Video: Amanda Gorman Recites Her New Poem – “New Day’s Lyrics”

Amanda Gorman signs modeling contract after star turn at inauguration | US news | The Guardian


Dear Commons Communioty,

I think it fitting that my last blog posting for this year is a video (below) of poet, Amanda Gorman, reciting her new poem entitled, New Day’s Lyrics.  When asked what inspired “New Day’s Lyric,” she said  “I wanted to write a lyric to honor the hardships, hurt, hope and healing of 2021 while also harkening the potential of 2022.”

A Happy and Healthy New Year Everybody!



Ghislaine Maxwell convicted in Jeffrey Epstein sex abuse case!

Ghislaine Maxwell found guilty of recruiting underage girls to be sexually  abused by Jeffrey Epstein | US News | Sky News

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell

Dear Commons Community,

In a case that has been watched closely and especially here in New York, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted yesterday of luring teenage girls to be sexually abused by the American millionaire Jeffrey Epstein.

The verdict capped a month-long trial featuring accounts of the sexual exploitation of girls as young as 14, told by four women who described being abused as teens in the 1990s and early 2000s at Epstein’s palatial homes in Florida, New York and New Mexico.  As reported by the Associated Press.

Jurors deliberated for five full days before finding Maxwell guilty of five of six counts. With the maximum prison terms for each charge ranging from five to 40 years in prison, Maxwell faces the likelihood of years behind bars — an outcome long sought by women who spent years fighting in civil courts to hold her accountable for her role in recruiting and grooming Epstein’s teenage victims and sometimes joining in the sexual abuse.

As the verdict was read, Maxwell was largely stoic behind a black mask. Afterward, she could be seen pouring herself water as one of her attorneys patted her back. She stood with her hands folded as the jury filed out, and glanced at her siblings — faithfully in attendance each day of the trial — as she herself was led from the courtroom. She did not hug her lawyers on the way out, a marked change from previous days during which Maxwell and her team were often physically affectionate with one another.

One of her victims, Annie Farmer, said she was grateful the jury recognized Maxwell’s “pattern of predatory behavior.”

“She has caused hurt to many more women than the few of us who had the chance to testify in the courtroom,” she said in a prepared statement. “I hope that this verdict brings solace to all who need it and demonstrates that no one is above the law. Even those with great power and privilege will be held accountable when they sexually abuse and exploit the young.”

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams praised the victims who testified against Maxwell after experiencing what he called “one of the worst crimes imaginable.”

“I want to commend the bravery of the girls – now grown women – who stepped out of the shadows and into the courtroom. Their courage and willingness to face their abuser made this case, and today’s result, possible,” he said in a statement.

No sentencing date was set.

The defense had insisted Maxwell was a victim of a vindictive prosecution devised to deliver justice to women deprived of their main villain when Epstein killed himself while awaiting trial in 2019.

Her brother, Kevin Maxwell, said the family believes she will be vindicated on appeal. “We firmly believe in our sister’s innocence,” he said in a written statement.

During the trial, prosecutors called 24 witnesses to give jurors a picture of life inside Epstein’s homes — a subject of public fascination and speculation ever since his 2006 arrest in Florida in a child sex case.

A housekeeper testified he was expected to be “blind, deaf and dumb” about the private lives of Epstein, a financier who cultivated friendships with influential politicians and business tycoons, and Maxwell, who had led a jet-setting lifestyle as the favorite child of a media mogul.

Pilots took the witness stand and dropped the names of luminaries — Britain’s Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump — who flew on Epstein’s private jets.

Jurors saw physical evidence like a folding massage table once used by Epstein and a “black book” that listed contact information for some of the victims under the heading “massages.”

There were bank records showing he had transferred $30.7 million to Maxwell, his longtime companion — onetime girlfriend, later employee.

But the core of the prosecution was the testimony of four women who said they were victimized by Maxwell and Epstein at tender ages.

Three testified using first names or pseudonyms to protect their privacy: Jane, a television actress; Kate, a former model from Great Britain; and Carolyn, now a mom recovering from drug addiction. The fourth was Farmer, who chose to use her real name after being vocal about her allegations in recent years.

They echoed one another in their descriptions of Maxwell’s behavior: She used charm and gifts to gain their trust, taking an interest in their adolescent challenges and giving them assurances that Epstein could use his wealth and connections to fulfill their dreams.

They said the script would darken when Maxwell coaxed them into giving massages to Epstein that turned sexual, encounters she played off as normal: After one sexual massage, Kate, then 17, said Maxwell asked her if she’d had fun and told her: “You are such a good girl.”

Carolyn testified that she was one of several underprivileged teens who lived near Epstein’s Florida home in the early 2000s and took up an offer to give massages in exchange for $100 bills, which prosecutors described as “a pyramid of abuse.”

Maxwell made all the arrangements, Carolyn told the jury, even though she knew the girl was only 14 at the time.

Jane said in 1994, when she was only 14, she was instructed to follow Epstein into a pool house at the Palm Beach estate, where he masturbated on her.

Two charges, including the lone count on which Maxwell was acquitted, applied only to Jane.

“I was frozen in fear,” she told the jury, adding that the assault was the first time she had ever seen a penis. She also directly accused Maxwell of participating in her abuse.

Maxwell’s lawyer asked Jane why it had taken so long to come forward.

“I was scared,” she said, choking back tears. “I was embarrassed, ashamed. I didn’t want anybody to know any of this about me.”

The last to testify, Farmer described how Maxwell touched her breasts while giving her a massage at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch and how Epstein unexpectedly crawled into bed and pressed himself against her.

Maxwell, who turned 60 on Christmas, vehemently denied the charges through her lawyers.

Still, she declined to take the risk of testifying, telling the judge: “The government has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt so there is no reason for me to testify.”

