GTTF testimony draws link back to drugs looted from Baltimore pharmacies in 2015 riot after Freddie Gray funeral

On Thursday, a Baltimore bail bondsman said a member of the city’s Gun Trace Task Force arrived at his home with two trash bags full of looted prescription drugs amid the April 2015 riots and looting.

The testimony on Thursday, in which Donald C. Stepp said Sgt. Wayne Jenkins made near-nightly trips to Stepp’s county home to drop off drugs, adds an additional layer to our understanding of the looting of pharmacies and businesses in the hours after Freddie Gray’s funeral.

GTTF testimony draws link back to drugs looted from Baltimore pharmacies in 2015 riot after Freddie Gray funeral – Baltimore Sun

Dirty, corrupt cops stealing and selling drugs.
No wonder Baltimore is such a shit show!

Police unions dig in as calls for reform grow

A crowd of police officers in Philadelphia gathered outside their local union headquarters on Monday to show their support for one of their own: a staff inspector facing assault charges after allegedly beating a college student at an anti-racism protest last week.

…Despite viral footage of Bologna hitting the student in the back of the head with a metal baton, sending him to the hospital.

Following the rally, the union that represents Bologna issued a statement, saying it “will not stand-by and watch Inspector Bologna get railroaded.”

Police unions dig in as calls for reform grow – CNNPolitics

There is no arguing with double-speak like that, only shutting it down.

George Floyd and Derek Chauvin Might as Well Have Lived on Different Planets

Severe segregation in the Twin Cities region is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Minneapolis region was one of the most racially integrated in the nation. This was partially the product of a carefully designed “fair share” program that required all municipalities within the region to develop affordable housing within their borders, preventing suburbs from effectively barring low-income residents, as had occurred in most major American cities. Minneapolis also operated an aggressive school desegregation plan. But over time, both programs broke down under pressure from special interests and were substituted for by less politically troublesome programs.

This new approach focused more on improving segregated schools than eliminating them, and uplifting impoverished neighborhoods without directly addressing the region’s racialized living patterns. Combined with an increase in the region’s racial diversity, this policy shift caused residential and educational segregation — almost always closely linked — to rapidly spike.

…When police forces live in neighborhoods that are racially and socioeconomically distinct from the areas they serve, the police themselves can start to [act] less like community representatives, and more like an occupying force. A police officer who lives out of town, interacting with the resident of a poor or segregated neighborhood, is a microcosm of the embedded racial tensions across an entire geographic region.

Opinion | George Floyd and Derek Chauvin Might as Well Have Lived on Different Planets – The New York Times

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Exclusive: White House kept FDA in the dark on Russian ventilators for New York and New Jersey

The White House did not alert the FDA as [a shipment of ventilators from Russian President Vladimir Putin] headed to New York and New Jersey.

…The last minute notification meant the ventilators headed for the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak did not first receive FDA authorization.

…Earlier this month, Russia suspended use of some of the Aventa-M ventilators in its own hospitals after six people died in fires that reportedly involved the devices.

Exclusive: White House kept FDA in the dark on Russian ventilators for New York and New Jersey – Reuters

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Coronavirus at Smithfield pork plant: The untold story of America’s biggest outbreak – BBC News

When running at full capacity, it processes 19,500 freshly-slaughtered hogs per day, slicing, grinding and smoking them into millions of pounds of bacon, hot dogs and spiral-cut hams. With 3,700 workers, it is also the fourth-largest employer in the city.

…”There had been [rumors] there were cases even before that,” she recalled. “I heard about people getting [hospitalized] from Smithfield specifically. They only know from word of mouth.”

…Her parents, two long-time Smithfield employees with whom she is especially close, told her what was happening at the factory that day. 

…”My parents don’t know English. They can’t advocate for themselves,” said Julia. “Someone has to talk for them.”

…Her mother and father continued to report to a factory they knew could be contaminated, to jobs they could not afford to lose. They stood side-by-side less than a foot away from their colleagues on production lines, they passed in and out of crowded locker rooms, walkways and cafeterias.

During that time, the number of confirmed cases among Smithfield employees slowly mounted, from 80 to 190 to 238.

By 15 April, when Smithfield finally closed under pressure from the South Dakota governor’s office, the plant had become the number one hotspot in the US, with a cluster of 644 confirmed cases among Smithfield employees and people who contracted it from them.

…The Smithfield pork plant, located in a Republican-led state that is one of five in the US that has not issued any kind of shelter-in-place order, has become a microcosm illustrating the socioeconomic disparities laid bare by the global pandemic. While many white-collar workers around the country are sheltering in place and working from home, food industry workers like the employees at Smithfield are deemed “essential” and must remain on the front lines.

