Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 17th, 2020

Here’s where the US is headed

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Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2020 at 6:33 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Video

The Coming Bailout Is a Moral Failure

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Franklin Foer writes in the Atlantic:

Yesterday, I left the protective membrane of my house to get a bit of exercise. As I ran down to the corner, along our main street, I could see the victims of the virus everywhere. There was the movie palace, which has existed since the 1930s as the source of neighborhood identity and a monument to the past. The windows holding promotional posters were bare; the shades were pulled down over the ticket booth. As I peered into the empty stores, I saw the familiar figures of daily life slumped over their counters. There was the dry cleaner, who has promised my daughter a job when she turns 15; there was the surly woman at the Italian deli counter, who has inexplicably given me the stink eye for the past 20 years. I got teary-eyed as I plodded past them. Before social distancing ends, they will likely be erased from commercial and communal existence.

In the meantime, the lobbyists are set to plunder. This morning I heard Nicholas Calio on the radio. During George W. Bush’s administration, he was the White House’s smooth operator on the Hill, a kibitzer and arm-twister who advanced its legislative agenda. Now he works for the airline industry, and he was pleading on its behalf. Of course, there’s every reason to keep vital industries afloat. A vibrant economy needs a transit system. But the injustice of spending $50 billion on the airlines should drive the public to apoplexy. The companies that used their fat profits to buy back stocks as they constricted the distance between seats, that only managed to innovate by charging new fees, will be the ones the government chooses to salvage.

The coming bailout is a familiar moral catastrophe. During the financial crisis, the government saved the banking industry’s bacon, while asking exceedingly little of the culprits. When the government spends billions of dollars to save industries, it has enormous leverage. This is the moment when Congress can shape an economy. It should demand, for instance, that the airlines keep their workers in their jobs; it should place hard caps on executive pay and prohibit stock buybacks; it can demand that airlines take steps to reduce their Sasquatch-size carbon footprint. (And, damnit, Congress should require that their seats actually recline!) If the industry wants the public’s money, it will have to deal with it.

In a crisis, the government can’t save everything. Just as hospitals must ration ventilators, the government must make choices. These choices are excruciating because every industry that perishes will take down workers and investors with it. But just because choices are excruciating doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be made. Rather, if the public doesn’t make moral demands of its politicians, then the politicians will protect the well connected; they will siphon money to cronies: The Trump administration is considering billions in aid to casino magnates like Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson. While casinos are important employers, they also preside over a gambling industry that addicts and abuses citizens—why should they get pulled from the fire while independent booksellers and local florists wither and die? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2020 at 5:28 pm

Coronavirus and the Clash of Civilizations

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Bruno Maçães writes in the National Review (of all places):

I spent the last two months traveling through Asia, all the way from Pakistan to the Philippines, with stops in India, Nepal, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam. These were the months when the coronavirus epidemic grew from a faint echo in our daily news feed into what will likely become the most important story of our lifetimes, already shaping up to be the biggest story in Google trends history.

What most impressed me in my travels was the seriousness with which the outbreak is taken all over Asia. In Europe and America, at least among the political class, the coronavirus has been mostly a matter for jokes and general levity, although in countries such as Italy that mood has now changed and taken a dramatic turn.

Singapore, where a vast and methodic system has been put in place to deal with the emergency, relies heavily on technology, but citizens are asked to do their part. In Vietnam and the Philippines, the response has been less methodical, but the anxiety is evident everywhere. In Nepal and India, even the poorest rickshaw driver and the most otherworldly pilgrim have made drastic changes to their behavior.

In some countries, including China, the SARS outbreak in 2003 was a formative experience. For many it felt like a close call. Even if the number of victims was limited, the impact on the regional economy was severe, and everyone had to wonder: What if this happens again, with a more contagious virus? At peak shedding, scientists say, people with coronavirus are emitting more than 1,000 times more virus than was emitted during peak shedding of the SARS infection. The SARS virus sits deep in your lungs. The coronavirus is in your throat, ready to spread.