“The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell are for things that Jeffrey Epstein did,” one of Maxwell’s lawyers, Bobbi Sternheim, emphasized to the jury. “But she is not Jeffrey Epstein and she is not like Jeffrey Epstein.”

Maxwell’s legal team questioned whether the accusers’ memories were faulty, or had been influenced by lawyers seeking big payouts from Maxwell and from Epstein’s estate in civil court. During their two-day presentation, they called as a witness Elizabeth Loftus, a professor who has testified as a memory expert for defense lawyers at about 300 trials, including the rape trial of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Maxwell’s family complained she was under duress from harsh conditions at the Brooklyn jail where she’s been held since her arrest in July 2020. She had repeatedly, and futilely, sought bail, arguing that she was unable to adequately contribute to her defense.

Before Maxwell was taken from the courtroom, Sternheim asked that arrangements be made to give her a coronavirus booster shot, saying infection rates were rising dramatically at the lockup. The recent surge threatened to derail the trial itself as U.S. District Court Judge Alison J. Nathan prodded jurors to work quickly to avoid the potential of a mistrial caused by sickened jurors.

The legal fights involving Epstein and Maxwell are not over.

Maxwell still awaits trial on two counts of perjury.

Lawsuits loom, including one in which a woman not involved in the trial, Virginia Giuffre, says she was coerced into sexual encounters with Prince Andrew when she was 17. Andrew has denied her account and that lawsuit is not expected to come to trial for many months.

Following the Maxwell verdict, Giuffre released a statement through her lawyers, saying, “I hope that today is not the end but rather another step in justice being served.”



President Biden Keeps Pushing Through Record Numbers of Progressive Federal Judges – Thank You Mr. Trump For Sabotaging Georgia Senate Elections!

President Joe Biden's early federal judge nominees are the most diverse in years - Washington Post

Dear Commons Community,

Since taking office, President Joe Biden keeps appointing progressive judges to the federal bench and among presidents in the last half century, only Republican Ronald Reagan was able to put as many in his first year.   We can thank one person without whom it could never have happened: Donald Trump.

Biden has won praise from across the Democratic spectrum for judicial picks that have put Native American and other ethnic and racial minorities and members of the LGBTQ community on the federal bench. Biden has also drawn from a broader range of professional backgrounds ― public defenders and voting rights attorneys, for example, rather than just prosecutors and corporate lawyers ― than previous presidents, even previous Democratic presidents. Of the 40 Biden judges confirmed so far (35 more are already in the pipeline), a full 80% are women.

Trump’s sabotage of two Georgia Senate runoffs in early January with his endless lies about “massive fraud” having cost him reelection almost certainly cost the two Republican incumbents their seats, giving Democrats control of the chamber and the ability to push through judicial nominations without a single GOP vote.

“Trump handed it to them,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia who studies federal judicial appointments, adding that Biden’s record-tying string of 40 district and appellate court judges in his first year would have been impossible in a Republican-controlled Senate. “They just wouldn’t have had the votes. I don’t know what they would have done.”

“I think very few of those people would have been confirmed,” Tobias said. “Biden would have pulled back and … chosen more moderates, picked more people who were less ideologically liberal.”

Yet those nominees would have faced a much tougher path in a Senate run by Mitch McConnell with a 52-48 Republican majority, which appeared as if it would be the outcome in November 2020 after the votes were counted in Georgia with no candidate in either of the two Senate races receiving over 50%.

Georgia law requires a runoff in such cases, which in recent years have favored Republicans because of their more dutiful voters and their superior turnout operation. That historical advantage, though, was thrown away last January by the then-president, who was angry that he had lost Georgia and Arizona, two reliable GOP states, on his way to losing to Biden by 7 million votes nationally.

In interview after interview, speech after speech, Trump pushed the falsehood that the Nov. 3 election had been rigged against him, including in Georgia, where the rigging had been done by Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans.

“There’s no way we lost Georgia. There’s no way. That was a rigged election,” Trump said right at the start of a Jan. 4 rally that was ostensibly to support Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

The end result, Trump’s election eve rally notwithstanding: GOP voters stayed home in droves while Democrat Stacey Abrams’ massive turnout effort helped Raphael Warnock defeat Loeffler and Jon Ossoff overtake Perdue.

According to an analysis by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 752,000 Georgians who cast ballots on Nov. 3, 2020, failed to do so on Jan. 5, 2021, with a disproportionate number of those no-shows coming from Republican strongholds, particularly the two areas of the state where Trump had held rallies. Meanwhile, 228,000 residents who had not voted in the general election did so in the runoff, most of whom were from Black and other minority communities, and nearly half of whom were younger than 35.

Warnock and Ossoff both come in second in their November 2020 races. Warnock won his runoff by 93,000 votes, and Ossoff won by 55,000.

Erick Erickson, a conservative radio talk-show host based in Atlanta, said Trump made it a loyalty test to go along with his false claims of a stolen election, and top Georgia Republicans, such as Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and state party chairman David Shafer, were happy to comply.

“It wasn’t just Trump. It was him, the state party chair, Marjorie Taylor Greene, etc., all screaming that the election was stolen and they were going to steal it again. Trump was certainly the loudest voice about it,” Erickson said. “Had they shut up, I don’t think you’d have seen 400,000-plus Republicans sit out the runoff.”

Without Trump’s sabotage, McConnell would likely have held a four-seat margin, and Biden would have faced the same roadblocks that Democrat Barack Obama faced in his final two years in the White House after McConnell became the Senate majority leader following the 2014 midterm elections.

“If Biden were able to get a half dozen judges through, most likely only district courts, in a McConnell-led Senate, that would be because Mitch was feeling especially generous,” said Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute. “And Mitch does not feel generous.”

