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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Mask wearing should not be political

Low-cost, low-tech masks save lives. They are NOT symbols of tyranny.
Face Mask GIF by GIPHY NewsThe chief cultural signifier of our times is this: Wearing a mask. Or not.

These low-tech, low-cost, high-impact coverings are simple and effective at helping reduce the COVID-19 infection rate. 

Our top political leaders’ failure to produce, distribute, and require them en masse when the pandemic first spread ranks somewhere between stupid and criminal.

But while our “leaders” failed, the people themselves have led, rapidly turning homemade mask-making into a booming cottage industry and a charitable act.

Meanwhile, though, big corporations rushed out like masked thieves to exploit the crisis.

By Pat BagleySalt Lake Tribune
Even as their lobbyists shoved to the front of the line to grab billions in public relief funds meant for small Main Street businesses, they churned out touchy-feely PR campaigns portraying Amazon warehouses, Hefty trash bags, McDonald’s fries, and Walmart’s forced-to-work clerks as the epitome of all-in-this-together Americanism.

Their message in this global pandemic is that what unites us as a people is crass commercialism — so buy something from us!

Then there are the billionaire-funded, right-wing political fronts that are staging protests against — wait for it — masks. 

Monday, July 6, 2020

VIDEO: Who is really looting America?

More on life in the Stupidverse

For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.

Masks work

The US isn't in a second wave of coronavirus

The first wave never ended
Melissa Hawkins, American University

Pic of the MomentAfter sustained declines in the number of COVID-19 cases over recent months, restrictions are starting to ease across the United States

Numbers of new cases are falling or stable at low numbers in some states, but they are surging in many others

Overall, the U.S. is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of new cases a day, and by late June, had surpassed the peak rate of spread in early April.

When seeing these increasing case numbers, it is reasonable to wonder if this is the dreaded second wave of the coronavirus – a resurgence of rising infections after a reduction in cases.

The U.S. as a whole is not in a second wave because the first wave never really stopped. The virus is simply spreading into new populations or resurging in places that let down their guard too soon.

What we've learned so far about COVID-19 treatments

Which drugs and therapies are proven to work, and which ones don't, for COVID-19?
William Petri, University of Virginia

We are slowly figuring out which drugs and therapies are effective
 against the new coronavirus. Anton Petrus / Getty Images
I am a physician and a scientist at the University of Virginia. I care for patients and conduct research to find better ways to diagnose and treat infectious diseases, including COVID-19. 

Here I’m sharing what is known about which treatments work, and which don’t, for the new coronavirus infection.

Keep in mind that this field of medicine is rapidly evolving as our understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus improves. So what I am writing today may change within days or weeks.

Below are the treatments that have been tried and for which we have the best knowledge.

Why Do People Want to See Donald Trump’s Tax Returns?

What is he hiding?
By Kristen Doerer for ProPublica

5 myths about Trump's income tax returns. Hidden financial ties to ...The Supreme Court is expected to rule on two cases regarding access to President Donald Trump’s tax filings soon. At the heart of the cases: Can House committees and a New York grand jury subpoena financial institutions for Trump’s personal and business tax filings?

If the Supreme Court rules against Trump, it opens the possibility that the public could eventually see his personal tax return and business records, though experts say it would be unlikely to happen quickly. Here’s why people want to see Trump’s tax returns and what they may reveal about the president.

Why Do Presidents Share Their Tax Returns in the First Place?

Since Richard Nixon, presidents have shared their tax returns in some way or another with the public. Nixon perhaps explained why best: “I welcome this kind of examination because people have got to know whether or not their president’s a crook. Well, I’m not a crook.”

But Nixon had not shared his tax returns entirely willingly. During the Watergate scandal, an IRS employee leaked information from Nixon’s tax returns that suggested that the president had underpaid his taxes for two years. 
Image may contain: 1 person, text that says 'THINGS I TRUST MORE THAN DONALD TRUMP 1) Flint Michigan Tap Water. 2) Gas station sushi. 3) Bill Cosby as the bartender. 4) Taco Bell bathrooms. 5) Tom Brady putting air in my tires.'
As reporters put pressure on Nixon to disclose his returns, he finally shared them, confirming that he had wrongly claimed a deduction and woefully underpaid his taxes. 

Nixon, who was under audit at the time, was sent a tax bill of about $470,000 plus interest to pay in back taxes from the IRS.

Nixon’s release of his federal returns set a precedent. While no law requires presidential candidates (or the president for that matter) to share his or her tax returns, it was understood among future candidates: 

The office of the presidency requires a certain amount of transparency, and voters have a right to know if their president pays his or her fair share of taxes and, yes, “whether or not their president’s a crook.”

