Tuesday, August 9, 2022


"Heart Attack" was a top five pop hit by Olivia Newton-John.  I always enjoyed it.  I think it sometimes gets overlooked because it wasn't on a studio album.  It shows up on Greatest Hits Vol. 2.  

Salon notes:

An early memory I have is staring into giant blue eyes. They were Olivia Newton-John's eyes, rimmed in liner, on the cover of her 1975 album "Have You Never Been Mellow," a staple on my parents' record player, along with Peter, Paul and Mary, and John Denver. I saw those eyes again — and again and again — in "Grease" (1978), a film my little sister and I begged to watch and re-watch, perhaps initially due to the animated title sequence

But Newton-John, who died at age 73 on Monday after dealing with cancer for many years, kept us watching. She embodies Sandy in the musical comedy, a vacationing high schooler who has a summer romance with John Travolta's local boy Danny Zuko. When Sandy's parents enroll her in Rydell High, where Danny attends and is the leader of the greaser gang, the T-birds, the romance has a chance to continue. 

Both teens end up compromising for each other, with Sandy transforming from a perky good girl to a self-assured, gum-snapping, black-clad bad girl. That was a journey of confidence I wanted to make too, and I wasn't the only one. It would be years before I recognized Newton-John's full impact, particularly as a queer icon before it was cool, and a gay ally beginning at a time well before it was popular, accepted or even safe to do so.   

[. . .]

Sandy's journey mirrored many a young queer person's path of personal transformation.

She goes after life with robust determination. She tackles it like one of those letter-wearing football jocks at Rydell. Sandy is as set on keeping Danny as she is on getting straight A's. As Vanity Fair writes, "Somehow, in her hands, Sandy's journey was inspiring: She grows from a naive girl to an empowered woman who's in control and knows what she needs. Oh yes, indeed."

In a way, Sandy's journey mirrored many a young queer person's path of personal transformation and being comfortable with yourself, even it that self changes or is seen as wrong by people who don't understand. According to PinkNews: "She proved that it was possible to own her sexuality, to change her image, and to move with the times." 

Sandy's journey paralleled Newton-John's too, as shortly after the film she released "Physical," the hit which would leave her innocent persona behind like a snakeskin. The music video for the song is, as PinkNews puts it: "literally the gayest thing on earth." 

Gone was the doe-eyed teen. With Princess Diana-short hair, Newton-John dances in a black-tiled gym full of scantily clad, muscled men. She checks them out, helps them with their equipment (no, literally), and sings knowingly at the audience. This was no Jazzercise.

She took us along with her or at least, showed us it was possible to fly.

Newton-John's character gets a little sadistic assisting men in training and massage. There's a shower scene, and at the end of the video, couples of toned men walk off together, hand-in-hand, casting looks back at Newton-John who appears a bit puzzled, but it's fleeting. She's not judgmental at this obvious and earnest display of queerness. She grabs a different guy for her own.

The crowd went wild. In different ways. Beloved by gay fans, "Physical" was banned by multiple TV and radio stations. In an interview with ET, Newton-John admitted that at the time she was so nervous, she wanted to pull the song, but eventually, she felt grateful she stood behind it: "I'm finding that very often the things you are most afraid of or tentative about doing are the things you need to do."

Newton-John was never tentative about expressing love and admiration for her queer listeners. "I love you guys," she said directly in an interview from 2017: "I appreciate you." It was a sentiment she echoed again and again, in countless interviews and appearances over the years.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, August 9, 2022.  Joe Biden plans to send another billion of US tax dollars to Ukraine while Americans continue to struggle, who's ready for monkeypox (doesn't look like the US is), real protests take place in Iraq, and much more.

US President Joe Biden has already wasted over $54 billion US tax dollars on Ukraine.  Now he wants to hand over another billion.  Clara Weiss (WSWS) reports:

In the midst of its escalating provocations against China over Taiwan, the Biden administration approved yet another $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine. This brings the total direct military aid provided by the Pentagon to Ukraine since the beginning of the imperialist-provoked invasion by Russia to $9.8 billion. The White House also announced an additional $4.5 billion in financial aid for Ukraine on Monday. 

