This Might Help: A COVID-19 pill, and generics too

Merck has developed a pill to treat COVID-19, one that won’t require refrigeration like a vaccine and thus easier to store and transport to warmer climates, especially developing countries.  I don’t like to sing any corporations’ praises, but Merck have taken the unusual step of authorizing generic forms of the pill, which means lower costs and enables wider distribution.

The accusation has been made (not just by me) that the failure to provide vaccines to developing countries was predicated on racism, that Global Majority countries which refused to be guinea pigs for white countries were being denied vaccines.  It makes me wonder if Merck wants to avoid the same accusations or thinks this will give them a competitive advantage in the future.  I certainly don’t believe altruism is the reason.

Merck COVID-19 pill sparks calls for access for lower income countries

The plan to roll out Merck & Co’s promising antiviral pill to treat COVID-19 risks repeating the inequities of vaccine distribution, potentially leaving the nations with the greatest need once again at the back of the line, international health groups say.

For example, only about 5 per cent of Africa’s population is immunised, creating an urgent need for therapeutics that could keep people out of hospitals. That compares with more than a 70 per cent inoculation rate in most wealthy nations.

Merck on Oct 11 applied for US emergency clearance of the first pill for COVID-19 after it cut hospitalisations and deaths by 50 per cent in a large clinical trial. The medicine, made with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, could gain authorisation as soon as December.

The US drugmaker has taken the unusual pandemic step of licensing several generics of its antiviral molnupiravir before its branded version was even authorised for marketing.

But international health officials said even that is not enough for the medicine to reach many in low- and middle-income countries in large enough numbers, while noting shortcomings and red tape among global organisations that could further slow distribution.

Emphasis in the text is mine.

How The Tables Turn: Workers are no longer fighting for scraps

As most will have heard, the UAW workers at John Deere (one of those corporations that opposes the Right to Repair) have gone on strike.  The CEOs thought their “unskilled labour” were replaceable, only to learn how skilled workers really are.  Muddle management (not a typo) hired scab workers and had disasters on the first day, causing injuries to workers and damage to the factory.

It’s not just the UAW, Hollywood unions and others are threatening strike action that could cripple industries.  The power of labour (unionized or not) in the US hasn’t been this strong since the 1970s, before Reagan’s war on the air traffic controller union. Workers who weren’t unionized bought into the rightwing propaganda that “unions kill jobs, you’ll benefit by businesses getting rich!”  Instead wages, benefits, job security, health care and other things gradually got worse and worse.  Workers were nickeled and dimed out of their nickels and dimes.

People talk about China’s “996 workweek” (9AM-9PM Monday to Saturday for the same wages as 9-5 M-F) as being near slavery, but that was the direction US workers have been heading for decades.  I suspect many US corporations wanted Cheetolini to steal the election last November so that 996 would become law.  Right now, Kellogg’s employees are forced to work seven day weeks up to 16 hours per day with threat of firing if they don’t.  So they’re walking out.

As many have noted, when you have no time to protest and no money saved, you can’t be politically active.  Union dues provide relief to striking workers, and both stimulus and unemployment benefits are letting people say “hell, no” to crappy jobs.

A piece by Robert Reich appeared in The Guardian this week, talking about the power or workers today, and how it’s forcing real change.  One paragraph near the end really stood out: “Corporate America wants to frame this as a ‘labor shortage.’ Wrong. What’s really going on is more accurately described as a living-wage shortage, a hazard pay shortage, a childcare shortage, a paid sick leave shortage, and a healthcare shortage.” 

Is America experiencing an unofficial general strike?

Last Friday’s jobs report from the US Department of Labor elicited a barrage of gloomy headlines. The New York Times emphasized “weak” jobs growth and fretted that “hiring challenges that have bedeviled employers all year won’t be quickly resolved,” and “rising wages could add to concerns about inflation.” For CNN, it was “another disappointment”. For Bloomberg the “September jobs report misses big for a second straight month”.

The media failed to report the big story, which is actually a very good one: American workers are now flexing their muscles for the first time in decades.

[. . .]

The media and most economists measure the economy’s success by the number of jobs it creates, while ignoring the quality of those jobs. That’s a huge oversight.

Years ago, when I was secretary of labor, I kept meeting working people all over the country who had full-time work but complained that their jobs paid too little and had few benefits, or were unsafe, or required lengthy or unpredictable hours. Many said their employers treated them badly, harassed them, and did not respect them.

Since then, these complaints have only grown louder, according to polls. For many, the pandemic was the last straw. Workers are fed up, wiped out, done-in, and run down. In the wake of so much hardship, illness and death during the past year, they’re not going to take it anymore.

[. . .]

Corporate America wants to frame this as a “labor shortage.” Wrong. What’s really going on is more accurately described as a living-wage shortage, a hazard pay shortage, a childcare shortage, a paid sick leave shortage, and a healthcare shortage.

Unless these shortages are rectified, many Americans won’t return to work anytime soon. I say it’s about time.

This isn’t just a labour shortage, and it’s not just a pandemic.  With breakdowns in the supply chain in the US and massive government spending, this is turning into a combination or storm of the last century’s events all at once – “lend/lease” via stimulus payments, the 1918 pandemic, the “New Deal”, etc.  Maybe the success of the Black Lives Matter movement is telling workers that they can fight and win, so they are finally willing to try.

Predictably, Elizabeth Warren is fully onside with workers, but Biden’s semi-supportive comments on the UAW strike were a bit surprising.  Cheetolini would have called them “lazy” and for them to either be fired or shot.

Lie Repeatedly: Because the truth can’t even find its shoes

Have you heard about the latest round of anti-Trans hate propaganda the rightwing media are trying to disseminate as fast as possible?  The clowns in Loudon, Virginia, are claiming a “boy in a skirt” sexually assaulted a girl in a school washroom, this not long after Transgender students were finally “permitted to use” (read: no longer prevented from using) the correct washroom.

Thankfully, the Loudon County Public School District is acting professionally, not releasing information until legally permitted to do so after the cops finish their investigation (which infers the rightwing media, TERF trash and other bigots are breaking the law with their propaganda).

Loudoun School District Issues Statement on Alleged Sexual Assaults

In a written statement released today, Loudoun County Public Schools stated that, under the requirements of Virginia’s State Code, division administrators will not investigate the sexual assaults alleged to have occurred at Stone Bridge High School in May and Broad Run High School just last week, until involved law enforcement agencies have concluded their investigations.

The statement said that the district has followed state code, including the requirement that principals contact law enforcement immediately after learning of a possible felony.

“Once a matter has been reported to law enforcement, LCPS does not begin its investigation until law enforcement advises LCPS that it has completed the criminal investigation.To maintain the integrity of the criminal investigation, law enforcement requested that LCPS not interview students until their investigation is concluded,” the statement said.

The father of theStone Bridge student who was allegedly assaulted in May told Loudoun Now he has been unable to get answers from either the school district or the Sheriff’s Office.

During Tuesday’s School Board meeting, dozens of parents scorned the board and Superintendent Scott Ziegler, charging that the same student was the assailant in both incidents, and had simply been transferred to another Loudoun high school. Representatives of the school division and the Sheriff’s Office have declined to refute or confirm those claims, citing laws governing criminal investigations of juveniles.

School Board members have not publicly comment, and were told they are not permitted to do so because the matters involve ongoing criminal investigations and pending litigation.

The girl’s father Scott Smith has appeared on Fox Nuisance, “interviewed” {*ahem*} by Laura Graham (read: lobbing softballs and leading “questions”).  Smith has since been arrested for inappropriate behaviour at a school board meeting.

According to (amazingly) Fox Nuisance, the teen boy accused of assaulting the girl was wearing an ankle monitor from a previous assault in May.  That means cops already knew who he is, they know his gender identity. If the attacker were actually Trans and NOT a cis hetero male, do you really believe the cops would keep their mouths closed?  They aren’t exactly known for being pro-Trans advocates.

Virginia teen was wearing ankle monitor for prior sexual assault when he groped girl: prosecutors

A Virginia teen was wearing an ankle monitor for a prior sexual assault at his previous high school in Ashburn when he allegedly forced a girl into an empty classroom and groped her at a new school, according to prosecutors.

According to the Loudoun County sheriff’s office, the boy was 14 when he sexually assaulted a girl at Stone Bridge High School on May 28.

[. . .]

Then, on Oct. 6 at Broad Run High School in Ashburn, the same boy, now 15, allegedly forced a victim into an empty classroom, where he touched her inappropriately.

[. . .]

“The October 6, 2021 incident at Broad Run High School did not involve complex circumstances, the arrest was immediate, and the arrest was reported to the community as information released was unlikely to disclose the identity of the victim. However, the May 28, 2021 investigation was different in that the suspect and victim were familiar with each other, the investigation was complex, and a public announcement had the potential to identify a juvenile victim,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Scott Smith – who appeared in a widely circulated video in an altercation with police at a Loudoun County School Board meeting – told Fox News his family was under the impression that the suspect would be detained at his home with ankle monitor, and that he would not return to school until the court process was complete.

Smith has been found guilty of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest for the incident at the board of education meeting.

This reeks of the old maxim, “A lie travels around the globe while the truth is putting on its shoes.”  The facts are NOT yet known, yet the rightwing media, TERFs, and other anti-Trans bigots and liars want their claim spread as far and as fast as possible so that no one will believe the truth when it eventually does come out.  It wouldn’t shock me if the fifteen year old boy’s “skirt” was his jacket tied around his waist.

In recent years, Taiwan had several attempted assaults and multiple attempts to hide cameras in washrooms, or attempted “upskirting” women on the street.  ALL of them involved cisgender heterosexual men, one dressing up to lurk in a toilet.  But to those with hate speech and agendas, the perpetrators being cishetero binary is irrelevant.

Put Up Or Shut Up: All US hospitals and workplaces should do this

Whenever fanatics use religion as an excuse to deny science, it’s always selective and hypocritical cherry picking.  They ignore the science that their rabid ideologue leaders tell them to ignore, but then keep the parts they like despire the fact that both were a product of the same scientific method.

The CEO of a hospital system in Arkansas is calling the fanatics’ bluff, telling them to fully live up to their words, or stop pretending that this is about “freedumb” and personal responsibility.

If only more companies had the spine to do this.  I see that today IBM and American Airlines have given Greg Abbatoir the middle finger, telling him they won’t comply with his anti-vaxxer manchild rant.  I mean, “mandate”.  Other companies need to do this and show that private corporations have the freedom to act in their own interests – something which the republiclowns claim to believe in.

Hospital staff must swear off Tylenol, Tums to get religious vaccine exemption

A hospital system in Arkansas is making it a bit more difficult for staff to receive a religious exemption from its COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The hospital is now requiring staff to also swear off extremely common medicines, such as Tylenol, Tums, and even Preparation H, to get the exemption.

The move was prompted when Conway Regional Health System noted an unusual uptick in vaccine exemption requests that cited the use of fetal cell lines in the development and testing of the vaccines.

“This was significantly disproportionate to what we’ve seen with the influenza vaccine,” Matt Troup, president and CEO of Conway Regional Health System, told Becker’s Hospital Review in an interview Wednesday.

“Thus,” Troup went on, “we provided a religious attestation form for those individuals requesting a religious exemption,” he said. The form includes a list of 30 commonly used medicines that “fall into the same category as the COVID-19 vaccine in their use of fetal cell lines,” Conway Regional said.

The list includes Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, aspirin, Tums, Lipitor, Senokot, Motrin, ibuprofen, Maalox, Ex-Lax, Benadryl, Sudafed, albuterol, Preparation H, MMR vaccine, Claritin, Zoloft, Prilosec OTC, and azithromycin.

My comebacks whenever someone won’t walk the walk and live by their own words:

Put up or shut up.

Show it or stow it.

Step up or step down.

Demonstrate, don’t remonstrate.


I Did Not Know: October 11 was Indigenous People’s Day

I regret not hearing until now that October 11 was Indigenous People’s Day in the US.  I read that Biden issued a proclamation for it on Friday.  This no doubt left the “send them back!” racist republicans seething since First Nations people are called that for a reason.

While it may be a US holiday (Canada’s IPD is on a different day), it happened the day before Canada’s “thanksgiving”.  I’ll bet there are some Canadians today saying “don’t ruin the holiday!”   They said the same “Canada day” (July 1) after 1500 murdered children’s bodies (now over 6000) were uncovered on the grounds of former “residential schools”.



Two other national events happened consecutively this side of the big muddy, something I’ve been planning to write about but life intruded.  Last week was the mass murdering dictatorship’s 72nd anniversary of occupying China, and October 10th was Taiwan’s 110th National Day (independence day, effectively).  How quickly each nation’s fortunes changed in the span of two years.

Just As I Suspected: Tobacco companies paid to fake data, again

In early 2020, a so-called “study” made the rounds claiming, that “smokers are protected from COVID-19!”  It may have been early in the pandemic, but you didn’t need a PhD to figure out that people with lungs damaged by cigarettes would be more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, not less.

Predictably, the paper has been retracted.  Even more unsurprisingly, the “writers” were taking money from tobacco companies without declaring who was funding them.  Now they’re backpedalling and trying to salvage their careers, claiming, “we weren’t influenced!”  Good luck with that.

Scientific paper claiming smokers less likely to acquire Covid retracted over tobacco industry links

A scientific paper claiming current smokers are 23% less likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19 compared to non-smokers has been retracted by a medical journal, after it was discovered some of the paper’s authors had financial links to the tobacco industry.

[. . .]

The latest edition of the European Respiratory Journal included a retraction notice for the paper, stating: “It was brought to the editors’ attention that two of the authors had failed to disclose potential conflicts of interest at the time of the manuscript’s submission.”

“That is, one of the authors (José M. Mier) at the time had a current and ongoing role in providing consultancy to the tobacco industry on tobacco harm reduction; and another (Konstantinos Poulas) at the time was a principal investigator for the Greek NGO NOSMOKE … a science and innovation hub that has received funding from the Foundation for a Smoke Free World (an organisation funded by the tobacco industry).”

Apparently, the European Respiratory Journal didn’t scrutinize that paper before publishing it.  Are we sure that’s the only time this happened?

Properly researched papers are showing the exact opposite: higher rates of illness and hospitalization

Smokers up to 80% more likely to be admitted to hospital with Covid, study says

Smokers are 60%-80% more likely to be admitted to hospital with Covid-19 and also more likely to die from the disease, data suggests.

A study, which pooled observational and genetic data on smoking and Covid-19 to strengthen the evidence base, contradicts research published at the start of the pandemic suggesting that smoking might help to protect against the virus.

[. . .]

One problem is that most of these studies have been observational, making it difficult to establish whether smoking is the cause of any increased risk, or whether something else is to blame, such as smokers being more likely to come from a lower socioeconomic background.

Dr Ashley Clift at the University of Oxford and colleagues drew on GP health records, Covid-19 test results, hospital admissions data and death certificates to identify associations between smoking and Covid-19 severity from January to August 2020 in 421,469 participants of the UK Biobank study – all of whom had also previously had their genetic makeup analysed.

Compared with those who had never smoked, current smokers were 80% more likely to be admitted to hospital and significantly more likely to die from Covid-19 if they became infected.

Here’s a link to the study, published in the British Medical Journal:

Smoking and COVID-19 outcomes: an observational and Mendelian randomisation study using the UK Biobank cohort


Background Conflicting evidence has emerged regarding the relevance of smoking on risk of COVID-19 and its severity.

[. . .]

Results There were 421 469 eligible participants, 1649 confirmed infections, 968 COVID-19-related hospitalisations and 444 COVID-19-related deaths. Compared with never-smokers, current smokers had higher risks of hospitalisation (OR 1.80, 95% CI 1.26 to 2.29) and mortality (smoking 1–9/day: OR 2.14, 95% CI 0.87 to 5.24; 10–19/day: OR 5.91, 95% CI 3.66 to 9.54; 20+/day: OR 6.11, 95% CI 3.59 to 10.42). In MR analyses of 281 105 White British participants, genetically predicted propensity to initiate smoking was associated with higher risks of infection (OR 1.45, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.91) and hospitalisation (OR 1.60, 95% CI 1.13 to 2.27). Genetically predicted higher number of cigarettes smoked per day was associated with higher risks of all outcomes (infection OR 2.51, 95% CI 1.20 to 5.24; hospitalisation OR 5.08, 95% CI 2.04 to 12.66; and death OR 10.02, 95% CI 2.53 to 39.72).

Interpretation Congruent results from two analytical approaches support a causal effect of smoking on risk of severe COVID-19.

It’s well documented that cigarette companies intentionally target poor and non-white neighborhoods in the US, with as much as ten times the advertising you will see in white neighborhoods.  And it’s far worse in countries without well developed anti-tobacco legislation.  From the Truth Initiative:

Tobacco is a social justice issue: Racial and ethnic minorities

While the youth smoking rate has now dropped to a record low of 6 percent, that number does not tell the whole story. Tobacco use disproportionately affects many marginalized populations—including people in low-income communities, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBT individuals and those with mental illness—who have a long and documented history of being targeted by the tobacco industry.

Black people smoke at a similar rate compared to white people, with 16.7 percent smoking every day or some days, but they are more likely to die from a tobacco-related disease than white people. American Indians and Alaska Natives smoke at higher rates than all other racial and ethnic groups, with 21.9 percent reporting that they have smoked every day or some days.

Why do these disparities along lines of race and ethnicity exist? The answer is tied to the many ways that tobacco use disproportionately affects minority groups, who have a long history of being targeted by the tobacco industry.

Tobacco companies have strategically marketed tobacco products to appeal to racial and ethnic communities for decades.

The most striking example is menthol cigarettes. These cigarettes, which are easier to smoke and harder to quit, have long been marketed to the black community. About 85 percent of all black smokers use menthol cigarettes, a rate that is nearly three times higher than white smokers. (More on menthol smoking rates.)

Big Tobacco has sponsored cultural events, targeted direct mail promotions and placed advertising in publications and venues that are popular with black audiences. For example, a 2011 review concluded that Ebony magazine was almost 10 times more likely than People magazine to contain an advertisement for menthol cigarettes. The marketing is so pervasive, that a 2013 study found that black children were three times more likely to recognize advertisements for Newport, the most popular menthol brand among that group, than other children.

This is why (even before the pandemic) tobacco companies have been fighting tooth and nail to prevent a ban on menthol cigarettes and targeted advertising, marketing them directly at Black people.  Nearly all adult smokers began when they were teenagers.  Just like religion, if they don’t addict them while they are young, they never get them.

I don’t expect tobacco companies to be on the hook for any lawsuits despite the fact that their product is most likely to kill the most vulnerable people.  But they should be facing lawsuits and paying compensation for intentionally encouraging and facilitating smoking during lockdowns.  From the Southeast Asian Tobacco Control Alliance:

Tobacco companies thrived during COVID-19 pandemic

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, transnational tobacco companies continued to sell their cigarettes while stepping-up sales of vape and heated tobacco products. The pandemic may have caused temporary disruption to their business, but they bounced back and the companies made profits.

[. . .]

According to its president, “During this period, we grew share in most of our key markets and captured pricing opportunities. … While we expect the operating environment in 2021 to remain highly uncertain, we expect to continue gaining market share globally both in combustibles and in RRP.”

“Captured pricing opportunities”?  More like captive audiences, targeting bored people with nothing to do.  It’s predatory and racist capitalism at its worst.

Anti-Vaxxer Fanaticism Kills: Literally

I saw this item from the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) on Friday but had a two day birthday to attend.  Upon reading it, I felt the same amusement that Australians did.  I mean, seriously?  “Orwellian oppression”?  Australia’s government (despite being a bunch of rightwing buffoons) have managed not to screw up and keep COVID-19 under control without drastic measures that other countries have resorted to, despite the outbreaks they’ve had.

Australia and Taiwan have similar populations, number of COVID cases, and number of deaths.  Only the population density is different.

Crowds of anti-vaccine protesters chant ‘save Australia’ during rally in New York

Some Australians have reacted with bemusement to an anti-vaccination protest in New York where US demonstrators vowed to “save” Australia from COVID-19 lockdowns.

Hundreds of Americans opposing mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for teachers have rallied outside the Australian consulate in New York City, chanting “Save Australia!” in an attempt to highlight lockdown restrictions in parts of the country.

Waving cardboard cutouts of Australian flags, calling for “freedom” and chanting “we will not comply”, the protesters marched across the city’s streets, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge before stopping at the Australian consulate in Manhattan for speeches.

Even the protests they’ve had in Australia have been restrained compared to the anti-vaxxer nonsense we’ve seen in the US.

What I didn’t expect to see today (Saturday) was this story from Maryland, an anti-vaxxer wingnut who murdered his brother, a pharmacist distributing vaccinations against COVID-19.

Man killed pharmacist brother over COVID vaccine shots he thought government was using to poison people, court documents say

A Maryland man charged in the deaths of his brother, sister-in-law and another woman may have killed his brother, a pharmacist, because the brother was administering COVID-19 vaccines, charging documents show, according to CBS Washington, D.C. affiliate WUSA-TV.

Jeffrey Burnham, 46, of Cumberland, “wanted to confront” his brother “with the government poisoning people with COVID vaccines,” one document reads, adding, “He repeatedly stated, ‘Brian knows something!'”

Burnham’s mother told detectives he planned to confront his brother, 58-year-old Brian Robinette, Howard County court documents specify.

The documents say Burnham also killed Robinette’s wife, 57-year-old Kelly Sue Robinette and another woman, identified as 83-year-old Rebecca Reynolds.

Jiminy Crickets.  Not only a triple murder for no reason whatsoever, but also who knows how many denied a vaccine and could potentially die.  How many more assaults and murders will this incite?  Violence can also be contagious.

Timing Is Everything: And bad timing at that

This meme/joke appeared in a group on Wednesday.  I wasn’t laughing when I saw it because I knew it would be true again soon.

But I didn’t expect it to be that soon, twelve hours before the school shooting in Texas.

This was my semi-sarcastic response to the meme when it appeared:

The myth: “All US currency has traces of cocaine on it!”

The reality: It has traces of gunpowder.

Somehow, I suspect that’s true.

About To Collapse: The other half of the PRC’s construction collapse

China’s real estate and construction industries are on the brink of financial collapse.  It’s not just Evergrande, it’s other companies like Fantasia and Chinese Estates Holdings that are making moves to avoid government action.

China’s construction industry and construction firms are also under pressure thanks to the growing number of building collapses.  This summer, several buildings within the PRC have either collapsed due to poor construction, or been intentionally demolished for reasons of safety.  None of them have been a result of earthquakes.

And it’s not just buildings, it’s roads.  Sinkholes have appeared in cities, roads washed away by flooding, foundations under roads and buildings eroded with the rain.  The PRC’s flooding problem is worse in 2021 than it was in 2020, so bad that they are intentionally destroying dams to alleviate pressure or controlled demolition before they collapse catastrophically.

[ A word of note before beginning: Finding good sources for some parts of this post was difficult, and I doubt some that I’m using.  If more reliable sources appear, I’ll update them. ]

First, to outline the problem with a credible source, emphasis in the text is mine.  From The Diplomat, 2012:

China’s Dangerous Tofu Projects

The term “tofu project” was first coined by Premier Zhu Rongji in 1998, who said on a tour of flood dykes on the Yangtze River that they were as flimsy and porous as tofu dregs, the leftover bits in the tofu-making process. The term – and the problem – gained national traction after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, where 20,000 of the almost 70,000 victims were schoolchildren who died in collapsed school buildings, which were later proven to be hastily and shoddily built.

Four years later, the problem of “tofu projects” remains. 

In July 2010, anger over shoddy construction erupted in an area hit hard by the Sichuan earthquake when a building intended to be a new home for earthquake  victims collapsed (or was demolished, according to state sources) just a few weeks before completion.

In November 2010, 53 people were killed in a high-rise apartment building fire caused by an unlicensed welder. And last month, a car accident in Jiangsu Province revealed that a dam built atop of a Yangtze River tributary was filled with reeds instead of steel beams.

There were several other similar incidents throughout this summer alone.  But these are not isolated cases; “tofu dreg” buildings have been an issue for twenty years.

Washington Post, July, an article mentioning multiple collapses, fires and explosions

BBC, July: Hotel collapse in China’s Suzhou kills 17, injures five

ANI India, August: 4 killed, 7 injured in building collapse in China

Yahoo, September: Building collapses into floodwaters in China

Indian Express, September: Fifteen skyscrapers left unfinished for years demolished after rain damage

The current worst has to be the SEG Plaze in Shenzhen.  In a mild breeze, the building visibly wobbles at the top.  The building is so unstable that it has been abandoned by tenants.  Official government propaganda claims it is “safe”, but no one will go back unless forced at gunpoint.  Instead of a crown jewel on the city, it has turned into China’s equivalent of the Ryugyong Hotel.  There is video of the shaking.

The Guardian: Panic as 300-metre-high skyscraper wobbles in China

One of China’s tallest skyscrapers was evacuated on Tuesday after it began to shake, sending panicked shoppers scampering to safety.

The near 300 metre (980ft) high SEG Plaza in Shenzhen, southern China, inexplicably began to shake at around 1pm, prompting an evacuation of people inside while pedestrians looked on open-mouthed.

The building was closed by 2.40pm, according to local media reports.

Completed in 2000, the tower is home to a major electronics market as well as various offices in the centre of one of China’s fastest-growing cities.

Officials are investigating what caused the tower in the city’s Futian district to wobble, according to a post on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.

Beijing is so panicked that buildings over 500 metres will no longer be approved, and anything over 250 metres will require special permission, and be limited in number.  I wonder what they’re going to do about the 600 metre tall China 117 Tower.  It’s unfinished and unoccupied, but nobody has the money to complete it.  At least that one’s not in danger of collapsing. . .yet.

Below the fold are less credible sources from youtube videos.  Take all of them with the same heavy dose of skepticism I do.

[Read more…]

Hilarity Ensued: Facebook’s day off

I would imagine most reading FtB had a good laugh about facebook’s farce.

Computerphile’s Steve Bagley ably explains how and why facebook shot themselves in the foot.



What’s also amusing is how facebook addicts freak out about outages.  When it happened in 2019 for a similar length of time, some started calling the cops.  I remember news items saying this happened so often that cops warned people not to do it.  No doubt they put the warning on their facebook pages.

The outage happened just before midnight my time, so I shrugged, kept writing and watching youtube, then went to bed.  Few people I know would have been awake and affected by the shutdown.

Akin To Rape: His words motivate every anti-abortion law today

Todd Akin killed his career in 2012 with one sentence, suffering a political death.  As of today, Akin finally has a legitimate death.  Good riddance.

He didn’t “die of cancer”. He WAS a cancer.

It was Akin who ignorantly said during his 2012 senate re-election campaign, “From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare [. . .] If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin may have been the one to say it aloud, but we all know full well that every rightwingnut who is a pro-rape, anti-woman, politician since then who has tried to outlaw abortion (e.g. Greg Abbatoir) believe the exact same thing: “If she’s pregnant, she wasn’t raped.  If she says she was, it’s a false accusation against an innocent man.”

Proving that point, it was today that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had to school fools on the realities of pregnancy and rape, on rightwingnuts still promoting the fictions they learnt from Bill Cosby and teenage male bathroom talk.  AOC is more than A-OK, she’s fantastic at exposing those frauds.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Teaches GOP Basic Female Anatomy During Abortion Hearing

“Once again we’re in a room of legislators who are attempting to legislate reproductive systems that they know nothing about,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a congressional hearing about the new law.

[. . .]

“When you are raped, you don’t always know what happened to you,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And I speak about this as a survivor. … You are in so much shock at what happened to you, sometimes it takes years to realize what actually went on.”

[. . .]

Ocasio-Cortez also pointed out that rapes are “overwhelmingly” committed by someone the victim knows, even though some legislators would lead you to believe otherwise.

“This myth, that it’s some person lurking on a street or in a parking lot waiting to sexually assault you, that myth only benefits the abusers in power that want you to think that that’s how it happens,” she said, peering around the room. “It’s your friend. It’s a boyfriend. It’s a boss. It’s a legislator.”

Akin may not have (as far as we know) raped women himself, but his words empowered those who want to legalize it, to criminalize and imprison women who have natural miscarriages, never mind having an abortion.  His words made it possible.  His words were Akin to legalizing rape.

Paris Parle : Two tales of one city

You can tell a lot about a media’s agenda, who it’s beholden to, which advertisers dictate it’s editorial view by the stories it publishes.

Two items were recently published about Paris after the decision to ban cars from many roads and create pedestrian and bicycle spaces while limit speeds on other roads.  One appeared in the New York Timid Times, the other in Slate (hardly the bastion of objectivity, but the lesser of two evils here).  You can guess how this one is going to turn out.

On Friday, the NYT published this tripes, claiming cyclists are terrorizing public streets and making it unsafe to be a pedestrian.  As if it were safe to walk with cars speeding down alleys at 50kmh.  The US “car culture” mentality and obedience to corporate interests (big three and big oil) are evident throughout.  It’s all unsubstantiated anecdotes and accusations, full of scare words like “socialist”, and sparse on facts.

As Bikers Throng the Streets, ‘It’s Like Paris Is in Anarchy’

An ecologically minded experiment to make Paris a cycling capital of Europe has led to a million people now pedaling daily — and to rising tensions with pedestrians.

By Liz Alderman

PARIS — On a recent afternoon, the Rue de Rivoli looked like this: Cyclists blowing through red lights in two directions. Delivery bike riders fixating on their cellphones. Electric scooters careening across lanes. Jaywalkers and nervous pedestrians scrambling as if in a video game.

Sarah Famery, a 20-year resident of the Marais neighborhood, braced for the tumult. She looked left, then right, then left and right again before venturing into a crosswalk, only to break into a rant-laden sprint as two cyclists came within inches of grazing her.

“It’s chaos!” exclaimed Ms. Famery, shaking a fist at the swarm of bikes that have displaced cars on the Rue de Rivoli ever since it was remade into a multilane highway for cyclists last year. “Politicians want to make Paris a cycling city, but no one is following any rules,” she said. “It’s becoming risky just to cross the street!”

[. . .]

Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is campaigning for the French presidency, has been burnishing her credentials as an ecologically minded Socialist candidate. She has earned admirers and enemies alike with a bold program to transform greater Paris into the world’s leading environmentally sustainable metropolis, reclaiming vast swaths of the city from cars for parks, pedestrians and a Copenhagen-style cycling revolution.

She has made highways along the Seine car-free and last year, during coronavirus lockdowns, oversaw the creation of over 100 miles of new bike paths. She plans to limit cars in 2022 in the heart of the city, along half of the Right Bank and through the Boulevard Saint Germain.

Parisians have heeded the call: A million people in a metropolis of 10 million are now pedaling daily. And Paris now ranks among the world’s top 10 cycling cities.

But with success has come major growing pains.

“It’s like Paris is in anarchy,” said Jean-Conrad LeMaitre, a former banker who was out for a stroll recently along the Rue de Rivoli. “We need to reduce pollution and improve the environment,” he said. “But everyone is just doing as they please. There are no police, no fines, no training and no respect.”

[. . .]

Back on the Rue de Rivoli, cyclists swerved to avoid pedestrians playing a game of chicken with oncoming bikes. “Pay attention!” a cyclist in a red safety vest and goggles shouted at three women crossing against a red light, as he nearly crashed in the rain.

Cyclists say Paris hasn’t done enough to make bike commuting safe. Bike accidents jumped 35 percent last year, from 2019. Paris en Selle, a cycling organization, has held protests calling for road security after several cyclists were killed in collisions with motorists, including, recently, a 2-year-old boy riding with his father who was killed near the Louvre when a truck turned into them.

So the father was at fault for not getting out of the way of the truck, not the truck for failing to obey the law and ensure it could turn safely?  How very auto-cratic of you, Ms. Alderman.

And “everyone is doing as they please with no respect”?  As if drivers ever do.  They act like no one has the right to be outside a building safely except inside a vehicle.

Now compare this with the Slate article from September 15:

The Liberation of Paris From Cars Is Working

By Henry Grabar

Over the past six years, Paris has done more than almost any city in the world to take space back from cars. Mayor Anne Hidalgo has opened linear parks in the old highways along the Seine, phased out diesel cars in the city, opened bus lanes, raised parking meter prices, and plowed bike lanes down hundreds of streets. When COVID hit, Paris eliminated cars from the Rue de Rivoli, its major crosstown thoroughfare. Plans are in the works to pedestrianize the Champs-Elysées and plant thousands of trees to green, clean, and cool the city.

As the adjunct mayor for transportation and public space, David Belliard is the point man for many of these endeavors. His latest projects include establishing car-free zones outside schools and enforcing the capital’s new speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour—a notch below 20 mph.

Earlier this month, I met him in his office to talk about Paris, COVID, and cars. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

David Belliard: You want an overview?

Henry Grabar: Sure.

OK, quickly: At the start of the 20th century, in the ’20s, ’30s, the car asserts itself as a travel mode in urban centers, which are transformed. Paris is clearly an old city with many centuries of history with an urban fabric. Even though it was transformed by Haussmann in the 19th century, it has an extremely dense urban fabric with a lot of small streets and a configuration a priori not adapted to the auto. When the car arrives, we transform what we can call public space, and this public space becomes automobile space, with the logical system of the car imposing itself in Paris. And public space is completely devoured, eaten away, and in a certain way privatized to one single, unique use.

Very quickly we see the limits of “total car” in Paris, even in the ’60s and ’70s. We try to say, “How can we preserve this city?”

The excerpts continue below the fold.

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Finally He Retires: But his replacement won’t be an improvement

So Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is quitting politics after his six year term ends. His legacy will be one of incompetence (not just how he mishandled COVID-19), violence, mass murder, corruption, intimidation and kowtowing to the PRC.  About the only crime that he didn’t commit while president that I thought he’d try was to attempt a military coup.  He probably didn’t have the support, not after how he treated some of the military as “political enemies”.

But just because the Monster of Manila is leaving doesn’t mean the Philippines will be any better off.  The three “leading candidates” to replace him are a long time crony in the Philippine senate, his daughter who is reportedly just as violent, and Manny “Punch Drunk” Pacquiao, a rabid transphobe and homophobe.

Rodrigo Duterte: Philippine president announces retirement from politics

The 76-year-old leader said last month that he would run for the vice-presidency in 2022. The country’s constitution only permits presidents to serve a single six-year term.

But he now says he will withdraw, as “the overwhelming sentiment of the Filipinos is that I am not qualified”.

The move comes amid speculation that his daughter could run for president.

Mr Duterte, a controversial “strongman” figure, came to power in 2016 promising to reduce crime and fix the country’s drug crisis.

But critics say that during his five years in power, Mr Duterte has encouraged police to carry out thousands of extrajudicial killings of suspects in what he has called his “war on drugs”.

Here’s another report from ABC.

I guess I won’t be taking another vacation in the Philippines after COVID-19 is under control.

Can You Guess: What was his skin colour?

If I say to you, “a Florida man shot and killed a cop and was arrested after a five day manhunt”, I’m sure you can guess his skin tone.

At the propaganda conference, one of the cops talked tough, saying, “He crawled out like a baby. Like the coward that he is”.

Funny thing, that’s what I say about every cop that hides behind a badge and is protected by his department and union after murdering an innocent and unarmed Black person.

More below.

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