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Archive for July, 2021

Ravages of COVID surge evident inside Missouri hospital

Lilly King rips ‘bulls—’ American habit of not celebrating Olympic silver and bronze medals

TOKYO — Lilly King has seen the same headlines that Katie Ledecky has. The ones that say American athletes “settle for silver.” The ones that equate bronze to loss. Ledecky tries to laugh them off. King, the most outspoken American swimmer here in Tokyo, did more than laugh on Friday.

“Excuse my French,” she said, “but the fact that we don’t celebrate silver and bronze is bulls—.”

She was speaking, generally, to the gold-or-bust attitude that underlies American participation in the Olympics. It’s abundant among media and fans. It’s especially applicable to people like King, who hadn’t been beaten in a 100-meter breaststroke final in 5 1/2 years entering these brooks shoes Games. A month before them, her father Mark told me: “She’s in a position in her career now where if she loses, the story isn’t gonna be ‘so and so won,’ it’s gonna be that Lilly lost.”

It comes with the territory. It comes with expectations, self-created ones and those that originate externally. And they’re why even King herself was disappointed with a bronze medal on Tuesday. She didn’t show it at the time. She didn’t want disappointment to corrupt 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby’s moment. But King, one of the most confident humans on planet earth, felt shook. “Almost in shock,” she said.

Because there is, of course, something special about gold, something about winning, no qualifiers necessary. And American athletes do it more than their counterparts from any other country. Team USA won 46 gold medals in London, and 46 more in Rio. Topping medal tables is the norm. Sometimes success can be so prevalent and customary that even golds can feel mundane.

At the very least, American exceptionalism seems to require gold. Ledecky’s silver medal here on Monday wasn’t her second Olympic silver, but rather her first Olympic loss in an individual race. And that’s the framing King and others have taken aim at. It’s the Olympic Binary, win or lose. And it’s nonsense.

Annie Lazor (left) and Lilly King deserve to celebrate their Olympic bronze and silver medals, respectively, from the women's 200-meter breaststroke. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Annie Lazor (left) and Lilly King deserve to celebrate their Olympic bronze and silver medals, respectively, from the women’s 200-meter breaststroke. 

“Just because we compete for the United States, and maybe we have extremely high standards for this sort of thing, that doesn’t excuse the fact that we haven’t been celebrating silver and bronze as much as gold,” King said.

And Friday, she embodied her words. She hopped a lane skechers shoes line for hugs in the water after touching second in the 200-meter breast. She stood arm in arm with training partner and close friend Annie Lazor, who’d won bronze right behind her. They smiled underneath masks as they paraded around the Tokyo Aquatics Center.

“I might be more happy with this medal than I’ve been with any of my previous medals, including the two golds in Rio,” King said. “We really should be celebrating those silver and bronzes, because those are some of the greatest moments of that athlete’s career, and why would we not celebrate that?”

“I’m just really happy to be here,” Lazor chimed in.

She laughed, and drew laughs from the room, but she wasn’t really joking. And you’d realize why if you took some time to learn about Lazor. Five years ago, after failing to qualify for Rio, she retired. A year later, she returned to the sport, but, “If you told me four years ago, when I came back to the sport, that I’d be an Olympic medalist, I think everyone and myself would probably be pretty crazy,” she said

Yet here she was, a 26-year-old from Detroit, sitting halfway across the world as the third-best woman on the planet at what she does. That’s worth celebrating. Stories are worth celebrating. Every Olympian has one, and every Olympic medalist has a remarkable one, of dedication and refinement and beating odds. Even Ledecky, who won silver in her first event here but doubted whether she’d ever swim 3:57 in the 400-meter free again, has one specific to that accomplishment.

She overcame. She was beaten by greatness that she herself had inspired, but she was still great nonetheless, hey dude and every Olympian, each in her or his own way, is.

“There’s so many Olympians that have won silver or bronze that are really happy with that, and are deserving of a lot of praise,” Ledecky said earlier this week. “Just because I won golds all the time leading into [my silver medal-winning race] doesn’t mean that the silver doesn’t mean something to me.”

Founding Slipknot member and acclaimed drummer Joey Jordison dead at age 46

Joey Jordison, best known as the former drummer, co-songwriter, and co-founder of influential alternative metal band Slipknot as well as the guitarist for horror-punk group Murderdolls, has died, according to a statement released Tuesday afternoon by his family.

“We are heartbroken to share the news that Joey Jordison, prolific drummer, musician and artist, passed away peacefully in his sleep on July 26th, 2021. He was 46,” the statement read. “Joey’s death has left us with empty hearts and feelings of indescribable sorrow. To those that knew Joey, skechers outlet understood his quick wit, his gentle personality, giant heart and his love for all things family and music. The family of Joey have asked that friends, fans and media understandably respect our need for privacy and peace at this incredibly difficult time. The family will hold a private funeral service and asks the media and public to respect their wishes.” No cause of death was given.

