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A Fair, Thorough Assessment of Whitewater’s Schools and the Pandemic Awaits (at the End of the School Year)

The pandemic, having gripped Wisconsin beginning late last winter, seems likely to last well into the coming spring. There have been numerous district meetings, declarations, assessments, positions, and revisions of policy over the last several months; there are likely to be more before next June.

Through it all, one sound truth: it is not on any of these (often shifting) statements – or on any temporary closures – that one should base an assessment of the district’s management of the pandemic.

See September Arrives: Consequences Will Settle Claims (‘A reminder that, for a thousand discussions, predictions, warnings, or assurances — what has been predicted about the pandemic & economy will prove true or false as against daily events and their consequences.’) and Whitewater School Board Meeting, 9.23.20: 5 Points (‘Once the novel coronavirus became widespread in communities across America, specific predictions about particular institutions’ ability to carry on were destined to be unreliable. The level of overconfidence about particular outcomes was always ridiculously unsound’).

Patience in an assessment is an affirmation of responsibility: that one weighs the fullest amount of evidence against the many claims & contentions made along the way.

The story, so to speak, yet waits to be told.

Daily Bread for 11.20.20

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of fifty-four.  Sunrise is 6:54 AM and sunset 4:26 PM, for 9h 32m 14s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 33.3% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is both the one thousand four hundred seventy-third day and the fourteenth day. 

On this day in 1945, trials against 24 Nazi war criminals start at the Palace of Justice at Nuremberg.

Recommended for reading in full — 

 David E. Sanger writes Trump’s Attempts to Overturn the Election Are Unparalleled in U.S. History:

Mr. Trump has said little in public apart from tweets endorsing wild conspiracy theories about how he was denied victory. Yet his strategy, if it can be called that, has become clear over two days of increasingly frenetic action by a president 62 days from losing power.

In just that time, Mr. Trump has fired the federal election officialwho has challenged his false claims of fraud, tried to halt the vote-certification process in Detroit to disenfranchise an overwhelmingly Black electorate that voted against him, and now is misusing the powers of his office in his effort to take Michigan’s 16 electoral votes away from Mr. Biden.

In many ways it is even more of an attempted power grab than the one in 1876. At the time, Hayes was governor of Ohio, not president of the United States. Ulysses S. Grant was, and when Hayes won — also by wrenching the vote around in three states — he became known as “His Fraudulency.”

“But this is far worse,” said Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian and author of “Presidents of War.” “In the case of Hayes, both sides agreed that the outcome in at least three states was in dispute. In this case, no serious person thinks enough votes are in dispute that Donald Trump could have been elected on Election Day.”

David A. Fahrenthold, Beth Reinhard, Elise Viebeck, and Emma Brown report Trump’s escalating attacks put pressure on vote certification process:

On Thursday, legal experts said Trump’s pressure campaign was unlikely to actually change the electoral college’s vote. But, they said, the fact that Trump was trying it posed a historic level of danger for American democracy — by raising the prospect that a presidential election could be stolen from the inside.

“We have never had anything comparable in the history of the country to the level of interference with democracy that the Trump people are asking these legislatures to do,” said Paul M. Smith, vice president for litigation and strategy with the Campaign Legal Center. “With the political pressure on the legislatures, that really is a scary thing.”

Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich), who represents a district outside of Detroit, said that although Trump’s threats may not have legal standing, they should be taken seriously.

“My personal view of this is, yes, it’s pathetic, yes it’s ridiculous,” Levin said. “However if you look at history, authoritarian and totalitarian regimes are born often when there’s some exit ramp out of democracy. And I’m sure a lot of the people involved at those times said, ‘Oh whatever, obviously they’re so completely breaking the rules that they’ll be stopped.’ But they aren’t.”

He said that a range of Michigan’s top elected officials have been meeting constantly to talk about the issue.

“We are not going to let Donald Trump hijack Michigan’s democratic structures,” he said.

Trump’s effort to pressure GOP officials amounts to a kind of Plan C for his reelection effort. After losing at the ballot box, Trump and his allies sought to overturn the election results in court — but lost, repeatedly, because they could not supply proof for their allegations of widespread voter fraud.

 How NASA Tests New Spacesuits:

Trump’s Illicit Attempts Remain Illicit

A man may unsuccessfully attempt a robbery or murder, yet one would rightly see him as a wrongdoer. The failure to achieve an evil end does not absolve those so attempting from moral culpability. See Attempts.

So it is with Trump, now: his attempts to subvert the election through lies and (baseless) lawsuits are no less wrong for their ineptitude. Trump tried and failed at worse – through force against civilians – at Lafayette Square and Portland. Perhaps, in desperation, Trump may yet again order force against civilians.

For now, he maneuvers with mendacity, advancing unworthy claims against the constitutional order:

Giuliani has also told Trump and associates that his ambition is to pressure GOP lawmakers and officials across the political map to stall the vote certification in an effort to have Republican lawmakers pick electors and disrupt the electoral college when it convenes next month — and Trump is encouraging of that plan, according to two senior Republicans who have conferred with Giuliani and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter candidly.

Trump is what those of us in opposition have said he was. One might have hoped for better conduct; if so, it was always a faint hope.

It’s tempting for some to believe that the worst is now behind us. Temptations like that are easily ignored: the worst will be behind us when we put it behind us, not when we wish it to be behind us.

Continue reading

Daily Bread for 11.19.20

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of sixty-four.  Sunrise is 6:53 AM and sunset 4:27 PM, for 9h 34m 10s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 23.4% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is both the one thousand four hundred seventy-second day and the thirteenth day. 

 Whitewater’s Community Involvement & Cable TV Commission meets via audiovisual conferencing at 5:00 PM, and the Community Development Authority via audiovisual conferencing at 5:30 PM.

On this day in 1863, President Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address at the dedication ceremony for the military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Arom Rostom reports U.S. investigators were told to take ‘no further action’ on Caterpillar, ex-client of Barr:

Before William Barr became President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the U.S. Department of Justice, he represented Caterpillar Inc, a Fortune 100 company, in a federal criminal investigation by the department.

Much was at stake for Caterpillar: Since 2018, the Internal Revenue Service has been demanding $2.3 billion in payments from the company in connection with the tax matters under criminal investigation. The company is contesting that finding.

A week after Barr was nominated for the job of attorney general, Justice officials in Washington told the investigative team in the active criminal probe of Caterpillar to take “no further action” in the case, according to an email written by one of the agents and reviewed by Reuters.

The decision, the email said, came from the Justice Department’s Tax Division and the office of the deputy attorney general, who was then Rod Rosenstein.

“I was instructed on December 13, 2018,” wrote the agent, Jason LeBeau, “that the Tax Division and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General jointly came to the decision that no further action was to be taken on the matter until further notice.” LeBeau, an inspector general agent at the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, declined interview requests from Reuters.

Since then, a source close to the case says, the investigation has “stalled.” The order to freeze the Caterpillar investigation has not been previously reported.

Christopher Pulliam, Richard V. Reeves, and Ariel Gelrud Shiro write The middle class is already racially diverse:

There are myriad definitions of the middle class based on cash, credentials, or culture. Even if we focus just on income, there are at least a dozen definitions. In the work of the Future of the Middle Class Initiative, we define the middle class as the middle 60 percent of the income distribution.

For the analysis here, we further restrict our definition to individuals aged 25-54, what economists often call “prime age.” We do this as a crude control for dynamics around age and income – specifically as these dynamics differ between racial groups.[1]

AMERICAN MIDDLE CLASS IS NOW FAR MORE DIVERSE 

Below we show the racial composition of the middle class in 1979 compared to 2019Information on race is somewhat limited in earlier years of the Current Population Survey. For example, “Asian or Pacific Islander” was not an option until 1988In order to compare trends over time, then, we are restricted to the categorization of earlier survey years. 

Four decades ago, the vast majority of the middle class was white. In 1979, the middle class was 84 percent white, nine percent Black, five percent Hispanic, and two percent “other.” Over time, the middle class has become much more raceplural. In 2019, the middle class was 59 percent white, 12 percent Black, 18 percent Hispanic, and ten percent “other.” 

