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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 76,334

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What We Know About "Stealth Omicron"

What We Know About “Stealth Omicron”

JAN 28, 20221:40 PM

(Slate) The omicron wave is beginning to slow in some parts of the country (though hospitals in many places remain overwhelmed). But you may have recently heard about a new member of the COVID cast: BA.2, a relative of omicron. This new relative of the variant we’ve all gotten to know is popping up in dozens of countries, and its nickname, “stealth omicron,” is causing alarm for some; tabloids in the U.K. are getting particularly fearmongery about it. But how much do you really need to worry about it? So far, not much. Here’s what we know.

What’s with this “stealth” business?

According to Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, it’s not called “stealth omicron” because a diagnostic PCR test won’t detect it. Rather, it’s “stealth” because it’s a little tricky to determine its lineage—that is, how it relates to other variants. BA.2 is a sublineage of the omicron variant, but it has a specific quirk in its genome (it doesn’t have what’s called an “S-gene deletion”) that can confound some sequencing methods. That means it’s hard to identify as the BA.2 sublineage, not that it’s hard to identify as SARS-CoV-2. PCR tests should still be able to determine if someone is infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Where has it been found?

A lot of our early information is coming out of Denmark, which has a more robust sequencing program than the United States. It’s also been found in more than 50 other countries, like the United Kingdom, India, Sweden, and Singapore, and may be responsible for a rise in cases in Hong Kong. BA.2 has made its way to the United States, with recent reports of its detection coming out of California, Texas, Connecticut, and Washington state.

Is it more contagious than “regular” omicron?

It’s still too early to know for sure, but reports from the Danish government and its top infectious disease authority, the Statens Serum Institut, suggest that BA.2 could be 1.5 times more contagious than omicron. Emphasis on could.

Does it cause more severe disease? Or less severe disease?

It’s also too early to know for sure, but another report from the Statens Serum Institut didn’t show a difference in the risk of hospitalizations from BA.2. ............(more)


Arizona GOP: Who needs the popular vote?

(Salon) Arizona Republicans opened the legislative session this month with a slew of new voting bills, including legislation that would allow the GOP-led state legislature to "reject" election results.

Arizona Republicans, who already approved numerous new voting restrictions last year, are turning many of the GOP's conspiracy theories about Donald Trump's election loss into legislation even after their "forensic audit" of results in Maricopa County failed to turn up any evidence of fraud. Perhaps the most far-reaching bill was introduced by Republican state Rep. John Fillmore, whose legislation could open the door for the Republican-led legislature to overturn election results for no reason at all. The bill already has 15 Republican co-sponsors, including state Rep. Mark Finchem, the Trump-endorsed secretary of state candidate seeking to take over the state's elections.

Fillmore's 35-page House Bill 2596 includes a section that would require the legislature to hold a special session to "review the ballot tabulating process" and then decide whether to "accept or reject the election results." The legislature does not have to have a specific reason to reject the results. If the legislature rejects the election results, "any qualified elector" can go to court to "request that a new election be held."

"This bill is probably one of the biggest threats that we have seen here to our democracy," Arizona House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, a Democrat, said in an interview with Salon. "Nearly half the [Republican] caucus believes that the legislature should be the final decider, which goes against everything that we stand for when we talk about election integrity, democracy and what it means to truly be a republic." ...........(more)


The CIA lied to justify torturing one prisoner after 9/11. 20 years later, his story is still.......

The CIA lied to justify torturing one prisoner after 9/11. 20 years later, his story is still shrouded in secrecy
Calls mount for release of full Senate report on the US torture of Abu Zubaydah to counter a narrative too many Americans still believe – that torture works

Ed Pilkington
Sat 29 Jan 2022 04.30 EST

(Guardian UK) On the morning of 6 October the nine justices of the US supreme court filed into their wood-paneled courtroom in Washington to hear arguments in a dispute between the US government and Abu Zubaydah, a Guantánamo prisoner who has been held incommunicado and without charge for the past 20 years.

A government lawyer addressed the panel, arguing on grounds of “state secrets” that Zubaydah should be blocked from calling two CIA contractors to testify about the brutal interrogations they put him through at a hidden black site in Poland. Within minutes of his opening remarks, the lawyer was interrupted by Amy Coney Barrett, one of the rightwing justices appointed to the court by Donald Trump.

Barrett wanted to know what the government would do were the contractors to give evidence before a domestic US court about how they had “waterboarded” Zubaydah at least 83 times, beat him against a wall, hung him by his hands from cell bars and entombed him naked in a coffin-sized box for 266 hours. “You know,” she said, “the evidence of how he was treated and his torture.”


