By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

American Goldfinch, Rocky Rill Farm; Black Walnut Grove, Whitfield, Georgia, United States.

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Politics

“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles

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2024

Less than a year to go!

RCP Poll Averages, April 5

Here is Friday’s RCP poll. Trump is still up in all the Swing States (more here), but still leading with one exception: PA. I’ve highlighted it again, (1) because BIden is now up there, and (2) it’s an outlier, has been for weeks. Why isn’t Trump doing well there? (I’ll work out a better way to do this, but for now: Blue dot = move toward Biden; red dot = move toward Trump. No statistical signficance to any of it, and state polls are bad anyhow!)

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Trump (R): “What I Saw Working at The National Enquirer During Donald Trump’s Rise” [New York Times]. Important (and also very funny). From a former editor: “At the center of the case is the accusation that Trump took part in a scheme to turn The National Enquirer and its sister publications into an arm of his 2016 presidential campaign. The documents detailed three “hush money” payments made to a series of individuals to guarantee their silence about potentially damaging stories in the months before the election. Because this was done with the goal of helping his election chances, the case implied, these payments amounted to a form of illegal, undisclosed campaign spending. And, Bragg argued, because Trump created paperwork to make the payments seem like regular legal expenses, that amounted to a criminal effort at a coverup. Trump has denied the charges against him.” And: “Then the Bragg indictment outlined, in plain and unafraid black and white, the schemes that felt so opaque and contentious and complex when I had to navigate my way through them in real time. But it was the 13-page statement of facts that brought me to tears. On Page 3, prosecutors outlined ‘The Catch and Kill Scheme to Suppress Negative Information,’ and it revealed to me that I had been managing a newsroom with improvised explosive devices planted everywhere. The secret deal that was made at Trump Tower, where Pecker told Cohen he would act as the campaign’s ‘eyes and ears.’ The hush-money payoffs. The plot to publish negative stories about Trump’s rivals. A scheme to influence the 2016 election. Everything finally fit into place. There were no more secrets, and I wasn’t alone anymore. Everyone now knew.” • If this story is correct, then framing Bragg’s theory of the case as “hush money” — see headline above — is wrong, and Trump becomes a sort of minor-League Berlusconi.

Trump (R): “Trump sues NY judge overseeing hush money case in effort to delay trial” [The Hill]. “Judge Juan Merchan’s gag order bars Trump from attacking witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and the judge’s family… Weeks later, the judge expanded his order to include attacks against his family and Bragg’s family following a series of posts Trump made about the judge’s daughter, who works at a progressive political consulting firm. Merchan’s daughter, Loren, is an executive at the digital agency Authentic, which boasts clients including prominent Democrats President Biden and Vice President Harris. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y) is a past client. Loren Merchan is also the subject of the former president’s efforts to recuse the judge from the case — an effort he has mounted twice. The most recent bid came Friday, when Trump asked the judge to recuse because his daughter has a ‘direct financial interest’ in the former president’s case, given the firm’s work for his 2024 presidential election opponents.”

Trump (R): “Appeals court judge denies Trump’s bid to delay next week’s hush money trial” [NBC]. “Justice Lizbeth González of the state Appellate Division issued the ruling after attorneys for the former president argued the trial needed to be halted because ‘an impartial jury cannot be selected right now based on prejudicial pretrial publicity.’ González rejected the request in a one-line ruling late Monday afternoon with no explanation.” Can’t blame a guy for trying! But: “González’s ruling affects only Trump’s request for a delay, not his underlying change-of-venue motion.”

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Trump (R): “Trump favorabilty among Latinos rising as Biden’s falls: Survey” [The Hill]. “The Axios/Ipsos survey shows Biden’s favorability among Latinos has fallen 6 points since last summer — 47 percent in June 2023 to 41 percent last month. Trump’s favorability among Latinos in the same time period rose from 29 percent to 32 percent.” • That’s a lot.

