Links

----- 4 stars -----

The invisible city: how a homeless man built a life underground / The Guardian

After decades among the hidden homeless, Dominic Van Allen dug himself a bunker beneath a public park. But his life would get even more precarious. [...] Most nights, before bed, before it all went wrong, Dominic Van Allen whiled away the last of the evening hours in a pub called The Garden Gate. It was easy to fit in and feel smart there, chatting and drinking with a crowd who passed through in varied states of dishevelment. Dog-walkers brought in sodden dogs. Exhausted junior doctors shambled in after shifts with their sleeves pushed up. There were scarved and suited older men, frail as antique hatstands, and casually dressed professionals with jobs in finance or entertainment who owned expensive homes nearby. “And it’s you rich buggers,” Van Allen marvelled, genially enough, as he eyed the state of their trainers, “who can afford to look the scruffiest.” He wore durable boots, khaki trousers and a leather motorcycle jacket, and could have been mistaken for a bike courier, a builder, maybe a maintenance guy at the hospital next door, where he was known in the staff canteen as someone who would wander in at dawn to buy a discount coffee. [...] There was space in the bunker for two camp beds, pushed against opposite walls. In the 4ft gulley between the beds, Van Allen could stand, comfortably enough, without his head scraping the trussed timber roof. The floor underneath him was poured concrete. He’d put up hooks for his coat, his bag and his cooking utensils, and there were shelves by the bed for odds and ends. Push-button LED lights were stuck to the walls using tape. There was a portable gas stove down here, and now that Van Allen was in for the night, he lit it and emptied a can of soup into a pan. After eating, he washed up with wet wipes. Litter was tied inside plastic bags, to be spirited away to a distant bin, early tomorrow, before the heath’s park rangers came on duty. On the whole, Van Allen slept well. Beyond the timber walls there was more concrete, to keep out groundwater, and together with the Hampstead clay, this muffled all but the most extreme-frequency sounds. (On fireworks night he heard the bangs, but not the crackles.) When he first moved down here, Van Allen worried about oversleeping and he sometimes set a morning alarm on his phone. It was never needed. He was decades-trained to be up and on the move before the city’s day shift began, before London became more closely observed by its security guards and park rangers and police officers, any one of whom might inadvertently happen on the latest of his impermanent shelters and blow it.

http://bit.ly/3cZiqM7


----- 3 stars -----

The Talented Mr. Khater / Texas Monthly

When 23-year-old Callie Quinn moved from Texas to Chile, she counted on finding a beautiful country, meaningful work, and interesting friends. She had no idea she’d set off a manhunt for an international con artist. [...] The first time Callie Quinn met Youssef Khater, she hated him. He was standing in the kitchen of their shared house in Santiago, Chile, carrying on about some extreme marathon in front of her other new roommates. While he smiled easily and was objectively handsome—a tightly coiled five feet six inches or so, with luminous brown eyes and boyish features—he also had tasteless tribal cuff tattoos on both biceps, seemed obsessed with expensive athletic gear, and was talking nonstop about the sponsors who were clamoring to support him as one of the best Palestinian runners in the world. She had just moved in, and already she found him insufferably arrogant. A 23-year-old with blue-green eyes and alabaster skin, Callie had arrived in Chile just five weeks earlier. As a native of Canyon Lake, an hour outside Austin, she had longed to live abroad ever since taking a high school trip to the Galapagos Islands. Travel—specifically immersing herself in other cultures—electrified her, and when she enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, she declared herself a geography major. In class, her professors repeatedly projected pictures of Chile and lectured on its sublime terrain. Callie vowed to live there after graduation. It didn’t matter that she didn’t know a soul in South America. (“I admired her courage and independence,” her father would later say. “At the same time, I wanted to wring her neck.”) [...] Three days after arriving in the hospital, Callie was discharged. She holed up in a spare bedroom at her boss’s apartment, eating soup and smoothies while she waited for doctors to clear her to fly back to Texas. Spooked, her roommates also began making plans to flee Santiago: Sabi to Germany, Molly to the U.S., and Ed to England. Ed, whom Youssef had invited to share his other condo, detailed Callie’s attack on Facebook. “So yeah,” he wrote, “basically this bastard is still at large, as the Chilean police are being useless. The whole saga has left us all shaken up, and I just feel like I need to get out of here. . . . Love and limes.” His message got forwarded to the one person in Santiago who friends thought might be able to help: Rocío Berríos. A 33-year-old lawyer with cat-eye Prada glasses and a mane of black hair that she always treated as if it were an imposition, Berríos was a criminal attorney who loved taking on Chile’s most lurid cases.

