While the world continues its fight against containing the coronavirus, the U.S. who still leads in the infected numbers, has recently reach 5 million confirmed cases. A rather grim milestone is also reached as it also logged a whopping 1 million infections in a mere two weeks, according to John Hopkins University.
California and Florida reported more than 500,000 cases so far and Texas is closely approaching that number as well. U.S. officials fear the virus may be widely circulating in parts of the Midwest now.
“Every country has suffered. We, the United States, has suffered … as much or worse than anyone,” Fauci said during an interview with CNN and the Harvard School of Public Health.
“I mean when you look at the number of infections and the number of deaths, it really is quite concerning,” he said.
So how did it get to this? A virus smaller than a piece of dust mite, has humbled and shaken up all 34 states in the U.S. to its knees.
Up to 30 CDC staffers were removed in China prior to the pandemic
The Trump administration cut staff by more than two-thirds at a key U.S. public health agency in China
Most reductions were made at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and happened over the past two years, according to public CDC documents viewed by Reuters.
Staff members could’ve warned about the spreading of coronavirus but were just not there to do so
Warnings fell on wrong ears
American intelligence warned about the threats in January, but Donald Trump has since been dismissing experts and evidence
Repeated statements about how the virus would “go away” and the American people have nothing to worry about as the numbers would go down; on top of that, Trump had a habit of disregarding intelligence briefings.
On February 26, Trump asserted that cases were “going to be down to close to zero.” Over the next two months, at least 1 million Americans were infected.
Ineffective travel bans
Travel bans create travel. People desperately will sort to use indirect routes through third party countries and make a six hour journey last for more than two days
The travel ban from continental Europe essentially created a surge of travellers that packed up America’s airports creating unnecessary delays where social distancing was not possible
Special exceptions also allowed in tens of thousands of returnees or entries from mainland China
Tests were also short in supply
There weren’t enough tests to be going around and the criteria for getting those tests were extremely rigid
At the end of February, tens of thousands have likely been infected but only hundreds had been tested
Diagnostic test are easy to make, but the U.S did not manage to create one; and to make things worse, no Plan B was prepared
Neglection of nursing homes
The hardest hit buildings were those jammed packed with people and especially without social distancing in practice
Nursing homes were ripped off their staff when the Trump administration reduced the influx of immigrants, leaving many nursing homes across the country understaffed
Tests and protective equipment were passed towards the state instead of being supplied to nursing homes
Nursing homes, now in a bad place, had many existing staff stopped working and faced the issue of many elderlies who were uncared for
The U.S spends more on healthcare than any other country
At least 27 million lack any health insurance, and the figure is set to rise as unemployment numbers rise
Patients risk getting high bills from emergency room visits and ventilators that they cannot pay for
U.S. hospitals received $9.8 million from a federal bailout but was disappointed with how it was divided
There were however, no extra funds for financially distressed hospitals or for those situated in Covid-19 hotspots.
A pandemic can be prevented in two ways. Stop it from ever arising, or stop it from increasing in numbers.
There are a variety of viruses out there and almost too many animals play as a harbour to them, which makes the first method almost impossible. The infamous “covid courier”, bats alone could be a host to many kinds of coronaviruses, and according to the Atlantic, almost one out of every 20 bats in Chinese caves is infected.
The U.S. underperformed and one error filed on the other. Still there is hope, as trial and error eventually works.
There are also a few signs that Americans are learning the important lessons as a June survey showed that 60 to 75 percent of Americans were still practicing social distancing. A gap still exists, but it has since narrowed.
This pandemic has been devastating and yet educating. We all carry the responsibility in the fight against it and it’s important that we give thought about what other stakes this pandemic brings and what we can do to address them.
While authorities continue searching for the cause of the Beirut explosion, all fingers are being pointed out to the chemical – Ammonia nitrate.
The question however, is to ask how did it got there in the first place, and how much in fact as it caused the lives of nearly 400 people and homes of at least 300,000.
An unscheduled stop, a massive shipment of agricultural fertilizer, a bankrupt Russian business man and the ignoring of safety precautions for years are just part of the many factors that played to the catastrophic incident.
According to CNN, a shipment of 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate arrived in Beirut in 2013 on a Russian owned vessel by the name of MV Rhosus. Due to financial difficulties, the vessel that was en-route to Mozambique, made an unprecedented stop at Beirut and never left.
The substance was ultimately left untouched and unregulated for up to SIX years.
Owned by Russian businessman Igor Grechuskin, his crew was mostly Russians and Moldovans and it is still not immediately clear to why Grechuskin, who owned Teto Shipping was carrying such an alarming amount of ammonium nitrate.
Highlighting a bust up with the law, Grechuskin had allegedly not paid his crew, including the captain and had abandoned them for months, leaving them stuck on the vessel, according to the lawyers who fought for their release.
They said that the ship was a “floating bomb” and the crew became hostages on the “bomb”.
Neither Grechusin nor any members of his family have given any public comment about their alleged connection with the Beirut blast.
