2:00PM Water Cooler 6/21/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Asian House-Martin, New Central Cross-Island Highway, Sinyi Township TW-Taiwan (23.4778,120.8357), Nantou County, Taiwan. “Calls from several individuals flying around a colony located in a tunnel along a steep cliff.”

* * *


“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles

Biden Administration


I guess it’s time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“Burisma had Hunter Biden help open account with corrupt Malta bank” [New York Post]. “Hunter Biden coordinated with executives at Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings to open an account at a corrupt Maltese bank, according to emails from the first son’s abandoned laptop. Hunter, now 53, passed along income statements, passport information and utility bills in 2016 to Burisma board adviser Vadym Pozharskyi, who used the information to open an account with Satabank…. The information was sent to the owner of an auction house in Malta, Pierre Pillow, who was later charged in December 2020 with laundering “millions of euro,” according to the Times of Malta newspaper…. Satabank closed in 2018 after Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit found “gross deficiencies” in the bank’s ability to abide by money laundering and terrorism finance laws.” • IIRC, the House Oversight Committee presented a web of nominee accounts funneling really penny ante money into the accounts of various Biden family members, But why? For what? I don’t think there’s any question that the Biden clan are all as twisty as corkscrews. But where is the bottle? Who is drawing the cork, and who is drinking?

“The Memo: Hunter Biden agreement deals wild card in 2024 race” [The Hill]. “Republicans argue the president’s son got a soft deal. Democrats contend that misdemeanor offenses committed by a private citizen — one who was struggling with addiction at the time — should not have their importance exaggerated…. perhaps the most important voice in the medium term came from Capitol Hill. House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) has asserted that his panel’s probing of Biden’s business dealings will go on. That means the president’s son is going to continue to be a political issue for months to come — even as election season heats up.”

“The Hunter Biden ‘Controlled Demolition’ is Complete” [Jonathan Turley]. “About a year ago, I wrote a column describing what I saw as evidence of a “controlled demolition” in progress in the Hunter Biden scandal. The media and political establishment had reached the point where they could no longer bury the influence peddling scandal by claiming that Hunter’s laptop was Russian disinformation. That worked for defusing the scandal in 2020, but now another election was fast approaching, which called for a ‘controlled demolition’ to protect political and media figures from any public backlash. I wrote: ‘Like those buildings dropped between other structures, it takes precision and, most importantly, cooperation to pull off. Specifically, this controlled demolition will require the perfect timing of the media, Democratic politicians, and most importantly, the Justice Department.’ The key was to get Hunter to plead to a couple of minor offenses with little or no jail time. The White House and the media could then declare the scandal over and insist that there is nothing more to discuss…. Attorney General Merrick Garland took the most important step in pulling off the controlled demolition by steadfastly refusing to appoint a special counsel. … The second key is the charge. In buildings, you have to use just enough explosives to take out supports to collapse the structure in on itself. In scandals, it comes down to the criminal charges. You need an assortment of minor charges to suggest equal justice without anything large enough to cause collateral damage to others. It also has to be minor enough to get Hunter to take one for the team…. The problem for those seeking to drop this scandal in a confined fashion is that the House GOP is now investigating the influence-peddling scandal…. The House will push ahead, but the media has already imposed another blackout on coverage…. Just a couple of muffled thuds, a puff of smoke and an empty space.”

* * *

“Biden world once rolled their eyes at Gavin Newsom. Now, they love the guy.” [Politico]. “During Biden’s three-day swing through the Bay Area, the California governor forcefully embraced his new role: a top Biden surrogate. The trip came days after Newsom took that defense directly into what many Democrats consider the beating heart of enemy territory — over an hourlong interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity…. Campaigns want surrogates ‘to be doing both supportive, affirmative messages around the record and agenda. You also want them to take the fight to the other party,’ said a Biden adviser of their emerging stable of influential surrogates, speaking freely on the condition of anonymity. On Newsom directly, the adviser said: ‘Our view is he’s been doing a good job on both.’ While it’s customary for governors to line up behind their party’s president, Newsom has gone to even greater lengths in recent months to demonstrate his fealty and offer up his services to help for 2024.” • Well, hopefully Newsome knows when to stick the shiv in. More in sorrow than in anger, of course.

“Federal Employee Unions Endorse Biden for Reelection” [Government Executive]. “A pair of federal employee unions, including the largest in the country, on Friday announced that they are endorsing President Biden for reelection next year. The American Federation of Government Employees and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association both announced their unions’ respective decisions Friday, in conjunction with their parent labor federation, the AFL-CIO, ahead of a union rally at which Biden is scheduled to appear Saturday in Philadelphia. In a statement, AFGE National President Everett Kelley said the union conducted multiple polls of its membership, as well as a telephonic town hall with more than 20,000 members. Following those steps, AFGE’s national executive council voted unanimously to endorse Biden again. ‘During his first term, President Biden has proven himself to be the most labor-friendly president in history,’ Kelley said. ‘The results of our endorsement process show that he is the overwhelming choice of AFGE members. It’s not hard to see why.'” • Just ask the railroad workers!

“RFK JR On Rising: FULL INTERVIEW” (video) [Briahna Joy Gray and Robby Soave, The Rising].

“Cornel West’s ‘leftist’ presidential bid has right-wing DNA” [MSNBC]. • West went on Joe Rogan and Russel Brand.

