Coronavirus Tidbits #240 April 9, 2023


First, there is now a Resources Page here for the most commonly asked questions I'm getting.

Happy to continue to answer your questions/concerns as best I can, so don't be shy about that.

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No surprise: A federal judge Kacsmaryk in Texas has ruled that the Food and Drug Administration’s initial authorization of the abortion pill Mifepristone was improper and has suspended the pill’s FDA approval. The ruling will take effect in 7 days if not stayed by the 5th circuit or SCOTUS.

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Our very conservative local news paper had this remarkable editorial about the new abortion clinic due to open here in this "abortion desert" to serve WV, W MD, Ohio women:

Noting that this is a red state, they wrote:
"Given the radical and deeply personal opinions on the topic, it may be hard, but we would encourage everyone to use decency. Don’t harass people who use the clinic as we do not know the nature of their visit or the circumstance of their lives.
Making assumptions without grace is an ugly, ugly way to act."
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Daughter's baby is CURE ID. This is the first publication coming out of their work on getting a (relatively) rapid analysis of patient data to guide clinical trials and practice.

A Path to Real-World Evidence in Critical Care Using Open-Source Data Harmonization Tools

COVID-19 highlighted the need for use of real-world data (RWD) in critical care as a near real-time resource for clinical, research, and policy efforts. Analysis of RWD is gaining momentum and can generate important evidence for policy makers and regulators. Extracting high quality RWD from electronic health records (EHRs) requires sophisticated infrastructure and dedicated resources. We sought to customize freely available public tools, supporting all phases of data harmonization, from data quality assessments to de-identification procedures, and generation of robust, data science ready RWD from EHRs. These data are made available to clinicians and researchers through CURE ID, a free platform which facilitates access to case reports of challenging clinical cases and repurposed treatments

Society of Critical Care Medicine Discovery's collaboration with FDA's CURE ID, Critical Path Institute (C-Path), Emory University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins, IDDO



Air pollution is linked to lower COVID-19 vaccine responses

People exposed to higher levels of air pollution before the pandemic had lower antibody responses to COVID-19 vaccines, according to a study led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), in collaboration with the Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute (IGTP). In particular, exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and blank carbon (BC) was associated with about a 10% decrease in IgM and IgG antibody responses in people without prior infection.

The findings, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, provide further evidence on the adverse effects of air pollution on the immune system.

[Another reason for racial disparities and higher death rate among Blacks and Latinos?]

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FDA expected to authorize second bivalent COVID booster for risk groups

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within the next few weeks will authorize second bivalent (two-strain) COVID vaccine boosters for the highest risk groups, officials with knowledge of the plans told the Washington Post.

[A more recent interview w FDA's Rob Califf suggests we shouldn't hold our breath waiting for this decision.]

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Two infants born to COVID-infected mothers suffer severe brain damage

A University of Miami case study published today in Pediatrics suggests that SARS-CoV-2 breached the placenta, causing brain damage in two newborns.

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Important new report on #LongCovid and the brain demonstrating persistence of the virus spike protein, throughout the body and particularly the skull-meninges axis, both in humans and the mouse model
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@AmeshAA   Apr 6
“Air pollution can induce chronic inflammation, which has been associated with a negative effect on vaccine efficacy,"
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Bird Flu:

The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses have been detected in U.S. wild aquatic birds, commercial poultry, and backyard or hobbyist flocks since January 2022, causing the destruction of 58,645,211 birds. These are the first detections of HPAI viruses A (H5N1) in the U.S. since 2016.

The virus is increasingly being found in mammals in the United States and other countries.

[No vaccine is in sight...]

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Dog Dies from Bird Flu in Canada

dog was infected with bird flu after chewing on a wild goose.

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Lassa Fever

Nigeria records 823 Lassa fever cases, 144 deaths (among 4108 suspected cases)

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Marburg virus

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a level 2 travel alert for Equatorial Guinea due to its Marburg virus, the country's first. The CDC urged people to avoid nonessential travel to affected provinces. The CDC has also issued a level 1 travel watch notice for Tanzania, another African country battling its first Marburg virus outbreak.

