#covid19 news, research, vaccines, drugs

Monday, 2 March, 2020

Here are some #covid19 news, interesting research, vaccine, drug info. I’ll try to add to this post periodically if I can. (Last update: 20200310, Created: 20200302)

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20200310 (Tweet thread with paper link) Insightful & important #covid19 paper from Harvard

//Conclusion: Even after the lockdown of Wuhan on January 23, the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients continued to rise, exceeding local hospitalization and ICU capacities for at least a month. Plans are urgently needed to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 outbreaks on the local healthcare system in US cities.//
//The demand for inpatient and ICU beds for COVID-19 in the US: lessons from Chinese cities// Many thanks to //Ruoran Li *1; [@ruoranepi] Caitlin Rivers 2; Qi Tan 3,4; Megan B Murray 3; Eric Toner 2; Marc Lipsitch 1 [@mlipsitch]//

20200309 NYT Opinion – This Is Life Under Lockdown in Italy – Your tickets for concerts and soccer games are useless. Your children can’t go to school. Even Mass is canceled.

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20200309, WHO “Coronavirus outbreak: WHO calls threat of COVID-19 pandemic “very real” | FULL”

20200309, Coronavirus outbreak: B.C. officials announce Canada’s first COVID-19 death

20200309, Coronavirus outbreak: 7 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta | FULL

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20200306, “Live from WHO HQ – Daily Press Briefing on COVID-19 –Coronavirus 6MARCH2020”

20200306, CNN podcast, “Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction”

20200304 NPR, “How Computer Modeling Of COVID-19’s Spread Could Help Fight The Virus” (~4 minutes)

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20200305, Live from WHO HQ – Daily Press Briefing on COVID-19 –Coronavirus 05MARCH2020

20200302, CNBC, How this Canadian start-up spotted coronavirus before everyone else knew about it

Ref: 20200304, U of T’s Kamran Khan on how his startup used AI to spot the coronavirus before anyone else: CNBC

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20200304, NPR, (~4 mins) “How Computer Modeling Of COVID-19’s Spread Could Help Fight The Virus”

20200304 CBC News, “Trudeau appoints new cabinet committee for COVID-19 response and warns of economic impact”

The committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, will complement the work done by the Incident Response Group, meeting regularly to co-ordinate and prepare for a response to the health and economic impacts of the virus.

‘All possible measures’ to limit COVID-19 impact

Trudeau said the committee will work with provincial, territorial and international partners to make sure Canada’s response “takes all possible measures to prevent and limit the spread of the virus in Canada.”

Other ministers on the eight-member committee include Health Minister Patty Hajdu, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Kirsty Duncan, deputy government House leader and scientist who wrote a book [BMJ book review of “Hunting the 1918 Flu: OneScientist’s Search for a Killer Virus” by Kirsty Duncan] on the origins of the 1918 Spanish flu, will also be a core participant of the meetings.

20200304 NYT “Inside China’s All-Out War on the Coronavirus Dr. Bruce Aylward, of the W.H.O., got a rare glimpse into Beijing’s campaign to stop the epidemic. Here’s what he saw.” #covid19 #TheydWhipYouThroughaCTScan #WayneGretzkyOfViruses
Good questions and insightful/nuanced answers. Don’t be dogmatic and blindly mistrust WHO. *Blindly* anything is bad science. #TeachableMoments

//Dr. Aylward, who has 30 years experience in fighting polio, Ebola and other global health emergencies, detailed in an interview with The New York Times how he thinks the campaign against the virus should be run.//
//[Q] Are the cases in China really going down?

[A] I know there’s suspicion, but at every testing clinic we went to, people would say, “It’s not like it was three weeks ago.” It peaked at 46,000 people asking for tests a day; when we left, it was 13,000. Hospitals had empty beds.

I didn’t see anything that suggested manipulation of numbers. A rapidly escalating outbreak has plateaued, and come down faster than would have been expected. Back of the envelope, it’s hundreds of thousands of people in China that did not get Covid-19 because of this aggressive response.

[Q] Is the virus infecting almost everyone, as you would expect a novel flu to?

[A] No — 75 to 80 percent of all clusters are in families. You get the odd ones in hospitals or restaurants or prisons, but the vast majority are in families. And only 5 to 15 percent of your close contacts develop disease. So they try to isolate you from your relatives as quickly as possible, and find everyone you had contact with in 48 hours before that.

[Q] You said different cities responded differently. How?

[A] It depended on whether they had zero cases, sporadic ones, clusters or widespread transmission.

First, you have to make sure everyone knows the basics: hand-washing, masks, not shaking hands, what the symptoms are. Then, to find sporadic cases, they do fever checks everywhere, even stopping cars on highways to check everyone.

As soon as you find clusters, you shut schools, theaters, restaurants. Only Wuhan and the cities near it went into total lockdown.

[Q] How did the Chinese reorganize their medical response?

[A] First, they moved 50 percent of all medical care online so people didn’t come in. Have you ever tried to reach your doctor on Friday night? Instead, you contacted one online. If you needed prescriptions like insulin or heart medications, they could prescribe and deliver it.

[Q] But if you thought you had coronavirus?

[A] You would be sent to a fever clinic. They would take your temperature, your symptoms, medical history, ask where you’d traveled, your contact with anyone infected. They’d whip you through a CT scan …

[Q] Wait — “whip you through a CT scan”?

