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Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Sumerian King List and Genesis (2) - YHWH

Somewhere in 1976-78, I was introduced to the name of YHWH, pronounced as Yahweh, by a former Catholic priest who taught social sciences, including religion, at my Christian high school. He told us that YHWH meant: I am here for you. I have always liked that name and meaning and thus stopped referring to God in my prayers before sleeping.

Nowadays, Christian religions usually refer to God rather than YHWH. The Jehovah witnesses are an exception as Jehovah is another pronunciation of YHWH. Interestingly, there is even another and older word for God or YHWH: Elohim. Genesis 1 refers to Elohim while Genesis 2 refers to YHWH-Elohim. Wiki: "Hebrew grammar allows for this nominally plural form to mean "He is the Power (singular) over powers (plural)", or roughly, "God of gods" ".

"Although the biblical narratives depict Yahweh as the sole creator god, lord of the universe, and god of the Israelites especially, initially he seems to have been Canaanite in origin and subordinate to the supreme god El." (Ancient)

"Canaanite inscriptions mention a lesser god Yahweh and even the biblical Book of Deuteronomy stipulates that “the Most High, El, gave to the nations their inheritance” and that “Yahweh’s portion is his people, Jacob and his allotted heritage” (32:8-9)." (Ancient)

Wiki: "The word [Elohim] is identical to the usual plural of el, meaning gods or magistrates, and is cognate to the 'l-h-m found in Ugaritic, where it is used for the pantheon of Canaanite gods, the children of El, and conventionally vocalized as "Elohim"."

Considering the Hebrew meaning for El-Elohim as "He is the Power (singular) over powers (plural)", or roughly, "God of gods", El-Elohim most likely represents the main Sumerian entity Abzu/Apsu.

YHWH might then be one of Abzu/Apsu's descendants. Most likely, YHWH would be Enlil who "cleaved heaven and earth in two and carried away the earth while his father An carried away the sky." (Wiki)

The religious entity Ahura Mazda (or: Wise Lord) in ancient Persian Zoroastrianism (c. 1500 BC) may be the same entity as Abzu/Apsu. Zoroastrianism predates the 3 Abrahamic religions by hundreds of years: Judaism (< 1000 BC), Christianity (c. 35 AD) and Islam (c. 632 AD).

Yah Mo B There (1983) by James Ingram & Michael McDonald

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Change, the centrifugal force of beliefs (2)

Some 2 weeks ago, I wrote my blog: Change, the centrifugal force of beliefs. My blog casually stated that a centrifugal force "leaves a void in the middle". I didn't realise that I was referring to another important concept: a vacuum. A vacuum cannot last long as a vacuum creates an imploding force, like electromagnetism, one of the 4 fundamental forces of Nature.

A similar comment ("a vacuum doesn't last long") was made in my new favourite TV series Justified (rated 8.6 in IMDb), which broadcasts on Amazon Prime Video. Winding up criminal organisations will create opportunities for newcomers as Money is a powerful Belief system.

The same principle must apply to Politics, another one in my concept of the 7 Belief systems. The slowly emerging vacuum in the political center will - sooner or later - allow opportunities for newcomers. I'm not talking about the (new) Presidents in Brazil, Philippines, Turkey or USA. These people represent the centrifugal force towards the political fringes.

I think, feel and believe there is an emerging vacuum in geopolitics. The US retreat, including its threats to retreat, from international organisations (eg, climate, ICCNAFTA, NATO, TPPUN, UN HRC, WTO) offers opportunities to nations for filling this vacuum (eg, Foreign Policy, 2017).

The Belt and Road Initiative (a.k.a. One Belt One Road) represents the Chinese ambition for recreating the ancient imperial Silk Road trade routes. As a consequence, China now controls the Greek port of Piraeus and several other European ports (NPR). Chinese infrastructure investments in Sri Lanka have caused concern in India and USA and may also be linked to yesterday's alleged assassination plot as claimed by the Sri Lankan President (Bloomberg).

The perceived dangers of Chinese infrastructure investments in Africa have led a "strong bipartisan" support in US Congress to pass the "Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act" (a.k.a. the BUILD Act) "while the Trump administration has yet to formulate a policy toward the region" (Brookings). Note LO: there is not even a Wiki link yet.

This vacuum in geopolitics and the opportunities for others could be illustrated by: 
(2) increasing Chinese threats to invade Taiwan (my 2018 blogs of August and October).

Perhaps, the most scary part is that the 45th US President needs a (currency, cyber, military and/or trade) war to (i) reunite his (extremely) divided country, (ii) get re-elected in 2020, and (iii) lose Robert Mueller's Russia probe against him. Also see my 2016 blog: Time & Space - Conflict, Chaos and Change.

You Can Feel It (2015) by Young Gun Silver Fox
artists, bandcampFblyrics, video, no Wiki link

It's coming around again 
Change is in the air 
It doesn't always need a name 
You don't have to see it to know it's there 
'Cause you can feel it

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Monday, 29 October 2018

Sumerian King List and Genesis

Nowadays, people are skeptical about many things, and especially about the Book of Genesis from the Old Testament. A comparison between Politics (Sumerian King List), Religion ((Hebrew) Bible), and Science (eg, post-glacial sea level rise, archeological finds) reveals similarities which hardly can be considered a "coincidence".

A 1972 book by Thomas C. Hartman of the University of Wisconsin ("Some thoughts on the Sumerian King list and Genesis 5 and 11B") stated the following:

"In recent years the number of studies comparing the early chapters of Genesis with materials from various ancient civilizations - Mesopotamia in particular - has proliferated".

I found this quote as I noticed similarities between ancient events in Politics, Religion and Science (3 out of the 7 Belief systems).

The Great Flood (my 2016 blog) is mentioned in the Sumerian King List, in Genesis 6 to 8, and occurred according to scientists from about 18000 to 5000 BC.

Other remarkable similarities are: extreme pre-flood longevity, maximum post-flood lifespan of about 120 years.

It's intriguing that all of our prophets have descended from royal Sumerian ancestry, including Jesus and Muhammad (my 2017 blog).

Wiki: "The term Sumerian is the common name given [by the] Akkadians. The Sumerians referred to themselves as [] "the black-headed people", and to their land as [the] "place of the noble lords". Note: bold marking by LO.

