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Celerity's Journal
Celerity's Journal
March 31, 2020

Meet the Baby Zoomers: how older Britons are finally getting to grips with technology


Deprived of face-to-face contact, the over-65s are turning to video chat - often for the first time - to keep up to date with loved ones

Geoffrey Brook was deeply apprehensive when he heard that his fellow over-70s were being asked to remain indoors to protect them from the new coronavirus. His wife, Mary, died shortly before Christmas, leaving him alone at his home in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, and the prospect of several months with no visitors was not an attractive one. “January and February were a bit of a pickle,” the 87-year-old recalls. “But I’m starting to find my feet again. The vision of being locked in the house completely … I wouldn’t say it frightened me, but it was upsetting. The idea of not seeing anybody or talking to anybody was very unpleasant.”

To help keep him in touch, his granddaughter, Harriet, taught him how to download Houseparty, an app aimed at millennials that allows users to have group video conversations. He found it surprisingly easy. “The grandchildren have been very good at setting me up with all sorts of things. I say, ‘I don’t know how’, and they say, ‘You just press this button’, then about 30 seconds later I’m ‘Housepartying’. You can see somebody smile, which you can’t do on the telephone.” The unprecedented ‘social distancing’ measures imposed by the government earlier this week put an end, virtually overnight, to millions of face-to-face interactions. Particularly affected are the 3.8 million Britons aged over 65 who live alone, most of whom are now unable to receive visits from friends or family. No cups of tea with your neighbour, no game of Bridge or pub drinks with friends, and certainly no visits from your grandchildren on Mother’s Day.

Baby Boomers and the generations that came before them are often thought of as “tech averse” - they did not grow up with computers and so struggle in a digital world, it is said, and as many as 29 percent of Britons aged over 65 have never used the internet, which rises to 47 percent of the over-75s, according to the Centre for Ageing Better. Older people who do venture on to social media often find themselves belittled by millennials with jokes like “Ok, Boomer.” But now, many of them are being forced to grapple with online technology if they want to continue their work or hobbies, or keep speaking to their family. From FaceTime to multi-screen social apps like Zoom and Houseparty, some once-technophobic Boomers are now organising everything from virtual dinner parties to digital quiz nights.

Trisha Smart, a 67-year-old university lecturer, admits that she was “terrified” after being told that her series of lectures would be moved online, and says she was far more stressed about that than she was about catching coronavirus. She was supposed to be flying to Jordan to deliver the lecturers in person at Middle East University; now, she has to film the lectures from her home in Harpenden, and has spent much of the last fortnight desperately trying to get to grips with a programme called Blackboard Collaborator; “I thought at 67 I shouldn’t need to learn new things,” she sighs.

March 31, 2020

One Virus, Two Americas

Red and blue America aren’t experiencing the same pandemic.


Maybe you live in a blue state, in a hard-hit, urban area, and are currently under lockdown orders from your Democratic governor. Or maybe you live in small-town, conservative America, in one of the places that’s been relatively free of COVID-19 cases, where local Republican officials are resisting further preventative measures.

Red-state and blue-state America aren’t experiencing the same pandemic, and it’s showing in the polls. National surveys reveal geographic and partisan splits in attitude, with Democrats and urban dwellers more likely to express their concern. And, perhaps even more troubling, these divides seem to be worsening. The pandemic, and America’s response, is being swallowed up by the country’s culture wars. As our politics staff writer McKay Coppins reports today, social distancing has morphed into a political act—“a way to signal which side you’re on.”

A few things to consider as you make sense of the situation:

The messaging is coming from the top. Trump refers to this strain as “the China virus,” in an attempt to incite a culture war, Adam Serwer argues.

But it’s also part of a decade-long philosophical battle between parties. One that predates Trump altogether: “How much do the healthiest people in society owe to the most vulnerable?”

All of this might change if, or when, the virus hits red states. And that might happen sooner than you think: Keep your eyes on Louisiana, which Trump carried in 2016.


March 31, 2020

Get ready for an incredibly ghoulish push by Trumpist media questioning the number of deaths

Get ready for an incredibly ghoulish push by Trumpist media to question the number of deaths attributed to coronavirus in order to make the president look good.


March 31, 2020

Trump's Disastrous COVID-19 Response Exposes Libertarianism As A Complete Lie

Republicans have told us for decades that government was the problem and now we’re all paying the price for their arrogance.


Until the MAGA mob and Bernie Bros started competing for “World’s Most Annoying Group of Entitled White Men,” the hands down undisputed champions were libertarians. The perfect intersection of arrogance and ignorance, libertarians smugly proclaim the superiority of their ideology from on top the mountains of privilege their skin color, gender, and happenstance of socioeconomic birth handed to them. They imagine having scaled these heights themselves, fully embracing the myth of the self-made whatever, without mentioning their paid for college tuition and cushy job at the law firm courtesy of a “family friend”. This is why it’s rare to find minority, female, or poor libertarians. These groups don’t live in a world designed to give them every possible advantage while assuring them they earned everything all on their own. But libertarians are oblivious to this reality and will wax on for hours about pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and how the federal government only exists to steal your wages and your freedom. For the last 60 years, the entire right wing has been steadily overtaken by this libertarian anti-government ideology and we now see what it looks like in practice. To say it’s an absolute failure would be an understatement.

The Free Market Fails Catastrophically

This will not be an attack on capitalism per se. The coronavirus currently ravaging the planet does not care if your country is rich, poor, communist, or capitalist. All are being impacted and no one is getting through this unscathed. That being said, we have discovered here in America that the free market will not, in fact, save us from a virus. Libertarians have been telling us for decades that the federal government is useless and that the magic of the market will tend to all society’s ailments. Turns out that they were completely full of crap. Who could have possibly guessed that, except anyone paying attention to history? The moment Trump was sworn in he began dismantling the United States government. This was both practical and ideological from Trump’s point of view. He was partly following the direction of his “guru” Steve Bannon who wanted to “destroy all of today's establishment”, but also doing the bidding of the Russian government by hiring Vladimir Putin stooge Rex Tillerson to facilitate the rapid annihilation the State Department and America’s foreign policy capabilities.

But a good chunk of the reason Trump continues to dismantle the government is because he has bought into the libertarian myth that we don’t need the government to do things. Like many privileged white men Trump has lived a life chafing at any and all constraints on his behavior. He wants something? He bribes, bullies, harasses, and cheats until he gets it. He wants money? He just steals it from his workers or cons people out of millions. He wants a woman? “Grab’em by the pussy.” Trump’s loathing of government is what makes him the perfect embodiment of Republicanism. It’s also why the country is in such dire straits. As the coronavirus rapidly spread beyond the borders of China, Trump refused to take any kind of action. When he was finally goaded into it, he followed his xenophobic instincts and shut down travel to China but far too late.

As the virus spread throughout the country, Trump continued to refuse to do anything, hoping the problem would take care of itself. When it finally became apparent that Covid-19 would not disappear “like a miracle,” Trump fully abdicated the federal government’s role in fighting the first global pandemic in a century to America’s governors. It is the libertarian wet dream. Finally, we would see that America did not actually need a Big Brother federal government. We would see how the magic of the free market would be the most efficient means to get medical equipment exactly where it needed to go while companies voluntarily filled the increase in demand. It would be amazing! It would be capitalism at its finest! It has been an absolute disaster on every conceivable level.


March 31, 2020

The application for $32 billion in airline grants is shorter than most SNAP applications


It's much easier for an airline exec to apply for $32 billion in bailout money than for a random poor person to apply for food stamps. It's amazing, the airline application for billions in assistance is mostly 'what's your name and where can I send the check?' The application for food stamps requires 12 pages (or more) of detailed personal financial records.

SNAP application forms

12 pages plus 10 pages of instructions


March 31, 2020

N.Y. Hospitals Face $400 Million in Cuts Even as Virus Battle Rages

State lawmakers said that slashing hospital budgets to rein in Medicaid costs while the coronavirus is spreading is “cruel, inhumane and unacceptable.”


For the last few weeks, Dr. David Perlstein has been scrambling to find more beds and ventilators, knowing that the coronavirus outbreak, which has filled his Bronx hospital with more than 100 patients, will undoubtedly get much worse. Then a week ago, Dr. Perlstein, the chief executive officer of St. Barnabas Hospital, was given some disturbing news by a state senator: His hospital could soon lose millions of dollars in government funding.

The funding cut was proposed by a panel that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo convened earlier this year, before the virus had reached the United States, to rein in the state’s growing Medicaid program by identifying $2.5 billion in savings. But the timing of the proposals, which were released in mid-March and include about $400 million in cuts to hospitals, was a blow to the morale of many hospitals and medical workers on the front lines of the fight against a ruthless virus that has infected tens of thousands in New York.

“It’s a shot in the gut,” Dr. Perlstein said. “During a time I need to commit all the energy I have to really save lives and expand access and not skimp on resources, now I have to worry about how we’re going to continue to pay our bills.” Asked about the proposed cuts, the governor said on Saturday that hospitals would receive a windfall from the $2 trillion federal stimulus package, which provides over $150 billion in grants to hospitals fighting the virus across the country.

“The places that are getting the most funding now because of what the federal government did are the hospitals,” Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, said. “They are doing better than anyone else.” He then said, as he has before, “The state has no money.” Government spending cuts are inherently contentious, but the optics of reducing money to hospitals at the epicenter of the nation’s pandemic quickly sparked a backlash from elected officials across New York City.

March 31, 2020

U.S. to Announce Rollback of Auto Pollution Rules, a Key Effort to Fight Climate Change


WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is expected on Tuesday to announce its final rule to rollback Obama-era automobile fuel efficiency standards, relaxing efforts to limit climate-warming tailpipe pollution and virtually undoing the government’s biggest effort to combat climate change. The new rule, written by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, would allow cars on American roads to emit nearly a billion tons more carbon dioxide over the lifetime of the vehicles than they would have under the Obama standards and hundreds of millions of tons more than will be emitted under standards being implemented in Europe and Asia.

Trump administration officials raced to complete the auto rule by this spring, even as the White House was consumed with responding to the coronavirus crisis. President Trump is expected to extol the rule, which will stand as one of the most consequential regulatory rollbacks of his administration, as a needed salve for an economy crippled by the pandemic.

The lower fuel-efficiency standard “is the single most important thing that the administration can do to fulfill President Trump’s campaign promise of reforming the regulatory state, and to undo the impact that the previous administration has had on the economy,” said Thomas J. Pyle, the president of the Institute for Energy Research, an organization that supports the use of fossil fuels.

Mr. Trump’s critics said the rule showed the president’s disregard for science and could actually harm the economy over time. The administration’s own draft economic analyses of the rule showed that it could hurt consumers by forcing them to buy more gasoline. And a February report by a panel of government-appointed scientists, many of them selected by the Trump administration, concluded that “there are significant weaknesses in the scientific analysis” of the rule. “This is not just an inopportune moment to finalize a major rule-making,” said Senator Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment Committee. “In this case, it’s a completely irresponsible one.”


related, from December

95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump

March 31, 2020

'A Harrowing Warning' to All as Hungary Hands Far-Right Leader Dictatorial Powers Amid Pandemic

"We could have a parallel epidemic of authoritarian and repressive measures following close if not on the heels of a health epidemic.


Human rights groups and activists issued dire warnings about the state of democracy in Hungary—and the rest of the world—after the nation's parliament on Monday approved a sweeping emergency law handing far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán dictatorial powers as the European country battles the coronavirus pandemic.

The new law indefinitely suspends elections and parliament, imposes up to five years in prison for anyone who intentionally spreads what the government classifies as misinformation, and gives Orbán the authority to suspend laws by decree as he works to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. The law easily passed Hungary's parliament, which is dominated by Orbán's far-right Fidesz party, by a vote of 137 to 53. "Outrageous—and something we must all take as a harrowing warning," author and environmentalist Naomi Klein tweeted in response to the law, which does not contain a sunset clause.


Orbán insisted Monday that he "will give back all powers, without exception," when the coronavirus emergency subsides, but human rights groups warned that the prime minister could do incalculable damage with his virtually unlimited authority in the meantime—and may not give it up so easily when the crisis is over. Orbán has already used the COVID-19 pandemic, which has officially infected nearly 500 people in Hungary, to ramp up xenophobic attacks on migrants.

This bill creates an indefinite and uncontrolled state of emergency and give Viktor Orbán and his government carte blanche to restrict human rights," David Vig, Amnesty International's Hungary director, said in a statement Monday. "During his years as prime minister, Viktor Orbán has overseen a rollback of human rights in Hungary, stoking up hostility towards marginalized groups, and attempting to muzzle Hungary's critical voices," added Vig. "Allowing his government to rule by decree is likely to speed this rollback."

March 31, 2020

COVID-19: Organised crime group 'adapting' with 'new crime trends', Interpol warns

The head of the law enforcement agency says thousands of fake medical items have been seized and warned against telephone fraud.…

READ MORE : https://www.euronews.com/2020/03/30/covid-19-organised-crime-group-adapting-with-new-crime-trends-interpol-warns
March 31, 2020

Trump accused of using coronavirus briefing as corporate advertising spot

President’s press event features leaders from Honeywell, Procter & Gamble, and MyPillow as US cases climb


Donald Trump was accused on Monday of turning his daily White House coronavirus briefing into an advertising spot for corporate allies, even as the number of US cases topped 160,000. The president paraded several company leaders in the White House Rose Garden, starting with Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow, who has become a regular cheerleader for Trump at his campaign rallies.

Trump praised companies for doing their “patriotic duty” by producing or donating medical equipment to meet America’s most urgent needs. “What they’re doing is incredible,” he said. “These are great companies.” He went on to invite Lindell, Darius Adamczyk of Honeywell, Debra Waller of Jockey International, David Taylor of Procter & Gamble and Greg Hayes of United Technologies to make short speeches. He introduced Lindell as a “friend” and riffed: “Boy, do you sell those pillows, it’s unbelievable what you do.”

Lindell then stood at the presidential podium and said his company has dedicated 75% of its manufacturing to producing cotton face masks. “By Friday I want to be up to 50,000 a day,” he said, going on to thank Trump for his “call to action”. Then, in a bizarre gear change, Lindell went into campaign rally mode and referenced the date of Trump’s election. “God gave us grace on November 8, 2016, to change the course we were on,” he said. “God had been taken out of our schools and lives, a nation had turned its back on God. “I encourage you to use this time at home to get back in the word, read our Bibles and spend time with our families.”

Lindell added: “Our president gave us so much hope when just a few short months ago we had the best economy, the lower unemployment and wages going up. It was amazing ... We will get through this and get back to a place that’s stronger and safer than ever.” Trump told reporters: “I did not know he was going to do that, but he’s a friend of mine and I do appreciate it. Thank you, Mike.” The White House coronavirus task force briefings have become notorious for Vice-President Mike Pence and other officials paying homage to Trump’s “leadership” while he scolds reporters for being too negative.


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