According to the Pentagon, the new tranche of weapons deliveries will include:

  • additional ammunition for the 16 long-range HIMARS missiles which the Biden administration began delivering to Ukraine in May;
  • 75,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition; 
  • 20 120 mm mortar systems and 20,000 rounds of 120 mm mortar ammunition;
  • 1,000 Javelin (each worth about $78,000) and hundreds of AT4 anti-armor systems; 
  • 50 armored medical treatment vehicles; 
  • C-4 explosives, demolition munitions and demolition equipment; and
  • Munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS).

This comes on top of $23.8 billion in military aid, including direct military aid and financial aid designed to help finance future weapons purchases, that the US had pledged as of July 1, according to the Kiehl Institute for the World Economy. 

The new tranche in weapons is aimed at bolstering the Ukrainian army as it is preparing an offensive in the south of the country which has been largely occupied by Russia. Ukrainian officials have also threatened an offensive targeting the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, with a Pentagon spokesman refusing to rule out such attacks, even though Kremlin officials have threatened to retaliate with nuclear weapons. 

Highlighting the immense dangers posed by the conflict, there has been intense fighting at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant—the largest of its kind in Europe—over the past week. Russia and Ukraine have traded accusations of shelling the plant, which was reportedly damaged last week. Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have warned that “there’s a very real risk of a nuclear disaster.” According to Bloomberg, Russia has invited IAEA representatives to visit the plant, but they are still awaiting permission from Kiev, as well as security guarantees and a safe passage through the war zone.

The latest US weapons delivery announcement comes as more and more information emerges that confirms the utterly criminal character of the imperialist proxy war against Russia in Ukraine and its horrific toll on the civilian population and soldiers on both sides. Reports by Amnesty International and the United Nations have now confirmed that the Ukrainian military is deploying tactics that serve to drive up civilian casualties. In violation of international law, Ukrainian troops have been routinely launching rockets and stationing personnel in densely populated areas, including hospitals, and have been using civilians as human shields.

While the Ukrainian government responded with hysterical denunciations to the report by Amnesty International, there has been no credible denial of the allegations of serious violations of international law.

The United Nations now put the figures of civilian casualties at over 5,400 dead and over 7,300 wounded. At least 12 million people out of a pre-war population of less than 40 million have been displaced by the war. Out of these 12 million, about 5 million have fled to neighboring countries, primarily Poland, while at least 7 million were displaced within Ukraine.

Ever more horrifying figures are also emerging about the shocking number of casualties among the Ukrainian army. While it has been impossible to confirm the veracity of documents circulating on social media which suggest that a stunning 191,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been either killed or wounded in action, it is clear that the casualties among the Ukrainian army must by now be in the tens of thousands. In June, one of the advisers of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Aleksei Arestovich, publicly stated that about 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed with another 100 more dying each day. The total number of dead must have increased significantly in the past months since this public revelation. The Ukrainian army also admitted that 7,200 men were missing in action as of July 11. 

The Russian military has not made a single public statement on its casualties since March, when it acknowledged that 1,351 soldiers had died and 3,825 had been wounded in the first few weeks of the war. The Russian BBC wrote in June that it had established the names of at least 3,502 dead Russian soldiers and officers, based on official statements and information about funerals. The US government claims that the Russian military has had between 70,000 and 80,000 casualties.

Whatever the real numbers, it is already clear that the war in Ukraine is the bloodiest conflict in Europe since 1945, and, indeed, one of the bloodiest in modern history with the Washington Post noting in June that it “is killing far more soldiers per day than the typical war.” Yet Western weapons manufacturers are reaping profits from the slaughter and the massive military build-up by the imperialist powers. 

In the first month of the invasion alone, the shares of the two leading US weapons manufacturers, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies, increased by 28 and 20 percent respectively. A report by Business Insider from May revealed that 20 Democratic and Republican congressmen and women owned shares in these two weapons manufacturers, with some buying their shares on February 24 or just days before the war began. All of them voted in favor of a massive $40 billion bill, which provides for over $17 billion for weapons that are to be manufactured in the US, primarily by these two companies, and then sent to Ukraine. 

And some idiots cheered this on.  

Speaking of cheering, who's going to cheer for Joe in a year or two except for idiots?

Monkeypox.  He's doing nothing.  This is worse than the early stages of the (ongoing) COVID 19 pandemic.  Nothing is being done.  There are no efforts to ramp up the production of vaccinations.  Nothing is being done.  It as though the US has no leadership at all.  COVID will most likely get worse this winter -- historically, that's what happens with these types of pandemics.  Are we going to be dealing with two pandemics then: COVID and monkeypox?

