Here is the short cut to the COVID report for Wednesday.

  • US COVID hospitalizations declined for the 15th straight day.
  • US COVID patients in ICU declined for the 13th straight day.
  • The number of COVID patients on ventilators in the USA declined for the 10th straight day.
  • The positive testing percentage stayed out of the red zone for the 7th day in a row.

BUT …

The new strain in Brazil is not only more transmissible than the original strain, but it is also more severe. Worse still, people who have had the first strain don’t seem to be immune to the new one!

Soon after the holidays, deaths and hospitalizations exploded. The hospital system buckled. The number of confirmed coronavirus deaths at home rose from a total of 35 from May through December to 178 so far this month, according to city health officials. That stunned Brazilian researchers who last month published a paper in Science proclaiming that 76 percent of Manaus’s population had already been infected with the virus.

“How can you have 76 percent of people infected and, at the same time, have an epidemic that’s bigger than the first?” asked author Ester Sabino. “This was a concern from the moment cases started to rise.”

As viruses course through a population, they inevitably mutate, although most such genetic changes are functionally insignificant. The coronavirus has spawned countless variants around the world. But P.1 — along with variants found in South Africa and Britain — is provoking particular concern. Not only does it have a spike protein mutation that could lead to a higher infection rate, it possesses what’s called an “escape mutation.” Also found in the South Africa variant, the mutation, known as E484k, could help it evade coronavirus antibodies.

From the article:

Although a handful of other six-star systems have been discovered, this one is unique: It is the first in which the stars within each of those three pairings pass in front of and behind each other, eclipsing the other member of its stellar dance troupe, at least from our space telescope’s line of sight.

In other words, scientists have found a sextuply eclipsing sextuple star system. The discovery, posted online this month, has been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.

Exoplanets within the star cluster have not yet been confirmed, but if you lived on a world within, the night sky would be something special, said Tamás Borkovits, an astronomer at the Baja Astronomical Observatory in Hungary and co-author. Any inhabitants of these worlds, “could see two suns, just like Luke Skywalker on Tatooine,” Dr. Borkovits said, as well as four other very bright stars dancing around the sky.


“After making history by being impeached, (the President) lambasted his political opponents, painted himself as a persecuted hero and skipped his successor’s inauguration as he finished up his single term in office. In a bitter farewell address, he railed on about his many grievances and insisted he had no regrets from his time in office.”

The president in question was Andrew Johnson.

Johnson was still expected to attend the event as of the very morning of that Inauguration Day, but he begged off when his carriage came for him, and stayed in his office until the very last minute of his Presidency. “The last minute” is not a figurative expression in this case. He left the White House at noon, precisely as his term expired.

“Parler’s site was a mess. Its public API used no authentication. When users deleted their posts, the site failed to remove the content and instead only added a delete flag to it. Oh, and each post carried a numerical ID that was incremented from the ID of the most recently published one.

The rookie code made it easy to automate the scraping, as this script used by donk_enby’s archival team demonstrates. As a result, massive numbers of posts that discussed the insurrection before, during, and after it was carried out will be preserved indefinitely so that they’re available to researchers, journalists, prosecutors, and others.

Another amateur mistake was Parler’s failure to scrub geolocations from images and videos posted online.”

Dawn’s death leaves Tina Louise (Ginger) as the only surviving cast member from the Île de Gilligan.

Dawn did no nudity in her career, but there was the scene below in a 1965 episode of Gilligan’s Island, specifically s2e2, which was titled “Gilligan Saw My Ass Cheeks.”

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This was probably my favorite episode except for the one where the professor built a speculum out of palm fronds and gave Ginger a complete gynecological check-up. Gilligan accidentally stumbled upon the makeshift examining room, and the professor had to hit him on the head with a coconut so he would forget the traumatic sight.

Things were going well until the application of Gilligan’s First Law, which states that any memory loss caused by a falling coconut will be reversed when the victim is struck by a second coconut. For years after his memory was restored, Gilligan was a haunted man, fearing to gaze upon any sort of opening, because his mind would automatically replace the object with the image of Ginger’s coochie.

Gilligan was in therapy for years after they left the island.