Warnings were sent out over the years of the dangers that the port of Beirut could face with such a cargo in its area, which include inspectors warning that the now seized material could “blow up all of Beirut”.
According to the current Director of Customs, Badri Daher, warnings of the cargo being equivalent to a floating bomb didn’t manage to change the situation.
“We requested that it be re-exported but that did not happen. We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why,” Daher said.
“Due to the extreme danger posed by this stored items in unsuitable climate conditions, we reiterate our request to the Port Authorities to re-export the goods immediately to maintain the safety of the port and those working in it,” Chafic Merhi, former director general of the Lebanese Customs Administration wrote in a 2016 letter to a judge involved in the case.
On top of that, Lebanon’s general security chief also said that a “highly explosive material” was confiscated years earlier and kept in a warehouse not too far from Beirut’s shopping malls and nightlife spots.
As there were disasters linked to the chemical in the past, strict and improved regulations have been put in place for its safe storage. Associate Professor Stewart Walker from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia said in an interview with CCN that “such rules mean it tend to be kept away from population centers.
“Both of these things will be questioned in the investigation into the Beirut explosion, because they had such a large amount of ammonium nitrate, which may not have been stored appropriately, and in an area where there is a large number of people,” he added.
“Poorly stored ammonium nitrate is notorious for explosions — for example in Oppau, Germany; in Galveston Bay, Texas; and more recently at West in Waco, Texas; and Tianjin in China,” Andrea Sella a professor at University College London, told the Science Media Centre.
The Lebanese government announced it would be placing those it held responsible for the port of Beirut under house arrest, the investigation for the cause of the explosion continues while many are feared to be still stuck under large chunks of debris.
With the smell of smoke and confusion in the air, many are still relentless in their search for loved ones who work nearby the port or who were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time during the explosion; one of their worst fears possible just might be true though, as their family or friends just might be one of the many stuck under the tons and tons of rubble caused by the aftermath of the incident.
Beirut is in the midst of an major recovery and a two-week state of emergency has been called.
With bed frames being used as makeshift stretchers for the injured ones to not having the tools to cut through the scattered building blocks, it’s no wonder people like Isam Ata, 27, had to endure being trapped inside a collapsed building for 16 hours before finally being stretchered to aid.
Half of the city is now destroyed in the explosion that appears to be the most powerful one the city has suffered despite the 1975-90 civil war, official death tolls are at 135 and rising as the number of wounded is reaching up to 5,000; the estimate cost of damage according to governor of Beirut, Marwan Abboud, is as high as $3 billion.
Rescuers have been continuing their search for victims being trapped under rubble.
Medical personnel were forced to sort out patients in a car park, hospitals overwhelmed and the government is being expected to do go over its limits in order to aid while facing many other crisis amid the explosion.
Lebanese prime minister Hassan Diab has since appealed to all countries and friends of Lebanon to extend help to the nation, saying: “We are witnessing a real catastrophe.”
Whilst the Red Cross and Lebanese health minister is working on setting up morgues, governments worldwide including the UK, France, Australia, the US, Canada and Israel have also flocked to offer their support.
How long can one survive under rubble?
Julie Ryan of the International Rescue Corps (IRC), says that survival largely depends on what happens at the first moment the impact.
“The ideal situation is you have become trapped and entombed but have some sort of oxygen supply from the outside world, are not injured and also have some sort of access to water,” she told the BBC in an interview.
“You have usually managed to get yourselves into some sort of void where you are enclosed by the building but it doesn’t injure you.”
The UN usually calls off a search and rescue attempt between five and seven days after a disaster, when no victims have been saved for a day or two. However, people have been known to survive for much longer.
So what exactly is happening at the TikTok headquarters?
TikTok a short video streaming platform has gained a worldwide following since its introduction and is known for its comedic short videos; it has also long been thought to be the successor of another widely used, but now extinct short video streaming platform, Vine.
It features users that range from celebrities, digital creators or teenagers dancing, lip syncing and acting out to audio clips. To summarize, the TikTok experience is fun or downright silly at times but informative to those who utilise it that way.
In recent days, U.S. president Donald Trump vowed to ban the video-sharing app.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the president would take action in the coming days against Chinese-owned software that he believes pose a national security risk.
Officials in Washington have become increasingly concerned over time that Americans who use TikTok could risk having their data accessed by the Chinese government due to the app’s Chinese ownership by ByteDance.
TikTok has reportedly denied that any of its operations are being influenced by Beijing.
In a bid to Microsoft said it was looking to purchase the TikTok service in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and would operate the app in these markets.
“Following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald J. Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States,” the tech firm said.
The tech giant also added that it “may” invite other American investors to participate in the purchase “on a minority bases” but added that the discussions were still in its “preliminary” stage.
It also added among other measures, that all private data of TikTok’s American users is “transferred and remains in the United States”.
According to a story by the Wall Street Journal, TikTok’s U.S operations to Microsoft has been on hold ever since. The sale was close to an agreement until the warning posted out by the U.S president on Friday.
As on Monday, Microsoft said it will move forward with said plans subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States after Nadella’s conversation with Trump.