The outbreak has exposed other divides. As I traveled in increasingly empty planes, one thought kept returning: How notable that we are all together in this, and yet every society seems to deal with the epidemic in its own distinctive way. One of the main divides was between the developed and the developing world. It explained the seriousness in Asia. If poverty and disease are a daily presence or at most two or three generations behind you, you are predisposed to accept that your world can suddenly collapse. The question that Americans and Europeans ask themselves — How was this allowed to happen? — makes less sense than the question of how to survive and how to protect your loved ones.

The subtle changes of political climate and mores that political thinkers used to write about are suddenly very relevant. I wondered if social mores explained why some countries and not others became hotspots of the infection. As the news from Wuhan started to arrive, I thought of my previous visits to the city: the crowded restaurants serving crayfish, the long meals around the hotpot, the communal living, and the chaos of the wholesale seafood market. But it was not just China. Southern Europeans greet themselves with one or two kisses. Iranians spend time crowded together during daily prayer. Perhaps these were factors, but then the response was no less colored by cultural differences.

At present the most hopeful news about our ability to defeat the epidemic comes from what could roughly be called the Confucian cosmopolis. Singapore flirted with disaster at the beginning but quickly recovered. Vietnam has shown a remarkable ability to contain the spread, and South Korea has proven capable of conducting as many as 10,000 tests per day and has built testing clinics that can detect the coronavirus cases in just ten minutes. Do these facts illustrate the benefits of a moral system that emphasizes duties before rights and places high value on the propriety of customs, measures, and rules as defined by the larger community?

Just yesterday I received an email from a Chinese university informing me that a conference planned for May will still go ahead. The author of the message took the opportunity to make the point that, by the time the conference takes place, China will be much safer than Europe or America. He then concluded with the pronouncement that the coronavirus has shown the Chinese model to be superior to the Western one. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

See also: “Come on, you live in a society.”

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2020 at 3:16 pm

Inside the Pro-Trump Facebook Group Where First Responders Call Coronavirus a Hoax

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Isaac Arnsdorf reports in ProPublica:

In a 27,000-member private Facebook group for first responders who support President Donald Trump, firefighters and paramedics have posted thousands of comments in recent weeks downplaying the coronavirus pandemic that they are responsible for helping to handle.

Posts in the group, which is called IAFF Union Firefighters for Trump and has been endorsed by Trump, scoffed at the seriousness of the virus, echoing false assertions by Trump and his allies comparing it to the seasonal flu. “Every election year has a disease,” read one meme, purporting to be written on a doctor’s office whiteboard. “This is a viral-pneumonia being hyped as The Black Plague before an election.”

As of Monday, there were 4,464 cases and 78 deaths in the U.S., according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

As confirmed cases and deaths expanded and officials began shutting down mass gatherings and public places, the posts intensified their attacks on Democrats and the media. “I believe this is all by design,” wrote a Texas firefighter whose identity was corroborated by ProPublica. “Democrats have wanted to slow down and even kill the economy. It’s the only hope they have of beating Trump. Sad and disgusting the depths of shit the Democrats will descend to in order to gain power.”

Posts containing factual information or firsthand experiences with the virus were met with more accusations of plots to harm Trump’s reelection. When a Florida firefighter said action was required now to prevent a crisis like is currently underway in Italy, where 27,980 have been infected and 2,158 have died, because the virus spreads at an exponential rate, the first reply was poop emojis and “Trump2020.”

Some comments promoted a baseless conspiracy theory that the virus is a biological weapon developed by the Chinese in collaboration with Democrats.

“By the Chinese to stop the riots in Hong Kong,” one member wrote.

“[Y]ou are absolutely correct,” another replied. “I said that in the beginning. Democrats saw an opportunity to use it against Trump and get rid of older people which they have been trying to do for a while.”

