The New York Times
The family of one epidemiologist plans to celebrate Thanksgiving in a garage, with tables 10 feet apart and the doors rolled up. Another epidemiologist’s family is forgoing a traditional meal for an outdoor hot cider toast with neighbors. A third is dining in an outdoor tent, with a heater, humidifier and air purifier running.And, according to an informal survey of 635 epidemiologists by The New York Times, the large majority are not celebrating with people outside their household. Public health experts from a range of backgrounds answered our questionnaire. Not all of them study COVID-19, but all have professional training about how to think about disease spread and risk.Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York TimesSeventy-nine percent said they were having Thanksgiving dinner with members of their household or not at all. Just 21% said they would be dining with people outside their household — and in most cases, they described going to great lengths to do so in a safe way. Their answers were similar for the other winter holidays, like Christmas and Hanukkah.About 8,000 epidemiologists were invited to participate in our survey, which was circulated by email to the membership of the Society for Epidemiologic Research and to individual scientists.The holiday season is arriving as the coronavirus spreads with renewed strength across the United States, with cases up 77% and deaths up 52% in the last 14 days. On Thursday, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans to avoid travel and celebrate the holiday only with members of their household. Epidemiologists are making these same personal decisions, with added expertise.”As difficult as it is not to be together for such occasions, we respect the virus and know that no system or level of personal protection is perfect,” said Bruce Copley, an epidemiologist who works as a private consultant and is not celebrating with anyone outside his household.Another epidemiologist, Kendra Sims, a doctoral student at Oregon State University, is eschewing any special Thanksgiving dinner this year. “Nothing tastes as good as safety feels,” she said.Some have coordinated with family or friends to cook side dishes, then exchange them and return home to dine alone. Some are quarantining, having no contact with others, for two or more weeks before the holiday, and getting multiple tests. Others are inviting only members of their quarantine pods — one said her pod had written “a constitution of allowable activities” to ensure they all followed the same rules. Many are resorting to a Zoom-giving.”It’s just me, and while I usually have a place to go, this year I intend to stay home and just Skype or Zoom with family and friends instead,” said Bill Strohsnitter, an affiliate associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “I guess that’s why the NFL gave us Turkey Day football.”Epidemiologists stressed that their decisions depended on many factors, including the level of virus spread in their area; the degree of isolation of the people they may join; and whether they’re able to have the meal in safer ways, like outdoors.”We will be celebrating Thanksgiving outside, using portable tables and heaters,” said Erin C. Dunn, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. “In Maine. Enough said.”Epidemiologists are also considering personal circumstances. Several said they were inviting people who were single for dinner, or including college students returning home or relatives who were recently widowed. Some said they were trying to find a safe way to gather for their own mental health.”Ph.D.s are lonely,” said Nina Masters, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, who plans to travel from Ann Arbor to New York to see her parents. “I will quarantine for three full weeks — an extra, for good measure.”In other cases, they said their own health concerns or their relatives’ age or underlying conditions were driving their decision.”Seeing family is restorative and a source of joy,” said Danielle Gartner, a research associate at Michigan State University. But she is pregnant and said she was also weighing the risks to her health and her baby’s. “Given the spikes in cases in Michigan, we decided it best to cancel our plans to gather in person. The same is true for the Christmas holiday.”Jennifer Kelsey, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at Stanford University, who is 78, does not plan to have a special dinner: “There is no way I would attend a holiday gathering, as I am not suicidal.”Some said that instead of trying to recreate a traditional Thanksgiving or mourning the loss of it, they planned to do something entirely different.”I live alone with my 5-year-old,” said Alicia Allen, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona. “We’re going to skip the normal Thanksgiving plans, which for us means a road trip, and go on a hike and picnic locally instead, just the two of us.”Hannah Maier, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, has devised an alternate meal. She is having a few friends over outside, and serving fall cocktails and individual savory and sweet mini pies: “Maybe we’ll incorporate some hopscotch or sprints down the block to stay warm.”Others