5 Things: Black History Month | Billionaires | COVID-19 | Trump | Manchin

Today’s 5 Things include bomb threats at HBCUs, a Florida billionaire, “getting back to normal,” Trump’s crimes, and Manchin being a dick.

Every morning me and about a million other people take 15 minutes out of their day to play Wordle, a simple little guessing game. It’s ad free, just tough enough to make you feel smart when you get the answer, and just easy enough that you don’t get frustrated trying to win. It’s a small joy during a time when those are mighty thin on the ground.

So, of course, it was just sold to the New York Times for a metric crapton of money.

And like, look, good on the guy who invented it for getting his pay day. He brought happiness to millions of us and I genuinely hope he enjoys his newfound wealth. It’s just… now the game’s probably going to be stuck behind a paywall and I won’t be able to play it anymore, and that makes me cranky.

At any rate, the news:

💣 CNN: After more than a dozen HBCUs get bomb threats on the first day of Black History Month, students and staff express unease and dismay

On the first day of Black History Month, at least 14 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) reported receiving bomb threats. I guess we should just count ourselves lucky that – so far – there were no actual bombs.

💰 Washington Post: The moral calculations of a billionaire

This dude is so close to getting it. Wealth hording is obscene. Like, look. If you work hard and make an absolutely inconceivable amount of money, you should be able to enjoy it. I’m just insisting you pay your fair share. This article says this guy pays a tax rate of 34%, I think, which, 1) I’m dubious he’s actually paying any taxes, billionaires have a million ways to get out of paying; and 2) It should be a minimum of 50%. Fifty percent of one billion dollars is more money than any person can sensibly spend in a lifetime.

🦠 CNN: Governors say they told Biden US needs to ‘move away from the pandemic’ at White House meeting

More than 2,500 people a day are still dying of this disease. Nasty new variants are percolating even as I type. We still can’t convince about 30% of the population to get their vaccines. We’re barely even doing anything to fight this pandemic as it is. And these yahoos want to get back to “normal.”

🍊 New York Times: Trump Had Role in Weighing Proposals to Seize Voting Machines

Yet more evidence that Trump was personally involved in attempting to subvert the 2020 elections. It sure would be nice if he faced some actual consequences for his crimes.

🏛️ CNN: Manchin says Build Back Better ‘dead’ as talks stall on Biden agenda

I hope Joe Manchin gets a popcorn shell jammed up under his gums every time he eats popcorn for the rest of his life. I hope his favorite food suddenly starts making him painfully gassy every time he eats it. I hope he gives himself a paper cut on a regular basis, timed so that just as one heals, he gets another. I hope is house is forever just a little too cold or a little too warm. I hope his favorite TV show gets canceled without warning and ends on a cliffhanger that will never be resolved. I hope his boat springs a leak. I wish upon Joe Manchin a long, long life of minor annoyances and small miseries.

5 Things: COVID-19 | Warhorses | Masking | QAnon | Social Media

Today’s 5 Things: A COVID update from Andy Slavitt, teeny warhorses, masking info, QAnon, and social media.

I think it says something that one of my current favorite TikTokers is a therapist out of Portland, Oregon who’s main schtick is short videos saying, basically, “No no, this whole situation is completely fucked up, and it’s fucking you up, that’s why it feels this way right now.”

5 Things: COVID | Jobs | the CDC | Omicron | Flurona

Some quick newsy bits because it’s been a long week back from vacation and I’m tired.

Finally, after an entire actual week, I have two properly working toilets.

Like, we did have one toilet that, while badly located and weirdly kindergarten-sized, did mostly actually work right. And having to go all the way downstairs to use it if you woke up in the dead of the night instead of just a few steps across the hall was irritating, but it was not the end of the world. So this is one of those things that’s just annoying enough to rankle every time the issue came up, but not so annoying that you feel justified complaining. Which, in itself, makes it even more annoying.

Anyway, glad that’s sorted out.

And now, some quick newsy bits because it’s been a long week back from vacation and I’m tired:

  1. Reuters: Covid Science: Virus leaves antibodies that may attack healthy tissues – “Months after recovering from SARS-CoV-2 infection, survivors have elevated levels of antibodies that can mistakenly attack their own organs and tissues, even if they had not been severely ill, according to new findings.” Oh, awesome.
  2. Washington Post: A record 4.5 million workers quit or changed jobs in November – It turns out that if you spend two years letting your cashiers, servers, cooks, and retail clerks die in droves during a pandemic just so rich SOBs can have a more convenient time of things, the surviving “essential workers” will tell you to go fuck yourself and get better jobs. Weird.
  3. CNBC: CDC declines to add Covid testing recommendation to updated isolation guidance despite criticism – See above. You have to get those essential workers and office drones back to the grind. Who cares if they’re spewing disease everywhere and dropping dead? Jeff and Elon gotta make them dollars, folks.
  4. NPR: What we know about the symptoms — and the severity — of the omicron variant – So, as long as you’re vaxxed and boosted, Omicron does seem to be less severe than other variants. Also, it has different symptoms, so you’re gonna want to read up on that.
  5. Lifehacker: What Is ‘Flurona,’ and Should We Be Worried About It? – “Flurona” is when you have COVID-19 and influenza at the same time, and since they both attack your upper respiratory system and they can both kill you, like, yeah, you should probably have some concerns. Go get your flu shots and COVID shots, you idgits.

5 Things: Masks | Jan. 6 Committee | Omicron | American Democracy | Filibuster

Today we’re talking best masks, the Jan. 6 committee, Omicron, our failing democracy, and the filibuster.

This weekend I rang in the New Year with no working toilets in my apartment, so I’m not feeling particularly hopeful about the year ahead.

Early Friday afternoon we had some clog-related problem that knocked out the upstairs toilets in at least two apartments, including ours. This was annoying but not the worst, as we have a second half-bathroom we can use.

Friday evening we discovered that our downstairs toilet probably has a rotten wax ring, and is leaking a bit of water from the base on flushing, which means we really shouldn’t be using that one, either (but we did, because I certainly wasn’t going to be hiking a quarter-mile in the wind, rain and snow every time I needed to tinkle this weekend).

I called for emergency maintenance but that number didn’t work, which left us absolutely no way to contact anyone to have anything fixed. Awesome. Supposedly at least one toilet should be working correctly today, which will definitely improve the year by a significant margin.

Anyway, here’s some news.

😷 TPM: COVID Notes #8 (Special Masks Edition)

If you’re still wearing a cloth mask, you are not doing yourself any favors, particularly with Omicron rampaging across the US.

Cloth masks rely on everyone wearing a mask and wearing it properly, so if you’re in an area with no mask mandates, and you’re hip deep in fools who won’t wear masks and/or aren’t wearing them properly, you need to ditch those cloth masks and get yourself some N95s or the international equivalents (KN95s, etc.). You should at least get surgical masks and double mask with a cloth mask, if you can’t get N95s.

Early in the pandemic we said we wore a mask to protect everyone else, as the cloth masks are most effective at keeping your plume of disease-filled breath contained to you, or at least near you. So we all wore masks and kept back from each other. That’s not the case anymore. N95s, and to a somewhat lesser extent surgical masks, actually protect you from breathing COVID-contaminated air. You wear N95s to protect yourself. So if you’re in an area where idgits are not masking, you need to protect yourself. Get an N95.

Here in Oregon we have a mask mandate, and at least around my area folks have been pretty good about masking consistently and correctly, and that’s great. But again: Omicron is wildly more contagious than the previous variants of COVID-19 and it seems to linger in the air for longer than previous variants. So even here, where everyone is masking mostly consistently and correctly, we should be upgrading to double-masking with surgical masks, or getting N95s or the international equivalents.

Ditch the cloth masks and get yourselves better masks, folks.

⚖️ CNN: January 6 committee has ‘firsthand’ knowledge of Trump’s behavior during the riot from multiple sources

The Jan. 6 committee apparently has a bunch of text messages, memos, and witness testimony regarding Trump’s activities on January 6, 2021, while the insurrection was happening. The committee seems to think Trump was repeatedly encouraged and specifically asked to do something about the violence and invasions and so forth, and declined to do so, which they think is a “dereliction of duty.”

I’m not sure what all this will amount to legally, and I’m not finding a lot of information about it anywhere, either. Like, does this lead to criminals charges for anyone? Is there something the committee can do that will lead to Trump no longer being eligible for office? Does anyone go to jail over this? I dunno, and no one else reputable seems to have any guesses to offer, either. We’re firmly in “wait and see” mode, here.

🏫 Reuters: U.S. schools delay openings as Omicron pushes pandemic to record highs

Thousands of schools across the US are delaying re-opening after their winter breaks or going virtual since COVID-19 cases exploded over the holidays, thanks to Omicron.

I find all this deeply frustrating, and I’m not even a parent having to deal with it. We’ve been dealing with COVID for two years. We know how to deal with it: good masks, ventilation, distancing. N95s and distancing are easy, and we’ve had two goddamn years to get ventilation in schools and other public buildings up to safe standards. I mean, at a bare minimum, we should have gotten extra air purifiers running in classrooms by now.

It’s absolutely maddening that we aren’t handling this better.

