Returning from Spain, Italy – no screening – Americans only asked if they visited China


Click to enlarge

Trump crosses out “corona” in briefing notes – adds “Chinese”

When Pam Mundus and a friend landed in Milan for a weeklong vacation on Feb. 23, uniformed airport workers in face masks, attempting to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, took their temperatures.

But when Ms. Mundus returned home on a direct flight from Rome to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport on March 1, no one questioned her about her time in Italy or whether she might have been exposed to the illness. At that stage, the State Department had already urged Americans to reconsider travel to Italy; there were at least 1,500 cases there and 34 deaths related to the coronavirus by then.

“The only question we were asked was, ‘Have you been to China?’” Ms. Mundus, 62, said in a phone interview from her home on eastern Long Island, where she has been in self-quarantine since her return…

But several experts say the experience of Ms. Mundus shows the limited effectiveness of the administration’s travel restrictions, which followed outbreaks in affected countries by days or weeks. The administration never even imposed restrictions on passengers who had been to South Korea, which also faced a large outbreak.

And the restrictions applied only to foreign citizens, despite the fact that the virus could be transmitted just as easily by the many Americans returning home in droves, who were getting confusing and inconsistent messages on how to protect themselves and their communities — or in many cases, no advice at all…

“The policy makes no sense,” said Danielle Ompad, an epidemiologist at the N.Y.U. School of Public Health. “It was based on nationality, not risk of infectiousness, and the two are not synonymous.”

The Fake President’s policies often make no sense. Some of them, like these creepy incidents, stink of the bigotry and racism that characterizes the leadership of today’s Republican Party.

China donates coronavirus supplies to Italy via China Red Cross


A Chinese team of experts with head of the Italian Red Cross, Francesco Rocca

A planeload of medical supplies, including masks and respirators, has arrived in Italy from China to help the European country deal with its growing coronavirus crisis…

Italy is now the worst-affected nation in the world after China, since the contagion came to light there on February 21…

The outbreak risks overwhelming Italian hospitals, and some key supplies are running low.

In contrast to China, Italy’s partners in the European Union earlier this month refused Rome’s requests for help with medical supplies as they looked to stockpile face masks and other equipment to help their own citizens.

A team of nine Chinese medical staff arrived late on Thursday with some 30 tonnes of equipment on a flight organised by the Red Cross Society of China.

“In this moment of great stress, of great difficulty, we are relieved to have this arrival of supplies. It is true that it will help only temporarily, but it is still important,” said the head of the Italian Red Cross, Francesco Rocca.

In a separate development, Chinese businessman Jack Ma, who is the founder of the Alibaba Group and among the world’s richest people, offered to donate 500,000 coronavirus testing kits and one million masks to the United States, which on Friday declared a national emergency over the outbreak.

…Jack Ma said: “Drawing from my own country’s experience, speedy and accurate testing and adequate protective equipment for medical professionals are most effective in preventing the spread of the virus.”…”We hope that our donation can help Americans fight against the pandemic!”

Over the past weeks, Ma’s organisations have helped provide similar supplies to virus-hit countries such as Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Spain.

I’m not certain if today’s generations know much of the history, of the role often assumed by charities like the Red Cross, globally and in individual nations in time of disaster. Whether war or natural disasters, the Red Cross societies can typically be counted upon to provide aid and comfort to victims regardless of political context. Flags and elections don’t count as much as lives at risk.

BTW, I didn’t learn of this aid to Italy from the mainstream channels on American television. Which is why I rely on more international news sources, anyway.

Barcelona has a plan to take back streets from cars

❝ What I found was more fascinating than anything I could have imagined: not just an urban plan, but a vision for a different way of living in the 21st century, one that steps back from many of the mistakes of the auto-besotted 20th century, refocusing on health and community. It is a bigger and more ambitious city plan than anything being discussed in America and, more important, a plan that is actually being implemented, with a few solid pilot projects behind it, a list of lessons learned, and a half-dozen new projects in the works.

❝ There’s no guarantee Barcelona can follow through on its outsized aspirations; it faces the same political cross-currents and commercial pressures of any other big city. (Municipal elections on May 26 will provide a crucial test for the plan.)

But it is also, by virtue of its history, character, and circumstances, uniquely well positioned to push back the tide of cars. Other cities seeking to reduce pollution, prepare for climate change, and restore a sense of community have much to learn, not only from what Barcelona has done so far, but also from what it’s able to do next.

We’re pretty settled into our family-built hacienda in a small community just outside of Santa Fe. But, for many reasons, I should note that Barcelona is one of those world-class cities truly worth considering for someone who prefers the spirit of urban living – in a city willing to lead the way into the future.

Massachusetts offshore wind auction draws global competitors, big money


David L. Ryan/GLOBE Staff/File

❝ The blockbuster auction for offshore wind leases that wrapped up Friday should leave few doubts: The industry has finally arrived in New England.

Three developers backed by major European energy companies paid a record $405 million to gain access to 390,000 acres of federal waters nearly 20 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. These firms will each pay $135 million to the federal government for the rights to build massive windmills in their respective slices of the ocean…

❝ The victors: Equinor, a Norwegian company formerly known as Statoil until this past spring; Mayflower Wind, a joint venture owned by Shell and EDP Renewables; and Vineyard Wind, a venture controlled by Spain’s Iberdrola and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.

