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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 74,622

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Why we care about finding patient zero

Why we care about finding patient zero
The co-author of "Patient Zero" on what history's most famous cases can tell us about surviving an outbreak


"It's a natural instinct to want to find the causes and sources of problems," says Dr. Lydia Kang. As a practicing physician, Kang understands the value of investigating the origins of illnesses. And as the co-author, with historian Nate Pedersen, of "Patient Zero: A Curious History of the World's Worst Diseases," she also recognizes how quickly our curiosity can turn into something far less benevolent.

There's no more telling contemporary example of collaboration and polarization than the intense, often accusatory response to our current pandemic. In the early days in 2020, coronavirus contagion anxiety and the frantic search for the "ground zero of a new virus," was quickly weaponized into a rash of anti-Asian hate crimes and racist rhetoric like Trump's references to "kung flu." Now, Reddit's sardonic "Herman Cain Award" sub identifies vaccine skeptics and mask mandate defiers who've succumbed to COVID-19 infections. It's named in honor of the former Republican presidential candidate and face mask refuser, who died a month after attending Trump's infamous 2020 Tulsa rally. As body counts rise, we seek solutions. We also want names. We want a source. And we want a culprit.

In "Patient Zero," the authors — whose previous collaboration "Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything" similarly explored the double edge of good intentions — look at the stages of infection, viral spread and eventual containment through the lens of some of humanity's most baffling and bedeviling outbreaks. It's a rich and thought-provoking book, filled with historical photographs, artwork, and unique accounts of patients and researchers grappling for answers in the midst of the most appalling and heartbreaking circumstances imaginable. It's also a profound reconsideration of our common understanding of our most famous stories of sickness and science. What's the truth about those notorious "smallpox blankets" European colonizers brought with them to the Americas? Were "Typhoid" Mary Mallon and early HIV patient Gaëtan Dugas really as reckless as their infamy suggests? What are the lessons from how rabies, polio, mad cow disease and the 1918 influenza outbreak were managed that inform our current response to COVID? And when does "a beacon of hope come in the form of poop"?


There is an understandable scientific imperative to trace the origins of viruses and diseases, but in the wider world, that can become a shorthand path to blaming individuals. What have we gotten wrong about "Typhoid Mary," about Gaëtan Dugas, and about the idea of "Patient Zero" in general?

Whenever we get a cold, we tend to point a finger at a colleague or friend who was sneezing nearby. Something we realized early on was how this book could be construed as a finger-pointing exercise, but we knew it would be far more complex and less blameworthy. If anything, these stories show how layered the issues are, and how we, as an entire species, are responsible for so many new pathogens in this world.

And often, the Patient Zeroes are complicated individuals. Gaëtan Dugas was a multifaceted human being, faulty at times, but generous as well. That is not well construed when many people think of him as the Patient Zero of the HIV and AIDS crisis of the 1980s, which he most certainly is not. ...........(more)


Omicron Cases Appear to Peak in U.S., but Deaths Continue to Rise

(NYT) CHICAGO — New coronavirus cases have started to fall nationally, signaling that the Omicron-fueled spike that has infected tens of millions of Americans, packed hospitals and shattered records has finally begun to relent.

More and more states have passed a peak in new cases in recent days, as glimmers of progress have spread from a handful of eastern cities to much of the country. Through Friday, the country was averaging about 720,000 new cases a day, down from about 807,000 last week. New coronavirus hospital admissions have leveled off.

Even as hopeful data points emerge, the threat has by no means passed. The United States continues to identify far more infections a day than in any prior surge, and some states in the West, South and Great Plains are still seeing sharp increases. Many hospitals are full. And deaths continue to mount, with more than 2,100 announced most days.

But following a month of extraordinary rates of case growth, blocklong lines at testing centers and military deployments to bolster understaffed I.C.U.s, the declining new-case tallies offered a sense of relief to virus-weary Americans, especially in the Northeast and parts of the Upper Midwest, where the trends were most encouraging. After another round of masking up or hunkering down, some were considering what life might look like if conditions continued to improve. .............(more)


'The walls are closing in': Trump reels from week of political setbacks

(Guardian UK) The last time Donald Trump heard such hammer blows, they were from renovations at Mar-a-Lago that displeased the former president. But not even that sound would have left his ears ringing like last week’s avalanche of bad news that some believe nudged a criminal indictment one step closer.

No single week in the year since Trump left the White House has been as dramatic, or for him as potentially catastrophic, as the one just passed.

It included a rebuke from the supreme court over documents related to the 6 January insurrection which Trump incited; news that the congressional committee investigating the riot was closing in on Trump’s inner circle; evidence from New York’s attorney general of alleged tax fraud; and, perhaps most damaging of all, a request from a Georgia prosecutor for a grand jury in her investigation of Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

The week ended with the leaking of a document showing that Trump at least pondered harnessing the military in his attempts to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.

