The Philadelphia Inquirer

Will Bunch: These so-called 'moderate centrists' are nothing but corporate extremists

Long ago, in a United States that now seems far, far away, the coming-to-America story of Saule Omarova would be hailed as a stirring endorsement of our nation as a beacon for democracy-seekers. Born in 1966 under the Communist dictatorship of the USSR, and raised under her Kazakh grandmother who’d lost the rest of her family to Stalinist purges, she grew up with a passion for Pink Floyd and political dissent that caused her to stay here in the U.S. after the Soviet regime collapsed while she was a grad student in Wisconsin. Not surprisingly, Omarova’s work as an American academic hasn’t focus...

Will Bunch: A self-pardon would fit Trump's raging narcissism — and prove need for clemency reform

Donald Trump is probably the world's worst Monopoly player — all his steel hotels on Boardwalk are already mortgaged to the hilt even before he passes "Go," right? — but it sure was a lucky roll of the dice when he scooped up the ultimate get-out-of-jail free card, which works for his pals, his kids, and maybe even himself. The Founding Fathers who designed this board game on the streets of Philadelphia in 1787 left a giant flaw, a Constitutional ticking time bomb that wouldn't go off for roughly 229 years. Now, with President Trump reportedly planning to blow up the board by issuing preemptiv...

How a less-racist brand of Trump populism could bring a GOP dynasty unless Democrats do something: Will Bunch

When the first election returns started coming in from Texas’ Zapata County — a hot, dusty corner of the Rio Grande Valley with oil rigs and a large Latine population — some online voting fraud sleuths thought there’d been a voting machine glitch, or worse. How could a county that had voted nearly 2-1 for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton show President Donald Trump narrowly ahead?The reality is that baffled, faraway Twitter posters and their assumptions about Texas’ Hispanic vote hadn’t encountered actual voters like 72-year-old retired social worker and teacher Maria Elia Ramos of Rio Grande ...

This scientist paved the way for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

PHILADELPHIA — When Drew Weissman first started injecting mice with genetic molecules called messenger RNA, it did not go well.Many of the animals became overwhelmed with harmful inflammation, and some died.But Weissman solved that problem with a bit of clever biochemistry 15 years ago, working with then-colleague Katalin Karikó at the University of Pennsylvania. Now their work forms the backbone of two vaccines for COVID-19, including the one for which dramatic early results were announced this week.The vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and the German firm BioNTech SE, where Karikó now works, appea...

From hanging chads to deadlocks, presidential elections that took weeks and months to decide

PHILADELPHIA — For the nation’s overwrought nervous system, the 2020 presidential campaign was akin to a punitive marathon. And now the finish line has been moved back.In most presidential elections, the results become clear within hours of the polls closing, the losers graciously concede, the winners thank everyone and then celebrate, and the public accepts the results long before the Electoral College formalizes them in December.That obviously hasn’t been the case in 2020.Ballots are still in question, legal challenges are underway, and it’s not clear yet when the outcome in the race between...

Will Bunch: Trump's politicized Supreme Court has lost legitimacy. 2021's Dems, do something!

We’ve just seen one of the worst weeks in the 230-year-plus history of the U.S. Supreme Court. And that is really saying something, when you think about its other low points including the 1857 Dred Scott ruling, which held Black people as inferior and denied them U.S. citizenship, or 1896’s Plessy v. Ferguson that allowed segregation, or the high court’s more recent jags that have prized corporate citizenship and eroded voting rights.And yet it is becoming increasingly difficult to have faith in the Supreme Court’s independence — and, thus, its legitimacy — after a day that should be known as ...

These cities are among most vulnerable in US to COVID-19 mental health consequences, report suggests

PHILADELPHIA— Camden, N.J.; Allentown, Pa.; and Reading, Pa., have been identified as cities where COVID-19 vulnerability and poor mental health overlap, according to a new report published this month by Mental Health America and the Surgo Foundation, a health nonprofit focused on data science.Worsening mental health due to COVID-19 has become an area of serious concern to health officials. A recent report by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention found that 40% of Americans surveyed said they struggled with at least one adverse mental health condition during the pandemic. Symptoms...

Stress from COVID-19 has led to a surge in teeth grinding: dentists

PHILADELPHIA — When Kate Faith was laid off in March at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, her stress levels skyrocketed. She worried about making ends meet as a single parent to her 1-year-old daughter and about her family and friends catching the virus. The 37-year-old’s sleep worsened, and the additional stress caused Faith’s longtime habit of grinding her teeth and clenching her jaw to intensify.“I’ve been dealing with clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth on and off since college, but because I have a night guard, I usually just work through it,” said Faith, who lives in South Philad...

Trump said he was 'immune' to the coronavirus. Here's what the science says

Twitter on Sunday slapped a warning on President Donald Trump’s tweet that he can’t get or give the coronavirus, saying the post violated rules “about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.”Is there any evidence that the president is immune? And even if he is, could he still be infectious? Let’s look at what is known — and unknowable.It means your immune system produces proteins, called antibodies, against a specific disease. Natural immunity can be acquired either by getting the disease or through vaccination, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Co...

