to not be is unAmerican, nonDemocracy

Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2022 06:05 am
Dr. Francis Collins and Diane Baker Say Farewell to NIH
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2022 02:10 am
Drama Theater and residential buildings
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2022 02:32 am
Reply Tue 19 Apr, 2022 10:55 am

China and Russia Are Giving Authoritarianism a Bad Name
April 18, 2022

Thomas L. Friedman
By Thomas L. Friedman

Opinion Columnist

The last decade looked like a good one for authoritarian regimes and a challenging one for democratic ones. Cybertools, drones, facial recognition technology and social networks seemed to make efficient authoritarians even more efficient and democracies increasingly ungovernable.

The West lost self-confidence — and both Russian and Chinese leaders rubbed it in, putting out the word that these chaotic democratic systems were a spent force.

And then a totally unexpected thing happened: Russia and China each overreached.

Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and, to his surprise, invited an indirect war with NATO and the West. China insisted that it was smart enough to have its own local solution to a pandemic, leaving millions of Chinese underprotected or unprotected and, in effect, inviting a war with one of Mother Nature’s most contagious viruses — the Omicron mutation of SARS-CoV-2. It’s now led China to lock down all of Shanghai and parts of 44 other cities — some 370 million people.

In short, both Moscow and Beijing find themselves suddenly contending with much more powerful and relentless forces and systems than they ever anticipated. And the battles are exposing — to the whole world and to their own people — the weaknesses of their own systems. So much so that the world now has to worry about instability in both countries.

Be afraid.

Russia is a key supplier of wheat, fertilizer, oil and natural gas for the world. And China is the origin of, or a crucial link in, thousands of global manufacturing supply chains. If Russia is locked out and China is locked down for a prolonged period, every corner of the planet will be affected. And that is no longer a remote possibility.

Let’s start with Putin. He lulled himself into thinking that because his army had smashed a bunch of ragtag military opponents in Syria, Georgia, Crimea and Chechnya, it could quickly devour a country of 44 million people — Ukraine — that over the last decade had been moving to join the West and was tacitly being armed and trained by NATO.

It’s been a military and economic debacle for Russia so far. But just as important, it has exposed precisely how much Putin’s “system” is built on both lying upward — everyone telling superiors what they want to hear, all the way up to Putin — and drilling downward, tapping Russia’s natural resources, enriching a few Russians, rather than unleashing the country’s human resources and empowering the many.

Putin’s Russia is basically built on oil, lies and corruption, and that is not a resilient system.

You could see it right from the eve of the war when Putin conducted a nationally televised meeting of his top national security advisers, and none other than Sergei Naryshkin, chief of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, appeared confused over which lie Putin wanted to be told.

Putin said the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk should be allowed to become independent states, and then he polled these advisers for confirmation. But Naryshkin seemed to think Putin wanted to be told that the two provinces should be annexed to Russia. As Naryshkin stammered over the wrong answer, Putin, without a hint of irony, twice snapped at him to “speak directly” — as if that were possible anymore in Putin’s Russia. Only after Naryshkin gave Putin the lie he obviously wanted to be told did Putin snarl, “You can sit down now.”

How many Russian military officers watching that humiliation were ready to tell Putin the truth about Ukraine once the war started going badly? When the Russian military was up against foes in Georgia, Syria, Crimea and Chechnya, Russia could just indiscriminately bomb its way out of any problem. But now that Putin’s military has found itself in a war with Ukraine’s highly motivated army and its homegrown weapons industry, backed with some of NATO’s best precision weapons and training, the rot has really started to show. Russia’s tank and logistic forces were mauled into multiple junkyards of burning hulks in western Ukraine.

And it is impossible to exaggerate how incompetent the Russian Navy had to be to allow the command warship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva missile cruiser, to be so badly damaged, reportedly by two Ukrainian-made anti-ship cruise missiles, called Neptunes, that the Moskva sank into the sea off Ukraine last week — the biggest loss of a naval ship in battle in 40 years.

For the Russian flagship in charge of coordinating all of the air defenses for the flotilla, and itself carrying 64 S-300F Rif air defense missiles, to be taken out by enemy anti-ship missiles had to have been the result of a cascade of systems failures in detection and response to an attack.

Moreover, Neptune missiles are not necessarily “ship killers.” They were more likely designed to be “mission killers” — to disable the radar and electronics of sophisticated destroyers like the Moskva — not specifically sink them.

So I pity the commander who had to tell Putin that Russia’s meanest, monstrous warship in the Black Sea, rumored to have been his favorite, had been sunk by a Ukrainian missile fired in war for the first time.

China is a much more serious country than Russia: It is not built on oil, lies and corruption (though it has plenty of the latter), but on the hard work and manufacturing talents of its people, directed by a top-down, iron-fisted but eager-to-learn-from-abroad Chinese Communist Party. At least, eager in the past to learn, but less so lately.

China’s economic success, and the sense of pride it has generated, seems to have lulled its leadership into thinking it could basically go it alone against a pandemic. By producing its own vaccines, rather than importing better ones from the West, and by repurposing its highly efficient system of authoritarian surveillance and control to curb travel, do mass testing and quarantine any individuals or neighborhoods where Covid-19 appeared, China bet on a “zero Covid” policy. If it could get through the pandemic with fewer deaths and a more open economy, it would be another signal to the world — a big signal — that Chinese communism was superior to American democracy.

But Beijing, while scoffing at the West, became shockingly negligent about vaccinating its own elderly. That did not matter as much when China was able to stem the spread of earlier variants of the coronavirus with tight population controls. But now it matters, because China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines appear not nearly as effective against Omicron as the mRNA vaccines made in the West, although they still are effective at reducing hospitalization and death. In China today, more than 130 million people “aged 60 and above are either unvaccinated or have received fewer than three doses,” putting them “in greater danger of developing severe Covid symptoms or dying if they contract the virus,” The Financial Times recently reported, citing a University of Hong Kong study.

