Virologist who helped identify SARS on coronavirus outbreak: ‘This time I’m scared’

1a46c645b33c2cdbc65944d0812701f5’Like the infectious pneumonia that has killed at least 17 people, SARS was caused by a coronavirus that originated in China. But when one of the virologists who helped identify the SARS virus visited Wuhan, where this virus originated, he didn’t see nearly enough being done to fight it. People were out at markets without masks, “preparing to ring in the New Year in peace and had no sense about the epidemic,” Guan Yi of the University of Hong Kong’s State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases told Caixin. Airports were hardly being disinfected, Guan continued, saying the local government hasn’t “even been handing out quarantine guides to people who were leaving the city.”

The city did disinfect the market where the virus has been traced to, but Guan criticized Wuhan for that, saying it hurts researchers’ abilities to track down the virus’s source. “I’ve never felt scared,” Guan told Caixin. “This time I’m scared.”

A case involving the coronavirus was identified in Washington state on Wednesday, and cases have also been identified in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. A total of 639 cases were confirmed in China.…’

Via Yahoo! News

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It is 100 seconds to midnight

ImagesBulletin of the Atomic Scientists 2020 Doomsday Clock statement:

’Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond. The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.…’

Via Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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More than 25% of Americans believe Trump should be charged with war crimes over killing of Soleimani

UnknownUnknown’In the wake of the US assassination of Iran’s most important military leader, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, more than a quarter of Americans believe The Hague should bring war-crime charges against President Donald Trump, according to a new Insider poll. 

The Insider poll, which ran on Wednesday, found that roughly 27% of the 1,083 respondents said they agreed with Iran that Trump should face a war crime tribunal. The poll did not ask for respondents’ opinions on other aspects of Iran’s position, including Tehran’s desire to bring war-crime charges against the US military and federal government. 

The poll asked: “Iran announced it will pursue war-crime charges against President Donald Trump at the International Criminal Court in the Hague over the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Do you agree or disagree with such charges?” 

While 27.4% said they agreed that Trump should face war crime charges, a far greater proportion of respondents, 35.6%, disagreed. The most popular poll answer was that a respondent “neither agree[d] nor disagree[d]”.…’

Via Business Insider

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The Macabre Science of Mass Animal Die-Offs

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’Unfolding right now across swaths of Australia is an ecological catastrophe, as massive, turbo-charged fires reduce whole landscapes to nothingness. Tens of thousands of koalas had no way of escaping. Livestock lie dead in fields. Innumerable animals have perished, with many species likely pushed to extinction. The few survivors could well starve or fall victim to predators.

We’ll never know the true toll of this mass mortality event, or MME as scientists call it, but we know this: The cadavers that litter the Australian landscape are now rotting, kicking off a cascade of ecological consequences and potentially imperiling human health.…’

Via WIRED

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Alexander Hamilton dispensed of Trump’s impeachment defense in 1788

Alexander Hamilton portrait by Ezra Ames cropped’US founding father Alexander Hamilton would probably counsel president Donald Trump to come up with a better defense than the one offered by Trump’s attorneys ahead of his looming Senate impeachment trial.

Trump’s primary argument—issued in a response to the House impeachment trial brief and summons he received this weekend—is that the impeachment is bunk because the articles fail to allege a “violation of law or crime, let alone ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ as required by the Constitution.” The president also complains that he’s been deprived of due process, relying on the standards outlined for criminal trials.

The historical record, however, doesn’t support Trump’s position that the two processes must mirror each other in form or function. Some have even called comparisons between impeachment and criminal proceedings “bogus” and “bad-faith arguments.”

Hamilton saw this coming. The prolific lawyer illuminated Trump’s claims, albeit indirectly, in Federalist No. 65, a seminal essay in the 1788 Federalist Papers. In the essay, Hamilton made it clear that political impeachment proceedings are necessarily treated unlike crimes in court, substantively and procedurally.…’

Via Quartz

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Trump picked impeachment defense team based on TV performance

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’CNN, citing a “source close to the White House who speaks to the president regularly,” said that the appointment of several high profile legal experts, including Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr, reflects a desire to have a team full of big personalities capable of putting in media appearances in the president’s defense.

