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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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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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As Coronavirus Reappears in Italy, Migrants Become a Target for Politicians

As the summer vacation season draws to a close in Italy, a flare-up of Covid-19 cases is fueling a surge in anti-immigrant sentiment, even though the government says that migrants are just a small part of the problem.

Sicily’s president, Nello Musumeci, ordered the closure of all migrant centers on the island last weekend, saying it was impossible to prevent the spread of the illness at the facilities. And although a court blocked him, saying that he did not have the authority to close them, his order underlined the challenges Italy faces as right-wing politicians seek to rekindle a polarizing debate about immigration in a country hit hard by the pandemic.

In Pozzallo, a town in southern Sicily that has the highest rate of infection among newly arrived migrants, Roberto Ammatuna, the center-left mayor, has found himself trying to balance fears of a coronavirus influx with an obligation to rescue migrants in distress at sea.

“Our citizens need to feel safe and protected, because we are here in the front lines of Europe,” he said in an interview in his office overlooking the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. “No one wants migrants who are sick with Covid,” but, he said, “we can’t stop rescuing people at sea.”

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2020 in European Union

 

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Abstand? Fehlanzeige

Noch in der Nacht zum Sonntag sind die Zelte verschwunden, geräumt von der Polizei. Dabei hatten die Demonstranten nach ihrer Großdemonstration in Berlin den nächsten Schritt ihres Protests einläuten wollen. Ein Protestcamp nahe dem Kanzleramt, 14 Tage lang, gegen die Maßnahmen der Regierenden zur Bekämpfung der Coronapandemie. Kaum hat Michael Ballweg, der Protestorganisator, am Samstagabend die Kundgebung an der Siegessäule beendet, ruft er schon die nächste aus – die zum Campieren.

https://taz.de/Demonstration-gegen-Corona-Regeln/!5706392/

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2020 in European Union

 

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The Guardian view on African success: a step closer to conquering polio

Polio arrives, if it announces itself at all, as a high temperature. Or a sore throat. Maybe a headache, or an upset stomach. It can go within a week or so, and be mistaken for flu. It is transmitted by poor hygiene, largely affects children under five, and many don’t realise they’ve had it. In 5-10% of cases, however, the virus affects the nerves, paralysing the legs in particular; sometimes it reaches the lungs. For most, this is temporary. For others – 30 years ago, this was 350,000 children a year – paralysis is permanent, and if it is of the lungs, they die. No one who has seen the effects of polio forgets.

In the early 20th century epidemics were frequent; in the United States transmission was blamed on everything from cats to blueberries to Italian immigrants. By the early 1950s, the US public ranked it second as its worst fear after nuclear war. When, in 1955, a vaccine was developed, the British held street parties. The numbers of cases dropped immediately. In 1960, Czechoslovakia was first to declare eradication. The last recorded case of naturally occurring polio in the UK was in 1984. Polio was declared gone in the Americas in 1994; in the western Pacific region (including China) in 2000; in Europe in 2002; India and south-east Asia in 2014. Last week, Africa joined their number. Only Pakistan and Afghanistan remain.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/aug/30/the-guardian-view-on-african-success-a-step-closer-to-conquering-polio

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2020 in Africa, Reportages

 

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We Need to Talk About Ventilation

I recently took a drive-through COVID-19 test at the University of North Carolina. Everything was well organized and efficient: I was swabbed for 15 uncomfortable seconds and sent home with two pages of instructions on what to do if I were to test positive, and what precautions people living with or tending to COVID-19 patients should take. The instructions included many detailed sections devoted to preventing transmission via surfaces, and also went into great detail about laundry, disinfectants, and the exact proportions of bleach solutions I should use to wipe surfaces, and how.

My otherwise detailed instructions, however, included only a single sentence on “good ventilation”—a sentence with the potential to do some people more harm than good. I was advised to have “good air flow, such as from an air conditioner or an opened window, weather permitting.” But in certain cases, air-conditioning isn’t helpful. Jose-Luiz Jimenez, an air-quality professor at the University of Colorado, told me that some air conditioners can increase the chances of spreading infection in a household. Besides, “weather permitting” made it all seem insignificant, like an afterthought.

While waiting for my results, I checked the latest batch of announcements from companies trying to assure their customers that they were doing everything right. A major U.S. airline informed me how it was diligently sanitizing surfaces inside its planes and in terminals many times a day, without mentioning anything about the effectiveness of air circulation and filtering inside airplane cabins (pretty good, actually). A local business that operates in a somewhat cramped indoor space sent me an email about how it was “keeping clean and staying healthy,” illustrated by 10 bottles of hand sanitizer without a word on ventilation—whether it was opening windows, employing upgraded filters in its HVAC systems, or using portable HEPA filters. It seems baffling that despite mounting evidence of its importance, we are stuck practicing hygiene theater—constantly deep cleaning everything—while not noticing the air we breathe.

