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Offline knarf

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COVID-19 Daily Cases On The Rise In Nearly Half Of U.S. States
« Reply #17145 on: September 28, 2020, 08:48:09 AM »
The number of new daily coronavirus infections in the U.S. continued to rise this past week, driven by upward trends in nearly half the states that have pushed total cases in the country past 7 million. At the same time, a recent study suggests the vast majority of Americans haven't been exposed, far below what's required to quell the virus's spread through "herd immunity."

Daily cases were largely on a downward trend through August and early September from highs in July, but are now going up again.

According to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Tracker, the U.S. reported more than 55,000 new cases on Friday. In total, the U.S. has more than 7,074,000 infections with 204,000 dead as a result of COVID-19.

Overall, about two-dozen states and territories reported an upward trend in new infections, with some states setting and breaking records in days.

In Wisconsin, the state's Department of Health said it had identified 2,817 new infections on Saturday — its highest daily total since the pandemic begin. It broke the record of 2,533 new infections from Sept. 18.

Earlier in the week, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declared a new public health emergency. In issuing his executive order Tuesday, Evers noted that an increase in infections among young people, particular on campuses, was helping to drive the surge.

Later in the week, Evers announced he was allocating $8.3 million for testing at colleges and universities.

"Wisconsin is now experiencing unprecedented, near-exponential growth of the number of COVID-19 cases in our state," Evers said in a video posted to social media this week.

Elsewhere in the Midwest, South Dakota continued to see a surge in cases. The state's department of health reported 579 new cases on its website Saturday — its highest daily total since the pandemic began, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

In August, a motorcycle rally drew a nearly half million participants to Sturgis, S.D. The rally was linked to hundreds of cases in South Dakota and other states.

Other states reporting record surges this week include Utah, which reported 1,411 new cases Friday. Montana also broke its daily record on Saturday with 346 new cases.

But other states continued to see declines. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that he was lifting all of the state's coronavirus restrictions on businesses and gatherings.

Cases in that state peaked in July, edging past 12,000 daily infections. Since that summer surge, however, Florida has seen a decline in daily cases.

Far from "herd immunity"

Even as cases rise in much of the U.S., recent data published in the medical journal the Lancet suggests the vast majority of the country's population hasn't been exposed to the coronavirus.

Researchers tested blood samples gathered from tens of thousands of dialysis patients for antibodies. According to their results, just 9% of Americans may have been exposed to the coronavirus. Experts say that rate is far too low achieve "herd immunity" — where exposure to the virus and/or a vaccine drastically reduces the spread of a virus.

Shots - Health News
President Trump's New COVID-19 Adviser Is Making Public Health Experts Nervous

Those figures echo the initial findings of an ongoing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study mentioned by director Robert Redfield in congressional testimony earlier this week.

Redfield told lawmakers on Wednesday that "preliminary results in the first round" showed that more than 90% of the Americans were still susceptible to COVID-19.

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/09/26/917275615/covid-19-cases-on-the-rise-in-nearly-half-the-u-s
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline knarf

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Building a Global Economy That Was Bound to Fail
« Reply #17146 on: September 28, 2020, 04:13:42 PM »


A former economic hit man describes his part in setting up what he calls a “Death Economy.”

John Perkins was a highly paid economist pushing corporate interests in the developing world, a role he revealed in his bestseller, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. In his new book, Touching the Jaguar, he writes about breaking away to a life of transformative action. In this excerpt, he begins with a job interview and goes on to describe his work for an international consulting firm, Chas T. Main, or MAIN. The firm worked for the U.S. and other governments, and for organizations like USAID and the World Bank. It was a job Perkins describes as working for the “Death Economy.”

I met with the company’s president and its chairman of the board and had dinner with several vice presidents. They impressed upon me that MAIN’s work helped poor people around the world rise out of poverty and improve their standards of living. They showed me economic studies indicating that when lots of money is invested in infrastructure, a country’s economy grows. All this was very consistent with what I’d learned in business school; it convinced me that MAIN’s projects were extremely beneficial. After a couple of days of being treated like a star athlete who is wooed by professional teams, I was offered a salary that was beyond my imagination, more than three times what my dad made as a teacher. In January 1971, the month I turned 26, the age when the Vietnam draft no longer wanted me, I became an economist at MAIN.

Deeply motivated by what I saw as the company’s commitment to helping the poor, I worked very hard to apply myself to this new job. It took me to assignments in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. In less than two years, I replaced the chief economist who was fired because he could not handle the challenges of working in these countries. As the new chief economist, I proceeded to build a staff of more than three dozen highly qualified experts and was made the youngest partner in the firm’s 100-year history. It took me several more years to see through the veneer of “doing good.” However, eventually I realized that what I was really doing was using fancy economic studies to convince leaders of countries around the globe with resources US corporations wanted, like oil, to accept huge loans from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, or one of their sister organizations. The funds would be used to hire US engineering companies to build infrastructure projects. The loans would leave the countries wallowing in debt. To pay them off, the country would be forced to sell its oil or other resources cheap to our corporations or meet other “conditionalities” that served the interests of what was becoming an American empire. I and others with similar jobs began to joke among ourselves about being “economic hit men,” EHMs.

Our job involved offering country leaders huge “rewards” for cooperating. A president’s son-in-law who owned a company that leased construction equipment would receive an extremely lucrative contract (e.g., millions of dollars for equipment worth half that amount). A sister’s catering service would provide all the food to construction crews at greatly inflated prices. The children of the country’s leaders and their friends would be admitted to US colleges with full scholarships and promises of good jobs during school vacations and following graduation. These and many other perks were outright bribes and yet totally legal.

If the leaders balked at our deals, we reminded them of those who had previously refused and were overthrown in coups or were assassinated: Iran’s Premier Mossadegh, Chile’s President Allende, Guatemala’s President Arbenz, the Congo’s President Lumumba, Vietnam’s President Diem, and a long list of ministers of state, judges, and lower-level officials. We EHMs made sure that country leaders knew that people we called “jackals”—highly skilled hit men and women with talents very different from ours who often worked as CIA contractors—were right behind us. We didn’t pack guns, but they did. Once the leaders were convinced, their nations became our pawns. A country assumed the debt, but it never saw a penny of the money. Those funds were used to hire US engineering companies, like Bechtel, Halliburton, Stone and Webster, and MAIN, to build electric power systems, highways, ports, industrial parks, and other infrastructure projects in the countries. The funds were transferred from a bank in Washington, DC, to the company’s bank in Houston, San Francisco, New York, or Boston. Although some of the people in the top executive offices of the World Bank and its sisters, as well as those in the engineering companies, understood that it was a shell game, most of their subordinates—engineers, economists, and others—did not. They were simply doing the jobs they’d been educated and trained to do.

The big winners were the US corporations that built the projects and those that benefited from the improved infrastructure—ones that drilled for oil, mined for gold and other minerals, or employed cheap labor in sweatshops—both types profited handsomely. The second tier of winners were the wealthy and powerful local families; their businesses also flourished due to the improved infrastructure. However, the majority of the country’s people suffered because funds were diverted from education, health care, and other social services to make interest payments on the loans.

    Over time I began to see that the econometric models and statistics were skewed in favor of the rich.

In the end, the countries were never able to pay off the principle. This was an integral part of the EHM strategy. Teaming up with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), we forced the countries to restructure the loans and sell their oil and other resources cheap to our corporations without environmental or social regulations. We convinced them to privatize their utilities, prisons, schools, and other public-sector businesses and turn them over to US investors. In some cases, we coerced them into voting with Washington against Cuba or another country in the UN, or into allowing the Pentagon to build military bases on their soil.

During the early years at my job, I had found it easy to convince myself that I was doing the right thing.

South Vietnam had fallen to the Communist north, and now, I told myself, all of us were threatened by the Soviet Union and China. Indonesia would go next, then the “red tide” of communism would sweep across Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Europe and into the US. I was told that I was on the forefront of defending the entire globe against a menace worse than Hitler.

I’d been taught in business school that improved infrastructure stimulates economic growth and that prosperity would persuade nations everywhere to choose the US form of capitalism and democracy over communism. Our sophisticated econometric models showed that a country’s economy would mushroom—and everyone would be better off—as a result of our projects. Statistics indicated that more and more people were being connected to electricity and water and sewerage and buying TVs and other consumer goods.

Then, over time I began to see that the econometric models and statistics were skewed in favor of the rich. In the countries where I worked (and most of the world), a few families owned 70–95% of the recorded assets; their financial interests composed most, if not all, of the GDP. The rest of the population was part of a sub-economy that never made the statistics. The rich were getting richer while the poor were staying the same or becoming poorer and many in the middle class were becoming impoverished. Statistically, the economy was growing, yet that growth only benefited an extremely small percentage of the population. The gap between rich and poor was widening drastically.

Even as I came to understand the biases in the models, it never occurred to me at the time that this inequality would eventually generate deep unrest, disillusionment, and violence. Ultimately it would lead to such desperation that millions of people would become homeless migrants or turn to drugs, suicide, or acts of violence that would be classified as terrorism by their victims and patriotism by their supporters.

It also never occurred to me that this whole system was ultimately self-destructive. The big corporations were sucking resources from countries around the planet at an unsustainable rate. The driving goal of the corporations was to maximize short-term profits. CEOs were intent on increasing short-term stock prices, market share, or both without regard for the future. It was a system that was bound to fail, to kill itself—what economists would later define as a Death Economy. At the time, we were unaware that fossil fuel and other emissions, along with chemical fertilizers and insecticides, were polluting our atmosphere, poisoning our waters, and destroying our soils. It was a social-governmental-economic system that was totally irrational—truly a Death Economy.

This excerpt from Touching the Jaguar by John Perkins (Berrett-Koehler, 2020) appears by permission of the author and publisher.

https://www.yesmagazine.org/economy/2020/09/16/failing-global-economy/
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Legal Fight Over Trump's Financial Records Grinds On Even As Tax Details Spill Out
« Reply #17147 on: September 29, 2020, 07:01:18 AM »
Questions have long swirled about the state of President Trump's finances.