http://bit.ly/3d288e0


Prep for Prep and the Fault Lines in New York’s Schools / New Yorker

Simons knew that there were bright but understimulated kids all over the city. Maybe, he thought, he could place more of them at schools worthy of their talents—new lilies in the old soil of élite education. In 1978, he secured funds from Columbia and from a Sears in the Bronx, hired a few teachers, and got space for classes at the Trinity School, on the Upper West Side. Trinity’s headmaster, Robin Lester, became an evangelist for Simons’s mission. “I used to call him St. Gary,” Lester told me. Most of Lester’s peers didn’t see a fresh influx of minority talent as a top priority, but a few younger admissions officials and school heads, shaped politically by the civil-rights movement, were immediately on board. [...] Simons knew nothing about management, or what it would take to raise money from wealthy people for an annual budget. “To me, a board was a piece of wood,” he said. But he had strong opinions about what the kids should learn. He also “had a work ethic to beat the band,” according to Dominic Michel, who worked as a deputy to Simons for many years. Simons held staff meetings that stretched into the evening, and he assigned his students piles of homework. When he described the course of study to the admissions director at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, she said, “Gary, if by the end of the first summer there are four or five kids still standing, pin a badge on each one of them and quit while you’re ahead.” [...] There were criticisms of Prep’s methods from the beginning. People asked Simons whether it was wrong, in a system marred by disparity, to focus on students already advantaged by their intelligence. This concern made him livid, he told me. “It is precisely these kids who are losing the most, because of the difference between what they’re achieving and what their potential is,” he said. Simons regarded human intelligence as a special substance that, if left untapped, would sour, and he believed that this was happening all over the country. “He thought, in some cases, that we were producing very gifted criminals,” Lester, the Trinity headmaster, told me. Simons studied at Teachers College under Abe Tannenbaum, a pioneer in the identification and teaching of “gifted and talented” children. Each Prep applicant takes an I.Q. test—I remember solving puzzles in a wood-panelled room on the Upper West Side, stressed about my speed. When I spoke with Simons in Connecticut, he frequently, and with obvious relish, launched into tangents about various kinds of I.Q. tests, and about how a stellar writing sample could, in rare cases, trump test scores. By the time I went through the program, in the mid-nineties, Simons had more or less acclimated to life as a nonprofit executive—and Prep, bolstered by a highly motivated board of directors, was easily raising the money to cover its yearly budget, which had grown to several million dollars. New York had put the program on its cover in 1985, along with the headline “The Best Prep School in Town.” In 1986, Simons created the Lilac Ball, an annual ceremony for Prep students who have been accepted to college. The event doubled as a large fund-raising gala, and quickly became a fixture on New York’s philanthropic circuit.

http://bit.ly/2WgAueS


Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now / Medium
It seems like everyone on the internet has already read this. In case you haven't, it is actually a very good piece, even if you might quibble with the assumptions:

With everything that’s happening about the Coronavirus, it might be very hard to make a decision of what to do today. Should you wait for more information? Do something today? What? Here’s what I’m going to cover in this article, with lots of charts, data and models with plenty of sources: How many cases of coronavirus will there be in your area? What will happen when these cases materialize? What should you do? When? When you’re done reading the article, this is what you’ll take away: The coronavirus is coming to you. It’s coming at an exponential speed: gradually, and then suddenly. It’s a matter of days. Maybe a week or two. When it does, your healthcare system will be overwhelmed. Your fellow citizens will be treated in the hallways. Exhausted healthcare workers will break down. Some will die. They will have to decide which patient gets the oxygen and which one dies. The only way to prevent this is social distancing today. Not tomorrow. Today. That means keeping as many people home as possible, starting now. As a politician, community leader or business leader, you have the power and the responsibility to prevent this. You might have fears today: What if I overreact? Will people laugh at me? Will they be angry at me? Will I look stupid? Won’t it be better to wait for others to take steps first? Will I hurt the economy too much? But in 2–4 weeks, when the entire world is in lockdown, when the few precious days of social distancing you will have enabled will have saved lives, people won’t criticize you anymore: They will thank you for making the right decision. Ok, let’s do this.

http://bit.ly/33kiyBc


Yuval Noah Harari’s History of Everyone, Ever / New Yorker

In 2008, Yuval Noah Harari, a young historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, began to write a book derived from an undergraduate world-history class that he was teaching. Twenty lectures became twenty chapters. Harari, who had previously written about aspects of medieval and early-modern warfare—but whose intellectual appetite, since childhood, had been for all-encompassing accounts of the world—wrote in plain, short sentences that displayed no anxiety about the academic decorum of a study spanning hundreds of thousands of years. It was a history of everyone, ever. The book, published in Hebrew as “A Brief History of Humankind,” became an Israeli best-seller; then, as “Sapiens,” it became an international one. Readers were offered the vertiginous pleasure of acquiring apparent mastery of all human affairs—evolution, agriculture, economics—while watching their personal narratives, even their national narratives, shrink to a point of invisibility. President Barack Obama, speaking to CNN in 2016, compared the book to a visit he’d made to the pyramids of Giza. [...] If Harari weren’t always out in public, one might mistake him for a recluse. He is shyly oracular. He spends part of almost every appearance denying that he is a guru. But, when speaking at conferences where C.E.O.s meet public intellectuals, or visiting Mark Zuckerberg’s Palo Alto house, or the Élysée Palace, in Paris, he’ll put a long finger to his chin and quietly answer questions about Neanderthals, self-driving cars, and the series finale of “Game of Thrones.” Harari’s publishing and speaking interests now occupy a staff of twelve, who work out of a sunny office in Tel Aviv, where an employee from Peru cooks everyone vegan lunches. Here, one can learn details of a scheduled graphic novel of “Sapiens”—a cartoon version of Harari, wearing wire-framed glasses and looking a little balder than in life, pops up here and there, across time and space. There are also plans for a “Sapiens” children’s book, and a multi-season “Sapiens”-inspired TV drama, covering sixty thousand years, with a script by the co-writer of Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto.” Harari seldom goes to this office. He works at the home he shares with Itzik Yahav, his husband, who is also his agent and manager. They live in a village of expensive modern houses, half an hour inland from Tel Aviv, at a spot where Israel’s coastal plain is first interrupted by hills. The location gives a view of half the country and, hazily, the Mediterranean beyond. Below the house are the ruins of the once mighty Canaanite city of Gezer; Harari and Yahav walk their dog there. Their swimming pool is blob-shaped and, at night, lit a vivid mauve. At lunchtime one day in September, Yahav drove me to the house from Tel Aviv, in a Porsche S.U.V. with a rainbow-flag sticker on its windshield. “Yuval’s unhappy with my choice of car,” Yahav said, laughing. “He thinks it’s unacceptable that a historian should have money.”

