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Interview with Bill Gates on COVID-19: “It’s Mind-Blowing That We’re Not Further Along!”

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Gates, the coronavirus has now officially cost the lives of almost a million people. Has this pandemic taken you by surprise?

Gates: Certain aspects of it are very surprising. Sure, the idea that the world was at risk of a human-to-human, transmissible respiratory epidemic is something that many global health experts have talked about for decades. But they mostly talked to each other. Nobody expected it could be a coronavirus. In retrospect, you can say: Hey, we have MERS, we have SARS, this coronavirus family clearly can cross the species boundary. But our understanding of the symptoms of this disease took us a long time to figure out.

DER SPIEGEL: How could we have been caught so off guard by this pathogen?

Gates: In 2015, at the end of the West Africa Ebola epidemic, I said that we’re not ready for the next pandemic. What was done between 2015 and that outbreak in late 2019 was very, very modest.

DER SPIEGEL: Could not the Gates Foundation also have done more?

Gates: Governments and nations are responsible for preparing the world for wars, natural disasters, climate change or epidemics. Not us. Yes, foundations can contribute to funding scientists. But we’re not the foundation to solve all health problems. Our focus is on the diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries, diseases that the rich world isn’t paying attention to, like HIV, tuberculosis, malaria. It just turns out that we know more about vaccinations because we hire the best people from all the vaccine companies. But it is not in our charter to be pandemicking. Governments do that.

https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-bill-gates-on-covid-19-it-s-mind-blowing-that-we-re-not-further-along-a-fc6bbd6e-cf8c-4890-9f12-a44b73d4fe6f

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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L’indifferenza della folla

Avete mai sentito parlare dell’effetto-spettatore? Se la risposta è no, dovreste leggere questo articolo. Dico sul serio.

Ecco di che si tratta. Siamo nel 1964, e due psicologi sociali, John Darley della New York University e Bibb Latané della Columbia University, restano molto colpiti da un terribile fatto di cronaca nera: Catherine Susan Genovese, detta Kitty, viene accoltellata a morte e stuprata nel distretto del Queens, a New York.

Lei gestisce un bar e rientra, come sempre, molto tardi. Parcheggia a trenta metri da casa. Ad aggredirla è un ventinovenne incensurato di Manhattan che, catturato pochi giorni dopo mentre sta compiendo un furto, confesserà l’omicidio di altre due donne e ulteriori crimini. Dichiarerà inoltre che preferisce aggredire donne perché “è più facile”.

L’aggressione a Kitty Genovese si svolge in due riprese e dura nel complesso circa mezz’ora: all’inizio qualcuno dalla finestra grida “lascia stare quella donna!”, e l’omicida si allontana. Poi torna per finire la sua vittima. Genovese tenta di difendersi e chiede aiuto, ma l’unica telefonata che un vicino fa alla polizia non viene presa in considerazione. E comunque pochi si interrogano su quel che sta effettivamente succedendo: sono solo strane urla nella notte.

https://www.internazionale.it/opinione/annamaria-testa/2020/09/15/l-indifferenza-della-folla

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Do dreams reflect reality?

THAT DREAMS contain hidden meanings is an old idea. The Biblical Book of Genesis, written down about 2,500 years ago, describes how Joseph, son of Jacob, interpreted the Egyptian pharaoh’s dreams of fat and thin cattle as predicting years first of plenty and then of famine. In China, meanwhile, the most popular work on dream interpretation has long been the “Zhougong Jie Meng”, a dictionary of explanations for weird and wonderful dreams written 500 years earlier still. It is, however, only since the publication of Sigmund Freud’s treatise “The Interpretation of Dreams”, in 1899, that dreams have become a subject of serious scientific scrutiny.

Things have moved on since Freud’s day. His emphasis on violent urges and sexual repression as the roots of dreaming now looks old-fashioned. Instead, the premise is that dreams reflect a dreamer’s quotidian experience—either because they are an epiphenomenon of the consolidation of memories or because they are a mental testing ground for ideas the dreamer may have to put into practice when awake. This resemblance between dreams and reality is dubbed the continuity hypothesis by psychologists. Data supporting it, however, are sparse. Such as exist come from clinical studies rather than examinations of people with healthy minds. And the numbers of participants involved tend to be small.

https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2020/09/03/do-dreams-reflect-reality

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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The rise of nationalism has led to increased oppression of minorities around the world

We live in an era of resurgent nationalism. From Scotland to Sri Lanka, from China to Brazil, governments rely on nationalism as a source of communal identity and a vehicle for common action.