Trump (R): “Donald Trump crashes out of the Bloomberg rich list due to his meme stock nosediving” [Business Insider]. “Donald Trump has crashed out of the ranks of the world’s 500 wealthiest people after the value of his meme stock nosedived. The former president has fallen off the Bloomberg Billionaires Index as his net worth has dropped below the $5.8 billion required to make the cut. Forbes’ rich list pegs Trump’s total wealth at $4.8 billion, ranking him 659th in the world. Trump held a top 300 spot on Bloomberg’s index only a few days ago, ahead of the likes of George Soros, Mark Cuban, Giorgio Armani, Reed Hastings, and Bernie Marcus.” • ONly #659. “There are not very many of the Shing.” –Ursula LeGuin

Trump (R): “GOP senators, hopefuls fall in line with Trump’s abortion stance” [WaPo]. “GOP candidates running for Senate in swing states are largely embracing the states’ rights message on abortion that Donald Trump outlined yesterday. The former president tried to defang the issue by neither endorsing nor explicitly ruling out a 15-week federal abortion ban, instead saying in a video message that states should determine their own abortion laws. It’s the latest evolution of Republicans’ shifting position on abortion, as they have worked to find a message palatable for voters who have bucked Republican candidates’ antiabortion positions since Roe v. Wade was overturned nearly two years ago. Trump has adopted what the National Republican Senatorial Committee has been encouraging Republican candidates to do for months: avoid calling for a national abortion ban and support exceptions for rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk. That message has been received and adopted by most GOP Senate candidates who have softened previously strict antiabortion stances and moved away from backing a national ban.”

Trump (R): “Trump Moderating on Abortion Is Biden’s Worst Nightmare” [Newsweek]. “If Trump continues to position himself on the middle of this issue, he will find himself in a great place heading to the 2024 presidential election. With a less-than-ideal record on immigration, crime, and the economy, Democrats have been banking on abortion to attract independents and mobilize their base. The game is changing now. If Democrats don’t attempt to move to the middle, allowing Trump to be seen as the one who is willing to moderate, they will lose. Screaming “liar” is a bad strategy. For all of his troubles, one issue that Trump does not have is appearing disingenuous. His desire to move the Republican Party away from political fights on abortion is a real one. Denying can work to some extent, but when social conservative factions express their disgruntlement and Trump doubles down, it’s bad news for Biden’s strategy.”

Trump (R): “Trump’s “moderation” on abortion is a lie” [VOX]. “[Biden] enjoyed a double-digit advantage on only one issue: by 47 points to 35 points, voters said they trusted the president over Trump to handle abortion policy…. Trump’s presidency left relatively few lasting marks on American public policy. But as he has repeatedly boasted since the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision, it was his judicial appointments that enabled the overturning of Roe v. Wade — and thus, the avalanche of abortion restrictions that followed its demise… Trump understands that all this is a major political liability… Taken as a whole, Trump’s statement constitutes a sound political gambit. Given the constraints imposed by his coalition and record, “I think abortion policy should be left up to the states, although rape victims should always be able to get an abortion, and newborn babies shouldn’t be executed” is about the most expedient stance that Trump could take…. Once in office, Trump will face no binding political constraints, as he will be ineligible to run for another term. In the event that Republicans find a way to get a federal abortion ban through Congress, there is every reason to believe Trump will reward the Christian right’s loyalty.” But: “Long rendered a dead-letter statute by Roe, Comstock bans the delivery of ‘every article or thing designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion.’ Conservative legal scholar Jonathan F. Mitchell — who represented Trump before the Supreme Court last year — has suggested that Comstock bans not only the delivery of abortion pills, but of all the equipment required to conduct an abortion procedure. ‘We don’t need a federal ban when we have Comstock on the books,’ Mitchell told the Times. Mitchell went on to say that he hoped Trump ‘doesn’t know about the existence of Comstock, because I just don’t want him to shoot off his mouth. I think the pro-life groups should keep their mouths shut as much as possible until the election.’” • Well.

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Biden (D): “Boomers deliver surprise strength for Biden” [Axios]. “Baby boomers are on track to make President Biden the first Democrat to carry the senior vote since Al Gore in 2000.” And: “Old people vote at high rates. Younger ones don’t.”

