Opinion | The First Invasion of America – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“I was an American history major in college, back in the 1980s.

I’ll be honest with you. I thrilled to the way the American story was told back then. To immigrate to America was to join the luckiest and greatest nation in history. “Nothing in all history had ever succeeded like America, and every American knew it,” Henry Steele Commager wrote in his 1950 book, “The American Mind.”

To be born American was to be born to a glorious destiny. We were the nation of the future, the vanguard of justice, the last best hope of mankind. “Have the elder races halted?” Walt Whitman asked, “Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied over there beyond the seas? We take up the task eternal.”

To be born American was to be born boldly individual, daring and self-sufficient. “Trust thyself: Every heart vibrates to that iron string,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in an essay called, very Americanly, “Self-Reliance.”

To be born American was to bow down to no one, to say: I’m no better than anyone else, but nobody’s better than me. Tocqueville wrote about the equality of condition he found in America; no one putting on airs over anyone else. In 1981, Samuel Huntington wrote that American creed was built around a suspicion of authority and a fervent rejection of hierarchy: “The essence of egalitarianism is rejection of the idea that one person has the right to exercise power over another.”
I found it all so energizing. Being an American was not just a citizenship. It was a vocation, a call to serve a grand national mission.

Today, of course, we understand what was wrong with that version of American history. It didn’t include everybody. It left out the full horrors of slavery and genocide.

But here’s what has struck me forcefully, especially during the pandemic: That whole version of the American creed was all based on an assumption of existential security. Americans had the luxury of thinking and living the way they did because they had two whopping great oceans on either side. The United States was immune to foreign invasion, the corruptions of the old world. It was often spared the plagues that swept over so many other parts of the globe.”

Brooks ends with, “Something lovely is being lost. America’s old idea of itself unleashed a torrent of energy. But the American identity that grows up in the shadow of the plague can have the humanity of shared vulnerability, the humility that comes with an understanding of the precariousness of life and a fierce solidarity that emerges during a long struggle against an invading force.”

Dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain – medicalxpress.com

“As we grow older we suffer a decline in mental and physical fitness, which can be made worse by conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, and dancing has the most profound effect.

“Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting  in mental and physical capacity,” says Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany. “In this study, we show that two different types of physical  (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that led to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance.”

Elderly volunteers, with an average age of 68, were recruited to the study and assigned either an eighteen-month weekly course of learning dance routines, or endurance and flexibility training. Both groups showed an increase in the hippocampus region of the brain. This is important because this area can be prone to age-related  and is affected by diseases like Alzheimer’s. It also plays a key role in memory and learning, as well as keeping one’s balance.

While previous research has shown that  can combat age-related brain decline, it is not known if one type of exercise can be better than another. To assess this, the exercise routines given to the volunteers differed. The traditional fitness training program conducted mainly repetitive exercises, such as cycling or Nordic walking, but the dance group were challenged with something new each week.”

Source: Dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain

More weekend NYT highlights, chosen by David Lindsay

More weekend NYT highlights,  chosen by David Lindsay

Eliza Blue took my breath away with her piece, Our Unstable Industrialized Food Chain. She wrote:

“Smithfield is near the end of the food supply chain; we are where it begins. On our drought-prone side of the state, where ruminants outnumber humans, there are no processing plants, just grass — vast, luminous expanses of grass — with intricate root structures that grow thick and deep.

There are still custom butcher shops scattered across the hundreds of miles of open pasture, small mom-and-pop operations, remnants of a system that used to connect rural economies to the food they were producing. Now nearly all animals raised here are shipped elsewhere — to feedlots to be grain-fattened, and then to gargantuan facilities like Smithfield to be slaughtered.

I know some ranchers who are working to change this system, but many more lack the financial or political clout to innovate beyond the scope of their own operations. We are part of an industrialized system that treats animals and their caretakers as columns on spreadsheets geared toward achieving maximum profit. These columns ignore the physical realities of labor in animal husbandry, as well the dignity of the animals we husband, while saddling us with debt and draining resources from our rural communities.” Eliza Blue  prayed for a more humane animal husbandry. https://nyti.ms/3d4PRvV

 

Gina Kolata writes in One Way Back to Normal Life,  “The researchers, Dr. Mette Kalager and Dr. Michael Bretthauer, a husband-and-wife team at the University of Oslo, do not suggest randomizing individuals, as is done in studies of experimental drugs, but rather randomizing regions like similar school districts in adjacent towns.

To test whether it was safe to open schools, they envision what is called rapid-cycle randomization, in which measures are quickly evaluated and adjusted as data emerge.