It all left the former president with plenty to ponder.

“He’s Teflon Don, he said he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and survive it, his supporters are going to support him no matter what, but I’m starting to think more and more that the walls are closing in on this guy,” said Kimberly Wehle, a respected legal analyst and professor of law at the University of Baltimore. ..............(more)


In India, aquaculture has turned a sprawling lake into fish ponds

In India, aquaculture has turned a sprawling lake into fish ponds
Kolleru Lake was long known for its biodiversity, but scientists say that ecosystem faces an uncertain future


Until the 1980s, Kolleru Lake was a sprawling shallow body of water. At its deepest point during the monsoon season, the water only reached 10 feet, yet the lake covered a surface area of 350 square miles — roughly the size of Dallas, Texas. Located in the southeast state of Andhra Pradesh, Kolleru was among India's largest freshwater lakes. Known for its biodiversity, the lake was a popular stopover for migratory birds, such as flamingos, which fed from the shallows. Humans, too, derived sustenance from the lake: not just a wide variety of fish, but also rice. Local residents would sow seeds in the summer during the monsoon season and then harvest the rice later in the year, when the lake's boundaries had receded.

Today, many of those rice paddies are gone, and the flamingos are beginning to disappear, too, along with a myriad of other bird species. Instead, the region is marked with houses, shops, roads, and human-made ponds. On any given day, fish farmers tend to their stocks — tossing feed into the water, extending nets, and otherwise contributing to a growing aquaculture industry centered on carp and shrimp. As this industry has expanded, it has fundamentally reshaped the region's topography. These fish ponds, once limited to the shoreline and shallows, are now being built farther and farther into the lake. As a result, scientists say, the water has been severely degraded. And not only that: What remains for most of the year cannot rightly be called a lake.

"Open water we can see only during the monsoon period," said Meena Kumari Kolli, a geography researcher who earned her Ph.D. from the University of Marburg in Germany. Kolli has used GIS mapping techniques to study how the region has changed over the past few decades. Outside of the rainy season, she said, there are now only fish ponds, dry marshlands, and weeds — "the lake actually doesn't exist."

Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production industry in the world, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, and India ranks second globally in aquaculture fish production, contributing more than 8 percent of the world's farm-raised fish. Indian aquaculture has developed rapidly over the past few decades, said Joeri Scholtens, a fisheries researcher and an assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam. Scholtens says that this kind of rapid growth is unique to India and was possible only because of the nation's abundant natural resources and government subsidies. The subsidies were part of the country's Blue Revolution, a program initiated by the central government in the 1980s to boost the economy by increasing production of marine products. ..............(more)


"You better cook the f****** bacon right!"

CAPE CORAL, Fla. – Cape Coral police officers arrested a man at a Waffle House on Wednesday after they received calls about a disturbance.

When officers arrived, they said they heard a man identified as 28-year-old Martin Jose Alvarez yelling expletives at the staff about how his bacon was cooked.

Officers said Alvarez screamed, “You better cook the f****** bacon right!”

Officers asked Alvarez to come outside, but said he resisted until they threatened to use a taser. ................(more)


With new subpoenas, Jan. 6 committee closes in on its ultimate target: Donald Trump

With new subpoenas, Jan. 6 committee closes in on its ultimate target: Donald Trump
Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and the others summoned this week had better be careful: They're walking into a trap


(Salon) Lawyers, investigative reporters and congressional committees have one thing in common: They like to ask questions they already know the answer to. That's the big takeaway from the four subpoenas issued by the House committee investigating the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6 of last year. On Tuesday, the committee subpoenaed former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani; former Michael Flynn lawyer and "election fraud" conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell; former Trump legal adviser and evangelical law professor Jenna Ellis; and former Trump adviser and TV commentator Boris Epshteyn. If this committee's investigation is being run like many others I've followed over the years, they already have the answers to most of the questions they plan on posing to all four of these witnesses.

I realize that everyone they just subpoenaed is a "former" of one kind or another, but that's where the committee is now as it closes in on people close to Trump who were involved in the events leading up to the assault on the Capitol last year. The committee has already subpoenaed a long list of Trump acolytes, hangers-on, former administration officials and former White House employees, including such luminaries as Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Alex Jones, Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino, the former White House director of communications.

That's just the tip of a rather large iceberg. The committee has issued 60 subpoenas, interviewed about 400 witnesses and obtained more than 50,000 pages of documents in its six-month investigation of the Capitol insurrection. Some of the witnesses who didn't appear voluntarily and had to be subpoenaed by the committee include:

* Ali Alexander, an organizer of the "Stop the Steal" rally on Jan. 5.
* Amy Kremer, founder and chair of Women for America First, involved in planning for the Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse, where Trump, Giuliani and many others spoke.
* Tim Unes, listed on Parks Department paperwork for the Jan. 6 rally as "stage manager."
* Taylor Budowich, who organized radio and social media advertising for the Ellipse rally, and is now employed as Trump's primary spokesman and communications director for Trump's Save America PAC.
* Ed Martin, an organizer of the "Stop the Steal" movement and fundraiser for the Jan. 6 rally.

