“Science” Article: Preparing for Long COVID!

The road to addressing Long Covid | Science

Dear Commons Community,

Science yesterday had a sobering article reminding readers that COVID is a virus that stays with those infected for a long time and that symptoms, some of which can be debilitating, can last for weeks and months.  The article expresses concern that there is not enough attention being paid for “Long Covid” and that providing for those with the disease will continue to test our health care systems for years to come.

Below is the entire article.  It will not make you feel good!


To A.I. or Not to A.I.

Illustration by Nicholas Konrad/The New York Times; photograph by Hamster3d/Getty Images

Dear Commons Community,

Frank Pasquale, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School, and Gianclaudio Malgieri,  a law professor at EDHEC Augmented Law Institute in France, have a guest essay in today’s New York Times raising alarms about artificial intelligence.  Entitled, “If You Don’t Trust A.I. Yet, You’re Not Wrong,” the essay considers the dangers and ethics of unbridled A.I. development.  Here is an excerpt:

“Americans have good reason to be skeptical of artificial intelligence. Tesla crashes have dented the dream of self-driving cars. Mysterious algorithms predict job applicants’ performance based on little more than video interviews. Similar technologies may soon be headed to the classroom, as administrators use “learning analytics platforms” to scrutinize students’ written work and emotional states. Financial technology companies are using social media and other sensitive data to set interest rates and repayment terms.

Even in areas where A.I. seems to be an unqualified good, like machine learning to better spot melanoma, researchers are worried that current data sets do not adequately represent all patients’ racial backgrounds.

U.S. authorities are starting to respond. Massachusetts passed a nuanced law this spring limiting the use of facial recognition in criminal investigations. Other jurisdictions have taken a stronger stance, prohibiting the use of such technology entirely or requiring consent before biometric data is collected. But the rise of A.I. requires a more coordinated nationwide response, guided by first principles that clearly identify the threats that substandard or unproven A.I. poses. The United States can learn from the European Union’s proposed A.I. regulation.

In April, the European Union released a new proposal for a systematic regulation of artificial intelligence. If enacted, it will change the terms of the debate by forbidding some forms of A.I., regardless of their ostensible benefits. Some forms of manipulative advertising will be banned, as will real-time indiscriminate facial recognition by public authorities for law enforcement purposes.

The list of prohibited A.I. uses is not comprehensive enough — for example, many forms of nonconsensual A.I.-driven emotion recognition, mental health diagnoses, ethnicity attribution and lie detection should also be banned. But the broader principle — that some uses of technology are simply too harmful to be permitted — should drive global debates on A.I. regulation.

The proposed regulation also deems a wide variety of A.I. high risk, acknowledging that A.I. presents two types of problems. First, there is the danger of malfunctioning A.I. harming people or things — a threat to physical safety. Under the proposed E.U. regulation, standardization bodies with long experience in technical fields are mandated to synthesize best practices for companies — which will then need to comply with those practices or justify why they have chosen an alternative approach.

Second, there is a risk of discrimination or lack of fair process in sensitive areas of evaluation, including educationemploymentsocial assistance and credit scoring. This is a risk to fundamental rights, amply demonstrated in the United States in works like Cathy O’Neil’s “Weapons of Math Destruction” and Ruha Benjamin’s “Race After Technology.” Here, the E.U. is insisting on formal documentation from companies to demonstrate fair and nondiscriminatory practices. National supervisory authorities in each member state can impose hefty fines if businesses fail to comply.”

Pasquale and Malgieri raise important issues but a central point of their essay is that the European Union is being more aggressive in examining A.I. concerns than the United States.  I would like to see more debate about A.I. at the national political level, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.


New AAUP Report on Shared Governance!

New Academe Calls on Faculty to Reclaim Governance Role | ACADEME BLOG

Dear Commons Community,

The AAUP just released a new report on data collected from the 2021 AAUP Shared Governance Survey. This is the first national survey on shared governance since 2001. Key findings as summarized by Hans-Joerg Tiede, Director of Research at the AAUP:

  • In several areas in which higher education faculty had made progress in decision making authority between 1971 and 2001, the trend has reversed and returned to the status of 1971 or worse—most notably in institution-level decision making, such as the allocation of faculty positions and in budgetary matters. By contrast, several areas of decision making that are local in scope, such as programmatic curricular decision making or the selection of department chairs, have seen an increase in faculty authority.
  • Despite persistent opinions that faculty unionization somehow weakens shared governance, this survey reveals that in 22 of 29 areas, there is no statistically significant difference in faculty authority between unionized and non-unionized institutions. In six areas, faculty authority was higher at unionized institutions.
  • Overall, results of this survey present a mixed picture of the current state of shared governance. At most institutions, faculty authority is consistent with AAUP-recommended governance standards in decision making about programmatic, departmental, and institutional curricula; teaching assignments; and faculty searches, evaluations, and tenure and promotion standards. However, in several decision making areas, including budgets, buildings, and allocations of faculty positions, the faculty has little or no meaningful opportunity to participate at a large percentage of institutions.

