It’s the cruelest day of the week: Tuesday, and December 28, 2021, the fourth day of Coynezaa and National Chocolate Day. (On the fourth day of Coynezaa my true love gave to me: four gefilte fish, three matzo balls, two spinning dreidels and a kippah in a pear tree.) Does anybody not like chocolate? I know that it’s toxic to dogs because it contains theobromine, though the toxicity threshold is over twice as high for cats than in dogs (i.e. cats are more chocolate-resistant).
It’s also Call a Friend Day, National Card Playing Day, National Short Film Day, and Pledge of Allegiance Day, marking the day in 1945 when Congress gave “national sanction” to the pledge. The words “under God” weren’t in that sanctioned pledge, but were added during the Cold War (in 1954) to distinguish our religion-soaked country from the godless Communists. Finally, it’s also the fourth of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
News of the Day:
*The headlines of all big media outlets: the CDC has reduced the time that you must isolate if you catch the omicron variant from 10 days until five—IF you’re asymptomatic. Once you test positive, you’re out for five days, but then must wear a mask for five more days. This comes from new research showing that people are the most infectious to others for two days before and three days after symptoms appear. This means that you have to get tested even without symptoms. But why would you unless you’re obliged to get tested daily or weekly? The NYT says this, but it’s confusing, because they added the bit in bold only this morning.
“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said.
The agency had previously recommended that infected patients isolate for 10 days from when they were tested for the virus. But on Monday, it cut that period to five days for those without symptoms, or those without fevers whose other symptoms were resolving.
The new guidance was announced as the highly transmissible Omicron variant is sending daily caseloads soaring, forcing airlines to cancel thousands of flights and cities to scuttle or scale back New Year’s Eve celebrations and threatening industries as diverse as health care, restaurants and retail.
“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the C.D.C. The new recommendations “balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives.”
Health officials also said that uninfected Americans who had received booster shots did not need to quarantine after exposure to the virus.
The ambiguous bit (I wrote this before they added the bold bit) is that they said you isolate for only five days if you test positive, but until this morning, you had no way of knowing whether you were positive unless you showed symptoms (or were being tested regularly).
That last paragraph is also unclear. Does “exposure to the virus” mean that you’ve been around someone who’s had it but don’t test positive yourself?
This is, of course, being done purely because new mandates and transportation screwups (1200 flights canceled in the U.S. yesterday) are forcing health officials to loosen the rules.
I haven’t seen the CDC announcement, but other sources basically repeat the same ambiguous information above. A friend called me last night who said he tested positive for Covid-19 after 3 jabs, but had very mild symptoms. He was quarantining at home for ten days, and I told him he’d better check the new rules. But I couldn’t tell him, in light of the above, whether he should only quarantine for a few more days since he tested positive several days ago. I wrote him this morning and told him that the NYT had changed the article and, because his symptoms are nearly gone, he’s free!
*A brief note from the AP: Israel, which has led much of the world in vaccinations and low infection rates, has made two Covid-related announcements. First,
Israel’s Health Ministry says it will allow people with two doses of the coronavirus vaccine to get a booster shot after three months, rather than the five-month waiting period it previously allowed.
The government said in a statement Monday that it shortened the timeframe to boost immunity as the swiftly-moving omicron variant spreads around the globe.
Second, what’s probably a harbinger for us, too: more boosters!
Israel began trials of a fourth dose of coronavirus vaccine on Monday in what is believed to be the first study of its kind.
*I wrote a bit about E. O. Wilson yesterday after hearing of his death. He was a great biologist, but the obit at the Washington Post goes a bit overboard:
And adds this:
Often cited as Charles Darwin’s greatest 20th-century heir, Dr. Wilson was an eloquent and immensely influential environmentalist and was the first to determine that ants communicate mainly through the exchange of chemical substances now known as pheromones.
Actually, I’ve never heard Wilson touted as Darwin’s 20th-century heir. He was a very great biologist, but there are several others, including Theodosius Dobzhansky and Ernst Mayr, who could be also be seen as Darwin’s heirs as well. In fact all evolutionary biologists could be considered Darwin’s “heirs.” Given that Darwin introduced, popularized, and convinced people of the truth of evolution and natural selection (as well as writing about human evolution and many other topics, his shoes cannot be filled. There is no heir in the sense of someone making as big a contribution as Darwin. It’s like saying someone is Newton’s 20th-century heir. Just a quibble. . .
UPDATE: Andrew Berry sent a photo he took in Ed’s office, showing Wilson with a Darwin bobblehead doll:
*Anybody who knew the Taliban didn’t believe their assurances that women would no longer be oppressed when they took over Afghanistan. That was a big fat lie. As the BBC reports, the Taliban has begun it’s crackdown on women and on pleasures as well. Long-distance travel has been banned for women, as has schooling (despite their promise that women would be equally schooled), and most jobs, and there is now a ban on playing music in vehicles. Bolding from the BBC:
The Taliban have said Afghan women seeking to travel long distances by road should be offered transport only if accompanied by a male relative.
