News 28.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 28.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 28.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 28.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

For years, Alan, a designer in Vermont, had a persistent, hacking cough that kept him up at night, and every winter, a near-constant series of sore throats and colds. He visited his doctor’s office, got diagnosed with reflux, and took reams of antibiotics for suspected sinus infections. But the cough always came back, so intransigent it permanently hoarsened his voice.

One spring, his doctor hired him to design an addition to his home. Alan invited him to his office to review the plans. “He just walked in the door, took one whiff, and said, ‘Whoa, that’s your problem,” recalled Alan, who requested we only use his first name.

The sharp air — a combination of off-gassing from an ammonia-based blueprint copier and fumes from two construction workshops that shared the building — was, to the doctor’s nose, immediately and unambiguously toxic. Later, a pulmonologist who looked at the insides of Alan’s lungs with a tiny camera said they looked like he’d survived a chemical fire.

But Alan himself barely noticed the smell anymore. “It was like the frog that’s boiled,” he said. Major problems in our environments can go entirely unnoticed if they happen gradually enough.

The public has simply learned to tolerate poor indoor air quality

Although he’s been out of his old office space for a few years now, Alan still has a cough. He gets sick less often these days, but will probably have to take inhaled steroids for the rest of his life. “The damage was done,” he said.

There’s a version of Alan’s story that’s playing out again and again, all over the US. Whether we notice it or not, the air we breathe indoors can make us sick. For most of us, it’s not an industrial printer that’s contaminating the air: It could be the pollution from our ovens and stoves or the chemicals off-gassed from everyday household cleaners, or it could be the respiratory diseases exhaled by others we share our spaces with. Our indoor air can become toxic without us realizing it — but indoor spaces aren’t always designed with this in mind.

Read the rest of this article at: Vox

News 28.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 28.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Halfway between Norway and the North Pole lies Svalbard, a demilitarized archipelago sheathed in glacial ice. The remote territory is home to less than 3,000 people, some reindeer and polar bears, and the Arctic World Archive—a collection of digitized historical documents, including paintings by Rembrandt and the entire National Archives of Mexico, stored deep within the icy terrain. A simple motto is emblazoned across the Arctic World Archive’s heavy steel doors: “Protecting World Memory.”

Entrepreneur Luke Jenkinson wants to expand that memory bank to include music—so he conceptualized the Global Music Vault, which will also reside within the Arctic World Archive, in a dedicated space roughly 1,000 feet into the side of a mountain. “We should be protecting music in the same way,” he says. “There’s a lot of music out there that’s in danger.” The nascent Global Music Vault is set to welcome its first deposit in the fall of 2023. In the meantime, the team behind it is developing new storage technologies and gathering more artists to contribute their work to an archive that could safely contain all of it for up to 1,000 years.

Jenkinson was inspired by the Arctic World Archive as well as the neighboring Global Seed Vault, a backup storage facility preserving duplicates of over one million seed samples beneath hundreds of feet of permafrost. Both structures exist within decommissioned coal mines and were designed to withstand catastrophes like nuclear warfare. Distressed that the same level of protection wasn’t available for humanity’s musical heritage, Jenkinson imagined a sustainable solution. The idea percolated during his stint at the National Museum of Norway, where he worked with a tech company to digitize its collection. Later, as a commercial manager for Norwegian DJ Alan Walker, Jenkinson became overwhelmed by the staggering amount of music—roughly 60,000 songs—released on streaming services like Spotify every day.

And then the world learned about the Universal Studios blaze. In 2019, The New York Times Magazine published a bombshell story revealing that a 2008 warehouse fire in Hollywood had destroyed scores of master tapes by artists like Nirvana, R.E.M., John Coltrane, Joni Mitchell, and Aretha Franklin, among many others. That same year, the BBC reported that MySpace lost 12 years of music during a server migration project, scrubbing all audio uploaded between 2003 and 2015, about 53 million files. Jenkinson was alarmed by the faults in both physical and digital preservation. “There was no protection,” he says. “I spoke to these guys at Sony, Universal Music, et cetera, and found that their archive process was very old school. It hasn’t evolved. The institutes and libraries around the world are shackled by lack of technology.”

Read the rest of this article at: Pitchfork

The last few months of Westminster drama are both so plainly watchable and so painfully bamboozling.

It’s like being forced to sit through a game of cricket or baseball. The beer and the snacks are fine, but the game only makes sense to the insiders who have been thrilled by the secret strategies since childhood.

So it’s tempting to see the fall of the hapless Liz Truss and the rise of the guileless Rishi Sunak as a contrasting tale of character and plot.

One was plainly incompetent and spontaneously combusted in an inferno of their own lies and trickledown economics. So is the other.

But British politics are not quite so simple – not since the country ripped off its reputation for common sense and streaked on to the global stage claiming it was too sexy for its own continent.

There has long been a yawning chasm between what British people admire in the mirror and what the rest of the world observes.

But over the last six years, that gap between myth and reality has become unbridgeable.

Brexit Britain has consumed five leaders since then, the same as Chelsea football club. Only one of those has publicly admitted to Russian ownership.

Sunak, for all his earnest schoolboy affect, is heading for the same fate as all four of his predecessors, because you can only fool all of the people some of the time.

Of course, some of the people can be fooled all of the time. We call those people Conservative party members who are – like their American Republican counterparts – no longer conservative at all.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 28.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 28.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Toy Reid has always had a gift for languages — one that would carry him far from what he calls his “very blue-collar” roots in Greenville, South Carolina. In high school, Spanish came easily. At nearby Furman University, where he became the first person in his family to attend college, he studied Japanese. Then, “clueless but curious,” as he puts it, he channeled his fascination with the Dalai Lama into a master’s degree in East Asian philosophy and religion at Harvard. Along the way, he picked up Khmer, the national language of Cambodia, and achieved fluency in Chinese.

But it was his career as a China specialist for the Rand Corporation and as a political officer in East Asia for the U.S. State Department that taught him how to interpret a notoriously opaque language: the “party speak” practiced by Chinese Communist officials.

Party speak is “its own lexicon,” explains Reid, now 44 years old. Even a native Mandarin speaker “can’t really follow it,” he says. “It’s not meant to be easily understood. It’s almost like a secret language of Chinese officialdom. When they’re talking about anything potentially embarrassing, they speak of it in innuendo and hushed tones, and there’s a certain acceptable way to allude to something.”

For 15 months, Reid loaned this unusual skill to a nine-person team dedicated to investigating the mystery of COVID-19’s origins. Commissioned by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the team examined voluminous evidence, most of it open source but some classified, and weighed the major credible theories for how the novel coronavirus first made the leap to humans. An interim report, released on Thursday by the minority oversight staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP), concludes that the COVID-19 pandemic was “more likely than not, the result of a research-related incident.”

As part of his investigation, Reid took an approach that was artful in its simplicity. Working out of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington and a family home in Florida, he used a virtual private network, or VPN, to access dispatches archived on the website of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). These dispatches remain on the internet, but their meaning can’t be unlocked by just anyone. Using his hard-earned expertise, Reid believes he unearthed secrets that were hiding in plain sight.

Ever since the Chinese city of Wuhan was identified as ground zero for the COVID-19 pandemic, a contingent of scientists have suspected that the virus could have leaked from one of the WIV’s complex of laboratories. The WIV is, after all, the venue for some of China’s riskiest coronavirus research. Scientists there have mixed components of different coronaviruses and created new strains, in an effort to predict the risks of human infection and to develop vaccines and treatments. Critics argue that creating viruses that don’t exist in nature runs the risk of unleashing them.

The WIV has two campuses and performed coronavirus research on both. Its older Xiaohongshan campus is just 8 miles from the crowded seafood market where COVID-19 first burst into public view. Its newer Zhengdian campus, about 18 miles to the south, is home to the institute’s most prestigious laboratory, a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) facility, designed to enable safe research on the world’s most lethal pathogens. The WIV triumphantly announced its completion in February 2015, and it was cleared to begin full research by early 2018.

Read the rest of this article at: Propublica

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News 28.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On December 26, 2019, Erin Pettit trudged across a plain of glaring snow and ice, dragging an ice-penetrating radar unit the size of a large suitcase on a red plastic sled behind her. The brittle snow crunched like cornflakes underneath her boots—evidence that it had recently melted and refrozen following a series of warm summer days. Pettit was surveying a part of Antarctica where, until several days before, no other human had ever stepped. A row of red and green nylon flags, flapping in the wind on bamboo poles, extended into the distance, marking a safe route free of hidden, deadly crevasses. The Thwaites Ice Shelf appeared healthy on the surface. But if that were the case, Pettit wouldn’t have been there.

Pettit was studying defects within the ice, akin to hidden cracks in an enormous dam, that will determine when the ice shelf might crumble. When it does, the rest of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet behind it could flow right into the ocean, pushing up sea levels around the planet, flooding coastal cities worldwide.

From a distance, the ice shelf looks flat, but as Pettit walked she saw the guide flags ahead of her rise and fall against the horizon—a sign that she was walking across an undulating surface. To Pettit, a glaciologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, this was significant. It meant that the ice’s underside was a rolling landscape—not what anyone expected. In satellite images, the center of the ice shelf looks stable. But it isn’t, Pettit says: “There are five or six different ways this thing could fall apart.”

The Thwaites Ice Shelf begins where the massive Thwaites Glacier meets the West Antarctic coast. The shelf is a floating slab of ice, several hundred meters thick, extending roughly 50 kilometers into the Southern Ocean, covering between 800 and 1,000 square kilometers. For the past 20 years, as the planet has warmed, scientists using satellites and aerial surveys have been watching the Thwaites Ice Shelf deteriorate. The decline has caused widespread alarm because experts have long viewed the Thwaites Glacier as the most vulnerable part of the larger West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The ice shelf acts as a dam, slowing its parent glacier’s flow into the ocean. If the shelf were to fall apart, the glacier’s slide into the sea would greatly accelerate. The Thwaites Glacier itself holds enough ice to raise the global sea level by 65 centimeters (about two feet). The loss of the Thwaites Glacier would in turn destabilize much of the rest of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, with enough ice to raise sea levels by 3.2 meters—more than 10 feet.

Read the rest of this article at: Scientific American

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