Friday Night Soother

Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s eight Ring-tailed Lemur babies are now approximately two months of age and becoming very active as they continue to grow and develop.

The babies have started trying solid foods and are becoming very playful. They can often be spotted jumping from one climbing structure to another or playing in the trees together on their island home.

“The babies are starting to eat branches and leaves as well as trying vegetable pieces more and more now. They are still suckling from their mums which is to be expected as most of their nutrition is coming from their mother’s milk,” said Primate keeper, Sasha Brook.

Over the next couple of months, the Ring-tailed Lemur babies will get better at climbing and will also start to sort out their own hierarchy.

“For Ring-tailed Lemurs it is the females that are in charge in the group, so some of the male babies are still yet to work this out,” said Sasha.

All of the mothers are being very attentive to all of the babies, not just their own. This is known as alloparenting, although this behaviour is being observed less now that the babies are getting older.

“A great time to see the Ring-tailed Lemur babies is in the mornings just when the Zoo opens as the group is fed at this time and they are often very active,” said Sasha. 

Keepers hope to name the Ring-tailed Lemur babies in the coming weeks.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is home to two groups of Ring-tailed Lemurs, a breeding group near the Savannah picnic ground and a bachelor group in the Savannah Visitor Plaza precinct. The breeding group now has 17 individuals including the most recent babies, whilst the bachelor group has four individuals. 

h/t Zooborns

Uh oh. It looks like little kids might be at risk from Omicron.

We’ll have to see if this holds up in other countries but it’s an ominous sign:

The “highly transmissible” Omicron variant of coronavirus ripping through South Africa is putting disproportionately large numbers of children under 5 years old in hospitals, a top South African government medical adviser said Friday.

The alarming development raises the prospect of a new global battle cycle against the virus, given that the new variant has already spread to dozens of countries. The South African scientists also said the new variant was spreading much quicker than any previous wave of the coronavirus.

In a worrying virtual press conference, government adviser Waasila Jassat, speaking about the worst-affected area of Gauteng province (which includes the city of Johannesburg), said: “It’s clear in Gauteng, the week-on-week increase we’re seeing in cases and admissions is higher than we’ve seen it before. We’ve seen quite a sharp increase [in hospital admissions] across all age groups but particularly in the under 5s.”

She added: “The incidence in those under 5 is now second highest, second only to those over 60. The trend that we’re seeing now, that is different to what we’ve seen before, is a particular increase in hospital admissions in children under 5 years.

“We’ve always seen children not being very heavily affected by the COVID epidemic in the past, not having many admissions. In the third wave, we saw more admissions in young children under 5 and in teenagers, 15-19, and now, at the start of this fourth wave, we have seen quite a sharp increase across all age groups, but particularly in the under 5s.”

Jassat produced graphs that clearly showed how children under 5 years old are now being hospitalized at an alarming rate.

She said, for example, that in the city of Tshwane Metro, more than 100 children under the age of 5 were admitted to hospitals with COVID in the first two weeks of the new fourth wave (Nov. 14 to 27). In the first two weeks of the country’s third wave, in May of this year, fewer than 20 children were admitted to hospitals.

In a follow-up question-and-answer session, asked about the extraordinary numbers of children being admitted to hospital, Jassat said she suspected there might be an “immunity gap” and that the lack of vaccination of children might account for the numbers.

I don’t know what to say about that. Kids under five have not been cleared for vaccines. A lot of parents haven’t been willing to vaccinate their kids over five. Way too many people haven’t bothered to get themselves boosted. And 40% of Republican adults are still refusing to get vaccinated.

Now, maybe none of that makes a difference. We might find out that the vaccines simply don’t work at all on Omicron. But so far, it appears that while it is very transmissible, the vaccines will retain at least some of their potency against it. Fingers crossed. But either way, it looks like we are in for bad winter. Don’t throw away you masks and get some new filters for your Hepa filters.

sigh

January 6th was a very close call

Alleged January 6 rioter: I thought Trump was calling for help

Alleged January 6 rioter: “I thought Trump was calling for help” 

They were hunting for Democratic women:

Justice Department prosecutors say they have evidence that an alleged rioter who brought a gun to the US Capitol on January 6 was targeting both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. According to a filing Thursday, Guy Reffitt, a member of the Texas Three Percenter militia, “specifically targeted at least two lawmakers — the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and then-Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell — whom he sought to physically remove or displace from the Capitol building.”