Republican Funhouse

“A new wedge divides House GOP: Quick Biden impeachment” [Politico]. “The rush to impeachment votes comes after first-term Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) found success on her second try at forcing the House to censure Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for his lead role in investigating former President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. Luna is expected to prevail against Schiff on Wednesday using what’s called a “privileged resolution,” one that requires a speedy floor vote. And Luna’s maneuver appears to have inspired her fellow conservatives to go much further against their favorite Democratic target. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), another House Freedom Caucus firebrand, is pushing forward with her own privileged resolution that would impeach Biden. At least two other Freedom Caucus members, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.), told POLITICO they are pursuing separate impeachment resolutions.” • It would have been helpful had Politico explained the reasons to impeach Biden.

“H.Res.503 – Impeaching Joseph R. Biden, Jr., President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors” [Congress.gov]. Sponsor: Rep. Boebert, Lauren [R-CO-3]. Article I, abuse of power: “Using the powers of his high office, President Biden has knowingly presided over an executive branch that has continuously, overtly, and consistently violated Federal immigration law by pursuing an aggressive, open-borders agenda by purposefully and knowingly releasing more than 2,000,000 illegal aliens into the interior of the United States without the intention or ability to ensure that they appear in immigration court to face asylum or deportation proceedings.” Article I, dereliction of duty: “Neglecting the powers of his high office, President Biden has abandoned his duties to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed and upheld, by presiding over an executive branch that has continually, overtly, and consistently refused to enforce the Nation’s immigration laws and secure the southern border.” • Strikes me as grandstanding.

Democrats en Déshabillé

Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

* * *



“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison

Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot; includes many counties); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data).

Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort.

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin); CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); FL (wastewater); GA (wastewater); HI (dashboard); IA (wastewater reports); ID (dashboard, Boise; dashboard, wastewater, Central Idaho; wastewater, Coeur d’Alene; dashboard, Spokane County); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); KS (dashboard; wastewater, Lawrence); KY (dashboard, Louisville); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MO (wastewater); MS (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); ND (dashboard; wastewater); NE (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (dashboard; wastewater, Southern NV); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (wastewater); WY (wastewater).

Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).

Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (9), JustAnotherVolunteer, JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, MT_Wild, otisyves, Petal (5), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

* * *

Look for the Helpers

I think having masks ready to give away to people is a good idea:

Of course, that would require actually approaching strangers, so perhaps not ideal for me…


It’s tough to avoid moralizing:

Covid is Airborne

“Application of HEPA filter devices for air cleaning in healthcare spaces: guidance and standards” [NHS England]. “Ventilation* is an important line of defence for infection control in the healthcare environment. Its design and operation are described in Health Technical Memorandum (HTM-03-01). The current focus on ventilation has highlighted areas of high risk due to poorly performing and inadequate ventilation in hospitals and other healthcare settings. This may be due to change of room use, age, condition of air handling plant, lack of maintenance, challenges with effective use of natural ventilation or other. It is therefore important to bring these facilities up to the minimum specification of current standards, particularly recognising the challenges of COVID-19 and other infections… This guidance has been written as an interim specification to set the basic standard required for HEPA filter devices to be utilised in healthcare and patient-related settings…. Ventilation is an important feature in the control of airborne infection. However, the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 as a highly contagious virus has demanded new and innovative solutions to safeguard patients, staff and visitors. Health Technical Memorandum 03-01 Specialised Ventilation for Healthcare Premises (HTM-03-01) is a robust standard for ventilation of higher risk clinical spaces based on high air change rates using outdoor air to continually flush indoor spaces.” • This is, of course, the UK’s NHS, and not CDC or any other agency concerned with what we laughingly call our “public health.” Not that there was any fanfare:

CO2 meters to check out from the library:

CO2 meters “work,” but sometimes calculation is needed:

Hospital Infection control has actually regressed:

Scientific Communication

“Scientists on Twitter head for the exit” [Axios]. “While Twitter was a key source for information during the pandemic — and some scientists have argued the importance of remaining there as a counterbalance to growing misinformation and anti-science rhetoric — others say it’s time to head for the doors…. In comments to Axios as well as online, scientists and medical researchers have said they’re increasingly finding it difficult to find relevant information on Twitter. A recent study found Twitter’s new algorithms are amplifying anger more since Musk took over the platform.” • A precipitating factor being the Rogan/RFK v. Hotez beef–

“Do scientists debate? Not like that they don’t” [Skull in the Stars]. “A few days ago we had anti-vaccine crank and poison pill presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. show up on Joe Rogan’s equally cranky podcast to talk about how vaccines are killing us all, or something. This led Professor Peter Hotez, an actual scientist and professor who works on vaccines, to call out the show for spreading misinformation. Proving that we live in the dumbest of all possible timelines, Joe Rogan was angered by this, and more or less demanded that Hotez appear on his show to ‘debate’ RFKj about vaccines, offering him $100k to do so and badgering him about it. This, in turn, led to antivaxxers showing up at Hotez’s home to yell at him and demand he “debate” on Rogan’s show….. Let’s start with a little history. If you think about the origins of debating, you probably think of ancient Greece, which is indeed where the Western world’s debating begins. But pretty much as soon as debating was a thing, there were people who abused it: the Sophists…. The Sophists highlight the problem with public debates: they are easily gamed with lies, rhetorical skill, and clever wordplay…. A live debate is also extremely limited because the participants do not have time to do research to respond to an opponent’s comment. … It is also worth noting that debating is a skill. This is why high schools and colleges have debate clubs: to teach students to more effectively debate in public. A professional debater can “win” a debate with an unskilled debater, regardless of the facts, simply by having a more polished and eloquent presentation…. All of this is to say: scientists have long-established ways of sorting out good science from bad science, and public debates are not one of them. Public debates are easily gamed by bad actors who have made a living off of gaming such forums.”