The survey was conducted at 585 randomly-sampled four-year institutions. We asked senate chairs and other faculty governance leaders to assess 29 areas of decision making on a scale that ranges from administrative dominance to faculty dominance. The response rate was 68 percent.

Important information!


New Book:  “Staying Online” by Bob Ubell!

Dear Commons Community,

My colleague of many years, Bob Ubell, has a new book coming out entitled, Staying Online:  How to Navigate Digital Higher Education (Routledge).  Bob has a wealth of experience in leading and developing online programs having had major administrative positions at Stevens Institute of Technology and New York University.  His knowledge is evident in this book and shares many kernels of practical advice on how to move a college or university forward in their online program initiatives.

Topics covered in its thirteen chapters include issues related to outsourcing vs. insourcing, ethics, recruiting students, proctoring, and accreditation.  I thought his chapter on developing online programs abroad where he shares his experience in developing a program in China, was especially well-done .  Here is an excerpt: 

“My own experience in China is instructive. Unexpectedly, just over a decade ago at Stevens Institute of Technology, a noted Chinese-American professor approached me to help him launch several online master’s in technical fields in Beijing.

“But I know nothing about China,” I confessed. “Not sure I can be very useful.”

Dismissing my ignorance, the faculty member insisted that my knowledge of online learning would be the key to unlocking what he had in mind. Aware of the enormous investment it would take to lift Stevens’ academic infrastructure nearly seven thousand miles away in Beijing, he proposed an innovative, high-quality, cost-saving alternative.

A third of the courses in the program, he imagined, would be taught online by Stevens faculty; another third would be delivered in English in Beijing by Chinese faculty who had been educated in the U.S. and elsewhere outside of China. A final third would be given by Stevens faculty in brief, intensive courses in China. Like a satisfying cocktail, it was a finely blended solution. I was in.

But I initially worried how my boss would react. Would she go for it, especially since she had just that week been appointed vice president of my unit? I fretted for days over how to approach her—until I met over drinks with an old friend one evening.

“What should I say to her?” I asked him.

As if his entire career had been in preparation for my question, he responded with a brilliant suggestion, “Ask her to head your delegation to China.”

In the vice president’s office the next day, I expressed my misgivings about our proposed China adventure. “I’m not senior enough to negotiate with the Chinese,” I ventured. “But if you join me as head of our delegation…”

First silence; then a glow of satisfaction radiated from her smile. “I always wanted to go to China,” she beamed.

Our Chinese students did very well. Nearly all succeeded in capturing high-profile jobs at domestic and foreign high-tech companies. One young student, shy and hesitant in English when she was first admitted, delivered the valedictory address at graduation two years later in sophisticated, nearly flawless English. With her Stevens degree in hand, she landed a brilliant job—in Paris.

Of course, it didn’t all go so swimmingly. We had to contend with Party functionaries who intimidated our Chinese faculty with tedious, bureaucratic trivia. Luckily, our clever Chinese students knew how to do an end-run around government internet censorship by accessing sites commonly out of reach of the Chinese.”

The above is the kind of practical, on-ground insights you can expect from this book.

In sum, I recommend Staying Online… to higher education administrators who feel they need a bit more understanding of the universe of online learning.  Given what many of us have been going through during the past nineteen months with the pandemic, this book is timely.


Governor Andrew Cuomo Announces “CUNY Comeback Program” Providing $125 Million in Debt Relief for 50,000 Students!

Three female 2021 College of Staten Island grads for CUNY Comeback

CUNY Comeback Program for Our Students, Our University and Our City!

Dear Commons Community,

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo yesterday announced the CUNY Comeback Program, a sweeping plan to eliminate up to $125 million in unpaid debt for at least 50,000 students who attended CUNY and suffered financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative is one of the nation’s largest student debt forgiveness plans of its kind. Additionally, students who did not accrue unpaid tuition and fee balances during the period but experienced financial hardship stemming from the pandemic will receive relief in the form of enhanced Student Emergency Grants. The CUNY Comeback Program will be funded through federal stimulus assistance allocated to CUNY.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused hardships in the lives of so many New Yorkers, and our students were among those most impacted,” Governor Cuomo said. “This landmark new program eliminates millions of dollars in unpaid debt, providing much-needed relief to tens of thousands of CUNY students as they work to get back on their feet after the pandemic and plan for their futures.”

Below is a letter from Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez providing details.

Well-done Governor Cuomo!



City University of New York


Dear CUNY community,

While we look ahead and plan for a safe and increasingly in-person Fall semester, I want to share some exciting news that reflects the University’s and my personal commitment to equity and an enduring appreciation for the way our students persevered during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the recognition that challenges still exist.

CUNY today joined Governor Cuomo in announcing the CUNY Comeback Program, a plan to erase as much as $125 million in outstanding tuition and fee balances for more than 50,000 CUNY students who experienced grave hardships during the pandemic.