Prosecutors aim to prove the allegation at Reffitt’s trial, which is tentatively scheduled for late February. He will be the first January 6 defendant to go to trial, and is facing five federal charges. He has pleaded not guilty, and has been in jail since his arrest in January.

According to court documents, Reffitt drove to Washington, DC, days before the riot, carrying an AR-15 rifle and pistol in his car. Prosecutors say Reffitt wore body armor and carried his pistol and plastic cuff restraints on the Capitol grounds on January 6.

The assertion by prosecutors may further undermine efforts by some Republicans to whitewash the deadly insurrection and claims by former President Donald Trump that rioters posed “zero threat” to those inside the building.

Other rioters have been accused of hurling threats against lawmakers before, during, and after January 6. In the week after the 2020 election, Michael Lopatic, of Pennsylvania, allegedly posted photos online of birds he had shot on a hunting trip which he had named after prominent Democratic lawmakers. Garret Miller, of Texas, is accused of tweeting “Assassinate AOC” and wrote on Facebook about hanging a Black police officer. Mark Mazza, who is also charged with carrying a loaded firearm to the Capitol, allegedly told investigators that if he had found Pelosi that day, “you’d be here for another reason.”

Do not think that it couldn’t have happened. If they had come across any of their enemies like Pelosi, AOC or Ilhan Omar I honestly think someone would have killed them. If you doubt it, watch this video from that day which contains language and threats so vile that Youtube will not allow it to be embedded.

But hey, no biggie.

The shooter’s parents made him into what he is

The Michigan prosecutor charged this week’s school shooter’s parents with involuntary manslaughter and rightly so:

Four days before 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley allegedly opened fire at his Michigan high school, his parents bought him an unusually early Christmas gift: a 9mm Sig Sauer handgun.

The teen accompanied his father, James Crumbley, to buy the gun at Acme Shooting Goods in the small town of Oxford. Ethan referred it to that night on Instagram as his “new beauty.”

The next day, his mom, Jennifer Crumbley, who once posted an open letter thanking President-elect Donald Trump for protecting “my right to bear arms,” penned her own Instagram post. “Mom & son day testing out his new Xmas present,” she wrote, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said on Friday.

By Monday, however, Ethan’s new present, which was kept in an unsecured drawer in his parents’ bedroom, was already causing concern at Oxford High School.

A teacher found Ethan searching for ammunition on his cell phone during class and reported it to higher-ups. Administrators left a voicemail for Jennifer Crumbley and followed up with an email, but received no response.

“Lol, I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught,” Jennifer texted her son.

Conduct by James and Jennifer Crumbley before and after the shooting was “so egregious” that it warranted charging them with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, McDonald announced Friday in an extraordinary move that is a rarity in the U.S. legal system, which seldom holds parents of school shooters accountable for their child’s actions.

Charges were filed, in part, to “send a message that gun owners have a responsibility,” she said. “Four kids were murdered and seven more injured. So yes, I think we should all be very angry and we should take a very hard look at what is in place in terms of criminal responsibility and what gun owners are required to do.”

On the morning of the shooting on Tuesday, a teacher was “alarmed” at a drawing made by Ethan. It included a handgun with the text, “the thoughts won’t stop. Help me,” and a bullet with the words, “blood everywhere.” There were also some laughing emojis, a person who’d been shot, and the words, “my life is useless,” and “the world is dead,” McDonald said.

The drawing prompted staff to remove Ethan from class, and his parents were called into the school. James and Jennifer were shown the drawing and told they had to “get their son into counseling within 48 hours.”

“Both James and Jennifer Crumbley failed to ask their son if he had his gun with him or where his gun was located and failed to inspect his backpack,” McDonald said.

They resisted taking Ethan home with them and left the school soon after, she said. Ethan returned to class with the handgun in his backpack.