“The makeup of the federal judiciary is his legacy, and it is one to which he would go to great lengths to protect,” Mac Stipanovich, a longtime GOP consultant in Florida, said of McConnell. “Biden got lucky when Trump screwed the pooch in Georgia.”

Trump, nevertheless, has continued lying about the 2020 presidential election and has even actively recruited candidates to run against Kemp and Raffensperger in the Republican primary next year. In recent statements, he has blamed both Kemp and ― inexplicably ― McConnell for losing the two Senate seats rather than accepting any blame himself.

“He has all the cards to win, but not the ‘guts’ to play them. Instead, he gives our Country away, just like he did with the two Senate seats in Georgia, and the Presidency itself,” Trump said about McConnell in a statement he released Dec. 8, two days after claiming that Kemp “cost us two Senate seats and a Presidential victory in the Great State of Georgia.”

Trump, despite losing the election by 7 million votes overall and by 306-232 in the Electoral College, became the first president in more than two centuries of elections to refuse to hand over power peacefully. His incitement of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol – his last-ditch attempt to remain in office ― killed five, including one police officer, injured another 140 officers and led to four police suicides.

Keep up the good work Mr. Trump!


John Madden, Hall of Fame Coach and Broadcaster, Dies at 85!

John Madden, football legend, dies at 85 - ProFootballTalk


Dear Commons Community,

John Madden, the Hall of Fame coach turned broadcaster whose exuberant calls combined with simple explanations provided a weekly soundtrack to NFL games for three decades, died yesterday morning, the NFL said. He was 85.

The league said he died unexpectedly and did not detail a cause.  As reported by the Associated Press.

Madden gained fame in a decade-long stint as the coach of the renegade Oakland Raiders, making it to seven AFC title games and winning the Super Bowl following the 1976 season. He compiled a 103-32-7 regular-season record, and his .759 winning percentage is the best among NFL coaches with more than 100 games.

But it was his work after prematurely retiring as coach at age 42 that made Madden truly a household name. He educated a football nation with his use of the telestrator on broadcasts; entertained millions with his interjections of “Boom!” and “Doink!” throughout games; was an omnipresent pitchman selling restaurants, hardware stores and beer; became the face of “Madden NFL Football,” one of the most successful sports video games of all-time; and was a best-selling author.

Most of all, he was the preeminent television sports analyst for most of his three decades calling games, winning an unprecedented 16 Emmy Awards for outstanding sports analyst/personality, and covering 11 Super Bowls for four networks from 1979-2009.

“People always ask, are you a coach or a broadcaster or a video game guy?” he said when was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “I’m a coach, always been a coach.”

He started his broadcasting career at CBS after leaving coaching in great part because of his fear of flying. He and Pat Summerall became the network’s top announcing duo. Madden then helped give Fox credibility as a major network when he moved there in 1994, and went on to call prime-time games at ABC and NBC before retiring following Pittsburgh’s thrilling 27-23 win over Arizona in the 2009 Super Bowl.

Burly and a little unkempt, Madden earned a place in America’s heart with a likable, unpretentious style that was refreshing in a sports world of spiraling salaries and prima donna stars. He rode from game to game in his own bus because he suffered from claustrophobia and had stopped flying. For a time, Madden gave out a “turducken” — a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey — to the outstanding player in the Thanksgiving game that he called.

“Nobody loved football more than Coach. He was football,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “He was an incredible sounding board to me and so many others. There will never be another John Madden, and we will forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today.”

When he finally retired from the broadcast booth, leaving NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” colleagues universally praised Madden’s passion for the sport, his preparation, and his ability to explain an often-complicated game in down-to-earth terms.

“No one has made the sport more interesting, more relevant and more enjoyable to watch and listen to than John,” play-by-play announcer Al Michaels said at the time.

For anyone who heard Madden exclaim “Boom!” while breaking down a play, his love of the game was obvious.

“For me, TV is really an extension of coaching,” Madden wrote in “Hey, Wait a Minute! (I Wrote a Book!).”

“My knowledge of football has come from coaching. And on TV, all I’m trying to do is pass on some of that knowledge to viewers.”

Madden was raised in Daly City, California. He played on both the offensive and defensive lines for Cal Poly in 1957-58 and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the school.

Madden was chosen to the all-conference team and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, but a knee injury ended his hopes of a pro playing career. Instead, Madden got into coaching, first at Hancock Junior College and then as defensive coordinator at San Diego State.

Al Davis brought him to the Raiders as a linebackers coach in 1967, and Oakland went to the Super Bowl in his first year in the pros. He replaced John Rauch as head coach after the 1968 season at age 32, beginning a remarkable 10-year run.

With his demonstrative demeanor on the sideline and disheveled look, Madden was the ideal coach for the collection of castoffs and misfits that made up those Raiders teams.

“Sometimes guys were disciplinarians in things that didn’t make any difference. I was a disciplinarian in jumping offsides; I hated that,” Madden once said. “Being in bad position and missing tackles, those things. I wasn’t, ‘Your hair has to be combed.’”

The Raiders responded.

“I always thought his strong suit was his style of coaching,” quarterback Ken Stabler once said. “John just had a great knack for letting us be what we wanted to be, on the field and off the field. … How do you repay him for being that way? You win for him.”

And boy, did they ever. Many years, the only problem was the playoffs.

Madden went 12-1-1 in his first season, losing the AFL title game 17-7 to Kansas City. That pattern repeated itself during his tenure; the Raiders won the division title in seven of his first eight seasons, but went 1-6 in conference title games during that span.

Still, Madden’s Raiders played in some of the sport’s most memorable games of the 1970s, games that helped change rules in the NFL. There was the “Holy Roller” in 1978, when Stabler purposely fumbled forward before being sacked on the final play. The ball rolled and was batted to the end zone before Dave Casper recovered it for the winning touchdown against San Diego.