The directive, issued on Sunday, is the latest curb on women’s rights since the Islamist group seized power in August.
A majority of secondary schools remain shut for girls, while most women have been banned from working.
Campaign group Human Rights Watch said the new restriction moved further towards making women prisoners.
Heather Barr, the group’s associate director of women’s rights, told AFP news agency the order “shuts off opportunities for [women] to be able to move about freely” or “to be able to flee if they are facing violence in the home”.
The latest directive, issued by the Taliban’s Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, said women travelling for more than 45 miles (72km) should be accompanied by a close male family member.
Didn’t I tell you this was going to happen? But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to have guessed that Afghanistan was going to turn into its old theocratic, misogynistic self under the Taliban (h/t Divy). Religion poisons everything, and Islam’s poison is the most deadly, for in many places (not all) it automatically poisons half the population.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 816,707, an increase of 1,205 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,425,321, an increase of about 6,800 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on December 28 includes:
- 1065 – Edward the Confessor’s Romanesque monastic church at Westminster Abbey is consecrated.
- 1832 – John C. Calhoun becomes the first Vice President of the United States to resign. He resigned after being elected Senator from South Carolina.
- 1836 – Spain recognizes the independence of Mexico with the signing of the Santa María–Calatrava Treaty.
- 1879 – Tay Bridge disaster: The central part of the Tay Rail Bridge in Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom collapses as a train passes over it, killing 75.
This disaster is the subject of a famous poem by William MGonagall, the best bad poet in history. “The Tay Bridge Disaster” may be his best worst poem. You can read it here, and the third tweet below shows it being recited near the site of the collapse by Billy Connolly:
— Tom Holland (@holland_tom) December 28, 2021
Matthew found the tweet and added this comment:
The Tay is absolutely immense where the railway crosses it – it’s quite alarming when you go over to Dundee. Must have been terrifying when the accident happened. The doggerel makes us forget the horror.
Here’s the bridge before it collapsed:
- 1895 – The Lumière brothers perform for their first paying audience at the Grand Cafe in Boulevard des Capucines.
- 1895 – Wilhelm Röntgen publishes a paper detailing his discovery of a new type of radiation, which later will be known as x-rays.
Here’s Röntgen and his original paper. For this discovery he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901. The paper title reads, in German, “W. C. Röntgen: On a new type of ray”
- 1918 – Constance Markievicz, while detained in Holloway prison, becomes the first woman to be elected Member of Parliament (MP) to the British House of Commons.
She refused, as an Irish revolutionary, to take her seat. Here she is:
- 1941 – World War II: Operation Anthropoid, the plot to assassinate high-ranking Nazi officer Reinhard Heydrich, commences.
Heydrich, who had a huge part in Nazi genocides was assassinated with a bomb by partisans. The attempt took place on May 27, 1942 (the planning took five months), and it took him a week to die (he could have been saved by antibiotics). The assassins were tracked down and killed, and, in reprisal, the Germans shot about 5,000 people and leveled the famous village of Lidice after killing all its men and boys over 14.
Here’s Heydrich’s car after the bombing.
- 1958 – “Greatest Game Ever Played”: Baltimore Colts defeat the New York Giants in the first ever National Football League sudden death overtime game at New York’s Yankee Stadium.
Here’s an 17-minute video about the game; click “Watch on YouTube to see it:
- 1972 – The last scheduled day for induction into the military by the Selective Service System. Due to the fact that President Richard Nixon declared this day a national day of mourning due to former President Harry S Truman‘s death, approximately 300 men were not able to report due to most Federal offices being closed. Since the draft was not resumed in 1973, they were never drafted.
I was a conscientious objector then, working in a hospital. When they announced that the draft was ended in 1973, I realized that, legally, I should be released from service. I brought a lawsuit with 4 other guys against the government (the ACLU gave us free legal services), and we won. The decision released well over a thousand conscientious objectors.
- 1973 – The United States Endangered Species Act is signed into law by President Richard Nixon..
