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Friday, December 31, 2021

What will 2022 bring?

Hope it will be good for you.


New Year's Eve is my wife's birthday. We're layin' low this year.

My best friend of now nearly 48 years. Scary smart, and the nicest person I ever met.

One of our nieces sent her this.

 
The Crazy Grands have had great fun with Calvin this week. He turns 2 on January 15th. We keep him 3 days a week at our "Paddington Road Greycare Center."

Helping Grandmother with the dishes.
 
Have a safe New Year's Eve celebration. And a good 2022. An important, consequential year faces us. 

ERRATUM

My latest read.
 
I've got about 6 books in process at the moment. This one jumped the queue yesterday. Long story. Stay tuned...
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Monday, December 27, 2021

"We're in a giant universe of forces that are out of our control,

and we're feeling very small."
 
 
I could not recommend this documentary more highly. 
The vessel is Infinity, a 120ft hand-built sailing ketch that plies the Pacific Ocean on a never ending voyage of nomadic exploration. In early Feb 2014, during the iciest year on record in the Southern Ocean, Infinity and her crew of 16 left New Zealand on an 8,000 mile pacific crossing to Patagonia, with a stop in Antarctica. Along the way, they battled a hurricane of ice in the Ross Sea, struggled with compounding mechanical and flooding problems, undertook a mission with the radical environmental group Sea Shepherd, tore every sail they had, and unwittingly went further south than any sailing vessel in 2014. This expedition was undertaken with a non-ice-reinforced gypsy boat built by hand in the 1970's, crewed by a band of wandering miscreants, with no permits or insurance and an almost non-existent budget. This is a story about sailing, the camaraderie of a shared struggle and the raw awe inspiring power of the natural world.
__________
 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Christmas 2021

We hope you all stay safe and well.
 
SAD UPDATE
 

Mother of four. Shot in the head from behind while sitting in her patrol car. Terribly sad.
__________
 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

More than 800,000 US Covid-19 deaths

802,511 as of Dec. 16th, according to Johns Hopkins

We're now losing ~40,000 patients a month. At that rate, we'll hit a million US deaths by May 2022.


We have as yet no firm idea as to how the emergent Omicron variant will play out. Reports thus far indicate that it is more transmissible than its predecessor Delta, but less virulent.
Mask Up
Published by Steven Novella under Science and Medicine

The COVID-19 pandemic is not done with us yet. We are still in the middle of the delta surge, and while delta will eventually pass, the omicron variant is right on its heels. In the US we just passed the milestone of 800,000 people dead from COVID with over 50 million cases. More Americans died of COVID in 2021 than in 2020, although in 2021 most deaths were among the unvaccinated. The vaccines remain our best defense against this pandemic, which is why it is tragic that there are still holdouts for tribal or ideological reasons. Regardless, it is extremely likely that we will be dealing with COVID through 2022. It is also likely that COVID is now endemic, and while it may fade down to flu-like proportions, we will also very likely have to deal with it for years to come. COVID is also likely not the last respiratory pandemic we will have to deal with this century.

All of this is why masks are still important. We just have to accept the fact that face masks are now an important part of life. At least for the foreseeable future we will need face masks as a layer of protection in health care settings, large indoor crowds, among vulnerable populations, and for anyone who is symptomatic. Walking around in the public maskless, sneezing and coughing from a “cold” is no longer socially acceptable…
Exigencies at every turn.
 
DEC 18TH UPDATE: US COVID DEATHS NOW 806,117
 
We might easily see 825,000 fatalities accrued by New Year's Day. 

DEC 21ST UPDATE

Like most of my colleagues, I haven’t arrived at this moment unscathed. I weathered the brutal first wave of the pandemic, often witnessing more COVID deaths during my shifts in New York City than I saw working in an Ebola-treatment center in West Africa in 2014.

When I was vaccinated against COVID a year ago, I was already exhausted. But better times seemed close at hand. Perhaps soon we wouldn’t have to endure wearing full personal protective equipment for hours on end. I was wrong.

After two years of dealing with this virus—working extra shifts, watching families sob on grainy FaceTime calls while their loved ones slipped away—many health-care workers are already in a dark place. With a new wave of COVID upon us, we face this grim truth: You can’t surge a circuit that’s been burned out. For frontline providers, there’s simply no new fuse that can fix the fact that we’re fried.

