Studies Suggest Why Omicron Is Less Severe: It Spares the Lungs

A spate of new studies on lab animals and human tissues are providing the first indication of why the Omicron variant causes milder disease than previous versions of the coronavirus. From a report: In studies on mice and hamsters, Omicron produced less damaging infections, often limited largely to the upper airway: the nose, throat and windpipe. The variant did much less harm to the lungs, where previous variants would often cause scarring and serious breathing difficulty. "It's fair to say that the idea of a disease that manifests itself primarily in the upper respiratory system is emerging," said Roland Eils, a computational biologist at the Berlin Institute of Health, who has studied how coronaviruses infect the airway. In November, when the first report on the Omicron variant came out of South Africa, scientists could only guess at how it might behave differently from earlier forms of the virus. All they knew was that it had a distinctive and alarming combination of more than 50 genetic mutations. Previous research had shown that some of these mutations enabled coronaviruses to grab onto cells more tightly. Others allowed the virus to evade antibodies, which serve as an early line of defense against infection. But how the new variant might behave inside of the body was a mystery. "You can't predict the behavior of virus from just the mutations," said Ravindra Gupta, a virologist at the University of Cambridge. Over the past month, more than a dozen research groups, including Dr. Gupta's, have been observing the new pathogen in the lab, infecting cells in Petri dishes with Omicron and spraying the virus into the noses of animals. As they worked, Omicron surged across the planet, readily infecting even people who were vaccinated or had recovered from infections. But as cases skyrocketed, hospitalizations increased only modestly. Early studies of patients suggested that Omicron was less likely to cause severe illness than other variants, especially in vaccinated people. Still, those findings came with a lot of caveats.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Your 2021 Wonkette Legislative Hero Has A Cheney In It, For First And Last Time Ever

Hahahaha, what is Wonkette, smoking a DRUGS? We just gave the coveted Wonkette legislative shitheel award of the whole entire year to a Democrat, and now we are going to give the legislative hero award to TWO Republicans? Are we Glenn Greenwald? Are we going to be on Tucker to talk about this live tonight?

The answers, in order, are "maybe" and "yep" and "ew no" and "haha he wishes."

Let us explain.

First of all, we gave shitheel to Joe Manchin, so "Democrat." And we are giving the hero award to the entire House January 6 Select Committee investigating the terrorist attack Donald Trump incited against the United States Capitol and against the country itself. And that group, which was appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, includes two Republican congressmembers who have, at great cost to themselves and arguably at great expense to their own safety, continued to stand up for what's right. You know, at least on this one subject. But it's a pretty fucking important subject. (The subject, again, is that they are investigating a terrorist attack the former president ordered against this country.)

So that means, on a technicality — ha ha, a "technicality" just like how it is when Republicans win presidential elections because "Electoral College" but never because "people voted for them" — two Republicans get to share the Wonkette legislative hero award with seven Democrats.

Look, we don't make the rules LOL j/k yes we do.

In case you've never seen it spelled out, the membership of that committee includes:

  • Bennie Thompson, chair
  • Zoe Lofgren
  • Elaine Luria
  • Adam Schiff
  • Pete Aguilar
  • Stephanie Murphy
  • Jamie Raskin

And then those two Republicans, two of the only Republicans in elected office in the United States who can actually be said to care more about country than party. Pelosi had to appoint them because House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was intent on skullfucking the committee, and the country itself, by putting seditionist pals like Jim Jordan on it. Pelosi said fuck off.

And look, those two Republicans, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, are wrongass about a thousand other things. Abortion? Wrongass. Voting rights? Wrongass there too, because they still buy into Republican myths about what kinds of "problems" really exist with voting in America.

But that's not why they get to share in this award with all those awesome voting-rights-loving abortionist Democrats.

Our Point, Oh God, Do We Have One?

It may be that Attorney General Merrick Garland is up there in his tower making a list and checking it twice and FINALLY going to spend his 2022 raining down hellfire, damnation, and the rule of law on the actual people who CREATED the January 6 terrorist attack and the LITERAL ACTUAL COUP by the disgraced former president that surrounded that day. Maybe. But so far we can't see it.

And we understand that it can be very hard to figure out whom to arrest when just kidding no it's not.

So the January 6 committee gets this award because it's from what we can tell the only entity that gives a shit about creating accountability for the people who attacked America and tried to overthrow it, and no we don't mean the rotting pig turds who actually did their dirty work at the Capitol that day. We mean the propagandists and coup plotters pulling the strings.