Joey Jordison of Slipknot (Photo: George De Sota/Redferns)
Joey Jordison of Slipknot 

Nathan Jonas “Joey” Jordison was born April 26, 1975 in Des Moines, Iowa, and he began playing drums at age 8, even forming his first band when he was still in elementary school. In 1995, Jordison joined a local metal band called the Pale Ones, who were later renamed Slipknot upon Jordison’s suggestion. After creating their own scene in Iowa, attracting a devoted following of fans they affectionately dubbed “Maggots,” and self-releasing the demo album Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. on Halloween 1996, Slipknot signed to Roadrunner Records and broke through to the mainstream. Their self-titled Roadrunner debut was in fact the first album in that label’s history to be certified platinum.

With their unique and visceral blend of shock-rock, hip-hop, lyrical nihilism, and theatrical presentation (the nine-member band famously performed in matching industrial boilers suits and creepy 3D Halloween masks), Slipknot became one of the most successful, pioneering, and enduring bands of late-’90s/early-2000s nu-metal explosion. They eventually sold 30 million albums worldwide and earned 10 Grammy nominations, hey dude with their Rick Rubin-produced track “Before I Forget” winning the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 2006.

Jordison played on Slipknot’s first four studio albums — 1999’s Slipknot, 2001’s Iowa, 2004’s Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses), and 2008’s All Hope Is Gone — after which the band would not release a new album until 2014’s .5: The Gray Chapter. It was during the making of that record that Jordison left the group. At that time, in 2013, Slipknot cited mysterious personal reasons for his departure, and Jordison countered with a statement claiming that he had been fired, insisting, “[Slipknot] has been my life for the last 18 years, and I would never abandon it, or my fans.” Also in 2013, Jordison’s side-project Murderdolls officially disbanded.

However, in 2016 Jordison revealed that after experiencing mysterious symptoms since 2010, he had finally been diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a neurological disease that had temporarily rendered him unable to use his left leg or play drums during the end of his run with Slipknot. It is currently unclear if this condition was connected to Jordison’s death in any way, but in a 2018 interview with Rhythm magazine, he stated that he had fully recovered with the help of intensive rehabilitation.

Portrait of Joey Jordison (L) and Wednesday 13 of hard rock group Murderdolls in 2010. (Photo: Rob Monk/Metal Hammer Magazine/Future via Getty Images/Team Rock via Getty Images)
Portrait of Joey Jordison (L) and Wednesday 13 of hard rock group Murderdolls in 2010. 

Along with his work in Slipknot and Murderdolls, Jordison — whose influences included Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, the Who’s Keith Moon, KISS’s Peter Criss, Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee, Gene Krupa, and Buddy Rich — played in Scar the Martyr, Vimic, and Sinsaenum. skechers shoes He also collaborated with Rob Zombie, Metallica, Marilyn Manson, Korn, Ministry, Otep, and Satyricon. During his career, Jordison received many accolades for his drumming, including a Golden God trophy at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards, a Drummies Award for Best Metal Drummer, and the title of No. 1 heavy metal drummer according Loudwire readers.

In 2010, a Rhythm magazine readers’ poll even named Jordison the best drummer of the previous 25 years, ranking him above the likes of Dave Grohl and Rush’s Neil Peart. He reacted to that honor by stating, “I’m at a loss for words. This is beyond unbelievable. Something like this reminds me every day why I continue to do this.”

Evangelical pastor demands churchgoers ditch their masks: ‘Don’t believe this delta variant nonsense’

Greg Locke

Since the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, Greg Locke, the pastor at a Nashville-area church, has repeatedly called covid a hoax, undermined emergency mandates and refused to comply with guidance from public health officials.

This week, Locke took his defiance a step further, making a sharp warning regarding mask-wearing.

If “you start showing up [with] all these masks and all this nonsense, I will ask you to leave,” Locke, 45, hey dude shoes told scores of Global Vision Bible Church parishioners during his sermon on Sunday. His statement was followed by cheers and applause.

“I am not playing these Democrat games up in this church,” he added.

Global Vision Bible Church did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment.

Locke’s fiery five-minute diatribe, in which he also denied the existence of the delta variant, comes as vaccination rates in his home state slow and infection rates climb. So far, about 44 percent of Tennesseans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to The Post’s vaccine tracker, making it among the states with the lowest rate. The state recently reported that 98 percent of people who died of covid and 97 percent of covid hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated.