http://bit.ly/39RiXxv


Poverty isn’t a lack of character. It’s a lack of cash / The Correspondent

Soon after the opening, it became apparent that the casino would bring the tribe not damnation but relief. The profits – amounting to $150m in 2004 and growing to nearly $400m in 2010 – enabled the tribe to build a new school, hospital, and fire station. However, the lion’s share of the takings went directly into the pockets of the 8,000 men, women, and children of the Eastern Band Cherokee tribe. From $500 a year at the outset, members’ per capita earnings from the casino quickly mounted to $6,000 in 2001, making up a quarter to a third of the average family income. As coincidence would have it, a Duke University professor by the name of Jane Costello had been researching the mental health of youngsters south of the Great Smoky Mountains since 1993. Every year, the 1,420 kids enrolled in her study took a psychiatric test. The cumulative results had already shown that those growing up in poverty were much more prone to behavioural problems than other children. This wasn’t exactly news, though. Correlations between poverty and mental illness had been drawn before by another academic, Edward Jarvis, in his famous paper Report on Insanity in Massachusetts, published in 1855. But the question still remained: which was the cause, and which the effect? [...] Soon after the casino opened, Costello was already noting huge improvements for her subjects. Behavioural problems among children who had been lifted out of poverty went down 40%, putting them in the same range as their peers who had never known hardship. Juvenile crime rates among the Cherokee also declined, along with drug and alcohol use, while their school scores improved markedly. At school, the Cherokee kids were now on a par with the study’s non-tribal participants. On seeing the data, Costello’s first reaction was disbelief. “The expectation is that social interventions have relatively small effects,” she later said. “This one had quite large effects.” [...] Why are poor people more likely to commit crimes? Why are they more prone to obesity? Why do they use more alcohol and drugs? In short, why do the poor make so many poor decisions? [...] Shafir found what he was looking for some 8,000 miles away in the districts of Vilupuram and Tiruvannamalai in rural India. The conditions were perfect. As it happened, the area’s sugarcane farmers collect 60% of their annual income all at once right after the harvest. This means they are flush one part of the year and poor the other. So how did they do in the experiment? At the time when they were comparatively poor, they scored substantially worse on the cognitive tests. Not because they had become less intelligent people somehow – they were still the same Indian sugarcane farmers, after all – but purely and simply because their mental bandwidth was compromised.

http://bit.ly/2IQ4uWK


----- 2 stars -----

Rebekah Neumann's Search For Enlightenment Fueled WeWork's Collapse / Bustle

Today, Rebekah and Adam Neumann are living in temporary social exile in Tel Aviv after starring in the most sensational corporate collapse probably ever. Adam founded WeWork with Rebekah’s help in 2010, promising to rescue 21st-century workers from the drabness of 20th-century offices and usher in a new era of collaboration and innovation. WeWork did not invest substantial sums in technology or research, and its development and construction costs were heavily subsidized by its landlord partners. Still, the office space startup burned roughly three times as much cash as it ever grossed, much of it on decadent parties and investments in similarly questionable startups. All the while, its valuation (as calculated by Goldman Sachs) inflated to $90 billion. When plans to go public last August backfired in a hailstorm of headlines about Adam’s excesses, WeWork’s financial backers kicked the Neumanns out of their ice bath-equipped corner office — only to burn another $1.7 billion bestowing upon the couple the biggest golden parachute in history. It was a relatively victimless grift, graded on the generous curve of modern corporate meltdowns, but it symbolized magnificently the deranged notion that young idealists can solve the world’s problems by wearing vegan shoes and delivering triple-digit returns to a small clique of Silicon Valley billionaires. Even Republican Sen. Tom Cotton seemed ready to sentence its founding couple to the guillotine, if only for embodying “the reason Americans are open to socialism.” WeWork’s bailout by its largest investor, SoftBank, may permanently obscure the ugliest details behind its demise. But if the epidemic of self-delusion surrounding WeWork’s potential can be traced to anyone, it is Rebekah.