My continued guess is that the Sumerian people originated from northern Africa. Extreme climate change - due to Earth's wobble - turned the once Green Sahara into the Sahara desert and forced the Sumerian people to relocate (eg, NaturePhys, UA). A 4,000 year old harbour, discovered in an Iraqi desert near the city of Ur, proves that the Sumerian people were already skilled sailors (Haaretz) and traders with Egypt, India, Oman and Persia (eg, Khan,Wiki).

The Sumerian trade connections also provide an interesting perspective to the unknown years of Jesus and the various (Indian) claims that (royal SumerianJesus visited India (various books).

Last but not least, the scientific notion that there were no advanced pre-flood civilizations (ie, before 4000 BC), will once proven to be false. To some extent, secrets are buried in the Sahara desert (example). The "whitewashing" of Western history will then end (my 2017 blog).

Follow You Follow Me (1978) by Genesis

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Tech firms have ‘weaponised’ personal data, says Apple chief Tim Cook (Times)

"“Deeply personal” data is being “weaponised against us with military efficiency” by tech companies, Apple’s chief executive warned today as he called for tough GDPR-style data laws in the US.

Speaking at a privacy conference in Brussels, Tim Cook made a thinly veiled attack on rival companies such as Google and Facebook, which he referred to as “data-industrial complex” that magnified our worst human tendencies.

“We shouldn’t sugar-coat the consequences,” he said. “This is surveillance.”

Referring obliquely to scandals such as the leak of millions of Facebook users’ data to Cambridge Analytica, the disgraced British firm, he called for the United States to bring in privacy laws following the example of Europe’s general data protection regulation (GDPR). This requires “transparency” and “fairness” in data-collection and sharing and carries fines of up to 4 per cent of global turnover for breaches.

Mr Cook, 57, said: “It is time for the rest of the world . . . to follow your lead. We at Apple are in full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States.”

He outlined four fundamental rights protected by the general data protection regulation that should also be protected by US legislation: the rights to have personal data minimised; for users to know what data is collected; the right to access such data; and the right for that data to be kept securely.

Mr Cook also made reference to Russian use of misinformation on social media to interfere in US and other electoral processes, and the spread of hate speech online that has incited killings in countries including India and Burma.

He said: “Platforms and algorithms that promised to improve our lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies . . . Rogue actors and even governments have taken advantage of user trust to deepen divisions, incite violence, and even undermine our shared sense of what is true and what is false. This crisis is real. It is not imagined, or exaggerated, or crazy.”

Direct calls for tech regulation are unusual in the US, which has favoured a laissez-faire approach. Mr Cook has criticised rival companies and sought to stress Apple’s commitment to protecting user privacy as a series of scandals have drawn criticism of the wider tech sector. Asked to comment on the position of Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg in the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year, he said he “wouldn’t be” in the 34-year-old’s situation. Mr Zuckerberg said that the remark was “extremely glib”.

Mr Cook’s comments at the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners nevertheless represent his most scathing critique of other Silicon Valley firms to date."


Saturday, 27 October 2018

China 'will take military action at any cost to prevent Taiwan split if necessary' (Iran Press TV)

"China says it will take necessary military actions, "at any cost," to thwart potential attempts to separate the self-ruled island of Taiwan – which Beijing claims as part of its territory – from mainland China.

"The Taiwan issue is related to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and touches upon China's core interests," Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe said during a speech at the Xiangshan Forum in the capital, Beijing, on Thursday. "On this issue, it is extremely dangerous to repeatedly challenge China's bottom line."

"If someone tries to separate out Taiwan (from China), China's army will take the necessary actions at any cost [to prevent that]," Wei warned.

His warning came three days after the United States dispatched two warships through Taiwan Strait, in the second such operation this year and the latest in a series of gestures made by Washington in support of Taiwan, which broke away from China during a civil war in 1949.

Beijing has pursued reunification ever since. It claims full sovereignty over the island; and almost all world countries, including the US since 1979, recognize that sovereignty under a policy known as "One China."

Washington has no diplomatic relations with Taipei; however, it has extensive military ties with Taiwan, forwarding advanced military hardware to the island state over the objections of China.

Under President Donald Trump, the US has increasingly embraced Taiwan. Since he took office in January 2017, Washington has opened a new de facto embassy in Taipei, passed a law to encourage senior US officials to travel to Taiwan to meet their Taiwanese counterparts and vice versa, and has been flirting with the idea of recognizing Taiwan as "independent."

Wei said that Beijing-Washington military ties were important and sensitive, adding, however, that China would never give up an inch of its territory.

He said China opposed displays of strength and provocation in the South China Sea by "nations from outside the region," carried out under the pretense of protecting freedom of flight and navigation.

The South China Sea is also claimed by Beijing but is disputed by other regional countries.

The US routinely sends warships and military aircraft to the sea to protect what it calls its right to freedom of navigation in international waters.

Beijing's relations with Taipei have particularly been strained since the island's president Tsai Ing-wen, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, came to power in 2016. She has strong anti-China inclinations and refuses to acknowledge that both sides are part of "One China."

Chinese President Xi Jinping has already declared that the issue of bringing Taiwan under Beijing's control cannot be postponed indefinitely; and some analysts believe he is determined to bring about that prospect during his time in office."


Friday, 26 October 2018

What’s Life Like After Depression? Surprisingly, Little Is Known (NYT)

NYT title: What’s Life Like After Depression? Surprisingly, Little Is Known

NYT subtitle: Most research on depression focuses on the afflicted, a new paper argues, overlooking a potentially informative group: people who have recovered.

"A generation ago, depression was viewed as an unwanted guest: a gloomy presence that might appear in the wake of a loss or a grave disappointment and was slow to find the door. The people it haunted could acknowledge the poor company — I’ve been a little depressed since my father died — without worrying that they had become chronically ill.

Today, the condition has been recast in the medical literature as a darker, more permanent figure, a monster in the basement poised to overtake the psyche. For decades, researchers have debated the various types of depression, from mild to severe to “endogenous,” a rare, near-paralyzing despair. Hundreds of studies have been conducted, looking for markers that might predict the course of depression and identify the best paths to recovery. But treatment largely remains a process of trial and error. A drug that helps one person can make another worse. The same goes for talk therapies: some patients do very well, others don’t respond at all.