TikTok users respond
Fearing what could be the end of their TikTok days, viral and mainstream users across the U.S. began livestreaming and posting videos in tribute to their beloved video platform.
Content ranging from heartfelt goodbyes to persuading their current followings to Instagram and YouTube, it was a rollercoaster of a weekend for many who called the platform their entertainment outlet or even workplace.
The information and entertainment hub is also widely used by Gen Zs and politically-minded young people, it also serves as an educational outlet about issues such as climate change, racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.
As reported by the New York Times, Ellie Zeiler, 16, who has 6.3 million followers on TikTok, said that Mr. Trump’s threat to ban the app may even sway more young people to vote against him.
“I think that a lot of people didn’t like Trump before, and this has driven people to not like him even more,” she said.
Upon release of the news, TikTok released the following statement in regards to the platform coming under fire.
“Our $1 billion creator fund supports US creators who are building livelihoods from our platform. TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access. TikTok’s biggest investors come from the US. We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform.”
On TikTok’s official TikTok account, its US General Manager Vanessa Pappas appeared in a video thanking American users for their support.
“We’re not planning on going anywhere,” Papas said. “When it comes to safety and security, we’re building the safest app because we know it’s the right thing to do … We’re here for the long run. Continue to share your voice here and let’s stand for TikTok.”
Ellen Degeneres has recently been caught under the spotlight due to an ongoing internal investigation by Warner Media to review work culture at “The Ellen Degeneres Show”.
The long-time host of her own talk show has built a reputation of being kind, friendly and all in all wholesome. Acts of discrimination and mistreatment isn’t normally what one would associate with the talk show host. However, recent allegations of a reportedly toxic workplace culture has been contradicting what we know about one of America’s richest self-made women.
According to two people with knowledge of the matter, Warner Bros. Television executives sent a memo to employees last week that shows an outline of the internal investigation in the workplace at “The Ellen Degeneres Show”.
The people also said that WarnerMedia’s employee relations department will conduct interviews with current and former staff members to determine whether the experiences in the program’s workplace were in fact toxic.
Earlier, BuzzFeed news released an article this month which described what it referred to as a “toxic work culture”. Racism, fear and intimidation were one of the few words used by former staff members.
Black employees also experienced racism in the form of comments such as “I’m sorry, I only know the names of the white people who work here”, specifically from one of the show’s writers.
According to the article, former employees were also fired for taking time off for medical leave and marked most of the blame on three of the show’s executive producers, Ed Gavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner.
In a joint statement to BuzzFeed News, Mr. Glavin, Ms. Connelly and Mr. Lassner said: “For the record, the day to day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us. We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better.”
“The Ellen Degeneres Show” is a winner of dozens of Emmys and is currently still in its summer hiatus.
Degeneres renewed her contract last year to continue hosting through 2022. She is also due to be creating three shows for WarnerMedia’s streaming platform, HBO Max.
The famed husband and wife cooking duo, Sugu Pavithra, who have been viral since the movement control order (MCO) period has had all their YouTube videos deleted.
Referencing personal factors in an interview with Bernama, M.Sugu, 29, the husband of S. Pavithra, 28, said that he was the one who deleted all the videos after the series of events that unfolded in the past few days.
A spokesperson for the couple has since took to social media to release the following statement regarding the deletion of the videos:
“Hi, the couple (Sugu and Pavithra) would like to take some time off and focus on their personal life and hence, they would not be proceeding with any brand engagement for few weeks now.”
The channel boasts a following of 800,000 subscribers and were well on their way to clinching the Gold Play button by, a YouTube creator award given to every channel with 1,000,000 subscribers, but that may not happen anytime soon as the channel has now been emptied out.
Before this, it had featured up to 100 videos of cooking instructions and demonstrations; other than that, it also gave viewers a glimpse into the wholesome lifestyle of the Ipoh couple.
Ever since news of Pavithra having bruises on her lips, left cheek and right arm was widely shared around on social media, netizens had called foul play.
It was later revealed that life behind the camera hasn’t been as wholesome as the front of the camera. The YouTube sensation’s bruises and scars came from being allegedly slap in the face several times until she bled and also hit by a sickle by her husband.
Apparently Sugu resented against Pavithra for not crediting him during her Ipoh City Icon award event.
“The argument continued the next day where the man wanted to go to the hospital to find the wife’s sister. The man who was under the influence of alcohol had called up the wife’s sister to meet her but to no avail. This led the man hitting his wife,” an insider told Hype.my.
Pavithra has been called an inspiration by many Malaysians, she uses a cup as a phone holder to record her videos and also have been widely recognized as having a humble approach. News of her being on the receiving end of physical abuse did not sit well with many of her viewers as many had then urge Pavithra to leave Sugu.
Sugu was arrested on the 22nd of July following the allegations.
He was also charged at the Sessions Court with unlawful possession of a sickle at the Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun’s parking compound on July 21 and also with hitting his wife.
Pavithra said that among all the complications, she’d had chosen to forgive her husband and to put this whole episode behind them.
