Man, I'm glad I don't live in Texas. Hey, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Wednesday. Texas is lifting its mask mandate, Gov. Greg Abbott said yesterday, making it the largest state to end an order intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that has killed more than 42,000 Texans. The Republican governor has faced sharp criticism from his party over the mandate, which was imposed eight months ago, and other COVID-19 restrictions. It was only ever lightly enforced, even during the worst outbreaks of the pandemic. Texas will also do away with limits on the number of diners that businesses can serve indoors, said Abbott, who made the announcement at a restaurant in Lubbock. He said the new rules would take effect March 10th. “Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility,” said Abbott, speaking from a crowded dining room where many of those surrounding him were not wearing masks. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed,” he said. The decision comes as governors across the U.S. have been easing coronavirus restrictions, despite warnings from health experts that the pandemic is far from over. Like the rest of the country, Texas has seen the number of cases and deaths plunge. Hospitalizations are at the lowest levels since October, and the seven-day rolling average of positive tests has dropped to about 7,600 cases, down from more than 10,000 in mid-February. Only California and New York have reported more COVID-19 deaths than Texas. “The fact that things are headed in the right direction doesn’t mean we have succeeded in eradicating the risk,” said Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers, a professor of integrative biology and director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. She said the recent deadly winter freeze in Texas that left millions of people without power... forcing families to shelter closely with others who still had heat... could amplify transmission of the virus in the weeks ahead, although it remains too early to tell. Masks, she said, are one of the most effective strategies to curb the spread. Abbott imposed the statewide mask mandate in July during a deadly summer surge. But enforcement was spotty at best, and some sheriffs refused to police the restrictions at all. And as the pandemic dragged on, Abbott ruled out a return to tough COVID-19 rules, arguing that lockdowns do not work. Politically, the restrictions elevated tensions between Abbott and his own party, with the head of the Texas GOP at one point leading a protest outside the governor’s mansion. Meanwhile, mayors in Texas’ biggest cities argued that Abbott wasn’t doing enough. Most of the country has lived under mask mandates during the pandemic, with at least 37 states requiring face coverings to some degree. But those orders are increasingly falling by the wayside: North Dakota, Montana and Iowa have also lifted mask orders in recent weeks. Ahead of the repeal in Texas, Democratic lawmakers urged Abbott to reconsider. “Texas will experience more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths,” state Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, a Democrat from the border city of Laredo, told Abbott in a letter Monday. Laredo, whose population is predominately Latino, has endured some of the worst outbreaks of the pandemic, running out of beds in hospital intensive care units as recently as January. The international trade hub has been among Texas’ most aggressive cities in trying to blunt the spread of the virus, taking measures that have included curfews. “Elected by the people, your most fundamental obligation is their health and safety. Please do not abrogate your duty,” Raymond said.
It’s happened to all of us: you leave the house, all ready to go, head out on your way… then realize you forgot your face mask. Maybe you keep a couple extra in the car. Maybe you get to the store and try to pull up the collar of your shirt, hoping nobody notices. But at a Pick n Pay supermarket in South Africa, one woman went a step further… yanking her underwear off from under her dress and pulling it on over her face. And to make matters worse, it was a thong. As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, South Africa has been hit particularly hard. Since last year, the African nation has suffered 50,077 deaths and is just beginning to come out of a deadly winter spike. The so-called “South African strain” of COVID-19 is now racing around the globe; this serious virus mutation is reportedly more resistant to vaccination efforts, making it difficult to contain. But now the pandemic in South Africa is trending for a new reason. A viral video shows obtained by Newsflash shows an unnamed woman in Pick n Pay, a South African grocery store, refusing to wear a face covering. As a security guard tries to reason with her beside the checkout line, the woman can be seen reaching up beneath her long paisley dress, pulling off a black thong, and angrily strapping it on over her head as a makeshift mask. After waving her arms around causing a scene, the woman reportedly said, ”Well personally I find it acceptable, it is a mask… And quite frankly I think the bacteria on your knickers is less than on the mask.” I hope that someone explains to this super-spreader that the reason we wear masks is, indeed, so that they will pick up the bacteria. Better in the cloth than in our bodies! It didn’t take long for this ridiculous scene to blow up on social media. It seems that lockdown had produced two kinds of Karens: those who complain about wearing masks… and those willing to stick their dirty G-string on their face in public to prove a point about it. On February 17th, South Africa became the first nation to begin rolling out the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Its use has now been authorized in the U.S. as well.)On February 28th, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus will be easing. With the rate of new infections dropping, Ramaphosa is eliminating strict limits on alcohol sales for the first time in months, shortening the nightly curfew, and allowing public gatherings of up to 100 people indoors. The mask mandate, however, will remain in place. And underwear does NOT count.