http://bit.ly/38TFRDf


Covid Observations from Beijing, March 11 / Dan Wang

Too many people have cleared out, including (incredibly) the bureau of one major US newspaper, depriving its readers of on-the-ground coverage in a crisis. That’s the exception; most reporters I know are excited to be here, and in many cases they’re eager to go to Wuhan. Here are a few things that I see. I see quarantine enforcement. One day in early February, a uniformed municipal employee set up a tent and a table outside my apartment compound, taking the temperatures of everyone leaving and entering. The next day, he gave me a paper slip, saying that I needed to display it every time I came in. It was a good thing that I received that entry card when I did, because I would have to go through a gauntlet of questions to be issued one today. These guards have been the chief enforcers of the quarantines, making sure that those who return from overseas or other provinces have to stay indoors. Given that everyone lives in big apartment compounds, it’s more or less possible to make sure that only approved people are allowed in or out of every residence. From where these enforcers emerged is a mystery. The source of their legal authority to regulate my entry is also unclear; sometimes the entrance is staffed by volunteers, whom I assume are retired Party members. [...] And I’m seeing a city on the track to recovery. More cars are getting back on the road, and are maybe only 20% off from normal levels. More people are venturing outdoors in the warmer weather. And more businesses are opening their doors again. The number of new infections reported by the National Health Commission can’t be exactly right, but the trend of diminishing new infections is real. There’s nothing I can observe to suggest that the virus is in fact everywhere, secretly paralyzing every health facility. Instead, the heroic efforts of frontline medical professionals in Hubei, combined with extraordinary social distancing practiced by everyone, seem to be containing its spread. A single case undetected case might upset the system once more, but so far there’s reason to be optimistic.

http://bit.ly/2wVCwWY


“Flattening the Curve” is a deadly delusion / Medium

The “flattening the curve” idea suggests that if we wash our hands and stay at home while being sick aggressively enough, we won’t have to stop the virus from becoming endemic and infecting 40% to 70% of all people, but we can slow the spread of the infection so much that out medical system can deal with the case load. [...] Dampening the infection rate of COVID-19 to a level that is compatible with our medical system means that we would have to spread the epidemic over more than a decade! (Far to the left, you see our unmitigated distribution for comparison.) I am pretty confident that we will have found effective treatments until then, but you get the idea: reducing the infectivity of the new corona virus to a manageable level is simply not going to be possible by mitigation, it will require containment. [...] Flattening the curve is not an option for the United States, for the UK or Germany. Don’t tell your friends to flatten the curve. Let’s start containment.

http://bit.ly/2vrAHki


Why All the Warby Parker Clones Are Now Imploding / Medium

How venture capital became the most dangerous thing to happen to now-troubled DTCs like Outdoor Voices, Harry’s, and Casper

http://bit.ly/2wTYeuC


'Dead Sea Scrolls' at the Museum of the Bible are all forgeries / National Geographic

On the fourth floor of the Museum of the Bible, a sweeping permanent exhibit tells the story of how the ancient scripture became the world’s most popular book. A warmly lit sanctum at the exhibit’s heart reveals some of the museum’s most prized possessions: fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient texts that include the oldest known surviving copies of the Hebrew Bible. But now, the Washington, D.C. museum has confirmed a bitter truth about the fragments’ authenticity. On Friday, independent researchers funded by the Museum of the Bible announced that all 16 of the museum’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments are modern forgeries that duped outside collectors, the museum’s founder, and some of the world’s leading biblical scholars. Officials unveiled the findings at an academic conference hosted by the museum. “The Museum of the Bible is trying to be as transparent as possible,” says CEO Harry Hargrave. “We’re victims—we’re victims of misrepresentation, we’re victims of fraud.” In a report spanning more than 200 pages, a team of researchers led by art fraud investigator Colette Loll found that while the pieces are probably made of ancient leather, they were inked in modern times and modified to resemble real Dead Sea Scrolls. “These fragments were manipulated with the intent to deceive,” Loll says.