This has led Beijing to opt for that total lockdown of Shanghai, which has been so poorly managed that residents have reportedly had to scramble for food.

Dr. David L. Katz, a U.S. public health and preventive medicine expert who wrote one of the most prescient early guest essays in this newspaper about managing Covid at the onset, explained to me that the problem with having the kind of draconian lockdown policy that China maintained is that you are guaranteeing that your population develops little native immunity from having acquired and survived the virus. So, Katz said, if the virus mutates globally, as it did with Omicron, and you have “a less than effective vaccine, virtually no natural immunity in the population, and millions of elderly unvaccinated, you’re in a bad place and there is no easy way out.”

You can’t fool around with or propagandize away Mother Nature; she’s merciless.

The moral of this story? High-coercion authoritarian systems are low-information systems — so they often drive blind more than they realize. And even when the truth filters up, or reality in the form of a more powerful foe or Mother Nature slams them in the face so hard it can’t be ignored, their leaders find it hard to change course because their claims to the right to be presidents-for-life rest on their claims to infallibility. And that is why Russia and China are both now struggling.

I am worried sick about our own democratic system. But as long as we can still vote out incompetent leaders and maintain information ecosystems that will expose systemic lying and defy censorship, we can adapt in an age of rapid change — and that is the single most important competitive advantage a country can have today.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: [email protected].

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Reply Mon 25 Apr, 2022 01:06 am
‘It’s Life or Death’: The Mental Health Crisis Among U.S. Teens
Depression, self-harm and suicide are rising among American adolescents. For M, a 13-year-old in Minnesota, the despair was almost too much to take.
Reply Mon 25 Apr, 2022 09:14 am

Camp overnight alone on the beacon tower of the 500-year-old Great Wall
Reply Mon 2 May, 2022 07:38 am
The Dark Side of Collaboration
People working together often scheme to put profits ahead of telling the truth. New research points to ways to stop this behavior

By Margarita Leib on April 29, 2022

Between 2008 and 2015, groups of engineers at Volkswagen repeatedly faked car-engine emissions levels during laboratory tests. Engineers manipulated the vehicles to release pollutants at low levels in the lab so they could meet emissions standards in the U.S. and Europe. But when the cars hit the road, their emissions rates were much higher than allowable standards—up to 40 times higher in the U.S. The scam, dubbed “Dieselgate” in the press, had severe consequences. The additional pollution in the U.S. alone could contribute to dozens of premature deaths.

Dieselgate is just one example of what researchers call “collaborative dishonesty.” Often discussion of collaboration emphasizes its many advantages; group work improves social bonds and helps people solve complex problems they could not address alone. But there are other situations in which group work can become fertile ground for dishonest behavior, as it did in the Volkswagen scandal.

My colleagues and I pooled together data from many past studies to understand the forces that shape and underlie group dishonesty. Our work uncovered that unethical behavior is common in collaboration, but there are limits to the amount of lying that occurs—a finding that may help teams avoid falling into problematic behavior in the future.

We analyzed 34 relevant research articles by psychologists, economists and management researchers that involved more than 10,000 participants altogether. In these experiments, scientists asked people to play economic games or carry out decision-making tasks while part of a team. The specific instructions varied from one study to the next, but across experiments, participants could gain money through honesty and teamwork. In addition, they had opportunities to earn some additional money as a group by lying. For example, in some tasks, teams might receive a payout based on the number of puzzles they solved together; participants could lie and inflate the quantity they had deciphered for a greater monetary reward.

Across all studies and tasks, we found that groups tended to lie. On average, they earned 35.6 percent of the extra profits available to them above what they could make from simply telling the truth. The good news is that there was a limit to this deceit, which suggests people care about moral considerations to some extent. After all, groups did not, on average, earn 100 percent of the extra profits they could have made from their lies. In puzzle tasks, for instance, most teams did not simply pretend to solve every puzzle presented.

Additionally, when studies added ethical costs for dishonesty, such as informing people that lies would harm other participants or have negative consequences for a charity donation, groups lied less. On top of that, we discovered that when it comes to collaborative dishonesty, the gender and age of the group members mattered. The more women that a group had, and the older the group members were, the less the group lied. Past research suggests that women are penalized more than men for assertive and profit-maximizing behavior in general—for example, when they ask for a higher salary in a job interview. It is possible that this difference is one driver behind women’s higher levels of honesty both when working alone and in teams. This idea is speculative, however, and we’d need further investigation to know for sure.

We also ran an additional analysis that allowed us to study how collaborative dishonesty may escalate and spread over time. More specifically, several studies we analyzed involved asking pairs to roll dice over multiple rounds. One person rolled a die in private and then reported the outcome. Their partner learned about that report and then rolled an independent die before reporting that outcome as well. If both teammates claimed to roll the same number, they received a payout: for example, a 1-1 double might mean each person got $1, a 2-2 double could mean $2 each, and so on. Pairs could choose to be honest and receive payment only when they truly rolled doubles. But over the course of many rounds, some pairs would be tempted to falsely declare a higher or matching roll for greater or more frequent payouts.

For these studies, we first identified whether any participants were obviously deceitful. When the data suggested that certain individuals reported only 6’s—the highest roll possible—or only doubles in all rounds of the task, we identified these improbably lucky rollers as “brazen liars.” (Given that the chance of honestly reporting 6’s or doubles in 20 rounds, the most common number of rounds in the task, is very small—less than 0.001 percent—we felt confident about this classification.)

Then we examined the chances that a brazen liar’s behavior might influence their partner. The data were clear: dishonesty is contagious. Participants were more likely to be brazen liars when their partners were, too. Collaborative dishonesty also escalated over time. In later rounds, compared with earlier ones, the first person to roll a die was more likely to report higher die rolls, and their partner was more likely to report a double.