Notables born on this day include:
- 1856 – Woodrow Wilson, American historian and politician, 28th President of the United States, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1924)
- 1882 – Arthur Eddington, English astronomer, physicist, and mathematician (d. 1944)
- 1902 – Mortimer J. Adler, American philosopher and author (d. 2001)
Adler, below, initiated the country’s first “Great Books” curriculum at the University of Chicago:
- 1922 – Stan Lee, American publisher, producer, and actor (d. 2018)
- 1934 – Maggie Smith, English actress
Dame Maggie is still with us though she is a cancer survivor and has Graves’ Disease. Here she is asserting that she’s never seen the show “Downton Abbey”, though she’s the matriarch in that show:
- 1944 – Kary Mullis, American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2019)
- 1946 – Edgar Winter, American singer-songwriter, keyboard player, and producer
- 1978 – Chris Coyne, Australian footballer and manager
I always include the Coynes, though I’m sure they’re not relatives. I don’t even know if Chris Coyne is Jewish, though he looks a bit like my dad:
- 1979 – Noomi Rapace, Swedish actress
Another actress whom I admire (and think is beautiful). She was of course in the “Girl Who (With). . . ” movies:
Those who hoped to meet their Maker, but didn’t, on December 28 include:
He wrote the “Daybreak” section of Daphnis and Chlöe; one of the most evocative (to me) pieces of modern music ever written. Notice the cat in the picture.
- 1963 – Paul Hindemith, German violinist, composer, and conductor (b. 1895)
- 1983 – Dennis Wilson, American drummer, songwriter, and producer (b. 1944)
- 1999 – Clayton Moore, American actor (b. 1914)
This was Moore’s famous role, and I never missed an episode:
- 2004 – Susan Sontag, American novelist, essayist, critic, and playwright (b. 1933)
- 2016 – Debbie Reynolds, American actress, singer and dancer (b. 1932)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili objects to the new cats in her house:
Hili: The two-cat-solution wasn’t wise.A: But now we have three cats.Hili: And this is worse still.
Hili: Rozwiązanie w postaci dwóch kotów nie było rozsądne.Ja: Ale teraz mamy trzy koty.Hili: A to jest jeszcze gorsze.
An old Far Side cartoon sent in by reader Rick:
And a photo by Tracey Mills that I reposted on FB. Can you spot the tawny frogmouths? What an amazing example of evolved camouflage. They also sit still with their beaks in the air, looking for all the world like a broken tree limb.
From Athayde, who says, “This prescient cartoon, published way before the current pandemic began.”
Many Iranian human rights activists have often wondered why Twitter and other social media organizations take so little action against the Islamic republic’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other government officials. Meanwhile, Khamenei has banned 83 million Iranians from Twitter, although he and his allies make full use of social platforms to spread their lies — without even a hint of warning labels. The social media playing field remains starkly tilted in favor of the dictatorship.
Testifying before a Senate hearing last October, Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey said Khamenei’s anti-Semitic tweets and his calls for the eradication of Israel didn’t violate the company’s rules because they were only “saber-rattling.” Since Khamenei’s verbal attacks weren’t aimed at his own citizens, Dorsey claimed, they were permissible.
. . . Khamenei has called for crackdowns on his own people. He promotes misogyny and encourages violence against women and different ethnic and religious groups. Only when he called in February 2019 for British Indian author Salman Rushdie to be killed did Twitter take down the offending post after much protest — but it only temporarily locked Khamenei’s account rather than banning it.
Masih Alinejad's Washington Post opinion piece:
"Why Twitter should ban Iran's Supreme Leader" https://t.co/71C6G4R11F
— firstname.lastname@example.org (@BehroozParhami) December 27, 2021
From Ginger K., an incest card!
Found at my local dollar store. 😏 pic.twitter.com/ZlXMtAiJqz
— TimTheEnchanter 🏳️🌈🏴☠️⚛️💉💉💉✊🏼 (@TimTheGodmocker) December 13, 2021
From Barry: John Cleese tweets about his cats:
This is what it’s like having a brother who weighs 800 pounds pic.twitter.com/MjXvSmGx6e
— John Cleese (@JohnCleese) December 27, 2021
From the Auschwitz Memorial:
28 December 1915 | An Austrian Jewish woman, Gertrude Rosenbaum, was born in Vienna. An actress. During the war she lived in Berlin.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) December 28, 2021
Tweets from Dr. Cobb. A field biologist locked down in her own country:
Working out where to go collecting next year 😉 pic.twitter.com/ym0JVz5IWQ
— Dr Erica McAlister (@flygirlNHM) December 27, 2021
These people truly hate Brussels sprouts, as do I. I have not found a way to cook them to make them edible. Read more on the thread about how she fooled her Dad with a faux mince pie.
Since 2016 Dad & I have waged sprout war: I’ve hidden them in chocolate, in his toothpaste, he has retaliated by filling my bedsheets with them… It is an even-sided conflict, with both resorting to greater nefariousness & descending to even more underhand deception each year. pic.twitter.com/wONXccUWIB
— Judy Louie Brown (@mcjude) December 26, 2021
A rampaging otter wreaks havoc!
the best reveal-pan i’ve ever seen pic.twitter.com/zds7fmPQEB
— cautious positivity jeff (@thecultureofme) December 23, 2021
These cats are OFFENDED!
"are we a joke to you?" pic.twitter.com/AWZFcsNrtn
— Paul Bronks for Lovina Animal Welfare (@slender_sherbet) December 26, 2021