Sunday, November 29, 2020

New Yorker column: "How China controlled the coronavirus" by Peter Hessler -- it was very draconian

Sichuan Library

The New Yorker has a long article in the Aug 17 2020 issue in its “Reporter at Large” column, “How China controlled the coronavirus” with the subtitle “Teaching and learning in Sichuan during the pandemic”, by Peter Hessler, who was teaching in China, in Chengdu during the early days of the pandemic. 

He does report the severity of the lockdowns, which could be enforced by committees that regulate the lives of individuals and families in a communal fashion not done in western countries.  Sometimes families were locked into their apartments.  Hessler's account leaves the impression that China really has controlled the virus, and won a propaganda victory in the world for the disciplines imposed by communism. 

You get the impression that China and other oriental countries are much more demanding of citizens with regard to public health because they have more endemic infectious disease, partly because of their longstanding agricultural practices to reduce past famines.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Major paper on the physics of aerosols, coronavirus and masks (and certain materials)

Laurie Garrett has shared a paper from “Physics of Fluids” by Sanjay Kumar and Heow Pueh Lee, “The perspective of fluid flow behavior of respiratory droplets and aerosols through the facemasks in the context of SARS-CoV2”, link  Oct. 2016

The paper presents a lot of mathematic proofs and derivations.

But in general it discusses how you can predict the effectiveness of various masks in stopping transmission. Look particularly at the illustration on p. 32.

Transmission may be enhanced by dry air, which allows water in droplets to evaporate and for aerosol droplets to become smaller.

Laurie Garrett noted that silk is considered a useful material in masks.

There is a paper from Canada (Emily Chung et al) recommending that masks incorporate polypropylene. It is possible to put them into homemade masks. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Wired story liked by Snowden about Operation Car Wash

Rio De Janeiro - Rafael Defavari


Darren Lucaides offers a booklet-length story in Wired, “The Scammer Who Wanted to Save His Country”, a story that Edward Snowden likes.

In 2019, Glenn Greenwald was contacted with a trove of hacked messages about corruption among Brazil’s leaders in thwarting left-wing parties before an election.  They suspected the Russians.  “The truth was much less boring”.

Much of the chicanery involved Telegram and processes that many “average users”, even corporate ones, probably don’t involve themselves in.  The operation is described in Wikipedia as Operation Car Wash Telegram chat leaks in Brazil.”  A lot more sophisticated than a Zoom meeting. Greenwald had reported this in the Intercept in 2019. 

Greenwald appears in the Laura Poitras film “CitizenFour” (Movies, Oct. 27, 2014).  He is well known for his same-sex marriage in Brazil.

The article has a paywall, and my browser didn’t remember the sign on (or the pw expired).  Wired sent me a special link, which is a strange way to do it.

Wikipedia embed of Rio, click for attribution 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

"Censored Planet: An Internet-Wide Longitudinal Censorship Observatory": telecoms and hosts may be required to censor, just like social media platforms


Take a look at “Censored Planet: An Internet-Wide,Longitudinal Censorship Observatory”, by Ram Sundara Raman, Prerana Shenoy, Katharina Kohls,  and Roya Rnsafi, abstract link, leads to PCF of paper, 66 pages;  this is a scientific, mathematical paper.

The article is introduced by University of Michigan News, “Extremely aggressive censorship spreads in the World’s democracies”.   The article is headed by a 3-D gif called itself “Censored Planet”.

The summary does mention less democratic countries like Poland and some African countries, but in general, most EU countries are passing laws requiring ISP’s (apparently the telecom hosts, not just the social media companies, and I would wonder about about web hosting companies) to block traffic involving sex trafficking or abuse (comparable to FOSTA).  Infrastructure to do such censoring in the United States is said to be in place.

I am reminded of the EU Copyright Directive, with its mandatory filtering requirement (practically speaking). 

 I'll give the URL of the SPLC which may be involved in deciding whom to censor. But it is dangerous to allow one organization (which may be politically one-sided, toward the Left) to decide who can be removed from the Internet. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Long NYTimes piece, "I'm an E.R. Doctor in New York, None of Us Will Ever Be the Same"


Here’s another New York Times almost “oculus-like” booklet, from April 14, “I’m an E.R. Doctor in New York, None of Us Will Ever Be the Same”, subtitled, “A Covid Diary: This is what I saw as the pandemic engulfed our hospitals.”  It’s ironic, I saw this article the day before Moderna’s announcement.  The article is by Helen Ouyang, April 14, 2020.

This was a doctor from Pakistan, who made a stop in Italy, and gave an account of the sudden horror in Bergamo around the first of March. In New York, he watched the patients accumulated quickly in mid March.

It’s hard to imagine people able to breathe normally in line to get into an emergency room.

It’s even harder when your own friends, in Zoom meetings, seem not to have gotten it, or a few report very mild symptoms that resolved quickly. 

