NEWARK — Nearly two days after losing her job, former Orange teacher Marylin Zuniga vowed on Thursday to continue fighting against her termination for allowing her third-grade students to write "get well" letters to an inmate convicted of killing a police officer. "The fight is not over," Zuniga told several dozen supporters at Abyssinian Baptist Church…
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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is set to meet with billionaire Elon Musk on Friday, according to a government source.
The meeting will be held in Sao Paulo, a source with the Brazilian president's office told AFP, without giving any details on what will be on the agenda.
Earlier, Bolsonaro said that he had planned a private meeting in Sao Paulo "with a very important person who is recognized throughout the world."
"He is coming to offer his help for our Amazon," the president said in his weekly social media broadcast, without naming Musk.
Currently the CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla, Musk is the richest person in the world, with a fortune estimated at $220 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
The entrepreneur attracted worldwide attention when he announced last month that he planned to buy Twitter in a deal worth $44 billion dollars.
The Brazilian government said in November that they were negotiating with SpaceX to secure satellite internet in the Amazon rainforest and to get help in detecting illegal deforestation.
In a bid to provide high-speed internet around the world, especially to underserved areas, SpaceX has launched thousands of its own Starlink satellites orbit, with many more launches already planned.
© 2022 AFP
By Jason Beeferman, The Texas Tribune
May 20, 2022
Texas and the rest of the U.S. are experiencing a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases — but health experts say not to panic, noting that the most recent infections seem to be less deadly and that the state is now better prepared than it’s ever been.
State data shows that as of Tuesday, the seven-day average of new cases increased by 178 compared with a week prior, bringing the average to 3,108. In March and April at this time of the month, average daily cases were 3,456 and 2,016, respectively.
“We know that case counts for COVID-19 are increasing all across our state [and] we expect that the case counts will continue to rise,” said Dr. Jennifer Shuford, the chief state epidemiologist for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
Average COVID-19 hospitalizations are also rising slightly, with 803 Texans currently hospitalized with the virus.
Shuford said the disease still poses a risk to Texans’ personal health but noted that the state is in a good position to respond to the latest increase.
“Right now, our hospitals have a lot of capacity, and that’s a great thing and hasn’t always been true through this pandemic,” she said.
She also said the number of COVID-19 patients receiving attention at Texas hospitals is the lowest it’s been in the last two years.
Dr. James McDeavitt, the executive vice president and dean of clinical affairs at Baylor College of Medicine, said he hopes immunity from vaccinations and the last two surges will help keep the infection rate low this time around.
“Every time we have one of these waves, every one is a little bit unique,” he said. “The hopeful outcome is that because we have enough people vaccinated, and because through delta and omicron [variants] we’ve gotten a lot of people infected, that there is enough immunity in the population that it won’t translate into severe illness and hospitalizations.”
The latest increase in cases can largely be attributed to two new COVID subvariants, BA.2 and BA.2.12.1, which represented 61.8% and 32.4%, respectively, of all cases in Texas during the week of May 7, according to state data. Both are related to earlier subvariants of omicron but don’t appear to be as virulent.
The newer BA.2.12.1 strain is expected to overtake the BA.2 strain and comprise the majority of new cases in Texas. BA.2.12.1 appears to be more transmissible but less deadly than its predecessor, Shuford said.
Carrie Kroll of the Texas Hospital Association agreed that hospitals are largely prepared to deal with this wave and said that treatments like monoclonal antibodies and antiviral pills have made the health facilities better prepared to deal with the virus by preventing COVID-19 patients from reaching acute stages of the disease.
But she also said state hospitals are still facing a shortage of nurses and respiratory therapists, a problem that can be felt across hospital departments, she said.
“The more that we can do to keep the disease at bay so hospitals can focus on people that are acutely ill for other reasons, and make space for them, the better.”
McDeavitt also called for caution, noting that while state data shows an increase in infections, actual case numbers are likely higher since at-home tests have become more popular and their results often go unreported.
It’s also too early to tell for sure what the direction the rise in cases will take.
“If the consequence of this wave is that a lot of people get viral upper respiratory tract symptoms, have the sniffles, have a cough and it’s self-limiting and [you] don’t get sick, then that would be a good outcome for this wave,” McDeavitt said. “The next couple weeks are going to be telling.”
He added that although COVID-19 variants like delta and omicron have been less deadly and more transmissible than previous variants, “we can’t rule out the possibility that we will eventually see a variant that causes more severe disease than we’ve seen in the past.”
