Showing posts from March, 2020

The scale of the coronavirus crisis exposes how pointless the Brexit cause is

This might not feel like the moment to go on about Brexit, but  Brexit  goes on whether we are feeling it or not. When people are worried about surviving April, December’s deadline for EU trade talks seems a long way off. Covid-19 may have eclipsed older problems, but they will not solve themselves in its shadow. The  disease has halted negotiations  and infected the lead negotiators. All Whitehall capacity is being spent on the immediate crisis. Boris Johnson has no time for Brexit. If he did, he might want to practise some social distancing from the idea. Suppose for a moment that Britain had not already committed to quitting the single market. Then imagine the government choosing the peak of a pandemic to plan new obstructions for goods flowing between the UK and Europe. Picture Rishi Sunak, wunderkind chancellor, explaining why supply chains must be disrupted and friction added at Channel ports.  Ponder ministers selling the idea of a customs border between mainland Brita

Concerns Grow Over Wuhan Doctor Amid Call For Return to Work

Whistleblowing Wuhan doctor Ai Fen is currently incommunicado, believed detained after giving media interviews about her initial concerns over the coronavirus, according to an Australian media report. "Just two weeks ago the head of Emergency at Wuhan Central Hospital went public, saying authorities had stopped her and her colleagues from warning the world," flagship investigative show 60 Minutes Australia reported on Sunday. "She has now disappeared, her whereabouts unknown," the show reported, also tweeting photos of Ai. Soon after the show aired, Ai's account on the Twitter-like platform Weibo sent out a single, cryptic post with a photo taken from Wuhan's Jianghan Road. "A river. A bridge. A road. A clock chime," the post read, the first since March 16, when the account posted to thank everyone for their concern about Ai and to reassure them that she was back at work as usual.

Coronavirus could travel 27 feet, stay in air for hours: MIT researcher

Social-distancing guidelines  to stay 6 feet from others may be woefully inadequate, one scientist warns — saying the coronavirus can travel 27 feet and linger for hours. MIT associate professor Lydia Bourouiba, who has researched the dynamics of coughs and sneezes for years, warns in  newly published research  that the current guidelines are based on outdated models from the 1930s. Rather than the assumed safety of 6 feet, Bourouiba warns that “pathogen-bearing droplets of all sizes can travel 23 to 27 feet.” Her research,  published in the Journal of the American Medical Association , also warns that “droplets that settle along the trajectory can contaminate surfaces” — and “residues or droplet nuclei” may “stay suspended in the air for hours.” She notes a 2020 report from China that showed that “virus particles could be found in the ventilation systems in hospital rooms of patients with COVID-19.”

Carey Gillam: Monsanto planned to profit from farmer losses

The US agriculture giant  Monsanto  and the German chemical giant BASF were aware for years that their plan to introduce a new agricultural seed and chemical system would probably lead to damage on many US farms, internal documents seen by the Guardian show. Risks were downplayed even while they planned how to profit off farmers who would buy Monsanto’s new seeds just to avoid damage, according to documents unearthed during a recent successful $265m lawsuit brought against both firms by a Missouri farmer. The documents, some of which date back more than a decade, also reveal how Monsanto opposed some third-party product testing in order to curtail the generation of data that might have worried regulators. And in some of the internal BASF emails, employees appear to joke about sharing “voodoo science” and hoping to stay “out of jail”. The new crop system developed by Monsanto and BASF was designed to address the fact that millions of acres of US farmland have become overrun w

Coronavirus forces economics profession to leave comfort zone. By Mohamed El-Erian

With the coronavirus devastating one economy after another, the economics profession – and thus the analytical underpinnings for sound policymaking and crisis management – is having to play catchup. Of particular concern are the economics of viral contagion, of fear and of “circuit breakers”. The more that economic thinking advances to meet changing realities, the better will be the analysis that informs the policy response. That response is set to be both novel and inevitably costly. Governments and central banks are pursuing unprecedented measures to mitigate the global downturn, lest a now-certain global recession gives way to a depression (already an uncomfortably high risk). As they do, we will likely see a further erosion of the distinction between mainstream economics in advanced economies and in developing economies. Such a change is sorely needed. With overwhelming evidence of massive declines in consumption and production across countries, analysts in advanced econom