“If you got a depression diagnosis, one of the most basic things you want to know is, what are the chances of my life returning to normal or becoming optimal afterward?” said Jonathan Rottenberg, a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida. “You’d assume we’d have an answer to that question. I think it’s embarrassing that we don’t.”

In a paper in the current issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, Dr. Rottenberg and his colleagues argue that, in effect, the field has been looking for answers in the wrong place. In trying to understand how people with depression might escape their condition, scientists have focused almost entirely on the afflicted, overlooking a potentially informative group: people who once suffered from some form of depression but have more or less recovered.

Indeed, while this cohort almost certainly exists — every psychiatrist and psychologist knows someone in it — it is so neglected that virtually nothing is known about its demographics, how well its members are faring and, fundamentally, how many individuals it contains.

“We know that many people with bipolar disorder, for instance — a serious, lifetime condition — do very well after treatment, and end up in creative jobs,” said Sheri Johnson, director of the mania program at the University of California, Berkeley. “But we can’t predict who. So it would be very important to have this kind of information, to know more about that group. Imagine if doctors could give you some sense of what’s possible.”

In the new paper, Dr. Rottenberg and his co-authors, Todd Kashdan and David Disabato of George Mason University, and Andrew Devendorf of the University of South Florida, argue that the effort to understand how people recover from depression is stunted by the kind of evidence available. Treatment trials typically last six to eight weeks, and they focus on reducing negative symptoms, such as feelings of worthlessness, fatigue and thoughts of suicide. What happens in the subsequent months and years — and which positive developments occur, and for whom — is largely unknown.

“I think it’s fine — it’s a good idea — to look at people who do well after a period of depression, over the longer term,” said Dr. Nada Stotland, a psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “But we might simply find that they’re the people who were doing better in the first place.”

In a forthcoming analysis, to be published in Clinical Psychological Science, the same team of psychologists make a rough estimate of the number of post-depression “flourishers,” using data from a periodic national survey called the Midlife Development in the United States. The survey includes more than 6,000 people between the ages of 25 and 75 and more than 500 who met criteria for depression. About half of the people who had received a diagnosis recovered afterward, meaning they had been symptom free for at least a year, the researchers found. One in five of those — 10 percent of the total — were thriving a decade later. The research team based that judgment on an assessment that includes measures of how people feel, how well their relationships are going, and their work.

That 10 percent number might look disappointingly low, or encouragingly high, depending on one’s perspective. The best comparison is the portion of people who were rated as thriving who never had depression: 20 percent.

“That is, having depression cuts in half your chances of ending up in this group” at the high end of the well-being scale, Dr. Rottenberg said. He added: “But we really don’t know for sure, until we have better evidence.”

To gain that evidence, the ideal approach would be to follow a large cohort of people who had recovered from depression, over many years, to tease apart the differences between the 10 percent or so who thrived and those who did not. Such studies would be costly, the authors acknowledge, and likely would require collaboration among many large clinical centers.

Still, individuals who’ve routed what Winston Churchill called his “black dog” and built a full life have a collective knowledge that others do not. And researchers can only speculate about what that vanquishing entailed until they ask, systematically and empirically.

The answers won’t necessarily fall into a straightforward pattern. Whereas some people who thrive after depression might swear by daily pills, others may depend on weekly talk therapy. Good friends, good opportunities, and good genes are likely to play a role. And there very well may be many people who have developed idiosyncratic methods of their own, a kind of daily self-therapy or routine not found in any manual, textbook or study.

“If so, it would be exciting to find out what those are,” Dr. Rottenberg said. “You’d not only be giving people with depression some hope, by studying this group. You might also be able to give them something they could use.”

For now, said Dr. Stotland, the Chicago psychiatrist, the fact that depression can be chronic, and recurrent, hardly means that people are doomed by the diagnosis. “I’ve never told patients that,” she said. “ I tell them they’re likely to get better, and I suspect that most of my colleagues do the same.” "


Benedict Carey has been a science reporter for The Times since 2004. He has also written three books, “How We Learn” about the cognitive science of learning; “Poison Most Vial” and “Island of the Unknowns,” science mysteries for middle schoolers.

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 23, 2018, on Page D1 of the New York edition with the headline: Depression Obscures Recovery.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Does Botox curb your sexual pleasure? (Guardian)

Guardian title: Does Botox curb your sexual pleasure?

Guardian subtitle: New research suggests women find it harder to orgasm after having botulinum treatment – but not everyone is convinced this means facial expressions are key to feeling pleasure

"Most people dread the idea of anyone seeing their sex face, but it may be saving their sex life.

According to research by Cardiff University [Note LO: see below], women experience less satisfying orgasms and find it harder to orgasm after having botulinum toxin treatment (Botox). Because the muscles often targeted by botulinum are associated with orgasm and sexual excitement, the researchers wanted to test whether restricting them affected the ability to feel sexual pleasure. They followed a small sample of women – 24 before and after botox, compared with 12 women who had had non-muscle restricting work done (such as skin peels). They found a significant drop in sexual satisfaction for the 13 women whose frown lines had been altered and a “near significant” drop for women who had had injections for crow’s feet and frown lines.

Previous research has shown that people feel happier after botulinum treatment because of the resulting inability to frown. Dr Michael Lewis, who led the research, says: “It’s an example of how facial muscles have a feedback effect on the way that we feel, rather than just depicting what we feel inside ourselves.”

It is not just botulinum that has this effect. Studies show that you can trick your body into feeling happier – even healthier – by putting on a smile, as this causes chemical reactions in the brain, such as the production of serotonin or dopamine, that result in positive feelings.

Other academics argue that facial expressions are a social tool, used to influence others around us, rather than an indicator of how we actually feel. Across the world, people use different facial expressions for different reasons.

The neuroscientist Dr Lisa Feldman Barrett, the author of How Emotions Are Made, describes the effect of mimicking the feeling that you want to feel: “When you’re not having a day filled with disaster, that nudge might be enough to shift you from having a neutral day to a slightly pleasant day ... but the findings are inconsistent and slight.”

The brain is constantly making predictions and correcting them. If you think you are about to climax, then try to produce the relevant facial expression but don’t, it makes sense that your brain may deduce that you are not having that much fun. But Barrett argues that some studies fail to consider alternative explanations for the change in emotion – such as whether a lack of facial communication led to a sexual partner being unable to perform as well or distracted the woman.

So, can dropping our jaws and rolling back our eyes really help us to orgasm more? Lewis thinks not: “You can certainly make yourself feel better by smiling and laughing … but could you move yourself to ecstasy by producing the [associated facial expressions]? I think that’s probably less likely.” "


The 2018 Cardiff University study by Michael Lewis: "The interactions between botulinum-toxin-based facial treatments and embodied emotions" (eg, Nature's Scientific Reports, NCBI)

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

There May Soon Be Three Internets. America’s Won’t Necessarily Be the Best. (NYT)

NYT title: There May Soon Be Three Internets. America’s Won’t Necessarily Be the Best.

NYT subtitle: A breakup of the web grants privacy, security and freedom to some, and not so much to others.

By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

"In September, Eric Schmidt, the former Google chief executive and Alphabet chairman, said that in the next 10 to 15 years, the internet would most likely be split in two — one internet led by China and one internet led by the United States.

Mr. Schmidt, speaking at a private event hosted by a venture capital firm, did not seem to seriously entertain the possibility that the internet would remain global. He’s correct to rule out that possibility — if anything, the flaw in Mr. Schmidt’s thinking is that he too quickly dismisses the European internet that is coalescing around the European Union’s ever-heightening regulation of technology platforms. All signs point to a future with three internets.

The received wisdom was once that a unified, unbounded web promoted democracy through the free flow of information. Things don’t seem quite so simple anymore. China’s tight control of the internet within its borders continues to tamp down talk of democracy, and an increasingly sophisticated system of digital surveillance plays a major role in human rights abuses, such as the persecution of the Uighurs. We’ve also seen the dark side to connecting people to one another — as illustrated by how misinformation on social media played a significant role in the violence in Myanmar.

There’s a world of difference between the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, known commonly as G.D.P.R., and China’s technologically enforced censorship regime, often dubbed “the Great Firewall.” But all three spheres — Europe, America and China — are generating sets of rules, regulations and norms that are beginning to rub up against one another. What’s more, the actual physical location of data has increasingly become separated by region, with data confined to data centers inside the borders of countries with data localization laws.

The information superhighway cracks apart more easily when so much of it depends on privately owned infrastructure. An error at Amazon Web Services created losses of service across the web in 2017; a storm disrupting a data center in Northern Virginia created similar failures in 2012. These were unintentional blackouts; the corporate custodians of the internet have it within their power to do far more. Of course, nobody wants to turn off the internet completely — that wouldn’t make anyone money. But when a single company with huge market share chooses to comply with a law — or more worryingly, a mere suggestion from the authorities — a large chunk of the internet ends up falling in line.

The power of a handful of platforms and services combined with the dismal state of international cooperation across the world pushes us closer and closer to a splintered internet. Meanwhile, American companies that once implicitly pushed democratic values abroad are more reticent to take a stand.

In 2010, Google shut down its operations in China after it was revealed that the Chinese government had been hacking the Gmail accounts of dissidents and surveilling them through the search engine. “At some point you have to stand back and challenge this and say, this goes beyond the line of what we’re comfortable with, and adopt that for moral reasons,” said Sergey Brin, a Google co-founder, in an interview with Der Spiegel at the time.

But eight years later, Google is working on a search engine for China known as Dragonfly. Its launch will be conditional on the approval of Chinese officials and will therefore comply with stringent censorship requirements. An internal memo written by one of the engineers on the project described surveillance capabilities built into the engine — namely by requiring users to log in and then tracking their browsing histories. This data will be accessible by an unnamed Chinese partner, presumably the government.

Google says all features are speculative and no decision has been made on whether to launch Dragonfly, but a leaked transcript of a meeting inside Google later acquired by The Intercept, a news site, contradicts that line. In the transcript, Google’s head of search, Ben Gomes, is quoted as saying that it hoped to launch within six to nine months, although the unstable American-China relationship makes it difficult to predict when or even whether the Chinese government will give the go-ahead. “There is a huge binary difference between being launched and not launched,” said Mr. Gomes. “And so we want to be careful that we don’t miss that window if it ever comes.”

Internet censorship and surveillance were once hallmarks of oppressive governments — with Egypt, Iran and China being prime examples. It’s since become clear that secretive digital surveillance isn’t just the domain of anti-democratic forces. The Snowden revelations in 2013 knocked the United States off its high horse, and may have pushed the technology industry into an increasingly agnostic outlook on human rights. Its relationship with the government isn’t improving, either, when the industry is being hammered by the Trump administration’s continuing trade wars. (This month, Vice President Mike Pence condemned Dragonfly as part of a longer, confrontational speech accusing China of “economic aggression.”)

As governments push toward a splintered internet, American corporations do little to counteract Balkanization and instead do whatever is necessary to expand their operations. If the future of the internet is a tripartite cold war, Silicon Valley wants to be making money in all three of those worlds.

Part of the rationalization is that whether or not American companies get in on the action, a homegrown company will readily enact the kind of censorship and surveillance that its government requires. (Indeed, if Google launches in China, it has an uphill battle to fight against Baidu, the entrenched, government-endorsed Chinese search engine.)

What this future will bring for Europe and the United States is not clear. Mr. Gomes’s leaked speech from inside Google sounded almost dystopian at times. “This is a world none of us have ever lived in before,” Mr. Gomes told employees. “All I am saying, we have built a set of hacks, and we have kept them.” He seemed to hint at scenarios the tech sector had never imagined before. The world may be a very different place since the election of Donald Trump, but it’s still hard to imagine that what’s deployed in China will ever be deployed at home. Yet even the best possible version of the disaggregated web has serious — though still uncertain — implications for a global future: What sorts of ideas and speech will become bounded by borders? What will an increasingly disconnected world do to the spread of innovation and to scientific progress? What will consumer protections around privacy and security look like as the internets diverge? And would the partitioning of the internet precipitate a slowing, or even a reversal, of globalization?

A chillier relationship with Europe and increasing hostilities with China spur on the trend toward Balkanization — and vice versa, creating a feedback loop. If things continue along this path, the next decade may see the internet relegated to little more than just another front on the new cold war."


Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Proof of life: how would we recognise an alien if we saw one? (Aeon)

"What would convince you that aliens existed? The question came up recently at a conference on astrobiology, held at Stanford University in California. Several ideas were tossed around – unusual gases in a planet’s atmosphere, strange heat gradients on its surface. But none felt persuasive. Finally, one scientist offered the solution: a photograph. There was some laughter and a murmur of approval from the audience of researchers: yes, a photo of an alien would be convincing evidence, the holy grail of proof that we’re not alone.

But why would a picture be so convincing? What is it that we’d see that would tell us we weren’t just looking at another pile of rocks? An alien on a planet orbiting a distant star would be wildly exotic, perhaps unimaginably so. What, then, would give it away as life? The answer is relevant to our search for extraterrestrials, and what we might expect to find.

Astrobiology – the study of life on other planets – has grown from a fringe sub-discipline of biology, chemistry and astronomy to a leading interdisciplinary field, attracting researchers from top institutions across the globe, and large sums of money from both NASA and private funders. But what exactly is it that astrobiologists are looking for? How will we know when it’s time to pop the Champagne?

One thing that sets life apart from nonlife is its apparent design. Living things, from the simplest bacteria to the great redwoods, have vast numbers of intricate parts working together to make the organism function. Think of your hands, heart, spleen, mitochondria, cilia, neurons, toenails – all collaborating in synchrony to help you navigate, eat, think and survive. The most beautiful natural rock formations lack even a tiny fraction of the myriad parts of a single bacterial cell that coordinate to help it divide and reproduce.

And living things, unlike dirt and wind, appear to be trying to do things – eat, grow, survive, reproduce. If you’ve ever tried to squish a resilient bug, you know that it doesn’t require a complex mind for an organism to appear to want to survive. Or for a squirrel to ‘want’ to jump from one branch to the next. Or for a plant to ‘try’ to reach towards the Sun and soak up nutrients from the soil. Not only do living things have many intricate parts, but all of those parts have the same, common purpose ­– survival and reproduction. This combination of complex design and apparent purpose, also known as adaptedness, defines life. When we look at that photo of an alien, it’s exactly this adaptedness that would make us go: ‘Aha!’ We would see, clearly, the difference between a disappointing pile of rocks and an exciting alien – design. This is good news, because there’s only one way to get such design: natural selection.

Natural selection occurs whenever you have a collection of things (cells, replicators, birds, an imaginary species we’ll call ‘Glipgloops’) that have three properties: variation, heredity and differential success. For example, some of the Glipgloops we posited have longer eyestalks than others (variation). Long-eyestalked Glipgloops have long-eyestalked babies (inheritance of the variation). And Glipgloops with long eyestalks can see out of their methane holes better and therefore have more babies (differential success linked to that variation). The result is that, over time, Glipgloops evolve to have elongated eyestalks.

This is the process by which the apparent design in nature is generated: in every generation, at every instant, individuals with traits linked to better reproduction are being ‘selected’. As a result, over time, populations consist of individuals who appear designed for the purpose of reproducing. It’s exactly because the selection criterion is always the same that design can develop. Imagine a car that was constructed using a different blueprint at every step – well, you likely wouldn’t end up with a car. It’s natural selection’s unwavering mantra – the contribution of genes to future generations – that allows for design to appear without a designer.

In fact, the selection criterion is so consistent, that an organism cannot be designed for anything other than contributing genes to future generations. This is why we don’t get organisms who sacrifice for the good of their species. In general, organisms are selfish – reproducing yourself at the expense of others is a great way to pass on genes. We do sometimes see sacrifice and cooperation in nature – but only when the benefits of cooperation come back to you, or the sacrifice benefits relatives. Relatives share genes, so a bee can sacrifice for the queen (its mother), if it means she’ll produce 100 more sisters, each carrying half the bee’s genes. The calculus of which traits lead to more genes, and exactly when and how much to sacrifice, is precise and rigid. This is why evolutionary biologists can make mathematical models that correctly predict how many helpers a bird should allow at her nest, and how often wasps should cannibalise their siblings. But this algorithmic rigidity of natural selection also comes in handy for the astrobiologist.

A thread should be revealing itself: life is special because of its apparent design. The only way to get design without a designer is natural selection. Therefore, aliens must be the product of natural selection. And natural selection follows certain rules, and can produce only certain kinds of organisms. Thus, astrobiologists can use the theory of natural selection, and the mathematics of evolution, to make predictions about aliens.

Are there exceptions? We can’t get complex life, even something as simple as a bacterium, without natural selection. Even a postorganic, computer-based alien would ultimately be the product of a product of natural selection. But let’s consider a borderline case. Imagine a collection of replicating molecules, like tiny naked genes, on an alien planet. If these replicators made copies of themselves (inheritance), but replicated perfectly every time (no variation or differential success), you wouldn’t get natural selection.

Would this be life? Maybe, but it wouldn’t be very exciting. For one, without variation, the molecules can never change, or become more adapted, or evolve into anything more interesting or complex. Finding bacteria or bears on a distant planet would suggest that the universe might be teeming with life of all shapes and sizes. These replicators wouldn’t suggest anything. Even more problematic, their existence would likely be fleeting – without natural selection, they wouldn’t be able to cope with changes on their planet, and so would disappear before we found them.

The argument from natural selection is robust, even at the boundaries. This frees us up to use the same evolutionary tools we use on Earth to make predictions about life elsewhere.

Previous work in astrobiology has extrapolated from what’s happened on Earth, potentially limiting our vision to certain special features, such as DNA or carbon-based life, that won’t hold on other planets. Natural selection, on the other hand, is universal. It doesn’t depend on DNA (remember, Charles Darwin knew nothing of genes) or carbon chemistry or the presence of water. It’s incredibly simple – it just requires a few ingredients – and it’s the only way to generate life.

A mental image of that prized photo, showing entities apparently designed to fit their surroundings, is beginning to form. We can’t say whether the grainy picture of the alien will have eyes, or limbs, or be green. That’s not the kind of prediction good evolutionary theory can make. But natural selection tells us that its forms, goals and evolutionary pathways are constrained.

One example posed by our team in the sketch above is what we playfully call ‘the octomite’ – a conglomerate of once-separate entities now working together to survive, reproduce and evolve. How would we recognise an alien? It would include a hierarchy of entities, with the interests of each lower level aligned with components in levels above. The photo we envision would show division of labour, with various parts specialising in various tasks in a mutually dependent way.