https://on.natgeo.com/38Oez0Z


For, then against, high-saturated-fat diets / Slate Star Codex

In the 1800s, the average US man weighed about 155 lbs. Today, he weighs about 195. The change is even starker at the extremes. Someone at the 90th percentile of weight back then weighed about 185 lbs; today, he would weigh 320 lbs. Back then, about 1% of men were obese. Today, about 25% are. This puts a lot of modern dietary advice into perspective. For example, lots of people think low-carb is the solution to everything. But people in the 1800s ate almost 50% more bread than we do today, and still had almost no obesity. Other people think paleo is the solution to everything, but Americans in the 1800s ate a diet heavy in bread, milk, potatoes, and vegetables, and relatively low in red meat and other more caveman-recognizable foods. Intermittent fasting – again, cool idea, but your great-grandfather wasn’t doing that, and he had a 1% obesity risk. This isn’t to say those diets can’t work. Just that if they work, they’re hacks. They treat the symptoms, not the underlying problem. Something went terribly wrong in US nutrition between 1900 and today, and all this talk about low-carb and intermittent fasting and so on are skew to that thing. Given that 1800s Americans seem to have effortlessly maintained near-zero obesity rates while eating foods a lot like the ones we eat today, maybe we should stop trying to figure out what cavemen were doing, and start trying to figure out what Great-Grandpa was doing, which sounds a lot easier. We get similarly confusing evidence from other countries. Until recently, Chinese people ate mostly white rice. This is exactly the sort of high-glycemic-index carb that low-carbers say should be terrible for you. But the Chinese stayed thin even when they ate a lot. It was only when they started eating processed Western-style food that their obesity rate started to rise. Or what about France? The French diet is about what you would expect; baguettes, pastries, cheese, meat. Lots of sugar, white flour, and fat – the opposite of all reasonable dietary advice. But 1970s France had the same kind of low obesity rates as 1800s America or China. This is related to the nutritional conundrum famously called the French paradox – why aren’t the French fatter and sicker than they are? The answer to all these questions seems to be something like “the body is pretty good at regulating its own weight under any diet except modern American processed food.” But what aspect of processed food makes it bad?

http://bit.ly/2IMrwOl


Zero Trust Information / Stratechery

Yesterday Google ordered its entire North American staff to work from home as part of an effort to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that leads to COVID-19. It is an appropriate move for any organization that can do so; furthermore, Google, along with the other major tech companies, also plans to pay its army of contractors that normally provide services for those employees. Google’s larger contribution, though, happened five years ago when the company led the move to zero trust networking for its internal applications, which has been adopted by most other tech companies in particular. While this wasn’t explicitly about working from home, it did make it a lot easier to pull off on short notice. [...] The problem, though, was the Internet: connecting any one computer on the local area network to the Internet effectively connected all of the computers and servers on the local area network to the Internet. The solution was perimeter-based security, aka the “castle-and-moat” approach: enterprises would set up firewalls that prevented outside access to internal networks. The implication was binary: if you were on the internal network, you were trusted, and if you were outside, you were not. This, though, presented two problems: first, if any intruder made it past the firewall, they would have full access to the entire network. Second, if any employee were not physically at work, they were blocked from the network. [...] These problems were dramatically exacerbated by the three great trends of the last decade: smartphones, software-as-a-service, and cloud computing. Now instead of the occasional salesperson or traveling executive who needed to connect their laptop to the corporate network, every single employee had a portable device that was connected to the Internet all of the time; now, instead of accessing applications hosted on an internal network, employees wanted to access applications operated by a SaaS provider; now, instead of corporate resources being on-premises, they were in public clouds run by AWS or Microsoft. What kind of moat could possibly contain all of these use cases? The answer is to not even try: instead of trying to put everything inside of a castle, put everything in the castle outside the moat, and assume that everyone is a threat. Thus the name: zero-trust networking.