Donate for poor Indians affected by Covid-19 lockdown

Dear readers :  Here is a  link  to an initiative taken by some Ashoka Young India Fellows to raise donations for those poor Indians who are not beneficiaries of the official scheme to tackle the Covid-19 crisis. Please donate and forward it.  These links are for similar work in  Delhi  and  Mumbai .  This  website gives information about efforts being made globally for Covid and finally,  this  one is a live tracker of covid cases in India, updated every 4 hours The human rights group RIGHTS is working hard in the colonies and villages of Kerala Here are links to a fundraiser request   Indians can donate here: fundraisers/support-ajay- kumar-12 People outside India can donate here: https://www. page-82 see also Bailouts for the rich, the virus for the rest of us India's poorest 'fear hunger may kill us before coronavirus' Here’s a major lesson from the pandemic: We can save the planet from climate c

Giorgio Agamben’s Coronavirus Cluelessness. By Anastasia Berg

The Italian philosopher’s interventions are symptomatic of theory’s collapse into paranoia Like a bemused Fox News anchor, Agamben concludes that travel bans, canceling public and private events, closing public and commercial institutions, and enforcing quarantine and surveillance are all simply "disproportionate" The unprecedented uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic has decimated our carefully laid plans and unsettled our minds at equal pace. Anxiety manifests in an utter inability to concentrate; our efforts to "work from home" are largely consumed by staring blankly at Twitter, the homepages of  The New York Times  and  The Guardian , and Medium  posts   stuffed with impenetrable graphs and dubious advice. These circumstances call not for more epidemiological modeling, we think, but for philosophy. The question — "What should I do?"— is, after all, a variant of the first philosophical question, namely, how should I live? Just in time,

Delilah Friedler: Capitalism Is America’s Religion. The Virus Makes That Clear.

No matter what they preach in the churches of Texas, there is one authority higher than that of Jesus in this country: capitalism Despite experts urging that quarantine measures may need to continue for months to quell the spread of coronavirus, President Trump has said he wants the United States to be “opened up and just raring to go” by Easter, in less than three weeks. Why Easter? “I think it’ll be a beautiful time,” he told reporters on Tuesday, even as the Pope was  instructing bishops  to help Catholics celebrate Easter from home. “Wouldn’t it be great to have all the churches full?” said Trump.  Let’s be real: Despite his recently adopted pro-life views, our twice-divorced, oft-philandering president has never been religious. What he really wants is to end the lockdown quickly in order to save “the economy.” Politicians keep suggesting we forgo public health advice and get back to work for the sake of this “economy” thing; the ironic hashtag #DieForTheDow trended on Twitt

Milena Iakimova: Ordinary propagandists

In order to understand disinformation, we need to look beyond its content. Bulgaria provides a stark example of how structural changes in the media environment force journalists to become unwilling participants in the propaganda cycle. A common opinion among journalists, academics and experts across the political spectrum is that the hegemony of the liberal order has become increasingly insecure. However, definitions of the ‘liberal order’ vary greatly. In some cases, the term refers to globalized financial markets; in others, to individualism and its ‘excesses’; and in others still, to the rule of law based on individual rights and the separation of powers. Various developments have recently challenged these ‘liberal orders’: the global financial crisis of 2007–2008, the migrant crisis of 2015/16, the decades-long policy of public spending cuts, also known as austerity, and increasing social discontent against the new inequalities. What is called ‘disinformation’ merges diff

Patrick Cockburn: The US is losing its superpower status and it might not recover // Patrick Wyman: How Do You Know If You’re Living Through the Death of an Empire? // Tom Scocca: This Isn’t Trump’s Katrina. It’s Slow-Motion 9/11

Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent ( winning submissions to  The Washington Post's yearly neologism contest) My favorite line belongs to an old Irish woman taxi driver in Boston.  Flo Kennedy  and I were in the backseat talking about Flo’s book, Abortion Rap, and the driver turned around and said,   'Honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.' I wish I’d gotten her name so we could attribute it to her -  Gloria Steinem Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind  -  Albert Einstein Nixon is the kind of guy who, if you were drowning twenty feet from shore, would throw you a fifteen-foot rope -  Eugene McCarthy [Also applies to Trump] The coronavirus crisis is the equivalent of Suez and Afghanistan for Trump’s America. Indeed, these crises seem minor compared to the Covid-19 pandemic The US may be reaching its “Chernobyl moment” as it fails to lead

