Life after pandemic restrictions are lifted

In my part of the country, restrictions are being lifted and people who are vaccinated are now gathering together even indoors without masks. This has been a great relief to many people who found the enforced isolation during the past year very difficult to deal with. I am one of the people for whom being solitary was not a problem. I am not a misanthrope, exactly, in that I do not actively shun the company of others. But the things that I enjoy doing the most (reading, writing, thinking) are those that are best done in solitude. Hence I like to maintain large expanses of time alone between my socializing with others.

But sometimes I wonder whether my sympathies with Rat should be a cause for concern …

(Pearls Before Swine)

Would I stay or would I go?

The horrific collapse of a 12-story beachfront condominium building in Florida consisting of 136 units has resulted in 16 people being killed and another 149 still missing. While it will take some time to determine the cause of the collapse, suspicions are focused on problems with the foundations or that the salty air caused the steel used in the framework to corrode. A letter written by the president of the condominium association three months before the collapse said that the building needed $15 million in major maintenance and repairs.

There is another identical building just one block away that was built by the same company at the same time forty years ago and now those residents have to make the decision as to whether to stay or leave. This is not an easy decision and would depend on many factors. These units are expensive but their value would have dropped now and some people may not be able to sell and find another place. It would also depend on whether they lived alone (in which case they would only be risking their own demise) or whether they lived with loved ones which might tilt the decision towards moving. It would also depend upon age. Older people find it harder to move and may also feel that they have less to lose by staying.
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How long can Trump sing the same old songs?

Donald Trump held a rally in Ohio on Saturday, his first since leaving office. It was ostensibly in support of a Republican candidate mounting a primary challenge to an incumbent Republican congressperson who had committed the sin of voting in favor of Trump’s impeachment. But of course, the rally was about him. Everything is always about him.

So what did Trump say to the thousands who turned out to hear their Dear Leader? Did he have anything new? Apparently not.

Appearing to relish being back in front of thousands of supporters, Trump repeated his false claim that his defeat in the November 2020 election was marred by fraud.

Trump survived a second impeachment on a charge linked to the violence and has kept broad influence over the Republican Party, in part by leaving open the question of whether he will run for office again in 2024.

He dangled that possibility on Saturday to the crowd.

“We won the election twice and it’s possible we’ll have to win it a third time. It’s possible,” he said.

The former president highlighted parts of his regular grievance list at the rally, with particular focus on the rising number of immigrants crossing over the U.S. southern border, an issue Republicans have zeroed in on to rally their voters.

Trump repeatedly attacked what he called “woke generals,” following an exchange this week in which the top U.S. military officer hit back against a growing conservative movement opposed to teaching certain theories about racism.

“Our generals and our admirals are now focused more on this nonsense than they are on our enemies,” Trump said.

He criticized the media, a regular foil, and tried to co-opt the phrase “Big Lie,” which critics have used to describe his efforts to discredit the 2020 results.

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John Oliver on Christian health scam

Health care is something that everyone needs and sometimes urgently. Because the health industry in the US is mostly private, this leaves it wide open for unscrupulous people to take advantage of this need for their own profit. Add to that the wide leeway that the US gives to religious organizations and it should not come as a surprise that groups acting under the umbrella of religion are making money claiming to support for people’s health care needs without actually doing so.

John Oliver looks at one such program that goes by the name of Health Care Sharing Ministries and shows how easy it is to claim that an entity is a religious organization and take advantage of all the loopholes.

An encouraging result for LGBT rights

The US Supreme Court, by a 7-2 margin, has declined to hear a case where a school board appealed a lower court verdict against their policy of demanding that students only use bathrooms according to the gender assigned to them at birth, thus providing a victory for transgender rights.

The case involved a former high school student, Gavin Grimm, who filed a federal lawsuit after he was told he could not use the boys’ bathroom at his public high school.

The policy of the school board for Gloucester county, Virginia required Grimm to use restrooms that corresponded with his biological sex – female – or private bathrooms.

Last August, the US court of appeals for the fourth circuit ruled that the board had practiced sex-based discrimination and violated Grimm’s 14th amendment rights by prohibiting him from using the boys’ restroom.

Judge Henry Floyd wrote: “The proudest moments of the federal judiciary have been when we affirm the burgeoning values of our bright youth, rather than preserve the prejudices of the past.”

Nonetheless, on the supreme court Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, two of the most hardline justices on a panel slanted 6-3 in favor of conservatives, voted to hear the board’s appeal.

Upholding the decision of the appeals court sets a strong legal precedent. But because the supreme court has chosen not to hear the case itself, there is still no nationwide ruling on the issue.

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The Covid Delta variant is hitting the unvaccinated

The Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is now rapidly becoming the dominant strain. This variant is more easily transmissible and more dangerous, and Dhruv Kullar warns that from the evidence gained so far from the UK, it poses a greater risk to the unvaccinated.

Earlier this year, scientists estimated that lineage B.1.1.7-the Alpha variant, first isolated in England-could be some sixty per cent more transmissible than the original version of sars-CoV-2. Now experts believe that the Delta variant is sixty per cent more transmissible than Alpha-making it far more contagious than the virus that tore through the world in 2020. It hasn’t yet been conclusively shown that Delta is more lethal, but early evidence from the U.K. suggests that, compared to Alpha, it doubles the risk of a person’s being hospitalized. Even if the variant turns out to be no deadlier within any one person, its greater transmissibility means that it can inflict far more damage across a population, depending on how many people remain unvaccinated when it strikes.

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Tour de France crash

Crashes and pileups at the Tour de France are not that rare. This is not surprising since we have riders going at high speeds while bunched close together and weaving in and out and even the most skillful riders can occasionally make a wrong move that causes a crash. Last year the Tour de France was held with fewer spectators lining the streets because of covid-19 restrictions. This year the crowds were back in full force but the presence of one particular fan caused a massive pile up of riders.

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Boris Johnson loses his health minister over multiple scandals

Over in the UK Matt Hancock, the minister of health in Boris Johnson’s government, who presided over a poor handling of the covid-19 pandemic that saw the UK have relatively high totals of deaths and infections, has resigned just a day after it was revealed that he was having an affair. Johnson had earlier said that he had accepted his apology and that he considered the matter closed but Hancock resigned soon after.
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Cricket, race, and politics

There are those who would argue that politics has no place in sports. But the reality is that it is almost impossible to keep politics out, especially in international competitions. The history of cricket is inextricably tied up with race and politics. The game originated with the English upper classes and was taken by them to their colonies. But racism was always part of the backdrop to the game. In the colonies of the West Indies, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, the game was initially dominated by English expatriates while in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand it was played almost exclusively by white people. Furthermore, South Africa was under a system of apartheid that excluded people of color from playing on mixed teams while Australia had a ‘whites only’ immigration policy and was infamous for the racist abuse that spectators would hurl at visiting teams that had players of color.
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The fake outrage over ‘critical race theory’ may make the label mainstream

We have seen a clear pattern. Republicans and their allies in the right wing media seize upon a label or phrase that contains a term that can be exploited to gin up rage among the base and then relentlessly flog falsehoods about it with the goal of making it toxic. The current favorite is ‘critical race theory’, the label given to the academic study of the way that racism has been institutionalized in the US via its laws. It is usually taught at the college level in selected courses that deal with race and society. In right-wing hands, however, it is being portrayed as a massive propaganda effort that seeks to portray all white people as evil and is being taught all the way down to the level of primary schools.
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