February 07, 2020

Second Order Effects, Leading Indicators, Devil's Advocacy, and Friendly Advice

Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is starting to have second order economic effects. Hundai is shutting down at least one factory due to a shortage of parts from China. Similar issues are stymieing production at Airbus, Kia, Apple, and EricssonAB and this is unlikely to be an isolated trend.  Certainly futures markets believe so as copper prices are plummeting to nearly a three year low.

There have been a number of disease outbreaks that have caused concern over the last few years, SARS, MERS, any number of bird flu variants, Ebola, and others were (and in the case of Ebola still are) serious problems and genuinely dangerous, but they did not approach anything like what was feared and may contribute to a cry wolf effect when the big one hits. Something feels different about this, it may not pan out but the impression I get is that if it doesn't become a pandemic, it will be because of heroic efforts and luck.

A leading indicator of what the U.S. government may think is coming can be found in the fact that the Pentagon is being asked to set up quarantine stations on or near 11 airports nationwide. This is in addition to the 20 that the Centers for Disease Control operate. As of a week ago there were already 1,000 people in the U.S. in quarantine for this virus.  


I was asked on Discord to comment about the following:

There has been some speculation that the location of China's Class 4 Biohazard facility smack dab in the middle of this mess, and that the 2 week asymptomatic contagious period  (which is near the gold standard for a bioweapon) indicate that this disease is a military pathogen that got away from them like Glanders did from the Germans in WW1.

First of all, there's no direct evidence. Second, evolution is perfectly capable of producing horrific examples of pestilence as the Black Death, Plague of Justinian, Smallpox and Spanish Influenza show. Third, it is probably not relevant as the disease exists and must be dealt with. I emphasize probably because if it were an engineered virus that might have implications for treatment, though such matters are beyond a mere bachelor of arts' area of expertise.

I'm skeptical, but in the interest of devil's advocacy it should be noted that the P.R.C. is, like the U.S.S.R. before it, is a communist dictatorship. Using bioweapons seems unwise in the extreme, but the hubris of a bureaucrat knows no bounds and if the 5-year plan says that there will be a vaccine fore one's own forces, then in the mind of a bureaucrat that vaccine will exist. Additionally, in an earlier post we mentioned that serious concerns were raised about the then-under-construction Wuhan lab in 2017 and that there were 2 earlier containment failures with the less dangerous SARS virus in a Beijing lab about a decade ago. One involved a protocol issue and one involved an attempted live virus vaccine that had not, in fact, been rendered fully safe. China doesn't have a good track record in this area.  Here is an interview with  Ken Albiek who was an executive at Biopreparat (the soviet bio-warfare program). It's pretty horrifying, particularly the bit about what happened in Sverdlovsk when a filter was not properly installed and someone broke a container. Anthrax is not person to person contagious, had it been a more virulent disease it would have been  a major incident, with the only saving grace being the closed nature of the Soviet Union. It's entirely possible that the odious Chinese regime did botch something like happened in Sverdlovsk , but there is no hard evidence I'm aware of and eating fruit bats is a perfectly reliable way to get dreadful new diseases.

So heed this friendly advice...



Also:If you are interested in biowarfare,its potential for bio-terrorism or find that you sleep too soundly at night, I recommend buying BioHazzard, by Ken Albiek, which gives an overview in layman accessible terms of the mischief that Biopreparat was involved in.

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February 02, 2020

More Pronouncements Pertaining to Pestilence


There's nothing particularly unexpected in the news of the Coronavirus except for this that Instapundit found this morning. A story indicating that the bug's transmission rate outside China is expected to closely follow that inside China (hardly news) is getting deleted.

Perhaps it's the wording.

 Coronavirus infections predicted to grow exponentially; first death outside China; outbreak becomes political.

That WaPo link was good as of 10:50 AM, but several of the links on this ">screenshot are not.

Note that the John Hopkins tracking page does not match the aforementioned headline as of this post.

In other news, Ebola is having something of a resurgence in the Congo.

Fortunately, humanity is resilient, and can find something positive even in this mess.

OK...perhaps it's not that fortunate, but this exists.


Corona-Chan and Ebola-Chan:Viral Gal-lows humor is by dp6523

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February 01, 2020

Oh For Crying Out Loud

While China's Hubei Provence has been in the news with this Coronavirus, Hunan Provence has been hit with what is being described as a highly pathogenic strain of H5N1 birdflu in Hunan Provence.

