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Friday, November 26, 2021

Is Qanon a tragedy, a danger, or a terrorist group?

Or is it all of the above?

By Thom Hartmann for the Independent Media Institute.

A significant number of Qanon followers, according to NBC News reporter Ben Collins, believe the end-point of their religion will be reached when Donald Trump takes back control of America, unleashes police to mass-arrest elected and other high-profile Democrats, and Qanon followers then engage in an orgy of violence and murder against Democratic Party-aligned neighbors, friends and family.  

Already, one believer has murdered two of his children, saying they had “serpent DNA” and had to be killed to save humanity.  There’s evidence that a majority of the people who stormed the US Capitol on January 6th, leading to more than a half-dozen deaths and nearly overthrowing our republic, were solidly within the Qanon cult.

This isn’t quite as weird as it sounds; mass death or even murder of unbelievers, often for political or “End of Days” rationales, is a familiar trope within multiple world religions.

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in Israel, which is frequently the target of evangelists trying to convert Jews in anticipation of the End Times. 

Many of these evangelists are quite upfront about their belief that in the end times, in preparation for the return of Jesus, all but 144,000 of the roughly 7 million Jews in Israel must die. 

And those who survive will all be converted to Christianity and “wear the names of the Father and Son on their foreheads throughout eternity.” When that happens, Jesus comes down from the sky.

It’s a belief that millions of Christians — and a solid majority of white Evangelicals — fervently hold, and one of the reasons why there’s so much support for Israel among the Republican white Evangelical movement: that’s where the mass death has to happen to bring back Jesus. 

Rittenhouse Rules: tips for future protests

For more cartoons by Jen Sorenson, CLICK HERE.

 

The threat we face


 

Scary new COVID variant has researchers worldwide scrambling for answers

The hunt for coronavirus variants: how the new one was found and what we know so far

Prof. Wolfgang PreiserStellenbosch UniversityCathrine ScheepersUniversity of the WitwatersrandJinal BhimanNational Institute for Communicable DiseasesMarietjie VenterUniversity of Pretoria, and Tulio de OliveiraUniversity of KwaZulu-Natal

Scientists find variants by sequencing samples from people
that have tested positive for the virus. Lightspring/Shutterstock
Since early in the COVID pandemic, the Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa has been monitoring changes in SARS-CoV-2. This was a valuable tool to understand better how the virus spread. 

In late 2020, the network detected a new virus lineage, 501Y.V2, which later became known as the beta variant

Now a new SARS-CoV-2 variant has been identified, known as B.1.1.529. To help us understand more, The Conversation Africa’s Ozayr Patel asked scientists to share what they know.

What’s the science behind the search?

Hunting for variants requires a concerted effort. South Africa and the UK were the first big countries to implement nationwide genomic surveillance efforts for SARS-CoV-2 as early as April 2020.

Variant hunting, as exciting as that sounds, is performed through whole genome sequencing of samples that have tested positive for the virus. This process involves checking every sequence obtained for differences compared to what we know is circulating in South Africa and the world. 

When we see multiple differences, this immediately raises a red flag and we investigate further to confirm what we’ve noticed.

Fortunately South Africa is well set up for this. This is thanks to a central repository of public sector laboratory results at the National Health Laboratory Service, (NGS-SA), good linkages to private laboratories, the Provincial Health Data Centre of the Western Cape Province, and state-of-the-art modelling expertise.

In addition, South Africa has several laboratories that can grow and study the actual virus and discover how far antibodies, formed in response to vaccination or previous infection, are able to neutralise the new virus. This data will allow us to characterise the new virus.

Viruses on a white background
3d Variants of Covid-19 Virus (Sars-COV-2). Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta in white background. Shutterstock

The beta variant spread much more efficiently between people compared to the “wild type” or “ancestral” SARS-CoV-2 and caused South Africa’s second pandemic wave. It was therefore classified as a variant of concern. During 2021, yet another variant of concern called delta spread over much of the world, including South Africa, where it caused a third pandemic wave.

Very recently, routine sequencing by Network for Genomics Surveillance member laboratories detected a new virus lineage, called B.1.1.529, in South Africa. Seventy-seven samples collected in mid-November 2021 in Gauteng province had this virus. It has also been reported in small numbers from neighbouring Botswana and Hong Kong. The Hong Kong case is reportedly a traveller from South Africa.

Whether B.1.1.529 will be classified as a variant of interest or of concern, like beta and delta, has not been decided by the World Health Organization yet. We expect that it will be given a Greek name soon.

Coffee and Tea Linked With Reduced Rates of Stroke and Dementia

 Here’s How Much To Drink

By  

Drinking coffee or tea may be associated with a lower risk of stroke and dementia, according to a study of healthy individuals aged 50-74 published on November 16th, 2021, in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine. Drinking coffee was also associated with a lower risk of post-stroke dementia.

Strokes are life-threatening events that cause 10 percent of deaths globally. Dementia is a general term for symptoms related to decline in brain function and is a global health concern with a high economic and social burden. Post-stroke dementia is a condition where symptoms of dementia occur after a stroke.

