…too much [DOT 30/9/21]

& not enough...

…it’s tempting to just run with too much news & not enough time…that’d be pretty close to a chorus when it comes to the absurd number of available links to things potentially of note & the hours available in a day…not to mention the way these posts tend to go…but I think there are a few more senses in which it might be accurate…or applicable

The next 24 hours will make clear whether Democrats are on the verge of pushing through a once-in-a-generation expansion of the social safety net or nearing a complete collapse of Joe Biden’s ambitious domestic agenda.


…so this was interesting

My theory is that our failure to properly contextualize numbers is making our politics worse. Our inability to understand scale and context makes us see some things as more problematic or unusual than they actually are. My theory, further, is that encouraging a better sense of big numbers would make things, however slightly, better.
Again, context is useful. Yes, $3.5 trillion is an incomprehensibly large amount of money. But the government already spends an even more incomprehensibly large amount of money every year. Last year, for example, it spent $6.6 trillion. How much is that? Well, if you spent a dollar a second, you would finally spend $6.6 trillion by about 6 p.m. (as of writing) on April 30. Of the year 112,932. (It will be Wednesday, presuming the heat death of the universe has not yet occurred.)

It’s also useful to note that the $3.5 trillion is over the course of a decade. So the amount being proposed annually is, on average, $350 billion. That’s a sum that’s about 5 percent of what the government spent last year. Still a lot, absolutely. But the functional equivalent of your weekly grocery bill going from $300 to $315.

Then there’s the flip side of this, politically speaking. The tax cuts passed in 2017 were projected to add an estimated $1.9 trillion to the federal debt over 10 years, or an average of $190 billion per year. That’s about 6 percent of the federal deficit last year (though the deficit was particularly high in fiscal year 2020, due to the pandemic).

Incomprehensibly big numbers — except when you compare them to other incomprehensibly big numbers, which seems warranted.
The numbers we highlight and how we highlight them are often choices being made to illustrate a point. Sometimes, though, it’s simply a failure to recognize context, to consider that 600 United Airlines employees is a lot of people but a small number of United Airlines employees. Or to think of 3.5 trillion inches as being 111 round trips to the moon instead of as only about half the trips to the moon that the country travels in a year anyway.

Speaking of, that’s how I explained the population of the planet to my son. I showed him how long an inch was and asked how long a line of inches would stretch if there was one for every person in the world. He underestimated it quite a bit, since people generally are bad at big numbers, particularly 4-year-olds. So I put it in terms of the circumference of the Earth.

Try to guess how far around the world it would get you. Then find out. Maybe you’re not so good at big numbers either.


…if you can navigate that paywall I’d argue it’s worth a read…has some interesting stuff to say on the subject of coronavirus statistics while it’s at it

“It’s surprisingly difficult even for adults to really identify clear disinformation or misinformation,” […]

Educators have been grappling with how to help students become more discerning consumers of information for several years now as social media has allowed lies, fake news and falsehoods to spread broadly and quickly.

But some educators say teaching their students how to conduct research has now become one of the most critical skills they impart as misinformation abounds about potentially life-threatening topics like vaccines, masks and purported Covid cures.
“One of the fundamental things that we are hopefully teaching young people how to do is to read critically and think critically,” […]

“It’s very much a life skill, being able to analyze the information that is coming to you, that you’re processing, and then to be able to analyze it in a way that helps you determine whether or not this is legitimate[…]. Is this based in fact? Is this somebody’s opinion?”


…speaking of which

YouTube announced a total ban Wednesday on vaccine misinformation and the termination of the accounts of several prominent anti-vaccine influencers, including Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., citing “the need to remove egregious harmful content.”