The virus seems to target people who live in large households with continual exposure, with jobs requiring them to be in contact with the public, or with poor health or unfortunate genetics   Native Americans seem to be particularly vulnerable. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

“How the World’s Biggest Slum Stopped the Virus”, Dharavi (in Mumbia); Bloomberg

Dharavi Slum in Mumbai


Bloomberg Features offers a bookletHow the World’s Biggest Slum Stopped the Virus”, by Ari Alstedtler and Dhanyi Pandya

The slum is Dharavi in Mumbai, India, where much of the population is very transient.

The idea seems to be very flexible, very people-centered contact tracing.

Wikipedia picture from slum, click for attribution. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

“A Fiscal Cliff: New Perspectives on the U.S. Federal Debt Crisis”, from the Cato Institute


Cato Books has published “A Fiscal Cliff: New Perspectives on the U.S. Federal Debt Crisis”, 504 pages, by John Merrifield and Barry Poulson. Amazon has a link. 

The Cato Institute, on Nov. 11, held a virtual book forum, link with details, with the two authors, as well as Chris Edwards, moderated by Jason Kuznicki.

Wolf Blitzer, on CNN, did some programs around the end of 2011 called “The Fiscal Cliff”, at a time of threatened government shutdowns and particularly at least two major brushes with failing to extend the debt ceiling, which the panel did not discuss today.

Barry Poulson talked about “debt fatigue”, and maintains that the business cycle should ultimately balance budgets, but making up deficits from recessions with surpluses in good years.  In fact, as I recall, Bill Clinton left office with a surplus, which got blown away by 9/11 (not mentioned in the forum). He gave examples of failed countries, like Argentina.

Other ideas mentioned included forcing states and localities to deal with their own debts, without bailouts (remember NYC in 1975).

Late in the presentation, the panel recognized the catastrophe of COVID but seemed not to take it too seriously.  They said future generations will have their own catastrophes to pay for (climate change?) wo we shouldn’t pass COVID on to them.

Possibly you could propose a lot of jawboning on wealthier people (especially with inheritances) to support those thrown out of work themselves.  Many aspects of our lives (like the performing arts as we have known them) could be gone forever when we come out of the pandemic.  

The possibility of immediate means testing of Social Security would come to mind as an idea.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

"The Office of Historical Corrections", a new kind of fiction book? (preview)

Joumana Khatib offers a review in the New York Times of a somewhat unusual book, “The Office of Historical Corrections”, by black author Daniella Evans, from Riverhead.  It shows her with her black cat, Betty Davis (who is rather like one of Louis Rossmann’s cats on YouTube). It’s a little pricey now on Amazon.

The book has an unusual format. It has a novella, which is eponymous with the book title, and six short stories.

The novella concerns an employee of a fictitious bureaucracy whose job it is to leave “clarification” notes all over the country.

One of the stories concerns a black student maligned for a flag but supported by a libertarian group.

My own DADT III book (2014), is a little bit comparable, in that it contains a non-fiction section (essentially seven essays, five of which are numbered as chapters, and are based on autobiographical topics), and a fiction section, with an introduction and three stories.  The middle story is based on my time in Army Basic in 1968; the other two, set 40 years apart, are parallel road trips leading to very different conclusions, but they could be paired to make a clever independent “A24-style” film.

In high school English in tenth grade (1959) we had a unit on short stories, and had to know the stories in detail for the test.  I’d love to give a test on my books.  Short stories are supposed to be unary in concept, analogous to short films.  I wonder if this collection by Daniella is on John Fish's reading list. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

"Will He Go? Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020"; Vox interviews Lawrence Douglas; maybe in 12 hours we'll know???


Law professor Lawrence Douglas lays out an alarming scenario in his book "Will He Go? Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020."

Sean Illing interviews him for Vox in this article.  

The book is brief (160 pages) and comes from the publisher “Twelve”, which I believe Sebastian Junger has used.

The biggest problem seems to be that a battleground state could send in competing results.  But federal law says the governor’s certification is what counts (which in Michigan, would be Democratic). Even Amy Coney Barrett would have to concur with that.

All major factcheckers are reporting today that it is normal for some states to be uncertain as to electoral outcome for several days up to a few weeks (2000, Florida) for an outcome if it is very close.

However, Trump seems obstinate because his “base” counts on him to protect them from “expropriation” by others (on the Left). 

Monday, November 02, 2020

NYTimes gives an illustrated booklet on how masks work

 Several writers and artists (Or Fleisher, Gabriel Gianordoli, Yulia Parshina-Kottas, Karthik Patamjali, Miles Peyton, and Bedel Saget) explain in detail how different kinds of masks work.

The title is “Masks Work. Really. We’ll Show You How”. 

The staged illustrations show droplets, aerosols, and virus particles, and how they intersect various fabric layers of masks.   There is a curious geometric illustration of the random fiber patterns of the N95.

The N95 seems to be the best mask, and we should have a national effort to make them for everyone. Men would lose their beards.  They have to fit right.