“The notion that a parent could read those words [in the drawing] and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable. And I think it’s criminal,” McDonald said.

Just after lunchtime that day, the sophomore student went into a bathroom with his backpack, then came out into a hallway and started shooting students at random, sending terrified teens ducking for cover and into hiding, police said. Sixteen-year-old Tate Myre, 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana, 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin, and 17-year-old Justin Shilling died. Seven more, including a teacher, were injured.

As news alerts went out about an active shooter at the school, James Crumbley “went straight to his home to look for his gun,” McDonald said. Jennifer Crumbley texted her son, “Ethan, don’t do it.”

James then called 911 to report that his gun was missing and that “his son could be the shooter,” McDonald said.

Acme Shooting Goods declined The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Friday. Multiple attempts to contact the Crumbleys were unsuccessful.

Involuntary manslaughter was “the strongest possible charge that we could prove and that there’s probable cause to charge,” said McDonald.

Ethan has been charged as an adult with one count of terrorism, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, and 12 counts of possession of a firearm.

At Crumbley’s arraignment on Wednesday, Oakland County Sheriff’s Lt. Tim Willis said police seized “two separate videos recovered from Ethan’s cellphone made by him the night before the incident, wherein he talked about shooting and killing students the next day at Oxford High School.”

Willis also told the judge that investigators discovered a journal in Ethan’s backpack, “detailing his desire to shoot up the school, to include murdering students.” Social media accounts showed Ethan practicing with a Sig Sauer handgun identical to the one used in the shooting, Willis told District Court Judge Nancy Carniak.

His new Christmas present. They bought it for him. And then he killed four people and injured seven more all casualties of a grotesque gun culture that inspires people like this. They encouraged their sick kid to become a gun nut and he became a murderer. The same thing happened with the Newtown killer Adam Lanza. What kind of people would think that handing a gun to a disturbed 15 year old kid is a good idea?

This kind of person. Here’s an open letter from the shooter’s mom to Donald Trump back in 2016:

“Mr. Trump, I actually love that you are a bad public speaker because that showed sincerity, and humility,” she wrote. “You changed your mind, and you said ‘so what.’ You made the famous ‘grab them in the pussy’ comment, did it offend me? No. I say things all the time that people take the wrong way, do I mean them, not always. Do I agree that you should of [sic] shown your tax returns? No. I don’t care what you do or maybe don’t pay in taxes, I think those are personal and if the Gov’t can lock someone up over $10,000 of unpaid taxes and you slipped on by, then that shows the corruption.”

Crumbley went on to tell Trump that she hoped he would “really uncover the politicians for what I believe they really are,” and that he might “shut down Big Pharma, make health care affordable for me and my MIDDLE CLASS family again.” She was in favor of Trump’s long-promised border wall, and noted that she was “not racist” because her grandfather “came straight off the boat in Italy.”

“As a female and a Realtor, thank you for allowing my right to bear arms,” the letter continued. “Allowing me to be protected if I show a home to someone with bad intentions. Thank you for respecting that Amendment.”

She complained about parents at other schools where the “kids come from illegal immigrant parents” and “don’t care about learning.”

It was signed, “A hard working Middle Class Law Abiding Citizen who is sick of getting fucked in the ass and would rather be grabbed by the pussy.”

She seems nice. So does her husband who responded to that letter with this:

Arming up for the 2nd civil war

I wonder why he’s doing this now?

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to reestablish a World War II-era civilian military force that he, not the Pentagon, would control.

DeSantis pitched the idea Thursday as a way to further support the Florida National Guard during emergencies, like hurricanes. The Florida National Guard has also played a vital role during the pandemic in administering Covid-19 tests and distributing vaccines.But in a nod to the growing tension between Republican states and the Biden administration over the National Guard, DeSantis also said this unit, called the Florida State Guard, would be “not encumbered by the federal government.”

He said this force would give him “the flexibility and the ability needed to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible.” DeSantis is proposing bringing it back with a volunteer force of 200 civilians, and he is seeking $3.5 million from the state legislature in startup costs to train and equip them.

