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Mosquito-Transmitted Zika Virus in Florida

2016-07-29

The Florida State Department of Health has announced that four cases of Zika virus infection, all with relatively mild disease, were probably transmitted locally by infected mosquitoes.  The department has been testing mosquitoes and has not found any positive for the virus so far, but continues to test.  The department is also going door to door and testing local residents of Miami with urine samples for inapparent Zika infection (the infection is usually asymptomatic and only one in four to one in five infected people show apparent disease.)

The department also encouraged anyone who wished to be tested to contact their county health department.  They believe that the area of active transmission is limited to a one-mile-square area just north of downtown Miami.  Blood banks in Miami are excluding donations from “the impacted area.”  A large number of cases (over 300) have been reported but so far all are thought to be “travel related.”

Florida is a port of entry for many of the countries in South America currently experiencing outbreaks of Zika virus.  The virus has been spreading throughout South America in the last year since jumping across the Pacific Ocean.  Colombia recently declared that its epidemic had ended, although continued local spread is occurring.  Brazil has been the hardest hit, with preparations for the Olympic Games affected by concern over spread among visitors to the country.

Infection with the Zika virus usually causes relatively mild disease, although cases of Guillan-Barre syndrome among patients have occurred.  The most serious concern is among pregnant women with acute infections; the virus can cause microcephaly among children whose mothers were infected.  More than 20 known cases of microcephaly have occurred in Colombia so far.

This information was taken from a New York Times report and the Florida Department of Health.  The Florida Department has a daily update on the Zika virus.  Additional information on Zika virus is available from Medical News Today.

Donald and Vladimir: in Bed Together

2016-07-25

Here’s a good expose of the Russian connection to Donald’s “Republican” campaign: the Talking Points Memo of July 23 by Josh Marshall.

Real Iris Bud and Fake Frog on Vase

2016-07-25

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Donald’s Lies: Chaos is NOT Looming

2016-07-25

Paul Krugman’s opinion column in the NYT points out Donald’s lies in his nomination acceptance speech: chaos is not looming, as he claims.

First, the homicide rate in New York City is near all-time lows; although it has increased slightly in the last year, rates are less than half of those in the 1990’s, when Republicans claimed that chaos was looming.  For example, in 2015, there were 352 murders; in 2000, there were 673.  In the 1950’s, there were about 350 murders a year; there was a steep increase in the 1960’s and a peak in 1990, followed by a steep decrease until now.

Second, the birth rate among teenagers has dropped dramatically in the last twenty-five years, by some 60 percent since 1991.  Three-quarters of teen births were in 18 and 19-year-olds.  Caucasian teenagers had half the birth rate of black and Hispanic teenagers.  The birth rate among Hispanic teenagers has dropped 50 percent since 2007.  Rates were highest in the South and in Wyoming.

Strangely, according to Gallup, some 70 percent of Americans believe that crime is increasing.  Only 40% believed that crime was increasing in 2001.  Donald’s supporters seem to be particularly likely to believe that crime is increasing and chaos is on the rise.

Donald finds it critical to make his supporters think that chaos is looming and that the “other” is coming to destroy their imagined, peaceful world.  He thinks he must scare his people and stimulate their paranoia about outsiders who are plotting to come in and take over.  Their fear will, he thinks, lead them to look for a strong leader– him.  This process is the same as the strategy that Hitler employed in the 1920’s.

Never mind the threat that the Islamic State presents.  This threat is much closer to home, and it comes from the black and Hispanic people who are “taking over” with the help of the liberal, left-wing Democratic forces who are imposing political correctness and affirmative action on middle-aged white males.  White, poorly-educated men are threatened by better-trained, more motivated women of color who are the beneficiaries of political preferences– or so they think.

In reality, white, poorly-educated men are under threat because their skills are obsolete and they are too old to change or to benefit from re-training.  They are, in fact, out of date, and for good reason.  They are being left behind because they  can’t do the job.  They are being left behind because they have old-fashioned attitudes that younger, well-educated people find offensive.  That is the reality.  They just don’t fit in because they are not computer-literate and they can’t function in an internet world.

 

Nectarine, From Gleaning But Still Firm

2016-07-24

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This nectarine was left on the tree after commercial picking was done.

FDR and the Donald: Two Different Approaches to Governance

2016-07-23

I did not know until I read this post by “writeforthemasses” from June 28, which linked to this video of a speech by FDR in 1944, that Franklin Delano Roosevelt had plans for after victory in the Second World War, plans which were dropped when he died of a cerebrovascular hemorrhage on April 12, 1945.  The direction of US policy and the federal government were, of necessity, left to Harry Truman, who was a newcomer to Roosevelt’s administration, having been vice president for only three months.

