2:00PM Water Cooler 12/3/2021 | naked capitalism

2:00PM Water Cooler 12/3/2021 | naked capitalism



By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

I thought from the sonogram we’d be hearing one of Darwin’s finches pecking wood, but no, it’s a continuous high-pitched cheeping (and shows up in other recordings, too). Surely not the finch, but what?

A very happy capybara:

* * *


Because what we laughingly call our government does not deem a pandemic sufficient cause to collect or process data over a long holiday weekend, all these charts are really screwed up, and some haven’t been updated at all. It looks like we are back to, er, normal for most sources today, at the end of a working week. –lambert

Vaccination by region:

Rebounding from Thanksgiving data problems.

59.6% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, as of December 2. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Estonia, and just above Thailand in the Financial Times league tables as of this Monday). I assume we will have caught up with the long weekend data by today. No change from last week, but I assume that’s a holiday data issue.

Case count by United States regions:

Rebounding after the Thanksgiving drop. I have added an anti-trumphalist “Fauci Line.”

At a minimum, the official narrative that “Covid is behind us,” or that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), or “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over” (Bill Maher) is clearly problematic. (This chart is a seven-day average, so changes in direction only show up when a train is really rolling.)

* * *

One of the sources of the idea that Covid is on the way out, I would speculate, is the CDC’s modeling hub (whose projections also seem to have been used to justify school re-opening). Here is the current version of the chart from the CDC modeling hub, which aggregates the results of eight models in four scenarios, with the last run (“Round 9”) having taken place on 2021-08-30, and plots current case data (black dotted line) against the aggregated model predictions (grey area), including the average of the aggregated model predictions (black line). I have helpfully highlighted the case data discussed above:

(Note that the highlighted case data is running behind the Johns Hopkins data presented first.) Now, it’s fair to say that the upward trend in case data (black dotted line) is still within the tolerance of the models; it does not conform to the models’ average (black line), but it stays within the grey area (aggregated predictions) It’s also true that where we see an upward trend in the predicted case data (lower right quadrant) it’s much later than where we are now. It’s too early to say “Dammit, CDC, your models were broken”; but it’s not too soon to consider the possibility that they might be. The case data still looks like it’s trying to break out of the grey area. We shall see.

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection, now updated after Thanksgiving:

Both 2020 and 2021 saw big jumps when the students returned after Thanksgiving vacation. 2021’s jump begins from a higher baseline. Now we’ll see how much higher it goes. It’s hard to know how pessimistic to be, but this tapewatcher’s guess is that this years peak will surpass 2020’s.

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.

“Mass. Schools Report Almost 10,000 COVID Cases in Last 2 Weeks” [NECN]. “The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released the numbers Thursday in its weekly COVID-19 report, which encompassed two weeks worth of data due to the Thanksgiving holiday. A total of 8,513 students and 1,396 employees tested positive between Nov. 18 and Dec. 1. In the last report, 3,257 students and 558 employees tested positive for a total of 3,815. That report was also a dramatic increase from the prior week, when 2,640 students and 381 staff members tested positive, totaling 3,021. The student cases represent 0.93% of the estimated 920,000 students enrolled in K-12 schools. DESE said 1.0% of the roughly 140,000 staff members tested positive in the last two weeks.”

“Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in Wastewater at Residential College, Maine, USA, August–November 2020” [Emerging Infectious Diseases, CDC]. “We demonstrate that wastewater surveillance using grab samples collected from residential halls and 24-hour composite samples from lift stations can detect COVID-19 outbreaks at a small residential college….. For 76% of cases, RNA was identified in grab samples from residence halls CDC: “Community Profile Report” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties. Updated December 2:

This would be remarkably good news, if true. I think it’s a reporting artifact. My guess is that an algorithm of “rapid rises in cases in the last 14 days” doesn’t work well when there are several days of reporting left out. Plus, of all the institutions (save the CDC itself) slowest to get back up to speed, I’d say it was counties.

The previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile), also December 2:

I have helpfully highlighted the states where the “trend” arrow points up in yellow, and where it is vertical, in orange. Note that Massachusetts is vertical. We detected a rise first in wastewater data, then in case data, now in hospitalizations. So there are times when the data is good. Just not all the time!

