Associate Professor of English, University of Michigan-Flint. I research and teach rhetoric and writing.
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'We All Feel At Risk': 100,000 People Dead From COVID-19 In The U.S.

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A volunteer artist sets up a memorial in Brooklyn on May 20. Artists and volunteer organizers across New York City put up physical memorials throughout the five boroughs in connection with Naming the Lost to honor the lives lost to COVID-19.

The lethal march of COVID-19 has passed 100,000 deaths in the U.S. despite some predictions it would not. It presents a moment to consider who has died and how many others in the U.S. might follow.

(Image credit: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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betajames
19 hours ago
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Michigan
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Twitter’s first fact-check on President Trump calls out “false claims” [Updated]

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A cartoon orange man outweighs a pair of blue birds on a seesaw.

Enlarge / Twitter's policies currently protect apparent rule-breaking posts due to a "world leader" clause. Tuesday saw the social media service try a different tack. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Twitter's newest fact-checking initiative, which slaps warnings on misleading posts by major public officials, appeared on arguably the biggest possible account in North America on Tuesday: President Donald Trump.

Earlier that day, Trump used Twitter to allege that mail-in voting is inherently "fraudulent." Hours later, his posts were updated by Twitter to include a clickable, plain-text notice—"get the facts about mail-in ballots"—next to an exclamation-point icon.

Clicking that notice directs users to a page that cites "CNN, Washington Post and other fact checkers" in disputing the president's Tuesday-morning allegation. But before the Twitter page links to these citations, it opens with what appears to be entirely original language, as opposed to a quote from a press outlet:

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betajames
1 day ago
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too little too late
Michigan
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Envisioning a day in the life of the physically distanced classroom (opinion)

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You walk into your third class of the day late, feeling a little frustrated and anxious. It was tough to get there from your previous class, since trying to stay six feet away from people in the corridors meant you had to walk slower than usual. You’re anxious because while most people were wearing masks and keeping apart, not everyone was being careful.

You grab a couple of disinfectant wipes from the box on the table (luckily this one hasn’t run out yet, like the one in your previous class) and wipe off your chair and the tape-marked spot at the table where you are assigned to sit. Only one other student is able to share this seven-foot-long table with you, at the opposite corner. This huge room has a total of 14 students in it today, where normally it would hold up to 80. The emptiness sometimes feels a little sad, like a mostly empty church.

At the start of the semester 20 students were in the room, but six students have had some symptoms recently and are staying home and participating virtually. That number goes up every week. You heard a classmate say that one of their classes reached a point where nearly everyone was having to stay home because they were either sick or had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID, so the faculty member had finally moved to fully online.

You try to listen to your instructor give directions for the day. It’s a little challenging, since the mask muffles her voice. Then it comes time to work with your partner at the table. Sitting six feet apart and wearing a mask means you have to raise your voice to be heard -- but so does everyone else in the room. After doing this for two earlier classes, your throat is pretty sore. This doesn’t help your anxiety, since you can’t help wondering if this might be a COVID symptom.

Your partner tries to show you something on their computer, but you can’t see it from six feet away. Plus, the Plexiglas shield down the middle of the table distorts your vision (you wonder when it was last wiped down). So instead you work together on a shared Google Doc.

You notice another pair of students has had the brilliant idea to bring in headsets, and they're collaborating via a Zoom meeting while in class. It makes you wonder why you aren’t all just doing this from your dorm rooms. Then you notice that their brilliant idea doesn’t work, because the two mics in the same room are creating feedback. They take the headsets off in frustration and go back to muffled shouting.

You raise your hand to ask a question. Your instructor is at the far opposite end of the room, and it takes her a while to notice your hand and walk down to you. You can’t help but notice that as she does so, she has to come closer than six feet to students at the tables, because there’s not enough walking space. To help you, she has to stand closer than you've come to expect with your recently expanded social bubble, and even then it’s hard for her to see what’s on your screen.

You notice that a student at the table behind you has removed his mask. His face is sweaty since the room has heated up over the course of the day -- at least, you're telling yourself that to avoid thinking it might be a fever. The other student at the table says something to him, but the student simply points at his sweaty face and doesn’t put the mask back on. The faculty member is at the other end of the room again and either can’t see or does not want to intervene. Your anxiety goes up a little more.

You remember some of the activities you used to be able to do in class that you can’t this year. You can’t work with shared physical manipulative models, since someone would have to be constantly cleaning them. You can’t get up and move around the room acting out simulations, because there’s not enough space to maintain social distancing.

You remember the days when you used to be able to use the “huddle boards.” They sit in the corner of the room now, since they can’t be cleaned often enough to be safe to use -- plus, they’re pretty pointless when only two of you are at a giant table, sitting as far apart as possible.

Instead, you use a virtual whiteboard, which again makes you wonder why you’re physically in class. Most of the collaborating you do is via technology, anyway.

You look across at your partner, who you’re pretty sure made a joke, but without seeing her mouth you can’t tell for sure if she's smiling or not. You assume she is, since you’ve been friends for a couple of semesters now, which certainly helps. You feel sorry for other pairs of students in the room who don’t have that background knowledge and can’t see facial expressions well.

“Group work” time, such as it is, is over. The faculty member tries to lead some full-class discussion. You’re at one end of this large room, and you really struggle to hear the muffled voices of your classmates, some of whom are more than 30 feet away. You eventually tune out.

Class ends five minutes earlier than it normally would. You wait for the faculty member to signal your table to leave, the new practice that’s been implemented to avoid crowding at the doorway.

As you leave class, you notice that some students are clustered nearby, waiting to get in, even though you all have been told many times not to come to class early to avoid such problems. Some people are trying to pay attention to the dots on the floor that mark six feet of spacing, but others seem to be ignoring them.