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Change is good

My unexpected move from adman to taxman
By Gerald E. Scorse, guest contributor to Progressive Charlestown 

nyy GIF by MLBWriting TV commercials was fun but retirement would be heaven. I could do whatever I pleased. I’d get to spend weekday afternoons at Yankee Stadium with the sun shining down on the boys of summer.

Then a new world appeared out of the green. I invested my profit-sharing in the stock market. I discovered that newspapers had business pages as well as sports pages. I puzzled over terms I’d never seen before (such as basis prices, which I’ll return to). Looking back I realize this was just the start of an endless tax education.

All federal tax laws are pieces of a giant Rube Goldberg, the Internal Revenue Code. Informally called the tax code, it’s often called unprintable names by thousands of Americans.

I can’t speak to their reasons but I came to have my own. For more than a generation Republicans have promoted the zombie idea that cutting taxes raises revenue and increases investment. It was the perfect cover for stacking the code with provisions that hugely favor the wealthy.

I’d always written for a living. Now I started writing for a cause: tax fairness.

Thank you, Carl Reiner

May he rest in peace. Here is one of my favorite Carl Reiner sketches from his long-running "2000 Year Old Man" schtick with Mel Brooks:

Once again, priorities

Pic of the Moment

What will happen to the W. Alton Jones property?

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Camps at the W. Alton Jones Campus, which began in 1972 and hosted up to 1,900 campers annually, are closed this summer — possibly for good. (URI photos)
Camps at the W. Alton Jones Campus, which began in 1972
and hosted up to 1,900 campers annually, are closed this
summer — possibly for good. (URI photos)
The University of Rhode Island abruptly closed its 2,300-acre nature campus, raising concerns that the property could be developed or sold to private owners.

The ecologically rich forest sanctuary in West Greenwich, R.I., is home to an environmental research and education center, summer camp, and an events center. 

The W. Alton Jones Campus includes a 75-acre lake, ponds, streams, trails, and a 19th-century farm.

The campus has hosted a broad range of programs and studies, such as a February school vacation camp, youth and college retreats, and studies in forest, wetland, and wildlife ecology.

In early June, URI announced it was closing the camps and public activities at the campus in response to the coronavirus health crisis. Due to ongoing financial losses, the future of the property is in doubt, according to URI officials.

Alert but not alarmed

What to make of 'pandemic potential' in the new H1N1 swine flu with found in China
Ian M. Mackay, The University of Queensland

judge pigs GIFResearchers have found a new strain of flu virus with “pandemic potential” in China that can jump from pigs to humans, triggering a suite of worrying headlines.

It’s excellent this virus has been found early, and raising the alarm quickly allows virologists to swing into action developing new specific tests for this particular flu virus.

But it’s important to understand that, as yet, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission of this particular virus. And while antibody tests found swine workers in China have had it in the past, there’s no evidence yet that it’s particularly deadly.

What we know so far

China has a wonderful influenza surveillance system across all its provinces. They keep track of bird, human and swine flus because, as the researchers note in their paper, “systematic surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs is essential for early warning and preparedness for the next potential pandemic.”

In their influenza virus surveillance of pigs from 2011 to 2018, the researchers found what they called “a recently emerged genotype 4 (G4) reassortant Eurasian avian-like (EA) H1N1 virus.” In their paper, they call the virus G4 EA H1N1. It has been ticking over since 2013 and became the majority swine H1N1 virus in China in 2018.

In plain English, they discovered a new flu that’s a mix of our human H1N1 flu and an avian-based flu.

Trump plans to give Big Pharma license to steal

Contracts Show Trump Giving Big Pharma Free Rein to Price Gouge Taxpayer-Funded Coronavirus Drugs
Understanding Global Differences In Prescription Drug PricingGovernment contracts obtained by consumer advocacy group Knowledge Ecology International show that the Trump administration is giving pharmaceutical companies a green light to charge exorbitant prices for potential coronavirus treatments developed with taxpayer money by refusing to exercise federal authority to constrain costs.

Five of the seven documents reviewed by KEI are classified as "other transaction agreements," which allow federal agencies to loosen regulations designed to protect the public in order to help companies streamline the product development process.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) last week got hold of a number of heavily redacted agreements between the Trump administration and major pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson, Regeneron, and Genentech.

In the case of four contracts for potential Covid-19 treatments or vaccines with Johnson & Johnson, Genentech, Regeneron, and Roche issued by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the Pentagon, the Trump administration omitted a standard condition requiring that products developed with taxpayer money be made available to the public "on reasonable terms."