Random links

Mystery deepens over ex-Interpol chief Meng
Looking at how the WHO has been behaving in China recently, I kept thinking to how they disappeared the then-head of Interpol in country about a year and a half ago. Eventually showed up in government custody and supposedly confessed to corruption charges, though given the country in question I wonder what happened behind the scenes.
Conservative faculty appear to influence their students more than liberal professors do
"When we break that down by political leaning, about the same proportion of students — 29 to 30 percent — say they became more liberal in college, whether or not they felt any pressure from faculty members. By contrast, among students who said they felt political pressure from conservative faculty members “frequently” or “all the time,” a slightly larger proportion did become conservative, compared with those who felt less pressure."
The richest families in Florence in 1427 are still the richest families in Florence\
"these families were able to maintain their wealth through various sieges of Florence, Napoleon’s campaign in Italy, Benito Mussolini’s dictatorship, and two world wars." Less uncommon than you might expect I think.
Dry-Brining Is the Best Way to Brine Meat, Poultry, and More
I do enjoy ways of simplifying cooking without seemingly much - if any - of a negative impact on flavour. "Ah, some people may say here. But if you flavor your brine with delicious things like fruit juices, stock, herbs, spices, sugar, and more, then surely your meat will be more delicious than if you just soaked it in a plain old salt-water solution. Sorry, but nope! As Kenji has shown before in his article on turkey brining, flavor molecules, unlike salt, are for the most part too big to penetrate the cell membranes of a piece of meat; your brine may taste flavorful, but your roast will not." (also discusses issues re: dilution of flavour and difficulty browning)

Will Elizabeth Warren's cluelessness finally end "Latinx"?

I wonder if perhaps with people like Matthew Yglesias1 finally tweeting stuff like this (and publishing a corresponding article in Vox) that perhaps people will finally start to get it.

It's almost certainly a lost cause though. She's emblem of a certain class who seem to think that as long as they yammer about how "inclusive" they are they'll gain the votes of certain demographics - when the people in question have frequently indicated how little they care for certain terms. In the case of Latinx:

We presented our respondents with seven of the most common terms used to describe Latinos and asked them to select the one that best describes them. When it came to “Latinx,” there was near unanimity. Despite its usage by academics and cultural influencers, 98% of Latinos prefer other terms to describe their ethnicity. Only 2% of our respondents said the label accurately describes them, making it the least popular ethnic label among Latinos.

... Some have speculated that “Latinx” resonates with women and Latino youth. We found no evidence of this in our study. While Latinos’ preferences for other labels vary by age, the limited appeal of “Latinx” is consistent across generations and genders.

A suggested rule for inclusive language: the people being included should at a minimum find the term in question not-the-worse-of-all-available-word-choices. I'd imagine that were you to poll American women they'd also vastly prefer "women" to "womxn". I can't help but be bemused by tweets like this:

It's not just Latinos that Warren's cluelessness applies to - see also Elizabeth Warren Has Won Black Activists. She’s Losing the Black Vote..

As the Vox article illustrates with an overview of polling data by demographic, she's basically only the choice of white people with college degrees and those with post-graduate degrees. Or phrased a different way the preferred candidate of an unrepresentative elite who live in a bubble - a phenomena which by and large includes journalists:


  1. Given his political leanings Ross Douthat's earlier Liberalism's Latinx Problem doesn't count in quite the same way. ↩︎

When a virus is a problem trust people who're used to dealing with things viral

I've honestly had a lot better luck learning about this coronavirus from some of the people in the venture capital VC) sector I follow rather than the media. I suspect that VCs are probably at least as well equipped to discuss the sort of phenomena in question than the typical journalist who's been writing about for the last few weeks. Not only are VCs looking for investment opportunities with the possibility of (metaphorically) viral growth a lot of them are also pretty heavily involved in the biotech sector.

