COVID-19 disaster in the USA news


This 23 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Anti-Lockdown Protesters Harass COVID-19 Nurses | NowThis

‘We’re trying to do the right thing, and we don’t need to get attacked.’ — Watch anti-lockdown protesters harass these nurses.

In US news and current events today, watch these nurses and health care professionals get harassed by anti-lockdown protesters.

As US governors rush to reopen businesses, “Excess death” counts begin to reveal true toll of pandemic. By Bryan Dyne, 23 April 2020. A series of reports have shown that the real death toll from the coronavirus in many parts of the United States and Europe is likely at least twice what has been officially reported.

Coronavirus in the USA, cartoon

Amazon workers continue job actions and protests, as tech employees plan Friday sickout. By Shuvu Batta, 23 April 2020. Amazon workers’ courageous actions, defying the company’s intimidation campaign, are winning the support of wider layers of the working class.

Amazon worker at Staten Island Facility JFK8 in New York City (Image Credit: @AngeMariaSolis)

Shipyard workers launch wildcat strike in Norfolk, Virginia. By Ed Hightower, 23 April 2020. A total of five workers at BAE Systems shipyard have tested positive for the highly contagious respiratory disease.

Merchants of death: Multibillion-dollar bailout for arms industry amid rising COVID-19 toll. 23 April 2020. Workers in arms plants, classified as “essential infrastructure,” have protested and struck against the coronavirus threat that confronts the entire working class amidst the drive for a return to work: here.

Mass deaths in New York nursing homes. By Ali Elhassan, 23 April 2020. Combined with a lack of testing three months into the pandemic, state policies have created conditions for an uncontrollable spread of the virus and horrific mass deaths among the elderly, and significant fatalities among the staff.

Despite restrictions eviction notices still being delivered in New Orleans amid pandemic. By Aaron Murch, 23 April 2020. There have been multiple instances in New Orleans and around the country of landlords sending eviction notices as a bullying tactic to force out or squeeze rent payments from of poor and unemployed workers.

Cape cobra and meerkats in South Africa


This 23 April 2020 video from South Africa says about itself:

Cape cobra (Naja nivea) is one of the most venomous cobra species. It has many color morphs, but one of the most bright is the yellow cobra from the Kalahari desert. This snake lives in open habitat and often meets other animals, such as meerkats. Watch until the end to see the encounter of the cobra and meerkat group.

Bosses expose Polish migrant workers to coronavirus


This 22 April 2020 video says about itself:

Coronavirus: Singapore’s migrant workers ‘living in fear’ – BBC News

A rising wave of infections among Singapore’s massive migrant worker population threatens to derail the city-state’s success in fighting the coronavirus.

About 80% of all cases in Singapore have been linked to the dormitories where low paid migrant workers from South Asia are housed.

Singapore has now sealed off multiple dormitories, as the government carries out extensive testing and tries to move healthy workers out, but questions are being raised about why more wasn’t done to protect them.

People living in the dorms said they were scared about getting ill, and about what the future holds for them.

We agreed to protect the identity of the workers who spoke to the BBC.

Edited by Christine Hah.

Translated from Gert Janssen of Dutch NOS TV:

Hardly any workplace controls, sick migrants forced to keep working

The inspectorate does not come to the spot to report on an unsafe work situation for labor migrants. Due to the corona crisis, their reports are discussed by telephone with the employers concerned, in the hope that the situation will then improve. This is evident from a memo by the Inspectorate of Social Affairs and Employment that Nieuwsuur TV show has obtained.

Migrant workers tell Nieuwsuur that they are now often forced to continue working when they are sick or have to work too closely together.

Fever and sore throat, still have to work

One of them is 28-year-old Polish Paulina. She worked at an employment agency in the Westland for seven weeks to earn money for her three children in Poland. She made chicken and pork skewers. But when she got a fever and started coughing, she was not reported sick. She no longer received a salary and had to leave her home, unless she started working as a driver to transport migrant workers in vans. She resigned in early April.

Two other Polish workers only want to tell their stories anonymously, for fear of being fired. One of them works in a biscuit factory in the river region. About 150 people work there, sixty percent of whom come from Poland. “A few weeks ago, about 30 people in the factory were sick. They had a fever, had a cough, and had a sore throat. But the team leader and manager just told them to come to work.”

