Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for May 25th, 2021

How plant-based diets could help prevent the next COVID-19

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Kurtis Boyer, Faculty Lecuture, Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan, writes in The Conversation:

Viruses like COVID-19, SARS, bovine spongiform, swine flu and avian flu all have something in common: They all come from animals, described by scientists as zoonotic diseases.

Yet, these diseases do not really “come from animals.” After all, it is not like animals conspire against humans, throwing COVID-19 over the backyard fence. When we say this pandemic “comes from animals,” it means that these diseases come from the way society raises, harvests and eats animals.

A well-rounded policy strategy for avoiding the next pandemic should include reducing the demand for animal products. Fortunately, an effective approach need not imply government telling people what they should or should not eat.

Many Canadians are already aware of the benefits of a plant-based diet. Doing a better job at supporting those already trying to make a dietary change could be an effective approach for government policy.

The fact that a growing list of pandemics originate exclusively within the animal and agricultural sectors is nothing new to a small but growing group of independent scientists. The United Nations recently voiced a similar concern.

In its report, Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission, the UN laid out some of the things needed for improving health governance in relation to food production.

Some of the policy options include expanding scientific inquiry into the environmental dimensions of zoonotic diseases and developing and implementing stronger biosecurity measures. It calls for policies that strengthen animal health (including wildlife health services) and increased capacity in monitoring and regulating food production.

The report also recommends that states find ways to reduce demand for animal protein. Reducing the demand for meat is not something we often hear as a possible policy option — partly because people may not link our current pandemic to the western diet or agricultural sector.

Origins of a pandemic

Early cases of COVID-19 were linked to markets in China where wild animals were sold. Pangolins and bats have been identified as possible sources of infection, neither of which is on the shopping lists of the average global consumer. The deeper roots of this pandemic, however, are more complicated.

Many earlier viruses have originated in the animal husbandry industrial production chain.

It is clear that the origins of these pandemics are not restricted to . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2021 at 4:20 pm

Gray wolves scare deer from roads, reducing dangerous collisions

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In Wisconsin counties with wolves, deer-car accidents dropped, saving millions of dollars. Jack J. Lee writes in Science News:

Gray wolves help keep North America’s deer populations in check, and by doing so, may provide an added benefit for people: curbing deer-vehicle collisions. In Wisconsin counties where wolf populations returned, the number of such collisions dropped in each area by 24 percent on average, scientists report online May 24 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Economist Jennifer Raynor and colleagues analyzed data on wolf populations, deer populations and deer-vehicle collisions for 63 counties in Wisconsin from 1988 to 2010. In the 29 counties that had wolves, the predators thinning deer populations contributed about a 6 percent reduction in deer-vehicle collisions. The rest of the decrease, the team proposes, was due to the wolves’ presence near roads, which they use as travel corridors, creating a so-called “landscape of fear” that keeps deer away. That suggests that recreational hunters wouldn’t replicate wolves’ impact by simply culling the same number of deer, the researchers say.

The average drop of 38 deer-vehicle collisions per year in counties with wolves translates to an estimated $10.9 million in savings each year across the state, the team found. For comparison, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2021 at 4:13 pm

Boom in ships that fly ‘fake’ flags and trash the environment

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Quirin Schiermeier reports in Nature:

Ships transport 90% of the world’s traded cargo, so are crucial to the global economy. But when tankers and other large vessels are demolished, they generate huge amounts of marine pollution, particularly if it happens in countries where environmental regulations for ship-breaking yards are lax.

Research now shows1 that the number of vessels misleadingly registered to nations other than their true country of origin — called flags of convenience — has skyrocketed since 2002. The practice allows ship owners from nations with strict environmental regulations to have their vessels dismantled cheaply — but often in a way that is very damaging to the environment.

Business owners in wealthy nations, including members of the European Union as well as the United States, South Korea and Japan, control the large majority of the world cargo and tanker fleet. But an analysis of scrapping records from commercial maritime data providers reveals that between 2014 and 2018, 80% of these ships were demolished in just 3 nations, where shipyards are governed by weak environmental, labour and safety regulations — Bangladesh, India and Pakistan (see ‘Playing the system’ above).

