27 March 2020

'How can there be social distancing in slums?'


When Rediff.com spoke to several general practitioners, who have clinics near Mumbai's slum localities, or whose patients come from the lower economic classes, they didn't have answers on how social distancing could be effected in the slums.

Says Dr Vivek Korde, a GP from Sewri, south central Mumbai, with a laugh: "How it can work? We cannot just think of it!"

General practitioner Dr Prakash Tathed has a clinic in the Grant road area of south Mumbai and sees patients from all backgrounds.

"Social distancing in Mumbai is very difficult, because you may stop the vehicles, you may stop the local trains, But what about those places where people live in a jhoppadpattis (shanties)?" asks Dr Tathed.

"They are so close together, you can't have a ten-inch distance also," adds Dr Tathed. "That's very difficult. Thankfully, still, it has not gone in that area. But when it will go, we cannot know. It will be seen after 15 days or so."

How ‘Medical Nationalism’ Is Undermining the Fight Against the Coronavirus Pandemic

Jeremy Youde 

There is no drug or vaccine against COVID-19, and it will be at least 12 to 18 months before those remedies could be available. Face masks are next to impossible to find for most consumers, even as public health officials caution that they are not terribly effective against this coronavirus. There is a shortage of ventilators, and President Donald Trump has told America’s governors that they should not rely on the federal government to provide them—even though they are the most effective tool for treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

In addition to the political, economic and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, this outbreak highlights the particular challenges related to maintaining medical supply chains. Across the globe, we are seeing health systems struggle to cope with overwhelming demand for medical equipment and limited or uncertain supplies. This forces serious and often uncomfortable global debates about who should have access to them

How Loneliness from Coronavirus Isolation Takes Its Own Toll

by Kyu Tae Lee

At a White House press briefing on Friday, Peter Alexander, a correspondent for NBC News, asked President Trump about the psychological toll of the covid-19 crisis: “Nearly two hundred dead, fourteen thousand who are sick, millions, as you witnessed, who are scared,” Alexander said. “What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?” Trump shot back, “I say that you’re a terrible reporter, that’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question, and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people.” For weeks, the President seemed oblivious to the scope of the coronavirus threat; now he seems heartless about the spiralling anxiety among Americans and ignorant about the physiology of fear, after a week unprecedented in American history, during which much of the country has closed down, the economy has ground to a halt, and millions have been told to stay home. Since last week, state officials have ordered one in three Americans—living in New York, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan, and Massachusetts—to remain indoors. For many of the rest of us, normal life has been suspended as the tally of cases soars. It all feels eerily apocalyptic—and, for most, scary.

The Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, demonstrated more compassion than Trump when he appealed, on the same day, for residents of America’s second-largest city to stay home. “I know there’s been a lot of crying, and it’s O.K. to cry,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of fear, and it’s O.K. to be afraid.” On Saturday, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, acknowledged the “truly significant” psychological and social stresses of our uncertain times. “People are struggling with the emotions as much as they are struggling with the economics,” he said. “This state wants to start to address that.” He appealed to psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists willing to volunteer to contact the state to help set up a network to provide mental-health assistance for people who are anxious or isolated.

China’s Debt Diplomacy Will Get a Coronavirus Boost


Political decisions made in China at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak took a situation that could have been containable and made it an unstoppable global pandemic. The immediate social, political, and economic consequences will be with us for at least the next two years. But the indirect effects may permanently shift the world.

These effects will be felt particularly acutely in China’s growing sphere of influence, where Beijing has largely deployed a debt-based model of imperial control. As these countries frantically attempt to manage the economic and financial consequences of the pandemic, they will struggle to service their debts to Beijing—which will expect more favors, and the ceding of more sovereignty, as the cost of debt relief.