Another Polish woman works at the office of an employment agency in the greenhouse area between Hoek van Holland and The Hague. She experienced that sick migrant workers themselves were forced to write their resignation letter, so that the employer no longer had any costs. “Then they would be out in three hours, with no home, money or idea where to go.”

Polish migrant workers also complain about the workplaces, where it is sometimes impossible to keep a meter and a half apart.

Telephone inspection ‘a joke’

Normally, the Social Affairs and Employment Inspectorate supervises a workplace about safety, including physical checks at the workplace. But a memo that was distributed on April 8 says that because of corona the approach is now different. “In view of the exceptional situation, it has been decided to first contact the employer by telephone with the reports that the Inspectorate wishes to investigate further. This is part of the no, unless approach.”

The Inspectorate will only visit the workplace if there are urgent, serious accidents at work or clear signs of labor exploitation.

FNV trade union federation director John Klijn finds the attitude of the inspectorate incomprehensible. “If they call such an employer, they will, of course, be told nine times out of ten that everything is hunky-dory. But as long as they do not physically enter the businesses to check whether they are corona proof, this actually makes no sense at all. A joke.”

Coronavirus in the Netherlands: here. And here.

Billionaires finance Trump’s astroturf ‘Flu Klux Klan’


This 22 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

The Billionaires Behind Re-Open Protests Revealed

Right-wing Reopen “The Country” protests appeared across the country, and some think they came out of nowhere. Thom Hartmann reveals who is behind these protesters and what they really want.

In the middle of a quarantine and lockdown, Americans are protesting to reopen the country? But why? Turns out it is people who want you, the working class and the poor, to go back to work!

Thom Hartmann calls these extreme right advocates of more coronavirus deaths the ‘Flu Klux Klan’.

They certainly use the same fake ‘arguments’ as the Ku Klux Klan, as these photos show.

This 21 April 2020 satirical music video from the USA is a parody about Donald Trump’s policies on the coronavirus crisis.

It says about itself:

The Liar Tweets Tonight

By Roy Zimmerman and The ReZisters, featuring Sandy Riccardi. Made in collaboration with the Raging Grannies of Mendocino.

“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” words and music by Solomon Linda. Parody lyrics by Ede Morris, Roy Zimmerman, Melanie Harby.

COVID-19 disaster in Trump’s USA


This 22 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Coronavirus is more lethal due to prior air pollution. John Iadarola and Emma Vigeland break it down on The Damage Report.

“WASHINGTON — Coronavirus patients in areas that had high levels of air pollution before the pandemic are more likely to die from the infection than patients in cleaner parts of the country, according to a new nationwide study that offers the first clear link between long-term exposure to pollution and Covid-19 death rates.

In an analysis of 3,080 counties in the United States, researchers at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that higher levels of the tiny, dangerous particles in air known as PM 2.5 were associated with higher death rates from the disease.

For weeks, public health officials have surmised a link between dirty air and death or serious illness from Covid-19, which is caused by the coronavirus. The Harvard analysis is the first nationwide study to show a statistical link, revealing a “large overlap” between Covid-19 deaths and other diseases associated with long-term exposure to fine particulate matter.”

Read more here.

FAUCI: WE WILL HAVE CORONAVIRUS IN THE FALL Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said he was convinced the coronavirus would be in the United States until at least the fall, but that the scope depended on people abiding by social distancing measures and lawmakers listening to public health advice before reopening segments of the country. “What happens with that will depend on how we’re able to contain it when it occurs,” he said. [HuffPost]

VACCINE OFFICIAL ‘DEMOTED’ FOR RESISTING UNPROVEN DRUG PUSHED BY TRUMP The doctor leading the Trump administration’s vaccine agency said he was removed from his post at the Department of Health and Human Services and moved into a smaller role at another agency in retaliation for pushing for “scientifically-vetted solutions” over drugs that have not been proven to treat the coronavirus. [HuffPost]

By Dr Dina Rosen in the USA, 22 April 2020:

Want to protest COVID safety measures? Waive your right to medical care

Throughout my career as a physician and public health administrator, I experienced how different countries responded to a global public health crisis. Some of these countries demonstrated enormous political will to address the AIDS pandemic, while others did not. In the absence of coordinated political efforts, death tolls climbed and what’s known as “illness burden” overwhelmed the system.