You hear one person who is being crowded mumble something about “six feet” with a look that combines frustration and anxiety, but it doesn’t do much good since the corridor is too full to maintain appropriate distancing. You overhear another student saying that their roommate is getting tested for COVID today, and your anxiety level goes up a notch.

You think maybe your sore throat really is a symptom of something more. Maybe tomorrow, you’ll call in sick and participate virtually …

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Norman Clark is administrative director of academic programs at the University of Minnesota Rochester's Center for Learning Innovation. He wrote this after measuring and experiencing all of the university's classrooms and labs. This essay represents his views, not his institution’s.

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betajames
1 day ago
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Michigan
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US Covid-19 Death Toll Nears 100,000

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NY Times Covid-19 Front Page

That’s the front page of the NY Times today, listing the names of hundreds of the nearly 100,000 Americans who have died from Covid-19 (the full listing is of ~1000 names and continues inside the paper).

NY Times Covid-19 Obituaries Detail

Here’s a more readable PDF version and an online version that scrolls and scrolls and scrolls. They compiled the list by going through obituaries from local newspapers from around the countries.

Putting 100,000 dots or stick figures on a page “doesn’t really tell you very much about who these people were, the lives that they lived, what it means for us as a country,” Ms. Landon said. So, she came up with the idea of compiling obituaries and death notices of Covid-19 victims from newspapers large and small across the country, and culling vivid passages from them.

Alain Delaquérière, a researcher, combed through various sources online for obituaries and death notices with Covid-19 written as the cause of death. He compiled a list of nearly a thousand names from hundreds of newspapers. A team of editors from across the newsroom, in addition to three graduate student journalists, read them and gleaned phrases that depicted the uniqueness of each life lost:

“Alan Lund, 81, Washington, conductor with ‘the most amazing ear’ … “

“Theresa Elloie, 63, New Orleans, renowned for her business making detailed pins and corsages … “

“Florencio Almazo Morán, 65, New York City, one-man army … “

“Coby Adolph, 44, Chicago, entrepreneur and adventurer … “

Every one of these names was a person with a whole life behind them and so much more to come. Each has a family and friends who are mourning them. Here are a few more of their names and short stories:

Romi Cohn, 91, New York City, saved 56 Jewish families from the Gestapo.

Jermaine Ferro, 77, Lee County, Fla., wife with little time to enjoy a new marriage.

Julian Anguiano-Maya, 51, Chicago, life of the party.

Alan Merrill, 69, New York City, songwriter of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

Lakisha Willis White, 45, Orlando, Fla., was helping to raise some of her dozen grandchildren.

In the past five months, more Americans have died from Covid-19 than in the decade-plus of the Vietnam War and the death toll is a third of the number of Americans who died in World War II. When this is over (whatever that means), the one thing we cannot do is forget all of these people. And we owe to them to make this mean something.

Tags: COVID-19   NY Times   obituaries   USA
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betajames
3 days ago
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serious questions for churches

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The question I would ask churches that are re-opening without masks or distancing, but with lots of congregational singing, is: How do you think infectious disease works, exactly? How do you think COVID–19 is transmitted? What’s the theory you’re operating on?

I’m going to assume that the leaders of such churches believe that infectious diseases exist, that there are illnesses that pass from person to person via contact or proximity. I am also going to assume that they believe that COVID–19 is one of these infectious diseases.

I wonder how many such leaders are aware that health organizations all over the world — not just American organizations run by Trump-hating libtards — generally agree about how COVID–19 is transmitted? See for instance this poster from the Japanese Ministry of Health:

JPMH

And perhaps they have read about the dramatic and terrible rate of illness among the members of this community choir?

Given all the information available, I’m wondering what they actually believe — not just about what their rights are, or about what they should be allowed to do — but rather about this disease. Some of the more likely options:

  1. It’s all fake news, even that thing from Japan. There’s nothing to worry about, COVID–19 is no worse than the flu. All those reports of death? FAKE NEWS. Massive conspiracy concocted by global elites.
  2. Some of it is true, but the dangers are dramatically exaggerated by the global elites, we’ll probably be fine. Also, masks don’t work.
  3. It was very dangerous, but it’s all over now — the President wouldn’t be telling us to open up if it weren’t safe to do so.
  4. It’s still dangerous, but we’re putting our trust in God, counting on Him to protect us.
  5. It doesn’t matter whether it’s dangerous or not. If we perish, we perish. We may all get sick, we may all even die, but we’re not supposed to count the cost of following the Lord.

My guess is that the churches choosing to open — when they can; some that want to are now forbidden to do so — are using any and all of the above options as needed. Theirs is a castle with many mottes and many baileys. I don’t believe that churches re-opening for business-as-usual, or seeking to re-open for business-as-usual, have assessed the evidence and made prudential judgments in light of that evidence. They have decided to act on what they want to do, and then will employ whatever ex post facto justifications seem best in the moment, according to the arguments marshaled against them.

So we should expect to see any of the five defenses listed above, and perhaps others I have neglected, deployed from once moment to the next, even though those defenses aren’t necessarily consistent with one another. The answer to my initial question, then, is that the leaders and members of such churches will believe whatever at a given moment seems useful to justify acting on their desires. ’Cause in much of America today, that’s how we roll.

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acdha
2 days ago
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I especially find it fascinating to see the overlap between the “god will keep us safe” refusers and the people who feel like they need an assault rifle to buy a sandwich if there’s a brown person in the same zip code.
Washington, DC
betajames
3 days ago
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Michigan
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US beaches, parks full on Memorial Day weekend despite pandemic

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Health officials issue warnings after some revellers did not follow precautions while marking the beginning of summer.
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betajames
3 days ago
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Michigan
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