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Is Polio coming back to America?

Why we should worry about that case in Rockland County, NY - Paul Offit

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Pandemic Preparedness:

...The authors propose that four goals should be considered in the pandemic agreement being negotiated, to prevent pandemics originating from the wildlife trade (including markets and other aspects along the trade chain):

* The risk that the wildlife trade poses to human health needs to be better understood.
* It is imperative for each country to conduct an assessment of the risk posed from the wildlife trade.
* Countries need to make pledges to reduce or eliminate such risk, from wildlife trade, or to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.
* Funding commitments need to be made to ensure the three previous goals can be met.

[Good luck achieving any of this...and most recent pandemics are spillover from animals]

Full text:

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Big Brother's NIH plan:

The National Institutes on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, is launching a $300 million research fund focused on Alzheimer’s disease.

The research fund aims to track the health of Americans for decades, with the intent of housing the long-term health information of 70% to 90% of the population. The news was first reported by Reuters.

NIA will fund the project, with the platform using data from medical records, insurance claims, pharmacies, mobile devices, sensors and various government agencies. By tracking health data, researchers are hopeful to make advancements in Alzheimer’s with the health information of patients before and after they are diagnosed. For example, Alzheimer’s symptoms can be seen up to 20 years before memory issues arise.

Ideally, the database will help identify healthy people at risk for Alzheimer’s, which impacts six million Americans. These identified people could be eligible for drug trials.

[Sounds like a bad idea. What kind of protections are there for patients from insurers or discrimination?]


still an incredible, negligent last of testing.


Over-the-counter Narcan: A big win for public health

Narcan, the naloxone nasal spray used to reverse opioid overdose, was approved Wednesday for over-the-counter sale by the Food and Drug Administration. It's a major victory for harm-reduction advocates and public health professionals—and a much needed step toward preventing thousands of overdose deaths each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that almost half of fatal overdoses had a bystander present.

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'Morning after' antibiotics could slash odds for common STDs

A "morning after" dose of a common antibiotic can greatly lower the chances of sexually transmitted bacterial infections in high-risk people, a new clinical trial has found.

[But at what cost in terms of antibiotic resistance?]


Epidemiology/Infection control:

COVID XBB.1.16 Strain 'One to Watch,' Says WHO

— Reports so far on highly infectious "Arcturus" subvariant do not indicate a rise in severe cases, It's been detected in over 20 countries and contributing to a recent surge of COVID cases in India. XBB.1.16 has replaced the other variants that are in circulation, so this is one to watch." XBB.1.16 has high infectivity and pathogenicity, Van Kerkhove noted. It's estimated that the lineage comprises 2.9% of current U.S. cases.

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Influenza D - Cow flu

A new flu is spilling over from cows to people in the U.S. How worried should we be? #InfluenzaD #FluD

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How Covid is transmitted in households, via a prospective study and dense longitudinal testing (through Alpha variant wave)

Hands and surfaces play a role

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2) It’s actually worse than that chart made out, because at most points on the income distribution, Americans earn much more than Brits. If we plot the same data by actual income instead of percentile, the US deficit is vast. 5 fewer years even among the comfortably-off.

Things have deteriorated so much that the average American now has the same healthy life expectancy (years lived in good health) as someone in Blackpool, the town with England’s lowest life expectancy (by far), synonymous with deep-rooted social decline

I think that bears repeating. *The average American* has the same chance of a long and healthy life as someone born in the most deprived part of England, a place with the highest rates of relationship breakdown and some of the highest rates of antidepressant prescribing.

So what’s happening? When people hear about life expectancy they often think about older people, broad-based health problems, but the US problem is quite specific and quite different: it’s young people dying from external causes.

Time for perhaps the most damning stat of all: One in 25 American five-year-olds today will not make it to their 40th birthday. No parent should ever have to bury their child, but on average across the US one set of parents from every kindergarten class most likely will.

Here’s another way of showing the same thing: Beyond age 70, US mortality/survival rates are very similar to other rich countries. But between teenage years and early middle age there is a vast gulf.

