Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal Vol.3 No.9, Week of September 11 – 16, 2021 (Triage)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, September 11 through Friday, September 17, 2021 [Vol.3 No.9]

Triage

The Week’s Most Notable

it was a signal week in the U.S. history of the COVID-19 pandemic. After more than a year of warning that if sufficient mitigation efforts weren’t in place, hospitals would be overwhelmed and forced to use triage. Now it’s happened officially, as Idaho has placed its health system under an optional healthcare treatment rationing protocol. Triage is usually associated with war and extreme circumstances. For this to happen in peacetime to civilians – where people seeking lifesaving treatment must be turned away because the hospitals have no more resources – seems extraordinarily wrong; but it’s happened. The flood of people infected by the Delta variant in Idaho filled the ICU beds and pushed hospitals beyond their capacity. Patients with other serious problems – accident, stroke, illness, and so forth – had to be transported to hospitals in Washington and Oregon. Hospitals in other parts of the country are near or at the same condition, caused almost entirely by unvaccinated people requiring treatment for serious COVID-19 infection. Idaho has one of the worst vaccination records in the country: under 40%. For the past month, the U.S. has had the worst coronavirus statistics in the world; this despite a relatively high number of vaccinated people (around 60% fully vaccinated). Defiance of vaccines and other mitigation still leaves more than one third of the American public vulnerable.

Factoids: U.S. ranks seventh in vaccination among seven leading democracies. One in 500 Americans have died from COVID.

Saturday, September 11

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 41,922,487; Deaths: 680,497

[9/11] 20 Year Anniversary of the 9/11 Attack – Ceremonies throughout the country and dense media coverage reminded Americans of the searing memories; it’s important to keep in mind that nearly 1/3 of the people alive today were born after 9/11/2001.

[North Korea] North Korea Renews Missile Testing – Resuming its tactics of periodic testing of missiles and other strategic weapons, North Korea seems to be signaling another round of aggravating its neighbors, and the U.S. and its allies with military threats.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal Vol.3 No.8, Week of September 4 – 10, 2021 (COVID Vaccine Mandates)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, September 4 through Friday, September 10, 2021 [Vol.3 No.8]

COVID Vaccine Mandates

The Week’s Most Notable

This week amply demonstrated the world’s dilemmas in dealing with COVID-19. First and foremost, the pandemic isn’t over. The numbers show that because of the Delta variant most countries are barely holding even with their mitigation efforts, and death rates are climbing nearly everywhere. The most embarrassing numbers are in the U.S., which is now leading the world by averaging 160,000 or more new cases and more than 1,500 deaths every day. Second, many countries put themselves in a very bad position by promoting the idea back in June that if you are vaccinated life could return to normal. Among other things, this has led to filled sports stadiums, large concerts, and open public meetings. Unfortunately, vaccines are not a panacea: They are very good but less than 100% effective, their protection weakens over months, new variants like Delta decrease vaccine effectiveness, and finally there is the threat of Long Covid. Though not perfect, vaccines provide a necessary foundation – they generally ameliorate illness and keep most people out of the hospital and out of death’s clutches. However, as we are learning, other mitigation – masks, distancing, lockdowns, track and trace, quarantine, ventilation – are usually needed in combination for specific circumstances. This requires informed, flexible, and pragmatic management – invoking the third dilemma, organized political resistance to fighting the pandemic. Take, for example, the Republican governors threatening lawsuits over Biden’s mandate that federal employees be vaccinated.

As usual, the worst-case situation for fighting the pandemic is in the U.S. Roughly a third of the population, 90 million people, aggressively deny any combination of the pandemic, vaccines, and other mitigation. The bulk of this number is associated with the Republican Party, right-wing media, and extremist religious/political views. By refusing vaccination and other mitigation they jeopardize themselves and any prospects for successful management of the pandemic.  Sadly, anti-vaccine/anti-masking propaganda works, so it continues to be funded and organized for political purposes. While most Americans are appalled, it would be helpful to speculate on how it is possible for so many people to have so little trust in the American institutions of government, medicine, law, and the public good – that they are willing to die for it and to take others with them.