The vaccine rollout in Tennessee made national headlines after the controversial firing of the state’s top immunization official, Michelle Fiscus, on July 12. Fiscus’s firing was the casualty of the Tennessee Department of Health’s campaign to encourage teenagers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The effort attracted ire from Republican state lawmakers.

In an interview with WTVF on Monday, Fiscus said Tenn. Gov. Bill Lee (R) consistently resisted the state’s promotion of the vaccine.

“I feel like the [health] department was gagged,” she said.

Locke’s evangelical church in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., about 20 miles east of downtown Nashville, has grown during the pandemic, CNN reported. The pastor’s controversial commentary on covid and the 2020 presidential election has attracted far-right churchgoers.

During a sermon last month, Locke called President Biden a fraud and “a ecco shoes sex trafficking, demon-possessed mongrel,” a reference to QAnon, an extremist ideology based on false claims.

He has also falsely claimed that the pandemic is “fake,” that the death count is “manipulated” and that the vaccine is a “dangerous scam.”

And the pastor has preached misinformation about the vaccine, including falsely claiming that it’s made of “aborted fetal tissue.”

During a sermon in May, Locke told churchgoers that he wasn’t getting the vaccine and would refuse to promote it.

“I discourage everybody under this tent to get it,” he said, according to CNN.

Locke has also openly defied the state’s emergency mandates. In July 2020, he posted on Facebook that the church was remaining open and that people did not have to wear masks or social distance.

“I don’t care if they send the military, they roll up in there with tanks . . . ladies and gentleman, we are staying open,” he said, according to Newsweek. “We are packed to capacity. You ain’t gotta wear a mask.”

Strutting back and forth on a stage beneath a sprawling red-and-white striped circus tent on Sunday, Locke launched into yet another impassioned monologue. This time, he warned churchgoers to not wear masks and railed against the possibility of more shutdowns.

“They will be serving Frostys in hell before we shut this place down, just because a buck wild, demon-possessed golden goose sneakers government tells us to,” Locke said, referencing the frozen dessert from Wendy’s.

“Don’t believe this delta variant nonsense,” he continued. “Stop it!”

He advised parishioners who are looking for services with social distancing “don’t come to this one” and chastised other churches for following public health advisories and abstaining from certain rituals as cases rise.

“A bunch of pastors talking about how much they want to see people heal, and they’re afraid to baptize people because of a delta variant – I’m sick of it,” Locke said. “I ain’t playing these stupid games.”

Toward the end of his rant, Locke made one final warning.

“I’m going to be a problem moving forward,” he said. “I’m not giving in to this mess.”

Restaurants are shelling out more for clams – making Flo’s Clam Shack shuck its namesake dish

Though a sign outside proclaims the spot is “famous for clams,” Flo’s Clam Shack is taking a hiatus from hawking fried steamers.

The restaurant has been shelling out the crispy, salty dish for decades. But market price for soft-shell clams is just too high right now, owner Komes Rozes said.

The price of the clams, often called steamers, is prone to fluctuation, ecco shoes but Rozes said this summer’s spike is the worst he has seen in 45 years in the industry. He said last week a gallon of clams would go for $225 – $75 more than the highest price he’ll pay.

Flo’s has two locations in Rhode Island and a more than 80-year legacy. The seasonal restaurant has been knocked down by hurricanes and rebuilt several times. Its award-winning seafood has been featured on Food Network, including the fried clam roll being lauded on the show “Best Thing I Ever Ate.” But for now, fried clams are a no-go.

Prices across many food markets have swelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, labor shortages, destructive red tides, extreme weather and more.

Soft-shell clams are especially at risk when the climate changes rapidly, researchers say. The number of clams for harvest is also dwindling, Chad Coffin, president of the Maine Clammers Association, told the Associated Press in April. Hot summers have been killing soft-shell clams for decades.

Soft-shell clams take three to four years to grow to the market size of two inches, according to the Maine Clammers Association. Clamming is backbreaking work, the association said, as soft-shell clams burrow in intertidal areas and workers dig them up by hand with rakes and hoes.

Maine, where Rozes gets most of his soft-shell clams, had its smallest harvest in more than 90 years last year, the Associated Press reported. A 2016 study found the state’s soft-shell clam yield had declined by 75 percent over the previous 40 years. Researchers at the Downeast Institute, a marine research lab and education center, say the highest risk to these clams is predators such as the invasive green crab and milky ribbon worm, which are thriving in the Gulf of Maine’s warming waters.

Businesses and consumers know seafood prices are volatile, hence the market price tag in lieu of a set cost on many menus. hey dude shoes But at some point, Rozes said, the cost becomes too high to justify.

He said he’s not willing to pay the current soft-shell crab market price or pass it on to his customers, so the clam shack will operate without fried clams until the price drops. He expects it to take about a week.

“Even if I was to break even, it would be outrageous prices to customers,” he said. He estimated he would have to charge at least $40 for about 12 pieces of clam.

The restaurant announced its decision to temporarily stop selling fried clams in a Facebook post Tuesday.

“Well here we go again with the absolute highest price for frying clams anyone in this business has ever seen!” the post read. “Sorry, we are not selling any until the price drops, hopefully soon.”

A few weeks ago, Flo’s was charging between $25 and $27 for a clam platter, which includes fries and coleslaw. Rozes said that already felt too expensive.

He said he has long had issues with the way clams are priced. He doesn’t believe the price should seesaw so much, regardless of whether clam diggers are having a difficult season.

“It’s a clam scam,” Rozes said. “They do this every year.”

The owner said he isn’t worried about losing revenue by not selling one of the restaurant’s staples for a time, especially since that revenue would have been low or nonexistent. If customers are set on fried clams, he said, there are plenty of restaurants where they’re still available – for a price.

“The quality and the taste between a $20 order of clams and a $45 order of clams ecco shoes is the same, so it depends how bad you want them,” he said. “It’s not going to taste any better when it’s twice the price, that’s for sure.”

Coffin said that in April soft-shell clams were already selling for about $7 per pound at retail price, which he estimated was about 40 percent higher than normal and particularly unexpected before peak clamming season.

Rozes said he has gotten largely positive feedback from customers, who appreciate that he’s “not being greedy.” But he’s also gotten a few angry messages from clam diggers in the past several days.

He said that with so many other seasonal businesses having to close due to the pandemic, he feels lucky to have a dedicated customer base to keep Flo’s afloat.

There are plenty of menu options left at Flo’s, despite the fried clam stoppage. They’re still serving fresh calamari, scallops, shrimp, fish and chips, chowder made with hard-shelled clams and more. They sell up to 40 gallons of that chowder every day, Rozes said.

How Simone Biles saved herself — and her teammates — at the Olympics

TOKYO — Simone Biles had already given up on the idea of opening the Olympic team competition with a Yurchenko double pike, the kind of eye-popping, high-scoring, highlight-reel entrance that intimidates opponents, entices sponsors and wins golds.

She didn’t have it. Not tonight. She knew that much. She was in her head. Deep, she said.

“Demons,” she calls them. They seep in and make her question everything. They take the joy of what she loves hey dude more than anything, that she’d loved since she was a bouncy 3-year-old jumping off her living room couch, and make them about something else.

Doubt. Fear. Insecurities. Pressure. Failure.

Therapy and medicine, she said, usually keep the demons at bay. Yet here inside the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, here in the middle of an Olympics where she was the main attraction, here at the start of the team finals, they were back, stronger than ever.

So the vaunted double pike was out. She would go with the easier Yurchenko with 2.5 twists. It was a tough vault, but one that Simone Biles, being a five-time world champion and reigning Olympic all-around champion and greatest of all time, could practically do in her sleep.

The demons, she figured, couldn’t touch that one. She was just trying to brush them aside and win this competition.

“I have to put my pride aside,” she thought. “I have to do it for the team.”

By the time she hit the vault and pushed herself into the air, she realized the folly in such a thought. She found herself twisting and flipping and having absolutely no idea what was happening.

“I didn’t know where I was in the air,” she said.

Two-and-a-half twists never happened. She wound up doing one and a half, somehow skechers outlet repositioning herself on the fly and landing without injuring herself. The athletic talent such an act requires is breathtaking. She needed a stumble and a huge step to make it, but she made it.

Still … a Yurchenko 1.5?

“I wasn’t trying to do a Yurchenko 1.5,” she said. “I was trying to do a Yurchenko 2.5.”

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 27: Simone Biles of Team US reacts during the Women's Team Final of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo, Japan on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN – JULY 27: Simone Biles of Team US reacts during the Women’s Team Final of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo, Japan on July 27, 2021. 

At the side of the vault her teammates covered their mouths in shock. That wasn’t a Simone Biles vault. It was easily her worst attempt in a decade, at least. What was it? What was happening?

Before the judges even tallied a shockingly low 13.766 — a full 1.2 below her qualifying mark, Biles knew she was done. She couldn’t do this. She couldn’t perform. She could injure herself, sure, but she, the Great Simone Biles, was suddenly useless as a gymnast.

Her score was dragging down the team. It was .540 below any of her teammates. golden goose sneakers It was 0.700 below any of the Russians. She was the worst one, by a lot.

It was so low it staked the Russians to a 1.067 lead — a huge number in gymnastics. It’s the kind of gap the Americans would struggle to overcome even if they had Simone Biles at her very best.

“I was like, ‘I am not in the right headspace,’” Biles said. “I am not going to lose a medal for this country and these girls because they’ve worked way too hard to have me go out there and lose a medal.”

