Sunday, May 17, 2020

Last Call For Open For Getting The Business

The latest number of of coronavirus cases in Texas jumped by 1,801 in a single day, the highest daily rate since the state started tracking data.
The number of cases reported now stands at 46,999, according to the latest figures released by Johns Hopkins University.

There are currently 19,093 active cases statewide with 1,791 patients hospitalized -- which is an increase of 75 from yesterday.

A total of 678,471 people have been tested out of a statewide population of around 29 million people.

The state of Texas has also reported 1,305 fatalities -- an increase of 33 but down from the two day high of 58 and 56 the previous two days.

Again, the choices we made to close in April gave us good numbers in May.  The choice to reopen in May without having a testing, contact tracing, and treatment protocol in place means the numbers will get very bad in June and onward.

As in Kentucky, a federal judge in North Carolina has reopened churches despite Gov. Roy Cooper's orders.

A federal judge issued an order on Saturday that allows North Carolina religious leaders to reopen their doors to their congregations in spite of the governor’s warning that they risk spreading coronavirus.

Gov. Roy Cooper said he wouldn’t appeal the ruling blocking his restrictions on indoor religious services.

A hearing is scheduled May 29 on whether the order will become permanent.

The order prevents Cooper from taking enforcement actions against religious worshipers but also states they should observe recommendations for social distancing and reduce transmission of the virus when possible.

Governor Cooper's spokesperson issued the following statement in response to the order.

"We don't want indoor meetings to become hotspots for the virus and our health experts continue to warn that large groups sitting inside for long periods of time are much more likely to cause the spread of COVID-19. While our office disagrees with the decision, we will not appeal, but instead urge houses of worship and their leaders to voluntarily follow public health guidance to keep their members safe."

There's more and more evidence that America is simply bored of social distancing and that we refuse to do it.  Even in New York City.

Lockdown-weary New Yorkers ditched the distancing to get social instead this weekend — transforming parts of the Big Apple into a raucous, late-season Mardi Gras.

Yet the city’s COVID-be-damned attitude was nothing compared with the scene in Belmar, NJ, a beach popular with Staten Islanders and Brooklynites.

Huge crowds waited shoulder-to-shoulder on the boardwalk for their turn to buy beach badges.

“The line for beach badges was like four non-socially distanced blocks long,” tweeted Jarrett Seidler, who described the boardwalk as “obscenely packed.”

Outside popular bars on the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, the East and West Villages and in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, The Post found booze hounds arriving for the takeout cocktails and then staying — and staying — to sip drinks on packed sidewalks and soak up the lively scenes.

“How are you going to drink with a mask on?” one reveler, hairdresser Akeem ­Kelley, told The Post.

His mask dangled below his chin as he stood outside the Upper East Side’s popular Dorrian’s Red Hand bar — where crowds exceeding three dozen people, nearly all unmasked, were found in the early evenings of Friday and Saturday.

“They don’t care about us,” said Ann Trent, 72, of Manhattan, on Saturday.

She sat on a bench at the west end of the Brooklyn Bridge as a steady stream of mask-free sightseers and bicyclists passed her by, and she mused, “What happened to all of us protecting everyone else?”

The crowds, which enjoyed summer-like weather that climbed to a high of 76 degrees on Saturday, apparently had forgotten that they live in the epicenter of the pandemic.

Outside the East Village Social on St. Marks Place, two guitarists helped kick off the weekend’s festivities Friday night by plugging into a portable amplifier and jamming for tips from the gathered crowd.

“Obviously too many people,” one bartender conceded to The Post on Saturday.

Most of the bar-hopping social-distance scofflaws who were observed Friday and Saturday were young — and many chose not to wear masks.

Donald Trump and his staff consider the pandemic to be "over", so for tens of millions of Americans, the pandemic is over.

Look at Illinoisans crossing the border into Wisconsin.

On the first weekend without any statewide stay-at-home orders, Wisconsin was open for business, and at least along the southern border, people from Illinois poured in.

Hundreds of day-trippers, including many in cars with license plates from the Land of Lincoln, flocked to the tourist haven of Lake Geneva on Saturday.

They shopped, ate lunch, strolled the banks of the lake, went on boat tours and set up picnics.

And outside, at least, there wasn't a lot of social distancing.

Illinois is still locked down to fight the novel coronavirus while Wisconsin is under a patchwork of local regulations after Wednesday's decision by the state Supreme Court to throw out Gov. Tony Evers' safer-at-home order.