Canada mourns Takaya – the lone sea wolf whose spirit captured the world. By Leyland Cecco

The life - and this week’s sudden death - of the legendary wolf shone a light on the often-strained bond between humans and wild animals. Tayaka was a rare species of canine known as the coastal or sea wolf. These predators thrive in marine environments and have become adept at living off a diet of salmon, shellfish and seals instead of deer. Fifty years ago, there were few coastal wolves in the region, victims of overhunting and habitat degradation. Today an estimated 250 of them roam the 12,000 sq miles of Vancouver Island, a remarkable turnaround for the embattled predators Takaya on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Photo: Cheryl Alexander/Wild Awake Images When Doug Paton burst from his trailer on a warm spring afternoon, he expected to confront yet another stray dog agitating the livestock on his sister’s farm outside Victoria, a city on Canada’s west coast. Instead, standing barefoot in the grass, he found himself face to face with a wolf. “It stopped dead in its tracks and

Jonathan Jones: 'We are all Edward Hopper paintings now'

Who can fail to have been moved by all the images of people on their doorsteps clapping for the NHS last night? They filled TV screens and news websites, presenting a warming picture of solidarity in enforced solitude – all alone yet all together. But there are some far less reassuring images circulating on social media. Some people are saying we now all exist inside an  Edward Hopper  painting. It doesn’t seem to matter which one. Edward Hopper’s Cape Cod Morning, 1950. Photograph: Alamy I assume this is because we are coldly distanced from each other, sitting at our lonely windows overlooking an eerily empty city, like the woman perched on her bed in Morning Sun, or the other looking out of a bay window in Cape Cod Morning. “We are all Edward Hopper paintings now,” according to a WhatsApp compilation of Hopper scenes: a woman alone in a deserted cinema, a man bereft in his modern apartment, a lonely shop worker and people sitting far apart at tables for one in a diner. As

Louise Boyle: The ozone layer is healing, new study finds

The ozone layer is continuing to heal and has the potential to fully recover, according to a new study.  A scientific paper, published in Nature, heralds a rare success in the reversal of environmental damage and shows that orchestrated global action can make a difference. The ozone layer is a protective shield in the Earth’s stratosphere which absorbs most of the ultraviolet radiation reaching us from the sun. Without the ozone layer it would be nearly impossible for anything to survive on the planet. In the past, human use of substances – chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – caused such life-threatening damage to the ozone layer that in 1987, an international treaty called the “Montreal Protocol” was adopted to ban them. Antara Banerjee, a CIRES Visiting Fellow at the University of Colorado Boulder who also works at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is lead author of the study. She told The Independent: “We found signs of climate changes in the southern hemisphere

Damian Carrington: Scientists find bug that feasts on toxic plastic

A bacterium that feeds on toxic plastic has been discovered by scientists. The bug not only breaks the plastic down but uses it as food to power the process. The bacterium, which was found at a waste site where plastic had been dumped, is the first that is known to attack polyurethane. Millions of tonnes of the plastic is produced every year to use in items such as sports shoes, nappies, kitchen sponges and as foam insulation, but it is mostly sent to landfill because it it too tough to recycle. When broken down it can release toxic and carcinogenic chemicals which would kill most bacteria, but the newly discovered strain is able to survive. While the research has identified the bug and some of its key characteristics, much work remains to be done before it can be used to treat large amounts of waste plastic.  “These findings represent an important step in being able to reuse hard-to-recycle polyurethane products,” said Hermann Heipieper, at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmenta

The people helping strangers during the coronavirus pandemic

The UK on Monday became the latest country to  restrict people's movements because of coronavirus . UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson banned people from leaving their homes apart from a few "very limited" reasons.  But the new measures have also inspired many to help out in their communities, and social media is awash with offers of help and support for those in need and frontline workers. More than half a million people responded to the UK government's call to become a volunteer for the National Health Service (NHS), the country's Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Thursday. The government was hoping to get 250,000 people to sign up. A long way from the fraught scenes of supermarkets stripped bare and fights breaking out at the checkouts are the thoughtful groups and individuals who are doing what they can to try and make a difference. Ravinder Singh, founder and CEO of Khalsa Aid, an international humanitarian relief organization, has been distributing f

High levels of testing, age of patients and a strong healthcare system: how Germany became Europe’s first country to flatten the curve