Collaborative dishonesty is clearly a hazard of group work. But our findings point to specific ways people could encourage honesty when groups work together. For instance, our discovery that collaborative dishonesty is contagious and escalates over time suggests that people should detect and act on early signs of dishonesty in groups. Several strategies could help. Managers can implement zero-tolerance policies toward even small acts of deceit to deter its escalation and spread. To increase early detection of dishonesty, they can put policies in place that forgive whistleblowers for their part in wrongdoing when they come forward about dishonest deeds. Finally, just as some managers ask their employees to report mistakes as soon as they occur to avoid larger downstream effects, a similar approach can be adopted when it comes to untruthful behavior. Catching collaborative dishonesty before it spreads could better nip it in the bud.

Knowing that groups are more honest when others are harmed by their lies suggests that we should highlight the negative consequences of collaborative dishonesty more prominently. In the case of Dieselgate, perhaps reminders of how excess pollution wreaks damage on society could have curbed the Volkswagen engineers’ willingness to manipulate vehicle engines in the first place.

Margarita Leib is a postdoctoral researcher at the faculty of economics and business at the University of Amsterdam and a member of the Center for Research in Experimental Economics and Political Decision-Making (CREED). She studies ethical decision-making in individual and collaborative settings.
0 Replies
Reply Wed 4 May, 2022 10:50 am
The 2022 Lancet Series on optimising child and adolescent health and development follows on almost two decades after the original Lancet Series on child survival and its call to action for child health globally. The new Series is concerned that progress has been too slow, the sustainable development goals are off track, and once again the world is failing its children. Four papers in the Series set out an abundance of evidence in support of a holistic agenda for child health spanning sexual, reproductive, maternal, childhood, and adolescent health, as well as nutrition and development. Integration and implementation of evidence-based interventions across health, education, and social systems must improve, and the silos across the continuum from preconception period to age 20 years must go. Calling for renewed prioritisation and investments, the Series seeks to stimulate a revitalised global effort to fully protect, nurture, and support the health and development potential for every child everywhere, from before conception to adulthood.
Reply Sat 7 May, 2022 01:29 am
Reply Sat 7 May, 2022 10:23 am
Nature: India's Haggling over figures of COVID
India remains a sticking point in the death figures. The WHO estimates that pandemic deaths in the country in 2020 and 2021 were between 3.3 million and 6.5 million — around 10 times India’s official COVID-19 death toll of 481,000 for the same period. India shared its national data for 2020 with the WHO only on 4 May, and has been haggling over the figures for months, a source involved in the WHO work, but who wished to remain anonymous because of political sensitivity, told Nature. “They’re basically trying to derail the whole thing.”

In a public statement, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that it had “concerns with the methodology” of the estimates and had been in “regular and in-depth technical exchange with WHO on the issue”.

Shahid Jameel, a virologist and former chair of India’s COVID-19 genome-sequencing committee, says that he trusts the WHO’s estimates more than the government’s figures. “The ballpark figure that India has produced so far, of about 500,000, is certainly very low. Those of us who were there and who have experienced it know that it is very low,” he says. “And now there are studies to support that.”

Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01245-6
Reply Sun 8 May, 2022 11:10 am

Statement by the Nobel Laureates, July 28, 2021

We Nobel Laureates are greatly concerned about a series of incidents that occurred prior to and during the Nobel Prize Summit, Our Planet, Our Future, held from April 26-28, 2021. The Summit brought together international thought leaders of all ages around the world to address some of the greatest challenges that humanity faces. The meeting was jointly sponsored by the Nobel Foundation and the US National Academy of Sciences.

In late March and again in early April, the Chinese Embassy in Washington telephoned a senior National Academy official and insisted that two of the scheduled speakers, the Dalai Lama and Dr. Yuan T. Lee, should be disinvited and not allowed to speak at the Nobel Summit. The embassy was told at both times that no such disinvitation would take place. On Sunday afternoon, April 25th, immediately before the Nobel Summit, the National Academy received an email from the Chinese Embassy demanding that the Dalai Lama and Dr. Yuan T. Lee not be permitted to speak. Again, the request was denied.

During the first virtual session of the meeting on April 26th, the video transmission of the session was disrupted by a presumed cyber-attack. Again, on April 27th another cyber-attack disrupted the entire platform.

Regardless of whether these attacks were linked to the demands from the Chinese embassy, we are outraged by the Chinese governments attempt to censor and bully the scientific community by attempting to prevent two of our fellow Laureates (or indeed anyone) from speaking at a meeting outside of China.

The future of our planet will require collaboration between all nations and all scientists across the globe. Many of us have valued scientific colleagues and long-standing friends in China, with whom we interact productively. Unfortunately, actions such as those described above only serve to hinder such essential cooperation, and if continued, will affect our willingness to participate in events in China, particularly those fully or partially sponsored or supported by the Chinese government.

We strongly believe that the free and open expression of ideas and the freedom of assembly are basic human rights, and international forums such as the Nobel Summit are essential means of finding solutions, maintaining international trust, and securing a more just and prosperous future. In so doing, these efforts will confer great benefits onto humankind.

Reply Tue 10 May, 2022 09:24 pm
0 Replies
Reply Wed 11 May, 2022 07:54 am
Arrow section of GREAT WALL

Reply Sun 15 May, 2022 01:05 am
Opinion: The breathtaking cluelessness of Elon Musk
Opinion by Holly Thomas

Updated 1008 GMT (1808 HKT) May 12, 2022

(CNN)Every weekday morning between January 20, 2017, and January 8, 2021, I checked President Donald Trump's Twitter account. It was as critical a step in my routine as brushing my teeth -- albeit one that left me feeling far less fresh.