“Wisconsin Hospitals Are in ‘Emergency Situation’ as Unvaccinated COVID Patients Fill Up ICU Beds” [Up North News]. “A continued surge of COVID-19 cases, combined with existing health issues requiring hospitalization, has left hospitals in St. Croix County and many others across the state with few or no open beds. That means transfers of patients seriously sick with the coronavirus and other maladies to hospitals that can provide higher-level care often aren’t happening, placing those patients’ health—and, in some cases, their lives—at risk, officials at Wisconsin hospitals and other health officials told UpNorthNews. ‘High-level intensive care units are currently overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients,’ Western Wisconsin Health (WWH) CEO Alison Page said. ‘The inability to get really sick people to the level of care they need is causing bad things to happen and people to die.’ Early this year as it seemed the pandemic was receding, Wisconsin’s average number of daily COVID-19 deaths hit zero. With the current surge, the average daily death toll has jumped to 18—and it will likely get higher as hospitals continue to fill up, as deaths surge after hospitalizations.”

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 806,409 805,013. Back to normal. At this rate, I don’t think we’ll hit the million mark by New Year’s.

Excess deaths (total, not only from Covid), now updated::

Hard to believe we have no excess deaths now, but very fortunate if so. (CDC explains there are data lags).

(Adding: I know the data is bad. This is the United States. Needless to see, this is a public health debacle. It’s the public health establishment’s duty to take care of public health, not the health of certain favored political factions. Also adding: I like a death rate because it gives me a rough indication of my risk should I, heaven forfend, end up in a hospital.)

Covid cases in historic variant sources, with additions from the Brain Trust:

Remember this is a log scale. Sorry for the kerfuffle at the left. No matter how I tinker, it doesn’t go away.

* * *


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Mice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Biden Administration

“The Betrayal of Roe” [The Betrayal of Roe]. “Democrats have permitted an inaccurate, dishonest right-wing framework — the notion that abortion is some hot-button issue on which the country is sharply divided, when in fact the protection of the right to legal abortion is one of the most popular planks in a Democratic platform even in red states — to keep them from making political fights about abortion.” • Well, the Democrats are the party of betrayal, as Thomas Frank said. So what did anyone expect?

“Exclusive: Sinema won’t commit to voting for Biden’s sweeping social safety net expansion” [CNN]. “Kyrsten Sinema, the influential moderate Democratic senator from Arizona, did not commit to voting for President Joe Biden’s sweeping social safety net legislation in a sit-down interview with CNN on Thursday, the latest sign that Senate Democrats do not yet have the votes to pass one of the party’s top legislative priorities even as leadership hopes to approve the measure before Christmas…. Before the start of the interview on Thursday, Sinema’s cellphone rang. Her ringtone is the refrain from a song in the musical ‘Hamilton’ that includes the lyrics ‘you don’t have the votes.’ It’s been her ringtone since 2015, the year the musical was originally released, her spokesman told CNN.” • Nice. Because I really, really hate song snippet ringtones. They’re noisy, obnoxious, and scream “Me! Me! Me!”

“Sportsman’s Warehouse ends merger with Great Outdoors over FTC clearance concerns” [Reuters]. “Outdoor sporting goods retailer Sportsman’s Warehouse Holdings Inc and Great Outdoors Group, owner of the Bass Pro Shops chain, have called off their merger deal, according to a regulatory filing on Thursday. The decision follows feedback from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that led the companies to believe they would not receive clearance to close the deal, according to the filing. Under Chair Lina Khan, the FTC has taken an aggressive stance on mergers.” • Again, we see that Biden is a better President than Obama, even though Obama set an extremely low bar, and “better” is not the same as “good enough.”

Democrats en Deshabille

Lambert here: Obviously, the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself. Why is that? First, the Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). ; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. . (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community. (Note that voters do not appear within this structure. That’s because, unlike say UK Labour or DSA, the Democrat Party is not a membership organization. Dull normals may “identify” with the Democrat Party, but they cannot join it, except as apparatchiks at whatever level.) Whatever, if anything, that is to replace the Democrat Party needs to demonstrate the operational capability to contend with all this. Sadly, I see nothing of the requisite scale and scope on the horizon, though I would love to be wrong. (If Sanders had leaped nimbly from the electoral train to the strike wave train after losing in 2020, instead of that weak charity sh*t he went with, things might be different today. I am not sure that was in him to do, and I’m not sure he had the staff to do it, although I believe such a pivot to a “war of movement” would have been very popular with his small donors. What a shame the app wasn’t two-way.) Ah well, nevertheless.