The couple had to undergo a rollercoaster of events under the eyes of national media earlier due to their fame; from receiving praises by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and celebrity chef Redzuawan Ismail, known as Chef Wan, to the unearthing of the presence of Pavithra on the receiving end of abuse.
Although, their famed YouTube success has drastically increased their household income, with earnings up to 8,700 ringgit (US$2,000) a month, life seemed good when compared with Sugu’s previous monthly income of about 1,000 ringgit as a plantation worker.
The couple had plans to open a restaurant next year, those plans are now unsure as their means of income from YouTube has been forfeited.
“But that is okay, because I have hands, feet, to look for a job. Even before this, I earned money by working,” Sugu said.
On the bright side, the channel would not be staying without content for long as Sugu said that he expects their latest video to be uploaded on YouTube once discussions with various parties are finalised.
After posting bail for him, Pavithra said they wanted to live normally and just want to focus on their YouTube channel.
What the American Idiot has done to America is to make it an impoverished country. Not just any kind of poverty — what you might call deep poverty. Let me explain.
New Zealand has zero new cases of Corona. In America, they’re spinning out of control. One way to think about it is to say that your chances of dying of this lethal pandemic are now…infinitely higher in America than in New Zealand. Compared to Europe and Canada, they’re about a hundred times higher.
That’s a kind of poverty, too. A poverty of public health. Americans have spent decades being impoverished of public health by the American Idiot — the kind of person who votes against better healthcare for everyone, including themselves, their kids, their parents. What the? What kind of idiot does that? A very, very large number of Americans.
The result of that attitude was a society poor in a gruesome and strange way — poor in public health itself. What I mean by that is that American life expectancy is the lowest in the rich world, and plummeting, that Americans have the highest rates of all kinds of preventable chronic diseases, from diabetes to obesity to heart disease. You can see it on American faces, in fact: a society poor in health is a society of unhealthy people.
We expect much, much poorer societies to be impoverished in public health. It’s a strange concept to have to think about precisely because we don’t expect it of a rich country. Perhaps one of a poor one, that’s never really developed at all. This is a syndrome unique to America — a form of poverty that Europeans and Canadians struggle to understand, because, well, they’ve mostly eliminated it. But in America, health poverty is endemic.
So endemic that you can see America’s gotten shockingly poorer and poorer in health — right down to the resurgence of old, conquered diseases, from measles to mumps. Again, that’s the work of the American Idiot — the kind of person who won’t vaccinate their kids, which is an idea that in the end takes society right back to the medieval days of endemic smallpox and polio.
So what was going to happen when a society impoverished in terms of health met a pandemic? Utter catastrophe. America’s mortality rate and infection rate are so high precisely because America was a time bomb of failing public health waiting to go off.
What then are the results of creating a society impoverished in public health? Well, Americans face a gruesome choice that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the rich world, even in much of the poor one: your money or your life. “Medical bankruptcy” is the result — I put in quotes because it’s a notion that scarcely exists elsewhere.
How did all that happen?
Americans are culturally impoverished, too. The American Idiot has turned American culture into the one of the world’s regressive, short-sighted, narrow-minded, and, well…idiotic. Literally the tiniest shreds of decency and sanity come under a murderous, withering barrage of denial and false “debate” — from things as simple as wearing masks to ones as large as educating Americans about how the rest of the rich world and even the poor one now has vastly better functioning societies.
Huge chunks of American culture are so hateful, foolish, or bizarre that they’d be either illegal, laughable, or bewildering in much of the rest of the world, from Canada, Europe, or Asia. “Debating” whether the answer to school shootings — which happen nowhere else — is to arm teachers? The idea that billionaires are somehow good for society, or that things like healthcare, retirement, pensions, income, and safety aren’t human rights? That money is all that should matter? Nearly everyone else in the world finds such notions jaw-droppingly foolish by now, which is how the American Idiot made his country a laughingstock the world over.
The point of a Culture of Idiocy, of course, is to create idiots, and American Culture is the cradle and mothers’ milk of the American Idiot. From Tucker Carlson to Bill O’Reilly to Ancient Aliens, an impoverished culture keeps Americans ignorant, pliable, submissive, and frightened.
Tucker will fill your head with misinformation, and the reality TV will make it seem normal to be an idiot. The result of cultural impoverishment, though, is that Americans they stay poor in more visible, visceral ways — like poor in healthcare, in equality, in power, in money.
But also poor in time. That’s my next dimension of poverty. Americans can’t do much to change their society — not nearly enough — because they’re time poor.They work harder than anyone else in the rich world, by a very, very long way. Taking a vacation in America is something that mostly, you’ll get fired for. Commuting three hours a day? That’s your problem. Americans have no time — and they don’t quite understand yet that that’s a deep form of poverty. Because when you’re always running out of time, when do you save, invest, educate, reflect, or just have a decent life? You don’t. You’re always weary, tired, panicked, on a hair trigger, and eventually, you go numb.