[A} Each machine did maybe 200 a day. Five, 10 minutes a scan. Maybe even partial scans. A typical hospital in the West does one or two an hour. And not X-rays; they could come up normal, but a CT would show the “ground-glass opacities” they were looking for.

(Dr. Aylward was referring to lung abnormalities seen in coronavirus patients.)

[Q] And then?

[A] If you were still a suspect case, you’d get swabbed. But a lot would be told, “You’re not Covid.” People would come in with colds, flu, runny noses. That’s not Covid. If you look at the symptoms, 90 percent have fever, 70 percent have dry coughs, 30 percent have malaise, trouble breathing. Runny noses were only 4 percent.

[Q] The swab was for a PCR test, right? How fast could they do that? Until recently, we were sending all of ours to Atlanta.

[A] They got it down to four hours.

[Q] So people weren’t sent home?

[A] No, they had to wait. You don’t want someone wandering around spreading virus.

[Q] If they were positive, what happened?

[A] They’d be isolated. In Wuhan, in the beginning, it was 15 days from getting sick to hospitalization. They got it down to two days from symptoms to isolation. That meant a lot fewer infected — you choke off this thing’s ability to find susceptibles.

[Q] What’s the difference between isolation and hospitalization?

[A] With mild symptoms, you go to an isolation center. They were set up in gymnasiums, stadiums — up to 1,000 beds. But if you were severe or critical, you’d go straight to hospitals. Anyone with other illnesses or over age 65 would also go straight to hospitals.

[Q] What were mild, severe and critical? We think of “mild” as like a minor cold.

[A] No. “Mild” was a positive test, fever, cough — maybe even pneumonia, but not needing oxygen. “Severe” was breathing rate up and oxygen saturation down, so needing oxygen or a ventilator. “Critical” was respiratory failure or multi-organ failure.

[Q] So saying 80 percent of all cases are mild doesn’t mean what we thought.

[A] I’m Canadian. This is the Wayne Gretzky of viruses — people didn’t think it was big enough or fast enough to have the impact it does.

[Q] Hospitals were also separated?

[A] Yes. The best hospitals were designated just for Covid, severe and critical. All elective surgeries were postponed. Patients were moved. Other hospitals were designated just for routine care: women still have to give birth, people still suffer trauma and heart attacks.

They built two new hospitals, and they rebuilt hospitals. If you had a long ward, they’d build a wall at the end with a window, so it was an isolation ward with “dirty” and “clean” zones. You’d go in, gown up, treat patients, and then go out the other way and de-gown. It was like an Ebola treatment unit, but without as much disinfection because it’s not body fluids.

[Q] How good were the severe and critical care?

[A] China is really good at keeping people alive. Its hospitals looked better than some I see here in Switzerland. We’d ask, “How many ventilators do you have?” They’d say “50.” Wow! We’d say, “How many ECMOs?” They’d say “five.” The team member from the Robert Koch Institute said, “Five? In Germany, you get three, maybe. And just in Berlin.”

(ECMOs are extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machines, which oxygenate the blood when the lungs fail.)

[Q] Who paid for all of this?

[A] The government made it clear: testing is free. And if it was Covid-19, when your insurance ended, the state picked up everything.

In the U.S., that’s a barrier to speed. People think: “If I see my doctor, it’s going to cost me $100. If I end up in the I.C.U., what’s it going to cost me?” That’ll kill you. That’s what could wreak havoc. This is where universal health care coverage and security intersect. The U.S. has to think this through.

[Q] What about the nonmedical response?

[A] It was nationwide. There was this tremendous sense of, “We’ve got to help Wuhan,” not “Wuhan got us into this.” Other provinces sent 40,000 medical workers, many of whom volunteered.

In Wuhan, our special train pulled in at night, and it was the saddest thing — the big intercity trains roar right through, with the blinds down.

We got off, and another group did. I said, “Hang on a minute, I thought we were the only ones allowed to get off.” They had these little jackets and a flag — it was a medical team from Guangdong coming in to help. […]

[Q] Isn’t all of this impossible in America?

[A] Look, journalists are always saying: “Well, we can’t do this in our country.” There has to be a shift in mind-set to rapid response thinking. Are you just going to throw up your hands? There’s a real moral hazard in that, a judgment call on what you think of your vulnerable populations.

Ask yourself: Can you do the easy stuff? Can you isolate 100 patients? Can you trace 1,000 contacts? If you don’t, this will roar through a community.

[Q] Isn’t it possible only because China is an autocracy?

[A] Journalists also say, “Well, they’re only acting out of fear of the government,” as if it’s some evil fire-breathing regime that eats babies. I talked to lots of people outside the system — in hotels, on trains, in the streets at night.

They’re mobilized, like in a war, and it’s fear of the virus that was driving them. They really saw themselves as on the front lines of protecting the rest of China. And the world.

[Q] China is restarting its economy now. How can it do that without creating a new wave of infections?

[A] It’s a “phased restart.” It means different things in different provinces.

Some are keeping schools closed longer. Some are only letting factories that make things crucial to the supply chain open. For migrant workers who went home — well, Chengdu has 5 million migrant workers.