Poor environmental regulation

The study reveals that the use of flags of convenience has become the default among business owners in the EU over the past few decades. Strict EU regulations require all ships registered in EU countries to be recycled at yards approved by the European Commission, but when ships are flagged outside the EU, their owners can evade regulations.

Countries are responsible for enforcing international and regional safety and environmental rules on ships registered under their flags — but some flag-of-convenience nations are known not to do so. Between 2002 and 2019, the proportion of EU-nation-owned ships registered in low-income countries rose from 46% to 96%, the study finds.

By registering ships abroad, owners can also escape taxes and operate substandard vessels. Between 2002 and 2019, the top flags of convenience shifted from Panama and Liberia to two small island countries, Comoros and Palau, which will issue flags for a fee, without proper regulations.

Failure of maritime rules

International treaties — including the 1992 Basel Convention to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries, and the 2009 Hong Kong Convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships — are woefully ineffective with regard to preventing environmental injustice, says study author Zheng Wan, a transport researcher at Shanghai Maritime University in China who led the analysis.

Ship-scrapping in low-income countries comes with fatal . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2021 at 3:44 pm

Cold Justice: The Outrage and Promise of Untested DNA From Rape Victims

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A recent post of an archive of DNA samples of rape victims — IMO a fascinating report — turns out to be one part of a three-part series. All three parts are worth reading; they are detailed and disturbing but offer some hope. The three parts appear in ProPublica, which describes them thusly:

Starting in the 1970s, a Baltimore doctor quietly preserved DNA evidence from rape victims, believing science would eventually catch up. Much of it would sit for decades, ignored and unused, until a trailblazing detective and her cold-case team uncovered its secrets.

“Who Is This Monster?”

She went undercover to catch a rapist. Two decades later, she finally got her chance.
by Catherine Rentz; Illustrations by Isabel Seliger, special to ProPublica May 20, 5 a.m. EDT

“You Save as Long as You Have To”

Distressed by authorities’ poor treatment of rape victims and destruction of evidence, one doctor became a DNA archivist long before we had the technology to test it. For potentially hundreds of survivors, his faith in science is paying off.”
by Catherine Rentz; Illustrations by Isabel Seliger, special to ProPublica May 22, 5 a.m. EDT

“This Is How You Get Your Power Back”

Police had long since destroyed the evidence from their cases. Decades later, a group of women got a second chance at justice.
By Catherine Rentz; Illustrations by Isabel Seliger, special to ProPublica May 25, 5 a.m. EDT

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2021 at 2:17 pm

What Makes The Unicorn Tapestries So Fascinating?

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Frances Dilworth has an interesting and well-illustrated article in The Collector that begins:

Aside from their cousins, the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries displayed in Musée de Cluny, The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries are some of the most fascinating, rich, and complex pieces of art history. Even their original make is debated, but art historians conclude that the seven tapestries were likely designed in Paris and woven in Brussels ca. 1495-1505. These intricate textiles survived the French Revolution, and aside from one tapestry which is only in fragments, now hang in the Cloisters fully intact with centuries of history woven into their threads. The magical subject of the tapestries, the unicorn, creates an already mysterious and fantastical context. In addition, nearly everything about these tapestries alludes concrete understanding for art historians. Who made the tapestries and who were they originally for? Does the iconography of the unicorn have religious or secular meaning? What is the order of events in the tapestries; which tapestry comes first, and how does the order of them affect the events being depicted? Read on to unravel more mysteries and the history surrounding the unicorn tapestries. 

Introduction of The Unicorn Tapestries: Make & Materials

The creation of The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries, like any other set of tapestries from this period, can’t be credited to one artist, but rather to a large and diverse team of craftspeople. First, the patron of the tapestries would likely also have been the person who came up with the concept for them. Art historians don’t know . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2021 at 1:34 pm

Posted in Art, History

Capitalism Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

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Zachary Karabell, author of Inside Money: Brown Brothers Harriman and the American Way of Power (from which this article seems to be taken), writes in the Atlantic:

When is enough enough? This simple, vital question—How much monetary gain does a person or a company need in order to feel satisfied?—has little place in the finance industry or in contemporary capitalism more broadly. The capitalism that has become dominant in the years since the 1980s is not about enough; it’s about more, and no amount of more is ever enough.