Saturday, September 4

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 40,873,482; Deaths: 668,569

[Afghanistan] Kabul Airport Reopens for Domestic Flights – As part of the Taliban program to put a normal face on their new government, a team from Qatar was brought in to repair parts of the airport control system to enable resumption of domestic flights and presumably regional flights in the near future. With difficulty, some refugee flights have also been permitted. Meanwhile, it’s important to keep watch on the background events: The Taliban continues to consolidate their control, they are turning their attention to reverting society back to Sharia Law, the Afghan economy is within a few months of near collapse, and the specter of winter famine. With potentially millions of people affected by these changes, there is great potential for tragic events with global repercussions.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal Vol. 3 No.7, Week of August 28 – September 3, 2021 (Afghan War Ends)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, August 28 through Friday, September 3, 2021 [Vol.3 No.7]

Afghan War Ends

The Week’s Most Notable

This week the 20-year U.S. war in Afghanistan ended. Throughout that grinding spread of time, the U.S. lost service members (more than 2,400 + 3,800 contractors), money (more than $2 trillion), and all sense of why we were in Afghanistan. The Afghans lost more than 180,000 fighters and civilians. All around, it was a lost war, especially after Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011. The war spanned four U.S. presidents, three party turnovers in Congress, two recessions, the beginning of the pandemic, and then an ending almost as ugly and shambolic as the end of the Vietnam War. Is there any wonder why in general Americans are more than willing to forget this war? Most of the time we were not conscious of it anyway. Now, unless the Taliban don’t care about forming a recognizable government and insist on committing atrocities the right-wing media can exploit, the issues of the Afghanistan war will have faded long before the 2022 midterm elections.

The decision (5-4) to allow the Texas antiabortion law to stand will not go away before the 2022 elections. The law will be in effect for at least six months. The Supreme Court has set the whirlwind in motion. In the months to come, other states will mimic the law, multiple cases will be generated to test it, and the media will thrash the narrative as often as possible. Abortion and its regulation were already the most divisive and sensitive issue in the country; the Texas law is perhaps the most bizarre and infuriating antiabortion legislation to ever receive Supreme Court attention. Abortion is not allowed after detection of the fetal heartbeat (about six weeks and likely to be a big legal bone of contention). The law provides no exceptions for rape or incest. The law uses vigilantism – anybody (not with the government) can track and report on cases of abortion, and the law provides for $10,000 in bounty for successful prosecution. The law is designed to target neither the mother, nor the father, but those who support the abortion. It avoids involving any level of government, which theoretically keeps it out of reach of the courts. It would be difficult to design something more devastating to the people involved, or to the rule of law.

Why did the conservative Supreme Court justices do this? So far, the only answer seems to be, because they can. It’s as if they were trying to find the most inflammatory, untenable, destructive case – and just didn’t care what happened. They could have put a hold on it, simply waiting for nearly a dozen other less draconian antiabortion cases to pass through the normal court procedures before ending Roe v Wade. But the conservatives on the court didn’t wait; they used the shadow docket mechanism, which was supposed to be a list of last-minute procedural decisions for routine court business; and they ruled at midnight with a skimpy memorandum on the most profoundly emotional, complex, and disruptive issue in the country. Bad case, bad ruling, terrible optics all around. They provided pro-choice proponents and the Democrats with enough highly emotional material to last for many months. It’s too early to tell, but it’s likely that the majority of American women, by the millions, are going to be outraged not only by this Texas case but by the prospect of something similar happening nationwide. It is also kicking loose much more vociferous arguing in favor of putting a bridle on the runaway court, such as by increasing the number of justices. That might not happen, but it’s going to be part of the debate from now until the midterm elections.

If Afghanistan and abortion weren’t enough to fill the topical platter, then add natural disasters such as Hurricane Ida, in both its Louisiana (hurricane) and New York (deluge) formats; the fires in California – particularly the Caldor Fire that threatens the Lake Tahoe area; and of course, the surge of COVID-19 cases in the South, thanks to the Delta variant and the Republican Party. Each of these would be sufficient for a major story in their own right, but taken together point to a situation where mother nature is throwing disasters at the human race, hard and fast, and we’re demonstrating a near-inability to deal with them. The problems are mounting not only at the local level, but the state and national levels, which is not even to mention global management. This was a week to appreciate how quickly one disaster turns into another, as, for example, the Louisiana storm turned into a record-breaking storm in New York, and the escape from Afghanistan turned from a comprehensible exodus into ad hoc chaos.