First, you have to see a doctor and get a certificate that you’re “no risk.” It’s good for three days.

Then you take the train to where you work. If it’s Beijing, you then have to self-quarantine for two weeks. Your temperature is monitored, sometimes by phone, sometimes by physical check.

[Q] What’s going on with the treatment clinical trials?

[A] They’re double-blind trials, so I don’t know the results. We should know more in a couple of weeks.

The biggest challenge was enrolling people. The number of severe patients is dropping, and there’s competition for them. And every ward is run by a team from another province, so you have to negotiate with each one, make sure they’re doing the protocols right.

And there are 200 trials registered — too many. I told them: “You’ve got to prioritize things that have promising antiviral properties.”//

20200301 CBC Radio, Cross Country Checkup – ASK ME ANYTHING 5 lessons about COVID-19 from doctor who led WHO mission to China – Bruce Aylward took questions from callers on Cross Country Checkup

20200304 CNN, “Canceling SXSW festival won’t make the community safer, Austin health officials say” [Note: Time will tell if this decision is wise or not. I worry not. They may change this decision later too. Will see.]

20200303 Science Mag “Indonesia finally reports two coronavirus cases. Scientists worry it has many more

But epidemiologists have long said COVID-19’s absence in the world’s fourth most populous nation was implausible, given the large number of visitors—both for tourism and business—from nearby China. A modeling study based on the number of travelers from Wuhan, published by a team at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health on bioRxiv on 11 February, concluded that even then, it was unlikely that Indonesia did not have a single COVID-19 case. (Indonesian Minister of Health Terawan Agus Putranto called the study insulting and later said the lack of cases was the result of prayer.)

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20200302 (hope we don’t need this but SK is cool in this efficient way to do test and get sample) //South Korea is pioneering a coronavirus drive-through testing station that officials say is faster and safer than going to a hospital or clinic// [HT @klustout]

20200303 WHO, “Coronavirus outbreak: World Health Organization says virus death toll has surpassed 3,100 worldwide”

20200303 Vox, “China’s cases of Covid-19 are finally declining. A WHO expert explains why. “It’s all about speed”: the most important lessons from China’s Covid-19 response.” [HT Kai “Also highly recommend reading this great interview by @juliaoftoronto with mission head Bruce Aylward:”]

“Q: Julia Belluz
In the elderly, what explains the high death rate? Is it something about deterioration of the immune system with age or the higher probability you have [of developing] other illnesses as you age?

A: Bruce Aylward
I think it’s the latter. These people are dying of an inflammatory process in their lungs. It’s not an infectious process, like a bacterial or viral infection. It’s inflammatory, like we see with SARS. We’re not sure of the mechanism. We do know the proportion of people who die who had cancer was half compared to hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Diabetes is a little bit lower than those two, and cancer lower again.”

Read the rest of this entry »


News Clippings 20200121

Tuesday, 21 January, 2020

Some News Clippings on 20200121:

20200121, Guardian, Coronavirus: Chinese hospitals not testing patients, say relatives – Number of cases, and deaths, could be much higher than those cited in official reports if claims are true

//On 12 January Huang got news his healthy 65-year-old mother had been checked into a hospital in the central Chinese city of Wuhan with a fever and a cough. […]

The hospital pressured the family to immediately cremate Huang’s mother, but they refused, asking for more information. A few days later, they relented and workers from a funeral home, also in protective clothing, retrieved, cremated and buried her within a few hours, leaving the family no time to say goodbye. Afterwards, the staff disinfected the van they had travelled in and threw away their hamzat suits.

“My mother’s death was dealt with without any dignity,” said Huang, 40, who did not want to give his or his mother’s full name. “She wasn’t even counted as a number on the government’s list,” he said, referring to the six people authorities say have been killed by the virus.//

20200121, BBC News, (with vide of HKU Med), New China virus: Warning against cover-up as number of cases jumps

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News Clippings 20200120

Monday, 20 January, 2020

I’ll try to add to my collection of News Clippings regularly if I can. Here are a few added on 20200120:

20200120 Guardian, (part 1 of 2) #HumanToHumanTransmission Very sad to learn [14] medical staff had been infected! “China confirms human-to-human transmission of coronavirus

//China’s National Health Commission has confirmed human-to-human transmission of a mysterious Sars-like virus that has spread across the country and fuelled anxiety about the prospect of a major outbreak as millions begin travelling for lunar new year celebrations.

Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory expert and head of the health commission team investigating the outbreak, confirmed that two cases of infection in China’s Guangdong province had been caused by human-to-human transmission and medical staff had been infected, China’s official Xinhua news agency said on Monday.//

20200120 China CCTV, “新型冠状病毒如何防控?会否重复SARS疫情?钟南山:呈现人传人特点

(part 2 of 2) #HumanToHumanTransmission Very sad to learn 14 medical staff had been infected! Via Chinese source: //Pulmonologist ZHONG Nanshan, leads an expert group to investigate the #WuhanPneumonia, said human-to-human transmission is confirmed. Also 14 medics have been infected by the novel coronavirus, reports state media CCTV.//

//疫情发展到什么阶段?
钟南山 [国家卫健委高级别专家组组长钟南山院士]:呈现人传人特点 有14个医护人员感染 […]

武汉减少输出是非常重要的一个方面,武汉会有很严格的筛查检测措施,特别是体温检测,体温高的不建议离开武汉。预防和控制最有效的方法是早发现早治疗,确诊病例的隔离治疗非常重要,这个冠状病毒没有特效药,但是现在正在进行一些动物试验观察,科学研究要跟上。春节期间,估计得病的人数还会有增加,要防止传播,防止出现超级传播者。//

[HT @chiangst]

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China’s War on the Internet

Tuesday, 19 March, 2019

Author James Griffiths @jgriffiths gave an insightful talk “China’s War on the Internet: How the West Lost the Web” at Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong @fcchk talking about his new book, The Great Firewall of China: How to Build and Control an Alternative Version of the Internet. Have a watch.

“China’s War on the Internet: How the West Lost the Web”

 


Sad 2018 #HumanRightsDay #MichealKovrig #MichaelSpavor #MengWanzhou #Huawei

Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Dec 23, 2018 update: Global TV News, (with video) “Canada’s ambassadors urging allies to push for release of Canadians detained in China: Freeland

Dec 21, 2018 Global Affairs Canada Official statement: “Canada deeply concerned by arbitrary detention of two Canadians in China

Dec 21, 2018 update: CBC News, “U.S. , UK, EU] joins Freeland in condemning ‘arbitrary detention’ of Canadians and calls for ‘immediate release’

UK Gardian, “Canada demands China immediately release citizens detained in ‘retaliation’ arrests – US, UK and EU express support, after two Canadians held in seeming retaliation for arrest of Huawei executive

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I’m sorry to say 2018 #HumanRightsDay (Dec 10th) was a sad day when former Canadian diplomat Micheal Kovrig (update: and Mr. Michael Spavor) were detained in China with no reason given. (China taking Mr. Kovrig as “hostage” over the arrest of Huawei CFO Ms. Meng Wanzhou?!) Where is due process? Where is rule of law? I understand he served as political lead on Prime Minster Trudeau’s visit to Hong Kong in September 2016, so on a personal note, I feel sorry for Consul General Mr. Jeff Nankivell and others in HK that Mr. Kovrig might have worked with in preparation of that 2016 visit.

How “lucky” Canadians must be to be stuck between two superpowers fighting a trade war? One superpower has a president that locks up human rights lawyers (including blind human rights lawyer) and makes dissidents “disappear”. The other superpower has a president who clearly sees himself above the law and has no idea of what “judicial independence” means. Even his former secretary of state recently said in public, “the president would say here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law.”

If there is #TeachableMoment in all this mess, it is that one must try to respect the rule of law, due process, and judicial independence. Even now it seems we really got used by both sides to fight their beeping trade war!
P.S. Incidentally, Trump/US government has imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum using Section 232 of U.S. trade law claiming our steel and aluminum are “threats to American national security”.

P.P.S. Former Canadian Amb. to China Mr. Guy Saint-Jacques has this to say:

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This sentence (from a CBC News report) kinda highlights the difference between Huawei CFO Ms. Meng Wanzhou’s case and the trumped up detention of Mr. Michael Kovrig (currently on an unpaid leave of absence from the Canadian embassy): “China’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday denied knowledge of the detention of a former Canadian diplomat, as Chinese citizens rejoiced over a Canadian court’s decision to release a top Huawei Technologies executive on bail.Read the rest of this entry »


Prime Minister @JustinTrudeau, Please help free #LiuXiaobo’s wife #LiuXia

Sunday, 16 July, 2017

2017 My two questions to the PM.png

So far Canada has very muted responses to Liu Xiaobo‘s death (on Thursday July 13, 2017) and his wife Liu Xia‘s continual house arrest. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted she is “terribly sad” and issued a strongly worded written statement including the words but, as far as I know, nothing was said in-person on camera by neither Minister Freeland nor Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself. Here is an excerpt from the written statement (download a PDF file with my highlights and notes),

In particular, my thoughts go to Mr. Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, herself a tremendous symbol of courage and poise, who remains under house arrest,” Freeland said. “We continue to call for the release of all political prisoners.

I have, so far, been unable to find any evidence of Canadian reporters asking Trudeau, on camera, about his view of Liu Xiaobo‘s death and his wife Liu Xia‘s continual house arrest. Since Mr. Trudeau was visiting Calgary yesterday for Stampede, I thought I would try my best to ask him a question myself. I thought, on the day of Liu Xiaobo‘s funeral (yesterday, Saturday, July 15), it was the least I could do to pay my deepest respect to Xiaobo and did my small part to try to shine a light on Xia‘s continual house arrest and get the PM to do more help free her.

Here is a video of my attempts in asking Trudeau. I have included some additional footage so you can see my questions in context of the crowd.

I asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau my first question as an independent reporter. For my second try, I took off my reporter hat and paid my respect to Liu Xiaobo by making a request to my Prime Minister as a Canadian citizen with Hong Kong heritage. On the sady day of Liu Xiaobo‘s funeral, when I’ve read reports of Chinese government sending secret police to pretend to be his best friends (many were too young to be his “best friends”) at the funeral, reports of his wife forced to burn his body to ashes and spread the ashes into the sea so no one can pay his grave site proper respect, I thought the least I could do to pay my respect to Xiaobo and did my small part was to try to shine a light on freeing Xia from her continual house arrest.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Please help free #LiuXiaobo’s wife #LiuXia!

20170716 Funeral news pix 03 - closeup

Photos credit: HK01 July 15th report, “劉曉波告別式:國保疑混入充數 被監控好友證無一「好友」出席”

20170716 Funeral news pix 04 - spreading ashes at sea

Photo of Liu Xiaobo’s ashes being spread at sea. Photo credit: Tweet of 吾尔开希 Wu’er Kaixi. Here is a Medium article “Murdered but Undefeated” by Wu’er Kaixi that I hope to read soon.

P.S. As reported by Radio Canada International (RCI), Governor General David Johnston was “on a state visit to China from July 10 to 14, accompanied by a large delegation of Canadian politicians and business leaders“.

Further quoting the RCI report, [emphasis added]

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Johnston in Beijing on Thursday, urging both countries to expand cooperation in such areas as trade, law enforcement, technology and culture, and launch negotiations on a free trade agreement at an early date, reported the official Chinese Xinhua agency, which had no mention of Liu’s passing.

Given the Chinese government’s self-proclaimed meaningless “rule-of-law” which lead to the shameful premature death of Mr. Liu Xiaobo and continual house arrest of Liu Xia, any discussion of cooperation in law enforcement is absolutely premature. How can we be sure any cooperation in law enforcement is absolutely Charter of Rights and Freedoms compliant under the current Chinese judicial regime?

July 16, 2017 update: Foreign Affairs Minister @cafreeland tweeted, “Canada continues to call on the Chinese govt to release #LiuXia and offer her safe passage out of China, according to her wishes. #LiuXiaobo” at 5:26 PM – 16 Jul 2017 from London, England

(audio) BBC World Service Newshour, “Ai Weiwei says Western countries failed Liu Xiaobo

Guardian, July 15, “Liu Xiaobo: dissident’s friends angry after hastily arranged sea burial

NYT, July 15, “Liu Xiaobo, Chinese Dissident and Nobel Laureate, Is Cremated

China cremated its only Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, on Saturday, but watchful officials allowed only his widow and a few other mourners to bid farewell to the man who was also the country’s most famous political prisoner.

Later in the day, Mr. Liu’s ashes were lowered into the sea in a simple ceremony, ensuring that there would be no grave on land to serve as a magnet for protests against the Communist Party, especially on the traditional tomb-sweeping day every April.

Maclean’s, July 14, “Ottawa’s despicable display in China – Terry Glavin on the death of Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and Canada’s efforts to wine and dine the prisoner’s tormentors

It would be hard to imagine a more obscene display of Canada’s slavish relationship with China’s depraved Communist Party regime: The very moment imprisoned democracy activist and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo died under heavy guard on a hospital bed in the northeast city of Shenyang on Thursday, a beaming Governor General David Johnston was posing for photographs at the opulent Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, shaking hands with Chinese tyrant Xi Jinping, Liu’s jailer, and tormentor.

It was all so very chummy. […]

Liu’s death marks the first time a Nobel peace prize winner has died behind bars since the pacifist Carl von Ossietzky died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1938.

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The Future of Go Summit: Ke Jie & AlphaGo

Tuesday, 23 May, 2017

Master” is the new version of “AlphaGo” which Demis Hassabis stated, in the post game press conference with 9 dan Go player Ke Jie (柯潔), the details will be published for others to study similar to AlphaGo’s Nature article.

Wired, “An Improved AlphaGo Wins Its First Game Against the World’s Top Go Player

Last year, in South Korea, AlphaGo topped the Korean grandmaster Lee Sedol, becoming the first machine to beat a professional Go player—a feat that most AI researchers believed was still years away, given the extreme complexityof the ancient Eastern game. Now, AlphaGo is challenging Ke Jie, the current world number one.

According to Demis Hassabis, the CEO and founder of DeepMind, this time out the machine is driven by a new and more powerful architecture. It can now learn the game almost entirely from play against itself, relying less on data generated by humans. In theory, this means DeepMind’s technology can more easily learn any task.

MIT Technology review, “Intelligent Machines A Stronger AlphaGo Defeats the World’s Number One Player

The Future of Go Summit, Match One: Ke Jie & AlphaGo

May 26, 2017 Update:

Wired, “Google’s AlphaGo Trounces Humans—But It Also Gives Them a Boost

Much of that future has yet to play out. And there is no guarantee that AI improves humanity. “In some cases,” grandmaster Gu Li said after a pair game alongside AlphaGo, “I could not follow in his footsteps.” But certainly, DeepMind has effected real change in the world of Go, a game that’s enormously popular across China, Korea, and other parts of Asia, and that is a comforting thing. In at least one way, AI has helped make humans better.

After losing matches to AlphaGo, European champion Fan Hui and Korean grandmaster Lee Sedol said the machine opened their eyes to new possibilities. This raised awareness was on wide display this week in China, when Ke Jie opened the first game with a strategy straight from the AlphaGo playbook.

Ke Jie went on to lose that game and then the next. And some observers continued to lament that machines were eclipsing humans. But that’s not the story of AlphaGo’s trip to China. What’s most striking is how closely the players have studied the games played by AlphaGo—and how hungry they are for more. Many have repeatedly called on DeepMind to release the many games that AlphaGo has played in private. They know they can’t beat the machine. But like Thore Graepel, they believe it can make them better.

The Future of Go Summit, Match Two: Ke Jie & AlphaGo Read the rest of this entry »


Wukan (烏坎村): China’s Democracy Experiment – great documentary

Tuesday, 18 April, 2017

A documentary about the Wukan Village’s (烏坎村) Democracy Experiment that happened after the protests is a film that I wish I had the guts, access, ability, and talent to make. Have a watch of the full six-part series playlist on Youtube (more info on Aljazeera) or you can click the episodes below. Also check out Lianain Films’ James and Lynn Facebook and website.

Wukan: China’s Democracy Experiment – Episode 1

Wukan: China’s Democracy Experiment – Episode 2

Wukan: China’s Democracy Experiment – Episode 3

Wukan: China’s Democracy Experiment – Episode 4

Wukan: China’s Democracy Experiment – Episode 5

Wukan: China’s Democracy Experiment – Episode 6


Uli Sigg – Great minds of our time

Thursday, 3 December, 2015

I only knew Dr. Uli Sigg (1946 – ) as a collector of Ai Weiwei‘s arts and the donor of his M+ Sigg Collection. I now realize there are so much more to learn about Dr. Sigg (a major collector of Chinese art since 1979 and visited over 1,000 Chinese artists according to this video). Have a read of this NYT article, “A Swiss Champion for the Art of a Rapidly Changing China” and the following video clips. Awesome!

P.S. I am adding Dr. Uli Sigg to my list of “Great minds of our time” and “Friends of China” where I put the likes of professors Milton Friedman and Ronald Coase.

SwissMade: The untold story of Uli Sigg

中国通(3):乌里·希克 Uli Sigg and Art Read the rest of this entry »


Uber, Hong Kong gov profiled ‘success story’, raided by HK police, Uber drivers arrested

Tuesday, 11 August, 2015
Uber, Hong Kong gov profiled ‘success story’, raided by HK police, Uber drivers arrested

Uber, Hong Kong gov profiled ‘success story’, raided by HK police, Uber drivers arrested

Uber, a controversial taxi alternative that connects private drivers with riders, has its Hong Kong office raided by Regional Crime Unit of Kowloon West today as reported by ABC news. Three Uber Hong Kong employees (age 21 to 29) and five Uber drivers were arrested according to the Hong Kong Chinese media Apple Daily news.

While Uber has run into various legal troubles in different parts of the world including Canadian cities like Calgary (brief operation in 2014, currently halted), Edmonton (pending court case), and Ottawa (taxi drivers released vigilante-style video, Ottawa police and bylaw officers laying 32 charges against Uber drivers), this may be the first time Uber employees and Uber drivers have been arrested in a high profile police sting operation. Especially considering the fact that Uber was just recently in May 2015 featured in an investHK Success Story (PDF file) (investHK is a Hong Kong government department tasked “to attract and retain foreign direct investment which is of strategic importance to the economic development of Hong Kong”.) (2015/05 investHK Success Story 投資推廣署 – 成功個案 PDF)

According to the HK government official May 2015 investHK Success Story (PDF) ,

“InvestHK provided Uber with significant support, including information on public transportation and advice on market entry strategy prior to its launch.”

Let’s think about it for a moment. A government department helping a multi-billion foreign high-tech company with “significant support” including “advice on market entry strategy prior to its launch” sounded like a perfect task and job well done for investHK. And that would fit HKSAR Chief Executive CY Leung‘s often talked about desire to establish an Innovation and Technology Bureau (創新及科技局) very well.

It is not like Uber has changed its business model since May 2015 when Hong Kong government talked about her “significant support” including “advice on market entry strategy prior to its launch” in its investHK Success Story. This reporter is not a lawyer but to many casual observers, the Hong Kong government’s prior “significant support” including “advice on market entry strategy prior to its launch” might be seen by some, fairly or unfairly, as potentially a form of entrapment.

Does Hong Kong still have a stable business environment where innovative entrepreneurs can work under a fair legal system where rule of law still matter? Will the Hong Kong government explain what rules, laws, or regulations have changed between May 2015 (a “success story”) to August 11th where people were arrested and equipment and records confiscated as part of a criminal case investigation?

An earlier version of this report is cross-posted to examiner.

Note 1: Uber is not operating in Calgary even it operated briefly in 2014 before insurance concerns halted the service. In separate polls conducted by the city and the company finds majority of Calgarians embrace idea of Uber. And more importantly, officials from cities like Calgary are willing and working with Uber to try to bring more choices to citizens in a manner that protect the safety of riders.

Note 2: This reporter has uploaded saved copies of the English version of investHK Success and Chinese version of investHK Success Story 投資推廣署 – 成功個案 as part of this news reporting as per fair dealing provisions of copyright law for readers to read and research for themselves. At press time, it appears that both the English and Chinese “success story” files have been deleted from the investHK website. Some Hong Kong Facebook users voiced their suspicion that the HKSAR government might have deleted the files to avoid embarrassment or incriminating evidences.

