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SAY WHAT? - The hateful crazy goes on apace. Of course it's everywhere: On Monday in New York City, which just mandated vaccines in schools, a marching mob of anti-vaxxers destroyed a mobile COVID test site as cops blithely waved them away but took no further action, which was def not because they were all white. Still, at this point Tennessee might take the lunatic cake. Last month, the state ranked first in the nation for both new COVID cases - up daily since August by nearly 90% to almost 12,000 new cases a day - and COVID-related school closures even as GOP Gov. Bill Lee has stubbornly resisted mask or vaccine mandates in favor of opt-out policies and wishing on a star.

"We're beginnng to see what we think and hope, cautiously optimistic, we're hopeful is a plateau," he said recently. "We do not know. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes it spikes back up" - especially in a state with a mere 38% vaccination rate. Meanwhile, over 400 schools have at least temporarily shuttered due to COVID infections, deaths of school employees arerising, ICUs are full of "vaccine refusal regret" and a record number of hospitalized children, the National Guard has sent 215 members to support 20 struggling hospitals, and after being fired this summer their top vaccination official charged officials have "jumped off a vaccination cliff" by halting all vaccination outreach for kids, even for measles, warning, "People will continue to become sick and die from this vaccine-preventable disease because they choose to listen to the nonsense spread by ignorant people."

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SAY WHAT? - With the right to choose on the line and a possibly decisive December 1st legal battle looming, thousands planned to march Saturday for reproductive rights in the fifth annual Women's March even as right-wing idiots like Marjorie Taylor Greene were shrieking that in "Biden's Communist takeover" House Democrats "are evil and will kill unborn babies all the way up to birth & then celebrate." The week marked one month since passage of Texas' depraved anti-abortion bill, complete with for-profit public-shaming; it's already prompted multiple legal challenges, a DOJ hearing that saw several female Democrat lawmakers tell the painful stores of long-ago abortions, and two as-expected lawsuits against a doctor challenging the law that en route also exposed its insanity, leading its author to complain they're only "self-serving legal stunts."

The Texas law went into effect, of course, thanks to an uber-right-wing-majority SCOTUS - thanks Susan Collins - whose public approval rating has plunged as much as 20 points since anonymously overturning a 50-year legal precedent in the dark of night with a ruling opposed by over two-thirds of Americans, and even many Republicans. In several recent polls, just over half of Republicans view the court as fair, a dismal 12% of Democrats do, and over a third of Americans say the Court is too conservative - mostly 'cause it's packed with extremist ideologues who, raged Sonia Sotomayor in her Texas dissent, just committed "a breathtaking act of defiance – of the Constitution, this court’s precedents, and the rights of women seeking abortions."

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SAY WHAT? - A video posted online reportedly shows a pack of rats dashing in and out of a kennel at a Los Angeles animal shelter while a dog sits inside.

The video was one of several images showing that the East Valley Shelter has been overrun by packs of rats, according to a Sunday report from CityWatch Los Angeles. The website noted that the images were taken in the daytime during a recent weekend while members of the public were present, although rats are typically far more active in the night because they are nocturnal.

The silent footage posted to YouTube appears to show at least a half dozen different rodents skittering through gaps in a kennel cage to reportedly steal food from the dish of a dog sitting inside. It is not clear how widespread the problem is at the shelter, which is one of six run by Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS).

"The health, safety, and well-being of the animals in our care are our top priority," LAAS spokesperson Agnes Sibal-von Debschitz said in a statement to Newsweek. "This is a concern and we have been working with the City and the contractors on a number of methods to reduce the population of rats." 

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SAY WHAT? - The battle for democracy, woefully under-reported, lumbers on. The bad news is that the crazed orange guy is still out there, raving and lying. At a Saturday night "rally" in Georgia, he obsessively parroted  "The Big Lie" yet again, telling a rabid crowd of cranks that Arizona's just-completed, $6-million, bamboo-fiber-seeking "full forensic audit" was "a big win for us" that revealed"huge findings!" and "a major criminal event" the commie Fake News is now villainously covering up, when in fact, here on unaccomodating Planet Earth, it found that - duh - Biden won, again, though by 300 more votes than was originally thought. "Truth is truth, numbers are numbers," conceded the GOP Senate head who approved the bonkers charade. Nope, insisted the crowd that gathered outside a hearing after release of the audit to frenziedly chant "De-certify!" and "USA!" Their lunatic calls echoed around the Internet, with conspiracy theorists trumpeting what's "gonna be the beginning of their end" and a Melania Trump (Official) site hawking Trump coins to honor "President Trump’s victory and success” - $7.95 to $4.95 or one free coin (plus $8.95 for shipping) in a “complementary plastic case” or multiple for "only 130$! (and) in a year the value will skyrocket and you'll be able to buy a house with only 25 coins!". Ok, maybe a really, really teeny one. Regardless, after the audit will definitely come "the storm, the rapture, salvation."

