Highway To The Singularity Zone
December 18, 2019
“The true measure of a man is not his intelligence or how high he rises in this freak establishment. No, the true measure of a man is this: how quickly can he respond to the needs of others and how much of himself he can give.” – Philip K. Dick
A Bad Year Of The Pig
The African swine fever, originally discovered in China, has spread across the globe and killed nearly a quarter of the world’s pigs. The disease’s spread can only be stopped by killing any infected pigs as soon as possible, but frugal officials in China have set harsh regulations for farmers to receive compensation for infected livestock, leading to the spread of the disease over the past few months.
This outbreak of swine flu comes despite China’s long-standing view that food security is tantamount to national security. China has been largely self-reliant in their ability to produce large quantities of pork their citizens consume annually. The spread of swine disease has caused a shift in diets and traditional dishes across the country.
The African swine fever has now spread to nine other Asian countries, including Vietnam, which serves as the world’s fifth-largest pork producer and has now lost a large quantity of its herd. China used to have 440 million pigs – almost half the world’s population – but its herd has shrunk by half since the disease was first discovered. Before reaching China, the disease had been slowly infecting occasional farms in Russia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
As a result of the falling numbers of pigs, beef and lamb prices have risen worldwide, meaning that deep economic impacts may be imminent. China’s leadership has focused on reforming farming practices to stop the spread of the disease, but the future-focused approach may lead to more devastating effects in the short-term. (NYT, $)
- A Surveillance Net Blankets China’s Cities, Giving Police Vast Powers (NYT, $)
- China Commissions 2nd Aircraft Carrier, Challenging U.S. Dominance (NYT, $)
This Sentencing Ends In A Semicolon
- Pakistan’s self-exiled former army dictator, retired General Pervez Musharraf, has been sentenced to death – the first time the country’s judiciary has taken such action against a coup leader. Musharraf originally lead a coup in 1999 and took office in 2001 before democracy was restored in 2008.
- The sentencing has drawn sharp rebuke from the country’s powerful military, but the ruling of treason will stand as a symbol of change in a system which has struggled to embed democracy and where past coup leaders have gone unpunished.
- Musharraf has lived in the United Arab Emirates since 2016 after leaving Pakistan during his court case for medical treatment. He never returned, leading the court to declare him an absconder. Mr. Musharraf has given no signs that he will return to Pakistan. His aides say he is unwell. His legal team on Tuesday said it would appeal the verdict. (WSJ, $)
You OK UK?
- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared that the United Kingdom will cut ties with the European Union by the end of 2020 with or without a trade deal. Last week’s election gave Mr. Johnson the parliamentary majority to pass his withdrawal agreement, putting the U.K. on track to leave the EU on Jan. 31.
- Some European officials expressed frustration that Mr. Johnson appeared to be closing down options even before talks had begun. On Friday, Parliament is due to start voting on the Brexit law that will authorize the U.K.’s departure from the EU by the end of January. (WSJ, $)
- The European Union Is Punching Below Its Weight in World Affairs (WSJ, $)
- Europe Postpones Launch of Cheops Satellite That Will Scour Space for Habitable Planets (NYT, $) & SpaceX launches satellite that will bring internet to island nations (CNN)
Additional World News
- Australia weather: records forecast to be broken as heatwave temperatures surge past 40C (Guardian) & ‘If the climate stays like this, we won’t make it’ say those on the frontline of Africa’s drought (CNN)
- Israeli military law stifles Palestinian rights, watchdog says (Guardian)
- There Are No Children Here. Just Lots of Life-Size Dolls. (NYT, $) & Japan Joins the Babysitters Club to Keep Working Moms at Their Desks (WSJ, $)
- Exposed as Stasi Spy, a Newspaper Owner Tries to Reclaim His Story (NYT, $)
- Pope lifts ‘pontifical secret’ rule in sex abuse cases (BBC)
- Why Dengue Fever Cases Are Hitting Record Highs In Latin America (NPR)
Rain, Rain, Go Away, Come Again With Less PFAS
- Rainwater in certain areas of the United States have been found to have high enough levels of potentially toxic substances (PFAS) that may affect human health if found in drinking water. PFAS chemicals appear in an array of everyday items, such as food packaging, clothing and carpeting.
- According to multiple studies across multiple regions of the US, PFAS compounds can travel large distances, with compounds even showing up in Alaska and the Arctic. Some states, such as Wisconsin have begun taking preemptive actions by putting limits on PFAS levels in drinking waters as cited by the Environmental Protection Agency. (Guardian)
Lethal Assumptions Lead To Lethal Injections
- According to Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), “2019 came close to being the year of executing the innocent.” In a report released by the DPIC, the center documents the shortcomings of capital punishment.
- While there were only 22 prisoners killed in 2019, the DPIC reports that two men were killed even though questions were consistently raised about the legitimacy of their convictions.
- Besides the innocence of the killed, the DPIC also highlighted the fact that mental health is often overlooked in the sentencing process. A woman named Tiffany Moss was allowed to represent herself during her trial even though she was diagnosed with brain damage. She did not present any evidence in her defense and was the first person sentenced to death in Georgia in five years. (Guardian)
- Georgia: federal judge allows state to proceed with mass voting rolls purge (Guardian)
- How Families Cope with the Hidden Costs of Incarceration for the Holidays (NYT, $)
Additional USA News
- Trump impeachment: President pens irate letter to Pelosi on eve of vote (BBC) & More than 700 historians call for Trump to be impeached as key vote looms
- McConnell Rejects Calling Mulvaney or Bolton for Impeachment Trial (NYT, $) & Russia’s State TV Calls Trump Their ‘Agent’ (Daily Beast)
- Giuliani Provides Details of What Trump Knew About Ambassador’s Removal (NYT, $)
- Mormon Church has misled members on $100 billion tax-exempt investment fund, whistleblower alleges (WaPo, $)
- Supreme Court Won’t Revive Law Barring Homeless People From Sleeping Outdoors (NYT, $)
- Does Pete have any friends besides Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg? (CNBC)
- Mark Zuckerberg is very close friends with another Pete. But this Pete is in cahoots with Trump.
- The US Government like the US Consumer is all about spending that dollar. Even if it means borrowing: House approves $1.4 trillion spending deal to avert shutdown, sends to Senate (Reuters)
Keeping Pace To Update The Pace
- Pacemakers already do a fantastic job at keeping people alive, yet some are wondering if it could do more. There is a chance that a pacemaker-like device could be used to tackle diabetes, arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease, as well as improve bladder control and offer better pain management.
- The next step in creating the pacemaker 2.0 also known as a bioelectric device, is to first understand the neural signals that our bodies use to signify an illness. Some believe that a bioelectric device can be used to understand the “language” of the human nervous system. This device would also be able to help monitor and regulate our bodies much like a phone app.
- The more practical use of the device (besides aiding in diagnosis/monitoring) is that it can effectively be a substitute for prescription pills which is beneficial as 125,000 deaths have been caused by patients not taking the recommended dose of their medication. (BBC)
- When this happens will we be more cyborg than humans and will we have reached the singularity?
- Far Side creator Gary Larson launches website with promise of new work (Guardian) My childhood was blessed reading Far Side, Beetle Bailey, along with Calvin & Hobbes
- The mental hacks that level up your self-control (BBC)
- A 43,900-year-old cave painting is the oldest story ever recorded: Archaeologists say it might also contain the oldest known religious images. (Ars Technica)
- Keynes was wrong. Gen Z will have it worse: Instead of never-ending progress, today’s kids face a world on the edge of collapse. What next? (MIT Technology Review) & What Do Gen Z Shoppers Want? A Cute, Cheap Outfit That Looks Great on Instagram (NYT, $)
- Toxic Masculinity and the Brokenness of Boyhood (Atlantic, $) An incredibly hazardous but ultimately successful journey to discovering healthy masculinity was shaped by my observations of how masculinity is defined by US Army infantryman. TL,DR: army infantry is suppose to be the apex of masculinity but within it like many things is it’s exact opposite: incredible fragility in search of masculine affirmation.
- Who was the Buddha? (Aeon)
“Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.” – Isaac Asimov (we hope this quote made you smile or chuckle)
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