said that as experts in public health, with deep knowledge of how an individual’s actions can put the broader community at risk, they felt it was their responsibility to cancel plans, or else they never made them in the first place.”Each individual has to do their part for the greater good and public health of our family, neighbors, strangers and, most importantly, the health care workers and first responders who must continue to care for the public,” said Anna Gorczyca, an assistant research professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center.Several are focusing on the fact that it’s a short-term sacrifice, because the recent news about highly effective vaccines suggests it will be safe to gather next holiday season, if not sooner.Mollie Wood, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Cincinnati, considered driving nine hours to see her mother, but decided to wait.”I miss her so much, but I just couldn’t convince myself there was a safe way to do it,” she said. “So we’re going to have a video chat on the holiday this year, and plan for a big party next year.”Other Notable CommentsCelebrating with their household:”I would like to see my family. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s my birthday and my dad’s, too. But I’d also really like to celebrate many future Thanksgivings with my family and birthdays with my dad. I assume others would appreciate the same. So we have absolutely no holiday celebrations with people from outside our household this year.”– Rachel Widome, associate professor, University of Minnesota”We were planning to celebrate with my parents, as usual, but my mother phoned last night and said that because Dr. Fauci was canceling Thanksgiving dinner with his daughters, she was canceling ours.”– Linda Kahn, postdoctoral fellow, New York University”Thanksgiving has the strong potential to be the start of a period of bleakness around COVID-19 the likes of which we haven’t seen yet, and we have seen some really grim times already. I am terrified of the ramifications of decisions the population as a whole is making around Thanksgiving.”– Sarah Cohen, senior managing epidemiologist, EpidStrategies”I feel incredibly depressed to not see my extended family this year. My newborn won’t get to see his grandparents for his first Thanksgiving. At this stage, he will spend his entire life without knowing other family members. Even as a professional, I sometimes find it hard to take. Given that as an epidemiologist, I understand the need for social distancing, I can only imagine how the general public feels.”– Annette Regan, assistant professor, University of San FranciscoCelebrating with others:”My elderly mother lives alone in isolation. The rest of my household will isolate for about two weeks before and be tested directly before getting together. The total number of people is six.”– Jennifer Albrecht, associate professor, University of Maryland”We formed a pod with another family several months ago after writing up a ‘constitution’ of allowable activities. We are all working from home and limit in-person shopping or visits with others outside the pod.”– Christine Gille Kunitz, doctoral student, University of MinnesotaNo Thanksgiving plans:”My husband and I are welcoming a new puppy into our household over Thanksgiving weekend! With no family close to us, this is a different but a great way for our family to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.”– Taylor Etzel, doctoral student, Johns Hopkins University”Planning to go camping and fishing with my partner.”– Linda Titus, adjunct professor of public health, University of Southern Maine; and professor emeritus, DartmouthWinter holidays:”My household has strict quarantine plans in place and will be tested multiple times before driving to our families’ homes, where we will quarantine and test again.”– Ruby Barnard-Mayers, doctoral student, Boston University”Santa had better wear a mask.”– Theodore Brasky, assistant professor, Ohio State University”Children will interact with other neighborhood children, but adults will not interact outside the household.”– Jay Kaufman, professor, McGill University”It will be a tough year, but my household will not be spending it indoors with family or friends, since the worst gift we could give would be to spread COVID-19.”– Laura Anderson, assistant professor, McMaster UniversityThis article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
Sources close to ex-PM Abe say his camp subsidised backers' party: media – TheChronicleHerald.ca
By Sakura Murakami
TOKYO (Reuters) – Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office helped cover the costs of dinner parties held for his supporters, sources close to Abe told local media on Tuesday evening, in a possible violation of funding and election laws.
The resurfacing of the scandal, which dogged Abe in the last year of his tenure could damage his political reputation and also threatens to drag in successor Yoshihide Suga, who was Abe’s right-hand man during his 2012-2020 term.
Politicians in Japan are forbidden to provide anything to constituents that could be construed as a gift. The rule is so strict that one cabinet minister quit in 2014 after distributing paper fans during the summer.