Beijing is unlikely to pause and consider the consequences of squeezing these countries at such a vulnerable moment. And this presents a potentially new U.S. administration with the opportunity to regain some moral leadership as the more benevolent of the two dominant global empires by leading a program of international debt relief and reconstruction through its own, venerable Bretton Woods infrastructure. Right now, China, with its relief flights and medical outreach, is winning the soft power battle against a United States that has only just begun to tackle the problem at home. Even as American politicians attempt to reshape the U.S. economy and society to handle the virus, they need to be thinking about the future.

How the World Will Look After the Coronavirus Pandemic

Like the fall of the Berlin Wall or the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the coronavirus pandemic is a world-shattering event whose far-ranging consequences we can only begin to imagine today.

This much is certain: Just as this disease has shattered lives, disrupted markets and exposed the competence (or lack thereof) of governments, it will lead to permanent shifts in political and economic power in ways that will become apparent only later.

To help us make sense of the ground shifting beneath our feet as this crisis unfolds, Foreign Policy asked 12 leading thinkers from around the world to weigh in with their predictions for the global order after the pandemic.

The pandemic will strengthen the state and reinforce nationalism. Governments of all types will adopt emergency measures to manage the crisis, and many will be loath to relinquish these new powers when the crisis is over.

The Dangers of Relying on Philanthropists During Pandemics

IN 2015, BILLIONAIRE philanthropist Bill Gates took to the TED stage and issued a stern warning to the world: “We are not ready for the next epidemic.” But we could be ready if only we would prepare as if for war—build reserves, run germ game simulations, and invest heavily in R&D. Above all else, Gates said, the core element is a strong public health system.

Gates had in mind the fragile and underfunded public health infrastructure in poorer countries. Global public health has long been one of the main targets of Gates’ philanthropy.

Rob Reich is Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and author of Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better. He is the faculty codirector of The Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, which has received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Mohit Mookim is a researcher at the Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University.

How the Coronavirus Became an American Catastrophe


How many people are sick with the coronavirus in the United States, and when did they get sick?

These are crucial questions to answer, but they have never been answered well. Archived data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—illustrated in the chart below—reveal that the government dramatically misunderstood what was happening in America as the outbreak began.

On the last day of February, the CDC reported that 15 Americans had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

It Takes a World to End a Pandemic

By Mahlet Mesfin 

For perhaps the first time in modern history, the entire, interconnected world is focused on solving a single problem. The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes, COVID-19, have transfixed the global community, as leaders and citizens seek to respond to a threat whose dimensions are neither entirely certain nor entirely known.

Members of the scientific community around the world are stepping up to find answers to the many questions the pandemic raises. Experts are working together, both inside and outside of laboratories, to provide the best information directly to the public (for example, through the Federation of American Scientists’ crowd-sourced website), to coordinate global research priorities, and much more. Arguably, no expert community has a more important role to play in finding the solutions the world needs and communicating trustworthy information to the public. 


What does the Chinese study about the Coronavirus tell us about the disease?

Faisal Khan

Covid-19 or the Coronavirus has created one of the biggest pandemic scares in recent history. The disease is already causing widespread problems — financial markets meltdown, supply chain disruptions, travel restrictions, schools & business closures to name a few. The peculiar nature of the disease and the lack of understanding of how it spreads is causing the hysteria.

A California man who was diagnosed with the virus earlier had no travel history or known interaction with another person having the disease. The global authorities are scrambling to find the cure. The bigger question is if the world is well equipped to deal with a pandemic? With 62 countries reporting confirmed cases now, time is not on their side. At the time of writing, there were 83,867 cases globally, 36,686 recoveries and 2,867 deaths.

The Coronavirus Exposed America’s Authoritarian Turn

By Daron Acemoglu 

The U.S. government’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic has been confusing, inconsistent, and counterproductive. Since February, the data from China, South Korea, and Italy have clearly shown that the virus spreads rapidly in areas that do not practice social distancing—and that simple measures to keep people apart can significantly slow the rate of new infections. But the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump did not coordinate any social distancing. And even as acute cases overwhelmed Italy’s hospitals, the administration made few efforts to shore up the U.S. health-care system, increase the number of ventilators in hospitals, or make testing widely available. 