🗳️ NPR: 6 in 10 Americans say U.S. democracy is in crisis as ‘The Big Lie’ takes root

“A new NPR/Ipsos poll finds that 64% of Americans believe U.S. democracy is ‘in crisis and at risk of failing.'” Hell yeah it is. Voting rights are under assault and Republicans at this point have basically publicly announced that they intend to cheat in and subvert every upcoming election in order to force more Republicans into office. They intend to commit voter fraud and take over, and once that happens, folks, American democracy is all. over.

Watching Democrats in office try and fail to handle this problem is crazy-making. I want to grab the nearest Democratic elected official and shake them until their teeth rattle while screaming “DO SOMETHING YOU ASSHOLE” into their face.

🏛️ TPM: Schumer Sets MLK Day Deadline To Consider Filibuster Changes, Ties Urgency To Jan 6 Anniversary

I think one of the most frustrating things here is that Democratic efforts to address these problems are being held hostage by Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. And I keep thinking, y’know, if the Republicans were in this position, Mitch McConnell would have had these two by the scruff of the neck to march them out behind the Capitol Building for a quick viewing of the graves he’d already dug for them. Like, the GOP would not tolerate these shenanigans from their members.

I don’t know what there is to be done about these two. You gotta be careful because the Dems in the Senate got the majority by the skin of their teeth, and too much pressure might cause Manchin (or even Sinema, who knows) to jump ship and join the other side, and then we’d be really screwed. But I would like to see something happening, some kind of consequences for their power-mongering BS.

I would at least like to know that Schumer has added them to his “Screw These Guys Over As Hard As Humanly Possible The Hot Second I Get The Chance” list. Hell, I’d be happy just knowing he has a list like that.

5 Things: COVID-19, Crows, the End of the World, & Some Good News

Two articles about COVID, a fun thing about a crow at an elementary school, working through the end of the world, and a roundup of good news.

Any mask is better than no mask. Surgical masks are better than cloth masks. N95s and KN95s, assuming they fit well, are better than surgical masks. The Omicron variant is unbelievably contagious. Get the best masks you can, and wear them religiously when outside your household.

If you need to buy better masks, hop on Amazon and snag yourself a big package of surgical masks, or use this website to get yourself some (genuine, since knockoffs are a problem) N95s or KN95s.

Double-masking will improve the fit of any mask you decide to wear. A hospital or cloth mask over an N95 or KN95 will help keep the fit tight to your face, which will keep you and the people around you safer.

🦠 CNN: Covid-19 patients at this hospital are dying ‘at a rate we’ve never seen die before’ — and it’s taking a toll on health care workers

This story is about a hospital in Lansing, Michigan, about 2 1/2-3 hours south of where I grew up. This is happening because Michigan is hip deep in Trump-loving, vaccine and mask-hating Republicans.

My friends and relatives who live there tell me they hardly ever see anyone wearing masks, and Michiganders seem to have decided to just ignore COVID-19. The Republican-controlled state legislature stripped the governor’s powers to order mask mandates and lockdowns, so COVID’s running wild in the state. They reported about 14,000 new cases in Michigan for Dec. 17.

🏫 Oregonian: Friendly, foul-mouthed crow befriends entire Oregon elementary school before state police are called in

Crows are extremely smart and very awesome, and if it weren’t for the fact that all birds (except for owls, which are actually just cats with feathers) hate my boyfriend, I would make friends with all the crows around my apartment complex.

👔 Vox: The world as we know it is ending. Why are we still at work?

I mean, my bills still need paying even if the whole planet is burning down. But I do have to wonder how much farther we’ll make it before we get to the point where people are just like, “Why bother?” and stop showing up to work. Spoiler: It’ll be all those low-wage, no-escape “essential workers” we crapped on and sacrificed to the pandemic for the last two years who hit that point first, and when they do, everything else will rapidly fall apart.

🦠 AP: Omicron sweeps across nation, now 73% of new US COVID cases

We first learned about Omicron barely a month ago, and in that time, it has completely overtaken every other variant. We still aren’t sure if it causes milder disease or not. And it’s worth pointing out that even if it does, it will still carve a swath of death across the country because it’s so frickin’ contagious. That means you’ll be dealing with numbers at scale – when you’re dealing with percentages of population, the numbers get real big, real fast.

“All of us have a date with omicron,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “If you’re going to interact with society, if you’re going to have any type of life, omicron will be something you encounter, and the best way you can encounter this is to be fully vaccinated.”

😄 Mashable: 21 really good things that happened in 2021

I feel like some of these are stretching the truth just a wee bit in search of good news, but JFC, after the year we’ve had, I’ll take it.