Commenters contacted by ProPublica declined to answer questions or didn’t respond to messages. ProPublica reviewed hundreds of screenshots provided by co-workers of members of the group who asked to be anonymous, fearing retaliation. Those people said the social media posts are not idle online venting — they reflect real-world attitudes that are leading some first responders to potentially shun special plans and protective equipment. That dismissiveness, the people said, could put first responders and others at risk as they attend to emergency calls with potentially infected people. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2020 at 2:38 pm

And for a change of pace: The guy who balances rocks

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Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2020 at 12:17 pm

Posted in Video

Italians over 80 ‘will be left to die’ as country overwhelmed by coronavirus

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Triage is coming. President Trump’s incompetence will cost thousands their lives. Erica di Blasi reports in the Telegraph:

Coronavirus victims in Italy will be denied access to intensive care if they are aged 80 or more or in poor health should pressure on beds increase, a document prepared by a crisis management unit in Turin proposes.

Some patients denied intensive care will in effect be left to die, doctors fear.

The unit has drawn up a protocol, seen by The Telegraph, that will determine which patients receive treatment in intensive care and which do not if there are insufficient spaces. Intensive care capacity is running short in Italy as the coronavirus continues to spread.

The document, produced by the civil protection department of the Piedmont region, one of those hardest hit, says: “The criteria for access to intensive therapy in cases of emergency must include age of less than 80 or a score on the Charlson comorbidity Index [which indicates how many other medical conditions the patient has] of less than 5.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2020 at 10:20 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Trump Defended Cuts to Public-Health Agencies, on Video

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Conor Friedersdorf writes in the Atlantic:

Beth Cameron, former senior director for global health security and biodefense on The White House National Security Council, complained in The Washington Post on Friday that the Trump administration dissolved her office in 2018, “leaving the country less prepared for pandemics like COVID-19.”

The same day, a PBS reporter asked President Trump about the change he presided over.

“You did disband the White House pandemic office, and the officials that were working in that office left this administration abruptly,” Yamiche Alcindor said. “So what responsibility do you take?”

Trump called it a nasty question. He denied the facts. And he said, “I don’t know anything about it.” He went on to say, “It’s the—it’s the administration. Perhaps they do that. You know, people let people go. You used to be with a different newspaper than you are now. You know, things like that happen.”

But 2018 video footage resurfaced Tuesday by the British newspaper The Independent contradicts him. “You have consistently called for enormous cuts to the CDC, the NIH, and the WHO,” a White House reporter tells Trump. “You’ve talked a lot today about how these professionals are excellent, are critical, are necessary. Does this experience give you pause about those cuts?”

“No,” Trump responded. “We can get money, we can increase staff—we know all the people. This is a question I asked the doctors before. Some of the people we cut, they haven’t used for many, many years, and if we have ever need them we can get them very, very quickly. And rather than spending the money—I’m a business person. I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them. When we need them, we can get them back very quickly.” . . .

Continue reading. Video at the link showing Trump saying cutting those agencies was  good idea. I will point out that the crisis is now here and Trump is (of course) not doing what he said he would do. Is he getting thousands of people back very quickly? No, of course not.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2020 at 10:17 am

President Trump seems to be working toward the worst possible outcome

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David Frum, a lifelong Republican and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, writes in the Atlantic:

At every turn, President Trump’s policy regarding coronavirus has unfolded as if guided by one rule: How can I make this crisis worse?

Presidents are not all-powerful, especially not in the case of pandemic disease. There are limits to what they can do, for good or ill. But within those limits, at every juncture, Trump’s actions have ensured the worst possible outcomes. The worst outcome for public health. The worst outcome for the American economy. The worst outcome for American global leadership.

Trump’s Oval Office speech of March 11 was the worst action yet in a string of bad actions.

Here are the things the president did not do in that speech.

He offered no guidance or policy on how to prevent the spread of the disease inside the United States. Should your town cancel its St. Patrick’s Day parade? What about theatrical productions and sporting events? Classes at schools and colleges? Nothing.

He offered no explanation of what went wrong with the U.S. testing system, nor any assurance of when testing would become more widely available. His own previous promises of testing for anyone who needs it have been exploded as false. So what is true? Nothing.