Many blame these failures on the president, who initially downplayed the severity of the crisis. As recently as March 4, Trump insisted that COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, was no worse than the flu. A week later, he claimed that the U.S. health-care system was well prepared for the outbreak. For encouraging the nation to sleepwalk into a crisis, Trump does indeed deserve blame. But even more blameworthy has been the president’s assault on U.S. institutions, which began long before the novel coronavirus appeared and will be felt long after it is gone.

Coronavirus Pandemic: How To Save Your Business from the Chaos

by Stratfor Worldview 

Many companies are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by reducing or banning corporate travel and by asking some or all of their employees to work from home. While having employees work from home will help reduce the transmission of the virus in the workplace, it also brings with it some additional risks, and we'd like to examine a few of them. As the disruptions from responses to COVID-19 mount, it is important to consider the second- and third-order impacts of the extreme efforts being put in place to curb the spread. 

Public Wi-Fi

There are two basic ways that information can be targeted when an employee is using public wireless, either by someone in close proximity to the employee's computer as it is transmitting to the network, or by the person or business that owns and operates the wireless router. Because of this vulnerability, employees should assume that other people can see the information they are sending and receiving unless precautions are taken.

Surviving the Coronavirus: How to Help Ensure the Economy Can Endure

by Stan Veuger
Source Link

The scale of the crisis facing small- and medium-sized businesses in America is unprecedented. Consumer demand is collapsing to protect the health of all Americans. State and local governments across the US have forced the immediate closure of hundreds of thousands of American businesses. These closures will cost millions of Americans their jobs and livelihoods.

The basis of our plan is straightforward. If every small- and medium-sized business in America was supported by the federal government to retain their workforce through the crisis, much of its economic impact would disappear. The government should provide immediate funding for emergency loans to any small- and medium-sized business in America. These loans would:

be offered through private lenders with the infrastructure necessary to originate and administer the loans, and facilitated by the Federal Reserve which is in a position to bear the risk of repayment of the loans;


David Maxwell: “WHO has been compromised by the Chinese Communist Party.” I’d say that was pretty evident well before this pandemic. That cozy relationship has gotten thoroughly exposed as a result of this black swan event. RCP, fortunascorner


We believe the organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, like China’s Xi Jinping, should be held accountable for recklessly managing this deadly pandemic. Tedros apparently turned a blind eye to what happened in Wuhan and the rest of China and, after meeting with Xi in January, has helped China to play down the severity, prevalence and scope of the COVID-19 outbreak.

From the outset, Tedros has defended China despite its gross mismanagement of the highly contagious disease. As the number of cases and the death toll soared, the WHO took months to declare the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic, even though it had met the criteria of transmission between people, high fatality rates and worldwide spread.

When President Trump took a critical step to stop the coronavirus at U.S. borders by issuing a travel ban as early as Jan. 31, Tedros said widespread travel bans and restrictions were not needed to stop the outbreak and could “have the effect of increasing fear and stigma, with little public health benefit.” He warned that interfering with transportation and trade could harm efforts to address the crisis, and advised other countries not to follow the U.S. lead.

Prepare Now for the Long War Against Covid-19

Richard Danzig
Source Link

Our current efforts to fight Covid-19 are the equivalent of fending off a surprise attack. Next we have to wage a sustained war. That means it’s essential to clearly envision the problems we’ll face over the next 12 to 18 months and mobilize to respond right away.

Here are five priority problems and the actions we should take now to mitigate them.

Problem: Minimizing errors and uncertainties about and maximizing confidence in our judgments about cure will soon become as important as present efforts at disease detection. People who recover from Covid-19 probably can work in hospitals, emergency response settings and ordinary jobs without fear of infection, because evidence so far suggests they will have effective immunity to the virus for at least a year. But we need to identify these people and assess how soon after their recovery they become unlikely to infect others.