This initiative, one of the largest student institutional debt-forgiveness measures of its kind in the country, will use federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds to remove financial barriers that prevent students and recent graduates from pursuing their educational and career objectives. It was conceived in recognition of the fact that many CUNY students come from the communities that endured the pandemic’s greatest impacts.

Eligible students and recent graduates who incurred unpaid tuition and fee balances while enrolled at a CUNY college between Spring 2020 and the end of the Spring 2021 semester will have their remaining balances cleared. In most cases, outstanding balances will be discharged automatically by early August, allowing students to register for Fall 2021 classes and obtain their official transcripts. Students will receive a notification letter via email when the balances are cleared.

Thousands of other students who accrued debt during the same period, but were not eligible for financial aid, may have their unpaid debt forgiven by applying based on financial hardship. A letter will be emailed to these students when the application is available in early August. Campus financial aid offices will review those requests to determine eligibility.

In order to assist students who paid tuition and fee charges out of pocket and do not owe any amount to CUNY for that period, such students may receive a $200 enhanced Student Emergency Grant through the American Rescue Plan Act, on top of any other federal Student Emergency Grant allocation that the student will be entitled to in Fall 2021. These enhanced grants will be automatically awarded to students enrolled in the Fall 2021, with no application required.

For more information about the CUNY Comeback Program, and a list of Frequently Asked Questions, please visit cuny.edu/comeback.

I view this initiative as more than just good policy; it also affirms the recognition that challenges still exist for many New Yorkers, and it helps to fulfill the moral imperative that is implicit in CUNY’s historic mandate to provide access to a quality education for all New Yorkers, regardless of background or means. It’s an acknowledgement of the way in which our community pulled together during the pandemic and persevered. I remain inspired by the determination and resilience of our students, faculty and staff.

I look forward to seeing many of you back on campus in the coming weeks. Until then, stay safe and be well.




Democracy Working: Infrastructure Accord as Senate Votes to Consider $1 Trillion Bill!

We have a deal': Pared-down, still huge infrastructure bill | WKBN.com

President Joe Biden with a Bipartisan Group of Senators Sponsoring the Infrastructure Bill

Dear Commons Community,

The Senate yesterday voted to begin work on a nearly $1 trillion national infrastructure plan after weeks of starts and stops once the White House and a bipartisan group of senators agreed on major provisions of the package.

President Joe Biden welcomed the accord as one that would show America can “do big things.” It includes the most significant long-term investments in nearly a century, he said, on par with building the transcontinental railroad or the Interstate highway system.

“This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function,” Biden said ahead of the vote Wednesday night. “We will once again transform America and propel us into the future.”

After weeks of negotiations, the rare bipartisan showing on a 67-32 vote to start formal Senate consideration showed the high interest among senators in the infrastructure package. But it’s unclear if enough Republicans will eventually join Democrats to support final passage.

Senate rules require 60 votes in the evenly split 50-50 chamber to proceed for consideration and ultimately pass this bill, meaning support from both parties. As reported by the Associated Press.

The outcome will set the stage for the next debate over Biden’s much more ambitious $3.5 trillion spending package, a strictly partisan pursuit of far-reaching programs and services including child care, tax breaks and health care that touch almost every corner of American life. Republicans strongly oppose that bill, which would require a simple majority, and may try to stop both.

Lead GOP negotiator Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio announced the bipartisan group’s agreement on the $1 trillion package earlier Wednesday at the Capitol, flanked by four other Republican senators who had been in talks with Democrats and the White House.

After voting, Portman said the outcome showed that bipartisanship in Washington can work and he believed GOP support would only grow. “That’s pretty darn good for a start,” he said.

That group had labored with the White House to salvage the deal, a first part of Biden’s big infrastructure agenda. Swelling to more than 700 pages, the bill includes $550 billion in new spending for public works projects.

In all, 17 Republican senators joined the Democrats in voting to launch the debate, but most remained skeptical. The GOP senators were given a thick binder of briefing materials during a private lunch, but they asked many questions and wanted more details.

According to a 57-page GOP summary obtained by The Associated Press, the five-year spending package would be paid for by tapping $205 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief aid and $53 billion in unemployment insurance aid some states have halted. It also relies on economic growth to bring in $56 billion, and other measures.

Giving Wednesday night’s vote a boost, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell announced late in the day he would vote to proceed, though whether he will support the final bill remains uncertain. The Republican negotiators met with McConnell earlier Wednesday and Portman said the leader “all along has been encouraging our efforts.”

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, a lead Democratic negotiator who talks often with Republicans also spoke with Biden on Wednesday and said the she hoped the results showed “our government can work.”

Democrats, who have slim control of the House and Senate, face a timeline to act on what would be some of the most substantial pieces of legislation in years.

Filling in the details has become a month-long exercise ever since a bipartisan group of senators struck an agreement with Biden in June over the broad framework.

The new spending in the package dropped from about $600 billion to $550 billion, senators said, as money was eliminated for a public-private infrastructure bank and was reduced in other categories, including transit.