Barrett said the word almost nonchalantly, but its significance ricocheted around the courtroom and far beyond. By using the word she had effectively acknowledged that what was done by the CIA to Zubaydah, and to at least 39 other “war on terror” detainees in the wake of 9/11, was a crime under US law. ..............(more)


Boston: MBTA plan reallocates $500 million to support critical capital investments

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Board’s Audit and Finance Subcommittee supported reallocating up to $500 million in operating funds to support critical and timely capital investments, allowing the MBTA to accelerate key capital projects in safety, advance key employee recruitment and retention initiatives, advance key investments in bus and more.

This one-time reallocation plan was presented to the full board at the Jan. 27 meeting. This funding is unrelated to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds.

“Last fiscal year, we spent a record $1.9 billion in capital investments and addressed some of the state of good repair backlog. But we still have important investments to make,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “This $500-million one-time transfer of funds will allow us to expedite crucial safety investments like the Green Line Train Protection Project, to continue supporting our workforce with pandemic pay for front-line employees, to further major investments that upgrade and modernize our bus system and more.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the MBTA received nearly $2 billion in one-time federal relief funds, which allowed the MBTA to maintain service levels and balance its operating budget despite significant reductions in fare revenues. Federal relief funds continue to be applied to eligible operating expenses, freeing up other revenues on a one-time basis. ..........(more)


A mini Jan. 6 on wheels across the northern border

(CBC News) With a convoy of protesters gathering in the nation's capital, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole addressed reporters Thursday evening and called on everyone — protesters and others — to "take the temperature down."

That's not a bad notion. A calm discussion about the vaccine mandate for cross-border truck drivers — its purpose, its consequences and the merits of the alternatives — might be useful right now, especially after a long and painful two pandemic years.

But it doesn't necessarily follow that compromise or unanimity is possible here. And if the temperature needs lowering, it's all the more unfortunate that the words and actions of some Conservative MPs have contributed to raising it.

Pierre Poilievre, an increasingly prominent voice in the party, has referred to the mandate as a "vaccine vendetta." His phrasing implies that the Liberals were somehow driven by personal animus toward truckers when they decided that they must be vaccinated to cross back into Canada without quarantining. (It also ignores the fact that the U.S. has adopted the very same policy for truckers who want to drive into the United States.)

Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis said federal mandates — which also cover public servants, air and train travellers — are "unscientific, vindictive, mean-spirited and promote segregation." Former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer tweeted this week that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is "the biggest threat to freedom in Canada." ............(more)



Ottawa ready to deal with violence, extremists as protest convoy arrives, says public safety minister

Canada's public safety minister says multiple levels of police and national security forces are preparing to deal with any threats that could erupt from extremists who have latched on to a massive truck convoy that began descending on the nation's capital Friday.

As hundreds of trucks and other protesters make their way to Ottawa to demonstrate against vaccine mandates and other public health measures imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19, Marco Mendicino said there must be lines drawn between free speech and risks to public safety.

"We have to put our trust in the trained professionals that work within law enforcement, that work within the intelligence community, to draw those boundaries," he said in an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics. ...........(more)


Birds are remarkable and beautiful animals - and they're disappearing from our world

(Guardian UK) When the poet Mary Oliver wrote “Instructions for living a life,” she reminded us: “Pay attention. Be astounded. Tell about it.”

This past autumn, wildlife officials announced that a bird, a male bar-tailed godwit, flew nonstop across the Pacific Ocean 8,100 miles from Alaska to Australia in just under 10 days. Fitted with a small solar-powered satellite tag, the godwit achieved “a land bird flight record”. But of course godwits have been doing this for centuries. Come next April-May, all things well, determined godwits will make the trip in reverse, bound for Alaska to nest and raise their young.

They won’t be alone.

Northern wheatears, songbirds less than six inches long, will arrive in Alaska from sub-Saharan Africa. Arctic terns will return from Antarctica, with each bird flying the equivalent of three trips to the moon and back in a single lifetime. Bar-headed geese will fly over the Himalayas at altitudes exceeding 20,000 feet.


In the past half century, North America has lost more than one-fourth of its birds. Nearly everywhere, they are in decline. Massive die-offs of flycatchers, swallows, bluebirds, sparrows and warblers – described as thousands of birds “falling out of the sky” – have been recorded in recent years in New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Nebraska. Smoke from intense California fires forced tule geese to reroute their migration and take twice as long. Elsewhere, as birds lay their eggs earlier, due to a warming climate, more chicks die from sudden inclement weather events.

