Masks Don't Work (At Hiding Your Identity)

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Masks Don't Work (At Hiding Your Identity)

Let's start off with some good news for once. This week, the infamous North Carolina mask ban failed in the House. It even drew criticism from the bill's original author, Rep. John Torbett, who said he intends to ensure ordinary citizens can continue masking for health reasons. Worth noting: the original bill didn't remove the public health exception. That was added in the Senate after the original bill passed with broad bipartisan support. This development encourages us to fight back against these kinds of bans wherever they pop up.

We can stop them.

In fact, there's little evidence that any kind of medical mask does anything to conceal your identity. A report in Nature found that even sunglasses do a better job than a surgical mask or an N95 respirator. As the authors elaborate, "occlusion of the upper region of the face (including the eyes) impairs face identification, consistent with the notion that the eyes provide crucial diagnostic information for face identity processing." That's why almost every superhero wears a mask over the upper half of their face, not the bottom half. Duh.

Medical masks don't stand up very well to facial recognition software, either. The Department of Homeland Security even tested their tools and found they still work 96 percent of the time when the public masks. In their own words, "Organizations that need to perform photo ID checks could potentially allow individuals to keep their masks on, thereby reducing the risk of Covid-19 infection."

Even if there's still some debate, improvements in facial recognition algorithms will eventually make masks a completely moot point. In short, any argument about banning masks to fight crime is pure, total, unmitigated bullshit. We can drive this point home as we keep the pressure on to kill these bans. I know it sounds weird to celebrate facial recognition software, but most of us don't care about hiding our identities. We're not trying to be Jason Bourne here. We're just trying to protect each other from airborne germs.

And to reiterate, we're currently winning. As an especially bad variant spreads worldwide and we stare down a bird flu pandemic, masks are coming back. A new piece in The Conversation endorses their use. They make a point that we've stressed several times, "we should not expect RCTs of badly designed masks, masks that don't fit or masks that are worn only some of the time... to show an effect. Neither should we expect mere advice to wear masks to have any effect unless it is followed." They go on to say, "the respirator needs to be worn continuously... not just popped on occasionally when doing so-called aerosol-generate procedures like intubating a patient."

Amen to all this.

The next time you encounter trolls, or even just skeptical family members, you can share these little gems with them.

Meanwhile, another study in Clinical Microbiology Reviews also endorses mask use. They arrive at many of the same conclusions, but they also stress that we need to keep working on developing better, more comfortable masks. The masks we wear now are light years beyond the ones we had back in 2020, but we can still do better. The better and more comfortable they are for a wider variety of ages and face types, the more people will adopt them.

These are the little victories you have to celebrate. They come few and far between, but they validate the months and years we do the right thing, often without thanks and often in the face of scorn. That's the struggle.

Here's a look at other news:

Eric Adams is corrupt AF

While the vast majority of the media focuses on Donald Trump's eyebrow movements, he's far from the only corrupt politician out there. We've all come to know and love Eric Adams, the dude who equates masks with crime and fully endorsed brutal police crackdowns on peaceful college protestors. And who could forget his relentless snark and condescension toward remote work, a battle he ultimately lost?

Well, a new piece in NPR chronicles a long list of favors between Adams, his staff, and a hotel developer, including the use of taxpayer funds to stay in luxury hotel rooms (not for travel, just for fun). The hotel developer did a lot, financially and otherwise, to help Adams get elected. The developer's generosity "was matched many times over by city contract dollars and regularity favors her companies received from the new mayor's administration." She even managed to get the city to wave serious safety violations in her buildings.

It's all to say, Republicans don't have a monopoly on corruption or anti-science foolishness.

Do they?

We're in a selective recession

News outlets like NBC are running stories accusing Americans of "falsely thinking" we're in a recession.

Well, we are in a recession.

It's just a selective one.

According to Business Insider, a selective recession means that while the top 20 percent of households are still doing okay, a growing majority of middle and low-income earners can't make ends meet. As you might already know, "Inflation has cooled dramatically from its highs in 2022, but consumers are still feeling the pain of accumulated price increases over the years." Prices across the board are 22 percent higher than they were five years ago. Yeah, that's a lot.

Brian Kim over at ClearValue Tax has been giving the best takes on inflation, housing, and the general economic situation for a few years now. As he consistently points out, government reports on inflation and the economy conveniently leave out entire categories of data to make things look better than they actually are. Are we surprised? They've been doing the same thing with Covid data for years now.