…They allege early requests for personal protective equipment were ignored, that sick workers were [incentivized] to continue working, and that information regarding the spread of the virus was kept from them, even when they were at risk of exposing family and the broader public.

…Multiple workers said – and photos sent to the BBC seem to confirm – that personal protective equipment came in the form of beard nets to wear over their faces, which do not protect from airborne particles like a surgical or N95 mask would.

“I haven’t read anything from the CDC that says a hair net over your face will do much good,” said Caraway.

…If employees like Kaleb were to quit, they would be ineligible for unemployment. Advocates are hearing from visa-holders who fret that even if they were to apply for unemployment, they might be considered “public charges” which could render them ineligible for permanent residency under a new rule enacted by the Trump administration last year. …The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (Cares) Act excludes anyone living in a mixed-status household with an undocumented family member.

…Mayor TenHaken formally requested that Governor Noem issue a shelter-in-place order for Sioux Falls’ surrounding counties as well as an isolation centre. She denied both requests. Despite the steep increase in cases, Noem also continued to decline to issue a shelter-in-place order in South Dakota, specifically saying that such an order would not have prevented the Smithfield outbreak.

Coronavirus at Smithfield pork plant: The untold story of America’s biggest outbreak – BBC News

atlantic cover crying uncle sam

Why do white people eat bland food like unseasoned potato salad? A short history

Why do white people eat bland food like unseasoned potato salad? A short history — Quartz

Um, no.

Not sure how the author could have missed the fact that originally spices were also used to cover unappealing tastes. Highly spiced meat in the middle ages and Renaissance? And no mention of the strong spices masking the taste of decay? And there is also a connection between highly spiced foot and the more affordable sources of protein. Bottom feeders like catfish, scraps and offal from animals…. Strong tastes like those call out for spices more than a chicken breast or a filet mignon.

Industrialization did not create a condition where the working class consumed lesser quality foodstuffs. that pattern has existed since the beginning of time. How does the author account for soul food? Or the potato famine? Oy…. Why are there European laws about what can go into a type of alcohol? Or bread? Why are there laws about using standardized measurements? Does the author assume these rules came out of a vacuum, that they were not created out of necessity because consumers were being sold and fed inferior products?

The article starts with an interesting premise but these omissions make this piece a plate of self-indulgent,  poorly thought-out crap.

Group Buys Alabama Abortion Clinic to Keep it From Closing – Alabama News

An Alabama-based abortion rights group received a flood of donations after state lawmakers in 2019 attempted to outlaw abortion. The group used the money to purchase the state’s busiest abortion clinic to ensure it stays open when then-owner retires.

Group Buys Alabama Abortion Clinic to Keep it From Closing – Alabama News

Nicely, done!

Prestige Ameritech offered to make millions of N95 masks in Texas. The government turned him down.

Bowen’s medical supply company, Prestige Ameritech, could ramp up production to make an additional 1.7 million N95 masks a week. He viewed the shrinking domestic production of medical masks as a national security issue, though, and he wanted to give the federal government first dibs.

…“We are the last major domestic mask company,” he wrote on Jan. 23. “My phones are ringing now, so I don’t ‘need’ government business. I’m just letting you know that I can help you preserve our infrastructure if things ever get really bad. I’m a patriot first, businessman second.”

In the end, the government did not take Bowen up on his offer. Even today, production lines that could be making more than 7 million masks a month sit dormant.

“U.S. mask supply is at imminent risk,” he wrote. “Rick, I think we’re in deep s—,” he wrote a day later.

Within weeks, a shortage of masks was endangering health-care workers in hard-hit areas across the country, and the Trump administration was scrambling to buy more masks — sometimes placing bulk orders with third-party distributors for many times the standard price.

…The story of Bowen’s offer illustrates a missed opportunity in the early days of the pandemic, one laid out in Bright’s whistleblower complaint, interviews with Bowen and emails provided by both men.

…In the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress appropriated $6 billion to buy antidotes to bioweapons and the medical supplies the country would need in public health disasters. An obscure new government organization called the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or ­BARDA, was among the agencies purchasing material for what would become the Strategic National Stockpile.

In Trump’s first year, however, Bowen grew newly disillusioned. During a week when the White House touted its “Buy American, Hire American” initiative, Bowen lost a military contract worth up to $1 million to a supplier that would make many of the masks in Mexico, he said.

“Shame on the Department of Defense! One of these days the US military will need America’s manufacturers to help win another war or fight another pandemic — and they will not exist,” Bowen wrote on Aug. 17, 2017, to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Clark, a senior official with the Pentagon’s Defense Health Agency.

On Jan. 20, Bowen also fielded a call from the Department of Homeland Security, urgently seeking masks for airport screeners. Bowen said he did not have masks in stock to fill the order, but the call led him to contact Bright to tell him about the surge in demand for masks. “Is this virus going to be problematic?” Bowen wrote.