We're not going to spend a lot of time linking to our every story about the January 6 committee. Its work is ongoing, and it makes news every day or two. Here are some updates just from the past week or so. They're busy, and they're a work in progress. But at least we can see that they're getting results.

We hear 2022 will see lots of public hearings from that committee, by the way.

Wonkette hereby invites Merrick Garland to read along with our liveblogs of them, should he need help identifying the bad guys.

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Streaming Wars Drive Media Groups To Spend More Than $100 Billion on New Content

The top eight US media groups plan to spend at least $115bn on new movies and television shows next year in pursuit of a video streaming business that loses money for most of them. From a report: The huge investment outlays come amid concerns that it will be harder to attract new customers in 2022 after the pandemic-fuelled growth in 2020 and 2021. Yet the alternative is to be left out of the streaming land rush. "There is no turning back," said media analyst Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson. "The only way to compete is spending more and more money on premium content." The Financial Times calculated the planned expenditures based on company disclosures and analyst reports. One entertainment executive called them "mind-boggling." Most of the companies -- a list that includes Walt Disney, Comcast, WarnerMedia and Amazon -- are set to rack up losses on their streaming units. Including sports rights, the aggregate spending estimate rises to about $140bn. Disney's investment in streaming content is likely to grow 35-40 per cent in 2022, according to estimates by Morgan Stanley. The company's spending on all new movies and TV shows is expected to reach $23bn, though the number rises to $33bn including sports rights -- up 32 per cent from its total content spending in 2021 and 65 per cent from 2020.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Joe Manchin, You Are Wonkette’s 2021 Legislative Shitheel!

If 2021 had a proud legislative hero, who fought valiantly for all that’s good and just, there must also come their mirror opposite, the legislative shitheel.

The Senate’s most useless Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema, was a strong contender, as was "Republican caucus," but Joe Manchin is the undisputed champion. Now, you might wonder, “C’mon, surely, there’s an openly seditious Republican more deserving of the dishonor? What’s Marjorie Taylor Green gotta do to get some hate around there?”

Here’s where I invoke a favorite scene from "The Flash" TV show: It’s been revealed that the villain Zoom has been posing as his alternate Earth’s Flash. Why the charade, our heroes ask? “To give people hope,” Zoom cruelly responds, “so I could rip it away from them.”

As a Democrat, Joe Manchin offered us hope that he constantly ripped away. After Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won the US Senate runoffs in Georgia, we were hopeful that we might see some important change. We weren’t naive. We knew Democrats had a bare-ass minimum majority. I know I didn’t expect Medicare for All or a wealth tax. But I thought we’d advance the ball as far as we could, at least deliver fully on President Joe Biden’s campaign platform. Oh, and since Republicans enabled Donald Trump’s jacklegged coup, maybe Democrats would shore up voting rights and preserve democracy — just a thought.

But whenever we dared hope, the senator from West Virginia was there to say “no.”

Let us now count the many ways that Joe Manchin proved beyond all doubt that he was this year’s legislative shitheel.

  • Manchin’s big epiphany after Trump-supporting white supremacists attacked the Capitol was that Democrats should never do anything that would offend white supremacist Trump supporters. That’s apparently too "divisive.” No, Manchin would double-down on “bipartisanship,” which he defines as only supporting policies that has Mitch McConnell’s demonic stamp of approval. That’s exactly why 81 million Americans voted for Joe Biden.
  • The first victim of Manchin’s bipartisan inclusivity was Neera Tanden, whose nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget he killed because she apparently wrote some mean tweets about Republicans who deserved them. So much cancel culture! Somehow a woman of color suffered directly because white supremacists attacking the Capitol made Manchin even more determined to play footsie with the white supremacist political party.
  • Oh, Manchin’s stated reasoning for tanking Tanden’s nomination is probably bullshit. Tanden once criticized some BS defense for Mylan CEO Heather Bresch's exorbitant CEO pay. Bresch is Manchin’s daughter and pharmaceutical price-gouging monster.