OTOH, this from Naomi Wu is worth reading in full:

I do think Wu is unaware that “scientists” fall into two categories: sophists like Oster, Wachter. and the Brownnose Institute cohort were given all the infuence any eugencist shill could possibly want. Genuine scientists like Corsi or Jose-Luis Jimenez were very effective at scientific communication among scientists, but were not granted the same influence in “the media”; Wu seems to have this weirdly egalitarian idea that “influence” — social capital — is, well, meritocratic. I think Hotez would get sliced and diced on Rogan, simply because public debate is not his metier, and that would be bad. I would have looked to the left for a public debater who can defend a scientific approach to Covid, but there is no left, so that’s out.


“Smell and Taste Loss Associated with COVID-19 Infection” [The Laryngoscope]. “In 2021, 35.8 million or 14% of the adult population (95% CI 13.5–14.7%; mean age, 43.9 years; 53.8% female) had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Among those, 60.5% (58.6–62.5%) and 58.2% (56.2–60.1%) reported accompanying losses in smell or taste, respectively; there was a significant association between overall COVID-19 symptom severity and smell (p < 0.001) and taste disturbance (p < 0.001). Following infection, 72.2% (69.9–74.3%), 24.1% (22.2–26.2%), and 3.7% (3.0–4.6%) of the patients experienced complete, partial, and no smell recovery, respectively. Recovery rates for gustatory function paralleled olfaction, with 76.8% (74.6–78.9%), 20.6% (18.7–22.7%), and 2.6 (1.9–3.4%) reporting complete, partial, and no recovery of taste, respectively."


Adjusting one’s protocol to match “community levels” or whatever makes no sense at all:

“Something Awful”

Lambert here: I’m getting the feeling that the “Something Awful” might be a sawtooth pattern — variant after variant — that averages out to a permanently high plateau. Lots of exceptionally nasty sequelae, most likely deriving from immune dysregulation (says this layperson). To which we might add brain damage, including personality changes therefrom.

* * *

Elite Maleficence

Catapulting the propaganda:

I wish I had the horsepower to track down the first usages of all these claims; unfortunately, Google being what it is, it would take something like Lexis-Nexis to do the searches. But you see the scale and scope of the campaign; it’s very impressive. (Missing, I think, is “mild.”)

Another data source choked off:

* * *

Case Data

From BioBot wastewater data from June 20:

For now, I’m going to use this national wastewater data as the best proxy for case data (ignoring the clinical case data portion of this chart, which in my view “goes bad” after March 2022, for reasons as yet unexplained). At least we can spot trends, and compare current levels to equivalent past levels.


NOT UPDATED From CDC, June 10:

Lambert here: Looks to like XBB.1.16 and now XBB.1.16 are outcompeting XBB.1.9, but XBB.1.5 has really staying power. I sure hope the volunteers doing Pangolin, on which this chart depends, don’t all move on the green fields and pastures new (or have their access to facilities cut by administrators of ill intent).

CDC: “As of May 11, genomic surveillance data will be reported biweekly, based on the availability of positive test specimens.” “Biweeekly: 1. occurring every two weeks. 2. occurring twice a week; semiweekly.” Looks like CDC has chosen sense #1. In essence, they’re telling us variants are nothing to worry about. Time will tell. Looks like the Walgreens variants page isn’t updating.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from June 17:

NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. Notice also that this chart shows, at least for its time period, that Covid is not seasonal, even though CDC is trying to get us to believe that it is, presumably so they can piggyback on the existing institutional apparatus for injections.


NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, June 19:

2.0%. Still chugging along, though the absolute numbers are still very small relative to June 2022, say.


NOT UPDATED Death rate (Our World in Data), from June 14:

Lambert here: Theatre of the absurd. I can believe that deaths are low; I cannot believe they are zero, and I cannot even believe that all doctors signing death certificates have agreed to make it so. Looks to me like some administrative minimizer at WHO put the worst intern in charge of the project. And thanks, Johns Hopkins of the $9.32 billion endowment, for abandoning this data feed and passing responsibility on to the clown car at WHO.

Total: 1,167,387 – 1,167,381/del> = 6 (6 * 365 = 2,190 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).

Excess Deaths

NOT UPDATED Excess deaths (The Economist), published June 20:

Lambert here: Still some encouragement! Not sure why this was updated so rapidly. The little blip upward?

Lambert here: Based on a machine-learning model. (The CDC has an excess estimate too, but since it ran forever with a massive typo in the Legend, I figured nobody was really looking at it, so I got rid it. )

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

* * *

Marketing: “Influencers Don’t Have to Be Human to Be Believable” [Wall Street Journal]. “For the emotional endorsement, participants found the human influencer to be more credible. Participants who were told the influencer was human also had a more positive view of the brand than those who were told the influencer was virtual. For the more factual endorsement, however, there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups when it came to influencer credibility or brand perception.”

Tech: “Exclusive: Twitter to focus on video, commerce in business revamp” [Reuters]. “Twitter plans to focus on video, creator and commerce partnerships to revitalize the social media company’s business beyond digital advertising, according to an investor presentation by owner Elon Musk and new Chief Executive Linda Yaccarino that was reviewed by Reuters. Yaccarino, who started as CEO on June 5, told Twitter investors on Thursday that the company is in early conversations with political and entertainment figures, payments services and news and media publishers on potential partnerships, said a source familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private investor call.”

