Archive for the ‘Disputable Facts’ Category


News and links January 13 2021

January 13, 2021

Bertold Brecht: Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.

92 million infections and 2 million deaths from COVID-19, and there are still doubters, deniers, and those who don’t grasp the severity of the situation or who simply don’t care.

Undisciplined. delusional, irredeemable, and unteachable individuals exist in every society, but they shape the social climate to widely different degrees. Some societies contain them, ignore them, restrict them, push them to the fringes, while others celebrate them as outstanding examples of individualism, independence, and creativity. 

A noisy night and the dawning of a different world

New Year celebrations around the world were muted as many countries struggle to curb new spikes in coronavirus infections. Fireworks displays and other public gatherings were cancelled around the world and particularly in Europe, amid fears over B117, a more contagious variant of the virus.

Several governments had banned the sale of fireworks and limited alcohol sales, but the regulations were not strictly enforced and the authorities turned a blind eye to violations. New Year’s Eve was noisy as usual.

France mobilized 100,000 police to break up New Year’s Eve parties and enforce a night-time curfew. In Paris half of the metro lines were closed. But despite all announcements and warnings 2,500 partygoers attended an illegal 36 hour lasting New Year’s Eve rave in Lieuron, south of Rennes in Brittany, violently clashing with police who failed to stop it. Local gendarmes tried to prevent the event but faced fierce hostility from partygoers who set one of their cars of fire and threw bottles and stones.

The Netherlands were also under a lockdown, which is set to last until January 19. Its traditional countdown to the new year took place behind closed doors at a football stadium in Amsterdam.

London’s streets were quiet during New Year’s Eve after police urged people to celebrate at home. Instead of the usual festivities in front of the London Eye, a giant fireworks and light show was held across various locations in the capital.

In New York, just a handful of people were allowed into Times Square to watch the famous midnight ball drop — mainly frontline workers, first responders, and their families. Stars performed as usual at the televised event. Fireworks were cancelled in cities including San Francisco and Las Vegas.

One of the first nations to ring in the New Year was Australia. The Sydney fireworks display went ahead, but crowds were not allowed to gather on the city’s harbor to enjoy it. Sydney residents watched the pyrotechnics on TV at home, where gatherings were (theoretically) limited to five guests.

In China, the annual New Year light show in the capital Beijing was called off. Celebrations were scaled down in cities across the country. But in Wuhan, where the pandemic is thought to have originated, thousands of people gathered in the city centre to celebrate as balloons were released into the air.

Japan cancelled a traditional New Year event at which Emperor Naruhito and other imperial family members were to greet people.

In India, Delhi and several other cities imposed a night curfew and other restrictions to prevent large New Year gatherings.

However in New Zealand, where a strict lockdown and border closures have all but eliminated Covid, New Year celebrations were held as usual.

In Zimbabwe, where the frail healthcare system is already overwhelmed, police arrested more than 2,000 people over New Year’s Eve for breaking COVID-19 regulations, including attending a concert.

New waves, new lockdowns, and coronavirus fatigue

The virus is surging in many regions and even countries that had apparent success in suppressing initial outbreaks are seeing case numbers grow again. Daily cases had fallen in many European countries during November after some steep increases in October. But in December, cases once again began to climb in several countries, including France, Germany, and the UK. As cases and deaths rise, authorities are ordering tighter restrictions and lockdown extensions. 

Germany will extend lockdown rules, originally agreed until January 10, to the end of the month. Harder lockdown rules were brought in after initial restrictions had only a moderate impact on caseloads. Yet, despite schools and day-care centers being the central driver of the pandemic, the education ministers in Germany’s federal states have decided on a “resumption of face-to-face teaching” as soon as possible.

French restaurants, bars, cinemas, and museums will remain closed throughout January and ski resorts might not reopen before the February holidays. In Italy, a 10 pm curfew is imposed, while bars, restaurants, and most shops are closed.