That brings me to the next kind of poverty — emotional poverty. Americans live severely impoverished emotional lives. America consistently ranks as a much, much unhappier country than Scandinavia, and falling. It’s among the angriest place and most stressed out place in the world.
Backing all that up, rates of depression have soared way, way past global norms, suicides are skyrocketing, and hopelessness and despair are endemic, too.
Imagine that you live a life of financial poverty, time poverty, and public health poverty, like most Americans do. What kind of life is that, emotionally? A poor one. It’s full of nights where you can’t sleep, wondering how to pay the bills. It’s riddled with anxiety and panic. Uncontrollable thoughts race through the mind. Pretty soon, you’re like, well, most Americans: angry, stressed out, depressed. No matter how hard you work, you never seem to able to make ends meet. You never have enough time to spend with your loved ones — or just relaxing, or learning something new. But those are the greatest sources of happiness of all. Is it any wonder Americans are miserable and furious, mostly, then?
The American Idiot made all that happen, too. Who votes, again and again, for no real mental healthcare? In America, you can get medicated— the lowest cost answer, or you can get “therapy.” But getting proper mental healthcare, the way you can in Europe or Canada — careful, long-term psychotherapy? That doesn’t exist at all in America, outside maybe a handful of major cities.
The American Idiot responded, instead, to life becoming a nightmare of dystopian stress, misery, and anger, with something else. With rage. With hate. With the cruelty and brutality that have made America a laughingstock the world over. Why does the American Idiot deny everyone — including themselves — better incomes, healthcare, retirement, pension, more time to have a decent life? Because they’ve internalized the notion that nobody has any intrinsic worth. And therefore, everybody must be a vicious competitor, fighting everyone else off, for a morsel of basics, whether jobs, healthcare, pensions, and so on.
But these are things that when people cooperate — as they do in Canada and Europe — they can simply give each other.
Never mind. The American Idiot — led off a cliff by greater fools, like Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump — believes that the only way out of an abusive society is to be a bigger, hungrier, more vicious predator.
But all that happens that way is that society implodes into a spectacular orgy of self-destruction, and becomes an unlivable place, because unbelievable cruelty to the rest of the world becomes the norm — like letting kids be shot at school, in indifference to life which culminates, ultimately, in the mass death of a virus.
All that brings me to another kind of poverty: one we don’t yet have a good name for. A poverty of trust, of goodness, of decency. Americans are impoverished in this deep way, which I can put most simply and accurately by saying that they seem to genuinely hate each other. It’s not nice living in a society of people who hate each other. A society of hateful people can’t ever cooperate to accomplish anything, whether beating a deadly pandemic, or creating a better future by investing together in schools, hospitals, ideas, research, accomplishments.
Now, I don’t mean that you hate anyone. I mean it in a more technical way, one that’s almost invisible in America, because like air, it’s just the atmosphere that surrounds everyone. What else, though, can it really be called, when some large number of Americans deny, over and over, everyone else the right to have healthcare? An education? A job with decent standards? Free time? A rising income? A democracy?
You only do those things if you hate people. Yes, really hate them. I would never deny you healthcare, goes the sentiment in Europe and Canada, where even the hard right wing isn’t against basic public goods. American Idiots will deny their own kids and parents decent lives, though.
The only accurate word to describe such a sentiment is hate — because when you deny someone the basics, like medicine or retirement, you are also hurting them badly, and in very real ways. They are going to suffer much, much worse lives — whether measured in longevity, happiness, income, or relationships — as a result of that denial.
The American Idiot is an abuser. He abuses everyone he can, right down to his own loved ones — and think that’s sanity, compassion, goodness. It’s not: it’s only a recipe for self-destruction. Because a society of people — enough of them — hell-bent on abusing everyone else, right down to their loved ones — can only implode into ruin, bitterness, hardship, and suffering.
That brings me to my final form of poverty. If I deny you the basics — healthcare, education, and so on — what am I really doing? I am destroying your human potential. And that is America’s truest and deepest form of poverty.
Americans now live lives of sharply limited and circumscribed possibilities. Go-nowhere, dead-end lives. You can see that, too, in basic statistics, like the death of upwards mobility, the loss of hope in the future, the fact that young people can’t afford to move out and start families, that half of all jobs are now “low-wage service work.”
In America, your life is going to be much, much poorer than in any other rich country. Elsewhere? You can probably get an education — a much better one — and not be crippled by debt for life. There are more better jobs, with better standards. There’s more free time, to have a family, to form bonds, to love. There are better social protections, which mean you spend less time anxious and stressed out. All of that doesn’t just add up to less depression and suicide and more happiness — happiness is facet of an even greater thing, human potential.
There you are, a young person in America. What are your options? Most industries have now imploded, from news to media to education. That’s why half of jobs are now “low-wage service work,” which is polite pundit’s way of saying: being a servant.
You end up driving an Uber, delivering an Instacart. Doing gig work. Pursuing your side hustle when and where you can. What the hell? You’re educated. You have a long collection of degrees and diplomas.