Energy: “Washington State could soon be key player in sustainable jet fuel industry” [KIRO (PS)]. “Imagine Making jet fuel out of the air, or using Hydrogen to fly a plane. It’s the future of aviation and Washington State could soon be a key player in the effort to make fuel sustainable. The whole topic is being discussed at the Paris Air Show where Boeing is working to secure contracts, and Governor Jay Inslee is working to secure business for the state. Inslee led a 100-member delegation to the show and tried to showcase Washington as a place for investment in the sustainable fuels sector. A company called ‘Twelve’ says it can make jet fuel out of abundant carbon dioxide. We know CO2 is in the atmosphere and frankly is a pollutant that some scientists believe is harming the environment.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 79 Extreme Greed (previous close: 79 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 80 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 21 at 1:18 PM ET.


“‘You’re not God’: Doctors and patient families say HCA hospitals push hospice care” [NBC News]. “As an industry leader, HCA’s practices are followed closely by competitors. But HCA’s profits come at a cost to patients and workers, some of its doctors and employees contend. They have cited severe understaffing and insufficient investment in facilities as having caused harm to patients. Now, new criticisms are arising related to HCA’s palliative and end-of-life care for patients, according to some physicians and nurses who have worked in its facilities. They say HCA officials press staff to persuade families of ailing patients to initiate such care, as Salas says she experienced with her daughter. Although this can harm patients by withdrawing lifesaving treatments, the push can benefit HCA two ways, the doctors and nurses said, and an internal hospital document confirms. It reduces in-hospital mortality rates, a closely watched quality measure, and can free up a hospital bed more quickly for HCA, potentially generating more insurance reimbursements from a new patient. This article is based on interviews with six nurses and 27 doctors who currently practice at 16 HCA hospitals in seven states or did so previously. All said their HCA hospitals pushed palliative and end-of-life care in pursuit of better performance metrics.” • Rules 1 and 2 of neoliberalism, expressed very directly.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Back to Titanic Part 1” (interview) [Stockton Rush, CBS]. Rush is CEO of OceanGate, the submersible’s owner. From 2022, still germane:

[RUSH:] You know, there’s a limit. You know, at some point, safety just is pure waste. I mean, if you just want to be safe, don’t get out of bed. Don’t get in your car. Don’t do anything. At some point, you’re going to take some risk, and it really is a risk/reward question. I think I can do this just as safely by breaking the rules.

So, perform your “personal risk assessment.” Don’t live in fear. Lead your life.

“OceanGate was warned of potential for ‘catastrophic’ problems with submersible mission” [Boston Globe]. “Leaders in the submersible craft industry were so worried about what they called the ‘experimental’ approach of OceanGate, the company whose craft has gone missing, that they wrote a letter in 2018 warning of possible ‘catastrophic’ problems with the submersible’s development and its planned mission to tour the Titanic wreckage. The letter, obtained by The New York Times, was sent to OceanGate’s CEO, Stockton Rush, by the Manned Underwater Vehicles committee of the Marine Technology Society, a 60-year-old trade group that aims to promote ocean technology and educate the public about it. The signatories — more than three dozen people, including oceanographers, submersible company executives and deep-sea explorers — warned that they had ‘unanimous concern’ about OceanGate’s development of the Titan submersible, the same craft that is now missing in the North Atlantic with five people on board.”

Class Warfare

About the labor market:

I wonder if anybody’s FOIAing CDC…

“A restaurant must pay workers $140,000 after allegedly hiring a fake priest to extract confessions of workers’ ‘sins'” [CNN]. “The US Department of Labor said an employee testified that owner Che Garibaldi, who operates two locations of Taqueria Garibaldi in northern California, hired a fake priest to hear confessions during work hours and ‘get the sins out,’ including asking them if they had been late for work, stolen money from the restaurant or had ‘bad intentions’ toward their employer.”

I’ve been saying this for years:

The test of independent invention!

News of the Wired

“Customer Ratings Have Become Meaningless. ‘People Hand Out 5 Stars Like It’s Candy.'” [Wall Street Journal]. “Confusion over what constitutes 5-star behavior for certain services, combined with the guilt of potentially hurting someone’s livelihood, has people defaulting to perfect scores. Ratings padding is particularly rampant for services involving personal interactions…. Drivers are similarly generous. The average Uber passenger in the U.S. is a 4.9 out of 5, Uber said. Uber riders in New York have the lowest average across the country—4.8—while passengers in Virginia’s Hampton Roads have the highest average of 4.97.”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Roger Blakely

    I am hearing reports of people catching COVID-19. XBB is no joke. There is a reason why 98% of all SARS-CoV-2 variants these days are either XBB.1.5, XBB.1.16, or XBB.1.9. These variants are the best at generating infection and spreading. The public health establishment might have to clear its throat and say something within the coming weeks.

  2. Screwball

    I can’t bear to watch, but plenty of sound bytes and clips from the Durham hearings. Good to see Russiagate is alive and well, and Durham is just making stuff up.

    We live in clown world.

    1. griffen

      I think we should offer more respect to our clowns, collectively, and not draw comparisons to our semi functional, part useful politicians parading the Congressional halls. Clowns make kids laugh! Politicians just make us cry, then laugh, as we circle the proverbial drain of a Republic entering collapse. The signposts are abundant and every day brings a reminder.

      I don’t think having Obi Wan as the only hope would really boost the odds, either.