The most famous of those games went against the Raiders in the 1972 playoffs at Pittsburgh. With the Raiders leading 7-6 and 22 seconds left, the Steelers had a fourth-and-10 from their 40. Terry Bradshaw’s desperation pass deflected off either Oakland’s Jack Tatum or Pittsburgh’s Frenchy Fuqua to Franco Harris, who caught it at his shoe tops and ran in for a TD.

In those days, a pass that bounced off an offensive player directly to a teammate was illegal, and the debate continues to this day over which player it hit. The catch, of course, was dubbed the “Immaculate Reception.”

Oakland finally broke through with a loaded team in 1976 that had Stabler at quarterback; Fred Biletnikoff and Cliff Branch at receiver; tight end Dave Casper; Hall of Fame offensive linemen Gene Upshaw and Art Shell; and a defense that included Willie Brown, Ted Hendricks, Tatum, John Matuszak, Otis Sistrunk and George Atkinson.

The Raiders went 13-1, losing only a blowout at New England in Week 4. They paid the Patriots back with a 24-21 win in their first playoff game and got over the AFC title game hump with a 24-7 win over the hated Steelers, who were crippled by injuries.

Oakland won it all with a 32-14 Super Bowl romp against Minnesota.

“Players loved playing for him,” Shell said. “He made it fun for us in camp and fun for us in the regular season. All he asked is that we be on time and play like hell when it was time to play.”

Madden battled an ulcer the following season, when the Raiders once again lost in the AFC title game. He retired from coaching at age 42 after a 9-7 season in 1978.

For football fans regardless of their team loyalties, Madden was a legend as a coach and an announcer.  He brought fun to Sunday afternoon games.  May he rest in peace!


Child Covid Hospitalizations Rising – Especially in 5 States Including New York!

More Children Are Hospitalized With Covid-19, and Doctors Fear It Will Get  Worse - WSJ

Dear Commons Community,

In the last four weeks, the average number of children hospitalized with Covid-19 jumped 52 percent, from a low of 1,270 on Nov. 29 to 1,933 on Sunday, according to an NBC News analysis of Department of Health and Human Services data.

In the same time period, adult Covid hospitalizations increased 29 percent, suggesting that pediatric hospitalizations rose at nearly twice the rate.

The number of kids hospitalized with Covid has more than doubled in 10 states, as well as in Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, according to the analysis. The data does not specify whether the children were vaccinated or vaccine-eligible.

But the states that have contributed the most to the rise in pediatric hospitalizations are Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Ohio.

Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told NBC’s “TODAY” show on Tuesday that the increase was probably inevitable because of the arrival of winter and the transmissibility of the omicron variant.

“It’s winter, and this is a winter virus, and this omicron is particularly contagious, so I think you were going to see an increase anyway,” said Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the hospital.

However, he said, his hospital has seen a lot of kids test positive for Covid without necessarily showing symptoms or getting sick.

“We test anybody who’s admitted to the hospital for whatever reason to see whether or not they have Covid, and we’re definitely seeing an increase in cases. However, we’re really not seeing an increase in children who are hospitalized for Covid or in the intensive care unit for Covid,” Offit said.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, patients are counted among those with Covid if they are suspected of having or laboratory-confirmed positive for the disease, even if they were not originally admitted to the hospital for that reason.

Dr. Buddy Creech, a pediatric infectious disease expert at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said the contagiousness of omicron serves as the latest reminder that children are not immune to Covid.

“We saw similar things happen when the delta variant came along,” he said. “We had taken for granted that children were relatively under-affected by Covid, and we saw an uptick in the number of children infected and therefore admitted to the hospital with complications.”

He added that physicians are learning that the omicron variant appears to replicate far better in the nose and upper airways than previous variants, meaning parents should look out for potential symptoms such as a scratchy throat or a runny nose.

“We may end up seeing more of the classic respiratory illness,” similar to viruses such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, Creech said.

In general, pediatric Covid cases are mild compared with those of adults. But kids can develop serious complications, including long Covid and an inflammatory syndrome that reaches several organs, called MIS-C. The syndrome is most common in children ages 5 to 11.

In recent days, New York has seen a particularly notable increase, putting more parents on high alert.

The New York State Department of Health sent a notice to physicians on Christmas Eve warning of an “upward trend” in pediatric hospitalizations.

The increase was concentrated in the New York City area, according to the notice, which drew from data compiled between Dec. 5 to the week starting Dec. 19.

The notice did not specify the number of children hospitalized, but it said New York City admissions rose “fourfold” during that time period in December.

Half of the children admitted to hospitals during that period were younger than 5, meaning they are not eligible for a Covid vaccine.

If the pediatric hospitalizations do not abate by early January, the Biden administration will have to look at the vaccination policy for younger children and schools will have to revisit their attendance plans.




New Book:  “The Young H.G. Wells” By Claire Tomalin!

The Young H. G. Wells: Changing the World by [Claire Tomalin]


Dear Commons Community,

I have just finished reading The Young H.G. Wells:  Changing the World, by highly- celebrated biographer, Claire Tomalin.  A former literary editor for the New Statesman and the Sunday Times,Tomalin has won awards for books on Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, Samuel Pepys and her own autobiography, A Life of My Own.  I started reading science fiction as a teenager and Wells was one of my favorite authors and futurists.  The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds were riveting for me.  As an adult, I had faint knowledge of Wells as a leading figure in the British socialism movement and the Fabian Society.  Tomalin does a deep dive into both sides of Wells and adds fine coverage of his impoverished youth, serious illnesses, his wives and lovers, and friends such George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, and Sidney and Beatrice Webb.  Tomalin provides a summary of his affair with Amber Reeves, twenty years younger and mother of one his children  as:

“But in life Wells and Amber Reeves separated, she to marry another man and lead a quiet, productive, and long life, bearing more children, lecturing, and writing – he to remain married to his wife, and to embark on another passionate affair in 1913 in which he fathered another illegitimate child – and to enjoy ever growing financial success as a writer, and world fame.”