For many of its critics, capitalism, in all its versions, is a maximizer of more. The relentless pursuit of profit, the drive to multiply shareholder value that undergirds most large public companies, and the demand that revenue grow faster than the overall economy or the population—all of these impulses prevail on Main Street, on Wall Street, and in Silicon Valley. This is one reason why such an enormous gulf has opened up between the richest Americans and the rest, and why large banks, behemoth energy companies, multinational industrials, huge private-equity firms, and large tech companies have flourished.

But today’s paramount form of capitalism is not the only possible variant, nor was the volatile, boom-and-bust, panic-prone one that prevailed for most of two centuries through the Great Depression. An alternative form of capitalism placed a higher value on social stability than on the pursuit of more. Exemplifying that approach—one that embraced a less rapacious culture of enough—is the oldest bank still in business in the United States today: Brown Brothers Harriman. For 220 years, the company has tried to make reliable returns through a clear-eyed management of risk—not the avoidance of all potential downsides but a healthy recognition that, when it closed its ledgers each night, it needed to be prepared for the world to change the next day. Beyond limiting their own risk, the leaders of Brown Brothers believed—as I show in my new book—that domestic discord and global instability were to be avoided if possible and planned for if not, and they understood that the ebbs and flows of money could either boost the fortunes of all or beggar the nation.

The company’s story is particularly important now, as the United States tries to define post-pandemic capitalism amid widespread suspicion that the system is failing many Americans. Brown Brothers was one of a handful of banks at the apex of the system for much of the 19th and into the mid-20th century, and it is far older than the financial firms, such as Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and Morgan Stanley, that became famous (or infamous) in recent decades.

Starting with its founder, Alexander Brown, an Irish linen merchant who made his way to Baltimore in 1800 fleeing the sectarian violence of Belfast, and then run by his four sons, the firm was a creator of our system of paper money; the company issued letters of credit that were trusted more than even the U.S. dollar until well after the Civil War. To its eternal discredit, Brown Brothers was, like many northern businesses, deeply enmeshed in the antebellum cotton trade—a role for which the company now apologizes—though its partners were founding members of the antislavery Republican Party.

For much of the 19th century, the firm almost single-handedly managed the foreign-exchange system between the British pound and the U.S. dollar until the dollar became the world’s currency after World War II. It also underwrote the first railroad (the Baltimore & Ohio), created the first traveler’s checks, established one of the first modern wealth-management businesses, funded businesses as varied as The Nation and Time and Newsweek and CBS and Pan American World Airways and the first steamships, and then eventually sent a triad of partners—the future ambassador Averell Harriman, future Defense Secretary Robert Lovett, and future senator Prescott Bush (yes, from that Bush family)—into the highest levels of government. The three were exemplars of their class, a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant elite that proceeded to shape the entire postwar global system of the United Nations, the precursor to the World Trade Organization, the dollar-denominated currency system established at Bretton Woods in 1944, the national-security establishment in Washington, the Marshall Plan aid to Europe, and American military preparations during the Cold War.

Like American history writ large, the company’s legacy was messy. In the 1850s, the renowned preacher Henry Ward Beecher repeatedly cited Brown Brothers in his sermons denouncing American materialism. Just as it was complicit in slavery, the firm was entangled in the rise of American imperialism in Latin America. In the 20th century, it spurred U.S. military intervention in Central America when it appealed to President William Howard Taft to send Marines to Nicaragua so that the bonds the firm held would be paid back. Still, in the 1940s and ’50s, Harriman and Lovett were featured on the cover of national magazines as heroes who had elevated the United States to a position of global power and as stewards of the postwar international system that they helped design.

