A 2,000-year-old treatise about living a wonderful life

herman and rosie

 

This quote was taken by a 2,000-year-old philosophical work by Seneca, ‘On The Shortness of Life’. Long before there were Napoleon Hill, Anthony Robbins, or any other speakers alike, and so long before human life expectancy was dramatically improving like now this century (which could also be one defining factor), the Roman philosopher had offered us timeless advice (and also a cautious warning) on how to make the best use of our time as long as we are still alive in this world:

 

You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply — though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire… How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!

 

Read more about his work in Brain Pickings.

Pablo Neruda, about a glimpse of humanity

pabloneruda

 

From the Nobel Prize winner’s essay, ‘Childhood and Poetry':

 

To feel the intimacy of brothers is a marvelous thing in life. To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses — that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.

That exchange brought home to me for the first time a precious idea: that all of humanity is somehow together…

It won’t surprise you then that I attempted to give something resiny, earthlike, and fragrant in exchange for human brotherhood. Just as I once left the pinecone by the fence, I have since left my words on the door of so many people who were unknown to me, people in prison, or hunted, or alone.

 

Read more about his essay on Brain Pickings.

The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed

content moderator

 

An appreciation to those working relentlessly, spending parts of their lives watching and screening out hardcore porn, torture, gore, flesh-squeezing, or any other undignified videos, posts, and statuses, to keep our Internet safe for reach. An appreciation, not sufficiently enough to be crafted in words, for these people who have endured mental and psychological pressure while filtering these things, something by which most of the so-called ‘content moderators’ could have easily got into mental breakdown.

Hint: this used to be completely done within the vicinity of Silicon Valley, but as content moderation industry grows (now up to 100,000-workforce strong), it is now increasingly outsourced into developing countries with cheaper wages and few welfare incentives (only 300 US$ a month), most commonly Philippines.

Read the whole story, the first of its kind to be published and written in long form, in Wired.

 

Excerpt:

 

A list of categories, scrawled on a whiteboard, reminds the workers of what they’re hunting for: pornography, gore, minors, sexual solicitation, sexual body parts/images, racism. When Baybayan sees a potential violation, he drills in on it to confirm, then sends it away—erasing it from the user’s account and the service altogether—and moves back to the grid. Within 25 minutes, Baybayan has eliminated an impressive variety of dick pics, thong shots, exotic objects inserted into bodies, hateful taunts, and requests for oral sex.

More difficult is a post that features a stock image of a man’s chiseled torso, overlaid with the text “I want to have a gay experience, M18 here.” Is this the confession of a hidden desire (allowed) or a hookup request (forbidden)? Baybayan—who, like most employees of TaskUs, has a college degree—spoke thoughtfully about how to judge this distinction.

“What is the intention?” Baybayan says. “You have to determine the difference between thought and solicitation.” He has only a few seconds to decide. New posts are appearing constantly at the top of the screen, pushing the others down. He judges the post to be sexual solicitation and deletes it; somewhere, a horny teen’s hopes are dashed. Baybayan scrolls back to the top of the screen and begins scanning again.

Infographic: what each country fears the most, other than Ebola

world's biggest fear

Those results are based from the newly released 2014 Pew Global Attitudes project about countries’ greatest fears, given the recent headlines about Ebola, Islamic State, income inequality, or climate change.

Read more about the report in Pew Global Attitudes website.

 greatest danger (dots)

What Nigeria and Senegal (and Cuba) can teach the world about fighting ebola

free from ebola

 

While much of the mainstream media has all the hype about ‘Renee Zellweger’s latest face’ or ‘the desperate fate of Ebola outbreak’, these two African countries, Nigeria and Senegal, silently made a great breakthrough in fighting the disease. These two countries, normally identified as lower-middle-income nations with high percentage of population living in extreme poverty, decrepit public facilities and governments oftentimes beset by inefficiencies and bureaucratic logjams, surprised the whole planet with their rapid response towards the outbreak, unlike their much unfortunate counterparts, countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea. Tackling the spread of the virus in both these highly populated countries, each of which boasts 170 million and nearly 30 million, is no easy job, somehow. Nonetheless, with all the efforts made, all parties involved, and health authorities in particular, deserve the accolades for successfully keeping an otherwise apocalyptic maelstrom at bay. This is a great lesson for the world, and especially for other developing nations altogether.