The New York Times appears to have answered at least some of them with a revelatory report over the weekend that says, among other things, that the president paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017.

The president leaned on a familiar refrain on Sunday to dismiss the Times' investigation, calling it "fake news." Trump has long sought to keep his finances secret and even broke with decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns during the 2016 campaign.

That has helped make his financial records a target for congressional and criminal investigators alike. The president is waging multiple court battles to shield his finances from scrutiny, including two cases involving subpoenas issued to his personal accounting firm, Mazars USA LLP.

House Oversight subpoena

The House Oversight Committee issued a subpoena to Mazars in April 2019 for eight years of financial documents related to Trump and his businesses. The panel says it needs the materials to consider possible legislative changes regarding disclosure and conflict-of-interest laws.

Trump sued Mazars to try to prevent it from handing over the materials. The president's attorneys argued that the Democratic-led House committee didn't have a legitimate legislative need for the documents.

The case made it to the Supreme Court after Trump appealed losses at the district court and appeals court levels. In July, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower courts with instructions to reconsider the matter, including separation of powers issues.

The case currently resides with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

Manhattan DA subpoena

The second case relates to a grand jury subpoena issued by the Manhattan district attorney, Cy Vance, as part of a criminal investigation.

From statements made in court papers, Vance's office appears to be investigating possible insurance or financial fraud by Trump and his businesses. The DA also appears to be looking into hush-money payments made to two women, adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal, who say they had affairs with Trump several years ago.

Trump's attorneys fought this subpoena as well, arguing that as the sitting president he is immune from criminal investigation.

This case, too, wound its way through the lower courts all the way to the Supreme Court. It ruled this summer against the president, rejecting his claims to be absolutely immune from a criminal subpoena issued to a third party, in this instance his accounting firm.

But the justices returned the matter to the lower courts to allow the president to raise other objections. Trump issued new challenges to the subpoena, calling it overbroad and in bad faith. A district court ruled against him, but he appealed and the matter now sits with the federal appeals court in New York.

A three-judge panel held a hearing in the case last week, and the court appeared skeptical of Trump's arguments.

What happens next?

Both of these cases currently sit before federal appeals courts in Washington, D.C., and New York. Legal experts say the Times' reporting is unlikely to have a major impact on either case, but it doesn't mean it can't factor in in some way.

"It would not surprise me if the Vance team files some sort of notice asking to take a look at it," said Stuart Gerson, who led the Justice Department's Criminal Division during the George H.W. Bush administration and briefly served as acting attorney general. "He could file something with the court, and it certainly would be of a piece of what's set forth in their brief."

Gerson noted that Vance has cited a number of media reports detailing potential crimes and other alleged misconduct by Trump or his businesses, and the latest report could be added to that list.

One thing appears clear: Neither case is likely to be resolved before the election. The losing side is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court.

"Do I think that there will be continued and protracted appeals in this case? Absolutely," Gerson said. "That's the Trump strategy."

He also notes that the Vance investigation goes on and "looms big and bold in the future for Donald Trump, whenever his term ends."

https://www.npr.org/2020/09/29/917916141/legal-fight-over-trumps-financial-records-grinds-on-even-as-tax-details-spill-ou
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Church says Cardinal Pell returning to Vatican in crisis
« Reply #17148 on: September 29, 2020, 07:33:20 AM »


CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ former finance minister, will soon return to the Vatican during an extraordinary economic scandal for the first time since he was cleared of child abuse allegations in Australia five months ago, a church agency said Monday.

Pell will fly back to Rome on Tuesday, CathNews, an information agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said, citing “sources close to” Pell.

Pell’s return follows Francis last week firing one of the cardinal’s most powerful opponents, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, over a financial scandal.

Pell was regarded as the third highest-ranking Vatican official and was attempting to wrestle the Holy See’s opaque finances into order when he returned to his native Australia in 2017 to clear himself of decades-old allegations of child sex abuse.

Instead, Pell became the most senior Catholic to be convicted of child sex abuse crimes. He served 13 months in prison before Australia’s High Court acquitted him in April of molesting two choir boys in the late 1990s when he was archbishop of Melbourne.

In his first television interview after his release, Pell linked his fight against Vatican corruption with his prosecution in Australia.

The interview was conducted in April by Herald-Sun newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt, a vocal champion of the cardinal who reported the news early Monday of his return to the Vatican. The Sydney Archdiocese did not respond to a request for comment on Pell’s travel plans, and a woman who answered the phone at the Sydney seminary where Pell lives told The Associated Press: “We have no comment.”

In the interview, Pell said he did not have evidence of a link. But he suspected that a man who swore he had been sexually abused by Pell as a 13-year-old choirboy had been “used.”

Pell again seemed to hint at a link in a statement last week in which he “thanked and congratulated” Francis for firing Becciu.

“I hope the cleaning of the stables continues in both the Vatican and Victoria,” Pell said, referring to his home state of Victoria where he was convicted.

Pell, 79, said in April he planned to return to Rome when the coronavirus pandemic allowed him to pack up his apartment. But he intended to make Sydney his home.

Becciu said he was fired after Francis told him that documents from the Italian financial police alleged the 72-year-old cardinal had embezzled 100,000 euros ($116,200). Becciu, the former No. 2 in the Vatican’s secretariat of state, denied any wrongdoing.

Becciu’s name had previously been caught up in a whirlwind financial scandal involving the Holy See’s investment in a London real estate venture.

But Becciu said that investment wasn’t raised in his conversation on Thursday with Francis.

https://hosted.ap.org/citizensvoice/article/20af5cc38ee3070544aa0e2d3b4e3c82/report-cardinal-pell-returning-vatican-crisis
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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As suicides rise, Army brass reassessing outreach
« Reply #17149 on: September 29, 2020, 07:39:16 AM »


FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — If there were any signs that Staff Sgt. Jason Lowe was struggling, the soldiers he served alongside didn’t see them.

The 27-year-old paratrooper was a top performer. He was on the Commandant’s List and had just finished second in his class in the Army’s Advanced Leader Course, setting him up for a promotion within the storied 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg.

Yet, five days after graduation, after Lowe left texts and calls unreturned, Staff Sgt. Ryan Graves drove to Lowe’s apartment in Fayetteville, North Carolina, with a bad feeling.

“On the way there I think it set in that maybe there’s something a lot worse going on,” Graves said.

Graves opened Lowe’s unlocked apartment door to discover his friend had taken his own life. Weeks later, the why remains unanswered.

“Everything they teach you, that you’re supposed to look for, doesn’t exist in this situation,” Graves told The Associated Press. “No financial trouble, no relationship trouble.”
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Lowe’s was the tenth suicide the 82nd Airborne Division has endured so far this year, a number that stood at four last year. In 2018, six division paratroopers took their own lives; four did so in 2017.

While the driving factors of the suicides remain unknown, Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, who assumed command of the division in July, believes that the forced periods of isolation and other stressors the coronavirus pandemic have imposed on his troops and their families have been a major factor. The increase has pushed Donahue to make suicide prevention a priority and frequent topic of conversation within his ranks.

“There is absolutely a stigma that’s out there,” Donahue said. “And if we don’t acknowledge that, we’re lying.”

2020 has been an unprecedented year for the 82nd Airborne Division. In January, for the first time in three decades, the Division’s Immediate Response Force was activated amid rising tensions with Iran. Within hours, thousands of paratroopers went from ringing in the new year with family to boarding military transport planes bound for the Middle East.

At the same time, Lowe’s unit was finishing up a nine-month rotation in Afghanistan, America’s longest-running war.

By the time soldiers in both brigades returned to Fort Bragg in the spring, the COVID-19 pandemic was well underway as it threatened to overwhelm the U.S. public health system. Patriotic welcome home ceremonies were replaced with a mandatory two-week quarantine and restrictions preventing paratroopers from going on leave to visit family out of state. Gyms and dining facilities on post closed down and unit meetings were held via Zoom.

While those measures were necessary, Donahue believes it’s the primary fuel igniting the suicide increase.

“COVID has made us a division of strangers and we’re doing everything in our power to bring us back together,” he said.

While suicide has long been a problem in the U.S. military, numbers have risen this year by as much as 20% as service members struggle with isolation and other impacts of COVID-19, added to the pressures of deploying to war zones and responding to national disasters and civil unrest. Incidents of violent behavior also have spiked.

The numbers vary by service. Suicide is particularly taking it’s toll in the Army, where senior leaders told The Associated Press they’ve seen a 30% jump in active-duty suicides so far this year compared to last year. They’re looking at ways to shorten combat deployments and put more focus on soldier well-being and less on combat readiness and weapons modernization in response to the rising numbers.

Uncertainty is a given for soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. In June, the Immediate Response Force was called upon again, as paratroopers were sent to Washington, D.C., to quell protests after the death of George Floyd in police custody.

Some had just returned home from their first sudden deployment of 2020 and had been out of quarantine for less than a week when they climbed onto buses bound for D.C.

Living life on standby puts an obvious strain on relationships, which is another common thread the division is seeing in its suicides.

Peer support groups have been implemented for soldiers struggling with relationship issues and a sober living initiative has been launched to house paratroopers struggling with substance abuse in a separate, alcohol and drug-free barracks.

But those who knew Lowe can’t pinpoint any of those factors in his sudden and tragic death.

Graves tosses around the idea of the pressure Lowe put on himself. But even that is speculation.

“He wanted to be the best. He probably was one of the best,” Graves said.

Instead of delivering the news of Lowe’s passing to his battalion in a mass formation, the notification came over Zoom. Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Christopher Walsh and Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Gregerson had practice after another soldier took his life earlier this year.

The loss weighs heavily on them.

“You consider every decision you make and the impact it has on 630 heart beats,” Walsh said.