Ireland has moved to its highest level of restrictions, banning all household visits, closing all non-essential retail, and limiting travel to 5km.

There’s a danger in the UK that the NHS (National Health Service) could be overwhelmed by mounting COVID-19 cases. Vaccines are hailed as a panacea but in the short term will probably have a limited effect. 

People in England must stay at home and only go out for certain reasons. It is illegal to leave home without a “reasonable excuse”. Police can fine £200 for a first offense — doubling for further offenses up to a maximum of £6,400. That sounds draconian but the rules are not rigidly enforced. Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said, that people in the UK are still holding house parties, raves, and gambling gatherings, while the BBC reported that there was currently no expectation that a more extensive crackdown on violators was on its way.

Resistance against lockdown and social distancing rules is mounting, with protests, widespread violations, and deliberate acts of civil disobedience, 

In the Czech Republic 3,000 people, among them former prime minister and president Vaclav Klaus, gathered in capital Prague’s Old Town Square to protest against an ongoing vaccine rollout and strict government anti-virus restrictions. They waved Czech flags and banners saying, “We’re not sheep,” and “No to vaccination”. Many demonstrators were seen without face masks, flouting social-distancing measures.

Lebanon now mandates an all-day curfew and the closure of most businesses until January 25. The hastily announced measures prompted panic buying at grocery stores, which are closed to shoppers except for delivery. 

In China, hundreds more have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in Hebei province, steelmaking hub and now center of the country’s most serious outbreak since months. Authorities have urged citizens in the province, that borders capital Beijing, to avoid travel. Schools have been closed a week early and testing is being carried out on a massive scale. A major political conference in Hebei has been postponed.

The spike in infections comes amid attempts to curb a further spread during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday in February.

All around the world people are tired and desperate. They blame the government, minorities, and foreign powers for the upheaval and the hardship. They deliberately break rules and reject even the most modest changes to their daily routines.

They will phantasize about a “coronavirus hoax” even on their deathbed.

In addition to the hardcore deniers, even the more reasonable individuals expect that the start of vaccination campaigns will miraculously stop the pandemic right now and they cannot wait to throw every precaution over board and return to their familiar habits and antics.

They ignore the fact that in most countries the vaccine distribution rollout has been an unmitigated disaster, proving once more the ignorance and incompetence of the concerned authorities.

A bleak outlook at a fast changing world

The pandemic is about to get even more terrifying as the highly contagious UK strain B117 makes its way across the globe. The mutation is responsible for one in two infections in Britain.

The B117 variant, which has now spread across Europe and into several US states, has what appear to be a couple of important mutations in the spike protein, which allows the virus to attach to receptors in the lungs. Apparently, the new variant is stickier (better at binding to the receptors). That means that it takes less of the virus to get you sick, or the same viral load gets you sicker.

There is no doubt that this strain is infecting more young people than any prior variants. There are still conflicting reports, but in those regions where the new variant is prevalent, the hospitalization and case data show that young people are sickened and hospitalized at the same rate as other age groups.

Closing schools is problematic, because the children and adolescents suffer social deprivation, show deficits of learning, and experience social anxiety or depression. There are reports of a general rise in child anxiety and self-harm. 

But closing schools is still better than risking a deadly infection or the death of parents, grandparents, and teachers.

Bubbles or pods may alleviate the pain but are risky too. Any reduction in the number of personal contacts diminishes chances of catching and transmitting the virus. Children are very effective virus transmitters and the chance of home transmission is extremely high both ways, from and to children. If a few children are in a bubble or pot, one has to add their siblings, parents, and grandparents, to the number of contacts. 

In the end, when one does a pod calculation, one has to think about how big the community is. It’s not just teachers and students, it’s also siblings, parents, grandparent and their respective pods or bubbles. That all may add up to a number which doesn’t guaranty any protection at all.

This virus is a fast moving target

The new extremely transmissible strain 501Y.V2 from South Africa also causes concern. It has been found already in the UK, France, Switzerland, Japan, Austria, and Zambia. Multiple countries have banned flights from South Africa and the UK in a bid to stop the spread of this new variant.