As a journalist primarily covering US news, monitoring Trump's account was essential. Even though fewer than a quarter of Americans say they use Twitter, Trump's caustic whims, jibes and attacks on the platform consistently set the agenda -- and for several years it was normal to watch major news sites hastily switch out whatever lead story they'd planned to reflect that morning's presidential caprice.
Then, without ceremony, he was gone. Two days after the horrifying events of the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021, Twitter announced that it was suspending Trump's account permanently, in accordance with its policy on inciting violence. The daily clamor that had affected so many lives was extinguished in a second, and millions breathed relief.
Smash cut to this week. Elon Musk, who's in the process of buying Twitter for $44 billion, has announced that once he's in charge, he'll undo Trump's Twitter ban -- even though Trump claims he'd rather stick to his own social media platform, Truth Social. A self-avowed champion of "free speech," Musk said that the decision to suspend Trump was "morally wrong" and that it "didn't end Trump's voice. It will amplify it among the right."
Both of those assertions are incorrect. Banning Trump was the only conscionable response to January 6 -- and de-platforming is proven to quash provocateurs. But the fact that Musk is able to act on these ideas regardless speaks to an axiom that Trump himself exemplified: In today's America, one person with no conscience and access to the right pressure points can do almost anything they want. And as Trump's record shows, people who are prepared to misrepresent the truth as a means to -- or excuse for -- abusing their power once will almost certainly do so again.

When Trump ran for president in 2016, he promised to make America "great" and "safe." In November 2019, the New York Times investigated the 11,390 tweets he'd sent in his presidency to date. Over half were attacks on other people, and they set the tone for his presidency. Trump ruptured US foreign policy, antagonized nations already at loggerheads and in fall 2017, tweeted that North Korea may not "be around much longer!" -- which the country's foreign minister called a "declaration of war."
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Trump repeatedly referred to it as the "China virus," a label associated with a dramatic surge in anti-Asian racial hatred online. After he lost the US election, the lies he spread on Twitter were among his most popular posts ever, and stoked unprecedented violence.
Of course, Trump's disregard for consequences extended far beyond social media. Even as he used his platform to erode faith in democratic institutions, Trump appointed Supreme Court justices whose explicit political affiliations would determine the fates of millions to endear himself to voters he believed would keep him in power.

Elon Musk's move threatens to bring Trump back to the White House
When he needed the evangelical vote, he promised he'd appoint anti-abortion justices -- abandoning his own former pro-choice stance. About 27% of the voting-eligible population voted for Trump in 2016, but now, 100% of the population will bear the fallout for decades to come. In the uncannily prescient words of Trump's onetime supporter Kanye West, "no one man should have all that power" -- but he did.
Increasingly, it appears Elon Musk is cut from similar cloth, and gaining similarly outsized influence. He constantly claims to prize free speech, but seems to misunderstand what it is -- and has repeatedly proven himself a hypocrite when it comes to upholding it.
Tesla employees, scores of whom have alleged racism, sexism and other forms of abuse, are bound by strict limitations on what they can say about the company. Tesla hides vehicle safety information from public view (in response to past media queries about its handling of safety data, Tesla did not comment), and Musk has often sought to control what journalists and bloggers write about both himself and his companies -- once even canceling a customer's order when he discovered a blog post they'd authored that he felt was "rude."

When a teenager tracked the progress of Musk's private jet on Twitter using publicly available information, Musk tried to shut him down. Though he moves in a different sphere to Trump, his words also carry huge weight, moving stock markets via the most casual remarks on his Twitter feed.
In the last few months, Musk has forged an association in the public mind between his name and free speech by sheer repetition, despite regular gaffes on the subject. He's said that people should be able to speak freely on Twitter "within the bounds of the law," but also claims that some examples of "hate speech" are "fine," while others are not.
In fact, hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, because hate speech laws can be abused by governments to suppress critics. As commentators keep pointing out, Twitter is less the "town square" for unfettered self-expression that Musk idealizes and more like a shop, with an obligation to maintain

Musk appears so comfortable contradicting himself that it's difficult to tell how much of what he says is deliberate prevarication and how much is just ignorance. Much as Trump was content to dismiss the advice of experienced colleagues when he was president, Elon Musk seems to have decided he has a better grasp on the vagaries of social media and content moderation than everyone who has run a platform before him. His statements on how he'll run Twitter constantly betray a blindness to how complicated that will actually be, and a Trumpian assurance that he must know best.
Like Trump, Musk hasn't let his own checkered record or lack of insight get in the way of casting himself as the figurehead for a cause -- and because, like Trump, he commands an enormous and attentive audience, he's been extremely successful. His willingness to overlook or disregard facts in the pursuit of his ambitions bears a sinister resemblance to Trump, as does his flair for repeating himself ad nauseam until people accept his statements as fact.
If we learned anything from Trump's time in the spotlight, it was that he should never have been allowed it in the first place. Again and again, he highlighted design flaws in systems both state and private that should have better protected the public -- whether by lying to his millions of followers on Twitter, or appointing judges to buffer his position in government. Elon Musk's crusade in the name of "free speech" is already exploiting the same weaknesses. There's no controlling for shameless, intransigent men, but there urgently need to be more dependable limits over their influence. Musk shouldn't run Twitter like the Wild West, but as the law stands, he can.
Reply Sun 15 May, 2022 10:05 am

13 May 2022
Dark mood’: Australian researchers lament state of science ahead of election
Scientists say little is being done to address declining research funding, low morale and job insecurity.

Scientists in Australia are despondent ahead of the country’s election next week. They say neither the government nor the main opposition party have made sufficient pledges to address issues surrounding research funding, low morale and job insecurity — issues that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated.

“There’s a very dark mood in science in Australia at the moment,” says Darren Saunders, a biomedical scientist at the University of Sydney. “It’s pretty shocking actually. It’s pretty sad. A lot of people have had a really tough time of it.”

Opinion polls suggest that voters could oust the government, led by prime minister Scott Morrison of the conservative Liberal–National coalition, on 21 May. Polls report that the opposition centre-left Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, would receive 54% of votes. But some political analysts are reluctant to predict the result after the coalition defied the polls and won the last election.

So far, the campaign has focused on the economy and the cost of living. Researchers say they are disappointed that science and the environment have barely featured, despite the ongoing pandemic and large parts of the country experiencing calamitous bush fires and flooding in recent years. Australians “need a government that can take on board evidence, create policy and respond effectively to a crisis”, says Michael Brown, an astrophysicist at Monash University in Melbourne.

Science funding
Scientists say a boost in research funding is desperately needed. Government investment in science has declined by 16% since 2009, under both Liberal–National and Labor-led governments, and some warn that the sector is in a dire state. When the government closed Australia’s borders during the pandemic, universities — where about half the nation’s researchers work — lost a major source of funding because international students who pay high fees could not return to study. Universities were dealt another blow in 2021, when the federal government implemented legislation that cut funding for science teaching and research. “The lack of funding has hit the road, and a lot of people have lost their jobs, a lot of people shut their labs,” says Saunders.

In the first year of the pandemic, about 9000 full-time-equivalent university jobs were lost, according to figures from the Australian Academy of Science. That’s equivalent to around one in 14 employees.

“We’ve laid off 10% of our staff,” says Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt, the vice-chancellor of the Australian National University in Canberra. And with the reduction in overall government funding and fees from international students, Schmidt says that the university will not be able to fund as much science in the years ahead. Research-intensive universities have been hit the hardest because science incurs more costs than arts-based courses, he says.

As a result of funding cuts, job losses, growing workloads and worsening morale, the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) warned in March that the country’s science system “could emerge from the pandemic weaker than it began”. The academy is calling on whoever wins the election to conduct a national review of research and to develop a long-term investment strategy.

Labor has promised to reform university funding if elected, but has released limited details of its plans. Meanwhile, Morrison’s government has promised around Aus$2.2 billion (US$1.5 billion) over the next decade for the commercialization of research. Labor has also vowed to prioritize commercialization.

The $2.2-billion pledge could be a “game-changer” for research commercialization in Australia, says Misha Schubert, chief executive of Science & Technology Australia, a Canberra-based organization that represents around 90,000 scientists and technologists. But a plan for supporting basic research is also needed, she says. “Without those discovery breakthroughs, we have nothing to translate or commercialize,” says Schubert. There is also an urgent need to provide more security and certainty for the workforce, especially early-career scientists, she says.

Brain drain
Financial precarity is leading to a ‘brain drain’ of researchers moving overseas or into other jobs, says Mohammad Taha, co-deputy chair of the AAS’s Early- and Mid-Career Researcher Forum. Finding firm numbers on how many scientists leave the country or profession is difficult, but surveys by Professional Scientists Australia in 2020 and 2021 found that around one in five respondents wanted to leave the scientific workforce permanently.

Many researchers, particularly those early in their career, have limited job security. The survey by Professional Scientists Australia found that almost one in four respondents had a fixed-term contract, and the average duration was only 18 months. The problem is compounded by researchers’ “unsustainable” workloads, and the incredibly challenging process they face to secure research grants, says Taha. “There’s an expectation that if you’re not burning out, it means that you're not working hard enough,” Taha says, adding that these issues particularly affect minorities.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-01281-2

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Reply Mon 16 May, 2022 11:50 am
Robot Operating System 2: Design, architecture, and uses in the wild

SCIENCE ROBOTICS • 11 May 2022 • Vol 7, Issue 66 • DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.abm6074
The next chapter of the robotics revolution is well underway with the deployment of robots for a broad range of commercial use cases. Even in a myriad of applications and environments, there exists a common vocabulary of components that robots share—the need for a modular, scalable, and reliable architecture; sensing; planning; mobility; and autonomy. The Robot Operating System (ROS) was an integral part of the last chapter, demonstrably expediting robotics research with freely available components and a modular framework. However, ROS 1 was not designed with many necessary production-grade features and algorithms. ROS 2 and its related projects have been redesigned from the ground up to meet the challenges set forth by modern robotic systems in new and exploratory domains at all scales. In this Review, we highlight the philosophical and architectural changes of ROS 2 powering this new chapter in the robotics revolution. We also show through case studies the influence ROS 2 and its adoption has had on accelerating real robot systems to reliable deployment in an assortment of challenging environments.
Many software platforms have been proposed, sometimes called middlewares, introducing modular and adaptable features that make it easier to build robot systems. Over time, some middlewares have grown to become rich ecosystems of utilities, algorithms, and sample applications. Few rival the Robot Operating System (ROS 1) in its significance on the maturing robotics industry.
ROS 1 was popularized by the robotics incubator Willow Garage (1). Every effort was made to create a quality and performant system, but security, network topology, and system up-time were not prioritized. Regardless, ROS 1 has become influential in nearly every intelligent machine sector. Its commercial rise was the result of flagship projects providing autonomous navigation, simulation, visualization, control, and more (2–4). As commercial opportunities transitioned into products, ROS’s foundation as a research platform began to show its limitations. Security, reliability in nontraditional environments, and support for large-scale embedded systems became essential to push the industry forward. Further, many companies were building workarounds on top or inside of ROS 1 to create reliable applications (5).
The second generation of the Robot Operating System, ROS 2, was redesigned from the ground up to address these challenges while building on the success of its community-driven capabilities (6). ROS 2 is based on the Data Distribution Service (DDS), an open standard for communications that is used in critical infrastructure such as military, spacecraft, and financial systems (7). It solves many of the problems in building reliable robotics systems. DDS enables ROS 2 to obtain best-in-class security, embedded and real-time support, multirobot communication, and operations in nonideal networking environments. DDS was selected after considering other communication technologies, e.g., ZeroMQ and RabbitMQ, because of its breadth of features including a User Datagram Protocol (UDP) transport, distributed discovery, and a built-in security standard (8).
In this Review, we will establish ROS 2’s state-of-the-art suitability for modern robot systems and showcase the technological and philosophical changes that have driven its success. Then, we will expand on that foundation to demonstrate how ROS 2 is influencing the deployment of autonomous systems in several unique domains. Five case studies explore how ROS 2 has enabled or accelerated robots into the wild on land, sea, air, and even space.
The history of robot software is long and storied, going back more than 50 years with robots like Shakey (9). Over time, much has been written about how to structure classical planners, concurrent behaviors, and three-layer architectures (10–12). An early example of this is the Task Control Architecture (TCA), which was used to control a variety of robots. For example, Carnegie Mellon Robot Navigation Toolkit (CARMEN) was built on TCA’s message-passing system called IPC (interprocess communications) (13, 14). Message passing has its own rich history in distributed systems: from IBM’s work on message queuing, Java’s Jini, and middlewares such as MQ Telemetry Transport (MQTT) (15–17).
Robotics frameworks provide architectural methods to decompose complex software into smaller and more manageable pieces. Some of these components can find reuse in other systems and may be established into libraries to be leveraged by users. An early attempt to manage this complexity was via a client/server approach in Player (18). A Player server communicates with robot hardware and runs the algorithms needed to perform its task. Clients can connect to the server to extract data and control the robot over a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connection. However, its architecture hampered reliability, code reuse, and ability to change out components.
Yet Another Robot Platform (YARP) aids in building control systems organized as peers, communicating over several protocols (19). It facilitates research development and collaboration by promoting code reuse and modularity while retaining high performance. YARP can be used for any application, but its community has focused on humanoid and legged robotics, such as iCub and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Cheetah, and only supports C++.
Lightweight Communications and Marshalling (LCM) is a middleware that uses a publish/subscribe model with bindings in many languages. It concentrates on handling messaging and data marshaling in high-bandwidth low-latency environments (20). This limits the range of robotic applications for which LCM can be effectively used. Open Robot Control Software (OROCOS) is a set of libraries for robot control, focused on real-time control systems and related topics, such as computing kinematic chains and Bayesian filtering (21). The project has grown into a full framework integrating the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) middleware and tooling for deterministic computation in real-time applications. The LCM and OROCOS frameworks each concentrate on smaller pieces of the overall system, with a nontrivial proportion of the overall robotics problem left to the end-user.
ROS 1 contains a set of libraries that are useful when building many kinds of robots (1). There are utilities for monitoring processes, introspecting communications, receiving time-series transformations, and more. ROS 1 also has a large ecosystem of sensor, control, and algorithmic packages made available by community contributions, enabling a small team to build complex robotics applications. Although ROS 1 solves many of the complexity issues inherent to robotics, it struggles to consistently deliver data over lossy links (like WiFi or satellite links), has a single point of failure, and does not have any built-in security mechanisms. A table of key differences between ROS 1 and ROS 2 can be seen in Table 1.
Category ROS 1 ROS 2
Network transport Bespoke protocol
built on TCP/UDP Existing standard (DDS),
with abstraction supporting
addition of others
architecture Central name
server (roscore) Peer-to-peer discovery
Platform support Linux Linux, Windows, and
Client libraries Written independently
in each language Sharing a common
underlying C library (rcl)
Node versus process Single node per
process Multiple nodes per
Threading model Callback queues
and handlers Swappable executor
Node state
management None Lifecycle nodes
Embedded systems Minimal
support (rosserial) Commercially supported
Parameter access Auxilliary protocol
built on XMLRPC Implemented using
service calls
Parameter types Type inferred when
assigned Type declared and
Table 1. Summary of ROS 2 features compared with ROS 1.
The ROS 1 community attempted to address some of these concerns, but in nearly all cases, there were compromises made because of architectural and engineering limitations. For example, to address the single point of failure (“rosmaster”), it was required to patch all of the existing client libraries individually with bespoke solutions. In other cases, it was possible to extend ROS 1 for security, via the SROS project. Although successful, it was difficult to maintain and needed further development to meet security trends. These are just two of the many attempts to patch ROS 1, which extended its useful lifetime but did not solve its core limitations.
ROS 2 is a software platform for developing robotics applications, also known as a robotics software development kit (SDK). Importantly, ROS 2 is open source and distributed under the Apache 2.0 License, which grants users broad rights to modify, apply, and redistribute the software, with no obligation to contribute back (22). ROS 2 relies on a federated ecosystem in which contributors are encouraged to create and release their own software. Most additional packages also use the Apache 2.0 License or similar. Making code free is fundamental to driving mass adoption—it allows users to leverage ROS 2 without constraining how they use or distribute their applications.