In countries where religious identity appears to dominate, as with Islam in Turkey and Hinduism in India, religion has bonded with nationalism. In nominally communist countries like China and Vietnam, it is likewise nationalism that adds to governments’ legitimacy and political muscle.

This nationalist upsurge the world over is bad news for ethnic and sectarian minorities. Everywhere they are facing greater oppression and less autonomy from national governments maximising their power. At best they face marginalisation and at worst elimination. This is true for the Uighur in Xinjiang province in China, the Muslim population of India-controlled Kashmir, the Shia majority in Sunni-ruled Bahrain and the long-persecuted Kurdish minority in Turkey, to name but four.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/uighur-china-nationalism-india-kashmir-modi-trump-brazil-a9659161.html

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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The Role of Cognitive Dissonance in the Pandemic

Members of Heaven’s Gate, a religious cult, believed that as the Hale-Bopp comet passed by Earth in 1997, a spaceship would be traveling in its wake—ready to take true believers aboard. Several members of the group bought an expensive, high-powered telescope so that they might get a clearer view of the comet. They quickly brought it back and asked for a refund. When the manager asked why, they complained that the telescope was defective, that it didn’t show the spaceship following the comet. A short time later, believing that they would be rescued once they had shed their “earthly containers” (their bodies), all 39 members killed themselves.Heaven’s Gate followers had a tragically misguided conviction, but it is an example, albeit extreme, of cognitive dissonance, the motivational mechanism that underlies the reluctance to admit mistakes or accept scientific findings—even when those findings can save our lives. This dynamic is playing out during the pandemic among the many people who refuse to wear masks or practice social distancing. Human beings are deeply unwilling to change their minds. And when the facts clash with their preexisting convictions, some people would sooner jeopardize their health and everyone else’s than accept new information or admit to being wrong.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/the-role-of-cognitive-dissonance-in-the-pandemic/ar-BB16Dqco

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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The Simple Things That Are Hard to Do

Traditional Marxists distinguished between Communism proper and Socialism as its first lower stage (where money and the state still exists and workers are paid wages, etc.). In the Soviet Union there was a debate in the 1960s about where they were in this regard, and the solution was that, although they were not yet in full Communism, they were also no longer in the lower stage (Socialism). So, they introduced a further distinction between lower and higher stage of Socialism… Is not something similar going on with the Covid pandemic? Until about a month ago, our media were full of warnings about the second, much stronger, wave in the Fall and Winter. With new spikes everywhere and numbers of infections growing again, the word is that this is not yet the second wave but just a strengthening of the first wave, which continues.

This classificatory confusion just confirms that the situation with Covid is getting serious, with cases exploding all around the world again. The time has come to take seriously simple truths like the one recently announced by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself. Rather, it’s the lack of leadership and solidarity at the global and national levels. We cannot defeat this pandemic as a divided world. The Covid-19 pandemic is a test of global solidarity and global leadership. The virus thrives on division, but is thwarted when we unite.” To take this truth seriously means that one should take into account not only international divisions but also class divisions within each country: “The coronavirus has merely lifted the lid off the pre-existing pandemic of poverty. Covid-19 arrived in a world where poverty, extreme inequality and disregard for human life are thriving, and in which legal and economic policies are designed to create and sustain wealth for the powerful, but not end poverty.” Conclusion: we cannot contain the viral pandemic without also attacking the pandemic of poverty.

How to do this is, in principle, easy: we have enough means to reorganize healthcare adequately and so forth. However, to quote the last line of Brecht’s “In Praise of Communism” from his play Mother: “Er ist das Einfache, das schwer zu machen ist. / It is the simple thing, that is so hard to do.” There are many obstacles that make it so hard to do and, above all, the global capitalist order. But I want to focus here on the ideological obstacle, ideological in the sense of half-conscious, even unconscious, stances, prejudices, and fantasies that regulate our lives also (and especially) in the times of crisis. In short, I suggest that what is needed is a psychoanalytic theory of ideology.

https://thephilosophicalsalon.com/the-simple-things-that-are-hard-to-do/

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Emissions slashed today won’t slow warming until mid-century

MUCH OF the international effort thus far to combat climate change has focused on cutting emissions of greenhouse gases, chief among them carbon dioxide. That is, of course, a rational approach. Global average temperatures are roughly 1.1°C warmer today than in pre-industrial times and CO2 is the main culprit. It and other greenhouse gases are produced when fossil fuels are burned to generate energy or power engines, in steel and cement-making, by farming and deforestation. In the long term, eliminating these emissions is the only sustainable solution for stopping the inexorable warming of the planet.