  • Manchin, who represents a state that’s 94 percent white, opposed a House bill that would’ve granted statehood to Washington DC, which is 44 percent Black. I’m sure race wasn’t the sole reason for his opposition. That’s just how these things shake out.
  • In September, Manchin raised the possibility of not supporting Build Back Better — almost the entirety of President Joe Biden's domestic agenda — in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, a publication we assume West Virginia coal miners regularly read on their lunch breaks.
  • When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called out Manchin’s “weekly huddles with Exxon,” which obviously influences his opposition to any reasonable climate change policies, Manchin dismissively referred to her as a “young lady” he didn’t know “that well.” She’s his professional colleague. (He should have just dismissed the weekly huddles with Exxon as having more influence over him than huddling with himself, since he's his own Exxon.)
  • Manchin claimed America is a “center-right nation,” which is an odd way of counting Joe Biden’s 81 million votes.
  • Manchin — like Sinema — is a stalwart defender of the filibuster (i.e., the Democratic Face Puncher 5000) despite all reason. It’s like he wants Democrats to get their faces punched.
  • Manchin refused to support the For the People Act because he considered it “partisan” to defend voting rights. He insisted that he’d only back a voting rights bill that has bipartisan support. Naturally, he’s struggled to find many Republicans who’d support even the most moderate Stop Republicans from Cheating Bill.
  • Manchin announced on the Sunday before Christmas that he wouldn’t support Build Back Better under any circumstances, so stop asking him, you deadbeats.
  • A significant number of Democrats (far more than the Republicans who flipped) supported the bipartisan infrastructure framework because they trusted Manchin to come through on BBB. He made them look like chumps.
  • Senate Majority Leader God King Emperor Manchin told people with human ears that he believed parents would use their child tax credits for drugs.
  • Manchin also claimed that if West Virginians had paid sick leave they’d cheat their noble employers and spend the day hunting. He should meet better people.

This is a hardly brief but also not conclusive list of all the reasons Joe Manchin sucks.

Don’t get discouraged, Senator Sinema. 2022 could be your year.

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Mike Lindell, You Are 2021’s Lunatic Of The Year!

Of all the crazies in Crazytown, none has had a crazier year than pillow fluffer Mike Lindell. From the heady days of martial law to the depths of despair when no one would be his hot date to SOTU, it's been a wildass ride for the pillow dude. And all the while he assured us that the return of the king was imminent. In the spring, by August at the latest, or possibly Thanksgiving.

It's that rare feelgood story where someone is so fucking nuts that they actually discredit their very bad ideas — and these days it takes a lot to persuade Americans that something patently false is actually, you know, not true.

It started in January when Commander OpSec was photographed leaving the White House with his notebook open revealing a plan to impose martial law, seize the ballots, and invoke the Insurrection Act to keep Trump in power. As one does.

He followed that up with a defamation suit against the Daily Mail for linking him romantically with actress Jane Krakowski, because how dare they say he bought a beautiful woman wine when he is singularly dedicated to destroying democracy? Spoiler Alert: LOL, nope.

He also got booted off Twitter because CANCEL CULTURE. Later in the year, he got banned from Fox, too, when it turned out that Dominion and Smartmatic weren't actually joking about filing those 10-figure defamation suits.

In February, Lindell collaborated with the Holy Spirit to put out a three-hour documentary called Absolute Proof which "proved" that the election was stolen. Then he got hit by Dominion Voting Systems with a $1.3 billion defamation suit in federal court in DC; that's one dollar for every whopper he told about the company, we guess. You'd think the Holy Spirit would have given him a heads up!

But the Pillow Pumper wasn't taking that one lying down, nosirreeebob! After spending all of March screeching that he and Alan Dershowitz (of freakin' course) were going to file a lawsuit against Dominion for Defamatory RICO McCarthyism, he actually docketed a countersuit against Dominion. In Minnesota. Asking the court to rule that the lawsuit in DC was UNLEGAL.

He also launched his new social media platform VOCL MySpace MyFacebook MyPlace MyFrank Frank Speech that was going to put Twitter and YouTube out of business by banning swears and cancel cultures.

It did not put Twitter and YouTube out of business. YET.

Lindell kept promising in his weekly scream therapy sessions with putrefying podcaster Steve Bannon that Trump's return to the White House was imminent. But when God failed to open the door to the Oval Office, the Pillow Man decided he'd have to open a window with a CyberFraud Hootenanny Hoedown in Sioux Falls at which he would prove to all the assembled experts that China hacked the election with PCAPS. Instead his own cyber expert admitted they didn't have the goods, after which Lindell blamed the CIA and Antifa, then threatened to sue all the backstabbers who prevented him from saving the country.

Undaunted, Lindell regrouped by September with a new plan. Well, a recycled plan, really, since that shitbird Texas AG Ken Paxton tried it last year and fell on his face. But Lindell was certain that the Supreme Court would take one look at all his very good evidence that China used bluetooth technology to hack elections and vote 9-0 to return Trump to the presidency. All he needed was one state attorney general to sign on, triggering the high court's original jurisdiction, and he could skip over all those pesky trial and appellate judges with their dumb rules about "standing" and "evidence" and "objective reality."