RTFA. Maybe someone will read it to the fake president.

Israel gave Russia a farming drone and pissed-off Uncle Sugar, Spain, assorted military bureaucrats


Or would you rather have a cow?

❝ Never look a gift horse in the mouth, or so the saying goes. And it probably should have applied to the following laborious and comical international incident concerning a drone and Israel, Russia, and the United States.

❝ Uri Ariel, Israel’s agriculture minister, decided to give a $51,000 agricultural research drone to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on his recent visit to Israel’s Volcani agricultural research institute. “What a pleasant gesture,” you might be thinking, as the world creeps ever closer to an era where drone technology is used as international diplomatic currency.

But no. It turns out that the drone Medvedev took a liking to last week at Israel’s agriculture center may have contained US-manufactured components, and it certainly wasn’t Ariel’s to give. Researchers at Volcani were reportedly very disgruntled by Ariel’s autarchic decision — they claimed their entire research program had been compromised. Moreover, if the drone did indeed contain sensitive US-made technology, relations between the US, Israel, and Russia could be damaged…

❝ It turns out, this Israeli drone was actually manufactured by Alpha Unmanned Systems, according to the Jerusalem Post, a drone manufacturer based in Spain. The camera that Alpha Unmanned Systems had allegedly used on the drone was manufactured by US company Flir — famous for its infrared technologies. Did Alpha Unmanned Systems even have a license to use US-made Flir technology on a drone, which was then given to Israel, which subsequently ended up in Russian hands despite Putin’s existence on the short end of a NATO arms embargo?…

❝ A report…from Haaretz, though, cites an anonymous official in Jerusalem who’s saying that US embassy diplomats are now asking for clarification about the drone, and want to ensure it doesn’t contain any US technology.

The official said, “the “drone affair” has caused Israel significant diplomatic embarrassment with the Americans…”

To be continued…

I expect a made-for-TV movie for next years’s summer season on FOX. Who knows. Might become a series like Fargo?

Photo essay – World’s largest solar farm


Click to enlargeMarcelo del Pozo/Reuters

Spain has made renewable energy a top priority. The government has paid over $76 billion in subsidies for clean energy projects since 1998.

And the investment has paid off: 42% of Spain’s electricity came from renewable sources in 2013, according to the country’s grid operator. The majority comes from wind power, but solar provided 13% of the country’s energy and is increasingly becoming a bigger part of the pie…

❝Spain is also home to the largest solar farm in the world, Andasol.

Here’s how Spain’s largest solar farm works — and why it could be a model for the future of energy around the world.

Click through to the article here. Lovely photos of the world’s largest solar farm.

Spanish study suggests Mediterranean diet reduces breast cancer risk

Eating a Mediterranean diet, rich with plant foods, fish and olive oil, has been found to be good for the heart, the brain and overall health. Now, a new study out of Spain suggests the diet supplemented with olive oil may also reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Researchers randomly assigned more than 4,200 women, ages 60 to 80, to eat either a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil or with nuts, or a low-fat control diet.

“We found a strong effect of a long-term dietary intervention with the Mediterranean diet and extra virgin olive oil on breast cancer incidence,” said Dr. Miguel Angel Martinez-Gonzalez, a researcher at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain.

Compared to the control diet group, the Mediterranean plus olive oil group had a 68 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer over a follow-up of about five years…

The study was done within the framework of a large study called PREDIMED, designed to look at the effect of the diet on heart disease prevention. It was published online Sept. 14 in JAMA Internal Medicine…

The authors did note there were limitations in the study, including that breast cancer was not the primary end point and that it was unclear whether the olive oil was beneficial on its own or taken within the Mediterranean diet.

The research also suggests that it’s never too late to change eating habits for health, Dr. Martinez-Gonzalez added.

I’ll say yes to all of the above.

I used to joke that of the two sides of my family, I was fortunate it was the Italians – not the Scots – who taught me to cook, how to eat, what to eat. Generally, that was a jest about flavorful cuisine – even though I also love haggis.

In later years, the Mediterranean diet really dominated all my food intake and I’m the better for it IMHO.

Dumb crook(s) of the Day

Pope Kia Soul

Authorities in France said two men who were supposed to be giving a Vatican vehicle a tune-up instead used the car to smuggle pot and cocaine from Spain.

Investigators said Argentinean Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, 91, turned the vehicle over to two Italian men, ages 30 and 41, to give it a tune-up last week, but the men instead used the official car, which bears diplomatic license plates, to drive to Spain and pick up 8.8 pounds of cocaine and nearly half a pound of marijuana.

The men were busted by French customs officers Sunday in Chambery as they headed for the border with Switzerland and Italy. The diplomatic plates did not stop officers from conducting a routine search of the vehicle and discovering the drugs.

Authorities said the men claimed they were Vatican chauffeurs and had no knowledge of the cargo.

Police said neither man holds a Vatican passport — and the Catholic Church is not implicated in the case.

Here I was – hoping the Pope was going to come out in favor of decriminalizing weed!