The package still includes $110 billion for highways, $65 billion for broadband and $73 billion to modernize the nation’s electric grid, according a White House fact sheet.

Additionally, there’s $25 billion for airports, $55 billion for waterworks and more than $50 billion to bolster infrastructure against cyberattacks and climate change. There’s also $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations.

Paying for the package has been a slog throughout the talks after Democrats rejected a plan to bring in funds by hiking the gas tax drivers pay at the pump and Republicans dashed an effort to boost the IRS to go after tax scofflaws.

Along with repurposing the COVID-19 relief and unemployment aid, other revenue would come from the sale of broadcast spectrum, reinstating fees that chemical companies used to pay for cleaning up the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites and drawing $49 billion from reversing a Trump-era pharmaceutical rebate, among other sources.

The final deal could run into political trouble if it doesn’t pass muster as fully paid for when the Congressional Budget Office assesses the details. But Portman said the package will be “more than paid for.”

House Democrats have their own transportation bill, which includes much more spending to address rail transit, electric vehicles and other strategies to counter climate change.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not commit to supporting the package until she sees the details, but said Wednesday she’s “rooting for it.”

Pelosi said, “I very much want it to pass.”

A recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC found 8 in 10 Americans favor some increased infrastructure spending.

Senators in the bipartisan group have been huddling privately for months. The group includes 10 core negotiators, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, but has swelled at times to 22.

Transit funding has remained a stubborn dispute, as most Republican senators come from rural states where highways dominate and public transit is scarce, while Democrats view transit as a priority for cities and a key to easing congesting and fighting climate change.

Expanding access to broadband. which has become ever more vital for households during the coronavirus pandemic, sparked a new debate. Republicans pushed back against imposing regulations on internet service providers in a program that helps low-income people pay for service.”

This is a great move forward for our nation and for democratic non-partisan principles.  Below are some of the details of the bill.



Key Provisions of the Infrastructure Bill

The Senate has voted, 67-32, to take up a nearly $1 trillion national infrastructure plan after President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators reached agreement on major provisions of the package.

The White House is projecting that the investments will add, on average, about 2 million jobs per year over the coming decade. A 57-page Republican summary of the agreement obtained by The Associated Press also outlines how the lawmakers hope to pay for the additional spending.

Here’s a breakdown of where the dollars would go, according to a summary released by the White House on Wednesday.

— $110 billion for roads and bridges. The $40 billion for bridges is the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the Interstate highway system

— $39 billion for public transit. The money would be used to modernize bus and subway fleets and bring new service to communities. That’s about $10 billion less than senators negotiating the agreement had originally designated.

— $66 billion for passenger and freight rail. The money would be used to reduce Amtrak’s maintenance backlog, improve Amtrak’s 457-mile-long Northeast Corridor as well as other routes and make safety improvements to rail grade crossings.

— $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations, which the administration says is critical to accelerating the use of electric vehicles to curb climate change.

— $5 billion for the purchase of electric school buses and hybrids, reducing reliance on school buses that run on diesel fuel.

— $17 billion for ports and $25 billion for airports to reduce congestion and address maintenance backlogs.

— $55 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure, including funding to replace all of the nation’s service lines using lead pipe.

— $65 billion to expand broadband access, a particular problem for rural areas and tribal communities. Most of the money would be made available through grants to states.

— $21 billion to clean up superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land and cap obsolete gas wells.

— $73 billion for modernizing the nation’s electric grid and expanding the use of renewable energy.

And here’s a breakdown of pay-fors in a Republican summary of the plan:

— Tapping about $205 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief aid. Congress has provided about $4.7 trillion in emergency assistance in response to the pandemic.

— Drawing on about $53 billion in unemployment insurance aid that the federal government was providing to supplement state unemployment insurance. Dozens of states are declining to take the federal supplement.

— Drawing on about $49 billion by further delaying a Medicare rule giving beneficiaries rebates that now go to insurers and middlemen called pharmacy benefit managers. The trade association for drug manufacturers argued that the rule would help reduce patients’ out-of-pocket costs, but the Congressional Budget Office had projected that it would increase taxpayer costs by $177 billion over 10 years.

— Raising an estimated $87 billion in spectrum auctions for 5G services.

— Restarting a tax on chemical manufacturers that had expired in 1995, raising about $13 billion. The money had been used to help fund the cleanup of Superfund sites. Also, selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would add about $6 billion.

— Strengthening tax enforcement when it comes to crypto currencies, raising about $28 billion.

— Relying on projected economic growth from the investments to bring in about $56 billion.

Podcast: Untangling Adaptive Learning with Chuck Dziuban and Patsy Moskal

Dear Commons Community,

On Saturday, July 31st, my colleagues Chuck Dziuban and Patsy Moskal will be doing a podcast on adaptive learning for the Silver Lining for Learning organization.  If you are at all interested in this topic, I think you will find this podcast most informative.  Chuck and Patsy have done a substantial amount of research on adaptive learning as part of their work at the University of Central Florida’s Research Initiative for Teaching Effectiveness.