ROS 2 supports a broad range of robotics applications, from education and research to product development and deployment. It comprises a large set of interrelated software components that are commonly used to develop robotics applications. The software ecosystem is divided into three categories:
1) Middleware: Referred to as the plumbing, the ROS 2 middleware encompasses communication among components, from network application program interfaces (APIs) to message parsers.
2) Algorithms: ROS 2 provides many of the algorithms commonly used when building robotics applications, e.g., perception, Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM), planning, and beyond.
3) Developer tools: ROS 2 includes a suite of command-line and graphical tools for configuration, launch, introspection, visualization, debugging, simulation, and logging. There is also a large suite of tools for source management, build processes, and distribution.
In this section, we will explore the first category, the middleware, as the foundation of ROS 2.
Design principles
The design of ROS 2 has been guided by a set of principles and a set of specific requirements. The following principles are asserted:
As with similarly complex domains, problems in robotics are best tackled with a distributed systems approach (23). Requirements are separated into functionally independent components, such as device drivers for hardware, perception systems, control systems, executives, and so on. At runtime, these components have their own execution context and share data via explicit communication. This composition should be conducted in a decentralized and secure manner.
To govern communication, interface specifications must be established. These messages define the semantics of the data exchanged. A favorable abstraction balances the benefits of exposing the details of a component against the costs of overfitting the rest of the application to that component, thereby making it difficult to substitute an alternative. This approach leads to an ecosystem of interoperable components abstracted away from specific vendors of hardware or software components (24).
The messages defined are communicated among the components asynchronously, creating an event-based system (25). With this approach, an application can work across the multiple time domains that arise from combining physical devices with a host of software components, each of which may have its own frequency for providing data, accepting commands, or signaling events.
The UNIX design goal to “make each program do one thing well” is mirrored (26). Modularity is enforced at multiple levels, across library APIs, message definitions, command-line tools, and even the software ecosystem itself. The ecosystem is organized into a large number of federated packages, as opposed to a single codebase.
We do not pretend that these design principles are universal and without trade-offs. Asynchrony can also make it more difficult to achieve deterministic execution. For any single, well-defined problem, it is possible to construct a special-purpose monolithic solution that is more computationally efficient because it does not involve abstractions or distributed communication.
However, after a decade of experience with the ROS 1 project, we claim that adherence to these principles will generally lead to better outcomes. This approach facilitates code reuse, software testing, fault isolation, collaboration within interdisciplinary project teams, and cooperation at a global scale.
Design requirements
ROS 2 aims to meet certain requirements based on the design principles and needs of robotics developers.
Any software that interacts with a network must include features to secure that interaction against accidental and malicious misuse. ROS 2’s integrated security system includes authentication, encryption, and access control (27–29). Designers can configure ROS 2 to meet their needs through access control policies that define who can communicate about what (30).
Embedded systems
As a general rule, a robot includes sensors, actuators, and other peripherals. These devices can be relatively sophisticated, containing microcontrollers that need to communicate with CPU(s) where ROS 2 is running. A full ROS 2 stack is not expected to run on small embedded devices, although ROS 2 should facilitate and standardize integration of CPUs and microcontrollers. Micro-ROS allows ROS 2 to be reused on embedded systems (31).
Diverse networks
Robots are used in a variety of networking environments, from wired LAN for robot arms on assembly lines to multihop satellite connections for planetary rovers. In addition, robots will often use internal networks to connect processes within and across CPUs. ROS 2 provides quality of service that configures how data flow through the system, thereby adapting to the constraints of a network (32).
Real-time computing
From humanoids to self-driving cars, it is common for robot applications to include real-time computing requirements. To meet safety and/or performance goals, some parts of a system must execute in deterministic amounts of time. ROS 2 offers APIs for developers of real-time systems to enforce application-specific constraints (33, 34).
Product readiness
When a robot moves beyond the laboratory and into commercial use, new constraints are introduced. ROS 2 aims to meet product requirements spanning design, development, and project governance. One objective result of these efforts is Apex.AI’s functional safety [International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 26262] certification of their ROS 2-based autonomous vehicle software (35). This allows ROS 2 to be run in safety critical systems like autonomous vehicles and heavy machinery.
Communication patterns
The ROS 2 APIs provide access to communication patterns. These are notably topics, services, and actions that are organized under the concept of a node. ROS 2 also provides APIs for parameters, timers, launch, and other auxiliary tools that can be used to design a robotic system.
The most common pattern that users will interact with is topics, which are an asynchronous message-passing framework. This is similar to other asynchronous frameworks, such as ASIO (36). ROS 2 provides the same publish-subscribe functionality but focuses on using asynchronous messaging to organize a system using strongly typed interfaces. It does so by organizing end points in a computational graph under the concept of a node. The node is an important organizational unit that allows a user to reason about a complex system, shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1. ROS 2 node interfaces: Topics, services, and actions.
The anonymous publish-subscribe architecture allows many-to-many communication, which is advantageous for system introspection. A developer may observe any messages passing on a topic by creating a subscription to that topic without any changes.
Asynchronous communication is not always the right tool. ROS 2 also provides a request-response style pattern, known as services. Request-response communication provides easy data association between a request and response pair, which can be useful when ensuring a task was completed or received, shown in Fig. 1. Uniquely, ROS 2 allows a service client’s process to not be blocked during a call. Services are also organized under a node for organization and introspection, allowing a subsystem’s interfaces to appear together in system diagnostics.
A unique communication pattern of ROS 2 is the action. Actions are goal-oriented and asynchronous communication interfaces with a request, response, periodic feedback, and the ability to be canceled (Fig. 1). This pattern is used in long-running tasks such as autonomous navigation or manipulation, although it has a variety of uses. Similar to services, actions are nonblocking and organized under the node.
Middleware architecture
Adhering to the previous design philosophies, the architecture of ROS 2 consists of several important abstraction layers distributed across many decoupled packages. These abstraction layers make it possible to have multiple solutions for required functionality, e.g., multiple middlewares or loggers. In addition, the distribution across many packages allows users to replace components or take only the pieces of the system they require, which may be important for certification.
Abstraction layers
Figure 2 displays the abstraction layers within ROS 2. They are generally hidden behind the client library during development, and developers would only need to be aware of them for unusually application-specific needs. Most users will experience only the client libraries.
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MAY 14, 2022
Zero COVID in China: what next?
Shawn Yuan Published:May 14, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(22)00873-X
PlumX Metrics

How China cornered itself into an unsustainable COVID-19 control strategy, and the slim prospects for change. Shawn Yuan reports.
More than 2 years after China ended its unprecedented lockdown in Wuhan as the first COVID-19 outbreak paralysed the central Chinese city, the Chinese Government remains adamant on sticking with its zero-COVID strategy, raising serious questions of exactly how China is going to exit this pandemic.
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Starting in March this year, China's biggest city, Shanghai, has been hit with its worst outbreak, with hundreds of thousands of cases logged. Subsequent strict lockdowns in the city have caused havoc among residents, separating families and straining food and medical resources.
Initially only certain districts were put under lockdown, prohibiting cross-district travel, and as the case numbers began to spike, the lockdown spread to the entire city: residents were only allowed to leave the house once every few days, depending on the risk level of the neighbourhood, and those who tested positive would be transported to quarantine centres or hospitals, and their neighbours would then also be prohibited movement.
The goal of this round of lockdown remains the same: to adhere with the dynamic zero-COVID strategy that essentially is aimed at stamping out outbreaks with mass testing and lockdowns to achieve zero cases, also dubbed defeating the virus, as put by the Government.
The zero-COVID strategy has been the pillar of China's anti-epidemic policies for over 2 years. Government officials have long touted China's success in keeping the virus at bay, in stark contrast with other countries where the virus has killed more than 6 million people. According to the official statistics, the virus has so far killed around 5,000 people in mainland China, although many have questioned the reliability of the number and attributed it to China's method of counting COVID deaths. President Xi Jinping has repeatedly said that “people's lives are of utmost importance”, to justify border closures and strict domestic control policies. “The dynamic zero COVID strategy has protected most of mainland China from the health and health system impacts of COVID transmission in the community”, said Ben Cowling, Head of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Hong Kong. However, during the latest round of lockdown in Shanghai, as the adverse effects of the lockdown including food supply shortage and disruptions to the economy and access to medical care, are growing more visible and sometimes more detrimental than COVID-19 itself, many begin to seriously doubt how effective the country's lockdown policies are in curbing the virus' spreading.
One Shanghai resident who spoke with The Lancet described his father's unsuccessful attempt to receive dialysis due to hospitals' strict policy of no admission without a negative PCR test for COVID-19, and another complained about his dwindling supply of essentials, including food. Many people in Shanghai have written on social media about the collateral damage of confinement rules, including many patients with chronic and non-COVID-19-related diseases losing their access to medical care.
“The Government is trying to clear all the COVID-19 cases, so they focused all of their attention on this virus, but they undercounted other diseases, and they tend to ignore or neglect the non-COVID-19 deaths”, said Xi Chen, an Associate Professor at Yale University School of Public Health who focuses on health policy and economics.
Two officials from China's provincial-level health commissions who spoke with The Lancet on condition of anonymity also voiced doubt towards the policy. “COVID-19 has become a highly politicised disease in China, and any voice advocating for the deviation from the current zero-COVID path will be punished”, one official said. “No one from the top really listens to expert opinions anymore, and it's honestly humiliating to us medical experts.” Another official also expressed similar sentiments, saying that the damage the policy has caused has outweighed the benefits it brings. “This is not cost-effective, and we all know it”, the official said.
Closely tied to China's strict implementation of non-pharmaceutical measures to control COVID-19 is its vaccination campaign, which according to Yanzhong Huang, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is seemingly unrelated to the intensity of the lockdown measures put in place. After an initially sluggish vaccination campaign, China stepped up inoculations with its domestically manufactured vaccines, most notably those by Sinopharm and Sinovac, but vulnerable groups were not prioritized. By late February, 2021, the vaccination rate in mainland China only reached 3.56%, compared with 53% by August last year and 87% by now. Drawing data from the most recent wave of outbreak in Hong Kong, experts at the University of Hong Kong reported that two doses of the Sinovac vaccine were 72% effective against severe or fatal disease for people older than 60 years in a non-peer-reviewed study looking at infections between December 31, 2021 and March 8, 2022. With a booster dose, the effectiveness reaches 98%. However, the vaccination rate in mainland China among older people remains low: even though more than 87% of the population have received two doses of the vaccine, among those older than 80 years, just over half have had two doses and less than 20% have received a booster, according to Zeng Yixin, a Vice Minister of the National Health Commission.
This lack of protection in the groups most susceptible to severe disease makes it difficult for China to change its policy safely. “It's mind boggling that for the most part of the last 2 years, China has had very few cases but has failed to fully vaccinate the elderly, who are at the most risk of getting infected and developing severe symptoms from the virus”, said Huang. “Experience in Singapore demonstrates that a safe exit from zero COVID is possible if vaccine coverage in older adults can reach a very high level”, said Cowling.
Huang and Chen said that vaccine hesitancy has been fostered by the lack of urgency to get vaccinated in China. China's control of COVID-19 gives citizens fewer reasons to get vaccinated, especially when there was widespread misinformation on the side-effects of vaccines such as frequent heart attacks and severe allergies. The logic goes: there is no need to get vaccinated when there is no virus in the first place.
The Government in Beijing remains committed to the zero-COVID strategy. “It's imperative that we keep a clear head and unswervingly adhere to the general policy of dynamic zero COVID, and resolutely fight against all words and deeds that distort, doubt, and deny our country's anti-epidemic policies”, President Xi said during a meeting on May 5, while lockdown continues in Shanghai and case numbers increase in Beijing.
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Health experts say that several conditions will have to be met before China will consider a change in policy, barring the possibility of China losing full control of the virus, which would essentially force the Government to live with the virus—much like what happened in New Zealand.
Stepping up vaccination among older people while strengthening the health-care sector is an absolute “prerequisite”, according to Chen. Informing the public about the changing nature of infection—the decreased severity of the B.1.1.529 (omicron) variant and the reduced risks following vaccination—will also be needed. One argument frequently used by the Government and those who stand by the zero-COVID strategy is that once the policy is relaxed, the health-care system will soon be overloaded and there will be an unmanageable increase in deaths. To tackle this issue, experts have proposed solutions that are aligned with international practice. Chen said that the Government should start drafting regulations or guidelines on the treatment of patients with varying degrees of severity, with the aim of not admitting everyone infected with the virus to hospital (as previously required) by asking for home quarantine, and leaving hospital and intensive care unit beds for those who need them most. “If you can prohibit millions of people from stepping out of home during a lockdown, then there really is no merit to the argument that you can't ask people with mild symptoms to not visit hospitals”, Huang said.
Even with updated medical guidelines, however, China's political landscape will also play a pivotal role. Huang says that, with the party Congress approaching when President Xi is poised to secure an unprecedented third term of presidency, the Government will strive to maintain the stability that has been the foundation of Xi's political ambition.
With the influenza season due to begin soon after the party Congress, the timeline for China's reopening is murky at the best. “The earliest possible time for China to drop the current measures is early next year, and even that has no guarantee whatsoever”, Chen said.
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Published: 14 May 2022
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(22)00873-X

© 2022 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Reply Thu 19 May, 2022 09:36 am
Aerial-aquatic robots capable of crossing the air-water boundary and hitchhiking on surfaces

Reply Fri 20 May, 2022 02:01 am
Reply Sat 21 May, 2022 09:08 am

Both CHDSK and SFC Scannow are Windows built-in command-line utilities and are supported by Windows 10/8/7. You can use them to check and fix computer errors, but their functions are different. To check and fix hard disk errors or explore bad sectors on the disk, you should run CHKDSK.

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