Days after Lowe’s death, his artillery battery went into the field for a three-week training exercise. Brigade chaplains visited their remote camp site to offer counseling or simply an ear to listen.

Their services are often rejected by hardened soldiers refusing to ask for help. Couple that with the stigma surrounding mental health and the longstanding belief running deep through the military that seeking counseling could negatively affect a soldier’s career.

But since Lowe’s death, the men and women of the 1-319th Field Artillery Regiment are opening up and chaplains have seen an increase in soldiers wanting to talk.

Soldiers are prepared to accept casualties when they’re deployed. The 82nd’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team lost five paratroopers during their recent stint in Afghanistan.

When a soldier is killed in action, Gregerson has watched the mission of the ones left behind, strengthen. They can focus on the enemy in front of them in combat; the objective is clear.

But at home, the fight changes. The demons haunting soldiers become more elusive.

“How do you get after this invisible enemy that you don’t know people are going through?” he asked.

https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-army-north-carolina-racial-injustice-suicides-80eeeecc71631c227a78338c74a90da2
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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New Wildfires Erupt In Northern California Wine Country
« Reply #17150 on: September 29, 2020, 11:26:27 AM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/8EevFBrdyk4&fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/8EevFBrdyk4&fs=1</a>
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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How Alexis De Tocqueville Foretold the Rise of Victimhood Culture
« Reply #17151 on: September 30, 2020, 07:26:19 AM »
The Tyranny of Fragility



I know of no country in which, for the most part, independence of thought and true freedom of expression are so diminished as in America … In America, the majority traces a tremendous circle around thought. Within its limits, the writer is free, but a great misfortune will befall those who depart from it. [The dissenter] will face disgusts of all kinds and everyday forms of persecution. [Those who condemn the dissenter] will speak loudly, and those who think like him, without possessing his courage, will stay silent and away. [The dissenter] yields and folds under the pressure of everyday life; he grows silent, as though taken with remorse for having voiced the truth … In Spain, the Inquisition never succeeded in preventing the spread of books that went against the religion of the masses. The Empire of the Majority fared better in America: it suppressed in the masses the very idea of publishing dissent.—Alexis de Tocqueville, my translation

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805­–1869), the great French diplomat, essayist and political thinker, did not live to see the age of identity politics, social media, grade inflation, concept creep, safetyism, the mental health crisis, mass rewritings of history and a public culture increasingly preoccupied with grievances, moral outrage, sanctified victimhood and bottom-up modes of censorship. But, though he never names them in those terms, all these related symptoms are already apparent and crystallizing into something of a cultural syndrome in his study of American democracy in the 1830s, and his analysis of the changing historical conditions that led to the French revolution of 1789. Tocqueville’s work traces the roots of grievance culture to human nature itself, and to the pre-modern cascade of social transformations that culminated in novel, American forms of tyranny: a tyranny of the entitled masses, of the kind that contemporary Tocquevillians and postcolonial theorists alike might recognize as stemming from the elite ethos of North American campuses, via the infrastructure of social media. But this story is much older, and points to a timeless, universal human dilemma.
Fragile Systems and the Paradox of Individualism

It is demonstrable that those who regard universal voting rights as a guarantee of the goodness of choices are under a complete and utter illusion.—Alexis de Tocqueville

Among classical liberal thinkers, Tocqueville is remembered as a defender of liberties and proponent of a strong civil society. To new left thinkers, he is remembered as an elitist aristocrat and suspicious proponent of small government. In his day, Tocqueville sat (both metaphorically and physically) in the centre-left of the French parliament. His biggest motivation was to combat all forms of tyranny, which he saw as an imminent risk, manifesting in the unchecked demands of both individuals and groups—large or small. A system designed to profit a powerful minority would certainly constitute tyranny in his view; so would, albeit in very different ways, one designed to fulfil the growing needs of the majority. “If one admits that a man in his full power might abuse his adversaries,” Tocqueville asks, “why not admit the same of a majority of men?”

In his search for balance between individual and civil liberties, Tocqueville remains one of the most nuanced thinkers of the western political canon—and a fine diagnostician of enduring psychosocial problems and the systemic conditions in which they arise.

Tocqueville’s writings illuminate a deep paradox arising from modern forms of democracy—as is evident in common misconceptions of his critique of the tyranny of the majority. For Tocqueville, the real tyrant in democracy is not so much the group as the individual; or rather individualism as we know it—entitled, selfish, envious, consumerist, insatiable—which arises when certain conditions of collectivist populism are in place. The erosion of extended kinship structures, religion and broader systems of ritual and meaning—which afford both a source of support and a sense of duty to others and to a project greater than oneself—are certainly partly to blame. But Tocqueville also directs our attention to the most perverse level at which modern individuation operates: that of what becomes imaginable, desirable but ultimately unattainable in the democracy of the masses. You might call this the cognitive-affective dimension of democracy. Once a certain ideal of equality—however ill-defined as a normative goal—is in place, envy and upward social comparison become the norm. Since anyone can become more of anything or anyone at any time, something akin to entropy increases. In affective terms, social and psychological entropy become something we now call anxiety. Life scientists tell us that all life forms must resist entropic decay in order to stay alive (self-organized). But the real information-theoretic story is a little more nuanced. Rather than a synonym for chaos, you might think of entropy as the number of possible states that an organism might visit within a given system. Fragility may arise when a system exhibits too few or too many possible states: when it is too rigid and resistant to change, or too jittery to conserve its key adaptive strategies. A healthy dynamic for a system involves reaching the mathematical point of criticality—the optimum number of possible states—near the boundary between order and chaos. An agrarian society that relies on a single crop to feed many people is fragile, as a single failed season will bring it to collapse. A society with too many competing goals and survival strategies is fragile in different ways, as nothing is coherent enough to hold it together as a dynamic system. Tocqueville never employs metaphors from the physical sciences to describe social dynamics, but his work draws similar conclusions. He also points to more literal ways in which modern democracy brings about fragility. “The more people resemble one another,” as Harvey Mansfied sums up the Tocquevillian view, “the weaker one person feels in the face of all the others.” Tocqueville describes the massively anxiogenic effects of the novel forms of social comparison that arose after the American and French revolutions:

The division of fortunes narrowed the gap that separated rich and poor; but in getting closer, rich and poor seem to have found novel reasons for hating each other. Casting on each other a gaze full of fear and envy, they exclude one another from power. For either of the two, the idea of rights no longer seems to exist, and brute force dawns on them both as the foundation of the present and the sole guarantee of the future.

As the good-enough life always lies just beyond the next hill or the next promotion (or in your neighbour’s driveway), people in modern democracies often adopt a deficit-based understanding of their lives. There is nothing wrong with an aspirational mindset—how else would our species have invented and transcended so much? This is all well and good—until this deficit view becomes a raison d’être of modern existence.
The Rise of Homo Fragilis

We note that humans, when faced with an imminent danger, rarely remain at their habitual level;  they rise far above, or sink far below … but it is more common to see, among men as among nations, extraordinary virtues born of the immediacy of adversity.—Alexis de Tocqueville

Neither fragility nor weakness are moral flaws in themselves, or unworthy targets of attention in a good social project. The mutual recognition of each other’s fragility is our species’ greatest strength, and lies at the root of our evolutionary success.

Humans are not only among the physically weakest of mammals; human offspring also have the longest childhoods, the slowest maturation process and the longest period of physical and nutritional dependence on the group. For biological anthropologist Sarah Hrdy, the evolution of human intelligence and sociality rested on two key traits: the ability to care for others and understand their needs, and the ability to elicit care from others. It certainly takes a village, Hrdy tells us, with everyone from sterile grandmothers to never-wedded aunts all working together to raise the weak, and this has been true since at least the Homo erectus lineage, a full two million years ago.

When and how, then, does fragility become a problem? From babies to the elderly and the sick, weak humans are uniquely skilled at mobilizing the attention and care—at times tyrannically—of others. Take the old problem of sibling rivalry. Signalling one’s needs and the fact that one is suffering—from, for example, hunger, loneliness or cold—is a crucial survival trait. In competing for parental attention and care, children will frequently learn to over-signal their suffering—often to the point of self-deception. Children often implicitly learn to outcompete each other in vulnerability-signalling. Victimhood arises here as a sense of envious injustice for not being recognized and sufficiently accommodated as a deserving sufferer. Children in excessively validating contexts will thus learn to recognize themselves and their relationships with others—to construct an identity in modern lingo—though a sense of victimhood.

Sickness, suffering, weakness, fragility and true victimhood are universally recognized as bona fide ailments to be combatted for the greater good. The extent to which they are perversely elevated as sui generis virtues, however, is variable across societies, and has changed over the course of history. Judging by the masochistic tenets of at least some readings of many religions and of the present historical moment, the veneration of victimhood as a desirable end has remained a problem for all human societies. The mark of a good society—like the mark of good child-rearing—is its ability to foster a balance between necessary dependence and autonomy. “Strengthen him,” as Maimonides said of Tzedakah “so he does not fall”—to which we might add, and so he may in turn strengthen others.

Under what conditions, then, does the tyranny of victimhood arise?

Psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton has diagnosed the present day as afflicted with “solipsistic reality”: an ideology in which the ultimate sources of reality and truth are the experiences and needs of the self. Tocqueville helps us understand how, beyond healthy aspirations to better ourselves, the ultimate demands of mass democracy can often veer towards the perpetuation and competition of incompatible—and unnecessary—fragile selves.

De Tocqueville prophetically foresaw fragility itself as both the defining condition and the ultimate demand of the masses:

Society is at peace, not from reckoning with its strength and well-being, but on the contrary because it believes itself to be weak and sick. Society fears its own death from engaging in the least effort. Each and every one senses Evil, but no one has the courage or energy to seek something better. People feel desires, sorrows, and joys that cannot last, like the passions of old men that only lead to impotence.