Below is the abstract.


Episode #69. Saturday July 31, 2021, 5:30 pm EDT

John Carroll’s 1963 article, “A model for school learning,” in Teachers College Record has been cited more than 5,100 times. That conceptual model regarding school learning designates a leading role of time in student achievement and degree of learning effectiveness. Carroll looked at the actual time needed for learning and the time actually spent in deriving his learning equations. Fast forward nearly 60 years later to 2021 and researchers are using Carroll’s ideas to design adaptive learning programs and systems for education. In Episode #69, Chuck Dziuban and Patsy Moskal from the University of Central Florida (UCF) will explain the implications of Carroll’s model for education as well as their research studies and findings to date on adaptive learning. Their paper, Adaptive Learning in Psychology: Wayfinding in the Digital Age, was recipient of the of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) quality research paper award in 2017. Patsy, Chuck, and their colleague Tony Picciano and I have just signed a contract with Taylor and Francis for a book on learning analytics and adaptive learning.

Adding some spice to this session, Chuck and Patsy have spent decades conducting research on blended and fully online learning, resulting in several edited research volumes on blended learning; the newest of which, “Blended Learning Research Perspectives, 3” is currently in press (see image below). With blended learning as the starting point, their work in the “Research Initiative for Teaching Effectiveness” (RITE) in the Division of Digital Learning at UCF will be discussed as well as the history of faculty training programs for blended and online instruction. Such training programs at UCF are internationally known.

Finally, the second half of this episode will highlight their research on a scholarship program for low income communities in Central Florida called the Tangelo Park Program. This success story has seen significantly reduced crime in Tangelo Park since inception in the early 1990s. It has also resulted in 100% high school graduation rates as well as high levels of college attendance (“78 percent of those who remain in the community and attend a four-year institution will graduate with a degree, either directly or through a community college”). And there’s more such success data! We will have a conversation with Chuck and Patsy about the key components of this program as well as its potential sustainability, replicability, and scalability.


Seven Takeaways from First Hearing of the House January 6th Committee!

Watch highlights from day one of Jan. 6 House select committee hearingCapitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, Metropolitan Police Officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges, and Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn

Dear Commons Community,

I was at a funeral yesterday and was unable to watch the first hearing of the House Committee investigating the  January 6th riot. I caught several highlights but I understand from my wife who watched the entire hearing that the testimony of the four police officers was riveting.  Here is a brief recap and seven takeaways courtesy of the Huffington Post and the Associated Press.

Tuesday marked the first meeting of the House select committee charged with investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, with hours of emotional testimony about the mob of angry Donald Trump supporters who stormed the building and terrorized its occupants. 

Four law enforcement officers delivered prepared remarks before the panel and answered questions: U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn and Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, and Metropolitan Police officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges.

Each was on the front lines of the attack and spoke of injuries they sustained both mentally and physically. Each also showed varying degrees of emotion on the stand ― whether they were clearly holding back tears or reaching for a tissue. 

Dunn described being called a ‘n****r’ by a crowd of rioters. He wasn’t alone in experiencing racist abuse.

As more and more Trump supporters streamed through the building, Dunn, who is Black, recalled telling them they should turn around.

“In response, they yelled, ‘No, man, this is our house. President Trump invited us here. We’re here to stop the steal. Joe Biden is not the president. Nobody voted for Joe Biden,’” Dunn said.

He continued: “I do my best to keep politics out of my job, but in this circumstance, I responded, ‘Well, I voted for Joe Biden, does my vote not count? Am I nobody?’ That prompted a torrent of racial epithets. One woman in a pink MAGA shirt yelled, ‘You hear that, guys? This n****r voted for Joe Biden.’ Then the crowd, perhaps around 20 people, joined in screaming, ‘Boo! Fucking n****r!’”

“No one had ever, ever called me a n****r while wearing the uniform of a Capitol police officer,” Dunn testified.

In Dunn’s telling, another Black officer he served with ― who was in his 40s ― had never been called that word to his face at any point in his life until the afternoon of Jan. 6. After heavily armed law enforcement arrived at the scene and cleared the building of rioters, Dunn said he sat and spoke with some other officers of color. He broke down.

Officers suspected that some of the Trump supporters were armed with guns. 

“We scanned the crowd, but these people, they know how to conceal their weapons,” Hodges said. “If it’s in a backpack, there’s not much you can do.” Dunn also testified that “any reasonable police officer” would assume some of the rioters had guns based on the imprint beneath the clothing at their hips.

The officers had been prepared for peaceful demonstrations outside the Capitol, where members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence were formally certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.

But Dunn described a screenshot he received in a text from a friend the morning of Jan. 6 that detailed the Trump supporters’ violent plans for the day. The screenshot read, “among other things, that ‘Trump has given us marching orders,’ and to ‘keep your guns hidden,’” Dunn said. It also “indicated there would be ‘time to arm up.’”