Inside HHS, Bright quickly passed Bowen’s on-the-ground observations to a group that included Wolf, the director of the agency’s Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection.

…Bright wrote to his deputy asking him to explore whether BARDA could divert money earmarked for vaccines and other biodefense measures to instead buy masks.

Nearly a month after his emailed offer, Bowen received his first formal communication about possibly helping to bolster the U.S. supply. The five-page form letter from the Food and Drug Administration — one Bowen said he suspected was sent to many manufacturers — asked how his company could help with what was by then a “national emergency response” to the shortage of protective gear.

Bowen responded on Feb. 16, by firing off a terse email to FDA and HHS officials. He directed the agencies to a U.S. government website listing approved foreign manufacturers of medical masks. “There you’ll find a long list of . . . approved Chinese respirator companies,” he wrote. “Please send your long list of questions to them.”

…The government soon spent over $600 million on contracts involving masks. Big companies like Honeywell and 3M were each awarded contracts totaling over $170 million for protective gear. One distributor of tactical gear — a company with no history of procuring medical equipment — was awarded a $55 million deal to provide masks for as much as $5.50 apiece, eight times what the government was paying months earlier.

On April 7, FEMA awarded Prestige a $9.5 million contract to provide a million N95 masks a month for one year, an order the company could fulfill without activating its dormant manufacturing lines. For the masks, Prestige charged the government 79 cents apiece.

Prestige Ameritech offered to make millions of N95 masks in Texas. The government turned him down.. – The Washington Post

sigh…. keystone comicbook villians

The medications that change who we are

It turns out many ordinary medications don’t just affect our bodies – they affect our brains. Why? [Why? Seriously?!]

…One reason medications can have such psychological clout is that the body isn’t just a bag of separate organs, awash with chemicals with well-defined roles – instead, it’s a network, in which many different processes are linked.

…The world is in the midst of a crisis of over-medication, with the US alone buying up 49,000 [tons] of [acetaminophen] every year – equivalent to about 298 [acetaminophen] tablets per person – and the average American consuming $1,200 worth of prescription medications over the same period.

…There was shockingly more evidence than I had imagined,” she says. For one thing, she uncovered findings that if you put primates on a low-cholesterol diet, they become more aggressive.

…There was even a potential mechanism: lowering the animals’ cholesterol seemed to affect their levels of serotonin, an important brain chemical thought to be involved in regulating mood and social [behavior] in animals. Even fruit flies start fighting if you mess up their serotonin levels, but it also has some unpleasant effects in people – studies have linked it to violence, impulsivity, suicide and murder.

If statins were affecting people’s brains, this was likely to be a direct consequence of their ability to lower cholesterol.  

…There’s much more of an emphasis on things that doctors can easily measure,” she says, explaining that, for a long time, research into the side-effects of statins was all focused on the muscles and liver, because any problems in these organs can be detected using standard blood tests.

…“There is a remarkable gap in the research actually, when it comes to the effects of medication on personality and behaviour,” he says. “We know a lot about the physiological effects of these drugs – whether they have physical side effects or not, you know. But we don’t understand how they influence human behaviour.”

Mischkowski’s own research has uncovered a sinister side-effect of [acetaminophen.] For a long time, scientists have known that the drug blunts physical pain by reducing activity in certain brain areas, such as the insular cortex, which plays an important role in our emotions. These areas are involved in our experience of social pain, too – and intriguingly, paracetamol can make us feel better after a rejection.

…Recent research has revealed that this patch of cerebral real-estate is more crowded than anyone previously thought, because it turns out the brain’s pain centres also share their home with empathy.

For example, fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scans have shown that the same areas of our brain become active when we’re experiencing “positive empathy” –pleasure on other people’s behalf – as when we’re experiencing pain.

…The results revealed that [acetaminophen] significantly reduces our ability to feel positive empathy – a result with implications for how the drug is shaping the social relationships of millions of people every day. Though the experiment didn’t look at negative empathy – where we experience and relate to other people’s pain – Mischkowski suspects that this would also be more difficult to summon after taking the drug.

…Empathy doesn’t just determine if you’re a “nice” person, or if you cry while you’re watching sad movies. The emotion comes with many practical benefits, including more stable romantic relationships, better-adjusted children, and more successful careers.

…Scientists have known for a while that the medications used to treat asthma are sometimes associated with [behavioral] changes, such as an increase in hyperactivity and the development of ADHD symptoms.

…Back in 2009, a team of psychologists from Northwestern University, Illinois, decided to check if antidepressants might be affecting our personalities. [Isn’t that how they work?] In particular, the team were interested in neuroticism. This “Big Five” personality trait is [epitomized] by anxious feelings, such as fear, jealousy, envy and guilt.