Rather than constituting an essentialist mockery of “the masses,” grounded in a naive belief in the natural giftedness of the elite, Tocqueville’s comments on equality describe a maximally entropic social configuration, which, by eliciting too many impossible goals, brings out the most childish and most anxious traits in all of us. Equality, in other words, brings everybody down to the same level, in the most literal affective sense.

“It is impossible, no matter what one does,” he writes, “to elevate the masses beyond a certain level.” For Tocqueville, this basic law of social physics also applies to the naive aim of “democratizing” education—that is, making the ambitious goals of specialized learning (with the resulting promise of high social status) available to everyone, while at the same time adapting the contents and methods of teaching to cater to the quirks and whims of every individual.   “One may make human knowledge accessible, improve teaching methods, and render science cheap,” he contends, “but all one will achieve is to lead people to educate themselves and hone their intelligence without dedicating any time to it.”

According to the natural laws of entropy minimization, it is precisely when information is abundant and cheap that our mental filters will hone in on the most childish and primitive cues that confirm our fears, and our desire to be fragile. It is in this sense that Tocqueville foretold the disaster that is competition over fragility gone wild on social media, and the systemic allergy to nuance and dialogue in the age of clickbait culture: “People will always make judgements hastily, and latch on to the most salient of objects. Thence come charlatans of all kinds all too versed in the secrets of seducing the masses. Most often in the mean time, the masses’ true friends fail in this regard.”

https://areomagazine.com/2020/09/21/the-tyranny-of-fragility-how-alexis-de-tocqueville-foretold-the-rise-of-victimhood-culture/
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline knarf

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Global Gamification Market 2020: 2.17 billion in 2017, 19.39 billion by 2023
« Reply #17152 on: September 30, 2020, 07:37:39 AM »
Leading Players, Industry Updates, Future Growth, Business Prospects, Forthcoming Developments and Future Investments by Forecast to 2023

 Global “Gamification Market” industry is anticipated to an extensive growth during the forecast period 2018-2023. Gamification Market report provides in detail analysis of market with revenue growth and upcoming trends. report contains the forecasts, market size, share estimates and profiles of the leading industry Players.

Gamification Market research report provides derived key statistics, based on the market status of the manufacturers and is a valuable source of guidance and direction for companies and individuals interested in the Gamification industry. The report is a reliable analysis of current scenario of the market, which covers several market dynamics.

Get a Sample Copy Of The Report At - https://www.absolutereports.com/enquiry/request-sample/13103103

The global gamification market was valued at USD 2.17 billion in 2017, and is expected to reach USD 19.39 billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 44.06% over the forecast period (2018-2023). The exponential growth in the number of smartphones and mobile devices has directly created a vast base for the gamification market. This growth is also supported by the increasing recognition of gamification systems as a method to architecture human behavior to induce innovation, productivity, or engagement. The use of gamification systems has also extended beyond their traditional scope of marketing, as now they are extensively used in advance applications like crowd sourcing. Enterprise gamification systems are expected to witness a substantial growth during the forecast period. Organizations have shown a heavy inclination towards collaborative systems, which do not a create competitive environment, as they are widely considered counterproductive. However, the increasing awareness and functionality of these systems are expected to result in greater attention and research from academics and industry experts, leading to the improvement and evolution of technology.

Increasing Mobile Devices Enabling Growth in the Market

Consumers in developed nations such as the United States, find it difficult to think of time without internet and smartphones. There is a rapid rise in mobile usage, as mobile phones have become a predominant form of entertainment and communication. The increasing number of mobile devices, higher productivity, and participation through a reward structure are the factors driving the market, while a perceived lack of improvement in game designs and lack of awareness are the factors hindering market growth.

Retail Holds the Largest Market Share

Retail is an emerging industry, growing at a significant rate. Retail sales growth has been steady since 2012, as customers seek experiences and products that reflect the personal brand they promote on social media. While gamification can add entertainment and drama to a retailer’s marketing or engagement strategy, it can also provide positive behaviors from customers and employees, leading to a rich brand experience and higher sales.

For instance, Sand Cloud utilizes a spinner app with exit intent. When a consumer moves their mouse toward closing the browser tab, the spinner appears in their store. Customers are required to enter their email (allowing Sand Cloud to remarket to them) to spin the wheel. When the customer spins the wheel, they’ll receive a discount, such as USD 5 off, 15% off, or 20% off. The spinner is usually fixed so that the customer always gets a discount on the product so that they’re incentivized to make a purchase.

North America holds the Largest Market Share

North America has a mature market for gamification in the field of marketing. However, the systems are also finding varied applications in product development and innovation in the region. The high penetration of internet and smartphone users in the region has also led to a greater use of gamification for marketing, especially using social media integration tools. These systems are designed to interact with the consumer base and market the interaction at the same time. This region is projected to witness the highest incorporation of gamification systems in enterprise level solutions, and a shift toward more technologically advanced methods in the case of consumer involvement systems.

Key Developments in the Market

• November 2017 - Microsoft launched Azure location-based services, a new Azure cloud offering to power the ‘location of things’. This could empower industrial transformation from manufacturing to automotive to retail, as it includes geographical data that can better connect smart cities, IoT solutions, and infrastructure.
• September 2017 – Bunchball Inc., a specialized engagement and performance solutions company, launched Bunchall Go, a mobile engagement and performance hub.

The Major Players include - BADGEVILLE INC., BUNCHBALL INC., MICROSOFT CORPORATION, BREAKAWAY GAMES, TATA INTERACTIVE SYSTEMS, PERFORMANCE DEVELOPMENT GROUP, ENSPIRE, COGNIZANT, and ANOXIFY INC, amongst others.

Major Regions: - US, Canada, Mexico, Rest of North America, Brazil, Argentina, Rest of South America, China, Japan, India, Rest of Asia-Pacific, UK, Germany, France, Rest of Europe, UAE, South Africa, Saudi Arabia

Inquire Or Share Your Questions If Any Before The Purchasing This Report -https://www.absolutereports.com/enquiry/pre-order-enquiry/13103103

https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/global-gamification-market-2020-leading-players-industry-updates-future-growth-business-prospects-forthcoming-developments-and-future-investments-by-forecast-to-2023-2020-09-23
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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The Case for Degrowth
« Reply #17153 on: September 30, 2020, 08:24:41 AM »
Different meanings of “degrowth”

50 years ago when I was a young hard left socialist I recall how I would argue with people about politics. The argument would almost always go something like this: the other person would say that “socialism is all right in theory but it doesn’t work in practice – look what happened in Russia” and I would reply “Russia is not socialist”.

I remembered this at one point when reading “The Case for Degrowth” written by Giorgos Kallis, Susan Paulson, Giacomo D’Alisa, and Federico Demaria. (Polity Press). I read this:

    “Some of you might protest, “Isn’t the coronavirus crisis revealing the misery of degrowth?” We invite you to first read this book. What is happening during the pandemic is not degrowth. The goal of degrowth is to purposefully slow things down in order to minimize harm to humans and earth systems. The current situation is terrible, not because carbon emissions are declining, which is good, but because many lives are lost; it is terrible not because GDPs are going down, to which we are indifferent, but because there are no processes in place to protect livelihoods when growth falters. For us, caring and community solidarity are vital principles…”

OK – a major purpose of this book is to put up a counter argument to the idea that growth is a cure all and should be understood instead as the root cause of many current problems. Although it is not true to say that the covid 19 pandemic was caused by economic growth because, after all, pandemics have been happening for centuries, nevertheless the speed with which the pandemic spread, the growing ease with which viruses jump from animals to humans because of growth related land use changes, the reluctance in the early stage to take steps to protect public health, the undermining of health service infrastructures through austerity and the reluctance to scale back production for fear of a market collapse – all are problems of a growth economy.

All this is explained in the case for degrowth book and yes, I get it…And yet, the memory of my socialist student days came back and I wonder how much authors are able to determine how words like “degrowth” get used and how these words are understood once they go into circulation. In the last year I have many times seen “degrowth” used, purely and simply, to mean economic contraction brought about because the economy has reached the limits to economic growth. I give examples below.

This issue of framing is important. Words matter – the problem is that, to those unfamiliar with the issues, the word “degrowth” conveys first and foremost an apparently obvious meaning, namely that degrowth means the opposite of growth. It means contraction. Unless you read a book like The Case for Degrowth it is not obvious that some people are using the word to propose a radical policy package – qualitative, structural changes in ecological, social and economic relations as a necessary alternative to the economy growing quantitatively bigger. The authors of this book, and a larger movement of which they are a part, envisage a degrowth society, with its low impact, non-consumerist lifestyles, largely operating on co-operative and commons principles. It is about “re-founding societies on the commons of mutual aid and care, orienting collective pursuits away from growth and toward wellbeing and equity.” Yet the single word does not convey this larger meaning and this is a problem because most people will, unfortunately, never read the book.
“Degrowth” if understood, (or misunderstood) as contraction has already arrived

A related point here is that it will not be necessary now to actually advocate “degrowth” if understood (or misunderstood) in the limited way as “economic contraction” . That’s because it is beginning to happen anyway. As I write this review in early September 2020, economic storm clouds are gathering the world over. For a few years, even mainstream economists have noted a falling off of economic growth and have named this phenomena “secular stagnation”. According to the Centre for Sustainable Prosperity at Surrey University

    “Rates of growth across member states of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have been in decline since the 1970s, a phenomenon known as ‘secular stagnation’. The average growth in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita fell from over 4 percent in the mid-1960s to little more than 1 percent in the pre-pandemic years. The International Monetary Fund expects global GDP to decline by 5 percent this year alone (2020) with a contraction of 3 percent likely even in the emerging and developing market economies.”

Other authors, like Dr Tim Morgan, think there are reasons to believe that secular stagnation will, in the future, not only be an issue in the OECD countries. Secular stagnation, and then worse, is the fate of countries like China too. Biophysical limits to growth are increasingly being reached everywhere. The depletion of oil, gas and coal means it is necessary to tap higher cost sources of energy – including in China.