In the first cycle, schools in one district would remain closed while those in another would reopen carefully with, for example, half the usual number of students and with six-foot social distancing in place. Students and teachers in both districts would be tested for the coronavirus at the start and end of the cycle. Each cycle could last between 10 days and two weeks, accounting for a viral incubation period of four to five days.

If the careful reopening did not result in increased transmission of the virus, the study would advance to the second stage: Schools in one district would open with half the normal number of students and six-foot social distancing while those in the other would have three-quarters of the normal number of students and maintain just three feet of social distancing.

If there were no increased transmission, the third phase would compare that less restrictive setting with a full, unrestricted reopening.

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In the best-case scenario — no increased transmission — all schools could open after three to six weeks.” https://nyti.ms/3fg6dDJ

 

Brett McGurk’s haunting piece, The Father I Never Forgave,  made me pause, and I wrote the following note to myself: “I should write the story of my life and the stormy relationship with my father.”  My father was a great man in the law and politics, but also an alcoholic and a dead beat dad. I was blessed to have a marvelous reconciliation with him shortly before he died prematurely of cancer.  https://nyti.ms/2SxioCC

 

Last but not least, Nicholas Kristof writes, A Young Doctor, Fighting For His Life:

“Dr. Andres Maldonado normally bounded into the Emergency Department, fit and vigorous, but this time he had to be escorted in, pale and fighting for breath, with a patient bracelet on his right wrist. A nurse, seeing her colleague struggle, burst into tears.

Maldonado was 27, a third-year resident physician with no underlying medical conditions. When he came down with a fever on March 23, he called in sick. Soon he developed a tightness in his chest and tested positive for the coronavirus.

At first he resisted the idea of seeking treatment. He was by nature stoical; in youth soccer games, other boys had crumpled when injured, but Maldonado always got up and limped through his pain. Now as a doctor — a badass emergency doctor, he jokingly called himself — he was humiliated by the thought of becoming a patient.

But on March 31, so out of breath he could barely get to the bathroom, he called his older brother, Nestor, also an emergency physician, who remembers panic in Andres’s voice.

“It hurts to breathe,” Andres told his brother. “My body aches all over. I’ve been having really bad fevers, and I’m getting, like, dizzy.”

“Yo,” his brother ordered him, “get your butt to the E.R.”

Maldonado called his parents to say that he was going to the hospital. His dad, Jose Maldonado, was a refugee from the civil war in El Salvador who started life over as a dishwasher in New York. His mom, Cecilia Aguilar-Maldonado, came from Ecuador, and both were undocumented for a time — yet they sent both sons through medical school. The parents were the first of many to be devastated by their son’s sickness. https://nyti.ms/3f9cr8F

Social Distancing for Coronavirus Has a History – By Eric Lipton and Jennifer Steinhauer – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — Fourteen years ago, two federal government doctors, Richard Hatchett and Carter Mecher, met with a colleague at a burger joint in suburban Washington for a final review of a proposal they knew would be treated like a piñata: telling Americans to stay home from work and school the next time the country was hit by a deadly pandemic.

When they presented their plan not long after, it was met with skepticism and a degree of ridicule by senior officials, who like others in the United States had grown accustomed to relying on the pharmaceutical industry, with its ever-growing array of new treatments, to confront evolving health challenges.

Drs. Hatchett and Mecher were proposing instead that Americans in some places might have to turn back to an approach, self-isolation, first widely employed in the Middle Ages.

How that idea — born out of a request by President George W. Bush to ensure the nation was better prepared for the next contagious disease outbreak — became the heart of the national playbook for responding to a pandemic is one of the untold stories of the coronavirus crisis.:

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Magnificent article. It really felt good to learn this fine story. You see children, as I said before, the Republicans weren’t always bad, creepy, science denying, suck ups to the rich and racists.

 

Joan commented 2 hours ago

Joan
NJ   

I admit, I was never a fan of GWBush. However, as more facts emerge about his healthcare initiatives in both Africa in 2003 AIDS crisis and now in this report, my respect has grown for him. History will probably judge him more kindly based on this information. He has a soul and humanity, which is in stark contrast to DJT. Time to speak up President Bush.

4 Replies 131 Recommended

Most New York Coronavirus Cases Came From Europe, Genomes Show – The New York Times

“New research indicates that the coronavirus began to circulate in the New York area by mid-February, weeks before the first confirmed case, and that travelers brought in the virus mainly from Europe, not Asia.

“The majority is clearly European,” said Harm van Bakel, a geneticist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who co-wrote a study awaiting peer review.

A separate team at N.Y.U. Grossman School of Medicine came to strikingly similar conclusions, despite studying a different group of cases. Both teams analyzed genomes from coronaviruses taken from New Yorkers starting in mid-March.