http://bit.ly/33lg3yK


Shell Is Looking Forward / New York Magazine

The fossil-fuel companies expect to profit from climate change. I went to a private planning meeting and took notes. [...] “We think democracy is better,” said the jet-fuel salesperson. “But is it? In terms of outcomes?” In a conference room overlooking the gray Thames, a group of young corporate types tried to imagine how the world could save itself, how the international community could balance the need for growth with our precarious ecological situation. For the purposes of our speculative scenarios, everything except for carbon was supposed to be up in the air, and democracy’s track record is mixed. A graph from Chinese social media showing how many trees the country is planting — a patriotic retort to the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg — had a real effect on the room. Combine that with the Chinese state-led investment in clean-energy technology and infrastructure and everyone admired how the world’s largest source of fossil-fuel emissions was going about transition. That’s what the salesperson meant by “outcomes”: decarbonization. Regional experts from sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East–North Africa also entertained the democracy question, pointing to Iraqi disillusionment with voting and economic growth in Rwanda under Paul Kagame (“He’s technically a dictator, but it’s working”). The China expert said the average regional Communist Party official is probably more accountable for his or her performance than the average U.K. member of Parliament, a claim no one in the room full of Brits seemed to find objectionable. The moderator didn’t pose the question to me, the American expert, presumably because our national sense of democratic entitlement is inviolable. Actually, the moderator didn’t ask me any questions during the plenary that followed our regional-perspectives panel, either. That might have had something to do with my talk, which included bullet points like “Green growth is a myth” and “Your corporate existence is incompatible with a livable future for cohorts that are already born.” But I didn’t get that impression, not really. I was repeatedly asked to be honest, and everyone was really nice about it. Everyone was really nice in general.

https://nym.ag/33impyZ


Emergent Tool Use from Multi-Agent Interaction / Open AI
Very cool animations:

We’ve observed agents discovering progressively more complex tool use while playing a simple game of hide-and-seek. Through training in our new simulated hide-and-seek environment, agents build a series of six distinct strategies and counterstrategies, some of which we did not know our environment supported. The self-supervised emergent complexity in this simple environment further suggests that multi-agent co-adaptation may one day produce extremely complex and intelligent behavior.

http://bit.ly/2INeSyv


Campaign to 'thank' Xi Jinping flatly rejected by Wuhan citizens / Nikkei Asian Review

Wang arrived in Wuhan in February as Xi's choice to replace Ma Guoqiang, who was dismissed for his failed initial response to the coronavirus. But Wang's excessive loyalty to Xi, symbolized by the ill-planned political campaign, rubbed Wuhan's 11 million citizens the wrong way. One of the leading critics of the campaign was Wuhan-based author Fang Fang, a 64-year-old whose real name is Wang Fang. "The government should put an end to its arrogance and humbly express gratitude to its master -- the millions of people in Wuhan," she wrote in her widely followed online diary about life in the locked-down metropolis. Her diary, which is uploaded to Chinese social media on a daily basis, has affected the sleeping habits of many Chinese. Followers stay up late to read her posts before they are deleted by authorities in the early morning. She is said to have a 1 million-strong following. Sometime late Monday night or early Tuesday morning she uploaded a post saying that if anybody were to take responsibility for the handling of the coronavirus, "the party secretary and the director of the Central Hospital of Wuhan should be the first to go." That hospital is where whistleblower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang worked. The young doctor, one of the first to raise concern about the mysterious illness, was punished for transmitting the information at the end of last year. He himself later caught the virus and died, becoming a martyr among Chinese citizens. Fang, like Li, graduated from the prestigious Wuhan University. Adding to the tragedy, another eye doctor at the hospital died on Sunday, bringing the total number of doctors who have succumbed to the virus there to four. More doctors are said to be in serious condition at the hospital. Fang angrily urged the hospital executives to atone for their sins by stepping down. "The battle against the coronavirus will continue without you," she wrote to the secretary and director. "Nobody will be troubled if you're gone." That she writes so candidly and courageously, in tones similar to editorials in major international newspapers, is remarkable in a country that curtails free speech. Fang's diary posts are sometimes deleted by censorship authorities due to their frankness. But under the current circumstances, knowing that her venting is representative of the common sentiment, the government is not bold enough to ban her blog outright. And thus the midnight owls stay up to consume her writing, in the few hours that authorities allow for free speech. [...] Sun, a female member of the powerful Politburo, was being shown around a residential area in Wuhan that had been cleaned up before the visit and made to appear as if plenty of food was being delivered to the residents. "We are being made to buy expensive foods!" residents shouted from upstairs. Video of the incident went viral on social media and strangely enough was not fully deleted. "The video was not deleted because it was rather useful for the central government," one veteran party member said. "By pointing out the lies, Wuhan citizens were appealing directly to the central government about local bureaucrats who were only attempting to save appearances. Seeking help from the central government, relying on its authority, is not bad for Beijing."

