(This posting has been revised since the presidential swerve late Friday evening, via Twitter.)
Ted Turner used to make this impassioned plea for an endangered species -- indeed, for an endangered planet -- during his noble effort, The Goodwill Games in Moscow, 1986.
Remember 1986? Remember Goodwill? Remember Gorbachev? For that matter, remember Ted Turner? I dubbed him a “holy fool” because of his Dostoyevskian zeal.
John Feinstein, covering those games in Moscow, heard Turner’s stump speech so often that he could sense the punch line coming.
“But what about the elephants?” John would squawk.
Those were the good old days, when we produced holy fools, not flat-out fools.
Now Turner's cause is sabotaged daily by Donald Trump, whose only concern is setting up his own spawn and the Mnuchins and Wilburs of the world for more riches.
Trump is all for porous pipelines and spewing coal stacks (and tax revisions) as long as they make somebody richer.
For a moment this week he also tried to set up his own killer sons and their type to get richer from slaughtering “trophy” animals in Zimbabwe and importing their parts.
In mid-week Trump announced his intention to make it legally possible to import -- to display -- to brag about -- these tails and tusks and Lord knows what else, cut from the dead bodies of these most civilized mammals.
The total of worldwide elephants has dropped 30 percent from 2007 to 20014. I read that in the Times. People with the savage name of Trump have contributed to that. Are proud of that. What an ugly family.
For some reason, Trump changed his mind in one of his late-night Twitter eruptions Friday, saying he was delaying any action on the (Obama-era) policy to ban importing elephant "trophies."
The article in Saturday's paper:
I have felt more personal about elephants since visiting South Africa for the World Cup in 2010. Our guide Witold took four journalists on a day trip out of Johannesburg for the only exposure to nature we would have during a hectic month.
Witold was trying to find lions and other Bold Letter animals during our quickie run into the wild.
He parked on a dirt road and looked around. Then he saw a family of elephants to our left, moving toward us. We were on their crossroad. He backed up 10 feet, and the family of elders and infants walked slowly in front of us, their heads turned to the right to keep an eye on us, as well they might. (“We’re not Trumps!” I could have said, “We’re not that sort!”)
Their right eyes were patient and wise as they walked with dignity. I fell in love with elephants at that moment, the kind of easy emotion for a day-tripper on a day off from football. I wish I had taken photos, but I was mesmerized.
That was my lifetime African experience. Big deal. But it stayed with me, to the point that I feel familial rage toward a plunderer who enables murderers from his own sordid brood. Have a tusk, Donald. Have a tail, Eric. Go shoot something, brave guys.
“But what about the elephants?”
Where is Ted Turner when we really need him?
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.