It's been kind of interesting to consider the latest change in media focus over the last week weeks - which originally seemed to focus frequently on racism, complaining about the diversity of those involving in addressing it, and frequently downplaying the risk relative to the flu when the flu is a much better understood phenomena than this latest virus (though influenza is definitely still gonna kill a lot of people in any given year).

Now it seems to me that over the past 24-48 hours it's been starting to flip - such that now I've been hearing more about inadequate preparation. There's also been fake news floating around about Trump having imposed drastic funding cuts on the agencies responsible for dealing with a pandemic - to quote An AP fact check column Democrats distort coronavirus readiness:

Trump’s budgets have proposed cuts to public health, only to be overruled by Congress, where there’s strong bipartisan support for agencies such as the CDC and NIH. Instead, financing has increased.

Indeed, the money that government disease detectives first tapped to fight the latest outbreak was a congressional fund created for health emergencies.

Some public health experts say a bigger concern than White House budgets is the steady erosion of a CDC grant program for state and local public health emergency preparedness — the front lines in detecting and battling new disease. But that decline was set in motion by a congressional budget measure that predates Trump.

The above is a story that makes Trump look bad, but it's also not quite the same story that I find I've been hearing. I keep hearing about the important of clear and consistent communication from people but it's not something that I think that Trump is performing much worse on than some of the loudest alternative sources - i.e. the primary opposing party and the media. The element that seems most dangerous (unless it'd get Trump to just shut up for once .. but that'll never happen!): Pence Will Control All Coronavirus Messaging From Health Officials.

Am personally guessing that if there are widespread deaths due to this virus in the US that Trump will be blamed and if there aren't then he'll get the credit (even if he hasn't really done much of anything to deserve it). That's more or less the way politics goes.

Seeing an early indication that a change in treatment strategy in Wuhan may have significantly improved survival rates1 and Israeli claims of almost having a vaccine ready due to already having passed a vaccine for a coincidentally very-similar virus through a lot of trials already. Not quite sure how either of those paths might play out ... and that'd be pretty difficult to gauge at this stage. From the average person's perspective there's not too much that can be done beyond taking precautions of the same sort you might against the flu2 ... and maybe grab a novel to read while you wait.


  1. It's difficult to overstate the low level of confidence here with regards to certain claims like this particular one... just such is what you're stuck working with as better information slowly emerges. ↩︎

  2. Note that this article seems to suggest even if it wouldn't help against this newest virus directly, getting a flu vaccine should reduce overall burden on the healthcare system and also make it easier to identify cases of this new virus. ↩︎

Random links

The 2019-nCoV Coronavirus: Are there two routes to infection?
"While a sneeze or a cough by someone infected with a “respiratory disease” can only infect others within a few meters, the virus-laden gaseous plume from an infected person having diarrhea can infect others up to 200 meters. Some experts estimate that 10%-20% of SARS patients had diarrhea, with the possibility that the virus in their intestinal tracts could potentially infect others by this route"
Why Can Some Blind People Process Speech Far Faster Than Sighted Persons?
"When we speak rapidly we are verbalizing at about six syllables per second. That hyperactive radio announcer spewing fine print at the end of a commercial jabbers at 10 syllables per second, the absolute limit of comprehension for sighted people. Blind people, however, can comprehend speech sped up to 25 syllables per second."
Figuring out How to Talk About Female Characters You Don’t Like When You’re Feminist
An almost-sensible article from The Mary Sue for once - "Last night, I was talking to a friend of mine about Star Wars discourse when she suddenly stopped in the street and whispered to me, “Don’t tell anyone, but I just don’t really like Rey, I think she is boring.” I hugged her and whispered back, “I think the Wonder Woman 1984 trailer looks really bad.”"
Presidents, Politics, and Military Strategy: Electoral Constraints during the Iraq War
Using "Recently declassified documents and interviews with senior administration officials and military figures ... Both George W. Bush's surge decision of 2007 and Barack Obama's decision to withdraw troops in 2011 are shown to have been profoundly influenced by concerns related to the domestic political calendar."

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