For an example of the class power that the PMC can wield, look no further than RussiaGate. All the working parts of the Democrat Party fired on all cylinders to cripple an elected President; it was very effective, and went on for years. Now imagine that the same Party had worked, during Covid, to create an alternative narrative — see Ferguson et al., supra, to see what such a narrative might have looked like, and with the unions (especially teachers) involved. At the very least, the Biden Administration would have had a plan, and the ground prepared for it. At the best, a “parallel government” (Gene Sharp #198) would have emerged, ready to take power in 2020. Instead, all we got was [genuflects] Tony Fauci. And Cuomo and Newsom butchering their respective Blue States, of course. The difference? With RussiaGate, Democrats were preventing governance. In my alternative scenario, they would have been preparing for it.

And while we’re at it: Think of the left’s programs, and lay them against the PMC’s interests. (1) Free College, even community college. Could devalue PMC credentials. Na ga happen. (2) MedicareForAll. Ends jobs guarantee for means-testing gatekeepers in government, profit-through-denial-of-care gatekeepers in the health insurance business, not to mention opposition from some medical guilds. Na ga happen. (3) Ending the empire (and reining in the national security state). The lights would go out all over Fairfax and Loudon counties. Na ga happen. These are all excellent policy goals. But let’s be clear that it’s not only billionaires who oppose them.

Showing the PMC’s inability to govern, as a class they seem unable to expand their scope of operations into new fields. Consider the possibilities of the “Swiss Cheese Model.” Layered defenses include extensive testing, contact tracing, ventilation systems (not merely blue collar HVAC work, but design and evaluation), and quarantines. If we look at each layer as a jobs guarantee for credentialed professionals and managers, like ObamaCare, the opportunities are tremendous (and that’s before we get to all the training and consulting). And yet the PMC hasn’t advocated for this model at all. Instead, we get authoritarian followership (Fauci) and a totalizing and tribalizing faith in an extremely risky vax-only solution. Why? It’s almost as if they’re “acting against their own self-interest,” and I don’t pretend to understand it.

NEW And I’m not the only one who’s puzzled. “Even if you…


“Georgia becomes ground zero for 2022 elections” [The Hill]. “Democrats are defending razor-thin majorities in both the House and Senate, and Georgia will likely play a key role in their efforts. Warnock is facing a challenge from former football star Herschel Walker, who has the backing of former President Trump, while redistricting in the state appears likely to hand the GOP an extra seat in the House. Abrams’s emergence in the governor’s race virtually guarantees that Georgia will once again be a crucial political battleground with broad national implications. Biden carried the state last year, becoming the first Democrat since 1992 to win the state’s electoral votes, while Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) triumphed in a pair of runoff elections in January that handed control of the Senate to Democrats.” • Yeah, wasn’t that something? Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock all owe me six hundred bucks. And speaking of Herschel Walker:

Our Famously Free Press

“Steve Bannon and the “Opposition” Media Form a Brief, Bizarre Alliance” [Vanity Fair]. “Since his indictment last month for contempt of Congress, Bannon has been fighting to make public documents related to his charges, which stemmed from the House investigation into the January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill. Prosecutors want a ‘protective order’ over the materials, arguing in a court filing Sunday that Bannon would use the evidence from the discovery process to try the case in the media—an understandable concern, given the defendant’s own public remarks about going on ‘offense’ against the Justice Department and his political foes. But the Washington Post on Wednesday reported that it had joined with other outlets—including the New York Times and CNN, villains to the MAGA right—in filing a motion siding with Bannon. The order that prosecutors are seeking, argued the coalition of news organizations, would render journalists ‘unable’ to see the documents themselves to report on them, a potential violation of the First Amendment.” • “use the evidence from the discovery process to try the case in the media.” So what? If it’s Bannon’s right to see the documents being used against him, why does it matter what use he makes of them?

Realignment and Legitimacy

The death bucket once more:

Check the answers….

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Unemployment Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The US unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage points to 4.2 percent in November of 2021 from 4.6 percent in October and well below market expectations of 4.5 percent. It was the lowest jobless rate since February 2020, as the number of unemployed persons fell by 542,000 to 6.9 million. Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate edged up to 61.8 percent in November, the highest level since March 2020, and is 1.5 percentage points lower than in February 2020.”

Employment Situation: “United States Non Farm Payrolls” [Trading Economics]. “The US economy added just 210 thousand jobs in November, the least since a 306 thousand decline in December 2020 and well below market expectations of 550 thousand, as employers continue to report difficulties in hiring and retaining workers amid a strong economic recovery. Notable job gains occurred in professional and business services (90K), transportation and warehousing (50k), construction (31K), and manufacturing (31K while employment in retail trade declined by 20K. Nonfarm employment has increased by 18.5 million since April 2020 but is down by 3.9 million, or 2.6 percent, from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020.” • Seems like rather a lot.

Manufacturing: “United States Factory Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for US manufactured goods rose 1% month-over-month in October of 2021, following an upwardly revised 0.5% gain in September and beating market expectation of a 0.5% increase. The strongest contribution came from non-durable goods industries (2.4% vs 1.3% in September); primary metals (1.7% vs 1.0%), primarily iron and steel mills (2.3% vs 1.3%) and aluminum and non ferrous metals (2.8% vs -0.4%); fabricated metal products (0.3% vs 0.4%); and computers and electronic products (0.8% vs -0.2%). Still, gains were partly offset by falling orders in machinery (-0.7% vs 1.5%), weighed down by construction machinery; and a steep drop in orders of transport equipment (-2.6% vs -2.8%), reflecting mostly the impact of lower order volumes for aircraft and parts.”

Services: “United States Services PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The IHS Markit US Services PMI was revised higher to 58.0 in November 2021 from a preliminary of 57.0. Business activity and new orders continued to rise at strong paces. Although output continued to rise at a pace well above the survey’s long-run average, supply and labor issues hampered activity to result in a modest easing in the rate of expansion. Despite employment rising at the fastest pace since June, firms continued to struggle to work through backlogs of work, which rose at the second-fastest pace on record.”

Services: “United States ISM Non Manufacturing PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The ISM Non-Manufacturing PMI for the US jumped to 69.1 in November 2021 from 66.7 in the previous month, easily beating market expectations of 65 and indicating the fastest pace of expansion in the services sector since the series began in 1997. Both business activity and new orders rose at record rates, while the pace of job creation quickened sharply. Meanwhile, supply chain issues continued to challenge output growth and prices paid by services industries remained high.”

* * *

Banking: “Capital One says it is ditching all consumer overdraft fees, giving up $150 million in annual revenue” [CNBC]. “It’s the largest U.S. bank yet to end the industry practice of charging customers a hefty fee, typically $25 to $35 each instance, for allowing transactions that exceed a customer’s balance, according to the McLean, Virginia-based lender. The move will cost the bank an estimated $150 million in lost revenue per year, according to a company spokesperson. Customers who paid the fees will be automatically rolled over into a free overdraft protection service early next year, the bank said. Those who opt out of the service will simply have overdrawn transactions declined at no fee.”

Tech: “Dorsey’s Twitter Departure Hints at Tech Moguls’ Restlessness” [New York Times]. “The founders of today’s biggest tech giants are growing tired of managing their empires, which are increasingly burdened by political controversy and hard-to-fix problems like misinformation and hate speech. They don’t see an easy way out, and they’re more excited by building new things than fixing old ones. So they are turning those empires over to others and heading off in search of new frontiers…. Today, running a giant social media company is — by the looks of it — pretty miserable. Sure, you’re rich and famous, but you spend your days managing a bloated bureaucracy and getting blamed for the downfall of society. Instead of disrupting and innovating, you sit in boring meetings and fly to Washington so politicians can yell at you. The cool kids no longer want to work for you — they’re busy flipping NFTs and building DeFi apps in web3 — and regulators are breathing down your neck.” • Commentary:

Tech: “Google, Other Tech Giants Enlist Mom-and-Pop Shops in Antitrust Campaign” [Bloomberg]. “[There is] an accelerating campaign by giant technology platforms to use small business owners to lobby against a series of antitrust bills aimed at Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon.com Inc., Facebook and Apple Inc. To build a chorus of popular opposition to this legislation, Google posted alarming alerts to the millions of marketers and business owners who use the company’s tool for buying ads and promoting themselves in search. A message at the top of Google’s online dashboards now warns these customers that ‘proposed legislation could make it harder to find your business online.’ But big tech companies aren’t the only ones tugging on congressional heartstrings with stories from Main Street. A network of anti-monopoly and civil society groups are also using small businesses to make the exact opposite claim — that Big Tech preys on the little guys and makes it impossible for them to operate without relying on internet monopolies.”