Appearances notwithstanding, notes Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson, the Jan. 6 riot and its ensuing "Stop the Steal" delirium "was not some crazy plot of some obscure dude in a shack in the mountains; this was a plan of the president of the United States." She details other horrors: a Trump lawyer's six-point plan to overturn the election and “kill the Biden presidency in the crib”; staff members of GOP A.G.s meeting for "war games" to consider strategies if Trump lost; MAGA wingnuts using the language of authoritarianism, from a Texas gubernatorial challenger saying the state "deserves a leader" like Brazil strongman Jair Bolsonaro to white nationalist Charlie Kirk echoing Nazi "replacement theory" by charging Democrats back "an invasion of the country" to bring in brown people who'll vote for them; and the bizarre, little noted news that next year's CPAC confab will be held in....Budapest, Hungary, where Viktor Orbán, Tucker Carlson's fave new fascist, is busy dismantling democracy. Given the current fundamental battle "to prove that democracy actually works," writes Richardson, "If this is not a hair-on-fire, screaming emergency, what is?"

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SAY WHAT? - Cassandra Peterson, who has played the character Elvira Mistress of the Dark since the early 1980s, came out in her new memoir, released yesterday, discussing her 19-year relationship with a woman.

“Often, when I was doing my preworkout warm-up on the treadmill, I couldn’t help noticing one particular trainer — tan, tattooed, and muscular — stalking across the gym floor, knit cap pulled so low over his long brown hair that it nearly covered his eyes,” Peterson wrote in Yours Cruelly, Elvira. “Dark and brooding, he gave off such intense energy that when he crossed the enormous gym floor, the waters parted and people stopped in their tracks to stare.”

Then she ran into the trainer in the women’s restroom and learned that she was in fact a “beautiful, androgynous creature” named Teresa “T” Wierson.

Peterson and Wierson became close friends while she was still married to Mark Pierson. When her 25-year marriage to him ended in 2003, she grew closer to Wierson.

And then Wierson needed a place to stay.

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SAY WHAT? - At 3 a.m. Tuesday, in what its creator likens to a much-needed "collective sigh," volunteers began planting the first of 662,000 white flags on D.C.'s National Mall in mournful tribute to America's staggering, unholy, largely preventable COVID death toll, which just passed the record mass casualties of the Civil War and is now surging to over 1,800 deaths and 170,000 new cases every day. The numbers confound: Over 42 million Americans, or one in seven, have had COVID, one in every 500 have died, and experts agree those confirmed numbers drastically under-report the dire reality. Today's pandemic of the stubbornly, stupidly unvaccinated, fueled by Delta and maskless kids going back to school, is concentrated in southern GOP-run states widely seeing severe staff and bed shortages, ICU units at or over capacity, and hospitals "at the brink of collapse in many communities." In Kentucky, where 70% of hospitals have reported critical shortages, doctors lament that, thanks to anti-science idiocy, "Most of the education happening now is based on tragedy, personal tragedy.” And the stories of it keep coming.

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Because irony isn't quite dead yet, SCOTUS Judge Amy Coathanger Barrett gave a Very Earnest speech Sunday about the integrity of the Supreme Court at the University of Louisville's McConnell Center, which was founded by Mitch McConnell, who gave Barrett a glowing introduction after having last year rammed her nomination through the Senate before the body of RBG was cold - protest signs at the time declared "Respect Her Dying Wish Mother F**kers" and "Supreme Farce" - and mere weeks before the election though he'd nefariously blocked an Obama SCOTUS confirmation for over a year, but that was then when it only seemed like an increasingly right-wing Court was working hand-in-sweaty-hand with the GOP, and this is now, when we know they are.

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SAY WHAT? - After 131 ignoble years, officials in the former capital of the Confederacy have finally taken down the massive 12-ton statue of loser, traitor and slavery zealot Robert E. Lee, who led hundreds of thousands of young Americans to their misbegotten deaths to defend the dubious right of white people to own black people as property. Wednesday's overdue action removed the country's largest monument to the Lost Cause, the last Confederate statue along Richmond’s historic Monument Avenue, and the longtime, incendiary symbol of a southern white nationalism that birthed Jim Crow, the KKK and all the sordid tenets of systemic racism that followed.

For many, both Lee and Richmond represent "Ground Zero" for the fight against racism. Contrary to a popular myth of the "kindly general," Lee didn't just viciously beat his own slaves; he also massacred black Union soldiers who tried to surrender at the Battle of the Crater, paraded survivors through the jeering streets, and refused to accept Ulysses Grant' condition for a prisoner exchange that black soldiers - aka “negroes belonging to our citizens" - be exchanged just like white soldiers, thus leaving his own men to suffer. Like other Confederate monuments to white supremacy, Lee's statue - because "a big lie requires a big statue," 21 feet tall atop a 40-foot pedestal - took shape a generation after the war. Erected in 1890, 25 years after his surrender at Appomattox, it told both southern white bigots their fight wasn't over, and southern blacks who was still in charge. Hint: Not them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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