It may become more difficult to lower the infection rates with existing measures and virologists warn of a “big third wave.” RNA viruses can adapt relatively quickly and with more than 92 million hosts SARS-CoV-2 has more chances to evolve than any other pathogen before. Just like it happened with antibiotics, the wrong strategy could elicit changes which makes the virus immune to vaccines and medical drug treatments. 

Every new infection turns a person into a potential incubator for a vaccine resistant strain of the virus. Dr. Mike Ryan of the World Health Organization recently said that COVID-19 “is not the big one.” What was left unsaid is that the more infections occur, the more the virus mutates and the more it has the potential to become “the big one,” to turn into a pandemic that is even faster spreading and even more lethal.

It would be necessary to contain virus outbreaks and isolate the affected areas, but that is only happening in some Asian countries (Vietnam, South Korea, China). In all other nations the authorities seem to be powerless and clueless what to do.

In Germany the rate of those testing positive is 16 percent, more than three times the World Health Organization threshold beyond which a pandemic is considered “out of control.” In the USA testing has remained stagnant even though more than 12 percent of all tests nationally come back positive. Contact tracing has been all but abandoned. It was never effective because many of the investigated patients lied about their movements and contacts.

Coronavirus flare-ups can happen even in the most tightly controlled locations. 

In China several cases have been infected by contaminated fomite on the surface of frozen goods, imported from abroad, and even after the pandemic resurfaced in multiple cities, cold chain logistics companies were still found responsible for inadequate disinfection and lack of sanitation protection.

This is the way to bring the system down. 

Closing factories and schools will save lives but destabilize the current economic, social, and political order. It will lead to a collapse of the global financial system, it will end globalization and consumerism.

Keeping factories and schools open to save the economic system and the profits of the superrich will only prolong the misery. One has to ask: Are profits and the preservation of the old exploitative order really more important than peoples lives?

People who still have a job in a car factory, a meat processing plant, plucking fruits on farms and orchards, or working in schools and day care centers are the ones who die from CIVOD-19.

But what is the alternative?

Lamenting about jobless numbers and waiting for greedy industrialists (formerly called robber barons) to open new companies is futile, founding or joining community workshops, farms, cooperatives, being creative to find the niche where one can contribute to the local economy is the right thing to do.

Instead of protesting or staring spellbound at smartphone, computer, and TV screens, People should investigate what is needed in their neighborhood and then look for ways to produce, trade, and distribute goods or learn, setup, and offer needed services.

As an environmentalist, one is of course tempted to cheer lockdowns, travel bans, and all other measures which reduce industrial activity. As an environmentalist, one hopes for a devastating third or fourth wave, which will finally crush the international finance system, which will end globalization, consumerism, and the rule of the billionaire class.

But it would be foolish to revel in the illusion that the pandemic upheaval could lead to a paradise where the visions of Peter Kropotkin (mutual aid) or Murray Bookchin (communalism) are perfectly implemented. 

It is much more likely that the disintegration of the industrial economies will lead to a digital feudalism (or techno-feudalism), with billionaires and higher ranking multi-millionaires being the new aristocracy and the top earners Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Steve Balmer, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Jack Ma being the new Kings.

And yet, just like the virtual economy (stock market and global financial system) and the real one (farms, factories, and all businesses which actually produce goods and offer services) are parting ways and become more and more detached from each other, the new digital feudalism could split into two worlds with the urban tech elite occupying one, and the small workshops, community farms, cooperatives, and employee-owned companies (Modragon, Publix Super Markets, Huawei) occupying the other.

One crisis among many

The coronavirus pandemic is certainly not the biggest danger humans are facing.

Global warming has disappeared from the news, but permafrost is still thawing, arctic ice is still melting, oceans become warmer and more acidic. Extreme weather events (storms, floods, droughts, abrupt temperature changes) devastate places around the world. Forest fires burned out of control in Australia, California, Indonesia, and Siberia.