This work of incorporating evolutionary theory into our astrobiological toolkit is only just beginning. What else can Darwin tell us about aliens? Presumably quite a lot. The photo, if and when it comes, will be something entirely exotic to the naked eye. But to the student of evolutionary biology, it might look surprisingly familiar."


Monday, 22 October 2018

China May Have $5.8 Trillion in Hidden Debt With ‘Titanic’ Risks (Bloomberg)

Bloomberg title: China May Have $5.8 Trillion in Hidden Debt With ‘Titanic’ Risks

  • Local governments relying on LGFVs to fund projects, S&P Says
  • Citigroup analysts agree markets right to worry over debt risk

"China’s local governments may have accumulated 40 trillion yuan ($5.8 trillion) of off-balance sheet debt, or even more, suggesting further defaults are in store, according to S&P Global Ratings.

“The potential amount of debt is an iceberg with titanic credit risks,” S&P credit analysts led by Gloria Lu wrote in a report Tuesday. Much of the build-up relates to local government financing vehicles, which don’t necessarily have the full financial backing of local governments themselves.

Record Defaults
Missed bond repayments in 2018 have already surpassed previous highs

With the national economy slowing, and a Beijing-set quota for issuance of local-government bonds not being enough to fund infrastructure projects to support regional growth, authorities across the country have resorted to LGFVs to raise financing, according to S&P. That’s left LGFVs “walking a tightrope” between deleveraging and transforming their businesses into more typical state-owned enterprises, the S&P analysts said.

Rising vulnerabilities among LGFVs occur against a backdrop of a record pace of defaults this year in China, which has sought to roll back a decades-old practice of implicit guarantees for debt.

The most vulnerable LGFVs include the following, in S&P’s analysis:
  • Those tied to weaker prefectural, city or district-level governments with lax supervision over state-owned enterprises.
  • Those focused on commercial activities -- thus having diminishing importance to local governments.
  • Those with significant refinancing risks thanks to large short-term debt or reliance on borrowing from the shadow-banking sector.

The focus on funding to sustain growth at the local level echoes a broader shift in the central government, which last year was focused on reducing leverage in the financial system. That phase is essentially over, thanks in part to an escalating trade war with the U.S., according to Citigroup Inc. analysts.

“The markets are right, in our view, to feel more concerned about the sustainability of China’s debt and the increased financial risks,” said Liu Li-Gang, chief China economist at Citigroup in Hong Kong. He also saw “renewed pressure” on the yuan.

Even with the central government’s shift toward stimulus, however, S&P sees Beijing determined to “bring discipline to the financing practices of local governments and their LGFVs.” That ultimately may mean local authorities aren’t fully able to keep LGFVs afloat, however, and the bottom line is “the default risk of LGFVs is increasing.”

— With assistance by Tongjian Dong, and Lianting Tu"


Sunday, 21 October 2018

The Mistake Countries Repeatedly Make When Dealing With the EU (New Republic)

New Republic title: The Mistake Countries Repeatedly Make When Dealing With the EU

New Republic subtitle: Greece with its bailout, the UK with Brexit: The European Union is the reigning champion in this game of chicken.

“There isn’t even a one in a million chance that Merkel will say no.” These were the words of Alexis Tsipras shortly before becoming Greece’s prime minister in 2015. He was talking about his alternative negotiation proposals for Greece’s European Union bailout agreement—clearly in the EU’s interests, from his perspective, and vastly more palatable for Greece.

Populist politicians excel at presenting an effortless route to a rosy future. In the run-up to the UK’s referendum vote in 2016, Boris Johnson—then London mayor, now ex-foreign minister, and perennial prime ministerial hopeful—expressed his certainty that, after Brexit, the EU would surely agree to a tariff-free trading deal, just like the one the UK enjoyed by being in the EU: “Do you seriously suppose that they are going to be so insane as to allow tariffs to be imposed between Britain and Germany?” Both Tsipras and Johnson saw the future negotiation results as a done deal, bound by the EU’s own economic interests. All the people had to do was vote the right way.

Greece found out the hard way that simply voting for the future deal you want isn’t enough when negotiating with a transnational institution representing 27 other democracies. It also found out that Tsipras and his government had been too arrogant in claiming to know what was in the EU’s interests. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, was not so taken by Tsipras’s alternative proposals, and insisted instead on the “austerity and reforms” recipe that Greece had been following.

Meanwhile at the EU summit on Wednesday, more than two years after the country voted for Brexit, and with less than six months until the UK’s deadline for leaving the EU, the UK is still negotiating its withdrawal agreement and the terms of the future EU-UK relationship. The UK’s Brexit vote resembles that of Greece’s vote for Tsipras not only in terms of the political naiveté of the populist promises, but also in terms of the strategies pursued in the subsequent negotiations with the EU. Both the Conservative government and the Labour opposition in the UK seem to be repeating Greece’s mistakes. The result is unlikely to be any more successful.

Prime Minister Theresa May is wedded to the withdrawal proposal her government arrived at after much deliberation: the so-called Chequers plan. May sees this as the best compromise possible, given the internal politics of her own government. Pro-EU members of parliament (MPs) want as close a relationship with the EU as possible, whereas pro-Brexit MPs want a relationship that gives the UK as much autonomy as possible. As a result, the Chequers plan is a patchwork that has been described by two confectionary analogies: “having your cake and eating it” and “cherry-picking.” It involves enjoying some of the benefits of EU membership, such as the free movement of goods, but without many of the commitments that come with it, such as the free movement of people.

The problem with Chequers is that the EU has signalled many times, including in a mocking Instagram post by EU president Donald Tusk, that the EU will not accept it. This has led to a stand-off. After the Salzburg summit last month, when the Chequers’ plan was once again rejected by the EU, May restated that Chequers was the only credible proposal the UK was prepared to make, and that the EU should offer an alternative, if it cannot accept it. Of course, the EU has offered the UK the alternatives: membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), or a Canada-style trade deal. May in turn finds those proposals unacceptable. Staying in the EEA would involve the continued freedom of movement of people, and a lack of autonomy when it came to striking new trade deals, making a mockery of the Brexit referendum result, according to May. A Canada-style deal, on the other hand, would amount to a trading relationship between the UK and the EU involving customs checks at the borders. In order to respect the Good Friday Agreement’s peace-promoting guarantee of no border between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (part of the EU), however, that would mean that the customs checks would take place somewhere between Norther Ireland and the rest of the UK, undermining the country’s unity. It would also profoundly destabilize May’s government, which is propped up by the votes of MPs belonging to the DUP, a Northern Irish party, who would not tolerate such a solution.

The similarities with Greece’s negotiating strategy are striking.

May seems to be engaged in a game of chicken. The assumption is that the EU would have just as much, if not more, to lose from a no-deal Brexit. Hence May’s mantra: “no-deal is better than a bad deal,” aimed at convincing the EU she is not afraid of the former. The similarities with Greece’s negotiating strategy are striking. After the 2015 elections, the leftist Syriza-led Greek government’s negotiation tactic to gain more favorable bailout terms was based on the assumption that if the sides couldn’t agree, Greece’s inevitable exit from the Eurozone would have been even more damaging for the EU than for Greece. The EU called Greece’s bluff, and the Greek government eventually capitulated.

May’s game of chicken will probably end in a similar way. The EU is unlikely to budge; 27 countries, speaking with one voice, and with less to lose in the case of no deal, are in a much stronger position than a single country, with a divided government, and which could face serious shortages with its EU trade disrupted. And even if the EU were to back down, accepting some version of Chequers, the deal would have to be approved by parliament. Labour and pro-EU Conservative MPs have said they would vote such a plan down. On the other hand, if May accepts a variation of the Canada-style trade deal on offer from the EU, the same MPs, including the DUP, will again probably reject it in parliament. This all makes a no-deal result seem rather likely. At that point, it is unclear how May’s government can continue, and a Conservative party leadership contest, a general election, or a second referendum, become plausible.

This brings us to the strategy of the opposition, the Labour party. Its plan is that if enough pro-EU Conservative MPs vote down the deal May brings to parliament, a general election could be triggered, which Labour assumes it would win. If that happens, the argument goes, Labour would proceed to renegotiate the terms of withdrawal from the EU, and get a better deal than May. This was in fact also Syriza’s and Tsipras’s plan when they ousted the prior government and came into power in January 2015. They believed that their fresh democratic mandate gave them the opportunity to start negotiations from scratch—only to be told by the EU that the Greek bailout was a national affair greater than any one party, and that the country was bound by what had already been discussed and agreed to.

A hypothetical Labour government in the UK would likely face a similar predicament. Labour would again have to choose between variations of the currently available options: staying in the EEA, or going for a Canada-style trade deal. More importantly, unless there was a pause to the withdrawal process, and the UK remained within the EU for longer than originally planned, there wouldn’t be enough time to re-negotiate. The Brexit date is March 29, and even if a general election took place in January, a couple of months are hardly enough time.

The UK is suffering from the same illusions as Greece was in its negotiations with the EU: overestimating its power, and believing that a shift in domestic politics, either by a change of government or Prime Minister, can yield a better result. Brexit, ironically, was sold by the likes of Johnson as a way for the UK to gain sovereignty and autonomy. It was also sold on the promise of continuing to trade with the EU as if nothing had changed—all that was needed was the right democratic mandate. Instead, what the UK is finding out is that in leaving the EU, it has much less say over its future than it did before. A single national democratic mandate is not all powerful against the interests of several other democracies organized together—a valuable lesson for those who advertise a return to national politics in a supranational era."

Alexis Papazoglou writes on philosophy, current affairs, and politics. He previously taught philosophy at the University of Cambridge and Royal Holloway, University of London.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Britain’s magical thinking won’t make the EU accept the impossible (Guardian)

Guardian title: Britain’s magical thinking won’t make the EU accept the impossible

Guardian subtitle: Brussels’ Brexit policy has always been clear. We’re in this mess because British politicians never took it seriously

"At every step of the Brexit process, there has been a reliable way to predict what the European Union will do. This technique yields top intelligence on the motives of the key continental players. It is devilishly simple, too. The trick is to listen to what they actually say.

The inevitable dynamic of the negotiations was spelled out even before the referendum result was known. Angela Merkel described it, three weeks before polling day. The German chancellor was reluctant to intervene in domestic British debate, understanding that anything she said would be seized upon by the leave campaign as proof of meddling by beastly foreigners. (And in paranoid Eurosceptic folklore, none are beastlier than the Germans.)

But Merkel also saw how important facts were not being aired in the campaign. She expressed a “personal hope” that Britain would stay in the EU and added that to leave would be to surrender influence, because the best deals were done on the inside. The UK, she warned, would not find it comfortable negotiating from “outside the room”.

Merkel was right. From the moment the article 50 trigger was pulled, the Brexit process has followed an EU timetable on terms defined by EU treaties. At every stage, European leaders have repeated the golden rule, in private, in public, in print: privileges of membership are unavailable to non-members. Britain must decide what it likes about its current arrangements and then negotiate a price for retaining them. The latest terms and conditions have been regularly updated on the European commission’s website.

This has made it easy to test the feasibility of any idea offered up by a Brexit supporter. First, examine what the plan involves in terms of keeping a benefit of EU membership (frictionless movement of goods across borders, for example). Then ask what the plan’s author is willing to surrender, as a budget contribution or by submission to European court jurisdiction. If the answer is nothing, the proposal can be ignored.

When this test is applied, everything Boris Johnson has said on the subject of Brexit, including his latest “Super Canada” notion, is exposed as bilge. Strip away Johnson’s rococo verbiage and you find refusal to accept that Brexit involves any cost to Britain. Yet the underlying reason he left the government, alongside David Davis, was shame at feeling the cost up close. To continue in the cabinet would have meant owning the weakness of one national government trying to negotiate with a continental bloc.

Few things have demonstrated the logic of the European project as effectively as the spectacle of hollow Eurosceptic rhetoric bouncing off the wall of continental unity – and back into the faces of people who didn’t believe Britain had anything to gain from that kind of solidarity.

The only surprise for the EU side has been the obstinacy of British politicians ignoring what their counterparts in Brussels, Berlin and Paris have been saying and their cowardice in refusing to pass the message on to voters. This isn’t a symptom of foreign politicians being more virtuous. Honesty is pretty evenly distributed among nations. It is simply a feature of a multinational union that common positions, once established, are not readily changed. And in the case of Michel Barnier’s mandate as the EU’s chief negotiator there has been no incentive for member states to break ranks.