Hilaria Baldwin sure knows how to stay in the news. In December, Twitter came for Alec Baldwin‘s wife… for pretending to be a Spanish woman. I’ll get to that later. And now she’s broken the Internet again, after sharing a pic on social media that apparently includes a new baby! That makes the sixth child for Hilaria and Alec, the seventh including Alec’s 25-year-old daughter Ireland, from his marriage to ex-wife Kim Basinger. But there’s a reason that the growing Baldwin brood is shocking to so many fans. This newborn baby girl has appeared less than six months after Hilaria Baldwin’s last pregnancy. Hilaria Baldwin, born Hillary Hayward-Thomas, is a yoga instructor who married the actor Alec Baldwin in 2011. Over her past decade in the spotlight as a celebrity spouse, she has spoken with a primarily Spanish accent and made many references to her Spanish upbringing. But in December 2020, it was revealed that Hilaria is actually 100% white and grew up in Boston. She was lambasted for cultural appropriation. While presenting as a Spanish woman, Hilaria Baldwin has also crafted a public identity as a fitness guru. Throughout giving birth to five children in succession, she has maintained an enviable postpartum body and frequently poses alongside her young children. One such post... featuring Baldwin in lingerie while holding her youngest son Eduardo... was imitated by Amy Schumer as a fake holiday card last year. Hilaria Baldwin has had five children with her husband Alec: daughter Carmen Gabriela, born in 2013), Rafael Thomas, born in 2015, Leonardo Angel Charles, born in 2016, Romeo Alejandro David, born in 2018, and Eduardo “Edu” Pao Lucas, born in 2020. Or so we thought. Yesterday, the proud mother shared a photo on her Instagram that also featured a newborn, with the simple caption: “7,” followed by a heart emoji. The newest addition to the family was a complete surprise to fans since Hilaria Baldwin gave birth to her fifth child, Eduardo, less than six months ago! Presumably, the Baldwins used a surrogate mother to carry the baby girl whose name has been revealed as Lucia though it’s possible they adopted. So it looks like the details surrounding the youngest Baldwin will remain private, at least for a while. I don’t think anyone else wants to challenge dear old dad on that.
A man was tragically killed by a rooster with a blade that was tied to its leg during illegal cockfighting in Southern India. Police stated that this brought focus on a practice that continues in some Indian states despite a decade-old ban. The rooster, which had a 3-inch knife tied, fluttered in panic and slashed its owner, 45-year-old Thangulla Satish. The rooster managed to stab the man in the groin. According to Police Inspector B. Jeevan, the incident occurred in Kothanur village of Telangana state. Jeevan stated Satish was injured while he was preparing the rooster for a fight. The officer stated, “Satish was hit by the rooster’s knife in his groin and started bleeding heavily.” Unfortunately, the man died on the way to the hospital. Local authorities filed a case and we’re looking for over a dozen people involved in the cockfight. If proven guilty, the organizers can be jailed for up to two years. Illegal cockfights are usually common in Southern India States of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu despite there being a countrywide ban imposed in 1960. Several animal rights activists have been calling to control the illegal practice, which is mainly organized as part of local Hindu festivals usually attended by hundreds of people. The cockfights are often held under the watch of a local politician and involve a large sum of betting money. Last year, a man was killed when a blade that was attached to the bird’s leg hit him in the neck during a cockfight in Andhra Pradesh. Back in 2010, a rooster killed its owner by slashing his jugular vein in West Bengal state. According to the police, the rooster involved in last week’s incident was among many roosters that were prepared for the cockfight wedding festival in Kothanur village. As the practice goes, a knife blade or any other sharp-edged weapon is tied to the leg of a bird to harm its rival. Such fights continue until one contestant is either dead or fleas, declaring the other rooster the winner. Officer Jeevan stated that the rooster involved was brought to the police station before he was taken to a local Poultry Farm.