So basically, it's a recession for normal people but not a recession for anyone in the top 10 percent.

I'm certainly feeling it...

Who isn't?

Get ready for storms literal and metaphorical

Bird flu continues spreading among wild birds and farm animals, spilling over to humans with growing frequency. In one of the latest cases, a child in Australia had a "prolonged stay in the ICU with severe lower respiratory tract infection and hypoxia with respiratory failure." That aligns more with a virus that has a 50 percent case fatality rate in humans, and it pushes back against the media's presentation of it as a fairly mild transient illness.

The disturbing part is that this child had no known exposure to wild birds or farm animals. According to The Conversation, "There’s no publicly available information on how this child became infected..." The actual report says doctors were "unable to identify a clear acquisition source, with the child having no interaction with birds, animals or sick human contacts... and no geographic or epidemiological links to any of the previously isolated homologous cases. There was also no known consumption of undercooked poultry or meat products during the acquisition period." So if the kid didn't eat any infected meat and didn't interact with any sick animals, that only leaves the worst-case scenario. It's looking like airborne, asymptomatic spread.

We're also starting to learn that the H5N1 strain is making cows sicker than we're told. According to a new preprint study, they're showing signs of respiratory distress and diarrhea. We don't know how these cows would do without the significant intervention and treatment they're getting, so it's a mistake to just assume it's getting milder.

"It's milder in cows" sounds a lot like "It's milder in kids."

And we know how that turned out...

We're assured that vaccine production will ramp up the minute something big changes. The actual amount of vaccine planned by the U.S. government hovers around 4 million doses, which looks eerily like just enough to protect politicians and their rich friends, and maybe healthcare workers. The rest of us plebians will have to make do with masks. Consolation prize: If these vaccines work as well as the Covid ones, then we're probably just as well off with our N95s and Corsi-Rosenthal boxes anyway.

Meanwhile, the NOAA has just released a report with "the largest number of storms ever forecast for the Atlantic," including 4-7 "major hurricanes, with winds powerful enough to uproot trees." And of course, the predictions don't even touch the projected flood dangers. It's being caused by "record-shattering warmth in the tropical Atlantic" that "has surprised and alarmed scientists." Tell us again that climate change isn't real or won't affect anyone.

May the odds be in our favor.

Netanyahu says the quiet part out loud

As Nate Bear alerted us, the Israeli government recently released official plans to rebuild Gaza as a free trade zone, filled with beautiful skyscrapers and light rail, surrounded by scenic pastures. Yeah, we figured that was the real agenda. Meanwhile, the UN estimates that Israel has completely destroyed 70 percent of Gaza's infrastructure.

The plan is called "Gaza 2035."

We've known for months now that the entire premise behind Israel's invasion was a pretense for demolishing and cleansing the indigenous population, clearing the way for oil and gas drilling, along with commercial development. The Israeli government wants the natural resources and the beachfront property.

Even Trump is on record saying his administration wants to turn Gaza into the next Dubai (or Singapore). His own team's words: “Just as Dubai and Singapore have benefited from their strategic locations and flourished as regional financial hubs, the West Bank and Gaza can ultimately develop into a regional trading center."

So, what we're watching has been planned for some time. It was just a matter of the right excuse to go in and raze everything.

We're actually in the same boat as Israeli citizens. In the 2000s, the Sept 11 attacks were used as a pretense for two unjust wars. So you're not going to convince those in our camp that any of this is okay. It wasn't okay for the U.S. government to destroy Iraq and Afghanistan in a misguided war on terror. It accomplished nothing. It actually destabilized the region and fueled more terrorism. If you want to fight terrorism, get better at catching terrorists. Don't bomb innocent people who have nothing to do with it.

There's a little good news on this front as well. Maybe we can't stop the genocide, but those responsible will pay the price. The International Criminal Court is officially seeking an arrest warrant on Netanyahu and his defense minister, even as our politicians plan to roll out the red carpet for him with an invitation to address Congress. In the meantime, both France and Germany have expressed support for the warrant. Germany's Olaf Scholz has even promised to arrest and deport Netanyahu if he dares to show his face. The vast majority of the world sees Israel's leaders as war criminals now.

We're walking a lonely road here.

And while we've been severely disappointed by a number of celebrities and influencers on this issue, it's downright heartwarming to see that Amal Clooney didn't just condemn the atrocities. She did something about it.

That's all for now. The point of this news roundup isn't to scare anyone. As always, it's to get the truth out there and let readers know they're not alone. If you appreciate this work, please support or subscribe.

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