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Kennedy (I): “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Qualifies for Nebraska Ballot” [KLIN]. “Nebraskans will be able to cast their vote for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as an Independent Candidate for President, as the Kennedy campaign announced they have collected the necessary 2,500 signatures needed to qualify for the 2024 November general election ballot. In fact, according to the Kennedy campaign, they have nearly double the required amount — collecting more than 4,800 signatures from Nebraska voters.” • Double the required amount of ballots is absolutely necessary, since Democrat lawyers will challenge every single one.

Kennedy (U): “RFK Jr. ballot consultant on Trump voters: Biden is our ‘mutual enemy’” [The Hill]. “Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign is pushing back on comments made by one of their consultants, in which she said his supporters share with former President Trump’s supporters a ‘mutual enemy’ in President Biden. In a video, Rita Palma, who is working on ballot access strategies to get Kennedy on as many state ballots as possible as an independent, was giving a talk to non-Biden voters about Kennedy’s path…. Kennedy campaign director Amaryllis Fox moved to clarify the comments as they circulated on the internet. Fox said in a statement that while Palma was brought on recently as a ‘ballot access consultant,’ she emphasized that ‘she has no involvement in — or access to — electoral strategy, nationally or in New York.’ ‘The video circulating was not taken at a campaign event. Palma was speaking as a private citizen and her statements in no way reflect campaign strategy, the sole aim of which is to win the White House with votes from former Trump and Biden supporters alike,’ Fox said.” • Sounds like a “Kinsley gaffe” to me.

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“Colorado officials warn of new frontier in election denial as more Republicans refuse to certify vote totals” [Gazette Xtra]. “Since 2020, a small but growing number of county canvass boards have had Republican members refuse to sign off on vote tallies, according to state records. Those objections haven’t jeopardized the actual certification of elections, and Colorado’s system has additional processes in place to stop rogue canvass boards from preventing the finalizing of results. But it serves as an ill omen of potential efforts to sow distrust in voting heading into this year’s primary and general elections, several state and county election officials said in interviews with The Denver Post. The canvass, completed after each election by a bipartisan county board made up of the clerk and the appointees of the local Republican and Democratic party chairs, largely serves as a check that there weren’t more ballots counted than cast. Following the state’s March 5 presidential primaries, Republican board members in Boulder, El Paso and Jefferson counties along the Front Range refused to sign off on the canvass.” • The issue seems to be signature verification for mail-in ballots.

Our Famously Free Press

“Behind the Curtain: America’s reality distortion machine” [Axios]. “[T]here’s compelling evidence we’ve been trapped in a reality distortion bubble — social media, cable TV and tribal political wars — long enough to warp our view of the reality around us. Yes, deep divisions exist on some topics. But on almost every topic of monthly outrage, it’s a fringe view — or example — amplified by the loudest voices on social media and politicians driving it. No, most Christians aren’t white Christian nationalists who see Donald Trump as a God-like figure. Most are ignoring politics and wrestling with their faith. No, most college professors aren’t trying to silence conservatives or turn kids into liberal activists. Most are teaching math, or physics, or biology…. This new poll by the AP and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows a striking amount of agreement on some very big topics. Roughly 90% or more of Americans — Republicans and Democrats — agree the following rights and freedoms are extremely or very important to a functioning America:

And: “The acceptance of former President Trump’s language and tactics by so many Republicans can be partly explained by this reality distortion phenomenon. His base often feasts off edge-case outrages — wacky liberal professors saying wacky things, illegal immigrants committing brutal but isolated crimes, surges in shootings in specific cities.” • And the reverse, for different outrages, by Democrats. Meanwhile, most of the truly significant outrages — climate, Covid, dominance of finance capital — remain happily and silently bipartisan and not “divisive” at all. Although I must confess that poll is a massive political achievement. “Equal protection under he law” wasn’t even a shibboleth for most of human history.

Clinton Legacy

“Hillary Clinton to students on Gaza: Can we talk with, not shout at, each other?” [Boston Globe]. Clinton: “I feel strongly that I have a voice and I am going to keep using it.” • Swell.

