Unvaccinated? You’re in trouble!

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

As much of the country emerges from masking and social distancing, undervaccinated pockets in the U.S. still threaten to bring the virus roaring back.

Less than 25% of the population is fully vaccinated in at least 482 counties, according to an analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data by Bloomberg News. Many of these counties are more rural and less economically advantaged than the rest of the U.S., and a majority of their voters in the last presidential election chose Donald Trump, according to the analysis of 2,700 U.S. counties.

Though more than 174 million Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, accounting for about 64.6% of the adult population, such averages belie stark gaps in vaccination rates at a local level. With more contagious versions of the virus like the delta variant taking hold, this creates opportunities for further spread.

Hidden pockets of low rates of vaccinations at the local level have been a challenge before in the U.S. “When you start to look at communities, you start to really unveil very, very low vaccination rates that tend to get averaged out when you’re looking at the entire country or even on an entire state,” said Maimuna Majumder, a health informatics researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital. Viruses don’t spread at a national or statewide level, she said, but among friends, family and neighbors in a community, passing it to each other as people go about their daily lives.

I find it difficult to write polite phrases about people who choose to remain unvaccinated. Whatever the reason. It matters not whether religion or ignorance, fear or just plain stupidity governs your decision-making. You’re not only risking your own life. Apparently, you don’t care if you kill your children, your neighbors or the folks who live down the street.

The reasons for getting vaccinated aren’t new. I had to learn about them the first time I was vaccinated. That was in 1947. This is nothing daring. It doesn’t take anymore brains than stopping for a red light.

Hesitancy over pandemic vaccine vanishing

Recent polling suggests a continued drop in the vaccine hesitant population as more and more people get vaccinated in the US.

The past two weeks alone, there were two polls that show just how much vaccine hesitancy has declined. The Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 55% of adults say they now want a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible or have already received their first dose. That’s up from 47% in January and 34% in December…

Axios/Ipsos polling shows a similar trendline. A mere 13% of adults said in September they would get a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it was made available to them. That jumped to 27% in early December to 43% in early January. Now, 57% say they have already received the vaccine or will get it as soon as possible

Yes, a well-educated populace would have had much greater positive numbers months ago. The shift is admirable and not surprising. After all, folks are beginning to see friends, neighbors, co-workers getting the shot…living through the procedure and not even sprouting horns or turning green.

It’s called “Live and learn!”

Fences affect environments around the world…rarely studied or regulated

Marian Deschain

What is the most common form of human infrastructure in the world? It may well be the fence. Recent estimates suggest that the total length of all fencing around the globe is 10 times greater than the total length of roads…

On every continent, from cities to rural areas and from ancient to modern times, humans have built fences. But we know almost nothing about their ecological effects. Border fences are often in the news, but other fences are so ubiquitous that they disappear into the landscape, becoming scenery rather than subject.

[In fact]…compiling studies from ecosystems around the world…research shows that fences produce a complex range of ecological effects.

I love articles that jog my brain into looking at my own life’s landscape to examine/re-examine the subject matter. Living where barbed wire rules, here in the American Southwest, you have to think about fences anywhere you roam.

Conspicuous consumption is contagious

There goes the neighborhood!

When someone wins the lottery, it can be bad news for his neighbor’s finances. A new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia examines the relationship between lottery winners in a particular Canadian province and bankruptcies in the same province — it found that neighbors of lottery winners are unusually likely to go bankrupt, and the larger the lottery prize, the more likely bankruptcy becomes.

Specifically, every $1,000 in lottery winnings translates to a 2.4 percent higher probability of a nearby neighbor declaring bankruptcy.

The researchers have an explanation for why this happens, too. When people declare bankruptcy in Canada, they have to disclose all their major assets — things like houses, cars, boats, and motorcycles — to the courts. The researchers found that the larger the lottery prize, the more money bankrupt neighbors spent on big-ticket vanity purchases — and the more likely they were to run out of money.

The clever study is one of the first to provide statistically rigorous evidence for a claim that seems plausible but is hard to prove: that rising inequality causes people to spend beyond their means in an effort to “keep up with the Joneses.” This is the idea that when someone’s wealth suddenly increases, her neighbors — and probably her friends and relatives — feel pressure to spend more to avoid being upstaged. Ultimately, this kind of competition can leave everyone worse off.