The decimation of forests and pet lands continues. The collapse of habitats together with human activity causes an unprecedented sixth mass extinction of species (Holocene extinction).

The soil is exhausted and depleted by industrial agriculture, it needs more and more chemical fertilizer, it is prone to erosion and desertification.

The biosphere is constantly contaminated with plastic waste and industrial poisons.

Humans emit more than 250 billion tonnes of chemical substances a year. This can be agricultural chemicals, mining residues, industrial waste and spills, degrading plastic materials (micro-plastics), household chemicals, paint, ink, household waste, pharmaceutical drugs, batteries, and discarded electronics.

The pollutants are found everywhere; mercury is found in polar bears, Mount Everest’s snow is so polluted it fails to meet WHO drinking water standards, DDT, banned since 1972, can be detected in every human hair sample. 

The next nuclear accident is waiting to happen.

Nuclear power plants were not designed to operate for more than 40 years because of radioactivity embrittling metal parts and otherwise causing safety problems. But in recent decades, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the operating licenses of nuclear power plants from 40 years to 60 years and then 80 years, and it is now considering extensions of 100 years.

And what about the military use of nuclear technology? There exist approximately 3,750 active nuclear warheads and 13,890 nuclear bombs on the shelves. Why shouldn’t they be utilized one day, they were not built just for fun?

Don’t say this is far off and ridiculous, you probably also didn’t anticipate the pandemic at the start of 2020. 

Discouraging notions indeed, though at the start it wasn’t meant to come out like this. The reader may ask why not just give in and give up, why not just retreat into daydreams, illusions, delusions, pretense, and self-deception?


Big dangers await us, but life is still fascinating and beautiful, nature is worth preserving, our animal friends are worth saving, and there are countless likeminded people with whom we can connect to form a powerful force for good.

Feline news:
Cat sharing.
Please read to the end, where the real story is.

Against all odds:
That’s the real McCoy!
If only the USA, Russia, China, Israel, UK, France, India, Pakistan, and North Korea would join! 

Environmental news:
A year of disasters, but still not enough to cause a paradigm change.
No change of hearts. Could another reactor meltdown do the trick?
There is no “clean” energy and all scientific effort, infrastructure planning, and social adaptation should aim to reduce energy consumption.
Advocating for less air travel.
The monumental task of changing peoples environmental consciousness was highlighted by the following advice in an online journal: Avoid pubs or gardens that use gas-powered outdoor heaters or ask them to switch to more efficient and better targeted infrared heaters.
Why not just put on a warm winter jacket? Why are outdoor heaters still allowed? 

Economic news:
A bleak outlook but no answers or suggested remedies. Except: “cooperation.” But cooperation means free trade and globalization for a Western economist.
About the newest World Bank report. The concluding sentence of the article: Refusing, because of their profit interests, to undertake meaningful measures to deal with the pandemic and with their laser-like focus on financial markets, the ruling elites have created a social and economic catastrophe.
The article doesn’t mention the extremely high amounts of energy needed for bitcoin mining. Cryptocurrencies are an ecological disaster.
US car sales plunged.
China could overtake the US as the world’s largest economy within five years, twice as fast as previously predicted.

Pandemic news:
Some good points but three omissions: Human mobility (travel, tourism), urbanization (living in close proximity, mass gatherings), and global supply chains increase the chance of transmissions and the quick spread over wide distances.
A man was two weeks in quarantine after being abroad, had three negative tests, and nevertheless infected other people. Workers were infected by handling imported frozen food (happened already several times before). This virus is incredible transmissible and things could easily get much worse.
Coronavirus fatigue in the nation, which after China until now was most successful in containing the pandemic.

Media, technology, and propaganda news:
Medical doctors call for the immediate release of Julian Assange.
US journalism is still alive, but it’s a cold and dark time.
A big step forward on the road to totalitarian internet censorship.