And yet you never become the thing you could have. The one that would have benefited everyone. That scientist, researcher, novelist, journalist, professor, musician. Who can? Nobody can make ends meet. Nobody has time for anything but to be exploited and abused, in the name of trying to make ends meet. So what is there left over in time or money to invest in one’s self?
One dimension of human potential is what you make of yourself professionally — and you realize, one day, terrified, that you will never amount to what you wanted to, but be a glorified neo-servant for much of your life. But another is relational — what you make of yourself socially. And as an American, now, you can’t even afford to start a family, have a home, develop a lifelong relationship.
That’s how badly your human potential has been destroyed. That’s how poor you are in human possibility. You won’t not just be that scientist, researcher, journalist, novelist — you also won’t be that dad, mom, grandparent, husband, wife, loved one.
You will work, for a pittance, and then die. You’ll make billionaires trillionaires — and demagogue dictators — along the way. But you?
You’re expandable, disposable, nobody.
That’s thanks to the American Idiot. He’s a person so breathtakingly foolish to the rest of the world he’s made America a laughingstock. Precisely because he believes nobody’s life has any intrinsic value — beginning with his own, extending to his loved ones…all the way to you, to everyone. If he’s happy to abuse himself — having internalized the lesson he’s been taught all his life, that only brutality matters and cruelty counts — why wouldn’t he abuse everyone else, too?
America’s become unlivable. Sure, you can live there, and you’ll be OK. But you’ll be poor. Poor in ways that are strange and hard to comprehend because they’re both old and new. You’ll be poor financially, of course, like someone living in a collapsing society — but that’s just the beginning.
You’ll be poor in terms of public health, like someone from medieval times. You’ll be poor in terms of time and power, like a peasant from pre-war times. You’ll be poor emotionally, like someone living in a country with no hope. And you’ll be poor socially, politically, and culturally, like in a country turning fascist-authoritarian. All that adds up to the coup de grace — you’ll be poor in terms of human potential. You’ll never become what you’re capable of being — not to the same degree as elsewhere.
Don’t get me wrong. Humanity has lived through a lot. Plagues, wars, collapses, implosions. Life doesn’t come to an end. It goes on. But you know what the point of all those things was? Not to repeat them.
That is the most minimal definition of what progress is. And so far, America has yet to meet even that. Maybe, then, that’s what the truest kind of poverty is, too.
The Japanese use of Kamikaze pilots in the Pacific campaign against the United States was perhaps the most extreme tactic ever used by the Rising Sun Empire to gain an advantage over the enemy. This tactic was born out of the need to destroy the American aircraft carriers which defined American dominance across the Pacific theatre. American aircraft carriers were usually heavily guarded by both high-quality American fighters and anti-air guns mounted on the carrier itself.
During the later stages of the war, Japanese fighter aircraft could not hope to compete against the superior American variants and thus a new way to strike at the heart of the American fleet was required. These circumstances gave birth to the Kamikaze tactic. But what would happen if a pilot tasked with this vital task failed his mission and returned?
For the Emperor
Honour has always played a big part in Japanese society. Many who volunteered to the Kamikaze corp saw it as an honour to die for their country. It was also believed that the show of honour and selflessness shown by a Kamikaze pilot willingly sacrificing himself for this country would have massive psychological impacts on the invading forces.
Even more importantly Kamikaze attacks were much more accurate than bombing runs allowing the Japanese Air Force to target the weak points of American ships, making this tactic much more efficient than the traditional bombing run, something vital for the already weak and overextended Japanese armed forces.
Many people in Japanese society looked up to the Kamikaze pilots as they were seen as the ultimate show of loyalty to the emperor. As such they received better rations during their training although this was outweighed by the harsh training and disciplining they were put through during the preparation for their final day. Even with all this preparation and nationalistic zeal some of the pilots were too scared to perform their task or experienced mechanical failures during their ‘last flight’ forcing them to return back to Japan.
Failure and dishonour
The Kamikaze pilots who returned fall into two distinct groups. Those who returned due to weather conditions or mechanical failures in their place and those who returned due to not being able to perform their task successfully due to psychological reasons. Each group received different treatment on their return.
The pilots who could prove that their return was caused by conditions outside of their control were neither punished nor looked down upon. During a stage of the war when even pilots were classed as a scarce resource the Japanese could not afford to lose a well trained Kamikaze pilot and thus their return was accepted and their ‘last flight’ was rescheduled although some still felt survivor’s guilt over if they were the only one in their squadron to survive.
For those pilots who couldn’t prove that their return was caused by factors outside of their control, their treatment would be a bit different. Although still not executed these pilots would receive some sort of punishment be it physical or mental. These punishments were not to be too severe as the pilot had to be ready for another flight at some point in the future so nothing that would damage that ability would be performed. Even so, this had a limit as seen with one pilot who returned 9 times from his Kamikaze mission. He would be executed on his 9th return for cowardice.
To combat these mental factors that would stop the Kamikaze pilots from completing their tasks a few measures were implemented. Kamikaze pilots would often fly in squadrons as to increase the peer pressure between colleagues leading to fewer pilots flaking off and not completing their task. Pilots also received alcohol before their ‘final flight’ giving them some ‘liquid courage’ to help them complete their task.