Never lived in a neighborhood where this was a problem. Most times, you struck it rich – you moved out of where I lived. 🙂

Say hello to your neighbors

For as long as we’ve been around, humans have lived with insects. From the earliest cave dwellings to modern-day McMansions, it’s been impossible to find a human dwelling that’s insect-free. But surprisingly little is known about the bugs thriving in the cracks and crannies of our homes.

So recently, entomologists completed what they say is the first census of the arthropod (a classification that includes insects and spiders) species that live in the typical American home. Assessing 50 houses in the vicinity of Raleigh, North Carolina, they found a stunning diversity of critters.

Here’s a graphic summarizing all the types of arthropods they found on average:

Click to enlarge

Say hello. These are your true neighbors.

On average, each house hosted 62 different arthropod families, for an average of 93 different species per home. Some homes had as many as 211 species. The authors stress that this is likely a conservatively low estimate, since they only assessed the room in each house that hosted the greatest number of species.

And, yes, every home contained arthropods. Of the 50 houses researchers studied, they found only five rooms that seemed to be bug-free…

Most of the insects in our homes aren’t pests.

Of the 93 species found, surprisingly few of them were what we’d typically consider pests: cockroaches, fleas, bedbugs, termites, etc. “In fact,” the authors write, “we found a relative dearth of typical household pests.”

Instead, they mostly found benign flies, spiders, beetles, bees, wasps, and ants.

Indoors diversity was greater than expected. As is often the case outdoors.

Admittedly, I only grazed through the article searching for an answer to the first question that came to mind – what time of year did they do the study. I presume it’s in there somewhere. In my experience, the insect population varies with the season. Especially the increase, say, in spiders with the approach of cold weather. We always are reminded in New Mexico of the imminence of autumn when Black Widow spiders start moving in.

Woman accused of teaching bird expletives aimed at her ex-hubby

An alleged cussing cockatoo is at the center of a heated neighborly dispute in which a Rhode Island woman is accused of training her bird to spew nasty expletives at her ex-husband and his girlfriend.

The foul-mouthed bird’s banter has become so bad the neighbors say they are leaving their waterfront home…

Lynne Taylor is due back in Warwick Municipal Court next week to fight allegations she violated a city animal noise ordinance when, according to Kathleen Melker and boyfriend Craig Fontaine, she taught the bird to continually hurl curse words at them.

The dispute has largely become a symbolic battle — the ordinance carries just a $15 fine.

Judges in superior and family courts have handed out restraining orders to people on both sides, even banning Melker’s cat, Pharaoh, from stepping onto Taylor’s property, said her lawyer, Stephen Peltier…

The statute reads if an individual is annoyed, that becomes a public nuisance. That is broad — based on case law,” Peltier said of the ordinance, adding his client denies teaching Willy such language…

Melker…says the dispute has forced her and Fontaine to put his $332,000 home on the market. “We’re done,” she said. “We have no quality of life.”

I have no idea how this former-couple ended up living next to each other. Certainly, you might presume a certain amount of risk comes with the context.

Trying to ban a cat from going where it wishes – outdoors – leaves me unimpressed with the judge, too.

Dog lover facing jail for walking too slowly — and snooping!

Vampire has no opinion

A dog lover could face jail if deemed to be giving her pedigree pets their “walkies” too slowly following a judge’s verdict on a bitter neighbours dispute…Farmer Linda Jefferies, 61, rears rare breed sheep in Essex and is also the devoted owner of a Hungarian Komonder and a Bouvier de Flandres, called “Vampire”.

She has for years been embroiled in a “needle match” over a right of way running to one of her fields across the land of her neighbour, smallholder, Pauline Robb, 54.

That resulted in Mrs Jefferies being handed an injunction under the Protection from Harrassment Act after a judge found she had been using the path for “snooping” on Mrs Robb and her husband.

The order stipulates that Mrs Jefferies must “move along at a reasonable speed” when using the disputed path – or face a maximum penalty of a £5,000 fine or six months’ imprisonment

Mrs Jefferies fought that injunction in the Appeal Court, complaining that it effectively bans her from walking her beloved dogs for fear that they might feel the call of nature of otherwise “dawdle” on the path, landing her in jail…

At the Appeal Court, Kevin Leigh, for Mrs Jefferies, defended her right to walk her animals down the path at any speed she likes…

Lord Justice Sullivan, however, ruled that the injunction must remain in place unchanged…”If Mrs Jefferies uses the footpath genuinely to walk her dogs, and not as a disguised snooping exercise, she has nothing to fear from the judge’s order,” he concluded.

