Today I'll try to avoid the most depressing stories:
- The North Shore Channel Trail bridge just north of Lincoln Avenue opened this week, completing an 11 km continuous path from Lincoln Square to Evanston.
- Experts warn that herd immunity (a) is an economic concept, not a health concept and (b) shouldn't apply to humans because we're not herd animals.
- Wisconsin remains in total chaos today after the state supreme court terminated Governor Tony Evans' stay-at-home order, approximately two weeks before a predictable, massive uptick in Covid-19 cases.
- Delta Airlines has decided to retire its fleet of 18 B777 airplanes years ahead of schedule due to an unexpected drop in demand for air travel.
- The pro-contagion, rabid right-wingers flashing placards saying "Be Like Sweden" clearly have no comprehension of Sweden's efforts to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
- US retail sales declined 16.4% in April, pushing the total decline since February to nearly 25%, the worst decline in history.
- Wired has a portrait of Marcus Hutchins, the hacker who stopped the WannaCry virus from killing us all and then went to jail for his previous activities designing and spreading malware.
- Andrew Sullivan tells the story of Samuel Pepys, "the very first pandemic blogger."
Finally, Vanity Fair has reprinted its 1931 cover article on Al Capone, which seems somehow timely.
So, this just happened:
Are these the better angels of our nature? Nah, but they're still cool:
I read the news today, oh boy:
Finally, the USS Nevada, a battleship that survived World War I and Pearl Harbor until the Navy scuttled her in 1948, has been found.
Happy May Day! Or m'aidez? Hard to know for sure right now. The weather in Chicago is sunny and almost the right temperature, and I have had some remarkable productivity at work this week, so in that respect I'm pretty happy.
But I woke up this morning to the news that Ravinia has cancelled its entire 2020 season, including a performance of Bernstein's White House Cantata that featured my group, the Apollo Chorus of Chicago. This is the first time Ravinia has done so since 1935.
If only that were everything.
First, via Josh Marshall, former Obama Administration disaster-preparedness expert Jeremy Konydndyk lays out the facts about our plateau (60,000 excess weekly deaths) and how the Trump Administration continues to do nothing to help us slow Covid-19 deaths.
Next, all of this:
- The Experimental Aviation Association cancelled AirVenture 2020, the huge annual fly-in that brings thousands of airplanes to Oshkosh, Wis. (Bonus: video of a brand-new Airbus A-380 landing at the small Wisconsin airport in 2009.)
- The New Republic on "the morbid ideology behind the drive to reopen America."
- Republican legislatures and governors made it harder to get unemployment benefits in general, which makes it needlessly difficult to get them in this current crisis.
- Trump whipped out his "very good people" trope to support the armed protesters who stormed the Michigan State Capitol this week.
- Paul Krugman: "Crashing economy, rising stocks: What's going on?"
- Megan Garber: "Groundhog Day was a horror movie all along."
- Bruce Schneier says Covid-19 contact tracing apps "have absolutely no value." Only "ubiquitous, cheap, fast, and accurate testing" will make a difference.
- Alexandra Petri: "Heroes, we cannot possibly repay you for your sacrifice, so we will make no effort to." ("We will give you everything except PPE, and we will offer you all the thanks in the world but an increase in compensation.")
But some good news:
Finally, while alarming in its own right, the record water levels in Lake Michigan (4 months in a row now) have exposed some historic shipwrecks.
Today's Covid-19 news roundup highlights how no one in the White House should go anywhere near this crisis response effort:
All of this, and we still have an hour to go before lunch.
There was one bit of good news, though. The National Transportation Safety Board released a report this week that said air-transport fatalities dropped by 75% between the 1983-2000 period and 2001-2017. One expects that Covid-19 will reduce those numbers even further.
No, I don't mean Kenny Rogers, who died last night at age 83. I mean that Royal Dutch Airlines KLM has decided to remove all their 747s from service nine months early because of the pandemic:
The current date of the final flight is March 26, though even that date could get moved up if more flight cancellations ensue.
Generally speaking, fleet retirements are met with large fanfare. The last two major airlines to retire the 747-400, United and Delta, both in 2017, had large send-off parties and several “final” flights for aviation fans and employees alike.
KLM’s retirement of the 747-400 was expected to be the same. The airline announced late last year that the final revenue flight was set to occur on January 3, 2021, from New York JFK to Amsterdam. Even if passengers weren’t able to be on the last flight, the final months were sure to see thousands of people going out of their way to fly on the Queen of the Skies one last time.