“Illinois is closed and we’ve been wanting to get out,” said Castano Penn, a Chicagoan who works at a senior living center and was not wearing a mask Saturday as he strolled the streets of Lake Geneva.

"I know it’s probably bad," he said. "I’m just kind of done with it all.”

But the coronavirus is certainly not done burning its way through the global population.

You may be "done" with COVID-19.  COVID-19 sure as hell isn't done with you and your family and your community.  Not by a long shot.

The second, far deadlier wave of COVID-19 infections is now open for business and that will be frighteningly apparent in a few more weeks.

Biden, His Time, Con't

CNN polling guru Harry Enten finds Joe Biden's lead not only holds up through national polling, but it holds up through various state polls as well.

In the competitive states (where most of the state polling has been conducted), there has been an average swing of 6 points toward Biden compared to Clinton's 2016 result. The same is true in the non-competitive states. 
At least from this state level data, it does not seem that either candidate is running up the score disproportionately in areas that were already friendly to him. 
Biden has posted leads of greater than 5 points in places like Michigan and Pennsylvania. He is ahead in more than enough states to capture 270 electoral votes, if the election were held today. 
We can test our data, too, to see what would happen if the polls are underestimating Trump like they did in 2016. 
What I found was Biden would still be ahead, even with a 2016 sized mishap. 
The polls underestimated Trump by 1 point (RealClearPolitics) or 2 points (FiveThirtyEight) in the aggregate of the states we currently have polling from. Applying that 2016 bias to our current data, Biden would have a 6- to 7-point lead nationally. 
Concentrating on just the competitive states, the polls undersold Trump by 2 points (RealClearPolitics) or 3 points (FiveThirtyEight). If the polls in the competitive states were off by as much as they were at the end in 2016, Biden would still be ahead in states like Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania. 
Of course, it may not be wise to expect a 2016-sized polling era in 2020. The polls in these states that had major statewide contests in 2018 were pretty much unbiased. No matter what set of states (all or just competitive) and which aggregate, the polls were not more favorable to Republicans than the final result. 
In a state like Wisconsin, the final 2018 Marquette poll nailed the final Senate margin and underestimated the Democratic candidate for governor's margin by 1 point. 
The bottom line is Biden's ahead right now nationally and in the competitive states. The good news for Trump is he has about six months to change the course of the campaign, which is more than enough time to do so.

In a regular America, Biden would be well on his way towards a decisive win.  In Trump's America in 2020, with COVID-19 and the most blatantly criminal autocrat in modern US history rigging the outcome, absolutely nothing can be taken for granted, including even having an election in the first place.

Sunday Long Read: The Man Who Saved The Internet

In 2017, Marcus Hutchins, all of 22 years old, saved the entire internet from the Wannacry ransomware cyberattack.  He was a hero, but in saving the planet, he exposed his identity, and the FBI had been wanting to talk to him for quite some time about his darker days.

AT AROUND 7 am on a quiet Wednesday in August 2017, Marcus Hutchins walked out the front door of the Airbnb mansion in Las Vegas where he had been partying for the past week and a half. A gangly, 6'4", 23-year-old hacker with an explosion of blond-brown curls, Hutchins had emerged to retrieve his order of a Big Mac and fries from an Uber Eats deliveryman. But as he stood barefoot on the mansion's driveway wearing only a T-shirt and jeans, Hutchins noticed a black SUV parked on the street—one that looked very much like an FBI stakeout.

He stared at the vehicle blankly, his mind still hazed from sleep deprivation and stoned from the legalized Nevada weed he'd been smoking all night. For a fleeting moment, he wondered: Is this finally it?

But as soon as the thought surfaced, he dismissed it. The FBI would never be so obvious, he told himself. His feet had begun to scald on the griddle of the driveway. So he grabbed the McDonald's bag and headed back inside, through the mansion's courtyard, and into the pool house he'd been using as a bedroom. With the specter of the SUV fully exorcised from his mind, he rolled another spliff with the last of his weed, smoked it as he ate his burger, and then packed his bags for the airport, where he was scheduled for a first-class flight home to the UK.

Hutchins was coming off of an epic, exhausting week at Defcon, one of the world's largest hacker conferences, where he had been celebrated as a hero. Less than three months earlier, Hutchins had saved the internet from what was, at the time, the worst cyberattack in history: a piece of malware called WannaCry. Just as that self-propagating software had begun exploding across the planet, destroying data on hundreds of thousands of computers, it was Hutchins who had found and triggered the secret kill switch contained in its code, neutering WannaCry's global threat immediately.

