Sunday, August 27, 2023

Last Call For Black Lives Matter

 They keep killing us, as they have been for 400 years, the American dream and all. Sometimes we live, and sometimes we die for no reason other than we are Black.

Three people were killed Saturday in a racially motivated attack after a gunman targeted Black people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida, in one of several weekend shootings that again shocked Americans in public places – from stores to football games to parades.

“This shooting was racially motivated and he hated Black people,” Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said at a news conference early Saturday evening.

Waters said the shooter, who he described as a White man in his 20s, shot and killed himself after the attack. The suspect left behind what the sheriff described as three manifestos outlining his “disgusting ideology of hate” and his motive in the attack.

All three victims, two men and one woman, were Black.

Waters said the shooter lived in Clay County, Florida, south of Jacksonville, with his parents. Jacksonville is located in northeast Florida, about 35 miles south of the Georgia border.

Waters said the shooter told his father by text to “check his computer.” The father found documents described by Waters as manifestos and called authorities.

But Waters said by the time authorities were alerted about the manifestos, the gunman had already started the attack in the Dollar General.

The shooting started shortly after 1 p.m. ET, blocks away from Edward Waters University, a historically Black school where students living on campus were told to stay in their residence halls. Waters said the gunman was seen on the school’s campus before heading to the Dollar General. No one was injured on the campus.

“He took that opportunity to put his bulletproof vest on outside and to put his mask on outside and then proceed to the store where he committed this horrible act,” Waters told CNN’s Jim Acosta.

Edward Waters University officials said the shooter was turned away from its campus after refusing to identify himself.

“The individual returned to their car and left campus without incident. The encounter was reported to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office by EWU security,” according to a university news release.

Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan said the gunman barricaded himself inside the store after the attack. It was not immediately clear if victims were shot inside or outside the store.

The sheriff said investigators believe the gunman acted alone and wore both a tactical vest and mask during the attack. He was armed with an AR-15 style rifle and a handgun.

To recap, a white supremacist armed with weapons and protecting himself with a tactical vest and mask went to a private Christian historically Black university with the intent of killing Black people. When the security staff turned him away, he went to a Dollar General in Jacksonville and killed three Black people and then himself.

Maybe he would have killed dozens or more. In America, being Black means that sometimes, we take comfort in the fact that fewer of us are killed by fate, mourning three instead of three dozen.

Sixty years ago this weekend Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous Dream speech on Washington DC. Several states will barely teach current students about that fact, and they definitely won't cover King's other speeches where he dismantled the notion that his dream was possible without real work from white moderates, and that they needed to get started on that. Sixty years later, not much has changed.

But Black Lives Still Matter. 

Inflation Nation, Con't

Fed Chair Jerome Powell, in his annual speech from the Fed Conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (the most unequal city in America, mind you) warned that while the risk of inflation is down, the rate hikes might not be over for 2023, and that even if they are, interest rates will stay at 5%+ for the foreseeable future.
Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, pledged during a closely watched speech that his central bank would stick by its push to stamp out high inflation “until the job is done” and said that officials stood ready to raise interest rates further if needed.

Mr. Powell, who was speaking Friday at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s annual Jackson Hole conference in Wyoming, said that the Fed would “proceed carefully” as it decided whether to make further policy adjustments after a year and a half in which it had pushed interest rates up sharply.

But even as Mr. Powell emphasized that the Fed was trying to balance the risk of doing too much and hurting the economy more than is necessary against the risk of doing too little, he was careful not to take a victory lap around a recent slowing in inflation. His speech hammered home one main point: Officials want to see more progress to convince them that they are truly bringing price increases under control.

“The message is the same: It is the Fed’s job to bring inflation down to our 2 percent goal, and we will do so,” Mr. Powell said, comparing his speech to a stern set of remarks he delivered at last year’s Jackson Hole gathering.

Central bankers have lifted interest rates to a range of 5.25 to 5.5 percent, up from near-zero as recently as March 2022, in a bid to cool the economy and wrestle inflation lower. They have been keeping the door open to the possibility of one more rate increase, and have been clear that they expect to leave interest rates elevated for some time.

Mr. Powell kept that message alive on Friday.

“We are prepared to raise rates further if appropriate, and intend to hold policy at a restrictive level until we are confident that inflation is moving sustainably down toward our objective,” he said.

But the Fed chair noted that “at upcoming meetings we are in a position to proceed carefully as we assess the incoming data and the evolving outlook and risks,” and that officials would “decide whether to tighten further or, instead, to hold the policy rate constant and await further data.”

That suggests that central bankers are not determined to raise interest rates at their upcoming meeting in September. Instead, they might wait until later in the year — they have meetings in November and December — before making a decision about whether borrowing costs need to climb further. Striking a patient stance would give officials more time to assess how the moves they have already made are affecting the economy.

“I think this does pave the way for a pause at the September meeting, and leaves their options open after,” said Laura Rosner-Warburton, senior economist at MacroPolicy Perspectives. “We’re close to the top, we may be there, and they’re going to move carefully.”

Mr. Powell made clear that the Fed was not in a rush to raise rates again, but he remained cautious about the risk of further inflation.

Price increases have come down notably in recent months, to around 3 percent as measured by the Fed’s preferred gauge. That is still higher than the Fed’s 2 percent inflation goal, though it is down sharply from a 7 percent peak last summer.