Illness burden means the cost of caring for the sick and the cost a society incurs when a large segment of the population is unable to work. Unfortunately, the young, healthy workforce is the demographic most often taken out of circulation. The same thing is happening now with the coronavirus infection of COVID-19.

I fear the illness burden will rise here if protesters continue to demand beaches and non-essential businesses be reopened immediately. Their selfish attitude of wanting what they want now, with little regard for our healthcare workers, at-risk populations, and the communities where they live, appalls me. That any governor would consider appeasing them is beyond my comprehension. And I consider President Donald Trump’s tweets encouraging the protesters’ behavior tantamount to a criminal act.

I understand people’s fear of losing their livelihoods and their businesses. I empathize with their desire to get back to some semblance of normalcy. Yet I also know the consequences of making decisions that negatively affect others.

Governments are asking people to stay home, socially distance, wear a mask and wash hands — all of which seem doable for rational grownups in order to serve the greater good.

I have already lost two dear friends, a married couple of health professionals, to this virus. The husband was a healthy 75-year-old practicing pulmonologist in New Jersey who contracted COVID-19 from a patient and unknowingly infected his 74-year-old wife, a retired nurse with underlying health issues. They died within three days of each other. Then, one of my medical school classmates died a week ago, and several of my physician friends have been seriously ill and recovered.

I realize isolating and taking all the precautions is no fun, but it is vital and saves lives.

So here is a compromise: If you want to exercise your freedoms and do as you please, then hold rallies, leave the guns at home, stand six feet apart, wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, and don’t stand and shout — which spreads droplets. Hold placards instead.

If you believe COVID-19 is a hoax to control the general population, fail to listen to scientists and experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci (who whom I worked with in the early 1990s), and stage crowded rallies, you should be required to sign a waiver stating you will refuse medical care if infected by the virus.

You must waive your right to have loved ones call paramedics or an ambulance when you cannot breathe, sign a “Do Not Resuscitate” order and forfeit the right to be put on a ventilator. People who follow government-mandated rules and use their common sense to prevent the coronavirus’s spread deserve access to these precious health resources more than reckless protestors.

The protestors’ need for “freedom” does not give them the right to put health care workers at risk or take away a hospital bed or respirator from someone who followed the rules and respected the value of other people’s lives.

Don’t want to sign such a waiver? Then I urge the protestors to control their impulses for another few months, so that we all may survive.

Dr. Dina Rosen is semi-retired Internal Medicine Doctor who did a fellowship in HIV/AIDS Medicine. She worked as a social worker and Public Health Administrator for non-profits including AIDS Project Los Angeles, the AIDS Service Center, and AIDS Healthcare Foundation. She spent 25 years working in the HIV/AIDS field around the world.

Anti-lockdown protests spawn more anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Holocaust imagery. A placard at an anti-lockdown protest held Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, in front of the state capitol bore the image of the body of a rat standing on its hind legs with a Star of David on its back, with the head of a Jewish man with a long pointed nose, rubbing his hands together. The sign reads “The Real Plague”: here.

The Las Vegas mayor has offered the city as a “control group” to see how many people die without social distancing.

TYSON FOODS CLOSES PORK PLANTS LINKED TO HUNDREDS OF CASES Two Tyson Fresh Meats plants suspended operations after more than 300 employees tested positive for the coronavirus. The closures place further strain the nation’s meat supply chain. The company’s largest pork facility in Waterloo, Iowa, which is critical to U.S. pork supply, had remained open despite concerns it had fueled a massive coronavirus outbreak in the region. More than 180 infections have been linked to the plant, according to Black Hawk County Health Department. [HuffPost]

A Dallas hotel executive whose empire includes luxury resorts has emerged as the biggest winner from the bailout for small businesses.

Chris Cuomo’s son Mario is now sick with the coronavirus.

Stop acting like you won’t get a bad case of COVID-19 because you’re young.

New Zealand blue whales feeding, new research


This 2017 video from New Zealand is called See Blue Whales Lunge For Dinner in Beautiful Drone Footage | National Geographic.

From Oregon State University in the USA:

Surface feeding could provide more than just snacks for New Zealand blue whales

April 22, 2020

Feeding at the ocean’s surface appears to play an important role in New Zealand blue whales’ foraging strategy, allowing them to optimize their energy use, Oregon State University researchers suggest in a new study.

Blue whales are the largest mammals on Earth. Because of their enormous size, the whales must carefully balance the energy gained through their food intake with the energetic costs of feeding, such as diving, holding their breath or opening their mouths, which slows their movement in the water. Adding to the challenge: their prey are tiny krill and they must find and eat large volumes of them to make any energetic headway.

“People think about whales having to dive deep to get to the densest prey patches, but if they can find their prey in shallow waters, it’s actually more energetically profitable to feed near the surface,” said Leigh Torres, an assistant professor and director of the Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Laboratory at OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute. “In this population of whales in New Zealand, they foraged more in areas where their prey was dense and shallow.

“Their dives were relatively short, and they were feeding more at the surface, which requires less energy.”

The findings were published today in the journal PeerJ. Co-authors of the study include Dawn Barlow, a doctoral student in Torres’ lab; Todd Chandler, who captured drone footage used in the study; and Jonathan Burnett of OSU’s Aerial Information Systems Laboratory.

Much of what researchers know about blue whale foraging comes from tags placed on whales, which can record travel and diving patterns, including acceleration, or lunging, toward patches of food. But surface feeding is not as well understood, in part because it is harder to analyze tag data and quantify the size of prey patches at the water’s surface, Barlow said.

During a field research trip to study blue whales off the coast of New Zealand in 2017, Torres and her team observed surface feeding from their boat on multiple occasions. They also noted that the density of krill patches was greater closer to the water’s surface.

The researchers collected data that showed blue whales had relatively short dive times overall, about 2.5 minutes, compared to other blue whale populations, such as those off the coast of California, which average dives of about 10 minutes. When surface foraging was observed, the dive time of New Zealand blue whales dropped even more, to 1.75 minutes.

Using a drone, the researchers captured video of a blue whale surface feeding on a patch of krill. The footage illustrates a blue whale’s feeding process, including decision-making about whether or not to eat patches of krill near the ocean’s surface. The video, which was first shared publicly shortly after the research trip, went viral online. It also gave researchers another source of data to describe surface feeding behavior.

“The drone footage fills a gap in our understanding of surface feeding,” Barlow said.

Through the footage, the researchers were able to see how the whale used its right eye to target the prey. They were able to quantify the recognition distance from the whale to the prey and could measure how widely the whale opened its mouth to feed. The footage also showed the whale’s decision to rotate from one side to the other to better capture the krill.

“The video allows us to describe a lot of really cool kinematics and body movement coordination by the whale that we haven’t been able to see before,” Torres said.

“The footage also allowed us to see the prey response in new way. We can see when the krill begin to flee as the whale approaches, which is really amazing. At the whale’s fastest speed and acceleration, the krill begin to jump away just eight-tenths of a second before the whale strikes at the krill patch.”

Though the researchers had surface feeding footage from just one whale, the footage included four encounters between that whale and surface prey patches, providing insight into decision-making processes by the whale in response to the size and orientation of the prey patches, Torres said.

“This footage highlights the value of using drones for study and observation of whales,” she said. “Drone footage could be a good complement to data collected from tags for studying surface behaviors of whales.”

COVID-19 mass graves in Bolsonaro’s Brazil


This Voice of America video says about itself:

Mass Graves Dug in Brazil Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Authorities in Manaus, Brazil, have begun digging mass graves to bury the increasing number of coronavirus victims, Tuesday, April 21.

In an effort to curb the number of victims, Brazil’s new health minister said the government will more than double the country’s capability for coronavirus testing and devise a plan to end social isolation, which Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said is bad for the economy.

Nelson Teich’s videotaped comments released Monday night come after several governors and mayors said they were looking into imposing stricter isolation measures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

Bolsonaro replaced Luiz Henrique Mandetta with Teich last week after he clashed with Mandetta over self-isolation policies, which Bolsonaro is seeking to end this week.

Bolsonaro could be facing a legal challenge by exiting self-isolation measures after the country’s top court ruled governors and mayors can decide on social isolation measures regardless of the federal government’s position.

As of Wednesday, Brazil has confirmed more than 43,592 COVID-19 cases with 2,769 deaths.

Brazilians struggling for public health need our solidarity. As Covid-19 cases have risen from 6,000 by April 1, to 38,654 (with 2,462 recorded deaths) as of April 20, Bolsonaro’s reckless attitude has been met with widespread protest. Now is the time to push for change, writes CLAUDIA WEBBE MP, vice-chair of the Brazil Solidarity Initiative.