Nor will the enormous credit expansion used by policy makers to address falling growth rates help any more – such “financial adventurism” will make the crisis worse. Tim Morgan describes all of this in his blog and does not believe that it is necessary “to make a case for degrowth”. In April of this year he wrote:

    ““de-growth” has now arrived. This is not something that we have chosen, however compelling may have been the environmental or the human case for kicking our growth addiction. There’s nothing noble, voluntary or selected about the onset of de-growth which, rather, is a straightforward consequence of the unwinding of an energy dynamic which, courtesy of fossil fuels, has powered dramatic expansion ever since the first efficient heat-engine was unveiled back in 1760.

    The necessity now is to understand de-growth, and to make the best of it. Those who have considered this likelihood have started to understand processes such as loss of critical mass, the threat posed by falling utilization rates, the inevitability both of simplification and of de-layering, and the equal inevitability that, just as economies became more complex as they expanded, they will be subject to a process of de-complexification now that prior growth in prosperity has gone into reverse. As shown below, these components of de-growth give us an outline taxonomy of the very different economic world of the future.

    It doesn’t require a Pollyanna approach to understand that, just as “growth” has been a mixed blessing, de-growth offers opportunities as well as threats.

    If you really valued ‘business as usual’, were looking forward to a world of widening inequalities and worsening insecurity of employment, enjoyed the glitz of promotion-drenched consumerism, and were unconcerned about what a never-ending pursuit of “growth” might do to the environment, you might find the onset of de-growth a cause for lament.

    If, on the other hand, you understand that our world is not defined by material values alone, you might see opportunities where others see only regrets….”

There are similarities between the Tim Morgan view and the book that I am reviewing here…but there is a subtle difference.

In “the Case for Degrowth” we have a book which assumes that a more elaborate version of “degrowth” must be fought for against a mainstream growth consensus. It requires a non-consumerist and collectivist counter culture combined with green economic policies – like a Green New Deal, but with the growth taken out, combined with policies to throttle back carbon emissions, tax high incomes, natural resource use and pollution.

At the same time other authors, like Morgan, using a more limited definition of degrowth to mean involuntary economic contraction, clearly believe that this kind of degrowth has already arrived.

When I scan the essays on the website of the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity there is a similar point of view. For CUSP authors current political and cultural issues need to be thought of in the context of “secular stagnation” which is set to deepen. According to evidence on the CUSP website even the UK Ministry of Defence has cottoned on to degrowth.

Secular stagnation is not a straight line process of decline. As the growth rate declines the economy becomes more unstable, taking longer and longer to put itself back together when it suffers a shock. Rather like a bike that is slowing down it becomes more difficult to keep in balance. There is evidence of “critical slowing down” which means that it takes longer to put things back together after knocks like covid 19. The slow recovery means a tipping point is close.
A period of economic shocks and disasters – which we should prepare for

Economic activity is more vulnerable to shocks: extreme weather events, public health crises like covid 19 and crises in which problems from one sector cascade into another. “Contagion” becomes ubiquitous because of interdependency – an extreme weather event may paralyse the power grid so that, without electric power, electronic transactions are paralysed with further devastating effects – unless break downs are put right quickly.

A tipping point might entail the onset of general paralysis.

The “Case for Degrowth” is advocating degrowth to help achieve a better life on a bedrock of caring and commoning. Its authors recognise that unexpected events open new possibilities and violently close others. They fear what the future may look like and so they should. They acknowledge the way that disasters like the covid epidemic can move situations on in ways that are unplanned, unwilled and messy. However, specific responses to disasters is not a focus of their book.

That is unfortunate because these unplanned, unwilled and messy developments are more likely than book publications to influence what happens. The more we prepare for them, the less unplanned they are, the more we steer the aftermath of these messy and unwilled happenings.

Here’s an example – the organisation Occupy Wall Street, which was the grass roots movement at the time of the 2008 financial crash, reappeared at the time that hurricane Sandy hit New York. People from Occupy Wall Street resurrected their organisation as “Occupy Sandy”. They demonstrated how horizontal mutual aid, disaster collectivism, could be a powerful aid to poor communities with a lasting impact. The way I see it disaster collectivism could turn out to be a part of the degrowth story.

In April the same publisher, Polity Books, published a translation of a French book by Pablo Servigne and Raphael Stevens titled How Everything can collapse. A Manual for our Times. It argues that there is real likelihood of political, social, economic and ecological collapse. This is relevant to making a case for degrowth. You can argue that a case for degrowth helps head off more problems and offers a better lifestyle. You can also argue that a “degrowth” ought to be a programme to help cope with problems that are going to occur anyway – up to and including collapse. Servigne and Stevens write the following about this:

    “We did not use the term ‘degrowth’ because it designates less a historical reality than a voluntarist political programme (frugality and conviviality) intended, precisely, to avoid a collapse. But this ‘wish’ gives us a glimpse of a gradual, controlled and voluntary reduction of our consumption of materials and energy – something that…is not very realistic. Unlike degrowth, the notion of collapse still makes it possible to think of a future that is not totally mastered.” ( page 128 )

Not only is there a process of secular stagnation but extreme weather events and disasters like covid 19 are happening with greater regularity and with more severe impacts. Recovery from these disasters are more difficult as the resources available to use for recovery contract. In other words we are entering “a future that is not totally mastered”. Let’s face it – degrowth as a policy needs to be about the policies to help destitute and distressed people, to reclaim contaminated and derelict buildings and land, to clean up and poisoned sea-scapes and to cope with weather disasters of increasing frequency and severity. If it is not that then what possible use is it?

It would be reassuring if elites were aware of the trends and were taking appropriate steps in government but to a large extent they are not – instead they are using the chaos for emergency powers that remove themselves from democratic control and enable them to take advantage of vulnerable communities and/or to loot tax revenues through no bid contracts for their own enrichment. Meanwhile a “future that is not totally mastered” is the last thing that elites want to acknowledge as this has the potential to undermine their legitimacy and credibility. So we watch their blundering and blustering increase as things get worse.

In their book the authors of the case for degrowth argue that politics in the near future looks increasingly as if it will be about mutual aid by grass roots communities in co-operatives, collectives and care commons. OK but is it enough to say this? Do we not also have to say that these grass roots collective arrangements will be spending a lot of their efforts responding to an increasing frequency and severity of disasters? Do we not also need to mention that they will be involved increasingly in “disaster collectivism” – which may also be pitted against “disaster capitalism” as we move into a period of economic disintegration?

The analogy is not perfect but it will do for now – before the onset of world war two in Britain the likelihood of war meant that preparations for food rationing were made and people began to think of constructing air raid shelters. At an early stage in the war they were issued with gas masks. At this time should we not also think of food arrangements for hard times? If we live by the sea or near flood plains should we not think of flood plains and arrangements? Instead of thinking that we will avert the crisis by degrowth let’s acknowledge that we are too late to avert some of the problems and will have to work with what nature and a disintegrating economy throws at us. We will have to reconstruct through the crisis and hope that we can change things sufficiently in the early stages of the disintegration to avert the later stages – but we will not now stop some of the damage.
So many diversities and pluralities that the argument is hard to follow

Part of the problem that I have with the Case for Degrowth book is that it is sometimes difficult to know what to hang on to in their argument. They are so keen NOT to propose “monocultural” responses to the institutions of a growth economy that they go to great lengths to describe “pluralities” and “diversities” or arrangements.

    “Our strategy is to re-order values and resources to support the development of diverse life-making processes operating with different logics. That diversity will be key to resilience and adaptation in the face of historical-environmental challenges.”

However as I read about the diversity of arrangements, the arguments almost seem labyrinthine and I eventually lose my way and wonder what to hang on to. In the english language one word for “understand” is to “grasp” something – but this is often a difficult book to “grasp” because there is so much “diversity” and so many “pluralities” that trying to grasp the argument is like trying to get a grip on a handful of sand. At least one chapter contains a mass of examples that are not even about degrowth as such but are claimed to “prefigure degrowth transitions” because they are about living simply in communities, prioritising well being over profit, promoting models of community ownership with less negative impacts and energy use. In a book called “The Case for xyz” you expect something more focused – but I often can’t see the wood for the trees…(Probably because of this the authors decided to add a Frequently Asked Questions section which reads much more like a more ordinary “Case for…” chapter than the rest of the book.)
Responding to difficulties gives focus

Another way in which the amorphous argument could be brought into sharper relief would have been if more effort had been put into structuring it around how degrowth will respond to a variety of damaging challenges. Let me give mental health as an example.

At the time of writing an article appeared in the London Guardian which describes a mental health crisis of unprecedented scale unfolding in the United Kingdom – psychological depression in British adults has doubled during the coronavirus crisis.

    “Almost one in five (19.2%) people experienced depression in June, almost double the 9.7% with symptoms in the nine months to March, according to a survey of 3,500 participants by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Younger adults, women, key workers and disabled people were among those most likely to suffer depression during the pandemic, as were those in households unable to afford an unexpected expense, according to the ONS.

While people across all age brackets were more likely to have experienced depression post-Covid, the greatest proportional increase was among those aged 16 to 39. Between July 2019 and March 2020, 11% of this group reported depression, rising to 31% in June.

    Women were more likely than men to have experienced depression during the pandemic, with almost one in four (23.3%) reporting moderate to severe depressive symptoms, compared with one in eight beforehand.”

The point about this growing mental health crisis is that it is, or has to be a tangible focus – something definite that needs to be addressed. You can argue if you like that a well organised “degrowth process” that the authors would like to see would not suffer this mental health crisis because the conviviality and collectivity would have raised people’s moods. However it’s too late for that now. There is and will be a lot of distressed and disorientated people in the unwilled and messy situations and perhaps they prefigure a collapse. How is the growing avalanche of mental health problems going to be responded to? What are needed are answers now – not just to head off and avert a future situation but to cope with an acute disaster situation that is already unfolding as entire communities are overwhelmed.

Here are some more hard nosed questions – how are we to get ready for the impacts of extreme weather events – floods, droughts, fires? What will be done during serious food shortages? How are we to respond to public health issues like covid 19? How are we to respond to waves of evictions? How are we to respond to waves of unemployment? How are these responses connected to the climate and environmental crisis?
Disaster Preparation by Communities

It is not true that we can do nothing in advance of these crises. A great deal of experience demonstrates that when disaster strikes communities often come together in responses based on altruism and mutual aid. The greater the pre-existing trust and networking, the better a community can respond. Community horizontally organised responses often emerge from pre-existing social networks and prior divisions in communities may dissolve as people experience catastrophe together. This is more likely if there has already been information sharing in convivial settings about the need for preparedness about particular risks likely in particular places and if neighbourliness has already been strengthened by shared activity. One way of strengthening communities is if they work together – in Ireland there is a tradition called meitheal – which means work teams of neighbours doing tasks like field labour together on each other’s land.

It is one thing to find responses to problems that are slowly increasing in magnitude – it is another to respond to multiple crises happening at once because these crises are systemic to the growth economy which is highly interconnected and therefore vulnerable to crisis contagion. What happens in such situations will be crucial to the direction that history takes.

What would and could be done if there is a “cascade crisis”? A cascade crisis would happen when for example there are domino chain collapses. For example extreme weather crashes the power grid which paralyses everything needing electric power like computers and the internet. This would crash the electronic transactions system which would crash buying and selling, shops and supply chains and basic services. How would or will mutual aid work here, now, as the economy contracts and how do we create the necessary density of social networks to be ready and able to respond?

https://www.resilience.org/stories/2020-09-22/the-case-for-degrowth-review/
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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We Are at a Unique and Unprecedented Stage
« Reply #17154 on: September 30, 2020, 09:49:38 AM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/upKtYjeKZ5g&fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/upKtYjeKZ5g&fs=1</a>
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Things Stopping Us From Reaching Our Full Potential
« Reply #17155 on: September 30, 2020, 09:54:02 AM »
Daniel Schmachtenberger

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/OBxF7qHGrNM&fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/OBxF7qHGrNM&fs=1</a>
« Last Edit: October 01, 2020, 09:58:43 AM by knarf »
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline knarf

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America is in pain. The presidential debate offered no help
« Reply #17156 on: September 30, 2020, 10:07:04 AM »
Donald Trump spent the evening whining in a circus of vanity, lies and hostility

With more than 200,000 Americans dead from Covid-19, the economy in tatters, the west on fire, schools shuttered, police brutality against Black people still rampant, and millions of Americans grieving, scared and unable to recognize their lives, the first of three presidential debates on Tuesday night came at a time of pain, desperation, and anxiety for the American people. The debate itself reflected absolutely none of this anxiety. It was a display of vulgarity and egotism that insulted the Americans it was purportedly meant to persuade.

For more than 90 minutes, instead of substantive discussion of the multiple ongoing national emergencies that have warped their lives, viewers were shown three old white men – Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Fox News’ Chris Wallace, nominally the moderator – interrupting, shouting at and insulting one another. The coarseness, dishonesty, and grandstanding on display was a mockery of the dignity of the electoral process and a slap in the face to the Americans whose lives will be shaped by the actions of the next president.

Nearly all of the evening’s chaos can be blamed, of course, on President Donald Trump, who spent the evening lying and misrepresenting his own record, his opponent’s record, President Obama’s record, Hillary Clinton’s record, the records of several Senate and congressional Democrats, and the state of fires, crime, economic activity, coronavirus infection rates, and ballot distribution in various states and regions. He claimed, wrongly, that Joe Biden supports “socialist medicine”. He claimed, wrongly, that Joe Biden supports a Green New Deal. He claimed, wrongly, that Joe Biden opposes the police. And he claimed, wrongly, that Joe Biden had the power to limit the coronavirus outbreak during his time as a senator, vice-president and presidential candidate.

Trump made several allusions to conspiracy theories that are popular on the rightwing internet but are largely incomprehensible to anyone not already immersed in that world, a rhetorical choice which signaled that Trump has either made a strategic decision to appeal to his base rather than to court undecided voters, or that he, like the most enthusiastic members of his base, spends much of his time online, Googling his name. In an exchange that was ugly even by the standards of the evening, Biden brought up the military service of his deceased son, Beau, and Trump interrupted to counter that Biden’s other son, Hunter, had had problems with drug addiction.

When he wasn’t lying, Trump was speaking over his time, whining at the moderator, and undermining the election. At one point, asked to disavow white supremacists, he instead spoke directly to the racist group known as the Proud Boys, telling them to “stand by”. At another point, he requested that his supporters deploy themselves to “watch” the voting in progress. It was hard not to interpret these comments as threats to incite his supporters to racist violence if the election does not go his way. And Trump seems convinced that it won’t. His closing remarks were dedicated to insisting that the election would be illegitimate if he lost. “This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen,” he said. “This is a rigged election.”

Meanwhile Joe Biden challenged Trump, at times successfully, on the state of the country. He brought up the staggering number of coronavirus dead and emphasized the grief of those left behind who loved them. He brought up the Trump administration’s attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Obama-era healthcare expansion that has extended insurance to millions during the pandemic. He brought up the failing economy, the dwindling jobs, and the tax cuts for the wealthiest while the majority of Americans face tightened belts and narrowing prospects. At times, too, he brought up the corruption and cruelty of Trump himself, calling out the president on his alleged tax dodges, as recently outlined in the New York Times, Trump’s racist dogwhistles and embrace of white supremacists, and his refusal to agree to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose.

Biden, who is leading in national polls by an uncommonly large margin and has an edge over Trump in many crucial swing states, was incentivized to make little news on the debate stage, and so had only one task for the night: to preserve his dignity while speaking to Donald Trump. It was a herculean task, and Biden met it with mixed success. Debating Donald Trump is like debating a chimpanzee: he is less likely to deliver a thoughtful and substantive answer than he is to throw his own feces at you.

It was difficult for the former vice-president to make clear and complete statements to the audience in the midst of Trump’s onslaughts, a reality he tried to confront head-on. “It’s hard to get anything in with this clown,” he said. Biden called Trump a clown several times and was frank in his exasperation and contempt, often looking directly at the camera and addressing his frustrations not to Trump or the moderator, but to the viewers at home. “Folks, do you have any idea what this clown is doing?” he asked the audience. At other times, he was dismissive of Trump. “Will you shut up, man?” he asked.

The approach was refreshing in that it did not concede to Trump any authority, decency, or respect – courtesies he has not earned and tends to use against those who demonstrate them. But watching Joe Biden address Trump with such deserved unseriousness, while a relief, also reminded me a bit too much of Hillary Clinton’s attempts to exude politeness and patience in her own debates against Trump during the 2016 contest. Biden treated Trump with the disdain and impatience that Trump deserves. But he was only able to be so forthrightly dismissive because he is a man.

What was the point of tonight’s debate? The circus of vanity, lies and hostility certainly didn’t reveal anything new about the candidates, and it would be laughable to suggest that the exchange was productive to the democratic process. Though Tuesday’s debate was a new nadir of national embarrassment, televised presidential debates have been unhelpful for some time, always light on substance and heavy on spectacle. Perhaps it would be better to acknowledge these events for what they are: not real exchanges meant to inform the electorate, but reality television shows meant to drive up ratings for the major networks. Maybe this is why Donald Trump loves them so much. He doesn’t seem interested in fulfilling the duties of his office or in meeting the challenges of the nation, but he is very, very interested in being on TV.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2020/sep/30/trump-debate-issues-biden-wallace
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline knarf

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'Is This American-Style Civilization?': World Reacts To Presidential Debate
« Reply #17157 on: September 30, 2020, 04:01:02 PM »

The French weekly Le Point displays a photo of President Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden under a headline reading "America on a volcano (and us too)" in Paris, on Wednesday.

The world was watching the U.S. presidential debate on Tuesday night, and what they saw was not pretty.

A "national humiliation," said the Guardian in the U.K. "Cacophonique," the Franceinfo news organization opined. The German public broadcaster DW assessed things far more bluntly. And Israel's leading TV anchor tweeted "condolences to America," writing, "It is hard to stoop lower than this."

Global reaction to the debate between President Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden was largely similar to reactions in the U.S. But to many international observers, Tuesday's spectacle wasn't just unseemly; it represented an America in decline, eliciting pity in some cases, and in others, leading some to question whether democracy is a political system worth embracing.

"This Trump-Biden face-to-face was like the year 2020, trying for the whole world but particularly difficult politically in the United States," said an editorial in the French newspaper Le Monde.

DW's chief international editor Richard Walker said the event would "be seen as another piece of evidence that American democracy is in a pretty tattered state."

Walker worried about how "non-democratic parts of the world" would perceive it. "China, for instance, is holding up its system of authoritarianism as the better way," he said. "They can pretty easily point to this debate and say, 'Is that what you want? Is democracy what you want? Or isn't our way better?' "

To many Chinese viewers, the chaos of the debate reflected that of the U.S. at large.

"Is this American-style civilization?" one person wrote on the Chinese Twitter-like app Weibo, the South China Morning Post reported. Another user said: "I would feel desperate if I was an American."

Chinese analysts noted the seeming futility of a debate that reflected entrenched beliefs without offering a way forward.

"Regrettably, from this debate, this is no sign that such confrontation and divergence could be bridged, no matter who takes the rein," Zhang Tengjun, who studies U.S. politics at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times in a story headlined "Chaotic Trump-Biden debate shows 'recession of U.S. influence, national power.' "

At one point, Biden referred to Trump as "Putin's puppy" — reminiscent of a remark by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 debates, when she called Trump Putin's "puppet."

Asked for comment, Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, told reporters in Moscow: "Of course we're witnessing a new trend in political culture and electoral culture in the United States. But we don't want to comment on it and make any assessments, because it would immediately be seen as an attempt at interference."