Japanese town deploys robot wolves to ward off bear attacks:

See Robotic ‘Monster Wolf’ Protects Japanese Town From Bears (‘No bear interactions have been recorded in the town since the robots’ installation in September’).… Continue reading

Frontline: A Nation in Turmoil (Full Film)

Filmed across the country this past year by a production team headed by Mike Shum and Blair Woodbury, “American Voices: A Nation in Turmoil” captures the diverse perspectives of a number of people — a pastor, a barber, a doctor, an activist and more — as they deal with COVID-19 in their communities, respond to George Floyd’s killing, and experience the 2020 election and its aftermath as COVID cases and deaths mount once again.

Daily Bread for 11.18.20

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of forty-six.  Sunrise is 6:52 AM and sunset 4:28 PM, for 9h 36m 08s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 14.5% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is both the one thousand four hundred seventy-first day and the twelfth day. 

 Whitewater’s Parks and Recreation Board meets via audiovisual conferencing at 5:30 PM.

On this day in 1928, the animated short Steamboat Willie premieres as the first fully synchronized sound cartoon, directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, featuring the third appearances of cartoon characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Ellen Nakashima and Nick Miroff report Trump fires top DHS official who refuted his claims that the election was rigged:

President Trump on Tuesday fired a top Department of Homeland Security official who led the agency’s efforts to help secure the election and was vocal about tamping down unfounded claims of ballot fraud.

In a tweet, Trump fired Christopher Krebs, who headed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at DHS and led successful efforts to help state and local election offices protect their systems and to rebut misinformation.

Earlier Tuesday, Krebs in a tweet refuted allegations that election systems were manipulated, saying that “59 election security experts all agree, ‘in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.’

Krebs’s statement amounted to a debunking of Trump’s central claim that the November election was stolen.
….

Krebs’s dismissal was not unexpected, as he told associates last week that he was expecting to be fired. His latest tweet about the security of the election, which followed similar earlier assessments by his agency, including on its Rumor Control Web page, angered the president, according to an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

In recent weeks Trump has made repeated, unproved charges of voter and ballot fraud, and his campaign is challenging election results in several states — so far with little success.

Krebs’s agency has asserted its independence in recent days, on Thursday issuing a statement thatcontradicted Trump’s allegations of fraud.

Sam Levine reports Pennsylvania court deals blow to Trump campaign’s bid to overturn Biden win:

Philadelphia election officials did not improperly block Donald Trump’s campaign from observing the counting of mail-in ballots, the Pennsylvania supreme court ruled on Tuesday, a major blow to the president’s alreadyflailing legal efforts.

The decision is significant because one of the Trump campaign’s loudest claims since the election has been that they were improperly blocked from observing the counting of ballots in Philadelphia.

….

Even the two Republican justices who dissented from the majority opinion disagreed with the idea, advanced by the Trump campaign, that legitimate votes should be rejected because of improper observation practices.

“Short of demonstrated fraud, the notion that presumptively valid ballots cast by the Pennsylvania electorate would be disregarded based on isolated procedural irregularities that have been redressed – thus disenfranchising potentially thousands of voters – is misguided,” wrote chief justice Thomas Saylor in his dissenting opinion.

“Accordingly, to the degree that there is a concern with protecting or legitimizing the will of the Philadelphians who cast their votes while candidate representatives were unnecessarily restrained at the convention center, I fail to see that there is any real issue.”

Dachshund and turtle playing soccer:

The Economic Gap Between Biden and Trump Counties

While Biden has won an absolute majority of the popular vote, he’s also won that majority from counties significantly more productive than the counties Trump won. A stark difference between counties that went for Biden and those that went for Trump is the significantly higher share of gross domestic product in Biden-supporting counties. (The gap is even greater than it was four years ago between Trump and Clinton counties.) Mark Muro, Eli Byerly Duke, Yang You, and Robert Maxim write Biden-voting counties equal 70% of America’s economy. What does this mean for the nation’s political-economic divide?

They explain:

Even with a new president and political party soon in charge of the White House, the nation’s economic standoff continues. Notwithstanding President-elect Joe Biden’s solid popular vote victory, last week’s election failed to deliver the kind of transformative reorientation of the nation’s political-economic map that Democrats (and some Republicans) had hoped for. The data confirms that the election sharpened the striking geographic divide between red and blue America, instead of dispelling it.

Most notably, the stark economic rift that Brookings Metro documented after Donald Trump’s shocking 2016 victory has grown even wider. In 2016, we wrote that the 2,584 counties that Trump won generated just 36% of the country’s economic output, whereas the 472 counties Hillary Clinton carried equated to almost two-thirds of the nation’s aggregate economy.