I highly recommend this book if you have any interest in Wells, his life, his novels or his activism in social causes.

Below is a review that appeared in The New York Times.



The New York Times Review of Books

How H.G. Wells Predicted the 20th Century

By Charles Johnson

Nov. 19, 2021

The Young H.G. Wells:  Changing the World
By Claire Tomalin

Toward the end of Claire Tomalin’s well-researched biography “The Young H. G. Wells: Changing the World,” she writes:

“I set out to write a book about the young Wells, covering his formation, the years in which he worked, thought and developed his skills as a writer. … He was playful, fun to be with, attractive to women and eager for sex. He had strongly held political views favoring social equality, republicanism and the establishment of world government. He saw himself as a working writer, not an artist in an ivory tower; he was rightly proud of his achievements, and expected to be well paid for his work. And he could be unreliable, selfish and even vengeful.”

This reader shares Tomalin’s fascination with her complex subject because Herbert George Wells (1866-1946), a towering genius successful in many genres, knew, influenced or was admired by virtually every major writer and thinker of his time, between the publication of his first novel, “The Time Machine,” in 1895 and the end of World War II. (Every writer of speculative fiction since then will forever be in his debt.) This list is astonishing for its diversity, including such figures as Winston Churchill, Wells’s teacher Thomas H. Huxley, Bertrand Russell, Conan Doyle, Joseph Conrad, Stephen Crane, George Bernard Shaw, Henry James, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and architects of the Bolshevik Revolution. As Tomalin writes, “his celebrity was immense,” and as Shaw observed, Wells had in his late-Victorian world “every social circle in the kingdom open to him.”

But he was not born into wealth or privilege, though he and his mother, Sarah, a woman “deeply religious and devoted to the Church of England,” saw themselves as middle-class. We must admire the way Wells managed to overcome poverty and physical illness. “For two years,” writes Tomalin, “the family lived on meager fare — bread and cheese, half a herring for breakfast.” And Wells, as a boy, survived a broken tibia, then later after a rough game of rugby, according to a doctor’s diagnosis, “a crushed kidney and a bruised liver.” More than once, he found himself coughing up blood.

Fortunately, his mother secured employment as the maid of Frances Bullock, wife of a wealthy landowner and the owner of Uppark, “one of the most luxurious and elegantly furnished great houses in the country.” Living at Uppark with Sarah in the servants’ quarters, young Wells found a library of great literature, he could read and convalesce when ill, and during these early years wrote and illustrated his first book, “The Desert Daisy,” when he was 12 or 13 years old.

Time and again in his youth, he was confronted with career options wrong for his multiple talents, originality, imagination and critical intelligence — for example, as a chemist’s assistant, and a trial apprenticeship at Hyde’s Drapery Emporium that became “the unhappiest and most hopeless period of his entire life.” Yet some early work like being a student-teacher served him well, giving him the chance to educate himself in the fields of anatomy, mathematics, chemistry, especially biology, geometry, and then win a scholarship to the Normal School of Science. There, his talent for debate and writing, his natural charm and sense of humor, blossomed.

At the Normal School of Science, we see him “always ready to set off on fresh paths,” in Tomalin’s words. “Taking on too much was the way Wells lived his life.” He gave talks at the college Debating Society, one being “The Past and Future of the Human Race,” which foreshadowed by a decade his vision of things to come in “The Time Machine,” a work initially published in the first issue of New Review by his friend William Henley, best known for his poem “Invictus.”

Tomalin, who has written biographies of Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys and other writers, found that she could not simply deliver the young Wells and confesses that “I have found him too interesting to leave.” Thus, all of Wells’s life emerges here as she takes us carefully through three important, overlapping profiles of one of England’s enduring, most widely read and cited literary artists. One profile is Wells as a social activist determined, as he said, “to write, talk and preach revolution.” He was an atheist, a socialist and the author of scores of books where he frequently dreamed of a better social world; his political publications were as influential and popular as his groundbreaking science fiction tales, which he called “scientific romances.” We learn about his important though not entirely comfortable involvement with the visionary progressives in the Fabian Society. In his best-selling work “Anticipations,” he told a friend, his intention was “to undermine and destroy the monarch, monogamy and respectability — and the British Empire, all under the guise of a speculation about motorcars and electrical heating.” It is no little achievement that his 1940 “The Rights of Man” became “one of the sources for the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights” proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly.

Wells did, in fact, destroy monogamy and respectability in his own life. Examining at length this unpleasant, sad dimension, Tomalin enables us to see that “he was a bad husband and an unreliable lover,” with the person he hurt the most being his second wife, Jane, who “found herself abandoned for ever longer periods as the years went by, while he carried on his love affairs in blazes of publicity.”

So it is this biography’s last profile of Wells as a prolific, original storyteller that ensorcelled me as a young reader and, as a writer, cemented my respect for him. Though he was often sick, and self-educated, his early literary labors were prodigious. Before his success with “The Time Machine,” he took work copying diagrams for slides sold to medical students, tutored students, devised quiz questions for cheap magazines and wrote two popular science textbooks, one of which he illustrated, yet to him they were hackwork. He edited a journal and weekly, churned out book reviews, tried his hand unsuccessfully at playwriting, sold lightweight pieces to The Pall Mall Gazette, which, to his surprise, earned him more money than he received from teaching. All this is but the iceberg’s tip of his voluminous literary outpourings.