Here's why the Gulf is getting hammered in this hurricane season — but the East Coast has been spared

PHILADELPHIA — When Hurricane Delta smashed ashore along the Louisiana coast at 6 p.m. Friday it became the 10th tropical storm to make landfall in the United States in 2020, breaking a record that had survived more than a century.It was the seventh storm to land on the Gulf shores, which have been a tropical-storm punching bag in this ultra-busy and peculiar season. It also was the second significant hurricane in six weeks to target the same region of southwestern Louisiana. Its predecessor, Hurricane Laura, was blamed for 14 deaths.By comparison, the Atlantic Coast has been showered with luc...

Philly firefighters are getting a do-over for a controversial Trump endorsement

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia's firefighters union is calling a do-over of its controversial endorsement of President Donald Trump last week that set off a series of protests by its members. Many members of Local 22 of the International Fire Fighters and Paramedics Union see the endorsement process as flawed and inflammatory. Some are calling for the union's leaders to resign. And the endorsement may be yanked away from Trump just before Election Day. Local 22 president Mike Bresnan canceled a union meeting Tuesday and then told his 4,700 members they will be mailed a ballot asking if they support...

Judge considers Trump campaign lawsuit based on his claim that 'bad things happen in Philadelphia'

PHILADELPHIA — President Donald Trump’s campaign challenged Philadelphia’s new satellite election offices in court Tuesday, arguing that its representatives should have the right to observe what happens inside the locations where voters can request and submit mail ballots.Trump campaign lawyer Linda Kerns accused the City Commissioners, who run elections, of twisting Pennsylvania state law to open the satellite offices and allow voting to happen outside of public view.“No one’s asking to interrupt the process,” Kerns said. “All we’re asking to do is to shine a light on it.”The Trump campaign s...

Not sure how sick Trump is with COVID-19? Doctors are puzzled too

When a phalanx of white-coated physicians spoke Sunday about the condition of President Donald Trump, some of what they said must have been unclear to the average listener.It was not entirely clear to people with medical degrees, either.Trump left the hospital Monday evening — presumably a promising sign for his recovery, though patients with COVID-19 sometimes feel better before taking a turn for the worse.But after a weekend of vague and sometimes evasive statements from the president’s medical team, doctors not involved with his care remain, in some respects, as puzzled as the rest of us.“I...

Are political Facebook posts straining your real-life relationships? You're not alone

PHILADELPHIA — As Emma Finucane scrolled through Facebook a few months ago, the post of a close family friend caught her eye.The 22-year-old did a double take: Could these words, railing against Pennsylvania’s coronavirus restrictions, really have been written by the kind and reasonable person she had spent countless hours with since she was a child? Someone she thought she knew well?When they shared a campaign video for President Donald Trump a few weeks later, Finucane almost struck the “angry” reaction, one of Facebook’s alternatives to the “like” button, but jerked her hands away from the ...

Rural Pennsylvania voters don't hate Biden as much as they hated Clinton — and Trump may need them to

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Robert Pristas works part time at a library outside Johnstown and does well for himself investing on the side. He says Joe Biden is “probably a decent guy.” But Pristas, 61, is voting for President Donald Trump because he fears Democrats will raise taxes.Andy Szekeresh lives 20 miles north of Johnstown in Ebensburg, in the rolling hills of Cambria County. A retired maintenance worker, he supported Trump four years ago but now plans to vote for Biden. “The country wasn’t ready for a lady president like that,” Szekeresh, 71, said of Hillary Clinton.And Biden? “He’s OK,” Szekeres...

Excessive social media use linked to depression during pandemic, study suggests

Excessive social media use during the pandemic is a predictor of symptoms of depression and secondary trauma, a new study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University and Jinan University in Guangzhou, China, suggests.The study, published last month in Computers in Human Behavior, surveyed 320 participants living in Wuhan about how they accessed and shared health information with friends, family members, and colleagues over WeChat, China’s most popular social media app. They also used a stress scale to measure anxiety and depression by asking participants to rate statements such as “I felt ...

It's not 'chaos': Trump revealed a clear blueprint for crushing American democracy

Sept. 29, 2020, will likely go down in history as one of the darkest days in American democracy — but arguably not in the way the average voter saw things. All eyes, after all, were focused on a debate stage in Cleveland where the 45th and possibly last president of the United States was interrupting and yelling like a lunatic at rival Joe Biden or moderator Chris Wallace — as if he were instead alone in his White House bedroom, and had accidentally turned his TV to MSNBC instead of the comforts of “Fox & Friends.”On the bloody morning after, the mainstream media headline writers seemed to hav...

Trump's ban on WeChat threatens a vital network for Chinese community in Philadelphia area

PHILADELPHIA — For many local Chinese Americans and immigrants from China, the social media app WeChat is a lifeline to government services, community events, friends, and family living on the other side of the Pacific.If the Trump administration has its way, it’ll be taken away.“We are so disappointed, not just because he’s making this hateful language as calling it (the coronavirus) the Chinese flu or the China virus,” said Wei Chen, president of Asian Americans United, a Philadelphia organization focused on fighting discrimination against the Asian community, “but banning WeChat is a hatefu...

The White House war on science undermines trust in a COVID-19 vaccine

Late in the fourth year of the Trump presidency, the United States is confronting a far more dangerous war than the “forever wars” he says he is ending.This is a multiphase conflict begun by the president himself, with new battle fronts opened daily. The deadly combat can end only if he is voted out of office.It began as Trump’s war on science, which has cost tens of thousands of U.S. lives due to the White House failure to contain COVID-19.It has morphed into a Vaccine War, in which Trump contradicts his scientists with false claims that a vaccine will be generally available before the electi...

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