Over 17,000 chickens have been killed trying to get a handle on this secondary mess, about which the news is mixed.

The virus does not infect humans easily, and spread from person to person appears to be unusual," the WHO said. "There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly prepared and thoroughly cooked food." The mortality rate in humans is 60%, the WHO added.


Emphasis mine

Let's hope it stays mostly bird-bound.

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January 27, 2020

More Viral Videos

Dev, over at Short Fat Otaku lived in Wuhan for a while and has film he took there as well as some thoughts on the matter, 



Vee, is not really a Nazi vampire, he's actually a libertarian doctor and he has two videos on the situation as it stood yesterday.

One on quarantine.

And one on why he finds the hype credible.

Coincidentally, all 3 are are around 13 minutes long. 

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January 26, 2020

A Note of Concern:

With regard to what we mentioned day before yesterday regarding the situation in Wuhan PRC and Captain Tripps this new Coronavirus, it's hard for us outside the loop to know what is hype, misinformation, miscommunication, mistranslation, a combination of all four, or rock solid investigative reporting.

What we can be reasonably confident of is that the Chinese Communist Party, being a totalitarian state, is going to try to cover-up or minimize the situation to the maximum extent possible and even rather beyond credulity.

Thus, seeing that Chinese Premier Xi Jinping has declared that the situation is "grave"  is cause for some concern. This is as close to a declaration of emergency as we're ever likely to see from the politburo. I've got a degree in Asian history and while certainly no China hand, I've done several papers on Chinese politics, and the fact that Xi Jinping is admitting even this much is a genuinely terrifying thing. The CCP considers its people to be grease for the machinery of their state.

But this situation actually seems to have them scared.


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January 23, 2020

Take With a Grain of Salt (UPDATE)

There's a lot of talk about the outbreak of this coronavirus which started in Wuhan and has now spread to multiple countries. At this point the death toll 5 days on is said (by the ever-so-trustworthy government of China) to be 25. That's almost equal to a half-hour in a really bad flu season, but given the small numbers reported (~825) that comes to one in 33 of those infected being killed...which is....quite impressive if the data is accurate.

The data's probably NOT accurate. It's almost certainly skewed one way or another. However, the Chinese have instituted a quarantine(!) of Wuhan, where the outbreak started. Wuhan is a city that's bigger than London. There are now multiple cities that are also locked down. I don't know the provenance of the following video, but it is alleged to be from inside Wuhan...where they are apparently going to great lengths to look like the beginning of a zombie movie.



Entirely coincidentally, Wuhan is the home of China's National Bio-Safety Laboratory China's first level 4 Biohazard facility which now handles the most deadly diseases on the planet, because China has had such a good record with the less dangerous ones.

Fortunately, we can all rest easy, because despite what some on the internet are implying when they talk about the situation in Wuhan City, it turns out that the Chinese word for raccoon is not actually wuhan , it's huànxióng.

So rejoice! There are no zombies in evidence at this time.
But there is reason to keep one's eye on this.

UPDATE:
In the U.K., doctors are being given instructions on how to deal with a patient that is suspected of having this bug. "Lock the patient in a room and leave the area straightaway."
I don't know if this just socialized medicine at work, or this is serious business, but I'm starting to lean towards the latter.
Good LORD!

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May 07, 2018

Signs, Portents and Ponderables


 This story dates from March, but it caught my eye for a couple of reasons.

"We’re seeing members from all the three letter agencies,” said Fortitude creator Drew Miller, a retired Air Force colonel and intelligence officer, in a reference to the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

The gentleman being quoted runs Fortitude Ranch, a prepper outfit that provides a number of fallout shelters and protected compounds around the U.S. in the event of a societal catastrophe. 

The two facilities near D.C. are reportedly getting a lot of business from civil servants in agencies that would be standing duty during a crisis with the aim of protecting family members.

Over the last several years, there have been quite a few luxury bomb shelters in the news like Vivos that cater to millionaires and such. While those are certainly cause for interest with regards to what the rich and connected might be anticipating, this particular collection of facilities are interesting in part because of their austerity. 

The underground portions of the compounds are not 5-star accommodations. 