An announcer on Russian state TV said: "The candidates behaved like their voters — brawls on the streets of American cities have not let down for several months. America is divided and inflamed."

Makoto Watanabe, a professor of communications at Japan's Hokkaido Bunkyo University, told the South China Morning Post that his peers lamented that Americans are now in an "unfortunate" position.

"I thought it was pretty symbolic of how polarized American politics has become in the last decade or so, with the two leaders and their respective camps having no dialogue at all between them," he said.

Former British diplomat John Sawers told the The New York Times that the debate left him "despondent" about America: "The country we have looked to for leadership has descended into an ugly brawl."

Watching the debate was trying enough for English speakers; some international broadcasters had to scramble to interpret the cross-talk for their audiences as Trump, Biden and Fox News moderator Chris Wallace all spoke over one another.

Taiwan's Mandarin-speaking Yahoo News anchor Catherine Lu said she "couldn't recognize words, just voices all intertwined together," the South China Morning Post reported. "It is hard to make out what anyone's viewpoint is," she exclaimed during her live broadcast.

International reaction to the debate is in line with multiple Pew Research Center reports finding that America's international image has suffered during Trump's presidency. A report this month found that in nearly every country, a majority holds unfavorable views of America.

But as messy as the debate was, at least one observer noted that the tradition shouldn't be taken for granted.

"For all the talk about how bad this debate is, at least you have one," Hungarian journalist Andras Petho tweeted. "In Hungary, the last debate before parliamentary elections was in 2006."

https://www.npr.org/2020/09/30/918764741/is-this-american-style-civilization-world-reacts-to-presidential-debate
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline knarf

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This Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic
« Reply #17158 on: October 01, 2020, 10:03:35 AM »
It’s not R.

In study after study, we see that super-spreading clusters of COVID-19 almost overwhelmingly occur in poorly ventilated, indoor environments where many people congregate over time—weddings, churches, choirs, gyms, funerals, restaurants, and such—especially when there is loud talking or singing without masks. For super-spreading events to occur, multiple things have to be happening at the same time, and the risk is not equal in every setting and activity, Muge Cevik, a clinical lecturer in infectious diseases and medical virology at the University of St. Andrews and a co-author of a recent extensive review of transmission conditions for COVID-19, told me.

Cevik identifies “prolonged contact, poor ventilation, [a] highly infectious person, [and] crowding” as the key elements for a super-spreader event. Super-spreading can also occur indoors beyond the six-feet guideline, because SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen causing COVID-19, can travel through the air and accumulate, especially if ventilation is poor. Given that some people infect others before they show symptoms, or when they have very mild or even no symptoms, it’s not always possible to know if we are highly infectious ourselves. We don’t even know if there are more factors yet to be discovered that influence super-spreading. But we don’t need to know all the sufficient factors that go into a super-spreading event to avoid what seems to be a necessary condition most of the time: many people, especially in a poorly ventilated indoor setting, and especially not wearing masks. As Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida, told me, given the huge numbers associated with these clusters, targeting them would be very effective in getting our transmission numbers down.

Overdispersion should also inform our contact-tracing efforts. In fact, we may need to turn them upside down. Right now, many states and nations engage in what is called forward or prospective contact tracing. Once an infected person is identified, we try to find out with whom they interacted afterward so that we can warn, test, isolate, and quarantine these potential exposures. But that’s not the only way to trace contacts. And, because of overdispersion, it’s not necessarily where the most bang for the buck lies. Instead, in many cases, we should try to work backwards to see who first infected the subject.

Because of overdispersion, most people will have been infected by someone who also infected other people, because only a small percentage of people infect many at a time, whereas most infect zero or maybe one person. As Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist and the author of the book The Rules of Contagion, explained to me, if we can use retrospective contact tracing to find the person who infected our patient, and then trace the forward contacts of the infecting person, we are generally going to find a lot more cases compared with forward-tracing contacts of the infected patient, which will merely identify potential exposures, many of which will not happen anyway, because most transmission chains die out on their own.

The reason for backward tracing’s importance is similar to what the sociologist Scott L. Feld called the friendship paradox: Your friends are, on average, going to have more friends than you. (Sorry!) It’s straightforward once you take the network-level view. Friendships are not distributed equally; some people have a lot of friends, and your friend circle is more likely to include those social butterflies, because how could it not? They friended you and others. And those social butterflies will drive up the average number of friends that your friends have compared with you, a regular person. (Of course, this will not hold for the social butterflies themselves, but overdispersion means that there are much fewer of them.) Similarly, the infectious person who is transmitting the disease is like the pandemic social butterfly: The average number of people they infect will be much higher than most of the population, who will transmit the disease much less frequently. Indeed, as Kucharski and his co-authors show mathematically, overdispersion means that “forward tracing alone can, on average, identify at most the mean number of secondary infections (i.e. R)”; in contrast, “backward tracing increases this maximum number of traceable individuals by a factor of 2-3, as index cases are more likely to come from clusters than a case is to generate a cluster.”

Even in an overdispersed pandemic, it’s not pointless to do forward tracing to be able to warn and test people, if there are extra resources and testing capacity. But it doesn’t make sense to do forward tracing while not devoting enough resources to backward tracing and finding clusters, which cause so much damage.

Another significant consequence of overdispersion is that it highlights the importance of certain kinds of rapid, cheap tests. Consider the current dominant model of test and trace. In many places, health authorities try to trace and find forward contacts of an infected person: everyone they were in touch with since getting infected. They then try to test all of them with expensive, slow, but highly accurate PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests. But that’s not necessarily the best way when clusters are so important in spreading the disease.

PCR tests identify RNA segments of the coronavirus in samples from nasal swabs—like looking for its signature. Such diagnostic tests are measured on two different dimensions: Are they good at identifying people who are not infected (specificity), and are they good at identifying people who are infected (sensitivity)? PCR tests are highly accurate for both dimensions. However, PCR tests are also slow and expensive, and they require a long, uncomfortable swab up the nose at a medical facility. The slow processing times means that people don’t get timely information when they need it. Worse, PCR tests are so responsive that they can find tiny remnants of coronavirus signatures long after someone has stopped being contagious, which can cause unnecessary quarantines.

Meanwhile, researchers have shown that rapid tests that are very accurate for identifying people who do not have the disease, but not as good at identifying infected individuals, can help us contain this pandemic. As Dylan Morris, a doctoral candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton, told me, cheap, low-sensitivity tests can help mitigate a pandemic even if it is not overdispersed, but they are particularly valuable for cluster identification during an overdispersed one. This is especially helpful because some of these tests can be administered via saliva and other less-invasive methods, and be distributed outside medical facilities.

In an overdispersed regime, identifying transmission events (someone infected someone else) is more important than identifying infected individuals. Consider an infected person and their 20 forward contacts—people they met since they got infected. Let’s say we test 10 of them with a cheap, rapid test and get our results back in an hour or two. This isn’t a great way to determine exactly who is sick out of that 10, because our test will miss some positives, but that’s fine for our purposes. If everyone is negative, we can act as if nobody is infected, because the test is pretty good at finding negatives. However, the moment we find a few transmissions, we know we may have a super-spreader event, and we can tell all 20 people to assume they are positive and to self-isolate—if there are one or two transmissions, there are likely more, exactly because of the clustering behavior. Depending on age and other factors, we can test those people individually using PCR tests, which can pinpoint who is infected, or ask them all to wait it out.

Read: The plan that could give us our lives back

Scarpino told me that overdispersion also enhances the utility of other aggregate methods, such as wastewater testing, especially in congregate settings like dorms or nursing homes, allowing us to detect clusters without testing everyone. Wastewater testing also has low sensitivity; it may miss positives if too few people are infected, but that’s fine for population-screening purposes. If the wastewater testing is signaling that there are likely no infections, we do not need to test everyone to find every last potential case. However, the moment we see signs of a cluster, we can rapidly isolate everyone, again while awaiting further individualized testing via PCR tests, depending on the situation.

Unfortunately, until recently, many such cheap tests had been held up by regulatory agencies in the United States, partly because they were concerned with their relative lack of accuracy in identifying positive cases compared with PCR tests—a worry that missed their population-level usefulness for this particular overdispersed pathogen.

To return to the mysteries of this pandemic, what did happen early on to cause such drastically different trajectories in otherwise similar places? Why haven’t our usual analytic tools—case studies, multi-country comparisons—given us better answers? It’s not intellectually satisfying, but because of the overdispersion and its stochasticity, there may not be an explanation beyond that the worst-hit regions, at least initially, simply had a few unlucky early super-spreading events. It wasn’t just pure luck: Dense populations, older citizens, and congregate living, for example, made cities around the world more susceptible to outbreaks compared with rural, less dense places and those with younger populations, less mass transit, or healthier citizenry. But why Daegu in February and not Seoul, despite the two cities being in the same country, under the same government, people, weather, and more? As frustrating at it may be, sometimes, the answer is merely where Patient 31 and the megachurch she attended happened to be.

Overdispersion makes it harder for us to absorb lessons from the world, because it interferes with how we ordinarily think about cause and effect. For example, it means that events that result in spreading and non-spreading of the virus are asymmetric in their ability to inform us. Take the highly publicized case in Springfield, Missouri, in which two infected hairstylists, both of whom wore masks, continued to work with clients while symptomatic. It turns out that no apparent infections were found among the 139 exposed clients (67 were directly tested; the rest did not report getting sick). While there is a lot of evidence that masks are crucial in dampening transmission, that event alone wouldn’t tell us if masks work. In contrast, studying transmission, the rarer event, can be quite informative. Had those two hairstylists transmitted the virus to large numbers of people despite everyone wearing masks, it would be important evidence that, perhaps, masks aren’t useful in preventing super-spreading.