The Officer Wayfinder post has tons of photos from inside one of the 1990s-era 747s en route from the US to Johannesburg.
I had a chance to see one of these guys pass a few meters above my head at Princess Juliana Airport (SXM) in 2014:
What an exciting 24 hours.
President Trump made a statement from the Oval Office last night about the COVID-19 pandemic that completely failed to reassure anyone, in part because it contained numerous errors and misstatements. By announcing a ban on travel from the Schengen area of 26 European countries that applies to non-US residents, he enraged our European allies while doing nothing to stop the spread of the virus for the simple reason that the virus has already spread to the US. Not to mention, having a US passport doesn't magically confer immunity on people.
But let's not question the virologist-in-chief at this moment, who has so far refused to heed his experts' advice to issue an emergency declaration until Jared Kushner signs off on it. And wouldn't you guess? Republicans in the Senate have balked at an emergency spending bill because it has the potential to demonstrate that government can help in a crisis, which is why they blocked prevention measures earlier.
A few minutes after trading started today, the New York Stock Exchange hit the brakes to hold the plunge in equities values to 8% for 15 minutes while traders pissed themselves. Trading seems to have stabilized as it resumed, but the markets have now fallen about 25% from their February records.
The National Basketball Association has suspended its season and the National College Athletic Association played the first few games of March Madness without audiences.
In Chicago, PepsiCo became the first company to close its headquarters building, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has halted in-person trading entirely. Following California's ban on assemblies of more than 250 persons, Illinois is considering a similar measure. (Scotland has banned groups of 500, and Ireland has cancelled St Patrick's Day events.) And local colleges have moved their spring classes online.
Finally, as a member of the Apollo Chorus of Chicago Board of Directors and as the co-chair of our annual benefit, I am in the position of having to make some of these decisions myself. In another post I'll talk about that. For now, I can say we've sent a few hundred emails around the organization in the past 24 hours because we have concerts scheduled for this weekend and a dress rehearsal scheduled for tonight.
And, of course, I'm working from home again, and I think I should vote today instead of Tuesday.
Updates as conditions warrant.
Daredevil "Mad" Mike Hughes, who either believed the world is flat or merely played the role of a Flat Earther, died Saturday trying to launch a home-made rocket in an effort to "prove" the belief:
In December, buttressed by his conviction and advances in homemade rocketry, “Mad” Mike Hughes flipped on a camera and fantasized about the moment when he shows mankind that it lives on a verdant disk.
The plan: Float dozens of miles high in a balloon, then fly a rocket to the Karman line, the 62-mile-high barrier that separates the atmosphere and the cold vacuum of space, filming the entire way. “For three hours, the world stops,” Hughes said during a live stream, imagining the reaction.
Justin Chapman, a freelance reporter, witnessed the launch while reporting a longer story on Hughes. The rocket’s green parachute tore away moments after takeoff, sending the crowd of 50 or so people into a panic, he said.
Hughes’s support team went to inspect the crash site about a half mile away, Chapman said, and returned with the harrowing news: Hughes was dead, the rocket had pancaked, and the other three parachutes never deployed.
I believe this fits the Greek definition of "tragedy" perfectly.
By the way, here is proof the Earth is a spheroid:
British Airways flight 112 arrived at 4:47 this morning at Heathrow, having made the trip from New York in an astonishing 4 hours, 56 minutes:
Virgin Atlantic wasn’t far behind British Airways, though. VS4 from New York JFK to London Heathrow was scheduled to depart at exactly the same time. The flight was operated by an A350-1000, and that plane completed the flight in just 4hr57min. It ended up arriving at the gate at Heathrow at 5:05AM, a full 1hr25min ahead of schedule.
Tail winds on both flights were as high as 425 km/h, and the planes reached maximum [ground] speeds of over 1,325 km/h.
It should be noted that this was not the fastest trans-Atlantic trip since Concorde, or even last night:
Aer Lingus flew from Boston to Dublin in a flight time of 4hr49min, which is actually not that impressive when you consider that the flight is nearly 800 km shorter (however, the 747 has a faster cruising speed than the A330).
It's still impressive.
Not just articles today, but also a whole HBO mini-series:
For yet another thing to worry about today, after this post and the one before it, the New Yorker has started a series about the last time democracy almost died. (Hint: it got better.)