The K-Pop stars are using their platform to contribute to a broader conversation on the discrimination that breeds hate crimes.
K-Pop sensation BTS have added their voices to the concern around a recent spike in anti-Asian hate crimes in the US and elsewhere.
On Tuesday the band — who, along with their management company, donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter last summer — took to Twitter with the hashtags #StopAsianHate and #StopAAPIHate, sharing a message of unity and anti-discrimination, expressing "grief and anger" over violence and lives lost, and recounting some of their own experiences of anti-Asian racism.
The message refers to times when the group behind hit songs like "Dynamite" and "Black Swan" had "endured expletives without reason," "were mocked for the way [they] look," and "were even asked why Asians spoke in English." They expressed the harm that these experiences had done on a personal level — making them feel powerless — but acknowledged that they were "inconsequential compared to the events that have occurred over the past few weeks."
But of course, the past few weeks have only brought to light a trend that has been building since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Since that time, the fact that the virus originated in China has given bigots an excuse to target individuals as representatives of entire racial groups, and the incidents of hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have more than doubled in major American cities.
In an atmosphere reminiscent of the World War II era — when tens of thousands of Japanese Americans were treated as potential spies and forced into inhumane internment camps — American politicians have encouraged conspiratorial and xenophobic framing of the current crisis. Former president Donald Trump has been particularly guilty of this scapegoating, regularly referring to COVID-19 as "the China virus," and — on at least one occasion — as "Kung flu," openly and proudly conflating the deadly pandemic with unrelated aspects of Chinese culture.
In their effort to deflect their constituents' anger and resentment over economic and social conditions brought on by their mismanagement of the pandemic, they have highlighted false associations of the virus with people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent — despite the fact that far more white people have caught and spread the virus at this point. And they have lent credence to unfounded theories that the Chinese government created or intentionally spread the disease.
As a result, thousands have reported being directly affected by incidents of anti-Asian harassment and assault — with many likely going unreported -- and millions more have been living with the fear that they will be targeted next.
While this worrying trend had received some coverage previously — with particular attention to incidents of violence against the elderly — it didn't become major national news until March 16th of this year. That afternoon, a 21-year-old gunman in Atlanta targeted massage parlors staffed primarily by Asian employees, killing eight people — including six Asian women — at three spas, in a deadly spree which he reportedly blamed on "sexual addiction."
Yong Ae Yue Suncha Kim Soon Chung Park Hyun Jung Grant (maiden name Kim) Daoyou Feng Xiaojie Tan Delaina Ashley Yau… https://t.co/c8CpXaxMvT— Eugene Lee Yang (@Eugene Lee Yang)1616179564.0
Despite Georgia officials' reluctance to label the murders as a hate crime — with one police spokesperson being removed from the case after telling press that the shooter had "had a really bad day" — it clearly folds into the ongoing trend and has stoked pushback and protests against anti-Asian hate. But it also points to the fact that the current trend is part of an existing history of racism and hate.
The shooter's sense that Asian women working in massage parlors are necessarily sex workers and that this was more of a "temptation" that he wanted to eliminate than, for instance, the strip club across from one of the spas he attacked, tie into longstanding issues of race, immigration, and fetishization.
Whether or not he invested in the xenophobic framing that all Asian people are somehow to blame for the spread of the coronavirus, he was playing into a notion of Asian women as sex workers that dates back to the 1800s and the first federal immigration law.
Responding to "Yellow Peril" panic, the Page Act of 1875 imposed special restrictions on women trying to immigrate from East Asia, with the belief — as expressed by President Ulysses S. Grant — that "few [Asian women] are brought to our shores to pursue honorable or useful occupations." In case that wasn't clear enough, the law required Asian women intending to immigrate to answer a series of questions about sex work and undergo a medical examination to determine their "character."
Today, despite the fact that there is no evidence any of the women who were killed were sex workers, much of the media has carried on this history — covering the shooter's supposed motives with a credulous narrative of a sex addict killing sex workers. Clearly a broader conversation about anti-Asian racism is necessary.
We Need To Talk About Anti-Asian Hate www.youtube.com
So, while it's true that BTS members have not experienced the most dramatic, violent consequences of that racism, it's vitally important that they're using their popularity and their platform — with around 34 million followers on Twitter — to keep the conversation going and call out all forms of discrimination.
Because as long as our culture makes room for depictions of Asian people as disease vectors, fetish objects, hyper-foreign curiosities, or model minorities to be used as a cudgel against other marginalized groups — as anything less than complex individuals trying to live their lives — there will be room for anti-Asian racism, hate, and violence.
This week, Larry King was hospitalized with COVID-19. Back in May, he argued with Dave Rubin about the necessity of lockdowns.
Update 1/23/2021: It was announced on Saturday that the 87-year-old broadcasting legend died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. No cause of death was given, but the timeline strongly suggests that COVID-19 was a contributing factor.
So sad to hear about the passing of my friend, my mentor and my bonus grandfather. There’s only one true King of in… https://t.co/uiCKljy8Pz— Dave Rubin (@Dave Rubin)1611417207.0
In response, Dave Rubin tweeted what would seem to be a heartfelt memorial to his "mentor" and "bonus grandfather," if not for the fact that Dave Rubin pushed for the lax policies that likely led to Larry King being exposed to COVID-19 in the first place. As such, we can only recall Larry's words: "David, that sounds ridiculous."
Update 1/5/2021: Larry King has been moved out of the ICU, and is reportedly breathing on his own in an LA hospital.
Larry King is a legend of broadcasting.
For more than six decades he has worked in radio and television, developing his signature interview style. His nightly CNN show Larry King Live ran for 25 years — into his late 70s. But even after it ended in 2010, King was far from ready to retire.
At 87 years old, the Emmy and Peabody winner has continued making great TV, and his straightforward, conversational tone has not diminished. Rather, age has refined his skills.
His aversion to researching the subjects of his interviews — which he has touted as making for a more casual and natural flow — is emblematic of the attitude that makes him so compelling. While many people may claim that they "don't give a ****," Larry King lives that ethos as only an old man can.
He will interrupt his guests, contradict them, talk over them, and just generally say what's on his mind. These tendencies come across as rude, and sometimes his musings make it clear how out of touch he is — after decades of wealth and fame.
Larry, I'm on DuckTales. www.youtube.com
But more often than not, King's approach seems to cut through pretense and formality and produce genuinely interesting conversations. This week, as it was reported that Larry King contracted COVID-19, and was subsequently hospitalized, two conversations in particular have remained on my mind.
Both were conversations between King and BlazeTV's resident "former liberal" Dave Rubin. And in both conversations it becomes clear both that Rubin has a sincere admiration for Larry King, and that the feeling is not mutual.
Rubin has made a name for himself out of his one-time tenure at Cenk Uygur's progressive news outlet The Young turks — before he made the move to Glenn Beck's Blaze Media. Branding himself variously as either a "classical liberal," or a "former lefty," Rubin is noted for his rejection of contemporary "regressive Left" politics, and for his willingness to have open discussions with people whom others might find "unsavory" or "Nazis."
The fact that Rubin is married to a man also gives him cover to platform people who believe that same-sex marriage should be outlawed and that "conversion therapy" should be encouraged. But it's all okay, because they're just "talking about ideas" — hateful, ignorant ideas — and because Dave Rubin is making a lot of money as a result.
Still, despite valid criticisms of Rubin as the passive, presentable entrée into the depths of far-Right ideology, he seems to see himself as part of a venerable tradition of impartial interviewers — with Larry King as one of its progenitors. He has referred to King as a mentor, and whenever they get together, the only thing more obvious than Dave Rubin's fawning reverence is King's lack of respect for Rubin.
The two have conversed on a number of occasions, and there are always hints at this dynamic — as when King seems to think that "Rubin" is Dave's first name — but the moment that truly crystallized their sad relationship dynamic came in Larry King's appearance on The Rubin Report back in February of 2020.
Larry King Ruins A Live Interview By Taking A Call www.youtube.com
While in the middle of a live-streamed discussion about moderate politics, an assistant delivered Larry King's cell phone, ostensibly for King to explain something about Samsung and this flip phone in particular. But almost as soon as the phone is in King's hand, it starts ringing, and he briefly makes a face as though he's embarrassed and uncertain of what to do, before flipping it open and answering the call.
Maybe Larry is so used to taking phone calls during live broadcasts that it just felt natural. But the more likely explanation is that he just doesn't think much of Dave Rubin.
On the other end of the call, the voice of King's college athlete son, Cannon, can be made out enthusing over some recent baseball games. Meanwhile, Rubin silently gawps and gestures, whispers to Larry to remind him of the live audience of thousands who were watching it play out, and looks in disbelief at both Larry and the camera.
At some point King explains to his son that he is "doing a podcast," and says, "while talking to you, the audience is watching me talk to you," and somehow that isn't the end of the phone call. For more than three minutes the show is at a standstill while Larry King and his son discuss batting averages, their plans for the week, and the LA Dodgers latest trades.
When the call finally ends, Larry King doesn't even hint at apologizing. Why would he? What has Dave Rubin done to deserve his respect?
To make that point more clear, we need to skip forward to May, when the first wave of the COVID pandemic in the US was just beginning to subside in New York City and a few other hot spots. Dave Rubin was among the conservative commentators who were already arguing that the spotty, insufficient lockdown had gone on long enough, and that it was time to give governors the leeway to reopen their state economies.
Dave Rubin takes on the progressive movement www.youtube.com
During an appearance on Larry King's show PoliticKING to promote his self-victimizing tome Don't Burn This Book, Rubin acknowledged that King "might be right," that people returning to their lives and congregating in public spaces was bound to cause a lot of new cases of COVID. But then he argued that we had to "decide what level of sickness are we willing to live with."
And how else could Larry King respond to an incredulous Rubin but to say, "David, that sounds ridiculous. 'What level of sickness can we live with,' come on! You've got a worldwide pandemic."
What King might have added if Rubin hadn't then interrupted is that at the time — and to this day — the long term consequences of COVID-19 are little understood. Cognitive impairment and lasting damage to heart and lung tissue have been reported long after more obvious symptoms have subsided. And a small but worrying number of children have developed severe and frightening inflammatory symptoms that are not yet understood.
We may not know for years how the novel coronavirus has affected the tens of millions of Americans who have contracted it so far — with hundreds of thousands of new cases reported every day, and hospitals and morgues overflowing. But even the little bit we knew about the highly contagious virus at the time made it obvious what a bad idea it was to rush reopening before even a basic standard for a lockdown had been met.
Dave Rubin believes that trusting scientists is a silly notion: "Have you ever seen a science fiction movie? There… https://t.co/pMxmG52yZK— Dave Rubin Clips (@Dave Rubin Clips)1609214122.0
And while the threat for people like Dave Rubin, 44, may not have looked so serious, for someone of Larry King's age, the situation couldn't be handled lightly. As King sarcastically put it to Rubin at the time, "At whose risk? … It's okay if you die, right?"
But measures like paying people and businesses for a more serious, enforced interruption — which worked beautifully in a number of countries where economies are recovering rapidly — were not even deemed worth discussing by people like Dave Rubin. Which meant that the only question was how long people could be expected to get by with nothing. And with that narrow consideration, it's hardly surprising that most of the country reopened to one extent or another.
Looking back at the conversation now, you can either view Larry King as a prophetic scion who foresaw the chaos and the death that neoliberal intransigence was about to unleash upon the country — the 350,000 dead Americans and counting. Or you can view Dave Rubin as a callous and willfully ignorant tool of wealthy interests, denying reality for his paycheck.
What if people like Dave Rubin had considered the possibility of helping average Americans through a time of unavoidable crisis — without first helping massive corporations and investors a great deal more. How many hundreds of thousands might have been saved?
If Donald Trump hadn't downplayed the virus, refused a mask mandate, pushed to reopen, and used his unparalleled access to advanced and experimental treatments to say "if I can get better, anyone can get better," back in October, would Larry King be in the hospital today?
Perhaps — unlike more than 100,000 Americans who have died miserable, horrific COVID deaths since our soon-to-be-former president made that absurd statement — Larry King will receive some of the same special treatment, and will quickly pull through. He is, after all, a wealthy celebrity, and he has previously survived a heart attack. Maybe it will be enough to save his life...
In either case, the blame for the current horrific state of affairs lies unequivocally with people like Dave Rubin. So if you ever get the chance to talk to him, please remember to show him all the respect he deserves — or at least take a phone call.
Mackenzie Scott's charitable giving has exposed how stingy and selfish Jeff Bezos has been in a time of tremendous need.
Back in June, a representative for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reached out to nonprofit Feeding America to determine whether they could effectively channel his philanthropy.
A network of hundreds of food banks, the organization was providing crucial aid to the tens of millions of Americans who were then out of work. And they apparently impressed Bezos enough that he cut them a check for $100 million.
The fact that this sum constituted around 0.07% of Bezos' wealth at the time — the equivalent of an average American family giving about $65 to charity — didn't seem to figure in most of the headlines praising the donation. He was widely lauded for his generosity.
But by the time Thanksgiving rolled around, millions of Americans had experienced food insecurity for the first time in their lives, and Jeff Bezos had added around $70 billion to his 2019 wealth. So it's kind of like he did a tiny fraction of what was needed while profiting immensely off the crisis that was causing these problems in the first place… Hmm.
But just in case the issue wasn't already obvious, Bezos' ex-wife, novelist Mackenzie Scott, just stepped up to show him what philanthropy is supposed to look like. On Tuesday night Scott announced that she had donated more than $4.1 billion to nearly 400 charities in recent months, focusing on areas and issues closely connected to the COVID pandemic.
MacKenzie Scott says gave more than $4 billion to charity amid pandemic www.youtube.com
Compared to her remaining wealth of around $55 billion, it's a relatively paltry sum. But compared to the charity Jeff Bezos has provided to those dealing with the worst financial impact of the pandemic, it seems shockingly adequate.
In a blog post entitled "384 Ways to Help" Scott discussed her data-driven philanthropy, and wrote, "This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling ... Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires." None more so than her ex-husband.
This is hardly the first time Scott has publicly humiliated her ex. She set a precedent for doing just that when they got divorced and she absorbed nearly $40 billion in Amazon shares in the largest divorce settlement in history.
She continued that tradition back in July when she signed the Giving Pledge, promising to give at least half of her wealth to charity in her lifetime. Initiated by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, the Giving Pledge is a campaign to encourage the super-wealthy to put some portion of their vast hoards to good use. Jeff Bezos has yet to sign on…
That same month, she announced that she had already given away around $1.7 billion to 116 charities. But Scott's latest announcement truly highlights what a stingy, greedy man Jeff Bezos has been.
While Americans have been facing an unprecedented rent crisis — with tens of millions living under the threat of eviction, and at least $70 billion in unpaid household rent — Jeff Bezos was making that amount of money for himself alone. And unlike Scott, he has held onto the vast majority.
But the incredibly wasteful business model of direct-to-consumer hyper-convenience that has allowed him to amass so much money is incompatible with a serious approach to climate change. And Bezos' pledge came around a month after it was revealed that Amazon had threatened to fire employees who were pushing for more environmentally sustainable business practices.
Prior to that scandal, Jeff Bezos was recognized as one of the least charitable of the world's real-life dragons — sitting smugly on his hoard of gold and saying things like, "The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel."
But just in case there was any doubt what kind of man Jeff Bezos really is, Mackenzie Scott has now exposed him more effectively than Saudi phone hackers (or his girlfriend's brother) ever could. In one dramatic move, she gave away more than six times as much as he has in 2020, despite having less than one third his wealth.
Scott has given away nearly $6 billion so far in 2020. That's around 10% of her wealth, meaning that Jeff Bezos would need to give away more than $17 billion in the next two weeks just to match her generosity.
In reality, of course, neither of them are doing enough. They should both give away enough money to no longer be billionaires, because the concept of a billionaire is a disgusting insult in any world where homelessness and hunger are still rampant.
Amazon Workers striking in May
But what's even worse is that Jeff Bezos has amassed unheard-of riches by perfecting the very system of consumer capitalism that is ravaging the planet. What's even worse is that Amazon thrives while local businesses collapse around the country and wealth becomes consolidated in the hands of a few corporations. What's worse is the systematic way they squash efforts to unionize among their exploited workers.
What's even worse is a system of pro-billionaire propaganda, funded by corporate tax cuts, propagating the idea that the government's only role is to protect the interests of the wealthy. What's even worse than Jeff Bezos's failure to donate his wealth is a prevailing political discourse that treats the simultaneous growth of billionaires and homelessness as "meritocracy."
But, since Jeff Bezos is apparently incapable of feeling the shame that these practices should evoke in him, public humiliation is a nice consolation prize. So if Mackenzie Scott wants to continue absolving herself of wealth in gestures that undermine Amazon's pathetic PR bandaids, more power to her.
A month-by-month review of the best and worst (mostly worst) of 2020.
2020 was a year when time lost all meaning and traditional markers of change — graduations, seasons, parties, holidays — blurred into an indistinguishable slideshow of Zoom calls.
Each month, it seemed, another unavoidable news story exploded onto the headlines, dominating attention, commanding every facet of our collective attention.
This year, each month seemed to have its own color, its own unique tune of horror that required both countless headlines and its own array of memes. As E. Alex Jung writes for Vulture, "Nothing made sense this year — unless you were on the Internet." Each catastrophic event, with its mind-blowing amounts of human suffering and its cataclysmic historical implications, took on new meaning when refracted through the mirror of social media.
So far in 2020 we have: - World War III meme - Australia’s fires - Trump impeachment - Prince Harry steps down - K… https://t.co/ZqMmUj9sWB— Nick Hinton (@Nick Hinton)1595305835.0
In some ways, this year brought us closer together; in other ways, it tore open the last semblances of any illusion that we're all in the same struggle, instead revealing the brutal inequalities that define our society. When all faced with the same roster of calamities, it became clear that some people could suffer through while losing little save for the opportunity to go bar-hopping on Saturday nights, while others were pushed off the brink into the precipice of disaster (that is, if they hadn't already been swimming through the fetid ruins of the capitalist dream).