Comparisons, too, give us less information compared with phenomena for which input and output are more tightly coupled. When that’s the case, we can check for the presence of a factor (say, sunshine or Vitamin D) and see if it correlates with a consequence (infection rate). But that’s much harder when the consequence can vary widely depending on a few strokes of luck, the way that the wrong person was in the wrong place sometime in mid-February in South Korea. That’s one reason multi-country comparisons have struggled to identify dynamics that sufficiently explain the trajectories of different places.

Once we recognize super-spreading as a key lever, countries that look as if they were too relaxed in some aspects appear very different, and our usual polarized debates about the pandemic are scrambled, too. Take Sweden, an alleged example of the great success or the terrible failure of herd immunity without lockdowns, depending on whom you ask. In reality, although Sweden joins many other countries in failing to protect elderly populations in congregate-living facilities, its measures that target super-spreading have been stricter than many other European countries. Although it did not have a complete lockdown, as Kucharski pointed out to me, Sweden imposed a 50-person limit on indoor gatherings in March, and did not remove the cap even as many other European countries eased such restrictions after beating back the first wave. (Many are once again restricting gathering sizes after seeing a resurgence.) Plus, the country has a small household size and fewer multigenerational households compared with most of Europe, which further limits transmission and cluster possibilities. It kept schools fully open without distancing or masks, but only for children under 16, who are unlikely to be super-spreaders of this disease. Both transmission and illness risks go up with age, and Sweden went all online for higher-risk high-school and university students—the opposite of what we did in the United States. It also encouraged social-distancing, and closed down indoor places that failed to observe the rules. From an overdispersion and super-spreading point of view, Sweden would not necessarily be classified as among the most lax countries, but nor is it the most strict. It simply doesn’t deserve this oversize place in our debates assessing different strategies.

Although overdispersion makes some usual methods of studying causal connections harder, we can study failures to understand which conditions turn bad luck into catastrophes. We can also study sustained success, because bad luck will eventually hit everyone, and the response matters.

The most informative case studies may well be those who had terrible luck initially, like South Korea, and yet managed to bring about significant suppression. In contrast, Europe was widely praised for its opening early on, but that was premature; many countries there are now experiencing widespread rises in cases and look similar to the United States in some measures. In fact, Europe’s achieving a measure of success this summer and relaxing, including opening up indoor events with larger numbers, is instructive in another important aspect of managing an overdispersed pathogen: Compared with a steadier regime, success in a stochastic scenario can be more fragile than it looks.

Once a country has too many outbreaks, it’s almost as if the pandemic switches into “flu mode,” as Scarpino put it, meaning high, sustained levels of community spread even though a majority of infected people may not be transmitting onward. Scarpino explained that barring truly drastic measures, once in that widespread and elevated mode, COVID-19 can keep spreading because of the sheer number of chains already out there. Plus, the overwhelming numbers may eventually spark more clusters, further worsening the situation. 

As Kucharski put it, a relatively quiet period can hide how quickly things can tip over into large outbreaks and how a few chained amplification events can rapidly turn a seemingly under-control situation into a disaster. We’re often told that if Rt, the real-time measure of the average spread, is above one, the pandemic is growing, and that below one, it’s dying out. That may be true for an epidemic that is not overdispersed, and while an Rt below one is certainly good, it’s misleading to take too much comfort from a low Rt when just a few events can reignite massive numbers. No country should forget South Korea’s Patient 31.

That said, overdispersion is also a cause for hope, as South Korea’s aggressive and successful response to that outbreak—with a massive testing, tracing, and isolating regime—shows. Since then, South Korea has also been practicing sustained vigilance, and has demonstrated the importance of backward tracing. When a series of clusters linked to nightclubs broke out in Seoul recently, health authorities aggressively traced and tested tens of thousands of people linked to the venues, regardless of their interactions with the index case, six feet apart or not—a sensible response, given that we know the pathogen is airborne.

Perhaps one of the most interesting cases has been Japan, a country with middling luck that got hit early on and followed what appeared to be an unconventional model, not deploying mass testing and never fully shutting down. By the end of March, influential economists were publishing reports with dire warnings, predicting overloads in the hospital system and huge spikes in deaths. The predicted catastrophe never came to be, however, and although the country faced some future waves, there was never a large spike in deaths despite its aging population, uninterrupted use of mass transportation, dense cities, and lack of a formal lockdown.

It’s not that Japan was better situated than the United States in the beginning. Similar to the U.S. and Europe, Oshitani told me, Japan did not initially have the PCR capacity to do widespread testing. Nor could it impose a full lockdown or strict stay-at-home orders; even if that had been desirable, it would not have been legally possible in Japan.

Oshitani told me that in Japan, they had noticed the overdispersion characteristics of COVID-19 as early as February, and thus created a strategy focusing mostly on cluster-busting, which tries to prevent one cluster from igniting another. Oshitani said he believes that “the chain of transmission cannot be sustained without a chain of clusters or a megacluster.” Japan thus carried out a cluster-busting approach, including undertaking aggressive backward tracing to uncover clusters. Japan also focused on ventilation, counseling its population to avoid places where the three C’s come together—crowds in closed spaces in close contact, especially if there’s talking or singing—bringing together the science of overdispersion with the recognition of airborne aerosol transmission, as well as presymptomatic and asymptomatic transmission.

Oshitani contrasts the Japanese strategy, nailing almost every important feature of the pandemic early on, with the Western response, trying to eliminate the disease “one by one” when that’s not necessarily the main way it spreads. Indeed, Japan got its cases down, but kept up its vigilance: When the government started noticing an uptick in community cases, it initiated a state of emergency in April and tried hard to incentivize the kinds of businesses that could lead to super-spreading events, such as theaters, music venues, and sports stadiums, to close down temporarily. Now schools are back in session in person, and even stadiums are open—but without chanting.

It’s not always the restrictiveness of the rules, but whether they target the right dangers. As Morris put it, “Japan’s commitment to ‘cluster-busting’ allowed it to achieve impressive mitigation with judiciously chosen restrictions. Countries that have ignored super-spreading have risked getting the worst of both worlds: burdensome restrictions that fail to achieve substantial mitigation. The U.K.’s recent decision to limit outdoor gatherings to six people while allowing pubs and bars to remain open is just one of many such examples.”

Could we get back to a much more normal life by focusing on limiting the conditions for super-spreading events, aggressively engaging in cluster-busting, and deploying cheap, rapid mass tests—that is, once we get our case numbers down to low enough numbers to carry out such a strategy? (Many places with low community transmission could start immediately.) Once we look for and see the forest, it becomes easier to find our way out.

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/09/k-overlooked-variable-driving-pandemic/616548/?utm_source=pocket-newtab
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline knarf

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Seagram's Heiress Sentenced In Nxivm Sex Trafficking Ring Case
« Reply #17159 on: October 01, 2020, 10:26:41 AM »

Clare Bronfman, the Seagram's liquor fortune heir, was sentenced to 81 months in prison for her role in protecting Keith Raniere, the disgraced leader of Nxivm who was convicted of turning women into sex slaves.

An heiress to the Seagram's liquor fortune has been sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for fraud and forced labor as a leading member of Nxivm, a cult-like self-help group accused of holding women captive and coercing them into having sex with the group's leader.

Clare Bronfman, 41, was a member of Nxivm — pronounced Nehk-see-um — for 15 years, eventually joining its executive board and bankrolling numerous lawsuits against critics of the secretive organization led by Keith Raniere.

Bronfman pleaded guilty to felony charges of harboring a woman who was in the U.S. illegally and the fraudulent use of a deceased person's identity.

In a hearing that went on for more than three hours, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis scolded Bronfman for using her fortune to protect Raniere even after she became aware of the sex trafficking ring.

"I am troubled by evidence suggesting that Ms. Bronfman repeatedly and consistently leveraged her wealth and social status as a means of intimidating, controlling, and punishing" Nxivm's enemies, Garaufis said Wednesday, according to The New York Times.

But rather than distancing herself from the leader of the group, whom authorities have called a "modern-day Svengali," Garaufis said, "She chose to double down on her support of Raniere."

The group was based in upstate New York but grew to have a global presence. It espoused a philosophy of self-improvement, but investigators said that over the years it became a vehicle for recruiting, grooming and even branding an inner circle of female sex slaves for Raniere, who was known as "Vanguard."

Raniere was convicted in June 2019 on charges of sex trafficking, forced labor, conspiracy, human trafficking and multiple counts of racketeering — including sexual exploitation of a child.

Before Bronfman's sentence was announced on Wednesday, several victims offered emotional statements of ruined marriages, careers, fortunes and lives.

Among them was Barbara Bouchey, a former Nxivm member who defected and claims she continues to be hounded by Bronfman and her lawyers.

"You've been under house arrest for two years, yet you have never stopped," Bouchey tearfully told the court, The Associated Press reported.

"Will you never stop?" she asked Bronfman, who sat silently at the defense table.

Bronfman pleaded guilty last year to credit card fraud on behalf of Raniere. She also admitted to illegally harboring a woman who was in the U.S. on an expired visa for unpaid "labor and services."

Though she remained quiet for most of the proceedings, Bronfman did address the unnamed woman on Wednesday, saying, "I truly hope you can forgive me and live a happy life."

She also told the court that she is thankful for the support she has continued to receive.

"It doesn't mean I haven't made mistakes because I have made mistakes," Bronfman said.

She did not mention Raniere, however, in a letter to the court last month. She said Nxivm had "greatly changed my life for the better" and that she wouldn't denounce its leader.

Part of her plea agreement included a $500,000 fine and the forfeiture of $6 million of her fortune, a sum prosecutors say is only a fraction of her wealth. Bronfman was also ordered to pay a Nxivm victim nearly $100,000.

The 41-year-old heiress was taken into custody to begin her six-year and nine-month sentence immediately after her appearance Wednesday.

https://www.npr.org/2020/10/01/918961767/seagrams-heiress-sentenced-in-nxivm-sex-trafficking-ring-case
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)