Tech : “Inside Intel’s Secret Warehouse in Costa Rica” [Wall Street Journal]. “A few years ago, executives at Intel Corp. began to realize they had a problem. The company was making dozens of new products each year, from chips to software platforms, but it didn’t have a formal method for cataloging and storing older technology so engineers could test it for security flaws. Some devices, such as Sandy Bridge microprocessors—launched in 2011 and discontinued in 2013—were so scarce that Intel’s security researchers resorted to combing the internet for them…. Intel’s answer to this conundrum was to create a warehouse and laboratory in Costa Rica, where the company already had a research-and-development lab, to store the breadth of its technology and make the devices available for remote testing. After planning began in mid-2018, the Long-Term Retention Lab was up and running in the second half of 2019. The warehouse stores around 3,000 pieces of hardware and software, going back about a decade. Intel plans to expand next year, nearly doubling the space to 27,000 square feet from 14,000, allowing the facility to house 6,000 pieces of computer equipment.”

Manufacturing: “The Chip Shortage Keeps Getting Worse. Why Can’t We Just Make More?” [Bloomberg]. “Why can’t we just make more chips? There is both a simple answer and a complicated one. The simple version is that making chips is incredibly difficult—and getting tougher. ‘It’s not rocket science—it’s much more difficult,’ goes one of the industry’s inside jokes. The more complicated answer is that it takes years to build semiconductor fabrication facilities and billions of dollars—and even then the economics are so brutal that you can lose out if your manufacturing expertise is a fraction behind the competition. Former Intel Corp. boss Craig Barrett called his company’s microprocessors the most complicated devices ever made by man. This is why countries face such difficulty in achieving semiconductor self sufficiency. China has called chip independence a top national priority in its latest five-year plan, while U.S. President Joe Biden has vowed to build a secure American supply chain by reviving domestic manufacturing. Even the European Union is mulling measures to make its own chips. But success is anything but assured.”

Supply Chain: “Manufacturing signals supply chain breather” [Axios]. “Manufacturing activity continued to tick up last month as pockets of the supply chain showed signs of relief, according to a new survey from the Institute for Supply Management. Despite facing nearly two years of supply chain and consumer demand anomalies, manufacturers continued to increase their output for the 18th month in a row.”

Supply Chain: “Supply chain crisis now threatening chicken tenders” [Today]. “Chicken tenders are the latest item affected by supply chain issues during the pandemic, which experts say may mean higher prices for them at the grocery store and restaurants. The tasty kids’ staple joins items like maple syrup, wine and spirits, takeout containers and coffee cups among the many products that have been made more scarce or more expensive by pandemic-related supply chain issues. For parents like Molly Edmunds of Scottsdale, Arizona, removing chicken tenders from the family menu could mean a lot of frowning faces at the dinner (or breakfast or lunch) table.” • Hot dog, groat cakes again! Heavy on the 30 weight, Mom!

Mr. Market: “Didi starts to delist from New York and aims for Hong Kong amid Beijing scrutiny” [South China Morning Post]. “Didi Global said it would commence the process of removing its stock from the New York Stock Exchange for a listing in Hong Kong, as China’s dominant ride-hailing service operator makes an unprecedented exit from the world’s largest capital market five months after Chinese regulators opened a probe into the company. ‘After careful study, the company will start the work of delisting from NYSE and initiate preparation for listing in Hong Kong with immediate effect,’ Didi Chuxing said in a one-line Chinese statement on its official Weibo account on Friday. In a separate corporate statement in English, Didi said the plan includes converting the American depositary shares (ADSs) from the NYSE ‘into freely tradeable shares” on another exchange.’”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 19 Extreme Fear (previous close: 25 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 33 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 3 at 12:20pm.

Health Care

Lambert here: On fear vs. panic. Scientists, it seems, do not have an answer for what fear is (let alone panic). See “The Biology of Fear” in Current Biology (2014) and the interviews in “On the Nature of Fear“, Scientific American (2019). That science cannot agree on a theory of the emotions is probably a good thing, since an answer from science is also an answer from engineering, and in our society, the questions get asked, oh, by MBAs in marketing departments. So with science out of the way, I’ll fall back on the dictionary. From my OED app:

fear [noun(1)] /f??/

noun1. oe. [ORIGIN: Old English fær corresp. to Old Saxon v?r ambush, Middle Dutch vare fear (Dutch gevaar danger), Old High German f?ra ambush, stratagem, danger, deceit (German Gefahr danger), from Germanic.]…

2. The painful emotion caused by the sense of impending danger or evil; an instance of this. me.

And panic:

panic [adjective & noun(2)] /?pan?k/

adjective & noun2. l16.

[ORIGIN: French panique from mod. Latin panicus (in panicus terror) from Greek panikos (also neut. panikon used as noun), from Pan, Greek god of nature to whom woodland noises were attributed and whose appearance or unseen presence was held to induce terror.]…

1. An excessive or unreasoning feeling of alarm or fear leading to extravagant or foolish behaviour, such as that which may suddenly spread through a crowd of people; emotion of this kind. m17.

One obvious difference between the panic and fear is that fear can be altruistic; one can fear for others. Further, panic is unreasoning, but fear is caused by sense of danger. Finally, panic may be adaptive — a panic-stricken rush out of dark woods has probably saved some people — but fear, it seems to me, is more adaptive; unlike panic, it is possible to master fear, to make the sense of impending danger serve us.

It seems to me, then, that panic in the face of Omicron is unlikely to be useful (except possibly to financial speculators) and should not be induced. Fear, however, is useful. Fear leads us to mask up, make sure we only enter confined spaces that are ventilated, to break out our CO2 meters, to take our medicines or get our jabs. From conservatives, one often hears “I don’t want to live in fear.” Well, display adaptability by taking the measures I have listed, and you won’t have to. You will have done your best for yourself and those you are responsible for.

* * *

“WHO’s top scientist says Omicron could displace Delta” [Reuters]. “Soumya Swaminathan also said it was too early to say whether Omicron is milder than other variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and cast doubt over its origin, saying it was far from certain it emerged in southern Africa.” • When I hear Omnicron described as “mild,” this is what I think of:

“Scientific tests prove….”

A slide from South Africa:

“Coronavirus: gut bacteria can help boost antibody response to Covid-19 vaccines, Hong Kong study shows” [South China Morning Post]. “The joint study by Chinese University (CUHK) and the University of Hong Kong (HKU) discovered that the efficacy of the Sinovac and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines correlated with the amount of Bifidobacterium adolescentis people had in their gut, meaning that low antibody response corresponded to inadequate levels of that bacteria. Based on the findings released on Thursday, the researchers said that specific bacteria could serve as a potential therapeutic option to enhance the protection offered by both vaccines.” • More on Bifidobacterium adolescentis here and here.

Love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal:

The responses are scathing.

* * *

“What humanity should eat to stay healthy and save the planet” [Nature]. In 2014, David Tilman, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota in Saint Paul, and Michael Clark, a food-systems scientist at the University of Oxford, UK, estimated that changes in urbanization and population growth globally between 2010 and 2050 would cause an 80% increase in food-related emissions… But if everyone, on average, ate a more plant-based diet, and emissions from all other sectors were halted, the world would have a 50% chance of meeting the 1.5?°C climate-change target5. And if diets improved alongside broader changes in the food system, such as cutting down waste, the chance of hitting the target would rise to 67%. Such findings are not popular with the meat industry.” • Mean should be thought of as a condiment. And I would far rather eat plants than that WEF favorite, insects. And speaking of feeding the multitude (Matt 14:15-21), I seem to recall that the miracle had to do not with fish — how were they cooked? — but with fish sauce (Roman n??c m?m), for which Galilee was famous. A condiment, like I said.

“Scientists say they might have discovered the cause of Alzheimer’s” [The Hill]. “Researchers at the University of California- Riverside (UCR) recently published results from a study that looked at a protein called tau. By studying the different forms tau proteins take, researchers discovered the difference between people who developed dementia and those who didn’t…. By analyzing donated brain samples, researchers found that those with brain buildup, like plaques and tangles, but had no dementia had a normal form of tau. However, those who had a ‘different-handed’ form of tau and developed plaques or tangles did have dementia…. ‘If you try to put a right-handed glove on your left hand, it doesn’t work too well. It’s a similar problem in biology; molecules don’t work the way they’re supposed to after a while because a left-handed glove can actually convert into a right-handed glove that doesn’t fit,’ said [Ryan Julian, a chemistry professor at UCR]…. However, the human body has a solution through a process called autophagy, which clears spent or defective proteins from cells…. According to UCR, autophagy can be induced by fasting because when cells run short on proteins from a person’s diet, they fill the void by recycling proteins already present in cells. Exercise is also another way researchers say can increase autophagy.”