As part of a new set of policies aimed at cutting down on anti-vaccine content on the Google-owned site, YouTube will ban any videos that claim that commonly used vaccines approved by health authorities are ineffective or dangerous. The company previously blocked videos that made those claims about coronavirus vaccines, but not ones for other vaccines like those for measles or chickenpox.
“You create this breeding ground and when you deplatform it doesn’t go away, they just migrate,” said Hany Farid, a computer science professor and misinformation researcher at the University of California at Berkeley. “This is not one that should have been complicated. We had 18 months to think about these issues, we knew the vaccine was coming, why was this not the policy from the very beginning?”
Mercola, an alternative medicine entrepreneur, and Kennedy, a lawyer and the son of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy who has been a face of the anti-vaccine movement for years, have both said in the past that they are not automatically against all vaccines, but believe information about the risks of vaccines is being suppressed.

Facebook banned misinformation on all vaccines seven months ago, though the pages of both Mercola and Kennedy remain up on the social media site. Their Twitter accounts are active, too.
YouTube, Facebook and Twitter all banned misinformation about the coronavirus early on in the pandemic. But false claims continue to run rampant across all three of the platforms. The social networks are also tightly connected, with YouTube often serving as a library of videos that go viral on Twitter or Facebook.
The anti-vaccine movement goes back to well before the pandemic. False scientific claims that childhood vaccines caused autism made in the late 1990s have contributed to rising numbers of people refusing to let their kids get shots that had been commonplace for decades. As social media took over more of the media landscape, anti-vaccine activists spread their messages on Facebook parenting groups and through YouTube videos.
The anti-vaccine movement now also incorporates groups as diverse as conspiracy theorists who believe former president Donald Trump is still the rightful president, and some wellness influencers who see the vaccines as unnatural substances that will poison human bodies. All of the government-approved coronavirus vaccines have gone through rigorous testing and have been scientifically proved to be highly effective and safe.

YouTube is banning prominent anti-vaccine activists and blocking all anti-vaccine content [WaPo]

…things move fast online…so there’s something of a torrent of information being potentially thrown in our direction at any given time…not all of it good for us…& it’s tempting to rely on a sort of kneejerk reaction to some stuff

Russia has threatened to block YouTube unless the Google-owned video service restores two German-language channels managed by Russia’s state media company RT that were deleted after they published what YouTube called “misinformation” about covid-19 and coronavirus vaccines.
It is not the first time Russia has been linked to coronavirus misinformation. Facebook in August said it had removed hundreds of accounts it said were part of a disinformation campaign largely run out of Russia that used social media influencers to peddle fake claims about coronavirus vaccines, including that some shots could turn people into chimpanzees.



Facebook late Wednesday released heavily annotated documents discounting its own research into user harm — an attempt to deflect criticism as lawmakers gear up to deliver the company a harsh rebuke on Capitol Hill.

The research decks, one called “Hard Life Moments — Mental Health Deep Dive” and another called “Teen Mental Health Deep Dive,” feature internal research into Instagram’s effects on adults’ and teens’ mental health.
The documents provide a preview of Facebook’s strategy as it prepares for at least two key hearings in front of a Senate panel focused on children’s safety issues. The hearings were called following the Wall Street Journal’s initial report of Facebook’s findings of its products’ negative effects on children and teens’ mental health.
Facebook has been at the center of mounting scrutiny in D.C. and statehouses as Big Tech is thrust under the microscope and its effects on people’s privacy and security examined. Facebook has been called by lawmakers to answer for the platform’s role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, its alleged monopoly power and its role in perpetuating viral misinformation, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Facebook was one subject of an extensive House committee report faulting tech giants for engaging in anti-competitive tactics, and it is being sued by the Federal Trade Commission for antitrust violations.


…can often say more about the ones reacting than there seems to be said for their reasoning

Democracy has been tested this year by divisive voting and election administration laws in states like Georgia and Texas.

But those are not the only state moves that are putting strains on our democracy. From Arizona in 2000 to California, Michigan, Colorado, Missouri, Utah and Virginia since then, voters took it upon themselves via ballot initiatives to put independent commissions in place for the 2021 redistricting cycle. The clear message: to keep politicians and partisan operatives as far away as possible from drawing districts and tilting state legislative and congressional maps in their party’s favor for the next decade.