A similar analysis for last week’s election shows these trends continuing, albeit with a different political outcome. This time, Biden’s winning base in 477 counties encompasses fully 70% of America’s economic activity, while Trump’s losing base of 2,497 counties represents just 29% of the economy. (Votes are still outstanding in 110 mostly low-output counties, and this piece will be updated as new data is reported.)

There’s a self-serving – but false – notion among Trump supporters that they’re more productive than others. The opposite is true: the aggregate annual production of Biden-supporting counties is significantly higher by proportion (even beyond Biden’s popular vote majority).

It’s next-to-impossible that there’s a single explanation for this gap, but whatever the causes it’s more pronounced now than when Trump was first elected.

Trumpism may outlast Trump, but it has been – and shows every sign of remaining – an ideology that is stronger among local economies that are the weaker.

Daily Bread for 11.17.20

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of thirty-eight.  Sunrise is 6:51 AM and sunset 4:29 PM, for 9h 38m 08s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 7.3% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is both the one thousand four hundred seventieth day and the eleventh day. 

 The Whitewater Common Council meets via audiovisual conferencing at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1989, the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia begins when riot police quell a student demonstration in Prague, leading to an uprising aimed at overthrowing the communist government (that succeeds on December 29).

Recommended for reading in full — 

Katherine Faulders, Anne Flaherty, and Benjamin Siegel report GSA official blocking Biden’s transition appears to privately plan post-Trump career:

Emily Murphy, head of the GSA, recently sent that message to an associate inquiring about employment opportunities in 2021, a move that some in Washington interpreted as at least tacitly acknowledging that the current administration soon will be gone.

Murphy has the power to decide — or “ascertain” — when election results are evident enough to trigger a transition of power, allowing the winning team access to career staff at federal agencies and internal government information including national security matters and plans for administering a COVID-19 vaccine.

Donald Trump appointed Murphy in 2017, and she’s so far refused to certify Biden as the election’s winner as Trump attempts to overturn the election result in court.

A White House spokesperson referred ABC News to the GSA when reached for comment.

A GSA spokesperson denied the account that Murphy was actively looking for a job, but noted that it wouldn’t be unusual for someone in government, especially a political appointee, to consider future opportunities.

Adam Satariano interviews A former right-wing media creator on how a ‘different reality’ became so prominent:

Matthew Sheffield started his first conservative website in 2000, dedicating it to criticizing the former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, who Mr. Sheffield believed was a partisan liberal and not critical enough of President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Mr. Sheffield then went on to help create NewsBusters, another right-leaning website that criticized the mainstream media for liberal bias. Later, he became the founding online managing editor of the Washington Examiner, another popular outlet for conservative views.

“I basically built the infrastructure for a lot of conservative online people and personally taught a lot of them what they know,” he said.

But Mr. Sheffield, who is 42 and lives in the Los Angeles area, grew disillusioned in recent years. He said facts were treated as an acceptable casualty in the broader political war. “The end justifies the means,” said Mr. Sheffield, who hosts a politics and technology podcast called Theory of Change and is writing a memoir about growing up in a strict Mormon family. He now blames right-wing media for undermining faith in American democracy by spreading unsubstantiated claims by President Trump and others that the election was rigged. Through websites and platforms like Facebook and YouTube, Mr. Sheffield said, right-wing media has created an environment in which a large portion of the population believes in a “different reality.”

….

Would this be possible without Facebook and social media platforms?

Facebook is the primary protector and enabler of the far right in the United States, without question. The company has sheltered and promoted this content for years. Mark Zuckerberg even now says that Steve Bannon calling for beheadings is not justification to ban him. Zuckerberg was also fine with tolerating Holocaust denial until he was called out for it.

 ‘Baby Yoda’ in space with SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts:

Daily Bread for 11.16.20

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of forty-three.  Sunrise is 6:49 AM and sunset 4:29 PM, for 9h 40m 11s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 2.5% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is both the one thousand four hundred sixty-ninth day and the tenth day. 

Whitewater’s Urban Forestry Commission meets via audiovisual conferencing at 4:30 PM, and the Library Board via audiovisual conferencing at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1990, Pop group Milli Vanilli are stripped of their Grammy Award because the duo did not sing at all on the Girl You Know It’s True album.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Ishaan Tharoor reports Europe is ready for Biden to get started:

President Trump and his supporters don’t seem to think it’s over. Over the weekend, thousands marched in Washington protesting the election result. On Twitter, Trump vowed to not concede and repeated baseless and false claims of widespread voter fraud. On Sunday network shows, analysts puzzled over whether Trump’s defiance ought to be read as a corrosive threat to American democracy or one last farce in the waning twilight of his presidency.

But across the Atlantic, societies and governments seem eager to turn the page. A recent Morning Consult poll found that news of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory almost immediately boosted the U.S.’s net favorability by more than 20 points in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

During a parliamentary session last week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson referred to Trump as the “previous president.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Biden’s election and hoped he would reinvigorate transatlantic ties. The United States and the European Union “must stand together in order to face the great challenges of our time,” Merkel said.

Those challenges include climate change. Biden is expected to return the United States to the Paris climate pact upon his January inauguration. French President Emmanuel Macron said a Biden presidency presented a new chance to “make our planet great again.”

Susan Hennessey writes How Did a Trump Loyalist Come to Be Named NSA General Counsel—And What Should Biden Do About It?:

Earlier this week, the Washington Post broke the story that Michael Ellis—a former staffer for Rep. Devin Nunes and current National Security Council (NSC) official—has been selected as general counsel of the National Security Agency. This set off alarm bells among commentators and those familiar with the agency, in part because it comes in the same week in which Trump summarily fired the top civilian leadership of the Department of Defense and installed loyalists and cronies in their places.

The circumstances of Ellis’s selection, however, point to something different—and in some respects worse—than the developments at the Pentagon. The firings at the Defense Department involve political appointees, nearly all of whom will be gone as of Jan. 20. By contrast, selecting Ellis as NSA general counsel appears to be an attempt to improperly politicize an important career position. Relatedly, it appears to be an effort to “burrow,” or improperly convert a political appointee into a career position. And to make matters worse, the ample public record suggests that Ellis is particularly ill-suited to discharge the essential functions of the office.

While important details remain unclear, media accounts include numerous indications of irregularity in the process by which Ellis was selected for the job, including interference by the White House. At a minimum, the evidence of possible violations of civil service rules demand immediate investigation by Congress and the inspectors general of the Department of Defense and NSA.

 SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts in space – Booster landing, Dragon separation:

NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi are in space after their Falcon 9 launch on Nov. 15, 2020.

Daily Bread for 11.15.20

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be cloudy & windy with a high of thirty-seven.  Sunrise is 6:48 AM and sunset 4:30 PM, for 9h 42m 17s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 0.2% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is both the one thousand four hundred sixty-eighth day and the ninth day. 

On this day in 1887, Georgia O’Keeffe is born in Sun Prairie.

Recommended for reading in full — 

David J. Lynch writes Raging virus triggers new shutdown orders and economy braces for fresh wave of pain (‘Containing raging disease is key to healing the economy’):

“We see stronger growth in 2021. But we need a bridge to get there,” said economist Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics. “The outlook is honestly quite dark.”

The backsliding comes after a stronger-than-expected rebound from this spring’s abrupt recession. Slightly more than half of the 22 million Americans who lost their jobs when nonessential businesses closed have returned to work, and the current 6.9 percent unemployment rate is well below the double-digit figures that most Wall Street economists originally had forecast. Output expanded in the third quarter at a record rate.

Yet with more than 11 million still jobless, the United States is in danger of squandering the hard-won progress it has made in rebuilding the economy. On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the rampaging virus represented “an emergency of the highest magnitude.” But she and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have held no talks on a new rescue package.

In El Paso, local officials have deployed 10 mobile morgue trailers to handle a backlog of corpses. The county’s top elected official this week extended a shutdown of nonessential businesses until Dec. 1, ordering residents to stay home and avoid travel.

The pandemic has driven roughly 300 companies out of business in the border community, according to David Jerome, the president of the local chamber of commerce. An additional 300 companies — restaurants, hair salons and retail shops — have only enough cash on hand to survive for less than a month.

“We’re hitting a bit of a tipping point,” Jerome said. “People are getting to the point where they’re pretty stretched. People are vulnerable.”

