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SAY WHAT? - Grisly milestones, one after the other. On Tuesday, the U.S. hit 40 million COVID cases since the start of the pandemic, with four million in the last four Delta-inundated weeks, over a quarter of them kids. This Labor Day weekend, the number of hospitalized COVID patients was nearly 300% higher than the same time last year, and the number of deaths was over 86% higher.

Today, some 100,000 Americans are hospitalized, almost as many as during January’s COVID peak; we are at over 1,500 deaths per day - almost a 9/11 a day - and climbing. Surges are still spreading across GOP states, many of them southern, where vaccination rates are about 40% lower than in the Northeast and malignant "stooge hack dickdrip" idiots like Gym Jordan are still saying things like, "Vaccine mandates are un-American," never mind George Washington ordering smallpox vaccines for the Continental Army. With Delta now spreading into western and Midwestern states, COVID-swamped Idaho officials on Tuesday announced they'll start rationing health care - aka GOP death camps - by activating protocols for "crisis standards of care." Meanwhile, the usual GOP suspects continue to infect and kill their constituents at unfathomable rates. 

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SAY WHAT? - The COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been told, changes everything and that may include one of California’s oldest social support systems, workers’ compensation.

Legislative tinkering and a potentially disruptive lawsuit threaten to undo what was termed a “grand bargain” of workers’ compensation struck more than a century ago.

Employers agreed to compensate, with medical care and cash payments, employees who suffer work-related illnesses and injuries as an “exclusive remedy,” thereby protecting employers from individual lawsuits for disabilities.

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SAY WHAT? - America's forever war - misbegotten, intractable, fatally awash in hubris - is over. Contrary to "incandescently self-righteous" fulminating on the right, the mayhem left in its horrific wake belongs not to Biden, but to 20 years - 60, really - of ruinous decisions by political and military leaders chasing delusional empire, "Never mind the facts. Never mind the losses. Never mind the lessons." The largest non-combatant evacuation in U.S. military history - over 122,000 people, most in under two weeks - ended Monday night, soon after Islamic State fighters in one of the world's poorest nations reportedly attacked the airport with jerry-rigged rockets mounted on the back seats of a four-door sedan.

Despite charges by the hawkish likes of Wall Street Journal of "a botched" withdrawal" from a place we never should have been that damaged U.S. "honor and credibility" - like, really, is there any left? - many noted "there is no graceful way to evacuate vulnerable people from a country at war. There are better ways & worse ways, but none look good from the outside (or inside)." Up to the end, a network of veterans and other volunteers frantically worked to help get out those who had helped them. "It's the most hopeless, helpless, frustrating, infuriating experience," said one. "It's, 'If I can get him out, it won’t have been for nothing.'"

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SAY WHAT?-As our macro horrors drag on -- surging plague, burning planet, grim detritus of a senseless war - it's cold comfort to learn America's more prosaic atrocities also persist unabated. 

After a two-year legal battle, the Associated Press has forced the release of harrowing body camera footage of a Louisiana State Police trooper pummeling an already handcuffed, prone black man 18 times in the head with a heavy-duty, department- issue flashlight for the crime of. . .wait for it, "improper lane usage" -- one of countless such attacks on black residents now, finally, the subject of a federal probe. The savage attack in May 2019 on Aaron Larry Bowman, 46, came shortly after a traffic stop near his Monroe home. 

A prodigious crowd of sheriff's deputies had already removed Bowman from his vehicle and taken him to the ground when they were joined by Jacob Brown, 31, a white officer and sociopath who later told investigators he "was in the area and was trying to get involved.” Within two seconds of his arrival at the scene, Brown -- who in just four years had tallied 23 use-of-force incidents,19 targeting black people -- jumped out of his car and began bludgeoning Bowman on the head and body with an aluminum flashlight reinforced with a pointed end to shatter car glass. 

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SAY WHAT? - A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a malevolent clown promised a country that didn't want it a "perfect" and "beautiful" wall on our southern border to keep out scary brown families - aka "drugs, crime and rapists" - daring to seek a better life, and also Mexico would pay for it, "Mark my words," which, too bad for him, many did, after which they quickly realized it was a crock. So was the sordid, chimerical rest: In the end, instead of his much-touted, 2,000-mile wallapalooza, we got a pointless, shoddy, racist, laughably partial, "not engineered to last,” frequently sued and constantly besieged "environmental catastrophe" funded by a deeply resistant we the people after its bloated budget soared from $8 billion to over $25 billion, in part thanks to 200 sketchy "contract modifications" - aka bribes - granted to a small group of pre-selected, fat-cat GOP donors, thus rendering the wall's per-mile cost five times what it was under Bush and Obama. Because, grifter.