And here's where it gets interesting: There are more than 300 other people who appeared voluntarily and have testified to committee investigators under oath, including at least a dozen former White House employees, some of whom were questioned for as long as five or six hours. .............(more)


New York: MTA publishes Interborough Express feasibility study

MTA publishes Interborough Express feasibility study
Jan. 21, 2022

Next steps include a 20-year needs assessment, selection of a preferred alternative and environmental reviews.
Mischa Wanek-Libman

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul took a small but important step to progress the Interborough Express (IBX) project forward with the release of a year-long feasibility study.

The proposed project, included in Gov. Hochul’s 2022 State of the State address, would utilize an existing rail right-of-way to provide a passenger rail connection for residents in Brooklyn and Queens.

The study found it is feasible to use the existing corridor for shared use and demand exists with daily ridership projections of between 74,000 and 85,000 passengers.

The rail corridor currently hosts freight traffic and has not had passenger rail traffic on it since 1924. The IBX proposal would involve 14 miles of the Bay Ridge Branch and the Fremont Secondary to provide the needed transit connection while controlling costs associated with new transit infrastructure. The project has “the potential to be transformative, tangibly improving the daily lives of tens of thousands of New Yorkers” by providing connections to up to 17 subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road, as well as reducing travel times within and between the two boroughs.

“Infrastructure is all about connection, and with the Interborough Express, we can connect people to their family and friends while also improving their quality of life,” Gov. Hochul said. “The Interborough Express will connect Brooklyn and Queens, not only shaving time off commutes but also making it easier to connect to subway lines across the route. With the completion of the feasibility study, we can move forward to the next phase of this project and bring us one step closer to making the Interborough Express a reality for New Yorkers.” .................(more)


Cracks open between Republicans as alleged scheme to falsify 2020 election documents emerges

Cracks open between Republicans as alleged scheme to falsify 2020 election documents emerges
The scheme "may go all the way to the top,” Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel said on MSNBC


As Merrick Garland explained in his big speech earlier this month, the way to dismantle a criminal conspiracy is to start at the bottom and work up. It's a slow process, but it can be devastatingly effective.

That's why the fifty-nine Republicans who cast fake electoral votes are a gift to investigators seeking to understand Trump's role in the plot to overturn the 2020 election. These pseudo-electors impersonated public officials in a bid to overturn a presidential election.

They signed forged paperwork and sent it to the government. It's an open-and-shut case, but investigators could parlay this into something much bigger than prison terms for a few dozen local GOP operatives.

In a group of nearly 60 people facing serious prison time, at least some of them will be willing to implicate the higher ups to save themselves. ...........(more)


Riverview councilman censured, removed from committees after alleged remarks

(Detroit News) Riverview — David Robbins, elected in November to the Riverview City Council, was removed from his committee assignments and censured Tuesday by his six colleagues in a unanimous vote for making racially insensitive remarks.

The six council members also called for Robbins to resign because of his alleged conduct outside a restaurant in the early hours of Nov. 4, two days after he was elected.

The council censured Robbins and "calls upon him to tender his resignation as a member of the city council immediately in the best interests of the city of Riverview," according to the council resolution.

Robbins, 34, was charged criminally in a car crash weeks later after the Nov. 4 incident and bound over for trial on Jan. 6. Earlier Thursday, he was scheduled for an arraignment on information before Wayne Circuit Court Judge James Chylinski.


The News-Herald, citing policy body camera footage, reported that Robbins referred to the other man as “some random-ass Black dude, who probably had no (expletive) business being in our city in the (expletive) first place, did what he did."

Robbins allegedly later said "this riff-raff comes into our city. ... They have no business being here." .............(more)


Michigan GOP co-chair says Trump campaign directed fake electors, per CNN audio

(Detroit Free Press) Michigan Republican Party Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock said that the Trump presidential campaign directed Republicans in Michigan to seat fake GOP Electoral College delegates, according to audio obtained by CNN.

"We fought to seat the electors. The Trump campaign asked us to do that. I'm under a lot of scrutiny for that today," Maddock is heard saying in the audio reportedly recorded at a conservative gathering last week, according to CNN. In the audio, Maddock does not say whether she personally communicated with officials from the Trump campaign.

Maddock did not immediately provide a comment to the Free Press. The Michigan Republican Party also did not immediately respond to emails.

The plan was part of a quixotic effort to overturn the election in Michigan to hand the state to Trump. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and her team investigated the acts for possible election fraud charges, recently referring the matter to federal prosecutors. ..............(more)


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