“There was a period when he was turning out 7,000 words a day,” writes Tomalin. “He kept working at what seems an impossible rate, producing stories so varied one might easily think they came from a team of writers.” Few writers will equal his worldwide impact on letters. With Jules Verne and the publisher Hugo Gernsback, he invented the genre of science fiction. A crater on the moon’s far side is named after him. Nominated four times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Wells, the futurist, foresaw the coming of aircraft, tanks, the sexual revolution, the atomic bomb, and created the classic templates for every story that has been written about alien invasion (his inspiration for “The War of the Worlds,” says Tomalin, was “Tasmania, and the disaster the arrival of the Europeans had been for its people, who were annihilated”) and time travel (he was the first to imagine such travel made possible by a machine).

Would that I could mention all the illuminating details in this biography, for example, why Wells praised Black Americans so highly, saying, “I took a mighty liking to these gentle, human, dark-skinned people,” and “Whatever America has to show in heroic living today, I doubt if she can show anything finer than the quality of the resolve, the steadfast efforts hundreds of black and colored men are making today to live blamelessly, honorably and patiently, getting by themselves what scraps of refinement, beauty and learning they may, keeping their hold on a civilization they are grudged and denied.” This book’s subtitle is exactly right, for Wells did change our world. And Tomalin’s account of his early years educates and entertains, despite the difficulty of delivering the large life and legacy of H. G. Wells in a single volume.



Video: Anthony Fauci Says Vaccine Requirement For Domestic Air Travel Should Be ‘Seriously’ Considered!


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Dear Commons Community,

Dr. Anthony Fauci said a coronavirus vaccine requirement for domestic air travel should be “seriously” considered as the omicron variant spreads across the globe.

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” yesterday, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases argued that making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for flights within the United States would encourage more people to receive a vaccine, pointing to similar requirements to attend universities or work at certain companies\

“When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,” he said. “If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered.”

The U.S. currently requires most international travelers coming into the country to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but has no such rules for travel within the U.S.

Fauci stopped short of saying he’d publicly recommend the change to President Joe Biden, who earlier this month said he wasn’t yet planning to implement the policy.

Fauci also addressed the issue of a vaccine mandate during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” (see video above) on Sunday, similarly arguing that the main goal of the policy would be incentivizing vaccination and pressing that it is crucial for individuals to still wear masks on planes despite the advanced filtration systems on most aircraft.

Fauci’s remarks come as the omicron variant spreads rapidly across the U.S., accounting for the vast majority of new coronavirus infections in the country.

“It has an extraordinary capability of transmitting very efficiently from person to person,” Fauci said on MSNBC of the variant, urging people to take precautions and get their booster vaccination doses if they haven’t yet.

“It’s not something to be taken lightly,” he said.

The U.S. currently mandates that most foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, though citizens and permanent residents only need to show proof of a negative test taken within a day of boarding. Federal rules don’t require people travelling by air within the U.S. to show a negative test. Hawaii requires travelers to test or show proof of vaccination to avoid a mandatory quarantine.

Biden did not respond to questions on whether he was considering implementing a domestic air travel vaccination requirement, but he told reporters the subject was discussed on a call with the nation’s governors Monday morning.

“They asked Dr. Fauci some more questions about everything from whether or not he thought he was going to move to test at home — I mean, on air flights and that kind of thing,” Biden said of the call before departing the White House for his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

During the virtual meeting with governors, Biden pledged the full support of the federal government to states facing surges in COVID-19 cases from the more-transmissible omicron variant and a run on at-home tests that dominated headlines over the holiday season.

“My message is: If you need something, say something, and we’re going to have your back any way we can,” Biden said. He acknowledged long lines and chaotic scenes as Americans sought out testing amid the case surge and as they looked to safely gather with family and friends over the holiday.

“Seeing how tough it was for some folks to get a test this weekend shows that we have more work to do,” he said. He referenced his administration’s plan to make 500 million rapid tests available to Americans beginning next month through an as-yet-to-be-developed website.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the National Governors Association chairman, raised concerns Biden’s plan could get in the way of state efforts to boost supply of tests.

“That dries up the supply chain for what we might offer as governors,” he said, saying the lack of supply “has become a real challenge.”

Biden assured Hutchinson that the federal effort won’t interfere with state actions. “This gets solved at the state level,” he said.

A White House official said the new tests would come from new manufacturing capacity and wouldn’t interfere with existing supply chains. 

Earlier this year the White House explored a domestic vaccination requirement for flights, or one requiring either vaccination or proof of negative test. But officials have not been eager to mandate vaccination for domestic air travel because they expected it to face immediate legal challenges, mitigating its potential effectiveness as a tool to drive up vaccinations.

Pressed last week on why Biden had not mandated vaccinations for domestic air travel, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told MSNBC that “we know that masking can be, is, very effective on airplanes.”

“We also know that putting in place that additional restriction might delay flights, might have additional implications,” she added. “We would do it, though, if the health impact was overwhelming. So we rely always on the advice of our health and medical experts. That isn’t a step at this point that they had determined we need to take.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show more than 241 million Americans, about 77% of the eligible population age 5 and over, have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. Officials believe, though, that there is some overcount in the figures due to record-keeping errors in the administration of booster shots. 

Since the summer, the Biden administration has embraced various vaccination requirements as a way to get unvaccinated Americans to roll up their sleeves. It has instituted requirements that federal workers, federal contractors and those who work in health care get their shots, and that employers with 100 or more employees institute vaccination-or-testing requirements for their workers. 

Those vaccination requirements have been mired in legal wrangling, with the Supreme Court set to hear arguments Jan. 7 in cases seeking to overturn them.

Tough medicine but maybe necessary!


Anthony Fauci ‘Stunned’ Trump Was Booed When He Announced His COVID Booster – Encourages Him to Continue to Speak Out!


866 pages of Fauci emails shed light on early days of COVID crisis - Axios

Dear Commons Community,

Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday that he was “stunned” and “dismayed” when former President Donald Trump was booed earlier this month after he revealed at an event that he had received his COVID-19 booster shot.

Fauci also had some rare praise for Trump and encouraged him to continue to speak out in support of vaccinations to battle the pandemic.

“I was a bit dismayed when former president Trump came out and made that statement, and his followers booed him. I was stunned by that,” the chief White House medical adviser told Jonathan Karl ABC’s “This Week.”

“Given the fact of how popular he is with that group, that they would boo him … tells me how recalcitrant they are about being told what they should do,” he added.

Trump “continuing to say that people should get vaccinated and articulating that to them, in my mind, is a good thing,” Fauci said. “I hope he keeps it up.”

Fauci also warned of the ongoing “rapid spread” of “this extraordinary” omicron variant of COVID-19 and its risk of overwhelming hospitals.

While the hospitalizations and death rates appear to be far less than the last wave, the “sheer volume” of cases can become so great that a serious toll — especially among the unvaccinated — could nevertheless be significant, he noted.

Trump revealed that he had received a COVID booster during a live appearance in Dallas a week ago with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who pointed out that both men were vaccinated.

When O’Reilly asked Trump if he had received his booster, the former president responded, “Yes” — and was booed.

“That’s all right; it’s a very tiny group over there,” Trump snapped back. (Trump told viewers on Fox News in August that COVID booster shots were “crazy.”)

The day after the Dallas event Trump told conservative talk show host Candace Owens: “If you take the vaccine, you’re protected. The results of the vaccine are very good. If you do get [COVID-19], it’s a very minor form. People aren’t dying when they take the vaccine.”

Trump has since been viciously attacked by some of his staunchest supporters.

Far-right InfoWars host Alex Jones issued an “emergency Christmas Day warning” to Trump. “You are either completely ignorant .. or you are one of the most evil men who ever lived … What you told Candace Owens is nothing but a raft of dirty lies,” he said on his program.

Better late than never!


Archbishop Desmond Tutu Dies at Age 90!

Desmond Tutu, South African Archbishop and Anti-Apartheid Leader, Dies at 90

Dear Commons Community,

Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist for racial justice and LGBT rights and retired Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, has died, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced yesterday. He was 90. As reported by the Associated Press.

An uncompromising foe of apartheid — South Africa’s brutal regime of oppression against the Black majority — Tutu worked tirelessly, though non-violently, for its downfall.

The buoyant, blunt-spoken clergyman used his pulpit as the first Black bishop of Johannesburg and later Archbishop of Cape Town as well as frequent public demonstrations to galvanize public opinion against racial inequity both at home and globally.

Tutu’s death on Sunday “is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.

“From the pavements of resistance in South Africa to the pulpits of the world’s great cathedrals and places of worship, and the prestigious setting of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Arch distinguished himself as a non-sectarian, inclusive champion of universal human rights.”

Tutu died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Center in Cape Town, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Trust said in a statement Sunday.

Tutu had been hospitalized several times since 2015, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997.

“Typically he turned his own misfortune into a teaching opportunity to raise awareness and reduce the suffering of others,” said the Tutu trust’s statement. “He wanted the world to know that he had prostate cancer, and that the sooner it is detected the better the chance of managing it.”

In recent years he and his wife, Leah, lived in a retirement community outside Cape Town.

Throughout the 1980s — when South Africa was gripped by anti-apartheid violence and a state of emergency giving police and the military sweeping powers — Tutu was one of the most prominent Blacks able to speak out against abuses.

A lively wit lightened Tutu’s hard-hitting messages and warmed otherwise grim protests, funerals and marches. Short, plucky, tenacious, he was a formidable force, and apartheid leaders learned not to discount his canny talent for quoting apt scriptures to harness righteous support for change.

The Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 highlighted his stature as one of the world’s most effective champions for human rights, a responsibility he took seriously for the rest of his life.

With the end of apartheid and South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, Tutu celebrated the country’s multi-racial society, calling it a “rainbow nation,” a phrase that captured the heady optimism of the moment.

Nicknamed “the Arch,” Tutu was diminutive, with an impish sense of humor, but became a towering figure in his nation’s history, comparable to fellow Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela, a prisoner during white rule who became South Africa’s first Black president. Tutu and Mandela shared a commitment to building a better, more equal South Africa.

In 1990, after 27 years in prison, Mandela spent his first night of freedom at Tutu’s residence in Cape Town. Later, Mandela called Tutu “the people’s archbishop.”

Upon becoming president in 1994, Mandela appointed Tutu to be chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which uncovered the abuses of the apartheid system.

Tutu campaigned internationally for human rights, especially LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.

“I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this,” he said in 2013, launching a campaign for LGBT rights in Cape Town. “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say, ‘Sorry, I would much rather go to the other place.’”

Tutu said he was “as passionate about this campaign (for LGBT rights) as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.” He was one of the most prominent religious leaders to advocate LGBT rights. Tutu’s very public stance for LGBT rights put him at odds with many in South Africa and across the continent as well as within the Anglican church.

South Africa, Tutu said, was a “rainbow” nation of promise for racial reconciliation and equality, even though he grew disillusioned with the African National Congress, the anti-apartheid movement that became the ruling party in 1994 elections. His outspoken remarks long after apartheid sometimes angered partisans who accused him of being biased or out of touch.

Tutu was particularly incensed by the South African government’s refusal to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama, preventing the Tibetan spiritual leader from attending Tutu’s 80th birthday celebration as well as a planned gathering of Nobel laureates in Cape Town. South Africa rejected Tutu’s accusations that it was bowing to pressure from China, a major trading partner.

Early in 2016, Tutu defended the reconciliation policy that ended white minority rule amid increasing frustration among some South Africans who felt they had not seen the expected economic opportunities and other benefits since apartheid ended. Tutu had chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that investigated atrocities under apartheid and granted amnesty to some perpetrators, but some people believe more former white officials should have been prosecuted.

Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born Oct. 7, 1931, in Klerksdorp, west of Johannesburg, and became a teacher before entering St. Peter’s Theological College in Rosetenville in 1958 for training as a priest. He was ordained in 1961 and six years later became chaplain at the University of Fort Hare. Moves to the tiny southern African kingdom of Lesotho and to Britain followed, with Tutu returning home in 1975. He became bishop of Lesotho, chairman of the South African Council of Churches and, in 1985 the first Black Anglican bishop of Johannesburg and then in 1986, the first Black archbishop of Cape Town. He ordained women priests and promoted gay priests.

Tutu was arrested in 1980 for taking part in a protest and later had his passport confiscated for the first time. He got it back for trips to the United States and Europe, where he held talks with the U.N. secretary-general, the pope and other church leaders.

Tutu called for international sanctions against South Africa and talks to end the conflict.

Tutu often conducted funeral services after the massacres that marked the negotiating period of 1990-1994. He railed against black-on-black political violence, asking crowds, “Why are we doing this to ourselves?” In one powerful moment, Tutu defused the rage of thousands of mourners in a township soccer stadium after the Boipatong massacre of 42 people in 1992, leading the crowd in chants proclaiming their love of God and themselves.

After Mandela became president in 1994, he asked Tutu to head the truth commission to promote racial reconciliation. The panel listened to harrowing testimony about torture, killings and other atrocities during apartheid. At some hearings, Tutu wept openly.

“Without forgiveness, there is no future,” he said at the time. The commission’s 1998 report lay most of the blame on the forces of apartheid, but also found the African National Congress guilty of human rights violations. The ANC sued to block the document’s release, earning a rebuke from Tutu. “I didn’t struggle in order to remove one set of those who thought they were tin gods to replace them with others who are tempted to think they are,” Tutu said.

In July 2015, Tutu renewed his 1955 wedding vows with wife Leah. The Tutus’ four children and other relatives surrounded the elderly couple in a church ceremony. “You can see that we followed the biblical injunction: We multiplied and we’re fruitful,” Tutu told the congregation. “But all of us here want to say thank you … We knew that without you, we are nothing.”

Tutu is survived by his wife of 66 years and their four children.

Asked once how he wanted to be remembered, he told The Associated Press: “He loved. He laughed. He cried. He was forgiven. He forgave. Greatly privileged.”

I had the honor of meeting Bishop  Tutu in 1986 when he gave the commencement address at Hunter College.

He had a warm smile and an aura of eminence around him.


Video: NASA Launches the James Webb Space Telescope!

Dear Commons Community,

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, built to peer deep into the cosmos, was launched by rocket yesterday (see video above)  from South America’s northeastern coast, opening a much anticipated new era of astronomical exploration. 

The powerful $9 billion infrared telescope, hailed by NASA as the premiere space-science observatory of the next decade, was carried aloft inside the cargo bay of an Ariane 5 rocket that blasted off at about 7:30 a.m. EST from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) launch base in French Guiana. 

If all goes as planned, the 14,000-pound instrument will be released from the French-built rocket after a 26-minute ride into space and gradually unfurl to nearly the size of a tennis court over the next 13 days as it sails onward.  As reported by Reuters.

Coasting through space for two more weeks, the Webb telescope will reach its destination in solar orbit 1 million miles from Earth – about four times farther away than the moon. And Webb’s special orbital path will keep it in constant alignment with Earth as the planet and telescope circle the sun in tandem. 

By comparison, Webb’s 30-year-old predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, orbits the Earth from 340 miles away, passing in and out of the planet’s shadow every 90 minutes. 

Named after the man who oversaw NASA through most of its formative decade of the 1960s, Webb is about 100 times more sensitive than Hubble and is expected to transform scientists’ understanding of the universe and our place in it. 

Webb mainly will view the cosmos in the infrared spectrum, allowing it to peer through clouds of gas and dust where stars are being born, while Hubble has operated primarily at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths. 

The new telescope’s primary mirror – consisting of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-coated beryllium metal – also has a much bigger light-collecting area, enabling it to observe objects at greater distances, thus farther back into time, than Hubble or any other telescope. 

That, astronomers say, will bring into view a glimpse of the cosmos never previously seen – dating to just 100 million years after the Big Bang, the theoretical flashpoint that set in motion the expansion of the observable universe an estimated 13.8 billion years ago. 

Hubble’s view reached back to roughly 400 million years following the Big Bang, revealing objects that Webb will be able to re-examine with far greater clarity. 

Aside from examining the formation of the earliest stars in the universe, astronomers are eager to study super-massive black holes believed to occupy the centers of distant galaxies. 

Webb’s instruments also make it ideal to search for evidence of potentially life-supporting atmospheres around scores of newly documented exoplanets – celestial bodies orbiting distant stars – and to observe worlds much closer to home, such as Mars and Saturn’s icy moon Titan. 

The telescope is an international collaboration led by NASA in partnership with the European and Canadian space agencies. Northrop Grumman Corp was the primary contractor. The Arianespace launch vehicle is part of the European contribution. 

Webb was developed at a cost of $8.8 billion, with operational expenses projected to bring its total price tag to about $9.66 billion, far higher than planned when NASA was previously aiming for a 2011 launch. 

Astronomical operation of the telescope, to be managed from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, is expected to begin in the summer of 2022, following about six months of alignment and calibration of Webb’s mirrors and instruments. 

It is then that NASA expects to release the initial batch of images captured by Webb. Webb is designed to last up to 10 years. 

Godspeed Webb!