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SAY WHAT? - Despite U.S. assurances of "safe evacuation" for Americans and their allies, reports from Afghanistan describe harrowing scenes of chaos and violence after the swift Taliban takeover.

In Kabul, thousands of people, even those with U.S. visas or passports, are unable to reach the gates of the airport, never mind get on the flights they've been promised; instead, they are among packed crowds "trapped in hell," with little food or water, amidst a rising stench of garbage, at the mercy of Taliban soldiers on all sides who have already killed over 20 people. "There’s horror in everyone’s eyes,” says a stranded woman, one of over 14 million Afghan women most in peril from extremists already tearing down beauty parlor images and whipping women at the airport who don't obey their orders fast enough - this, in a country long deemed one of the most dangerous in the world for women. As many women hide at home, fearful of what comes next and burning any evidence of links to the West, others have taken to the streets as the "face of resistance," intent on keeping freedoms hard-won in the over 20 years since the Taliban was in power. "They have one message - this is not the Afghanistan of 1996," said a reporter for Gravitas as she showed video of "braveheart" women marching, chanting, wearing the Afghan flag as a hijab, often at the point of a Taliban gun. "Have you wondered what courage looks like? This is what courage looks like." Arguing "Afghan women know exactly what is in store for them," she urged the rest of the world to help protect them. "Their stories are heartbreaking," she said, "and they must be told."

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SAY WHAT? - Early in the pandemic, Pfizer announced an intention to profit from its covid-19 vaccine.1 In the first three months of 2021, Pfizer’s vaccine brought in $3.5bn (£2.5bn; €3bn) in revenue and hundreds of millions in profit.2 Other companies are also making exceptional profits from covid-19. Moderna, which received public funding to develop its covid-19 vaccine, will earn several billion dollars from vaccine sales.3 Even Astra Zeneca, with its acclaimed “non-profit” model, will receive billions in revenue and is free to raise the price once itconsiders the pandemic to be over.

But the rich world is refusing to share vaccines with poorer countries speedily or equitably. Whereas 60% of the population in the UK is fully vaccinated, in Uganda it is only 1%.6 The 50 least wealthy nations, home to 20% of the world’s population, have received just 2% of all vaccine doses.8 The rich world should be ashamed.

The World Health Organization wants rich nations to halt booster vaccination and instead send doses to less wealthy nations7—yet Pfizer is expecting rich nations to ignore WHO and recommend boosters, helping to increase its expected revenues to $33.5bn.8

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SAY WHAT? - Climate groups are expressing deep concern following an Interior Department announcement Monday that the Biden administration will resume oil and gas drilling leases on public lands and waters—a practice President Joe Biden vowed to banduring his 2020 run for the White House—in response to a federal court ruling.

"The climate emergency reality we are facing demands immediate action, not acquiescence." —Nicole Ghio, Friends of the Earth

While the Biden administration confirmed in its announcementthat an appeal has been filed with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in a legal battle with the state of Louisiana—which sued the federal government over the pause in the oil and gas leasing program ordered by Biden earlier this year—the Interior Department said leasing would resume while the process plays out.

"Federal onshore and offshore oil and gas leasing will continue as required by the district court while the government's appeal is pending," the DOI stated.

According to Bloomberg, the moves by the administration "mark the beginning of an open-ended analysis of the federal oil, gas and coal leasing programs that could span years—and lead to higher fees as well as new limits on development in sensitive areas."

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SAY WHAT? - The new apocalyptic report by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released on a day that saw 500,000 acres of forest burning in California and Venice tourists wading through ankle-deep water, confirmed for the 786th time what scientists have long been shrieking at us - that global warming from humanity's criminal use of fossil fuels has caused "unprecedented and irreversible change" to the planet, which we may or may not be able to save.

In the report, over 200 climate scientists found that global warming is "worse than we thought and getting worser," in the words of Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin, who called it "the worst choose-your-own-adventure book ever," where "all the endings are terrible, but some are much worse than others." Brenda is the creation of First Dog on the Moon, the award-winning political cartoonist for The Guardian Australia; evidently related to Andrew Marlton, "Mr. OntheMoon" has produced cartoons about climate change, Medicare, racist jails, migrants - seeing a drowning person, "How do I know this isn't some sort of trick?" and what if other drowning people expect me to help them? - and, when the news is too much, good moments like "before the first sip of coffee in the morning when it's too early to think who was exploited so I could have this coffee."