Eight months into a historic crisis, the United States appears to be suspended in a sort of economic purgatory. The labor market is slowly healing, with initial unemployment claims falling for four straight weeks. But the virus outlook is grim and getting grimmer.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs reports Biden Faces Early Test With Immigration and Homeland Security After Trump:

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has said that one of his first priorities will be rolling back his predecessor’s restrictive immigration policies. To do it, he may have to overhaul the Department of Homeland Security, which has been bent to President Trump’s will over the past four years.

The department, created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has helped enforce some of Mr. Trump’s most divisive policies, like separating families at the border, banning travel from Muslim-majority countries and building his border wall. When the president tried to reframe his campaign around law and order this year, homeland security leaders rallied to the cause, deploying tactical officers to protect statues and confront protesters.

After agents were videotaped hauling demonstrators off the streets of Portland, Ore., into unmarked vans, department critics called for systemic changes to the agency, or even its dismantlement. But the incoming administration is intent on keeping the department intact.

Still, change is coming.

Interviews with 16 current and former homeland security officials and advisers involved with Mr. Biden’s transition, and a review of his platform, suggest an agenda that aims to incorporate climate change in department policy, fill vacant posts and bolster responsibilities that Mr. Trump neglected, including disaster response and cybersecurity.

 Digital Car Windows Could Make Your City Safer:

Daily Bread for 11.14.20

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will see light afternoon showers with a high of forty-nine.  Sunrise is 6:47 AM and sunset 4:31 PM, for 9h 44m 25s of daytime.  The moon is new with 0.6% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is both the one thousand four hundred sixty-seventh day and the eighth day. 

On this day in 1851, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick is published in America.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Philip Bump writes This is what the pandemic is doing to the country:

On Wednesday, 31 states were at the highest seven-day averages of new coronavirus cases they had seen since the pandemic erupted this year. Twenty-two states were reporting more hospitalizations than at any previous point. Ten states saw their highest seven-day averages of deaths from covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

We are in the middle of the third coronavirus surge the country has seen over 2020. The first ended in early April after the number of new cases confirmed each day reached 31,000. The second began in early June, just as Vice President Pence was writing that the country was not undergoing a second wave of infections. By July 22, the country was seeing 67,000 new cases a day before the surge receded.

The current surge, the third, began Sept. 12. It is ongoing, with the country exceeding 127,000 new cases Wednesday — as many cases that day as were added in total from the beginning of the pandemic through March 28.

….

The White House has repeatedly touted the fact that a smaller percentage of those who contract the virus are dying than earlier in the pandemic, which is true. It is also true both that the ratio of new cases to deaths has been fairly steady since early July and that the current surge in cases threatens to fill hospitals with coronavirus patients, reducing hospital capacity for any type of patient, covid-19-related or not. The point of “flattening the curve” this year wasn’t just to limit the spread of the virus; it was to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed. In some states, they already are.

Dhruv Khullar writes The Pandemic’s Winter Surge Is Here:

Almost every flu pandemic since the eighteenth century has come with a second wave; the fall of 1918 was far deadlier than the spring. Today, as the Northern Hemisphere steps deeper into autumn and more activity moves indoors, the spread of the coronavirus is, predictably, accelerating. America is again following Europe’s lead. In the last week of October, the U.S. recorded more new coronavirus cases than it has at any point during the pandemic; there have been days in November on which more than a hundred and thirty thousand people have been found to be newly infected. A few states—Wisconsin, North Dakota, Iowa—have among the highest per-capita infection rates in the world. The new surge has no epicenter. Infection records are being set in more than half of U.S. counties, and large swaths of the Midwest and mountain West are struggling with skyrocketing hospitalizations. On many days, more than a thousand Americans are now dying of covid-19—a number that is certain to rise, since deaths lag behind infections by several weeks.

The mortality rate for the virus has fallen substantially since the start of the pandemic, probably because of improvements in care and a shift in viral demographics: many of the newly infected are young. But a lower death rate combined with a vast rise in infections will still create profound suffering. One model predicts that, by the end of the year, two thousand Americans could be dying from covid-19 each day. The American death toll could reach four hundred thousand by January.

 The Ganges Chasma of Mars in stunning spacecraft imagery: