We Don’t Love The Winter Weather
It’s damn cold, and people don’t have power or water.
The person in the song “Let It Snow” is a selfish creep. When the weather outside is frightful, it doesn’t matter how delightful your own fire is. Other people exist in the world and are greatly inconvenienced, if not in mortal peril. Dozens of people so far have died during the massive winter storm that battered the US on Friday, and millions were left without power.
There were more than 2,600 flight cancellations nationwide as of Christmas Eve, and more than 6,000 flights were delayed, which is the “It’s Complicated” relationship status setting just before cancellation. Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is among the most impacted airports, presumably because of the weather, but from personal experience, the Atlanta airport is a mess under the clearest skies.
Two people died Friday in New York’s Erie County because emergency medical personnel simply couldn’t reach their homes in time. Buffalo, where four feet of snow accumulated by Christmas, had recorded 25 weather-related deaths by Monday morning, and the blizzard conditions had left the state resembling a “war zone.”
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared, "This is a war with mother nature and she has been hitting us with everything she has" since Thursday.
Hochul is a Buffalo native not a Miami transplant, but the storm’s magnitude and impact still shocked her, especially the number of stranded card on the side of the road.
One family with young children — aged 2 to 6 — had to wait for 11 hours before being rescued in the early hours of Christmas Day.
"I was basically just hopeless," the father, Zila Santiago, told CBS News. He said he had managed to stay warm by keeping the engine running and kept distress at bay by playing games with the children.
More victims are expected to be discovered once melting snowdrifts reveal trapped vehicles and allow access to remote homes.
This is horrifying, but unfortunately, snowstorms aren’t the only way that extreme weather conditions can endanger lives. Although the snowfall in Jackson, Mississippi, Memphis and Nashville in Tennessee, and even Birmingham, Alabama, was measured in inches not feet, the frigid temperatures froze water pipes in many areas. Even Floridians were worried about exposed pipes icing over as temperatures dropped below freezing for the first time in five years. (It’s been 12 years since Tampa Bay experienced temperatures this cold for an extended period.)
City officials in Jackson, Mississippi, announced on Christmas Day that residents should boil their water now due to burst water lines.
“Please check your businesses and churches for leaks and broken pipes, as these add up tremendously and only worsen the problem,” the city said in a statement, adding: “We understand the timing is terrible.”
Here in Portland, Oregon, we worried the powerful winds would down trees and take out power lines. We personally lucked out and remained warm, but my friends down south were less fortunate. Tennessee residents endured rolling blackouts with 10-minute outages imposed every few hours. Thousands lacked power before the Christmas weekend when temperatures in Nashville were below zero — colder than Portland! — after sunrise.
Memphis, Tennessee, initiated rolling blackouts on Christmas Eve (ho! ho! ho!) that somewhat overlapped with a somewhat contradictory boil water advisory. Memphis Light, Gas and Water had equipment failures that resulted in outages lasting longer than expected. Kayla Watson from Memphis was without power for two excruciating days, and ice started to build up in her tub.
"The whole bottom of the tub is glazed over with ice,” she said. “The pipes, even though I had the water dripping, the pipes are frozen, there is no getting water in or out,” she said.”
This shitshow storm (not an official meteorological term) is a “once-in-a-generation” event, according to the National Weather Service. The extreme cold was fueled by a “bomb cyclone,” which occurs when atmospheric pressure drops suddenly during a powerful storm. The bomb cyclone developed near the Great Lakes, unleashing the blizzard conditions, including heavy winds and snow.
However, these “once-in-a-generation” events are occurring with increasing regularity, and it’s a good thing that President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats passed a major infrastructure bill that will help states adjust and cope as weather grows more severe.
Let’s hope power is soon restored everywhere, and there’s no further loss of life.
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Henrietta Lacks's New Immortality: Replacing Robert E. Lee Statue In Virginia
Replacing a traitor with a medical hero? Yes please!
Officials in Roanoke, Virginia, announced this week that the city will put up a bronze statue of Henrietta Lacks next year, in a plaza that used to house a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Lacks was originally from Roanoke; she died in 1951 when she was just 31, in Baltimore, from cervical cancer. While she was being treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital, one of the only hospitals that admitted Black patients, a gynecologist took a sample of Lacks's cancer cells without her permission or knowledge, and sent them to a lab. Unlike most of the cell samples collected at the time, Lacks's cells kept living and dividing, which meant they could be cultured and reproduced over and over again for use in medical research.
Would have been nice if someone had thought to ask Lacks or her family for consent, but it was the '50s and the medical establishment wasn't especially concerned with "informed consent" for women cancer patients (at the time, doctors might tell a woman's husband the diagnosis but withhold it from the patient herself). White researchers took even fewer ethical considerations if the patient was a poor Black woman. But wow, how about that cell line, called "HeLa" cells, for the first letters of Lacks's first and last names.
Lacks's life, the history of the HeLa cells, and the ethical mess were the subject of Rebecca Skloot's 2011 book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and if you somehow haven't come across it you really should try to fill that gap in your reading as soon as possible. Skloot's book led to posthumous recognition finally going to Lacks and to her family. HeLa cells have been widely used in medical research, were the first human cells to be cloned, were used to map the human genome, and were also used in developing the vaccines for polio and for COVID-19.
At a ceremony Monday in Roanoke, Lacks's grandson, Ron Lacks, endorsed the plans for the statue, ABC News reports:
"This is an honor and a privilege to be here in Roanoke with my father, Lawrence Lacks, Henrietta's oldest and only living child," he said at the ceremony on Monday. "This historical moment, occasion, has been a long time coming."
The life-sized Lacks statue will be created in bronze by sculptor Larry Bechtel, referencing a drawing by artist Bryce Cobbs, which was shown at the ceremony.
Bryce Cobbs and Lacks family attorney Ben Crump with a preliminary design for the statue. City of Roanoke on Facebook
Attorney Ben Crump, who's representing the Lacks family, said the statue was an appropriate tribute to Lacks and her unintentional scientific legacy.
"I just think it's so fitting in the state of Virginia … where in the past we commemorated a lot of men with statues that divided us. Now here in Roanoke, Virginia, we will have a statue of a Black woman who brings us all together," he said.
Crump is also suing the biotech company Thermo Fisher Scientific on the Lacks family's behalf. The family argues that the company has profited from the growth and sale of HeLa cells without the family's consent. Crump's firm says the suit will "lay the foundation for genetic justice."
The plaza where the Henrietta Lacks statue will be housed was formerly dedicated to Confederate General Robert E. Lee; a statue of Lee was torn down in 2020 during protests against the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Afterwards, the city decided not to put it back up. Instead, city officials voted to rename the plaza after Lacks and to raise funds for a statue honoring someone actually from Roanoke.
This won't be the first statue to honor Lacks; in 2021, the University of Bristol unveiled a statue of Lacks by sculptor Helen Wilson-Roe outside Royal Fort House, home to the university's Faculty of Science offices and a couple of health research institutes. It was the UK's first public art depicting a Black woman, by a Black woman.
Bristol, you'll recall, is where Black Lives Matter protesters in 2020 tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston and rolled it through the streets to dump it in the harbor. The Lacks statue is not in the same location as the former Colston statue, in case you were wondering.
Here's hoping that tributes to Henrietta Lacks (and other Black contributors to America) will keep replicating endlessly, eventually replacing all the Confederate statues everywhere.
[Guardian / ABC News / Johns Hopkins / The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Wonkette sales link) / Photo: "'14GTR," Creative Commons License 4.0]
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Washington, DC Planning To Get On The 'Free Bus' Bus!
Giving people a fare break, and darn good climate news too!
Bus transportation could become free to riders in the District of Columbia starting next July if the DC Council adopts a proposal that's up for a vote next Tuesday. As the Washington Post explains,
The legislation announced Thursday would allow anyone to board a Metrobus in the District without a fare card starting in July. It also would allow for round-the-clock bus service on major routes while contributing $10 million annually to bus transit improvements.
That's a serious help for working families who rely on buses to get around, and the more people you get out of cars and onto transit, the better for reaching carbon reduction goals, too. The impetus for the proposal isn't primarily the climate benefits, but rather to ensure that District residents can get where they need to go, affordably. Fares would remain in place for DC's Metro rail system and for Metrobus trips into DC from Virginia and Maryland. Long term, the Council is also working on a plan to provide monthly subsidies for DC residents to use rail service, too.
The free fare proposal was put forward by Council Member Charles Allen (D), to replace a more costly plan that would have offered DC residents a $100 per month subsidy that could be used for either the bus or the subway. The subsidies would have cost the District about $150 million annually, while eliminating fares on buses will run about $42 million a year.
Allen said his goal wasto make transportation more accessible, helping low-income families and people with limited transportation options find jobs while assisting businesses suffering from labor shortages. He said he also wants to help Metro by generating new riders and funding annual improvements to aboveground transit infrastructure.
DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson called the plan "a big deal" in a press release, although honestly that phrase should always include "fucking" for emphasis. He added that the plan would "encourage more folks to use public transit, which means numerous benefits, from reducing congestion to improving the environment to stabilizing WMATA” (that would be the "Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority," which dearly begs to be abbreviated).
Mendelson said the proposal would make DC "the first major city in the United States that will have free bus service." Look for some major grumping about what counts as "major" from city officials in neighboring Alexandria, Virginia, as well as Albuquerque, Tucson, Richmond, Kansas City (the Missouri one), and Olympia, Washington, which also have fare-free buses and did it first.
The Post also notes that when the pandemic hit, DC buses went fare-free for much of the rest of 2020, when the bus company
closed front entrances and the first few seats of buses to protect operators from coronavirus exposure. The move forced the transit agency to abandon fare collection, contributing to historical revenue losses. Metro took in $20.4 million in bus fares during a fiscal year in which it had projected to collect $117.8 million.
Since the pandemic, Metrobus ridership is nearly back to regular levels, but Metro board member Tracy Hadden Loh told the Post that "fare evasion" has increased so much that the system last year took in only $25 million. If DC just pays Metro to run the buses without fares, the system would take in $43 million annually in taxpayer funds instead — and it would also save on trying to recover those skipped fares.
Bus travel would even become more efficient because nobody would ever have to wait to board while another passenger goes through their pockets looking for that one last quarter they were sure they had, where the hell did it go? “We’re solving multiple problems at the same time here,” Loh said.
After initial testing of electric buses this year, Metro will begin purchasing only electric or low-emission buses starting in 2023, with only electric or other zero-emissions buses being purchased in 2030. Full conversion of the 1500-bus fleet to zero-emissions technology is only planned to be completed by 2045, but that timeline was published last fall, before passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and this summer's climate bill, both of which include grants to electrify bus fleets, so we're betting the actual switch to full zero-emissions buses is completed well before then. Make a note to yell at Metro if it doesn't revise that timeline forward significantly within the next couple years, OK? And heck, yell at your own cities to encourage 'em to green up their transportation, too!
[WaPo / Washingtonian / Greater Greater Washington / Image created using Stable Diffusion AI]
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Anti-LGBTQ School Board Candidates Drown In Own 'Red Wave'
Turns out a lot of voters don't want Aunt Lydia running the third grade.
The far-Right culture warriors pushing to ban books, restrict any classroom references to LGBTQ+ folks' existence (or Black people in history for that matter), and possibly ban all rainbows too had only limited successes in school board elections Tuesday, at least as far as we can tell. We're sure a really rigorous nationwide analysis will emerge, from education researchers who aren't gleaning their data from Google on a deadline like some filthy politics blogger.
Oklahoma Teacher Hounded Out Of Job For Telling Innocent Kids Of Forbidden Library
If Republicans Think Teachers Are All Child Molesters, Why Are They Sending Their Kids To School?
Americans MASSIVELY AGAINST Banning School Library Books? But We Heard ... Aw F*ck It
Right-Wingers No Longer Being Shy About Wanting To Defund Public Schools Entirely
Dipsh*t Wingnut Parents Think High School Girl's Awesome Mural Full Of SATAN And GAY
There are definitely some places where school boards have indeed been taken over by anti-LGBTQ wingnuts. But as the crazies have gotten louder, there are also plenty of examples of their views being soundly rejected by voters who are sick of their kids being targets in the Culture Wars and just want schools with fully stocked libraries and no interference from religious bigots whose open aim is ending public education. Some snapshots!
Texas: GOP-Backed Candidates Bite The Big Lone Star
In Round Rock, Texas, a suburb north of Austin, the Texas Republican Party sponsored its own slate of five school board candidates to bring decency and patriotism to the godless libs living in the area, and every last one of the GOP-sponsored candidates lost, NBC News reports. Charmingly, one of the candidates ran on the slogan "Teach ABCs + 123s, Not CRTs & LGBTs," which sounds to us like a bigot's version of a Dr. Bronner's soap bottle. Happily, the voters replied, "Dilute! Dilute!" and washed the wingnuts right out of their schools.
Unfortunately, because people who want to protect children know the Prince of Peace is on their side, the election got very charming; NBC affiliate KXAN reports that one of the incumbent board members, Tiffanie Harrison, said that during the summer she'd been sent
crude packages and the contents of one allegedly contained used feminine products. She said since being elected, she has faced similar harassment that is intensifying in the final months of the election.
She won reelection anyway, against a guy whose campaign focused on dirty school books and CRT of course.
Statewide, NBC News says, only two of the 11 school board candidates with state GOP support actually won seats, while the others
lost by wide margins. School board candidates running on platforms focused on critical race theory and sexually explicit library books also performed poorly in the nearby Leander Independent School District, and in a pair of right-leaning suburbs outside of Houston.
Here's our Grand Theory of Wingnuts: In lower-level elections where there's often little community engagement, it's easy for virulently rightwing candidates to rack up wins — but once people start paying attention, and they will, the next bunch will get stomped. Thank you for coming to our TED talk. [NBC News / KXAN]
And Then There's Fuckin' FLORIDA
Ron DeSantis and the Florida Republican Party have been in the business of pushing for school Gileadization longer than Texas has — including at least one direct replacement of Democrats on a school board, under the pretext of "mismanaging" school safety funds — so it shouldn't be too surprising that all six school board candidates endorsed by DeSantis won in runoff elections held Tuesday. Of 30 school board candidates endorsed by DeSantis this year, 24 won seats. As in Texas, school board races are nominally nonpartisan, but the GOP and big PACs are getting increasingly involved, as are Democrats who are playing catch-up, so political pundits can now cry "both sides" are polarizing education.
In one glaring example, the 1776 PAC, which opposes critical race theory in schools, endorsed 49 candidates in Florida throughout 21 counties — more than even DeSantis.
Parental rights groups also played a role, such as the conservative Moms for Liberty, which endorsed 12 school board candidates in Florida and donated to campaigns. Florida Democrats endorsed 20 candidates ahead of the general election.
Come on, guys, at least put "parental rights" in quotes. They want public funds to move from public schools to private religious schools and homeschooling parents, and to tightly restrict whatever's still taught in any remaining public schools until they can be liquidated. [Politico]
Indiana: Some Wins For Sanity, Some Losses
Independent reporter Erin Reed has been following the anti-LGBTQ+ political movement closely, and notes that in the Tippecanoe School Corporation (yeesh, no "districts" for Indiana?) in Lafayette, Indiana, two candidates pushing for LGBTQ book bans and other crap lost their races, hooray! While we were checking Lafayette's Gannet paper for more info, we found that in another district, the Lafayette School Corporation, the incumbent board vice president lost his reelection bid to Chuck Hockema, a dude sponsored by the "Tippe Citizens' Devolution of Education," the same rightwing "parental rights" group that sponsored the two losing candidates in Tippecanoe. Tyler was not available for comment. Hockema's statement on the group's website is A LOT:
Trustworthiness, honesty, integrity and being a conservative Christian are my life's values.
I strongly oppose any ideology that teaches OR:
1. Undermines traditional values and beliefs.
2. Promotes gender confusion
3. Encourages peer to peer sex education
4. Violates or undermines parental rights
5. Supports CRT (Critical Race Theory) or SEL (Social Emotional Learning) when used as a cover for divisive instruction (“Privilege”, et al).
6. Promotes WOKE ideology (Change of descriptive pronouns, etc.)
(See ISAIAH 5: 20-21)
Wonkette public service: The Bible stuff is about what you'd expect.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
Feel free to jeer the implications of the second line there. [Erin Reed on Twitter / Journal & Courier]
North Carolina: Dems Keep BibleBangers From Taking School Board
Reed also highlighted a big win in the Wake County, North Carolina, school board elections — also officially nonpartisan — where candidates supported by the Wake County Democratic Party took seven of the nine seats. Four were incumbents, and the Dems added three new board members. A slate of GOP-backed candidates had sought to take over the board, but only two of the would-be book censors and purity monitors managed to win seats. They'll no doubt work harmoniously with their colleagues, at least when not calling them pedos and groomers.
One of the losing Republican candidates, Michele Morrow (It's always one l, isn't it?), attended the January 6 election denial rally, and during the campaign "apologized" for tweets in which she had called for Islam to be banned in God's USA and also for a ban on Muslims holding office. Needless to say, she homeschools her own kids. The school board will surely regret not having her expertise to rely upon. She was defeated by a truly polar opposite, Tyler Swanson, a former teacher in the district who campaigned on his record of being arrested during the Moral Monday protests against racial gerrymandering and vote suppression by the state's GOP legislators. [News & Observer]
Michigan Township Would Rather Hate Gays Than Have Public Library
Voters in Jamestown Township, Michigan, voted for a second time against a tax measure to fund the Patmos Library, which means that unless more funding comes through, the library will close for good in the fall of 2024. The library funding was opposed by the usual rightwing "concerned citizens" who were convinced children would catch the Ghey from library books with LGBT characters. A previous vote on funding the library with property taxes failed in August, and although the headlines that vote generated led to a successful crowdfunding effort, you really can't run a public library forever on donations. We're sure there will be more crowdfunding and another vote on taxes somewhere down the line, and who knows, maybe the MAGA fever will go down at some point. [Holland Sentinel]
Ohio: State Board Of Ed Gets Three Non-Crazy Board Members
Three candidates who oppose rightwing culture war assaults on public education were elected to the 19-member Ohio State Board of Education, which has 11 elected members and eight who are appointed by the governor (you could tell us that, Cleveland Dot Com!). The three new members were elected with substantial support from teachers' unions, Crom bless them, and defeated candidates sponsored by "Ohio Value Voters." Wingnuts on the state board last year overturned an antiracism resolution that had been passed after the murder of George Floyd; two of the losers Tuesday were incumbents who'd voted for racism. A third chose not to run for reelection.
The new members will have to get right to work on defeating a proposed resolution that
would urge local school districts to defy Title IX protections for LGBTQ students that are being proposed by President Joe Biden’s administration, potentially putting federal money for free and reduced lunch and special education in jeopardy.
That resolution remains under consideration and does Cleveland.com tell us how many righties remain on the board or its chances of passing? Why would a newspaper mention that? [Cleveland.com]
We're sure we'll have more wingnut school and library board results for you; the most optimistic thing we can point out is that most people don't want education policy set by the small but loud minority of activists who respond to moral panics. But first, they have to know that it's a threat, and sometimes by the time kids are asking why the library had to close and there's no more summer reading program, it's too late.
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