20150811 Uber Sucess Story deleted - English

20150811 Uber Sucess Story deleted – English

20150811 Uber Sucess Story deleted - Chinese

20150811 Uber Sucess Story deleted – Chinese

11th August 2015 Update: On the night of August 11th, Uber Hong Kong stated “Uber ensures that all trips have insurance coverages” and they will “fully support their drivers” and “fully cooperate with government officials, work to improve current legislation, putting safety and benefits of passengers and drivers first.” (rough translation from Chinese).

For the record, here is the media in Chinese as reported by Apply Daily,

「一直以來,香港市民已明確、清楚的表達,欲享有更多元化和更完善的交通方式。Uber 致力提供安全、可靠及優良的服務,以滿足市民對高效交通服務的需求。與 Uber 合作的司機,使用創新科技平台,提升工作安排的彈性並增加收入。Uber 亦確保所有行程都有保險保障,每位 Uber 司機都必須通過全面的背景審查。我們百分百支持與我們合作的司機,亦期待與有關當局通力合作,推動完善現行的法例,將乘客及司機的安全和利益放在首位。」

Further report here (首次放蛇搗信用卡收費白牌車 警打擊Uber 拘5司機3職員) and here (警檢控 料將案件作測試個案).


interview Horatio Tsoi, former HKTV documentary producer/director

Sunday, 27 October, 2013

This is my Cantonese interview with Horatio Tsoi, former HKTV documentary producer/director on 2013/10/27 訪問蔡錦源港視前高級編導.


Cantonese interviews with HK Legislative Council members Claudia Mo & Alan Leong Kah-kit

Sunday, 27 October, 2013

The following are two Cantonese interviews with HK Legislative Council members Claudia Mo & Alan Leong Kah-kit.

立法會 毛孟靜 議員政總十月二十一曰訪問

立法會 梁家傑 議員政總十月二十一曰訪問


Nobel Laureate professor Ronald Coase on China’s One-Child Policy

Friday, 25 January, 2013

Photo credit: by Zhaofeng Xue (薛兆丰) 2009

Yesterday, in our bilingual Google+ Hangout LIVE YouTube show Wallace and I talked about “Little Emperors: Behavioral Impacts of China’s One-Child Policy” (with LIVE recorded video).

Last night, I reached out to professor Ning Wang (co-author of “How China Became Capitalist” with professor Coase) to ask him about his take on China’s One-Child Policy. Ning mentioned that a 2013 Jan video had been filmed in part to promote the launch of the Chinese edition of their book where professor Coase shared his critique of China’s One-Child Policy. I was so excited and immediately watched it twice. Here is the China’s One-Child Policy segment. (full transcript of interview here and full unedited interview video here)

Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase on China’s One-Child Policy


Kempton & Wallace talk Little Emperors: Behavioral Impacts of China’s One-Child Policy

Friday, 25 January, 2013

The news report “One-child policy: China’s army of little emperors – The one-child policy has fundamentally changed the psychology of a generation” intrigued Economic Analyst Wallace Chan and this independent reporter. So tonight, we held a LIVE YouTube chat about the research paper “Little Emperors” and China’s One-Child Policy in two languages. Here are the recordings.

(In English) Kempton & Wallace talk Little Emperors: Behavioral Impacts of China’s One-Child Policy 

(in Cantonese) 經濟分析師陳心田與獨立記者林錦堂講一講 – 小皇帝:中國的”一家一孩”政策對行為的影響

Reference: (1) “Little Emperors: Behavioral Impacts of China’s One-Child Policy” by L. Cameron, N. Erkal, L. Gangadharan, X. Meng

(2) “沒有兄弟姐妹的社會” by 張五常 (Steven Cheung)

Jan 26, 2013 Update: Here is a new Jan 2013 video clip of “Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase on China’s One-Child Policy“. For more (including link to transcripts) see this article.

October 29, 2015 Update: After China initiated its One-Child Policy in 1979, it is finally over today. CBC News, “China to abolish one-child policy, Communist Party says


AP – Wife of Chinese Nobel Prize Winner Speaks Out

Thursday, 6 December, 2012

AP - Wife of Chinese Nobel Prize Winner Speaks Out

AP VIDEO: Trembling & crying Liu Xia, wife of jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, describes home arrest: via@AWWNeverSorry via@MomoAdalois

note: The largest prison in the world is China. The country.

Sometimes I ask myself what can I or we do? Then I remember bearing witness, publicizing, and remembering these brutalities is one of the ways to remind brutal governments around the world we are watching. And a way to remind our own democratically elected governments that we care. So just do blindly focus on trade and money talk alone.


Video interview with Oscar Shortlisted doc director Alison Klayman, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Thursday, 6 December, 2012

Alison Never Sorry interview - Youtube thumbnail compositeAi Weiwei carrying an Oscar on Facebook

The insightful, fun, and sometimes deadly serious documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (艾未未:道歉你妹; title in Taiwan 艾未未:草泥馬) has been Oscar shortlisted from 126 films down to 15, coming out ahead of films like “The Central Park Five” by the legendary Ken Burns et al, and “Head Games” by Steve James (director of the amazing Hoop Dreams).

Alison Klayman, director of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, was very nice and cool to do her first post-Oscar-shortlist video interview with me on the day after she came back from a Bangkok film festival trip. Here is my video interview with Alison.

Video interview with Oscar Shortlisted Alison Klayman, director of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry trailer (Official selection Sundance 2012 Film Festival)

I just noticed on the back wall in the following film still, the pictures are the concept drawings that lead to the Remembering (2009), an installation for the Façade of the House of German Art.

Ai Weiwei Never Sorry - Film Still

Golden Ai Weiwei Oscar

Alison and I talked about the middle finger salute in the interview. To me, it is a show of defiance to the powerful, be it the one-party ruled Chinese government or any other governments or powerful institutions.

Weiwei middle-finger art Read the rest of this entry »


Implications of Anti-Japan fury in China – Wallace & Kempton English Talk

Wednesday, 3 October, 2012

Implications of Anti-Japan fury in China – Wallace & Kempton English Talk


Why the Chinese government can always win in court? The “tax case” of Ai Weiwei @aiww 艾未未

Wednesday, 20 June, 2012

Q: Why the Chinese government can always win in court?

A: The Chinese government can always lock up or magically make your lawyer “unreachable”. In addition, they can send police to block you from attending your own court hearing. And as if these are not enough, the judges will always follow the wishes of the central government to ensure prompt victory by the governments.

Guardian June 20, 2012, “Ai Weiwei barred from court hearing by Chinese police – Dissident artist says police warned him to stay away from court hearing on company’s lawsuit against Beijing tax authorities

CNN June 20, 2012, “China dissident Ai Weiwei harassed by police, he says

Guardian June 20, 2012, “Ai Weiwei’s lawyer missing as artist is warned away from tax hearing – Chinese dissident being told not to attend court as it considers his challenge to a fine for alleged unpaid taxes

Bloomberg June 19, 2012, “Dissident Artist Ai Weiwei Says Police Block Him From Court

Reuters, June 20, 2012 “Chinese police warn Ai Weiwei to avoid tax hearing

***

Update: I am thrilled that Ai Weiwei retweeted this post and I am ready to see Chinese spambots starting to flood my Twitter stream now!  At the same time, I asked & replied with a serious and fundamental questions/concerns for foreigners and foreign businesses “@aiww Sad u can’t attend your tax case in court + they “disappear” your lawyer. How can foreigners or int. businesses trust Chinese courts?


陳心田 與 林錦堂 講一講 “工會罷工/談判權” – Wallace and Kempton discuss union right to strike/bargaining rights (Cantonese On Air LIVE broadcast)

Saturday, 9 June, 2012

Last time Wallace and I talked about the Facebook “investment” before the super hyped IPO. Unfortunately, we were 100% right. What we discussed (the nature of Facebook, what is “investing”, etc) were backed by what we now have seen. And many many people actually lost billions on paper! You can watch our pilot episode here: “林錦堂與陳心田講一講 Facebook “投資”“.)

This time, Wallace and I talked about union’s right to strike/bargaining rights (Air Canada, CP rail). You can watch it here: 陳心田 與 林錦堂 講一講 “工會罷工”. We hope you enjoy our show!


Mr. Chen, Welcome to America by Wang Dan (student leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests, in exile for 14 years)

Friday, 4 May, 2012

For the record. Wang Dan is the only person that is able to make me feel a little bit more optimistic since Mr. Chen left the US embassy and got trapped under Chinese control again. Of course, I will feel a whole lot better once I see Mr. Chen actually left China and is in US soil.

Mr. Chen, Welcome to America
By WANG DAN
Published: May 4, 2012 Arcadia, Calif.

WHEN I was younger I was arrested twice, and sentenced twice, because I had been a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests and a participant in China’s civil rights movement. I was also released twice, giving me two opportunities — once in 1993 and again in 1998 — to make a choice between leaving China or remaining. The first time, I chose to stay. The second time, I chose to leave for America.

I have never regretted making that second choice, and now I want to reach out to Chen Guangcheng in Beijing and tell him he would not be making a mistake by doing the same. In addition to saving his family enormous pain, his leaving China now would not have to hamper his efforts to encourage change back home. In my own experience, being an exile has only helped.

It was February 1993 when I was first released from prison. Less than a week later, officials came to let me know I could leave China and study in America. But I turned them down because I wanted to continue to fight for democracy and human rights in China — the same reasoning that American diplomats initially heard this week from Mr. Chen, the blind human rights advocate who evaded extralegal confinement and sought refuge at the United States Embassy in Beijing.

I was 24 then. It was just four years after the Tiananmen massacre, and the political environment in China was very hostile. But I felt I could not forget those students and other citizens who had sacrificed their lives for liberty on June 4, 1989. I knew that if I stayed I would very likely be thrown into prison again. But I did not want to give up. I still wanted to do something for my country, which I love deeply, and I wanted to do it in China itself.

So I stayed. I criticized the government, contacted other democracy activists, published protest petitions. And, as expected, I was arrested again in 1995. After long interrogation, I was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Three years later, President Bill Clinton was about to visit China, and he expressed hope that its officials might take some action toward improving human rights. On April 17, 1998, officials from the Jinzhou prison in Liaoning Province (where the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo is presently imprisoned) asked me if I was willing to leave for America.

This time I said yes. The reason was simple: I did this for my family. When I was imprisoned the first time, I was 20 years old. It was of course a heavy burden for my family, but they supported me. They knew I was doing the right thing, that I was making a sacrifice for our country. But they paid a high price for their support. My mother was even jailed for 50 days. Read the rest of this entry »


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