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You should read this for 2/27/2021:
Art, Music, and Film
Justin Trudeau has praised Joe Biden for rejoining the Paris climate accord during their first bilateral meeting, saying: “US leadership has been sorely missed over the past years.”
The Canadian prime minister added: “And I have to say as we were preparing the joint rollout of the communique on this, it’s nice when the Americans are not pulling out all the references to climate change and instead adding them in.”
Books, Libraries, Writing, and Language
John Keats: five poets on his best poems, 200 years since his death
Via Manton Reece of Micro.blog: How to blog about books
Coronavirus | COVID-19
Of all the things work-from-home employees might miss about pre-pandemic life, commuting wouldn’t seem to register high on the attention meter. But nearly a year after being sent home from the office, some employees, such as Giza, have realized that losing that time in the car — or on the bus, train or street — has had some drawbacks.
One of the biggest flashpoints in the debate over President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package is whether it’s too generous. It’s the third round of relief, and Republicans have questioned why all of it is needed, given that not all of the earlier relief funds have been spent.
A widely cited Congressional Budget Office estimate says “most of those funds remain to be spent.” But school leaders say the money is spoken for and they need more. . . . . Staff aren’t paid all at once, which means the funds aren’t spent all at once either.
School districts are also looking at hiring tutors and instructors for summer school, and planning ahead for fall, when they face the prospect of trying to help students catch up after a year where some were in school and some were at home. There’s a lot of damage to repair, said Matthew Blomstedt, education commissioner for the state of Nebraska.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has some advantages. Immunization with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot, unlike the two-shot dosing for the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine also doesn’t require special refrigeration for shipment and storage.
The FDA review noted that an international study of about 40,000 people, half of whom got the vaccine and half of whom got a placebo, found the company’s vaccine to be 66% effective overall in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 disease. The study was conducted in the U.S., Latin America and South Africa. . . . The efficacy figures are lower than Pfizer’s 95% for preventing COVID-19 disease and 94% for Moderna. Over the course of the pandemic, the coronavirus has begun to change. Variants first seen in South Africa and Brazil, where the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested, mutated in ways that help them evade the immune response prompted by vaccines developed against the original form of the virus.
But there are more important measures, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Health told All Things Considered on Monday. “What you care about is hospitalizations and deaths,” he said.
The research in Israel– two months into one of the world’s fastest rollouts, providing a rich source of data – showed two doses of the Pfizer shot cut symptomatic Covid-19 cases by 94% across all age groups, and severe illnesses by nearly as much.The study of about 1.2 million people also showed a single shot was 57% effective in protecting against symptomatic infections after two weeks, according to the data published and peer-reviewed in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.
FACT CHECK: Biden’s Comments On Loan Forgiveness And Elite Colleges President Biden is woefully uninformed on how people pay for college, and how “elite” colleges fund students; it’ not from GSLs.
‘I’m a maths lecturer – and I had to get my children to teach me’
His daughter, he says, will master doing addition one way, but then has to do several lessons to learn addition using a completely different method. “It gets her to think: ‘Oh, I actually don’t know how to do this – I thought I did, but I don’t.’” . . . “It’s not the teachers, who are working their socks off in this pandemic and doing a great job. It’s the curriculum.” The curriculum is forcing teachers to “store up problems for the future,” because what children learn at a young age shapes their understanding of maths as they get older. “We’re making a rod for our own backs by not teaching them these concepts sooner,” he says. . . . A bestselling novelist who teaches creative writing, Kelly says the English curriculum her seven-year-old is studying in lockdown is practically Dickensian in its pointlessness. “It’s not about the content of what they’re saying or its effectiveness. It’s about labelling every word in a sentence until the idea of language itself is just horrible to children.”
Food and Drink
(Note that this recipe is very much a jumping-off point; though I didn’t have time to try them all, I’ve also earmarked, for ongoing research: Maunika Gowardhan’s grandmother’s version with coconut milk and vinegar, Cyrus Todiwala’s version with scrambled egg, Asma Khan’s Armenian-inspired dill pilau, the orange-juice-flavoured recipe that Madhur Jaffrey got from a Hyderabadi at a film director’s dinner party and Saliha Mahmood Ahmed’s modern Mughal take with almonds and white poppy seeds. The future’s bright; the future’s mince.)
History and Archaeology
When researchers began to excavate a tunnellike cave on the west coast of Alaska in 1998, they were hoping to discover the remains of ancient bears. Instead, they unearthed something even more intriguing: a tiny chip of bone belonging to the first known dog in the Americas. The find supports the idea that dogs accompanied the first humans who set foot on these continents—and that both traveled there along the Pacific coast. . . . But over the past decade, archaeologists have shown people might have begun to move into North America much earlier. To get around the glaciers, they would have island hopped by boat and walked along shorelines exposed by low sea levels. They traveled from Siberia through the Alaskan archipelago about 16,000 years ago, eventually making their way down the Pacific coast.
The sliver of dog bone supports this hypothesis. Recovered from among more than 50,000 prehistoric animal and human remains excavated near Wrangel Island, researchers didn’t realize it came from a dog until they analyzed its DNA. “We started out thinking this was just another bear bone,” says team leader Charlotte Lindqvist, a biologist at the University at Buffalo (UB). “When we went deeper, we found out it was from a dog.”
The bone is about 10,200 years old, making its owner the oldest dog known in the Americas, the scientists report today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. (The previous record holders were two 10,000-year-old dogs unearthed in the U.S. Midwest.) And the dog’s DNA holds clues to an even earlier time.
Politics and Society
The crisis in Texas was preceded by more than a decade of Republican control of state government, as politicians focused on culture-war grievances rather than the nuts and bolts of governance. After the near collapse of the power grid exposed its failures, the state’s political leadership attempted to cover for those failures by doubling down on those same grievances. . . . That description of the cascading failures of Texas’s power grid is not from the past week. It is actually taken from a 2011 report from FERC, investigating an outage during a prior cold snap. The report recommended that “all entities responsible for the reliability of the bulk power system in the Southwest prepare for the winter season with the same sense of urgency and priority as they prepare for the summer peak season.”
Texas officials didn’t feel like doing all that.
It was unclear ahead of the hearing what DeJoy’s 10-year plan to reform the Postal Service will look like, but the Washington Post reported it includes slowing the delivery of some local first class mail.
Paul Steidler, senior fellow at the Lexington Institute, says “degrading” first class mail is a terrible idea. “You shouldn’t even call it first class mail if it takes three days for something to get a short distance.”
Steidler says it’s the poor and the elderly who are hurt most by slower mail deliveries. “There’s going to be greater instances of court notices not being received on time, payments to credit card companies not getting in on time and penalties being assessed,” Steidler says, “and it’s completely unnecessary.”
Polling released Wednesday confirmed that more Americans than ever before identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. The number of Americans who self-identify this way increased by 60% between 2012 and 2020, according to Gallup.
Researchers say the findings are partly due to an emerging generation of young people who have chosen to live openly with an identity other than heterosexual.
. . .
Not only were women far more likely than their male counterparts to identify as LGBTQ overall (6.4 v 4.9%), they were also more likely to consider themselves bisexual across all age groups (4.3 v 1.8%).
Of everyone surveyed who identified as LGBTQ, 54.6 % of respondents identified as bisexual, 24.5% as gay, 11.7% as lesbian and 11.3% as transgender. More than 3% said they used another term to describe their identity, such as queer or pansexual.
Science and Nature
Even among that subsection of the population who get excited by a good piece of rock, for years chalk was seen as fairly dull. When Farrant started work at the BGS in 1996, he told me: “I got dumped on the chalk and I thought, ‘Oh God, how boring.’ It turns out I was wrong.”
Red coral is no longer bountiful, though: It’s threatened not only by over-harvesting but also by habitat destruction and climate change. Saving the species requires an international effort as complex and innovative as those ancient trading networks, one that values red coral for both its aesthetic splendor and its role in supporting entire Mediterranean ecosystems.
Find and Remove the New ‘Silver Sparrow’ macOS Malware Silver Sparrow is
a new piece of macOS malware that runs on both Intel and M1-based Macs. That makes it the second piece of known malware for the latter, but there’s a silver lining: Researchers discovered the malicious software before it had a chance to actually harm your system.
H/T Michael Tsai: A retrospective look at Mac OS X Snow Leopard
My recent article, The reshaped Mac experience, received a lot of attention judging from the response on Twitter and the WordPress analytics — apparently, among other places, it reached Hacker News and Reddit. Unlike my four-part series Mac OS Catalina: more trouble than it’s worth, however, it didn’t attract any hate mail at all. The sheer majority of feedback I received was very positive, with many many people agreeing with me and my observations. A few — some provocatively, some genuinely curious — asked me something along the lines of, Well, if you dislike the current Big Sur UI and Mac experience, what’s an example of Mac OS UI and experience you DO like?
It’s a more than fair question, and this piece serves as an answer. When I wrote back to those who asked me, I replied Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.
As a self-check, Riccardo Mori installs Snow Leopard and takes a fresh look. I actively miss Snow Leopard. I’m visually disabled enough now that I’m struggling daily, despite a deep familiarity with the Acceissiblity options, to read the UI screens, particularly in the Finder. I miss the color distinctions of Snow Leopard. The windows were so much easier to see and interpret quickly. I miss the icons, and the use of color to delineate specific UI regions.
How to Overcome ‘Zoom Fatigue’
According to Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, the issue applies to all video conferencing services. Generally speaking, it describes the fatigue caused by needing to feel perpetually switched on as you jump between browser windows for various online meetings. It makes sense, too, given that studies have shown that increased screen time—especially when coupled with a sedentary lifestyle—heightens your chances of developing moderate to severe depression.
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💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰
Pay It Forward and Make It Better
A fundraising effort spearheaded by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to help storm-battered Texans has raised more than $4 million in just a few days.
On Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez was on the ground in Texas to celebrate the success of the fundraising effort, which will go to local organizations providing Texans food assistance, homelessness relief and elder care. She was joined by Democratic Texas Reps. Sylvia Garcia and Sheila Jackson Lee, all of whom helped fill boxes at the Houston Food Bank.
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H/T: John Gruber: Bookfeed.io
Bookfeed.io is a simple tool that allows you to specify a list of authors, and generates an RSS feed with each author’s most recently released book.1 I made this because I don’t want a recommendation algorithm to tell me what to read, I just want to know when my favorite authors release new books.
Buy me a Coffee! If you find this site interesting, and would like to see more, buy me a coffee. While I may actually buy coffee, I’ll probably buy books to review.