She nearly broke into tears, consulted a USA Gymnastics doctor, briefly left the arena floor and then came back, pulled the wraps off her wrists she was set to use on the uneven bars and told her teammates to go win a medal.

Simone Biles pulled herself out of competition.

“I didn’t want to go into any of the other events not believing in myself,” Biles said. “So I thought it was better to take a step back and let these other girls do the job.

“And they did.”

-TOKYO,JAPAN July 26, 2021: USAs Simone Biles and ROCs Angelina Melnikova embrace after the womens team final at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (Wally Skalij /Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
USA’s Simone Biles and ROC’s Angelina Melnikova embrace after the women’s team final at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Indeed, Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum did do the job. Initially stunned, then saddened for their friend, they shook it off to go win a silver medal.

“We were all so stressed,” Lee said. “She’s friggin’ Simone Biles. She carries the team basically. When we had to step up to the plate and do what we had to do it was very stressful.”

They never could close much of that initial gap, but with Biles cheering them on, they made the Russians sweat it out until the final rotation.

And they took home silver.

They were all standing together now, in a back hallway of this gymnastics hall, trying to make sense of a night none of them saw coming, a night when Simone would go from team leader to liability and decide to focus on her mental health, not her medal count.

Biles was still trying to process it all herself. She was clear: She wasn’t physically injured.

“Injury? No,” she said with a laugh. “Just my pride a little bit.”

She was pleased with her decision to back out. She loved serving as a de facto coach. She, the owner of four golds, took immense pride in the silver around her neck because her friends won it for her.

She tried to describe what she had gone through. She wanted these Olympics to be for her and her teammates, not for her sponsors, not for USA Gymnastics, not for the U.S. Olympic Committee, not for the expectations of the world.

“I felt pretty comfortable coming into the Olympic Games and then I don’t know what happened,” she said. “ … You wind up in a stressful situation and you don’t know how to handle all those emotions.”

Suddenly, it all crumbled and there was nothing she could do to stop the slide. Even if it didn’t make sense, even as everyone told her otherwise, she couldn’t shake her feelings, couldn’t beat back the demons.

“These Olympic Games, I wanted it to be about myself,” Biles said, her voice suddenly catching and tears rolling out of her eyes. “And I came in and I felt I was still doing it for other people, and it hurts my heart that doing what I love has been taken away from me to please other people.”

Her teammates put arms on her shoulders. They tried to prop her up, but here she was, one of the most famous and popular and celebrated people in the world, standing raw and vulnerable and honest.

She knows plenty of people won’t understand, but that’s what got her here in the first place.

“You are still too concerned about what everyone else is going to say, the internet,” Biles said.

So she decided she would have to be more than a gymnast, even here during the biggest gymnastics meet of them all. She had to take care of herself.

She didn’t quit on her team. She quit, she said, and saved the team.

“What was best for me was what was best for the team,” she said.

She was set to talk to professionals on Wednesday morning. After that, a day off from training that she seemed to covet. Will she be back Thursday for the all-around competition? What about the four individual finals she qualified to be in? Will she be back, ever?

She couldn’t say, for sure. At that moment, it wasn’t important.

First things first.

“Fighting,” Simone Biles said, “all those demons.”

Click image to see slideshow
Click image to see slideshow

More U.S. adults than ever know someone who is trans — but nearly half are too uncomfortable to use ‘they’ pronoun

Alana Smith made Olympic history over the weekend by becoming the first out nonbinary athlete on Team USA, participating in the Women’s Skateboarding Street event and proudly displaying their pronouns — they/them — on their skateboard during the broadcast. Still, broadcasters did not refer to Smith as “they” during the event.

A growing number of Americans personally know someone who identifies as transgender. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
A growing number of Americans personally know someone who identifies as transgender. 

Now, new findings released by the Pew Research Center show that the broadcasters were not alone in their apparent discomfort.

The research, released Tuesday, revealed that despite the cultural shift brooks shoes around gender identity — celebs like Elliot Page coming out as transgender, for example, or members of Gen Z being four times as likely to identify as trans, nonbinary or genderfluid, according to recent data — not everyone has the same acceptance level of the new reality.

There is a slight uptick in awareness, according to Pew, which found that 42 percent (about four in 10) Americans say they know someone who is transgender — up five percentage ponts since 2017. Additionally, 26 percent of adults say they know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns such as “they” or “them” — up from 18 percent since 2018.

Still, 56 percent of U.S. adults believe that gender is assigned at birth, while 41 percent say that a person’s gender can be different from the sex they were assigned at birth — views that have been roughly stagnant since 2017.