Most importantly, it is not just about advanced technologies; it takes a complete willingness of all parties, especially a political one, to solve this problem. For some conservatives in US who talk about eliminating flights between the country and West Africa to avoid Ebola outbreak, think again.

This is the article from io9 that explains how Nigeria, for this case study, can contain the contagion.

 

Full article:

 

How Nigeria Stopped Ebola “Dead In Its Tracks”

George Dvorsky

Finally, some good news to report on the Ebola front: Nigeria and Senegal are now completely free of the disease. Here’s how they contained the outbreak — and why the world needs to take notice.

Earlier today, the World Health Organization announced that no new case of Ebola has emerged in Nigeria in 42 days. That’s the standard length of time required for declaring the end to an outbreak, since it’s twice the maximum 21-day incubation period for the virus. It’s an incredible achievement — one that should assuage fears and show that Ebola can be contained. Moreover, it’s proof that developing nations, with sufficient support from the international community, are fully capable of dealing with the epidemic.

Thwarting an “Apocalyptic Urban Outbreak”

Things looked bleak back in July when the virus was detected in Lagos, Africa’s largest city. Nigeria, with its 166 million inhabitants, is Africa’s most populous country and its newest economic powerhouse. Lagos boasts a population of 21 million, making it nearly as large as the populations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone combined. With its airport and large population living in often crowded and unsanitary conditions, news of Ebola was met with a palpable sense of dread.

“The last thing anyone in the world wants to hear is the two words, ‘Ebola’ and ‘Lagos’ in the same sentence,” noted Jeffrey Hawkins, the U.S. Consul General in Nigeria, at the time. The juxtaposition of the two conjured images of an “apocalyptic urban outbreak.”

In the end, Nigeria confirmed a total of 19 Ebola cases, of whom seven died and 12 survived. It’s a far cry from the situation in other parts of West Africa — but that’s not an accident. Here’s how Nigeria did it and the “best practices” that should now be employed elsewhere:

Effective Leadership and Public-Health Institutions

The WHO credits Nigeria for its strong leadership and effective coordination of the response:

The most critical factor is leadership and engagement from the head of state and the Minister of Health. Generous allocation of government funds and their quick disbursement helped as well. Partnership with the private sector was yet another asset that brought in substantial resources to help scale up control measures that would eventually stop the Ebola virus dead in its tracks.

The response was greatly aided by the rapid utilization of a national public institution (NCDC) and the prompt establishment of an Emergency Operations Centre, which was supported by the Disease Prevention and Control Cluster within the WHO country office. Nigeria also features a first-rate virology lab affiliated with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. It was staffed and equipped to quickly and reliably diagnose Ebola, ensuring that containment measures could be employed with the shortest possible delay.

Rapid Response to the Initial Case

Nigeria’s first Ebola patient, Patrick Sawyer, was initially thought to have malaria. But once that was ruled out, doctors immediately began treating him as a possible Ebola patient. He was kept in isolation, officials were notified, and a blood sample was rushed to a testing lab. Just three days later, Nigeria’s health ministry set up an Ebola Incident Management Center, which eventually turned into an Emergency Operations Center that co-ordinated the response and decision-making.

Sufficient Access to Resources

As noted, federal and state governments in Nigeria were able to provide ample financial and material resources, including well-trained and experienced national staff. Isolation wards were immediately constructed, as were designated Ebola treatment facilities (though more slowly). Other resources included vehicles and mobile phones equipped with specially adapted apps allowing healthcare workers to engage in real-time reporting as the investigations moved forward. Many of these efforts were supported by social mobilization experts from UNICEF, CDC and Médecins sans Frontières.