The research revealed a previously hidden spread of the virus that might have been detected if aggressive testing programs had been put in place.

On Jan. 31, President Trump barred foreign nationals from entering the country if they had been in China during the prior two weeks.

It would not be until late February that Italy would begin locking down towns and cities, and March 11 when Mr. Trump said he would block travelers from most European countries. But New Yorkers had already been traveling home with the virus.

“People were just oblivious,” said Adriana Heguy, a member of the N.Y.U. team.

Opinion | Covid-19 Is Twisting 2020 Beyond All Recognition – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

“Not only will the coronavirus crisis define Donald Trump’s legacy, it will determine whether or not he is a one-term president.

David Winston, a Republican pollster, summed up the situation in an email:

The country is not looking at what is occurring through a political lens. They are focused on the threat to their health and the country’s health and how that threat is being addressed.

Because of that, Winston continued, voters will judge the Trump administration by “the effectiveness of actions taken to address that threat, and get the country moving forward again,” making the question on Election Day “who does the country believe should be given the responsibility to govern.”

Crises can provoke extreme responses. The 2008-9 recession produced both Barack Obama and the Tea Party. On a grander scale, the Great Depression produced both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler.

No one is suggesting that the country is at such a point now, but, then again, no one suggested in January of 2015 that the country was on the verge of electing Donald Trump president.

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Continue reading the main story

The current pandemic shows signs of reshaping the American political and social order for years to come.

March 10-15 NBC News/Commonwealth Fund poll asked 1,006 adults “How much do you trust the President Trump to provide information about the coronavirus epidemic?” A majority, 53 percent, said they either had no trust at all (40 percent) or little trust (13 percent). 30 percent said they either completely trust (16 percent) or mostly trust (14 percent) the president.

In another danger signal for Trump, the poll asked “how confident are you that the vaccine will be available to the American public at little or no cost” if a Democrat wins or if Trump is re-elected. Nearly two thirds said they were confident a low-cost vaccine would be available with a Democrat in the White House; half said they were confident with Trump in office for another four years.

Trump’s job approval ratings have risen in recent weeks, but Gary Langer, who conducts polling for ABC News, warned that the results of an ABC/Washington Post survey released on March 27 show that there are substantial risks to the president:

Trump’s overall approval rating drops among people who are more worried about catching the coronavirus, report severe local economic impacts, say their lives have been especially disrupted or know someone who’s caught the virus. He also has lower approval in states with higher per capita infection rates.

While some of those findings reflect the higher levels of infection with coronavirus in blue states, Langer wrote, “the results suggest that as the crisis deepens, the risks to views of his performance likely rise.”

On March 26, Pew Research released results of a survey that showed significant demographic and partisan differences in responses to the question “Has someone in your household lost a job or taken a pay cut as a result of Covid-19?”

Opinion | The Coronavirus and the Conservative Mind – by Ross Douthat – The New York Times

“. . . . . .    In his novel “Foucault’s Pendulum,” a sendup of crackpot esotericism that anticipated “The Da Vinci Code” years before its publication, Umberto Eco captured this spirit by describing the way that self-conscious seekers after hermetic wisdom and gnostic mysteries approached the rise of Christianity:

… someone had just arrived and declared himself the Son of God, the Son of God made flesh, to redeem the sins of the world. Was that a run-of-the-mill mystery? And he promised salvation to all: you only had to love your neighbor. Was that a trivial secret? And he bequeathed the idea that whoever uttered the right words at the right time could turn a chunk of bread and a half-glass of wine into the body and blood of the Son of God, and be nourished by it. Was that a paltry riddle?

… And yet they, who now had salvation within their grasp — do-it-yourself salvation — turned deaf ears. Is that all there is to it? How trite. And they kept on scouring the Mediterranean in their boats, looking for a lost knowledge of which those thirty-denarii dogmas were but the superficial veil, the parable for the poor in spirit, the allusive hieroglyph, the wink of the eye at the pneumatics. The mystery of the Trinity? Too simple: there had to be more to it.

This is where the pandemic-minimizing sort of conservative has ended up. They are confronted with a world crisis tailor-made for an anti-globalization, anti-deep-state worldview — a crisis in which China lit the fuse, the World Health Organization ran interference for Beijing, the American public health bureaucracy botched its one essential job, pious anti-racism inhibited an early public-health response, and outsourcing and offshoring left our economy exposed.