This legendary feat of whitehat hacking had essentially earned Hutchins free drinks for life among the Defcon crowd. He and his entourage had been invited to every VIP hacker party on the strip, taken out to dinner by journalists, and accosted by fans seeking selfies. The story, after all, was irresistible: Hutchins was the shy geek who had single-handedly slain a monster threatening the entire digital world, all while sitting in front of a keyboard in a bedroom in his parents' house in remote western England.

Still reeling from the whirlwind of adulation, Hutchins was in no state to dwell on concerns about the FBI, even after he emerged from the mansion a few hours later and once again saw the same black SUV parked across the street. He hopped into an Uber to the airport, his mind still floating through a cannabis-induced cloud. Court documents would later reveal that the SUV followed him along the way—that law enforcement had, in fact, been tracking his location periodically throughout his time in Vegas.

When Hutchins arrived at the airport and made his way through the security checkpoint, he was surprised when TSA agents told him not to bother taking any of his three laptops out of his backpack before putting it through the scanner. Instead, as they waved him through, he remembers thinking that they seemed to be making a special effort not to delay him.

He wandered leisurely to an airport lounge, grabbed a Coke, and settled into an armchair. He was still hours early for his flight back to the UK, so he killed time posting from his phone to Twitter, writing how excited he was to get back to his job analyzing malware when he got home. “Haven't touched a debugger in over a month now,” he tweeted. He humblebragged about some very expensive shoes his boss had bought him in Vegas and retweeted a compliment from a fan of his reverse-engineering work.

Hutchins was composing another tweet when he noticed that three men had walked up to him, a burly redhead with a goatee flanked by two others in Customs and Border Protection uniforms. “Are you Marcus Hutchins?” asked the red-haired man. When Hutchins confirmed that he was, the man asked in a neutral tone for Hutchins to come with them, and led him through a door into a private stairwell.

Then they put him in handcuffs.

In a state of shock, feeling as if he were watching himself from a distance, Hutchins asked what was going on. “We'll get to that,” the man said.

Hutchins remembers mentally racing through every possible illegal thing he'd done that might have interested Customs. Surely, he thought, it couldn't be the thing, that years-old, unmentionable crime. Was it that he might have left marijuana in his bag? Were these bored agents overreacting to petty drug possession?

The agents walked him through a security area full of monitors and then sat him down in an interrogation room, where they left him alone. When the red-headed man returned, he was accompanied by a small blonde woman. The two agents flashed their badges: They were with the FBI.

For the next few minutes, the agents struck a friendly tone, asking Hutchins about his education and Kryptos Logic, the security firm where he worked. For those minutes, Hutchins allowed himself to believe that perhaps the agents wanted only to learn more about his work on WannaCry, that this was just a particularly aggressive way to get his cooperation into their investigation of that world-shaking cyberattack. Then, 11 minutes into the interview, his interrogators asked him about a program called Kronos.

“Kronos,” Hutchins said. “I know that name.” And it began to dawn on him, with a sort of numbness, that he was not going home after all

This is his own account as recorded by Wired's Andy Greenberg, and Hitchins confesses to some pretty vicious stuff he did for fun. But he's learned his lesson, and hopefully he'll stay on the side of the white hats.

Lord knows we need him there.

Amash-ed Potato, Con't

And just as quickly as Glibertarian Contrarian Scold™ Justin Amash entered the 2020 contest seeking the Libertarian ticket, the Libertarians apparently told him to go screw himself, and he's back out.

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash has announced that he will not run for president as a third party candidate. 
"After much reflection, I've concluded that circumstances don't lend themselves to my success as a candidate for president this year, and therefore I will not be a candidate," he tweeted Saturday. 
Amash announced last month that he was exploring a presidential run as a Libertarian Party candidate. 
In a series of tweets on Saturday, Amash said the decision to drop out was "difficult," but that he "believes a candidate from outside the old parties, offering a vision of government grounded in liberty and equality, can break through in the right environment." 
"Polarization is near an all-time high. Electoral success requires an audience willing to consider alternatives, but both social media and traditional media are dominated by voices strongly averse to the political risks posed by a viable third candidate," he added. 
The Libertarian Party, he added, "is well positioned to become a major and consistent contender to win elections at all levels of government." 
"I remain invested in helping the party realize these possibilities and look forward to the successes ahead," he said.

To his credit, Amash realized he was most likely going to hand over Michigan, Wisconsin, and maybe more over to Trump in November if he stayed in, so he's getting out.

It's the first real useful thing he's done since leaving the GOP.
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