They say he never recovered, but some of the mental illness might have been caused by the many concussions he received from being constantly thrashed by the skipper’s hat.

Not to mention falling coconuts.

Both races are a coin flip. These races are just about dead even and have very few “undecided” voters, so the outcome will hinge completely on turnout.

The challenge is slightly easier for the GOP only because the Democrats have to win both seats to gain Senate control, so the Republicans can hold on if they win either one. For example, they could write off Loeffler, take all the national/outside money they were planning to spend on her, and put it behind Perdue instead. The Democrats have no similar option. They need both.

“It’s called the Covid relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with Covid. Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests while sending the bare minimum to the American people. I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000.”

He’s right on both counts. It’s two kinds of crap

  • Crap: The stimulus check is chickenshit
  • Other crap: The bill is full of bullshit unrelated to COVID.

I suppose this is true, but doesn’t matter.

Giuliani now exists in a hazy and bizarre Twilight Zone in which none of his criminal actions matter from the beginning of time until January 19th, as long as he doesn’t break any state or local laws.

First of all, if he committed Federal crimes in the past, Trump can pardon him for those.

But more significantly, Rudy may NOW commit any federal crimes he wants to commit. He is quite literally above the law, because any federal crimes he commits between now and January 19th can be pardoned by Trump as he exits – even if Rudy commits those crimes on Trump’s behalf!

All of that sounds incredible, yet it is completely legal and constitutional. (Basically a variant of this already happened with Roger Stone, who committed crimes on Trump’s behalf, then was pardoned by Trump.) Trump and Rudy can now exploit a loophole in the American legal system. The normal constitutional remedy for this type of behavior on the part of the President is impeachment, but there is simply no time to pull that off with a lame duck President. Our founding fathers gave us no mechanism to deal with a President corrupt enough to take that kind of advantage of his final days in office. Apparently they could never imagine that a scoundrel of that magnitude could win the office.

Similarly, it doesn’t matter whether Trump can pardon himself. He doesn’t need to as long as Pence is on board. The same sort of loophole applies to him. He can commit any Federal crime he wants to between now and January 19th, as long as he steps down that day and allows President Pence to be sworn in and issue a Nixon-style pardon to Trump. That’s perfectly constitutional, and comes with an unchallenged precedent in Ford’s pardon of Nixon. The only question is whether Pence is willing to be a faithful lapdog. I guess you can forgive the Founding Fathers for missing this one, because they did not create a system in which the President and Vice-President would be partners. In the 1796 and 1800 elections, they were opponents. (Second highest number of electors became VP). It was not until the 12th Amendment in 1804, about 16 years after the ratification of the Constitution and nearly 30 years after the Declaration of Independence, that the modern system became operative.

According to Gallup, approval of the USA’s leadership is at the lowest point ever in many, many countries, and to make things worse (1) that includes our most trusted allies and (2) those net approval ratings are so low that it may take years or even decades to turn them around, if they can be turned at all.

Germany: minus 83% (6% approve, 89% disapprove)
The UK: minus 60
Canada: minus 65
The Nordic countries: all minus 60 or worse
Other major European powers: between minus 55 and minus 65
Australia and New Zealand: in the high minus 30s.

Among all the free world powers, only Japan continues to hold a slightly positive view of the USA (39% approve, 38% disapprove).

I guess Americans can take some consolation in the fact that our most powerful geopolitical rivals are just as unpopular. The median positive approval for the USA stands at 18%. Russia and China are almost identical at 19% and 17% respectively.

The world now looks to Germany for leadership. (There’s one of the more frightening sentences written in the past two centuries.)

62% of the people of other countries approve of Germany’s leadership. In fact, even Americans have a higher approval of Germany’s leadership than their own! (Germany’s leadership +29, Trump -12, Congress -50.)

Continue reading “Will the USA ever be able to regain its status as the world leader?”

“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there have been as many as 381,896 so-called excess deaths identified since Feb. 1, a number that represents mortality above normal statistical expectations. That’s significantly more than the number of confirmed Covid deaths, and may point to fatalities missed due to limited initial Covid testing and other factors.”