Many people are holding out hope for the possibility that the Omicron variant may cause less severe disease. But this is little comfort for those worried about our hospitals and the people who work there: A large surge of even a more mild variant will still produce more patients than our already maxed-out system can handle. Moreover, doctors and nurses will themselves get sick…

 
Click the photo for the Atlantic article link.
 
My grandson Keenan, his wife KJ, and their son—my great-grandson Kai—are now here from Kansas City for Christmas, staying at my son's place. 
 
 
Cousins Kai (now 17 mo) and Calvin (23 mo) yesterday morning. They are really hitting it off.
 
Gonna be a pretty muted time here. Lotta stuff shutting down in the Baltimore area.
 
Stay safe.
__________
 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

December US tornado catastrophe

We lived in Alabama and Tennessee from 1975 through 1992. I've been way too close to a couple of tornadoes. But nothing even close to what just happened. Entire towns turned to rubble reminiscent of war zones.
 

Words fail...
__________
 

Friday, December 10, 2021

COVID19 update

It just continues on and on...
 

We're on pace to lose about 26,000 more people by year's end. We'll have well in excess of 800,000 deaths in the US by January 1st.
__________
 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Family Values

It's crazy.
 
This KY GOP Representative thought this appropriate to tweet in the wake of the Oxford High School mass shooting. Conservative commentator Charlie Sykes, on MSNBC, called it a "dick pic."

Tell it.
 
LET'S CUT THE CRAP, SHALL WE?
 

The civil law tort principle of "inherently dangerous instrumentality" is what finally brought Big Tobacco to regulatory and compensatory damages heel. Habitually used as intended, tobacco products disproportionately sicken or kill those who partake of them. They are inherently dangerous, and, as such—while still not outlawed—they are heavily regulated in reflection of the threat they pose (however inadequately).

A firearm, absent its fitted calibre projectile, is just an expensive piece of pipe. The intended function of the bullet, however, is to damage or destroy that which it impacts—be it a beer bottle or can, a paper target, or an animal or human. There is no other purpose.
And yes, firearms can be “used safely.“ That is not in dispute. But neither can there be any rational dispute about the purpose of bullets. People who buy them intend to use them to hit things. And the necessary vehicles for doing so are the firearms. Locked and loaded, you get inherently dangerous instrumentalities.
It's not a perfect analogy, and, tobacco products are not protected by the constitution. But it's damn close enough functionally to justify rational firearms restriction (I am not arguing prohibition here). The relative risk associated with the smoking of a single cigarette pales in comparison with that posed by the firing of a single bullet.

Let's get real.

"REGULATED?" HMMM... WHERE HAVE WE ENCOUNTERED THAT WORD?

Again, let's get real.
__________
 


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Theranos: Fake it 'til ya break it.

"How DARE you imprison a New Mommie!"
 

Back when I was covering the Health IT startup space, the Health 2.0 peeps in particular were frustrated that they could never book Elizabeth Holmes for a conference keynote or panel.

Would have been interesting. As is her current trial for fraud.

__________
 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Science and scientific research publication

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE:
Omicron (B.1.1.529): SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Concern

Whenever my latest print edition of Science Magazine shows up, it's a "drop-what-you-were-doing" moment whenever possible (I'm a member). 
 
to wit, in the snailmail yesterday:


This one arrived packaged in a loose clear plastic outer container, within which was a companion volume.
 
 
44 pages of glossy 4-color media Icahn School of Medicine "sponsored content."
“Medical research is advancing at breakneck speed. From the creation of infrastructure and tools that can generate and capitalize on enormous datasets, to the ability to edit genetic material, to a more granular and nuanced understanding of the immune system, we now find in the lab and the clinic what was not that long ago found only in science fiction. But what will the future of medicine look like? The articles in this supplement provide a glimpse. Clinicians and researchers at the prestigious Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai offer their insights on the increasing use of artificial intelligence, on pandemic responsiveness, and on drug discovery and development, and highlight systemic changes needed to improve medical education and address health inequity. They are working collaboratively to break down silos, integrate emerging technologies, and advance personalized treatments to ensure that the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s patients will be served.”
[This collection is brought to you by the Science/AAAS Custom Publishing Office.]
"The excitement and optimism around the remarkable progress in medical research and treatment is what inspired the creation of this supplement. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in partnership with Science/AAAS, is spotlighting just some of the extraordinary work being done by researchers and clinicians at the frontiers of medical research. Their hard work and innovative spirit will continue to drive advancements in patient-centered health care, now and into the future."
 