Other states have state militias, it’s not unprecedented. But DeSantis doing this in the midst of the greatest polarization in our country since the 1850s certainly sends a message to the Trump base. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

The initial jobs reports are BS

Philip Bump of the Washington post explains and one can only wish the rest of the media would listen. Judging by the coverage today, they haven’t heard it yet:

The economic news that came first thing Friday morning was not what President Biden had hoped: the country added only 210,000 jobs in November, well below expectations and below the pace needed to replace the jobs lost since the start of the pandemic. But in 2021, the anodyne qualifier that the numbers are subject to revision is more important than ever. The odds are good that the November total is being underreported — as happened nearly every other month this year.

It happened in the November jobs report, too. Yes, the top-line number of 210,000 jobs wasn’t what economists or Democrats hoped to see. But there were also upward revisions to the September and October jobs numbers, by 67,000 jobs in the former and 15,000 in the latter.

The change to the September number is the second revision. The first increased the initial estimate by 118,000. In other words, the September jobs total was increased by 185,000 since it was initially reported as 194,000 — an initial report that was described as “disappointing.” Since that disappointing report, the estimated number of jobs added in the month has nearly doubled.

That’s happened repeatedly this year. Since 1979, the furthest back that Bureau of Labor Statistics data on revisions goes, the country has never added as many jobs in a year or seen such a large upward revision. The arrows below show the revision from the initial estimate (indicated with a line). Revisions are usually modest. Not this year.

[…]

It is important to remember that this is in part a function of the weirdness of the economy and the scale of the rebound in employment. You probably noticed that the other outliers on the graph of cumulative revisions were 2008 and 2020, years in which employment shifted dramatically because of economic shocks. Biden has benefited from the economy rapidly adding jobs as it recovers from the worst effects of the pandemic; that has both amplified the number of jobs “created” this year and undoubtedly contributed to the need to revise prior estimates. Because so many jobs have been added, the revisions are actually a relatively small percentage of the total. In past years, the revisions have been larger when measured relative to the total jobs numbers.

But this weirdness also serves as a cautionary note for the jobs report released on Friday. In 2021, at least, the initial number of jobs reported might be treated the way Mark Twain treated the weather in New England. If you’re not happy about it, wait a little bit.

Of course, that would require the press to report the revisions with the same intensity that they spread the alleged bad news when it first comes out. I’ve seen no evidence that they have ever done that.

The narrative is that Biden’s economy is is the ditch and at this point no amount of good news is going to derail it. Sadly, I suspect the only thing that would change it would be a big Democratic win in 2022 and this coverage makes that all the more unlikely.

Overturning Roe is just the beginning

The arguments and questioning in this week’s oral argument before the Supreme Court in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health pretty decisively telegraphed that abortion rights in the United States really are on the chopping block. From the looks of it, the best case scenario will be a free-for-all among the states as to how little time they can give women to decide to have an abortion, and the worst case will be the full overturning of Roe vs Wade. If it is the latter, 17 states that already have laws on the books making abortion totally illegal and will be able to immediately enforce them. All other states run by Republicans will almost certainly follow.

The six conservative justices, three of whom were installed through the Machiavellian manipulations of the self-described Grim Reaper, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, didn’t even attempt to hide the fact that their solemn insistence during their confirmation hearings that they considered Roe to be settled law was the joke we all knew it to be when they said it. They were downright smug about their deception.

The two newest justices, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, seemed especially pleased with themselves, with Kavanaugh fatuously claiming that overturning a constitutional right that’s been in effect for half a century was actually an act of neutrality by the court. Barrett, meanwhile, piously insisted that women forced to endure pregnancy will lose little since they can easily give their children up for adoption these days. I’m sure it was all they could do to refrain from high-fiving each other on the bench. This dark day has been a long time coming.