And there are signs of stubbornness lingering under the surface. After stripping out food and fuel for a look at the underlying trend, the central bank’s preferred inflation gauge is still running at about twice the Fed’s goal.

“The process still has a long way to go, even with the more favorable recent readings,” Mr. Powell said. “We can’t yet know the extent to which these lower readings will continue or where underlying inflation will settle over coming quarters.”

That is partly because the Fed is trying to assess how much its policy adjustments are really weighing on the economy and, through it, inflation.

The Fed’s higher borrowing costs have been cutting into demand for cars and houses by making auto loans and mortgages more expensive, and they are probably discouraging business expansions and cooling the job market.

But it is unclear just how severely the Fed’s current policy setting is weighing on the economy. Rates are much higher than the level that most economists think is necessary to keep the economy growing below its potential run rate, but such estimates are subject to error.

“There is always uncertainty about the precise level of monetary policy restraint,” Mr. Powell acknowledged Friday.
So, there's that.
Still, we're at the point where Powell and the Fed are feathering the brakes and not slamming on the pedal like they were last year. We may actually make it through this without a crippling recession.
Or not, if House Republicans in the Freedom Caucus crash the economy in the next six weeks, which is certainly something that might happen. Then again, when these clowns are begging Trump not to start another insurrection, all bets are off.


Sunday Long Read: The Far Future Of Nearsightedness

In our Sunday Long Read from Amit Katwala at Wired Magazine, while it seems the overwhelming prevalence of myopia in Taiwan has led to much scientific hand-wringing and social wrangling, the solution is apparently simple: get more outdoor light.


DOING SURGERY ON the back of the eye is a little like laying new carpet: You must begin by moving the furniture. Separate the muscles that hold the eyeball inside its socket; make a delicate cut in the conjunctiva, the mucous membrane that covers the eye. Only then can the surgeon spin the eyeball around to access the retina, the thin layer of tissue that translates light into color, shape, movement. “Sometimes you have to pull it out a little bit,” says Pei-Chang Wu, with a wry smile. He has performed hundreds of operations during his long surgical career at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Kaohsiung, an industrial city in southern Taiwan.

Wu is 53, tall and thin with lank dark hair and a slightly stooped gait. Over dinner at Kaohsiung’s opulent Grand Hotel, he flicks through files on his laptop, showing me pictures of eye surgery—the plastic rods that fix the eye in place, the xenon lights that illuminate the inside of the eyeball like a stage—and movie clips with vision-related subtitles that turn Avengers: Endgame, Top Gun: Maverick, and Zootopia into public health messages. He peers at the screen through Coke bottle lenses that bulge from thin silver frames.

Wu specializes in repairing retinal detachments, which happen when the retina separates from the blood vessels inside the eyeball that supply it with oxygen and nutrients. For the patient, this condition first manifests as pops of light or dark spots, known as floaters, which dance across their vision like fireflies. If left untreated, small tears in the retina can progress from blurred or distorted vision to full blindness—a curtain drawn across the world.

When Wu began his surgical career in the late 1990s, most of his patients were in their sixties or seventies. But in the mid-2000s, he started to notice a troubling change. The people on his operating table kept getting younger. In 2016, Wu performed a scleral buckle surgery—fastening a belt around the eye to fix the retina into place—on a 14-year-old girl, a student at an elite high school in Kaohsiung. Another patient, a prominent programmer who had worked for Yahoo, suffered two severe retinal detachments and was blind in both eyes by age 29. Both of these cases are part of a wider problem that’s been growing across Asia for decades and is rapidly becoming an issue in the West too: an explosion of myopia.

Myopia, or what we commonly call nearsightedness, happens when the eyeball gets too long—it deforms from soccer ball to American football—and then the eye focuses light not on the retina but slightly in front of it, making distant objects appear blurry. The longer the eyeball becomes, the worse vision gets. Ophthalmologists measure this distortion in diopters, which refer to the strength of the lens required to bring someone’s vision back to normal. Anything worse than minus 5 diopters is considered “high myopia”—somewhere between 20 and 25 percent of myopia diagnoses around the world are in this category. In China, up to 90 percent of teenagers and young adults are myopic. In the 1950s the figure was as low as 10 percent. A 2012 study in Seoul found that an astonishing 96.5 percent of 19-year-old men were nearsighted. Among high schoolers in Taiwan, it’s around 90 percent. In the US and Europe, myopia rates across all ages are well below 50 percent, but they’ve risen sharply in recent decades. It’s estimated that by 2050, half the world’s population will need glasses, contacts, or surgery to see across a room. High myopia is now the leading cause of blindness in Japan, China, and Taiwan.

If those trends continue, it’s likely that millions more people around the world will go blind much earlier in life than they—or the societies they live in—are prepared for. It’s a “ticking time bomb,” says Nicola Logan, an optometry professor at the UK’s Aston University. She wasn’t the only expert I talked to who used that phrase. Because so much of Taiwan’s population is already living life with myopia, the island nation has already glimpsed what could be coming for the rest of us. And in a rare confluence, the country may also be the best place to look for solutions.
Literally the solution to the myopia epidemic in Asia is "send kids outside more" instead of keeping them in dimly lit classrooms all year. Australia's occurrence of myopia among kids is just 13%, where in Japan, China and Taiwan it's around half.

So yeah, go let the kids play outside for a bit.
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