Sean Sanders, Ph.D.
Custom Publishing Office
Science/AAAS
Notwithstanding my reflexive dubiety toward "sponsored content" (marketing stuff posing as neutral, objective content) this material, given the AAAS credibility rep, was not to be dismissed out of hand, in particular given that this blog commenced with a focus on medical/healthcare infotech. Much of the content set forth above remains of abiding interest to me. 
Become a Partner
To publish as a Science Partner Journals (SPJ) member, an organization must apply and undergo an evaluation process, regardless of whether that organization seeks to create a new journal or bring to the program an existing title with a prestigious background.

Partner proposals are evaluated based on research quality, scope, and organizational fit with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The program welcomes all scientific disciplines but places an emphasis on new and important scientific research in growing or emerging fields.

Once AAAS and a potential partner organization both decide that a title belongs in the SPJ program, AAAS will act as contractual publisher and service provider for that partner organization. This includes providing editorial training, platform access, and marketing services.

Partners participating in the program will be editorially independent and responsible for the content published in each journal. However, AAAS is highly selective about partnerships and strongly recommends that each partner adopt the Committee on Publication Ethics and the Council of Science Editors or equivalent guidelines to establish a baseline set of practices and standards to which a partner is expected to adhere.
We shall see.

This morning I made my customary priority online rounds. A mandatory early stop is that of "Science Based Medicine." Today's post:

 
Okeee dokeee, then...
The entire scientific enterprise might be viewed as an attempt to systematically weed out bias from our view of reality. At least, this is a critical component of the scientific method. But bias can be subtle, and can creep in at many stages from conception to citation of published research. The subjects of research may have bias, research methods can be biased in terms of how measurements are made or reported, which comparisons are looked at, the statistical methods used, and how data is [sic] collected. The publication process also may introduce bias, as can the way in which researchers access, evaluate, and cite published studies.

All of these sources of bias can distort the scientific literature and therefore the academic process and the conclusions that scientists and practitioners come to, with downstream effects in many aspects of how we run our society. But the key strength of science is that it can be (when done properly) self-reflective and self-corrective. This self-corrective process should apply not only to the findings of science, but to the process and institutions of science as well. This is one of the main missions of SBM, to examine and reflect upon the relationship among how science is practiced, the findings of science, and the practice and regulation of medicine…

Now we can add one more phenomenon to the list of possible journal biases – nepotistic journals.

In a massive review of publications in 5,468 biomedical journals indexed in the National Library of Medicine between 2015 and 2019, Scanff et al. examined the distribution of authors in each journal. They used two measures to quantify this: the Percentage of Papers by the Most Prolific author (PPMP), and the Gini index (level of inequality in the distribution of authorship among authors).

The authors found that the median PPMP for the journals examined was 2.9%, meaning that a typical journal may have around 3% of the papers they publish have the same author. They also used the two standard deviation model, determining the 95% cut-off for PPMP. They found that 95% of journals had a PPMP less than 10.6%, or that 5% had a PPMP of 10.6% or more. A high PPMP also correlated with a high Gini index, which indicates a highly unfair or biased distribution of authors. Further, and perhaps very significantly, they also found a correlation between the specific most prolific authors and a reduced time to publication, such as the percentage of papers that are published within three weeks of submission. This might indicate an expedited or even inadequate review process.

But the most significant correlation they found was that among that 5% of journals with the highest PPMP, in 60% of the cases the most prolific author was a member of the editorial board. This pattern held true when only research papers were considered (therefore not counting letters or editorials that might be disproportionately written by the editors). These were the journals considered “nepotistic”…

…there seems to be a subset of nepotistic journals that cater to one or more members of their editorial staff, allowing them to publish a large number of papers with little editorial barrier. This can be a method of gaming the system, affecting academic promotion and the awarding of grants. These editorial authors can also use these same papers to deliberately reference other papers in the same (or a sister) journal, therefore gaming the impact factor measure also.

One other concern that this paper could not examine is the scientific quality of nepotistic papers. Given the favorable bias and reduced editorial review, there is concern that low quality science is finding its way into the literature via this method….

The simplest partial fix to this problem (like many things in science) is transparency. Journals might be required to publish alongside their impact factor (a measure of how often they are cited) their PPMP and Gini index. Because prolific journals may mask their nepotistic practices by their high number of publications, publishing the raw number of publications by their most prolific author also helps. Further, the number and/or percentage of papers published in the journal by an author on the editorial staff is critical. At least with this transparency fellow researchers and academics on promotion committees can easily detect blatant nepotistic practices, reducing the benefit of this practice.
Yeah. One minor pedantic pick. It's "cronyism," not "nepotism." The latter is a Registered Trademark of the Donald J. Trump family.
"Cronyism is the practice of partiality in awarding jobs and other advantages to friends or trusted colleagues, especially in politics and between politicians and supportive organizations. ... Whereas cronyism refers to partiality to a partner or friend, nepotism is the granting of favour to relatives." Wiki
I will certainly give "The Frontiers of Medical Research" a good go. At least we have "transparency" here, given that it's overtly noted as sponsored ("in partnership with") material.
 
BTW, apropos, see my prior riffs on "the 'science' of science communication.
___
 
Noted at the end of the supplement: A book in the oven (Feb 15, 2022 release). 

 
The author. Sounds like a cool person.

BREAKING NEWS OFF-TOPIC ERRATUM

 
Ahmaud Arbery murder trial prosecutor Linda Dunikoski. When you want it done right, send in a woman. Her closing arguments M.O. in this case will be taught in law school. Four hours of summation, all forcefully, methodically delivered without once looking down at notes.

BACK ON TOPIC

From the Supplement:
EXPOSOMICS
Integrating exposomics into precision medicine and public health

Robert O. Wright*, Kecia N. Carroll, Rosalind J. Wright

Precision medicine, which now primarily utilizes genomic and electronic health record data, holds the potential to transform medical practice. Recent calls to expand the field’s purview to encompass all factors that predict health (1–3) underscore the need to include environment (4, 5), as human health and disease are shaped by a range of lifelong exposures and their resultant biological responses. The emerging exposome concept addresses this complexity by studying the effects of all health-relevant environmental factors over the life course (6–8). The 20th-century concept of “nature versus nurture” needs to be tossed aside, as genetics and environment do not compete—they work hand in hand through interactions in which our environment (i.e., where people are born, live, develop, learn, work, play, and age) triggers biological responses that are determined in part by our genetics in a lifelong, iterative process. However, there is not yet a systematic plan to integrate exposomics into precision medicine. Advances in computational science, medical informatics, remote sensing, geographical information systems, and analytical chemistry now provide powerful research tools to facilitate the incorporation of exposomics into precision medicine and public health (9–11).

Understanding our environment is critical to advancing human health and eliminating health inequities. The broad-ranging effects of climate change consequent to rising global average temperatures, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), associated extreme weather events (i.e., heat waves, droughts, floods, and hurricanes), and altered ecosystem functioning and biodiversity, have alarming potential to magnify toxic environmental exposures and amplify consequent health disparities (Figure 1) (12). Climate affects the exposome both directly and indirectly to influence the spatial and temporal distribution of infections, asthma, allergies, mental health, and dozens of other chronic diseases. Also, rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases, among other complex diseases, continue to rise with minority groups such as Blacks, Latinx, Native Americans, and Asian Americans experiencing increased disease morbidity and/or severity. Structural racism, including redlining, has segregated minoritized groups to live in low-income communities where increased exposure to psychosocial stressors, air pollution, physical environmental toxicants, and reduced access to healthy food and green spaces are concentrated. The systematic segregation of persons of color through redlining policies has significant public health implications (13). These environmental disparities go beyond pollution, particularly for indigenous populations, as cultural practices commonly involve local food and water, further exacerbating social inequities. Health inequities arise from variable—and too often predictable—imposed environments that link to social determinants of health. The geospatial diversity of the exposome underlies its key role in explaining health inequities. Broad categories of the human exposome include nutrition, infections, chemicals, physical environment, and sociocultural conditions that act as psychosocial stressors. Because exposomics encompasses the interconnections among our social, nutritional, and chemical environments, it holds great promise for elucidating root causes of recalcitrant health disparities…
_____________________________________
Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health and the Department of Pediatrics, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY
*Corresponding author: robert.wright@mssm.edu
 

Yeah. Add one to the Omics riffs. We used to call some of this stuff "The Upstream."