There had been quite a bit of talk prior to the oral arguments that Chief Justice John Roberts was terribly concerned about the Court’s legitimacy and that recent speeches by Justices Samuel Alito, Barrett and Stephen Breyer indicated some concern about their reputation and possible threats to the institution. Please. The conservatives on the court could not care less about their legitimacy, at least as defined by the general public, and we have known this since at least 2000 when they boldly intervened in the contested presidential election. At the time, the conservatives on the court (two of whom were appointed by the father of the GOP candidate) ruled on a partisan basis to hand George W. Bush the election. They are dancing with those who gave them their lifetime appointments and they have done so for at least the last 20 years.

But just in case any of them might lose their nerve, conservative activists are making it clear that the justices better stiffen their spines.

Last week, the Washington Post published an op-ed by former Attorney General Ed Meese in which he told the six conservative justices that the success or failure of the conservative legal movement of the past four decades rests on the Supreme Court conservatives’ willingness to overturn this precedent:

Roe has stood for years as the prime example of disrespect to our Constitution’s allocation of power and the proper judicial role. It has been the focus of criticism from judges and legal scholars including Robert H. Bork, Alexander Bickel, William H. Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia. And for good reason. To them and the legal movement they inspired, Roe‘s judicial supremacy misconceived the Constitution, ignored the lessons of history and encouraged unaccountable government…

There is a separate “law of abortion,” as Roe‘s author, Justice Harry A. Blackmun, put it, that distorts or ignores ordinary legal rules so to preserve constitutionalized abortion. With that, many other areas of law — from free speech, religious liberty, voting laws, to mundane matters of civil procedure — have been turned into proxy wars over abortion, because Roe and Casey prevent the court from honestly confronting their lacking basis in the Constitution. In short, constitutionalized abortion epitomizes judicial supremacy because it rests on nothing else.

The fact that it saved the lives and futures of millions of people is simply irrelevant. It always has been.

Meese admits in his piece that the greatest disappointment of Ronald Reagan’s presidency was the right’s inability to overturn Roe v. Wade. But it was 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey that really galvanized the conservative legal movement and precipitated the strategy to pack the Supreme Court with right-wing radicals. Conservatives had thought they had it made with eight justices appointed by Republican presidents and one appointed by a Democrat who had dissented in Roe v. Wade. Instead, the court majority found a way to uphold the precedent and conservatives have never gotten over the betrayal.

So even after the very promising oral arguments this week, the right is keeping the pressure on — and in the process revealing just how blatantly political this all really is:

Those comments are actually hilariously hypocritical in light of their shrieking opposition to expanding the court or instituting term limits. But they are nothing if not shameless.

Abortion has long been a political bonanza for conservative politics and they are not going to want to give it up. If Roe is overturned there will immediately be a push to ban abortion nationally through some sort of “fetal personhood” doctrine and there will be attempts to cripple scientific advances by banning stem cell research, eliminating access to abortion medications and certain forms of birth control. Any states that might have exceptions for rape and incest will be challenged, restrictions on travel and laws against crossing state lines to obtain an abortion will be enacted. And at some point, they will have to consider punishment for women who obtain illegal abortions because that’s where this inevitably leads. (Even Donald Trump instinctively understood that before they instructed him how to lie about it for general consumption.) The right has been organized around this issue for 40 years. If Roe is overturned, they will have to keep upping the ante to keep those grassroots activists engaged.

And if they can overturn a constitutional right that’s been in place for 50 years, don’t kid yourself; they’re coming for marriage equality next. Ed Meese signaled that intention in his op-ed:

Dissenting in the same-sex marriage caseObergefell v. Hodges, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., presciently warned about the consequences of imagining that the Constitution contains a right simply because some consider it desirable.

“A lesson that some will take from today’s decision is that preaching about the proper method of interpreting the Constitution or the virtues of judicial self-restraint and humility cannot compete with the temptation to achieve what is viewed as a noble end by any practicable means,” he wrote, joined by Justices Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

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The idea that this group of hardcore judicial activists who are, as we speak, considering overturning gun safety laws throughout the country based upon a constitutional right to bear arms that was only decided in 2008, portray themselves to be neutral arbiters and practitioners of judicial self-restraint is insane. But here we are. The judicial revolution these people are preparing to wage is going to turn this country inside out.  

