Usher's News & Analysis for May 4, 2020

Those who do plan to further their education are considering certificate programs or courses related to in-demand jobs instead of traditional degrees, according to the education nonprofit's ongoing poll of more than 5,000 people.
A major reason for students' uncertainty about college: About half say their family members' employment status changed as a result of the pandemic, according to the Art & Science Group's survey.

Amid coronavirus layoffs, high school seniors are too uncertain to commit to a college

Funding cuts, 4,000+ complaints, 200 some mostly remote investigations is not even remotely proper regulation.

Labor unions say the federal workplace safety agency isn't doing enough. The AFL-CIO, which represents more than 12 million workers, sent a scathing letter Tuesday to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, who oversees OSHA, accusing the agency of being too lenient and slow.

Coronavirus at work: Safety inspectors reviewing scores of employee hospitalizations, deaths

In Washington state, you can apply for unemployment if you quit as long as you told your employer about the safety issue and tried your best to get the right safety equipment, Gleason said.

“Say you kept actually talking and asking, and they ended up firing you,” he said. “Well, then Labor and Industries clips in because you can’t be fired for making a safety and health complaint, and so they would be able to help out in that case.”

“So whether it’s unemployment or Labor and Industries, you do have rights,” he added. “But it’s best to work with your company, and your co-workers, and your safety people to make sure that you give them a chance to [say what they’re] doing to protect all the workers on the site.”

WA workers have the ‘right to a safe environment’ when state reopens

Good move:

Los Angeles becomes the first major city in the US to offer free coronavirus testing for all residents, Mayor Eric Garcetti says

My grade for Donald Trump's handling of C19 is a D. He's been way too herky-jerky.

Mixed signals can't always be avoided, but President Trump doesn't appear very able to anticipate the range of reactions.

I'm not saying he should attempt to be all things to all people. That just can't be done.

He could, however, shoot for gearing his messages to make complete sense to at least 80 to 90 percent of American adults. Unfortunately, if he's clear to 40% at any given time, that's doing well for him.

"We have no really effective drugs [Gilead's Remdesivir has been approved, but we'll still have to see how well it really works and whether side effects will be too much] or vaccines, what we have is our behavior," said Joshua Sharfstein, director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "That communication that leads people to take action to protect themselves is the best medicine right now. And when they muddle the message, we dilute the medicine."
Wendy Parmet, a Northeastern University law professor who specializes in health care and bioethics, said the expiration of the guidelines doesn't change much as states are already calling the shots on when to lift restrictions. But some people could read the president's decision not to renew social distancing rules as a declaration that the problem is over and public life can resume.

"More people may pressure their state and local leaders to lift their own orders, and more people may stop practicing social distancing," she said. "That's dangerous because much of the country has not met the criteria for reopening that the White House set forth in its own Guidelines for Opening Up American Again that were issued."
[Andy Slavitt, former director of Medicare and Medicaid, said,] "If you think about what it takes for employers to feel comfortable hiring again, small businesses to feel comfortable opening and consumers to feel comfortable spending, that's going to require a level of public health results that we haven't delivered yet."

Trump’s social distancing guidelines quietly expire as the administration shifts focus to reopening

... there have been conflicting results surrounding whether the drug can help COVID-19 patients. Let's take a closer look at the remdesivir results and what they mean for investors to decide whether the stock is a buy or not.
... The study involved 1,063 patients and the results showed that using remdesivir led to quicker recovery times. Patients with COVID-19 who took remdesivir had a median recovery time of 11 days compared to 15 days for those who took the placebo. The mortality rate of 8% in the remdesivir group was also lower than the 11.6% of patients in the control group who died.

Well, if the stats are accurate and will generalize to the global population, remdesivir helps but is no cure.

What Should Investors Make Of Conflicting Results Surrounding Gilead's Remdesivir?