Kroll noted that Texas and the rest of the U.S. will continue to see various peaks and valleys of COVID-19 case numbers as long as a large portion of the population remains unvaccinated or without antibodies for the virus.
“It’s important to remember that we are still in a pandemic, COVID is still a real threat,” Kroll said.
Experts agree that the best way to protect against the virus is still to get vaccinated and boosted. Moreover, wearing high-grade masks in public indoor settings is recommended as an effective way to guard against the virus — especially for people who are immunocompromised or live with individuals who are especially vulnerable to the virus.
Disclosure: The Texas Department of Health and Human Services and the Texas Hospital Association have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/05/20/texas-covid-19/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.
In a hall on Japan's Sado island, 71-year-old Yoshikazu Fujimoto strikes the imposing drum mounted before him, producing a boom so powerful that it reverberates through the floorboards.
Fujimoto is a veteran performer of Japanese taiko drumming, a musical form with roots in religious rituals, traditional theatre and the joyous abandon of seasonal festivals called matsuri.
But for all its ancient pedigree, taiko as a stage performance is a fairly modern invention, developed by a jazz musician and popularized in part by one of Japan's most famous troupes: Sado island's Kodo.
Fujimoto is the oldest of the 37 musicians that make up the group, which recruits members through a rigorous two-year training program.
It was founded partly to attract people to Sado, off Japan's west coast, and tours internationally, spreading the gospel of taiko.
"Taiko itself is like a prayer," said Fujimoto, who came to Sado in 1972 to join the group that evolved into Kodo.
"It used to be said that the area reached by the sound of a drum made up a single community," he said.
"Through taiko... I want to become part of a community with the audience and send a message of living together, a message of compassion."
It has been a life-long project for Fujimoto, who is a specialist performer of the o-daiko, an enormous single drum mounted on a stand that is struck by a musician standing with his back to the audience and arms raised overhead.
The effect is an all-encompassing wall of sound that seems to enter the ribcage and vibrate through its bones.
And it is highly physical, with Fujimoto grunting in exertion as the muscles in his almost-bare back flex beneath the straps of his tunic with every strike.
'One with the sound'
"I become one with the sound," he said. "Playing taiko makes me feel I'm alive."
Kodo's performances range from the sombre power of the o-daiko solo to ensemble pieces featuring flute and singing, and even comic interludes that encourage audience participation.
Taiko simply means drum in Japanese, and performers use two main types.
The first is made from a single, hollowed tree trunk with cow or horsehide nailed over each end. The second uses hide stretched over rings attached with ropes to a wooden body.
They have been part of rituals and theatrical artforms like noh and kabuki in Japan for centuries.
But drumming in those contexts is often a solemn practice, while modern taiko performance is closer to folk festivals where troupes often made up of local residents play in streets or fields to unite the community, drive away malign influences or pray for a good harvest.
"Contemporary taiko drumming took a lot of inspiration from this local festival drumming and combined with more formal traditional performing arts to evolve into what we see as taiko drumming today," explained Yoshihiko Miyamoto, whose company Miyamoto Unosuke has made taiko for over 160 years.
Key to that evolution was jazz drummer Daihachi Oguchi, who moved festival drumming onto the stage in the 1950s and 60s.
Then in 1969, musician Den Tagayasu moved to Sado to found a taiko troupe that he hoped would attract young people to the island and revitalize it.
'Straight to your soul'
Fujimoto left his native Kyoto to join the group known as Ondekoza, and when they split he stayed and helped found Kodo.
Joining now involves an arduous two-year training program, where apprentices aged 18-25 live in dorms, without phones or televisions.
"The day starts at 5am, when we get up and immediately go out to stretch. Then we start cleaning and polishing the floors," said Hana Ogawa, a 20-year-old who completed the trainee program this year.
After cleaning, the trainees go for a run and then spend the entire day practicing, with breaks only for food. They have one day off a week.
It might not be for everyone, but Ogawa, who decided to join Kodo after seeing them perform in high school, has no regrets.
"I'm happy every day, because I love taiko and I pursued this one goal and achieved it, so it's a dream come true," she told AFP.
Taiko drumming has been growing in popularity at home and abroad in recent years, with troupes established in Europe and the United States and a steady rise in overseas orders for Miyamoto's store.
"Taiko has the power to connect people with its sound," he said.
"Especially in this contemporary age, you hear the sound of machines everywhere, but taiko uses this raw hide and the drum bodies made by wood," he added.
"It's like a sound of nature, it's very organic. I think that's one of the reasons it comes straight to your soul."
© 2022 AFP