Abe vehemently denied his office had subsidized parties during parliamentary sessions last year where he was grilled by opposition lawmakers on his office’s involvement in hosting the reception.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, he said he was aware of the accusations and promised that his office will “fully cooperate” with Tokyo prosecutors who are looking into the matter, but declined to comment further on the accusations.
“He can’t run or hide,” opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano said of Abe on Tuesday, adding that the revelation meant Abe had lied in parliament when he had denied his office subsidized parties.
“Prime Minister Suga was also the ringleader of the Abe administration in his position as chief cabinet secretary, and he can’t escape that responsibility,” Edano said, according to NHK.
Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, stepped down in September due to health problems, but has stayed on as a lower house lawmaker.
The opposition has demanded he address the accusations during a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday, but the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) refused to concede to the request, saying it was “unreasonable.”
Local media, including public broadcaster NHK, said Abe’s office helped cover a shortfall of about 8 million yen ($76,540) over the last five years of his premiership to hold annual dinner parties at swanky hotels for his supporters, citing people close to the ex-PM.
Although each supporter paid about $48 for their attendance, the total cost of hosting the parties came to more than $190,000 over five years, exceeding the total amount collected from ticket sales and creating a gap covered by the ex-PM’s office, NHK said.
Tokyo prosecutors are analysing hotel documents that suggest Abe’s office partly subsidized the receptions, and conducted a voluntary questioning of Abe’s former aides, media said on Monday.
In interviews with NHK, sources close to the ex-PM said staff members working for Abe had told their former boss when asked last year by Abe whether the office had partially footed the bills for parties that the ticket sales had covered the costs when in fact, they had not.
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; editing by Richard Pullin)
Ignore the social media echo chambers – TechCrunch
After Election Day, NPR, The Washington Post and various blogs described America as bitterly divided or on the brink of civil war. These were by the same journalists, pundits and intellectuals who only know how to sell fear.
“They want to take away your guns!” and “They want to take your children away!” were their cries, while praising BLM’s protesters on one screen and promoting videos of the infinitesimal number of rioters on another.
The Atlantic speculated about widespread violence depending on the outcome, but I never believed these seemingly well-researched reports that have become commonplace in our clickbait-driven world. And as we saw, nothing of real concern happened; instead of violence, there were relatively small protests and dancing in the streets.
The gap that supposedly divides our nation is narrower than the doomsaying pundits, intellectuals, politicians and cause leaders want you to believe. Why do they want you to believe this? Because promoting division and conflict sells and grants a perverse glue that unites people within their tribal communities. Behind these labels of conflict are seeds of fear that can grow into irrational fears. Fears without reason, fears beyond facts. Sometimes these fears become things we hate — and our society and nation should have no place for hate, because it is an unproductive emotion without any possible positive outcome.
I’ve learned to ignore much of the headline-driven news and social media echo chambers where ridiculous ideas fester across our political spectrum. There are obviously ridiculous ideas, such as QAnon, but the subtly ridiculous ideas can be more dangerous and potentially even more destructive. These ideas can be diminished by simple questions to the average reasonable person.
One idea spawned in some progressive echo chambers was the notion that Trump would stage a coup d’état if Joe Biden won the election (i.e., “Did you see those unmarked federal police!?” which signaled to some that a coup was coming).
A basic element of a coup d’état is military support or control, which obviously Trump did not have. I would ask basic questions around this idea, but always ask the rhetorical question, “Do you know how difficult it is to conduct a coup d’état?” Meanwhile, in some conservative echo chambers, a similar concern made rounds that “defund the police” was an effort to install a “federal police force” that Biden would control once in the Oval Office. So there really isn’t much original thought inside the echo chambers of America.
Maybe both sides with such fantasies recently watched that Patrick Swayze classic, “Red Dawn,” where a tiny militia of high school students held off the combined forces of the old Soviet Union and Cuba. Or maybe they saw “300,” in which Sparta’s army held off more than 300,000 invaders. After watching either of these inspirational movies, I might possibly believe such a militia or “federal force” could overpower the whole might of the U.S. military. Ahem.