High Quality Contact-Tracing

Nigerian health officials, working with assistance from WHO, the US CDC and others, managed to reach 100% of known contacts in Lagos and 99.8% at the second outbreak site in Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s oil hub. High-quality contact tracing was performed by experienced epidemiologists who expedited the early detection of cases and their rapid movement to isolation wards. And unlike the tragic situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, all identified contacts were physically monitored on a daily basis for 21 days. Some contacts tried to escape during the monitoring process, but they were all tracked by special investigation teams and returned to observation to complete the requisite monitoring period of 21 days.

Applying Lessons From Previous Outbreaks

Nigeria has been combating another blight, polio, for quite some time now and with great success. Among their many tactics, health officials use the very latest satellite-based GPS technologies to ensure that no child missed out on polio vaccinations. When Ebola first appeared in July, they immediately repurposed these technologies and infrastructure to conduct Ebola case-finding, contact-tracing, and daily mapping of links between identified chains of transmission. Nigerian health officials also adapted the learnings from their efforts to eradicate guinea-worm disease.

A Rigorous Public Education Campaign

Communication with the public was also key. Nigerian health and government officials rallied communities to support containment measures. This involved house-to-house information campaigns — spoken in local dialects — that explained the level of risk, effective personal measures, and the actions being taken for control. All the while, Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, reassured his population on nationally televised newscasts. Traditional and religious community leaders were engaged early on and asked to play a role in sensitizing the public.Finally, the full range of media opportunities were exploited, including social media and televised facts about the disease delivered by Nigerian celebrities.

Screening At Borders — And A Refusal To Stop Air Travel

Instead of panicking and banning air travel, Nigerian health officials screened all arriving and departing travelers by air and by sea in Lagos and Rivers State. The average number of travelers screened each day reached a peak of more than 16,000.

Moving Forward With Vigilance

Clearly, this story isn’t over yet. Vigilance remains high and Nigeria’s surveillance systems remains on a high level of alert. It’s quite possible that, given the country’s success, people from neighboring countries may try to (illicitly) enter in.

As a final note, and as noted by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan: “If a country like Nigeria, hampered by serious security problems, can do this – that is, make significant progress towards interrupting polio transmission, eradicate guinea-worm disease and contain Ebola, all at the same time – any country in the world experiencing an imported case can hold onward transmission to just a handful of cases.”

 

Additional articles:

1. An article from Los Angeles Times

2. One of Cuba’s most reliable sources to conduct its global diplomatic finesse – doctors. Learn how Cuba is prepping up its global image by dispatching more than 160 doctors across West Africa to fight Ebola.

A ghost city, and a horror story

ghost city china

 

 

Just a few days prior, China has officially surpassed United States to become the world’s largest economy based on purchasing power parity (PPP) level. While the country still has a long way to go to completely replace US as the planet’s future superpower, China has started to face numerous problems that are increasingly deteriorating, all of which are the decades-old by-products of its breakneck economic growth. One of them is the existence of ‘ghost cities’ – gigantic, splurge urban areas with dozens, even hundreds, of building blocks which are apparently uninhabited and even unfinished – and Kangbashi (pictured above) is the poster child for this phenomenon. Supposedly built to accommodate 1 million people, the city has now no more than 20,000 people living in this territory. Something must have definitely gone wrong with the way these cities are built.

Konrad Kaestner creates a short, 15-minute film titled ‘Cathedrals’ about this ghost city. Using the sceneries he records throughout his journey in Kangbashi, he creates the entire sceneries, using a poetic, and oftentimes Edgar Allan Poe-style narration to depict the whole pictures, which he recreates into a Kafkaesque realm of existence (and sometimes reimagining the enactments from Silent Hill). Watch his short in Aeon, and listen to his narrative very seriously.