1

Indecent Exposure

My family has been remarkably Covid-careful over the past couple years, and when Omicron hit, we begrudgingly gave up our holiday travel plans, avoided any crowds, gave up our tickets to see the Matrix premiere in San Francisco, and cancelled my birthday party. But on the first day of the new year, we hung out with some relatives who later tested positive. Since then, we've re-entered the now familiar Pell family lockdown. We're lucky. We have the time, resources, and broadband to keep our kids home from school for a few days. We have antigen tests in our cupboard and easy access to PCR tests, both free or pricey. But even in our fortunate situation combined with my daily lit review of the latest news, it's been a confusing start to the year. We're sort of making up our own extra cautious family rules for how to handle the exposure. During the week, I've probably shared five articles with my family (those who haven't blocked me) with updates on changes from the CDC, our local health advisors, and our schools. I get it. Pandemics aren't easy and these are confusing times. We're all experiencing every stage of this nightmare for the first time. But it's fair to say that the messaging from the top has been muddled. And political polarization has hamstrung what should have been our efforts to better prepare for variants. Yes, Omicron is less deadly than Delta. But what if it weren't? We're two years into a pandemic that we still don't seem ready for. Officially, I'm not sure my family was required to do anything after our exposure. For those who get Omicron, they can now return to school or work with a mask after five days. No negative test is required. But if they do take a test and it's positive, they have to quarantine for five more days. Wait, what? Believe me, I wouldn't want to have to message the pandemic under a constant barrage of attacks from lying news sources, disingenuous politicians, and misinformed freedom-lovin' Americans who don't have the common sense to accept the good fortune of effective vaccines. But it's been two years. Maybe I'm a little extra ornery being stuck in my house with my kids for yet another quarantine. But we knew the variants were coming. We should have gamed this out and come up with clear messaging. The CDC says a test to get out of COVID isolation is not needed.

+ "Might the real reason be that rapid tests are hard to find and expensive here (while they are easily available and relatively cheap in other countries)? Is it possible that rapid tests are a good way to see who is infectious and who can return to public life — and their lack of sensitivity to minute amounts of virus is actually a good thing?" Zeynep Tufekci in the NYT (Gift Article): The C.D.C. Is Hoping You'll Figure Covid Out on Your Own.

+ Chicago schools are closed while the union hammers out safety decisions, college kids are in quarantine or Zooming from home, and the world needs 22 billion more mRNA vaccine doses to ward off omicron threat. Here's the latest from WaPo. (Gift Article)

2

Democracy Movement

"If momentum had built in the Republican Party to renounce the events of Jan. 6 the way it ultimately abandoned Richard Nixon in 1974, we might have hoped that the country might move on from the Trump era. But this has not happened, and foreign adversaries like Russia and China are watching this situation with unconstrained glee. If issues like vaccinations and mask-wearing have become politicized and divisive, consider how a future decision to extend military support — or to deny such support — to either Ukraine or Taiwan would be greeted. Mr. Trump undermined the bipartisan consensus that existed since the late 1940s over America's strong support for a liberal international role, and President Biden has not yet been able to re-establish it." Francis Fukuyama in the NYT (Gift Article and a must read): One Single Day. That's All It Took for the World to Look Away From Us.

+ Trump cancels Jan. 6 event amid GOP complaints. He thinks it was a good day. They know he's crazy. But they won't rebel.

+ The Atlantic: How Ivy League Elites Turned Against Democracy. It's not just that people like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley tried to overturn an American election. It's that they're getting away with it.

3

Fuel to Fire

"Although the protests began over a near-doubling of prices for a type of liquefied gas that is widely used as vehicle fuel, the size and rapid spread of the unrest suggest they reflect wider discontent in the country that has been under the rule of the same party since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991." Kazakh president's home ablaze as protests escalate.

4

Novax Djokovic

"If that evidence is insufficient, then he won't be treated any different to anyone else and he'll be on the next plane home." That was Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Novak Djokovic who got cleared by the Australian Open to compete without a vaccine, until Aussies got wind of that news. Currently, he's in a guarded room after landing in Australia. (And no, Nadal and Federer aren't the ones guarding it...)

5

Ending Pet-ophelia?

Uh, according to the BBC: Pope Francis says choosing pets over kids is selfish. "Today ... we see a form of selfishness," he told the audience. "We see that some people do not want to have a child ... Sometimes they have one, and that's it, but they have dogs and cats that take the place of children. This may make people laugh, but it is a reality." (It won't make people laugh. It will make them cringe. It also made my beagles shit in the house. So cut it out.)

6

You’ve Got the Brains, I’ve Got the Sean

"The letter to Hannity also highlights texts from the night before the insurrection, including one in which Hannity said he was "very worried about the next 48 hours" and another to Meadows in which he wrote, 'Pence pressure. WH counsel will leave.' The letter says it appears from other text messages that Hannity may have spoken directly with Trump on Jan. 5 regarding planning for the following day." Jan. 6 panel seeks interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity. (He wasn't acting as a journalist. He was an advisor.)

7

Where’s My Space Laser?

David Bateman says he has "nothing but love for the Jewish people." But the tech exec and political donor also said that "the COVID-19 vaccine is part of a plot by 'the Jews' to exterminate people." He sent an email that "attacks the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine and urges people not to get it. It claims the pandemic and 'systematic extermination of billions of people' will lead to an effort to 'consolidate all the countries in the world under a single flag with totalitarian rule.'" Whacked out theories like this are a big joke. Until they're not.

8

Magic Bus

"They met on a school bus when they were in elementary school and, as African refugees, soon became best friends, bonded in common trauma. Now, years later, they are closing in on an improbable dream: helping their home countries get clean, safe drinking water." WaPo: In Africa, drinking water was scarce for them. Now they're helping fight the global crisis with their own bottles.

9

Letter Know You Love Her

"The word game has gone from dozens of players to hundreds of thousands in a few months. It was created by a software engineer in Brooklyn for his partner." NYT: Wordle Is a Love Story.

10

Bottom of the News

"A half-suck is the Olympics for the Modern crew -- the six men, riding in five trucks, have about 90 minutes to take care of 196 port-a-potties spread over the public parking lots outside Highmark Stadium. For each port-a-potty, Cansdale must replace two rolls of toilet paper from a latched holder, suck out as much as possible from inside the bowl and clean the seat with water and a scrub brush. He gives a quick hand sanitizer check but has never had to refill one at a Bills game. 'The truth is, nobody's washing their hands,' Cansdale says. 'They just want to get in and get out.' The Modern drivers call it a 'half-suck' because the goal is speed and just to get the stalls usable for after the game. They'll do full sucks and total cleans starting Monday morning." ESPN: The secret MVP of sports? The port-a-potty. (At this point, anything that only half sucks sounds pretty good.)