So, this list is not meant to be a universal summary of the way 2020 was horrifying. No list could ever summarize what 2020 or what a history of inequality and human greed has done to individuals around the world this year.
Instead, it's my reflections on the ways certain events seemed to dominate our collective consciousness in ways few events ever have before, let alone in such rapid succession.
In January, many people I knew seemed buoyed by a strange sort of optimism. The majority of New Years' Resolutions I saw involved some variant of: "In 2020 I'm putting myself first." People were set on growth, and everybody seemed convinced that 2020 would be their year. It would be the era of "2020 vision," the dawn of our own roaring '20s.
Meanwhile, China recorded its first coronavirus death on January 11th. Reports of the coronavirus were crossing the globe in whispers; a text message, a headline here and there about the strange new disease that had erupted in Wuhan.
Donald Trump was first briefed on the virus on January 18th but seemed distracted, apparently stopping the briefing to ask about a ban on vaping products.
Being 2020, the year came in hot with its own special form of chaos. Australia wildfires continued burning, ravaging over 47 million acres of land. On Jan. 3, a U.S. drone strike hit Baghdad's International Airport, killing Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and sparking rumors (and eventually, a flurry of memes) about an impending World War III.
My TikTok feed is entirely World War III memes https://t.co/zyKt9ZdwDs— Blake Montgomery (@Blake Montgomery)1578113712.0
Later that month, we tragically lost Kobe Bryant and his daughter. Considering this calamitous beginning, the idea that 2020 was going to be the year of our personal self-growth, a year where we'd prioritize ourselves and evolve into our final forms, feels achingly misguided. None of us knew what was coming next.
Shakira & J. Lo's FULL Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show www.youtube.com
Yet all around the world, things were falling apart. Coronavirus was spreading around the world at this point; Europe counted its first death, and Africa saw its first case.
Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler and other members of the 1% began selling millions of dollars worth of stocks after becoming aware of COVID-19, a theme that would continue as billionaires would get progressively richer throughout the pandemic. In yet another blitz of foreshadowing, the Iowa caucuses were a complete disaster after a faulty app led to months-long recounts.
All of 2020 was surreal, but March may have been the most surreal month of all. Italy saw its "darkest hour" and imposed the world's first lockdown. France prepared for what its prime minister described as an impending "war."
In March, it felt like the ground was dropping out from under our feet. On March 9, the Dow Jones suffered its worst single-day drop ever. By mid-March, the whole world had shut down; citizens were ordered to stay home everywhere from India to Australia. Offices closed. Broadway shut down.
On March 20, Tiger King dropped on Netflix and immediately went incandescently viral. Dua Lipa dropped her album Future Nostalgia. In New York, people started buying beans and hoarding toilet paper. Everyone started baking bread.
Pandemic fads: Tiger King memes, peloton, getting a dog, picnicing, political activism, sourdough bread, tik tok da… https://t.co/3Bj2lc908k— Ian (@Ian)1607482964.0
By April, it became universally clear that coronavirus was not going anywhere anytime soon. The world went into lockdown and global cases passed 1 million.
In May, things seemed to reach a brief impasse, and 2020 stood on the precipice of a (somehow even more dramatic) part II.
A plane fell in Pakistan, killing 97. Costa Rica became the first Central American nation to legalize gay marriage. Nasa-SpaceX's shuttle took to the skies. Armed protestors stormed Michigan's state capital demanding haircuts in May. Grimes gave birth to Elon Musk's cyborgian baby.
One story dominated all: At the end of May, the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer took place, sparking immediate protests.
In June, America was overcome by racial justice protests in response to George Floyd's murder. The Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S. became the nation's largest movement in its history. Protests spread around the globe, and statues of racists fell.
Meanwhile, coronavirus surged; an oil spill sparked a state of emergency in Russia; temperatures in the Arctic reached their highest points ever; locusts invaded India.
The apocalypse was in full-swing, as were dreams of a much better, radically different world.
Remember that black square you posted on Instagram? They’re still killing us, so what’s next?— Natasha Rothwell (@Natasha Rothwell)1607644189.0
The heat, the intensity, the wildness of July is something I'll never forget as long as I live. Brooklyn was rocked by constant fireworks that rang out all night long, sparking conspiracy theories about government plots.
August saw another wave of BLM protests after Jacob Blake was shot in Kenosha, Wisconsin and paralyzed from the waist down.
It was also a month of terrible tragedy. We lost Chadwick Boseman. Wildfires exploded across California, turning the sky an apocalyptic orange. A cataclysmic explosion racked Beirut.
Cardi B - WAP feat. Megan Thee Stallion [Official Music Video] www.youtube.com
September, of course, offered no relief. We lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18th, a devastating loss for Democrats. Then, all of America cringed watching Biden and Trump try to bridge the parallel universes they both existed in at their first debate.
In October, all eyes were on yet another world-changing event — the 2020 election. Of course, the road was not smooth. Trump announced he had COVID-19 on October 2nd. Early voting started in mid-October, with record numbers of people turning out to the polls.
Unrest continued, with anti-lockdown protests in Brooklyn and BLM protests continuing across the US. Amy Coney Barrett was announced as Trump's supreme court nominee, a radical departure from RBG's legacy of equality.
In November, we held our breath and fixed our attention on Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and other states that seemed to be counting ballots in slow-motion. On the 7th, finally, CNN called Biden's victory. New Yorkers and people around the world erupted into cheers.
But we barely had a moment to catch our breath. Cases began to surge in the US, which started reporting 130,000 cases per day, reaching 200,000 by the end of the month. Much of Europe locked down again. Many suffered from pandemic fatigue.
In November, Pfizer and Moderna announced, in quick succession, that their vaccines were ready for global dissemination (with a little help from Dolly Parton). Weird monoliths began popping up in odd locations. Amidst the terror, there were flashes of hope.
CNN's Van Jones brought to tears as Joe Biden wins US election www.youtube.com
Now it's December. Trump continues to contest his loss, and The Proud Boys rally in the streets. In India, 250 million are on strike, forming a labor movement epic in scale.
On December 14th, the Electoral College voted and Joe Biden was officially confirmed (for the millionth time, it seems) as 46th president of the United States.
It's been an unbelievably chaotic year, full of ups and downs. We saw darkness and terror and our fellow citizens and family members in lights we never imagined.