Republican Funhouse

“The FISA Fight and What it Means for Johnson’s Speakership” [The American Conservative]. “Section 702 of FISA, which was originally intended to permit the foreign surveillance of foreign persons overseas, is the specific provision of FISA set to expire in just over a week’s time. House Speaker Mike Johnson, under immense pressure from the right of his conference given Georgia’s Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene already has a motion to vacate waiting in the hopper, will need to thread the needle between yet another divide between the House GOP to get this piece of legislation across the finish line. FISA has come under increasing scrutiny from the right wing of the GOP conference as it was an integral player in the Russiagate hoax and the Biden administration’s investigations into Americans at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Nevertheless, Section 702 still has its defenders among the House GOP ranks. The dynamic at play across the conference is well encapsulated by the two House committees warring over what a FISA reauthorization bill might entail. The House Intelligence Committee, led by Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio wants few reforms if any and has the backing of the intelligence and national security agencies. Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee, headed by a different Ohioan, Rep. Jim Jordan, wants to seize the rare opportunity to reform FISA in its renewal.” And: “Johnson could either let FISA expire, which is highly unlikely, or bring a clean FISA reauthorization to the floor under suspension of the rules. Bringing a clean FISA reauthorization would likely pass, but conservatives like Davidson who are upset with the Speaker’s handling of FISA renewal might tell Greene it’s time to take the motion to vacate out of the hopper.”

“Notes on the State of Politics: March 28, 2024” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “Once Gallagher resigns on April 19, the Republican House edge will be just 217-213. And based on the sequencing above, Democrats will cut that to 217-214 assuming Kennedy wins on April 30. That will leave a period of a few weeks of that tiny GOP majority until the three other Safe Republican seats are filled from late May to late June. The danger for Republicans would be if there are several additional resignations between now and the end of April—. The current rules stipulate that a single member can force a vote to overthrow the speaker—the same tactic that resulted in McCarthy being deposed. If the House supported that motion, there would then be a subsequent speaker vote where Democrats, assuming full attendance and party unity, could elect a speaker. Republicans, assuming they got the majority back and were unified (a big assumption these days, although the prospect of a Democratic speaker taking over could spur unity), could take the speakership back once they themselves have the majority. Or, a split 214-214 House could fail to produce a speaker if a motion to vacate passed—we have already seen the majority party, the Republicans, have difficulty electing a speaker in both January and in October, and whenever the House does not have a speaker, the first order of business is electing a speaker (as we also saw last year). A newly-formed majority could also change the rules to make it harder to force a motion to vacate the speakership—although a new majority could change the rules again later on. As congressional expert Matt Glassman of the Government Affairs Institute reminded us as we bounced some of these scenarios off of him: ‘The House, after all, is a majoritarian institution. Nothing can stop a hellbent majority from getting its way.’ … The ‘what ifs’ here are almost endless, and that doesn’t even mention the possibility that there could be another revolt initiated by a Republican member against Speaker Mike Johnson (R, LA-4) even if Republicans remain in the majority—just last week, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R, GA-14) filed a motion to vacate the speakership last week, although she is not following through on forcing a vote at the moment.” • Entertaining!

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Left Cannot Make Use of the Gaza War” [Sublation Media]. “The American left has been drifting aimlessly since Bernie Sanders’ defeat in 2020. All the major issues of the 10s have dropped off the political agenda. There is no longer any serious talk of Medicare-For-All or Tuition-Free-College. Healthcare and higher education remain prohibitively expensive. And meanwhile, the housing market has become an absolute nightmare. The price of a typical home has increased more than twice as fast as inflation since the 1960s, and higher interest rates during the Biden years have pushed mortgages beyond the reach of millions. We are quickly approaching a breaking point, where a home will no longer be a plausible part of the American dream, even for many college-educated professionals. But the left has very little to say about any of this. Instead, it has a great deal to say about Gaza…. The American left is not in position to help the Gazans, and it is not in position to help the Gazans precisely because of the litany of strategic mistakes it has made over the past decade… The nation-state system is a contingent feature of a particular historical moment in capitalism. Increasingly, nation-states are unable to solve irreducibly global problems. They cannot manage flows of capital and people. They cannot sustain robust public services or strong consumer bases, because they constantly compete with one another on tax rates and wages. These problems will not be solved by returning to 20th century notions of national liberation. They will intensify and deepen, with grim consequences for people all around the world.”

Pandemics

“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison

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Covid Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot; includes many counties; Wastewater Scan, includes drilldown by zip); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data). “Infection Control, Emergency Management, Safety, and General Thoughts” (especially on hospitalization by city).

Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort. To update any entry, do feel free to contact me at the address given with the plants. Please put “COVID” in the subject line. Thank you!

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin, dashboard; Stanford, wastewater; Oakland, wastewater); CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); FL (wastewater); GA (wastewater); HI (dashboard); IA (wastewater reports); ID (dashboard, Boise; dashboard, wastewater, Central Idaho; wastewater, Coeur d’Alene; dashboard, Spokane County); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); KS (dashboard; wastewater, Lawrence); KY (dashboard, Louisville); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MO (wastewater); MS (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); ND (dashboard; wastewater); NE (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (dashboard; wastewater, Southern NV); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (wastewater); WY (wastewater).

Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).

Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC (wastewater); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: Alexis, anon (2), Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (10), JustAnotherVolunteer, JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, MT_Wild, otisyves, Petal (6), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Tom B., Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

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Immune Dysregulation

See also at “Stellate Ganglion” under “Treatment: Covid.”

Sequelae: Covid

It’s not normal for kids to be sick all the time (1):

It’s not normal for kids to be sick all the time (2):

I should probably go out on the Mommy blogs or on Reddit to check the pervasiveness of this “sick all the time” sentiment, but on the Twitter, it gets mentioned at a lot. Readers?

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“Plasma-based antigen persistence in the post-acute phase of COVID-19” (Correspondence) [The Lancet]. From the Abstract: “Persistent symptoms among some individuals who develop COVID-19 have led to the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 might, in some form or location, persist for long periods following acute infection…. To address these limitations, we evaluated the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antigens in once-thawed plasma from a well characterised group of 171 adults… Compared with those not hospitalised, participants who required hospitalisation for acute COVID-19 were nearly twice as likely to have SARS-CoV-2 antigens detected… Among participants not hospitalised, those with worse self-reported health during acute COVID-19 had greater post-acute antigen detection … These findings suggest the influence of the acute phase of infection in establishing a persistent SARS-CoV-2 reservoir. Coupled with a 2024 study of replication-competent virus in blood during acute infection, our findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 might seed distal sites through the bloodstream and establish protected reservoirs in some sites. Alternatively, more severe acute infection could be a marker of higher inoculum in sites of primary infection, which then have a greater chance of evading immune clearance…. To mitigate concerns that vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 or recent reinfections could affect interpretation of positive results,1 we studied specimens largely collected before these occurrences. Most samples were collected before the emergence of the Delta and Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variants, when reinfections became common.” • I don’t much like the Disclosures, though.

Treatment: Covid

“Stellate Ganglion Block to Treat Long COVID-19 Syndrome, A 41 patient Retrospective Cohort Study” (preprint) [medRxiv (DG)]. N = 41. “Due to the evolving nature of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, treatment protocols for the illness are in a constant state of evolution. The early stage of long COVID-19 syndrome contributes to a dearth of treatment protocols based on empirical evidence, while the absence of a conclusive pathophysiological understanding further complicates the development of such protocols…. In this 41-patient cohort study from a chronic pain management practice, the use of either unilateral or bilateral stellate ganglion block (SGB) was explored to manage symptoms associated with long COVID-19 syndrome. Results indicated that a substantial proportion of patients (86%) experienced a reduction of their symptoms following SGB treatment.” And: “In the context of long COVID-19, an overactive sympathetic system combined with an underactive vagus nerve could disrupt the balance between these systems, possibly allowing unchecked inflammation to persist. This continued inflammation might be a central element in symptoms characteristic of long COVID-19, autonomic dysfunction with the chronic inflammation resulting in dysregulation of the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.” • Here is a press release on the same treatment restoring the sense of smell. (FWIW, the vagus nerve may be associated postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS), so this account has some narrative plausibility, at least.