And their response? Too simple: Just a feint, a false flag, another deep state plot or power grab, another hoax to take down Trump. It can’t be real unless Hillary Clinton is somehow at the bottom of it.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
In the beginning Ross Douthat basically lost me, but by the time he quoted Umberto Ecco, he had me eating out of the palm of his hand. My lady and I had been joking about how we could run rings around the first half of the essay, which lacked citations or hypertexts, and we quit reading it together. Then I read the second half, and had to call her back. Douthat was like Houdini, he revealed his main point with an almost perverted brilliance that only he, in the NYT crowd, is capable of or interessted in. My hat is off to Douthat.

25 Again? How Exercise May Fight Aging – By Gretchen Reynolds -The New York Times

“Regular exercise throughout adulthood may protect our muscles against age-related loss and damage later, according to an interesting new study of lifelong athletes and their thighs. The study finds that active older men’s muscles resemble, at a cellular level, those of 25-year-olds and weather inflammatory damage much better than the muscles of sedentary older people.

The study also raises some cautionary questions about whether waiting until middle age or later to start exercising might prove to be challenging for the lifelong health of our muscles.

Physical aging is a complicated and enigmatic process, as any of us who are living and experiencing it know. Precipitated by little-understood changes in the workings of our cells and physiological systems, it proceeds in stuttering fits and starts, affecting some people and body parts earlier or more noticeably than others.

Muscles are among the body parts most vulnerable to time. Almost all of us begin losing some muscle mass and strength by early middle age, with the process accelerating as the decades pass. While the full causes for this decline remain unknown, most aging researchers agree that a subtle, age-related rise in inflammation throughout our bodies plays a role.”

Mystery solved: ocean acidity in the last mass extinction | YaleNews

Heterohelix globulosa fossils
A species of foraminifera called Heterohelix globulosa that were picked and isolated from the K-Pg boundary clay at Geulhemmerberg in the Netherlands. Each fossil measures between 150 and 212 microns.

“A new study led by Yale University confirms a long-held theory about the last great mass extinction event in history and how it affected Earth’s oceans. The findings may also answer questions about how marine life eventually recovered.

The researchers say it is the first direct evidence that the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event 66 million years ago coincided with a sharp drop in the pH levels of the oceans — which indicates a rise in ocean acidity.

The study appears in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Cretaceous-Paleogene die-off, also known as the K-Pg mass extinction event, occurred when a meteor slammed into Earth at the end of the Cretaceous period. The impact and its aftereffects killed roughly 75% of the animal and plant species on the planet, including whole groups like the non-avian dinosaurs and ammonites.

For years, people suggested there would have been a decrease in ocean pH because the meteor impact hit sulphur-rich rocks and caused the raining-out of sulphuric acid, but until now no one had any direct evidence to show this happened,” said lead author Michael Henehan, a former Yale scientist who is now at GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, Germany.

Turns out all they had to do was look at the foraminifera.

Pincelli Hull standing next to researcher Michael Henehan, who is looking into a microscope.
Pincelli Hull, assistant professor of geology and geophysics, standing next to researcher Michael Henehan, who is looking into a microscope.

Foraminifera are tiny plankton that grow a calcite shell and have an amazingly complete fossil record going back hundreds of millions of years. Analysis of the chemical composition of foraminifera fossils from before, during, and after the K-Pg event produced a wealth of data about changes in the marine environment over time. Specifically, measurements of boron isotopes in these shells allowed the Yale scientists to detect changes in the ocean’s acidity.”

Source: Mystery solved: ocean acidity in the last mass extinction | YaleNews

David Lindsay
Excess Carbon Dioxide is causing the oceans to acidify in the last 200 years or so, to the point that half of the Great Barrier Reef, is dead. Coral reefs are dying all over the world. This science shows that ocean acidity in the past led to a great die off of aquatic species during the 5th great extinction 66 million years ago.

A New Timeline of the Day the Dinosaurs Began to Die Out – By Katherine Kornei – The New York Times

By 

“The giant asteroid’s impact into shallow waters in the Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago was bad enough. But then an amalgam of additional disasters ensued: Rocks fell from the sky, wildfires ignited and tsunamis inundated distant shorelines.

It was the beginning of the end of the Mesozoic Era when dinosaurs ruled the world.

Scientists released a new record of this day of chaos in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. Their timeline of the first day of the Cenozoic Era was developed using high-resolution photography, microscopy, computed tomography imaging and magnetic measurements of hundreds of feet of sedimentary rock recently recovered from Chicxulub, one of the largest impact craters on Earth.

In 2016, researchers drilled deep in waters off the Yucatán Peninsula for the first time into Chicxulub’s peak ring, a circle of mountains within the crater.

This new study, led by Sean P. S. Gulick, a marine geophysicist at the University of Texas at Austin, focuses on a subset of these cores, which are effectively a 430-foot-long sedimentary rock record of the first day after the asteroid impact.”