I've had an unusually busy (and productive!) day, so naturally, the evening reading has piled up:
Finally, National Geographic has a slideshow of the world's best ghost towns.
I'm glad I took a long walk yesterday and not today, because of this:
In other news:
- State health officials warn that suburban Cook County (the immediate suburbs surrounding Chicago) has experienced a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, and placed it and 29 other counties on warning that social restrictions could resume next week.
- Moreover, Covid-19 leads in a massive wave of excess deaths reported by the Cook County Medical Examiner this week. Suicides, homicides, and overdoses are also at near-record levels.
- Jonathan Russo, writing in TPM Cafe, lays out the case that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin got what he wanted with his meddling in the 2016 US elections, and stands to gain even more if the president wins (or somehow achieves) re-election.
- The nationalist, right-wing disease has started to infect Canada as well, as their new Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole has adopted a "Canada First" platform.
- Graceland Cemetery, which doubles as an arboretum, will be closed for the longest period in its 160-year history because of damage from the August 10th derecho.
- Mother Jones obtained video from a 10 December 2015 deposition showing Donald Trump boasting about his lack of ethics and ignorance of the law.
Finally, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has called for an end to Daylight Saving Time—not just the twice-annual time changes associated with the practice.
I'm sitting at my desk waiting for my work laptop to finish updating, a process now in its 24th minute, with "Working on updates 25%" on the screen for the past 5. Very frustrating; I have things to do today; and if I'd known how long it would take (I'm looking at you, help desk), I would have started the update when I left this evening.
So, all right, I'll read a few things:
My laptop has rebooted three times now and appears to have gotten up to 83% complete. I may in fact get something done today.
Today is former president Bill Clinton's 74th birthday. Last night, he spoke at the Democratic National Convention, where the party formally nominated former vice president Joe Biden to be president.
In other news:
And finally, in about half an hour, Parker will get a much-needed bath. He has no idea this will happen. I'll let him sleep another 10 minutes before the horror begins...
Josh Marshall has a good summary of why things suck for parents, kids, and teachers right now:
But the plan [New York] city and most of [New York] state has come up with shows how limited this can be and how much we’ve made a fetish of in-school instruction. There are two big reasons to have in-school instruction. The first and most important is the educational, social and emotional development and well-being of children. The second is the impact on the economy. Many parents can’t work if their children aren’t in school and to the extent they can their children’s remote learning lacks the support it needs.
I think there is a real question whether in-school instruction on these terms is even worth it. At best kids will be in school 1/3 of the time – and it may be less – and under such straightened and perhaps nerve-wracking conditions that most of the educational and social benefit is actually lost. Watching the process as a journalist and a parent it seems to me that the school system and political authorities have been so focused on the absolute necessity of ‘reopening’ the schools that they’ve ended up with something that is not obviously better than full remote learning and called it success.
The truth is that we’re in a horrible situation. We have failed as a country to control the virus and because of that we’re forced into no-win situations and choices which are all bad. As much as anything we simply lack the kind of information that allows us to make informed, smart decisions. And yet September is less than four weeks away.
Meanwhile, Downtown Chicago suffered a coordinated attack of looters last night for no apparent reason, though police returning fire from a suspect and injuring him yesterday afternoon may have been the excuse. Since the looting took place across town and the looters came with U-Haul trucks I can't say I have any sympathy for them on this occasion. If it turns out that any of the looters were right-wing agitators, I will be disappointed but not surprised.
Oh, and the government of Lebanon resigned.
Yesterday approximately 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded in the Port of Beirut, Lebanon, leaving hundreds feared dead and thousands injured. If you've ever worried what a "tactical" nuclear weapon can do to a city, here are photos of ground zero from (apparently) just a few days ago and this morning:
Here's the Nukemap, showing pretty much exactly what happened:
For scale, here's the same detonation at the Sears Tower:
The search for survivors continues, with 300,000 people evacuated and Port of Beirut officials reported to be under house arrest.
I am trying to put that number into perspective.
- Assuming 112.5 passengers per flight (4.378 billion passengers carried in 2018 divided by 38.9 million flights), that's the equivalent of 1,395 air-transport crashes this year.
- It's approximately the number of deaths from nuclear weapons, ever.
- More Americans have died from Covid-19 in the US than died in World War I and the Vietnam War, combined.
- It is more than the total number of people who died in New York State in 2017 from all causes.
- More Americans have died of Covid-19 than Asians and Africans combined, and we have equaled the number of deaths in the entirety of Continental Europe.