Lindell spent all of September and October promising that he was out on the town having the time of my life with a bunch of his state AG friends. And while none of them was willing to come forward, they were all just out of frame, laughing too at the fun they'd have delivering this lawsuit to SCOTUS on Thanksgiving.

Set the table, Mrs. Chief Justice Roberts, company's coming!

Except turns out ...

It was all just pillow talk. None of the AGs materialized, which Lindell blamed on the RNC's Ronna Romney McDaniel. Obviously.

And speaking of traitors, turns out Republican election officials get kinda testy when Mike Lindell comes in and says their elections were hacked. The MyPillow man got the MyBoot from Idaho and Alabama after spewing nonsense about their states being vulnerable to electoral hacking. Silly Mike, everyone knows that's only a thing in swing states!

So the year is over, and Mike Lindell ain't got no girlfriend; he didn't take out "Suckabuck and Dorky"; he didn't return Trump to the White House. But fear not, true believers, because if you just keep the faith — and keep buying those pillows — paradise is just around the crazy corner.

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CES’s Justification for Keeping the Show IRL is Absolutely Unhinged

An anonymous reader shares a report: Somehow CES 2022 is still happening in a little over a week, despite the single-largest surge in COVID-19 cases ever recorded in the United States. The electronics show will be far less enormous than usual, but not necessarily because organizers at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) wanted it to be that way. CTA president Gary Shapiro went as far as to post an extensive rant on LinkedIn (and in the Las Vegas Review-Journal) about why, exactly, CES is still happening. He says CES "will and must go on." Let's take a moment or two to read through Shapiro's op-ed. We promise it's worth the time. Here are some of our favorite ways in which the CTA president explains his reasoning: 1. If we do not cancel, we face the drumbeat of press and other critics who tell the story only through their lens of drama and big name companies. We suppose this applies to us (pretty meta of us). Anyway, it's pretty telling that Shapiro's leaning on "bad press" -- not the ongoing public health crisis -- as a reason to not cancel the show. 2. I will feel safer at CES with our vaccine and masking mandate than I do when I'm running every day errands, including food shopping! Sorry, what? CES is notorious for packing attendants in like sardines. What kind of grocery store is this man going to? 3. It may be messy. But innovation is messy. It is risky and uncomfortable. Well, sure, innovating isn't a clean process, but CES isn't actually fostering innovation. The innovation's already done before these companies arrive on the showroom floor. 4. For those who are vaccinated and willing to take the minor risk of Omicron and a quarantine, CES may be worth it. I'm sorry, did this man just refer to COVID-19 (you know, the one that's killed more than 2 million people) as a "minor risk"? CES also said today that it will end a day earlier.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

2021: The Kraken Gang Does Whatever The Hell This Sh*t Was

It's been a tough year for Team Kraken and Friends. It started off with attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood doing their best to persuade Georgia Republicans that actually, they didn't really need to vote at all. It ended with the erstwhile pals accusing each other of perfidy and satanism on the cut-rate social media platforms that still tolerate their presence. Along the way, there were billions of dollars of defamation lawsuits, court sanctions, and so much more, because, even though the majority of their lawsuits had already crashed and burned in 2020, the gang had plenty of crazy shit left in the tank for 2021.

Quite a ride for a mythical, multi-tentacled sea creature!

After Lin Wood, Sidney Powell, and Donald Trump spent November and December of 2020 attacking Republican election officials in Georgia, with Wood going so far as to demand the arrest of Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, voters sent Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to the Senate, handing the gavel to Democrat Chuck Schumer on January 3.

But there was no time to rest on their laurels, because the gang's legal troubles were just beginning. Dominion Voting Systems filed its first defamation suit against Sidney Powell, seeking a cool $1.3 billion dollars. Then they filed another one against Rudy Giuliani, just for funsies.

And thanks to, among other things, Wood's public speculation about Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts being part of a pedophile ring, a judge in Delaware revoked permission for him to appear pro hac vice (i.e., as an attorney from outside the jurisdiction) on behalf of (yes, that) Carter Page. Also, the Georgia Bar told Wood he oughta have his head examined, and by "oughta," they meant it was non-optional if he wanted to continue practicing law in the Peach State.

In the least surprising news of the year, Trump stiffed Rudy Giuliani for his amazing legal services. Weep, weep, at the sheer injustice of it all!

In February, the Krew and their pals at Fox got sued by Smartmatic for another billion, as sanctions motions filed by the state of Michigan and city of Detroit for the garbage election suits began to rumble ominously in the distance.