For those warmongers and soothsayers warning of civil war, where do they want the country to go? Static echo chambers of America, or a vision of suburban folks with pitchforks and handguns versus urban dwellers carrying machine guns and Blue Bottle coffee mugs?
Since the level of violence after the election did not in fact match the crystal balls of these oracles, the definitions and terms have of course changed. As Bertrand Russell stated, “fear is the main source of superstition” — to which I would add that fear is also the source of really stupid predictions and ideas.
And let’s be clear that while I do criticize the echo chambers of social media, they are only tools of promotion, because echo chambers are not limited to the online social media. Echo chambers can be homes, bars, lodge meetings, yoga studios and Sunday bridge clubs. The enablers are the pundits, intellectuals, politicians and cause leaders that seed these ideas.
Conspiracy theories, misinformation and outlandish statements were quite capable of spreading before the recommendation engines of Facebook and others were fully developed. For example, in 2006, over 50% of Democrats believed the U.S. government was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attack. More than half of registered Democrats believed in this conspiracy theory! And let’s not forget the Obama “birther” conspiracy, where at least 57% of Republicans continued to believe that President Obama was born in Kenya even after he released his birth certificate in 2008.
But today, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media sites have become extremely powerful accelerants for such provocative ideas and strange fictions. Tristan Harris, co-founder and president of the Center for Humane Technology, was recently featured in the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” where he discussed how social media tends to feed content to retain people’s attention and can spiral downward.
This can become an abyss of outright misinformation, or — even more importantly in my estimation — for subtle, ignorant ideas, such as coups d’état and civil wars. And those destructive ideas and irrational conspiracy theories from the 2000s that probably took months to spread, are now supercharged by today’s social media giants to infect our society in a matter of days or weeks.
The fabric of our nation was delicately woven, but after countless turns of the loom between conflicts and enlightenment, our country has proven itself extremely resilient. Indestructible beyond today’s calls for racism and ignorance, for anarchy and destruction, and for civil wars.
Biden is our President-elect with a mandate to lead our nation beyond this divide — a divide that I believe has been overstated. Many citizens met in the middle to provide Biden with a mandate to bridge the gap. The “blue wave” didn’t occur and House Republicans gained 10 seats, which means many Republicans and independents voted “red” down-ballot but also voted for Biden.
Trump had the largest number of minority votes for a Republican presidential candidate in history, including from 18% of Black male voters — and that number would have been much higher pre-pandemic. I see all of this as a positive, because our citizens are not voting party line or becoming beholden to one party.
In reality, many of the major issues that supposedly separate us are much closer than we know. For example, I’ve sat down behind closed doors with a senior adviser on healthcare for a major Republican leader, who stated that Obamacare isn’t far off from what they were planning. The difference was that their plan was more small business friendly and their cost savings would be among the younger demographic. I also sat down with a senior adviser for Obamacare, who explained that they believed it wasn’t sustainable unless the cost savings were for those 65 and above. So the differences on such critical policies are not miles apart but only steps away from each other. Although at times politics are about credit and conflict, hopefully such differences can be resolved in the near future.
I hope this election will change the temperament of our nation and its citizens. I hope it will lead more people to ignore the tactics of both political parties and organizations seeking their attention and support. Their shortsighted methods should be cast away like the relics of the past and conflict should not be the tool of this new America. Instead, let’s focus on productive dialogue to find common ground, and thoughtful, practical policies to move our nation forward.
Media conference with Moe, Shahab postponed – CKOM News Talk Sports
A media conference that was scheduled for Tuesday with Premier Scott Moe and Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer, was postponed until Wednesday.
The announcement was made shortly after the province issued its COVID-19 update for the day. No reason was given for the postponement.
The media conference was to take place at 3 p.m.
Moe was to join by video from his home in Shellbrook, where he’s in self-isolation after potentially being exposed to someone who later tested positive for COVID-19.
It was expected that Moe and Shahab would announce further restrictions as the government tries to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“Further measures are under active consideration and development by Dr. Shahab and will be announced during tomorrow’s COVID-19 update with the Premier and the Chief Medical Health Officer,” Moe’s office said in a media release announcing the postponement.
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