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SAY WHAT? - Grifters gonna grift, whiners gonna whine. Now the biggest fattest saddest losingest grifter and whiner of all, having continued his vile streak of trash-talking black and female athletes by mindlessly sniping "woke means you lose" at the "leftist maniacs" of the Bronze-medal-winning U.S. women's soccer team, has moved on to his latest Really Stupid scheme for scamming his even stupider followers.

"You've Been Selected!" shouted a Wednesday email from the other guy's PAC. Sounding a lot like the back of a cereal box, it announced it's offering "Patriots all around the Country" the chance to sort of choose an entirely useless but "Offical (sic, because the purported billionaire still can't spell or get it together to hire someone who can) Trump Card" as "a sign of your dedicated support to our movement to SAVE AMERICA," also of your sick, abject, unfathomable fealty to a loathsome clown and empty, brittle husk of a human being, just sayin'.

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SAY WHAT? - Honoring the loss and the inestimable gifts left behind, we mark what would have been the 97th birthday of James Baldwin -  incandescent writer, masterful orator, out gay black man and fierce  advocate for justice who long and incisively spoke "the naked truth" about the racist history of a country "caught in the lie of their pretended humanism...cruelly trapped between what we would like to be and what we actually are." For Baldwin, despite efforts in his lifetime to heal the divide, the fault lines of always-inextricable race and power remained brutally clear, often outlined in the righteous, lyrical cadences of the pulpit he grew up in but left behind, deeply disillusioned. "What white people have to do is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place," he wrote. "Because I'm not a nigger, I'm a man. But if you think I'm a nigger, it means you need it." On his side, for black brothers and sisters "forced each day to snatch (our) identity out of the fire of human cruelty," "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost all of the time." Having long been deemed less than fully human by white people who "never had to look at me" while "I had to look at you," he adds, "I know more about you than you know about me."

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SAY WHAT? - Whew. On the scorching first day of the Congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 MAGA insurrection, four Capitol cops - for once in this nation's history the good guys, each more eloquent, honorable and traumatized than the last - offered consistently harrowing, often tearful testimony that outed once and for all the GOP's despicable gaslighting about that day's carnage. The ruthless rebuttals by Sgt. Aquilino Gonell and Pfc. Harry Dunn of the Capitol Police and Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges of the D.C. Police Department, all in their dress blues, repeatedly exposed what Fanone called "the worst that America has to offer," from MAGA goons screaming  "Fucking nigger!" at Dunn to the evil "hit-man " who sent them. Backing up their horrific accounts was video so devastating many lawmakers could barely watch; much of it came from the officers' own truth-telling body-cams that, in a twist of history, police departments had long opposed. Though the four cops each told different stories, they shared vital common threads. All four used the same terms: insurrectionists, terrorists, mob, MAGA. All four thought they and their colleagues were going to die. All four remain scarred, physically and mentally: Said Gonell, "That day continues to be a constant trauma for us." And all four knew who was to blame. "All of them - all of them were saying Trump sent us," said Gonell. "Nobody else - there was nobody else. It was not Antifa, it was not Black Lives Matter, it was not the FBI. It was his supporters that he sent over to the Capitol that day."

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SAY WHAT?-Amid rising COVID cases, falling vaccination rates and a persistent flood of crackpot hogwash a timid media terms "misinformation" - WE WILL NOT COMPLY! - its bone-headed perpetrators just keep spewing even when, as experts predict, by fall the surging Delta variant could kill 850 of their own irredeemable peeps a day in what has become "a pandemic of the unvaccinated."

In Alabama, which has the country's lowest vaccination rate, a doctor describes seeing young people dying. “One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine," she says. "I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.” Still, the idiot masses  head out to protest hospitals requiring vaccines for employees with balmy signs like "Medical Dictatorship," "I Call My Own Shots," "No to Socialism," and "Remember the Nuremberg Code." Umm.

They probably eat up Marjorie Taylor-Greene's online rants - COVID is a bio weapon, STOP MASKING CHILDREN!, Indict Pelosi! - or they did until she got suspended for saying vaccines don't work and COVID poses no threat to anyone under 65 and not obese, even as cases in Georgia are up 193%.

She was so mad at "COMMUNIST TWITTER" she held a presser where she refused to say if she'd been vaccinated, claimed the question "is a violation of my HIPAA rights" - not - and laughed, loudly braying like a demented horse, when a reporter noted kids have died of COVID. Actually, one just had, three days before, in her own district. His obituary said Wyatt, Gibson, five years old, liked to strum a toy guitar and sing, "I love donkeys and I love dogs." Declared his grieving father, "I feel like I've lost my best friend."