Many think that the pilots were also given just enough fuel to make it to their target as another incentive but this wasn’t true as we now know that these pilots were such a scarce resource that this wouldn’t be a viable way of incentivising them to perform their task.
When you eliminate all thoughts about life and death, you will be able to totally disregard your earthly life. This will also enable you to concentrate your attention on eradicating the enemy with unwavering determination, meanwhile reinforcing your excellence in flight skills. — Excerpt from a kamikaze pilots’ manual
As always, war brings out the worst in humanity, something that cannot be more true of the Japanese. In a society, so where honour and subservience to the emperor means more than one’s life such tactics as using Kamikaze pilots or making infantry suicide bomb tanks could be justified and even celebrated by the general populace as they aided the war effort.
Japan would commit many despicable war crimes during the Second World War in a search to best their enemies stopping at nothing to do so. We see this with the experiments performed by Unit 731 and the atrocities committed in mainland China in a quest to placate the rebellious population.
Japan has always been an interesting case study in history and will remain as such due to the unique culture the hermit civilization developed over the centuries of isolation from influence outside of their island. I look forward to exploring the history of this country further someday.
It was just like any other day, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles exchange pleasantries, it was the first time either of the pilots had flown with each other. They were the first to board the plane, they then followed the standard procedure of doing internal and external checks on the plane they were about to fly, which was an Airbus A320. At the time, 57 year-old Sully had 19,663 total flight hours, including 4,765 in an A320; he was also a glider pilot and expert on aviation safety. First officer Jeffrey Skiles, 49, had accrued 20,727 career flight hours with 37 in an A320, but this was his first A320 assignment as pilot flying.
As there were no complications on the plane before takeoff, passengers were allowed to board, the plane was headed from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Charlotte Douglas (CLT). There were a total of 150 passengers and three flight attendants on board.
After conducting all checks on the plane and with them coming back clean, the plane was ready for takeoff. Initial takeoff was smooth and saw no issues.
At 3:25:51: The crew made its first report after becoming airborne as being at 700 feet (210 m) and climbing.
At 3:26:37: Sullenberger remarked to Skiles: “What a view of the Hudson today.”
At 3:27:11: The plane struck a flock of Canadian geese at an altitude of 2,818 feet (859 m) about 4.5 miles (7.2 km) north-northwest of LaGuardia. The pilots’ view was filled with the large birds, passengers and crew heard very loud bangs and saw flames from the engines, followed by silence and an odor of fuel.
Realizing that they had lost power in not 1, but 2 engines, Sullenberger took control while Skiles worked the checklist for engine restart. The plane reached a maximum height of 930m before beginning a glide descent.
At 3:27:33: Sullenberger radioed in a mayday call to Air Traffic Control, informing them that they had lost thrust in both engines and requested for permission to return to LaGuardia Airport.
Air traffic controller Patrick Harten told LaGuardia’s tower to hold all departures, and directed Sullenberger back to Runway 13. Sullenberger responded, “Unable”. Followed by the harrowing words “We may end up in the Hudson”. Silence followed over the radio.
Sullenberger asked controllers for landing options in New Jersey, mentioning Teterboro Airport. Permission was given for Teterboro’s Runway 1, Sullenberger initially responded “Yes”, but then: “We can’t do it … We’re gonna be in the Hudson”.
Sullenberger then came over the intercom for the cabin, with the now infamous words “Brace for impact.” The cabin crew then started instructing passengers on safety procedures. Sullenberger then looked over at his co-pilot, they had both been operating the past few minutes almost in silence. He asked, “You got any ideas”?Jeffrey replied, “Actually none”.
The plane touched down on the Hudson River, in the middle of New York City. Boats came to the rescue and aid in the evacuation of the 155 people who were onboard.
Some climbed out onto the wings, some got onto inflatable rafts, and others, fearing an explosion, swam away from the plane. The temperature of the water was about 5°C, as the plane was quickly submerged as the doors were opened.
Captain Sullenberger remained in the aircraft and double-checked the entire aircraft for any remaining passengers, before being the last person off the aircraft.
Captain Sullenberger, his co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles, and the cabin crew’s quick and noble actions saved every single life on the aircraft that day, all 155 passengers were saved, most of them only suffering minor injury.
Ever since that crash, pilots were then trained to perform water landings in the event that such a situation ever arises again.
The landing was rightfully nicknamed “The Miracle On the Hudson”.
Watch Captain Sullenberger describe the plane landing here:
Watch a reenactment of the landing from the movie Sully (2016)
Born in Serbia, Vesna Vulovic discovered a love for travelling after studying in London to enhance her English speaking abilities. This would however to be a catalyst for a series of events which would eventually lead her to tumble over ten kilometres down to Earth into the Czech countryside. Her survival would eventually lead her to become a “Soviet Heroine” renowned across the Soviet Union.