Yuan Zhang and colleagues from Tianjin Medical University, Tianjin, China studied 365,682 participants from the UK Biobank, who were recruited between 2006 and 2010 and followed them until 2020. At the outset participants self-reported their coffee and tea intake. Over the study period, 5,079 participants developed dementia, and 10,053 experienced at least one stroke.

Treat retail workers with respect

Grocery workers suffer the mental health effects of customer hostility and lack of safety in their workplace

Brian MayerUniversity of ArizonaMelissa A. BarnettUniversity of ArizonaMona AroraUniversity of Arizona, and Sabrina V. HelmUniversity of Arizona

Many grocery store workers have experienced high rates of
anxiety and depression during the pandemic. 
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
With the holiday season here, consumers are understandably desperate for a “normal” holiday season. For many, that includes big family dinners and Black Friday shopping sprees.

Retail and service sector workers have been laboring to keep shelves stocked and customers happy from the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Life on the front lines has been exceptionally stressful for these employees. 

Suddenly, they found themselves identified as “essential workers,” providing critical services while working in close contact with customers and coworkers. But unlike health care workers, grocery store employees had no prior experience or training in combating infectious diseases.

Early in the pandemic, the public celebrated grocery workers. They were hailed as “heroes” who were risking their lives for the benefit of their local communities. Billboards and the nightly news reminded the public to show kindness and compassion to store workers.

Major grocery chains initially offered their employees a “"hero bonus,” but that quickly went away. Many grocery workers soon felt forgotten as businesses and customers adjusted to the new normal.

We are a team of researchers from the University of Arizona with expertise in worker health, retail marketing, human development and public health. We have been following the impacts of the pandemic on grocery workers across the state of Arizona.

Our research and that of others show that rates of mental health distress among grocery workers are very high. In a newly published study, we reported that 20% of employees working in Arizona grocery stores in the summer of 2020 exhibited signs of severe anxiety and depression. And the mental health struggles of these workers do not show much improvement since we began our research in summer 2020.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

How US elections get stolen

Will You Storm the Capitol if the 2024 Election is Stolen?

By Thom Hartmann for the Independent Media Institute

We’re demonizing the wrong people.

This is not a call to “understand” or “have compassion” for Trump voters.  Instead, it’s a call for a wholesale political and social indictment of Trump’s Big Lie, along with every elected Republican politician or media member who knows Trump lost but keeps perpetuating that Lie.

If we fail, history may repeat itself and — this time — the result will be far worse than Bush’s lying us into two wars and privatizing Medicare. 

That, in part, is because numerous Republican-controlled states are passing laws and gaming out scenarios that could enable a repeat of a variation on the election of 1876: if GOP-controlled swing states submit multiple slates of electors denying either candidate 270 uniquely certified Electoral College votes, the election could again get thrown to the House of Representatives (as was the election of 1800, too), where Trump (or another neofascist Republican) would win.

Democrats tend to forget that Donald Trump received about 10 million more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016. It’s why he’s still a potent political force in America and around the world.

Although Biden got around 7 million more votes than Trump and overwhelmingly won the popular (and Electoral College) votes, Trump’s raw-numbers electoral popularity actually went up at the end of the 4 years of his presidency. 

Those Trump voters — from the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6th to the folks who just quietly showed up at the polls and never mentioned anything political to neighbors, friends or relatives — believed he was the best guy for the presidency.

And today, about three-quarters of them (76%) also now believe that his presidency was stolen from him in 2020.  

Consider, for a moment, if the tables were reversed: 

It’s 2024 and President Biden and Donald Trump just faced off in the election. Biden wins the popular vote by over 10 million, but the Electoral College vote is up in the air because of a weird constitutional technicality.

Just like in the election of 1876, several swing states in the midst of political turmoil have submitted dueling slates of electors, one (based on the popular vote) for Biden and another (reflecting the will of the state legislature) for Trump.  And, just like in 1876, when you exclude the “contested states” neither candidate hits the 50%-plus-one electoral votes needed (now 270) to win the White House.

Under the 12th Amendment, as John Eastman pointed out in his 2020 memo to Trump (and echoed by Jenna Ellis and Mark Meadows), that throws the election to the House of Representatives, where each state has one single vote, that vote being decided by each state’s legislature back home.  Thirty states are Republican controlled and submit their 30 votes for Trump, with Biden receiving the remaining 20: the House declares the election goes to Trump.

Democrats immediately sue before the Supreme Court, but — for the second time in history — the Court awards the presidency to the Republican who lost the popular vote amid a contested Electoral College vote.

Trump, say the Republicans in Congress and on the Court, is to be sworn in as president a few weeks after the votes are certified on January 6th, 2024.  

But President Biden calls a press conference to tell the nation that the states that submitted dual ballots were behaving with corrupt intent just to allow this very scenario to play out. 

“Trump and his Republican allies used a technicality in our Constitution and law to claim they won an election they very clearly lost,” Biden says.  “Americans shouldn’t stand for this!”