Click to enlarge.
And, "Anthropocene," anybody?
 
"EXIGENCIES?"
 
I would think all of the foregoing map to my draft list.
 
 
I've begun taking these up on my relatively infrequently used Medium site.
 
UPDATE
Heavily mutated Omicron variant puts scientists on alert
Researchers are racing to determine whether a fast-spreading coronavirus variant poses a threat to COVID vaccines’ effectiveness.
 
Researchers in South Africa are racing to track the concerning rise of a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The variant harbours a large number of the mutations found in other variants, including Delta, and it seems to be spreading quickly across South Africa.

A top priority is to follow the variant more closely as it spreads: it was first identified in Botswana earlier this month and has since turned up in a traveller arriving in Hong Kong from South Africa. Scientists are also trying to understand the variant’s properties, such as whether it can evade immune responses triggered by vaccines and whether it causes more or less severe disease than other variants do…
Swell. 2024 headline? "Z.9.9.999 SARS-Cov2 variant emerges, concerning WHO officials."
 
BRIEFLY OFF-TOPIC AGAIN

My Las Vegas music podcasts have been offline for several years now. I just remounted them. Miss my friends.
__________
 

Friday, November 19, 2021

#COVID19: And, here we go yet again

 
We'll easily get to more than 800,000 US Covid-19 deaths by year's end. New case incidence is again bounding back up in other nations as well.
 
 
Cheryl and I got our Moderna booster shots yesterday at Kaiser. Just have to continue to lie low. This is all getting real old, I'm sure you agree.

Then, there's this crap.

 
See my 2019 post "In Pain."
 
Still wondering whether this category of acute social/public health malaise should get its own top "Exigencies" line item?

ONE MORE NEW BOOK

INTRODUCTION
Imagine waking up tomorrow, feeling a bit under the weather. An annoying pain in your throat, your nose is runny, you cough a bit. All in all, not bad enough to skip work, you think, as you step into the shower, pretty annoyed about how hard your life is. While you are totally not being a whiny little baby, your immune system is not complaining. It is busy keeping you alive so you can live to whine another day. And so, while intruders roam your body, killing hundreds of thousands of your cells, your immune system is organizing complex defenses, communicating over vast distances, activating intricate defense networks, and dishing out a swift death to millions, if not billions, of enemies. All while you are standing in the shower, mildly annoyed.

But this complexity is largely hidden.

Which is a real shame because there are not many things that have such a crucial impact on the quality of your life as your immune system. It is all-embracing and all-encompassing, protecting you from bothersome nuisances like the common cold, scratches, and cuts, to life-threatening stuff from cancer and pneumonia to deadly infections like COVID-19. Your immune system is as indispensable as your heart or your lungs. And actually, it is one of the largest and most widespread organ systems throughout your body, although we don’t tend to think about it in these terms.

For most of us, the immune system is a vague and cloud-like entity that follows strange and untransparent rules, and which seems to sometimes work and sometimes not. It is a bit like the weather, extremely hard to predict and subject to endless speculations and opinions, resulting in actions that feel random to us. Unfortunately many people speak about the immune system with confidence but without actually understanding it, it can be hard to know which information to trust and why. But what even is the immune system and how does it actually work?

Understanding the mechanisms that are keeping you alive as you read this is not just a nice exercise in intellectual curiosity; it is desperately needed knowledge. If you know how the immune system works, you can understand and appreciate vaccines and how they can save your life or the lives of your children, and approach disease and sickness with a very different mindset and far less fear. You become less susceptible to snake oil salesmen who offer wonder drugs that are entirely devoid of logic. You get a better grasp on the kinds of medication that might actually help you when you are sick. You get to know what you can do to boost your immune system. You can protect your kids from dangerous microbes while also not being too stressed-out if they get dirty playing outside. And in the very unlikely case of, say, a global pandemic, knowing what a virus does to you and how your body fights it, might help you understand what the public health experts say...


Dettmer, Philipp. Immune (pp. xi-xii). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


News you can use. Stay tuned.
 
COVID-19 UPDATE: THE DAY IN STUPID
 

 GOP "Conservative Political Action Committee."

UPDATE

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Sunday, November 14, 2021

Kenosha


Kyle Rittenhouse. He was 17 when this photo was taken. It was illegal at the time for him to buy, own, or possess the depicted assault type weapon. He had a friend buy it for him in Wisconsin (an illegal "straw purchase") and stash it for him. During his trial testimony, he said he chose it because "it looked cool."
 
On the evening of August 25th, 2020, he shot two people to death with it (events recorded on video by others present), and seriously wounded a third person—all during the Kenosha WI riots resulting from the earlier police shooting of Jacob Blake, which was also caught on smartphone video.
 
Rittenhouse has pleaded innocent to all charges, citing "self-defense," that he "reasonably feared for his life" that night. Notwithstanding that he willfully deputized and inserted himself into a dangerous, chaotic situation brimming with angry people. 
 
Many other armed self-appointed "militia" citizens were present in Kenosha those nights. None of them shot anyone. 
 
Kyle admitted on the stand that he'd told other armed participants that he was 19 and a Certified EMT. He was neither.
 
He has numerous supporters, who call him "a hero" and "a patriot." To others he's an immature, delusional "vigilante murderer."
 
His case is now scheduled to go to the jury (Nov 15th). The Wisconsin National Guard is reported to be mobilized and on standby. 
 
I watched most of this trial. It was a depressing, chaotic mess. Mercurial, frequently befuddled judge, and recurrently bumbling prosecutors. I had watched all 15 days of the prior George Floyd murder trial, which was extremely well conducted. What a contrast.
 
I really don't have a good feel for how the Rittenhouse jury will rule (and that assumes they get the case; a mistrial could still be declared by the judge, who has threatened it). I just hope no more violence ensues in the wake of this, whatever the outcome.

KENOSHA, Wis. [NBC News] — This city on Lake Michigan was quiet, calm and peaceful on Sunday, and many residents want it to remain that way as closing arguments in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse get underway Monday.
“Monday is coming, so, I mean, it’s kind of a little nervous,” said Kenosha resident Mike Lipp, 35.

Wisconsin has dispatched 500 National Guard troops, and hundreds of nearby police officers will also be available as a precaution to ensure public safety during the conclusion of the trial.

But the increased attention and the additional presence of law enforcement have taken a toll on the city, which isn’t as vibrant as it once was, said downtown resident Max Lewis.

“It’s affected the energy of the city in a negative way. It’s not the same. Everyone is trying to avoid the situation as well as keep an eye out on the situation,” Lewis said. “We’re a little dismayed by the situation. This case should have been cut and dry. You kill two people in the street, you get punished for it, end of story.”

Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with reckless homicide, intentional homicide and attempted intentional homicide after he shot two men and wounded a third during a night of protest and civil unrest in Kenosha in August 2020.

The unrest was a response to the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha police officer after a domestic disturbance. Blake was paralyzed from the waist down…
 
NOV 16TH UPDATE
 
The case is now before the jury. The one misdemeanor count (illegal possession of the AR-15 rifle) has been dropped by the judge. Five felony counts remain. If I had to place a bet, it would be acquittal on "reasonable doubt" grounds—that the defendant's "right of self-defense during deadly circumstances" prevails, however marginally.
 
We'll see. Declaration of "mistrial" remains a possibility in the event of intractable jury deadlock (on a count-by-count basis).

He probably walks.

As the Kyle Rittenhouse trial comes to a close, two things are becoming clear at once. First, absolutely no one should be surprised if Rittenhouse is acquitted on the most serious charges against him. And second, regardless of the outcome of the trial, the Trumpist right is wrongly creating a folk hero out of Rittenhouse. For millions he’s become a positive symbol, a young man of action who stepped up when the police (allegedly) stepped aside...
NOV 19TH UPDATE
 
No verdict through Thursday. It is now Friday morning.

VERDICT IS IN, EARLY AFTERNOON

Not guilty on all counts.
 
CODA
“We have moved from castle doctrine protections that allow you to defend yourself in your home to laws that allow you to shoot in self-defense anywhere you feel unsafe. Once we are there—or, rather, here—your gun both protects and endangers you, because you need lethal force to protect against those who would use your own lethal force against you. The “good guy with a gun” can reasonably assume everyone else is bad, or at least could be trying to kill them. The analytical circle is complete, and that circle is closing in on us all…

The Rittenhouse jury should not be held responsible for the ways in which gun owners may be emboldened to vigilantism by the outcome of this trial. You can provoke violence and reasonably be afraid of violence at the same time. The jury should not be held responsible for the potential proliferation of armed citizens taking it upon themselves to enforce the law, or the defenses those citizens will increasingly feel entitled to use to explain their actions once things go wrong. The jury must confine itself to the facts of this case. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, is poised to ensure that in the future, juries will be asked, again and again and again, to decide how things should go when everyone had a gun, everyone else wanted to use it, everyone knew their intentions were good, but suspected everyone else was a danger. How do we act as a society when absolutely everyone is always in fear of their life? Welcome to the future. It’s already here.”
Dahlia Lithwick
__________
 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

COP26: Progress, or platitudes?

While the world debates how best to reverse the trend of anthropogenic global warming (AGW), scientists continue to refine their data on historical global temperatures. A recent study published in Nature adds to this a high resolution picture of average surface temperatures over the last 24,000 years, since the last glacial maximum. The study reinforces the conclusion that the last century of warming is unprecedented over this time frame, and does not reflect any natural cycle but rather the effects of human forcing.

To construct their map of past temperatures, the researchers combined two methods. They used a dataset of chemical analysis of marine sediments, which are affected by local average temperatures. They combined this with a dataset based on computer-simulated climate models. The idea was to leverage the strengths of each approach to arrive at a map of historical surface temperatures that is more accurate than either method alone.

Of course, no one study is ever the final word, but this reconstruction is in line with other research using independent methods and data. The authors also draw two other main conclusions from their data. There has been a debate about whether or not the last 10,000 years had a small warming trend, and this graph supports that conclusion. Further, the authors conclude that the main driver of the large warming trend starting around 17,000 years ago is the retreat of the glacial ice sheets, but that the main driver of the rapid warming over the last 150 years is increasing green house gases. The rate of this recent warming is also out of proportion to any natural cycle detected in the last 24,000 years.

Those who refuse to accept the overwhelming scientific consensus on AGW will likely not be moved by this new study. It’s easy to find reasons to dismiss data if you are motivated to do so. For AGW, that motivation appears to be solution aversion – concerns about proposed steps to mitigate AGW and its consequences. For the fossil fuel industry, this motivation is obvious. They have massive assets in the ground they want to capitalize on, and will push back against any policy that deprives them of those assets. But they have successfully financed a disinformation campaign and turned it into a political ideology. Now denying AGW is a matter of tribal identity for some.

This denial takes many forms, but they tend to flow into each other. There are “stages” of denial: the Earth is not warming, the Earth is warming but its part of a natural cycle, human activity is causing the warming but it won’t be harmful (and may even be beneficial), human activity is causing warming and it will be bad but there’s nothing we can do about it or need to do about it. The one thing that all these positions have in common is the conclusion that we need not do anything about AGW – solution aversion. In practice deniers tends to flow up and down the list of positions depending on the situation, using a Motte and Bailey defense strategy. They will deny that warming is even happening when they think they can, but otherwise will retreat to more defensible positions when necessary, only to sally forth later to again deny even that warming is happening…

The Neurologica Blog


 
 
Click here.
 
OH, BOY...
 

Click the title. Just watch wingnut heads explode. To them, you cannot even say "Structural Racism." Texas Governor Abbott will probably soon get legislation forbidding the use of the phrase.
For generations, policies of structural racism have systematically undervalued and removed opportunity from non-White communities. From the Black Hills of South Dakota to Boston's formerly redlined communities of Chelsea and Dorchester, such structural racism has limited medical access for communities of color, created cascades of comorbidities, and eroded social safety nets. Therefore, when SARS-CoV-2 landed on our shores, this systematic removal of resources saw Black, Indigenous, and persons of color experience twice the death rate from Covid-19 as White individuals. As healthcare professionals, it is critical that we understand how such a historical removal of opportunity has led to these health inequities. Such an understanding is foundational to achieving the truly equitable solutions that we so desperately need…

As we look towards the climate crisis, we must learn from and avoid the many shortcomings of the US Covid-19 response. Our attempts at buying our way out of social accountability with record breaking vaccine production and mandated masks played into these historic inequities. During the depths of the pandemic in 2020, those who have historically had resources and opportunity could much more easily achieve social distancing and safe pandemic practices. By repeating such a surface level approach for the climate crisis we will assuredly ruin our chances of providing adequate resiliency to frontline communities.

For the climate crisis, we must be skeptical of solutions that rely solely upon innovation and individualism…

To achieve equitable climate solutions, we must look inward to successfully move forward. We must look critically at our institutions of healthcare and government if we want to achieve long-lasting, equitable progress. As structural racism has historically disempowered millions in this country and made so many communities disproportionally vulnerable to climate change, then our healthcare solutions must be centered upon empowerment…

Doing right by marginalized communities across this country will mean prioritizing policy that undoes structurally racist policies, builds community resilience through infrastructure, and mitigates US emissions through revitalizing our energy infrastructure and cutting our emissions in half by 2030. To achieve such systemic change, our united action will be essential…

In my inbox this morning.

UPDATE: NEW BOOK ON DECK
 
Why are so many American children learning so much misinformation about climate change?

Investigative reporter Katie Worth reviewed scores of textbooks, built a 50-state database, and traveled to a dozen communities to talk to children and teachers about what is being taught, and found a red-blue divide in climate education. More than one-third of young adults believe that climate change is not man-made, and science instructors are being contradicted by history teachers who tell children not to worry about it.

Who has tried to influence what children learn, and how successful have they been? Worth connects the dots on oil corporations, state legislatures, school boards, libertarian thinktanks, conservative lobbyists, and textbook publishers, all of whom have learned from the fight over evolution and tobacco, and are now sowing uncertainty, confusion, and distrust about climate science, with the result that four in five Americans today don’t think there is a scientific consensus on global warming. In the words of a top climate educator, “We are the only country in the world that has had a multi-decade, multi-billion dollar deny-delay-confuse campaign.” Miseducation is the alarming story of how climate denialism was implanted in millions of school children.


"Exceptional reporting undergirds the truly shocking facts in this book: the fossil fuel industry is doing all that it can to undermine education about climate change, which will be the most important fact in the lifetimes of kids in school today." —Bill McKibben
Release date Nov. 16th. More info here.
 
SPEAKING OF THE KIDS
 
Why I care about these topics. Not the only reason, by any means, but certainly a priority.
 
 
I care about the world we are handing off to our progeny. I rather doubt that my list of priority exigent topics will diminish anytime soon.


As I’ve noted before, a lot of this stuff is overlapping and mutually recursive (“feedback loops”). Some of it perhaps transient, some of it “existential“ if not dealt with effectively.

Oh, my current New Yorker just arrived.
 
For those inclined to see them, there were plenty of bad omens last week as the latest round of international climate negotiations—cop26—got under way in Glasgow. A storm that lashed England with eighty-mile-per-hour winds disrupted train service from London to Scotland, leaving many delegates scrambling to find a way to get to the meeting. Just as the conclave began, Glasgow’s garbage workers went on strike, and rubbish piled up in the streets. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in his opening speech, compared the world’s situation to that of James Bond, who often finds himself “strapped to a doomsday device, desperately trying to work out which colored wire to pull to turn it off, while a red digital clock ticks down remorselessly to a detonation that will end human life as we know it.” As one commentator pointed out, in his latest movie—spoiler alert!—Bond ends up dead.

Joe Biden’s performance in Glasgow, too, was inauspicious. In his formal remarks to cop26, the President declared that the United States was “back at the table” and “hopefully leading by the power of our example.” Later that day, Biden was undercut by Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, who announced that he wasn’t quite sure he could support the $1.75-trillion spending package on which Biden’s claims rested. The timing was, as the A.P. noted, “unfortunate.” In separate, unscripted remarks in Glasgow, Biden circled back, acknowledging that the U.S. is not leading by example—or, really, leading at all. “I guess I shouldn’t apologize, but I do apologize for the fact the United States, in the last Administration, pulled out of the Paris accords,” he said, referring to the set of climate agreements negotiated at cop21, in 2015. He added, by way of understatement, that this has “put us sort of behind the eight ball.”

cop26 is a sequel to cop21, which was an attempt to recover from the mess of cop15, held in Copenhagen in 2009. To really appreciate America’s fecklessness, however, you have to go all the way back to the conference that preceded all these bad cops—the so-called Earth Summit, in 1992. At that meeting, in Rio de Janeiro, President George H. W. Bush signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which committed the world to preventing “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” At the United States’ insistence, the convention included no timetable or specific targets for action…

—Elizabeth Kolbert
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