https://s.nikkei.com/33jm27b


Will Coronavirus Happen Every Year Like The Flu? / FiveThirtyEight

Could spring be the thing that saves us from the novel coronavirus? President Trump has suggested as much, telling a rally that “heat generally speaking kills this kind of virus” so “[the virus] will go away in April.” It’s not a totally bizarro suggestion, given that flu and polio and a lot of other viruses really are seasonal, usually with transmission spiking in the colder winter months. But — and you knew the “but” was coming — experts say we don’t yet know enough about coronavirus to tell whether it’s likely to be seasonal. More importantly, though, a virus doesn’t just “go away” because it’s warm. If coronavirus cases drop off in summer, that just means there’s a risk of it resurging in fall. And if it does come back — that means our efforts to actually stop it have failed. The factors that make some viruses seasonal are complicated and, in some ways, still kind of a mystery, said Wan Yang, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University. Heat does play a role, she said. Viruses tend to survive better in cold — kinda the opposite of how bacteria do better in warmth. “That’s why we have more food poisoning in summer,” she said. But humidity turns out to be a bigger player here. It comes down to physics, much of which researchers are still trying to understand, said Spencer Fox, a data scientist who has published research on the seasonality of the flu and the epidemiology of viruses.

https://53eig.ht/2IQ4vKt


----- 1 star -----

A Joyful Flash Mob Plays Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 / Kottke

Watch as a single busking bass player grows into the Vallès Symphony Orchestra and a pair of choirs to perform a rousing rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (Ode to Joy) in front of a delighted crowd.

http://bit.ly/39TOfDY


New species of tiny 'bird-dinosaur' discovered trapped in 99-million-year-old amber / USA Today

Despite its small size, this finding suggests Oculudentavis was a predator and likely ate small arthropods or invertebrates, unlike similar-size modern birds, which have no teeth and feed on nectar. “This is truly one of the rarest and most spectacular of finds!” The University of Central Florida paleontologist Ryan Carney, who wasn’t involved with the study, told National Geographic. “Like capturing Cretaceous lightning in a bottle, this amber preserves an unprecedented snapshot of a miniature dinosaur skull with exciting new features.”

http://bit.ly/2IOCLWI


Why Medieval Cats Look Like… That / Medium

An investigation into art history’s strangest meme

http://bit.ly/3a3RGbz


COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planner / Marginal Revolution

The mathematics for calculating the probability of exposure given the number of carriers in a population and group size aren’t difficult but they can be surprising. Even a low number of carriers can generate a relatively high probability for reasonably sized groups. For example, assume you run a firm of 1000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area (population 8 million.) Let’s suppose that there are just 500 carriers in the area. In this case, assuming random draws, the probability that at least one of your employees is a carrier is 6%.

http://bit.ly/2wWetXV


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