However, like many in a similar situation, she would suffer from survivors’ guilt due to her being the only survivor of a terrorist attack that downed an aircraft. Her amazing feat of endurance and luck would land her in the Guinness book of world records, setting a record still not beaten to this day.
Getting into the air
Once Vesna returned to her home in Belgrade she saw her friend in a flight attendant’s uniform and remarked: “She looked so nice and had just been to London for the day”. Considering her love of travel and the possibilities this presented her was enamoured by the opportunity to be a flight attendant.
In 1971 an opportunity came up for her to join Yugoslavia national flag carrier “JAT Airways” and she went for it. The probability of her passing the medical exam was low considering her lifelong struggles with low blood pressure, however with a substantial amount of coffee and clear enthusiasm she was hired.
26th of January 1972
After only about 8 months of service and travelling the world, she would be assigned to JAT Flight 367 flying from Stockholm to Belgrade. She was part of a secondary crew ready to take over from a previous crew but it quickly became apparent she wasn’t even meant to be there. She was mixed up with another stewardess also called Vesna but decided to take the flight anyway.
Vesna later recalled the atmosphere amongst the crew as being tense remarking “Everybody wanted to buy something for his or her family… so I had to go shopping with them. They seemed to know they would die” from her recollections following the fall. The state of the pilot was also mentioned as “the captain was locked in his room for 24 hours” almost eerily awaiting what was to come next.
At 2:30 pm a delayed McDonnell Douglas DC-9 landed at Copenhagen Airport to refuel and change crews. The passengers were also allowed to leave the aircraft and shop around the airport, to then board the aircraft to continue their journey, it is reported one man never did.
Flight 367 took off from Copenhagen at 3:15 pm and 45 minutes later at 4:01, a luggage bomb went off in the hold. The aircraft was instantly ripped apart the pilots not able to do anything as the plane was in literal pieces from the moment the bomb went off.
The bomb caused the cabin to instantly become depressurized pulling passages and crew out of the aircraft to fall to their deaths. Luckily for Vesna, she was pinned in the rear of the fuselage by a food cart as it ripped away from the rest of the craft. The fuselage along with Vesna plummeted from the cruising altitude of the jet towards the ground. The aircraft had broken up over the Czechoslovakian village of Srbska-Kamenice, crashing into a combination of trees and snow slightly cushioned the impact.
In an incredible twist of fate, a local villager called Bruno Honke found her after he witnessed the wreck slam into the ground. Not actually expecting to find any survivors he searched and found a blood-covered stewardess still breathing and in severe pain. He had been a medic in the German army during WW2 and managed to keep the stewardess alive till authorities got her to the hospital.
Hospitals and Recovery
Upon reaching the hospital doctors found out she had; fractured her skull, the skull had haemorrhaged, several ribs were broken, her pelvis was fractured, both legs were broken, three vertebrae were broken and one completely smashed. It was a miracle she managed to survive and doctors hypothesized this was due to her history of low blood pressure, she managed to pass out when the cabin depressurized, saving her heart from pumping upon impact preventing it from bursting due to the g-forces of impacting the ground.
Interviewed in 2008 she recounted “Nobody expected me to live this long” and she was correct as doctors were surprised she was even conscious. She regained the ability to walk only 10 months after her freefall. After undergoing several surgeries and over 16 months of recovery time she ended up with a permanent limp and permanently twisted spine, but at least she was alive.
A day after the crash a Croatian nationalist called a Swedish newspaper and claimed it was him who took down the aircraft. Unfortunately, no arrests were ever made but the Czechoslovak civil aviation authority latter supported the briefcase bomb theory.
Croatian nationalists had carried out over 128 terror attacks against Yugoslavian military and civilian personnel. Due to this Vesnas hospital room was under constant guard by police to ensure whoever was behind the attack didn’t attempt to finish the job.
Fortunately for Vesna, the fall didn’t scare her away from flying and in 1972 expressed her interest in resuming her role as a flight attendant. However, at this point, she had gained celebrity status within the Soviet Union and was even made an honorary citizen of Srbska Kamenice. Her fame made the airline uneasy about the consequences of placing her on a plane again and potentially scaring passengers, she would instead be given a desk job negotiating trade contracts.
She spent the last years of her life divorced living in a run-down apartment in Belgrade, on 300 Euro per month pension. In the senior years of her life, she expressed survivor guilt for surviving the accident. In her words:
“Whenever I think of the accident, I have a prevailing, grave feeling of guilt for surviving it and I cry… then I think maybe I should not have survived at all”
She decided to become a devout Orthodox Christian as a way of dealing with her declining mental health and declined therapy offers for her survivors’ guilt. She claimed that the whole event had even turned her into an outspoken optimist claiming if she can survive what she did, she could survive anything.
In December 2016 Vesnas friends became very worried about her as she had stopped answering phone calls. On the 23rd of December, locksmiths forced the Vesnas house door open and discovered her body. Her cause of death is unknown but her friends claim she struggled with heart ailments in the years leading up to her death.
To this day Vesna Vulovic is recognized by the Guinness book of world records as having the “Highest fall survived without a parachute” a record not broken since her fall in 1972.