This has an outsized impact on life exp because deaths at early ages erase far more life than even a large number of older folks dying slightly early. More years of American lives were erased by drugs, guns & road deaths in 2021 alone than from Covid during the whole pandemic.

The result is that the US is the only developed country where even if you strip out all Covid deaths, life expectancy still dropped by a year since 2019

So we have a steady climb in “deaths of despair” and other violent/external deaths, plus the heavy toll exacted by very high rates of diet-related disease (cardiovascular diseases etc). Why is the US so badly afflicted?

One strong possibility is because the US is the ultimate “individual responsibility” country. Every person for themselves, weaker social safety nets. So, far more people slip through the cracks and find themselves in situations that make obesity, violence and drugs more likely.

Plus (directly related): huge emphasis on personal freedoms means more guns, more dangerous/unsafe driving, more lethal vehicles than similarly developed countries. So a perfect storm of 1) more people pushed into bad situations, 2) easier for bad situations to become deadly.

Wider inequalities don’t help. Look back at the first charts: despite being a richer society on average, the poorest in the US are even poorer than the poorest English. That’s taking the society-wide US disadvantage and multiplying it.

Worse access to healthcare will certainly be playing a part too, but the types and ages of deaths suggest the US’s life expectancy problem is as much (if not more) a social problem than a health problem in terms of the way we should think about it.

long thread and graphics continues...

Tips, general reading for public:




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Woman warns scam kidnappers are now spoofing real family members’ numbers to convince victims

“If you get a call like this, I read that it’s recommended that you hang up and then immediately call back because it’ll call your actual contact,” she said.



@FemiYahtzee   Jul 4, 2022
I live in Virginia. I’m on low-dose naltrexone as an off-label treatment for long Covid to reduce clotting. My pharmacy won’t refill my Rx because it can cause miscarriage.

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@karag   Apr 6
Shocking new @CDCgov data: Only half of #K12 public school districts have gone to continuous airflow in the time of COVID Only a third have upgraded #HVAC systems
Just over a quarter added in-room HEPA filtration
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@kylegriffin1 April 2
WaPo: Investigators now suspect, based on witness statements, security footage, and other evidence, that boxes including classified material were moved from a Mar-a-Lago storage area after the subpoena was served, and that Trump personally examined at least some of those boxes.
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@TristanSnell   Apr 2
Trump himself hid documents at Mar-a-Lago, and DOJ has proof, including witness testimony, texts, and video footage. AFTER getting the grand jury subpoena, Trump went through docs personally — and then they were moved elsewhere at Mar-a-Lago (including his office).
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April 5  Rachel Maddow REFUSED to air Trump’s post-arrest remarks on MSNBC because they weren’t “newsworthy.” “As far as we can tell…he is repeating his same lies and allegations against his perceived enemies,” she said. The most significant part of her decision was that it stood apart from other networks. While MSNBC completely ignored Trump’s speech, Fox News predictably carried it in full, and CNN aired most of the address.
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Party officials across the country have sought to erect more barriers for young voters, who tilt heavily Democratic, after several cycles in which their turnout surged.

Idaho banned student ID cards as a form of voter identification.

Texas, where 2019 legislation shuttered early voting sites on many college campuses,

TX introduced the bill to eliminate all polling places on college campuses this year,

Idaho will join Texas and only four others — North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee — that do not accept any student IDs, Arizona and Wisconsin have rigid rules on student IDs that colleges and universities have struggled to meet

Georgia has accepted student IDs only from public colleges and universities since 2006,

Gift article link:

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GOP/SCOTUS  Clarence Thomas sleaze
For decades, Justice Clarence Thomas has secretly accepted luxury trips from a major Republican donor, newly obtained documents and interviews show. The extent and frequency of these apparent gifts to Thomas has no known precedent in modern SCOTUS history...
palling around w real estate magnate Harlan Crow and Leonard Leo, the longtime Federalist Society executive who is regarded as an architect of the Supreme Court’s recent turn to the right and recently received $1.6 billion for a new conservative political group:
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Justice Clarence Thomas did not recuse himself from McDonnell v. United States (2016), which was about whether government officials accepting free stuff from right-wing mega donors is potentially a crime.
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"It was 2004 when the LA Times disclosed that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had accepted expensive gifts & private plane trips paid for by Harlan Crow"

@latimes @DavidGSavage. Today's blockbuster by @propublica shows "he stopped disclosing them."
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@krassenstein  April 8
Just putting this out there, but Harlan Crow, the dude who has been paying for Clarence Thomas and Ginni Thomas to go on $500k vacations over the last 20 years, also owns a signed copy of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf."  Here's a photo of his book below.
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@laurahelmuth  April 8
Harlan Crow's historical collection includes a startling amount of Nazi memorabilia, including a copy of Mein Kampf signed by the author himself, a pair of the dictator’s cityscape paintings, Nazi medallions, swastika-embossed linens and more.  Rolling Stone
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Abortion/Reproductive rights:
No surprise: A federal judge Kacsmaryk in Texas has ruled that the Food and Drug Administration’s initial authorization of the abortion pill Mifepristone was improper and has suspended the pill’s FDA approval. The ruling will take effect in 7 days if not stayed by the 5th circuit or SCOTUS.
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Oregon’s attorney general says a lawsuit led by Oregon and Washington won its case to preserve mifepristone access.

The case, which was joined by 16 other states, was decided by a federal judge Thomas Rice in eastern Washington, according to Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum.

Rice ruled that mifepristone — a drug used in medical abortions — is safe and effective, and ordered the FDA to preserve the “status quo.”

His ruling only applies to 17 states and the DC however.

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@ABCWorldNews   Mar 31
Multiple investigators in East Palestine, Ohio, fell ill while studying possible health impacts from the train derailment last month, the CDC says.
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@HillaryClinton   Mar 28
We had an assault weapons ban from 1994-2004 that prohibited the manufacture or sale for civilian use of certain semi-automatic weapons and banned magazines with 10 rounds or more. Mass shootings dropped during that decade. We did it once and should do it again.
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"Want to see the hurdles Biden really faces in making progress on guns? Come to W.Va."  Inability to modernize the ATF National Tracing Center:
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Privacy (or lack thereof): "The authors found that third-party tracking is present on 98.6 percent of these websites, including transfers to large technology companies, social media companies, advertising firms, and data brokers."
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@GovWhitmer   Mar 31
Today is #TransDayofVisibility. In Michigan, we’ll fight for your freedom to live your life, and be yourself without fear of discrimination. While other states are engaging in the business of bigotry, we’re taking action so every Michigander is free to be who they are.
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@Davis_Hammet   Apr 5
Kansas Republicans have successfully overridden the Governor veto to now authorize genital inspections of children in order for kids to play sports. A very dark & disturbing day. 
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@DigitalWarfare1   Apr 1
Did I forget to mention that Arizona Republicans leased farmland to Saudi Arabia who has been draining our water supply because they have none in Saudi Arabia but GOP sold us out for $$$. This will come back to bite all Americans. #Fresh #ProudBlue
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@ABC   Apr 1
The head of a police union in San Francisco, Joanne Marian Segovia, faces federal charges for allegedly smuggling thousands of synthetic opioids into the U.S. from multiple countries with the intent to distribute them.
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@senpizzo April 2
@FLSERT capably handles all manner of emergencies - they’re not meant to be a shuttle service for political theater.
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April 3 Tallahassee Police Department just arrested dozens of peaceful pro-choice protestors at City Hall outside of the Florida Capitol. This includes Senator @LeaderBookFL and FDP Chair @NikkiFriedFL. Abortion is health care.
They were peacefully protesting Fl abortion ban...Police said they were arrested for protesting after business hours.
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@fineout   Apr 6
 @GovRonDeSantis vows Disney will not win battle with state. Says Fla Leg will void development agmt & says since Disney "opened" things back up the state will "look" at hotel taxes, look at putting tolls on roads, look at developing property owned by new district
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banned student ID cards as a form of voter identification.
banning interstate travel for abortion for minors
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New York:
@ScottHech   Apr 1
You didn’t hear about this. The cruelest NYC Mayor in history—Eric Adams—just cut Medicare for 250k retirees in NY. His next target—in partnership w/ MAGA Republicans & NY’s new conservative Governor (masquerading as a Democrat)—repealing bail reform. Don’t buy what he’s selling.
(Also) NYC Mayor Eric Adams is still fighting to gut NYC public libraries ($36 million) & public schools while the NYPD just blew past their allotted budget by $100 million in overtime alone. $100 million would fund the library & school cuts with tens of millions to spare.
and forcing NYC taxpayers to pay a historic $121 million for civil rights settlement payouts to cover up police misconduct, violence, & abuse.
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North Carolina:
NC Democratic lawmaker Rep. Tricia Cotham switched her party affiliation to Republican, handing NC Republicans a legislative supermajority and the votes to override D Gov. Roy Cooper mid-legislative session. #ncpol
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North Dakota:
@Phil_Lewis_   Apr 7
North Dakota GOP senators voted to increase their own meal reimbursements, 10 days after voting against a bill to expand free school lunches for low-income students
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In Ohio, which has for years not accepted student IDs for voting, Republicans in January approved a broader photo ID requirement that also bars students from using university account statements or utility bills for voting purposes, as they had in the past.
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voted to expel 3 Democrats from legislature. They did w the 2 Blacks, who were protesting gun violence, but not against the white rep. Her comment:
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@JoyceWhiteVance   Apr 7  Good historical perspective
1/ What Tennessee did yesterday isn't just reprehensible. It also violates well-established law. In December of 1966, the United States Court unanimously decided a case called Bond v. Floyd. Julian Bond was a Black man, elected to the Georgia legislature.
2/ Several months after the election in June 1965 a civil rights organization Mr. Bond belonged to issued an anti-war statement about Vietnam, which he endorsed. White members of the Georgia House challenged Bond's right to be seated, After a hearing they refused to seat him.
3/Bond sued. He lost. While the appeal was pending, he was re-elected in a special election. Again, the House refused to seat him. He was elected in the regular election in 1966 & SCOTUS unanimously decided the case in his favor in December. What was the basis for their ruling?
4/They relied upon a famous 1st Amendment case, NYT v. Sullivan, holding that a State cannot limit legislators' expression of views on local or national policy. "Debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, & wide-open," the Bond Court wrote, citing Sullivan.
5/Members of the Tenn legislature have 1st Am rights. A challenge to those rights cannot be dressed up as a violation of decorum rules &when two Black legislators are expelled but not a white one, no amount of dissembling can erase the obvious conclusion that it's about racism.
6/SCOTUS in Bond: "The manifest function of the First Amendment in a representative government requires that legislators be given the widest latitude to express their views on issues of policy.” What happened in Tennessee on Thursday was outrageous & stupid & petty. Also illegal.
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Young voters turning out in Wisconsin, being forced to wait in ridiculously long lines to vote. Our insistence on exercising our rights is the way to fight back against voter suppression.
Hallelujah: Judge Janet Protasiewicz won the Supreme Court seat!
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@NoLieWithBTC   Apr 5
Wow. MAGA Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Dan Kelly just went full-on Trump, refusing to concede and attacking the voters: “The people of Wisconsin have chosen the rule of Janet... I do not have a worthy opponent to which I can concede!” 
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Evan Gershkovich, a Jewish American journalist, has been detained in Russia on charges of spying.
All of Evan Gershkovich’s @wsj reporting is now paywall free. As you read these, remember Evan was out on assignment, trying to bring us all more articles like these, when he was detained in Russia last week. #IStandWithEvan
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Vladimir Kara-Murza seeks a free Russia. The Kremlin gives him jail.

Feel good du jour:

Happy and heartwarming photos for the U.N.'s International Day of #Happiness ForMASHIHO : Goats and Soda : NPR


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Bits of beauty:

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