  3. Jason Boxman

    While I appreciate Leonardi’s grit, that won’t scale at the society level. Who makes these spare parts, just for starters? And for “modern” cars, you seem to mostly be out of luck for many types of repairs, because DMCA/no-right-to-repair. I wonder how bad it gets?

    With no data, we don’t have any check on wastewater numbers. I still wonder if XBB1.16/XBB1.9.n sheds as much in wastewater as other variants.

    I had the thought yesterday that maybe I’ve been personally selected for an alternate version of the Internet, where there’s a Pandemic, as part of an experimental group to see how long until I go insane. Meanwhile, the control group continues on about the world, because it’s all a fiction that there’s a Pandemic at all. How can I even know? At a certain point maybe it’s the biggest evil April Fools joke in history?

    Sooner or later, I feel I’ll succumb and lose any grip on reality.

    I’m so out of it I dreamed I met Lambert last night. I don’t even know what’s going on anymore.

    What IM Doc said yesterday about seeing so many younger patients with damaged blood vessels in their eyes, I honestly would rather believe the whole joke is on me and none of this is real. It’s too insane to be happening.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I’m so out of it I dreamed I met Lambert last night. I don’t even know what’s going on anymore.

      Must have been somebody else. I wasn’t even there.

  4. antidlc

    Leonardi: The CDC internally acknowledges Long Covid is driving a skilled labor shortage

    Follow the whole twitter thread and you will see he references a CDC COCA Call/Webinar:

    Evaluating and Supporting Patients with Long COVID in Returning to Work

    Transcript: https://emergency.cdc.gov/coca/ppt/2023/061523_transcipt.pdf

    This is from a study, 18% of people with Long COVID had not returned to work for more than a
    year, according to a report by the New York State Insurance Fund. This finding adds to other
    research suggesting that Long COVID is contributing to a labor shortage and is hurting the U. S.

    (bold mine)

    1. Will

      Seems to be some official awareness of the problem here in Canada as well. Or at least my home province of Ontario. Not as direct a statement, but as part of recommendations to the provincial Minister of Health re long-Covid a confidential memo cites research estimating 1.4 million Canadians (out of pop. of 40 million) are suffering from it and 70% have taken time off work because of it.

      Note that this redacted memo from last summer was obtained through a freedom of info request and so the stats are out of date. Further note that no actions were taken by the province despite several follow up memos, presentations and cabinet deliberation of the issue.


      To be fair, the conservative government was very busy pushing through health care privatization measures. Perhaps now they’ll be able to find time soon to do something.

    1. IM Doc

      Our family has 6 goats that myself and kids take care of. Along with 4 horses and 35 chickens at this moment. Quite a job. Lots of help from neighbors. There is a deep communal spirit in much of our rural areas.

      I find it amusing that the PMC class is now gifting each other goats.

      Even more amusing is the amount of work required with not just goats but any livestock. “Green Acres” must still be alive and well in NYC. Imagine the callous disregard for life and animal well-being that her friend must have to even think this was appropriate to give goats to someone who has no idea how to take care of them. She says herself she is reading books on how to care for them and build pens, etc. Just amazing.

      Mika herself has always impressed me as someone with the IQ of a doorknob. At least she had two neurons firing the day she made the decision to not accept the goats.

      I really do not know how much more dumb and debased these morons can be.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        There’s something about Mika that people want to give her animals. Madeleine Albright, a protege of Mika’s daddy, gave her a pony when Mika was young, and Mika’s family lived in McLean. Mika told the story on air when Albright died.

        Whenever I’m gathering the day’s propaganda headlines and check in on “Morning Joe, ” I get distracted by wondering how long Mika practices her “reaction shots” in front of a mirror. “Twas foretold: video.

      2. Raymond Sim

        Remember Bloomberg’s “I can teach anybody to be a farmer.” bit?

        Anyone on the rural side of the urban/rural divide will have encountered this over and over in their lives. But as you observe, there’s a big class element too.

        No knock on Leonardi (I don’t think he’d take it as one.) but when I was young, I would have felt like a slacker if I didn’t do my own tune-ups. On the other hand it was a bit odd that I knew how to cook. That’s in a middle-class milieu where most parents were of working class origin.

        The rich kids I occasionally rubbed elbows with (This was Pennsylvania horse country.) seemed childish, both emotionally, and in their lack of practical capabilities.

        1. Lee

          My SF bay area town is filling up with tech workers and other white collar professionals. Housing prices have gone through the roof, as it were. I have at times despaired that my son is cursed with little patience for formal education and with a passion for working with his hands, one reason being that he would never be able to afford a home in the community where he was born and raised. But many of the homes around here are old and in need of updating, and owned by people who can’t drive a nail or tighten a bolt, so that his choice to enter the building and remodeling trades is looking wiser by the day.

          1. Acacia

            From everything I’m hearing, it is now difficult to impossible to find a contractor to renovate a house in the SF Bay Area. Could be a very good career choice!

          1. LifelongLib

            I have a brother in the Seattle area who does handyman work on the side. He says he’s encountered people who literally don’t know how to do anything except code. Million dollar homes littered with takeout food containers because the residents can’t handle basic housekeeping, much less cooking.

        2. AJ

          I changed spark plugs on my 82 320i that I bought in bethesda for 400 back in 2011. This is a modern engine and I had to also replace ignition coils. When I was a child I also did our gas appliance installations.

      3. Jason Boxman

        I really do not know how much more dumb and debased these morons can be.

        To which someone says, “here, hold my beer!” in earnest.

  5. some guy

    Are the fireflies missing? I saw some last night.

