The walls are closing in on vaccine and mask deniers

We are now in the third, fourth, or fifth wave of the pandemic in the US, depending on who’s counting. What is undeniable is that following an average low of around 80,000 weekly cases on June 22, we have now reached about 640,000 cases, an eightfold increase. Death rates reached a low of 1,500 on July 5th and have started rising since then, following the expected pattern of death rates lagging infection rates by about two weeks. Almost all this rise is among the unvaccinated and these people tend to be concentrated in places where there is a high level of vaccine hesitancy and outright resistance, mostly in Republican-dominated areas. But there are encouraging signs that those people who have been vigorously campaigning against vaccines and masks and other measures to combat the pandemic are losing the battle.
[Read more…]

Leftist wins first round of Ecuador’s presidential elections

Leftist candidate Andrés Arauz has won the first round of the Ecuadoran presidential elections, coming ahead of the neoliberal candidate that was heavily backed by the US. Dennis Rogatyuk describes the complicated politics of that country with its various factions and shifting alliances that remind me a lot of Sri Lankan politics.

The first round of the Ecuadorian presidential election held on February 7 was engulfed in chaos and controversies. But it also saw the overhaul of the political map — and an end to the short-lived dominance of the country’s main neoliberal actors.

The top-placed candidate was left-winger Andrés Arauz, close to former president Rafael Correa and his “Citizens’ Revolution”: he won nearly 33 percent support and his Union for Hope (UNES) coalition became the largest force in the National Assembly. Meanwhile the alliance of the two traditional conservative parties Creating Opportunities party (CREO) and the Social Christian Party (PSC) headed by the country’s most notorious corporate banker, Guillermo Lasso, obtained less than 20 percent — a loss of more than half of its strength since 2017. Yet more surprising was the emergence of two newcomers — Carlos “Yaku” Pérez of the indigenist Pachakutik party (19.5 percent) and Xavier Hervas of the liberal Democratic Left (16 percent).

[Read more…]

How many steps a day do you need?

I spend most of my days in a sedentary fashion, seated at the computer or reading. This is not good for one’s health generally but sitting for long times especially runs the risk of deep vein thrombosis.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs. Deep vein thrombosis can cause leg pain or swelling, but also can occur with no symptoms.

Deep vein thrombosis can be very serious because blood clots in your veins can break loose, travel through your bloodstream and lodge in your lungs, blocking blood flow (pulmonary embolism).

[Read more…]

Reflections on last night’s ‘debate’

I watched the first presidential ‘debate’ last night between Joe Biden and Donald Trump with the idea of taking notes for an analytic blog post but within the first few minutes I gave up because what was happening was, to put it mildly, an utter disgrace. It was not a debate. It was a display of childish, petulant, rude behavior by a man-child that happens to be the president of the United States.

From the beginning Trump had an angry, choleric look, florid, scowling, and pouting, constantly interrupting and talking over Joe Biden and the moderator Chris Wallace. (Don’t they put make up on people so that they do not look so red?) Wallace was reduced to pleading with Trump to follow the rules that his team had agreed to and let the other person speak but it was no use. Trump simply raged on. Wallace has been criticized for losing control of the debate but it is not clear what he could have done other than simply get up and walk off, since Trump was so out of control. And I really mean out of control. Trump did not look like someone who was carrying out a pre-planned strategy of interrupting to throw Biden off balance. It was the other way around. Not only did Biden not get rattled, he would laugh at Trump and call him a clown and a racist and that seemed to enrage Trump even more. Trump looked like a man who is angry and thinks he is going to lose the election because he is being treated unfairly by everyone, including people in his own administration, and just let all his grievances pour out. It was a litany of the applause lines that he gives the audience at his rallies and on twitter but in the context of the debate they just seemed like random rants that had no connective tissue.
[Read more…]

Clue to matter domination in universe may lie in CP violation detected in neutrinos

A recent news report suggests that time–reversal violation may have been observed in neutrino reactions. (You can read the paper on which the report is based here.) Why is this important? Because it may shed light on a long-standing puzzle and that is why it is that in the universe we inhabit, matter is vastly more abundant than anti-matter.

Why is this a puzzle? Because when matter is created out of pure energy, it seems to be always the case that the amount of matter and anti-matter are identical. So in the Big Bang when energy was transformed into all the matter and anti-matter now in the universe, there should have been equal numbers of both. But since we now see so little anti-matter, it has been argued that this is because of the violation of what is known as ‘time-reversal symmetry’, that causes anti-matter to decay at a different (and faster) rate than matter, leading to its current depleted quantities. [UPDATE: See a correction to this in the comments.]
[Read more…]

Joe Biden wins big in South Carolina

With about 3% of the votes counted, Joe Biden has been projected to win the South Carolina primary. Given that the result was called almost immediately after the polls closed, it looks like he will have a big margin of victory over the currently second Bernie Sanders.

Currently Biden has about 50%, Sanders 19%, Tom Steyer 12%, Pete Buttigieg 8%, Elizabeth Warren 6%, and Amy Klobuchar 4%. Michael Bloomberg was not on the ballot here, staking everything on the 16 contests to be held in three days time on Super Tuesday.

These numbers will change as more votes come in but usually not by more than a few percentage points.

The large margin of victory will undoubtedly give a boost to the flagging Biden campaign going in to Super Tuesday and revive the hopes of the Democratic party establishment that he can stop the rise of Sanders. It will be bad news to those who were hoping to pick up the centrist mantle from him if he should falter.

What to expect in the Democratic debate tonight

The next Democratic debate will take place tonight in Charleston, South Carolina which holds its primary on Saturday. This will also be the last debate before the Super Tuesday primaries next Tuesday, March 3 and so will be the final chance for candidates to make their case to a national audience before those votes are cast. There will be seven people on the stage tonight: Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, and Elizabeth Warren.

Steyer is the new addition from the last debate which means that we will have two billionaires on the stage touting their glorious billionairosity that makes them supremely qualified to take on Trump and become president. After all, phony billionaire and failed businessman Donald Trump became president, so wouldn’t either of them be better positioned to take on Trump than people who are not insanely wealthy? The sad thing is that some people actually buy that argument.
[Read more…]

Does religious identification change as people get older?

Kevin Drum reproduces a chart from the Wall Street Journal that shows the results of a survey in which the percentage of people in the US who identify as Christians decreases as you go to younger age cohorts, while the number who are unaffiliated increases.

He concludes that Christianity is dying out in 21st century America as it finally catches up with Europe that saw a major drop with identification with Christianity in the last century. But such claims can be challenged by the assertion that as the young people of today get older, they will become more religious, so that there will be no long term changes.

So what we need is to compare this chart with a similar chart made decades ago to see if there is an actual drop across all age groups. Maybe the Wall Street Journal article has this information but it is behind a paywall and I cannot access it.