Elite Maleficence

“The USDA Isn’t Inspiring Confidence With Its Bird Flu Response” [Newsweek]. “[T]he USDA said, “There continues to be no concern about the safety of the commercial milk supply because products are pasteurized before entering the market.” This is true sometimes—but not all the time. Standard industry practice is to pasteurize milk by heating it to 161 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds. But those standards were designed to kill known bacteria, and it can take much longer to kill viruses. Research into coronaviruses found that it took 3 minutes at temperatures above 160 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the virus on surfaces. It’s not safe to assume pasteurized milk is safe from H5N1and again, there is no mention by either the USDA or FDA that they are testing it to find out…. Furthermore, the USDA said, “Dairies are required to send only milk from healthy animals into processing for human consumption; milk from impacted animals is being diverted or destroyed.” Again, it appears that the USDA is expecting farms to comply with this voluntarily, with no additional inspections or oversight. … The USDA ends by saying farmers are “urged” to make changes to reduce the spread of disease. But as a longtime watchdog of the industry and a veterinary epidemiologist, we’ve seen time and again how large agricultural corporations sacrifice health, safety, and the humane treatment of animals in the pursuit of profit. There is no reason they’ll change now. But this time, the stakes are too high to ignore. The USDA needs to make it clear that they have a handle on this problem before it’s too late.” • Oh dear. Another Federal agency we’ll need to burn to the ground…..

“AABP Decides to Reference Cattle Disease as Bovine Influenza A Virus (BIAV)” [Bovine Veterinarian]. “On Sunday evening, the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) [@AABP2015], released a letter to its media partners to update them on how the organization will reference the emerging cattle disease, currently confirmed in dairy herds in six states, moving forward. ‘Because this infection in cattle is not the same as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), after thoughtful consideration and discussion with many experts, the AABP will now refer to this as Bovine Influenza A Virus (BIAV), which more accurately depicts it,’ wrote Geni Wren, director of marketing and communications for the organization, in an email accompanying the letter… Gingrich and Capel are asking other organizations, state animal health officials, diagnostic labs, and state and federal agencies to use Bovine Influenza A Virus (BIAV) ‘so we can be consistent with our messaging and better distinguish the disease syndrome in cattle from the pathogenesis in birds. We believe it is important for the public to understand the difference to maintain confidence in the safety and accessibility of beef and dairy products for consumers,’ they wrote.” • Cool, cool, every time H5N1 jumps species we give it a different name. That should help us get a handle on the situation!

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TABLE 1: Daily Covid Charts

LEGEND

1) for charts new today; all others are not updated.

2) For a full-size/full-resolution image, Command-click (MacOS) or right-click (Windows) on the chart thumbnail and “open image in new tab.”

NOTES

[1] (Biobot) Our curve has now flattened out at a level far above valleys under Trump. Not a great victory. Note also the area “under the curve,” besides looking at peaks. That area is larger under Biden than under Trump, and it seems to be rising steadily if unevenly.

[2] (Biobot) No backward revisons….

[3] (CDC Variants) As of May 11, genomic surveillance data will be reported biweekly, based on the availability of positive test specimens.” “Biweeekly: 1. occurring every two weeks. 2. occurring twice a week; semiweekly.” Looks like CDC has chosen sense #1. In essence, they’re telling us variants are nothing to worry about. Time will tell.

[4] (ER) CDC seems to have killed this off, since the link is broken, I think in favor of this thing. I will try to confirm. UPDATE Yes, leave it to CDC to kill a page, and then announce it was archived a day later. And heaven forfend CDC should explain where to go to get equivalent data, if any. I liked the ER data, because it seemed really hard to game…

[5] (Hospitalization: NY) Looks like a very gradual leveling off to a non-zero baseline, to me.

[6] (Hospitalization: CDC) Still down. “Maps, charts, and data provided by CDC, updates weekly for the previous MMWR week (Sunday-Saturday) on Thursdays (Deaths, Emergency Department Visits, Test Positivity) and weekly the following Mondays (Hospitalizations) by 8 pm ET†”.

[7] (Walgreens) Leveling out.

[8] (Cleveland) Flattening.

[9] (Travelers: Posivitity) Now up, albeit in the rear view mirror.

[10] (Travelers: Variants) JN.1 dominates utterly.