    I am thinking that the cold April and the very cold May (for May) this year have slowed down the development of fireflies in the soil where they live at pre-adult stages. If that is so, the last few hottish days and warmish nights we have had will speed up their development and start them moving. So if we get an umbroken week of near-90 degree days and high-sixties nights, we should start seeing more fireflies by early July.

    That’s just a feeling, and events will prove me right or wrong.

    1. wol

      Thanks for that. In the woods of central piedmont NC there seem to be fewer insects than usual and the lone fireflies break my heart.

      1. some guy

        If you had a cooler than normal April and especially May into early June, and are now having onset of real heat, it may be that normal levels of fireflies may appear later than “usual”.

        But I don’t know what kind of April-May-June you have had.

    2. tennesseewaltzer

      Here in lower Middle Tennessee, just above the border with Alabama, fireflies were later in appearing this year. Maybe due to the cooler spring? But since they arrived they have been abundant.

      1. Nikkikat

        They were late here in Kentucky, had them for two nights early this week. They are gone now. Not a firefly any where.

    3. Late Introvert

      I saw my first one last night, here in Eastern IA. They usually show up when the days are above 80 on a regular basis.

    4. Offtrail

      Fireflies uniting readers across the continent. This is a pleasant exchange. It also gives me anecdotal evidence of the range of these magical creatures. Sadly, there are none in the PNW.

  6. SD

    Love the idea of handing out N-95s to people (especially if they’re wearing a “baggy blue” or even a KN95, which I would take to mean that they understand masking works but haven’t heard the good news about head strap N95s).

    The Gerson 3230+ would be nice for this purpose because they come individually wrapped. I always bring a couple with me when I go to the dentist. They fit well, although the seal isn’t as tight on me as other N95s I’ve used like 3M’s Aura. But everybody’s face is different.

    1. tevhatch

      Agree. The bus drive approached them, for safety sake I see that as key – particularly in more politically striven areas. I would not approach a stranger, but I do have extra masks in packaging sticking out of my pocket and I have been approached a few times, usually be elderly who left home to shop and forgot their mask.

    2. Utah

      I cannot for the life of me find any n95s or even kn95 or kf94s in stock at the stores. I’ve tried every pharmacy around me, and I live in the thick of a blue city where some people still mask. Not even libraries have stocks anymore. It’s been very frustrating.

      1. Angie Neer

        Home Depot has been my most reliable brick & mortar source, usually stocking 3M Auras near the paint department.

      2. SD

        Try Project N95 (projectn95.org). They sell all kinds of masks, including KNs and KFs with ear loops. That’s my go-to for N95 respirator masks. It’s mail-order, so there’s that delay with shipping.

  7. tevhatch

    odd, I made a post with three linked references to neihs and gwern, but upon pressing submit it just disappeared. No notice of going being submitted for approval/moderated. Thought it was an error in loading so tried again and got a notice of a duplicate posting, but even after waiting 5 minutes and reloading, nothing in the comment stream.

      1. tevhatch

        Yes, I tried again as a comment here. DOA.

        The links were to 1. Tim Scott’s youtube, and to two academic publishers – one of which is governmental. Something triggered the farm’s AI.

  8. tevhatch

    Back to Titanic Part 1” (interview) [Stockton Rush, CBS]. …. From 2022, still germane:

    At some point, you’re going to take some risk, and it really is a risk/reward question. I think I can do this just as safely by breaking the rules.

    Er, No… No!.. Hell No!
    Breaking rules is stupid, having a robust process to review and amend “stupid” rules is a must.
    Even there, having seen the rot in the FAA and NTSB thanks to rot in Congress/POTUS spread in first hand, shoot the CEO/BOD first, then have an external body with liability in the game decide if it still makes sense to review a rule.

    1. Will

      While I agree generally, I think it’s too soon to politicize the regulation of life threatening fun for the rich. Please, let’s be sensitive to their families at this time. Sending all sorts of thoughts and prayers. /s

    2. Raymond Sim

      It’s the classic illusion of control that’s been the cause of so many catastrophes over the years.

      I like to think people would be humbled to realize how many failures of their imagination their daily surroundings are engineered against, but in truth it would probably just annoy most.

    3. The Rev Kev

      Move fast and break things? I’m not sure that that works out with engineering. I would hate to live near a dam built by people that had that philosophy.

  9. LawnDart

    (Almost) Daily Derailmemt(s):

    None in media, but there’s this:

    New Rule: All Railroads Must Alert First Responders Within 10 Miles of Derailed Train Cargo

    ATLANTA (AP) — Federal regulators want first responders to a train derailment to know exactly what they are dealing with even before they reach the scene, because the dangerous chemicals trains carry might require a specialized response.

    So the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration proposed a new rule Wednesday that would require all railroads to immediately send the details of everything aboard their trains to every emergency responder within 10 miles, as soon as the railroad becomes aware of an accident.

    The largest freight railroads already have an app they developed, AskRail, which for nearly a decade has enabled firefighters to quickly look up the details of what each train carries. And crews have long carried printed copies of their cargo in the cabs of their locomotives.

    But this proposed rule would apply to every railroad that carries chemicals — not just the six biggest ones that created AskRail. Nearly 600 railroads would be covered. And the rule would force the railroads to proactively send out this information to all nearby emergency services, using electronic push alerts, anytime there is a derailment or hazardous chemical release, instead of expecting arriving firefighters to look up the details on an app.


    1. Screwball

      Thanks for this.