We saw people pushed to the brink. We also saw people gathering together to take care of each other as the government and systems meant to keep us safe collapsed around us. And we saw, sometimes, hints of a new world among the raging fires.
Taylor Swift - Love Story 2020 (Snippet) - Ryan Reynolds Commercial for "Match" www.youtube.com
Let's hope that 2021 is better, that there's a renaissance in art and a resurgence of social programs after this catastrophe. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it's that we can't predict anything — and things can always get worse — but it's always better if we take it on together.
Here's to a happy and safe New Year and a much better 2021.
Let us know what we left out on this list on Twitter @Popdust.
Deb Perelman's call for consideration for working parents points to a societal neglect of humanity in the workplace.
In her impassioned, desperate diatribe on the increasingly untenable position of working parents—caught between work and child care in the reopening economy—food writer Deb Perelman asks her readers two incredulous questions:
"Why isn't anyone talking about this? Why are we not hearing a primal scream so deafening that no plodding policy can be implemented without addressing the people buried by it?"
As it turns out, those primal screams were waiting patiently for Deb Perelman to lead them in unison. Within minutes of her article going live in the business section of The New York Times, thousands of users on Twitter were sharing the link accompanied by choice quotes like, "Allowing workplaces to reopen while schools, camps and day cares remain closed tells a generation of working parents that it's fine if they lose their jobs, insurance and livelihoods in the process."
As Perelman's article makes clear, while law-makers and government officials have arranged plans to ensure that economic conditions return to normal as quickly as possible for wealthy business owners, there has been little apparent concern for how reopening measures would affect families with school-age children.
I released the primal scream that we -- and countless other parents for whom this situation isn't just untenable, i… https://t.co/o0XVE1JGvg— deb perelman (@deb perelman)1593697918.0
In Perelman's case, living in New York City, this lack of consideration reached a breaking point when she became aware of current plans for the fall school term. In order to ensure that each student is afforded a minimum of 65 square feet of classroom space, only a third of students will be in the school building in any given week—the other two thirds learning remotely.
For the time being, while the science on how COVID-19 is contracted and spread by children remains unclear, these sorts of measures are seen as necessary to prevent sudden, overwhelming spikes in the infection rate. But for parents like Perelman and her husband, this means that two weeks out of every three, their children—one approaching kindergarten, the other entering 6th grade—will need to be home.
The fact that Perelman's husband is among the tens of millions who have been laid off during the COVID-19 lockdown has made it possible to maintain child care while Perelman works from home, setting her own exhausting hours.
But what happens to them and countless other parents who are struggling to keep their children educated and supervised when he is rehired or forced to start looking for a new job? How are they supposed to pay their bills and take care of their children?
The problem is obviously even worse for parents who may not have had the option—like Perelman—to work from home, or haven't had the resources to maintain their children's education with online tutors and extra school supplies.
Here's what schools could look like this fall amid pandemic l GMA www.youtube.com
As Perelman points out, these and other issues with remote learning have already affected student outcomes and have likely expanded the existing achievement gaps along racial and socioeconomic lines. But those issues are certain to get worse as more and more parents are forced to return to work without viable child care options.
While the wealthy will be fine, many in the middle class (particularly mothers) will be forced to choose their children over their long-term career plans. And as for poor and working class parents, far too many will have no choice at all—will have to keep working and leave their children unsupervised.
While the proximate cause of this mess is obviously the coronavirus pandemic gripping the world and requiring adaptive measures to counter its spread, there is a deeper issue that can be tied—as with so many societal problems—to the structure of capitalism.
It's the same problem that English philosopher Bertrand Russell pointed out in his essay "In Praise of Idleness". It's the same problem that recurs on a near constant basis in our society, but it's most evident in the aftermath of a crisis: At every opportunity to give workers more freedom, we instead choose to increase productivity.
When Russell published the essay in 1932, he had in mind the aftermath of World War I, when soldiers returned home from the front, effectively doubling the workforce.
As he notes, living standards and productive industry had been maintained throughout the war thanks to mechanization and thoughtful planning. The populous remained fed and clothed and housed despite the loss of so many workers to the war.
Less work was needed to achieve the same outcome, which meant that—when those workers finally returned—there was the option to allow everyone to work half as much and still make a living wage.
NYC has an elaborate four-phase reopening plan that doesn’t even mention daycare lol https://t.co/vGAq9GQszJ— Jason Schreier (@Jason Schreier)1593698748.0
But no. Instead productivity was increased, workers were laid off, and it was still necessary to work 40 hours a week to get by. And that's where things in England, the US, and much of the world remain to this day.
The same dynamic was in play in the second half of the 20th century as it became the norm for women to join the workforce. There were twice as many workers, but rather than cut the work week in half, we kept it at 40 hours, increased productivity, and allowed wages to stagnate so that two incomes were soon necessary for a basic standard of living—and working mothers were still expected to perform traditional child care duties.
We've invented so many machines and systems to make our work lives more efficient and our home lives more convenient, but instead of framing these advances as opportunities to increase our freedom—to reduce the work week to 20 hours, as Russell suggests, and give workers the opportunity to redirect their energy toward their passions and interests, we treat them as tools to increase profit for those at the very top.
They replace workers with automation and outsourcing and pay those who remain less while investors and executives rake in more. Because growth of investment is the ultimate ideal driving the whole machine—even if that machine is wringing the life out of workers and the planet alike.
Right now around half of working-age Americans aren't working. The work force is set to return in a big way in coming months—just as it did after WWI. If we shifted our priorities toward a more humane objective, we could see this crisis and the aftermath not as another occasion to benefit the wealthy and push working people to their limit, but as an opportunity to increase the freedom and the happiness in the world.
We need universal child care. https://t.co/qu6BVe4E9q— Jamaal Bowman (@Jamaal Bowman)1593694704.0
Shift to a 30-hour work week (without reducing pay) and give workers—especially working parents—some flexibility for when they work those hours. Suddenly child care and home-schooling wouldn't be nearly such an overwhelming burden. Better still, provide them with that child care. Suddenly workers would have energy left over to find new ways to thrive—rather than only surviving.
It may seem far-fetched, but changes like this have happened before when workers were united. The only thing preventing it now is that we haven't all joined our voice with that primal, deafening scream and demanded what we deserve.
New evidence suggests asymptomatic transmission is less likely than previously thought.
On Monday, a representative from the World Health Organization called asymptomatic transmissions of the coronavirus "very rare." This was quickly bolstered by conservative lawmakers to call for the end of social distancing guidelines and the mandatory wearing of face masks. Many health experts and scientists questioned WHO's statement, citing a lack of evidence.
Today, WHO has walked back their original statement, clarifying that the observation "was based on a relatively small set of studies," and, "Evidence suggests people with symptoms are most infectious, but the disease can be passed on before they develop."
So What Happened?
Essentially, the original statement was referring to a small set of data from various countries in instances where an asymptomatic case had been followed up and secondary infections among the asymptomatic person's contact had been sought out. This data suggested that infections among the people the asymptomatic person had come in contact with were "very rare."
The WHO emphasized today that there is no way of knowing if this trend is true on a global scale.
According to the BBC, the Director of the WHO's health emergencies program, Dr Michael Ryan, said he was "absolutely convinced" asymptomatic transmission was occurring, but "the question is how much."
What Exactly Does Asymptomatic Mean, Anyway?
According Dr Van Kerkhove, the WHO's head of emerging diseases, there are three categories within the designation of "asymptomatic."
- People who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic)
- People who test positive when they don't yet have symptoms - but go on to develop them (pre-symptomatic)
- People with very mild or atypical symptoms who do not realise they have coronavirus
Should I Continue to Social Distance and Wear a Mask?
Yes. There is still so much that experts don't know about the spread of COVID-19, so while some evidence may suggest the virus isn't as easily passed on by as many people as previously thought, that doesn't mean you won't contract the virus if you aren't careful.
New studies show a correlation between COVID-19 deaths and low levels of the "sunshine vitamin."
Vitamin D has long been a useful warrior in the fight against disease, but now some studies are hinting that it might help fight COVID-19.
In this day and age, everyone is desperately looking for a cure, the Internet is rife with misinformation, and nothing is certain about vitamin D yet. But several promising studies have found that lower levels of vitamin D can put patients at increased risk of death from COVID-19, while higher levels might increase patients' chances of survival.
An April 9 study from the Philippines measured vitamin D levels in 212 coronavirus patients and found that patients with lower Vitamin D levels had relatively mild symptoms, while patients with deficiencies tended to grow much sicker. Prior to that, an Indonesian study from May said that "majority of the COVID-19 cases with insufficient and deficient vitamin D status died."
A similar study from Northwestern University explored 10 countries and also "found a correlation between low vitamin D levels and hyperactive immune systems." Most recently, a new study from Trinity in Ireland came to the same conclusions, also finding that lower levels of vitamin D are linked to a higher mortality rate for COVID patients.
Vitamin D plays an important role in the body's immune response. It may also be able to help heal compromised respiratory functions, according to Newsweek. COVID-19 is still a relatively unknown disease, but it is believed that the virus creates what's called a cytokine storm in patients. That means that the body produces a superabundance of messenger proteins called cytokines, which can lead to inflammation in the lungs. Vitamin D can help prevent the release of cytokines.
These studies are inconclusive, and clinical trials are just beginning. "If vitamin D levels are really a marker for better diet, or more access to healthcare, or any of a variety of other variables that are not statistically assessed, then it is not the vitamin D that is the cause of the better or worse outcomes but rather the other factors," said Daniel Culver, Director of the Interstitial Lung Disease Program in the Department of Pulmonary, Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.
To be clear, vitamin D is not a miracle cure. "We found no clinical evidence on vitamin D in COVID-19," scientists from Oxford University wrote after their study. "There was no evidence related to vitamin D deficiency predisposing to COVID-19, nor were there studies of supplementation for preventing or treating COVID-19."
Still, because it's relatively harmless, some countries are now calling for widespread dissemination of vitamin D supplements and advising people to pay attention to their own levels. It's important to note that it is possible to ingest too much vitamin D, but a few supplements, some eggs, or some extra (safe) sunshine is probably as good a prescription as any during these isolated times.
They don't need our thanks, they need us to continue containing the spread of the coronavirus
In honor of National Nurses Day, Donald Trump invited a group of nurses to the White House on Wednesday afternoon to thank them for their dedicated service to their patients and for the sacrifices they've made in this difficult time.
This comes the day after Trump referred to reopening the country and the "Yankee stadium of death" that will result (a gross understatement of actual projections).
Meanwhile the hashtags #NationalNursesDay and #ThankYouNurses have been trending on Twitter with messages of gratitude. It's the literal least we can do as a nation to acknowledge the crucial role of the people who are at the front lines of fighting a deadly pandemic. Of course, if we wanted to a little bit more for them—just a little bit to honor the people we love to call heroes—we would listen to their desperate pleas for more help and more caution. We would try not to turn their hospitals into living hells.
It’s #NationalNursesDay! Nurses have been essential in taking care of patients during the #COVID19 pandemic. Today,… https://t.co/9dhdJiyIjb— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@Department of Defense 🇺🇸)1588759200.0
Just last week National Nurses United, the largest organization of registered nurses in the US, issued a statement in opposition to the push to "reopen the country." They insist that we aren't ready and call for significant improvements to hospital safety standards and to the level of personal protective equipment provided, "Otherwise, hospitals will continue to be places that spread infection, and nurses and health care workers will continue to get sick and sidelined, die, and be unable to care for the next wave of patients." They also call on President Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act in order to produce necessary equipment. He could do so at any time but has so far deferred to private industry and friendly businesses instead.
The statement goes on to address the real economic hardships that are driving much of the push to reopen and advocates for a set of solutions that would prioritize the collective well-being and avoid overwhelming our healthcare system: "People in America must have enhanced unemployment benefits and paid sick time and family leave; food security; housing; healthcare; and other social supports for people who are unemployed or unable to work … we can organize our society in ways that are beneficial to everyone, as opposed to a handful of billionaires."
It's honestly the least that we as a nation should be doing as the devastating flaws in our system are laid bare by this crisis, but at the state and federal level we continue to opt instead for the least we can do—which is next to nothing.
'Re-Opening America Now is A Slap in the Face to Healthcare Workers' https://t.co/6suKewGxUX #NationalNursesDay https://t.co/xFoIJrqbkj— John Pavlovitz (@John Pavlovitz)1588766640.0
Luke Adams, one of the nurses being honored, traveled from Pennsylvania to New York City to provide much needed help for the city's overwhelmed healthcare system. He slept in his car for days until a local family took him into their home. It's a nice story, and Adams represents the kind of noble sacrifice that good and caring people make in times of unavoidable crisis. But if we accept—as the Trump administration, business leaders, and right-wing pundits continue to insist—that a massive increase in COVID-19 deaths is an acceptable downside to boosting the economy, then we are thrusting that crisis upon healthcare workers and forcing them to make those sacrifices against their will.
While we all seem to have accepted the idea that we've made it past the worst of the pandemic, the reality is that the death toll has barely begun to plateau in most of the country. We are nowhere near the federally recommended guidelines for reopening—14 days of steadily declining cases—and as we continue to pursue an agenda of accelerating economic recovery ahead of any reasonable schedule, we are ensuring that the nurses we are thanking and honoring today will face horrific, traumatizing conditions in the weeks and months ahead.
Already coronavirus deaths in the US outnumber the American soldiers who died in the entirety of the Vietnam war, and the people on the frontlines will likewise carry the psychological damage of the devastation that we are containing to our hospitals—while we push for a return to offices, nail salons, and restaurants as though everything is normal.
This beautiful warrior in the middle has been one of my dearest friends for 30 years. #ThankYouNurses… https://t.co/dyK6kgEAEY— Marie 🆘🗽🌊 🦅 #TheOnlyWayThroughIsBLUE (@Marie 🆘🗽🌊 🦅 #TheOnlyWayThroughIsBLUE)1588751420.0
Here's how far we are from normal: There isn't even enough time to clean rooms as new patients are moved in to replace the dead. Patients are dying in hallways and overflow tents. Nurses and doctors are forced to choose whose life is worth saving while refrigerated trucks are shipped in to store the bodies before they're sent to mass graves. As one doctor in New Orleans put it, "We are in the valley of the shadow of death right now."
These are not experiences that anyone will have an easy time moving on from. In some places it has started to get better, but the worst is ahead if we reopen. They are risking their lives and destroying their mental health for us, and we are telling them it's not enough—that we are fine with making the problem worse for the sake of our comfort.
The voices of the wealthy, the bored, and the ignorant rise up as one to say, "Do more. We want to go back to work, to send our kids back to school, to go golfing again. We want to get back to our lives and back to getting rich on oil stocks and the labor of underpaid workers. If that means you need to enter the next ring of hell, then that's a sacrifice you're just going to have to make."
We can't keep thrusting nurses, doctors, hospital staff into dangerous, traumatic circumstances rather than making necessary, humane changes to the structure of our society. If people can't pay for rent or food right now, then we should provide for them—not push them back to work. We can afford it. We have billionaires who can pay for it. That's the value of being the richest nation in history—of living in a society that produces so much abundance. But we prefer to throw sickness and death at nurses with a patronizing, "Thanks, guys! You're the real heroes."
I don't know who drew this, but this speaks louder than words. #ThankYouNurses #nationalnursesday https://t.co/Kl06ftEYv6— Justin Miner (@Justin Miner)1588759793.0
Enough. We aren't allowed to call these people heroes, or to perform these shows of superficial gratitude, if we want to continue treating them as fodder in a war against minority communities and modest social reforms. We need to give them what they need—what they're asking for—and stop forcing them to sacrifice at the altar of heartless consumption.
They've given us enough. It's time for us to give back.
Whether you're unemployed, working from home, or an essential worker, there's a lot to fight for right now
According to a report published in The Intercept on Tuesday, essential workers at major companies like Amazon, Walmart, Instacart, Target, Whole Foods, and FedEx are planning a walkout as part of a May Day general strike, fighting for workers' rights.
A lot of Americans probably don't know the history of May Day, or the fact that May 1st is known as International Workers' Day—or Labour Day—in much of the world. That ignorance, and the fact that we have our own Labor Day in September, can best be understood as part of a deliberate effort to undermine class consciousness and solidarity in the US, and is all the more reason why more workers need to participate in Friday's strike.
The power structures of our country have long maintained a hostile relationship toward labor and have successfully suppressed unionization and other efforts by workers to agitate for their rights. But this May 1st is the perfect time to correct that tendency and join the world in celebrating workers–because the historic event that International Workers' Day commemorates took place here in America in 1886, and it upset the established hierarchy in a way that should serve as inspiration for people currently struggling to make ends meet.
Prior to 1886, May Day had traditionally been celebrated in European cultures with a variety of festivals celebrating spring, but that year American workers took the occasion as an opportunity to fight for their rights. A massive, nationwide work stoppage began on May 1st and continued for several days, with thousands of striking workers demonstrating in every major city. At the time, workers were often made to work long hours in dangerous conditions, and they were fighting for the eight-hour workday—so if you've ever gotten overtime pay, or just enjoyed clocking out at 5:00, then you have them to thank.
On May 3rd police efforts to quash the protests in Chicago resulted in at least one death and several injuries.The next day an unknown assailant came prepared. When police once more attempted to disperse the crowd in Haymarket Square with violent tactics, that person threw a dynamite bomb. The explosion and the ensuing gunfire killed seven police officers and at least four civilians. Dozens more were badly hurt. Police then rounded up hundreds of organizers, and four men—none of whom had thrown the bomb—were hanged after a lengthy, internationally publicized trial.
It would take another 30 years of fighting before a federal law established an eight-hour work day for any private industry—and even longer before FDR's administration made it standard across most types of work. But those four men became martyrs for the cause of workers' rights and galvanized people around the world to take action. According to historian William J. Adelman, "No single event has influenced the history of labor in Illinois, the United States, and even the world, more than the Chicago Haymarket Affair," yet few Americans are aware of these events or the holiday they spawned. While the violence and death that took place back then was obviously regrettable—and no one should be hoping for its recurrence—we are about due for another turning point in labor history.
The cracks in our system are being exposed like never before, and millions are falling through. Tens of millions of Americans find themselves suddenly unemployed or underemployed. Shockingly few have been able to sign up for unemployment benefits, and the federal government's $1,200 checks are being treated as a long-term cure-all. People aren't making money, yet most of them are still expected to pay their rent in full, and many have lost their health insurance amid a viral pandemic. It's no wonder people are protesting for their states to reopen; but seeing as that would plainly backfire (and is a push being secretly driven by wealthy backers who won't have to risk their lives), we need to direct that energy toward measures that would actually help.
Meanwhile, many of the people who never stopped working—in healthcare, retail, food service, and other industries deemed "essential"—are being asked to risk their lives working without safety equipment, hazard pay, or even adequate sick leave. These conditions would be unacceptable at the best of times, but now—at the worst of times—we have no choice but to fight back and demand immediate relief and lasting reforms.
A rent strike is a good start, but a general strike—in which workers across industries and around the country participate—sends a real message. So if it's at all possible for you to join the general strike on Friday, May 1st, and/or participate in a (safe, socially-distant) demonstration, consider what you'd be fighting for: A rent and mortgage freeze; liveable stimulus payments; guaranteed healthcare; and hazard pay, sick leave, and PPE for all essential workers.
These are the absolute bare minimum measures that can get us all through this crisis, and if we don't demonstrate the collective power of the American working class—to drive or shut down the economy—we will continue to be deprived of even these. It's time to stand up.
What can nature teach us about responding to two massive crises?
The mycelium is a type of fungi that thrives on decomposition.
Spores germinate and multiply, forming mushrooms that absorb nutrients and swallowing dead plants, devouring toxins and fostering the growth of new life. It's essentially the earth's life support system, the embodiment of regeneration.
What we need now is life support, and a mycelium of relief—a multifaceted plan that understands and utilizes our interconnectedness, which could save us or that could drive us to extinction. But one thing's for certain: Our divisions are killing us. We need to let the systems that no longer serve us decompose so that new realities can come to light.
Today, though, many of us are facing a peculiar polarity. We're isolated because of a pandemic that threatens all of humanity. Yet we have failed to rally together to fight it, and if anything, political divisions have deepened in recent weeks.
We've also failed to rally around another existential threat, a parallel—and far more severe—crisis that's been bubbling under the surface of our reality for decades. The climate crisis will wreak far more havoc than the virus has, costing many more lives and changing our world on a much vaster scale. It's already contributing to rising sea levels that are flooding cities. You can see it manifesting in the wildfires that smeared California and Australia these past few years, in the tsunami that eviscerated Japan in 2011, in the bad air quality that's decimating the lungs of people living in crowded cities, and in the waves of refugees fleeing conflicts sparked by droughts and other disasters. If a climate-related disaster were to hit an area affected by COVID-19 or another pandemic, the results would be apocalyptic beyond measure.
Neither COVID or climate have easy, immediate solutions, which is part of what makes them such vast, slippery issues. Both could, of course, be solved by scientific miracles—a vaccine or a superbly effective fossil-fuel devourer—but since we can't count on those inventions, then we have to rely instead on solutions that are much more difficult to define.
We have to rely on each other, and on policies that support our most vulnerable populations as well as our most powerful. Be it a virus or a wildfire, climate change and coronavirus do far more harm to frontline communities than they affect people who can work from home or who can live off their savings. While half of the population rests on their couches, another half scrounges to eat or pulls themselves off to another brutal shift at a grocery store or in a hospital. The coronavirus crisis has exposed the brutal divisions of American society, which allow some people to safely isolate while others face extreme poverty and instability.
These divisions are largely consequences of neoliberal capitalism, a driving force behind climate change. "Let's not lose sight of the root cause of this crisis: rampant capitalism. Capitalism has steamrolled this planet and its organisms, gouging out mountains, overexploiting fish stocks, and burning fossil fuels to power the maniacal pursuit of growth and enrich a fraction of humanity," writes Matt Simon. "Since 1988, 100 corporations have been responsible for 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions."
No wonder the Earth is collapsing under our weight. But the solutions to coronavirus and climate change may just be intertwined, part of the same web of regeneration and redistribution that could lift us up and off of the edge of this cliff.
One such solution is outlined in the People's Bailout, a relief and recovery package designed by over 800 activist groups. The People's Bailout demands that Congress commit to five steps during their efforts to provide COVID-19 relief:
1. Health is the top priority, for all people, with no exceptions
2. Economic relief must be provided directly to the people
3. Rescue workers and communities, not corporate executives
4. Make a downpayment on a regenerative economy while preventing future crises
5. Protect our democratic process while protecting each other
In a world where the actual stimulus package that Congress passed provided $3 trillion of relief to major corporations (a check three times the size of Joe Biden's climate plan), all this seems far away.
But this is America, and this is humanity, and this is life, which should be an impossibility in itself. Despite our many mistakes, we have always built impossible things. We have created glorious temples and magnificent skyscrapers; we criss-crossed the world with roads; we sent men to the moon. We may not always act ethically or responsibly, but we have the power to build and we have the power to grow.
Now we are being forced to change. We have the choice to build a world that can sustain itself—for the good of not only the planet, but for the good of our own world, our own economies, our own selves.
We need plans that erode poverty and pollution and disease and convert them into new, creative solutions. Plans that start from below, from inside, from underground, from the communities that need them most, and that grow up and out towards the light. An alchemy of release and rebirth, starting from the soil and the sadness of isolation, upwards and outwards and eventually back outside, towards a future truly worth fighting for.
We need to have faith, even though it all seems impossible—because what's the alternative?
We can create a future of open fields and breathable air, of wind turbines and monthly checks that land like clockwork in our bank accounts, of fewer private jets and more bullet trains. That future seems further and further away with each devastating headline and each rising degree.
That the Earth exists at all—that we broke through the darkness, that some spore broke into the shape of life—is an impossibility in itself. Within each of us there is a longing to survive, to connect, and to heal.
In her book Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler writes, "God is change." This pandemic has shown us that everything can change on a dime. Now the question is: What kind of change do we want? What are we choosing to worship during this time? And what role can each of us play in creating it?