Yet as a new cycle begins, the ballot-initiative efforts and independent commissions on redistricting appear to have been undermined by partisans. Operatives have managed to exploit loopholes and, in some states, shredded the very notion of fair maps before a single line has been drawn.
Voters wanted the partisan manipulation to end. What they’ve got instead is partisans in too many states twisting redistricting commissions into something resembling the old back rooms, determined to continue contorting legislative maps — and democracy itself — into something all but unrecognizable.

Voters Had Their Say. Partisans Ignored Them. [NYT]

Republicans know how advantageous extreme gerrymandering can be. In 2011, Republicans undertook an unprecedented effort to use the redistricting process to their advantage, redrawing district lines in such a way that virtually guaranteed re-election across the country. It helped them hold majorities in state legislatures and the US Congress for much of the decade.

Republicans are once again poised to dominate the process, but there are even fewer protections in place than in the past. In 2019, the supreme court said for the first time that there were no federal limits on how far politicians could go to draw districts to their benefit. And for the first time since 1965, states with a history of voting discrimination won’t have to get their district approved by the federal government before they go into effect to ensure they don’t discriminate against minority voters. That could make a huge difference in Texas, where the state has drawn districts that violate the Voting Rights Act in every decade since the law was enacted.

The plot against democracy: how Texas Republicans plan to steal power from minority voters [Guardian]

…which reminds me

Democrats prepared legislation on Wednesday to avert a government shutdown this week, but they were desperately trying to salvage President Biden’s domestic agenda as conservative-leaning holdouts dug in against an ambitious $3.5 trillion social safety net and climate bill that carries many of the party’s top priorities.
That, in turn, was imperiling a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that was scheduled for a House vote on Thursday.
Dramatizing the challenge, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a leading holdout on the social policy bill, issued a lengthy and strongly worded statement on Wednesday evening reiterating his opposition to the proposal as currently constituted, saying it amounted to “fiscal insanity.”

“While I am hopeful that common ground can be found that would result in another historic investment in our nation, I cannot — and will not — support trillions in spending or an all-or-nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality our nation faces,” Mr. Manchin wrote, denouncing an approach that he said would “vengefully tax for the sake of wishful spending.”
“I assume he’s saying that the president is insane, because this is the president’s agenda,” Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington and the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said of Mr. Manchin. “Look, this is why we’re not voting for that bipartisan bill until we get agreement on the reconciliation bill. It’s clear we’ve got a ways to go.”

“I tell you, after that statement, we probably have even more people willing to vote ‘no’ on the bipartisan bill,” she added.
“The plan is to bring the bill to the floor,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters, returning to Capitol Hill after huddling at the White House with Mr. Biden and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader. Asked whether she was concerned about the votes, she added, “One hour at a time.”
But even as the debt ceiling remained unresolved, Senate leaders scheduled a series of votes for Thursday morning on legislation that would keep the government open through early December and provide crucial aid for disaster relief efforts and Afghan refugees. The House is expected to take up the legislation soon afterward to avoid a shutdown Thursday night.
Both Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin visited the White House on Tuesday, but after their meetings, neither they nor White House officials would enumerate the contours of a bill they could support. Top White House officials also trekked to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to huddle privately with Ms. Sinema for more than two hours.

Democrats prepared a spending bill to keep the government funded past a Thursday deadline, but moderates dug in harder against their ambitious social safety net bill. [NYT]