The 420

“Marijuana Had ‘Unprecedented’ Success In State Legislatures In 2021, NORML Report Shows” [Marijuana Moment]. “Lawmakers across the U.S. proved again in 2021 that marijuana reform will continue to advance on the state level despite the recalcitrance of Congress to end federal prohibition…. Most notably, legislatures and governors in five states enacted recreational legalization—a notable trend given that the reform has historically been decided by voters as ballot initiatives. But 2021 has also seen more modest policy changes related to medical cannabis, decriminalization and social equity…. [T]he legislatures of Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Virginia each legalized marijuana for adult use this year. (New Jersey’s action came months after voters approved a referendum on the issue during last November’s election.)”

“Cannabis Legalization in State Legislatures: Public Health Opportunity and Risk” [Marquette Law Review]. “Public health best practice frameworks provide critical guidance on how to regulate cannabis effectively and minimize negative health impacts. A public health approach to legalization prioritizes public health over other goals, including industry profits, state tax revenues, and business development, that, while valid bases for government action generally, may lead to detrimental outcomes in regulating potentially harmful substances. A public health approach draws on the successes and failures of domestic and international regulatory frameworks for other substances, most notably tobacco and alcohol. However, these substantive concerns do not exist within a vacuum, but rather intersect with the procedural question of how a state legalizes adult use cannabis – i.e., ballot initiative or legislation. To further understand this intersection, this article assesses the adoption or absence of public health best practices in proposed legislative adult use cannabis laws.”

Class Warfare

“Hackers Are Spamming Businesses’ Receipt Printers With ‘Antiwork’ Manifestos” [Vice]. “Someone or multiple people are blasting ‘antiwork’ manifestos to receipt printers at businesses around the world, according to people who claim to have seen the printed manifesto, dozens of posts on Reddit, and a cybersecurity company that is analyzing network traffic to insecure printers. ‘ARE YOU BEING UNDERPAID?’ one of the manifestos read, according to several screenshots posted on Reddit and Twitter. ‘You have a protected LEGAL RIGHT to discuss your pay with your coworkers. […] POVERTY WAGES only exist because people are ‘willing’ to work for them.’… Andrew Morris, the founder of GreyNoise, a cybersecurity firm that monitors the internet, told Motherboard that his firm has seen actual network traffic going to insecure receipt printers, and that it seems someone or multiple people are sending these printing jobs all over the internet indiscriminately, as if spraying or blasting them all over. Morris has a history of catching hackers exploiting insecure printers.” • Creative!

News of the Wired

“500,000 or 20,000? How to estimate the size of a political rally properly” [The Conversation]. “Aerial photography is perhaps the best way to estimate crowd density and size. While ground-based images provide limited views, aerial images offer a literal overview. Images can be collected via satellites, helicopters, balloons or drones (although drones can only be operated by authorised entities in such public spaces). A military satellite image was used to estimate that 800,000 people were present at Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration in 2009. Having collected aerial images or video stills, there are various ways to estimate how many people are within the frame, depending on the image quality and resolution. AI algorithms can count people by recognising and counting the distinctive shape of humans, or even just their heads in denser crowds. Statistical methods can also be used to detect the independent motion of the people in the crowd. Or, if the crowd is too packed to count individuals, groups of people can be tracked.” • News you can use….

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Contact information: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (Watt4Bob):

Watt4Bob writes: “These flowers are from South America where my son tells me they were originally pollinated by giant ground sloths. He further tells me that since indigenous people ate all the ground sloths 13 thousand years ago they have had to pollinate them by hand since then, because the plant is sacred and must be preserved. These particular flowers were growing on the grounds of the capital building in Edmonton, Alberta when I took the picture. They had several, all being like small trees.” Lovely soft tones on this photo.

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Readers, I could still use more plants, so if you could send some photos to the address below, that would be great! I’d really like to see photos of harvests or completed projects, to inspire people to plan for spring over the winter. Also fall foliage? Thank you!

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the recently concluded and — thank you! — successful annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.

If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

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