In March, Powell fired back at Dominion that their lawsuit was garbage because "no reasonable person would conclude that [her] statements were truly statements of fact," AKA the "I'm Full of Shit" defense. Which came back to bite her in the ass the next month in that Michigan sanctions motion, since she'd all but admitted that nothing she'd said in her stupid lawsuits was reliably true. Ooopsie poopsie!

In May, Powell attempted to fish that turd out of the bowl, sitting for an interview with Dinesh D'Souza in which she insisted that all that "protected opinion" was gospel truth after all — causing Dominion's lawyers to pounce, just as soon as they quit laughing at the crazy lady with shit all over her hands.

In summer, the gang found some new hobbies, with each of them kicking up cash for the Arizona fraudit, which was just as successful as all their other endeavors. Sidney Powell tried to reinvent herself as the crusading counsel for the January 6 "political prisoners" — that's rioting insurrectionists to you and me. She's also dabbling in anti-vax litigation, because that train is never late. But they couldn't escape their past, after being forced to attend a sanctions hearing in a Michigan federal court that went so far off the rails that one of Team Krak cried and Lin Wood turned his back on the judge. Which was NOT GREAT BOB, but probably made no difference to the final outcome of the case, in which the court said a whole lot of uncomplimentary shit about their legal work and told them to cough up for the state and city defendants' legal fees.

Powell ended the summer with an insane dumpster fire interview in which she snuggled her dog and accused an Australian reporter of working for Smartmatic. As one does.

In the fall it finally began to set in that they were probably not going to return Trump to the White House after all, and our heroes seemed to lose the plot. Lin Wood joined the Q loons in worshipping at the altar of holy ivermectin, while Powell accused Democrats of murdering one of Kelly Loeffler's aides. She also filed a countersuit against Dominion for Bad Court Thingy.

Or maybe these guys were banapants crazy all along, and just, uhh, hiding it well? Just before Thanksgiving we found out that Powell and her former client Michael Flynn had tried to get the Defense Department to do LOCK HER UPS to CIA Director Gina Haspel for server treason right after the election. Because Haspel was in on it, dontcha know!

And by Christmas it had all gone totally to shit. Mike Flynn and his whole family had noped out of Powell's legal defense charity, which was under federal investigation; teenage vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse had cut Wood loose and was embroiled with his former counsel in a dispute over funds raised for his defense; Wood was releasing secretly recorded phone conversations on Telegram in which he and the Overstock weirdo Patrick Byrne, a fellow traveler on the Yellow Krak Road, shit-talked Powell; Flynn and Wood were dueling over who loves Satan and who hates Q. Looks like the band is never getting back together.

Ah, well. Maybe the real friends were the brain worms we shared along the way.

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Looks Like We Made It

Sad news about Betty White, who died at the age of 99, but it looks like the rest of us have (fingers crossed) made it through another year.

I know the pandemic and the chaos and upheaval has made the last year super difficult for everyone, but notwithstanding those things, it was a good year. Getting rid of Trump, the covid relief bill and infrastructure bill were both massive, as well as the denazification of many federal government positions and approving judges are very big things. On a personal note, Rosie has finally found some piece after two years of not really being tip top, Lily and Steve are doing well, and my family, of course, is doing well.

On the blog, things are going very well, and in large part much of this is due to the women of Balloon Juice. Beth did an absolutely splendid job with the calendar for the tenth year in a row and there are a lot of animals out there who are much better off because of all her labor. Thank you, Beth.

I don’t remember if you all remember the commericals for Dunkin Donuts in the late 80’s, with Fred the Baker, but here is a refresher for the old and maybe something new for you god damned kids:

The reason I mention that commercial is because Anne Laurie has, for another year, been our resident donut maker, reliably posting threads at all hours of the day, particularly her covid updates, which have provided a reliable structure and framework for the blog. When there is no one else around, there always seems to be Anne Laurie picking up the slack. And I just wanted to say how much I, and the rest of us appreciate that.

Another thanks to Betty Cracker, who on many days is my sister from another mister, because she writes with a style I just love and I have YET see her post anything I disagreed with, and is just a rock star and I am so grateful she is here.

And of course, Watergirl, my taskmaster, who is constantly getting me to do the things that need to be done but I don’t want to do, and always thinking about new and exciting features for all of you. I am glad she has her velvet fist pointed at me because otherwise this place would fall to pieces.

So thanks to all of you, and to the rest of you jackals, and Happy New Year.

Also, I called Watergirl and had her set up a zoom meeting for tomorrow from 5-7pm EST. We had them for the Holidays last year and they just sort of slipped through this year, but I would like to have one to ring in the New Year. The details will be in the comments.

The post Looks Like We Made It appeared first on Balloon Juice.