Roosevelt is considered by most historians to be one of the three greatest US presidents, after Washington and Lincoln; he helped to rescue the US from the Great Depression and directed the war effort to victory in WW II.  He believed that the common man needed protection and assistance, and he is known for saying this:

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

Roosevelt proposed a “Second Bill of Rights” in in this speech, to complement the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.  This is an “economic” bill of rights.  It is justified by the Preamble to the Constitution, which confers upon the federal government the following purposes:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Specifically, the Constitution is intended to produce a government which “promote[s] the general welfare.”  The “welfare” rights of the people are broadly construed to include those things which provide for the people’s well-being: a job at a rate of pay which will allow adequate food, clothing, and recreation; housing, education, and medical care, and protection in one’s old age.  As shown below, Roosevelt’s idea of people’s rights include the rights of farmers, businessmen, and employed workers to “useful and remunerative” jobs, and freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies.

The Second Bill of Rights, from the speech referenced above:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
  • The right to a good education.

Our federal government could use a refresher course in applying this “Second Bill of Rights”, for which we have only a partial showing in our current system.  Specifically, we have been providing more abundance to those who already have too much, and stinting on providing enough for those who have too little.

Income inequality and wealth inequality have been increasing for thirty or forty years, since the benighted presidency of Ronald Reagan.  President Reagan began showing signs of mental decline early in his first term (after he was shot and nearly killed), and it appears that he left many policy decisions to his vice president, George H. W. Bush.  The first President Bush was an intelligent and capable man, but he was a conservative who paid only lip service to the notion that the federal government should provide for those with too little.

To contrast our current situation with the dark vision provided by the Donald in his nomination acceptance speech the other day, we have had a significantly improved crime rate in this country over the last twenty years.  There has been a small increase in some cities in the last year or two, but overall, crime, and especially violent crime, has been much reduced over the long term.  There has been a significant recovery from the very serious recession of 2008, and the yearly deficit has gone down steadily since that turbulent time.  The overall debt has dramatically increased because of the massive deficit that began in the Bush years and peaked with the recession; however, our capacity to pay off that debt has also dramatically improved.  Employment has improved significantly and steadily over the last eight years, although many US workers have abandoned their efforts to find work and have only recently been re-integrated into the economy.

In summary, the condition of the US economy has steadily improved over the last eight years.  What has not resolved is the plight of many middle-aged, steadily employed people who have been permanently thrown out of work by de-industrialization of the economy.  Manufacturing facilities have been moved overseas, to places where wages are lower and the condition of workers is much more marginal than here.  What has happened here is a deterioration to the state of things overseas.  We are beginning to feel the insecurity that people in developing countries have felt for many years.

The really serious development recently has been the rise of Islamic State terrorism; there have been repeated terror attacks all over the world, especially in Iraq, Turkey, and Western Europe.  The US military has responded to this development with aerial attacks against the base of the Islamic State, which have killed many leaders and degraded the oil refinement capabilities of the Islamists, but not reduced their capacity and motivation to strike within the unprotected civilian areas of the rest of the world.

Another serious recent development has been the exposure of police treatment of people of color by cell phone videos.  The number of shootings of black civilians has been relatively steady; what has changed has been the video documentation of the circumstances of these shootings.  As a result of these videos, people have become very concerned about the way they are treated by the police.  At the same time, the police have reacted as if they are under attack.  Who is actually under attack is a matter of perception.

The bottom line is that things are not nearly as dark as Donald has painted them.  He wants us to feel fundamentally insecure so that he can set himself up as our savior.  Donald gives us no specific plans for our rescue, but he assures us that he alone can perform the salvation.  How absurd, to think that Donald can rescue us from our existential plight any more than any other leader or government can.  Many people, though, will swallow Donald’s lies hook, line, and sinker; if he is elected, they are bound to be deeply disappointed.  What a great excuse to abrogate our civil liberties and force us to accept the destruction of the lives of the “other”– immigrants, Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, Arab-Americans, and whomever Donald wishes to designate as the perpetrators of white America’s humiliation.  Doesn’t this sound similar to Hitler’s approach?  Only in Hitler’s time, it was the Jews who were the objects of destruction; this time, Sheldon Adelson will make sure that the Jews are spared and the Arabs (and many others) are given the shaft.

 

Sculptures in a Garden

2016-07-22

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