Yesterday... Dr. Seuss’ birthday and Read Across America Day... Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that six Dr. Seuss titles would cease publication: And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer. The decision is due to imagery that’s been dubbed “hurtful and wrong.” Over the past few years, Dr. Seuss has been widely criticized more and more for the “racial undertones” that have been drawn in his books. Dr. Seuss books have been an iconic staple in children’s literature, but a national educators organization is determined in “cancelling” the author in the name of change. Learning for Justice, a left-wing educators group, has been fighting for the famous cartoonist to not be highly recognized and acclaimed as he normally has throughout history. They claim that Theodor Seuss Geisel’s children’s books have “racial undertones,” and that schools should avoid Read Across America Day with Dr. Seuss, a national holiday on March 2nd honoring Dr. Seuss’ birthday. The group under the Southern Poverty Law Center promotes radical teaching views, believing that racial and social justice should be taught to students as young as five-years-old. Learning for Justice cited a study from St. Catherine University in a magazine article called, “It’s Time to Talk About Dr. Seuss,” that claimed that, “Dr. Seuss’s children’s literature is rife with ‘orientalism, anti-blackness, and white supremacy,'” referring to 50 Dr. Seuss books. The researchers concluded that there was simply not enough diversity, especially since many of the books were written in the 50s. They said, “Of the 2,240 (identified) human characters, there are 45 of color representing two percent of the total number of human characters,” and of the 45 characters of color, 43 “exhibited behaviors and appearances that align with harmful and stereotypical Orientalist tropes.” The organization also expressed that many of the non-White characters in the books were men who were “subservient” to the other White characters in the books. They wrote, “It’s also important to note that each of the non-white characters is male and that they are all ‘presented in subservient, exotified, or dehumanized roles,’ especially in relation to white characters.” Banning Books? Talk of banning Dr. Seuss books in Loudon County, Virginia brought new attention to allegedly racist aspects of the deceased cartoonist’s work. Gearing up to Read Across America Day, Loudoun County Public Schools announced a plan to diversify reading material and de-emphasize Dr. Seuss books following the study which identified “strong racial undertones” in the work. Contrary to reports, the board released an official statement denying that Dr. Seuss books were ever going to be “banned.” But those rumors had already incited a national discourse over the fate of Dr. Seuss’ legacy. A nationwide celebration of Dr. Seuss takes place annually, on Read Across America Day. The special day was started by the National Educational Association in 1998 to promote children’s literature; the date of March 2nd was chosen specifically to honor with the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, who died in 1991. Often the day is observed at schools by reading classics like The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, with young kids donning stripey, floppy top hats. Why didn't we do this when I was a kid? And while this year’s Read Across America Day was bound to feel different, with remote schooling due to the coronavirus pandemic, the growing controversy surrounding Dr. Seuss seems to have overshadowed the meaning of the day. Unlike his predecessors, President Joe Biden did not acknowledge Dr. Seuss in his official statement for yesterday's Reading Across America Day. And now Dr. Seuss Enterprises has announced the official cancellation of six Dr. Seuss books containing offensive portrayals of people of color. The Associated Press reports that in And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, an Asian person is pictured “wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks, and eating from a bowl.” The accompanying text reads, “a Chinese man who eats with sticks.” If I Ran the Zoo portrays “two bare-footed African men wearing what appear to be grass skirts with their hair tied above their heads.” Some experts have said that the “racist” portions of Dr. Seuss’ work were done while he was still a cartoonist... before writing beloved books like Horton Hears a Who, The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, Green Eggs and Ham, and Oh, the Places You’ll Go! But Learning for Justice claims that anyone who defends Dr. Seuss is a “racial apologist” making excuses for why “bigotry doesn’t matter.” They believe that teachers should directly discuss Dr. Seuss’ racist past with not only young children but also older students. Since older students were exposed to his books as young readers, they asked teachers to explain racism, how to spot it, and when they could expect it. They said, “You can address these arguments directly, discussing the degree to which cultural norms excuse biased language or actions, how harmful stereotypical representation can be, and whether... and how... a person can make up for hurtful mistakes.”
Okay, speaking of books, my second book is available on Amazon right now. Check it out...
So, once you are done reading this entry of the blog go and purchase yourself a copy. If I had a TARDIS I would go to France, believe it or not, and watch Samuel Reshevsky, age 8, defeating several chess masters at once in France in 1920.
It seems he was not simply copying the moves of others. By the point of this photo, he had been playing chess for half his life, and had been identified as a prodigy. He began playing simultaneous games at age six and became a Grand Master despite never really playing professionally. Do you know what makes me smile? When people reenact photos from when they were younger. Like this one...