But greenhouse-gas emissions do not cause an instantaneous rise in global temperatures, and neither does cutting them result in instantaneous cooling. Instead, it will take decades for today’s policy efforts to result in measurable impacts on global temperature—as illustrated in a study published this week in Nature Communications.

https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2020/07/11/emissions-slashed-today-wont-slow-warming-until-mid-century

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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I negazionisti usano la pandemia per costruire un mondo più disuguale

Il sociologo Keith Kahn-Harris ha scritto uno dei testi più affascinanti sul negazionismo. In Denial: the unspeakable truth (uscito nel Regno Unito nel 2018) distingue tra negazione e negazionismo. La negazione è un processo individuale che rimanda al rifiuto psicologico di accettare come vero un fatto assodato. È una specie di processo di rimozione che ricorda il tentativo di ignorare una verità scomoda il più a lungo possibile. Il negazionismo, invece, non si limita a rimuovere la realtà ma ne costruisce una alternativa. In questo senso è un processo più complicato, che chiama in causa le diseguaglianze e le strutture di potere della nostra società.

Esistono molti esempi di negazionismo: da quello che minimizza, o respinge, i rischi del riscaldamento globale, a quello che mette in discussione l’olocausto, fino al negazionismo dell’hiv, che ha portato un’ex presidente del Sudafrica come Thabo Mbeki a bloccare la fornitura di farmaci antiretrovirali causando la morte di circa 330mila persone, secondo uno studio di Harvard. Il negazionismo rivela la volontà di confutare fatti empiricamente accertati per costruire una società alternativa, a partire spesso da un desiderio inconfessabile.

Negli ultimi mesi il concetto di negazionismo è stato evocato in tutti i paesi colpiti dall’epidemia di covid-19. Per riprendere le categorie di Keith Kahn-Harris, anche in questo caso possiamo distinguere tra negazione e negazionismo. Raccontando l’aumento dei contagi in Africa, per esempio, la Bbc ha parlato di negazione per descrivere la reazione della popolazione di alcuni paesi. In Nigeria, dove il lockdown è stato introdotto ancora prima che il virus si diffondesse per evitare il collasso del sistema sanitario, queste misure sono state accolte con diffidenza dall’opinione pubblica. Molti hanno una sorta di rifiuto psicologico nell’accettare la pandemia come un problema reale.

https://www.internazionale.it/opinione/francesca-coin/2020/07/15/negazionisti-pandemia-disuguaglianze

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Working from home has a long history – be careful what you wish for not wanting to go back to the office

In the Wall Street Journal, Dana Mattioli and Konrad Putzier speculate that the white-collar workplace as we know it might soon cease to exist.

They cite Twitter’s plan to allow its 5,000 or so staff to work from home indefinitely, along with plans by OpenText Corp to cut more than 50% of its global offices.

“Many executives …” they say, “point to the success of an unprecedented work-from-home experiment, and how little productivity appears to have been impacted after millions of employees in technology, media, finance and other industries have been forced to work remotely for months.”

Yet if we’re to understand why some 74% of corporations, according to one study, now intend to employ at least some of their staff in that way, we should recognise work from home as neither “unprecedented” nor “an experiment” but rather a method of labour organisation crucial to the development of the modern economy.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/26/working-from-home-has-a-long-history-be-careful-what-you-wish-for-not-wanting-to-go-back-to-the-office

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Hummingbirds Navigate an Ultraviolet World We Never See

Hummingbirds were already impressive. They move like hurried insects, turn on aerial dimes and extract nectar from flowers with almost surgical precision. But they conceal another talent, too: seeing colors that human eyes can’t perceive.

Ultraviolet light from the sun creates colors throughout the natural world that are never seen by people. But researchers working out of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory reported on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that untrained broad-tailed hummingbirds can use these colors to help them identify sources of food.

Testing 19 pairings of colors, the team found that hummingbirds are picking up on multiple colors beyond those we can see. From the bird’s-eye view, numerous plants and feathers have these as well, suggesting that they live in a richer-hued world than we do, full of signs and messages that we never notice.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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