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Ponietz's Journal
Ponietz's Journal
November 18, 2020

Vision and Breathing May Be the Secrets to Surviving 2020


We are living through an inarguably challenging time. The U.S. has been facing its highest daily COVID-19 case counts yet. Uncertainty and division continue to dog the aftermath of the presidential election. And we are heading into a long, cold winter, when socializing outdoors will be less of an option. We are a nation and a world under stress.

But Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University who studies the visual system, sees matters a bit differently. Stress, he says, is not just about the content of what we are reading or the images we are seeing. It is about how our eyes and breathing change in response to the world and the cascades of events that follow. And both of these bodily processes also offer us easy and accessible releases from stress.

Huberman’s assertions are based on both established and emerging science. He has spent the past 20 years unraveling the inner workings of the visual system. In 2018, for example, his lab reported its discovery of brain pathways connected with fear and paralysis that respond specifically to visual threats. And a small but growing body of research makes the case that altering our breathing can alter our brain. In 2017 Mark Krasnow of Stanford University, Jack Feldman of the University of California, Los Angeles, and their colleagues identified a tight link between neurons responsible for controlling breathing and the region of the brain responsible for arousal and panic.

This growing understanding of how vision and breathing directly affect the brain—rather than the more nebulous categories of the mind and feelings—can come in handy as we continue to face mounting challenges around the globe, across the U.S. and in our own lives. Scientific American spoke with Huberman about how it all works.


November 17, 2020

Burritos to go -- 6 days (so far) on the Washington Post online front page:


You can go to Chipotle’s newest restaurant, but you can’t stay there.
With online orders booming during the pandemic, the fast-casual Mexican chain announced Wednesday that it is rolling out a new restaurant format that exclusively services pickup and deliveries. Chipotle Digital Kitchen is the company’s take on the “ghost kitchen” model — empty of diners and fast on orders — and when it opens this weekend in Highland Falls, N.Y., it will kick off an effort by the company to boost online sales in “nontraditional locations.”

As more people turn to takeout and delivery to avoid public places during the coronavirus outbreak, cash-strapped restaurateurs have been forced to chase down dollars in novel ways, including testing new concepts or paring down operational costs with ghost kitchens. Such facilities can be urban warehouses containing multiple small kitchens leased by a restaurant or a restaurant subcontractor for delivery only, eliminating the need for premium locations and fancy build-outs. Orders are often delivered by “third-party aggregators” such as DoorDash, Uber Eats or Grubhub.

Advertiser content? The only story (unreported) is the financial relationship between WaPo and Chipotle.

Burritos are, by definition, to go. Maybe they can try a few trucks on various street corners.
November 15, 2020

The Coronavirus's origins are still a mystery. We need a full investigation.

From today’s Washington Post Editorial Board:


AFTER SO much death and illness, a mystery from the first days of the novel coronavirus has yet to be solved. We still don’t understand its origins or how it became a global killer. The answers lie in China, and quite possibly beyond. The world needs a credible, impartial investigation to better prepare for future pandemics.

Most likely, the virus was a zoonotic spillover, a leap from animals to humans, which have become more common as people push into new areas where they have closer contact with wildlife. The facts are still extremely sparse. The closest-known relatives to this coronavirus were collected from bats in China’s Yunnan province in 2012 to 2013 and in 2019. The first one matches the virus genetic sequence by 96.2 percent, and the second one by 93.3 percent. But with a genome size of about 30,000 nucleotides, the closest bat virus is still nearly 1,200 nucleotides distant.

Moreover, the first outbreak was reported more than 1,000 miles away from Yunnan in Wuhan, Hubei province. How did it cross time and distance? Was there another animal intermediary? David A. Relman, a Stanford University microbiologist, writes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “the ‘origin story’ is missing many key details,” including a recent detailed evolutionary history of the virus, identity of its most recent ancestors and “surprisingly, the place, time, and mechanism of transmission of the first human infection.”

At first, it was suspected that Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was the location of the infection. The market was large, with 653 stalls, selling seafood but also fruits and vegetables, meat and live animals. Trade was carried out in chipmunks, foxes, raccoons, wild boar, giant salamanders, hedgehogs, sika deer, snakes, frogs, quail, bamboo rats, rabbits, crocodiles and badgers. The market was closed right after the outbreak began, and in the rush to disinfect, no samples were taken that might prove a virus connection. However, some environmental samples from the market contained virus matching those in patients who became ill. A study of 41 confirmed human cases from Wuhan showed that nearly 70 percent had a link to the market, but 30 percent did not, including three of the first four cases. The data are insufficient to settle whether the market was the contamination source, or whether it served to amplify the virus for human-to-human transmission, or both, or neither.

November 13, 2020

Governor orders statewide shutdown


New Mexico will again shut down nonessential businesses "in order to blunt the unprecedented spike of COVID-19 illnesses and to attempt to relieve dramatically escalating strain on hospitals and health care providers across the state," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office announced Friday.

The emergency public health order will take effect Monday and last at least two weeks.

Under the order, residents are supposed to stay at home "except for only those trips that are essential to health, safety and welfare — such as for food and water, emergency medical care, to obtain a flu shot or to obtain a test for COVID-19," according to a news release from the Governor's Office.

Essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, shelters and child care facilities will remain open but only will be allowed to operate at 25 percent of their maximum occupancy or 75 customers at a time, whichever is smaller.

In-person dining will not be allowed during the shutdown, but restaurants will be able to offer curbside pickup and delivery services.
November 13, 2020

Lame duck a l'orange


Over heard at the WH: "We haven't seen lame duck a l'orange all week. Maybe he's still marinating." @realDonaldTrump
—Brian J. Karen
November 11, 2020

The new Undersecretary of Defense of the United States -- Anthony J. Tata


Replying to John Brennan: Might be a good time to pick your poison: firing squad, public hanging, life sentence as prison b*tch, or just suck on your pistol. Your call. #Treason #Sedition #crossfirehurricane #Obamagate

November 10, 2020

Republicans have declared war on democracy itself


If you were gripped by a particularly naive hopefulness, you might have thought that President Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election would produce a brief moment of honesty and responsibility from the Republican Party. “We lost, and it hurts,” they might have said. “But let’s handle it like adults and show that we’re committed to democracy.”

But no. As the Trump presidency comes to a close, members of the party that has shown itself so incapable and unworthy of governing have one last card to play: They will do everything in their power to poison the American political system for years to come.

They’re doing so by spreading false claims about voter fraud, to convince their own base that the election is right now being stolen from Trump, its rightful winner. This is critical to understand: Republicans know that the majority of Americans are not persuaded by the lies and conspiracy theories they’re tossing around, nor are the courts that one after another are rejecting their preposterous lawsuits.

The target is Republican voters, and the goal is to light a fire of rage that they hope will burn for as long as Joe Biden is president.

And with just a few exceptions, the entire Republican Party and conservative media world are enthusiastically participating in the scam:

—Prominent Republicans in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) have insinuated or stated outright that “illegal votes” are being counted across the country. “If Republicans don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again,” said Graham.

—In a reversal of long-standing Justice Department policy, Attorney General William P. Barr told prosecutors that they could pursue allegations of “vote tabulation irregularities” while the counting is being completed, a move so blatantly partisan that the official in charge of the Justice Department’s Election Crimes Branch resigned in protest.

—Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel has instructed state party leaders and activists to echo Trump’s false claims of voter fraud.

—It has now become standard practice for any Republican who lost their election, no matter how badly, to claim it was because of fraud.

—Georgia Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both headed for runoff elections in January, released a joint statement saying the Republican secretary of state has “failed to deliver honest and transparent elections” and demanding he resign. They provided precisely zero specifics or evidence for their claim; the fact that they didn’t win outright was apparently proof enough of fraud.

—Republican attorneys general from 10 states asked the Supreme Court to intervene in Pennsylvania to restrict the number of ballots being counted there.

—Pro-Trump conservative media has relentlessly promoted bogus stories of fraud. Rush Limbaugh flatly stated the new operating principle: “There’s simply no way Joe Biden was legitimately elected president.”

—For hours every night, Fox News viewers are fed the line that the election is being stolen, a claim repeated on lesser outlets such as Breitbart and One America News. As Lou Dobbs declared: “Many are trying to steal this election from President Trump. There is no doubt about it.”
Facebook is awash in right-wing misinformation and lies about voter fraud, which the platform’s algorithm is pushing in front of untold numbers of people.

—A new poll shows 70 percent of Republicans now believe that the election was not free and fair.
There is a benign — but utterly mistaken — way to think about what Republicans are doing right now on Trump’s behalf.

“What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time? No one seriously thinks the results will change,” one Republican official told The Post. Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) told CNN that GOP senators are privately saying: “They call me to say, ‘Congratulations, please convey my well wishes to the president-elect, but I can’t say that publicly yet.’”

But this is not merely a temporary bit of playacting to soothe the tender feelings of the toddler in the Oval Office. It will be at the heart of Republican strategy for the next four years.

Just as Republicans used the racist “birther” lie to tell themselves that Barack Obama was not a legitimate president, they will use the lie of a stolen election to say the same about Biden. Conspiracy theories, the belief that liberals cannot legitimately win or govern, and an utter lack of commitment to any democratic principle are not merely features of contemporary conservatism, they are becoming its very essence.

It is not enough for the GOP’s base to be disappointed in the results of the election and determined to do better next time. They must be enraged. For the conservative media, creating and feeding anger is a business model that goes back decades. For Republicans in Congress, one of the key functions the stolen election lie will serve is to rationalize their own misdeeds.
Because if Biden is an illegitimate usurper, then any methods are justified to oppose and hinder him, no matter how morally abhorrent or damaging to the country.

It is almost impossible to overstate how toxic this all is. Republicans are trying to destroy any commitment their voters have to the American system of government. They’re working to convince voters that any election that does not produce a Republican win, not just in 2020 but in the future, is inherently fraudulent and need not be acknowledged or respected.

This is not coming from the fringe, or a few intemperate voices, or just a corrupt president on his way out. It is the project of the entire Republican Party and conservative movement. And it is nothing short of an attack on democracy itself.

November 9, 2020

Song for America -- Kansas



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Gender: Male
Hometown: NM
Current location: Taos
Member since: Thu Jun 28, 2018, 07:04 PM
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