[11] Looks like the Times isn’t reporting death data any more? Maybe I need to go back to The Economist:

Stats Watch

Sentiment: “United States NFIB Business Optimism Index” [Trading Economics]. “The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index in the US fell for a third consecutive month to 88.5 in March 2024, the lowest since December 2012 and well below forecasts of 90.2. “Business owners continue to manage numerous economic headwinds. Inflation has once again been reported as the top business problem on Main Street and the labor market has only eased slightly”, said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. Twenty-five percent of owners reported that inflation was their single most important problem in operating their business (higher input and labor costs), up two points from February. Also, the net percent of owners who expect real sales to be higher decreased eight points from February to a net negative 18%. Furthermore, owners’ plans to fill open positions continue to slow.”

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Tech: “OpenAI prepares to fight for its life as legal troubles mount” [WaPo]. “As OpenAI’s top executives huddled with world leaders this past summer — touting the benefits of its ChatGPT with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron — comedian Sarah Silverman was preparing to take the company to court. Silverman’s suit, which alleged the company stole her work when it used her memoir, ‘The Bedwetter,’ to train its artificial intelligence products, was at the bleeding edge of a legal blitz that has exploded in recent months. OpenAI has been hit with more than a dozen high-profile lawsuits and government investigations since Silverman’s complaint. Top authors including Jodi Picoult and media companies including the New York Times have also alleged that the company violates copyright law by training the algorithms that power popular services like ChatGPT on their work. Billionaire Elon Musk sued OpenAI for diverging from its original nonprofit mission. And government agencies in the United States and Europe are investigating whether the company ran afoul of competition, securities and consumer protection laws in multiple regulatory probes….. Under siege, OpenAI is turning to some of the world’s top legal and political human minds. It has hired about two dozen in-house lawyers since March 2023 to work on issues including copyright, according to a Washington Post analysis of LinkedIn. The company has posted a job for an antitrust lawyer — with a salary of up to $300,000 — to handle the increasing scrutiny in the United States and Europe of its partnership with Microsoft. It has also retained some of the top U.S. law firms, including Cooley and Morrison Foerster, to represent it in key cases.” • That’s nice.

Tech: “Price of zero-day exploits rises as companies harden products against hackers” [TechCrunch]. “On Monday, startup Crowdfense published its updated price list for these hacking tools, which are commonly known as ‘zero-days’ because they rely on unpatched vulnerabilities in software that are unknown to the makers of that software. Companies like Crowdfense and one of its competitors, Zerodium, claim to acquire these zero-days with the goal of reselling them to other organizations, usually government agencies or government contractors, which claim they need the hacking tools to track or spy on criminals. Crowdfense is now offering between $5 million and $7 million for zero-days to break into iPhones; up to $5 million for zero-days to break into Android phones; up to $3 million and $3.5 million for Chrome and Safari zero-days, respectively; and $3 million to $5 million for WhatsApp and iMessage zero-days. In its previous price list, published in 2019, the highest payouts that Crowdfense was offering were $3 million for Android and iOS zero-days.mThe increase in prices comes as companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft are making it harder to hack their devices and apps, which means their users are better protected.”

Transportation: “Norfolk Southern, victims reach $600M settlement for 2023 East Palestine train derailment” [Canton Repository]. “The lead attorneys representing the victims and Norfolk Southern announced on Tuesday that the two sides have reached an agreement in principle. The multi-million-dollar deal still needs to be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Benita Pearson in Youngstown…. [The lead attorneys for the victims] said the settlement agreement would provide payment to residents and businesses in East Palestine and the affected surrounding communities, pending court approval. It also includes a voluntary program to compensate individuals in a 10-mile radius for past, present and future personal injuries resulting from chemical exposure. The attorneys also said the settlement money would be in addition to any monies that Norfolk Southern has previously made available through community assistance and other payments…. If approved by Pearson, the settlement would resolve all plaintiff cases consolidated into the class-action lawsuit. It does not resolve separate lawsuits filed by state and federal agencies against Norfolk Southern for the environmental cleanup. Those are still pending.”