      This is all good (and I read the article you linked as well) and as it should be. How well the “system” works might be a different story. Is a small town like EP tooled up to handle that kind of catastrophe? I’m guessing not, but I’m all for improving the dissemination of information, especially in a timely manner.

      Where I get hung up; let’s have the conversation about what led up to this – and how to prevent it – instead of what we will do “after” we just destroyed at least part of, or maybe, an entire small town in Ohio.

      We can mass produce a dishwasher by many people on an assembly line doing a task every 13 seconds with only a few screw ups per million – make cars go 235 mph around a 2 1/2 mile track at Indy – semi-self driving cars – and put people on the moon (long ago). But we can’t prevent a train wreck?

      No sale.

      Let’s have that conversation. Not aimed at you LawnDart.

      They talk about solutions after the horse has already left the barn. It reminds me too much of the corporate worms I used to work with. You can’t fix a problem (I think we have good evidence we have one), unless you ADMIT you have one.

      Corporate mentality at it’s finest. The next quarterly earnings report. Penny smart, dollar stupid.

      Go long MSDS sheets.

      1. JBird4049

        Of course, we can prevent train wrecks (again), but that would cost the railroad companies and their investors some tiny bit of their oversized profits. So, we don’t. And both political parties are fine with it.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I’m just going to assume that that is very clever satire on her part for which I congratulate her. The only problem is that these days that could very well be a true thing.

  10. Benny the Jet

    Amazon Prime, the dark web and the FTC. With news today that the FTC is suing Amazon for using deceptive techniques to generate sign ups and then prevent cancellations of Amazon Prime, I’ve now twice successfully disputed charges I didn’t make for Amazon Prime on my credit card statements. This approach seems like it may be easier to use that crawling the Amazon :”customer service” pages. After I disputed the first charge, about a year ago, I received an email from Amazon chastising me for not having control of my credit card. it was a kind of startling “you’re a bad customer” email. I saved the email and then went to forward it to a colleague a few weeks later and I found it was….blank….like self-erasing. So you don’t know when you’ve incurred a charge, can’t find a way to get it credited back, and then the company’s emails self-delete.

    1. cnchal

      It is their DNA. What is really funny is that Amazon loses almost a thousand bucks per ‘Prime’ customer.

      How Amazon beats the sausage.

      What’s the PE these days? An absurd 300 or so. Hows that groaf looking so far, when they slammed into so many walls – about six dozen gigantic satanic mills were cancelled and the 400 economists Amazon employs let it happen..

      $10 billion lost selling junk spyware, the list of atrocious stuff Amazon gets away with is long, almost endless, review fraud, fake products fraud, return fraud – a 30% return rate is absurd, copyright fraud, copying third party sellers, using third party purchse data to steal their business if their stuff sells . . . etc . . . etc

      Mr Market is insane.

      1. Carolinian

        Thanks for the link which is about how Amazon is using exorbitant fees from its 3rd party marketplace to subsidize its money losing retail operation. Earlier the competitive advantage was found by refusing to charge sales tax. When the company grew so big they had a warehouse in every state (a point of presence) this would no longer work.

        Of course Walmart uses similar tactics against its suppliers but Walmart does have low price competition that is always ready to step in. Aldi, Lidl, Dollar General are all ready to step in and at least the first two follow the same always low price formula.

        1. cnchal

          Walmart is nothing like Amazon so far, but they are trying to catch up. Walmart has the huge disadvantage of not being able to whip their employees on the store floor whereas Amazon whips them day and night. Amazon’s churnover rate is about 4 to 5 times higher than Walmart’s, 150% to 30%

          The reason Amazon uses ‘Prime’ as a trap is that if too many customers drop it the whole internal pump and dump scheme – raping third party sellers in every way possible to fund the ‘Prime’ pump which dumps the money into bribing people to join falls apart. All those extras to “lock them up” have to get sweeter as time goes on or people drift away.

  11. Watt4Bob

    To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson;

    The Biden clan are so twisty, that when they die, you won’t be able to bury them, you’ll have to twist them into the ground.

  12. Mark Gisleson

    My head’s been stuck in the ’80s today after watching the promo video for Thatcher Isn’t Dead, a French documentary with a blistering soundtrack from Lionel Limiñana.

    Both audio and video are pretty raw. Newly composed music but very in touch with the ’80s as New Order synths drift in and out of the background on some songs many of which amplify into noise but then again this is about Maggie Thatcher.

  13. Jason Boxman

    Harvard Pilgrim was hacked back in April, a notice in the mail says. We’re going to get to sign up for TWO years of credit monitoring! All data was at risk, including medical history and SSN. And medical history is forever, for those that have blackmail friendly medical history, this could be a life altering disaster.

    Today, I realized we should adopt the legal system from that Star Trek TNG episode, where if you violate the law of the day, you die. Period. Maybe that will bring back some semblance of accountability for our elite.

    One can dream.

  14. The Rev Kev

    “Biden world once rolled their eyes at Gavin Newsom. Now, they love the guy.”

    Gavin Newsom – the Keir Starmer of American politics. No, that is not a good thing.

    1. Raymond Sim

      I’m hard-pressed to believe anyone loves Gavin Newsome – but people who spend a lot of time around Joe Biden might be the exceptions.

      Is it ‘Newsome’ or ‘Newsom’?

      1. JBird4049

        It is Newsom, not Newsome. It has taken me years to remember that and the man is my governor.

        Anyways, Gavin Newsom is slickness on steroids and he is, I think, not that deep, but he seems to be much brighter than Kamala Harris as well as avoiding her problem with word salad.

        Just what is it with Harris and her inability to speak clearly in whole sentences with the verbal equivalent of paragraphs? I saw her do an entire speech when she was in California, and while the substance was despicable, her ability to do public speaking seemed fine. Granted, she is never going to become an Obama level speaker, but how many people are?

  15. Alex Cox

    I saw that Kier Starmer talking on TV recently. The AI translator misread (?) His name as ‘cursed armour:..

  16. cgregory

    Anything less a top score for employees will bring down the fire of Gehenna on them. Do right by them!

    1. Bugs

      Agreed. Unless someone egregiously steals or lies, they get 5* from me, every single time. Their job depends on it.

      My only two 1* ratings were for: movers who stole a watch and a phone and broke a nice bookshelf. Of course they denied even knowing about it… and a delivery guy who got lost, put down the giant box containing a room divider in front of a neighbor’s house and sent the photo of it but then put it back in the truck and drove off.

  17. hunkerdown

    AI watchers, the House Committee on Science, Space and Tech has a hearing at 10am tomorrow morning 6/22, titled “Artificial Intelligence: Advancing Innovation Towards the National Interest”. YouTube link. The witness list:

    Dr. Jason Matheny, President & CEO, RAND Corporation
    Dr. Shahin Farshchi, General Partner, Lux Capital
    Mr. Clement Delangue, Co-founder & CEO, HuggingFace*
    Dr. Rumman Chowdhury, Responsible AI Fellow, Harvard University
    Dr. Dewey Murdick, Executive Director, Center for Security and Emerging Technology Committee

    * they’re thinking of the emoji 🤗, I’m thinking of Alien

    1. hunkerdown

      Adding, HuggingFace is the GitHub of open-source AI models. They host many retrained, augmented, or “uncensored” models, trained on modifications of the original data sets, and also “alignment” overlays which modify the weights of existing models to specialize and bias them for a particular task. I don’t envy “Mr.” Delangue, given all the high priests with expensive letters before their names also in attendance. I think Yves’ source is right about “we can’t monetize this, let’s regulate it so that we can” strategy.

    2. griffen

      Admitted that I know less than nothing about any of them, but the above titled as Responsible AI Fellow – is this anything comparable to Ash, the friendly science officer aboard the Nostromo? Ha ha.

      Yes, naming any company “HuggingFace” should be directed to the trash bin of history. Give them minimal credit for side stepping an obvious choice like Skynet.

  18. ambrit

    When I read the excerpt from the blog “Skull in the Stars,” I had to cry out: “Crom! Free us from these fell Necromantic maniac priests!” The Ivory tower is now the Tower of the Elephant.
    There was a lot of PMC Meritocrat appeal to authority hubris in that excerpt. Do these modern science people not remember Thomas Henry Huxley? The man who debated anyone in support of Darwin when Darwin wasn’t cool? He didn’t hide behind “Scientist Privilege.” If Dr. Hoetz doesn’t feel secure enough in his personal debating skills, then he can demand to have a skilled debater alongside him on the Rogan program. Somehow, I don’t think that Rogan would deny such a request. He has a reputation of fairness to uphold too.
    Actually, the appeal to “Meritocrat superiority” is a class based argument. It presupposes that people without the “appropriate credentials” are incapable of understanding and debating honestly about subjects that the Meritocrats claim are theirs alone to expound upon. The “lower classes” are a priori inferior and thus not worthy of having their voices heard.
    The sound these Paper Warriors are hearing is the sound of guillotine blades being sharpened. Beware, Nemesis is fast approaching.
    See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Henry_Huxley

    1. JBird4049

      Being fair, the theory of evolution by natural selection proposed by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace was, if not revolutionary, radical at the time. And yes, scientists were not as snobbish of arrogant with their work as the current credentialed class with theirs. Unlike the current priests of scientism, the scientists back then has to fight for their work to be both respected and broadly accepted.

    2. Harold

      I thought Joe Rogan was very effective when he asked Kennedy how the blood brain barrier was penetrated Kennedy had to reveal that not only didn’t he know, but that it had never occurred to him that it behooved him to find out if he was going to make such claims. Such interchanges are why Rogan’s fans like him, I gather, though I only listened to Rogan once in my life (on a friend’s recommendation), and that was when he interviewed Dr. Michael Osterholm. Osterholm was able to answer all Rogan’s questions in a clear way and then some, and it wasn’t a “debate” but rather a friendly conversation.
      There is a place for honest, knowledgable communication, if only there were more of it.
      Some can be found on this site, actually.

  19. Jason Boxman

    The Biobot data is so lacking, and about 3-4 weeks behind, but at least for Middlesex county, MA, we have:

    around 14 June, XBB1.9 is 48.8%, XBB* is 28.9%, and XBB1.16 is 21.8%.

    meanwhile, Orange county, FL:

    XBB*: 64.9%
    XBB.1.16: 32.8%
    XBB.1.9: 1.6%

    So as always, what’s happening is very regional. Neither has any waste water spike, as of the age of the data.

    So the new variants are overtaking XBB1.5 as an overall declining share of infections? It’s difficult to have any idea what’s going on any more. Twitter anecdotes seem to be what we have.

    Looking at Google Trends, searching for ‘covid’ going back 90 days was at its peak in late March, been declining ever since to 50 out of 100, with a day in March being 100. I can’t come up with any symptom keywords that have a pulse at all. This doesn’t seem to be a useful way to track disease spread any longer. World Bank did this until January 2021, then it went dark…

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