“Trump has been telling associates and allies around him that he wanted a ”high profile“ legal team that can perform on television, the source said,” CNN’s report said.

“It’s simply who Trump is, the source continued, adding Trump loves having people who are on television working for him.”…’

Via Business Insider

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Five Ways to Ditch Your Climate Stress and Be Part of the Solution

Images’Yes, our daily lives are undoubtedly contributing to climate change. But that’s because the rich and powerful have constructed systems that make it nearly impossible to live lightly on the earth. Our economic systems require most adults to work, and many of us must commute to work in or to cities intentionally designed to favor the automobile. Unsustainable food, clothes and other goods remain cheaper than sustainable alternatives.

And yet we blame ourselves for not being green enough. As the climate essayist Mary Annaïse Heglar writes, “The belief that this enormous, existential problem could have been fixed if all of us had just tweaked our consumptive habits is not only preposterous; it’s dangerous.” It turns eco-saints against eco-sinners, who are really just fellow victims. It misleads us into thinking that we have agency only by dint of our consumption habits — that buying correctly is the only way we can fight climate change.

Marris’ focus on systems (political, capital, etc.) mirrors that of other climate thinkers (like David Wallace-Wells) and is exactly right IMO:

My point is that the climate crisis is not going to be solved by personal sacrifice. It will be solved by electing the right people, passing the right laws, drafting the right regulations, signing the right treaties — and respecting those treaties already signed, particularly with indigenous nations. It will be solved by holding the companies and people who have made billions off our shared atmosphere to account.

…’

Via kottke

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This Striking Image of the Moon Is a Combination of 100,000 Photos

Andrew mccarthy moon 01

’Backyard astronomer Andrew McCarthy has created some arresting images of various objects in the sky, including galaxies, planets, the Sun, and nebulas. Perhaps his favorite subject is the Moon and for one of his first images of 2020, he combined 100,000 photos to make this image of the first quarter Moon.…’

Via kottke

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What fans of both Bernie and Warren should be thinking about their feud.

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’With the Iowa caucus 20 days away, Democrats who think Sanders and Warren would both be good presidents should continue breathing deeply, maintaining mindfulness, and ignoring trolls whenever the issue of either candidate’s electability, honesty, or misogyny comes up. The worst people in both candidates’ vanguards are furiously battling over a tiny patch of ground, trying to establish a persuasive narrative about which campaign is stronger and more deserving. Soon enough, one of the campaigns will demonstrate that it is better than the other at winning voters and delegates, and all that positioning will be moot.…’

Via Slate.

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NPR coverage of Trump’s Milwaukee rally shows how he’s broken the media

In trying to be above taking sides, the mainstream media does Trump a favor by making order out of his chaos:

’Describing Trump as he really is can make it seem as if a report is “anti-Trump” and that the reporter is trying to make the president look foolish.

But for media outlets that view themselves as above taking sides, attempts to provide a sober, “balanced” look at presidential speeches often end up normalizing things that are decidedly not normal.…’

Via Vox

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Putin and Assad Commiserate About the American Imbecile

‘A video has surfaced of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad laughing about President Trump during Putin’s visit to Damascus last week.

The video, originally posted by a journalist for the Komsomolskaya Pravda, comes just over a month after multiple NATO nation leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron, were recorded seemingly mocking the American president at a NATO summit….’

Via Fox News

Taiwan’s single-payer success story — and its lessons for America

T7A6696How Taiwan built “Medicare for all” and gave everyone health insurance:

’The first in a Vox series on how countries around the world achieve universal health care.…In the 1990s, Taiwan did what has long been considered impossible in the US: The island of 24 million people took a fractured and inequitable health care system and transformed it into something as close to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s vision of Medicare-for-all as anything in the world…’

Via Vox

I just returned from several weeks (recreation and medical conference) in Taiwan, and the convenience, safety, and sanity of their universal healthcare system was the pride of all the Taiwanese citizens and US/European expatriates with whom I talked. 