Saturday, August 28

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 39,723,754; Deaths: 657,354

[Coronavirus] Southern Hospitals Running Short of Oxygen, ICU Space, Critical Nurses and Doctors – The new wave of COVID-19 cases, caused by the radically more infectious Delta variant, has drained the resources of hospitals in the states of Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. Some hospitals are instituting forms of triage, selecting which patients will receive treatment, and calls have gone out for supplies, nurses, and doctors. In some locations, this has been an ongoing full-out emergency battle for more than a year and those involved are wearing out.

[Voting Rights] More Than 50,000 Demonstrate in D.C.  Voting Rights March – Part of a larger national effort to draw attention to voting rights legislation now in Congress.

[Afghanistan] Biden Warns of New ISIS Attack near Kabul Airport – While military airlifts have resumed, with the Tuesday deadline looming U.S. intelligence services have detected a strong possibility of a renewed attempt at suicide bombing near the airport. [Update: U.S. forces thwart purported attempts at suicide bombing by using drones to destroy suspected vehicles.]

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.6, Week of August 21 – 27, 2021 (Kabul Airport Bombing)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, August 21 through Friday, August 27, 2021 [Vol.3 No.6]

Kabul Airport Bombing

The Week’s Most Notable

“Evacuees near Kabul Airport Bombed by Terrorists, U.S. Soldiers Killed” was the lead headline for the week. Prior to that, more than 100,000 evacuees looked like a successful airlift, at least from a U.S. PR standpoint. Suddenly having ISIS back in the picture (ISIS-K, an Afghan branch, took responsibility for the suicide attack) complicates the evacuation and diplomacy. Thirteen American military personnel were killed, forcing the Biden administration to acknowledge the grief and recognize that the chaos surrounding the Kabul Airport evacuation contributed to the tragedy of Americans dying at the last minute. As polls indicate, Biden’s favorability has dropped by almost 10 points. Polls continue to show more than 60% of Americans are in favor of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Nevertheless, some Republican politicians are calling for re-occupation. (It appears some of the right-wing admire the Taliban. Republican and right-wing media rhetoric will continue to span the outer reaches of hypocrisy and mendacity.)

Worn-out U.S. medical personnel question if not only politicians, but also many of the public are willing to sacrifice lives trying to preserve the appearance of a return to normality. As the U.S. again approaches record numbers of infected, hospitalized, and dying – especially in the under-vaccinated states – much of the right wing, including the Republican Party, seems to be taking an unstated position that doing nothing is the best policy. It’s back to the “herd immunity” concept, while at the same time essentially denying the use of vaccines to achieve it. That this will lead to skyrocketing numbers of sick people, overflowing hospitals, thousands of preventable deaths, and a generation afflicted with long-Covid is not a part of their argument. It’s enough to push pandemic professionals to despair.

Saturday, August 21

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 38,579,534; Deaths: 647,167

[Tennessee Floods] Tennessee Flash Flooding Kills at Least 22 – With more than 15 inches of rain in 24 hours, streams in Humphreys County rapidly overflowed, catching many people unprepared as their homes were washed into the maelstrom. Local officials were calling it the worst storm in decades.

[Hurricane Henri] Henri Weakens to Tropical Storm as it Hits East Coast – To the good fortune of Long Island and southern New England, Henri lost some of its punch before going ashore. Dropping from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm meant that the winds were not as destructive as they could’ve been. The storm carried an immense amount of rain inland but caused only minor flooding.

[Hurricane Grace] Grace Makes Landfall on Mexico’s East Shore, Eight Dead – The Category-3 storm quickly dissipated into a tropical storm with lower winds and mainly heavy rainfall.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.5, Week of August 14 – 20, 2021 (Afghanistan Collapse)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, August 14 through Friday, August 20, 2021 [Vol.3 No.5]

Afghanistan Collapse

The Week’s Most Notable

Afghanistan coverage in the media last week was confusing, many would say atrocious, but the take-home message was that the U.S. botched, was botching, the final pullout. There were two lines of criticism: First, the decision to pull out of Afghanistan was a mistake or, whether it was a mistake or not, planning for the final pullout was either nonexistent or very bad. A majority of media coverage focused on the first line of criticism, implying that Obama, Trump, and Biden were misguided in engineering a complete pullout. This position was so oddly revisionist that people began to wonder why so many in the media were hawkish, when the issue of getting out of Afghanistan was already years old and a matter of general – including a majority of Americans – agreement. Who was promoting the idea of staying in Afghanistan? The military? The right-wing? Russia? In any case, it wasn’t going to happen, so why was the idea being flogged? Good answers are not yet available.

The second line of criticism, that the military and Biden administration screwed up the final stage of extraction seems incontrovertible. Obviously removing military personnel and U.S. citizens from Afghanistan was the priority, with an apparently distant second priority of extracting tens of thousands of Afghanis who one way or another aided the U.S. war effort. The hot mess at the Kabul airport provided the Vietnam-reminiscent optics; the storyline of failing to predict that the Taliban would take over in 11 days was almost worse. Finger-pointing abounded with evidence to implicate the Pentagon, the intelligence agencies, the State Department, and the Biden White House with having missed the signs. In fact, the fall of Kabul began on Friday two weeks ago and by Monday the Washington Post had a detailed account of how the country collapsed so quickly – basically, deals being struck by the Taliban with army and government officials over a period of many months (washingtonpost.com/world/2021/08/15/Afghanistan-military-collapse-taliban/).  If the Post knew about it, so did the U.S. government. Why was this analysis not accepted or prioritized?

Lots of questions, which both House and Senate are convening committees to ask. None of this will look good for Biden’s or the Democrats’ immediate political future, possibly into the 2022 midterms. The administration’s key political advantage, a patina of seamless competence, has been destroyed. Depending on what happens in Afghanistan, especially the success or failure of extracting the remaining U.S. citizens and large numbers of Afghan supporters, the political damage may be quickly forgotten – or not.

During the second wave of the pandemic in the U.S., the worst in terms of deaths (more than 4,000 a day), between 150,000 and 200,000 people a day contracted the coronavirus. This week we are again averaging almost 150,000 infections per day but with deaths of just 1,000 a day. The difference is vaccine. While none of the three vaccines used in the U.S. entirely stop people from contracting COVID-19, they have greatly reduced the number of people needing hospitalization and therefore reduced the death rate. That’s the good news. The less than good news is that because the Delta variant is more than twice as infectious as the original virus, and is both infectious and severe for people not vaccinated, the numbers of people infected could get out of hand – exceeding 200,000 a day. Epidemiologists are worrying that September, October, and November could be very bad months, as people go inside to avoid the colder weather. At the moment, we seem to be pretending that the pandemic is winding down. Sports and entertainment venues are once again crowded with spectators; people are meeting in person; schools are reopening for live classes; and enough vaccine-mitigation deniers continue to drink the Kool-Aid that it seems likely that a clash with reality is inevitable this fall.

The 644,323 total U.S. pandemic deaths as of August 20, 2021 is greater than the total number of deaths, approximately 644,000, caused by the 1918–1919 Spanish flu. In short, the new worst pandemic in American history.

Saturday, August 14

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 37,561,562; Deaths: 639,218

[Afghanistan] Taliban Enter Kabul, Seek to Establish Government – It required 11 days from the beginning of the Taliban offensive in the provinces until it effectively had control of Kabul. This was achieved because there was virtually no resistance from either the military or the existing government of Afghanistan. In fact, the president fled the country, police in all major cities did nothing, and according to the Washington Post, deals had been struck in the previous months with almost all levels of government for the nonviolent transfer of power. None of which appears to have affected U.S. policy.

[Haiti Earthquake] Major 7.2 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Haiti – Several hundred dead are reported with more than a thousand injured and large swaths of buildings in the western part of the country destroyed. [Update: by the end of the week almost 2,000 reported dead, up to 10,000 injured, and the island was feeling the brunt of tropical storm Grace.]

[Wildfires] Utah Evacuates 10,000 from Parley’s Canyon Fire – Such evacuations are not common in Utah, but this summer’s wildfires have touched every Western state.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.4, Week of August 7 – 13, 2021 (Cuomo Quits)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, August 7 through Friday, August 13, 2021 [Vol.3 No.4]

Cuomo Quits

The Week’s Most Notable

The marquee story of the week was the resignation of New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. While the Cuomo story provided hot copy, the most important story of the week was the release of the IPCC climate change report. It lays out the evidence that the world has already locked itself into a more than 1.5°C increase in average temperatures and, with that, more weather-related disasters, higher and more acidic oceans, and changes in global climatic patterns. Unfortunately, it is a measure of human desuetude that the Cuomo story received far more coverage than the IPCC report. Discussions of climate change and what to do about it continue to demonstrate global dysfunction. It is much like the similar dysfunction with the COVID-19 pandemic, where the problems and solutions are known, but the political and economic will to deal with the issues on a global scale is inconsistent and weak. From the pessimist’s point of view, it may be the signature of humanity that we can be magnificent in responding to immediate local emergencies, but incapable of sustained global response.