Transportation: “Norfolk Southern Agrees To Pay $600 Million In Settlement Over Ohio Train Derailment” [Associated Press]. “[R]esidents worry the money not only won’t go far enough to cover future health needs that could be tremendous but also won’t amount to much once divvied up. ‘It’s not nowhere near my needs, let alone what the health effects are going to be five or 10 years down the road,’ said Eric Cozza, who lived just three blocks from the derailment and had 47 family members living within a mile (1.61 kilometers)…. The settlement, which doesn’t include or constitute any admission of liability, wrongdoing or fault, represents only a small slice of the $3 billion in revenue Norfolk Southern generated just in the first three months of this year. East Palestine resident Krissy Ferguson called the settlement a ‘heart-wrenching day.’ ‘I just feel like we’ve been victimized over and over and over again,’ she said. ‘We fought and we’re still fighting. And contamination is still flowing down the creeks. People are still sick. And I think people that had the power to fight took an easy way out.’… Jami Wallace, too, worries about having a settlement without knowing the long-term impact of the derailment. ‘I would really like to see the numbers because in my opinion, taking a plea deal only is in the best interest of the attorneys,’ she said. ‘They’re all going to get their money. But we’re the residents that are still going to be left to suffer.’ Consider that Cozza said he spent about $8,000 to move out of town and that along with medical bills from tests and the cost of replacing all his contaminated belongings exhausted what little savings he had. And he can’t put a price on the 10-year relationship he lost or the way his extended family was scattered after the derailment.” And: “The NTSB’s full investigation into the cause of the derailment won’t be complete until June, but the agency has said that an overheating wheel bearing on one of the railcars, which wasn’t detected in time by a trackside sensor, likely caused the crash.” • On the bearing, I was correct; see here and here [lambert blushes modestly]. (It’s also interesting that the coverage from Canton (fifty miles away from East Palestine) basically consists of the reporter emptying his Rolodex of lawyers, while the AP talks to the locals. Discouraging, because on a story like this, I get so tired of reading The Hill, The Guardian, and the other approved sources, and try to track down local reporting. Oh well.)

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 57 Greed (previous close: 66 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 62 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 9 at 1:51:14 PM ET.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Anger is eliminated with the disposal of a paper written because of provocation” [Nature]. “Anger suppression is important in our daily life, as its failure can sometimes lead to the breaking down of relationships in families. Thus, effective strategies to suppress or neutralise anger have been examined. This study shows that physical disposal of a piece of paper containing one’s written thoughts on the cause of a provocative event neutralises anger, while holding the paper did not. In this study, participants wrote brief opinions about social problems and received a handwritten, insulting comment consisting of low evaluations about their composition from a confederate. Then, the participants wrote the cause and their thoughts about the provocative event. Half of the participants (disposal group) disposed of the paper in the trash can (Experiment 1) or in the shredder (Experiment 2), while the other half (retention group) kept it in a file on the desk. All the participants showed an increased subjective rating of anger after receiving the insulting feedback. However, the subjective anger for the disposal group decreased as low as the baseline period, while that of the retention group was still higher than that in the baseline period in both experiments. We propose this method as a powerful and simple way to eliminate anger.” • So turning anger into art isn’t an option?

“Zzzzzzz” [London Review of Books]. “Why​ do we sleep?The habit is pretty much universal among animals, though it takes a wide variety of forms…. Yet there is still no scientific consensus on exactly what function sleep fulfils, why it’s so universal, or why it’s important enough to outweigh the obvious evolutionary disadvantage of rendering animals temporarily defenceless against danger…. The most basic questions’ about sleep, [author Kenneth] Miller concludes, ‘still lack definite answers.’ As I have urged here! But concluding: “There is much more consensus on the question of why we don’t sleep. Modern life has mounted what Miller describes as ‘an ongoing, and ever escalating, assault on sleep’: our always-on work culture, with its shifts and double jobs, ubiquitous sound and light pollution, and the blue light from screens and digital devices which throws our circadian rhythms into confusion. The ever expanding market for sleep optimisation is a response to this ever escalating assault, but consumer and lifestyle remedies remain least available to those who need them most: working people, particularly those who are also parenting, in low-quality housing and noisy urban environments across the globe. It’s hard not to notice that all these modern anxieties and pressures are essentially no different from those that led to the birth of sleep science more than a hundred years ago, in the glare of the electric light.” • Worth a read for the potted history of sleep science.

News of the Wired

Dad.


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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi, lichen, and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From TH:

TH writes: “Aconite is one of the first blooms of the season. A happy sight!”

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for three or four days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

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