…“We found that massive changes in neuroticism were brought about by the medicine and not very much at all by the placebo [or the therapy],” says Robert DeRubeis, who was involved in the study. “It was quite striking.”

The big surprise was that, though the antidepressants did make the participants feel less depressed, the reduction in neuroticism was much more powerful – and their influence on neuroticism was independent of their impact on depression. The patients on antidepressants also started to score more highly for extroversion.

…There’s solid evidence that the drug L-dopa, which is used to treat Parkinson’s disease, increases the risk of Impulse Control Disorders (ICDs) – a group of problems that make it more difficult to resist temptations and urges.

Consequently, the drug can have life-ruining consequences, as some patients suddenly start taking more risks, becoming pathological gamblers, excessive shoppers, and sex pests. 

…The association with impulsive behaviours makes sense, because L-dopa is essentially providing the brain with a dose of extra dopamine – in Parkinson’s disease the part of the brain that produces it is progressively destroyed – and the hormone is involved in providing us with feelings of pleasure and reward.

Experts agree that L-dopa is the most effective treatment for many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and it’s prescribed to thousands of people in the US every year. This is despite a long list of possible side effects that accompanies the medication, which explicitly mentions the risk of unusually strong urges, such as for gambling or sex.

The medications that change who we are – BBC Future

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Most Farmers in the Great Plains Don’t Grow Fruits and Vegetables. The Pandemic is Changing That.

A group of farmers from Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska hosted a remote agriculture happy hour. There were a few dozen attendees. …In total, they farm more than 30,000 acres of cropland, most of it planted in soy, corn, or cotton destined for the global commodity market.

…They primarily sell the same short list of crops that blanket most U.S. farmland: soy, corn, wheat, and cotton. These commodities are turned into a vast array of products with only a fraction fed directly to humans. (The bulk of corn and soy is fed to animals, and a great deal of what’s left gets turned into processed sweeteners and vegetable oils.)

…Cannon, who farms and ranches 10,000 acres near Blackwell, Oklahoma, was already feeling the squeeze from the trade wars with China when the pandemic hit.

The situation has disrupted many parts of the supply chain and left Cannon unable to move his products off the farm.

…“Even farmers are dependent on our fragile food system—and a lot of us are four days away from hunger,” said Cannon. As a result, he’s decided to start growing a variety of fruits and vegetables for local consumption.

…Tom Cannon, for one, is planting six acres of vegetables. He calls it a “chaos garden” and it’s essentially a cover crop, a crop that is planted in between cash crops. But while a standard cover crop may contain alfalfa, ryegrass, or sorghum that can be used for building soil organic matter or grazing, a chaos seed mixture might include peas, squash, radish, okra, melons, sweet corn, and other edible plants. In other words, it contains groceries.

It’s the perfect way for a commodity farmer like Cannon to grow fruits and vegetables without changing farming practices. “I just load my drill [planter] with 50 plus species, and don’t ever go back until it is time to harvest. Cannon plans to let community members pick their own produce. “After the people get everything they want, you turn out cattle onto the field.” Whatever remains serves as “green manure” to fertilize the soil.

……Cannon will give his customers the option of foraging in the maze or simply driving up to the barn to collect their produce. But he worries that many of his new customers won’t know how to use the fresh produce.

…“The country is just full of corn and soybeans. Why would you want to grow more when there is such a surplus and revenue is so terrible? I just try to grow what people want.”

…Some of the produce goes to his own kitchen but most of it gets donated to local community groups—the food bank, youth groups, and churches—with the agreement that they do the harvesting. Emmons estimates that each acre of chaos generates 4,500 pounds of produce.

…In addition to ease of planting, Emmons described other benefits of a chaos approach: The blanket of plants crowds out most unwanted species, including weeds; the cucumbers and squash and other flowering species attract beneficial insects that keep pests like “squash bugs” at bay; the dense foliage increases soil moisture retention and reduces the need to water; and the plants tend to mature at different rates, allowing for several months of a diverse bounty rather than a monocrop that gets harvested all at once.

…The effort could run into some red tape if it were scaled up. For example, federal agriculture policy makes it hard for commodity farmers to start growing vegetables on land that is enrolled in the USDA’s crop insurance program. However the program does allow cover crops—and chaos gardens could easily fit under that category.

…If every commodity farmer chose to dedicate 1 percent of their land to a Milpa garden, it could result in 2 million acres—providing a 50 percent increase in national vegetable production and distributing it more evenly throughout the country. Farming regions across the U.S. may be growing plenty of crops, but rural communities have long had limited access to nutrient-rich fresh food.

Most Farmers in the Great Plains Don’t Grow Fruits and Vegetables. The Pandemic is Changing That. | Civil Eats

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