Salon

Back to the future on abortion

This story is from a couple of years ago:

People knew of Geraldine “Gerri” Santoro’s cause of death—an air embolism caused by a back-alley abortion—before they ever knew her name.

On June 8, 1964, the 28-year-old married woman and her lover, Clyde Dixon, checked into Connecticut’s now-closed Norwich Motel with no vacation suitcases or change of clothes for an overnight stay. Instead, she brought a catheter and a textbook. Santoro, six and a half months pregnant, was prepared to let Dixon perform her illegal abortion—that is, until she started hemorrhaging during the process and Dixon panicked, abandoning Santoro to bleed to death on the motel floor.

It wasn’t until the next day that a maid discovered Santoro’s naked body—her torso collapsed over her kneeling legs, with only blood-soaked sheets between her and the carpet.

Santoro’s body was photographed for crime scene documentation at the time; in April 1973, nine years after her death and just half a year after the passing of Roe v. WadeMs. magazine published the photo of Santoro. At the time, the body was anonymous to them.

“Never Again” was the headline that ran with the story and image, which quickly became an iconic symbol of the pro-choice movement. After the passing of Roe v. Wade, the editors at Ms. thought the struggle was finally over.

“At that point, we naively believed that would be the end of the story, and that never again would women be lying on the floor in their own blood in a hotel room because of a botched abortion,” says Suzanne Braun Levine, who served as Ms.‘s first editor from its founding in 1972 to 1988. “That once the Supreme Court had made that ruling, safe abortions would be available to everyone, everywhere.”

On the other end of the phone, Levine laughs.

Now tell me this circumstance isn’t going to happen again when these misogynist monsters overturn Roe:

Born on August 16, 1935, Gerri Twerdy grew up with ten brothers and four sisters in an old farmhouse in rural, South Coventry, Connecticut. In the 1995 documentary Leona’s Sister Gerri, her family and friends recall memories of her: She climbed trees to avoid the chores she disliked, she and her best friend would sneak out of school to change out of their dress code-mandated dresses and into their jeans when playing hooky, and she always smelled like Juicy Fruit gum.

But when she was just 18 years old, in a rush to get hitched before her best friend, Gerri decided to marry a man she had met four weeks prior at a bus stop. His name was Sam Santoro, and he would go on to father two daughters with Gerri—all of whom would become victims of his physical abuse. So when she met 43-year-old Clyde Dixon, a fellow employee at the Mansfield Training School who ostensibly cared for her, she took him as her lover when Sam was living and working in California. But when Gerri found herself pregnant and Sam, unknowing of everything and with an imminent return to Connecticut to visit Gerri and their daughters, she feared for her safety.

So Gerri, or “Margaret Reynolds” according to the motel ledger, checked in to the motel room with Dixon, only to die alone after Dixon had attempted and failed to abort the fetus with a catheter.

There is nothing in that situation that couldn’t happen today. The only difference is that today, in most places, Gerri Santoro could get a legal abortion and would not have to bleed to death in some sleazy motel.

Lest you think that women like Gerri will be able to obtain medical abortion these days and won’t have to resort to such methods, think again. The states that are outlawing abortion are also outlawing medical abortion and using it or helping someone else use it can result in jail time.

Example:

A new law limiting the use of abortion-inducing medication in Texas goes into effect Thursday.

The law makes it a felony to provide the medication after seven weeks of pregnancy, putting Texas at odds with federal regulations. It also makes it a crime to send the medication through the mail.

Medical abortion is the most common way women in Texas terminate their pregnancies, according to state data.

These new restrictions reflect a growing concern among abortion opponents about the rise of “self-managed” abortions, in which pregnant people obtain the medications from out-of-state or international providers, with or without a prescription.

There’s evidence that more women turn to self-managed abortions when legal abortion is restricted. Texans have been unable to access abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy since Sept. 1, when a controversial new ban went into effect.

“Texas is looking at the ways that people are navigating around restrictions and trying to essentially make that as unsafe and as frightening for people as possible in order to deter them,” said Farah Diaz-Tello, senior legal counsel for If/When/How, a reproductive justice legal group.

They know that this is what will happen instead and they are fine with that: