US of America News

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.

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Nice Time

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.

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Nice Time

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.

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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.

Read Moar:

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!

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