And the president and the Republican Party have let it continue through incompetence, malice, and negligence.
 Source: Statista, IATA.
 From 6 August to 31 December 1945, the US Army estimated 90,000-120,000 deaths in Hiroshima and 60,000-90,000 deaths in Nagasaki due to the atomic bombings. Source: UCLA.
 Source: Wikipedia.
 Source: NYS Dept of Health.
 Source: Worldometers
First: the difference between how Garmin handled a global outage that lasted 5 days, and how SendGrid managed one that lasted 5 hours. SendGrid handles billions of emails per day, including for Microsoft and other massive companies. So SendGrid going down didn't inconvenience a few athletes and pilots; it crippled Fortune-500 companies' marketing departments. (And it delayed a scheduled release on my own team.)
Within about an hour of their outage, SendGrid created an incident response page to which they posted updates every half-hour. They clearly stated what was going on and how they were trying to fix it, even as they were discovering for themselves what had happened:
Contrast that with Garmin, who still haven't really explained what happened or why it took so long to resolve the outage. (They finally declared their remediation "complete" yesterday, almost 6 days after the outage started.)
Second: the difference between how Germany (and other rich countries) have handled Covid-19 and how we have. Josh Marshall looked into the numbers:
The head of Germany’s equivalent of the CDC told reporters today that he’s “very concerned” about the rising case numbers in the country and accuses Germans of becoming “negligent” in their adherence to mitigation measures. He has good reason to be concerned.
Today Germany reported 638 new cases of COVID. That comes out to .76 cases per 100,000 residents. Let’s round that up to 1 new case per 100,000 for good measure. (The need for round numbers will become clear.)
Today New York State had 3 cases per 100,000. So Germany is concerned by 1/3 the number of cases as we have in New York state, a state which is probably controlling the disease as well as any other state in the country.
Florida today had 43 cases per 100,000. Florida’s outbreak is more than forty-three times the size relative to population.
To state the point baldly, Germany is very concerned about a rise in cases that would still be dramatically better than any other part of the United States. They’re ramping up border restrictions to get things back under control and chiding the population to redouble its collective efforts.
[S]eeing this as, "well, look, everyone’s having problems." Or "we’re not the only ones having new outbreaks" or "we can’t go back to shutdowns…" ... only captures how Americans are having a hard time grappling with just how many universes away we are from what is happening in other countries which are comparably affluent, industrialized and able to mount an effective response.
We’re failing that badly.
Anthony Fauci was on BBC just now, struggling not to call the president out on his criminal negligence. Only 98 days until we can vote the bastard out.
I kind of got into the flow today, so things to read later just piled up:
And wait—you can make risotto in an Instant Pot? I might have to try that.
The most destructive man-made force in the history of the planet exploded for the first time 75 years ago today:
On July 16, 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m., the Manhattan Project comes to an explosive end as the first atom bomb is successfully tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
The scientists and a few dignitaries had removed themselves 10,000 yards away to observe as the first mushroom cloud of searing light stretched 40,000 feet into the air and generated the destructive power of 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT. The tower on which the bomb sat when detonated was vaporized.
The Alamogordo blast tested the "Fat Man" implosion design that compressed two hemispheres of Pu-239 around a U-235 trigger through a perfectly-timed set of high explosive detonations around the sphere. This resulted in almost 40% more yield than the gun-type "Little Boy" design that exploded over Hiroshima, Japan, three weeks later. The second "Fat Man" exploded over Nagasaki, Japan, three days after that.
In 1952, the United States demonstrated a fusion bomb that produced 450 times more yield than the Nagasaki explosion, igniting an arms race that ultimately led to the USSR developing a 100 MT "Tsar Bomba" that, were it detonated over O'Hare, would produce a fireball completely vaporising the airport and surrounding villages, would destroy any masonry or wood-framed buildings from Mundelein to Oak Lawn and St Charles to the Loop, and would cause third-degree burns to any exposed flesh in a 74 km radius encompassing Kenosha, Channahon, De Kalb, Gary, and more than halfway across Lake Michigan.
The half-strength (!) Tsar Bomba tested on 30 October 1961 remains the most destructive weapon ever demonstrated on earth.
The United States remains the only country to have prosecuted a nuclear war against another country.
In a side note, the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed an estimated 100,000 people outright and perhaps another 50,000 people over the following year due to secondary effects like radiation sickness and disease. This is only 10,000 more than the number of Americans killed by Covid-19 since March.