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News 03.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 03.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@janicejoostemaa
News 03.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@fadela via @dana_chels
News 03.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@vivianhoorn

THERE’S a term biologists and economists use these days — ecosystem services — which refers to the many ways nature supports the human endeavor. Forests filter the water we drink, for example, and birds and bees pollinate crops, both of which have substantial economic as well as biological value.

If we fail to understand and take care of the natural world, it can cause a breakdown of these systems and come back to haunt us in ways we know little about. A critical example is a developing model of infectious disease that shows that most epidemics — AIDS, Ebola, West Nile, SARS, Lyme disease and hundreds more that have occurred over the last several decades — don’t just happen. They are a result of things people do to nature.

Disease, it turns out, is largely an environmental issue. Sixty percent of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans are zoonotic — they originate in animals. And more than two-thirds of those originate in wildlife.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

News 03.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 03.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On September 24, 1918, three days after setting sail from Norway’s northern coast, the Forsete arrived in Longyearbyen, a tiny mining town on one of the Norwegian islands north of the Arctic Circle. It was the last ship of the year, before ice made the Arctic fjords impassable, and it carried among its passengers a number of fishermen and farmers going north for the winter to earn extra money in Longyearbyen’s coal mines. During the voyage, however, the ship had been hit with an outbreak of flu. Upon landing, many of the passengers had to be taken to the local hospital, and over the next two weeks seven of them died. They were buried side by side in the local cemetery, their graves marked by six white crosses and one headstone:

Ole Kristoffersen
February 1, 1896–October 1, 1918

Magnus Gabrielsen
May 10, 1890–October 2, 1918

Hans Hansen
September 14, 1891–October 3, 1918

Tormod Albrigtsen
February 2, 1899–October 3, 1918

Johan Bjerk
July 3, 1892–October 4, 1918

William Henry Richardsen
April 7, 1893–October 4, 1918

Kristian Hansen
March 10, 1890–October 7, 1918

The Longyearbyen cemetery is at the base of a steep hill, just beyond the town limits. If you look up from the cemetery, you can see the gray wooden skeleton of the coal mine that used to burrow into the side of the hill, and if you look to your left you can see the icy fringes of a glacier. Farther down the mountain are a shallow stream, a broad shale plain, and then, half a mile or so across the valley, Longyearbyen itself: a small cluster of red-roofed, brightly painted frame buildings. There are no trees, because Longyearbyen is many miles above the tree line, and from almost anywhere in the valley the cemetery is in plain view. Each grave site is slightly elevated and surrounded by rocks, and there are well-worn pathways among the rows of crosses. A chain-link fence rings the periphery. When I was there in late August, the ground had been warmed by the Arctic summer sun and was soft and spongy, carpeted with orange and red and white lichen. In the last row I found the miners’ graves—seven deaths separated by six days.

It is possible to go to almost any cemetery in the world and find a similar cluster of graves from the fall of 1918. Between September and November of that year, as the First World War came to an end, an extraordinarily lethal strain of influenza swept the globe, killing between twenty million and forty million people. More Americans died of the flu over the next few months than were killed during the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined. The Spanish flu, as it came to be known, reached every continent and virtually every country on the map, going wherever ships sailed or cars or trucks or trains travelled, killing so many so quickly that some cities were forced to convert streetcars into hearses, and others buried their dead in mass graves, because they ran out of coffins. Of all those millions of graves, though, the seven in Longyearbyen stand apart. There, less than eight hundred miles from the North Pole, the ground beneath the lichen is hard-frozen permafrost. The bodies of the seven miners may well be intact, cryogenically preserved in the tundra, and, if so, the flu virus they caught on board the Forsete—the deadliest virus that the world has ever known—may still be down there with them.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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My childhood was, by most definitions, pretty strange. I grew up a Russian Jewish immigrant in Midland, Texas, in a region whose biggest claims to fame are being the onetime home of George W. Bush and the inspiration for Friday Night Lights. In preschool, I got in trouble for not praying before eating my snack; later, I didn’t know what this “Super Bowl” everyone kept talking about was. I felt hopelessly different from everyone else in our town.

Even after we moved to a Dallas suburb, I never encountered another Russian immigrant kid like me. I rode the bus alone. I spent almost every evening alone. I began talking to myself—a habit that has unfortunately stuck. Once, someone toilet-papered our house, and I had to explain to my parents that this is what American kids do to losers. Undeterred, my dad eagerly raked the toilet paper into a garbage bag and put it in my parents’ bathroom for future use. “Free toilet paper!” he said happily over dinner.

All I wanted to be was normal. I wanted to be as American as my classmates; I wanted a past that, when I explained it to people, compelled no one to ask “Why?” about any part of it. But with time, I’ve come to realize that there’s an upside to being different from everyone around you. In fact, a body of social-science research suggests that being an oddball or a social reject can spark remarkable creativity.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 03.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 03.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When I reach the ferry’s upper deck, I am sore-footed, sweaty and grinning from ear to ear. It is Christmas Eve and once again I have only just caught the last boat back to Bute. The ferry is unmoored and suddenly we are cut free from the Scottish mainland, bound for a western isle that has always been its own world. But just as the lights of Rothesay, the island’s main town, come into view, we are told we have to turn back. The sea is too rough for the boat to find safe harbour. The wind whips viciously across the deck and the passengers let out a collective groan.

The first cohort of Syrian refugees did not get even that close the first time they tried to reach Bute back in December 2015. Bad weather meant the boat couldn’t leave port at Wemyss Bay, on the coast just west of Glasgow, so they were left clutching their belongings in the ferry terminal until an official piled them onto a coach for the three-hour trip north, where a smaller ferry offers passage in stormy weather. Some cheerful government rep thought it would be a good idea to pass the time with stories of the shipwrecks between coast and island, and of the basking sharks that used to haunt this water: “Don’t worry pal, we haven’t seen Jaws for a wee while.” The refugees eventually made it to the island, soaked and wind-lashed. Scotland’s welcome was in many ways about as Scottish as you can get: slow, defined by the weather, full of questionable humour and restrained hope.

A sliver of land 15-miles long in the Firth of Clyde, Bute is probably the last place on Earth you’d think to rehome around 100 Syrian refugees. The main town, Rothesay, is a happy string of slate-grey shops, half of which look worse for wear and the other half of which are closed. There is one traffic light on the island, installed with great pride in the early part of the decade and casually ignored ever since. The Buteman, the island’s only and now defunct newspaper, ran headlines such as “Six Foot Dog Visits North Bute Primary School.”

Read the rest of this article at: 1843

News 03.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

With everything that’s happening about the Coronavirus, it might be very hard to make a decision of what to do today. Should you wait for more information? Do something today? What?

Here’s what I’m going to cover in this article, with lots of charts, data and models with plenty of sources:

  • How many cases of coronavirus will there be in your area?

  • What will happen when these cases materialize?

  • What should you do?

  • When?

When you’re done reading the article, this is what you’ll take away:

The coronavirus is coming to you.
It’s coming at an exponential speed: gradually, and then suddenly.
It’s a matter of days. Maybe a week or two.
When it does, your healthcare system will be overwhelmed.
Your fellow citizens will be treated in the hallways.
Exhausted healthcare workers will break down. Some will die.
They will have to decide which patient gets the oxygen and which one dies.
The only way to prevent this is social distancing today. Not tomorrow. Today.
That means keeping as many people home as possible, starting now.

As a politician, community leader or business leader, you have the power and the responsibility to prevent this.

You might have fears today: What if I overreact? Will people laugh at me? Will they be angry at me? Will I look stupid? Won’t it be better to wait for others to take steps first? Will I hurt the economy too much?

But in 2–4 weeks, when the entire world is in lockdown, when the few precious days of social distancing you will have enabled will have saved lives, people won’t criticize you anymore: They will thank you for making the right decision.

Ok, let’s do this.

Read the rest of this article at: Medium

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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