Response: Assuring that someone has immunity against this new virus requires tests that are distinct from the PCR tests of nose and throat swabs now being used to identify infections. We need to develop and distribute antibody tests, which can indicate when people are immune, and set standards to minimize the chance that they will infect others. The Department of Health and Human Services needs to make this a stated priority and set aside substantial resources to achieve it, even at the cost of diverting resources from present urgent needs.

Insuring the Survival of Post-Pandemic Economies


NEW YORK – Lockdowns of entire cities. Panic in financial markets. Bare store shelves. Shortages of hospital beds. The world has entered a reality unknown outside wartime.

The substantial increase in the scale and scope of government action needed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic should be viewed as an unprecedented form of short-term systemic insurance. This approach requires not only vast government spending but also a temporary state-led reorganization of the entire economy.

By mandating that people isolate themselves at home, policymakers hope to slow, and then reverse, the rate at which COVID-19 is spreading. But a lockdown alone, or a burst of money creation, will not stop the pandemic or save our economies. We need government intervention, but many current proposals appear misguided, some woefully so. Others move in the right direction but are too piecemeal.

The very possibility of millions dying as the economy is crippled justifies substantially scaling up the extent and scope of government action. This action should be viewed as an unprecedented form of short-term systemic insurance for our lives and livelihoods. Given the absolute value we place on both, citizens and governments should be prepared to pay what might appear an extravagantly high premium for such insurance.

Getting Older but Not Poorer

David Amaglobeli, Era Dabla-Norris, and Vitor Gaspar
Source Link

Unless you live in France, you might not think recent mass strikes over the proposed pension reforms in that country have anything to do with you. But given how fast demographics are changing around the world, that would be a mistake. If you live in Europe and your parents are getting ready to retire at the age of 65 (the statutory retirement age in many countries), you should know that today there are, on average, 3.4 working-age people to support the retirement of every person 65 and older. By 2050, the year when you might be expecting to retire, that number is projected to dwindle to just 2.

Japan is already nearly at that point. By 2050, more than 35 other countries (about 7 percent of the world population) will join Japan. This implies a significantly higher burden on workers to support retirees. This dramatic change will have important economic and social implications that cannot be ignored either by governments or by individuals.

This phenomenon is not confined to Europe or advanced economies more generally. Aging is affecting all parts of the world, but to varying degrees. Two main factors are contributing to this shift in the age composition of the population: people are living longer and having fewer children. Many countries in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly Japan, find themselves in a more advanced stage of this demographic transition. Others, mostly in Africa, are in the early stage.

America's Dual Nightmare: Coronavirus and Massive Debt

by Romina Boccia

Without question, the federal government has an important role in responding to major national emergencies such as the novel coronavirus pandemic. But its response should be specific and short-term. And it shouldn’t push us still further into debt.

Congress and the administration must stay focused on responding directly to the public health crisis, in a timely, targeted, and transparent manner, and without teeing up a public debt crisis in the process.

It won’t be easy. Congress and President Trump are resorting to emergency fiscal measures, such as authorizing additional federal funding to support states in responding to the public health crisis, to keep employees attached to their employers while buffering both from undue economic hardship, and to provide temporary tax relief to affected business and individuals suffering from disruptions in cash flow. Amid all this activity, lawmakers should act with both resolve and prudence.

As the West Panics, Putin Is Watching

Source Link

Europe is in disarray. Millions of people are under lockdown, the private sector is on its knees, governments are struggling to counter a completely unexpected adversary while maintaining some semblance of order. And that’s just COVID-19. Imagine the impact of an additional crisis at such a moment, caused by one of the West’s adversaries.

“God is watching us from a distance,” sang Bette Midler. U.S. and European leaders can be sure that somebody else is also watching them from a distance, too: Russian President Vladimir Putin and other leaders of countries competing with the West.

The new coronavirus has, as of March 23, killed more than 14,000 people and infected over 341,000. The virus has wiped out all U.S. stock market gains made during Donald Trump’s presidency and caused the British pound to drop to a level not seen since the early 1980s. BMW, Nissan, Daimler, Volkswagen, Fiat, Peugeot, and other carmakers have halted their manufacturing in Europe. General Motors and Ford have closed all their production in the United States. Deutsche Bank is predicting the worst global economic downturn since the end of World War II. The International Labor Organization has issued warnings of 25 million job losses worldwide.

How to Make Sure Peace Endures Once the Fighting Ends

The need for peacebuilding in post-conflict societies grew out of the realization that signing agreements to bring fighting to an end is a necessary but insufficient step toward true and enduring peace. Peacebuilding is now conceived of as a multistage process that includes approaches ranging from governmental capacity-building and economic development to reforms of the legal and security sectors, with each initiative intended to be a step toward improving human security and fostering societal healing and reconciliation.

It is often a laborious and expensive process—and one that can easily be undone. Witness Brexit’s triggering of the long-dormant fault lines between unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland. Moreover, as peacebuilding has evolved, there is still no consensus on who should lead these efforts. In the wake of Sept. 11, the United Nations introduced a Peacebuilding Commission, intended to push for the adoption of post-conflict interventions and then aid and track their implementation. The PBC lacks any actual enforcement capacity, though, and has struggled to establish itself. It also suffers from the same problem as the broader U.N. system: Key member states can block U.N. involvement, which may explain why Syria is still not on the PBC’s agenda despite the denouement of that nation’s conflict.

Putin’s Secret Intelligence Agency Hacked: Dangerous New ‘Cyber Weapons’ Now Exposed

Zak Doffman
Source Link

Red faces in Red Square, again. Last July, I reported on the hacking of SyTech, an FSB (Federal Security Service) contractor working on internet surveillance tech. Now, reports have emerged from Russia of another shocking security breach within the FSB ecosystem. This one has exposed “a new weapon ordered by the security service,” one that can execute cyber attacks on the Internet of Things (IoT)—the millions of connected devices now in our homes and offices.

The goal of the so-called “Fronton Program” is to exploit IoT security vulnerabilities en masse—remember, these technologies are fundamentally less secure than other connected devices in homes and offices. In fact, one of the breached technical documents reported by BBC Russia even explains that “the Internet of Things is less secure than mobile devices and servers.” The security contractors highlight retained default “factory” passwords as the obvious weakness, one that is easy to exploit.

“Why is our own government spying on us through the IoT?” the hackers ask on Twitter. “In fact, spies on the whole world. How do they do it?” In an earlier tweet, they say “we can prove Kremlin henchmen crack our computers and spy on us.”

Russia Has New Tool For Massive Internet Shutdown Attack, Leaked Documents Claim


Moscow’s latest cyber weapon would target a wider array of devices than previous denial-of-service tools: the growing internet of things

As the world hunkers down in coronavirus isolation and relies on the internet more than ever, a group of dissidents has revealed that Russia has new tools to shut down internet services by tapping internet-connected cameras and similar smart devices.

It’s a new version of an old weapon — a creator of botnets that can drive an internet service offline with floods of fake data — that puts to use a previously untapped source of computing power: the ever-growing “internet of things.”

The new botnet tool was revealed in documents that give instructions for using a suite of hacking apps called Fronton, Fonton-3D, and Fonton-18.

Assessing U.S. Relative Decline

By Adam A. Azim

Adam A. Azim is a writer and entrepreneur based in Northern Virginia. His areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy and strategy, as well as political philosophy and theory. He can be found on Twitter @adamazim1988. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Author and / or Article Point of View: This article is written from an American point of view, in regards to U.S. relative decline vis-à-vis Russia and China.

Summary: American policy since World War II imposed “world order,” which is fraught with the inability to enforce as well as aspirations exceeding capabilities. As a result, America is entangled in futile Middle Eastern conflicts, plagued with populism and President Trump, faced with the rise of Russia and China, debt, polarization, and public health issues. This situation prompts a paradigm shift from excess militarization to the elevation of national spirit.

US Army eyes robot tanks with AI


Imagine you’re in the George S. Patton firefight of your life, and forward operating robot “tanks” are taking the lead, acquiring targets, discerning and organizing war-crucial information, combat zones and even firing weapons when directed.

A bridge too far, one might say? Not really …

“For the first time the Army will deploy manned tanks that are capable of controlling robotic vehicles able to adapt to the environment and act semi-independently,” said Dr. Brandon Perelman, scientist and engineer at the Army Research Laboratory, in an interview with WarriorMaven and reported by Kris Osborn in National Interest.

The concept is aligned with ongoing research into new generations of AI being engineered to not only gather and organize information for human decision-makers but also advance networking between humans and machines, wrote Osborn, who previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army — Acquisition, Logistics & Technology.

“In the future we are going to be incorporating robotic systems that are larger, more like the size of a tanks,” he said.

Bias and Misperception in Cyberspace

By Miguel Alberto Gomez
Source Link

A Psychological Turn. Our understanding of interstate behavior in cyberspace over the past decade rests firmly on systemic and technological attributes as determinants of strategic choices in this increasingly relevant domain. Scholars and policy specialists alike invoke established concepts such as the offense-defense balance, coercion, and signaling to account for state-associated cyber operations. Yet despite technological advancements, cyber operations continue to deliver limited strategic outcomes. This is paradoxical when accelerating investments in cyber capabilities are contrasted against lackluster performance thus far. Consequently, one may argue that attempts to frame strategic choices as a function of material and strategic realities hinders rather than enlightens attempts to comprehend state behavior in cyberspace. This, however, is not necessarily the case.

Recent cybersecurity scholarship acknowledges the importance of micro-level attributes. Whereas emphasis is commonly placed on the balance of power, dependence, and technological expertise; it is becoming apparent that cognition plays a crucial role in the decision-making processes that influence strategic choices. This psychological “turn” is not a novel occurrence as associated disciplines such as political science and international relations long recognized its importance. With cyber operations serving as an instrument of foreign policy, it is fair to posit that cognitive factors that account for behavior in the physical domain are equally applicable to cyberspace. Consequently, this ARI demonstrates this by discussing recent scholarship and how these affect the stability of cyberspace. In doing so, it surfaces the importance of taking a simultaneous top-down and bottom-up approach in evaluating state behavior in this man-made domain.

Analysis: uncertainty and cyberspace


Financial investment giant Morgan Stanley sees U.S. GDP plunging by 30 percent in the second quarter (April-June) of 2020, according to Bloomberg News. Druing the Great Depression, which lasted 49 months, U.S. GDP was -12 percent. If Morgan Stanley is right; and, there is unfortunately, little reason to doubt their forecast, we are about to experience something that has never happened in the history of the United States. No one remotely suspects we’ll be in for a 49-month depression. And once we get past the virus in about 10-12 weeks, the fiscal stimulus will provide a tailwind to economic growth. And, although I hear all the pundits saying that things will never be the same and we’ll work from home more and conduct less business travel — hopefully, people will see it as their patriotic duty to travel and support local businesses. In the meantime, there has already been financial carnage, as many 401k plans for retirement have seen 40 percent drops or worse. Everyone talks about investing for the long term; but, the baby boomer generation doesn’t have that kind of time as they are alreay well into their 60s. Many, will not be able to recover, and bankrupticies are certain to surge. As Thomas Paine wrote during the darkets time of the Revolutionary War: “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

I also fear the anxiety, depression and stress that will build over the coming days and weeks until we have safe passage beyond this insidious disease. We must help and reach out to others — even if we have to do it remotely or from Skype. We have to grab on to the positive; and, find meaning in helping others cope and navigate through this most trying time. When the U.S. came out of the Great Depression — America ended up birthing the Greatest Generation, excising the world of the scourge of Nazism and liberating Europe and to an extent — Asia. Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote that “Sooner or later, we all sit down to a banquet of consequences.” We need to find self-woth and meaning in helping others. But, buckle up. No one promised you a ‘rose garden.’ RCP, fortunascorner.com