Several of the officers testified that they believed they might die. 

One man attempted to gouge out Hodges’ right eye, but the officer managed to extract himself from the man’s grip before any “permanent damage” was done, he said. Some weren’t as lucky: At least one officer lost an eye in the riot.

As they battered law enforcement, hordes of Trump supporters accused the officers of being traitors to their country. Hodges referred to them as “the terrorists” throughout his congressional testimony. Asked why he used that term while some Republicans had called the rioters mere “tourists,” Hodges quipped: “Well, if that’s what American tourists are like, I can see why foreign countries don’t like American tourists.”

He feared that he would, “at worst, be dragged down by the crowd and lynched” that afternoon. Fanone said he believed there was “a very good chance I would be torn apart or shot with my own weapon” during the melee.

Members of the crowd accused Gonell of choosing his “paycheck” over loyalty to the United States ― a country the Dominican-born officer had grown up revering.

“To be honest,” he said, “I did not recognize my fellow citizens who stormed the Capitol on January 6 or the United States that they claimed to represent.”

Responding to Trump’s claim that the rioters were “hugging and kissing” the law enforcement officers at the scene, Gonell snapped: “I’m still recovering from those ‘hugs and kisses’ that day.”

A moment of silence was held for deceased U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.

Dunn led a moment of silence at the hearing at the start of his remarks. Sicknick died of what a medical examiner called natural causes after the riot, where he was sprayed with chemical irritants. He later collapsed.

U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement that the medical examiner’s ruling “does not change the fact Officer Sicknick died in the line of duty, courageously defending Congress and the Capitol.”

The events have taken an immense mental health toll on sworn officers in the nation’s capital. 

Sicknick was one of five people to die either during the riot or in its immediate aftermath. Two police officers who were at the Capitol that day died of suicide afterward.

Others have chosen simply to leave: Gonell testified that “many” of his colleagues in uniform “have quietly resigned” from the force in the last six months. Dunn encouraged his colleagues in his prepared statement not to be ashamed of seeking professional mental health care, as he has.

Gonell called out the discrepancy between Jan. 6 and the law enforcement response to racial justice protests.

During the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, Gonell said, he and his colleagues had “all the support we needed and more.” Yet only a smattering of officers were assigned to guard the Capitol on Jan. 6. They were left fighting for their lives for hours as higher authorities dragged their feet on deploying backup.

“Why the different response?” Gonell asked.

Fanone let his anger show, hitting the table and calling right-wing lawmakers’ actions ‘disgraceful.’

As shown in clips from his body-worn camera and other video footage, Fanone was dragged into the crowd at one point in the rioting, where he was beaten and electrocuted. Following the attack, a doctor told him at the hospital that he had survived a heart attack. Later, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. But the ordeal was made all the more difficult, he said, when some politicians and right-wing pundits decided to downplay the damage of Jan. 6.

“I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them, and the people in this room. But too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist, or that hell wasn’t actually that bad,” Fanone said.

“The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful!” he said, ending on a shout as he slammed his hand down on the table.

“My law enforcement career prepared me to cope with some of the aspects of this experience,” he said. “Being an officer you know your life is at risk whenever you walk out the door, even if you don’t expect other law-abiding citizens to take up arms against you. But nothing — truly nothing — has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day, and in doing so, betray their oath of office.”

Incredible testimony!


Simone Biles Withdraws from Olympic Gymnastics Competition Needing to “Protect Her Mind and Body”

Tokyo Olympics: Simone Biles withdraws from gymnastics team final due to apparent injury | World News | Sky News

Simone Biles

Dear Commons Community,

Simone Biles, possibly the most outstanding gymnast in the Olympic Games,  withdrew suddenly while competing in the vault competition.  As reported by the Associated Press.

“Simone Biles arrived in Tokyo as the star of the U.S. Olympic movement and perhaps the Games themselves. She convinced herself she was prepared for the pressure. That she was ready to carry the burden of outsized expectations.

Only, as the women’s gymnastics team final approached on Tuesday night, something felt off. And the athlete widely considered the Greatest of All Time in her sport knew it.

So rather than push through the doubts that crept into her head as she’s done so many times in the past, Biles decided enough was enough. She was done. For now.

The American star withdrew from the competition following one rotation, opening the door for the team of Russian athletes to win gold for the first time in nearly three decades.

Jordan Chiles, Sunisa Lee and Grace McCallum guided the U.S. to silver while Biles cheered from the sideline in a white sweatsuit, at peace with a decision that revealed a shift not only in Biles but perhaps the sport she’s redefined.

“We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day we’re human, too,” Biles said. “So, we have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”

The Americans — fueled by an uneven bars routine by Lee that not even Biles could match — drew within eight-tenths of a point through three rotations. ROC, however, never wavered on floor. And they erupted when 21-year-old Angelina Melnikova’s score assured them of the top spot on the podium for the first time since the Unified Team won in Barcelona in 1992.

