This week, reproductive rights in Texas, Hurricane Ida devastates New Orleans, deadly floods, and an alienated epidemiologist.
by Jasmine WeberSeptember 4, 2021Print
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Clint Smith, born and raised in New Orleans, wrote for the Atlantic about his family evacuating to Houston in advance of Hurricane Ida, just like he had at 17 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, and the uncertainty that remains in the wake:
Electricity remains out across the majority of New Orleans, and many days and weeks may pass before people are able to return to their home. Entergy, the regional utility company, has said that it is working as fast as it can to restore power, and there are signs that electricity is being restored slowly in small pockets of the city. But for many, power will likely be out for some time yet.
I don’t know how long the power will be out, and I don’t know how long people will be scattered in cities throughout the country waiting for word that they can go back home. What I know is that there will be more major storms like this in the future; climate change has assured us of that. And I feel more concerned than ever about the ability of our infrastructure to withstand what the next decades of this crisis will bring. This week was a reminder of how quickly all the light can disappear.
Dozens of people died in New York and New Jersey as a result of rampant flash floods. For the New York Times, Sarah Maslin Nir spoke with the families and friends of victims for a heart-wrenching account of the tragedy:
On Thursday, a day after New York City and the surrounding area was pummeled with the remnants of Hurricane Ida, an onslaught with a destructive power of shocking proportions, the region took stock of the mounting dead: As of late afternoon, at least 15 people had been found dead in New York State, at least 23 people had been killed in New Jersey, four were found dead in Pennsylvania and one person died in Connecticut.
Families and friends of the dead reeled as they relived the split seconds when the water took the people they loved. It was painfully sunny on Thursday, following the chaos of a storm that had swept in at about 9 the night before, washing through homes, swallowing up vehicles and sucking down lives.
The City spoke with food delivery workers who had to wade through floodwater for dismal wages during the tropical storm. (Seriously, don’t order delivery in a life-threatening storm. WTF.):
“It’s a cruel joke,” said Toño Solís, a member of the delivery worker labor collective Los Deliveristas Unidos, of the lousy wages and tips he received. “This is exactly why we protest and we organize — we need fair wages. These companies are getting richer and richer and we’re only earning $5 in these conditions.”
The US has discarded over 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses since March of this year, while nations worldwide face difficulty acquiring the vaccines for their populations:
The data on wasted doses comes as the more contagious delta variant spreads rapidly across the United States, adding fresh urgency to the effort to vaccinate as many people as possible and spurring a plan to begin offering booster shots to those already vaccinated — even as many nations around the world have vaccinated few, if any, of their residents.
“It’s really tragic that we have a situation where vaccines are being wasted while lots of African countries have not had even 5 percent of their populations vaccinated,” said Sharifah Sekalala, an associate professor of global health law at England’s University of Warwick, who studies inequalities in infectious diseases.
For Gawker, Charlotte Shane writes about shifting our focus after a Texas bill virtually banning abortions across the state became law:
Decentering doctors is also an essential step toward recognizing that abortion is not something magnanimously granted to a pregnant person by an official third party, as the state would have us believe. I grew up with a fuzzy idea of abortion as a complicated surgical procedure, something that could only be accomplished with sharp, invasive implements, and was therefore often lethal when performed outside a clinic. It suits the government for people to believe this, because it minimizes what we can do for ourselves and for each other. But abortion is as old as pregnancy, and not every method requires expensive technology, pointy objects, or a practiced hand. Especially now, with the advent of mifepristone, self-managed abortion can be extremely safe, with minimal to no complications.
Safe abortion access saves lives, and this thread gives insight into the many reasons — from not being ready to parent, to medical diagnoses — that pregnant people need and deserve the right to choose:
The US reached 100,000 daily COVID-19 hospitalizations for the first time since last winter:
The influx of patients is straining hospitals and pushing health care workers to the brink as deaths have risen to an average of more than 1,000 a day for the first time since March. The seven-day average of Covid hospitalizations peaked in mid-January with nearly 140,000 people hospitalized.
Hospitalizations nationwide have increased by nearly 500 percent in the past two months, particularly across Southern states, where I.C.U. beds are filling up, a crisis fueled by some of the country’s lowest vaccination rates and widespread political opposition to public health measures like mask requirements.
Read this Nation profile of Rob Wallace, an epidemiologist who was alienated by his peers for warning of impending pandemics caused by industrial agriculture:
“As an epidemiologist, you’re supposed to want to put yourself out of business,” Wallace said. “Everyone has bills to pay; I understand that. But the extent to which your corruption might lead to a pathogen that could kill a billion people—that’s where my line is.” While he’s not the only Cassandra whose warnings of a pandemic like Covid-19 went unheeded, there are few as clear-eyed about where to direct the blame. “Agribusiness is at war with public health,” he wrote in the March 2020 essay “Covid-19 and the Circuits of Capital,” and if no serious action is taken, the interval before the next pandemic will be “far shorter…than the hundred-year lull since 1918.”
For the Daily Beast, Tirhakah Love considered Hollywood depictions of the Tulsa Race Massacre and why their capitalist approach to the historical event often gets it very, very wrong:
Far be it from any of us to tell the victims of a tragedy what is truly important; everyone has a different stake in the game. For some, the catharsis of recognition alone is enough, but for others who’ve seen the destruction of homes, businesses, and communities, it seems that both parties are misreading the realities that the Tulsa residents of 1921, who armed themselves to protect Dick Rowland, understood quite well: that economic freedom for Black people in the U.S. has never translated to actual political power. The idea that it does is part and parcel to the myth of Black capitalism and buying power that Black thinkers like Morgan State University Prof. Jared A. Ball seeks to dismantle.
Katie Heaney has strong feelings about stretching your birthday celebration over a whole week:
Birthday Adults, on the other hand, stress me out. They also stress out their friends and family, and it is that willingness to stress other people out that I can’t abide. If you make a big deal of your birthday, it follows that you expect others to make a big deal of your birthday, too. These are people who want lots of gifts, or say they don’t want gifts but secretly do, or genuinely don’t want gifts but will be depressed if there aren’t several moving speeches given in their honor.
If you must be a nightmare, be a nightmare for one day only. Make your plans and be (privately!) pissy when people tell you they can’t come. Complain about how quickly others left, and go to bed feeling as existentially depressed as you wish. But — please — don’t extend the madness beyond its natural endpoint.
Misinformation and disinformation are rampant. Paywalls by major news organizations don’t help:
I know everything is pretty dismal right now, but at least the leaves will start changing soon:
If you need a laugh, this weathercaster’s dog crashed his segment, and it’s adorable:
Required Reading is published every Saturday, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.
Jasmine Weber is Hyperallergic’s news editor. She is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn, particularly interested in Black art histories and visual culture. She received her B.A. in Ethnic Studies… More by Jasmine Weber