The streets of the hedonistic city of Berlin are eerily empty. As night approaches, bars and restaurants are shuttered and streets are deserted. Even the drug dealers still hanging around notorious Görlitzer Park are wearing disposable gloves. Unlike the UK,  Italy , France and  Spain ,  Germany  has stopped short of ordering a nationwide lockdown, instead opting for strict social-distancing measures, including a ban on gatherings of more than two people. Only the state of Bavaria, where the first cases were detected in January, has announced a full lockdown. Germany has so far avoided the catastrophic levels of infection that have ravaged Spain and Italy: by Wednesday, 181 people had died from  Covid-19  with 35,714 confirmed cases. In comparison, more than 6,800 people have died in Italy, and more than 3,400 in Spain. Cases have topped 69,000 and 47,000 respectively.   Germany’s low mortality rate has puzzled experts. One theory is that it may be due to the disease spreading a

Death by Capitalism? #NotDying4WallStreet // People Are Fed Up With Wall Street, Banks and Oligarchs

Progressives Reject Efforts to Put Corporate Profits Over Public Health As  President Donald Trump  and  business elites  suggest the U.S. public should go back to work in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the hashtag  #NotDying4WallStreet   went viral late Monday as progressives made clear they are not willing to jeopardize their own or their community's health to protect corporate profits Defense budget 2020-2022 $1.4 trillion Nurses in NYC wearing garbage bags Our priorities are way off "If we have to rent strike, general strike, whatever has to happen, we will not die for oligarchs' quarterly profit margin,"  tweeted  progressive radio host Benjamin Dixon. "This system crashes without our participation. But they cannot force us to participate at the expense of our lives."  The hashtag erupted after Trump  signaled Monday  that he could move as early as next week to lift federal social distancing guidelines and encourage some people to

Gordon Brown calls for global government to tackle coronavirus

NB : Finally a recognition that global problems - emergencies such as this, and global warming - must be and can only be dealt with by concerted, co-ordinated global effort. Not with power-politics, nationalist rhetoric and one-up-manship. Not propaganda and misinformation. Wake up people! DS Gordon Brown has urged world leaders to create a temporary form of global government to tackle the twin medical and economic crises caused by the  Covid-19 pandemic . The former Labour prime minister, who was at the centre of the international efforts to tackle the impact of the near-meltdown of the  banks in 2008 , said there was a need for a taskforce involving world leaders, health experts and the heads of the international organisations that would have executive powers to coordinate the response. A  virtual meeting of the G20  group of developed and developing countries, chaired by Saudi Arabia, will be held on Thursday, but Brown said it would have been preferable to have also include

Sarah Johnson - 'People think it's magic': how one of Brazil's poorest cities gets its best school results

The children of Sobral have overcome disadvantage to top 5,000 districts. Now their success is being replicated across the country As you approach the city of Sobral in north-east  Brazil , the road worsens. Huge pot holes slow traffic to a crawl. The heat is suffocating, even worse when there is no cloud cover. Sobral is poor. Jobs are scarce, salaries meagre, gangs the only option for many. For children, it’s a tough start to life.  Ana Farias, headteacher of an early-years school in a low-income neighbourhood controlled by a gang, knows this only too well. Some of her students wouldn’t eat if it were not for free school meals.  Farias and her colleagues often hear stories of home life; some children have to accompany their mothers who sell sex at night. “It’s a challenge but it motivates me to be here every day. We want to make a difference in their lives,” she says.  This is one of the last places anyone would expect would be a paragon of educational excellence. Yet, Sobra

Here’s the grim truth about our beautiful world in the age of Trump and the arsonists / The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump

Here’s the grim truth about our beautiful world in the age of Trump and the arsonists It was no mistake, for instance, that, when Donald Trump finally  turned his mind  to the coming pandemic (rather than denying it) as the economy he had been  bragging about  for the previous three years began to crash, one of the first groups he genuinely worried about didn’t include you or me or even his base.  It was America’s fossil-fuel industry. As global transportation  ground down  amid coronavirus panic and a wild oil  price war  between the Saudis and the Russians, those companies were being clobbered.  And so he quickly reached out to them with both empathy and money - promising to  buy tons of extra crude oil  for the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve (“We’re going to fill it right to the top”) — unavailable to so many other endangered Americans.  At that moment he made it perfectly clear that, in an unfolding crisis of the first order, all of us remain in a world run by  arsonis