The victory came a day after ROC men’s team edged Japan for the top spot in the men’s final. Great Britain edged Italy for bronze.

“The impossible is possible now,” Melnikova said.

Perhaps in more ways than one.

In the five years since Biles and the U.S. put on a dazzling display on their way to gold in Rio de Janeiro, gymnastics has undergone a reckoning. The tectonic plates in a sport where obedience, discipline and silence were long considered as important as talent and artistry are moving.

Biles has become an outspoken advocate for athlete’s rights and the importance of proper mental health. There was a time, there were many times actually, where she felt she wasn’t right and just powered through because that’s what people expected of her.

Not anymore. And the stand she took could resonate far beyond the color of any medal she may win in Tokyo.

Biles is the latest in a series of high-profile athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka, who have used their platforms to discuss their mental heath struggles. A subject that was once taboo has become far more accepted and embraced.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland applauded Biles for prioritizing her “mental wellness over all else” and offered the organization’s full support. USA Gymnastics women’s program vice-president called Biles’ act “incredibly selfless.”

Biles posted on social media Monday that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders after an uncharacteristically sloppy showing during qualifying left the Americans looking up at the ROC on the scoreboard.

The tension affected her practice. It affected her confidence. And when she stepped onto the vault runway, it finally found its way to her performance, too.

She was scheduled to do an “Amanar” vault that requires a roundoff back handspring onto the table followed by 2 1/2 twists. Biles instead did just 1 1/2 twists with a big leap forward after landing. She sat down and talked to U.S. team doctor Marcia Faustin, then headed to the back while the rest of the Americans moved on to uneven bars without her.

When Biles returned several minutes later, she hugged her teammates and took off her bar grips. And just like that, her night was over.

“To see her kind of go out like that is very sad because this Olympic Games, I feel like, is kind of hers,” Lee said.

Biles is scheduled to defend her Olympic title in the all-around final on Thursday. She also qualified for all four event finals later in the Games. She said she will regroup on Wednesday before deciding whether to continue.

Biles’ abrupt absence forced the Americans to scramble a bit. The finals are a three-up/three-count format, meaning each country enters three of their four athletes on an apparatus, with all three scores counting.

Chiles stepped in to take Biles’ place on uneven bars and balance beam. The 20-year-old who made the team with her steady consistency pulled off a solid bars routine and drilled her balance beam set two days after falling twice on the event.

Thanks in part to a little help from ROC — which counted a pair of falls on beam — the U.S. drew within striking distance heading to floor, the final rotation.

Without Biles and her otherworldly tumbling, the U.S. needed to be near perfect to close the gap. It didn’t happen. Chiles stumbled to the mat at the end of her second pass, and any chance the U.S. had of chasing down ROC went right along with it.

Not that Chiles or the rest of the Americans particularly cared. The gold might be gone, but something more significant may have happened instead. It’s a tradeoff they can live with.

“This medal is definitely for (Biles),” said Chiles. “If it wasn’t if it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t be here where we are right now. We wouldn’t be a silver medalist because of who she is as a person.”

Chiles then turned to her good friend. Biles helped convince her to move to Houston to train alongside her two years ago, a decision that turned Chiles into an Olympian. In an empty arena in the middle of Japan with the world watching, Chiles did for Biles what Biles has done for so many for so long. She had her back.

“Kudos to you girl,” Chiles said. “This is all for you.”

We wish Ms. Biles well!


Joe Biden Should Seek the Help of  George W. Bush to Push COVID Vaccination!

Sickening and heartbreaking sight': Former President George W. Bush speaks  about US Capitol storming


Dear Commons Community,

James Harding, former director of BBC News and editor of The Times newspaper in London, has a guest essay in today’s New York Times, recommending that President Joe Biden seek the help of former President George W. Bush to promote COVID-10 vaccination. While focused mostly on the international front, Harding makes the point that “Mr. Bush could mount a challenge to the anti-vax right that’s stoking vaccine hesitancy around the world. He could marshal some leaders in his party — Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, an advocate of U.S. leadership on the global vaccine rollout, for example — to this cause and demonstrate that Americans, Republican or Democrat, can side with the science.”

I think Harding makes a good suggestion that Biden should seriously consider.

Below is the entire essay.



New York Times

The World Needs a Heavy Hitter on the Pandemic.

James Harding

July 26, 2021

The Biden administration says it wants to end the pandemic in 2022. If it’s serious about that goal, President Biden should relieve George W. Bush of his paintbrush and easel and draft him as America’s vaccine envoy.

The world remembers W. for Iraq. But Mr. Bush was also the first global health president. Millions of people know that they owe their lives, and the lives of loved ones, to PEPFAR — the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — the effort led by the Bush White House to try to end the H.I.V./AIDS pandemic in Africa and around the world.

The global fight against Covid-19 is a race between vaccines and variants. It’s a race we are losing. Mr. Biden, singularly, has the authority to turn things around. But given that Covid is consuming the administration domestically, he will need a representative who, around the world, cannot be ignored. He needs someone who can use the bully pulpit and back-room pressure to get world leaders, pharmaceutical leaders and health agencies to urgently accelerate the funding, delivery and distribution of vaccines.

At its meeting in England last month, the Group of 7 overpromised and underdelivered on Covid. Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, who had said that he wanted to unite world leaders in committing to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022, announced one billion additional vaccine doses. As of mid-June, the number of truly new doses was closer to 600 million. The World Health Organization estimates that the world needs 11 billion vaccine doses.

At the rate of vaccination in early June, the world won’t be vaccinated for many years. Things look set to speed up when the wealthy West has had its jabs, but even then, the optimistic estimates currently have the program of global Covid-19 vaccinations complete in 2023 or 2024. The more people we leave unvaccinated, the more time we give the pathogen to mutate into a variant that’s more transmissible than Delta or Alpha. And yet, we seem to be mouthing the words, “No one is safe until everyone is safe,” even as a third wave crashes over parts of Africa and Covid’s infectious new variants wash back on the shores of wealthy countries.

When people in those countries are no longer dying, we too often forget about the rest elsewhere. The shameful history of pandemics tells us as much. It was true for tuberculosis. True, too, for AIDS: long after H.I.V. stopped being a death sentence for the West’s citizens, AIDS-related illnesses kept killing millions around the world.

PEPFAR didn’t end AIDS, but in more than 50 countries around the world, it brought the crisis under control. Since Mr. Bush started PEPFAR in 2003, it has invested more than $85 billion in AIDS treatment, prevention and research; it has saved, at a conservative estimate, 20 million lives. It was the Marshall Plan of modern health care, the largest ever commitment to combat a single disease globally.

Many countries are looking to Mr. Biden for the sequel. Like AIDS treatment for whoever needed it, the case for a global Covid-19 vaccine program is a moral one. But there’s also a self-interested argument for America to play the leading role, too: An international vaccine program is an investment in the U.S. economy, an act of national security and a good bet on individual good health.

Everyone knows what needs to be done. Everyone is waiting for someone else to do it. To turn this diplomatic game of hot potato into an effective program, and if the United States is going to lead the global vaccine rollout, rather than allow China to take that role, the Biden administration will need a high-profile emissary.

Former President Bush fits the bill. He’s publicly committed to vaccines: “Roll up your sleeve and do your part,” Mr. Bush said in a public service announcement alongside Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in March. He identifies, personally, with America’s efforts to save lives globally: I interviewed him after he left the White House and it was clear that he saw PEPFAR as one of the things that defined him and his presidency. It sounded self-serving, of course, but he rightly owns it.

As a presidential candidate, he seized on the idea when Condoleezza Rice first briefed him on U.S. policy priorities in Africa. In the 2003 State of the Union address, before he warmed to his theme of the war on terrorism and Iraq, Mr. Bush cataloged the course of the AIDS pandemic, the deaths in Africa and announced his plan for AIDS relief, saying, “This nation can lead the world in sparing innocent people from a plague of nature.” Mr. Bush convened, cajoled and co-opted a bipartisan U.S. coalition and an international, multifaceted effort behind PEPFAR. He’d be more than an ex-president doing the rounds of the world’s capitals; he has credentials on global health.

It’s true that Mr. Bush and Mr. Biden are hardly kindred spirits. It’s become clear that 43 doesn’t like the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, 46’s biggest foreign policy decision to date, and Mr. Biden might be wary of bringing the architect of the Iraq war back onto the global stage.

But Mr. Bush could mount a challenge to the anti-vax right that’s stoking vaccine hesitancy around the world. He could marshal some leaders in his party — Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, an advocate of U.S. leadership on the global vaccine rollout, for example — to this cause and demonstrate that Americans, Republican or Democrat, can side with the science.

People liked to say that Mr. Bush was pretty good at taking it easy when he was in office; since then, he’s made an art of it. He seems to like retirement.

But the global vaccine effort is a prime opportunity for Mr. Biden to restore U.S. leadership on the world stage. The president needs someone who can help convene a special U.S.-led summit on vaccine supply and distribution globally, amplify the international effort that Gayle Smith is orchestrating at the State Department and go to work on other world leaders, the Group of 7 and, particularly, the Group of 20, to fund and deliver. The administration needs someone who can get the pharmaceutical companies to earmark supplies now for the poorest countries in the world. And it needs someone who can speak to heads of government around the world to ensure that through the course of 2022, when the vaccines do arrive, they go into arms, not warehouses.

We are, globally, nearer to the beginning than to the end of this pandemic. We are on course to see more people die and more people incapacitated by illness. And if we keep giving the virus time to mutate, it can keep revisiting us, destroying lives and livelihoods. We’re in an arms race. Mr. Biden should continue a great American tradition of calling ex-presidents back into service for a crucial cause, and draft Mr. Bush for another necessary fight against a pandemic.