Layoffs are coming, probably on a very large scale, as travel collapses and people hunker down at home. Any word for those about to lose their jobs? Only the vaguest indication that something might be announced sometime soon.

It’s good to hear that there will be no co-pays on the tests nobody seems able to get. What about other health-care coverage? Any word on that? Nothing.

The financial markets have plunged into a 2008-style crash, auguring a recession, perhaps a severe one. The Trump administration has had almost two months to think about this crisis. It has trial-ballooned some ideas. But, of course, fiscal policy would require assent from the House of Representatives. Trump is still pouting at Speaker Nancy Pelosi. So—aside from some preposterously unconvincing happy talk about the economy—again: nothing.

There was one something in the speech: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2020 at 8:22 am

Don’t use ibuprofen with COVID-19

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Michael Day writes in the British Medical Journal:

Scientists and senior doctors have backed claims by France’s health minister that people showing symptoms of covid-19 should use paracetamol (acetaminophen) rather than ibuprofen, a drug they said might exacerbate the condition.

The minister, Oliver Veran, tweeted on Saturday 14 March that people with suspected covid-19 should avoid anti-inflammatory drugs. “Taking anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, cortisone . . .) could be an aggravating factor for the infection. If you have a fever, take paracetamol,” he said.

His comments seem to have stemmed in part from remarks attributed to an infectious diseases doctor in south west France. She was reported to have cited four cases of young patients with covid-19 and no underlying health problems who went on to develop serious symptoms after using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the early stage of their symptoms. The hospital posted a comment saying that public discussion of individual cases was inappropriate.

But Jean-Louis Montastruc, a professor of medical and clinical pharmacology at the Central University Hospital in Toulouse, said that such deleterious effects from NSAIDS would not be a surprise given that since 2019, on the advice of the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products, French health workers have been told not to treat fever or infections with ibuprofen.

Experts in the UK backed this sentiment. Paul Little, a professor of primary care research at the University of Southampton, said that there was good evidence “that prolonged illness or the complications of respiratory infections may be more common when NSAIDs are used—both respiratory or septic complications and cardiovascular complications.”

He added,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2020 at 7:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Day 6 with the OneBlade and an Emillion experiment

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I received a query regarding Rooney’s Emillion brush, here in butterscotch. The issue was the amount of water the knot retains, so this morning I kept track. I decided to use a shave stick — the Palmolive shave stick in this case — as a kind of pure instance: loading the brush on a puck of soap will express some water onto the soap as part of the loading. By using a shave stick, I bring the brush will all retained water to my face.

So I did my usual pre-shave beard wash with MR GLO, rinsed partially with a splash, and rubbed the shave stick against the grain over all my beard. (Men with very thick, dense, tough beards may find that rubbing the stick over their entire beard will scrape off too much soap. They can just use the stick on their chine and around their mouth — the Van Dyke area — and work up the lather from that soap, then extend it to the rest of their beard.)

I wet the knot well under hot water and gave it two good shakes, then began working up the lather on my face. I did not find any excess water at all, and to get the best lather I twice added a little water to the brush as I developed the lather.

The right amount of water varies somewhat from brush to brush — synthetics, for example, use noticeably less water than natural bristles — and with any new brush a little experimentation and experience will be required to determine the optimal amount of water (and pressure and loading time and so on) that brush requires.

Well-prepped, I set to work with the OneBlade for shave 6, with was indeed successful though it did require a fair amount of blade buffing and repeated passes. With 6 shaves per blade and daily shaving, the annual cost drops to $60 — $5/month. But the last shave is not so enjoyable as I like my shaves to be.

A small squirt of Soap Smooth’s Frozen Cranberry Aftershave Balm (a one-off, I believe) finished the job. The balm, as you might expect, does include a little menthol. It has a pleasant fragrance, and my face feels good.

Stay safe and wash your hands.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2020 at 7:45 am

Posted in Shaving

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