Here are some key facts from the World Health Organization:

  • Vaccines used during the smallpox eradication programme also provided protection against monkeypox. Newer vaccines have been developed of which one has been approved for prevention of monkeypox
  • Monkeypox is caused by monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae.
  • Monkeypox is usually a self-limited disease with the symptoms lasting from 2 to 4 weeks. Severe cases can occur. In recent times, the case fatality ratio has been around 3–6%.
  • Monkeypox is transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated with the virus.
  • Monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.
  • Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease that occurs primarily in tropical rainforest areas of central and west Africa and is occasionally exported to other regions.
  • An antiviral agent developed for the treatment of smallpox has also been licensed for the treatment of monkeypox.
  • The clinical presentation of monkeypox resembles that of smallpox, a related orthopoxvirus infection which was declared eradicated worldwide in 1980. Monkeypox is less contagious than smallpox and causes less severe illness.
  • Monkeypox typically presents clinically with fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes and may lead to a range of medical complications.

The more dense the population, the more it's spreading in the US.  So, for example, Montana hasn't yet had a case but New York has had 1960 and California has had 1310.  (Those are CDC figures.)  The virus is spreading in the US.  And what's Joe doing to ramp up production on vaccines?  Nothing. 

From the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy:

Controlling the growing international monkeypox outbreak will rely on the availability of millions of vaccine doses. But the vaccines are in very limited supply, with people from all over the United States reporting waiting in long lines only to be turned away from clinics, and experts say sufficient doses of the two-dose Jynneos vaccine likely won't be available for months or even years.

"Without the widespread availability of vaccine, it can't be contained," said Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) and, with Bruce Gellin, MD, MPH, of the Rockefeller Foundation, coauthor of an editorial published earlier this week in Science. CIDRAP publishes CIDRAP News.

As of yesterday, 15,848 cases of monkeypox have been reported around the world, nearly all (15,605) in countries previously unaffected by the virus. The total includes 2,593 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2022 Monkeypox Outbreak Global Map. The virus can cause a rash, painful lesions, and flu-like symptoms such as fever.

Monkeypox, which has affected mainly men who have sex with men (MSM), is believed to spread through close, including sexual, contact. While this outbreak has brought the virus to the rest of the world's attention, it has spread for decades in Central and West Africa. The disease is self-limited, and infection or vaccination results in immunity.

Déjà vu amid higher demand than supply

In echoes of the bumpy COVID-19 vaccine rollout, recent reports from the CDC, Oregon, San Francisco, New Hampshire, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Minnesota, Florida, and Virginia all say that demand outstrips availability of the vaccine, manufactured by Bavarian Nordic.

David Margraf, PharmD, PhD, pharmaceutical research scientist at CIDRAP's Resilient Drug Supply Project (RDSP), said that the bottleneck is vaccine production, making the public health measures that Osterholm and Gellin outlined in their paper (increased diagnostic testing and education campaigns targeted to MSM and minimizing social stigma) all the more important.

"The drug and diagnostic test supply chains should be well understood to help mitigate shortages if and when they occur," Margraf said. "Additionally, the supply and allocation of Tpoxx should be closely monitored. There appears to be sufficient supply at the moment, but a rapid increase in the outbreak or mismanagement of existing stock could be disastrous down the road."

Tpoxx (tecovirimat) was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2018 to treat smallpox, a close relative of monkeypox. The CDC has made the antiviral drug, which is manufactured by SIGA Technologies, available as an investigational new drug to treat monkeypox.

While the precise need for vaccine doses hasn't been quantified, Osterholm and Gellin said, using the number of people recommended for the HIV oral preexposure prophylaxis as a proxy, that the number could be 2.4 million to 5.3 million globally.

When monkeypox was first detected in the United States in May, President Joe Biden announced that the United States had enough smallpox vaccine (also approved for monkeypox) in the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) "to deal with the likelihood of a problem."

Time reports, however, that many of the stockpiled doses consisted of the older ACAM2000 vaccine, which was deployed on May 23. But that vaccine carries the risk of myocarditis (1 in 175 vaccinees) and pain at the injection site, which can fester and further spread the virus with close contact. Plus, people with compromised immune systems cannot safely receive the older vaccine.