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Hikikomori: Extreme Social Isolation is More Widespread than Previously Recognized

Unknown’Experts in the Japanese phenomena of hikikomori say the condition of extreme social isolation is more widespread than previously acknowledged, and it deserves a clear and consistent definition to improve treatment across the globe.

In an article published in the February issue of the journal World Psychiatry, experts cite a lack of broad clinical understanding of the condition.

Although hikikomori is typically associated with young adults in Japan, the researchers say many of the same criteria of extended social isolation apply to people around the world, including among older adults and stay-at-home parents. A simplified and clear definition will improve the recognition and subsequent treatment for people who suffer from the condition, the authors write.

The article highlights four key aspects of the newly proposed definition of hikikomori:

  • Confined at home: The proposed definition clarifies the frequency of time spent outside the home, while still meeting the definition of “marked social isolation.”
  • Avoiding people: Some people choose to avoid social situations and interaction not because they’re anxious but because it meets their comfort level. The newly suggested definition therefore removes the avoidance of social situations as a criteria.
  • Better defining distress: Many people diagnosed with hikikomori report that they feel content in their social withdrawal. However, as the duration of social withdrawal gets longer, their distress and feelings of loneliness increases.
  • Other disorders: Co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression should not exclude patients from also being assessed for and diagnosed with hikikomori. “In our view, the frequency of co-occurring conditions increases the importance of addressing social withdrawal as a health issue,” they write.…’

Via Neuroscience News

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This pathetic lunatic is going to get you killed

01583796 2487 4c3f 8fc7 e01a3ab0f92aTrump expected to be praised for Soleimani killing, but majority say it made U.S. less safe:

’The day after the drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, President Donald Trump was feeling confident. He was so satisfied with how things had turned out that he planned to play golf that morning, according to an extensive New York Times piece that looks at the events surrounding the killing. The president’s advisers though cautioned him against doing that, worried it would send the wrong message at a time when the killing had sent shockwaves across the region.

Even though he was advised against playing golf, Trump was still in a good mood. The president fully expected to be applauded for the killing of Soleimani. The reality proved to be quite different, and the president started to become angry when many critics said he had needlessly escalated the simmering conflict with Iran. As a result, he went around to talk to guests at his properties in Florida and was seemingly joyful to receive praise.…’

Via Slate.

Related: Soleimani and the Dawn of a New Nuclear Age:

’Iranian missile attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. Deadly chaos in Iran. A sudden halt of the fight against the Islamic State. Utter confusion over whether U.S. troops will remain in Iraq, and even whether the United States still respects the laws of war. The fallout from the Trump administration’s killing of Qassem Soleimani has been swift and serious.

But one potential knock-on effect may not come into clear view for some time: the emergence of Iran as the next nuclear-weapons state, at the very moment when the world appears on the cusp of a more perilous nuclear age. It’s possible that the Reaper drone hovering over Baghdad’s airport last week destroyed not only an infamous Iranian general, but also the last hope of curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.…’

Via The Atlantic

And: Administration Still Struggling to Craft a Coherent Story about the Assassination

’Trump said Soleimani was planning attacks on “four US embassies,” but Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he didn’t see” intelligence about such strikes.…’

Via Defense Secretary Esper says he “didn’t see” intel showing imminent Iranian attacks on embassies – Vox

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3 tips for a better museum visit

72575132 2479584922330830 8573007290690795405 n 2Austin Kleon:

’Here are 3 things I do that make my museum experiences much richer:

  1. Draw, draw, draw! 
  2. Enlist a small child to guide you through the museum. 
  3. Don’t read the label before you look at the art.…’

Via Austin Kleon

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The Definitive Guide to the World’s Hidden Blunders

Babr ’Everybody makes mistakes. Some go relatively unnoticed—fleeting blips soon forgiven and forgotten. But others last, adding a quirky kind of charm to the attractions they grace. From a befuddling beast that became a Siberian town’s
mascot to a Nebraska jail that was accidentally sold to a teenager, here are 19 mistakes worth marveling at.…’

Via Atlas Obscura

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Was Killing Suleimani Justified? by Peter Singer