Brexit is just one of the EU’s problems and not the hardest one. The financial stability of the eurozone; migration across the Mediterranean; trade war with Donald Trump; populist demagogues undermining the rule of law in Poland, Hungary and Italy; cyber-sabotage by the Kremlin – those are the pressing items on a Brussels to-do list. And while every EU member has an interest in Brexit being settled safely, and many governments profoundly wish Britain would stick around to help grapple with Europe’s collective woes from inside the room, the act of leaving means automatically having your own national needs downgraded. And goodwill towards a neighbour and ally doesn’t translate into indulgence of every rancid burp of an idea rising from the guts of a Tory party struggling to digest its historic miscalculation.

None of this is meant to romanticise Brussels’ handling of Brexit. I have heard European diplomats complain about intransigence on their own side in terms much like the frustrated laments that echo around Whitehall. A common gripe is that the French and Germans are too spooked by fear of nationalist contagion; too fixated on the need for Euroscepticism to be exposed as a road to nowhere. But even in capitals traditionally attuned to the British position in Europe, where disappointment at the UK’s departure is greatest, there are no hidden wells of eagerness to bail out Theresa May. The calculation is the same: every leader with a seat at the summit table where Brexit matters are ultimately decided values that seat more than they value any aspect of their bilateral relationship with the UK. And May isn’t at that table.

This is what Merkel was talking about in June 2016. Her one foray into the debate was dismissed by leavers as a denigration of British economic clout and an affront to democracy, but it was no such thing. It was just maths. Many countries together are greater than one. That was the argument for Europe all along and it is the reason why Brexit is failing; why it was always going to fail."

• Rafael Behr is a Guardian columnist


Friday, 19 October 2018

Kavanaugh (USA) vs Urgenda (NL)

Recently, a Dutch court ruled - again - in favour of Urgenda, an organisation of climate activists. Both court rulings require the Dutch government to increase its efforts to reduce greenhouse gases (my blogs of 2015 and 2017). This unexpected court ruling has opened a legal debate whether courts are interfering with politics. It seems unfair that (unelected) activists use (unelected) courts to force (elected) governments into unwelcome political decisions.

It's thought-provoking to compare the outcome of this Dutch court ruling with the US debate on the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. In order to prevent courts from issuing political rulings, countries may decide to influence the composition of courts to prevent future unwelcome political court rulings. The Kavanaugh debate is a clear example.

Most likely, the Dutch government will appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court and ask to repeal the Urgenda ruling. I suppose that the Dutch Supreme Court will (again) prevent lower courts from issuing political rulings. Nevertheless, the (small) increase in Dutch political court rulings is worrisome. Someday, the Dutch Supreme Court could also issue political rulings.

Political court rulings undermine the "trias politica", a fundamental philosophical concept that requires a separation of powers into the executive branch (Government), the legislative branch (Parliament), and the judicial branch (Courts). Why bother having general elections if courts are able to overturn political decisions? It's unlikely that political parties would accept that.

Although my above considerations apply to the Dutch situation, I realise that a similar debate is going on in other European countries, like Poland. As a result, the Polish Government is doing the same as US governments have been doing for decades: appoint Supreme Court and lower judges who do not issue unwelcome (political) verdicts.

Sooner or later, Dutch Parliament will use the Urgenda rulings as a tool in their political discussions. So far, only legal experts are giving their opinions and many disagree with the latest Urgenda ruling (eg, Wim Voermans).

A Dutch political cartoon by Tom Janssen is quite revealing: a judge going to Parliament to declare next year's Budget, including the tax increases following the judge's decisions on climate change.

If we accept that judges issue political rulings then we should also accept that politicians will want to appoint judges (eg, Kavanaugh). Ultimately, the "trias politica" concept will more and more become a farce. If we don't accept political debates on judicial appointments then we must prevent judges from issuing political rulings - of whatever political colour.

Gold (2007) by Interference

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Brexit panic has started on the Continent. Seriously? Where?

In the Sunday Times of 14 October, David Davis wrote an article with the intriguing headline: "Brexit panic has started on the Continent. Now we must drive a hard bargain". Unfortunately, the article is largely behind a paywall. A subsequent Independent article gives you some clues about its contents. Its comparison with the British TV-series Dad's Army reveals enough.

About a month ago, a Dutch born woman, living in the UK for decades, made a similar remark: "I hear that people in your country are panicking over Brexit". I was flabbergasted and had to gather my thoughts. For a second, I wondered if she was pulling my leg. I declined that option. She was dead serious. I told her that she was gravely misinformed.

The main reason why there is no Brexit panic on the Continent is that we still have no clue in which direction Brexit is heading. You need to know the likely outcome of something before you can start panicking. For now, we look in astonishment or bewilderment - or whatever similar word - how the British are (not) handling their exit from the EU.

Another reason for not panicking is the inherent irrationality of the Brexit decision. Most people somehow benefit from the EU's existence and some people even profit. The pro-Leave arguments were built on (proven) falsehoods (eg, extra NHS money). The pro-Remain arguments were clearly exaggerated but at least not false. In due time, these may still prove to be correct.

Yet another reason for not panicking on Brexit is our expectation it may never actually happen, either following a 2nd Brexit referendum, a defeat in Parliament, or new general elections. Time is in the advantage of Mrs May (a Remainer) and she seems to realise this very well.

Another reason for not panicking is that we accept the consequences if Brexit would happen. In other words: There is no gain without some pain. The French are already actively luring British companies to the Continent (eg, BloombergEurActivPolitico, Telegraph).

A psychological reason for not panicking is that the Continent is still gloating about the Brexit mess. The longer Brexit lasts, the better we will feel about ourselves. British arrogance and Continental self-esteem have never been best friends.

Why would we even be panicking if/when we hardly buy UK consumer products? The only British products that I'm aware of, are my Dainite shoe soles and my Burberry jacket. Apparently, we do not need to worry for UK industrial manufacturing (eg, cars) as these companies are more and more likely to migrate to the Continent or set up manufacturing branches there.

Panicking requires a feeling of Fear. Unfortunately for the British, our primal emotion is rooted in Love (eg, gloating).

 There is a bloody-mindedness about Brexit by Graham Norton

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise