Back of the Book — September 19, 2020

It's Tuesday, September 22, 2020, 05:06, and this Web page is finished. We covered the below topics and more. Events really overtook this pre-recorded program. We were unable to talk about the death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg because the program was in the last stages of production, all recording had been finished and the audio file was being edited, when we heard the news of her death on Friday night. We'll be talking about that on the next program. The fate of TikTok changed the day after this program aired. The original top of this page follows the arrow. My back is aching, all right. Part of my side has joined it too. So this Web page got posted late. Sorry about that. We covered more than the below topics.

Did you know that I've got a brief synopsis of some of the WBAI LSB meetings?

I have also posted a whole lot of the minutes of the Pacifica National Finance Committee on this Web site. I'm a member of that committee because I'm the WBAI LSB Treasurer.

The next WBAI LSB meeting is scheduled to be held on October 14, 2020, it will be held as a teleconference meeting, as the seven previous public meetings were because of the pandemic.

The WBAI LSB met on Wednesday, September 9, 2020.

The LSB meeting started at 7:16 PM (ET). The LSB went into executive session at 8:19 PM (ET), and the entire meeting ended at 9:53 PM (ET). The Report Out from this LSB meeting is, The WBAI LSB met in executive session to discuss personnel issues of a confidential nature and to adopt the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Management Evaluation Committee. The committee has now been discharged.

The technical difficulties were not as bad this time on a certain service that has privacy and security problems. Before the meeting I had put out a written Treasurer's Report for all to read.

Some years ago the WBAI LSB voted to hold its regular meetings on the second Wednesday of every month, subject to change by the LSB, which gives us the following schedule:

All of these meetings are set to begin at 7:00 PM.

WBAI has a program schedule up on its Web site. The site has gotten many of the individual program pages together to provide links and such, so check it out.

Here is WBAI's current Internet stream. We can no longer tell if the stream is working without testing every possible stream. Good luck.

WBAI is archiving the programs! WBAI has permanently switched to yet another new archive Web page! This one is more baffling than the previous one. For some time I was unable to post archive blurbs, then I could, and then I couldn't again. You can take a look at it and see if I've been able to post anything on it lately. There are still some limitations, but I am assured that I can plug in the archive blurbs that were lost in the latest upgrade.

This is a link to the latest version of the official WBAI archive. The archiving software appears to have been at least partially fixed. To get to the archive of this program you can use the usual method: you'll have to click on the drop-down menu, which says Display, and find Back of the Book on that menu. We're pretty early in the list, so it shouldn't be too difficult. Once you find the program name click GO and you'll see only this Back of the Book program. Management has fixed some problems that we'd been having with the archives.

For programs before March 23, 2019, we're all out of luck. The changes that took place once WBAI Management took control of the WBAI archives seems to have wiped out all access to anything before that date in March. You'll have to click on the same drop-down menu as above, which says Display, and find Specify Date, it's the second choice from the top. You are then given a little pop-up calendar and you can choose the date of the program there. Then click GO and you'll see a list of programs that aired on that date. For those previous programs you can get the audio, but nothing else, since I can't post anything to those pages anymore. Yeah, it looks like they'll have some alternating program's name prominently there, but if you have the right date it'll be our program. Good luck.

Since the General Manager has banned Sidney Smith from WBAI he's not alternating with us on the air. There is another program in the alternate week's time slot.

Bring Back Uncle Sidney!

Our friend, fellow WBAI producer and Saddle Pal Uncle Sidney Smith has been banned from WBAI by General Manager Berthold Reimers. The General Manager will not say why. He won't even tell Sidney why he's banned! This is grossly unfair to Sidney and constitutes abuse of Staff. Why did Berthold ban Sidney?

More to come.

948,147 Dead

Covid-19 cases in the whole world reached 30,306,469 on Friday, and deaths reached 948,147. In America the number of cases as of Friday was 6,705,114 and the death toll in America was 198,197, so more than 10,733 people have died of Covid-19 in America since our last program. By the time this program airs on Saturday morning all of those figures will be higher.

We talked about the revelations in Robert Woodward's new book which show, and which millions have heard by now from the recordings, that Trump knew that SARS-CoV-2 was in the world, that it spread through the air and that it caused Covid-19 which had a much higher death rate than the seasonal flu.

We also talked a bit about the anti-masker idiots and about Trump having rallies with lots of people not wearing masks and not socially distancing.

Many of Trump's followers are anti-maskers, of course. One of those is Paul Van Noy, the pastor at Candlelight Christian Fellowship in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho who has been inveighing against wearing masks to combat the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 for months. He doesn't wear a mask and he is fine with members of his congregation not wearing masks. He holds large services in his church in contravention to laws about social distancing. Well, Mr. Van Noy has spent the last couple of weeks being hospitalized in an intensive care ward for Covid-19. His wife and five other church staffers have also been dealing with their own Covid-19 infections. Some of his congregants assembled outside the hospital where he's fighting the disease that his god didn't protect him from, none of those supporters wore masks.

no_tiktok (17K)
Can They Really Ban It?

TikTok and WeChat have officially been banned despite a lot of drama around an alternative solution. In August Trump declared a national emergency and on August 14, he put out an executive order that would ban TikTok, a social media platform that mostly features silly videos and is owned by a company named ByteDance, which in turn is owned by a billionaire in the co-called People's Republic of China. Also banned is WeChat, a messaging, social media and mobile payment app developed by a company named Tencent. Both Companies are based in the so-called People's Republic of China. The Trump administration claims that TikTok and WeChat are funnels for information about Americans and their activities that get stored and processed by the military of the so-called People's Republic of China.

So a search began in August for a corporate entity that would buy TikTok and WeChat from its current owners. The executive order allowed for 45 days to get that done. For a while it looked like Microsoft was going to buy the America-facing part of TikTok. But those negotiations apparently went south and then we heard that Oracle was going to be the trusted technology provider. But now we're hearing that the U.S. Government is going to move on TikTok and WeChat anyway. The 45 day window ends tomorrow, Sunday, September 20.

Apparently part of why Microsoft dropped its negotiations for acquiring TikTok was that ByteDance said it would not include TikTok's algorithm as part of the sale.

So now we are going to see how this would work. How do you effectively ban access to something that millions of Americans, and people from other places in the world, have been accessing for years? Well, downloads of the TikTok and WeChat apps will be blocked and the apps are to be removed from the Apple and Google app stores, but existing users will still be able to use the apps if they have them installed prior to the app store removals. Also, updates to the existing apps will be banned. To be thorough about it the Commerce Department is also banning any payment transactions through WeChat in the US. So I guess we'll see if and how this works.

Other countries, most especially the so-called People's Republic of China with their Great Firewall, ban and block various entities on the Internet. Can this be done in the United States of America? It might be a bigger fight than other repressive nation-states run into when trying to do similar things.

autumn leaf
Summer's Almost Gone

It's late Summer, and this was our final radio program of the Summer of 2020. It was certainly a unique Summer season. It was the first time in my life that I never actually went out into the season. I also had stayed in the apartment for the entire Spring too. I sure do hope that I can get outside for next Summer, and could I hope to be able to get out for next Spring? Well, that might be pushing it.

The Autumnal Equinox will occur on this coming Tuesday morning at 9:30 AM (ET). I have a Web page that shows the dates of the seasons and sub-seasons. Sad to see the best season of the year just go away like this, but that's what's happened for the Pandemic Summer of 2020. I will probably risk going out right after the Autumnal Equinox in order to get a flu shot. I can't afford to get the flu, either.

Venus on June 8, 20200
The Planet Venus
Image credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech

In the past fortnight we've seen a number of news stories about the possibility of life on the planet Venus, or maybe above it.

This latest story hinges on the discovery of a chemical called phosphine in extremely tiny amounts in the atmosphere of Venus. Scientist Jane Greaves and her colleagues from the University of Cardiff say there is no known way for phosphine to be produced on Venus by known geochemical or photochemical processes. Phosphine is described as a toxic, flammable gas with a characteristic smell of garlic or rotting fish. Phosphine can be produced by living things.

Phosphine consists of one atom of phosphorus and three atoms of hydrogen. It's chemical symbol is PH3. It is petty easily broken apart by ultraviolet light and heat. Venus' distance from the Sun is only around 72% that of the Earth's, and the planet's mean surface temperature is about 867° F. The atmospheric pressure on the surface of Venus is more than 90 times what it is on the surface of the Earth. To top it all off Venus does not have a magnetic field, as Earth and some other planets have, so it's atmosphere is bombarded at full force by the solar wind. With all of that ultraviolet light and tremendous heat around phosphine wouldn't last long at all. This suggests that the phosphine in Venus' atmosphere is being replenished, and at a pretty good rate, too. This is why the scientists are speculating that the phosphine could be an indicator of life.

The phosphine molecule

Since the surface of the planet is so hostile, and would break up phosphine molecules in a relatively short amount of time, there is speculation that maybe the life is in the clouds of Venus. Venus's atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide (CO2) and it has a thick cloud layer, and those clouds consist of sulphuric acid. It certainly doesn't sound like any part of Venus is compatible with life. But the speculation is that maybe life began on Venus a very long time ago. There may have been oceans on Venus long ago. The speculation is that maybe that life adapted to the changing conditions on Venus over many millions of years and eventually consisted only of microbes that lived in those sulphuric acid clouds. At a certain point about 30 miles above the surface of Venus the temperature is only around 86 to 176° F. and the atmospheric pressure is lower as well. So maybe the Venusian version of extremophiles adapted to living in such a precarious and hostile environment after they had been swept up from the surface over millions of years, and with the microbes living in the clouds the phosphine is being created there too.

Even though I think that it's unlikely that there is life of any kind on the planet Venus it is an interesting speculation that the scientists from the University of Cardiff have come up with, and the atmospheric phosphine is a fact.

Influenza Nomenclature Diagram
Illustration of influenza virus nomenclature system

Pickles of the North here. I got my flu shot this past Thursday. You should get one too! Both the influenza viruses and the virus that causes Covid 19 are RNA viruses.

There are four types of influenza viruses, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a page about them.

Jeffery K. Taubenberger is an American virologist. With Ann Reid, he was the first to sequence the genome of the influenza virus which caused the 1918 influenza pandemic. On Wikipedia Dr. Taubenberger said, All influenza A pandemics since [the Spanish flu pandemic], and indeed almost all cases of influenza A worldwide (excepting human infections from avian viruses such as H5N1 and H7N7), have been caused by descendants of the 1918 virus, including drifted H1N1 viruses and re assorted H2N2 and H3N2 viruses. The latter are composed of key genes from the 1918 virus, updated by subsequently incorporated avian influenza genes that code for novel surface proteins, making the 1918 virus indeed the mother of all pandemics.

Coronaviruses are a group of RNA viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans and birds, they cause respiratory tract infections that can range from mild to lethal.

The ordinary seasonal flu can be deadly. Every year, about 2,000 New Yorkers die of seasonal flu and pneumonia, which can develop as a complication of the flu.

The flu vaccine is widely available. There are also many ways for New Yorkers without health insurance to get low-cost vaccines.

R. Paul will be getting his flu shot this coming week.

There are a lot of issues that are considered hazardous to talk about on the air at WBAI, even though the gag rule was lifted in 2002. However, there is the Internet! There are mailing lists which you can subscribe to and Web based message boards devoted to WBAI and Pacifica issues. Many controversial WBAI/Pacifica issues are discussed on these lists.

One open list that no longer exists was the WBAI specific Goodlight Web based message board. It was sometimes referred to on Back of the Book as the bleepin' blue board, owing to the blue background that was used on its Web pages. This one had many people posting anonymously and there was also an ancillary WBAI people board that was just totally out of hand.

In June 2012, I ended up having to salvage the bleepin' blue board, and so I was the moderator on it for its last seven years, until it got too expensive.

Sometimes we used to have live interaction with people posting on the Goodlight Board during the program.

Our very own Uncle Sidney Smith, whose program Saturday Morning With the Radio On used to alternate with us, has a blog these days. You can reach his blog here.

One formerly popular mailing list is the NewPacifica mailing list. Founded October 31, 2000, this list has been moribund for a couple of years due to de facto censorship by the group owner. As of February 2019, it had 696 subscribers coast to coast, but postings on it had become very infrequent. During the WBAI Coup of 2019, traffic picked up on that board again, for a while.

Back in the day it sometimes also got a bit nasty. All sorts of things used to happen on that list and official announcements were frequently posted there.

You can look at the NewPacifica list here, and you can join the list from that Web page too. If you subscribe to the NewPacifica mailing list you will receive, via E-mail, all of the messages which are sent to that list.

There is the option to receive a digest version of the list, which means that a bunch of messages are bundled into one E-mail and sent to you at regular intervals, this cuts down on the number of E-mails you get from the list. You will also be able to send messages to the list.

We like to stay interactive with our listeners. Here are the various options for you to get in touch with us.

You can also send me E-mail.

And now you can even reach me on Twitter Twitter logo

WBAI related links

A WBAI Listeners' Web page

WBAI Management's official Web site

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The contents of this Web page are copyright © 2020, R. Paul Martin.