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS): Hydroxychloroquine Has about 90 Percent Chance of Helping COVID-19 Patients

The problem of questionable statistics may well be universal. The global death toll from COVID-19 could be as much as 60% higher than currently stated, according to a recent investigation by the Financial Times that cites data from 14 countries.

Turkey claims success treating COVID-19 with broad use of drug touted by Trump

What do you think?

OmniBallot Online is an electronic, fully accessible vote-by-mail, absentee, UOCAVA and sample ballot solution.

OmniBallot Online | Democracy Live

I've always advocated an opensource system be developed by the government.

The symptoms appear in different ways, experts told TPM. Some patients struggle with blood clots that course throughout their body, while others have severely inflamed hearts. Others still face organ failure amid spiraling blood oxygen levels.

“There’s not an easy way to tell, though, if they’re presenting so much like a heart attack,” Gulati told TPM. “We’re seeing reports of myocardial infarction when they have COVID-19, but often they aren’t always having blockages of the coronary arteries that we traditionally expect.”

A Mysterious, COVID-Linked Surge In Heart Symptoms Has Forced Cardiologists To Adapt

Beekeepers in Washington have already seen the hornets devastate their hives; Japan attributes 50 human deaths a year to the nasty buzzers, which have “teardrop eyes like Spider-Man, orange and black stripes that extend down its body like a tiger, and broad, wispy wings like a small dragonfly,” ....

Asia’s ‘murder hornet’ found in US for first time

This will take care of the PPP fears certain employers have over whether their loans will be forgivable.

States warn workers they will lose their benefits if they refuse to return from furlough - with some making 120% MORE on unemployment than their regular paychecks

... businesses are fearful of paying workers money to do nothing.

Frankly, when they announced the loans, that's exactly what I thought the loans were for: to pay people even if they couldn't come back to work. I sure would never have considered it fraud. I still don't. It's not the borrower's fault the government didn't clearly state that the workers must literally toil for the employer for the payment of wages and salaries not to be fraudulent. If I were a federal judge, that's exact how I'd rule on it.

SBA Grants Unused Because Businesses are Fearful of the Rules

The idea was to put Flynn at ease — make him feel like it would just be a chat between veteran national-security guys, not a criminal investigation; discourage Flynn from getting a lawyer; disabuse him of any thought of involving the White House counsel or chief-of-staff. Just a quick meeting so they could put to rest all this Russia noise in the media. No big deal.

If that's true, Flynn was duped by amateurs. Flynn's judgment concerning Turkey was awful too.

However, the motives being assigned to the FBI agents are opinions, not yet proven facts.

It appears to me that the legal question is whether the FBI was obligated to make clear to Flynn the nature of their investigation/questioning. If they were, then Flynn should have all charges dropped on the basis of that technicality. Clearly, the agents knew what technicalities they had to be concerned with at least from a tactical political standpoint. They don't appear to have been concerned with the purely constitutional issues, however, which shows them to be rather bumbling.

Before Trump ever even announced his candidacy, I was well aware of Flynn going back to his intelligence days. The bright spot concerning him was his enlightened attitude about Russia. Flynn didn't want a new cold war and knew there was no legitimate reason to justify even considering one. That's why the FBI targeted him.

Obama hated the Russians because Putin had his guard up after George W. Bush stabbed Putin in the back. Putin looked back at all US administrations and concluded that they're all basically untrustworthy: had/have the same aim of ruining Russia no matter what. Putin was also disimpressed with Obama and Obama's foreign-policy team and especially with Obama's choice of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

The neocons in the Obama administration targeted Flynn and Trump because those neocons covet Russia. Putin stands in their way. Trump was suckered into firing Flynn rather than backing down the FBI, etc., which he could have done had he been strong and smart enough.

The FBI Set Flynn Up to Preserve the Trump–Russia Probe

Wrong on both counts:

The government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China.

US tweets support for Taiwan, enraging China

[Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said,] "While mitigation didn’t fail, I think it's fair to say that it didn't work as well as we expected. We expected that we would start seeing more significant declines in new cases and deaths around the nation at this point, and we’re just not seeing that."

Former FDA commissioner says coronavirus mitigation 'didn't work as well as we expected'

Pure weakness:

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says his face-mask order went ‘too far’

I'm going to take the gloves off here; so, if you're a civil-libertarian/anarchist snowflake, don't read the next paragraph.

Sometimes, you simply can't coddle the ignorant or foolish just because their fussy. Wearing a face mask is a slight inconvenience that one hopes will only be temporarily needed. People who whine about such things should stop. They're supposed right to never have to wear a mask never trumps the real right of others in essential services and elsewhere to be protected. A governor who caves into them should be replaced ASAP with someone who will enforce necessary law and order; right now, face masks are definitely necessary in certain settings, such as retail spaces open for business.

This one is even worse.

Oklahoma city ends face mask rule for customers after threats of violence

What a pathetic reaction to lawlessness. Retreating like that only encourages such criminal behavior. The only right approach was to make a very public statement that such threats of violence will not be tolerated in the slightest and that anyone found making them will be immediately arrested and have the book thrown at him or her. It's like the Wild West with a cowardly, grossly outnumbered and outgunned sheriff with no deputies.

Some of this next article is understandable, but people in locations that haven't been hit by the virus or hit very lightly need to keep in mind just how sneaky the virus can be and how a lax attitude about it can open an area wide up. It can ride in on almost anything. So, if they want to control things themselves, they need to assure the governor that they will not loosen up as if there's no virus that could waltz in and make people very sick and kill some, only prolonging the pandemic.

Coronavirus updates: Rural counties strike back at Newsom as pressure mounts in Sacramento County

Plastic ocean:

What if the "great ocean garbage patches" were just the tip of the iceberg? While more than 10 million tonnes of plastic waste enters the sea each year, we actually see just 1 percent of it – the portion that floats on the ocean surface. What happens to the missing 99 percent has been unclear for a while.
We found up to 1.9 million pieces of microplastic in a 5 cm-thick layer covering just one square metre – the highest levels of microplastics yet recorded on the ocean floor.
Most microplastics found on the seafloor are fibres from clothes and textiles.

Scientists Find The Highest-Ever Concentration of Microplastics on The Seafloor

Wondering just how big the invasive Asian giant hornet is compared to a honeybee, bumblebee or paper wasp? The state Department of Agriculture has released a chart to help you.

How big is an Asian giant hornet vs. a honeybee or bumblebee? There’s a chart for that

Democracy is job number one.

What has upset many in the West is the realisation that they were wrong to assume globalisation and democracy would go hand in hand. China’s meteoric economic rise, its pivot to more authoritarian rule and a more assertive stance on the international stage in recent years have proved such assumptions completely wrong.

For China hawks in the West, the globalisation of the past few decades has seen the free West help create a communist [an antidemocratic] monster, one that now poses the most severe challenge to established universal values and the global order.

That is why the Trump administration’s December 2017 National Security Strategy classified China as a strategic rival that aimed to “undermine the American economy, values and interests”. The EU has made a similar policy statement, identifying China as a “systemic rival”.

Coronavirus: China faces an economic reckoning as Covid-19 turns world against globalisation

I totally agree with Matthew Zeitlin that setting businesses up to compete against each other for the still insufficiently funded PPP loans was, and remains, completely wrong.

Everyone is focusing on the wrong problem with the PPP program

The US just reported its deadliest day for coronavirus patients as states reopen ...

This is very important information.

Nichols, who is 32 years old, got tested for the coronavirus on March 17 in Boston, Massachusetts, where she lives. Her test was positive, but her symptoms still haven’t gone away: Friday was day 51 of her illness.

Nichols is still recovering at home. Not a day has passed in which she didn’t have diarrhea. Her appetite has disappeared, she sweats and shivers through the night, and there’s a rattling in her chest. Her second coronavirus test came back positive again on April 20.

She is one of a growing number of young coronavirus patients with mild or moderate cases who have reported being sick for more than a month.

Three other patients under 40 gave Business Insider similar accounts of their illnesses. That contradicts guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has suggested that mild coronavirus symptoms typically last for 14 days. For severe or critical patients, the World Health Organization reports, recovery can last [take] up to six weeks.

For a growing number of COVID-19 patients, symptoms last more than a month. Four young patients who’ve been sick 30-plus days say they’re ‘terrified.’

An analysis of COVID-19 cases in Shenzhen, China, found that infection rates in young children were no lower than the population average, and that women were roughly equally represented as men, but men were 2.5 times as likely to exhibit severe symptoms.


"Curiouser and curiouser!," cried Alice.

Some prominent scientists, including Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health, said the virus might have been spreading quietly in humans for years, or even decades, without causing a detectable outbreak.

According to some estimates, the ancestor of Sars-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19, might have left bats between 50 and 70 years ago. A recent study by a team of geneticists in Oxford University estimated the first outbreak of the current pandemic could have occurred as early as September last year.

They found that the dominant strains circulating in China and Asia were genetically younger than some popular strains in the United States.

Coronavirus outbreak in France did not come directly from China, gene-tracing scientists say

Congress seems to be at war with the states. Only $150 billion of its nearly $3 trillion coronavirus relief package – a mere 5% – has been allocated to the 50 states; and they are not allowed to use it where they need it most, to plug the holes in their budgets caused by the mandatory shutdown. On April 22, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was opposed to additional federal aid to the states, and that his preference was to allow states to go bankrupt.

No such threat looms over the banks, which have made out extremely well in this crisis. The Federal Reserve has dropped interest rates to 0.25%, eliminated reserve requirements, and relaxed capital requirements. Banks can now borrow effectively for free, without restrictions on the money’s use. Following the playbook of the 2008-09 bailout, they can make the funds available to their Wall Street cronies to buy up distressed Main Street assets at fire sale prices, while continuing to lend to credit cardholders at 21%.

If there is a silver lining to all this, it is that the Fed’s relaxed liquidity rules have made it easier for state and local governments to set up their own publicly-owned banks, something they should do post haste to take advantage of the Fed’s very generous new accommodations for banks. ...
It has long been a goal of conservatives to privatize public pensions, forcing seniors into the riskier stock market. Lured in by market booms, their savings can then be raided by the periodic busts of the “business cycle,” while the more savvy insiders collect the spoils. Today political opportunists are using a crushing emergency that is devastating local economies to downsize the public sector and privatize everything.

Crushing the States, Saving the Banks: The Fed’s Generous New Rules

Nothing’s Fixed: What’s Behind the Corporate Debt Bailout

Over the past two years, nobody knew what would trigger the next financial crisis, but just about everyone saw that it would involve the record pile of corporate debt. And so it happened. Now the Fed fixed it...

Biomimetic tiny home as antifragile prototype for new urbanism

When a computer-based, self-reliant city-lab high in the hills above Barcelona designed and built a tiny home they used parametric modeling software to mimic nature. The resulting Niu Haus, or Nest House, is all curves (only the sloping solar-paneled roof is flat). Built from wood harvested, milled and CNC-cut on the property, it’s a hyper-local creation.

Valldaura Self-Sufficient Labs is located on the site of an abandoned 19th-century vineyard left to return to forest. By culling trees, the group sources not only raw material for constant building projects, but also wood chips for a biomass heater which provides all the heating needs. The 50 students who live in the old farmhouse/villa grow their own food on the property, often aided by their experimental robotic agriculture.

Vicente Guallart, former chief architect of the city of Barcelona and Valldaura Labs founder, argues we need to reinvent cities every 30 years; given the strength of cross-laminated timber in skyscraper construction, he sees wood construction as part of this future. A part of this future is antifragile community construction where cities and even individual homes will be capable of producing their own energy, food and construction materials.