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SAY WHAT-California appellate court ruled that requiring elder care staff to use the correct pronouns for transgender and non-binary people is a violation of their free speech rights.

“The Court’s decision is disconnected from the reality facing transgender people,” said out state Sen. Scott Wiener (D), who sponsored a law passed in 2017 that required long-term care facilities to treat LGBTQ people equally.

“Deliberately misgendering a transgender person isn’t just a matter of opinion, and it’s not simply ‘disrespectful, discourteous, or insulting.’ Rather, it’s straight up harassment,” he continued. “And, it erases an individual’s fundamental humanity, particularly one as vulnerable as a trans senior in a nursing home. This misguided decision cannot be allowed to stand.”

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SAY WHAT?-California Republicans introduced a measure to honor former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s centennial birthday for an entire year. The feel-good measure would lionize Reagan and wallpaper over her glaring flaws.

Out Assemblyman Alex Lee (D) wasn’t on board with the measure and in a short blistering speech given before his colleagues voted, Lee let them know exactly why.

Related: Nancy Reagan, gay men & the end of an ugly era

“Republicans want to honor an entire year after Nancy Reagan. Completely absurd to praise someone who escalated the war on drugs & let the AIDS crisis ravage the LGBTQ+ community. Reagans deserve no commemoration,” Lee tweeted with a video of his speech. “I told the Assembly ‘Just say NO’.”

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SAY WHAT?-“If [Donald] Trump and [Bernie] Sanders take the same position on Big Tech censorship,” David Catron writes at The American Spectator, “the issue deserves serious attention.” 

He’s right, but in pretty much the opposite of the way he intends. When the mainstream “right” and “left” agree on anything, that’s almost always a blazing neon sign warning us that our freedoms are under threat. 

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SAY WHAT?-The World Health Organization calls the Delta variant of COVID-19 the “fastest and fittest,” a term suggesting that this strain of the virus both spreads more rapidly and picks off vulnerable people more efficiently than do its predecessors. California is about to experience Delta’s full force – and the state’s lagging vaccination efforts in low income neighborhoods will once again put those populations at unequal risk. 

Late last month, Delta became the dominant variant in the state, according to the California Department of Public Health. Its growth is accelerating rapidly: In the CDPH’s monthly report, the virus accounted for 35.6% of all genetically sequenced cases in the state in June, whereas in May that figure stood at just 5.6%. 

Health officials are quick to note that while all viruses mutate, not all of the mutations become more transmissible and efficient than previous versions, as Delta has. WHO officials last month said that Delta is becoming the dominant strain worldwide. Yale researcher Dr. Perry Wilson added that the variant “will certainly accelerate the pandemic” because of its rapid rate of spread. 

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SAY WHAT?-If you were eating tacos at MacArthur Park’s Guatemalan Night Market on the afternoon of June 11, you might never guess that street vending is supposed to be legal in Los Angeles. Officials from the Department of Public Health — with LAPD officers in tow — descended on the street food hub at 6th Street and Bonnie Brae, throwing food into trash bags without a word to the outraged entrepreneurs.  

As Los Angeles County reopens, enforcement of street vending regulations has spiked in recent weeks, with at least four raids of unpermitted vendors reported to L.A. Taco. The unannounced raids have startled vendors, who fear a return to a punishing old normal.  

Then, following organized efforts by advocacy groups, on June 29 the city council approved a motion to temporarily halt enforcement. 

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SAY WHAT?-Human memory is prone to error — and new research provides evidence that anger can increase these errors.

The new findings have been published in the scientific journal Experimental Psychology

“My interest in the impact of anger on misinformation came from both real-world experience and research,” said study author Michael Greenstein, an assistant professor at Framingham State University. 

“From the real-world side, there’s this phrase that people say — ‘don’t get emotional.’ That phrase is somewhat often used to describe anger and the idea that when you’re angry you’ll make poor decisions, which would also imply poor memory use.” 

“From the research side, anger is an interesting emotion because it somewhat defies traditional classifications in that it’s a ‘negative’ emotion, but it impacts cognition in a lot of ways that are more similar to ‘positive’ emotions.” 

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SAY WHAT?-This week, YouTube announced that Right Wing Watch, which monitors far-right disinformation, conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric, was inexplicably banned from the site for "violations of its community guidelines" because YouTube, or the robots who come up with their algorithms, evidently can't distinguish between exposing rabid extremism and championing it, which must be why they still allow all those white supremacists to spew their racist, hateful drivel on their righteous platform. Launched in 2007, RWW is run by the non-profit People For the American Way, founded in 1981 as a liberal counterpoint to the unholy bigots of the Moral Majority.

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