How is it that six months into a respiratory pandemic, we still have so little guidance about this all-important variable, the very air we breathe?

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/07/why-arent-we-talking-more-about-airborne-transmission/614737/

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2020 in Reportages

 

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Women’s pain, it seems, is hysterical until proven otherwise

Pain is your body’s alarm system. It’s a sensation designed to tell you that something’s gone wrong. But being in pain, says Colin Klein, a philosopher at the Australian National University, is a bit like having your house guarded by a hyperactive terrier. Sometimes it barks at trespassers, but other times it gets upset at the postman. Sometimes it goes wild over nothing at all, and, on occasion, it would probably let in burglars if they brought snacks. Pain is correlated with tissue damage (the stuff you need protecting from), but the two don’t necessarily go together. If you’ve ever cut yourself and didn’t feel the slightest twinge until you saw blood, you’ve had tissue damage without pain. If you’ve ever felt a sting in anticipation of an injection or a dentist’s drill, you’ve had pain without tissue damage.

Part of what makes pain an effective protection mechanism also makes it inherently subjective. The International Association for the Study of Pain describes it as ‘an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience’. You wouldn’t jerk your hand back so quickly from a hot stove if pain was just a vaguely irritating tickle. Pain can protect us because we typically dislike it and find it emotionally distressing.

This affective dimension of pain – which we might also call its ‘interpretive’ or ‘psychological’ character – becomes especially complex when it intersects with gender. There’s good evidence that the modern Western medical system treats men and women’s pain quite differently. Women are more likely to have their pain dismissed or under-treated, often from a very young age. That’s especially true for women of colour, whose pain receives significantly less treatment than that of their white peers. Clinicians investigate women’s chest pain less frequently than men’s – even when women have all the classic symptoms of a heart attack, and even though heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. Women are also far more likely than men to have a physical illness misdiagnosed as a psychiatric condition, particularly depression.

One reason for these problems is that we don’t listen carefully when women talk about their lives and experiences. Women are often subject to what the philosopher Miranda Fricker at the City University of New York has called a credibility deficit: they’re treated as less reliable sources of information, precisely because stereotypes cast women as untrustworthy and irrational. As a result, society’s understanding of things such as workplace harassment, sexual violence and intimate partner violence is profoundly skewed, since we’re less likely to believe reports from the people most likely to be affected.

https://aeon.co/essays/womens-pain-it-seems-is-hysterical-until-proven-otherwise

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2020 in Reportages

 

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Two Disasters Are Exponentially Worse Than One

Eleven thousand lightning strikes, 370 wildfires, a pandemic, a heat wave, and rolling blackouts—California has endured a lot this week. Hundreds of thousands of acres have burned, and tens of thousands of people have had to evacuate. The largest of the blazes—the LNU Lightning Complex fires, which alone span Napa, Sonoma, Solano, and Lake Counties—is only 7 percent contained.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/08/exponential-threat-pandemic-wildfires/615574/

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2020 in North America

 

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The gendered pandemic

Since the women’s movement started more than 150 years ago, the trajectory towards greater gender equality has not been linear. From the viewpoint of history, the various gains and losses over the 20th century align with a fathomable logic. But when you’re living inside that history, they can come about abruptly, and with little notice.

The dual cataclysm of World War One and the Spanish Flu, for example, catapulted women into public life at a time when the suffragettes were having to fight men for every inch of progress. Suddenly, with tens of millions of men dead, women were recruited en masse into jobs they had been banned from, and were even paid – in some cases – equal wages to men. 

Twenty-five years later, at the end of World War Two, it may have seemed logical that women – now embedded throughout the workforce – would continue to occupy public life. But the opposite occurred: not only were women removed from public life, an entire cultural mythology was invented to gaslight them into believing it was natural for them to stay at home, and unladylike to want for anything more. It would be another 20 years before women started to wake up to just how illogical that was.

https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2020/august/1596204000/jess-hill/gendered-pandemic#mtr

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2020 in Reportages

 

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Syrian patient describes coronavirus outbreak ‘10 times worse’ than regime claims

“I cannot tell my true name,” says Ramiz Halawani, a 37-year-old teacher in Damascus. “You know how bad and violent our security intelligence are. They have spies everywhere. So, I am using another name.”

Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Independent, Mr Halawani said he contracted Covid-19 earlier this month, as the epidemic swept through the Syrian capital. “I have been sick with coronavirus infection for 10 days,” he said. “I got the infection from a colleague of mine at a summer school. After almost a week, I felt exhausted with fever and a dry cough. I thought it was just a flu, but as a precaution I told my wife and three children to stay with my parents-in-law.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/coronavirus-syria-cases-deaths-damascus-regime-a9687646.html

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2020 in Middle East

 

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