Congress has gone into summer recess, which will reduce the public noise, but it will be a time of feverish activity in both the House and Senate as congresspeople, their staffs, and a small army of experts will wrestle with the specific language required for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the budget reconciliation infrastructure bill, and the newly consolidated voting rights act, all of which will be presented, debated, and hopefully voted on during the fall session.

Saturday, August 7

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 36,587,161; Deaths: 633,371

[Bipartisan Infrastructure] Senate Avoids Filibuster, Advances Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill – The 67-27 passage of a procedural motion almost guarantees that the bill will be passed by the Senate this week. If so, it represents a symbolic, if not fundamental, change in the willingness of the Senate to do bipartisan legislation – under the right circumstances.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.3, Week of July 31 – August 6, 2021 (Dog Days)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, July 31 through Friday, August 6, 2021 [Vol.3 No.3]

Dog Days

The Week’s Most Notable

Nothing unusually notable happened this week, which is why we could classify it to be in the dog days of summer. There are lots of things more or less happening in the background: Congress is about to pass an astoundingly large bipartisan infrastructure bill. The American West is still burning, with at least two months to go. Hurricanes are brewing in the Atlantic, but are not yet news. Republicans continue to grow their list of cleverly delusional and carefully constructed grievances, adding “the immigrants did it” as the cause of the Delta variant crisis. Right-wing media, especially Fox, is cultivating their love affair with Putin and his mini-me populist-authoritarians in places like Hungary, Poland, and Brazil. The economy is irregularly advancing. Trump was quiet. Most places were bloody hot. That was also true in Tokyo, where Olympic athletes sweat bullets in front of an ocean of empty seats. Most of all, Americans began to worry about the coronavirus again, as the numbers of new cases rocketed beyond 100,000 per day behind the driver of the Delta variant. Given the anti-science and suicidal declarations of the Republicans, the confusion of orders and recommendations by government agencies, the growing trend of employers to monitor employee health, and the coming of school days when nobody seems to know just how badly the Delta variant will affect school protocols – it’s no wonder the almost carefree feeling of early summer is fading fast.

Saturday, July 31

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 35,806,761; Deaths: 629,643

[Coronavirus] Florida Hits New COVID-19 Single Day Record – The new daily record reached 21,683 cases, the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic.  The culprit is the Delta variant and the complicit Florida government under Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), which refuses to acknowledge the surge and deal with it realistically. Hospitalizations are already reflecting the huge influx of new cases. DeSantis is making a huge bet that his pro-viral stonewalling will not cost him politically. Apparently, lives are not a consideration. [Update: DeSantis and other Republican governors introduced a new excuse: The immigrants are bringing the disease. Of course, Florida has almost no new immigrants.]

[Eviction Moratorium] Federal Eviction Moratorium Ends – In a tale of atrocious timing, some 15 million people in 6.5 million U.S. households find themselves behind on rent – thanks to the economic effects of the pandemic – and suddenly without coherent federal support. Everybody knew this was coming, everybody understood how big an impact this would have, and in fact there is about $48 billion already allocated to help both renters and landlords, of which only a small fraction has been distributed. This is something of a SNAFU for the Democrats and the Biden administration, one that affects many constituents, especially those in large cities. As a result, the coming week will be filled with protests, recriminations, calls for quick fixes, and a lot of unnecessary confusion.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.2, Week of July 24 – 30, 2021 (Delta Variant)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, July 24 through Friday, July 30, 2021 [Vol.3 No.2]

Delta Variant

The Week’s Most Notable

The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus showed up in India back in December 2020 and became prominent when literally more than a million died from it in cities like Mumbai. U.S. health officials knew about it almost from the beginning; its seriousness became known to politicians at least by April (Weekly Journal April 18, 2021); and yet last week U.S. media and in fact many government agencies treated the surge of the Delta variant like it was a revelation. Most Americans and of course almost all Republicans don’t understand the variant. It’s crazy infectious, according to the CDC in a leaked report, it’s about as infectious as chickenpox. That makes it several times more infectious than the original virus. Simply put, it will infect about 40% of those who are not vaccinated that come in contact with it. Those who are vaccinated stand a better chance of not contracting it and, if they do, it probably won’t send them to the hospital, much less the morgue. However, even for the vaccinated, the Delta variant can use them as a transport to infect other people. Then there’s Long Covid, which may turn out to be the greatest scourge of this plague, in which the virus becomes part of a trigger for other chronic and serious diseases that affect hearts, lungs, brains, and other organs. Long Covid can show up in people who had no symptoms and covers an age range from children to the elderly.

The Delta variant has screwed up the planning for ending the pandemic almost everywhere in the world. In much of Asia, which came to rely on track and trace to keep their infection rate low, they neglected vaccines – leaving a huge proportion of their populations vulnerable to the new variant. In parts of the world where vaccines were promoted, such as the U.S., in any region where the rate of vaccination was low, the Delta variant is thriving. In the U.S., the Delta variant has a particular political flavor as it finds more unvaccinated people among Trump supporters. Something similar is now happening all over the world, particularly in Europe.

Conflicting messages abound – about vaccines, mitigation efforts such as masks and the like – because most countries ramped up “freedom” and pretended the pandemic was over, and now have to tell everybody that not only is it not over, but potentially the worst is yet to come. This doesn’t play well politically, no matter what the scientific reality. The situation, mostly of our own making, has produced complicated verbal expressions not only from politicians but also from medical authorities, with the end result being mainly public confusion. After all, the majority of people still think we’re dealing with the original virus. What happens later in the year when people must be told they need a booster shot? So where does confusion, denialism, vaccine resistance, and the flood of disinformation get us? Rising infection rates, more hospitalizations, more deaths – and then lockdowns, political unrest, and potentially serious impacts not only on lifestyle but the economy. When it comes to managing pandemics, the human race is not good (yet), so we better be lucky.

Saturday, July 24

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 35,220,124; Deaths: 627,069

[Wild Fires] California Dixie Fire Burns Homes – Currently the largest fire in the state, it destroyed a number of homes in the small community of Indian Falls. It’s about 20% contained, mostly burning in difficult to reach areas. Meanwhile the Bootleg Fire in Oregon and the Alder Creek Fire in Montana continue to expand and threaten homes. [Update: By Monday the Dixie Fire threatened more than 10,000 homes and had scorched more than 190,000 acres.]

[Coronavirus] French Protest New Coronavirus Restrictions – More than 160,000 people took to the streets in France to oppose re-imposed vaccine mandates and other coronavirus restrictions. Like most countries in Europe, France has seen a dramatic rise in the number of COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant. Having recently been told the pandemic was under control, these new restrictions don’t sit well with many people. [Update: France now requires vaccine passes to enter restaurants or use public transportation.]

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.1, Week of July 17 – 23, 2021 (Fire, Food, Pandemic, and Politics)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, July 17 through Friday, July 23, 2021 [Vol.3 No.1]

Fire, Flood, Pandemic, and Politics

The third year of the Weekly Journal

Summarizing and briefly analyzing current (mostly political) events from a progressive perspective was and is the goal of this Weekly Journal. It’s intended for busy people – a way to quickly review the week. However, it’s often been difficult to keep it brief. The Trump administration generated a lot of “news,” most of which was produced for effect, not consequence. That didn’t end when Trump left office, as the current GOP is like a colony of various propaganda units tasked with flooding the media with anything to catch attention. It’s hard to keep up separating the BS from the truth, especially for casual observers; it’s even difficult for those who do it every week. Difficult, yes, but necessary for everyone to do their part. It was necessary to help flip the House in 2018. It was necessary to support electing Biden in 2020. It is necessary to protect our democracy in 2022. The stakes are still very high; the value of information obvious. So, the Indivisible Upper Yellowstone Weekly Journal goes into its third year.

Suggestions and new subscribers are welcome. Some have suggested adding graphics and pictures. That would be lovely, but unfortunately email, especially Google Mail, doesn’t lend itself to professional looking graphics. Besides, the focus here is the information, text. There are many topics, in fact whole areas of information such as culture, which are seldom covered. As ever, the issue is brevity. Other suggestions or comments? Send them along to indivisible.upper.yellowstone@gmail.com. Other people to include in the mailing list? Use the same address for any requests.

The Week’s Most Notable

The U.S. West is burning up, literally and figuratively. Big parts of Europe, followed by Iran, India, and China are flooding. And of course, there is the surging global coronavirus pandemic, spearheaded by the new Delta variant. It’s not the apocalypse, but it might look like a practice run. It’s important to understand that climate change runs through all of it, even the pandemic. Unfortunately, in the U.S. the climate change issue means dealing with everything complicated by partisan politics, very partisan politics. It’s so bad that the GOP almost unanimously supported denial of mitigation and vaccination, a denial that would have inevitably wound-up self-selecting to kill its own people. This is in the face of a surge by the Delta variant that has more than tripled the number of new cases in the past two weeks – most of them in under-vaccinated red states. It’s been difficult to convince people of how incredibly infectious this variant is. For example, with the original virus if one person in a family of eight came down with it one other family member might become infected. With the Delta variant all of the family would become infected. It’s important to understand that people inside the right-wing information bubble don’t know any of this and don’t hear it either.

Saturday, July 17

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 34,839,719; Deaths: 624,889

[European Floods] Flood Victims in Germany, Belgium Exceed 180 – There have been worse floods in Europe, but this storm was notable for its surprise and dramatic impact. In fact, although the worst of it occurred in Germany and Belgium, the track of the storm produced flooding and damage across a wide swath of central Europe and on into Turkey, Iran, and eventually China. Conditions for this kind of flooding – hyper saturated hot summer air and a dramatic cold front trigger – are a more regularly occurring part of climate change.

[Western Wildfires] Seventy Active Wildfires in the US West – The massive 453 square mile Oregon Bootleg Fire leads the list, while wildfires in the Idaho Panhandle, Western Montana, Oregon, and Northern California continue to spread. This is preliminary to what is expected to be another heat dome forming by the end of next weekend.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.2 No.52, Week of July 10 – 16, 2021 (COVID-19 Disinformation Kills)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, July 10 through Friday, July 16, 2021 [Vol.2 No.52]

COVID-19 Disinformation Kills

The Week’s Most Notable

A reporter asked Biden about social media support of COVID-19 misinformation, “What’s your message to platforms like Facebook?” Biden replied, “They’re killing people.” This is true. There will be many people convinced by mis/dis-information borne by social media who will not get a vaccine, who then become sick because of the highly contagious Delta variant and die. Eventually there will be thousands of them. Unfortunately, social media – Facebook, Twitter – are not alone. Fox News and other right-wing media outlets are mainly supporting Covid vaccine denialism or out and out anti-vaxx positions through their most popular spokespeople (Carlson, Ingraham) and assorted mixed messages; they also will wind up killing people. They will not be held accountable, nor will they be prevented from doing this, at least in the short run. There is no way, especially legally, to confront or force a reckoning on anyone or any media organization promoting lies about the efficacy of vaccines. It’s very much akin to the election Big Lie problem; no one has figured out a way to force people spouting Big Lie disinformation into an effective public confrontation – verifiable facts versus phony facts. Legally, challenges wind up in First Amendment purgatory. Debates and PR campaigns quickly devolve into tit-for-tat chaos. Tens of millions continue to believe that there is evidence of a stolen election, when that evidence is bogus; yet there is no way (yet found) to convince them it is bogus.

Consequently, on a daily basis at least 40% of Americans are bombarded with statements like this from Fox and Friends’ Brian Kilmeade, “They’re going to be knocking on your doors, I guess with a cotton ball and a needle, and they’re going to look to put a needle into your deltoid – stop asking questions.” Pure propaganda in service of gaslighting vaccination at a cost of lives. This is already happening in southwest Missouri, which will be followed by regions in other states where vaccination denialism coupled with low vaccination rates will result in increased hospitalizations and deaths. Yet few will say and even fewer know that propaganda suckered people into their own avoidable demise.

Saturday, July 10

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 34,739,152; Deaths: 622,908

[International Economics] G-20 Agree on Minimum Corporate Tax – On the road that began with the G7 a few weeks ago, the top 20 largest economies have agreed to support a minimum tax of at least 15% on international corporations operating in their individual countries. The hope is to, eventually, prevent the so-called “race to the bottom” where countries compete for corporate presence by offering ever lower tax rates, usually leading to some countries offering virtually tax-free or even subsidized terms. Not all countries have agreed to this new arrangement, notably Ireland, which was an original offender in leveraging low taxes. In other words, there are a lot of devilish details to work out before this strikingly collective policy becomes real.

[Climate Change] Death Valley Records Probable Highest Temperatures Ever – Pending verification of 130°F, this will become an all-time highest temperature in the U.S. Death Valley has an unofficial record of 134°F set in 1913, but that record is controversial because of the equipment used. Climatologists monitor the trends in Death Valley because the extremes help define climate change.

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