While all age groups have shown evidence of a growing awareness, the highest growth by far is among those under 30: Forty-six percent of those under 30 said they know someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns such as “they/them” (up 14 percentage points from 2018), compared to 29 percent of those over 30 years old (up 10 percentage points from 2018).

And while half of Americans say they would feel “very” or “somewhat” comfortable using a gender-neutral pronoun, 48 percent say they would feel “very” or “somewhat” uncomfortable in doing so.

Breaking that down by age, the findings show that six in 10 people (61 percent) under 30 say they are comfortable using gender-neutral pronouns to refer to someone, including 39 percent who say they are “very” comfortable.

That’s compared to 53 percent of those between 30 and 49 years old, 46 percent of those between 50 and 64 years skechers shoes old, and 41 percent of those 64 and older who say they are “somewhat” comfortable referring to someone as “they/them.”

The numbers around comfortability have been virtually unchanged since 2018.

Interestingly enough, these polls also mirror political party associations, Pew Research notes, which, it can be argued, are parallel to the record number of anti-trans bills (such as bathroom bills and bans on trans athletes competing in school sports or receiving gender-confirming medical care) that limit definitions of gender only to the sex assigned at birth.

Though adults in both political parties are now more likely to know someone who uses “they/them” pronouns, Democrats are still twice as likely as Republicans (34 percent vs. 16 percent).

That being said, 68 percent of Republicans say they would feel uncomfortable using these pronouns, compared to 67 percent of Democrats saying that they are indeed comfortable using them.

As for Smith, it’s not exactly clear what the broadcasters thought. But OutSports opinion writer Brian Bell believes that “what happened to Smith on Sunday reflects the attitudes within the minds of event organizers… The information is out there. Olympic organizers have it, failed to properly communicate it to people whose job it is to convey knowledge of competitors (who are capable of doing their own research as well) and soured an amazing moment of inclusivity in sport in doing so.”

An Alabama mother who lost her son to covid says not getting the vaccine is her biggest regret

A selfie showing Curt Carpenter, his mother, Christy, and younger sister Cayla.

These days, Christy Carpenter finds strength in her family and faith. But on some days, one question keeps ringing in her head: “Why?”

After weeks of battling through oxygen treatments, her 28-year-old son died in the hospital two months after being diagnosed with covid-19.

Now in Carpenter’s Alabama home, the room belonging to Curt, her “beautiful baby boy” hey dude shoes and firstborn, remains empty – a painful reminder of a life that could have been saved if the family had decided to get vaccinated, she said.

“It took watching my son die and me suffering the effects of covid for us to realize we need the vaccine,” the mother said. “We did not get vaccinated when we had the opportunity and regret that so much now.”

Although for her it will always be impossible to understand the reason for Curt’s passing, Carpenter said she is determined to not let her son’s death be futile.

“If Curt were here today, he would make it his mission to encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” Carpenter said. “Cayla, his sister, and I are carrying out that mission in his memory.”

Curt Carpenter was a young and otherwise healthy man. While at home, his mother said, he would spoil her with the “best hugs” and a daily dosage of kindness. Curt was autistic, but Christy Carpenter said he “lived life to the fullest” and had a passion for all things Pokémon, trains, video games and frogs.

The pandemic dealt a big blow to the tightknit Carpenter family on March 5, when Curt, his younger sister and his mother were diagnosed with the virus, which has claimed about 610,000 lives across the nation.

At first, the three experienced mild symptoms that slowly began to alleviate. Then, a week later, everything took a turn for the worse.

When their oxygen saturation levels dropped dangerously, the mother and son were rushed to Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham. A day later, they both developed pneumonia, and Curt Carpenter was put on a ventilator.

The constantly changing oxygen levels paired with a pneumothorax – a collapsed lung – were too much for Curt Carpenter’s body. His organs began shutting down. He was declared dead May 2.

His last uttered phrase is still etched in Christy Carpenter’s mind: “This is not a hoax, this is real,” ecco shoes Curt said, according to his mother.

His mother said Curt Carpenter at first believed that the coronavirus was a hoax. The whole family was hesitant to get vaccinated when the shots became available.

“It took years to create other vaccines, and the coronavirus vaccine was created very quickly,” Christy Carpenter said. “That made us very nervous.”

The Carpenters’ reluctance is not unique in a state with the lowest vaccination rates in the country. According to data from the Alabama Department of Public Health, only 33.9 percent of the state’s eligible population has been fully vaccinated, and 41.6 percent has received at least one dose.

With cases beginning to climb in the state, health officials are attempting to boost confidence in the vaccine – but difficulties in rollout paired with distrust have become major hurdles.

“We find that there’s a lot of mistrust with messages that come from state government, from public health, in particular, from the media,” said Scott Harris, chief executive of the Alabama Department of Public Health. “It’s just a multilayered problem. There’s just a lot of different people who have a lot of different reasons for not getting the vaccine. And it’s just hard to address them in a big way.”

Much like the Carpenters, unvaccinated people are often the ones to endure the most severe effects of the virus. In Alabama, they account for more than 95 percent of the current covid-related hospitalizations, Harris said.

Yet, for some, the disease does not end with a negative coronavirus test. Its aftermath can be just as harrowing.

Even after being discharged from the hospital, Christy Carpenter said, she could not drive or work until late May. She said she has been on pulmonary therapy ever since and still struggles with fatigue, hair loss and “covid brain.”

“I lose my train of thought easily, can’t remember parts of conversations, brooks shoes can’t remember people’s names that I have known for years,” she said. “I sometimes think I’m going crazy, but I know I’m not.”

Even worse, she deals with the backwash of memories of her son – a “social butterfly who knew no strangers” and whose time was cut short. Yet his death has inspired a renewed appreciation for life and a mission to protect it.

“If we can help keep people healthier and possibly save lives by encouraging others to take the vaccine, then Curt’s death was not in vain,” Christy said. “Life is a precious gift from God.”

The Delta Variant Is the Symptom of a Bigger Threat: Vaccine Refusal

After an all-too-brief respite, the United States is again at a crossroads in the pandemic. The number of infections has ticked up — slowly at first, then swiftly — to 51,000 cases per day, on average, more than four times the rate a month ago. The country may again see overflowing hospitals, exhausted health care workers and thousands of needless deaths.

The more contagious delta variant may be getting the blame, but fueling its rise is an older, more familiar foe: vaccine skechers outlet hesitancy and refusal, long pervasive in the United States. Were a wider swath of the population vaccinated, there would be no resurgence — of the delta variant, alpha variant or any other version of the coronavirus.

While mild breakthrough infections may be more common than once thought, the vaccines effectively prevent severe illness and death. Yet nearly half the population remains unvaccinated and unprotected. About 30% of adults have not received even a single dose, and the percentage is much higher in some parts of the country.

America is one of the few countries with enough vaccines at its disposal to protect every resident — and yet it has the highest rates of vaccine hesitance or refusal of any nation except Russia.

Public health experts have fruitlessly warned for months that the virus — any version of it — would resurge if the country did not vaccinate enough of the population quickly enough. Bill Hanage, a public health researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, predicted in January that Florida might have a rough summer. Now 1 in 5 new infections nationwide is in Florida.

True, the speed and ferocity with which the delta variant is tearing through Asia, Europe, Africa and now North America has taken many experts by surprise. It now accounts for about 83% of the infections in the United States.

But delta is by no means the wickedest variant out there. Gamma and lambda are waiting in the wings, and who knows what frightful versions are already flourishing undetected in the far corners of the world, perhaps even here in America.

Every infected person, anywhere in the world, offers the coronavirus another opportunity to morph into a new variant. The more infections there are globally, the more likely new variants will arise.

The United States will be vulnerable to every one of them until it can immunize golden goose sneakers millions of people who now refuse to get the vaccine, are still persuadable but hesitant or have not yet gained access. The unvaccinated will set the country on fire over and over again.

And they will not be the only ones who are singed. Vaccinated people will be protected from severe illness and death, but there may be other consequences. Already in some communities, they are being asked to wear masks indoors. If the numbers continue to soar, the restrictions that divided the country before may return. Workplaces may need to close again, and schools, too.

And some number of vaccinated people will become infected. Breakthrough infections were expected to be vanishingly rare with the original virus, but recent data suggest they may be less so with the delta variant. It is roughly twice as contagious as the original coronavirus, and some early evidence hints that people infected with the variant carry the virus in much higher amounts.

“The larger the force of infection that comes from the pandemic in unvaccinated populations, the more breakthrough infections there will be,” Hanage said.

Most breakthrough infections produce few to no symptoms, but some may prompt illness in vaccinated people serious enough to lay them up in bed, miss work — and put their children or older relatives at risk. Some cases may lead to long COVID, scientists now fear — a poorly defined syndrome in which symptoms seem to persist for months.

This grim redux has a glaringly obvious solution: shots in arms. But short of a federal mandate — or a patchwork of mandates by municipalities, hospitals, colleges and businesses — it is hard to see how enough Americans will be immunized to form a buttress against the virus.

After a brisk vaccination campaign in the spring, the pace has slowed to about 537,000 doses per day, according to data gathered by The New York Times. Some responsibility for the lag lies with the frank refusal of conservative leaders — often Republicans — to champion the vaccines.

But misinformation, an epidemic all its own on social media, emanates from all parts of the cultural spectrum, ecco shoes and there is no single reason why so many Americans remain unvaccinated. It is a Hydra-headed problem.

Of the 39% of adults who are unvaccinated, about half say they are completely unwilling. But even within that group, some say they would comply if required to do so.

Some are hesitant and may come around with the right persuasion from people they trust, while still others plan to be inoculated but say they have just not had the chance.

Politics is a driver for only some of these people, noted Dr. Richard Besser, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In New Jersey, where he lives, the rates vary drastically because of socioeconomic factors. In mostly white Princeton, 75% of adults are immunized, versus 45% in Trenton, just 14 miles away, which is heavily Black and Latino.

“Both are strong Democratic areas, so it’s really important to break things down and to address the issues that are impeding vaccination progress in each segment of the unvaccinated population,” Besser said.

Still, there is no doubt that the political divide is playing a role in rising infection rates. From the start, vaccinations in counties that voted for Donald Trump lagged behind those in counties that voted for Joe Biden, and the gap has only widened — from 2 percentage points in April to nearly 12 points now, according to one recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Nationwide, 86% of Democrats have had at least one shot, compared with 52% of Republicans, according to another poll. Even the national goal of having 70% of adults vaccinated by July 4 somehow became “Biden’s goal,” said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy and Research at Boston University. All of a sudden, even getting out of the pandemic “became a left-versus-right issue.”

Fewer than half of House Republicans are vaccinated as of May, compared with 100% of congressional Democrats. For months, some Republican lawmakers — including Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rand Paul of Kentucky — and conservative news commentators like Tucker Carlson have voiced their skepticism of vaccines, loudly and insistently.

Lately, as infections rise in conservative precincts, a few Republican leaders have begun championing vaccination. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader, who survived polio as a child, has worn masks and has urged that everyone be immunized. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said in an interview Wednesday that “the politicization of vaccination is an outrage and frankly moronic.”

All of these leaders and many more will need to repeat vaccine affirmations often enough to persuade millions of people to overcome their hesitation. The delta variant is thriving amid American discord. The vaccines are the remedy not just for this variant but all those yet to come.

Lydia Jacoby pulls off biggest upset of Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO — Lydia Jacoby, a 17-year-old from Alaska, stunned reigning gold medalist Lilly King and won the 100-meter breaststroke at the 2020 Games on Tuesday.

Jacoby came home in 1:04.95. South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker finished second (1:05.22). King, the Rio champ, finished third, 0.59 seconds off the pace.

After touching the wall and looking up at the scoreboard to see her brooks shoes name first, Jacoby immediately thought to herself, “That’s insane.”

“It was crazy,” she said. “I was definitely racing for a medal. I knew I had it in me. I wasn’t really expecting a gold medal. When I looked up and saw that scoreboard, it was insane.”

Back in Seward, a gym full of Jacoby’s high school classmates went nuts as she pulled ahead at the end.

How “insane” is Jacoby’s victory?

For starters, there isn’t an Olympic-length pool in Seward, Alaska, where Jacoby lives. During the pandemic, Jacoby had to move to Anchorage, two hours away, just to train. And if not for the pandemic, providing her another year of improvement, Jacoby likely would have been in Tokyo last year as a spectator.

She was the 18th-fastest woman in the 100 breast in 2019, the last full calendar year of competition. She lowered her time from 1:08.12 in 2019 to 1:05.28 at U.S. Trials in June. Tuesday night, she broke the 1:05 mark.

“I don’t think I would have been prepared last year at all,” she said at Trials. “I think this extra year of training I’ve grown physically and mentally.”

USA's Lydia Jacoby reacts after winning the final of the women's 100m breaststroke swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP) (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)
USA’s Lydia Jacoby reacts after winning the final of the women’s 100m breaststroke swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
King came into the race as the favorite. When not disqualified, she entered Tokyo unbeaten skechers shoes in the event in five-and-a-half years. At times since her gold in Rio, and especially since her world record at the world championships a year later, she felt unchallenged.“When there’s nothing on the line, she’s bored,” said her coach, Ray Looze.

She’d yearn for a challenge, and here in Tokyo, she got it.

Schoenmaker broke King’s Olympic record in preliminary heats, and bettered King in the semifinals by 0.33 seconds to earn the top seed in Tuesday’s final.

Those two seemingly would duel it out for gold, and did so over the first 50 meters. But Jacoby never lost contact, and over the last 25 meters surged ahead to pull off the stunning upset.

Walking away afterward, 30 yards behind Jacoby, King looked stunned.

Speaking in the mixed zone afterwards, King took a few questions — “I’m surprisingly OK right now. Very happy with my race, and so hey dude excited for Lydia” — but then Jacoby approached, and everybody’s attention shifted. Reporters went silent, wanting to talk to the newly crowned champ.

“Off to you kiddo,” King said.

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Click image to see slideshow