A0b652326f1d232bd25e3b8a584d2d51 2 1 large 1As an extrajudicial assassination that was not necessary to prevent an imminent attack, it was both illegal and unethical:

’In the wake of Suleimani’s assassination, Agnès Callamard, a Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that there is no oversight of targeted killings carried out beyond a country’s borders. The Executive simply decides, without any legal due process or approval by any other branch of government, who is to be killed. Accepting such an action makes it difficult to find any principled objection to similar killings planned or carried out by other countries. That includes the 2011 “Cafe Milano Plot,” supposedly masterminded by Suleimani himself, in which Iranian agents planned to kill the Saudi ambassador to the US while he lunched at a well-known restaurant in Washington, DC.

The only thing the US can say in defense of its assassinations is that it targets really bad guys, and the Saudi ambassador was not such a bad guy. That puts the rule of men above the rule of law.

The other justification that the Pentagon offered for the killing referred vaguely to “deterring future Iranian attack plans.” As Callamard pointed out, this is not the same as the “imminent” attack required to justify acting in self-defense under international law. She also noted that others were killed in the attack – reportedly, a total of seven people died – and suggested that these other deaths were clearly illegal killings.

A careful reading of the transcript of the January 3 press briefing, held by three unidentified senior State Department officials, reveals the Trump administration’s real thinking. In response to repeated questions about the justification of the assassination, one official compared it to the 1943 downing of a plane carrying Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who was visiting Japanese troops in the Pacific – an incident that occurred in the midst of war, more than a year after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Another official said: “When I hear these questions it’s like you’re describing Belgium for the last 40 years. It’s the Iranian regime. We’ve got 40 years of acts of war that this regime has committed against countries in five continents.” At one point, the official who had compared the assassination to the killing of Yamamoto blurted out: “Jesus, do we have to explain why we do these things?”2

If senior State Department officials believe that the US is engaged in a just war with Iran, as it was with Japan in 1943, the killing of Suleimani makes sense. According to standard just war theory, you may kill your enemies whenever you have the chance to do so, as long as the importance of the target outweighs the so-called collateral damage of harm to innocents.

But the US is not at war with Iran. The US Constitution gives Congress the sole authority to declare war, and it has never declared war on Iran. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi suggested that congressional leaders should have been consulted on the plan to kill Suleimani. If it was an act of war, she is right.

If, on the other hand, the killing was not an act of war, then, as an extrajudicial assassination that was not necessary to prevent an imminent attack, it was both illegal and unethical. It risks severe negative consequences, not only in terms of escalating tit-for-tat retaliation in the Middle East, but also by contributing to a further decline in the international rule of law.…’

Via Project Syndicate

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How many animals died in Australia fires? 1 billion, experts estimate.

’Many wild animals and some farm animals have been killed directly by the flames. We can see the evidence with our own eyes: Distressing images of burned kangaroos and koalas, and videos of dead animals on the sides of the roads, have circulated online over the past week.

Other animals have not been burned alive but have faced death due to the destruction of their natural environment, which they rely on for food and shelter.…’

Via Vox

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Why bipolar disorder is becoming more ‘desirable’ than other mental illnesses

’Bipolar disorder is a severe mental health condition. But in recent years it has become the one mental health diagnosis that patients are willing to accept. Research shows that to some people it has actually become “desirable” when compared with other mood disorders.

This could be because of bipolar disorder’s association with creativity. For example, Charles Dickens and Beethoven are thought to have had bipolar disorder. The de-stigmatizing effect of considerable media coverage could also be a factor. As could its association with successful celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Kanye West, and Carrie Fisher.…’

Via Neuroscience News

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Why didn’t we know this until now?

Bill Barr, warrior for theocracy:

‘William Barr, the attorney general of the United States, has …served on the board of the Catholic Information Center, although Opus Dei has officially denied that he is a member. Just as the political and media establishment conveniently overlooked Barr’s long-term commitment to the “unitary executive theory” in its most extreme form, they didn’t seem to know that he was even more committed to far-right social conservatism. It wasn’t until Barr gave a speech at Notre Dame last October that everyone finally understood to what degree he is a religious crusader….’

Via Salon.com