Imperial news:

The US has recorded about 23 million cases and nearly 390,000 deaths from coronavirus, the highest figures in the world. Daily cases have been at record levels since early November and there are about 120,000 people in hospital, double the number in either of the two previous waves. The outbreak has a devastating impact on the US economy and more than 25 million US-inhabitants remain out of work.
Profits are more important than lives. Keep shopping until you are dropping (dead).
Please read!
US health care workers in distress.
From the article: The Methodist Hospital released a grim statement: “If a ventilator or ICU is not offered or is stopped, the patient has the right to ask their doctor for further detail regarding this decision, and will receive everything needed to ensure that they are free of pain or discomfort.”

Imperial conquest news:
Massive Israeli airstrikes targeted a number of sites in the areas of Al Bukamal and Deir Ez-zor in eastern Syria near the Iraq border. The strikes were the fourth reported attack by Israel against targets in Syria in the past two weeks. The IDF has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the war in 2011.
US sanctions and other forms of economic warfare are damaging, but in the long-term they prevent that the sanctioned countries become dependent on the West, they will force a lean and “resilient” economy in the targeted nations, and they will isolate the Western alliance. Most Western economic activities are exploitative, therefore isolation in the long run will hurt the West more than the adversaries.
The CIA in Congo, Kagame, Clinton.
Paving way for mass starvation in Yemen.

China news:

In an article with the Headline: “Jobs, Houses and Cows: China’s Costly Drive to Erase Extreme Poverty,” and the subhead: “China has spent heavily to help its poorest citizens, an approach that few developing countries can afford and even Beijing may struggle to sustain,” the New York Times ruminates about the motives for China’s efforts to erase poverty, and the journalists of the “newspaper of record” come to the conclusion that it must be a public relations stunt and a scheme to create an army of loyal followers who keep the Communist Party in power. In the neoliberal mindset of a NYT writer compassion and fairness cannot be possible factors, and everything must be of course a zero sum game.
A man was two weeks in quarantine after being abroad, had three negative tests, and nevertheless infected other people. Workers were infected by handling imported frozen food (happened already several times before). This virus is indeed extremely transmissible and things could easily get much worse.
Confucius’ ethics (humaneness, righteousness, propriety/etiquette, loyalty, filial piety, adherence to social roles) loom large.
Long read, but essential for understanding Chinese politics.
An article which cannot be easily dismissed as anti-Chinese propaganda, because it pinpoints many important and undeniable facts. At the end of the report the author states: China has risen to become a world power for the second time in recent decades, an unprecedented comeback. One reason is China’s sheer size, its vastness, its density and the deep roots of its culture. The other, which is even more important, is the diligence, creativity and patience of its people.
A death sentence for corruption.
This is China, where billionaires are not sacrosanct.
Hong Kong Police Arrest Dozens of Pro-Democracy Leaders. The 53 officials and activists were detained under the national security law for their efforts to choose candidates to run in the city’s legislative elections.
Unfortunately consumerism is alive and well in China.
Such strict measures would be impossible in any other nation. Discipline and highly organized efforts to contain the virus are unrivaled, yet, SARS-CoV-2 still continues spreading.

Uncategorized news:

News from cat land:

Rita and Linda still have not completely reconciled, but they gradually approach a state of peaceful coexistence. We had several forest walks where they warily watched each other but didn’t try to pounce on or ambush each other. When we came home they gathered at the food cups and had a little feast side by side. There was no visible animosity.

Rita is excited by the snow. It’s the first significant snowfall since years and also the first time Rita sees the land blanketed by a thick layer of snow. I had to plough a little pathway into the forest with my boots to make access easier for the cats, but under the trees the snow layer is less thick, as most of the snow is still on the branches. The cats nevertheless followed me in a line, jumping from one footprint to the next. 

Rite, Linda, and their fellow cats are unfazed by the pandemic. There is nearly no traffic and less passers-by, there is always enough food, and there are enough warm places around the stove. Life couldn’t get better.