All across the country, people begin pouring into the streets.  Pitched battles break out between Trump and Biden supporters, as cities are set afire and hundreds die from gunshots.

What do you do?

This would be, after all, the fourth time Republicans have tried to use this same strategy to bring a presidential election around to themselves on their own terms, and the first two out of three times they were successful. 

How Republicans Pulled It Off In 1876

The first was the election of 1876, when the Republican who lost that election (both popular and Electoral College), Rutherford B. Hayes, was nonetheless installed as president by the House of Representatives in March, 1877.

Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote nationwide but, with 184 electoral votes, was one vote short of the then-necessary 185 electoral votes to become president.

Republican Rutherford B. Hayes not only lost the popular vote but had only 163 uncontested electoral votes. (He was sold to voters as an antidote to the Radical Republicans like Thaddeus Stevens who’d worked so hard to bring formerly enslaved people into politics. White supremacists were rising again…in both parties.) 

"All politics is local"

By Marc MurphyLouisville Courier-Journal

 

And then wouldn't leave


 

You can read this tomorrow

Best way to avoid procrastination

University of Otago

They say procrastination is the thief of time -- actually deadlines are.

New research from the University of Otago has found that if you want someone to help you out with something, it is best not to set a deadline at all. But if you do set a deadline, make it short.

Professor Stephen Knowles, from the Otago Business School, Department of Economics, and his co-authors tested the effect of deadline length on task completion for their research published in Economic Inquiry.

Participants were invited to complete an online survey in which a donation goes to charity. They were given either one week, one month, or no deadline to respond.

Talking turkey!

How the Thanksgiving bird got its name (and then lent it to film flops)


Not everyone is a fan of Turkey Day. E4C via Getty Images
“Meleagris Gallopavo Day” is a bit of a mouthful. Which may be why this Thanksgiving, most people will opt for the less ornithologically precise “Turkey Day.”

And just as turkey is a versatile meat – think of those leftover options! – so too is the word “turkey,” which can refer to everything from the bird itself to a populous Eurasian country to movie flops.

As a scholar who studies word origins, I love “talking turkey” – not only how the bird came to be named, but also how the word has evolved over time. But let’s start with what has become the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving Day dinners.

The North American turkey – the kind that many families will be carving up this Thanksgiving – was being domesticated in Mexico some 2,000 years ago.

Europeans glimpsed their first turkeys around 1500, when Spanish explorers arrived in the Americas and brought them back to the mother country. By the 1520s, turkeys were being bred in Spain, and soon the delicacy was appearing on rich people’s tables across Europe.

10 Tips To Test and Tweak Your Mask

Remember last year’s disappearing flu season – thank masks for that

By UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER  


As the pandemic continues in 2021, we must remain vigilant against more contagious variants of the virus that have reached Colorado. Even with the rollout of vaccines in the spring, we are in a race to beat this virus and must continue to prevent its transmission as best as we can. 

Research by CU Boulder experts and scientists across the world have now clearly shown that aerosols are the main route of transmission for SARS-COV-2, as outbreaks continue to happen in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces. These invisible airborne particles are so small that they float like smoke in the air, yet they are still large enough for the virus to hitch a ride. This allows the virus to travel more than 6 feet and remain contagious for up to two hours in the air.

Aerosols are different than larger droplets which fall quickly to the ground after you speak, cough or sneeze, although they are sometimes both referred to as “respiratory particles.” 

How can you tell if your mask is actually working to trap aerosols as well as these larger droplets? And how can you spruce it up if it’s not? We’ve got you covered. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

If it's too late, what do we do?

Profound Climate Change May Be Inevitable, but Society Can Go On

By Marianne Apostolides


T
he news reports from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this month followed a predictable pattern. World leaders took to the stage one after the other, each of them issuing dire warnings about imminent climate disaster and concluding with urgent calls to action: It’s not too late…but we must act now!

This message feels tired, its urgency attenuated from decades of repetition. “Now” was once the 1970s, with the birth of the modern environmental movement; “now” was the Kyoto Protocol and its carbon-reduction commitments of the 1990s; “now” was Paris 2015. 

Now, some believe, is now too late: The tipping point has come. We’re at the apex of the curve, on the verge of an unstoppable cascade that will irreversibly alter the systems governing the natural world. It’s too late. And if we, as a society, copped to that fact, we’d all benefit immensely.

This is the argument of Deep Adaptation, a movement launched in 2018 by Jem Bendell, a professor of sustainability leadership at the University of Cumbria in the United Kingdom. The movement situates the conversation about society’s future in a new realm, one in which catastrophic climate change is taken as a given. 

Bendell says the world will become an unfamiliar place: Everything we’ve known about the dynamics driving our lives will be overturned by climate-induced disruption, leading to societal collapse. Only when we accept this inevitability can we prepare for the coming catastrophe “in ways that may reduce harm, especially by reducing conflict and trauma,” writes Bendell.

Deep Adaptation has attracted a worldwide following: The founding document was downloaded more than a half million times, according to Bendell, and forums have solidified a base of participants, from students to psychologists to scholars. 

Things to be thankful for

For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.

 

165 degrees