Beetles may help human health


This 2019 video says about itself:

The Ambrosia leaf beetle Ophraella communa

“Do you know this insect?

It is the ragweed leaf beetle called Ophraella communa.

It could become very useful for thousands of allergic people.

Allergic to what? To the pollen of the ragweed: Ambrosia artemisiifolia”.

From the University of Connecticut in the USA:

Got seasonal allergies? Beetles could help

April 21, 2020

It’s time once again for the misery familiar to millions of people around the world: seasonal allergy season. But there may be hope, courtesy of a tiny critter with a big appetite: a new study published in Nature Communications suggests that a species of beetle could help control an invasive and highly allergenic weed at the root of many people’s suffering.

Allergies caused by the common ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia, impact millions, and in Europe alone, around 13.5 million people suffer with symptoms, resulting in 7.4 billion Euros worth of health costs per year, according to the research. The study suggests the leaf beetle, Ophraella communa, could reduce the number of people affected by the pollen and the associated economic impacts, since the beetle — itself a recent arrival in Europe — loves to munch on the invasive plant.

Invasive alien species, such as common ragweed, have a significant effect when introduced into new ecosystems — from crowding out ecologically important native plant species to altering and damaging the ecological services a landscape can provide, invasive plants can lead to substantial economic costs. However, the researchers note very little research has been done on the human health impacts of these species.

Using data from the European Pollen Monitoring Programme, a team of researchers including co-first authors Sandro Steinbach of UConn’s Agricultural and Resource Economics Department and Urs Schaffner of the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International, mapped seasonal total ragweed pollen in Europe from 2004-2012. They then determined ragweed sensitization rates in the European population to estimate the number of allergy sufferers.

“Assessing the human health impacts of IAS is a difficult task; it requires collaboration among scientists from different disciplines, including plant and insect ecology, aerobiology, medicine, and economics,” says Steinbach.

They estimate that 13.5 million people were affected by seasonal ragweed pollen allergies, with economic costs of approximately 7.4 billion Euros per year, including factors such as medical costs and work absences. These numbers are prior to the unintended arrival of O. communa in Europe in 2013.

By modelling the number of generations of the beetle across its suitable habitat range in Europe, the authors project that biological control of common ragweed could reduce the number of people suffering from the ragweed allergy to approximately 11.2 million, and bring the health costs down to 6.4 billion Euros per year.

“Our conservative estimates indicate that biological control of A. artemisiifolia by O. communa will reduce the number of patients by approximately 2.3 million and the health costs by Euro 1.1 billion per year,” says Steinback. “Future costs of this management approach will be basically zero since the beetle has established permanently and is propagating by itself.”

Though this research is specific for Europe, this method of biological control is already happening in China where the beetle is reared and distributed for the control of ragweed. Fortunately, the authors note that previous studies suggest the beetle would have no negative impacts on native or ornamental plants in Europe, so this form of biological control may have no unintended consequences on the local landscape.

Schaffner says, “We were not sure at first whether the leaf beetle was useful or harmful. Laboratory tests had shown that O. communa might be detrimental to sunflowers. However, field tests in China and Europe could not confirm this finding.”

This research also underscores the need for more work to be done on the human health impact of invasive alien species, since the benefits of management strategies are likely greatly undervalued, as shown by the authors’ estimated public health costs being higher than previously reported.

“Mainstreaming invasive species management into policy and decision-making is dependent on the availability of robust data regarding their ecological and economic impacts. Our study provides evidence that the health costs incurred by a single species, A. artemisiifolia, is in a similar range as the currently discussed overall economic costs of all invasive species in Europe, suggesting that the overall costs of invasive species in Europe are grossly underestimated,” says Steinbach.

Schaffner adds, “Because O. communa was accidentally introduced into Europe and did not go through a thorough risk assessment typical for deliberate releases of biological control agents, we started investigating whether this beetle can damage native European plant species. The good news is that there is only one European plant species, which is closely related to A. artemisiifolia. The risk assessment is still in progress, but so far, we have not found evidence for significant damage by this leaf beetle on native European plants.”

Schaffner says another aspect the team is currently looking into is how climate change will affect the distribution of the weed and the beetle and whether the beetle’s impact on pollen production by A. artemisiifolia will increase or decrease in the future.