Jynneos carries fewer risks, but only 2,400 doses were in the SNS at the onset of the outbreak, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said yesterday in its most recent fact sheet. On May 20, it said, HHS's Biomedical Advance Research and Development Authority (BARDA) requested 36,000 Jynneos doses from Bavarian Nordic, followed by another request for the same number on June 10.

Since then, officials have been scrambling to get more doses and prioritize vaccination equitably. The vaccine still needs to be tested to see if it's possible to achieve some protection with only one dose or by giving a lower dose intradermally rather than intramuscularly, thereby enabling more people to get at least partially covered, experts say. Colorado, for one, has taken this approach. The two doses are typically given 4 weeks apart.

And look at the headlines if you need something shorter.  July 30th, THE WASHINGTON POST offered "'Not enough shots': U.S. faces 'vaccine cliff' on monekypox," August 3rd, THE NEW YORK TIMES had "U.S. Coould Have Had Many More Doses of Monkeypox."  This morning, THE NEW YORK TIMES' Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland report:

The Biden administration has decided to stretch out its limited supply of monkeypox vaccine by allowing a different method of injection that uses one-fifth as much per shot, according to people familiar with the discussions.

In order for the Food and Drug Administration to authorize so-called intradermal injection, which would involve injecting one-fifth of the current dose into the skin instead of a full dose into underlying fat, the Department of Health and Human Services will need to issue a new emergency declaration allowing regulators to invoke the F.D.A.’s emergency use powers. That declaration is expected as early as Tuesday afternoon.

[. . .]

  The administration has faced a barrage of criticism that it was too slow to ship vaccine that was ready for use to the United States from Denmark, where it was manufactured, and too slow to order that bulk vaccine stocks be processed into vials after the disease first surfaced here in mid-May.

In less than three months, more than 8,900 monkeypox cases have been reported. The virus spreads from person to person primarily through close physical contact with infectious lesions.

Are there any adults in the US government -- any adults not suffering from dementia?  Doesn't look like it.  

In Iraq, the faux-test continues.  A handful of members of Moqtada al-Sadr's cult continue to occupy the area around the Parliament.  Robert Tollast (THE NATIONAL) reports:

Former Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al Maliki has called for an immediate end to the occupation of parliament so his party and its allies can convene to form the next government.

Thousands of protesters loyal to Shiite cleric and political leader Moqtada Al Sadr stormed parliament on July 30, protesting against the nomination of Muhammad Al Sudani for prime minister.

Mr Al Sudani is a former Cabinet minister regarded as being close to Mr Al Maliki, a political opponent of Mr Al Sadr.

Since then, the protesters have left the parliament building itself, but remain camped outside in Baghdad's Green Zone, the seat of government power that includes offices and residences of Iraq's elites, as well as foreign embassies.

Chenar Chalak  (RUDAW) adds:

“No dissolution of the parliament, or a change in the system, or early elections without the return of the Council [of Representatives] to holding sessions. For it [the parliament] is the one who discusses these demands, and what it decides, we will follow,” said Maliki in a televised video statement on Monday evening.

Maliki stressed that Iraq is a country of many components and that “no will shall be imposed upon it” unless it is one that reflects the entirety of the Iraqi people.


Away from Moqtada's faux-test, real protests are taking place in Iraq.  Samya Kullab (AP) notes:

Demonstrators blocked roads as protests broke out in southern Iraq on Monday after power outages left many without electricity during scorching peak summer heat. Temperatures reached 50 degrees Celsius  (122 degrees Fahrenheit) on Monday, nearly matching last year’s record high. Southern provinces, where the heat wave is most intense in Iraq, suspended working hours. The Electricity Ministry last week announced a state of alert, anticipating outages as temperatures rise. In the oil-rich province of Basra, dozens of people took to the streets for a third straight day and burned tires, blocking the main road to the provincial capital to protest power cuts.


 The protests began after the collapse of the electricity grid in six southern provinces due to excessive demand amid high temperatures. Basra Gov. Asaad Al-Eidani said the latest cuts were due to a fire at a power station.

In the holy city of Najaf, a weapons depot belonging to the Iran-backed Hashd Al-Shaabi network of paramilitary groups exploded in the heat.

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