Brown Brothers was the epitome of an elite that saw itself as bound to lead, and whose public service represented a form of noblesse oblige. Altruism wasn’t the driver. It was rather a specific sense that they and their class could not ultimately thrive unless the commons thrived as well. They had attended schools such as Groton and Yale that inculcated ideas such as “To reign is to serve.” That ethos coalesced into a more coherent governing creed of “the Establishment,” which explains in part the rules-based, American-led order that followed World War II. It was an order meant to preserve capitalism against communism, to spread the gospel of wealth globally, and to allow the United States and the dollar to thrive, which would lead to the worldwide efflorescence of the middle class and so redound to the benefit of American capital and American companies.

But mention Brown Brothers today, and most Americans will shrug. Even in the financial world, the name evokes a response of

Continue reading.

The problem with modern capitalism — “hypercaptialism” — is that the imperative of “more” must fail in a finite world (such as the world in which we find ourselves). Recognizing and respecting natural limits and moral demands is an approach of measured moderation that will be longer lasting and not so disaster prone. It does require a certain humility, which modern capitalists totally lack.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2021 at 1:06 pm

Belarus tests international authoritarianism

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

On Sunday, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus forced a commercial airliner, operated by Ryanair, flying from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, out of the sky as it passed through the airspace over Belarus. A MiG-29 fighter jet diverted the plane to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, after ground support warned its pilots (falsely) there was a bomb on board.

There wasn’t a bomb on the plane; there was an opposition journalist, 26-year-old Roman Protasevich (also spelled Raman Pratasevich), who was traveling with his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, who is a law student and a Russian citizen. Once the plane was on the ground, security forces took the two of them away. Pratasevich told another passenger: “I am facing the death penalty.” Three other passengers also stayed in Minsk; Lithuanian authorities are trying to figure out who they were.

Lukashenko, who has been called “Europe’s Last Dictator,” has been president of Belarus since 1994 and claimed to be reelected on August 9, 2020, with 80% of the vote, although before the election the president’s security forces threw journalists, political opponents, activists, and human rights defenders in jail. After the election, security forces arrested almost 7000 people in four days, denying many food and water and torturing hundreds of them. By mid-November, the number arrested had climbed to more than 25,000 people.

The European Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom did not recognize Lukashenko’s claim of an election victory. They called for an end to the political prosecutions and a new election.

In Belarus, which has a population of about 9.5 million, hundreds of thousands of protesters were more direct. They took to the streets, calling for new elections and Lukashenko’s resignation. Protasevich was not in the country. He had begun protesting Lukashenko as a teenager; he was arrested and beaten in 2012 when he was 17 for running opposition groups on social media. He fled Belarus in 2019 and, from exile, was one of the journalists who operated a communications channel to provide information about the democratic movement during the demonstrations. The government declared him a “terrorist” in absentia. Terrorism carries the death penalty in Belarus.

To capture Protasevich, Lukashenko has committed an act of state-sponsored piracy against two European Union countries, a European-registered airline, and passengers who are mostly European Union citizens. This is an astonishing move that likely has something to do with Lukashenko’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russian officials praised the hijacking, calling it a “brilliant special operation.”

Russia and Belarus loosely agreed to form a unified state in 1996 and made the agreement tighter in 1999, but Lukashenko has not been eager to give up control of his country. As his grip on his people has weakened, though, Lukashenko has turned to Russia, which gave Belarus a loan of $1 billion in December 2020. Lukasheko and Putin are scheduled to meet this week.

Anne Applebaum of The Atlantic, an authoritative scholar of authoritarianism, notes that autocrats are watching to see how the West reacts, since they, too, would like to be able to control their dissident communities in exile, showing them: “You are not safe. You are never safe. Not even if you live in a democracy; not even if you have political asylum; not even if you are sitting on a commercial plane, thousands of feet above the ground.”

Immediately after the hijacking, Western leaders, including the secretary-general of NATO, the president of the European Commission, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken,  . . .

Continue reading.

And at the end, she notes emergence of the authoritarian mentality in the US:

In separate news, we also learned that a security unit in the Commerce Department turned into a rogue counterintelligence operation over the past few years, collecting information on hundreds of people suspected of talking critically about the 2020 U.S. census or of having ties to China. John Costello, who was a deputy assistant secretary of intelligence and security in the department during the Trump administration, told Washington Post reporter Shawn Boburg that the office “has been allowed to operate far outside the bounds of federal law enforcement norms and has created an environment of paranoia and retaliation.” The unit seems to have become a tool to target employees of Chinese descent.

When they took over, Biden officials ordered the unit to stop all activities until further review.

A new Gallup poll today finds that 53% of Republicans think that Trump won the 2020 election. But only 26% of Americans identify as Republicans. Journalist Richard Hine crunched the numbers and notes that those percentages boil down to about 14% of Americans who think Trump is still president. They are a minority, but they believe the former president, who continues to insist that he won the 2020 election despite all evidence to the contrary.

Read the whole thing. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2021 at 12:57 pm

Flora between the building entrance and the corner

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A little grocery shopping seemed in order, and the photos above (except for the 15mm cube, a photo taken by The Wife) were taken in the span of half a block, between the entrance to my apartment building and the closest corner. As usual, click a photo to see a slide show, right click on a photo open it in a new tab and enlarge it.

As you can see, James Bay is a pedestrian paradise. As I have started looking for interesting flora, I see a lot more — it’s akin to learning a new word, which you then seem to hear everywhere, or learning to recognize a particular car model, and suddenly you see it all over the place. It’s the “Why didn’t I notice this before?” syndrome.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2021 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Daily life

Blog post directory now available

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Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Look to the right at the list “Reference pages” and lo! you’ll see a new entry: Blog post directory. Click that and you’ll be presented with a scrollable list of blog titles along with the first few lines of each post.

The origin story

I was scrolling through recent posts looking for a particular one, and found the process frustrating because of the length of many posts. So I emailed WordPress tech support to suggest that they offer a blog directory option for those reading the blog. WordPress pointed out that that function is already available, and they told me how to implement it. It was easy, so it’s already done.

WordPress support is absolutely top-notch, the best tech support I’ve ever used. And their blogging software is not only good, it gets better and better.

Enjoy the blog post directory — and, of course, do not neglect the search options: the general search for words in the blog title and the category search.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2021 at 9:25 am

A dark day calls for Dark shaving soap and aftershave

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Overcast and raining, which in a sense is good albeit somewhat gloomy, but I am warm and dry in my apartment, enjoying hot tea and my morning treat of three piece of fruit.

I haven’t mentioned lately the ingredients in Tallow + Steel’s Dark shaving soap:

Stearic Acid + Tallow (from local, pasture-raised, 100% grass-fed cattle) + Water + Potassium Hydroxide + Sodium Hydroxide + Organic Castor Oil + Organic Glycerin + Organic Coconut Oil + Organic Avocado Oil + Lanolin + Silk + Essential Oils + Vitamin E

The vitamin E is a nice touch. It’s an antioxidant and presumably protects the soap from oxidationl. The lather was easily evoked with Phoenix Artisan’s Solar Flare shaving brush, and my RazoRock stainless-steel Baby Smooth did a perfect job: perfectly comfortable and producing a perfectly smooth result.

The handle’s smooth band just above the base, like the band in yesterday’s handle, is significantly recessed, providing an excellent grip for the against-the-grain pass. The chequering on this handle is aggressive, but I appreciated it since my hand is somewhat slick after the pre-shave routine of MR GLO and Grooming Dept pre-shave.

The acoustic feedback from this Baby Smooth is quite good — mowing through the stubble produced a crackling sound. The iKon slant from yesterday has even better acoustics, but today’s was notable because I don’t recall getting much sound from the aluminum Baby Smooth.

A splash of Dark aftershave on my very smooth face finished the job. This is a very nice witch-hazel-based aftershave with no alcohol content:

Water + Witch Hazel + Organic Aloe Vera + Organic Glycerin + Organic Licorice Root + Organic Willow Bark + Organic Cucumber + Organic Rosemary + Polyglyceryl Oleate + Radish Root Ferment + Lactobacillus + Coconut Fruit + Essential Oils

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2021 at 8:06 am

Posted in Shaving

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