Ms. Sinema, a onetime school social worker and Green Party-aligned activist, vaulted through the ranks of Arizona politics by running as a zealous bipartisan willing to break with her fellow Democrats. She counts John McCain, the Republican senator who died in 2018, as a hero, and has found support from independent voters and moderate suburban women in a state where Maverick is practically its own party.
Little can proceed without the approval of Ms. Sinema, one of two marquee Democratic moderates in an evenly divided Senate. While she has balked at the $3.5 trillion price tag and some of the tax-raising provisions of the bill, which is opposed by all Republicans in Congress, Democrats in Washington and back home in Arizona have grown exasperated.
Democrats familiar with the discussions with Ms. Sinema and her staff say she has deep concerns with the current proposals around certain tax increases, which could shape the scope of the package.
At the same time, House Democrats are now threatening to derail the trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill hammered out by Ms. Sinema that has already passed the Senate.
Ms. Sinema’s standing with Democrats has suffered as she takes fire for defending the Senate filibuster as a guardrail of democracy. About 56 percent of Democrats in the state viewed Ms. Sinema favorably, compared with 80 percent for Senator Mark Kelly, a fellow Democrat, according to a September poll from OH Predictive Insights, a Phoenix political research firm.
While left-wing Democrats may be frustrated with Mr. Manchin, he has not faced nearly the same level of backlash at home in his Trump-supporting state of West Virginia, where he served as governor and has been a political fixture for decades.

Kyrsten Sinema Is at the Center of It All. Some Arizonans Wish She Weren’t. [NYT]

…& the thing is with a lot of this predictable (& indeed widely predicted) stuff…timing arguably plays a pretty big role…which is often relative…in that even when the pace is slow & the outcome theoretically inevitable it can sometimes make a big difference which side of a deadline that outcome should arrive

The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol issued another batch of subpoenas to several former Trump aides and organizers of the rally that preceded the assault.
The panel is asking for records about the planning and funding of and participation in the preceding rallies and bus tours. It is also looking at the groups’ social media activity and the communications of lawmakers and Trump administration officials.

The panel issued subpoenas for some of Trump’s closest advisers last week, signaling an aggressive approach. The committee subpoenaed and set a date for sworn depositions for former White House strategist Steve Bannon, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former social media director Dan Scavino and Kashyap Patel, who was chief of staff to Trump’s defense secretary.

The requested documents include a voluminous batch of records related to the Trump administration’s plans to discredit the election and dismiss the Electoral College count on Jan. 6.

The panel demands that they give their sworn depositions on varying dates from late October to early November. [NBC]

House select committee investigators said in the subpoenas that they believed the 11 people assisted in organizing the rally in support of Trump and his lies about a stolen 2020 election, which incited his supporters to storm the Capitol in his name.

But in a notable addition, the select committee added in the subpoenas that they had been identified as potential witnesses because they communicated with former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows – as well as Trump himself.

The select committee is expected in the coming weeks to authorize still further subpoenas to Trump officials and other individuals connected to the Capitol attack, which could ultimately number in the hundreds, according to a source familiar with internal deliberations.

But it was not immediately clear whether the latest subpoena targets would comply with the orders that compelled them to produce documents by 13 October and appear for depositions in October and November before a select committee that has plainly enraged Trump.
The former president’s efforts to resist the select committee on every front by claiming executive privilege faces steep obstacles, in part because the justice department declined to assert protection over prior testimony related to 6 January.

But the plan to mount legal challenges could ensure the most sensitive Trump White House records are tied up in court for months, delaying the select committee as it aims to produce a final report before the 2022 midterms to shield it from accusations of partisanship.


…so despite there being an awful lot of awfully strong-looking cases against an awful lot of awful people behind the shorthand of “jan 6th”…it’s hard to deny that it’d sure be handy if some of those seemingly inevitable guilty verdicts came through before rather than after those midterms?

…job might not be the best term…position of unwarranted influence is a little clunkier…but there are reasons why we do the whole shorthand thing a lot…& let’s face it…when you have the wrong people in those the results can be unacceptable even on an individual scale

Video footage released on Wednesday showed[a] then […] serving Metropolitan police officer, staging a false arrest of Everard as she returned from a friend’s house in south London in March during a period of coronavirus lockdown measures.
The full details […] were laid bare for the first time at a hearing to decide whether he should be sentenced to die in jail. The prosecution said the crimes were so serious, involving the abuse of his position and trust as a police officer, they might merit him being sentenced to a whole-life tariff.
Everard’s murder rocked Britain and led to an outcry over women’s safety on the streets. Police fear the full details of the crime will trigger growing revulsion and anger.
The kidnapping and murder of Everard triggered a national debate about the safety of women in the UK and whether the criminal justice system does enough to protect them and punish those who attack them.


…sadly it is, to drag shakespeare into it, “an accident of hourly proof” that there’s tragically little daylight to be found between illustrative personal tragedy & a statistic buried under sufficient weight of numbers to be tragically routine

“The fact that this is so routine that it’s not even a major headline, and we don’t even blink an eye when this keeps happening is heartbreaking.” So commented the co-founder of the Violence Project about last week’s shooting in a Tennessee grocery store in which 15 people were wounded, one fatally. That lament about the country becoming numb applies not just to the mass shootings that sadly have become all too commonplace in the United States but also to the steady spate of gun violence that has sent the murder rate soaring and scarred countless lives.

The FBI’s annual tabulation of crime data, released on Monday, showed that killings in the United States increased nearly 30 percent last year, the largest annual increase on record. An additional 4,901 people were killed in 2020 compared with 2019, bringing the total to 21,500. Many factors are at play — including an unprecedented pandemic that caused economic and mental stress — but what is most striking is the undeniable role played by guns. Gun homicides accounted for more than two of every three killings; few parts of the country have been spared.


…& the conclusions those statistics tend to lead people to have a lot to do with perspective…which can be hard to achieve

Daimon Ferguson was one of 456 people violently killed across the greater San Francisco Bay Area last year, according to data reported to California’s department of justice.
Most of the homicides were committed with guns, used not in mass casualty events that make the nightly national news, but in daily shootings on the region’s blocks, streets and in its parks.
The rise in gun violence in the Bay Area mirrored trends seen across the US. Nationwide, homicides leapt by nearly 30% from 2019 to 2020, according to FBI crime data released in September. About 77% of the killings involved guns and increases were found in every region in the US. California recorded 2,202 homicides, compared to 1,679 the year before – a 31% increase, according to the Guardian’s analysis of state homicide data.

The full dynamics behind the surge in shootings are still unclear, though researchers, violence prevention practitioners and law enforcement have all offered elements, including economic distress, the breakdown of social pillars in the community, and slowdowns in the courts.
“The communities that were hit worst were the communities that were underserved in the first place,” said Tashante McCoy, a manager with Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice and a violence prevention and victim advocate in Stockton.
A 2019 Guardian analysis of homicide data in the Bay Area from 2007-2017 found that while homicides and gun violence remained persistent issues, homicides had gone down by 30% across the 12 counties of the region. Black residents, who had historically been overrepresented among homicide victims, experienced the most dramatic drop.

The decrease held in the years leading up to the pandemic. A fresh analysis of homicide data shows that the decline continued in 2018, when the region recorded 309 homicides, and in 2019, when it recorded 336. That increase from 2018 to 2019 pales in comparison to the almost 114 more homicides that would happen in the region in 2020.
The increase in shootings have led to fresh fears about a “violent crime wave”, anxieties that were readily amplified by right-leaning groups and conservative media.

But even with the pandemic surge, homicides across the Bay Area have not reached the highs of the late 1990s and mid-2000s. And many neighborhoods have been minimally affected.

Still, police unions and tough-on-crime officials, too, have pointed at the rise to argue that efforts to shift away funding from law enforcement agencies was misguided. Others have held it up as an argument for officials to look outside of law enforcement, and scale up community-driven solutions that tackle the root causes of violence.


…much less maintain

Criminologists and police officials have been studying possible explanations for the sudden, sharp increase in killings — from societal changes because of the coronavirus, to changes in policing, to increased gun sales. So far this year, officials are seeing a further increase in homicides but not as pronounced as last year.
Overall, however, crime is still well below the historic highs reached in the early 1990s. And in many cities, including Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago, the number of killings is still far below the record-high tolls from nearly 30 years ago.

Republican and Democratic elected officials disagree on what is causing the increase in homicides after years of decline, and how to stop it. Conservatives blame Democratic-run cities for what they say are overly restrictive policies placed on police departments; the Biden administration faults the easy availability of guns as a primary reason for more deaths, and the Justice Department is trying to stem the violence by cracking down on illegal gun trafficking.

The disturbing crime data comes as the FBI is pushing the nation’s roughly 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies to change how they provide information to calculate national figures and trends. The switch to the new crime data format, known as the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) has been a years-long process. But officials say 2020 is the last year for which data reported through the old system will be accepted.

Many law enforcement agencies don’t yet provide the FBI with the data that is needed for the new system, leaving some crime experts to predict that national crime figures will get more shaky in the short term, with markedly fewer jurisdictions included in the FBI summary that comes out each fall.
Nix [a] criminologist, said when it comes to the FBI’s data, “I’m kind of worried about the future because I think we’re about to have a real blind spot for the next few years.”


…the thing is, though…big pictures seem a lot like those big numbers…in that sometimes it seems like the thinking required to take the whole thing into account covers so much ground there isn’t enough space in our worldview

It would be hard to describe the state of political competition in America more accurately than as “a poisonous cocktail of othering, aversion and moralization” — the subtitle of an article, “Political Sectarianism in America,” published by 15 important scholars in Science magazine in November 2020, including Eli Finkel, Peter Ditto, Shanto Iyengar, Lilliana Mason, Brendan Nyhan and Linda Skitka.

[…]Nyhan continued, “that we should renew our scrutiny of the role of elites and political systems in fomenting illiberal behavior” and that the problem “is not affective polarization as such; it’s a political system that is failing to contain significant democratic erosion and illiberalism being driven by G.O.P. elites (though affective polarization may help encourage and enable such tactics).”

How Much Does How Much We Hate Each Other Matter? [NYT]

…which is also a pretty unwieldy idea it might be best not to think too much about if you want to get anything done today…although much of what’s raised &/or quoted in that NYT thing there seems worthy of consideration…besides which the bigger picture is presumably of lasting importance if you happen to be considering tomorrow

There is a box labelled “climate”, in which politicians discuss the climate crisis. There is a box named “biodiversity”, in which they discuss the biodiversity crisis. There are other boxes, such as pollution, deforestation, overfishing and soil loss, gathering dust in our planet’s lost property department. But they all contain aspects of one crisis that we have divided up to make it comprehensible. The categories the human brain creates to make sense of its surroundings are not, as Immanuel Kant observed, the “thing-in-itself”. They describe artefacts of our perceptions rather than the world.

Nature recognises no such divisions. As Earth systems are assaulted by everything at once, each source of stress compounds the others.
Combined impacts are laying waste to entire living systems. When coral reefs are weakened by the fishing industry, pollution and the bleaching caused by global heating, they are less able to withstand the extreme climate events, such as tropical cyclones, which our fossil fuel emissions have also intensified. When rainforests are fragmented by timber cutting and cattle ranching, and ravaged by imported tree diseases, they become more vulnerable to the droughts and fires caused by climate breakdown.
When we box up this predicament, our efforts to solve one aspect of the crisis exacerbate another. For example, if we were to build sufficient direct air capture machines to make a major difference to atmospheric carbon concentrations, this would demand a massive new wave of mining and processing for the steel and concrete. The impact of such construction pulses travels around the world. To take just one component, the mining of sand to make concrete is trashing hundreds of precious habitats. It’s especially devastating to rivers, whose sand is highly sought in construction. Rivers are already being hit by drought, the disappearance of mountain ice and snow, our extraction of water, and pollution from farming, sewage and industry. Sand dredging, on top of these assaults, could be a final, fatal blow.

Or look at the materials required for the electronics revolution that will, apparently, save us from climate breakdown. Already, mining and processing the minerals required for magnets and batteries is laying waste to habitats and causing new pollution crises. Now, as Jonathan Watts’s terrifying article in the Guardian this week shows, companies are using the climate crisis as justification for extracting minerals from the deep ocean floor, long before we have any idea of what the impacts might be.


…now…that’s george monbiot…so some won’t be inclined to follow his arguments all the way to some of his conclusions on account of what either side would call principles…even if there do seem to be an increasing number of things that rather gloomily support his case

It’s a rare move for wildlife officials to give up hope on a plant or animal, but government scientists have exhausted efforts to find these 23 species and warned that the climate crisis, on top of other pressures, could make such disappearances more common.
“And it’s a sobering reminder that extinction is a consequence of human-caused environmental change,” Fahey said.


…oh, yeah…& the stuff in that “terrifying article” monbiot refers to & which I’m pretty sure was quoted in one of these just the other day…in terms of what might be mined in a different sense if we were to maybe not get ahead of ourselves with the destructive sort just yet

It has been 30 years since the last new class of antibiotic was introduced to the market. All the existing drugs are essentially variations on a theme: they kill bacteria, in similar ways. Some burst cells walls, others block DNA replication.

But the bacteria are swiftly evolving to survive those chemical attacks – and as they survive, they become virulent superbugs. Without new antibiotics, by 2050 the death toll from drug-resistant infections is projected to reach 10 million people a year, making the coronavirus pandemic seem almost quaint.

This is why scientists at Plymouth University have been searching the cold, dark abyss of the north Atlantic – where they have found sponges that contain powerful molecules capable of killing those superbugs.
The hit rate for finding powerful and useful new compounds is proving to be especially high among animals of the deep sea. Hundreds of biologically active compounds have been found at the bottom of the ocean, some already in widespread use. Enzymes found in bacteria living around hydrothermal vents are even being used in tests for the Covid virus.
[Kerry] Howell [professor of deep-sea ecology] says: “Part of the big concern that all deep-sea ecologists have is that we know just how little is known about these areas and we are desperately trying to play catch-up with the [deep-sea mining] industry. To my mind, that’s the wrong way round. We ought to be finding out about these places before we even consider mining them.”

One of the potential targets for deep-sea mining is the south-east Atlantic abyss, where Howell is planning her next expedition, along with South African colleagues. “It’s one of the least-explored parts of our planet. There’s really very little data,” she says .


…now, as it happens I’m generally a fan of irony…but having started this post saying there’s too much to get to & not enough time…& despite it being a rare feat to have managed to run out of the latter at this hour of the day…somehow I contrived to wind up with my own version of a visitor from porlock this morning…so time permitting I may be backfilling the above as the day goes on…hopefully at some point it might even sound like a coherent train of thought…but…well…if wishes were horses, beggars would ride & all that?



  1. welp…grab your helmet…smoke em if you got em

    really….its quite liberating once you accept it

    (im not saying go quietly in to that night tho…. really…kick and scream…might as well have some fun on the way out)

    • …to be honest I think that might be a large part of where I get the fondness for irony…at least you can argue there’s some humor to be found in the stuff…”for life is quite absurd/& death’s the final word […] enjoy it – it’s your last chance anyhow”

  2. RIP on DOT and a headline of “too much” and I was bracing myself … but no, this was much shorter than I expected!

    So to keep it short: Innumeracy might be a bigger threat to America than even partisanship!

    • So much would be improved if the press did a better job.

      A great example is recent stories on firings of vax refusing employees at large companies like Novant Health in North Carolina have focused on the numbers losing their jobs, not the much, much larger numbers getting the shots. For example, Novant fired 175, which might sound like a lot, but they employ roughly 30,000. Compliance has been through the roof.

      Editorial and institutional biases in the press feed innumeracy — readers and viewers shouldn’t have to wade through misleading framing to get key context.

      • …such a great example that it is in fact one of the things that WaPo piece uses some very simple things to illustrate how different those numbers look considered in the context of some others

        …given how much jeff bezos has made of late I really do find myself questioning why things like that article should be sat behind a paywall when the stuff on the guardian manages to be free off the back of an endowment that’s apparently “only” about a billion quid…or about $1 out of every $60 or so that jeff’s net worth increased by over the course of last year

        …context matters in all sorts of ways, after all

      • I think this assumption rests on the idea that reporters are number-literate and I can assure you that’s only occasionally the case!

        Also: “99% of XYZ Corp’s employees get vaccinated” gets zero clicks, while “175 lose jobs due to XYZ Corp’s vaccination mandate” gets shared 1,000 times on Facebook.

        • Yep. Reporters, as a rule, tend to not be solid on math. We used to be required to provide context — my editor would have never approved a story about firing 175 without saying how many total employees there are. But that was a LONG time ago.

        • I think there are other ways to frame things which get at the truth, though, which also satisfy the conflict model that some journalists want. The press accepts by default, though, that the winners and losers framework has to be pushed only for conservative wins and liberal losses.

          I think the press is really bad at thinking through what gets eyeballs, which is why so many are potentially juicy stories that get ignored. They argue against running a lot of the 1/6 stories that have emerged because they feel there isn’t a smoking gun or piece of evidence that creates a clean narrative. And yet as Margaret Sullivan points out when a smoking gun emerges that makes the narrative crystal clear, the press runs from it because they just don’t think it’s news because… reasons.


    • …so…umm…it might have got a bit longer while you weren’t looking?

      …but if I hadn’t been unavoidably distracted at an unfortunately early stage of my day I might have found a way to have at least mentioned some things people might have felt better about…like these

      Trump Super PAC Removes Corey Lewandowski After Sexual Harassment Claim [NYT]

      Neo-Nazi leader convicted in plot to intimidate journalists [NBC]

      Britney Spears’s father suspended from conservatorship in victory for singer [Guardian]

      Biden Administration Restores Bird Protections, Repealing Trump Rule [NYT]

      Canada: win for anti-logging protesters as judge denies firm’s injunction bid [Guardian]

      …but…well…then it would have been even longer…so…small mercies?

      • The Lewandowski thing is so perfectly Trumpworld: Sorry, only the boss can get away with that. A lesson mostly unlearned by nearly everyone in his orbit (and deeply misunderstood by everyone outside of it who imagines they could be the next Mango Unchained).

        • Yes. There can only be one Chosen One who will lead the world into the blessed light of fascism.  And you’re right, it’s a principle that hasn’t been grasped by people like DeSantis, Gaetz, Hawley or the horrid Greene woman. Demagoguery is non-transferable.

  3. About Robert F. Kenneedy Jr.:

    Being a good Catholic, he has 6 children. Problem is he’s on his third wife, Cheryl Hines, having driven his second wife to suicide. He is known to have slept with more women outside his marriages than seems possible for someone who actually has a job, and these women  he detailed in a kind of  handwritten spreadhseet, or maybe grocery list. In it, he used a coding system about their attributes and capabilities.

    If you go to his wiki page, it’s been pretty sanitized, but over to the right in the summary column:


    • Anti-vaccine activist
    • conspiracy theorist
    • author
    • environmental lawyer


    • Even “environmental lawyer” is a dubious label. He’s been a huge backer of Koch Industries efforts to stop wind turbines and parroted a lot of the same idiotic talking points that Trump ended up using.

      When The Audubon Society backs turbines, you know that all the moaning about birds is stupid.

  4. On Facebook, this article adds to the picture:


    Basically, 15 out of Facebook’s top 15 sites targetting Christians before the 2020 election were run by troll farms linked to Russian disinformation, as were 10 out of 15 top sites for African Americans and 4 if 12 for Native Americans.

    Five of them are still live. And as the article points out, FB could easily block troll content by not promoting recycled content. But they won’t for two reasons — one is the revenue and engagement from the traffic. The ither is ideological — right wing sites like the ones run by Ben Shapiro also repackage a lot of content, and Facebook leadership has bent over backwards to keep these sites going.

    One of the problems with reporting on Facebook is reporters don’t understand it, leading them to baselessly repeat FB PR. When the Washington Post repeats FB’s claim that they have banned antivax content, and then notes that antivax content still runs rampant, they don’t explain how this happens.

    The reason is that Facebook’s “ban” wasn’t really a ban, and never should have been called that in the first place.



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