Other possible explanations may include:

(1) people afraid to break quarantine to get non-COVID symptoms checked;

(2) states simply falsifying their numbers;

(3) the key words “as many as.” 381K represents the maximum estimate within a predicted range. The minimum of that range is actually lower than the reported COVID deaths. The mid-point of the range is 328,000, fairly comparable to the reported number of COVID fatalities (303,000).

21 W 52nd Street is a NY landmark. If you got a reservation at 21 in its heyday, you might have spotted Al Jolson, Jack Kennedy, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Papa Hemingway, Mickey Mantle, Marilyn Monroe or Steve Allen as they moved in and out of one of the many private areas. They were some of the many patrons recognized by the general public, but there were just as many regulars whose faces were unfamiliar, but whose bank accounts could support regular visits.

Like many institutions in the hospitality industry, it is unable to function profitably as a restaurant during the COVID crisis. Nobody can predict what will happen when the crisis ends. It may yet re-emerge.

General Chuck Yaeger, the ultimate test pilot, possessor of the right stuff, defeated that demon – and lived another 73 years to hear his story told again and again.

You all know he was the first man to break the sound barrier. What I didn’t know until I read this obit is that the flyboy extraordinaire flew 361 different kinds of aircraft in the course of his career.

Remind me not to visit South Burlington, Vermont – continental America’s LEAST sinful city.

(Kind of a cheat. Only 19,000 people live there, so it’s not really a city at all. It’s a town, and not much more than a village, so I’m not surprised at the dearth of sinful opportunities. The town highlight is probably the new Bud Light display in the Quick Mart.)

It’s worthwhile to note, however, that in neighboring Burlington one may not find much sin, but may find the world’s tallest filing cabinet, which many say is the most interesting attraction in Vermont.

OK, I fess up. Nobody says that but me.

But I’m probably right, given that a Google search for “most interesting thing in Vermont” produces “About 0 results.”

“New dramatic drone footage shows the moment support cables holding up the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico snapped, sending the famous observatory that had been in operation since the 1960s crashing to the ground.”

Physicist Scott Manley gives his take (13 mins) on what apparently happened just before and during the collapse.

Politician named after Nazi leader sweeps to victory – with 85% of the vote.

The Daily Mail article is actually pretty interesting. I learned a lot about the largely unsuccessful German colonial efforts in Africa, a subject I knew nothing about.

I think this comment from another thread actually belongs here:

Better than the Daily Mail

Sure, it sounds loony, and yet Cambodia has a much lower infection rate than the Dakotas.

And the rest of the USA, for that matter.

In fact, Cambodia has not had a single COVID fatality in a country of 17 million people. Those Cambodians obviously believe that Coronavirus is a real thing, a dangerous one, even though they have not personally lost a loved one to it. That puts them a step ahead of many Americans.

Page uses both he/him and they/them pronouns, and describes himself as transgender and non-binary, meaning that his gender identity is neither man nor woman.”

Back in his woman days, Elliot placed two since in the top eight in our best nude scenes of 2016, and then of course did an epic nude scene with Kate Mara last year in the best nude scenes of 2019.

The group began to break the monolith down into pieces to throw in a wheelbarrow.”

Pics of the dismantling: (1, 2)

That doesn’t really “explain the mystery.” It explains why it is not there now. It still leaves most of the key questions unanswered.

Before the monolith was disassembled, a photographer took a great staged photo of one of his friends:

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Props to the photog on a great shot, and special props to the friend who somehow shimmied up there and balanced himself in a pose that would stir envy in Olga Korbut!

He has stepped down as a special advisor to the president on COVID matters.

A group of faculty members at Stanford University celebrated his resignation from the Trump administration on Monday, saying in a statement that it’s “long overdue and underscores the triumph of science and truth over falsehoods and misinformation.”

(That is meaningful because Scott Atlas is the Robert Wesson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. His own colleagues from his sponsoring university are the ones accusing him of standing in opposition to science and truth.)

As if the little buggers weren’t weird enough already.

They seem to be unrelated to the few other species that exhibit this characteristic, like flying squirrels and opossums. “One theory is that by absorbing and transforming UV light rather than reflecting it, platypuses can better hide from UV-sensitive predators.”