes medicine could be sold as a weight-loss drug in the US.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Wegovy, a higher-dose version of Novo Nordisk's diabetes drug semaglutide, for long-term weight management.

In company-funded studies, participants taking Wegovy had average weight loss of 15%, about 34 pounds (15.3 kilograms). Participants lost weight steadily for 14 months before plateauing. In a comparison group getting dummy shots, the average weight loss was about 2.5%, or just under 6 pounds.