No word from the dogs. I presume that as long as they continue to poop and pee regularly that’s sufficient testimony.

Singaporeans’ culinary anti-immigration protest – sort of

Stanley Wong, Florence Leow eat curry with friends including Liang Meizi from China
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

It takes a lot to start a mass campaign with political overtones in Singapore, but there’s no better catalyst than food. Tens of thousands of people in the Southeast Asian city-state said they would cook or eat curry on Sunday in a protest highlighting growing anger over increased immigration.

The campaign began after an immigrant family from China complained about the smell of curry from a Singaporean Indian neighbor’s home and local officials brought about a compromise.

A Facebook page devoted to the row after reports were published in a local newspaper has drawn over 57,600 members, many of who said they were cooking curry on Sunday in a show of solidarity with the Indian family.

“Because we live in Singapore and Singapore is such a cramped place, neighbors should understand each others’ culture,” said Stanley Wong, a 37-year old accountant who helped organized the Facebook page…

“The case could create problems with the integration of foreign nationals,” said Florence Leow, a freelance writer in her 40s who also was one of the organizers of the event. “Through this event we hope to cook and share a pot of curry and get to appreciate and embrace our culture.”

The influx of immigrants is a sensitive subject in Singapore, where only about two-thirds of the people are citizens. Many Singaporeans say the city-state’s relatively easy immigration policies are attracting too many foreigners, making it more difficult to find jobs and pushing up prices of homes.

The Facebook page for the curry cook-in has about 4 times as many followers as the four candidates in the coming presidential election. Most folks who’ve commented about the event – at least those I bumped into while choosing which reporting to source as a link – feel what’s important is getting to know each other’s cultures more than anything else.

Which is probably the best way to get about it. At least it’s not as heated an issue in Singapore as it is, here in the States. Being an old geezer with both sides of my family having been immigrants to the US and only one side wanting to come to North America in the first place – my heartfelt memories are of easy access and working to get along. I kind of forget how much political crap has filled the intervening years – making it costly and much more difficult for an ordinary workingclass family to become citizens of this land.

My Italian grandfather’s naturalization papers are one of the items permanently on my desk. The Scots-Canadian contingent came here when even less seemed to be required. They all fit into a society concerned with growing the economy and industries nationwide – instead of being run as a fiefdom for corporate thugs who only cared about the highest possible profits from whatever country they set up shop in – that year.

Firefighters free woman trapped in bathroom for 20 days

French firefighters have freed an elderly woman who was locked in her bathroom for nearly three weeks.

Police said the 69-year-old woman had been stuck in her windowless bathroom in the town of Epinay-sous-Senart for 20 days.

She became trapped in the bathroom when a doorknob fell off while she was inside, police said. She repeatedly banged on her door and cried for help, but the neighbors apparently thought workmen were the source of the noise.

French media reported that the woman survived her ordeal by drinking warm water from the bathroom tap.

Neighbors grew concerned and alerted authorities after going several weeks without seeing the woman.


Six dead in fight over how to cook eggs

A man enraged over how his wife cooked his eggs in rural eastern Kentucky shot and killed her, his stepdaughter and three witnesses with a shotgun before killing himself on Saturday, a relative of two of the victims said.

Trooper Jody Sims of the Kentucky State Police said 47-year-old Stanley Neace killed the five people in two mobile homes around 11:30 a.m., then went to his home and turned the gun on himself.

Sims said that when state police arrived about an hour after the gunfire began, they heard a single gunshot and found Neace’s body on the porch of his home in the mobile home park outside Jackson in Breathitt County. The county is home to about 16,000 people in the rugged eastern part of the state.

Sherri Anne Robinson, a relative of two of the victims, said witnesses to the shootings told her that Neace became enraged when his wife did not cook his breakfast to his liking…

He just got mad at his wife for not making his breakfast right and he shot her,” said Robinson, who answered at a phone listing for Neace. ”She tried to run to tell my family and he shot them too because they found out about it…”

Robinson says Neace had never appeared threatening to her, but that he was known to have a violent history. Trooper Jody Sims with the Kentucky State Police could not confirm that Neace had a criminal record.

Hardly anyone appears threatening until they try to kill you. At least if they’re your ordinary run-of-the-mill nutball homicidal maniac.

If they threaten you a lot, you at least have a chance to run and get your own gun.

Or buy some more eggs.