India's poorest 'fear hunger may kill us before coronavirus'

NB : It is utterly ruthless of the Modi regime to have announced a lockdown without giving India's millions of migrant workers adequate notice to prepare for a journey home - a natural desire for anyone person in the face of calamity. It is impossible to implement, but enough to cause havoc in the lives of the poor. It is another example of their callous attitude toward human suffering - reminiscent of demonetisation.  This measure should have been taken weeks ago, with preparation - wasn't there sufficient notice of the crisis in Wuhan?   But our great leaders were too busy with their latest divisive scheme:  CAA , which discriminates between incoming refugees on the basis of their religion. Not to mention communal violence  in Delhi, stoked up by their political allies. Now what has happened gentlemen? Why not apply the same rule to refugees infected by COVID-19? Isn't Hindu Corona better than Muslim Corona? And how come your 'lockdown' has no effect on the Chi

The ways viruses can spread in offices

Around the world millions of people have abandoned their offices – their carefully organised desks, the fluorescent lights, the humming photocopier, the gossipy watercooler – as governments mandate that employees work from home. These measures are an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus; workers are deemed safer isolated in their homes, and getting out of crowded offices can slow the spread of Covid-19. Banning work in centralised offices isn’t just a precaution – offices have been, and are, prime sites for the spread of viruses and bacteria. You’re likely familiar with cycle: every season, a bug will go around. One person will arrive at the office – sneezing, coughing – and will pass on whatever virus they have to their colleagues. And the cycle will continue. Every season, a bug will go around. You know what comes next. Researchers have shown that bugs, germs, viruses and bacteria spread easily in an office. Krissi Hewitt, director of institutional research and

Doctors, nurses face corona stigma in neighbourhood

NB : This kind of hostility toward those who are risking their lives to look after patients is an example of humans gripped by evil. Our caste system also fosters hostility and disgust toward those who do the most essential jobs, such as cleaning human waste. It is not peculiar to India: in the UK, nurses were spat upon whilst going to rescue patients. Such things remind us of how some people are incapable of appreciating the courage and devotion to duty being shown by medical professionals; and allowing instead our fear to overcome basic human empathy. What a shame. DS Doctors, nurses face corona stigma in neighbourhood Many clapped Sunday  to thank those at the frontline of the war against  coronavirus , but the disease has also acquired a stigma with healthcare professionals treating  Covid-19  patients not being allowed accommodation, doctors being trolled for pointing out scarcity in protective gear, and even the dead being deprived of dignity. In Kolkata, a 30-year old w

William Davies: The last global crisis didn't change the world. But this one could // Bram Ieven & Jan Overwijk - We created this beast

It is now inevitable that we will experience  deep global recession , a breakdown of labour markets and the evaporation of consumer spending. The terror that drove government action in the autumn of 2008 was that money would stop coming out of the cash machines, unless the banking system was propped up.  It turns out that if people stop coming out of their homes, then the circulation of money grinds to a halt as well.  Small businesses are shedding employees at a frightening speed, while Amazon has  advertised for an additional 100,000 workers  in the US. (One of the few, and far from welcome, continuities from the world we’re leaving behind is the relentless growth of the platform giants.)  The decade that shapes our contemporary imagination of crises is the 1970s, which exemplified the way a historic rupture can set an economy and a society on a new path. This period marked the collapse of the postwar system of fixed exchange rates, capital controls and wage policies, which were

Indian-made Coronavirus test kits not good enough?

As per the guidelines for the testing of Covid-19 in private laboratories issued by the Union Health Ministry, matters for Indian manufacturers may get complicated given that only United State Food and Drug Administration (US-FDA) or European Conformitè Europëenne (CE) have been mandated for use.  The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare state that “commercial kits for real-time PCR based diagnosis of Covid-19 should be USFDA approved or European CE certified, or both, for in vitro diagnosis of Covid-19 under emergency use.”  The guidelines exclude all the kits, like the low-cost one developed by IIT-Delhi, currently being tested at the National Institute of Virology, Pune (NIV). With the shutdown of exports, a shortage of testing kits was inevitable but it was expected that once Indian companies got their test kids validated, they could start manufacturing and supplying the kits to private labs to amplify testing. Whatever happened to Make in India? Now,