This is where we find ourselves, trapped in a diminished world of our own making. Today only 30% of all birds are wild; the other 70% are mostly poultry chickens. In essence, Earth is now a coalmine, and every wild bird is a canary – what ecologists call a “bio-indicator” – in that mine. .............(more)


Boy, 7, dies after being run over by bulldozer in west Michigan

A 7-year-old West Michigan boy died Thursday after he fell from a trailer being pulled by a bulldozer and was run over, Michigan State Police said.

Officials said they believe his death was an accident.

The incident happened at about 5:30 p.m. in a field near a home in the 7100 block of Lawrence Road near Marshall in Maple Grove Township in Barry County, according to authorities. Maple Grove Township is about 21 miles north of Battle Creek and about 121 miles west of Detroit. ..............(more)


Who has more influence on supreme court: Clarence Thomas or his activist wife?

(Guardian UK) Clarence Thomas, the hardline conservative supreme court justice, is facing calls for his recusal in the case over race-based affirmative action in college admissions that the court agreed to hear this week.

The case, which is being brought against Harvard and the University of North Carolina, is the latest potential conflict of interest involving Thomas and his wife Virginia Thomas. Ginni, as she is known, is a prominent rightwing activist who speaks out on a raft of issues that frequently come before the nation’s highest court.

A one-person conservative powerhouse, she set up her own lobbying company Liberty Consulting in 2010. By her own description, she has “battled for conservative principles in Washington” for over 35 years.

The challenge to the two universities’ race-conscious admissions policies is being brought by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA). Its leader Edward Blum has been a relentless opponent of affirmative action and voting rights laws.

His argument that race-based affirmative action is a quota system that discriminates against Asian students is framed with the supreme court’s newly emboldened rightwing majority in mind. A central player in that new six-justice conservative supermajority is Clarence Thomas, who is the longest-serving of the justices and at 73 will be the oldest once Stephen Breyer retires. ............(more)


The Cracks in Ukrainian Society Run through Kharkiv

The Cracks in Ukrainian Society Run through Kharkiv
The Ukrainian city of Kharkiv is located close to the Russian border, and it could become a combat zone in the event of an attack. Many residents fled here from the fighting in the separatist areas. Some are packing their bags, but others are waiting to see what happens.

By Lina Verschwele in Kharkiv, Ukraine
25.01.2022, 10.00 Uhr

(Der Spiegel) Olena Rozskazova has packed the most important documents in a Mickey Mouse backpack. Birth certificates, diplomas, travel documents, plus medicines and cash. She has also packed her daughter’s favorite stuffed animal and a book of Greek legends her parent’s used to read to her. In the event of an invasion, she says, she would probably leave behind the Beatles photos hanging on the wall of her apartment.

Rozskazova, 46, is someone who likes to wrap unpleasant things in cheerfulness. She also likes to be prepared. She packed the Mickey Mouse backpack "just in case," she says. So she would have the most important things at hand, just like the authorities recommend in preparation for a possible Russian invasion. Rozskazova would then take the backpack and travel with her nine-year-old daughter to friends in Uzhgorod, in the southwestern tip of Ukraine, because it is easy to get abroad from there. She’s thought everything through.

Rozskazova lives in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, with a population of nearly 1.5 million, about a third of whom are Russians and members of the Russian-speaking minority. She grew up in Luhansk at the country's eastern edge. But since separatists took control of the city in 2014 and proclaimed the "Luhansk People’s Republic," Rozskazova hasn’t been able to return. But the threat, though, remains close: Her new apartment is located fewer than 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border. In Kharkiv, she heads the regional office of the Renaissance Foundation, which promotes democracy and human rights and is funded by George Soros.


For the past several weeks, around 100,000 Russian soldiers have been stationed near the Ukrainian border. Kharkiv could be a possible target of a Russian attack, but no one really knows what exactly Moscow might be planning. Still, it is clear that the city plays a central role in the current conflict. Ukraine’s internal divisions are especially visible here. Kharkiv, along with Donetsk and Luhansk, has long been considered a stronghold of supporters of Russia and advocates of rapprochement with Moscow. The situation in the city was already tense during the Maidan protests of 2013 and 2014, which saw tens of thousands of Ukrainians demonstrating against the country's pro-Russian president at the time and in favor of closer ties with the European Union. While some brought down the gigantic statue of Lenin on Freedom Square amid cheers, others demonstrated for a "Russian Spring."

The Kremlin also promoted the idea of a separate "People’s Republic" in Kharkiv. But unlike in Luhansk and Donetsk, it failed due to the resistance of Ukrainian security forces. In the last parliamentary elections three years ago, the pro-Russian party For Life became the second strongest force in Kharkiv. In the run-up to the elections, there had been disinformation campaigns and acts of sabotage allegedly directed by Russia. ............(more)


Michigan Gov. Whitmer delivers 2022 State of the State address on Jan. 26

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