They do, however, appear to be reasonably well thought out and adequate

The company requires that everyone familiarize themselves with their facilities weapons and stand watch at the gates in the event the area is habitable. They provide air transport from the many small airports in the DC area, to get the families to the facilities in a crisis.

One clever bit: they want their clients to be familiar with the facilities so they double as rustic resorts (as they have large acrerages and the east coast facilities are in the mountains) at which the members can relax and get training on the facilities weapons(!).

So why should this be of any interest:
The impression given by their approach and lack of granite countertops is that this series of shelters is for people who are...serious...about this sort of thing. More importantly, civil servants in the agencies that concern themselves with this stuff have reportedly looked at the situation the country is in and decided to put down money on it. 

The whole thing brings to mind this...



Yes kids. It's time to get your bug out bags in order.
 

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May 06, 2018

A Solution to the Fermi Paradox

At some point every advanced species reaches such a level of prosperity and safety amongst their creative classes that whatever serves as their equivalent of an amygdala atrophies to such a degree that some theoretically intelligent minds conclude that an "internet of things" is a good idea and nobody has the good sense to tar and feather them. 


To wit.
 

The cyber threat hunters had honed their chops at the National Security Agency -- the world's premier electronic spy agency. And last fall, they were analyzing malware samples from around the world when they stumbled across something highly troubling: the first known piece of computer software designed to kill humans.

 I suggest that you  read the whole thing.

 Now yes; " first known piece of computer software designed to kill humans" indicates a lack of understanding of how fire control systems work. But, they're talking about malware here so, all pedantry aside... There is a bit in the article about a particular company's policy not to provide information on the source of the attacks. I have some questions about that for my more technically inclined readers.

I would imagine that it is very difficult to achieve any certainty on where an attack comes from since it would seem likely that routing access through a third party one might want to frame would inherently be well within the capability of entities doing this sort of thing. I'm not particularly tech savvy so I have to ask if this is this even remotely correct.

Is it still considered best practice to have an air gap between one's equipment software and the internet? Obviously this is pretty much thrown out the window by the internet of things, which are all about convenience with little or no thought to security. However if someone's internet connected slow cooker is hacked there is a culinary mishap. If someone's refrigerator is hacked to empty their checking account and order 500 gallons of natto and boiled okra, then one person stupid enough to give his the refrigerator the keys to his Amazon account has learned a lesson.   If these industrial systems are hacked we could have another Bhopal. Why is there a way to access these on site systems from the internet at all? Shouldn't that be on site? 

Of course one needs the ability to send out a general alarm but that interface can be electro-mechanical and therefore nigh un-hackable, at least remotely.  

Anyway, I'm curious what others have to say on this. 
So discuss...

 

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January 14, 2018

Crying Wolf

As everyone in the world knows, Hawaii was not hit with an ICBM yesterday. This appears to have been a similar screw up to what happened in Guam last year, but much more widely noticed. 


A few things to takeaway from this....

Despite its position as a major strategic target from which there is no escape, Hawaii doesn't seem to have much of a public fallout shelter system online.  (There are reports  that they're working on this though)We don't here either, but that is due to geology (and a water table 4 feet below the grass).


"Duck and Cover" will actually increase the chances of survival, especially in a limited attack. Note that even if duck and cover only increased ones survival odds by one percent, in a nation of 320 million that's 3.2 million more people who would survive than would otherwise. 

Enough of these false alarms will assure that if/when the actual attack comes innocent fatalities will be maximized. 

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May 20, 2011

End Times

I thought it was a joke, but the CDC page really does have info on Romero-zombies. Of course it IS a joke...I hope...but it actually is on the CDC site.

Now as I type this, tomorrow is alleged to be the end of the world. The Anchoress of all people is, amongst other things directing her readers to Rapture looting parties.

I'm pretty sure that this whole silly thing is being hyped out of proportion by Dick Dawkins athiests. Predicting the end times is actually a sin in Christianity and I'm unaware of anyone who takes this seriously except the dunderhead preacher and members of his flock. I suspect at least some of the "believers" being interviewed are Mobys. Still, there is much idiocy to lampoon here. Don has thoughts and links to thoughts along those lines.

There is also the potential for amusing mischief: Steven Den Beste points to a helpful suggestion and of course there is this.


via

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May 11, 2009

DO NOT GO TO ANIMEONDVD.COM

DANGER DANGER DANGER DANGER DANGER
Wonderduck is taking the malware hits so we don't have too.

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